Monday, December 26, 2011

Knit together.

On Friday & Sunday of Christmas break, I got to meet my two best friends children. Kelly's daughter, Summer Olivia, just turned 4 months old. She has the most beautiful, big, dark, brown eyes & the more that she got to know me, the more smiles that she began to show off. 
Kelly told me that she painted Summer's toes the other day & after she was just staring at her toes trying to figure out what happened! I don't remember when I first discovered that I had toes when I was just a little girl, but I imagine that it was an inspiring day! I have run many miles over mountains & through trails, & without those toes, I could not have run a single one of them! Summer has a lot of growing to do before she can run the trails, but I know that Kelly will just cherish every moment now with her little girl before time slips away! She still has walking to master. :)
 I also got to meet meet Elisabeth's son Camden Michael. He was almost 2 months old & a complete cuddle bug! When I got to her Dad's house, he was still sleeping, but that did not stop me from staring at his sweet face that was squished into his daddy, Kyle's, chest! 
Elisabeth & I grew up together. We spent nights laughing as we would sneak up stairs, grab the largest bag of chips & salsa, & run back down to eat them up as we would talk all night about our children's future names, our weddings, & of course....boys! Elisabeth always loved the name Haley for a girl & the name Josh for a boy. I know now that the name Camden has forever stolen her heart now because it is not just a name, but it is a face, it is a giggle, it is a heartbeat, & it is a life that was knit together in her womb by the Lord; a woman's secret place.
I cherish the moments that I spent growing up with Kelly & Elisabeth. But, I will now cherish the moments that I get to watch them raise a little girl & a little boy in a world that is yearning for men & women with hearts of gold. Kelly & Elisabeth have hearts of gold, so I have no doubt that their children will too. 

I am so proud of you, Kelly & Elisabeth. 
I cannot wait to see who Summer & Camden become as you teach them, show them love, & cherish the life that they have been given.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

We just talk like all the time and we like dont even like think about what we like say and...

You know what I have been trying to wrap my mind around and what I have been thinking about alot?

People are absolutely incredible!

I was sitting in my Criticism of Public Address class today listening to one of my professors (Dr. Mr. Graves) give his lecture and he just knows so much...about everything...and about things that I sometimes think are nothing. He can just go on and on about subjects that I have never even heard of or ever knew were stories to tell about. That is talent.

But it began to stir in my mind.

I have literally seen and held books bigger than any human brain, and I have read books that seem to go on and on...and on. And I have found books to be limited to my perception of what the author said and limited to the mere words that they are layed out on paper. However, Dr. Graves has more information, facts, stories, and life experiences packed into his brain and he can recall them at anytime without any kind of reference or any kind of concordance in the back of his brain. He just knows it...he just knows it! His mouth and his words are not limited to any page length, word count, or book thickness. His words are not limited to anything but his own values and morals from deep in his heart.

Luke 6:45 says "A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of." Whatever is in our hearts will come out eventually in the words we say.

We can talk like whatever and I'm so bored and so tired and so frustrated and I think that her shoes look silly with that outfit and her hair is super weird today and like I just can't wait for this class to be over...blah blah blah. Or, we could use our words to uplift, encourage, praise, laugh, and comfort and say something of true meaning. Our values and morals and beliefs determine what we say and that is our only 'limitation'.

I think it just blows me away that literally someone could talk all day, every day, for the rest of their life about everything and nothing and never stop. We have the ability to do that. Our minds and our brains are incredible and I cannot even fathom how we know and remember all of the things that we know. I feel like at some point, my brain should run out of room, but it never does. I feel like at some point, we should run out of things to say or remember, but we don't.

Even silly things that I know you all know the answers to in your own brain and heart: What is your home address? Who was the first president? What was your most precious childhood memory? What are the 26 letters in the alphabet? What did you do today? What is your telephone number? What are the lyrics to your favorite song? What are the words to your favorite bible passage? Can you remember your first kiss and tell the story? How do you open, write, edit, and print a document on the computer? How do you find something on the internet? How do you use your Smart phone?

Wow...we know so much that we do not even know or realize that we know. Our brains are incredible and I was blown away by that today. Psalm 139:14 says so beautifully "I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well!"

