Truth [In Love]

As Christians we are encouraged, to speak truth in love… but what does that mean?

My baseline to start this discussion lies in Matthew 22. As the Pharisees were testing Jesus and trying to trip him up so to speak, they asked [vs 36]”Teacher, which is the greatest command of the law?” Jesus said to them [vs 37-40], ‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”

So let’s see, baseline, – #1… LOVE GOD and #2… LOVE OTHERS.  Seems simple enough. I wish I understood why in the name of Jesus (not in the slang way, but in the literal way of using Jesus as the reason) do people feel free to hate? Or condemn? Or judge? Or rationalize what can be called nothing other than ‘bullying’? I just don’t know, but it makes me incredibly sad. 😦 And I can’t claim to explain something I have no idea about.

God is a God of love, not of hate. Now, don’t misunderstand me – I am not saying God loves sin and accepts any form of unrighteousness. God is holy as the highest attribute of His personality. I am saying God loves His children, the ones sinning openly and secretly. The ones blatantly walking bold face away from Him and the ones on their faces in reverence to Him. He died for all our sins… ALL OUR SINS! While we were yet sinners! [Romans 5:8]

He died for me, in love.  He died for you, in love.  He died for the adulterer, the thief, the addict, the fornicator, the slanderer, the transgender and the homosexual. For the person whose sin is worn all over the outside of them and the ones silently hiding them deep in their souls. For everyone that looks like you and the ones that resemble nothing of familiarity. Jesus died on the cross for all of them. And for anyone who hasn’t accepted the redeeming grace of salvation, my heart breaks wide open that first I know they will spend eternity separated from God, but also that someone inside the fold might be turning them from Jesus with their harsh (however well intended) delivering of the gospel. Someone so firm on the topic of sin, they forget the child of God who is the sinner. Someone who is so removed perhaps they forgot they were a sinner too.

You see love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, self-control were given to us through a relationship with Jesus.[Galatians 5:22-23] This humbleness of the spirit in the face of our salvation, not pride, comes through a genuine experience with the Lord.

As for addressing the truth of Jesus [in love] with a lost or wayward world, let’s look at what Jesus did with the adulterous woman in the book of John. When presented with the adulterous woman by the Pharisees, Jesus told the crowd “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.” [John 8:7]  Jesus addressed first the religious – the churched – the “Christians” (today). He was telling me and you, whomever of us is without sin or issue or hangup or problem, let us throw the first stone. (Newsflash – I ain’t picking up any stone!)

I may not have outward blatant “political hot-button” types of sin, but I am surely nowhere near being without sin. Maybe I don’t wear my sins out in the open. Maybe I don’t have the “hurl stone” types of sin as the adulterous woman caught in the act – the kind that gets condemning looks or heated debates. Yet, I sin and I hope to always be the one to stand up first and tell you I am a sinner.  My heart is daily being molded and shaped in hopes of growing a tiny bit closer to God. Picking up that stone to cast requires I take a long and honest look inside of me before I decide to step in someone else’s sin.

Jesus left the adulterous woman in kindness, she was led by the tender grace of Jesus. He did not condemn her. He said, “go and sin no more”. [John 8:11]  He loved her, lead her, guided her and directed her. In grace and mercy. Oh – the freedom!!

So, do we just love everyone and smile and ignore sin? No. I would that is not really love, but merely being polite. But first, before you can ever go forward in loving for the sake of truth, are you willing to truly love in a face down abandoned love for Jesus kind of love?

Love that allows the truth to be spoken, happens over time.  It’s getting to know people, and welcoming them wherever they are.  Love has coffee and lunch and brings someone into your home for dinner. Love shared stories of my life and listens intently to the stories of yours. Love talks. Love listens. Love is silently just being there. Love holds hands when a heart is broken and makes a meal when someone is sick. Love cheers together at little league games and sweats together at the gym. Love steps so far outside the boundaries of church and bible study and retreats and gets into life. Together. Love bypasses fear and conditions and expectations.

