Broody Hens Revisited 


How does my Broody Hen know? She sits upon her nest, angry, feeling unlovable, ready to battle anyone or anything determined to remove her from her slot. How does she know? How does she know to sit upon an unfertilized egg, waiting, hopeful, defending the possibility of new life? She is mean, intolerant and driven to find a pile to sit upon. She physically needs to move through this brood, to discover new life, to nurture and launch babies into the world.

While I am not awaiting new life from my body, I feel the same. I feel like I’m stuck at an intersection, the one at 4th and Main, that says “Wait. Wait. Wait” in threes. The triplet syllables running through the background of my consciousness. “Wait. Wait. Wait.” I feel like something new is waiting to be hatched from my being, the desire is present, yet the time is not right. In a culture of producing, of measuring success based on a variety of parameters, to wait feels so wasteful, so useless.

I have to believe there is no perfect way to wait, that I don’t have to follow a prescription, for if this is the case I am miserably failing. This recovering perfectionist reverts to the need for black and white law, to measure productivity by following a specific set of rules. My head knows this is not a requirement, that truly it is a matter of surrender. Sometimes it comes down to getting through, calling out the head chatter, switching the station, changing the mantra.

In reality, all I have to offer myself for any solace in this broody stage is self compassion and kindness. Changing the station to a semblance of SNL’s Stuart Smalley. Doggone it.

Talking with a friend this week, we realized self compassion is our lynchpin, the key to living abundantly, to accepting mercy, to allowing for grace. Why do I believe God’s voice is the one that’s cruel tempered, judgmental, and condemning? Why does this need to be His/Her voice? When I switch the station and hear kindness, mercy…this is the place I long to stay, the pillow on which my head will rest.

Fast runs, lap swims, clean house, conversations with beer or coffee in hand, Mumford and Sons on loud…finally a glimpse of momentary stillness, a reset, if just for a moment.  Freedom settling, a relief from broody condemnation. Meditation, breathing, gardening, all provide moments of respite.

Do I run from the chatter? From the questions? From the feeding frenzy in my head? I try but no, for it is my consistent companion, rising and waning through these days of wait.

Do I choose numbing? Maybe in some ways, but I prefer the tenuous line of feeling, of aching, of misunderstanding, than create a problem that will result in deeper consequences and severe-er, pain to be felt later.

What to do with my broody hen? Unfortunately she is living a lie. She is angry, with no answers. When will she get her sustenance, her food and drink, her relief? I don’t know. We may need to wait and see how she manages.  We may have to hand feed her, we have been known to do that for our precious hens. Even though she’s angry and taking up valuable real estate, I still love her. I will continue to provide for her. She doesn’t have to prove herself to me, I know she’s a faithful bird. And I am such a flawed bird owner.

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My experiences and thoughts over the last couple weeks have been very raw and necessary. I spilled it out, and I was right, there was great healing in being myself, unedited (for the most part) and hitting “Publish”. I so appreciate the friends who reached out and gave me a kind, knowing look…”We are in this together.” It is also nice to know that fifteen year olds should be considered insane. So should 42 year old moms pushed to the brink. We will all figure it out as we go, often flying by the seat of our pants, trusting.

In light of these events, I have learned some things of Grace as I observed her showing up, asking me to invite her in, never forcing.

Grace is polite, an inkling. She pops her head through the back door, where there is confusion, anger, unreasonable-ness, mostly fear. She waits her turn, she waits until we glance in her direction. When all is desperate and nonsensical she makes her move. She provides opportunity for us to dare for better, for light, for hope, for freedom, mercy, and release. Do we choose her? Do we accept her invitation or keep digging in our heels to make our point, to stand firm in our position? Most of the time her offers make no sense. “Really?! I need to submit to my child, friend, husband, parent, etc? Really? You want me to make the first move toward understanding? But, I’m right. I have  to take a stand here. I have to make my point”. In the heat of the situation, glancing in Grace’s direction, succumbing to her gentle pleading, I realize we don’t have to proceed down this particular path. I can rest in knowing, that letting go, surrendering, may actually be the best.

Grace begins as an imagining. She challenges me to imagine different, alternate, the flip-side. I may not be required to maintain my hard line, whether it’s with my child, or spouse, or on an issue. I see so much of this in our politics, our churches. What if instead of staying rigid, fearing for our security, we let go and trusted and allowed Grace to settle over? What if we stopped needing to have the answers?

