Comparing ourselves contradicts God

First – I hope you haven’t thought I’ve fallen off the face of the earth! Summer has been so busy thus far. Forgive my lack of communication in my writing.

Secondly, I really want to share with you about my cheer girls!!  I had the privilege and honor to speak a couple of weeks ago at our WLHS Football Cheer camp.  Let me just tell you that working with these young women flat out never gets old. Over the past years of this opportunity, a place in my heart is reserved for these young women. I’ve had so many moments with God talking about these women, asking for protection and prudence in their lives. Begging for a safe place for them to land and that they would have the courage to ask for help when they need it. I remember my life at their age so well and it wasn’t the rose-covered garden I portrayed on the outside. I’ve prayed many times, “let me be the person I needed when I was younger.”  Pray with me, “God work! In Jesus Name. Amen.”

My cheer friends and I talked this time about a topic God specifically laid on my heart at pretty much the last-minute. Perhaps God whispered a sweet reminder for myself as much as for them, so I figured you (all three of you who read this blog 😉 ) might also need the Godly reminders we covered.

When God made you, He made you right!  We must stop comparing ourselves to others. All the skills we need to be exactly what God created us to be are already innately woven into the fabric of our being. He created us specifically for our purpose and gave us exactly what we need to do that purpose. We are His workmanship. Ephesians 2:10 tell us, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”  Workmanship-A work of art put together well. We were put together well just like we are by God our creator.  Such a comfort in that, right?

Lay down your own plans and dreams.  Basically the key word is “own”.  Not that we shouldn’t have dreams, but that we should seek God’s plan over our own. We can’t do it all alone in our own power. In Romans 12:1, we are urged by Paul “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” Living for God is not only our spiritual but our physical act of worship to our Lord. In that, we must view all things we do, even the most mundane, as worshiping right where we are in the very day that God placed us.

Make a list of what you are good at or comes naturally to you.  “Maximum efficiency and minimum weariness” is exactly where God wants us. Our gifts given by God are not to be difficult. Meaning, we may need to practice and perfect our talents, but the God given talents are what comes more naturally to us.  This is where we should focus our work and worship. Romans 12:2-8, “For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith (think of this as talents given to us) that God has assigned. For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us (again talents assigned), let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.”  Basically, friends, run in our own lane. Find where God wants us and work there.

Whatever your gifts, use them now.   Begin to use where we see God leading us right now. Don’t wait for the big thing or the big break or the best idea. The everyday things are never ordinary to God. The person who happens to cross our path may just be a God given “glory moment” for us to make a major impact in that person’s life. When we feel the urge of the Lord pushing you forward, we must act on it.  Just yesterday I failed on this. 😦 Someone was sharing a tough time in their life and I felt God saying to me “Pray with her right now” and I did not because of where we were and worried it would make her uncomfortable. SHAME ON ME PEOPLE! I need to go to her and make this right, pray with her now. I promise to do this today. Hold me accountable.

Focus on what is right in front of us.  Right now, right here, TODAY. These people and this time. If we have huge dreams and God expands those dreams to enormous impact – WONDERFUL!  However, if God choses to deepen our impact on the smaller scale of where we are right this minute, we need to find great comfort where we are and doing what He has given us today. We can’t be handicapped to the good things of today because we are dreaming of the largest things of tomorrow.  I like to put it this way, “Don’t be some thing crippled because you are everything minded.”   Example – I’d love to write a book. I dream about it. But should I quit writing a blog because I don’t have a publishing contract? Uhm – NO. (Besides, my dream is not ready to be more than a dream. I’m not convinced it’s God’s dream for me. see point two. 🙂 )

We have to stop trying to be what God didn’t make us to be.   Here we have to quit looking left and right at all we wish we were and embrace the way we are as the best way God saw us to be.  WORKMANSHIP -remember?  No matter how much I want to be taller, God saw best for me to be short. All the wanting and wishing will bring me a sadness God does not intend for me to carry.

Lastly, let’s celebrate what God made us to be and allow ourselves to love who we are in Christ. 

The reality is God made us in His image and we are in that regard #patternedinperfection.

