Dear Reader: You Are Beautiful

 

Dear Reader_ You Are Beautiful

Dear Reader, you are beautiful.

 

When you wake up in the morning and slip out of your bed, you are beautiful.

 

When you stand in front of your mirror, with hair disheveled and shadows under your eyes, you are beautiful.

 

You are beautiful in your pajamas, the ones you hope no one will ever have to see, with skin blemished, covered in acne or freckles or wrinkles.

 

Your hair is frizzy, skin is bumpy, and your body’s discolored – but you are beautiful.

 

That person in the mirror – the one you criticize for your imperfections, will into being thinner, pinch into being prettier, make up to cover imperfections – that person is the one that God loves.

 

God loves the person in the mirror without nice clothes, without a status or title, without a nice scent, without makeup or product or styling.

 

God loves that person because He is their Creator. And that person is you.

 

Don’t believe the lie that being beautiful doesn’t apply to you. Don’t believe the lie that says you are not enough. Don’t believe that you couldn’t possibly be loved, that you could never receive the free love that God gives.

 

Dear Reader, I beg of you, please do not fall prey to the misconception that you are the exception. God sees you as beautiful because He sees His Son’s perfection inside of you, radiating from every part of you.

 

He sees you as beautiful because He looks at your heart; that same heart that He has made as pure as snow and called holy and blameless.

 

1 Samuel 16:7b

“For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”

 

He sees you as beautiful because you were made in His image.

 

Genesis 1:27

“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.”

 

God has made you with care and wonder.

 

Psalm 139:14

“I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.”

 

And you are beautiful because God promises it.

 

Ecclesiastes 3:11a

“He has made everything beautiful in its time.”

 

As you stare at yourself in the mirror, curling and straightening and setting your hair, applying powder to your face to hide your scars and blotches and bumps, and dressing in the perfect outfit, remember that you are loved regardless of it all.

 

Remember that God sees you as beautiful, and loves you in spite of all your imperfections.

 

You were created in love, given a beautiful life to live, and a blank slate that God is using to write His story.

 

Forget the pressures of who everyone wants you to be, and come to your Father – blemished, messy, and exactly how He wants to see you: as you.

 

Friend, never forget that you are beautiful, and that you are loved. You can do nothing to change this truth, for everything you are is loved by the One who invented you.

 

He imagined your personality before you existed, and He called it good. He knew your thoughts before your parents knew you, and He loved you.

 

Never doubt how God feels about you, Dear Reader. He loves you, and He calls you beautiful.

 

*aj

You Are Not a Failure. I Promise.

You Are Not a Failure. I Promise.

 

I don’t know when exactly the thought enters our minds, but somewhere along the line, it just creeps in.

 

You are a failure.

 

Maybe we’ve overcommitted (I know I have) and been unsuccessful in getting everything done well or on time. Maybe we just didn’t live up to the standards we put on ourselves.

 

Maybe we think the reason why we’re single is that we’re failures; not pretty enough, not charming enough, too awkward or dumb, or just bad at this whole “life on earth” thing.

 

Maybe we’ve flunked multiple tests in a row. Been rejected by those whom we once thought were friends. Made poor decisions that affected more than just our own selves.

 

Maybe we’ve been hurt by others and led to believe that it was our fault. That if we had just [insert action here]-ed, we would not have had to go through our pain.

 

But, my friend, none of those things makes you a failure.

 

You are not a failure; I promise you that. Sure, bad decisions can be made, and things can be done to harm us. But we are not considered failures by the One who saved us.

 

Our failures do not determine our worth, just as our sins do not condemn us now. Why? Because we have been redeemed, and we are loved no matter what.

 

Just as swimming doesn’t make me a fish, eating carrots doesn’t make me a bunny, and growing doesn’t make me a plant, failing does not make me a failure.

 

Because I have been redeemed by Jesus’ blood, my God does not count me as a failure.

