Category Archives: In the Chicken House

And the Cattle on a Thousand Hills

What I know is I’m not good at waiting. What I know is when the cookies are baking, or the inning retires, or the little one sleeps, or the beans soak, I’m looking up houses online.

What I know is I’ve developed a sudden interest in geography—in streets I’ve never been down, in areas I pass when I drop off or pick up for school. And for each possibility I sit on the street or pull into the driveway if no one’s home and I say, Lord, is this the one?Aug 2015 EOS 027

Lord, is this the house that represents our fourth move in eight years, and do You think we can stay here longer this time?

In my mind I walk inside and say, Is this where we’ll sit on the couch during another Madeline movie and eat popcorn, or cuddle in the morning when the kids first wake up and don’t want to talk—just be wrapped in the sheep blanket with little woolies running over the brown hills?

I imagine which room might display the puppet jars, and paper shelves, anIMG_2195d the  Quartermaster’s Cabinet from WWI with all the drawers. Lord, is this where we’ll sit with the cousins, crayons, and cotton rag paper for a day of coloring and paint spills and fruit snacks?

Will we play on this lawn, Father God, and have squirt-gun fights, pick raspberries, and make ice-cream from heaven? Will we put chicken, onions, peaches, and beans in foil and throw it in the coals for a night of campfire stew?

Is this where Tim will make wine again, running up and down the basement stairs or into the garage with his little notebook to record specific gravity or add water to the mix?

IMG_2367Is this where we’ll drink wine, watch the sunset, open the blinds to the moonlight, and touch our bare feet together under the sheets?

Father God, I would love to have room for enough couches for Care Group to meet—the trill of guitar hymns sounding through the house and out the windows near the table or island or counter where the cookies, coffee, and tea are laid out.

Lord, do you think I could have chickens again?

And out of all the clamor and questions and changes of my mind, comes God’s still, small voice. It’s so gentle and patient, like a brush of His hand on my cheek, a lifting of my chin, a whisper to me to look in His eyes.IMG_2146

He reminds me that He is enough, that He knows all my needs and wants, that wherever He is, is home, whether or not it has couches, cupboards, raspberry bushes, or longevity, that He has far better gifts for me than I can imagine, that His grace is sufficient for me, even for waiting.

He reminds me that the foxes have holes but the Son of Man had nowhere to lay His head, and He didn’t spend a moment worrying about where to cuddle a little one to watch Madeline.

He reminds me that He owns the cattle on a thousand hills, as well as the moonlight and AuOldCompBackup 3015rora Borealis that shine on them. He reminds me He owns all whom I love, and that He is mine and I am His, forever and ever and always.

Then I remember all He has promised me is also His desire for refugees fleeing homelands today with nothing but the clothes on their backs, waiting for boats or trains that never come, getting turned away from port after port, and having their children wash up dead on the waves.

And maybe my eyes need to see and my heart needs to grow.

He reminds me He is the One who gives His children peace that passes understanding, sleep without fear, and a future that is guaranteed.Sept. 2015 003

All we need to do is REST IN HIM.

Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble of heart; and you shall find rest for your souls, for My yoke is easy, and My burden is light” (Matt. 11:28).



The Hen that was Born Again

old chicken house on our farm
old chicken house on our farm

I’m not terribly good at maintaining friendships.  In fact, I need to take this post to heart. You see, the pursuits I most enjoy are solitary ones–writing and art. But I know the value of friendship.

Friends are the ones we live, love, teach, laugh, cry, drink tea, make wedding bouquets, make funeral bouquets, and exercise with. I know I couldn’t have made it to today without the help of friends.

(Thank you, my treasured ones. Forgive me for being so careless about our friendship. You know who you are.)

I know when I’ve been a friend, too– when I’ve been there at a critical moment in someone else’s life.  And that’s what it’s all about, isn’t it?

The times I most recognize the value of friendship are the times when I’ve let it slide, for whatever reason. So, by the grace of God, I can’t help but see the parallels in this story about a hen I’ll call  Hephzibah.

(Real farmers don’t name their hens.)

One hot August, our six surviving hens started dying off. At five years old they’d enjoyed a fat and mostly eggless dotage for two years, though we still saw the occasional double-yolkers or shell-less eggs that wobbled, membrane intact, like gelatin in straw.

(Real farmers would have turned unproductive hens into soup at three years old.)

I was sad when I found the first dead hen near the forge. When two corpses marred the pecking yard next day I looked the birds over anxiously to figure out why. Nothing.

I researched. I prayed. I cleaned food and water containers. I changed the straw. Two days passed. Three hens dug in the yard and fluffed themselves with dust. I breathed a sigh of relief.

It was short-lived.

chicken coop rules
chicken coop rules

On Day 6, two more hens lay sideways in the yard. Only Hephzibah remained. I observed Heppie closely for signs of impending demise.

She scratched in the dirt. She ate wild plums from the tree over the water trough. She roosted in the hen house at night. She watched two-foot Norway rats suck chicken feed like vacuums and multiply in the burrows that crisscrossed the yard.

But she didn’t die.

Slowly, however, she began to look about, running from the empty peeled-oak roosts to the empty nest boxes and back again. Like you and me, God made chickens social animals. They need their peeps.

But Heppie didn’t have any.

the neighbors' chicken house
the neighbors’ chicken house

She began to pluck her pinfeathers out, then her soft down. Bare patches studded her body. She stabbed herself raw. She lost weight until her skin hung, one size too big. The light went out of her eyes.

I had to do something.

I know–real farmers…blah, blah, blah.

I bought five new chicks. I locked Heppie out of the hen house. She was skinny, naked, and weak, but natural instinct–fight or flight– might lead her to kill the newcomers.

She knew something was up. Faint peeps escaped the edges of the tiny hen house door. Heppie stood at the top of the ramp for hours, listening. She began to nibble on layer pellets.

After a few weeks, I set a decorative concrete block at the top of the ramp and opened the door. The chicks could poke their heads out and Heppie could poke hers in. But neither could pass the block.

Heppie started eating in earnest.

rooster art by Anya Zarnecki
rooster art by Anya Zarnecki

Soon, her skin fit better. Funny little sticks sprang from it like baby porcupine quills. Heppie and the chicks held quizzical conversations through the concrete block–she in long, low tones and the chicks in loud peeps and tiny squawks.

The day came to release the young hens to the lush world of the hen yard–and Hephzibah. I loaded a scoop with chicken feed. Heppie followed me curiously.

I bent down and removed the block.

The hens blinked at the unfamiliar opening. Heppie blinked back. No one moved.  I sprinkled chicken feed on dirt. “He-e-y chick, chick, CHICK-eees!”With squawks and beatings of wings, six hens plunged down the ramp and into the food. Heppie had her peeps again.

Weeks later, I watched the hens under the plum tree. They clicked and clucked, scratched and bobbed.

But I couldn’t take my eyes off Heppie.

young hen
young hen

Plump, glossy, and gorgeous, she walked like a Queen, head swiveling in the midst of her subjects.  Her long red feathers gleamed like polished copper. Her eyes flashed bright and sassy.

The old biddy looked like a new hen.

Those chicks had brought Hephizibah back from the brink of poultry heaven. She lived four more glorious years.

She even laid a few eggs.


Well–I’m not planning to lay any eggs, but I look forward to connecting with my peeps again. Thanks for being here. I’m off to make a few calls, maybe write a snail mail or two. Blessings!