my story isn’t over yet.

 

My Story Isn't Over Yet.

My story isn’t over yet.

 

I gently ink these words onto my left forearm, pen gliding along my skin, the letters coming out with lines and loops.

 

The words echo in my head, bringing me peace and hope that wasn’t there before.

 

It isn’t over for me –

 

I mark a semicolon on the edge of my wrist.

 

I know the One who holds the pen to my story.

 

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Trusting God Through the Journey (+ giveaway winners!)

trusting-god-through-the-journey

 

Every good story involves some kind of journey.

 

I’ve been thinking about my journey a lot, lately. Thinking about how in five years I’m gonna look back on this moment and remember the things I felt, the things I thought, what I did and who I spent my time with and how I lived my life, and I’ll be so far removed from those things then.

 

I’m looking ahead to the day I’ll look back and see how things have changed.

 

How I’ve changed.

 

How those around me have changed.

 

Because even now, I look back, and I’ve learned, and grown, and changed so much. Even the very way I approach life now is so different. I have different perspectives, different struggles, different voices in my life I listen to.

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Christmas is Here (& a little break too)

Hi there, friends.

 

It’s crazy how fast time flies – here we are again, and it’s Christmastime once more.

 

Just wanted to post a quick note to say that you probably won’t see any posts until January. We all need a break every now and then, and one especially to keep our focus on Christ as things become busy and stressful.

 

I hope you all get a chance to truly feel the love of Christ this Christmas. We’re so often fixated on the packages, the food, the company, the hustle and bustle – and yet, there is One who is far more significant than these trivial things we fill the season with. There is a peace, a love, a goodness, and a joy that far outweighs the cheap thrills we get from our society’s hightly commericalized Christmas.

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When God Feels So Far Away

when-god-feels-so-far-away

 

What do you do when God feels so far away? When there seems to be no feeling at all, no Voice, no overwhelming peace? Just the absence of anything deeper?

 

That isn’t how I wanted to start this post. I wanted it to sound beautiful, inspiring, but though it’s laced with desperation, it’s imperatively honest. Because for this past week, and maybe even for this past month, I’ve been there.

 

It took me a while to come to that conclusion – to be truthful with myself – to let myself admit that I haven’t been feeling my faith recently.

 

At first thought, I was horrified that it would even cross my mind that perhaps God wasn’t speaking to me as I clearly remember Him doing. It terrified me that maybe…I’ve been relying on myself so much, that life’s been so good, so easy lately, that I’ve forgotten my need to rely upon Him.

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My Ink-Stained, Remembrance-Filled Practice

my-ink-stained-remembrance-filled-practice

Hey, can I let you in on a little secret?

 

Yes, you. Right here, right now.

 

I have a pretty good memory, for the most part. I can recall so many details from conversations and places and events that happened ten years ago. I can remember sights, smells, tastes, emotions, all so vividly.

 

But there is one thing that I can so easily forget…and that’s goodness.

 

Not goodness in the world, I don’t mean that. Look up random acts of kindness on Tumblr and they’re right there. Goodness isn’t too difficult to find in people’s actions, even when this sinful world’s in chaos.

 

But sometimes…I forget those simple truths I’ve known for years. Sometimes, I forget the goodness of God.

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The Difference Between Santa and Jesus

The Difference Between Santa and Jesus 

This is part 4 (the final part) in my Christmas series. See the first three parts also: Peace on Earth, Christmas is Love, and Are We Happy Yet?.

 

Just to let you guys know, this is my last post of the year before I take a little break. I’m planning on coming back January 5th after a recharge and refresh, and sharing some new surprises with you all. Feel free to peruse the tag list to find posts on certain topics, or go and leave comments on any post you’d like, because I’ll still get notifications and will be responding.

Onto the post ahead!

 

Ah, we’ve come down to the inevitable. A Christmas-y term that most of us have heard a thousand times. Good will toward men. And, before you ask, no, I’m not talking about the thrift store. (Though Goodwill is pretty cool.)

 

A few weeks ago, I was in a conversation discussing the true meaning of Christmas and what attributes we associate with it. We went through the general “peace, love, joy, happiness, kindness, goodness, giving, good will toward men” list. And I started thinking, “What really is ‘good will?’”

 

So many people put an emphasis on goodness at Christmas. For crying out loud, don’t disappoint the Elf on the Shelf (and therefore forfeit your gifts by being naughty), make sure to be respectful to your parents while the relatives are around, and by all means be civil and nice, and open the door for the lady with a hundred overfull Christmas packages.

 

Because being good is…good? I think?

