Lillie bowed her head over her food. "I want to pray, Daddy."
"Okay," my Farmer said, "Go ahead."
"Dear God," she started,
"Thank you for this food.
In Jesus name, Amen."
The prayer came out just as it usually did.
My farmer smiled at her and said, "You know, Lillie, you can say something else when you pray. God likes to hear you say different things in your prayers so He knows you're thinking about it and that you really mean it."
Preparations for Hurricane Sandy had been ongoing for two days prior to when it was supposed to hit. We were sitting in the pathway of it.
Once the storm hit, we were all ready: cows in their respective sections of the barns, dogs inside, chickens penned with feed and water, everything put away and closed up tight. Water in buckets, rubbermaids, gallon containers in case the electricity went off.
Strangely, it was a cozy day. Safe inside with no farm work to keep him outside, my farmer actually got to play a few games with the kids, a rare treat for them.
It was after supper when we'd cleared the dishes to the sink. It was dark now but the wind had picked up violently; we tried to ignore it and the flickering lights as we moved around the kitchen. Violet had helped me and was talking about a new "hair style" she had done to one of her dolls and she wanted to try on me. I sat on the floor as she started when we were startled by heavy gusts of wind followed by the heart-wrenching sound of a loud crash: something really large and metal had fallen to the road. I wondered if the barn had blown down. Violet looked out the door as the crashing noise happened and said she saw sparks flying like fire crackers up at the road. My heart sank. A million thoughts rush into your head all at once when you hear something like that. Was the barn still standing? Were the cows buried under rubble? What had happened?
We could see nothing looking out into the darkness. The wind was so turbulent, there was no venturing out into it. My husband's worry made him want to check on the animals, but I worried that with metal flying around, he might be in danger out there. All we could do was wait until the surge of the storm slowed down some.
It seemed like a torturous time waiting but as soon as the wind let up slightly, my husband ran out to his truck and began to drive up to the barn. I strained to see out the basement door, Violet staring beside me, the other two too young and carefree to notice anything was going on. As his headlights went up the driveway, I could see a heap of metal lying in the road, too much of a heap to be just a sheet or two from the roof. It looked like the whole roof had blown off. I thought of the hay and of my husband, hour after hour, all spring and summer long...praying for certain weather, racing bad weather, planning, working around his day job, out til after dark to get it all done. And now it lay open to this merciless downpour. In this kind of rain, too much damage could happen to our vulnerable feed.
I burst into tears, "Oh, no! The barn roof! All Daddy's hay!" Violet didn't hesitate. She was bawling too.
My farmer came back down to the house to tell me the electric wire to the barn had been severed and was lying in the road, under the heap of metal and that I needed to call to have it shut off.
Our neighboring farmer just happened to come up the road at that moment and was trying to call my husband to discuss what had happened and to stay up there to block the road so nobody would drive into the mess.
My fingers shook as I tried to call the electric company and then detailed the situation to the emergency responder. I hung up the phone and tried to see out into the darkness. Violet was sitting on the loveseat all wrapped up in a ball crying.
I looked across the room at her and she looked at me in anger,
"Why would He do this to us? Why would God do this to Daddy and his hay? It's not fair."
I suddenly realized that this wasn't just a life circumstance. My daughter was sitting in the room questioning spiritual things while I looked out at fallen bits of metal and water flooding across the driveway.
"Life isn't fair, Violet. Bad things happen to everybody. We don't live in a perfect world. God isn't a genie in a bottle. But He promises that all things work together for good to those who love Him. This is where we have to trust Him, even when it seems hard to know why things are happening. Don't ask those questions now, while we are in the storm. When you're in the storm, that's when you have to trust the most." I felt myself talking more to myself than to her.
Her tears continued and her anger was obvious. I wasn't sure what to do with it. I can't make my child not be angry. I can't make her see that God is good all the time. But I had to get control of my own emotions if I was going to show her that I believed that truth. My words had to have some action behind them when the storm was making it so that I couldn't see what was going on outside.
When my Farmer came inside, he was wet and discouraged. The rain. If it didn't slow down, it could destroy a lot of our hay. The cows were all safe, but there was nothing we could do for the hay but wait for the sun to come out. Hopefully it would in the morning.
Things slowed down considerably after an hour or so, and by morning, the rain had nearly stopped, which was amazing considering it was supposed to continue all through the day.
We could see in the morning that 1/4 of the roof had blown off. Not all the hay would be ruined.
The key now would be to get as much out of that barn in the exposed area as possible and cover the rest with tarps.
Violet and I watched from the house as several trucks came up the road. Four of the neighboring farmers with their sons stepped from their trucks and headed into the barn. Hay bales began shifting from arms to arms down the wall of hay into the hay wagons.
Tractors chugged to life as the wagons moved out, down the road into any spare space these farmers could make for the hay from our barn. The onslaught of help, kindness from people who understood the long hours put into each of those bales, the reliance on those bales for feed through a coming winter, it was an overwhelming sight. Still other friends, family, friends from church called to volunteer help.
Violet watched and listened as she saw the kindness of people coming together when a need was open to be met. That kindness was always there, but is becomes more visible during hard times.
A week or so passed before the hammering up at the barn started as the replacement went on; the "tap, tap, tap, tap" created an atmosphere of building and newness.
I looked over at Violet and realized we'd never finished our discussion about the barn roof. "We sometimes never know why God allows the things that happen in our lives," I admitted to her.
"Perhaps God knew that part of the barn was in need of repair and He spared us our cows and no people were hurt.
Maybe God wanted those workers up there to have this job so they could pay for the things they need in their families.
Maybe, since one of those workers lives right up the road, maybe his wife needed him to be home for some certain reason, and now he's right up the road and can go home and have lunch with her this week.
We can't see the whole picture of everybody's prayers and needs, but we can know that God sees and has good plans. Perhaps he saw a little girl and her mom needed a lesson of trust during a storm."
After all, sometimes it is in the storm that the most necessary lessons need to be learned.
"I want to pray tonight, Daddy," Lillie grabbed his hand this evening at the supper table.
"Okay, go ahead," my Farmer bowed his head as she watched to make sure.
Thank you for this food,
and I mean it.
In Jesus name, Amen."