Thursday, November 27, 2014

About Giving Thanks

My friend, Patsy, told me a story about a time during her childhood, when her family lived on a ranch, where her father worked for the owner and took care of the property and animals.  Patsy remembered with special fondness how the owner of the property taught her how to work with horses and allowed her to ride the horses as often as she wanted, which she did, often.  She recounted how she would take her favorite horse in the evening, and go for long rides, and find a grassy patch in the woods, where she could sit and read and enjoy the beauty of nature and the tranquility of the woods.

The follow-up to my friend's story painted a different picture than the beginning of it, when she told me that the house on the ranch where her family lived didn't have electricity, or even indoor plumbing, and how she would be so embarrassed that she would work hard to make sure her friends never saw her house after dark, hoping that they wouldn't notice that there were no lights.

As Patsy was telling her story, it occurred to both of us at almost the same time...if her house on the ranch had had electricity and indoor plumbing, (and television and maybe even air conditioning) would she now have the beautiful memories of the horse rides and grassy patches in the forest?  Would she have spent so much time with the horses, if her favorite show were on t.v.?

I don't know the answer, but i can guess.

We've all heard the cliche, "Every cloud has a silver lining," but it never occurred to me, not really, that there are many silver linings i wouldn't have had without the clouds.

I know that difficulty makes me stronger, but difficulty also brings opportunity for blessings, specific benefits, that we wouldn't have had if everything were going smoothly.  I don't mean i'm going to go looking for tragedy, though tragedy brings opportunity for blessing too, but what if when tragedy or difficulty, or simple inconvenience strikes, once i get done grieving or complaining, or just readjusting, what if i started looking for the secret treasures, hidden in my situation?

What if i got thankful?

Corrie ten Boom and her sister, Betsy, were prisoners in a concentration camp in Europe during World War II.  They and the other women imprisoned with them were, at one point, housed in a building very badly infested with fleas.  Corrie and Betsy had managed to smuggle the pages of a Bible with them into this prison, and while looking for hope in the pages of scripture, came across the instructions of 1 Thessalonians, that we should "give thanks in all circumstances."  Against Corrie's protests, Betsy encouraged her sister to thank God for the fleas.  I know....sounds crazy to me too.  But they did it.  They prayed and thanked God for the fleas.  What you learn later in the re-telling of this true story, is that because of the horrible infestation of fleas in the sisters' building, none of the Nazi guards wanted to go anywhere near it, and because of that, the women in this building were able to do things that prisoners in the other buildings did not get to do, such as distribute smuggled-in vitamin drops, have Bible studies, encourage each other aloud, all without additional negative responses from the guards.  In comparison to the other buildings in their prison camp, the women in this building experienced definite luxuries, because of the fleas.  (The Hiding Place, 1971, by Corrie ten Boom).

I think i might be a slow learner, but i might be finally starting to wrap my mind around the truth that hardship, tragedy, inconvenience, always always always, contains something, some opportunity, some benefit, some experience, that will shape me for the better, if i let it.

Today is Thanksgiving Day in the United States.  I pray that you have lots of things to thank God for, and if they're hard to think of this year, i pray that you will have the courage to "give thanks in every circumstance" and have the faith to believe that your present circumstance contains a hidden treasure, and even if you don't yet know what it is, to thank God for it anyway.

Happy Thanksgiving! and  Happy Giving Thanks!

Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; 
for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Tilt and Changing my perspective

This summer, i got to spend a lot of time hatching chicks.  SO much fun!

But for some reason, i started having some formation anomalies in some of my chicks in every single hatch.  In the beginning, i didn't have any place set up to keep any special needs, chicks, and i assumed it was an anomaly, and not a trend.  So....i would do the wise farmer thing and um....return the deformed chicks to the earth, so to speak.

Pretty much always, the deformed chicks would be "late hatchers."  They would take longer to make it out of their shells than the main group, and all too often not make it, in spite of my attempts to help.

In response to this pattern, i became very frustrated, instituting a policy that late hatchers would not be helped - or even allowed to try to finish hatching - once the main group was finished hatching and ready to go to market, remaining eggs, mid-hatch or otherwise, would be "cleaned up."

This policy lasted about one hatch.

My chicken hatching friend assured me that my policy wasn't heartless and cold, but ... the giant efforts of tiny lives, to survive and to thrive, soon re-encaptured my attention and my compassion.  This is when i established a special needs unit in my outdoor brooder.

Every hatch had plenty of healthy chicks -- and a few who couldn't keep up.  So the healthy ones were sent off to market, and the late hatches were added to the special needs unit.  Soon, my special needs unit grew to around a dozen chicks, of varying ages, and of varying needs.

At one point i even purchased some special needs chicks from the feed store and brought them home so that they would have a chance at survival.

And my policy changed.  Now, the rule became, "whoever tries to lives, gets the chance to try."  And that's that.  A few tried and didn't make it.  Others hatchlings became entirely normal, with very little intervention, and are now a part of my flock.  I became in awe of how much healing took place in my little special needs unit. It was just a lot of unexpected life.

And then there's Tilt.

