936 Pennies: Discovering the Joy of Intentional Parenting
Join our adventure and discover inspiration and resources for refusing rush, creating habits of rest, living intentionally, and making the most of this beautiful life!
They’re not here.
In fact, it seems little life is.
The river is fierce. Every spring, it’s as if the floodgates open. Although I’ve come to expect the ice melt, it always catches me by surprise as it engulfs the shores we usually play on.
The swollen river with its threatening velocity is, I’m assuming, why the branches are vacant. It’s our first stop of many as my husband and I, along with our four kids, participate in the first annual Colorado Birding Challenge. We have little idea of what we’re doing, and so we begin with where, we hoped, to find our spring migratory feathered visitors. We stumbled upon them around this time last year — arrived at the river to find magnificently bright birds dancing across the cottonwoods. Today I exhale a sigh and we head back to the car, on to our next location.
Gravel crunches beneath our tires, interrupted by our son’s exclamation, “An Oriole!” My gaze shoots to the trees outside the window where, perched on a branch overhanging the water, is a striking orange Bullock’s Oriole! Our first of the season. Unbuckling and full of hope, we all unload from the SUV, and over another hour, add a dozen more species to our checklist. By the day’s end, with the sun sinking below the horizon, we’ll have forty-one species on our list. Over twelve and a half hours and 197 miles, we began a new family hobby, one which I know, from our year of bird studies, will direct our minds and hearts toward our Creator.
When considering birds in the Bible, many of us find our way straight to Jesus’ teaching about lilies of the field and birds of the sky in Matthew 6. Jesus, addressing the followers’ preoccupation with worry, directs their eyes upward. “Look at the birds of the sky, that they do not sow, nor reap, nor gather crops into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more important than they?” If God so provides for the birds, Jesus suggests, will He not also care for us, His children? But the Bible doesn’t stop there when it comes to lessons from our feathered friends. As our children learn to recognize, respect, and appreciate birds, they can discover profound truths of the Scriptures, carried on wings and sung from branches.
“Your ears will hear a word behind you, saying, ‘This is the way, walk in it,’ whenever you turn to the right or to the left.” Isaiah 30:21
For centuries, natural philosophers had little idea of why birds disappeared every winter. Some supposed the birds hibernated underground. One even hypothesized that birds take a journey to the moon each fall and return in the spring. With time, they began to understand the migratory journeys many birds take every year. With those discoveries, we learn more about their ingenious design. The seasons tell a bird when it is time to go, and the earth’s magnetic field tells them where to go! Scientists have recently discovered that birds have a cell in their eye, enabling them to sense and even see the magnetic field. Similarly, God’s Spirit tells us when it’s time to make a move, and His Word gives us direction. God does not want us to be aimless or stagnant, but to follow His lead and step into His great plans for our lives!
“The mind of a person plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.” Proverbs 16:9
Not every bird’s migration route is equal, but each one is significant. While Boreal Migrants make long journeys from Canada to South America, Latitudinal Migrants make a shorter voyage. They journey up and down mountains throughout the year, seeking open water and available food. Some birds simply stay put, enduring harsh winter months by the means with which God has equipped them. Similarly, at times God calls us to big decisions or moves. Other times, He nudges us to make minor adjustments or shifts in our habits or lifestyles. Sometimes He tells us to stay put — He has important work for us right where we are! The Apostle Paul, before embarking on God’s call for his life to share the Gospel, stayed put for three years. Before He worked, He waited on God’s instructions. We read of this critical “pause” in Galatians 1:15-19, “But when He who had set me apart even from my mother’s womb and called me through His grace was pleased to reveal His Son in me so that I might preach Him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult with flesh and blood, nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me; but I went away to Arabia, and returned once more to Damascus. Then three years later I went up to Jerusalem …”
Whatever work God has for us, whether it looks, from the outside, big or little, is significant, and He gives us all we need to carry it out. May we be faithful in working… and waiting.
“For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work among you will complete it by the day of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 1:6
Never before this past Saturday has our family so intentionally scanned the skies and trees. From this experience, we developed a sense of wonder for the birds and all they have to teach us. God is an artist of intricate details, and we see it in the myriad of birds He has made. Birdwatching has led us to train our eyes on details, familiarize ourselves with beauty, and become comfortable with the act of sitting, waiting, and enjoying God’s creation for a good chunk of our days.
Some of our favorite bird picture books are:
“But ask the animals, and they will teach you, or the birds in the sky, and they will tell you … In His hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind.” Job 12:7-10
Raising kids stirs something deep in our souls — an innate knowing that our time is finite. Taking my kids outside in creation, I’m discovering how to stretch our time and pack it to the brim with meaning. God’s creativity provides the riches of resources for teaching the next generation who He is and how He loves us. Join our adventure and discover inspiration and resources for refusing rush, creating habits of rest, living intentionally, and making the most of this beautiful life!