Advent Joy for Sharing this Season

As we round the bend of November and Thanksgiving, I love that we immediately head towards December, with its Advent Joy for sharing this season. Our family looks forward to Christmas, but we have to be careful to slow down and lean in to the Advent season first, even as Christmas trappings swirl all around us. Our cultural Christmas screams that the holiday is already here in music, parties, and lights, but the Christian story of waiting is still unfolding in the quiet places.

Even in Christian circles, prioritizing Advent has become counter-cultural. As a worship leader, I can run headlong into aaallllll the stuff that is Christmas in church ministry, OR I can continually remind myself that my congregation needs the Advent wait too, just like my family does.

So, what is Advent?

Advent is actually the beginning of the Christian calendar year. It is the “reset” button for those who pattern their lives around the Story of Christ. And it is a time to reflect on what the anticipation for the Messiah was like 2000 years ago, and how much they needed God to send the Light of Life into a world of darkness. It also helps us to consider how our dark world still needs the breaking-in of Jesus, and to look forward to His return. Check out Seedbed for some helpful Advent history.

So, how does a family, or a church family, lean into Advent Joy in the middle of a Christmas-crazed culture?

Today I’m sharing 6 ways we can engage in the season of Advent this year.

6 Ways to Advent Adventure This December: Advent Joy

6 Ways to Advent-Adventure this December
  1.  Share Joyful Blessings:

I actually started this one early. Beginning at Thanksgiving, I wanted to begin to look ahead to what Advent Joy there would be. Our church Life Group was hosting a “Friendsgiving” on the Saturday prior to Thanksgiving. (If you’ve never done a Friendsgiving, it is wellI worth your time and effort!)

Our Life Group (15 adult members in all) invited family, friends and neighbors to a huge pot luck Thanksgiving dinner at our home. These could be people who already know Jesus, or people who don’t. All are welcome. Each LG member brought a portion of the meal, and were able to seat all 42 people who came! At one point, several of us shared why we are grateful, including how Christ had transformed us. 

My mother-in-law had given me  101 Blessings of Joy Cards – A Box of Blessings back in August, as an encouragement on my  joy-journey.This seemed like a perfect time to bring them out. Each card holds 2 blessings, quotes, or Scripture verses (one on each side), to encourage others in their  joy.

So, I decided to use these joy blessings in my table settings, drawing attention to them as we prayed for our meal. We encouraged people to read them and even use them as conversation starters. I know for me, this helped me begin to focus on the upcoming Advent Joy season. And these will also serve nicely at table settings all throughout the month of December.

Joy Blessings: Advent Joy Advent Joy, Blessing, Table setting

2. Daily Advent Joy Readings

I love to shift my focus in the month of December. I try to be purposeful about what I read that helps me to engage with Advent Joy. This year, I picked up John Piper’s The Dawning of Indestructible Joy: Daily Readings for Advent, an inexpensive little paperback that I sense is loaded with power. Piper’s reason for writing it was that He was praying for an experience of Christ’s fullness. Wow, do I ever want that too!!

That is my prayer for you this Christmas–that you would experience the fullness of Christ; that you would know in your heart the outpouring of grace upon grace; that the glory of the only Son from the Father would shine into your heart to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ; that you would be amazed that Christ can be so real to you. – J. Piper

Though I haven’t yet started the readings–I’ll begin on December 3rd, the first Sunday of Advent–I anticipate that the Lord will use these in my life.

The Dawning of Indestructible Joy: Advent Joy

3. Advent Wreath

As our family grows, we find it increasingly important (and difficult!) to make space for family meals around the table. Throughout the month of December, we will use our mealtime together to light Advent candles in our wreath. The Dawning of Indestructible Joy may serve us well for readings in the evenings, to focus us all together. But there are other valuable resources as well. 

Last year, we used Kaylene yoder’s Names of Jesus Advent Pack on as many evenings as we could be together, and found them very helpful. I wrote about it here. We would accompany the readings with the lighting of candles, adding one more each week of Advent.

