Provider

Our God provides. And then He’ll provide again. And then when you’ve forgotten, He’ll provide again, and again, and again.

I freak out a lot, okay? I have how much to raise in literally four days?? How is that money going to happen at all?? God, are you there?? I need a meteor or something to remind me daily that He is literally constantly watching over me and cares about me and WILL provide the money for me to get there.

I recently helped out at a booth at a local fair here in PA. I was able to sit there and just be a presence, but also share with people about what I was doing on The World Race and ask for small donations because you know, literally every amount helps when you’re fundraising for something much, much bigger than yourself. I wasn’t expecting much, as I hadn’t broken into the three digit numbers on Tuesday, but inside my mind I kept thinking “But man, it would be great to get a $20 bill, more fives, and maybe a ten or two.” But I halfheartedly prayed it and sat earlier in the afternoon believing in no way, shape, or form that it would happen.

Well, boy, was I wrong in all respects. God literally blew me out of the water. I got two tens from some men walking by, and a guy who was head of the booth-club I was standing with gave me a $20. Somewhere along the way, someone slipped ANOTHER $20 bill inside without me realizing it. I literally have no clue where it came from, it was like one twenty turned into two, no joke. I made over $100 in ONE DAY at the fair. Nearly double what I had made on Tuesday afternoon.

LOOK, HOW IS THAT POSSIBLE??

AND. With the money I have saved up from earlier this month / other fundraisers, etc… I have a LOT of money waiting to be deposited and placed inside my account once I am home and able to deposit the money,

BUT WAIT.

God didn’t even stop there. I sent some checks in last week that I was not expecting to process until at least next week or the week after, but they processed way early AND someone else sent in a check for $100, which means I made nearly $200 in online donations alone today.

My current balance until I reach my $10,000 deadline is $1,132 WITHOUT all the stuff I got from the fair, a check I need to send home tomorrow, the extra stuff, coins, AND money from a fundraiser I have going on next week leading up to the final deadline. Not to mention online donations that have been placed after a certain time in the day because they don’t send me email notifications for late-night donations anymore.

LITERALLY.

GOD.

There is no possible way that I am this close, unless it is God Himself coming down from the heavens and working through me and through all the people who see my posts on Facebook, who share, who pray, who donate, who authentically believe in me and this mission. Through the asking, the constant badgering online, the constant praise reports as more donations come in, through the constant “Thank You’s” that just DON’T DO THIS JUSTICE.

I am so CLOSE to my launch goal. This is un-freaking-real.

How is it possible? God. YOU. Prayer.

The night before graduation, I literally was sitting at around $3,000 in my World Race account. I had gone on a walk with a friend really late that night and as we walked down the middle of a street in Quincy lit by street lamps and talked, I expressed my excitement for what was to come, but also my concern for making it to the next big deadline after Training Camp (because $3,500 to $10,000 is QUITE the jump), but how I still held onto faith that God would provide (and in my heart of hearts I kept thinking “what the heck, there’s no freaking way.”)… The next day, God abundantly provided nearly $2,000 through family and friends because of graduation.

And I look back on that moment the night before graduation and think “holy moly, who the heck was that girl??” Seriously, who was she?? I even think back to one month ago after training camp when I saw $6,000 inside my account and thought “Crap, well, around $4,000 to go in a month and a half, better start thinking of ways I’ll scrape by from September to December in some odd place…”

I doubted the bigness of God in those moments. And he has rightfully thrown all those bad expectations I had out of the water and given me hope and light in the midst of a time where my faith has been shaken like a leaf. I know He is faithful and that He will provide every last penny, but I am really excited for the moment I finally get it, that moment where I actually live it out instead of always saying it and then having my faith be shaken the moment a doubt comes.

MAN. Give praise to God because He’s a really magnificent guy that abundantly provides and never fails to amaze even me, a leaf so easily shaken in a moment of doubt.

$1,132 to go until $10,000 and $7,132 to go until I am FULLY FUNDED for the World Race. It is by the love and awesome-ness of supporters that makes this possible. Please consider joining me in this Mission if you are financially able and want to be a part of something so much bigger. To donate, check out ashleycook.theworldrace.org

All my Love!!

~Ashley

$11 on the 11th for 11n11

Hey There!!

Looking for a way that you can be a part of something bigger?? Check out ashleycook.theworldrace.org and donate just $11 to make a small difference out there in the world. All proceeds will go toward my Mission Trip and help me reach my next goal of $10,000 on August 21st. I am $1,500 away from that deadline and I need 150 people to pledge a small donation of $11 to help me make it there in time.

You will help so many across the world, and help bring God’s hands and feet to the nations.

Thanks and With all my Love!!

~Ashley

Why Stay? Why Go?

I just got finished reading Seth Barn’s Kingdom Journeys and it was a huge eye opener as to what I’ll be experiencing spiritually in the next year to come. It answers the question: Why do we go?

I am going because God gave me the gift of restlessness, He called me to go, gave me that heart for travel, other people and ministry. I may not be the most outspoken person and I may suck at calling people on the phone, but in the past few days, I’ve talked on the phone and made calls to people I have never met face-to-face more than I have in my entire life. This journey is taking me far outside my comfort zone – but it is necessary.