 

Sure, I’ll fail. I’ll fail tests, I’ll fail to live up to people’s expectations, I’ll fail to please the people I love, I’ll fail to be perfect, I’ll fail to meet my goals I set for myself.

 

But it’s okay. Because God does not see me as a failure.

 

He sees the righteousness of His Son in me.

 

2 Corinthians 5:21

“For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”

 

He has overwritten my old nature and given me a new one, that my past might not stain me.

 

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.”

 

I am called a Child of God.

 

Romans 8:15

“For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’”

 

Maybe you’re tempted to call yourself a “failure” or a “disappointment” or you’re constantly beating yourself up over what you’ve done, and possibly what you’re still doing.

 

But no matter who you are or what you’ve done, God’s grace covers you, no exceptions.

 

It’s okay to drop your labels and just come to Him. Come as you are. Messy pieces and all.

 

And I want you to know that once you have been forgiven, you will never be considered by God to be a failure.

 

No.

 

You are a holy Child of God. You are sacred, you are His. You are cherished. You are considered blameless before Him. Nothing, and I repeat nothing, can take His love away from you.

 

And even when you fail, He does not see you as a failure.

 

*aj

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

A Fresh Look At Positivity

A Fresh Look at Positivity

 

In this world, we hear a lot about positivity. We hear people tell us to not let the negativity of others affect our attitudes.

 

That’s a powerful message.

 

People say that we should keep our heads up because ultimately, whatever we want in life, we’re going to have to work for. So if we want to accomplish our goals, we must not let anyone deter us.

 

We must be positive. See the glass half-full.  See the sky as always sunny. And move on from gloom as quick as we possibly can.

 

The positivity message tells us to just keep swimming, because it’s gonna be alright. Don’t worry; be happy. And I do believe happiness is good, but we should have a reason for it.

 

What I want to know is this. In a godless world, how can we be happy? How can we be positive? How can we know that life really will go on? How can we accomplish what we want to when it seems absolutely impossible?

 

Forgive me for being blunt here, but this is where I see that the positivity message cannot hold up.

 

Positivity does not offer lasting hope. But Jesus does.

 

Positivity is a form of self-empowerment: If you think it, you can do it. And that’s not all bad, truly. Sometimes the only thing we need to keep going is faith in ourselves and perseverance because we already have everything we need to do it.

 

Sometimes, when everyone around us is cutting us down with discouragement, we need to be the ones to step up and say, “Hey, look. The end is in sight. We can make it.” Pressing on toward something is valuable.

 

So the question is not, “Should we be positive?” but “How can we be positive?”

 

For me, having a good attitude by just “trying to” is like trying to sing or speak without taking a breath. Pulling the positivity card out of nowhere has no depth to it, no standing, because it becomes just words.

 

But it doesn’t have to be.

 

The missing message of positivity is this: we can have joy in every situation.

 

Philippians 4:12-13

“I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

 

The secret to facing anything is doing them through the strength of Christ. That’s what gives us joy. That’s what lets us go on when things seem impossible. That’s what propels us through the times when we feel like giving up.

 

Not putting on a mask of happiness, but living it.

 

Positivity is something we can only truly grasp when we experience the joy of the Lord.

 

Nehemiah 8:10b

“And do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”

 

The joy of the Lord. Not the joy of nice things, a good relationship, a happy circumstance, no. This joy is knowing that we are loved. Knowing that His grace is lavished on us. The guaranteed assurance that we are new creations in Christ. Our pasts are not counted against us.

 

And we know this all because we have seen the cross. We have seen who Jesus is in the Bible. We have felt his presence in our lives. We have known His power.

 

And so the simple message of positivity just seems so shallow. “Be happy.” Okay, yes, but why should I be happy?

 

Because we are loved with an everlasting love by our Creator. We are treasured. We are provided for. We are never left on our own. And we are definitely never forsaken or forgotten about.

