How I Had a Mental Breakthrough

I have a confession to make. Immediately after coming home from the wonderful trip I recapped (as well as things I learned!) here, I basically ignored all of that and allowed my mind to recess back into its previous negative mindsets. And when they came back, they came back strong. This lasted a good few days after my trip. I tried to just blame it on the high of it all and then having to come home, but I knew deep down I didn’t believe that nor did I want to because I have plenty of blessings at home, and that would be making my “regular” life look horrible when it isn’t by any means. Of course it’s always easier to blame things than it is to look within.

As I kept doing my Bible study—thankfully—I was reading the book Uninvited by Lysa TerKeurst. It was my mom’s book, but she wanted me to start reading it, and I was not thrilled about it at first. Maybe it was because I had a knowing it was going to hit on things I struggled with, and I just wasn’t ready to address those things. I don’t quite know why, but as I read, I could tell I had my guard up. Searching for things I didn’t agree with, ready to deflect anything that hit too close to home, that made me feel inferior or convicted about some way I was thinking.

And oh, it did. But not in a condemning way whatsoever. And maybe that was the part that got to me the most: reading about someone who had felt exactly how I did, yet they weren’t demanding me to change myself but rather were giving me this insight about how I could have a better thought life and, as such, a better relationship with God and therefore a more fulfilling life. It was not easy to read about how horrible my thinking had become. Maybe it was because I knew something needed to change in my mind—that the same thinking patterns I kept falling back into were hurting me worse and worse and taking my energy—but I just didn’t have the energy to know what to do with them. And here this book is telling me I can be free of them—it even provided a beautiful prayer that was literally what I needed…and then I started crying. None of it was condemning at all, but aren’t those messages the most effective? When someone is gently—but unrelentingly—telling you that things can be better if you’re only willing to surrender to God? That struck a nerve, and it usually hurts at first.

Of course I tried to fight. I remember talking it out and just being so indifferent—or I was trying to be, anyway—and sort of just giving up. Like I remember saying, “I don’t even care anymore what God has planned,” or something along that sense. This actually would illustrate a deeper problem I have that I’ve recognized and am going to write more about in the future, and it’s how I tend to make idols out of my dreams. And I tend to make idols out of control and results. I’m not patient at all, and most of my dreams I have to wait for, so I’m sure you can imagine how well that goes over with me. I was wrestling with God constantly, and I did need to give up. But not in an indifferent, I-don’t-even-care-anymore way. Because that’s not even true—I do care, and I care a lot, and that’s why I do fight so hard for my dreams.

I think the key, though, with anything in life, is trust in God. It all comes down to that. I know I make life way harder than it needs to be because I’m constantly searching for the reasons why, for the knowing, for that illusion of control. In doing so, I oftentimes let these thoughts go unchallenged, and then I’m actually mad at God, or I’m struggling with Him and don’t even realize it. If that’s you, regardless of what it may be with, I want you to know there’s hope and you can get freedom from that. From any negative ways of thinking. It’s not easy to recognize there’s a problem in your thinking, and it can be painful to analyze that. But it’s worth it. And the insight God will give you when you’re just willing to be still enough with Him and take a break from everything this world tries to put in your mind, you can have His perfect peace.

This is a note I wrote right after throwing a tantrum where I said I didn’t care, where I falsely blamed God (again). It’s helped me a lot when I feel anxious and overwhelmed, and I know He helped me write it. I tried writing this about five times and deleting the first few sentences until finally it just poured out of me. The thing I will say, though, about changing your thinking, is that it’s not a one-and-done thing. Guarding our minds is a constant process, and I had to learn it was okay if I felt upset again after writing this. (I sometimes will write things to myself and be like, THIS is the note that’s going to save me. I’ll never be upset again after this. But I don’t write notes because I’ll never be upset again—I write them to reference when I am upset again. And Jesus is my Savior, and He is the One who will save me, again and again, as many times as it takes. There is always deliverance in Him, but it requires great intentionality on my part to seek Him, to not run from Him when He longs to take these things from me).

So the answer is in giving up. Give up your own imperfect ideas, and trust God who knows and sees it all. It’s definitely not easy, this process of surrender, which is why I plan on writing about it more in the future. But it is what we were created for, and knowing Him changes everything. When you know Him, you know His character, and you know He is infinitely worthy of our trust. So here is the note. I pray it can help encourage you all, too. I have modified it a bit for the purpose of this post, but the general idea is the same.

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Just trust Him. Give up. Give up trying to figure things out. Give it all up. Give up the need to know. Give up whatever is bothering you. Just dream like God wants you to and relax in Him. Come like a child, as He says, and be carefree. Don’t give worries a second thought. What’s gotten you into this mess is thinking the future is up to you. It’s not. God will not let you miss what He has for you. So quit fighting so hard. Just remember He really will fight for you. But you have to let Him. You can decide that right now.

