I had gone for a brisk walk that stunning fall afternoon. It was a Sunday. We had arrived home from church, with nothing more on our agenda than soaking up the sun’s enchanting rays. We were all outside; Avery on the swing set and the boys in the secret garden with Daddy, building our tree fort. Usually Avery would want to come along for a walk, but she’d decided to stay. I’d be gone only 30 minutes, one time around the neighborhood loop. Kisses and smiles were abundant as I left. I returned refreshed, but surprised to find things were not as peaceful as I’d left them. There was worry, pacing, and tears as I approached my kids, still outside. They were watching our duck, Puddles, intently while spewing out details of what had just unfolded. Almost immediately after I left, Puddles had started losing his balance, turning in circles, falling all over himself, and going limp in the neck. It was laughable at first. That is, until they discerned that he was suffering. Laughter quickly turned to fright and helplessness as they watched, unable to appease him. These intermittent bouts of dizziness had gone on the entire time I was gone, and continued well into the night. What does one do when their duck is going bonkers? We turned to Google, of course. Immediately, several consistent blurbs of information appeared. Most likely, Puddles had come down with botulism. Thankfully, this type of botulism does not effect humans (whew, I was about to demand everyone scrub up in the shower instantly!). We read on, to find that 1 lb. of Epsom salt with 5 lb. of water could flush our duck’s system of the fatal bacteria. Also suggested, a mixture of water with molasses. This has a laxative effect. Get the duck some protein as well!
Four of us hopeful, we set out for the local Walmart. The fifth and most realistic one, my husband, the one who’d read everything…he whispers to me in the car that even with these remedies, other people’s ducks…they still died within 3 days. We returned home, anxious to check on Puddles and ready to perform our duties as animal rescuers. I stayed in and mixed the solutions, while the rest of the crew went down to see the ducks. One returned quickly, completely in tears again, distraught. “His neck was paralyzed again, mom! He couldn’t move.” “Well, let’s try and see if this works, son,” I reply. It took all 5 of us, it seemed…one to hold the duck tight, one to plunge the syringe into the solution and down his throat, one to wash the water dish, one to give fresh food, and one to hold the flashlight (as now it was 9:00pm and pitch dark outside). We did all we could do, tucked them in and returned inside for the night. Well, there was one more thing to do: PRAY.
We huddled together tight, hand in hand, minds focused. We prayed for a miracle. We prayed that Puddles would wake feeling better, and that he got enough of the salt solution to help flush his system, despite most of it somehow ending up all over our clothes and the ground. We prayed that the dizziness would subside and that the bacteria would leave his body. We know, God, you hear our prayers, for your word tells us so in Psalm 34:17: “The Lord hears his people when they call to him for help. He rescues them from all their troubles.” No matter how small the details, Lord, you care deeply…even if it’s just a measly pet duck…we know it. “The steps of the godly are directed by the Lord. He delights in every detail of their lives.” (Psalm 37:23)
Avery had been waiting all week for this night. Not because she knew she’d need to lift the spirits of her heartbroken brother over a duck, but because it was her devotion night. We each have a night during the week. She’d been planning what she’d bring to the table, and she was excited about it. Nobody (not even a sick duck) can take away this girl’s joy in the Lord. So, we proceeded with family devotions, even though it was late…and a school night. When tragedy strikes, we find ourselves not wanting to part, desiring to linger in one another’s presence. A despairing boy curls himself up on the couch between the edge and my leg…and begins to weep. As I rub his back, the show begins. Behind a stack of pillows on the floor, probably every single pillow in the house, Avery and her Daddy act out a familiar scene from the Bible. In charade like fashion, they hammer and build, then motion for something to come toward them. They are calling forth animals, I think. Then, they sway back and forth, as if in a storm, behind this heaping pile of pillows and we all laugh…even the sobbing one! It feels good to laugh. Back to the show, Avery and Daddy come out from behind the wall of pillows. They are on land. They bow down and look up, giving thanks, blowing kisses to the sky. We all exclaim while giggling, “Noah’s Ark!” Then we clap…even the one whose tears have left a puddle on the throw pillow! Okay, time for bed. We pray one more time, thanking the Lord for laughter amidst a night filled with uncertainty.
We tuck the kids in bed, and stay up a while devising a plan in case we find a dead duck in the morning. Daddy goes to check on the kids before shutting his eyes, and discovers the sweetest thing: our three kids sacked out, snuggled up together in the oldest one’s top bunk. This, because the middle one was crying his eyes out all night. This, because the girl couldn’t fall asleep for fear creeping in of what might become of Puddles. This young man, still our baby, even though he was just as sad as the others, swallowed hard and manned up for his siblings. He offered his bed, a place to lament together, band together, have hope together. This 6th grader, who can antagonize for laughs, put others before himself. He’s always been a great encourager, but the other two are the lovers, the affectionate ones. My husband climbs into bed with a smile and fullness of heart. It’s in these hard moments that the opportunity to shine bright presents itself. “For God, who said, ‘Let there be light in the darkness,’ has made this light shine in our hearts so we could know the glory of God that is seen in the face of Jesus Christ.” (2 Corinthians 4:6)
The next thing shining brightly was the sun coming through the windows the following morning. “How is it morning already?” I ask. Kerry hurries out the door with the anticipation of finding a dead duck before one of the kids does. Sure enough, before Kerry gets back, Owen, up earlier than normal, is racing past me on his way to see Puddles. They open up the door to the pen. Puddles, still looking as if he were tossed back and forth on Noah’s Ark in a storm, waddles out. He’s alive, at least! All day I update my husband, via phone, that the duck hasn’t had any dizzy spells! He calmly reminds me though, that it took a couple days for others’ ducks to die. “Well, I suppose you have a point since he won’t eat or drink a thing,” I admit. The kids return home from school ecstatic that Puddles is still alive! Dad forewarns them though, of what still may come. He desires to protect their little hearts from being broken once again.
Another night of meds that flush. Another morning of hopeful hearts…he’s still hanging in there! In fact, I text Kerry as he’s right in the middle of an important pastor’s meeting…”Puddles is eating bugs!” I exclaim. He quickly replies, “woohoo!” The kids are delighted, once again, as they race down the driveway after school to see Puddles swimming, eating and quacking as normal. My heart is overflowing with gratitude, not really because we still own a white farm duck, but because of how God showed up in the mundane and delivered upon His promises. He heard the cries (literal wails) of His kids and cared enough to act. Sure, it could have been the measly 2 oz. of fluid we flushed down the duck. However, the advice on the internet said we needed to make sure ALL of it got down. We weren’t even close. It didn’t look good. But God is good.
Not only did He show up, He allowed a heartbreaking experience to bond siblings even closer, as they drew closer to Him in their pleading. I can’t explain the breadth of fulfillment I felt the night we witnessed our three children shine bright, each in their own little ways. Owen, with his love and compassion for all living creatures, moved to tears by a struggling duck, checking, feeding, offering to stay. Avery, with her unstoppable joy, putting her sadness aside to lift the spirits of others by bringing about laughter. Keinan, becoming strong for the younger two, encouraging and laying down himself as he offered up his bed. Although I’ve seen it over and over, I never tire of watching God show up. That night, His word came alive once again, as he gave beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair; that we may be called great oaks that the Lord has planted for his own glory! (Isaiah 61:3) What more could I ask for? Feeling so blessed and thankful…