Did you know that a chicken can fly over a 6-foot privacy fence? This morning my husband woke up at an ungodly hour, still dark, to drive off in the lonely cold for his Saturday job. As he was walking out the back door, he noticed an oddly shaped white cat perching on the fence. He stepped outside to discover not a neighborhood cat, but two of our chickens. Great urban farmers that we are, we had left the door to the chicken yard open overnight. Thankfully he was able to scoop the stunned chickens off the wooden fence separating our narrow yard from our neighbor's and secure them in the hen house without a fight. Unfortunately Dani (short for Danielle), one of our favorite hens, was nowhere to be seen.
John looked around our tiny yard and around the block for our sweet runaway chicken, but had to leave for work before he found anything. Soren woke early and searched the neighborhood high and low without finding so much as a feather but, in the end, was easily comforted by Saturday morning TV. Always the last one to wake, I heard the sad news many hours after my sweet chickadee had been let loose in downtown Pueblo. I imagined her walking up Abriendo Ave., past Taffy's iconic candy store and the side-by-side bicycle resale shops to hesitate just outside Tony & Joe's Pizza. Maybe a door suddenly swishing open sent her scurrying into the street as lights and horns honking scared her across the busy intersection toward the library, leaving shocked, but not really shocked, Puebloans staring after her.
The 2% positive outlook I had managed to make it downstairs with that morning flew out the window with my chicken friend. I loved the dogs (we lost both of ours along with my mother this past April), but I lovelovelove the chickens. They are so funny and awkward, fearful and dimwitted. We get each other. My plan to spend the free Saturday afternoon in the studio lost all of its appeal. How could I enjoy my afternoon when we had been so foolish to leave the gate open and now had lost one of our precious chickies? And a laying hen at that? How would we ever find a chicken wandering around downtown Pueblo? I'd heard of dogs finding their way back home across seemingly insurmountable obstacles, but chickens? I mean I loved my girls, but I had very little faith Dani was capable of that.
Even the special cinnamon rolls I had bought for breakfast with the best icing ever couldn't pick up my mood after that. In fact, they felt like fatty lumps of sugary defeat in the pit of my stomach. All the words my obsessive mind had replayed for me ad nauseum throughout the night before came back to me in a rush: nothing is ever going to work out for you, you are useless except to hurt and ruin the things you love, and nothing is ever going to change. I knew these all too familiar words weren't true, but they felt so very true, and the weight of them and all my other doubts and fears had been clinging to my weary back for weeks and threatening to crush me entirely. The previous night had left me exhausted and weary to the bone even before I found out about poor Dani. So I did what I do to cope. I cleaned. I posted pics to my Pinterest boards. I read and I did my best to rescue the day with the little bit of strength I had in me to fight.
And I prayed. More and more often lately I found myself flat on my face when I was alone with God. I guess it made sense, mirroring the condition of my soul. Often I felt I couldn't even 'look' toward God without covering my face. Like a toddler who thinks if she covers her eyes so she can't see you, then you can't see her either, but also like the same child burying her tear stained face in her daddy's safe and loving lap. So I told Him about every fear that was crushing me, how the weight was too big for me, how I had put down hope and had now forgotten where to find it. I reminded Him I could not do it without Him and, left to my own devices, I would continue down this painful road I so easily detoured onto despite the warning signs all around me. I read some scriptures and some of Dallas Willard's Divine Conspiracy and I did feel a little better, but mostly my mind felt changed. Not completely changed, but mixed in there with the negative thoughts were others now: God has not abandoned me and is not disappointed with me. He knows every little thing about me and He loves me anyway. Of course He does, I am His daughter.
After getting it all out, I got up, deciding to take back that 2% positive outlook. I was attempting to get dressed and face the day, come what may, when I heard a squawk. I stopped and held my breath. There it was again. That distinctive chicken squawk. I quietly opened the french doors of our bedroom that lead out to a non-existent upstairs balcony and waited. I was telling myself it was my imagination, some sound within our old house, when I heard it again, but I couldn't tell which direction it was coming from. Since I wasn't entirely dressed yet, I called downstairs to TV coma-induced Soren asking him to take a look around outside, just to humor his old hallucinating mother. While I quickly pulled on t-shirt and jeans, Soren came back to the bottom of the stairs and called up, "Guess what!" He had gone out into the backyard to find that Dani had mysteriously reappeared in front of the chicken yard and was squawking to be let back in.
Now early in my years as a Christian, I was full of faith and naivete (as well as having been poorly taught). I would see a parking space up front of the grocery store, or a dress I had been eyeing on sale, or hear a favorite song come on the radio at just the right moment and think: it's God! Twenty years, and many hard lessons and disappointments later, and I wouldn't dare to attribute anything to Him that can have any other possible explanation. But I couldn't help but wonder: Could God have brought my little chicken back to me? How could she have flown back over the fence? Was it a coincidence that I heard her squawk just as I stood up from praying? I had no idea, but as Soren told me what he had found, my heart and mind raced, thoughts tumbling over and over each other: Could it have truly been God, a little sign to me? Would He do that for me? (Please, please let it really be You! I need it to be You.) Yeah, God sends wayward chickens back home as a sign all the time. It's all over the Bible. (But oh how I want it to be You!) It doesn't matter anyway because I'll never really know. I could spin it anyway I wanted. But then came another thought, and this one lingered a little longer: Aren't you of more value than many birds? (Lk. 12:24)