The Measure of a Miracle

Almost a week ago my girls brought me a little chick that hadn’t hatched properly and even though the situation looked quite hopeless, we tried against all odds to save this one little chick. I was quite frankly amazed that it survived through the night. When it began chirping I was astounded. When it began trying to stand and then walk, we cheered it on. When it began to drink a little water I knew there was a real chance. We were witnessing a miracle one little chirp and step at a time.

Yesterday, I saw a change and even the kids noticed. I realized that after all our effort, the chick would likely not make it. This morning I discovered I was right. I had to tell my children who were disappointed as we had all hoped for the best. What unsettled me the most was the nagging thought, “So, it wasn’t a miracle after all.” That lead me to wonder what the measure of a miracle is.

I will have a devotion time with my children this morning about the matter. I want to impress upon them several truths. I’d like to share those with you.

First, it is okay to care about one little chick that didn’t seem to have much of a chance. That may seem an odd thing to say, that it is okay to care. But, in this day and time I think it is something we need reminding of. I think that far too many people are comfortable with not giving a care about situations that seem hopeless or too risky. Too many times folks avoid getting involved.

Second, it is okay to try when there are no guarantees. The effort, the compassion, the investment of time and energy is still worth it even when the results aren’t what we hope for. When we pour ourselves into another life (even the life of a little chick) we don’t get to control the response or the end result.

Third, it is okay when our hopes are disappointed. Disappointment is a part of life. If you are going to care and if you are going to try, you can be sure you are going to have times of disappointment. What we do with that disappointment is a matter of choices. There will be those who recoil from the chance of more disappointment and withdraw from the race. There will others who take a deep breath and willingly take the deep plunge into caring again, trying again.

Which person are you? Have you determined to play it safe, wade in the shallows, stay close to the shore? Are you willing to take a chance and care when there isn’t much of a chance, try when there are no guarantees and hope again instead of past disappointments.

The measure of a miracle is not necessarily how we might determine it. The measure of a miracle is a little chirp than was never expected. The measure of a miracle is in the difference it made in the lives it touched.

“What is the price of two sparrows—one copper coin ? But not a single sparrow can fall to the ground without your Father knowing it.”
Matthew 10:29 NLT

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Fine-Feathered Family

Baby chicks have started hatching on our little homestead and it is one of our favorite signs of spring. Chickens were our first homestead animal and the lovely eggs they produce have been but the cherries on top of the sweet moments they have provided. When we got our first few, we were continually delighted with their antics.

Have you heard of the term pecking order? We saw that established and demonstrated often. We also witnessed the worth of a really good rooster. Our first and best was Jethro. Oh, yes, we named them all, each and every one. Jethro was a fierce protector with his feathers glistening as he strutted in the yard. He kept a wary eye out for danger of all sorts. He located the best bugs and made sure his hens got first chance at them.

One of the most comical sights to behold was when the flock would take dirt baths. First they’d find a nice dry spot of dirt and then would squat and waller and flap their wings until the dirt had infiltrated every itchy spot of their feathered selves. After a thorough dusting they looked cleaner than they started. It was a mystery. A feathered mystery.

I could go on longer than you might care to read about our feathered friends and maybe one day I will. But, today I want to tell you one more thing and absolutely the most amazing thing we experienced with our chicken observations. When a hen goes broody, that means that she is ready to set a clutch of eggs. She is ready to commit to the eggs that she has claimed as her own, to go without food and water if necessary, to provide the perfect temperature and protection required until they hatch.

I say the ‘eggs she has claimed as her own’ because a broody hen doesn’t care one bit who laid the egg. Her only concern is what needs doing next and she intends to see that it is done. Interestingly, for the most part, the smaller hens, particularly the bantam breeds make the best little brooders. We have a little mixed variety that we named Pepperocinni. Solid black and petite compared to most chickens, she has been an wonderful little momma hen and has hatched many chicks, most of whom quickly outgrew her size-wise.

Last year, Pepperocinni had just hatched five little chicks when we decided to supplement the flock with ten chicks that we purchased from the local feed store. When you buy baby chicks, then you must provide everything they need. Instead of the warmth of the momma hens downy feathers to sleep in and stay cozy, a heat lamp must be provided. Instead of a nesting box a cardboard box is their home. I was distressed, as you might can imagine if you know me at all, at the situation.

My heart is especially tender towards such situations. After all, like Pepperocinni, I know all about claiming little chicks as my own and nurturing them, loving them, raising them, doing what needs to be done. One thing about it though, chickens might hatch any egg, but, once those eggs are hatched, they are quite committed to them and them alone. outsiders, even tiny chicks, are not tolerated.

I decided to try the impossible and we brought Pepperocinni in a tub with hay and her five chicks right into the living room and next to her the tub of ten little orphan chicks, which is how my heart saw them. We all stood quietly and held our breath as I began the experiment. The room was filled with the chirps of baby chicks and I gently scooped one baby chick up and stealthily put it in the tub next to Pepperocinni. The little momma hen’s eyes seemed to widen a bit as she stretched her neck around suspiciously and spotted the new chick. I stood ready to quickly undo what I had done if she refused the chick. I knew that would include a sharp peck on the head of the fragile little creature.

That’s when it happened. Right before our eyes, she stretched out her wing and pulled the chick in to be nestled safely with her five. Tears came to my eyes. It was beautiful. Tears are here again as I write about it. It was a tiny feathered miracle and we got to see it. One at a time I offered each of the ten motherless chicks to Pepperocinni and watched astounded as she accepted each and every one. This tiny little momma now struggled to cover all fifteen chicks with her feathers of protection, love, warmth and acceptance. When she managed it, remarkably, it was a sight to behold. She looked double her original size and tiny little beaks poked out all over.

