Saturday, May 28, 2011

When It Rains ...

I remember a pastor, years ago, giving a sermon about two farmers praying for rain. I'm sure most of you have heard this story ... both farmers desperately needed rain for their fields. Each begged God for rain. But, only one prepared for the rain. Who trusted God more? The farmer who prayed and prepared? Or, the farmer who prayed ... and did nothing? The farmer who prepared for the rain ... trusted God heard his prayer and had faith God would provide.

I grew up in the heart of Indiana ... where corn is "knee high by the Fourth of July." My father owned a family business from 9 to 5 and spent every other hour tending the farm. That meant keeping a watchful eye on the weather beginning in April of every year. Watch, wait. Watch, wait. Plant, wait. Harvest.

The late April evenings were wrapped in the scent of freshly plowed earth. My father would come in well after dark, wash up and pull a warm plate from the oven. He couldn't eat with us during the planting season. So, mom would keep his supper plate warm in the oven. I remember he always smelled of oil and dirt on those nights and aftershave on Sunday mornings. Those smells were a reminder of our livelihood ... smelling the dirt and oil let me and my sister know farming was steady, constant, good. The smell of aftershave on Sunday mornings meant ... you were grounded in Good.

The spring of 2011 has been difficult in the Heartland. Farmers have been watching, watching and watching. Waiting, waiting and waiting. No planting. Near constant rain has flooded fields and pushed out any chance for plowing and planting. Just when the soil starts to dry and farmers bring out their plows ... rain ... and more rain. By this time, you can usually drive down county roads and see rows of green ... if you drive fast enough, the rows blur in what I always thought compared to Mother Nature's skirt. Long steady stripes of green fanned out for acres ... like a skirt. This year, slop. Muddy, messy, depressing ... constant brown, slime. And, fear begins to seep in. Just like the mud in our fields, it seems to take over everything. Our faith in the seasons ... in God's care ... begins to sink into the mud.

On my way home from work each day, I see trucks parked in the ditches beside fields. The farmers are out walking the fields ... waiting ... for no rain. Praying for no rain. Praying for fields dry enough to run a plow and plant crops.

It's in times like these ... we need faith, joy ... laughter. Today, on Facebook, one of my friends posted a video of her husband. Their family lives on a farm and depends on that farm for their livelihood. Rather than sinking into the mud of anxiety ... he went skiing. And ... we all laughed. We needed that laughter. It's good medicine.

"Life isn't about waiting for the storm to pass...It's about learning to dance (or ski) in the rain."
— Vivian Greene

I know Ped and Lindsey are praying for the rain to stop. While they pray ... they trust. Thank you ... Ped and Lindsey!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Elephants, Horses and Peanuts ...

"I messed up, Mama!" Kregg is dramatic. So, there's no telling how serious the 'mess up' is.

"With what?" I stop writing my blog and look over where he sits at the desktop computer. His arms are crossed and his eyebrows are knit into a frustrated line.

"My WebKinz! I messed it all up! I named my new elephant Peanut!" Kregg motions toward the computer screen and pouts.

"Why is that a bad thing?" I don't understand. Elephants eat peanuts, Peanut is a good name ... right?

"Cause Mommy, I named my horse that too!!! I can't have two with the same name!" He's getting really mad.

"Why not?"

"How am I gonna know how to tell 'em apart?" He turns to me ... a sad, hopeless look in his big brown eyes. For Kregg, this is the biggest worry of his day. And, he wants me to 'fix it'. Somehow. The thing is ... you can't change your WebKinz name. Not that I know of anyway. Once you give them a name ... that's it. It's done. Kregg can see a picture of each WebKinz animal. So, really ... he will know by seeing them. Their names are the same but they look entirely different. One is a horse ... the other an Elephant. Big difference, right?

"Kregg, you'll know when you see them. You know the difference between an elephant and a horse ... so, you'll know. And, really ... it's just a name. All that matters is you love your WebKinz You know your horse likes carrots and your elephant likes peanuts. You know what they like to play with and what makes them happy."

To my surprise, it worked. He smiled ... "Yeah, I guess you're right. I kinda like Peanut for a horse and an elephant. Thanks, Mommy."

He went back to his game and me to writing. And ... me to thinking. How many Aine's are there? In America ... not that many. But, in Ireland ... the heritage of my given name ... there are many. At the time of our boys birth, Jerry and I picked names from our family heritage. Deep in roots and meaning. And ...we thought the names were at least somewhat unique. Clay, James and Kregg. By the time Clay went to a sitter so I could return to work ... Clay had become a popular name for little boys. In fact, there were 2 at our sitter. She would call out ... "Clay" and both would answer. Our Clay found this funny. He loved teasing his sitter and laughing at her silly faces when both he and his friend came running to her calls. Clay wasn't at all sad that he shared his name with another boy. Clay knew he was ... ours. Our Clay. Jerry and I would never be confused or struggle to know which one was ours. Because we knew ... him. Everything about him was etched in our hearts from the moment of his creation. There was no confusion, no guessing. Clay loved cheerios, french fries, pancakes and milk. Curling up on the couch with popcorn and hot chocolate while Star Wars Return of the Jedi played on the tv ... could fix any bad day.

