Friday, May 26, 2017

Your Best Life

Romans 12 is one of those wonderful, practical chapters of the Bible that I like to read often! I know the post is a bit lengthy, but I thought it most useful to include the Bible verses that I am talking about. 



Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will (verses 1-2).

What does it mean to offer your bodies as living sacrifices? Under the law of Moses, the animals offered as sacrifices were completely burned up, or consumed, with fire. I think that being a LIVING sacrifice means to be consumed with your calling. It's up to you to ask yourself-- am I one-hundred percent dedicated to God? Does my life line up with His will? Are there areas of my life that I know are displeasing to God but I'd prefer to ignore?

For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function,  so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.  We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith;  if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully (verses 5-8).

A necessary trait in discipleship is humility. Without it, it is quite difficult, if not impossible, to show love to God and to our neighbor. It often comes natural to humans to look down on those who appear "weaker" or less capable. We must catch ourselves and realize that this kind of thinking is completely out of line with God's thinking. Each of us has different gifts, different strengths, different weaknesses. We must not call gifts that are different than ours bad. While not everyone may be living up to their gifts, it is not our job to judge, but to encourage the members of the church. As for us, we are responsible for doing our gifts to the BEST of our abilities.

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.
Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary:
“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;

    if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.

In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good (verses 9-21).

Are there any more practical verses in the Bible? Paul lays out discipleship in 10 simple verses. But as we know, it's not so simple. True discipleship does not come easily, it does not come naturally, and it certainly does not come without God's help. I wish I could give you the 5 Steps to Perfect Discipleship, but I'm not nearly there myself. As Jesus says, it's easy to love the one who loves you back. It's not so easy to love the one who hurts you, who does evil to you. That is "agape"-- self-sacrificial love. It is a love that is only attained when we love people not because they DESERVE love, but because God has instructed us to love. 

We love because He first loved us.

It cannot come from our own strength, but when we choose to "cling to what is good." When we do so, God finds us and He gives us strength. He knows that we cannot live a life fulfilled without loving others. We are instructed to go out and DO and LOVE. Your best life is lived in the service of others. Become less obsessed with your needs and desires and find joy.

When you put others first, you are in the best place you can be. You are in His arms. He knows our hearts-- surrender to His instructions and find yourself fulfilled, overcome with His love, overflowing with joy

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

When God Calls Us

Here am I, send me!

The cry of Isaiah, the prophet of God, when God asks someone to deliver a message to Israel.

The thing is, that wasn't an easy message to deliver. It was an unpleasant message and wouldn't have been a fun task. The people who heard him would have probably greatly resented him. 

Isaiah's words are the words that should come from our mouth when we are called, no matter where. God won't call me to the same place that He calls you. It might be crazy hard, but if God has called us there, He will lead us through.

Sometimes God calls us to do hard things, things we never imagine we could do. It may be so far out of our comfort zone. Like Moses, when God called him to lead the children of Israel. Moses didn't believe he could do it. He didn't want to lead that many people. But he did it anyway and God walked him through every step.

If God calls us and we follow, He WILL lead us. That doesn't mean that every step forward won't be hard, but we'll be able to do it. We might squirm a little on the way, but if it was easy, then it wouldn't really be pushing us. God pushes us so that we learn obedience.

When I think on some of the things God has called me to do, it's been so worth it. Sure, they made me stick out like a sore thumb because everyone was doing something else. You have to flounder a little bit sometimes. But in the end, it's been just what I needed to be doing. 

And there is always more. When we are finished with one thing God has called us to, there will be another. But I hope that when God calls me, the cry of my heart will always be, "Here am I, send me!"

I hope you find the courage to go where God calls you! 

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Finding Gratitude

My blog name, Pure Joy, comes from a Bible verse that says to consider everything, even trials, pure joy. 

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance (James 1:2-3).


It's hard to be joyful when you aren't grateful. I've become much more intentional about being grateful in my life these last few months and years. It's funny, because I went on a hike the other day and I thought to myself, I will never stop noticing how beautiful creation is. 

And it's so true. EVERY time I go outside or on a hike or a run, I notice the little things. The wild grass blowing in the wind, the clovers, the artful shape of a tree branch. These things are never lost on me. 

