finding joy in the hard times

{via pinterest}

Joy in the midst of trials. Is it really possible?

I sit beside my classmates, waiting for this guy to do our chapel service. I gaze out the window, and see only a glimpse of light trying to break through the morning darkness. I just want this over with. So we can go back to class, and I can finish that essay I turned in late and ask someone for help on that one Latin sentence that I just can’t figure out.

It was just a normal day. Until…it wasn’t.

He walks to the front of the classroom with a hint of a smile and a cheerful good morning. My mind begins to wander until he asked a question I wasn’t really expecting: Is there such thing as joy in the midst of trials?

My day-dreaming train of thought comes to a halt as I ponder this inwardly.

“Will you turn to James with me, as we consider this question?” he said to us all.

I flip through pages old and worn with time, not knowing what would stare back at me from them. Will it hurt?, I pray. Is this going to be another one of those times that the Word of God cuts into my soul, and I bleed pain and repentance and that need for unfailing grace?

Then he reads, “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience…” (James 1:2-3)

And then he raises another question, “So, when you guys fall into trials, and difficult times, do you truly consider all of it joy, as you are being tested for your faith?”

Ouch.

Knowing my answer, I wilt a little inside, but trying not to show it so nobody can see the deep lines of pain and confusion written on my forehead.

And I bleed. I bleed from the wound of the Holy Spirit, who engraved this question deep into my innermost being in order to awaken my sleeping heart-fire for God.

And then our eyes meet. His blue eyes burn into my psyche, and that question just won’t go away, and, oh, God, I really can’t take this anymore. I want to have joy no matter what happens but I just can’t do it…on my own.

But neither could Job. Or Esther. Or Ruth. Or David. Or Mary.

And I just want to fall at His feet and wash them with my tears and wipe them with my hair and anoint them in fragrant oil.

{“joy is the serious business of heaven” ~c.s. lewis}

I’m not writing this post to complain about my troubles, my trials, or my problems.

No.

I’m writing you this post to say to you, that, yes, joy IS possible. But not on your own.

There is only One who can give us lasting, satisfying, unwavering joy, even in the testing of our faith.

And that’s Jesus Christ. In Him is the fullness of joy.

I think sometimes we think that happiness is the most important thing in life. But it’s not. You see, happiness…is just an emotion.

Joy is a state of being. Even in hard times.

the best salsa (by far) you will EVER have

I’ve never really liked any kind of spicy food. You name it. Spaghetti. Enchiladas. Tacos. Burritos. Even salsa. Even black pepper (yeah, I’m kinda a wimp like that). *gasp* I know. Salsa, especially ones at Mexican restaurants, have always left me chugging down my ice water as fast as is humanly fathomable because I Simply. Can’t. Take. It.

I don’t know, but there’s just always been something about spicy that is *so* repulsive to me. Although it could’ve had to do with that time my friend told me to eat a pepper, saying that it wasn’t hot, but actually, in fact, sweet, like bell peppers. Naturally believing her, I tried it.

Let’s just say she thought it would be funny, and I ended up shrieking super loud, and hyperventilating like nobody’s business, and, eventually, spitting it out.

Ahem.

Thus I give you this recipe. To prevent you from heart break and heart burn.

And you know, another thing. This time of year, I don’t know about you, but I don’t eat as many fresh fruits and veggies as I should. So this salsa will be like a kiss of summer in the middle of your winter. A little healthy kick for your immune system! With no sugar. Just whole foods. Nothing complicated. In fact, if you happen to be–unlike me :)– a veggie person, or have a pretty snazzy garden, you probably already have all the ingredients on hand.

This garden-esque salsa…is SO good, it will satisfy both your sweet and spicy longings (without either one being over-powering). And, possibly, it may just knock your socks off (in a good way). 🙂

granny smith apple salsa

6-8 servings

cast of characters

– 1 large tomato, cored and finely chopped

– 3/4 cup finely chopped sweet onion (I usually use red onion)

– 3 tbs freshly squeezed lime juice

– 1 large jalapeno chile, cored, seeded, and finely chopped

– 2 granny smith apples (the stars of the show)

– 1 bunch of cilantro, chopped fine

– 1 tbsp raw honey

– 2 cloves minces garlic

– salt & pepper to taste

the script

1) stir together tomato, onion, lime juice, and jalapeno in medium bowl

2) quarter and core apples and dice up fine

3) stir apples into mixture with cilantro, honey, and salt & pepper

4) refrigerate for up to 6 hrs before serving

5) be sure to let me know how you like it! 😀

the thing about geniuses

This is one of my favorite posts from A Holy Experience. It has really changed what I think about– well, you’ll just have to see. 🙂

Dormant geniuses lie sleeping down the hall.

They eat across from us at the breakfast table, sit next to us in mini-vans taxiing to soccer fields, even look back at us from our bathroom mirrors. What if genius is the normative intent of what God’ bestows?

And our own lack of faithful stewardship results in malnourished gifts?

László and Klara Polgár, parents of three daughters, understood exactly that. Homeschoolers in Hungary who were harassed by armed police to enroll their daughters in public school, Klara and László believed that any child could be nurtured to flourish, and exceedingly so. It was simply a matter of faithfulness.

The Polgar’s were.

Faithful hours of considered study and practice were invested in the Polgar home. By 2000, these home educated daughters were at least tri-lingual (one daughter could speak seven languages), each had achieved top-10 ranking in the world of female chess players, and their youngest daughter, Judit, shattered the previous record for the youngest person, male or female, to earn the title of chess Grandmaster. She was 15 years old. While Susan would later be the number one female chess player in the world, Judit would be the first woman to be rank in the top ten chess players worldwide.

