Encouragement from a Squirrel’s Nest

Saturday morning at our porch party, the wind whipped around the house, bending the frail-looking Georgia pines. My husband and I wore heavy coats and were covered in blankets. We sat rocking and drinking coffee together.

Of course I was thinking about lots of things.

Some family issues.

The small group at church we’re going to be leading soon.

Writing ideas.

And I was drawn to the strangest sight–

A clump of leaves way up high in the top of a hardwood.

I’d noticed them several weeks ago.

“Look at those leaves in the middle trees. Why are they there?”

“It’s a squirrels’ nest.”

“Isn’t that weird? It didn’t fall–even with all the wind and rain.”


“And the poor squirrels had to build it with the only things they had. Leaves and twigs.”


“I bet they didn’t worry or complain. They probably didn’t say, ‘I wish we had a nice box lined with a soft blanket instead of these dumb old leaves’.”

Rick looked at me like where do you come up with this stuff? 

I didn’t care. I had that sweet, warm feeling God was talking to me. 

Later that day, I did some research on squirrels’ nests.

They build their nests with green leaves in the summer. After packing them in tightly, the leaves die and turn brown, and their nests grow even stronger in the winter–just when they need them the most. (Here’s more info on Wikipedia.)

You wouldn’t think squirrels’ nests could possibly work.

A pile of sticks and some leaves.

But they do.

It’s exactly the way God planned it.

When He calls us to do something seemingly impossible–a job, a dream, or even to love someone–He gives us everything we need at just the right time.

And not a moment sooner. 

Have you ever experienced one-leaf-at-a-time kind of faith? Tell me about it! I’d love to hear.




  1. Julie, most people do not understand why I am a “hunter”. I LOVE watching the squirrels, chipmonks, and birds,etc. in God’s creation. Watching God’s creatures fills me with His assurances that He will take care of me too. I actually learn from these animals! During this season as I watched a squirrel repeatedly go up and down the tree while gathering his acorns ( I presume), I wondered at his endurance and persistence. I realized I too just have to go about gathering what is available to me daily and do what I need to do knowing God will provide. He will not make the nest for us but if we are faithful and persistent we will be OK and where God wants us to be. Squirrels are amazing athletes! Blessings as you take in God’s wonders and build your nest!

    • Yes, yes, Tom! That’s what God seems to be showing me too! And these miracles are everywhere. It was so…peculiar. For weeks, I kept noticing the leaves, but kept pushing the thought back down. Then when I did my research, I realized how amazing and intricate their nest-building process is.

      And the thing is, these things go on ALL THE TIME! Blows my mind.

      Thanks for reading, commenting, and encouraging. Yeah, Thomas and Rick can just sit in the woods too, and be quiet. I like to talk. 🙂

  2. Anna Haney says:

    I am sitting here amazed. What a simple statement, but how true. He knew I needed to hear this; and as He is prone to do, He used you to tell me. Funny thing is, things like squirrel’s nests and such I have always touted to whomever was nearby as “God things”—-proof that it was God. People can tell me all they want about science, but stuff like that is divinely created and orchestrated. Thank you, sweet friend, for this message!

    • I know, Anna! I couldn’t believe it! You’d think the nest wouldn’t last a day, but actually, they can last YEARS.

      Thanks, my friend. You’re always so sweet to retweet and “like” what I write.

      Hope your Thursday is off to a great start! xo

  3. Robin Steinweg says:

    Oh Julie,
    Those squirrels. They work hard getting their food (not so hard when I put out birdseed, however) and making their nests, but they know how to have fun, too.
    (I always suspected those were squirrel nests, and now I know–thanks for doing my research, ha!)

    I love how He talks to us–and I love reading how you listened! 🙂

    • Robin, I’d never thought about what you just said–that they squirrels have fun (as well as work hard). Tom, above, mentioned how athletic they are.

      Thanks for your sweet words!

  4. Patricia Martin says:

    Right now my school load is like one leaf at a time faith. I think squirrels are so brave to make do with leaves while many people are scared in big houses.(): but squirrels trust and have patience in God and I should too! (: when is Thomas getting married?

    • Hey Patricia! I’m praying for your ECON class. Yep, one leaf at at time kind of living to get through it, I bet.

      Thomas is back in college. He has two years of Business, and has gone back. Brittany is also in school. They’re talking about some time in 2016.


