I’ve been giddy for days, obsessively looking at the weather app on my phone and smiling with relief each time the little white clouds spilling blue raindrops were still on the forecast for Saturday morning. Last night I could barely sleep, my ears anticipating the sweet sound of rescue, the joyous smell of nourished earth, the enveloping drench of mercy. As I sit in the pre-dawn light and watch my trees and bushes and vines and flowers and garden soak in the desperately needed water, I am washed with so many emotions. The plants reflect my feelings as most of the branches and leaves are dancing in the rain, some are trembling, and a few are frozen still, reaching up and begging for more.
Its been five months since we had rain. That is not unusual for this area, but the cycle of unusual heat, drought and fire in the last decade has been a heavy burden that some of the land has been unable to bear, and it’s now desolate and even more vulnerable to the devastation of drought. Last week one of the many uncontrolled fires was only one and a half miles from my friend’s doorstep. She was packed and ready to run at a moment’s notice. The fear and trauma was thick in the air, mixed with smoke that made it almost too heavy to breath.
Breathing. This has been a season of slow, deep breaths that fuel quick desperate prayers. I’ve found myself constantly coaching my heart and mind to breath. In through the nose, out through the mouth. Breath in God’s kindness, love and mercy- blow out the frustration, anger and fear. I’ve never really paid attention to be breathing before, it was an automatic action of life, but as the atmosphere has grown darker and heavier I found the normal drive to breath was dampened; too often I was unconsciously holding my breath as I concentrated to hold back the natural negative responses of my heart to the ugliness around me. Breathe.
As the drought continued, week after week, month after month, I did my best to manually water all these plants I had recently placed in the ground. I promised them that soon the rains would come. Some of them gave up and withered away as the sun scorched their leaves beyond recognition. Thankfully, most of them survived- a bit scarred and possibly stunted, but they are alive and I believe the stress has built in some extra resilience and strength for the future seasons ahead. The only plants I did not worry about were the old oaks in my backyard, the ancient horse chestnut in the front and the massive magnolia in the chicken yard. These trees have deep root systems that have adapted to drought over decades. As I fretted over my baby fruit trees and berry bushes, they stood as witnesses that all will be well. They have seen worse and survived. We will make it.
My staff and our community have been pummeled by covid. Just when we thought we could finally take a day off after many months of seven days a week work, a new surge came out of nowhere and the sickness and death doubled. The fatigue floated in and covered us like a thick fog. The grief and frustration were stifling. Little fires began to burn, sparked by anger and fear. The dryness of the season allowed any feeble flame to ignite all those around it. Families and friendships became stressed, and with the ongoing drought, many have completely given up finding common ground and died. Now, even the smallest difference of opinion is enough kindling for a full-on forest fire. Now, even the ancient sequoias are in danger. We need this rain.
Thankfully, the rain is gentle. The parched ground is slowly soaking it in instead of being washed away. The steady sound of water washing leaves is also washing the disappointment and discouragement from my heart. God is still good, and He is still with us and He still loves us. We are going to make it. In Him we have the opportunity to grow stronger and more resilient. In Him, I can grow deep roots and resist the drought and fires that come my way. In Him I can respond to the stresses of life with love. Thank you, Father, for being with us. Thank you for the rain.
Shower, O heavens, from above,
and let the clouds rain down righteousness;
let the earth open, that salvation and righteousness may bear fruit;
let theearth cause them both to sprout;
I the Lord have created it.
For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven
and do not return there but water the earth,
making it bring forth and sprout,
giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,
so shallmy word be that goes out from my mouth;
it shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.