I also recently purchased Seedbed’s Reset: Advent Devotions for the Whole Family, which may become the backbone of our family time this year.

Advent Wreath with Candles: Advent Joy

4. Advent Adventures

This morning, I posted the first of 4 blog posts I am doing for Waterline Church, where I am the Director of Relational Arts. We are calling these our Advent Adventures.

We were looking for a way to help our church family engage with the Advent Joy of the season. So I am creating this series with the twofold purpose. They will teach more about Advent. And they will give people (of all ages) tangible “adventures” to take. We pray that we will all slow down and experience the joy and hope of the season. Especially if we do these simple activities with our families and friends. I’d invite you to head over here to see if they might be activities you could incorporate into your December family activities.

5. #GiveJoy Challenge

A friend and  Joy Let Loose reader recently shared a great resource with me that I’d like to pass along to you today. It is called the #GiveJoy Challenge 2017 from Amy Pike. I love it because it is designed for families. I think it will help parents and children alike to look beyond themselves this Christmas, and to look for ways to let joy loose this Christmas. That is something I can definitely get behind!!

Amy’s #GiveJoy challenge 2017 offers families 28 challenges, complete with instructions for each day. Obviously, you can pick and choose to go at your family’s pace. But there is something for every day of Advent if you are up for it. And you’ll find opportunities to share joy with friends & family, community members, and service professionals. Why not join Amy and spread a little  joy this Advent?

#GiveJoy 2017 Challenge: Advent Joy

6. Life Skills

Practically speaking, the Advent Joy season is a preparation time for Christmas. And we all know we generally have a lot to do to get ready! One group I’ve chosen to come alongside here at  Joy Let Loose is Skill Trek. 

I love their taglines!  There is “Lifeproofing the next generation like nothing else”. And “Making ’em ready for anything”. Skill Trek has been designed for parents, to assist in learning important life skills that generally aren’t taught in schools. They have fun adventures for kids of all ages in everything from hygiene and cooking, to financial literacy and emergency preparedness. And they offer varying levels of digital curriculum for families of different budgets.

One thing I recently learned about from Skill Trek is The 12 Skills of Christmas, a seasonal curriculum they offer. Since Christmas prep is so busy, why not pull everyone into the festivities? We can help them learn to prepare holiday menus (including turkey!). Or organize a neighborhood cookie exchange, or create their own Advent calendar? It’s on sale right now, so it’s a great time to pick up this fun curriculum to help you organize and teach your kiddos this season.

12 Skills of Christmas from Skill Trek: Advent Joy

I hope that this post inspires you to actively engage in the Advent season with your family. There are many ways, even beyond the regular holiday festivities. I’d love to hear from you in the comments below if you do try any of these ideas, or if you have some great family Advent traditions we should know about here at  Joy Let Loose!

Elizabeth Joy

 

 

 

 

What if #MeToo Became #HealedToo? (Life after Domestic Abuse)

October is Domestic Violence Awareness month, where many people are speaking up #MeToo. Some people “go purple” to bring awareness to the horrific silence inside of which many women, men and children suffer, where memories are dark and homes unsafe. One in three women, and one in four men have been the victims of some form of violence by someone close to them during their lifetime. Numerous among them were small children when the abuse began, and they remained in abusive situations for years.

What if #MeToo became #HealedToo

This shocking reality is the sad cause of the #MeToo campaign we have seen on our social media feeds recently. My heart breaks for each person who bravely shares this hashtag, knowing thousands still remain silenced and scarred from abuse, at no fault of their own.

We aren’t made for silence. 
I desperately want silence to turn to song. #MeToo >> #HealedToo Click To Tweet

 

Our Father made us for relationship with Him and with one another. We were created to share our lives openly, to vulnerably know and trust one another. We are supposed to learn God’s love for us inside relationships.  But for many who say #MeToo, trust has been stolen, and the possibility of vulnerable relationships has been robbed.

