Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Pelted with Milestones (Repost)

Last night, Ethan and I were on the front porch when we saw a little ball of fluff fall into the soft net of ivy below our kittywillow tree. I knew immediately that our baby cardinal had just launched from its nest.

We had been watching the nest for weeks, observing the parents as they swooped around, heightening their guard when humans or other intruders entered the perimeter (which we had to do frequently, since the nest is right by our driveway).

Today, however, was a milestone for our neighboring bird family. Their little one had outgrown the nest and ventured out alone--albeit just a few feet below--to assert a newfound independence.

Coincidentally (or is it?), May is also the month of many human milestones. Graduation announcements from preschools to universities have continually pinged newspapers, calendars, and mailboxes. It's the season for learning to fly.

I empathized with Daddy Cardinal as he fluttered around, trying to figure out how to get the little one back in the nest, using his smoke-detector chirps to announce possible danger, the little one answering with squawks to identify his location. I knew that Daddy Bird was feeling a worrisome knot in his stomach, twisting just below the swells of pride that filled his heart--the two forces together wreaking havoc in the mind of a parent (of any species).

Just this week our family has been pelted with our own set of milestones. A few days ago, we matched my fifteen-year-old son's savings to buy his first vehicle: a 1981 American CJ-7 with a dented hood and a reputation for stalling. It's his pride and joy. And my new source of concern. But despite my chirps, I know he'll soon be driving it. Alone.

Then, on the same day the little cardinal pounced from his nest, my little redhead finished his last day of preschool, outgrowing his own nest of loving teachers and sweet friends that had nurtured him for the past three years. In two short months, he'll be venturing into strange, new surroundings, full of uncertainty and opportunity. All the while, mother bird will be here chirping and fluttering helplessly about.

God, in his wisdom, gave parents no control over the advancement of time. (Honestly, would we have it any other way?) And while we can do our best to nurture and shield our little (and not-so-little) ones, we can only stand helplessly by and be pelted by their milestones.

This morning, writing from the front porch, I notice a calm has settled over Daddy Cardinal. Still flitting around the young bird with concern, Dad has conceded to bringing the little one's breakfast down to the ivy. The alarming chirps have subsided, and moments ago, with a fed and quiet child, I even saw Daddy in a maple tree high above singing a much more relaxed song.

As for me, I smiled and sighed knowingly as I read my key verse for today. Coincidentally (or is it?), "He will shield you with his wings. He will shelter you with his feathers. His faithful promises are your armor and protection" (Psalm 91:4 NLT).

For a little while at least, I'll relax a bit, knowing that my little ones--as well as I--can always run for protection in the wings that shield the world.

What milestones are you facing today? Let's celebrate them together.

Update: Ethan has just finished first grade, and Michael is just a short summer away from a senior. It doesn't get any easier, my friends. And yet, I wouldn't have it any other way.

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