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

How to Live a Life that Overflows with Thankfulness

Last Monday I had my second opportunity to lead in prayer on Facebook Live. It was the fifteenth day of  21 Days of Prayer for Waterline Church, where I am the Director of Relational Arts. You know, I absolutely loved my time leading online and experienced fantastic engagement with the people who joined me live. We talked about how to live a life that overflows with thankfulness.

How to live a life that overflows with thankfulness

Thankfulness

The theme that book-ends each week of our 21 Days is  thankfulness. Therefore, we begin and end each week with gratitude. The Scripture I shared was Colossians 2:6-7.

 And now, just as you accepted Christ Jesus as your Lord, you must continue to follow him.  Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness. (Col. 2:6-7 NLT)

I love how the Message words this same passage:

My counsel for you is simple and straightforward: Just go ahead with what you’ve been given. You received Christ Jesus, the Master; now live him. You’re deeply rooted in him. You’re well constructed upon him. You know your way around the faith. Now do what you’ve been taught. School’s out; quit studying the subject and start living it! And let your living spill over into thanksgiving. (Col. 2:6-7 MSG)

 

#BOOM

Paul paints a clear correlation here:

Rooting + Building our lives in Christ  —>  Strong Faith + Thankfulness

I believe most of us want to be thankful people. And I think many of us want to have strong faith. But it’s hard to muster those things up. It seems they depend on our rootedness in Christ, which leads to lives built up in Him – living Jesus.

When we begin to live Jesus, to truly walk out the things we’ve learned (from the Word, from our Pastors, from our worship songs, from others’ life stories), then our faith grows, and we become thankful people.

Does that sound scary to anyone? Doesn’t walking out what we’ve learned mean stepping out before you are sure God will catch you? Isn’t that kind of like jumping out of the plane before you know for sure the parachute is going to open up?

 

That’s faith, my friends.

Faithfulness is one of the spiritual fruit listed by Paul in his letter to the Galatians.

Spiritual fruit grows naturally in people rooted in Christ. Click To Tweet
Fruit

One of my sons likes to grow things.

At any given time, we could have potted plants from pineapples and cantaloupe to avocados and tomatillos in various stages of growth around our house and patio. I don’t know if any of you are gardeners, but I’ve noticed that sometimes fruit grows v-e-r-y slowly. After all, nurturing young plants requires incredible patience and diligence. And it generally helps if he keeps going back to check them, care for them, and assess their progress.

Sometimes I think our spiritual fruit grows in us so incrementally that I wonder if we even notice. And I wonder if we forget to keep track of its progress.

So, I want to help us notice fruit.

Monday evening, during prayer time for the 21 Days of Prayer our church is walking through on Facebook Live, I issued a challenge I’d like to extend here too. Instead of looking for external things to be thankful for (let’s face it, there are a TON), instead, why don’t we start to look internally for some fruit to thank God for?

Overflowing and Spilling Over

Did you notice that Paul said our thankfulness would overflow? The Message version says, “spill over.” That means it comes from the inside. And it can’t be contained.  After all, things that overflow come out from somewhere, and can’t be held in any longer.

So what’s on the inside? What’s going on inside of us that might begin to spill out thanks? 

One key to natural gratitude is being diligent to acknowledge and express what God is doing in us. Click To Tweet

Now, an incredibly important discipline for the joy-seeker and the one who wants to be grateful is to  look for things to be thankful for. So let’s start the inward search. Let’s take inventory of our fruit – the ones that are ripe, and the ones just blossoming.

Notice Fruit and Discover Thankfulness

 

Printable to inventory your spiritual fruit

 

Download the free printable

As you take your time considering each of these spiritual fruit, allow God to direct your thoughts. Important: Recognize that our fruit doesn’t grow all at once. Often we are in a season where God is helping us to grow just one type of fruit. Other times several types might be growing at once, but you’ll still find it s-l-o-w.

How do you start?! Survey your day today. Do you notice you reacted differently to any situations than you might have a few months ago? Think about conversations, or your inner thoughts. Do you have a sense of contentment where there used to be anxiety? Do you notice you have been able to be more kind to someone difficult in your life?

