Cultivating joy and gratitude in the hard times {Book Club}

OK, I’m just going to say it. I love the discussions this book has been fostering. I really do. When friends back in the States talked about their book groups and I sat with my books but no one else reading them at the same time, these are the kind of discussions I dreamed of having. (I also dreamed of having a bookmobile and driving around rural China with a portable library — not all dreams come true, but that one still makes me smile!)

Anyhoo, back to my point. My point is this, if it were not for you, I’d still be reading books by myself and wanting to talk to people about them. But because of you, I’m not a alone and neither are you. So, a simple thanks for getting the book, reading it, and commenting. I love hearing about your a-ha moments and the ways that God is using this book to draw us to him and closer, even, to our true selves.

It you’re wondering what book I’m talking about …. join in with us today we continue with  The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown and are talking about Guidepost #4 — Cultivating Gratitude and Joy. If you’ve missed any of our earlier discussions, you can find them by clicking on the introductory chaptersThe things that get in the way and Guidepost #1 (Cultivating Authenticity), Guidepost #2 (Cultivating Self-Compassion), and  Guidepost #3-– Cultivating a Resilient Spirit: Letting go of numbing and powerlessness.

As you know, the word and concept we are gathering around at The Grove this week is sorrow and the posts all touch on sorrow and suffering. So, is talking about joy and gratitude inappropriate? Actually, I think they are right where they should be. Life is an intertwining of sorrows and joys. And Brene helped to tease out the differences between happiness and joy — saying we need each, but helping to understand the distinctions.

I appreciated Brene emphasizing practicing gratitude and joy and not merely having an attitude of gratitude. Anyone else smile at her yoga example? And the Greek word for joy is related to the “culmination of being”? No wonder joy is one of the fruits of the spirit! There are 214 uses of the word joy in the NIV. Of those verses, and this is really cool, nearly a quarter of those verses are found in the Psalms.

The scarcity part of the chapter reminded me of the garden of Eden and how it was a lie about scarcity that has made so. many. lies. over the years stick like glue. You are risking your children’s health by being overseas. You’ll never meet a man if you stay on the field. Your friends back home will forget about you. Your financial needs will not be met and you’ll have to go “home” and then what will you do to support yourself? Your language skills will never be as good as hers or his or your kids. 

Every single lie is based in scarcity — that you won’t have or be enough.

I believe this is why we need to be a people who take the practice of gratitude and joy seriously and find ways to weave them into our every day lives.

After our discussion at The Grove last week on ordinariness, did it jump out to you when she wrote, “In many instances, we equate ordinary with boring or, even more dangerous, ordinary has become synonymous with meaningless.”

So, how much does scarcity color your thinking? How do you practice gratitude and joy? What else got stirred up in your thoughts and soul this week as you read?

Until the comments … Amy

Photo Credit: eschipul via Compfight cc


  1. Carrie March 31, 2014

    This section was a much needed punch to the spleen. As much as I’ve wanted to live a life full of joy, I also secretly view truly joyful people as naive. “Well, if they just new all the pain and anguish going on a visa run can be, they wouldn’t be so joyful about starting the process.” Or, “They can be joyful because living in the States, at least they’ve got homeschooling support.” Oh, the self-pity list could drudge on forever. When Brene says, “Joy seems to be constantly tethered to our hearts by spirit and gratitude,” I totally see why I’ve missed the boat over and over again.

    When I choose to only see the doomed outcomes of things or the “personality differences” with teammates, then my ability to cultivate gratitude is foiled by damaged soil. I don’t allow myself to remain joyful because of the vulnerability attached to it. You risk looking like an idiot if things don’t work out. The thing about gratitude though is that even when things don’t “work out” like you had hoped, your joy will still remain and consequently you aren’t steamrolled by the situation.

    This is huge for us who live overseas and daily deal with no hot water, no-show repairmen, fixing a light in our second language, etc. Those things are quick thieves to our joy unless we choose to see that with no hot water, it means having an excuse to not shower; fixing a light in our second language means new vocabulary words. But Brene is right. All of these truths are important, but making them a habit is what brings actual change.





    1. Jennifer April 1, 2014


      I really like the way that you brought out the influence of what we “choose to see”. Recognizing the reality that how we choose to think, and what we choose to spend our time thinking about, and how we choose to respond, can have a bigger impact that we may realize on how we ultimately end up feeling, or how we ultimately respond.

    2. Amy Young April 1, 2014

      “Joy seems to be constantly tethered to our hearts by spirit and gratitude,” 

      Love that you highlighted that part, Carrie. I tend to be more of an optimist and my mom a –and here we disagree on the terms 🙂 — she says “realist” and I say “pessimistic tenancies.” But I think Brene and the research, (which for me points to God’s truth) shows that Joy and Gratitude are not about feelings or circumstances. They are aspects and attributes we can foster.

      Oh and the pity party, been there, done that. Agreed that we need to daily cultivate gratitude — and maybe validate and notice the small things (if the big ones just seem too overwhelming, start small :))

  2. Elizabeth March 31, 2014

    I love this part about scarcity: “The scarcity part of the chapter reminded me of the garden of Eden and how it was a lie about scarcity that has made so. many. lies. over the years stick like glue. You are risking your children’s health by being overseas. You’ll never meet a man if you stay on the field. Your friends back home will forget about you. Your financial needs will not be met and you’ll have to go “home” and then what will you do to support yourself? Your language skills will never be as good as hers or his or your kids. Every single lie is based in scarcity — that you won’t have or be enough.”

