"The thistle is a prickly flower, aye, but how it is sweetly worn."

Saturday, March 14, 2015

March Reflections

In February, I blogged based on some reflection questions I got from Shauna Niequist's book Bittersweet, which I highly recommend reading.  I felt like it was so healing for my soul to reflect that way, but also projected my soul into a good place.  I would mentally go back to that blog throughout the rest of the month and allow it to push me to try more, be better.  So, I'm hoping to make this reflection time somewhat habitual.


My favorite people on one of the many snow days NTX has been slammed with this year.

Am I thankful for my life and the way I'm living it?
In many ways, yes.  I'm noticing how God's Spirit is really filling me from the inside out and allowing me to rest.  I'm noticing how it continues to get easier to Rest in His Grace.  I'm not insanely critical of myself like I used to be.  I find myself more and more able to let things go.  I am so thankful for that because it's been a prayer of my heart for years, maybe a decade.
       I oscillate between feelings of thankfulness and frustration.  I struggle with giving grace still just as I struggle with accepting it.  I get very fixated on what the correct way is and it's hard for me to let it go.  To be honest, I've considered using some of my Young Living Essential Rewards points for this oil because I keep seeing it come up when I look up emotions I'm having.  Anyone tried it?
       So in short, the Spirit is alive and well and praise Him because He changes me.  But I am still learning about resting in gratitude for all He's done as well as resting in faith for all He has yet to do.  Resting is proving itself to be my word day in and day out.  I think Rest goes hand in hand with thankfulness.  Because by in resting in what God is doing and has already done, I am thankful.  Whereas by not resting, I'm really being ungrateful because I'm complaining about how far I want to be/go etc.

What have I tried this month?
Last night I tried my hand at cauliflower crust pizza- which was awesome!  I tried Charleston, SC late February- which is officially my favorite city of all time.  It combines everything I love about New Orleans- the Spanish moss, colonial architecture, porches, coastal weather with everything I love about Texas- cleanliness and guns and a Don't Tread On Me attitude.  If it were at all practical to move there, I totally would.  I also tried some award winning restaurants while there.  I could go on about things I've tried, but they are all food related :)  One thing I've learned though, is that I really love trying new food! 

What am I doing to get out of my routine?
I'm trying to run more.  And while I've only ran 6 times this year, I really want to change my routine to include this.  My goal is to just keep trying to make this a routine through December.  I'm not trying to aim for a certain number of days a week or times per month- just continue to plug away at trying to get out there and run.  I actually have a special plan for a special run this coming week....
     ...  Because the most exciting way I'm going to be getting out of my routine this month will be to go to Annapolis for my brother's wedding.  Prior to discovering South Carolina, Annapolis might have been my favorite American city.  (I have a thing for the East Coast...)  Again with the colonial architecture, the cleanliness, and of course Don't Tread On Me is originally a Navy thing...  My brother is marrying a lovely girl there this weekend.  It will be an amazing wedding just because it will be at the Naval Academy chapel, which is where my brother went to school.  Full uniforms and the sword arch and everyone staying in the little downtown.  So fantastic!  In light of us being downtown and walking distance to everything, I'm hoping to include a run through downtown Annapolis into it.  I could look at sailboats all day.  Also planning to include crab into the diet as a way to break my routine.  If you have never been to Annapolis, go!  It's just really one of the most beautiful places.

What have I learned about God this month?
I mentioned this on a previous blog post, but learning that He is my provider.  He definitely provided this past month despite traveling and big electric bills and just all these little things that come up with being in a busy season.  So thankful He is trustworthy.  He provided lovely bits of growth with my little YL group and met all of the goals in my heart for that month, which is so encouraging to see. 
       I am learning about the importance of trusting Him for future provision.  But also that trust is gentle and quiet.  Not that you can't ask questions, but some questions or maybe over questioning is really a lack of trust.  Rest- rest in the trust and allow Him the space to work, to provide.  I've really been coming back to the verses in the Bible on do not worry about tomorrow... look at the birds of the air...  God knows what we need... Jimmy knows what we need... Both of them love me more than I will ever know and are seeking my good. 

