Finding Peace in the Pandemic

Preparing the Heart:

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The morning mist over the pond at the farm.

My boys are restless. I feel their bottled energy as they slug around the house with that wild look in their eyes as if they hear war drums in the distance but are forced in their barracks unable to join comrades in battle. My hunter runs off to hunt the woods daily. My fisherman runs off to catch those bass in the pond. My youngest son runs between the two. They’re biding their time in quarantine as best they can.

Meanwhile, beyond the farm fences, out there in the real-world, there’s a dangerous invader whose sticky barbs have infected every aspect of our lives.

The enemy loves to break everything at once.

Have at it, as long as he can’t break our knees.

There’s a quote in The Art of War by Tzu Sun, “Begin by seizing something which your opponent holds dear; then he will be amenable to your will.”

Which brings us to the question, what do we hold dear? Money? Time? Conveniences? Church? Education? Entertainment? Sports?

Satan has tampered with all of it. But here’s the thing…

God’s allowed it.

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Unfortunately, many times we push God behind those things we hold dear. And once God is pushed out of that space inside us reserved for Him, a vacuum is created that is filled with something dirty. On a personal level, it doesn’t have to be a virus it could be a god we’ve created on our own. That thing that started out innocent enough, maybe even it was once a good thing, until we poured our everything into it. We should all ask ourselves, is there anything or anyone we think about more than God? Is there anything or anyone we hold more dear than our Heavenly Father?

So why has dirty Corona taken over the world? Every country has pushed God out. To mention a few…

In the United States, we’ve decided to abolish absolute truth. The Word of God has become debatable around the campfires, while we shoot holes through passages establishing God’s authority on mankind. We’ve even allowed some pastors to dispute the Word of God from the pulpit. We’ve made vulgarity and sinister evil into entertainment. We’ve given Hollywood and the secular music industry the power to dictate the standards of morality. The ones who are courageous enough to take a stand for absolute truth, are pushed by political correctness to the front lines to be squelched.

Throughout the European countries beautiful churches stand empty. Worshipping God has become old school. Some churches have even been sold to be turned into restaurants, pubs, or even a skate park. Can you imagine skating on a ramp while Jesus watches bleeding from the cross? (Netherlands) In Italy, while church pews remain bare, hordes willgather to hear the Pope. Are they worshipping God or man?

China…I’ll never forget an article I read in Marie Claire featuring a dead baby girl lying in the city gutter on the street. The journalist snapped pictures of people walking on by, even stepping over her, not one person appeared shocked to see a dead baby lying there. It seemed as if this was an everyday occurrence. Until an elderly man stopped. He placed his hands on his hips and looked down for a moment. Relief, someone cared. The man went into a nearby store, came out with a black trash bag, and threw the body in it before tossing her into a dumpster. It was a perfect illustration of their cultural position on the sanctity of life.

Before we Americans pat ourselves on the back for how we regard human life, we are heading in the same direction. In the United States we’ve killed 50 million babies since abortion became legal. Case in point, in January, Governor Andrew Cuomo was so proud of passing expanded abortion rights in New York, he lit up the One World Trade Center in pink. Was he celebrating the increase of infant death? Three months later, he’s battling the highest death rate for Corona in the United States.

Corona is the natural consequence of our pushing God out of His place of authority. He’s the Decider of life or death. It is unfortunate that all citizens suffer the consequences for a nation that has thumbed its nose at God.

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How do we prevent Covid 19 from destroying our peace or taking our joy?

Believe it or not, we can look to the source of the virus for that answer. While many churches have become bloated, boastful, proud entertainment hot spots, they lack any true power to fight the spiritual forces of darkness. Meanwhile, the humble underground meetings of devout Christians in China whose members risk everything to worship have become a beacon of light for the rest of the world to follow. We now have to worship in our homes. We are being humbled and just maybe God wants His church to transform in the process.

