It’s Gonna Be Okay

 

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This last week felt like a dip in the deep.

 

And, the Lord’s trying to teach me something about it.

 

 

But, instead of a nice fluffy lesson in the lap of the Father,

I feel like a conditioning coach got a hold of me.

 

And, we’re in preseason.

Eating only healthy things.

Exercising twice a day.

 

 

It’s that feeling after a few long weeks of practice.

Where I know I’m losing fat.

And gaining muscle.

 

But, there’s pain in knowing tomorrow’s conditioning holds pain again.

Such. Pain.

Tomorrow it doesn’t end.

Tomorrow is more conditioning.

Tomorrow doesn’t provide relief here.

 

My coach says,

Stay focused, Ash.

We’re learning something new.

Watch your step.

Don’t trade training for sleep.

 

Do the work.

Go to practice.

Stay the course.

Keep the attention.

 

“We’re doing something here.”

 

I feel like the Lord’s asking me to opt out of coping.

Anything that eases pain.

 

Press in, Ash.

It’s coming.

Relief will come.

Eventually.

 

But, unlike how I’ve led my life until this point, I don’t get to control the relief.

 

I feel triggered.

Most days.

 

He says,

Dig it out.

Deal with it.

Press through.

It’s the only way to get relief.

 

Face the problem.

Face a new one.

Talk about it.

Be direct.

 

Process faster than you do.

Don’t avoid.

Confront.

 

Face the feeling.

Face the past.

Dig deeper.

 

I think we’re working on stamina.

The ability to stay a smudge longer under the pressure.

 

I suppose that’s how stamina’s learned.

Pushing longer, further, faster.

Increasing ability.

Increasing belief.

 

We are more than our self-predicted finish lines.

 

He has more for us.

He has longer, further, faster for us.

 

And he’ll help train us to see what he sees for us.

That finish line we don’t have eyesight for yet.

 

 

 

I think that’s one of my favorite parts about the Lord.

He believes in me more than I do.

He can see past the conditioning and into what will be.

 

I think that’s why he gives us hope.

 

Because he can see the finish line.

And, that means that it’s gonna be okay.

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Disappointment

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This week, I asked the Lord if he could pay for my flight to Thailand.

 

I asked him for $900.

 

I asked him because I wanted to go.

Because I didn’t have the money.

Because I like Thailand.

And because I love some people who are there.

 

When I ask the Lord for something, I try to only ask for things I need.

You know.

Money to pay bills.

Wisdom for situations I’m lost in.

Hope when I see death.

 

I rarely ask for things I want.

 

Because, need is different.

It’s banking that if God doesn’t show up, I’m screwed in some tangible ways.

And, then my big God will have to do big things.

And, nothing’s impossible for him.

 

Want is different.

 

Want is based in the knowledge if I don’t receive what I’m asking for,

I’ll still be okay.

 

I’ll simply be left with the sadness I really l could have done without what I wanted.

 

And, that seems to hurt me more.

Because disappointment is, simply, painful.

 

Frankly, I’ve always considered disappointment an activity for people who were too weak to get what they wanted.

 

I learned at a young age to not get my hopes up.

To ask Santa for only mid-range gifts.

 

Because, let’s face it, something would happen.

And, big gifts are the most unreasonable kinds of gifts.

The easiest to not make space for.

 

If I really wanted something, I learned to keep it quiet.

And hope someone would miraculously read my mind and get it for me.

 

 

Dream.

But, we must be reasonable to our circumstances.

 

For me, to dream is to be disappointed.

To be disappointed is to be in pain.

 

Yet, to not dream is disappointing.

And, it just feels wrong.

Anti-human, almost.

 

In the movie, He’s Just Not That Into You, the main character gets caught up in a disappointing situation. She puts her heart (and lips) on the line and gets rejected from the guy she thinks is in love with her.

As she stumbles away from the situation, she makes this remark to the man who rejects her:

“You may not get hurt…but you have not won. You’re alone. I may do a lot of stupid things, but I’m still a lot closer to love than you are.”

 

That’s the trouble with avoiding disappointment.

We live as fully as our dreams are authentic.

 

And, when I dream halfway, I experience life halfway.

 

This week, I realized I wanted to go to Thailand.

And, this week, I also realized, I can’t go.

 

Now, I’m disappointed.

 

I feel foolish for dreaming.

And for asking the Lord for $900.

 

I also feel pain.

 

Want is excessive.

It’s inefficient.

And, not necessary.

 

Wanting will get my hopes up.

 

But, I’m learning I want my hopes to get as big as my dreams.

Otherwise, I’m living a mid-range life.

 

And, let’s face it, no one really wants that.

 

Work

I question my work. Often.

