So I woke up this morning and wondered, What should the Five Minute Friday word be for this week?

AndrewThen I opened my email inbox and found a message from Andrew Budek-Schmeisser, long-time faithful member of the FMF community.

If you own the Five Minute Friday book, you’ll know that Susan Shipe dedicated the book to Andrew — a daily fighter and warrior against the ugly, horrific ravages of terminal cancer.

This morning Andrew shared a post he wrote in advance for this week’s Five Minute Friday linkup. He didn’t know the word yet — I hadn’t even chosen it yet — but his post was titled, Count it all joy.

I decided then and there that I had to share it with you here.

So — because of Andrew and the words he shared — this week’s Five Minute Friday prompt is:

 

Joy

 

 

And yes, I know we already wrote on JOY in October 2015 and Lisa-Jo used it a couple of times when she served as FMF host … and yes, I know the word three weeks ago was ENJOY … and yes, I know I’ve been sharing a lot of guest posts lately — but you know what? Sometimes we need to bend the man-made “rules” and follow where the Spirit leads, amen?

Week after week, Andrew is teaching us how to die well.

The following words, written by a man writhing on his death bed, are no exception. Let’s lean in, listen close, and learn from him, shall we?

Without further ado, here’s Andrew:

 

For a long time, I was really irritated with James (as in the New Testament Epistle) and his ‘count it all joy’ to be found in James 1:2.

Trade places with me, dude, and we’ll see how long you talk about joy.

But he was right, and I was quite wrong. It’s not that pain and the small and daily humiliations of illness are in anyway pleasurable. Only a madman or a masochist could say that. I’m not the latter. (Jury’s still out on the first.)

And neither is the joy based in the promise of Heaven. Certainly that’s an attractive future, but it can seem a long way away when you pass the night screaming in pain. That was last night, as I write this; I do hope tonight will be better.

So where’s the beef? Oh, sorry. Where’s the joy?

Simple. The joy is in the process of showing up.

Joy is in the intention of joy; it’s found in the resolve, however shaky, that overcomes the pain to say that life’s still good and still worth living.

Joy is found in the decision to reach out and offer encouragement to someone who’s hurting because I am hurting, too.

Joy is found in living the example of hope when all hope’s rationally gone, even if no one is looking.

Joy is found in the realization that there is purpose to my pain and that I am the vital link to fulfill that purpose. Quite a responsibility!

Joy is found in the moments I would have shrugged off in years past but that I now see as treasures beyond price. God did not intend our moments to be wasted.

And most important…well,to me…joy is found in what I can give, because I now understand that the gift of pain is the vital other side of compassion.

 

***

May the joy of the Lord be your strength, brother.

 

Related posts:

On Dying with Dignity

For Your Joy

Related products:

Joy Joy

Related books:

 

Joy  Joy

Affiliate links used.

 

Share your own five minutes of free writing on the prompt, JOY, below!

 

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Hello!

Welcome to Five Minute Friday!

We have tons of goodies and surprises in store for you this week, as I’m celebrating TWO YEARS hosting this wonderful community!

Lisa-Jo Baker started Five Minute Friday on January 13, 2011 and hosted for nearly FOUR YEARS before passing it over to me in August of 2014.

It’s been my absolute privilege to open this space to brave writers like you week after week.

 

Since we have so much to share this week, I feel like I should give you a little Table of Contents so you don’t miss out on any goodness! In this post, we’re sharing:

 

In the past two years, we’ve had some good times, hey? We had several video interviews with Asheritah and a number of FMF community members; we had our very first retreat; we’re even making a BOOK!

Speaking of the Five Minute Friday book, I’m thrilled to be able to share a sneak peek of the cover with you, AND to reveal the release date!

 

 

It's a Five Minute FridayBOOK!(1)

 

We chose September 26th so that those of you who are participating in Write 31 Days in October will hopefully share all about the book with your Write 31 Days readers!

All proceeds from the book will be divided equally between two vital ministries in South Africa: The Vine School in Cape Town, and the Ten Dollar Tribe!

And speaking of Write 31 Days, remember how a whole bunch of us have done 31 Days of Five Minute Free Writes for the past two years? (If you have no idea what I’m talking about, catch the 2014 version here and the 2015 edition here!)

