Category Archives: prayer

My Mysterious Bird

All it takes for something to be a mystery is for it to be unknown to the one seeking it. Would you agree? So, though the bird who spent an hour perched on a dead pine limb outside my home may be very familiar to many, if he’s unknown to me, he’s a mysterious bird.

That’s all I know to call him right now. For bird enthusiasts, here’s a rough description. He appeared to be somewhat larger than a mourning dove with a larger head but a smooth, rounded one with no crest. He was white breasted with darker wings, dark grayish blue. His tail was long and in a straight line with his body. I had heard his call several times that day not knowing what he looked like but knowing I’d never consciously heard him before. It was a whistle starting somewhat shrill and high, then coming down in a long smooth swing. It was a little like a boy’s wolf whistle but more musical, almost like a circus balloon with a whistle in it.

I was trying to describe its whistle to Charles when I heard him again. But Charles really didn’t hear him. He’d cock his head and mumble a “maybe” but I knew if he really heard him, he’d be more interested than he was. It was not, as he implied, like any other bird. No mockingbird, cardinal, mourning dove, sparrow, wren or titmouse ever sounded like that mysterious bird.

“Wish I could just see what he looks like,” I said. And right that minute that bird came flying across from a neighboring pine and lit on that dead limb. I knew it was the same bird because he continued to whistle right there in plain view.

I quickly tried to absorb what he looked like knowing he wouldn’t be there long. Charles kindly went after the binoculars. We both studied him. He sat there whistling for, yes, close to an hour. There was another one answering from a distance. That bird was so beautiful sitting there in the sunlight silhouetted against a blue sky.

I’ve heard him several times a day since then but haven’t seen him again. I’ve studied my Audubon bird book but have found no match. I thought maybe he was a predator, some kind of falcon, but his bill was straight, not hooked as theirs are.

Now. A couple of ideas have come to me as I considered this bird. One is downright funny and not really related to him other than that he is a bird.

My mother loved a good joke and could laugh until she had to pull her dainty handkerchief from her bosom. But she couldn’t tell one. She always, as I do, got mixed up on the punch line. But in her eighties she learned a joke she could tell very effectively and she used it over and over. A young man, she said, was taking a class in ornithology. He arrived in class one day to realize the professor was giving a test in which the student had to identify various birds by their legs only. The poor young man was quite horrified, not having studied the bird legs for spending time studying more shapely ones instead. The whole test was on birds’ legs, and he’d be making a zero. He walked up to the professor to complain. The professor adjusted his glasses and asked coolly, “What is your name?” The young man, gifted with quick wit, raised his trouser legs and said, “Identify these legs.”

Another idea I’ve had is that this could be a comfort bird.

On Saturday morning, August 18, 2012, our phone rang with the wrenching news that our daughter, Julie, aged 42, had died in her sleep. It was six years ago but we still miss her. The initial shock was so bad but now we know that the missing part goes on and on. She’s still not here, when we set the table for family gatherings, when we fill our Christmas shopping list. Her little grandson whom she never saw has asked, “Why didn’t I get to see her?” She’s not here for birthdays, outings, or plain old days. We know where she is and that she’s happy and enjoying Heaven’s beauty which we can only imagine. But we can’t call her or text her and the children can’t give her “grandmother pictures.” We can’t hug her, sip coffee with her, or give her a candle, one of her favorite things. We can’t pray with her or sing with her.

Near the anniversary of the date she left us, we naturally think a lot about our Julie. And we miss her poignantly.

No, I don’t think that bird was Julie sitting up there on a dead pine limb. (She’d have chosen a brighter place, maybe a branch of the pink crape myrtle.) But maybe he was a comfort bird, come to remind me God remembers our sorrow and cares. It wouldn’t be the first comfort bird God has sent me. A number of times, in answer to a prayer, God has sent me a bird at a particular moment–at a window, on a branch, in the path, flying in front of the car. But it’s always been birds with which I was familiar–a cardinal, a dove, a sparrow–never a mysterious bird like this one.

