I’m over at Broken Beautiful Bold today, sharing a little wisdom with “Beginning of the Journey Mom” I used to be. Join the discussion about the “High Stakes” of motherhood, no matter where you are on the journey.
We hustle for a lot of things. We hustle for success and fitness. We hustle at our jobs, we hustle at home. We hustle at our kid’s schedules and for our families’ best. And let me be really honest, right now, at the peak of Spring activities, the hustle has left me out of breath. I feel the grind winning. Trying to “just keep up” has me feeling left behind… behind on my spring cleaning, racing the weeds in the garden, a slave to my planner and the ever-changing “GroupMe” conversations revolving around baseball practices, rehearsal schedules, and “end of the year” teacher gift ideas.
Spring brings with her an urgency, like an enthusiastic friend who won’t take, “Just a sec…” for an answer.
The numbness that comes from being some kind of hustle robot is counterintuitive to the season. I realized that though it is Spring all around me here on the Ranchito, it has not been Spring in my spirit. And then one afternoon, on a mindless Pinterest scroll, I came across her and it broke my heart:
It broke my heart because the answer is barely. I barely remember her-carefree, crazy, wild, really, really joyful…. She is the exact opposite of “hustle robot.”
And then just yesterday this scene played out in front of my partly horrified, partly snickering eyes: Our property shares one fence line with an elementary school’s playground and our unconventional schedule leaves my kids home while most are in class. So yesterday afternoon, after their work was finished and they were released into the great outdoors, I caught my boys racing their go-kart along that fence line WAVING (y’all!!!) to the hundred or so children on the other side. All that separated the freedom of my boys to the confinement of the other kids was a pipe fence and a wistful stare. I recognized the look.
“Why is everyone else having all the fun? Why am I stuck behind this fence? Must be nice.”
But do you see what the second half of that “Meme Mantra” says? “She is still there… inside you… waiting. LET’S GO GET HER!” Let’s go get her… Yeah, let’s!
Let me propose to you as I propose to myself that happiness is okay. Maybe even important. It just might be okay to pursue a little happiness in our lives. Happiness, fun, delight, just a good ‘ole fashioned good time does not stand in opposition to godly joy or discipline. God is the creator of all good things, right? Like laughter and silliness and fun and whatever it is in little boys that makes them want to take a victory lap waving to the kids stuck behind the fence (ok, maybe not that).
There is something about winter that puts us in a receiving posture. The weather on the earth is limiting and inviting us to rest, to soak it in, to reflect. But spring is proactive! We plant, we clean out, we go after things in a different way. Just like we have to hustle for an organized home, a conquered schedule, a fruitful garden, or success in anything, we have to hustle for happiness! We have to plan for it and then go for it! We have to be proactively happy! Nothing worth having simply falls into our laps. Let’s go get it! Let’s go get her!
We have been trained well to name our blessings. We have gratitude journals, and One Thousand Gifts, and have been taught to focus on what we have rather than what we want. It’s the winter’s savoring, reflecting mentality, and it is vital for our spiritual health. We are told in scripture over and over and over (and 10 more “over’s”) to remember and recount the blessings of the Lord. Yes and Amen!
But I am proposing a little something different this Spring. What if we had a “Proactive Happy Challenge?” What if we made a “Hustle for Happiness” list? Do you want out from behind the fence too? Is the grind grinding out your joy? Have you become a hustle robot like me? Y’all, what if we really go get her together?
In the hustle, God has been whispering this to me again and again; “In the midst.” Because that is where life is lived- in the midst. That is where we will find joy- in the midst. That is where community is built and children are raised and marriages are fought for. And listen, that is where God is always found- in the midst. He promises us in Hebrew 13:5, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”
As much as I would like for my hustle for happiness to include Pina Coladas on a tropical beach, a fancy book contract, or my West Texas vegetable garden to miraculously become an English rose garden… I have to be proactively happy in the midst, with today’s limitations and responsibilities accounted for.
(Confession: I am currently failing at this)
So let’s get proactive! Here’s what I am doing and what I am inviting this community into (it would make me really HAPPY for you to join)!!! I have made a master, ever-evolving, “Proactive Happy” list. I have simply written down things I can do to bring real joy, delight, and happiness into my days- in the midst. They are little and big. Some are dreamy, and some are super cheesy. But each of them, when plugged into my day, will bring me a step closer to that crazy girl standing in the sprinkler!
That’s Step One: Make a Master Proactive Happy List of your own.
*Make it possible in the midst (but throw a couple of dreams in there too! “With God all things are possible” Matthew 19:26).
*Make it personal. There is no shame in what puts a smile on your face and what doesn’t (within reason… y’all know what I mean). Happiness isn’t one size fits all. Last week one of my besties told me she was “so excited” about being a chaperone on our kids’ 4 day “6th Grade Tour of Texas” trip. So excited? I felt guilty for about 1.7 seconds because all I could think about was putting my son on that bus and saying, “bu-bye.” Nope. I won’t do it. That hustle is not for me! Not on my list.
*Make it make it something you can do, a place you can go, something you get to eat or drink, a song you can listen to. Make it a verb! “My kids,” or “Jesus,” belong in your gratitude journal. “Watching a movie with my kids,” or “taking a walk with Jesus,” is proactive.
*Lastly, this is not the place for, “having a clean house will make me happy so I’ll write vacuum on the list,” or “I want to lose some weight so this grueling work out that I hate will go on the list.” Those things are disciplines- doing something for a future payoff. And they are important! Do them! But the things on the Master List will be their own payoff!!
