Making a Joyful Livelihood: It’s No Small Potatoes

We had to fly over crystal seas, navigate the bustle of a foreign airport, and do the slow, bumpy climb to 5200 feet above sea level to discover the beauty of making a joyful livelihood. It was, and it is, no small potatoes. A joyful livelihood is a currency that transcends language barriers and economic differences, yet is something I struggle to see in my North American affluence. 

A joyful livelihood is a currency that transcends language barriers and economic differences. Click To Tweet

And I found it last week, high in the mountains of Haiti.

making a joyful livelihood


What’s My Livelihood?

In many ways for us, this year has been a lean one. We’ve been lean on income since I was unable to work. We are lean on friends since we are so new to the area. And we’ve been lean on activity since our energy has been spent on healing and regrowing. My livelihood no longer took the form of a pay-check, but of simple emotional sustenance to try to spread among our ranks. 

Now that is shifting, as I am stepping in to a new position. But first, my husband and I were invited to come away to the remote mountains that tower over Port Au Prince. We were asked to bring emotional sustenance to full- and part-time missionaries by leading them in worship in their heart language. I didn’t realize how refreshing that would be to them.

Our modest sanctuary housed silence and song, prayer and laughter as we worshipped together. But it was actually along the roadway that I learned about making a joyful livelihood.

Making a Joyful Livelihood


tinder block houseWe almost missed seeing her cinderblock house, because it was disguised by the green foliage reaching towards the hot sky. But we heard her warm voice as we picked our way along the rocky road. Her Creole words bid us to come in for a visit. There was no pretence; no scurrying to tidy up or to hide the fact that life is messy. Instead it was all welcome, just as we are.

Our guides spoke well with her in her native tongue. All the while, her daughter scrubbed clothes in a wash basin, and her grand-daughter smiled with curious eyes. This wash would be added to the clothes drying in the sun on fences and roofs.

drying clothes

The conversation was light as she asked whether we had brought them any gifts. We had not, they told her, because we were simply out for a walk. Our guide teasingly asked if she had any gifts for us, and her response made us melt. 

She said that she, indeed, wanted to give us a gift.

The Gift

My soul was a jumble of gratitude and disbelief as I watched her peel the corrugated metal sheet away from the small cinderblock shed. She disappeared inside with a giant step up, and we heard her rustling around inside. The wash continued to be washed and the curious eyes continued to twinkle life as we wondered what would happen next.

Out she came, a giant step down and laden with a heavy sack. Brown eyes beamed. Inside the bag, 20 pounds of beautiful potatoes: her livelihood. She gave joy currency in that moment, and welcomed us into it. This gift was a gift of self and sustenance. Her hands had tilled the earth to bring these potatoes to life; her back had born the weight of the harvest. Yet her storehouse was open to us.


In a moment of welcome and grace, we were invited into her joyful livelihood. 


It was more important to our new friend to give than to receive. It was more honorable to share what little she had than to hold on to it for her own hungry belly. There was pure joy in feeding the stranger in her midst, of letting joy loose with no thought of with-holding it from the wealthy.

These were no small potatoes.

Our Joyful Livelihood

God smiled on us last Friday afternoon along the rocky roads in the Haitian mountains. There was no guilt in receiving the gift, only joy. The transaction was grace as He reminded us of His provision. 

ripe unto harvest

As I move from being home back into the workforce, what will my livelihood be? Will I keep it in my storehouse, or will I deal in transactions of grace? I may never see our new friend again, and yet her potatoes have impacted me profoundly. Because what was hers was ours, no pretence or with-holding.

May my joyful livelihood be the same.

Elizabeth Joy

8 thoughts on “Making a Joyful Livelihood: It’s No Small Potatoes”

  1. I totally understand what being brought into heartfelt worship is. I so feel His Presence being brought to ‘The Heart of Worship’ when you lead. I’m sure the missionaries were truly blessed. Happy to read you have a new position. Hope to see you at Beulah. God Bless!

  2. Wow, this brings me to tears. We have so many posessions here and sometimes, so little joy. This makes me think of our “field day” at our school this week. One little boy had received an opportunity to play video games in a huge trailer as a reward for participating in a fundraiser. The rest of the class had water balloon fights, threw balls at a dunk tank with the principal in it, played games and painted rocks. He missed a few of the activities. When we went inside to prepare to go home he began to yell and have a tempertantrum because he chose the video games over the field day activities. He felt that it wasn’t fair that he didn’t have enough time to do both, and began crying that what he chose wasn’t any fun. I’m so thankful that the Lord moved my heart to talk to him about gratitude in that moment. I hope that the words I shared with him about being thankful instead of resentful after a wonderful day sank in. I hope that I exchanged frustration for joy in that transaction and the lesson was absorbed by many students. These American babies, they don’t even know…

  3. It’s so easy to get lost inside of our own culture. Thank you for changing the culture with your students, one by one. Gratitude over entitlement. You are an awesome teacher!

  4. I love those unexpected moments where you discover another facit of the law of love. I have often asked myself ” i give out of my abundance which is good but can I give out of my lack? When things are tight with no plan b will my storehouse be open to my neighbour or a friend in need. Interesting. I see you live in Sussex. I lived there many years ago when my children were little. Beautiful area there

    1. Thanks for visiting Joy Let Loose! I always want to be a person of hospitality and generosity. We did live in Sussex for many years, but we are now in Indiana. The Maritimes and Midwest are very different from each other! Each beautiful in their own ways. 😊

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