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

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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

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.

Continue reading

Even When It’s Hard

Even When It's Hard

Life is pretty crazy at the moment.

I will spare you the details, but let’s just say things are different around here at the moment.

And it’s not easy. I’m easily overwhelmed, and it’s hard at times. Lots of times.

Through all of this, I’m realizing more and more that God is faithful.

In the easy times, and in the hard times, God does not change. He does not leave. He does not forget us. He does not forsake us. He does not revoke His promises. His grace still stands. He never stops loving us. He still protects us, even when it seems like our world is crushing us. He is still with us…even when we can’t feel Him.

Psalm 91 is one of my favorite chapters in the Bible. And it’s such an encouragement. You all know how much I love words and imagery.

Please do read all of it when you get a chance (it is really beautiful) but here are just the first two verses.

Psalm 91:1-2

“He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High

will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.

I will say to the Lord, ‘My refuge and my fortress,

my God, in whom I trust.’”

I always have to remind myself that God is my refuge, and He is faithful when I am faithless.

2 Timothy 2:13

“if we are faithless, he remains faithful—

for he cannot deny himself.”

Psalm 36:5

“Your steadfast love, O Lord, extends to the heavens, your faithfulness to the clouds.”

Deuteronomy 7:9

“Know therefore that the Lord your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations[.]”

Even though life is really rough, God keeps His promises about never leaving or forsaking us. It still stands true that God comforts us.

2 Corinthians 1:3-4

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.

I know this post is short today. But know this.

Whatever you are going through today, God will be with you. He is faithful, and His promises still stand.

And lastly, one of my favorite verses.

Isaiah 43:2

“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.”

I’m really tired…so I’m not going to say much more. Please know that God is for you and not against you, and that He wants to work good out through your situation.

Trust. The key to everything.

Don’t forget to trust Him who formed you, created the stars, and know every thought you’ll have even before you think it.

Trust Him, for He is trustworthy.

Even when it’s hard.

*aj

I’m Fighting

Typewriter

It’s Monday night.

I’m tired. I don’t really want to write a blog post.

I cooked, cleaned, washed dishes, did tons of laundry, watched my brother, and attempted to write an essay for a scholarship contest.

I’ve had a long day, and I don’t feel like writing.

I’d honestly rather chill out in my bed, with a book that hasn’t been written yet. (Favorite authors, keep writing for me. I can’t stand waiting.)

I want to give into my introverted self and hole away in my room, read for ten hours straight, and magically receive a bunch of emails and texts from people I miss without being the first to send the message. I want to sulk for a million hours, and give up on life. I don’t have the experience. I don’t always have motivation. I’m so done with school. And I just want to be selfish and make life about me. Right now, I want life to do what I want, what I think is best for me, and whatever my snobby little emotions want.

And, though I think it would be nice, I’m not giving in because it’s not going to fix me.

And it’s a good thing, too, because when I give in to self-pity, not only is it pitiful, but it is even more discouraging. Hello world, I’m human too. More than I’d like to admit.

So I keep on fighting. Fighting to get my joy back. Fighting to be strengthened. Fighting to find truth amidst the lies. Fighting to regain hope in hard times. Fighting to remember where true love comes from. Fighting to remember God has a plan. And life isn’t about me, so I shouldn’t try to make it seem like it is.

Believe it or not, fighting is hard. Because the not-so-smart human nature in the back of my head says, “Go do pointless things for hours on end. Life is all about you. Go sulk. Go ignore everything. You’ll be happy.”

But will that make me “better?” No, it won’t. I know it won’t. I know that giving into that selfishness will not make me happy because I’ve tried.

Trust me, writing three blog posts a week is tiring. It is really hard. It is hard, because I can barely keep up with school, reading books, and writing, and then having time after that to do what I want. But do you know why I keep up?

I keep up because God has called me to write. God has not called me to wade waist-deep in self-pity, waste time, and sulk. God has called me, an introvert, to use my voice. Right now, I can’t get up in front of 10,000 people and share my life story. Maybe that will come at some point, I don’t know. What I do know, is that my voice right now is being expressed online, writing three times a week, for Him. And whether I like it or not (though I do like it), this is my platform that He has called me to share on. Even if I were to only have had five followers, if God had given me the opportunity to share Him with the world, I would still write.

