Enough. ENOUGH. That’s a word we as moms often say to our children when they (or we!) have reached a limit. “That’s enough ice cream.” “That’s enough TV.” Or, the dreaded “THAT’S ENOUGH!!” when the behaviors have hit a point that mom will no longer tolerate. We moms say, “That’s enough” quite a number of times through our children’s years. It’s a phrase that is passed down from mom generation to mom generation. We intrinsically know that we need to say enough to our children. That there are limits. Enough.
But, here’s the mother’s day question for ya…do we ever say “enough” to ourselves? Do we allow ourselves to know that we have limits as well… Limitations that keep us from keeping up with everything on the to do list? Yes, we have hearts that dream and wish and hope and pray for our children, but do limitations make us feel as though we’re just not enough? That guilt tape can run over and over in our minds and hearts and we can end up feeling insufficient as moms. But God calls us to something different. A little bird helped me see that so many years ago, and I just wanted to share the story incase there are any moms who might just need to hear the word ‘enough‘ in a different light.
As I sat in the rocking chair and fed the newest addition to our family, I watched the mama bird fly to and fro, to and fro. She would fly away for a few minutes, and then come back to feed her newly hatched little birds. She would feed them, and then, once again, fly to an fro, to and fro. Everytime the mama bird would approach the nest, the baby birds would stretch out their necks so high, and make frantic peeping sounds as if to say, “Pick me!, Feed me!” The mama bird would systematically care for each one, and they would quiet down. It seemed like a neverending process, maybe because in the day to day, it really was neverending! A mama bird’s work was never done.
I sat and watched this mama bird busy herself day after day. You see, I had a “birds-eye view”, so to speak, for every day at regular intervals, I would sit in the former dining room with the bay window that was now a dining room transformed into a bedroom for our 6th child, and I would feed our baby. At this point in time, I was a “mama bird” of six children- all ages 8 and under. (Oh, and did I mention there were 5 boys and 1 girl?) Well, this ‘mama bird’ knew that sense that the process of getting everything done was neverending and the feeling that it was just never enough. I will spare you the details, but you can trust me when I say that I so get that feeling of never being or doing “enough”.
That feeling that there was never enough of me to go around was a pretty prevailing thought most of the time. Never enough of me. Never enough time. Never enough done, accomplished. There were so many things I wanted to do for these kids, to teach them, to equip them, to provide a creative and loving home for them. I wanted to inspire them and encourage them, play with them, and overall, I wanted them to see the Lord in me…to be a mom that helped her kids to know and see and ultimately serve the God Whom I adore. But, in the day to day, at the end of the day, I so often questioned myself, feeling as though I had never done quite enough, or if I had, there were huge gaps to fill.
But thankfully, as I watched that mama bird day after day, I started to realize a thing or two about being a mom. Day after day the routine was the same for me, and for that mama bird. We both flitted and fluttered about. We both had to tidy our nest a bit. We both had to feed our little birds at regular intervals. And that mama bird? She took time to rest. To be with her little birds.
Soon, as the scrawny little baby birds were fattening up and their feathers were fluffing up, they started venturing from the nest. They had to experience that process of falling from the nest and learning to fly. During this process it was not the baby birds that I heard making awful sounds, it was the mama bird. Mama Bird was ‘encouraging’ (strongly) the baby birds to fly and also warning other intruders (some of my more mobile children at the time!) to steer clear of her baby birds or they might just see a less than sweet side of the mama bird. And within a matter of time, all of the birds were out and about, flying and venturing out on their own. The mother bird? She had done her job. She had done her job well.
So here’s the thing. There was a natural order of things that allowed that mama bird to care for her young well. She knew what they needed and she worked hard to provide it. She didn’t look at the double decker birdhouse in our neighbor’s yard and wish that her birds lived there. She didn’t spend time primping in front of the window trying to catch a reflection of herself to ensure that every feather was in place. She didn’t put undue pressure on herself and insist on a gourmet worms or bugs or provisions. She was there, providing, doing, and being. For those baby birds, she was enough. She did what she could, and those baby birds flew out and were cared for in such a way that they were able to venture out on their own and… fly. The mama bird intrinsically knew what her little one needed and she was enough.
And so do we. I so believe that we as moms need to stop and breathe and “be”. So often we intrinsically know what our child needs better than anyone. In our world, it’s so hard not to look to the left or right, because we want to do things “right”. And everyone has an opinion about what “right” is. We look to friends or family, to pinterest or facebook, or read up on the latest how to’s of raising this or that child. But the doing? The flitting around and searching after answers can often take from our children the very thing they need the most… the being…the ‘just being there’ for that child….the looking in the eyes and sitting side by side kind of being there. Yes in some ways, we, like the mama bird, need to know that we are enough.