Step Two: Plan one Proactive Happy activity a day! Like write it on your planner, put it in your phone, on your to-do list, or wherever you keep up with your schedule. Maybe even text a friend to keep you accountable (Proactive Happy accountability parterres?!?! Fun!!!) Remember, it’ll be a hustle. There are plenty of things we have to do every day that keeps us on the other side of that fence. Make sure you plan one thing a day, in the midst, that takes you closer to that girl up there!!
Step Three: Enjoy it in the midst! When you have made space for a little happiness hustle, don’t forget to fully delight in it while you’re there! If it is as simple at 10 minutes on the porch, or a shower in a quiet house (mine yesterday)!, or turning on your favorite song and rolling the windows down, don’t let it pass you by without staking your claim in that feeling it brings! Remember, these activities are there own pay-off! Be intentional in letting yourself engage right then! For just a moment, put the rest of the world, all the responsibilities, all the hard, all the disappointments or stresses over that fence and jump in the go-kart!
Step Four: Share your Proactive Happy and Celebrate Others! Ok, so for the next 10 days I’m going to share my Proactive Happy activity in the midst on my Instagram and Facebook page using the #proactivehappy! Come on over and see what I’m up to, and then, more importantly, share your #proactivehappy every day too! Invite your tribe in! Get inspiration from each other! Jump in the go-kart together and go get her! And let’s celebrate one another’s hustle! Remember, if a friend is having that Pina colada on that tropical beach and you’re drinking cheap sangria from your bubble bath- her happy can’t steal yours. unless you let it! Comparison may be the highest fence of all.
So who is on board for this Spring hustle? Remember (1) make your list, (2) make your plan-everyday, (3) enjoy it in the midst, and (4) share and celebrate your #proactivehappy ! She is still there… inside you…waiting. LET’S GO GET HER!
I’m not much of a baker. Something about the preciseness of it intimidates me. I’m much more of a “little of this, little of that, add a hunk of butter to the sauce and it will taste great, dance around my kitchen to old Jimmy Buffet” kind of cook. I can host a holiday meal or a summertime cookout for 20 with my eyes closed, but will someone else please bring the pie?
Unfortunately for me, something about baking with our children has been sold to us mothers as holy ground. There are times one of my children will bring home a cookbook from “library day” at school and request that we spend the afternoon making cupcakes that resemble butterflies or unicorns. And though I always consider “losing” that particular library book and forking over the $12 to replace it, I walk to the pantry and try y’all. But, because I’m not a baker, I never have the right ingredients for the unicorn cupcakes. Inevitably, we find what we need for a cobbler, a dump cake, a loaf of banana bread, and the holiness descends anyway. Because the magic is not found in the final product, but in the togetherness…in the journey…with the ingredients we have.
I have learned in my 13 years of motherhood so far, that many will tell you mothering is like the careful art of baking. There is some sort of formula, exact measurements, perfectly timed outcomes, all the while trying to peddle just the tools we need. “It should look, and taste, and feel this way… See, here is the picture.” But time and time again I have gone to the pantry and realized those are not the ingredients I have.
Motherhood, like all of life, is the journey to embrace what we have, while laying what we thought we would have, what others tell us we should have, on the alter over and over- day by day.
I thought I would be living this life and raising these 4 children a stone’s throw from my own mother, just the way she had done. Instead, I have traded the flip-flops of my Floridian youth, for the boots appropriate for planting deep roots in the west Texas desert. I have cried a thousand tears for that dream, and yet… I have cultivated a sisterhood here I would not have known I needed had that expectation been met. There have been seasons when my marriage looked very different than the fairy tale we all want, and yet… the muscles built in prayer during those years have made me a strong intercessor and know what miracles look like. I have children that fit this culture’s mold, and I have children that do not. When the only successes we know how to measure at this moment are in the classroom and on the sports field, so very much goes uncelebrated. Things like kindness, and creativity, and epic forts in the back pasture, and childhood. So I give high fives to the ones on the stage, and I honor the hearts of those who may never be, as I trudge out to admire their fort.
See, I never want to live in the shadow of my expectations, letting them rob the sunlight of my reality. This little unexpected piece of promised land may be thousands of miles away from my mom, but there is no more magical spot on a Fall evening to gather friends around the fire pit, lights twinkling in the trees above. It has my heart and has become my home. And that cowboy of mine? Oh, we will forever go round and round I suppose, but he loves us fierce and what more could “happily ever after” be made of? As for these children of ours, so beautiful, so different, growing so quickly… they will all be just fine because they know how to love big even on the days they strike out. And they know they have a mamma who is not afraid to turn her back on this culture of achievement to celebrate all that makes them unique.
We were not tasked with procuring the “right” ingredients. We might as well rip that shopping list up the moment we say “I do,” the moment our first child is born, and every moment after. I can fret over not having what I need on hand for the unicorn cupcakes- the sparkly life I thought I wanted- or I can lovingly gather the ingredients I have been given to create a life that is so much more delicious. In the end, I have realized mothering is nothing like baking (except for the messy kitchen). There are no precise measurements, perfect tools, or timers set. The only way to count every bit of it as joy is to relinquish the picture, lose the book altogether, and dig into the sweet realness of what you have. So, add a hunk of butter and dance around to old Jimmy Buffet, trusting that God knew the ingredients He gave you. He only asks us to steward them well, Mamma, knowing that the outcome will be a sweet aroma to Him.