So I won’t let my selfish sin nature get in the way of sharing the Gospel with twenty-two countries. (Yeah!)

I want to encourage all of you today, to keep on doing what God has given you the opportunity to do and has called you to. Living for God isn’t our obligation (although it’s the wisest thing and He wants us to). Living for God is our joy!

As I write this, my mood is brightening. (I’m not kidding.) Do you know why? Because my satisfaction is found in living for God, not living for myself. I am satisfied and filled up in living a life that is pleasing to God, because deep down, that is what my heart craves. My heart “wants” to be happy, but it can only be truly satisfied by a life abiding in Christ.

So this is why I write.

I do not write for money. (I have to pay to write, actually.) I do not write because it saves me time. (It takes me a lot of time.) I do not write because it makes me famous. (Probably, I’m the least famous out of everyone I know.) I do not write because it looks good on my résumé. (I don’t even have a résumé. I’m fifteen years old.)

I write, because this is the life God has given me. This is what He is calling me to, even though it’s small. This is growing my own faith. This helps me remember that life isn’t all about me. This helps me remember the joy that comes from a life with Christ. By writing even when I don’t feel like it, my own heart is encouraged because I know that this is what abiding in Christ feels like. I am getting to know Him more and more, day by day, and I am satisfied because living my life this way isn’t about me.

I’m glad that life isn’t about me.

I have laid my heart to rest in the satisfaction of Christ. I am pressing on toward the goal. I am fighting, and I am not letting my sinful nature win.

Because if I were to let my sin nature win, I would never taste satisfaction in those shallow, earthly pleasures.

My heart has been won over, and I am living a life dedicated to Christ.

*aj

Stress is Real, But There’s a Solution.

Castle and Bike

Have you ever read Psalm 91?

I love it so much. I don’t really have time to go through it all, and I don’t want to lose anyone’s attention (my own, actually…) so I’m just going to pick out a few verses from it.

Psalm 91:1-2 says,

“He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High

    will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.

I will say to the Lord, ‘My refuge and my fortress,

    my God, in whom I trust.’”

 

See, I get really stressed sometimes. If you’re not a high school student right now but once were, you may have forgotten how hard it can get…I’m not saying that “real life” is any easier, but stress is a real thing for us teens. (Well, I don’t know anything about being an adult, but I’ve heard that’s hard too.)

“You gotta get good grades.” “You really should have a job to pay for your own stuff.” “You need to do a bunch of sports and extracurricular activities, or you won’t have a chance of getting into a good college.” “You have to go to college! You won’t be able to get a good job to be able to support your family if you don’t!” “If you aren’t dating or married by your early twenties, it’s the end of the world!”

Yup. Stressful, right? Now, most of those aren’t true. (They’re good things, but seriously not of utmost importance.) But that’s what the world tells us, day after day. It’s such a burden.

I haven’t always heard all of those coming at me and stressing me out, but a lot of people can fall prey to those lies. And it affects our lives! For real!

Believing lies leads (usually) to realizing that we cannot measure up to them, which makes us live the life cycle of the overcommitted and stressed teen (or any other person).

I won’t go into the “don’t believe the lies” sermon; I’m just going to talk about real life.

You may be stressed (like me), but you are not alone.

Let’s do a little mental activity here. Take a picture of yourself in your mind. Now, cut and paste that picture and put it in the arms of God. And here’s the fun part. Envision yourself really and truly there. Well, guess what? That’s where you are. For real.

Let’s read those two verses again.
“He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High

    will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.

I will say to the Lord, ‘My refuge and my fortress,

    my God, in whom I trust.’”

God is our refuge and fortress.

I’m going to look up the words “refuge” and “fortress” in the dictionary, because I think that it helps to know what the verses are saying.

*goes to dictionary.com and copies and pastes*

“Refuge: shelter or protection from danger, trouble, etc.”

