Bounce Back

When Your Heart is Empty and Your Dreams are Lost


By Julie Clinton

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Julie Clinton speaks to approximately fifty thousand women each year all across the country at the Extraordinary Women Conferences.


Copyright © 2014 by Julie Clinton

Published by Worthy Publishing, a division of Worthy Media, Inc., 134 Franklin Road, Suite 200, Brentwood, Tennessee 37027.

Worthy is a registered trademark of Worthy Media, Inc.


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All rights reserved. No portion of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means—electronic, mechanical, photocopy, recording, scanning, or other—except for brief quotations in critical reviews or articles, without the prior written permission of the publisher.

Note: the stories in this book are based upon real events in the lives of real women, but the names and some of the details of the stories have been changed to protect the privacy of these women and to guard the confidentiality of the author’s conversations with them.

Library of Congress Control Number: 2013956965

Unless otherwise noted, Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Scripture references marked ESV are taken from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®) copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. ESV® Text Edition: 2011. The ESV® text has been reproduced in cooperation with and by permission of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Scripture references marked MSG are taken from The Message. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group. Scripture references from the King James Version are public domain.

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Cover Design: Susan Browne Design

Cover Illustration: Getty Images

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Printed in The United States of America

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To the EW team—who travel and give selflessly so that women all across America can find new courage and fresh faith to bounce back! Thank you for your faithful ministry!


This project would not have been possible without the support, prayer, encouragement, and feedback of my family, friends, and professional colleagues. My sincerest thanks . . . and hats off to each of you!

I want to acknowledge Jan Dargatz for her amazing ability and talent to help me craft this work. Words fall short to communicate my deep appreciation for you, Jan! Along with that, a special note of appreciation goes out to Tom Winters and especially Ted Squires for believing in me and standing behind the vision of Bounce Back.

I am eternally grateful to the incredible publishing team at Worthy—including Byron Williamson and Jeana Ledbetter—for their belief in the EW message and for giving me this platform to influence and encourage women from every walk of life. I also want to thank Laura Captari for her input and editing to help bring this project home.

To the EW team—you are the hands and feet of Jesus. Thank you for dedicating long hours during the week and on the weekends to faithfully serve Christ and women across the nation. I am grateful and feel extremely blessed to serve with you.

To all who have attended the EW conferences over the years and shared your stories—your courage to make tough decisions and take action to change your lives inspires me. You are a testament to the healing power of God, who longs for each of His daughters to bounce back!

I also want to acknowledge my mother, who daily shows me how to fight for joy and live fully. I appreciate every moment we share together, Mom, and have learned so much from you!

As always, I don’t know what I’d do without my husband, Tim, and my children, Megan and Zach. You guys make the world a beautiful place for me. I love you so much!

And to my Lord and Savior—Your never-ending love and faithfulness carry me each day. May You get all the glory and use this book to bring renewed hope to all of us who feel like our hearts are empty, and our dreams are lost. You are our Redeemer—and there is nothing too hard for You!


by Karen Kingsbury

The year was 1997 and I’d just given birth to our third child—a son named Austin. From the beginning Austin looked like an athlete—a football player type like his daddy. But there was a problem. Austin wasn’t breathing right. Instead of the usual even-paced breaths, Austin’s came more in fits and starts. “He’s a fast breather,” the doctor told us. “Nothing to worry about.”

But I did worry. After three weeks of fast breathing, Austin began gasping for air. His little chest would rise and fall with each breath, and his fingernails were turning blue. My instincts told me the doctor had missed something. I took Austin back in that Monday, and as he listened to Austin’s heartbeat, the doctor’s expression changed. Immediately he ordered an EKG, and once he saw those results he told us the grim news.

“Your baby has a serious heart defect. You need to take him to Children’s Hospital right away.”

Just like that we were over our heads in waves of a crisis we never saw coming. The details were a blur—then and now—but I remember getting a call from my sister, Trish. At the time we lived in Portland, Oregon, and Trish lived in California. “He can’t have heart surgery,” she said, “We haven’t even met him yet.”

Somehow my words were calm. “Trust Jesus. You’ll meet Austin one day—here or in heaven.”

That night in the neonatal intensive care unit of Doernbecher Children’s Hospital, we gave Austin a bath. I ran my fingers over his perfect back—the place where the next morning a surgeon would cut through and use a rib spreader to replace Austin’s aorta with the artery from his left arm. Please, God, show me how to come back from this, I prayed. I trust You. I do. But please let this count for something.

