My Rachael's heart was broken earlier this week. It was something that I didn't expect just yet, and something that we both could certainly have done without. But like most things that break our hearts, it was completely out of my control.
Rachael has joined the 4-H club at a local ranch, where she's having a great time working with all the animals. They have more types of animals than I can count, but Rachael's very favorite was a white baby goat named Bluebell.
She first met Bluebell back in June, when she attended Girl Scout camp at the same ranch. Bluebell and her sister, Heather, were teeny tiny and still being bottle fed. Rachael always raced to be the one to feed sweet Bluebell.
When she made the decision to join the 4-H club, she was even more elated that now she'd get to see Bluebell twice a week. The goat pen has been her first stop at each meeting, and Bluebell always runs to the fence to meet her. They are precious together.
But this week, while Rachael was outside tending to the animals, one of the owners of the ranch commented that Bluebell and Heather had been sold, and would be going to their new homes on Monday. My heart sank. I knew that Rachael would be devastated. Even though the babies are going together, and to a great home...it wouldn't matter. This would be the same as losing a friend.
It was time to go home, and there would be no practice on Friday. I would have to tell Rachael before we left, or she wouldn't get a chance to say goodbye.
So I went down to the barn and waited while she finished cleaning out a stall. I was so proud to see her working so diligently, listening so well to the older kids and doing what she was asked without complaint - although nothing in the barn comes close to being a glamorous job. When she was finished, I asked her to show Bluebell to me before we headed to the car.
While we both petted Bluebell, I explained to Rachael that Bluebell was leaving for her new home. The tears started immediately. It didn't matter that she was going to a good home or that she would get to stay with her sister...Rachael was heartbroken and there was nothing I could say that would matter one bit. I'm not sure that it didn't hurt me even more to watch my darling girl cry while she said goodbye to Bluebell.
We could hear her bleating as we walked up the hill. It sounded just like Bluebell was crying too.
My first Mommy instinct was, of course, to fix it. Hurry hurry run and find a little white goat of our very own. But of course, that wouldn't have mattered. There's only one Bluebell. You can't just replace a beloved friend.
Now, three days later, Rachael is mostly okay. She still cries when she thinks of Bluebell, but it's not non-stop. That first night was wretched for us both. She's asked me to print out the two pictures that I've posted here, but I've put it off so far...I wonder if looking at them so often would just make it that much more painful? Of course, we visit the ranch twice a week, and I know she'll think of Bluebell every time she's there.
And so will I.
We'll miss you, Bluebell.
* * * * *
One verse that's been on my mind lately is Proverbs 4:23, "above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life." (NIV)
How I wish I could guard my daughters' hearts for them, beating away everything that could potentially cause them pain. But how would I know what to conquer first? It's hard to tell where pain can come from...who would have expected an adorable baby goat to cause heartache? It's simply beyond my control to prevent them from hurting.
For that matter, I can't even prevent myself from hurting. And like Rachael, the pain often comes from an unexpected source.
I have always, always, always taken words to heart. I can remember things that people said to me as a little child that hurt my feelings. They may not have even meant to - in fact, now that I'm older and wiser, I can see that they probably didn't. But they hurt then, and that hurt stuck. There are instances I can recall from middle school, from high school...all through my life, careless comments that have chipped away at my own heart.
I get this honestly - my mom admits to the same affliction. She feels deeply and is hurt easily. This is one of only a few characteristics I seem to have inherited from her - and one that I have unfortunately handed down to Rachael as well.
Naturally, most of the words that one hears comes from the people that closest to your heart - your family and friends. So what do you do when one of them hurts your feelings constantly with their words?
The one who contradicts everything you say.
The one who is always right - making you always wrong.
The one who poo-poos your ideas.
The one who doesn't even bother listening when you talk and goes on talking about something else instead.
The one with passive-aggressive tendencies.
The one who consistently brings up topics that she knows you hate.
The one who gets angry when you get upset.
The one who is sweet as sugar pie to your face, but talks about you behind your back.
The one who won't let you get a word in edgewise.
The one who is too busy to talk to you at all.
I've counted all of these among my friends, and loved them all. Tolerated all of the above for the sake of our friendship. Maybe even been guilty of a few of those myself, because who hasn't? But never consistently. Never purposefully.
The same glitch in my personality that allows me to be deeply hurt at the drop of a hat also does now allow me to consciously hurt someone that I love. (Gene will laugh when he reads this. He definitely gets the majority of my emotional overflow. Likewise, I lose my patience more often than I like with my babies. But do I say things to make them angry, to hurt their feelings, to make them feel inferior? NEVER.)
I am simply hyper-aware of the way that I speak to other people - again, most of the time. I have unintentionally put my foot in my mouth and hurt someone's feelings, but overall, I am very selective of my words. I've actually been accused of not talking enough - something that, I heard later, made some people in high school think that I was a snob, because I didn't talk to them. Not the case at all. I would just rather not talk than to say the wrong thing.
And with some people, I feel like I can't say the right thing.
At any rate, I've realized lately that the majority of hurtful comments come from only a handful of sources...and have been forced to step back and rethink a relationship or two. It's a painful process - just the realization that a person you care for brings you more pain than joy is terrible. Contemplating doing something about it is even worse.
Then I go back to the verse, "above all else, guard your heart." Above all else. There are lots of ways that you should guard your heart - from a whole host of sinful thoughts, sure. You should keep it for God, and focused on God. But shouldn't we also guard our hearts against being hurt, being angered, being made to feel "less than" and unworthy of being handled with care? Shouldn't we seek out people that FILL our hearts rather than make us feel drained? Shouldn't we all have people in our lives that consciously try not to hurt us with their words?
I think we should. I will continue trying to be one of those people. And whenever I meet people who will do the same for me, I will treasure those friendships that much more, and thank God for them.
"Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength and my redeemer." Psalm 19:14 (KJV)