I choose Jesus over my past.

Tonight, I went through all of my old pictures from high school. While looking through these memories, I started to think that my life was way easier pre-Jesus. That I had a lot more fun and had a larger life before Jesus came on the scene and started cutting away those parts of my heart. As I looked through two years of prom pictures, old messages, and videos of sleep overs with past friend groups, I found myself really wondering if I was happy with where I’m at today, and maybe just maybe if I was missing out on the future that my past could have been. But after fifteen minutes and three haircut mistakes into the time spent on memory lane, I remembered the reality of my past and how much I would have missed if I would have settled for an average lifestyle.

I choose Jesus over my past.

Jesus met me where I didn’t even think I needed His help. Jesus met me in the middle of a life that was so close to being in the right direction that it was miles away from a life of righteousness.

What a good God I have. That He meets me in a place of settling to lift me to a place of living abundantly with Him. I say it a lot, but I wouldn’t be where I am today if it weren’t for Jesus. I would’ve missed out on my calling and lived a life filled with a misconception of God and the kind of love that we deserve.

I sound pretty grateful in these last two paragraphs. But the last two hours, and even these past two days, I have been feeling like I don’t know where I’m going in life and if I’m in the right place. I’ve fought with the lie that life with Jesus is just too much work and it’s too hard. That if I would have never gotten saved or gotten saved and just coasted, then life would be much easier and maybe even happier. But, happiness is fleeting based on circumstances. Joy withstands everything. And that’s what I have with Jesus–unshakeable joy.

I may be a junior in college working towards a ministry degree, helping lead a summer internship of kids when I have no idea what I’m doing, broker than a broke college student, and looking at the perfect plan I had for my life when I was sixteen and seeing none of it adding up. I may not know where I’m going or what I’m doing. But I know who I’m doing it with, and I know that He’s got good good plans for me (Jeremiah 29:11).

I would rather run this race with Jesus, feeling tired and worn out at times, than walking in life always searching for completion but instead coming up empty and finding love in all the wrong places.

I choose Jesus over my past every day for the rest of my days.

 

 

 

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The God that redeems.

Tonight, I thumbed through an old journal of mine. The leather book was filled with two years of my life. Two impactful, life-changing, and raw years of my life. So, I sat in my bed and read today’s date from last year and the year before. Two years ago today, I was not a Christian. I had yet to have my Damascus Way experience. One year ago today, I began to step out into the unknown with the Lord as I walked with Him by myself. I began to notice that the entirety of those two years bound in leather were a picture painted with grace and redemption.

Sometimes we don’t see redemption in the process. We lose sight of God’s mercy that is poured over us in the midst of the planting season. March 21, 2015 was a day that I was asking for more of God, but not sensing anything real. Day after day I would journal something similar, until June 14, 2015. I couldn’t see the redemption of my soul that day, but the soil and the seed had been planted.

March 21, 2016 was a day that I began to step out of the last chapter of my life and step into the grace and community Jesus was calling me to. I began to step out of bitterness towards failed things and people, even when I felt like things still weren’t looking like what I had pictured for this season. I couldn’t see the journey that would radically change my walk with the Lord then. I didn’t see myself boldly praying outloud, going to ministry school, going on missions to Peru, and running my race with a community so dear to my heart. All I saw was a girl who was insecure about the water God was calling her to walk on.

March 21, 2018 will be a day that I see the fruit of the seeds I have been planting in prayer. It will be the day where I see what this current process is for. But instead of being stuck in today where I am struggling to seek Jesus, I will declare the goodness of the Lord in my tomorrows. The Bible proclaims, “Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever” (Psalm 23:6). If the Bible says it, then I declare and claim it for my own life.

Because, my God is a god that redeems!! Redemption was done and sealed when His blood spilled out at Calvary, but it also continues to happen as His Spirit moves into every room of my soul. Our Jesus is too kind and loving to leave us where we are. Live expectant of your redemption.

Let’s be honest.

