Chicks in my nest

Yesterday was a good day.  A busy day.  A day especially fulfilling as a mom.  We’ve had a lot going on (like most people) and I’ve felt quite pulled in many directions.  However, I got to check some important boxes on my “mom list.”  I got the laundry caught up, took care of some things at home, and was out most of the day shopping for basic needs. We are blessed to live where food is available. I never take that for granted – especially after having been to Africa last year.  Some things in life seem so unfair, and so I try to be a good steward of our money and what it buys.

I love cooking and baking.  There is something gratifying about starting with nothing and ending up with a creation that makes others happy and satisfied.  We’ve been pantry-pullin’ (meaning eating out of the freezer, pantry and fridge) for quite some time to stretch the budget and eat what we already have.  But, there comes a point when a restock is necessary.  This was yesterday.  I asked my family what they would like and I made a list.

First, I went to one superstore to get the dry stuff.  After running carpool, going to the post office, etc. I made another trip to my local grocer to get the fresh stuff.  Both were long trips and I was ready to be done (but thankful I could do it in the first place).

As the kids and I unloaded the van and were putting the food away together, my daughter called me to the backyard.  We’ve been tracking the progress of a Robin’s nest for a while now.  The babies finally hatched (featured in yesterday’s post) and they are growing more restless by the day.  Their routine has been: sit quietly for a while, then frantically call for their mom who comes swooping in with a huge worm clutched in her beak.  She hoovers in the air, wings rapidly flailing, while she gives each baby bird part of the worm.  Then, in an instant, she flies off in search for more.  She’s extremely shy, and no matter how many times I quietly race out there with my camera, she’s gone in a flash.

In the middle of unloading everything, my daughter called to me that Mamma is back again with yet another worm to settle their veracious appetites.  I got there just in time to see her in action.  She was so quick, I couldn’t even focus my lens before she vanished.  But, for a brief moment, I watched her do her thing.  It touched me in a special way.  I stood silently and watched those babies rustle their feathers and squirm about in the nest.  They won’t be there much longer.  One baby hopped up onto the side of the nest and peered over the edge several times out of curiosity.

It was then I made the connection to Mamma Robin.  She and I, oddly, live similar lives.  She built a strong nest to hatch her babies.  The walls are unusally high, and even on the top step of a ladder (yeah, I know, what was I thinking!) I still could not see into the nest.  Indeed, she built a humble home for her little ones up under the roof of the house to protect them from the hawks that are common here.  She sat with them while they were very young, and now spends most of her time and energy caring for their needs.

Oh how I can relate!  Ironically, her flying to and fro made me chuckle as I had done the exact same thing yesterday, except I drove from store-to-store.

All three birds comfy and cozy yesterday.

Baby Robin #1 left home yesterday afternoon…and landed right into our pool.  My daughter didn’t hesitate to jump in after it.

It’s so scared!  But it’ll be fine.  It’s in good hands (literally!)

Wet, but safe!  It shakes off the water, as well as the whole experience, and runs under a bush.

Yesterday, two were left.

We can tell #2 is getting ready to leave by the way it paces and hops around.

<<Baby Robin #2 left sometime last night or early this morning.>>  We were excited to see her hopping around this morning.

The elusive mamma captured in a rare (albeit fuzzy) photo.

Baby Robin #3 is the only one left this morning.

While writing this post this morning, my kids called to me to come quickly.  I arrived just in time to see #3.  After perching on the edge and pacing back and forth, he finally gathered the courage and took flight.

Oops!  Trying to learn to fly, he landed in the pool, just like Baby #1.  My daughter rescued him as well.  Here is is wet and flustered.

The empty nest.

