Tag Archives: discouragement

Pain in the Background

Behind all the joyful smiles, for some the holiday season is a deeply painful season. Perhaps it is because of loneliness, painful family memories, or loss. If you are suffering during this season of celebration, you are not alone!

A few years ago my friend, author Holley Gerth, stopped by to talk about what it means to celebrate even when life is difficult or painful. I hope this excerpt from our 2011 interview provides you with hope.

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(From December 2011)

Holley-pic-NEW-2You may have heard of Holley Gerth — she’s got a hugely popular blog called “Heart to Heart with Holley.” She’s the author of Rain on Me, God’s Heart for You, and You’re Already Amazing. She’s also created thousands of greeting cards and gifts for DaySpring, the Christian subsidiary of Hallmark and is the cofounder of their web site for women, (in)courage. Holley shares her heart and home with Mark and a crazy dog.

I’m sure you’ll be encouraged and inspired by her honest words.  Keep reading . . . 

Holley, tell my readers about yourself!

I love chocolate, coffee, my husband, and Jesus (not in that order). I’m not a morning person—I once put chocolate on the alarm clock to bribe myself to get up. I ate it and went back to bed. Yes, ma’am. But I married an early bird so I’m learning to change my ways. I’m named after my Grandpa Hollie. He and my Grandma had a  Christian bookstore so I grew up dreaming of being a writer. Being able to share God’s heart with women through words is my passion and I feel so grateful to be able to do so every day. It’s the next best thing to having coffee with all of my readers—which I would do if I could!

This month we’re looking at the twin spiritual disciplines of worship and celebration. In a very basic sense, I define them as praising and thanking God for who he is (worship); and praising and thanking God for what he does (celebration). Why do you think these disciplines are important?

Our church service last night was actually about worship and how it transforms us. The pastor talked about how closely the word “worship” is related to “service” in Greek and Hebrew.Over time I’ve come to see worship not as what we do at church but as a lifestyle of serving Jesus. To me, worship means bowing our hearts to God and saying, “I’m your servant. Use me as little or as much as you want.” That’s actually the prayer I say each morning as I get ready to write. I’ve also started writing what I’m thankful for in a journal each day. I use an unlined journal and draw all kinds of crazy pictures and things. But it works for me.

I recently read that our brains have a natural “negativity bias.” In other words, we tend to focus on and remember what’s negative better. That is a gift from God to help us survive (for example, focusing more on the bear charging out of the woods than the lovely flower behind it). But on a day-to-day basis, it means that we have to be intentional about refocusing our hearts and attention. We don’t need to feel guilty about our tendency to be negative but we do need to recognize it and change it through worship and gratitude. What’s amazing is that our brains literally rewire themselves as we think new thoughts. We actually create new neural pathways and are “transformed by the renewing of our minds.” Isn’t that beautiful?

Wow — Yes! Celebration can take many forms — gratitude, joy, prayer, praise, feasting, and more. When has celebration made a difference in your life?

I feel like this has been a year of learning to embrace joy in my life. Continue reading

Joy . . . at Rock-Bottom?

Readers, I’m privileged to introduce you to Karen Beattie, the author of Rock-Bottom Blessings—Discovering God’s Abundance When All Seems Lost. (I damaged my copy of the book in the very best way: dog-earing pages, underlining tons, constantly scrawling notes in the margin.)  Here Karen joins us to talk with me a bit about joy. . . and how (and even if) it fits into life’s rock-bottom seasons.

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Welcome, Karen. Can you tell my readers a bit about yourself?

Beattie photoI’m a writer who lives in Chicago with my husband and 3-year-old foster daughter and a needy, geriatric cat. I write about faith, doubt, and, well, life. I don’t settle for easy answers. I write in order to try to understand, or at least have peace, about the difficult parts of life.

This month we’re talking about joy on my blog. What’s the first thing that comes to mind for you when you think of joy? Is it an image? A memory? An experience?

My 3-year-old foster daughter exudes joy. She has been through so much loss in her short little life, but still, she is joyful 90 percent of the time and her giggle is music to my ears. She is teaching me what it means to find joy in difficult circumstances. Seeing her leap and skip down the sidewalk with a huge smile on her face, to me, is the pure definition of joy. She just loves everything—the robins she sees on the sidewalk, the woodpecker we hear in the park, the moon. Oh, to have that child-like joy again!

Your book, Rock-Bottom Blessings, tackles such a critical question: What does it mean to live the “abundant life” when all seems lost? Why did you want to write this book?

