Choose Your Joy

Sometimes you have to do laundry, wash dishes, scrub toilets, change what feels like 500 poopy diapers, forego your own shower to hold a baby, listen to your toddler whine, workout, eat healthy, etc.

There's nothing wrong with any of these activities. Someone has told to do them. You can choose to be moody over it or joyful about it.

The other day, one of my girlfriends was over with her toddler and when he acted out, she said, "choose your joy," and he snapped out of his little whiney, toddler moment. I've thought about it a lot since she came over.

Sometimes, I have to say the same thing to myself. "Choose your joy!"
I'm not always in the mood to take care of my home and heck, even my kids. Sometimes I'm lazy, and I feel like doing nothing. Other days, I get a high off of doing chores and completing tasks. I'm not really sure what causes my mood to be lazy or in the zone, but it happens. There's been days I had a to do list, and I got it all done before noon and owned it. There's also days I am still in pajamas at 4pm with nothing to show for it besides three children that are still alive, breathing, and fed. That is real life.

"You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand." Psalm 16:11

One of the things my mom taught us growing up and still preaches is to STAY in the Word. She's right. You've got to stay in the Word to find your joy. When I complain, I usually instantly catch myself. I'm not going to say this prevents me from complaining, but when I do notice that I'm being whiney or I'm not in the mood to deal with something, I quickly try to find joy and focus on being thankful for all of the blessings I do have. Keeping my focus on the Lord and His plans brings peace and allows me to get through the day. 

In the past, Josh has said that I'm a whiner or complainer. I realize I tend to be more of a pessimistic/negative type person, and I know what a turnoff that is to be around. It is something I have been working on for awhile and staying in the Word helps. Anyway, I am pretty much preaching to myself here and just trying to encourage others that when you are doing your day to day boring things, try to think of it as Kingdom work. When I slow down and realize that God has me doing certain mundane tasks in order to build character and perseverance, it helps me stick it out and surprisingly have joy in the process! I encourage you to do the same!

Dating Your Spouse

Do you date your spouse? I'm not going to lie, I don't like saying "date your spouse" or even calling our outings "dates." It feels like when churchy people say, "I love doing life with you," or "let's fellowship." It's just kind of cheesy to me, but I'm not really sure how else to phrase it other than spending quality time with your spouse.

So, do you do it?
I've found that "dating" each other and having quality alone time together has been a MAJOR benefit to our marriage, so I thought I would share some of the benefits and some of the hardships that come with making quality time with each other a priority.

-It feels like we are young with no responsibilities.
I'm not sure where you're at in life or if you have jobs, kids, commitments, hobbies, but can you think back to when you would break your right arm to see the person you loved? When Josh and I started dating, I was a college student with a part time job, and I remember I would do anything in my power to spend time with him! If I had homework, I slaved on it while I was in classes just to be able to see him afterward. If I had a family commitment, I would ask if he could come along. If I had work, you can bet no matter how tired I was, I had to see him that night. I think you get my drift. Now that we are juggling so many hats, sometimes after the witching hour with kids, it's all I can do to even say hey, how are you doing after the kids go to sleep. A typical night for us involves putting the kids to bed and usually me getting in bed immediately after to catch up on shows or fart around on the computer. Every few nights or so, I feel like I am craving just spending time catching up and talking with no responsibilities.

-It's good to get out and have an adventure or partake in a different activity.
While our typical date night involves dinner and a movie or lately it's felt like it's been family commitments or events, it's so nice to have a spur of the moment date. We catch up, let go of the thought of the kids and usually within 30 minutes or so, I remember a lot of the reasons I fell in love with Josh. I'm not going to lie, it's mayhem to get out the door, but once we leave and start laughing and having fun, I'm like oh yeah, I remember why I like you now!

