It was spring 2009 when I noticed my mother starting to slur her words in the evenings. Mini-stroke was the first thing that came to mind, although the slurring didn’t occur all day… at first. Dad took her to the doctor, which was the beginning of fifteen months of testing, sometimes very painful testing and misdiagnoses until they finally concluded she had ALS. That little acronym stands for big words: amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or more commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. I so clearly remember Momma’s face when she walked in the house and told me the devastating diagnosis, and I hugged her as we stood in the kitchen and cried.
At that time I worked as a middle school librarian in a school 9-11 miles away, depending on the route I took. I would take the shorter route on the way to school and the longer country road on the way home that allowed me to decompress. I often did my crying heading home, too. I tried not to cry in front of Mom because that would make her sad knowing her condition was making us sad. That’s how she thought.
I saw this hawk in Alberta, Canada
On that back road, I often saw three things that I began to look for on every drive. The first was a big, white goat tethered in the back of this two-story house. I decided it was a show goat that the family couldn’t part with. The second was a herd of donkeys that would either graze in a pasture by the road or they would be way back where I couldn’t see them. It always put a smile on my face when the herd was in sight. The third was a hawk. I don’t know when this habit of looking for those three things turned into some kind of psychological support, but it did. And I know, too, that this didn’t make any rational sense whatsoever, but it somehow comforted me during such a sad time in my life.
During my mother’s last year, I quit my job to stay home to care for her, so the drive home and looking for those three things dropped by the wayside. But then I continued to see hawks on every drive to Hutto and Pflugerville and Round Rock, and I somehow decided God let that visible marker continue for me, even years after Mom’s death. On one drive from Taylor to Pflugerville— a 16-mile route that included urban areas— I counted 19 hawks.
I had told my friends about the hawks and that I felt like God was doing that just for me. But then last year as I drove to Round Rock one day, I started thinking, what if I was putting words in God’s mouth? What if He had nothing to do with me seeing hawks the hundreds of times I got behind the wheel? At that time, though, I hadn’t seen a hawk in weeks, and I assumed they were nesting or staying close to their young. I told God that if He wasn’t the One sending them my way, or allowing me to see them on so many of my drives, I would stop telling people that He was doing that just for me. But if He was responsible, I asked him to show me a hawk that day, even though I hadn’t seen one in quite a while.
I made it to Hutto, eight miles from home and saw no hawk. I drove through town and exited the highway to get on the toll road. I tend to drive way too fast through the concrete barrier-lined tollbooth lane that flashes to charge me a toll, but all of a sudden a hawk came flying in to land on one of the street lights right before I passed it. It looked so flustered trying to land coming in so fast, and I was shocked to see one there. Then I laughed out loud; then I cried and thanked God for the answered prayer. And then I felt bad wondering how far away the Lord had brought that bird for me to see it and how fast he had to fly to get there and land at just the right moment.
I’m sure many would say that was just a coincidence, but I didn’t see another hawk that day, and I had never seen a hawk around that toll booth or any other toll structure before. And its timing was perfect.
I believe God often puts gifts like this and other tangible evidences before us if we’re willing to be open to recognizing them. Every time I see a hawk, I use it as a reminder to praise my Creator and thank Him that I continue to be in His thoughts and in His care.
As are you, although He expresses it in so many different ways.
P.S. Five days ago I was on my way to Hutto, and Lauren Daigle's song, Look up Child was playing on the radio. I felt like that prompted me to look up at one of those really tall transmission towers holding power lines as I passed, and I smiled when I saw a big red hawk sitting on top of the structure. Usually I see them on the lower power poles or lines, not the tall towers.
Thank You, Lord.
Donna Van Cleve