The chances were against Austin surviving the surgery, but the next day after a long six hours in the waiting room, we received the news we had prayed for. Austin had survived. The doctor thought he would be fine. “He may always be small and sickly,” he warned us. “But I believe he’ll make it through.”

We thanked God and began a six-week period in and out of intensive care. We accepted the fact that our little boy would always be little—sickly even—and after he came home for good, we prayed about what was next. We had planned to have other children, but the doctor warned us that future kids would have the same problem Austin had or worse. So we decided we were finished having biological children.

But we still had room in our hearts and home for more children. A year later the answer became clear. We would adopt two little boys from Haiti. Then came the next surprise. I went to pick up the boys in April 2001 and they were a trio of best friends. Inseparable. I called my husband. “Honey,” I told him, “there aren’t two but three boys.”

Donald simply smiled through the phone lines. “Two, three. That’s fine.”

And so our family doubled overnight.

Today I think about that terrible time, learning of Austin’s heart defect and his life-threatening surgery, and then knowing we couldn’t have more children. God showed us how to move on in the middle of the most difficult time in our lives. Not only that, but He blessed us with three more sons because of Austin’s condition.

I especially find myself thinking about it when I’m at Austin’s football games. I watch my six-foot-five son running for a touchdown, and I smile at the doctor’s warning about him being small and sickly. God didn’t only use that time in our lives to teach me to trust Him. He used it to teach me something else.

How to bounce back.

An Ongoing Opportunity to Heal and to Grow

This book can be read as a source of personal inspiration. It can also be used for study—either personally or in small groups. Let me call your attention to the reflection guide following the last chapter; this final section gives additional material for you to consider alone or to discuss with others. You’ll find Bible passages that dovetail with the content in each of the seven chapters.

I strongly encourage you to consider a small-group study with members in your church fellowship. Decide together how you might use this book to reach out to others who do not know Jesus as their Savior. You certainly can take more than one study session to deal with each chapter. I know one group that did an eight-chapter study over a twenty-week time period. As one member of that group said, “We took our time and God honored the time we took.”

Always be on the alert for application. Ask the Lord often, “How can I put this information to use in my life, not only to help myself, but to help another person?” I believe that is a question God always delights in answering!

Remember always that the Lord desires to heal you and make you whole—in every area of your life. He desires to use you as a vessel for pouring out His love and mercy to others.

No woman is ever too broken to be of value to the Lord. No woman is ever beyond God’s ability to fill her empty heart and to make her a blessing.

I believe in God’s ability to help you Bounce Back!

Your sister in Christ now and forever,



Face the Trouble Behind the Smile

After you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.

—1 Peter 5:10 (ESV)

In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.

—Albert Einstein

I look into the beautiful, shining faces of literally thousands of women every year. I can close my eyes right now and see so many of these women with sharp clarity—in many cases, I can recall the sound of their voices.

The vast majority of them have a desire to be women of faith, with spiritual depth and vibrancy.

They are mature and accomplished women who, in many cases, have families and careers.

They are seeking women, wanting deeper, richer, and more meaningful lives.

Even so . . .

Just behind their smiles and warm greetings . . .

I often see a depth of pain and longing that is immense and persistent. In their eyes I see hurt. Anger. Sadness. Discouragement. Hopelessness. Desperation. I count it a high privilege to be able to pray with many of them, and to give at least a few words of encouragement.

There was Susan, who started her first sentence to me with a smile that dissolved into tears and that ended in a long, silent hug. When we were finally able to converse a bit, she shared with me that her husband of twenty-eight years had walked away earlier in the year to be with a woman half his age—a waitress he had met at a café, with whom he’d had a one-night fling that turned into an affair. She wasn’t sure if he’d be back or if she’d want him if he did come back. She was conflicted and angry and didn’t want to have either set of emotions.

There was Audra, who had lost her mother to a suffering disease and ultimately dementia. She couldn’t stop asking, “Why didn’t God step in and heal her? Why didn’t God allow her to stay mentally and emotionally strong?” Audra believed her mother was now safely with the Lord in paradise, but she was still reeling from two years of intense caregiving and the deep pain of loss. Her mother had been her best friend.

There was Cynthia, who had started having nightmares related to intense sexual abuse from an uncle when she was a child. “Why now?” she questioned. She admitted that at times she felt as if she was losing her mind. She had not thought about these experiences for more than two decades, but now she felt haunted by them. She dreaded going to bed at night, fearful of the nightmares that seemed to be recurring more regularly.

