I was walking on the greenway with the fam last week when I stumbled across a tiny little bird’s nest on the edge of the blacktop path. No birds were anywhere in sight and it looked as if it had been discarded – perhaps thrown there by a lawnmower that moved through earlier that morning.

The nest was finely crafted with what seemed like a million thin but strong twigs on the sides and bottom and an extra layer of soft yarn-like strands woven into its floor to keep the forthcoming eggs safe and warm.

But sadly, no eggs would be deposited into this nest – not displaced as it was – out in the open among the busyness of bikers and walkers and runners and dogs. As beautifully built as it was, this nest would remain empty.

Many of my friends are empty nesters now. By age, my husband and I should be, too, but we’re running a decade behind. Our little chickadee won’t fly the coop until we’re past retirement age. (Heaven help us!) I’ve witnessed several couples navigate the transition – some discovering an unexpected sense of freedom and adventure, while others have felt their lives drained of all purpose and meaning. I’m not sure what the determining variant is that produces such radically different outcomes, I just know that I want us to celebrate birdy’s flight well.

But today my heart isn’t particularly focused on the obvious empty nester. Instead, it’s pondering the plight of those who have experienced loss in a different way – the loss of their hopes and dreams. The nest with no eggs.

Few of us would rank 2020 as one of our all-time favorite years, I’ll give you that. It was supposed to be a year filled with renewed vision, and instead, we found ourselves mourning the loss of loved ones, of businesses, of livelihoods, of our own idea of normal.

I’m exhausted by the constant uptick in tallies. Oh, another person had a close relative die. Oh, another of my favorite stores is calling it quits and closing forever. Oh, I can’t go there and do that with them like I’ve done a million times before because restrictions are in place. STILL. It can feel like nothing will ever be normal again.

If I try to wrap my heart around it all, my soul begins to ache and my body follows suit. Melancholy sits nearby – waiting on my front porch steps and peering through my window panes – wondering if today is the day I’ll invite it in and entertain it for a while. Every day it’s tempting.

But it’s not like we’re not trying. We work and we weave – giving it our best effort – trying to create a safe and soft place for our hopes and dreams to land. We prepare and plan in anticipation of the next steps. We ready ourselves for the constant care and nurturing that the unborn idea will need while it’s in development and once it hatches. We ready our hearts for all the amazing places it could go when it becomes strong enough to take flight.

But in times like these – uncertain times, unprecedented times, times when we wish we could rewind the clock – many of us have been tempted to toss the nest altogether, fly off and just start over somewhere else. Trouble is, it’s happening everywhere, and flying off won’t help a single thing.

We watch as some have gracefully turned this world-gone-sideways into a new and booming venture (and admittedly scratch our head with a little envious disgust), while some have found their challenges insurmountable and these long days filled with loss and grief and confusion at how they wound up where they did. I’m not sure what the determining variant is that produces such radically different outcomes. Is it faith? Courage? Postitive thinking or an entrepreneurial spirit? An instinctual will to survive? Right now I find that I have more questions than answers. All I do know is that I want us to celebrate each other’s contributions well.

Adversity is always a catalyst for the creative.

So listen to me when I say this: you have to keep weaving intricate nests and laying beautiful eggs. Even if your nest winds up on the side of the road. You cannot give up. The entire world needs you. Our hearts need your soft place to land. We need you and your winsome ideas to make us see things in a different light. We need your creativity to give us hope and perspective and spark a sense of wonder. We need your movement to connect us to the visceral truth that we are human and that however disconnected we might feel right now, we belong to each other, and sitting still is just not an option. We need your outside-the-box thinking to help us solve some of these crazy problems we’re facing. We need your sense of humor and whimsy and your ability to laugh in the face of adversity to rally our courage. We need your light shining in this darkness to show us the way home. We need your song to be sung, bringing us to tears for reasons other than our own. We need your colors to saturate the dull grayness that has settled in around us and help us to feel alive and useful and worth something. We need your expression of you-ness – whatever form it takes – so that we can recognize beauty in the midst of our discomfort and begin to heal in spite of it all. We need your ability to make something out of nothing to inspire us to dig deep and collectively bring our hidden things out into the world. We need to hear the distant echoes of someone else’s primal shout, declaring that we are not done here, we are not defeated, we are just getting started. We need you to think and paint and draw and write and speak and sing and move and do whatever you were brought here to do to remind us that we are not alone and we are going to make it through this…together.

Now I look at my tiny little bird’s nest sitting on my shelf that I brought home from the greenway trail and my heart no longer mourns the things that will not be. Instead, it races with excitement and anticipation…because I can sense the possibility of what is to come.

And just like that, I think I’ve discovered the answer to what my heart has been wrestling with these past few days – you know, that pesky determining variant that seems to make or break a situation. It’s vision – being able to see past what has always been or what is presently into what it can possibly look like in the days to come.

After all the ways we’ve experienced “how things should be” being destroyed by the great lawnmower of this year’s challenges, the point is still vision. The theme for this year never changed – it’s just been reframed. It’s been loosed from the trappings of complacency and routine. It’s requiring us to find a way to be okay with the idea of laying our eggs in a nest by the side of the road if need be – where everyone can see their beauty on display. It’s causing us to dig deep and hold firm and wait patiently. – without giving up hope.

In Habakuk 2:2-3 the Lord says, “Write the vision; make it plain on tablets, so he may run who reads it. For still the vision awaits its appointed time; it hastens to the end—it will not lie. If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay."

So, if you find yourself lost in transition – stuck in what should’ve been, longing for what used to be, disappointed by what could’ve been – anchor yourself in God’s word. Ask Him what His vision is for your life. Ask Him how to walk that out step by step, day by day. Humble yourself and ask Him to align your vision that WAS with His vision that IS. Relinquish what you’ve tried for so long to control – no more white-knuckling life. Loosen your grip and wait patiently with open hands for what He promises will surely come. He longs for us to run freely in confidence and purpose and calling – but first, we slow down and we wait.

We wait for that nest to be filled again and again and again with God’s promises and every possibility.

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