Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Overcoming Discouragement

Discouragement: that which destroys or abates courage; the act of deterring from an undertaking.

"Evil examples are great discouragements to virtue." Noah Webster, 1928 Dictionary

Discouragement is a natural part of life, but how in the world can it be used? Some people look at life as a story unfolding, and when discouragement comes along, they are rather amused by it. They use it is part of their story. They view it as a challenge, or an obstacle that they have to find a way to remove.

Other people are bewildered by discouragement, feel trapped, and do not know what to do with it.
Table Scene from Country Living Magazine
Creating a beautiful spot in the home helps you recover from discourgement.

Growing food or flowers is an interesting way to learn about overcoming discouragement. Anticipating discouragement, some gardenners put three seeds in every
 hole that is dug: one to grow, one to get eaten by pests, and a third one to die.  We did this with our string beans, tomatoes, green peppers, lettuce  and corn, but this year ALL of them grew into perfect vegetables. Having several interests in your life, from sewing, to reading, or entertaining, can prevent the spoilers from taking away your enthusiasm, and discouraging you.

 The first few times we planted a garden, nothing much happened and we were not at all impressed by it. Then someone told us that the first year, a garden sleeps. The second year, it creeps, and the third year, it leaps.  Each time it is planted, the soil is built up a little more and nutrients are added. 

Then, there is manure. Manure is unpleasant, but it enriches soil when it is worked into the dirt and allowed some time to develop and  provide important nutrients. The farmer has to decide what kind of manure it is. Some manure is just straight from the animal, but other manure is mixed with straw or hay or wood shavings from the pen where it sleeps. That alters the properties of the manure and determines how much should be put in the garden soil.
Pretty Dining Table With Roses, from Country Living Magazine
Taking time to set a pretty table is good way to keep discouragement away.

Sometimes homemakers are attacked by people around them who want to discourage them. The first year at home, it might not look like there is much going on, because, like the garden, it takes a while to develop the routine and establish yourself.  The second year, things may be a little more noticeable, as you have made a little more progress in the things that matter to you at home. The following years, your homemaking has developed a foundation and a routine that your family has gotten accustomed to.  Your steady adherance to your duties is showing results.

Discouragers are blind to the truth around them. They can see no purpose in your responsibilities at home, and cannot even see obvious results, such as a clean home, good smells coming from the kitchen, an atmosphere of peace, and a beautifully arranged home. The discourager is listening to voices outside the home that say homemaking is not worthwhile.  They begin to doubt that your life as a homemaker and caregiver has any value. Discouragers often have a pre-conceived idea of what homemaking is all about, and expect perfection. They are often intolerant to dishes piled in the sink or laundry not finished, and they will not understand the many interruptions in the life of the homemaker.

 Sometimes jealousy is at the root of remarks aimed to discourage you. Sometimes the love of money is the root of the discouraging comments. Other times, peer-pleasing is the motivation.  You have stopped following the trends of the prevailing culture, and it makes other people uncomfortable. Or, someone  may be genuinely afraid that you will lose every material belonging and end up wandering alone with no food, no friends, and no fruits of your labors at home.

Discouragement can also come in the form of failed tasks or having your work ruined by others.  This is one of the reasons I often refer to the description in Proverbs of the little creatures called the ant, the spider and the cony.  They do not need an overseer or a ruler over them because they have been given direction by their king, the Lord God, who made heaven and earth.  When discouragement comes,in the form of a rain storm or a strong wind, they start over, and rebuild.

Whatever the reason for discouragement, it might be a good idea to treat it the same way as manure, and put it to good use.

 The way to use discouragement is to use it as a signal to do something productive, or reward yourself. If you have just been with someone who has discouraged you, use it as a signal to improve your house in some way.  Put a new vase of roses on your table.  Light a scented candle. Treat yourself to something you like.  Take the children on an outing to look at beautiful houses. Take a basket of gifts to a widow or a lonely person.  Make a package for someone. Watch a favorite movie.  Clean one room in the house. Clean out your china cabinet and organize your tea cups according to color.  Bake a cake. Arrange your children's clothes according to season or color.  Dress up.

 The list does not seem to end, when you are trying to list  good things you can do to respond to the discouragement all around you.  While the other people are wagging their heads and mouthing off, you can create a beautiful guest room and take some pictures for family album.  All these ideas are things that show the fruits of your labors.  "Give her the fruits of her hands," says the Proverbs, referring to the worthy woman.

