A joyful heart is good medicine, But a broken spirit dries up the bones. Proverbs 17:22
I always hesitate to write posts on parenting. I am not an expert by any form or shape. However, I have learned some things along the way. Mostly from older women in my life who have been down this path and their lives and the lives of their children teach volumes. I am so thankful for these women in my life!
If you are an older mother, I encourage you to share your wisdom with those coming up behind you. We need you. We need your teaching. You may say, "Oh, I am not a teacher!". However, I believe we are all teachers in one way or another. Whether we intend to teach or not, we are teaching. And many are watching.
Something that the Lord is constantly having to remind me of is to have joy with my parenting.
Normally, I have a very joyful and sanguine personality. However, raising children can affect my joy if I am not constantly seeking the Lord for help in this area.
Mundane tasks, constant teaching and correcting, disciplining, cooking, cleaning, driving, and more driving....
Did I mention driving?
All of these things can weigh a momma down. There are times when my joy diminishes and my kids see a burnt out mother just going through the motions and checking things off her list.
We tend to think that kids don't notice these things. As long as we are "performing" and meeting their needs, the kids are good.
I don't believe this is true.
Kids sense when we are going through the motions. Doing things out of duty instead of joy. [Uh, husbands sense this too! Another post for another day...]
A joyful mom can stop in the middle of the daily grind and look her kid in the eyes and listen to their words. Laugh at their corny jokes. Be present when it would be so easy to be distracted.
A joyful mom realizes that our kids much prefer us to be present over perfect.
Yes, we can spoon feed them scripture and lofty teachings telling them how to behave. However, I believe what sticks with them the most is how we respond to them. How do we respond when something doesn't go our way? Or when something turns out differently than we had planned.
Do we lose our joy and become bitter and hateful? Do we spew words of condemnation, hurt, anger, or sarcasm?
I know I sure have at times.
Joy is not dependent on our circumstances.
"The Joy of the Lord is your strength" Nehemiah 8:10
This scripture from Nehemiah was the first verse I memorized as an adult. It was soon after I had my first child. The Lord was reminding me to keep joy in my heart. In my home. Towards my children. In my marriage.
I wanted perfection.
A clean house. A good baby. A skinny body. A full bank account. A perfect husband who acted the way I wanted him to act. [ha!]
When those things didn't happen, I fell apart.
I would lose my joy.
Depression, anxiety, fear, and sadness would set in.
The standards were set even higher when the second child was born. It was just too much to maintain all of these things that I thought made me a "good mom".
I would try so hard to do all the right things. Put a smile on my face in public. Keep up the demands of being a mom with babies, a husband, two dogs AND a cat, and a house to take care of.
But, deep down, joy was nowhere to be found.
When the Lord opened my eyes to my need for His Joy instead of my "standards", it seemed almost too easy.
Surely, I would need to add 7.5 hours a day of prayer. Along with perfect church attendance. And attend two or three bible studies a week.
No, Jill. Just clothe yourself with my Joy. Let Me be your Joy.
I heard these words so clear in my heart.
I began to daily ask Him for Joy. I begged Him. I wrote it on my mirror with an expo marker. I taped scriptures about Joy all over my house. I set my mind every single day to be intentional about clothing myself in His Joy.
Oh, y'all, I needed joy desperately.
Little did I know that Joy would change everything.
Joy comes from the Lord.
Joy is not a feeling or emotion, it is a gift from the Lord.
Joy is the overwhelming contentment that floods our soul.
Joy is always coupled with gratitude.
Joyful people are thankful people.
Instead of being bitter about our lot and season of life, let's be thankful. Let's be joyful! And heaven forbid even stopping to laugh once and a while! The bible even tells us that it is GOOD for us to laugh! [Proverbs 17:22]
And, hey, what if we really took the following verse to heart. Laughing, without fear of the future. Surely, our joy would be so evident to others. Especially our children!
She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come. Proverbs 31:25
Let's ask ourselves these questions:
Do our children see themselves as our joy? Or as our burdens.
Would they define their momma as joyful? Or stern and unbending.
Are we overflowing with joy? Or just overbearing.
How do we respond when life doesn't go the way we planned?
Our children are watching. Taking notes. Looking for us to teach them about joy.
Will our children be drawn to our faith in Jesus because of our strict standards of living and no-nonsense attitudes?
I don't think so
I think they will be drawn to Jesus through our joy.
In gentle words. In kind responses. In loving gestures. In having a servant heart.
Even in very difficult situations and trying times, joy is possible.
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.” James 1:2-3
When doing the same tasks over and over each day, we can have joy. We just have to ask God for it, and set our minds on praise.
For you make me glad by your deeds, Lord; I sing for joy at what your hands have done. How great are your works, Lord, how profound your thoughts! Psalm 92:4-5
I began years ago making it a habit to praise the Lord and pray over my kids as I fold their laundry and cook dinner. Praising God and praying over my people brings my heart JOY! It's like killing two birds with one stone. Multi-tasking at its finest.
And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Colossians 3:17
Our children will forget a lot of the things that we said to them. But, they will never forget how we responded to them. How we loved them and listened to them. Looked them in the eyes and stopped for a few minutes to be present with them.
Will our children remember their mother being full of joy?
Oh, Lord, let it be so.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Galatians 5:22-23