I think God reveals and gives us the 'lightbulb' moment on scripture sometimes and today, He just opened my eyes to the beauty of the brain. I am fearfully and so wonderfully made...and so are you! I just want to praise Him right now and sing!

Challange: What are we going to say today? Tonight? How is the overflow of our hearts being evidenced in the words that we say? We have that choice to speak...

what will we say?

                                   What will you say?

Monday, July 11, 2011

love people. hate sin. sometimes we have it backwards...

Tonight was not supposed to look the way it played out to look...and I would not have had it any other way. God did what He loves to do and taught me something new; through strangers, through creation, through last minute changed plans. I am inspired and it could have never have happened if the Lord did not orchestrate this night so perfectly that all I can do is look up and smile at the work of His hand in my life in the littlest ways that are astronomic to myself.

Well it all started with cancelled plans with Liz and Rachel. Little did they know that they played a huge role in tonight's teaching from the Lord. We were supposed to go out to dinner and last minute, Liz texted me and said that she had to go home today instead of later this week, so we would be unable to get together for dinner with the three of us. Now, with my whole night now wide open, I of course went for a long run in the unbearable 98 degree humid weather here in Herndon (I do NOT know WHAT I was thinking!), and then showered, pulled my hair back in a wet braid, threw on a light sweater and running shorts, grabbed my belongings, and went on a simple adventure to starbucks to read a book. (or so i thought it would just be a simple adventure.)

I pulled up to Starbucks, ordered my usual 'hot chai tea latte', and sat down to enjoy a relaxing night in a coffee shop. :)

That is where it all began.

After about 15 minutes of just thinking and sipping, a group of 7 or 8 young teens came busting through the doors, so rudely interrupting my thoughts and gentle night in a coffee shop. I hurriedly put my headphones in my ear and found a good song on youtube to play to drown them out. But as I sat there trying to concentrate on journaling a little, I looked over at these young teens. I began to watch them and just listen to their conversations. Then, I began to look ALL around me. I saw two women who were Indian and they resembled some of the women I encountered and built relationships across the world with in India. Then I looked behind me and saw two young men working behind the counter of starbucks talking about their DUI's from the weekend and their 'immoral' plans for the night, (I can be so quick to judge.) At that moment, I found myself sitting not just in a coffee shop anymore, but in a dark, cold, room filled with ALL ages of men and women, boys and girls, who had no hope or idea of what Jesus had done for them. I was overwhelmed of my ignorance to this as I sat trying to journal. (Which was failing miserably)

I was watching these people go about their lives in darkness, and I was completely surrounded by it.

For some reason, at that moment, I opened a word document on my laptop in a folder entitled 'Personal' and found a journal prayer I had written last summer in Colorado. It had nothing to do with what I was thinking in that moment, except for the verse that I found in this entry. I had written about Romans 12:9-21, and it says 

"Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with God's people who are in need. Practice hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written 'It is mine to avenge; I will repay,' says the Lord. On the contrary, 'If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good."

As I read this, I found myself so convicted of the way I view people. A lot of times, I look at people and can 'hate' them because of the sin in their lives; this is NOT okay! I should be hating the SIN, and loving the PERSON...I have it all backwards sometimes. I am a sinner myself; always have, always will...but I should never contain the fact that I have hope, grace, and love from and because of Christ. Who am I to receive grace, hope, and love from Christ, and not share and give it to others. What pride! I realized that I am in a very dark place here in Herndon, but there is light that I can choose to simply 'let' shine. If I claim to be a Christian, the light of Jesus will shine, but I have the choice to let it shine not just in the places where light already penetrates, but where the darkness of clouds cover. I found myself wanting that; to just LET my light shine here in Herndon...I only have 6 short weeks left...and I am sitting in darkness with my headphones stuffed in my ears, ignorant to the power I have with Christ living inside of me to just LET the light of Christ shine to these people. 

Matthew 5:14-16 says "You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead, they put it on a stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, LET your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven."

