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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Sincerely, A Stubborn Daughter

Do you ever get an attitude check from God?

Jesus constantly calls me out in my walk of faith. Here lately, I’ve just been stubborn with God’s plans for me. It’s like when He tells me to wait, I want to rush. When He shuts a door, I try to open it back up. And when He opens a door, I stay stuck in the hallway still holding on to the one He shut.

A lot of the time, I stress and worry about what God has planned before me. When really, my life is not in my hands and it’s not my own. I worry that where He’s leading me will be something I can’t measure up to or won’t love. I forget that God knows my heart and deepest desires. What He chooses for me is really what I’ve been asking for all along. Today, I’ve felt His subtle whispers and sweetness just telling me to rest and trust. I constantly want God to reveal His big picture to me, and I always try to rush whatever God is doing. The moment I see Him move, I jump to a conclusion about His plan and worry about what’s to come. But, I’ve realized the moment I rest and abide… the more He starts to show me His way. Yet, when I worry…it’s like God takes His hand off because I’m not willing to trust what He’s preparing.

If you think about any relationship, trust is one of the most important keys. It maintains the tenderness and blocks out any doubt. Trust is vital. Without trust, a relationship crumbles. Without trust in my walk with Jesus, there’s space between us. When I decide not to trust the One who has never failed me, then I put space in between our intimacy. In times of feeling far from God, I can tell you it boils down to me not trusting Him. That happens a lot in my walk honestly. Sometimes, it’s hard to have faith and trust someone who you have never been face to face with. It’s scary to hand over your life and dreams to a person that doesn’t necessarily speak audibly to you. But I find once I do, God begins to line things up just the way they were meant to be and satisfy the longings of my heart.

He will set before you a myriad of doors. It’s like your whole life is walking from door to door until you reach the gates to Heaven. Each door has a purpose, and I refuse to stand stuck in the hallway between doors in fear like I have been. Because my lack of trust and stubborn attitude are the only things holding me back from reaching that destiny He has so graciously laid ahead for me.

So when God opens a door before you, please do anything but hold on to the one He’s locked behind you or dig your heels in. Every second you fail to fully embrace the season God has put you in, you’re missing out on people that set your spirit on fire and opportunities that will shape you into who you were created to be. I say all of this because recently I’ve spent far too much time in the hallway. The feelings of worry and fear became a familiar wallpaper for me. But no more. I refuse to let the enemy laugh at his success and my failure to see it. And I refuse to miss out on God’s best. Take a step toward whatever and whoever God is calling you to, because it may just be the very thing that He knows you need. Trust me, it’s far sweeter.

Sincerely, a stubborn daughter.

“When He opens a door, no one can close it. And when He closes it, no one can open it. I know what you do. I have put an open door before you, which no one can close. I know you have little strength, but you have obeyed my teaching and were not afraid to speak my name…Continue strong in your faith so no one will take your crown” Rev. 3:7-8,11

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Dear younger me.

Dear younger me,

It’s crazy to think life has gone by so fast already.

I wish time travel actually existed, so maybe you would have the chance to rewrite some things in our life that didn’t go exactly as planned. But, then again life is unexpected and that’s the beauty of it sometimes. Like how something could happen and shipwreck your reality, but make you as a person.

Ash, I wish I could tell you that you’ll grow up and become this girl who has life all figured out and everything together, but you don’t. And that’s okay. I want you to know that it’s perfectly fine to not be perfect in life. Somewhere along the road, I think we picked up the mentality that you’ve got to be perfect and happy all the time to be loved or feel loved. Somewhere someone put conditions on how much they loved you, and I want you to know that you should never have to work for someone’s love. You are enough. And if someone decides for themselves that you aren’t, let them leave. Because you are worth so much more than that. Please believe and accept that everyday.

I want you to know that God’s love is not the same as the love humanity offers. The love of the world tells you that you have to fit in all of these boxes. Let me set you free for a sec. You will NEVER fit into the mold of the world, no matter how hard you try. That’s perfectly fine though! You’re you, so never try to imitate another. If God would have wanted you otherwise, He would have made you otherwise. If He wanted you a little taller, you would be. If He wanted you less awkward, you would be. If He wanted you to put your heart on the line less, He would’ve created you a little less open hearted. Ash, you share your heart with everybody whether they are the wrong people or the right people. I think that makes you pretty brave. Sometimes it gets us hurt, but I would hate one day to read a letter older me wrote to present me and find out that future Ashley is cold and bitter, because she stopped letting people in. Love and share often, it’s what gives you happiness. Trust me, I know ya.

