Joy or Happiness: Is There a Difference?

…Both are good things, right?

Are they the same thing?

If someone says “I am so joyful,” is that essentially saying, “I am so happy”?

Romans 15:13 
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Happiness is certainly an outpour of experiencing His joy. And how is that joy attained?

Maybe the issue isn’t in the difference between joy and happiness, but in the goal being for our own contentment or pleasure.

Isaiah 43:7

Everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.

Our purpose, our very creation is for the glory of the Creator. Sinful humanity has, since the first humans, strayed from this core-shaking Truth.

My purpose isn’t to reap joy, contentment, or pleasure for myself. It is to glorify another Name entirely. 

Ephesians 2:10

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

If my purpose is to glorify Him, and He calls me to good works, glorifying Him must be good. 

^This “goodness” is fact, and relational, not the purpose.

THIS GOODNESS, this Joy, is a result of His gift– a gift that in my sinful nature, I do not deserve.

Matthew 16:24 
Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.”

We are not promised happiness, or personal fulfillment in this life. Rather, we are told that following the Creator means humbling ourSELVES and looking to HIM.

And here’s a Truth:

When I whittle about in my own plans, my own efforts, and attempting to satisfy selfish desires, I am convicted, tired, and miserable.

Temple of the Holy Spirit

When, by His grace, I reckon the Truth that I am nothing without Jesus, that I am His and not my own, that my plans are withering more quickly than I can ever comprehend, that a life of fulfilling temporary pleasures is an imagined life– I am more joyful, slower to anger, better all for Him– than I could ever imagine being without Him.

That JOYOUS LIVING is a result of, as Jesus says in the book of Matthew, denying ourSELVES and following HIM.

So the question of “my joy” is nowhere in my concern or purpose, but only am I concerned with Jesus’ renown. This is the living I was created for, and when I respond to His voice and understand that the joy is a gift I don’t deserve, I can’t for a moment deny that I was created for Him alone. I am nothing.

And what does following Jesus look like? What is His example?

Philippians 2:3-8

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:

Who, being in very nature God,
    did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
    by taking the very nature of a servant,
    being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
    he humbled himself
    by becoming obedient to death—
        even death on a cross!

I don’t want happiness. Jesus didn’t create me “to be happy for the blink of an eye on a planet of dust.” That very thought is laughable!

I want Jesus all in all. 

Jesus, make us more like You, now. Not with the premise of “going to Heaven” or any other selfish motives that humanity has tried to teach us. Breathe the understanding that our createdness, our most joyful place, is actually when “we” are out of the picture. 

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Pretty Pumpkin Soup

I used to think I didn’t like pumpkin. That’s because I’ve never been a pie person, and the only time I ever had pumpkin was in pie form on Thanksgiving– and I didn’t particularly enjoy the warm texture combined with the graham crust, nor did I enjoy warmed strawberries, or blueberries, or rhubarb, etc. when in pie form.

If you are like me, you may surprise yourself in liking pumpkin in other forms.

love cooking with it, it’s relatively cheap, and surprisingly versatile.

I can it in a canned, in pure puree form, and it lasted me all week with all sorts of creations: I had “pumpkin pie” pancakes for breakfast the other day, a pumpkin smoothie bowl with chocolate granola, and, today, I adapted an amazingly flavourful pumpkin soup from Christine Gingerich’s “Optimal You” cookbook, keeping the recipe almost the same, just changing some minor details to suit what I had, and it came out lovely. Perfect for a chilly afternoon of homework.

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And come on, this orange colour is so pretty.

Pretty Pumpkin Soup

(recipe serves 2-3)

Ingredients

1 tsp olive oil

1/4 cup onion, chopped

1 clove garlic, minced

2 cups pure pumpkin puree

1 cup unsweetened almond milk

1/4 tsp ginger

1/4 tsp chili powder

1/2 tsp paprika

1/4 tsp basil

1/4 tsp curry powder

1 tsp salt

1/4 tsp pepper

Method

  1. In medium pot over medium heat, heat onion and garlic in oil until softened and fragrant, about 5-7 minutes.

  2. Add pumpkin, almond milk, the onion mixture, and all spices to blender, and blend on high speed until smooth and combined.

  3. Return the mixture to the pot, and heat over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until hot. Serve immediately!

Little Moments of Joy

Today started slowly, steadily, and wonderfully.

Wednesdays are my only day this semester of no alarm-setting, so I woke up at around 10am naturally. I spent time talking to Jesus before responding to a ton of emails, tidying up my room, and doing some other “generic” things to get ready for the day.

