The Land of the Free and Home of the Brave

     Last summer, we had the unique privilege of providing a home, a nesting spot for a Morning Dove and her two fledglings.  Perched in a crook of our front door wreath, the mama created her home, gathering extra twigs and dried grass to loosely pad the floor.  Above the flaming red roses and delicate,white poppies, the mama dove settled in. Twisted garland of sparkling stars added a touch of elegance to her newly made home. Behind a mini American flag she found her protection, a protection we all have shared.
     We had no idea that our home had been chosen for this special event. Opening the door one day to a friend who stopped by for a tool, we spooked mama and she flew away.  Our unexpected discovery revealed one white egg resting in the cupped nest. What would we do if the mother did not come back, we wondered.  This precious birdie egg needed the warmth of a loving body to give it life.
     A warning was posted on our front door.  "Please come around back, we have birds building a family."
     Mama came back and each day became an adventure.  A peek through the glass.  Whispers to each other so mama would not hear. Another white egg. The soft, gray-brown dove would disappear and then return.  One day she came to stay.  Nothing would budge her from the task at hand.  From the call of her life.  To give those little eggs a fighting chance.  Our muscular guys forgetfully swung open the door and came eye to eye with an immovable, brave mama dove.  It was a stare down.  And she won.  The door closed softly.
     Behind the red, white, and blue flag, the stars and stripes that sung our pledge of allegiance to America every 4th of July, mama dove rested.  There she sat for two weeks. The dark, watchful eyes would catch us peering into this incredible process.  Impatiently we waited. We listened.  We learned.  There is a father who sits on the eggs by day and the mama returns at night.  They looked like one and the same bird.

      One morning Hubby whispered in manly excitement, "One egg has a crack in it, and I can see movement."
      "Where?" I asked, craning my neck at all angles to see into the nest through the glass pane.
      Excitement mounted.  One would have thought we were having a baby.  But these doves were like family camped at our home.
      One nestling popped out and then the second.  I don't remember hearing sounds.  Just beholding two puffed up balls of feathers now occupying the nest.
      Mama dove seemed gone a lot these days.  She was probably busy gathering food for her hungry brood.  Good thing we were around to babysit.
      As with all precious little ones, the nestlings began to grow.  Squished on top of each other, we feared they had outgrown their home before learning to fly.
      One day, Hubby called to me from the front porch.
      "Come see this, " he said.  "They won't leave our porch."
      The soft gray Morning Doves were not afraid of us.  They were sure this was where they belonged.  But on the ground?  And still not able to fly?  A bobcat or coyote or javelina could snack on them.  We just hoped mama would come back soon and teach her young ones to fly!  An arduous task by all human standards.  We knew we could not touch them or mama would never return.  We just had to put these two in the Lord's hands.  Easier than putting our own children there.
      At nightfall, the baby doves sought protection behind our flower pots.  Invisible we hoped.
      Eventually, the nestlings flew away.  No evidence that either had been harmed.  All that was left were scattered twigs, an empty nest, memories of having birthed our first birds, lots of droppings, and the flag that protects us all.
     When you watch fireworks this July 4th and hang your flag with pride, remember it symbolizes the protection we all have in this land of the free and home of the brave. It has come at a great price from the men and women serving us in the armed forces.  To them, we say, "Thank you".

      "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, O Lord Almighty, my King and my God. Blessed are those who dwell in your house; they are ever praising you."  Psalm 84:3&4 NIV

     What will make its home near you or in you this 4th of July?  How will you be celebrating the freedom we enjoy?


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