I filled a bird feeder with sunflower seeds and hung it outside the kitchen window. I did not know if the birds would come, or if the squirrels would commandeer the feeder, so I waited to see what would happen.

16 birds pictureWithin days, the birds became regular visitors, and our family of four spent our breakfast and dinner times pointing out the different birds. Doug commented that the Finches mimicked a busy day at O’Hare airport–they circled the feeder. Our favorite bird has been nicknamed Mr. Cardinal, because he is huge and lands like a cargo plane. Because there were many birds we could not identify, we procured a book featuring the birds of the Carolinas.  Now we can confidently point out Chickadees, Tufted Titmouse, and the official bird of South Carolina, the Carolina Wren. Watching the birds has become a favorite family activity.

One morning the birds did not appear.  I checked the feeder, and the seed was dry. I looked for evidence of mischievous squirrels. I could not figure out where the birds were. Then I heard “bang, bang, slam, bang.” And I remembered that I had been hearing this noise all morning long. The noise from our neighbor’s home improvement project was keeping the birds away. With a pout and a foot stomp I said, “Those are my birds. I want my birds back.”

That was when I had my Jonah moment. Jonah, angry and disgruntled, sat down in a huff outside the city of Nineveh. God caused a plant to grow and shade Jonah. The plant comforted Jonah. But then the plant died and Jonah railed about how angry he was to have lost the plant and its shade. God reminded Jonah that he did not plant it or make it grow. The plant grew because of God’s goodness. Jonah went from being pleased to have shade to being indignant that his shade was taken away. He had lost his appreciation for the gift of the plant.

I was indignant that my neighbors were keeping the birds away with their noisy construction, so I blurted out my assurance that I was entitled to our bird show. When I heard what I had just said, I conceded that I was behaving like Jonah. The birds come and go as they wish. By hanging the feeder, I put myself in a place to enjoy the birds and was gifted with their presence. Yet I did not create the birds, nor could I orchestrate their coming and going. However, I had moved very quickly from graciously accepting the gift of birds to expecting the gift, even demanding it. I am thankful that Jonah’s story reminds me that some gifts come and go, and all we can do is enjoy them while we have them.

I am thankful for the diverse group of birds that come to our back porch to share meals with us. I am thrilled my daughters can now differentiate between a Finch and a Chickadee. But I am most grateful for the reminder to enjoy the gift of the birds.

Tammy Abee Blom is an ordained Baptist minister, regular contributor to BWIM’s blog, mother of two amazing daughters, teacher for children’s Sunday School, and lives in Columbia, South Carolina.