MoJo Mondays: Just Keep Smiling!

Welcome to another installment of my new(ish) feature, MoJo Mondays.  Today, I’m considering how I love my life and find joy in motherhood by…

Keeping a smile on my face (and in my heart) even when things get sticky.

smileyI’m just beginning to appreciate how much truth there is in the old adage “When Momma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.”   Trevor says he’s known for a long time that this is the case.

No pressure, moms, but your mood sets the mood of the family.  Babies may be crying, potty catastrophes may abound, milk may be spilt everywhere, but if you are still cheerful, somehow everyone knows it’s all going to be okay and the little storms just blow over.  But, boy, is it hard to stay cheerful!

I think I first discovered this phenomenon in a certain department store, let’s say it was Wal-Mart*.  Shopping trips have been such a training ground for me as a young mother.  I used to think they were a training ground for my kids, and to be sure, there is plenty of opportunity to teach little ones to sit nicely in the cart or hold onto the side.  But no, it was me who really needed the training.

I can remember going shopping back when I only had two kids (after all, it wasn’t all that long ago!).  I would brace myself for the worst and just hope to get out of the store before I started crying if things got ugly.  It always started out okay, but then Romilly would need a diaper change.  Fifteen minutes later we’d be back to our shopping, but Pippa would have to go potty.  Okay, back to the bathroom we’d go, even though she’d just tried ten minutes ago.  Suddenly, we’re right on top of lunch time and naptime and I still have three more items to find.  The kids are looking to me to show them everything will be okay, and on my face they see… something between annoyance and utter panic.  That’s when things go very quickly downhill.  Now they’re both crying, which means I can’t hear myself think to remember what three items I still need to find, we go back to the same department for the fourth time hoping this time I will remember and find the thing I need, and why is it suddenly 107 degrees in here!?

The same scenario with four kids *usually* doesn’t go that way anymore, even though the potential for complete mayhem is even greater.  What’s changed?  Partly, it’s just that I know now that the world will not spin off its axis if we don’t eat lunch at exactly 12 and take a nap by exactly 1:30.  Partly, it’s that I’m a *teensy* bit better at scheduling my day so that we’re not still in Wal-mart at six minutes to 12 looking for three missing items.

BUT… the biggest key to staying afloat in these situations that my brief five years as a mom have taught me is this: if I can stay cheerful, *everything* is better.  The kids recover faster from upsets if I correct them from a cheerful heart, I get done what I need to faster if I am calm and peaceful rather than rushing and frazzled, even the baby seems to sense the mood and smile contently up at me from her infant seat.

And this shouldn’t come as any surprise, after all, Proverbs 15:30 tells us:

A cheerful look brings joy to the heart

I can bring joy to their hearts, by keeping a cheerful look on my face.  It’s almost too good to be true!

But how can I do that???

Well, in part, it’s mind over matter.  My mind knows that “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13)  but I’ll admit that sometimes the knowledge alone that God has provided a way for me to survive a situation without sinning isn’t enough.

In those moments, I cry out to God, frustrated and overwhelmed.  I say, “Lord, my attitude is a mess here.  Please change my heart,”  and He is, without fail, faithful to do it.

Of course, there are also still plenty of times when it doesn’t go that way.  There is always a voice in my head saying, “But everyone deserves to have an off day once in a while…”  Sometimes I believe it.  Sometimes I stew in all the little  frustrations and think how hard my life is. Sometimes I indulge a secret hope that my family will rally around me and say, “Mom, you’ve had a rough day.  We’re sorry for being a handful.  Put your feet up and relax.  Let us get you a cup of tea.”  And maybe someday that will happen, but it hasn’t so far.

For now, my reality is this: it isn’t the whiny child or the untimely potty accident or the traffic jam that ruins the day.  It is my own sinful, angry, ungrateful heart left unchecked that spreads like a virus through my family if I let it.  And maybe that *is* what I deserve, but by God’s grace and with His help, it doesn’t ever *have* to be that way.

* It was actually Target, but doesn’t the Wal-mart smiley work so much better with my title than a big red bull’s-eye?

MoJo Mondays: Life With Littles Is Fun!

I love my life and find joy in mothering by…

Having fun with my kids!

IMG_7227I don’t know about your kids, but my kids are *totally* nuts.  They’re crazy! Some days, the crazy is hilarious and I embrace it and enjoy it.  Other days the crazy just makes me… well, crazy.  I’m slowly beginning to realize that it isn’t the craziness that varies from day to day, but the way that I handle it that makes all the difference.

My girls have incredible imaginations, and they could play dress-up or role-play with stuffed animals all day long.  Sometimes they even want me to play a character.  Sometimes… I’m not that into it.

But one thing that I’m beginning to see as something of a golden rule of parenting (I believe I stole it from this lovely family) is this: say yes to your kids whenever you can!

