Monday, June 22, 2015

Lessons from a Mourning Dove

April 17, 2015
Dedicated to my dear, sweet friend, Joy

One of my husband and my favorite ways to relax in Michigan's short, but beautiful spring and summer seasons was to sit out on our back patio (one of my favorite places in the whole world) and watch the birds our feeders attracted.  While this may sound boring to some more adventurous people, we shared our hearts and many long conversations over coffee or iced tea out there. There were times we didn't talk at all, but shared the comfortable silence that couples develop after many years of marriage, just soaking in the sounds and beauty God has surrounded us with.

I cherish those days and the memories they hold. This will be the third summer I have sat on the patio, watching the birds alone. My husband of 30 years passed away quit unexpectedly in January of 2013. I can often feel his presence still right beside me. But this is a tale of hope and anticipation, not one of sadness.

Our feeders don't attract any exotic birds - mostly tiny Sparrows and chubby Robins with an occasional bullying Blue Jay or colorful Cardinal.

We had a pair of Mourning Doves that seemed to frequent our little spot of Paradise behind the house. I had read somewhere that Mourning Doves mated for life and that if you ever saw a lone Mourning Dove, it's mate was probably either missing or dead. And inevitably, when we saw only one Dove, the other would soon arrive. They would feed off the seeds that had dropped to the ground and fly off, frequently to perch together on the power lines crossing over the back of the yard. We never saw babies, just the pair of them.

And that first spring and summer of my widowhood? It was hard, so very hard. The trees budded, the
 perennials sprouted, the grass greened, the birds returned. And I did the things I had always done-    planted flowers and the vegetable garden, sat outside and read, had my coffee out on the patio - mostly because it was what I had always done and I didn't know what else to do. I also took over the chores my husband had always taken care of- fertilizing the lawn  mowing, trimming the shrubs. In retrospect, it was my way of trying to keep some control and normalcy in what had become a very different life. It was also my way of trying to show our sons that I was ok and they didn't  need to worry about me. I would be fine. But it felt different. I didn't derive the peace and tranquility
 from these things that I had in the past. I was simply going through the motions. It was almost like my body and spirit were disconnected. But I kept on doing the motions. Mostly because I had to- one foot in front of the other, one step at a time, one day, sometimes one hour at a time.

And the doves? Only one returned that first year. At first, it made me sad and seemed to echo my loneliness. I soon started looking for the dove whenever I came out.  I watched it feed underneath
the feeders. I watched it fly off whenever my dogs decided to chased it away, only to perch peacefully
on one of the wires. I listened to it coo, perched high up in a tree. I heard the graceful fluttering of its wings.   I watched it do what God had created it to do- carry on, keep doing what it needed to do to survive. I even felt like it was, at times, watching over me.

I began to see my one lone dove and it's peaceful cooing as a sign, a gift if you will, from God. A gift that had special significance to only me.

"You may be feeling lonely, but you are not alone. I am here- just look around, " God spoke to me through that dove.

"You are doing just fine, in fact much better than you think", God whispered to me.

 "You are so much braver than you feel", God quietly reminded me, "You can do all things through
 My Son."

"You are doing exactly what you need to be doing," God encouraged me, "you just need to move
through this at the pace I have set for"

"You are going to be fine, even though it doesn't feel like it now, " God reassured me through that dove.

And three summers later, I sit in my backyard and I am not lonely.  I am so much braver. I am moving at a slower pace, and most days I am just fine.

And my lone dove?  It has come back every year. In fact, I think it is around more now than in the past. And it continues to soar, gracefully, from tree to wire to feeder and back again, cooing peacefully, just as God created it to do.

"Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have summoned you by name; you are mine.
When you pass through the waters,
I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
you will not be burned;
the flames will not set you ablaze.
For I am The Lord, your God,
The Holy One of Israel, your Savior;
I give Egypt for your ransom, Cush and Seba in your stead.
Since you are precious and honored in my sight,
and because I love you,
I will give men in exchange for you,
and people in exchange for your life."
Isaiah 43:1-4

If  you are walking through the sweeping river or the burning blaze today, or if you find yourself there tomorrow, know whatever it is you are going through, YOU ARE NOT ALONE. Look for Him.    God is right there with you. Your feet may get wet, your shoes may get singed, but you will not be swept away or set ablaze. He wants to show you His mighty power  and incomprehensible love and unsurpassing grace. Although the path may be long, He will set your feet on dry, unparched ground again. Because you are precious and honored in His sight and He loves you.