What would happen if you just let the worries go? Absolutely nothing, except you’d feel a thousand times better. You don’t need to know. You don’t need assurance that things will happen because you know they’ll happen. Just trust God for that. You don’t have to know what. You don’t have to know how. But it absolutely will. For the best. This is all preparation. For what you can’t even fathom. You don’t have to know what that is right now. Nothing else matters except loving God now. Quit letting your desires get in the way of that. Of loving Him. Those desires won’t mean anything if you can’t enjoy and REST in Him right now.

His plans for you are amazing. You know that nothing happens without His approval. Nothing is by chance. Nothing is by coincidence. He’s predestined your whole life. He knows every one of your moments. And every single one of them is there for a reason.

So stop freaking out. This is all part of His amazing plan. And it really is good. And don’t freak out about freaking out because even that is part of the plan. Struggle and pain is part of it. It will make the beauty that much greater. And you know it will be. He knows what He’s doing. You’re exhausted because you’re trying to figure it out. You’re relying way too much on yourself and in the process losing how amazing and big your God is. And how much He loves you. And how much He is doing for you. And how much you can trust He will abundantly provide for you in the future.

He will never let you go. Less time looking for reassurance, more time spending looking up these truths in His Word. He has a beautiful plan for you. Now and forever. This is only the beginning. You don’t have to see, know, or even GUESS at the ending. You can know that whatever it is, and quit trying to figure that out because that’s not your job either, it will be beautiful. Go back to having faith like a child. Go back to that rest and peace in His love. It’s what your anxious heart needs. He promises to take care of the other desires. He PROMISES. LET HIM HAVE THEM. Dream all you want, but don’t be consumed by your dreams.

The only way you’ll ever get over by anxiety, is by resting in God’s loving arms. And He’s waiting for you, for that. No more trying to have other people predict your future. No more trying to look for all the right opportunities. No more of trying to make yourself FEEL secure. None of that will work. God is the answer. He can heal any heart, and He’s fixing yours right now.

Don’t you dare go looking for reassurance beyond Him! Remember His character! He is beyond good! He gives you so many good gifts! And even when bad things come, remember: He promises to make things right! He already has! He always will! He promises to bless you for what you lose! Never give up! Again, you don’t have to figure these things out! That’s what you keep doing and it’s why you’re anxious! That’s not having faith! Having faith is CLINGING TO THESE PROMISES even when you don’t see the answers or results!! His plans for you are GOOD and NOT TO HARM YOU! So just be still!!!
— My note

The note may seem a little blunt, but I wrote it to myself because I know I need that. If you want change, sometimes you’ve got to get firm with yourself. You can’t just hope to think better; you have to be intentional about making those changes. And you can. But not with your own power, and that’s the good news. When you just cry out to God, when you know you need that breakthrough, He will give it to you. All you have to do is just rest in Him. And even better news? If you are in Him, then He’s always going to bring you back to Him.

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If You Would Just Let Go

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Stress is something that imprisons most people in this society. I see it everywhere. I’ve been to hockey games, which are supposed to be fun, and I see people that are agitated while they’re getting food or otherwise exhibiting an all around edginess. I’ve been to hockey games, and I’ve been stressed because my mind isn’t there; it’s jumping clear ahead to things that are not even close to being in the future yet, such as meeting people and finding people in college and getting a guy, etc. At school, everyone feels pressure to perform and meet some sort of expectations, whether their own or of others.

It’s really a sad thing we’ve got going in this society.

Nobody knows how to enjoy life as God intends for us to. While the world can be a stressful place and is full of sin, I don’t think a lot of people realize that it’s not actually what God wants for us to push ourselves deeper into it and let it rule our lives, thoughts, and attitudes. Just the opposite, really.

I’m not always good at this, but what God has shown me when He has helped me be at peace and witness others who are not is that I can’t keep quiet about the secrets to peace and how being this stressed and negative is not worth it. It’s really not. Negativity is one of those things we seldom comprehend we’re even doing until it becomes a habit, and that habit ends up defining how we think and view the world, thus influencing us to act that way and not be able to enjoy anything or appreciate the fact that God has freed us from that way of thinking.

It needs to change. As a Christian, I feel I have the responsibility to set an example of this change. When I am just as negative as my peers who are not following Jesus or are not surrendered to Him, that’s an issue. It says a lot about how my relationship with God is going and that I need to get my attention back to Him because I’ve been spending too much time immersed in the worldly ideals and not what He tells me to focus on, which is to be renewed by my mind, not feel depressed like the rest of the world and dwell on everything that’s wrong.

There really is such a simple fix, though, one that God says repeatedly throughout the Bible: just let go. Let Him take care of and fight the battles. He promises He will (Exodus 14:14).

I try to fight way too hard. I know that. I don’t want to wrestle with God, though, as it’s the quickest way to lose your peace and inherently pointless because His plans are much better anyways. Our perspective is so limited, and there have been many times where I’m reminded of just how little I really do know about what He’s doing in my life. It’s a humbling, reassuring reminder. It shows me I don’t know all He’s doing, and it is more than I can imagine, and He is obviously handling it even when I’m not conscious or aware of it. Isn’t that an amazing thought? And it is TRUE. If you are surrendering your life to Him, He is always fighting on your behalf. The God of the universe. Wow. You can’t be stressed or depressed when you meditate on that. You may not see solutions or how things are coming together or how they will be. But He does, and He promises to take care of you.

