#TellHisStory: Fight Back With Joy

January 6, 2015 | Books, Joy, Tell His Story | 49 comments

Iowa winter

The January wind blew across the yard, a winter storm unfurling. Our friends stood on the rug inside the front door, shivering the cold off their shoulders.

Their daughters' suitcases and backpacks sat on the floor between us -- along with a hundred hard, heavy questions about all the uncertainty in our world. There were words shared between us, too -- words of prayer promised, and of thanks, and of we love you guys, and don't-worry-your-girls-will-be-fine-while-you're-gone. 

We hugged long, all four of us. And out the door they went, into the cruel wind, leaving their sweet girls with us. They drove north to Mayo Clinic, before the storm hit, to see some doctors and -- we pray -- to get some answers. We took the girls in, as friends do.

So we've hunkered down here, with a couple extra kiddos. We have had days of being snowed in, of making a mess in the kitchen with cake pops and colored sprinkles, of learning each other's habits, of finding out who hates jelly on the sandwich, who laughs loudest, who sings soprano. There are so many bits of gleaming glory, and I'm scooping them all up as treasure.

On Monday, I hid away in the office, crying. The tears, they didn't feel like sorrow, but like eternity, leaking -- like tiny rivers linking flesh to God. I don't know. I don't have the right words for it. But the tears kept coming, and I felt a coming-alive. Because of this:

For all the heartache in our world, there is still joy here. There is still Joy to the world.  

There is still joy, because there is still Jesus. And He is our only hope.

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All week, I've been looking through the dim mirror, spying Jesus on the other side, a silhouette visible through the haze of pain.

The girls' mom and dad call every night, from their hotel room. The mom and I talk, too. About the tests and the doctors. And we talk about the faces of the people in the hallways and cafeterias. Every night, she wants to talk about the other people's faces.

"It's so hard to see the defeat on the faces here," she tells me. Her words make me cry again.

You and I both know that some of the faces are waiting to find out answers to the heavy questions -- How much more time? How many more treatments? Will there be pain? Will I see another Christmas?

And some of the faces have been slapped with dreaded news, so they sit at dinner tables in Mayo's cafeteria, stirring soup into slow, cool circles.

Last night, my friend told me, there was this couple -- about her parents' age. And they were sitting at the next table over. The man wore sadness and a camouflage shirt, and he said nothing when his wife tried to talk to him.

When our friends went to pay their own dinner bill at the cash register, they paid for the couple's bill, too. Our friends left them a note, letting the couple know that two strangers were praying.

It's what another friend, Margaret, calls "defiant joy." Margaret wrote a whole book about that -- about how you've got to fight back with joy. How you've got to poke holes in the darkness, with joy, to let the light leak out.

margaret feinberg, fight back with joy

margaret feinberg, fight back with joy
"Practicing defiant joy," Margaret writes, "is the declaration that the darkness does not and will not win." <---- This, from a woman staring down a cancer diagnosis. 

Life's thorniest paths can lead to joy, Margaret writes.

GREAT-JOY

I think that's what my friend and her husband were doing, when they paid someone else's bill and left a handwritten prayer. They were fighting through their own battle, by bringing light to someone else's darkness.

And that's what Kara Tippetts is doing, in her brave-beautiful dying. Kara writes:"What better way could I spend my last breaths than in thanksgiving."

And that's what my friend's grandpa did when he had a month left to live, and he spent every last ounce of energy making every visitor know that their one life mattered.

"A person has many chances to properly show people how to live," the grandfather said. "But I only get one chance to show people how to die."

We are all terminal. Whether we are in the hospital bed, the Mayo cafeteria, the MRI tube, on hospice, on the front door rug, on the sprinkle-covered kitchen floor, with frosting in our hair, while singing the harmony.

This is it. We only get so much time. And if you are reading these words right now, YOU STILL HAVE IT. You have time, and this is our time. What will we do with it?

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fightback

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Ann writes it like this, today:

"You have absolutely only one decision to make every day: how will you use your time? Time is certainly one of the most precious gifts you ever get, because you only ever get a certain amount of it."

