The Pointless-Cyclical Rant Blog about Trees and Relationships

I am not a complacent person. There are days and countless moments where I wish I was a complacent person that was just happy with the way things are, but for some reason I always need to change things or overthink them to the point where complacency is no longer a thing and brokenness ensues.

I’m obsessed with trees. Sometimes I wish I could take on the stances of trees – the way they are able to stay in one place for their lifetime and be okay with it. They sit with the friends of trees they have around them and that’s just how it is. They can’t change their location and maybe some trees find that annoying, but it looks as if a lot of trees are okay on the outside.

I would be the tree that complains and wishes they were a person with feet.

Which is why I am thankful that I am a person with feet, because I can move and I can think and I can make choices and ebb, flow, in and out… But I’m pretty sure that constant motion and not being complacent for more than two months might be a problem.

I can make choices and stick with them if I have an emotional attachment. But if the emotional attachment gets to be too much, I’ll end up overthinking and really driving anything good right out of my head because “hey, I know I’m leaving soon, is it even worth it?” Here’s the thing: Relationships are always always worth the time and emotion put into them, on whatever level, but especially the friendship level.

So what’s the problem? It’s the other way around thing that really gets to me. I can make the choice to attach or detach, but if someone else attaches to me or I don’t particularly want them to attach to me, I can cut things off or make it really, painfully obvious that I don’t feel the same. And I’m sure that causes pain on some side or another… I don’t really know what I’m trying to say, in all honesty…

Maybe it’s because I’m preparing myself to leave the country for an entire year or maybe it’s because my heart is always fragile and hard, closed off to anything that would possibly hurt me or detonate me. Maybe it’s because I can’t date. Or maybe it’s because I know the difference between a seasonal friend and a life-friend. I tend to forget about the seasonal friends (aka: Friends I’ll only keep in touch with and talk with for a season at a time) and I’m more apt to spend time with the life-friends (aka: the ones I’ll see maybe once a year no matter the circumstance and we’ll catch up and then go our separate ways, but whenever we meet up again, it will be as if no time has passed).

I have two life-friends that I kept from high school. These two friends are people I really only started getting to know my last year in high school. One is a friend I’ve literally been through everything two people could go through with each other and we both have grown from the situation because of the countless ups and downs we’ve shared over the years. I’m also close with the family and that is what makes it special. The other  is a friend that I have also been through some ups and downs with, but have always managed to make time for when we’re close by each other.

The difference between a life-friend and a seasonal friend is that there is almost always a deeper connection that keeps people together through all the ups and downs and able to communicate about things. Seasonal friends, while the connection is often felt in the same way, is just very different.

I wrote  a couple weeks ago about how I want a husband. I want my husband to be someone I can let go in front of and not be afraid to be silly or weird in front of. I want my husband to be a lifer… I mean, clearly, anyone would want their significant other to be a lifer… But with divorce rates lately it’s hard to tell what people are really marrying for these days. While I’ve never been in a relationship, I have had many great friendships with members of the opposite sex… And again, I don’t really know where I’m going with this rant, but yes, I’m going to keep going and see if I make any kind of conclusion in this.

Anyway, yes. I want someone who is going to be strange and just as weird as me. I want someone who’s a reader and smart and encourages me to follow my dreams and get out of my comfort zone and embrace my weirdness and not be ashamed about it. I want someone who is welcoming and willing to hang out and do spontaneous adventurous things with… And have it mean absolutely nothing right now (because I can’t date).

Most of the time, I think all people want is someone who is their best friend, who brings out the best in them (yes, that includes the weird stuff), someone they can laugh with, and someone who is just a comfort to be around.

I think it takes roots to be lifers.

Here’s what I mean: Trees, while they stand alone above ground, have such intricate root systems underground and some even connect together even though it’s not always apparent above ground. I think people are a lot the same in some ways, at least with my own experiences as of late. There are good and bad moments, conversations, and things that make up the roots of a relationship. Two people are two separate things, but the memories and conversations that have made up their moments together in the past are what make up the roots, connecting them together. Husbands and Wives, I’m sure, go through a plethora of disagreements, tough moments, and painful conversations; but they also go through a ton of amazing moments that really carry them through the bad and bitter moments.

