A joy filled-heart makes a joy-filled home, because joy flows from the inside out, not the outside in. Joy is a choice, and it is such an easy thing to choose. Why, then, is it also such a hard thing to choose?
There have been so many days when, as twilight fades into the darkness of night and I go about the evening routine, I reflect upon the day gone by and taste the sorrow of wasted time. Joyless days are wasted days. What grace, that God can redeem even what we have chosen to waste.
This is the day that the Lord has made, we will rejoice and be glad in it.
Joy and gladness is a choice. But a joyful home is not made in one decision at the dawn of a new day; a joyful home is when decisions are made, moment by moment, to choose joy instead of something else.
When a mother’s heart beats a joyful rhythm, it changes how her eyes see and how her ears hear. Dirty fingerprints on a newly-cleaned mirror become life’s artwork and the noisy din of little voices becomes life’s music.
Every mother desires a joyful home. So we look and listen and ask the question: what makes a joyful home? Each morning we awake and we know that this is the day that the Lord has made. What does it look like to rejoice and be glad in it? It’s a question every mother asks. It’s a question with many answers, with different answers, and with layers and complexities because people are unique.
What I share here are ten simple reflections from my own days in motherhood, from days of both acute failure and days of abundant grace. Our home knows joy-filled days and joy-less ones alike, and these reflections flow out of both.
1. Fill the home with laughter. Be as consistent with joy as with discipline. Believe that laughter is as important for our children as proper nutrition. Though joy certainly doesn’t require laughter, there is something truly life-giving about choosing to laugh, and laughing often.
2. Realize a mother’s power in her home. In so many of the ordinary, everyday moments of life, a mother has the power to change the tone and, in but a moment, create a new, joyful atmosphere. Sometimes in times of tension, anger, fighting, and sin, a mother is given that powerful moment of grace where she chooses joy and is, in an instant, able to re-set the entire home. Teeth brushing, bedtime, mealtime, leaving for school, family worship--moments in everyday life that can all too easily evolve into something other than joyful. A mother has the power, in every one of those moments, to re-set the family, to change the tone, to choose joy.
3. Remember that work is a good gift. It’s easy to look around the home at the piles of laundry, the sink of dirty dishes, and the unending domestic chores and forget that working hard is a gift. Before anything in this world broke, before there was sin, there was work. And it was good. Sometimes a simple shift in perspective is powerful. Joy in our labor comes when we remember that the ‘To Do’ list in front of us is not a drudgery, but a good gift.
4. Read God’s word as a family every day. Make family worship as much a part of the daily routine as eating and sleeping. This isn’t magical but it is powerful. Reading God’s word and praying together as a family brings grace and joy, and it cultivates hearts that want to choose joy. When there have been days or seasons of failure in family worship, seek grace and start again.
5. Show affection continually. Hug little ones. Cradle chubby cheeks. Gaze into small faces and sparkling eyes. Kiss tiny noses. Hold hands. Do all of these things as often as possible. Joy is so much easier to choose when we’re hugging and holding the little people that we love.
6. Celebrate the ordinary days. Every day should be joy-filled, not just special days. Light candles for dinner. Play music. Set the table to look pretty even when dinner is only grilled cheese and sliced vegetables. Celebrate not only special occasions, but all of life.
7. Play. A while back I listened to a sermon about parenting, and one of the preacher’s points was simply this: make your home a fun place where your kids want to be. It was a striking point because, in the midst of all our right focus on teaching, disciplining, correcting, and nurturing (all essential!), are we cultivating an atmosphere where there is light-hearted, playful joy?
8. Remember that joy is a moment by moment choice. Each day is a new beginning and each moment is a new opportunity to change direction. Joy is a choice in the moment, and a whole day is not ruined because it’s been an ugly, sinful morning. Repentance, grace, and new beginnings can happen at any moment. Throughout each day, we are presented with a choice: joy or something else.
9. Love one another. When we reflect upon what makes a joyful home, one thing is quickly apparent: joy is not disconnected from the other fruit of the Spirit. Where there is joy, there is usually kindness, gentleness, patience, and love. Show love. Speak words of love often. Love one another, and joy will often follow close behind.
10. Pursue the One who gives joy. God gives abundantly to those who ask. In all the moments of choice, when it’s easier or more natural to choose something else, we ought to ask for help. “Father, you say that in your glorious presence there is fullness of joy. Would you supply where I lack? Would you give grace to choose what is right? In this moment, would you help me choose joy?”
A joy-filled home is a life-giving home. Tomorrow a new day begins, a day that the Lord has made. In the moments of choice, will we choose joy?