Then, where does the truth come in?  For me, by the means of sharing my life, my time and my heart, I share my Jesus. It is not always a 5 step tract or a carefully scripted presentation of the gospel or Romans Road discussion. (Those are so important and if you don’t know how to share your faith, I strongly encourage you to get prepared for when God calls you to that command.) My prayer remains, may my life share my Jesus, may someone’s burden be easier and may they come to know Jesus through knowing what Jesus has miraculously done for me. Through a softened heart, they will hear the call of Jesus to convict their sin. Their convictions are not mine to give.

You see The Truth comes smack dab in the middle of The Love.

In His grip.  Ashlee

Pray with me: Dear heavenly Father-God, Thank you for loving us first so that we may have the capacity to love. Thank you for giving your son, Jesus, even while we were still sinners.  Give us humility of spirit to show love in all situations.  Give us wisdom and discernment to speak truth in words when applicable and always to show truth in our deeds fleshing out your incomprehensible love.  Teach us that we don’t have to condemn when we don’t condone.  Put people in our path and make us salt and light in the world for you and may we strive to continually love because we were first loved by you.  We ask in Jesus name, Amen.

The “other woman”…

There are so many things in this life that we have to share. If you have siblings, you share your parents, your toys, your cars and well, basically everything.  In a general sense we all share the planet with the rest of human kind. I can’t think of anyone who could say they don’t have to share. But there is one thing you never expect to share – motherhood. In the sense that you are the only mom your child has.

Since a very young age (in the kids life and in mine) I’ve shared my babies with her.  The “other woman” in our life has been their step-mom. It would be a glorious thing to write we have always gotten this relationship right – we have not. Yet, 15+ years of working and trying and fighting and crying and trying some more and never giving up because loving our kids is forever our top priority, we have survived.  And we are better for it. The kids are better from it. I am better. Because of her.

God has grown me so much since she and I first met. My marriage had failed and I was still a selfish child, fearfully holding on tightly to my ranks as THE mom. Oh, praise the Lord, y’all, for the grace this woman has shown me! The closer I have gotten to God, the more I have realized the beauty and blessings that can completely come in our brokenness. No, divorce is not the plan God has for us. Yet, finding myself in the aftermath, I learned turning over a wrecked life to surrendered obedience in Jesus…. healing comes. Messages from our messes and witness from our worst days, right? When I stopped looking around at what I could hold tightly to and opened my hands saying to the Lord – “this is yours, use it”, I became so keenly aware of what we actually had been blessed with.

There has never been a time I was alone in those most fearful moments of mothering.  Belinda was always there, loving OUR kids as much as any mom would. When I need to brag on the kids, hers is usually the first phone to ring. When prayers are lifted, so many times it is her hand I am holding. Through bruises and breaks, boyfriends and proms, hospital stays and scary surgeries, band concerts and homecomings, graduations and like this weekend at Clarke’s sorority parent weekend at college… She has walked the journey every step by my side.

Tonight as I watched her sweet soul cry tears over being honored in the Mother’s Pinning ritual, I was newly touched by what she has given us. My children are her children. No questions asked – no love withheld. They are hers and she is theirs. And she is mine too….My friend.

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Me and B reppin’ our ZTA mother’s pins.

This is normal for us. 15+ years, we have done it together. All four of us really – two moms and two dads.  Just this evening my husband made a comment referring to another young woman, “Oh, she only has two parents.” It was said so casually, but struck me as totally appropriate for our lives. He meant a reference to how many seats to save, yet their was an air of sadness brought to my mind. Kinda like “poor child, she ONLY has two.” Of course, it truly is all what you think and how blessed you choose to see yourselves. Co-parenting/blended-parenting (whatever you want to call it) isn’t always rose gardens, but neither is parenting with your spouse.  Four brains are better than two, right?!

