“How lovely is your dwelling place… I long and yearn for the courts of the Lord; my heart and flesh cry out for the living God. Even a sparrow finds a home, and a swallow, a nest for herself where she places her young… How happy are those who reside in your house, who praise you continually. Happy are the people whose strength is in you, whose hearts are set on pilgrimage… They go from strength to strength…” (Psalm 84:1-5, 7–CSB).
Prior to our departure for our recent “Out West” vacation we fought tooth and nail in our attempts to deter barn swallows from building their nests above our outdoor deck speakers–going to great lengths to block the tiny spaces where these determined birds desire to raise their young. Because we’ve learned–their presence, small though they are, creates a great big mess, especially after their babies are hatched.
“We have a barn, for the love,” I cried, taking a broom handle to the mud and grass that had begun to build up on the speaker above our hot tub. “Why not build there?”
And from the high wire, the swallow chirped in protest, seeing her work come crashing down, and my heart hurt a little. After all, these creatures are created with an instinct to build their nests in places that are protected from winds and rains–places where they can lay their clutch of eggs and wait.
Imagine our surprise when, upon returning from our trip, a nest was right where the little barn swallows had determined it would be. We’d only been gone two weeks, but that was apparently enough time for the pair to build and lay their eggs. Thus, the waiting had begun–the mother on the nest and the father always close by, on a fan blade or overhead on the electrical line. As is typical, they dive-bomb our heads when we walk outside–another annoyance we’d tried to avoid. But it was too late. Babies were on the way, and I personified–certain that the feathered couple was proud that they’d found a place to raise their brood.
The other day, our dear friends Amy and Richard Fish–with two of their four children, Molly and Audrey–came for an afternoon visit and for dinner. As we sat on our back porch enjoying the late afternoon sunshine, Richard noticed the nest atop the speaker.
“What kind of bird is that?” he inquired.
“Barn swallow.” Shaking my head, “They’ve even taken over the Purple Martin house and yet, have still been determined to build above the hot tub, despite our efforts to keep them away.” Clucking my disapproval, “They make such a mess once their babies are hatched. But it seems they took advantage of our being gone, so they’ve won.” I shook my head.
Our conversation then turned to other matters, catching up on life changes, as well as upcoming challenges. We’ve known the Fish family for nearly a quarter of a century, having first met in 1997 while Bill and I were living in Greenville. They’d just moved back to South Carolina, having been in Kansas for a couple years. But after the birth of their third child, they returned home to answer the call God placed on their hearts–to start an inner-city, Gen X church. Thus, ReaLity was born, and Bill and I, along with a number of others, joined together with Richard and Amy to help make this ministry flourish. We each believed this church was God’s “baby,” and He’d called us to help in this endeavor. What joy for those of us who, in obedience, had spread our wings to help this church take flight!
And what joy Richard and Amy, as well as their brood, brought to Bill and me personally. We became fast and dear friends–sharing life with one another, including the difficult season Bill and I faced with infertility and our desire for a family of our own. Amy and I spent many hours praying together, and she helped me persevere–encouraging me to press in to the heart of the One who’d spoken, reminding me often that–
He who promised is faithful.
How wonderful then to have Richard and Amy by our side when our first son was finally born in February 1998. They rejoiced with us, giving God praise for the fulfillment of His promise after many long years of waiting. And they continued to be by our side when we lost our first daughter to a failed adoption, and when she passed away only weeks later, they were there to comfort us with their presence and prayers.
And we’ve been with them through the various seasons of their lives as well. We’ve watched with them as they’ve waited for their own fulfillment of God’s promises–for the healing of one child who struggled with a life-threatening eating disorder and for the finalization of their fourth child’s adoption. Audrey, who was born in Thailand, is still waiting for her green card, and we wait with them–believing, too, that–
He who promised is faithful.
So as we sat on our deck the other day, we shared more of the things of life as the mother swallow above our heads seemed to busy herself with her nest in a manner that perked Amy’s attention. “What’s she doing?” she asked, pointing to the mother bird.
And just then, I noticed something on the deck below, and I walked over to pick it up. It was half of an empty egg, the other half stuck between the floorboards. “Hmm. A dud, I guess.” I held the shell for Amy to see. “That’s sad, but there’s no yoke, so the baby bird must never have developed.”
Suddenly, it dawned on me. “Wait. Maybe her babies are actually hatching. Perhaps this is the empty shell of one that’s now in the nest.” Though it seemed too soon, it had been nearly several weeks since the nest was built.
“Well, that would explain things,” Amy added. “She seems rather busy.”
“I bet she’s housecleaning–removing the empty shells as her babies come out.” My sadness, and any earlier annoyance, quickly turned to joy!
