They say, “Make hay while the sun shines” and this is true. Those of us around here with horses need hay cut at just the right time. We watch the weather, hoping for three, back-to-back sunny days for hay harvesting because horse hay must be dry. Otherwise, hay molds and can’t be fed to horses.
Last week was our first three-day stretch of dry since the hay was ready for harvest.
I watched as the farmer from up the road cut our field one day and flipped the hay the next day. As clouds darkened and winds picked up on the third day, I prayed for no rain until the crop was in the barns.
At 4:30 PM that third day, the farmer’s truck kicks up dust from our gravel drive. I watch him hook up his hay baler and wagon before rolling into the field. Like with a giant vacuum, he begins sweeping the rows. Every fifteen seconds, the baler spits sixty-pound chunks of hay bound with twine into the wagon, kind of like a PEZ candy dispenser for horses. They will love this sweet, I’m sure.
After a couple of rows, I call out the troops. “Get your gloves! Hay wagon is coming off the field in a few minutes!”
Prepared for this moment each summer, my husband and three grown kids come out the front door pulling leather gloves over their hands. This will be rough work, scatching-the-skin kind of work, until who knows when. Bottom line, get the hay in the barns. Tonight. No matter how late.
We’ve been doing this hay routine for years and we know in advance what this night will bring. Sore muscles, sweaty bodies, immense fatigue and intermittent short tempers. But this night will also bring a fond togetherness, a fantastic family memory with laughs about Mom getting whacked by a hay bale flung by one of her sons. Happens every year.
After only a couple rows, the first wagon is full and pulled to the barn. The five of us go to work. Our neighbor Nancy, ten years and five days older than I (she’ll be 68 on 7/28 and I’ll be 58 on 8/2), pulls up in her green pick-up ready to do her share because we’re going to help stock her barn of three horses from our fields as well. It’s 85 and humid.
We all hoist and haul each bale into the clean-swept barn and start stacking a year’s worth of hay for our horses, 60 pounds at a time. My dinner plans aren’t happening. I call for pizza instead. The coolers are full of soda and water and I think we’re sweating out faster than we’re pouring in.
At 10 PM, I feel as if my body will revolt and strike, refusing to lift one more bale. But I keep pushing. My fingers are stuck in a claw position and I can hardly slip them under the baling twine. Nick has a mild meltdown over breaking bales with hay scattering everywhere. We change positions. I mount the wagon and hurl the bales down while he hoists the bales over to Todd who’s hoisting higher than his head and stacking. Still, we all keep working until the last bale is off those seven wagons and all 700 bales are stacked neatly in three barns. That’s 42,000 pounds of hay divided among 6 people equaling 7,000 pounds a piece.
It’s 11:30 PM. I walk slow to the house, all aching. I step into the shower. Takes awhile to get the hay out of this hair. I slip into my cotton nightgown, take two Ibuprofen and flop into bed. Sleep has never seemed so sweet.
Next morning, I rise thankful, joyful and, surprisingly, not sore.
There’s something about farming—about working together for common good—about helping one another—about win-win arrangements. This farmer up the road helps us feed our horses and we help him feed his family. We get hay for our horses and he sells the hay we don’t need. I like this bartering of talents, time, resources. This is God’s way, I believe.
But most heartwarming to me in all this rich goodness is our kids. I watch the three of them, all now grown, and time collapses. In a second, I see them as they were when Todd and I held them in our arms for the first time in that Russian orphanage, the only home they had ever known before ours. Anna, Zach and Nick, then 6, 4 and 19 months—all infested with parasites inside and out—all underweight and sickly looking pale—all awaiting parents to come and give them a future and a hope—all who most probably would have ended up in drugs or prostitution or sex trafficking or dead by the time they were 21, statistics say:
Of Russian orphans not adopted, only 4% are admitted to universities, 50% fall into a high-risk category, 40% become involved in crime, 10% commit suicide, 33% stay unemployed, and 20% become homeless. (“Statistical Snapshots: Russia’s Children at Risk”. Russian Children’s Welfare Society. Retrieved 27 March 2013.)
And here’s a heartbreaking video story of Russian young women turned out of orphanages with no place to go:
These statistics—this video testimony—both most likely would have been our Anna (Alla). Or our Zach (Sergei). Or our Nick (Nikolai).
But here they all are. In our home. In Wisconsin. In American. With a mother. A mother with special needs of her own. A mother wanting what’s best and still wondering if what’s best is this mother. But trusting in the sovereignty of a good and great God.
Surely, this journey of parenting has just about done me in, all the special needs—theirs and mine. My own weaknesses were not of the kind to raise kids with so many special needs. Or so I thought. And so I told God.
Way back then when I colored black that box saying we wouldn’t adopt kids with permanent disabilities, only developmental delays, I had no idea what God had in mind. I only wanted kids who would catch up and be like other kids, eventually. I wanted normal, whatever that means.
All I know is that I didn’t want what I didn’t feel I could handle. I didn’t think that would be fair for any kid. Even so, I trusted God would lead us to just the right kids and help us make just the right home for them. That was 20 years ago, this year.
I’ve gone through long seasons of doubt, wondering what God was thinking when he chose me as their mother—this woman who suffers from debilitating depression at times and has too many flaws to count. But all these years later, I’ve learned the goodness of God, first-hand. I learned his faithfulness, first-hand. I had no idea how literally true the kids’ life verse would be but it’s turned out to be the perfect life verse, not only for them, but for me.
For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. (Jeremiah 29:11)
Isn’t that what we all want? To be cared for well? To have a future? A hope?
We’re in this together, this family of loved-by-God who oversees us and perfectly cares for each of us. I may not have been the best mother for them in my eyes, but in God’s eyes, he chose me. God has a way of redeeming all things, even what we deem unredeemable. And God’s plans are always the best plans for growing us all up into His likeness with love.
The hay’s in the barn, ready to feed for a year. God’s way is in my heart, ready to feed for eternity. I’m ready. And thankful.