Dear Reader: You Are Not Your Past

Dear Reader- You Are Not Your Past.png

I’m opening a new category on my blog called “Dear Reader.” This will be a lot like “Dear Christian Teens,” but it’ll hopefully have a more expanded demographic than just 13-19. I love to write in letter format rather than lecture. I want to share my heart as I would with a friend, not just tell you all what you should and shouldn’t do.

 

I’d like to do an occasional post where I can look you in the eyes and say “listen. I know you’re not perfect, and I’m definitely not either. Let’s figure out life together.” instead of writing a speech.

 

I want my posts, particularly my “Dear Reader” posts, to be freeing.

 

Without further adieu, let me bring you the first installment of “Dear Reader.”

 

Dear Reader,

 

You are not your past.

 

You are not what you have done or where you have been.

 

You are not the choices you’ve made.

 

You are not your image or accomplishments.

 

You are not defined by all the sins you’ve committed.

 

You are not your addictions.

 

And I mean it.

 

You are covered by grace.

 

You became covered by grace the moment you said “Jesus, I believe you can and will forgive my sins.”

 

You are covered by grace because you are loved by your Creator. Because He said, “I don’t want to see my child eternally separated from me.”

 

Grace is such that we cannot outrun it. We cannot out-sin it. We cannot get to a point where it does not apply to us anymore. We cannot earn it. Why?

 

Grace is a gift.

 

You do not deserve to be forgiven, and neither do I.

 

But Dear Reader, that’s why grace is amazing. We do not deserve grace of any kind, we do not deserve mercy, we do not deserve forgiveness. Grace is undeserved, and it is beautiful.

 

Grace says, “I have seen your sin and yet I love you. Yet I forgive you. I have seen your filth and yet I call you clean.”

 

God sees us as NEW.

 

He does not see our failures; He sees His Son’s perfection in us.

 

He does not call us on our screw-ups, on our deliberate sins, or on our flaws. He says, “I love you, and what you have done cannot change that.”

 

Dear Reader, you are not your past because God has washed it away.

 

You are called holy and blameless.

 

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.”

 

You are justified by His grace. God sees you the same as if you’d lived the perfect life and never did anything wrong.

 

You are not your past – you are a new creation because you are in Christ.

 

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.”

 

Instead of beating ourselves up over and over about our sin, why don’t we see at as God sees it? FORGIVEN.

 

Psalm 103:12

“As far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.”

 

So Dear Reader,

 

It’s alright that we’re not perfect, it’s alright that we’re messed up, it’s all right that we’re sinners, because grace covers us. We are held in the hands of a loving God, not an angry one.

 

You do not have to let what you’ve done define how you see yourself. See yourself as God sees you, and let JESUS define you.

 

You are new.

 

*aj

Dear Christian Teens: On Why We Love Church Camp

Dear Christian Teens- On Why We Love Church Camp

Dear Christian Teens,

I think I’ve finally figured out why we love church camp.

You know. The retreat that so many of us go on once or twice a year.

We all bring terribly bad-for-your-health junk food, money to order pizza at midnight, and tissues to cry into when we have those heart-to-heart conversations.

And more importantly, we bring our Bibles and those journals that we dust off to use once or twice a year.

And with many other things, the memories are lovely things that we visit often after it’s over.

And we look forward to the next one that’ll come up next year.

But why do we enjoy this so much? And why is it so different than our normal lives?

I’m not going to talk about the goofiness that goes on (or why we play Do You Want to Buy a Duck? After the clock turns 12:00). I’m here to talk about the fire that is sparked in our hearts.

Dear Christian Teens,

You know that feeling. You know how it feels to raise your hands in worship with sincerity. You know how it feels to regularly read your Bible and just get it. You know how it feels to enjoy listening to the chapel sessions. You know how it feels to connect with your small group after.

It’s that fire that sparks in your heart after hearing compelling messages.

That fire to live out your faith no matter what.

But sometimes, we get home from church camp, and the fire burns out.

You’re ridiculed at school because you’re viewed as intolerant.

You come to the realization that you’re imperfect…and life is hard.

And then there’s a lot less motivation to read your Bible, so you kind of don’t do it.

Church camp becomes just another experience, and we see it as completely separate from normal life.

