Cradled in Feathers

baby swallows / rejoicing hillsThis shot of our baby swallows newly-hatched, still so tiny, cradled in downy white feathers has to be my favorite out of all the many photos I’ve taken of them.  It’s not the cutest by any means—those little naked birdies are pretty skinny and ugly at this point.  But I love how those helpless little ones are so lovingly cradled in the softest feathers plucked from their parents’ own bodies.  It so perfectly illustrates this comforting Scripture:

“He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust…  (Psalm 91:4)

In our weakest, most needy and helpless moments, our heavenly Father cares for us with all the tender love and care of a mother bird tending her precious young.  This is perhaps one of the most beautiful pictures of His love for us that I can think of.  Cherish that thought, and tuck it away to remind yourself of on hard days!

Foreign Soil

rocky point / rejoicing hillsred rock / rejoicing hillsRecently we took a short weekend trip to our neighboring country to the north, and it got me thinking about being a foreigner.  

Granted, driving across the border into Canada doesn’t involve a lot of culture shock.  They dress the same way as we do.  They drive cars and have ordinary looking houses. They speak English.  In some ways it feels very much like home.

But then you’re driving down the road and you start getting a headache from repeatedly having to convert kilometers to miles.  You keep gasping at how much things cost, and having to remind yourself that it won’t be nearly so bad once you apply the exchange rate.  There are maple leaves on the flags fluttering in people’s yards instead of stars and stripes.  You hear about people eating their french fries with gravy and cheese curds, and calling diapers napkins.  My husband even claims the walleye taste different up there.  And they won’t let you take eggs across the border, no sir.  Even if they’re beautiful big brown and green eggs from the farm down the road.  (I learned that lesson the hard way.)

And so, in the midst of many similarities, the feel of the foreign seeps unmistakably through.walleye art / rejoicing hillswater lily / rejoicing hillsisland / rejoicing hillslichen / rejoicing hillscrown vetch / rejoicing hillsWe really had a great time while we were there, even if we did have to eat Canadian eggs.  It was the kind of weekend where your favorite memories are things like waking up to the fragrance of coffee perking and grandma pulling fresh orange rolls out of the oven, sitting with your feet up reading good books in the fishing boat between bites, and the feel of sun-baked lichened rocks on bare feet.  We spent mornings drinking coffee on the deck, hot and humid afternoons soaking in the lake, and cooler evenings around a roaring fire.  We fed the seagulls, made barbecued ribs and ate fresh bread from the resort bakery next door.  It was wonderful!

fishing with grandpa / rejoicing hillsorange rolls / rejoicing hillsrock jumping / rejoicing hillsfeeding seagulls / rejoicing hillsYet for all the wonderful memories we made, we still got excited when we drove back to the border at the end of our visit and spotted a familiar red, white and blue flag fluttering proudly above the brick buildings at the crossing.  The line was long, and we slowly inched our way across the river, suspended between two countries on a bridge of steel.  A sort of happy, content feeling prevailed.  That was home over there and there were no doubts about whether they’d let us through or not, because we were citizens!

We still had to prove it, of course.  We had to hand over our US passports and birth certificates, and they had to examine them with care, comparing the photos on each one to the corresponding face in our vehicle.  They looked in our coolers, too, and took all of our leftover red and yellow peppers in case they were carrying some kind of bug that might infest American pepper crops.  (Or something like that.)

But after all that, we drove on through the gate, and suddenly we went from being foreigners to being citizens with rights and privileges.  The speed limit signs made sense again.  Things cost exactly what they said they did.  They served us ketchup with our fries when we stopped for supper.  Everything felt somehow right and familiar again.evening light / rejoicing hillsI like to think that’s how heaven is going to feel someday.  We’ll cross that great divide between this life and the next, and suddenly everything will feel right and familiar in a way it never did here on earth.  We will be home, and it will be a lot more than just a happy, content sort of feeling—it will be glorious.  I don’t know about you, but no amount of enjoyment I feel in this life can take away from the excitement I feel when I anticipate that border crossing!

