This is it, friends, Monday, Nov. 7 “Chicken Scratch: Stories of Love, Risk & Poultry” officially launches into the world. It’s exciting and a little bit scary and so, in honor of that, I want to share an excerpt from the book – a story about love and risk, pain and joy. Enjoy and when you’re done reading scroll down to see my free launch-day giveaways.
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Cold winds and thunderstorms
settled into the area over the weekend. Saturday came and went in a fog
of post-birthday-party exhaustion, and the sunny morning turned dark and windy
by late afternoon. In the morning, our sleepy kids stayed inside playing
on the Wii, and I walked down to the fence, hoping to talk awhile with our
I spotted her husband, Don, in the yard first, closer to
the fence. Based on two years of over-the-fence observation, I’ve reached
the conclusion that Ann and Don’s yard is governed by a neat division of labor
– Ann tends her teaming flowerbeds and Don putters in his vegetable
garden. Both the beds and the garden put ours to shame, but John and I
comfort ourselves by remembering that the Ann and Don are retired and not
raising four young children.
I’ve noticed a similar division of labor in their approach to
the neighborly business of fence-side small-talk – Ann engages freely in
extended conversation over a wide range of topics, and Don does not.
Drawing Don to the fence to even ask a question is like pulling teeth.
Attempt more and he’s clearly uncomfortable.
One day last summer, when we were integrating our second
round of chicks into our well established flock, the twins discovered one of
the chicks named America, trapped tight in the far corner of the run.
“She’s dead! America’s dead!” they cried, running into the house and
pulling me out into the yard. Bending down to examine the chick I
discovered a large bloody gash in her neck. It looked, in fact, like
she’d been decapitated. I wasn’t sure what to do, and, more importantly,
I didn’t want to deal with the dead bird alone while Isaiah and Levi ran
enthusiastic circles around me.
Standing up, I looked down toward Ann and Don’s yard hoping
for help. I caught a glimpse of Don and approached casually under the
guise of commiserating but seriously hoping to convince him to take care of the
dead bird. Don, however, proved resilient in the face of my
“Oh,” he said, “that’s too bad.” He didn’t offer to
help, and, knowing it wasn’t his responsibility, I couldn’t bring myself to
ask. I would deal with the bird myself.
When I got back to the chicken tractor I bent down again
for a closer examination. The twins, bored already with death, had
wandered off and in their absence, I noticed the rise and fall the chick’s
fluffy feathers. She was still breathing, a clear sign she had not, in
fact, been decapitated. I walked into the run and reached into the far
back corner where she was huddled. Pulling her out and tucking her to my
chest, I realized she was pecked up pretty badly but likely to survive.
After a few days of isolation and over-the-counter antibiotic ointment, she was
on the mend, and I had learned not to expect Don to play the Knight in Shining
So I wasn’t looking to talk to Don Saturday morning, I was
looking for Ann. I spotted her on the far side of their yard wearing
shorts and tall black polka-dotted rain boots. Easily forgetting she’s
close to 70 years old, I watched as she pushed a wheelbarrow full of mulch
around to her flower beds. Seeing my approach, she made a bee-line to the
fence, and we chatted about summer and the gigantic addition being added to a
house on the hill behind our house. While we talked, Isaiah and Levi ran
over yelling, “Miss. Ann! Miss. Ann!” They climbed briefly up and
down the fence, lapping up her attention, then trotted off to play again.
The reason I walked down to the fence was that I needed
someone to talk to. The night before John and I had found out that dear
friends of ours were separating, and our hearts were broken. When our
chit-chat wound down, I told Ann about it. She affirmed the real pain of
a marriage ending and how sad it is for everyone involved, sharing stories from
her experience with the divorces of people she knows.
So many of the married friends John and I share got married
at the same time we did. We knew, even then, that the odds were high that
many of us would not stay married. And yet now, some 15 years later, it
still seemed impossible that some of our friends were entering into a post-marriage
stage of life.
“Maybe we’re naïve,” I said, “I’m almost 40. I don’t
understand how these things still catch me by surprise.” What I really
couldn’t understand was why it hurt so badly – hurt to see our friends in such
complete and utter pain, hurt to be unable to fix it for them, to only be able
to stand by watching, listening, and praying.
Turning back to face our yard, I noticed the Polish hens
and asked Ann if she’d seen them. She said she had but couldn’t really
tell much about them since they were penned up in the run on the far side of
our yard. “Do you see the fluff-headed ones?” I asked, my
eyes following the Polish hens as they pecked along the perimeter of the
“Yeah, kinda,” she said, “but not very well.”
I described them for her in detail, painting a picture of
their fluffy white pom-pom heads and lacy gray-black feathers. As I
talked, I felt love for them rise in my chest despite the distance between
Later in the day, I told John about my conversation with Ann,
about how I thought maybe we were just naive. But I also told him
something I had realized while standing at the fence watching those baby hens
from a distance. “I loved them,” I said, “even from all the way across
the yard, and I guess if you’re the kind of person who can fall in love with a
Polish hen, then life’s gonna hurt.”
“What do you mean?” he asked.
“There’s no separating the two,” I said. “It’s like
the words on that painting hanging in the upstairs hallway, “Love wide; make
your way with an open heart.” Loving a Polish hen is loving with an open
heart, and an open heart’s gonna get hurt. But an open heart also has
access to the kind of joy that helps in the middle of the hurt.”
Some days, I think that’s the most we can hope for – enough
joy to carry us through the hurt. Maybe also, if we’re lucky, we might
find a sturdy fence to lean on and a neighbor willing to listen for a few
minutes or more.
(Like this story? Want to read more? Pop over now to order a copy!)
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Today, I’m giving away two Prize Packages. Two lucky winners will receive a signed copy of “Chicken Scratch” AND a “Chicken Poop” lip balm. (For the record, the lip balm contains NO poop and only natural ingredients like avocado oil, beeswax and jojoba oil.) Check out the Rafflecopter below to enter to win. Winners will be announced next Sunday.
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Welcome to the #SmallWonder link-up.
What if we chose to deliberately look for small moments of wonder, the small sparks of presence, of delight or sorrow, of true humanity in which we meet God?
That’s my proposal – that we gather here each week to share one moment of Wonder from each of our days. You’re invited to link-up a brief post about a small moment of wonder. Don’t worry if your post is too long, too short, or not just right – you’re welcome to come as you are.
While you’re here, please do take a look around and encourage at least one other blogger with a comment. Thanks for being part of our community!