  5. Georgia says:

    Hi, Julie! Love this post… thank you for sharing it. Do you mind if I ask you the status of the novel you are writing? I am so looking forward to reading it!

    • 🙂 🙂 The status of my novel…what a wonderful question! Yes, I have an agent. She’s made some suggestions. I should have it back to her in the next few days! Wo-hooooooooooooooooooooooo!

      Thank you so much for reading and caring!


  6. donna says:

    Terrific writing; terrific insights. As always, you nudge us to think and explore, inside and out, in the best of ways. Thank you, Julie. Don’t know what I would do without you. hugs.

  7. Julie Gilleand says:

    Dear Leaf Sister, regarding leafy squirrel’s nests! You knew you’d hear from me on this one, didn’t you?! I never knew squirrels made nests! Whenever I’ve seen nests high up in a tree I always thought they were either birds’ nests or beehives! How interesting. I love squirrels. From the one who used to nap on his belly on a tree branch right outside my bedroom window everyday so that I was sure he was visiting me and saying hello, to the ones who scamper out of the wooded area next to our McDonald’s knowing people spill their food in the parking lot (and I throw them pieces of bread and they scamper out of the woods, grab them and scamper right back, to the ones I took photos of outside the White House one visit and got scared when this deep male voice said “You can’t do that ma’am and I’ll have to confiscate your camera”! I freaked and totally bought it, until the patron in front of me turned around and just laughed! But I’ve heard since about the famous White House squirrels!

    I love that the nests are made in the summer with soft green leaves to prepare for the hardening of the winter. It’s hard to believe that when they dry up and turn brown that they could possible be stronger from the cold winter weather but it’s encouraging to know it’s true. I’ve experienced the things of life that feel like a harsh winter beating against my life and sometimes can feel the strength coming to me from it and other times feel myself getting beaten to death by it and do not come back feeling stronger at all, so it’s hard to understand how it all works but maybe in those cases the strength comes later, with the healing and restoration (Spring!).

    Thanks Leaf Sister for sharing your Leafy Nest story 🙂 and God bless.

    Other Julie G/ Other Leafy Sister

    • Oh, yes, Leaf Sister, I knew you’d be all over this one! When I had my hands in all those leaves, I knew you’d love the picture!

      Absolutely fascinating–how the world works, isn’t it?

      Thank you, thank you, thank you for understanding this one.

  8. Thank you for a beautiful reminder of how He cares for us. It reminded me of a wonderful family story we still share with our grandchildren. Back then, we lived in the middle of woods, with a 1/2-mile long gravel driveway and had no neighbors nearby. When our girls were little, they both had long hair (Christina’s was blond and Nicole’s was brown), and when their ends needed trimming or they wanted to go a little shorter for a while, I would take them on the back deck, trim their hair, and throw it out in the yard.

    One summer day we discovered that the baby birds we had been watching had left the nest. It was abandoned, hanging loosely on the eave of the house, so Gary decided to take it down. (He might have been painting, I can’t remember!) Imagine our delight when he brought the carefully-created birds’ nest down and we discovered individual strands of blond and brown hair woven throughout the nest!

    And instant reminder that God not only provides for the needs of a bird, but also instilled in them the knowledge to look for leaves, twigs, and barely-visible strands of hair as nest-building supplies. What a loving, mighty God we serve! If He cares that much for a bird, how much more does He care for you and me?

    • Vonda, have you written this–I mean, for publication? This is BEAUTIFUL.

      I’m sitting here tearing up over the tenderness.

      Love you.

  9. You wrote:
    “I bet they didn’t worry or complain. They probably didn’t say, ‘I wish we had a nice box lined with a soft blanket instead of these dumb old leaves’.”
    Rick looked at me like where do you come up with this stuff?

    Julie, I laughed out loud when I read those lines. It made my belly ache because I did a bunch of crunches yesterday and today I’m sore. But it felt soooo good to laugh. You know I’m laughing with you because isn’t it just what they would be thinking? We’re nuts (no pun intended to the squirrels!)

    Nope, the squirrels don’t complain, don’t wish for better, just make do with what they have. A true lesson there. Thanks!

    • Yes, yes, yes, B.J. A hundred yeses to your words!!

      And who’d think SQUIRRELS might have a mess or two for us “smart” people. 🙂

      Love you, my dear friend. Always!