A lot of times in my Christian walk, it gets so easy to put on this perfect Christian demeanor. To say the right things, but not mean them all of the time. To judge others instead of dealing with the fact that I have my own sin and the fact that I’m not their judge.

So, I’m deciding to get honest. I’m really not the perfect Christian girl.

I don’t cuss, drink, or smoke. I don’t do a lot of the things that are on the “NO” list of Christianity. It’s perfectly fine that I check off all of the good things I do and the bad things that I don’t, but at the end of the day that doesn’t preach the gospel. It preaches religion.

On my blog, I can honestly say I write a lot of truth. But time and time again, the Lord reveals more to me. Like peeling an onion. After each day, there’s more layers, more revelation, and more conviction. I tend to write a lot about girl power, identity, how I’ve been hurt, and words that Jesus has laid on my heart. But, I don’t think I ever write about how I hurt people.

Tonight, I was listening to this amazing podcast about dating. The man who was preaching gave such a rich word. He spoke about how there are two types of relationships between man and woman in the Bible. Brother and sister in Christ and married. That there is no inbetween and one does not get to cross the line of the other. So when you’re dating, you are brother and sister in Christ. You are not married and you do not have ownership over the person, or privileges of a marriage. That when you date someone and it doesn’t work out, you should be able to meet their future spouse one day and be able to say, “I honored him/her.” As I listened to this message, I realized that one day… I won’t be able to say that to someone’s wife. After months of knowing I was wrong in some parts of a past relationship, but really throwing 99% of the blame on him…. It hit me tonight. I’m not this perfect Christian girl.

I think when breakups happen, we end up blaming one person more for the outcome. But really in hindsight, no one is purely innocent. So neither am I. From this situation and this sermon, I’ve learned the lesson that it is wrong to demand that someone text you 24/7. It is wrong to dishonor that person’s purity. It is wrong to hold someone to the responsibilty of completing you, when no one on this earth could possibly ever do that. It is wrong to treat someone as less than a son or daughter of God. And it is a shame that I will not be able to tell his wife that I truly honored him.

But that’s the honest truth. One time, I hurt somebody whether they felt it or not and I’m truly sorry for that. One time, I messed up and I did some things that wouldn’t go well with my “I’m the perfect Christian girl” mask.

I’m not saying that trying to become more like Christ everyday is wrong by any means. In fact, that’s the goal. To look more like Jesus. But there’s a difference in walking in truth and being good at hiding our own faults whilst picking at others. So, here’s to being honest. Here’s to being more authentic, more honoring, and more humble. Here’s to preaching that I am not perfect… that I have done horrible things, but the grace and radical unconditional love that Jesus offers says, “I still love you and I’ve covered that.”

That is the gospel.

Fearfully & Wonderfully Made. 

“I will praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made” Psalms 139:14

Those words fearfully and wonderfully speak volumes. The word fearful (yare’) in Hebrew means “to be held in awe.” The word wonderfully (palah) in Hebrew means “to be distinct, wonderful, and set apart.” 

If only we looked at this everyday. If only we thought of the process God went through to make us. He fearfully and wonderfully made us. He made me and beheld my creation in awe. The God of this universe made me…. such a small person… And He beheld me in awe. Awe is defined as “an overwhelming feeling of adoration.” Imagine Jesus forming you, already in awe of you and what you are destined to do. 

So if the Lord is in awe of us as His creation, we are not just benchwarmers in this world. We aren’t some humans wandering around trying to stumble upon something we can make a living at. We are wonderfully made. We are distinct as God’s child. He has set us apart just as if He has marked us with His thumbprint or DNA. Jesus created us with a purpose that isn’t the same as the everyday motions of the world we so often get stuck in. As He beheld us with such intense adoration, He deemed us set apart as His family and for something bigger than ourselves. 

I wonder if we began to meditate on those words “fearfully” and “wonderfully” what would actually happen. Would we begin to love ourselves a little more? Would we smile brighter? Would Jesus seem more like a loving Father than a judge waiting for us to get out of line? Would we change our hearts, our lives, our surroundings, and maybe even our nations? For we are fearfully and wonderfully made and called to do all of those things. 

