I am beginning this story, not knowing how it will end. But isn’t that how each day of our life begins… not knowing how the day will end until our head falls to the pillow that night? So although I’m unsure of how their story will end, this is my story of the Three Little Birdies and their beginning.
My family has been keeping watch on a nest of three Cardinal bird eggs. Their nest is securely tucked within the branches of a tree, right beside a small table beneath the canopy on our deck. It’s kind of funny because we have nicknamed this space The Party Canopy, as we find ourselves out there quite a bit–enjoying lazy summer evenings with our children and neighbors (well, when we aren’t all running to field hockey, swim meets, soccer, or basketball practices). So this Mama Bird had to know what she was getting herself into when she selected this often rowdy location to raise her little family. I guess that makes her a party bird.
Well, early in the dark morning hours on a recent Sunday, a raging flash flood hit Louisville. Our emergency phone alerts woke us from deep sleep: FLASH FLOOD upon us. It left much of our city in disarray, with some people losing absolutely everything. Our own neighborhood was affected, as we have a creek running through many of the back yards. Here was ours:
As Husband and the boys were running around outside, I was in the basement laundry room monitoring a leak from a crack in the wall. I ran upstairs to check on the condition of the creek, and by the time I got back down to the basement, water was pouring into the laundry room and adjoining rooms from the top of the sump pump and the floor drain. There was no where else for the flood waters to go.
Eventually, the rains stopped. The waters receded, we got the basement under control, and the sun came out. That’s when it dawned on me…
In the midst of the morning’s chaos, I had totally forgotten to check on the eggs. Scared of what I would (or wouldn’t) find, I walked over to the canopy and peeked inside the nest. There were no eggs…
But in their place, there were three newborn Cardinals.
At some point in the past 24 hours, the birdies had broken through their eggs and joined this world, only to be welcomed by a flash flood, of all things. I was shocked that these delicate, vulnerable creatures had survived. Mama Bird soon arrived with food, and I continued to be amazed by the new little lives before me. I know that watching the progression from bird eggs to baby birds being hatched is nothing new under the sun, but it was poignant for me this time…
About a week before the flood, I finished reading a beautiful memoir about a 12-year old boy named Jack. In their Virginia suburb, Jack was playing with his friends near the neighbors’ creek when a flash flood took his life. The name his mother gave to him and aptly named his memoir: Rare Bird. There were many reasons his family chose this name, and one of them was based on a beautiful poem a family friend had written after Jack’s death. I had been thinking a lot about Jack in recent days, and even more so when I saw the words FLASH FLOOD appear on my phone screen that morning. I had already told my sons about Jack. And we talked about his life as we watched our creek flood into our yard, carrying the neighbors’ broken bridge away in its relentless currents.
So I guess in their own timely way, these three little birdies were a sign of life for me. A sign that life goes on. Not forever in this world, but in the next. I wrote one of my favorite Scriptures on our board that morning:
The verse has added meaning for me now, because it is a verse that Jack’s 10 year old sister, Margaret, was drawn to just months before Jack’s death. Its significance for their family is remarkable and certainly one of those ‘God things’– a whisper, a wink, a reminder that He is aware of every detail of our life, and wants us to feel His presence…especially in life’s darkest moments.
Fast forward to Tuesday, two days after the flash flood that dumped over five inches of rain on our city. The Flash Flood warnings came again, this time promising to be worse than the last, accompanied by heavy winds. Husband knew my worry over the birdies and what would happen to their vulnerable nest during the storm. So in the moments before the flash flood, as the ominous clouds darkened and leaves began swirling around us, he worked quickly to fasten his storm poncho-tarp over the nest, creating a canopy to protect the birdies as best he could.
As soon as we moved away from the tarp, it warmed my heart to see both Mama and Daddy Cardinal come to the branches in the beginning moments of the storm. Did they understand? Or did they think we were crazy? (Probably the latter.)
And so we waited. From the window of the den, I anxiously watched as the winds tore through the branches around them. And as silly as it sounds, I prayed protection over those birdies.
The storm passed, our creek did not flood, and our basement remained dry. And as we went to the nest following the storm, we found that so were our three little birdies, and their mama bird who hovered in protection over them.
Several days later, our family left for the beach. I knew that our Cardinal birdies would be gone by the time we returned, as they typically leave the nest around day nine or 10. On day 11, I texted my neighbor and asked her to check on the nest. “Just now looked,” she wrote. “Nothing in the nest but two small leaves.” And with that, my story of the three little birdies ends. But not without teaching me a lesson through their brief time under our watch…
We do our best to to love, to protect, to have faith that things will turn out how we want them to, how we think they should to turn out. But as we have all learned at some point in our lives, our ways are not the ways of God. We question His motives, His sovereignty, His will for our lives. Especially when bad things happen. For comfort, we turn to verses like the one above from Isaiah 43, but what happens when the waters do sweep over us? When they do overtake us, even to the point of taking the life of a loved one, as was the case with Jack? What happens when the plans and future God promises us in Jeremiah 29:11 ends up being our time on earth cut way shorter than we planned?
After reading Jack’s story in Rare Bird and experiencing the flash floods last week while watching over our own little birdies, I was given a new perspective on verses like the ones from Isaiah and Jeremiah. I see them from an eternal perspective now, rather than an earthly one. The waters will come… but He will be with us when they do. The waters might sweep over us on this earth, but He has redeemed us by giving us life in the next. We are God’s workmanship, we belong to Him, and nothing can separate us from Him. Certainly not death.
This is the last photo I took of our birdies. I do not know how their story ends, and I never will. But regardless what happened to them from this moment on, their beginning taught me a lesson.