It says 'let'...not try hard. If we allow Christ to shine through us, it will be bright and unmistakable, but I think sometimes we TRY to hide it, myself included. We are afraid of the thoughts of others. WHO CARES...I am sick of caring! Whew, I am glad I wrote that out, because maybe having a big 'WHO CARES' in writing on the internet will help me live by it more. Who cares. All that matters is Gods thoughts...and when we let and allow Christ to shine through us, His thoughts are shown by the smile on His face as He looks down from heaven. :)
This is my challenge to myself now: go into coffee shops, grocery stores, libraries, running clubs...anywhere I find myself, and just 'let' my light shine. Forget fear of people. I want to bow in fear and reverence of God and let His glory pour onto me so that I may shine, and even when I sit in the darkest of places, I will illuminate any room...not by my power, but by Christ inside. I do NOT want to be blinded by the sin of other people (and my own sin) so much, that I hate that person instead of hating that sin. We are to love people and hate the sin that they are entangled by. We as Christians were ALL once entangled by sin, but we now have FREEDOM! What a glorious day!

As I was driving back to my host families home here in Northern Virginia, the Lord again reminded me that I am surrounded by darkness as the clouds rolled up and the sky began to rain down the floodgates! I have never seen the sky soo dark and threatening. 
Then in that moment though, the song 'Our God' by Chris Tomlin came on the radio station 91.9 and I clung to the words "Into the darkness you shine!" As I drove a little bit farther, the sky LIT up like I have never seen before as a single bolt of lightning pierced the sky. It was unmistakable and noticeable from all who were watching. We have the power inside of us to be a bolt of lightning piercing through the darkness for all to see. But alot of times, we put all of our energies into 'safe and comfortable' places, and in turn, we forget to strike our bolts down in the darkest parts of the storm. Wow, God had a lot to say to me tonight and I had no idea that so many things going wrong could teach me so much!

All we have is today. Yesterday is just a page turned in the story of our lives written by God. We can look back, but we cannot change it. I want to learn from these 'yesterdays' and 'yester-moments' even where I missed opportunities to shine so that when they come again and I am faced with the choice to 'let' my light shine, I will!

Thanks for a WONDERFUL night with you God. You are too sweet to me!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Laughing is jogging for your insides

Laughing is jogging for your insides:
No one can tell you what to laugh at because you never know what will make your heart smile. Sometimes you laugh because you are just happy, and other times, you laugh because you are sitting with the most hilarious person in all the world!
I cannot even believe how creative God is. Who could have EVER thought of laughter. It is a different and unique and VERY strange sound that comes out a persons mouth. I cannot explain laughter except it is something inside of your heart that is so happy and full of so much joy that it cannot be contained inside anymore. It comes out as a sound for EVERYONE to hear as an audible frequency expression of happiness and joy!
You know. I guess sometimes I laugh with people who I do not know, but the times that I laugh with the bottom of my heart is when I am with the people I love the most. 
 I guess I would go as far to say as laughing is an EXPRESSION of love. You laugh the hardest with the people you cherish the most because they are the ones who actually CAN reach the bottom of your heart! 
Laughing can happen anywhere. Sometimes, it is the most appropriate time to laugh, and others, you are trying to hold a laugh in when it is a dead silent class or in a movie theatre during a serious scene. It can happen in a dorm room or underneath a waterfall. Hmm...why don't we laugh more? We have soo much to be not just happy about, but JOYFUL about. 
"Laughter sparkles like a splash of water in sunlight!" I drew my brothers laughing when they were little and this picture makes me smile every time I see it. Although, a pencil drawing CANNOT hold all that laughter encompasses though. Laughing is more of an experience than just a picture to capture because it is something more than just seeing laughter. You can see laughter in the wrinkles on a face. You can hear laughter in the uniqueness of each voice. You can feel laughter as you roll on the floor. You can taste laughter as the tears run down your face and onto your lips to your tongue. 
Laughter is a language that has no boundaries: no geographical boundaries, age boundaries, race boundaries, color boundaries, sex boundaries, country boundaries, religion boundaries. It speaks volumes when a single word cannot express the emotion that the heart is feeling.
Wow. God is good. He did not HAVE to create laughter. But He did. This could be reason number 4632943297623 to prove that He loves us intimately. (Thats a rough estimate of a number) :]
These are the moments that I hold in my heart. The moments that not even these pictures can capture perfectly. I remember being in each of these moments. Oh how we let these moments slip by too suddenly. Life is made of moments. Not days or weeks, or months. The little moments are what make up those days and weeks and months, but without the hard laughs, the deep cries, the intimate conversations, the boring professors in class, the studying, the meals shared with friends, the dancing in the car, the difficult situations in life, I do not even know how to put into words what this life would be!
Thank you Lord, for laughter, you are TOO sweet to create a laugh just for me!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Love Letter.

