what does it take to be truly happy?

how to find happinessIt gnaws at my soul.

I’ve spent years searching for it and chasing after it.

Over and over again, I find it —  for a while. Only to feel it slip away again.

Happiness is always elusive, isn’t it? We think, “If only this would happen, I would be happy.” or “If he or she would just do this or that, I would be so much happier.”

I’ve spent years attaching my happiness to career aspirations, my children’s behavior and view of me, other people’s opinions of me, my husband’s happiness, my level of financial stabilitythe list has been long and varied.

But you know what all these things have in common? They’re all dependent on people or circumstances for my joy. In my experience, neither have proven to be very reliable. People, even the ones we love so much, let us down. Circumstances are constantly changing and are usually out of our control.  That fact has sent me on a roller coaster of highs and lows and bitter disappointment.

So, it is possible to feel a consistent sense of peace of joy when the future is so uncertain? When the things that are making us feel happy today may change or disappear tomorrow?

I struggle with this everyday, but God is patiently showing me how to find unshakeable joy. Here are three ways I’m finding it:

Lowering My Expectations. That sounds really dark and pessimistic, doesn’t it? It’s not. We have to quit expecting that the things and people of this world can make us happy. God never intended for imperfect humans and circumstances to fill us up. Expecting them to is what leads to depression and despair.

In Jennie Allen’s Bible Study, Stuck: The Places We Get Stuck and the God who Sets Us Free, she says, “… we must consciously lower our expectations of people, of circumstances, of this planet. Let everything be human and flawed, and be completely taken and thankful when it’s good. Allow people to surprise us more than they disappoint us.”

Being More Grateful. Our tendency is to see all that’s wrong in our lives. To chase the shiny apple that is just beyond our reach. To look at others and compare our blessings.

I’m trying to practice more gratefulness. Savoring a relaxed and unguarded moment with my teenage daughter. Enjoying a hug from my teenage son. Waking up in a cozy bed and an air-conditioned house. And thanking the Creator who makes all these things possible — even though I don’t deserve any good thing.

Clinging to Hope. Can I be honest? It’s really hard for me to watch or listen to the news these days. I can feel my anxiety rising with each headline. It is a scary place we live in. It feels so broken and out of control. My hope can’t be tied to this crazy place.

As a child of God, I have the hope that one day, Christ will return and make all things right. Whatever I’m experiencing right now — either good or bad — is temporary. That does not mean God doesn’t see or care about our suffering. It only means that we cling to the fact that He has a plan to end it — foreverEven if we don’t know how or when. “Who hopes for what he already has? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.” (Rom. 8:24-25)

So, how does this apply to mothering? We have to keep pointing our children to Jesus, moms. We have to set the example.

The One who knows the big picture, who loved us enough to die a terrible death for us and our precious children.

Only the Holy Spirit can keep our minds focused beyond the temporary. His help is something I ask for daily. I want to live for something bigger than today. For a future planned by a big God who loves me more than I can possibly imagine. I want that for my kids, too.

Because that is what it takes to be truly happy.

the lie our culture tells moms

the lie our culture tells momsI’m always surprised that something ordinary about being a mom becomes controversial.

In Harper’s Bazaar United Kingdom May 2014‘s. Actress Kirsten Dunst had the gall to speak in favor of motherhood and femininity.

This time, it’s motherhood being valuable.

What?

Isn’t that OK?

Apparently not.

Haven’t we been fighting for decades for recognition of our “Feminine Mystique”?

For the record, The Feminine Mystique messed with my mind as a college student. There I was educating myself, doing the one thing Betty Friedman said would, be the “key to (unlock) the trap of motherhood”.

…But I wanted to become a mom just as much as I wanted anything else in life.

I felt like God was calling me to parenthood. 

Uh-oh.

Then, there’s Kirsten…..

Kirsten Dunst is surprisingly outspoken on the subject of gender: ‘I feel like the feminine has been a little undervalued,’ she says. ‘We all have to get our own jobs and make our own money, but staying at home, nurturing, being the mother, cooking – it’s a valuable thing my mum created. And sometimes, you need your knight in shining armour. I’m sorry. You need a man to be a man and a woman to be a woman. That’s why relationships work…’

Betty Friedman fans are freaking out about now. Or they are just confused like I was. After all, Kirsten is right. Like it or not, we need a man to be a man and a woman to be a woman — or none of us would be here. 

For this is why I have called myself a Recovering Feminist. In the late 80′s, I found myself exposed to a National Organization for Women booth on the campus of Florida State University. Everything they said seemed to make sense to a naive 18 year old embarking on her first independent journey.

Unfortunately, they really weren’t promoting real liberation of women, but rather a much larger trap — even bigger than the one Betty called motherhood — of ideologies which included being enslaved by our sexuality and thinking that our femininity was an awful liability.

Only God can remove those chains of entrapped thinking. He liberates and elevates us as women to heights that even we don’t comprehend.

After all, 

 

when saying no to “having it all” means saying yes to motherhood

how to reach your goalsby Elisa Pulliam, Regular MOMtor Contributor

Within hours of finding out that I was pregnant with not one, but two little babies, I was laid flat out on the couch, overcome with a flu-like bug. I confess, this is something that has happened to me with every pregnancy. The pure shock of discovering I was pregnant seems to make my immune system collapse. It’s kind of funny when you think about it, because there is no other time in a woman’s life when needing to be healthy and strong would be as important.

I think my immune system knew what my mind was thinking and went on strike ahead of time!

“Oh, no. Houston, we have a problem. Her life is about to radically change. Forget her plans. Never mind her dreams. These babies are going to reroute everything. Quick, collapse and pretend it isn’t so.”

