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3 Ways to be a Happier Mom

Do you want to be a happier mom? Be a Mom without complaining. Did you just laugh? Because momming is soul sucking. But . . .

Do you want to be a happier mom?

Be a Mom without complaining.

Did you just laugh?

Because momming is soul sucking.

You have an MBA but just spent ten minutes arguing with a two-year-old that the strawberry jam in the squeeze bottle is exactly the same as the jar.

Cleaning house is pointless. You want a healthy, clean house for a tiny person who leaves messes in his wake like Godzilla in Tokyo.

Life is a never-ending cycle of feeding people, cleaning up after people and doing chores over and over and over. And sometimes there is poop – okay, lots of times, there is poop.

So how do we stop complaining while recognizing this is a hard season of our lives?

We recognize the struggle without unpacking and living in it!

Recognize the struggle without unpacking and living in it. #BeaHappierMom Click To Tweet

1. Shift perspective

Ask God for His perspective. He always helps me look past my initial emotions to see the forest of blessings I’m missing when I complain about all the trees in my way.

Just today, I was planning our meals wondering how much fiber I should give my kid (’cause that’s what moms worry about), and I realized I have no idea. When was the last time she yelled at me – “I’m done pooping!” and expected me to race to her side? I can’t remember.

Today’s frustration or ewww factor, might just be tomorrow’s regret. She already needs me less than she did just months ago.

If I have an unfavorite task, I teach my way through it, instructing my daughter why it is important to do with a happy heart, even when we don’t feel like it, how that makes our family a team.

I’ve learned more about what kind of person I should be by focusing on what kind of person I want to raise. Also – #3 here. Do you want to be a happier mom? Be a Mom without complaining. Did you just laugh? Because momming is soul sucking. But . . .

I've learned more about who I want to be by focusing on the kind of person I want to raise.… Click To Tweet

2. Always look for the bright side.

Last month, I had a leaky back tire. Instead of just $20 to fix it, the shop noticed my two front tires were cracked and ready to burst any second, $400 instead. Right before Christmas, for the second time this month . . .

BUT, I had just taken a 4 hour road trip. I was so grateful that we didn’t have a blow-out on the twisty windy Georgia back roads that could have caused a serious accident.

3. Get your worship on!

When I start to slip into an awful place, nothing shifts that attitude to happier mom faster than worshipping God. Sometimes, I have to fight myself to turn on praise music or open the Bible because my flesh would rather than sit in that pain, feeling overwhelmed and irritable.

Just do it – open the Bible and read one verse, play one random worship song. I dare you to stay crabby. It may not erase the painful circumstances, but it reminds me where my hope lies.

The last two Novembers, I’ve taken a step past daily gratitude to trying to change my entire attitude by going without complaining.

This year I felt like counting the hours until the challenge was over. November was the hardest month we’d had in a long time. Everything that could go wrong did, well almost. But December 1st came, and I didn’t want to unload all my harbored complaints.

Because I learned so much:

  • I learned my faith needs testing to grow. Job, I am not.
  • I learned my marriage is a million times stronger than it was before this very hard year.
  • I learned I’m a happier mom when I don’t complain because what I give energy and voice to becomes my reality.

Being a happier mom means I spend less time upset, less time stressed out, less time wishing it were bedtime and more time just enjoying the moments, even the ones with poop.

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Love Goggles – my daughter is the most beautiful girl in the world

Do you tell your daughter that she is the most beautiful girl in the world? I do. And I think I'm absolutely right to do so. I've got my Love Goggles on.

Do you have Love Goggles? I bet you do.

I have whispered a shocking secret to my daughter many times since she was born.

“You are the most beautiful girl in the world,” I would say, gently kissing her cheek or forehead.

Then add, “to me,” lest she wake up one day completely surprised that she isn’t. That day came sooner than I could have ever imagined.

My daughter had a wonderful playdate with a friend that turned emotional quickly. Hangry is a real thing. It was such a dramatic meltdown, from perfect harmony to disaster in less than a minute, that it was almost comical.

Our emotional center of gravity comes from our identity.

We shot each other sympathetic looks over the Oscar-worthy shenanigans happening with our little girls as my friend and I tried to wade through the whiny tears to decipher the conflict.

“She said she was more beautiful than me.” I heard screeched from across the room.

“Well, she said her mommy told her she was the most beautiful girl in the world, but you told me I was!” Followed by my daughter sinking to the ground in tears.

We both laughed and tried to calm down our girls by telling them that they were different, and both equally beautiful.

