My family has found a new winter hobby.
We watch birds.
It all started with a bird feeder sent to me as a free review item. It’s a nice feeder, and it is totally squirrel-proof.
Our free bird feeder cost us about sixty dollars to erect and now hangs from a 12-foot pole in the middle of my front yard.
That free bird feeder has turned into our favorite way to spend quiet mornings.
And quiet afternoons, too, actually.
Both of my girls crawl up on the couch with me (and usually the cat, too), and we gaze out our front window.
My 2-year-old stares wide-eyed at b’rees! b’rees!. She points and claps and giggles and gasps when the pesky squirrel shows up.
My 5-year-old is enamored, too. She knows all of the birds by sight, even the ones that are infrequent guests. She can tell a titmouse from a wren and a song sparrow from a junco. She pores over our Birds of North America field guide. She scolds the pesky squirrels for eating our suet, and she pities the birds with crusty eyes. (House finches get an eye disease that makes them go blind.)
We sometimes sit for an hour or more, watching the birds come to the feeder and hide in our bushes and graze in our grass, and it is the perfect time to talk to my daughter about God:
1. God created a rainbow of beautiful animals. We notice the brilliant almost-glowing blue of male bluebirds and the rich red of male cardinals and the ruddy brown of Carolina wrens. God created each of these animals, and they are all strikingly beautiful. Even the obnoxious starlings and the pesky squirrels.
2. God made each bird perfect for its niche. The Carolina wren has a long, curved beak. The chickadee and the finch have very short, strong beaks. The cardinal has a thick beak, and the woodpecker has a long, hard beak. God made each of these birds perfect for finding the food He intended them to eat. The woodpeckers, wrens, and bluebirds use their longer beaks to dig into suet, but the titmouse, chickadee, and finches grab seeds from the feeder with their short ones.
3. God takes care of all His creatures. I love the verse in Matthew 6 that says, “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?” (verse 26, NIV). God provides food for the birds through our feeders when there isn’t enough to last them through the winter. He provides enough for us, too.
4. God’s ways are not our ways. (Isaiah 55:8) My 5-year-old is struggling with the unfairness of disease in our bird population. She doesn’t understand why God would let the birds die before they’re old. My mom has pancreatic cancer, and the time will come when I have to explain to her why Grandma died before she was old. I’m trying to prepare her for that day.
If your kids are older than mine, you might not want to stop at 4 points. Check out It Couldn’t Just Happen. It answers some of kids’ questions about how God created the world and will give you a deeper conversation.
I encourage you to put up a bird feeder this winter. You don’t have to put up a 12-foot pole; a hook on a tree will suffice. Put it where you can see it, fill it up with black oil sunflower seeds, and wait for the birds. They will come.
The opportunities you’ll have to experience God’s creation with your kids, and the conversations you’ll have about it are worth whatever you have to spend.
Tara Ziegmont is a professional blogger, blog coach, and SEO specialist. She created an internationally-syndicated, award-winning blog called Feels Like Home in 2007 and continues to publish it today. Tara homeschools the older of her two crazy children and lives an old-school back-to-basics frugal lifestyle while working full-time from home.