Don’t get me wrong, 2016 was tear-filled. It was another year of loss: friends, my mother-in-law, my horse. There for a while it seemed that darkness was going to overcome me. At night I’d lie in bed. My Prayer: “Lord, you feel so distant. I know it’s me, not you. I am unfulfilled. I am empty. Something’s wrong.”
That was during the summer, when the sun beat down, the wind blew constant and the rain didn’t come.
My prayers took on an urgent tone, “Lord, please . . . if it’s your will, please send rain.”
Weeks turned into months. Grass died. Pastures lost their greenery and, as my prayers for rain continued, my discontent grew.
Then I noticed the cows. Hungry, as were so many animals during the summer of 2016. Then one day I stopped. All my adventures begin when I stop the car. God has blessed me with the curse of seeing things: people, flowers at risk, hungry cows.
At the feed store, I placed one bale of hay in my tiny leased vehicle and prayed, “Lord, please don’t let The Beloved find out.”
The Lord is used to those kinds of prayers, “Lord, don’t let The Beloved find out.”
That I’ve rescued three hundred daffodils from development. That a stray cat with seven babies is living under my daughter’s bed. That I am feeding a stranger’s cows.
He loves me: both The Lord, and The Beloved.
It wasn’t long before I realized that I couldn’t afford to feed six cows every day. With farmers feeding livestock months ahead of schedule, the price of hay skyrocketed. Those with bovine experience know that feeding during a drought takes more than hay. One needs: supplements, corn, molasses, salt blocks. One needs money. So, like a woman possessed, I took to Facebook and begged complete strangers to help.
My prayer: “Lord, what are you doing? What’s the deal with me and the cows?”
The Lord was silent. He watched. I fed, and eventually petted the cows. Sometimes I’d toss out the hay and cry. Sorrowful tears because there was no rain; because there was no hope of rain; because the Lord whom I love was not answering.
My prayer: “Lord, I know you created these cows. Help me.”
The field became dust.
Strangers sent checks. I transported hay and vacuumed each weekend before the beloved visited. The cows waited for me. They called to me. For those who helped me feed the cows, I am eternally grateful. I still can’t explain how that experience touched me. Basically: I cried. They healed me.
Then November came with still-parched land. The cows were moved to a better pasture.
Fire rained down on Gatlinburg. You will never hear me say that we were lucky. We were blessed. If you’ve read my blogs or followed me on Facebook, you know the exact moment when the fire was outside my father-in-law’s doorstep, literally inches from the house. God spared him. God spared the house. Regardless of what you believe, I know that the prayers . . . my face on the carpet, crying, praying the scripture, summonsing up my tiny mustard seed faith were heard.
Fast forward to The Distribution Center, post fire. That’s where I met “Jack.”
Here is what Jack wrote on FB the afternoon of the fire: This is so sad. The wind is so bad… a transformer explode across the street but God bless them they were there in two minutes and put the fire out. God please show us mercy and save our beautiful town. There’s way more good people than bad and they don’t deserve to have their livelihoods taken from them. In Jesus name I pray Amen
But the fires came to his place. He lived in a tiny cabin that didn’t even have a functioning kitchen.
The fires took everything he owned. Everything but his faith. “Jack” and I have talked about faith a lot since we met.
Again, my Facebook strangers-turned friends- sent checks. They donated to Paypal. They helped him and others I met in the distribution center. Other hard-working people who lost it all, because in a blink this type of tragedy could happen to any of us.
“Jack” isn’t quite where he wants to be just yet. But he is getting there. He still has a job when so many have already been laid off. His goal for 2017, find a second job so he can afford an apartment. He confided that he hasn’t had his own bedroom since he was sixteen. And when he finds this apartment I know that together my blog readers and Facebook family will rain some blessings down on him.
My prayer: “Lord, Look at you blessing all of us with this young man.”
“Jack” has asked me “why?”
Not, why did God allow the fire to happen. “Jack” asked me, why are y’all are being so nice?
My response, “Because we love you.”
The fires brought us together. And for that I will be forever grateful to 2016.
Renea Winchester is a traditionally-published author of three books. She is a Jesus lover, a gardener, and a giver of hugs. She may be reached at P.O. Box 404, Webster NC 28788