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Five Sure-Fire Joy Robbers

Kathy Carlton Willis is teaching me quite a bit about joy, because I've "watched" her choosing joy in some tough circumstances. In this Attitude UPGRADE, she shares some of her secrets!

“One fall season, we had an abundance of pecans in our yard,” Kathy said. Mom and I picked up enough to share and plenty to keep over winter for baking. Still there were some left over, so we had a huge box of pecans sitting on our front porch.

"Then we noticed that all the pecans disappeared; only the empty box remained.”

Squirrels? Pecans? What's not to love? I (Dawn) am  always eager to hear how Kathy weaves a good story into biblical life application, and she doesn't disappoint here!

Kathy continues . . .

Who would dare come up on our porch and steal our pecans out from under us but not take the box?”

 The answer was right before our very eyes.

Squirrels, of course!

All winter long we noticed they seemed to be eating well, but we didn’t realize we were the ones feeding them.

This is a trivial example of being robbed, but I know people who were robbed of their possessions, and they felt so violated. Sometimes the person who robbed them was someone they knew; other times, complete strangers invaded their personal space and stole their belongings.

No matter the circumstances, being robbed attacks anyone’s sense of security. Being robbed of our joy is no different.

But we have control of our joy, unlike when possessions are taken from us.

When joy is stolen, it isn’t so the other party can possess our joy. No, when they do something that causes us to quit being joyful, it’s not as if they are now wearing our joy! They’re usually as unhappy as we are when they have placed us in a negative situation.

Why is it we allow others to steal our joy? Perhaps it’s not even their motive to see us lose our peace and gladness. But when we allow circumstances to push our buttons, our joy departs.

5 Sure-Fire Joy Robbers:

1. A loss 

2. Being Misunderstood

3. Being Betrayed 

4. Being Rejected

5. Worry & Doubt

The key is to realize no one has access to our joy control switch besides us.

When we feel robbed of joy we must admit—at some level we allowed it to happen.

Our source of joy is not in circumstances or other people, but in the peace of God, which passes all human understanding (Philippians 4:7).

It’s impossible to always be happy.

Bad things happen.

People trash our parade route!

Happiness is based on happenstance or circumstances.

But it’s possible to rejoice with joy that wells up from a God-space deep within us. And when it’s flowing, it naturally bubbles over onto others.

“So you have sorrow now, but I will see you again; then you will rejoice, and no one can rob you of that joy” (John 16:22 NLT).

Restore us, O Lord, and bring us back to you again! Give us back the joys we once had” (Lamentations 5:21 NLT).

In order to experience the abundance of joy, it’s important to deal with any burdens weighing you down.

Here are three specific steps you can take to prevent those joy-robbers.

1. Don’t be anxious. Instead, vent your worries and frustrations to the Lord. (Philippians 4:6)

2. Deal with situations as they surface—don’t let them accumulate. (Ephesians 4:25–27) Control jealousy and anger in healthy ways. Don’t let others push your buttons. (Proverbs 14:29–30).

3. Don’t let someone else engage you in a guilt trip. You don’t need the frequent flyer miles that go along with that sort of journey! (Romans 8:1)

The next time you feel robbed, evaluate your own attitudes. Are you fully relying on God or are you allowing circumstances to dictate your moods and emotions?

Which of these specific steps can help you prevent with your joy-robbers today?

Kathy Carlton Willis shines for God, reflecting His light as a speaker at writer's conferences and women's retreats, and as an author - contributing to three books and writing hundreds of columns and articles online and in print publications. She wrote Grin with Grace with AMG Publishers and has several books releasing over the next few years. She and her husband/pastor, Russ, live in Texas.

Squrrel Graphic adapted, image courtesy of rhamm at


Complex Carbs - and the Complexity of Burnout

Rhonda Rhea. Always leave it to this funny lady to link life's crazy moments to something life-changing. In this life and Ministry UPGRADE, she talks about carbs, coffee and where our real energy originates.

"I may look calm on the outside," Rhonda says, "But on the inside I’m frantically trying to digest ridiculous amounts of complex carbs without storing cellulite."

Carbs. Cellulite. Got my (Dawn's) attention there. Unfortunately. But what's Rhonda really saying?

Rhonda continues…

Time to up the metabolism, I’m thinking. Seems the logical fix would be coffee. That’s why I figure I’m helping things along if I drive through for a grande mocha latte with extra whip.

