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

Truth From The Psalms

Truth From The Psalms

I love the book of Psalms.

I started reading this book once again on September 1st, and I’ve been doing 3 chapters a day since then. I love to read my Bible in the mornings, because it starts my day off with fresh perspective.

Psalms is honest. When everyone around us makes us feel like we have to be “fine,” we read in the Bible that we don’t have to pretend to be. Feelings are real. Depression is real. Tragedy is real. Despair is real.

And the more I read, the more I realize something.

Being a Christian doesn’t mean that life will be easy, painless, or safe. What it does mean, is that God is with us through the good times and the bad. Hardship will come, but God will be with us through it.

Psalm 34:7-18

“When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears and delivers them out of all their troubles. The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.”

When I read the book of Psalms, I am reminded of a few things.

Feelings are real.

Psalm 43:5

“Why are you cast down, O my soul,

and why are you in turmoil within me?

Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,

my salvation and my God.”

 

Stress, depression, and despair are real. There is absolutely NO denying that. God gave us emotions, and we live in a broken, fallen world. It’s good to feel. At the same time, it’s painful. Emotions shift, life changes, things are unsteady. But there is one thing that does not change.

God’s truth does not change because He does not change.

 

Psalm 9:9

“The Lord is a stronghold for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble.”

 

We can spend time in the Bible and read His truth. We can meditate on His word and learn that He never leaves us. We find out that He is the only one that can satisfy us, and He is the only one that can save us. We know that in spite of our sin, God forgives us and calls us holy. He has saved our souls, which is reason to rejoice.

We don’t need to be consumed by darkness in our lives.

 

Psalm 139:12

“Even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you.”

 

Psalm 30:5

“For his anger is but for a moment,

and his favor is for a lifetime.

Weeping may tarry for the night,

but joy comes with the morning.”

Psalm 23:4

“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”

 

God is greater than the darkness. God is more powerful than tragedy. God lavishes us with love and grace and mercy, and we needn’t worry.

Our lives are in His hands. Tough things will come upon us, but God is always worthy of our trust.

I encourage all of you to take some time this week and read some Psalms. There are so many truths in there that bring comfort to my soul, and so many that push me to keep on going.

*aj

I’m Just Contemplating The World, Among Other Things.

I’m Just Contemplating The World, Among Other Things.

I don’t know what you’d call me. A thinker, perhaps. I think about things on a really big scale sometimes and people look at me like I’m weird when I make analytical and philosophical comments.

Nothing new there.

Anyway…I’m that weird friend that likes to talk about why things are the way they are. The meaning of life, the measure of success…all that jazz.

But I rarely stop there.

When I think, my life gets put into perspective.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about religion.

Usually, “religious” people have a normal life. School. Work. Play. Family. And on top of that, church and spiritual things once a week or so.

But that bothers me. If our lives are so-called “religious,” why isn’t it integrated into our lives?

That’s a question that has been weighing on me lately, as you probably read in my post about Church Camp Christians.

Honestly, though, my thoughts have been going even deeper than that.

These philosophical contemplations hit me at random times.

I few weeks ago, I was sitting around in my own little head (like I do most days), and thinking.

Why is Jesus the only way?

 

Why do I really live the way I do?

 

Why does God deserve my worship?

 

Could I just pick some other religion if I wanted to?

 

Why?

 

And I mean, I do know the answers to those questions.

I realize that I don’t have too much of a choice. This is God’s universe. He created it. He has existed forever and ever.

Now, when I say that I don’t have much of a choice, please don’t take it the wrong way.

It’s just like this.

I either choose to love God and be saved by Him, or I don’t.

I choose His way, or I choose mine.

At first, this might seem unfair. Who put God in charge?

Well, that’s the thing. This is HIS universe. He didn’t have to create us, but He did anyway. He knew we’d rebel against Him, but He created us and loved us anyway. He knew that we would rebel and therefore break our relationship with Him, but He still sent Jesus for us. He still forgives our sin because of His grace. And He deserves our worship because He is God. It’s not really explainable.

God has always existed, and always will exist. Earth is just a smudge in all of eternity.

So, why is Jesus the only way? Well, if there was another way to God, one that was easier, then why would Jesus have come in the first place?

Simple. He wouldn’t’ve. There’s no point in an unnecessary sacrifice.

When I look at the world, my thoughts are provoked.

When I see people walking in the streets. When I see people in stores. When I see people writing books or making movies.

What are they living for?

 

Do they realize that we are made for more than just going through boring old life?

 

Do they realize that God is at the center of the universe? That He is in control? That He wants to have a personal relationship with them, no matter how far gone they are?

 

Do they realize that they’ll never be satisfied until they get to know God for who He is?

 

Just a simple shift in perspective makes me realize that it’s not about me.

It’s not about how good I am, but about how good God is. He loved me, and gave Himself for me.

I don’t live out of guilt, obligation, or drudgery.

I live because I don’t deserve grace. I don’t deserve love. I don’t deserve hope.

And yet, I have been given it. It’s beautiful, really. Inspiring.

If you consider Christianity a religion, then I want my religion to bleed into my everyday life.

No, actually, I want it to take over.

I want my relationship with Jesus to be the thing that I live for. The thing that makes my heart beat. The thing that inspires me.

And you know what?

It sure does.

*aj