If you would just let go, you’d know this, and it’s the most reassuring, beautiful feeling. That moment of total surrender, of knowing He’s got you. You can have it right now. Even if you don’t “feel” it, believe it anyways. Life is not dependent on our emotions, and if we want any lasting joy, we cannot think based on our circumstances, stresses, or anything else along those lines.

If we want true peace, we have to focus on the only source of peace, God Himself (Isaiah 9:6). Let everything else go. Put the other thoughts to rest. God knows your every thought, and He’s more than capable of taking care of your battles without your trying to stress about it yourself. He’ll give you the insight, the solutions, when you need them. In the meantime, believe that He is already doing it. Because He really is, people.

It’s so easy to get wrapped up in wanting the control, of wanting our way. But God knows what you want, and He promises the best. Life is only found in Him, not through the things you want, so place your life in Him, and anything else that comes is ultimately going to point you back to Him and how good He is.

If you would just let go, I can promise you from so much trial and error that that’s where true life is found. God never designed us to dictate our own lives and plans. We can’t do it all anyhow. We are designed to follow His lead. If you would just let go, He’ll take over. He’ll give you His perfect peace. And He’ll give you true joy and abundant life, no matter what (John 10:10; 16:33). The world thinks this is impossible, that being depressed and filled with despair and anxiety is the norm. And under sin, it absolutely is. But if you would just let go, it never has to keep you down in life. Ever. Jesus enables us to be the most peaceful, joyful people because He Himself is those things. And if you would just let go…

He’ll bless you with those special gifts also.

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Reflecting on My Favorite Quotes {Faith}

Around this time last year, I started a post series where I summarize some key concepts I’ve learned from quotes I’ve saved that follow truths that align with God’s will. I’ve wrote two posts in that series, and I really want to finish it. I share my struggles with anxiety here, as well as the lessons I’ve learned to deal with it. And I also shared my favorite quotes about fulfilling your dreams here and how I live by those.

I also have some quotes that specifically go along with faith I want to summarize. I’ll try to keep this post short because obviously I’m constantly talking about faith and what I learn on this blog. But a lot of these quotes offer good reminders of the Christian faith we all need to hear. So hopefully some of these can inspire you, too!

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1. Nothing is ever irredeemable.

I love quotes that talk about how God works through brokenness in people and how those people can become some of the strongest when they allow God to take over. I know that has been true for so many people in my family, and I hope it’s true for me, too. I don’t always feel unbreakable every day. In fact, most days I do struggle with some thing or other. But God is always so faithful; there is never a pain I’ve had in my life where I haven’t seen how He’s used it. There are definitely times when I’ve gotten close to thinking I’d never see it. For example, in the first post of this series where I share my struggles with anxiety, I felt like the biggest failure. I thought I was regressing as a Christian and losing all my faith, and I had no idea how that was ever supposed to propel me forward in life.

But now? I can totally see how God used it. Because of my experience with anxiety, not only am I able to understand others better, but I also have a better perspective on life because I know what it’s like to go through life both with and without anxiety and how God can help me through it. That helps me in the future when I get anxious, that helps me assure other people, and it helps me write more authentically. So please know that whatever situation you’re in, God really will make it better when you trust Him with it. I’ve seen some super ugly, heartbreaking situations, and I’ve seen God do miracles through them in the sense of how He works in people’s hearts. And that’s the true meaning of life, is not even gaining external things, but when people’s lives change. If you want any hope for making the world better, it all starts and ends with God. There is no more beautiful thing than watching people’s lives be transformed for Him. I think that’s one way God uses pain, is because you can see how He alone steps in to these terrible situations and revives them. Sometimes you don’t see it right away. I know I’m guilty of looking for showy signs from God that He is working, but honestly, you have to look at those little things He’s doing.

It’s like physical growth in people. When you’re around them constantly, you never notice those changes in height or whatever it may be. But then sometimes it hits you, like oh my gosh, you’ve gotten so tall. And I’ve noticed the same in life. With so many situations in life, one day you just see it. It hits you, like wow, look at what God has done through this, and I didn’t even see it. So just trust Him. It’s so hard in the middle of heartbreak to see what He’s doing, which I talk further about in this post, but you’re not going to see it then. He’ll show it to you in His timing, when you trust Him. So just rest in Him. He promises He will take care of you! I read Exodus 14:14 in my Bible study last night—look that verse up, it’s a beautiful reminder of this.

