Whether the weather is getting to you or whether the “clouds” overhead look more like grief or anxiety, we all have gray days. As a mom with five kids at home, I have them too… plus I feel the pressure of pulling myself together for the mini-me’s! Here are a few of my favorite ways of opening up the curtains and letting some light in on those gray days.
- Play your soundtrack. I still remember saving up to buy my first cassette tape – a compilation of Christian hip-hop artists from the 80’s. I loved that tape, bragged about it to all my friends, and I bet I could still sing along to it (if I could find a tape player). My kids, however, are growing up with endless music options, and they have no idea how good they have it! They just yell, “Alexa, play Lauren Daigle!” and boom – instant music. I don’t mind though. Old-timey jazz, “Happy” from Despicable Me, “Get Back Up Again” from Trolls, “Joy” by Rend Collective, “Good Morning” by Mandisa, and so many other upbeat songs are woven together into a joyful soundtrack that coat our home in a happy layer and help me to sense joy even when I’m feeling down.
For bonus joy points, we throw in a dance party! It’s hard to feel down when you’re gettin’ down, and I can count on getting at least a few giggles from the kids’ awesome dance moves!
- Remember – “The sun is still there, even behind the clouds.” This is my dad’s favorite thing to say as he pours on the SPF 70 on a cloudy day. But knowing it’s there and feeling like it’s there are very different things! So lately I’ve been sneaking out to the 3-season porch in the early mornings – fluffy blanket wrapped around as much of me as possible, with corners tucked in to block the frosty air from seeping in. I watch for the first orange streak to break over my neighbor’s house, and then wait as it slowly stretches out to hit me with its bright rays. Ah! There it is. Hope and sunshine and joy seem inextricably linked, don’t they? I am learning that on my gray days, I need to go searching for the sunshine – or at least a ray of hope – wherever it is. Whether it’s physically taking a walk, sitting on a windowsill, laying in a sunbeam on the floor – or internally practicing gratitude, listening for God’s quiet voice, or surrendering my fears to Him – taking the time to find one or two rays of hope or sunshine helps me to see joy even through the clouds.
- Don’t go it alone! I have friends who are great at getting their kids out of the house to go do fun things. I am not that person. I need the motivation of knowing that I’m going to meet someone else who will be disappointed if I don’t show. I have friends who keep their houses neat all the time. I am not that person. I need the motivation of knowing that I’m going to have someone over for coffee who will see all the contents of my house if I don’t clean up. Despite my heavy reliance on people to motivate me to do good things, the beauty of friendship isn’t just what friends give to us. A friend might be a listener or a motivator or an encourager or a thinker or giver. But whatever their unique qualities, the genius of friendship is that even when they aren’t trying, friends remind us how valuable, precious, and loved we are. The very essence of having someone else who wants to be with us and who is for us even at our lowest points is healing and hopeful and joy-filled. Having someone with us who loves us adds a big pop of colorful joy to any gray background.
- Get creative. I cannot quite explain the power of producing something. And when I’m worn out or feeling gray and dreary, I don’t typically think of this as something that will help. But somehow, spending energy on a creative hobby actually has the power to rejuvenate and restore us. When I bake something, make something, write something, sing something, color something, or build something, I find myself tapping into a new source of energy and joy that I didn’t know was hibernating inside me. Remember science class and that weird thing called “potential energy”? It never made much sense to me as a scientific concept. But in terms of joy, it makes a lot of sense to me. We have more energy and more potential than we think we do – and some of the greatest bursts of life come when we think we have nothing left to give. It’s not about forcing myself to do something I hate, but rather finding that pastime or hobby that is so life-giving that it even sounds attractive when I’m dead tired. That’s the one – that’s the source of “potential energy” that stays stored up until you start doing whatever it is. And then? It energizes and fuels and refills your joy tank.
- Remember that failure is part of the package. Life and motherhood come with failure wrapped up in them. There’s no escaping it. We will drop the ball. We will forget, we will yell/whine/complain, we will make messes (sometimes relational ones), we will get tired, we will lose steam, we will have blah days when we don’t want to get off the couch. And…there is grace. We cannot be “on” 24 hours a day – so there will be slumps and lulls and slip-ups. We carry on. That’s how it goes. And I find joy when I give myself the permission to be a human, and to not be great – or even good – at everything. There is freedom in giving up control and allowing room for mistakes and/or for the Holy Spirit to take over running the show. Admitting our own failings, surrendering to God’s leadership, and relaxing the reigns on our lives – these things bring great joy.
So crank up the music, throw open the curtains, get yourself knee-deep in some creative project with the kids, call a friend, and don’t be afraid of making a few mistakes along the way. Joy can still be found, even on the gray days!
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