The homestead and the garden are currently a burnt, crunchy brown. We have had to fight for any garden production by replanting dead plants, watering, and mulching. It has been depressing. My husband frequently reminds me that in order to have good garden years, you have to have bad garden years, too. The goats have eaten their little pasture down to a nub and are now having to explore a little further for green grass. Recently, I took inventory of our home canned goods and realized that I have a dwindling supply of several staples, including green beans, homemade salsa, and spaghetti sauce. Honestly, I am not sure if we will have enough production from our garden to restock our root cellar shelves. I have been praying for rain, and not just a light sprinkle, but a substantial consistent rain. The last time it rained here was July 9th. It is now July 17th, and as I write it is finally raining. It has led me to reflect on droughts, rain, and prayer.
As a young girl, I can remember sitting in my little country church on hot July Sundays. My legs would stick to the hard,wooden pews, even in the air-conditioned building. The older women would usually be waving simple paper fans attached to what looked like large popsicle sticks. The older men (most of whom were farmers) would be requesting prayer for rain, and the congregation would agree in a chorus of amens. Growing up on a farm, I became accustomed to the sorrow of drought and joy of summer rain. We did not have the advantage or the access to local radars or fifteen-minute forecasts. The weather was usually provided while watching the evening news or reading the back of the daily paper. However, you could feel the rain coming. The sky would form dark clouds, the wind would pick up and the pressure could be felt. Rain was coming! Rain usually meant scurrying to put up important tools or gathering up harvest to be taken in doors. There was always excitement in the air, a thankfulness, and a sense of urgency to move inside. I learned later in life that those feelings were particular to farm life. The first rain while in college made me think, “Why am I so excited?” Meanwhile, everyone else on campus was simply getting their umbrellas out.
Thinking of all the lack of rain and the struggle to keep my squash, and cucumbers alive brings to mind one of my favorite Bible stories. In 1 Kings chapter 18, Elijah and Israel are suffering through a three-year drought. Three years of drought meant that the land was desperate. Because of a month of drought here, I have dead grass, peppers, and squash. Imagine three years with no rain !! The people of Israel had experienced lack of harvest, death of animals and dried up water sources. The conditions were dire. In 1 Kings chapter 18 verse 41 you find Elijah informing King Ahab that there will be rain. I find it fascinating that there was no rain yet, and actually Elijah had not even prayed for rain yet. Wow! What faith! Elijah was sure God would supply the rain, even after a three-year drought. This reminds me of my three year drought that I suffered through in my life. After three years of infertility and the loss of a baby, I was shaken to the core. Sadly, if you had asked me, “Are you going to be a mother?” Unlike Elijah I could not predict the rain in my life. My life was definitely in a drought and I saw no rain in sight. There were so many things out of my control, mostly the ability to create life. Three years of pain led me to acknowledge God’s sovereignty over life. The waiting left me dry and lonely, there was an absence of life/rain in my life. In verse 42 of 1 Kings 18, Elijah climbed to the top of Mt. Carmel humbling seeking God. The Bible says he “bowed himself down on the earth” putting his face down on the ground. Elijah was acknowledging that God was the only one who could make it rain. In 2001, in a small southern Indiana church, I was broken, hopeless and dried up. If you had encountered me then, you would have seen the drought of my life on my face. I don’t remember the song or the sermon or even the particular date, but I will never forget the spiritual encounter and the rain God sent to me on that day. Sometimes in life you can be so broken that when God comes to you the surroundings make no difference. The song didn’t matter, the worship team didn’t matter, the lighting of the building didn’t matter. My soul was dry and dying. The one thing I most desperately wanted was to be a mother, and it appeared God had ignored my heart’s desire. Yes, I was angry. But instead of expressing my anger to God, I had been running away. In hindsight, I was actually denying myself the true rain, the water, the life giving spiritual nourishment I needed. At that point, my church attendance had become sporadic, and I am pretty sure I was only there because a friend had asked if I was coming. Soon after the church service started, and while the congregation was singing either a hymn or a worship song, I found myself walking to the front of the church. There were a few steps leading up from the floor to the stage of the church building, and it was often referred to as the altar. I had never been to an altar before, in any church. During the three years of heartbreak for me, not once, not even in private, had I knelt in prayer. There had been times I had asked others to pray, called my mom and cried, or vented to a friend, but strangely, I did not personally seek God. I was disappointed in God. He knew what I wanted, but it seemed he was denying me. I felt my knees buckle when I reached the front of the church and I crumpled myself down on the carpeted steps. Strangely, I was not worried about the 150 people who were now looking at me. The sorrow of three years came rolling out of me, and it was raining. The rain this time came in the form of my tears and pain, which you would think would not produce life, but they did. It was such a release for me to finally be honest before God, to be broken. God was with me, and with every tear I cried he came closer. For the first time in a long time, I knew God had not left me alone. I left church that day feeling comforted, not because I was suddenly pregnant, not because God said, “You will have a baby”, and not because any of my problems were solved, but because I knew God had heard me. In verse 44 of 1 Kings 18, it says Elijah’s servant spots a little cloud, like a man’s hand. Soon it was raining, and in one of my favorite parts of the story, Elijah, who was an old man at the time, “gathers up his garments” and beats the King’s chariot to the entrance of Jezreel. In a matter of weeks after my Baptist church altar encounter I held my oldest son for the first time. The adoption agency told my husband and me that it was the fastest placement that they had ever done. The entire time I suffered through my drought, God knew when the rain would come for me. He knew the plan, because he formed the plan. And even though I spent most of the time doubting the plan, he was gracious and loving to me. There was purpose in my pain and a plan for my life.
I cry out to God Most High, to God who fulfills his purpose for me.
His plans were greater than mine. Now I am a mother of three boys, and my cup runs over. His purpose was for me to be a mom to my wonderful sons. Honestly, without the drought, I would not have chosen to be an adoptive mother. Sadly, I would have missed out on so many of the blessings that adoption had brought me. While the drought looked like it was killing me, it was actually making my roots reach deeper. My deeper roots showed up in my joy despite the pain, peace even in the unknown, and finally in his gracious gift of my three sons. It was painful to go through the three years of drought. However, God’s timing was perfect and so was his plan. During the drought, he was crafting my special family. Through my three adoptions I have learned so much about God’s love for me and his plans. I still have days when I get stuck looking at the drought but my faith tells me, God will send the rain.
The LORD Sends Rain 1 Kings 18:41-46
41)And Elijah said to Ahab, “Go up, eat and drink, for there is a sound of the rushing of rain.” 42)So Ahab went up to eat and to drink. And Elijah went up to the top of Mount Carmel. And he bowed himself down on the earth and put his face between his knees. 43)And he said to his servant, “Go up now, look toward the sea.” And he went up and looked and said, “There is nothing.” And he said, “Go again,” seven times. 44)And at the seventh time he said, “Behold, a little cloud like a man’s hand is rising from the sea.” And he said, “Go up, say to Ahab, ‘Prepare your chariot and go down, lest the rain stop you.’” 45)And in a little while the heavens grew black with clouds and wind, and there was a great rain. And Ahab rode and went to Jezreel. 46)And the hand of the LORD was on Elijah, and he gathered up his garment and ran before Ahab to the entrance of Jezreel.
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