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.
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?