You Don’t Have to Love Every Minute

Mom joy

The past couple of weeks have not been my finest weeks as a mom. It’s the end of a long school year. As the primary teacher for my 11-year-old, I’m ready for the year to be over. I’m done with school projects for my older one. I’m really not interested in fixing one more lunch, answering one more math problem or checking one more essay.

I’m ready for the lazy days of summer. I’m ready to not have to get up at 5:30 every morning. I’m ready for the end of girl drama and not having to go to practice nearly every night of the week. I’m ready for a break.

The truth is that there’s very little about being a mom that I’ve enjoyed in the past few weeks. I’d love a vacation. I’d love not to go see a doctor, physical therapist or ER nurse for the next year. I’d love to have my house magically clean itself and those laundry elves my husband thinks exist to show up and do the laundry.

I don’t want to drive the carpool one more time or rehash the latest soccer of hockey game. I’d love to get a good night’s sleep.

Don’t get me wrong. I love my kids, and most of the time I enjoy being their mom. But every mom has been sold a lie from the minute we get pregnant. We’re told to treasure every moment we have with our kids. We’re told the moments fly by quickly (and they do) and that we should hold close even the worst motherhood moments.

You know what? I call baloney. Absolutely there are moments to treasure in being a mom — from your child’s first smile to their graduation. There are sweet moments, conversations to remember, achievements to scrapbook and days to be proud.

But there are also moments that no matter how hard you try that you will not treasure. Leaving a full cart in the store to deal with a toddler’s temper tantrum. Cleaning puke out of the car seat. Tears over math homework. Eye-rolling from your teenager. Arguments with your strong-willed child that leave you both in tears. Nerve-wracking evenings when your teen has missed his curfew.

Those moments are all part of parenting, but they’re probably not moments you’re going to love. You probably don’t love the messy house, the eighth load of laundry of the day or the constant picking up after everyone.

And that’s OK. Nowhere does God tell us to love every minute of motherhood. He tells us that children are a blessing. He tells us that they are a reward from Him. He tells us to bring them up to follow Him. He tells us to parent our kids with His strength and wisdom. But He doesn’t tell us to treasure every moment. He doesn’t tell us that we’re going to love it every second.

Because our joy isn’t found in being a mom. Our joy isn’t found in changing that diaper, sitting in that carpool line or disciplining the teen who missed curfew. Our joy is in found in Jesus.

Too often, as moms, we make that our central identity. We make our kids so much the focus of our lives that we let our joy be wrapped up in our identity as moms instead of in our identity as the daughter of the King.

We don’t have to love every minute of being a mom. We don’t have to feel guilty for wishing for a few minutes of peace and quiet. We don’t have to feel guilty when there are moments we don’t want to treasure and, in fact, would rather forget.

Because those moments don’t have anything to do with our joy. They don’t have anything to do with our worth. Our joy and our worth only come from one place. They aren’t dependent on our circumstances or on what our kids do. They are dependent on God.

When we keep our eyes firmly fixed on who God is and who He wants us to be, we find joy. We find worth. We find the strength to make it through those moments that we don’t love. We find that we are loved — flaws and all.

So, it’s OK not to love every moment of being a mom today. As long as you love your kids and keep your eyes fixed on Jesus, you’ll find the joy, the strength and the wisdom to make it through those moments.

3 Things That Matter Most in Parenting

3 things

I took my older daughter to St. Louis this weekend for a soccer tournament. Her team lost the game that decided who would go to the finals. After two great games, they really didn’t play well in the last game. I took home a frustrated and sore young lady.

As we were making the four-hour trip home through the rain, I had some time to reflect on what it is that we’re doing as parents. To some people, the weekend we just spent (my younger daughter and husband were in Minnesota for hockey) may seem crazy. And as I drove home, I really wondered whether it was worth it.

But as I pondered, I boiled our parenting down to three things. We want our kids to be healthy, filled with joy, and aware that character matters — to us and to God.

Being healthy and filled with joy aren’t always things that I, as a parent, can control. Our kids can get sick or injured. It’s our job as parents to make sure they receive the care they need to get healthy. We just spent four weeks rehabbing an injured foot for my older daughter. She received the OK to play this weekend about an hour before we left. There wasn’t anything I could do to make it better except take her to the physical therapist and pray.

