Summer Reading List: What Are You Reading This Summer? 

Summer is for sandy skin, cold lemonade, and summer reading. It’s for wind-blown hair, cousin-time, bonfires and fireworks. I simply LOVE the summer! 

We are in a particularly busy season of life where one son and I have both started new jobs, and our family is just about to move in to a new house. But vacation is right around the corner. BLESS God! It’s a twenty-six hour drive, but I can’t wait to go to some of our usual summer places and see lots of people we love.

Summer reading list

Summer Reading

And did I mention summer reading? My list for this summer is eclectic. These aren’t to resource me professionally. I read a lot for that already. For summer, I want to stay a little bit lighter. Instead, some are books that will encourage my  joy journey. And others are to help me creatively with decorating our new home. But no matter the book, I’m excited for them to become sandy and wind-blown by the breeze! I also love the portability of an e-reader, and stashing it quickly in my bag when it’s time to jump in the ocean. I have a beach bag similar to this that has always served me well. But hardcover, paperback, or Kindle – I’m game!

Summer Reading Recommendations

I wanted to share some of my summer reading plans with you. Some of the books here I’ve already read, and plan to hit up for a second round, with fresh eyes. A few I’m letting you know about even before I read them, but they’ve been recommended to me by people or sources I totally trust. Watch for updates or reviews as I make it through.

Since I’m part of the Amazon Affiliates program (see my disclosure in the sidebar) you’ll see lots of links throughout this post.

Home and Heart Renovations:

The Magnolia Story by Chip & Joanna Gaines (2016)

I’m not going to lie: I fangirl over Chip and Joanna Gaines. Their rapport, their family, their style, their humility – I love it all. And I’ve already read this book. (Actually, I devoured it just last month.) But I’m going to pop it in my summer reading bag to go through it again, it’s that good. I love how it chronicles the hard work and risks, trust and courage it took for this couple to establish their business, and how through it all, their hearts of generosity, compassion, and humility shine through. 

Also, Joanna’s style inspires me, and will hopefully inspire some ideas in our new home. (Wow, do I wish we were in Waco!) I’ll likely pick up some copies of The Magnolia Journal Magazine  too for visual inspiration! 

Choosing to See (2011)

This is a heart reno book. I have a feeling this is one I may read once every 2 years or so. I inhaled it back when it first came out, and again a year or two later. It is the story of Mary Beth Chapman and her journey of grief after losing her sweet daughter, Maria, in a tragic accident. Even though it is not a literary masterpiece, it is the kind of honest that reminds the reader of God’s faithfulness at all times. I believe it will encourage the downtrodden, and help equip the one who hasn’t experienced difficulty yet.

501 Ideas Under $100

I’m excited about our new home, but there’s no denying we are going in on a limited budget. When we purchased our last house in 2013, we gutted and renovated the whole thing. This time, there is no need to renovate, as the house is only 10 years old and has been well maintained. So our ideas can go more to decorating. I think I’ll pick up something like this to help me brainstorm on the beach when I don’t have WiFi. Even though it’s a little older, I think it may spark some decorating hacks that will be useful.

Interior Design: Interior Design Basics (2017)

There is a Kindle version of this book I think I’ll pick up. I don’t know that I’d go so far as to pay for the paperback version, but at less than $3, I figure there’s not much to lose. And since it just came out in 2017, I’m hopeful the information in it will be relevant. I’ve renovated and decorated before, as I mentioned, but there’s always more to learn. And without WiFi for a while this summer, Pinterest won’t be my go-to! 

Question for you: What are your favorite Home and Heart Renovation resources?

Joy Journey Books:

Surprised By Joy – (new edition 2017)

I’m a C.S. Lewis fan, and I’m so excited there is a new edition of his book “Surprised by Joy”. This is a memoir about his journey toward Jesus, originally part of a 1955 autobiography, and then published in 1966. What I like about C.S. Lewis is how applicable his writings are still today. And I also love learning about the man behind the Narnia series (oh please promise me, if you haven’t read these yet, that you’ll add them to your summer reading list!), and the genius Screwtape Letters

Experiencing Contagious Joy – Women of Faith Series (2016)

I’ve read some books before and done some studies from Women of Faith series, and they’ve been good. But I was excited to see that there is a more recent one that centers on  Contagious Joy, and I’m looking forward to reading it. Have any of you ever read this one?

