Restful Weekends

As some of you may know, I am working really hard on rest. Taking a break. Chilling. These things don’t come as easy for me as I would like, but it is something God has been placing on my heart to get more of throughout my day. Busyness is of this world, not God as he repeatedly calls for rest and peace with Him all through his word.

Rest, to me, is not simply sitting in front of the tv and not moving. For me, rest comes in the form of journaling, listening to music at a coffee shop, exploring parts of my city unknown to me, and hanging out with my friends and husband. Here are a few images of what I’ve been doing to rest up.

Check out: Ijams Nature Center in South Knox, The Phoenix Pharmacy in downtown Knox, and Awaken Coffee in the Old City.

Cheers,

Ashlee

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Self-shaming= More Rest and Him

Being a woman in this world can be tricky. We have more rights, as in basic human rights, than we have ever had in history at least in the modern, Western world. We have empowering fiction and real world female role models to include, but not limited to, Emma Watson, Malala Yousafzai, Michelle Obama, Wonder Woman, Daenerys Targaryen, and Princess Leia Organa.

However, with great power comes also great responsibility including responsibilities in the workplace and in the home/relationships. According to an article by BBC News, women work approximately 39 days more per year then men. And that is just in the workplace. In many families, women also perform more of the childcare and home-related work after their day jobs are over.

Honestly, I don’t mind working more than my husband, if in fact I do. What I do care about is my mind personally shaming me for taking a day off occasionally especially when I am not feeling well either physically or mentally. Taking days off are healthy. And normal. And not shameworthy.

And yet, anxiety rears its ugly head and attempts to convince me that I don’t need a day off/time off/break because I should be better than that. I should be unstoppable with unstoppable energy and motivation and drive. I should make time in my day for my day job, exercise, cleaning, cooking, relationships both human and animal, and creative pursuits while also getting 7-9 hours of sleep per night. This doesn’t happen daily. This is a lot of stuff to cram in your day and expect to be happy (and well-adjusted).

I have decided no more. God did not bless me with a job, friends, a husband, pets, a home, and hobbies so that Satan can use these things against me to make me miserable, somewhat depressed, and ashamed. Feeling ashamed and feeling as though you have to be perfect in all areas of your life is NOT the gospel. Being perfect may be what Instagram/Facebook/Snapchat says you have to be as a modern woman. Being “on” might be what Satan tries to tell you that you have to be. But not Jesus. Not my Lord.

My Lord tells me to rest. To rest on the Sabbath and keep it holy is repeated regularly, but how often do we women get to rest and reset? Especially on Sundays? My Lord also tells me I will stumble and fall. I will mess up and not perform perfectly. I will let others down. I will let myself down. But, He is with me. He will pick me back up. He will give me a new day filled with new mercies.

My stumbles and imperfections and “stuff” that I shame myself over are just reminders again and again that I am not meant to live independently, relying on myself to live life but to depend on him—the source where all the blessings flow. I just need to remind myself to rest in these blessings. To be present for the moment and allow myself to let my imperfections shine!

We aren’t meant to be Wonder Woman, but we can work hard, reach our limits, and give the rest to Him with a grateful heart for having these blessings in the first place.

Cheers,

Ashlee

Family Updates + baby?

As some of you dear readers may know, my husband and I interested in starting a family. However, we have run into health snags time and time again, which made me think maybe this isn’t the route God wants us to take.

Let’s back up. Since I was about 12 years old, I have always had a heart for saving people. Over the years, I have attempted to “save” various members of family from making poor choices, friends from themselves, and families with who I work with in my career. However, even as a teenager thinking about my future, I always thought I would adopt. Specifically, I wanted to adopted a girl from China. I wanted to save a little girl from death, despair, and feeling unwanted due to China’s “One Child” policy.

Fast forward a few years, and my husband and I began to take a serious look into our finances. We both thought adoption was out of the question due to the expenses and time it would take to travel to our child’s country. Both of which we were short on. But, God does have the last laugh.

Fast forward a few short months, my husband’s company informs him that there will be new changes in the company including a raise for him, increased benefits for adoption (~10,000 dollars), and paid paternity leave for expecting dads! We flipped out and praised the Lord! Maybe adoption is looking more and more doable, and maybe, this is what the Lord HAS called us to do.

So, we talked with some of our church friends and family; people whom we trust and who have experience with adoption. After more prayer and attempting to discern His will, we then set up a meeting with an agency last week.

Honestly, I didn’t know what to expect, and I wasn’t even sure about what questions I should be asking at first. There was so much information that I left the meeting with my head swimming about different countries, age restrictions, and the financial/emotional cost. But it felt food. It felt almost right. I don’t know if this is God’s plan for us yet, as we are still hoping/praying/listening, but I feel like we are moving forward to make our dreams a reality.

We will continue praying for guidance and wisdom during this time, and we ask that you do the same on our behalf. God’s will is His own as well as his timing, which I am learning over and over again each day.

Cheers,

Ashlee

Updates + Things to work on

First off, these last two weeks have been ridiculously crazy.  I have missed writing tremendously.