And ultimately the simple fact is this: God calls us to love one another, as he loved us, we love each other. People will know we are His disciples by how we love one another. [John 13:34-35] And really there is no part of this command that says… Unless you find yourself in a blended family, then you are off the hook.  The command is pretty clear -Love, like Jesus, so people can know Jesus. No better place to start than at home.

I am not saying every situation allows itself to work like ours. Some wounds are just too deep or abuse has been involved or continues. I am simply saying what has worked for us, what lessons I have learned and how God has changed my heart. My prayer is the same for you in your situation, be it like ours or totally different. God’s hand is on you and His word is always true, His promises never returning void.

In my life, in my family’s life, I thank God for this other woman… She has been a rock, a strong fiber in our family fabric and simply a blessing greater than words. So, here’s to our version of normal and all the wonderful parenting we have yet to do.

In His Grip, Ashlee

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Gerald, Ashlee, Clarke, Clay, Belinda

Unloveables

Like the kid that jumps on the elevator and pushes every button from 2nd floor to 92nd, people can really push my emotional buttons.  It would be so much easier to react negatively, but as a Christian I’m not called to live in the flesh, but to allow the Holy Spirit to reside and react within me.  Yeah ok, easy peasy?!?  **insert eye roll**

I can very specifically remember the last time I seriously flew off the handle with someone.  It has been years (praise God for His help!) and I to this day remember the feeling I had.  Almost as soon as the moment was gone, I knew I had to call that person asking their forgiveness.  The worst part was it was in front of my daughter and one of her friends. (Godly Mom of the Year material, right?)  I pray something was learned in my humility and apology which the girls were also a witness to. I thank God this woman was a little more mature in her walk and extended an enormous amount of grace and mercy in this situation. Oh what a lesson I learned. (maybe in this situation – I was the difficult one?!)

Just like everything we encounter in our lives, there is an answer in the word of God.  You don’t have to look very far to learn Jesus is pretty clear on how we are to deal with the difficult, unloveables in our lives. In the Sermon on the Mount, He says “But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you” [Luke 6:27-31] We are not called to get even or play the ‘one-up’ games.  Jesus is really clear in that we are not to repay evil with evil or insult with insult. Yet, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing. [1 Peter 3:9].

In today’s day of “don’t let anyone get anything over on you”, these concepts are foreign. I can’t say they come easy. And I surely still get angry at people, especially when I see a friend or loved one getting hurt. To be perfectly clear, I’m not talking about righteous anger – there is a place for that too and perhaps we can address in another post. This topic is the fleshly sassy pants nature we tend to have when things aren’t going just as we want. For example; My mama bear instincts still burn up my heart with evil “let me tell them a thing or two” thoughts. However since God’s Spirit lives in me, I don’t get to do and say whatever I want. I am called to submit to God, committed to His Spirit no matter how I feel about it. OUCH!

Since God is like pretty smart and totally sovereign and junk – His promises bring the greatest rewards. When we learn to submit to God, we can see ourselves more easily submitting to others, even those who are not so kind. By reacting with a Holy Spirit perspective, you are setting yourself apart and different. You are creating an impact and influence in the world around you. People, maybe even only one, are watching you and you could be the only bible they have ever read.

The reward – we must set ourselves apart for the purpose of sharing the gospel. In word AND in deed. Be different, so people want to know why. Then when they ask, tell them Jesus.

Pray with me: Dear Father God, thank you for loving me. Thank you for giving me a passionate heart and for the fires that you know burn in me. And thank you for helping tame those fires from being destructive, but directing my fiery spirit toward a passion for the lost and dying world. Let someone, if even just one, ask what’s different so that I can tell them Jesus. For it is in Jesus’ name, I get to talk to you at all. Through his blood, you saved me and I love you so much God. Thank you for saving me, for changing me and continuing to work in me.  In Jesus’ name, I pray.  Amen

In His Grip,  Ashlee.

God, I’m still scared.