Not my will, but Yours.

This life is like a maze. There’s so many confusing twist and turns you take. But there is only one route that gets you to where you need to be. I have spent a lot of time avoiding this route. Dodging the right turns and running down some dead end paths trying to make it there on my own. Yet, I know that the only path that will get me to the end is God’s will.

I struggle a lot with allowing Him to have His way and direct me on the path He has set before me. I tend to think that God doesn’t know what’s best, or God’s best is going to be something I won’t like…. When in reality, it’s the opposite. I can honestly say that some of my biggest let downs that happened because of God’s divine intervention were the best moments of my life.

I used to think that my testimony of getting saved just a year ago after living and breathing church for all of my life was embarrassing. Humiliating. That when I came to know Christ I was the biggest pretender of all time and how dumb did I look just now surrendering my life to Him. You may think that sounds awful to say, but it’s the truth. I felt so humbled and knocked off my church going pedistool when someone asked me, “How did you come to know Christ?” For the longest time, I beat myself up for letting down God and being fake. But how great is it that He intervened.  How fantastic is it that what I thought was a let down was the best moment I will ever experience on this Earth.

I know I can write about this topic a lot, but it’s only because it was such a crucial turning point for my life and walk in faith. When a relationship I held dear to my heart came tumbling down before me, I thought God let me down. To say I was angry with God would be an understatement. But because of that, I spent a season totally alone with God. I learned worth, how to love others, forgiveness, and dependence upon Him. But most importantly, I learned my purpose. God wrecked my heart to show me the heart I have for others. While I thought my future was ruined, it was only the biggest set up for me.

When my heart no longer desired to be a teacher, I felt unstable. Honestly, I connected a little with Job in the fact that I felt like God stripped all of what I thought was my identity away from me. Being pushed into the field of psychology and seminary where there isn’t security, left me feeling anxious and discouraged. But now, I’ve never been more at peace knowing if God guides, then He will provide.

Through all of these “let downs”, I came to see that my God’s will for me is best. That maybe sometimes what I want is not always what I need. While I still struggle with trying to grab the wheel and slam on brakes, I know that His will is ultimately where I want to be. So if I don’t end up with the guy I thought I would, the career I planned years for, or even the perfect church girl testimony…then that’s perfectly alright. My Jesus has saved His best for me and if something falls from my hands, I only know that it means something better is coming my way. Not my will, but His be done. On Earth as it is in Heaven.

 

 

Identity. Who are you?

Who are you? What an easy question… but such a hard one to answer at that.

One time someone asked me, “So what do you do?” And I proceeded to tell them how I was a college student, had a job, and the rest of the basics. But then they said, “No, I mean what do YOU do? Who are YOU….not your titles”

I honestly didn’t have an answer. If we step back and peel off the layers the world sees, who really are we? Well, I guess that all depends on where our identity stems from.

You can find your identity in two places. This world or Jesus. This world and the one who runs about it tells me I’m not worthy. I’m too small. I’m too sinful to ever accomplish anything great. I’m too used. I’m not good enough. But Jesus calls me by a different name. He calls me set apart. Worthy. Daughter. Bride. Loved.

So I ask you… where does your identity stem from? Do you still believe the lies the enemy tells you… or are you itching to give your heavenly identity a try? Because we can live this life one of two ways. We can stay forever stuck in condemnation, guilt, and insecurity. We can become complacent. Or we can rise up and start to believe that we are loved and we are valued. That we are meant to do great things. I used to read my Bible and think, “I’ll never be like Paul, Peter, Esther, or Ruth. I’m too entirely small to ever have a faith and story like those.” But here lately, I’ve realized that’s who I’m called to be. I’m destined to be someone great for God’s kingdom. I’m destined to have bravery like Esther. I’m chosen to spread the gospel like Paul. I’m set a part like Peter to help heal. I’m deemed worthy to marry a kind hearted, Jesus loving man like Ruth.

