How My Daddy Helped Me With My Writing Life


When I was just a girl, oh around the fourth grade, I believe, I came home one afternoon with a school project. The assignment was to build a bird’s nest, as best as we could and bring it into class to be assessed as to whether or not our nest-making abilities were as good as the bird’s.

When I got off the school bus and mentioned it to my Mom, she suggested that I ask my Pa to help me with it, since he was the artist. My Dad was always a hard-working mechanic man, and a day or two later, he walked out to the front yard with his greasy hands and his blue work shirt and we set out together, looking for twigs and leaves and a few strands of bendable brown grass. My Pa told me how the birds often like to gather bits of hair or fibers, something soft to line the inside of their nests with. So, we found a torn basketball hoop and recycled a few of its stings.

Now, my Pa wasn’t content to use just any ol’ dirt to mold the nest with, because he knew it would need to be soft and pliable and easy to weave the twigs in and out of, so we drove down our dusty dirt road until we found a ditch full or red clay. I vividly remember the way we stood together in the sun on the edge of the road and stooped down to scrape the terra cotta colored clay. It turned our fingers a copper red.


I loved that day, and I think the reason why it stands out in such animated colors in my memory is because I got to work on a project with my Pa.

It was sheer fun, us both sitting at the table later, fashioning and forming, intertwining sticks and moss, leaves and clay, till at last we had a perfectly wild looking masterpiece. At the end of the day, we were a bit proud of ourselves, for constructing a nest, like a cup for holding life. Perhaps, even good enough for a momma Robin to raise her babes.

Years would go by before I would recall to mind those sentimental scenes again. I didn’t know back then, living down that dirt road, how I’d grow up and marry the kindest husband and that I’d get to become a momma to a little tribe of kids and that eventually it would occur to me that I was a writer.

I didn’t know how my Heavenly Father would bring that nest-making memory to the forefront of my mind again. One day, when I was praying about my writing life, and just wanting to make some sense of things, He whispered it quiet to me,

“Remember how your Daddy build that nest with you? Well, that’s a beautiful picture of your writing life. When you wonder what it’s good for, I want you to ponder this. Writing will feel a lot like gathering a few sticks here and some leaves and moss from over there and you’ll have to hunt for some string, something soft to line the inside with, and together you and I, we’ll build a nest for holding life.”


These thoughts have helped me often since.

Because there are people out there who are fragile and they’ve been pelted by some storms and they need a safe place to land. Their hearts need to be tended to and their souls need some strength.

So, just when I want to put down the pen and shut off the screen, and be done for good, I remember that day my Daddy spent time with me and we made something lovely.

And I recall to mind that my Heavenly Father wants to create things here with me and it’s not about my fame or fortune, because those motivations will kill a writing life. But, it’s about inviting others to nestle in so their souls can grow stronger. It’s about spending time with my Heavenly Father. It’s about making space to nurture tender growth. A cup for holding life.


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