It takes more than feelings, things in common, and whatever else that makes people fall in love. Love is always a choice in the same way that being a good friend is a choice. Friends go through basically the same stuff that lovers would go through, there’s just more intimacy in the relationship between lovers. Is intimacy the roots? Or is intimacy the rocks that make it between the roots, and growing around those rocks with the assuring feeling that you will make it through whatever rocks are thrown at you? Because in the end it’s still a choice?

There’s really no answer to my questions and again, I’m going to state that there really is no point to writing this blog out, these are just thoughts that have been running through my head. I’ve been thinking a lot about the roots that connect me with certain individuals and how even just as friends, it is beautiful.

God gives me hope for things, and I have not relented hope in years. I don’t know that I will ever let go unless something better comes around. I know I can be myself… If that means no talking in the morning because I’m so tired and haven’t gotten my coffee yet, hugs, laughing, standing close, encouraging another human being, and taking spontaneous one-on-one hangout adventures when the craziness dies down with no intention of more, then that’s what it is.

It is a new foundation, and new crevices for new roots to form, leaving space for rain, growth, and restoration.

Exclusive

Here’s the thing:

I want a future husband and I know he’s out there, but my hopes of finding one on the Race are very slim to none right now because that’s not what I’m thinking about for my journey on the Race. All I want is more of God, more of learning about His Heart, and learning more about trusting in His will. I am seriously open to anything, but in all honesty, this trip and the days leading up to it are for Him and I only.

We are exclusive and I am unavailable unless it is to talk about God or encourage another individual.

This isn’t going to stop me from encouraging fellow squad mates, female and male. This isn’t going to stop me in my encouraging nature toward the people I know or am getting to know.

If I’m feeling lead by God to do something, I’m going to do it and that’s just how it is, because when a thought crosses my mind and won’t leave, I feel as if it is God telling me to encourage. I will not contact someone unless I am feeling lead by God.

I don’t like that certain people tell me “You’re going to meet your future husband on the Race,” or ask me “Are you sure you’re not doing this just to meet your future husband?”

Yes, I am sure. And no, I’m not going on the Race to search for a husband.

The only heart I am searching for is God’s and that was the only thing on my agenda when I was signing up and going through the process of signing up for the Race. My heart is in this for God and for God alone and I really don’t want my fire to be doused.

For those of you who pray, please do it for me. Pray that my fire is not going to be distracted or put out. I need to keep my eyes on God above all. And that is of the utmost importance right now.

I know I sound defensive, but I love God and my desire is for Him and leaning more into Him. I know that someone will come in His perfect timing for me. Until that timing is right, I am just going to wait and press more into His love.

Thanks for Reading,

Ashley

On Characters and Stories – One Tree Hill

I do this horrible thing where I get really attached to characters and stories.

Something about stories draw us in.

For me, it gets even worse with television, especially stories on television that are good. I’ve had my fair share of television that I thought was good in the moment but never desired to return to it once I saw the last show. One Tree Hill, though? It’s different. I don’t know why, but I just identify with a lot of the characters and see a lot of myself inside of them. Maybe not the specific life circumstances they draw from, but the way in which they interact, the ways in which they deal with relationships (even though they aren’t Christian-relationships), etc… In One Tree Hill, you have Lucas, Peyton, Brooke, Nathan, Haley, Mouth, Skills, and all the extra people that make up One Tree Hill like Lucas’s mom, Keith Scott, Dan Scott and all the crazy nut-characters and some good ones, too, that are very real people out in the world even though we may not necessarily see them on our own daily basis (some we do see). I watch One Tree Hill and feel like I am a part of the story, and that’s what makes it such a fantastic show.

I didn’t believe people when they said that once One Tree Hill was over, all I’d want to do is go back to the beginning and be a part of it all over again. I shouldn’t have doubted those people, to be completely honest. Because when I did finish my binge-watching of One Tree Hill, all I wanted was to… You guessed it, start the show all over again. Tree Hill is not a town that you just forget about, it’s a story you continue to identify with even long after Lucas and Peyton leave the picture together in their happy ending.

For me, I really identify most with Lucas and Peyton. Lucas is a writer, reader, etc… He broods, thinks a lot, etc… Peyton is a character I identify with because of the walls she puts up around herself and because of her particular relationship with Lucas and the way it’s so messed up, but friendship still prevails over time and they even get their happy ending riding off into the sunset.

(Can I just pause to say that hope from television is killer and completely false hope. Girls, don’t ever believe that happy endings can happen unless you’re in the midst of making one happen. As for me, I have no idea where I am. End pause).

