Joy in Enough


“This moment was a bit of a dream come true for us, the lazy nights with her in her sweats and me in my work clothes, slowly peeling Christmas oranges by the fire.”
Dec_SarahAt this time of year, with all the rushing around and the Pinterest crafts and the opportunities to give, I have revisited a conversation I had with my mother one late night a while ago.

I had worked late that night so my husband was on his own for supper and bedtime with the tinies. At the end of the evening, I drove straight from work to my mother’s house. My dad was off travelling again, Brian was studying by now, and, really, those were just the excuses for our solitary evening of chatting.

I curled up in the corner of the couch in the light of the Christmas tree and she sat in the chair across from me, her feet up, her face washed and bare. Our hands were curled around the cups that I bought her for Christmas a few years before, just for nights like tonight. We’d talked through our days and the season, the tinies and the men in our lives and the family news.

It seems that we always need to get through the details, the mundane daily stuff, of who is doing what and when and why before we can get to the really good heart stuff. My mother’s blue eyes are the same as my youngest daughter’s blue eyes.  She laughs too loud (so do I) and she’s an incredibly beautiful woman, even more so as she ages. Her lines are falling in pleasant places and she looks so much like her Dad, it’s uncanny sometimes. I can see the grey at her temples and the bones in her hands are tiny like a bird’s. We talked a mile a minute, cramming a lot of laughter and weirdness into a short amount of time, diving straight in.

She listened to me (Isn’t it such a gift to just be listened to?) as everything in my heart spilled out about how tired I am sometimes, about how physically and emotionally exhausting this mothering thing can be with its sheer constancy. I jumped from yammering about homeschooling and my many thoughts on true education and spirituality and then I was telling her that we kind of want to sell everything and move to Africa or India to make some sort of a difference—maybe I could be a midwife!—and have you heard about this, that and the other thing? How this person did this thing and I thought it was awesome or terrible or hurtful, and everything that I want for myself and all the time I want back and money concerns and how I kind of need a minivan because three car seats don’t fit well in our car  but if I have to drive an ugly vehicle, then I want it to be weird-ugly not boring-ugly and on and on and on.

I made a bit of a fool of myself, to be honest.

When I was little, the primary emotion in our house was joy. My mother was happy and we knew it (clap your hands!). She loved us and loved my dad and loved her life and we all knew it. We weren’t rich. We didn’t have a lot of stuff. We didn’t “change the world” and no one knew about us, but we were really, really happy together.

I looked at her and remembered her joy, and was hit by the knowledge that my own tinies perhaps wouldn’t describe me (yet) as a person of joy.

“So what did you do, Mum?”  I was really, truly asking her because I didn’t feel simple or restful or joyful. (One of her favourite things to tell me is that a woman can definitely have it all—just not all at once. Most of the time, she thinks I need to chill out.)

“How do you calm down your mind and heart of all the mundane daily things that somehow sap the energy and time when there is all this world to save, all this difference to make, all this stuff to do and become? How do you have the joy in all of this? It always feels like I’m not enough. I’m not doing enough or being enough for the tinies, for my husband, for my home, for my community, for my world, let alone for myself. I just never feel like I’m enough.

During those years that I was off travelling and learning and moving and being a “hero,” all I wanted were these evenings to sit next to her with a cup of tea and a Christmas orange just to talk it all over. This moment was a bit of a dream come true for us, the lazy nights with her in her sweats and me in my work clothes, slowly peeling Christmas oranges by the fire.

She was gentle now, thoughtful. As we talked, I remembered her words this way:

“Have you ever thought that it’s not about the things you do, Sarah? That you can do all of those things and be all of those things and still it wouldn’t be enough. Because really, the accomplishment of stuff or things won’t give you that feeling of being enough. You just wear yourself out on a treadmill of expectations.  

Enough doesn’t come by accomplishment.  

Enough is just contentment. Joy is contentment.  Joy comes when it’s enough, when you’re enough because your sense of worth isn’t in what you DO, but instead in your identity in Christ. Contentment with who you are, where God has placed you and resting in the season and work he’s call you to right now today. That’s how you simply know, right now–it’s enough. And I think that’s what makes your soul glad.

Also: you need to chill out. Have another orange.”