Posted by: karanoel | September 28, 2020

Do you love me?

“When you love someone, truly love them, you lay your heart open to them.” Sherrilyn Kenyon

I was sitting on the kitchen floor with Sunny the other day, petting her floppy mane and teasing her with a toy, when I was flooded with a realization of my love for her. I knew I’d been starting to bond, but was surprised by how vulnerable I felt. With it came a profound desire to be loved by her. Not for what I do for her – like giving her a spoon of peanut butter when I brush her or throwing her rubber chicken time after time in the backyard, but because she loves me.

I often tell her I love her, but this time I asked her, “Do you love me too?” She didn’t answer, but my guess is that she is learning to love me. And truth be told, I’m still learning to love her too. I keenly remember the regret I felt about her purchase when, according to my journal, I considered her “an unnegotiable constant that magnifies all my other difficulties.” And yet here, after only a few months of showing up to care for her, I find this love and desire in my heart. And I’m pretty sure that even if she never answers my question with a clear “yes,” I’ll keep showing up and pouring myself out for her.

You guys, this made me think of God’s love for us. He didn’t have to grow into it like I’ve had to with Sunny, because it was pure and perfect and complete from the beginning of creation and it could never be anything different because it’s His very nature. He has cared for us relentlessly, showing up day after day and hour after hour, no matter what behaviors or difficulties we bring, always telling us – and showing us – how much He loves us. How vulnerable that must feel; how exposed His heart is. He has laid it open to us, willing to be hurt if we don’t return it.

I picture Him asking, “Do you love me too?” Some might give a quick, biting “no.” Some might give an exuberant “yes.” But I think that most of us are learning to love Him. Not just for what He gives us or what He does for us, but because in that tender, faithful care, we come see the beauty of who He is. And more than any blessing, we just want to be with Him.

Posted by: karanoel | September 24, 2020

Without further ado

Many years of conversation about getting a dog came and went. One that was past the puppy stage appealed, but despite the intensity of my on-again-off-again searches, the right one never seemed to show its face. Plus, we were renting and didn’t know what our long term situation would be. Other important questions kept making the rounds, like ”Who would care for our pet when we traveled?” “Would it actually scratch the relationship itch Chase had as the only child living at home?” “Would it be a repeat of The Infamous Craigslist Puppy Purchase?” And most importantly of all, “Do we even want a dog?” With a lack of answers, we always dropped the subject and moved on.

But then this past January came. Life had changed a bit. The pet fish I’d planned on getting Chase at Christmas didn’t materialize because something inside said, “This is the year you’ll get a dog.” So after the holidays, I broached the subject again. John was open. Timing-wise, it made sense. We had settled into our purchased home with plenty of room for a dog to roam. The construction of my parents’ cottage on our property would be wrapped up within a matter of months and their presence might make travel a possibility. Our simultaneous pool rehab would be completed by summer, when Chase, who was now a good age for a dog, would be out of school and available to help.

Of course big questions still lingered and we didn’t have clear answers so research and discussion were heavily peppered with prayer. I kept handing it back to the Lord, unwilling to enter the decision lightly or impulsively, but He seemed to keep handing it back to me, as though it were a gift he wanted to give. Direction came just when it was needed, like stepping stones appearing before every footfall. Chase was ambivalent about the possibility, saying he thought it could be good but “wouldn’t want to help with it every day.” But John thought we may just need to call it and draw Chase into the adventure (and responsibility) with us. I agreed and also had a strong feeling that it could help minimize the growing fear that had replaced Chase’s early fondness of dogs, and possibly soften the blow of his best friend moving away after the school year. When Chase met our friend’s Sheepadoodle, the breed we were leaning towards, he was immediately smitten and became the loudest voice in the puppy campaign.