I’ve gone through things in my life that have made my faith grow in crazy ways. Situations that have shown me without a doubt God is so incredibly real and I have stacked my stones in a memorial of God’s greatness in my life. I study my bible and daily live intentionally so to never get over what God has done. I believe every single promise in His word, confident all scripture was God breathed. [2 Tim 3:16-17]

So… why am I still scared?

I’m completely coming clean and being extremely transparent with you – my friends. Which also is an extremely vulnerable place to be, so I hope you are reading with an ear of grace and a mind of mercy.  And maybe, just maybe, you are in the same place and together we can glean wisdom and step forward together.

What makes me fearful? I get scared when I can’t box things into a neat little package with perfect little answers.  Even when I don’t love the answers, when the answers are actually quite difficult, at least I KNOW the answers. When I know what I am dealing with, I can manage through. I’m an analytical, bullet-pointed steps, action item kinda chick. Give me an issue, and I’ll have a list of how to correct it. (Probably even document a standard operating procedure. ugh, feel free to roll your eyes – it’s annoying to me too.) My mind works that way and however much that has benefited me career wise, I fully believe that is not where God sees my strengths.

In fact, this is precisely the area God has chosen to work on me deeply. There are many places I have felt were healed and scars were beginning to fade, then the wounds were as fresh as yesterday’s blood. Just when I think I am making progress, the old fears jump up.

Just this week, it happened. The unknown scared me. Old wounds opened.

I would love to write about how incredibly spiritual I reacted and how I immediately went to God in prayer over my fears. I did go to God, though a brief time period of my own fleshy tantrum ensued first. I feel I let God down because I didn’t. Fortunately His love is unconditional.  Grace and mercies anew – hallelujah.

My tantrums aren’t as long as they once were. Yet, why live even a moment outside the covering of God???  How can I forget the days of my life when I had absolutely no control and God sustain me with inexplicable peace and comfort? Even for a moment, I tend to forget. Shame on me. The times I have crawled up in my Father God’s lap and let Him hold me, content only in His sovereignty – those are the best memories of my faith journey. Of no coincidence, those are the most challenging times of my earthly walk.  He did not fail me. He had it under control without my PowerPoint presentation or bullet points or actionable timelines.

Father, forgive me.

Like the father with the demonic son who cried out in Mark, “I believe; help my unbelief” [Mark 9:24], this is my prayer. I believe and need Him continually to battle my unbelief when I get caught up in myself. I ask for His patience. I weep sorrowful before Him. I imagine him patting my head saying “there,there… now you are back where you belong.” (oh such GRACE our Father has.)  Without God I am unable to do anything. I need to constantly and continually rely on Him and His ways and His promises.  My plan is nothing and His plan is everything.

Fear is not from God and not of God. We don’t need to be scared anymore, just lean into Him. Yet, He understands our struggle. He is ever-present in our time of need and unflappable as we seek His Holy Spirit power to overcome.

Pray with me:  Dear Father God,  Help me when I am scared to remember your sovereignty. Strengthen my human fallen person to focus constantly on you, the author and perfecter of my faith. Please sustain it, strengthen it and continually deepen it. Don’t let my faith fail.  May it be the power of my life, so that in everything I do you get the glory as the great Giver. Bless, cover, protect and strengthen all who struggle with any fear as well.  It is only in your son, Jesus’, name do we have any right to make these requests.  Amen 

In His Grip.  Ashlee

When enthusiasm appears to be panic.

Spoiler Alert – this is really just a funny story of me being “that” mom. (insert eye roll and hilarious laughy emoticons)

Back story… the oldest, Clay (aka Claybo – well, to me-ONLY known as Claybo), was traveling back from Daytona Beach where he had been competing with his college cheer team. This is the first year I haven’t gone – his third year of going. He’s all cool and a junior in college and even though he’s the closest kid in geographic proximity to home now, we see him not nearly enough.  He’s the first-born, the oldest boy and well… I get pretty googly-eyed over him.  Moms – back me up!