Grace is possibility. Is it actually possible I don’t have to know everything or be the one to call people out? Just maybe, what I have assumed is my job, actually is not.  Grace provides the opportunity for freedom, to truly live in love and be the hands and feet of Jesus without the need to figure it all out…to be available and present. Grace enables me to imagine that God is actually enormous, vast, working in ways unbeknownst to any of us, revealed in the most minute of ways, that blow our puny, human minds. Could it be possible? Could it be possible that I don’t have to continue to operate in fear, control, anxiety and confusion? Could I be loved for being myself?

Grace is a choice. We can choose our punitive moment or we can choose to let go, loosen our grip, retract our claws and enter into the unknown, beyond our control. We can choose to release our pride and not have to know it all, not have to be the gatekeepers of Truth.

In the context of my parenting, when Grace is not invited in…not only am I a raging lunatic, a conspiracy theorist, a terrified mother, my child is unreasonable too. It takes one of us (me, since I’m supposedly the adult) to stop, breathe, let go, accept new information and believe maybe I don’t know the whole story. It takes one of us to break the cycle of fear that causes me to believe there is no hope, this is forever how it is, it’s never going to be good again. It takes one of us to look at the other and say, “I love you, what do you suggest, clearly this isn’t working.” Will I automatically have an adult conversation with my teenager? Hell no, but at least there’s softness again. At least there’s openness, if even the smallest of degrees. A small crack of light, revealing the shadow of fear that clouds reason and hope.

I will leave you, to extrapolate this to the areas of your own lives, to your marriage, parenting, friendships. To your community, your schools and churches. To your towns, states. To our nation and world. The choice of grace is ours. The choice to allow the notion that maybe we don’t have the whole story…maybe there is an opportunity to give the benefit of the doubt. Maybe we are motivated by fear rather than the revolutionary power of Love. Maybe our own expectations are causing us to lose perspective of mercy and leading us to control.

In my experience, control has never been my friend. Control has only made me have to work harder to stay on top. It’s a miserable existence, where Joy really is just waiting for me to step down, give up the fight, and enter into life-giving Grace.

Thoughts on Parenting in March

*This post is more raw than I care to publish, but there is great healing in taking the chance. Please reserve criticism…it is a tender time.

The voices know how to melt my core. The voices can kick me in the deepest, most soft of places, in the depths of who I am. The voices I don’t know how to decipher. Some are mocking, some are encouraging, all are definite…moving me toward conspiracy, toward trembling, toward believing these voices and knowing the truth beyond a shadow, regardless if it’s actually the case.

Where do these come from? Are they our modern day demons that Jesus went from town to town exiling? Are they the words of shame? Are they what we imagine actual people are saying? Are they our conscience? Is it God?

What is so wrong with standing firmly in self-compassion, in grace, in do-overs and second chances? Why is everything so final, it must be done perfect or not at all? When I stand firm in anything it blows up, shards lancing every beloved soul and body within radius. Firm stances work for some and gain results, gain temporary results. I’m really talking about parenting here. We can talk about shame can’t we? I can force my child to stand there and take it, take whatever I believe he needs to hear, whatever point I’m needing to make. Does it change anything? The only time I see change in him, in us, is when there’s a bend, when there’s softness…not in forceful words or definite paths or “I’m gonna win this one.” Sure, short term results. But how does this prepare a child to be gracious, kind, compassionate, empathetic? If we don’t model it directly with them, how do we know they will know what this is?

I can’t do it. I’m crying uncle. Yes, there are consequences and discipline. Don’t get me wrong..not throwing the kid to the wolves just yet, however, it’s not about living perfect on the outside to gain my approval so I can brag in a Starbucks to a long unseen acquaintance all the incredible ways my children are succeeding in life. It’s about formation, growth, and not me.

I will take a chance on grace, on letting go the tight fisted grip, on results. I will take a chance on my child learning the paths that are best. I will take a chance on my child really screwing up. I will take a chance on letting my child go. It’s the only way to keep the relationship, to let him become who he was made to be.

I have never done this. All I have in my back pocket is how I was parented. It is now my responsibility to set it all down, in a pile, grab a chair and pick up each piece one by one…dust it off, turn it over in my hand, examine each facet. Which bucket will it go in? There are three: Save, Discard,  Later (aka. therapy). I am now the adult, raising the children. I have a choice. Go bull-headed forward with what I think I know, or choose grace and self compassion to not have to be perfect, to not have to be rigid, to reserve the right to change my mind. I am taking a chance.

Control isn’t working for me or my family. In fact, it’s ugly and I have become a raging lunatic.

