It’s been a hard couple of weeks for our family. It was a triple hit for me, as I grieved with one of my closest high school friends in the loss of her husband from a distance, unable to hug and comfort her in person, and then guided the kids through two traumatic pet losses, one right after the other. Each loss brings out grief that is just waiting under the surface. It’s like sadness is always there, pooling up in your spirit until another loss pours more in and causes an overflow. I have to admit, I cried out to God yesterday and asked for a season of JOY, in His timing, specifying that soon would be great! “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance…” Ecclesiastes 3:1-2,4
Here are my reflections as I reached that overflow a few days ago. Warning: Emotional content!
When I got home to feathers everywhere, I asked God to spare us another loss, but that wasn’t His plan for us. He allowed the loss because He had a greater plan. I found myself walking down the road, dead pet chicken in a bag, to find our Kenyan friend and helper, Joel. As I walked, the reality of my life hit me, “Here I am, a widow, nobody to come home to, nobody to tell about this, nobody to pick this chicken up for me. I have to help my daughter on my own. LORD, deliver me from this!” As I walked, the reality became harder and harder to bear until I just couldn’t hold my tears any longer. Unfortunately, they burst forth in a flood right as I approached Joel. He took the chicken and promised to take care of it for me, just repeatedly saying he was sorry. A colleague was there and got to witness the outburst too.
I stopped by the home of close friends on my way back to the house. They didn’t answer, so I looked for my other helper, Anne. She didn’t hear me either. Once again physically alone, I walked back home to wait for Silly and tell her the bad news. I am thankful for a friend who answered the phone and was able to listen as I let the tears and exhaustion pour out. She listened and prayed.
As it turned out, Silly received the news with many tears, but better than I had anticipated. She remembered the comfort from God’s Word from the previous week that not even a sparrow falls to the ground apart from God’s will (Matthew 10:29-30). She was able to say, “Well, I guess it was her day. She lived a long time for a Kenyan chicken.”
Each loss we experience brings a more acute awareness of Chris’ presence with the Lord and we all imagine the peace he feels in a different, personally comforting way. For Silly, she pictures each animal being welcomed by Chris. I’m not starting a theological discussion here, so just focus on the way God comforts each of us individually. That picture of Chris in Heaven with a whole lot of pets usually leads to a chuckle because he wasn’t keen on continuing this pet “circle of life” after we lost our Masotho puppy, DJ.
From there, the conversation went to the 100% guarantee that IF we get more pets, we WILL have to say goodbye to them too. I made it clear that we had to pray for wisdom, even as she assured me that she still wanted animals. She went to her room and I went to do the dishes and pray my way through the rest of the chores. It was MINUTES later that a Kenyan acquaintance arrived at the door. He was coming to ask if I needed any meat from town, but I don’t ever remember him coming to ask me that personally before. The conversation started in the usual way because he has the parents of our bunnies, “How is your bunny?”
I’m sure I looked like the wreck that I was. When I told him the stories, he got a funny look on his face. “I am having two baby bunnies to give away.” We were faced with an immediate choice. It was clear that Peter had come to our door in a divine appointment neither of us knew God was orchestrating. We both recognized His sovereignty in that moment. Knowing full well the 100% guarantee of loss, Silly accepted his generous gift and will have two new white baby bunnies by Monday. I was awakened to the presence of a very loving God who:
– has provided Kenyan friends and helpers who are also “well acquainted with grief.” I realized how close we have become over the last year. This is a BIG part of why we’re here and I rejoiced at God’s work in our lives. Each loss has brought more depth to our relationships and opened the door for spiritual conversations.
– loves my children and KNOWS THEIR HEARTS. When I got to class today, Jed had slipped an encouraging note into my computer so that when I opened it, I saw the note. It was such a powerful reminder that my kids SEE and understand. We stand TOGETHER and are stronger because of all of this.
– hears my prayers and SEES my pain. While I don’t know what the next season is, I KNOW He is working behind the scenes on my behalf and that He has something GOOD in the works. Just like He provided those bunnies for Silly in the “nick of time,” He will provide my heart’s desires when the timing is perfect.
– is Sovereign in EVERY season.
– created us to love and care for animals. I have always been my blubbering, crying, grieving self with my African friends when it comes to animals and I feel like a real freak sometimes. However, I was reassured this time that they share in my suffering and tears. The shared pain is what has drawn us closer; it’s a “painful advantage” in building cross-cultural relationships.
Lastly, you, my family, friends, and supporters always come to mind. You share this journey and carry us along. What would I do without you being the hands and feet of Christ?!
Please pray us right into a new season of JOY as we wait on the Lord for it! There’s no new announcement here, no clarity, and no idea where or when that season is coming. Right now, I ask Him everyday to use me right here in my brokenness. I know He does and am blessed to be told so by those whom I serve and work with here.
BTW – Since I wrote the rough draft of this, Silly has been gifted TWO chickens, one from our friend and helper Joel whose heart was broken with ours and another from our Kenyan friend and milk-man, Ayub! We’ll stop with these blessings and pray for no more “predators!”
With hope and love,