2. Believe in what God promises you.

His love is always there for you, that never stops. I know sometimes I am guilty of doubting His love when I struggle repeatedly with the same thing because I feel He’s tired of me messing up with that. There is a beautiful quote, though, that talks about how God would rather have us coming to Him when we mess up and believing He still loves us rather than distancing from Him until we make ourselves “better.” Also, I know that doesn’t work, running away from Him like that. Going to God when you fail is precisely how you end up getting “better” because the more aware you are of His love for you, the more you respond in love naturally, and the less place sin has in your life. He is always patient with you. I am so thankful for that. I talk all about His love more in depth here.

Believe that He will do good things for you when you are living for Him! He has good plans for you! Sometimes I get this false idea that because I love God, He’s going to do things to somehow test me or whatever, and these are all bad things I imagine, like never being successful at things He’s laid on my heart or fulfilling my dreams. But that’s when Jeremiah 29:11 is so crucial. His plans are good, not bad! He does care about your desires and dreams! As I talked about in my post reflecting on quotes over that here, they were given to you BY HIM if you are in Him.

The whole point of having faith is you believe that even when you don’t feel it. When you place your trust in God like that, never think that goes unnoticed by Him. Do whatever you have to do to submit your worries to Him and believe His promises. One night, I made a list on my phone of things I would tell myself everyday, whenever I felt upset. These were just simple statements ranging from beauty to dreams to faith in Him. You can’t just hope to trust Him, you have to be intentional in believing what He says. That is also why studying the Bible and what exactly it is He promises is so important, which I talk about here.

One of my favorite quotes says that if we fully comprehended how much God loves us, we would never fear anything. That is so true. So meditate on His promises daily. In eighth grade, when I was so down and upset all the time, one of the things that helped me the most was immersing myself in God’s love. Reading about how He loves me, asking Him to remind me how He loves me, etc. You cannot feel upset when you think about how God loves you. There is an amazing book on this by David Jeremiah I totally recommend, and I talk about it here.

3. Talk to God all the time, just by sharing one thought at a time.

I don’t know how much I’ve addressed prayer on this blog, but one quote I have by C.H. Spurgeon says, “Short prayers are long enough.” The whole point is that no prayer is ever a “bad” prayer. Lots of people, myself included, get the idea that prayer has to be like ten minutes long at a time, or it has to be about “meaningful” things, etc. Whatever the misconceptions may be, the only way you can “mess up” prayer is by doing just that, filtering things from God because you think it’s not worthy of telling Him. Well, He knows it anyway, and He wants you to tell Him. Be completely real with Him. I know I used to hide things from Him. Now I’m the opposite, I say things I probably should never tell Him, like when I’m so mad at someone I could hurt them or I actually swear. Well, again, it’s not like He doesn’t know I’m thinking those things! And He can save you from actually hurting someone if you go to Him in prayer first. ;) Haha, seriously, I’m not kidding, people: He really can handle whatever it is on your heart.

How do you learn to pray all the time? Seriously, just take it one thought at a time, even if it is something so simple like what you’re doing. Make it like a conversation. You probably talk to yourself in your head anyways, so why not tell God what you’re thinking? That’s how you develop that relationship. Before you know it, you’re praying all the time, all day long, exactly how we’re commanded to do. Just because it’s a command doesn’t mean it has to be dreaded. Prayer is such a gift, to be able to have that relationship with God. So treat it like any other healthy, special relationship you’d have with someone who loves you and then some. Because God loves you more than even that person, and a relationship with Him is literally what we are made for.

My favorite quote to end with

There is a quote I love that can be seen so much throughout the Bible as you look at the people who are close to God, that says the people who fall and get back up are a lot stronger than the people who never fall—or don’t seem to, anyway. Don’t feel like a failure if you’re in a hard situation. Just keep doing these three things: remembering nothing is irredeemable and submitting your life to God, remembering what He promises you and resting in His love, and talking to Him constantly about whatever goes through your mind. I tried to pick some of the “main” points or messages I think people need to hear or be reminded of the most. Again, I know I talk about a lot of these things, so I hope this wasn’t overly redundant, but I know I need reminders constantly of these things. I pray they can encourage you, too!

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What to Do When It Hurts

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There have been numerous occasions throughout my life where it seems all I’m able to do is breathe, and maybe even that doesn’t feel possible. Some situations are really ugly, feel really debilitating, and knock even the strongest people to their knees. Nobody gets exempt from pain in this life, regardless of the facades they may put on.

I feel like I am finally free from a long season of recurring hurt, some of which could be attributed to the typical teenage emotions, but really, that was the icing on the cake of dealing with trials that run far deeper, ones that seem endless. But that is proof again of how no season lasts forever, even the bad times won’t be there to stay, not when a person has Jesus. But in the midst of one of those ugly seasons, what is a person to do? Sometimes even with faith, life can feel worthless and unbearably painful. And if you really feel that way, then I do encourage you to get help from others, because there are people who can help you with those feelings. If you genuinely do battle depression or something along those lines, please reach out for help because like I talk about in this post on anxiety here, there isn’t any shame in that and sometimes it’s necessary. I can’t and won’t make this post about medical advice; all I can do is share my struggles and how God has helped me through them. And I’m praying it will inspire you, too, because even the strongest people go through times where life doesn’t make sense and everything hurts.

