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

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

Friday Fun: It’s the Little Things (My New Joy Blend!)

Today’s a great day for a joy blend. It’s a little cool and dreary outside. The Friday tornado siren practice is back in full swing for the season. If those things want to scream out this morning with their warning rehearsal, I think maybe joy should outdo it. What do you say?

 Friday Fun

Today I’m introducing to you Friday Fun. The topic of joy, and pursuing a joyful life can (at times) be daunting and large. There are just so many things in our world that try to drown out our joy. So, diligently chasing after the joy we were designed for is a big deal. And I’m okay with that. (Hence, articles like this and this!) But much of our joy can be found in the little things too. The little things we sometimes overlook. The small moments we sometimes are too rushed to perceive.

Enter Friday Fun! What if, each Friday at  Joy Let Loose, we simply slowed down to look at one little thing that can bring joy to us during the coming weekend? After all, joy is found and expressed in laughter and little moments. So, on Fridays, be watching for ideas for activities or recipes, conversation starters or gifts, home ideas, getaways or games. 

 

Friday Fun - Joy Blend

 

Joy Blend

Over the last several months, I’ve been learning more about essential oils. I launched into a new world when I got a diffuser for my birthday. I’m a newbie, but have experimented with blends for focus & energy, relaxation, mood enhancement, and respiratory health. I’ve learned some great uses for Tea Tree oil, Peppermint, and Frankincense. 

But on this dreary Friday morning, I discovered an awesome new  joy blend  that I think is one of my new favorites. In each of my diffusers, I used 4 drops of grapefruit, 3 drops of bergamot, and 3 drops of ylang ylang.

  • GRAPEFRUIT Essential Oil is widely popular for its many benefits, including helping with circulation and digestion, reducing sugar cravings and candida. As an aromatic, it is reduces stress, improves focus, and has a positive impact on mood.
  • Bergamot essential oil is another citrus, often used to help indigestion, muscle tension and headaches. As an aromatic, it is an anti-depressant, and it helps to relieve anxiety.
  • Ylang ylang, from the yellow flower of a large (beautiful!) tree, improves immune and cardiovascular health. As an aromatic, it increases energy and helps lower blood pressure.

Fun Friday Joy Blend

Reduced stress + improved focus + positive mood enhancement + anxiety relief + anti-depressant + increased energy + lower blood pressure = definitely worth trying out this Fun Friday! 

 Joy Blend on the Go!!

We are house-hunting these days. Now, I love house-hunting, but when you look at dozens and dozens in the span of a few days, sometimes you start going a little squirrelly. And I decided yesterday that I need some joy on the go. So I picked up something like this! It’s an itty-bitty essential oil diffuser for my car. I’m taking joy on the road with me now as I house shop ’til I drop. The verdict is still out on its effectiveness. But on its trial run last night, I’d say it was helping! 

Thanks for joining me for Friday Fun! It really is the little things, and Fridays are for staying simple and light. My new joy blend is wafting through my house as I write, and I hear the levity in my homeschool teens’ moods even now. So I think it’s working. 🙂

Have an awesome Friday, and a joyful weekend!

Elizabeth Joy

 

 

 

 

The Joy Model, by Jeff Spadafora: A Book Review


In January, I wrote about a gift I received from my husband Scott, The Joy Model: A Step-by-Step Guide to Peace, Purpose, and Balance, by Jeff Spadafora. It was an early #joysighting!. I intended to review it sooner, but chose to savor its wisdom before bringing it to you here at 
 Joy Let Loose. Now that I have finished it, and have enjoyed looking around Jeff’s blog, and companion devotional journey, I can’t wait to tell you about it!

 

Book Review

The Joy Model

Jeff was successful in life in many of the ways our culture defines success. He had a beautiful family, vibrant career, and a lovely home. Jeff also had access to many life luxuries many of us only dream of. But he sensed something was missing. He defines the years of his life between ages 25-40 as years of “smoldering discontent”. Jeff describes a pendulum swing between “doing for God” and “being with God” that left him exhausted and frustrated. Although he was doing everything he thought he was supposed to be doing to grow as a Christian, somehow the joy promised in the Bible was elusive to him.

