lessons learned: holy hummingbirds

Often, I share with people this bit of advice from the spiritual direction world–it if happens at least 3 times, then it’s probably the Holy Spirit trying to tell you something. Most of us look to big signs or burning bushes to relay those messages, but sometimes the Spirit speaks to us in a gentle whisper. We are just too busy too notice it.

For the last year, the warning signs were there–the need to slow down, take naps, modify schedules, and ask for help. It’s hard to do that when the world moves at a pace more quickly than you do, and you start to buy into the subtle messages that encourage you to do the same.

But it’s for work.

If I don’t do it, who will?

Just a few more minutes.

We’ll have downtime on vacation.

And for someone like me, the need for quiet and stillness and sacred space is not a “want to,” it’s a “have to.” People who go, go, go don’t often understand that need (or perhaps they deny that desire within themselves), but it is a critical part of my preventive health care for mind, body, and spirit. So when one tired misstep led to a fractured rib this week, it was clear the universe was putting the brakes on for me.

I didn’t get the memo, however, until the Holy Spirit, disguised as a hummingbird, put everything into perspective.

After the fall, I thought I could just “take it easy” by working at home, resting now and again, and getting a good night’s sleep. So by the end of the first evening, I decided it would be ok to go out and water the gardens in the front yard.

That’s when she appeared.

An emerald and grey hummingbird diving among the spray from the hose. And while I thought she was adorable playing in the water, she had another purpose in mind. She looked right at me and started chattering. Incessantly.

Even if she took a moment to rest on the nearby zinnias, she’d return to swooping around my shoulders and head, fussing at every turn. Clearly, whatever I was doing was not aligned with her plan.

I turned off the water and headed out to our back deck. My body was sore and I really needed to lie down, but I also needed to catch up on a time-sensitive work project.

With pillows and laptop in hand, I tried settling into a chair, but there she was hovering and chirping in front of my face. I said my peace and opened the computer. She stood watch from the tree branch hanging over the deck.

It was clear that I was not getting rid of her.

I messaged my friend and asked her to pull the Hummingbird card from her Avec La Vie Fauna deck. (Rebecca, mine are somewhere buried in the holding area formerly known as our closet as my sweetheart and I merge two households into one.)

And there it was–the Holy Spirit’s message.

With such excessive activity, she tires quickly. To recover, she settles into her favorite perching place and falls into a deep sleep. In her slumber she sets the example and encourages us to rest and reflect.

This little creature could not have visited me at a better time. She represented the person I’d become–so filled with “excessive activity” that I was tired. And yet, I had not taken the time to recover.

I’ve learned through this experience that rest and recovery are much more than “just be.” They require a commitment that I’d not been making to my physical well-being. The commitment to say, “I can’t do that anymore” or “I need your help.” The commitment to honor that my own welfare is as important as those around me. The commitment to ensure that I have proactive practices that address fatigue and physical pain.

No more pushing through or just getting by. The hummingbird was the Creator’s reminder of where my “work” lies in this season, and that is in rest.

It will be a 4-6 week process of taking care of my fractured rib. Believe me, it offers more than a “gentle reminder” if I am moving too fast or sitting up too long. It is teaching me a lot about my humanity and my priorities for self-care beyond spiritual development. It can be hard to sit with those shadows and look for the light of lessons learned.

I did have an opportunity yesterday to sit out on the front stoop and catch my little friend as she had afternoon nectar in our pollinator garden. After downloading the images from my camera, I was initially disappointed that she was blurry in the photo I used for this post. After editing a bit, I was in awe of how much she looked other worldly- a glimpse of the Holy Spirit among the flowers. The third time’s a charm!

“holy” (c) 2019 cameron kempson

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