I’ve had a bird feeder in my yard for years. I like seeing birds flock to it and listening to their happy chirping as they peck through the black oil sunflower seeds. But honestly, I never paid close attention to what kinds of birds visited. I paid just enough to suppose there were three types — chickadees, goldfinches, and the little brown ones that hop around in parking lots hoping for a discarded french fry.
Then, last year, my daughter gave me a bird identification book and I started really looking at the birds that perched on my feeder. I realized that in addition to the black-capped chickadees I had already recognized, I also had a mountain chickadee. And the little brown birds were actually three different species. I saw dark-eyed juncos, evening grosbeaks, and a red-breasted nuthatch. That year I counted twenty different kinds of birds in my backyard.
I’m sure those same birds had been frequenting my feeder all along, but until I took the time to identify them, I didn’t realize they were there. I didn’t see them.
That fall, my youngest left for a year and a half to serve a mission for our church. One day, as I sat at the kitchen table missing her terribly, a blue jay fluttered down and perched on the deck railing right outside the patio door. Blue jays are not supposed to live in Idaho. But this blue jay apparently didn’t know that. Or he was lost. At any rate, there he was in my backyard. He stayed for a couple of days and then moved on. The visit from that beautiful bird, that shouldn’t have been there but somehow was, felt like a tender mercy from the Lord. It felt as if God was telling me, “I see you. I’m aware.”
I began to wonder, how often was the Lord sending me tender mercies and, like the birds at my feeder, I didn’t realize they were there?
So I started watching for tender mercies.
Elder David A. Bednar, a leader in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, defined the Lord’s tender mercies as “the very personal and individualized blessings, strength, protection, assurances, guidance, loving-kindnesses, consolation, support, and spiritual gifts which we receive from and because of and through the Lord Jesus Christ.”
They are the moments when He lets us know He sees us, that He’s aware of our circumstance.
As I began looking for the Lord’s tender mercies in my life, I started seeing them.
When I was backing out of my parking space at the bank and the car behind me was backing up at the same time. Neither of us saw the other until an instant before we would have collided. And then we saw. We stopped. No collision.
A tender mercy.
Or the day I had to walk the dog when it was 2 degrees outside. I wore my sweatpants because they’re the warmest ones I own but the pant leg always twists inside my boot and drives me nutty. That day, when I was already having a rough day, somehow the leg didn’t twist.
A tender mercy.
And when a friend invited me to lunch and we discovered she had information that would help my son find a place to live as he moved to another state.
Another tender mercy.
I’m sure the Lord had been sending me tender mercies all along, but until I took the time to identify them, I didn’t realize they were there. I didn’t see them.
Tender mercies, like my backyard birds, are often small. They’re easy to miss if we’re not paying attention. Sure, we might notice a few. But if we don’t want to miss out on the more subtle ones or the vast variety that are already in our lives, we need to actively watch. We need to recognize what we already have right in our own backyard.
What we have is a Savior who loves us. Who understands our circumstances. Our hurt, our fears, our pains, our weaknesses. He sees us. He is aware. He is sending tender mercies.
Do you see them?
Cami lives in Idaho with her husband, various family members who come and go, and an energetic Siberian husky. She volunteers as a costume director/seamstress for the drama department at her local high school where she gets to make elaborate clothing most people don’t wear in real life—which is what makes it so fun. She enjoys reading, bird watching, gardening, and Zumba, but her greatest joy comes from being with her family.