You know. I dated a great Christian guy once, however, we had very different love languages. I cherished letters and that was just not the way he expressed his love to me, so I would get so frustrated. I would so desire a letter, but one would never come. After a year and a half of serious dating, we broke up. Through that break up, the Lord taught me so much about His name of comforter, teacher, and especially lover. I remember reading in His word one morning while I was home on for Spring Break. I asked the Lord to speak sweetly, very sweetly, and He absolutely did. I have never experienced God so intimately as I did that week on Spring Break. I know this may sound a little weird to some, but I literally asked the Lord to run with me, to sit in the passenger seat and sing with me in the car, to cuddle with me at night when I was lonely, and to whisper the greatness of His love for me into my ear as I sat reading His word. The Bible was not even a book anymore. I remember looking up from what I was reading in the Word, and I had forgotten for a minute that I was physically reading the words. I felt as though God was sitting next to me with His hand on the small of my back, rubbing it ever so gently, and He was the one who was reading His word to me...just like sweet nothings in my ear! Agh. No other religion can experience this kind of intimacy that a relationship with Christ brings because Christ is ALIVE. His word is alive: it moves, it breaths, and that week while I was home for Spring Break finding love and healing from the Father, I realized that on a very personal level. 

The Lord brought me to a place of a broken heart to realize that I NEVER need a man to write me a love letter ever again because the most beautiful love letter has already been written. It was written first with blood on the cross, and that story was breathed into words of the Bible that I can hold in my hands. Right now, I guess you could say that I am in a sort of long-distance relationship. One day, I will be in heaven sitting at the feet of Jesus and finally we will meet face to face. But for now, He has written me this magnificent, undeniable love letter called the Bible. In it, He does not desire for me to get anything out of it except knowing Him. Isn't that what a relationship is all about? You do not have a best friend because they always do things for you, you have a best friend because you love who they are. It is not about what they have done for you, or what they will do for you, but the depths of their heart that you love. They have that kind of emotion towards you as well. They love you because of who you are. That love is the reason, and the only reason, that they, or you, are compelled to do anything. Oh, how we have so twisted the meaning of this religion Christianity into something that gives to US when it is really about the compelling actions of LOVE exemplified in the very life of the one Jesus Christ who's life we strive to emmulate. 

I guess something that I have been trying to ask myself is this: Would I be okay with not seeing the fruit of my life here on earth? Okay, that sounds alot more powerful in my head so let me explain. I have a very close friend who is not saved. I have been praying for her for literally YEARS. Would I be okay with not seeing her come to salvation in my lifetime, but letting someone else lead her to the Lord? Wow. I love being productive. I love seeing the fruit of my work. But that is NOT the Christian life completely. When I get to heaven and I do sit at His feet, I want to be able to look up into Jesus' face and say, 'Savior, I KNOW you because of the love letter you wrote me and because of who you are, I love you.' Our relationship with Christ here on earth should be as it will be in heaven. We cannot wait around to meet Him face to face, we have to love Him here, and because we love Him here, we WILL be with Him in heaven. This truth is wonderful.

In John 15:5, the Word of GOD says "I am the vine, you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in Him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing!" Wow. We are just the vessels used by God to produce fruit. The ONLY thing that we asked to do is to remain in Him. This means knowing Him, loving Him, obeying Him because of that love, and then serving Him. We sometimes can get soo caught up in doing things for the Lord and seeing things done in our lives 'for His glory' that we forget that it is all about Him. It is all about relationships and knowing and loving Him. God sent His son to die on the cross for me so that I could have a real, living relationship with Him that changes my life so that I can have a relationship with someone here on this earth to tell them about the relationship that I have with Jesus who changed my life so that THEY can have a relationship with Him too so that their life may be radically changed. Wow. It is all about relationships and people. 