My mom’s heartstrings pulled as I gazed at this quiet nest.  For many days it was a time of anticipation and excitement.  The eggs hatched, and three adorable babies entered the world.  They grew a little each day.  Mamma Robin faithfully attended their needs.  They began to wriggle around in the nest, jockeying for position to receive the most food.  They discovered there is an edge to the nest.  And beyond the edge, there is something mysterious – a ledge of sorts.  On that ledge, they are able to see down to the ground and out into the horizon.  They curiously looked around, rustling their feathers and boasting their chests.  Mamma bird called and they jumped back into the nest.  There she found them waiting for another meal.  She left to hunt again, and they hopped back out onto the ledge, each time with a little more boldness and courage than the time before.

Then it happened.  The first one flew away.  The second one flew away.  The third one flew away.  The nest is quiet.  Mamma’s job tending the nest is finished.  She follows them on the ground for a while, still bringing them food, but no longer do they fly back to the safety of the nest.  They are on their own.  This is, indeed, the story of our children.

What seemed like forever waiting for these baby chicks to grow into cute, fuzzy birds, is now a mere memory recorded in pictures.

In my family, I have one chick perched on the edge, one rustling her feathers, and one pretty comfortable snuggled in the nest.  I can provide.  I can watch over them.  I can tend the nest.  But, I cannot stop time and nature from taking its course.

A bird can only appreciate her job so much.  She is, after all, a bird.  But, we are made differently.  We are made in the image of God – with thoughts, feelings and responses.  We have the ability to embrace the task of mothering that God has given us and do it to the best of our abilities.  I never once heard Mamma Robin squawking and complaining to the other mammas about her job.  I never saw her make the babies feel guilty for having needs.  We can learn a lot from this mamma.  Do we take our jobs to heart and show our gratitude for the blessing of our children?  Do we enjoy the time we have with them or wish it would hurry up and end?

I once overheard a mother in a store talking to a friend.  The mother’s middle school daughter was standing right beside her when the mother said, with great enthusiasm, “Yes!  I just have a few more years and then I am FREE!  I won’t have any of this anymore and I will be FREE!”  Oh how my heart broke for that beautiful young lady who stood there with her shoulders down and face to the ground.  That was several years ago.  I wonder how that mom is enjoying her freedom now, because I can’t imagine the daughter ever wanting to revisit her nest.

It’s a cliche, but time is short.  Make the most of it.  Most mothers wanted their children when they had them.  Do we truly act like it?  These are harsh words, but it’s the raw reality that in a self-centered society such as ours, the kingdom of mothers can quickly turn into a whiny parade of women who can’t let life be about anyone but themselves.

Our children will grow up and fly with or without us.  We have the responsibility to provide for their needs.  But, we have also been given the privilege to enjoy the journey along the way.  I lost my mom when I was 16.  I know time is short.  None of us know how long we have on this earth.  But, you have today.  I encourage you to enjoy it.  Enjoy tending the nest.  Enjoy providing.  Enjoy protecting.  Enjoy your children – while they are still children. And be thankful.

Favorite Fifteen! 15 things I love about being a mom

*** This just in!  For all of you wonderful people who prayed for my mother-in-law’s surgery yesterday, she came through it well.  We don’t know any of the details, but if I start getting weak in the knees I’m going back to the Scriptures from yesterday’s post!  Thank you for your prayers, emails, posts, texts and phone calls.  We appreciate them!

Okay…15 things I love about being a mom-in no particular order 🙂

*  I can convince my kids to dance with me in the middle of dinner.

*  “Say yes to the dress” while snuggling with my daughter on the couch.

*  When my tween son looks at me, his eyes sparkle and gleam with love that only a son can give.

*  My kisses possess magical power to heal hurts and hearts.

*   My high-school son keeps the notes I slip into his school lunch.

*  I have been blessed with this motley crew of humans that God put together under one roof who accept me just as I am.

*  All of our family’s private jokes.  Priceless!

*  I have dozens of pet names for my kids.  They know them all and answer to them!

*  They trust me and know I’ve got their best interest at heart.

* Performing an animated solo flash-mob to my teenage daughter while the grocery store’s overhead speakers played Whitney Houston’s song, “I will always love  you” in the middle of the checkout line last night.  The clerk laughed as I walked out with my arm around my sweet thing serenading her all the way to the van.

