<<I long for joy and peace in our home but most of the time it feels like me trying to manage conflict (poorly).>>
I had a quote, written on the face of a card, on my fridge for many years. It said:
"Peace. It doesn't mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble, or hard work. It means to be in the midst of those things and still be calm in your heart."
With four children there will be conflict. :-) There will be noise and trouble and hard work. How you approach those things makes all the difference.
Take a deep breath.
Look for moments in the day that are good--especially the ordinary moments. Pause and appreciate them when you see them. Let them set the mood for how you move forward. Listen for pleasing sounds. A giggle. A child's breath. Your own heartbeat. Some music. Close your eyes, notice and appreciate those sounds. Find the ones that make you smile. Let your smile soften your mood.
When I first got together with Doug, he frowned a lot, and he was kind of an unhappy guy. People were prickly around him. One afternoon, after looking at his expression, I said to him "I think you should smile more. You're frowning." "Am I?" he questioned. He was frowning, and he didn't even realize it. I had read that smiling affects our body chemistry for the better. In that moment, he kind of made fun of me and smiled a creepy, big smile. Whenever he saw me for a little while after, he would smile at me this way. But what I didn't know until he told me later, was that when he was on his own, he was paying closer attention to his expression, and he was actively trying to remember to soften and relax his face, and, when the moment seemed right, smile more. Then, one day he came to me and said "I think you were right! I've been trying to smile more and I feel better!" I had noticed that his spirit seemed to perk up. Over time, I also noticed that people seemed to warm up to him more too. I love to see his smile. He has the best smile and laugh of anyone I know, so I was pretty thrilled to see more of it. :-)
<<I feel like I just looked up and saw four kids in my living room and now I'm trying (and mostly failing) to meet their very different needs and personalities. I long for joy and peace in our home>>
When you look at your children, see *them*, not the ideas of peace, joy, success or failure. Notice what your children are engaged in. Join them when you can. If one of your children is cutting paper, quietly join in, even if only for a moment. When another child is playing Lego on the floor, get down there and put a few pieces together with her. One girl is drawing, do some doodles. One girl is playing Minecraft, notice what she's building. Ask her about it (if your question doesn't interrupt her). As you join your children you will begin to get a sense for what they enjoy. Build on what you learn about them.
Again, there will be some conflict, and there will be times when you don't get it right. See those moments, learn from them, and then look toward where you hope to go. Whenever I'm driving on unfamiliar roads, I tend to look at the road right in front of the car. The twists and turns come up so quick, and I find that my grip on the wheel tightens and my heart races. I panic until I remember to look at the horizon. It's so remarkable how much more easy driving becomes when I take in a wider view of where I want to go. Take in a wide view of where you want to go, making little adjustments as necessary. It'll feel less frantic and less like you're at the mercy of every little bump or turn that suddenly appears. The ease and confidence that will gradually come will make for a smoother ride, for you and for those lovely little passengers you've been gifted to travel this journey with. :-)