Our God is a God of generations. The prophets in the Old Testament did not see the fruit of what they prophesied. However, they trusted that God was faithful and that He would do as He would with whomever He pleased. If this life really is not about us, then we will humble ourselves to the fact that we are not the ONLY one who God can use. No plan of His can be thwarted and that plan may involve us just planting a seed and letting it be watered after we die and come to fruition many generations from now. We cannot hold onto the fruit that we want to see produced through us in this life, we must hold onto Jesus Christ and who He is and let Hims do what He will.

So my challenge to you and myself today: read Gods word to know Him. In fact, ask God to whisper the words in His love letter to YOU in your ear and let them penetrate your heart. He speaks sweetly..but sometimes we aren't listening.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Love where you are now.

Well, to start, I have to begin with the beginning. On January 1st 2011, I was in Bihar, India, so I was not so much focused on making New Years goals as I was on ministering there & fully being there. When I got back to the states though, I realized that having goals set for each year is so important. When you set goals for yourself (physical, spiritual, mental, emotional, etc.), you can literally look back & see how you have grown by what you have accomplished through the year. You can see where you need to improve & where you can challenge yourself even more for the next year because of victories that came easier than expected.

This year, 2011, was the first year EVER that I actually typed out, and taped up goals for the year. One of the very first ones that I wrote down was to run a half marathon. Now, looking at that written our on paper sounded so simple & like an easy accomplishment. However, when I thought about all of the miles that I would have to run to train & prepare myself, I  realized that this goal I had would be too much work. I began to doubt myself & just accept that it would just be another goal that I would not see accomplished.

One thing that I am working on in myself is follow through. I am very much a visionary person, so I can see the end product & what I want to accomplish, but sometimes I never end up finishing what I start. I did not want this to be a part of my life anymore. I remember as soon as I wrote down the goal of running a half marathon, I prayed that I would find someone to do it with me & someone to train with. That very same day after I stepped away from my computer & headed to lunch at the rot, I bumped into Liz Ruba! This meeting was a divine appointment from the Lord, & I know that for a fact! She looked at me, smiled, & all she said was "Hey Ash! How are you? You know, I want to run a half marathon this year, but I don't know who to do it with!" I was shocked & smiled so big that my face probably hurt as I responded with "Liz, I literally JUST wrote down my New Years goals, & running a half marathon was one of the first things I put on there!" We both had one of those 'girl moments' of excitement & joy ( know the feeling, & have no idea what those feel like!) & that day we began our journey together of training for a half marathon!

Now, I remember praying for one person to run the half marathon with, but come the day of the race, I was running with FOUR other friends! Our God is so good!

Looking back on this training & on the race, I realized how much I learned. I got to watch week by week, Liz grow as a runner. She would have days where she did not think she could go any farther, but as I ran with her & pushed her along, she went farther than she ever dreamed she could go. I watched her fall on the her knee...& get up to keep on pushing through the pain. She taught me so much about perseverance. I remember we would always start our runs off praying together & would end them with just shouting back & forth what we are thankful for. This was so encouraging because our runs were no longer about us, but about us using running to glorify the Lord with our bodies & our voices singing praise to Him. Each cadence of our runs were beats of praise going up to our Lord who gave us our legs & our bodies & our lungs & our hearts. Wow. We have only been given ONE body...& it has got to last a while. I know that I want mine to be the best that it can be because I have been entrusted with it by the Lord.

Anyways, now that I am off on an eleven o'clock tangent, I will get back to the results of the half marathon.

I remember standing at the starting line, thinking about what I was about to do...I was going to run 13.1 miles...up steep hills in woods & on trails that I have never been on before. I had no idea where the trails would lead me, where I was going to be, where the finish line was, or where I would come in for places at the end. It was totally unknown to me. Fear was beginning to creep in & doubt was filling my mind as I stared ahead of me at the little bit of the course that I could see.

