Monday, July 27, 2015

Wobbly-Bobbly Baby Birds

Gazing at the birdhouse door, I see tiny heads bobbing around. I’ve seen three at once vying for a spot at the door. But I suspect there is a fourth, or maybe more. Tree swallows lay four to seven eggs, according to my bird book. The little ones push and shove each other for a peak outside hoping to be first at the next tidbit of food. Mama and Poppa tree swallow are kept busy all day feeding their little flock.

We’d cleaned the birdhouse and painted it green this year, to make it ready for a new bird family. Yet when we hung it outside this spring, I began to wonder if we would have a family move in. Two sets of tree swallows competed for the house chasing each other off and leaving it empty. Somehow the conflict got settled after a couple of weeks, and the new residents finally moved in. I don't think they cared much about the new paint job.

Mama swallow literally feathered her nest. Chuckling, I watched her work hard to get a feather larger than herself into the small hole that serves as a doorway to the birdhouse. She finally managed to angle the feather just right, and in it went.  Persistence paid off.

What is it about babies and the young that intrigue us so?
Is it their innocence?
Their exuberance?  
Their lack of self-consciousness, yet total self-centeredness?
Their utterly adorable, tottery, wobbly, little selves?

Baby “anythings” from animals to humans seem to embrace life with abandon. And so our little bird family delights and entertains us.

Jesus loves children. I’m so glad to be a child of God. In God’s kingdom you don’t have to be young in years to be His child. You just need to reach out to Jesus and He will welcome you. I’m sure there must be times my heavenly Father chuckles at my antics, my efforts, my faux pas, my tottering. Just as we value our little wobbly, bobbly, baby birds, Jesus values all of His children and considers them dear.

“But Jesus called the children to him and said, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.’”  Luke 18:16 NIV


Sunday, October 26, 2014

Unexpected Fruit

“Have you seen what’s growing on your tree?”

“What?” I asked puzzled.

The Japanese dogwood looked normal from my kitchen window. Across the yard its leaves had just a hint to red as fall set in. At least that’s what I thought was happening. My daughter, Heather, had come to help us with some seasonal yard work.

“Come outside and look.” She said. So I went wondering what on earth she was talking about.

But when I saw it, I was amazed! From my kitchen widow what I had thought to be the beginning of fall colors was actually fruit. Strange looking fruit!

“Fruit, on a dogwood tree? This is mystery.” I declared.

Most of the fruit, and there was a lot, was on the side of the tree where the afternoon and evening sun shone brightly. So it was only sparsely visible on the side facing my kitchen window. Another much older Japanese dogwood across the yard had never fruited. I had no idea they would, or could.

I’d never seen this kind of fruit before…anywhere. But there it was!  It was about the size of an apricot, bright red and bumpy all over. Heather picked one off the tree and broke it open.

“It smells kind of like a…peach.” She announced thoughtfully. Then touching her tongue to it, she said, “It tastes, well a little peachy… maybe… only not so sweet.”

“I hope it’s not poisonous.” I said, wary of this odd looking fruit, that I had never seen and knew nothing about.

Later that evening, Heather sent me an email. She had ferreted out information on our dogwood tree’s strange fruit. I laughed as I read the description:

It’s a Cornus Kousa Dogwood, a dog-on good dogwood with large, bumpy, red fruit that looks like a raspberry on steroids.”

Thankfully, it wasn’t poisonous. However, people can’t agree on the taste… sort of like an apple, a persimmon, a peach…all were suggested. Evidently some folks have tried to make jam from it, but said the flavor goes flat with cooking.

Since cooking is not my first love, there is no danger that the fruit will go flat. It doesn’t seem like anything to worry about harvesting either. I’ll gladly let the birds and deer feast on it.

Unexpected fruit!

Sometimes a surprise harvest of fruit shows up in someone’s life, too. Someone may bless you unexpectedly without even realizing it. Like May…she’s a lady in my Bible study group. When we share our prayer requests, May always starts hers by thanking the Lord for a specific current blessing. The rest of us tend to go directly to our requests—our concerns, our worries—but not May.

