Michael, Cami, and I went to Mason Neck State Park today. We took the cameras, the binoculars, water bottles, and Cami's stuffed chihuahua. The weather was beautiful---a bit windy, and the wind had a bite, but the sky was a sunny, clear blue. I felt like I was running to meet God.
I just wanted to breathe, you know? To stand in the open and hear the wind in the trees.
And I wanted to see a bald eagle.
I've seen them in zoos before, and thought how sad that is; their enclosures usually have a lid to them, not much flying room. And eagles need to fly.
As we got out of the van, we said two statements that would reverberate later.
As I put my high-powered bird-watching binoculars around my neck, I told Michael, "I want today to be the day that I see a bald eagle in the wild." We turned around to find the trail head, and there, through the trees, I saw it: a soaring eagle. It never cleared the trees for me to see it in the open, but I was still impressed with how quickly God answered my heart's desire.
As we headed on the Bay View Trail, Cami said, "Maybe we'll see some wild chihuahua." She was carrying her stuffed chihuahua and chattering constantly. Michael and I both had to explain to her how our loud talking and trail tromping would keep the wildlife hiding in the woods. I didn't want to ask her to be quiet because that's like asking the wind not to blow.
The wind was blowing a constant (what's between a breeze and a gale?), and it was making my eyes water. Brisk is too kind of a word. We enjoyed walking the trail and seeing what we could see. It was wonderful to not limp and be afraid my ankle was going to give out. (Yay, physical therapy!) There were a few places where the path was so steep, the trail blazers had built steps into the trail. Those were great for climbing up. Of course, eventually, the trail had to step down again. My knee was crunching louder than the wind and Cami's voice put together! Cami ran on ahead, hollering, "Come on, Mom and Dad!" Michael and I were chuckling about how we're not as spry as we used to be when we hiked all those trails in our Chicago backpacking days.
At the end of the trail, we found this hollowed-out tree that was interesting and fun to look at. I heard Michael say, "Would you look at that?" I turned to see a family walking up the trail with---you guessed it---a chihuahua leading the way. It wasn't a wild chihuahua, but God had heard Cami's heart. Michael said, "You can't write this stuff," which I interpreted to mean, "Even if you tried to imagine the perfect answer to a prayer you don't know you're praying, God still answers it better!"
Before we headed to the Visitors Center, we went to the boat launch into Belmont Lake. There's
a small stretch of beach there where we found clams last year. Cami wanted to see if we could find some more.
We collected duck feathers and saw empty shells. We even saw a crawfish in the surf's edge! I had so much fun watching my husband and daughter explore nature together. Many of our homeschooling days are spent just watching bugs, or closely examining flowers, or collecting interesting leaves. Michael is usually at work when Cami and I are being in nature. I decided on the shore today that we need more family nature time.
My heart had been pondering how God had let me see an eagle, and I thought it was done, you know? That seeing one through the branches was enough. I wasn't expecting anything more. But God wasn't finished yet. He's been trying to convince me that He truly does delight in me, that He loves me, that He LIKES me, ADORES me, even. When He sent that rainbow a few weeks ago, such a holy delight stayed on me all day. It was as if He was giving me a squishy hug! It was spiritual and emotional---but it was a lingering physical sensation as well, unlike anything I'd even experienced before.
Today wasn't Church Day, but I definitely worshipped. As we stood there on the lake beach, enjoying the wind and the crawfish and each other, I turned to look at the sky over the parking lot, and there it was. The eagle. Soaring. It looked as if he was suspended, like there was no wind because he just was there, in the sky, not moving or flapping, wings outstretched, like a still life. I started shouting, "Oh! There he is! Look! Look! There he is!" I must have sounded like a fool.
All I could hear was the wind, and my own voice rejoicing. I looked through the binoculars, and I could see the lines of his feathers. He headed out to the water, which meant he flew straight over me. "Oh! Isn't he beautiful?" I found myself overwhelmed with. . .something. Gratitude? Awe? Something tangible. I stood there on the beach, exclaiming like a crazy person over this bird, and I realized I was weeping. Tears were coursing down the sides of my face. I looked to find Michael, who was standing near me, trying to capture the flight with the camera. "Did you see him?"
We stood there and watched the eagle fly out over the water. He actually dived once, but in what muct have been twenty minutes just standing there, watching, I counted only one time that the bird actually flapped his wings. Later, I thought of Isaiah 40:31 [the bracketed phrases are definitions from the Hebrew lexicon on studylight.org]: "They who wait [hope, expect, look eagerly for] for the Lord will gain new strength [to pass through, to sprout again, change for better]. They will mount up [be carried away, have boundaries expanded, come up before God] with wings like eagles. They will run [bring or move quickly] and not get tired [toil, labor], they will walk [proceed, die, live] and not become weary [fatigued, faint]."
That eagle didn't work at all. It seemed as if he didn't move a muscle. He steered with the wind, I'm sure, but he didn't flap his wings. That amazed me. He just spread his wings and held them there, letting the wind do the hard work.
If the eagle's flight is the metaphor God has given me in His word for waiting, trusting, believing Him, then I've been working too hard, striving too hard at it. I need to just spread my wings and hold them there, and let the Holy Spirit Wind do the hard work.
What about you? Does your waiting for, hoping in, expecting God look and feel like mounting up on eagle's wings? Mine's still becoming, and God is so patient with me in the arriving.