Saturday, 8 November 2008

Where Do We Find Joy

"Do not look for rest in any pleasure, because you were not created for pleasure: you were created for joy. And if you do not know the difference between pleasure and joy, you have not yet begun to live."
Thomas Merton, 1915-1968

This is Belihu. He's a little Ethopian boy we sponsor, through an organization called Compassion. We also have a little girl named Paulina that we sponsor from Tanzania. We got this picture of Belihu last week and a lovely letter from him. We had sent him £10 for his birthday a few months back. Because of the distance and language differences it can take some time before you hear back from the children. We were absolutely thrilled to get his letter and the photograph.

With the money we had sent for this occasion, the Compassion workers were able to get him a new brown suit (which you see him wearing in the picture), a new pair of shoes, pay for his Birthday Celebration and also give him some pin money totaling 60 cents. When I look at this picture my heart swells with love for this little boy and I am so happy that I have played a part in bringing joy to his little face and heart . . . joy that I see expressed so beautifully in this picture, joy that I get myself from having been a part of this, in whatever small way.

These children are so very appreciative of every little thing we do for them. We try to write each one of them once a month, and we always include a picture with the letter. Sometimes it might be a picture of a snowman, other times perhaps one of our Jess . . . sometimes a picture of us. We have to be careful that we don't let them see too much of the opulence we live in, so that we don't cause them to long for things they can never have. It's a fine line. We always get back far more than we give, which is evidenced in the above photo, but that's not why we do it. It helps keep us grounded in the harsh reality that is the world we live in today, and it helps us to realize what true Joy is really all about.

Joy is different than pleasure. Pleasure is a fleeting feeling that comes in a rush and then just as quickly dissipates . . . . Joy is something that, once found, lasts forever.

Pleasures exist in time, fleeting moments in which one of our appetites or desires temporarily finds satisfaction. With pleasures, the satisfaction does not last. It even turns into its opposite of dissatisfaction or pain as we grasp for more of the pleasure or suffer the consequences of overindulging in it. Those consequences can prove costly to both body and soul.

Joy comes from beyond time. Externally, beauty or kindness can open us to contact with the timeless strata underlying all. Inwardly, deep meditation or prayer or creative action brings us face to face with the timeless. Either way . . . . joy touches us with a lasting imprint. Later, after the initial burst passes, joy continues to buoy our appreciation of life. That first moment remains with us. Further moments of joy gradually infuse our life with a satisfaction that surpasses any fleeting pleasure, a sense of the rightness of this remarkable universe, a sense of participation in its richness.

It is easy to find joy in small things . . . a baby's sigh . . . a sunset . . . the feeling of warm sand between our toes. These are things that will never change, for joy is constant.

Pleasure is a mirage . . . from a distance it looks good and even great, but after experiencing it, we are often left feeling empty, unfulfilled and wondering why we are not content. Pleasures require consumption. Eating, drinking, sleeping, watching, listening, buying. They're nice. They enhance life, but they're not life.

Joy, flow, gratification -- whatever you want to call it -- is the very core of life, and it requires production. It doesn't come from eating the cake. It comes from baking the cake. It doesn't come from watching the game. It comes from playing the game. It doesn't come from listening to the music. It comes from making the music. It doesn't come from watching the movie. It comes from creating the movie.

And perhaps that is what's wrong with the world today . . . a lot of us spend our lives chasing rainbows . . . rainbows that are here one moment, and gone the next . . . instead of taking joy in the rain that caused the rainbow in the first place . . .

We are off to Romford today to visit the In-Laws. We have not seen them in almost a year, which is hard to believe when we live so close. Only about an hour or so away. I hope we have a good day. In the meantime I also hope that they finish our kitchen! It's looking lovely thus far, but most of the counter tops still have to be put in, as does the plumbing. I promise to take some photos when it's all done!

I made a little something for out supper up at work yesterday as I am sick of eating at McDonald's or from out of the micro-wave. It's a delicious French Shepherds Pie, adapted from the book, "From Our House To Yours, comfort food to give and share." It's a compilation of the feel good favourites of more than 50 leading chef's and authors. It's a great little book and full of some lovely gems, including this one. We both really enjoyed it and will enjoy the leftovers even more tomorrow after church!!

*French Shepherd's Pie*
Serves 4 to 6

This dish is uniquely different from your ordinary Shepherd's pie in that it has a delicious topping of mashed potato and celeriac. The vegetables in the meat stew are my own addition. You can never have too many vegetables. This is comfort food, autumn food, FANTASTIC food! We both really enjoyed it!

4 TBS butter
1 1/2 to 2 pounds boneless lamb stew meat,
cut into 1 inch pieces (I used lamb shoulder)
1 bay leaf
1 tsp sea salt, or to taste
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper, or to taste
1 TBS flour
1 cup beef stock
1 medium carrot, peeled and grated
1 small piece of swede (rutabaga) peeled, and grated
(yielding about half a cup packed)

For the topping:
4 potatoes, peeled and quartered
1 large celeriac, peeled and cut into 1 inch pieces
(After cutting place into a bowl of cold water into which you
have added 1/4 cup of vinegar or lemon juice to
prevent discolouration)
1/4 cup cream
1 egg
1 tsp chopped fresh thyme leaves
sea salt and black pepper to taste

Melt one tablespoon of the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Once it begins to foam, add the lamb and brown it lightly all over on all sides, for about ten minutes. Add the bay leaf and sprinkle with the salt and pepper. Stir in the flour and continue to cook, stirring constantly. The flour will begin to brown on the bottom of the pan. Do NOT let it burn, but continue to cook, stirring, until it becomes a very dark brown. This is what will give your stew it's colour. This should take from 6 to 8 minutes.

