Tending Our Nest

Dear Will:

Every March or April for the past I-don’t-know-how-many, birds have taken up residence in the eaves above our front door. They have treated the nest there like a vacation home, abandoning it as summer approaches and then returning the following year in early spring. Their return always involves some basic home improvement and busy-ness, signaled by random twigs discarded on the welcome mat outside our front door. A couple of years ago we even saw a second nest appear maybe three feet from the original, transforming our porch into a bustling housing tract. We were delighted.

Then last summer we felt compelled to repaint the exterior of our home. In preparing for their work, the painters cleaned the eaves around the full perimeter of the house, discarding (I’m sad to say) the abandoned nests in the process. We wondered if we would ever see our birds again.

So you can imagine our delight a few weeks ago when twigs began appearing outside our front door once again. In no time the vacation home had been reconstructed, and before long we began hearing the familiar sound of hungry baby birds.

To satisfy our curiosity without agitating the mother and her babies, we sometimes stand inside our home and sneak a peek through the window at the young family that lives in “our nest.” Although we do not have the well-placed camera you get on a National Geographic Special, if you’re patient you can stand just a few feet away and see the tiny heads poking out and calling for supper. You’ll also see the mother, coming and going, coming and going, tending to the needs of the tiny birds in her care.

All too soon the little brood will be gone.  Somewhere nearby, our baby birds may stand chirping in a tree or may bounce along the grass foraging for food. Perhaps they will join many others at the birdfeeder in our backyard, or perhaps they will depart, never to return. I suppose it’s even possible that one of them will find a mate and return to the nest beneath the eaves. I don’t really know how it is with birds. But this I do know: For now those fragile lives are almost entirely dependent on the vigilant care of their mother. She will nurse them and feed them, guard them and teach them, prepare them as best she can and then step aside and watch—I imagine with some anxiousness— as they head off to find their way in the world beyond the protection of our eaves.

Inside our home, it has ever been thus. My wife has nursed and fed and guarded and taught, worrying and praying and willing our children from infancy to adulthood. Now she stands aside, watching from afar, as two of our three have left the nest and are trying mightily to take flight in the perilous world beyond our doors. There is little more that she can do at this point, but it does not keep her from worrying night and day about their welfare. It would not surprise me if, even as I write these lines, she is kneeling again at her bedside, beseeching her Heavenly Father to watch over her precious little ones.

I know this also: The love poured out by that kneeling woman is unwavering, heartfelt, as powerful as any emotional force in the universe.  As Dana watches her children take those first tentative steps of adulthood, she feels every misstep, shares every heartache, celebrates every success, and thrills at every opportunity to watch her children rise and answer the challenges of real life. This does not make her unique; it makes her a mother.

Thank God for her, and for those like her, and for the children they continue to bless with their unrelenting love.


The Safest, Surest Course

Dear Will:

Last month we caved in and finally got our daughter Bryn a dog. She had been working us pretty steadily for nearly a year, a no matter how many obstacles we threw in her way, she still seemed to find a way around them. You might say she was doggedly determined. So as her ninth birthday approached we knew we had little choice: It was time to head to the pound.

We returned home with Barnum, an exuberant little mutt with a propensity to walk on his hind legs, leap up to try to lick your nose, and steal the wiffle ball in the middle of a game of home run derby (Snoopy made a much better shortstop). He is also a submissive pup, inclined to pee on the carpet when he gets in trouble. He is full of energy and prone to mischief, but inasmuch as he adores our daughter (and she him) we have accepted him more or less as one of us.

Not long after we had brought him home, Dana and I were out for the evening while we left Luke, our 13-year-old, in charge of the others. The three kids decided to take Barnum down to Linda Vista School and let him run around. Since they were alone at the school they released the dog from his leash and to let him tear around the grass. They were having a wonderful time when another couple from the neighborhood appeared on the school grounds with a pair of German Shepherds—also off leash. Well, as you might imagine those big dogs spotted Barnum right off and the chase was on. Of course meek little Barnum wanted nothing to do with two dogs three times his size, so he took off at full speed, leaving our children in a panic.

With the help of the extremely apologetic couple, Luke, Bryn, and Seth searched for Barnum for around half an hour. He was nowhere to be found. Worried sick and unsure what to do next, they finally gave up and went home—where they found Barnum lying in the garage, awaiting their return. Needless to say, they were amazed that Barnum knew the way home (he had been with us maybe two weeks at that point) and thrilled that he already recognized our house as his house, a safe haven where he knew he would be taken care of.

As I thought of what had transpired, I was reminded of Jesus’s parable of the Prodigal Son. You will recall that He told of a young man who laid early claim to his inheritance, left home and squandered it on riotous living. Plunged into poverty, he finally decided to return home, beg forgiveness, and ask for a job working as servant to his father. Rather than berate his son for his foolishness, the father instead held a great feast in his honor—for he who had been lost was found.

Jesus told that story to remind us all that no matter how far astray we might wander, when we make the effort to return to our Heavenly Father, He welcomes us with open arms. In that regard, when we find ourselves wandering where we shouldn’t or harried by the evil that surrounds us, it would do us all well to remember what Barnum already knows: that the safest, surest course is the one that leads us home again.