But it shouldn’t be.

I think I know why we love church camp. We love it because it sparks a fire inside of us. Our faith becomes even more real to us.

But seriously, when we go home, it shouldn’t end. Even though life gets harder when we aren’t surrounded completely by Christians, we can’t just give up.

Jesus isn’t the Savior of Youth Group Excursions.

He isn’t the Savior of Summer Camp.

Jesus is the Savior of our lives, and His love isn’t any different for us when we are at camp than when we are at home.

We love church camp because we feel God’s presence. We hear His voice. Things become clear to us.

But that doesn’t mean that the other 51 weeks of the year need to be boring.

No. Those 51 weeks can be the best weeks of the year. Wanna know why?

Because we get to live it out. We get to read the Bible on our own free will. We get to pray about things in our daily life, not just out loud in front of our friends. We get to trust God in tangible ways. And we get to grow in Him, which takes much longer than five days out of state.

We get to see God work things out in our lives.

So Dear Christian Teens,

We love church camp because it’s a great experience and we are on fire for God.

However, real life is the experience that we’ve been given for the rest of the year.

Let’s take that fire in our hearts and bring it into our daily lives.

For this is what we’ve been given. Let us not let our fires burn out.

And if we let ourselves be under the control of the Holy Spirit, we will not burn out.

*aj

Dear Christian Teens: On Relationships

Dear Christian Teens 1

Happy Tuesday, awesome blog readers.

Today’s post is a bit different than normal (and I do know that I say that a lot). However, some things have been on my heart recently about teens and relationships.

This is a shorter post today, because today is my first day back to school and last night I was trying to get to bed early. A near-impossible feat on a blognight, I know (and I just made that term up now).

But nevertheless, the points still stand. And I’d like to share them with you.

I am planning on planning on doing more “Dear Christian Teens” articles in the future. (Yes, I am very indecisive and unpredictable, so I can’t promise anything, but I will plan on planning on it.) 😛

I mean, this is a teen blog, after all.

So, here goes. Dear Christian Teens #1. In which Amanda talks about romantic relationships. And dating. And other things she has never quite experienced, but probably will someday.

**

This is written like three separate letters. (Have you noticed my obsession with letters yet?) It’s rather choppy, I know, and I’m sorry. But I wanted to alternate. Because alternating is fun.

So…to be blunt…

Dear Christian Teens,

Dating is not a sport. It’s not “marital practice”. We should focus on the final goal when we are considering a romantic relationship – marriage – for our hearts are much too precious to be thrown around like bowling balls.

Dear Christian Guys,

Value the modest girls. The ones who care about God’s opinion over yours. Beauty fades. Dignity stays.

Dear Christian Girls,

Value the gentlemen, not the bad boys. Humility and selflessness are to be treasured, not thrown away.

Dear Christian Teens,

Choose to love someone who loves God over you. If your eyes are fixed on others and not God, you won’t find The One God has for you. You will find them by focusing on Him.

Dear Christian Guys,

True beauty comes from the inside out. Not the other way around.

Dear Christian Girls,

Don’t compromise your purity to be loved. Rather, prove that you’re worth it by staying pure.

Dear Christian Teens,

Love your family. Treat them with respect and kindness. How else do you expect to be ready for having a family of your own?

Dear Christian Guys,

Your walk with God is invaluably important; you are to be a spiritual leader. You don’t have to be a pastor, but God calls you to be the head of your family and to lead them in truth. Never compromise that.

Dear Christian Girls,

You are God’s beautiful creation, and not an object. Don’t make people think you are by dressing and acting without decency and dignity. Never forget that who you are is defined by what Christ has done for you, and you do not have to prove anything.

Dear Christian Teens,

God must be the center of your life. If He is not, especially in terms of relationships, your life will not be solidly built. Form your life around your relationship with God, and let Him lead you.

And Christian Teens once more,

Marriage will not always be glamorous like in the movies. It won’t be all butterflies and rainbows. But love, and the most beautiful kind at that, is a love that is committed. Not just when it’s easy, but always.

**

I’m sorry if my thoughts are incoherent.

But I guess what I’m trying to (indirectly) say through these mini-letters is this.

