Monday, February 18, 2013

Comparison.

Comparsion.  It is something that is so easy to do and something that I tend to do quite frequently.  I think most people could probably admit that they sometimes play the game of comparsion.  If you are not a person who compares your life to others then I applaud you.  I do not think that we mean to do it, but I do believe that it happens and it can be a killer of the joy that the Lord has for us.

I have not written in a very long time.  Half of that is because I have been so busy and not made time and the other half is because I have been struggling with who I actually want reading this blog.  I have a bit of a fear of man issue that the Lord seems to keep pointing out this year (especially this year when I did not think I could get any worse at it) and with that I have not been writing.  I love to write.  Even this silly blog helps me think and vent.  Not vent where I am talking negatively about others, but helps me put what I am thinking somewhere.  It is almost therapy.  I like to get on here after I journal to the Lord and it helps me think through what I have just written.  I say all this because for some reason it has been a struggle to even get on here and write.  This is silly.  As I am writing this I want you to know I will be coming back to the question of who do we think God is?  How are we viewing God right now (aka- how am I viewing God right now)?

I have always been very wary of "preaching" to people.  I have come from a sweet family that has been burned many times by people "preaching" at them instead of loving on them as Christ loves the church.  I have always been very wary of people who choose to judge and are seemingly self-righteous and like to show to others that they are the most amazing Christians around.  It gets under my skin like no other thing because I believe that turns people away from Jesus.  In a culture where we need Jesus more than anything- why would you choose to be like that to perpetuate the problem?  Why would you choose to show Jesus as someone who is not loving, is not forgiving, and is judgemental and harsh?  Does it say in the Bible that God is a just judge and he will judge the sins of others?  Yes.  But does God tell us to be go out and tell everyone how horrible they are-- or even better- make people feel horrible because they are not living like you are (since it is important for everyone to be like us {sarcasm})?  I do not believe so.  Do not get me wrong- I think that there are those who are chosen to live a life where they do call people out on a regular basis, but I truly believe that those who are called to such big things are not self-righteous but are rather constantly submissive to God and what he calls them to say to others.  I do not believe that they come up with their own sermons or words.  If it is not from God I do not believe it should be said to others as from the word of God.

This year has been a great year of change.  It seems to me that the past 7 years have been that way for me.  I could probably go back in my blog and see such things that are present.  I have had a few broken-hearted times.  What I have found is that the Lord has used that time so much.  He has drawn me closer to Him and showed me and revealed things in me that I do not believe that I would have seen if I had not gone through hard times.  Lately, I have been praying that the Lord calm my heart.  I have always been one who stresses.  If you known me well at all, you know that is what I do.  I do not think it is OK or right that I stress, but alas, I do it frequently.  I have had some challenges this year.  The Lord was gracious enough to bring someone in to take Cheerleading from me.  Coaching Cheerleading, career wise, was one of the hardest things I have ever done.  I dealt with parents who constantly saw me as a road block to their child's success, ran a rather large program, dealt with high school girls (enough said there) and was in charge of people who were my same age, and sometimes older.  It was an interesting spot to be in.  So, when I found out that my WONDERFUL principal had hired someone on to take cheerleading from me, tears were the only reaction I have.  Relief.  Gratitude.  and a question of what is next for me?

