Coming Back

It has been a while blog family. To be honest, MANY things have happened over the past few months. I had a scary, life-threatening car accident, my husband turned 30, we received our first foster care placement (a 4-year-old boy), my husband started a new job where he travels often, and there have been changes in my job/career. It’s been a whirlwind. Some of these things have been positive, some have been negative, and some have been both. But I have definitely learned a lot about myself and about my God throughout this whole process.

While healing from the car accident, I began to have a pulling in my heart. An uneasy feeling deep inside, but then other times a peace would come over me. I felt like he was trying to get me to rest, to take a break, to be present in my own life. I sometimes feel as though I had the accident in order to learn to rest. I definitely experienced a decrease in anxiety while healing, which was an unexpected joy. But during this time, I decided to seek out spiritual counseling through my church.

I began seeing a counselor in July while I was still healing, and I am currently still seeing her less regularly. She has helped me in many ways; some of them simple, and some of them large. She has told me to “sit with what the Lord is doing,” ask Him what he is up to in my life, and to be okay with saying no and having boundaries when needed. She taught me that I don’t have to manage people’s emotions and that an idol I have is my reputation or what people think of me. Things that seem very simple and obvious but that I didn’t understand about myself. 

Through working with my counselor and staying in God’s word daily, I have heard Him speak many things to me. One of them being rest. Rest in Him. Trust Him with my life regarding my relationships, my future, my reputation, and my desires. Through trusting Him, I can rest. I can stop trying so hard. Giving Him control is something I didn’t realize I struggled with, but man, it is really hard. Every time I struggle, I remember this verse:

You make known to me the path of life;
    in Your presence there is fullness of joy;
    at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

Psalms 16:11

Remembering that being with Him gives joy and that He will guide me throughout my life. I never experience anything, good or bad, alone. In Him, there is peace and pleasures, which is what my heart desires. He knows me and created me. Surely, He will guide me. If I rest in Him and His goodness, I can have joy and peace. 

I really want that promise. I struggle every day with trusting Him with different aspects of my life as I humanly believe I know what is best for my life. But I will continue to give things to Him, and I will choose to trust that He has my life. I can rest, and it feels wonderful.

Cheers,

Ashlee

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Easter Weekend

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Tomorrow is Easter Sunday, a huge religious holiday for self-proclaimed Christ-followers. This is my first Easter without my sweet grandmother, Memmie. She was a very devout Christian during her time on Earth, and she enjoyed celebrating our Savior’s resurrection each year. Even though I have been busy and overextended this particular weekend, I want to still remember her, her faith, and the reason for this particular holiday, which inspired me to read each of the Gospel’s accounts of the Resurrection and to write this post.

Easter. The day the Lord overcomes death and rips apart the veil between himself and us lowly humans. We have hope because of Jesus. We have life because of Jesus. However, because I am an imperfect human, I still find myself allowing Satan to tempt me into wrongdoing or becoming distracted with life’s demands. I find myself creating a veil or a wall between myself and Jesus because of my actions and sins. I find it hard to let it go. Whatever it is at that time. It has been a long list including:

  • envy or jealousy
  • greed
  • other idols
  • perfectionism
  • busyness
  • impatience
  • longing
  • distractions
  • future plans…the list goes on and on.

I have followed Jesus for most of my life. I understand the importance and the significance of the Easter holiday for both my soul, my faith, and for humanity. I know and I believe that Jesus came to save me because I am sinful, imperfect person destined for the fires of hell otherwise. I trust in that. I trust that Jesus has my soul on lock. He’s got it covered.

However, I cannot seem to trust him with my everyday. The “what ifs.” Or the “what should I dos?” Why do I continue to pretend to be God, to pretend I have the answers for my life instead of trusting in Him to have them? Why can I not trust that God’s plan for me, may not always look good or easy, but is good? Instead of giving everything to him wholeheartedly and in faith, I try everything in my own power first. I work. I hustle. I plan. I seek advice. I sleep on it. I journal about it. But only then do I pray about it. Only when I have exhausted all of my efforts first.

I don’t want this life. I want the life that trusts God to guide the nitty-gritty details of my every day existence. I want a savior of my eternal soul AND a king of my every day life. I want a Father AND a friend. I want, and need, to remind myself that Jesus saved my soul, and He will save me from whatever this world can throw at me. His “handling it” may not look fun or feel comfortable, but if I trust him to save my soul, I can trust him to handle Tuesday. Or starting a family. Or work-related problems. Or family issues. I can trust Him with everything, and I can resign as Queen of my day-to-day.

