Exhale

By Courtney Westfall

To me, motherhood means having a hummingbird feeder. My mom has always had hummingbird feeders and my grandma always did, too. She loved hummingbirds. After I had my first child, I asked my husband if he would get me a hummingbird feeder for Mother’s Day.

It was a rite of passage. The 19 hours of labor and delivery didn’t seal it. It was the hummingbird feeder that made me feel like a mom.

This is our first spring and summer in our new house, and I had a reminder on my calendar to set out the hummingbird feeder. It’s right outside our kitchen window, and I was delighted when hummingbirds started visiting! We were getting several different ones and started naming them. There was the beautiful ruby throated James, plain, petite Judy and a few other regulars.

Pretty soon, though, I noticed that fat, short-beaked Franklin had decided to stake claim on the feeder and would dive-bomb anyone who tried to come to one of the four fake flowers that held the sugary sweet “nectar” I so lovingly prepared.

I had heard hummingbirds can be territorial, but it still made me mad. It was only when Franklin flew away that the others could come for a drink. He’d perch on top of the feeder, ready to drive away any competition. Didn’t he know that there was more than enough sugar-water to go around? Didn’t he know that I would gladly make more if the feeder was even close to being empty? Silly Franklin. Franklin got under my skin. He should share the wealth. He shouldn’t be so bossy. This wasn’t his feeder, it was MINE. Slow your roll, Franklin.

Why did Franklin make me so mad? And then it hit me: It made me mad because I am Franklin. When I have leftover condiments at a fast food restaurant, I take them home with me and store them in my fridge. I like to blame it on being frugal, but it goes deeper than that. I’m afraid if I don’t take care of myself and get all I can, a day will come when I don’t have what I need. Isn’t that the American Way?

Saving comes naturally to me. I do it with fast food condiments, with money, with snacks and with deeper, more meaningful parts of my life. I frequently catch myself holding my breath. As if there might not be enough air for my next inhale. I hold onto what I have, in case it runs out.

This is all subconsciously done, of course, but it is a common thread in my life. Worry that applause for someone else might mean there is no room for recognizing the good that I have done. Worry that, despite God showing faithfulness again and again throughout my life, the lifeline might just run out this time.

I ran across a quote by author Ann Voskamp in January and it’s been slowly sinking in for the past several months:

“Worry is belief gone wrong. Because you don’t believe that God will get it right. But peace- peace is belief that exhales. Because you believe that God’s provision is everywhere- like air.”

God’s provision is everywhere—like air. Oh, to breathe the free air! To not chase the other hummingbirds away, but welcome them to the feast, trusting that there will be more than enough for everyone.

I want to live my life as an exhale. Give my time, my energy, my money, my dearest treasures. Freely. With abandon. Knowing it is all a gift from God in the first place.

Courtney Westfall is a children’s pastor and mother of three. She loves baking, conversations over a cup of coffee and playing a made up game, “Napping Puppies,” with her kids.

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