Stirring the meat and scraping up the bottom, stir in the beef stock, a little at a time, cooking and stirring until all of the browned bits are scraped from the pan bottom and mixed into the liquid. Add the vegetables and then reduce the heat. Cover and simmer over low heat until the lamb is very tender, and flakes with a fork. This will take 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Keep an eye on it and add some boiling water periodically to keep it from drying out. It should stay moist.

While the lamb is cooking place the potatoes in some salted water and bring to the boil. Cook until fork tender. At the same time in another pan boil the celeriac in some salted water to cover. The potatoes should take about 25 to 30 minutes. The celery root only 15 to 20, so time it all accordingly.

Drain the potatoes, reserving 1/4 cup of their cooking liquor. Place them into a bowl. Drain the celeriac. Set aside 1 cup of the cubes to add to the stew. Place the remaining cubes into the bowl with the potatoes. Mash the potato and celeriac well together. Add the reserved potato water, the cream and 2 TBS of the butter. Stir in the egg and the thyme and then season to taste with salt and pepper. Whisk together until well blended and fairly smooth.

Pre-heat the oven to 190*C/375*F. Put the lamb stew mixture into a shallow glass casserole dish. Gently stir in the reserved celeriac cubes. Spoon the potato mixture evenly over top and rough up a bit with a fork. Dot with the remaining tablespoon of butter.

Bake until the topping is nicely browned and the stew is bubbling, about 15 to 20 minutes. Enjoy! I like to serve brussels sprouts with this, but buttered beets, or even runner beans go very well also!! (This dish does not freeze well because of the potato topping)


  1. how wonderful for that little boy and girl your sponsor! they are lucky to have you!
    I enjoyed the pictures of the leaves. Ours are at their peak right now! I am hoping to get some pics this weekend.

  2. Knowing you ...reading your posts...getting your comments and email...seeing the examples you set...all of these bring me joy.

    I thank you for that.

    Your little Belihu is so sweet. He reminds me of the little children Erin has come to love in Ghauna.

    What is celeriac? ???

    Have a fun day visiting family.

    Love as always, Lura

  3. Hey, I enjoyed reading your post, I have have a sponsored child with compassion, they are such an amazing charity - we sponsor a little girl called Edvinah in Uganda - i love receiving her letters - they always brighten up my day! I love the picture of him in his birthday suit - so lovely!

  4. You are so right about "joy" vs. "pleasure" ~ :)
    The little boy looks so very happy!! He's literally glowing with it and looks so handsome and proud in his new suit :) He's lucky to have you & hubby in his life, truly.
    Love the recipe ~ thing is Cindy won't eat ANYTHING that even hints at the taste of anything celery :( I enjoy celery, especially as a condiment with cooking, it has such a great flavor with some things and "matches". Blessings* Teresa

  5. You're right about the little boy's photo: if you had to make a one-word caption for it, it would have to be 'JOY'.

    Haven't you taken any progress photos of your kitchen? To appreciate the good you have to know the bad!

    love, Angie, xx

  6. MAJ, I had NO idea your inlaws were in Romford....... Oh dear ;-) Flow, who I was writing about lives in Romford too!

  7. That recipe looks scrumptious, will try that variation soon.
    What a lovely thing to sponsor the little Boy, and what a great picture!
    Enjoy the Family visit.

  8. Oh, how wonderful, Marie! I remember you telling hubby & I about your support to Compassion. It is terrific to see one of your sponsor children...Bless you both for being so good in making a huge difference in the lives of these young children--you both are big inspirations! Look at his sweet, happy face...Belihu is a darling! I couldn't agree more...JOY is lasting, sustaining...Pleasure, even happiness can be too, an ephemeral feeling. The fall color is so lovely...Most all the leaves are gone here now. And it is so cold, windy and rainy here this weekend...bbbrrr...your recipe today would go down a treat! Hope you are having a lovely day, my dear friend. LOVE YOU HEAPS ((HUGS)) OXOX

  9. What a lovely happy picture of Belihu you can see how proud he is of his new suit and his birthday cake. You are so kind. Love Joan

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  12. Oh my dear Marie , By where I begin??? Love the child!! warm my heart!!! Is really joy!!!
    Today a curious day (I dont had internet at the morning again) and make a lot of things (you know the country) the childs are in Moms house, but I worked a lot and Hubby got to the Office by some proyects have to finish, so my JOY is stay here read your post and others and see the beautiful pictures but I love the boy (I think maybe Obama was how this boy) Is the best of my day really!!
    I love Thomas Merthon and I love the autumn pictures are ssooooooo beauty I love them-
    And you food look so comfort!! Here at the day is hot but at night soooo cold still!! Send you huggss and kisses to you and Todd and hope you have a lovely Sunday.xxxGloria

  13. Psst Marie I see yoiu have this advice of Petit chef I advise you dont use, I received the same and have problems at the PC and when I try to see who is Octavio dont see nothing, is strangue. Other friend of mine have problems too. xxGloria

  14. That's so wonderful for you and Todd to sponsor that boy. What a huge difference you will make in his life.

    Now I want some shepherd's pie!


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