My new tagline is “organize your attitude,” because I think our own mindset as moms is crucial in our homes. This theme fits well here, too, because an organized attitude is at the root of having a convivial home.
Charlotte Mason said that fully 1/3 of our children’s curriculum is atmosphere, and though candles and art on the wall are nice touches, I believe that it is our own attitudes as we go about our business that creates the atmosphere our kids grow up in. Mom sets the tone, whether we like it or not.
We feel the weight of responsibility in educating our children. We feel the pressure of giving each one what they require for both mind and body. We feel the tension of keeping house while allowing the house to be used.
Are we going to add, on top of that, the burden of a requirement to bear it all cheerfully?
That is how I felt when I was first convicted of my stinky attitude and listlessness. I didn’t want to face up to what I knew was true: I was responsible for my attitude. I told my children to change theirs. I told them they weren’t obeying all the way if they weren’t obeying with a good attitude.
Oh botheration. That applied to me, too.
So, I wanted to share the three keys I found to overcoming my listlessness and my grumpiness. It’s not that I am not never grouchy, of course, but it is no longer (or, much less often) characteristic of my attitude and when I start falling off that cliff, I know the handholds to reach for to climb back up to the right path.
These are those handholds.
Attitude Organizer #1: The Fruit of the Spirit
We know them, right?
Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.
They summarize exactly what our attitudes should be. If you want to organize your attitude, you choose one of these attitudes to put on.
It is a daunting list. We can’t nail down a single one of them, much less all seven.
But growing in them is sanctification, which is God’s will for us.
“For this is the will of God, your sanctification.” I Thessalonians 4:3
This is really what it’s all about: opportunities to exercise, to practice, these virtues. We mortify our fleshly responses and choose to obey instead. That is organizing our attitude.
You don’t have to wallow in whatever comes naturally in order to be real and authentic. Being an authentic follower of Jesus results in us choosing His mind rather than our own, His glory rather than our own pride.
And, it is only because of Jesus that we can choose the right mindset in the first place.
“But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life.” Romans 6:22
Jesus pours out His Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit brings the fruit with Him. These are not responses we have to gin up on our own, because we can’t – that is faking and will wear us down. These are responses given to us by grace that we can walk in and grow up into.
God gives His grace and Holy Spirit only to those who pray continually and groan inwardly, asking God for these gifts and thanking Him for them. – Heidelberg catechism
Asking for the fruit of the Spirit is a prayer God will answer. And that is how we get the grace in the middle of the muddle to do the right thing.
Attitude Organizer #2: Providence
One key concept that helped me align my attitude with truth was realizing that God’s Providence was a truth I could rest in. That is, not rest as in sit back, do nothing, and hope vaguely for the best. But rather one reason my attitude was wound so tight and tense was that I thought that parenting and educating my children meant that it was all on me. How could it both be true that I could do well or I could mess it up and be true that God is in control and will work His purposes with or without me?
Again, the words of the Heidelberg catechism resonated with me:
How does the knowledge of God’s Providence comfort you?
That I am not my own, but belong, body and soul,
in life and in death,
to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ.
He has fully paid for all my sins
with His precious blood and set me free
from the tyranny of the devil.
He also watches over me in such a way that not a hair can fall from my head without the will of my Father in Heaven.
In fact, all things must work together for my salvation. Because I belong to Him, Christ, by His Holy Spirit assures me of eternal life and makes me wholeheartedly willing and ready from now on to live for Him.
My children, my home, my responsibilities, are given to me as a way to exercise gratitude and faithful stewardship, and God is working through them to grow me and through me to grow them. If I start making it about results other than responding in faith to what is in front of me, I’ve gotten off track. The work is mine, the results are God’s. I have to say, “I will do what I know I should do and I trust God to do whatever He wants with that.” How things pan out and how situations unfold is God’s gig. I don’t earn outcome 1 or outcome 2 based on my work. I do reap what I sow, but all of it is leading to further repentance and dependence. Because that’s God’s will for our lives.
To organize your attitude is to live in light of this truth.
How does the knowledge of God’s Providence comfort you?
We can be patient when things go against us,
grateful when things go well
and for the future we can have a bright hope
that nothing can separate us from God’s love.
All creatures are so completely in His hand
that without His will they can neither
move or be moved.
Attitude Organizer #3: Gratitude
The Heidelberg has gratitude as a key focus throughout. Come to think of it, so does Scripture.
