When Momma Fin and her tiny brood flew the coop, I’ll admit, I missed them. A week or two later, I found myself flipping back to review the pet policy section of my lease.
No dogs. No cats. Four options accepted: a fish, a bird, a gerbil, or a hamster. No exceptions.
Having cleaned my fair share of classroom fish tanks growing-up, I’d say an aquatic companion didn’t quite have the return on investment I was looking for. There’s just something about a bird in a cage that hurts my heart, so that option was automatically out. When I think of gerbils, my mind jumps straight to Miss Magoo – my childhood gerbil. My cousin Kevin gave her to us because she kept attacking her cage companion. My only real concrete memory of her was that she'd bite me every time I tried to touch her. Needless to say, one Miss Magoo was enough gerbil for a lifetime!
That left me with only one other option on the table … a hamster.
Now, I’ve never had a hamster before, so I started researching them and what their care entailed. Countless YouTube videos later, I was convinced and excited – a shorthaired Syrian hamster was the way to go!
Hamsters are leaps and bounds cuter then fish. They are solitary creatures, so I wouldn’t have to worry about my hamster needing a companion or getting lonely. They're also nocturnal, so I'd know exactly what my hamster was up to while I was at work (snoozin'!). And even though I have no concrete evidence that a hamster is nicer then a gerbil, Miss Magoo didn't exactly leave behind a legacy of kindness.
Heart-set on a hamster, the first step was finding a means of confinement that was suitable and spacious – turns out hamsters need a lot more space then most people think! At least 450 sq. in! Since I didn’t want my hamster grinding his teeth on metal bars or playing Houdini in my apartment, I scored a giant aquarium on craigslist and just made sure my cover for it had really good, but inescapable, ventilation. After that, I also made sure there was a wheel for miles of running (ironically, this critter and owner share a common interest!), a couple of chews and hideouts, substrate for burrowing, food and of course a water bottle.
Once the hamster habitat was ready to go, the only thing left to do was to get the hamster! I like to think I rescued my hamster from the pet shop. The display cages are intended to be temporary, so they’re super small. And even though hamsters can be kept together when they’re little, the more they mature, the more territorial they become and really shouldn’t be kept together.
It's been over 6 months now since I picked Milo up at the pet shop and have no regrets. He's friendly, fun to care for, curious and oh so cute! And he hasn’t bitten me once... RIP Miss Magoo.
Abbreviated from the original manuscript, "The Children of the King" by Max Lucado, with Illustrations by Toni Goffe. "A long time ago, in a land much like your own..."
1. There were five orphans, all on their own. A king learned of their misfortune and decreed he would be their Father and planned to come for them.
2. All the people in the village thought it odd. The king already had many people to care for. "Why does the king want them?" they asked. He had his reasons.
3. When the children learned they would have a Father, and he was the king (no less!) they were overjoyed!
4. But the townsfolk said, "You need to impress the king. Only those with great gifts will be allowed in the castle."
5. So the children worked long and hard preparing their offerings. They devoted their days to woodworking, musical performing, painting, and intellectual pursuits – all with the hope of impressing the king.
6. But there was one little girl with nothing to offer. She didn't have all the innate gifts of her siblings. All she had was a good heart. So she spent her time at the city gate and made pennies as a greeter.
7. Still, as time went on, believing she had no great gift, she grew anxious. She ran to her siblings, begging them to share their talents with her, but they had no time for her.
8. She asked each one, "Brother, sister – will you help me?" And one by one they dismissed her. "Can't you see that we're busy? Go away."
9. So she took her place back at the city gates. After some days, a merchant came to the village. "Can you feed my donkey?" he asked the girl. She was happy to help.
10. She offered to care for the man's donkey, asked him if he was weary from the journey.
11 She presented him with a seat to rest. He closed his eyes and leaned back in his chair.
12. When he opened his eyes, the little girl was looking at him. She had stayed with him the whole time. "What do you seek?" he asked her. "Nothing. You seem very kind, it is peaceful to be near you," she responded.
13. The man informed the girl that he had to go, but promised he'd return soon. And when he finally came back, he shared how he had gone to find her siblings, but they were too busy for him.
14. The girls eyes widened, "But you don't look like a king!!" He said, "I try not to, being a king can be lonely. People are always asking favors and trying to impress me. At times I just want to be with my people, to hear about their day, to be their Father." She worried, "But my brothers and sisters?" He promised her that he'd be back for them too – maybe they'll have more time another day.
Never underestimate the value of the gift of time and small acts of kindness – all hearts are capable, and they just might be two of the greatest gifts we have to offer.
Heavenly Father, King and Lord,
You instill in all of Your creation an order and value.
We pray in gratitude for all of those who have defended
peace, virtue, and justice with honor.
We pray especially for those who have suffered
in mind and body from the ravages of war.
