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Entries in Joy (13)

Saturday
Sep212019

Choosing Joy in the Midst of Chaos

Julie Watson is an amazing woman. She has faced situations that could rob her of joy and peace, things that could have led to her defeat. But she is an overcomer, and in this Attitudes UPGRADE, she shares how she has found joy—and we can too.

“Decisions, decisions. Choosing joy in the midst of life’s messiness is quite the feat," Julie says, "but oh, so worth it!"

I (Dawn) have watched Julie cope with huge changes in her and her husband's life over the past few years. I can testify that she has found God faithful, and in the midst of the messiness of life, she has found God's unlimited joy.

Julie continues . . .

Ah, summer. If you’re a mom, you’ve likely just finished it. If you’re anything like me, you planned to have a great summer filled with fun activities: places to go, things to try, people to visit, etc.

And, if you’re still like me, you probably jumped for joy (to some degree) when it was over!

My HOPE is always to have the best summer, but my REALITY typically falls quite short.

I don’t know about you, but one can only take so much arguing, teasing, fighting, not listening and disobedience.

  • Behaviors get stretched to new limits when the TV and tablets are turned off because someone (or two) is grounded, and it’s too hot to go outside to play.
  • Boredom reaches new heights when Legos and Matchbox cars are the primary imagination booster to combat such yawn-inducing, brain-frying monotony.

In these instances, children often create their own “fun” which loosely translates into CHAOS for mom! And, not just any chaos, but the kind that horror stories are made of, such as: burning ants with a magnifying glass outside becomes a small brushfire (fictitious example), or a sister’s toothbrush is used as a toilet brush in a fit of assumptions, rage and revenge (a factual example from my summer).

This summer I did things differently.

Since the kids would be attending a new school, I had three whole months to work with them on the high expectations this new school has for its students.

Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays we worked on math (the subject everyone is scared of at my house).

Tuesdays and Thursdays, I put their imaginations to work and had them write their very own books!

Since all three of my kids LOVE to read, I thought it was time to make them the authors of their own imagination destinations. Funny enough, they really loved that idea and dove right in!

But, oh my goodness, Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays just about sent me over the edge.

The frustration and tears shed are almost too hard to relive… and I’m talking about MINE!

Trying to find even moments of joy became increasingly difficult.

The longer the summer dragged on, the harder it became. I had done some wonderful studies on joy in the past, and am still in the midst of one now. So, why was I struggling so much with finding joy in this summer chaos?

Joy is a choice, plain and simple. It’s not something given, bought, earned or found.

1. We have to RECOGNIZE who the author of joy is.

That’s Jesus. By taking our place on the cross and forgiving us our horrible sins we don’t deserve forgiveness for, He created an institution of joy within our own hearts when we accept Him.

“Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart” (Hebrews 12:2-3).

(Also see Isaiah 61:10 and John 16:24.)

2. We have to CHOOSE to be thankful for everything He has done for us.

Being grateful for our abundant blessings is the fastest way to create joy in the midst of chaos.

Even being thankful for the chaos teaches us how to cling to our Lord and Savior during the most trying of times!

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” (James 1:2-4).

(Also see Habakkuk 3:17-18; Galatians 5:22-23; and 1 Thessalonians 5:15-18.)

3. We have to SHARE it and spread that joy with those who need it.

In my estimation, that’s pretty much everyone!

Joy spreads like wildfire when you act in love and compassion toward another.

If we could share God’s love with others and act towards them with that same love, the world would change, one person at a time.

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:13).

 (Also see Proverbs 15:23 and Romans 15:32.)

In my case, I needed to choose to be thankful for these three little lives He had placed in our home and hearts after 17 long years of waiting.

He allowed us to become parents to some pretty amazing kids who were grateful to find a home with loving parents willing to help them with their schoolwork.

But, why had I forgotten to be thankful for them this summer? 

Because I had focused too much on the temporary frustrations and didn’t choose to be grateful for my lifelong blessings!

Are you struggling with choosing joy in the midst of chaos? Is there something you’re forgetting to be grateful for that will increase your joy meter? Reach out to a sister-in-Christ to pray with you and make a better choice for yourself today.

Joy is right there for the choosing and sharing!

