The January sky is gray and the air cool, but not cold, with a threat of rain. You know the kind of day that makes you want to stay in your pj’s, curled up in bed, binge watching a series on your iPad. It’s the kind of day you have when life has kept you in fast forward for weeks since the 6:30am phone call telling you a loved one has had a massive heart attack and is in the ER. It’s the kind of day you have when the holidays are over, when everyone has gone back to school or work, and you are finally in the house alone for the first time in what feels like forever. It’s the kind of day you have when you’ve returned home from the funeral of your dear college friend who has died too young. It’s the kind of day you have when all of these events have happened in the span of 6 weeks.
I returned from walking the dog to a silent house and nowhere I had to be and no urgent task I had to complete at that exact moment. Sure there were piles of laundry in bedrooms, and piles of mail on the dining room table, and piles of dishes to be washed. But I stood, frozen in place by the overwhelming feeling of it all. I did not know which way to turn, where to start. Then God tapped me on the shoulder and said, I will help you find your way, follow me out of the darkness.
How did He do this you ask? I’ll tell you. In two gestures, so simple that I almost missed them.
First, another college friend texted me a simple question – How are you?
Those three words were a life line reminding me that I was not really alone. I replied, candidly that I wasn’t great and told her honestly how I was feeling. Her question, and her response, helped me focus on doing something small to move forward and not allow myself to become overwhelmed.
Then the second thing happened.
I laid down my phone and turned to look out the kitchen window. There on the feeder in the center of the yard was a brilliant scarlet Cardinal. I had not seen any birds in the yard for weeks. I’d been so caught up in the chaos that was life that I had not been feeding the birds. Yesterday, however, in an effort to ‘feel better’ I took advantage of a rare warm January day and filled the feeders with suet and seed.
Cardinals are well known as messengers of God. The sight of them brings cheer, hope and inspiration on a gray wintry day. The Cardinal is nature’s reminder for us to focus on our faith, its scarlet feathers representing the blood of Christ shed for the redemption of mankind.
As I stood and pondered this beautiful and strong yet delicate bird, loud barking and commotion arose from the dogs in the yard next door. All the other birds flew away, not the Cardinal. He remained, perched on the feeder, unfazed by the chaos and noise erupting around him. A voice in my head said, that’s how God wants us to be, steady and anchored in His love when chaos surrounds us.
So, as I stood in the kitchen, feeling a little less numb, I was grateful for the lifelines that God offered me through a friend and through nature. Lifelines to pull me back from the edge of the darkness I wanted to hide in. Instead, I said a silent prayer of thanks for all my blessings, turned on the tea pot, and picked up a dish and started to wash it.