So what are we going to do? What are we going to do when the storm brews outside, or within, and the roads are long to the clinic, and the time is short, and the answers stay hidden?

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Maybe we can listen to our own lives. Maybe we can fight back with joy.

Maybe we can buy a meal at the cafeteria, and leave prayers on sticky notes, and cry with the neighbor when the words won't come. We can press our ears up to what makes us alive. We can burn the candles. We can live well, and we can die well -- because we only get one chance to do that. And maybe we can wonder, truly wonder, live in wonder, aim for wonder, get swept up in wonder -- the wonder of it all. We could look around the room so we don't miss the faces wearing defeat, and then we can do one small thing to bring another joy, even when we're stumbling down our own thorny path.

And maybe we could remember that days are mere blips,
and that we could live more poetry in our own skin,
and color outside the lines,
and not despise the crooked paths of our lives.
And remember that the wind blows hard, but it also blows soft and sweet.

This is life: a delicious tangle in the wind. Feel it in your hair now, the joy blowing through. 

margaret feinberg, fight back with joy

Fight Back with Joy

This week -- between cake pops and tears -- I read Fight Back With Joy: Celebrate More. Regret Less. Stare Down Your Greatest Fears, a new book by Margaret Feinberg.

I alternated between tears and laughter, and can't recommend her book highly enough. It's so, so good -- vulnerable, tender, transforming, hopeful.

This book will be a  beacon for anyone in darkness, for anyone in the fight of their lives, and for anyone who has crawled through the trenches ... to rediscover the startling joy of God.

"Through vulnerable storytelling, a difficult diagnosis, and a good dose of humor, Margaret Feinberg reveals how joy is more than whimsy. It’s the weapon you can use to fight life’s battles."

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by | January 6, 2015 | Books, Joy, Tell His Story | 49 comments

49 Comments

  1. Mary

    Tears are slowly leaking at this moment because of your beautiful words. One thought that crossed my mind was one more gift my mom gave me last year before she passed away-she gave me the gift of my own joy-singing in the choir at my church for the Christmas show which in turn brought her joy. She would not go to the hospital until I finished the show. Selfless love till the end. There is so much to embrace each day and we can either reach out or withdraw. Thank you for this tonight. We are terminal and I personally want to live a life that shines for others and honors God.

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      Mary, Such a tender story about your mama. What selfless love. Thank you for sharing, Mary. Our tears are mingling here tonight.

      Reply
    • MargaretFeinberg

      Thank you for sharing your story, Mary. What a beautiful gift.

      Reply
  2. Shelly Miller

    Such great encouragement to make every minute count Jennifer. I’m inspired, thank you.

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      I love that we’re both posting about Margaret’s book this week. Isn’t it wonderful?

      Reply
      • MargaretFeinberg

        Thank you both dear friends.

        Reply
  3. Cheryl Smith

    Such precious, true words, Jennifer! I truly hope and trust Jesus that your friends’ news will be good…that their outcome will be good…that they will live to see their girls fully raised. God bless them and you, too. 🙂

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      Cheryl, My friend received very, very good news from her team of doctors! She’s coming home today. Doxology Time!

      Reply
      • Cheryl Smith

        PRAISE GOD forevermore!! I am SO grateful to hear this. God is SO faithful!! Thank you for letting me know. 🙂 Have a blessed day.

        Reply
  4. Kaitlyn

    I want less things and more time. Less perfect and more people. Reading this post, I kept thinking.. for such a time as this..

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      OH, Kaitlyn. You are so wise, so very wise. Yes, what you said, exactly.

      Reply
    • MargaretFeinberg

      Yes, Kaitlyn. That is exactly it!

      Reply
  5. Ronja

    Everything about this post is so beautiful, Jennifer. We only have now, we only have today and that’s why it really is so important to make the time count. Thank you for this needed reminder! Also for some reason, the idea of defiant joy stuck with me. Maybe it’s the season that I’m currently in; maybe because it’s still winter and days are still dark. But defiant joy sounds like something I need to start practicing. Thank you for this great and important post, Jennifer!