Beattie Book CoverIn 2009, like thousands of Americans, I lost my job. That was devastating enough in itself. But it had ramifications far beyond the fact that I had to find a new job in the middle of a recession. My husband was in graduate school, without my income we had to put everything on hold, including an adoption. We were wondering if we’d ever become parents. And it brought up all of my doubts about whether or not God loved me…and if he was even there.

Author Parker Palmer said he became a writer because he was born baffled. I can relate. I was baffled by why all of these bad things were happening to me, and I wrote the book to sort through it all. I also wrote try to discover what I still believed about God, and if there was a God, what sort of relationship I had with him. Some of my old beliefs about God and my faith – such as what it means to be blessed – were not working any more. People throw the word “abundance” around, but what does it really mean to have abundance? In the process of writing the book, my idea of what it means to live an abundant life was turned on its head.

How do you think the idea of “joy” is related to living an abundant life?

I think living an abundant life is about finding deep and inner joy, which is more than finding just temporary happiness. But living an abundant life is also experiencing the depth and richness of all of life’s experiences, including the dark times. I used to believe that the verse in Scripture said, “I came that you might have abundant life.” . . . Well the scripture actually says, “I came that [you] might have LIFE, and have it more abundantly” (John 10:10). We tend to skip over the “life” part and go right to the word “abundance.” But experiencing life in all of its richness includes the joy, grief, suffering, the boredom. I discovered that during those times when joy is absent and life seems dark—if we look closely enough, we will find treasures. Continue reading

Joy Weaves Through

loomLike a brilliant golden thread, joy weaves in and out of our lives. It weaves through the bright days—the orange and yellow moments. The poppy-red delights. The verdant, green, fresh-growth days.

It weaves through the gray days—the blah-blah, mundane moments.

And it even weaves through the dark. Through indigo grief. Through rusted, worn-out umber seasons. Through thunderous, slate gray periods of anger or bitterness. Through jet black discouragement, heavy-weighted with a sense of hopelessness.

A shock of brilliant joy dances through it all. Woven in and out.

Because, for the Christian, joy has a name.

And he has other names too.

“I am the bread of life” (John 6:35).

“I am the way and the truth and the life” (John 14:6).

“Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me . . . rivers of living water will flow within them” (John 7:37-38).

“I am the resurrection and the life” (John 11:25).

 “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10).

We can choose joy in our life when we purposefully cultivate habits of worship, of gratitude, of intimacy with God. But we cannot manufacture joy. It’s more than a feeling or a state of mind. Continue reading

What (Really) is Joy?

laughingJoy. Can you picture it? What image comes to mind? What memory from your life? What does it sound like? Feel like? How would you define or explain it?

Merriam-Webster defines it as “the emotion evoked by well-being, success, or good fortune; a state of happiness or felicity; a source or cause of delight.”

The dictionary is onto something here. Joy certainly is associated with these feelings—and I love the idea of “felicity” and “delight.”

But joy, for the Christian, is something that runs a lot deeper than feelings or emotions. Dallas Willard explained joy as a “pervasive sense of well-being.” Something deep down within us, throughout us, that touches each part of who we are, echoing that we are well. In fact, in Christ, we are well even when life is going completely wrong. This is circumstance-defying joy.

In my research for Restore Your Joy, I came across something really cool. Here’s a short quote from the book: Chairo  is an important New Testament Greek word that means ‘to be glad and full of joy.’ Chairo is most often translated as ‘rejoice’; chara, a related word, is translated as ‘joy.’ Both are closely linked etymologically to charis which means ‘grace.’ As linguistic cognates, these three words ‘share the same root and therefore the same core (fundamental) meaning.’” 

Isn’t that awesome? Joy, rejoicing (worship), and grace are linked in their core meaning—they’re interconnected in the soul of the Christian. Joy can be present even in dark times because grace is there even in dark times. Grace itself defies the darkness—illuminates it and pushes the shadow into the corners. The brilliant grace of God forgives fully, offers hope, picks us up, renews our strength, affirms our worth, and empowers us to live fully. Continue reading

Joy’s Prerequisite

This month of May — of springtime and blooms, of rain and fresh growth — we’ll focus on JOY here on my blog.

Joy, at times, comes naturally . . . instinctively. Smiles and laughter bubble up from somewhere inside us — from a spring of deep joy.

At other times, joy requires effort. The spring has run dry. Joy seems absent — like it fled away and is long gone. When life hurts, joy is not easy.

Restore Your Joy-2My new Flourishing Faith book Restore Your Joy looks closely at what Scripture says about joy: how it’s different than happiness, how it’s something we chose, how it’s something we can cultivate and grow. Joy, in fact, can supernaturally defy our bleak circumstances.

Do you long for greater joy? For deeper joy? For joy to be a characteristic of who you are, flowing from your life in Christ? Then join in the conversation this month. And let’s begin with a short excerpt from Restore Your Joy that reflects on one of the most preposterous passages of Scripture . . .