In His grip, Ashlee

Pray with me:  Oh Heavening Father God, thank you for all that you have created in the world including us. Allow us to see ourselves as you do and love ourselves as you love us. Give us complete comfort in your workmanship of our lives as well as give us a desire to seek your plans and work our days in worship of you physically and spiritually with our hearts, minds and bodies. When we fail to see the beauty you see in us, bring along beside us a sister in Christ to lift us and remind us how precious we are to you and  your master plan.  Give us joy in the day to day things we can to do serve you right now and a vision for how we can impact your kindgom with our lives.  We love you and praise you, Father.  In your son’s we pray, Amen. 

 

#45 – let’s do this

Not such a big secret, but a confession of sorts – I truly deeply dread my birthday. Please don’t assume this has anything to do with age because it honestly does not. I’ve spent many years (25+) contemplating and curious on the day that celebrates my arrival’s anniversary. Did I do enough? Have I accomplished enough? Made a big enough impact? Am I memorable enough? Why am I NOT memorable enough to a certain someone?  enough enough enough……. ENOUGH!

Declaring 45 the year to stop beating myself up for what I perceive as didn’t happen.

45,  I will conquer you, slaying daily the things God puts in front of me. And the days my “slay” looks a lot like naps and accomplishing nothing more than puppy cuddles, I promise myself to be confident this is exactly where I am intended to be. I won’t call those days wasted. I will rejoice in the required rest to refuel for the mission.

45, I won’t over think you too much. Being totally honest with myself, I know I will over think, but I promise not to do it as much. I will continue seeking wisdom through my own personal crazy trusting the truth filled promises of Jesus.

45, I will spend you getting healthier so that I will have the energy to do what I’m called to complete. This commitment is to being healthy, not skinny. Because, really, skinny is probably not in my genetic pattern. But healthy most certainly can be. Earlier in 2016 I read a quote that changed my outlook in this subject. (inserted below)  All credit to spiritual leadership and intelligence of Christine Caine. If we are lucky, 45, we will see her in person together! (check her out – http://www.christinecaine.com/)

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45, Let’s deliberately and intentionally love people. The kind of love that shows Jesus, building and encouraging more Jesus. I will start at home with the people God entrusted most to me. Even when we don’t feel like it – because let’s be honest, sometimes it is hardest at home. May my true colors reflect Jesus to my people.

45, Let’s stop allowing other’s perception about my worth shape my world any longer. I will focus on the acceptance of my God who created me and wrote my beautiful story in complete perfection. I will embrace every moment as part of His sovereign plan and excitedly await the next steps He has for me.

Plans like naps and puppy cuddles. Accepting my personal flavor of crazy and my physical self. Loving my people and most of all loving my God.

Remind me when I forget – okay? Deal.

45, we are In His Grip,  Ashlee.

Pray with me: Heavenly Father God, I love you so very much and remain continually thankful for all you have blessed me with.  God I ask now that someone somewhere who needs to be reminded in there “45” or “35” or “18” or “65”- whatever age Father – they are beautiful and perfect and so very much enough in you. Give them eyes to see how you created them and a heart to seek your perfection for their lives. Allow us to give ourselves the grace you intended us to have. Keep our focus not on what we get done, but focus our hearts on seeking you. May we rest peacefully in our imperfections knowing we are enough in the saving perfection of your son.  In His name we pray, Amen.

Yes or No?

WOW – so much has been going on the last couple of weeks, months (maybe years!)…..

College kids home… warm weather bringing family trips… business travel coming… some not entirely minor medical things going on in our family… new work out routines (because being healthy matters)… not to mention another fairly milestony-ish birthday coming … intentional time for family and friends… stuff…. lots and lots of stuff.

See, I love to be busy. I love time with people I love. Serving and loving my people is deep in the core of my soul’s desires. Conquering plans and objectives keeps my clock ticking. I don’t know exactly what I would do if I wasn’t so actively doing stuff that I fell exhausted into bed every night.  Yet.  Ahhh, yet, I know my spirit needs to be alone.  I am learning that so much of me loves to be outside myself in action to others, while an equally large part of me needs desperately to be alone, refueling. And finding that balance is very very hard for me.  What about you?

Learning to say no to others can be so painfully difficult – I don’t know how really. My close people continually tell me I need to learn to say “No”.  But so often I wonder am I saying “yes” to the wrong things? Or “no” to the right things?  Everything matters in some way, yes I do believe this.  Even still, in the perspective of the kingdom purpose, how much does everything little thing matter?  When does God want me to say “no” or “yes”?  In this lies my true balance issue.

