What Pixar’s Sadness Teaches About Joy (And What Scripture Says)

Sadness

It is ironic to me that in a season where God has me on a joy journey I would feel so much sadness. Grieving another loss of community, a loss of professional identity, the tumultuous transition for two teenagers to our new normal, the impacts of moving on our marriage and family overall, and perhaps even some emotional shifts relative to my age, I think I’ve been sad more than I’ve been happy over the last 5 months.  Did God call me to joy last summer because He knew what sorrow lay ahead for me? Or is the sorrow an intrinsic part of the joy journey? I’ve wondered about joy and sadness. Are they partners or nemeses? Playmates or enemies?

Maybe it’s just like God to make growth so multi-dimensional.

Pacifiers and jolly-jumpers and 22-minute kids’ videos to buy a little time for a shower seem a thing of the distant past to me now, though they seemed to occupy so much space and attention for those younger parent years. (We used to relate the length of car rides to the length of VeggieTales videos to help our children have some perspective on just how much longer we would be driving.)

All three of my incredible kids are now full fledged teenagers, and understand things much more complex than Bob and Larry, but we still enjoy being drawn in to the magic of the occasional animated movie from time to time. The ones that rise to the top of the list are those like “Megamind” with good character development and enough quick, intelligent banter to maintain parents’ intrigue while still entertaining youngsters. You know the kind: the ones that make an awesome family movie night, but for which you might grab a bowl of popcorn, even when there aren’t children in the room.

Inside Out

One such movie is Pixar’s “Inside Out”, released in 2015. It tells the tale of an eleven-year-old girl named Riley whose parents embark on a new family adventure, moving them from the Midwest to the West Coast. In the creative forefront of this film are characters built around five key emotions that make Riley tick: Joy, Sadness, Anger, Fear, and Disgust. Since she is young, her emotions are still relatively simplistic. These emotions essentially run Riley’s control center, and we get to be privy to what’s going on on the inside as they interact. It doesn’t go unnoticed to me that Riley’s adventure with joy and sadness surrounds a huge life transition…

What Pixar's Sadness Teaches About Joy

While I thoroughly enjoyed this movie for its entertainment value alone, as I’ve considered joy-journeying, I’ve thought more about the ideas this movie represents. Movies have the inherent ability to teach us and form our thinking (perhaps without us realizing it), so what does this popular movie teach us about joy? And does Scripture support or negate these ideas? I’ve pulled out four key points.

  Joy and happiness are synonymous

It was interesting to me that the pleasant emotion depicted in this movie was dubbed “joy”, rather than “happiness”. Joy is a perky, optimistic little character, bent on keeping Riley happy at all times. She is cheerful and chipper, and intent on her mission to permeate Riley’s present days and past memories with happiness. Honestly, at first I recoiled a little bit that this emotion was named Joy. Then I had to question myself why I felt that way.

Christians often separate the words joy and happiness. Happiness is considered a fleeting emotion, entirely dependent on situations that surround us. It is what we feel when things go well, and we are secure. But, precariously balanced on those good circumstances, happiness is easily dampened when situations take a turn for the worse. Juxtaposed against that is joy. Joy is thought not to be an emotion, but that which abides within us as unshakeable confidence as it is tethered to our hope in Christ.

Tied together…

I believe wholeheartedly that Scripture teaches us that our joy is tethered to our hope in Christ (Romans 15:13; 1 Peter 1:8-9). I can follow it through to see that joy can be steadfast, even when pleasant emotions are compromised by trial (James 1:2-3; Phil. 1:12-20). But I can’t hold fast to the idea that joy and happiness are unrelated or opposites of each other. There are too many places in Scripture where “joy” and “happiness” are tied closely together:

Scripture:

Jeremiah 31:13 I will turn their mourning into joy . . . and bring happiness out of grief.

Psalm 92:4  You, O Lord, have made me happy by your work. I will sing for joy because of what you have done. 

Psalm 68:3  But may the righteous be glad and rejoice before God; may they be happy and joyful.

The separation of joy and happiness is artificial at best, a pendulum swing in response to the fear of searching for happiness in ungodly things, maybe. God is the Source of happiness to all people. He has imprinted each person with longing for joy, so we’ll search for Him and find our happiness there.