Let Your Kingdom come!
May Your peace that surpasses all understanding
reign in our hearts and in our world.
It was early-May when my neighbor and I made our very first weekend Wal-mart run. Various odds and ends were needed, but birdseed and hanging plants were high on the list. So naturally we hit up the Garden Center first.
It was there that, inspired by the green thumb of my companion and the bare bones of my balcony back home, a colorful geranium made its way into my life – for better or worse – accompanied by a bag of birdseed.
I was grateful to discover my balcony already had a ceiling hook in place from a previous tenant. So I just looped my newly adopted geranium over it and “voila!” the colorful plant was up on display! Next, I put the birdseed in a bowl on a small patio stand and positioned it relatively close to the geranium.
As days went by, I began to feel my attention gravitate more and more to the activity surrounding the bowl of bird seed. I began waking up earlier, to account for the extra time I’d spend sitting on the far end of my couch with my coffee, gazing through sliding glass door. I began to recognize my return visitors and even had a book to identify the newcomers. I’d officially become… a birdwatcher.
It wasn’t long before one little house finch, in particular, caught my eye. She had this peculiar habit of bouncing back and forth between my hanging plant and the seed dish. She’d go back and forth, back and forth – spending a majority of her time in the geranium.
What is she doing in there? I went outside for a closer look and then, from the new angle, I saw it... a nest!
From that moment on, checking on Momma Fin (as I began to call her) and her nest became a part of my daily routine. I looked forward to coming home after a long day at work to see her perched amongst the petals, eyes half closed, geranium swaying in the wind like a rocker, with the sun eventually setting behind her. She looked so peaceful.
Little though she was, she also had a great deal of perseverance. I witnessed her pant her way through some of the hottest days of summer and buckle down her beak in the most blustery of storms – all to ensure her nest was protected and eggs incubated.
All the while, I had this vision of what the discovery of her hatchlings would be like, should the eggs finally hatch. I pictured myself peering down into her nest and seeing this cute little bunch of feathered fluff-balls, akin to baby chicks, chirping pleasantly up at me with bright, inquisitive eyes.
Imagine my alarm when the reality of the situation was more like peering down at a cluster of semi-transparent, miniature plucked chickens, squirming around on top of one another with bulges for eyeballs. Not at all like I’d imagined them.
Still, it wasn’t long before Momma Fin’s little brood began to grow on me, both literally and figuratively. Day by day they became bigger and more birdlike; slightly less startling and slightly more endearing. Until finally one day, while I was away from home, they took their first flight without me. And just like that... they were gone.
I’ll admit, returning home to (literally) an empty nest, was kind of a strange feeling at first; I’d become so accustomed to watching this mini-miracle of life unfold daily before my eyes.
There was a hint of sadness, but also a lingering sense of appreciation. Of all the hanging plants in the neighborhood and on our building, Momma Fin could have chosen any of them for her nest, but she chose mine – I’m not sure why, but I'm sure grateful she did.
He was born in an obscure village
The child of a peasant woman
He grew up in another obscure village
Where he worked in a carpenter shop
Until He was thirty
He never wrote a book
He never held an office
He never went to college
He never visited a big city
He never travelled more than two hundred miles
From the place where He was born
He did none of the things
Usually associated with greatness
He had no credentials but Himself
He was only thirty three
His friends ran away
One of them denied Him
He was turned over to His enemies
And went through the mockery of a trial
He was nailed to a cross between two thieves
While dying, His executioners gambled for His clothing
The only property He had on earth
When He was dead
He was laid in a borrowed grave
Through the pity of a friend
Nineteen centuries have come and gone
And today Jesus is the central figure of the human race
And the leader of mankind's progress
All the armies that have ever marched
All the navies that have ever sailed
All the parliaments that have ever sat
All the kings that ever reigned put together
Have not affected the life of mankind on earth
As powerfully as that one solitary life
Dr. James Allan © 1926.
Ever encounter a verse that just resonates deep? That’s been the case for this poem and me. I received it recently on a prayer card – in memory of a beautiful soul, not long departed.
God hath not promised
skies always blue,
all our lives through;
God hath not promised
sun without rain,
Joy without sorrow,
peace without pain.
But God hath promised
strength for the day,
Rest for the labor,
light for the way,
Grace for the trials,
help from above,
Unfailing sympathy ~
~ Annie Johnson Flint ~
Working in an apostolate that prays for intentions from people and families across the country, paired with my own personal experiences in senior care and hospice volunteering, has led me to contemplate and, at many times, grapple with, the meaning of suffering, to a greater extent then perhaps I would otherwise.
I think that’s why I love this poem so much. It helps me accept a mystery that relies more on my faith then my reason. Reflecting on the stanzas and the life of the author through whom it was inspired, reminds me that Christ didn’t come into this world to take suffering away, He came to transform it and give us hope.