A love like…

F48243BC-F5C8-4F6D-9CA2-634D50A19B71A sweet friend commented on a picture of Gerald and I that she wanted a “love like Ashlee and Gerald”. She might have been joking (it hardly seems real to me), yet throughout the day, I keep going over this comment in my mind.

I don’t want to hide behind fun social media posts that only show the best of things. We need to be more real, transparent even, with each other.

I do crazy, madly, deeply love this man. He is my full scope of love defined. But everyday isn’t “Facebook (or Instagram) perfect”. It has been an up and down, wild, tumultuous, faith building, life making, heart breaking, dreams lost and new dreams made kind of life. We each have our own flavor of weird but it seems to be the best flavor for one another.

We have fought with a passion only rivaled by our mutual stubborn determination to not give up. There have been days I wouldn’t wish to repeat or hardly call a love worth emulating. Times no one should go through. Days we totally get it wrong and can’t claim we model reconciliation in the best possible way.

Our trials, some public and some very private, aren’t like everyone else’s exactly, but they are our trials to endure. To better us. Better for one another and better for the kingdom glory.  With God as the glue, we are still here looking at each other goofy, taking selfies and enjoying the ride (almost) every day.

I’ve always said, “I want a love like Johnny and June.” I guess, in reality, I got what I wanted in “a love like Gerald and Ashlee”. ❤️

Pray with me: Dear Heavenly Father God, thank you so much for giving Gerald and I to each other.  Thank you for the guidance and determination to hold on even when it’s been hard. Lord, continue to give us the love for each other like Christ loves us. God, remove any sense of pride from our hearts and allow us to use our story to glorify you. Give us all hearts to serve you.  In Jesus Name we pray, Amen.

ENOUGH

I’ve been quiet for a while… and will you allow me to say “that’s okay”?  I believe we need a time of quiet in our lives. Particularly in more difficult seasons. A time to be alone with ourselves and with God. And during these times, we don’t always have something to share. That really is okay, I believe.

During these almost two months since my last post, there are numerous draft blog entries started and not completed. In writing I process with myself and work through what God is teaching me. As God heals and gives clarity in those tender places of my heart, I will share with you. Promise.

I’m so strongly pressed upon right now in my struggle with ENOUGH. Am I enough? Do I do, serve, give enough? Am I a good enough wife? Or mom? Or daughter? Or sister? Or friend? Do I love well enough? Am I worthy of being loved enough?  If it sounds exhausting, I can assure you if feels all the more weighty in my heart and head.  Striking an even deeper cord of my soul’s fiber is the constant battle ENOUGH has played in my life. You see, this isn’t a new battle or a new lesson God is working through with me. I’m sure God might tire of me in this regard – that is if we propose Him a characteristics of anything less than total patience with his children.

One thing I know fully well is the inability to fully be all we are supposed to be while inside the struggle of enough. Living in the predisposition of not feeling enough, life becomes harder. Striving and doing and being more can become the driver in your days over the plan God intended for you.  It becomes easy to miss the really wonderful things trying to be something more for some reason more that is way too much more than your perfected enough already.  More is not immediately equal to better. Repeat – more is not immediately equal to better.

Equally in a battle with enough, we can quickly forget how wonderful people think we are just like we are – junk and all. At least for me, when I am feeling a highly “enough sensitive” time, I begin to think my friends and family, maybe, are worn out by me. I guess this is less about feeling like I need to be more, but more about thinking I am really just too much. If I could only be normal enough. Or have my act together enough. Do you do this too – think your struggles make you “not enough”? Maybe we all have stories we haven’t told, but certainly we all have struggles. The sooner we admit it and stop acting like we have our act together, the sooner we can love one another well and minister to the hearts of those around us.

Most recently I’ve been battling old voices from my past screaming rejection in totally tangible ways and I am determined to push through stronger this time. Who would believe 20+ year hurts could still cut so deeply? Scars transform to open wounds quickly in the battle of enough.  When the behaviors become mimicked in other close relationships, it becomes even more difficult to fight off enough. If “he can do this” and “she can do that” and “they did this” – obviously, I am the common denominator, it is because I didn’t do something enough?  Sound familiar? Immediately, I pray for all who feel this in their core. In Jesus name, we have to stop. God’s heart breaks over our broken heart and wants us to feel His love right now. Right this very moment, God is whispering into our hearts – YOU ARE ENOUGH.

I know whose I am and I know who created me. I know whose you are and who created you.  Together, say with me;

I am made worthy in the blood of Jesus.

