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

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.

Monday, October 13, 2014

On My Heart- School, hormones, darkness

What a title right?  This entire fall seems clouded in overall darkness.  I started my back to school time with more difficulties than in any year previous.  Difficulty after difficulty seems to be coming my way with my job.  Mostly, I just cry a lot.  But I also know The Lord is always doing something through the circumstances.  I truly believe there is a purpose in my discontent, and that within a few years I will see this time through the lens of understanding.  Praise the Lord for that!

But there is darkness beyond just my back to school time.  There seems to be extreme darkness all over the world.  Christians are being violently persecuted the world over.  Darkness has consumed people with such hate.  It's hard to understand where God is in the face of such tragedy.  And of course that's just one facet of darkness consuming the people of the world.  Extreme disease is ravaging the world over.  It approaches even my own backyard at this point.  Growing up, it always seemed like world tragedies were these obscure things 'happening over there'.  Now, we can see how small the world really is as there aren't many world tragedies that aren't creeping here to our well insulated United States.  The Lord has always seemed to have a hedge of protection around our country.  That's clearly not the case anymore.  It's interesting to think about.  The world continues to 'progress' itself farther and farther from The Lord.  And as we 'progress' it gets more dangerous just to be alive it feels.  There aren't much obvious reasons to correlate the two.  It's just the Lord is very clear that when we quit seeking His face, he will remove his hand, his grace.  And when he removes his hand dangers will follow.  Anyway, I don't know the answers being stirred by His Spirit.  I just know His Spirit is stirring circumstances and hearts.  Now is the time to seek His face until He comes- I think it's closer than we think.  It's easy to push that off as crazy talk, but the Bible is very clear that many of us will be caught off guard when Christ returns.  If you haven't done so, choose today who you will serve.  The time really is now.

And yet the Lord continues to be gracious, ever so gracious in our lives.  He showers us with grace upon grace and gift upon gift.  If you aren't a Christian, I beg you to seek Him.  Not because of the usual salvation reasons, just because there is such beauty in viewing the world through His Lens.  I think so many things would pass my vision unappreciated were in not for the Holy Spirit opening my eyes to His Hand.  Little things that make me stop and praise Him- for example- did you know that this year I apparently got my first angry parent email of my career.  I have been blessed to have decent relationships with all my parents over the years, but apparently this year, I had a parent upset with me based off an email I sent to my current class parents group.  This parent replied to ALL with a pretty scathing email.  I think at least 75% of my parents brought this email up in my parent conferences.  And yet God in His GRACE caused that email to somehow never make it to my inbox.  It's not in my deleted mail, it's not in my junk mail.  He literally blocked an email that probably would have emotionally wrecked me.  The Lord watches out for His Children, yall.  How could you ever want to live without His Protection?  He blesses me beyond measure- beyond what I could ever fully understand. 

And He continues to bless my life via oils.  I currently use Fertility Awareness to monitor my body.  Yes it's old school, but I have had really bad side effects with other plans, which is not worth it.  The amazing thing about that method is that you become so in tune with your own hormones and body.  I have been able to understand that I only get one type of headache- hormonal headaches- through this method.  I learned that I ovulate really late- which means I'm low on progesterone- because of this method.  I also learned that this could be due to use of Prozac based pills.  How invaluable is this information?!  I started monitoring this back in March/April, and I am so pleased by what I understand about myself now.  Since then, the Lord has led me to Young Living oils, which he has used to support my emotional system while I weaned off anxiety medication (praise the Lord, I am 100% weaned off now!).  He led me to Ashley of www.anointedliving.net who shared with me the importance of magnesium, which has helped curb insomnia, hormonal issues, and headaches.  And I have started using endoflex and progesterone plus, both of which are by Young Living.  I have made it through a cycle without any hormonal headaches for the first time probably ever.  (Headaches have been a part of my often life for as long as I can remember...).  And I just noticed in my charting this month that my progesterone appears to be at normal levels for the first time since I started charting!  How glorious is The Lord who heals!  This is such a gracious relief, not just because my daily/monthly life is less of an emotional roller coaster, but also because I have less fears about the future and trying to have children.  He is so gracious!  And y'all, I know there are thousands of oil companies in the world, but this is why I think Young Living is the best- because the plethora of effective products they have just is unable to be compared.  The average oil company may have 1 oil that affects hormones.  Young Living has blend after blend after supplement after supplement.  It is the oil company of oil companies to me.  I took a long road finding them, but I am so thankful the Lord led me to just the right spot.  He is the Gentle Shepherd who leads me to the right waters.  There is nothing like the personal love I know The Lord has for me.  The way He seeks me out to bless me and take care of me and show me that He is the God who sees me!  Oh that you would look up and see Him too.