What brokenness is holding me back?
I keep coming face to face with the thought that The Lord has set us free from slavery, both in my on reading and just friends speaking into my life.  There's much to explore here.  But I know that I haven't allowed the Lord to free me from everything.  I am enslaved to my perfectionist ideals.  And while I do see him setting me free in many ways already.  I'm not quite there yet.  So while this is nothing new, and this is something I've been working through, The Lord continues to reveal deeper facets of this struggle and the ways it continues to hold me back.

What do I want less of?
Less screen time.  This- like my striving for perfection- seems to constantly be a goal.  As I learn grace, I am quicker to forgive myself for wasting precious minutes.  And as I learn to forgive myself, the hold these things have gets more and more broken and less able to control me.  Which is lovely, and I must acknowledge that The Lord is faithfully breaking me free of distractions.  However, I still want less of it.  Sometimes not just with me, but even with people I'm around.  Not that I have control over that.  I just want less of modern America...

What do I want more of?
... and more of simple America.  More hand made from scratch meals.  More making things on our own.  More hard work within the home.  You know that feeling you get sometimes when you know everything is aligned perfectly and you are right where you should be?  I feel like that when my little tribe is home and I am in the kitchen.  I feel like serving them is both cathartic and soul nourishing.  Like this is why I was created.  I find more joy in the mundane like grocery shopping, cleaning, baking, cooking than I can find anywhere else.  I want more homemaking time.  And that j'ne sais quois feeling I get when I am doing just that makes me excited and confident for the next stage of life.  I'm my best self when I take care of my home/family.  And amazingly, some of these struggles I've had throughout this year seem to affect me far less in these times of greatest peace.  Which also gives me great confidence.  Like my soul knows that teaching full time like I have isn't where it's supposed to be and it just started to give out on me.  And investing in family is where I am supposed to be- and those struggles just fall away.  So simplify.  I want more of that.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Trust in the Wilderness

The wilderness- it seems so exciting to think about.  Freedom, wind blowing through your hair, no direction, following your heart, open fields, climbing mountains, exploring jungles are what come to mind for me.  It seems exciting....

... But sometimes the reality is less so.  I'm coming out of the largest season of doubt I think I've ever been through.  I'm so hopeful though, because I do believe God is a God of redemption.  I am already seeing fruits of redemption in my everyday within my classroom.  I haven't cried over school in a few weeks, which is a miracle.  But you know getting there, felt like sure and certain death.  I think in some ways a part of my soul did have to die.  The part that cared what people thought for one thing.  I'm seeing how true it is that blessed are they that have lost everything because you see Christ.  When myself is lost, all I can do is look up and see Christ.  That's a beautiful sight.  And I am beginning to see more and more clearly.  I know he will make all things new.  He is a Redeemer and a Rescuer and a Resurrector.  Praise him!

And yet, despite what I know to be true, I find myself plagued with doubts.  What if we don't have enough money?  What if this isn't God's will?  What if I'm allowing Satan to win by quitting?  What if we lost our house?  These thoughts pop up randomly.  It convicts me of two things- 1) I'm not trusting God to be faithful, good, or provide.  But also 2) I'm not trusting Jimmy to be faithful, good, or provide.  Ouch.  That makes me so sad.

:::Blog within a blog- I cannot tell you the blessing a godly husband is.  One thing I've learned since marrying Jimmy is that I really didn't understand the gospel or God's attributes as clearly as I thought.  Because Jimmy so faithfully and beautifully lives out the gospel and Christlikeness towards me, I find myself more and more able to understand the depth of Christ's love and sacrifice.  It's a beautiful conviction- one where I'm better able to love the Lord because Jimmy loves me so well.  I'm able to understand why I don't want to sin- not because I want to check things off my list, but because I love him/Him and want to please him/Him.  I'm just so proud of him because he lives his life so well.  He was worth the wait. :::

So trust- I am speaking that truth to myself some.  Right now, it's not that scary.  But I know that this is going to call me to a place of deep trust.  A wilderness where I won't have all the answers.  I didn't realize how much self trust went into me having a higher paying job, which is sin honestly.  Part of me is excited because I know I will get to learn to trust God deeply and learning more about Him is always beautiful.  Part of me is scared because of that same thing.