“And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.”Colossians 3:15
God’s people giving thanks occurs consistently throughout both Old and New Testaments. It is a consistent theme.
Gratitude lifts us up out of ourselves. It gives us perspective, it forces us to not take ourselves seriously or think we are the focal point ourselves. It moves the focus to God as our source of all things. We can give thanks and acknowledge that He knows what He’s doing, even if we don’t – it’s an act of trust and faith. It builds trust and faith.
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”Philippians 4:6
Thanksgiving is to be our motivator, our underlying posture and attitude, and our response.
“Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!”Romans 7:25
Trust, gratitude, & sanctification
We need to embrace all three truths if we are to change our anxious and grumbling hearts.
There isn’t faking involved, but there is humility and repentance.
Yes, you can actually change your attitude by deliberately and intentionally changing your thoughts – that’s something we have a responsibility to do. When what we feel or think does not align with God’s revealed will for our lives (which is gratitude), the only obedient option we have is to repent, to change them with the help of the Holy Spirit.
The real key to being organized is your mindset. Being organized is about being prepared, about knowing what you need, knowing where things are, knowing what must be done and when. So, organization starts in our minds.
Anxiety is worrying about the future, worrying about what must be done. Laziness is not caring at all. Organization seeks to find that middle ground that is not controlling and yet is ready.
On top of that, our attitude, our mindset, is a thing that itself needs to be organized. That is, we have to compose our feelings, control our actions, and direct our attention. Organizing our attitudes is about putting our thoughts in the right place, just like organizing a closet is putting items in their right place. If there isn’t a “right place” for a particular thought or emotion or idea, it needs to be decluttered. That’s what it is to organize your attitude.
As Elisabeth Elliot says in Let Me Be a Woman:
The way you keep your house, the way you organize your time, the care you take in your personal appearance, the things you spend your money on, all speak loudly about what you believe. The beauty of Thy peace shines forth in an ordered life. A disordered life speaks loudly of disorder in the soul.
Our inner lives and our outer lives are not two disparate and unrelated things. One affects the other. Outer chaos creates stress and confusion. Inner chaos works itself out in how we live our lives. Fixing either kind of disorder is the project of a lifetime, not the project of a day, of a weekend, or of a month. Organizing our attitudes is something we must continually be doing.
After all, seeing disorder, repenting of it, fixing it, and learning what to do instead is sanctification. Organizing the house can teach us about organizing our souls – it’s something needing to be done over and over again, because unless tended to, everything in this world tends toward disorder.
We want a house zapped with order, but even if we got that wish, it wouldn’t stay that way for long unless we change our habits, our approach to life.
We want a life and a soul zapped with holiness, but we don’t get that wish until the Last Day. Until then, God promises gradual change – sanctification. So we can work out that gradual change internally, relationally, and even domestically.
An organized attitude isn’t faking a smile.
An organized attitude isn’t faking a smile or grinning and bearing life. It’s constantly reminding ourselves of truth and not panicking when we notice we sin, and also not ignoring it, but rather repenting of it, receiving forgiveness, and gratefully pressing on to do what we called to do. To organize your attitude is to bring your thoughts into alignment with God’s Word, every day, every situation, every time.
Much of repenting is noticing that we’re thinking wrong things or feeling wrong things, confess it to God, and ask Him to change our hearts and renew our minds. That’s not a totally passive thing. We don’t get zapped, we get given the strength to choose the right over the wrong, to choose the true over the false.
To control our thoughts, we must first simply be aware of our thoughts. Only then will it be POSSIBLE to notice and direct and direct them. Just because we think something doesn’t mean it’s true or necessary or good or right – we have the ability to stop, notice, and reject a thought or change a thought. Not only do we have that ability, we have that responsibility. This is what it is to “set” our minds on things above and to meditate – it’s to stop simply thinking whatever default ideas pop into our heads and actively direct our thoughts to truth.
Have you realized that most of your unhappiness in life is due to the fact that you are listening to yourself instead of talking to yourself?…You must turn on yourself, upbraid yourself, condemn yourself, exhort yourself, and say to yourself: ‘Hope thou in God’– instead of muttering in this depressed, unhappy way. And then you must go on to remind yourself of God, Who God is, and what God is and what God has done, and what God has pledged Himself to do.
Today, be aware of your thoughts and pray that the Holy Spirit will renew your mind and give you both gratitude and grace to press on in the good work God has called you to do.
Organize your attitude.