where i’ve been, what i’ve learned, and the God who’s been constant through it all. // + my photography!

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It’s been too long.

 

Each time I’ve tried to sit down and write, I’ve either gotten distracted, become unmotivated, or overwhelmed, hence the silence on my part. And so instead, I’ve been gone, treating my blog as an intimidating monster to be slayed, not a haven to use to think and rest in, which I think has done me more harm than good.

 

Regardless, here I am, and thank you for sticking around to read – it means the world.

 

The past few months have been stretching for me. The end of my summer marked the end of a metaphorical season in my life, and whenever a season ends, in my experience, it’s like something’s come out of nowhere and struck me blind, leaving me dazed and confused about where to go next. Moving forward was the only option, and while I’m not sure if I’ve done it gracefully, it’s been a necessary and worthwhile journey.

 

And so, I took a trip with friends from all over North America. We traipsed around different states, drank a lot of coffee, and had extensive, passionate conversations until the sun came up. I came home with a renewed sense of what I want my life to look like, reality colliding with my visions, my passions, my dreams, and my desires.

 

And since then, I’ve had so many more conversations across the miles with those friends who mean so much to me, and I’ve discovered even more about myself, about God, about the people with whom I share my life, and who I want to be. Continue reading “where i’ve been, what i’ve learned, and the God who’s been constant through it all. // + my photography!”

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Finding Contentment in the Struggle {Guest Post at the Unbound Blog}

Finding Contentment in the Struggle

Do you ever feel stuck, dry of joy, just going through the motions of mundane life, day after day, wondering when the cycle will ever end?

 

Sometimes I do too.

 

Last week, I got the chance to write for my college’s student life blog. As much as the post applies directly to Lumerit students — (Lumerit is an accelerated distance learning program for people pursuing a college degree) — I’ve been learning a lot about what contentment means.

Not just as a student, no — as a person, a Christian, a girl trying to make her way in the world.

Here’s an excerpt from the post, and a peep into my current musings on the subject:

And slowly, slowly, through the ruts, the challenges, the pain, the stress – I’m learning that contentment starts in the little moments. That if I’m depending on my next achievement to make me content, I’m missing what contentment is: joy right where I am.

Continue reading “Finding Contentment in the Struggle {Guest Post at the Unbound Blog}”

Beautiful and Bright {Guest Post at Moriah Mari}

Beautiful and Bright

This week, I had the opportunity to write for my friend and classmate Moriah over at her blog, Moriah Mari. She has a lovely blog that I think you’ll all really enjoy, and this post, while written more in the style of a short story than my usual journal-style, is a side of me that I tend to write less from, though I love it. Go on over and read the post and give Moriah a follow!

It’s not every night that’s as beautiful as this one.

It’s been a long day. I’m exhausted in all senses of the term, having worked all day while wrestling with issues concerning me, my future, my plans.

And it’s starting to feel like too much.

I crawl into bed and slip under my covers, pulling my fleece sheets to my chin and letting my soft white comforter envelop me. My head hits the pillow, Beethoven’s piano sonatas playing in my ears, and I finally have a chance to breathe.

Inhale.

Exhale.

My eyes lazily drift to the window next to my bed, and at once I see the stars glisten in the midnight sky, so clear, so breathtaking.

They’re beautiful and bright, and something hits me hard in this moment – something I can barely begin to put into the right words. Continue reading “Beautiful and Bright {Guest Post at Moriah Mari}”

Easter Weekend: on how art echoes purpose & hope in a desperate world

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It’s Easter weekend – but you already knew that.

 

In past years blogging, I’ve made a big deal about this holiday – my favorite holiday, that is – and written posts, and tweets, and I’ve jumped up and down over what Easter means to me.

 

This year’s a little different.

 

Not because I’m not excited, no. I’m thrilled. But Easter means something a little different to me this year, something a little deeper, something I hold a little tighter to my heart than in years past.

 

This day means everything to me, and it’s difficult to find the words to describe it well. Continue reading “Easter Weekend: on how art echoes purpose & hope in a desperate world”

Celebrating Life (with LIVE RECORDED SONG + annual survey)

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I absolutely, positively, love life.

 

Not that it’s easy, or pain-free, or pleasant all the time. It’s not.

 

But after a long string of posts about God feeling so far away, and finding hope in pain, and saying no, and inadequacy, and doubting God’s promises, and searching for meaning – I think we need a post on celebrating life.

 

Sometimes we wake up in the mornings, with a to-do list a mile long, a mess to clean up, and stress to deal with – and it’s honestly rather difficult at times.

 

But what if we decided to wake up with joy?

Continue reading “Celebrating Life (with LIVE RECORDED SONG + annual survey)”

Easter, Repentance, and a Change of Focus

Easter, Repentance, and A Change of Focus

Hey, friends.

 

This post was originally going to be longer than it is now, but the first half of my post disappeared into thin air at midnight. Not sure how, but it did.

 

Anyway, because tomorrow is Easter, I wanted to talk about what it really means, the significance of forgiveness, and how repentance fits into all of it.