What I know to be true is this- like Peter walking on water- the secret always lies in the vantage point.  Am I focused on the storm, the water, the depths, the what ifs?  Or am I focusing on the truth- my Savior loves me, he is with me, he controls this?  I'm choosing to continue to look up.  To continue to seek His face.  To comfort myself with his steadfast love.  I want to embrace the beauty of Him because I do believe he is leading me.  I'm so thankful that He and Jimmy understand my heart.  I'm so thankful that I am being given the time to invest in family.  I'm so thankful for Jimmy's dedication and hard work.  I'm so excited to discover my passionate side again.  I'm thankful for time to breathe, for the ability to fully invest in Jude.  Sometimes when I just really stop to think about it all- all I can do is praise Him!
So we fix our eyes, not on what is seen, but what is unseen....

Saturday, February 14, 2015

On Opening Up

I used to be the kind of girl who tried to be tough and strong.  I listened to punk rock.  I marched to my own drum.  I probably didn't need your help.  Or at least I tried to make you think that.  I had some pretty high walls up.  I knew how to keep people out.  And if I didn't, there was always sarcasm.

I was reading tonight (still Bittersweet- which I love!) and reflecting on a chapter about how she says this referring to a dark period in her life "I see the moments of heartbreak that led to honesty about myself I wouldn't have been able to get to any other way".  I love that. 

It made me think of all the times I have cried- very openly- this school year.  When people ask me how my day is, no matter how casually, there is a 75% chance I will tear up right then.  Some have even been concerned for me regarding this.

But maybe the tears are a good thing. 

Maybe the tears are bringing about a beautiful, God ordained, perfectly planned change in me.  A change where I too am being led to honesty with myself I wouldn't have gotten any other way.  That makes me smile.  Yes- I am crying a lot.  But how beautiful is it that I'm not holding it in.  I've been the kind of person who's done that- held everything in.  It's been a huge struggle for me to open up to others, and anyone who has tried to get to know me can attest to that.  I'm excited for myself for being honest with my team, my community group, the world, whoever will listen.  I'm not saying I shouldn't keep training myself to look for the good- I should- God's gifts are everywhere.  But for the first time in my life, I'm not just saying it's all ok.

So here I am just openly saying thank you to anyone who has seen me cry and not turned me away.  Thank you for allowing me to be honest, to be myself, to open myself up completely raw and wounded.  Thank you for walking through this time with me where I've learned some difficult, beautiful lessons.  Lessons in being honest.  Thank you that I haven't had to feel like I needed to hide behind the wall.  Thank you that you have allowed me to be weak and broken in your presence.  For me, this is a great thing.  And I think the Lord for all of you.

And as always, thank you to my Lord and Savior for allowing me to be broken.  Broken so deeply in every way that I can't hold myself together, that I can't put my best face forward, that I can't fake it until I make it.  Thank you for forcing me to learn that honesty is good and being real with people is ok.  Maybe even lovely.

I'm a girl who thought she could handle a lot.  And now knows she cannot.  But I think I love that.  Because for the rest of my life, I will walk humbly and allow myself to open up easily.  I will cry with anyone and understand your pain.  I can pray with you in a way maybe I never could before.

My name is Ashley, and I'm pretty broken.  But I'm ok with that.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

February Reflections

If you follow me on instagram (@sweetlyworn), you may recall I took off this past Monday.  One of the things I did was pick up a book called Bittersweet by Shauna Niequist.  It's been lovely.  I like books of all types- the mindless, the thought provoking, and the debate provoking.  This one is kind of in the middle- easy enough to breeze through but little nuggets to ponder along the way.