  10. I don’t think I’ll ever view another squirrel’s nest in the same way. I always wonder what their “chatter,” means. Are they truly communicating with each other? Is it a warning when I walk too close by? The kids delight in feeding them at Grandpa’s lake place, and now we’ll have to watch carefully for their nests. Such a great lesson you’ve shared with us!

    • I know, Vicky. Me either! Hahaha, maybe they do complain a little bit in their secret language.

      Hugs from GA, and I bet you’re in the middle of a snowy land today. xoxo

  11. marci says:

    The lessons we get from nature. I am familiar with squirrels. There’s a nest in a tree in our back yard. It’s easy to see when the trees are bare. Daughter, the vet has had babies brought to her several times – to save, when a tree was cut down that had a nest in it. As I was reading, I was thinking how they do all they do, without ever reading a ‘how to’ book. There are great lessons there. .. and the ‘ one leaf at a time’ I can relate to also. Life seems to be ‘one leaf at a time’.
    Like the squirrels, and as you said. God gives us what we need as we need it. I think some times he also- gives us just enough that we know, we cannot do it on our own and we need Him.

    Church: They are busy putting half the roof on. And they are working inside. I have not looked inside. Sunday it was announced that in the near future they would be rewiring, and we would not be able to use the parish hall for a month, so that means– we will have to find some place else to meet. We are not sure when that will be, so the challenges continue. And I still pray each day for our journey with this. I try to not think too far ahead to the ‘how will we?” .. Sometimes I have found that the very things I have fretted the most about are the things that work themself out without any help from me.

    Another thing that came to me while reading your blog today, was how, so often we/ I may wonder about what I should do, even what path to take, then later look back and realize the Lord had me on the path that I needed to be on all along– (even with the bumps and curves..), and I am exactly where I need to be– I find that so awesome.
    Thanks for sharing your journey and insights with us.

    God Bless!

    • Marci, I just wish we were sitting on my front porch rocking and talking. I learn so much from your one-leaf-at-a-time kind of faith–especially how God’s working in you through the church situation.

      I so agree with you. It’s only in retrospect that we can see (sometimes) what they bumps and curves meant.

      Yep. Those thing we fret about, He has a way of working out–somehow even without us!

      Hugs to you this Thursday morning! xo

      • marci says:

        Oh, how nice that would be, to sit with you on your front porch, rocking and talking, and the insights from each other. What joy! Looking for and seeing joy this year, something each day- has in itself– well… given me Joy! And how wonderful that has been (experiencing Joy) as I have experienced sadness, and mourned. I have concluded that perhaps that is the word God has given me for this year (?), Joy. I think of Psalms 126, one of my favorites. It too gives me joy. And reading your blog and your comments give me joy.
        I also was glad someone ask about your book. I have wondered, and so glad to hear that it is well on it’s way. I do hope you will keep us up on how it is going.

        • 🙂 🙂 JOY. Marci, to read your sweet words right now. Joy is your word, and somehow God brings you joy when you visit my blog.

          So humbled and honored.

          Thank you. And thanks for caring about my novel. Keep praying…..


  12. I love squirrels and I loved learning more about their nests! I so appreciate you sharing what God told you Julie because it helped me so much too…and like Vicky, I’ll never look at a squirrel’s next in the same way ~ xo

    • Thanks, Robin. Of course, you captured my heart in the world of squirrels with how you love them. And even decorate with your gorgeous woodsy themes, including squirrel figurines.


    • Thanks, Robin. Of course, you captured my heart in the world of squirrels– even in the way decorate with gorgeous woodsy themes, including squirrel figurines. 🙂


  13. Mary Wilkins says:

    As a huge introvert who is also shy, I usually dread interactions with people – even those I love. God always gets me through these functions, so I don’t know why I worry, but I do….Lately, I’ve been able to just breathe and tell myself I can do it. There is hope!

    • Ohh, yes, Mary. This is hope. I understand. I’m an introvert too. I’m learning to fake being an extrovert. 🙂

      I bet squirrels don’t have to deal with this. :/

  14. Cathy Mayfield says:

    Hi, Julie!

    My dad taught me to watch the animals and to love them – and I do! He gave me that love, as well as the love of family. I thank God for him and my mom and my childhood with parents who understood the importance and incredibility of God’s creation. As you said, we can learn much about ourselves and how to live more like Christ by watching the creatures, great and small. It gives me the shivers, for some reason. Funny how I get so caught up in a raccoon’s print in a muddy creek bank, my golden retriever’s love-filled eyes and constantly wagging tail, and a cheery “hello” chirp from the female cardinal who frequents the bird-feeder near my window.

