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}”

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Joy in Anything

Joy in Anything.png

 

Happy Tuesday, friends!

 

Back in January, I wrote a post called Don’t Regret Where You Are. Honestly, it’s one of my favorite posts I’ve written on Scattered Journal Pages. (Go check it out if you haven’t read it yet!)

 

It came from a time when I was really questioning who I was. I don’t mean that I was feeling that when I wrote it, but I did deal with those feelings for a few years. That voice in my head that whispered to me when I was in the middle of so many changes, saying “Am I really doing what I’m supposed to?”

 

So today, while I’m not experiencing this question in my mind, I thought I’d talk about the flipside of this equation. Not just refraining from regretting what you’ve done and resenting where you are, but thriving in the place that you’re in and finding joy it.

 

When I was five, I told my cousin I wanted to be an actress and a singer when I grew up. Am I an actress? Not by any stretch, though I like to pretend I am. (That and a secret agent. But that’s a story for another time.) But am I a singer? Well, kind of. What once terrified me is what I now do on a regular basis, in front of real live people at church.

 

And when I think about this, as much as it can make me happy, it’s accompanied by a bittersweet feeling. Because as much as I do love music, and practically live at my piano, I haven’t played my guitar in a whole year. *winces*

 

And sometimes, that just upsets me. I taught myself how to play when I was twelve, and I’ll be sixteen on Saturday. (*insert happy dance*) I played guitar almost every day. I led worship every other week for my youth group with one of my closest friends.

 

I played guitar for three years…and then I just kind of stopped. Don’t get me wrong, I loved it. But now, it seems I don’t have the time to pick up one more thing – or even the motivation.

 

And so many times I equate what I can do with my self-worth. It’s absolutely ridiculous, I know. But don’t we all do it?

 

Sometimes I tell myself that if I were to have kept up with guitar, playing local venues regularly, I would have gotten “discovered,” or something like that.

However, if I hadn’t played the piano so much instead, I wouldn’t necessarily have been able to do music at my church, because the worship is piano-based.

 

And whenever I hear those whispers in my head that tell me I’m doing the wrong thing and could be better off doing something else, I have to shut them down and replace them with truth.

 

Because if there’s one thing I’ve learned this year, it’s that there is a time for everything. Just like Ecclesiastes 3 says.

 

If I had chosen different things to fill my time this year, I would not have gotten the incredible opportunities that I have now.

 

So many things have changed in my life this year, and I’ve had to just roll with them. But instead of looking at all the differences as miserable, I can find joy in all things, as Philippians 4 show us.

 

Because God’s power is not affected by our weakness.

 

His love is not dependent on our performance.

 

His grace is never invalidated by our doubts.

 

God’s presence is not determined by our faithfulness, but on His character.

 

His promises are unconditional.

 

And His plans are always best.

 

And no matter what we choose to do, God will be with us through it.

 

Instead of moping in what we’re going through, we should make the best of it. When difficulty rolls in, let us use those times as chances to grow. Chances to trust God more. To know Him even when darkness surrounds us.

 

Jeremiah 29:11 says,

 

“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”

 

God works through the choices we make. Instead of regretting what we did or didn’t do, let us see our lives as beautiful.

 

Let us look for God’s hand in everything we encounter, and see trials through the eyes of someone who can grow through them.

 

And instead of filling ourselves with bitterness over where we are, let us find joy in the incredible grace of God.

 

*aj

It’s Okay Not To Be A Writer.

 

It's Okay Not To Be A Writer.

It was a regular Tuesday morning. I had just awoken to the sound of my alarm (which I am nearly deaf to) after hitting snooze who-knows-how-many times and trying my best to keep my eyes open to no avail.

 

I had written a blog post the night before, so as I always do on Tuesday mornings before starting my day, I skimmed through likes, comments, and my blog feed.

 

Do you ever read a blog post wherein the author says something fabulous about another blogger and it makes you want to check them out? Well, that happened to me. I read a post recommending a blog and read a few posts.

 

The first line that popped out to me was this:

 

“I’m not a writer…”

 

Wait…what? You’re not a writer? You have a fabulous blog and you’re not a writer? What is this madness? Aren’t all cool people writers? (Apparently not.)

 

This is what got me.

 

I am not a writer. I am a blogger, among other things. One that keeps telling herself that someday, I’m going to write a book, and someday, I am going to get a fantastic idea that sticks with me and become really popular and everyone will love me.

 

Maybe a little exaggeration there, but you get the point.

 

For the past few months, I’ve been all wrapped up in the concept of being a writer (whether fiction or nonfiction) and have forgotten my identity.

 

I am not what I do.

 

It’s okay to not be a writer.

 

It’s okay not to be a pro surfer.

 

It’s okay not to be an Olympian.

 

It’s okay not to be perfect.

 

It’s okay not to try to shove myself in a mold that I do not fit in.

 

When I was three, I started gymnastics and I continued until age eleven. Eight and a half years, and that was my life. I dreamed of going to the Olympics, or getting a scholarship to some nice and fancy gymnastics college. I’d be flexible at fifty-three and stronger than anyone I knew.

 

But it never happened, and I know it never will.