This Easter, Lord Father, please direct my heart and my spirit to you as the King AND the Savior of my life. I relinquish control, or perceived control, over my circumstances and the events in my day-to-day life. Give me wisdom and send the Holy Spirit to guide my steps in Your way. I thank You for tearing that veil that kept humanity apart from You for thousands of years. Please, help me remove the walls of my own creation, the walls I create of pride, control, envy, greed, and other idols, to be one in you. Forgive me Father for these sins and others that are beyond my perception, and I thank you for saving me and all who call upon your name.                                                                                  -Amen

 

Cheers, and I hope everyone has a blessed Easter,

Ashlee

Prayer

Father,

Help me see You when I can see nothing else. Help me to follow You when I don’t see or know the path ahead of me. Help me to trust You, when I don’t know who to trust. Help me to hear Your voice, when the weight of this world’s problems seems too loud and too heavy for my brain to process. Help me to have wisdom and courage to stand up for what is right and what is true. Help me to have wisdom to discern your voice among all the other voices the world throws at me. Help me to be faithful in You and in Your promises especially when the world offers no solution or safety net. Help me to sleep peacefully at night knowing the sun will rise in the East, and You are already there. Help me to keep my eyes focused on you and wait patiently for your help. 

Amen

Feeling confused lately. Shaken. Like the rug has been swept out from under me, but instead of landing on the floor, discombobulated, I am still up in the air. Still in the gasping for air, surprised, scared phase. I don’t like it. I don’t like having my world rocked to its core or my future seemingly so unknown. I long for stability and safety. I long for comfort and peace. All of these things I was looking for in the wrong places, and I have been for years. I have been looking for these things in other good things, but not the BEST thing. Not my maker. He’s the only one who can save. Save from the falling, save from the unknown landing, save from my worried thoughts and racing mind.

Save me Father. Give me rest.

Cheers,

Ashlee

Feeling Discouraged

I am feeling discouraged. I feel like everyone goes through periods of their life where they feel discouraged, uninspired, or just plain tired.

I am feeling that way. I look around at other women who have what I want, and I feel the heavy weight of comparison and judgement rearing its ugly head. As a human being, I feel as though I am a naturally jealous person. I am not proud of this fact, but jealousy, especially comparison, is something I have always struggled with since I was a child. I hate it. I especially hate it because not only am I comparing my life to someone else’s who also has her own struggle, but I also usually fallen short of whatever my standard of judgement is at that time: financial success, weight, beauty, or material wealth. I hate it. I hate it so much. I know I have a great deal to be thankful for (#blessed), which makes me feel even more guilty about my feelings.

The day I am describing was yesterday. Today is the comparison/jealousy/guilt hangover. During this time, I feel disillusioned and discouraged. Unmotivated. Exhausted with trying to keep up.

I am hoping this feeling will pass as my husband and I will be visiting our best friend in Chicago for an extended weekend. Not gonna lie, I need a vacation. I need a break from my life. I am hoping to come back refreshed, rejuvenated, and inspired. I am praying for peace, love, and understanding especially as I ache for things I do not have at this particular time in my life. I know God’s plan is perfect. God’s plan is THE PLAN for my life, and sometimes, I just have to be patient, to know I am loved, and that I will be used for his will if I keep my focus on him. Sometimes, I just have to let it be.

Cheers,

Ashlee

Needing Rest, Finding Peace

As you may or may not know, I am a workaholic, social butterfly, goal-setter, and #girlboss all in one. I used to be proud of this fact. That is, until my energy is nowhere to be found, and my weekends are partially spent in bed (like 13 hours asleep in one sitting).

In short, I am motivated. I have always been motivated and dedicated to whatever I set my mind to especially if someone else is counting on me. I have learned to relish the slight anxiety I have over finishing a project to just begin a new one. Deadlines are like challenges to me. I feel lost when my planner is not overflowing with obligations, preoccupations, social events, and work to-dos. In fact my goals this year include: running my first half-marathon, beginning a family/completing fertility treatments, obtaining the highest credential I could earn in my field, being trained on a completely new-to-me intervention to use with actual people, and continue writing/journaling as, you know, a hobby.

I turned 28 on February 24. I know, I know–girl you look good!

But in all seriousness, my birthday made me look at my current lifestyle including how much authority I have for how my life turns out. I am leading a bible study in my small group using Shauna Niequist’s book Present Over Perfect in which she discusses being too busy, overlooking the most important things, and neglecting spending time in relationship with God. As I was preparing leading/organizing the study, I began to question again how much control I have over my life including how I am choosing to spend my time, thoughts, money, resources, talents. Based upon Niequist’s readings, I realized I have much more control than I thought, and I am choosing to base my self-worth on my ability to be productive, to be the responsible one, and to seem like I am “tough.”

