BLOG site of Amy R. Maxwell

I am the wife of B.J. Maxwell (married August of 1997) and mother of our four adopted children.
I am blessed with the awesome privilege to care for & love my husband, invest in & love our children, and keep our home.
May I steward these gifts well, for the glory and praise of Christ Jesus our precious Lord & Savior!

Jesus, Jesus, Jesus . . . sweetest name I know!

Friday, September 02, 2011

Fighting for Lasting JOY in Motherhood

Does your good or bad "performance" as a mother make or break your joy?

Do you think if your kids were more obedient, kind, and helpful – or, perhaps more like someone else’s kids... then you would be joyful?

Do you think if your house was bigger, more organized, and cleaner – or, your furniture and carpet had fewer stains– or, if you lived in a better neighborhood... then you would be joyful?

What if you had more help from your husband or grandparents…then you would be joyful?

How about more self-discipline and self-control …would you then be joyful?

What about your self-image . . . Would more clothes, another pair of shoes, or fitting into a smaller size make you more joyful?

Or what about the approval of others? Is your joy made complete when you have finally won over their approval?

If it weren't for crazy hormones or feeling sick all the time . . . would you then be more joyful?

And personally, as I sit here in my knee length capri pants, all eyes on me, sharing this devotional on JOY . . . I am wondering if I would be more joyful if I had time to shave my legs this morning! But instead of wearing long pants I would rather let the glory of my hairy legs shine forth than be drenched in sweat because I am 35 years old, in the middle of menopause, and enduring HOT flashes in this 100+ degree Memphis heat!!!!!!
(okay, breathe . . . smile . . .)
Apparently, I'm tempted to think that smooth legs and cooler temps are my route to eternal joyful bliss!


But, we must answer a resounding “no” to each of these questions, even though everything within us wants to (and has) answered “yes”. We must realize that true and lasting JOY comes from God alone. JOY is from Him and through Him and a response to Him in motherhood and all of life.

In the book, Feminine Appeal: Seven Virtues of a Godly Wife & Mother (by Carolyn Mahaney), she addresses this very issue.
“Motherhood can be both exhilarating and exasperating. It can present us with a delightful experience in one moment and a baffling encounter the next. There are days when we can't imaging doing anything more rewarding. The we have days when caring for our children feels anything BUT significant . . . Mothering includes a vast and varying range of experiences that produce inconsistent feelings and conflicting emotions. However, our perspective on motherhood should NOT be defined by our diverse experiences and fluctuating emotions. Rather, we must discover God's view and estimation. And Titus 2 calls us to love our children.

Although many mothers are committed to caring sacrificially for their children, they sometimes neglect to ENJOY them. They fulfill the responsibilities of motherhood but overlook the pleasures. We are called to delight in our children.

Because mothering requires constant sacrifice, the temptations to resentment, complaining, and self-pity are always close at hand. But such selfishness will quickly sap the strength of our love for our children. As mothers, we have a choice. We can either resent the challenges and demands that accompany motherhood and persist in our selfishness, or we can draw from God's grace and receive His help to cheerfully lay down our lives for our children.

But what if you have lost your smile? How do you find renewed joy to sacrificially serve and tenderly love your children? Our only genuine source of refreshment comes from God. In Him alone do we acquire fresh strength to carry out this enormous task of mothering.”

God ALONE is the source of ALL JOY!
“You will make known to me the path of life; Your presence is fullness of JOY; In Your right hand there are pleasures forever.” Psalm 16:11

One way that God graciously pours JOY into our lives is through His Holy Word. We can be JOYFUL mothers by loving and knowing the Word of God . . . by delighting in His precepts.
“Your testimonies also are my delight; they are my counselors . . . I shall delight in Your commandments, which I love and I shall lift up my hands to Your commandments, which I love . . . How sweet are Your words to my taste! Yes, sweeter than honey to my mouth.” Psalm 119:24, 47-48, 10

Once our hearts are captivated by the Word, our hearts are easily drawn to obedience to His Word. And through obedience, God promises full JOY. Not just JOY on Sunday mornings or in the extraordinary events of life . . . full JOY – in all of life, even in the lonely and exasperating moments of motherhood, in disappointing marriages, or even cancer. God, the giver of ALL good gifts, promises JOY when we abide in Him and keep His commandments.
“If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father's commandments and abide in His love. These things I have spoken to you so that My JOY may be in you, and that your JOY may be made FULL.” John 15:10-11

So, as mothers we choose JOY by loving and obeying God's Word. We understand, and therefore teach our children, that this world, though it appears to have everything, has nothing. Through delighting in His Word, we grasp the truth that the JOY this world offers is not true and lasting JOY.
“Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever.” I John 2:15-17

