The Cardinal Sin

As far back as we can remember, Ryan has been deathly afraid of snakes. This was always in direct opposition to his brother, Rhett, who spent many a day hunting for a snake to chase, capture, and bring home. Rhett was completely fascinated by these reptiles, and Ryan absolutely HATED them. Ryan wouldn’t so much as step foot into the snake house at the zoo, and I could hardly ever get Rhett to leave the snake house. Taking them to the zoo was always a lesson in patience and “bipartisan parenting”. . . trying to appease both a snake lover and a snake hater in a single trip is a valid struggle!

Growing up, Ryan always feared that snakes were “in” or “under” his bed, and we spent many a night proving to him that there were no snakes in his room. This snake phobia prohibited peaceful sleep on many occasions. Therefore, Ryan has never seen a single reason for thinking that a snake might be of any use. . . that is, until a cardinal entered his life about four weeks ago.

For about a month now, a cardinal has been pecking on Ryan’s bedroom window. It is loud and persistent, and Ryan half loves/half despises this crazy bird! I’m pretty sure that Ryan never had any intentions of telling us about this nuisance of a bird. That’s just not how Ryan rolls. Ryan is the type of kid that doesn’t readily offer up information about the everyday events of his life. He is not being sneaky or sly. . . it’s just who he is.

For example, one time when he was in elementary, a helicopter landed on the school which was kind of a big deal. The other moms started talking about this event and I was clueless. When I confronted Ryan about this “big event” he said that I had never asked him if a helicopter had landed on his school. πŸ€”
I knew right then and there that I was probably going to be uninformed about many things in Ryan’s life. . . not because he was hiding things, but simply because he’s not one to get worked up over a situation.

So, of course, Ryan didn’t voluntarily tell us about this annoying cardinal either. We found out because one Saturday morning Jimmy discovered Ryan sleeping on the couch in the living room. He inquired as to why he wasn’t sleeping in his bedroom, and that’s when Ryan came clean about the bird in his life. He said that every morning, the same bird sits on his windowsill and pecks at its reflection and then repeatedly flies and crashes into the window. He said it’s not so bad on school days when he has to get up early, but it makes it dang near impossible to sleep in on non-school days.

Not long after he told us about this bird, I was gathering laundry one morning in Ryan’s room after he had left for school, and that’s when I had the pleasure of meeting the cardinal for myself. It was so adorable at first. I just sat and watched it peck and crash into the window. Soon, I started hearing this bird all day everyday. The “adorable” aspect waned as the constant tapping and banging increased. I figured it had to be driving Ryan crazy.

Last weekend, we took a two night family vacation to San Antonio for spring break. When we got home and started unpacking, Ryan came to the kitchen and said he had good news and bad news. I immediately figured he had left something at the hotel, but that wasn’t it at all. He announced that the good news was that “his bird” was still around, and the bad news was that “his bird” was still around. He clearly has a love/hate relationship with this feathered friend. He said he didn’t want to hurt it, but he had to come up with a plan to stop the nonsense. I was afraid if we didn’t find a solution, he was going to make this cardinal pay for its sins.

The only solution that any of us could come up with that would not harm the cardinal was to put a rubber snake on Ryan’s window ledge. In a moment of stellar parenting, we made Ryan carry the rubber snake through the rose bushes, braving the thorns on his journey, to place the serpent on the window ledge. I’m pretty sure it was a defining moment in his life, a rite of passage, where he faced his fears to bring about justice that would allow him to rest once and for all (both figuratively and literally).
We were all hopeful this would do the trick. Surely the cardinal had no interest in sharing a ledge with a serpent. . .

Maybe it’s the English teacher in me, but at this point, we have no choice but to explore the incredible irony associated with this cardinal event that has invaded Ryan’s life.
For starters, many people associate the sighting of a red bird with a visit from someone who has already gone to heaven. As much as we would all love to have a visit from our Rhett Jett, we do not for one moment believe that Rhett is visiting us in the form of a bird. We do recognize the beauty of this red bird which points us to a Heavenly Father who creates splendor and wonder all around us if we are willing to notice His glory! (And, let’s get real here! If Rhett had the ability to come back as an animal, he would have chosen to come back as a lion, a shark, or a rattle snake. . . but never a red bird.)

One thing Ryan has told me about losing his brother is that he hates not hearing Rhett getting ready in his room each morning. The boys shared an adjoining bathroom, and sometimes the silence, especially in the mornings, is hard on Ryan’s heart. Ironically, the constant slam-dancing of this cardinal into the window has put an end to the silence issue. I think the noise and entertainment is half-way welcomed. (Plus, this crazy, energetic, fun-loving bird occasionally must remind Ryan of his lively little brother.)

