motivateCan a Bird Motivate Me?

“There’s a rare bird in Anchorage,” I said.

Pedro rolled his eyes.

“It’s a hawfinch,” I explained. “They live in Europe.”

Pedro may have sighed AND rolled his eyes. “I suppose you want to go look for it?”

motivateI grinned. “Absolutely! While you hang out with Laura, Louis, and Abel, I’ll just pop into Anchorage and pick up some things at Costco and look for the bird.”

“What about the weather?” he asked.

“No snow in the forecast, and it should clear off by one or two.” I don’t love driving in the snow, but the chance to see a rare bird will motivate me to do things I don’t normally enjoy.

The next day, I started out just as the sun struggled to shine through a bank of clouds that huddled around the craggy mountains. A beautiful gibbous moon hovered on the horizon, and I couldn’t resist pulling over to snap some photos.

When I reached the outskirts of Anchorage, I could scarcely see thirty feet in front of me. Traffic crawled through the fog and slipped all over the ice. I pulled into a coffee shop and decided to work on a school project until the visibility improved.

Two hours later, I hit the send button and turned in my project. The sun had started to claw its way through the cloud cover, and I discovered it would only take me ten minutes to arrive at the reported hawfinch sighting.

The Birder’s Secret Weapon

Pedro laughs at me because many times when I make a ‘there’s a rare bird’ pronouncements, I drive up to the address or coordinates and see the bird. It doesn’t always pan out though. I subscribe to a rare bird sightings email list, which helps considerably.

Of course, I never know for sure if someone saw the rare bird in their back yard, or flitting around a park. I quickly checked the eBird report, and worried a bit since the reporting birder didn’t specify where the bird skulked.

I jumped on Facebook and did a quick search for Alaska birding groups. Within minutes, I had more information. The reporting birder saw it near a street intersection.

Whew! I had envisioned approaching a stranger’s house and timidly tapping on the door with an apologetic, “Um, I’m a birder looking for the rare bird, is it in your backyard?” apology. I didn’t know if I’d actually have the moxie to do this. Most of the rare birds I’ve chased have had the decency to hang out in public places.*

My Birding Formula

As I entered the residential neighborhood, the snow-covered streets made it impossible to tell if the local regulations allowed for street parking. I started to worry about where to park my car.

An elderly gentleman with a bright green parka drew my attention. I saw him gaze up, and then lower both hands to his chest. Next, I noticed a harness strapped over both shoulders. Bingo! A fellow birder (and a serious one, judging by how he carried his binoculars).

I pulled up alongside him, rolled down my window, and said, “Excuse me, are you out looking for the hawfinch?” This formula has worked multiple times for me. Go to an area with a rare bird sighting, see strangers with binoculars, boldly ask questions, see rare bird.

He leaned down to see me better, “I am. Just follow this road to the next corner and hang a left. That’s the area Dave saw the bird on New Year’s Day.”

“Do you know if there’s any parking?” I asked.

“Here, let me hop in and I’ll ride down with you.”

Don't try this at home. Don't pick up strangers. Unless they're #birders. It might be ok. Click To Tweet

Picking Up Strangers

He looked safe, slight of build with a white beard, and, he knew the birder who found the bird. I unlocked the door and tossed my backpack on the back seat.

As he got in, he said, “You know, you shouldn’t let strangers into your car. I’m Ed.”

My toes tingled, but then I noticed the twinkle in his eyes, and I grinned back. “I’m Anita.”

“Turn down here,” he directed, “and park in front of that blue house. The lady who lives there understands birders and doesn’t mind us parking in front of her house or going in her back yard.” He went on to explain that he lived nearby, and had spent hours out in the snowstorm the previous day looking for the hawfinch. Not only looking, but letting everyone in the neighborhood know that an invasion of birders might occur over the weekend.

For the next two hours, we examined every robin that flew over or perched in the neighborhood trees. Ed regaled me with birding stories (he spent ten years as a regional reviewer for eBird), as well as the cross-country skiing adventures he shares with his wife.

Alas, the elusive hawfinch remained elusive. At one point, Ed thought he saw it, but at that exact moment the elderly owner of blue house slipped and fell in her driveway. By the time we helped her, the possible hawfinch had disappeared. As the sun started to slip towards the horizon, I knew I’d have to leave without finding my rare bird.