Contrary to what people believe, it’s not something to be alarmed by. I would be more worried if you’ve had a cushy life, seemingly without big trials, never knowing what it’s like to have nothing to cling to except God Himself. People like that will be brought to their knees one day, and without making God first, it won’t be good. Then again, sometimes people have to fall like that to find Him. We can’t think we’re exempt from that. But there is nothing more beautiful and liberating than that moment where you realize everything has come undone in your life, and now all you have is God, and it’s just you and Him, and there’s this amazing sense of conquering the world even though everything is a mess. That’s called His peace, that’s called knowing He is all you need, that’s called having the best joy in the whole world because that’s what it is—pure happiness that the world is a mess and there’s not a thing you can do about it except trust God. I’ve been in those moments, and you think you’re going to be freaking out, losing your mind, but you’re not. If you’re in God, He won’t let you. That’s when He’ll pour out His joy in your heart. Everyone else may be hysterical, and you’re the happiest you’ve ever been in your life. Why? Because you’re sadistic? No! Because that moment of total surrender, of knowing you don’t have to be the one to fix things and that the God of the universe is instead fighting for you at that very moment when you need it most is one of the most glorious feelings in this life!

That’s something a pain-free life will never give you—if you even want to call that life pain-free, because anytime you’re doing life without God happiness is just a fleeting pleasure, and pain is by default the norm. I don’t mean to sound harsh with this, but I have to be blunt. I absolutely can’t get on this blog and write about temporary crap that might help you be happy, because it won’t do a dang thing if it’s not accompanied by an authentic relationship with God. I talk more about true happiness in this post here, but God is our Maker, so of course to be happy, we have to be walking with Him.

In those moments of overwhelming pain, it can sometimes be hard to even know where you stand with God. I know I’ve felt that way. Even just recently when I’ve gone through some stuff, I feel so out of control, so everything feels out of control, including Him. And then I accuse Him of not caring for me, of not helping me. But that’s never the case. My grandma has had to remind me several times, that when bad things happen, He’s not the one doing them. That’s such a common misconception people have, and it can be easy to have. It seems natural that when something goes wrong, God made it happen, because He didn’t stop it, did He? But that’s, again, not the case. God looks at trials very differently than we do, and in His eyes, trials are not a bad thing. That’s not to say that He doesn’t think horrible things that happen aren’t horrible—because He absolutely does. But He uses trials to shape us. We should expect them not because He causes them but simply as a result of living on an earth plagued with sin. It’s only natural. But we should handle them differently, because we know more than anyone that this world isn’t going to remain the way it now is, and that even through the darkest nights, God has already won the battle (more on this here)! He’s already taken care of it! Just because you can’t see that, doesn’t mean He hasn’t.

I know it’s hard to think this way when you’re in the midst of something huge. Believe me, I do. And I by no means have always acted like the perfect Christian example in all of my trials. Just recently, in fact, I had a meltdown I am in no way proud of. Sometimes God has given me a strength that surpasses my own understanding in trials, and my character is exemplary. Not so this time. I remember talking with my mom, and literally just about every word that came out of my mouth was a curse word. I really don’t like cursing at all, mainly because everyone does it and thinks nothing of it, and I don’t think it honors God at all. Even so, I’ve been guilty of thinking bad things in my head or letting the occasional one slip here and there, but this time I was going off. And I wasn’t just using the “little” words. No, I was using the big ones. And my mom was like, I don’t think I’ve ever heard you like this before.

Normally I’m not, but on that particular night I was so mad and upset about how certain people acted, about things that kept recurring and never going away. I won’t say I didn’t know what I was doing because I did. I knew what I was doing, and I wanted to do it. And that’s the worst part. I knew I was mad, I knew I felt out of control and distant from God, and it was like I wanted to prove something. Of course, it got me nowhere. Does God still love me? Of course, and I’m so thankful for that. But does He also know I can do better than that? Absolutely.

We can’t justify our behavior because of pain. Everyone has pain, so to think people get a free pass on bad behavior as a result is not okay. But thankfully, God can help us do better. And why would we not want that? Just because we are out of control never means He is. He knows exactly what is going to happen before it does. And because of that, one mistake doesn’t have to be the end.

Because nights later, when I was extremely upset and frustrated again over the same thing, I was pacing, trying my best to talk to God instead of stewing about things. Anyone who’s actually felt that knows what a burden that is to carry anyway, to be mad. It’s not worth it, but sometimes necessary. But that’s why it’s so important to let God have it. So I was talking to Him, and I walked out into my kitchen, and I just had to breathe. And I stopped and I just became conscious of that fact. I’m breathing, breathing just fine. You know why? Because I am just fine. What God is listening to me tell Him does not define me and does not define my life. Is it painful? Does it upset me? Yeah, a whole lot. But it’s not the end. It’s not everything. I just had to stand and breathe and literally feel the strength God poured into my veins, that beautiful feeling I talked about at the beginning. Of knowing despite my rampant thoughts and feelings, I am doing just fine. I’m better than fine, as a matter of fact. Considering the circumstances, I’m doing great. Because He’s promised to make sure of that, to provide for you, to fight for you. But you have to let Him.

