The 10 Habits of Happy Mothers: Joy, Peace, and Contentment

{The second post in a book study series on The 10 Habits of Happy Mothers: Reclaiming our Passion, Purpose, and Sanity.}

Last week, as our discussion of  The 10 Habits of Happy Mothers began, I was struck by something Andrea wrote in the comments. I sort of carried it around with me all week and let it run around in my head and bounce off my heart. She wrote:

Elizabeth it is very helpful to have your perspective, as the homeschooling mother of many, to add to this book.
I just finished reading this first habit and came away feeling as if I can actually give myself permission to investigate my other gifts. I was married at 20 with a baby along 9 months later, I have been nothing except a stay-at-home mama for my entire adult life, the children have come steadily since then and I see no end in sight now – I'm not even 30 yet. Immediately I had to stuff down all of my personal talents, goals, & things that I enjoyed to give myself to my children and husband at 100%. Now that I'm in the legitimate throes of homeschooling as well, it's become even harder to remember the gifts and talents that God gave to define me as a human being. It's really something to pray about.

 
I don't find competitive thinking toward other women or moms that challenging, I am actually not a very competitive person. But I loved her thoughts on humility, it has encouraged me to have peace with the kind of mom that I am, verses the kind that I think that I should be (perfect in all ways, of course). 

To Andrea, I replied:

Andrea, I've been thinking about this comment pretty much nonstop since you first posted it. I think that for me, my gifts outside of motherhood collided with motherhood pretty neatly. I was a kindergarten teacher before having children and then I quit to stay home and homeschool. Now, I'm on the brink of not having a kindergartner in my home in just a few years. I'm feeling a wee bit of panic. I won't go back to teaching any time soon–I still have lots of children left to raise and educate. But I can see that it's time to begin to explore other gifts or other venues for my passions. And I can see that my passion for early childhood may have to be put on hold for a season (until I return to the classroom or have grandchildren;-).

It's not that I suddenly have oodles of free time because my "baby" is nearly three, but there has been a significant shift and I'm trying to find the grace in the shift. I think for you the challenge is finding ways to utilize your personal talents within your home and mothering, not to stuff them. Don't stuff them! We are warned not to bury our gifts.

I think the other point this brings to light is that everyone's mothering and everyone's homemaking and the crafting of each family will look different–should look different–because we do bring different and unique gifts to the task. So, now matter where you are in your mothering, the challenge is to find the you God created and bring it to your home.

The more I think about it, the more I am convinced that this notion of bringing our unique gifts to our mothering and homemaking experience–whether we are working fulltime outside the home or homeschooling ten children–is necessary and vital to our peace and contentment within ourselves. If we take the time to understand our unique gifts for what they are–God's instruments for us to use for His glory–and then we pour that into the daily round of our loves, we will be content. He will bless that faithfulness. Furthermore, we won't compare and we won't compete. How could we compete? Understanding that we are each uniquely gifted and that we are mothers of children who are each uniquely gifted, we embrace the diversity in our friendships and learn from one another.

At the end of the first chapter, Dr. Meeker shares the wisdom of an older woman. I am learning to see the value of such wisdom more and more. I truly appreciate a mom who has seen this job of childrearing through to full adulthood and who can honestly help me to see my current stage of life from her perspective. When asked how she has the energy to serve cheerfully, Carol, Dr. Meeker's example, says, "It isn't about age. It's not about ability, talent, or even personality. Doing what I do–and I've been doing this for a number of years now–is about attitude. I'm good at helping these folks. I fit here. I was born to help and to love these people. And they need me. I believe that when you love the life you're supposed to be living and you happen on the deep meaning of your life, it works. The energy comes, you get bolder, and you live less fearfully. Knowing who you are and living what you were born to do, that's the good stuff. This is it, right here, right now, and I'm not going to miss it."

Here's the thing: what is the life you're supposed to be living? What is the big picture? To what vocation does He call you? But what are the little pictures, too? What are the things that happen every day that God allows in our lives for our good? Joy–deep down, peaceful joy–comes when we stop struggling against God's will. It comes when we see that though we may be hit over the head with crushing adversity, with things like illness and death and poverty, He is there. It's not that we don't feel disappointment and sorrow. We aren't called to be plastic people with no depth or dimension. We do feel it. We do sorrow. We are empathetic.

But we are faithful. We know, because we have been open to seeing it again and again, that He is always and only good. And that He always and only brings great good out of a bad situation.