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Claybo’s 21st Birthday – March 2016

To get home they have to travel right around our area on the bypass.  When he texted me they had gotten off the interstate on the bypass exit, naturally I got the bright idea to drive as fast as I could from where I was to sit on the side of the bypass and wave.  I mean, of course who wouldn’t do this?  Making a straight scene of myself for my kids has never been an issue, so I immediately thought I had a grand idea!!  (My husband was in tow however unenthusiastic. He’s probably learned balking these ideas is futile.)  It could have only been a better idea had I been prepared with life-sized posters of Claybo’s face in a total uber fan cheer fashion.  (I’ll have to consider being prepared for any next time that opportunity just might “pop up”.)

I got there just in time!! The bus came by and I waved like a ridiculous groupie on the side of the road and the eldest boy child found it funny and sweet and cute. Yes, he was cut from the same mold as his silly mom and a self-proclaimed “mama’s boy”.  All was excellently perfect in the world on a Sunday afternoon. My favorite day of the week was complete with a glimpse of my man-child and his friends.

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Look at these beautiful young people – the whole road should have stopped in reverence honestly. 

THEN — (This is where ‘funny because I’m a goober for my kids’ turns into just plain ole, can’t argue with it, that junk is FUNNY.)

I get in my car, all happy with myself and my glimpse of the baby and I notice a car pulled over in front of me about 50 yards.  And next emerges two young men from said car. Then they are are SPRINTING toward me!!  In a matter of as long as it took me to look at my husband who was shaking his head, I processed “OH MY – these guys think I need help!”

I started creeping toward them in a car that obviously required no help. I asked my husband to get out and tell them I was fine to which he replied “nope – you tell them.” I am sure in his mind he was thinking “You explain you had to wave at your baby.” He was laughing, but that laughing at you not with you kind of laugh.

As my car started moving and they slowed their sprint, I imagine they might have been wondering “whatha?!”  They got within 15 feet and I stopped, opened the door and through near hysterical laughter (because I found the whole thing pretty stinkin hilarious) I said, “Do y’all think I need help?”  Then replied, “Yes ma’am, you were waving someone down.” (translate – you were waving like a crazy women who needed help.)  The rest of the conversation went like this… “Oh my gosh, THANK YOU! #1 – you are precious and your mama raised you right! #2 – I was just waving at the GCSU bus that just drove past because my son was on it with his team.”  (they were laughing politely)  I continued, “But again y’all are simply adorable and I can’t thank you enough. You are good boys!! Really thank you.  Precious. Seriously just precious y’all.”

They shrugged, probably knowing their dear mama would stop on the side of the road and wave like a mad woman too, and jogged back to their dark colored Pathfinder with Fulton County plates.  As they left, I noticed a Theta Chi frat shirt, probably from GCSU or UGA – the bypass leads to both schools.   So, to the Fulton county mama’s and the men of Theta Chi.  I thank you – you are doing something right. Those young men were doing their best to be the hands and feet of Jesus to this crazy mama.  God Bless you and them!

Y’all, My kids wreck me. All four of them. I love them with a stupid crazy love and I pray daily they know there is no level of comic calamity I wouldn’t do for them.  They are forever my babies.

And I will stand on the side of a highway and wave with all levels of enthusiasm appearing frantic screaming “THAT’s MY BABY!!!” again and again as long as the Lord blesses my life with babies to wave at and scream about.

Yep – real story. It was yesterday.  🙂

In His grip – Ashlee

When God has you wait.

Just like we have to wait all winter for the newness of spring colors show of life peaking through, our lives have seasons of winter too.  These seasons of waiting take on many forms and create various levels of emotions in our lives.

Maybe you are waiting for God to show you the career he intends you to follow.

Maybe you are waiting for the man God intends you to spend you life with.