God has imprinted us with longing for joy, so we'll search for Him & find our happiness there. Click To Tweet

Incarnated Joy

As incarnated beings, our faith permeates us intellectually, spiritually, physically and emotionally.  And to the believer, it is God’s joy that permeates us, strengthening us for all we face in this world.  I would hazard a guess that the people we each know who are the epitome of joy have something in common: they are generally very happy. How very drab and unfortunate it would be to live a life undergirded by hope in Christ, but to not experience it in our physical bodies and our emotions. How incomplete.

Riley’s world turned upside down. Her family’s new venture took her away from all she knew and loved. In addition to the deep loss of relocation, there are mis-haps along the way:  lost belongings, a dilapidated new house, and the new school make Riley long for the comfort of familiar. The happenings that surround her threaten her joy, both her abiding sense of confidence and her happy, contended feelings. 

Joy deepens with the acknowledgement and experience of sadness

Joy stays busy trying to guarantee that Riley doesn’t experience any sadness. She panics when “Sadness” accidentally touches a memory, turning it to a melancholy one. She does not want her girl to know anything of heartache, and tries to protect her from it at all times. Incidentally, it is partly Joy’s antics that set her and Sadness out on the difficult journey they face together through much of the movie. As they travel and problem solve together, Sadness sometimes expresses herself, and sometimes wants to quit, and Joy eventually begins to finally see her friend’s value.

Sorrow paves the way for Joy

Scripture tells us that people who sow in tears will reap in songs of joy. Those who go out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with them. (Psalm 126:5-6). It is as if the sorrow paves the way for joy to come. Instead of containing, avoiding, or ignoring it, experiencing sadness prepares us for the harvest of joy to follow.  In Spurgeon’s sermon no 1027, he highlighted how precious holy sorrow is before God. He went on to clarify that this sorrow does not keep us from godly joy. 

Poet Kahlil Gibran wrote, “The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.” The wounds and rivulets of grief and sorrow become channels for God’s gracious joy to flow. 

 

On Joy and Sorrow, Kahlil Gibran

God meets us in our sorrow, allowing us to experience it, and He is faithful to nurture and grow tender joy. In fact, it is His joy that strengthens us in our trials (Neh. 8:10). Our weeping may last for a night, but shouts of rejoicing come in the morning.

The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain. -K. Gibran Click To Tweet

Sadness is vital for self-awareness and the formation of relationships

Moving is just plain tough. There’s grief all wrapped up inside the change, and it’s not necessarily easy to untangle emotions that surround it. Riley’s first night in her new home feels so lonely. Her mom, in an effort to encourage her, commends Riley for keeping a happy face on throughout the process. Inadvertently, this discourages her daughter from acknowledging or sharing her sadness. In a different scene, when Riley is in a turmoil because Anger, Disgust and Fear are alone at the helm, Riley’s father snaps at her, once again invalidating Riley’s jumbled emotions.  

It is important to validate emotions. Otherwise, confusion can create uncertainty about what is real and what isn’t. Poor Riley’s parents just wanted her to be happy, and didn’t realize they were denying the legitimacy of her sadness. She ended up running away because she did not know how to handle her chaotic feelings.

Thankfully, it is at this point that Sadness has her hero moment. She takes control, and her touch turns core memories blue. With sorrow permeating Riley’s core memories, she is finally able to fall apart and tell her parents all of the things she misses about home. Because Joy gave way to Sadness, Riley was able to become aware of her own feelings, and articulate them to her parents. Finally realizing what their daughter was going through, they validated her by listening and sharing their own feelings. Sadness strengthened their relationship.

 

Sadness is meant to be shared

Joy tried to confine Sadness. She sent her away to read mind manuals, and she drew a circle instructing poor Sadness not to step outside of it. But Sadness could not be confined. When Riley tried to hide her sadness from her parents, she created a barrier between her and them. Self-protection is natural, I think, but it keeps us from closeness in relationships that is so important. Rather than hiding our brokenness we need to share it with others. In her book The Broken WayAnn Voskamp writes, “Withness breaks brokenness.”  