When it comes to joy, there’s only one source for that — God. Psalm 16:11 says, “You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.” True joy is found in God’s presence. For our kids to know joy, we have to lead them to God. We have to teach them about the great things He has done. But the truth is that we can’t make our kids seek God. We can teach them and pray for them, but they must choose to follow God to receive His joy.

So our job becomes to make sure that God is an everyday part of our kids’ lives. We can’t just take them to church on Sunday and expect them to have a fulfilling relationship with God. We have to weave God into everyday moments in our lives. We have to pray with and for our kids, open up conversations about who God is and the amazing things He has done. We have to point out places where we see God at work. Because the ultimate goal is to lead our kids to Him so they can experience His joy.

The last item on my parenting list is something that we have a lot of control over — making our kids aware that character matters. My kids play some fairly rough sports (if you don’t think soccer is brutal, watch the pros play sometime). They often come home bruised and battered. It would be easy to leave character on the sidelines when the play gets rough. It would be easy to be upset with teammates when they lose. It would be easy to forget who they are on the field.

But character matters everywhere. It’s not something you can leave on the sidelines. Who you are on the field needs to be the same as who you are off of the field. And that’s true for every endeavor our kids undertake. The only way they can truly understand that, though, is if we’re teaching them over and over and over again that it’s important to be a picture of God everywhere they go and in everything they do. They can bring glory to God no matter what they’re doing — but only if they understand that character matters.

We can teach our kids that character matters by making it a priority in our parenting. When we see something on the field or when they’re playing with their friends that doesn’t stand up to the character test, then we need to point it out and talk about what to do differently next time. When we discipline our kids, we need to not just deal with the actions but with the character underneath. Character matters to God, and it should be the focus of our parenting.

As you have a few spare moments in your day today, consider what your parenting priorities are. Do you put an emphasis on health, joy and character?

The Power of Laughter

laughter

Everyone was a little tired and grumpy around here yesterday. It was hot. We had had a sleepover the night before. I was tired, and the girls were tired.

As it usually does, the tired and grumpies led to quite a bit of bickering between my girls. After finishing up some work and chores, all three of us sat down to play a game of Uno. I was a little concerned that the game would be a disaster. Two competitive girls, one competitive mom, a whole lot of tired and grumpy and a board game often equals a complete disaster in our house.

As we sat down on the floor to play, my older daughter sat down cross-legged. My younger daughter immediately jumped into my older daughter’s lap and yelled “Santa!” All three of us burst into laughter as my younger daughter proceeded to tell “Santa” what she wanted for Christmas.

We spent an hour playing games together and not one time did someone get upset. There were no tears and very little grumpiness. A few minutes of spontaneous laughter had changed the mood in our house.

It’s easy to get frustrated with our kids when they’re tired and grumpy. It’s easy to get annoyed when bad moods permeate our homes. It’s easy to forget the attitude-changing power of laughter.

Laughter is powerful. It can change an entire day. It can bring comfort in the midst of sadness. It can help someone through a challenge. It can simply make the day brighter.

Make it a point to laugh with your kids. Christ-followers should be the most joyful people in the world. We have access to peace, security and love. We’ve peeked at the end of this world’s story, and we know it ends in victory. That alone should give us reason to be joyful.

Make laughter a goal in your home. Keep a book of jokes on hand to break up bad attitudes. Declare silly days in your house, like “wear a wig day” or “eat dessert first day.” Be ready to laugh at yourself and teach your kids to do the same. Find some amusing movies and videos and use them to break up a bad day. It’s hard to hold on to anger and frustration when you’re laughing.

As we head toward the middle of summer where we might have days with tired, bickering kids, remember the power of laughter to soothe and refocus your family.

Day 5: Laughter

Welcome to Being Thankful for the Little Things, our annual November Thanksgiving family devotional series. This year, we’re focusing on being thankful for the little stuff, the things we often take for granted. Each devotional is meant to be read as a family. At the end of each devotional, you’ll find a journaling prompt (you can download a free journal cover and pages here) and an action step you can take to help out someone else. Thanks for joining us and be sure to share it with your friends via Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest.

