It was a cool October night in 1986 when my mom suddenly bolted upright from a dead sleep and walked over to her bedroom window. Looking out, she saw a fierce orange glow dancing on the neighbor’s roof. Fire! Only, it wasn’t our neighbor’s property that was ablaze. It was ours.
By the time my mom woke up me and my sisters and rushed us down the stairs and out of the house, my dad was already in the driveway futilely fighting the roaring flames with a green garden hose. Our garage was consumed and the back of the house soon would be too.
The next day, after the fire had been extinguished and all that remained were black piles of ash, we carefully made our way through the debris and over to the back corner of the yard. My young heart was thankful that our family was safe. (And thankful that my mom responded to my middle-of-the-night wails and had ran back into the burning house to rescue my favorite stuffed monkey.) But now I was terrified that our five chickens were not as lucky.
I looked up at the soot covered electrical pole that towered behind the chicken coop. How could anything have survived?
My mom scooped up one of the Road Island Red hens and began to stroke its auburn feathers.
“Is she… is she dead?” I asked.
Without saying a word, my mom continued to pet the hen. After moments that felt like hours, the chicken started to cluck.
“No, she’s not dead! I don’t think any of them are dead. They’re just frozen in shock.”
One by one, my mom held and patted each beloved bird back to life.
Over the years, I’ve thought back to that scary night and the difficult season that followed. I’ve thought about God’s grace in waking up my mom and protecting our very lives. I’ve thought about God’s kindness in providing the rental house we moved into and even the craft store Christmas ornaments we painted that year because all our cherished decorations were lost in the fire.
But the miracle that comes to mind most often is how God chose to save our chickens.
The heat and smoke alone should have been enough to snuff out their lives. The fences showed evidence that the fire licked its way around the entire perimeter of our yard. And yet the coop remained physically untouched. The chickens, however, were not unmarked by the trauma. They were like five feathered statues frozen in place. It wasn’t until my mom came into their space and reassured them with her presence and touch that they were able to re-engage with life. It’s a story that mirrors our lives in many ways.
Have you ever felt spiritually stuck? Mentally or emotionally frozen, unable to move forward because of pain, grief, or trauma? I know I have. It’s in those very seasons of turmoil and overwhelm when God’s presence can help us find our way back to life.
When my dad died suddenly at the age of 59, I felt paralyzed by the shock and uncertain of how to process my grief in the throes of mothering a toddler and baby. But God was there. He was present in the friend who hugged me when I dropped my boys off at her house so I could have a little space. He was there when I drove my minivan around the block and parked on a random street, turned on worship music, and just cried. In that season, I experienced the truth of this promise: “The Lord is near the brokenhearted; he saves those crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34:18, CSB).
My sorrow didn’t immediately subside, but I learned that I could still move through life because God was mindful of my broken heart and He was near.
When my clinical anxiety disorder flares, I can easily feel stuck in the mental cycles of overwhelm. When my body floods with extra adrenaline and my mind won’t stop racing and sadness surges, I too become like a statue — cemented in by feelings that seem impossible to fully name or change. Like the hens who made it through the fire, I need someone to come alongside me too and offer the assurance of their presence. My sons do this in their gentle boyish ways, bringing me tissues and wiping my tears. My husband wraps me in a hug when I have no words. And I imagine Jesus petting my hair as I fall asleep for an afternoon nap.
Isaiah 40:11 tells us that “He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.” God doesn’t expect us to navigate our trauma or move forward in our weakness alone. He draws near to us. He isn’t scared of our brokenness, our messiness, or how stuck we may seem. He delights in picking us up and carrying us.
Flames will come. They may destroy property, mar relationships, and even scar our hope. But God. But God is still writing our story. And the plot line always gets better as we look for how Jesus is stepping into our ashes and creating something beautiful.
Need more encouragement for when you’re feeling stuck? Follow Becky on Instagram for her video series, A Verse a Day for the Anxious Soul.
Susan Curtis says
This really resonated with me today; the crippling anxiety and sadness, I thought I was alone in my struggle! Thank you for being so honest!!
Becky Keife says
You are not alone, Susan! And so glad that this resonated with you.
Ruth Mills says
But God. 2 best words in our stories! And the Creator & Master of the universe is writing our stories, simply WOW!!! Thank you for sharing this great illustration, Becky! Blessings!
Becky Keife says
But God. YES!! So grateful He is always writing our stories with His hand of kindness and care.
Ariel Krienke says
Such a beautiful message. Thank you. Really spoke to me. God has really gotten me through the traumatic times of my life for sure.