What I have found this year is that I have had a few words that have defined me.  coach.  cheerleading. single.  What is also true about those words is that they are no longer my titles or fields in which I am operating under.  Now I operate under the words of English teacher.  wife.  homemaker.  Ib teacher.  Can I just tell you that I do not feel that I am good at any of these quite yet.  Do I love my babies at school and hope and worry over whether I am teaching them and loving them like I need to?  yes.  Do I love my husband?  Of course.  But do I think that I measure up to all the qualities that a wife should be?  But I guess what I am getting at is I am not measuring up when it comes to the game of comparison.  I think instead of looking to my spiritual calling of a wife (which I truly do try to reach as much as possible on a daily basis, even though at times it seems impossible for this sinful, selfish human being), I look at others.  I am going to be real with you- I hate to cook most nights.  I have no interest.  When people start to talk about recipes, I just don't have any interest.  Some might find this selfish.  I have even asked myself that question.  Am I being selfish?  Bottom line is I will learn to cook well.  I will cook and do cook because I know that that is something that my husband likes me to do.  But it is not something that I find joy in.  And maybe I should.  As I write this I realize I should find joy in cooking for those I love, but I just am not a fan of cooking.  This is all to say that many of the "wifely duties" that so many woman say that we are called to are hard for me.  I have lived on my own for almost 6 years before I married Josh.  I think Elise (my constant source of encouragement and also rebuke if it is needed;)) told me about 8 times I needed a roommate to help sanctify me.  Now I am being constantly sanctified by my husband- which is the constant reminder of how much I need Jesus every day.  My question is- why is the game of comparsion so prevalent in my life?  Why do I constantly look at others and wonder why am I not that person or why did my life not end up that way?  I am where I am for a reason.  God put me here.  I firmly believe that, even on days that I question that.  God had me have a broken engagement, hard relationships, and other such things and has had me seek him through all of those things.  Why is it that I must try to put myself into this mold that people think I need to be in.

The good, the bad, and the ugly is unto Him in my life.  The eb and flow in life is unto Him.  Hard times are inevitable and most times we can choose for them to define us.  OR, we can choose for the Lord to define us.  I have always felt a little different.  I have felt that the Lord does have big plans for me, but I have never known what that will look like or how he could even use me.  The Lord has been challenging me in this this year.  The Lord has many purposes for each of his children and they will not all look the same.  And I venture to say- THAT IS OK.  I think the first thing is for me to accept this and acknowledge this and to live by this.  Actually, I think the first thing is to get in the word, and the second thing is above.  Thirdly, I think it is important to hear from others, but not to let what they think define my life.  God defines my life.  I believe God has put people in my life to walk through life with me, call me out, love on me, but I also believe that there are those who believe that is their roll when it is simply not.  I desire not to fall into the trap of making my life what someone else wants it to be.  If I do fall into the pattern of what someone "thinks I should be" rather than what God has called me to, what kind of life is that?  Rather, I want to live a life that is pleasing to God and is faithful to Him.  I desire to live a life pleasing to God.  I do not desire to compare myself to others for the rest of my life.  Comparsion...let us not let it rob us of joy, but let us see it for the sin that it is, call it out and rely on Christ to change us, mold us and love us into the people he desires us to be for him.








Sunday, May 6, 2012

Changes.

I am in a time of change. I am about to get married, hoping for some changes at work, we are purchasing our first home, and I am about to move in with a boy. Needless to say that in times of change I have found myself to feel a little out of control. I find myself to be emotionally drained and excited all at the same time. This is a weird mix for me. Everything I have waited for is finally happening and instead of welcoming it with opening arms, I am finding myself to be overwhelmed with all the change. Irony of ironies. I am finding myself having to trust Jesus more and more. It is funny because when you think you are done with a phase of life and feel you have grown so much from that particular phase in life, you find you are actually not that far removed from it. I find that all this "patient" waiting (let's be honest... I am not patient) has only brought me to more waiting. I am in a pattern of waiting on decisions that are outside my control to bring me to my next phase of life. The only constants that I have right now is that I know I have a job next year, I am getting married in June, and I will probably be closing on a house in May. One would look at this and say, well, that is really good, Ash. I look at it and say, oh Man, I really need to trust the Lord right now because there is a lot out of my control.