You know...there is always something before us. Something bigger than we think we can accomplish. I remember thinking "How in the heck am I going to finish this race...?!" Then, as the gun went off, & all the runners began to run, I realized that I could only finish if I took one step at a time. I am so thankful that races are hard. That I have to push myself through with my heart, more than I do with my body. I remember crossing the 7.2 mile water station with Bjorn Waldron. I was exhausted and I looked at him & said "I am going to have to run the second half of this race with my heart now because my body is too weak." And that is exactly what I did. I took each step. One by one. I was running on a trail, over rocks and falling trees, that was unknown to me. I would never want to just start the race & then magically appear at the finish line because I would have missed so many incredible things along the way during that race. Yes, it was hard, but no one learns when it is easy.

Sometimes in life, we want to go hard after something that seems bigger than we can accomplish. However, we look at the sweat & pain that taking each of those individual steps will bring upon us & we just wish we could skip ahead to the finish line. Crossing the finish line means NOTHING though if you told someone that you just walked from the starting line to the finish line & skipped all the hills & rocks.

We have to all be very careful of what we are wishing away when we ask the Lord to take away trials & pains in our life. Sometimes, the best thing that the Lord could do for us is to allow us to go through something that seems impossible, but as we run with Him & take those steps with Him, we learn more about who He is, about His encouragement, His love, His grace, His mercy, His strength & perseverance. If we do not go through the woods & the trails, we would not experience God in a way that draws us closer to Himself.

My challenge: Let us love where we are now. The race will always end, & the pain & joys of the journey will be over. However, whether we are barely making it up a hill after we have been running for hours, whether we are enjoying the wind in our faces & the relief on our bodies by running down a hill, or whether we are giving every last bit of energy at the very end to finish strong, we must be learning & growing from that moment now. All we have is this moment. Do not wish it away because you will be missing something greater...a treasure that the Lord desires to use to sanctify us & make us more like His son. What a gift.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011


I was looking at a tree the other day. I have been so challenged by not putting God in a box and by not limiting to what He can do in and through me for His kingdom and glory. Over the last two years, I have been inspired with big dreams for the Lord and in what He has very clearly called me to. Because of certain circumstances however, I was only going to allow God to do a little bit with my life. I was growing, there was no doubt about it, but my eyes were finally opened to the soil that I was allowing my heart to be rooted and planted in. As I was looking at the tree, I realized that I was still planted in a flower pot and was only going to be able to grow so much and was only going to be able to bear so much fruit. I wanted more than bearing a little bit of fruit for the King of Kings. With one major life decision, I had to take myself out of the flower pot to be vulnerable and broken so that when I was planted where the Lord truly desired for me to be, I could allow Him to do whatever He had wanted. Now, the roots of my tree are planted in soil that goes deeper than I could have ever dreamed and the limbs of my branches can stretch as far and wide as the Lord so desires for them to without tipping over the flower pot. What freedom there is in surrender and what growth there is in being vulnerable, uprooted, and having your world shaken, only to be planted in the richest of all soils. My roots are going deeper in the soil of His love. I had the courage to lift out of the flower pot because of His love. Great is my Redeemers love.

Ephesians 3:16-21
"I pray that out of His glorious riches He may strengthen you with power through His Holy Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge-that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever! Amen."

Monday, February 7, 2011

Stand in Awe...

Well, I was trying to write a paper for my persuasion class and the "unfunness" of the paper persuaded me NOT to do it for the moment...look at how much im learning about how persuasion can be a BAD thing! :) Anyways, I am taking an outdoor leadership and ministry class right now and for one of our assignments throughout each week, we have to spend one hour outside learning how to incorporate scripture and creation to better teach the Truth of the Word of God. It has been INCREDIBLE to see how much you can learn by simply being outside. This is one entry from my journal for this class that I wanted to share:

January 24, 2011
Wow, this time getting back into the swing of a schedule can be so crazy and stressful. I am just getting back on the track from Jet lag from India so it is great to have a regular sleeping pattern again. I have spent some awesome time with you Lord, BUT this morning I realized that I am trying so hard to still do it on my own strength each day. I try to control things, while justifying that I am letting the Lord have complete control by giving Him my time in the mornings. That is NOT how it should be. I was on my way to work this morning at 715am and I saw the sun rising over the beautiful mountains of Virginia as I slowly took it all in. I stopped for a while and just sat to watch and think. As I was watching the sky and looking at the colors and absorbing the majesty of the mountains, I realized something. No matter how much I try to control my life and do things on my own, God reigns over ALL, even me and my frivolous worries. I thought to myself , "Wow, EVEN if I wanted to control EVERYTHING, I could never paint the sky. I am NOT the one who raises the sun each morning, and I could never mold a mountain into existence with my own hands. Even when my life, which is SO small in comparison with this BIG world, seems so out of control, God has it all IN control. God NEVER forgets to raise the sun early in the morning and put the stars in the sky at night, or paint the sunset and sunrise SO differently EACH morning because He was stressed out or had too much on His plate. He did not have to make the sunrises and sunsets so beautiful or the mountains so breathtaking and majestic, but He DID, because He loves us and LONGS for us to enjoy each moment of it. EVERYTIME. He never forgets to do the slow and subtle things too, like he grass growing from a seed, the trees beginning to bud, the fact that EACH and EVERY snowflake is unique from each one. WOW! What a mighty and personal and wonderful heavenly Dad I have! (And earthly one too!)
Isaiah 40:12
"Who has measured the waters in the hollow of His hand, or with the breadth of His hand marked off the heavens? Who has held the dust of the earth in a blanket, or weighed the mountains on the scales and the hills in a balance?"
Isaiah 40:26
"Lift your eyes and look to the heavens: who created ALL of these? He who brings out the starry* host one by one, and calls them EACH by name. Because of His GREAT power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing!"
Job 38:12
"Have you ever given orders to the morning, or shown the dawn its place...?"
Wow, I was NOT there when God made the heavens and the earth and threw out the ocean and molded the mountains. This reminds me of Romans 1:20 which says "For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities-His eternal power and divine nature-have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that people are WITHOUT excuse." How can one NOT believe in God when they look out to the creation of His handiwork and beautiful mind for creating it?! By creation ALONE, we have no excuse to bow down to 'other gods' or worship other things created by mans hands. My hands could NEVER create what the Lord has created He is God, He is Holy, and I am not. I love Psalm 131:1-2 when David says "My heart is not proud, O Lord, my eyes are not haughty; I do not concern myself with things TOO wonderful for me. But I have stilled and quieted my soul; like a weaned child with its mother, like a weaned child is my soul within me." The last scripture that I want to leave with is Ecclesiastes 5:2, "Do not be quick with your mouth, do not be hasty in your heart to utter ANYTHING before God. God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be FEW!" Stand in awe of God and revel in the beauty of who He is in what He has made! There is NOTHING to say!

Go out and be in Gods creation today. It will NOT disapoint you, I PROMISE!

Hello the sunrise in the Himalayas! GORGEOUS!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Walking in HIS joy

Safe and sound I have returned to the states and I sit here overwhelmed with everything. I wish my typing fingers could keep up with the memories, thoughts, and emotions in my head and my heart, but they can't. There is only one way to describe how my time in India was and that is "unexplainably wonderful". There were three songs during the trip that I could not stop singing over and over.

"I Saw What I Saw" -Sara Groves
I saw what I saw and I can't forget it
I heard what I heard and I can't go back
I know what I know and I can't deny it
Something on the road cut me to the bone
Your pain has changed me
Your dream inspires
Your face a memory
Your hope a fire
Your courage asks me what I'm afraid of
(What I am made of)
And what I know of love

"Your Great Name" -Natalie Grant
Lost are saved; find their way; at the sound of your great name
All condemned; feel no shame; at the sound of your great name
Every fear; has NO place; at the sound of your great name
The enemy; he HAS to leave; at the sound of your great name
Jesus, worthy is the Lamb that was slain for us
Son of God and Man
You are high and lifted up;
That ALL the world will praise your great name!