 

To be truly positive is about so much more than just feeling something – it’s what we can live in as Christians.

 

And that kind of positivity is the best of all.

 

*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

 

 

Feminism is Destroying the Distinction Between Genders.

Feminism is Destroying the Distinction Between Genders.

If a woman can run for president, and a woman can be an astronaut, or a woman can be a doctor, or a lawyer, what makes a woman any different than a man?

If a woman works a full-time job while the man raises their kids, what makes a woman a woman?

If feminism says that women can do anything men can do, what does that mean?

If two women or two men can legally get married, then what is gender?

 

If we tell ourselves that women and men are the same, why do we even have different genders? What’s the point?

Or even, transgenderism. If a man feels that he’s really a woman in the “wrong” body, he can decide to be a she. So what’s the point of having two separate genders anyway?

Feminism is dangerous because it gives men and women the same roles. It completely disregards God’s design for masculinity and femininity and gives us all a choice where it is not our place to make it.

I’m not saying that a girl shouldn’t be able to work. I’m not implying that a guy shouldn’t be able to do housework.

But what I am saying is that when we forget the distinction between genders, and implant feminism into the way we think, we have a chance of crossing the lines of biblical femininity and masculinity. We discredit our self-worth and ascribe it to what we accomplish or prove.

I’m not saying men are better than women. We are absolutely 100% equal. However, we cannot make our roles identical, for to do so would be to discredit the uniqueness of each gender and therefore God’s design.

Let me back up a little bit. A minute ago, I asked the question, what makes a woman any different than a man?

And that’s the question of the century.

In this post along with two more, I hope to address some of these questions that we’ve all been asking. They’re really tough, I know.

The first thing I’d like to point out in all of this is that our worth and value does not come from proving ourselves. When we embrace feminism, we convince ourselves that women aren’t worth as much as men unless they’re treated the same.

Society says we have to have the same roles because we won’t be equal if we don’t.

Wait, what?

This is as ridiculous as arguing over whether eyes or ears are more important.

Come on, people. They’re both valuable. But they each have their own separate roles.

Just like men and women. God created men to be leaders and protectors, and women to be nurturers and supporters. By embracing feminism and confusing genders, we discredit our true worth.

As Christians, we can’t be confused by our culture’s marred view of gender. We have the Bible: the inspired word of God. Why don’t we use it?

Genesis 1:27

“So God created man in his own image,

in the image of God he created him;

male and female he created them.”

God created male and female in His image. We are separate. But that’s not something we should ever despise.

Psalm 139:13-15

“For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth.”

We were formed with utmost care. Everything about us has been purposefully handcrafted by God. It’s not our place to look at ourselves and try to change how God created us. God created gender, and even though it doesn’t seem this simple a lot of times, He has a purpose in the way He created you.

And finally, verses on why we He saved us.

Titus 3:4-7

“But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”

How do these all connect? Well, for one, it shows that God made us all specifically. We are fearfully and wonderfully made. He made us to be either male or female, and neither is better than the other. And when He saved us from our sins, it wasn’t because of anything we’ve ever done. We don’t deserve salvation. We don’t deserve love. Still, that’s what we’ve been given.

And I think that it links back to our culture’s ever-present destructive feminism and gender confusion.

We as humans (incorrectly) see ourselves as worth something if we accomplish a feat or a destiny.

When women are seen as weak and the underdogs, they want to step up and say, “I can do this.” Ambition isn’t necessarily bad, but we all have to remember that our worth is not defined by our works. It is defined by the cross.

In the next two posts, I’m planning on discussing what it looks like to live in biblical femininity (if you’re a girl) and biblical masculinity (if you’re a guy).

I understand if you don’t agree with me. A lot of people won’t, and I’m not here to judge. But as Christians, we can’t stand idly by while our guidebook is right in front of us.

God loves all of us. Every single one. He’s created all of us with a purpose and a plan, and we can’t take that for granted.

*aj