We fight Covid 19 in the humble repentance and surrender of what we’ve held dear. Surrendering those things to our Heavenly Father as an offering and placing Him back in our lives where He belongs as Lord will equip us to handle any weapon the enemy uses against us. It is in the surrender we find peace, joy, and contentment no matter what our circumstances. Healthy or sick.

“Open the gates, that the righteous nation that keeps faith may enter in. You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You.” Isaiah 26:2-3 English Standard Version.

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Tomorrow Passover begins, and I’ve been thinking a lot about the plague that entered Egypt. The Israelites protection from the plague came in obeying God’s command to sacrifice a lamb and paint the blood over their doorway. Then God told them to remain inside. If they remained inside protected by the blood barrier the angel of death would pass them by.

Today, there’s power in the blood of the perfect Lamb Jesus Christ. He provides our protection from the barbs that stick. Besides, He’s a God who’s familiar with the pain from barbs and can be trusted with your life.

Won’t you hide yourself in Him?

“Come, my people, enter your chambers, and shut your doors behind you hide yourselves for a little while until the fury has passed by.” Isaiah 26:20 ESV

If you’ve never given your life to Jesus Christ and proclaimed Him to be your Lord and Savior. It is not too late.

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him.” John 3:16-17 ESV

Won’t you accept Him today?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Who Do You Say That I Am?

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He’s different—always has been. The type of guy who goes against the grain most of the time but can fall victim to peer pressure. My son, Christian, has had to work harder than the pack at everything from football to Algebra. For what he’s lacked in book smarts, he’s made up for in courage and earthy ingenuity. He’d survive in the wilderness, and if need be, step up to lead others out; but instead of Moses, he reminds me of David in the Bible, and a bit of wild-spirited Tristan in the movie Legends of the Fall. He’d want to kill the bear, but out of respect for such a beautiful beast would be reluctant to pull the trigger. Being his momma, I’ve prayed many late nights on the porch of our farmhouse against the howling coyotes, knowing Christian’s trekking through the woods in search of wild boar.

Upon our return from the trip of a lifetime—Israel—he sat across from me with sad eyes.

“I’m checked out.” He shrugged. “I feel so lost in my classes. I’m not that guy.”

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I thought about Christian often on our trip. At Caesarea Philippi, often referred to as the Gates of Hell, I’d ventured away from the group and found a stone stairway that led to an ancient tiled floor. From my elevated position, I could see out over the ruins of the Temple of Pan and the rivers below. I contemplated what went on in that dark place.

At the Temple of Pan, worshippers threw their infants into the water hole that emerged from the mouth of the cave; if the baby sank the pagan god Pan accepted their sacrifice, but if blood flowed down into the rivers below—due to the infant being bashed on the rocks—Pan rejected their sacrifice. Either way, their infants died.

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I couldn’t help but think about my own children standing in that place. Am I any different? Do I toss them into the caves of culture whether it’s good for them or not, requiring them to paddle the choppy waters of finding themselves, simply because that’s the “way” to success? The way everyone else is doing it? When we sent Christian to college, I told him, “Just give it a year. Who knows you may end up liking it.” (In other words, sink or swim.) While he reiterated his doubt.

But Christian’s always known who he is. And he’s left me a trail of river rocks to find him. All the times we went walking around the neighborhood and I glanced behind to find my toddler way back, squatting. He’d stopped to look at the pretty colors of a bug or try to snatch a lizard.

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The many times he dug into my potted plants looking for the root system.

Or the time I picked him up at preschool during petting farm day and found him sitting in a chair cuddling a hen.

“He’s been holding the animals all day. He could care less about the bounce house,” his teacher said. “Christian’s going to be a farmer. He’s so good with animals.”

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I took Christian boot shopping when he was a chunky pre-teen. I picked out the cool Under Armor hiking boots for him, while his eyes lit up over the Red Head camouflage ones. When he slid his foot into them his chin raised a notch as if he’d been crowned by God to rule a nation, but to me they looked like bushes sprouting on his feet. I scrunched my nose and voiced they were a bit red-necky in my opinion.