I made a delicious breakfast of pumpkin spice pancakes topped with glorious peanut butter, bananas, and berries. It was so good and my appetite recently has been massive, which is great and makes eating lots– which I’m supposed to be focusing on right now– a lot easier!
After prepping for the Bible Study I get to lead Sunday and spending some time with my roommates, I got all ready to head out to meet my new and beautiful friend Semara, from church.

Semara is another university age youth leader at the high school youth group at Creekside, and we’ve recently been getting to know each other so much better. God has been speaking so much through her to me, and her vulnerable, honest, goofy spirit, and genuine, beautiful desire to be more like Jesus.

Semara and I had an awesome catch-up over coffee before I had three hours of class to attend.

Firstly my African Literature class, and then my Canadian Women Writer’s Class, in which I had my first presentation of the semester, which went well (I hope).

The day had flown by– already 5:30, and I had to run home, eat a quick dinner, and then head out with Semara and our friend Ani again to Youth.

Pastor Nat is in the middle of a message series for the kids about “the end of the world,” and tonight we talked about the Christian view of hell: basically a very honest, Scripture-filled, and beautiful talk about what it is and why, as far as we actually know from Scripture.

The “thesis” verse was this:

Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. 1 JOHN 4:8-12

Small group time comes after the message bit, and I talked with the Grade 11 girls tonight. We talked about the message and its parts that convicted, challenged, and strengthened us in our relationships with Jesus, and then prayed.

Many things Nat said convicted me, and I’m taking them to the Lord. Thank-you, Spirit, for moving in my heart in a way that is loving, soft, and intentional. I love you. 

Tonight, we also made a group on Facebook with all the high school leaders at the youth group who are university age to plan hangouts outside of youth. Already joking around in the group and talking about plans, I am so excited to grow with these amazing Christian leaders.

Semara drove Ani and me home, and we jammed to throwbacks, country songs, and reggae music alike, and I had a thought:

I’m meant to enjoy and soak in each present moment and live in it. And be with people and put them first. Being with each and every individual I’m with and acknowledging their significance and loving them and entrusting them to Jesus; that is how He would have me live. So Lord Jesus, give me Your Spirit that I am not living for selfish motivations, but out of a selfless love that puts all others above myself. Lord, still my heart and make me like You.

Coming home to my amazing best friend and roommate Maddie was the cherry on top of this beautiful Word.

Rather than stressing about homework or “all the stuff on my to-do list,” I sat with Maddie, and just laughed with her, and loved her, and thought about all the ways she reflects Jesus and our relationship does, too. And what joy He’s brought me through her.

Lord, continue to remind me that every good and perfect and joyful thing comes from you. I love you so much. 

 

Birthday Love: Selfless Ashlie

In the spotlight today is a beautiful friend of mine from work, named Ashlie, whose birthday is today.

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The first time I met Ashlie, it was almost two years ago. It was my first shift closing at my new job at Starbucks by myself, and my first time working with Ashlie.

I started that shift a little nervously. I didn’t feel focused on customers or making drinks or any other part of my job but the harrowing list of tasks to complete at the end of the night. What if I forget something important? What if I spill all the espresso beans? What if I take forever, and the supervisor gets mad?

It’s funny to think of those worries now, because closing is the shift I work most, and enjoy most– and I think a lot of that initially started with Ashlie. Who sensed my stress, but didn’t make any show of it, and took her time to get to know me. When she left, Ashlie nonchalantly handed me a piece of paper she’d clearly been adding to all throughout her shift, including a thorough walkthrough of all the closing duties I would be responsible for.

She didn’t care for a “thank-you” or a big show of her kindness. Thoughtfulness was just her way.

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves. Not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of others. Philippians 2:3-4

Since that day, Ashlie’s selfless way of living has blessed and inspired my life. Despite trials of her own, battles she’s faced, and any struggle that comes her way, her soul puts others first, and loves everyone with equal treatment and a spunky, funny, and giggly soul.

Ashlie and our dear friend Aneta showed up at my dance recital this year, impromptu, with flowers and showers of kindness.

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She thoughtfully blessed me with a homemade Christmas gift that clearly took time, effort, and love.

When she knows I’m taking the bus home, she would literally drag me by my hands and feet into her car for a ride home if I tried to get on the bus.

She offered, impromptu, to take photos to use for this blog, to no benefit of her own.

She goes out of her way each day for our Starbucks customers and co-workers, silently, and without wanting appreciation.