Like all of these people… Our life is intended to be a book in the Bible. I think today, we let the enemy subtly tell us that living like that is an extreme. Preaching the gospel to nations and people we meet is radical. But I don’t recall there being a book in the Bible saying that just church on Sunday’s, clapping to a Hillsong song, sitting for a sermon, and then living the rest of our lives on auto pilot is how we pick up our cross and follow Jesus. Not that those songs are bad or church is bad… it isn’t. But disciples of Christ (believers) are called to do more. We are called to be so much more.

So who am I? I’m Ashley Irene Faulkner. I’m set apart. I write for the Lord. I connect with girls who need Jesus’s love when their hearts have been broken. I dance when I worship. I am one of His saints. And I hope that when I come into the kingdom of Heaven…. that I will have ran my race in my heavenly identity like Esther and Paul. I’m not those lies the enemy whispers to me at night. And neither are you. Sometimes the devil likes to pretend he can revive the person we were before we were saved by God’s unfailing grace… But he doesn’t hold the power to resurrect, does he?

So who are you? What identity do you choose?

These Past 5 Months.

Looking back on the past five months of my life… I am overwhelmed at what a work God has started within me and around me. He has completely transformed my heart each day, and He has made His presence known.

On this breezy Tuesday afternoon, I’m thankful for so many things. I’m thankful that I somehow managed to make it through my first year of college. I’m thankful for my mom and how God has healed her heart. I’m thankful for this blog and how it shapes me as a person. There are so many things to thank Him for over these past five months…let alone my entire life. The favor He shows me, the love He pours upon me, and the light He shines through me is too good to be true. I can honestly say that He has whisked me off of my feet like never before.

If you could rewind my life backwards five months, you would’ve seen a girl crying to God. Yelling at God. And even ignoring God’s affection due to misunderstanding.

Rewind my life backwards seven or so months, you would’ve seen a girl who was living on the outskirts of God’s will but doing her best to try to please Him, while compromising a lot of her values.

Rewind my life almost exactly a year ago, you would’ve met a girl who wasn’t saved but sat in a church every Sunday living a lie.

When I gave my life to God last June 14th, I would have never in a million years believed I would be living the life I am today. If you would have told me I would write and post it where people could actually read it, I would’ve laughed. Because for a while my thoughts were kept tucked away in a journal for no one but myself to read. If you would have told me I would be single and spending time alone with God, I would’ve been upset. Because a year ago, I was attached at the hip of a boy who I thought hung the moon and stars. If you would have told me that I would delight in worship and lift my hands during a song, I would’ve shook my head back and forth. Because even closing my eyes during a song was a big step for me when it came to worshipping God.

Ever since I gave the steering wheel of my life over to God last summer, He has started to make enormous changes. From relationship status to friendships to levels of faith and so so much more. He truly has filled me with a greater joy. He is 100% for me. He has given me blessings after blessings. Whether it was one that I welcomed with open arms, or one that seemed like a disappointment at first. He has never let me down.

Over the past five months and even the past almost year, I have been tasting and seeing that the Lord is good. I’ve learned that there is nothing better but to stand before God and speak with raw honesty. To be authentic and live a life that displays nothing but that. Because while I declare how good He has been to me right now, I was not shouting this let alone believing that He was during multiple times over these past five months. But the secret I have found to reaching new levels with God is to be honest about every emotion you feel with Him. When you’re honest, there is nothing to hide. No locked door in the house of your heart. He’s got all access when you’re honest. I’m beyond thrilled to love a Lord who loves me, delights in me, and is pleased with me when I am an open basket case before Him.

Thanks for everything, Jesus! But especially, thanks for these past five months.

Come back to your first love.

We all have a first love. The love you thought was pure love. The first time you ever truly gave part of yourself or heart to another human being. First loves are scary and new. Uncharted territory. There’s beauty in stepping into the unknown with someone who makes your heart race and stomach flutter. First loves teach us so much.

