Mom life is hard and exhausting. It just is. There are days when chaos reigns, and pancake syrup and dog poop are everywhere you step. Figuratively speaking. Or literally speaking. But it doesn’t have to be only hard and exhausting. This day can be, and is, sprinkled with “beautiful”, even in moments of chaos. Sometimes, we just have to breathe and step over the dog poop. Joy is a choice, a choice that I make, or don’t make, daily. Here are some tips to help you with choosing joy!
As you go through you mom journey, it is all too easy to neglect the care of yourself and the “refreshing” of your own spirit. Choosing joy is one part of a bigger picture of taking care of yourself. Read Self Care for Overwhelmed Moms and Why it’s so Important.
I love to talk with other moms. When I see moms out and about with littles who look how I must have looked in the early years, I like to smile and tell them how beautiful their family is. (That’s right, beautiful… fussy, booger pickin’, ketchup faced, and all!) And I am always immediately drawn to moms of large families, I feel an instant connection with them. A few years ago, I spotted another large family. A woman, a man and several kids were shopping. My first instinct was to say hello as I usually would. But this time I stopped short. This time was different.
This mom… She looked tired, sure. But more than that, she looked like she had been absolutely defeated by life. There was no light in her eyes. No hope. No joy. Her hair was dirty, and so were her ill-fitting clothes. Her kids looked the same way. There were no smiles on their faces, no kid-chatter.
I tried to observe without being obvious. Something about them struck me deeply. I have no idea what this woman has faced in her life. Poverty, certainly. Perhaps addiction, abuse, abandonment, I have no way of knowing. My heart was grieved for her. But whatever she had been through, it was clear that the life had been sucked out of her. She seemed to have given up on anything except mere survival. There was an aura of deep unhappiness and defeat around here. Defeat, that word stuck in my mind, and the memory lingers still.
As I drove the 14 miles home that day, my thoughts were still on the scene that I had witnessed. I was facing a difficult time in my own life, where troubles seemed to be stacking up one on top of the other. Stuff harder to recover from than syrup and dog poop. I was discouraged and anxious about what the future might hold. But in that moment, I knew nothing in my life could be as awful as self-declared, absolute defeat.
I ordered myself, before God, that day… “No matter what, I refuse defeat! I will choose joy, and I will keep looking up!”
Someone is Watching
I am constantly aware of my children depending on me. Not just for food, clothing, and shelter, but so much more. My children depend on me for emotional security, for stability, for a sense that everything is going to be okay. When things go wrong, they need me to demonstrate that there is a time to vent and feel my frustration, and a time to pick myself up and “get back on the horse.”
Knowing all the while, that how I choose to react to the ups and downs in my life, particularly the downs, will have a profound impact on their ability to do the same as adults. They will face struggles and hard times. No exceptions. They will. Now is the time to learn how to have joy in the midst of the struggles. And the first and most deeply entrenched lessons they will receive are those lived out in front of them by mom and dad. (They also need me to demonstrate that nothing is too small to take to God. Sometimes those prayers under our breath should be spoken out loud.)
But I need the stability of knowing everything is going to be okay too. And ultimately, I do! Because I am a believer. God, who holds literally everything in His hands, holds me and my future too. He cares about my broken heart, and my piles of laundry, and my fussy baby, and my stubborn teenager. And every bit of it, I take to Him.
“When I am filled with cares, Your comfort brings me joy.”Psalm 94:19
Be Honest About How You Feel
It has been my observation that one of the greatest obstacles to experiencing joy is entitlement. People have a tendency to believe that they “deserve” certain things. And that they do NOT deserve certain other things. When their expectations are not met, they become angry or resentful, and eventually, depressed, looking for someone to blame. When they can’t find a human to blame, they blame God.
However, there is a difference between blaming God and being honest with God. Never be afraid to voice everything you are feeling to God. He already knows. There is nothing you can say to Him that will shock Him. He can handle it. David, whom God called “A man after my own heart”, was prone to venting all his feelings and frustrations to God. He often said “Why?” and “How long?” And when He was done with his rant, he acknowledged, “But you are God. I’m not. And You are all I have.” (Please excuse the loose translation.)
Feel what you are feeling. Just don’t get stuck there. Choosing joy does not mean stifling other emotions. It means feel it, give it to God, and then keep moving forward. And remember, feel it… but don’t believe it!
Emotions lie! People like to say “Trust your heart” But you cannot trust your emotions! They will lie to you again and again. Always measure what your heart is “feeling” up against the truth. Examples:
Emotion: “I can’t do this, I can’t go on with this (hurt, loss, etc.) Truth: I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.
As you and I both know, life is not perfect. Life is good, but it is full of both good and bad at the same time. When we know and accept that life will always be a struggle, then it becomes less of a struggle. Knowing that we are imperfect humans who will experience an imperfect life, lessens the shock of struggle. When we let go of the idea that we don’t deserve difficulty, then we aren’t looking for someone to blame when difficulty occurs.
Be thankful, be grateful, blah, blah, blah…right? No really, it can change your life! Try some simple exercises like these:
- Take note of beautiful, pleasant, wonderful things. Beauty is everywhere if you look! The sunrise, birds singing, the chubby hands of your toddler.
- Every day make a list of at least 3 things you are thankful for. Don’t use the same ones every day. Stretch the muscle and keep adding to the list. Read through your list from time to remind yourself.
- Don’t take the comforts in your life for granted. Almost every night when my head hits the pillow, I thank God for my warm, comfortable bed. I thank God for air conditioning, running water, and indoor plumbing. That may seem trivial, but going without would NOT be trivial.
- Keep your perspective in check. No matter how difficult things are, it could always be worse! Happiness vs. unhappiness is often just a matter of perspective. For instance, Mom #1 is frustrated with teenage son’s distant attitude. Mom #2 is visiting her son in the cemetery, wishing she could still be dealing with teenage son’s distant attitude.
- Write down your specific prayer requests in a journal or notebook. As your prayers are answered, make note of it, with a date. Include unexpected blessings as well. Look back over your list often. It’s joy affirming and faith affirming to see a list of God’s answers.
- Praise God. When things go right and when they go wrong. God is still God, and we are not. He knows things we don’t know. This current struggle or pain you are going through, may be the vessel God uses for your good tomorrow. In fact, it almost always is! I have experienced it over and over again.
Keep Your Sense of Humor
Laugh! Every day! As much as possible! Laughter is God-given. It releases endorphins, reduces the stress hormone in your body, brings more oxygen into your blood stream, and generally makes you feel good!
“A cheerful heart is good medicine…”Proverbs 17:22
And by the way, laughter is one of the best side effects of having kids! The things they say and do keep me laughing until the tears (the good kind) run down my face. (Oh the stories I have… read Surviving the Roller Coaster of the Toddler Years for a good laugh!)
Make time for Joy
Do things that you enjoy! In the hustle of your day, it’s easy to get busy and find at the end of your day, you have done nothing that was fun. For instance, if I don’t carve out the time in my schedule to spend with friends, it usually doesn’t happen. Yesterday, I had a long lunch with a friend. Not because I had time, there were plenty of other things I “should” have been doing. Because I took time. As it turned out, that was an important lunch. My friend had something weighing heavily on her heart and it meant the world to me to share that burden. And that brings me joy. The time I spent with her will matter far longer than the chores I could have done. Those things, after all, won’t last. They will need doing again very soon.
Share your thoughts in the comments below. As always, I’d love to hear from you. May you experience joy in this day! Hugs, Mama!