I love to feed the birds. I consider my feathered friends to be outdoor pets of sorts. Now that the weather has turned colder and there are fewer natural food sources, the activity around the feeders has escalated. In fact, I added a second feeder to accommodate the increased traffic. Tufted titmice and cardinals, chickadees and nuthatches, wrens and woodpeckers are regular visitors, eagerly partaking of the sunflower seeds and suet. The feeding generally proceeds in a harmonious manner, with birds flitting from feeder to tree branch to deck railing, taking turns as it were. But occasionally one of the diners becomes impatient. A ruckus ensues as the bird brusquely flaps his way to the feeder, scattering his equally-hungry companions. Nonetheless,whether patient or pushy, the birds have done nothing to earn the savory seeds. They are a gift, freely given.
Having just celebrated Christmas and a December birthday for 3-year old granddaughter Lyla, I’ve witnessed an influx of presents at my daughter’s house. Thoughtfully chosen by the givers, there are plenty of toys to fill hours with imaginative play and help hone new skills, as well as clothes to fit growing bodies. It’s been satisfying to watch as Lyla and 5-year old Joshua have expressed their gratitude for the gifts they received. Lyla will often recount who gave her a particular item and say how much she “lubs” it. Yet, just like the birds, there are instances when playtime fun is disrupted by a struggle over a particular toy. The fought-over item usually becomes the most desirable at that moment simply because someone else was intently playing with it. Even 10-month old Emma isn’t immune as she frequently finds her older siblings’ things much more interesting than her own and protests loudly if such a treasure is removed from her vise-like grip.
Observing the antics of the birds as well as the behavior of my beloved grandchildren reminded me of the sentiments expressed on Christmas cards I sent out years ago. Sigrid Undset’s quote on the front resonated so deeply with me I made sure to keep a card for myself:
“And when we give each other Christmas gifts in his name, let us remember that he has given us the sun and the moon and the stars, and the earth with its forests and mountains and oceans and all that lives and moves upon them. He has given us all green things and everything that blossoms and bears fruit and all that we quarrel about and all that we have misused. And to save us from our own foolishness, from all our sins, he came down to earth and gave us himself.”
Indeed everything we have, all temporal and eternal blessings, are gifts, graciously given by our loving Father.  No room for boasting or bickering or grasping. Instead, may we say with the psalmist, “I will give thanks to you, Lord, with all my heart; I will tell of all your wonderful deeds. I will be glad and rejoice in you; I will sing the praises of your name, O Most High.”
 Lyla’s endearing pronunciation of “loves”.
 Sigrid Undset was a Norwegian novelist. She was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1928.
 James 1:17
 Psalm 9:1-2