So why rant about how much I love One Tree Hill and embarrassingly admit that I’m watching the shows all over again (except, much slowly the second time around)?

Because tonight I realized that

1. It’s not my story. What? Of course it’s not your story, Ashley! But really… No amount of watching this show is going to make me a part of it. It’s a great show to watch and relate to, but it will never be the story I wish I could make it. Tree Hill is a fictionalized town that is never going to be real. While, yes, the set of the show is mostly at the University of Wilmington’s campus, and the town where the show was filmed is in Wilmington, North Carolina (I WANT TO VISIT THERE SO BADLY), Tree Hill itself is not a real town, Wilmington is a real town with very real people in it. But so is Quincy, so is Eastern Nazarene College. And we have just as much, if not more drama in our own lives and stories. While One Tree Hill is a great story, it’s not mine, it’s not anyone’s story. And it never will be. But what it will be is a fictionalized story that I will always revisit and hope to one day share with my kids when they are mature enough to watch.

2. The story I want to live is Worlds Apart from a Netflix Televised life. Life is where? Out there! My life is not the character or Peyton’s. I might have a Lucas-like character inside of my life, but the hope that the Characters of Lucas and Peyton bring to me is false, because it is a television show, and because most of the time, all viewers really want to see is drama and eventually a happy ending between characters who share tension. In real life, tension isn’t always resolved. I mean, sometimes it is, and sometimes people are able to work at it, but most of the time, the happy ending that Lucas and Peyton share will only happen once in a blue moon in real life. In my own life? It will only happen on The Netflix Televised Life. I’m still waiting for a tension-less relationship to form. On a side-note, question: Are any relationships in life tension-less? Or do relationships like Peyton and Lucas actually happen out there?

3. God has so much more stories and people to relate with than One Tree Hill ever could. Stories. Bible. Life. Jesus should be the Lucas in my world. I personally find Lucas Scott to be extremely attractive I mean (side-not again), the character is played by Chad Michael Murray, so that helps a lot, but in all honesty… I should be finding Jesus most attractive, God most holy, looking up to God and the way that He loved us to send His son to die for us. I shouldn’t be living vicariously through a relationship (Peyton and Lucas), that is so wishy-washy and hopeful and hurtful and killer to watch sometimes, but ultimately ends in good. It’s hard to watch characters you relate to be hurt! But it’s also hard for Jesus to see us hurt. And I put my guard up with everyone (including Jesus) just as much as Peyton puts up her defenses. But I am a real human being, Peyton Sawyer is a Character in a Fictional television series. Jesus is as real to me as Peyton and Lucas’s bond is to each other, or at least I strive for my bond with Jesus to be as close to me as those two are.

Mark Schwahn is genius. He created characters that have literally everything in life happen to them that anyone can relate to. (Heck, I even related to the weird, awkward, geeky ad cool character Mouth was!) He crafts the show in a perfect manner, making us believe that we are part of it, or believe that we are at least with the characters throughout the show in some way. And he caps it off Season 9, Episode 13, with a great message, encapsulating the entire message and heart of the show. Leaving the audience crying and happy with the way it ends, but also just wanting to start it all over again because of *all the feels* (there’s really no other way to put it.

Will I ever stop watching One Tree Hill? Maybe one day.

Should I stop now? Probably. Will I? Most likely not.

But I won’t let it get to the point it did last semester where I was wasting precious time engrossed in the story for hours on end. Because I know where the characters are going and how things turn out, there is less of a need to get to the ending fast. I still love the characters, I just don’t need to engross myself in it like I did before. I shouldn’t have engrossed myself in it as much as I did. That’s a whole different problem in itself.

Moral of the story?

Live your own life. Live the life Jesus set before you. Mend brokenness, heal tensions in real life instead of letting a television show teach you how to falsely hope and mend things. Do the mending on your own! With Jesus at the center!

Let Jesus and the million other important things you’ve got going for you come first. Then maybe, just maybe you can watch a couple episodes of One tree Hill.

The Grey Area

I don’t belong in one specific group. Sometimes I wish I did, but most of the time I float around aimlessly. It’s not just a college thing that’s happened since I’ve come to ENC; it’s been a High School thing, it’s been a middle school thing, and it’s even been an elementary school thing. I don’t belong to a group because I’m a floater, an amoeba able to fit and shift into different places when I’m needed to be a certain way.