“This is who I am Momma.” He pointed to his feet. “I’m not a hip guy. God made me to hunt and fish. You’re just going to have to accept that about me.”

Now it’s hard to picture Christian without his camouflage. My now 19-year-old stared at his hands, and I can tell by his deep voice he doesn’t want to disappoint me when he says, “I’m not going to get a degree Momma.”

I should have seen it coming. I’m a slow learner.

It is who he is.

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The rivers and fountains at Caesarea Philippi.

In Caesarea Philippi, Jesus brought the disciples to that dark place, a place of pagan worship, infant sacrifice, and temple prostitution. It was there he asked Peter “But who do you say that I am?”

Peter responded. “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

(Christ responded) “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” Matthew 6: 15-19 (English Standard Version)

It was there right by the Gate of Hell; Jesus announced His intentions. He would do a new thing. The old ways of laboring for salvation would fail so He could become the perfect sacrifice.

Late Saturday night, Christian announced he would do a new thing. He wouldn’t take the wide, worn path to his future. He tried college and failed.

He lifted his head and met my eyes. “Momma, I want to be a farmer. I want to work the land. I like the outdoors.”

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“You can’t go work on the farm without getting an education in farming,” I said. “You need to earn your way and bring something of value to the farm.”

“I’m going to apply for apprenticeship at an organic, sustainable farm. There are farms all over the country that teach it. I’ll get educated on an actual farm not in a classroom.”

I nodded.

Besides, who am I to fight it.

It is who he is.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m Full of Bull!

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At the farm, there’s a gentle bull in the pasture behind our house. Some mornings he’s standing there by the fence looking through the french doors at me. I step out onto the porch and sweet talk him. If we’re by the fence, he’ll trot over and without warning give you a lick across the face and neck with his enormous tongue.  It’s gross, but you can’t help but walk away feeling loved and a bit sticky. He’s a new Brahman bull the farm has acquired from a ranch in Texas.

While the other bulls buck each other over territory and food, he meanders away, not wanting to participate in the conflict. He not only stands out from the herd in behavior but in his appearance as well. He is pale in color and has an enormous hump on his back that looks burdensome and painful to carry.

            I’ve nicknamed him Ferdinand after the once controversial classic children’s story, The Story of Ferdinand the Bull, by Munro Leaf.  Ferdinand is a bull who’d rather smell flowers in the paddock than fight with the others. It’s a Bella fav.

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I find it intriguing how much we can learn from a bull. His breed is named after the Brahmins who were Hindu priests. It’s ironic considering the Brahman is looked upon as sacred in India, the Brahman breed is the largest source of meat for carnivores today. Due to their thick skin, they are resistant to extreme heat and pestilence. They also do well in extremely cold temperatures.

Traditionally, the Brahman bull is used in a sport called Bull-butting. It is a ferocious game between two bulls until one falls to the ground disabled or gives up and retreats. To prepare for their sport, their bodies are strengthened on a diet of milk and honey. It is beyond my comprehension how so many people enjoy watching sports involving hurting animals. If there’s one thing I would change about this world, it is purposely hurting the defenseless for pleasure, power, or convenience.

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Yet, we have become a world of bullies haven’t we? One can scroll through Facebook and find political rantings written in a way that shames those who have a different viewpoint on the matter.  It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything political or responded to anyone’s comments. God impressed upon me it’s not my place, for I’m His. He doesn’t want me to lose my clout by being a lout (sort of speak. I tried here.)  I’ve been obedient, but I admit, some days it’s not easy. I pursued a Political Science degree in college, and I was raised in a very political family that loves a good debate, but then there’s Jesus. He didn’t waste breath or influence on politics. Although He had the power to overthrow the Roman government, He used his energy and His influence on Kingdom work alone. I love that about Him!