My first love taught me to return to my true first love.

I’ve seen Jesus work in mighty ways even before I truly knew and understood who He was. I’ve seen him mend fences, restore families, and save souls. My parents’ testimony is one of the most beautiful examples of this. Two souls who lost touch of their first love found each other. Created a family. Separated. And found their way back together through the redeeming melody Jesus offers. To this day, that is one of the sweetest miracles I have ever been blessed to witness and play a part in. My parents came back to their first love. When I say that, I don’t mean they came back to each other. By no means were they each other’s first love. But they came back to Jesus. Their true first love. From that, transformation and unity overflowed and led them back together.

My first earthly love taught me to retreat back to my very first eternal Love. While my first love here on this planet burned and faded, it pushed me into the arms of the One that will not. It’s thrown me head first into my Love who offers me a dance with Him that will never cease and twirls me to the tune of the sweetest of songs.

However, far too often I hit pause on God’s stereo and listen to the melody of the world. I trade my barefoot dancing feet for busy shoes that never stop to enjoy His presence. I trade my Bible for Twitter or Instagram. I trade my prayers for texts to friends. I trade late night convos with Jesus about my present time with Him and the future He has willed for me for worries of the past. I trade my heavenly identity and adoration He sings to me for labels the world throws at me. I trade my first Love for my love of the world.

Thank goodness He’s grabbed me by my heart again and beckoned me with the whisper, “Return to your first love.” Lately, that verse or humming or whisper….whatever that drawing sensation God uses with that phrase keeps lingering in my heart. Like a gentle motion that’s saying, “Come back over here. Draw closer to me. I’m wanting to take you deeper into my love.”

So I say this to say, don’t be like me. Grab hold of your true first love and dance wildly with Him. If you’ve pressed pause for even a second, race to the play button and allow him to steal your heart. Fall in love with your first love again. Let your relationship with God be like a relationship here on Earth but so much sweeter. Believe in His unconditional love even when it seems unbelievable. Seek His freedom and run unashamed back to Him.

He’s humming over your heart what He is to me. The sweeter song of His love you have pushed pause on. The tune is familiar and your soul aches for it, I know. It’s not one of condemnation, or you could have done bettter type of tone, but gentle and sweet. Let it be more like falling in love, than some set of rules or just something to believe in.

He’s waiting. Standing right beside you. Looking at you the way you hoped your first love here would have always looked at you. With intense adoration and an unfading love. But this love, oh this love He holds for you offers you so much more than the one you found here first. Won’t you go back to your first love? He’s been waiting.

I choose grace.

I choose grace when people I care about do their best to hurt me. If you asked the Ashley I was maybe a year ago or so, she wouldn’t have said the same thing. She would have done her best to hurt them right back. But my mom spoke some wise words to my heart.

She said, “Hurting people hurt people.”

It’s so easy to get hurt, offended, upset, and even angry when people we have loved unconditionally continue to lash out towards us. Or maybe people who don’t even know our hearts that continuously persecute us and even label us wrongly. It hurts whenever someone intentionally takes a stab at us. Sometimes it’s so hard for me to bite my tongue. Like my mom said, “Hurting people hurt people.” Once I get hurt, the urge of my flesh comes out and tempts me to lash out. But, I know that’s not the right thing to do.

Over the past couple of days, I’ve thought about how Jesus said to forgive your brother seven times seventy. How he said to forgive as He has forgiven. How he said, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.” I hate laying down my pride and anger to soak these truths into my heart. I try to bargain with God and say, “But you don’t know how bad they hurt me.” Oh, He knows. He so knows. But He also knows that if I’m His child, then my walk is my witness. How can I claim to be a follower of Jesus…the One who showed ultimate grace, if I can’t give it. Grace is hard. It’s one of the hardest things I’ve come to learn from Jesus. While grace is this beautiful gift we’re given when we’re saved, it’s also hard for us to give. As much as we can unconditionally love someone, it is only a sliver of how much God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit love us. So while this amazing gift of love and eternal forgiveness has covered us head to toe, it is still so hard for us to show someone that same love and mercy because we’re only human. But the more we show as much of God’s grace as we humanly can to others, I believe the people that harm us will see Jesus through our actions.