 

Nobody says this of course, but being good brings us good things too, and who wants to pass them up?

 

At the heart of Christmas, we need to see our motives. Why exactly are we emphasizing goodness now?

 

For children, I can attest that in the average home, they are well-behaved for the gifts. With the threat of getting coal in their stockings (and what about those kids with gas or electric fireplaces?), everyone will be good. “We should be kind around ‘the holidays,’” they all say.

 

My question still stands. WHY?

 

By teaching kids from a young age that good behavior gets good rewards, we do not instill the value of true goodness. We teach good ol’ bribery.

 

If you obey, you get good things. OBEY, YOU HEAR ME?

 

The problem with this mindset is that God does not operate on Santa’s terms. And to instill into human beings the need to be good in order to earn rewards, we completely contradict the whole message of Christmas.

 

Here is the Santa Christmas message.

 

Be naughty. >> Be threatened into being nice. >> Be nice in order to secure your rewards. >> Receive rewards.

 

The whole Santa story revolves around insecurity propelling us toward goodness, not grace propelling us.

 

Let me elaborate a little more.

 

The message we were introduced to at Christmas is the message of grace.

To borrow Christmas terms, this is how our lives work according to the Gospel of grace.

 

Be naughty. >> Be offered grace and forgiveness from God. >> Receive that grace. >> Live a life in light of that grace. Be good – a good that stems from understanding what that grace is.

 

There is no reward system to earn salvation, grace, or forgiveness. It’s free. And that’s what divides Santa from Jesus.

 

That’s what divides between being good to earn something, and being good because you know you could NEVER earn something that was freely given you.

 

Goodness is good at Christmastime. Honestly, I think it is absolutely pleasant and wonderful when people pay attention to how they’re acting and make an effort to help others. It makes the world a sweeter place to be in, when everything crazy is going on around us.

 

But the question we should all ask ourselves when we are stressing “Good will toward men!” should be this: “Why good will? Why kindness? Why all this?”

 

The answer?

 

Grace.

 

Grace is what brought us to the place we are at. Grace is the meaning of Christmas. Grace is love and forgiveness to us at the darkest and most sinful point of our being.

We are to live and love propelled by grace, for without the grace of God, we would not be in the place we are at.

 

Salvation is not earned. Salvation is given to us and then received.

 

Let us fix our eyes on this truth as we approach Christmas. Good will toward men because we are loved, forgiven, and made new.

Thank you all so much for your readership this year, it means so much to me. Have a wonderful Christmas, and I’ll see you next year!

 

*aj

That Scary Thing Called Waiting

Misty Mountain Top

Being a Christian can be scary.

Scratch that. Being a Christian is quite scary.

But it’s exhilarating. And so, so, worth it.

Life…it’s an adventure. Need I say more?

And sometimes it’s not very clear what we should do. And that feels scary, doesn’t it?

To me, it sometimes does. Because, to put it plainly, I’m not the one in control. Most times, when things seem bleak, it’s totally not in my power to change any of it.

So before you say that life is hopeless and all that, wait. Because as uncomfortable any and every aspect of life may seem, and we are totally not in control, we know who is.

We Christians have something that the rest of the world does not. What’s that, you ask?

Peace. Assurance. Hope.

And the scary part?

God calls us to wait on Him.

The excuse that “patience is a virtue that I don’t have” doesn’t go far with God.

Isaiah 40:28-31

“Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.”

Psalm 27:14

“Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!”

Lamentations 3:25-26

“The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him. It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.”

Psalm 37:34

“Wait for the Lord and keep his way, and he will exalt you to inherit the land; you will look on when the wicked are cut off.”

Does anyone else feel like it’s a bit scary to wait on God? I’m pretty sure we all do. But here’s the interesting thing.

Waiting is associated with strength, and goodness, and salvation, and exaltation.

Whoa. That is quite mind-blowing to me.

Because as tough as it is to be a Christian, and as hard it is at times to wait, our waiting is not in vain.

Like those verses say, God is faithful! Our strength shall be renewed; we will be saved; we will be exalted.

It might feel at times like God doesn’t know what He’s doing.

But that’s never the case.

A favorite quote of mine says this:

I don’t know what the future holds, but I do know the One who holds my future.

So, I’m realizing this more and more: waiting is the good part. It’s only scary if we let ourselves be afraid. God has it all under control. It’s His universe, after all. His will, His plans, and we are His people.

Should we let ourselves be afraid, though?

Isaiah 41:10

“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.”

Suddenly, this whole Christianity thing isn’t looking as hopeless, dark, and scary as before…

*aj