The Circle Maker – Mark Batterson

I had the opportunity a year or two ago to hear Mark Batterson share about his own journey praying circles around big dreams, and I received this book as a gift for Christmas. I’ve been waiting to read it until I have the time and the headspace to take it in. But I’ve only heard amazing reviews from friends about how powerful this book is, and how it can revolutionize our faith to believe God and pursue Him for huge Kingdom things. I recently also discovered that there is a companion 40 Day Prayer Challenge This might be something for the Fall!

Question for you: Do you have big dreams or big fears to circle?

 

Well there you have it: My Top 7 Summer Reading Plans. I’m almost ready to pack my beach bag. But first, I have to pack up my house! 

 

How about You? What Are you reading this summer?

Elizabeth Joy

Friday Fun (It’s the Little Things): Fancy Progressive Dinner

The weekend is here, which means it’s time for Friday Fun on  Joy Let Loose! This week I was remembering a Fancy Progressive Dinner my husband and I were part of many years ago. And I thought, “Why on earth have we not done that again?!” Because it was REALLY fun!

So because I want to do it again, I want to share it with you and invite you to think about doing it too! 

Fancy Progressive Dinner

Fancy Progressive Dinner

First, start by planning out your guest list. Who would really get into something like this? Is there a family you are trying to get to know? Add them in! This will work best with about four couples (or families) who live relatively close to each other.

Then, create your invitations digitally, or on paper.

Here’s what you might want to say:

It’s time for some Friday Fun!

What: Fancy Progressive Dinner

When: Friday, _________

Where: All of our houses!

  • Family #1 provides their home and the appetizers from 5:30-6:15pm
  • Family #2 provides the main course at their home from 6:30-8:00pm
  • Family #3 provides dessert and coffee a their home from 8:15-9:15pm
  • Family #4 provides their home & munchies/games from 9:30-end.

It’s going to be Fancy! So let’s pull out our best dishes and put on our fanciest clothes for a night on the “town”.

The Menu

Next, work together with the other people (a week or two in advance) to co-ordinate your menu. You want to find items that complement each other well, but also have options that work for everyone. Once the items are finalized, create menu cards to display on each table. I’ve created a sample menu you can use if you like it!

Fancy Progressive Dinner Menu

Download the PDF free!

The set-up

A while back, I posted about Family Traditions. Several of them could come in to play with this Friday Fun activity, including helping your kids learn how to properly set the table, and having conversation starters at each house. After all, it is never too early (or too late!) to learn proper etiquette, and the safety of friends’ homes is a great place for that. Also, spills and broken dishes are always forgivable; lifelong lessons need practice.

Spills and broken dishes are always forgivable; lifelong lessons need practice. Click To Tweet

For other awesome life skill lessons for kiddos, check out Skill Trek!

Other ideas

There are as many ways to do a Fancy Progressive Dinner as there are people to dream them up. Get creative! Here are just a few ideas to start you off:

  • Base your evening on a Roaring Twenties theme, complete with swing jazz, mint juleps, and Gatsby-inspired fonts.
  • Follow an Indian theme, including flavorful curries and sweet punjabi lassi.
  • Make it a black-tie night, and make all of your decor black & white.
  • Incorporate a mystery party that requires numerous locations.

The possibilities are endless!

Fancy Progressive Dinner Follow-Up

Finally, it’s always a great idea to follow up a dinner party with a proper “Thank You!” And in this case, where several families had to open their homes and provide part of the meal, I’d suggest it is a definite must! Allow leftover menu cards to double as Thank You notes, and pop them in the mail 1-2 days after the event. Because the more you can show people value, the more they are built up. And the more people are encouraged to open their homes and build community, the more they will desire it. After all, it’s in the little things that we often discover joy. And it’s in community that we best let our joy loose.

It’s your turn: Have you done a progressive dinner before? What ideas do you have? Leave a note in the comments below.

Elizabeth Joy

 

 

4 Lies that Steal Our Joy (& the Truth that Sets Us Free)

Joy is real. It’s an actual wellspring that can sustain us, strengthen us, and spill over to people around us. Joy is promised to us in Scripture, so why do so many of us feel we have lost it? What is it that comes along to steal our joy?