Withness breaks brokenness. – Ann Voskamp

When Riley’s core memory turned sad, and she shared it with her parents, it actually brought them closer to her because they were with her, and could be empathetic.

Scripture says that those who mourn are blessed, for they will be comforted (Matt 5:4). Mourning is such an intense grief that there is no hiding it inside; it must come out; it must reach to others. Sadness needs to have permission to be touched, shared, and felt by those who can then become comforters. Jesus shared the bread and the cup, foreshadowing His broken body and shed blood. He gave them to His disciples to bring fully into themselves. We are to carry others’ brokenness with them.

We are to carry others' brokenness with them. Click To Tweet

Joy and Sadness

At the climax of Inside Out, Joy and Sadness were working together. Riley cried and smiled at the same time, creating a brand new core memory. It wasn’t just happy, and it wasn’t just sad…it was a multi-dimensional, much richer memory because Joy gave way to Sadness, and sadness paved the way for joy.

John 16:20  Truly, truly, I say to you, that you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice; you will grieve, but your grief will be turned into joy.

 

How about you?

Have you experienced joy giving way to sadness, and sadness paving the way to joy? Do you think sadness is a key player in the journey toward joy?

Comment below! I would love to hear your stories.

 

Elizabeth Joy

Why We Need to Know if We Are Starving For Joy

We need to know if we are starving for joy. One of the other places I write is Seedbed’s Worship Design Collective, where worship leaders encourage others who slug it out in the trenches of the Church, week in and week out. Several months ago, as I was discovering God calling me to a new journey, I wrote an article for the collective about seven things Scripture shows us about   joy. Though the original article was addressed specifically to worship leaders, the truths within are broadly applicable, and will serve as the foundation for upcoming posts on  Joy Let Loose. We absolutely must discover if we are starving for joy.

Why We Need to Know if We are Starving For joy

 

Starving for Joy:  June 7, 2016

 Just a few short days ago, Chewbacca went viral as Candice Payne, clad in his toy mask, exploded on the Internet. In a matter of just 48 hours, her live Facebook video skyrocketed to nearly 150 million views, as people belly laughed it across the world. Just two days in, she had already appeared with numerous internationally acclaimed networks and personalities. What is it that this lady—a fellow worship leader—demonstrated, alone in her car after a trip to Kohl’s, that we all loved so much? And what is it that we worship leaders can glean from Candice bursting into our lives? 

We hunger for  joy.

150 million views of a gleeful woman in a mask is a good indicator that people are hungry; people watched and shared Candice’s video because her evident joy sparked something in them. If this is true, then I would suggest that the people who file into our sanctuaries on weekend days and nights are similarly hungry. They long to know joy, but they are looking to others—perhaps to us—to provide it.  Continue reading “Why We Need to Know if We Are Starving For Joy”

Clear Clutter: How I Order My World With the Ten Second Tidy Principle

Confession: Sometimes I find myself in a zone where I don’t even notice clutter. Don’t get me wrong, I like order. But when I’m in a creative mode, there is a part of me that seems able to simply ignore it.

Sometimes.

HoweverI have made a discovery that continual clutter ends up rubbing me the wrong way. And I don’t prefer to be irritated. I’m much more likely to notice the  joy that lies within each day when my world around me is, well, organized. I am disciplining myself to see organizational tasks as an opportunity to practice gratitude.

 

I am thankful to God for all He has entrusted to me, and I desire to care for it well. Click To Tweet

 

Now, I’m not recommending obsessive organization here. After all, the pendulum can swing widely, my friends, and obsessive organizing can steal joy just as much as clutter can. But Scripture seems to contrast disorder against peace (1 Cor. 14:33), so it makes sense to me that a chaotic world lacks joy.

The regular, diligent clearing away of un-necessary, or broken, or dirty things in our physical realms is wise, and leads to a pleasant and ordered life with wide open spaces. And developing this habit in the physical realms of home and office may also help to lead us toward regular, diligent clearing away of unwanted internal things. 

