It had been an exhausting day at the office. Workload was akin to an avalanche. Every few years new programs with new regulations hit with way too much to absorb, comprehend, and administer to those who walk through the door. It boggles the minds of those well seasoned to this system and blows the minds of the newly hired.
In amongst the chaos of phone calls, customers, emails, reports, notices, amendments, computer challenges and policy interpretations I look up and see my supervisor walking through the office. His face taunt. With cell phone to his ear he exits the building. I watch as he paces the sidewalk in front of the office, deep in his phone conversation. I immediately tense. It’s been about 18 months since the news broke of his wife’s cancer. Inoperable, rare, debilitating. On top of that, his dad passed away last year and he, being the oldest son now has more responsibilities concerning his mother and the family farm operation. I could go on with his concerns for his two grown sons as well as his college enrolled daughter.
I turn from the window to see one of my best friends (and coworker) sitting at her desk staring at her computer with a tear trickling down her cheek. My heart ached. A loved one had just received some bad news. I’ve been there; trying to work and push on to make deadlines with a mind swirling with emotional thoughts. I look away for we’ve already discussed this and I know the best thing I can do is give her some space so she can regain her composure and accomplish the tasks she has upon her keyboard.
As I return to my own responsibilities, I hear the voice of another coworker and true friend. I slowly close my eyes and take a deep breath and send up a prayer. Next week it will be 20 years since her daughter passed away. Rare incident took the life of the barely teen girl. I worry about my friend. I don’t think there is any deeper pain than that of a mother who has buried her child. It haunts her to this day. As I’m sitting there thinking of all this, she comes out and breaks the news that a family member “back home” of which she is extremely close to has been hospitalized.
I take a breath. Phone rings and I’m back in the business world of addressing policy and upcoming programs to someone who these programs were created for. As the day continues, all three of my coworkers forge on, pushing aside best they can the things that attempt to capsize their world. And in the midst of it all we find things to laugh about to ease the tension. We know we will get through this, we know we can rely on each other for support as we muddle through each work day.
Pulling out of the office parking lot at the end of the work day I pick up my cell phone and call my mom. She and dad are now in their elder years and each day is a challenge for them. Growing old is not for the weak. It’s hard each and every day as physical limitations increase. Thankfully, my son has taken up the challenge to assist them full time. Some 350 miles away, I listen as Mom shares how she enjoys him pampering her and daddy, cooking their meals, keeping up the homestead, inside and out, and tending to their physical needs like keeping dad’s blood sugar within his diabetic limits.
Mom tells me of her latest outing. She and my sister, (who takes our parents to most of their Doctor appointments) had just returned from a consultation about mom’s upcoming surgery. Details and considering all things for a successful recovery season must be considered.
With my mind unwinding from the office day and my phone call with my mom, I pull my car into the garage. Shutting my car door and reaching for the garage door I already hear them. My two pygmy goats know I’m home. I smile. With all five of my “Coffee Cats” joining my walk to the house I laugh at my little welcoming committee. Loving Latte‘ rubs against my leg and then runs ahead a few steps and drops to the walk, sprawled out in front of me wanting belly rubs immediately. Java is just one of the crowd, joining all the rest as we make our way to the back door. Espresso (named appropriately) pounces upon the concrete picnic table as we pass for a better position to get my attention. Momma Kitty, Folgers is always leading the band and waiting for me at the back door. My sweet shy Maxwell takes every step with me, rubbing up against my leg but never allowing me to love on him. Much can be learned from Maxwell I think. Giving love, but not interested in getting love. Hmmm… now there’s a thought.
A quick change of clothes and shoes and I’m back out the door to my favorite time of the day. Critter Time! My phone chirps with a text but I delay reading it for I’m scooping up chicken feed and pouring it into the feeders. I giggle at the crowd below. My chickens. Oh, they’re just a mixture of a few different breeds. Not to bore you with details, I’ll settle to describe them as a Heniz 57 flock. HitchCock is the large black rooster that is large and in charge. We have serious control battles from time to time but there’s just something about him that keeps him in my flock. One of which is he was one of the first little chicks that first spring I went to Tractor Supply and bought myself 8 little chicks because I wanted me some chickens.