"Your Name" -Craig & Dean
Your name is a strong and mighty tower
Your name is a shelter like no other
Your name let the nations sing it louder
'Cause NOTHING has the power to save
But Your name
Jesus, in Your name we pray
Come and fill our hearts today
Lord, give us strength to live for You and glorify Your name

The girls also sang ALOT together to worship in a dark place and it was SO powerful!

Wow. Those songs have fuller meaning to me now that I have sang them in another country while I was serving the Lord. Our team dealt with a lot of spiritual warfare and all I could sing in my head as we were working with these kids and loving them like Jesus loved was "The enemy; he HAS to leave; at the sound of Your great name".

I guess to start, I'll start with one story from the beginning that has effected my life forever. We all piled onto our first of MANY planes in Washington D.C. and took off the ground to Delhi at 10pm. Everything was going smooth and I was becoming anxious to get my luggage from the baggage claim because right inside the front pocket of my backpacking pack was my facewash and moisturizer. We had just been on two long airplane rides. The first one from Washington to London was 9 hours and then our connecting flight from London Heathrow to New Delhi was about 7 hours. All the I could think about was splashing fresh cold water on my face and washing it after feeling all stuffed up in those planes.

So, I kept on waiting. And waiting. Then I began to walk around and around and around the baggage claim conveyor belt because "I knew it was somewhere or someone must have taken mine accidentally thinking it was theirs".

It was nowhere in sight. The last little red luggage case came shooting down the conveyor belt from the plane and then that horrible sound of the bell went off to let us know "Yes, Ashley, we have no more luggage left on this plane and yours is somewhere M.I.A. (missing in action)". In this moment I did not know how to respond, so I just began to pray. The Lord gives and the Lord takes away and for some reason in this moment, the Lord has something to teach me by taking away. Our team leader and I headed over to the corner to report and claim lost luggage and I was still in denial that my luggage was not in my hands.

It was a slow process over the next EIGHT days of waiting for my luggage, but the Lord taught me a lot about my relationship with Him. During this time, He led me to John 14:27 "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do NOT give as the world gives. Do NOT let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid."

Before leaving for India, I had celebrated my birthday and received gifts for both Christmas and my birthday. I believe that the Lord saw my heart and that I was holding onto all the material things that I had received. I was loving the things of this world so much that I was beginning to find my joy in them, and not in the joy that Christ is in my life. I could hear Him asking me "Ashley, I see that you are 'joyful' when you have everything and your life is in order, BUT when I strip you of everything do you still have that joy because it is found in me? Or is that 'joy' gone because it was worldly and found in what you have?" This was a hard question to physically be faced with and it was even more of a challenge to live out that joy each of those eight days as I did not have my luggage.

The day before I found out that British Airways had found my luggage, I had completely surrendered my luggage to the Lord and said "God, you give and you take away, and if you take this away for good and I never see it again, I will still have joy because I have my joy in you alone." That next day, my team leader Ron informed me that my luggage was found and it was on its way to Bihar! Wow. It is at that moment that you give up everything that the Lord gives you everything. Sometimes, that is something physical like your luggage that you get back, but other times it is only something that you can feel in your heart, like peace, like joy, like love.

Going back to John 14:27, God taught me that even when we pray, He does not give to us as the world gives to us. We have no reason to fear and no reason to be troubled because we have everything in Him because He already has overcome.

The last verse the I read on the third plane to Bihar after not being able to get my luggage in Delhi, I went to Job (I could NEVER compare myself to Job's circumstance, but I felt like I could relate to him in that moment). In Job 1:20-22, Job has just found out that his everything he owned was destroyed, and that all of his sons and daughters were killed. "...Then Job fell tot he ground in worship and said: 'Naked I came from my mother's womb and naked I will depart. the Lord gave and the Lord has taken away: may the name of the LORD be praised. In ALL of this, Job did NOT sin by charging God with wrongdoing! God used Job to teach me to praise Him even when I cannot see what His plan is or what He is trying to teach me. We serve a sweet, sweet Father. Thank you Lord for giving my luggage back to me, but most importantly, for teaching me through ways that are much higher than my mind could ever comprehend.