It’s almost as if this faith thing had ignited a thirst that could never be quenched. (13)

As he shares his story of discontentment and joylessness, Jeff challenges readers to examine their own lives and smoldering discontent.

Revelation

Have you ever had an idea elude you for a long season, even though you know something is there? Then all of a sudden, comprehension comes like a lightning bolt to clear the fog? That is what happened for Jeff after several months of trying to create a diagram that adequately described the concept of joy. In a moment, he had a profound, yet simple, grid. It revolutionized his teaching, and accurately portrayed his own journey from discontent to joyful living.

Not only does this joy model portray the concept, but it shows how to move from where people are now to greater joy. Jeff calls it the M.A.S.T.E.R. Plan. He is careful to explain that seeking joy for joy’s sake is kind of like chasing a butterfly in its elusiveness. His plan coaches readers to seek God, promising that peace, joy and fulfillment are by-products of a focus on God.

M.A.S.T.E.R. Plan

I felt exposed by the first few chapters of this book. As an almost 20-year-old believer, I could hear my own discontent echo through their pages as I saw my pendulum swinging. So, I loved the helpful depth and clarity of chapters four through ten, as Jeff gently walked me through each element of the M.A.S.T.E.R. Plan:

  • Margin
  • Abiding
  • Self-awareness
  • Treasure (and Temple)
  • Engagement
  • Relationships
Thoughts

Margin is what actually makes room for change to happen. It is difficult to allow for in our busy cultures. But it is essential. We just returned from a two-week trip designed specifically for margin. Our family transition that has been unfolding over the last year has drained us physically and emotionally. We all needed to just breathe. Rest by the pool in the sunshine, on the sand by the ocean, and around the dinner table with family and friends was what my soul needed! 

Jeff’s coaching on margin, though, goes beyond the periodic vacation, and points to the need for space in everyday life. He gives permission to dream of the ideal life, and contrast it with reality. Margin is necessary to bridge the gap.

Inner Focus

Abiding echoes Jesus’ words in John 15:5. So many of us get caught up in all of the “doing” of Christianity that we do not truly abide in Christ. Jeff gives permission for readers to enjoy God in ways He has uniquely designed them. But he also challenges us to come close to God in ways we perhaps haven’t before. He outlines specific disciplines that can draw us closer to the Lord.

Jeff’s chapter about Self-Awareness reveals a revolutionary part of his own journey. It exposes what he calls the “False Self”, against which most of us war. It helps us see the destructiveness of self-deception, and the limits that our selfishness place on us. But it points us toward the “Real Self”, and movement on the joy model. He promises this discovery holds the life you have always wanted.

Real joy is being exactly who we are in service to others and for the glory of God. (114)

In his chapter about Treasure, Jeff introduces the “Green Monster”. He discovered that, far too often, finances degrade people’s joy. But he says that wealth and a life of joy are not mutually exclusive. His own discovery that he relied on wealth to form his identity set him on a trajectory to learn how His money could bless other people. This chapter is one of strategy to help readers take the same steps. 

Outward Focus

Engagement is about being enlisted in the work of the Holy Spirit on this earth. But it is impossible to enlist prior to the self-examination of the previous chapters, so don’t rush ahead! By now, our passions and paradigms have changed, and we are freed up to step in fully to God’s will for our lives. This is not about the obligation of what we ought  to do, but more about being brave to do what we were created to do.

We don’t lack clarity from God about what we should be doing. We lack he creativity and courage to go do it. (136)

Finally, in the section about Relationships,Jeff reminds us of the treasure we have in the people God has given to us. He challenges the superficial relationships we often keep, holding people at arm’s length. And Jeff encourages readers to examine their key relationships, resolve conflict more carefully, and develop intimacy.