I am chased after and adored by my heavenly Father.

I am accepted in the family, adopted by the King of kings.

Where ever you feel your inadequacy strongest, your particular fear of failure, or the voice from your past that screams rejection…. your Heavenly Father says “Enough! You ARE enough”

In His Grip, Ashlee

Pray with me: Dear Heavenly Father God, we love you so much God and are so grateful for the opportunity to come to you with all our inadequacies.  Thank you for loving us through all of our junk and giving us your word to turn our fears into confidences. Give us strength to remain steadfast in your truth, so that we only desire to be what you have made us to be. Not more, not less – just perfectly enough as you designed.  In Jesus name, Amen. 

enougha

 

Advent 2016

2016 year I’ve placed the advent wreath on the center of our table where we gather. Where we talk. Where we sit silently. It is to be a reminder to us of the reason for this season.

Yet, the moments of candle lighting I have reserved for my own quiet times with God. This advent season has been hard, admittedly. Even in the light of advent season’s beauty, the shadows have been lurking painfully realistic. And still, today, in lighting the candle representing the LIGHT of the world – the birth of our Savior, the Messiah – I am rejoicing in this very quiet moment between God and I. He knows how I cling to this HOPE, PEACE, JOY, LOVE and LIGHT.

In Advent and always. Amen.

That’s a wrap 2016

Did you set goals for 2016? Did you conquer the tasks you lay ahead of you or are you like me in some past years and barely remember what the goals you set were?

For 2016, I made a real intentional effort to set viable goals. I shared them with my closest people and placed them where I had to read the list often. In making my list, I tried to think of what failed in the past. Maybe before I was too worried about the results in a year, rather than the process of improvement to get to the goal? I meant to approached 2016 differently. I wanted to leave 2016 a better person than I was in 2015.

I find reviewing my list often, sets the tone for my day-to-day decisions. Do the actions in my day line up with my goals for the year?  When decisions have to be made and priorities set, am I taking to heart my goals I set with purpose?  Am I big picture minded in my small actions? Approaching my year in this way, I find real meaningful life change happens more often. And I pray, the root of my core values are obvious on the outside to the people I seek to love well.

As I begin to set my targets in 2017, in reviewing my 2016 goals I feel a solid sense of accomplishment. I did not win every day, but I won a lot! I did the tangible things I set out to do – started this blog and did not one, but two, 5Ks.

cf-12-31-16
CrossFit DGA 12.31.16

Seems to me like little tiny changes are so much easier to accomplish. For example: “LOSE 50 LBS this year” is pretty dang daunting, but “Be Active #everyotherdayin2K16” is attainable. I probably didn’t 100% succeed, but I did get moving and my life is certainly more active now than a year ago!  No I didn’t lose 50 lbs (I lost some), but I didn’t set out to lose weight, I set out to be active and the rest is a positive byproduct of my new lifestyle.

 

I believe with the help of God, I have become a better friend, a better mom, a better wife, a better daughter and most of all a better child of God. Growing closer to God, seeking truth above all else, was the plan, the rest is an incredible byproduct of His work in my heart and life. His molding me to be discipled and disciple others. His hard lessons that have taught me more about living submissively than I ever wished to learn! Living second to Jesus and sharing the gospel in my word and deed – all have made me better than I was 365 days ago.

It has been said that writing down your goals makes you 72% more likely to succeed. Sharing them with someone increases that percentage by 10 more points.  Write them down, share with your people and place them where you are going to see them everyday. Then use those goals to live out 2017 being the best you possible!

I intend to and I’ll share the new goals with you as well – we can do this together!!

Most importantly, I remain In His Grip!  Ashlee

Pray with me: Dear Heavenly Father God… thank you for another year in the books. Even when that year was hard in ways and not everyday felt like a major win. Thank you for the strength to keep moving forward and the courage to face the trials in your protection. We have no idea what lies ahead, but we know you do and in that, we have confidence. Thank you for loving us and keeping us in your grip.  In your son’s name, Amen.

the JOY candle

The third Sunday of Advent we light the rose colored candle representing Joy. I am so enjoying my Sunday early morning devotional times with my advent wreath. Some waaaay earlier than I had intended, but I will thank my good buddy Insomnia for this one. And thank you, God, for meeting me in these restless moments with such clarity of your word.