Julie Watson worked in women’s and children’s ministries for 10 years as a Development and Executive Director before becoming a stay-at-home mom to three beautiful children. In 2016, God created a beautiful forever family when she and her husband, Shawn, were able to legally adopt the children. Julie now helps others find hope and freedom from emotional eating & unhealthy habits as a C.O.P.E. Certified Health Coach.

Graphic adapted, courtesy of Pixabay.

Thursday
Sep122019

Upgrade Anxiety to Excitement in 4 Steps

Joanie Shawhan is a "choosing joy" sort of person, despite some tough circumstances she has faced. In this Biblical Thinking UPGRADE, she helps us choose a positive, godly attitude over one that can be debilitating.

"My heart raced," Joanie said. "Why was I dreading what should have been a fun celebration?"

Joanie Shawhan has been on one of my (Dawn's) big encouragers in a cancer journey, often challenging me to turn my fearful thoughts into faith, and my anxious thoughts to joy. So I'm excited to read her four steps to "upgrading" anxiety into excitement—and I hope you will be too.

So practical. So real.

Joanie continues . . .

Several months ago, my book, In Her Shoes: Dancing in the Shadow of Cancer, was released. With a friend’s help, I organized a book launch party in my home. We prayed, planned, and prepared. Every detail had been taken into account.

But when the morning arrived, I felt anxious, devastated, and drained.

What happened?

First, Mother Nature had overstepped her boundaries.

I was sure by the end of April we would’ve accelerated into spring with any significant snowfall relegated to the rear. But I was wrong! Instead, a massive snow band hovered over the highways my guests would be traveling. The swath shifted every few hours with predictions ranging from a dusting to eight inches.

Several out-of-town visitors cancelled. Would my only guests be my faithful helpers? I feared my launch party would flop.

Desperate, I cried out to God.

Suddenly I experienced an aha moment—sometimes anxiety and excitement can produce similar physiological responses!

The same sensations I was experiencing: accelerated heart rate, rapid shallow breaths, trembling, muscle tension, and butterflies in the stomach can be caused by either anxiety or excitement.

But I was so familiar with these sensations that for me they signaled only anxiety. I had never associated these physical manifestations with excitement.

Would I allow anxiety to rob me of the excitement and joy of celebrating my book release?

I realized I needed to CHOOSE EXCITEMENT.

That’s when I felt the Lord whisper, “Rejoice!”

In anticipation of fun events and celebrations, how do we switch our thought tracks from anxiety to excitement?

Here are a few ideas.

1. Ask God to help us recognize the presence of anxiety.

Sometimes we become so familiar with an emotion or emotional response that we fail to recognize the source of that vague sense of unease or apprehension.

We need to identify our feelings and the lies we believe about our situation in order to respond appropriately.                                                                                    

Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts (Psalm 139:23 NIV).

2. Discern if the emotional response is appropriate for the situation.

Since anxiety and excitement can produce similar physical cues, we must determine if the situation is a real or imagined threat.

Anxiety can take us on an imaginary train ride of numerous what-ifs that never happen, derailing our strength and joy.

We need to rein in our runaway thoughts.                                                        

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things (Philippians 4:8 NIV).

3. Pray with thanksgiving.

Thanking God changes our focus from our problem to the loving God who cares for us.

I had much to be thankful for. The book I had labored over for years was finally in print. I had prayed and placed the details of my book launch party in the capable hands of God and many friends.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God (Philippians 4:6 NIV).

4. Choose excitement.

I chose to use the emotions I associated with anxiety—my racing heart, quivering stomach, and chest tightness—to fuel excitement instead of anxiety.

This choice immediately changed my perspective.

A new joy and strength surged through my body and emotions. I was excited about my party.                                                                              

Don’t be dejected and sad, for the joy of the Lord is your strength! (Nehemiah 8:10 NLT)

Rejoicing and choosing excitement over anxiety changed me as well as the atmosphere of my book launch party. Despite the threats of snow, I welcomed a house full of guests. I enjoyed their company, signed books, and gave away fun door prizes.

I felt energized, excited, and joyful.

This is the day the Lord has made; We will rejoice and be glad in it (Psalm 118:24 NKJV).

How do you upgrade when anxiety attempts to rob your joy?