A child will remember the “being there”. A child may not remember the details of the decorations on the wall or notice the difference between a gourmet meal and a hamburger with mac and cheese. A child may not have the elite baseball or dance equipment, but will so be aware of when a parent takes time to throw a ball or help someone practice a dance move or a piece on the piano. A child will remember the mom’s presence in those million different circumstances when they knew they were a child and needed someone or something bigger than themselves to help them through. Sometimes, our presence is enough. And we need to rest in that and know that for our chlld. But, bottom line, in the big picture of life, maybe, just maybe, we really are not enough. What? What did I just say? Yes, maybe we really are not enough… and maybe acknowledging that is where the freedom comes.
And maybe that’s the heart of what I want to say today. We really aren’t “enough”. We just aren’t. Our children (especially as they become teens and adults) will have needs that there is no way that we can fill. Little birds need to be equipped to venture out on their own. They’ll make mistakes. They’ll fall. They’ll fail. We will fail. They’ll hurt and we won’t be able to soothe the ache in the way that we want. They need to learn to fly, and that’s a process. Failing is a huge step in any road to success. Including parenting. We’re just not ‘enough’ to be the end all for our children. And knowing that may very well help us to equip them for life in a whole different way.
When we realize that we are “not enough”, we can point our children to the One who is. Thinking that we are or have to be and end all in our children’s lives? That can keep our child relying on the wrong source. We cannot do everything perfectly or be an end all for our children. But our being there (like that mama bird) can teach them a level of trust and reliance and security and hope that can equip them for trusting others, and ultimately, trusting God in a huge way. For just as I said earlier, there are so many times in a child’s life when just a mom (or Dad’s ) presence can help them to see their need for something or SomeOne bigger than themself. And being a parent? So often, we realize that we need something or SomeOne bigger than ourselves to help us and our child through. We hold up our hands and say, “What do I do now?” And God waits for us to come, to come to Him who created us and our children, and knows the deepest needs better than we do.
So often in my prayers I’ve acknowledged to the Lord that my chlldren were His way before they were mine. That they are such a gift. In the same way that children are strengthened and encouraged by just their parent just being there at times, I am so encouraged by knowing that God is so present and that His grace is enough. His grace is enough to fill in the gaps of all my shortcomings as a mom. His grace is like the glue that takes what I can do and fills in what I can’t. His grace is the embrace that holds everything together when I feel like falling apart. His grace is what allows me to be needy when the world says that I am to be sufficient, that I am to be enough. But His grace calls us to do what we can, and rely on Him to do what we can’t. I’m so aware of my faults and shortcomings and so thankful that God calls me to come as I am, but doesn’t want me to stay there. He also wants His children to grow….to fly.
My children are now so much older. Infact, one of my sons graduated from college just yesterday! As we sat at the table, I felt so many emotions…so much pride and love as I looked around at the table with these kids….now not really kids, but young adults that I love so much. But I also felt an ache….that old familiar ache of not doing enough in some areas. But instead of berating and bemoaning what I haven’t done, I am choosing (trying) to learn from it, and just press on to know and trust my Jesus with more of those gaps that only He can fill…in my life and in my children’s lives. For it seems to me, that we are all learning to fly. Failing, falling, flying…it’s all part of it.
So, all of you mama birds out there, when you feel yourself focusing on insufficiencies and saying that what you’re doing is just not enough? I encourage you to take those longings, those hopes, those dreams, those insufficiencies to the One who IS enough. His Grace is Enough. Period. And like a child who just needs to know that he is not alone, knowing that the One True God is present and with us through it all can give us courage (en-courage us!) to face anything that we have to face. Yes, His All-Sufficient or “All-Enough”, if you will, grace is indeed enough.
May we as mama birds love well, flitter and flutter a bit, and encourage our baby birds to fly. May we not berate and bemoan what we don’t have, but embrace and enjoy what we do, and leave the rest with the One who loves us well. He calls us to some flittering and fluttering for sure, but also calls us just to come as a child who knows that she needs SomeOne bigger than herself to “fly” in this world. Our Creator knows what we were designed for, He knows His Plan and that baby birds (and mama birds) were meant to fly. It’s what they were designed to do. He’ll provide the wings and the wind and the things that we can’t. It is ours to provide the will and desire to show up and do our best with what He’s given, in whatever nest He’s placed us, with whomever our little birds may be. Those little birds? We must remember that they were His before they were ours, and He knows a thing or two about caring for His Own. (See Psalm 91: 4 below) His grace is sufficient for us. His grace is sufficient for them.
Yes, may we as mama birds always know and point to the ONE who truly is Sufficient. He is Enough. May we come to Him as a bird to a nest, and find shelter. And may we teach our ‘little birds” where to find that shelter as well….in the ‘shadow of His wings…’
“He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.
2 Corinthians 12:9