What a sweet treat to interview the lovely and talented Jennifer Dukes Lee as part of the Interview Series. I’ve read her new book, The Happiness Dare, and gave it a 5 star review!
This is an excellent book—top-notch writing, timely message, and practical tools for growth. Embrace happiness like never before as you receive an invitation to find your happiness style, and spread lasting joy into the lives of those around you. God is using this book to break through to my heart in surprising ways with grace, inspiration, and yes, happiness. The Happiness Dare by Jennifer Dukes Lee is a needed message for our day. Dive in as your spirits lift!
Let’s give Jennifer a warm welcome as she gives us a look into her book (and be sure to enter the giveaway!).
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.
Interview with Jennifer Dukes Lee
Often I’ve felt like God is a happiness-stomper. The Happiness Dare has helped me see things differently. Can you talk a little about this?
Oh, Katie. You really pinpointed, in one short phrase, how so many people view God – as a “happiness stomper.” I was one of those people, too! But those false views about God have stolen so much happiness from us. Why? Because we think that God cares only about our holiness, not our happiness. But we’re wrong. Let me explain.
For many of us, part of the problem is our misinterpretation of what Jesus expects from us. We know what the Bible says about picking up our crosses, and walking the narrow way home. When Jesus comes again, we think he’d rather find us suffering for him, rather than merrily swinging from the rafters. Yet we’re missing something crucial. The book unpacks all of that in detail, but here’s the really short version: God is a happy God. He is the inventor of happiness. Our happiness isn’t apart from our holiness, it’s a part of it.
People often ask me how I define happiness. I’d say this, “Happiness is an outward expression of an inward joy that is found in Jesus.”
I love the story about your daughter, Lydia, discovering that she didn’t find happiness in the same way her friends did (i.e. playing basketball). What advice would you give to those who’ve made a similar discovery?
I love that story, too. My daughter learned that she wasn’t made for the basketball court; she was made for the music room. What freedom! Her whole mood shifted. Her discovery was eye-opening for me, too, as I began to consider how God made me.
What advice would I give to others? I would tell people this: What makes you happy doesn’t make you weird. It makes you wonderful! Because of Jesus, there is no single way to happiness. There are uncountable ways. For some, happiness is an evening at the park; for others, it’s the satisfaction of a good day’s work. God gives us so many ways to experience His goodness: ocean foam at our feet, the taste of a fresh peach, afternoons curled up with favorite books, movie nights with friends, jamming out to ‘80s music. (Don’t be jealous, but I’m a professional air guitarist. I digress.)
When I began to explore the myriad avenues toward happiness, I also began to uncover the types of happiness. In my research, I developed five happiness styles. (You can take the test here to find out your style in less than five minutes.) It has been so fun to watch how the light turns on after people take that test to discover what truly makes them happy. It’s so affirming!
What was one of your biggest obstacles to finding happiness as you wrote this book?
Authors often say that the very thing they are writing about, is the very thing they are challenged to live out! During my research and writing, I encountered many personal trials in my family, with my health, and with the health of one of our daughters. We experienced loss and heartache in so many ways. So I felt myself being challenged to really live the words I was writing, and to put into practice what God was teaching me through His word.
Tell us about one of your happiest moments throughout the process of writing this book?
Let me tell you, Katie, that the actual writing part was SO MUCH FUN. Granted, my happiness style is Doer, so I’m as giddy at 8 a.m. on a Monday morning, as Experiencers are at 5 p.m. on a Friday. (The Doer’s Life Motto: “I don’t wait for the weekend to live a happy life.”) But my favorite moment of all came when we were in a place that, paradoxically, is filled with sadness: Mayo Clinic. We were there because my dad was having part of his leg amputated. One day, I left his hospital room and went downstairs to get a sandwich, and there was this guy playing piano in the lobby. He was singing “This Little Light Of Mine,” and he asked us to sing along. And there we all were – all these people carrying our struggles around, some in wheelchairs, some with IV poles – and we were all singing together. It was a beautiful moment – a moment when I realized that no matter where I am, or how low I feel, there’s still a reason to sing. And that reason is Jesus.
You are such a great writer Jennifer! What is one of your favorite writing tips to pass on to others?
I have an inner editor who sets fake deadlines. Let me explain.
I have always had two big problems in my writing: perfectionism and distraction. As a perfectionist, I’ve lived under that idea that, “If I can’t get it right the first time, I’m not going to do it at all.” So it’s difficult for me to advance into the next paragraph at times. I listen to my inner critic, or I imagine critics outside of myself. It kills my creativity. And because I am easily distracted, I stop working hard for those words, and I start doing pointless stuff like taking silly quizzes on Facebook to determine which Disney princess I am.
Back in the 1980s and 1990s, when I first started writing, we didn’t have all those computer tabs open, right? We were working on word processors – and we didn’t have access to a world wide web quite like we do now. So I just keep pushing through in my writing. In 2016, it’s so easy to stop working hard for words and get distracted.
So I started to set what I call “fake deadlines.” I have always worked better on a tight deadline, probably from years of working on deadlines for newspapers. My brain is trained to work under a deadline. You can’t worry about perfectionism when a news story is due at 5 p.m. that day! So my inner editor creates deadlines for me.
“A chapter by Friday.”
“1,000 words by the end of the day.”
“400 words in 15 minutes.”
It helps me move past perfectionism and distraction.
There are so many tough things going on in our world at present. Can you offer a prayer for those who are struggling to find any sort of happiness in their lives?
Katie and I come to you today to lift up those for whom happiness seems so far out of reach. Happiness—genuine happiness—allows space for a person to be sad. To cry. To grieve. Your Word tells us that we do not grieve as those who have no hope. But still, we grieve. Thank you for grieving with us, for never abandoning us when our sadness feels overwhelming. Right now, our world feels so broken, and happiness seems hard to find. Help us to find it. Help us find glimmers of You, wherever we may roam today. Help us to fight for happiness, even when it’s hard. When we fight for happiness, we aren’t denying the pain of this world, we are refusing to give in to it.
In Jesus’ name. Amen.
Take Jennifer’s Happiness Style Assessment, and find out in five minutes or less, what truly makes you happy.
Jennifer is giving away a copy of The Happiness Dare!
Contest ends at 11:59pm on Monday, August 15th. Winner will be drawn at random and contacted my email. U.S. entries only please.