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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

 

 

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Be bold.

I haven’t written in a while… and there’s some reasons why. I’ve let doubt take a foothold in my life and faith. Doubts of what God is doing in my life. If He’s in my life. Who He really is and who Jesus really is.

That’s awful I know. You may think, “How can she call herself a believer? A child and daughter of Jesus if she struggles with doubts?” or maybe you’re like me and you’re realizing that you aren’t alone. I think the enemy tries to tell us we’re the only ones who feel this way and that we can’t call ourselves a Christian or saved because of it. He’s really good at that one… and better yet, I’m really good at being deceived by his lies versus my own salvation and God’s truth.

Over the past year, my reality has taken 90 degree shifts. In June, I gave my life to Christ. In December, I lost a relationship that was all I really knew for half of high school and half of my first year of college. My whole reality changed from growing up in church to just now accepting God. It was like a veil was torn off my eyes, but it was and still is confusing because I felt as if I’ve been living a lie. And when that old relationship changed and ended, it left me with no direction and disheartened about God’s plans for my life.

I was and still am in a state of utter confusion with what God is doing and all that makes up God, like the Trinity… or how God and Jesus are separate but one at the same time..or how the cross occurred. It’s mind boggling really… and I have so many questions.

I lay all of my disgusting unbelief and doubts in my sweet, at times too forgiving Jesus to just be honest… and to let you know that your sin doesn’t have to be a secret. That if there is something you’re struggling with, maybe doubts or some other sin that’s taken a stronghold over you, that you are forgiven. Whether grace has been made real to you or not, the very day your heart was pulled and you called His name… you have been forgiven for this very moment. I know grace doesn’t always seem like it’s for me because of who I’ve been, but on those days where I feel unworthy of grace and doubts flood over me…I have to speak what I know is truth over me. I have to be bold and expose my sin, so that it doesn’t control me. The more I hide and the more I cover it up from God, the farther I feel from His love and mercy. And that’s an open door for Satan to bait me.

Tonight, I cried my heart out to God. I felt fear. I felt doubt. I felt shame. And I felt unworthy to even think that I was one of His beloved. That surely my heart had changed and I was disqualified. Tonight, a sweet friend prayed the words over me, “He’s saying, ‘Be bold! Don’t worry what anyone will think!’ He just wants to hug you. His arms are open and He wants to baptize you in His spirit” These truths that were boldly proclaimed over me made me realize that this fear was holding me back from being all that God formed me to be. I stopped writing because I was fearful of being “fake” or not saying the right words. I stopped showing people love and accepting Jesus’s love because I was afraid of where He may lead me… and maybe it was somewhere that I wouldn’t like. But being bold in our faith is what drives out every single fear, doubt, and worry that we have. Because worry ends where faith begins, my friend.

If you’re running on empty in faith… feeling disqualified or doubtful, I’m there with you. But He’s saying, “Be bold my child. For I did not give you a spirit of fear, but have called you to be brave.” Refresh yourself and dunk yourself under the immense ocean of the Holy Spirit, because we were created to be more than this.

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When I Answered

On June 14th, 2015….My life was changed forever.

It was a typical Sunday at church for me. But my heart was not where it should be. Lately I had been agonizing over if I was truly saved.

I grew up at Cascade Hills and believed in Jesus and everything the Bible said, but something was just off. I prayed. I read my Bible. But things were never intimate. It was like I had to reach really hard to try to see God. I got “saved” when I was in middle school. Maybe 12 or 13. I was really just scared of Hell to be honest. Truth is, I don’t think I even said the prayer. I just decided one day I didn’t want to go to Hell. And I used that moment in middle school as the day I called upon Jesus and accepted Him into my life. But, I think deep down I knew that wasn’t really it.

So back to June 2015. I had felt restless in my faith. Like I knew there was something more to it and something missing. It was more than just this far away God and reading the Bible for good verses. I remember I would spend nights in agony over if I was truly saved and had a relationship with God.

June 14th… that would all change.

I walked into church like normal. Me and my parents. We sat on our normal row. Pastor Bill was doing a series Players vs. Pretenders. I couldn’t tell you to this day what the sermon was about, because honestly I don’t remember. I just remember thinking, “God, I’m not getting anything from this at all.” My boyfriend at the time texted me that morning, “I know something great is going to happen to you in church today, I just know.” So during the sermon, I was desperately searching for something to hit me in the face. Then, before we went into the invitation time something happened. Pastor Bill began to say how he had a friend who went to church for ten years, but he was never saved. He would feel uneasy and always wish the invitation would hurry up. Then, God called him to salvation that very same weekend.