So, I choose grace. Not because it’s easy. Not because I’m some perfect Christian that has no negative emotions (because let’s face it, I’m a work in progress). Not because taking the high road is what we’re supposed to do. But because, I know when I meet Jesus and we go through all the things I’ve done in this life…He will never be disappointed or scold me for loving someone and showing them grace. Being the bigger person can feel so small at times. But what gets me through those times of hurt is knowing that one day we will all be held accountable for our actions here on Earth. Even the people that hurt me. While I may never see revenge on Earth or get an apology, they will have to answer to Jesus just like I will.

So, I choose grace. Because to hurt me, they must be hurting about something in their soul. Whether it be about their relationship with Jesus, something going on with their family, or an emptiness inside. Whatever it may be, hurt is still hurt. We’ve all felt hurt at some point in our lives, and I know we wouldn’t truly wish that upon anyone.

To wrap this up, I just want to share this little bit with you. I was driving home tonight pondering on a recent hurt in my life caused by someone my heart cares deeply for. I was talking to Jesus and said, “Jesus, I just don’t understand how someone who you loved and once loved you, can turn into someone who want to keep hurting you over and over again?” Now, I haven’t heard God’s voice just yet in my walk….But that question kind of led me back to Calvary. Jesus loved me so much that He chose to die in my place, bear all of my shame for every single bad thing I’ve done, and gave me grace so I wouldn’t have to walk in my sin everyday. Yet even though I love Him, I still hurt Him. Every day. And every day He shows me grace.

So, I choose grace. Because Jesus chose grace for me. And He chose it for you too.

To the one who feels “not good enough”

To the heart that’s struggling,

You’re doing better than you think. I want to tell you something that you probably haven’t heard lately, or maybe have been rejecting. You are beautiful. Your heart is all together beautiful and righteous in the eyes of the Father. Let that sink in for once and learn to believe that again. You are enough for Him.

I’m sure right now life is getting the best of you, and maybe the enemy is having fun with you along with that. School is getting rough, your hours at work are seeming longer, the person you admire is “out of your league”, or maybe you feel like your walk with God is not 100% perfect or close to it. Maybe you feel all of those things. And I bet you the enemy tells you that you’re the only one. You are anything but alone in that department. The world of believers around you are all walking messes. And so are you. You’re a mess. You’re a doubtful, worrisome, stressed, and emotional mess. But that’s okay. Because even at the end of those days where you feel like all you did was make it successfully through the last 24 hours, you are the mess that God chooses. He chooses you and I over and over again.

You are chosen. Did you know that? Even I forget that from time to time. You are a child of Christ. Jesus and our Holy Heavenly Father delight in you just as a parent would.

Right now, your perspective of God is not much like this. Something happened to cause you to reject His love and shy away from your walk with Him. And about right now, you’re convinced that God is just waiting to yank grace and salvation away from you the very second you get out of line. I know cause I’ve been there friend. That drought of self-pity, insecurity, and ignorance of God’s character is real and believers slip into it more than you think. But I want you to know that you are so wonderfully adored, and that you will always be enough for Christ Jesus. He wants you everyday. He pursues your heart even when it isn’t in its purest state. He pursues you when jealousy stains it, when lies live in it, and even when you take control over it. He actively is in pursuit of your heart and enjoys spending time with you. You are more than enough for your Savior. On days when people make you feel unworthy, look to God who crowns you with the same glory as one of His disciples or prophets.

So, take a deep breath and allow yourself to feel the grace that washed over you the  minute you gave your life to Him. Jesus says that “In this world you will have trouble, but take heart for I have over come the world” John 16:33. Jesus knows your struggle and He out of all people knows how hard it is to be perfect. So lean on Him. After all, Jesus was perfect so you didn’t have to be.

With love,

Your sister in Christ