Praise God from whom all blessings flow.  Praise the Lord who commands His angels to protect us, surround us and hedge us in.  Praise the Lord who longs to give good gifts to His children.  I'm so glad Christ came to me.  I'd love to talk to you about oils for sure.  But I'd really love to talk to you about the Lord.  I'm feeling particularly blessed by Him tonight :)

Blessings upon you!

Monday, September 22, 2014

The Lord is my Strength and my Song

"The Lord is my strength and my song;
he has become my salvation."
~ Exodus 15:2
I read this verse about a week ago during my quiet time.  I have always read through the Bible during my quiet times, and about the time I headed back to school I also landed myself once again in Exodus.  And because The Lord is sovereign over even my 'reading through the Bible', I could not have found a more ummm 'appropriate' time to land with the Israelites in the desert.
This school year is kicking my tail.  Maybe it was the fact that I spent the first 7 school days in the only room in the building with no AC, where it actually felt like the desert.  Actually, though, it's all these little things seem to have collided in my classroom to make something of a perfect storm.  Isn't it weird how rarely it's something majorly catastrophic, but more the daily little annoyances that add up and ultimately break us down? 
Needless to say, I'm honestly broken.  Everyday as I read about the Israelites struggles through the wilderness, I truly empathize and get it.  This verse above really convicted me when I read it.  It doesn't matter how many little annoyances stack up- even if they stack as high as the Red Sea.  I have a song to sing.  I've been redeemed, and I need to sing so! 
Of course, knowing I need to and actually choosing to do it in the moment are totally different things.  Right now, I'm not.  What I'm really doing is crying and trusting that the Lord will draw near the broken hearted. 
And of course He does.  He gives me just enough strength to keep going.  Even if it is truly just one day at a time.  My goals this year look a lot different this year.  (and let's be honest, thus far, I am failing miserably with my goals...)
1. Use a heck of a lot of JOY oil.  Heavens to Betsy- if this oil did not exist, I might lose my ever loving mind.  I am diffusing it all day every day.  I have a much easier time letting the frustrating moments roll off my back if I use it a lot.  What I need to do is train myself to stop when I am overwhelmed.... run straight to my Joy bottle... huff and apply...  Reallllyyyy need to get better about that.
2.  Use a lot of Release oil on the tense spots.  It amazes me how you can just feel tension in your body.  My lower back and shoulders are in knots by 3:00.  Release truly lives up to its name- the tension leaves me and I can feel it.  It's pretty amazing honestly because you can feel the difference so quickly.  I will never stop ceasing to be amazed by oils- thankful for them so much!
3. Never miss a quiet time.  Yes, I wake up at 4:30 each morning.  Some mornings I don't get my makeup on.  All mornings I eat breakfast on my way out the door.  But oh how beautiful are my minutes with The Lord in the still and the quiet.  He nourishes my soul in ways I can't explain.  I feel like I'm on survival mode- but survival mode isn't possible without Him!  I'm so thankful He is personal!  That early alarm clock is worth soo soo much more than an extra 30 minutes of sleep!
4.  I really, really, really need to get back on the 1000 gifts train.  I do add gifts each morning during my quiet time.  But I need to do more- I need to collect the gifts throughout my day.  Sigh.  Someone hold me accountable and text me during the day to ask what I'm thankful for!
5.  Let it go!  Let it go!  While I've gotten really good at letting my tears go and fall at will, I really need to let go of what I thought this year would look like and accept the reality.  Somewhere in all this, my reality is a gift.  Probably because I have prayed for The Lord to give me a gentle and quiet spirit of peace.  Which of course, only comes through trial.  Where your patience is tested.  So I guess what I'm really trying to say is that The Lord has answered my prayers :)  (It's amazing to me that I still pray God create virtues in me- even though I know that process is PainFul!)
6.  Take time to recharge.  I used to be married to my job.  But I know wearing me out doesn't do anyone any good.  This year I'm dedicating myself to not staying late.  (yes, there are days it's unavoidable... but by and large.... I choose life!)  And the truth is my mission is to love God, love Jimmy, love Jude, love my class- in that order.  A life with skewed priorities is going to fail eventually.
7.  Enjoy shared reading!  I don't love every part of my day.  But I love shared reading with big books with this class!  I sort of wish it was at the end of the day so I could look forward to it.  But- regardless, it is the best part of my day!  Viva la shared reading!
What are your tips for walking through the desert?  I need them!