Maybe you are waiting for a wayward child to find their way back to the Lord.

Maybe you are waiting for an illness to cure, a friend to forgive, a freedom from addiction…   You wait. Sometimes patiently, sometimes not. You wait.

For me – a significant waiting seasons was spent praying for my husband’s salvation. I’d like to tell you I was completely submitted to God’s will for my life when I met my man, but I was not. I knew early on we were not equally yoked. (“Don’t team up with those who are unbelievers. How can righteousness be a partner with wickedness? How can light live with darkness?” 2 Corinthians 6:14)

I was blinded by his adorable smile (he’s still a cutie!!) and the pure goodness he was as a person. He is that one-in-a-million type of good guy. There is not a person he wouldn’t help, giving anything he had for someone else.  He has a heart of gold and deeply desires to care for his family and has always put a priority on making me happy.  However, good people do not guarantee salvation, ok?  And knowing good doesn’t equal Godly, I stayed. (Who wouldn’t – he was a great catch!)   In retrospect, I know this was biblically disobedient. I would warn my daughters and friends against the path of a non-Christian partner today.  Yet, this is our story and it is our history.  I do not think God was surprised.

All the lessons learned, the joys and the pains along the way could fill this blog for years, but this specific season of waiting example came when my prayers became so focused on my husband’s salvation.  I knew he would not be in eternity with me.  There were early years, I did not let this weigh daily on my soul. Then, about ten years ago, the heart-break for his soul seemingly became unbearable.  My yearning for him to know Jesus became a constant desire of my heart.

Believing this was a pure prayer, a God honoring prayer, surely God would draw my sweet husband to him, right?  I mean, saved souls is God’s plan too right?  I finally decided to fight the fight WITH God, no doubt He would quickly comply??   (insert sarcasm) God’s plans are infinitely better than mine and He surely did not need me to align for Him to work.

My prayers did not cease and my husband drew further from the Lord. (Do what? Right?) Months became years. Years became nearly a decade.  I won’t lie telling you I faithfully never doubted. My heart became exasperated, but I kept praying. I wonder if days I prayed with the right heart attitude. In fact, I know I didn’t. I gave up sometimes too.  Not giving up on God, but giving up on my dreams. Complacent even some days. So thankful for a Lord who knew me so well, He knew my struggle and was so completely full of grace in those moments.  Grace upon grace upon grace, y’all.

Early 2015, brokenhearted, my prayers seeking a shared faith with my husband became submissive to the will of God. “Give me peace in this Lord.”  When you don’t know what to do anymore, do what you know to do. WISE WORDS!  I stopped trying to force my agenda (however holy I thought it was) and released complete control to God. “Do what you will God, I am yours. As is he.”

Soon, also in 2015, the Lord saw fit to get my husband’s attention. Drastically.

I wouldn’t change a thing about the journey.  The dark season brought forth God’s bright flowers.  My husband has given his life to the Lord and lives daily walking with Jesus.  Praise God. “When the time is right, I, the Lord, will make it happen.” [Isaiah 60:22]  AMEN!

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March 29, 2015

Nearly a decade, the Lord had me wait. The truth is, what God does IN us while we wait is as important as what we are waiting for. I am better for the time God had me wait, the years He was molding me. Oh, the testimony now to share.

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Whatever you are praying for and however the Lord has you waiting, please don’t give up. Then when you are frustrated, tell God. There is nothing His shoulders can’t hold and I promise you will not surprise Him. He knows our thoughts before we do. And He loves us anyway – hallelujah!

Pray with me:  Heavenly Father, thank you for the seasons that you would have us wait.  Your plan for our lives is so much better than we would ever know of our paths. Thank you for taking whatever mess we have in our lives and making it a message in whatever time you see fit.  Give courage and strength to keep going for those in the middle of the waiting season. Renew their faith in the glorious spring flowers of your plan. We love you Lord and desire deeply to walk in accordance with your will always.  In your son’s name we pray.  Amen. 