Moments before I felt this, I was accusing Him instead of merely venting about things: I was venting and then turning on Him, saying I felt so far away from Him, how I didn’t understand why He wanted me to hurt like this, etc. etc. And I said I didn’t feel Him, didn’t feel Him talking to me or telling me what to do. So finally I’d had it, had it with being mad, had it with fighting a battle I knew I would never win. So I sat on my bed, and I just told God, what do You want me to do? And then a verse did flash in my head: Philippians 4:6-7.

It’s a verse I’ve quoted many times before, but I’ll quote it again:

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
— Philippians 4:6-7 NIV

But notice how there is something God was telling me to do in there, as a prerequisite to that peace. Present your requests to Him. With thanksgiving. That is huge, that content, thankful mindset.

Because most of the time, that’s half the battle. We construct ideas in our head that we’re somehow exempt from trials and then get entitled and angry when we do go through something. I know that’s how I felt on this particular night. I thought it shouldn’t be happening to me. I shouldn’t have to deal with it. And granted, that may be true. But the world is sinful, and we don’t yet live in a world where people are exempt from heartache. And it was my expectation that life should be better that was really getting me down. But when I thought about that verse, it did hit me. How many times had I just wanted to be done? Fed up with the world and life? But how could I be so blind to how good God has made my life? That’s the real question. Because the truth is that none of us deserve a dang thing. Pain should be a constant in our lives because we deserve it. We’ve all sinned against God and brought this curse against ourselves. But God in His amazing love isn’t going to leave us to suffer in that. He doesn’t owe us anything, but He chose to do that. He chose to die for our sins, to lift us from that curse. And if we are in Him now, we’re not a slave to sin (Romans 6:1-7). That alone is the best gift in the world, to have that perfect relationship with God Himself. Anything else He gives us is extra blessings we also don’t deserve, yet God gives freely because He’s the perfect Father, and that’s what they do.

I haven’t had a bad life by any means, despite the trials. I’m not going to have a bad life. Trials come for seasons, but seasons don’t last forever. Literally speaking, the winter we are hopefully coming out of for good here in Iowa was horrible. But these last few days have been beautiful, dream weather, the kind that makes everything seem right in the world. Nothing bad will last forever.

And for those of us in Christ? We don’t have to worry about anything no matter what season, because we know that He’s going to get us through every single one and make everything beautiful in its time. There will be warmer days. There will be better days. But with Him, every day can be good. He’s the only One who can heal a broken heart, and on your worst of days, He’ll be right there with you. And your best of days, He’ll be right there with you. And a true Christian does not forget about Him once they enter the lighter days. No, those days are sometimes what brings us even closer to Him as much as the bad days because He’s walked you through that journey and now brought you those gifts of wonderful days, and you see Him at work through all of it. Everything good in this life is from Him, so it’s not a sin at all to enjoy good days. Let the good days keep you even closer to Him. Because this is life, the cycle of bad and good, but with God:

Everything ends up being for good. And you just have to remind yourself of that, allow Him to remind you of that. That’s what you’ve got to do when it hurts.

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The Most Inspirational Days of My Life

Sometimes I’ll be out doing something with my family or just having some time to myself in the middle of a school day where I think and reflect on my life when it hits me. How grateful I am for my life or, more accurately, going through life with God as my best friend and letting Him be in control. I wanted to share some of these moments or days that God has blessed me with to grow me as a person and inspire me to live the abundant life He wants all of us to have (John 10:10). And, the thing is, not EVERY DAY has to be great or even remotely significant to make an impact. Sometimes, the worst days of your life can even be the most inspirational. You don’t think this at the time, of course—something I will address in a bit—but God uses those just as much as He does the good days. It’s often because of those challenging seasons that make those moments of reflection so much sweeter and rewarding on all that He has done and carried me through. So let’s get into it—the most inspirational days of my life, and I want to hear what yours are, also.

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Shopping days. I have some fond memories of going shopping with various friends, and I remember talking about deep issues while bonding over that shared time. It makes me realize how a lot of those things, shopping, eating out, or whatever it may be, are just as much about being with people as they are the event itself. And I’m very thankful for the memories I have with people who have taken me shopping. :)

Hunter’s doctor appointments. This might seem like a weird thing to put on here, but being around my family and observing how they have learned to release his health has been very special to see how God is honoring that and taking care of him and, more importantly than that, giving us the faith we need to trust Him always. I also loved getting to be in the city—shock—and remember dreaming about future careers (because I would always see different psychologists or other professionals in the medical field, or one time we were in a waiting room overlooking the skyscrapers* outside and so then I would think about if I worked in one of those), future guys and what my husband would do for a career, and just my longings and having to trust in God for my own future.