The other day I told May what a beautifully thankful heart I saw in her, and how it blessed me. So when my turn came around to share requests for prayer, I made my first one an expression of thankfulness, too.

May, said, “Each day the Lord provides so many small blessings, they go unnoticed unless we open our eyes to see them.”

I’d like to do better at noticing God’s daily blessings and gain the fruit of thankfulness in my life. I want to start my prayers with a thankful heart to the Lord who wisely provides all things. Will you join me?

“…for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true.” (Ephesians 5:9 ESV)

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Summer Weddings

Summer makes me think of lazy days, warm and bright and generally relaxing. But when a wedding is afoot, there’s no time to relax. You’re busy before the wedding preparing for the big day. And after the wedding, it’s cleaning up and figuring out what to do with leftovers, decorations, etc.

Such was the case in our family this summer. We celebrated a wedding and a renewal of vows wedding. Two wedding celebrations, and both were special. The first had all the trimmings of a true wedding; the second very weddingish, but posed less fuss in preparation and take down. Yet both brought much meaning and rejoicing.

The first was our granddaughter’s wedding. Bridesmaids and groomsmen were dressed in somewhat casual wedding finery. A special venue was acquired with décor more on the natural side, summer flowers, votive candles set in rustic, sawn branches, and simple but yummy refreshments. The backpacking love of the young bride and groom was reflected as guests were encouraged to make themselves a small snack-sack of backpackers goodies to take home as a remembrance gift from the newlyweds.

The bride was lovely and the groom handsome dressed in their wedding attire.  Dad and Mom gave their daughter to her young man. The ceremony was performed, vows repeated, and bride and groom literally danced down the aisle after they were pronounced “Mr. and Mrs.” The cake was cut and a happy celebration followed into the night. It was a fun wedding…one with much laughter as well as great joy.

The second, was my oldest daughter’s renewal of her wedding vows with her husband. They’d not had much of a wedding first time around, so decided to make the vow renewal something special. She bought that wonderful wedding dress she’d desired, and became a lovely bride: he in his new suit became the handsome groom. The venue overlooked the water of a gorgeous lake, and décor though simple was elegant, the food delicious. The brides love of preserving was demonstrated in small jars of jam for each of her guests to take home as a gift. One of the groom’s relatives officiated. Her dad and I gave her away…again. They shared vows they had prepared especially for one another reflecting renewed love. How precious and sobering. The cake was cut while friends and relatives rejoiced with them.

Two wedding celebrations with contrasts and similarities.  The young couple starry eyed with love for one another anxiously looked forward to beginning the new experiences of married life together. The older couple, experienced in marriage with one another, knowing the ups and downs of life together, the rich and poor, the sickness and health, all of it, still wishing to openly continue loving one another.  The young couple chose to leave parents to cleave to each other. The older couple chose to cleave to one other more tightly than ever before.

God ordained marriage, and marriage is honorable.  It’s a place for intimacy and the expression of love on many levels and under many circumstances. Marriages fail all too often these days. Yet God intended marriage to be a close and loving relationship between a man and a woman that lasts a lifetime.

How can we preserve our marriages? Forgive, listen, set aside self and give time to our mate, preserve through hardship, so many things…if only we will do…do…do what God designed for us to do in marriage. Love and cleave. Isn’t that what we say when we marry, “I do”?

“… a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.” (Genesis 2:24 NIV)

Friday, July 18, 2014

Goodbye Birdies

They’re gone! Flown the coop. Vacated. The whole family! In one day they moved out of the birdhouse, lock, stock, and barrel. Totally and completely gone. We were so busy that day we missed their departure. And when we realized, it was a Blue day.

We had noted that one (or one at a time) of the little birds where practically hanging out the door for a while. This was much like what there mother used to do when she was nesting. But even though they were up, visible, and looking at the world outside, mother bird was still coming back and forth with food for them. We thought they were adventurous little ones, perhaps getting ready to fledge. I guess they were. I guess they did.

