Monday, March 16, 2009

Where's Your Smile, Mom?

Where's Your Smile, Mom?

I don’t know about you but sometimes I get a little cranky while I’m mothering my precious children. Some days they don’t feel quite so precious do they? When they are disrespectful and disobedient all morning, and you feel like you’ve been through the wringer, you just don’t feel like smiling much do ya?

Sometimes I feel like all I do is discipline all day long. I will occasionally stop and realize that my face is actually hurting from frowning so much, and that my voice is a little (or a lot) hoarse from yelling at them. I then take a minute to reflect on this not-so-great-day and ask myself “How did I get here?” Many times it feels like a downward spiral, and I just can’t seem to get back “up” again. From talking to other mothers, I’ve realized that I’m not alone in this.

What I’m going to emphasize in this devotion is smiling at, and laughing with our children. It sounds easy doesn’t it? But we all know it isn’t when real life gets in the way. I read a wonderful article in a magazine called Above Rubies titled “Try Smiling” written by Nancy Campbell. It really stirred me. I’d like to share some bits from it.

“Mother’s smiles are disappearing. I see so many sad, depressed and hang-dog faces on mothers-and this is in an age of small families! Do we need to slow down to find time to smile again? To take time to smile at our children?

A smile is a necessary part of a mother’s countenance. The Bible tells us that the more we behold the Lord, the more we will grow into His likeness (2 Corinthians 3:18). In the same way, your children look at you all day long, and every day. What do they see? Do they see a frowning face? A grumbling face? A downcast look? Or even a furious look?”

As I was writing this, I had been disciplining the children and still had a frown on my face minutes later. I had to consciously let my forehead go back to normal and take a deep breath and relax. As my husband says, “I turned that frown upside down.”

“Guess what your children will be like? Exactly what they see on your face! They will grow into your likeness. Do you want happy children? Then let them see a happy and smiling face. Change your frown into a smile. Start smiling at your children. Smile at them all day long. Every time you look at one of your children, smile at them!”

I’ve learned that when I practice this, the day goes much better. Is it easy to do? Absolutely not! Is it essential? Absolutely, yes! We need to especially be consciously practicing this on those hard seeming out-of-control days.

“What if you don’t feel like it? Forget your feelings. You can’t trust them. They come and go like the wind. Put on a smile even when you don’t feel like smiling. You will change, and yes, your children will change. You will notice a difference in their behavior.

What about your husband? When did you last smile at him? Or is he used to glaring looks? Or a complaining countenance? Are you daily adding to his stress? Did you know that men can’t stand grumbling, bitter, angry and depressed women? They run from them. If you want to keep your husband, smile at him. Your smiles will relieve his stress. They are better than a doctor’s visit. He will bask in your happy and contented countenance.

The Bible says that we are to be “laughing at the days to come”. We are mothers, with heaps to worry about, right? So how are we to be continually laughing and maintaining our peace? There are two facts in this life. 1. Stuff happens. 2. God’s huge. This is where peace begins. How big is your God? My God created the world. He knows all my thoughts-great and anxious ones. He knows when I get up for the tenth time in the night for the children. He is with me everywhere and in all situations. He fashioned me. He knows all my days. He thinks great things about me. I’ve decided that I can trust this God!”

If we can trust Him, then we can SMILE! He invented laughter! He wants us to use it! Sometimes as I reflect back at the end of a difficult day I realize that I didn’t laugh once with my children. I was grumpy and unkind, even when I wasn’t disciplining.

I also sometimes realize how I never played with the kids once that day as I rushed around doing my chores. I can easily get in that “got-to-get-it-done-now” mode and completely get tunnel vision. I know that this is not the nurturing mother that God wants me to be! When I’m in this mode, my attitude stinks, because my children are “getting in the way”, they become a hindrance instead of a blessing to me. This is not His Will, mothers! He wants us to remember that we’ve been called to shepherd the little lambs that He has given us. He wants us to be kind to them, to love them, to build them up, and YES to laugh and play with them!

Let’s be practical…how do you do this after you feel like you’ve been disciplining all day long and you feel like you need to be stern and firm with them? I think that’s exactly the time that we need to be the most nurturing and loving. Many times my older son and I will get into a fight about home schooling (he doesn’t want to do it, or he isn’t trying). I have to be firm with him and I’ll admit it, sometimes I get down right angry at his laziness. One time we were in this mode, he disobeyed, I got angry, and he was crying in his room. I started to pray and plead with God to show me how to reach his little heart. I felt the gentle whisper of God’s voice say, “Just hold him”. I questioned Him again, and I felt Him say the same thing. So I called for Josh to come out of his room. Josh, thinking he was going to get another lecture comes out crying and sulking. Imagine how surprised he was when I said, “Come here, Honey” and put my arms around him and held him while he cried. It’s hard to yell at a kid who is hugging you! After we got all our crying and hugging done, we smiled at each other and promised each other we were going to have a better day. IT WORKED! So next time you feel like you are in that permanent discipline-cranky-mode, try holding your child instead of yelling at them. Sometimes we all need a little love and mercy!

Let’s see about some ways that we can invent laughter in our homes. Does your child have a laughter button? Maybe it’s tickling his armpits or his feet? Maybe it’s telling jokes or just plain being silly? Laughing with my children changes my perspective and re-invigorates me for mothering. Here are some more tips for inventing laughter in your home.

1. Play With Your Children. Whether it’s blocks, army, football, or “house”, children want and need their parents to play with them. Interactive play with your children reveals their values, perspectives, and what they are learning from you. You can also be home schooling them this way, without them even realizing it. Set up a candy store (my kids love this one!) If they are old enough play a board game play with the older ones while the little ones are napping.

