Stasi Eldredge released a new book called Defiant Joy last October. I heard about the book via Blythe Daniel, who I had the privilege of meeting a couple of times at prior She Speaks conferences. I feel so fortunate to have been given a copy of the book to check out so, after reading, I wanted to share some of my favorite truths from it!
We all spend a lot of energy reaching for happiness, but we are never quite able to hang on to it. Real life happens, and our circumstances take us on an emotional rollercoaster ride. So the Bible's call to "be joyful always" sounds almost crazy - and out of reach. But it doesn't have to be.
Joy is meant to be ours, a joy that is defiant in the face of this broken world. This joy is not simply happiness on steroids, it's the unyielding belief to be present to whatever may come and to interpret both goodness and grief by the light of heaven.
In Defiant Joy, Stasi Eldredge invites us with courage, candor, and tender vulnerability to a place beyond sadness or happiness. She shows us how to maintain a posture of holy defiance that neither denies nor diminishes our pain but dares to live with expectant, unwavering hope.
Defiant means to stand against the tide.
Walk the narrow path.
Be in the world, not of the world.
The more pages I turned and the more Stasi continued pointing back to God's Word, the more I realized that true, lasting joy in the midst of grief, pain, loss or mundane is always available to us.
We choose joy.
In the midst of a ll the suffering in the world, it can feel irresponsible, even frivolous, to have joy. And yet, and still, we are called to it. Certainly there is time to grieve. There is a time to mourn. To wail. To sigh. There is a time to know our loss and not have to cheer the teppanyaki chef, but that doesn't mean we can't have joy even in that painful knowing. Joy is the heartbeat of the kingdom of God. Joy is what sustains us; it is our strength. We can be resilient. We can be filled with the expectation of good things.
And we can have joy in the midst of the lamentations of our lives.
(Chapter 1, Defiant Joy)
James 1:2-4 says, "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."
It's the testing that produces perseverance. And in order to become mature and complete, the testing must finish it's work. But even in the testing, we are to consider it not just joy but pure joy.
Pure means "free of any contamination". Wow. It's so convicting to think we are called, in the face of our trials, to have a joy that is fully free from the contamination of the world.
Romans 5:3-5 says, "Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us."
No matter what, we can know an internal defiant joy because death has been defeated. Life has won. There is suffering, yes. But always there is potential for joy.
In the face of the ultimate reality won for us by Jesus, we don't have to pretend that life is better than it is, that we don't hurt as much as we do, or that we feel happy when we are not. We are invited to be fully alive, awake, alert, and oriented to the truth, and to know that because of Jesus, we can be defiantly joyful.
(Chapter 2, Defiant Joy)
This book was such an encouragement to me and I wanted to share! I would encourage you to pick yourself up a copy (and while you're at it, grab one for someone you know might need the message in this season of their lives).
Thank you Stasi for such great wisdom into living with "defiant joy"!
Cheering for you,
Well over seven hundred.
That's how many miles passed underneath my feet last fall preparing for the St. Jude Memphis Marathon 2018.
Early mornings were filled with yawns, snoozed alarms and the buzzing of my Garmin watching telling me it was, indeed, ready for me to start. But yet, I was still fast asleep in my mind. Sometimes alone, but more often with a friend, I ran the streets of my city until I knew every crack in the pavement along the Tennessee River.
It was marathon season.
For me, that's the fall in Tennessee. At the beginning of the training cycle, it's so humid that I lose pounds of fluid on long run days but by the end....oh, by the end it is gloriously cold. At least, that's how it normally plays out. I expected this year would be no different.
This was my third consecutive year training for the St. Jude Marathon and if you know me well, St. Jude is my place. 818 Ministries started serving there a few years back (we deliver handmade hats and handwritten letters of encouragement to patients fighting serious illnesses - check out our website!) and the first time I went I absolutely fell head over heels in love with the place and the people.
God is doing a work there. Their people are the most compassionate staff I've ever experienced. Daily they are saving the lives of children fighting cancer and since their doors opened, they've taken the survival rate of childhood cancer from 20% to 80%! I always call it the "Disney" of all children's hospitals. It truly is all it appears to be on the commercials, guys.
With that being said, there's no other organization I'd rather run 26.2 miles for.
The last couple years, I've ran in celebration of all God's done through the story of my buddy AJ Cucksey who is fighting brain cancer. If you don't know his story, check out this story about his journey and friendship with former UT quarterback Josh Dobbs.
