Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The Wind

Last week Toa of Boy prayed for wind. Now, Toa of Boy is required to say a prayer before each meal. He gives thanks for his food, and then he must give thanks for one other thing, a different thing for each prayer. I use the words "required" and "must", because that's what most of Toa of Boy's prayers have seemed to be. Something he is doing because Mommy says he should. But last week was different. Toa of Boy clasped his hands and bowed his head. "Thanks I'm having grilled cheese," he said, "and please make it some wind for flying kites. The End."

I was ecstatic. It was the first time, that I have been aware of, where his prayer has seemed like communication instead of a dutiful formula. As he ate his lunch, we talked a little about prayer and how God always listens to our prayer. He asked, "Its gonna be windy now, Mommy?"

"Maybe not right now," I said, "and besides, we can't go kite flying today. Maybe we should pray for wind this weekend, so that we can go kite flying when its windy and Daddy can come too." It was decided this was a good course of action, so we both bowed our heads again, and prayed for a windy day over the weekend, so that our family could go kite flying.

"It's gonna be windy this weekend, Mommy?" was the immediate question. "God's gonna make it windy?"

"I hope so," I replied. "God always listens to our prayers, and He loves us very much. But He doesn't always give us everything we ask for. Just like when you ask Mommy for something. Sometimes Mommy says 'yes!' And sometimes Mommy says, 'not right now, but you can have that later.' And sometimes Mommy says, 'no, I don't think that would be very good for you.' When we ask God for something, sometimes God says 'yes!' And sometimes God says, 'not right now'. And sometimes God says, 'no, that wouldn't be the best thing for you to have.' But whatever he answers, he answers it because he loves us."

::Note to my readers--

Half of you are now upset that I didn't immediately name it and claim it. That I show I lack of faith by not immediately telling my boy that of course it would be windy. To these, I must politely answer that God's plan is not our plan, that His ways are not our ways, that even Jesus in the garden prayed, 'not my will, but Yours be done.' I do not question whether God *could* send the wind. I do not question whether God hears and answers our prayers. But I humbly bow before his Sovereignty.

A few of you have taken the opposite point of view. What about all those times when it clearly, to us, seems best that God answer our prayer by fulfilling our request? How is letting a loved one linger in sickness despite our prayers for healing in our best interest? To these, I must also humbly answer, I don't know. I do not pretend to understand why some prayers seem to us to go unanswered and unheeded. There are wiser ones than I that wrestle with these same questions. There are times when God doesn't seem to make sense. There are times when circumstances seem bitterly unfair. And you would be correct in that assessment. There are times when my prayers consist solely of loud, lengthy complaints and arguments with my Creator about the ills and injustices of circumstances. And those of you who know me in real life know what a perfect fit I can throw when I don't get my way. For those of you who don't know me in real life, I am quite perfectly described by the nursery rhyme--There was a girl who had a curl right in the center of her forehead/ And when she was good she was very good/ And when she was bad she was horrid.

But in the end, I am always left with a choice. I can choose to trust in God and in the sovereignty and goodness of His plan, or I can choose not to trust. I choose to trust. Sometimes I choose to trust because I can look back on and remember many, many times before where my situation has seemed hopeless and cruel, and yet God worked it for the good. Sometimes I choose to trust because I can remember the promises He has given us and been faithful to fulfill throughout the ages. But sometimes I trust only because I would rather face the uncertainty of with the certainty of a loving God who is control, rather than go through my trial without the shelter of his protection and grace. And so, I choose to trust, and I choose to believe.

Having had my little soap box time for the day, I'll get back to the wind story--

That night at dinner, I shared Toa of Boy's prayers with the rest of the family, and we prayed again for wind over the weekend. Later, I talked with Mamma about his prayers, and I asked her to pray specifically for wind this weekend.

Friday came and went. Saturday came, and the day was pleasant and sunny. A gentle breeze ruffled the trees in our backyard. The Jedi saw the trees moving out back, and thought we could perhaps go kite flying. I disagreed. Having attempted to fly the large kites before, I knew they needed a steady, constant wind to stay aloft. The two of us stood at the kitchen window, looking out the front of the house at the neighborhood, and agreed that there was not enough continual air movement for the kites would to do well. We said nothing of our discussion to Toa of Boy.

