Heidi and I sat near a family of three at church recently. To the right of the father was his teenage son with Down Syndrome. Every time we prayed during the service, the father would turn and wholly embrace his son with both arms, and then lean over to press their heads together. The son would turn his head toward his dad, and plant a sacred kiss on the cheek that remained locked and still for the entire prayer.
Amazing to witness. I thought about the affection of the father, then the comfort of the son, then the love between them that rendered selfless and selfish irrelevant. In the midst of this embrace, a prayer passing between them and then up into the heavens and there I found myself perceiving God as much as ever.
Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done
We pray it, then we set about doing it the best we can. And we find courage from those around us that model it in remarkable ways.
* * * *
Each morning, when I get about a block away from Adelaide's school, I turn down the music and reach my hand back toward her. I'll feel her hand grab mine, and then I pray for her day. For her to be a good neighbor, for her to be treated justly, for the school's safety and for her to enjoy learning about our world. It's habit now, but the few times that I have failed to initiate it I get her fiery voice from the back seat, "Da-aad, you didn't pray for me."
We repeat this a block away from Ethan's school.
More often than not the prayers feel like haphazard Hail Mary's into the foggy unknown, but in the routine we affirm our love for one another, our hope for what we perceive to be good, and the kids see my wrestle-worn belief that God is in the mix of it all. What happens beyond that is beyond me, and at some point that is just fine.
This post is dedicated to Annie Dillard, who is teaching me to see the things in front of me.
We heard the scratching and frantic wing flapping as soon as we woke up yesterday, so after some research and tool collecting, our rescue mission began.
It wasn't until I had removed the chimney cap and peeked in with an amazingly strong flashlight (thanks Dad!) that I saw the prisoners. Two House Sparrows, madly in love (maybe?), helplessly hopping around the flue, pecking at debris and aimlessly flying into metal walls in futile efforts to escape.
I stared for a bit, taking in the great chasm between where they were and where they should be. The darkness, the smooth metal walls and the haphazard support bars supporting the flue made passage to freedom impossible.
Idea 1: Rope Isn't this the go-to plan for anyone or anything stuck in a pit? I had read online that a squirrel in this same situation would climb it, so Heidi threw some rope up onto the roof and I lowered it down until a bit of it was obstructing their path around the flue.
Two strange things happened here. The first was me, mentally willing the birds into recognizing that a way out was now before them. For a moment, I suspended all reason and wondered if my thoughts and most sincere wishes might somehow have cosmic impact. I tried to coax them, I tried some strange clicking sound that I assumed was universal bird speak. None of this seemed useful so I eventually just shut up and watched them with my flashlight.
This is when the second strange thing happened. The birds were still hopping mindlessly around the flue, but they began chirping like mad. Chatting and hopping, like some new revelation had struck them. This went on for a minute or so, and I excitedly updated Heidi that the lovebirds now seemed to be talking to one another.
Idea 2: Light It was here that my Annie Dillard training kicked in and I decided to remove myself from the equation. I sat to the side of the chimney, and held the flashlight, fixed in place, shining straight down the length of rope as a noonday sun risen just for these two sparrows.
I calmed myself and just listened.
It was within a few minutes that I saw the rope twitch. A minute more and I could hear wings hitting the metal halfway up the chimney. I motioned to Heidi that an escape was imminent and she captured the next moment on video. The first bird flew away, the early adopter of the rope and the one willing to take on the risk.
The second bird did not immediately follow. I had to replicate the entire routine of sitting completely still, holding the sun in place, and waiting. More time passed, and I began to worry that the batteries on the sun might bring the whole thing to ruin. But after a while I heard the sounds of progress, and within a few minutes the second small sparrow was sitting an inch from my fingers, staring at her world anew.
• • • •
I'm the bird. A Maker, so it seems, has woven into this world a length of rope and a steady Light. I can spend my days rounding the flue in a pitiful waste, or I can find my bearings in the illumination and set a course up the rope.
It's that bit on the rope that has me thinking. Not a tidy press here for salvation, but the trial and error, hang on for dear life, bruise your wing on the metal, fight for your life and find it as you go kind. I could have been waiting with a tasty worm or a herd of starving cats. The unknowns are well worth worry, but at some point the distant hint of freedom is more than we can resist, so we trust that the Maker's rope and Light are leading us to a good beyond good.
"...because of the tender mercy of our God, whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.”
"Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows."
Heidi: Daniel returning from China Singing carols at the nursing home, and Etta walking to her for the first time Reading Harry Potter Going to the cabin and the kids exploring the outdoors Ethan and Adelaide learning to read
Jason: Coaching Adelaide's soccer team (The Rainbow Rhinos) Riding the Texas Giant with Ethan 8 years with Heidi Baylor Homecoming Game with the family
Ethan: Learning to snowboard 1st grade is "okay" Going to Great Wolf Lodge Breathing fire
Adelaide: Learning to snowboard Going to Great Wolf Lodge Going to Kindergarten
You're sitting in your first day of Kindergarten right now, most likely learning something that was a part of my third-grade curriculum. I didn't see giant inflatable letters in your room, but l did see lots of interesting books and enough supplies and oddities to inspire an episode of Hoarders.
You are a brave, spirited girl and I think you're going to love this year at school. I'm most looking forward to you learning new ways to express yourself- through words, music and art. Mommy and I are proud of you and we'll enjoy this year with you. Julius is probably going to miss having his play buddy around during the day, but we all know Mommy is his current favorite anyway so maybe he'll find this new alone time as a little perk.
I hope you enjoy your napkin note (link coming soon), it felt like the perfect picture for you.
Judes, I'm intensely grateful for you today. You have poured an immense amount of love and care into Adelaide over the past six years and have helped prepare her for such a time as this. She is a passionate soul and maybe the strongest-willed of the bunch, but you've helped her find her way and have given her voice in the shadow of her big brother.
I could not imagine a greater mother for her, and I am so proud of your relentless commitment to our family.
It's the end of the world as she knows it,
and she feels fine.