Next, the irony of a “snake” being the only thing that could possibly help Ryan get some sleep is beyond amusing. Ryan lost countless hours of sleep as a child because of his fear of snakes, and now he has one on his windowsill to help him be able to get some sleep. What a crazy turn of events! I can’t make this stuff up!
The one thing he feared the most, is the one thing that might have the ability to help him find some peace. Β Clearly, this could possibly be irony’s finest moment!

Lastly. . . you had to know that I would explore the irony of this bird sharing a ledge with a serpent.Β I mean, Duh! How can I call myself an English teacher and an aspiring Christian writer if I let golden opportunities of this magnitude pass me by?

How often do we get too comfortable with the “snakes” in our lives? Have we become desensitized to dangerous habits and harmful attitudes to the point that we are willing to let them take up residence in our personal space? Have we become so preoccupied looking at our own reflections that we fail to see the needs of others or the Enemy slithering up beside us? Have we become naive enough to think we can sit on the ledge and commingle with the serpent without getting bit?

If we can answer yes to any of the above questions, we have let our guard down and probably forfeited any possibility of obtaining genuine peace or rest in our lives. We must put on the armor of Christ and remain diligently aware of our surroundings. Β We must press in to Jesus because He desires to protect each of us from the craftiness of the devil. It’s important that we realize that small sins can often lead to “cardinal” sins. . . and it’s a slippery slope when we find ourselves sitting out there on that ledge right next to the serpent.

“But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ.”
2 Corinthians 11:3

“Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil.” Ephesians 6:11

“But the Lord is faithful, and He will strengthen and protect you from the evil one.”
2 Thessalonians 3:3

Meet me in the confessional:

1. As you can see from the above pic collage, the bird has absolutely no fear of the snake. I often watch this bird actually sit on the rubber replica while it pecks and primps at its reflection in the window. πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚
2. I kind of hope Ryan’s cardinal sticks around. Next fall, I will have two empty rooms and no sons/boys living under our roof for the first time since I became a mother. πŸ’” Β  I imagine that some noise coming out of Ryan’s room after he moves to ATM will be good for my soul.
3. Would it be wrong to put bird seed on both Ryan and Rhett’s windowsills in the fall? Asking for a friend. 😬

44 thoughts on “The Cardinal Sin

  1. I’ve never thought about how the day to day things, like hearing his brother in the next room, would be so hard. God love Ryan’s broken heart!
    But, the story is funny. Crazy bird! Maybe he will knock himself out one day.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The day to day things are the hardest. It’s impossible to really understand the daily ache if death hasn’t kicked down the doors of your home and taken a piece of your soul.
      Pray for us all. We have good days and bad days…and days where we still just can’t believe Rhett is really not ever coming home. β€πŸ’”


      1. My Dad passed away when I was 10, other than grandparents and aunts and uncles, nothing else close to home. Thank God…if something happened to Dawson, I would have to move in with you! I do pray for your sweet family…I was thinking about y’all the other day, and specifically the night it happened, and my mind/heart could not grasp what that night must have been like. I stopped and prayed then, as I do often.


  2. Loved this story so much. I to had a Cardinal come to a window and peck . My only problem was that he became part of us year after year he came back to same window and peck constantly during the day leaving at dusk only to return the next day. After 3/4 yrs he moved to a window upstairs with An AC window unit and stayed another couple yrs. When we had company they would comment what is that noise we laughed at this because we had become oblivious to his pecking. After moving to the other window it only lasted a year and he never came back I have to say I really miss the little bird.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I just can’t help but comment on this. I will agree that the bird is not Rhett but I really have no doubt that this bird was sent from God as a comfort on some level. I no longer believe in coincidences. Loved hearing about that cardinal.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I really like how you made the alalogy about letting dangerous things or “harmless” habits become a serpent in our lives. Yes we must always have on the full armor of Christ.
    Thank you for reming me of that.


  5. Awesome story!!! Thanks for sharing Lorna!! I’m a believer of the Red Bird visiting us is someone from heaven!! Red Birds are all over my back yard and often come very close to me when I am sitting outside on the patio. You might think I am crazy but I actually talk to them just as I would talk to Martin.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. A beautifully written story! Your words speak to me Lorna. Your strength amazes me. Seeing your beautiful smile knowing your heart longs for Rhett, gives me and others hope, that no matter what we face in our lives, with Gods love and grace, we can continue down this road we call life. Thank you for blessing us!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. You continue to amaze me., dear friend. And Your words truly touch my heart. I agree that God uses lots of every day things as reminders that He is with us and sees our every day struggles and will provide what we need to continue on this journey. I also agree that the quietness is still one of the hardest parts. Praying for you all continually! Love you and your sweet family. ❀