We love to tell bad jokes in our family. The cornier the better. They make us smile and laugh. We’ve found that a good joke can entirely change the mood in our house. We can go from grumpy to laughing in a hurry when someone has a good joke to tell.

Laughter is a small thing, but it’s something we can be thankful for. It lifts our mood and makes us happy. It can help us feel better when we’re sick or sad. It can change the tone of a difficult conversation. A shared laugh has been the start of many a friendship.

Laughter is so important that the Bible even talks about it. Proverbs 17:22 says, ” A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.” And Job 8:21 says, “He will yet fill your mouth with laughter, and your lips with shouting.”

God created laughter. He wants us to have a joyful heart. God knew that we would have times when our joy is so great it can only be expressed out loud with laughter.

Did you know laughing is actually good for you? Scientific studies have shown that laughing does all sorts of good things to your body — it helps your heart and your mind.

And God wants to be the source of that joy. No matter our circumstances, we can always have joy because we know that God sent His Son to die for our sins. We know that no matter how bad things seem, God is in control and He has a plan. Psalm 126:2 says, “Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with shouts of joy; then they said among the nations, ‘The Lord has done great things for them.'”

So, whether it’s a good joke or a funny story or simply the joy of knowing God , find a reason to laugh today. It’s not just a mood lifter. It’s designed by God to be good for you.

Journal entry: In your journal, write down three things you are thankful for that make you laugh.

Action step: Bring laughter to someone else today. Find a good joke or a funny story and use it to deliberately spread joy wherever you go today.

 

Creating a Joyful Home

Courtesy photostock

We have had more drama around here this week than should be allowed in a 72-hour span. From failed math tests to testing limits to the dog deciding to scatter the full kitchen trash can all over my living room, we’ve had plenty of frustration. We’ve shed enough tears this week to sink the Titanic. My kids are physically and mentally exhausted, and I’m not far behind.

So, today, we’re taking the day off. The girls are out of school for conferences, and we’re spending the day doing fun things. Do I have work that needs to be done and a house that needs to be cleaned? Yep. But tomorrow is soon enough for chores and work. Today, we’re going to play games, laugh ourselves silly and check out the new trampoline playground with some friends. We’re going to forget the drama of the week and focus on refreshing our souls and our minds.

Sometimes our families just need to hit the pause button. Our schedules get crazy, life gets overwhelming and we forget that we can have fun. We forget to enjoy the moment. We forget to rest.

Proverbs 17:22 says, “A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.” We’ve had a lot of crushed spirits around here this week, and when that happens home becomes a gloomy place. Mom and dad get stressed. The kids are quick to get frustrated and burst into tears. Everyone gets stuck in a general malaise of unhappiness.

When you find your home filled with crushed spirits, it’s time to lighten the mood. It’s time to set aside some time to be deliberate in creating some joyful hearts. It’s time to remember the things you love about your kids and the things they love about you. Intentionally creating joy in your home creates those cheerful hearts.

If your home is full of crushed spirits, try a few of these ideas to intentionally create cheerful hearts:

1. Set aside some time to do something fun. Take a break from the seriousness and frustrations of life, and create a day or an afternoon to focus on having fun. Be present and available to your kids.

2. Create laughter. Tell jokes, look at funny pictures, make up funny stories. Create reasons to laugh even when you might not feel like it. Just one bark of laughter can get everyone smiling.

3. Declare a moratorium on complaining and criticism. Any time someone is tempted to complain, ask them to pray before opening their mouths. If someone does complain, create a funny punishment like singing “Happy Birthday” while hopping on one foot.

4. Get out of the house. Go for a walk around the neighborhood, take the kids to the park, go window shopping at the mall. A change of scenery does a world of good for those crushed spirits. Be intentional in looking for things to smile about while you’re out.

5. Focus on being thankful. Have thankfulness moments throughout the day where everyone has to list three things for which they are thankful and no one can repeat what someone else has said. It’s nearly impossible to be grumpy and thankful at the same time.

When our families’ spirits are crushed, we have to be intentional about creating an atmosphere for a cheerful heart. Sometimes our kids just need us to take a break and create a new atmosphere. Create a joyful home today.