Take some time in between caring for others to care for yourself. You tend to put other’s happiness above your own. That’s both an attribute and weakness. Never get too selfish to where all you care about is you. But don’t belittle yourself and beat down your worth, because you deserve to be happy too. Ash, your happiness is always found when you learn to love yourself and spend time in God’s love. I think sometimes we give Jesus the characteristics of the people who have wronged us. But always remember, He is the exact opposite. Not once has He let you down. He still loves you, even when you place wrong labels on Him. He knows your struggles and He understands. Remember Him always and constantly run like a prodigal to His arms.

I know that you at 8, 12, 16, or even 18 will never read this. I think this letter to you is really a letter to me. I look back on all the times where I struggled and just wish I could go back and tell myself all of this and more. I look at the different stages of Ashley I’ve been and just wish I could tell each version of my younger self that I love her. That despite where she’s at, she’s okay. She’s forgiven. She’s loved. And that she’s gonna do great things.

I think that’s what Jesus says to us, Ash. Each version of ourself He loves. We change as humans. God knows that, and He knows us. He loves each version of you. Believe that.

Sincerely yours… the March 15, 2016 version of Ashley.

 

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How to be content when God is quiet.

I’ve learned many things growing up in church. Still now as a young Christian, I’m diving in and discovering more about our God. Like how God physically walked in the garden of Eden. Or that old song every kid in Awanas learned to memorize the order of the gospels.

I’ve learned a good bit. However, the most important thing I’ve come to know is that I will never be able to fully comprehend God. I mean think about it. God is SO big. He surpasses any capacity we could put Him in. So, despite the fact that we learn and read the Word…. our Father remains a beautiful mystery.

When I would read books like Crazy Love by Francis Chan or read descriptions of Heaven in the Bible, my version of God and the spiritual realm was blown to pieces. This scared me at first, but now I think it is by far the coolest thing about God–that He is so very big and there is no way for me to learn every thing about Him. It kind of takes the pressure off. I don’t have to be worried that if I forget one fact about Jesus, or don’t fully get the Trinity, or can’t comprehend a verse that I’ll be scratched off of Heaven’s roll call. God Himself says, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” Isaiah 55:8-9.

With that in mind, I don’t understand why God is silent sometimes. I don’t understand why He doesn’t audibly speak to me instead of using gentle whispers, because in my small minded ways that seems better. But I do get that God is God. Like it or not, the very moment you invite Him in He floods your heart and your life with His presence. The moment He knocked on your heart and you answered, you died to yourself. This life is no longer yours, but now it’s His.

When God is silent, He’s silent. When God makes you wait, you must wait. When God tells you His plans, you better believe He will set you up to accomplish them. God reigns over your life in the sweetest way possible, and the only thing you can do when He shifts your reality to set you up for something bigger is to just simply obey reverently.

When you’re in this season of waiting or maybe even you feel spiritually dehydrated, learn to be content. Be fully content and okay with where God has you, because He put you there for a reason. He, the Creator of the Universe, thought about this very moment in your walk with Him before He created the world. Rest in that, and learn to find joy in the little things that seem annoying due to your impatience.

Also, learn to see God’s hand when you don’t hear His voice. In this season of waiting and lack of spiritual fire, I’ve noticed God’s hand everywhere. The little answers to prayers will stack up, and you won’t believe how much He is listening. When you pray for a good parking space and He gives you front row. When you pray for an okay grade on a test you feel unprepared for but end up acing it. When you pray for the opportunity to meet new people and God sets the stage for introductions. That’s God. That’s His hand over you. That’s His silent whisper saying, “I’ve got you.” God has got you even when you feel like He has completely walked away. 

So take this time to observe God’s hand. The more of it you see, the more joy will over pour from your heart. The more joy you have, the more you radiate Jesus to the world. And hey maybe that’s why God gives us quiet seasons all along.

Wait patiently with a content heart. He’s up to something great, friend. 

 

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