Joy in the Fire Swamp

Rejoice Always

CS Lewis once described joy as “serious business,” yet I assumed I could take joy lightly, capturing it in my free time like fireflies in a mason jar. I learned that you need much more than an experiment to unleash the power of joy. You need chutzpah, you need backbone, you need intentionality—and sometimes you need a crisis. (Margaret Feinberg, Fight Back With Joy, ebook location 145)

Last year was a HECK of a year. For decades, I had been stuffing the painful consequences of abuse down into my soul and suddenly, I found myself face to face with a former abuser. It was like pouring vinegar into a vat of baking soda – suddenly the pain was frothing out of me uncontrollably. I spiraled into depression, anxiety, and PTSD. I sought help from my medical doctor, my Chinese medicine practitioner, my counselor, and my pharmacist. And by the end of the year, after a trip through my own personal version of the Princess Bride’s Fire Swamp, I finally started to feel free again. My smile wasn’t just a mask on my face anymore – it reached all the way down to my heart.

As we approached the new year, I felt strongly that I should do something I had never done before and that was to have a focus word for the new year. And I instinctively knew that my word was going to be “light.” (Doesn’t that just feel warm and fuzzy?! Can’t you see the rainbows and the puppies and the butterflies?!) I prayerfully received and accepted this word and began to tell people because, darn it, I was excited! I just knew that 2015 was going to be the Best. Year. Ever.

And then, 2015 actually began. January wasn’t bad. I mean, outside of the fact that I lost an aunt to leukemia and had to face a former abuser again and that on my 37th birthday, I learned that one of the people that’s dearest to me in the world is battling stage four, inoperable cancer. It’s February 3rd and y’all, I’m tired already!

And this is where Margaret Feinberg grabbed me by the hand. As I read Chapter 0, the word “intentionality” jumped out at me and said, “Hey, joy and light aren’t going to be something that just jumps into your pocket as you walk through flowerbeds of life. They are something that you are going to have to search through the ash heaps of the Fire Swamp to find. But they’re worth it.”

So, here I am… raking through the coals of the Fire Swamp. But I’m not alone. And it’s worth it. So, I’m clinging to 1 Thessalonians 5:16 and moving on. Who’s with me?

It’s that time again! Book discussion! Woo hoo! You do NOT have to read the book to hang out around the campfire and chat with us. Sit back, enjoy the cocoa and listen. Or feel free to grab your marshmallows and jump into the fire to chat. Either way, you’re welcome! If you did write a response to this week’s chapter, link it up at the widget below. Then, stop by my friend and co-facilitator, Jason’s place and hear what he has to say.


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About Sarah Salter


  1. Barbara Capps says:

    Well Sista Sarah, that was a mouthful and well said.. Its gonna be a great year for you.. I believe it…. AMEN!!!

  2. A smile that “reached all the way down to my heart” – I think that’s what we were made for. Gpod post, Sarah, and thanks for hosting this discussion!

  3. Sarah, my heart broke when I read your post. You’ve been through so much. We’ve been through so much. My prayer is for healing at every level for both of us..that God continue to anchor us in the depth of His fierce love. Grateful for you, fellow Joy Warrior!

  4. Feb 1st I told my husband I was glad Jan was over. Looking back at Jan I couldn’t believe how much we’d done! No wonder I was so tired. How in the world had we accomplished so much and how in the world could we still be so far behind?
    It’s Feb 4th and I’m even more exhausted…so much to do…so little time.

    I’m thankful for winning this book. I think it will help me embrace this season of my life with joy.

    Thank you for sharing of your own journey to living intentionally with the Joy of God instead of bogged down in the trials of this life.
    I’ve been reading 1 John lately, focusing on walking in the light as He is in the light. Your post reminded me to stay in His light.

  5. The real question I have is, have you encountered any rats of unusual size? 🙂 I’m with you on the challenges–different ones, but real nonetheless. So far none of them have changed considerably, but how I relate to them is changing and I can hardly believe it (which tells me again it’s all grace and all His doing). We’ll stick together friend! There’s more joy to be experienced. Thank you, Sarah.

  6. Sarah Salter says:

    Glynn, I agree! We’re supposed to be living “life more abundantly.” And I’m pretty sure that includes a smile or two. 🙂

  7. Sarah Salter says:

    Margaret, we’ve all been through stuff. As long as it ends up being for a reason… And I think it will be. (Jeremiah 29:11) Thank you for your encouragement, and I certainly agree with your prayer for our healing! 🙂

  8. Sarah Salter says:

    TC, 1 John is VERY, VERY close to my heart. Thank you for pointing back to it! 🙂

  9. Sarah Salter says:

    Jason, I KNEW that somebody would bring up the rats of unusual size! LOL!! And it’s so true that we can’t necessarily change our circumstances. The only thing we can change is our response to circumstances. And I’m working on that. Blessed to have a counselor and some friends who call me on my “stuff.” (You’ll probably hear some of these stories along the way.) It’s good to be back at this, my friend! 🙂

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