Ladle of Love
Dedicated to Lindsey Birdoes, my God-Daughter
© Mary Best Puplava, July 19, 2011
Her parents had been fighting at the dinner table again. Haley’s delicate ears hurt from the loud-pitched arguing. Her stomach heaved with each insult as her bite of biscuit stuck in her throat. She washed it down with her milk and asked to be excused. After clearing the table, 9 year-old Halley quietly snuck out the back door to the barn yard.
Gingerly she stepped through the barn stalls and climbed the ladder to the hay loft above. Plopping down on a pile of clean, soft hay, she looked out into the northern night sky. The stars twinkled as the full moon rose and cast its shadow over their farm and fields.
“Here is peace at last,” she thought. “Are You in Your heaven? Can You hear me, God? Please send us rain.” She cried and cried for Pa, for Mama, and for their farm until there were no more tears left.
Her day had begun at sunrise with the crowing of the rooster. It was time to get up and start her day. Haley wiped her eyes once more and gingerly stepped onto the wood floor carefully to avoid the creaks. It wouldn’t help anyone’s day if she woke up her 2-year old brother in the crib and six year-old sister sleeping soundly next to her.
She whipped off her nightgown, folded it neatly and placed it under her pillow, and drew up the covers on her side of the bed. Her blue calico dress was there on the bedpost where she’d left it the night before. She found her socks tucked into her boots, put them on and laced up her boots as she sat on the floor. Quietly she crossed the room and headed down the stairs to the kitchen sink where she washed her face. Thankfully she’d gone to bed with her hair still in pigtails. Picking up her pail, she swung the kitchen door open carefully, making sure it didn’t bang shut with the spring.
It would be another hot one today. The rising sun had begun to light the sky and she saw there wasn’t even a hint of a cloud. No wind. No cool breeze to greet her day. Already she could feel the pressing stillness in the air. Only a few birds chirped. Even they knew it would be better to stay in the shadow of the leaves again today.
Haley never understood how they sensed her presence, but the hens knew she was in the yard. They began their clucking and clattering. She guessed they were hungry too. Her breakfast would wait until her sunrise chores were done. She dunked her pail in the feed bin and filled it to the rim and off she went to the chicken coop. Oh my! How they charged at her for their chicken feed! As the hens were busy, she hunted the eggs they’d laid the day before. Carefully, she placed them in her pail. 9 today. That’s a good haul. Perhaps it was a good sign of something better? Haley left with a hopeful hint of a smile and after carefully double-latching the gate; she placed the pail on the bench and went about her many chores in the barn.
Pa was already out in the fields. He’d been up since before the rooster crowed. How hard he worked, day after day after day. It hurt Haley’s heart to see the worry lines on his face deepen with each passing month of this drought. Mama was beginning to look so haggard as she tried to keep their home clean from the ever-present dust and care for her newest baby brother as well as Todd and Susan. Haley would have to milk the goat again for young Charlie.
By 8 o’clock her barn chores were done. Grabbing her pail, she headed back to the kitchen and Mama with the eggs. All the children were lined up around the table for breakfast. When the dishes were cleared and washed, it was time for their schooling.
Haley and Susan got their chalkboards and chalk. While Todd played with his blocks and Charlie slept contentedly in his cradle, Mama rocked the cradle with her foot and opened the family Bible. Today Susan and Haley would learn about Ruth. After carefully practicing their letters as they spelled out Ruth, Naomi, Boaz, barley, and Bethlehem, they sat back and listened carefully as Mama read the story of Ruth.
From the hay loft in the barn, Haley watched the full moon rise. She thought long and hard about what it would be like to lose everything and everyone in her life. She understood why Naomi could be so bitter. Slowly, it began to dawn on Haley why her parents always seemed to be fighting. The lack of rain and the loss of crops meant it would be hard times for them all. Maybe they would even lose the farm.
She admired Ruth’s loyalty to Naomi and her willingness to work so hard for them both. Perhaps if she could be like Ruth and work hard every day, maybe someday she too could have such a promising future. For now, Haley resolved to help Pa and Mama as much as she could.
