–Originally published on FWB21 July 30, 2011–
The first few times we tried to make tortilla ended in either disaster or a barely edible form of something that vaguely resembled tortilla. (For those of you not familiar with this delicious food, Spanish tortilla is a concoction of potatoes, eggs, olive oil, salt, and a healthy dose of labor. It’s the common Spanish equivalent of Southern biscuits.)

Then I had a lesson from the master.

Petra, the aging mother-in-law of José Manuel Parrón, invited us into her home–and her kitchen–to give us a lesson on making her perfect, tasty, gone-the-minute-it-hits-the-table tortilla. She walked me and my mother through the process from peeling and thinly slicing the potatoes, to cooking them down, to beating the eggs, to throwing in large pinches of salt, mixing everything and returning it to the pan, then to flipping the mostly-cooked tortilla. (The flip is the tricky part.) As her skilled, wrinkled hands worked, she chatted (and I translated for Mom). To this day, the time spent in Petra’s kitchen that evening is one of my fondest memories in Spain.

As I hesitantly blundered through the process of making tortilla again yesterday, Petra and our precious time in her kitchen were on my mind. As my unskilled hands went through the painfully slow chore of peeling and attempting to thinly slice the potatoes, I began to wish I had Petra’s deft hands so I could make short work of my task.

Then the Spirit stopped me.

Do not wish for her abilities, for they are the outflow of the life she has lived. You cannot have one without the other.

I saw Petra’s whole life in that moment of clarity. Petra became a widow at a rather young age with a brood of children at home, the youngest but an infant. Her skilled, aged hands came from years of work and hard life experience. The reason she could so quickly and ably prepare potatoes for tortilla is that she had done so thousands of times. And yet, for all her hardships, I had never met a more cheerful lady. She was young ’till the day the cancer took her to meet Jesus.

As I stood there working through my pile of potatoes (with Mick at my side to help speed up the process), I pondered Petra’s life and her godly example. The Spirit was gently reminding me to embrace with joy the trials I have each day–for they will produce in me a perfection that far surpasses Petra’s tortilla: I am being conformed to the image of Christ.

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. James 1:2-4

…we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. Romans 5:3-5