Joy, Sometimes Sweet, Thinkin' Out Loud

On Finding Joy

Late last year, I was asked if I would be willing to speak to a group of ladies and if so, what would I talk about?

I said, yes, and I have no idea.

So then. I panicked.

And then I called my friend Lysa Terkeurst (subliminalmessagebuyLysasbooks) who is by far the most dynamic and powerful speaker I’ve ever heard and I prevailed upon her for wisdom. She gave me some great advice about planning a speech and crafting a message.  She also helped me see that the essence of what I write about here is capturing the joy of motherhood. And together we decided that would be a great topic for a speech. Or a book.

So then, later this month, I will be speaking to a group of ladies about capturing the joy of motherhood.

As luck would have it, life is not oozing joy at the moment.  Life is peaks and valleys my friends, we all know that, and right now I’m just sort of hanging out at the bottom of the mountain waiting for the ski lift to take me back up to the top.  It’s fine.  There’s a snack bar down here and lots of nice people.

So the other day as I was trying to put together some thoughts on the joy of motherhood that I could talk about,  I was interrupted 87 times by my child who seems to have a knack for knowing when I need a moment of peace or need to get something done.

Mom, MOM, mommmm, hey mom, Ma-ahmm, hey mom look at this, mom do you know where, mom have you seen my, mom what if, hey mom, mom will you pour me some, hey mom come see…

At which point, I shouted not joyfully “DO NOT CALL MY NAME ONE MORE TIME! DO! NOT!”

Now one of the many things I like about God is how he uses my own short comings to teach me stuff I need to know.  I imagine sometimes that he is sitting up there in heaven with some of those apostle guys saying something like, “Hey Pete, Jimbo! Dudes, come watch this.  You’re gonna like this. Yeah, Antique Mommy again.”

After I heard the sound of my own voice screeching at my child I was struck by the irony that I was trying to write a speech on the joy of motherhood.  And I had to stop and ask myself what is joy exactly, separate and apart from motherhood? And what business do I have telling others about it?

After much prayer, research and introspection, I came to the conclusion that joy is not happiness.  It is not glee or exhilaration or giddiness – those things reside on the surface and they come and go with the wind that blows and swirls this way and that at the top of the mountain.

For me, joy is deep and abiding and resides somewhere up under the sternum.  Joy is as ever present in the valleys as it is on the peaks. It is satisfying and it is fulfilling and it is not fleeting. It’s the certain knowledge that this place in time, this right now — this is good! And that each day of life, each moment,  is a precious and beautiful gift – even when it’s not oozing joy.

Being Sean’s mom is a tremendous source of joy in my life, even when he’s driving me crazy.

That is the joy of motherhood.

72 thoughts on “On Finding Joy

  1. Amen! Thanks for the reminder. I have often found myself screeching at the kids to be quiet or saying, “Your not doing it right!” during a “togetherness” activity and just completely missing my own point.

    I am trying to make it a point to enJOY my children and to let them know that they are a JOY to have in my life. I want to be a JOY in their lives, as well!

  2. Re-living many of these moments with you! Preparing a message on the fruit of the Spirit while ripping my kids head off. ~sigh, been there.

    Sounds like you are just the right person to speak about this. You’ll do great, I wish I could be there. 🙂

    (How fun that you can just give Lysa a call for someone personal training!)

  3. “Speakers Track”, am I right? Are you in with me?

    I have a friend, who exasperated, finally said to her child, “STOP CALLING ME MOMMY!”

    He paused, after this long tirade of “mommy, mommy, mommy….” and said, “But, that’s your name isn’t it?”

    You’ll be awesome. Wish I could be there. I could use an extra helping of joyful motherhood. 🙂

  4. Sounds like my Sunday morning—

    My daughter was bugging me about WHEN we were going to get her ears pierced. I couldn’t take it anymore and told her I was TIRED of hearing about the ears!!!!

    She said, “You’re tired of me.” And ran off slamming a door.

    By the time she came out of hiding, we were late for church again.

    The people at church say it’s the same people late every Sunday. If only they knew the other half.