How I Order My World

 

The Ten Second Tidy Principle

There was a short season when my youngest was a wee one that Loonette the clown, and her doll, Molly, graced our TV screen. It was all childlike, enthusiastic glory. Her “Big Comfy Couch” tunes continue to rattle around in my brain sometimes; ear worms, shall we say. Although I never developed an affinity for this colorful character, I can say that one of her lessons was helpful with my young children, and continues to help me today: The Ten Second Tidy.  (Now, if we actually tidy up the way that Loonette does, practically stuffing everything we pick up behind or under the couch cushions, I daresay we haven’t really tidied at all – we’ve simply relocated our mess. There are spiritual depths to this physical lesson!)

 Clear Clutter for a Joyful Outlook.

Can de-cluttering actually impact our  joy? Many of us sit for long periods of time each day, required to focus on certain projects at length. In fact, recent global studies indicate that people sit on average 7.7 hours per day, with some sitting as many as 15 hours daily! First of all, this sedentary lifestyle is not only hazardous to our physical health, but it can compromise our emotional health and hinder our productivity. So, whether we are stay-at-home parents or business execs, homeschooling teachers or public school guidance counselors, I believe we all can benefit greatly (emotionally, and in productivity) from planning for periodic de-cluttering of our surroundings and our minds throughout our days.

Not only will it refresh our minds to accomplish regular small tasks of organization, getting up and moving about can re-ignite our thought processes and creativity. Finally, I believe the actual, disciplined removal of clutter can benefit both our short- and long-term health.

 

The disciplined removal of clutter can benefit both our short- and long-term health. Click To Tweet

 

Below are four sets of 10-second breaks, each intended as springboards to help us to find small, regular windows throughout our days to take “organizational” breaks for our physical, emotional, and spiritual health. 

Ten 10-second mental health breaks

  • Close your eyes and take 10 slow, deep breaths
  • Read Matthew 11:28-30  
  • Write down 3 things for which you are thankful – keep a journal nearby!
  • Look out the window and pray for the first person you see
  • Look for a co-worker to encourage
  • Grab a drink of ice water
  • Thank God that He is Living Water
  • Text an encouraging message to someone you love
  • Pray for God to be evident in this next hour of work
  • Especially helpful: Sing the Doxology

 

Ten 10-second in-your-chair breaks (Office)

  • Open your Junk Drawer and discard 5 un-necessary items
  • Sharpen 3 pencils
  • Color-code your pens
  • Draw a picture of something that makes you smile
  • File three completed files
  • Dust your desk
  • Clean your computer screen
  • Discard un-necessary papers from your desk
  • Set goals for the next hour
  • Finally, check off completed goals from earlier in the day.

 

Clear Your Clutter Checklist

 

Ten 10-second out-of-chair breaks (Office)

  • Stand, stretch, and do 10 jumping jacks
  • Go for a walk: take your paper to the recycling bin
  • Re-arrange two pieces of furniture
  • Dust a set of shelves
  • Clean a mirror or window
  • Straighten your books
  • Eliminate 3 things from your “to-do” files
  • Go up, and then down 2 flights of stairs
  • Return an item you borrowed from a co-worker
  • Lastly, do 20 wall push-ups

 

Ten 10-second work-at-home breaks

  • Take a walk around the perimeter of your house or apartment building.
  • Fold throw blankets and straighten throw cushions
  • Dust the living room surfaces
  • Straighten up entryway shoes
  • Write an encouraging note and stick it to the refrigerator
  • Throw away any un-necessary refrigerator notes
  • Eliminate 5 things from your junk drawer
  • Walk through your home and pray for the people/activities in each room
  • Open the windows to bring in some fresh air
  • Very helpful: Inhale a focus & energy essential oil blend. Try these from Pure Joy! 


My favorite focus & energy blend

Clear Your Cluttered Mind Focus & Energy Blend

Clutter in our homes, offices, and minds can steal our joy. Click To Tweet

Bonus: Check out another favorite essential oil blend – my Joy Blend!

Proactively setting aside brief moments throughout our days to de-clutter will have long-term benefits on our physical and emotional health. These short, regular breaks can help pattern lives of gratitude for the things we’ve been given, and can inspire greater clarity of mind. Even today, we can begin to implement 10-Second Tidy principles into our work or home lives. I pray that as we do, our outlook will be of peace and not disorder. And in that peace, may we find  joy.