Where are you changing?

Then, as you notice that you indeed have grown, even if it is just a small amount of growth, begin to celebrate that! Speak it out to the Lord. Write it in this Colossians 2:6 journal, leather notebook, or on the printable above. And tell a prayer partner or friend.

Let your living spill over into thanksgiving. 

 Live a life that overflows with thankfulness

Habits take time to form. So I invite you to keep today’s printable handy. Let it remind you to go back to the garden again and again. Assess growth, nurture and cultivate it. And with every new leaf or new blossom, thank God – loudly! Praise Him that fruit is growing and you are living Jesus.

Those who do overflow with thankfulness.

Elizabeth Joy

Reclaiming Joy: 3 Prayer Prompts to Help You Find Joy Again!

Sometimes we straight up need some prayer prompts for reclaiming  joy. We need guidance how to navigate this life and all its unexpected happenings with a perspective that is hopeful. If you agree, read on…

 Reclaiming Joy

Life is Hard. We need to actively work at reclaiming joy. Take the 3 Prayer Prompts challenge to find your joy again.

Hope doesn’t necessarily come naturally to many of us. Rather, it often lives trampled in the dirt of disappointment. So we need help to pick it up, dust it off, and then walk in it.

There are things in our lives that seem to thrive on stealing our joy and our hope. Discouragements, doubts, heartbreak, and fears all connive to strip the joyful person of a hopeful heart and render him or her joyless. We wonder if we will ever find our way back up again.

But it is not our destiny to remain there, my friend.

In fact, Scripture tells us to rejoice and be glad, because our reward in Heaven is so great (Matthew 5:12). And it says to rejoice in the Lord at all times, and always be full of the joy of the Lord! (Phil 4:4)

Is that even possible?

Well, I suggest it is, but we have some work to do to get there. We need to be on mission reclaiming joy if we haven’t been living a rejoice-always kind of life.

We need to get on mission reclaiming joy if we haven't been living a rejoice-always kind of life. Click To Tweet
Rejoice Always

So, let’s start small.

What if, for the next 3 days, you chose to be deliberate about reclaiming joy?

What if, for the next 3 days, you chose to be deliberate about reclaiming joy? Click To Tweet

 What if, no matter what life threw at you in those 3 days, you grabbed this goal by its seemingly impossible horns, and didn’t let go, not for one stinking second? Or if you did, you grabbed right back on to it again? What if?

Are you up for that challenge?

If you are, then I applaud you. And I want to encourage you in it! I’d love for you to join in the discussion over on my Joy Let Loose Facebook community. Could your reclaiming joy journey impact others?

If you aren’t up for the #ReclaimingJoy challenge yet, then I also applaud your honesty, and pray you will take the time to prepare for it. You can jump in anytime!

The #Reclaiming Joy Challenge

Each day, as early as you can, set aside 15 minutes to spend by yourself. This time is similar to The Morning Joy Challenge. But this time, we are on an even more specific mission.

  • Quiet your mind, breathe deeply, and spend a few moments simply relaxing. Then move in to the Prayer Prompt for the day. The printable below is to help you.

Reclaiming Joy Infographic

Download it here!

  • Read the verse several times, slowly. Allow certain words to stand out to you. Look them up, if you want to. This is a good resource for that (simply type the English word in the top search bar.)
  • Focus your thoughts, and then your prayer, on something that stands out to you. Ask God to show you where this particular verse is applicable in your own joy journey. Confess the areas where you have with-held yourself from Him, or deliberately gone another way. Acknowledge areas where you know you are already maturing. Re-read the verse, and ask the Lord to help you lean in to Him today. Plan for hope!
  • Then as you go about your day, remain conscious of how God is with you.
  • Finally, at the end of the day, revisit the morning’s Prayer Prompt. God may show you something you hadn’t noticed before.
What’s next in Reclaiming Joy?
  1. If you are taking the reclaiming joy challenge, let us know in the comments below!
  2. And after you’ve focused on your #ReclaimingJoy prayer prompts over the next three days, I’d love for you to report your progress either in the comments, or in the Facebook Community.  We need community to spur us on! Use the hashtag #ReclaimingJoy.
  3. And, if you haven’t yet, subscribe to  Joy Let Loose to receive even more Prayer Prompts in your inbox. I won’t be spammy – I promise!

Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you believe in Him so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15:13)

Believing in you as you begin #ReclaimingJoy!

Elizabeth Joy

How to Make a New Home When You Can’t Stay Where You’ve Been

Our family moved into a new home in a new neighborhood. And then one week later, we left.

One step forward, two steps back…

Actually, we left for vacation – 26 hours of driving back to what still feels like home, but isn’t, and to places where our history still tugs on our heartstrings, but can’t be our present reality

The relief of welcoming arms, long-term friendships, and family relationships embraced us like the salty air: cool, comfortable, and without pretense.

There's something so refreshing about not needing to make a first impression. Click To Tweet

When life changes happen (like a ministry move, a significant loss, or a job transfer) a new normal is thrust upon us. We have an immediate choice to adapt – or not. Depending on the circumstances, we can choose to dive in to the startingover of life, and the writing of a new chapter. Or we can resist by clinging to what once was.

How to Make a New Home

We’ve moved a lot in the twenty years we have been married. I’ll be the first to admit that, in my twenties, these moves were exciting. My husband and I lived on the precipice of adventure when we were young. We looked at ministry relocation and a new home with great anticipation.

But as I’ve gotten older, (and now that we have moved away several times from people and jobs we have loved dearly), I have a keen sense of the amount of energy it takes to start life all over again. 

And this is kind of where I have sat for the past 11 months since we started over…again. 

Two new houses (first a rental, now our own), new neighborhoods, new ministry, new country… Each footstep has felt measured, like it just might take the last bit of energy that I have.

But I’ve still taken the steps…

I’ve had to, otherwise I would sink under the weight of my own resistance. 

So, how do you make a new home when circumstances dictate that you can’t stay where you’ve been? Here are some key steps I take. In fact, I will be taking many of these as soon as we get back to our new home from vacationing at our old one…

Seven Crucial Steps to Make a New Home
  • Tie Some Ribbons Before You Leave

The reality is that things don’t stay the same. The people you are leaving behind will keep on living and changing, just like you will. As you prepare to move, wrestle with the sadness of leaving, and allow some closure to come to your relationships.

A few will rise to the surface as friendships you will be willing to cultivate from a distance over the long haul. You’ll know which ones those are. For the rest, spend time thanking God for the season you’ve had together, and have open conversations that display your gratitude for the relationship you’ve had.

Give yourself permission to tie a bow on this segment of your life before moving on.

  • Drive, Walk, Sit

If you have the luxury of time to house hunt, and the ability to spend time in your new area for a bit, take advantage of it! Drive all over, walk through neighborhoods, sit in parks. What personality do different areas have? Where do you feel the most you?

I was fortunate enough to be able to pair house-hunting with teaching one of my sons to drive. With a willing chauffeur who needed to accrue driving hours, we ran the roads and got a great feel for the areas that felt most like us.

God is already in this next season ahead of you, and He can place people perfectly. Be patient to seek Him in this. Drive, walk, and sit until He shows you where to put down your roots.

  • Allow Yourself to Dream of your New Home

There are always things to feel a little nervous about when heading into a new chapter. But don’t allow fear of the unknown to overshadow your hopes of what might be. Be proactive to dream.  Joy comes in the morning.

What stages of life will you (and your family members if you have them) potentially celebrate in this new home? Is this going to be a developing season, or a simplifying one? What milestones might be coming up in the next few months or years? Ask God the help birth dreams in your heart and mind for what is to come.

Once you figure out where to live, let your imagination run wild about how to permeate your home with your personality. Large renos or small DIY projects give you permission to invest your heart and soul into your new home. Joanna Gaines is my hero in this regard, sharing great insights about it in The Magnolia Story. Whether you are a professional decorator or not, let your personality shine!

  • Consider Your Potential Impact

It’s so easy to approach a move to a new home with a list of our own needs. But what if we came to it from the standpoint of the potential impact we might have there? Could God have a specific community for us to pour into?