And so it was that we put a deposit down by the end of January. And then became puppy owners of a fluffy little Miniature Sheepadoodle named Sunny in June. There are plenty of posts to come on the subject, but I will end this one by saying that Chase’s fear of dogs evaporated almost immediately (despite Sunny’s early terrorizing of him with her unrestrained puppy self) and he has become a self-professed dog lover, daily declaring his affection for Sunny, jumping at the chance to accompany me to the dog park and spending a fair amount of time pondering which breed he will get as an adult.  And while this dog ownership journey has – at times – seemed harder than I thought possible, I too am smitten with this shaggy character I love calling mine. I look forward to getting her up in the morning because her joy makes my life better and her antics make me laugh out loud. I would venture to say that despite all the craziness she has added to an already wild ride this year, John is bonding too. So, without further ado, I introduce you to our sweet girl, Sunny Luker…

Posted by: karanoel | September 15, 2020

Landlubbers no more

A conversation with a friend recently got me thinking about what I consider a good day, which is pretty much one that goes smoothly… with no hitches, unanticipated stresses or flatout disasters. There’s nothing wrong with that and I am grateful for each and every one of those days, but the problem is that I am pretty tempted to consider anything else a bad day or at least one I would gladly swap out for a better one. The thing is that as much as I like “easy” – and believe me, I do – it tends to shortcut the growth that will produce the freedom and joy I most want in this life.

Pregnancy is the first example that comes to mind. The stretching and growing my body had to endure to produce my babies was uncomfortable and inconvenient. It taxed my energy, my mobility and even my sleep as I, a human beach ball with heartburn, attempted to find a decent position to get some rest. I remember a particularly trying day in my first trimester with Chase when I said to John, “I changed my mind… I don’t want to be pregnant anymore!” Of course I didn’t mean it. What I meant was that though I really, really wanted this baby, it was hard when I wanted it to be easy. But the birth of both my boys, as I held their tender bodies against my own, was so great a joy that I would have willingly undergone the discomfort, doubts and pain all over again to obtain the treasure on the other side. Of course pregnancy was only the beginning because motherhood stretched me in far deeper ways, forcing my roots down into Jesus and causing more growth that I needed (and desperately wanted) but wouldn’t have chosen because, as we’ve established, I like things smooth and easy. 

I’ve been experiencing growing pains of another sort. The house we bought last year had a separate office/workshop that would be ideal, we thought, for my parents to renovate and move into. Their agreement with our happy idea began a 1 ½ year process that was anything but easy. In fact, it was downright hard. We were all stretched and pressed and inconvenienced. The costs were far greater than expected and, because of permit issues, the time to complete the project went months and months past original (and revised) estimates. I had a couple days, as in my pregnancy, when I told John, “I’m done. Over it. Tapping out.” Of course I didn’t mean it. I meant I wanted to be done having to grow. I wanted it to feel easy again and within my control. But with most of the construction completed on a beautiful cottage that suits them perfectly, my parents were finally able to move in last week. And, despite some serious threats by an inspector to make them move back out, today marked the signoff on the final inspection. It is now a done deal. We hold this tender new family setup on our God-given property with gratitude and joyfully embark on a new adventure. Of course, as with motherhood, there will be plenty more stretching to come… always followed by growth and freedom as we surrender to the process and allow God to form Himself in us.

Since growth in its truest form produces something, like babies or fruit or parents’ cottages or maturity, I have realized that many of the very challenges I would have escaped given the opportunity have actually been answers to the prayers of my heart. For who I’ve wanted to become. For the things I’ve wanted to be able to let go of. For the freedom I’ve yearned for. 

When I was praying for a friend in a very hard place many years ago, a picture formed in my mind that I’ve never forgotten. She was out at sea in a storm. The water was choppy and rough, the skies gray, the wind howling. She feared for her life and all she wanted to do was get out of the waves and onto the shore where she would feel safe and in control again. But God in His mercy knew that if He plunked her right back on the sand with sunny skies, she would be bound to that shore – a landlubber forevermore. He had a bigger vision for her life. So out of His vast patience and knowledge, He wanted to teach her to sail the seas with such mastery that she would never fear the water – or a storm – again, and would be free to go wherever He called her, no matter how big the waves or deafening the wind. Let me just tell you that I have seen her surrender to His compassionate but relentless teaching these past 20 years and though the storm of her circumstances has only intensified, she is no longer afraid and is now teaching others how to sail those daunting seas.

I know He wants to do the same for each of us, leading us into far greater growth and freedom than we would ever choose in our shortsighted desire for comfort or control. It might not be easy, but it will be so worth it as we hold the precious treasures that result.  I don’t know what you’re going through, how long or how hard it has been, if you feel stretched beyond breaking and want nothing more than to tap out of your trial, but I do know that He will not abandon you here; that He will see you through to the other side and that He is using even your hardships to answer the deepest cries of your heart. So my prayer is that no matter what things look like or feel like right now, we can choose to look to Him and let Him teach us how to sail the high seas.