Well, Ashlie, you’re getting it, because the way you live is an inspiration and light to those around you. I am so blessed to know you and to get to be a part of this special day celebrating your life! Thank-you for loving me and all those around you so exceptionally well. I hope and pray you feel my love, God’s love, and the love of so many others today.

And thank-you for blessing and believing in this blog. It only fits that you’re on it on your birthday.

Missing the Mark… By a Landslide

Have you ever paused and taken a moment and factored in your own suckishness?

You know what I mean.

Like, I’ve made so many mistakes. I can be selfish, and cranky, and this, and that. Caught in a reel of just feeling like you miss the mark. 

I had one of those days yesterday.

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It was Mac and Cheese night at “Vivid,” the university-age worship and teaching night at the church I’m interning at. My lovely, amazingly selfless friend and co-worker Allie went out in the early afternoon to get all the ingredients for the meal, but with no one to help her make it. I was excited to help, to spend time with Allie, and, honestly, to have an afternoon in the kitchen.

Confident in my Mac-and-cheese making skills, we set to work, boiling pasta, sprinkling cheese, saucin’. Preparing food for 100 people is always a new experience, and the only thing out of my element was the fact that I was working with 40 cups of milk and 60 cups of cheese. Not only am I deathly allergic to these ingredients and so don’t cook with them too often, when I do, they’re in much smaller portions. Allie and I figured using a massive soup pot and making all the sauce at once was the most time-saving and consistent strategy, so we put on the sauce. It was taking forever to boil and thicken, though, but I watched it like a hawk, and never allowed the heat to be above medium.

By the time the sauce did thicken, though, and we had 4 massive trays of macaroni and cheese ready to be sauced, we didn’t yet notice the slightly burning smell, or the blackened bottom of the massive pot, and proceeded to pour the sauce over the pasta. Once we got to the bottom, though, we noticed– and the off-taste reportedly carried now through each macaroni dish.

As other leaders arrived early to help serve, some tasted the pasta and told me it was decent, and others said it “tasted like tobacco.” Some had three or four plates of it, and others had to spit out their first bite. It was honestly entertainingly hilarious, and we had some good laughs– mostly, though, I was stressed out, defeated, and feeling utterly guilty. I was known here for my food skills. How could I make such a dumb mistake and ruin something for so many people? 

Most people were saying the food was decent enough to serve, but I refused to serve it. A lovely volunteer went out to get some extra food, and everything was fine– Mac and cheese hadn’t been advertised, so it really didn’t matter. Everything was taken care of– except the ginormous, yucky ball of guilt and stupidity I felt. Dumb, dumb, dumb. 

I was continually told how hard on myself I was being, but nothing anyone said brought me out of my cloudiness. Until we were huddled as a team to pray over the night before people arrived, and I opened in prayer and finally did what I should have been doing all afternoon– talked to Jesus.

Lord, the words flowed from my spirit, this night has nothing to do with Mac and cheese, and everything to do with what You are going to fulfill in people’s souls by Your Word and for YOUR purpose! Forgive my pride and strip it; forgive my idolizing; forgive my hope placed wrongly in my own performance or skill. We are nothing without You, and this night is Yours. Lord, by Your Spirit alone, humble us to welcoming every person that enters this place as You would have us. I pray that each soul encounters You, Lord Jesus. 

We prayed over Pastor Nat and the Word God would deliver through him; over the worship team, and every heart that would enter the building. And God did as He does; He was so faithful, in a night that was not about show, nor my “Marthaness,” nor my food, nor me, but all about Him and His goodness.

Lord, remove any ritualistic “Martha”-striving, and make me more like You. 

 As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feetlistening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”

 “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” LUKE 10:38-42

It was okay to be upset that I could have done a better job cooking, and I knew it. It was okay to want to improve. Preparing quality food is a way I feel called to serve the Lord. But that drive to improve for Him is separate and different from the guilt and weight I was putting on the mistake. I let it go, and by His grace was able to give it to Him, and He changed me through Nat’s message last night, too.

A message that says that because of the Holy Spirit, we ARE new; not confined in our sin.

That because of the Holy Spirit, we get to walk with Jesus, with each other, and what an honour.

That because of the Holy Spirit, we are granted the knowledge that our lives are for nothing but the cause of Christ. 

I missed the mark on the Mac and Cheese. Big time.

But that mark is a standard in my head. The only real, tangible mark is Jesus Christ Himself, and He doesn’t have a care to put a mark on macaroni, or even on me but to say, Let me do it. Let me help you. Give me your burdens; stop trying to do it yourself; I want to carry you. Let me. 

Maple Pumpkin Oat Scones

I suck at resting, but I’m trying.

