Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Learning to See Beauty in the Imperfect

The office calendar confirmed this was my last week of green highlighted "oh my goodness!" dates, proof that I was five short days from surviving my toughest semester yet with every shred of my sanity intact (we won't talk about gray hairs gained).

A quick check of all three work email accounts showed nobody in too high a state of finals' week panic, so I slid on my running shoes to squeeze in two miles on the treadmill before the usual morning Tivo'd episode of Curious George ended and children yelled up the stairs, "It's done! Are you finished, mommy!?"

My new one-penny (literally) refurbished i-phone interrupted, its obnoxious ring tone turning me back towards the desk. "Daddy's cell." Both eyebrows raised; it was awful early for an Opa call.

On his morning walk, Opa had found a Mother's Day end cast off--white plastic Wal-mart bag full of now motherless weak, gray kitten. Eight lives left and still meowing after not smothering in loosely-tied bag. Didn't I want him to bring it down?

No. Not now. Not this week, anyway. No again.

Half an hour later, three jubilant children and I traipsed across a ripe hay field to find wobbly-legged kitten stumbling around his truck bed playpen.

One look, and I knew I was in trouble.

"Isn't he cu-ute!?" Wyatt exclaimed with drawn-out Southern syllables.

Amelia's eyes lit up as she raised both arms heavenward. "Ooh! A kitty! Can I touch him?"

Four other hands raised in agreement.

My heart fell. I've had very few kittens in my adult life, but it didn't take a veterinarian to know this was trouble. He was obviously too small to be an orphan on this morning after celebrating motherhood. But, the children were already in love, and husband and I had agreed we wanted an outdoor playmate for Jonah, so I had to try.

After picking up all 8 ounces of fluff, the mewing begin. That's when I noticed the snake bite on his neck. My jaw clenched. Not a big deal, said my father in law, blowing off my concern. Lots of cats with snake bites. Tux regularly wrapped around our legs, strapping proof of that.

Wrapped in a towel, he dozed in my arms as we carried him back home, where google proved him to be three, maybe four weeks old. Right then, I began preparing the children for his death. "He is a very sick kitty. He might die."

Wyatt bounced beside me, as close to the kitten as he could be without sending us both flying face first in the dirt. "Will he go to heaven or hell?"

Here we go again. "I don't know. God's Bible doesn't say."

Obviously, though, if mama didn't know, that meant he could create his own reality...and so he did. For the rest of the day, he repeatedly asked, "When is the kitten going to heaven?"

When the kitten failed to lick milk from a bowl, failed to suck from the mini bottle we'd all four made a special trip to purchase, and finally slurped hungrily at the teaspoon-sized syringe stuck in the back of his mouth...before peeing all over my porch--"When is he going to die, mommy?"

That was Monday. I sit here two days later, having syringe fed maybe 3 ounces of milk to him throughout each day...enough to where he's now alert enough to toddle after the children and scratch at me with his claws of frustration when he's swallowed a teaspoon to cut the immediate hunger and decides that's enough.

"He thinks we're his mommy and daddy," Wyatt says, protectively guarding him from stomping twin feet.I wish I could enjoy this small creature before me. But the worry overwhelms the joy of seeing how fascinating God's small creations are. I can't even bring myself to name him. All I can think is he could still die. What if I'm just staving off the inevitable? Why did you send him here, God?

But Amelia looks at him and says, "He beautiful, mommy."

Yes--it's a problem I've been working on this year, learning to see beauty in each moment--even those moments that aren't Kodak-worthy, aren't perfect, aren't certain.

I know a kitten's life is so small in comparison to the huge, earth-shattering heartaches in the world around me, but my Father said to cast all my cares on Him. And it's not like He doesn't already know the concerns of my heart.

So, this week, I'll add a kitten's well-being to the prayers I send to the throne room of heaven and try a little bit harder to appreciate the beauty in His craftsmanship...for as long as the Father loans Him to our family.


  1. Amazing how kids show such compassion in situations like these. We struggle, they move on to what's ahead. "What's next mommy?" And, with simple reassurance, they seem fine. All we can do is prepare them while embracing their hope as our own.

    What an example Jennifer.

  2. Precious, Jennifer.

    We had the EXACT same question here last week: Do kittens go to Heaven?

    I had the same answer: "I don't know."

    But I sure hope so.