Wings

If you follow my Facebook page, then you may have seen some photos and videos of a broody hen named Stella. We’ve raised chickens off and on for ten years now, and we’ve had many hens go broody, but they would start setting on a clutch of eggs only to abandon it halfway through. When hens get broody, they stop laying eggs, so in the interest of production that instinct has been bred out of them for the most part. Stella is the first to hatch out and care for a small brood of chicks, so it’s the first time I’ve had the treat of watching a mama hen’s instincts at work. So far she’s doing a great job and her chicks are doing very well. We’re still keeping them separated from the rest of the flock for the protection of the youngsters, so periodically I check on them and provide for their needs. I love watching the little chicks zip in and out from under mama, and listening to her reassuring clucks. It has caused me to contemplate the concept of “wings.”

Picture I took when I first discovered the newly hatched chicks.
For Sheltering
Newly hatched chicks are extremely susceptible to cold. A broody hen is very warm underneath, between 105 and 107 degrees Fahrenheit, so newly hatched chicks find the warmth they need beneath her wings. Were it to rain before their feathers had grown in, they would also be kept dry.
A chick peeks out from beneath Stella’s wing.

When I first discovered that some chicks had hatched, I went into the coop to check for any that might have fallen out of the raised nest box. Sure enough, I found a little white chick laying on the floor. I picked it up and it was cold and lifeless, yet I felt its heart beating. I held it in one of my hands while I went to get supplies for the new family. By the time I got back, it was starting to revive a little. After my husband helped me prepare a place and move them, I put the weak little chick up under its mother. When I returned a little later to check on them, it had revived and was getting around as well as the others.

Video of Stella and chicks

For Protecting
As soon as a hen gets broody, she becomes very defensive. When you get near her, she’ll fluff her feathers and growl. If you reach for her eggs, she’ll peck at you. That behavior continues once her chicks are hatched. Here is a video clip of that behavior:

Our hen, Stella, seemed to soften a little bit at that point, but she was still very protective of her chicks. If they had ventured away from her, she brought them back with a certain call, and they’d scurry back underneath her wings.

Stella keeping a watchful eye on me.
Our Heavenly Father

Many times in scripture, wings are used to describe God’s loving care of His people:

“How priceless is your unfailing love, O God! People take refuge in the shadow of your wings.” (Psalm 36:7 New International Version)

“Have mercy on me, my God, have mercy on me, for in you I take refuge. I will take refuge in the shadow of your wings until the disaster has passed.” (Psalm 57:1)

“He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.” (Psalm 91:4)

How reassuring it is to know that He watches over us and invites us to take shelter beneath His wings. Watching Stella with her babies has given me new appreciation for that analogy.

Motherhood
The term “wings” reminds me of myself, too, and my role as a mother. Even before my children were conceived, I was praying and preparing for them. As soon as they entered the world, my instincts kicked in. I remember well how protective I felt, and if I could have had a police escort, or perhaps an armored vehicle, when taking our babies home for the first time, I would have. When I took them out in public, I worried that someone might try to kidnap them, so I kept them very close, and if I had to look away from them, I kept a hand on them. That may sound paranoid, but we lived in a huge metropolitan area at the time. My children were (and still are) my treasures. Even now, with them full-grown, I always feel ready to protect them. I have to restrain myself sometimes and let them handle things theirselves, but inside, I still feel like Stella in these pictures. You can see that she’s watching me carefully.

Wings

For Flying
Our children are in the “fledgling” stage now. They’re trying their own wings and even as they fly further and further from the nest, they are always welcome back.

One spring, years ago, I heard a ruckus out front so I went to investigate. At the edge of our yard, by the woods, there were some Blue Jays in the trees. I’m at a loss at how to describe their calls, but they’re very loud and boisterous, much like an alarm. On the lawn I discovered a young Jay sitting in the grass, and the closer I got to it, the more frantic and loud the parents became. It was a fledgling that had tried its wings and had landed in the grass. From their perches, it’s parents were watching over it and encouraging it to try again. They were prepared to defend it from a cat, or me, if necessary.