Well … I have some exciting news to share! Not only will 31 Days of Five Minute Free Writes still be going strong for its third year running, but the lovely, one and only Christina Hubbard from Creative and Free will be hosting the challenge this year!

(Just to clarify, Crystal Stine hosts the overall Write 31 Days challenge; 31 Days of Five Minute Free Writes is sort of a challenge within a challenge, so to speak.)

Here’s a picture of Christina and me, taken on the beach last Friday as we plotted and planned all sorts of fun things for the FMF community:

Christina Hubbard

 

You know online friendships are for real when you meet for the first time wearing your bathing suits and you chat for three hours straight before realizing your back may not have gotten as sunburned if you hadn’t been wearing your tank top backwards all day. Just sayin’.

***

As part of our festivities this weekend, I’m also hosting a special giveaway for my blog subscribers!

Subscribe here to receive these blog posts via email and you’ll automatically be entered to win a custom map necklace from KraftyKash, with the destination of your choice!

(Psst … if you’re already a subscriber, you’re already entered to win!)

 

KraftyKash

 

KraftyKash

 

Even if you don’t win, you’ll get a copy of my ebook, Letters to Grief, as well as two free adult coloring pages, just for signing up!

Subscribe here!

 

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While we’re celebrating, go ahead and grab some goodies from the $5 Summer Sale at DaySpring!

DaySpring Sale

 

 

Finally, it’s my great privilege to welcome author Jennifer Dukes Lee to Five Minute Friday this week!

Read on to learn why I invited Jennifer to guest post on the prompt:

 

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Jennifer Dukes Lee is an award-winning former news journalist, an (in)courage writer and a blogger at http://www.JenniferDukesLee.com. Jennifer once took a dare to find out whether happiness matters to God and, if so, how to pursue it in a way that pleases Him. Out of that quest, was born: The Happiness Dare: Pursuing Your Heart’s Deepest, Holiest, and Most Vulnerable Desire.

 

 

 

Please join me in welcoming Jennifer as she shares her five minute free write with us below!

***

In 2002, we moved to a part of the world known not-so-affectionately as “fly-over country.” That means that no one stops here to visit the natural features, national landmarks, or tourist attractions. (We don’t have many of those in farm country.)

 

People “fly over” our part of the world, on their way to everywhere else.

 

Like most people, I love to jet off to beaches and vacations and long weekends at the lake. All of those places make me positively giddy!

 

But the truth is: If I wait for a vacation to find happiness, I’m going to waste a lot of time wishing for greener pastures.

 

Happiness has very little to do with where our feet are – and a whole lot to do with where our hearts are.

 

Right here in fly-over country, I’m learning that often times, I have to be super intentional about cultivating happiness in my every day. You too? There’s a good chance your life looks a lot like mine: overdue library books, looming deadlines, Legos experiencing urban sprawl across the living room floor, expired sour cream at the back of the fridge, a garden where weeds are more abundant than flowers.

 

For most of us, life isn’t too fancy. It’s pretty … regular. Pretty ordinary. Pretty weedy.

 

But I think that’s where happiness is built – right in the middle of our ordinary lives, not on the French Riviera.

 

I want to build a life that I don’t need a vacation from. How about you?

 

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Let’s build a happy life right where we are – on our back decks where we watch the sun slide down the western sky, on the couch during those late-night Netflix marathons, in the middle of the pillow flights, and the hundreds of family dinners, and the gazillionith tuck-in.

 

This is happiness – yep, even in fly-over country.

 

***

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Jennifer’s book, The Happiness Dare, just released this week!

Take Jennifer’s Happiness Style Assessment, and find out in five minutes or less, what truly makes you happy.

And now … it’s giveaway time!

One person will win a copy of The Happiness Dare, courtesy of Jennifer Dukes Lee, and another winner will get this fabulous Writer keychain from KraftyKash!

 

Writer Keychain

(Psst … if you want to order the book or the keychain in case you don’t win or you want to gift a friend, you can grab the book here and the keychain here!)

 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Both giveaways end at 11:59pm EST on Sunday, August 7th.

Must have a U.S. postal address to be eligible to win.  

 

Disclaimer: Affiliate links have been used in this post.

Join us with your own five minutes of free writing on HAPPY! 

Thanks for celebrating with us, friends! Don’t forget to click over to the blog linked up before yours to leave some comment love!