 One thing I am not good at is dealing with things that are out of my control. I am list maker and follower of the list. I like to be planned, and have a plan. The Lord has given me a man that plans, yet also leaves wiggle-room. I am not a wiggle-room kind of gal. I like a set plan, a set routine, and I like to know any possible situations that may happen so that I can be prepared for them when they come. This season of my life has not really warranted that. I have had to wait. The Lord has now brought me my man, but now I am waiting on life decisions to happen. Life decisions that will affect the way we live and do life (such as the Lord providing a job for Josh, things at my work changing, the house working out, etc.). I have been very anxious and stressed out because of these "unknowns" in my life. I have been trying to trust the Lord in everything that is going. It is always a lesson in grace when you realize how much you rely on yourself instead of the Lord. Even the days that I am intently trying to focus on the Lord and the fact that he has my back, I find myself relying on myself instead. I read a devotional called "Jesus Calling". Every morning during this process the Lord has hit me between the eyes with this devotional. I personally love when he calls me out like this. I love being engaged by our sweet Jesus. He gets my attention when He does this. Today it said "do not search for security". Let me share the first part of this with you- "Do not search for security in the world you inhabit. You tend to make mental checklists of things you need to do in order to gain control in your life. (ahem, Ashley). If only you could check everything off your list, you could relax and be at peace. But the more you work to accomplish that goal, the more things crop up on your list. The harder you try, the more frustrated you become." Can I hear and Amen and Selah. Between work, planning a wedding, buying a house, and worrying about future things I have made a lot of lists. I have chosen to worry, make lists, and most of all, take control of all situations going on.

 It goes on to say, "There is a better way to find security in this life. Instead of scrutinizing your checklist, focus your attention on My presence with you. This continual contact with Me will keep you in My peace. Fix your eyes not on what is seen (your circumstances), but on what is unseen (My presence)." This last sentence has been brought to my attention NUMEROUS times in the past few weeks. I believe the Lord is trying to lead me to just trust him. Trust him even though Josh does not have a job yet, trust him even though things at work might be in flux, trust him when wedding planning is overwhelming, trust him in buying a house, trust him in switching churches, just trust him. "You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You." Isaiah 26:3 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:18 I know the things I am stressing out about may not seem to be something that is big, and maybe in the grand scheme of things they are not. But what I am realizing is if they do take the focus off the Lord, then they are big things.

 So, right now, I am in a time of flux. A time that could easily throw one into a tizzy over things that are out of one's control. In this time, I must trust Jesus. My dad said something to me this weekend that has made me think. He said, "Ashley, you have to trust that good things come to people who work hard and do the right thing". I don't know if I completely agree with that statement, however I do think there is some validity to it. I think that if those who trust in the Lord and go on and do what the Lord has called them to do, the Lord will take care of them. The Lord promises to take care of his children. If I would recognize the power of that promise, I think I would really realize worrying and stressing about all of these unknowns is doing nothing but taking away from the power of what today may hold, of what the Lord may want me to do today. So, here is to hoping that in the next month and half before our wedding and when there are many unknowns, that although I must have some plans in the works, that I trust Jesus in every move I make and every thing that happens "I fix my eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen."

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

An update of sorts






I have dragged my feet to post this...most honestly, probably a bit out of fear. I think I have been dealing with a bit of fear on the front of some of the things in my life. The Lord is graciously working on my heart, which is good, stretching and tough at times. In the end, I am thankful the Lord goes after my heart as he does.

The news... I am engaged! If you know me well, you already know this. But, here are some details! His name is Josh Kavanagh. He is spectacular. He loves me well, has and does pursue me well, is strong-willed, compassionate, caring, thoughtful, smart, and is also a teacher. Above all, he loves Jesus. He challenges me, and engages me in such a loving way. I am thankful the Lord has brought him into my life, and the Lord has blessed me by allowing me to do life with this amazing man.

We have known each other, and of each other for quite a while. My friend Tiffany from high school first introduced us, and we also went to college together. Josh was my SWAT leader at DBU, although I must admit he remembers this much better than I do. (Yes, I guess I am a bit of a jerk on that front.) As the years passed, we have kept in touch, but have never dated. This last year he asked me out, and I though, what the heck! So glad I said yes because his country charm and his sweet spirit took me in! He has loved and pursued me well from the beginning, and the day before my birthday (November 19th) he asked me to be his wife! We will now be getting married on June 22nd.