Joanie Shawhan is an ovarian cancer survivor, registered nurse and author of In Her Shoes: Dancing in the Shadow of Cancer. She has been a featured guest on podcasts, radio, and television. You can find her media interviews, blog, speaker topics, and contact information at www.joanieshawhan.com. Her book, In Her Shoes: Dancing in the Shadow of Cancer, is available at Amazon 

Graphic adapted, courtesy of Alexandr Ivanov from Pixabay.

Thursday
Aug082019

Joy, the Key to Peace

Pam Farrel knows more about joy because she's made it a focused choice in her life. In this Attitude UPGRADE, she encourages us to discover more peace as we pursue biblical joy.

"We live in a world where people are struggling with stress and discouragement," Pam says. "In a recent, Fox News poll, 65% say they are stressed daily and 52% of Americans say they are worried daily."

I (Dawn) see this stress and discouragment all the time. There is little peace in our world. But Pam says joy is the key to peace!

Pam continues . . . 

The good news is, researchers who wrote for Time magazine’s The Science of Happiness say that happiness is made of from 50% DNA, 10%Circumstances, and 40% CHOICES we make.

“We make our choices and our choices make us!” That's a mantra that those in my world have heard my husband, Bill, and I say for several decades.

During one particularly challenging and strenuous circumstance in my life when EVERYTHING seemed to be unraveling, my friends kindly reached out and inquired about my wellbeing.

I didn’t know how to answer them. The answer was too personal, too long and too depressing, so I prayed and asked God, "How do I answer?”

The Holy spirit impressed a question on my heart, “Pam, what kind of person do you want to be?”

Lord I want to be the kind of person that can choose joy no matter what life sends my way. Your Word in Neh. 8:10 says “The joy of the Lord is my strength” and this family needs strength, so I choose You, Jesus, I choose joy!”

From that point on, when people ask, “How are you doing?” my answer has been, “Choosing joy!”       

Yes, our life is the sum of our choices and God’s loving sovereignty.     

In Discovering Joy in Philippians: A Creative Bible Study Experience, I share a word study where I add the synonyms to help define the key words in this verse with a vital key choice:

The choice to rejoice! 

REJOICE (lean in and delight in God’s grace) at ALL times, I repeat, REJOICE (choose to be glad and joyful because of ALL God gives us!) (Philippians 4:4).

God graciously gives the “how to” rejoice in Phil 4:6-9

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."

God doesn’t want us to be anxious (worried and loaded down with cares). The solution He provides can be illustrated as a word picture of wrapping a gift into a gift bag:  

Think of your cares and anxieties (your “supplication”) that you desire God to answer, as the gift; wrap them in the tissue paper of prayer, which Strong’s concordance explains is “to interact with the Lord by switching human wishes for His wishes....”

Drop your cares in the gift bag of thanksgiving, gratefully thanking God by faith for what He will deliver as an answer for your eternal good and His Eternal Glory.

As we ask, request and petition God, the confidence comes in believing you are giving this “gift” to the ONLY ONE who has the REAL POWER to answer—The Almighty GOD!   

And as we make this transaction, God gives us a gift back—peace (harmony, tranquility and sense of security) that is beyond comprehension! And that IS a great reason to REJOICE!

TRY THIS EXERCISE to apply this illustration to your life today:

  • Imagine your greatest stress is placed into your right hand, wrap your fingers around this anxiety.
  • Now lift it heavenward; open your fingers and picture presenting it at the foot of the throne of heaven.
  • Leave your care there, but keep your hand open.
  • Now, think of a name of God that would be best to hang your heart on to find hope, joy and peace. If you struggle to pick which trait, choose the name or trait of God that would be opposite of your stress. For example, if you care is your anxiety, trade it for the peace of God.
  • Follow up by looking up verses about God being peace and giving peace.
  • Then string your favorite verses together, put your name in the series and personalize God’s Word to your life.

Remember: Joy is the Key to Peace.

How can you apply this scripture to your life today? "Rejoice in the Lord always; again, I will say, rejoice" (Philippians 4:4).

Pam Farrel is an international speaker, relationship expert, and author of 48 books including her newest, Discovering Joy in Philippians: A Creative Bible Study Experience. She and her husband, Bill, co-direct Love-Wise ministries.

Graphic of key, courtesy of Pixabay.

