My longest-standing client, a guy I’ve worked with for a decade and consider a friend, has this thing about threes. If you’re going to create a list of points, there have to be three items – kind of like a three-point sermon. He’s never content if we only come up with two, and even four he doesn’t love. It’s funny… yet it always rings in my head.
Joyful mothering doesn’t boil down to three concepts, not by a long shot. I have a feeling I’m going to be pondering and re-pondering this concept for years, even decades, and there will always be more to learn. Nevertheless, I’ll leave this little series at three posts, at least for now, and move onto other things.
This week is Thanksgiving, and thanksgiving and joy are kindred cousins. A heart that bubbles over with authentic thanksgiving cannot help but be a joyful heart. Where there is gratitude and thankfulness, there is joy. And just as thanksgiving is an intentional act, something we choose to do, so I think is joy.
As I’ve described before, I’m an intentional person. It might seem like intentionality is one of those qualities a person can’t have too much of, but it turns out it’s not. There’s such a thing as too intentional. Or at least, there’s such a thing as too intentional about things that are less than most important. If I’m intentional about consistency in child training, about maintaining high expectations, about homeward diligence, about educating my children well – what good is it all, in the end, if I’m also joyless? If the whole thing feels like a slog to me and reads to my kids as shrill and domineering? It reminds me of Paul’s words in 1 Cor 13 about love – a person may have an abundance of gifts like faith, generosity, and service, yet all these are negated completely if they are without love.
And so for me, given my own make-up and tendencies, I need to actively shift the focus of my intentionality as I mother. I need to be less intentional about good things like consistent correction, high expectations, and growing in my homemaking skills… and more intentional about embracing joy in the day-to-day as I live life with my kids. I must harness my intentionality toward enjoying them and the time we share as a top priority. Even as I prayed through these concepts today, I came across these words by Elise of A Path Made Straight, penned around a hand-drawn candle: “I want to be the light and warmth my children are drawn to today.” Yes. Those are words of joy and invitation. Such light and warmth, earnestly lived out, will draw our children into the authentic love of Christ. Without that, all hope is lost – for all of us.
Intentional joy in mothering for me means actively letting go when the day gets hard, when my kids disappoint me, when they fail, when they require repeated correction for the same sins. It means permeating grace and a forgiving spirit – even throughout correction – and committing to turn quickly from frustrated emotions to the promise of Christ’s joy in all circumstances. It means expecting imperfection all day long, and not resenting it when it comes – even when it seems to come in droves, as it sometimes will.
“The joy of the Lord is my strength” as I interact with my kids; this is an anchor verse for me for intentional joy in mothering. May you know the joy of the Lord as your strength too, this Thanksgiving and beyond.