Sometimes it’s a really awesome blessing, but more often than not, I find it difficult, annoying, and frustrating.

People tell me I know myself really well. People tell me I have this intrinsic confidence in myself that I just need to exercise and not be afraid of. Maybe if I allowed it to show more often, I’d find that “group” I so desire to be a part of, maybe I’d connect better. Or maybe I would just feel better all the time because there’s something that happens when I am free to be my complete self, let my guard down, and not worry.

People laugh because I’m funny and blunt. It’s who I am; I state things as they are and sometimes people find the way I see things to be funny, which is awesome because I love it when people laugh at things I just say without really thinking about it. I also have this serious sentimental side that really cares about people, but a deeper part of me just wants to be silly and not care because that’s the part of me that’s bigger and better than the sentimental girl who pushes things that hurt away and overthinks.

In the past week, I’ve been asked by two very different people who my best friend is. Whether it’s someone I know I’ll be able to Skype while on The World Race or simply someone I hang out with a lot at school and can confide in. It’s been whirling around in my head all week and it’s hard for me to admit it because I have a lot of awesome friends I hang out with at school and spend time with doing ministry for ENC; and while these individuals are amazing and fantastic…. I can’t see myself keeping in touch through skype-interaction with many of the individuals I know here because I’m a person who really likes to invest everything in where I am in the present moment and I feel as if speaking with anyone from the states (other than the people I’ll be doing ministry with) just kind of takes away from experiences as a whole.

But maybe that’s not the case at all. I have many close friends, but I don’t belong to a specific group or to any one individual I know. In all honesty, I haven’t had a best friend since middle school and many times, while I am an open book, there is still a very large part of me that is reserved because I am afraid of being hurt the way I was before high school started. I get really attached to people, which is good when I know they’ll be there all the time… But ever since I’ve been hurt in that way from a girl I used to be really close with in middle school, I haven’t been able to be vulnerable and silly with anyone. It’s one or the other and not both.

There are rays of sunshine in which the sentimental, real, blunt, and confident Ashley comes out. I love when she does.

But there is something that holds her back from staying out in the open.

Whether it is pain from past relationships that have been severed to reasons unknown or something else. I so desire to know why there is only one or the other, hot or cold, never both shining their light. I’ve never thought being a floater is bad, and I’ve never had a problem with it, but I always have yearned to belong somewhere other than the grey area in life.

I think most people do.

World Race: FIRST FUNDRAISER

Fundraiser 1

Hello Readers! I know I’ve been very sporadic with posting lately. Here’s why. Last month, I was accepted into this thing called The World Race. It’s an 11 Month Long Mission Trip with the Organization Adventures in Missions that will take me across the world starting in September. You can check out more about the Organization and the World Race here. This picture here is part of my first fundraiser and I would love if you would consider partnering with me for my large goal of raising up to 16,000 dollars for this journey.

So here’s more info about it and what you can do:

What? This is my FIRST FUNDRAISER!! ALSO: This is for ONE TIME DONATIONS ONLY. So: If you choose number 10? All you need to do is donate 10 dollars to my account, that’s it! (And so on for the rest of the numbers).


Who? I need YOU to help me out. Share with your friends, like, donate, go!


When? This fundraiser will be happening from NOW UNTIL FEBRUARY 15TH. I will be updating the grid as people let me know what numbers they have chosen. And there will be a secret message if all the boxes are filled!


Where? Go here to my World Race Blog and read if you feel led. Then click “Support Me” (as led) on the left side and donate any number you see here in the grid of numbers. PLEASE LET ME KNOW WHAT NUMBER YOU CHOOSE. You can email me (asleylcook@yahoo.com) or comment on this blog with a number you would like to donate. As soon as I see the number you have pledged to donate in my account, I will cross it off on the grid. I don’t bite, I promise! :] Any amount helps!

Why? This will help me with my fundraising for the World Race! It will also allow YOU to BE A PART of the journey I am taking and I promise to keep you updated every step of the way. By donating, you are not only helping me, but a number of people in the Nations of this world.