Thursday
May302019

Joy: The Key to Unlocking Love for Your Relationships

Pam Farrel, relationship specialist, is always on the lookout for Word-based insights to encourage stronger, healthier relationships to the glory of God. In this Relationship UPGRADE, she shares a special “key” to unlocking greater love.

Love and joy are intricately connected—like a hook and eye, peanut butter and jelly, salt and pepper, or keys of ebony and ivory,” Pam says.

“Love and joy pour into each other until our life plays the beautiful melody of happiness God intends for each of us.”

I (Dawn) think this is a truly special insight. We tend to only think about love in relationships, but link that to sincere joy and an amazing thing happens. Love blooms.

Pam continues . . .

Mother Teresa said, “A joyful heart is the normal result of a heart burning with love."

And Mark Twain believed, “To get the full value of joy you must have someone to divide it with.”  

During the last year, while writing Discovering Joy in Philippians, I pondered how joy positively impacts a person’s life and relationships.

Most people see Philippians as primarily a book about joy, but as I plunged a bit deeper, I easily saw some relationship best practices revealed in this short, but powerful book of the Bible.

One of the keys to unlocking health in relationships and producing more joy is revealed in a simple equation:

The more of the Word in you, the more love and joy in you AND the more love and joy you will have spill out into your relationships.

Here’s how the Word empowers us to have healthier and happier relationships.

1. Wash In the Word

To keep my attitude positive and to stay more attuned in all my relationships, I like to integrate various study techniques so the Word washes over and through me, delivering positive life improvement.

One way to gain a new mindset is to allow God’s Word to play the soundtrack to your life.

You can do this in the daytime by layering God’s Word throughout your day:

  • Play Christian music,
  • Post verses,
  • Hang scripture art,
  • And place devotionals and Bible studies throughout your home.

At any time, the transformative Word is in sight and within earshot. 

While writing Discovering Joy In Philippians—and in the next year, now that I am teaching it online—I fall asleep to the audio version of Philippians, or a play list with worship songs about joy.

By listening to God’s Word, my fears are calmed, I am infused with joy and courage, and my heart is refined.  

2. Walk Out the Word

This priority on relationships is reflected in the letter of Philippians:

I thank my God in all my remembrance of you” (1:3).

People can tell when you feel thankful and appreciative of them.

We want to live in such a way that when people recall us, or someone even mentions our name, they light up with praise and delight.

Also, by thanking God for someone, our “attitude of gratitude” builds a sense of deeper respect, honor and gratefulness toward the person. 

always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy” (1:4).

Praying for someone is one of the greatest gifts you can give to a person.

Knowing someone is praying for you, with JOY, draws us to people because they express gladness and sincere excitement when they see us. 

“It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace…”  (1:7).

My husband, Bill, and I use this verse as the theme to our book, The Marriage Code. We love how God gives the goal of living as “partakers of grace”, then He shares HOW to do that: “hold you in my heart.”

This means we choose to NOT make a relationship about a list of behaviors.

To “hold on your heart” means carrying someone with constant love while giving the benefit of the doubt to their intentions.

When a relationship is based only on behaviors, NO ONE can stay good enough, long enough to succeed at a relationship.

Love gives the grace that trumps human imperfection.

“And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment” (1:9).

3. Wade into the Word

Another way to gain a fresh appreciation of a verse and how to apply it is to read it in a few translations or paraphrased versions. 

I appreciate the expanded vocabulary definitions included in verses 9 and 10 in the Amplified version:

“And this I pray, that your love may abound more and more [displaying itself in greater depth] in real knowledge and in practical insight, so that you may learn to recognize and treasure what is excellent [identifying the best, and distinguishing moral differences], and that you may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ [actually living lives that lead others away from sin]” (1:9-10, emphasis mine).

I also cherish these verses in The Message as it is a wholesome challenge for how to live out love and joy to positively impact relationships:

“So, this is my prayer: that your love will flourish and that you will not only love much but well. Learn to love appropriately. You need to use your head and test your feelings so that your love is sincere and intelligent, not sentimental gush. Live a lover’s life, circumspect and exemplary, a life Jesus will be proud of…” (again, emphasis mine).

As we wade deeper into the Word, we can often gain fresh insights and anticipate God working. 