Christ knows me in that same way. Regardless of the Aine's in America or Ireland ... HE knows the one that needs Pepsi and caramel bars with salty potato chips on a bad day .... the one who loves a man with brown eyes and a soft smile. The Aine who is much happier sitting on her front porch in worn out jeans and a grubby t-shirt than in a stuffy office with high heels and dress clothes. Christ knows just how much I can take on any given day. He gives me trials and victories ... in just the right balance to help me grow in faith. He is never confused about His children. Each one is special and unique in His eyes.

No matter how the world knows me ... He knows me best. Before I even call His name in praise or need ... He is already on His way to give it ... to the one and only Aine who is uniquely me.

Psalm 139:13-16 "For You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother’s womb. I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made, Marvelous are Your works, And that my soul knows very well. My frame was not hidden from you. When I was made in secret,And skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth.Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in Your book they all were written, The days fashioned for me,When as yet there were none of them."

In time ...

Meet Hunter (aka - Best Mouser on the Farm). She came to our family 3 years ago and has outlasted every other cat on our farm. I could name lots of reasons for this but mainly it's because ... she's careful and smart. Hunter is quiet (literally ... she barely makes a soft meow) and fairly timid. Not much bothers her. Most of the time, she keeps to herself. Hunter finds her own food (thus her Best Mouser title) and watches everything.

Last week, Hunter was missing more often than present. Even for her occasional bowl of milk just inside the patio doors ... she wasn't there. We all know her well enough to guess the reason ... kittens. Each evening, Jerry and I sat on our deck and quietly watched. Nothing. We started to worry. Hunter is a part of our small family. She was missing and being missed.

Wednesday afternoon, I had reached the limits of my worry (and curiosity). I pulled on my grubby sneakers, grabbed our large flashlight ... and went hunting for Hunter. The last time she crawled into my lap, I had smelled the strong aroma of warm hay. Only one place on the farm smells that sweet ... the hayloft. I climbed the ladder and sat in the entryway to the loft. I listened and waited. The breeze rustling leaves and stirring twine from the hay bales, passing cars and birds chirping ... then the quiet murmur of kittens. I followed the sound and was lead to the very back of the loft. Rectangular bales of hay blocked any close proximity to the sound. As with any litter of kittens before these, Hunter has picked a nest not easily reached. Out of a seeming nowhere, Hunter curled around my legs and walked lazily away from the bales. I know her, she was leading me away from her most prized possession. Hunter loves me. But, she loves her babies more. I patted her head. "Smart girl", I whispered. From that loft, she can survey the entire farm. No other animal can gain entry to Hunter's nest without first going past her.

I went back down the ladder. Jerry met me just beyond the barn. He and our oldest son had tried without success to find Hunter and her secret. I smiled, because ... I am the same as I was in my youth. If there were new kittens on our farm, I would find them. I was the only one patient enough (which is VERY surprising because I am not a patient person). Together, Jerry and I took food up to the loft. I sat on a bale and listened to the murmur as Hunter lapped up every bit of milk. She was starving. We had not seen her for 3 days and it seemed she hadn't left the loft at all during those days. As hungry as Hunter was, she stopped every few seconds and went to a bale at the very top ... peaked down at her secret, looked at me and back at her secret ... then, back again to eat. There was something very peaceful in that loft ... something sacred. I thought of my Savior and how He will go to any length for me. He would go without food or nourishment ... for me. Nothing can come near me without first being allowed by Him.

Sometimes, I feel as though He doesn't see the things that hurt me. If He did notice, wouldn't He stop them ... wouldn't He keep me from that hurt? I think it's 'human nature' to feel and think those things. Not nature in the way God created us but ... in the nature this world has corrupted His creation. I know the answers ... those things that seem too heavy to hold and too hurtful ... those things are molding and shaping me into the person He wants me to be. Knowing this Truth doesn't minimize the pain or trivialize the suffering. Knowing this Truth ... gives me an attainable 'calm in the storm' ... it's hard to find ... but it's there.

Each day, Jerry and I have taken Hunter something to eat. I climb the ladder and leave her treat just far enough inside the loft so as not to worry her. And, each day, she meets me on the ladder ... unwilling to let me go any closer.

Eventually, Hunter will let me come near and see what she has hidden. But, for now ... Hunter knows her babies need rest, nourishment and ... protection. For now, they need to be left in the care of the one who loves them most. When our family meets the new additions, it will be in Hunter's timing ... not ours. They'll be afraid at first ... unsure of something so much bigger than they are ... but, in time they will learn to trust us. And, I will wait because her timing (just like Christ's) is perfect.

James 1:2 - 3 "Consider all joy my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance."

Psalm 91:4 He shall cover you with His feathers,And under His wings you shall take refuge; His truth shall be your shield and buckler."