Yet, with other areas of my life, it's so much harder for me to find gratitude. Why is that? I can't really say, but it's something I am acknowledging in an attempt to change. Really, it's not good enough to have gratitude for some things. I need to be grateful for everything, not just creation. I need to be thankful for my house, even when it's not cleaned. My clothes, even when they are old and not so stylish. My long hours at work, because I'm learning a lot. 



I often find it much easier to be aware of the big things I'm thankful for (my health, my family, my faith). It's wonderful to be aware of these things, but I also think it's important to acknowledge all the little things that make up your life. I hope you will join me today in stepping back from it all and finding gratitude.  

Friday, May 12, 2017

Following Jesus



In theory, following Jesus is quite easy. He sums up everything he wants us to do in one simple command,

Love God, Love others.

It sounds simple. In fact, it's pretty easy to love God because He is so good. He has given me life and health and created the world. Because I'm so thankful to God, it's not hard for me to feel love for Him. But the way God tells us to show love for Him is to love others. 

Loving others, now that is a little bit harder. Loving people gets messy. Loving people is easy when those people are nice to me. It gets tricky when those people who I am supposed to love (everyone!) are hateful, rude, and just plain unloving. How do I love someone who treats me horribly? How do I love someone I don't even know? How do I love someone I don't even like? 

Jesus hasn't called us to be like everyone else, though. He hasn't called us to only do what we feel like doing or love who we feel like loving. He has called us to love 

Following Jesus doesn't mean that life will always be easy. We are told that we will be blessed for following him, but we are also told that sometimes we will go through trials. Some definitely go through more trials than others. It doesn't seem fair to us and I don't know the answer why. 

Yet, there is such beauty in following Jesus. My life is so full from following Jesus. There are times that it is hard. Sometimes I'd rather not show love. Often, I fail at showing love. But the wonderful news is that following Jesus means that Jesus will help to carry my burdens. What a comfort it is to know that in the hard times, I have someone SO much greater to watch over me. 

I hope you remember that enormous blessing that comes with following Jesus. Have a joy-filled weekend, friends. 

P.S. You can read another post I wrote about following God here

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

The Race Always Hurts.

In 2010, one of my best friends asked me if I wanted to participate in a mud run. This mud run was 3 miles and I'd never run 3 miles in my life! In fact, I felt like throwing up from running more than a few minutes. I did exercise often, but I was definitely not a runner.

That summer, I ran every day of the week with my mom, until we were able to run 4 miles. Over the next 7 years, I have run a couple 5Ks, a couple 10Ks, and 3 half marathons. I will never be a fast runner (in fact I am a s.l.o.w. runner), but I always finish the race.

I am now training for my 4th half marathon this summer! For us non-runners, training is SUPER important. I found out that not training well can really break me. Are you a novice runner or looking to train for your first run? Here are some tips that have REALLY helped me!



1. Using a training plan. I use Hal Higdon's training plan for novices. I found that I can adjust it to be 12 to 14 weeks long, so that I can be as prepared as possible. Be careful not to train too long though, or your body might get burned out.

2. Make sure you are strengthening your body... your legs are especially important but so is your core! Strengthening your muscles helps them to endure through all the torture (-; It's important to incorporate strengthening and stretching into your workouts. 

3. If you are running more than an hour, make sure you bring along water and some sort of supplement. I use this handheld water bottle (as long as there are places to refill along the way). I always use raisins as my supplement (I eat a handful every 20 minutes of a run longer than 1 hour). There are many supplements out there, but make sure you don't switch them up on the day of your race.

4. Find something to listen to that motivates you. For me, this is podcasts. I'm loving the follow-up to Serial, Undisclosed, or the Jamie Ivey podcasts.

5. Pay attention to the course! My first 1/2 marathon, I dragged two of my friends along. I was so excited to find a nice trail run... which turned out to be the worst mistake ever. This trail run was SO hilly that I thought I was going to keel over. I had been running flat courses for training, so I was not prepared at all. If you are doing a hilly run, make sure you train for it!

6. End your long runs with a recovery food! For me, this is often just a chocolate milk, but there are all kinds of post-workout recovery foods. 

What are your best tips for running a race? I'd love to hear!! 

Friday, May 5, 2017

Spring Party Planning

Happy Friday! This April was my mother's birthday and we decided to try to make it extra special by having a surprise party. It turned out to be quite fun and tasty so here are a few tips for spring parties.



