Friday, October 21, 2011

The Secret to Happiness

When I was about to graduate from college, I had a brief few moments of anxiety of thinking I had made the wrong choice to be a nurse. It may seem odd that after 4 years of college that I had just started to question that, but I think it's because I had never really put any thought into becoming a nurse. My mom was a nurse and it just seemed like a practical degree to achieve. But at 18, how can you really know? I remember confessing to my dad my fear that I had made a huge mistake and he gave me the best advice that I still hold near and dear to my heart. He said "Sarah, I don't care what you do for your career. But, the only way to ever be happy is to serve others and expect nothing in return from it." I am not sure I completely understood that at the time.

You see, in my young and immature mind, to serve meant you were a nurse or a teacher or something like that. But, that is not at all what my dad meant. He meant, when you wake up in the morning, before you ever put your feet on the ground, you should pray for God to show you how to serve others that day. Serving others doesn't necessarily have to do with your career choice. It is an attitude you bring to your daily life. When you start serving others and expect nothing in return from them, not even a thank you, you truly start experiencing what God created you for...and that brings ultimate joy.

Now the real challenge and test of this comes when you become a parent. You see, being a parent of little ones is definitely the most thankless job. Have you ever tried to please a toddler? You can plan the most perfect day that is all about them and they still will complain about something. If you plan these days and expect to only hear "Oh thank you mommy. This is so much fun!! You are the best mommy in the world!" prepare to feel disappointed a lot of the time. By nature, these little creatures are greedy and self centered. Being a mother is definitely the ultimate challenge of serving with a happy heart and expecting nothing in return from it.

I think finding joy and happiness in being a stay at home mom is an extremely difficult challenge. I am not sure I experienced this as much when I had just Ella, but now that I have 3 very small children and my life is much more isolated from society, I find myself working even harder to have a happy serving heart. I have very little time for any one but my children right now. It is the season of life I am in. Simply going to the library is a huge production no matter how carefully I have planned it into our day. Sometimes the loneliness of motherhood can creep in (I will blog about this another day). It would be very easy to feel mad and under appreciated right now...because my kids could care less that I cleaned their clothes and cooked them a healthy meal. But, I am to serve them. I think so many moms get into this attitude of "my kids have to fit into MY life." Where is the sacrifice in that attitude? I think modern day society feels like there should not be any sacrifice "just because you have children." Good luck if this is your attitude. You will have a life time of feeling frustrated and feeling like your child is a burden.

It's not all sunshine and roses. I'm not pretending I am Pollyanna. No matter what your faith is, we are all seeking happiness here on this Earth. We live in a society that is all about "I deserve". If you live expecting others to bow down to you and give back for all your hard work, prepare to be unhappy.

I feel like that small tidbit of advice that my father gave me 10 years ago was probably the best advice any young person can learn. Isn't it nice to think that you could look at a pile of laundry and say "I am going to fold all this laundry, no one is going to thank me for it, but it is going to make me happy to do it. It helps my family and my job is to give to others and serve others."? You can roll your eyes. It's ok...I probably would not have believed it before I had three little ones who challenged me to change my attitude. If you are a SAHM with many small children, you are probably nodding your head in agreement. It's actually biblical.

"Love your enemies! Do good to them. Lend to them without expecting to be repaid. Then your reward from heaven will be very great, and you will truly be acting as children of the Most High..."
Luke 6:35 

(No, I am not calling children the enemy. You completely misread my heart if you think that). Everyday, wake up and insert different peoples name where it says enemy. Try it. God promises you that your reward will be VERY great!!! Believe it and know that the only way to truly be happy is to serve and expect nothing in return. It is a challenge every day for me. The days where I feel most miserable are when I have expected a thank you or an act of payment of some sort. 

It is totally against society. Society says serve yourself. You know what? Society is pretty miserable, aren't they? 

Serve others and see the joy that seeps into your heart.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

You are beautiful just the way you are...

"I’ve thought that perhaps that’s why women are so often sad, once the child’s born, ‘ she said meditatively, as though thinking aloud.  ‘Ye think of them while ye talk, and you have a knowledge of them as they are inside ye, the way you think they are.  And then they’re born, and they’re different – not the way you thought of them inside, at all.  And ye love them, o’course, and get to know them the way they are…but still there’s a thought of the child ye once talked to in your heart, and that child is gone.  So I think it’s the grievin’ for the child unborn that ye feel, even as ye hold the born one in your arms." 
 exert from the book “Dragonfly in Amber” by Diana Gabaldon

Every time I take the twins for a check-up, I always leave feeling like I am failing. I don't have to worry about Jacob so much anymore. You would never know he was preemie. He is a happy cruising, crawling, standing, eating everything off our plates, little boy who is very quickly leaving his baby time behind and slowly transitioning into a toddler. My only worry with Jacob is whether or not the "thing" he just chewed up and swallowed was an old cheerio or a barbie shoe. He is 21 lbs of absolute sweetness and he knows that one little flash of those two dimples will get him whatever he wants. He isn't walking yet, but there is no question he is well on his way.

And then there is our Audrey. Sweet does not even begin to describe this 19 pound girl. She is angelic in every sense of the word. Loving her is easy because it humanly impossible to have a more content, precious baby. But, I worry about her. I think the constant questions from speech, occupational, and physical therapy always make me want to say "are you just asking...or are you concerned about this?" I then I hear someone very casualy mention the letters CP (cerebral palsy...and no, she does not have this that we know of) and I can feel my lips quiver. I cannot even let my mind go there. In my heart, I really do not believe she has CP.

Today, I felt so frustrated with the whole situation...not with Audrey, just with dealing with the unknown. I think a lot of it is seeing and hearing other mothers with children the same age talk about their child walking, eating, etc...and all I can think is that I would just be so happy if I could get Audrey to hold her own bottle. The speech therapist is working with her on getting past stage 2, purely pureed foods. We are going to see Occupation therapy in a couple weeks to start helping her with learning to pick up food and put it to her mouth.

And then there was the mom at Ella's dance studio who said, "She's not crawling yet? Well, you know babies who don't learn to crawl will have problems in school with reading." There were so many things I wanted to say back to her, but I definitely felt the Holy Spirit intercede and help me extend grace to this other mom. I just simply said "I'm not going to let her fail." She probably thought I meant I wasn't going to let her fail in school. That was not really what I meant at all; I simply meant that I love her and I will do anything and everything to help her survive in this world.

So, when I got home, the tears started coming. This woman's words stung me even though I tried not to let them. I think it was just a reminder of how people treat others who are different. This woman didn't call Audrey a name, but I almost felt like she did. So, I sat and rocked Audrey. I ran my fingers through her beautiful, thick hair and let my tears fall on her face. She smiled as she reached up her hand and touched my cheek. She cannot speak, but her eyes said it all:

"I need you to love me. That is all. I know I am not what you expected, but all I need is for you to not worry and just simply love me."

And I look at her with a loss of words to say. It is indeed that simple. As adults, we always complicate things. I look at Ella and how even she seems to understand. She has never asked why Audrey can't crawl or eat regular food, yet Jacob can do all those things. She just finds a toy and sits down next to her. She just loves her. And so do I. In my eyes and God's eyes, she is perfect. She gives new meaning to that verse "I am fearfully and wonderfully made." Wonderfully made she is!!!

God is still working on you my child. God is still working on me too. I will not let you fail. I will never give up on you. I am your biggest cheerleader! You, Jacob, and Ella are my greatest treasures. I don't believe I am making much difference in your life, but you are changing mine in great way beyond measure. 

You are beautiful...just the way you are.