  5. Anybody could write a speech about “joy in motherhood” when things are all sticky sweet happy. Only someone who’s lived in (and through) the other side of motherhood can write a speech about deep & abiding & not fleeing & precious & beautiful. The first would result in mom’s beating themselves up because they can seem to find that giddy, always “up” place, and the second is like oil that soothes the wounds and softens the spirit. May your “not oozing with joy at the moment” be redeemed into the eternal for Him and for someone else!

  6. I am doing a Ladies’s bible Class on the Fruit of the Spirit. Would love to use your last couple of paragraphs when we discuss joy.

  7. Hmmmm….never thought about it like that. But you’re right. Joy doesn’t necessarily equal happiness.

    “It is satisfying and it is fulfilling…” – I like that.

  8. Bingo. Joy is not happiness…joy is lasting. Happiness can be fleeting and momentary. The thrill and the terror lies in discerning the two and finding both.

  9. I was out and about with The Offspring some months ago and caught a guy trying not to laugh after I said “My name is not But-Mommy!”

    I was in a very low point many years ago and my grandma (who had some deep valleys of her own) sent a card. It said something like, “Life has high notes and low notes. Together, they make a nice song.” My grandma has been gone for nearly ten years, and unfortunately, I’ve lost the card, but I’ll never forget the message.

    I hope it doesn’t take too long for things to get better for you and your family.

  10. Dear AM, You have much to say. I will be praying for you that morning. Yes, my people. My spot. Gracious. Loving. Friendly. They will love you. Maybe I’ll see you there. 🙂

  11. Beautiful definition, AM.

    Thirteen years ago, I read this great book, “First We Have Coffee”, in which there is a chapter about joy. The definition given — a thankful heart. I thought it was key. I thought it a beautiful, wonderful, PROFOUND defnition.

    I even wrote a journal entry about it.

    The next journal entry was about the birth of my third child. Born with Down Syndrome. We did not expect it. And it was a bitter pill to swallow. It turned out that she was extremely affected. She can walk, feed herself, but is in diapers, does not have language, and is also autistic.

    However, I now believe that God made her especially for me. Despite all of her physical and mental shortcomings, she is sweet and joyful. She brings me joy every day because every day she reminds me to enjoy the simple things and not to sweat the earthly things. She makes me more patient, more kind and more forgiving. She reminds me that I’m much more “problematic” in God’s eyes than she will ever be. That someday, in heaven, we’ll meet each other in our perfect bodies and I will recognize her right away, but she will look at me quizzically, “Is that you, Mommy?” And we will laugh and cry at the crazy things God did on earth to help us to grow into better people.

    God bless you in every way Jackie. You are awesome. Your perspective has touched my heart and I thank you for taking the time to share it ~ AM.

  12. Thank you for this post. This morning was just one of those mornings when my 4-year-old somehow knew I had a *cannot* be late conference call with a co-worker in China. By the time I got her in the car to take her to pre-K she had pushed just about every button I had, I got in the car, closed the door and screamed, a primal from the gut I hate having to be a single mommy scream. I felt terrible for doing such a thing in front of her but it didn’t seem to faze her, she just kept talking as if I hadn’t done anything. When we got to school I gave her extra hugs and kisses and she danced off to play with her friends. That unquestioning acceptance and love even when I’ve done something crazy is part of my joy of being a mother.

  13. Amen! You have excellent timing – thank you!

    On a side note, my three-year-old calls me “Sweetie” because since that’s what my husband calls me, he thinks that’s my name. So even as I’m gritting my teeth at being paged for the bezillionth time, I still can’t help but smile every time he chirps “SWEE-TEE!” It especially makes me laugh when we’re out in public. 🙂

  14. Having been in a wilderness period for the past eight years, I can relate whole heartedly. I love what Paul said to the Phillipians:

    “I rejoice greatly in the Lord that at last you have renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you have been concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 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. I can do everything through him who gives me strength.”

    I especially love this because joy and contentment are ours to hold no matter what the circumstances.

  15. I love your post this morning. Reminded me so of when my boys were little. I remember once even my husband got aggravated with the oldest when he was about 4 and asked him to please be quiet.

    I also thought about how much I miss those times. You will be wishing you heard his voice call your name more than he might in the future. However life does go forward and we enjoy the different seasons of our lives.