The evening came to an end, and the Fishes departed with hugs. We knew it would likely be some time before we’d be together again. They’re leaving for Texas in the coming days where Richard will return to his work with YWAM (Youth With A Mission) in Tyler. Amy will soon be teaching again at Christian Heritage School. Their daughter Audrey will be a senior there and is prayerfully considering her options for furthering her education, with a passion to study film. Molly, who, until recently, was living in Washington State, is returning with them too and is seeking the Lord regarding His next steps for her–that she might be used for His glory. Daughter Emily resides near us, in Asheville, and their son Kyle lives outside Seattle with his wife Kelly.
I tell you all this as a matter of prayer. And, in case you’re wondering where this story is going–how determined barn swallows might be even remotely related–allow me to tie up loose ends.
The morning after the Fish family’s visit, I stepped out onto our back porch again. There, just under the nest, was another empty egg shell. I smiled as I picked it up. “Good job, Momma,” I whispered to the bird tucked inside the nest.
Her little head cocked as though she understood my encouragement, and I stepped up onto a box to snap her photograph. Right on cue, lest I think for one single second that we had some sort of familial bond, the father swallow swooped and startled me. “Alright. Alright,” and I jumped down and returned to the house.
Something most of us take for granted. A home or dwelling place. The Psalmist wrote about such, proclaiming his desire to be in God’s presence–yes, in His dwelling place. And while we’re promised that God is everywhere, that He is with us no matter where we go, the fact that the Bible mentions “house” or “home” more times than I care to count (hundreds and hundreds of times!) means the topic is pretty important.
After picking up the egg shell yesterday–after complimenting the swallow on her fine work, despite our earlier attempts to thwart her efforts–the Lord spoke to my heart. He particularly spoke to me about our friends, the Fish family. Like Psalm 84, I’ve never known anyone to desire to be in the Lord’s presence more than Richard and Amy. I’ve witnessed time and time again their longing, their yearning, for the courts of the Lord. Indeed, their heart and flesh cry out for the living God (Ps. 84:2).
No one has gone from strength to strength more than they have, and I’ve seen them, though weary and worn out, press deeper into the heart of God each step of every pilgrimage, believing that–
He who promised is faithful.
As I held the little speckled egg shell in my hand, I heard the Lord say–
“You and Amy have always shared a love for birds. Why do you think I allowed them to begin hatching as you sat together on your back porch? That could’ve happened earlier or later, but it was in that exact window of time, because there’s something I want you to learn. I care for the birds of the air. I’ve placed within the swallow an instinct to find a place to build her nest that her young might be born, just as the Psalmist proclaims. Likewise, just as these little empty shells were homes for the baby birds who now reside safely in their new home, the nest, so too for Amy and Richard and their family. Don’t I care much more for them than baby birds who I created, giving each instincts that they might do that which I created them to do? Oh you of little faith! I allowed you to witness this transfer, from one dwelling place to another, that you might better believe that I’ll do the same with these children of mine who I love so deeply. I’ve instilled in each of them desires, have given them gifts, that they might work for My glory and for the good of those I’ve placed in their path. Though they return to Texas without a home to call their own, haven’t you seen Me work time and time again in their lives to bring to past all that I have planned? Why would I stop now? This object lesson–barn swallows born before your eyes–is to cause you and them to further walk by faith. Trust in Me, dwell in My presence, and watch as I do something new.”
How humbling to hear from God and then be exhorted to share. To disobey by not doing so only means He’ll find another, for His plans will not be thwarted, but I’ll fail to reap the blessing that comes in obedience.
Our friends, the Fishes, are without a home. That’s right. Where they once had a dwelling place, they no longer do, and yet, they’re returning to Texas to persevere in faith–believing still that–
He who promised is faithful.
The story of how they’ve come to this current situation can be READ HERE and I beg you to not only read their testimonies, but please, please pray for them too. And share with others, as well. Maybe the Lord will encourage you to offer regular prayer and / or financial support. Their work with YWAM Tyler is changing the world, one heart at a time. Perhaps the Lord will lead you to offer support to further the work of this amazing ministry too.
Above all, no matter what God calls you to do–
Persevere in the path He’s placed before you.
And never cease to pray–asking Him to speak to your heart as you make your requests known to Him.
And above all, spread your wings to fly–even when you’re weary or afraid. That’s what we’ve witnessed the Fishes do, time and time again. Because they continue to believe that–
He who promised is faithful!
Dear Jesus, go with our precious friends. Guide them to the perfect dwelling place You’re preparing just for them. Help us to have faith, even when things seem to fall short. Because You are always, always faithful!