A primary reason is that there is an enemy that is real whose goal is to steal our joy. His lifeblood is to steal, kill and destroy. His nature is to lie. What greater power could he have over us than to deceive us, stripping us of confidence, and silencing our wellspring of joy?

Thankfully, we can identify lying thoughts, take them captive, and make them obedient to Christ. For the good of our souls, it is absolutely essential that we name the lies, and replace them with Truth.

For the good of our souls, it is essential that we name lies and replace them with Truth. Click To Tweet

 

At  Joy Let Loose, we passionately pursue the kind of life that explodes with joy. So we want to help identify 4 Lies that Steal Our Joy (& the Truth that Sets Us Free.) It takes practice, and often a whole lot of accountability, to recognize, name, and replace the lies. But I promise you that freedom and joy lie on the other side!

4 Lies that Steal Our Joy
(& the Truth that Sets Us Free)

4 Lies that Steal Our Joy

 

  • Lie #1:  I am less than… 

Oh, how easy it is to look at ourselves in light of everyone else! It’s incredibly simple for the enemy to gain access to our perspective as soon as we begin to evaluate how _____ we are compared to anyone else. Have you experienced this?

                                      I’m not:

pretty enough

smart enough

thin enough

energetic enough

spiritual enough

young enough

______ enough…

It takes very little time for a comparison mindset to steal the wind from our sails and suck our joy dry. But Scripture is clear that we only need to see ourselves in light of Jesus Christ. In Romans, Paul says that if we follow Jesus, then the Holy Spirit testifies with our spirits that we are God’s children, and co-heirs with Christ. As a co-heir, we are joined with Him–adopted as God’s sons and daughters–and compared only to Him.

Truth: I Am Enough

God says that we are enough.  Psalm 139 says we are fearfully and wonderfully made. God’s gift of grace in Jesus Christ to rescue us from sin and transform us in to His likeness demonstrates pure, unrestrained love.

The next time the lie comes to your mind that you are not ____ enough, capture it. Name it as a lie. And replace it with the Truth that God sees you, chooses you, and loves you enough to call you His own son or daughter. He sees you as welcome and wonderful enough to join with Jesus.

God sees you, chooses you, and loves you enough to call you His own son or daughter. Click To Tweet

 

  • Lie #2:  I don’t have enough…

I’ve lived lots of places. Most of them have been in (North American) depressed economies. But God recently called us to minister in a very wealthy area. Feeling out of place? A little! But I’ve found that it doesn’t matter whether I live around luxury or lack, the enemy still likes to throw darts about it.

When I had to rely on WIC to afford milk for our kids, I thought, “I don’t have enough.” When we struggled to pay for car repairs or to fill the tank, “I don’t have enough.” When our oil bill exceeded our mortgage payment…same thoughts.

But in those seasons of scarcity, God proved again and again that He is enough. His repeated, miraculous provision through the hands of the generous showed me that, in fact, I had so much that I could overflow it to others. When bank statements made no sense, still there was just enough for us not to sink. When we were not sure how we would make it to another pay-check, bags of groceries and plentiful harvest would be waiting on our porch. 

Recently, we bought a house. The house-hunting process in a wealthy area proved to be a tempting place to begin to say, “I don’t have enough..” But I’ve learned not to pine after what I can’t have, and to be content with what is possible. And high in the mountains of Haiti, I was reminded again that He is enough. And not only do I have enough, I have enough for others too. I will not be defeated by a poverty mindset. My God provides.

I will not be defeated by a poverty mindset. My God provides. Click To Tweet
Truth: My God Provides

So whether you are in a season of luxury or one of lack, be wary of your thoughts. Gratitude and contentment are always possible as we lean into the Lord’s provision. Challenge the lie that you don’t have enough with the truth that He will provide for all of your needs in Christ Jesus.

 

  • Lie #3:  My circumstance Means no joy…

Let’s face it: life is plain hard. Many of us struggle against realities we never dreamed possible, and navigate circumstances that seem too much to bear. Energy gets zapped, hope seems lost, and a joyful perspective seems impossible to find again. But our joy is not dependent on circumstances alone. In fact, it is dependent on our God.

In a previous post, I quoted Dallis Willard who said that joy is “not pleasure, a mere sensation, but a pervasive and constant sense of wellbeing. It claims our entire body and soul, both the physical and the non-physical side of the human self.”(1)  Abiding joy is what causes the widow to turn toward God for solace, and makes the cancer patient intent on leaning in to each remaining moment. 

