On Planning and When Things Turn Out Radically Different Than We Imagined

on-planning-and-when-things-turn-out-radically-different-than-we-imagined

The funny thing about writing is that it’s made up of so many ideas and so few realities. A lot of thinking, a lot of different visions of where to go – and then sitting down at the computer to actually write is often quite torturous.

 

Yes, I know I say I love this whole writing thing, but it’s really hard, alright?

 

There’s a lot of thinking involved. A lot of planning. A lot of daydreaming.

 

And then I sit down to my computer and the words don’t totally know where to go. They don’t know whether to form long sentences or short, to be sophisticated or poetic or blunt, to be precise or to be vague. They don’t know whether to arrange themselves into a concise doctrinal argument, or into a messy, heart-spilling session of vulnerability.

Continue reading “On Planning and When Things Turn Out Radically Different Than We Imagined”

5 Lessons I Learned in 2015

5 Lessons I Learned in 2015

Hello, everyone! Happy New Year!

 

Wow, I can’t tell you how good it feels to be back to blogging again. It’s only been two weeks, but man, I really missed it!

 

A quick shout-out to all my readers. If it weren’t for you, I wouldn’t be writing. It fills me with such joy to have such amazing feedback day after day and week after week. Thank you for making 2015 – my first calendar year blogging – a huge success.

 

Currently, we’ve hit over 100 posts, over 1,000 comments, over 10,000 page views, and over 160 subscribers. That’s pretty fantastic, in my mind. Keep sharing my posts with your friends!

 

2015 was a very interesting year for me. My faith grew tremendously, and I say that if it wasn’t for this blog, I wouldn’t have grown as much as I have. Here are five lessons I learned in 2015, through the ups and downs.

 

Number One: Life Isn’t Always Easy or Predictable.

 

In my life, things tend to happen without my prior planning or consent. Things just happen, and I have learned to roll with it all. This past year, I’ve learned that though life isn’t predictable, and accidents really do happen, God is unchanging. He doesn’t change like shifting shadows, as it says in the book of James. That’s such a relief for me when everything around me is going crazy!

 

Number Two: God Helps Us Through Everything.

 

I experienced some quite challenging things this year, but looking back, I realize how blessed I am. Not blessed because everything was a breeze, but because God helped me through. Time and time again, God has shown me how faithful He is, even when I am not. Every trial in my life has helped me to put my trust in Him more than I had before. In that way, I am so blessed.

 

Number Three: God Loves to Give Us Good Things.

 

I’ve been blessed with getting to know some online Christian friends very well. I consider this such an amazing gift from God. Just because you haven’t met someone in person, doesn’t mean that they don’t exist! I’ve gotten to Skype, use Google Hangouts, and FaceTime with some absolutely wonderful people this year who have encouraged me in my life and faith. If you are one of these awesome girls, please know that you are so appreciated. Hugs all around.

 

Material and non-material things have a way of brightening up our lives, and God knows this. He loves to give us good gifts because He loves us so much.

 

Number Four: The Gospel is Incredible.

 

Growing up in church, I never saw the Gospel as more than something cool and “I’m glad I get to go to Heaven now.” This past year, in dissecting chunks of the Bible, I’ve learned not to take it for granted. I see it now as such a miracle – the miracle that it is – that Jesus chose to came to earth to save us, when we did not deserve any grace or mercy. We were rebellious and sinful, and He yet offers us forgiveness. Honestly, how can we take that for granted?

 

Number Five: Joy is Not Circumstantial.

 

Joy comes from knowing the love of Jesus, and not from circumstances. We all have things that go on in our daily lives that we can let crush us. Should we become downcast because of unfortunate circumstances? No way. Joy is more than an emotion. Joy is a choice to accept God’s amazing love for us and find peace in all circumstances. Despite whatever may go on, we can have joy. That is amazing.

 

I plan on posting a survey about Scattered Journal Pages soon. I’d like to hear your honest feedback on how I can make my blog better.

 

Now it’s your turn. What have you learned this year? I love reading comments, and whether you’ve been here for two minutes or two months, I can assure you that I read and respond to all comments you leave. I love hearing about your lives! Thanks for letting me share my life with you, and thanks for opening up your lives to me!

 

Happy New Year, everyone. God bless you all.

 

*aj

Knowledge and Belief: From The Head To The Heart

Waves in Ocean

My head knows, but my heart doesn’t always accept it.

Yes, oh yes, that’s how a lot of my life goes.

I know the truth. I know it.

But sometimes, I have a hard time believing.

There’s a saying that goes something like, “The eighteen inches between the head and the heart are the most dangerous eighteen inches in the world.”

Or something.

The point being, it’s not enough to just know something. It’s imperative that it’s also believed.

See, in my head, I know that God is good. Great, in fact. I know that He has great plans for me, and that He will never leave me or forsake me, and that I’m never alone, and that He has everything under control, and that I don’t need to worry.