The enemy comes to steal, kill, and destroy. But Jesus gives life to the full. (John 10:10)

#MeToo

My heart breaks for those whose social media sites bravely declare #MeToo, and yet they have not yet found true healing. Some of these are my friends, and yours.

Maybe one of them is you.

#HealedToo

Jesus Christ is the only one who offers true healing and abundant life. He is the Light of the World, and those who follow Him will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of LIFE. (John 8:12). He has come to set people free who are slaves to sin, or enslaved by the effects of sin. And those who Jesus sets free are free indeed. (John 8:36). 

#JoySighting

For today’s #JoySighting I want to introduce you to my friend, Christina. Largely through the help of Prevail Inc., she has found the LIFE that exists on the other side of domestic violence. And in that life, she has found  true joy. Christina displays true gratitude for What God has done in herHer life overflows, and she lets her joy loose by sharing the realities of her story. When I first heard it, I wanted to help spread it. Because stories are powerful weapons against the darkness.

 

We overcome the enemy by the blood of the Lamb and the word of our testimony. (Revelation 12:11).

 

Even though Christina can say #MeToo, she can also declare that she has been healed, and she is alive in the abundant life of Christ. And in her story-telling, she is overcoming. She is saying #HealedToo.

What if everyone who says #MeToo could also say #HealedToo?

Do you know someone who needs to hear Christina’s story? Let’s see how far we can spread it! Please let her joy loose by sharing on your social media outlets.

Elizabeth Joy

Finding Joy Resources from Joy Let Loose: New EBooks!

We all need some  finding joy resources to help with our joy journey. So, while I’ve been working in worship ministry and writing for this blog, I’ve also been creating some others to go alongside. I want to provide practical steps to help us reclaim joy by renewing our minds and strengthening our spiritual lives.

Finding Joy Resources

Replace Lies With Truth, finding joy ebook

Today I launched my second finding joy ebook, Replace Lies With Truth. This ebook was birthed from a blog post I shared several months ago. I have expanded it to highlight 7 prominent lies people believe about finding joy in the Lord. It applies Scriptural truth to the lies to help us walk in the reality of joy-filled life. “Replace Lies With Truth” also provides you with a place to keep track of your own progress as you identify and eliminate lies by trusting in God’s Word. So I’d love for you to grab it today!

God longs to complete our joy. | Replace Lies With Truth Click To Tweet

 

abiding joy, finding joy ebook

Some of you have already downloaded my first ebook, Abiding Joy (30 Prayers from Joy Let Loose.) If you have, thank you! The idea for this ebook came when I realized one of my blog posts about prayer was gaining particular traction. Couple that with my experience as a worship leader, coaching many people to learn to pray publicly, and I realized how many believers feel inadequate in their prayer lives. So I designed these prayers to help readers learn to pray in a variety of ways.

I would love to hear your experiences with using these prayers in your daily life.  So share in the comments below!

May it be said of me that I am a person of constant praise. | Abiding Joy Click To Tweet

And before you go, earlier today I recorded myself talking about each of these ebooks. Check it out! 

Thanks for visiting today! As always, I’d love to hear about your joy journey in the comments!

Elizabeth Joy

 

We Have to Find Reasons to Rejoice When Life Gets Hard

We live in a broken world where things seem to have a tendency to go wrong. The trajectory of the corrupted world seems to be toward sadness, brokenness, incompleteness. Because sin. And even when our lives seem to be going fairly well, we don’t have to look far to find hopelessness.

We have find reasons to rejoice.

REASONS TO REJOICE WHEN LIFE GETS HARD

The blessed narrative for many of us in the Western world is one that rises and falls, often in rapid succession. And the drops tend to yell with louder voices, commanding greater attention. Even as we try to fight the gravitational pull downward toward difficulty, we have reason to  hope.

How do we live in this broken world, and find hope in our everyday lives while the world screams at us that there is none? When so many enormous trials face millions of people, how do we find reasons to rejoice as we face our everyday, mundane disappointments?

We have to look for reasons to REJOICE

So over the last few days, I have been looking….