Of course, my “mental” illness passed quickly, especially as I began to accept the reality of my motherhood.. . . even when it happened way sooner than planned. . . when it wasn’t planned at all . . .when we got the two-for-one deal. While I was ecstatic about each bundle of joy placed in my arms, I found myself grieving inside the secret corners of my heart.

I knew, intuitively, that saying yes to motherhood meant saying no to those yet-unrealized-dreams.

I think that’s what made my heart and mind and body so sick. In the pursuit of my motherhood dream, I knew I’d be giving up things I loved, craved, longed for . . .

sleeping in on Saturday mornings
running errands at a reasonably productive pace
thinking clearly without being interrupted
taking off on vacations without a car full of baby equipment
enjoying business attire and meetings and accomplishing long-term goals

By the time my oldest was six, I realized that my dreams of “having it all” as a mom would never come to be. Really, it was having the twins that convinced me it wasn’t even worth trying to accomplish “it all” because I was so stretched beyond my own abilities. I was no longer able to manage the “perfect little family,” dressing the girls in matching clothes, fixing their hair with pretty bows, chauffeuring them to dance classes and playdates without collapsing in exhaustion, while keep the twins perfectly content to be hauled around in the baby carriers.

When I went from man-to-man defense to playing zone with four kids, life changed . . . for the better.

Bows didn’t matter as much. Dance class wasn’t essential to the development of a six year old girl. Playdates were a nicety, not a necessity. Heck, leaving babies in onesies for days until they were really stinky and dirty was all about survival. To think I changed my oldest clothes with each spit up!

Sure, I gave up the “have it al dream” while I was still in the diaper-duty season, but I honestly thought that when they all would finally be in school, I could do what I want when I wanted.

That’s so not the case.

Whether our kiddos go off to school or if we’re homeschooling (I did that for a year), our lives will never be our own again nor will their ever be a possibility to have it all.

When they are infants, they need our arms to hold them close.

When they are toddlers, they need our legs to chase them down.

When they are in the little years, they need our hands to caress their heads, help build their legos, show them how to hold a pencil, and braid their little doll’s hair.

When they enter those tween years, they need our tender words flowing often into their maturing minds, reminding them of Whose they are . . . while their bodies and minds are wildly growing and changing.!

When they transition into those teens years, they need our eyes to look beyond their face and into their hearts to help them process the world from God’s perspective.

When they finally arrive on graduation day, they need us to let go of our grip on their hands and while using our knees in prayer like never before.

Our children need us from birth and beyond, and it is meeting their needs that will keep us from having it all. To say yes to our babes is to say no to some of our dreams . . . not all of them . . . but certainly to the ones that keep us from making the the most of our motherhood opportunity.

Having it all . . . well, let’s consider that a myth, while embracing motherhood because that’s the better gift.

Elisa PulliamElisa is a trained biblical life coach, mentor, and speaker passionate about equipping women to experience authentic life change for the sake impacting the next generation. She is the founder of More to Be (moretobe.com) and author of Impact My Life: Biblical Mentoring Simplified. Elisa considers her first calling as wife to Stephen and mother to her house-full of children.

Connect with Elisa at http://elisapulliam.com.

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empowering your special needs child

special needs childrenIt was just a simple question.

But five years later, I still think about it nearly everyday. God used it to open my eyes, change my heart and motivate me to a new way of parenting.

My sister was visiting for a few days. One morning, toward the end of her visit, she watched as I poured cereal, as I did every morning, for one of my able-bodied, nearly preteen children.

“Why are you pouring their cereal?”

It was asked without a hint of condemnation. In fact, it was one of the most loving things she could have said to me.

The answer to that question was two-fold. First, it was a symptom of my people-pleasing ways. I enabled my children because I wanted to avoid conflict. I wanted to keep the peace and make them happy.

But, that’s only part of the reason. As the mom of two children with special needs — both physical and academic — I’ve felt the pull to somehow smooth their path, which has been marked by so many painful land mines.

God used that question to wake me up to the many things I was doing things for my children that they could — and should — have been doing for themselves.

It was a humbling, difficult, but motivating realization.

Since then, I’ve worked toward empowering my kids instead of enabling them. It has not been a perfect process. I still fall into old habits. I still make new realizations about ways I’m being an unhealthy safety net. But here are three things that I’ve found are helping to equip my kids:

Allow them to fail.  With special needs kids, this can be especially difficult because often the stakes can seem so high. How can I not rescue my child with learning difficulties? How will he or she ever get into college? I need to help him or her with that paper. I’ve got to bring them that book or homework they forgot.

Well, I’ve realized that unless I’m going to college with this child, then they aren’t probably going to do well once they get there. My job is to equip and coach, and yes, allow failures. Sometimes big ones. Every time I do this, I get incredible pushback and cries of, “You don’t care! You don’t understand! You have no idea how hard it is for me!” But pain is motivating. And as I pull back in certain areas — instructing and coaching, but not actually doing it — this child steps up and sees what they’re capable of. That is empowering.

Don’t make excuses for them. Everyday, I’ve found I have to fight the temptation to cut my children too much slack. I don’t always demand things of them that I should because I know it will be hard for them. Or, that they’ve had a difficult day or week. I think we can limit them by our own low expectations.

Train them to “own” their treatment. I find the more my kids take charge of their own care, the less resentful they are toward their disease — and me. It gives them some control and power of a condition or difficulty that seems out of their control. Micah, my child with cystic fibrosis, has been sterilizing his medication equipment and scheduling his own treatment times for a couple of years now. What used to be a battle is no longer a fight. He has control over when and how it’s done. I just monitor to make sure he stays on top of it.

Every special needs child is different, because the challenges they face are unique to them. Everyday, I pray for courage and guidance to navigate these amazing children God gave me.

He gives me the power I need.

Now it’s my job to do all I can to pass it down. 

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