 

I’m 28.

I work for a non-profit that sends missionaries overseas.

I travel abroad to visit those missionaries in those countries about every other month.

 

I’m unmarried, making enough money to make ends meet.

I’m not investing in my savings account.

I buy clothes when my other ones have holes in them.

And I drive a used car.

 

Am I doing what I’m supposed to be doing?

Because I don’t live a normal life.

 

I hate to admit it, but I’m the kind of person who cares what other people think of me.

I consider how much I’m not living by society’s standard of success.

And, I look at my life and wonder if I’ve made good choices.

 

 

Last week, I ate lunch with the CEO of our non-profit.

We reflected on 2016’s impact on our lives.

 

And, as I was stringing together how challenging work was last year, our CEO began sharing why he does what he does for our organization.

 

Why he fundraises money to work at his own organization.

Why he works with 100 20-somethings who send out thousands of missionaries in over 60 countries.

Why he consistently innovates and pushes the boundaries of what he thinks God has for us this side of heaven.

 

His answer to me was something close to what he said in this Year End Review video for our organization.

If you can, I’d love for you to watch all 2 minutes of it and see why exactly we do what we do.

Adventures Year End Review

 

Happy New Year,

Ashley

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Pride and Prejudice

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Two weeks ago, I was facedown on our shag carpet repenting to God.

I was a whole lot of sorry.

The kind of sorry for who I’d become.

 

As I sat there, all sorry and snotty on our shag carpet, I realized something felt off.

 

That pain.

That sorry feeling.

It actually felt good.

 

Weird.

Humility.

 

My pride was falling.

My ego was drowning.

My soul was breaking.

 

And, it felt good.

 

Awesome.

 

People don’t like to talk about humility.

It’s like we’re all collectively aware humility is good.

But we hope it’s not our turn to learn it again.

 

And, then when we do talk about it, we swap stories about that one time when God humbled us.

Like they’re nightmares where monsters came to play.

 

Things we entirely want to avoid.

 

But, humility isn’t like that at all.

 

It’s used all over the Bible as a reference to something God likes the most.

Check out Proverbs.

Or every other book.

 

They all talk about how awesome it is.

And how it’s God’s favorite thing.

And how people who don’t do it are fools.

 

Cool.

Got it, God.

Humility.

You want it.

 

But, what I’ve found most peculiar about humility lately is it makes everything better.

 

Need a confidence boost?

Humility.

 

Need hope again?

Humility.

 

Need love from God like you’ve never felt before?

Humility.

 

In the last few weeks, I’ve felt more love from the Father than at any other point in my life.

In the last few weeks, I’ve also felt more sorry than I ever have before.

 

Strange.

This tie between love and humility.

 

Final thought.

One of my favorite books is Pride and Prejudice.

 

Maybe I’m just a sap.

But, dang. That literature is good.

 

I read it again last weekend. Again.

The oddest thing happened.

 

All of the sudden I could finally understand why the main character (Elizabeth) has such a tough time at seeing and receiving any of the love thrown at her.

 

You know,

Pride.

 

It’s only the name of the book.

(You can dwell later on how I missed this for a decade.)

 

Elizabeth spends months baffled by the love of a man she cannot understand.

She spends her time frustrated by his advances and perplexed at his affections.

 

Until, that is, she realizes she’s been a fool.

And, has never truly seen him before.

 

That moment—where she’s humbled—is also the moment where she begins to take in love as it exists.

WOOF.

 

Pride is blinding.

We hear it all the time.

 

I never realized Elizabeth was unable to see reality.

I never thought I was blind to my favorite storyline in literature.

I never thought I was blind to Love itself.

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Love and Money

 

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I’m a hopeless romantic.

Have I ever told you that?

 

My favorite tale is where the guy and the girl are best friends.

And they tumble into romance. Accidentally.

 

As if I’m surprised.

 

DUH.

They end up together.

 

Since the month of July took its cue from June, I’ve been wrestling with the fear that there’s not enough for me. Ever.

 

When it comes to good men to date.

And all the good ones are taken.

 

When it comes to food on the table.

And all the best is already eaten.

 

As long as I’ve remembered, I’ve always feared there will never be enough of anything for me.

 

And, if it’s a necessity, I trust it’ll run out just in time for me to be in need.

 

Funny, isn’t it?

 

I live in America.

UH-MUR-UH-KUH.

Homeland of the too-much.

 

Come on, Ash.

Wake up and smell the expensive hipster coffee.

There’s enough for you, doll.

 

This wrestling of mine has included the purge of the soul.

You know, that part where I evaluate my life and wonder where this notion of not-enough got planted along the way.

 

Honestly, I feel like an orphan—scrappin’ and scrapin’ for mine.

