Book Review: Crazy Joy

Life definitely has ups and downs and for many of us, our happiness tends to be dependent on if we’re in a good season or having a good day, or if we’re in a difficult season or having a bad day. Or we think we’ll be happier one day if we have this or that, or if certain things happen in our lives: getting that dream job, getting married, or moving to a city we love. In her new book Crazy Joy, (hardcover, Worthy Publishing) Mary Katherine Backstrom shares how you can find joy and contentment not only in the good times but right in the middle of your hardest, messiest times. If you’re not familiar with Backstrom (or MK, for short), she is known for her viral social media videos and her writings on family, faith, and mental illness. Her writing style is very candid and humorous, and you can’t help but laugh at many of the real-life situations she shares about herself and her family. So, just reading this book will bring you joy and lots of laughs!

MK’s writing style is also warm and personal, kind of like a friend talking to you over lunch or a cup of coffee. The hard (or embarrassing) but funny experiences she shares about her own life, along with the insights and wisdom she’s gained from going through them, are really easy to relate to. You can even picture yourself in some of these situations, which makes it such a fun read.

On the serious side, some insights MK shares are:

  • I’m here to own some mistakes and tell you the stories about them so that maybe, perhaps, you don’t have to go through the same stuff or go through it for as long. Because the thing is, we’ve got to have community to come into a fuller experience of joy.
  • Things like love and peace and joy, they make this life worth living. But there will be forces like hate, discontent, and despair, all equal and opposite in power, gunning to keep us from the joy that can be ours. My job, your job, is to learn how to fight back with what can push away the darkness, not add to it.
  • If at the end of the day what we’re chasing is acceptance or fame or success or safety, then we can slice up that pie a million ways and it will never serve us joy. A pursuit of joy requires going after exactly that, joy, not the things we think approximate it.
  • As long as you operate from insecurity, the joy in your life will be scarce. You might have some moments here or there, but it won’t fill your life to the brim. And who wants a life that is “just enough” joy. You want crazy joy, the kind that fills up every room in your heart and explodes through the windows of your soul.
  • Look at the relationships in your life. Do they fill you with joy, or do they cause you pain?… If you hold the way your people treat you up to the light, do support, kindness, and love shine through? Or are there watermarks of harshness, dysfunction, rejection, agenda, or trauma embedded in the fibers?
  • Teddy Roosevelt…said, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” And I believe that’s true. Comparison invades your heart with sticky fingers, taking anything it deems precious: confidence, peace, contentment—all of it goes in the bag. While you are distracted by other people’s shiny things—their clothes, their vacations, their money, their marriages, their perfectly planned Christmas cards—the thief of joy is doing the work of stripping your spirit clean.

Life doesn’t have to be perfect to be joyful. In fact, MK writes that joy can be “…found in the crevices, the cracks, and the chaos.” And that’s exactly why we need it: “In a world that’s perpetually upside down, it is joy that holds us up. It is joy that gives us a sense of peace and strength in a time of crisis…. In those times, we will need something to reach for…. We need peace that can weather the storm. Our crazy, resilient joy.”

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