God should ultimately be the one guiding our relationships, not us alone.

We all are precious and valuable, and none of us should ever see others as objects (despite what the culture says).

“Old-fashioned” virtues like modestly, decency, humility, and selflessness are BEAUTIFUL. To be treasured, and valued and appreciated.

When commitment to God and to each other is the center of a romantic relationship, it will be much stronger. Seriously. God isn’t to be put on the back burner, people.

And lastly? Dating and relationships are to be taken seriously. As are our relationships with our families. Because really, the ultimate goal is to raise up families to love God and know Jesus.

We can’t listen to the culture when it comes to such important matters. Marriage is beautiful, people. Not to be corrupted.

We were made for each other, God designed it that way.

So Dear Christian Teens,

Let’s be serious. Let’s focus on God first before others, and treat everyone like Jesus would.

Anybody with me?

*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

A Letter to the Younger Me

Notebook Letter Writing

Lately, I’ve been all over open letters online. I’ve been loving the Dear Future Husband letter thing, letters to Your Future Self, etc. But I decided to take a slightly different path and write a letter to the Younger Me. Basically, I wish I had known these things when I was ten, eleven, twelve, and on. I’ve learned so many little tings in the past few years – and I think it’s important that I share them. So here we are now. A Letter to the Younger Me.

Dear Younger Amanda,

There are some things I wish I could have told you when you were younger, in the midst of life, trying to figure everything out.

Perhaps you would have turned out to be a different person than you are today. But no matter. You’ve lived a short fifteen years at this point in time, and you’ve already learned a lot.

First of all, I want you to know that life is going to be hard. Things are going to happen that will test you. Your heart will get broken no matter where you are in life – by people and all kinds of crazy circumstances. It’s not going to be easy by any stretch, but God will be with you through it all. Trust me on this. You will never ever be alone.

Besides not being alone, you should know something else. Sometimes, life will be really dark. You might feel hopeless, or lost, or drowning. But darling, always remember that the sun will rise, however long the night. You’ll get through whatever happens, because you will not be alone. There is hope, and you must not ever give up.

Dear Younger Amanda, having a lot of friends doesn’t mean much. Being popular doesn’t matter. It’s really okay if you’re not “in” with the “cool kids”. It’s much more important to focus on being a good friend to others and getting to know a few people well. It’s the quality of friends that matter; not the quantity. And you can work on being a quality friend.

Dear Darling, I want you to know that drama really doesn’t matter. It won’t matter who-likes-who in a few years. Don’t even get your heart all tangled up with crushes and drama and silly young-teenage girl things that don’t matter. Your heart is WAY too precious to throw around like a bowling ball. It’s worth it to focus on more important things than relationships at such a young age; don’t worry about marriage. You’ve got plenty of time.

Younger Me, figure out things you love and work on cultivating those things. Don’t be afraid to try new things, make mistakes, and brush yourself off from those embarrassing little mishaps. And keep on trying. God has given you passions for a reason. Don’t give up on things you don’t think you have talent in. (And here’s a hint: in the future, you are going to love to read novels and write like crazy. Don’t give up just because you think you’re not good at it!)

Dear Girl, find people to look up to and get to know them. Amazing people will come into your life, and you’ll feel like the luckiest girl alive. You probably will be. Listen to people older and wiser than you, and learn from them. You are going to be blessed greatly and learn a lot. Don’t forget to thank those people.

Dear Amanda, hard things are going to happen, but look at the big picture. Don’t fret so much. Everything happens for a reason, and you don’t need to worry so much. You’re young and free now; enjoy it.

Even when you feel like you know better, trust your parents. Remember that they were once your age, and they really do know better than you. Amanda, make sure to cultivate a relationship with them. Trust them. Listen. Take advice. And know that they understand the Bible really well, and you can always talk to them.

Dear Younger Me, the most important thing I will tell you is this: READ YOUR BIBLE. You will be thirteen when you really start reading your Bible regularly, and your life will change after that. It’s going to be an amazing ride, so hold on tight, and follow God wherever He leads. It’s crazy, awesome, and totally worth it. And by strengthening your relationship with God by reading your Bible every day (or as best you can) and praying, you will grow so much.

Love,

Your Slightly Older Self

*aj

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