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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That Joy Greater Than Thanksgiving Itself

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If you’re American, you are probably aware that Thanksgiving is coming up in two days.

 

And if you’re not American, you are also probably aware that Thanksgiving is coming up in two days.

 

It’s kind of a big deal around this whole country, filled with ludicrous amounts of food, televised parades, extended family you might not have seen for quite a long time, stacks of Black Friday fliers, and those Thankfulness Lists that somehow make their way to the table every. single. year. without. fail.

 

I used to love Thanksgiving, but somewhere along the line, it just got to be cliché in my mind.

Continue reading “That Joy Greater Than Thanksgiving Itself”

Christmas is Love.

Christmas is Love. 

This is part 2 in my impromptu Christmas series. See the first part also, Peace on Earth.

 

World,

 

As we approach Christmas, we reminisce over many things. Some material items, others ideas. So much do we relish the idea of love.

 

I love Christmas music. Honestly, I do. I love all kind of music, but there’s nothing more heartwarming than beautiful voices singing songs we know and love, and everyone celebrating Jesus’ birth – whether they know it or not.

 

It’s really cool.

 

Love is a prevalent theme in so many Christmas songs. Turn on the radio and you’ll hear,

 

“Last Christmas, I gave you my heart…”

 

“Baby, all I want for Christmas is you…”

 

Yeah, yeah, I get it. Love is wonderful and complicated and all that. Christmas can be a romantic time.

 

However, I think we overemphasize the wrong kind of love at Christmas. People, we have the rest of the year to sing love songs. Romance is a thing, but it only exists because of God’s amazing love for us, His children.

 

And where did love first come from?

 

CHRISTMAS! (Didn’t see that coming, did ya?)

 

John 3:16

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”

 

1 John 4:7

“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.”

 

This is ultimate love because God sent His Only Son to us. Not just to chill out on earth as a baby, but to die for our sins.

 

I stated a minute ago that love is a huge focus at Christmas. Romantic love, namely. I have a speculation as to why this is so.

 

When we look at the Baby in the Manger, that’s all we see. We see the Baby: meek and mild little Jesus. Is that exciting? Many of us think not. So, “Christmas is a time of love” – well, that’s what sells merchandise. “It’s the holiday season” – warm and fuzzy feelings envelop us. Or maybe it’s the sweaters? Regardless, we idolize love at Christmas time because it feels so right – and our culture embraces it wholeheartedly.

 

Our society has gotten used to looking at the manger and stopping there. This, I believe, is why so many of us miss the whole meaning of Christmas. We see Jesus, and politely comment, “that’s nice,” while distractedly browsing the latest StuffMart catalogs and making wish lists.

 

We don’t see the significance of the manger.

 

The Christmas story isn’t made up of one night in a stable with Jesus, Mary and Joseph, some angels, and shepherds. It is the kick-off of the GREATEST game-changing events in history – ultimately, where our sins are forgiven once and for all.

 

Isaiah 9:6

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”

 

Jesus was born to demonstrate God’s love for us. His love for us sinners, at our darkest hour. The Baby was only the beginning. We shouldn’t stop there and say, “Oh, Jesus, how cute. Can we open presents now?”  Because that isn’t what it’s about.

 

Can you picture an Almighty God, Holy Creator of the Universe, seeing His sinful children and saying in spite of their rebellion, “I love them and I want them to know Me”? That’s what Christmas shows. That He DID say that to us and we know that because of Christmas.

 

This is love.

 

1 John 4:10

“In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”

 

His love is the model for us. True love is His unconditional love for us, when He had every right to be angry with us and could have just wiped us off the face of the earth.

 

As we celebrate Christmas this year, let us approach it with the right view of love. Not with selfish I-wants and Give-me-thats, but with a heart of gratitude for the love that we should be celebrating.

 

The love that makes us sing in the first place.

 

Thank you LORD, for Your amazing love.

 

*aj

Joy in the Mundane

Joy in the Mundane

I know I’ve been focusing a lot on the topic of joy recently.

You would think that I’d be a joyful person all the time (hello, joy is part of my name!) but honestly, I’m not.

(Perhaps I’m simply rehashing everything I’ve been saying for the past couple of weeks. Sometimes, I just need to write things that teach me, because I’m far from perfect or complete!)

A few days ago, I got into a terrible funk where I was moody and depressed for a few hours. Why? I have no idea why. I wrote in my journal to get out of it, and realized that no part of my writing had anything to do with joy in it.

But wait, we don’t have to be happy all the time, do we?

No. Nowhere does it say that we have to be happy all the time. Why? Because happiness is dependent on circumstances – and circumstances are never 100% perfect.

