A few weeks ago, I was blessed to have the opportunity to attend a retreat. One of the talks focused on joy. All of the mothers sitting there, most of us on our third cup of coffee that morning, seemed to heave a communal sigh, because let us be honest—it is often difficult to find joy in motherhood. In the little menial tasks that we struggle with daily (with little thanks from those whom we serve), the struggle to do our work with a smile is not an easy matter. The doctor giving the talk shared a story about the father of an Olympic trainee. He was speaking to his daughter, who was grumbling about having to go to morning practice. One morning, while he was handing her a water bottle on her way out the door, he told her, “You have all of this work you have to do today to train, why not do it with joy?”
Indeed. Why not?
Every day there are so many responsibilities we mothers do not have a choice about. We must feed our children, give them proper medical care, provide shelter, help them with their homework, and the list goes on and on. In our vocation of motherhood that the Lord has called us to, we have this work that we are going to do every day, so why not make the decision to do it with joy? We can gripe and grumble (although it may only be silently in our hearts), but why not decide to do it in the best way possible? Joy is one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit, and as such, it is a gift that we receive, but which also requires an active decision that we must make every day. It is not a magic potion that is going to drift down from the sky, but rather an offering from our Lord that we can choose to accept or reject. We must actively participate with the Holy Spirit to make this gift active in our hearts and in the world today.
I have noticed that often the best examples of joy come from those who have little reason to rejoice. This is seen in the lives of many of the saints, like St. Gianna Molla. Told by doctors that she could choose to save her own life or the life of her unborn child, she made it clear that she wanted her child to live, and she died seven days after giving birth to her fourth child. She said, The secret of happiness [joy] is to live moment by moment and to thank God for all that he, in his goodness, sends to us day after day.
It is easy to thank God and be pleasant when everything is going our way, but when the kids are in bad moods and grumbling at me, it shows the true work of the Holy Spirit when I smile despite everyone else’s mood. Lord, help me always to remember to choose joy!