"Life is to be enjoyed, not just endured."
- - Gordon B. Hinckley - -I remember having a conversation with a friend several years ago wherein she said that life is all about the have to's and "there's no joy in life anymore." At the time I remember thinking how sad that was. Shortly after I realized that others were having those same emotions. Then baby number five came along and it happened to me! Life had become, for a short time, a routine, a duty, a responsibility. There were days I was just "going through the motions." Then, several things happened, each shedding light back into my life a little at a time. The final burst of light involved the study of agency. I realized that we have the power to choose. Some of you are saying, "Duh!" right now. But for me focussing on the word power in that statement, gave me the fire that I needed. Growing up I remember a hanging on my grandma's wall that said, "Choose Your Love and Love Your Choice." We can choose to be happy, to live joyfully and to stop simply "going through the motions" of life.
Passion & Purpose
What gets you going in the morning? What is it that gets your excitement juices pumping. Is it waking up early to exercise or have some quiet before the rest of the world awakes? Is it reading a really great book or learning something new and fabulous? Is it music? Is it your children and your time with them? Or your husband? Oftentimes when I ask other mothers what they're interests are they'll mumble "I don't know" or answer with the classic, "I don't have time for interests." We need to make time for our passions and live each day with some kind of purpose. Marjorie Pay Hinckley gave a granddaughter advice on what classes to take in college. She said, "Study something . . . so you have interesting things to think about while you do your ironing."
I remember an article by Rachel DeMille on finding your "Key Action," what is the one thing that keeps you doing more than muddle through life. She said this: "The Key Action, whatever it may be, tends to put everything into balance, or create a positive momentum, or bring peace and a sense of well-being. It's not, strictly speaking, the thing we value highest or most deeply but it is the key to our serenity, productivity and clarity."
I can't say enough about relationships, so I'll try my best to make it brief! Several years ago in college, I was given an assignment to answer the follwoing questions: What is a home? Why do we have families? What I've come to learn through the years of now having my own home and family is that the ultimate purpose for both home and family lies in relationships! Sometimes, this is the hardest goal to accomplish!
We all know the two greatest commandments. "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind . . . And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself" (Matt. 22:37, 39). We are to first strengthen our relationship with God. This is the one and only way to find perfect joy. One author wrote, "The more I learned about [Christ], the less I wanted to leave Him" (Life of Pi, Martel) Do you feel the same?
The second great commandment then tells us to love our neighbors. In order to do this, we must also love ourselves. Taking time to be alone with yourself is vital to strengthening relationships around you. We all know you can't fill others with an empty bucket.
Who then are our neighbors? Mitch Albom once wrote, "Strangers are just family you have yet to come to know." When working on our family relationships we need to ask ourselves what matters most: being on time or speaking kindly to our children? Getting something done or helping a child learn a new skill? From the words of Mother Theresa we learn, "It doesn't matter what you do - - it's how much you love those you do for."
I have to confess. My favorite holiday is not Halloween, Thanksgiving or Christmas. And though I do love Easter, I love the purpose, but not necessarily the hoopla that goes along with it! No, I would much rather celebrate the small and simply holidays throughout the year. Have you heard of National Park Week or No Socks Day? What about National Jelly Bean Day or Eliza Doolittle Day? These are the days that bring sparks of joy into our home. A couple of years we've had a Pig 'n' Pancake party to celebrate Pancake Week and Pig Day together. We invite tons of friends over with the assignment of bringing a pancake topping. Then, while we're getting some pancakes started, I read a book about Pigs and Pancakes (there are so many of them out there!!). It's a lot of fun and we look forward to it.
Another of our favorites is National Park Week. We don't celebrate National Parks because they are not in our area, so we made up our own way of celebrating. Each child gets to choose a park in our city and for one week we hit a park a day.
Create your own holidays to celebrate! Ever year on June 1st, we go out to breakfast at Denny's. This is the day we got the keys to our very first home, so we call it our home's birthday! Then, we go home and my husband says a prayer that another year in the home will be blessed. It's simple, but it's something the kids won't let us forget.
It's through small and simple things that love and faith grow within a family. I believe that. There is a purpose for larger expenditures and expeditions, but usually the kids will grow up remembering the small things they did in the family. My family sang together. I will forever have fond memories of Mom at the guitar with the five of us kids close by and Dad behind the video camera. :-) I am always telling my own children about the late Christmas Eve nights when we'd all cram into one bedroom and sing "99 Bottles of Milk on the Wall." 4 girls and 1 boy! Poor Richard! :-) What will your children remember?
In "Mitten Strings for God" the author writes, "Mealtime offers us an opportunity to celebrate being a family every day." Those seemingly insignificant daily occurances are those traditions your children will seek to carry on in their own families. Daily scripture study, daily prayer, daily meals, daily conversations. You daily attitude as you carry on with the daily tasks also carries over.
Planning and Priorities
For any of the above principles to take effect, we need to take the time to plan and prioritize. Management expert, Lestev R. Bittell has said, "Good plans shape good decisions. That's why good planning helps to make elusive dreams come true." If you want strong relationships with your children, you need to plan time for it. If you want to have more fun moments in your home, you need to plan for it. If you want time to devote to your own passions, you need to plan for it. On the days when I don't have a plan, I tend to wander aimlessly . . . an hour here, a few minutes there.
Several years ago, and I know this is nothing new now, I realized I had to prioritize my time into three categories: Haves (i.e. laundry, dinner cooking, etc.); Needs (i.e. scripture study and alone time for myself); and Wants (i.e. extra reading time!). I find when I prioritize this way, I have more time for the wants and the Haves are less tedious and the Needs are more purposeful.
Katrina Kenison has us pose this question to ourselves, "What do I lose when I try to do too much?" Planning does not mean making sure every hour is filled up with something busy. Other authors have counseled, "The concept of downtime seems to be a kind of heresy in the current cult of acheivement" (Einstein Never Used Flashcards, Hirsch-Pasek & Golinkoff). In the planning of our joyful lives, we need to make time for downtime. It's in that downtime that we end up buildling stronger relationships, finding and fulfilling our purpose, and having more joy in our homes.
Conclusion: Joy vs. Happiness
Experiencing true inward joy is different than fleeting happiness. It's like the difference between the happiness you feel when you're just newly married, to the joy you feel after ten years of working and being together. Both are great, one is more lasting than the other. Inward joy comes from loving God, your family, and others while living life with purpose and direction. "This is your expedition . . . Think of the treasure at the end" (The Hobit, Tolkein) . . . and make it happen!