That memory, which had been stored in the back of my mind, came to the forefront these recent years as first our son, and then our daughter, started trying their wings. My husband and I watch over them and encourage them from a distance. Sometimes their landings are rough and they get discouraged, so we try to boost their spirits and give them the courage to try again. With each attempt their wings become a little stronger. I’m still waiting to see where they will eventually carry them, and hope that it’s not too far away.

Wings
Mama Phoebe

Even as I write this, the front door is open, and from my chair where I’m writing I can see the bird feeders. I’m watching hummingbirds, blue jays, cardinals and others, flying to and fro. We have a large flood light mounted to the peak of our roof, and a mama Phoebe built a nest up there and is raising some chicks. When I’m in the front yard I can hear them up there clamoring for food, and I see mama flying to and from the nest, doing her best to fill those hungry mouths.

Empty Nests

Spring is when birds build their nests, raise their chicks and teach them how to fly. It’s also the season of graduations and marriages – young adults take wing and their parents join the ranks of empty nesters.

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Wings
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Just the Two of Us

My husband and I are still adjusting to the changes brought on by our kids reaching adulthood but I think we’ve made good progress. We don’t seem to be as depressed and worried. Our evenings are usually pretty quiet, and since its just the two of us, every night seems like date night.

My husband and I recently went on a trip that was carefully planned to encompass several tasks, ending with picking up our daughter for her Spring Break. We have a business in south Texas, which we were going to check on. It’s a long trip of about fourteen hours that we’ve become accustomed to, but we were also towing a “fifth wheel” which meant we had to drive slower. We had also been advised to not plan to drive more that about 6-8 hours per day. My husband had spent a lot of time getting both his truck and the new-to-us trailer ready for the trip, so that it would go as smoothly as possible. I was mentally prepared to just relax and enjoy a slower pace.

When it was time to go and the truck was loaded, I found myself thinking, “Is it really this easy? Can we really just get in the car and go? Are we forgetting the kids? Do we need to check their schedules?” Although I miss the kids, I’m enjoying this time with my husband to reconnect and enjoy doing things we like to do.

Small World

The first night we pulled into an RV park and were setting up for the night. Another truck and trailer soon pulled up beside us and its occupants also started setting up. The gentleman looked a little familiar to us, but I guess we both passed it off as him just having “one of those faces.” But a little later when my husband and I were outside, he approached us and, having noted our license plate, asked us where in Missouri we were from. Well, it turned out that they were from a small town 30 minutes from ours and we knew each other, we just hadn’t seen each other in several years. We all had a good laugh. Just one of those “small world,” or “what are the chances” type things.

Leaf Springs Eternal

The next morning we headed out, thinking we might possibly even be able to finish our journey by that night. We stopped in a tiny Texas town for lunch. As we sat eating, my husband was looking out the window at the trailer and thought that something didn’t look quite right. When he finished he went out to take a closer look and discovered that a leaf spring had broken. I’m not real knowledgeable about trailer parts, but evidently that’s something rather important. Scott said that it’s what holds the axle on the trailer. We were in a little town on a Sunday afternoon so we worried about being able to get the trailer fixed. We thought we’d be stranded there at least another day. Thankfully we were able to find a mobile mechanic from another town that could come fix it, but had to wait a few hours while he went to a third city to get the part before he came. He arrived, still wearing spurs because he had been out riding his horse, but he was a friendly and hardworking guy and had it fixed in no time.

Divine Intervention

While they were working on the trailer, I had called ahead to an RV park about an hour down the road to make a reservation. But by the time the trailer was fixed it was nearing dusk. My husband was tired and didn’t want to set up in the dark. Rain was also forecasted that night and he didn’t want to risk packing the trailer back up the next morning in a storm. So we found a hotel in the next town. It was nicer than we expected, and the owners were very friendly and didn’t mind our truck and trailer taking up one whole end of the parking lot. That night, strong storms came through, waking us up to the windows rattling and being pelted by pea-sized hail. The next morning at breakfast, Scott was visiting with the hotel owner and learned that there had been tornado warnings, and that they had 100 mph winds in the town where we would have been had we gone on to the RV park where I’d made the reservation. The  news reported a train being blown off the tracks, so we were especially thankful to not have been sleeping in our camper.