Posted by: karanoel | September 1, 2020

Quiet prayers

Audio version:

If you have ever met my 7 year old, Chase, you most certainly know that he is a Lego fiend. Not only does he request Legos for every birthday and Christmas, but he was handed down thousands of the tiny little plastic pieces from my younger brother, older son and nephew… so very many of which are used every day in his creative expressions. Each weekend, he is tasked with a “super duper room clean,” when all the creations and the seeming millions of scattered pieces need to find a home.

A couple weeks ago, during one such cleanup, he was tired and overwhelmed. Frustrated tears were starting to flow. He had already been working on it for a couple hours and was nowhere near done. But he had left it until Sunday, so it had to be done. Honestly, I couldn’t see how. I discreetly asked John what I should do. Jump in and help? Let him off the hook but give him a consequence? Give an unwelcome motivational speech? I’ve chosen all of these many times over, but none felt quite right in that moment. So I sat in the living room and quietly prayed for grace to infuse that weary boy; that he wouldn’t have to forego the emotional and financial benefits of a job well done.

IMG_1505

It must have been about 20 minutes later that he turned the most surprising corner, for which I could find no other answer than the last-ditch-effort of prayer. His discouragement and defeat had been replaced by a hopeful optimism that he could get it done. His efforts became more productive and though it took a long while yet, he persisted. By that point, I felt very comfortable jumping in to help him cross the finish line. In the end, his room looked pristine, his face was beaming and I have to believe that some little nugget of inspired confidence was instilled in the process.

Yesterday, I was the one who felt tired and defeated. All I wanted to do was crawl into bed, read a book and take a nap. If I’d thought it would truly refresh me and wasn’t just a case of escapism, I would have gone for it. But I had a feeling that I needed grace more than sleep. As I looked around at all the tasks needing attention and hoped I wouldn’t have to just grind it out until bedtime, I prayed quietly in the spirit. It probably wouldn’t kill me to fold the laundry on the bed while I prayed, I thought. So I did. And then the ones in the baskets didn’t seem like such a big deal. Nor did bathing the dog and chatting it up with Chase while I tackled several other things. Somehow in the process, my whole demeanor changed to one of hopeful optimism and my energy level followed. How could I have even thought I needed more caffeine or a nap??

John took me up on a suggestion to walk Sunny around Balboa Island, so we picked up ahi poke to eat by the bay and had the most magical evening as a family. Chase spent the best time yet that he’s had with Sunny and although he is not a fan of walks, said he loved every single minute of it and wasn’t even tired. And do you know what? Neither was I. So much for grinding it out.

I know these don’t qualify as miracles, but they sure did feel like it. And it’s made me think that if God cares enough to tend so compassionately to these small matters we bring to Him, how willing must He be to reach into the utter darkness of all who struggle? You’d better believe I’ve had renewed hope in the power of prayer and have been bringing before the throne those around me who need this compassion. If you are one of these, please let me know and I’ll pray for you too. And I can’t help but encourage you to bring all your needs – no matter how small, no matter how impossible – to the One who cares with everything in Him, who has the power to flip your defeat on its head and delights in instilling the most beautiful nuggets of hope in your heart.

IMG_1602

Posted by: karanoel | August 25, 2020

The wondrous shape of the wind


Audio Version:

The home we moved into last year had been remodeled a couple years before so thankfully there wasn’t much work to be done. But in the big wall at the end of our wide open living space were two tiny little windows that allowed scant light, no view of the yard beyond and barely a whisper of the magnificent breeze that blows through our yard from the distant coast. 

Our plan wasn’t just to install bigger windows, but to bust down most of the wall and replace it with a sliding glass door. With the reasonable labor of a friend and a discounted door through my uncle, we were able to tackle the project fairly quickly. The result was dramatic. Not only did it improve the view, allowing us to see the pool and yard, but it let in a significant amount of light and changed the whole atmosphere of our living space. And, of course, it gave us abundant access to that magical breeze. 