*Yeah, I realize we don’t have “skyscrapers” in Des Moines, Iowa, because I said this one time, and my family made fun of me. I am just a small town Iowa girl, so they look like skyscrapers to me. ;)

Nights at Knoxville. That shared camaraderie with family as everyone has their people to talk to and that sense of everyone belonging and fitting in their own roles while being entertained at one of these events is priceless. Those are the kinds of memories that stay in your heart, like I talk about here.

Struggling in school. There was quite the variety of drama throughout middle school for me, but I remember how God put special teachers in my life at just the right times, and they helped me greatly in determining the truth amongst a society that preaches lies. I talk more about this here. Even the drama with my friends all ultimately made me who I am today, and I had to go through it like every other teenage girl to get where I am now and to own my faith like I have now. But there were also those brief funny moments or times of fun where you are thankful for that break of being able to laugh and enjoy life even if you’re not exactly where you want to be.

Car rides with family. On our way to Estherville and traveling across the state under various times of day, like sunset or nightfall or in rain or cloudiness or sunshine, I just remember enjoying that and it was always a time for me to think and reflect. A time to give me this blog post idea. :)

Having Willy. Having our dog become part of our family and going through his life with him has been a blessing, one that you often don’t realize is so special until after that time has passed, like when I was able to pick him up! You can read more about him here.

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Taking Willy on walks. Having revelations about ideas for books and thoughts laid on my heart from God as I’m taking in His beauty to relax and unwind, always while listening to my favorite music I had just discovered, in the heart of summertime, and then taking pictures of all the gorgeous views from the country, are some of my favorite days. Somedays I would walk specifically because I was stressed or upset, but talk about a way that God can help you when you do feel that way. Probably why my heart will always gravitate towards summer, too.

Nights at the lake. Fishing with Dad and just daydreaming about story ideas or enjoying nature once again. Dad would sometimes take me to do that when I was stressed and the weather was nice. It was always a great getaway.

The early days of putting together this blog. That joy that is always running through you when you begin a new project and trusting God to use this blog, though I would not have guessed it would mean as much to people as it is, and I’m very grateful and thankful to God for that. You all have inspired me. <3

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Nights persevering at intense basketball. Having to push through comparison issues for the first time and the start of my days of crying all the time. :D While I have great memories of playing basketball and enjoying the game and feeling of being active, it brought with it quite a bit of heartache as I struggled with not feeling good enough. But again, God used that immensely to help me know my worth in Him alone. I talk more about this here.

ALL the times spent with family in Estherville. This is my grandparents’ small town, and I won’t be redundant, I literally have a whole blog post dedicated to this town and what it’s meant to me you can read here. The bonding with family and our deep talks over real struggles have been absolutely priceless. So much of my development in faith and as a person has taken place here. Read that blog post for all the details on that; it’s really been such a gift to me.

Playing Minecraft with Hunter. Bonding with my brother through that game on the Xbox in the summertimes when I had to babysit because our parents were working and our memories of our epic fails and having fun building things together. Although too often than not we would end up fighting, but it was mostly a bonding experience! ;)

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Hockey games. I need to write more about hockey because I love it *almost* as much as shopping, so that’s how you know it’s high on my list! Going to my first hockey game with my family, I was skeptical but loved the environment—it was unlike anything I’ve ever seen before, and take that as you want, ha—and then this has remained a constant in our lives, a way for me to release stress and enjoy time with family. It’s also been crucial for my development as well, like when I thought I was sick one time because of something I noticed that night but then learning to trust God and enjoy life while I have it—in that moment. I also have witnessed the (sometimes) trashy environment or the potential for that, just like what is prevalent at any event, and learning to love God all the more and be close to Him. He blesses me with nights like those, and they are not sins, but they have the potential to be if one is not pursuing Him and chooses to indulge in worldly things. I also remember writing to my future husband because hockey players sure have a way of making me dream hahaha, dreaming about the city again because THE VIEWS from Wells Fargo Arena—they should get a location award, honestly, and dreaming about going on DATES at a hockey game. ;)

AND SEEING ZACH PARISE made my life and was proof of how dreams do come true and God does care about those seemingly more shallow things because him coming down to the Iowa Wild was truly a once in a lifetime thing. I remember we bought tickets on a whim, like, the night before or something. It was awesome. And there was this one night not too long ago when I didn’t want to go to the hockey game because I felt down about life and stressed, but God worked out the most amazing, “small” thing that was like a miracle to me. It’s those little moments that come when you know God intimately and He knows everything about you, and those little moments that may not seem like much but are so special because of your relationship and how He works. Hopefully that makes sense, but hockey games have truly been a blessing He’s given to me. That’s why one day I want to marry a hockey player haha ;) <3

Also, when I was first getting into hockey and had my crush on that hockey player, it actually did push me to grow in my trusting God with my future husband and helped me narrow down what I wanted in a guy in the future. Oh my gosh, I literally remember being stressed because I thought my hockey player was so cute but knew I would never have him (he’s married and twice my age hahaha), but then I began to worry about if God really could find me another guy as cute or if He even cared about shallow things like that. I literally prayed those things! :D And it is what led me to one of my favorite books, “The Chase” by Kelsey and Kyle Kupecky that I talk about here. And yes, God does care about all of that, I have had quite the few experiences that show that. :) But I will write much more about this in future, but for now, read this post and this post.

