I have a bird feeder in my backyard.
Big deal. Everyone has a bird feeder.
Well, actually, it is kind of a big deal. I used to kind of scoff at bird watching. Yep, I am pretty much a terrible person. But I’m growing up. (It turns out, growing up just means you buy your own groceries, you decide for yourself when the speed limit is too fast on a certain road, and you scoff less). However, I didn’t realize I was such a scoffer when it came to bird watching until early January of last year, when one day I found myself staring through my kitchen window at the frantic birds scrounging around in the soggy, bleak backyard. My hands deep in the hot, sudsy water, rubbing grime off dishes that had sat in the sink too long, I watched the birds’ fretful hopping and pecking and was deeply thankful I had a grocery store right down the road. Then I realized, “Wait, why am I identifying with those birds? I’m bird watching! I’m like those people I’ve always laughed at.” And that’s when the self realization dawned: “<Gasp> Why do I laugh at bird watchers??!!” There it was, another bit of snobbery realized in my life.
A few days later, it snowed. My house was the warmest, coziest place it has ever been, but I found my eyes wandering out to those same little birds that I had watched a few days before. It turns out they were chickadees. I was watching them, and I was actually worrying about them. Where are they going to find any food? Why don’t I have a bird feeder? What kind of horrible human being am I? Wait, why am I worrying about this?
But those birds…they had a hold on my mind all of a sudden.
Then it didn’t seem so much like I just coincidentally started noticing birds. It was like it was all part of a plan. I attended the IF: Gathering at a friend’s home a month later in early February 2014 and listened to Shelley Giglio talk about birds. Why birds? What in the world? Well, birds are often used in the Bible to show men and women how God cares for his creation and how much more he cares for us. Shelley Giglio’s talk focused on verses from Psalms that have two bird references:
“1 How lovely is your dwelling place,
2 My soul yearns, even faints,
for the courts of the Lord;
my heart and my flesh cry out
for the living God.
3 Even the sparrow has found a home,
and the swallow a nest for herself,
where she may have her young—
a place near your altar,
Lord Almighty, my King and my God.
4 Blessed are those who dwell in your house;
they are ever praising you.” Psalm 83:1-4 (NIV)
Giglio went on to explain that a swallow is a very plain bird, brown and ordinary. The swallow in these verses was going about her natural work, being a mother, but the thing that stood out is that she was mothering in the presence of God. It was such a beautiful reminder to me that I don’t have to wait to seek God until all is quiet and still, I can bring my young and be with God in all things. I can dwell in my daily life, and the work of motherhood- the building the nest and having the young – can intersect with the sacred God who loves me as I am, ordinary and plain.
A year later, I still don’t exactly watch birds. I asked for a bird feeder for Christmas and it’s outside my kitchen window. The chickadees come and go on the frozen winter mornings, and it makes me happy to see them and give them a few seeds, but I’m still not fascinated by the actual creatures that I’m feeding out there. What I love is that anytime I see that bird feeder, I remember all I have learned in the past year. I know the work I do is sometimes mundane and not at all profound – it has all been done before. Yet, it is sacred. I’m in the presence of God in this nest of mine, and my children are, too. I’m reminded to scoff less, to appreciate the way I am cared for by my creator, to delight in the work of my hands. It’s amazing what one bird feeder can do. Who knows, maybe next year I’ll be carrying around a copy of National Audubon Society Field Guide for North American birds. At this point, I wouldn’t put it past me. All kinds of things can happen when you’re growing up.