*  We’re not afraid to talk about the tough stuff.

*  The smell of their freshly washed hair.

*  Watching them grow into amazing young adults.  What a privilege.

*  They give me an excuse to drop everything and have a pillow fight in the living room!

*  No one else but my family would want to live with me! 🙂

So long, control freak

The warmer weather we’ve been blessed with this spring is good for both the body and soul.  Joggers, runners, walkers, dog-walkers, kids playing – everyone seems to be overjoyed at the temperate climate.  We, too, just have to get out and savor it!  One thing our family loves to do is bike ride.  Long rides.  Hours-long rides.  I make sure sunscreen has been applied; we check our tires for air; stock up on water and protein bars; dig out the sunglasses; make minor adjustments to our bicycle helmets; make sure everyone is wearing good socks; double-check that everyone has gone to the bathroom; grab my cell phone and a few band-aids and then set off for an adventure once Mom’s checklist is complete.  I take my job as mother very seriously.  While our chicks are in our nest, they are our responsibility.  It’s my job as a mother.  The job I’ve wanted since I was a very little girl.

One particular day, we chose to take a long ride on the less-traveled, country road versus the congested city path.  This back road is quiet and pretty.  There wasn’t another person or dog or vehicle anywhere.  My kids and I took our time cruising along the tree-lined street.  We were all well-spaced apart, because we could be on this lonely road – with no threat of danger.

I noticed my youngest son had lagged a bit behind, so I stopped my bike under a large shade tree to wait for him.  Birds sang, the breeze blew the tall, golden grass as if it were bowing down to the sun.  It was such a picturesque moment.  I was about 10 yards ahead of my little guy, patiently waiting, when all of a sudden a huge, black Suburban came barreling around the corner.  It came up behind my son like a shark locked on a target in the ocean.  My heart raced and palms began to sweat, as I stood wide-eyed and helpless – just out of reach to help my son.  I held my breath and said to myself, not wanting to startle him on his small bike, “Steady, steady, just don’t fall.”  Right as the Suburban passed him, my son hit a hole in the road and fell into the street.  I mean, exactly as the enormous vehicle whizzed by him, he fell directly into that space of road – narrowly escaping the large, heavy tires.

I gasped!  Then screamed!  Thankfully, he was okay.  The Suburban just missed him.  I ran to him, in shock of what had just happened.  We were on a desolate street.  Birds were singing, and we were enjoying such a wonderful bike ride, when in a split second everything changed.  I saw my son’s young life flash before my eyes.  Where did this vehicle come from?  Why did my son have to hit a hole in the road at the precise moment the vehicle passed by him?  Everything happened so fast. I was clearly shaken – more than him.

I asked him repeatedly if he was okay – both body and mind.  He was fine.  I was not.  He was young enough to shake it off.  I wasn’t ready to move an inch.  Not only did I witness something terrifying as a person, but this was my son and it is my job to keep him safe.  I felt like I had failed.  Miserably.  Physically, there was nothing I could do.  I was just far enough away that no matter how fast I can run, I couldn’t have intervened in the nano-second long moment.  For the rest of the long bike ride, I was haunted by the image of seeing him fall into the street, narrowly missing the large, ominous vehicle.  I replayed it over and over trying to think of anything I could’ve done to prevent the situation.  Nothing.  There was nothing I could’ve done.  That brought me back to feeling like a failure.

