Visiting my husband's family in Lakewood, New Jersey is never easy. It means an eleven-hour drive with a car-full of children. No easy feat. Add to that the unknown variable of weather conditions in the winter season, and the equation becomes even more complex.

But family is family. And you make the effort.

So when a niece was getting married in the winter time, we ignored the weather forecast warnings, packed into the van and hoped for the best.

Experienced at these long-distance trips, I thought that we had finally gotten them down to a science and were prepared for almost any situation.

Several days in advance, we had our mechanic check and refill the car's fluids, test the pressure in the tires and do an all-round examination for any other possible problems. Having passed his scrutinizing eye, I was certain that our relatively new minivan was fit for the trip.

Next, I had my eldest daughters prepare and pack a slew of car activities. Little knapsacks were stuffed with crayons, small crafts and activity books as well as favorite cuddling toys.

And finally, perhaps most importantly, we visited the local supermarket and purchased all the latest varieties of snacks and confection. Seeing the sweets that they would be bribed with for good car behavior, the children's eyes glazed over in anticipation.

Piling into the van, we all got comfortable for the long haul. Surprisingly, the hours passed smoothly. Even the weather held up and we had almost completely clear conditions throughout our drive.

Uneventfully, we arrived in good timing at our destination, and had a pleasant stay.

On our return trip, bright and early a few mornings later, we brushed off about a foot of snow from our van to set off on our way. Within minutes, we noticed that the van's windshield wipers were stuck to their spot. Hoping that they were simply frozen, we waited a few more minutes as the car heated, to no avail.

"Maybe it's just a fuse," suggested my husband. Though frozen rains had begun to pour, we would drive carefully down the block to the nearest mechanic. "If it's a fuse, he should be able to fix it immediately and we can be on our way," he assured me and I smiled with relief.

Moments later, we discovered that it wasn't the fuse after all, but rather the wiper's motor needed replacement which, unfortunately, wasn't in stock and would take a day to order.

We contemplated traveling without the wipers but with the heavy rains now falling, our vision was completely obscured. Driving only one block was all it took for us to make a sharp u-turn and head back.

The incident, while rather minor, made me realize something important.

In life, we can be as prepared as possible for any eventuality. We may think that we have made all the necessary arrangements. Equipped for the long haul, we have all the essential components under check — physical fitness and health, a well-paying job, close friends and contacts. We may have even driven a fair distance, successfully realizing many of our goals.

But without a perspective, all these provisions become utterly useless. Along comes a storm and suddenly you realize that you are stuck to your spot. Without an unobstructed view (or at least a small cleared area on your windshield) of what's really important in life and how to proceed, you become immobile, despite the comprehensive preparations.

Life has its ways of showering all kinds of storms upon us. Rarely do the horizons remain completely clear, regardless of what precautions we may have taken.

Perhaps these downpours are meant to remind us just how vital a clear vision is for journeying forward.