Our church is having a long awaiting new campus grand opening tomorrow, June 5th. And there has been a myriad of things to do by so many to prepare for what God has coming. I see my closest people working tirelessly and wishing there was something, however minor, I could do to lighten their load. To be their “yes” when God has so clearly told them it is not time to say “no”. I know the Lord of all things guides them, carries and sustains them.  I yearn to stand beside them holding their tired arms like Aaron and Hur did for Moses. [Exodus 17:12]

I know for sure this is not just stuff. This is kingdom driven. This is the Holy Spirit calling on His people to stand up. To fight for exactly such a time as this. This is most certainly not my “No”. Everything else, regardless of my “yes” or “no” will work itself out, when my “yes” to serving my Lord and Savior comes first. Here I will find my peace.

So the chaos is exciting and a noisy kind of busy and sometimes a little suffocating too. I pray for contentment in the storm of activity, refreshing deep breaths when I feel I can’t breathe and an ever-present still quiet voice resounding through the stuffyness of the stuff.  Wishing only to keep my eyes on Jesus, I will seek His direction for my “yeses” and my “noes”. Won’t you do the same with me?

In His Grip, Ashlee.

Pray with me:   Dear Heavenly Father God, We love you so much and are humbled to come before you.  Thank you for all you have done for us and will do for us. God, we ask for clear direction in the chaos of this life.  Help us keep perspective focused on you. May we clearly have peace in all that we are to do and the things we are to lay aside.  Make us soldiers for your eternal purposes.  In Jesus name, Amen. 

Talents

I’m sure most all of us know the parable of the talents, but for fun let’s review.

In this parable [Matthew 25:14-30] Jesus talks about stewardship of the gifts God has given all believers. In the story, the master was leaving on a journey and to one of his servants he gave 5 talents, to another 2 talents, and to another 1 talent according to their ability. A talent equaled about 75 pounds of coinage and was approximately 15 years of normal wages for one person. This was a crazy huge responsibility for each of the servants to bear.  When the master came back to settle accounts: The first two servants had put the money to good use doubling their amounts and were able to present the master with his principal and the additional profits. Yet the servant with one talent was afraid to use it and hid his master’s money.  The master then took this one talent and gave it to the servant who had ten talents.

What we learn through this story is simply this – Christ wants us to use the gifts He has provided to us, not to bury them. Spiritual gifts should be valued as gifts of God’s grace toward us. We are called to “bear much fruit” [John 15:8] that lasts, and our spiritual gifts play a significant role in doing that. The character in this story I personally tend to relate to and perhaps at times understand the most is the servant who hid their talent.

Can we pause a second – let’s just talk about how cool that the word ‘talent’ meaning a unit of measure in this parable means a gift or skill to us in our modern-day vernacular … God’s so smart!

So, about my friend who hid his (I’ll say her) talent. Before we get all holier than thou thinking, “yep, she should have done something with that talent”, how many have done, or are doing, the same thing?

Think about her looking at that talent and remembering what she read the night before one of the other tribe members posted on their instagram or facebook page about a new venture they were headed toward. She felt insecure and knew she could never measure up with her little talent and forgot all about the fact that the talent she had was just that – HER talent – given specifically in trust by her master. The talent was meant for her to use in a God preordained way. She got caught up in wondering how she would ever be as much or as successful or have as great an idea as the others. In the middle of her comparison, she was too lost to see how uniquely amazing she was and how beautifully her life already perfectly complimented her talent.

Any of this sound familiar?

Does to me. I’ve spent entirely too much time living in comparison convinced I could never be half as this or that as someone else. I could never do that job. I could never draw that well. Or paint like that. Or speak so eloquently. Or communicate so clearly. Or sing like her (really I can’t – singing: whooo, uhm NO!). I have spent so much time living in paralyzing fear of failing if I would even try to use the very things God gave me to use. In reality, that doesn’t even make sense. That sentence doesn’t compute when lined up with the biblical truths of how God created us.

We can’t even get out of the very first book of the bible without solid basis for believing God created us to be who we are. In Genesis 1:27, we are told: “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” In HIS image – that’s pretty much saying your pattern was perfection. NICE!

