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This post is a follow-up to yesterday's guest post on Embracing Your Family 'As-Is'. Here's the link to part 1 if you want to hop over to The Better Mom and read that first.
I’m not going to lie; there are days that I wish my kids were quieter, less energetic, and neater. But there are at least as many days where I’m blown away by the creative projects and ideas that emerge from the mess, the noise, the energy flowing in and through them.
But on those days I don’t, here are a few ways I ask God to help me in my contentedness.
1. Giving thanks
It’s so hard to stay discontent when you count your blessings. Focusing on God’s goodness and faithfulness is an easy way to renew your mind.
If you struggle with this, try reading Ann Voskamp’s 1000 Gifts. She offers a very intimate invitation into the journey she took learning to give thanks in all things. Since reading this book, I find myself giving thanks for things I formerly bemoaned like injuries, illnesses, and challenges with my kids.
Like Ann, you may wish to keep a running list on a notepad of all the things you are thankful for, so that you can read through it when you’re feeling down or frazzled. Remembering His gifts heightens your faith, your contentedness, and your joy.
2. Seek a change of scenery
I know everyone struggles with different things when it comes to embracing their family as-is, but if your challenges are anything like the ones I’ve described above, you may find a change of scenery elsewhere.
As I wrote about this past summer, getting outside has been a game-changer for our family in terms of managing noise, mess, and energy. Getting these rambunctious children outside as often as possible makes for a cleaner, quieter, and saner house, but it also makes for lots of great moments together.
I’m not sure exactly which factors are most to blame for our abrupt transition to a largely indoors society; technology, to be sure, but also, perhaps, increased fear of danger? The Internet and social media have made it possible for us to hear about every evil thing that happens in the world, and with each new fear, the invisible reins our kids are subject to seem to get a bit shorter.
Or perhaps it’s that we live in a different world now. I grew up in a small neighborhood where the streets were mostly narrow and the cars drove slowly. I now live in a suburb with wide thoroughfares and distracted drivers who miss stop signs because they’re looking at their phones. Growing up, I was usually outside with my friends from the end of school until dark, with only a brief stop home for refueling at dinnertime, but this is not the world my kids live in, sadly.
Nonetheless, I’m learning to shape our lives around our need to get out of the house more. Not to do more things out of the house, mind you, just to be out of it. You can read some of my tips for simplifying life so you have more time to get out too.
3. Bring it to God in prayer
When we first started homeschooling, most of my friends were putting their kids into school. (Mine had actually been in daycare to that point because I’d been working full-time, so I was actually pulling them out).
In those early days, my friends said things like, “I don’t know how you do it. I would go crazy spending all day at home with my kids, let alone teaching them.” Funny, I’d felt that way too when the kids were very young, and these same friends had somehow managed to stay home with their littles for the past five years, which had proved too much of a challenge for me.
But they were mostly right: I was overwhelmed. It is not easy being alone with kids all day, period. No matter how well trained you are in childcare or education. No matter whether it is one child or four. No matter their ages. It is simply challenging, regardless of the situation. Worthwhile, rewarding, and life-giving, of course. But challenging, nonetheless.
But our Father in Heaven sees our challenges and He cares about them. He wants to help us. He wants to give us everything we need to not only survive, but thrive. We can call upon His name as often as needed and ask for His help. Ask Him for strength, patience, kindness, joy, thankfulness. Ask Him to help you see the beauty in each little chaotic moment. Ask Him to help you embrace your family exactly as it is.
And I encourage you to not just ask Him first thing in the morning, or late at night when the house is still and quiet. Ask Him all day long. Ask Him while you are doing dishes, changing diapers, folding laundry. Ask Him in the middle of your preschooler’s tantrum. Allow your children to hear you struggling and reaching out to God for help. It is soothing to our souls (and to theirs) and sets an example for them about how to deal with challenges that are beyond us.
As my friend Jodi wrote about recently, music is the antidote to much of life’s chaos. Turning on music in the middle of a stressful and exhausting day makes all the difference. Singing or meditating on the lyrics of a worship song can bring us great peace.
After my son was born, I had a health challenge that the doctors struggled to diagnose. I was referred to a chain of doctors who weren’t sure what to do with me. Eventually, I was sent for an MRI to determine the exact nature of the problem.
If you’ve ever had an MRI, you know that it’s a bit scary, especially if you’re claustrophobic, which I am. You lie on a moving bed and are pulled in an out of a great, big and incredibly loud machine whose opening is barely wider than your body. You are inside the machine for several minutes at a time, while it works its magnetic imaging wonders.
But it was honestly terrifying. They give you an emergency button to press if you need to come out, and I was tempted to push it with each trip into the machine, but I knew that the images needed to be done. I also knew that this was a battle of the mind, not of the body.
So every time I went into the machine, I sang a worship song in my head. You’re not allowed to talk or move, so I couldn’t sing out loud, but I could meditate on the words in my heart.
And it was enough.
This is a “trick" I use in every difficult situation I face. Whenever I feel ill-equipped to handle something, I listen to, sing, or meditate on a worship song. And it works every time.
Great is Thy Faithfulness is a wonderful hymn to meditate on when you’re struggling.
Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow
As this hymn says, He gives us ‘strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow.’ In any and all circumstances, we look to Him and give thanks, because He is faithful always and in His great mercy, He gives us the strength we need for today, as well as the hope we need for tomorrow.
When this truth has taken hold in our hearts, we can embrace our families exactly as they are, even when they seem like just a little too much. They are gifts from Him, and to Him we give thanks.
In any and all circumstances, we look to Him and give thanks, because He is faithful always and in His great mercy, He gives us the strength we need for today, as well as the hope we need for tomorrow.
How about you? What have you found effective in conquering overwhelm with contentment? Let me know in the comments.