From the beginning, she seemed inordinately calm. On the first day of building, I sat in a deck chair no more than eight feet from the converging spot of umbrella ribs where she was weaving the crib.
Once, from the fence that divides our place from Bill’s, she stared at me as I angled my long lens her way. Later, as I sat inside the study before the glass door, she edged her way over, as it seemed she had selected a long green strand of deck carpet to line the nest. Forcefully, she pulled, but the thread was still attached, and after a bit, she gave up. As I watched this maneuver, there was only a glass door between us.
Over the last few days as I saw her labor, I have considered how similar–yet how strikingly different–is the building of a human home and that of a robin. Common to both is that of immense struggle.
On the first day of building, I saw that Stellar Jays had partially destroyed her early construction, and so I told the grandkids if they saw molesting birds approaching the nest, they could open the slider and yell at the intruders. I waved fiercely at several myself. I watched as Mama Robin fought off both jays and other robins, and as she worked through the day–twig by twig–twisting a nest for the soft blue eggs that instinctively she knew were nearly ready.
When I address groups of women on certain subjects, I frequently state a disclaimer. For when I issue a godly challenge or describe a superior way or point to an elevated highway of holiness, without the disclaimer statement, I am a hypocrite. For I have never attained true and enduring godliness. I’ve yet, without misstep, to traverse the elevated glimmering highway of holiness. I still flounder. I persist in my own struggle.
On the days when I write a piece in which I glowingly describe my home and my family, I think often of you who read here, who sight from around the world, and who exist in a myriad of conditions. I consider thoughtfully those who may be discouraged by such reports.
For, you say, “Why can’t I have a home like that?”
“Where is such joy for me?”
“Why can’t I even have a baby–much less grandbabies? Why, God?”
“Why is my husband a drunk, or a drug addict or won’t even hold a job?”
“Why do I have no energy? Why did the cancer return?”
“How is it I live in a tiny urban apartment with rare glimpse of sky and grass?”
“What is the cause of my lack of peace?”
“How is it that I don’t understand ‘tent revivals,’ and grandfathers who tell to babes the ancient stories of the patriarchs? How is it I have no hope?”
“Why are my children backslidden? What does ‘backslid’ mean, anyhow?”
It’s a struggle to build a home.
It’s been a struggle for Jerry and me, no doubt in much the same way that it has been for you. Oh, the particular situation and details will vary greatly, but–to a person–we all have struggled. In our home Jerry and I have had to regroup and correct our course. We’ve failed and we’ve been careless. We’ve made mistakes and misjudgments. We’ve been hurt and we’ve hurt others. We’ve wept and groaned through long nights. Everyone does that. Everyone struggles.
It’s not easy to build a home.
I’m blessed with a positive nature, and I’ve chosen to look on the bright side of things. I choose to be happy…I just like it better. I prefer upbeat feelings to dark ones of gloom and discouragement. Generally I talk in a positive way. Not to say I will ignore challenges in our world, nor fail to point to inequities and silliness, nor be reticent about suggesting that we endeavor to solve problems that affect us.
Example: I could have written about Grandkids Week and honestly included the following:
** There is biscuit dough all over the kitchen floor.
** “How many times do I have to tell you to keep that baby away from the hearth?” (Pappy said in his lovely growling voice.)
** The button project ended with the floor littered with buttons, the table covered in same manner, and not a kid in sight.
** Red and black checkers were scattered so widely that I fear we may never locate them all.
** One of the bear slippers is missing–can’t be found anywhere.
** “Granny, I want some hot chocolate.”
“Well you’re not having it right now,” the granny replied as she was just finishing dishes from the meal from which said grandchild had just arisen.
** Ella Claire slept poorly the first night. She had a cough and she probably missed her mother.
** When the grandchildren were finished with morning chores, it was sometimes hard to tell a “made” bed from an “unmade” one.
** Someone didn’t take their clean, folded clothes from the dryer to their suitcase.
** Some of the pieces of a 1000 piece puzzle became mingled with pieces from another puzzle, and some of the pieces will probably never again see the light of day.
So you see, we’re all pretty much the same. We all struggle with similar and yet dissimilar challenges, and with problems that may not be easily solved..
I’m quick to say that many of our struggles are much more hurtful than are dirty kitchen floors and smeared high chairs. It is within the home and among family members where the deepest, darkest wounds and misunderstandings slash and fester and throb. I understand. It has happened to me, and such struggle is the deepest disappointment of my life.
But I choose joy…and have decided on happiness.
Late yesterday afternoon, I noticed Mama Robin was no longer visiting her nest. This morning, I observed a quiet deck, with no activity among the umbrella standards…and I was sad. Perhaps the mother had abandoned her home. Maybe there are been too many disappointments, too much frustration, too many interruptions. Perhaps it was just too much of a struggle…too much of a struggle to build a home.
But a couple of hours ago, I saw that she was back. I smiled.