 

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There is also body-shaming going on throughout social media. It’s another kind of bullying it’s just hidden under self-promotion. I was blessed to see what that does to a woman whose breast was chopped off, whose hair and eyelashes had fallen out, and who felt she lost everything that made her a woman. My sister Tricia died of breast cancer in 2014. One night, I found her sitting on the bed staring at a friend’s sexy pictures with tears in her eyes.

“She’s supposed to be a Christian,” she said. “Does she even know how this feels to someone like me?”

I snatched her phone away. “That’s it!” I said. “We’re having a friend deleting party!” I deleted all the women from her friend file who made her feel inadequate. You see, the enemy tried to use those pictures to steal her light, but he didn’t win.

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I say I am blessed to have witnessed this because it gave me a love for women and their struggles. I know the women who reveal their bikini-ready bodies, are not thinking about how this affects women who are hurting, women who can’t lose weight, women who are sick, women whose husbands find them unattractive, but I plead on their behalf that you remember to love them by considering their feelings. We need to be more outward- focused in a world focused inward.

On the flip side, we Christians have to stop being so easily offended. We tend to live with our hearts outside our chest, which causes them to get bruised and banged up. In defense, we want to stand up for ourselves or our Lord, while God is saying “it’d be better for you to get out of My way.” There have been times I’ve wanted to stand up for myself because I felt attacked or accused unfairly, but you know what? God’s got my back.

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We as Christians should carry our cross of self-denial like Ferdinand carries that large hump on his back. We should learn from a gentle bull not to bothered by the heat of politics or the pestilence of a self-obsessed culture. Just as he gives kisses to a carnivore like me, we should be willing to love those undeserving as well. When we see some bucking going on, it’s best to get out of the way and mind your own Kingdom-building business. The cold don’t bother Ferdinand, so don’t let the times people are cold bother you. Allow God to thicken up your skin and see yourself through His eyes.

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Momma often rolled her eyes and said “Bull!” when she felt we fed her a tall tale, or she used the cliche’ “He’s full of bull,” meaning he’s full of you know what (wink). I no longer subscribe to those cliches. Don’t go offending my bull now, Momma! In the case of Ferdinand, I hope someone thinks I’m full of bull, for he’s a bull with a lot of heart. See you soon Ferdinand.

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If the Chestnut Tree Could Talk Week 4:

 

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Over the last three weeks, we have been letting the Chestnut Tree speak to us. If you have missed any of the valuable lessons in my previous posts, you can scroll down to the older posts and find them there. Today, the Chestnut Tree wants us to understand how fruit is prepared.

 

  1. Chestnuts grow within a spiny green burr, which protects the nut while it grows. Once ready the burr pops open and the nut falls to the ground.

 

The Chestnut Tree wants us to know that sometimes God places us in a shell as well. This is where God prepares us for the work He’s already planned. When we are tucked in the shell of preparation, we are usually unaware of what is happening. We may even look at the tasks as beneath our capabilities, but it is in these humbling, menial tasks, God is laying out the groundwork for our futures. When we are ready God opens up the opportunity and we are released to follow His plan.

Motherhood took some surrendering on my behalf. The two things I missed the most were business conversations with colleagues and the creative fulfillment my career afforded me. Looking back, I’m so thankful I surrendered to the call of being a stay-at-home Momma, for God presented volunteer opportunities which helped me discover what He poured inside me when He made the me I truly was.  I’ve discovered my passions.  If I’d continued working, I wouldn’t have discovered my love for Bible study, art, interior design, history, or writing.

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Last weekend at the farm, my sister- in- law Prem and I were washing the dishes.

“If I had a business today,” I said. “I’d hire a mother of multiple children before anyone else to be my assistant.”

She nodded. “Multitasking skills.”

“Exactly. Did you know how many things you could get done in a day before you had your second child?”

“No, I didn’t,” she said.

“And with four, the list grows.”