 

Easter is my favorite holiday because we celebrate being forgiven. This forgiveness – the forgiveness of sins – gives us eternal life in Christ. I tweeted this yesterday:

 

 

Easter is about life – eternal life, yes, but also our lives now.

 

Furthermore, I wanted to continue the discussion I started on Tuesday about repentance.

 

After reading the post multiple times, and reading the wonderful, thought-provoking comments you all left, I wanted to clarify a few things.

 

I’m not at all against repentance, if that’s what I seemed to imply in Tuesday’s post. For if we deliberately harbor sin in our hearts, we will of course damage our relationship with God. I’m not bashing confession in the sense that I think that we should never come to God about our wrongdoings.

 

In fact, that’s not it at all.

 

I only hope to lead us away from an obsession with repentance, one in which we’re constantly walking on eggshells is the Christian life. I don’t think we should live a life in which we’re so obsessed with trying to do what’s right that we make sure we fess up every single time we think we might have done something wrong.

 

To be totally honest, I don’t believe that’s what God has for us.

 

We are called to freedom and grace, and no longer do we live under a yoke of slavery to sin.

 

Galatians 5:1

For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.

 

Instead of living trapped to a life of “try hard>>fail>>confess>>do it all over again,” let us live in grace. Instead of legalism, let us listen to the Holy Spirit.

 

Now, that’s all well and good in talking about it, but how do we actually carry it out?

 

What does it really look like to live under grace?

 

1) Get to know God by reading the Bible.

 

I’ve written a few posts on this topic. Post 1, Post 2, and Post 3 (in reverse chronological order). The Bible is a blessing, not a burden. But it takes more than just hearing people say that for it to become true for us. Read the New Testament for a fresh view on grace, starting in Romans. You’ll see things differently. You’ll see the contrast between God and man, and how Jesus didn’t just “wipe our slates clean,” He gave us whole new slates.

 

2) Submit to the work of the Holy Spirit.

 

You know that nudge you feel when you know God’s calling you to do something? Listen to it. Go talk to that new kid and be their friend. Share your faith with that cousin of yours. Go step out in faith to do something that you feel God wants you to do, even if it seems crazy.

 

Do you feel God calling you to start a YouTube channel or blog about your faith? Do it! Do you feel like you’re being called to vocational ministry? Pursue that. The Holy Spirit speaks in subtle ways, but by following His leading, we are following God’s will.

 

3) Continue to pray for a passion for the Gospel.

 

Pray all the time. Pray that you’d have a desire to live for God. Pray that you’d be used by Him. Pray that He’d show you His plan for your life. Pray that He’d use you in the lives of others. Pray that He would equip you to share your faith – even when it’s absolutely terrifying.

 

Prayer helps us to advance in our relationship with God, and through it, we come to trust Him more and more.

 

We don’t need to overemphasize repentance because as we live in submission to the Holy Spirit and our new nature, the desire to sin will decrease.

We don’t need to overemphasize repentance because Jesus’ death has pardoned our sin and given us a new nature.

We don’t need to overemphasize repentance because God does not see our sin when He looks at us – He sees Jesus’ righteousness.

 

When we’re in the Bible consistently, we see the significance of things like Easter. The Resurrection. Forgiveness that washes away every last one of our sins.

 

When we keep our ears tuned to what we feel God is leading us to do, we live a fruitful life, and not one of destruction.

 

When we keep in communication with God through prayer, and see that He answers our prayers, our relationship with Him grows.

 

Simply, a change of focus is what we need. A focus on the finished work of Christ as opposed to the filthiness of our sins. And so often, that makes a world of difference.

 

Happy Easter, everyone. Instead of getting caught up in simple traditions, let us remember the true meaning of it all – of sacrifice, of forgiveness, and above all, of hope.

 

*aj

Why I Don’t Talk Much About Repentance

Why I Don't Talk Much About Repentance

This week, I’ve really had something on my heart.

 

After reading a blog post on the importance of repentance, and realizing I tend to avoid the topic on my blog, I decided it best for me to explain my reasons behind not talking about it much.

 

I am not anti-repentance. For us to let go of our pride and accept what we know we could not earn – salvation – is a truly powerful thing.

 

However, I believe that we Christians often overemphasize the teaching of repentance where it really does not belong.

 

For starters, Hebrews 6:1 refers to repentance as an elementary doctrine. Elementary means simple. Baseline. Something that’s a building block.

 

“Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God[.]”

 

This verse in Hebrews tells us to leave the elementary doctrine of repentance. I believe this is such an important point, and I’ll elaborate in order to explain what I mean, though it seems confusing at first.

 

When we get saved, we’re usually told to repent of our sins (though I believe it’s more accurate to tell people to acknowledge the fact that they’re sinners, not to repent of every sin they’ve ever committed). We’re told to repent and receive forgiveness. But that’s not all.

 

We’re then told that when we sin, we must confess it to God in order to stay right with Him.

