It’s been awhile since I’ve written anything. Truth be told, I just haven’t had the time or energy or desire to write. My eight month old daughter isn’t a great sleeper, which means lately I haven’t been either. My middle son is an early riser. I am NOT a morning person. Between volunteering obligations, juggling my oldest son’s school and extra-curricular schedule, battling what has felt like a never-ending round of colds, and just muddling through the mundane every-day tasks of keeping a house and family together, there hasn’t been room for much of anything except the necessities.
But beyond the sleep deprivation and the regular strain of being a mom with three kids under the age of six years, there has been a deeper drain in my life. I have been battling with what I can only describe as an underlying impoverished soul. An arid Sahara-like dryness that has slowly crept into parts of my heart and mind as I have too often allowed the busyness of life and the demands of the moment take priority over the time I should have spent with my Lord.
Those life-giving, living water, satisfy my deepest needs moments, have often been traded for 15 minutes of mindless staring at my Facebook account or reading a Yahoo article just to pass the time. That precious hour or two after the kids are in bed, and all is quiet and peaceful in the world – time that could be spent communing with the savior of the Universe – is instead replaced by the latest thing to catch my attention on Netflix. On top of that, I don’t remember the last time I was able to hear an entire sermon series at our Church. Since my daughter arrived, if I hear one full uninterrupted sermon a month, it’s been a good month!
At times I wonder why I’m crumbling under the pressure of the moment and weighted down by the never-ending burdens of the day…. But deep down I know. I know what will quench my soul thirst. Just as I know exercise is good for my body, and flossing is good for my teeth. I know, but it’s not enough to have head knowledge. I have to choose. I have to make the effort. Unfortunately, recently, I haven’t always chosen well. I have given into laziness and the immediate gratification of being entertained now, instead of disciplining myself to take the time to do the things that I know will have enduring benefits.
A couple of weeks ago I looked out my living room window and saw a pair of Blue Jays building a nest in the tree just outside. It was fascinating watching them gather and break little twigs off the trees and then masterfully intertwine them together. They worked all day with hardly any breaks, and in the end were rewarded with a sturdy and secure little home.
The nest that the birds had so skillfully and artfully constructed was literally at eye level, just a few feet outside of the boys’ second story bedroom window. Talk about a bird’s eye view. We would be able to look directly into the nest and watch the miracle of life unfold before our eyes.
As nerdy as it sounds, I was getting really excited about this little feathered family that would become our closest neighbors. I actually went online and starting doing some research about this particular species of bird. I think my excitement was contagious because the boys wanted to get into the action. This was especially true for my three-year old son, who once he was aware there were birds outside, felt the need to bang incessantly on the window to “try to get their attention.”
Well, he certainly got their attention. Every time he would flip the shades and hit the window they would fly away. Despite being scolded and coaxed away from the window, he always migrated back to the glassy pane. The next morning, the birds were gone. I looked for them all day, hoping they would come back. The inner nerd came out again and I was back on the internet researching why birds would abandon a new nest. Apparently Blue Jays will abandon a nest if they become aware of a potential threat, like a predator, that was in close proximity. My three-year old definitely fit the mold. If I was honest, there are days that I wish I could fly away from all the noise and chaos too.
The birds were gone. They had flown the freshly finished coop. And I was seriously out of sorts about it. I mean irrationally so. My crazy hormones were probably factoring in there a bit, but I was feeling kind of depressed. It felt like a metaphor for my life at the moment. What should have been bursting with life was instead left empty and barren. What appeared so promising ended up being just an unfulfilled expectation.
It’s funny how God gets my attention sometimes. As I wallowed in disproportional grief, I realized that I was mourning for more than the loss of some birds. It was a deeper loss. And then it hit me: I was like that abandoned nest. My heart felt empty when it should have been full. Instead of fulfilling the purpose I was created for, worshiping and communing with God, I was turning to lesser things. It’s not that I was doing anything bad. It’s just that the things I was currently filling my life with were unable to truly satisfy my deepest soul cravings. I was made for more than what this world has to offer and when I stopped turning to the ONE who can truly captivate and sustain me, the end result was the desolate and dry place I found myself in.
I was yearning to be filled with new life, but unable to produce it on my own. A nest can’t create new life. It is just the abode where the miracle can take place, and grow, and develop. Likewise, my life is like that empty nest waiting to be filled with the life-giving power of the Spirit, from which I can grow and develop, find joy and hope and purpose. And when I am filled, as only God can fill me, I am then able to build into and be a blessing to others.
It sounds silly, but when I realized those Blue Jays were gone and probably not coming back, I actually cried out to God about it. “Lord, as crazy as this sounds, can you just bring those birds back? I was really looking forward to seeing your handiwork on display. I wanted to watch your miracle unfold before my eyes. And God, while, you’re at it, can you fill my heart with new life again? I desperately need you.”
A few days passed and I looked out my window with hopeful anticipation each day. Every once in a while I would see the birds in the tree, but it didn’t appear as if they were adding to their nest. They were still breaking off twigs, but would then fly away to a neighbors’ yard. Sometimes one of them would hop into the nest, but never for more than a moment.
I resigned myself to the reality that I would just have to be content with an occasional visit. “It is probably for the best” I told myself. “They can be kind of aggressive birds. They would probably scold and swoop at us every time we came outside. “
Then a few days ago I looked up at the tree and saw movement. There was the female Blue Jay perched in her nest. They were back! And this time, I hope to stay! I couldn’t help but beam.
I serve a God who answers the simple prayers of a wayward child. As excited as I was that the birds were back, I was more excited by the beautiful illustration that they had become of God’s unfailing and gracious love in my life.
You see, ever since I prayed that silly little prayer, something inside of me broke. The “living water” that Jesus spoke about in the scriptures was starting to seep into my heart and mind, reawakening my dry and thirsty soul. When I had a minute to myself, instead of mindlessly wasting time in front of a computer screen, I once again had the desire to create and dream and share again. Instead of zoning into a Netflix movie, I turned on an online sermon. When I was going about my daily activities, I cranked up my worship music and got to experience the joy of worshipping the Lord and sometimes had the added bonus of watching my kids “rock out” to the music.
I was feeling pretty depleted and empty, but I’m not any more. I would love to say that I will never be back in this place again. I’ve learned my lesson. I won’t make the same mistakes again. But I know better. I am far from perfect. I’m usually a mess. But I’m His. And He can make my mess into something beautiful. He can take what was empty and make it full again. I’m so grateful that I serve a God who chooses to shine His light into dark places and chooses to bring new life into dry and tired souls.