Someone told me that the average person drinks 22 gallons of coffee a year.

I’ve also heard it said that the average person walks about 8,000 miles a year just going about the regular routine of everyday life.

Surely that’ll work off that extra whip.

So it looks to me like we’re getting about 363 miles to the gallon. Talk about sustainability. Suddenly that four-dollar mocha is a responsible purchase, right?

Burning carbs is one thing. But burning out is another.

In the stresses of going about the not-always-so-regular routine of Kingdom work, it’s easy to become not just over-whipped, but over-worked, over-tired and overwhelmed.

Some of the complex warning signs of burnout?

  • A soul-weariness—tiredness that rarely goes away.
  • There’s a “spinning your wheels” frustration—feeling that though you’re running yourself ragged, you’re not really making a difference.
  • Resentment builds and starts replacing the joy once found in working for Jesus.
  • It’s difficult to love Him well and even harder to love His people.
  • You find yourself fighting a strong desire to isolate yourself.
  • Loneliness, negativity, cynicism and hopelessness creep in. 

What do we do when we feel “whipped”—in the non-creamiest way?

1. We run. We run to the only One who can heal a heart and refresh a spirit.

2. If there’s sin in the way, we get rid of it.

Spending time on our faces in prayer, getting truly honest with the Father, starts the healing.

3. We immerse ourselves in His Word. It’s there we find direction, strength, wisdom and restoration.

4. We determine to stay plugged into people and find a godly confidante.

We were designed with a deep need for that people-connection.

5. It’s also good to take a look at the schedule and get rid of clutter.

Get some rest.

The truth is,

God never calls us to do anything He doesn’t equip us to do.

In essence, He won’t give you more miles to walk than He gives coffee to get you there.

When we have more than we have time and energy to do, we’ve added to the to-do’s ourselves. As we pray through our schedule asking for direction, He is faithful to give wisdom in knowing where to back off and where to press on.

Our love and service for Him? In those we press on. Always.

I love the “press on” kind of encouragement found in Hebrews 10:35-36.

“Do not, therefore, fling away your fearless confidence, for it carries a great and glorious compensation of reward. For you have need of steadfast patience and endurance, so that you may perform and fully accomplish the will of God, and thus receive and carry away—and enjoy to the full—what is promised” (AMP).

“Enjoy to the full.” I do love that. Not only does it make me think of mocha, but it reminds me of the blessing in not giving up. He strengthens the tired heart. He’ll enable you to do everything you really need to do.

“He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it” (1 Thessalonians 5:24, ESV).

Knowing it’s all His strength—that’s invigorating! More energizing than the strongest mocha. With never a carb left over.

Ready, willing and revved up to press on? His Word and His presence does that! In what might the Lord be calling you to press on?

Rhonda Rhea is a humor columnist and the author of 10 nonfiction books, including Join the Insanity—Crazy-Fun Life in the Pastors’ Wives Club and Espresso Your Faith—30 Shots of God’s Word to Keep You Focused on Christ. Rhonda also coauthors fiction with her daughter, Kaley Faith Rhea. Their first novel, Turtles in the Road, releases soon with two more completed and coming soon. Rhonda speaks at conferences and events all over the country and she and her daughters host the TV show, That’s My Mom, for Christian Television Network’s KNLJ airing in mid-Missouri.

Graphic, "Dreaming Girl with Cup of Coffee," image courtesy of alex_ugalek at


Stop Pressuring Yourself!

Kathy Collard Miller writes to help women be wise and productive. In this Biblical Thinking UPGRADE, she helps us consider the "pressures" in our life from the perspective of God's Word.

“Why does life feel full of pressure?" she said. "There’s so much to do, so much to decide. People expect a lot and every situation seems potentially disastrous.”

Pressure. Stress. I (Dawn) have thought much about this lately, dealing with some personal stressful circumstances. I'm wondering if my thought-processes contribute to the struggle. Does Kathy have a word for me? And you?

Kathy continues . . .

The pressures of life can easily add up and feel overwhelming. Even when we’re seeking God, it’s not easy to replace pressure with peace and joy.

I remember seeing how I added lots of pressure to my life without realizing it. I thought I was following God, but in my cloudy thinking, I was contributing to the pressure.

Of course, there are many ideas for diminishing pressure but here are three ideas I’ve found helpful. I hope one or more help you.