A half dozen red hens (awesome brown egg layers they are!), some white hens with speckles of black (thanks HitchCock) here and there in their feathers deemed names like Oreo and Blizz. A couple of black hens, Chickory and Hanna. Then there’s my feather-legged puff of feathers, Emily. On to some of the wee ones. In my childhood we called them Banny chickens. No bigger than a dove. Tiny little chickens that bring such variety to my flock in the Cackleberry Inn. Biscuit, named for the color of her feathers, likes to lay eggs AND crow. Little White Cloud is so independent and a true adventurer. Although I can’t name each of my little flock here, I cannot leave out my banny roosters. Colorful Chick Sparrow, ChickaSaw, Daniel and the newest boy on the block, Shorty July.
Shorty July has been having transition issues. Being the only baby chick since his birth (hatching) on July 1st. I’ve had to keep the tiny little chick in a bird cage for his safety. There’s a strong “pecking order” within each flock and to incorporate any new birds, one must upset that pecking order. So, to begin the process, I introduced Shorty July to two other banny hens so they could get to know each other. That went fairly well. Then I guess I moved too fast and opened up the suite and invited them to join the rest of the flock. This did not go well. As most of the flock filled their bellies from the freshly filled feeders, I cast my eyes across the flock taking note of this chicken and that… Looking for Shorty July, I couldn’t find him. Then I saw the poor little thing. He had flown up and out of the patio outdoor room and escaped through the small area just under the rafters. He was on the outside!!
I ran outside and attempted to go catch Shorty July but he was too scared to be “caught”. So, I just sat down on the grass and called to him like I’ve done so many times as I held him in my hands while walking the goats. Shorty July walked right into my outstretched hands. I cannot express the feeling of having such a tiny little being trust you so much. My Shorty July has stolen my heart. As I held him in the safety of my hands, stroking his soft feathery body, I thought how this is how God reaches out to us. We race away from Him in our fear, but when we trust Him totally, he scoops us up in His safe hands and comforts us and calms our troubled and frightened souls.
Taking Shorty July back into the Cackleberry Inn, I began the transition once again. Placing him in a wire coop with fresh water and feed. He scooped up beak full after beak full. Then I gathered up Little Miss Gray Dove and placed her in the coop with Shorty July. Transition is hard, but important.
With Shorty July settled in with Little Miss Gray Dove (feathers soft gray splattered with white dots) I was finally ready to let the impatient goats out. Having their own suite at the back of the Cackleberry Inn, they are safe during the day and are always ready to venture out for our evening stroll and graze. This is my down time. The time of the day that I unwind and let the days worries fall away. Wherever I walk, Roxi & Ivy walk with me. If they venture too far, just a slight rattle of their pellet feed in the coffee can I hold, brings them bouncing back. It’s been a while since I used their leashes. They don’t like to be far from me or each other.
As I walk down Cackleberry Lane with my little girls sniffing and snipping this blade of grass or that weed, I find a calmness to the world’s chaos. God’s creations doing what they’ve been doing since the beginning of time. Most days it seems like life changes way faster than I can keep up. From technology inventions to changes that come as we, and our loved ones mature and grow from one season of life to another… some days it nearly overwhelms me. But as I stand there watching those little goats nibble and graze, I see it’s all part of God’s ultimate plan. God’s timing is so totally different than ours. We want everything NOW, yet God has no problem with waiting. We have trouble comprehending the constant chaos of so much activity, yet God takes it in stride. I see this as the goats graze and the chickens scratch and peck.
Walking back up to the lane toward the grain bins, I can see my little flock of chickens that I let out earlier to free range for a little while. They stick near their Cackleberry Inn home, scratching and pecking in the fresh, green, lush grass. So busy, yet so content. I smile. I remember the text chirp from earlier. A loved one having to deal with a very turbulent issue right now. My heart aches. I’m frustrated as to why my loved one is having to deal with this. So many things are forced upon us that we have no control over. It might be health issues, or someone who makes selfish decisions that affect us. Either way, it’s a battle for the fittest. I reply to the text and receive another almost immediately. Is there a solution? No option available is acceptable. Frustration rises…
And the goats still graze…
Calmness overcomes me and I know God is here and He is with my loved one. In the scheme of things, this in merely a moment. In the scheme of things, God shows us how we must take the little things and the big things in stride. Just like those little goats standing there leisurely nibbling as we wander around on the farm. Just like those chickens scratching and pecking, just like this band of cats lovingly wrapping themselves around my legs.
Phone rings just as the grazing girls and I round the grain bins and start up the driveway towards the woodpile they love to jump up on. Another loved one needs to talk. Another survival of the fittest in the waves of life’s storms. As I become the sounding board for my dear one, pouring out a heart of despair and attempting to makes sense of it all so a solution can be found, I turn…
and the goats still graze….