Life in the Manure Pile


The husband once aspired to be a self-sufficient, back-to-the-land pioneer. He bought a windmill, oil lamps, beehives, and a couple of pigs, which we named Lois Lane and Clark Kent.

This dirty duo caused me headaches from the day we took them home. We tied them in gunny sacks and secured them in the back of our truck; but the Houdini hoglets somehow freed themselves, tumbled from the vehicle, and headed for the hills. We eventually got the slippery little buggers safely home, but only after a wild skirmish in the woods.

The adventurous and clever Clark soon discovered his alternate identity as Super Pig. He learned to climb atop his roofed shelter and leap over the fence to freedom. Lois, not to be outdone, was never far behind. Motorists on the highway near our home reported seeing wild pigs darting between cars. I also received some angry phone calls from horrified neighbors who were shocked to find the pair digging up their flower beds. Perhaps, rather than Lois and Clark, they should have been named Lewis and Clark, due to their propensity to explore.

These two heavy weights usually embarked upon their adventures while the husband was at work, so I was the designated pig herder, responsible for bringing the troops home after each rendezvous. How does one lure two full-grown hogs to follow you? It takes courage, determination, and a slop bucket full of swine delicacies like apple cores, potato peels, and moldy bread crusts. More than once, I trudged through waist-deep snow, dropping a trail of leftovers behind me.

Iíve never liked animals that were too big to sit in my lap, but these humongous hogs were more than intimidating. They were man eaters! While leading them home like the pied piper, I had to run to stay one step ahead as they followed close behind, nipping at my heels.

Yes, pigs BITE - at least these two did. They were scarier than attack dogs.

Once Lois and Clark tasted blood, they preferred it to their usual diet. That diet consisted of truckloads of stale doughnuts, sour milk, and assorted restaurant scraps. Keeping the porkers fed was a big job. They ate a lot, and you can imagine what else they did Ė a LOT.

The manure pile grew into a mountain, which remained long after Lois and Clark were laid to rest as pork chops in our freezer.

The following summer, I planted a garden that I faithfully weeded, fertilized, and watered.

At the end of the season, I was shocked to discover that my prized vegetables were dwarfed in comparison to the giant tomatoes and cucumbers that had sprung up from the manure pile.

You may wonder why Iím telling you more than you care to know about pigs and manure. Itís because Iíve found that where thereís manure, thereís sometimes a lesson buried under it.

Like you, Iíve known sorrow, loneliness, and disappointment. At those times, it often feels like Iím living smack dab in the middle of a mountain of manure. However, things that stink arenít necessarily bad. Sometimes, what we think is awful right now may end up being good for us. Ask anyone who took castor oil as a kid!

Just as the garbage in a compost heap makes gardens grow, the garbage in our lives can enhance our personal growth. Trials can result in strong faith and character. The stuff that stinks the most is usually the best fertilizer for healthy spiritual development. Even stinky manure, after a time, turns into healthy and clean smelling soil. Gardens go through seasons. Spring is the season to plant and fertilize. Summer is the season to weed and cultivate. Fall is the season to harvest. Winter is the season for the land to rest. Our lives have different seasons too. Some of them are more difficult than others. But if we endure "for a season" without giving in to short-term thinking, we will reap a harvest.

When your heart is broken, it may feel hopeless; but thereís always hope, even in the dung heap. Open your eyes to see beyond the pig pies to how God might be working. Consider what the end result, and Godís plan, might be for this situation.

God can produce blossoms of blessing from pig manure. Well, the Bible doesnít actually say pig manure, but He can bring good from anything. Isaiah 61:3 says He will bestow upon those who grieve a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.

God takes the smelly, disgusting manure that our lives can become and He brings forth prize-winning, life-giving fruit. Celebrate the fact that we donít have to climb that manure mountain alone. Believe and keep the faith, then grab a shovel and start digging. Thereís a harvest on the other side.

Marsha Jordan hugsandhope@gmail.com Author of Hugs, Hope, and Peanut Butter Laugh out loud, inspirational essays Illustrated by critically ill children

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