Sunday started with the air heavy and humid. But as we left church, the wind snatched Toa of Boy's Sunday school paper right out of his hand. In a flashing flutter of movement, the paper was carried up and unto the church roof. There it danced on the shingled surface, caught where the upward sloping roof joined the flat vertical surface of the taller gymnasium's wall. It jitterbugged past the A and the Y of the large letters of our church's name before being caught in a downdraft and spun back down towards us. We were all helplessly watching its path, and for a moment thought that we could catch it and return it to its traumatized owner, who had not been silent about its departure. But alas, the wind threw it beyond the tall fence that corralled the giant air conditioner. Many people, for now the event had grown beyond the concern of our immediate family, peered anxiously through the slats of the high partition, trying to see where the paper had landed. We could not spy it in the grass inside the enclosure, but there arose speculation as to whether a thin person could squeeze through the space between the church wall and the galvanized steel fence post. I examined the space, and was pretty certain I could fit, if only just barely. But, I also caught a glimpse of the paper. It was pressed to the concrete slap in the belly of the noisily whirring beast within. I could possibly squeeze past the safety of the perimeter fence. I could certainly reach my arm through the ventilation space in the metal housing of the unit. I might even be able to stretch my arm far enough in to reach and retrieve the lost paper...but that assessment was a little questionable. In the end though, sanity prevailed and we headed home minus one Sunday school paper.

Driving home, we noticed a line of dark clouds on the horizon. The Jedi and I discussed what would be quickest for lunch. If we were going to fly kites, we only had a brief window before the storm front completely moved in. We sent the kids to go get playclothes on, and I packed three healthy lunchables with ham slices, braided honey pretzel twists, and half a banana in a tupperware sandwich container. We grabbed water bottles, put the kites in the van, and headed out. (There are way, way too many trees and power lines in our area to fly kites.) The kids ate their snacks on the way, and we drove back up the road to a small local park. We got out of the van, and headed to the outfield of one of the parks two adjacent baseball fields.

By this time, the wind gusts were so strong neither of the kids could carry their kites into the field. The wind was just trying to blow them over. I jested that we could tie a string to the kids themselves and fly them, and my teasing wasn't far from the truth. We got Toa of Boy's kite in the air, where it thrashed violently at the end of its line and quickly became a lethal weapon. It ducked and dived and bucked and threatened to decapitate anyone caught along the length of its now horizontal tether. Sweetlings kite immediately ripped free of its sparring and, like some poor animal caught in a trap, tried to tear itself to pieces to get loose from its earthly tether. The Jedi managed to wrestle it back to the ground in one piece, and walked back to the van, keeping the kite in a tight bear hug till it could be safely stowed away.

Toa of Boy decided to be considerate, and share his tasmanian devil of a kite with his sister. Sweetling took hold of the kite string, which she eventually found despite the cloak of hair whipping around her face. Toa of Boy ran to dodge death by dancing around under his dangerous kite. I was watching Toa of Boy, and trying to call out life saving instructions to him like, "Come back! No No! Don't come straight to me--the string will slice you in two! Go around! No! Don't spin around!" While I was preoccupied imparting my words of wisdom, the string pulled free of Sweetling's hand. Suddenly I found myself kicking off my sandals and running full tilt across a field in pursuit of a kite hellbent on the ultimate escape. I managed to pounce cat-like on the spool that was jumping across the grass playing out string as it went. At this point, the Jedi returned from securing Sweetling's kite in the van. He surveyed the scene and decided we perhaps had had enough kite flying for the day.

As we all hiked back to the van, one of us collecting her shoes on the way, the Jedi spotted one unfortunate bird who attempted to take wing. He didn't see the creature's final destination, but could tell from is failing struggles that it was not headed in the direction it had intended to go. We paused on the lee side of the van to watch the cloud race across the sky in a manner not unsimilar to time-lapse films. As we drove back around the baseball fields, we noticed a large section of the outfield fence that had been ripped from the ground, the posts at its base shattered. Toa of Boy wanted to know if they could play on the playground for a little while. For some unknown reason, we parents agreed to this request. We were quickly disabused of this notion by the bits of parking lot gravel turned into stinging projectiles in the torrent of the wind.