Spend time considering what gifts you bring to the table. How might you most naturally impact the people in the neighboring apartments or houses at your new home?

Check out The Art of Neighboring: Building Genuine Relationships Right Outside Your Door to get an awesome perspective about your call to your neighbors. What new relationships might God be preparing for this next season of life? Where might God want us to let joy loose? When we approach home shopping from the perspective of our potential impact in addition to our own needs, I guarantee we will look at our neighborhoods with different eyes.

  • Ask and Listen

People love to be heard. Your new neighbors all have stories they’ve lived and stories their lives are still writing. The very best thing you can do to show them value is to learn them. Ask questions, and pay rapt attention to their answers. You are being written in.

And come to these conversations prepared to share a bit of yourself too. If the people around your new home are people God has placed in your life, it’s easier to dive right in than to let the awkward silence happen…you totally know what I mean! 🙂

  • Allow Yourself to Re-visit

From my moving experiences, it’s best not to return to the place you’ve left right away. But it is important to re-visit at some point, if you are able. I’d recommend waiting at least a year.

Two things are important about this return:

1) It is a good touch-point with people you know and love. It allows you to be able to share, face-to-face, what God has been doing in your lives.

2) It also helps you see the reality that things don’t stay the same. The place and people you left are not frozen in time, waiting for you to come back. Seeing that they’ve moved on gives permission for you to do so as well.

  • Learn From Where You’ve Been

Some of us have moved a dozen or more times. Others have planted deep roots and intend to remain forever. Still, change may be coming. And either way, the past not only impacts our future, it prepares us for it.

What things about your former home did you love that you can bring to your new home? What life changes can you make right now for this new season? What mistakes can inform your next steps, and what best practices can you bring forward?

The rearview mirror is a great coach, but we need to keep our eyes on the windshield. Click To Tweet

Learn from where you’ve been, but embrace the adventure of the road ahead.

Make a new home

One Step Forward…

Sometimes change is thrust upon us. We usually have a choice about how to respond to it. Whatever it is that brings about the move to a new home, find God in it. His joy will be there too. Each of these seven steps may need to be taken one at a time, but each will help in the process of discovering a new normal in a new chapter. So start by taking that first step; it’s exciting to consider what God might do.

Your turn:  What advice do you have for people getting ready to settle in to a new normal in a new home? Comment below!

Elizabeth Joy

 

Moving Neighborhoods (and bringing joy there too)

It has been about ten months since we made the trek from the Canadian East Coast to the Midwest. And it was right about then that we “settled” into a new neighborhood. Being here has taught me some things about being a good neighbor. But the time has come to uproot again. It is time for moving neighborhoods. Thankfully, this time, our move is only 3 miles down the road.

Moving Neighborhoods

Over the last 5 days since we closed on our new home, I have made that trek dozens of times, each time aware that we are picking up and planting again. We are replacing “temporary” with “permanent”. Or, at least the kind of permanent that is possible in ministry–this will be our twelfth home in twenty years. We are so looking forward to settling in our own place.

Moving Neighborhoods

There is disarray right now in both homes. Boxes and paper everywhere! But as I drive under the canopy of trees that has become my favorite route to our new place, I’m reminded we are covered by the love of the Lord. The stresses that can accompany the packing and unpacking, the loading and unloading, quickly dissipate. As I pass the community pool, I’m aware there are so many families here we don’t know. As I see my current neighbors in their yards, I’m reminded of their warm welcome and the community they have with each other, and this inspires me to build community in my new neighborhood.

And, it doesn’t go without saying that, each time I pull into our new driveway, I’m profoundly aware of the provisions of our good Father.

It seems appropriate that at our church we soon move in to a series on The Art of Neighboring: Building Genuine Relationships Right Outside Your Door. The Lord’s timing never fails to amaze me. We best express genuine love in driveways, on front porches, and around dinner tables

We best express genuine love in driveways, on front porches, and around dinner tables. Click To Tweet

So, Joy Let Loose may seem a bit quiet for a little while as we are moving neighborhoods. But I pray God’s joy will let loose through our family. 

Elizabeth Joy