I have not chosen to base my self-worth and value over being a Child of God. Nor have I taken the Biblical principle of “rest” seriously. Even God rested when was creating the entire universe, and Jesus rested when he was working in ministry! Do I really think I am above God and his Son in not needing rest/peace?

Yes…in my human, sinful-natured, flawed way I sometimes believe I am the God of my universe. I am the God of my life, and if I keep working, striving, filling my days up with social events and other obligations, I can control it. I can make good things happen. But that is nowhere in the bible nor is it even possible. I can’t control other people regardless of how much I want to. Sometimes I feel like I can’t even control  myself! (Hello, chocolate cake!).

But through this all, through my sin, my pride, my desire to control, God loves me anyway. He created me, and you, with special gifts and talents. None of which canNOT be accomplished if we rest and rejuvenate. His will for my life is not going to disappear because I set less goals for myself or attend a few less parties/weddings this year. I also have to let go and allow myself to rest. Rest in Him. Rest in prayer and meditation. Jesus rested. He prayed alone and secluded himself, yet His work was done. His will for my life will be too, and everything else is just noise and distractions.

Will you find ways to rest in Him today? To give up some of the hustle our society has become addicted to?

My favorite ways I am finding to rest is through journaling, reading spiritual works, and through mindfulness meditation. All of which allow my brain to pause and to appreciate the life I have been given. All of which all me to rest and to rejuvenate myself in Him.

How will you rest today?

Cheers,

Ashlee

It’s been awhile

So, lots of things have happened since I’ve last posted including: house being robbed, employee of the year at my work, and regaining some sense of peace.

I have been feeling a bit strange since this new year has started. I’ve been tired, more frazzled, and less focused than I have ever been. Why, you ask?

I’m not sure. My husband and I are trying to have a baby. I have work responsibilities that seem even more important than last year’s responsibilities. I am close to finishing my running plan for the half-marathon I’m running in March. So, you know, we don’t have much going on.

But something seems not right. Something seems off.. It’s like part of my soul is missing, or left somewhere like I forgot it along with my wallet and/or keys. How do I figure out what is missing? Furthermore, how do I get it back?

I’ve been praying for strength, courage, wisdom, and patience. Yet that doesn’t seem like it’s enough. I know that my God doesn’t leave me nor forsake me, but why am I feeling so lost? How do I specifically pray for my future if I don’t know what it is I am missing or needing more of?

Maybe my body just needs rest. Rest. Rest in Him. Rest for my body. Rest for my mind.

I believe I will start there, and see where my God takes me.

Cheers,

Ashlee

Treasures in Heaven

Dear readers,

I have been going through a tough time lately, not just myself, but everyone in my family has been dealing with a lot of emotional baggage and grief. You see, my grandmother–the one who led me to Christ, showed us unconditional love, and has been the matriarch of our family— is dying.

Her death has been expected as she is older and has been in poor health for quite some time. She is ready to go meet the Lord and to be with her husband, my Poppy, who died in 2006. I have been praying for the Lord to take her quickly home because, for as much as I want her to get well, I know she wants to be with Poppy and with Jesus. I have been praying so hard all throughout the night for the past few days, and yet, my grandmother remains on this Earth. I find myself getting angry with God that He is allowing her to suffer and to remain when she doesn’t need to any longer. I’ve been getting SO angry, readers. Because I don’t want anyone I love to suffer or be in pain.

Fast forward to this morning as I am doing my bible study and having my quiet time. The study is going through the Beatitudes and the Sermon on the Mount (very important lessons that I think many Christians can take for granted). I was thinking about treasures. Both treasures in Heaven and treasures that are worldly. It got me thinking about what I consider treasures—friends, family, pets, experiences, memories, travel, etc versus what the Lord considers to be treasures—-his kingdom, his Word, and people. My first thoughts are: Well, I think I have the people down, but do I really focus my heart on his word and his kingdom enough? For that matter, I focus a great deal of time and energy on my loved ones, but what about all the other people God has placed on this earth? Am I focusing on them? Am I loving them enough?

Readers, the answer is no. I am not. Then I got to thinking about my Grandmother. I am angry at God for letting her suffer here on Earth, but she knows Him. What about all those other people that don’t know Him? Am I not letting them suffer not only now but in eternity? Shouldn’t I take more care to spread Jesus and his love for us while on Earth to those who don’t know?

I’m not saying what I am feeling for my grandmother is wrong, but maybe I should pay more attention to others around me and love them in the same way, as Jesus has called us to do. I can then store up treasures for myself in Heaven and help the Holy Spirit plant seeds into others’ hearts so that they may know the kingdom and the father and the provider of all good things as well.

It won’t be easy. It might even be scary. But it is what we are called to do. I am not responsible for making Christians, but I can help plant seeds in others’ hearts through love.