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“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds” (James 1:2).

What?! Is James urging believers to live in a Christian la-la-land that’s out of touch with reality or that denies our actual human experience of pain and hurt?

Certainly not.

family handsThis goes much, much deeper. Underlying the choice to consider a trial a source of joy is an essential ingredient of the Christian life: trust.

A belief that God is sovereign, God is in control, and God is love enables the Christian to find light in darkness, joy in sadness, and hope in a seemingly hopeless situation.

“Only love empowers the leap in trust, the courage to risk everything on Jesus, the readiness to move into the darkness guided only by a pillar of fire,” wrote Brennan Manning. “The love of Christ inspires trust to thank God for the nagging headache, the arthritis that is so painful, the spiritual darkness that envelops us.”

When we’re in the headache or the pain or enveloped by darkness, our trust may be reduced to a very simple confidence. Julian of Norwich describes how she turned to God in a period of confusion; Continue reading

Woo Hoo!

Photo 1031I just wanted to share my excitement with you! The 2 newest books in my Flourishing Faith series arrived at my door this week. Woo hoo! If you’re local and would like a copy, just email me (trujillokelli@yahoo.com). If you aren’t in the Indy metro area, you can find them on amazon or through my publisher via my web site, www.flourishing-faith.com. Thank you, readers, for your support!

Meet My Friend . . . Amy Julia Becker

I’m thrilled to introduce you to Amy Julia Becker as we round out our month’s discussion on trust. Amy Julia’s book  A Good and Perfect Gift was praised as one of the top 10 religion books in 2011 by Publisher’s Weekly and she’s recently been on the national scene discussing her family’s story (TimeNew York Times Motherlode blogthe Huffington Post, Parents magazine, to name a few!). Keep reading — and share this post with friends who may find encouragement in Amy Julia’s words.

Amy Julia, thanks for stopping by! Tell my readers a bit about yourself.

Thanks for having me! I am a mother: Penny is 6 and has Down syndrome, William is 3, and Marilee just turned one. I’m also a writer, and as a result of my kids, I mostly write about faith, family, and disability.

This month on my blog we’re talking about trust and what it means to intentionally trust God in our everyday life. Your book A Good and Perfect Gift explores trust on a variety of levels. So before we get into the topic of trust, can you tell my readers a bit about your book?

A Good and Perfect Gift is a memoir about the first two years of our daughter Penny’s life, from the initial moments of shock and sadness that she had been diagnosed with Down syndrome to the love and joy we experienced as we got to know her. It’s really a spiritual journey of how I came to receive Penny as a good gift from God.

When you first stepped into the journey of having a newborn daughter with Down Syndrome, you write about how you were faced with the reality that your daughter may not ever meet some of the expectations or hopes you’d originally had for her. Can you share a bit about that? And for any of us in each of our own situations, do you think trust means surrendering expectations? Continue reading

Meet My Friend . . . Holley Gerth

When I thought about celebration and who to invite for this interview spot in my blog this month, I immediately thought of my friend Holley. Why? Because the word I instantly associate with Holley in my mind is encourager. And the practice of encouragement is a way of helping others to celebrate life’s little joys. 

You may have heard of Holley Gerth–she’s got a hugely popular blog called “Heart to Heart with Holley.” She’s the author of Rain on Me, God’s Heart for You, and You’re Already Amazing. She’s also created thousands of greeting cards and gifts for DaySpring, the Christian subsidiary of Hallmark and is the cofounder of their web site for women, (in)courage. Holley shares her heart and home with Mark and a crazy dog.

I’m sure you’ll be encouraged and inspired by her honest words.  Keep reading . . . 

Holley, tell my readers about yourself!

I love chocolate, coffee, my husband, and Jesus (not in that order). I’m not a morning person—I once put chocolate on the alarm clock to bribe myself to get up. I ate it and went back to bed. Yes, ma’am. But I married an early bird so I’m learning to change my ways. I’m named after my Grandpa Hollie. He and my Grandma had a  Christian bookstore so I grew up dreaming of being a writer. Being able to share God’s heart with women through words is my passion and I feel so grateful to be able to do so every day. It’s the next best thing to having coffee with all of my readers—which I would do if I could!

This month we’re looking at the twin spiritual disciplines of worship and celebration. In a very basic sense, I define them as praising and thanking God for who he is (worship); and praising and thanking God for what he does (celebration). Why do you think these disciplines are important?

Our church service last night was actually about worship and how it transforms us. The pastor talked about how closely the word “worship” is related to “service” in Greek and Hebrew. Continue reading