Linking up today with Denise in Bloom.

Mired in the Muck of Mommyhood

Courtesy Ambro

Just. Go. To. Sleep. That was my thought and my prayer about 9 last night as my daughters argued about whether the bathroom light should be on or off.

It has been a long, long afternoon and evening. One daughter came home distraught over a bad grade on a test. The other daughter was frustrated that no one was paying any attention to her because we were trying to figure out how to help the other daughter. We shed enough tears last night to sink the Titanic. It was drama with a capital D.

By 9 p.m., I was done. D-O-N-E. After solving the bathroom light issue with the inspired statement of “The next person who talks is going to bed at 7 tomorrow night,” I sat down to ponder my Bible study homework on joy. I know, go ahead and laugh. I was anything but joyful at that moment. I was mired in the muck of mommyhood. I was having a hard time seeing past the drama of today to the joy of eternity. I just wanted my children to go. to. sleep.

It’s easy to get caught up in the drama of our daily lives. It’s easy to focus on everything that has gone wrong. It’s easy to just want our kids to go away for a few minutes so we can get just a moment to think. It’s easy to let our circumstances suck away our joy.

But our joy isn’t dependent on the moment. It isn’t dependent on the circumstance. It isn’t dependent on having a drama-free evening. It’s dependent on God. Our joy is based in Him, and He never changes. He never fails. He never stops loving us — even in our inspired mommy moments.

When we’re mired in the muck, thinking we can’t go any further, when all we want is a moment of peace, God is still there, and He’s still a source of joy. Our joy is found in knowing who God is, in knowing that He loves us enough to send His Son to die in our place so that we could have a relationship with Him. There’s no greater reason to be joyful.

And that joy can pervade our lives even in the midst of whatever drama your household creates. It can make your heart sing even in the most frustrating moments of mommyhood. It can change your attitude and the attitudes of those in your home.

So, today, my prayer is straight from Psalm 51:12: “Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.” I hope you’ll make it your prayer, too, so that we can have joy even when we’re slogging through the muck of mommyhood.

Linking up today with Time-Warp Wife.

Let Me Be Singing When the Evening Comes

Yesterday, I planned a water balloon fight for my girls with some of the neighbor girls. It seemed like a good idea at the time. It’s hot. We’re at that point in the summer where the lack of routine is beginning to get to everyone.

What I failed to consider was the excitement of waiting until 3 p.m. to have their water balloon fight would make it nearly impossible for me to work in the morning. I also failed to plan for the water balloons not to break when they threw them, leading our water balloon fight to degenerate into the girls using more force than expected to hurl them at each other. We ended up with tears and one child in timeout because she hit her sister (not with a balloon).

By the time my husband got home, I was done. What had started out as a promising, fun day ended with me just wanting 30 minutes of peace and quiet. Yet, we still had to go sit outside in 100-degree heat to watch my older daughter play soccer. I was grumpy in the car on the way there. You know how it goes, sitting in the front seat choosing to be silent instead of snapping the children’s heads off.

On the way home from her game, the radio began playing one of my favorite songs: 10,000 Reasons by Matt Redman. If you haven’t heard it, check it out below:

 

As we listened, I was struck by these lyrics:

The sun comes up, it’s a new day dawning
It’s time to sing Your song again
Whatever may pass, and whatever lies before me
Let me be singing when the evening comes

Last night, and too many nights lately, I haven’t been singing when the evening comes. I’ve been frustrated and tired. I’ve been crabby and not much fun to be around.

Spending all day, every day with my girls, trying to work from home when the girls want my attention, cleaning out our basement to get ready for a garage sale next weekend have all combined to make me one grumpy and songless mommy.

Last night I was reminded that no matter the circumstances, my joy comes from God. It’s not found in checking all the items off my to-do list for the day. It’s not found in having perfectly behaved, polite children. It’s not found in having Prince Charming for a husband. My joy is found in knowing that God loves me enough to send His son to die for me. That joy never fades and is not dependent on my circumstances.

And that joy brings strength. Nehemiah 8:10 says “the joy of the Lord is your strength.” When we let God’s joy fill our hearts, we find we are strong enough to face whatever comes our way. We can have joy even when the kids are fighting, the laundry is piling up and the project at work seems like it will never get done.

