Nose Chicken: Dealing with the Battles You Can’t Win

Sometimes you just can’t help but play along. When our middle child was a toddler, his blue eyes could trump my reason. Each bedtime snuggle he declared, “Nose Chicken!” The golden boy pressed his face into mine, nose to nose, until my grown up smeller yielded, whimpering. His laughter rang out in big, belly peals. Squishy youth always triumphed over my bone and cartilage. Each time I thought I could hold out. Each time my eyes watered and I had to surrender. I lost the battles, but won sweet memories with my son.

Life can be like that, too. How often do we play games we can’t win? Like Boggle against my husband, there is no chance of victory, only opportunity to either enjoy the journey or set a healthy boundary.

Oh, there are dream destinations: the clean house, our goal weight, a happy marriage. The thing is, those end goals aren’t the end. When we get there, no golden buzzer sounds to bedazzle the stage with confetti and launch us to the final round. Ultimate wins are rare. More often, success is a moment on a stream that we paddle up. We can stay there with effort, but setting the cruise control will likely sweep us back downstream.

The cardio to hold our ground in these areas is worth it. The empty laundry basket, some extra space in our jeans, a smile shared across the table—each is a reason to celebrate. Conquest may not be possible, but management is. Every effort in the journey makes today a better place and breaks trail for tomorrow.


Then there are tangles that never admit a truce: quicksand zones, where our struggle digs us deeper. Pleasing everyone. Trying to be perfect. Social media debates where everyone is yelling and no one is listening.

Surrender can be the best course correction even without roadblock flashers. There is only so much of us to go around. Saying yes to one thing means saying no to others.

There is no shame in admitting a battle isn’t worth the fight, and choosing not to engage. Hard work is necessary to live and love well–we know life isn’t all about us or what makes us happy. But sometimes it’s more helpful for everyone if we care from a distance rather than jumping into the mosh pit.

Our strength and focus are worth saving for the right battles in God’s timing. We have to follow the Spirit’s leading to know when to invest ourselves and when to guard our pearls from death by bacon.

So clean out your email inbox, keep praying for breakthrough, put on your deodorant. Fight the battles that make life sweeter in the process and release the ones that come only to steal, kill, and destroy.

Eventually I had to find another way to laugh with my son at lights out. We abandoned the game, but held onto the joy.


Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces. Matthew 7:6 NIV

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. John‬ ‭10:10‬ ‭NIV‬‬

How do you see this at work in your life? What battles could you leave behind to gain victory?

Toss Photo by Thiago Cerqueira on Unsplash

Picking Our Battles

“Pick your battles.”  It’s a pretty common phrase, especially with regard to parenting and marriage relationships.  The idea being that you can’t work on everything all at once.  One month into our life as missionaries in Costa Rica, the wisdom has an interesting ring.

Jam LineupMany of the changes we are facing don’t raise any quarrel within me.  Cooking from scratch has always been close to my heart.  Fully weaned from my bread machine, my new motto is “There’s no sense in making a single batch of anything.”   My KitchenAid has never felt so appreciated.  Multigrain bread, dinner rolls, pizza dough, and cinnamon rolls have all risen beautifully to the challenge of life in the tropics, at least for the short time they’re allotted before being devoured.  Last weekend I even made some jam.  My favorite strawberry-rhubarb of the prairie made way for mango-pineapple and straight pineapple, with delicious results.  And no one could quibble with the ever-changing dance of clouds across the mountains that we drink in every morning from our balcony.  The frequent rainstorms beat a rhythm that my heart sings to, and the sandal-worthy weather is a delight, even when cool temps make me reach for a hoodie.

Some of the new experiences are neutral.  Putting bathroom tissue in the wastebasket rather than the plumbing is more an exercise of memory than of will.  Exploring each grocery store’s limited repertoire for the things we need, figuring out a new shopping routine, and travelling by foot is a good opportunity to interact with the local culture and language.  I’ve gotten used to ignoring the traffic whizzing by on Calle Principal (Main Street) and being fully aware of the people around me.  When Eliana and I got caught out in a heavy downpour, we laughed at the raging gutter-rivers we had to ford to bring our milk and flour home.  Had we forgotten the umbrellas, it could have been significantly less amusing.  Getting splashed by buses was a one-hit wonder to check off our bucket lists.

Then there are the situations that, despite our efforts, we aren’t able to fully conquer.  We can wash all of our dishes religiously, wipe the counters regularly, sweep the floors, and put down Terro dots (ant bait), but there will always be tiny hormigas foraging across most surfaces of the house and fruit flies hovering in the kitchen.  When researching roach control, the first two tips are to completely seal off entry points and eliminate water sources, neither of which is possible in tropical houses.  Locks, fences, and window bars we have, but weatherstripping is absent where windows stay open year-round.  It appears, though, that the tube of gel bait left behind in our house by previous language school students still has some kick to it.  My squeal upon finding a victim in my utensil drawer rallied the whole house.  I don’t mind dispatching the intruder–although I much prefer they don’t come in at all– it’s just the surprise of discovery that catches me off guard.

Grout AttackThere are some things, however, that I’m taking on with my fists up.  Spanish prepositions, for example.  We’ve gone a few rounds, but I’m determined to best the different uses of por and para, entre and hasta.  I’m doing battle with my inner introvert who would rather clam up than speak imperfect Spanish to the neighbors on our block.  Hopefully, the chocolate chip scones we took them will increase their grace for learning gringos.  And while I can’t fix the peeling paint, temperamental light switches, or cracked tiles of our rental house, I can make it clean and well-organized.  Every day we attack a little more of the remaining clutter and sort it into working systems.  Time spent scraping paint off of windows and grout slops off of tile are making the best of this space that we’ve been given for this school year.  Decorations are finding their way onto walls, and new family routines are forming.

So we’ll pull out the putty knife and scrub brush.  We’ll click up the razor blade, squirt the degreaser, study the grammar, and invest in new relationships.  With every battle wisely picked, with every bit of ground we gain against ourselves, the language, or our surroundings, we make Costa Rica more our home.

For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever!  2 Corinthians 4:17