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.