Even today, August 18, I’ve heard that bird whistling high in the trees. I’d love to see him again. I’d love to know his name.

But having a mysterious bird in the neighborhood is pretty special. Especially if God sent him!

I was not close enough to the bird to take his picture. But I do have one of Julie.

Scan0042

Julie holding her first grandchild, Charli Singletary

2 Comments

Filed under family, nature, prayer

Home at 1010

I remember a columnist from years ago named Gladys Tabor. She wrote about her garden, seasonal flowers, about feeding the birds and digging pesky vine roots, pruning roses or picking berries. I’m not the gardener or the writer that she was but I’d like to take you around our corner and just shout out a few hallelujahs for the blessings God displays for us.

Our tubs of herbs along the outside of the back porch are green and luscious with rosemary, parsley, basil, lavender and mint. I hung a bunch of everything in the kitchen to smell good and to dehydrate. We bought two red geraniums for the porch which I can see from the den window. There’s something about red geraniums that makes me feel good all over. And Charles transplanted a patch of a dozen or so small purple iris around the maple tree south of the porch. The white ones in the same bed have done their thing and bowed out. The purple flags, as my mother called them, are smiling center stage.

The mulberry tree is at the height of its season, berries thick on the branches, the whole tree in motion with squirrels and birds feasting. The squirrels have had to find a new way to the mulberry since we cut down the two large oak trees which they had used as connectors in their super highway. We meant no offense in particular to the squirrels, just became concerned that at least one of the big oaks might land some windy night across our bedroom. They were both rotten and hollow. But Charles, in preparation for the tree felling, also took out a massive bank of old shrubbery–azaleas, wisteria, etc. So now, not only are the squirrels missing their highway, but they hardly have any cover on that side of the yard. They sneak across a wide open stretch either in one headlong dash, or, often, a few feet at a time, stopping to sit up erect like meerkats on the prairie before tackling another stretch. Once they scale one certain large pine they have it made–a leap to the cherry tree and then protection all the way to the arms of the generous mulberry. That pine is a giant stairway to freedom for hundreds of tiny squirrels’ feet.

IMG_0386

Mulberries are sweet even before they are ripe!

 

Charles’ sister Revonda came and sat on our porch with us Sunday afternoon. We talked about old friends they knew when growing up in Thomas County schools. Our cat, Sassy, brought a skink to the screen door and meowed for attention. We talked about her and didn’t rescue her victim which was all but dead. Birds flew in and out of the feeder area. Squirrels scaled the pine and leaped to the cherry tree limbs, then to the mulberry. We caught up on ours and Revonda’s grandchildren, then called the third sibling of the JB Graham family, Ronnie, up in Michigan. The temperature was forty degrees there to our very pleasant seventy. We’d forgotten about Sassy and the skink when suddenly we spied her lugging a baby rabbit up the driveway. She tried to settle in by the screen door to give us another show. But our sympathy was warm for that little bunny. Charles stepped out and made Sassy release it. We laughed with glee as the small “Peter Rabbit” took to his feet and made a very quick and bouncy exit. I knew for sure at that moment I was not married to a “Mr. McGregor.”

Along the front porch are knockout roses. When five-year-old Kaison spends the day with me, we include in our activities, “dead heading” the roses. He is surprisingly adept with the clippers and gets almost too much pleasure snapping the dead blooms off with an “off with your head” to each one. He and I fill the bird baths too. I chuckle remembering my father-in-law who used to call out to Mama Graham, “Elizabeth, here’s those pesky birds flopping around in the bird bath. They’re going to splash all the water out!”

When Charles and I walk around the yard in the evening, we always stop to see how our new blueberry bushes are doing. Charles has worked so hard testing the soil and preparing it then to blueberry specifications. There are berries now on each little tree and we’re hoping to have some soon enhancing our cereal. In a couple of years we’re expecting to make muffins, cobblers, and stick some berries in the freezer.