How? Only by God’s grace, provision, and the help of all of you will I be able to make this trip happen. Please continue to pray for my Squad, myself, and the people we will be ministering to come September. I am so excited to be taking part on this journey! Would you please consider coming along on the journey with me?
Also, I have a CHALLENGE:
By helping me spread the word through “Shares,” you are helping to spread the light of Christ and are helping others take part in this journey with me. Whether it is $1, $120, or a share, every little bit helps!!
Please and Thanks!
All my Love,
-Ashley

The Crossroad from 2014 to 2015

“There are moments in our lives when we find ourselves at a crossroad, afraid, confused, without a roadmap. The choices we make in those moments can define the rest of our days. Of course, when faced with the unknown, most of us prefer to turn around and go back.” -Lucas Scott, One Tree Hill

– –

The confetti in New York City has fallen and another year has passed. The first few minutes of the New Year have come and for me it’s hard to believe how fast time came up on all of us. 2014 was an amazing year that I never want to forget. Between finding out the calling God placed upon my heart and taking that risk recently, leaving the country for the first time in March, working as a leader for the first time as a camp counselor, and making it through what is probably going to be remembered as my worst college semester in history academically (in my own head), it’s been a whirlwind of a year that came with tons of growth, eons of running and letting go, finding more of myself, and preparation.

But here’s the thing: Nothing in life is going to prepare me for everything that’s next. I’m in that crossroad period and have been in that crossroad period since I began my Senior Year of college (it’s hard to believe it, I still feel like I have years of hard work and schooling ahead of me). We all know it’s been a long time coming and we all try and evade the truth and avoid the fact that eventually we’re going to have to move on from everything we’ve known.

Here’s what I know right at this moment. I know ENC. I know the people. I know the ins and outs. I know my place (somewhat) socially. But even then, I feel like it’s always changing because I’ve always been a floater; able to get along with many people, but never able to solidify myself in a group I can confidently go to. It’s always been that way, and it’s always been difficult, sometimes lonely, but strangely never lonely at the same time. I know there are Freshmen, Sophomores, and Juniors who still have what seems like eons of time at ENC, and then there’s us, the Seniors, who are in this place of crossroad, transition, change… And we can’t do anything to fight the forward motion that has been set before us.

I want to avoid it, because there are a lot of things I don’t know about. I still don’t know what I’m doing immediately after graduation. I don’t know where I’ll be living or where I’ll be working. I know I’m going on a yearlong adventure that could begin in September, or January around this time next year depending on the turnout of various other opportunities I’ve taken on as a means to keep my options as open as I can. In all this “knowing” there is still a LOT of uncertainty, and that’s killer. I only say it’s killer,because leaving the comfort of everything I know is not comfortable and while I crave uncomfortable things, I also crave to stay in the little corner and bubble of everything I know.

Everyone craves it, but eventually we need to make decisions and we are propelled forward. It brings pain. It brings hardship and uncertainty. It brings bills to be paid (what??).

But it also brings happiness, change, and forward motion that can define us and shape us into the people we are meant to be… Hence the One Tree Hill quote I began this post with.

2014 was full of change. Full of realizations that have changed me and made me who I am today.

But 2015 is the year that’s going to bring my hearts pain, happiness, and realizations all together. It’s going to bring clarity and closure. It’s going to bring my yearnings and passions and combine them both together in a beautiful way that I can’t imagine possible. It’s going to be the year I let pain in. It’s going to be the year my heart never ceases to follow where its beat wants it to go. It’s going to be a year of realizing my dreams and chasing after those with a God who loves me most and cares about what decisions I make. It’s going to be a year of trust in a God I have otherwise been very untrustworthy with up to this point, and it’s going to be a year of handing the roadmap to the driver, trusting the driver to get me to the destinations safely, and letting my heart write the story with the Author penning it down to the paper.

It’s a lot of expectation for a year as big as this, but I believe in a God that is faithful to the prayers of His people and I believe that He wants to give everyone the desires of their hearts, whether big or small or in ways we expect them or not. Those are my hearts desires for this time of change, the year ahead. I just want to work as hard as I can to let God in, as well as work hard and feel good about the way I say goodbye and leave a huge chapter in my life that has meant a whole lot to me in the past few years. No resolutions, no working to be a “better person.” I know I’m a good person and I know my heart is after the right thing, working toward that “something better” already. It’s been working for quite sometime to “get there.”

I think I’m already there, though. In the middle of this crossroad, with only one way to go.

The way that can only be both inevitable and beautiful: Onward.

Growing Pain

Something has really been troubling me lately. It all has to do with pain.