Baking is restful… right…?

Well, it gave me a delicious breakfast ;). Still really sick over here and going back to the doctor today. Hopefully he has some sort of idea what’s going on!

Maple Pumpkin Oat Scones

Ingredients

(For 6 Scones)

1 3/4 c Oat flour

2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 c pumpkin seeds

1/3 c peanut butter

1/4 c maple syrup

1/2 c almond or regular milk

Method

1. In medium bowl, combine flour, baking soda, salt, and pumpkin seeds.

2. Cut in peanut butter by pulling two table knives across the dough in opposite directions until mixture resembles bread crumbs. Stir in maple syrup and milk.

3. Add a bit more flour to form a soft enough dough to handle if necessary; knead with hands a few times.

4. Separate into 6 even wedges. Place on greased cookie sheet. Bake at 425 degrees about 15 minutes, or until just golden brown.

Beautiful with your favourite coffee!

Why Is Resting So Hard?

My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will never be shaken.

~Psalm 62:1-2

This is a Word of Truth. My soul finds rest in God alone. Not in my accomplishments. Not in striving, or in busyness, or in productivity. But in God alone. In HIM.

Living in Him can involve a very busy lifestyle. But if it involves a day of going off book, resting and talking to Him, that should be okay, because HE is my fortress, not my routine. My busyness and productivity are not my fortress.

This morning I woke up feeling sicker than I have yet. I’ve been sick with a virus since late Saturday, and woke up with a pounding head, horrible throat, stuffed nose, and sneezing. When I stood up, I felt so lightheaded. One of those wicked colds that just means you should rest.

But, as always when I feel sick, I tried to pretend I wasn’t. I got up and made my usual coffee, which burned and pained my throat. I tried to eat breakfast, but swallowing made my eyes well up with pain, so all I could get down was a smoothie. Still, I thought I’d make it to class. Until I talked to Jesus. Or maybe I didn’t initiate it– in fact I think He did.

Why aren’t you okay with resting? You’re in Me. Come to Me. Rest in Me.

I felt scared. I heard the lies immediately:

You have to go to class for this day to mean something. You have to be productive and complete your to-do list for this day to mean something. 

How do I know these are lies? Because GOD defines this day.

This is the day that the LORD has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it. PSALM 118:24

It’s God’s day. It’s not mine. And God didn’t make my school schedule, nor did He write my to-do list. But He was allowing this sickness, and has recently been putting me in a rhythm that involves a lot less busy striving, and a lot more prayerful rest. And maybe He was trying to remind me that my significance doesn’t come from doing it all– but entirely in the ONE who GAVE IT ALL.

My roommate Mary helped me to put this in perspective. Having to cancel a work meeting and then deciding not to go to classes was tough, but, Mary reminded me, You’re really sick. You need bed rest, vitamins, to gargle with salt water, and to stop stressing.

And ah, how when I went back to my bed I was fast asleep so instantly, showing me just how vital rest was. I need to know that I need it. When I woke, I spent a lot of time in prayer. For Johnny; for my roommates; over this semester; over this house; for my family; that I would know how to rest.

This evening, as I was able to eat a bit more and thought I was feeling a bit better, I was so excited about leading high school youth that I decided I was feeling up to going. My lovely friend Ani picked me up with her mom, and it was so great to be with the kids, to worship, and to hear an incredible word through Pastor Nat. The group is starting a new message series about end times, and tonight we talked about Heaven and its purpose. I was so grateful to be there, giving my attention to the Lord… but also feeling like a kid caught stealing candy. I knew I had felt too sick to go. What if I got my kids sick? Why did I feel this incessant NEED to be out doing things?

While we were worshipping, I heard Jesus whisper away the lies that I was condemned, and rather breathed a Word of Truth that my friend and sister Josee relayed to me once:

Your identity is not in your performance, but in His sacrifice.

So, whether I had stayed at home or gone to youth, my thinking that either decision was such a “decision” in the first place came down to my own pridefulness. His sacrifice for me I pray results in my giving Him all the glory, and so, being there, I just worshipped, and I did rest. I told people I was under the weather, and that my place was to listen tonight.Screen Shot 2018-01-10 at 10.06.01 PM

Back home, I am in a place of still listening to Him, and amazed at how stillness and silence can be the best place to be, because it’s where He fills us up. We’re less susceptible to toxic voices, and GIFTED with HIS ever-glorious and perfect voice.

Lord, I pray that You would shine Truth on the lies in this world that say that our identity is in our performance or our own striving. Remind us, Lord, that we can’t do anything worthwhile without You. Amen.