I have often marveled at how, regardless of experience, personal baggage, or skill, a person can become a parent. I remember my husband and I looking at each other as we drove home from the hospital with our oldest child and asking each other how they just let us go. How do they know we can take care of her?

In the early years of being a mom, I was trying to pass off a cool, happy-go-lucky exterior, but inside, I was freaking out. Reading all the books, doing all the things with my kids, inventing creative learning activities for them, scouring the internet for better and better family devotion books. It was exhausting and certainly not much fun.

I had somehow accepted the thinking that to be a Christian meant heaviness and seriousness. Laughter and fun were in a separate compartment from my walk with Jesus. Bible studies were for well-crafted, insightful comments, and Friday movie nights were for laughing – something I think we can all relate to, not just the parents in the room.

Enter my Auntie Anne. Hard-working, tenacious, kind, and hysterically funny. As a child, I spent a lot of time in her and Uncle John’s home with my cousins. It was a safe and fun place with a lot of laughter.

Auntie Anne was a teacher and, still is, a fierce follower of Jesus. As a little girl, I felt that my shy, insecure little self was not just loved but delighted in. She seemed to hear the little things I said, and, when they were funny, she would laugh. Have you ever met someone who, when they laugh, you are sure you hear silver tinkling faintly in the background? That is Auntie Anne’s laugh.

The real gift has been that as I grew and became a wife and mother, the kindness and care didn’t stop. When my kids were little and we went to visit Auntie Anne she wasn’t concerned with how well (or not) behaved they were or how much scripture memory they had done. She just got out her toys and children’s books and spent time listening to them and delighting in their cuteness and funny things they might say. As a young stressed-out mom, this was a massive encouragement.

And then there were the birthday cards. Not just for my kids but for me. Even as I grew into adulthood, the birthday cards kept coming. Every birthday I still get a card in the mail from Auntie Anne with a five dollar bill so I can take myself out for coffee. Along with the money and sweet encouragement, I am also guaranteed two things: the blessing from Numbers 6:24-26 written out and this sage piece of advice, “Remember to find the funny, darling.”

Find the funny. Of all the bits of advice she could give me, this is the gold she wanted me to have. All these years on I can finally see why. Because she is someone who sees people, Auntie Anne saw that I was a striver. Having not been raised in a Christian home, I had developed a deeply entrenched need to prove myself as a Christian woman, wife and mother.

But “find the funny, darling” began to creep in. The Lord started to use these words to help me, not just lighten up, but to keep my eyes off myself and my own paltry efforts.  Find the funny became the reminder that God is very much interested in me being joyful and seeing the hilarity of some of the shenanigans of everyday life.

Besides having friends who could call me out when I was trying to impress them with my piety, find the funny was also Auntie Anne’s way of telling me to rest in who God made me and delight in all the little things around me.

Of course, there is a time for everything. Including a time to hold back the laughter, at least till later. When one of my daughters was traumatized by the fateful conversation about the “facts of life” and yelled, “You’re lying! Nobody does that! I think you and dad just do that for your OWN SICK PLEASURE!” It would have been the end of our relationship if I had burst out laughing. Biting the inside of my cheek was the only way forward in that moment. Poor kid. We can laugh now.

But recently I was reminded again that laughter and a joyful heart truly is medicine (Proverbes 17:22). We had invited a friend over for dinner. He is someone who is walking through a valley of grief that I can’t describe at present. We were nervous about him coming. Would we say the right thing? Do the right thing? And I’m guessing that he summoned great courage to allow himself the vulnerability to come and eat with us.

But here he was. And there we were, not long into the meal, laughing together. We were all just sharing the ins and outs of life with it’s quirks and craziness and for some brief moments he had a reprieve from his pain.

Our good God has allowed us a lot of treasures that have caused our family and friends to be woven together but learning to laugh and keep things light whenever possible has been truly beautiful and relationship building. 

Not silly and ignoring the struggle. When our friend came for dinner, we did have the opportunity later to broach serious matters. But I believe the bonding moments of levity over dinner helped to facilitate that.

Finding the funny means you are intentionally letting a lot of stuff go that really didn’t matter in the first place. It means you are not laughing maniacally at people willy nilly but you are looking for ways to see them and to delight in them the way my Auntie Anne did with me. By giving yourself permission to feel joy, no matter how tiny or brief, you become more equipped to care about the hard stuff and respond with empathy.

Whether mothering or wifing or working or however you’re living, I encourage you to take a deep breath and look for it: find the funny.

Sheena Heinrichs

Sheena Heinricks is a wife, mother, teacher, and writer, who lives in the mountains of Western Canada and loves good coffee, cheap wine, and being outdoors. A follower of Jesus for many years, she’s still learning, learning, learning. Deep conversations about beautiful complicated things are awesome, but you have to keep it real and be ready to see some of the absurdity in it all and be sure to cultivate joy.

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