Sometimes as a foster/adoptive mother I have felt a lot like Pepperocinni appeared. I have often felt as if I’ve taken on more than my capacity to manage. But, like Pepperocinni my mothering instinct outweighed common sense. I could not ignore what needed doing and I’m so glad. I do so delight in being a mother hen of my seven adopted children.

During the days that followed the forming of this special fine-feathered family we were able to enjoy the rest of the story. Pepperocinni taught the baby chicks to recognize her voice, run to her for protection, scratch for juicy insects and yes, even to take dirt baths. A fine-feathered family indeed.

I not only could relate as an adoptive mother, I also related spiritually. I’ll never read the words of Jesus in Luke 13 again without thinking of that day when Pepperocinni stretched out her wings to accept a chick that needed covering.

“How often I have wanted to gather your children together as a hen protects her chicks beneath her wings, but you wouldn’t let me.” Luke 13:34

I’m so glad that He loves us. I’m so glad that He gave me my little flock and created our own fine-feathered family. I understand. I get it. It’s about choices and stretching ourselves beyond our own abilities so that we must lean heavily on Him. And when I am feeling vulnerable, I know just where to run.

“Guard me as you would guard your own eyes. Hide me in the shadow of your wings.” Psalms 17:8

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Real Bread – The Adventure

Real Bread

Not so many years ago, I was trying to talk myself into buying ‘wheat’ bread instead of the packaged white bread at the grocery store. Eventually I ventured further and bought a bread machine and a box of mix at the grocery store. I was very happy to be making bread at home! I was sure I was on my way to a modern day prairie girl. Little did I know what I had started and just how far I would go on this journey I had begun. Prairie girl indeed!

The next step was no more boxed mixes and with some good fortune at the thrift store, a total of three bread machines. After all, we are an XL Family. Soon, 5 lb bags of white flour just wouldn’t do and I began buying 25lb sacks at the warehouse store.

I suppose you won’t be surprised to hear that the day came when I began to consider milling my own flour. Ever notice how these kinds of things sneak up on you and all of the sudden you find yourself doing things you never thought you’d be doing?

We started with the Wonder Mill. We studied grains. We had homeschool unit studies on it. We cranked until our arms were sore. We bought the Wonder Mill Jr. which is electric and produces flour at lightening speed.

That isn’t the end of the story, but it’s far enough along to say this. We were hooked! There was no going back. We began to see improvements in health and skin and even behavior. My blood sugar levels started to stabilize. I began to lose weight as odd as that might seem, it is the truth.

If you are interested in more info about what ‘real bread’ can do for you, I highly suggest this article.

http://info.breadbeckers.com/

This company, Breadbeckers, is family owned and operated. I highly recommend them for equipment and grain purchases.

Now, don’t freak out or stretch your eyes wide – as Bilbo told Frodo, ”

“It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.”
J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings

And to add to the lure of new adventures, feast your eyes on this.

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Fleece in the Grease

Fiber Art has captured my heart. Only a few years ago I was just learning to crochet my first dish cloth. The more I learned the more I wanted to know. I had Fiber Fever! Soon on my wish list was a Spinning Wheel and eventually I found myself in possession of a real, unwashed, stinky, trash embedded Fleece in the Grease! A friend who serves as a missionary in New Mexico graciously shipped it to me, right after shearing.

I was stunned by the state of this fleece. I truly thought I was prepared. I wasn’t. But, there it was, mine to process, so, there was nothing to do but begin. I would redeem it. I would wash it. I would transform it. At the end of the process I would use it for my purpose. After all, I had seen such a thing done before. Not with wool, but with a life, my life.

This fleece had been exposed to all the elements. It had weathered storms, rain, snow, grime and weeds. It had been unprotected, unsheltered, unwashed and was very unappealing. It needed to be introduced to some soap and water, but tenderly. You see we quickly learned that too much heat and agitation would ruin the potential of the wool turning it into a lump of matted mess that was unusable and valueless. We also learned that exposure to sunlight was very effective.

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Once washed properly it smelled and looked so much better. I saw the potential, there had been progress, but we weren’t done. We were far from done. Next was the picking and the carding. Picking was a bit unpleasant and honestly a little tedious. Even after a thorough washing there were seeds and briars and stuff you may not care to visualize embedded into the fibers. Tiny particles left unattended would later become irritants and imperfections in the created fabric. It was essential to remove every foreign object we could see, one pick at a time.

Wool carding has been being done for centuries and while there are carding machines available, I chose the traditional wooden carders. This part of the process took finesse and a little muscle. I was transfixed as I saw the fibers being pulled and straightened and put in order. I was shocked when occasionally after all my washing and picking to see a thorn or tiny piece of trash revealed as the fibers were being carded.

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After hand carding the fibers were gently formed into rolags. A rolag is simply a roll of carded (combed) fiber. It was clean, smelled better, looked better, impurities were removed and in fibers in order. Still, the process would continue.

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The fibers needed to be strengthened before they could be properly used to create yarn that would become a fabric that would become a garment. This was the greatest challenge of all. Applying proper tension, giving and resisting the feed, a smooth rhythm of the peddles and wheel would result in a strong yarn that could be crocheted, knitted or woven.

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Now, finally the fleece had reached a point where in the right hands its could become an object of beauty, of great use. A purpose could be revealed. A pattern could be established.

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I don’t know where you may be in this process. Perhaps you have yet to be redeemed. Perhaps you are just beginning to be washed. Perhaps you are picking and picking and picking. Perhaps you feel as if you are being raked over the sharp pins of a carder. Perhaps the life is spinning and twisting like a spinning wheel right now. Wherever you are in the process, don’t give up and quit. You’re in the hand of the Master Artist and He is creating something magnificent.

And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns. (Philippians 1:6 NLT)