Drew, Ruth, Margaret and I just returned from two weeks in Europe (our two-year-old, Emma Kate stayed with my Mom and played with her cousins – thanks, Mom!). The trip was our Christmas present to Ruth and Margaret, and it was a thank you, given to them on the one-year anniversary of our move from Philadelphia, PA to Raleigh. Our move was an adventure they did not choose, and yet they embraced it with courage and faith, mixed with anxiety, sadness and a reasonable touch of anger. This trip was an adventure that we chose and planned – as a family (although truth-be-told, Drew did most of the planning – thanks, Drew!)
Our first family adventure was all that we had hoped. Travel went smoothly. No one got sick, and we did not run out of clean clothes until the last night! But, what was most wonderful, as a parent, was watching our daughters begin to make their home in the world; to take risks; work through discomfort wondering what it might teach or have as its reward once through it; and to begin to place our time within the great timeline of history. They climbed the stairs of the ancient Roman coliseum in Verona, rolled in Alpine meadows, and hiked to the top of Germany. They ate local food for every meal (except one – a Subway sandwich toward the end when we were all homesick and missing Emma Kate). They went without air conditioning for almost two weeks, which, as Ruth pointed out, probably would have been fine before global warming! And I was filled with gratitude – gratitude to God for calling our family to West Raleigh; and gratitude to West Raleigh for granting us the space to embark on this adventure. I recognize the privilege that made it possible…
One particular memory lingers as we fly west, heading home. It happened on the third evening. We were walking to dinner and I remarked, again, on the birds singing. Many of the streets we had walked were lined with high hedges. We were sleeping with the windows open because we did not have air conditioning. The breeze was filled with the songs of birds, and I was convinced that there were more birds in Germany than “at home.” Commenting yet again on my observation, Drew paused and looked at me. “No,” he said, “there are not more birds here. You have just finally stopped long enough to notice them, to hear them sing.” Ruth and Margaret nodded.
Shortly before we left, I bought a bird feeder on a trip to Burke Brothers Hardware Store. We had gone for something else, and I knew there was plenty in the yard for the birds to eat at this time of year, but I also wanted a bird feeder for the winter, and I knew that if I did not go ahead and get it then, it might slip my mind in the fall, so I did. We got it home and Ruth filled it and hung it, along with a little birdhouse that had been a gift. It was a whim that day in mid-May. Now, I know that it was preparation; it would be a reminder to keep listening, lest I miss the songs the birds sing in my own backyard.
See you in church,