In the spring of ’81 we sold all of the cows and chickens and much of the farm equipment and officially ceased being farmers. I was not sad to see them go since I had never really liked farming; too much work for too little reward. For the first time in my life of 13 years work was not a priority. Always having to be doing something or going somewhere became long lazy days filled with exploring and creating and basking in my first taste of freedom. That summer I walked pretty much every square inch of our 120 acres. I built forts of different kinds all over and would travel from one to the other on some epic quest that I had made up. It was a long, hot, melancholic summer. There were no chores to do, no crops to get into the fields and no animals to take care of. Everything had changed and while I was enjoying the freedom I was also getting more and more insecure and fearful. I had no idea who I was supposed to be and worse yet, no one around to help me. We have never been a very talkative family – especially about personal issues. It is like pulling teeth to get any of us to really open up about what is going on inside.
We hadn’t quite sold all of the hay in our barn yet so one particularly boring Saturday morning in August I went out to the hay loft above the barn and started piling bales and moving them around, eventually constructing something that kind of resembled a fortress. It had low walls, two bales high and on one side had bales stacked four high forming walls on three sides with a bale width opening in the back and a couple of more bales over the top. It was just big enough for me to sit inside of with a small window out the front so I could see any intruders trying to invade my castle. As was typical on Saturdays, my older sister and her family would come over for dinner and sauna. It was a bright, clear sunny day – a little on the humid side but comfortable. As I was putting the finishing touches on my realm, she came into the hay barn to check on me. We had taken that long, cold walk on the night Dad died when she kept telling me that Jesus would be my Father now. She knew I was acting kind of lost so she came to see what was going on. I told her what I had been doing all day and showed her around my castle. She nodded and smiled the way that people do when there is something else they want to talk about but don’t want to be the first one to speak. After a little ordinary chit-chat she finally asked me the question that was on her mind. She asked if I had asked Jesus into my heart yet. I said no and that I really didn’t understand what she meant. She explained that we are all sinners and that Jesus died on a cross and rose from the dead to save our souls so that we could be with him someday in Heaven. I had heard her say this all before but this time it sounded a bit different. Something sparked in my heart and I began to think that maybe this Jesus that I had grown up hearing stories about in church was real and maybe He really did want to be with me and just maybe he could help me understand all that had happened and was happening.
Not wanting to sound too eager, I asked how I could know that he was there if I asked him into my heart; I couldn’t see him or hear him or touch him in any way so how could he be as real as she said? Then she did something that I will never forget. She took her red sweater off and held it up in front of her and started talking. She asked if I could hear her and I said yes. Then she asked how I knew she was there if I couldn’t see her. I had no answer. She said that it is the same way with Jesus – you may not see him or be able to touch him and it might be hard to hear him sometimes, but you can be sure he is there, you just need to ask him and he’ll come running. My tears were beginning to fall. My heart was being tugged at and I knew what I had to do and what I wanted to do. She asked if she could pray with me and I said no. For some reason I didn’t want anyone around to see me blabber and carry on and since I did not know what would happen when I said the words and I didn’t want to look stupid. She asked if I would let her know what happened and then left me alone in the hay barn.
What happened next has only been shared with a few people. It is both very personal between me and my Lord, and also quite unbelievable for some, so rather than deal with the doubters I’ve usually kept it to myself…but I assure you, it is real – it did happen. After she left I looked around a bit for the proper place to say what I needed to say. I realized then that there was a reason that I had spent the whole day constructing what I thought was a pretty cool hay bale castle. It wasn’t a castle at all, it was a temple – a holy place – and I knew where I was supposed to meet the Savior. I crawled through the opening in the back of the little room I had made in the corner of my castle wall, knelt down, bowed my head, and began to pray for the first time a prayer that wasn’t read out of a book but spoken from my heart. I began by saying that I was a sinner and believed that he could save me then I asked if he would, “come into my heart and make me new.” When I said those words it was as if a literal door flung wide open – I felt the whoosh as it opened – tears began flowing uncontrollably and I instinctively began whispering through my tears, “I love you, I love you, I love you…” I opened my eyes and all around me was gold! It wasn’t the hay bales blurred through tears, it was real gold. The walls of the room I was in were much too far away to touch but seemed to be holding me in place at the same time. The light was extremely bright but did not burn my eyes and gave a luster and glow to everything around. The light reflecting off of the golden walls bounced everywhere and the intersecting rays sparkled as they crossed adding to the glory and grandeur of the great hall. The noise was intense; loud and confusing and awesome and beautiful all at the same time. As I looked around a bit and my eyes began to adjust to my surroundings I noticed movement within the walls with long silver trumpets protruding through small alcoves lining the walls on the right and left. There were hundreds of them. There was a balcony that surrounded the vast room all around, perched on top the flying buttresses of the arena. The noise I was hearing were the trumpets bellowing and a thousands strong choir belting out praise from the crowd gathered on the balcony and main floor. I could not move…I did not want to move…I was ‘in’ love and it was amazing. I do not know how long this experience lasted. I remember doing my best to join the choir by saying over and over, “Jesus, Jesus…thank you, thank you…” I bowed my head again and as I began to look up I watched the majesty fade away and the noise quiet till all I could hear were my whispering lips, “I love you, I love you…” Then it was all gone and I was a puddle in a hay bale fortress.
When I had dried my eyes enough to see clearly again I crawled out of the hay bales and went over to the ladder, I climbed down the ladder and poked my head outside and it was raining! The humid August afternoon had turned into a fresh, rain soaked, spring April morning. Everything was different. Sounds of raindrops were crystal clear in my ears and the smell of freshness was like lavender mixed with fresh cut grass. I stepped fully out into the shower and let it wash over me in sweet release. I was clean; I was new; I had been freed. Even still, not a raindrop falls that I don’t remember that day and what the Good Lord did for me.
I love rainy days…