The Kindness of Ravens

The Kindness of Ravens

Do not let your fire go out, spark by irreplaceable spark in the hopeless swamps of the not-quite, the not-yet, and the not-at-all. Do not let the hero in your soul perish in lonely frustration for the life you deserved and have never been able to reach. The world you desire can be won. It exists…it is real…it is possible…it’s yours.” – Ayn Rand

Ravens circled overhead as I rested on a tree stump outside the cabin a few of my writing friends rented for the weekend. I’d just returned from a walk through the woods when I noticed the inky black birds above me. They were hunting for a meal, which they found a few feet from where I sat: a dead mole decomposing in the grass.

I offhandedly mentioned the ravens after rejoining my friends inside, and one of them said, “Did you know a group of ravens is called an unkindness?” I’d heard plenty of colorful names for groupings of birds before — a gaggle of geese, a murder of crows — but I’d never heard this one. I jotted it down in the notebook I’d been carrying all weekend and returned my attention to the projects I traveled to the Poconos that early April weekend to finish.

Over two years later, with little progress made on any of those projects, I never forgot about those foreboding birds and their peculiar nickname.

I thought of them today, in fact, after reading to my two youngest kids, whom I home-school for the 7th and 2nd grades. Most days I enjoy teaching them at home. I enjoy watching the light bulbs of their brains blink on when they’ve discovered something new or mastered a skill. But today was not one of those days. Today I wanted to be left alone. Today I wanted to close the door to my basement office (that I affectionately call, “The Bunker”) and write uninterrupted for hours — not practice math facts and read about the Trojan War.

When days like this happen, when I feel shackled to the lesson plans splayed across my kitchen table, I secretly blame my kids for sabotaging my writing goals. Though I never come right out and say that, I whine at them more, sigh louder and longer, all while a toxic blend of bitterness and resentment simmers under the surface.

So I wasn’t in the best frame of mind when I opened up the Bible this morning and reluctantly read a passage from 1 Kings 17. We read that God sent a famine to Israel. Without rain, no food crops could grow. How would Elijah, God’s prophet at the time, find anything to eat? God directed him to go east, near the Jordan River, to drink from the brook and eat what the ravens brought him. Elijah obeyed, and scripture says, “the ravens brought him bread and meat each morning and evening.” God provided for Elijah in ways the prophet couldn’t fathom. His meals were delivered by winged caterers, birds that some people call an unkindness.

I closed the Bible with a snap and massaged my forehead with my fingertips. A wave of conviction rolled over me, making me painfully aware of how I’d been treating my kids. I’d viewed them as a distraction, a disturbance to my ambitions, an unkindness. But in reality, that’s just a nasty nickname for what might be special providence. Though some days it feels like I have to take a chisel and mallet to hew out writing space, God faithfully feeds me stories and words of inspiration. Most of the time, they come from my kids — through the funny things they say or the lessons they learn or, more often, teach me. After all, my students are my best teachers.

During my worst writing droughts, it’s easy for me to play the victim, to self-righteously make excuses and blame everyone else for hindering me. But honestly I am the biggest obstacle to my writing. It’s me who hits the snooze on my alarm instead of getting up early to write. It’s me who screws around on social media and allows petty distractions to upend my productivity. It’s me who chooses to snuggle with the cat on the couch over working through that awful rough draft in “The Bunker.” Most day I’ve created a suitable environment to work in; I just lack the discipline and fortitude to follow through.

My writing life, just like my parenting, will never be perfect. At the end of the day, though, I don’t have to choose between the two. I can pursue both with passion. But it starts by viewing my kids not as an unkindness but as a provision. It’s no wonder God nicknames them, “a blessing from the Lord.”

In the face of famine, God laughs. He sets a table in the wilderness and sends ravens to serve supper. Time and time again, He delights in overcoming obstacles to take care of those he loves. And with a new idea for a children’s book brewing in my mind, I can’t wait to see what meal He’ll deliver to me.

Comments

  1. Love this Megan! I’m right in the thick of similar steps with my daughters 9 and 11 years old. We’ve done the gamut of educational options. As my 11 year old has been half a semester and turns towards middle school this fall, it’s likely that we will be homeschooling again and one of my bigger hesitations is for my own priorities and concerns. I am thankful for your story and reminder that it is not either or, but both and. It’s nice to know there are others on this similar journey! Looking forward to sharing more stories together.

  2. Writing is also to me the “meal He’ll deliver.” I, too, go through famines and this post touched a nerve. It hovers over most of life.

    Thank you!

    PS. I have a little blog and write a weekly faith column for our small county newspaper. May I quote this post?

  3. I love your voice, Melinda! Conversational. Down-to-earth. Thought-provoking.

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