“For our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.”  (Philippians 3:20)

Are you a citizen, too?  I hope I see you there!

Porch Tenants

swallow on nest / rejoicing hillsWe’re happy to be the landlords to a pair of barn swallows this summer.  They’ve tucked their neat little mud nest snug up under the eaves of our porch upon the solid (?!) foundation of a single long nail, and don’t seem to mind our comings and goings below.  In return, we have chosen to overlook the mess they are making in favor of enjoying the sound of them twittering affectionately at each other in the mornings and being buzzed as they swoop through the open flyway around our heads.

Barn swallows often fall on the list of “common birds” for most people (you know, not nearly as exciting as, say, a purple martin or a bluebird)—but I’ve thoroughly enjoyed getting to know these ordinary little neighbors better this year.  For the first time, I’ve had a chance to observe their unique coloring and markings up close (really quite stylish!) and I maintain that there is no small bird quite so swift and elegant in it’s flight as a swallow.  We’ve (I hope) developed a bit of a bond over our mutual aversion for the red squirrel who lurks around the house—and they’ve even (I think) forgiven me for taking this picture: swallow nest / rejoicing hillsIf you will note from the first picture in this post, they built their nest just far enough away from the roof to allow their slim, stream-lined selves in and out.  They didn’t really take into account the fact that they were taking up residence on the porch of a photographer, and I was a little put out with them about that for awhile.  What’s the fun of having a birds’ nest next to your front door if you can’t even photograph what’s inside?  Then, a friend had a genius idea:  what about using a mirror?  (Thanks, Tami!)  I can’t believe I never thought of that myself! A few gymnastics with a small mirror and a camera on top of a dining room chair later, we got this peek at the five prettiest little freckled eggs you ever saw!

I went looking for a verse about birds to pair with these photos, expecting to settle on some kind of general reference—and was surprised and fascinated to discover that swallows are actually specifically referenced in the Bible.  And not just once, but four times! The following psalm was my favorite, but you can check out these links (Proverbs 26:2, Isaiah 38:14 and Jeremiah 8:7) to read the others!swallow with nest / rejoicing hillsHow lovely are Your dwelling places, O LORD of hosts!  

My soul longed and even yearned for the courts of the LORD; My heart and my flesh sing for joy to the living God.  

The bird also has found a house, And the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, Even Your altars, O LORD of hosts, My King and my God.  

How blessed are those who dwell in Your house! They are ever praising You. Selah.”  (Psalm 84:1-4)IMG_7318 editStay tuned—hopefully there will be a baby bird sequel soon!

Silly Goose

gosling / rejoicing hillsI came suddenly upon a family of Canada geese crossing our driveway the other day.  Almost all of the goslings hurried off as fast as their little legs could take them into the field grass, following their mother who led the way to safety honking wildly in alarm.  But this little fellow seemed to have an independent streak and I imagine he’s the child who has given his poor mother the most gray hairs—er, feathers.

Off he went foolishly running in the opposite direction from his family, right down the center of the driveway in front of me.  I was fortunate enough to have my camera at the ready, and of course, since his legs were very short and he had hardly any wings to speak of, he was no match for me.  I easily caught up with him and snapped a portrait of the wayward little guy before shooing him off to where his mother and siblings were calling for him at a safe distance away.  Silly goose!  Good thing I was just an appreciative human with a camera and not a hungry wolf, or that would have been the end of him.gosling / rejoicing hillsAs I watched him go, I was reminded of this passage in Isaiah:

“All we…have gone astray, we have turned every one to his own way…”  

Good thing for us the verse doesn’t stop there, or that would have been the end of us, too!

“…and the Lord hath laid on Him [Christ] the iniquity of us all.”  (Isaiah 53:6)

We have foolishly wandered, but He has provided a way to safety anyway.  How unworthily blessed we are!