Here are some things I'm reflecting on:

Am I proud of the life I'm living?  In some ways.  I'm trying really, really hard.  But one thing I'm learning in this current season is that I'm broken and there is a limit to what I can do.  I can't be everything to everyone.  Sometimes that makes me upset with myself.  I want to please everyone.  But I can't.  I'm extremely thankful for my little tribe of people who expect nothing from me and always offer grace.  What I'm proud of (or really more thankful for) is that despite all the expectations I can't live up to in the world, God sees me as covered, as Christ's beautiful bride.  He gave himself up for me to make me whole.  So while the world may see my humanness and my brokenness right now.  God just sees radiance.  And I love that.

What have I tried this month?  I am excited to say I've been trying a lot!  For all the bone weary day in day out stuff, I come home and try stuff!  So there!  I've taken up paleo- which means nightly adventures for me.  Some are awesome.  Some need tweaking next time.  But I am loving experimenting with food.  I love watching myself develop into a chef, constantly cooking from scratch.  I love smelling these things and watching them unfold into something exciting.  It's like a whole new world of possibility has opened up to me, and it's amazing! 

What am I doing to get out of my routine?  Bridget's bachelorette party!!!!  Insert high kicks!  In case you didn't know, my little brother is getting married this March.  This means two very important things for me.  I get the adventure of going to Charleston, South Carolina this month for a bachelorette party.  And I get an adventure next month for the wedding in Annapolis.  Back to Charleston though... I've never been there.  I'm so excited to see this city of Southern charm!  I'm going to have to reach back into the recesses of my mind (or drink lots of wine since it also brings this out...) for my southern accent.  Because South Carolina, obviously.  And possibly a big hat...  I'm excited for a change of perspective.  A way to take some deep breaths away from the day to day.  And I pray that I return with a new perspective realizing the world is both bigger and smaller than I thought before.  And that God is everywhere, but He's also right here with me.

What have I learned about God this year?  Right now I'm also reading Comforts from the Cross, so I'm learning that Jesus loves me.  Really loves me.  That I don't need to achieve or be anything for him.  He just loves me.  This is important, because I've felt forgotten by God this year.  Now I know in my head and have known all along that isn't true.  My heart has forgotten.  Even today my heart has forgotten.  This school year has been one week of tears after another.  A lot of times I wonder why God why.  Yet God is a God of rebirth.  And labor is hard.  I'm very much feeling that I am in the depths of hell in many ways each day.  But Jesus descended into hell and on the 3rd day he rose from the grave victorious.  So I am hanging on to that promise.  Joy comes in the mourning/morning.  Rebirth and resurrection happen.  As we enter Lent in a few days, there is probably more to ponder about this...
(Side note- it's not all hell.  I have some really great kiddos.)

What brokenness is holding me back?  Emotions.  My emotions hold me captive.  If I am despondent or sad or overwhelmed, I can't break free from that.  I am stuck in that place until something new jolts me out of it.  I'm trying to overcome it, but the truth is, I can't.  The Cross is my only hope there.  I am not a victim of circumstance- I need to take heart because He has overcome the world.  He is good and He does good things in life.  These things are true.  I need to control my thoughts though, because my thoughts are controlled by my emotions.  And my emotions can ruin me.

What do I want more of?  Community.  I need regular rotations with dinner and wine.  But not at restaurants.  Like at houses.  I mean even if it were just once a month.  Maybe it's because I need distractions.  Maybe it's because I've gotten really into cooking lately.  I don't know.  I just want to have people over for dinner more.  I want to work on my hospitality skills, which is somewhat a biblical thing, so it's good for me.  Consider yourself invited.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

On My Heart- The Year I Got Lost

This year I got lost.  I'm not sure at what point I veered off.  Maybe I never really veered off, but more cocooned myself to relearn who I was now that I added wife to my list of hats.  I learned about oils, lived by oils, saw myself grow with oils.  But I also learned more about my body with oils- which lead to diet changes- and changes on what daily supplements I need.  So many changes.  None of them bad.  Actually, they've all been great for me.  Yet there were many changes.