2. Be Silly. Play pretend. Put on a funny hat. Have a “backwards day” where all of your clothes are on wrong. Play hide-and-seek, even when the kids are right in front of you. Read funny stories that make them giggle. Have a picnic under the table; learn the Veggie Tales “Silly Songs”. My children and I love to “rock” to Christian music. We spin, dance, laugh, and play air guitar. It’s a blast!

3. Play Games. You can make any activity into a game, and your kids will beg for more. Besides having fun, playing games gives you the opportunity to teach many valuable lessons-like fair play, taking turns, and winning and losing graciously. Putting on plays and playing dress up with your kids is also a big laughter-maker. Make it extra-enjoyable and make a “movie” by capturing their antics on video. My boys love “making movies”.

4. Lighten Up. Don’t be afraid to get creative and messy at home. Buy a ball of yarn and have your kids make a spider web in their room. It’s fun and it’s easy to clean up! Cook together. Teach them how to clean up the kitchen. Kids love to get their hands on the degreaser spray bottle!

5. Take a Walk Down Memory Lane. Look at scrapbooks together! My kids love to look at their scrapbooks. We get a big kick out of all the pictures we take of them being goofy! They also love to watch home videos of when they were babies and toddlers. Seeing themselves in pictures or on videos stirs pleasant memories that they’ve forgotten about (or never knew). It gives them security and joy to be in a family that does fun things together. And they’ll remember being happy.

Having fun with your children should not be confused with providing fun for your children. The pressure is on today for mothers to enroll their babies and toddlers in fun-producing activities. But entertainment shouldn’t be substituted for interaction with you. You’re not the entertainment committee. You’re mom. Gymnastics, soccer, and dance pale in significance to a game of dominoes or a few minutes of tickling on the couch with plain old mom.

Now, let’s talk about life-giving looks. Have you ever heard the adage, “If looks could kill, I’d be dead by now”? The countenance of your face can also minister life or death. You can crush your child’s spirit by the scornful expression you give them. You can discourage them by your frowning countenance. You can wound their heart by your look of rejection. Or you can ignite the spirit of life within them by your happy face.

I love what Nancy Campbell from “Above Rubies” says. Quote: “One day when I was taking our daily walk with my daughters, I asked them the question, “How can you have a heavenly atmosphere in your home?” Evangeline (who had 6 children at that time) immediately replied, “Have a happy face!” I didn’t expect that answer, but as I thought about it, I realized how important it is. Your happy face will impart life and security to your children. Your gloomy, scowling face will provide the basis for their difficult and negative behavior.”

She goes on to say, “I like Proverbs 15:15 in the Living Bible, “When a man is gloomy, everything seems to go wrong; when he is cheerful, everything seems right!” And what about Proverbs 17:22 in the Good News Bible? “Being cheerful keeps you healthy. It is slow death to be gloomy all the time.” Gloominess not only brings death to you, but to your whole family. It casts a shadow over your home.”

"Dear mother, just as you look to the Lord and are changed into His image, so your children look to you and their lives are affected by your countenance. They will grow to be like the expression on your face. What a challenge!

When you get up in the morning, try smiling. You may not feel like it, but do you live your life by your feelings? That is a shallow way to live. Put on your happy face anyway. That action will change how you feel inside! Smile at your husband. Smile at your children. Smile at them when you get up. Smile at them all day long. Smile when you feel bad and smile when you feel good. You will be amazed at how different you will feel and you will be even more amazed at the difference in the behavior of your children.”

Let’s decide to take Nancy’s challenge. Starting now, let’s ask the Holy Spirit to help us put on our “Happy Faces”. Only the Spirit has the power to change us! I don’t think we need to be fake, but we can sure boost ourselves with a positive outlook!

One thing that always helps me when I start getting into a pity party is to PRAISE! Recall all the blessings He has given you and PRAISE Him for them! Thank Him for a roof over your head, food in your belly, children for your arms to hold, your family’s health, your husband’s job, the clothes on your back, a pantry that is full, running water and all the sanitary things that we have available to us in this country. We are RICH! The poor in our country are richer than billions of people in this world. We have nothing to complain about.

I don’t know about you, but after contemplating all of this, my heart feels FULL!

(Everything in Italics are not my words, but those of Nancy Campbell)


Cheesemakin' Mamma said...

Oh, this devotion is so true and very convicting. Smiling does help, so does laughter!

Cat said...

I'm convicted too! This time of year, when we all have other things we want to be doing it is difficult to focus and concentrate on the task at hand. The six students I homeschool are in for a treat today, for I will be smiling, happy, and enjoyable no matter what discipline is necessary. Look out! Here I come, with a smile and joyous mood. Thanks for the reminder, Stacie.

Margaret said...

Wow...that was a good one. I am glad that you share Nancy's wisdom to help all of us. I can't remember when I have swam with my kids and enjoyed myself and laughed so much. It was such a blessing on Sunday to have that treasure and recognize it for what it was too. I know we all get bogged down with the "have tos". This is good. Thank you and take care of yourself today. Pamper yourself some as you smile and discipline. I love you woman.

candy said...

Very Good! I love that. To be honest Stacie, Wyatt has taught me about a happy face while correcting/teaching. He and MaKenna are so good for me. Thank you for sharing that study with us. I am going to have lunch under the table.FUN!making a spider web, WOW!
Trust me there is PLENTY at your house to laugh about. Man alive I leave there all the time with stories to share with Dennis, shilo, Jeanine and Angela we all love your families imagination.

Rachel and Family said...

You are right on Stacie!

CB said...

The part of this that made me cry was your description of hugging your son when he was expecting a lecture. I love it. Thank you for your honesty & your desire to do things God's way :)

I love your fun ideas!!

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