5 Ways To Cultivate Joy

5 Ways To Cultivate Joy

A few weeks ago, I had the privilege of spending three days at a Bible Study Fellowship Leaders Conference.  Amazing does not even begin to describe the experience.

Meanwhile, my husband was holding down the fort at home.  In addition to the regular responsibilities, shuttling kids to games and practice, making sure everyone was fed, etc., I imagine my guys spent a considerable amount of time jumping on the trampoline, watching movies that mom may not approve of, and playing Minecraft.

After the conference, I couldn’t wait to come home.  I knew the kids would be so excited that mom was finally home.  They would meet me at the door with hugs and shout, “We missed you!”

That’s not what happened.  I threw open the door, arms open wide, and no one noticed.  Well, my husband gave me a big hug and a relieved look.  After a few seconds, The Tot came over and gave me a hug.  Big Kid looked up from his iPad long enough to say, “Oh. Hi.”  And, Middle Kid announced, “Oh, man.  Mom’s home.  You’re no fun.”

It hurt.  My feelings were bruised.  I spent the next couple of hours cleaning the house. (Thankfully, it was a disaster when I got home.  What would it have said about me if the house was perfectly clean when I returned?)  And, I sulked.

But, as I reflected on my not-so-welcome home over the next week, I realized Middle Kid was right.  I’m not a fun mom.  But, I don’t know if I want to be the “fun mom”.  Imagining the “fun mom” conjures up visions of the mom that buys beer for her 16-year-old and his friends or the mom that lets her kids stay up late eating candy.

More than a fun mom, I long to be a mom that cultivates joy in her home.  Fun is fleeting, but joy is contagious.  Joy is lasting.  Joy is not dependent on circumstances. 
 

 
How does one cultivate joy?  One definition of cultivate is to “apply oneself to improving or developing.”  It has to be intentional.   It’s the Mary or Martha decisions.

You may be familiar with the story (Luke 10:38-42), but one day Jesus visited the home of Mary and Martha.  Mary sat at the Lord’s feet and listened while Martha “was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”

“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”  It will not be taken away from her.

Do you ever feel like you live at your job?  There is no clock to punch, there is always something to do.  How do we make the choice between the things that need to be done and the things that can wait?  The things that are fleeting and the things that will not be taken away?

 
 
1. Choose Joy.  A few years ago, our marriage was at a pivotal place.  In the midst of postpartum depression and generally being overwhelmed as a new mother, I received this revelation:  It is not my husband’s job to make me happy.

I’m a slow learner, and it’s taken me a few years to realize that it’s not my children’s job to make me happy, either.  Joy is a choice.  If we depend on others for our happiness, we will always be disappointed.

We can choose joy no matter the circumstances.  In 2 Corinthians 7:4, the Apostle Paul writes, “I am greatly encouraged; in all our troubles my joy know no bounds.”

Paul knew a thing or two about troubles and trials and suffering.  Paul was flogged, beaten, imprisoned, and yet, his joy was overflowing.  Paul chose joy.

As mothers, we face many trials.  Our children disappoint us, our babies cry through the night, our families are stricken with illness, the days are long.  We can choose joy, too. 

 
2. Identify Joy Killers.  We should examine our days and our schedules to identify areas that are killing the joy in our homes.   Are our schedules too full of activities? Is the dinner time rush a source of stress?  Is comparison killing our contentment? Are we impatient? What areas can we change?

For us, Sunday mornings became increasingly more stressful as our family grew.  Rushing, getting everyone ready, fed, and out the door.  We were late and frazzled when we arrived at the church doors, only to be met with the inevitable question, “How are ya’ll doing this morning?”  “Fine!”  Ha.  We weren’t fine.  Not. Even. Close.

A few weeks ago, we made a change.  We started attending the Saturday night service instead.  Saturday afternoons are usually pretty leisurely for us (after Saturday morning games).  We make it with time to spare.

And, as an added bonus, instead of rushing home after worship to put The Tot down for a nap, we’ve been having family night at Chick-Fil-A afterwards. The kids play, my husband and I SIT and TALK.

With the new-found joy from this one switch, we are actively examining other areas to replace stress with joy.

 
3. Be Silly.  Sometimes, I feel like the enforcer.  All business.  All the time.  “Brush your teeth. Eat your food.  Go to sleep. Now.”  One way to cultivate joy in our homes is to not be so serious all the time!  The Steady Mom, Jaime Martin, at steadymom.com said it this way:

“To my children, silliness comes naturally. When I'm in a rush or feeling serious, this silliness irritates me.  But that's why I'm so blessed to spend my time with little ones who can help this Mama lighten up.

So follow your children's cues today.  Laugh, tickle, do the funky chicken to loud music in the living room, and read aloud to them in hysterical voices.

One day our homes will be quiet. Today is not that day.  So let's enjoy it and be silly moms.

 
 
4. Schedule One-on-One Time.  Have I mentioned that I have three boys (ages 8, 5, and 3)?  Our house is filled with constant activity and noise!  Sometimes, it impossible to simply listen.

Above all, the most important one-on-one time is in The Word and in prayer.  Second is one-on-one time with our husbands.  And third is one-on-one time with our kids.

In the story of Mary and Martha, Mary loved Jesus enough to listen to Him.  Often, we have to make time to be alone with our loved one just so we can listen to him.

When the ones that matter most to us feel like they have actually been heard, it cultivates a relationship of joy.

 
5. Be a giver of grace.  How do we react when our children make a wrong choice or disappoint us?  Are we quick to react?  Do we get upset and lash out?

Or, do we take a second to evaluate the situation, to slow down before we “unleash the beast” from our mouths?  Ephesians 4:29 states, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may give grace to those who hear.”

Will Rogers said it best:

"Live your life in such a way that you wouldn't be ashamed to sell the family parrot to the town gossip."

Ouch.  What if our words were broadcast for the world to hear?  Would we speak differently?  In this post, 12 Reasons I Wouldn’t Do Reality TV, I freely admit that I am surely guilty of using harsh words, particularly in times of stress or hurry.

We must also make the choice to give grace, regardless of circumstances.

In Richard Blackaby’s book, Putting a Face on Grace, he lists these actions for giving grace to one’s spouse, but they apply to our children, as well:

  • Speak words intended to build up, not tear down.
  • Focus on the needs of others, not yours.
  • Forgive freely.
  • Swallow your pride and say “I’m sorry” and “I was wrong.”
  • Seek opportunities to bless them with words and actions.
  • Live life with the goal of “no regrets.”
  • Don’t keep score or worry about what is fair.
  • Read 1 Corinthians 13 regularly. 

Giving grace doesn’t mean that there will be not be consequences, it means we consider the other person before we react.

Let’s be cultivators of joy in our homes.  Let’s choose the better things.

How do you cultivate joy in your home?  What are your joy killers?  I would love to discuss this with you on FacebookTwitter, or Google +.  Your comments and thoughts mean so much to me and, of course, it rocks my socks off when you share my work.

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