 

But wait a minute. I don’t see how that’s actually accurate.

 

We believe that Jesus died to pay for our sins, right? And we believe that He was the perfect sacrifice, covering every single one of our wrongdoings: past, present, and future, correct?

 

When we put such an emphasis on repenting for every one of our sins, we underscore ourselves. Going with the idea that we must apologize to God for every sin we commit after we’re saved, does that mean that if we die without confessing our last sin, we’ll go to Hell?

 

I know we don’t mean this, or I surely hope we don’t. What about what Jesus said, in John 10:28?

 

“I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.”

 

No one will snatch them out of my hand. That, my friends, is assurance of salvation. That when we put our trust in Jesus for salvation, we cannot lose that.

 

When we put such an emphasis on ourselves, and on making sure we don’t sin without confessing it, we forget about God’s grace.

 

Do we remember what Galatians 2:20-21 says?

 

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.”

 

Paul points out a few imperative things here.

 

1) Sin’s controlling power does not live any longer, for it is Christ’s righteousness that lives in us.

2) We live by faith, not by ‘trying harder.’

3) Our right-standing with God is not through us obeying the law; it is by grace. For if it were, Christ died pointlessly.

 

What’s the central message of this? Living under grace. God knows we’re not perfect, and that’s why Jesus came! For what other reason would He have come to earth? To be a ‘good moral teacher?’ No!

 

If we put such an emphasis on post-salvation repentance, we disregard God’s grace. We disregard the fact that when we received salvation, the righteousness of JESUS HIMSELF was poured out on us. Our sins have been removed from us completely.

 

See, the Bible even explicitly states it in Psalm 103:12.

 

“As far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.”

 

Colossians 2:13-14

“And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.

 

Have you ever forgiven someone for something they’ve done to hurt you, but they still apologize profusely, even after you have assured them that it’s all good? When that happens with me, I just want to say, “Chill out! I forgive you, and we don’t need to keep revisiting what you did. I don’t hold it against you; can we move on?”

 

I think we forget that it’s a bit like that with God.

 

Jesus has forgiven all of our sins. God has pardoned every last one of them. By forcing people to repent of every sin (the ones that Jesus’ blood has already covered), we minimize the power of the cross.

 

We make it about us, instead of making it about Him.

 

And while I definitely have more to say on this, I’ll leave you with this thought in closing:

 

We are forgiven already. Let us move on from stressing repentance, and let’s stress His grace instead and see how important it is to live filled with the Spirit.

 

Come back on Saturday for part 2, where I’ll be digging deeper into what repentance should mean for us, and how to live in grace in a biblical sense.

 

*aj

It’s My Blogiversary!

It's My Blogiversary!

TODAY IS MY ONE-YEAR BLOGIVERSARY! *cue confetti*

 

Wow, this year has been incredible. I had no idea I would ever come this far, and it’s only been one year.

 

I’ve gotten views from over 80 countries, have accumulated 180 followers, and 1,200 comments have been posted.

 

I’ve posted 116 blog posts on this site, and have learned so much.

 

To all of you who comment regularly, thank you. Without your encouragement, I’m not sure if I would have pressed on during those difficult nights when I really just wanted to go to bed.

 

Thank you to all of you readers, whether you’ve commented or not. Seeing new followers every few days makes my heart so happy.

 

Since February 17th, 2015, I’ve learned to stick to my word. When I say I’m going to post every Tuesday and Saturday, I really do mean it. I’ve grown in my faith by staying in the Bible and writing out the truths I know in my heart. I’ve met so many wonderful people, had so many uplifting conversations, and personally matured so much.

 

Through this blog, I’ve found my voice. For years, it’s been so hard for me to speak my heart as a naturally quiet and reserved person. But through blogging, I’ve gotten to know myself, developed my writing, and pursued my passion for sharing Jesus with the world.

 

It’s been great.

 

I have a survey at the end of this post, and I would so appreciate it if you all would take five minutes to fill it out. I’m trying to improve my blog the best I can this next year. But before I do that, I’d like to give a few updates.

 

Firstly, even though I didn’t start out this way, I’m now responding to all of your comments. So don’t be shy! Chime in on my posts, and we can discuss. I love getting to know new people and seeing your points of view.

 

Secondly, you can follow me on social media. I’m on Google+, Twitter, Goodreads, and Pinterest.

 

Thirdly, I’m no longer doing tags or blog awards. Thank you all so much for nominating me time and time again, but I tend not to get around to them and find them not to (usually) fit my blog.

 

Fourthly, I’m starting to experiment with graphic design via Canva. It takes me longer to make a header than just picking a stock photo, but I’m enjoying using it (and I’m also enjoying its benefits through social media).

 

Fifthly, if you’d like me to write a guest post for one of your blogs, feel free to email me through the Contact Me form. I’d like to branch out and do more of that this year as I’m available.

 

Here’s that survey I was telling you about.

 

Thank you all for your readership. I know that I wouldn’t be where I am without all of you, and for that, I’m extremely grateful.

 

*aj