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birds, cages and flying

I've always had a thing for birds. I also love small things. Anything is cuter and infinitely more adorable if only you make it smaller than it's supposed to be. Don't ask me why. Also you should know, my favorite color is blue. All of these reasons are why when I was out shopping with my sister in law about 3 years ago, I had to buy this little blue bird who was perched inside a miniature silver bird cage. It met all my criteria. At the time I justified my purchase as an intended gift for my cousin Becky who also loves blue birds. But as I got it home, I set it on my windowsill beside my bed because it felt like the right thing to do. Now at this stage I was still very ill and spending a lot of time in bed. So I would lay in bed and look at that blue bird in its cage, looking out the window. I began to think about that beautiful bird, who had the gift of flight and yet was caged. Unable to do what it was made to do. And not only that but sitting by the window watching the other blue birds fly and be free. So then it hit me. I was that bird. I was lying in my bed, unable to do all the things I was made to do. Trapped. Confined.

So I kept the bird. I kept it and I left it there on the sill and it kept me company.

Two years later I was feeling like the bird was supposed to be different. I myself had been slowly, slowly healing and was regaining some health. I felt like the bird was about to make a change too. One day I felt a prompting to go break that bird out of it's cage. So I broke the glue and pulled him out. Then, not knowing what to do with him, I glued him back on the top of the cage. He was out of the cage! This symbolic act made my heart feel hopeful. A bit ridiculous but hopeful non the less.

I set him back on the windowsill and felt better about him being out of his cage. There was hope for me too. But then I began to think about him sitting there. When you are out of your cage you are meant to fly. Leave! Be free and never come back to your cage. But he wasn't. He was glued to the cage. (Mind you, he was also a wooden bird and was quite literally glued to the cage. At this point my friends were like, ok i think you are taking this analogy a bit too far). But to me there was still symbolism there.

A couple months later I was at a creative spiritual retreat. I was pursuing God and he was blessing the long long years of waiting with the sweet balm of his Spirit. While I was at the retreat God used my bird analogy to speak to me. He whispered to me that I was supposed to fly. Then he showed me an image of a beautiful blue heron soaring over our pond at our new house. It was as if He said, "Yes, you were that bird, you were trapped in that cage but I was using that cage to prepare you to fly. And now you are ready."

That was a turning point for me. I was called to fly and I was ready to be done with cages. But what did that mean? What does it look like to fly? For me, it looks like walking into the opportunities that God puts in front of me. It looks like using my gifts to step out and do it. Go. Create. Share. Encourage. Do what I was made to do, in the various ways that plays out.

I came back from that retreat and there was a beautiful great blue heron sitting on the dock by the pond. My own version of a rainbow, reminding me of God's faithfulness and His promises kept. The heron is a constant visitor and my new blue bird to watch out my window.

I still have the other bird. He is still glued to that bird cage. For two reasons, the first being that if I break him off he will get lost or confiscated by my daughter, for sure. The second is that another, harder thing God showed me at the retreat that weekend, is freedom to fly doesn't always mean freedom from cages. That cage is still part of my story, part of my life. Even though I'm so much better than I was, I am not 100% healed. I still struggle with my health often. But it reminds me that my weakness is what makes Him look stronger. When I fly and then come home and sit on my cage and say, look, I'm still broken in ways, I still need help to fly. But I've been called to be a bird who leaves and soars but then comes home and sits back down with her cage. And really that's what we all are. Hurting, limited people who, when we step into what God has for us, can rise and soar.

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