wpid-20140705_194350.jpgThere are two things in this world that I greatly dislike (I really mean hate, but hate is a strong word so I will substitute it with greatly dislike). The two things? Waking up early and being cold. There are a few more things that I really dislike (hate), like cockroaches, dentists and high places. But we’ll save that for a later post.

Mr. Wonderful knew I hated early morning and cold weather two years ago when he bought my chickens. So, during the ice-cold winter months, my Mr. Wonderful takes care of the majority of the chicken duties such as, letting them out at the butt crack of dawn, feeding them and busting up their frozen water. And then in the evening, when it’s really cold, he gathers the eggs and shuts them up for the night. I take care of everything in between.

In the summer time things change a bit. He still wakes up at the butt crack of dawn to feed them and let them out, but from that point on the birds are my responsibility. Midday I usually saunter over and take the girls some treats, I tell them how pretty they are and how much I live them. Then I give Big Sam and Rex a pep talk and brag on what good roosters they are. When evening rolls around I let them out of the yard and watch over them so they can eat grass and scrounge around for bugs and worms. At night fall, I go back over and, as Devin says, “button up the chickens”. That’s country talk for putting up the birds.

Tonight, while I was in my bedroom reading a book, Devin walked by and shot me a friendly reminder, “did you remember to button up the birds?” “I did remember”, I replied, “but then I forgot again”, I said with a sheepish grin. I firmly closed my book in frustration that he caught me in a mistake, and went on a hunt for my shoes and a flash light. Once I was equipped with the necessities I headed toward the door and said, “Cassady do you want to go with me?” “Yeah sure”, she said, “right after my show is over”. I glanced at the clock and saw that it was already 9:45 so I decided not to wait, I would just go by myself. I walked out the front door, stepped off the front porch and into the darkness.

I’m not really sure how long Hen House Road is, but I’m pretty sure it’s a lot longer at night than it is during the day. As I began my trek, I tried to think happy thoughts so I wouldn’t get scared. I thought about how many times I walked this road by the light of the moon and returned unscathed, and how there was a one-in-a-kabillion chance that Freddy Kruger was lurking in the woods, and that in less than ten minutes I’d be back home, safe and sound. I tried desperately not to think about that stupid deer that scared me last week as she snorted loudly from the edge of the woods. Or the rat the size of Tater Tot that lives in the feed box. I worked hard to not think about the roaches that crawl on the hen-house walls at night or the chicken snakes that wrap themselves around the roosts. As I continued down the moonlit dirt road, I struggled to keep my mind on the task at hand. All I needed to do was shut the hatch door on both houses, gather the eggs and skedaddle back home. As I walked, I really didn’t need to shine my light up in the trees to look for varmints that might jump on my head, or imagine that someone was sitting in the front seat of Devin’s old pick up truck. I also didn’t need to shine my light in the lawn mower shed to see if an escaped convict was using it as a hideout, or envision a toothless vagrant lurking behind the wood pile…but I did.

By the time I got to the hen-house I had dreamed up some pretty horrible scenarios. I was jumpy, spooked and hyper sensitive to every little noise around me. I could hear Big Sam in the hen-house, clucking a low steady warning to his girls, letting them that something was outside. As I struggled to unlatch the door with shaky hands, Rex suddenly flapped his wings loudly and let out a blood curdling crow that shot bolts of terror up my spine. When I opened the door I shed light on the chickens as they roosted in silence, hoping against hope that a black snake was not draped over the roost. Thankfully all was clear. As I went to gather the eggs I carefully picked up Rex who was roosting on the nesting boxes. Since he is the lesser of the two roosters, Big Sam won’t allow him to roost with the others, so he is forced to roost on the nesting boxes. While steadily reassuring Rex that I loved him the most, I fumbled with the egg basket and flashlight, and gathered the eggs while nervously looking over my shoulder at the open hen-house door making sure Jack the Ripper wasn’t sneaking up behind me.

Finally, when all the eggs were gathered, I carefully put Rex back on his roost and stepped back out into the darkness. I latched the door and stacked the two cinder blocks in front of it as usual. With the bucket of eggs and flashlight in hand, I headed for the next coop. I nervously fiddled and fumbled with a gate latch that is so old I am sure Noah used on his ark. Then, at the blue coop I irritatingly struggled with two more ancient latches that could use a good spritz of WD40. When the last egg was gathered and the last latch was fastened, it was finally time to head back to the house. As I rounded the corner guided by only a thin beam of light, my imagination took off once again and a sudden burst of fear rushed up my spine like a cold zipper. Every sound the woods offered was magnified in my mind a thousand times. Every terrifying thought I had of an ax wielding maniac, or a rabid varmint overwhelmed me to the point of sheer terror.

All I could think about was getting back home, to my safe place. As I made my way around the corner and back down Hen House Road I spotted our house through the trees and my fears began to fade . I was still in the dark, I was still surrounded by creepy trees and freaky sounds but now I had my sights set on the light of our front porch. I knew that if I could just kept my eye on the light and my focus on the place where I was loved and protected, I’d be out of the dark scary woods in no time.

Once I entered our yard it occurred to me. These things I dream up almost never actually happened. I mean, I can’t tell you the last time I was chased by a rabid raccoon. There were no monsters or varmints, no wild animals or ax murdering maniacs hiding in the lawn mower shed. Nothing. Just a lonely dirt road and some trees. And then something else occurred to me as I approached the front porch. I not only dream up these things on dark spooky roads, I often find myself turning a perfectly pleasant day into a day filled with horrible “what ifs”.

What if…I fail? What if I can t do it?
What if…I miss God’s will?
What if…I get sick? Or Devin? Or God forbid, one of the kids?
What if…my kids aren’t happy when they grow up? Or fulfilled?
What if…we loose our job? Or our home?
What if…we don’t have enough money for retirement?
What if…I’ve already hit my peak and it’s all down hill from here?

What if…what if…what if…blah blah blah…

Then I here it. I feel it. That gentle voice that manages to speak over the racket in my brain and calm my soul. That voice that lovingly says, “Tonya, do you remember the word I gave you many years ago that you were to live by? Go to it. Read it. Say it. Live it. Believe it. And I will fulfill my promise.”

I am so grateful for the promise of Philippians 4:6-9, and that it still applies today.

It reads: do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with Thanksgiving, present your requests to God and the peace of God which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (here’s the kicker) Finally, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable…if anything is excellent or praiseworthy…think about such things.

Obviously, ax murderers, cockroaches, pestilence and nuclear holocaust are NOT lovely or admirable so I should not be thinking on these things. It’s NOT His design for my life. Or yours for that matter.

If truth be known, you have done the same thing. At times you have taken your eyes off your safe place, your destination or the task that has been laid out before you. You’ve allowed yourself to imagining all the terrible things that could happen to you along the way…the “what ifs” have taken up residents in your brain.

Allow me to encourage you to reevaluate your thinking.

First, if you find yourself drowning in a sea of negativity, don’t beat yourself up over it. You are Not alone! We have all been there at one time or another. Some of us have been there a few times. Some of us have even vacationed there 😉

Second, if your thoughts are no longer faith-based but rather fear based, please take time to read and re-read Philippians 4:5-9. Put it into practice, and allow God’s promise of peace and hope to turn your “what ifs” into “what’s next?”

Now, if you will excuse me I have eggs to gather 😉