Pain in sacrifice. Pain in giving up. Pain in losing something, someone, a friend. Pain in moving away. Pain in taking a risk. Pain in making decisions. The pain of putting your heart on the line and knowing people. The pain it takes to move forward.

The type of pain that festers deep within the heart and works from the deep, inside out. Maybe pain kills slowly.

Maybe pain makes us stronger… Maybe not.

I look around and a see a lot of pain. And I see a lot more people trying to hide the pain inside.

I know and see this pain because I’m no better.

One of my roommates and I talked tonight about pain. I wondered if I’m good at hiding it. Most of the time I feel like I’m not. My roommate knows me pretty well, so most of the time she knows I am carrying around a deep pain that was a long time coming even before it started to fester and scar my heart. However, she told me that if she didn’t know the real me, she would think that I am fine because I hide it so well.

It’s never been a surprise to me that I am One: A worrier. And Two: A wall builder. Especially when it means that I can somehow try and escape the pain for a while. I worry that I am a burden by sharing my pains with others. That they will be too repetetive. This only leads to wall-building that can sometimes be unhealthy. This led me to wonder how many walls are put up on a daily basis when I am meeting a stranger on the T, when I look into the eyes of peers around me. What pains might they be carrying around with them that they feel they need to hide as much as I feel I need to hide my own pain?

How many of us are trying to replace our pain with a new thing? How many believe that replacing something or someone with a new thing or person can make it all better?

For a while I believed that replacing people could make the pain of losing those that were or are important to me go away.

Newsflash: It doesn’t. It might make the pain go numb for a while and it might make the people around us believe that we are forging a new path and feeling better. But, on the inside we just feel helpless, like nothing will get better. Like the pain will never go away because eventually we realize that it might be something we have to perpetually live with until we find our distance along the path.

Maybe distance isn’t what everyone needs.

One day, within all the messiness, mud, and pain… We will realize how wrong it is to try and evade pain and make it go away. The real matter is that pain creates cracks. Pain might create beautiful walls, but the beauty about those walls is that there are always cracks in the gravel it takes to build walls. God takes cracks and plants seeds in the space, which can then be watered. But seeds can’t be watered without dirt and hurt (relapse) every now and then.

Eventually, pain will become something we learn to live with. If we’re lucky, the wall might be broken down, so beautiful and better things can grow bigger and stronger. When things grow bigger and stronger, walls are torn down and we begin to see how God was present within all the messiness of the past hurt.

It doesn’t make the pain we feel any less, but it makes perspective a little more clear.

So…

Can pain etched deep inside the heart ever truly be evaded? Will replacement and ignorance of the things that cause us pain ever give us true freedom?

I think not. 

I think freedom comes when pain fills cracks in the walls and grows.

Hope

Here’s the deal, plain and simple:

There are things I don’t want to be doing when Jesus returns.

I would love to be sitting on my bed or sitting on the floor, reading my bible and writing in my journal for God, because that’s what a person in their right mind would want when Jesus returns… To be doing the right thing. To be doing the thing that looks right to Jesus. In my mind that looks like hiding the brokenness I have inside and acting perfect.

It occurred to me like a flood of water this morning. The only possible question I could think of inside my brain was this:

What if Jesus were to return when I am stuck on the floor, crippled and broken by sin? Honestly, what would happen?

I sat there and I imagined it. Yes, I imagined it. I imagined myself on the floor, crippled and broken and crying out to Jesus for love, allowing Satan to let me think that this is the only way out, the only way to experience love.

But then He appeared in front of me, and I felt shame, embarrassment; I wanted to hide and run away just like Adam and Eve. But His eyes weren’t scornful or judgmental. His eyes were understanding, they were crying out to me in love. He smiled at me like I was the only one He saw. He bent down and reached out to me with His hand, giving me the choice to stand up and walk away. He gave me the choice.

The image vanished from my head as soon as I realized that I wasn’t paying attention to the message, which was coincidentally about Hope and how there is Light in the Darkness.

It was an out of body experience, something I’ve never experienced before. Later in the message, something about sin was mentioned, how sin is the reason we scorn others, it’s the reason behind a lot of the bad things that happen in this world. The mention of a man punching holes in the darkness was mentioned. I imagined my sin as the darkness. How in that darkness, Jesus chooses to stand there and reach out His hand to me as a light and a HOPE.