Letting Love Motivate Me

On the long drive back to Palmer, I had a lot of time to think. I couldn’t believe I actually picked up a stranger and hung out with him for two hours. Ok. I confess that I have changed a lot since I started birding six years ago. I’ll strike up conversations with strangers, hang out at sewer ponds, endure scorching heat and hopeless humidity—all in the name of birding.

But when it comes to my faith—I joined the church through baptism at the tender age of eight—my progress seems stilted. I have never pulled up to a stranger toting a Bible and let them hop into my car. When I visit new cities, I rarely find a place to worship with other believers. I grumble if the sanctuary feels too hot or too cold. Sometimes, I struggle to stay awake during the sermon. I criticize the pastor and the program in my heart—all in the name of ‘improving things.’

This new year, I want to let my love for Jesus motivate me more. I want to step outside my comfort zone and seek out encounters with fellow Christians and seekers. When someone asks for prayer on Facebook, I want to pray for them right there in the comments section—not limit myself to a ‘Praying for you’ response.

The time has come to live out the love of Jesus that I claim, to let it motivate me to do things that scare me. I look forward to what awaits me when I live outside my comfort zone.

Learn to love outside of your comfort zone. That's what Jesus calls us to do. So just do it! Click To Tweet

Q4U: How do you live out your faith outside of your comfort zone? I’d love to hear your stories or tips!

(*my apologies to my FMF friends, the story got away from me!)

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  1. Anita, I truly enjoyed this post. I was fully immersed in your search for the rare bird, and admittedly felt disappointed that it remained unseen. It was fun taking this little trip with you.
    My prayer for 2018 is similar to yours – letting Jesus and my love for him motivate me more; to be aware of his nudging, and to act on it.
    Thank you for this post. It was beautiful.

  2. great post anita! great illustration as well. i agree that living outside our comfort zones is the best place to Iive! it has its stressful moments, but in the end, it is a great place.,

    1. Thanks, Martha! I know you’ve been outside your comfort zone a lot in the past few years of your caregiving journey. Im glad you’re finding joy there!

  3. Well, you had me at bird! I love birds! We ARE sisters!!! What a great comparison and isn’t it so true! We do a lot asmour worldly selves that we don’t transfer to our Christian selves. I’m right there with you wanting to be more motivated by my love for Jesus and His for me! Super post! Your left handed sister, Cindy

  4. I love this story and how you tie it to our motivation to move out of your comfort zone to love others in Jesus’ name. I find that such a challenge; I am pretty enamoured of my comfort zone. Thanks for the inspiration, Anita.

    Jeannie (#73 this week)

  5. Anita, you make me want to be a birder, or at the very least know one. What a beautiful journey. I live outside my comfort zone by lots and lots of prayer. This June I moved from Arizona to Michigan to follow a call that I believe God put on my heart. It has been a crazy ride, but leaning on the Lord has been forefront to keeping up in it. 🙂
    Have a great weekend!

    1. ;). You just moved from one of the most birder-dense states I’ve ever been in! May God be with you as you live out his love in your new home and job!

  6. Anita, I am in prayer aboit how to serve outside the walls of the church. I struggle too with motivating to be in the soup kitchen verses just donate food. Though at 17 I serbed in a soup kitchen out of a pure heart to volunteer and help those less fortunate. It’s not fear, it’s motivation to build something new into my schedule and to make the commitment. Look very forward to seeing Jesus work in our lives in 2018. #toHimbetheglory
    Julie Dibble recently posted…Breaking into New: A PoemMy Profile

    1. Sometimes I wonder if our impulse to serve more or in new ways comes from our Father or the liar who wants us too worn out and busy to spend time with Father. I struggle with balance and not taking on too much, or going to the other extreme and not doing enough.

  7. Daaaaang, Anita. You took this somewhere I wasn’t expecting. Going to sit with me for awhile. Your words drag up a memory: When we were visiting London, we planned to attend church at Westminster Abbey because why would we not attend church at Westminster Abbey? As the day approached, other things became more important. I will forever regret missing out on worshiping with brothers and sisters who live a continent and an ocean away.