Brown thrashers are here. We saw a beautiful one at the feeder outside the breakfast room today eating voraciously. They only grace us with their presence during their nesting time but I greatly enjoy seeing them for those few weeks–flying in and out of their chosen bushes. The feeders are busy, too, with cute little black-capped chickadees, tufted titmouse, bright cardinals and purple finches. We woke this morning to the sound of birds singing from low bushes and high in the pines. A mockingbird trilled his thirty-minute repertoire from the cherry tree as if he would burst if he couldn’t sing. A few minutes ago we spotted our first hummingbird of the season.

I heard about a shrub called a “Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow” plant. We found one at Nesmith Nursery in Thomas County and just finished settling it into the soil near the butterfly garden. We’re told it blooms sporadically all summer and that on any given day there will be yesterday blossoms of pale lavender, today blossoms of almost purple, and tomorrow blossoms of white. We’re giving it to each other for Mother’s Day/Father’s Day, a fun new acquisition!

Thanks for wandering with me. (And thanks, Gladys Tabor of long ago, for your inspiration.)

So many blessings close by! With the psalmist, let’s say Bless the Lord, oh my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name. (Psalm 103:1)

1 Comment

Filed under prayer

Skeins of Love

IMG_0197

My visit with Skeins of Love

I’ve been quite envious for years of my two sisters who are part of a lively knitting group in Clarkesville, Georgia. They meet once a week and chat as they knit scarves, shawls, hats and more. But the other day I was in the area with the right time frame and was able to drop in on them.

Both my sisters, Jackie and Suzanne, were there, as well as my dear niece Freida whom I seldom see. And there were several more ladies, knitting needles or crochet hooks clicking away. I met KK, Edith, Yvonne, Cheryl, and Carol Ann.

This group, Skeins of Love, meets in the Ministries Building of Clarkesville First United Methodist Church. They have a large open area where they with their knitting bags can circle up and see each others’ faces as they talk, as well as observe each others’ progress on their projects. Adjacent to this area is a nicely stocked supply room. It looked just like a little yarn store with cubbies for skeins of yarn in various colors and weights. But at this “shop” knitters don’t have to pay for supplies, although some do bring their own. The church and many donors keep them stocked in yarn, needles, all they need. Suzanne thoughtfully chose yarn for her next project, a prayer shawl. “It’s always fun,” she says, “to pick the color you want to work with, and live with, for a while.”

IMG_0202

A peek into the supply room

 

Also, in the supply room, was a bulletin board covered with thank you notes from many of the recipients of scarves, shawls, hats, etc. from this busy bunch. They literally send them to all corners of the globe as they learn of needs, although most go to folks in the general area. Blankets and scarves were sent to soldiers in Afghanistan. They knit hats for cancer patients, blankets for babies, scarves for cold people everywhere. They send shipments of knitted pieces to veterans’ homes, to orphanages, to hospitals, to homeless shelters, and hand deliver to many nearby, including individuals who just need the hug of a prayer shawl.

One lady told me she makes four-inch squares with a cross or a heart design in the middle. “For patients,” she said, “just to feel of and find comfort.” She knows how much something small can help because she was a cancer patient herself not long ago.

Another lady remembered an instance when someone wrote that they had found a blanket such a help. This recipient had rolled the blanket up tight and used it for a pillow. That information inspired some of the knitters to start making pillow covers of various designs. The pillows themselves are sewn by one or two who, in addition to their work in the group, also like to sew. Like Yvonne, for example.

Yvonne enjoys sewing simple, useful bags, as well as pillows. My interest was piqued as to what other endeavors the rest of the ladies apply themselves to. I went around the circle and found a treasure trove of talent. Edith, for instance, writes poetry and songs. Two of the knitters are artists and have expressed themselves through their paintings for years. At least two of the members volunteer at the local Soup Kitchen. Suzanne and her husband raise and can some eight hundred quarts of vegetables each year for their large, burgeoning family. Nearly all have grandchildren who become subjects of stories told in the circle. Several are members of the church where Skeins of Love meets. Some are from other churches.

