Snakes in the Bushes

“A snake! Dad, I just saw a snake! A poisonous snake!”

Last week Clark was washing dishes as I heated up left-overs when Hannah burst through our back door with that pronouncement.

I began to calmly inform Hannah that there are no venomous snakes in this part of Kenya and in fact the chance that she had seen any sort of snake was vanishingly slim. That’s when we heard Luke’s scream.

In six years of parenthood, we’ve learned that with children there’s screaming and there’s screaming.

There’s the “my sister is not playing stick-ball with me in the exact way I envisioned” scream and the “I’ve fallen out of the loquat tree and now my arm appears to have been altered from its original shape” scream. Luke’s was the latter.

That yell is like a direct punch to the adrenal glands. My stomach dropped, my heart rate doubled, all the fight in me was ready to go.

Clark beat me to Luke. He scooped him up and began a less-than-subtle, rapid physical exam as he asked Luke, Was he hurt? Did the snake bite him? Where did it bite him?

After several minutes Luke’s wails subsided and he told us that he was crying because he was scared, not hurt. He was scared because as he was playing outside, a literal arm’s reach from our house, he had suddenly realized that he didn’t know Clark’s precise location.

He had been nowhere near Hannah’s snake sighting. In fact, he was unaware that the sighting had occurred.

Striped Baby Simon, keeping a lookout directly above the suspected snake sighting locale

As we headed back inside for dinner Hannah described the yellow-striped, black snake she’d sighted suspiciously close to the location of our neighbor’s garden hose.*

I keep thinking about how our gray cells can transform a rubber tunnel into a deadly reptile or shift us from assuredness to panic in an instant.

The Kakamega Rainforest in Northern Kenya – A place we may one day actually see a venomous snake as around 10 of the known 28 species found here are of that variety!

In medicine we talk about “satisfaction of search” – the idea that once you have a somewhat reasonable explanation for someone’s symptoms, you stop looking for other possible diagnoses.

I remember a 67-year-old gentleman who presented with difficulty walking and who we managed for severe anemia on the medicine service here at Tenwek for two days before realizing that he had an awful displaced, distal femur fracture (right above his knee) that he’d been walking around on for a couple weeks! We had assumed his “trouble walking” was dizziness due to his low hemoglobin and stopped considering other possibilities.

Not a normal leg X-ray.

So how do I combat this tendency to see snakes in the bushes, hear mortal wounds in my child’s screams, or miss an important diagnosis because I’m satisfied with the answer in front of me?

I’m not sure.

Obviously, mis-readings of a situation are going to happen. But time and time again the Bible describes God-followers as trees deeply rooted near a water source. We read that this results from a consistent pursuit of God over time. The mind that spends time pondering and repeating what is read in God’s word and spends time with the Lord in prayer—declaring who He is, giving thanks, waiting silently—is somehow less easily misled. It becomes attuned to Truth.

Today this is discouraging to me. I wonder how I will find the time to “meditate on [God’s word] day and night” in the midst of supporting Clark and the burden of grief and loss he carries from young patients lost at the hospital, teaching and rearing our kids, and supporting our team, community, and visitors (alongside children who are prone to fleeing outside in terror of imaginary warthogs in their closets in a most unpredictable manner–usually without pants on).     

But I don’t want to be someone “…tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching…” (Eph 4:14, ESV). So I’m thinking how to put the roots down deep.

During this month of US Thanksgiving, I’m trying to be with God in gratitude. Gratitude that there are not venomous snakes in our corner of Kenya. Gratitude for three healthy kids with vigorous imaginations. Gratitude for a husband who has a tender heart. Gratitude for the chance to be part of the Tenwek community. Gratitude for many of you who have supported our family since we moved to Kenya five years ago.

.I’d love to hear ways you’ve found to be with God and “meditate on His law” during busy seasons and what you are grateful for these days. Leave a comment or email me (

“Blessed is the man…
[whose] delight is in the law
[b] of the Lord,
    and on his law he meditates day and night.

He is like a tree
    planted by streams of water
that yields its fruit in its season,
    and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers…”

Psalm 1 (ESV)

*If you are considering coming to Tenwek for a visit let me take this chance to say again: we do NOT have venomous snakes at Tewnek. I cannot however guarantee that you won’t meet some kiddos with overactive imaginations…

2 thoughts on “Snakes in the Bushes

  1. I was just thinking about these similar things this morning! The Lord prompted me to put on some of our Seeds Family Worship scripture CDs. As I helped the kids through school lessons, made breakfast, and answered texts from friends- I was surprised at how much the music helped me to returned in each moment to the grounding-rooting truth of God’s word. God met me today in those everyday moments. So for me, today it looked not like a deep time of spiritual quiet and away (big kiddo woke with a fever and interrupted that) but instead hearing His word sung through my home while I did the mundane normal tasks which kept my mind stayed on Him.


    • Katie, reading this inspired to cook dinner while listening to Sons of Korah (a group who have put the Psalms to music). I wonder about the benefit of hearing God’s word when I can’t give it my full attention, but now I can’t get the Psalms we listened to out of my head! Thanks for sharing this.


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