It was a sad time for all of us.
Within two weeks, we lost three of our favorite hens. Sickness took Stella, a fun and gentle hen. Ginger, our matriarch, left us shortly thereafter. She, nearly twelve, rested on a nest of hay covered with flower petals until it was her time to go. (Read her story by scrolling down to ( Not Trampled, Part 1, March 2, 2018)
Celeste, Ginger’s best friend and constant companion, died a few days later. She, too, was advanced in years. It’s the girls’ unrelenting belief that Celeste hung on simply for Ginger’s sake.
Our flock was then diminished to 13 hens and one feisty roo, still more than enough for our family of four.
My youngest, however, had been asking for more chickens, even before the loss of the three. Her desire was to allow a hen to hatch eggs.
“We have too many,“ I told her, multiple times. “No more chickens.”
Olivia is persistent in a subtle and creative way. She stopped asking and started building. Beneath her 13 year old hands, an elaborate chick coop took shape. She amazed us with her construction project.
Years ago, she built a birdhouse for me with her dad. She’d also made a shelf for her room and, as a small child, used every found thing she could obtain to create some fantastical invention. This project, however, required bigger skills: framing, cutting, using power tools and following the blueprint she visualized in her mind.
After we saw her determination, my husband, Brian, showed her how to use a jig saw and gave her a couple of tips, but she built the coop herself, using recycled fence boards and pallet wood. As the project neared the end, he taught her how to lay shingles on the roof of the nest box. She stretched chicken wire over the coop and we both watched our girl in amazement as she painted the finished project. Complete with a mini courtyard and a separate room for the nest box, it looked like a coop one would buy at the feed store. Prepared with love from recycled materials, it was beautiful.
We praised her effort and skill; waiting for the question we assumed would come. But, it didn’t. We moved the coop to the side of the existing hen courtyard. It sat empty, prepared with hope, prepared for a dream.
Even though she didn’t ask THE question, my mind was whirling.
“Brian,” I finally said, “how can I say no to baby chicks again after all the creative energy and hard work Olivia has put into making that coop?” He agreed that a reward was in order.
Shortly thereafter, the three hens died. Olivia’s sadness hung around her like a gray cloud. Our chickens are not just egg layers. They are pets, each with a unique personality. On the night Celeste, the last of the three, passed away, I sat on the edge of Olivia’s bed. I knew I couldn’t take away the grief, but I could offer hope.
“If a hen goes broody,” I said, “you can set some eggs.” Her face lit up. Hope ignited, hard work rewarded. She immediately started talking about which hen was her preferred choice.
“Zulilly went broody last year (we did not give her eggs to set), so she will probably go broody again this year; but, I’m not sure I want her to be a mother,” Olivia said, “She’s very pecky, and I’m afraid she will pass those behaviors on to her chicks. Bumpkin would be my first choice, because she is such a sweet, fluffy hen. She would be the best mama.” The words kept tumbling out and we talked about various hen characteristics and motherhood qualities until it was time for lights out.
I went to bed thinking about the profound lessons playing out in my home: the benefit of patience, the rewards of quiet determination and hard work, taking risk by preparing for something you hope for that might not materialize. After an incredibly difficult year in the life of our family, the simple joy of seeing hope spring up in the midst of my daughter’s grief and the fun of planning for something I knew would give her pleasure was worth savoring.
Olivia had prepared a place. Now, all we needed was for a hen to go broody…
Jesus prepared a place for us to be with His Father now and in the future.
Before His crucifixion, Jesus told His disciples,
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms, if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you with me that you may also be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.” Thomas (one of Jesus’ disciples) said to Him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
– John 14:1-6 (NIV), Italics, mine
We are bound by space and time. God, having created both, is not. In those verses, Jesus wove time and place together with His words. We do have a place in heaven to look forward to – a future, eternal residence with the God of the universe, and Jesus will return to usher in the new heaven, but scripture is clear that once someone becomes a believer, they become God’s home here on earth, in the present. Believers have the Spirit of God living in them; a profound and life changing truth.
“Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own. You were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies”
– 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 (NIV)
“Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching, and we will come to them and make our home with them.” – John 14:23 (NIV)
(see also: 1 Corinthians 3:16, 2 Corinthians 6:16)
Everyone who believes in Jesus becomes a unique dwelling place, a room, so to speak, for the Spirit of God, a presence that stretches out through eternity. Collectively, all the individual believers, or “rooms” for the Spirit, become God’s house here on earth: His church. His house does have many rooms: all those who believe, mortared together by the Spirit of God.
God designed the way for this to happen with a redemptive blueprint, laid out in perfect detail for the craftsman who would prepare the finished work. Jesus was that Craftsman. Every stroke of God’s plan was fulfilled through Him. He is the Way.
Jesus took our sins, crafting holiness out of unholy material. Prepared with love, we are spiritually recycled. Our old natures are made new, our spirits able, in Christ, to co-exist with the spirit of God. We are made beautiful and designed for new purposes by the Architect of our existence.
He enables us to fulfill those purposes by decorating the rooms of our lives with the gifts of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfullness, gentleness and self-control. The Spirit that bestows those gifts also provides us with bravery and power, helping us choose to use those gifts instead of the burdens that came with our old, fallen nature: anger, regret, anxiety, impatience, selfishness and fear.
Too often, believers focus on what used to be instead of what is. The day to day clutter and trouble of the world makes them lose sight of how they have been recyled into new construction, designed for new purposes. I am guilty of this, are you?
When I find myself caught in the clutter, I purposefully ask God to sweep it away, so that His Spirit can permeate every nook and cranny of the “room” of my life that Jesus prepared for Him to fill.
If you are feeling “cluttered,” ask God to sweep away the fears, anxieties and remnants of human nature that get in the way of fulfilling His purposes for your life. Those purposes are consistent for us all: to glorify God despite what the world brings, to praise Him, especially in times of trouble, to share the Truth of God with our words and our lives so that others can have eternal life. How we fulfill those purposes are powered by the Spirit and are unique to each of us.
You are the dwelling place of the Most High God! Consistently ask Him to clear the clutter. Then, stand prepared, ready, hopeful for what He will bring.
Prepared. Ready. Will Bumpkin go broody?