True to my blog’s name, I’m going to share a journal page snippet with all of you.

“Wow, I just read what I wrote earlier. It sounds so dark and hopeless. But it’s not. If I can’t find joy in the mundane, I’m making my joy circumstantial. A horrible decision, really. Life is really okay. Even when it doesn’t feel like it. My joy should come from Jesus, and not from accomplishments or possessions or circumstances. No, it’s never easy or pain-free. But I will make it through. For this isn’t the end.”

Joy is always possible because hope is always always available.

 

I started to get fed up with my mundane life in which I do practically the same exact thing every single day. I wake up, I do school, I go to karate (or at least practice it), I read and/or watch TV, I write, I go to bed. EVERY SINGLE DAY. (Maybe a little exaggeration there, but I think you get the point.)

I veer toward the side of believing that joy comes from great things that God gives us. Like: opportunities. books. money. friends. freedom.

Joy isn’t happiness. Joy is a life choice and lifestyle. I recently read an amazing blog post about marriage and it talked about making the mundane and ordinary days just as wonderful as the particularly romantic parts. It struck a chord with me, because I often forget that same concept in my daily life.

For me at least, I tend to find “joy” when things go my way, or I’m happy. But that’s not joy.

Joy comes from hope.

Hope is knowing that I’m never alone.

It comes from gratitude.

I am so thankful for my salvation because I am so undeserving of it.

I have joy because I am blessed down to my soul. I am loved and treasured and I belong to my Creator.

This has nothing to do with happiness, because it’s an attitude.

I still have my days where I feel like I’m in darkness, but we all do. It’s absolutely impossible to be always happy.

But we can always put on the attitude of joy. Joy is substantial because its foundation is on hope. This hope isn’t wishful thinking, but assurance.

Hebrews 11:1

“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”

When life is mundane and difficult, joy is possible because we have assurance that faith in God – the only solid foundation – will never fail us. Our souls are saved and secure. We are loved. We were bought with a high price. We are new creations.

Life is hard. Yeah.

But it isn’t the end, nor should we let it be.

Joy is beautiful. Joy is possible, even when it’s impossible to be happy. Joy is amazing, because no matter what, we can find it because of what Jesus has done for us.

That’s where we find joy.

*aj

Religion vs. Christianity

Religion vs. Christianity

A lot of people dismiss Christianity as just another religion. But it’s not. And I’m here to show you why.

(Yes, I just gave all you awesome readers an abrupt start. Forgive me, lovely lords and ladies. But please read on.)

When people think of Christianity, a lot of times they think of religion. It’s right up there with Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Mormonism, Judaism…and all those.

But Christianity? It’s not the same. Really. I hesitate to consider it a religion, even though that may be upsetting to some.

Because there is something that stands out about Christianity that other religions do not have.

Freedom and Sincerity.

 

“But Amanda,” you say, “I’m a Mormon, and I’m very sincere.”

I am sure you are. After all, belief in something is much more than just words. Saying the words “I believe” do not ensure that you actually do, for all that it proves is that you have a voice and a mind.

But freedom? I will explain that in a minute.

I’d like to point out a few things about the Christian life.

First of all, God knows we are not perfect. He knows that we are sinners and, by nature, turn away from Him.

Romans 3:23

“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

But yet, He extends grace to us, at our darkest. And by receiving that, sin has no power over us anymore.

Romans 6:14

“For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.”

And, in turn, we are changed from the inside out.

2 Corinthians 5:17

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”

Did anyone hear anything about good works earning anything in there? Obligations? Our performance?

Uh, I sure didn’t.

So as I was saying, we have freedom.

Freedom from the power of sin and death over us.

Freedom from eternal life and righteous standing before God being based on works.

Freedom to live for God because of gratitude to Him for your salvation.

Not because you’re locked into tradition.

Not because Mom and Dad make you go to church so that hopefully, religion will rub off on you.

Not because you have obligations to live up to so that you’ll go to Heaven when you die.

Because of the freedom you’ve been given, sincerity springs from that.

 

And that’s why Christianity is different.

Why we look different. Why act different. Why we are motivated to live a pure and holy life.

Perhaps in the future, I’ll write some blog posts reflecting on other religions.

What I can say is this, however.

I’m not religious.

I’m a Jesus-lover, for He loved me first and pursued my soul.

I’m not living to please God because I have to.

I live to please God because it brings me joy, and the only joy that’ll ever last.

I’m not bound by obligations.

I’m set free by the love of my Creator for me.

1 Peter 2:16

“Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God.”

And that’s what I want to do.

*aj