 

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It’s my privilege to welcome April Swiger today, with an excerpt from her new book, Dignity and Worth: Seeing the Image of God in Foster Adoption.

 

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April Swiger is a wife, mother to two awesome little boys (Jayda and Zay), homemaker, and blogger. In 2013, her family moved to her home state of Connecticut, where her husband, Adam, serves as the worship pastor at Christ the Redeemer Church. Living in a 100-year-old farmhouse, being debt-free, cooking nourishing food, and enjoying introvert-friendly activities are some of her favorite things.

The following excerpt comes from Chapter 5 of April’s book. This chapter is called, A Conversation About Race: How Understanding Our Child’s Cultural Background Honors the Image of God.

Thank you, April, for sharing these important words with us!

 

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Processed with Rookie Cam

 

I remember the first time my son openly acknowledged that his skin color was different than my husband’s and mine. It happened just before Christmas in 2014, and he had recently turned three years old.

 

We were looking at the various characters in an old Italian plastic nativity set that my parents had passed down to us. This particular nativity is the perfect set for a toddler who plays hard all day, every day, because the pieces are unbreakable.

 

My favorite part of this nativity set is that the skin colors of the characters are not all porcelain white. Most figures look like they’re Middle Eastern, and one of the three wise men has very dark skin, just like my son. Jayda picked up this wise man and made a comment about how the two of them matched one another. I was thrilled to see him notice the similarity, and was eager to point to our Creator as the one who gave him his dark brown skin.

 

Jayda and I talked more about his observation, about how God made us each unique, and how every person is beautiful, created in God’s image, regardless of the color of his or her skin. Adam and I have used the same vocabulary with Jayda since that first conversation to reinforce the truth of the Imago Dei and the variety of skin tones God has created.

 

I believe that initial conversation about the dark-skinned wise man spurred on Jayda’s curiosity and awareness of different ethnicities to a new level. On multiple occasions when out running errands, Jayda would point to others who had the same skin color as his own, excited to see “a match.”

 

Our willingness to talk with him about race gave him the freedom to address the subject; it gave him agency in processing his experience of social dynamics. I believe if we had refused to talk to him about race, he may not have felt the freedom to ask us about it. If we had skirted the issue because it was awkward for us to discuss, I wonder if he would have felt that we were unapproachable on the topic.

 

It doesn’t matter if your children are black, white, Asian, or Latino: Every parent needs to talk openly with their children about race and ethnicity.

 

 

For believers, the conversation ought to be fueled by the gospel—how Jesus is the one who has freed us from sin and death, and racial division and racism—and focus on the hope that it brings to every relationship.

 

These conversations are incredibly hard, though. Whether they are with my son, a family member, or a friend, it takes humility, effort, thought, and wise word choices to navigate conversations about race and ethnicity. I’m willing to engage in these conversations because I’m convinced it’s important to God and honors those who bear his image.

 

 

Because race and ethnicity are important to God, and he purposefully created each and every one, I am always encouraged to hear of families who embrace different cultures in their homes and who humbly choose to enter into difficult conversations.

 

These families teach their children that people with skin colors different than their own are not bad, but are, instead, a beautiful expression of God’s creativity. How tremendous a privilege it is to lead our children in worship as we look at the people of the world, from every tribe, tongue, and nation, created by God, with dignity and worth.

 

Another reason I’m willing to enter into conversations about race is that one of the most heartbreaking realities of foster care and adoption is that certain children are seen as more desirable than others. According to one of our case workers, within Connecticut’s foster care system, the most desired child is a white female, aged zero to two years old. The least desired children are black boys. Even the babies.

 

Our youngest, Zay, even as a tiny baby, was considered “hard to place.” That means there weren’t many families willing to take him. There were a number of reasons for this, which included his prematurity and his birth mother’s health, but being black was definitely high on the list of his “undesirable” qualities.

 

I’ll say it again: I don’t believe every couple should consider transracial adoption, but I do believe more families ought to take a step forward, become well-versed on the challenges, and trust God with growing their family into a multiracial one.

 

Related post: Should Parents Have Children of a Different Skin Color?

 

April Head Shot

Want to read more? Find this excerpt and the rest of April’s book here.

Join April for more “Faithfulness in the Mundane” at www.aprilswiger.com and on Instagram.

 

Affiliate links used in this post.