Happenings include:

  • 6 hour road trip back to my hometown to celebrate my best friend’s new baby!
  • Cat sickness=8-year-old feline multiple UTIs
  • Making future decisions regarding our family and, potentially, my own health
  • Not-so-great news from the orthodontist about the future of my canine teeth
  • Plus work, social events, church gatherings, adulting…

I want to say that I am very grateful for the life God has provided for me even with the ups and downs, disappointments, and surprises. But sometimes, I feel overwhelmed. And exhausted. And spiritually, mentally, and emotional spent.

So, I had a talk with God.

On the way back home from visiting friends and family, I had a long, hard talk with God. It involved tears, anger, asking forgiveness, feeling foolish, and finally, feeling like I know the direction he has for me. After this discussion, I felt better, and I had taken away two main points

  1. Stop trying to be that person. You know, the person who gives up her alone time, or time with her husband, or sleep to be the person there for her friend. Or ALL her friends. The person who gives, and gives, and gives and goes beyond all reasonable and normal expectations to please others.
  2. Be patient. Stop trying to rush things. Stop trying to rush through one season of your life to get to another one. Stop trying to rush making decisions because they are hard. Stop trying to rush completing one goal or task so you have “extra” time to  work on another.

These are the worst sins and the hardest habits I have to break as a person, a woman. Because of previous experiences, I know it will not be easy. I also know that I will mess up again and again. Patience is a virtue that I need to grow into.

But thankfully, I have a Father who loves and forgives!

Cheers,

Ashlee

 

Lost in the Sea of Green

A few things about me.

First, I really like to stay busy. Like really busy. Like I’ve got all of my day scheduled with work, chores, friend time, hobby time, fitness, parties, movies, dinners, etc.

I like this trait about myself as I am usually never bored, and I have managed to gain a lot of unique experiences in my twenty-something years. However, when I get tired, I get TIRED. Encompassing, lazy, drowsy, Netflix binge-watching, junk-food inhaling, hard-to-get-up-out-of-bed tired.

Secondly, I get cabin fever quickly whenever I get stuck in a routine or I am at home for too long. (See drowsy, Netflix-watching statement above).

One of the best ways I can break out of my cabin fever-ness and break the cycle of being on-the-go is through hiking and experiencing the “great outdoors.” Thankfully, my husband and I live within a 45 minute drive to the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. Also thankfully, we both really like to be outdoors.

This past weekend, we woke up early on a Saturday morning to drive to the mountains and zone. out. from a previously stressful week. We hiked the West Prong Trail, which is located near the Tremont Institute and is roughly 2.7 miles one way. We struggled with the mountain air at first as it had been too long since we had been on a trail, but we quickly found our groove.

The mountain/trail/scenery was beautiful. Green everywhere. And peace. Lots and lots of peace and quiet. I could feel my strength replenish, my soul restore, and my creativity abound. My husband, usually a chatty-Cathy while hiking, was deep in thinking, deep in his own quiet mind. I mention how freeing and uplifted my body and soul feels even though I’m sweating clear through my shirt from the Tennessee heat and humidity. He replies:

“It’s easy to forget your troubles, when you’re lost in a sea of green.”

I believe he hit the restful nail right on the head.


Hope you enjoyed a few of pics from the hike!

Cheers,

Ashlee

 

Far Away

I am struggling right now, readers, if I’m honest. I am struggling to feel God’s presence in my daily life. My life has not changed. I still work, go to the gym, have a social life, cook, and try to take care of myself. And yet something dramatically has shifted in the way I feel God moving in my life.

This is not a new feeling. At previous times in my life, I have not felt God as strongly as I have had in better, more fruitful times. During these seemingly-alone times, my husband and I were going through hard financial times or having health-related stress, and I had moved away from God out of anger and hopelessness. But at this point in my life it is different. I feel….normal. Busy, but normal. Optimistic even, if you will.

Here is my thought: I am busy, yes. I am busy to the point where I am distracted from my one true purpose of my life– worshiping God and showing his love to others. I am distracted by trying to do my job well; trying to have pleasurable and meaningful hobbies/self-care; trying to keep up-to-date with everyone in my social circle; and trying to maintain strong relationships with family and my husband. These are things most people struggle with, maintaining the juggle of daily life. I also may have some perfectionist tendencies, if I’m still being honest.

However, I am focusing too much on these things. Things that will pass away. I remember reading in C.S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters that the devil tries to get us distracted by all these other things: work, having a social life, social media, fitness, hobbies, pets, even nothing at all, so much so that we lose sight of what’s most important.