In his grip, Ashlee.

 

 

Steps of faith

Every year I set goals. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. I tend to have high hopes and poor follow through. I love dreaming and planning big… what can I say? This year I prayerfully considered what goals God would have me set. Then I documented and shared my goals with my accountability people… my discipleship group, my husband and of course #iveyleague mom (she’s a given!) Having God’s partnership in your goals, writing them down and telling people suddenly ups the ante of responsbility. 2016 Goals - Ashlee_1

Here we are – the start of April 2016 and I am not doing too terribly bad  (SHOCK!). The fact that I still have the list is significantly better than history says! So I will count that more than marginally better compared to years past. The reality is, I didn’t set a laboriously long list of tangible goals. However I must sit in the weight of intangibles. This is where I am deeply motivated and have opened myself up for the accountability people in my life to let me know when my attitude, behavior and habits aren’t aligned to my 2016 purpose. This stuff matters y’all. And in the tangible goals – whoa Nellie!! I did not go easy on myself. Goals that might not seem large to others, yet are all about starting a journey of faith for myself. A journey to take care of what God has given me and prepare myself for the better service of my intangibles goals. Lazy and lethargic – time for you two bums to check out of this here little life.

So, what does this have to do with the price of tea in China?  Stick with me – I’m going somewhere.

Last weekend, I did my first ever 5K! (See that was on the goal list?? CHECK!!)  Now, it was only a fun run 5K – no times and no racing.  The perfect first event thanks to advice and encouragement from my sweet friend, Rachel and my brand new friend Ginger!   And “run” is a loose term, as I would call what I do more “wogging” – somewhere between walking, jogging and wondering if I am going to die. I’m serious.

I saw people wearing shirts that said “I run for ____.” Thank you strangers for making it clear to me I had to declare some reason for this current insanity I was about to embark. Thank you for forcing me to wonder why in the world was I doing this?!?  What was I running (ok-wogging) for? I mean near total panic set in at one point while we were waiting that sounded very much like someone screaming in my ear – “WHAT ARE YOU THINKING?” Then of course “You’ve never run a mile in your life! This is 3.2 miles!” Never mind the reminders, “You haven’t even trained properly for this!” Oh yeah, “God, are you sure this is what you meant?!?” (Don’t we love to let fear cause us to question God?)

I will not lie – I prayed my way through this.  Specifically, “I thank you Jesus, you strengthen me, because you consider me faithful, put me into service” [1 Timothy 1:12 paraphrase mine]. I settled on my answers in this prayer. In my quest to be in better health – I seek to be equipped to live out the commands of my Lord. I wish to meet His goals for me. Through His direction I set a purpose and through His strength, I have already taken many steps of courage. (You are reading the blog that was one HUGE step). I’ve stepped right out of the boat in the middle of the storm walking toward Jesus in total faith that surely He knows why he’s holding His hand out there waiting on me. Baby steps or huge leaps, Jesus is calling and I pray to always keep stepping out to Him.

I step for obedience.

I step to grow my faith.

I step to serve Him.

What does stepping out look like for you and why do you step?  Have you talked to God about what goals He desires you to set for yourself?  I encourage you to do so. I won’t say you won’t be scared, but I will say you will be rewarded in your obedience. (and your calves will be super sore.)

Pray with me:  Dear God, thank you for your ever faithful presence. Thank you for caring about all the details. No matter is too small for you and your direction always leads us to righteousness. May we always seek you daily in order to stay inside your peace and your will for our lives. Give us the courage to do the things we’ve never done before in order so that you would receive the glory. As we step toward Jesus with the world expecting us to fall, make it so clear to the world that you alone are how we make it.  To you be all glory and praise forever. In your son’s precious Holy name, Amen. 

In His grip – Ashlee

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Top Left – Ginger, Rachel and I after color. Bottom Left – Rachel & I before color.   **I flat love these women!**