How did the Polgar’s raise three geniuses?

It wasn’t a function of I.Q. or genetics. (László concedes he was a mediocre chess player at best, being regularly beaten by his oldest when she was five years old; Klara didn’t even know the rules when their daughters began playing. Current research clearly indicates that the top achievers are rarely high-IQ geniuses or former child prodigies.) It was simply the same way Mozart, Benjamin Franklin, Tiger Woods found their way: by faithful , wholehearted stewardship.

By diligent, attentive nurtuing of the gifts God hands out liberally to far more than a select few. It’s dangerously tempting to think that geniuses are exceptional products of blazing, divine intervention.

Because then we don’t have to closely examine how we are stewarding the gifts He’s given us.


Are geniuses really only better stewards then the rest of us? 

Recent research suggests that rather unnerving possibility.

1. Geniuses are stewards who Faithfully Practice

Geniuses make it look effortless only because they’ve faithfully practiced. Anders Ericsson, a professor of psychology at Florida State University, posits that “extended deliberate practice” is the ultimate key to successful use of a gift. “Nothing shows that innate factors are a necessary prerequisite for expert-level mastery in most fields,” he says. Ericsson’s interviews with 78 German pianists and violinists discovered that by age 20, the best musicians had spent an estimated 10,000 hours practicing, twice the average 5,000 hours the less accomplished group practiced.

Genius is a long faithfulness.

So fingers stretch across ivories here, shoulders hunch over Latin, brows knit in mathematical quandary. Just two hours a day of concentrated practice over a decade stacks up to 7,000 hours of faithful stewarding.

What would happen if every Christian used the 4 hours daily spent in front of the television a day (more than 126 hours a month!) or the near hour a day the average American surfs the internet and spent two of those hours developing their skill in a particular domain ( woodworking, quantum physics, photography) and one hour more on the spiritual disciplines that lead into a deeper relationship with God, (prayer, memorization, Bible meditation, fasting) – only repurposing three hours a day from the five we spend on passive entertainment — and in one decade, our entire culture – and the world at large – would be entirely revolutionized. How are we being faithful stewards of our 10,000 hours?

Why not tenderly unfurl a gift?

2. Geniuses are stewards who Faithfully Pioneer

The flesh tugs towards the path of least resistance. Even if we practice, we’re tempted to keep practicing what we already know. But geniuses steward the gift by faithfully pioneering into unknown territory. Committed stewards continually forge ahead by asking: what weaknesses need strengthening? what skills need extending?

Faithful stewards fight the flesh and mind’s inclination to sloppily automate a skill, by careful analyzing the parts of the whole skill and altering their practice accordingly, which forces the brain’s internalization of an improved pattern of execution. Like Benjamin Franklin who would rewrite his favorite articles from memory, then closely compare it with the actual, we too stretch minds and skills with challenge of new ground.
How can I gently stretch a gift?

3. Geniuses are stewards who Faithfully Pursue

Geniuses steward the gift by, practice, pioneering and finally, pursuing a mentor. A coach or teacher is necessary to flourish a gift, to grow it into pioneer territory. And pursuing a supportive environment is paramount for fostering a gift. Parents can be mentors. Parents can be the positive environment. When Carol Dweck, professor of psychology at Stanford University, praised children for “how” they did a task—for undergoing the process successfully — most children wanted to take on increasingly challenging tasks. The children wanted to pioneer. Generally, such encouraged children’s performances improved, and when it didn’t, they still deemed the experience enjoyable.
How might we pursue a mentor and *be* a strengthening, affirming for others stewarding a gift?

Children slip out of beds, and another day dawns with its hours. I’m not so sure anyone here will ever be deemed “a genius”, or if that is really even a worthy goal, but stewardship clearly is. And it’s clear that God’s far more generous in placing truly great gifts into our hands than we’ve ever realized.

It’s our hands that need be faithful with the talents.

I reach out and squeeze the young hand next to mine.

awkward and awesome

{from pinterest}

awkward

~ holding onto your mug then hitting a bump in the road and spilling hot coffee all over your hand. ouch.

~ when the driver of the truck stops at a stoplight so you try to take a quick drink of coffee and then just as you have it close to your face the truck starts moving again and (even more) hot coffee splashes in your face and spills all down your nice grey sweatshirt. and you might’ve choked on it too, but luckily started to cough it up everywhere because it scorched your entire mouth. ouch. again.

~ trying to run while wearing oversized chinks (and you’ve never worn them before)

~ trying to do your hair in a crowded truck

~ taking an awkwardly large bite of messy pizza and everyone is watching you

~ offering to pay for a drink someone’s getting for you and then realizing you don’t have any money

~ trying to find things to talk about with someone you just met

~ trying to squat with big boots on. and they might’ve been pretty new, too.

~ trying to saddle your horse when your fingers are cold and extremely stiff

~ when you’re riding and your saddle is lopsided and crooked

awesome

~ when you go to idaho again *insert happy dance*

~ learning how to drive a tractor

~ getting to ride EVERY. SINGLE. DAY.

~ hugs 🙂

~ the above picture 🙂

~ hearing Rascal Flatts on the radio *insert another happy dance*

~ learning a ::wee:: bit of guitar

~ seeing some amazing sunrises

~ egg and bacon breakfast sandwiches and a cup of strong coffee. despite the two unlucky incidences above. 😉

~ organizing ALL of the movies in your house

~ knowing how blessed you are with all the friends and family you have ❤

What was awkward or awesome about your week?