After experiencing one year with my three boys in school, I felt God telling me to bring them home and homeschool. I admit, I fought the idea at first. I didn’t want to homeschool! I’d just pointed my wings to Starbucks for girlfriend coffees, but one night, I invited two sisters over for dinner (Lisa Mann and Liz Hammond). We sat around my dining room table and Lisa told me she homeschooled her children.

“Why would you do that?” I said. Lisa explained all the benefits and suggested I read, So You’re Thinking About Homeschooling? by Lisa Whelchel.

The next day, I purchased the book and read it in two days. After that, I read another and another. I researched it online and searched homeschooling organizations in Orlando. Soon, I could barely contain my excitement. I was going to be a homeschooling Momma! Somebody give me a lab coat. In my imagination, we’d be in the forest collecting bird eggs and plants. We were going to experience some real- life learning. It was going to be an adventure.

The reality was long days in my upstairs classroom feeling suffocated, but within those walls God was preparing me to write, bringing us closer together, and sparking my curiosity in everything.  As I taught my children, I was being prepared for the freelance writing assignments I have today. I look back fondly on those two years now. My boys and I grew so close and that closeness has survived time.

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Today, I see positions God is putting me in, which I know are shells of preparation, and I’m a more willing participant because I know I’m going to fall into some fertile land when my shell pops open.

What about you? What in your life do you feel is menial or beneath your station? Could it be God preparing you for something bigger? Can you look back and recognize where your preparation occurred, for the work you do today?

We have one more week with our Chestnut Tree… See you there.

 

 

 

 

Get Out of the Boat!

Recently, I was asked by our MOPS leader what is your life phrase for the New Year. I didn’t have to think about mine. For a while now, God has placed the same Bible story in front of me. Don’t you love it when the same passage comes up over and over? Maybe God doesn’t need to do that to you, but my Creator knows about my hard head and ADD.

The story is of Peter seeing Jesus walking on the water and asking to join Him. When Jesus grants permission, for a moment Peter feels what it’s like to walk on water. My phrase for the year of 2017 is “Get out of the boat.” God’s calling me to step out of my comfort zone.

 

Jay and I decided this summer we will move to the farm. It will definitely be a lifestyle change. You see, the farm has been a reprieve for us as a family, a get-away place to enjoy with Jay’s brother Shaun and his family, but soon it will become a new lifestyle.

This decision has come about after much prayer, contemplation, and confirmation. Last week, while cleaning the kitchen, I asked God to give me another sign that this is what He truly wanted. Earlier that morning, I signed up on a ministry’s website called Embrace Grace, and an hour later they sent me an email with a bloom word. My bloom word was “Adventure.” The email stated they had prayed over me and felt God had a word of encouragement for me today.  The attached verse was Judges 18:6 ESV, “And the priest said to them, ‘Go in peace. The journey on which you go is under the eye of the Lord.”

Under the word Adventure it went on to say…

“New adventures with the Lord are often exciting and filled with a lot of unknown.

Your sense of calling is like an unfolding, epic adventure! Be encouraged that as an uncharted path is before you, God is with you. When we seek His wise counsel and draw close to Him, it is His voice that leads us. A journey that is directed by Him comes with His protection, oversight, and blessings. Pack your bags with only the items that He wants you to take. Leave your worries and past behind and step into your new adventure with courage knowing your heavenly Father is right beside you! Let the new adventure begin!” (Embrace Grace Bloom Word)

 

To top it off, it came with a print button, so you could print off your sign and hang it on the wall. God has a sense of humor. He sent me a literal sign an hour after I prayed for it. Although there are still lingering doubts, we’ve decided to jump off the gangplank and see what happens.

Life on the farm is in extreme opposition from the life in Orlando. For one, I will have to cook dinner every night. Although, I do it a few nights a week, cooking is not one of my creative talents. Can I get an “Amen” for Uber Eats?  There is no Uber Eats at the farm.…sigh. The nearest decent grocery store is a thirty-minute drive down dirt roads, across a one lane bridge, and into another city. We are in the sticks people!