With peace in her heart, Haley stared at the night sky and thought more about the story of Ruth and some of the verses Mama had emphasized. “I will go where you go.” “Your people will be my people.” How difficult it must have been for her to leave everything she knew to go to Bethlehem with Naomi. And yet, she did. Maybe Ruth looked up into the dark sky each night of her travels and saw the same Big Dipper. Maybe she wondered where the North Star would lead her and worriedly thought about what awaited her in Bethlehem.
Haley’s eyes grew sleepy and she drifted off to sleep in the hay loft. The Big Dipper began to make its move around the North Star. Suddenly startled awake by a barn owl’s hoot, Haley looked once again at the night sky and The Big Dipper. Rather than on its side, it was almost upside down! It looked like it was pouring out from heaven. What a delightful surprise! She’d never been awake so late at night. She pondered this wonderful sight. The North Star gleamed bright and true, just like Jesus. And here it was that Father God had tipped His Big Dipper over to spill out His love on us all. What an amazing thought!
Haley hugged her knees close to her chest and prayed, “Father God, You created the heavens for us. You know every star and have given each one a special name. Tonight You showed me Your love in the heavens. Thank You for pouring out Your love on us each and every day and night. I know You see me, Pa and Mama, my brothers and Susan. Help us in our need. Thank You, Jesus, for being my North Star. Please hear my prayer for my Pa and Mama. They are struggling so. Help them, please. Pour out Your love on them once again. Answer their prayer for rain. Amen.”
Haley felt a peace like she’d never felt before. The story of Ruth’s struggle and her reward twirled in her mind. Even Naomi’s dreams came true. She climbed down the hay loft and ran across the barnyard to the kitchen. Carefully she closed the screen door and crept up the stairs and into her bedroom. She hung her blue calico dress on the bedpost and slowly unwound her braids. Running her hands through her hair, she smiled. She glanced once again out her window and saw His ladle of love. Yes, tomorrow will be a day of promise. I WILL see the clouds forming in the east. The rain WILL come. His love never fails.
Once again, Haley woke the next morning to their rooster’s crowing. Yawning, she rolled to her side and glanced out the window. Stunned by what she saw, she jumped out of bed and raced to the window, not giving a thought about waking Susan and Todd. The morning sky was brilliantly red, black, yellow and purple. Storm clouds were everywhere. She breathed the heavy, moist air deep into her lungs. Oh, thank You, Father! The rain has come!
She raced down the stairs in her bare feet and nightgown with her long hair flying everywhere. She swung open the screen door and stared in amazement. There in the yard, she saw Mama and Pa dancing round and round. Haley ran to them with glee, stomping her feet in the muddy puddle. Pa lifted her up into his arms and Mama hugged them both tightly. Laughing as the rain poured down on them, they knelt down in the mud. With arms lifted in praise to heaven, they thanked God for His love and mercy. He had answered their prayers.
Joy had come in the morning.
My Inspiration for This Story: I love to search for The Big Dipper in the night skies over my backyard and Oliver’s song, “Where is Love?”.
Long ago, when I was a young woman about to graduate High School in 1969, I saw a movie called, “Oliver!” The young orphan’s sad song, “Where is Love?” touched me deeply. I had been away at boarding school for three years and missed my parents and 8 brothers and sisters. As the years and decades have passed, when I hear that song, it reminds me of loneliness, longing, and the deepest desire of a hurting heart… to be loved and cherished… to be happy at home.
Over 40 years later as I looked up at the night skies, I talked to God. Once again I missed my Mom and Dad who were now gone forever. I noted The Big Dipper was right over my swimming pool. Imagine that! Later, as I walked my dog before bed, I again looked up and saw that The Big Dipper had tipped over and was pouring out over the earth. I thought to myself, this must be the Father’s “Ladle of Love” that He pours out over us while we sleep at night. He watches over us day and night, while we are awake and asleep. His love never stops. Even when we can’t see the stars in the daytime, they are still there twinkling in the heavens, an assurance of His love and grace. At night, when our body sleeps, He pours out His Spirit of love and communes with our spirits. In Psalm 30:5, David wrote, “Weeping may endure for a night, But joy comes in the morning.”