I went through Redemption at my church.  And I learned first hand about my own idolatry.  And I had to reframe everything I thought I knew about myself.  It is so good.  But so hard.  And still so hard.  I learned to try to have grace for myself.  But trying to reframe a lifetime of thinking is a longer process than I would have thought.  I think a year later I am still learning how to have grace for myself and others.  I also think I'm learning just how un-gracious I really was.  That's such a hard lesson. 

I got remarried.  And my priorities shifted.  And I read this book "Woman After God's Own Heart" by Elizabeth George and my perspective totally upended.  And my focus became something totally new and foreign to me.  Not only is Jimmy my 'you need to have more grace' convicter, but he's also my #1 job.  For years, I focused on my career because that career was my sole hope for survival.  Sure, I wanted more time with Jude.  But I couldn't afford to not have a job.  For the first time, I don't depend on myself.  I'm just the helper.  It's so great, such a relief, and serving Jude and Jimmy couldn't bring me more joy.  However, for the first time ever, I realized how much teaching might not fit me forever.  Not that I don't still find myself getting passionate over teaching reading or developmentally appropriate practices.  I do.  But I realize that to be passionate over that, I have to sacrifice my relationships with Jude and Jimmy.  And I just can't do that.

And so I find myself at a crossroads.  I see my life direction changing from where I thought I was headed.  I have no idea where I'm heading, and that's so scary.  But I feel my emotions giving way, my physical energy giving way.  I feel lost.  I wonder who I am now?  What am I passionate about?  What do I want my life to be about?  Where do I go from here?  I definitely don't have the answers to that. 

But today in church I heard a sermon that ended with me tearing up.  And then a man stood up to share about how he and his family are heading to Turkey in August.  And I broke.  I remembered the girl a couple of years ago who was passionate about persecuted Christians and the gospel and passionately pursuing God.  I don't know where I lost that.  But I think it was when I realized I wanted a fairy tale with Jimmy.  I wanted the American dream with Jimmy.  And at some point I must have idolized it.  I valued my dishes over my passions, decorating over evangelism, people liking me over standing apart.  I've somewhat always known God has called me to something different.  I don't know the details on that.  But I've always known that the American dream wasn't God's dream for me.  That's so scary to admit.  It's scary because I know there will probably come a day where I'm going to have to let go of 'stuff' and cling to the cross.  I'm thankful for God's grace because wherever He leads, I get to go with the most amazing man on the planet.  I have no idea where we'll go or what will do.  But I know we're called.  So hear I am, admitting the truth I have never wanted to admit.  Yikes

This year is my year of rest.  I have so many off days, that I will probably mostly work 4 day weeks for the rest of the year.  And I won't be going back to teaching, at least in the public school setting.  (I am planning on finding a part time teaching job.)  I plan on resting in God's presence, because I am sure he has plenty to teach me this year.  I'm going to rest and wait on Him, while supporting my husband and son as much as possible.  Resting because there will come a day that life is different.  Please pray for me as I seek the Lord and seek where He has called me, where He has placed passions in my heart.  Pray that I will understand where the things I love like my family, blogging, teaching, oils, missions belong.  That I will understand the lord's will regarding their balance.  Pray that The Lord will mold me into the person He needs me to be.

Find rest, O my soul; in God alone.  My hope comes from Him.  He alone is my Rock and my Salvation.
~ Psalm 62:5-6

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Rest 2015

I must confess I have become quite disenfranchised with current Christian movements as of late. I'm not sure where my break came. I just know it is uncomfortable. Arguing within the church has never been prudent or useful to me. I've mostly always felt that as long as we are ultimately gospel focused and Christ focused, the varied differences weren't important. I do still agree with that to most extents. It's just here lately when I scroll through my Facebook feed I want to chuck my phone across the room.