Are joy and love overflowing out of your heart and into your relationships? Of the ideas shared in this blog on how to process the Word to raise the quality of what you have available to pour into your relationships, which idea can you begin with to have to biggest positive impact?

Pam Farrel is the author of 46 books including many bestsellers like: Men Are Like Waffles, Women Are Like Spaghetti and Discovering Hope in the Psalms: A Creative Bible Study Experience .  She also enjoys co-authoring with Jean E. Jones and artist Karla Dornacher, and their next book, Discovering Joy In Philippians: A Creative Bible Devotional Experience , releases May 2019. Pam also loves mentoring and coaching women online; and she and her husband, Bill, stay active speaking and writing on marriage, family, relationships and on Living Love-Wise.  

Graphic of graffiti wall adapted, courtesy of Angela Yuriko Smith at Pixabay.

Tuesday
Dec112018

A Christmas Me-Lighting

Kaley Rhea is wise and insightful, a witty millennial who loves to tweak our minds so we think biblically in everyday life. This Christmas UPGRADE will take you back to the "why" of Christmas and tweak your joy!

Kaley says, "You like Christmas lights? I got some straight-up Christmas fireworks here for you."

When I (Dawn) read Kaley's post, I thought, "Yes, the truth is what we need to renew our Christmas joy. Jesus, the Light of the Word, is our great Overcomer!

Kaley continues . . .

First, I want to invite you to take a look at 1 John 3, verses 5 and 8 with me:

“You know that He appeared in order to take away sins, and in Him there is no sin… Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.” (ESV)

Now let’s go back to the beginning. Old Testament.

Back to the Genesis garden where the world was perfect, and humanity existed sinlessly and with the mission to get to know God by turning the rest of creation into the kind of beautiful home He’d made for them in Eden.

What did the devil do?

  • He sowed in them doubt that God actually wanted their best.
  • He planted a seed of his own idolatrous ambition to be as powerful as God.
  • And he pointed out that going against God’s command would satisfy a simple, quick-fix desire for something tasty.

Satan built his traps, and through Adam and Eve, the world fell right in.

Poisoned. Sick. Broken.

Fast forward.

Fulfilling an incredible promise, Jesus—Who has always existed, the creative power of mighty God—came as a Son.

And what happened?

  • He obeyed God, trusting His plan even when it led to the cross.
  • He came as a servant, abandoning His place and His rights as God.
  • And He refused every opportunity to take an easier way out or to compromise the Word of God in order to satisfy His flesh.

Jesus did what Adam and Eve could not do.

Jesus did what you and I could not do.

Because of the love He has for us, He took our sin and the punishment we deserve, and He replaced them with a miracle opportunity to become part of His family.

Joint heirs. Adopted by God.

Us. Can you believe it?

Satan had built a labyrinth of sin and disease; he’d manipulated and whispered and painted all his rot to look pretty.

And then Jesus came in like BOOM! He dismantled. Destroyed. Blew up. Everything the devil had built.

Jesus came as the answer to every point humanity had failed, and He came with a love that redeemed. Big enough to light up and echo through the millennia.

You want joy this Christmas? Real, lasting, soul-deep joy?

  • Think about a devastated devil.
  • Think about Jesus—the only One who could solve our sin problem.
  • Think about a future built on His righteousness rather than our lack thereof.

Then, for literal Heaven’s sake, let’s pick up the gardener’s hats Adam and Eve dropped and get with that new commission, fam!

Let’s ask the Holy Spirit to light us up with the Gospel of Jesus Christ this day and this season and every moment until we see Him face to face.

When was the last time you thought about Christmas in terms of Jesus overcoming Satan's plans? Take a few minutes now and thank your Heavenly Father for those three reasons to rejoice!

Kaley Rhea is a St. Louis-area author and one half of the mother/daughter writing team behind Christy Award finalist novel Turtles in the Road (along with the hilarious Rhonda Rhea). Kaley also makes up one third of the writing team for the new, non-fiction book Messy to Meaningful: Lessons From the Junk Drawer (co-written with Rhonda Rhea and the fabulous Monica Schmelter). She’s unclear on how fractions work, but if Rhonda Rhea is the common denominator, Kaley is pretty sure that makes her like five-sixths of Monica Schmelter. Or something like that.

Graphic adapted, courtesy of chris-1974 at Pixabay.