I know all this. I really do.

But do I actually believe it?

Now here, I’m not trying to second-guess myself or anything like that. I’m not trying to “prove” that I believe and not just know, or “try to be better,” or whatever.

But it’s definitely more reassuring when I can believe something and not just know it.

For example, I can spout out facts all day long about how strong a trapeze is, and how there’s a totally-safe net under it, and how I have a tight harness, and how 105% secure I am on that trapeze. But it’s not very reassuring if I’m asked to get up there and don’t believe that I’m actually safe.

Right?

Because unless I believe something in my heart, pure and raw knowledge alone won’t get me to trust God with my life.

See, I know that God is good. Like I said. Like it says in the Bible. I know that He will take care of me, and I don’t need to worry.

But when the pressure turns on, and I have to trust God and trust Him alone, it’s hard. It’s hard to bring what I know in my head to be what I believe in my heart.

And every day I have a choice.

Because hard things happen, and life breaks us, and tears jump out of our eyes, and Satan stabs away our joy, we have a choice.

Do we jump on the trapeze in surrender and trust, or shrink back and spout out facts that we’ll never put into practice?

I’m going with the former.

I heard another quote, and it’s like this.

“Surrendering to God isn’t losing or giving up. It’s winning, because once we surrender to God, we have transferred to the ‘right’ side and we have already won.”

God has fought for our souls, and we have proof that He is good.

The Cross has proven to us that the love of God is great enough for us, that the grace of God is enough to carry us through it all, that the forgiveness of God is enough to change us from the inside out, that the peace of God is great enough to comfort us in terrible times of despair, and that the mercy of God was made manifest in the torture of His own Son – because of His compassionate and loving heart.

Doubts will creep in, and waves will crash down on me, and despair will plague me, and there will be times when I question if God is really enough. Times will come when I can’t see God past the cloud of worldliness. There are going to be days when I can’t feel the goodness of God, and it feels like Satan is winning.

But when I look at the Cross, it is the most powerful thing. The Cross is greater than all my doubts, insecurities, faithlessness, and hopelessness, for death itself has been defeated by what Jesus has done on the Cross for me.

The step of getting what I know from my head to my heart is a mere eighteen inches, albeit a very important eighteen inches.

The Cross is where knowledge turns to belief. There is proof.

Romans 5:8

But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

God loved us from the very beginning, but He proved it by sending His Son to save us.

Once we accept the Cross, there is a bridge between the head and the heart.

I pray that we would all accept the bridge, for it’s never worth it to live in unbelief!

*aj

Praise God!

Praise God!

So, I’ve been thinking a lot lately. I’ve been thinking about a “Christianese” phrase that gets tossed around a lot. Thinking about this common phrase has brought me to question when and why we actually say this.

I suppose that there are many ways to say “Praise God,” or “Praise the Lord.” But we hear it a bunch from “Spiritual” people, don’t we?

“He got a new job!” “Well, Praise the Lord!”

“She bought a house!” “Oh, Praise God!”

“They’re finally engaged!” “That’s awesome! Praise God!”

Okay, I’m NOT saying that it is bad to say this (somewhat clichéd) phrase, but I’m simply objecting to the when and the why.

For example, if my house burns down, am I going to get a bunch of calls the next day from my friends saying “Praise the Lord!”? Um, in this day and age, probably not. Because we, as 21st century Christians, tend to praise God for things that make us happy. (Funny thing. Kind of ironic, seeing that we are always saying that earthly things don’t matter.)

Since when do we only praise God about happy things? Since when do we only say “Praise the Lord” about things that we like and decide to be thankful for?

Hebrews 13:15 says, “Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name.”

I think that we all know that life isn’t always easy or pleasant. Therefore, ‘continually’ must mean always, and if life isn’t always easy, then that means that no matter what we are to praise God.

No matter what.

Or, how about this verse?

Psalm 150:6 states, “Let everything that has breath praise the Lord! Praise the Lord!”

Since every person has breath, this applies to all of us.

Everything and everyone and always.

Doesn’t sound very subjective to me.

See, it’s absolutely wonderful to praise God about good things. But we also must praise Him in the hard things. Do you want to know why?

God ALWAYS has a plan. He is ALWAYS in control. He is ALWAYS sovereign. He is ALWAYS God, and is ALWAYS worthy of praise. He never changes, so we should praise Him consistently. He is constant, and so should our praise to Him be.

(Cool side note: Right now, as I’m writing this, I’m listening to Hillsong’s new album, Empires. And a wonderful song came on for the first time that I’m hearing it, called Even When it Hurts (Praise Song). You wanna know what it’s about? Praising God, even when it hurts. *jaw drops*)

God is good, all the time. No exceptions! Let us praise Him with every word that comes out of our mouths, in every circumstance. He is worthy of our praise. ALWAYS.

*aj