Jeff encourages readers not to try this journey alone. He recommends mentoring, coaching, and accountability. His companion blog and devotional journey are helpful tools he provides to help. But he says most people will not be successful trying to go this road alone. 

The Joy Model Recommended!

The Joy Model

I am so glad I took my time working through The Joy Model: A Step-by-Step Guide to Peace, Purpose, and Balance,  rather than simply consuming it in a day or two! I plan now to go back through it again, following Jeff’s recommendations and strategies. His joy model is clear and very helpful. If you are excited to start reading right away, I’d recommend you download the kindle version.  On this journey toward joy at  Joy Let Loose, I want my life to radiate the joy of the Lord. But I can still see my pendulum swinging sometimes, and my propensity to focus more on what I ought to do, rather than what I was created to do.

I am confident that Jeff Spadafora’s book will have a significant impact on my own joy-journey, and I want to recommend it to you in yours. If you have felt smoldering discontent, unsure why the joy of the Lord seems elusive to you, then please check out this book! 

Comments

I would love to hear about your experience with The Joy Model in the comments below! Where are you on the grid? How is God moving you from where you are to where you want to be? 

Elizabeth Joy

 

 

 

You Really Can Find Natural (Supernatural) Joy in Everyday Life

Many of us struggle to believe that natural (supernatural) joy can be real in our everyday lives. Although we see it throughout scripture, our circumstances tend to obliterate it from our daily sight. And even though we sing about it on Sunday morning, our lives don’t echo it on Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday. So, is joy really natural?

I recently wrote the article, Why We Need to Know If We are Starving for Joy. Inside, there is a list of 7 things scripture shows us about joy, which will serve as foundational truths for this series of articles. Because many of us have forgotten what joy is like, or don’t even realize we’ve lost it. So what does scripture promise, and how are we going to realize its promises?

 Natural (Supernatural) Joy in Everyday Life

Natural (Supernatural) Joy

Joy Is Natural

Joyfulness is a response. It is both something we are given, and something that is cultivated in us. Joy is what settles deep and spills out as we come face to face with the spiritual reality of our deliverance (1 Samuel 2:1), echoing the rejoicing expressed in heaven at the salvation of each believer (Luke 15:7).  

Numerous words in Scripture translate as “joy”, including:

  •  ἀγαλλίασις (agalliasis) – exultation, exuberant joy
  • χαρά (chara) – joy, delight, gladness
  • חֶדְוָה (chedvah) – joy, rejoicing
  • שָׂשׂוֹן (sason) – exultation, rejoicing
  • שִׂמְחָה (simchah) – joy, gladness, mirth

Joy is the response and the reaction of the soul to a knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ.  (Martyn Lloyd-Jones)

Hebrew or Greek, each of these point to a variety of root words, and appear in different forms. But each one points to the responsive nature of joy. Among many other things, our joy may be in response to God’s presence (Psalm 16:11), strength (Psalm 21:1), salvation (Psalm 51:12, Isaiah 12:3), or favor (Psalm 30:5). It can be in response to his provision (Ecclesiastes 9:7, Luke 1:14), protection (Isaiah 35:10), family (Acts 2:46), Son (Hebrews 1:9), purification (Jude 1:24), or his Word (Isaiah 52:12).

The undergirding essence of all of these joyful reactions is exuberance. In each case, joy sort of explodes, unable to be contained. This is in stark contrast to the kind of anemic, sedate joy described by many Christians, which is often separated entirely from emotions. Our emotions absolutely are intertwined with natural, responsive joy. If we aren’t experiencing exuberant joy in response to all that God is, perhaps our joy is not yet natural.

Joy is a natural response to the undeserved & unexplainable activity of God in our lives. Click To Tweet
Joy is Supernatural

Joy is only natural to people whose nature is being transformed, because our actual nature is corrupted by sin (Jeremiah 17:9, Ephesians 2:3). Without Christ, we are turned inward, blind to God, and unable to respond to Him. We cannot experience true joy. We need the supernatural intervention of the Holy Spirit to be truly joyful.