1. Downsize!

My mom taught me, my sister and my brother how to clean our rooms every Saturday. And that included washing the sheets! After I had a family of my own, I still washed our sheets every week, even though I felt mounting pressure because of a husband who worked long hours, two toddlers and trying to serve the Lord.

One day I mentioned to my neighbor Pat about washing the sheets every week. Pat casually said, “Oh really? I wash ours every two weeks.”

Shocked, I replied, “You mean it’s ok to do that?”

I realized in that moment I was pressuring myself to do something that wasn’t needed. As I began to ask myself if there were other pressures I was putting on myself unnecessarily, I found others.

What can you eliminate or do less often that will relieve some pressure?

Jesus’ said to Martha when she was trying to make so many dishes for company: “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary” (Luke 10:41 ESV).

Of course we know He meant sitting at his feet like Mary, but maybe He also meant she could “downsize” the meal to include only one dish!

2. Re-read your journal.

Sometimes I’ll read my journal from a year ago or years ago.

I’m shocked to see that the things I worried about and felt pressured about weren’t really that important—in the end.

I wrote about what terrible things might happen if I didn’t do something just “right.” Or about the long range consequences if I made a mistake.

But without reading my journal, I wouldn’t be able to tell you now about those pressure-making circumstances. At the time, I felt pressured to pray exactly the right thing—as if I could know the future.

God worked things out often without me even knowing how to pray.

Proverbs 3:5 tells us not to lean on our own understanding. I think we can diminish pressure by not expecting ourselves to know exactly how to pray.

Yes, pray! But trust in God’s compassionate grace to know the right way to answer, even if it’s “no.”

3. Abide.

Lately, I’ve concentrated on living in the moment by following Jesus’ command to “abide”: “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love” (John 15:9 ESV).

For me, that has looked like being alert to God’s leading moment by moment and trusting His love can cover when I misunderstand.

It has meant believing:  

“God will give me enough time and energy to do what He wants me to do as I seek Him.”

If something doesn’t get done as I expected and I abided in Him, then that’s what He wanted to happen. I don’t have to feel pressured and beat myself up.

Which of those three insights could help you to resist pressuring yourself?

Kathy Collard Miller loves to help women trust God more through her 50 books and her speaking in over 30 states and 8 foreign countries. Kathy recently wrote Never Ever Be the Same: A New You Starts Today; and Choices of the Heart (Elk Lake Publishers). Visit Kathy's website/blog.

Graphic from Morguefile.


Your Labels: True or False?

In this Biblical Thinking UPGRADE, Poppy Smith hit on a topic that plagued me for years. I was called "stupid," so I thought I was. Maybe you're wearing some labels too.

"I grew up with the label “Sloppy Poppy,” Poppy said. "My parents were very loving and it was a family joke that I tended to drop things, spill soup, or mess-up when tackling domestic chores such as cooking or sewing. I’m still that way."

I (Dawn) could talk about a relative who falls off chairs (but I won't). I'm sure every family has its share of members who do klutzy or kooky things, and labeling people as such certainly won't help them cope or change.

But it's an even deeper message Poppy has for us today.

She continues . . .

Some labels wound.

They sting.

They demolish confidence.

They limit your life.

Not all labels make us laugh. Nor are they attached with loving, good humor.

When I was in seminary getting my Masters in Spiritual Formation and Direction, a professor declared:

Let God label you, not others.

That was a life-changing truth for me. It was liberating.

And it’s something I love sharing with those who struggle with negative labels super-glued on their hearts and minds by parents, teachers, coaches or an abusive boyfriend or husband.

I'm talking about cruel labels such as, You're ...



A Failure



A Mistake


They produce great pain. They also hold great power over you—limiting your joy, confidence and freedom to experience all God wants for you.

A close friend was constantly called “stupid idiot” by her parents, and “ugly wart” by a boy at school.  She was emotionally damaged for decades by her verbally and physically abusive parents—until she learned to recognize who she really was in God’s eyes and reject the lies that had held her in their grip.

It takes time to be “transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12: 2) but with God’s help, it can be your experience.

The Bible is full of wonderfully healing words that you can apply to your heart and replay in your mind. If you’re a child of God, let me encourage you to revel in these truthful labels and toss the others in the trash where they belong.

Here are three simple steps to help you do this:

1. Repeat these biblically-true words regularly:

I am precious and loved by God, chosen, adopted, forgiven (Ephesians 1:2-14)

I am created for a purpose and capable of doing all He plans for me (Ephesians 2:10)

I am valued by God. He is for me and works everything together for my good (Romans 8:28-29

2. Say them out loud and add to your list as you read Scripture.

3. Ask God for help.

His power is what enables you to change your thoughts, attitudes, and actions.

