Palm Trees vs. Icicles

We stood on the edge of the curb, ready to dart in front of rapidly-moving cars, unsure if they would slow down when they saw us. Hordes of small white cars matching Herbie the Love Bug weaved in and out of the four lanes, cutting off other drivers and blaring their horns at each other. With no crosswalk or pedestrian light to help, this was the street Hubby and I had to cross to get from the small café where we ate breakfast each morning to the beautiful hotel on the beach where we were staying.

A tropical storm had swept through Acapulco the night before, leaving palm tree branches and debris scattered about the streets and brick walkways. The cars ran over it all without pausing.

I shielded my eyes with my hand as I watched for a break in traffic. The May sun attempted to defeat the cloudy gray sky, promising a better day for tourists like ourselves; although I wasn’t looking forward to our glass-bottom boat excursion on the remaining white-crested waves.

We had been in Mexico for a week already and, discovering our young palates were not accustomed to the general spice and avocado-packed menus, we appreciated the simpler foods that this small café offered on the other side of the busy street. Our morning routine involved scampering across the four lanes to sit at the red-and-white-checkered table with a glass of freshly-squeezed orange juice and a bowl of Corn Flakes with a sliced banana on the side. We appreciated the taste of home, although back in Newfoundland (where they had to be flown or ferried into our island home), the orange juice and bananas never tasted as fresh and scrumptious as these. It was worth the little game of Frogger we played with the traffic each morning.

Yet even after a week of this dangerous endeavor, my heart pounded with fear. The cars zipped past with very little break in the pattern of the flow; rush-hour madness seeming to be the norm.

My new hubby yelled the signal, his one-word shout resembling the starter’s pistol at a race. And his trusting new bride ran across one lane, then two before I suffered a blow to the chest hard enough to stop my motion forward. A huge palm branch, broken from the overnight storm, had fallen from one of the trees lining the street, the wind whipping it directly at me. I screamed even as the breath was knocked from my body by the unexpected force.

Hubby frantically cheered me on from the other side, recognizing that a dangerous journey had just been upgraded to life-threatening.

I knocked the large aggressor to the ground and forced my legs to move even faster to make up for the time delay. The blaring horns were effective motivators to increase my speed.

As my second foot cleared the street, I felt the air current behind me change with the first passing car. That was a close one.

Hubby held me tightly until my heart resumed its normal pace and my Corn Flakes dislodged from my throat. A windy ride in a glass-bottom boat didn’t seem so scary anymore.

I think we may have eaten omelettes from the hotel restaurant the next morning…

Despite this vicious attack, I do not harbor any resentment toward palm trees. In fact, facing down the cold month of March ahead, I’ve had an image of a beautiful palm as my phone’s lock screen for the past two weeks. To me, palm trees represent tropical destinations, the warm sun, and relaxing vacations (when you’re not running for your life). Our Canadian climate doesn’t support the growth of these majestic plants, so even the most unkempt palm outside of the tourist areas looks beautiful in my eyes.

What do palm trees have to do with icicles? Absolutely nothing. But I’d like to propose a trade. I would like to trade these frozen stalactites hanging from the roofs of houses, creating their own dangers to those walking below on a milder day, symbolizing never-ending winters with bone-chilling winds and mountains of snow. I would like to trade them all for a palm tree.

In the years leading up to 2020, one only had to book a flight, give your visa number to a resort, and pack your bags and, presto, this magical trade happened with very little effort required. We would leave our down-filled coats in the vehicle that transported us to the airport (usually driven by one of our sons) and fly away from the ice and snow to hug palm trees and exfoliate our bare feet with golden sand. Those were the days.

Now palm trees reside in my imagination alongside unicorns and dragons. I believe in their existence, but I’m not sure I’ll ever see one in person again.

We don’t like change much, do we? Disruptions or impediments like the offensive palm tree branch hinder our forward movement and stop us from reaching our goals. COVID-19 has stolen our freedom, wreaking havoc in all areas of our lives; the ability to travel being one of the least serious losses. One day we’ll lie on a hammock stretched between two palm trees (TWO!) and remember the pandemic of 2020 and 2021 and thank God for vaccines and restoration of normalcy. Yet, when humanity goes through a disruptive event such as this, does it ever go back to the way it was before? We face the future changed.

This interruption in our lives will not be knocked away like my tree branch as we continue on our life’s path. It will alter our journey; change the way we see things, the way we do things from now on. Will we ever shake hands, hug, or kiss cheeks to greet someone? Will we ever let strangers get within our six-foot-personal-space moat?

Definitions of change include “to become different; to undergo transformation, transition, or substitution” (Merriam-Webster). Nowhere in the description of this word is there a negative connotation. Change is not necessarily a bad thing.

As I’ve spent more time with God this year, getting up earlier in the mornings to read my Bible and talk to Him, I’ve changed. I acknowledge my place in God’s family as His daughter and recognize that I want my life to represent Him well. That means glorifying Him in my words and actions. It means asking Him to be with me during my day, helping me with that goal. I want to be more like Jesus – that’s a transformation that holds no negativity.

For some of us who haven’t been impacted drastically by the pandemic through such things as the sudden death of loved ones, loss of our jobs, mental health issues due to fear and/or stress, addictions, domestic violence, or other sombre challenges, we can view this COVID nightmare as a wake-up call to draw closer to God and to trust Him more.

Be assured, Daughter of God, that while we change, and our circumstances change, our heavenly Father does not. It is written in Malachi 3:6, “I the Lord do not change…” and it says in Hebrews 13:8 “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” The same God who loved us enough to sacrifice His own son to save us loves us enough to support us through temporal earthly changes. He has been with us through this pandemic and will continue to hold our hand as we come out of it: different; transformed; changed.

And if you have navigated through some of these things listed above during the past year, God wants to rescue you too. He wants to live in your heart and give you courage and strength to face your hardships. Just invite Him to join your journey.

Whether the challenges of life resemble falling icicles or palm tree branches, God promises to protect us and lead us through the obstacle course of life. All we have to do is trust Him and follow His instructions.

Lord, I give my life to You. Show me how to navigate the changes that the pandemic has created in our world. I trust You to take control.

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