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      I know, right? I love what Margaret has to say about defiant joy, about pressing hard into the things of God, and seeking joy and His presence wherever we go. The book so beautifully illustrates how to do this, in a practical way, and written from the heart of a woman in the trenches. … And Ronja, have you read Kara Tippetts’ book, The Hardest Peace, or her blog, http://www.mundanefaithfulness.com? I reference Kara in the blog post, and if you’re not familiar with her, but want to see defiant joy in action, I highly recommend a visit to Kara’s blog. She is living this out in profoundly beautiful ways. I’m forever changed by her witness.

      Reply
  6. JViola79

    Can I just say a big heart felt, “Thank you! I love you for sharing this today!” There are no words to express what this post has meant in my life at this very moment. Truth right here >>> “There is still joy, because there is still Jesus.” And He will always be with us. Defiant Joy! Love it! So yeah, giving in today & ordering several copies of this book!

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      I’m so glad you’ve stopped by, and that you will be ordering Margaret’s book. I am smitten with the message. And I’m going to repeat myself here, repeating what I told Ronja elsewhere in the comment thread. But have you read Kara Tippetts’ book, The Hardest Peace, or her blog, http://www.mundanefaithfulness.com? I reference Kara in the blog post, and if you’re not familiar with her, but want to see defiant joy in action, I highly recommend a visit to Kara’s blog. She is living this out in profoundly beautiful ways. I’m forever changed by her witness.

      Reply
  7. KristinHillTaylor

    Well, now I’m teary too. Mostly because God is here, in your words, affirming to me what he’s teaching me about light and joy. I wrote some about joy today. And then I come here and find so many of my thoughts echoed in your stories. That book is on my Amazon wish list now. I hope to read it soon. And those colorful girl tennis shoes? We have the same pair sitting by our back door. I’m so grateful for the way you share joy. xoxo

    Reply
    • Beth

      I was going to write the very same thing. “Now I’m teary too.”
      As always, just beautiful Jennifer.
      Thank you!

      Reply
      • dukeslee

        Beth — Communal tears. All our tears mingled. I feel you near today, Kristin and Beth. Love to you both. (So glad you’ve added Fight Back With Joy to your wish list!)

        Reply
    • dukeslee

      Communal tears. All our tears mingled. I feel you near today, Kristin and Beth. Love to you both. (So glad you’ve added Fight Back With Joy to your wish list!)

      Reply
  8. Michelle Anderson

    I need to read these posts regularly. To be reminded to look for the downcast souls. You’d think as a nurse I’d see them, but you’d be partially wrong. In order to do what I do, I had to build a wall around my heart because what I do is so very hard and I want to do it with utmost care, compassion, and skill. I am a deeply sensitive person, so it’s a paradox I live.

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      As a former news reporter, who saw people in their worst moments, I understand in my own way, what you mean about that wall. It’s a very paradoxical place to live.

      Reply
  9. Anne Dahlhauser

    I love the concept of defiant joy – defiant life-clinging, really. We humans cling to life and breath with defiance, even though we know logically eternity awaits and living here is but a mist. It’s that image of God that we bear, causing us to love life and joy and light; it’s evidence of Him at work in us.
    Thank you for your words here today, Jennifer. I had never heard of that book before, but I will be sure to read it now. Sounds wonderful.
    God bless you and your friends. May they know that they are held securely in His hands, the only place of rest in this crazy world.
    Anne

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      The book is brand new, Anne. It was released only yesterday. I had an early look at it, and it touched me deeply, at just the right time.

      Reply
    • MargaretFeinberg

      Can’t wait for you to read Fight Back With Joy, Anne.

      Reply
  10. Lisa notes...

    “There is still joy, because there is still Jesus.”
    That explains the joy.

    I love the theme of Margaret’s book. Defiant joy is what we all need to practice more of. Thanks for sharing this, Jennifer. Beautifully told, as always.