Then flip a whole bunch of books over to the New Testament and see where Peter lays out exactly how God blessed each of us with our gift (talent). He says, “God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another.” [1 Peter 4:10]

God created us, blessed us with the specific, unique, quirky, silly, beautiful things he determined we would be. We need look no further than His word to find our worth and a relationship with Him to have our purpose. Seek Him for direction if you aren’t sure about your talent and then trust Him as you use that talent to further His kingdom. Your gift/talent may be the one thing that encourages the people around you most. And when you are scared (which, still, you will be), lean in to Him – a child of God fully reliant, surrendered and submitted to her creator brings nothing but all honor and glory to His name.

So, sweet friend, take your talent and do not be afraid. Do not hide it and remind me the same. Let us together wildly pour ourselves in the direction God leads. May we live confidently in the promise of serving Him always always yielding a high return.

In His Grip, Ashlee.

Pray with me: Dear Heavenly Father God, We love and we thank you for creating us exactly as we are. Thank you for embedding a special gift or gifts in each of us that you predestined us to use for your kingdom. Give us the fortitude to seek those gifts out and the courage to pour them into furthering your mission. May we live with our eyes focused on you only looking side to side to encourage and build up our family in Christ.  We pray in Jesus name.  Amen

Refuge

07022dfa95ebf9516c0d1e832eb9d6eeI love this photo of the baby bird nuzzled in close to the mama bird.  The visual imagery of how God defends and shelters us settles my weary heart when most nothing else will. I can so see myself poking my little nose out of God’s covering and then quickly tucking myself back into safety telling God I’m not ready yet. Can’t face the day, can’t face the problem, can’t face them, can’t face myself, I just can’t…. cover me back up God.

Psalm 91 says, “He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day.” [verse 4-5]

WOW – terrors of the night. Little secret about me: I have terrible dreams. Nearly every night I dream and I mean I dream vividly. I remember all of my dreams and they are in full color with total detail like street names and full narrative scripts. At times the dreams are just silly, however the worst dreams will leave me yelling out in my sleep and waking in tears. These dreams are so real to me that the emotions linger on me for days and I find myself unable to shake the terror of the night. (I am sure some therapist would have a field day with that, but I’m just going to leave it right there.)

And arrows that fly by day…. Don’t we all have those? Waking up saying “Today is going to be better” and then of course life happens and we have to deal with adulting.  The fiery arrows just shower with no real sign of relief.  And yes, there is perspective and we have to look for things to be thankful and count our blessings – life truly is all about perspective. I truly deeply believe this in the core of my being. Even still, these arrows (in spite of our blessings) require attention and the “dealing with” part isn’t always what I would call a blessing.  (Can I get an Amen?)

Yet, in my weariness, inside the terrors of the night and the arrows that fly by day, I will cling to the promise of where my refuge lies.  I know who is my shield and rampart (defensive wall). And in the night terrors and arrows of the day – I will not fear. Well….I will try really hard not to fear or doubt or question my own ability to “just deal”. IMG_4055
I will write His promise on my hand and look at it a million times until the fear leaves. Until my strength in Him feels as real to me as it has always been to Him. In His confidence and strength, I will poke my head out of His wing and allow Him to blow wind under my wings in order that I may fly. As is His full intention for us all.

 

In His grip,  Ashlee.

Pray with me:  Dear Heavenly Father God, you know our hearts and you are not surprised by our weariness and fears and insecurities. You know the days we need to rest tucked close under your wing for fear of facing the day.  You welcome our times with you like this while you build back strength. Infuse us with your word giving us courage to face the day and may we never lose sight of your desires for our lives. Remind us there is no fear in your calling and we never walk the road alone.  Keep us strong in the mission and wise with your guidance.  In Jesus name, Amen.

 

Rest here.

Overwhelmed.

The pure weight of life can easily become a heavy load. I don’t believe that is a bad thing to admit. Schedules, family events, work, bills, church, ministry work, house chores… all of it adds up. No matter how much individually one or the other may fulfill and over joy you, when you put them all together it is very easy to end the day to be left wondering if you really got anything accomplished. Let alone accomplish something great for God.

The easiest thing to do on these days is feel like a failure and convince yourself you simply aren’t capable of doing it – whatever “it” is. I’ve been here, listening to the voices in my head that ask me “why bother” or tell me to just go back to bed. When I get into this state, everything becomes super hyper sensitive and I could without any effort turn into a total recluse. I over analyze everything, get my feelings hurt too easily and forget the true heart of those dearest to me. Does this sound familiar? Sure it does and, honestly, sometimes in life we just need someone to say, “me too”.