-It's good to get a break (don't hate).
Some people are going to hate on me for this, but oh well. Being a parent is non-stop whether you work or stay at home. If you work outside the home, you take care of your kids, rush to work, come back home to kids, cook dinner, spend time with kids, baths, dinner, and then you try to get an hour of yourself plus sleep and then start the whole entire thing over again. If you stay at home, you pretty much do the same thing and you're with your kids 24/7 taking care of the home. Neither is better than the other, but let's face it, sometimes a break is nice. Your kids will survive for a few hours and be well taken care of if you have a babysitter you can trust. It also shows Josh that even though I LOVE our kids and would do anything for them, Josh is still a priority in my life and spending time doing things he enjoys is very important to me. When we are at home, my attention is ALWAYS divided. If a baby is crying, I can't fully concentrate on Josh. If Fen is in the room, we can't discuss certain things. Getting away allows me to give him 98% of my attention (the other 2% will always be me concerned about my kids).

-Sometimes it feels like we plan a date on the worst day possible.
Kids get sick. Long days happen. I can't tell you how many times we have had a date planned and about 30 minutes prior, I feel like staying home would be easier. Maybe the kids have been fussy and needed me more that day. Maybe I didn't get to shower and do my makeup, so now I don't feel like going out in public. Maybe I'm just downright tired and wish we could do something when I have more energy. Whatever the reason, these things do happen. Unless my kids are genuinely sick or something is truly wrong, I make myself go. Like I said earlier, usually within 30-45 minutes after I calm down and decompress, I realize I really needed a break, time with Josh, and time to clear my head and just be me.

Sometimes you can't swing paying a babysitter, plus going out to dinner or doing a certain activity. We have had all sorts of dates. Some that were $100, some that were $25 eating at Chipotle, and some that were free. Money is going to be an issue most of the time. If money is tight right now, get creative. I know this sounds cheesy, but there are things you can do and still be "cheap." Maybe you eat at home and just go out for dessert. Maybe friends invite you over for game night and you save that way. Do what you need to do if this is a priority to you. If you have the money and want to splurge, then go do that. It doesn't really matter as long as you're together and not stressing about money. I will say, to me, it's worth saving money to have a date. It's nice to go have a kid free meal and not wipe up after somebody. We are foodies, so usually food is a non negotiable for us. Another thing you can do is ask for restaurant gift cards for your birthday/Christmas and save them for dates. That's the best!

Other than kids being needy, having a bad day, and finances, I can't really think of any other cons. Spending time alone with Josh has been some of my favorite times with him. These days, those moments are few and far between, so I savor them. I also think it's great for our kids to see that we love hanging out with each other as they grow up. If your kids love the person you are leaving them with, then it's double awesome. When I was little, I loved when my parents left us with my grandparents or a sitter. We knew that meant party time, pizza, and a movie!!! Let it be a special treat for your kids!

Last tip of advice that I have heard. Some people do a rotation with other couples. I have heard of 4-5 couples keeping each other's kids while the other couple goes out and take turns so you all get a date. So basically, once a weekend you keep someone else's kids and then you get to go on a date every few weeks. This is awesome if you trust your friends but might be more feasible when the kids are older and at an age where they are all playing and don't need milk and bottles. You don't even really need a group. If you have one couple you can trust, then y'all can keep their kids and they can go out and visa versa. It's just a thought if you want to save some money and have friends who would love to keep your kids. Currently, I wouldn't do this to my friends. It's a little much to ask any of my friends who have 1-2 kids to keep a 3 year old and 5 month old twins....unless your name is Taylor Ann Downing, because she is psycho like that! Love you, Tay.

Hopefully this is helpful and you may start implementing a monthly or bimonthly date! Don't limit yourself to nights. If your kids are easier to leave during the day, then go do something fun during the day and get out for a few hours. My biggest tip is give yourself some grace. If you're not used to doing this, it may be rough the first few times you get out. Sometimes it can be a lot of work getting dinner ready for your kids, writing out emergency numbers, getting your kids ready, etc. It's usually always worth it though once we get out the door! Try it, and let me know how it goes! I try my best to plan and be as efficient as possible so that I'm not frazzled and stressed when we get out the door, which tends to stress Josh out. I try my best to leave with a smile on my face and have a good time (and I always do)! You're probably not reading this, Josh, but if you are, I love you! Bye, Felicia!
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