"Of Swallows and Babies”
We were visiting family in France one spring, and we took a vacation down to the Southern part along the Dordogne River. I was excited when I saw that our ancient cottage was only 15 minutes from the village of Carrenac, the place where Fenelon had been banished to in the 17th century. This Christian Brother had been the Spiritual Advisor to the women in the court of Louis XIV. His thrust was to teach them how to love God with all their hearts while living in that decadent society. I had gleaned much from his writings and yearned for God the more. So! One of the first excursions we made was to that ancient village perched above the river.
With awe we walked up the stone steps leading into the courtyard of the monastery. Figures of the Apostles were carved in stone over the archway and Christ was in the center, holding a book. The courtyard was laid out in a square with a covered walkway all the way around. Great arches reached high above the walkway and we stood silently, thinking about the man of God who had walked here daily, praying for his people, lifting up his arms and soul to God like these arches.
All at once I became aware of a continual din of chirping noise and great swoops of swallows in the air. As I looked more closely I saw hundreds of swallow's nests tucked into the nooks of the arches and then I saw the tiny heads and huge beaks of baby swallows squawking for more food. Their mothers would circle up into the air, disappear and then return with more food in their mouths.
Immediately the Scripture came to my mind, "Even the sparrow has found a home, and the swallow a nest for herself where she may have her young -- a place near your altar." (Psa. 84:3) Here were literally thousands of swallows being mothered and nurtured near the altar in a place of prayer. That night, in the margin of my Bible I wrote, "Father, here are my children and grandchildren. I place them on your altar and release my hold and my "rights." You are the Lord of hosts and will protect and defend them."
Later that evening we were having dinner high on a cliff, overlooking the monastery. We suddenly became aware of thousands of swallows circling above and around us, not going anywhere, but rather swooping and swirling in a great dance. We watched as they reveled in their joy and exuberance. Then, I realized here were our swallows. They had left the nests after a long day of feeding, tending, and nurturing their young. Here they were joining together in a great celebration. I nearly burst with joy as I said to Joe, "That's what Mothering is all about! Feeding, caring, tending, nurturing, disciplining, and training all day long. But there comes a time every day when a mother must leave her children in the care of their Heavenly Father and she must worship Him with everything that is within her."
Many are those times when a Mother's love cannot do for her child (or grown child) what she longs to do and we need to place them on the "altar" as our gift to Him. We release them to Him. And we release them with joy – it is a sacrifice of joy.
Another year and another trip back to France and this time it was in the fall. We could hardly wait to go back to our swallows again, and walk the paths that Fenelon had walked and prayed. This time we walked into the courtyard and there was dead silence. We stared up into the arches with disbelief. The nests were there but empty. Not a swallow to be seen. Our disappointment was palpable. The following day we were exploring a fortress and as we stood high on the ramparts we became aware of birds swooping in great arcs. Our swallows! Why, of course! They had grown up. They had flown the nest and here they were at the Castle Gates.
The Lord spoke to my heart once again. "What did you expect when you gave your children to Me on the altar?" It was a powerful picture to me of accepting the responsibility of motherhood, releasing them back to God, worshiping Him no matter what, and then rejoicing that they were shoulder to shoulder with us, protecting the "home front" and winning victories!
"Lo, children are an heritage of the Lord: and the fruit of the womb is his reward. As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of the youth. Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them: they shall not be ashamed, but they shall speak with the enemies in the gate." (Psa. 127:3-5).
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