One Hen’s Special Effort

One of the joys of living on a farm is walking out the back door to harvest what is needed for a meal right out of the ground, or the orchard, or the berry patch, or from within the hen house. 

“Eat local” is nothing compared to “Eat from the Backyard”.

So over the years on the farm, we’ve owned chickens -starting with the chicks under a hot lamp, watching the growing pullets start laying little miniature eggs which,  over several months of hen development,  become full size oval jumbo AA eggs, found warm in a cozy nest under a hen’s breast.   There is distinct satisfaction of a “eureka!” moment anytime a new egg is gathered.  It is even more gratifying when the egg is broken in the pan and two yolks pour out instead of one, a symbol of that hen’s special effort that day.

When our hens were free range, the finding of the nest and gathering of the eggs was definitely a greater challenge than simply opening a chicken coop door.  It required investment of time and ingenuity to think like a hen trying to hide her brood.  I would remind myself that a hen’s brain is smaller than a walnut and mine is, well…. bigger, so this should not have been such a difficult task.

So I keep my ear tuned to the cackle of a hen as she is about to lay, the musical hum she makes when she is happily brooding on the nest, and the feel of her plump fluffiness as I reach underneath her to wrap my hand around that smooth perfect surface.

I break one of those fresh eggs, into the pan, and it is a double yolker.  A hen has made a special effort, just for me.

November Gratitude–building a bridge

Let gratitude be the pillow upon which you kneel to say your nightly prayer. And let faith be the bridge you build to overcome evil and welcome good.
Maya Angelou

On this Thanksgiving day,  prayer pillows and faith bridges are sorely needed.  It can’t just be about overstuffed appetites, serial football games or midnight sales starting in a few hours.

Thanksgiving celebrates a sturdy faith that spans over trouble so gratitude can cross without getting wet.  May we not lose our balance.

November Gratitude–unending breath

photo by Josh Scholten

“Flung is too harsh a word for the rush of the world. Blown is more like it, but blown by a generous, unending breath.”
Annie Dillard

Windstorms are equal opportunity events.  No one is spared.  The power goes out in large houses and small; everyone stubs their toes in the dark looking for a flashlight.  Plenty of things are “flung” in a storm including us.

There is a sense of being pelted by the gales of life in its head long rush to our conclusion.  We want to stop for a moment, face it down,  resist the momentum of it always forcing us relentlessly forward.  We can feel flung into the future, ready or not.

So it helps to think of the progression of our lives less harshly, like an exhaled breath pushing us along even when we have no energy left to keep going.  Such inspiration becomes unstoppable, unknowable, unending and infinitely generous: the power never will run out.


November Gratitude–pay in kind

photo by Josh Scholten

One can never pay in gratitude: one can only pay ‘in kind’ somewhere else in life.
Anne Morrow Lindbergh

Some people like to express their gratitude by “paying it forward” through doing “random acts of kindness”.  They might secretly pay for the coffee for the car sitting behind them at the drive through coffee stand, or put coins in an expired parking meter to prevent a yellow parking ticket on the windshield for someone who hasn’t kept track of the time.  These are generous gestures that express gratitude by providing an undeserved gift of momentary grace to another.

Undeserved grace is not momentary in our lives; it is extended to us forever.  It was paid in kind, paid in full, and never ever random.   We can only respond in unspeakable gratitude and joy at the gift we have been given.

November Gratitude–pangs of memory

photo by Josh Scholten

Gratitude changes the pangs of memory into a tranquil joy.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Holidays can be painful for people who remember family conflicts or loss that caused heartbreak, especially when there is supposed to be times of togetherness, camaraderie and laughter.  Even the most difficult memories can be transformed by the balm of the passage of time, by day turning to night and night into day, over and over again, until those memories become a swirling background for the tranquility of thanksgiving.

It is possible to know joy again.

November Gratitude–for interruptions

photo by Josh Scholten

“We must be ready to allow ourselves to be interrupted by God.”
Dietrich Bonhoeffer

So I’m sauntering through life, enjoying the view, appreciating each mundane moment, doing what I think I was meant to do and whammo!~clobbered by a cold wave that knocks me off my feet, chills me to the bone and stops me in my tracks wondering what just hit me and why.  It feels like I’m drowning.

I feel rudely interrupted because I was ill prepared to change course, alter expectations, or be transformed by life’s sudden cold shower.

I can’t think of any situation where interruption initially feels good.  It shocks because it seems unexpected but I chose to be someone who must be rudely interrupted in order to change direction.

God doesn’t just soak me to the bone–He made my bones and heals my fractures.  He doesn’t just knock me to my feet–He offers His hand to pull me up again.  He doesn’t let me drown–He throws me a life preserver that I must choose to grab and hold on to.  Then He wraps me in His warm embrace like a huge towel to remind me where I come from and where I’m heading.

We interrupt this life for a message from our sponsor. 

Please help me feel ready.

November Gratitude–trapezoids of dust

“Skin was earth; it was soil. I could see, even on my own skin, the joined trapezoids of dust specks God had wetted and stuck with his spit the morning he made Adam from dirt. Now, all these generations later, we people could still see on our skin the inherited prints of the dust specks of Eden.”  Annie Dillard

And so I am dust, always have been, always will be.  I am marked with it in the same way the land is marked when it is parched and thirsty.

Thirsty as I am, I am held together by the earth, my insides dependent on that dust covering my outsides.  I drink deeply to fill the cracks and crevices.

And so I am soiled and waiting to be washed clean, always have been, always will be.

November Gratitude–rekindled

At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.
Albert Schweitzer

The best rekindling happens with no planning or expectation.  When I’m out of gas, spent and deflated, someone’s kind word,  smile,  gracious note or thank you makes all the difference.  Suddenly I’m reignited and have fuel to spare.  The spark plug sparks once again and I’m up and running.  I need to remember how this feels so I become the igniter and kindler for others.

It happened twice today as I was hurrying from one patient to another in clinic.  A young woman stopped me as I was about to leave the exam room and said “Doctor, I am so grateful you were willing to see me so quickly today.  I’ve been concerned about this for weeks, losing sleep with worry and now I feel so reassured it is nothing serious.  Thank you!”  And one of the nurses in our clinic came by my office and offered to help with any of my patient follow up messages I had not gotten to.   In a simple gesture of thoughtfulness, she took some of my work upon herself and lightened my load.

Lit, kindled, ignited, invigorated and illumined.   Let the party begin!

November Gratitude–Still Water

photo by Josh Scholten

I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.
Wendell Berry

Stillness is rare these days.  To find it, I have to reach deep inside.   I don’t make the effort often enough.  Today I will try, if even for a minute, to be still, resting in grace and finding that moment of freedom.

November Gratitude–moments of awe

“Gratitude bestows reverence, allowing us to encounter everyday epiphanies, those transcendent moments of awe that change forever how we experience life and the world.” ~ John Milton

Our farm looked like it had a remodel update this past week by the winds and rain, covering the yard with a yellow brown shag carpet of leaves thicker than ever I remember in our two decades here.   This transformation is temporary until the leaves start to rot under the burden of endless days of wintry drizzle and freezing weather, but transcendent over plain green sod nevertheless.

I need to remind myself that only 8 months ago, none of these leaves even existed.  They were mere potential in bud form, about to burst and grow in a silent awesome explosion of green and chlorophyll.   After their brief tenure as shade and protection and fuel factory for their tree, last week they rained to the ground in torrents, letting go of the only security they had known.

Now they are compost, returning to the soil to feed the roots of the trees that gave them life to begin with.

Transcendent death.