Alright, cool. So, according to this definition, God is our shelter and protection from danger and trouble. And stress. And hopelessness. And hardships. (Well, He doesn’t keep us from them always – I know this firsthand – but He is with us and our place of safety and hope in, well, everything.)

Now let me look up “fortress”.

“Fortress: any place of exceptional security; stronghold.”

I love love LOVE the word fortress. It sounds so medieval-y and awesome. I imagine a huge and strong stone castle with a wide and dangerous, crocodile infested moat around it, and an exclusive drawbridge just for me, and guards committed to protecting me around that, and a huge iron gate around that. Basically, 110% secure and an extremely safe place.

Well, that’s God.

The first verse says, “He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High

    will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.”

 

So God is our shelter in e.v.e.r.y.t.h.i.n.g. If we dwell in His shelter (by trusting Him), we will abide (which means to remain; continue; and stay) in THE SHADOW OF THE ALMIGHTY!

I find so much comfort in that.

Okay, yeah, life is SO STRESSFUL and crazy at times. I feel it. But God is with us, His beloved children.

I’m not going to tell you that life is easy. It. Is. Not. But trusting in God takes the pressure off of us. If He is all we have, He is enough.

We can’t say, “If I trust in God and also have _____, then it will be enough.”

God. Is. Enough.

God. Is. Here.

We. Have. Hope.

God. Is. Strong. Enough. To. Handle. Anything.

He. Loves. Us. So. Much.

*aj

Life as a Teen in This Crazy World

  

I think that being a teen is just so crazy. 
We’re supposed to look and act like adults, but really, we still have the minds of children for the most part. (At least I do sometimes.) Life is a roller coaster, and we’re standing up on the loop-de-loop. (Or something like that. I’ve never been great with analogies.) Anyway, I wanted to talk about our crazy lives, and what we can do about them.
1) Stress.
Life is stressful…there’s no denying it. School, pressure from everywhere, freedom, tragedies…you name it, we feel it. Life is hard. The older you get, the more you understand and are told.
It’s hard to deal with, you know. One of my many comfort verses is Psalm 4:8.


“In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.

God is my peace. I’ll rest in Him. His embrace makes my stress disappear. I have peace in the crazy.

2) Love. 
Yet another crazy thing. There’s all this pressure coming from the world, saying, “Being single is bad. You need someone to satisfy your every need. How can you get it? Start dating! With countless [easy] payments of BHS (Broken Heart Syndrome)! You’ll never realize how hopeless you were once you have a significant other.” But…that leaves us confused. I mean, who doesn’t want someone to love them for them? Hold them and comfort them? Save them? We all want that, but it can’t be satisfied by a human relationship. It comes from a relationship with God…and if we don’t realize this, we are gonna be lost.
3) School.
Yup. School. I don’t like it any more than you…but we gotta do it. Sometimes I get so frustrated and freaked out over it. But it’s so small in the grand scheme of life, so here’s a verse that helps me through.
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to GodAnd the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”(Philippians 4:6-7, ESV)

We will make it. Really. (I’m going to save this post to my favorites so I can read it every day and be reminded of this.)
4) Everything Changing.
Everything is changing. It’s not really fair. Lives change, friends move away, life. is. insane. The one thing that I have to hold onto is this — Jesus never changes. Ever. 
Hebrews 13:8 says that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” 
He never changes, even when everything else does. I can stay secure in that!
5) Pressure — From EVERYWHERE.
Social pressure. Emotional pressure. Physical pressure. Family pressure. Everything says “GO HERE! DO THIS! DON’T SO THAT!” And it’s hard. Need I say it again? IT IS HARD! Who do I please when I’m being torn in fifty bazillion directions? Well, here’s who. 
But just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not to please man, but to please God who tests our hearts.” (1 Thessalonians 2:4, ESV)

We need to live to please God, not man. That takes a lot of pressure off, doesn’t it.
Life is crazy. But not impossible. 
Being a teen is hard. But we have the Creator of the Universe on our side!
We don’t need to worry. God’s got this. 
It will be okay. We will survive our teen years…and by following God, we will THRIVE. 
*aj