chickens, & a duck
February 14, 2013
Last year I spent one week of my winter holiday with one of the families that has blessed my life greatly over the years. We spent a great deal of that time in various active endeavors, hiking around New Zealand and reflecting on life as we knew it—on a life of faith.
It was T’s question that spurred me to pinpoint a sort of theme of that year: the realization that “God deals with me gently.” The more I dwelt on that statement of my own mind, and the more I lived through that year, the more the truth of it struck home to me.
Now, as my interim time—my “vacation” time—draws to a close, it occurred to me that I have not thought much of an intentional stepping-into mindset for this next year. In some ways I feel guilty about this, as if that’s the least of what I should have to show for this month. Such a long chunk of time, it seems, to have no working identity. But the time has somehow disappeared in a whirl of activity. And some days, I really have felt as if I have little to show for a day: over-stressing over an errand I’ve been assigned for our household; a series of eye-drops & salve to be administered a various hours; an interaction over whether we need to check on the neighbor who’s had unusual lights on in her house; shoelaces tied in the morning & shoes pulled off in the evening . . . and the day is done.
But somehow, even when I have little, tangibly, to show for the time, a deeper sense of meaning has kept me grounded over the month. A knowledge, I guess, that I do not need to know the grand scheme of my purpose when it comes to daily life with those I am most deeply tied to—with my family. They have given themselves up for me for 33 years. There is no way I could ever repay that debt; but maybe I should not call it that. Now I find my purpose in loving them [sometimes feeling I do a better job at this than others!]. Maybe, in a similar way, their lives were given purpose by the knowledge that we—my siblings and I—needed them for our life breath. May my life breath now be a living tribute to what their lives have been.
But back to the New Year’s musings: It just hit me that, as I was about to apologize for my delayed New Year reflection, it is in fact not delayed; for this is the New Year for my new [in a few short days’ time, some of those feeling not-so-short, thanks to long flight misery!] home. So, smiling now at my amusement over that realization, I carry on ☺
When I told T, a year ago, of my “gently” statement, she paid me a huge compliment. I had been trying to explain to her that God had been gentle to me because I needed it—that my outwardly adventurous life was really not that at all . . . I am not, in fact, adventurous. T told me that she didn’t think I needed to be, in order to step out in life, but that she thought I was brave. Brave. What a beautiful thought, when all I am feeling is fearful.
But that is ok. I can sit with—and move with—feeling fearful. Because the truth of my life is that I am loved and cared for. Not for any good reason. Just because. A friend once told me that when she was struggling with her sense of self, she would sometimes ask her husband why he loved her. I feel in some ways similar, in that I find myself asking God why He loves me so—why He keeps taking care of me.
See, what looks like adventurousness in my life has often been, in fact, impulsiveness. I have acted brashly, so many times. And so many times, I have been watched over, cared for, provided for . . . loved.
I want to love back.
As I step into this new year, I do so with the confidence that the unknown will include a community of care. I will be in a place where I can to the work I have been entrusted with, where I can care for the children I am responsible for, and where it will be in the context of a daily community of mutual respect and love.
I choose to live a life of extravagant love. I choose to manage my own practical life in such a way that I have the freedom to invest in daily enjoyment of the people in it. I choose to be with people who want to be around each other because they enjoy the company, and presence, of another mortal soul. May my life be about love—not compensation, or gain.
I choose to walk around the block, on a day of miserable weather, simply because we feel like looking at chickens. Simply because there is a value in reconnecting as friends, and of discussing the appeal of raising chickens of one’s own. “But I think it would be impractical,” L sighs. “I just don’t know if my boys, being the way they are at this age: I don’t know if we could handle it . . .” But it was a worthwhile way to spend a portion of the day, nonetheless, tossing around the idea.
I remember my childhood love affair with all manner of pets.
“I had a duckling once,” I comment. L looks surprised. So I tell her how, shortly after we moved to the U.S., I convinced my mother to let me bring home a duckling from a roadside stand we passed.
“Wow, your mom was patient!” L exclaims.
True, I realize, reflecting on the months of housing my feathered friend in the bathtub. Of taking him on walks in our yard, and of harvesting wild strawberries for him to eat.
“I was very proud of his name,” I add.
L looks at me expectantly.
“Quackerjack,” I pronounce, with gusto.
She laughs, with gratifying appreciation. “You would think of a name like that,” she notes.
Yes, I am ready to be in a daily community of friends again. Of people who notice and appreciate each other, but who also allow space for limitations, weaknesses, and social overload.
And in the meantime, I will make the most of those I have here . . .