ICYMI—In Case You Missed It!
Many of you have heard me tell the story of Joel, as a teenager, when we had come home to a messy house after conference season was ended.
"Mama, don't you worry. We can clean up our messes like always, and then it will get messy again. But, please mom, what we want from you, is a happy mom. When you are happy the world goes well. When you are unhappy, we all feel guilty. So, mama, can you just chill today and be happy? Then we can all have a good day!"
Kristen and I have both pondered how to cultivate a long-term sense of joy in the life of our own homes. The beginning of joy is to cultivate an inner attitude that is willing to see every day as a gift, every season as one in which you can enjoy the presence of God.
We have realized that it is our attitude in our heart that will determine how peaceful we will be at each season. If you learn to expect limitations, difficulties, stress and life and children pushing back against your best efforts, you will have a more realistic view of what it means to be a mom. Depression often comes from disappointed expectations. If we are surprised or angry every time something goes wrong or a child has a new developmental challenge or they keep eating, wearing clothes and making messes, you will spend a lot of your motherhood years being angry and disappointed.
We will never change the stress level by being angry or bitter.
Often, when we fight against the very nature of motherhood, we find ourselves fighting against God.
Funny that we want our children to change their attitudes, but somehow we feel we have a right to our own bad attitudes. But they end up draining our energy and stealing from the potential joy of life. Live into this season, accepting the limitations and learn to see each season as something God designed for a purpose. Don't try to rush life or push your children to develop or be independent too early.
This season is from God to slow you down, to train you to be more humble, more in the moment, more patient--to build the very character of Christ into the deep places of your heart. Learn and don't resist what He has built into this season and even though you will always feel exhausted, your heart will be more at peace, happier, if you know it has a purpose.
My Own Journey
Having three children in less than five years was a shock to my whole being. Not only had I not been trained for motherhood, I had not been developed to live a selfless life. No one told me about how much I would have to give, how much I would have to sacrifice--forever! Having grown up with two older brothers as the only girl of the family, my mama at times just wanted to spoil her little dolly. I was spoiled much of the time, left alone to fend for myself other times, but definitely not prepared to have multiple children, nurse my babes, have them naturally, and then homeschool them eventually.
Idealist should be my middle name. I wanted all of this, and to be the best mom in the world, but had no realistic idea of how to accomplish it. Today, I thought I would address some of the desperate times and a few ways I have learned to cope with them.
Always a new phase, always needs
The baby-toddler-never sleep years when you lose your body shape, have someone grabbing you all the time and are constantly in and out of different sizes of clothes (that is, if you have time to shop for clothes!) were daily, moment by moment a challenge to my centered-ness in life. Losing total control all the time, every day, day after day, was a shock to my system.
Is anyone really prepared for exhaustion that lasts for years on end? I wasn't. Besides having children in quick succession, which meant I always had immature little beings making messes, fussing, sleeping, potty training or making messy diapers and getting me up at night. I fell in love with my children--just had this overwhelming, deep affection for them, but still would blow my stack, be impatient when they pushed all my buttons and I felt vague desperate feelings.
I look back now and just wish I had understood baby years. And the pre-school years, and the teen years, and and and. Because I have lived through it all, I know I had God-given capacity to complete the tasks, and I am a richer, stronger person for my journey. God made each season for His own purposes. God made babies to be dependent so we could touch them, sing to them, bond with them, teach their little brains to believe in His love because of the way we tenderly cared for them and enjoy their sweet fat baby hand pats and smiles reserved for us. This is a time to try to just breathe, to try to notice the moments, to kiss often, smile into their precious eyes, and simplify. If you are feeling stressed because your babies push against your own schedule and expectations of life, know that you are normal. Feeling guilty for having these normal feelings is a waste of time. Just learn to grow stronger and more resilient one day at a time.
But seeking to bring gentle order, little by little, in each season of life is an essential part of having a more ordered, peaceful home.. Have eating times, play times, feeding times, bed times at the same time every day. When a little one or big one knows what to expect by the rhythms he lives in, he will be more secure and more calm. These are the anchors that bring order to the day. Babes who are held more during the day are quieter and more at peace. Teenagers who have lots of private "talk to me", "understand me" time are less likely to rebel against the mom and dad's ideals.