    I love it, even though I am not quite sure yet what it means. I mean, I’ve heard those lies, but relating them to scarcity, that’s new. So I am going to go chew on that now. 🙂

    1. Amy Young April 1, 2014

      Elizabeth, my GIGANTIC a-ha moment came when I was reading a Yancey book on prayer (I blogged about it here: and realized that my story was “not enough” YET I surrounded by so much! How was my story “not enough” and decided to begin to change my story to “enough” –I certainly don’t do it perfectly :). But my gift of imperfected practice in this area has breathed so much into my life.

      1. Elizabeth April 1, 2014

        Thanks, Amy, I’m going to go look at that now.

      2. Phyllis April 27, 2017

        I’m doing my own personal book club with this book now. 🙂 Is this Messy Middle blog post still available anywhere?

    2. Carolyn April 2, 2014

      The word scarcity hit me too, Elizabeth, like a light bulb went off in my brain.  Aha.  Yes!  I’m living like I’m not enough because I don’t feel like I HAVE enough, AM enough, can DO enough… and yet my God says He is MORE Than Enough to meet every need I have, and then some!  Why do I live every day as though I’m impoverished when I own all the spiritual blessings in the heavenly realms?  YES.  This is an epiphany to me.  The lie of scarcity: this is what I have been believing.

  3. Kimberly Todd April 1, 2014

    Yes, I was entertained by her “yoga attitude” and I marked all of the ideas for practicing gratitude. I also loved the depth of meaning drawn out from chairothe Greek word for joy. But what really stirred me was about sufficiency being a mind-set:

    “Sufficiency isn’t an amount at all. It is an experience, a context we generate, a declaration, a knowing that there is enough and that we are enough. Sufficiency resides inside of each of us, and we can call it forward. It is a consciousness, an attention, an intentional choosing of the way we think about our circumstances.”

    This is helping me to think about grace as well as joy.

    1. Amy Young April 1, 2014

      Kimberly … oh the dots that connect grace and joy. Thank you for adding another one here 🙂

  4. Amy Young April 1, 2014

    Just today I was sent this Youtube / TEDtalk video on stress (and at the end she talks about JOY!!! and resilience) –and it has done three things for me:

    1. Amazed me again at the marvelous way God has made our bodies.

    2. Challenged/ Encouraged me on the importance of “taking every thought captive” and the importance of cultivating my thoughts.

    3. WHOA — I need to change the way I talk about and respond to stress.

    Oh the video is at (and I may put it in book club discussion next week so those who don’t check out the comments can see it too 🙂

    1. Polly April 1, 2014

      I’m with you on your third point Amy – WOAH.  I just watched the video.  Then her comment at the very end after her talk was over when asked about the wisdom in choosing a less stressful job over a more stressful one: “One thing we know is that chasing meaning is better for your health than trying to avoid discomfort.”  Woah again.

      Thanks for sharing the link!

      1. Polly April 1, 2014

        In my excitement my fingers apparently mis-typed whoa not ocne, but tow times 😉

    2. Kimberly Todd April 1, 2014

      So. cool.

    3. Elizabeth April 2, 2014

      This video was awesome! I loved hearing the research behind it all. (Having research back stuff up is sort of a thing with me.) And they were new ideas to me; I always thoughts stress was bad too — the whole Holmes-Rahe Scale and all. So thank you for sharing.

    4. Shelly April 2, 2014

      I’ll echo that “whoa!”.  AMAZING. I can look back at seasons in my life when there was a lot of stress, but I did more than survive. In one particular season I had an intense job that demanded a lot of me and my staff of teachers. The weekend I moved to the new city I found the church and within a few weeks I got connected to a small group. When life got really stressful, they were my support in a faraway land. And though time was tight, I committed myself to helping out a women’s group, and typically gave additional time to my teaching staff. I have often looked back and wondered, “How did I make it through that time?” This research sheds some light on it.  (I think I need to listen again–too much to chew on in one sitting.)

    5. Malia April 3, 2014

      Thanks for the video link! She gave us so much to think on, reconsider, and apply. ‘Yes’ to changing how I see stress. And ‘yes’ to chasing meaning!

  5. Carolyn April 2, 2014

    I just watched it too, and commented here, and… it somehow got lost in cyberspace.  I’ll just re-quote her final line: “Chasing meaning is better for your health than avoiding discomfort.”  Wow!!!!

  6. Brittany April 3, 2014

    I began this chapter feeling like I’m finally strong in an area!  The concept of gratitude and joy is a journey I’ve been on for a couple of years since reading Ann Voskamp’s “One Thousand Gifts”.  Lots of agreement between the two books.

    However, starting out in a new, foreign environment, I am realizing how much I am allowing fear to steal my joy.  This is what resonated with me about fear and joy: “The dark does not destroy the light; it defines it.  It’s our fear of the dark that casts our joy into the shadows.” (p.88)

    And lately, I’ve been feeling like ordinary is killing me.  When I moved overseas, I didn’t realize (though, I’m sure plenty of people warned me!) that so much of my time was going to be filled with the ordinary.  With a baby and a toddler, there’s not much time or energy for much beyond the same duties I was doing back in the States.  But it was refreshing, and encouraging, when Brene was talking about the interviews she’s done with those who’ve suffered tremendous loss: “It was clear that their most precious memories were forged from a collection of ordinary moments, and their hope for others is that they would stop long enough to be grateful for those moments and the joy they bring.” (p.90)

    Ordinary.  Gratitude.  Joy.

    1. Amy Young April 6, 2014

      Brittany — oh yes to the time suckingness of the ordinary when you live overseas. Those days when we get to end and look back and “all” we have to show is some laundry and a trip to the market. BUT GOOD GRIEF it took all we had to accomplish that! Now to turn down the voices that say “that’s not enough” and instead to lean into the very enoughness of the ordinary! 🙂

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