Monday, March 27, 2006

LCH: Power Outage

It was a dark and stormy night. Alone in my study, I pounded away on my laptop computer while the air conditioner hummed in the background, holding the early July heat at bay.

A glance at the clock confirmed the late hour: 10:49, with many pages yet to write. After several extensions on my book deadline, the pressure was intense. Like having five college term papers due at once

I’d circled July 22nd on my calendar, the day my family and I would be heading to Pennsylvania for a reunion my sister had planned for two years. If it meant writing around the clock, I had to finish the manuscript before we left town.

All at once a deafening crack of thunder sounded overhead, and the lights blinked out. Oh, great. After saving my work on the laptop’s hard drive, I located a candle and made the most of my waning battery, reminding myself this was only a temporary setback.

Our power returned the next afternoon, but not for long. A second storm left our old farmhouse in the dark—this time, for two long days. My editor called to check on my progress. “Not good,” I confessed. “We’ve lost power…again.”

Though my laptop was portable, my many bookshelves full of resources were not, which ruled out moving to a hotel room or a friend’s kitchen table. Besides, the lights would come back on any minute, wouldn’t they? Please, Lord. When the electricity finally returned, I brushed away tears of relief and fired up my computer.

One week later a third storm struck.

The blackout was so massive our city made the national news. Five powerless days dragged by. Meals were fast food, showers were cold, and tempers were short. Once my husband tracked down an overpriced generator, I had electricity flowing into my laptop. What I didn’t have flowing were words or ideas, as the stress mounted. Help, Lord!

When July 22nd dawned, I still had two dozen chapters to go. Genuine panic set in. My siblings and I hadn’t gathered in one place for nearly a decade. How could I miss my own family reunion? Yet how could I go, when my publishing contract required a completed manuscript—now, if not sooner?

I didn’t dare phone my editor and ask for more time. Heartsick, I called my sister instead and begged for mercy.

“We know you’d be there if you could, Liz. Just keep writing.”

Guilt washed over me as I helped my family pack. Bill promised he would hug all my relatives, especially my understanding sister. But I still felt awful.

With a heavy heart I watched our SUV disappear down the driveway, then returned to my desk, determined to write nonstop. I’d paid a terrible price for this time; I wasn’t about to waste it.

My fingers flew over the keys. By nightfall I’d almost completed another chapter when the unthinkable happened: The lights blinked out.

“Nooo!” I shrieked, fumbling for my cell phone. With trembling hands I called the utility company, only to hear, “Could be an hour, ma’am. Could be tomorrow. Sorry.”

Sorry. I sank across my desk, tears flowing in earnest. I was the sorry one. Sorry I hadn’t worked harder last spring. Sorry I’d sent my family off without me. Sorry I’d put work first—again.

I closed my eyes, afraid of the truth. Are you punishing me, Lord? Though I knew better—blackouts from summer thunderstorms were business as usual in Kentucky—I still felt the weight of regret. Forgive me, Lord. Next time, family first.

In the silence of my study I was unprepared for the sudden whirr of the air conditioner. My eyes flew open in time to watch the lights come back on.

Not tomorrow. Not even an hour.

I could credit Louisville Gas & Electric for prompt service. Or I could thank the Lord for giving me a chance to learn from my mistakes and press on…power restored.

Liz Curtis Higgs, author of Grace in thine Eyes (WaterBrook Press).


At 5:42 AM, Blogger relevantgirl said...

Great story, Liz. Thanks for the reminder of God's grace amid deadlines and stress.

At 6:46 PM, Blogger Deborah Raney said...

Liz, I loved this. Something I have to remind myself of again and again.

And Jack Cavanaugh would be so proud of your opening line. ; )

At 8:53 PM, Blogger Ane Mulligan said...

A sweet reminder that the only things that really matter are eternal - people. Thanks, Liz. And I'll bet that book was a specail one.

At 10:54 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jack Cavanaugh says...

LOL Deb. I'm proud of all of Liz's sentences. She has worked hard at her craft and has become a quality writer of historical fiction.

At 8:17 AM, Blogger Ruth said...

Excellent story, Liz -- and a powerful reminder of God's grace and the importance of perspective. Thank you! :)


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