But hours later, my daughter could not get past this crisis of identity. I had told her she was the most beautiful girl in the world, and her friend’s mommy had told her daughter the same thing! How can this be true!?!

Just driving down the road, hot and sweaty after blueberry picking. I was not prepared to deal with such a deep question.

Her identity was shaken for the first time.

As always, I struggle with the underlying dynamics of a moment, in this case helping her understand that she is beautiful, what beauty means, and how what I told her was and will always be true.

Is my daughter the most beautiful girl in the world? Yes, I see her thru love goggles. Click To Tweet

Do you tell your daughter that she is the most beautiful girl in the world? I do. And I think I'm absolutely right to do so. I've got my Love Goggles on.I thought for a moment.

“Well, moms look at their children through love goggles. When we look at our children through these lenses of love, we see the most beautiful child in the world . . .

But every mom feels this way about their kids. It is part of loving someone that you see them with different eyes when we wear Love Goggles.”

Her mouth formed a silent oh, and she nodded. My explanation made perfect sense to this little girl with a gigantic heart.

It's part of loving someone that you see them with different eyes when we use love goggles. Click To Tweet

But even as I said these words to her, I could feel God nudging me, to hear Him say that He sees us through Love Goggles. He sees our flaws, but loves us so much that he sees past them and loves us with a reckless, crazy love.

Then I heard Him say, “and didn’t I send Jesus and the Spirit to give you Love Goggles for the world?”

Didn't I send my Son and the Spirit to give you Love Goggles for the world? See them thru Me. Click To Tweet

I pictured my husband, my two teenagers, the angry neighbor, etc. and I realized how differently I am able to view people through the lens of Jesus, seeing their hurts and hearts, their need for love, and for God’s love, and how differently I’ve learned to react to life.

God calls to me, calls me precious one, My beautiful daughter. He sees me in ways that others never will. He sees the ugly in me, but loves me more.

God says, ‘let me change your ugly’ instead of throwing me away.

He looks at all of us as the most beautiful us in the world and means it in a way that causes even a mother’s love for a child to pale in comparison.

Letting myself BE loved in this way has given me the best perspective for the people in my world. Because I can see the way they need to be loved, too, even in their ugly.

I hope my daughter learns to see herself through God’s eyes too.

She doesn’t have to have a crisis of identity once she understands beauty truly is seen through the eye of the beholder and a pair of really Righteous love goggles.  😉

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Sorry, Not Sorry

What does sorry mean? What does repentance and contrition look like? Are you Sorry, Not Sorry? HeavenNotHarvard.com

She came in from playing outside, her cheeks flushed from the southern sunshine. “Please go pick up your room before dinner,” I asked. My four-year-old turned, made an angry face, with fists at her sides, “I don’t want to!” Giving her the ‘mom’ look, I started towards her. She quickly ran to her room,  continuing to shout and whine.

I followed her, trying to maintain my patience while I explained that she will not speak to me like this and that picking up her toys is her responsibility.

She yelled, “SORRY! But I . . .”

And I listened to her little rant, gently corrected her attitude, and modeled an appropriate response. But I couldn’t get over how ridiculously obvious it was when she yelled SORRY at me, her tiny hands balled into fists, that she wasn’t sorry at all. What does sorry mean? What does repentance and contrition look like? Are you Sorry, Not Sorry? HeavenNotHarvard.com

A true apology doesn’t involve screaming, anger, and definitely not a but. I know I’ve been guilty of using that but to justify my behavior with my husband, my kids, and even God.

Justifying my behavior might explain my reactions, but it doesn’t excuse crummy choices. It just makes my apology meaningless.

Because if I meant it, I would take responsibility. Someone else may have done something that was infuriating, but I had a choice. When we say sorry, but . . , we’re giving away our responsibility, like our actions were beyond our control. We’re really saying, “Sorry, but I’m Not Sorry.” Horse puckey. Lots of crappy stuff can happen that can push my emotional buttons and stress me out; I still can choose to control my response.

Watching my daughter scream sorry, but . . ., I could see her complete lack of contrition. Her tears were about the potential discipline, not sorrow. And I wondered how many times I’ve looked like that to God, praying for forgiveness, but full of excuses, with a hardened heart knowing I would probably do it again.

True repentance is a heart thing.

The word for repent in the Bible actually means to change your mind, and specifically in context, to change your mind about Jesus. When we change our mind about who Jesus is, when we BELIEVE He is Lord, our perspective changes. Suddenly, sin isn’t the exciting thing we have to do without; it’s the disgusting slime we want to wash away.

