Grace-Full Chickens

...it is easier to see these spiritual deformities in others than in oneself.....But to spot it in one's self is not only difficult but painful, and no one wants to take the descending path to that naked, unvarnished truth, with all its unacceptable humiliations. It is much more comfortable to stay on the level of plain and ordinary, to go on being just plain and ordinary. Yet it is to this path that Lent invites us. 
-- Edna Hong, excerpt from Bread and Wine 

I will admit, I often struggle with living a plain and ordinary life. Day in and day out, I do the laundry, prepare the meals, do the dishes, watch the kids (sometimes even wash the kids) and drive, drive, drive, drive, drive, only to come home to more cooking and cleaning and watching and waiting and yearning for that "something more" that I have imagined "should" be my life.

And so I try to fill that void....with kids, with the chickens and the cats, rabbits, dog, and let's not forget the darn one-eyed duck, Bingo, and his fearless body guard, Dawson. I am continually creating something that allows me to be a sustainer of life outside of my own; something that allows me to take part in this beautiful cycle in a hands-on, tangible way. Something that stirs in me excitement, and calms that inner restlessness.

Yet still, there is a sense of longing......longing to do, or be, something more; more than someone's wife or mom or friend or coach or caretaker or driver..... This discontent is the feeling of incompleteness, as if I am missing some vital link to the life I am called to be living, as if there is some great disconnect that I simply have not worked out.

And let's face it, I am a pretty lousy housekeeper, an average mom at best (I think Kurt coined the term benign neglect in reference to my parenting style.....I see it as creating resilient, resourceful kids personally but call it what you will....it seems to work just fine for the chickens, perhaps the kids should glean some pointers from their fowl-feathered friends!) and as for the rest, I certainly cannot claim fame and glory for any of it, not that I am seeking either.

Then enters Lent. And the snow comes down, the school closes, the house fills with busy-ness, the cats jump onto the counters, the bunnies continue to plot their escape, the ducks make a wreck of their home, now covered in ice from the water they cannot seem to keep contained in their excitement..... excitement over water alone....

And the chickens......Oh, the chickens! I honestly do not know how people handle the journey into the depths of their failings without chickens. You see, each and every day, my chickens remind me that Easter is! Every, single, day. Even in this pre-Easter journey, even in the wandering, the searching, the fasting, the failing, the hope, the despair, the longing, yearning, waiting, wishing, doing, being.....each and every day, in the showing up.....it is Easter.

A colorful, daily reminder!

We are a post-Easter people.....at least, we are called to be. We stretch ourselves in Lent, we search our selves, we wrestle with our selves, with God and then come back full circle to the place we started, seeing ourselves, and grace, through new eyes....or as T.S. Eliot so eloquently put it: We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time. 


At the lake retreat, we watched the movie, "How to Train your Dragon 2" in which the main character, Hiccup, finds his mom, Valka. For twenty years he lived under the mistaken belief that she was dead. But then he finds her, living amongst the dragons in a dragon sanctuary; a dragon whisperer so to speak.

As the scene unfolds with this incredibly wild mom, her dragons, the reconnection with her child, the seeking of forgiveness, this is the dialogue that transpires:

Hiccup: This is where you've been for twenty years? ..... You've been rescuing dragons?....Unbelievable.

Valka: You're not upset?

Hiccup: What? No! I....I don't know. I....Well, it's a bit much to get my head around, to be frank. It's not every day you find out your mother is some kind of.....crazy, feral, vigilante dragon lady.

Valka: Oh......well, at least I'm not boring right?

Kurt pats me on the head and says, "Hey, it's you!"

And it occurred to me that perhaps THIS is why my kids were so adamant that I watch this movie with them.....they recognized their mom in this "dragon lady" (insert chicken for dragon and it's hard not to see their point) and they saw how accepting her for who she was, and the forgiveness that followed, brought reconciliation and peace. And perhaps they saw in me that need to be forgiven, too.

In Lent, we are an Easter people, hanging in the balance between what we know to be true, what we learn to be true and what we hope to be true.....a journey that brings us back to where we started, armed with a new understanding of ourselves and of our continual need for grace.

Edna Hong summed it up perfectly in her writing: But the spirit of truth does not seek comfort. The purpose of Lent is not to escape the conscience, but to create a healthy hatred for evil, a heartfelt contrition for sin, and a passionately felt need for grace. 

May we all be as passionate about our need for grace as we are about our chickens.....whatever your chickens may be.

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