A bird feeder hangs outside our dining room window.
Nearby trees provide shelter, and a small stream with shallow pools for drinking and bathing is only a sunflower seed’s toss away. With the feeder added to this natural haven, our little corner of the neighborhood attracts crowds of songbirds.
We spend many meals discussing the visitors to our feeder. “Look,” shouts Tarica around a mouthful of chicken. “There’s a titmouse.”
The girls recognize most of the birds dining on the other side of the window: cardinals, woodpeckers, nuthatches, chickadees, sparrows, wrens, and finches. A new bird at the feeder sends one of us running for the bird book, and we pore over its pages, making guesses and debating characteristics until the bird is identified. “That’s an Eastern Towhee,” my husband says. “Look at its red eyes.” And the children fog the windows looking, standing on tiptoes peering, talking in loud whispers.
Last spring, an Eastern Phoebe pair built a nest on top of our outdoor floodlight, a few feet away from the feeder. Each morning at breakfast, the girls watched Mr. and Mrs. Phoebe fly back and forth, their beaks clamped around insects, food for their hungry babies. “Mom,” said Jenica, “I thought you said those birds are flycatchers. Why do you call them phoebes?”
“They are phoebes, but they are also known as flycatchers.”
She frowned. “How can they have two names?”
“They have two names just like you do. They are phoebes belonging to the flycatcher family, and you are a Jenica belonging to the Leinbach family.”
Her laughter warmed my heart.
At lunchtime on a summer day, Jenica announced, “I hear a cardinal.”
We stopped eating and cocked our heads. A bright “birdie, birdie, birdie, cheer, cheer, cheer” floated in through the screened door.
“I see it, girls,” I said. “Up on the telephone wire.”
They abandoned the table to crowd the window space and watch the scarlet singer serenade us.
Our children love birds as much as we do.
* * *
Sometimes, as a mother, I worry. I worry we will fail to teach our children to love God as they should.
I was worrying about it again today, wondering what we can do, wondering if there are any secrets to teaching children to love God. I was worrying about it—until I realized:
We will teach them to love God the same way we taught them to love birds.