If you see me in a Starbucks and tell me all the wonderful things about your kids, and I grunt in response and say, “We’re fine..the kids are still alive.” Don’t feel sorry for me, because I will not spell out all of the accomplishments and accolades. Those are reserved for the most trusted who will not use them to measure the worth of their own parenting. Nor will I spell out my fears and concerns, unless it helps you in some way. I will not be a part of promoting the competition, the measuring, the weighing of worth.

I will not.

As Ann Lamott says, as a writer there are always shitty first drafts. It’s important to write, get it down on paper or hard drive. As a parent, my first drafts are also going to be shitty. I’m not talking about my firstborn..I haven’t lost all hope. I’m talking about attempts, at first reactions, at things said but not exactly vetted, choices made in anger that produce regret. These first drafts, some are initially brilliant. Most are shitty, flawed, failed.

There must be a God, because there is always redemption. It may be today, it may take thirty years, but there is always a working together for good..always. Even in this mess, this stink, this pain and angst, regret and fear, there is redemption.

A New Path

Woke up to another snowy landscape. I love snow, I’m finding winter might be my favorite season..if I can stay warm. I like the excuse of staying inside, of not feeling pressured by the warm sun to have to be outside if I don’t want to. I guess I am more of a homebody than I would care to admit.

In this season, my soul, mind, body..all adrift. We have a houseful of construction. My child is in a necessary stage I don’t like. Church life, nonexistent.

This morning my view is the snow laden backyard, icicles hang prolific in random places, ice omnipresent to make any venture treacherous for this aging body. I gaze through the gridded window upon the backyard. Squares, each when focused individually offer a microcosm view. One, on the top middle portrays the garage roofline, with neighbor’s tree branches rising above, little humble birds sitting atop. Another square offers our half dilapidated chicken coop addition, where our wandering Truffle likes to perch, her halfway house as she pecks through the yard. Sitting in the silence of early morning, watching the full moon span squares, tree branches, power lines, while illuminating the frigid earth.

My walk with God is shifting. My faith journey, once so certain, is sprouting legs and taking me to places I once reserved for the backslidden, the lost. The faith lens, the grid through which I observed the world is leaving. The parameters, guidelines, rules one attributes to God-pleasing, dissolving. The earning of Heaven, the avoiding of Hell no longer interesting or essential. I am left with this vast landscape…no walls..everything is up for question. Dare I say, few absolutes?

The beauty of blanketed snow, how it falls and sits until disrupted by the beaming light of day, or a skittering creature. The beauty of freedom, imagining, wondering. The beauty of being open to loving all, to accepting each person where they stand. The rest in knowing judgement is not my job, my paycheck does not reflect this responsibility. The promise of spring, unfolding flowers, trees and vegetable sprouting from the desolate boxes. Miraculous, each one, morning newness abundant.

All of this I know. I have done this for enough years to know my faith goes beyond what I feel. My sense of bereft-ness is happening because without the certainty of rules and boundaries, how does one know if they are off course, or just alone? I have followed, through my life, the leader. I have also been the leader, albeit many times a bit of a rebel. I have walked easily and willingly with others, in fellowship. I have sought out approval from the powers that be, truly believing I am honoring God with my life and devotion.

Years ago, I completed my first triathlon in Denver at the Cherry Creek Reservoir. I knew I was a decent swimmer, but never having raced before, I didn’t know how I would compare. My only gauge the poor unknowing soul I would compete with in the adjacent lane at the Rec Center.

I swam along, nervous energy faded, breathing on every third stroke as a good swimmer does. Murky water, goggles fogged, blind. I, while bilaterally breathing, noticed I was alone and actually believed I was in front.  Me in the lead. Incredible! I succumbed to the voice-in-my-head temptation, “I am amazing, Wow!” The illusion came crashing when I was shaken by a booming, megaphoned voice, “MA’AM, YOU ARE OFF COURSE!”

I had taken my own line, I had veered out of the triangle path designated. I was all alone. The kind race volunteer allowed me to de-fog my goggles, catch my breath and resume the race.

I am trusting in grace when I feel I am off course, or alone.  When I have presumed too much or entertained untruths, I hope to be steered by a megaphone, a gentle nudge, or a push…all motivated by love. My questions will continue to be posed, with abandon. I trust that living outside of the well-trod path I will discover new understanding, or maybe a faint path trod not by the majority.  I long to, through humility, follow, grow, become –  knowing that whatever path I’m on, wherever the journey takes me, all of it leads to the common ground of love, grace, mercy, empathy, compassion…free from shame, condemnation and fear.