I wanted to share some pictures of my beloved and also hoping this will get me on a blogging role yet again. It has been a crazy year at school this year. They have taken away a conference from us every other day, and add that in with the extra-curricular that I do, plus any sort of life I would like to have, it leaves little time for blogging about my musings about life. Alas, I shall try harder, for no other reason that it is therapeutic to me plus I love the blogging community. :)

Enjoy the pics and thanks for reading my catch up!

Love you all,
Ash

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Reflection

Growing in the Lord can often times be uncomfortable and stretching. Although it something that you definitely want in your life,I believe the closer you get to him and how gracious of a King he is, you see many more sinful parts to your life. I am talking about the legalistic view of what is right versus wrong in your life, but rather you see parts of your heart that need major reconstruction.

This past year (looking back from last year at this exact time) has been a major growth year. At times it has been EXTREMELY uncomfortable, and hard. I felt at times I was left alone by the Lord and did not know why he had brought me to certain places in my life. Looking back over the course of the year from where he has brought me to now, I have to say I am very thankful. I believe every experience he brings in my life does have a major purpose for forming me and making me into someone who is more like Him. I not even close to being compared to Jesus, so don't think that is what I am saying. What I am saying is that I think he brings us through certain trials and maybe even heartaches (I feel this in my case) to bring us out on the other side to say, Look sweet child what I have had for you all along!? Why can't you just trust me?'. I know this quote may be used often, but I think it is so true. C.S. Lewis said, "We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered to us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased." Often times, we get so caught up in what we want, what we could have, what we think we deserve that we don't look at where God has placed us, individually. Obviously my walk, nor my life is going to be the same as my friends. I may love what they have and think that is amazing for them, but if I covet that and desire that for my life, what does that say about my thankfulness for what the Lord has given me?

I have constantly been a person that looks at others lives and think, wow, that is really great that they have all of that... I wonder when that will happen for me. I am being extremely honest here. I can call it many different things, but when it boils down to it I have an extreme amount of pride, sometimes even manifesting itself as thwarted pride, which makes me think I deserve certain things. As I get closer and closer to the Lord, I realize I don't really deserve anything. The freeing part about this is it just makes you see how gracious and loving our sweet Jesus is. He desired me when he knew I would be a half-hearted creature. He knew he would reveal himself to me, and that I would still want to go play in the mud at times. He knew he would bring me out of things that could possibly cause me pain and heartache that were maybe just not right for me, and that I would fight him tooth and nail over it. He knew he would take me on a journey and that even when I am angry at where I might be, that He loves me just the same and desires me to see Him in all his glory. I amazed today at the journey of this past year. I went through some heartache and through that heartache he has brought me to another place all together. I feel he is still pressing on my heart daily, and showing me my sinful heart. And the funny thing is, I really believe as you get closer to the Lord, you just see your heart for what it is--wayward. And you are JOYFUL for how GRACIOUS Jesus is. You don't become down on yourself for messing that thing up (well maybe sometimes you do...) but rather you see that there is unlimited grace offered for you at the Cross and he has died in your place for all your sins. He loves you. like crazy loves you.

How great is a God that loves you so much. Oh, to know him more.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Balance

"We grow up when we see our lives from God's perspective; when we thank God for the role he has assigned to us and begin to see our cup as a gift instead of a cross; when each morning we ask, "God, how can I glorify You today in my given role?".

