Rain fell hard outside our window stealing away our December snow just after Christmas had closed its chapter for this year. The New Year was approaching fast as was our annual pond hockey game with family and friends. We always tried to pull this off when the weather cooperated or I wasn’t carrying one of my two new year babies.
The past week I had sledded my two dear children down to the pond a few hundred metres from our house with shovels, skates and the necessary change of clothes and skating apparatus. Back against our deciduous and rocky hillside, nestled beyond the sumac groves, we have a small, spring-fed irrigation pond that houses the largest leeches I have ever seen in my life in summer yet turns into our recreational bliss-land in winter with the right conditions.
Around 3pm, the sun hits this pond like a spotlight in a movie. The golden light is like a whisper in your ear telling you that the New Year has come and the magic has arrived. Whenever I see this sun setting, my heart fills so large I can hardly breathe.
The kids each have shovels and fortunately they are obsessive like me. They continue to help me clear the 6 inches of snow off the ice for 3 days in a row. One day we are by ourselves, the next day we have help from a single mother friend who is visiting with her four young children, the next day we have help from Rob. All the while the forecast looms two warm days of continuous above zero temperatures and rain which will surely bring the partial thaw of our ponds.
There are two ponds. We have banked on this one this year for skating because the other froze after a beaver had dammed and flooded it. The beaver then let us remove his dam, the pond drained and a lovely, thick pancake of ice floated high above the water making it impossible to trust the hollowness beneath.
Meanwhile I am reading my usual ‘how does this world work’ fodder which happens to be focusing on the great need to relinquish control to a God in our lives. As a Christian, this includes letting Jesus work in us.
I stumble so greatly on this one thing. The need to surrender, the nature of this kind of worship, it is the exact opposite of everything I’ve ever known. You have to realize this kid has been making her own way since she insisted on tying her own shoe laces at age 2 (and wore shoes on the wrong feet with dangling laces for many months after that).
There is no question that I’ve learned that I try too hard. I push circles into square holes. I often would do better to bang my head against a wall than attempt the energy and time-wasters that I take on. The thing is I am always rewarded for my efforts. What I know for sure is this reward may have come with or without my help.
The day after the rain, the temperature dropped and we had a small window of sort of cold weather where the pond could freeze again before our party. On our way home from church, I toddled down in my Sunday best right away to check the ice. Open holes so large you could swim in them made my heart sink on first glance. The snow banks that we had made had insulated the edges so greatly that they had proceeded to thaw the ice underneath in the warmer temperatures. All of our work had basically fashioned us a lovely freezing cold swimming hole.
I lay awake the night before our skating party imagining the ways in which I could regain control of that pond. It was to be my husband’s birthday. Small children would be coming, some that could skate and some that could not, mine included. People that I was really excited to see and that were really excited to skate on a winter’s day on the farm would be there. I cared that it would all turn out.
How long would it take to freeze again enough to make it safe for skating? What temperature would be needed to make it refreeze in the 24-hour period we had before the gang was to show up? How would I keep the people safe? How would they get to the pond, what would they eat, where would they go to the bathroom? How would they stay warm and get to and from the pond? What would we do if we couldn’t skate without any snow anywhere? I jokingly suggested we get out our volleyball net.
During this insomnia, I read a little more about the need to allow God to take care of our plans. There was much to say about how the agenda of the individual could be in fact damaging to not only the individual but also to the world at large. I fell back asleep in a stupor of worry and shame. Worry about the danger that could ensue if I did not take a frozen pond seriously. I had in fact lost a friend on a frozen lake on New Years eve many years ago – this was not something I took lightly. The shame I felt was about how I had spent my whole life imagining that I was the only captain of my ship.
I do not look for a higher power to take control of my life so that I no longer need to take responsibility for my actions. I still feel very much in charge of the consequences of my actions. Jesus may take the wheel but my hands are gonna hold on to it too and I’m surely gonna keep my eyes on the road while I’m at it. But there are two piles. One includes the things I can control. The other contains the things I can’t. This pond was so far out of my reach it must have the Gods laughing their heads off.
The morning of the party arrived and I headed immediately down to find out the verdict. Would we or would we not be skating on this final day of the holiday period before our lives swept us away again in a blur of routine and to-do lists?
My pond was still a swimming pool. It had mostly frozen but the number of areas with paper thin ice nowhere near safe enough for skaters.
As a consolation, I headed through the forest to the other pond, the one the beaver had taken control of. In years past, this one had worked out marvelously for us if we put a lot of work into keeping it cleared. This year I had not even laid eyes on it.
Well, you guessed how this ends.
The day ended with large white snowflakes descending gracefully onto the fleece jackets of a rinkful of hockey players of all sizes. My son wore skates for the first time and took it upon himself to push his little metal bar right through the middle of the hockey game for a number of hours without break. I trailored a birthday cake down to my husband where we would all stop for a break and sing while he blew out candles as the snow fell lightly all around. The faces were all smiling. We all shared the same secret about how to make the best of our cold Canadian winters .
The ice was like glass. I could not have groomed it so well if I had tried. With the warm weather, the large pancake of floating ice thawed and dropped down to the water level forming a solid 6 inches consistently over the pond water. No cracks, no moans, no danger zones, the pond was literally made by God.
At the end of the day as my red-faced friends left our house with their contented children, their tummies full and their hearts even more full we all had the same thing to say.
That was just magic.