Even when discouragement is thrown at you, keep doing good. If you are defeated, you are of no use to yourself or anyone. You cannot use your talents or abilities.  This is what you were made for: to glorify God and serve Him. If you allow discouragement in your life, it will defeat you in doing what is right.

Those who fasted were taught by Jesus not to go around with long faces, making everyone around them miserable because they were enduring the hardship of fasting. Instead, they were told to wash and dress in good clothes and be cheerful.

 Discouragment is a lot like fasting, because it can keep you from enjoying your normal life.  Dressing up and starting anew can make a big difference in the way discouragement affects you.  You can use discouragement to create something good, if you will use it as a reminder to do something good. It does not have to be "productive," but it helps if it is pleasant. Just do something pleasant, to counter-act any discouragement.

The things others tell you can be just ridiculous, so look at it like the manure that it is, and get on with your life. You can briefly explain your convictions to a discourager, and if you can see that they want to take you into a long argument, refer back to your original statement and go about your business.

It will take discouragers awhile to understand that being a home maker is partly duty and partly belief. Belief, the Bible says, must be accommpanied by example.  Example brings results, talking does not.  Use discourgement as a building block to something greater.

If someone is constantly worrying you because you are a homemaker, use your computer to write a printable paper about your beliefs. You can hand it to them instead of wearing out your voice and raising your blood pressure.  You could also invite the doubter on a tour of your work at home and say something like, "This is the kitchen, and today, I will have to wash all those dishes and fix x number of meals. " Open the refrigerator and point out that you have to shop for food, and will also be cleaning the refrigerator first. Take them to the laundry room and show them what has to be done there.  Show them the pile of papers that need to be sorted.  Take them to the bathroom and describe what cleaning needs to be done. Show them the appointments on your calender.Take them outside and show them the work that needs to be done there.

Perhaps you could make a special list of things you would like to do or make, and when discouragement seems the most unbearable, do one of those things. Write the list in a beautiful blank book and use a special pen.  Open the beautiful book when your friends have forsaken you or have discouraged you.

David revealed the discouragers in his life, when he wrote the 35th Psalm. He called them "hypocritical mockers," and said they would be brought to shame.

 Each time someone was discouraged, God gave them something to do. Look at Joshua, Moses, Elijah, Nehemiah, and other great people of the Bible who were discouraged. God reminded them of the job they had to do.

 Think of any person you know of, past or present, who overcame discouragemet and accomplished something, and immitate their example in courage. There are many reasons for discouragement. I have mentioned one here. When discouragement is dished up to you, consider it manure, which is useful for growth, if put to work. Use every discouraging comment or action as a signal to produce something of value or do something that has meaning in your life.  The discouragers will see you blossom like a flower  right before their eyes, as they keep shovelling more manure around you.


Anonymous said...

Thank you so much. I have such a heavy heart today, and this is just what I needed to feel encouraged again, and to plan for how to react in future when discouragement comes. I always enjoy your writings, and hope you continue with your good work. I admire your courageous heart!


Anonymous said...

A helpful post on what to do when discouraged.:)

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much sweet Lydia for this encouraging article. Your writing always has much wisdom contained therein. I'm very grateful for your lovely, lovely blog. Love, Linda

Anonymous said...

You are so right: manure needs to be used to make the flowers grow. Discouraging remarks can be a switch to make you do something productive or positive.

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much, Lady Lydia. I needed this. Being in the early stages of pregnancy while nursing a toddler is very hard on me. My family is far away so I have no feminine wisdom to find comfort in and it is getting me down.

(To add to this, I just burnt a perfectly good steak on the stove!)

Yes, this is my first year at home. As I've been focusing on developing our routines I have not had time to furnish the house. My husband and I live simply, buying a few things here and there as we can afford carefully trying not rack up debt along the way. My sister who recently visited commented on how empty it looks. I took pride in keeping my humble dwelling clean and neat but after hearing her innocent comment I began to feel the stirrings of discontentment. I know she is comparing her experience with another sister of mine who had also just recently moved in but had already filled her home with fine furnishings.

You said things may become more noticeable by the second year. You don't know how much those words mean to me! I was about ready to throw in the towel but you have given me hope! My hands are itching to sew some maternity clothes for myself but after that it is time for me to 'clothe' the house with some fun fabrics!

However caring for a toddler doesn't leave me much time to sew. But I remember your earlier advice to elongate our steps to achieve our aims. I will do that, Lady Lydia! Again many thanks from your devoted reader.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this. You really do understand what homemakers go through because you are one! I love the ideas here and will keep them in mind the next time the inevitable comments start.