What negative labels persistently pop into your head? Ask yourself: Would Jesus call me that? Is this how God sees me?

Force yourself to look at the labels you think are not true, reject them and embrace the amazing truth that you are truly loved and accepted by God.

Poppy Smith is British, married to an American, and has lived in many countries. A former Bible Study Fellowship teaching leader with a Masters in Spiritual Formation, she is a multi-published author who speaks widely, challenging women to make their lives count by looking at their choices, attitudes, and relationship with God. Discover more about Poppy here

Graphic: Image courtesy of imagerymajestic at


Thugs Are Trying to Kill Your Marriage

Dianne Barker INVESTS her live in women, encouraging them in their lives and families and teaching them how to live an abundant life. In this Marriage UPGRADE, she points out some nasty "thugs" trying to destroy our marriages!

"Watch out!" she says. "Snares, Tares, and Tumbleweeds are out to kill your marriage!"

Snares, tares and tumbleweeds? I (Dawn) wonder what she means? She certainly got my attention.

Dianne continues . . .

Who ARE those thugs?

Stress ... wearing many disguises.

And if you’re not careful, they’ll bludgeon your marriage to death.

Let’s remove the masks and see who’s there.


Snares are things that entangle us or impede our progress—daily-living stuff that keeps us distracted.

(1) Job pressures.

When both husband and wife have high-stress careers, the pressure doubles—project overload and deadlines, continued training, personality conflicts in the office, irresponsibility or jealousy of co-workers, irritability when overlooked for promotion, indecision about changing jobs, hassles of a job search and moving to a new location. And don’t forget the stress of getting fired or laid off due to downsizing.

Physical and mental exhaustion come home from work with you, sit at your dinner table, and accompany you to bed.

(2) Financial pressure.

Living within our means may be an out-of-date concept. We don’t have to do that anymore, thanks to the availability of credit cards.

Overspending catapults us into deep water before we can say “credit score.”

When that bulging budget cannot be balanced, distress and dissension cast a permeating gloom over your home and family.

(3) Outside relationships.

Relationships with other people affect the marriage. When we’re angry or distracted over a disagreement or misunderstanding with someone else—boss, co-worker, neighbor, relative, child’s teacher, friend—we become preoccupied and irritable. And if your mother-in-law provokes you, those feelings of annoyance can spill over to your husband. He’s just like his mother!

Anger and resentment, like a contagious disease, ­­infect all who come in contact with you.

(4) Special circumstances.

Care-giving is inevitable in the later years of marriage. Elderly parents decline in health. Couples are stretched to the limit, trying to maintain normal life with added responsibility, possibly while dealing with health issues themselves. Many also find themselves rearing grandchildren.

There isn’t enough energy to go around…and the marriage becomes the sacrifice.


Tares are the work of our unseen Enemy whose goal is to destroy us, using every tactic he can come up with.

His favorite tools include misunderstanding, weariness, and negative thinking.  


Tumbleweeds are children, rooted in our family briefly then whisked by the wind to distant places. With immeasurable love, we pour out our lives for them.

Stress during their young years—teaching obedience and refereeing sibling spats—doesn’t compare with the stress of parenting teenagers. Be aware of the power of peer influence.

Stand firm, parents, or the kids will divide you.

Are snares, tares, and tumbleweeds weakening your marriage foundation and boosting your stress load to infinity-plus?

Don’t give up on the marriage. Evaluate. Eliminate the stress you can eliminate. Simplify. Do less. Say no.

Begin paring down your stress to what seems a manageable level. And then hand it to Jesus because you’re not able to manage it at any level.

He said, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for our souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).

He can handle those thugs!

A final question: How are you dealing with stress in all its disguises?

Dianne Barker is a speaker, radio host and author of 11 books, including the best-selling Twice Pardoned and award-winning I Don’t Chase the Garbage TruckDown the Street in My Bathrobe Anymore! Organizing for the Maximum Life. She’s a member of Advanced Writers and Speakers Association, Christian Authors Network, and Christian Women in Media. 

(Post adapted from Help! I’m Stuck and I Can’t Get Out! The Maximum Marriage Maintenance and Repair Kit, available soon at

Graphic adapted, courtesy of