My word for the year is
You can read about it here.
Something about chickens appeals to my Idaho country girl roots--their bucolic combing of the grass for tasty morsels, their noisy laying rituals, their not-so-friendly fights over the best tidbits when the scrap bucket dumps into their pen.
Something was off, though. The backyard was quiet. None of the girls ran to greet me. Strange. I wasn't prepared for what waited just inside the gate.
Feathers everywhere. Soft, downy, russet belly feathers. Long, dark tail quills. A few small black and grey feathers mixed with so many of the red.
Then I saw the pieces. Heads with glazed eyes. Wings severed from bodies. One random claw pointing skyward.
All five of my girls were gone, and I stood there with the now-purposeless cup of feed in my hand, shocked speechless.
With the full cup still in my hand, I returned to the house for a large garbage bag and a shovel, then I somberly scooped pieces and parts as my shock was slowly replaced with questions.
It must have been a cat. That's the only answer I could find. Growing up in farm country, you learn from an early age that life is tenuous and fragile and fraught with experiences like this. There's nothing you can do but be sad for a moment and move on. And wow, was I sad.
After disposing of their bodies, I returned for a final look at the nesting boxes. Four brown eggs and one green one--the last of their kind, and the last small gifts given.
This last month has been hard. One of the hardest I've had in a long time. Brad's neck injury. Greg's hospitalization. Kids struggling with school or friends. So much sickness--the fever that wouldn't leave. And then my feathered girls' gruesome fate brought it all to a head. That's when I cried, right there as I sat on the garden wall with a cup full of eggs in my hand.
Hard isn't even the right word. My heart had been heavy almost every day with some lingering worry or some new problem entering on the horizon, and now it was overflowing.
I've been driven to my knees more times in the last month than any time in recent memory. And what is the state of my heart?
I found comfort in Matthew 11:28: "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest."
While I have been heavily burdened with fear, worry, stress, and fatigue, I have felt God's hand assisting me. I still see joy in my hard days, and I know that all will be well. I may not know the end, but He does. And during days like these, there is comfort in that knowledge.
Craigslist has laying hens available. Maybe I will be ready to replace my girls soon. But not yet.