Many years ago, twenty of them to be exact, I spent a most unusual night in my barn. I had a mare that was showing signs that the foul she had been carrying for eleven months was about to get born. Whenever I had a mare near foaling, I put her on a two-hour watch, meaning that I got up every two hours and checked her progress or lack of same. At my 2 am check that morning, sure enough, we were about to gain a new barn member! The mare was not having a real easy time of it, so I stayed very close. After the little one was born, she was slow to want to stand and nurse. Everything was going a little slower than normal, so the barn time stretched out longer and longer. Then, at one point, when I was helping mother nature out a bit with the foal, I started hearing things. I looked up into the rafters above the stall and smiled. The barn swallows who, up to that moment, had been content to stay ‘inside’ their eggshells evidently decided I needed their help, so they started breaking out of their shells. The parents were fluttering about in a bit of a frenzy, making lots of chatter. Then, I had no sooner given my attention back to my mare and new foal when sounds started coming from the far end of the barn where I stored my hay. It was not quite daylight yet, so I grabbed my flashlight and had a look. Cascading down from the backside of my bale stack were four of the tiniest little kittens! I had no idea they were there. Evidently, their mother had met with an ill fate and was not coming back. The little fellows, their eyes trying to open, got scared and hungry. All the commotion in the barn for those hours must have drawn them out of their nest, and there they were, tumbling down the hay bales, making their awkward landings lost and bewildered! What had begun as just another quiet night in the barn has become a circus of new life!
Horses were welcoming the newly born foal into their midst- birds swooping and chirping- anxious but I suppose delighted, and these poor little motherless kittens who were not going to last long without help.
My cat-loving neighbor, Betty, took in the kittens for me. She had many nights of broken sleep when she rose at all hours to feed the little ones their special canned milk diet with an eyedropper. All of them survived and found good homes, a couple of them with Betty’s grandkids. The swallows all made it too! I remember the morning I arrived in my barn to find them all lined up on top of the rail the sliding door hangs on. There they were, waiting to salute and say goodbye before their maiden flight out into the world.
The foal born that night is a lovely 20-year-old mare who still lives where she was born and seems to find a way most days to pay me back for helping her find her legs and her food supply that first long night of her birth, Life! Some Theologian once said that “life” is the one true miracle…I tend to agree.
There have been a lot of long, dark nights this past year for so many of us. I think of those kittens. Trying their best to see through their only partially opened eyes, yet, stumbling their way toward the sounds of life that night and finding life by the grace of one who owned an eyedropper and knew how to use it. I think of my mare, who seemed to sense that she needed my help and allowed me into her sacred space (they do not all do that) to give the needed help. There has been a lot of darkness this past year, but the One who lived the story we claim to believe promised “life” to us all. Jesus said: “I have come so that you may have life, and have it abundantly.” John 10:10
It may not come to you in the form of barn swallows, or a bevy of cascading kittens, or a newly minted foal, but life will come! As we move through Lent and wait for a different sort of Easter, do so, expecting “life” to find you. I think of the song that begins, “Open my eyes, Lord…” May our eyes be opened to “Life.”
God’s Rich Blessings,