Mind you.

Both of my biological parents are alive and well.

We’re in relationship.

Heck, they still send me money to help out.

–I’m no Oliver Twist.

 

But, I sure am acting like one.

All. Day.

 

Working the system to make sure I have enough.

Work.

Work harder.

Make enough to find enough.

 

Strange thing.

I’m currently in a season of fundraising.

You know, the kind where I have to raise thousands of dollars for my organization in order to keep my job come October.

And, I’m coming up short.

 

And, in the midst of being in a deep place of need, I’m feelin’ generous.

I kind of want to blow my bank account.

 

Not on shoes.

Or on a better car.

 

But, on the people around me.

 

I want to give.

 

I want to bless til people get tired of blessings.

And, then I want to give more.

 

Odd.

Getting generous in a season of need.

When I should be scrappin’ and scrapin’ like a pro.

 

And, yet.

I want to be foolish. And generous.

 

I’m confident some people would call me stupid.

Heck, I don’t budget well anyways.

I probably am pretty terrible with money.

 

But, why not?

Why not be generous when I am in need?

Why not help out when I need to be helped out?

 

It sounds backwards.

But, that good gospel is every sorts of backwards.

And, I’m not any good at being forwards, as is.

 

So, that’s what I’m choosing.

 

To be in need.

And to give.

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I feel like I missed the bus to girl-hood.

You know, the field trip where every girl learned how to match clothes, apply blush and flirt for drinks.

 

I was ripping the lace off my socks at 4.

 

I am not good at being a girl.

 

And, so often, I feel like less of a girl for it.

 

Beauty.

That’s for the girls who get asked out on lots of dates.

It’s for Belle. And all the other Disney princesses.

It’s not for Ashley.

 

And, so, for the longest time, I hated anything beautiful.

Because, I believed, I was the furthest thing from it.

 

Here’s the trouble.

Lately, I’ve started to fall in love with beauty.

 

Art.

Poetic lyrics.

Color.

The way the sun dances on my sheets.

 

It’s like my soul slides into rhythm when I see something beautiful.

And my heart catches like sails on a sailboat on a windy day.

And, then I tear up—all because I have encountered beauty.

 

Moments after such occurrences, I usually scoff at my own wanderings.

WHY WOULD I EVER CRY AT BEAUTY?

Who am I?

 

The trouble I’m finding, as I map out beauty, is it’s often most poignant when it plays to its natural character.

 

An apple, as it falls off a tree, is small and precious.

The mountains are rough and cascading.

The green of spring is pushy and young.

 

It’s like the things in nature know all they have is who they are.

They can’t be bigger or smaller if they wished.

They can’t be less terrifying or more palatable.

 

They simply are.

 

And, for it, I’m overcome.

Every time.

 

That’s the trouble with beauty.

It exists in its own form.

Not dolled up.

Covered up.

Or make-uped.

 

It simply is.

 

This is my intersection.

To grasp beauty as I find it in myself.

 

You know, I’ve always loved wearing my hat backwards.

I’ve loved dancing and painting because it makes my soul swim fast.

And, I’ve loved mountains because they’re strong.

 

So, I’m going to keep wearing my backward baseball caps.

I’ll dance and paint and find mountains to melt over.

 

For beauty is.

And, so must I be.

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Light

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This week was rough.

The kind of rough I couldn’t manage or control.

 

 

So, I expected this week to have some sort of happy ending—where the big mess would be cleaned up with a thick paper towel and some 409.

 

I anticipated aching less by Friday afternoon.

Yet, here I sit in the sun—broken by my lack of control.

 

Sunlight.

And, brokenness.

 

They seem like odd friends who would never be invited to the same event.

And, still, I sit here with the two of them, eventing it up.

 

Each morning when I open my eyes for the first time, I usually find the sunlight trickling through the blinds and onto my covers. Often, I turn my body into the light, seeing how much of it I can get on my skin without falling out of bed.

 

In this season, it’s incredibly important to let the light dance on my skin.

 

And, yet, the light feels remarkably heavy, too.

Standing underneath it feels weighty.

I want to both savor the weight and cry out from its density.

 

For me, right now,

I feel like I’m fighting to understand what light does.

What it heals.

What it hurts.

What it kills.

 

I’ve always perceived light as a stop sign—a warning of potential problems if not heeded.

 

But, I think light is more like a trusted friend—one who can both kick my butt and still hold my soul. And, in order to stay friends with light, I have to exchange my dislike of its weighty friendship for a desire to be stronger myself.

 

It seems strange that light could be asking me to come as I am and still get stronger.

 

I am both strong.

And weak.

 

And, somehow, that feels refreshing.

Dear Self,

You amaze me.