Not too much later, we put up a big curtain rod with some thick drapes to provide privacy if needed. When John suggested some sheer drapes for the smaller second part of the rod, I dashed off to Bed, Bath & Beyond and spent $20 on what is arguably my favorite part of the house. Because now, not only can I feel the wind blowing through the wide expanse of the door, but I can see the shape of its movement as it catches the folds of fabric… lifting them, filling them, making them leap, dance, pause and fly. I could honestly watch it for hours. I’ve only used the thick drapes once, but nearly every time I open the door, I draw the sheer ones to experience the wondrous shape of the wind.

When I was delighting in one such moment, I couldn’t help but see the parallel to the Holy Spirit  – a beautiful, enchanting wind that blows God’s heart through our lives and into the whole earth. Carried upon this Wind is all that we crave – hope, joy, delight, comfort; a tangible, extremely personal experience of the living God who might otherwise feel distant or unknowable. When this grace-bearing Spirit blows through the doorways of our lives, we experience the love of God with all its renewing, refreshing, life-giving benefits and we take the shape of that love as we move in a way that visibly, surprisingly, exquisitely demonstrates who God is. This is how we are transformed. This is how the world is changed. Not by trying to be good people or finding a cause to fight for, but by giving God access to our lives through His Spirit and letting Him move uniquely through us; accomplishing His extraordinary purposes as we joyfully follow His lead.

If we haven’t experienced Him in this way, it’s possible that the view of what lies beyond our immediate environment and understanding has been impeded by tiny little windows that allow only a breath of light or breeze to enter, or maybe even solid walls that allow nothing in at all. If that’s the case, it’s nothing to be daunted by. The cost of construction has already been paid; the expansion plans already drawn up. All it takes is willingness… “I want more than my current measure. I need more than what I am now experiencing. Lord, bust down these walls and show me who you are.” What an exciting adventure to undertake as we see beyond our current boundaries and the whole atmosphere of our lives is changed; as we allow this wind to fill us again and again, causing us to leap, dance, pause and fly….

The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit. John 3:8

Posted by: karanoel | August 21, 2020

Let the learning begin

IMG_1343Before the start last week of Chase’s 2nd grade year, our school delivered the thrilling news that we would be returning to campus, albeit with some fairly dramatic modifications of time and space to allow for social distancing. Even though they were going to be much shorter days, Chase was delighted to be returning to the classroom to learn from his teacher in person. 

A very short while later, our governor announced restrictions that would not allow a California county to return to campus until certain covid milestones had been reached and held for 2 weeks. Chase was disappointed for sure, as was I, but we did our best to roll with it. 

On his first day of distance learning, we encountered a few technology glitches, like when we somehow landed in a Google Meet full of unfamiliar faces who only spoke Spanish (and Chase ended up in tears on the floor). But our second attempt got us right into his actual class where he recognized several friends and happily launched into his new school year. 

There were more technical issues those first few days, like getting regularly bumped off the internet, a homework submission app that wouldn’t let him submit homework and an ipad microphone that refused to work, making it incredibly difficult to participate. But he pressed on and started to settle in. 

Then our principal communicated that due to declining enrollment related to the pandemic, some teachers had to be moved to other schools and Chase’s class would now be a 1st/2nd grade combo. This didn’t set especially well with Chase (or me, since learning already seemed severely challenged), but it wasn’t nearly as hard as the exodus of 2nd grade friends who left the class the following day (apparently they weren’t thrilled either). Chase doesn’t handle change well and this was a whole lot in a matter of days.

Yesterday was especially rough. The app and microphone still weren’t working and the email request I’d submitted for technical help (to the address we were given) bounced back, leaving me feeling frustrated and helpless. The internet connection continued to fail and Chase got a headache from staring at the screen. I was wondering if all the stress was worth it and, mostly, when the actual learning was going to start.

IMG_1345

But here’s the thing that hit me. The learning has started. It may not be centered on subtraction or sentence structure, but on subjects that will be of far greater use to him in life… like being adaptable, developing real-life perseverance, learning to problem-solve when things go wrong and giving grace to others who may not be fulfilling our expectations. We can talk to our kids about these things and let them watch educational shows full of lessons about them, but the only way they will truly learn them, grow in them and own them is if they personally experience them, with some necessary guidance along the way to help shape them.

Which is where my conviction lies right now. I want to allow this “education” to teach my own heart so that instead of modeling victimhood and complaint about all the things that are wrong, I can help him shape these trying experiences in a way that helps establish him as a person in this world who is not easily defeated by the many hardships he will certainly face; that he might even revel in a challenge because he knows – from personal experience – that he will not only make it through, but will benefit from it, and that he is most certainly up to the task.