I got in the car yesterday and it was literally 100 degrees outside. I can't imagine what it was in the car. And the car stunk. It stunk like cleats, and sweaty shirts, and dirty socks. And McDonald's trash. I had a little pity party. Why am I always surrounded by stink? Why was I  35 minutes late getting into the car to run errands that would certainly require me to stand in lines with grouchy people in ridiculous heat? I reached over to hurl (yes, I'm sure I was going to hurl) a shinguard into the back seat. And there, God had left me a love note:

  DSC_0722

{Patrick's shinguard.

9/1 was the day Bryce Mitchell died. And it was the day God reached down and made Himself known very personally to Patrick.}

He has a plan and we are at peace when we trust that plan and seek to know His will. Even in the little moments. Even in the car that broke down and threw off the schedule for the whole day. Even in the bad news on the job front. Even in the lost passport that means you can't catch that flight. All grace. The difference between living a life of bitterness and anger and a life of quiet, genuine joy is being receptive to the abundant grace that He pours out to those who trust in His plan. As women, we are uniquely gifted and exquisitely created to be receptive. Can we open ourselves to the Creator himself?

Can we allow Him to truly make of our lives what He intends?

~*~*~~*~*~

Feel free to chat below (comments are moderated, so it might take some time before you see yours appear), either adding your thoughts here directly or linking to a post on your own blog. Do take a moment to thoughtfully consider the comments on last week's post. There's much to think about there and several links to more food for though.  Now it's time for me to go about the rest of my day, peaceful in the knowledge that God created me for these children and this good man. And that's enough. Really.

Comments

  1. says

    Got the chills reading Paddy’s shinguard. Honest-to-goodness chills. *tears*
    I’ve wanted to post about this book so badly, Elizabeth. But you know that. My life is not cooperating right now. But it’s where I need to be.
    Soon, I hope. Soon….
    Thank you for continuing this series. I love this book so much!

  2. says

    I’m going to look for a copy of this book — thanks so much for the recommendation. I was just today blogging about finding ways of following our callings, even when our daily lives (whether, as you noted, we’re working outside the home or homeschooling a big family) don’t allow us to devote ourselves to our other talents and passions full-time. I think it’s so important to honor what we feel moved to do and to honor the unique perspectives and creativity that we each can bring to the world around us.
    Your thoughts on grace and finding genuine quiet joy are an inspiration. Thank you for that.

  3. says

    This is timely .. I have been avoiding your blog {sigh} and a few others because of compare & despair ..you inspire me & I LOVE your writings. I am still so new to all of this and I doubt. Not His plan..but my gifts.
    This I was lead to read. I know it.
    Thank you for sharing your gifts with so many.

  4. says

    As always thank you so much for sharing, your words like Ann’s are pure balm to a weary soul.
    I think I need to get hold of this book and make it my number one priority read this Summer! I was pondering only last night about gifts and talents and sometimes wonder where I’m headed. Chronic health difficulties have dogged this family for all of my married life and we continue daily to struggle with disability and sickness, yet despite the dross we are called to serve as best we can and burying talents is most definitely not a good idea!
    So as I start my day on the laundry run and home school planning I will mull over your questions as best as I can.
    God Bless you this day
    San xx

  5. says

    Elizabeth just to let you know I’ve downloaded the book to the kindle app on my phone, so let the reading commence!
    San x

  6. Anonymous says

    What does one do who does not feel she has any real talents or gifts? Or any that would have any use to the world?

  7. says

    Oh Elizabeth, your family is so blessed by you! What a wonderful gift that God blessed you with your interest and talent around early childhood. I think that is one of the things that draws me most to your blog, your reflections on small children help me to be a better mother to my little ones. Little children are surely a blessing from God, but the stuff of early childhood is not my favorite. Now that my oldest daughter is getting older and we can have interesting conversations it is so exciting!
    I really appreciate your thorough and thoughtful reply to my comment, I never expected that! You are right, each of us brings something different to mothering and it looks different in every family, that is so beautiful.
    I’m still mulling over the gifts/talents/interests thing. For years, I thought my greatest gift was my voice – I used to be a wonderful singer and I delighted so much in music (I say “used to,” its like working out, when you stop you loose so much of what you’ve worked for – my reality is that I do not sound the same for sure). It sustained my faith and stretched me to be a better person in so many ways, I miss it desperately. I also can’t see how it can fit into my life right now. On top of that, I have spent all of my adult life mothering – I don’t feel like I’ve had a chance to discover what other gifts I might have. It’s something your post and this book has really given me to ponder and pray about. I want to take action with this, I want my little daughters to grow up knowing that the unique way that God made them has purpose in their vocation, but I’m unsure how to model that.
    I so appreciate this discussion and your wisdom. Your blog has been a huge source of growth for me for many, many years.