If you ask my husband, I can be a little over the top when it comes to keeping my kids safe.  Although this was a freak accident, I kept thinking that it must have been – in some way – my fault, because I couldn’t stop it.  Deep feelings of anxiety and angst welled up in my heart, and I nearly had to get off my bike to breathe.  That’s when God reminded me that He is the One who controls all – not me.  He is God of time and space – I am not.  He sees all, knows all, and is in all.  My job title as a mother is simply manager.  His job title as God…is God.  The two are not equal.  This was my lesson for the day.  Bad things do happen, and boy do we have stories of ER visits from school injuries, hardware store injuries, sports injuries, etc., because we live in a fallen, sinful world.  No one can escape that.  And I never thought I was God, that would be ridiculous and insane, but I had bought the lie that I could be the end-all, need-meeter for my kids.  Clearly, I cannot.  That was never written in my mommy contract.  I suppose my maternal hormones kicked in when I first became a mom and I hand-wrote an addendum to my mommy contract because Mamma Bear just can’t help it.  What that lie did was create an enormous amount of pressure on my myself to be the perfect mother.  Not to have perfect kids, but I believed that I could always be there, every time, for them.  This bike ride proved I cannot.

What I can do is release my children into God’s care.  Try as I might to be their best mother, I will fail sometimes.  A lot.  And that’s okay.  Because more than being dependent on me for every need, I want them to be dependent on God.  He is the One that knew them before they were born, knew their names first, counts every hair on their head, understands their every thought, every dream, and watches their every move – both past, present and future.  He is their all-in-all.  He’s mine, too.  Much peace returns to my heart when I remember His omnipotent presence.  Below is an excerpt from the devotional, Jesus Calling, by Sarah Young.

“This is a time in your life when you must learn to let go: of loved ones, of possessions, of control…You can feel secure, even in the midst of cataclysmic changes, through awareness of My continual Presence…The One who never leaves you is the same One who never changes…As you release more and more things into My care, remember that I never let go of your hand.”

Both Psalm 139: 1-17  and Psalm 121 roll around in my mind and speak Truth to my restless mother’s heart.  When I remember who God is, I am free to be who I was called to be – a mom, saved by grace, doing the best she can.  And, I have much peace knowing that God’s got my kids in His hands, even when they aren’t holding onto mine.

True Beauty

Recently, my teenage daughter and I began reading 5 Conversations You Must Have with Your Daughter by Vicki Courtney.  We were instantly hooked on this book!  It pulls no punches when discussing true beauty and self-worth compared to the false standard society wants us to believe.

The first section title reads, “You are more than the sum of your parts.”  Yes! Beautiful truth poured from this book into my daughter’s heart (and mine, too). Refreshing.  Empowering.  However, less than 24 hours later, I stood speechless in the checkout line at the grocery store as one magazine cover caught my eye.  It is a popular, mainstream magazine with its place marker square in the middle of the stand for all to see.  What I saw on it, I wished I hadn’t.  There was a woman, fully naked, donning the cover.  Even part of the article title said so-and-so bares all.  There was no ambiguity here…they absolutely put a fully naked woman on a magazine that will sit on mainstream stands across America, and who will see those magazine covers?  You, me, and our children.

I was still digesting the powerful statements and facts 5 Conversations gave us the night before regarding the value of inner beauty and the ugly lies disguised in the latest fashion trend, when there I stood face-to-face with the antithesis of the book.  A fury ignited in me.  How dare people subject my sons to this!  We prohibit movies, video games and books that have this kind of imagery in them, and all my tween and teen boys have to do is wait with me to buy milk and are subjected to an image they ought not to see.  I was angry that my sons, who work deliberately and diligently at being gentlemen, would see this. Then another horrifying thought occurred to me.  What if my daughter had been here?  How do I justify this magazine after reading 5 Conversations last night?  Of course she knows I wouldn’t outwardly rationalize and justify the nude, seemingly perfect body and everything it represents, but if I say nothing then I am sending the same message of approval.

After checking out, I asked to speak to the manager.  I told him how disappointed I was that a grocery store that advertises itself as family friendly would put this front and center of the checkout line at young children’s eye level.  I pointed to the article sidebar, …and make no mistake, she’s naked.  The title even says it. He replied that he has seven children and understands my concern, but has no control over it.  I agree that he has no control of what they put on magazines, but as the manager, he does have control of what he does with that magazine in his store.  I offered three suggestions: remove this issue; move it to the back of the store where the other questionable magazines are; or, if by contract it needs to stay at the checkout line, then it should have a cover in front of it.  He offered to remove this issue from the racks altogether.