And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. 1 Peter 5:10 

Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may be blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked generation, in which you shine as lights in the world. Philippians 2:15

Posted by: karanoel | August 18, 2020

Thirsty

You, God, are my God, earnestly I seek you; I thirst for you, my whole being longs for you, in a dry and parched land where there is no water. Psalm 63

Audio Version:

Hey there! It sure has been a while. Between covid’s effects on my world, construction, guests and a new puppy, I haven’t had much opportunity to come out to my big gray chair in the shed and spend some time with you. Sorry about that! I hope you are all finding grace for these challenging times and maybe even some deep sips of joy.

Before I start writing puppy posts, I have another to share about the chickens. The small food and water containers we used for their baby chick stage had to be replaced by larger ones to meet the needs of their rapidly growing bodies and appetites. The only problem was that a curve near the top of the new water container could be mistaken for the water line, causing someone such as myself (who is supposed to wear glasses but doesn’t) to think that there is plenty of water when, in reality, there could be none.

IMG_1426

While checking this container during a patch of wretchedly hot weather that caused even my non-water-drinking-husband to down several glasses an hour, I wondered how it could still be so full. Upon closer inspection, my error of mistaking the curve for the water line was revealed. Not only was it not full, it was completely empty; bone dry. Whether it had been that way for an hour or a day, I don’t know. 

The chickens were in the run, looking desperately overheated. I raced to fill their water and tried calling them into the coop to drink up. Normally they come running at the sound of my voice, but this time they stood their ground on the dusty landscape, mouths agape. The bucket of water I then placed in their midst garnered no response.  Finally something stirred them, sending the whole flock running into the coop where they gathered around their new container and drank their fill. When I came back later, they looked healthy and contented, giving this chicken mama great relief.

 

The thing that struck me is the fact that they actually have access to water in their run all the time. After building the coop, John installed an enormous water barrel that feeds into small cups, triggered by a simple peck. Chase and I filled the cups for them for a while, but they were emptied so quickly, it felt futile. And despite John’s attempts to teach them to do it themselves, they haven’t caught on.

IMG_1411

I can relate to this story. This season I have been thirsty. Not just physically, but deep in my soul, feeling the heat of hard circumstances and needing a good, long drink – of comfort, encouragement, hope. A few sips won’t satisfy like they used to. And the usual places I go to quench my thirst – or distract myself from it – have been empty and dry, leaving me wanting. 

Though uncomfortable, this is not a bad thing. I would likely die without thirst because it alerts me to my need for water, an essential component of life. This is a spiritual as well as a physical truth. And it’s also been good that my easy fixes for this thirst haven’t been forthcoming – that life hasn’t placed a container full of hope or happiness right in front of me. Because then I would always be dependent on something external to quench my thirst or meet my needs. Instead, in this hard, dry season, I have been compelled out of utter necessity to learn to press more deeply into Jesus, the only source that will never fail. As I do, hope rises. Discouragement falls away. Strength for the journey is renewed. And I know I will need to continue drawing on this living water – every hour if need be – as long as the heat remains. Perhaps this season of necessary dependence will cause me to learn to abide in Him always so that I don’t ever leave the source. Wouldn’t that be something?

This water is available to everyone. Jesus said “let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink!” Maybe, like the chickens, we haven’t realized that the water is there. Maybe we haven’t known how to tap into it. Or maybe we have become accustomed to others – or life – filling it up for us. But if you have also hit a dry, hard season and are thirsty, know that it is there for the taking. Not just in small measure, but more than we could ever drink. So much, we will have plenty to share. So let us, by simple faith, press into Him and take a long cold drink.

water

Posted by: karanoel | May 16, 2020

A place of rest

Audio version of this post:

When the chicks were still inside the house, I would sit on the hardwood floor by their oversized tupperware to watch them and, really, just to be with them. I didn’t hold them often because it didn’t seem like something they enjoyed, but would gently pet their fluffy bodies and talk to them. When I realized their desire to perch and lack of place to do it, I began to lay my arm down on their bedding, call “Here chicky, chicky, chickies!” to announce my availability and then hold still as a slew of birds happily perched on me, until my back ached and I had to move. Though I can’t really explain why, it was a sweet, quiet pleasure for me; a sense of connectedness.

