Do You Prefer Vanilla or Chocolate?

Joy. Why are those three letters so elusive to so many of us? I can have it one moment and lose it so quickly the next. What fills one person with joy may not be satisfying to another. Imagine joy is letting a really really good piece of chocolate touch your tongue. Savor it. Notice how it coats your mouth as it loses its shape. Allow it to wash over your taste buds and enjoy the complexity of different flavors and tones and tastes. I want that kind of joy. Now, I don’t eat chocolate anymore, haven’t for 15 and 1/2 years but it still brings a smile to my face and water to my tastebuds when I think of it. But enough chocolate porn.

Back to joy. Joy as a feeling is complex and I often can lose it so quickly. When I get to a place where I pause and say, Jen, this doesn’t seem to be fun anymore, I have to ask, what is going on? It could be something at work, a strain in the marriage, a stressor about the family, whatever it is, do you ever wake up one day and think…it’s been a really long time since I have actually laughed and meant it? Hopefully it hasn’t been ages and ages for you, Dear Reader, but I know for me, there have been many seasons where it’s like I almost wake up from a daze of drudgery to realize that the joy had been missing for I couldn’t tell you how long. Left unchecked…this can lead to very dire consequences and poor future decisions when trying to capture the joy back. Or it can lead to such poor mental health that it takes a lot of work and effort and many years to recover health. Health on all three levels, physical, emotional and spiritual.

In order for me to not let my lack of joy go unchecked for too long, there are two practices I put in place to help me.

  1. Taking the time to ask and answer the question, “How did I lose my joy?” Was there a particular incident? Do I have a particular resentment or sin to work through?

Sometimes a specific incident or situation is the cause of me losing my joy. Sometimes there was something that triggered a switch to be flipped and frustration to fill the mind. I won’t bore you with the numerous examples of what can make me lose my joy, you name it, I have probably lost joy over it. One of the practices I do is to write, reflect and review my day, giving myself time to address the question, to be honest with myself about what is going on in my mind, and then going back to the word of God to help me through the issue at hand.

Sometimes though, it isn’t a particular circumstance that has been a trigger. I think a cause of losing our joy comes from an unbalanced schedule or untapped talent. When I think of the happiest people, they have a sense of peace around their schedule, they don’t have a problem saying no to certain commitments and they have a tendency to be using their God-given gifts in their work and home life. My husband for example, has such an amazing sense of being able to see an appropriate sense of timing of how long something is going to take. He knows very quickly what the “return of investment” is going to be. The balance of input versus output comes very naturally to him.

I, on the other hand, have a tendency to suffer from time-blindness. I want to do all things for all people and well, really I think it is a matter of I want what I want when I want it, no matter the cost. Even when the cost is my own health. For instance, I want to have all my weekly tasks completed by 4:30 pm on a Friday afternoon before I can fully relax on the weekend. In my job that is not realistic. The work is never done. So if I am operating on my definition of success is to have all my emails done- I will feel unsuccessful every week or I’ll just be working non stop on emails and texts and voicemails and zoom calls and be chained to my phone 24/7. And Dear Reader? We do not want to be chained to our phones 24/7. Talk about a killjoy.

John 7:24 “Look beneath the surface so you can judge correctly.”

How balanced is your schedule? Do you have untapped talent that isn’t being used? Someone told me once, if you’re in a job that uses less than 25% of your talent, then get out. I got out. But first I had to recognize what my God-given talent was. And you don’t graduate from that. We need to return to the evaluation of our gifts, strengths, and abilities to ensure we are staying on track with God.

Lamentations 3:40 says “Let us test and examine our ways. Let us turn back to the Lord.”

Just simply take a moment to ask, what is robbing me of my joy? And then stop. Collaborate and listen. Yes. I just did that. But I’m actually serious! Not to quote Vanilla Ice Ice Baby, but so often we will ask ourselves these questions that are right to ask, we will stop, and pause when out of sorts. However, we don’t take the time to collaborate with God on the problem or listen to HIS answer to our dis-ease. We don’t allow ourselves to be fed by the word of God, we just go to that really really really good piece of chocolate and meditate on that instead-thinking that will fix it. Believe me. It doesn’t.

  1. The second thing I practice on a daily basis is being intentionally grateful. Does this mean I am always filled with gratitude and full of joy? Um. No. But it does mean that I take the time each day to list at least 3 things I am grateful for. And if I am feeling extra angsty on any given day, I force myself to list 5. Some days I have been so angsty I don’t allow myself to finish my quiet time until I have written a whole page of gratitudes. It works. It really does. It helps me to get out of the doldrums of an unbalanced schedule, untapped talent or when someone hurts my feelings. Simple.

Another benefit of listing my gratitudes is recognizing the things I am grateful for allows me to remember what is important in my lives. What you think about you bring about. And when I can honestly acknowledge what is important to me, I can see if it lines up with God’s best for my life.

Proverbs 2:6-10 “For the Lord grants wisdom! From His mouth come knowledge and understanding. He grants a treasure of common sense to the honest. He is a shield to those who walk with integrity. He guards the paths of the just and protects those who are faithful to Him. Then you will understand what is right, just, and fair, and you will find the right way to go. For wisdom will enter your heart, and knowledge will fill you with joy.”

May you be filled with joy today-no matter if you like chocolate or vanilla (ice) on your tongue.


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