True repentance is a humble confession that Christ is Lord of my life.

Repentance then is a gift granted from God. He gives us the change of mind. We have to seek repentance, ask God to grant it to us, ask Him to change our minds about whatever we’re facing.

No wonder I struggled for years with feeling forgiven, because I wasn’t really repenting. True repentance is a humble confession that Christ is Lord of my life and asking for a change of heart which leads to different behavior. I started noticing that when I prayed for forgiveness and really meant it, I would ask for a new perspective, to change my heart, help me change my actions.

And it did. I spent years struggling with various sins and couldn’t seem to ever change. But, God changed my mind when I opened my heart. While I have a long way to go, I see the sins falling away. If Jesus is really God, and God is really real – then a lot of my perceptions and values were completely misguided.

Are you sorry? or not sorry? Are you asking for a change of mind and heart?

Jeremiah 24:7 ESV “I will give them a heart to know that I am the Lord, and they shall be my people and I will be their God, for they shall return to me with their whole heart.”

Guess what? Having a change of heart attitude works in my earthly relationships as well. My husband responds so much better when I apologize and ask him how I could have handled that better. Plus, I get a better idea of what he was thinking and feeling, changing my perspective.

And when we see with a right perspective, it is so much easier to truly change. Which comes in really handy when I have a four-year-old tempting my temper.

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What I Learned When I Stopped Complaining

Exploring the things I learned about my attitude and spirit when I changed my words.

For the 2014 Thanksgiving season, I began a challenge of 30 Days Without Complaint. And it was hard. Honestly, it was pretty much impossible to keep 100%. I wanted to revisit what I learned when I stopped complaining.

1. I learned that being negative has been my default setting for most of my life.

I tend to see the one wrong thing like a flashing beacon begging me to fix it, which makes me a fantastic essay grader as a teacher, but also means I have to be purposeful about seeing the positive and intentional about mentioning it!

Trying my best to follow the dictionary definition of ‘complaining’ as expressing any negativity, I had no idea how often I complained. “I’m hungry.” “This coffee is cold.” “I’m tired.” I had this whole under-the-breath monologue of whining that I did almost unconsciously.

Complaining seems like our default setting as humans. Can one month reset our hearts?… Click To Tweet

During this challenge, I had days I considered duct tape might be my only hope.

Heaven Not Harvard - Exploring the things I learned about my attitude and spirit when I changed my words. I got a big dose of conviction one morning when my daughter heard me mumbling my husband’s name while cleaning up after his mess. She shouted aghast, “MOM, he isn’t even here!”

Yes, not only was I adding to the mental list of resentment in my own head, I was coloring her perceptions of her father. I was unintentionally disrespecting him in front of his daughter. LOTS of reasons to halt that behavior immediately.

2. Negativity is a big brush that paints over everything else.

A single complaint can sour an entire experience for everyone. I can be having a perfectly nice time when my husband’s food isn’t right, or he feels the service is slow, and the focus for rest of the night is that ONE aspect of the experience instead of being aware of the myriad of enjoyable moments.

Ever think about all the compliments you’ve ever been paid? What about all the insults? I find that negative feelings and thoughts overshadow all the positives if we give them room in our minds.

3. I had been using complaining as a passive way of asking for things.

“I’m hungry” wasn’t just a declarative statement. I was looking for my husband to offer to cook or get me something. I realized that using complaining to ask for things wasn’t healthy behavior. If I want something, I need to ask for it. And I need to be willing to get it for myself if the answer is no. If I’m not, it wasn’t really that important.

I learned my complaining was sin in so many ways: resentment, manipulation, grumbling. Click To Tweet

By taking more responsibility for what I wanted or needed, I began to take more responsibility for my own feelings as well, which turned out to be very empowering.

After two years being fairly immobile, I got used to not being able to do much. Learning to stop complaining might mean getting up more often, but I am so glad that I finally can!

4. Most importantly, I really learned that words have power.

The way we say things matters. I can complain, “I’m cold” or I can say “I’m going to get my jacket.” One is powerless. The other is pro-active. One is letting my environment dictate my expectations, the other is choosing to create my own reality through my actions or how I choose to perceive it.

The words we use become our focus. I spent this challenge removing as much of the inner complainer as the outer. My internal dialogue was just as much of a problem as my outer one. I still have a long way to go, but see that stopping mid-thought and looking for the blessings can really change my perspective.

