“The youth group is going canoeing on Wednesday! Can I go? Please?” I asked after church one summer Sunday.
“Only if it rains. We are lucky enough to have a hundred acres of hay to make!” was the reply from my dad, who added, “It’s going to be a hayin’ party!” trying to make it as appealing as a Neapolitan ice cream cone at an amusement park.
Sunday School and church was just part of our fabric, and now I was finally old enough to be invited to join youth group, something my big sisters enjoyed. I sure didn’t want to miss my first fun outing with the big kids.
At that time, we had Pastor Tim, who was just about the coolest Godly man I had ever laid eyes on. There were so many reasons to pull my hankering heart toward a day in a canoe. So, when I tucked myself in to bed that night, I had some mighty tough soul searching to do.
One hundred acres of hay, I knew, was mighty important to our big herd of Holsteins. Good hay meant good milk production. I was no dummy in that regard. But, my heart was singing at the thought of paddling in a canoe, something I had never, ever done. I wanted to pretend to be Pippi Longstocking, sailing the high seas.
I wanted to pray for blue skies and sunshine, because even at that tender age, I knew that’s what that hay needed. No rain at all, low humidity, no heavy morning dew, was just what we should be praying for once Dad had gone out to mow that hay. And when the weather report came on, don’t make a peep.
Going canoeing would be a whole lot more fun if the sun was shining. Who wanted to have a day of play under gloomy, gray skies and sprinkles? I tossed and turned, delaying my nightly prayers. Finally, I got out of bed, went downstairs and found my dad at the kitchen counter, looking out toward the barns as he did every night before he turned in.
“I need to ask you something,” I said. I remember like it was yesterday that he reached for his pipe and a pipe cleaner, something he often did to buy himself some time while contemplating questions from one of his four daughters.
I explained that I was stumped on what exactly I should pray for. I poured out my heart, confessing that a part of me would rather go ride a canoe than help with haying, and it sounded just like a big fat sin as it crossed my lips.
Dad decided he needed to fill that pipe, tamp it down, inspect it, tamp it some more. I thought I saw a flicker of a grin being suppressed when I told him I would feel like a sinful prodigal daughter if I prayed for rain and ended up ruining all 100 acres of hay.
He finally said, “Honey, it’s a darn good thing we don’t all get what we pray for. The golfer would pray for sunshine even when we need rain. The guy who makes his living by catching fish would pray for cool, rainy days because that’s when the fish are biting.
“And the farmer would never, ever want rain when he has hay down, but he would want rain after all his corn was planted. You follow me? It’s a good thing that we aren’t in charge, and it goes way beyond weather.”
So, I headed back for bed, confused, because Dad still didn’t say anything about what the new kid in youth group should pray for. Then a great big thought popped in to my head, and this is how my prayer went that night: “Dear God. You know I want really, really bad to ride in a canoe, but my Dad wants all of us to help make hay this week. So I’m going to steal a few words from that prayer you guys wrote and put in the Bible. Thy will be done. Amen.”
So, do you want to know how the story ends? We baled a ton of hay that week. And to this day, I have never been on a canoe ride. I figure I would have ended up with a bunch of mosquito bites, a sunburn and a tipped canoe. And it’s a darn good thing a 10-year-old kid will never have the power to finagle any of it. Amen!