How do you clear clutter in your home, office or mind? Comment below!

Elizabeth Joy

 

 

 

12 Family Traditions for Holidays or Regular Days

No matter what shape or form they take, or how they came to be, families are special. I believe they are a primary place where God intends for us to experience His  joy in our lives. In a culture where there are so many breakdowns to the family unit, having Family Traditions is one helpful way to foster unity, create special memories and build legacy.

Sometimes traditions begin on purpose, and sometimes they grow almost by happenstance. Some are tied to holidays, and some to the regular days, to create interest or to instil values. The traditions we have created in our family have been a source of joy for us as our crew has grown and changed. 

12 Family Traditions for Holidays or Regular Days

I’ve collected together 12 Family Traditions for Holidays or Regular Days that I hope you find inspiring for your family. You can use these ideas just as they are, or perhaps your family will put its own spin on some of them. Share in the comments below if you try out any of these ideas!

Birthday Pancakes

Birthday PancakesMy husband and I both had the flu on the day our first son celebrated his first birthday. Though we needed to postpone his birthday gathering by a day or two, we still wanted to acknowledge the milestone on the actual day, though we didn’t have the energy to do very much.

A few things were certain: the baby didn’t know it was his birthday, he wasn’t sick, and he still needed to eat! In true super-dad form, my husband Scott took one for the team and went to make breakfast. He wanted to make something special, and relatively new for our little guy, and decided upon pancakes. Long before ‘pancake art’ was even a thing, Scott made one pancake in the simple shape of a “1”, which he then served the baby, snapping a picture to keep for posterity. That was about the extent of the celebrations for that day.

When the next birthday rolled around, Scott remembered the previous year and poured a “2” with his pancake batter. Voilà, the first of our Family Traditions was born! As crazy as it seems, just this week, our oldest son will receive his 18th birthday pancake from his dad! In addition, we have served 28 others, between our second son and our daughter. It has become an enjoyable thing for each of them to look forward to on their big day. And, by virtue of our pictures heading out on the internet, we have seen the Birthday Pancake tradition spread from family to family over the years.

*If you have adopted the tradition of making birthday pancakes somewhere along the way, I’d love to hear about it in the comments below!

 

Tea Parties

Sometimes Family Traditions might be carried out in smaller groups (like Mother/Daughter, or Father/Son traditions). One tradition my daughter and  I  maintained with good regularity for many years was having Tea Parties.

 

When Grace was very small, I got the book Just Mom and Me Having Tea: A Fun Bible Study for Mothers and Daughters. It suited her perfectly, and gave us activities, craft ideas and launchpads for spiritual conversations while we had our tea parties. Our menu varied (rarely including tea!), and moved location almost every time (sometimes the dining room, other times a picnic on her bedroom floor). These times together were special, helping us to bond tightly. As she grew, our topics of conversation changed, and our activities modified to fit her stage of life, but our enjoyment of intentional time together never wanes.

 

Mother Daughter Tea Parties Continue reading “12 Family Traditions for Holidays or Regular Days”

The Lost River: An @JoyLetLoose Guest Post @AnnesleyWriters


Happy Friday! Today I want to share with you about The Lost River. I have the privilege of writing occasionally for Annesley Writers Forum, a group of Christian women tackling beautiful, difficult, and encouraging themes of life. When I first discovered this collective, I was immediately impacted by each author’s vulnerability and passionate pursuit of the Lord. It was an honor to be invited to write with these ladies.

The Lost River

Annesley’s January theme is simply “Time”. This is something I am learning about immensely in this season of my life. If I value and honor time, it will be an important contributor to my journey toward joy. On Wednesday my article The Lost River went live. This article describes an area the Lord has been highlighting in my life over the last few months. I invite you to take a trip over to Annesley and to read The Lost River. And, since you are heading there, you might as well grab a cup of coffee and a comfy chair. There are so many beautiful writers that you will want to scroll and get acquainted with each of them.

Your hearts will be blessed.

The Lost River

 

Elizabeth Joy