    Liked by 1 person

  8. What an awesome story! I admire your strength. I love seeing red birds at my feeders. They frequently fly into our back windows, sometimes hard enough to knock themselves out.
    Several years ago while visiting fuzzy friends, I witnessed the cutest thing. A red bird appeared outside the window of the “cat room” and started dancing about and trying to interact with its reflection. When he appeared, all the cats ran and got on their high perches by the window and tried to swat at the bird. The workers said the bird comes a couple times a day and the cats go wild! It was the funniest thing to witness. You could see the windows had been scratched from the cats swatting at it!!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I loved EVERYTHING about this story! It made me laugh, cry and think! You are a Genius! β™₯️β™₯️ I love you and I sure do love that Ryan! β™₯️

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Please put birdseed out! I don’t want that little stinker to leave either! And I love the helicopter story–it’s a great example of how some people just don’t get worked up over much, which isn’t a bad thing! And all the ironies!! Great post, Lorna. I need to do a better job of making sure I’m not getting to comfortable with serpents myself! Love you! πŸ˜˜πŸ™

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I think we all need to be more deligent about not getting comfortable with the serpent.
    The serpent can slither into our lives in so many forms: judgment, bitterness, unforgivenss, hopelessness, self pity (and those are just my top 5) πŸ˜•β€πŸ˜¬


  12. Mrs. Hering,
    I love this story. It hits home for a couple of reasons.
    I ache for you every single day. I am reminded of your loss by one of my own. In October when I lost my first fur baby, Arlo from an unexplained drowning in our pool it broke me. You know me and know I love water, so to lose him this way has caused more grief. I have so many thoughts of the should haves or what ifs. I have a very difficult time being around the pool now or any body of water without it hurting my heart deep. Having a pool in your backyard is an everyday job. I am constantly having to go to the pool and skim leaves, check the chemicals and equipment. Every single step I take each day toward the pool brings back the image and it makes me feel like I have weights attached to my legs and back. I am going to have a very hard time getting back in that water for the first time this summer, I know. I tell you all of this because a week or so after the accident I went to skim leaves for the first time I could bring myself to do it and a cardinal continued to fly around the pool. He took a little rest on a tree branch nearby and watched me work. This happened a couple of days in a row. The first time I didn’t see the redbird I started to feel the dark feelings again but then a beautiful yellow monarch butterfly fluttered slowly over the pool and around the fence line. Every time I am near the pool something beautiful presents itself to me. Like you, in no way do I think Arlo was the bird or the butterfly. I think God was reminding me to look for the light and beauty around me instead of the darkness and pain.
    I am still a work in progress but everyday I hit a rough patch without fail. The two things I think of and remind myself when I start to go to a dark place in thoughts of losing Arlo the way I did are how perhaps Arlo and God had a plan. Arlo was in his final years and moving much slower. I knew he would be leaving me soon but never thought it would be in the way it ended up. Perhaps God and Arlo were watching out for the safety of my kiddos, who Arlo graciously took the backseat to when they arrived. We had no fence and it was reckless no matter what reasons David and I had made for not having one. A fence went up about a week or so following his death. My children now have an extra layer of safety from me potentially having to experience something as tragic as you and your family.
    That brings me to the second thing I think of when I’m struck with hurt from my loss: You and your family. I cannot fathom what you go through every day. Having kids of my own and feeling the loss of a pet makes me ache for you on what your pain must feel like and I have had no words for you. Coming off of the loss of Arlo was when you asked for the acts of kindness for Rhett’s stocking. I had something I felt strongly I needed and still need to do but I wasn’t ready to offer it then. I think I am now and I think in a way, it will help me heal too. I saw your post this past Christmas and immediately thought of Rhett when I taught your children swimming lessons. Your kiddos were one of my favorite classes. They were always full of joy and so eager to learn. They took to swimming quickly and made it easy on me as a teacher. πŸ™‚ I knew exactly what my act of kindness should be. I would like to teach a child of your family’s choice every summer to swim at no charge for as long as I am able. Please keep this in mind this summer and discuss with your family. You know how to reach me to follow through. I would really like to do this for Rhett.
    As always, you are in my thoughts daily.
    -Meghan Taylor

    Liked by 1 person

    1. We are all still a work in progress. My brother’s dog drown in our pool when I was in college. It was so sad. I’m sorry for your loss.
      Thanks for your kind words and sweet offer. We will find the perfect child for swimming lessons. What cool way to honor both situations! Keep praying for us. We are all forever wounded and changed. We are trusting God to walk us all the way home! We can’t walk a single leg of this heartbreaking journey by ourselves!
      Love you, sweet Meghan!


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