I find that overall, men are more supportive of my decision to be a homemaker. It is women who are my biggest detractors in this area. One particularly jealous woman has trying to flirt with my husband lately and she is spreading vicious rumors about me. She thought I would be a drop-in babysitter for her child as I am home all day and she figured I have nothing better to do. When she realized that would not be the case, she started being very nasty. It is so distressing, even though my husband has no interest in her whatsoever and has made that clear. If I were less secure, this sort of thing would make me run back to work but I have to trust in God that I am doing the right thing staying home and this, too, shall pass.

I really needed to read something like this post today so I don't get discouraged.

Anonymous said...

This is something that I struggle with sometimes daily with my family. They are all successful business people and I am looked down upon as a homemaker. It hurts my feelings that my sister is praised for making $90k a year yet her children are not taken care of well and mine are doing excellent. I should turn it around and do something nice for them utilizing my homemaking skills. Thank you so much for your encouragement.

Anonymous said...

wha a loveley and inspiring post, you surely do live up to titus 2 standards, the encouragement and advice are so timely, and are printed just in time to pull me up out of the doldrums. it's funny, but not too many women nowadays realize the old ways are the tried and true ways,slly feminists running around trying to do it all, and critizising us who choose the old paths..so what if i dont have a new car every year, etc. my husband is content, my kids are raised by me, and my home is a place they want to come back to, it's clean and orderly, home cooked meals and fellowship, tell me....exactly WHAT i'm missing in the outside world...???

Anonymous said...

Great article! Overccoming discouragement is key in becoming a homemaker. The world is against our choice. Even the current President of the US wants all homemakers to go back to school and then to work. Why won't they see that the work we do in our homes changes the world. We may raise the statesman, who will cure social ills. We may raise a musician, who will write a symphony. We may raise a doctor, who will find the cure for cancer. Or we may simply raise a child, who will be a productive, godly citizen.

Anonymous said...

Can I add knitting to your list of things? I also found that if someone has discouraged me, making something that will be a blessing to them helps....

Lydia said...

To the lady in India who is homeschooling and who wrote about preparation for marriage on her blog: It was a beautiful article. There is no contact information, or I would have emailed you directly.

Lydia said...

Everytime someone says something cutting, give yourself a gift. If it is something to improve your home or your appearance (cloth, shoes) you will have a beautiful home by the end of the month, and the cranky naysayers will have an upset stomach from all their complaining.

Lydia said...

...but,if it is your husband or son giving you a hard time, it is best just to be like Eve in "The Trap"--pick up the trash they throw at you and make the house a better place (just use the manure as a signal to do something good)
Jesus taught this when he said, "Do good unto those that despitefully use you," and "If a man asks you to go with him a mile, go two." It has to be done with a cheerful heart, and not with bitterness, knowing that it is the other people who are in darkness, and you are shining a bright light.

Anonymous said...

I am a grandmother and old enough to be a great grandmother.
During the 1970's when lots of women were leaving the home to go to work, I stayed home with my children and ended up being the "KoolAide and Cookie mom" to all the neighbor kids whose mothers had left home to go to work so they could have new cars, fancy furnishings, the newest fashions and drip with diamonds and gold from the shopping channel on tv.

Each one of those women talked about, criticizied, and even loathed me for not contributing to the family income, for not "finding myself" and staying home with my children even though I took care of their kids until they came home at night well after dark.

I used to feel pretty bad about myself for not contributing to the family income, but I stayed home and tried to make ends meet with home cooked meals, and handmade clothes for our kids and myself. I tried hard to be a good wife and mother.
Sadly within 10 yrs. of this almost every one of my critics were in debt and/or divorced and their kids were scattered.

Thank you so much for being obediant to the Lord and sharing the wisdom the Lord has given you to encourage us and lighten our load. You are a blessing and we are so thankful the Lord has allowed you to be in our lives.

Anonymous said...

You promised us this article & you did deliver! :o) It seems your words have already been a balm to a few weary homemakers, helping to uplift their spirits. I pray many more will ponder what you've written....& bookmark it if necessary! It can serve as a reference on tough days, when so much seems against us.

Anonymous said...

Thanks very much for your great entries. I wonder if you have any experience or thoughts on coping with short or long term illnesses, disabilities or physical ailments during different stages of life which can become discouragements.

Anonymous said...

