The rash that had broken out all over my arms finally drove me to the doctor today, who advised me to get rid of our new chicks. You see, when I had allergy testing done a number of years ago, I reacted to chickens and most other livestock. I didn’t think touching them would cause me to break out in itchy red welts like this, but it has. And not only I but also one of our daughters, our little animal lover who has had her hands in the brooder petting and playing with them, feeding them mealworms by hand, everyday…red itchy bumps up and down both her arms, both of us sneezing and uncomfortable. No one else has developed any allergic reactions to them, thankfully.
We moved them to the garage because they aren’t big enough to go outside in a coop yet (and we hadn’t prepared a coop yet, either, though we planned to do it this week). But my husband talked it through with me, letting me know that this was not going to work because he would not be able to take on the sole care of the grown hens and didn’t think I’d be too happy to have to completely avoid them.
We called the farm store where we had bought them; the kindly man we spoke to remembered our excited little girl who had petted all the chicks and was mighty sorry to hear about our suffering. He told us to bring the chicks back and promised they would find a new home for them, so while our animal-loving girl and I sat crying, Philip boxed up the little sweeties and took them back. Tears are running down my face as I type this; we liked them so much and are broken-hearted that they had to go.
The rest of the day had a grey patina to it. My feet felt leaden as I went about my household tasks; this being spring break, I’d planned to rest and play with the children but now I just wanted to clean to keep my mind off my sadness.
I sat down to read the news but first indulged in a pity party. Nothing I do is turning out right, I cried silently to myself. Why is my life so sad and difficult? Why can’t I have chicks when everyone else can? Why when I try to make maple syrup does life hand me a lump of burned maple taffy?
I clicked around a couple of blogs, listing in my head all my failing and short-comings as I did so, listing all the things I’d done wrong and all the things that had just gone wrong with no help from me. Why had a pipe burst in the basement? Because everything is going wrong for me, that’s why!
I clicked over to Vox Popoli and got a shock. Now, I knew Muslim terrorists had slaughtered 150 Christian students in Kenya, but not having a TV I had not seen any images of the carnage. I can’t bring myself to post the picture here, but Mr. Day had a picture of one of the classrooms full of slaughtered students, young men and women dressed nicely as students in Africa do when they go to school, lying like ragdolls on the floor in pools of blood. My heart felt like it flipped in my chest. My girls, my daughters whom I love so much even when they vex me, were right downstairs in the family room, not dead on the floor by a terrorist’s knife or bullet! God in Heaven, thank You for this undeserved blessing! My heart broke for those mothers and fathers in Kenya who sent their lovely girls and beloved sons off to school that day, so unaware of how happy they were at that moment and how the happiness they didn’t know they had was about to be turned to sorrow.
The day after my mother died unexpectedly a number of years ago, I clearly remember thinking to myself, “Forty-eight hours ago I did not know how happy I was.” I played that game with myself for a while…”One week ago, I did not know how happy I was.” And then, “One year ago, I did not know how happy I was.” I did not know that my mother could be taken from me so suddenly, so unexpectedly, so I did not know I should appreciate how happy I was to have her.
And this is why I often say to my readers, “Be happy with what you have! Don’t always turn the penny over to look for tarnish. Don’t worry if your life isn’t perfect, your spouse isn’t perfect, your family isn’t perfect. If you have a family, be filled with joy! Look for the good in your life and praise it! And encourage everyone you know to do the same.”
I sat pondering that for a while. And then I clicked over to Patrice Lewis’ site and realized that God must be trying to remind me to choose contentment, gratitude, and joy by using what the late Lawrence Auster called synchronicity.
In The search for happiness, posted this very day, Patrice writes of a book she had just finished reading (highlighting mine):
“Brief synopsis of the last quarter of the book: The main character, Merowyn, is kidnapped by Vikings and taken to Iceland, where she weds an Icelandic man and has a son. After a period of difficult adjustment, she grows to dearly love both her husband and her new home. Later she and a group of other Icelanders colonize Greenland, where she bears a mentally-handicapped daughter. When her husband dies twenty years later, Merowyn returns at last to England, that gentler country she missed during the cold bleak years on an ice-swept land. As a widow, she must make do as best she can and ends up marrying a man she respects but doesn’t love. She thinks back to the silvery-gold early days of her first marriage and realizes she was happy then and didn’t know it.
For some reason that phrase – she was happy then and didn’t know it – stayed with me after I finished the book. And it made me wonder: how many of us are happy but don’t appreciate it, know it, or realize it?
Happiness is such a loaded and multi-faceted word that no one can really define what it means for them. It’s different for everyone. Happiness can be found even in places and circumstances you may not like; but it’s often there, buried among the less enjoyable parts. Facets of happiness (contentment, satisfaction, pride of achievement, etc.) can all contribute to the overall qualities of the emotion.
I think what haunts me about the notion of being happy and not realizing it, is how many of us let overall happiness slide through our fingers because we’re too concerned with little things we don’t like. Anyone who takes their health for granted and then loses it, for example, will appreciate how much happier they were when their health was good.
We all have a zillion things we would like to do. As a trivial example, we look forward to when we can make some cosmetic improvements to the house – paint, replace ugly carpeting, that kind of thing – but we don’t let minor details interfere with the fact that we have a nice home that keeps us sheltered, even if the linoleum is chipped.
And if we lost the house, then how much would we look back at the ugly carpeting and unpainted walls and realize we should have appreciated a solid sheltering home when we had it?”
I’m sad that we had to give away our darling chicks and that I have to give up my hope of keeping hens again as we used to when I was in high school. I’m sad that I’ve faced some real difficulties this year and not always gone through them with humor and grace. But I have so many blessings, so much to be grateful for! Like me, my family are far from perfect people, but they are mine and they are here and not dead, and I love my imperfect husband and children and extended family and in-laws and I resolve with firm conviction to know how happy I am right now for however long it pleases God to let us be together.
Do you know how happy you are right now? Choose to be happy about what you have and to love those whom you have been given.
This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. (Psalm 118:24)