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      Always so grateful for your presence here, Lisa. You’re a woman who exudes the joy of Jesus. Shine on, in 2015.

      Reply
  11. Jennifer Frisbie

    I had to read this twice to fully appreciate every word…letting it all sink in. I am never disappointed here, Jennifer. Your words ALWAYS make me want to know Jesus more than I already do…

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      You’re such an encouragement to my writer-heart, and an encouragement to my soul. Thank you for walking this word-journey with me. xo

      Reply
  12. Anita

    Oh, I’ve been the parent that has left her young girls with friends to go off and fight cancer. My prayers are with her parents and with you. May God grant all of you the defiant joy that you need to face this trial and support each other. I’m so glad they have you for a friend!

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      Anita — Thank you for your prayers, and your understanding. You know this battle in a deeply personal way. By the way, my friend received amazing news from her team of doctors. So grateful!

      Reply
      • Anita

        Praise God! I’m so glad to hear that :).

        Reply
  13. Sheila Kimball

    Wow! Beautiful post, Jennifer, and words to ponder deeply. Bless you, friend.

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      Thank you, Sheila. Have a very blessed, fight-back-with-joy, glory-infused 2015.

      Reply
  14. Megan Willome

    I’m hearing a lot about Margaret’s book lately. I’m so sorry to hear about your friend, but glad you can spread joy with her girls.

    P.S. This is a great sentence: “The man wore sadness and a camouflage shirt, and he said nothing when his wife tried to talk to him.”

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      I love when you stop by. I love when you see what I’m trying to say, as in the camo guy.

      Reply
  15. Karrilee Aggett

    Gah! I love you so much, my friend! One day… for hours and hours… in real life… while living more poetry in our skin!

    Reply
  16. Dawn

    Each time I spend a moment here, I am blessed by what you share. Thank you! Praying for your friends.

    Reply
  17. Martha Orlando

    ” And maybe we can wonder, truly wonder, live in wonder, aim for wonder, get swept up in wonder – the wonder of it all.” Wonder is my word for 2015. You have blessed me with this heartfelt reflection today, Jennifer. Thank you!

    Reply
    • MargaretFeinberg

      Love it, Martha.

      Reply
  18. Monica Snyder

    I have this quote from Ann V. on an old index card in my Bible, “When we lay the soil of our hard lives open to the rain of grace and let joy penetrate our cracked and dry places, let joy soak into our broken skin and deep crevices, life grows. How can this not be the best thing for the world? For us?” The more broken I become. The more my outward man is wasting away I am renewed by the joy of this growing closer to Him and further from this world. This is His kingdom come. On earth and in Heaven!

    Reply
    • MargaretFeinberg

      Indeed, Monica.

      Reply
  19. Becky Keife

    I will eagerly add this book to my reading list, but just reading your words here brings me to a place of joy tears. Defiant joy. Yes! Live in wonder. Yes! Refuse to despise the crooked path of our lives by fighting back with joy. Yes! Yes! YES! Bookmarking this post, sweet friend, to come back to again. These are words are soul food.

    Reply
    • MargaretFeinberg

      Can’t wait to hear what you think of Fight Back With Joy, Becky!

      Reply
  20. Nancy Ruegg

    Wow. Ten posts of encouragement and challenge in one! So much valuable truth and inspiring calls to action: 1) Scoop up the bits of gleaming glory and treasure them. 2) Fight back with joy. 3) Live more poetry in our own skins. 4) Color outside the lines. That’s the kind of person I want to be with the time I have left! Thank you, Jennifer.

    Reply
    • MargaretFeinberg

      Me too, Nancy!

      Reply
  21. Laurie Collett

    Praise God for the joy only He can bring, no matter what the circumstances! Thanks for the great post & for hosting & God bless!

    Reply
    • MargaretFeinberg

      Amen, Laurie!

      Reply
  22. MargaretFeinberg

    Absolutely breathtaking Jennifer. I can’t thank you enough. Honored. Humbled. And even so grateful for you.

    Reply

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