Lady Lydia,
I have been an avid reader of your blog for some time now and am always encouraged by your wisdom. It is very easy to get discouraged. I have longed for another woman at church to share homemaking talk with but it just doesn't appear to be there. After finding that I homeschool and stay home, the conversation is over before it really began. Getting busy doing something at home or planning something like rearranging the furniture really does help. One day I was feeling really discouraged about this, when my husband came in the door, and said, "Oh,it's good to be home." Wow. He never realized how much I needed that. And it really helped me refocus on why I stay home.

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much, Lady Lydia, for the usual encouraging and uplifting words. Just what i needed to helped plunge into the weekend with my head lifted up. How i pray that many older and wiser women will be an example and speak into our lives like you do. Not many sadly take up the challenge....am thankfully to God for your ministry, such a healing balm...Blessings Barbra.

Also would like to mention that I miss the days when your readers where free to state their identities. There was such a sense of connection, family feeling on the site and you could quickly connect with a reader basing on their comments, may be even visit their page....and begin to follow their blogs...Sadly the anonymity has robbed us of that joy of making more online connection while visiting your blog.

Many thanks for the work that you do.
God Bless,
Barbra, Uganda, East Africa.

Lydia said...

Barbra in Uganda,

For your sake, and others who benefit from it, I may change the policy of linking to your blog. Others who still wish to remain anonymous are perfectly welcome to do so.

It does not matter whether you are well-known or not, your blog can be imitated or vilified somewhere on the web. It is done to discourage you. If you do blog, I would strongly suggest you not post photographs of your children or grandchildren, unless it is a private blog, accessed only by select people.

Anonymous said...

When I had my first baby, I had a next door neighbor, too, who began almost insisting that since I was home, and she had an absorbing business, that I would be watching her son for daycare. It was the oddest thing - I had never had anyone treat me so servantile before!

My husband wondered why I wasn't tempted by the idea of me making a few extra dollars, but I was able to explain why that would not be a good idea, seeing as how I was trying to adjust to nursing a newborn, and her 18mth old was very wild and unruly. She, too, was always put off after this, that I would not do such a *simple* thing for her!!

As I have lived with my husband over the past ten years, and done my best to follow a Godly example of homemaking and child-rearing, he has seen over and over the difference between our family and the families around us, and he thanks me over and over as the years go by.

Anonymous said...

I too had people that kept shooting arrows of discouragement to me especially that first year of homemaking. Our friends had furnished their homes and ours was pretty empty and things did not match etc. We had gotten things used as we could and were not going to add any debt. I am so grateful we did not go out and buy even one piece of new furniture. Our bank account would have suffered and as time went on our taste in furnishing changed and we would have been stuck with things we did not like. Since we paid little and redid those things we learned many lessons in redoing and such. Our children were raised with these things and we did not worry about them as we had little money invested. Many of them are still here and now fit in. They were things choosen one at a time but things we liked and could afford. Later we did get some newer things but things that should last us the rest of our lives. By then we knew what we suited our lifestyle and taste.
We have tried to keep to ourselfs and only a few select friends rather than be subject to rude people that do not know what real friendship is all about it seems.
The home is always an inspiration and when I am down and discouraged I read a few blogs by other homemakers or a good book by a Christian one and they inspire me to try something new in my home. Moving little treasurues from one table to another place for a new look or a new recipe etc. Or thinking of ways I can help someone else with a meal or a visit etc.
I can sooo relate to Anonymous's letter that started out..."I am a Grandmother and...". Yes that was me too! I also am a Grandmother now. But still at home and loving it.
Many of us can relate. Yes my critics are all divorced now. I had other working mothers actually stop just long enough to drop off their children in my yard and speed off in their car yelling they would be back later for their kids!! They just felt since I was home I would take care of them without being asked!! There were some who told me I was stupid for what they called catering to my husband etc! I laughed then...I was only being as nice to him as he was to me!! They thought you should be equal as husband and wife...as in we are the same in every way. We are not and I like the difference in roles and the way God made us so.
It was not easy living on little money but money does not make a home. We never were without what we needed and paid all our bills. We even had money to bless others. What we didn't have were frazeled nerves from trying to juggle work and home and too many outside activities etc. What we did have was was a refuge for our families. A welcoming comfort to our familieis. A haven. In other words a real homey home.
I wish we could live close to other loving homemakers but most of us don't these years. Through this and other blogs we know others are out there and that in itself is a real inspiration when I feel any discouraging thoughts.
Thankyou Lady Lydia for showing us we can do this and you understand where we are coming from and are one of us.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for another interesting, uplifting post, Lady Lydia. I will never see manure the same way again and it will always be a reminder of how to overcome discouragement.