 “…as habit renders the pleasures of vanity and excitement and flippancy at once less pleasant and harder to forgo (for that is what habit fortunately does to a pleasure) you will find that anything or nothing is sufficient to attract his wandering attention. You no longer need a good book, which he really likes, to keep him from his prayers or his work or his sleep; a column of advertisements in yesterday’s paper will do. You can make him waste his time not only in conversation he enjoys with people whom he likes, but in conversations with those he cares nothing about on subjects that bore him. You can make him do nothing at all for long periods. You can keep him up late at night, not roistering, but staring at a dead fire in a cold room. All the healthy and outgoing activities which we want him to avoid can be inhibited and nothing given in return, so that at last he may say, as one of my own patients said on his arrival down here, “I now see that I spent most of my life in doing neither what I ought nor what I liked”. The Christians describe the Enemy as one “without whom Nothing is strong”. And Nothing is very strong: strong enough to steal away a man’s best years not in sweet sins but in a dreary flickering of the mind over it knows not what and knows not why, in the gratification of curiosities so feeble that the man is only half aware of them, in drumming of fingers and kicking of heels, in whistling tunes that he does not like, or in the long, dim labyrinth of reveries that have not even lust or ambition to give them a relish, but which, once chance association has started them, the creature is too weak and fuddled to shake off.” – The Screwtape Letters  *Emphasis mine

We lose sight of the person who gave us these wonderful things to begin with. I begin to value these other things more than I value the time I spend communicating with my creator, the person who gives meaning to my life. And I don’t think I’m alone in this. No, I don’t think that having and maintaining healthy relationships or doing good work is “wasting time,” and I am not wasting my time on this Earth away as described by Screwtape. But I must be present in my own life enough to know when I am valuing what God has given me more than who He is or my relationship with him.

How do you stay present in your busy life to give more of your focus to God? I’d love to hear what works for you or if you struggle with this too. Comment below!

Cheers,

Ashlee

Hidden Sin

While reading my morning devotional this morning, this phrase kept replaying over and over again in my head: “The daily lot of those driven by religion is striving, anxiety and, ultimately, exhaustion and burnout. The inheritance of the child of God led by Christ’s grace is freedom, joy, and peace.”

A beautiful phrase, no? However, I realized that some of my “hidden sin” is judgement. Judgement of others and of myself. I absolutely HATE this about myself especially since I know that I DON’T KNOW what others experiences are nor what war they are fighting personally.  My quick, judgement-ridden thoughts only last for a few seconds, but that is a few seconds too long as a child of God.

However, I DO know about my own war. I know about my own pain, joy, triumphs, and struggles, and yet I still judge myself. I judge myself for not pushing harder at the gym or for not folding laundry right when it gets dry. I judge myself for not being perfect, and in my head, I judge others for also not being perfect. This is not the gospel. This is not who/what God wants me to be especially as a child of His.

Because I am a child of God, I can throw off the need for perfection, the need for importance/greatness. Because of what God has done, I and everyone I know is already enough. No more struggling. No more guilt or anxiety.

I am free in Him, and I am going to start living and thinking about others like I know this truth. I am going to start living like I am alive with Christ! ~Ephesians 2:1-8

Cheers,

Ashlee

My City, My Home

I love, love, love traveling, but I also love my home.  I live in Knoxville, Tennessee, which is a mid-sized city in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains. Knoxville is divided into various neighborhoods each having its own culture and attitudes. My husband and I live close to downtown Knox. I’ve included some photos in a few of the different neighborhoods below.

Island Home Park. A local park near the Tennessee river that helps divide the city.

The Mill and Mine. A quirky, hipster concert venue in the Old City near downtown Knoxville.

Charming house in the Island Home neighborhood of South Knox.

Quaint little craftsman in the Old North Neighborhood. That beetle is 😍

Another charming house in Old North Knox. #housegoals amiright?

This mural of Knoxville shares a home with one of my favorite coffee shops, K Brew, which has two locations in the city. Try their honey lavender latte with almond milk cold. You won’t regret it.

I hope you enjoyed getting to know a little bit more about Knoxville! Stay tuned for more posts related to my life in Knoxville. Comment below your favorite areas of Knoxville if you have visited!

Cheers,

Ashlee

DNA + God = True Self

I am currently reading Bandersnatch by Erika Morrison. I am not even a quarter of the way through the book, and Ms. Morrison has me thinking deeply about who I am in Christ and what exactly that looks like in the world.

“Life is not about building an alternate name for ourselves; it’s about discovering the name we already have.” The author goes on to talk about how our “true” selves are not what we wished we were, or our goals, or what we look like when we are perfect in Heaven, but rather, our true selves are who we are right now plus the Holy Spirit/God working in us and through us.

Our true selves include our likes, dislikes, passions, opinions, values, ideas, dreams, and hobbies. Not only that, but our Heavenly Father cares deeply about these parts of our lives because those help make us who we are. To me, this is a joy and an eye-opening thought. However, this idea also helps me remember to value the time I have instead of spending it endlessly scrolling around the internet or wasting time gossiping.

I want to continue to open up my life and heart more to Christ so the Holy Spirit can move and work in my sphere of influence. When I connect the parts of my life, only then, will I be able to find contentment and joy in who I am.

Cheers,

Ashlee

Hellos

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If you are reading this, then welcome to “Through the Fog” where I plan to discuss my life journey in finding out who I am and who God created me to be. I am excited to see where this journey takes me, and I hope you are ready for the ride!

Cheers,

Ashlee