The next day, I’m back in the store for a forgotten item, and to my surprise, there was the magazine back on the racks of the checkout aisles.  I asked to speak to the manager again.  He explained that the ones he removed were still sitting on his desk and that someone else must have restocked more copies.  I reminded him of his seven children, and my children, and all children, and said, For this magazine, perhaps you should check on it more frequently until a new issue comes out.  He said he would remove the new ones and ask the clerks to keep an eye out for future similar problems.  To my delight, my third trip to the store several days later revealed not a single issue of that magazine on public display.

Was I an annoying, high-maintenance customer?  Probably.  Am I sorry?  No. My children aren’t the only ones subjected to these magazines staring back at us in checkout lines.  As a parent, I will remain vigilant to protect my kids from needlessly stolen moments of childhood.  For my sons, it is so they will not be tempted and become desensitized to what should be held sacred.  For my daughter, it is to reiterate that she is indeed more than the sum of her parts.  If we don’t tell our own daughters this, who will?

It is our responsibility to speak up and prohibit society’s unattainable, mirage-like status from becoming status quo in our homes.  Lives are at stake.  Health is at risk.  Self image becomes a slippery slope with enormous repercussions if not cultivated in the Truth that we are fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14).   After all, if someone had taken the time to tell the woman who posed for the magazine that she, too, is worth more than the sum of her parts – she is a wonderful work of God – then perhaps she never would have sold her body for a fleeting photo in the first place.

The Easter Dress

I took my daughter shopping last night for an Easter dress.  Drawing in a deep breath, I knew this trip would be different because we went to the junior’s section first – not the girls, though she can wear both.  She picked out a dress, but I suggested we also look in girls.  As we meandered among the girl racks, glancing at dresses in princess style and Easter-egg color, she said, “I’m looking for something more teenage-ish, not little girl-ish.”  I thought my heart would burst.  Until now, she has always measured an Easter dress by how poofy the skirt is and if it’s “twirly” enough.  I walked behind her, slowly running my hand on the dresses she used to want to wear.  At some point, her childhood turned a page and I didn’t notice.  Why?  Because she is still so whimsical, silly and creative; she loves climbing trees, dressing up the dog and finding frogs.  Tired from a long day, I sat on the sofa outside the dressing room and tried to remember when was the last time I had to be with her in the dressing room to help her.  I can’t remember.

She tried on the junior’s dress, the one that I questioned on the hanger, and to my surprise, it is adorable on her.  She looks so cute!  As I waited while she gathered her things, I fully realized that this dress suits who she is right now perfectly, and she is beautiful in it.  She makes the dress.  And she loves it.  My little girl isn’t so little anymore.  Her Easter dress (modest, I might add) was found in a department playing creepy music videos and donning skimpy clothes.  No Hello Kitty or footie pajamas as far as the eye can see.

However, more than I want to stay in the girls department, I want to stay by my baby girl’s side through every phase of life.  I don’t want to miss who she is now, and is becoming, because I can’t let go of who she was yesterday.  I know what it feels like to cross over from girl to young woman alone…without a mom to show me the way.  It’s hard.  Really hard.

For my daughter, I will ask for strength from God to help me let her grow, and I will be grateful I am here to guide her, because although growing pains can really hurt my heart, it would be more painful to miss out on what an incredible, amazing young woman she is becoming.  Every day, I am thankful to be a part of her life, and even more thankful that she wants me to be a part of it.  Just like the dress, adolescence isn’t one size fits all.  May my daughter continue to wear it well.  Dear Lord, let me never forget to tell her how beautiful she is in simply being who she is today – while enjoying the mystery of who she will become tomorrow.  Oh, and God, please give me a granddaughter one day so I can once again shop in the girls department for princess dresses with poofy, twirly skirts.