Flavors of Faith: Joy

For years I’ve longed to be settled, to know that I am home, to be established in the community where my family and I will do life together until our kids are grown and gone. With each passing year this desire in me grew as the conversation of moving out of state constantly repeated itself. At one point, I was ready to uproot and leave everything behind in search of adventure and new beginnings. Over time, I cared less about the excitement of starting over, in a place of my own choosing, as I did about being secure and raising my kids without being uprooted.

And then all of a sudden everything fell into place for us to buy a home and stay in our local community. The location was right. The school district was right. The house had amazing potential. So we jumped on it, and in the span of five weeks we went from putting in an offer on the house to moving into it, with packing and cleaning and listing our old house thrown in between. It was chaotic, to say the least, but also exciting.

You’d think that during this time I was walking around with my head in the clouds, my heart filled with dreams come true. And for some of it, I was, and still am, but it was also during this time, when so many good things were happening, that I became intimately acquainted with a common joy-stealer: stress.

In the shadows of all the great things happening there were several small things that weren’t so great. Like the time and money we had to invest in our old home to get it listed and put up for sale. And having things go wrong, turning small projects into big projects. Or trying to keep the house spotless – with three young kids! – for 10 days while 26 different potential buyers walked through it before finally receiving an offer. Then came the negotiations and feeling torn between wanting to get the best possible offer but also wanting to get out from underneath it as soon as possible. I now understand why they say moving is so stressful, and I only moved a few miles away!

One morning before the move, I was reading my Bible and was struck by a truth that I read there. 1 Thessalonians 5:18 says: “Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.” This is something I’ve read so many times, something repeated throughout the scriptures, but it touched me in a new way as a deeper understanding came to me.

To some degree, I’ve always believed joy to be a choice. The “you can’t control what happens but you can control how you respond to it” mentality. I thought I could simply choose to be thankful and joyful because it was a matter of mind over circumstances. While I still believe that it is our responsibility to control our thoughts and focus on things that are good, I now know that the truth is much deeper than that.

You see, I wanted to look at my circumstances and find joy in them. I wanted to be upbeat and positive when I had to leave the house for entire days while potential buyers looked at it only to receive no offers. I wanted to be thankful that we were about to move into our forever home even though I couldn’t pack because the house had to remain presentable, sitting with my hands tied as our moving date got closer and closer. I wanted to celebrate and have everyone else celebrate with me, but there were times that I felt like I was single-handedly packing up an entire house.

Through all this, I was so consumed in thinking about everything that had to happen – or the things that I hoped beyond hope wouldn’t happen – that I didn’t consider the promise of eternity. I truly never thought about belonging to Jesus or asked myself if that was enough to fill me with joy. When I realized what this Bible verse implied – that I have joy because I belong to Jesus – I had to admit that my current circumstances seemed more important to me than eternity. And I made an important realization.

You can get what you want and still not feel joy. Everything can go right and even still you may not feel joy. You can stare a great blessing in the face and have the joy of the moment stolen from you because of stress or envy or whatever your vice is. And the reason is that joy was never meant to come through our circumstances. In fact, we aren’t even called to be thankful for our circumstances but to be thankful in – or despite of – our circumstances. That is a vital difference! And the one and only reason we can be thankful in every circumstance is because we belong to Jesus. We are promised an eternity with Him. This life and everything in it is temporary. We have joy because something greater is waiting for us.

But the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. – Galatians 5:22-23a

Is belonging to Jesus enough for you or are you battling your own joy-stealer?

FLAVORS OF FAITH RECIPE: BAKED OATMEAL

In the spirit of loving food, here is the baked oatmeal recipe that I use every week. I tend to go easy on the sugar so you may wish to add more, depending on your tastes and preferences.

5 cups old fashioned oats
1 cup ground flaxseed meal
4 tbsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon, plus more for sprinkling
2 tbsp Truvia sweetener blend of erythritol and stevia (or ¼ to ⅓ cup sugar)
4 eggs, beaten
⅓ cup oil or butter
⅔ cup water
1 cup milk of choice
1 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350. In a bowl, mix together all the dry ingredients and set aside. In another bowl, combine all the remaining ingredients. Add the wet mixture to the dry and mix thoroughly (batter will be thick). Pour in a 9 x 13 baking dish and bake for 30-40 minutes.

Add nuts, apples, raisins, or anything you like to the recipe! One of our favorite additions is slightly cooked apple chunks. Just chop up an apple (leave the peel on) and sprinkle with cinnamon. Place chunks in frying pan and cook over low heat until softened. Stir into oatmeal and bake as directed. So yummy! To really pop the flavor and sweetness, drizzle a little maple syrup over each slice before serving.

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