There was Dorothy, an older woman who said she desperately wanted to be free of the resentment she had held against her former husband for more than thirty years. He had put her and their children through bankruptcy and the loss of a comfortable lifestyle and then abandoned the family, leaving her to fend for herself financially and raise three young children as a single mother. And then, like bad icing on a bad cake, he had reappeared with a new wife and two adult children, asking for her forgiveness “twenty-five years too late.” She said, “I told him I forgave him, but I really didn’t. I felt angry and cornered by his asking for forgiveness in the presence of these three people I didn’t know. That was several years ago. Rather than feel better as time goes by, I feel even deeper resentment. I don’t want to be a bitter old woman.”

There was Maryanne, who had lost a fifth pregnancy, this latest one at six months. She had a deep and abiding desire for a baby. The miscarriages were wearing on her relationship with her husband, especially as they explored expensive options for medical intervention to assist them to conceive or, in her words, “to heal my broken uterus.” She was not at all interested in pursuing adoption, and she certainly was not interested in even considering a fulfilling life without a “child of our own.” She was almost frantic in her quest for a baby and had a suspicion that God might not be as good as she had been told He was.

Each of these women had a deep desire for:

            God’s presence. They each wanted to feel God in their lives, emotionally and spiritually. They wanted a deeper, dearer, more direct relationship with a loving Lord.

            a personal miracle. They wanted new freedom and healing of a kind they knew could only come from Christ Jesus.

            the ability to let go of the past. They each wanted a release from emotions they knew were negative and limiting, but they had no clue about how to release their pain.

            more enthusiasm for living. They each had a deep longing for more energy and more zest in their lives. As one woman said, “I want to get up in the morning eager for the new day. I’m tired of feeling that the best place for me to live is in bed with the covers pulled up over my head.”

            greater authenticity and fulfillment. They each felt a need to be “the real me” without criticism or limitation. They wanted fulfillment in their life and ministry, including a strong sense of purpose and a role to play in God’s plan for the world.

These women are not isolated examples. They are the mainstream of our world and of the church. Half of the women who come to our conferences are single, for various reasons. Some of them are married, yet still feel single because their husbands are inattentive, absent, or unsympathetic to them most of the time. A significant percentage of them have suffered or are suffering from a stress-related disorder or an eating disorder.

Most of them have endured pain or disappointment of some variety—in their relationships, in their health, in their work life, in their childhoods. The pain has lingered and festered and they long to be free of it. They have a deep desire to break out of the “what if,” “if only,” and “paralyzed in the present” state in which they find themselves.

They often feel overwhelmed, stressed out to the max, and stuck in their lives.

When I ask the women to describe their lives today, I often hear these words:





            burnt out

Many of the women admit to having more than one of these words as a descriptor for their lives—and some lay claim to all five!

I can guarantee you this: the women who provide these descriptive words do not want to live the way they are living. Most of them simply don’t know how to break out of being burdened, in bondage, or carrying emotional baggage that is too heavy for one person to carry. They realize something is broken, but they don’t know how to fix it.

They want to be set free, break out, and bounce back!

They are the reason for this book.

You may not directly relate to Susan, Audra, Cynthia, Dorothy, or Maryanne, described above. But I suspect you do relate to their feelings and their yearnings. And if not you personally, you very likely know someone who does have their experiences, feelings, or deep longings.

My overarching word to you today is this: hope.

God does love you.

He does want a better life for you.

And He does have a way for you to move from where you are, to the better life of your future. You can bounce back.


Decide to Breathe, Believe, and Bounce Back

Everyone has a fair turn to be as great as he pleases.

—Jeremy Collier

“My life is out of control.”

I knew from the way she spoke these words, punctuated by her hands held up as if they might never hold anything or anybody again, that she was seriously serious.

“What’s wrong?” I asked.

“Everything!” She went on to give me a potent list of problems:

“My husband divorced me.”

“He has taken up with a slut he met in a bar. I didn’t even know he went to bars.”

“He got half the house and most of our money, and there’s not enough for me to buy out the other half of the house or pay my monthly bills.”

“He has turned the kids against me.”

He wants to have me committed for mental evaluation. He’s the one with the mental problems.”

“He wants nothing to do with God or the church or my family or our family.”

