They kept coming back to it. Right outside my kitchen door, every 30 minutes I heard their chirping. Their chirps were strangely more audible than the cracks of thunder that caused my Springer to huddle beside my feet for security. Like clockwork they came — both mother and father cardinals, in intervals, bearing food for their fledgling. Hovering around her nest, they called out to her– crying to be heard over the torrential downpour. But she did not answer. She had taken that first brave leap from her nest the preceding day, trusting her fragile new wings to safely carry her.
Just like that, she was gone. And all that was left was her empty nest.
I have been following her story for a month now. A baby cardinal’s birth story that ironically began with a pair of mourning dove. I felt that God had sent the dove to bring me peace and little bits of ‘happy’ (and, yes, a distraction as well) in the month following my father’s passing. I wrote about those birds often — actually, I quite fear that I am becoming a ‘Crazy BIRD LADY’. And anyone who reads In The Messy is probably thinking that, too…
This is where her story began:
I guess I am so obsessed with birds lately because a) I do love wildlife, b) they are right outside my windows and door, c) I procrastinate doing laundry or dusting or sweeping by watching them, and d) their stories are a lot like ours.
Their story begins with an empty nest.
And it also ends with one.
I was quite comical taking the following photos. Because the nest was so securely tucked within the tree, I had to stretch my arm as far as I could through the branches, and with my thumb on my phone camera, I hoped to actually capture an image. I was so excited to retrieve my phone from the shrub tree and see that the first egg had been laid.
Despite my excitement, I was actually a tad bit sad because I felt sorry for the sole little birdie. “He will have no little birdies to snuggle with and keep each other warm,” I told Mark. But Practical Husband responded with, “Are you kidding?! That bird’s going to love that. He gets ALL the FOOD!” True. And what a cute little only child…
So we waited. Momma Bird, Daddy Bird… and I. (Geez, I feel like part of their family.) It really is tender to watch the Daddy bird take care of the mother while she nests, bearing gifts of worms and seeds and bugs. Yummy. And any moment that I caught her away from her nest, I would stretch my phone through the branches and snap a pic. (I’m sure she was watching from afar and wanted to fly down and peck my eyes out.) Days passed, and then one day, this:
Baby birds are the cutest little ugliest things ever.
I spent so many minutes watching those Cardinals take care of her. Despite the ‘wasted time’, time was not wasted. It really was a period of rest for me. Just resting in the goodness of nature and marveling at how these creatures instinctively know how to care for one another. It really does amaze me. Which is maybe why God knew to instruct us to take time away from our worries… to consider the birds.
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?
Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” ~ Matthew 6:25-27
I confess that I have been worrying a great deal lately…about a great deal of things. And I think these birdies are just what my ‘I’m in a funk‘ mood needed. These birds have reminded me that I am tended to by my Father in even a far more tender way than these birdies are tended to by theirs.
Just some of the photos I snapped of the parents standing guard and ready to feed their baby:
This past Tuesday morning, when Momma bird was away from her nest, I took the opportune time to check out how our little birdie was doing. And I’m glad I did. It was the last time I would get to photograph her in the nest.
There were torrential storms on Tuesday afternoon, even bringing forth hail. Which is why I was so worried on Tuesday evening, when the Momma and Daddy Bird were frantically calling all around the shrub trees that held the nest. But the Momma was not in the nest, which told me something.
Both parents held food in their mouths as they cried out to let her know their presence. I spent collective hours watching for any sign of her, for any sign of them feeding her. Research says that fledglings would hang around the nest site for days following leaving it, and the parents would continue to feed them. But the fledgling was nowhere to be found. Of course my worry took hold, and I assumed her new frail wings could not withstand the storms.
I feel that way sometimes, too.
That my wings will not withstand the storms.
But then God reminds us:
“Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” ~ Matthew 10:29-31
Needless to say, my nature-loving boys were also distraught (one in particular). So Henry instructed me to look for the baby all day Wednesday while he was at school. Well, God is good– because I didn’t have to look very far. You might, though… so I circled her for you.
Upon returning from carpool on Wednesday morning, I noticed the flutter of wings from within the trees– just a foot from where the nest is tucked. Then I heard her. And with great thankfulness, I listened to that baby birdie’s excited chirps as her parents brought her food throughout the day. And I can hear them outside now, as I write.
But one day soon I will no longer hear them, as those birds will move on with their lives… just as we will move on with ours. And in this season of empty nesting, as chapters close and new ones open, and friends begin to face their own empty nests, I am grateful for a full house now…even if having a full nest does bring stress and worries of its own. They are worries that momentarily dissolve, when I consider the birds.
So as I close out this too long tale about the Empty Nest, I realize this:
Our empty nests are never really empty.
They are filled with precious moments that the passage of time cannot erase. From the early stages of gathering, right through the time when fragile wings take flight, our nests are reminders of how far we have come… and the promise of what is to come: Flight. And Freedom in New Life. And in the midst of any storms to come, I will cling to the promise of the One who holds the Earth, and all living creatures within it. And I will continue to consider the birds.
“He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.” ~ Psalm 91:4