Decorations:

I got pretty much all my decorations at Target, either in the decoration section or the dollar spot. I found pretty white luminaries, a cute banner, striped straws, flowered plates and gold napkins. Luckily, my friend Bekka had saved up lots of glass frappucino jars, which made adorable drinking glasses. The party was at my mom's house, so I used a lot of her pretty china to put out the food.

Food:


I didn't have a "theme" with the food because I wanted to pick lots of foods my mom would like.

Pimento cheese sandwiches: You can buy Pimento spread at the grocery store! Make sure to use white bread with the crusts cuff off for the perfect tea party style.



Paleo Thai meatballs: These were yummy and easy to make! However, mine did not turn out nearly as pretty as these pictures!

BLTA wraps: My mom lettuce wraps, which is why I chose these! They were easy to make and tasty to eat. The recipe made a lot, so this is a good one for a crowd.



Sushi: You can't go wrong ordering sushi rolls!

Tomato bisque soup: From Safeway, this soup is thick and creamy!


Cucumber mint fizz: I chose these pretty drink because my mom loves cucumber and mint. I personally didn't like the drink all that much, but hopefully most did. Here are a few other drinks to try instead.



Party punch: I can't find the exact one we used, but this one is very similar!

Lemon tarts: Only two ingredients! Lemon curd can be found in a jar with the jams.


Mini pineapple upside down cake: Only the best dessert ever!! These are a little messy to make, but they are SO good.
.....

The day of the party was almost ruined when my siblings missed their flight, but it all turned out okay! We managed to surprise my mom big time and we had a great evening of food, chatting, and games with friends.

Are you having a party soon? What are your best party ideas?

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Welcome, May!

We are one quarter of the way through 2017! This year has been so good to me this far. I feel like I am busy but happy most of the time. I'm even accomplishing some goals I've set for myself! Here's a recap of some of my favorite times from 2017 so far, as told by photos. 

 

Our church hosted a fabulous young people's gathering back in February. I had a great time with friends and with 7 girls crammed into my 600 square foot home! It culminated with Melissa choosing to get baptized!


Bekka and I had such a great time at our first folk dancing performance. Our costumes were a little embarrassing but it's such a fun activity! Every week, we attend dance lessons that are given by a couple in their 80s (wow!) 


 More fantastic news! Colton (my youngest brother) also made the decision to get baptized. We had a fun ski weekend with our friends. I must say, skiing is not for me.


Daniel and I headed down to southern California with friends. I went to Balboa island and got to witness the baptism of my friend Lauren. These are some of my dear sisters and friends.


Birthdays with my BFF are the most fun. We celebrated by going out to dinner, where we were absolutely pampered by our waiter! I got a yummy pizza (mmm... I'm so hungry!). We finished off the celebrations with hot tub time, dancing, and a sleepover. Love my girl time!!


As you probably know, I started my Etsy shop, Stitched with Pure Joy, where I sell handmade embroidery creations. This is one of my favorites, a labor of love by my friend Jess and I. What would you like to see on embroidery?


I'm also super thrilled to fulfill my dream of hosting an online book club. It combines my most favorite things: blogging, reading, inspiration, and friends. I hope you will join for May! 


Here I am getting baby love from my little buddy. Daniel and I hitched a ride with Justin to LA for the weekend. We visited our friends Holly and Forrest, as well as attended a wedding.


At the wedding, wearing our very best (aka my little brother and sister's clothes). I love this guy!!



A friend who is dear to my heart! Enjoyed getting pampered and having girl talk. 


I posted this picture, reveling in the little beauties of the earth. Who would have thought that grass and clovers could be so pretty, but they are!


Here's a great photo of my little bro, who will be super mad if he ever sees this! I guess we shall see if he ever reads my blog... (-; A few weeks ago, he bought the favorite foods of everyone in my family (sushi, pizza, Chinese food, etc) and had a dinner for all of us. It was so much fun to all eat together, play games, read the Bible and sing together! I wish I had a picture. 


I'm so mad that I didn't get any "people" pictures of my mom's surprise birthday party. This is a picture of the food all set up. It was so fun to plan it and surprise my mom! I'll be sharing more about the party with recipes on Friday.

What have been your best times in 2017 so far? I'd love to hear!