I wonder if it’s the same for people that stay in communities or situations that are familiar to them, or if there is some under riding reason why they really stay when their heart has really been wanting more all along. Because there are a lot of possible reasons people decide to stay:

  • Security
  • A Lined up Job
  • Relationships / Friendships

Or maybe God has called some to stay put for a while… I don’t really know.

Maybe I’m a cynic. Maybe I don’t trust the intentions of others hearts fully. I know this is a “me” thing that I need to get over and work on. But it bugs me for some reason… Whether or not I signed up for the World Race before graduating, I do believe that I would have left the ENC Community, maybe I wouldn’t have… There’s really no way to tell right now because I’m leaving for launch in 38 days. Yes, I just said that…. 38 days. I need someone to pinch me daily to remind me that this is actually my life that I am living.

I know a very large place in my heart is always going to be reserved for ENC. I haven’t really begun that process of mourning yet… Where I actually, physically think about not going back, because to be honest, all this time I’ve just thought, “Oh hey, I am going back, I’m going back and I’m going to be with all of my friends and go to classes and sit in chapel, graduation was not real, etc…” But no, that reality is not happening.

As I see people preparing to head back so soon, I am here trying to fundraise, gain support, and think of ways I can fundraise as I am gone as the holiday season of fall, thanksgiving, and Christmas approaches. I am thinking of going home in four weeks so I can spend time with my parents for a little under a week. And then I am still thinking about going to ENC to say goodbye for a day and night before I really fly to Atlanta for my last days of Training and then flying to Uganda.

Maybe visiting a place I love, with so many people I love within its walls will rip my heart in two, but isn’t that a good thing? To have places like that? Where you know you gave all you could in your time and leave because it’s been in the design God had for you all along…? Pain sucks, but sometimes it’s a good thing, because it means that at least you know you left what little thumbprint you could on some of the lives who are still within those walls. Still within that city.

I am going. God called me, and I have to go. I have to step forward. I have to leave ENC behind so I can step into the “greater” that God has commissioned me for, has been preparing me for, etc… I don’t have a choice but to step forward. I am excited. I think about it every day and my heart bursts in anticipation of seeing the faces of my squad again in person. They are my tribe, the people I travel with and who will “get it” when we return.

It is only a year, but my God, it would be beautiful to have a send off party from Boston. I was secretly hoping that there would be a nonstop one-way flight that was cheap so I could maybe see my friends that mean so much to me before I go, maybe have a group of people who cover me in love, prayer, and hugs and send me off for the year outside the airport. If it is anything I want before I go, it is that.

But why not stay, you ask, when it is so hard, heart-wrenching even?

Because I have been called. Because I can’t afford not to go. Because there is greater and there are stories out there that I need to hear, learn from, and bring back. Because, to me, and to God, it is worth it. Every tear, every hug, every send-off, every goodbye, every prayer, every penny spent on this mission. Worth it. Because staying would only hold me back from the way God wants to show me His love, truth, light, trustworthiness, and a life lived alongside Him – His gift to me, tailor made.

Because Faith drives Love, and it is the only thing I hunger for.

– – – – –

If you are reading this, and want to help me in my mission, you can visit my World Race Blog and donate through that avenue. It would seriously mean the world to me. to have your support in whatever way you can give. Visit: ashleycook.theworldrace.org

All my Love.

Currently

It’s been a while since I’ve done one of these and I was inspired last night to write one again!

READING

Making Jesus Lord by Lorn Cunningham and Tattoos on the Heart by Gregory Boyle. Both these books have been helpful as I prepare for my journey ahead on The World Race.

WRITING

I’ve been doing a lot more journaling lately. I’ve really missed it. It’s been helping me process all of the emotions I’ve been feeling as I prepare to leave in September and it’s been good for me to process what I’m learning even before I leave as I serve here in Petersburg, PA.

LISTENING

The PA Contemporary Christian Radio Stations are THE BOMB. They are fantastic ways to begin my mornings as I’m sleepy and driving to the Tree Farm at too-early-an-hour for work, and as I drive home from a long and tiring day of work. My favorites right now are Brother by NeedtoBreathe and Drops in the Ocean by Hawk Nelson. Both speak to me about God and how He wants to be there as my “shelter” and allow me to come as I am to Him.

THINKING

Wow, I’m exhausted. Spotify commercials are kind of annoying. I should really be packing instead of doing this blog, but at least I’ve been folding laundry and picking out what kind of things I want to bring to Training Camp with me. Wow, I feel unprepared. But God really wants to meet me completely in that unprepared feeling so just let go and let Him do His thing, Ashley. I need to transfer my laundry from the washer to the dryer. But, sleep. (My mind is kind of all over the place recently as I’ve been mentally preparing, physically preparing, and as my body has been taking the Yellow Fever Vaccine in and doing it’s thing to combat it, that is also why I am probably feeling really exhausted).

SMELLING

Nothing, currently. But at work I smell pine in Christmas Trees and earlier this afternoon I smelled mowed grass.