Jesus is in the ministry of healing, He is in the ministry of looking at the heart instead of what we do out of our fleshly desires. For me, I might be crippled by sin. I am most definitely broken, but Jesus meets me exactly where I am in my own darkness.

Chapel today was ended on the note that Hope is what you get when you realize that a new worldview (or view in general) is possible. For me, I might be crippled by sin and completely broken, but the vision I got today before the business of darkness and sin was brought up showed me how true this statement is. Jesus is the hope and He is the choice I have when I find myself on the floor, at the lowest of low, looking for love.

He is the love I can find my hope in, because of those eyes.

So understanding, so beautiful, so nice for just meeting me where I am… In the risks I take, in the choices I make that are for Him and even not for Him.

Whether or not I am ready to grasp it, Jesus is there with me, all the time, whether I like it or not.

And all we need to do is meet Him halfway and reach out our hands, returning the invitation He is always offering, free of charge.

Monday

Anything that could start to go wrong does, and of all the days it could be on, it’s on the start of a week.

Monday.

It’s raining and cold, I’ve lost my room key, and I’m stressed. The normal voices in my head tell me that I don’t matter, that I’m not good enough, that what I’m doing is going by unnoticed, and that none of this is going to matter in whatever amount of time. A week. By Thanksgiving, the Encouragement Week will be gone. Art Night will have passed. And the voices tell me that none of it will have mattered. None. Of. It.

My heart knows that’s not true and that this is just a case of the Monday Blues and the disappointment of this past weekend is carrying over into the week. Comparison in my head between me and other people is awry and I just can’t see the bigger picture because my vision is being clouded by dust and rain clouds surrounding my head. It’s a battle between my heart and my head.

My head is winning. My heart yearns to win. My Heart consistently fails me.

Why? The answer must be fear.

I am fearful of embracing a life God has called me to. What if I do fail? Am I alone in these feelings?

Sometimes the only way I believe I can make a lasting impact is by writing something of importance or getting my name to be known “out there.” Wherever “out there” exists. Sometimes I think that if I can’t make a lasting impact on a lot of people’s lives, none of it will matter.

Maybe that is the root of the issue, this problem.

I look back on the experiences I’ve had where I feel good about what I’ve done, feel like I have made a lasting impact. Honduras. Camp Sebago. The crazy thing about that though, is that I look back on those experiences and I see a different Me. An Ashley in which only God could possibly work through me in order to get the work that needed to be done, done. An Ashley that became so carefree, it didn’t matter whether or not she was seen or well-known because the Spirit was alive in her and that’s all that really mattered. An Ashley that cared less about the acceptance and love of the world. An Ashley with the Spirit, her only Love that made everything worth it.

In Honduras, there was no way I’d get through numerous piggy back rides with children, letting a girl with the same name take my hair and learn how to braid with it, get through the hottest weather I’ve ever experienced, sharing the tough parts of my testimony, and the pain of saying goodbye to everyone that has had an impact on my heart without the help of God. At Camp Sebago, there was no way I’d be able to handle tough situations, ten year old girls, leading groups, and whatever else that happened without the help of God in my heart and around me tangibly. In those situations it was none of me, I was literally stripped of my own pride and had to allow God to work through me in both my strengths and weaknesses.

Why is it so easy out there and why is it so difficult to do that right here? Why is it that I can experience transformation when I am not in school, but when I get back here, I seem to take a lot of steps back in the transformation department and all the lessons I learned seem to be lost? Are they really lost? Are they still in there somewhere? Because I’d like to claim those lessons back and I’d like to get that love and purpose back.

And that love and purpose is purely through God alone.

So… I claim Him on this Monday of Suck.

Because at this point, He is the one thing that is shining brighter that anything else I know right now.

Give Thanks!