Driving home, whirlwinds of leaves swirled across the street and around the van. The first of the small branches began to splinter from their parent trees. I thought once we reached home, we would just go about doing our regular Sunday routines. So, I sent the kids to pick up the school room and their bedrooms while I swept and mopped the kitchen floor. I went downstairs, threw the laundry from the washer into the dryer, and grabbed the vacuum cleaner. I was on my way out of the laundry room when the dryer stopped. I paused, thinking for a minute I must not have set it correctly, but into the silence came the beeping of multiple UPS systems crying out for electricity.

I don't know what most families would do first when the power goes off. Wait a moment to see if it comes back on perhaps? Start gathering flashlights just in case it doesn't? Call the power company? Turn on a battery operated radio? None of those things happen first in our family. In our family, without any words being spoken, everyone heads for the computers and begins the shut down process as soon as possible.

When all the systems had been shut down and the UPS's silenced, I moved the breakables off the living room window sill. Though, sadly, I thought Toa of Boy's small plant would be safely protected by the thick upright between the panes. I was wrong. Toa of Boy thought we could water the carpet, and the plant would still grow. Mommy had make firm injuctives against carpet-watering. Since vacuuming wasn't an option, we placed to small chairs in-front of the spilled plant, to protect against small feet grinding dirt into the carpet.

We watched the fury of the winds for another three hours. We listened in awe, and not a little fear, at the loud cracking of the largest limbs raining down around the community. We expected thunder and lightening and terrific rainfall, but received not even as much as a sprinkle, nor any thunder besides the shot-like snapping of the wood.

Christopher Robin and I exchanged a few text messages. The power was out in her neck of the woods as well. (I really think I get points for not saying in her neck of the hundred acre woods.) I jokingly mentioned how sad I was to not be able to vacuum or do laundry. I also speculated that if the power stayed out, evening church would be canceled, and I could stay home and play games. So, now you all know. In a time of crisis, I can be that petty and selfish. Sure enough, a little while later our youth pastor called. The power was out on a very wide reaching scale (and church was canceled. If I were a better person, I'd be feeling a little guilty.) The Jedi went out to the car to listen to the radio, but several of the local stations weren't broadcasting. That was an eerie, end of the world type of feeling. Pulling up a news network on his phone, he learned that hundreds of thousands were without power across several counties.

Realizing now the full scope of the situation, or what we thought was the full scope at the time, now we began to take emergency precautions. The Jedi gathered lightsticks and battery-less flashlights. Fiona the Webkinz snake got looped through the handles of the fridge and freezer to remind the family not to open either one. Sweetling raided her multiple sets of walkie-talkies for 9volt batteries for the weather radio. I looked through the pantry to come up with a dinner I could put together without using anything in the fridge...since I thought the power would be back on in a few hours, and the refrigerated foods would be fine if we just kept the door closed to keep them as cool as possible. My stovetop was gas, so at least I could do some cooking. And, Toa of Boy learned that both the wii and the computer and all the lights needed electricity to run.

We spent the evening playing games together. As it grew dark, we each activated a light stick. I passed the Jedi in the hall and he said, "I feel like I should be starting an EVP session." At 8pm, the Jedi decided we should rescue the ice cream from the freezer, and consume as much as possible since it wasn't going to last much longer. We all gathered around and had an ice cream feast at the table. Toa of Boy and Sweetling decided they wanted to camp out in the living room, so we got out the sleeping bags. We tucked Toa of Boy in, and Sweetling read by the light of a glowstick till it was her bedtime. The Jedi left our bedroom light on, so that we would know when the power came back on during the night.

The next morning I woke up sometime between 6:30 and 7. It was hard to say exactly what the time was without the big glowing numbers on the alarm clock. The Jedi was dressed and ready to leave for work when he got the call that there was no power there either. Upstairs, both of the kids had wakened early. Since it was still dark, the Jedi decided he wanted to drive around and see how extensive the outing was for himself. We all scrambled to get dressed so that we could go with him. A few business centers were powered, and we bought a paper and cold medicine for Toa of Boy. We also sat in a line that began in the right lane and gradually inched its way into the gas station. Toa of Boy played on the game boy while we waited for our turn to fill up the tank. The paper was citing that 90% of the area had lost power, and that it could be 3 to 5 days before the electricity was restored.

Back at home, we began making more long term plans. We also had a forest down in our yards that needed attention. And I had a dishwasher full of dishes that needed cleaned, and a dryer full of wet clothes that I thought I should do something with. But I think I'll have to save the details of "the day after" for another post. My tummy is rumbly and it is past time to start dinner.

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