I found a great quote in the book, World-Proof Your Kids: Raising Children Unstained by the World (by Tim Sisemore), regarding JOY through obedience. I especially like the analogy Tim uses to paint a picture of what we THINK is true JOY & happiness.
“I was surprised by the amount of unhappiness I witnessed at this alleged haven of joy; but in another way, I was not. Disney World is the epitome of what the world says should make us happy. Everything there cries out to enjoy oneself, to indulge, experience, and escape the doldrums of day-to-day life. It would be the perfect place to fulfill the pursuit of happiness if current ideas of happiness are correct. Scripture, of course, teaches us they are not.

The desire for happiness is universal:
- Seeking happiness is assumed right according to the United States Declaration of Independence
- Often we are taught it is not part of the routine of life – thus “live for the weekend!”

J.I. Packer sees this trend among believers in what he calls, 'hot tub religion'. He observes that it misses the mark as 'the paradoxical truth is to seek pleasure, comfort, and happiness is to guarantee that you will miss them all.' he concludes that joy does not depend on pleasure, concurring with Ecclesiastes 2:1-11 that pleasure-seeking brings only boredom and disgust. Pleasures themselves serve as pointers to God and are good, but the problem arises when they are viewed as ends of themselves and supplant the deeper Christian virtue of joy.

Obedience brings joy . . . We learn that enjoying God means knowing He is in control and accomplishing His purposes regardless of the ups and downs of our lives. Joy then in rooted in an unchanging God, not transient circumstances. Yet, we will not grow in the joy of God if we do not realize it is in him our happiness lies. We must surrender pursuit of earthly pleasures and the distorted theologies that tell us God is good only because he multiplies our earthly entertainments. We must be directed to God as the true Fount of joy, and guide our children to this knowledge as well. And this means teaching them the vanity of chasing earthly pleasures - in our words and in our lives . . .
It begins with exposing the falsehoods of the Disneyland approach to happiness, and ends in aiming our children to the Fount of every blessing to find the true joy the Spirit gives.”

In our current Titus Tuesday book, Spiritual Mothering: The Titus 2 Model for Women Mentoring Women (by Susan Hunt), we were exhorted with the following:
“Women must pursue holiness, not happiness. The pursuit of happiness leads to emptiness but in God's economy, the pursuit of holiness leads to real and lasting happiness (and joy).”

In Jeremiah Burroughs, The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment, he says:
“Christian contentment is that sweet, inward, quiet, gracious frame of spirit, which freely submits to and delights in God's wise and fatherly disposal in every condition.”

True JOY and contentment is found in God, our Heavenly Father, alone. We either choose despair and discontentment with His will, or as Karolina Sandell-Berg wrote in her hymn, Day by Day,
“Trusting in my Father's wise bestowment, I've no cause for worry or for fear. He whose heart is kind beyond all measure, gives unto each day what He deems best.”

Mothers, we need to be reminded of the awesome responsibility that God has given to us. When we respond to the high calling of motherhood with passion, submission, and JOY, the rewards are far greater than any we could ever gain outside of that calling. Indeed, is is a JOY and a privilege to steward and train such precious gifts given to us by the Creator and Sustainer of the universe. We were chosen by God for this amazing and wonderful task.

Being a mom is more than being a cook, housekeeper, teacher, chauffeur, counselor, doctor, disciplinarian, etc. (just to name a few). It's about training in righteousness, upholding the Word, planting seeds of great hope, faith, and love, and most of all – it's about pointing our children to Christ Jesus – our greatest JOY, the Word that became flesh and dwelt among us! There is no greater calling! . . . So, we fight for true and lasting JOY in motherhood - even when we don't feel like it.

May you be encouraged and exhorted by the following quote from Lydia Brownback's book, Joy: a godly woman's adornment:
“God created us for joy, so when joy is absent for long seasons there are bound to be physical effects. A joyless woman is living counter to her design. That's why we need to cultivate joy the same way we take care to get enough sleep and to eat right. To cultivate joy is to practice good stewardship, not only of our spirit but also of our body . . . So we cultivate joy by clinging to God in times of sorrow and by repenting of all known sin in our lives. Along with these we fix our minds on God and pour ourselves into discovering who He is. The more we know Him, the more JOYFUL we will be as the wonders of His character are increasingly revealed to us. Joy is not only a gift but also a responsibility.”

Written by, Amy Maxwell 2011
Blessed to train up and invest fruits of joy, hope, faith, and love in . . .
Lydia Grace, Byron Dacus, and Abigail Faith