On a sacred night over 2,000 years ago a tiny baby was born. The angels heralded, wise men came bearing gifts, shepherds hurried to the village – all in worship and wonder for a baby King. What a marvelous night when God sent His son to be born with the purpose of saving us from our sins and reuniting us with Him.

Today we still celebrate all the magnificent joy that comes with the birth of our Savior King, God in man’s form.  And we stand in wonder and awe that God would send his son to this fallen world corrupted by our sinful natures.  We rejoice knowing God is doing something new, and that nothing can stop His plan. There is such amazing comfort and great joy, even as we still live in a world wrecked with such sorrow and pain.

Jesus said to his disciples: ….I tell you the truth, a time is approaching when you will weep and mourn while the world is celebrating. You will grieve, but that grief will give birth to great joy. In the same way that a woman labors in great pain during childbirth only to forget the intensity of the pain when she holds her child, when I return, your labored grief will also change into a joy that cannot be stolen.

When all this transpires, you will finally have the answers you have been seeking. I tell you the truth, anything you ask of the Father in My name, He will give to you. Until this moment, you have not sought after anything in My name. Ask and you will receive so that you will be filled with joy. [John 16:20-24]

Jesus prepared us through His words to the disciples, we will feel pain and mourn. We will grieve and suffer in this life. And still, “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all the people”, the angel says [Luke 2:11].  ALL the people – that’s us! Great joy for me and you.  Despite our circumstances. Amen?!

As I’ve been learning more about the origin and meaning of advent, this hymn has touched a more tender spot in my heart this year.

O come, O come, Emmanuel and ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here until the Son of God appears
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel   Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Rod of Jesse, free thine own from Satan’s tyranny
From depths of Hell Thy people save and give them victory o’er the grave
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel   Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Day-Spring, come and cheer our spirits by Thine advent here
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night and death’s dark shadows put to flight.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel   Shall come to thee, O Israel.

So, on this third Sunday of advent, we light the rose colored joy candle with hearts full. Full of Christ. Full of peace rooted in knowledge of all that He has done, is doing and will continue to do. We are ransomed, we are free, dark shadows in flight. Now and forever more.

In His Grip,  Ashlee

Pray with me: Dear Heavenly Father God, I love you and praise you Lord. Thank you for the opportunity to come into your presence whenever and whereever and however many times we need.  For the times, we don’t have the words, thank you for just taking our heart as we lay them open to you. You know I’ve found comfort in these words represented this advent season, God. When all my heart can say is “Yes Lord, please HOPE, please PEACE, please JOY…” you have known the full weight of my burdens and troubles all while I rejoice in you. There is such peace at your feet. When my heart breaks-you hold the pieces together. What an amazing God you are.  Thank you for advent and thank you for Jesus.  It is in His Name I pray, Amen. 

Faking Faithful

No, I don’t think my faith is fake. I know it is very real and sustains me through the solid rocks as well as the muck and the mire of life. I more than realize without God, I’d be rocking in a corner somewhere repeating ineligible words to myself. Or worse.

Even still, I find myself right smack in the middle of my own crisis regarding my faith. I spend a lot of time questioning my depth.  Am I really rooted in the word of Christ? Rooted firmly such that the storms of life can’t blow me down? I would say yes…. yet, my heart still feels unsettled. Something short of peaceful. Lacking a certain element of joy. Wouldn’t a truly faithful person have peace that passes all understanding?  A joy in the middle of sorrow that only Christ is the explanation of?  I’ve been there before – even when things seemed they couldn’t get harder, I was peaceful. Where does that peace go? And what do you do to find it again?

In the middle of these personal battles, I push myself to remember the truth of the word of God. The truth about exactly where that doubt and confusion comes from. And well really, where it does not come from.  In John 10:10, Jesus tells us, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” My struggles delight the enemy and break the heart of my Lord. The Good Shepherd protects his flock and would lay his life down for them, how can I believe he would have left me or forgotten  me? Although, I do. Forget.

For those of us who believe in the word of God, this is relatively easy concept intellectually to grasp… God loves me and will protect me and wants to bring the best for those who love him and are called according to his purposes (Rom 8:28). I guess just due to the amazing complexity in which we are created, our hearts struggle to grasp what our mind understands and times our mind can’t grasp what our heart feels. At least that’s true for me. It’s hard to believe the goodness of the Lord is meant even for me with all my many faults and times I have let him down. Then, on top of my own self persecution, add in all the outside forces of a fallen world pressing hard into our fears and insecurities reminding us daily we couldn’t really be that loved. If you really understand grace and mercy, you are full aware none of us deserve God’s love – but that’s a different subject. Don’t get hung up there – grace and mercy are to be celebrated, not more cause for fear.  Remember, fear is not of God!