Truth: Joy Disregards Circumstances

Our circumstances might dampen our feelings of happiness, but the wellbeing that is found in Jesus will not be shaken.  Joy remains. We must peer through the fog to remember it and lean on its strength. When Isaiah prophesied in Chapter 52 that deliverance was coming, he instructed the Israelites to lean in to the promise of salvation, and to take off chains and shout for joy, even as they waited. They weren’t to hold out for rescue before they rejoiced about it.  

Joy disregards circumstances. And our disciplined rejoicing in faith can yield the fruit of abundant joy. So the next time your life circumstances threaten your wellbeing, and the enemy whispers to you that your joy is lost, refuse to believe it. Claim the truth that the joy of the Lord is your strength, and lean in to it.

Claim the truth that the joy of the Lord is your strength. And then lean in to it. Click To Tweet

 

  • I’m just not a joyful person…

I know people whose nature is to exude happiness. Their thanksgiving is inspiring and their energy is boundless. I know others who express joy through patience and contentment. Still others depict joy in their compassion and generosity. It takes on different forms, and is not a one-size-fits-all quality.

Joy is a God-like trait, and a fruit that grows in us as we grow closer to the Lord. It becomes our very nature as we are transformed to be like Jesus. I am introverted in personality, and even-keel in temperament, so I have often thought I may not be joyful. I’ve questioned where my joy is. But Scripture shows joy in many forms: it looks like perseverance in trial, exuberance in praise, confidence and gratitude for God’s provision, and deep and abiding faith.

Truth: My Joy is Unique

So, when you are tempted to think you are not a joyful person, shake off your one-size-fits-all definition. Your joy is unique. Joy doesn’t look just one way – it is not only exuberant, chipper, and boisterous. Instead, remind yourself that joy also abides, remains steadfast, believes fully, and bears patiently. Ask the Lord to restore to you the joy of your salvation.

4 Lies That Steal Our Joy
(& the Truth that Sets Us Free)

 

Lies & Truth

Joy, my friends, grows in us as we grow in Christ. It is bold and it is active. The enemy of our souls is a thief and a deceiver., and he wants to steal our joy. So I pray today that you will see fruit in your lives from unearthing these 4 Lies that Steal Our Joy (& the Truth that Sets Us Free.)

How about you? How do you take thoughts captive and claim what is true? 

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 (Write Thanks)

It’s Friday!! Yay! Which means it’s time for Friday Fun, because it’s often the little things in life that bring us  joy. In our first edition, we looked at my joy blend, and last week we looked at how to actually sing our thanks. Let’s stay on a roll with the theme of gratitude, and plan to write thanks this weekend.

Friday Fun - Write Thanks
Friday Fun – Write Thanks
It’s the Little Things (Write Thanks)

Who do you have in your life that you could thank for something?

  • A parent for their constant care?
  • Or a teacher for challenging you to learn?
  • A pastor who introduced you to Jesus?
  • Or a friend who holds you accountable?
  • How about that one person in your life who causes you to belly laugh every time you are together?

Most of us have people in our lives who have had a much more profound impact on us than they realize. Can we really ever thank them enough?

Challenge

So for today’s  Friday Fun, I’m giving you a little challenge. And it’s an easy one! AND I’m providing you a method to make it happen. 

In a world that is saturated with technology, sound bytes, text speak, and messages in 140 characters or less, when was the last time you wrote a note? Do you remember those things? (Once upon a time, people wrote hand-written notes, in their very own penmanship, to thank someone else.) When was the last time you sat down to write thanks to someone for the way they have invested in you, or brought you joy, or heard what you were really saying, or comforted you, or…(fill in the blank). 

You really have no idea what your words of encouragement & thanks could do. Click To Tweet

Well, now’s your chance for Friday Fun. To help you out, I’ve made two free printables for you, so you can write thanks either as a letter or a note. All you need is some paper or card-stock, an envelope and postage (or better yet, hand-deliver it!)

Download the Notecard   or   Download the Letterhead

Will you take me up on this challenge?

Learning to be thankful, and to express it, is a valuable life skill we can teach to our kiddos too. Why not take the challenge today with your kids? For more awesome life skills, you can also check out Skill Trek!

Let me know how your thankfulness is going in the comments below.

 

Elizabeth Joy