Sigh. I'm not even sure why I'm so exhausted with it. Perhaps it's the "this is what you should do" attitude behind so much of it. I have certainly always been one to buck anyone's my way or the highway attitude. Currently though, a lot of it has to do with having read the bible cover to cover. Context makes things so much different than a verse here and there glance. A lot of things that are current waves of belief I 100% supported a year ago.  Then this year I also finished reading the Bible cover to cover.  And I realized many things, but one of which is some of these popular ideas are out of context.  That doesn't mean that those ideas are bad- as long as they are recognized as a personal, God given passion.  And not a mandate.  There is this air of if you don't support XYZ you are sinning or not a good Christian.  And given the slight lack of context some of these things have, that's a very dangerous attitude to have.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Hill Country Lovin'

This past weekend our little family spent the most magical weekend in the Texas Hill Country.  It couldn't have come at a better time, as mental health breaks are a definite need this year :) 

Each year the sponsor church for Jimmy's parents' ministry takes a retreat into Hunt, Texas.  We met the church members as well as Jimmy's mom, sister, niece, and nephew at the camp. We headed through many small towns to the middle of nowhere.  Jimmy and I mostly entertained ourselves by singing 90s songs- and I showed him my ability to hit high notes, Mariah Carey style (kidding).

Jude got to have yet another birthday celebration when we got there where he got some amazing cupcakes, as well as a Ninja Turtle.  My favorite is that Mimi recorded a prayer in the hand.  It is such a blessing to hear that little prayer being said over and over from his bedroom.  And I love just the thought of the Spirit filling his bedroom each time he presses it.

Of course camp included the usual things such as marshmallows, fishing- Jude caught his first fish!, canoeing, and lots of time with new friends and cousins.  We were right on the Guadalupe River, so it made for a lot of fun and was just overall beautiful.  Jimmy and I decided we need to make getaways a regular part of our life.  It is just so good to be able to sit surrounded by nature and pray, read your Bible, and visit with family.

This fishing pole was actually Jude's birthday request.  He was adamant about taking his new fishing pole with us, and even more adamant about using it.  So excited that he was able to catch one!  Love that he is such a little wilderness boy.

On Saturday, we drove out to Lost Maples State Park.  This has always been on my 'Texas to do list' because my parents had mentioned how you can see brilliant fall colors out there.  Unfortunately, it hasn't gotten cold enough yet to see many of the colors.  It was still beautiful to be able to walk through the woods.  There were lots of springs and small wading pools from the river to relax at.  It's such a great park, and would be fun in all seasons.  We really need to go back!

Saturday evening we had a great time visiting with the church members over barbecue.  My personal favorite was the fireside sing along with "Ole Blue", the hymnal.  Jude and I actually have a copy of Ole Blue which I bought at Denton Thrift; we sing from it nightly.  I am 80 at heart, and just think there is such great richness in the old hymns.  Jude's favorite hymn is Standing On The Promises- which we sang.  He is still talking about how awesome it was to sing that at the camp.  In general it was just magical for me to get to sing those old forgotten songs like 'Farther Along'. 

Unfortunately, in the midst of the singing, I got dive bombed by a bee.  Which I then brushed off hastily.  Which then landed on and stung my leg.  I haven't had a bee sting since I was 7 years old.  I had NO idea they hurt so bad!  Luckily, I had my oils.  I used lavender oil, Gentle Baby, and Pan Away routinely every 20 minutes for an hour, and then a few times at night if I woke up and thought about it.  I also kept ice on it.  It swelled up some and hurt like CRAZY that night.  I reapplied the oils a few times that morning.  But I kid you not- I have not had any swelling or pain since lunchtime on Sunday.  You could see the sting on my leg and some swelling, but it didn't hurt.  And you know what is even more amazing- by Sunday night it wasn't noticeable.  AND it never itched- I was told over and over/read over and over about how badly bee stings itch.  Well it's Thursday night and it hasn't hurt since Sunday afternoon and has Never itched!!!!!!  It really helped my body recuperate.  I love my oils!

Anyway, that Sunday after lunch, we all headed home, quite reluctantly.  It is so good to get away.  I need to do that more often.  I just really really love the peaceful sounds of quiet rivers and trees rustling in the wind.  The scamper of squirrels and acorns hitting the ground.  The sunshine through tree tops and children laughing.  The fresh air filling my lungs.  Singing hymns with my family around a fire.  Perfect fall evening.  Take me back.