Like me, if you have times of such deep heart struggle you convince yourself you’ve just been faking faithful all along… don’t fake being okay. You only hurt yourself and potentially, your relationship with Christ more. Be real with what you are going through, feeling and thinking. God’s shoulders are plenty big enough for our frustrations and discontent. Only at the foot of the cross will we find the peace we so long for.

Find a trusted source of Godly wisdom to remind you the things your heart is currently forgetting. Whatever you do – just don’t let it stop you from seeking Him. Don’t give up. I won’t.

Remind me? I’ll remind you too….

In His Grip, Ashlee

Pray with me: Dear Heavenly Father God, thank you so much for never loosening the grip you have on me. My soul grows weary and I question so many things in myself, yet you hold on. I even find myself questioning you, Lord, and even still you hold on totally understanding my personality enough to know where my weaknesses are. Where I am weak, God make me strong allowing YOUR power to work in my failings. God, may my struggles allow someone else to face their struggle stronger as well. May we all continue seeking peace in you.  In Jesus name, Amen. 

Now what?

I assure you this is not a political post – rather a post political post. I have purposefully tried not to add to the drowning of political melodrama over the last 18 or so months. I would much rather look at puppy pictures or see your babies and learn about your kids’ latest accomplishments or celebrate another year of marriage with you.  I truly rejoice in the blessings and joys of your life. Your happy makes me happy! Does that make me shallow? Perhaps. And if that is your opinion – you are free to have it. I still love you, in Jesus name.

And I don’t have my head in the sand, I am aware the election is over and there is a winner. The question I have is this, “Now what?”  Because the debate isn’t over and the arguing hasn’t stopped. Whether I personally am happy, sad or indifferent, what is my responsibility today, as a Christian, in this place where I find myself. “Now what”?

I’m glad I asked (I know you wanted to)… I’ve turned to my bible, my Christian leaders, trusted sources I read and prayed a lot.

If you have read much of my writing, you already know I believe strongly in my circle – starting for change inside of my reach. If I can impact my circle, to impact their circle, to impact their circle, pretty soon everyone is prayerfully impacted positively in someone’s circle. Just like if we all held hands, we would eventually all be connected somehow. It’s a lovely picture that I agree is not everyone’s plausible reality, but allow this girl her dreams, ok?

So, what does that look like?

The Gospel. First and always. People are searching for some inkling of hope and answers that rise above politics. What better opportunity to proclaim a God who will overcome anything in their lives, even in Washington, than right now?  First and always is the gospel message of Jesus Christ. Amen.

Love the person who didn’t vote like you. Don’t assume they are anything less that someone else Jesus died for on the cross at Calvary. Their stance or motive for their vote may be different, but they are still His.

Acknowledge people are scared and worried. Lots with good cause. Their communities don’t know what to expect and are weary of what is coming. Their concerns are real and their hearts are hurting. Don’t disregard their pain.

Name calling doesn’t get us anywhere. Simple, but true. Unfortunately, a necessary reminder.

Be wary of saying things like “God spoke in this election”. Number one, who am I to speak for God? And see the third point – does this attitude win the hurting people for the kingdom or make them feel alienated by a God they should trust?

We are Christians first. One family in God’s kingdom.

There is much to be said of the total sanctity of life, but plainly with no fault, ALL lives matter. In the womb and out, regardless of skin color or side of the badge. ALL.

Pray. I continue to seek the face of God in my life’s direction as well as the wisdom of our leadership. I do not believe God is surprised and I am certain He wants to hear from His people. Just as certain as I am He can and will do a mighty work in our nation to glorify Him.

In His Grip, from my circle, loving and longing for change. Ashlee

Pray with me:  Dear Heavenly Father God, wow what a whirlwind of emotions we bring to you this week God.  Thank you for opening your arms and your big ole daddy lap for us to find comfort when things are so out of control. You never cease to love or protect us and for that, I am so incredible grateful. God, please bestow upon me, your daughter a supernatural strength to love in the unloveable junk of this world. Give me wisdom of when to speak and when to be quiet. Mold me and my attitude so that all would see your works in my life. We’ve come so far, with you working on me, and God I can’t wait to keep going. Always my prayer – help me impact the kingdom for you Lord. In Jesus precious holy name. Amen.