IMG_9712

“Arm perch” in the tupperware

It didn’t take too long for the chicks to start growing feathers, find a perch on the tupperware’s top edge and then explore the terrain beyond. With little desire to have 14 chickens wandering around our house, we moved them (and their heat lamp) to the coop John worked so hard to build. Compared to the tupperware, it was a chicken’s paradise, with room to run and perches to be found. But I missed them. So I would open the coop door, sit on the concrete and call to them, “Here chicky, chicky, chickies!” to let them know that though things had changed, I was still there. A portion of them would come running in response to my call and at least a few would perch on my hand or arm, or maybe my knee, and rest for a while.

IMG_9771

A visit from Angel

But then they realized that open door led to a world beyond. At first it was just a few particularly bold ones that ventured out but then, as is usually the case, many more followed. They were growing and getting faster, so Chase and I were finding it hard to wrangle them all back into the coop. We’d deliver one as two more found their freedom. That couldn’t continue, I realized, but I would miss them. So I started to go inside the coop, close the door and get settled on the ground of those humble surroundings as they seemed only vaguely aware of my presence and then call “Here chicky, chicky, chickies!” It took only a moment before at least one if not a few flew to perch on me, sometimes falling asleep in the warmth of my hand.

IMG_9941

Nighttime coop hangout

This is where our routine stands. I don’t know how long it will last but it has been such a restful pleasure. I’m not an “animal person” but these ones are mine and I love them. I don’t care that they aren’t cute like they once were as they continue their awkward transformation from chicks to chickens. I don’t care that they have nothing to give me except perhaps some distant possibility of eggs. I don’t care that sometimes they scratch me or even occasionally poop on me. I don’t care that in order to be with them, I have to sit in discomfort on the filthy floor of a chicken coop. I just want to be with them.

IMG_9803

Mother’s Day greeting

While reflecting on this very bizarre and unexpected reality for which John has playfully deemed me ‘chicken lady,’ I understood something about the Lord. He loves to be with us. He yearns to be with us. He doesn’t care if we are cleaned up and presentable or look the part of someone lovable. He doesn’t care if we have nothing to give Him back for His care and affection. He is willing to be hurt by us and crapped on by us. He thinks nothing of entering the most humble, even filthy, places if it means He can be in our company. It only takes a glimpse of a King born in a stable to see this is true. And I think if we quiet our hearts, we will come to realize He is calling us, “Here, children, here!;” that He has been calling us all along, letting us know that He is here with us, that He is available for us. Not to entrap us, but to be a place of rest; a place of warmth and familiarity. That we would know we are loved simply because we are His. 

“…how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings…” Matt 23:37

 

Posted by: karanoel | May 4, 2020

A quieted space

A few years ago, I read a post by an interior design blogger who talked about “quieting a space” before proceeding with a design update. “It’s helpful,” she said, “because it gives us an opportunity to have new vision for the room without it being cluttered by what is already there.” “This,” she explained, “enables us to determine what design will best suit the current needs of our life and family.” Anything old that meets that criteria remains; the rest is set aside or given away. Likewise, anything new would also have to reflect the room’s updated mission.

It hit me yesterday that Covid-19, while an awful presence on so many counts, has done many of us a service that we can’t often choose for ourselves: Quieting the space in our lives. It’s hard to say what things will look like on the other side, but I’m guessing it may be tempting to grab all the old things that filled our pre-pandemic space and pick up where we left off in a desire to regain a sense of familiarity and normalcy – even if those things don’t best serve our families at this point (if they ever did).

So what if we take this stripped-down opportunity to prayerfully assess the needs and priorities of this season, adding back in only what would best accomplish that mission and setting aside the rest? Just a thought…

Quiet Space

Photo by Simplify Magazine

Posted by: karanoel | May 1, 2020

Chicks and faith

Audio version of this post:


Though we live in suburbia, parts of our county allow for animals that would be normally found on a farm or in a petting zoo, like the chickens, roosters and goats happily clucking and bleating on Strider’s property directly behind us. After the quarantine began, John got the idea to build a coop and buy half a dozen chicks from Strider to inhabit it. Though I’d never considered owning chickens, having something to look forward to in the near future seemed like a brilliant idea, especially during such a time as this. So John began work on what I deemed his quarantine “sanity project” while I anticipated our future life with chickens.

