A few weeks ago as I was visiting my sister, we were walking from her house to the barn when I saw a huge feather on the ground in front of us.
It was so large, so fake-like perfect that I thought she must have dropped it somehow from the collection of feathers I’ve seen in her office, the ones I assumed she bought as some kind of set from the craft store – because who could collect so many huge, perfect feathers unless they live in a bird zoo?
The Nester, that’s who. Of course she has feathers. When I leaned down to pick up this feather, I turned to her. “Look, one of your feathers from your collection got loose. You must have dropped it here.”
“No!” She says as I hold it up, “This is a new one!”
“You mean from a real bird?”
“Of course!” Turns out this is a normal part of her life, feathers presenting themselves to her.
She goes on to tell me how at different times when she’s questioning, struggling, or simply needs a reminder that she isn’t alone, a feather seems finds its way to her. She says its been this way for years and receives them as little gifts from God.
Aside from that one feather I found while I was with her, I don’t remember ever finding a feather like that in my whole life.
I love the way encouragement presents itself to her in the form of these lovely little gifts. While gifts don’t seem to float from the sky for me in the same way, the more I thought about it, I realized I have been collecting small reminders of hope for myself over the years.
Part of me feels like maybe these don’t count since I had to go out and collect them. I wish these reminders would fall at my feet the way those feathers do.
Sometimes hope presents itself to you in the clear light of day, while other times you have to dig for it.
While I’ve been collecting shells on pretty beaches for many years, more recently I’ve started to pick up rocks in not-so-obvious places as reminders of God’s faithfulness.
After a conversation with a mentor who affirmed my calling, encouraged my spirit, and reminded me to carry on, I took a walk alone through a mountain path in Asheville. Thinking about what she said, I decided to pick up one of the many stones at my feet. It wasn’t particularly beautiful, but I brought it home where it sits on the lamp in my office, a reminder to have courage and continue to believe.
After walking our kids to school last month, I found this pink one on the street in my neighborhood. I picked it up as a reminder of how the Lord is present with us locally, and how Greensboro is the city where we feel we are to stay and serve even though we don’t have a lot of answers right now as to what that looks like.
During a recent visit back to my childhood hometown, I sat in the parking lot of the church where I was baptized and marveled at how nothing had changed in twenty years, down to the gravel parking lot.
Before pulling away from the church, I opened the rental car door, reached my hand down to the ground, and took a handful of gravel rocks to remember the simplicity of new belief and not let cynicism or resentment cloud the way.
I don’t think there is anything mystical about feathers or rocks or anything else, but I do think we can choose to let anything remind us to believe, to remember, to hope.
Maybe it isn’t so much that feathers present themselves to my sister and not to me. Maybe instead it’s that she has simply trained her eye to see them, to look for them, and to offer thanks when they appear.
Samuel took a single rock and set it upright between Mizpah and Shen. He named it “Ebenezer” (Rock of Help), saying, “This marks the place where God helped us.” (1 Samuel 7:11)
So we pick up rocks to lay down burdens, collect the feathers so hope will fly. We hold on to the gifts we find in the simple stuff of earth, the gifts that help us to see, to wonder, and to celebrate our smallness again.
Maybe today is the day for you to begin to see again, to choose what you’ll look for among natural things to help remind you of supernatural hope.
Or perhaps you already have a collection you’ve started of small things that remind you of the big picture. Or maybe it isn’t something you collect with your hands, but in your soul – a full moon, a sunset, a dolphin in the distance.
What are your eyes trained to look for? What are your Ebenezer stones?