If you’ve never had the privilege of making acquaintances with a poodle chicken, allow me the honor. Pictured here is, indeed, a poodle chicken — my personal nickname for Japanese Silky chickens. Back when I was a Texas ranch girl, I had three of them. And if you were to ask me for a glimpse into my soul, I’d probably look at you a little weird-like (why do you want to see my soul?!), then I would think of my poodle hens. Well, one of them in particular, God rest her soul. Animal-lovers, consider this your trigger warning: this post may get a little graphic. If you are going to glimpse my soul, you will also get a glimpse into a horror story – a chicken horror story, if you will. (And if you are a chicken, I’d like to suggest another blog for you.)
Before I get to the silky story, a bit of context is in order. My soul is made up of three parts. The first part reflects remnants from my past spiritual journey – let’s say from age 11 or so until around age 24 years. Perhaps “remnants” sounds too distant, too peripheral — because this part of my soul is still very real and present at times. It is packed full of desperate words, spoken softly and mixed with tears — or more often, not spoken at all. This part is very rigid, stiff, inflexible, fear-driven, and life-sucking. The only picture that I’ve used to understand it is that of a “white-knuckled faith.” If you’ve heard me describe it, I probably said something like, “I eventually realized I couldn’t do this version of the faith anymore, that it was killing me emotionally. I could no longer hold on desperately, so I told God He’d have to step up to the plate because I was too tired and worn down to keep trying.” To my surprise, God did show up and I quit trying so hard.
Which leads me to the second part of my soul. It represents a more uplifting journey, and is made of the best parts of the last few years. Imagine the springy step of a confident child, or a garden in May. It’s been a spiritual journey that’s life-giving, not life-sucking and that isn’t primarily about doing the right thing and praying the right thing every freaking moment of every freaking day. It’s more about accepting grace, experiencing safety and true hope, and discovering inspiring reasons to live, love others, and know God. It’s been full of wonderful people who listen as I say out loud the things I’d kept private, stuffed away before. As it turns out, brokenness is not the end after all! And I’m learning what the heck words like “redemption” mean — and this has changed me!
The third part is where the silky chicken enters the scene. It’s also the frozen part that inspires this blog. It’s the pieces of the last four years — and really, the last twenty-something years — that have threatened to kill and destroy me. For years it cowered behind the first, anxiety-ridden part of my soul. It tried to make itself smaller, smaller, really nothing to pay attention to at all. But alas, when I began dealing with my childhood abuse, this part of my soul just about overtook my life for a year or two. Full-blown PTSD and a flood of tragic memories caused this traumatized part of me to balloon up so big it was all I could see or feel! It was nasty, it was rude, it was darkness itself.
A year into this time period, a couple images emerged — seemingly out of nowhere — that illustrated the state of my soul. Much to my chagrin, I recently discovered that this part of my soul is still very much alive (or dead?), even if its taken its place among the other parts of my soul and no longer possesses me.
The first image: picture me as a 9-year-old, making the trek from the doorstep of my comfy, warm house to the doorstep of the chicken house. You see, I had to close the chicken house door every night to keep out the predator animals: raccoons, skunks, bobcats, coyotes, and an occasional badger. It was already dark outside, but thankfully, I had my brother and sister with me. We rounded the corner to enter the chicken house, and surprise(!), a raccoon met us on his hurried way out. So we jumped back to make way, then turned our flashlight beam into the chicken house. Alas, a nasty scene. My poor little poodle chicken was no more. She had been faithfully trying to “sit” or “settle” for weeks (which means she wanted to be a chicken mommy and was sitting on eggs day and night). Sleepy and sitting on her nest near the door, she had been the natural target. Instead of her poodle-feathered self, there was a bloody mess of bones…in the vague shape of a chicken. Lots of blood. There was no sign of her head or other recognizable parts, but unmistakably, was a circle of her white fuzz, peeking out around the carcass’ perimeter.
The second image is simpler to describe. Just imagine a dark, barren wasteland. A desert in the dead of night, with just enough erie moonlight to outline rock steeples poking up out of the sand. Or perhaps they are tall cacti. But it doesn’t really matter because the darkness is static and there is no sunrise to come. I poke my head out of some hole and look around, then in a hesitant voice, I ask, “Hello? Anybody there?” The words fall flat, right on the sand in front of me. It’s a silence and stillness that’s not comfortable. Because it’s a dead place where nothing moves and nothing changes.
So those two images; they represent a piece of my soul that’s still there, that still longs for fresh air, for light, for a heart to pump once again. It waits. I wait. Right there with the poodle chicken.