HOWEVER, this is not reality and not where we get to camp out.  Absolutely, I’m glad to know others have moments they feel this way and I promise to be the first one to empathize when you are feeling total buried under the duties of life. I will set a timer and let you rant about all the things on your plate. But when the timer goes off (like mine really needs to) I will encourage you (and me) back to the promises of God.

A few thoughts to battle the overwhelmed blahs;

#1) We give the devil an inch and he will take a mile. As soon as we begin to believe the half-truths and down right lies of the enemy inside our own minds, we give him room to grow seeds of dissension. God is a good good father. He does not condemn or destroy, but builds up, encourages and directs toward righteousness.

#2) To hear God’s voice we have to stay in His word. I know for me when I start to feel these overwhelmed times in my life, I’ve struggled to remember the Bible was written as an instruction book and a place of encouragement for me. This is precisely where I need to hear from my Father God. Overwhelmed lives look for things to shed the pressure.  We can never let our time alone with God be the thing we shed.  But sadly, if we admit it, many of us have.  Then we lose the one place we can rest well and revive our souls.

#3) The way of the Lord is not to be a hard heavy road. Yes, in this world we will have trouble, not saying there won’t be days we have to dig in deep and persevere in our faith. What I mean is that when we walk with Christ, the perseverance gets easier.  Jesus tells us in Matthew, “Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” [Matthew 11:29-30]

So when we feel like life is too much and forget for a moment where our focus should be, three quick steps; 1) the devil lies, 2) God’s word holds truth and 3) it really is easier with Jesus.

This is a reminder message to myself more than anyone. I run a pretty constant pep rally in my head in an effort to stay focused. My prayer is someone else would gain some encouragement from the things I need encouragement in.  Someone out there needs to hear, “me too” right now.

In His Grip, Ashlee.

Pray with Me: Heavenly Father God, please bless every person this message touches. If their life is feeling the overwhelmed nature that I so often struggle with, I know you wish nothing more than to rest their soul. Give them, and me, the gentle reminders of who you are and where the lies come from. Your way has never intended to be laced with defeat, but victory in your son, Christ Jesus. When the anxiety raises and the weight of the world feels heavy on our chests, give us strength to remember in the moment exactly where we can rest – your word.  Thank you for loving us so much and shepherding us in the fold of peace. In Jesus name, Amen.

 

 

Wild and Free

My girl #iveyleaguemom (aka Tiffany) invited me to tag along for this weekend launch party for the book “Wild and Free”.  I was definitely excited, because of course I love all things Tiffany and Charleston is a cool town and what I knew of the book was pretty spot on – so, why not? I’D LOVE TO GO! (translated: eeeek – I’m so excited!)

What is Wild and Free?  Simply, it is a book. However that is like saying the ocean is just water.

Wild and Free is an anthem for women.  It is a challenge to live wildly in exactly who God created you to be while also living freely in all Christ has done.

Wild and Free is a disposition.  It’s a place all women should live from the inside out. Total freedom in Jesus and total confidence in what God has created and planned.

Wild and Free is a friendship. The diversity of women brought together by being commonly grounded in Jesus, encouraging one another to be the best us God orchestrated us to be.

Wild and Free is a soul’s refreshing. When you thirst deep within, needing desperately the water of life, living Wild and Free reminds you to focus on the good good father, Elohim – He created you and He loves you and He knows you intimately.  Rest and drink Him in.

The launch party weekend was full of events celebrating women, laughing and enjoying our time together. We made new friends, learned so many new things (my makeup skills require their own post all alone!) and shared what God is doing in our area of influence.  I know for sure, Tiffany and I dreamed, cried and shared exactly how “God is messing with us” right now. The freedom of this trip to be completely as Wild in God and Free in Jesus was exactly what my soul needed.

“If you have ever felt both too much and never enough” – get this book. Give it to your mom, daughters, sisters and friends.  Jess Connolly and Hayley Morgan have not held back any truth, nor have they been shied away from the transparency required for this message.

In His Grip,  Ashlee

you can buy it here–> http://www.amazon.com/Wild-Free-Hope-Filled-Anthem-Enough-ebook/dp/B010R2U5ZU

you can visit their site here–> http://www.wearewildandfree.com/

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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.