I’m not sure it’s possible to stand without letting your toes touch the ground, but as I poured my coffee this morning, I tried. In my drowsy state, I had forgotten our kitchen was destroyed, down to unsafe, dirty subfloor; I had forgotten to wear my shoes. We had capped off a challenging month of unexpected caretaking, travel and the loss of a loved one with a leaky kitchen faucet that had seemed benign, but wasn’t. So we waded through demolition, remediation and abatement while anxiously awaiting repairs that kept getting pushed back.
This isn’t how I’d envisioned our fall going. With two children in school this year, I craved organization and order; I wanted to enable them to shine. That’s not the way it happened, and I struggled to free myself from the weight of it.
Noticing goodness is noble, infinitely useful, and worth the struggle, but it rarely happens by accident. It must be sought out, captured, and held to the light, lest the darkness crowd it out.
Despite desperately wanting to embody Romans 12:9, to “hate what is evil and cling to what is good,” I find it can be difficult to accomplish when the good doesn’t always shout as loudly. I’ve noticed six distractions that can crowd out goodness:
Whether it’s a temporary sickness or unexpected home repair, or something more long-term, like chronic pain, loss, financial distress or living in a place you don’t love, circumstance can cloud our vision. You may find it helpful to give yourself permission to acknowledge the difficulty of your situation. Remind yourself that your circumstance, no matter how difficult, is not defining; it does not reflect the whole of your life. Instead of trying to convince yourself that it isn’t that bad, look for the good hiding in the midst of it. Notice the great neighbor who lives by your too-small house, or the empowering way it feels like it’s you and your husband against the world when you’re working with a too-tight budget and paying down debt. Difficulty can only block the good if you let it.
My five and seven-year-old daughters spout off, “Comparison is the thief of joy” to each other all the time. While history can’t decide whether to attribute that quote to Teddy Roosevelt or Dwight Edwards, no one can deny its wisdom. When we compare what we have, how we look, our children or our homes to others’, we shift our focus from gratitude, and it’s a slippery slope to envy. If we are envious of others, we are unable to love them well.
It’s sneaky, isn’t it? Social media isn’t inherently good or bad, and it helps us keep up with friends and family. But most of us showcase our highlight reel on Facebook and Instagram, leaving the real, raw footage on the dirty floors of our actual lives. Of course there’s nothing wrong with that, right? We’re noticing the good! But looking at only the good of our friends’ lives deceives us. When I find myself wondering “how she does it,” or silently begrudging my friends the good things in their lives, or feeling sorry for myself based on what I’ve seen on Facebook, I know it’s time to take a break from the screen and plug back into my own full, messy life. There is real joy there, but if I’m not fully present, it can be easy to miss.
Though we try hard to build margin into our life, like goodness, it will not fight for itself. It must be defended. People will take what we give them. Of course we ought to be generous with our time. We ought to give good gifts to our children. But if you’re feeling overwhelmed and rushed most of the time; if you can’t find the time for a family meal; if everyone is tired and on edge, consider that the greatest gift you may be able to give in this season is the gift of a free evening. Stepping back and saying no can give us the breathing room we need to notice the good that is already here.
Ambition isn’t an enemy. It isn’t wrong to work toward a debt-free life, a bigger house, a better job or an easier time. I’ve found, though, that focusing on the future can rob me of the goodness present in the now. If I am overly focused on a time when I will get consistent sleep, I might miss my last baby’s babyhood. If I consume myself with thoughts of what I will do after this season of motherhood, I might miss it all together. Goals are useful and worthwhile, but I practice naming what I’m grateful for, out loud, to remind myself of all we’ve already got.
Anxiety seems to be a natural companion to motherhood, and it can blind us. Maybe you’re afraid of something happening to your children or husband; maybe you’re afraid of what others might think of your home or your parenting choices. There is no shortage of predatory thoughts capable of keeping us up at night. But the fear of something going wrong can choke out what is actually here, what is already right. Practice turning your fear to faith. When you find your mind venturing to worry, turn your thoughts over to prayer. Acknowledge them to God, and let them go.
Today I carried warm casserole dishes out of my destroyed kitchen and shared them with the beautiful women at MOPS. Goodness came out of the mess. It always does.
Have you allowed these distractions to shield your eyes and your heart from the goodness of the season? What can you do today to enjoy the goodness of life?