When I found out 10 years ago that I was having a boy, I debated over names. When his father suggested Isaac, I did what many of us do. I looked up the meaning of the name. I was pleasantly surprised to find three different, but similar meanings:  “He laughs,” “laughter” and “laughter joy of the Lord.”

In the Bible, Isaac was a miracle child. He was born when Abraham was 100 years old and Sarah was 90. Sarah laughed when she learned of God’s prophecy that they would have a son. Isaac became the fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham to make his descendants a great nation. Isaac was also a prophetic representation of Jesus and as a man, he was faithful to God.

Considering all of this, I knew immediately my son’s name would be Isaac. I have a physical disability and my son is my biggest miracle. His birth was my greatest joy. He was born a full eight weeks early, weighing in at a tiny 3 lbs. 2 oz. We both had a lot of scary complications, but God carried us through each one. Today, Isaac is a thriving 9 ½ year old soccer player and his laughter is my favorite sound.

Laughter has all kinds of physical, mental and emotional benefits. It relaxes us, relieves sadness or anger and creates intimate bonding moments to cherish.

Unfortunately, daily trials and stress have a way of creeping into families and weighing them down. There are many moments and days we don’t feel like smiling, much less laughing. As Christians, God wants us to have joy in the Lord and joy in our lives. Here are some ways to foster joy and laughter in your family.

Be Spontaneous and Silly

We frequently tell our kids to “straighten up.” Sometimes we just need to lighten up. Nothing brings on the smiles more than moments of sheer silliness. Kids are great teachers in this area. When appropriate, take time to stop being serious and indulge yourself and your child.

Play dress up, make funny voices, talk in opposites, sing funny songs, jump around, dance, spin and run. You’ll figure out what works in the moment. Just tap into your inner silly and give your imagination free reign.

Being spontaneous can also help bring joy and alleviate stress. Grab the car keys, pack everyone in the car and go get ice cream, or take an unplanned road trip. Build a fort out of chairs and blankets in the living room; have breakfast for dinner. Again, the possibilities are endless. Just the act of stepping outside the box of the daily routine can create a contagious ripple effect of smiles and joy.

Make Time for Fun Activities

As a divorced, single mom getting through most days is a hectic process in juggling work, school, homework, meals, soccer, church and more. Sometimes it feels like there is barely time to breathe. I can’t count the number of times I’ve told Isaac, “Wait, not now,” when I’m entrenched in a task and he wants to play or show me something.

Spending quality time together is a critical part of nurturing and maintaining a family bond. Building time into a busy schedule to share fun activities gives everyone a break and helps generate joy and create lasting, happy memories. Don’t put it off. Figure out the best time for everyone and just do it!

There are a lot of different ways to have fun. Being outdoors and enjoying nature has great physical and emotional benefits. In nice weather, go to the park or beach, go hiking, swimming, sleep in a tent in the backyard, go on a picnic, turn on the sprinkler and run through it, play baseball or soccer. In the winter, build a snowman or have snowball fights, go ice skating, sledding, or skiing.

There are also tons of fun indoor activities like bowling, laser tag, board games, hosting a family “talent show” or singing karaoke, painting, drawing, doing crafts, baking or cooking together, painting or redecorating a room.

Turning on music always makes a fun backdrop to any activity, whether it’s coming from a stereo at home or the radio in the car on a road trip. Singing together with my mom is one of my favorite childhood memories.

One of my favorite lines from a movie is from Field of Dreams, when a voice tells Kevin Costner’s character “If you build it, he will come.”

Tweaking that a little, “If you plan it, they will come.”  Plan fun with your family as often as possible; smiles and laughter are sure to follow!

Create Joy and Count Blessings

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith,” —Galatians 5:22

Joy is a fruit of the spirit and we should commit to continually creating joy in our family and displaying joy in our lives. This is a daily dedication and it’s not always easy. The scripture reminds us how to feel as we wake each day:

This is the day that Yahweh has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it!” —Psalms 118:24

We should face each day determined to rejoice and find ways to help our family do the same. Leave cheery, heartfelt notes on the kitchen chalkboard or in your child’s lunchbox. A simple, “You rock!” or “I am so proud of you!” or “I love you!” are great examples of positive reinforcement that can bring a smile. Battling negative inner voices and peer pressure can be really tough for kids – and for adults, too. Frequently pointing out the beautiful and special things about your loved ones can bring them joy and smiles when they need it most.

Celebrate work, school, and personal victories. Acknowledge awards, good grades, kicking a habit or achieving a goal. Be generous with hugs, high fives, attaboys and happy dances. Sharing in good times creates priceless moments of joy.

Beyond that, we should always count our blessings in good and bad times. Sitting down with family members and making a list of our blessings is a great way to remind ourselves of all the reasons we have to be happy. We need to praise God in all things. Life is short. We need to make a conscious effort to cherish each other and infusing our lives with shared moments of love, joy and laughter is a great way to do it.

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