So, my prayer today is that we’d all be singing when the evening comes — no matter what the day brings.

Linking up today with Denise in Bloom.

Tell Your Kids They’re Beautiful

Courtesy Louisa Stokes

We went to the orthodontist last week for a consult. All through the appointment, my daughter told anyone who would listen that she didn’t want braces. I knew she wasn’t a fan of the idea, but somehow I had missed the clues that she was really upset about the idea.

We got in the car to go home, and she burst into tears. Uh oh. There was clearly more going on here than just getting braces. They weren’t even on her teeth yet and she was distraught.

She tells me she doesn’t want braces because she won’t be able to eat some of her favorite foods. But I think, deep down, she doesn’t like change and she doesn’t like the way they look.

No amount of explaining the reasons for the braces or reminding her that she won’t have to wear them in high school is breaking through her disgruntled wall.

And, so I’m reminded that my kids need to know they’re beautiful. And we don’t tell them enough.

I’m not talking about giving your children big heads and  getting stuck on their physical beauty. But every child, every person, needs to know they are beautiful, simply because they are God’s creation. Ecclesiastes 3:11 says “He has made everything beautiful in its time.”

Our kids need to know that God thinks they are beautiful.

They need to know that their beauty is made up of more than the color of their hair, the height of their body and the clothes that they wear.

They need to know that true beauty comes from the inside, from the joy we find in God, from serving other people, from being kind with our words.

They need to know that braces, bad haircuts, and fashion faux pas don’t make them any less beautiful in our eyes or in God’s eyes.

In a world obsessed with physical perfection, a world of stick-thin models, actors with bulked up muscles and  Photoshopped magazine covers, we need to help our kids understand God’s yardstick for beauty.

When we forget to tell our kids they’re beautiful, when we don’t reinforce God’s standards of beauty over the world’s, we let our kids buy into the myth that beauty is something that’s dependent on the opinion of others. We let them get caught up in the world’s perceptions instead of God’s.

So, when your kids say something kind, when they do something well, when they show grace to others, when they remember to be polite, tell them that they’re beautiful. Remind them that it’s the stuff that’s on the inside that matters and that God thinks they’re beautiful. Because they are.

Linking up today with Women Living Well , A Wise Woman Builds Her Home and Word Filled Wednesday.

Take Time for Thanksgiving

It’s Nov. 1, the unofficial start of the holiday season. Some radio stations start playing Christmas music today. Stores will begin inundating us with Christmas sales flyers. We’ll begin making plans for spending Christmas with friends and family. Our calendars will quickly begin to fill up.

And somewhere in all this hustle and bustle, we’ll fly through Thanksgiving and straight into Christmas. Thanksgiving tends to be the forgotten holiday. It’s the holiday we skim through to get to Christmas. There’s no big hype about Thanksgiving. It’s become a day where we get together with family, eat Turkey, watch some football and read the ads for the big sales on Black Friday.

But Thanksgiving is important, and it offers an opportunity to focus our families’ attention on all that we have to be grateful for. We can choose to use the month of November to create grateful hearts in our families.

Like we did last year, Everyday Truth is going to offer a daily family devotional that will focus your families’ hearts on being thankful. Starting tomorrow, we’re going to focus on one thing we can be thankful for each day. It is my prayer that by the time Thanksgiving rolls around, you’ll have a family that really celebrated giving thanks.

Today, I want to give you the tools to get ready for this year’s series of devotionals. A thankful heart is an attitude that comes when we look around and instead of seeing the problems and bad things in the world, we find ways to give thanks for all that we have. Being thankful creates joy in our hearts and can completely change our outlook on the world.

God has given us so much, and He loves to hear our praise and thanksgiving. Too often, we simply accept His blessings and forget to be thankful. Instead our attitude should be like David in 1 Chronicles 29:13, “Now, our God, we give you thanks, and praise your glorious name.”

Spend some time today thinking about all the things for which you are thankful. Write them down on a piece of paper. Add to the list as the day goes on. Pray and thank God for each of those things as you write them down. It is only when our own hearts are full of thanksgiving that we can show our children how a thankful heart contributes to a joyful home.

