As I sat at the kitchen table, holding a syringe of soggy, mushed-up dog food, my mind couldn’t help but reflect on the crazy events of the past 24 hours that had brought me to that point.
“Come quick! We found something!” yelled my kids and their friends one beautiful Sunday afternoon.
“Dad will be right out to brush those ants off that baby bird. Let’s all take a look at it. It’s not every day you can inspect a bird up close. This will be neat.”
Little did I know that was not going to be the end of this “neat” experience. Good intentions can be a fickle thing sometimes.
Before I knew it, this little creature, which looked more like a dinosaur than a bird, was living in a nest made from a Cool Whip container and a heating pad and placed on my kitchen table. This was after searching high and low for the nest this baby fell out of with no luck. The little guy was very quickly named Cool Whip, for obvious reasons. But ironically, he lived up to his name by the “cool” way he “whipped” his head back and forth when he ate.
Yes, we began feeding him. We couldn’t let him starve before we were able to get him to a wildlife rescue. After a little googling, we soaked some dog food in water and began mashing it up while the dog stared at us with a look of bewilderment.
By day two, I began hearing things about bird flu. Bird flu? That’s a real thing? Sweet heavens above. Have we been washing our hands enough? Is my grocery store hand soap even strong enough to kill bird flu? Are we saving a life only to end up in the hospital ourselves?
On day four, after more unsuccessful phone calls than we can count, my precarious situation climbed to a whole new level. Cool Whip went to work with me. Have mercy. What did I get myself into? As I fed him in between various duties at my desk, I could feel my anxiety climb to a new level as well. This is ridiculous. How did I become a mama bird? Sometimes I feel ill-equipped to be a mama human, so this is definitely not in my wheelhouse . . . or should I say birdhouse.
Thankfully, Cool Whip only experienced one “take your pet to work day” as amazing neighbors and friends helped a mama out. Eventually, one neighbor put me in touch with a bird rescuer, and by day six, I was on my way to a dear person who was rescuing me just as much as she was rescuing this bird.
On the 30-minute drive, with Cool Whip on the heated seat beside me, my thoughts went to the old hymn “His Eye is On the Sparrow.” Through our experience with Cool Whip, the truth of these words came to life.
As I changed the paper towels in Cool Whip’s nest, I was transported back to those early motherhood days and recalled so many ways God has provided. As I received advice, feeding help, and ultimately a new, more capable home for this bird, I was reminded of how we all need community.
Much to our surprise, our prehistoric-looking baby turned out to be a woodpecker. Not even close to a dinosaur. Some species of woodpeckers practice cooperative breeding. They live as a tribe and non-parents and extended family will help raise the young. What a cool picture of mentorship. Woodpeckers are also one of the few bird species that co-parent. The dads are more involved and more helpful than most other birds. I know I am truly blessed to have a husband of this species.
It’s so easy to get overwhelmed. But like the hymn beautifully proclaims, “Why should I feel discouraged, why should the shadows come, why should my heart be lonely, and long for heav’n and home; when Jesus is my portion? My constant Friend is he; His eye is on the sparrow, and I know he watches me.”
Weeks later, when it came time for Cool Whip to fledge, he was an unrecognizable beauty of a bird. The rescue sent us photos and told us it is not unusual for woodpeckers to return to their place of birth. I knew the chances were slim, as we were miles from where he was being released. So you can imagine my surprise one morning when I opened the blinds and was greeted by a red-bellied woodpecker that looked just like our former feathered friend. There is no way to know for sure if that was our guy, but I know that God used that bird to encourage me.
I had been a part of keeping a wild animal alive, for goodness’ sake. I know God will provide for these roles He’s called me to, including the role of mom and stepmom. And the occasional bird mom. His eye is on Cool Whip, so I know he watches over me.