It requires so much of you every day, all the time--so to understand this is how to be an effective mom, learning to be a servant leader over and over again in every season, all the time, will help you to understand your long term call. I practically carried Joy everywhere we went, all the time, when I read to the kids, when I did things around the house, just kept her close and she was sooo much more calm and slept so much better. And during her young and elementary years, I sought to read to her, play with her and blow bubbles and rock her to sleep at night, just as my teens were wanting me to stay up, talk to them, understand them, be their friend. And, when I fell into bed exhausted, then before I knew it, Joy would be up again wanting my attention, early in the morning. But now, I am sooo grateful that God led me through these years, because my children's hearts are tied closely to mine and we have grown into each other's best friends.
To live inside yourself thinking that at some particular time, you will have more time to yourself, or have more control, is an expectation that will probably be disappointed. Life does become easier when children are old enough to help, to do things for themselves, to learn a little more independently. Yet, each seasons requires a different kind of energy for us as moms.
Learning to see God's design in all the stages gives meaning to the journey. But to have the wrong expectations about life becoming suddenly easier brings disappointment. Disappointed expectations can lead to depression. Anger can result. So learning to accept the limitations of a realistic life and learning to see each day as a gift, a place to worship God by choosing to accept the limitations is the beginning of growth.
Make Yourself Happier! Learning to manage your life so that you can refill your heart, mind and body on a regular basis is essential to good health.
Invest in your own soul's need for pleasure, because it is a God-given desire--make room for pleasure in your days, so that in spite of the seasons, you take care of yourself. Sometimes it is more important for a mama to take a nap than to wash dishes (and isn't that what paper plates are for?)
Sometimes it is better to go to dinner or lunch or brunch with a friend, or go to a movie that is romantic, to buy yourself a new dress or earrings, or go get a message, than to stay home and gaze at all of your problems and worry or focus on being depressed. Whatever you water is going to grow. If you cultivate fears, stress, worries, anger, then you will grow more anxious and darker every day. But if you learn how to release these issues into the file drawer of heaven, into God's hands, and then lighten your load, you will walk with more realistic joy and contentment. Learning to cultivate hope and joy, to water the faith and happiness of your life, is an essential commitment to becoming a wise woman.
These are my pleasures that keep me happier and stronger:
I make time with old friends--those who get me and still love me, who are fun, who know my limitations, heartbreaks, weariness, desires and dreams, and don't criticize or want something from me. These friendships have been built over many years. Having adventures together or just sitting on couches in front of the fireplace, chatting as the flames crackle and the night gets late fills up my soul.
A hot bath with candles late at night when NO ONE can disturb me is another treat I love. My clan doesn't go to bed usually until midnight, so I have to hide myself away when I just need a moment.
Sitting on the front porch watching the sun go down with something wonderful to drink and music playing out of my little Bose Speaker that goes everywhere I go. Peace, calm, beauty, quiet--so rare and so soul filling for me.
A one-woman 15 minute tea or coffee time in the middle of the day.
Ten minutes reading the psalms and then quick prayer, refocuses my mind on who God is and how much He loves me and desires to help me.
Going for long walks early in the morning or early evening--(the adrenalin builds up in me and I walk hundreds of miles a year to equalize my blood sugar and heart attitudes.) It is a great way to build friendship with your children, too.
Travel--I love adventure and change, (I was ADD before my children were born!) so I have taken myself and the kids to new places if I could figure out how to save money to afford it or speak to pay for my travel--or stay with friends along the way.
I have learned the wonderful value of massages in the past couple of years. I save, save to make this happen on occasion.
Watching a beautiful movie or reading a long great inspiring novel gives me hope.
Dark chocolate salted almonds
Reading my little daily Bible time book, reading even a half chapter in an inspiring spiritual book--even a little progress helps-- and writing one thing I have thought or learned in my journal. Spiritual strength keeps my attitude stronger--longer.
Spending time, with one or both of my girls, shopping and doing girl things-- just hanging out on our beds talking.
Lighting candles all times of day (when I need atmosphere--not wo much when the kids were little--but when I needed to pretend that the mundane day would be special. It was a sort of visual reminder of what I needed to live int.) Having my music playing or buying myself flowers. Beauty lifts my spirit.
In making beauty for yourself, others around you will learn to love and celebrate life, and they will learn to take care of themselves, too. Even those little babies that seem to need you all the time will eventually mimic the habits you practice!
What is therapy to your soul? What 2 things will you do this week? Share your ideas--I may need a new one!