This quote is from a book I am reading called, "Calm my anxious heart" by Linda Dillow. Here lately, I find myself getting frustrated at all the roles I have to play. At how much is expected of me at work, and how much physically, mentally and emotionally that takes out of me. I find myself comparing myself to others and not necessarily wishing for what they are doing, but in a way coveting what I perceive to be "free time". That "free time" I seem to so want is probably to them just as busy as what my life may be perceived as. This morning I was reading and I read the above excerpt, as well as "To much is given, much is required". How true that is. In fact, I teared up a bit when reading this. Maybe that might not be that crazy since I can be an emotional woman, but here lately I have been trying to hold it together. Take it one day at a time, as many people tell me. This year we only have a conference (a break in the day where we can call parents, input grades, grade papers, work on any cheer stuff I have, etc.) every other day. Due to this, most of my school meetings are now before or after school, which takes any extra energy out of you that you may have possessed before the meeting. I have started to see sides of myself and others that are not the most pleasant. I long for the days when we had a conference everyday. I get frustrated and overwhelmed. My brain is fried, and I feel like I am constantly working. Trust me, I am not saying this in a complaing tone, although it may come off as that since this is not face-to-face conversation. Rather, I am telling you, I am having a hard time balancing when to stop working and take time for myself. I am in the word, but not as much as I would like to be. I think all the time, Ash, everything will only fall into place if you are in the word FIRST. I am playing the comparison game more often and being oober-critical of myself in everything, and especially the things I have struggled with most in the past. (Go figure since I just wrote a blog about that).

All that to say, what I am trying to find right now is balance. I have been a horrible friend, but I have to purposefully p;an a time when I can call my friends. Last week I fell asleep at 8:30 and also took a nap at 6 that night. I don't do that usually unless I am sick. I know I am not the only one feeling this way, because in talking to my colleagues they are feeling the same way. I can't imagine having babies and a husband right now and trying to balance all that without going insane. This week my good friend at school came in and said, "Ash, what are you doing!?" To which I replied, "Planning and color-coding my planner, silly!". To which he then told me that I was planning in a 2010 calendar. ha, depressing and also tells you my brain is a bit tired. Even in all this, I do know this is where the Lord has placed me and where he wants me--crazy schedule and all. Right now I am just being very convicted in being more positive and being more content with where I am right now. Not playing the people-pleasing game, the complaing game, the wish I had her job game, but rather having the, "Thank you, Lord for what you have blessed me with" posture. I can say there are lots of issues that this is hard for me- my type A personality, my perfectionism, my desire for the kids to succeed even if they don't want to, my people-pleasing....but what it all boils down to are sin issues I am not dealing with or refusing to see. That is always fun when the Lord points that out.

My last point is- where is my focus? Is it on Eternity and what the Lord wants for my life, or on ME? I so often make this world all about me and my wants and desires instead of who He is and what He desires for my life and for those around me. Instead of focusing on how I can minister to those around me and pour myself more into the Lord and the Lord's purpose for myself, I play the woe is me card. I don;t even mean to do it sometimes...I just get so frustrated and tired. I think there is a balance in life, and one must get rest and take care of oneself (hello Sabbath) but there is also the HUGE part where I must recognize that this world is not about me, but rather about my one true love, Jesus.

"If we want to be women of contentment, we must choose to accept our portion, our assigned roles from God. We must make the choice to dwell on the positive aspects of our role in life. If we don;t, we'll be discontent, always wanting something different from what we have been given."

Here's to restoration and contentment...

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Blush

I got asked to contribute to a blog called Blush. Blush is a conference that I spoke at months back. This is probably the most raw I have been in a blog. Autumn, the founder of Blush, asked me to share my story with her readers. She asked me to post it on my facebook page, and I have decided just to retweet her tweet about my blog and put it on here. As much as I would like to say fear of man never has a hold on me, I still think it is a little hard to share your whole self with others.

So, that being said, here is the blog that I wrote. :)

Friday, July 15, 2011

Jaded Beauty

As woman, we all have that tendency to pick ourselves apart. Although some women might be more forthcoming with what they see wrong with themselves, I still believe most women, if not all, scrutinize about the way the look, feel, or may be perceived. Some women may mask this with overconfidence, wearing clothes that show off their figures, or buying things that make them feel better. Others might completely obliterate any good qualities that can be perceived from others because they have such a low view of the beauty of who they are. I tend to be on the pendulum that swings from one extreme to the other.

