Tuesday, August 31, 2010


If you've been following my "Nest Watch", you may know that Mourning Dove parents share the childcare duties. The mother sits on the nest from dusk till dawn, and the father sits on the nest during the day. For the past two days, our birdy daddy has been increasingly absent. Hmmm. I'm not judging, but yeah, I noticed.

They are so sweet and adorable. They still have down-covered heads, but as you can see, their feathers are defined and growing with each day. Daddy Bird's absence has given me more photo ops, but frankly, I'm concerned. With Hurricane Earl approaching our shores, I'm anticipating stormy weather this weekend. If daddy isn't going to protect them when the wind and rains come, who is? I'm saying my prayers for our little babies cuz now I'm attached.

If anyone has any knowledge about a safe way to protect these hatchlings without disturbing the parent/child bond, I'd love to hear from you. They will be 2 weeks old on Saturday.

Sunday, August 29, 2010


We got another peek!
Mom and Dad are both gone, likely catching worms and seedy things to make bird milk for their babies.

So we nosed in with our camera, careful not to touch.
The babies seem completely unruffled by our intrusion.

They haven't been to survival school yet, so they don't know that they are supposed to be afraid of us.

They are getting little feathers, a process called "fledging". One more week and they will be "full fledged". Baby birds grow up fast.
Two more weeks after that, they are supposed to be out of the nest.
Seems awfully soon for something so little and vulnerable.
Stay, little birds, and I will take care of you.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Mourning Doves

Thank you, Robin, for correctly identifying our porch birds, especially from those small photos on my blog. It always impresses me when people can do that! I've done my internet research and found out some interesting facts about mourning doves, so I am sharing them with you here. Most of the information is from the Cornell University website called "NestWatch".

1. They are monogamous and mate for life. (For better, for worse, for richer, for poorer...just like Joe and I.)

2. The father sits on the nest during the day, and the mother through the night. So it's usually the father that we see during the day. One parent bird is always with the hatchlings. Sounds extremely nurturing and sensible. I especially like that the fathers do 50% of the childcare.

3. They are a common species and live all over our continent (so you probably have one or two around your own front porch. Hang a few baskets and see what happens.)

4. Their flight is fast and bullet straight. But they eat seed off the ground which makes them vulnerable to cats and other predators. Wisely, they prefer to build their nests off the ground.

5. Their soft drawn out coos sound like laments, hence their name. It sounds like "woo-OO-oo-oo".

6. The chicks are cared for by their parents in the nest for 25-27 days. So we figure they will be here for about three more weeks.

7. The chicks will fledge (get their flying feathers ) 15 days after hatching. Perhaps one more week till that happens. They are soft little balls of gray down right now.

8. Their nests are flimsy platforms of twigs and sticks, and they lay two eggs at a time. I had seen a loose nest in the basket, but figured it was from early summer and the birds were long gone. Not so. They re-used their own previously built nest. Recyclers.

9. They have two or three nests a season. That explains the late summer nest, and also them being here all summer long. And they may be back next year. Once they find a spot, they stick to it. Next time, I'll be paying attention.

10. Due to its frequent breeding, and wide range across the continent, "Zenaida Macroura" is not considered an endangered species. Oh good. I can relax.

Luke 12:6
Are not five sparrows sold for two pence? and not one of them is forgotten in the sight of God.

Monday, August 23, 2010

On Our Front Porch

Do you see that eye peeking out through the leaves?
That bird has been sitting in our geranium plant swinging on the front porch all summer long.
We thought he just had found the perfect little home and welcomed him by ignoring him.
Can anyone identify this beautiful grey bird with a slender black beak?

About 10 days ago I noticed that his eyes would widen as I got closer.
He seemed to go on high alert.

As I was absentmindedly watering the plant, the bird fluttered off in a big show of feathers and noise. It occurred to me to pull the plant down from its hook and take a look.
Duh. Call me a city slicker. Slow on the uptake.

Lo and behold, he's not a he, he's a mama! Of the first order.
Sitting on her eggs. Protecting them from the likes of us and our watering hoses.

Close-up of said eggs. As close as I dared anyway.
Notice the water spots.
Fortunately, eggs are nice and waterproof.

10 days later, today to be exact--babies!! Grey chunks of fluff!

Snuggling next to empty eggs. Beautiful little hatchlings, the same color as mama.
On our front porch. In our geranium basket.
My goodness, life is surprising!
A little thing like this can make your whole day.

Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?
Matthew 6:26

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Isaiah 25:8
He will swallow up death forever.
The Sovereign LORD will wipe away the tears
from all faces.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Mourning Another Birthday

Joseph Neal Johnson 8/17/79-5/22/08

I miss you, beautiful son.

Miss your presence here with us.

Miss your warmth and humor, your enthusiasm for life, your insight and interested mind.

I miss getting hugged by you. Tall tender hugs. No one hugs me like that anymore.

I loved being your mother. I felt so proud of you. I loved your vibrance--that red hair and those deep brown eyes and the radiant, ever-ready smile.

I miss the closeness we all felt with you, and the way you enjoyed being with us.

I miss traveling with you, meeting up at the airport someplace, and exploring the world through your lively commentary and alert eyes.

I miss my cultural guide, and your efforts to keep me properly informed.

You, my son with an opinion on everything, also listened.

I loved our talks.

Playing music with your dad, or talking investment schemes. Laughing with your sisters and brother-in-laws. Entertaining your beloved nieces and nephews. Surfing, eating, traveling with Rachel. Rushing at life with Kevin and JR and Theo and Josh and so many others. And music.

Your life was rich with the sound of melodies

rising up.

Your voice --a song.

Cut short.

I can hardly wait to open the door one day and find you standing there.

Radiant and alive.

I miss you so, beautiful son.

For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.
John 3:16

Monday, August 02, 2010

Pushing Forward

So much, since the moment my son died, has been a push forward. Push forward to make the arrangements, push forward to do a memorial service, push forward to pack up his house and the precious pieces of his life, push forward to get up the next day. Push forward to pack again, this time moving your own life cross-country. Push forward to unpack, resettle, begin again. Push forward while your feet are in concrete, your heart has stopped, and your life looks like a disaster film.

Pushing forward is what we do when we HAVE to do. Push forward is for painful but unavoidable things. It's not like running forward. That is reserved for pleasure, for the beautiful and the delightful things in life. Pushing forward is a discipline and an obedience. I can see how people weary of pushing forward and just let go. I get that. It's grim and tiring and relentless and sometimes seems pointless. What's it all for? We're all going to die anyway. (A newly acquired insight--I'm not sure how I missed that before.)

I have found new solace in a reminder from Rick Warren's book The Purpose-Driven Life. He gives a quick summary of life by simply saying, "life is a test, a trust and a temporary assignment". Easy to say, easy to remember, easy to mentally grab when I'm at a loss for direction. Basic. Helpful. Anchoring. Comforting.

The "test" part is easy enough to see. For me, right now, the test is whether or not I will trust the God who has declared His love for me, even though I walk a dark valley. Or will I only trust Him on the sunny days, when the cupboards are full and the car doesn't break down? In my heart and in my will, after the loss of Joey, I've re-made a decision to trust His good character. I believe Him when He says all things will ultimately work together for good. I've released my expectations of what He has to do for me in this life. I'm counting on Him showing me someday, detail by detail, how He wove my sad story into a bigger, more beautiful story of redemption. I'm trusting Him to turn my water into wine.

The "trust" part of my purpose-driven life is a little more complicated. It means I've been entrusted to do something good with the bad in my life. I can trust God to do good with bad, but can He trust me? Can the people around me trust me? Will I show them a way through suffering and loss that's honest but also hopeful? Will my life story kill their faith and joy, or will it build it? Will I leave them unsure, unstable and doubting, or will my story reassure them that their faith in God can carry them through whatever losses and trials life brings them? That's where I live right now. I still have more questions than answers, but I know what I'm wishing for. I'm reaching for hope, for the sake of my grandchildren, and my daughters, and anyone else who may be watching me. That is the engine that gets me out of bed when the clock strikes 7 am and I start another day of living by faith in the midst of crucial, unyielding disappointment.

The fact that life is a temporary assignment helps. That's the most comforting part of Warren's three-part equation. I couldn't live with an eternity of loss and grief, but I can live with a season of it. God was indeed merciful to make the average human lifespan short enough that we could get to the end of it, make the cross over, and then, after all that, find everything we'd ever been longing for on the other side of it. (Need I mention that this only inspires gratitude when it's not your child whose lifespan is short?)

I am thankful for the statistical brevity of my own numbered days. I feel I can make the journey. However difficult my days are here, I am certain there's something so very good waiting for me on the other side, and that gives me strength to bear the burdens of this life. In this moment, my work is unfinished. There are tasks and lessons and people with which I have been entrusted. I don't have a big, impressive plan, (wish I did) but I do want to sort it out and live the truth and give it my best. I do want to finish well.

And so, I push forward.

Philippians 3:14
I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.