My first “giveaway” was scheduled to go live early the next morning and I was nervous about everything working right. Due to the turn of events, I ended up being in a hotel, safe, and even having good internet to work out a last-minute kink. I had asked friends and family to pray for our safe journey, and I really felt that God had answered those prayers.

The afternoon of the third day, we finally reached our destination. The weather was beautiful and we were able to tend to our business as well as visit with family.

Bird Watching

One morning our cousins took us out in their boat, hoping to show us some Whooping Cranes. “Whoopers” are on the endangered species list and protected. That area of the Texas coast is one of the few places they can be seen, so bird watchers from all over the country come, hoping to get a glimpse, and maybe a picture, of them during the short time they’re in the area.

Just the Two of UsWe lived in Rockport for many years so I was familiar with the birds and the special events designed to capitalize on the tourism, but I don’t think I had ever seen one before. Our cousins knew where to find them so we were lucky to get to see them. You’re not supposed to get too close or disturb them, so we stayed at a respectful distance. I took the best photos I could, so I’m sharing the best one I had, which, after zooming and cropping, isn’t all that good. Yep, there they are!

When we returned to the boat ramp, there was a large group of pelicans waiting patiently at the fish-cleaning station, hoping to get an easy lunch when fishermen came in. They seemed to be disappointed that we were empty-handed.Just the Two of Us

Photography Goal

I took my Canon camera so I could practice taking pictures. One of my goals for this year was to learn more about photography. I don’t want to bore you too much but here are a few more photos.

Just the Two of Us

Just the Two of Us
Just the Two of Us
Smooth Sailing

The rest of our trip went well. We were able to visit with my parents and then pick up our daughter, all according to schedule. Scott and I are really wanting to have some freedom to go and do, so I’m learning to blog on the go.

Just the Two of Us

Empty Nest ~ What’s Next?

We just celebrated our youngest’s 18th birthday by moving her into the college dorm. She’s at a great school and I’m really happy for her, but as my husband said, “I’m excited for her, but sad for me.” This is a big change for us as both of our children are now grown.

University Campus
University Campus
Empty Nest - Dorm Hallway
Dorm Hallway

We spent a few days getting our daughter settled and attending meetings for parents. When we finally said our goodbyes and left her, we went to meet a group of friends for a weekend on the White River. By the time Scott and I arrived at the cabins early in the evening, we couldn’t believe how exhausted we were. The emotional roller coaster had taken a stealthy toll on us.

Letting Go

Three of the four couples had just left their youngest child at the same college, so we shared a lot of the same emotions. (The fourth couple will take their youngest next fall.) The timing of that trip together was perfect, and amazingly therapeutic. It was nice to kick off our Empty Nest phase with some close friends.

I happened to read Dear Kindergarten Mom This is Where the Magic Begins and I couldn’t help but tear up. Even though my daughter wasn’t leaving for kindergarten, we were at a similar point of letting go. As we sat on the back deck overlooking the river, my friends and I discussed this very thing. It seems like every phase of raising kids is harder than the last. If we had known how hard it was to be parents, would we do it again? (Absolutely!) Our goal as parents is to prepare our children for adulthood, so when they eventually fly away it’s a mix of emotions. Pride in seeing them take on new responsibilities and challenges. Fear of the bumps in the road they’ll inevitably encounter. Sadness at not being able to see them as much and be a part of their daily life.

Margaret as a baby
Margaret as a baby

Margaret was homeschooled from the very beginning. I did everything I could to prepare her and it was time to let go. She’s off to a great start, and I’m really happy that she’s making new friends and getting involved. My job as a mother is never over, but it changes, and now I’ll be exploring this new frontier. (Psst! You can come along with me by subscribing!)

 

Empty Nest ~ What's Next?
Empty Nest ~ What’s Next?