Sock Monkeys, Penny Poker, & Surviving the Storm

When I was a little bitty girl, my biggest fear was thunderstorms. I was a night-light-using crybaby anyhow, but if a night came that thunder rolled in the distance or lightning flickered through the curtains, my little heart would begin to pound and the fear would bubble and burn in my little belly. I would run to Mama and Daddy’s room where, inevitably, Daddy would tell me that if I’d just go to my room and close my eyes, I’d be fine. More often than not, I’ll tiptoe, sniffling, into my brother’s room, where he would let me crawl in the bed with him while he entertained me with puppet shows using his sock monkey, George.

As scared as I was of a thunderstorm, I always found hurricanes to be exciting. Something about the anticipation, the preparation, the watching and tracking, and then having a bunch of people over to experience it with you… It didn’t scare me at all. Often, our family members would come stay with us since we were about thirty minutes further inland. In ’96, when Hurricane Bertha came through, we had eight people and a dog staying in a house that probably wasn’t 1,500 square feet. (That’s the year I lost about thirteen dollars in change playing penny poker with my brother, his friend Aubrey, and our cousin John.)

1996 was the year I really realized how devastating a storm could be. Other than a few downed trees and a shed that got creamed by a falling pine, we had no real damage. But when we drove a mile to a friend’s house, they had lost over twenty trees out of their orchard. And another five miles away, at the Sheraton Marina in New Bern, the boats had washed over the sea wall and were stacked three and four deep in the front yard of the hotel.

There are a few things that I’ve learned about storms, over the years.

First of all, I can’t—and shouldn’t—live in fear of the storm. Fear is a God-given gift. It’s our built-in warning system that tells us when we’re in danger. But we have to let that warning enable us and not paralyze us. When the warning comes, we prepare for the danger instead of cowering from it. In Coastal NC, when we receive the hurricane warning, we board up our windows and go to the grocery store and begin to stock up on water, flashlights, batteries, and candles. It’s that preparation that helps us to survive the storm. If we cowered instead, we would never be prepared and we wouldn’t survive the storm.

Second of all, it’s okay to celebrate the storm. The Bible tells us to rejoice always and to give thanks, even in the difficult parts of life. As a little girl, it’s when I focused on the joy of the puppet show with the sock monkey, that I was able to weather the storm. As a teenager, it was the joy in losing my life savings playing penny poker with my friends. It was also in talks with my Mom by candlelight and in her playing “Rocky Mountain High” on guitar to distract us. And the realization that we were making memories when Daddy made us grits for breakfast on his grill after the power had gone out.

Finally, storms are better when weathered together. The thing that made the storms of my childhood so terrifying was that I was going through them alone. When I was with my brother and his sock monkey, they weren’t nearly so bad.

Recently, I went through something in my life that can really be described as a storm. I worried and fretted and lost sleep over it. I didn’t look for the silver lining or try to figure out how to celebrate it. But instead of seeking help, I withdrew—even from my church family—and curled up inside myself like a turtle, cowering. And once the storm had mostly passed, I looked out of my shell and realized that I’ve got some debris to clean up. Today at church, my friend Catherine asked me how I was and when I started telling her about the storm I’d been through, she looked at me in disbelief—and a bit of annoyance—and said, “You went through all of that alone instead of calling us to come help you? Don’t you EVER do that again!”

How do you face the storms in your life? Do you prepare for them or do you cower from them? Does your fear empower you or paralyze you? Do you celebrate the storms or mourn them? And are you able to ask for help or are you afraid to ask? I’m still learning… How about you? Do you have any lessons to share on how to face and survive storms?

About Sarah Salter


  1. I’ve been through enough of them to now know that preparedness is part of survival- I do what I can and the rest is up to Him. There is a strange sense of calm in me with things are beyond my control.

  2. I do like the way you think.

  3. Somewhere along the way, I learned that the storms were inevitable, that we were PROMISED that this life would be difficult, that good times were not the rule but the exception. Somehow that gave me a peace and strength to face the inevitable without being thrown overboard.

  4. Ideally what I do is view a storm as an opportunity to learn something and lean into whatever the wind is. That might also mean holding on tight until I can think clearly. I usually read your blog in my reader so I didn’t realize you had remodeled and are looking so classy these days. I very like it.

  5. So true. Fear like pain is a warning and will direct us where we need to go or what we need to do. When we ignore it or dwell in it, there are big problems! Also, thank God the storms can be weathered together! I’m so thankful…

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