 

When I quit, there wasn’t anything wrong with me. I was still me. Just because I wasn’t a gymnast anymore did not mean that I was any less of a person. I realized that it was okay to not be a gymnast anymore, because as much as gymnastics was a part of my life, gymnastics was not and could never be my identity.

 

Now, I’ve found the same thing with being a “writer.”

 

I haven’t stopped blogging, but currently, I’m not writing a novel.

 

For so long, I felt as if I had to prove to the world that I’m serious about who I am.

 

Prove that I am cool because I write books.

 

But you know what? I don’t write books. I write blog posts. And I’m happy with that.

 

It’s okay not to be a writer, but it is not okay to force myself into that one-size-fits-all mold.

 

This is my writing. Not books. But yet, writing isn’t my identity.

 

My identity is so much more important than a title. I could be a doctor, or a writer, or a teacher, or a lawyer, or an editor, or a mother.

 

But as much as those things could be part of me, who I am does not rest on that.

 

I am a child of God because He adopted me.

 

I am holy because He has made me holy.

 

I am precious and loved because He has chosen to love me.

 

I am forgiven because Jesus Christ died for me.

 

I have new life because He rose again for me.

 

None of these things are what I’ve made for myself, but who God has made me to be and given freely.

 

I say all of this to say: no matter who I choose to be, my identity will not rest on that. I might identify with some things, but it doesn’t matter what name I make for myself. Ultimately, the only name that will be important is “Child of God.” “Forgiven.” “Loved.”

 

It is very okay for me not to be a writer if I would have to get there by pushing and shoving and stabbing.

 

That is not okay.

 

No matter who I am, a writer or not, I will still be loved. I will still be Amanda. I will be just as valuable as if I had chosen a different life.

 

It’s okay not to be a writer, if that means that I get to follow God’s plan for me in another way. His way is the best way, and I accept that.

 

*aj

 

 

Do I Really Trust? Let’s Find Out…

Do I Really Trust Let's Find Out...

This blog is titled Scattered Journal Pages for a reason, and it’s time I use the theme more than I do.

These are my contemplations, and the equivalent of what I would write (sort of) in my journal. My contemplations. Things I’m feeling, and learning, and growing from.

Yesterday (Monday) was a miserable day for me.

Actually, it really wasn’t miserable, but I was miserable. My attitude. My feelings. My outlook. And yes, a few days before, I had just written about not forgetting my joy.

I felt like a hypocrite, I really did. This girl who claims that joy lasts is not living with a joyful spirit.

And I mean, that totally happens. Sometimes we just succumb to our dark circumstances and make ourselves see only bitter dark tunnels with no end.

Some things have happened that have weighed on me emotionally, and I let that become the end.

Some people say they ‘can’t feel,’ but for me, it felt like I was just feeling so much. And for my future, I’m scared.

I have to do my own invented version of self-analysis when I feel this way.

Why am I so down?

I’m down because I’m scared to death.

Why am I so scared?

Because I have no idea what’s coming in the future.

Do I trust God?

Of course I trust God. Don’t I?

Do I trust that God’s plan is best, even when I can’t see it?

Well, I know it is.

 

Yes, but do I really trust? Do I trust that He will bring me through everything that happens to accomplish His plan?

Yes…I think so.

 

Do I trust that even if He doesn’t bring me through, that it’s for the best?

I don’t know. I should. Because I know it is. So, yes.

 

Then why am I still afraid?

Because…what if things never get better? What if my life stays just like this forever? What if I’m hopelessly lost for the rest of my life?

 

Should that really be my concern, though? Okay, let’s say things never get better. Say I have to live with my circumstances how they are long-term. Do I still trust that God’s way is perfect? Do I still believe that God has my life under control, that what happens happens, and that He will never leave me or forsake me?

*thinks for a long while* Yes, I do trust.

The light is what we make of it.

I told myself I was fumbling around in darkness. I told myself I had to be miserable. I told myself I was in a tunnel without and end. I told myself that there was no light.

 

But those are lies.

 

I forgot (temporarily) what the Bible says.

1 Thessalonians 5:18

“Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”

I wasn’t giving thanks and living with what God had given me. But now I am.

2 Samuel 22:31

“This God—his way is perfect;

the word of the Lord proves true;

he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him.”

I wasn’t trusting that as hard as God’s plan may be, that it is the best. Now I am.

Jeremiah 29:11

“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”

I wasn’t trusting that God’s plans for me were for my welfare, future, or hope. But now I realize that they are.

Isaiah 55:8-9

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

I was basing my fear of insecurity off of my perception of what was going on. Instead, I’ve refocused. I’ve realized that things may look like they’re impossible, but God has a plan through it all. That His ways are far better than mine.

The verses speak for themselves.

I want to encourage all of you today, don’t give up on trusting God.

Don’t give in to the lies that hold you captive.

Never lose hope that God’s ways are best, and whatever happens is for your good and His glory.

And please remind me of all of this when I feel like I’m in the dark!

*aj

An Open Letter To You!

An Open Letter To You!

This little blogger-writer over here had a grand old idea in February to name her blog Scattered Journal Pages.