We’ll miss the little family. Watching them go through the stages of bird life was fun. It’s strange to me how birds can have a nice cozy home, and then vacate it as soon as the little ones fledge and leave. Camping out in trees or bushes must be more appealing to them. I’m spoiled; I’d take the cozy house any day.

A few other species of birds have stopped on the birdhouse stoop to peek in. But then they fly away. They aren’t interested in a once used home. (I have to say our bird neighbors left quite a mess!) The birdhouse swings in the summer breeze, quiet and empty of life. We’ll take it down soon.

Our plan is to clean out the birdhouse and paint it. There’s nothing like a fresh coat of paint to spruce up a home. We’ll have the little house all ready for next spring. Perhaps then a new family will move in. We’d love to welcome some new feathered neighbors.

The Bible tells of a religious man who knew God had said, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” So the man asked Jesus, “Who is my neighbor?” Jesus told the story of the good Samaritan and then answered the man’s question. “The one who showed him mercy.” (Luke 10:25-37) 
I hope we’ve been good and merciful neighbors to our little bird friends.

“Mercy”…It’s a word with many facets. What would showing mercy to neighbors mean for you?

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Hungry Babies

Mouths open wide, two baby birds sit at the birdhouse door. They’ve seen their mama coming with something good to eat, a juicy worm or delicious bug. These little ones are growing bigger and stronger. I’ve found that hungry little birds can raise a noisy ruckus, just as their human counterparts when they are hungry. I’m so happy they’re alive and thriving.

My heart jumps at the thrill of seeing them in action. I wish my camera shudder moved as quickly as my heart. Its slight delay causes me to miss the snapshot I’d hoped for. Food is transferred from mother to babies—so quick.

Nevertheless, I can watch. Those two baby birds returned to their nest made it through their trauma and are doing well. The bird family is intact and busy. My feet do a little happy dance while my face breaks into a broad grin. Life! It brings such joy. (See past blog for the trauma story.)

Watching this little bird family causes me to hark back to days with my grandparents. Grandpa was special, but he was elderly. His energy level was not that of a younger man. He kept as active as he could. But each afternoon he’d lie on the living room couch in front of the big picture window and watch life on the street. He saw neighborhood children at play, an occasional pet, the twitter of birds, all the general comings and goings of people and creatures doing what they do within his view. Life pulsating.

Sometimes we cannot participate in what is going on around us, or just don’t have the strength to do so—especially as age overtakes. Yet watching life hum on around us helps. Even as an observer, we are part of it. We can enter into the emotions of life, enjoy it, and learn from it.

The bird family outside my kitchen window warms my heart as I observe their antics. They fill me with awe. I’m certainly not part of the bird community, yet I enter in as an observer. They’ve taught me what it is like to be a bird—sort of—to live outside where predators lurk, and where the need for vigilance is paramount to survival. They’ve shown me that God has made ways for them to “live off the land” and yet do no preparatory work. They’ve taught me about faithful commitment to one another in a family…even when life gets tough.

Life! It is simply a wonderful gift from God.

Jesus said, “…I came that they might have life, and that they might have it abundantly.” John 10:10b

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Birdhouse Continuity Returns  

After the disaster of my last blog, continuity seems to have returned to the birdhouse. Feathers from the predator have all blown away. The continuation of life as usual gives me hope that the baby swallows I returned to the nest are alive and recovering from their trauma of last week. Perhaps one day I’ll catch a glimpse of them under better circumstances than the first time I saw them. I’ll wait patiently to see.

Mr. and Mrs. Swallow are each at their posts. Mrs. Swallow hovers over her nest with occasional short flights, I assume for food. Too bad swallows prefer flying insects to birdseed. The bird feeder filled with seeds of various kinds hangs at the other end of the birdhouse pole. Mr. Swallow also seems to be supplying some food. He flies around and returns to stop at the birdhouse perch and poke his head in or enter briefly. Then he returns to his spot atop the pole, or flies off again to repeat the scenario.