Now let me clarify what I am saying (or rather, what I am not saying).  I do not mean that you should never say no to your kids.  I say no to my kids *a lot*, and I think it is absolutely necessary and right to set firm boundaries where safety or obedience issues are concerned.  But because I want it to really mean something when I say  “No, you may not go stand on the roof of the playhouse outside in your panties” or “No, you may not jump from the coffee table onto the sofa because you’re pretending it’s a swimming pool”, I want them to have confidence that I will say yes whenever I possibly can.

So while there may be a dozen reasons why I *want* to say no to the question, “Mommy, may you please empty the laundry basket so we can throw guysies into it?”  (A makeshift basketball game we once played as part of our pre-K homeschooling), I try to pause just for a minute to consider whether I have a *good* reason to say no.  On a good day, my answer will be, “Sure, as long as you clean up when you’re done.”

Sometimes it’s hard for me, as a grown-up, to spot the difference between behavior that is in need of correcting, and behavior that is a healthy expression of childlike creativity and fun.  When put on the spot, I can be too quick to assume the former.

If I find I’m having a day filled with more correcting than enjoying my kids, it may be because I’ve been forgetting this bit of advice from Ephesians 6:4:

“do not exasperate your children; ”

When I, for my own selfish purposes, refuse their every request  for fun and attention, they know it, and it hurts.  When, on the other hand, I indulge some of their harmless ideas for a bit of silly time or for an activity that might not be my first choice, they feel loved and appreciated.  And the kicker is: they behave better for it!

Of course there are days when this is less possible than others, and then we all have to make do with finding the fun in whatever situations we find ourselves in (I’m still looking for a fun angle on the Post Office that they’ll buy, if anyone has one!)  As a rule though, laughing together, and maybe even being just a little bit silly, improves any situation dramatically.

MoJo Mondays: Why (And How) I Love My Life

A dear friend and I have been dialoguing recently by e-mail about the joys and difficulties of being at home with several little ones.  It’s such an intense stage of life: one one hand I want to soak up every moment with my girls while they are little, because I can already tell how quickly time slips away; yet on the other hand, I must constantly fight the temptation to live for the next nap, the next bedtime, the next break.  The pace can be brutal, but the rewards are rich and many.  It’s an interesting place to be.

My friend suggested I do a series about why I love my life and how I find joy in mothering (mothering joy… MoJo… get it?  That part was totally my idea!) Fabulous idea, I thought, not least because it will force me to flex my blogging muscle more than just a weekly Wordless Wednesday!

Mondays seemed like a good time to focus my heart and mind on finding joy in the week lying ahead, plus, you know, it starts with M.  So here we are!

To start from the very beginning (a very good place to start…), I love my life and find joy by…

Remembering How I Got Here

IMG_6689Becoming a mother, of course, all began with a boy and a girl falling in love.  If I lose myself in a moment thinking about this, I find I wake up back to my real life feeling just a little bit warm and fuzzy to see where I am today.

Moms of little ones, try it with me: take yourself back to when it was all new.  You’re crazy about this guy.  Is it too soon to start thinking he might be the one?  Yes, probably so, but you can’t help it.  You look into his eyes and you wonder if he just *might* be the one that will someday be the father of your children.  You hope so, but who knows?  Anything could happen… it’s all such a long way off.

Now WAKE UP!  You’re here!  You are living your fairytale, and it’s a dream come true.  It may not be quite how you imagined it would be, but it is amazing what God has done in your lives to bring you to where you are now.  Celebrate the fact that you are spending your days with the incredible little beings that flowed out of your love for each other!  Isn’t it marvelous?

It’s all too easy once little ones arrive on the scene to forget who your true love is, but I’m slowly learning that if I keep my focus first on God, then on my marriage, the mothering part ends up being a much easier and more joyful experience.

Titus 2:3b-5 (ESV) says this of the older women of the church (emphasis mine):

They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.

Do you know what this means for us younger women? That we need to learn to love our husbands (and probably to submit to them as well, but that’s a topic for another post)!  I am so guilty sometimes of putting the girls before Trevor.  It’s easily done, after all, he can do a lot more for himself!  But there are two things that I know I can do each day to be a help to him: make his lunch for work, and send him an e-mail just to say hi and chat about our days while he’s there.  These are simple things he has told me really mean a lot to him, and yet I still manage to neglect one or both of them several times a week.

Becoming a student of my husband and learning to love him better serves my family in so many ways.  Not only am I serving him in the most direct sense, but I am giving my children a sense of security while modeling to them what a Godly relationship should look like.  It’s totally win-win.

So, as is always the case when I set out to give words of wisdom here, I have ended up preaching to myself more than anyone else.  Tip number one for having joy in your days while mothering?  Remember how you got here, and love on the one who made you a mother!