Monday, October 2nd, 2017

6:00AM – I awoke, like most others, to the tragic news of a senseless act of violence in Las Vegas. I couldn’t even wrap my mind around it, and the disbelief swirled around in my mind as I prepared for the day, the numbers of deceased and wounded steadily climbing. I pray that the joy of the Lord strengthen those facing this tragedy. I have reason to rejoice because I know He is faithful.

7:00-8:00 – I embarked on the familiar morning ritual of repeatedly encouraging a fourteen-year-old girl with fourteen-year-old hormones and blood sugars running high to get ready for school. And I happen to be at the point in parenting my third where I am annoying 93.5% of the time. I remind myself, “Children are a gift from the LORD ; they are a reward from him.” (Ps 127:3) I have reason to rejoice because He has given me the opportunity to shape her life.

8:20AM – I chose to sing my hope as I drove to work. I dropped my daughter at school (miraculously on time), then prayed and sang, and asked God to move in Las Vegas, to move in my daughter, and to move in me.

And then my suburban was hit by a semi… 

                                                                                       And I realized I was okay.

8:39AM – And, as though the Lord Himself were holding me, I was able to move out of traffic, and remain calm while assessing the damage. I had no pain, I didn’t think I was in shock, and I didn’t even feel anger toward the other driver. 

I  just sat there & looked for hope.

There had to be reasons to rejoice even in this moment.

  • My son had decided not to come with me that morning, so he was not in the passenger seat, where the majority of the impact was.
  • I was literally one minute from my work.
  • We were in a roundabout, so our speed had been reduced.
  • My husband was almost immediately accessible to drop everything and come.
  • One of my Pastors (and friends) was on the scene within minutes.
  • My 13-years-faithful suburban had remained so today.
  • No one was hurt, and I was not at fault for this collision.

There were so many reasons to  rejoice in these unexpected moments.

10:30 – But after the police report, the tow truck and the rental car, a phone call came from the police officer. He was full of apologies as he revealed I was at fault, according to a new law neither he, nor I, (nor any of the insurance agents I talked to through the day), had known about. 

And I felt myself slipping toward disbelief and almost anger. How quickly I felt my trajectory change! I could not (still cannot!) wrap my mind around this law that allows semi drivers to ignore posted traffic patterns and forces other drivers to go against conventional wisdom. But even in my frustration, I can rejoice.

It just may be a little more difficult

11:30AM – So after attending to obligatory accident details for the rest of the morning, I finally arrived at work, my intended destination. There I met my caring co-workers who were concerned for me, and encouraging to my heart. They helped me continue to look for reasons to rejoice, as I joined our meeting (already in progress) and we celebrated what God had done over the weekend.

2:30 PM – And when we were finally tired of sitting and working through some difficult items, we went out for fresh air. My team looked for reasons to rejoice together. 

And we found them:
  • We welcomed the staff of a new bank to the neighborhood,
  • We laughed as some of us raced down the sidewalk
  • Also, we successfully avoided the doughnut shop (it helped that it was closed…) 
  • And we stopped at a playground to swing as high as we possibly could.

The sun, fresh air, and blood pumping through my veins lifted me out of the pit of irritation that wanted to swallow me whole. I just had to choose to be lifted up.

After intentionally looking for reasons to  rejoice that afternoon, it was much easier to return to the tasks of the day. Minute by minute, that one day threw several curveballs that distracted and tempted me to lose sight of hope. But, curveballs or not, it is 100% my choice to rejoice

It is 100% my choice to rejoice. Click To Tweet

And we all have that choice every minute of every day. So, how can face this world, with all its bad news and disappointments, and find reasons to rejoice? Is it true that we can bless the Lord at all times? (Ps 34:1a).

Bless the Lord at all Times

I believe that in all circumstances, there are three things that can quickly re-focus us to bring hope:

God hears me.

When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears and delivers them out of all their troubles. (Psalm 34:17)

God turns his ears to his children. He hears the prayer of the son or daughter who calls out to Him. No matter our situation, God is El Roi, the God who sees us.  