For example, my kitchen is messy because my husband works ridiculously hard at insane hours and makes his own breakfast when he is barely awake. I can be upset at the mess or I can choose to see it as wonderful evidence of having a family and a dedicated husband.

Going 30 Days Without Complaint was only a starting point. I have a long way to go before I really conquer this bitter battle with complaining, but I have learned how to be more positive, even with negative emotions.

I’ve seen change starts with my attitude, but ends with being a light and joy to those in my life.

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A Change in Perspective

Heaven Not Harvard started with my acknowledging that all the world’s pressure on my parenting was creating unnecessary stress, weighing on me, pushing me to be cranky and insistent with an incorrect perspective, trying be a perfect mom based on imperfect standards.

Inside my head, I yelled, ‘stop!’ And I shifted my parenting away from a generic “Harvard” goal and prioritized my focus on a “Heaven” goal. Over time, that mantra has shifted my focus in a myriad of ways, including my goals for myself, including my perspective on my marriage, and including events like Thanksgiving.

Today, I simply wanted to focus on being thankful, with a peaceful attention on the right aspects of my life, so I opened my Bible to Psalm 100, a prayer of thanks. Psalm 100 ESV - Heaven Not Harvard "A Change in Perspective"

Immediately I felt His voice, telling me to lay down the burdens of expectations, to rest in shouting for joy, worshiping Him in gladness.

So I did. My daughter and I sang Psalm 100 over and over, working to commit it to memory.

The rest of the day, I couldn’t help but look around and see the abundant blessings we have. Our lovely home is warm and cozy. Even now, the tantalizing aroma of a fresh turkey roasted to golden brown perfection still hovers in the air, hours after the dishes have been done, and slices of pie have been devoured.

We sat around our table, just the three of us, holding hands to pray, grateful to be together. I didn’t get out the fine china. I didn’t even pull out the table-cloth. We lit a candle in our centerpiece and used our everyday dishes.

A couple of years ago, I would have cleaned and stressed and let anxiety rob me of my joy. I would have invited the world to our house, but then worried about impressing them. I would have spent every spare second for days ahead of time focused on presenting my house and family in just the right way.

I am tearfully grateful that God has renewed my heart and given me a thankful perspective this year, to focus on making memories instead of ironing the good napkins. This morning, we watched the parade on television; my daughter thrilled over her favorite characters and balloons. I held her on my lap, smelling the baby shampoo in her hair, feeling her sink into me. She kept begging me to hold her, wanting to sit with me just a bit longer. And I was able to just be still, knowing that too soon, she won’t be little enough to sit on my lap, not too long until she won’t want to.

We called family and used technology to see the faces of so many so far away. We ate our fill, found room for delicious pumpkin pie and rich eggnog richly dosed with liberal amounts of nutmeg. At one point, we surveyed the overwhelming richness of our lives and said a prayer of gratitude, knowing many around the world don’t have an ounce of the things we take for granted so often.

The day was even more poignant when I found this old writing of mine.

Lil Bit and I have traveled to my mother-in-law’s house for Thanksgiving. I haven’t felt like crying for weeks, but as soon as I sit here for a few minutes surrounded by the house where we fell in love, a house literally filled with pictures of him, I start getting teary-eyed.

For the first time in months, I am not so busy that I can barely survive the day, giving me time to think. Maybe the holiday season without him again is making me emotional. Maybe just being surrounded by his family, his children, and his pictures reminds me more of what I am missing. Especially with Lil Bit doing her best to learn to crawl and “talking” up a storm, we realize how much he is missing. This house with its warmth and charm brings so much of his spirit to my heart. I pray everyday for his safe return because this life is not the same without him no matter where or what day it is.

Four years ago, I didn’t know if he would ever come home again. This year, I don’t know if he will ever have to deploy again. The world is an uncertain place. While we can rest assured God has a plan, He doesn’t let us in on it. We have to make the most of the season and the moment we are in. This year, this quiet day of enjoying sweet peace together was more than all the riches in the world.A Change of Perspective Heaven Not Harvard

Toys litter the corners, not quite tucked away. A few sticky places on the counter await renewed energy in the morning. Some dirty dishes are “soaking” (ahem, not really) in the sink. I’ve waved the white flag of surrender at the dog hair, and yet, my house never looked so beautiful as it does today.

All it took was a change of perspective, realizing we have no guarantees, that every season has its reasons to celebrate and to mourn, that God’s goodness is all the time, and when our perspective is His, He never fails to lead us home.