See how the circled chick is kind of on her belly, instead of on her legs?  This is Tilt.  Some chicks get what is called Spraddle Leg, where their legs don't stay under them, and they kind of spread to the sides like Bambi on ice.  This condition i have treated many times, with a band aid strip that holds their legs in correct position and helps make sure they don't start growing in that incorrect position.  In simple cases, it only takes a day or maybe two days, and then the chicks are pretty much fine and dandy.

But in the case of Tilt, her legs wouldn't correct.  They sort of kind of corrected a little bit, but after a while, i realized that one of her legs was actually growing in the wrong direction, kind of out the side of her body.  I didn't get an x-ray or anything, but it appeared to me that her whole frame was kind of tilted, thus her name. 

Now, i know that i could get a lot of advice on this little girl about "putting her out of her misery," and such and the like.  But i have this new rule, remember?  Whoever wants to live, gets the chance to try.  And Tilt..she tries hard.  This girl figured out how to push herself around the brooder, eat, drink, travel, socialize.....she looks funny, but she gets where she's going.  And she has grown and grown and grown.  

Eventually, Tilt moved with the rest of the chicks, into the big chicken coop, where she pushed herself around, ate, drank, socialized, etc.  As her contemporaries started spending their time outside, and i was pondering how i could build a ramp of some sort that would allow Tilt to enjoy the great outdoors, she started pushing herself out the chicken door, throwing herself off of the one foot drop to the ground, so that she could be with the other chickens.  This chicken wants to live.

However, it has become painfully apparent that she is enduring some serious bullying from her coop-mates, and no matter how many seminars you give to a flock of chickens, they have a really hard time learning to be sensitive to those with different abilities.  A really hard time.  Like they don't even get it at all.  

So today, i had to remove Tilt from her flock, for her own protection.  And now she's alone, in a crate on my porch.  Lonely, but she doesn't have to compete for feed, and no one is pecking her in the head.

But this won't last, as chickens need other chickens in order to thrive, and now Tilt needs a new home.  With nicer friends.

And if anyone of my local chicken-loving friends are interested and think you might have an ideal situation for Tilt, please contact me asap.

For fun, here are some pictures of beautiful chickens.  Many of the little ones, are formerly special needs chicks, who are now gracing my chicken yard with a lot of beauty.  

This is Tilt.  She's about 8-10 weeks old.  She's a white rock, and she really wants to live.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

the view from eternity

Sometimes i think that writing about deep spiritual thoughts is something i should do only sometimes.  But you know, i turned 39 this year.  I'm pretty sure deep spiritual thoughts, might just be part of who i am.  I think i'll stop fighting it.

So here's one for you.

Recently, i heard a little story on the radio, told by the Christian singer, Mandisa, telling her inspiration for one of her songs.  The song is irrelevant to this particular deep thought (it's Overcomer), but the story made me think.

I'm rusty on the writing, and i'm trying to cram some decent blogging into an insufficient time slot, so try to ignore the non-smoothness of this post.

The story is about a friend (of Mandisa, not me), who heartbreakingly (if it's not a word, it certainly should be) became pregnant with her second child AND learned that she had breast cancer, in the same short season of life.  This friend had to go through prenatal care and chemotherapy at the same time, and in the interest of protecting her unborn child, didn't undergo all the chemotherapy she might have, if she weren't simultaneously nurturing her growing child.  The overly summarized, apparent end of this story, is that this loving mother lost her battle with cancer, leaving two children without a mother, and i'm just guessing, a husband without his wife.

This story definitely made me cry.  It was about 30 seconds of radio airtime, but i got pretty invested in the plight of this unnamed friend in that short time, and i was disappointed that her story ended this way.  Until i realized that this was far from the end of her story.

We, currently earthbound mortals, are generally very short-sighted.  We think that the end of our story is indicated by the day our bodies stop breathing.  But it isn't.  Not even close.

This lady in the story, whose name i don't know, made a choice.  She could easily have chosen to go to every length to save her own life, at the expense of her unborn baby.  She could have reasoned that her older child needed a mother.  She could easily have justified a decision to save her own life and to purposely end the life of her child in order to do so.  But she didn't.

I don't know her, and i don't know what she thought, but i imagine that she might have decided that if the purpose of her life on earth was to give life to these to children, and then exit this world, that that was going to be ok with her.  I imagine that she conceived not only a baby, but the concept that God must have some purpose for this life inside of her, the impact of which was worth her giving up hers, if necessary.  I think that she had to at some point, decide that she would give everything and anything to preserve this eternal purpose growing in her body.

I might not be explaining it right, but the realization of what i imagine God's perspective to be on this whole situation, made me cry even more than my first encounter with this story, but in a different way.

We rarely remember that our lives are meant for eternity, not just earthly life.  Even though we don't understand what the other side of our physical mortality looks like, there's a whole lot more happening in that dimension, stuff that we sometimes just catch a tiny glimpse of, a glimpse that we need to try to hang on to.  To keep perspective on the comparably menial trials of this life.  It's just THIS life.  It's really important to do it well, but it's not the end.  It's just the preamble to eternity.

You thought i was going to say, "it's just the beginning," but i didn't.   For extra cheese, i could have, but i was going for truth, not cheese.