God holds me.

For I am the LORD your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you. (Isaiah 41:13)

God is like a tender shepherd who gathers his lambs in His arms. He pulls us close to protect us under the shadow of His wing. He will not let go.

God calls me to Himself.

Jesus said, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him to life on the last day.” (John 6:44)

God has made a way in Jesus to bring us to Himself. And as we draw near to Him, He continues to draw near to us. Because He has welcomed us as sons and daughters into His own family. 

When all around you the world seems to be falling apart, remember that you have reasons to rejoice.

Reasons to Rejoice when Life Gets Hard

Download the Printable!

As we face tragic news, parenting struggles, and even wrecked cars, God has given countless reasons to rejoice. So will you join me?

Elizabeth Joy

Peace, Be Still: How to Trust God for a Quiet Heart

I need a quiet heart. Thankfully we went away to the sea, first in April, and then again in July.

But since we have been back from our summer vacation, the last two months have been full. Work, writing deadlines, settling in, parenting responsibilities, company, and the new normal of this season have all been positive, but very busy. And as I’ve thought about writing for Joy Let Loose, I’ve simply felt depleted, like I didn’t have many more resources to pour out.

Peace, Be Still: How To Trust God for a Quiet Heart

Raging Seas

So when it felt like a raging sea, I needed to remind myself of the gentle waves. I needed to remember my quiet heart. I have looked at the pictures and videos on my phone, and sat out on my patio, staring at our pond. If it weren’t so hot again this afternoon, that’s where I’d be right now! 🙂

I need to drink deeply. And in my rest, these words refresh me:

You faithfully answer our prayers with awesome deeds,
O God our savior.
You are the hope of everyone on earth,
even those who sail on distant seas.
You formed the mountains by your power
and armed yourself with mighty strength.
You quieted the raging oceans
with their pounding waves
and silenced the shouting of the nations.
Those who live at the ends of the earth
stand in awe of your wonders.
From where the sun rises to where it sets,
you inspire shouts of joy.

(Psalm 65:5-8 NLT)

Peace, Be Still

I am reminded how Jesus rebuked the storm’s waves in Mark 4:39 by saying to it, “Peace! Be still!” And in the times I choose to take moments to pull away from the chaos in my life and mind, it is because I hear Him speak to my heart, “Be still.” It is much like in Psalm 46 when God said, “Be still and know that I am God.”

So much of my life feels simultaneously like catching up and keeping going; like moving forward and dragging from behind. But the Lord calls me to stop striving, and to set apart time to simply rest with Him. He invites me to a quiet heart.

For my own sake, I’m learning this is incredibly important. And for the sake of Joy Let Loose, if I don’t do it, there will be much less joy to share!

(If you made it this far, you may be interested to read about some quiet moments I took by the sea in Nova Scotia, Canada, this summer. I had a chance to share my experience with Annesley Writers last month.)

Pursue a Quiet Heart

In January, I issued to my readers my Morning Joy Challenge. I’d encourage you to take a look, and I’m going to re-visit it in my own life as well. But once the day gets rolling, it may be that we also need a  Peace, Be Still invitation. Any time you feel chaotic, or you sense God calling you to step away, please use this resource to help you to be still, and know that He is God. 

Steps to a quiet heart with God

 

Download the PDF!

What Next?

So what next? How do you re-enter the world of storms after taking those precious moments of stillness? Well, I would recommend keeping a journal. Write just one line that reminds you what you learned in the silence. What did God speak to your quiet heart? Make that the shout of  joy that God has inspired. (Ps. 65:8b) 

Habits take time to form. So, keep the Peace, Be Still resource and a quiet heart journal handy as you build the habit. And let us know in the comments below if you are taking me up on the invitation.

Both the Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” Anyone who hears should say, “Come!” And the one who is thirsty should come. Whoever desires should take the living water as a gift.

(Rev. 22:17)

Elizabeth Joy