Birds are twitchy and quick. They run fast, fly swift, and have wonderful coordination. They land so efficiently on a twig or the edge of a bucket. Their balance is unprecedented. They can take off and be at full speed in a nano-second. And they don’t run into anything or each other (well, mostly they don’t). Amazing! I am in awe of these little creatures.

I watched a robin bathing in the birdbath this morning. It was a quick splashy bath. His feathers ruffled and wings fluttered and water was tossed around. He seemed to enjoy his bath. Then he hopped on the ledge, looked around for a moment shaking his feathers, and flew off. So quick! Later two Cassin’s finches decided to enjoy a communal dip. It’s fun to watch their antics.

Each morning I awake to birdsong. Why, I wonder are the chirps and trills of these little creatures such pleasant sounds in my ears first thing each day? Sound is such an interesting thing. Pleasant ones are quite soothing. Many birdsongs are a delight to hear.

Sometimes a break from the rush and drama of life is so refreshing. I think our birdhouse dwellers are enjoying that today. I’m so thankful things are continuing on normally in the birdhouse. We also need occasional days that just hum along…mellow and predictable…days that start gently and end quietly. Today feels like one of those days for me as well. I’m glad. I hope you’re having a peaceful day, too.

“And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.”  (Colossians 3:15)

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Gloomy Gray Bird Day

It’s been gray all day. First the sun hid behind gloomy gray clouds creating coldness like fall, not warmth like almost summer. I needed a warm jacket when I went out to buy groceries. Finally the sun  peeked out beneath the clouds late in the afternoon, but by then another gray gloominess had settled over us.

Returning home from shopping, I found that a tragedy had occurred. As I put away my groceries, I peered out my kitchen window and noted feathers—lots of feathers on the ground around the birdhouse. Immediately I went out to investigate. The birdhouse was quiet. The feathers were not from the swallows. They were wide feathers, white, black, and gray/brown stripped. “Whose feathers could they be, and why are they scattered about,” I wondered?

As I walked around the area puzzled, my eye caught a tiny pink form lying on the deck step a few feet away. A featherless baby bird, Its eyes not even open, lay helpless. I went over and examined it carefully. It was breathing. The tiny body felt warm as I gently picked it up. It seemed unhurt, but its belly was large and bluish. I wasn’t sure if the fall from the birdhouse nest had perhaps caused an internal bleed.

Everything came clear. A menacing bird must have attacked the little family. There was surely a fight! The vigilant swallows no doubt fought for their little family’s lives. It happened while I was gone, so only a short time had passed since the fray.

As I gazed at the tiny creature warm and breathing in my hand, my eye caught another below the step on the pebbly sidewalk. Why hadn’t I seen it? This little bird was also alive and breathing. I gently picked it up and laid it beside the other in my hand. It's belly resembled the others', so I hoped that represented a normal look for baby birds instead of an injury. Neither made so much as a peep. Then I saw another tiny form about two feet farther on the path. This little bird was not breathing and had obviously been injured. Sadness filled my heart. I searched the area carefully for more, but no more were found.

The nest seemed abandon for the moment. I didn’t know if other babies were still inside and safe. I also didn't know if mother swallow would reject these two little ones if I returned them to the nest since I had handled them. Yet they could not survive without their mother. One-by-one I put the two surviving babies back inside the small round door of the birdhouse. Then I went inside to watch from my kitchen window.

Soon Mrs. Swallow returned. She sat on the perch and looked inside. Then she looked again. She flew off and circled around quickly returning to repeat the same behavior. But this time she went inside and disappeared out of sight. I hoped she was glad to find her two lost babies there.

I prayed for the little bird family as I buried their tiny sibling. It helps to know God knows. He understands the ways of nature in our fallen world. He doesn’t miss even the difficulties of his smallest creatures. I cared, but He cares more.

Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father.”  (Matthew 10:29)