And then…. it hit me. My heart was beating so fast. It felt like it was going to fall out of my chest. It honestly felt like God was just pulling my heart. I remember thinking, “Oh no. No, God. You’ve got the wrong girl. I’m saved, I know it. God, You’re wrong!” But, I just knew……I knew this was it. This was my moment…..God was calling me whether I liked it or not. It was like He was saying,”You know…You’ve been pretending for so long.. You don’t know what the real deal is yet” I just remember thinking, “Okay God…. Here we go.” It was like I couldn’t argue with God. I mean how can you argue when your heart is being pulled out of your chest? So with my eyes shut, I could feel the tears pile up and I just remember asking God to forgive me. I literally remember praying “God, forgive me! Please forgive me!”  And after I remember praying the sinners prayer following my pastor’s words. I don’t remember exactly what I prayed….but I just know I did. And then, Pastor Bill called for us to walk down the aisle as a public announcement and letting everyone know about it. I felt so nervous. I almost didn’t. I thought, “Okay God, I prayed. I’m good. I’m not walking” But, I knew if I didn’t do it now…..I would doubt if I really meant it forever. I was afraid of what my parents would think. After all, I pretended in front of them too. I fooled everyone. I told my dad and mom I had to go walk. I got out of my row and just walked down the main aisle. In front of everyone. I didn’t know what to think. I felt like, “What did I just do? Did I really just get saved and now I’m walking in front of everyone? This doesn’t make sense” Pastor Bill gave me a thumbs up and smiled as I told the couple at the head of the aisle “I prayed that prayer” and they hugged me and took me to a back room. I don’t remember how many people were there. A few maybe. I remember there was this one young married guy, and maybe another woman. This old family friend was one of the invitation counselors, and she wasn’t talking to me. No one was. I felt so confused about who I was, how did I pretend for so long, what am I now, what’s happening. I was in total shock and needed someone, anyone to talk to me. I tried talking to her in between crying, and for some reason…she just wasn’t very receptive. Her husband was right there and said, “Oh I wondered who that girl crying was!” I felt horrible. I felt so confused and conflicted, and I just wanted someone to explain what was happening. Then, Bob Hawkins came and talked with the group and me. He had seen me grown up and baptized me. He is one of the kindest souls I have ever met. And he just hugged me and let me know I was alright. He explained to me that coming to salvation can almost feel like going through surgery. You get so anxious about the pain and you put it off. But once you do it, you’re at peace and relieved. I remember thinking, “Well I don’t feel relieved at all right now…. does that mean I’m really saved then?” And we all walked out of the room. I remember right as I pushed that door open and walked out of the sanctuary, relief and peace washed over me. Like I had no need to worry about my salvation ever again, that I was a player. I met my parents and the couple I came up to. I was explaining what happened in my heart to my parents and started to ball. I just blubbered, “I just felt tormented by Satan or God or something for so long that I wasn’t saved and wasn’t right with God and my heart was just beating so fast.” Then, we were going to walk out and Pastor Bill hugged me. I was crying so much that it got all over his shoulder. I remember him saying, “You’re just too sweet. If you ever need anything, you just let me know.” We walked out to that empty parking lot, and I knew everything had changed just then. That I was different. My reality was not the same anymore. For the entire afternoon, I spent it trying to wrap my head around it. I had just accepted Jesus into my heart. That if I died before church that morning, I would’ve gone to Hell. That I knew of God, but I didn’t know Him…until then.

Sometimes, well a lot of the time….The devil likes to use my past against me. He likes to tell me that day didn’t happen like that. That I’m still a pretender and that every day I fail to burn 100% for God….I’m disqualified. He likes to say that my testimony isn’t real. That it isn’t big. For a while, I’ve believed that. I’ve believed that it isn’t big, and not still important or in tact because of my mess ups with my walk and with Jesus. I’ve allowed the idea that I’m disqualified to take root. But nothing changes that day. Nothing changes the amount of tears I cried out to God. Nothing changes my surrender. And nothing changes that now I’ve given God personal access to my life. Even though my walk changes and at times suffers, does not mean that it ceases to exist. I choose not to let that take root in my life anymore. I’m choosing to tell my story like it is something big, because it truly is. Now, I’m not that version of Ashley anymore. A lot about me has changed. I sometimes fear that maybe because I’m not the girl who I once was when I invited God into my life, then that means I don’t mean it anymore….. but that’s a lie. I couldn’t take that back even if I wanted to. There’s not a day I would take it back. Because my friend, salvation is a choice on your part…not God’s. It’s your choice to accept….God leaves that in our hands. He calls, but we answer. God won’t take it away. While He’s all powerful and has the ability to, He will not.

So on June 14th 2015, He called…..and I answered. As surreal as that day may seem to me in the moment and to this day, it is still very very real.

 

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