Recently, I went to the San Diego Zoo with my daughter-in-love and three of our grandchildren. The weather that day was spectacular…a gentle breeze, 72° with a light cloud cover, promised a perfect day awaited us. Twenty years had passed since I walked through those gates with my own three children, and everything was as I remembered—yet incredibly different now.

No long lines, as the number of guests allowed was limited in keeping with Covid guidelines. Temperature checks as we entered, with masks in place. I have reluctantly become accustomed to wearing masks in the last six months. But this was the first time I’d seen my grandsons, ages 4 and 2, be required to don a mask. It washed over my heart in a new wave of sorrow.

My first thought was, “Is this really worth the two-hour drive to see animals under these conditions?” One glance at those little boys tugging my arm, skipping and squealing with excitement—pleading with us to hurry up!—and I knew the answer was a resounding yes! They were here to see lions and elephants and bears, and they weren’t about to have the day spoiled by the relatively minor inconvenience of a mask! It was going to be a very good day!

I had a choice. I could dwell on the way it used to be and miss the joy of this memory-making day for them—or I could go through those turnstiles and share this fantastic, fun-filled adventure with them! The choice was easy.

We spent several hours walking up and down those steep hills. We hoped that all the animals would be out and about in their habitats, ready to greet us. Let me tell you, the animal kingdom did not disappoint!

After a picnic lunch of PB&J’s and ice cream treats for dessert, we passed by the flamingos. Now flamingos don’t normally hold my attention like the monkeys do (the boys weren’t too interested either) but for some reason I lingered there, gazing at those pink and white feathered, crazy looking birds.

Walking up the last steep hill on our way to the car, I chuckled to myself, contemplating lessons we can learn from the flamingo, especially in these difficult days. Here are some to think about.

Life is a balancing act.

How in the world does that flamingo sleep on one leg?? Every one of us is learning to adjust to this new normal. For moms, unexpectedly homeschooling your children for the first time, this was never something you would have chosen for yourself. God’s mercies are new every morning and He wants you to seek Him for wisdom, strength, and patience to hold it together. Go forward one step at a time, and know this. God doesn’t just want you to survive the change—He will help you to grow and thrive. He’s got this!

You won’t crumble under the weight you are carrying.

The flamingo’s big body seems disproportionate to the strength of her skinny legs—never mind that most of the time she’s only using one leg! It seems impossible to us as bystanders, but God knows what that bird can handle.

Never forget that He is the God of the impossible. In Christ, you can do all things that He has called you to. God tells us to roll our burdens onto Him, and He promises that He will take care of us. Trust Him. He truly will not allow more than you can handle.

Drink the water.

Water is essential to live, and the flamingo consistently reaches down for her refreshment. Do you feel yourself withering in a dry, desert place? Maybe the answer is as simple as it is practical. Rest. Eat properly. Drink plenty of water.

But most importantly, drink deeply of the Living Water, Jesus Christ. Daily take in the spiritual nourishment your soul needs. This is essential for keeping the right perspective. Reminders of God’s perfect care for you and your loved ones.

Joy is contagious.

Have you noticed how the flamingo’s smile takes up her whole face? You can’t help but smile back! Even when disappointments and longing for “the way things used to be” threatens to take over, let your countenance reflect the joy of the Lord. Keeping a smile on your face doesn’t mean life is easy, but He is our strength. A thankful heart is a contagious source of joy (like my grandsons) for the blessings that still do abound!

Don’t compare yourself with another.

Flamingos are so unique aren’t they? God designed them with qualities and quirks that cause us to stop and marvel. Oh, what a Creator! He has made you uniquely you, and gifted you with qualities and abilities to shine beautifully for Him!

“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2:10 NIV).

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Thank you Jesus for lessons all around us in life—even lessons from the flamingo!