Take a minute to create a “Thanksgiving wall” in your house. In years past, we’ve made a Thanksgiving tree out of grocery sacks. Simply cut out a trunk and some branches out of brown paper or brown grocery sacks. Use colorful construction paper to cut out leaves for your tree. Each day, your family will write down what they are thankful for on the leaves, and you’ll attach them to the tree. Younger kids love the tree.

A simpler version of the “Thanksgiving wall” and one that appeals to kids of all ages is to grab a pad of sticky notes. Whenever you do your devotional for the day, hand out a sticky note to each family member and have them write what they are thankful for on the sticky note. Then stick the sticky note to the wall.

We’ll use the “Thanksgiving wall” every day until Thanksgiving. By the end of the month, you should have a wall covered with things to be thankful for.

Don’t miss Thanksgiving this year. Take the time to offer up praise and thanksgiving to God. Focus your family’s attention on the things God has given you. Make this a month of praise and thanksgiving before you rush into the Christmas season.

Memory Monday: Turning Chores Into Joy

I hate cooking dinner. Oh, I don’t mind the actual cooking part. I just hate being responsible for making a meal every night that is nutritious and everyone in my family will eat. Squeezing that meal into a time slot that means we can all sit down together is another challenge in the cooking dinner process. If I had my choice, we’d eat out a whole lot more. Unfortunately, our entertainment budget tells me that’s not going to happen.

I’ve been pretty discontent about the whole cooking dinner process the past couple weeks. Because of soccer tournaments and other weekend commitments, most of the money in our entertainment envelope has gone toward eating lunch on the weekends, which means six nights of cooking dinner every week. (In this house, everyone fends for themselves on Sunday night.)

I haven’t had the best attitude about feeding my family. There’s been lots of mental grumbling in the kitchen around 5:30 every night. To me, cooking dinner is a chore. It’s a task that has to be done every day. Some days, I’d honestly rather clean the toilets than figure out what we’re having for dinner.

In our lives, there are lots of things that fall under the category of “chore.” They are those things that must be done but that we simply don’t enjoy. Those things are different for everyone. Some of you think I’m weird because I don’t like to cook dinner, but picking up after your kids is a chore for you. Some of you may not care for doing mountains of laundry every week.

Our kids suffer through repetitive tasks they don’t enjoy as well. Some of our kids don’t like a certain subject at school. Some of them hate cleaning up after the dog. Some don’t like practicing their instrument.

Whatever the task, God wants us to do our best. He doesn’t want us to whine and complain about the things we don’t enjoy. He wants us to do even the tasks we don’t care for with a joyful heart. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 says “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” Even in the midst of those “chores” we find less than enjoyable, God asks that we find joy in Him.

So, how do we change our attitude and the attitude of our children when it comes to things we consider drudgery? 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 has the answer:

  • Rejoice always. Find something in your task to be joyful about. If you’re scrubbing the kitchen floor, find joy in the fact you have a floor to scrub. When your child spills their full bowl of cereal all over that clean floor (as mine just did), find joy in the fact you can get down on your hands and knees and help her clean it up. Many people have physical ailments that prevent them from doing that simple task. When your child grouses about doing their chores, remind them to find joy in the fact they get to help out and be a contributing member of your family.
  • Pray continually. Add prayer to the equation. While you’re doing that thing you dislike, pray. As you fold your sixteenth load of laundry for the week, pray over each family member who wears those clothes. As you cook dinner, pray for the health of your family. Encourage your kids to pray during that class they dislike. Show them how to pray for their teacher and to thank God for the ability to learn.
  • Give thanks in all things. It’s almost impossible to have an attitude of thankfulness and a grumbling heart at the same time. Replace your grumblings with thankfulness. As you clean the toilets, thank God for the miracle of indoor plumbing. As you vaccuum, thank Him for the ability to live in a clean home. Get your kids into the habit of practicing gratitude, as well. When they grumble, ask them to find one thing about their situation for which they can be thankful.

Memorize 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 and use it as a guide for making those unpleasant tasks in your life jobs filled with joy. Your family will grumble less, your attitude will improve and your life will be full of joy.