Running the long miles with someone I personally know in mind who is fighting the battle that the race proceeds are going toward always helps me on the hard days. This year was no different.
But as race weekend approached something did feel different. I couldn't quite put my finger on it but it felt a little uncomfortable - sort of like when you buy a new shirt and forget to take the hang tag off and you have that tiny itch on your neck and then remember to pull it off. I wasn't sure exactly what God was going to do at this marathon but I was fully convinced He was up to something.
I didn't check the weather until the day before I left for Memphis (although plenty of people had mentioned that it looked like it would be a warm weekend). On Wednesday, I pulled my weather app up to see that the high for race day was in the mid-70s.
My heart sank.
If you know me well, you know I don't run well in the heat. My body can't handle long distance in extreme temperatures with the amount of fluid I lose and I'm very prone to heat exhaustion. With that in mind, I couldn't stop thinking about how miserable race day was going to be if it truly was going to be "July" in December.
I woke up Friday morning with an odd, "passing all understanding" kind of peace. I looked at Dustin and said, "I think I need to do the half."
We went to the race expo to pick up my race packet and, with a lump in my throat (that I didn't acknowledge in the moment) I walked over to the "St. Jude Hero Help" table.
"How do I drop to the half marathon?"
"Oh, it's super easy! Just go in your assigned corral and start with the full marathoners. Just make sure when you split to go right on the half marathon course!"
I had never done that before. It felt wrong and a little uncomfortable. Kind of like a "walk of shame" of sorts. I'm a planner - an ENFJ to be exact. When things don't go as I planned, it's not my favorite. I had put in the miles. I had done the hard thing. I was ready. But then, life happened. It was going to be above seventy degrees and I knew my body wouldn't make it to the finish line.
I stood there in the rain outside the expo center while I was waiting on Dustin to pull the car around. As I dialed my dad's number to tell him about my decision I saw a poster with a child's picture that I recognized from a hospital visit. In that moment, the Lord reminded me why I was there in the first place.
Rebecca, this isn't about you. It's not about a bigger medal or a more impressive finish line. This isn't about how many miles you slaved over for the last six months. This is about celebrating these tiny warriors that are fighting for their lives each and every day. This is about the healing work I am doing in the lives of the patients, families, physicians, nurses and care givers of this place. Run for Me. Run for them.
So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.
(1 Corinthians 10:31, NIV)
The next morning I laced up my shoes and when the gun went off and everyone started running, I understood why this race felt different. I was able, unlike years past, to really take in the environment...the hype of the crowd, the "ABCs of Cancer" posters at each mile and the city I've grown to love. However, all of that pales in comparison to running through the campus of St. Jude Children's Research Hospital with patients lining the streets. This time, I took it all in. I high-fived every patient I could get my hands on and through tears I saw countless patients call me by the name printed on my bib as I ran by.
Then, I saw the poster. I looked to my right and saw a child, a patient, sitting in a wheelchair cheering. She was holding a sign that said, "Run because I can't!".
"That is why I'm here" I thought as my eyes met hers and we smiled.
"She is why I'm here."
As I crossed the line and the volunteer put a medal around my neck, I got a little emotional thinking about all my memories of the patients and families of St. Jude. I'm so thankful for the research they have done to save the lives of children fighting cancer. I personally know so many families who've had a child on the other side of a cancer journey because of their care.
That's what December 1, 2018 was about. And, as I'm realizing, sometimes courage is about doing the hard thing in a brave way. And sometimes, the hard thing isn't our first choice but it's the best choice. Sometimes, it's trading our agenda for His agenda. He had plans that day to show me moments and truths that I would've missed had I been focused on crossing the finish line of a full marathon.
He is ever-present. Even in the last-minute-change-of-plan-moments of the every day, I don't want to miss Him. I don't want you to either.
So, I trained for a marathon that I didn't run. But in the process, He showed me more about His character and His ways. They sure are higher than mine.
Maybe you find yourself in a situation where you have to choose the "right" path over the "expected" path. Know that He isn't any less faithful in the "right" than He would've been had you chosen the "expected".
For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.
(Isaiah 55:8-9, ESV)
Jesus, help me not to miss You in the moments where you shift my original agenda. You know I'm a planner and that I like an order and a process to all that I do. But when you reorder my steps, help me to not only see You in those moments, but see those around me. Help me find unexpected opportunities to serve others and show them Your love.
