I usually begin training my boys in January. By the end of the month, they have memorized or refreshed their memory on at least 50 bird calls. They have been outside and observed birds every day the weather conditions allow. But not this year! Instead, we fought the croup and respiratory infections while I packed everything we own in preparation for our house remodel.
Team Birds of a Feather Working Hard to Find Birds
(from left to right) Wilbur, Orville, K, and C
We normally spend the night at a really nice lodge located at the finish line site. The accommodations are excellent… a bed for everyone with linens provided, a private bath, and air conditioning. Plus, it is so quiet and peaceful and there are always night birds in abundance. But not this year! Because of our state's budget crisis, we were not able to get the room for the normal, affordable price. We found a "yurt" at another state park for a good price. It fit our budget but there were not enough beds for everyone and no linens and the not-so-clean, public bathroom was across the street. There was no going to the potty in the middle of the night! Plus, it was very close to a highway and a "honky tonk". The music was so loud as was the traffic that there were no birds around.
The next day was much of the same. The weather was clear but hot, so the birds were not very active. The boys really had to work to find anything to identify. It was tough and at times discouraging. There were good moments… finding swallows under a bridge, a great devotion on 1 Cor 13 in which the Lord convicted and encouraged us all, the cows, and a short birthday party at Dairy Queen. But overall, we thought this was going to be our year to lose, and we were ready for it.
The boys had just identified swallows which had nested under this bridge and were enjoying a break in a shady, cool spot.
As we headed to the finish line, I talked with my boys about how winning is not the goal. The chief end of man is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever. We believe in His sovereignty and providence. A loss for us is not really a loss. When the Lord is pleased to bless others, even if it seems as though He is withholding from us, we rejoice in His will, knowing that He is to be praised.We turned in our tally with 73 birds, nine less than last year's total (I will post this list later), and enjoyed a lovely banquet. For me, it was a relief that it was over. I was prepared for them to lose, thinking it might actually be in their best interest. This year they had to move to the next age bracket. The competition was more intense, and I thought they needed a year to"get their feet wet". After a great birds of prey show, it was time for the awards.
Orville and Wilbur pose in front of the championship trophy. Their team's name is engraved on the 2008 plaque for having won the Primary Division that year.
First, the event coordinator announced the winners of the birding journal competition. In the midst of all the remodeling, I had managed to get my boys to complete one each to submit. To my absolute shock, Wilbur won in the Primary Division. Orville won in the Elementary Division. Unbelievable! (yet another post in the works)
Wilbur with 1st Place Journal and Prize
Orville and His 1st Place Journal and Prize of New Binoculars
Then it was time for the team awards. For fundraising, they received first place, not just in their age division but among all teams, K-12. The coordinator then began to announce the winners in their age division for the most species spotted. I sat back in my seat and said a quick prayer… not that they would win, but that the Lord would enable them to give Him glory either way. The coordinator announced the 3rd place team. Their total… 62 birds. My eye brows raised. "They got second?" I thought. 2nd place was announced… 71 birds. My jaw hit the floor. By two little birds, found very late in the day, one just steps before the finish line, they had won.
Team Birds of a Feather Receiving New Binoculars for 1st Place in the Elementary Division
(from left to right) K, C, Wilbur, and Orville
The day before the competition began, I taught my boys Psalm 115:1. "Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto thy name give glory." This verse became the theme for the weekend and sums up our experience. There was no "super mom" residing at the Olive Plants house this year. Most days, I was covered in paint and dirt, struggling to get through the basic requirements of home life and school. Though I believe in the value of hard work, there is no glory due to men. It is the Lord who blesses the work. I have shared so many details in this post because I want you to know just how unremarkable I am, how very normal and human my boys are, and how very great our God is.
I like what Orville had to say after the banquet. He approached me and said, "Mom, I used to say Birds of a Feather (their team name) win together, but I think we have a new team motto. Birds of a Feather praise God together." Glory to God for He alone is worthy to be praised.
Birds of a Feather... Praise God Together!