I’ve always had a fascination with luring birds into my realm. It started in my childhood upon learning of a girl, during the Victorian era, that had a special relationship with birds. For several years of her childhood, birds approached her with the same fearlessness of kittens. She held, stroked, and fed wild birds. Then one day her supernatural power vanished.
I can recall sitting on a swing in pigtails during a lazy summer afternoon, wishing with all my might that the birds in the trees would come to me. Just like they had to that special girl. I focused all my concentration towards those birds, mentally willing them to me. Time passed and the popsicle melted down my hand. There were brief moments I thought I might gain that supernatural power, but the birds would suddenly take flight and I was left alone and unspecial, on that unmagical day.
Since then I’ve taken matters into my own hands. Birdfeeders. I’ve got a few…okay, I’ve got lots of them. I’ve narrowed down to two types feeders: hummingbird and finch. Both easy to maintain. Especially because the finch seed I use—Nyjer—creates no mess and no surprise sunflower stalks and weeds growing in the yard.
There are three hummingbird feeders, which sadly at our new home, are being seldom—if at all—used. But I keep them filled, welcoming and mentally willing them to the yard.
Then there are the finch feeders. Six in total, positioned about the yard. There must be something about this area and finches. It’s a guarantee that if you live in my neck of the woods and place Nyjer seed out, the finches will come. Sometimes nearing the extreme of Hitchcock’s The Birds.
Upon moving to our new home last fall, I happily placed feeders out and enjoyed the show. I cherished the tiny finches. The American and Lesser Goldfinches have the most amazing, nearly neon yellow display. The House Finch looks like a mini Robin with a bright red chest and head. Other large birds try to partake of the feeding, but the finches are a fierce force in packs. Territorial over their feeder, they leave the blue-jays, robins, sparrows, and thrush no other choice than to take to the ground—eating the finches’ spilled seed.
With the finches in extra force, the feeders ran empty within a few days. Seemed I was off to the store at least once a week to buy another fifteen pounds of Nyjer. Then winter came; cold, rainy, dense fog, and heavy mist. For whatever reason—I stopped supplying seed. Now and then I’d see a lone finch sitting on the feeder swaying in the wind. No sooner had it landed than it took to the wet air again.
And so it went for a couple months. November. December. January…
The first promise of Spring arrived early February—it always does. It’s just enough sun, for a couple days, to trick the trees into releasing buds too soon. And then the new rains with windy gusto arrive like the lion, stripping the trees of their first blush and pride. The hope of spring took my attention to the empty feeders, wondering when it would be time to fill them again. I juxtaposed trepidation and hope—would Spring also be a time that God might feed me? Releasing me of the depressing winter state I had fallen into to. And maybe fill all the feeders about my life with unending nourishment—once again providing me sanctuary and security.
That’s when I was stirred into two side-by-side simultaneous thoughts.
The first being the parable of birds as Jesus said, “…do not worry about what you will eat or drink…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?”
The second was a simple song Mary Poppins sang, “’Feed the birds’ that’s what she cries while birds fill the skies—all around the cathedral the saints and apostles look down…though you can’t see it, you know they are smiling each time someone shows that he cares—feed the birds tuppence a bag—tuppence, tuppence, tuppence a bag.” Ahh, that Mary Poppins was a good woman! This song is an amazing spiritual metaphor.
Woven deep into those two thoughts was the message my heart needed to hear. It wasn’t about God loving me or about finches. Although that rainy wet day I went to the store, with my tuppence, to buy a large bag of Nyjer to fill the feeders. My hair and clothes were getting damp from the heavy fog while my fingers ached in the cold while manipulating the feeders. I didn’t expect to see finches—but no sooner had I gone back inside—than finches arrived. First just a couple, and within hours they had all returned. And it further clarified the message in my heart.
Yes, God provides for the birds, and loves us that much more. But what sank into my heart asked: How often do I realize, that part of my walk in faith, asks—or requires me—to be the hand of God? To provide the seed, the sanctuary, the security. Even when I think it’s not needed (just like I didn’t think those finch-feeders needed filling in the unwelcoming part of winter) I should provide. And if I provide, it will be received and welcomed. The truth of this spilled into everything. I could see how I’d retreated into my winter depression, and didn’t give to anyone. It had affected everything: my job, my friends, the youth ministry, my family, my husband.
I didn’t become super-girl the next day, giving of myself everywhere and others flocking to me with my supernatural powers. But I did take intentional cautious steps—moving forward—showing others I cared. I saw my place—my role—in the parable and song, helping God feed the birds.