Friday, August 10, 2012

more than just sticks and mud

Something significant happened at our house last week.  
A night of furious winds knocked a small nest out of a tree in the front yard.  
All that remains is a messy pile of leftover mud and sticks.

This wasn't the first blustery night the nest had endured, as it had been there for over a year.  My only guess is that it's perch in the tree had weakened because it had been vacant since spring and thus not been reinforced.  

When the nest's occupants were there, you could see the mother bird flying back-and-forth, back-and-forth, collecting twigs, grass, and mud to strengthen her home.  These two pictures above were taken last July.  You can see the baby bird's beak reaching up above the nest.  It was such a delight to hear their little chirps, begging for food.  When we took these photos, the mother was very still and you could tell she was on alert.  She was wary of us and what we were doing so close to her home.  I'm sure if we'd tried to cross that sacred threshold in an attempt for a closer look or to touch the birds we would have seen a fearsome side of her!

I picked the abandoned nest from the ground but something inside of me couldn't throw it away.  I felt like I was holding something almost sacred.  As I examined the craftsmanship from one of God's beautiful creatures, I was in awe of all the effort this mother bird had put into creating a place of refuge for her young.  How does a creature void of reason present such evidence of intelligence, design, and responsibility?  I imagine her decisively scavaging for just the right materials.  I can see in my mind's eye how determined she is as she carefully weaves twigs and grass, even the occasional treasured find of twine or yarn.  Holding it all together is a mortar she has made with mud and saliva.  She takes it step further, adding insulation to her work of art with feathers and more grass.

As she consciously selected her materials, I'm sure it must have taken time to find what she knew would best strengthen her nest.  Was she tempted to pick up the first twigs that she saw or was she enough aware of her purpose that she knew she must be particular?  Were twigs that at first glance seemed good enough but upon further examination discovered they would not benefit or fortify the kind of home she desired to build?

Parenting humans is not so different than mothering baby birds, I've decided.  We're working towards establishing a home of refuge and peace.  We yearn to create a place where our children feel confidence, acceptance, and love.  We desire to instill within them the knowledge that HOME is a tool they can use to progress in their goals, to achieve success.  So what kind of home are we building?  Unlike birds, we are creatures of reason (and opposable thumbs!).  Are we building our home with a focus?  To what end is our purpose?  Are we consciously weaving our refuge with materials that strengthen, fortify, and move us forward?  What kind of branches are we using as a foundation - are they strong, sturdy, sheltered from the elements?

I'm reminded of a story I read online about a woman  who delighted in a nest a bird had built in a tree just outside her door.  She checked on it often and one morning she saw four eggs had appeared sometime that week.  Eventually she heard the sweet sound of chirping baby birds.  Robin Van Wagenen, the author, continued her story:

"As time passed the chirping subsided, so I decided to check on things.  My heart sank when I realized tragedy had struck.  The danger had come not from without - but from within.  Two of the four young birds had grown up and flown away, but the other two had died, tangled by their feet in some plastic strands in th enest.  They had struggled to pull themselves free but could not do so.

I realized what went wrong.  When th emother bird had built her home, she used the usual twigs, branches, grass, and reeds.  But she had also been attracted to some colorful plastic strands that she wove throughout the nest.  They looked similar to natural materials, but they were a little flashier, a bit more shimmery.  They were not the same, however.  The plastic had no give, and when the two remaining baby birds had tried to get free, the articifial materials only pulled tighter."

The world assaults us daily with claims of bigger, better, newer.  The need to keep-up-with-the-Joneses and the mentality that we just "have to have it" in order to function and survive pushes us to place materal wants ahead of family necessities, financial peace, and even our time.  We're pushed not just towards products and distractions, but ways of thinking and standards of living.  Traditional standards, regardless that they come from scripture and a God that is unchanging, are considered "outdated" and old-fashioned.  All these things are presented in pretty boxes wrapped with shiny ribbon and bows.  How often do we let ourselves be drawn to the glitter and shimmer, tempted to weave them into our nest?  On the surface they seem harmless, but in the end will those be what restricts and holds us back?  Will they latch onto us and weaken our minds and resolve?

Holding this beautifully-woven structure in my hand, I recommit to a new awareness of what I am using to construct my own family's refuge.  I want my every-day-decisions to be focused on strengthening our family unit, creating a home of peace and confidence, and inspiring us to reach our divine potential. I'm motivated to make a more conscious effort to weave into our lives strands of courage, forgiveness, hard work, humor, testimony, and love.  Something that will withstand the gusts and blows life throws at us and insulate us from the elements of conformity and judgment that comes from those who find us old-fashioned and misunderstood.  I've a desire to be more selective about the things we bring into our home and ultimately into our hearts.

Each day I want to wake up and ask myself, 

Hope Sig1
"The democracy will cease to exist when you TAKE AWAY from those who are willing to work AND GIVE to those who would not."

Thomas Jefferson