Wednesday 28 June 2023

Joyful Family - Creating a family culture of joy

I realise it is nearly the end of June and I am only now managing to share what my joyful focus has been for this month.  It has been an extremely challenging month for my family because we very sadly lost my dear mother-in-law after a long illness.    Her passing has taken a huge toll on us all and we are really hanging on by the skin of our teeth. It seems therefore, extra poignant that my word focus for June is "Joyful Family."

The Bible tells us in Thessalonians 5:16-18 to "Be joyful always, give thanks in all circumstances."  And I can tell you that it has been very hard to be joyful and thankful this month.  Our family hasn't been very joy filled. 

As many of you know my word for the year this year is "Joyful".  Having a word of the year helps        me to set goals and remain intentional and mindful as the day, weeks and months pass.  I find if I            don't have a focus like this I begin to stagnate and drift aimlessly through the year not achieving            anything, not growing as a person or maturing in my thoughts and actions.  Time seems to pass so        quickly when you are busy with little children, they constantly grow and change and are a visual      reminder that time is passing, so having a focus helps me slow things down, take notice and squeeze    as much juiciness out of life as possible!

May's focus was "joyful body", I confess I didn't make any great changes except from buying some new moisturiser and going for a handful of jogs, but the focus allowed me to think about what changes I want to make for my body and gave me a chance to think about my body, how it feels, what it needs, in order to start making small changes, that add up to big changes.  I have been thinking a lot about food recently, wanting to reduce processed food and eat better and about becoming more physically active, in many ways I haven't felt able to actually make the changes, I needed time to meditate on what a joyful body meant to me. But I am excited to start making actual physical changes now which I'm sure I'll share with you at some point.  I think that some changes we make in life have to happen over the period of many months, maybe even years, undoing habits and re-laying the rails as it were.  Big changes can take time and that's ok.  

So onto June.  This month my focus has been/is "Family".  A couple of weeks ago we enjoyed some quality time together on a much needed family holiday, although it has to be said it wasn't a relaxing holiday and I did come home feeling like I needed a holiday to recover from the holiday! The change was good though and being together for an intense period of time like that helps you understand each other a little better.  I had one moment walking on the beach, chatting with my eldest who is now 11, where I felt like I was walking with a friend.  That was a very encouraging feeling, and gave me hope that one day it won't be all correction and discipline and tolerating their noise and mess. 

Family is very important, one of the most important things in life I believe.  I know that is hard for some people to hear because many families are a disappointment to them or let their members down terribly, but I think it remains true, and I certainly see people who haven't got good family bonds working very hard to create great new families with their own children. 

I feel more and more like we do not live in a very family friendly society.  There is such a push to get women back to work after having babies with the lure of free childcare and the guilt associated with staying home.  I do not believe this is truly about money, I believe this is really about splitting up the family in order to divide a conquer as it were.  A family that is able to spend a lot of time together is a family that can develop, grow and nurture their own values, and family that is split is three or four directions for many hours of the day may result in individuals who take on society's values, or their friend's values, or their work-place's values and these aren't always compatible with the family, or, importantly for me, Christianity. Values such as selflessness, caring for the welfare of others over yourself, being content with what we have and being grateful for what we have, to give just a few examples. 

Our family has been through a lot over the past three years, we have faced many unexpected challenges, we don't always get along and we aren't always our best with each other but we love each other very much which is the most important thing and we are always trying to be better. 

There is always work that can be done to make family life more joyful, I decided to create an acronym to put up on the wall to remind our family of what attributes we value and strive for and to bring us all together:

                                                            The Jacksons are:


J – Joyful

A –Adventurous

C – Creative

K – Kind

S – Selfless

O – Optimistic

N – Noble

(It took a lot of strength not to write "noisy" for "N"!) Our Surname Jackson means "God is gracious" which is such a helpful meaning for our family. We definitely need God's grace in abundance!

Maybe you'd like to create an acronym for your family name which celebrates your ideal values and attributes. 

Finding moments of joy in everyday family life makes a big difference to your family culture.  Choosing to laugh at the little things that might otherwise be annoying, joining in with your children's games, entering into their world, making moments memorable by doing something different, or special and trying new things together can all help to nurture a culture of joy in your family.

Being mindful to nurture your family and work on making your family bonds stronger and closer is vital, not only for creating a joyful family for you and it's members to enjoy but for the rest of society as a whole. We know that the family is where we learn the fundamental skills for life, and that people who grow up in strong families are more likely to be happy, healthy and successful.  People from stable families have higher life expectancy, lower risk of mental health problems, lower engagement in crime and many other attributes which are beneficial to society as a whole. 

 Author Sally Clarkson says: "As a mother, you have the opportunity to form your home and family life in such a way that God's reality comes alive to your children each day."

Do not underestimate how important your work in building, growing and nurturing your family is. You are building a legacy which which be handed down through the generations and it's reach goes far beyond the walls of your home. 

So if you are having or have had hard times in your family, I want to encourage you to hang in there, keep working on it, keep striving for closeness, communication and love in your family.  And remember that joy is something you choose each and every day. 

This blog post is dedicated to my Mother-in-law, for whom family was most special.