As I chatted with each one and looked at their varied work, each piece unique as the knitters themselves, I was excited about the immeasurable difference these ladies are making in the lives of others. A knitter knows that simply to knit is wonderful therapy. Knitting, or crocheting, or quilting along with friends is even better, a healing, soul-satisfying thing. And then to be able to send those finished pieces out far and near is wonderful indeed.

Skeins of Love has been active for seven or eight years, though no one seemed to be positive how long they’ve been knitting together. Marilyn, their leader, was absent that day. The knitters do occasionally go by church bus to deliver things to a nursing home. And they might enjoy lunching together on rare occasions. But most of the time they can be found on Thursday mornings stitching away at the church.

I expressed my sorrow that I don’t have a knitting group near me. One lady responded, “Why don’t you start one?”

Good question.

Someone said it was time for prayers. Suzanne prayed a dear plea for the Lord to bless the knitters, the work of their hands, and the folks who will receive the scarves and shawls.

Before I left, we all sang one of Edith’s songs, a beautiful song to lift one’s spirits and point us to the Great Creator.

God the Father knows all about knitting: For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. Psalm 139:13

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under knitting, prayer

One Little Shoe

IMG_0168We were going camping with our two young teenage children. So we went to Sears to buy a new tent. It was when we unfolded the tent in our rec room that we found the shoe.

The tent had been folded tightly to fit into its bag. All the way inside was this little, and I mean very little, blue tennis shoe. It was a well-worn blue shoe. The sole was worn almost through. The four of us caught our breaths when we saw it. It was as if suddenly before us we could see the family who had worked making this tent. A family in Korea whose living, probably, depended on what they made from creating tents to be shipped to America.

At least one member of that family we could very well visualize. A small dark-haired child playing about as his/her parents worked. The little one could walk. This shoe appeared to have walked and run, pivoted, danced, whirled all about. In fact, it was so well worn it might have been worn by more than one child. It might have been the hand-me-down from an older sibling who, by then, was also helping make the tent.

What should I do with this little shoe? I laid it down and became involved in packing for vacation.

We did go camping. We made a lot of memories. Some might not have seemed like the ones you’d want to save,  like: “Are we almost there?” “There’s something black and white eating our eggs.” “Wake up. I think we’re floating.” But there were the swimming times, the discoveries of star fish and hermit crabs and even baby octopus. And there were stories in the dark and castles in the sand and throwing Frisbees and eating ice cream. Lots of laughter and teasing.

When we got home, there, on top of the television was the little blue shoe.

Should I just throw it away? It could not return to its owner who probably now had outgrown it anyway. And what good could one little shoe be to us? Even if we’d had a child that small.

But my heart was drawn toward this little child in Korea who had lost his shoe. I couldn’t throw it away. It kind of drifted from one spot to another, atop the bookcase, on a low table, on the mantel, here and there. I decided I would pray for the child who’d worn that shoe. I wasn’t very consistent but over the years I continued to stop every now and then, handle the little shoe and say a prayer.

When we moved four years ago I again had to make a decision whether or not to save the little blue shoe. I couldn’t discard it so here it is perched in front of some books in our den. Our children are grown with children of their own. That little child is grown, I hope, with children, too. I’ll never know what his life has been like, what kinds of troubles he’s faced, what dreams she had and whether they’ve come true or been forgotten. And he or she will never know that in America someone was praying for them. I pray that the one who wore that shoe now knows Jesus and is walking in His steps.

I know you’re expecting some kind of touching end to this story and I don’t have one. It isn’t ended yet. I still have the shoe and I’m still praying.

Watching the Korean children perform so beautifully during the Olympics, my eyes went to the corner where the little blue shoe sat, empty and still. I could just imagine a little child, the owner of that shoe, growing up–dancing, singing, skating, flying across the ice.

God knows all about the owner of the little blue tennis shoe.

 

2 Comments

Filed under prayer