 

 

 

It was my privilege to be interviewed by Christa Threlfall for a series on her blog, Brown Sugar Toast. The series is called Dwelling Richly: An Interview Series on Studying the Bible. In my response, I share some habits that have helped me in my own Bible study and spiritual growth.

 

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You can find the whole Dwelling Richly series by clicking here, including fantastic interviews with women like Jen Wilkin, Gloria Furman, Kristie Anyabwile, and Trillia Newbell.

In the interview, Christa asked me questions related to my personal Bible study habits, including:

  • Have you ever used accountability in the area of time in the Word? How? Did you find this profitable?
  • What has been your driest time spiritually and how did you overcome that period?
  • How did you make time for Bible study when your children were little?
  • How did you encourage a love for God’s Word in your children? Did you have a method for helping them learn how to study for themselves?
  • Any recommendations for Scripture memory? Meditation?

 

How would you answer these questions? Do you have any helpful tips you could share in the comments?

Find my answers to these questions by visiting my post in the Dwelling Richly series.

 

 

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It’s my pleasure to welcome Kaitlyn Bouchillon to this space today. Kaitlyn is a member of the Five Minute Friday community, and we even got to meet in person at the Five Minute Friday retreat in Nashville in 2015! Kaitlyn is the real deal. So full of wisdom and genuine encouragement.

Her brand new book, Even If Not: Living, Loving, and Learning in the In Between, is now available! Thank you, Kaitlyn, for sharing these uplifting words of truth with us today!

 

 

With Easter approaching, I’ve spent the past few weeks thinking about those three important days.

Good Friday: The very worst, terrible, horrific and dark day in history.

Saturday: The in between of silence and confusion.

Sunday: The resurrection of Jesus Christ, the fulfillment of promises-kept, the most joyful day known to man.

The more I sit and think about these days, the more I find myself attaching certain times of my life to each one.

A brain tumor diagnosis at age seventeen? Good Friday.

Being declared cancer-free? Sunday.

Spiritual warfare and depression? Good Friday.

Seeing a relationship reconcile after four years of unanswered prayers? Sunday.

But most of the time, if I’m being honest, I’m living in a Saturday season. I’m somewhere in between darkness and light, questions and answers. I’m holding onto what I believe to be true and I have faith that He will remain faithful, and yet my life feels chaotic, relationships are difficult, my to-do list is miles long and I forget how this story is going to end.

We know that our Savior is victorious but even still, Saturday exists. There is silence. There is confusion. There is weeping and we are full of questions because everything has changed so very unexpectedly. What then? Where do we turn in the in between?

Because most of us, if we got real honest with ourselves, would say that we are the Saturday people, a mixture of grief and hope walking toward an uncertain tomorrow.

And yet, Sunday is coming. It probably won’t look like what we’re imagining, but our Savior is a promise-keeping promise-maker.

We can trust the unknown of the future to the God we know is authoring its pages.

 

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That doesn’t make it brighter or happier, I know. But, it does give us a reason to hold onto Hope.

Jesus is good and gracious and mighty and merciful. He is power and promise and even in the times that feel wild and vast and unsure, He is there. He is the God of Already’s even when we’re in the thick of it.

 

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We will walk through seasons of Good Fridays and we will live most of our life in an in between, clinging to hope and truth while believing that Sunday is just around the corner. And it is. Sunday is coming because Jesus is coming back for us. And so we will hold tight to Hope, trusting that the One writing the story of our lives will not make one single mistake. We will be the Saturday people who look expectedly toward Sunday.

 

 

Lord, may we be faithful in this in between as You have been faithful to us in every season. Thank You for coming for us, choosing to walk with us, and promising to return again. In the dead of night, You slipped into the world You made. You stepped into the darkness and promised to be the Light. In every in between, as we live with questions and trust that You’re the answer, please help us to keep our eyes on You, giving You glory in every season.

 

Psst … The “He Is There” print is a free download {one of many!} for Kaitlyn’s blog subscribers.

 

Kaitlin Bouchillon

Kaitlyn Bouchillon is an author and blogger who believes every person is a walking story and every story matters. Her first book, Even If Not: Living, Loving, and Learning in the in Between, released in early 2016. She loves writing – blogs, books, and handwritten letters – is addicted to queso, and is crazy about her people. She currently splits her time between Starbucks and her cute little apartment in Birmingham, Alabama.