Somewhere along the line, hummingbirds became a personal symbol of something special for me. Usually appearing when I most desperately needed peace during a time of grief, I started to see God’s gentle consoling with the expeditious appearance and then rapid disappearance of the fleeting little bird. I have always put up hummingbird feeders and planted the “right” flowers and bushes that are supposed to attract them, but to my dismay I never had any regulars in my garden. Just the occasional and very brief encounter when I most needed reassurance.
Recently I have approached and entered into a number of significant changes to life as I’ve most recently and comfortably known it. They are changes I will grieve, but they also hold hope for the future. Imagine my delight when I recently discovered not just a resident hummingbird, but her nest just outside of my kitchen window! I could watch her flit away and then quickly return to sit quietly on her tiny eggs while I did the breakfast dishes every day. I anticipated her tiny little baby birds with great anticipation.
News came during this time that our dearest of friends, next door neighbors that had become family over the past eight years, were moving away. Both happy for them and sad for change, I was reminded of the verse I clung to when we moved into the house we now live in: Psalm 84:3: Even the sparrow has found a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may have her young– a place near your altar, LORD Almighty, my King and my God. I took solace in my hummingbird friend (whom I had secretly named “Glimmer”) and the hope in her nest.
Not long after that, Glimmer disappeared. Her nest was vacant and I was devastated. Her hopeful future reflected mine and now where was that? I sadly said goodbye to her and asked God to follow my bird friend to her new home.
Two weeks went by and I faced impending new obstacles of change. While I know kids grow up fast, I was still finding myself unexpectedly surprised that my firstborn son was preparing to leave for college. My fourteen-year-old daughter was embarking on a new challenge soon to enter high school, and my youngest daughter was moving into the rank of “top dog” in 5th grade at elementary school. For the first time ever, it felt like they all had major “growing-up things” all happening all at the same time. While I thought I was handling it particularly well, I was still feeling the pain and grief of change and all the impending “new normal” that I would have to face.
One particularly poignant morning I poured my first cup of coffee and I glanced out the kitchen window at Glimmer’s nest with some sad feeling-sorry-for-myself feelings. What I saw was not what I expected and I truly couldn’t believe my eyes: to my delight and amazement I saw two tiny baby hummingbird heads peeking out of the nest!
The next few days were spent watching Glimmer come and go as she took care of Glam and Glue. I had a million things to do, but I’d find myself watching endlessly as these little creatures practiced using their wings over and over and attempted to coax themselves out of the nest on their own. Glimmer came and went, but she never once tried to push them beyond what they were ready for.
As I watched those tiny creatures over the next two days, with my kids sometimes watching alongside me, we cheered on those birds over and over and we couldn’t wait to see them successfully leave the nest. Glam, nicknamed for her glamorous attempts to take off, departed first. We missed her actual departure, but we knew she would be the first to leave since she was practicing harder at making her wings work and seemed braver about getting out of the nest.
Glue, dubbed such since she didn’t quite want to leave the nest so quickly, also began to practice. I found myself alone and mesmerized at her determination and my desire for her success, and then turned to reflect on myself. Even as I watched Glue try to get away from the nest, I grieved as my daughter waited on a boy to arrive to take her to her first concert. I grieved as I knew my son would flourish in college but I’d miss his regular presence in our daily family routine. I grieved as my last baby moved rapidly toward adolescence.
I didn’t get to see Glue leave, but she was triumphantly successful and was gone before the boy rang the doorbell that night. The bird family continued to come and go by the feeder, but barely long enough for me to catch more than a glimpse. The nest waits empty and I’m hopeful for next year.
Cheer the little birds on with me. Maybe you are the one practicing with your wings, but just can’t quite let go of the nest with both feet yet. Cheer yourself on. Cheer on your own little birds in this season as I do as they prepare to leave for college – or take their first school bus to kindergarten. Wherever they are, be encouraged. My divine appointment with a hummingbird and her babies gave me a refreshed perspective and a reminder that my loving God is in all of the details – and will send me tiny little messages when I need them.
Watch footage of Glam, Glue and Glimmer here that I managed to get from the deck off of my bedroom. Forgive the amateur footage, but I had to hold the tree branches out of the way with one arm and the camera with the other and my arms got a bit shaky. The video opens with Glimmer surprising me by flying in and feeding her babies for the camera. It’s just another reminder that God has a plan and a perfect timing for all of us to live and thrive in our own personal calling.