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

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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

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

 

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

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