"How hard can it be?" I usually ask myself when I'm thinking about stepping out into some new venture.
"Apparently a lot harder than it looks," I too often conclude later when I'm neck-deep into the thing.
Keeping a few chickens to provide us with fresh eggs has unfortunately become one of those harder-than-it-looks projects.
I've seen chickens roaming unprotected in the junked-up yards of some seriously ramshackle houses. Even freely pecking around right next to busy roads. But we can't seem to keep our chickens alive in the poultry version of Buckingham Palace.
Okay, maybe Buckingham Palace is a wee exaggeration, but we've definitely given our birds every advantage: a nice, new, custom-built house with private nesting boxes and an automatic door with a light sensor to (supposedly) keep nocturnal predators out; plenty of fully stocked food and water stations; a big, shaded, fenced-in chicken yard; even a video feed from the chicken house to our phones.
And yet all of our birds, except one lonely guinea hen (who is badly in need of grief and trauma counseling), have thus far managed to get themselves killed.
In the first few months after we got chickens, three got picked off by some mysterious hit-and-run serial killer. Then an even more aggressive varmint killed 10 in one attack last month. Finally, a critter from the pit-of-you-know-where snuck into the chicken house last week before the automatic door closed and enjoyed an all-night chicken buffet, knocking off all but one of our remaining birds.
Let me say it is a very, very good thing I wasn't first on the scene after any of these massacres. A VERY good thing. (Go ahead and call me a wimp. I don't care).
We've concluded there's only one more thing we can do if we want to continue to raise chickens: get an outside dog to scare off predators. It's a commitment we were hoping not to have to make, but we seem to have no choice now.
We like dogs, but we haven't had one in eight years and when that beloved pet died, we declared we'd never get another. Our sons were leaving the nest about that same time and as a friend once told me, "You're not really free until your kids grow up and your dogs die."
But we're definitely at a crossroads with this chicken thing and we either have to be all in or fold and cut our losses. Such forks in the road are just part of life, and sometimes they are much more eternally important than our current dilemma.
It seems like my years of following Christ have been marked by times when God drew a line in the sand and asked, "Do you love me enough to step across this line? Are you 'all in' or do you want to fold and cut your losses?"
Those decisions have never been easy because Jesus warned His followers that being "all in" with Him is costly: " ? If anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it." (Luke 9:23-24)
But without exception, choosing to be "all in" with God has always been the best choice.
It reminds me of the movie, "The Wizard of Oz." Dorothy's world was black-and-white until she dared to step over the threshold of her farmhouse into the strange and scary Land of Oz. Only then did beautiful colors explode around her.
We can't experience God's riches until we step over the threshold and are "all in" with Him. He saves the best for those who dare to trust Him most.
Crum (maryanncrum.com) lives in Abbeville and is the author of two books, "A Giggle Goes a Long Way" and "Live.Learn.Laugh!" She can be reached at email@example.com.