WISHING

I didn’t have to go to the Tree Farm tomorrow. Wishing I could be sleeping right now. Wishing I has talked with my mom about my India Visa papers on Tuesday night. Wishing, in general, that time would just comet on forward in the next two days so I can travel and get to GA and just start.

HOPING

I don’t get sent home from Training Camp.

WEARING

Blue Athletic Shorts and a Black Tank Top. Glasses on my nose.

WANTING

To finally meet Meredith in person and I want Training camp to start!!!! Also, God. All of God, and everything He has in store for me ahead.

NEEDING

Encouragement, Sleep.

CLICKING

Facebook, GroupMe Texts, Texts to Meredith and other friends, this blog.

Unconditional

Lately, aside from all the things I’ve been writing about on my World Race Blog, I have also been thinking a lot about Unconditional Love and what it looks like. I constantly come back to the subject of love in my writing because it’s something I desire more than anything; from God, but also – I won’t lie – from other people.

Between finding myself in a state of transition, only to be preparing for another really soon, and then to be completely changed, once again, in July, and then fully in transit come September (because it’s happening, I refuse to think that it won’t now)… I’ve also found a lot of love within all of the transition, too. And that’s pretty cool.

Senior Year is kind of a year all about Transition in General, but Spring Semester has certainly been more so than semesters prior. Between fundraising and trying (yes, actually trying while simultaneously procrastinating), I also found myself becoming torn between a community I was in and a community I will soon be in come July. I’m sure the same problem will arise when I move in June, too. It’s a constant battle between wanting to get to know people I’ll be giving my all to – people who will literally see me at my best and at my absolute worst (and still love me through it) – and people who will be there always, even when I return.

But, I must say, despite the pull in my individual heart, the group I will be spending my next year of life with has been really awesome at showing me what Unconditional Love from God really looks like… See, I’ve always believed that we can’t experience God without the action of others being courageous in their Acts of Love, if that makes any sense at all. I’m relational, so I feel as if I see God’s love in action through other people – whether it’s being fully present with me when we talk or doing something to show me that they care without expecting anything in return.

See, I feel as if I’ve only ever known a love that was conditional, which would probably explain why it’s so hard for me to accept unconditional love without being expected to do anything in return. It is physically hard for me to accept any form of love because I always feel as if I owe someone who is giving me anything something in return; whether that be a gift, money, or even a compliment… Anything, really… When it comes to giving love or encouragement for me though? All day  every day, nothing expected in return – maybe just a free hug, because it’s free.

God has shown me how much His love is unconditional in the past four months. It started in February when a squad mate called me and said “I want to give you some money in your fundraising account and a friend of mine is going to match some money for you, too.” It spilled over into March when I was given a gift from a squad mate as a surprise early birthday gift. It then spilled over into April when another squad mate wanted to give me some of her money even though she is just as freaked out about fundraising as I am… Then, this month, a squad mate willingly bought me my plane tickets to Georgia for Training Camp. Each act of love listed here is so huge to me and these people probably won’t even know the gravity of how much their willingness to daringly, courageously, unconditionally love a girl in New England that they have never even met in person before – how much that really, truly honestly means to me.

That’s Daring. That’s Courageous. That’s Unconditional. That’s what Love is. It is Action and It Expects Nothing in Return.

And it is so freaking hard for me to accept that because I know I don’t deserve to wear something on my wrist that holds such unique meaning. I don’t deserve a free ride to Training Camp. I don’t deserve money. The truth is that I don’t deserve any of it, but because of God’s Unconditional Love for me, He gives it away freely.

I am so excited to go deeper. I am excited to love furiously and courageously, even when it gets difficult or hard. And I am so excited to do life with a fraction (and more) of the people who have begun to teach me what it means to be Unconditionally Loved by the Father.

All my Love,

Ashley

No Words

Lately I am finding that there are no words to accurately describe how I’m feeling.

I can tell you that there are 4 more days of undergrad and then I will be finished with schooling, at least for now. I can tell you what I’m planning to do in the two weeks ahead.

But that still wouldn’t accurately describe the way I’m feeling about everything that’s happening. It wouldn’t capture the heart-wrenching feeling I’m getting inside the middle of my heart each and every day now that what was once a new chapter is coming to a close so soon. It wouldn’t capture the amount of growth I’ve experienced here. It wouldn’t begin to tell you the amount I’ve invested inside of a community I’ve come to know and love, and most importantly it wouldn’t capture the amount of friends and people I’ve come to know and love and will have a hole the size of Africa in my heart for.

Sometimes there are just no words to things like endings and transitional things like Graduation.

But the unique thing is that God didn’t have to use words to create something beautiful. He only had to use his creative mind and his breath. How unique and awesome is that?

That gives me some consolation in this time of change and transition, though. That sometimes it’s okay to not have words to speak and that sometimes it’s okay to just take in what we see, and breathe things to life when necessary. Sometimes it is the silence that speaks loudest. Sometimes there are no words for achievements, because while they are important, they don’t begin to touch the surface of change and blowing winds in every direction out in the world.

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.