The one who has received God’s incredible gift of grace has come alive. Now, we are gardens to be cultivated by the indwelling Spirit of God. We are rich earth to be tilled, seeded, watered, and tended, ultimately on a trajectory towards Christlikeness.

Joy is second in the list of fruit named in Paul’s letter to the Galatians (5:22). He says joy is one of the things that grows naturally in the person who has nailed his or her fleshly desires to the cross of Christ. And the gentle cultivation of the Spirit towards the things of God and away from our former passions yields fruit that is alive and growing, colorful and healthy.

As we partner with the Garden-keeper, our joy becomes vibrant, noticeable, and unable to be contained! We can count on it to flourish when roots are dug deep in faith.

Assurance is the fruit that grows out of the root of faith. (Stephen Charnock)

Cultivating Natural (Supernatural) Joy

So what do we do if our joy has faded? Is there hope for the Jesus follower who just can’t seem to find joy in life anymore? I think there is! If  joy is a natural response to the undeserved and unexplainable activity of God in our lives, but we are struggling to feel it, perhaps we have lost sight of Him. Maybe in the hectic nature of our schedules, the kind of disappointments life seems to deliver, or the treacherous path of the unexpected, we have diverted our eyes. Perhaps former desires have crept back in and we have stopped co-operating with the Tender of our garden, so we are no longer flourishing and producing the fruit of joy. Allow the soil to be cultivated again.

1. Decide (choose)

After Jesus’ baptism and subsequent 40 days in the wilderness, he began his public ministry by opening the scroll and reading from Isaiah, the prophet. Isaiah’s prophecy, in full, had contained promises that Jesus would comfort those who grieve, replacing their sadness with the oil of joy and their despair with a garment of praise (Isaiah 61). Our first step in receiving the oil of joy where it has drained is in simply choosing to believe that Jesus has come to give it to us. We must decide to pursue it again. Jesus is the only one who can provide what we’ve lost. Do we really believe that? 

If you have no joy, there’s a leak in your Christianity somewhere. (Billy Sunday)

Dear worn out, discouraged, joy-seeking reader, may today be the day you decide whether Jesus meant what he said. Don’t leak anymore! Cup your hands to receive his oil of joy.

2. Renew (fill)

In the article 6 Joy Scriptures to Memorize this Month, I wrote about Paul’s encouragement that we renew our minds in the Word of God (Romans 12:1-2). He said it will help us not to conform to the {joyless} patterns of the world. We tend to see everything through the lens of whatever we think about most. So God has given us his Holy Spirit to guide us into all truth (John 16:13), and it is his Word that is true (Psalm 33:4). It is alive and active, and has the power to  expose our innermost thoughts and desires (Hebrews 4:12). 

Even today, you can make a plan to search his Word, to meditate on it, memorize it, and to allow it to begin to knit itself into the fabric of your being. As you do, your oneness with God will move you towards complete joy (1 John 1:4). Decide today to let God minister to your weary soul. Let it renew your mind and change your perspective. Fill up!

3. Praise (pour)

Filling up necessitates pouring out; jars that are full can’t help but spill over. Exuberance characterizes authentic joy, so make the choice today to start letting it out. Actively put on the garment of praise instead of the spirit of heaviness. Thank God, speak of him, sing of him, share his goodness with others. Look for #joysightings around you, and document them in photos, journals, and conversations. I guarantee that sharing out loud with God and with others about your gratitude for his goodness and grace will simultaneously fill you with even more joy, because gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. This is a waterfall that replenishes itself as it pours! 

Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. (Melody Beattie)

 

Decide, Renew, and Praise

These three things will help the tired traveller begin to re-discover natural (supernatural) joy in his or her everyday life. Here is a free printable to help you start this journey of rediscovery. Jesus promises us natural (supernatural) joy. We can live it out loud! Will you join me?

Natural (Supernatural) Joy Printable

In the comments below, let us know how you are rediscovering natural (supernatural) joy!

Elizabeth Joy