"The Lord will fight for you, you need only to be still." Exodus 14:14
Joy says: "This verse is the Lord ushering me into his arms as I am not a still person by any stretch of the imagination. I used to feel that this verse was telling me to literally stop moving and I almost resented it. But I have grown to realize that I am to instead just release my burdens and allow myself to be carried."
Tell us a bit about your family, Joy!
Well I must start with my husband Donny. He is so patient -- so, so very patient. I am an impulsive dreamer and he balances my crazy so well. He always points me toward beauty and is the most devoted and beautiful man I have ever met. We have five children; Gracie 10, Brandon 8, Clementine 5, Mabel 4 and Smith 1. A few months ago we moved here to northern Tennessee to a little farmhouse on some acreage with a creek running through and we are doing our best to give our babes a peaceful childhood spent with as much time out in nature as possible. We homeschool and travel the country half of the year photographing families in their homes (I am a photographer) so we have the blessing of giving our children a very hands-on education as well as lots of family time.
You have such creative and thoughtful children, Joy. What's one way you nurture each of their individual characteristics when your hands are so full?
They are all so different, life can get so demanding and time is continually stretched so thin so really the answer to this question is: GRACE ALONE covers all my shortcomings. I am still learning how to really be present with each of them, just like I am still learning how to take care of myself in the process. My oldest, Gracie, she is a bookworm. She is reserved and passionate and loves animals. She is also very much like me in that she is prone to anxiety and really needs alone time to recharge. With her, we go on little dates. We will be side by side but often reading our own book but she knows I am there when she’s ready to talk. With Brandon, his love language is quality time and talking… lots of talking! He always has a billion questions and just needs to be heard, answered and affirmed.
I have to remind myself that this is important and I need to put my phone in a drawer and all my other demands aside and just sit beside him. With the little girls, Clementine and Mabel, they are passionate and love dancing, singing and playing so it’s important whenever possible (or when anxiety in the house is high) that we drop everything, pump the music up loud and just dance it all out. Smith, the baby, well he is incredibly adored around here so it doesn’t take much to make him happy. My biggest challenge with him is just that he wants to be held all the time which limits my ability to be present for the other kids so a good baby carrier has been a must to multitask and not be bitter about all the needs that must be met.
What has surprised you the most about motherhood or yourself as a mom?
Gosh. Well, I never would have imagined I’d have five kids! It sounds like a circus, and yes sometimes it feel like that too, but mostly it just feels safe...like a sweet provision I never knew could be such a harbor.
How would you encourage a young mom who feels inadequate or stretched as a mom?
We are ALL struggling. We all feel like failures. We all carry guilt. And being a mom is just hard. But there are two words that I remember when those dark feelings begin to creep in… Jesus wept. He sits beside us and brings comfort to the weary. I so often apologize to my kids after losing my cool and instead of beating myself up over it I just remind them, “This is why Mommy needs Jesus, too.” Teaching forgiveness and grace and mercy and the release of burdens in the midst of suffering is a beautiful thing.
That's such a good reminder, Joy. What routines and rhythms in your day impact you the most as a mom?
I’ve kinda given up on having consistency. Every day is different for us! With all of my work being travel based it means that one week I am home while the next I am on a trip and the next I am home editing and out of sight. The one consistent thing really to me and the kids is the grace my husband gives us all and his incredible ability to manage the madness. Clean, organic food, fresh air, lots of time around the table, reading together, encouraging silliness and limits on screen time all are helpful in creating a peaceful home environment in the midst of chaos.
You and Donny tag team homeschool, your photography business, and the demands of home life together. What are some practical ways you stay intentional with your kids as a work-from-home mom?
I try to include them in everything I can to grow their hearts toward seeing that the work I do is important. Not just important for providing financially for our family but also important to the families that I am spending time with while I am away from home. We talk a lot about the importance of documenting stories both in written and photographic form. They each have their own camera and I will often find little Polaroids around the house of the things they hold most dear.
I love that, and see the how you're impressing those things on their hearts! What's your ideal day with your kids?
Well, in a dreamworld they would all sleep in 'til 8am! Hah! Instead the little ones are typically up before the sun but that’s okay because it presents an opportunity for quality time with them and we cook breakfast together, they sit on the counter and we talk about their dreams. I’d sit on our porch in the morning and breathe in the cool air with a good book. And as the day began to unfold we’d play in the mud, swing from the big tree in front of our house, splash in the creek catching crawdads and then dance. Lots of dancing. For dinner we’d cook up some crispy bacon from a local farm, make pancakes for the kids, there would be guacamole in abundance, we’d all sit together at the table and when things got a little wild I’d be sure to catch my husband’s eye and smile long and good.
When you feel weak as a mom, what passage of scripture do you turn to the most?
Exodus 14:14, "The Lord will fight for you, you need only to be still."
This verse is the Lord ushering me into his arms as I am not a still person by any stretch of the imagination. I have twenty projects half finished at all times, I seem to never stop moving and it is not uncommon for my husband to just come up and put his arms around me to steady my body and my spirit on a daily basis. I will easily work myself into a serious state of anxiety if I am not attentive to my restlessness. With my mothering I also tend to talk and talk and talk to the point of my children no longer listening and it is in that place that the Lord speaks to me, “Be still… I will fight for you. I will parent for you. Just listen to me and let me hold you.”
I used to feel that this verse was telling me to literally stop moving and I almost resented it. But I have grown to realize that I am to instead just release my burdens and allow myself to be carried. Like a bird in flight, I need to only open my wings and let the Lord lead my direction. It doesn't mean that I stop moving; it means that I am being lead by the One that has my best interest at heart and knows I don’t need to work so hard or fight so hard, I need only to rest for the peace to fill me. This in turn fills my home and children with peace.
If you could offer your kids anything, what are a few things that make it to the top of the list?
I hope they know how treasured they are, to us and to God. I hope they never lose sight of their value and that they can grasp onto Truth when the darkness begins to sweep over them. I hope they pursue their dreams with overflowing passion. I hope they are not knocked down when others do not understand the pursuits that make their hearts sing. I hope they continue to be friends as they grow up and never take one another for granted. I hope they do good, hard things for the glory of God and know that whatever road they choose to travel that they are held in the arms of the Almighty.
Because of grace,