    Alaska is a strange and wonderful place, isn’t it? We last visited about four years ago, for Chris’ brother’s high school graduation. Stopped at Costco in Anchorage to get a few things and spent several minutes equally amused and horrified by a bag labeled “assorted fish bits.” To this day we don’t know what those bits were.
    Marie recently posted…Five Minute Friday: MotivateMy Profile

    1. I LOVE Alaska! I would live there…but our work is here in AZ (as in, God isn’t finished with us here yet). I’ll have to look for ‘fish bits’ next time I’m there! AZ Costcos sell pig and horse feed…

  8. This was such a fun post! This took me back to a summer I spent outside Denali Park fifteen years ago and climbing into the cars of strangers far more often than I’d permit the daughter who now sits by me on the couch (if she does this even one time, I’m not sure I can take it)! I’m an outdoor girl as well, and I often glean spiritual applications from my excursions. What a powerful application. May we turn to Jesus to motivate, inspire, and lead us out of our comfort zones this year!
    Stacey Pardoe recently posted…Because Sometimes You Have to Roll up Your Pants and Step into the Freezing WaterMy Profile

    1. Aw, you could do it! All it takes is a pair of binoculars and an adventerous spirit! If you put out a feeder and a hummingbird feeder, you could probably bird year-round in your new yard :).

  9. Dear Anita, I must confess I don’t “get” birding, but I do get comfort zones. When this Georgia girl found herself in an urban alternative school, I was scared to death. Then Jesus broke my heart and I fell in love with “those kids”. And I will never be able to thank Him for pushing me out of the nest.

  10. I love this story, and it’s interesting to think about what draws us out of our comfort zones. I used to be terrified of public speaking and it was having the chance to share about Jesus with a group of teenagers in a school that finally helped me get over it. It seemed like too good an opportunity to miss. There are so many other ways where I let fear hold me back though and I agree, it would make a big difference to live with Jesus as the motivation for everything.

  11. Great story. Ever since I met you this past summer, I would say you are brave and fearless. I believe you described yourself as an introvert but we had endless things we talked about together. I do understand that sometimes our ability to strike up conversations might depend on the situation but I know you do well especially since you traveled alone this past summer.

    Faith is an area that in my head I am farther along than what it looks like on the outside. I am not one to evangelize or walk up to strangers but God is working on me. Who knows what I might do next just like you??

    1. I’m an introvert that enjoys people (just not in great numbers for extended amounts of time 😉 ). I totally understand the head vs. actions aspect of our walk with God. Birders tend to flock together, always have something to talk about (birds), and are pretty non-threatening. In fact, birding is the biggest sport in the US! It’s the perfect opportunity to witness more (but in an organic way–I’m not a pushy sort of person).
      Anita recently posted…Books to Ring in the New Year: January ReleasesMy Profile

  12. Oooh, that hit a nerve. First of all, I think birding is the coolest thing and I want to get into someday. I love that movie The Big Year.

    Now as for the faith adventure and the comfort zone I am convicted in the same way. I hope and pray for some breakthrough for both of us in that area 🙂
    Natalie @messymom recently posted…Finding Our Home (Our 2017 Miracle)My Profile

  13. You had me trekking with you Anita. The best part? I could do it inside (not a fan of chilly weather). Your adventurous spirit is what I appreciate about you. You demonstrate keen self awareness in your connection of bird watching adventures to people seeking adventures. Blessings to you as you begin!

  14. You know I adored this post!!! The Hawfinch…I must look it up. And, Anita, allow me – another grandma – to warn you about STRANGER DANGER. But of course if they’re birders, I think it’s safe to say ‘birds of a feather must stick together.’

  15. I love this post, Anita. I wouldn’t call myself a birder, but I do find them fascinating and do all I can to attract them to my own backyard, but no adventures! But like you, I want to challenge myself to step out of my comfort zone more with those who cross my path. I’ve been in a ministry (counseling) where people come to me and it’s easy to be satisfied with that, especially when you have the opportunity to share the gospel in that context on a regular basis. Yet, I know I miss many opportunities in other places by being too focused on my agenda instead of God’s. Praying we both do better in 2018!
    Donna Reidland recently posted…“Recognizing & Preventing Favoritism” January 14My Profile

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Anita Ojeda

Anita Ojeda juggles writing with teaching high school English and history. When she's not lurking in odd places looking for rare birds, you can find her camping with her kids, adventuring with her husband or mountain biking with her students.

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