Everyone’s been in the spirit of Thanksgiving lately so I really want to list out a few of the things that make me thankful! So sorry for all these list-like blogs, I’ve had very little time to process anything of substance in order to write something coherent, so I’ve been listing it out a lot lately. Once Senior Thesis is over and once I have time to breathe, I’m sure there will be some deeper posts. However, there is some depth even in the small lists. The depth is hidden, look around for it or just ask me for some deep stuff! I’m always thanking and thinking inside my head. :]

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Family – Whether its my real family or my Christ-Centered family, I’m really thankful for every part of family that I am a part of. I am thankful for a dad who has shown me what it looks like to work hard and provide for whatever means of family I am a part of. I am thankful for a mom who has shown me what it means to be a quiet soul and listening / nurturing spirit. I am thankful for various others who have shown me what a Christ-centered marriage looks like and for those who have encouraged me by showing me what it looks like to not give up on the high standards I have for another person that I want to spend the rest of my life with. Finally, but not lastly (in regard to family), I am thankful for a Father up in Heaven who has taught me a lot in the past few years and who continues to teach me exactly where I’m at. God has been so faithful and surprisingly hilarious in the way that He has been revealing things to me. I only realize it in hindsight, but the things I have learned from Him are huge (Patience especially, which is a continual lesson in many dimensions for me).

Friends – God, I don’t even know where I would be without the friends who have literally taken me in and dealt with me through thick and thin. I put people through a lot of stress in my sassy, annoyed, and tired moments. I don’t mean to, and many people who know me well know that I don’t mean to. I deal with life in seasons and especially recently, I have been going through a season of funk and frustration because I don’t know what’s happening in the future and not knowing is hard for me. I also recently came off of a huge high season from summer, so I’m in a small and very dry valley right now, but I feel myself coming out of it… There is light, always light… It is only because of the various people God placed in my life who have willingly walked with me through the valley that I am getting out of it. I am so thankful for the people who walk beside me today no matter the high or low, who have walked beside me in the past and who show me what real friendship looks like on a daily basis. To the friends who are going to be a part of me no matter the distance life puts between us – thank you, you make a huge difference in me and in the people around you.

The Things that Keep me Warm and Dry – Seriously. It sounds crazy the way I put it, but with the amount of articles I’m seeing and with the shock of Long Island being shut down recently, I am just so thankful to have things as simple as a roof over my head, umbrellas, rain boots, socks, a bed, blankets, and warm showers that do everything they are supposed to. It is a luxury to have each and every one of those individual things and I am so blessed to be able to have each one as they are. I think about all the people who don’t have what I do and I want to do something about it. I can’t wait until I have my feet on the ground in a more stable way so I can reach out and help more.

Hugs – Always hugs. All hugs. Whether it’s a bad hug, a hug that makes me fall over, a hug that’s too tight, a hug that is awkward because of height differences, etc… But especially the hugs that are always just right. There have been a lot of those lately and I am so thankful for them. There is something beautiful and powerful about the touch of another human being that is different from anything I have ever experienced. I’ve heard it takes at least eight hugs a day in order for someone to be honestly happy and feel really good from the inside out. While touch isn’t my first Love Language (it’s definitely second or third, though), I understand why it’s some other people’s first love language. For me, there is just something extremely binding and intimate about a hug and letting someone into my personal space, so I am always very thankful when I am given the opportunity to hug someone I feel a connection with.

Mentors in my Life – Anyone who knows me knows that I get all happy when I talk about Small Group Bible Study. Last year it was Monday Night Small Group and this year it’s Thursday Night Small Group. The day doesn’t matter, what matters is the small group atmosphere and being able to be silly and let go around a great group of girls who will have a place in my heart forever. The leader of the group this year is someone I look up to and someone who has been a huge help in my growth and walk with God. I am so thankful for her friendship and presence in my life. I am also thankful for the older spiritual mentors in my life. I know these people can probably fall under the “Family” or “Friends” bracket, but in many ways they are so much more to me, and that is why they deserve their own pocket of thankfulness. These are the people who have taught me and are continuing to teach me what true leadership is all about and I am so thankful for that lesson.

The Challenges – While each season – high and low – brings its challenges, I am so extremely grateful for them because it just means that there is growth on the horizon. In the moment, the challenges are a complaint and an annoyance. In hindsight, however, they are what keep things interesting and what keep me on my toes. God knows this about me, so no matter how many times I complain or freak out at Him about the challenges or coincidences He’s placing in front of me, I know it is because of His love for me that He does what He does. He is not a complacent God and that is probably what I love best about Him. He always yearns to see us grow and while He holds on to us, He also lets us go, but only for the betterment of His Kingdom. A lot of the hard part in Love is letting Go and God knows how to do that for all of us, tailored perfectly and individually. I am so thankful for that simple fact.

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It’s a very small and simple list. But the small and simple things are what get me.

What are you thankful for?

Happy Season of Thanks!