    A couple squirrel-y memories: purposefully brushing my dog outside to give the squirrels and birds “building materials” and teaching my young daughters to do the same thing by cutting colorful yarns in lengths and gleefully scattering them over our lawn; watching a squirrel pull the batting from a torn glider cushion on my mom’s porch, stuffing his mouth full of the puffy cotton, and scampering up the tree to line his nest; wondering at the tenacity and agility of the squirrel who performed athletic stunts, worthy of any movie-star stunt man, just to reach my bird-feeder; and last, seeing young children fill an empty gallon jug (the side cut out) with peanuts and placing it on the other side of the yard from our re-decorated, for-the-birds-only, Christmas tree tied to a tree trunk outside at our after-Christmas party. Thank you, our Creator, for the joys of watching and learning from all of Your miraculous creation!

    Blessings, my friend!

    • Cathy!!! What creative ideas!!!! I never knew to do any of this!! Brilliant, just brilliant. Huge hug!!

      And the miracles happen all the time, all around us. I just need to stay aware of His Glory.


  15. Tricia says:

    I love reading your observations, Julie, and those of fellow readers. It is food for thought throughout my day as I am in practice of gleaning the true value , the gifts of each day, one day at a time, one leaf at a time! My word of the year is “Truth”.

    • Tricia, I love how you said, “one leaf at a time”–wohooo!! Yep, that’s it, isn’t it. That’s the TRUTH. How can you go wrong with Truth as your word this year? 🙂

      Thanks for reading (and for letting me know you’re reading)!

  16. What a wonderful illustration of God’s provision. Thank you for this, Julie.

    We are in the middle of experiencing one-leaf-at-a-time faith with our five-year-old daughter. She has epilepsy, and medication has not been able to control the seizures. Next week, she goes to the hospital for ten days of testing to see if she qualifies for brain surgery.

    While the last ten months have been difficult all around, my greatest struggle has been to trust God in a situation I cannot control. Guess that’s what faith is, huh? God has been faithful thus far, and He will not fail us now. Our shelter, our nest, our rest in Him will hold together no matter how fierce the storm. He Who cares for squirrels will also care for us.

    Thanks again for reminding me of this.

    • Ohhhh, Stephanie….

      Tearing up reading your precious words. Your daughter. Your one-leaf-at-a-time faith. I’m putting you on my prayer list and will be agreeing in prayer with you.

      I’m looking out my window right now. That squirrel’s nest is still there.

      So much love, my friend.

  17. Jane says:

    My God observation from my walk today was that I (we?) are more like geese than I would have thought. I noticed how they gather in large and small groups, all close to each other. When one seems to be separate, someone calls to him/her to rejoin the group. And I think that is how we are as church people. God made us to be in a group – we call it a community – in communion with one another. And when one of us struggles, the others are there with support. I am thinking of the story of how they fly in V formation, honking support at the leader, and when the leader tires, another takes the lead and the previous leader falls back in formation with the aerodynamic draft/support of the others. Same as the squirrel that builds a nest of green leaves so when they “mulch” themselves together they form a base – a bond.
    Thanks for your encouraging observations and writings.
    Grace and Peace. Jane

    • Jane.

      This is gorgeous. I can see and hear it in my mind. Such depth and truth. And sometimes, when geese are injured, they run from the flock (at least in church)…not sure if real geese every hide and pull away.

      But there’s strength in fellowship. In communion.

      THANK YOU. Brilliant, just brilliant, and straight from God’s heart to ours.


  18. Sandra Walker says:

    The Holy Spirit and you outdo yourselves every time! Have lived one leaf at a time for a long time now. Only way to do it! There is a squirrel’s nest at the mountain house that has been there for about three years now. Amazing how they endure! Discovered one just behind our back fence not long ago; it was so awesome as I was drinking coffee in the sunroom and looked up to see a squirrel pop up out of it and come down the tree and run along the top of the fence! Never seen one come out of the nest before. What a gift! Love watching all God’s creation!

    • Sandra, I can’t believe you’ve been watching a squirrel’s nest for three years and you know what I’m talking about!!!! Blows my mind–how big God is!

      Such a beautiful response, my friend. Connecting my heart to yours in a big hug right now!


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