  8. Jamie says

    Elizabeth,
    I am so thankful for you. Thanks for doing this book study. I’m reading along and finding Meg Meeker’s words full of forgiveness and love. Forgiveness of self is so important as a mother … it’s difficult to fill our actions with love unless we are able to forgive ourselves.
    Thanks again for doing this and thanks for the inspirational shinguard.
    Anyone else giggle when Dr. Meeker mentions, in the introduction, pushing an 8-pound watermelon through an 8-INCH opening? Wow, 8 inches would be great! :)

  9. says

    Thank you for hosting this wonderful book study. As you already know, this book has been such a gift to me (and the same goes for you and your writings and perspective).
    Per this current discussion, one of the challenges for me is that I sometimes feel like some of the talents I know God has blessed me with seem to be at odds with being the kind of mom I feel I am called to be – one who is emotionally and physically present for her children, especially her little ones, most of the time.
    When I was in college, for example, I ran the largest community service organization on campus. I thrived being busy, working out in the community, participating in public speaking, etc. I sometimes miss not being “out there” more. My only speed used to be fast, fast, fast, and although I’ve reaped great blessings in adopting a slower and more present pace, I do sometimes miss being more involved in the community as well as participating in theatre (another great love of mine when I was younger).
    Fortunately, I’ve also always loved to write and in fact said I wanted to be a writer from the time I was 7 on, and I’ve found that writing and mothering are a wonderful mix. I journal. I blog. I sometimes freelance write, and now I can write about the very things I’m trying to live. This has been a great blessing to me as wife, mother, and writer!
    Yet, sometimes this is a challenge, too, because I can get lost in my writing (and brooding) as I once did with no consequences. But now I can’t always finish my thoughts, and it can seem unfair when I constantly get interrupted. So I’ve had to learn to cultivate this passion of mine but to do it unselfishly and in a way that is flexible and accommodating to my family. This can be a challenge.
    I also have had to see that my personality and the way I once practiced my passions may not be possible right now. For instance, I’ve always been someone who likes to start a project and finish it up. I like to be efficient and on top of things. When I realized this was impossible with little ones underfoot, it was tempting to not even try to write (an annoying personality trait of mine is the “all or nothing” approach). Yet, I’ve realized that embracing the little way might be best for me and my family right now. That is, writing when I can and stopping when I must.
    Likewise, as my children get older, I’m hoping we can all get out and perhaps do more things in the community to give me that sense of connection and purpose I enjoyed as a young woman in college.
    To sum this rambling up: For me, recognizing my passions isn’t nearly as difficult as determining how to continue kindling them while at the same time being a good, loving, and present mama. I certainly don’t want to “lose myself” in mothering, but I’m also discovering I need to adapt a bit more and find a new way of pursuing my passions that works more seamlessly in the trenches of motherhood.
    I’m not sure if that makes any sense at all. I can’t figure out quite how to put it to words (and I was interrupted twice when I was trying to do so!). :-) I just remember that when I read about this habit in Dr. Meeker’s book, I was thinking about how determining my passions wasn’t so hard but pursuing them sometimes was. Maybe I just have too many interests!

  10. Lea-Ann says

    A verse that has been floating around in my head for the past couple days is from Job: “The Lord giveth, the Lord taketh away, Praise be the Lord!” When we can praise the Lord in the good times and in the difficult times I believe we will find the true source of joy! Like you so eloquently mentioned – when we allow ourselves to be receptive to the Lord’s promptings, his plan (instead of our own)and his grace we will discover deep fulfillment and contentment for our soul – we will know we are doing what we were created for. Some days are better than others! :)

  11. says

    Wait! It will come. There is something that you have that will be super usful in the right time! :) I know that I feel like there is something that God has in mind for my life that is still beyond my imagination yet at this point, but it will come! So wait, and look for it. You will see it!

  12. says

    Ok, I just found this book disscussion and I am so happy to have found it! I have been reading this book and, I kid you not, it is changing my life! I love it. Thanks for posting this!

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