A dear friend of mine posted on Facebook last week a pondering about joy, especially amidst trials and the “drudgery” of life. Lamenting that so many moms do not seem to live in the joy of their vocation, she wondered, “How do we live joyfully? What does that even look like?”
It reminded me of a scene from the movie Mom’s Night Out where the main mommy character declares that she is living her dream, yet wonders why she is not happy. I think many of us mommies have, at one time or another, felt this way. Then we felt guilty about feeling that way.
First, let’s make one distinction – happiness and joy are not the same thing. Happiness is an emotion; joy is a fruit of the Holy Spirit. Happiness will come and go. Joy, when cultivated, is always present, even in our saddest, darkest moments. Joy is much deeper and longer-lasting than happiness.
So, how do we cultivate joy?
Always begin with prayer. Ask the Holy Spirit to let this fruit grow in you. Actually pray to be a joyful mom. Ask other mommy saints to join you in this petition (I especially recommend St. Anne). Praying is like preparing the soil.
Water the seeds of joy with gratitude. Being thankful for the blessings we have been given conquers any covetousness in us that prevents us from seeing all the good in our own lives. A grateful heart is a happy heart. So, count your blessings daily. Praise the Lord for them. Every acknowledged blessing is a drop of nourishing refreshment that helps joy grow.
Wisdom is the sunshine that enables us to see God’s providential care in all our circumstances. When we trust in God’s love, then joy can continue to grow, even in difficult times. Wisdom is a gift of the Holy Spirit, freely given at our Confirmation just waiting for us to open and use it. Ask the Spirit to help you use this gift so the Son can shine through you.
Finally, joy is fertilized with confidence. Be assured that you are the best mother for your children. After all, God chose you of all people to be their mom, knowing all your foibles and failings. Despite any imperfections, He deemed you and your husband capable of raising them to His glory. So, glory in that.
But remember, fertilizer is quite messy. At times, you will mess up. Just say sorry. To God. To your husband. To your children. There is great joy in receiving forgiveness and learning from mistakes. Be aware that the devil, great thief that he is, wants to rob you of your joy by stealing your confidence. Don’t let him. Trust in God’s infinite wisdom and mercy. Let that confidence nourish your joy.
Remember, God did not create us all the same. What joy “looks” like is as different as we are. Some mommies have the joy that bubbles over. Some have a quiet joy that shows forth in a peaceful spirit. Other moms’ joy shows in their go-with-the-flow ability. In other words, joy comes in different forms.
In whatever manner it manifests itself in you, I pray you find joy in the monotony of life. Because, let’s face it, motherhood can be monotonous. Ironically, I also hope you experience joy in the chaos of family life. Because, yep, raising a family can be chaotic, too.
In all circumstances, may your joy to grow and attract others to God, the source of all joy.