I, too, miss being able to click on a link here to find like-minded bloggers. I have started a blog and I do not post pictures of my children or grandchildren on it.

I am blogging about my efforts to add more feminine clothing to my wardrobe, while struggling with a debilitating health condition. I started sewing again, after many years of not sewing, since the stores here rarely carry pretty skirts, dresses, blouses or nightgowns. Quilting cottons are very expensive here so I shop for fabric on eBay.

My heart goes out especially to the younger women who face such persecution for doing the right thing by taking care of their homes and families. Thank you for encouraging them, in spite of the persecution you yourself go through just by writing your blog.


Anonymous said...

I won't look at manure the same way, either. I will keep pitching it into a better place where it will make some use of itself and make something grow.

Interesting you should bring up the subject of the hecklers and what became of them. Every family that ever ridiculed me for home schooling, had tremendous problems at home with their own children, who eventually married, divorced, remarried, divorced, or brought home numerous problems like drinking and drugs. Those who told me I was living in "a dream world" because I would not join the workforce with other women, had serious problems in their lives, because they reaped what they sowed. They did not plant their feet firmly at home and see to the stability of their families. They let money be their priority. It gave them bitter results.

Anonymous said...

What a lovely inspiring post!

I think being a homemaker is even harder for young women today, since they are so isolated. It can be very lonely when you're the only woman at home in the neighborhood in the daytime.

When my children were young I had the company of a few other stay-at-home mothers who lived on the same street. We'd often meet after afternoon naptime, drink coffee while our children played, and chat. That little bit of social time and "adult talk" left me refreshed and ready to tackle dinner and bedtime. My poor daughter, with a 6-month-old baby, has no friends that stay at home, and her neighborhood is full of work-outside-the-home mothers. It makes me sad.

Anonymous said...

Dear Lady Lydia,
Many thanks for considering opening up of the links. I shall be most obliged, and i think others out there who miss clicking on the linked comments to find like minded people.

I believe there will always be people who want to vilify our work with malicious comments and statements, but that should not stop us from keeping up the family and friendship spirit that comes with open link comments.

Thanks for the advice too, I shall remember to keep my family pictures, children and grandchildren pictures private.

Once again, thank you so much for your dedication to being a true Titus 2:3-5 lady.
Am sure the Lord looks down and smiles at your work:)

Barbra, Uganda

Thank you so much for sharing some privacy tips, will keep them in mind.

Anonymous said...

I see your spirits are up and staying up! May God bless you. Remember who is really behind those naysayers. Lift your head up to the Lord, praise His holy name, and may God bless you for continuing to encourage yourself and in turn others.

Anonymous said...

You can bless your enemies, like Christ commanded, by doing good to them. When you make life better, you are blessing your enemies. That is the way you handle the manure of life.

Anonymous said...

Could you please tell me the artist of the "Girl with daisies" at the top of your posting.

I'd love to put the print in my older girls room.

Thank you!

Anonymous said...

I am catching up on your blog today. I enjoyed this post. I am going to remember that analogy next time someone throws some manure in my path. In fact, I will be seeing a discourager tomorrow, and will keep this all in mind. ~Ann

Lydia said...

The painting is by M. Musselman (and could be a woman who painted it). It appeared on the cover of Modern Pricilla magazine in 1919, and you can get the framed print at Victorian Trading company, here


You might do a web search and get it in a cheaper poster that you can hang or frame yourself.

Lydia said...

The pattern is a Simplicity "ITs So Easy" that I have used throughout this series. I do not think it is available anymore but it has no zipper and no buttons and is easy to make.

Anonymous said...

I am currently enrolled in a Bible Study based on the book Boundaries by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend. I would recommend the book and the Bible study to any woman struggling with criticism and discouragement. A woman walked up to me in the library, saw the book, and told me, "that book changed my life." I agree--it is a powerful tool in understanding both our limits and our responsibilities to others' needs, demands, and criticism.

Elizabeth said...

erxcellent article and you, in fact, listed some thing to do that I had never thought of before in overcoming discouragement.

Thank you so much for your lovely example and thought-filled posts.

Anonymous said...

I'm not a full-time homemaker as I'm a single mom supporting a son in college. However, your blog always inspires me to do more to make my home a haven and sanctuary, and I love this post about not letting others discourage you. We all need to hear that at one time or another, don't we? Thanks so much.