It was 1991 and it had been a hard year. I was a young teacher and busy with 24 little first graders in my classroom. They were a good class, the kind you remember for years to come. But, the year had held such heartache for them. Our gym teacher had been diagnosed with an aggressive form of stomach cancer and though we had prayed and prayed for her, she passed away early in the year. I struggled to find words to guide these precious little ones through such real grief so early in their lives. One little girl, who's momma had been expecting a much wanted baby, experienced another wave of grief when the baby suddenly died a month before his due date. There was a weightiness to each day that I had never experienced before that time... and honestly, have not experienced since. Small losses began to hit us hard... caterpillars that went into cocoons and never came out, rained out field trips... it all piled on us as we sought to find the joy in small moments shared together.
It is easy to lose perspective. That year, we did. The loss of our school's beloved gym teacher so early in the year colored our collective experience and my young students asked hard questions about who God really is and where He was in the midst of all this sadness and loss. They asked about prayer and why it sometimes is not answered and as a young teacher, with no children yet of my own, I felt inept as I tried to explain the Yes and No that are both part of an answer.
In some ways, it seemed a bit out of control. And in the midst of such relentless, spiritual questioning, I began to lose my footing and doubt God's compassionate hand working in our lives. There was a hopelessness that took hold in some small part of me... and I will tell you, hopelessness can knock me off balance faster than anything else. Was He really in control?
I was teaching math one afternoon and a mom appeared at the door with a large cardboard box. She motioned me to come speak with her and I headed over, a bit put out about the interruption of our lesson.
Heading out into the hall, she set the box down outside the view of the door, and flipped the top open with great enthusiasm. Inside the box, there were 10 baby ducks. Yellow and fluffy and chirpy they wandered around their cardboard confines, bumping haplessly into one another, falling over and getting back up to do it all again.
She said, "I want to show the kids. Can't we just come in for a minute and show them these baby ducks?"
The ducks were cute and all but honestly, I was in the middle of math. I had a lot to do before the 3:10 bell and I really did not have time for a box of ducks.
Looking up at her, preparing to turn her away, her enthusiasm over this box of birds caused me to reluctantly agree. In she came with her squeaky little friends. The noise from the moving box immediately caught the attention of my students in a way my math lesson never would.
The mom then explained that they lived near a pond and that they had been watching these baby ducks for a long while. Their family had been helping to take care of the ducklings and they were now big enough to share with the class.
My students were barely able to stay in their seats. We began to call them up, one group at a time, to see and pet the tiny, squeaky puffballs in the box. I stood back and watched the faces of my sweet little ones light up with great joy. Chubby fingers petting fuzzy down and giggles coming forth from children who had hurt, lost and questioned far too much.
And as I stood there, fully present in that one moment, it came to me in perfect simplicity. Baby ducks are still being born.
Baby ducks are still being born.
Do you see what that means? God's hand is still working in His world. God was still, and is still, tending with great compassion to the least of these. He is pouring His love and His attention on the whole of creation.
Standing in my classroom that day, I saw with new eyes what my hopelessness had taken from me. We are not alone. If God can care for baby ducks, of course he cares for me. In the midst of that dark year, a glimmer of light broke through and I knew He had never left us at all.
I don't know where you are today. I don't know how you are feeling or what you are struggling with on this sunny Wednesday morning. But, this I DO know. In the midst of a crashing economy and much financial and family stress, God is in control. He has not looked away. We are not alone. The leaves are changing and being colored by the creative imagination of the only Creator. Geese are flying south with His omnipotent hand beneath their earthly wings. The seasons are changing in order and predictability and there is comfort in all these basic things when we see with the eyes we have been given. He is in it all.
It has been a hard season in our family but today, I will look for God's hand all around me... in food on the table and roof overhead, in the tears of my children and their bubbling laughter, in the words of friends and in the silences that heal... He is in it, my dear friends. We are not alone at all. I will set aside fear and doubt and look with the eyes that saw baby ducks so long ago. I choose this today.
So, let's take a collective breath and look outside at all He has done. If God would take the time to delicately color one red leaf, how much more so would he tend to YOU?