How has God been speaking to you lately? Has it been through pain or something unexpected?

Cheers,

Ashlee

Foodies in Asheville, N.C.

My husband, best friend, and I usually go on vacations together. However, because of financial goals, hellooo adulting, we decided to do a staycation this year in our home city of Knoxville, Tennessee.

We played games, hiked the beautiful Smoky Mountains, ate at amazing restaurants, and watched the opening game of NCAA Football season. It was a good four days.

On the last day of our staycation, we travelled to Asheville, N.C. for a “daycation.” We began our journey grabbing coffee from a local coffee shop before hitting the interstate heading East.

Once there, we began our day at White Duck Taco Shop in an up-and-coming section of Asheville. White Duck is THE.BEST. taco shop ever. Tacos that include pickled watermelon rind and pork belly can speak for themselves. We then had a mini photoshoot after.

After face melting delicious tacos, we headed up to the Grove Park Inn to see the views of the city + blue ridge mountains in addition to relaxing in the leather couches and velvet cushions beside the walk-in fireplaces that litter the hotel. The Grove Park Inn has entertained some of the most famous guests including: F. Scott Fitzgerald, Harry Houdini, and former President Barack Obama.

After relaxing at the hotel, We then spent some time at the Urban Orchard Cider Bar. They have the best ciders on tap and have a very relaxed atmosphere. My favorite cider of all time is the Sidra del Diablo—-subtle flavor with a spicy kick. We ate dinner at King Daddy’s  where gluten free waffles AND friend chicken exist in perfect harmony. It was a perfect, foodie-loving day. It felt so good to get away, even for the day. Sometimes, God lets us have those breaks to refresh the kind, body, and soul.

Here are some pics from our adventure. (No food pics exist as all food was consumed in a pig-like fashion).

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These are just a few of our favorite places to visit when in Asheville, N.C. If you’ve been, what places can you just not get enough of in this quirky, creative city?

Cheers,

Ashlee

Playlist and Life Updates

Hello dear readers,

I have been out of pocket for about a week due to life and work and life stuff. Work has been busy, but because I love my job, I don’t mind. One of my best friends is visiting from Chicago, and she will be in town TOMORROW! So, I will be posting #latergrams with all of our adventures over this next week.

Until then, I created a Spotify playlist to help me get through working on the weekend. #girlboss, amirite?

Hope you enjoy! And you can follow all of my playlists by following me on Spotify–name is Ashlee Nicole.

Cheers,

Ashlee

Learning to Run

I have always enjoyed working out, going to the gym, and fitness in general. I regularly attend a yoga class with some of my girlfriends on Sundays after church. I have been doing HIIT workouts, hiking, and boot camp with the ladies of Beauty Hunters.  About two years ago, I began trying to run. It was slow at first, but I soon fell in love with the activity. It has been part of my self-care routine for awhile now. Running gives me the space and peace to listen to favorite podcasts and music while challenging my body to reach bigger goals.

It has been a dream of mine for about a year now to run the Disney Princess Half Marathon in Orlando, Florida. The half marathon, along with the 5k, 10k, and full marathon races, occur near the last weekend of February, which happens to be near my birthday. Would that not be a perfect birthday present? Running a race through Walt Disney World! in FL! with my love! Call me crazy, but that sounds like a fun time.

According to their website, the Disney Princess Half Marathon is a women-themed race that includes running through Magic Kingdom and Epcot while Disney Characters and Princesses hang out on the race course. I have never been to Walt Disney World, so a race that would ultimately benefit my health and allow me to have new experiences in a new location is incredibly appealing to me.

However, I found out a few weeks ago that the registration was closed and the event sold out for the 2018 race. BUT, I am not letting that stop me. God willing, I will run the race in 2019 instead. My friend informed me of an app called Gipis that she used to train for her half-marathon the previous year. I am on Day 3 of the program, and I am loving the app so far! You plug in some basic information about yourself including weight, running experience, and previous running times so the app can gauge your starting level and can begin creating a personalized training plan to fit your goals.

According to the app, I should be half marathon ready by next April. I plan on completing a local half marathon race in late March 2018 in order to test my skills and give me a taste before signing up for the real deal. I am excited about the idea, but I am also concerned that life will get in the way of me meeting my goals. I am not sure about you, readers, but I can be easily distracted by work, relationships, vacations, and the daily chores/to-dos.

So, I am asking, will you pray with me? Pray that I will keep my eye on the prize. Pray that I will seek God’s will in my training, in my health goals, and in treating my body as the temple his words states it should be. I am excited for what these next few months hold and where I will be on this journey. If you have ever run the Disney Princess Half or any fun, similar races, I would love to read about your experience in the comments!

Cheers,

Ashlee