And, um, there haven’t been too many of those. I feel as though this lovely little blog is more of a…

You know what, I have no idea. It’s one part website, one part hangout spot, one part Bible study inside my head, one part splotched and weathered journal page, and one part bookshelf. It’s a lot of fun, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

However, it’s called Scattered Journal Pages for a reason, and I’d like to share something that perhaps is remotely journal-related.

You know, something I would write on notebook paper.

A letter maybe.

How about that today. I love letters.

*sharpens pencil* *pulls out fresh sheet of paper*

Dear Person Reading This (yes, I am talking to YOU, the lovely person that’s reading this right now),

Hello. I’m Amanda. You may be my good friend, or you may have never even heard of me.

Maybe I know you, maybe I don’t.

But that’s not really the point here. The point is that YOU are reading MY blog, and this letter is addressed most definitely to you.

And no matter who you are, I’d like you to stick around so I can tell you a few REALLY important things. Because we all need to hear them.

Dear One, you are loved.

You are loved ever so much by your AMAZING Creator, and He wants to have a personal relationship with you. Yes, you. Not just your cousin, aunt, spouse, neighbor, or friend, but YOU.

You wanna know why? Because God is gracious, and love has nothing to do with anything you’ve ever done. Jesus died so that your sins would be forgiven, and He rose again to prove it.

This is real love–not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins. (1 John 4:10, NLT, emphasis mine.)

Lovely Person, no matter where you are in life, you are absolutely never too far gone.

It is always an option to come to God for forgiveness. And once we have accepted forgiveness, we are counted righteous and blameless.

Come to your Heavenly Father. His grace is for you.

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)

Dear Reader, God has a plan for you.

He knows what He’s doing. He’s in control of your life, and all things are going to work together for the good of those who love Him. If you love Him, that’s you. Your future is bright, even if you’re ninety-three.

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. (Jeremiah 29:11-13)

My Friend, I know that it’s not popular to think this way, but it’s imperative that you know that Jesus is the ONLY way to God.

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14:6)

And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved. (Acts 4:12)

And lastly, Wonderful Listener (seriously, if you’re still here, you get a sticker), don’t be afraid.

 

God is always with you, no matter what you’re facing. I don’t know exactly what you’re going through, but whatever it may be, you don’t need to be afraid. God will give you strength and He will help you.

Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. (Isaiah 41:10)

Friend, God is for you and not against you. He loves you more than you can fathom. Don’t reject that, but receive it.

Sincerely, Me.

*aj

Lead Me When I’m Blind

Rocks and Waterfall

Do you ever just feel blind?

Sometimes I feel really blind. And… I feel like I’m lost.

Or alone.

Or afraid, because I’m dancing really close to the edge of a cliff.

Or I’m fighting for my life, blindfolded, in a gladiatorial arena. (Um… never mind.)

Sometimes I feel like my life is a mystery. Like what, I’m going to have to figure out what to do? On my own? By myself? I’m going to have to guess how to live my life, and hopefully not mess up? That’s sure what it feels like sometimes.

I feel inadequate. Do you want to know why?

I feel inadequate because I am inadequate.

By myself, I am exactly how I feel. I am blind. Lost. Alone. Afraid (and rightly so). Fighting blindfolded.

I’m never gonna make it anywhere in this life if I try to do life by myself. See, we were made for more. God made us to love Him, glorify Him, and live for Him. In doing these things, we are satisfied in Him.

He has a plan for us all. No matter what we are going through, He is with us. By our side. Fighting for us. He is our Father.

We are blind, but He is leading us. And that’s really hard for me, because I’m a visual person. I want to see it to believe it. Don’t just tell me, show me! But God doesn’t always work like that.

There’s a few verses that have really encouraged me when I feel blind.

Jeremiah 29:11

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”

 

Romans 8:28

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”

Proverbs 3:5-6

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.”

 

Joshua 1:9

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

 

Isaiah 42:16

And I will lead the blind in a way that they do not know, in paths that they have not known I will guide them. I will turn the darkness before them into light, the rough places into level ground. These are the things I do, and I do not forsake them.”

 

I’m learning more and more to trust God with everything. He has a good plan for us. No matter how powerless and insecure we feel being blind, God really is leading us. He works out our lives for good, no matter how hard and horrible it may seem. Our understanding is flawed, but His is perfect. He straightens our paths. He guides us in paths we have not known. He does not ever forsake us. And He is always with us.

It’s so hard to wrap my mind around.

I mean, I’m not speaking from a bubble in happiness land. No, I’m right here, and life is hard.

It is extremely hard to trust God.

But once we give up trying to be the leaders and orchestrating our own lives, and give God the keys, it’s wonderful. Nothing we do can be done by ourselves alone.

It is God who empowers us to do the things He has planned for us, and not just what we can humanly do.

So maybe being blind is okay.

By letting God lead us, we will be so much better off.

He knows the plans He has for us. Plans for welfare and not for evil. Plans to give us a future, and a hope.

We can be strong and courageous because He is with us.

He will never leave; He is always going to be right here.

He guides us in paths we do not know.

We need Him more than ever, and He wants us to lean on Him.

God, please lead me when I’m blind.

*aj