    I agree with the others I think you have your speech.

  16. How do you do that? How do you take what I’m thinking, but can’t articulate, and put it into words that describe exactly how I’m feeling.
    You really have such a wonderful gift.

    From, one joyful, but not altogether happy, very blessed Mommy.

  17. Thank you for your wonderful and insightful style of writing. I truly enjoy reading your posts everyday! Joy to the World!!!

  18. I’m not a mom, but I am certainly stuck at the snack bar waiting for the ski lift too. And I’ve had one too many orders of nachos and way too much diet coke – – which will make the trip up longer than it would be otherwise. Ugh. Can’t blame that part on anyone but myself.

    Looking for the joy with you, and finding it too!

  19. on a day (like so many at the moment) when I’m feeling just a bit stuck at the bottom of the mountain, when the ski lift seems to be on a go-slow…
    you’ve said exactly what i need to say to myself and those around me. thanks for helping me get things clear in my head again.

  20. I think this is yet another of thoses articles which needs to go into the “Best of Antique Mommy” piles…luv ya writing..

  21. And now I’m crying. Because that’s it. And that’s life. And that’s mommyhood. While I am trying to start the new year at the top of the mountain, I’m at the snack bar too. Wallowing in hot cocoa and soft pretzels. And I’ll have a Diet Dr. Pepper when I’m done. But it’s just too cold to even go out now. And NancysLostandFound is SO RIGHT. It will make the trip to the top longer.

  22. This post is so true, and I needed to read it today! Not to give Sean any ideas, but my daughter has reverted to calling my name continually to the tune of Christmas songs. Just think Jingle Bells with the only word being “Mom mom mom. Mom mom mom.” She does many different songs, but the mom part stays the same. 🙂

  23. Amen to that sister! So many times when I’m doing something that is ostensibly for my girls and they are demanding of me while I’m in the process of completing it, I am constantly reminded to be aware of how much of my motivation is for them and how much is for me.

  24. Perfect! Thank you so much for the reminder. It should be imprinted on a plaque to hang on everyone’s living room wall.

  25. Wow. You’ve done it again. You seem to have a knack for steadying me with your words. Being surrounded by three little people simultaneously driving me crazy, I am prone to forget that there is joy in this too. I have one child Sean’s age, and 2 more after that. The crazy can be pretty overwhelming at times. It’s hard to reach the joy sometimes, but I know it is there. You nailed it for me when you said this: this place in time, this right now — this is GOOD! I’m so grateful that you write here, so that I can read it.

    It’s true for all of us Jodie. Some days we have to really dig deep to find, let alone feel, that joy. But if you can’t find it one day, look again the next. It’s there. I promise you, it’s there. ~ AM

  26. I truly loved this and thank you for sharing. I agree that joy is deep and everpresent, and God given. I also agree, that like most gifts from Him, we have a choice: take it or leave it.

    Blessings to you, AM. I hope that lift gets you shortly.

  27. Longtime reader, new commenter. Amen. Very very true. If joy were circumstantial, we’d be in big trouble. Excellent post.

    (And God TOTALLY calls the apostles “Dudes”!)

  28. You’ll never know how timely this was for me, okay, I guess you will since I just told you. But…anyhow. I love what you wrote. Could you give the instructions on how to get the joy up there under your sternum because I think I have a blockage or something. I just journaled this morning how I feel like my sense of self worth and contentment is in direct relation to my circumstances at the time. Not a joyful way to live. Thanks for the thought provoking post.

    It’s easy to let the circumstances of your life drive how you feel about yourself, but it’s a false measurement. I struggled with this when I was in my 20s and early 30s. Circumstances wash in and our of lives like the waves on the beach, but you are you no matter the tide is high or low, rich or poor, house or hut, old or young. I encourage you to dig deep and discover the joy in your life, the one you have right now. Look for my email. ~ AM

  29. I am finding that this third time around I am reveling in a different kind of joy. Its easier in so many ways and the sheer joy of watching the older two with the babe is a whole new ball game…
    yesterday I was on one of those high points…i could do it all…with a 5y/o, a 4 y/o and a 2 week old…today…i slept thru the alarm and have fallen to new levels of low…I loved reading this as now I am laughing at myself being so crazed this morning and know its still a joyful time and it will get better….

