The Key to Happiness

As cute as it is to see two little toddlers prancing around the house on their wobbly little legs, it is not so cute to see the mess they leave behind.   At one point in my day, I take account of what I see around me.   Our kitchen floor is littered with random items: cheese grater lid, one superhero figurine, one sock, bits of paper, one smooshed banana, one small pool of apple juice, one toy train, one Letter Factory letter “p” ( which I just happened to step on), one block, one plastic container, one book, one magazine, one hairbrush…you get the picture.  It is a mess of random items pulled from all corners of the house, casually dropped onto the kitchen floor by a number of small children.

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My current locking system to keep babies out of the cupboard.

Sometimes it is hard to enjoy this stage of babyhood: the mess, the sticky goo on highchairs, the juice and milk splatters on the dining room walls, the endless poop on the hands from messy diaper changes, the snotty and slobbery kisses (ok, that one is a little endearing).  It is all so, well, gross.  I can’t wait to be done with it.

This post idea came from a comment I wrote to a friend this week.  In response to her question on how I was doing as a busy mom, I told her, “I’m always caught between holding on to these moments and this time to wishing this stage away.  An interesting balance.”

Some days it is really hard for me to be content with where I am at right now.  You can understand why, right?  I barely leave the house because it takes 20 minutes to get our outdoor gear on (not to mention the 45 minutes of time preparing to leave the house), my house is impossible to stay clean and tidy, the laundry is never ending, there are always dirty dishes somewhere, the kids fight more because they aren’t going outside as much in the cold weather, and I barely have a moment to think my own thoughts because my children are constantly bombarding me with questions about everything.  And this is my life right now.  It is a mostly self-sacrificing, giving-all-the-time occupation.  And this is it.  My daily life is about wiping bums, folding underwear and t-shirts, cooking uninspiring meals (hard for someone who loves to try new recipes) while trying to organize time to do groceries, run errands, and make doctor appointments.   Clearly, I don’t have emotional or mental space right now to take anything else on.  It is hard to maintain friendships and check in with family members.  I can’t commit to school or church clubs, groups or committees because what I do at home right now is all-consuming.  I feel stretched to the max already with managing a household of seven; five of those members being under the age of five.

Having said all that, I have so many moments in my day when I think to myself, “hold on to this, Julie. These moments are so precious.”  I know in the long run, these days at home will be fleeting.  My children will grow and leave home and I’ll think, “where did the time go?”  But there are also plenty of moments when I feel the difficulty of it all and I desire something more than what I’m doing.  It doesn’t always feel enough.

I also realize that being a mother or a parent is a tremendous responsibility.  Our children are learning how to talk, behave, love, interact, socialize from our own behaviour.  I know my job is more than just mundane tasks.  But I’ll save that for another blog post.

For now, I struggle with contentment.  How can I be content in an often thankless and overwhelming job like mothering?  Whether you are a mother or not, you also struggle with contentment.  We all do.  We all have a longing for something more.  There is a void in the depths of our beings that ache to be filled. Unfortunately, many of us foolishly try to fill those voids with a excess of or an unhealthy reliance on things that harm instead of fulfill: shopping, eating, working, drinking, sex, and unhealthy relationships.   Whatever it is, when we are feeling low, we go to those things first to help us feel better about whatever it is we feel so terrible about.   But these things will never satisfy the void.

Paul writes in Philippians 4:4-9, 11-13, (emphasis mine)

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

11 I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry,whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength.

Thankfulness.  I believe Paul is unlocking the secret to contentment:  being thankful and  thinking praiseworthy thoughts.  In thankfulness, we push out negative thoughts and focus on what is good.  Now Paul also reminds us we can’t do it without God.  Through the work of the Holy Spirit, we are able to find joy in our circumstances.  However, I do struggle with knowing how we can find contentment in situations of abuse or misuse of power.  I don’t believe those are situations in which one could find contentment.  Or when a loved one dies and the pain is more than we can bear.  Where does contentment fit in those circumstances?

Someone who has taught me a lot lately about being thankful is my friend Jacinda who is currently writing a blog about her daughter’s battle with cancer.  Jacinda uncovers what is truly important for their family and what brings them great joy: their family and friends who support them,  the moments they have being together as a family, and their God who gives them the strength to bear each day.  Being home together is one of the things her family is most thankful for.  With the many days Claire is in the hospital receiving treatment, being home together is a rare occurrence for their family, but something that brings them the most joy and happiness in the midst of their difficult circumstances.

Being home.  With her family.  Huh.  I guess I should be thankful for that too.  I should feel blessed.  I am blessed.  Having children is a gift.  I am filled with gratitude that we are healthy.  When I pause to really think about it,  I do feel so happy and so much love for my family, my heart could burst.    There are so many moments in a day that are simply amazing: watching Cor learn to eat with a spoon for the first time, seeing Mia explore the world around her with great passion and determination, observing Janelle dance for the love of expressing herself through music, discovering Willem’s passion for learning and understanding just about everything, and enjoying Ethan’s love of laughter and his excitement in accomplishing tasks on his own.

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As we begin this season of Advent; a time of waiting,  let us remember the reason Jesus came.  He came to save us.  To restore us and to fill that empty void of longing.  He is the Saviour.  He is Christ the Lord.  Come, Lord Jesus.

“God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen”

God rest ye merry, gentlemen
Let nothing you dismay
Remember, Christ, our Saviour
Was born on Christmas day
To save us all from Satan’s power
When we were gone astray
O tidings of comfort and joy,
Comfort and joy
O tidings of comfort and joy
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8 thoughts on “The Key to Happiness

  1. Thank you Julie for this post and for the reminder of coming full circle to thankfulness Your highlights of Paul’s words were wonderfully uplifting, as were yours. Thanks.

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  2. Great post. You captured it perfectly…the struggle we all have wishing things were different but wanting to celebrate reality as exists in the present. I, too, have been making a concentrated effort to live a life of thankfulness. My situation is not how I wish it to be. One thing I struggle with is living in a bungalow. A bungalow. I miss my big, old farmhouse full of history and character. But I am choosing to be thankful for what the bungalow offers: warmth, safety, peace, practicality and easy-clean-one-level-simplicity. It astonishes me how being thankful has altered my perception and given me a measure of contentment in this new life. Then, as I bring this thankfulness to God, the Provider, I find He opens my heart to new levels of thankfulness, greater peace and even joy. And it all starts with a thank you. I never realized it could be that simple. Blessings, Julie. You aren’t missing the important moments and you have the right tools to help you through the tough ones.

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    • I happen to live in a bungalow, Lisa. I don’t think it is all that beautiful either. I struggle with being content in this home. I love beautiful homes. I love looking at homes online just for the fun of it. It is a slippery slope for me. I need to stop looking around at what could be better and enjoy the home I have. It really is functional and perfect for our family even if it doesn’t have 4 bedrooms and a huge backyard.
      Thank you for your comments. I am encouraged by your response.

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  3. Lovely. I completely relate to this feeling of being stretched so thin… and the difficulty in maintaining outside relationships. But you’re right… it is such a blessing to devote our everything to these beautiful kids of ours. And I hear it gets easier some day:)

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