IMG_5712

Instead of selling us chicks, Strider surprised us by handing an incubator over our shared fence, along with 42 eggs to put inside. In response to my clear uncertainty in our ability to bring life out of a few cartons of eggs, he said, “It’s a breeze! The incubator is already set and calibrated. It’s a set-it-and-forget-it kind of thing.” “Maybe it works that way for others,” I thought, “but this is me we’re talking about.” He followed up with a few basic instructions, ending with, “Keep however many you want and I can take the rest back.”

We found a good spot in our dining room for the styrofoam incubator, plugged it in and then carefully laid all the eggs inside. Despite Strider’s confidence and my desire to believe that living chicks would result from this experiment, my doubt was decidedly stronger. But, having seen dozens of chickens in his yard and knowing his track record with hatching these creatures, I figured it was at least a decent bet. 

IMG_9093

So we made a chart to track the 21-day incubation period and then began the wait. Chase recorded the incubator temperature each day, which hovered right at the level Strider had set, as well as the humidity level, which dropped a little each day. When it got below 40%, we put in some more water as instructed and watched it soar again. We looked at those eggs every single day, trying to find some evidence of life, but there was nary a change. 

IMG_9238

On day 18, per Strider’s instructions, we brought the incubator into our dark closet and held each egg up to a special light to identify and separate the fertilized eggs from the rest. In recent days, I had talked myself into believing there was life in there, but had an underlying dread that this day would prove my initial doubt right; that they would all be empty and we (and everyone we’d told) would be terribly disappointed. But much to my surprise, nearly all the eggs had contents – presumably chicks. I was thrilled. We removed the rotating component and placed the fertile eggs back on the stillness of the rack to await their upcoming hatch date.

IMG_9324

On day 20, while we were homeschooling at the kitchen counter, I could have sworn I heard a chirp. “Was that inside??,” I asked Chase, thinking it might have been a bird in the yard. We held our breath and listened. “I think so!,” Chase replied. We ran over to the incubator and immediately noticed a small crack in one of the eggs. From inside came a distinct, high-pitched “cheep!” Homeschool was awash for the rest of the day because we could not keep our eyes off the action that was finally taking place. With great enthusiasm, we called John over and cheered on Chirp, as Chase named him – “Come on Chirp! You can do it!’ – watching the tiny crack grow and grow until the whole thing broke in half and the wet, wobbly chick burst out of its used-up home, shutting down my doubts that this whole experiment would fail.

Over the next day, we were glued to the incubator as if to the most riveting National Geographic show ever filmed, as chick after chick hatched, stumbling around and flopping over eggs like wet, drunken sailors until they’d had a chance to find their sea legs and fluff up. It had become so crowded, we waited until a break in hatching and moved a batch to the “brooder” (a giant tupperware from Home Depot with a clamped-on heatlamp), before heading back to watch more of the show.

John teased me for my intense interest and excitement, but it was honestly one of the most thrilling experiences of my life. And it has been sheer delight seeing and holding these dozens of chicks, the substance of what we’d hoped for, who are sweetly chirping in the background as I type. Maybe especially so since the idea of this reality was so challenged in my mind.

IMG_9492

I am pretty darn sure that if we were to do this again, I would have far less doubt and far more confidence, not just in Strider’s direction which was incredibly helpful, but in the process itself to bring about life from a fertilized egg even though it looks no different than any other.

This, my friends, is a picture of faith. It isn’t necessarily a full-throttle belief in everything God has said, or even in one particular thing. At least not for me. My faith journey began as a decent bet, born out of a need for hope in difficult times, based on a process that worked for others. I was filled with doubt, thinking as usual, “But this is me we are talking about.” But as it turns out all life – even mine – becomes fertile the moment Jesus enters it and when allowed to rest in the warmth of His love, can’t help but develop and grow.

So maybe faith the size of a mustard seed really is enough. To grasp that little bit of hope with our weak little grip. Just enough to plug in the incubator despite our doubt, and follow the simple instructions despite a lack of any outward change. Because if we do, life inside could be forming and growing and getting established, until one day it starts to crack through the surface, sing its sweet song for all to hear and become the very substance of something we had only hoped for but now find ourselves holding in our very hands. 

IMG_9506

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. Hebrews 11:1

I believe, Lord. Help my unbelief. Mark 9:24

Older Posts »

Categories