In Your Name,
My word of the year.
It began stirring in me long before the clock struck midnight. Actually, if I'm truthful, I can vaguely remember Him starting to speak that word over 2019 in the summer of 2018. It wasn't that I was sick of my word for 2018 (build), but quite the opposite.
The Lord had shown Himself so faithful thus far that every time I thought about the future, that word continued to echo.
To bring us all up to speed, 2018 was a doozie in every way. A new job, 818 Ministries' growing beyond belief, many travel adventures, pitching a book proposal at She Speaks, launching Do The Thing Movement, being interviewed by some cool people on a few podcasts, giving the keynotes at a retreat for the first time and a pretty special guy coming into my life are all memories I can look back on and smile about.
It was a great year. It really was. However, it wasn't without it's fair share of hard days, insecurities and nights without a whole lot of sleep.
Weeks passed where I didn't take great care of myself and used food as a mechanism of coping with stress. There were plenty of days where I didn't feel good enough. Maybe the hardest of all, I've confronted my "disease to please" in many arenas of life.
Galatians 1:10 (ESV) says:
For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.
2018 was a lot. I'm thankful for it. God showed up. I'm even more excited about what 2019 has in store and throughout the fall as life has continued to unfold, I felt God continue nodding His head to this word courage.
The ability to do something brave.
I want that - don't you?
I believe He has gone before us this year and is paving the way for something abundantly above all we could ask or imagine to be accomplished. I think if we already knew, we'd be terrified.
Isn't that the beauty of it?
That we don't have it all together and He does.
That we can't do this on our own and that's why He is our help.
His thoughts are higher than ours.
His ways higher than our ways.
Psalm 121:2 says,
"My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth."
Isaiah 55:8-9 says,
"For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts."
So this year, I want to have the ability to be brave. I don't really know what He's going to do with that desire but my prayer is that in it, He shows me more of Himself and more of the woman He's called me to be.
What's your word? If you haven't chosen one yet, I would encourage you to do so. It doesn't have to be fancy, just something that sticks.
I can't wait to hear about yours and see what He does in your life as a result of turning it over to Him!
Cheering for you,
Jesus, I am so glad Your ways are higher than mine. Your thoughts are higher, grander and wiser than mine. You're my help.
I know I can't do brave things on my own. I pray You'd give me your strength this year as you empower me to have "the ability to do something brave".
In Your name,
Happy New Years friends! I'm SUPER pumped to start 2019 off with a giveaway from our friends at Sanctuary Beauty!
The owner's name is Anusha and she's the mom of two littles. Growing up in South Africa, her family did not have access to the big global beauty products, so women in her family had a long tradition of taking care of their skin using natural ingredients that were plentiful where they lived. When she moved to the US, she found her skin was sensitive to some of the ingredients in the popular beauty brands available.
Sanctuary Beauty was inspired by the natural skincare she grew up with and her deepened understanding of the importance of taking care of your skin.
After experiencing postpartum depression, she used her knowledge of essential oils, natural ingredients she grew up using and skills from being an Occupational Therapist to create body products that helped nurture and nourish her body back to health.
They are a family owned business with a passion to create all-natural beauty and bath products that are safe, good for you, and effective. Their deepest is hope that the products empower you to set aside time for YOU and enable you to face the challenges of daily life with confidence.
10% of sales at Sanctuary Beauty are given to provide nutritious meals, school supplies and other services to vulnerable children living in the Langbos settlement in Western Cape, South Africa.
This week's giveaway will help someone carve out a little time for themselves in the middle of the hustle and bustle of the new year! They have given me a Chillax Self-Care Kit to give away this week to a Do The Thing Movement Insider! The kit includes:
Chillax Body Butter (4oz)
Chillax Body Scrub (6oz)
Chillax Shower Steamers (set of 4)
Chillax Bath Bomb (4.5oz)
It's super easy to enter:
1. Follow @rebecca.dotson and @sanctuary.beauty on the 'gram!
2. Join our email list by entering your email on the home page of the site to become a Do The Thing Movement Insider!
The giveaway will close Sunday night, January 13th at 8PM EST. Good luck!
Your biggest cheerleader,
Jesus, help me be mindful to carve out time to be still with You. I don't want to miss Your voice, especially Your whisper. You are so wise. I want my knee-jerk reaction to "life" happening to be listening to You and not the world around me.
In Your name,