A few months ago I shared this post about a conference I’d attended. There were some speakers there that really – – – well – – – spoke to me. LOL
One of them was Leah Arnold. I was intrigued when I saw the title of her presentation – Proverbs from Poultry. And when I came into the sanctuary to see her chickens on the stage I was in love with the idea – speaking with the living, breathing illustrations there beside her.
Before I really start, let me just say that this is not so much a recap of her presentation as it is my interpretation and what I took away from it. I know from experience that sometimes – oftentimes – when you teach or preach God’s word, God has the ability to take those words and turn them into whatever it is that your audience needs to hear. Sometimes the words they thought they heard aren’t even the words that came out of your mouth. It is just how God spoke to them through you, if that makes sense. If it doesn’t, try reading Acts 2:1-12 focusing on vs. 6 – that’s what I’m talking about. So I’m sure that Leah will forgive me if the message I received is not exactly the message she tried to send. This is how God spoke to me through what she had to say.
From the moment Leah stepped up to speak until the moment she sat down, I was at the same time enthralled, and moved to tears. Before she began, her stepdaughter was called to the stage to pray a blessing over her as she spoke. As I listened to this girl talk and pray about how Leah had stepped up to be a mother to her, I was at the same time thinking of my Josie. Picturing the day in Heaven when she will finally be able to speak to me. And hearing those beautiful words as though they were coming from my own sweet girl. Words of appreciation and love that I’ve longed to hear and hoped were in her heart even though she can’t express them aloud.
So yeah, I was crying already…
Leah spoke about how chickens behave in a flock. When a new chicken is introduced, chickens can be brutal. Even a chicken who was formerly an accepted member of the flock, when separated for a while, is treated as an outsider upon her return. Everyone takes the chance to get a peck in and make sure that the newcomer (or returning flock mate) is aware of their place at the bottom of the pecking order. Small or weak chickens might not even survive this integration period.
She compared this to how we behave in our churches sometimes. How visitors and new members are made to understand that they haven’t yet earned their place as “one of us”. How those who have been missing for a time are welcomed back with smiles, while our backhanded comments let them know that we were aware of their absence and they don’t hold the same position that they once held.
Leah spoke about broody chickens. They have a fierce determination to be mothers. They neglect their own health and well-being for this need to bring forth young. They don’t leave the next for more than a few minutes a day to eat and drink and take care of their own physical needs. Their eggs are their lives and they will defend them with all their strength. They watch over and care for their chicks until they are capable to care for themselves, showing them how to find food and water and protecting them from predators and other flockmates. This is natural. It’s how God designed mothers – hens and humans.
She also spoke about how broodiness is being intentionally bred out of chickens. Broody chickens are not laying eggs. Broody chickens are keeping other laying hens away from the nest. Broody chickens are not valued by keepers who are interested in maximizing egg production. So we are breeding chickens intentionally to not have the natural instinct to be mothers.
She spoke of how motherhood has been devalued in our society. How we are raised to believe that we must be something more than mothers. How we raise our daughters to believe that motherhood isn’t enough. And also how we ourselves have learned to desire “more”. How we’ve been taught to think of raising children as a sacrifice and to feel the need to get away from our kids to work, or just for “girl time”. She suggested that if we often find ourselves wanting to get away from our role as mother, perhaps it was time to re-examine our priorities and what we place value in.
This is something I’ve struggled with over the last few years. On one hand, I love being a stay at home mom and I loved caring for my children when they were small, and now I love caring for Josie. But when I was caring for my children, there was always an end in sight. Not an end of loving them, but an end of diapers and temper tantrums and feedings and bathing and 24/7 care. Caring for Josie is different. I love her just as much. But there is no end – at least not an end that I am willing to contemplate. Josie will never grow out of diapers or temper tantrums. She will never feed herself or take her own bath. She will never tell me that she appreciates the things I do for her – at least not with words. And sometimes it does feel like I need a break – like I need “more”. I needed so much to hear the things that Leah shared from her heart. I needed to be reminded that the things I do for Josie are valuable. That my role is still an important one, even when the daily tasks feel trivial.
Ok – so those are the things that spoke to me as I listened to Leah Arnold. Thank you so much, Leah, for giving me permission to blog about what your shared. I hope that it speaks to you all as well.