Feathering Nests and Floating Hope

  “Hope is that thing with feathers

 That perches on the soul

That sings the tune without the words

And never stops at all.”    ~Emily Dickinson

For many years now, I have believed that when I find a feather, it is a reminder to me that little things are important, and that I am kept in the shadow of God’s wing.  I have found feathers in the most unusual and unexpected places, when I wasn’t really looking.  When my mother was dying, I went out to the car to drive back to sit with her.  When I got to the edge of the lawn, I had to step over the median.  When I looked down, I found a large black and green duck feather sticking straight up out of the grass. A wisp of a feather floated by and stuck on my windshield on another occasion when I sorely needed the reminder.

I had a little feather that was a wonder to me for years.  I don’t remember where I found it or exactly when, although I kept it in a little birthday reminder book that was given to me in 1987, the year we moved to Indonesia.  I put it there in the beginning because on that page there is a drawing of that same feather, right down to the size (tiny) and colors and markings (black and white).  I was amazed at that.  Usually the process is different…you find the object, then obtain or make its resemblance.

The other special thing about that feather was that it lived between the pages of the birthday calendar book where my oldest son’s name is written, January 13, his birthday.  And that it was still there, through 2 moves in Jakarta, an international shipping, and the busy household shuffling of my kitchen desk every day.  Feathers usually don’t stay.  They drift in and blow away.

But this little feather stayed between the pages and always caused me to smile when I came upon it.  It reminded me of joy in small things, of hope … of lines of poetry and scripture, and that gifts can come when you open your hand and heart, and sometimes, the door. I gave the feather to my son on his birthday last year, telling him I hoped it would serve as a reminder of the same things for him.  (This story was posted in the blog last September.)

I still find feathers.  And they are still reminders for me of joy and faith…and that I am under the shadow of His wing. A favorite author, Leigh McElroy, likes finding feathers too.  She reminds me that God may wink or whisper in the way He reminds me of His presence, and that He delights in delighting me with the littlest of things.  The opening scene in a movie loved by many tells a story of a feather found and kept. 


On our back porch is a basket of stones. On each, a word is printed with white paint that has worn over time. I use these as prayer reminders, but the children love handling the smooth stones. Sometimes they are warm, sometimes cool, but always good to the touch. This week I noticed my 5-year-old granddaughter, Maddie, moving the stones around, then going out to pick flowers to bring inside. As I started to open the back door, I found one smooth black stone lying at the doorsill. This was the one with Forgiveness dimly written across its surface. I looked back at Maddie, who called “I put that there for you. It is special.” And I thought how right she was, what a needed reminder, what a precious gift. A gift rom a 5-year-old little girl who thought it was pretty, from loved ones to whom I may have failed to encourage and bless, from my heavenly Father, who offers it so freely and loves me unconditionally. Forgiveness is indeed a gift. Now that I consider it, so are the words written on all the other stones.

                                                                                                                                                                Light for my darkness                                                                                        

Courage for my fear
                                                                                                                                                                                  Hope for my despair
                                                                                                                                             Peace for my turmoil
                                                                                                                                                                                                          Joy for my sorrow.
                                                                                                                                                          Strength for my weakness.
                                                                                                                                                                                       Wisdom for my confusion.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Forgiveness for my sins.

                                                                                                                                                                          Love for my hates

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     Thy Self for my self.
                                                                                                                                                                                  Taken from At The Opening of the Day
                                                                                                                                                                                                By Howard Thurman

Prayers, Old and New

In 2004, at an estate sale, I was drawn to a framed hand colored piece printed in County Wicklow, Ireland showing a mother looking out an open window at a young child running off to play. Printed below the picture is A Prayer for a Young Child. It was published in Songs from Leinster, by Winifred M. Letts.

“God keep my jewel this day from danger;
From tinker and pooka and black-hearted stranger.
From harm of the water and hurt of the fire .
From the horns of the cows going home to the byre.
From the sight of the fairies that maybe might change her.
From teasing the ass when he’s tied to the manger.
From stones that would bruise and from thorns of the briar.
From evil red berries that waken desire.
From hunting the gander and vexing the goat
From depths o’ seawater by Danny’s old boat.
From cut and from tumble — from sickness and weeping.
May God have my jewel this day in his keeping.”

I love the cadence of the old-fashioned words. I know how a mother’s heart yearns for her children’s protection and pours that out in prayer. As I read one of Amy Carmichael’s prayers, I was struck by the similarity. Even though she never had children she mothered those with whom she worked in India

“Father, hear us, we are praying,
Hear the words our hearts are saying,
We are praying for our children…

Read the language of our longing,
Read the wordless pleadings thronging.
Holy Father for our children,
And wherever they may bide,
Lead them home at eventide.”

The opening and closing stanzas of
Amy Carmichael’s 19th century prayer for the children of the Dohnavur Fellowship in India

So today I am praying for mothers. I also pray for fathers. It is not always possible for us to protect our children from harm and hurt, from mistakes that they or someone else will make. I am glad to know that God reads the language of my longing, and hears the words of my heart.