Jaded beauty these days is much of what we look like, how we are perceived and even more so, what we want to be perceived as. Do you want to be perceived as someone who does not care what people think, or do you want to make sure everyone takes notice of you and who you are? The thing is, I think we all long to be known as women. We long for someone to come along, take notice and not only be drawn to us, but rather be CAPTIVATED by us. We do not want them to just see our outward beauty and be taken by that (even though that is nice to think about) but we want them to notice all of us. We long for someone to see our quirks and love us just the same as they did before they found out about them. When thinking about the word "jaded" I start to think about where we have gone wrong in deciding what makes someone beautiful. We don't necessarily look at unique qualities within a woman, but rather compare them to ourselves and think what we might do to make ourselves better or more desirable than the next. We play the "comparison game" rather than looking at ourselves and working on inward beauty.

I know that when I see someone who is physically more fit than I am or skinnier, has that amazing body we may all covet, I struggle with comparison and then try to come up with a plan to be the next Victoria Secret beauty. I don't want to be ordinary, but rather extraordinary. I want others to think I am the best....aww, jaded beauty. Jaded beauty can also be looked at as pride. Thwarted pride or just all out "I am the best looking woman in here" kind of pride...either way, we are all jaded. We don't try to make our inward beauty shine because we are too worried about what others may think, or how we feel our bodies look that day, or what size we used to be, or that blemish that ever-so-suddenly appeared on our face when we have something really big we need to look GREAT for that particular day. We scrutinize over how we can do better and look better and how today will be different and we will feel differently tomorrow if we just do something different tomorrow (make ourselves better).

I would wager to say Jaded beauty is not something new that has just happened in this century. Sure, we have a new definition of beauty than they had in the 19th century, but have we really changed our thinking over how to be beautiful? I don't think so. Yes, we may have sky-high ads of the "perfect" Jenn Anniston drinking her smart water with her long luscious hair that makes us feel a bit down on that extra cupcake we indulged in today, or not working out in a week. But do you not think that they may have had beauty standards back in the day that were similar, just maybe not posted on billboards?! (And don't get me wrong, I love me some Jennifer Anniston...just saying the girl looks great in all ads BUT it is posted everywhere ya look). I guess what I am getting at here is honestly, until I start looking at what is inside me and what the Lord has made me to be,do I honestly get closer to the "beauty" model that I am supposed to be longing after. I still struggle with it on a daily basis, and probably more like an hourly basis on a bad day, thinking about how I look, how i am perceived and other such things that are really not important to my quality of life in the long run. However, it is still there... the way you fix that is finding your worth in something that is not of you. I honestly do not think there is a way to find worth unless you are looking at the Creator who made you. He knows every hair on your head and made you unique for a reason. We all have a purpose for being here, and in that, I think we should rejoice. He has made us unique. He didn't make us all look the same, act the same, or have the same figure, because (as I think of it) it would be BORING. What is unique about everyone being the same?? So, why do we long for that on such a constant basis?

Maybe, you are different. Maybe you don't really struggle with the whole beauty issue. That is AWESOME if that is so. But, for me, I must say I struggle with this very frequently and the only way I find solace in this situation is by realizing that the Lord did not call me to be a size 2 for my life mission. He called me to "work with willing hands, have a heart that people can trust in, dresses herself with strength, opens her hands to be poor and reaches out her hands to the needy, strength and dignity are her clothing and she laughs at days to come, opens her mouth up with wisdom and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue, she does not participate in idleness and most of all she remembers CHARM IS DECEITFUL AND BEAUTY IS VAIN BUT A WOMAN WHO FEARS THE LORD IS TO BE PRAISED." (paraphrased a bit...from Proverbs 31).

Oh, to be that woman.

Love you all!