You’ve constructed a beautifully strong cage. You’ve locked yourself in it with the keys of self-loathing, control and comparison. You’ve even painted the prison bars black yourself.

You, my friend, are talented at keeping a thing caged.

And, yet, sometimes, you dare to venture outside of those prison bars.

You throw caution to the wind of carelessness and dance on the outside of the cage. You laugh like a bride on her wedding day. You create like the sky in the evening hours. You are full.

You, my sweet sister, are free. And you breathe like you’ve never inhaled.

Your day is here. Your hour is arrived. You, sweet you, is her.

You are the girl you’ve always wished to become. You’re the girl at the party who laughs, not because her drink is strong, but because she is adored. You’re the woman who speaks loudly and against the grain, not because she is lovely, but because she must.

You are her. And you love her.

But, every night, you open your cage and decide that safety is the traces of your remembered past. As you cross the threshold of lies, you enter into a cage whose price is the breath of freedom.

You cough and remember the thinness of prison air. You gasp and take in the darkness of your memory. The lightness of the outside dims.

Daughter, won’t you choose the ground you have danced on? Will you tread on freedom?

Walking Backward or Forward?

Tonight, after a painful hour at the gym, I made space to journal. Quickly, I realized that my heart was more like the Little Mermaid’s collection of “gadgets and gizmos-a-plenty”: stacks of things piled high in the wrong place.

 

I ended up asking myself a question I’ve come around to a few times in my life:

Am I content?

 

My soul feels like it’s in a season of churning.

You know, the kind of season where the Lord is uprooting more than he is planting.

The kind of season where taking rest is more like a quick visit to the bench during a timeout in an intense game.

 

I don’t just feel unsettled.

My soul feels like it’s changing.

 

When I look back on these kinds of seasons of my life, they are, by far, my favorite seasons.

I mean, the pain sure sucks. But, the seasons are so glorious to see in hindsight: the learning, the growth.

 

I love seasons of soul-churning.

 

….when I’m done with them.

 

But, I’m forgetting I’m living a great memory now.

 

When I look back on the fall of 2015, I guarantee you I will thank Jesus for it.

I already know this season is startlingly deep and wildly beautiful.

I can feel it.

 

But, will I choose to believe the season I’m in is as beautiful today–being lived–as it will be tomorrow–remembered?

 

Will I live my life with present, not just hindsight, gratefulness?

 

I sure hope so.

Otherwise, I’m likely to live my life walking backward, looking at the past instead of into my future.

 

And, that doesn’t sound like any fun at all.

From a Single Girl’s Perspective: Weddings

I cry at every wedding.

And, it’s not because I’m still single.

This past weekend, I went to a wedding for a dear friend. She was lovely, the party was great and I sure hope she enjoys that cake stand I got her.

As I drove home after the wedding, nostalgia and sappiness hit me like a Lifetime movie on a lonely Friday night. And, I cried, again, about how beautiful the wedding really was.

And how lovely her dress was.

And about how all the things really were what they were supposed to be.

But, it’s daytime now. I’ve slept a few hours and those tear-stained cheeks have been wiped clean. And, I’m not thinking like a Lifetime movie plot anymore.

From this single girl’s perspective, weddings really aren’t about the kiss, the bride’s dress or how the groom reacts when his girl walks down the aisle.

It can’t be only about that.

If it were, then any bar could be a casual wedding.

So, from my perspective, let’s take away the party, the dancing and the dresses. We’re left with a promise two people are making.

Their decision borders on wild and unattainable.

And it will be all things challenging, lovely and full.

Cue the tears.

And, as I sit in my white chair on the green grass a few feet from the flowers in the bride’s hand, I’m left holding my promise to support their marriage and their decision to choose each other first always.

When I stand in the audience as they exchange vows, what I’m really doing is standing next to two friends who are making a promise to do something big for each other.

Going to their marriage ceremony means I choose to stand with them and behind their decision.

I agree with them how this decision is big.

It’s even bigger than them.

It’s a divine decision impacting generations around them and beyond them.

Because, really, our lives are not small.

People always seem a bit surprised when I make good on my RSVP and travel a few hundred miles for their wedding. I think they wonder why distance didn’t get in the way of a seat at the table of their celebration.

Sure, the food is nice and the decorations are lovely.

And, yeah, I’ll cherish that 10-second conversation that I get to have with the bride.

But, it was never about her dress.

Or how passionate their love is.

Or how far I had to travel.

It’s about some promises that were made. And how I’m willing to stand behind them as they promise to each other.

Maybe I’m nostalgic. Maybe I’m a romantic.

But, maybe I cry at weddings because promises are worth tears.

After all, promises are also worth a lifetime.