Becky Keife says
I’m so grateful this was meaningful to you, Ariel.
Brenda Koinis says
Thank you, Becky!
Lovely and beautiful reminder of God’s love being present and “near” even through tough times.
Thank you Becky for such wonderful words to share
Ana V. forbes says
Praise God from whom all blessings flows, thanks for sharing.
Lovely, encouraging words, Becky! Thank you.
Janet Williams says
Thank you for sharing such sad and hard memories Becky. It’s amazing when we look back and see God’s “handprints” on all of those sad and hard memories. Thank you…
Isaiah 40:11 tells us that “He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.”
Becky Keife says
Isn’t that such a comforting verse?!
Debbie Nance says
Thank you for this post. It spoke to my heart and held up a mirror so I can see that frozen chicken in me and made me cry and laugh at the same time. So needed. Bless you for sharing your gifts.
Becky Keife says
Your comment blessed me this morning, Debbie. Praising God for His faithful timing to encourage us in ways He knows we need.
Dawn Ferguson-Little says
Praise God the Chickens survived and you all did too Becky. God does look after us. I was menace when small. My younger sister then was 2 and I 3 and half then. This is slightly different than what happened in your story. I got my younger sister out bed on morning. I lead her to kitchen. Our house when I was small now in 51. Was mostly made of wood it was Swedish type house. Even though it was not in Sweden. I must have brought book with me into the Kitchen. Put them on top of cooker. I was told to be heard saying by my late Grandmother them who we call Nanny and our Dad’s Mum Granny. You not be cold now. So I must have turned on the cooker. With the books on top it and red rings of the cooker the books started to go on fire. All our Mum’s could see was me saying look it getting nice and warm in here to my sister. Her bedroom that she was staying in while down visiting us from Belfast in Northern Ireland for a few days. Was next to kitchen. She thought my Grandmother she could smell burning. Only she woke to see what it was the whole house and everyone in it could have been burned alive. My late Mum and Dad slept through it all had to be woken and only the wall was on fire beside the cooker and the books I had sat on top of the cooker. Nanny if she not woke that day things would have been so much worse. Then it was put out. My Mum and Dad and my Grandmother were just so glad me and my sister’s were ok. We were not hurt the house didn’t go fire because my Grandmother woke because she thought she smelt burning. I did think I was going to be told of what was my fault. But the next day when I woke there was lock on the kitchen door that only adults could reach. So I was locked out of the kitchen until they were up to open it. That was the best lesson in my eyes. As that next day all my late Mum said to Dawn you not get into the kitchen unless we are up. Now I am big. I see God’s hand in all this. If my late Grandmother had not be staying with us and sleeping in the room next to the kitchen. As my late Mum and my Dad’s bedroom was the other end of the house away from the kitchen. It would have been a different story. As my Mum and Dad smelt nothing. So God had my Grandmother stay with us at the right time and sleep in the room next to kitchen. God had her wake to see if what she thought she smelt was burning. Was and it was. So I often thank God for her staying with and God for wakening her to check to if was a burning smell. My late Grandmother was right. I might not be here today nor my younger sister. So God is good all the time and all the time God is good. Like for you Becky Gof saved your Chicken none died. I say Amem for my Grandmother waking to check was it smoke she smelt. God for saving your Chickens. Love Dawn. Xx
Mary Lynch says
I wish I could keep this article. Your boys are so sweet and your husband is so dear. I stuff all of my feelings, gaslighting, betrayal, overwhelming anxiety and depersonalization.
Kathi Lipp says
I’m so glad you shared this story – it’s stayed with me ever since you told me about it.
Becky, I have no words except to say thank you. All crises don’t look alike but with God all things are possible.
I have been one of your precious chickens.
Again thank you
Beth Williams says
Bless you for sharing this hard yet heartwarming story. We are a blessed people. We have a God & His son who are well acquainted with trauma & sorrow. They stay near us when we need it most. When troubles come & they will I always look back & remind myself of God’s faithfulness. How he has walked me through some hard trials with geriatric psych. When we feel overwhelmed We need to turn our eyes & hearts toward Jesus. Talk to Him about it & let Him carry the load for us.
I’m so so glad God’s Love keeps Pursuing Me, even when I can Block Him, to protect my Heart from further hurt, agony, trouble, or grief. I need Him so desperately, & He knows this. He doesn’t turn away, or leave me to handle my life’s troubles & tramas alone. He alone can bring me to the other side into Healing & Wholeness!