When she paused to inhale, I said, “Let me give you this one lifeline: you can do something, and here is what it is: you can make a decision right now about how you are going to respond to all of this. You—yes, you—can make a choice with your will about what you are going to do in the next few minutes, the next hour, the rest of today.”

She grew quiet and fixed her eyes on mine.

“But . . . ” she started.

I interjected. “I want you to repeat after me these three words: I can decide.”

She did.

And then she asked, “But what can I decide? What decisions can I make?”

“There are three main decisions that are totally in your power and under your control.” I say this to you as well.

You Are in Charge of Three Main Decisions

There are three main decisions that are totally within your ability to make and then act on.

The Decision to Breathe

We all breathe, of course. We must breathe to live. Scientists tell us we can’t continue to exist if we are denied oxygen for more than three to four minutes.

The kind of breathing I’m talking about is not physical. It is emotional, spiritual—it is a breathing of the soul.

Just as He created us to breathe physically, God calls us to breathe on the inside of our being—emotionally and spiritually.

God calls us to breathe on the inside of our being—emotionally and spiritually.

There are two main principles to consider here:

First, you must exhale before you can inhale. Many of us are holding on to negative emotions, reliving negative encounters or negative experiences over and over and over again. We need to let go of them before we can fully embrace new and positive experiences and relationships.

Second, you must have a distinct separation between “letting go” and “taking on.” The apostle Paul wrote several passages in the New Testament about this. He told the early Christians there were certain behaviors and attitudes they needed to “put off” so they could “put on” a more Christlike identity (for example, see Ephesians 4:21–24).

We all know about layering when it comes to clothing. Heidi, who wore all the clothes she owned on a trek up a mountain to visit her grandfather, is perhaps the ultimate example of someone layering her wardrobe! Wardrobe layering has one great advantage, which can also be regarded as its major disadvantage: layering causes greater warmth. Dressing in layers is great for a ski trip in the winter. It is terrible for going to the beach (unless you’re trying to hide something!).

Layering also adds bulk, even if you’re layering very skinny fabrics. Not all layers of clothing are compatible—one type of fabric can cause another type of fabric to bunch or ride up. The result is discomfort!

In emotional terms, layering often occurs when we rehearse a problem or the pain associated with it to the point that we are adding multiple remembrances of the experience to our memory bank. The end result is very often increasing anger (heat) toward a person or group and, along with it, increased bitterness or resentment. The ongoing result is one of inner discomfort—we generally don’t like to feel angry, bitter, or resentful. But once those feelings take root in us, we must confront them directly and deal with them forcefully.

The process usually involves a degree of separation—a stepping back or a slight distancing—so we can gain new perspective and have greater clarity about what we are doing and what we must do to be free of all those layers.

We need to shed the old hurt so we are ready to take on a new joy.

The truth is we do need to take off an old garment before we can put on a new garment if we want the new garment to fit sleekly and be comfortable. The same is true for our emotions. We need to shed the old hurt so we are ready to take on a new joy.

I learned many years ago that most animals wounded in the wild seek immediately to go to their lair or den to nurse their wounds and rest. They allow a wound to heal, and that takes a little time. Animals intuitively know that sleep is their best medicine, and sleeping in a safe place is not only therapeutic but welcome.

I’m certainly not advocating that a woman who is wounded take to her bed! That’s what some women do to escape the emotional struggles of life, and while it may be helpful for a couple of days, it is never truly therapeutic to withdraw to your bedroom with the shades drawn. If you are sleeping in order to get well from an injury, disease, or trauma, that’s one thing. If you are sleeping in order to escape your own reality and future, that’s another!

What I am advocating is that you find a place to which you might withdraw for a short period of time in order to gain perspective. This might be a personal retreat or time with friends. It might be a visit to a spa. It might be a few days at a local retreat center or going to a women’s conference.


On Sale
Feb 18, 2014
Page Count
208 pages
Worthy Books

Julie Clinton

About the Author

Julie Clinton, M.Ad., M.B.A., president of Extraordinary Women, has spoken to hundreds of thousands of women as host of E-Women conferences all across America, and is author of Extraordinary Women: Discovering the Dream God Created for You, the devotional Living God’s Dream for You, 10 Things You Aren’t Telling Him, and A Woman’s Path to Emotional Freedom. A woman of deep faith, she cares passionately about seeing women live out their dreams by finding their freedom in Christ. Julie and her husband, Tim, live near Lynchburg, Virginia with their children, Megan and Zach.

Learn more about this author