For another inconvenience, my driving son will be in college, and I will have to drive my boys until November when my second born is able to get his license. In Orlando, if all the drivers are unavailable to pick up from Lacrosse practice or a theme park, we Uber our boys home. It’s as easy as entering an address into your cell phone. There’s no Uber at the farm…ugh!

In O Town, we have entertainment and fine dining around every corner. I am convinced, we are some of the most entertained and well-fed people in the USA. At the farm, there are ATV’s, animals, slow internet, and satellite television which goes out during a storm. In fact, if you goggle the area and ask for happening local events, you get a barbecue restaurant by the tracks and that’s a fifteen-minute drive…snore.

There is one sacrifice I am cringing about…my freedom. Here, I have sitters for Bella whom I trust, so I can go to the Barnes and Nobles down the street and put in a full writing day. The cafe is my office away from home. There are no babysitters or bookstores near the farm…boo hoo!

 

Although, my life will not have the comforts and luxuries of this one, I feel this life will help us grow. It is good to step out of your comfort zone on occasion. In the following weeks, I will write about the pros and cons of this change, my fears, and the steps we are taking with the boys for a smooth transition. Eventually, The Writer’s Roost will become the story of a spoiled Orlando Momma who moves deep into the sticks and what that life looks like. You will follow me as I start over, learning my way in a new town and meeting new people, and as always when I’m at the farm, God will provide the inspiration. This Momma will bravely step off her perfectly manicured lawn, and onto the sea of manure. So slip on your muck boots and come along! Watch out for that runaway bull!

If you’ve ever felt the need for a change, or if you’ve experienced a lifestyle switch-a-roo such as this, please share in the comments below. I’d love to hear about it.

A Goat, A Stranger, and A Resolution

I stared at the picture his leg sprawled out in front of him, his backpack and long board  tossed aside, an emergency vehicle with flashing lights careened towards him in the night. The picture text included no explanation, but told a horror I wasn’t prepared for this Christmas season. My hands shook, knowing I couldn’t get to my son. He was at his friend, Caleb’s beach house for a few days.

“Christian,” I texted frantically. “What’s happened?” I wanted to scream into the phone. He didn’t respond. I prayed, while dialing his number several times to no avail.

His younger brother, Colin leaned over my shoulder. “What’s wrong Momma?”

“Pray for Christian. Something’s happened.” I showed him the picture. “He’s not answering his phone.”

Finally, the phone rang.

 

There was a little goat on the farm named Prince William. Prince William didn’t have the typical goat life in the beginning. His mother developed mastitis and was unable to nurse him. He lived in a stall in the barn and was bottle-fed on schedule, usually by a young girl named Emma, who lives with her parents in the barn apartment. You couldn’t help but love this little guy. He bleated as you passed his stall, begging for attention. Emma rode her scooter up and down the barn, and Prince William scampered behind as if she were his mother.

Before long, it was time for Prince William to be castrated so he could join a herd. In the pen, he was the black goat in a pack of white, the smallest of the bunch and one of his ears pointed down while the other pointed heavenward. Life with the herd wasn’t easy for Prince William. The other goats didn’t accept him, he was always in a corner by himself. His food was placed in a separate container, so he would not be ousted at mealtime. Whenever I drove up on the ATV, he ran alongside the fence and bleated as if to say, “My peeps! There you are! Get me out of here!” I think he thought he was human to some extent. We’d discussed moving Prince William to our yard. He’d become a pet and not be so lonely, but after going back and forth we decided he was safer with the herd, until we moved there full time.

One night we’d left our bedroom doors open to allow the cool wind to blow through during the night. Around midnight, I jumped up hearing a loud noise.

I shook Jay. “Do you hear that?” I said.

He scrunched his face. “What is it?”

I ran out onto the porch. Howling and yapping to the left of our farmhouse, then in the front, and answered by howling to the right.