  30. One of the many gifts you share is that acknowledgement that everyone has better and worse days. I can almost always feel/read the joy in your posts, and I am also jealous not to hear you speak. GL!

    A funny from my childhood: My mom often referred to things as ‘the joys of motherhood’ (not in the loving way you did, but go with me here). We rode the bus because we were poor. She dropped something and it was chaos getting on the bus when I was about 4 – I looked at the bus driver and said, while rolling my eyes, ‘the mothers of joyhood’ I’ve met many mothers of joyhood, you among them 🙂

  31. This is beautiful. Oh, how I long to have His joy each day in the midst of my crazy, mothering circumstances! I came from a family where everything had to look “perfect”. I am growing out of that and I want to live each day knowing God is with me in my imperfect life!

  32. This reminds me of a friend’s story. She was teaching a series of Bible Studies on The Fruit of the Spirit. One day as she was working on a Bible Study she kept being interrupted by her darling child.

    She realized the irony when she found herself saying, “Quit interrupting me–I’m trying to do this Bible Study on patience.”:)

  33. I referred and used part of this on my blog this morning Linked to you –
    It says so much for me!
    ~Mad(elyn) in Alabama

  34. Thank you for making me feel “normal”! I too am at a low point on the joy thermometer. After reading your words I will continue to seek joy in any of its forms. Good luck with your speaking engagement…it is sure to be an enlightening speech.

  35. Your post definitely resonated with me and by the looks of the comments, it resonated with a lot of other people. Probably why so many people love reading your posts.

  36. Great. I laughed and I’ve been there! Listen:
    HAPPiness depends on our HAPPenings–We are not happy when the kids are rude and we must interrupt good writing/thinking to fix rudeness. Again.

    Contentment is a command–We are supposed to be content in whatever state we find ourselves. Like the state of motherhood.

    Joy, however, does reside somewhere deep, as you said, and is a fruit of the Holy Spirit. (Galatians 5:22, or so. I’m far from a Bible.

    Never been to this site before, but loved it.

  37. In my classroom, I have the word Joy in various fonts and various patterns of paper and colors all over the walls. The kids always ask why I’ve picked that word. Joy is granite happiness. It’s the deeply imbedded grain of peace that passes understanding. It is a God given gift.

  38. We were just talking about this type of thing in Bible study today…about how life is a series of ups and downs, but you can usually find something good even in the “downs”.

    I’m good in the downs as long as the snack bar serves chocolate! =-)

  39. So, so, so good. I feel a little bit better now that I’m not the only mom in the world who is struggling to find joy in motherhood. Love my kids. But there are moments, ykwim? The funny thing is, the very things that anger me at times are what I end up laughing about later. Life would be so empty without children.

  40. I have been doing lots of thinking about this topic lately; how we try to find joy in life – expecting it from people (including our children) and things around us, only God can fill our lives with true joy that does not fail us or depend on our mood. I have also blogged about the difference between happiness and joy. Maybe we should compare notes!!

    I’ve blogged just recently about having an abundant life in Christ.

    I had to laugh when you shared about the irony of trying to write about the joys of motherhood while yelling at Sean – I can relate, hehe!

    All the best with your speaking engagement 🙂

  41. Aaaaaaaamen! Boy, did I need to read this today! I’m waiting for my own ski lift……disappointments are hard to recover from…..not tragic but hard. Thanks for lifting me up this morning!

  42. You wrote, “joy is deep and abiding and resides somewhere up under the sternum.”

    I guess that silly kids’ song was right:

    I’ve got the joy, joy, joy, joy, down in my heart…down in my heart *to stay.*

  43. I had a flash back of my childhood and my mom telling me to stop calling mom. That was the day that “mom” became George. When ever she would get tired of being called mom, us kids would start calling her George. I remember growing older and being out in a crowd and not being able to get her attention by calling out mom. She then became Joanne Francis. I still call her that when I can not get her attention. I’m now 45 years old and she is 71. Thanks for your wonderful posts. They always leave me smiling. -Jenny F.

  44. Does the town of Tuna have somewhere you can research who lived there etc? I think that would be fascinating.

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