We were standing in Tractor Supply looking at the totes of baby chicks when my husband said it. “You can get chickens if you want.”
I looked at him in disbelief.
Before we were married he had talked of his abhorrence of chickens. “They’re dirty and carry disease and they cost more than they save,” he told me.
It was always simple in my mind. We had a farm but we didn’t have chickens. I could have goats, or donkeys, or cattle. Rabbits, dogs, and cats.
But no horses (too expensive) and no chickens.
My brother had chickens once when we were kids, but I didn’t do a lot with them. Once or twice I carried feed down to their pen and I may have changed the water for them at one point.
Other than that, my one experience was the day I came out of the house and my brother was standing by the woodpile, wrestling a grown bird. He looked up and saw me, then said, “Hey, Tasha. Hold this chicken right here.” So I did.
My only excuse for my naiveté is that around the age of ten my nose was mostly stuck in books, so reality didn’t always register immediately.
Regardless, I stood there, holding that squawking bird, wondering what was going on when suddenly the ax came slamming down, and a headless chicken was running wildly about. I was more than slightly appalled. Partly because of the whole headless chicken thing, but also partly because there were blood splatters on my pants.
But now, twenty years later, I was looking down at these fluffy baby chicks and realizing I could take them home. The kids, of course, were ecstatic, but then again, kids always are for the first week when new animals come to the farm. It’s the hundred weeks after that are a real drag.
Can I tell you a secret about me?
Okay, maybe it’s not really a secret. But here it is: I love mothering.
I love it like crazy bad.
So all these baby chicks that have to be tended and cleaned up after and kept warm enough? It’s pretty much my dream come true. And I didn’t even know it.
I. adore. chickens.
I thought I was acting pretty reasonable about how much they delighted me, but I knew I hadn’t hidden it well when my husband finished listening to my ten minute spiel about what the chicks had done that day and he said, “I’m so sorry that we didn’t get chickens before this. I really didn’t have any idea that you would love them so much.”
I totally didn’t know I would either.
But regardless, we went from nine chicks, down to eight, and then up to fourteen.
Now I’m researching the cheapest way to feed chickens because this might break the bank.
The other morning, I woke up early and went to do my daily dose of chick-mothering when it hit me that God has been working at softening a part of me that was getting brittle and rough.
One of the hardest parts of parenting older adopted children is that I’m always tempted to be frustrated over the years I lost, instead of celebrating the years we have. I want to say my son’s fits aren’t my fault because I wouldn’t have allowed him to learn that habit, and then excuse myself for being angry in response. I want to say that my daughter’s tendency to detach from me is because of the mothers she lost, not because I respond harshly when she disobeys. I can come up with a million reasons why my job is impossible, instead of praying a million prayers over the broken pieces that make up our family.
And then I still want to cry because I got cheated out of my babies.
My whole self aches to mother babies and instead, I am trying to navigate the preteen years with children who are emotionally like toddlers.
And this belief was scratching a wound into my heart that was starting to bleed out into my life.
Of course, God doesn’t leave us there with wounds and bitterness and roughness. He gets out the oil, the bandages, the scraper—and He sets to work. Cleaning and scraping, soothing and cleansing.
A three month old baby started coming to the house each day. I would swaddle him and dig out bags of frozen milk from the freezer, warming them on the stove. I would sing to him and snuggle him on my lap. And his mama would say one day, “It’s like you’re the Baby Whisperer.” And my daughter would be standing there.
Then later, she would start talking to me. It was just the two of us after a meal and she told me all about how afraid she always felt of women. How she wanted their attention and love, but was scared they would reject her, so she would reject them as quickly as possible.
“But then I came here,” she said. “I think God just knew I needed a Baby Whisperer for a mama. You were always so soft and comfy and loving. I know you didn’t swaddle me like you do the baby, but in some ways you did. When I watch you with him, I think, ‘Oh, that’s how mommy is with me.’”
Is it possible that I wasn’t cheated at all? That instead, God build this deep need in me to mother everyone around me because He knew exactly what children would come into my home… half-grown, but still in need of swaddling and gentleness and lullabies?
And slowly the brittleness has been softening. My desire to mother doesn’t have to feel like the reminder of a broken dream but instead it can feel like the gift of a loving Father.
Mothering isn’t listed in the Spiritual gifts, but maybe it is one still? And maybe it’s a gift the Lord wants to grow in me and through me and it’s a part of Him that He wants to spill out from my life and my home and my heart?
As I dote on these totes full of chicks that really are as messy and stinky and dirty as my husband warned me, but I love it still, can I allow the Father to grow me up in this area?
When my son wants to play with arm loads of sticks on my living room floor, can I embrace the part of me that laughs and hardly notices the dirt and broken pieces of bark instead of giving in to the other part of me that cringes and wants to send him outside? Can I set down the frustration of dealing with a ten year old who is fussing at me and think of him as a three year old who doesn’t know how to properly deal with his emotions? Can I wrap him up tight in love, swaddled close, when his anger tears at me and leaves me with a bloody nose and the desire to push back so I won’t get hurt anymore?
Can I see the part of my daughter that is still so small, so desperate for a mother’s approval, and not get distracted by the attitude and rolling eyes? Can I sing lullabies and dance through the living room and take everyone on picnics—even when I’m struggling under the weight of thoughtless words and sharp insults all morning?
I can’t really, not on my own. But if mothering really is a gift, then I can because nothing is impossible with God and if He did not spare His own son, but gave Him up for us all, will He not also, along with Him, graciously give us all things?
Two months ago this part of me was brittle and rough, but God has been working.
If this really is a Spiritual gift then it was created for the edification of the church, for the building of the Kingdom, for the glory of the God-who-Loves.
The One who loves us like a mother—with a place for us under His wings, swaddled close to His side. The One who loves me even when I’m fussing and wounding Him. He doesn’t push away but absorbs the attacks that I lash out with because His heart is so full of grace and love and affection for His creation—and because He sees and He knows.
He sees my fear and He speaks, You don’t have to be afraid. He sees my wounds and He whispers, Come to me and I will give you rest. He sees my anger and He says, Be renewed by the transforming of your mind. He sees my tiredness and He sings, So do not throw away your confidence, it will be richly rewarded. He sees my feelings of being inadequate and His voice thunders over me, I have engraved your name in the palms of my hands, you are mine.
Everything I need to mother well is found in Him.
And as I celebrate the mothering of these tiny chicks, who delight me with their chirps and peeps and fluffy down that transforms into feathers, I am also learning to celebrate the mothering of these half-grown children of mine.
Because Mothering is a gift, and it’s a gift available to me, and it’s for His glory.
Grow Your heart in me, Lord. Grow this gift.