Finding Joy in January

December’s busy season has finally ended, and a cold, dark wind has ushered in January’s dreary days, while the same, old, boring routine takes over….Sounds awful, does it not??  Well, if you feel this way, I have good news.   It does not have to happen that way!  Until recent decades, January was a time for families to stay by the warmth of the fireside enjoying each other’s fellowship and protection from howling winds as well as the cold and snow.  It was a time of peace and rest from busyness and stress.  Today, you can still choose to make January a time for rest and renewal.

Since time began, God initiated times of rest. January offers a chance to step back in time and find new joy in daily life.  Though life may seem bleak and bitter on the outside, you can maintain a close, cheery family on the inside.  Mom, you may well determine how this winter goes, by how warm you keep your heart toward your home duties in spite of whatever trials you must face.  This is the month to allow a slower pace for yourself to focus on family and to prepare your home for the whole year ahead. You can choose to enjoy a sabbatical from activities away from home. Except for church, groceries, and special home school activities, say no to a few things to stay home and rest. This is a relief to stress on your body and promotes good health.

Physically, your body slows down in the winter. January affords a short, seasonal rest in the harshest weather.  There is less light and the days are shorter, while, in addition, the need to stay warm seems so important. So enjoy some hot chocolate and curl up with your children to read with them, gather round the table for valuable educational activities, or take time to write letters or finish that sewing project.

Mentally, too, stress can work against you.  The darker days tend toward depression in some moms.  Do not give in to this!  As you work or rest, try to find ways to get enough light, list things that you are thankful for, and treasure your family. A time of outdoor work or play in the yard or at the park with them on some afternoons will help.  Try warming up in a cozy blanket with hot tea or hot chocolate afterwards. Even while your body benefits from rest and recreation, your mind must stay active. Is there anything you have always wanted to learn?  This is the month to get some library books and glean from them.  Are you behind in the schoolwork due to sickness in the family?  Don’t fret.  You still have still five long months to be diligent.  Choose to get back on track today and be creative in catching up on work.

It is also mentally encouraging to reflect on God’s blessings, instead of your sufferings, to be drawn toward peace and rest. We can not always change the things that disturb or frighten us, but we can look for ways to adjust and accept the limitations placed on us.  For some moms, just journaling your heart’s words or talking with a friend can be helpful to this end. Getting rid of some clutter in your home can also mentally improve your outlook; plus, your home’s beauty and efficiency will be restored. Adjusting your schedule for a new year may help your days as well. I especially recommend that you take a day or so to sharpen your focus for the whole year by spending extra time in God’s Word and prayer for your needs and then schedule accordingly.

January always brings a new start and new potential for good. A bit of planning now will help you make the most of this potential. Take an hour to sip some hot tea while you prayerfully write out the hopes and plans for personal growth you sense God wants for your home this year.  I do not mean resolutions.  They set you up for failure. Try planning progress instead.  I have found this idea to be more effective by setting one goal each for my personal and family progress.  Make yours meaningful for your life and home, and just list the steps that you will pursue to get there. Then, every week or two, chart your progress toward your goal. For instance, one year I chose diligence for my personal goal (I was slipping here).  My family goal was communication with my children (a weakness for me then).  My steps for diligence included:  doing my chores cheerfully, putting work before pleasure, and crossing things off a daily list. My steps for communicating better with my children/husband involved trying to listen more patiently and asking more questions and trying not to spout an answer too quickly.  In school, we also memorized one verse a week on diligence or the tongue.  I assure you that home gains even more sweetness from any progress.  I hope you will try some personal goals and add sunshine to your home, too.

You can also create joy and brighten dark days with these ideas which I have tried, or create your own….  Spend one quiet, family night talking of favorite memories of last year, or maybe the year 2000, (remember Y2K?).  Make time for a favorite hobby that you have neglected. Spend time during art and language creating thank-you notes for all recent gifts. Eat an apple a day. Add spring to your home with fresh flowers or start bulbs and seeds indoors.  Play joyful music.  Catch up with friends.  Rearrange a whole room or just one area (like your pantry or desk).  Get rid of some clutter in every room.   Play a family game like Monopoly till midnight. Teach your children a new Agrown-up@ skill or hobby. Talk with your children. Try a new food.  Memorize verses of joy and praise (like Ps. 32:11, Ps.113:9, or Ps.118:24).  Again, take time now to rest and restore your life with renewed focus.  January can be the terrific start of new joy and adventures this year!

© 2012  Revised   Melanie Lippert     Joyful M.O.M.S. / Psalm 113:9