Jay squeezed my shoulders. “Coyotes,” he said.

“We’re surrounded. There’s so many!” I’d never heard anything like it.

“Sounds like several packs are passing through,” he said. “Unfortunately, we offer a buffet. They eat chickens.”

“What about the goats?” I said, turning to him. “Prince William?”

By his expression, I knew goats were what’s for dinner. “We’ll know in the morning.”

I didn’t sleep well that night, worrying over the little black outcast.

Surprisingly, Prince William survived that night, but soon after he received a slash on his hip by what the farmers believed was a bob cat or a Florida panther. He was treated and as it healed coyote tracks were found by the goat pen. This time Prince William wasn’t as fortunate.

He was eaten.

The herd is to blame. While they huddled in a tight circle of protection, Prince William was sacrificed. It’s a part of farm life, I will never become callous to. The pangs you feel when a beloved creature is killed, slaughtered, sold, or traded. Jay often shrugs “It’s farm life.” Sometimes, I wonder if I’m cut out for it.

I’ve thought about Prince William. The poor guy was doomed from the beginning. I knew his story was to teach me something. I didn’t know what until a few nights after, when I clutched my cell phone. Finally, Christian’s face popped up on the screen.

 

My “hello” sounded frantic.

“Momma!” he said, the sound of traffic in the background. “There’s a dead guy.”

“What dead guy? What happened?”

“This guy was riding his bike around the bridge. We saw him as we long boarded to the beach. Four hours later, his bike was on the side of the road. He was face down in the water on the rocks.”

“What happened to him?”

“He’s dead Momma. He was just alive. I just…” His voice wavered. “I just can’t believe it! When Caleb ran to get help, I called 911. I nudged him and talked to him, but I knew he was already gone.”

“You couldn’t resuscitate him?” I said.

“No, he was already gray and stiff. I sat in the dark with his body. I don’t know why I was talking to him. I didn’t know what else to do. I was scared to touch him too much maybe I’d be blamed for his death or something. The investigator said it was good I didn’t move him.” He paused for a moment. “It was suicide Momma. The guy killed himself.”

I didn’t realize I was holding my breath as I exhaled. My son was okay. It was someone else’s son. Some poor mother would receive a call, days after Christmas. She would hear the gruesome facts. The cans found around his body. How he removed his wallet from his pocket and laid it neatly on a boulder. He wanted someone to know who he was…who he once was.

Your son was snuffing they’ll tell her, he snuffed his life out…snuffed his soul free. He snuffed because he couldn’t stand on his own two feet any longer. He fell face down in the rocks. Crushed his skull. His nose was smashed to bits….No longer looked human.

 

At home, the next night Christian couldn’t sleep. The picture of that thirty year old’s face and bloated body wasn’t easy to forget. His mind swung back and forth between seeing him alive and then dead. Knowing he and Caleb were probably the last to see him riding his bike in circles on that bridge as he contemplated his end. I explained to Christian, God allowed him to be this man’s witness.

“Maybe you were to see what snuffing does, so you could help someone. Keep someone else from making the same mistake.”

He nodded sadly. “What would make him do that Momma?” He’d ask later.

Sometimes there are no answers… just questions.  I myself couldn’t help but wonder if this man like Prince William was rejected by his herd, and if he fought the coyotes and panthers of this life alone. I pondered why he was outside a circle of protection. Was there no one to turn to?

This was not the way I’d planned to start my New Year, but the experience pushed me into a resolution. My resolution for 2017 is to try harder to extend grace to those who are angry, rude, treat me unfairly, or see things from a different point of view,  to care for those who are sick, to befriend the lonely, and to open the door for the elderly. Jesus called this loving your neighbor. We are commanded to love without expectation of anything in return, for we never know what’s going on in someone else’s pen. Maybe, this man’s life will not be lost in vain after all.

 

Isaiah 41:10: “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” AKJV