Reading books at school. Craving that time for free reading so I could pick up where I left off when I was really into a good story that was truly authentic and inspiring and reading throughout my study centers in middle school. Unfortunately in high school there’s never built in time for this, and I feel like I haven’t read in forever. :( But it makes those memories that much more special. Oh, how much reading I did in middle school! And probably read through some mature books that were way above my head, but hey, I think I’m doing alright, and that’s how you grow, right… :) This was also true when I was reading for leisure at night on my Kindle and all the things I learned as I began to grow into a teen from reading young adult fiction. ;) My dog would lay with me, too, and I remember just plowing through books and, with series, always asking Mom if I could buy the next one ASAP because it was so good, and then at the end of that year (sixth grade) they would have a party for kids who read a certain amount of books, and there was all this ice cream and wide array of toppings. It was wonderful and even more special because I genuinely loved reading also, and that in and of itself gives life meaning.

The beautiful trip to Florida. Experiencing the world more deeply for the first time in my life and how big it is and my appreciation for my own life and my yearning to explore more and reach more people. I also remember a car ride home at night from our last day when we went deep sea fishing and talking as a family about how thankful we were for the trip and our lives and growth. Read all about it here. Definitely one of the highlights of my life.

Hanging out with my friend and our ideas we came up with as we developed and tried to make meaning of our lives. We would come up with stories and act them out. We were young, and I have great memories of doing that.

Going for walks with Grams and her always listening about my stresses and big dreams, and the memories of location like walking in the early mornings to Casey’s or around town at sunsets.

Time with my girl cousins and our bonding, watching movies, being goofy, taking pictures…I write about this here. Amanda came down one time, and we enjoyed being together after my family took a loss, and Mom and Dad went to have their fun at concerts while we got to talk deep and enjoy what matters in life with Gramps and Grams and just had fun going for walks in the summertime and more you can read about here. Kir and I went jet skiing also, which was another top experience of mine.

Dreaming with my friend while we would walk and talk about shopping and things we wanted, our dreams for our futures, and always (well, me, anyway) having BOYS on my mind and her being patient with me as I talked about my various crushes over the years. ;) Thankful for those memories. We also did cross country together and would run with each other at practice. I remember how nervous we were for our first meet but how I told her (and myself) to put it into perspective, and what is its impact in the grand scheme of things?

Getting involved in church for the first time and my deep talks with Mom at night as we would drive over. This led to my increasing hunger to read through my Bible for the first time, and I started doing that shortly after and finished that following summer. There was also my longing for a friend there, but that all led me to deeper relationships with adults and that shared fellowship because of what God has done for us was amazing to see.

The intense season of school basketball. Those early morning basketball practices and having to learn to be independent by setting my own alarm so I’d have enough time to get ready and realizing that isn’t what I wanted because throughout every practice, I would always dream of my book or my blog and how I wanted to work on those. I was also very stressed for games because I would overthink a lot, and I remember one of my teammates even telling me that I was just trying to come up with every scenario that could happen and overthink it, so it was good for my faith to go into the unknown like that and really surrender my worries to God. And He would always deliver. I enjoyed being able to have fun with my teammates for that season also, like talking on the bus, and I also remember it pushed me to manage time well. I had to pre-write all of my blog posts on the weekends and schedule them out for the week because I had absolutely no time for writing during the week, but I knew I didn’t want to abandon this.

Staying up late to watch movies with friends. Some movies they showed me are like OHHHKAY BUT ended up fostering talks about issues we were facing as teens and our curiosity about other things and our guys one day. I also remember bonding through writing together with a lot of my friends because we had that in common, and those memories are very special to me, even if they were only for a short season.

Studying my Bible in depth at church through discipleship and having those mature conversations I craved and feeling reassured that amidst feeling deeply lonely at this time in my life, I wasn’t doing anything wrong, and living for God and learning to completely depend on Him gave me a sense of freedom and completeness like never before.

My first church retreat and dreaming about my future guy (I was hoping I would find someone there but not God’s timing ;) and reflecting on the impact I want to leave for the glory of God. I remember recapping all of it with Mom when we got home that night and as she picked me up and we drove home. I talk all about this retreat and how wonderful it was here!

Our wonderful family trip to Canada that exceeded my expectations and affirmed how I need to trust God with everything because He alone can work things out, and I also did a ton of theological reading (I had bought about a million books from that retreat ha). That was a big growing stage for my faith as well.

Nights where I felt extremely alone. Because I was so thankful for my joy in Jesus on these nights or when I just felt out of place at school, because I was able to feel the peace and assurance He alone gives (John 14:27).

My heartbreak over some broken people. I say “some,” but literally every person is broken or has been at some point in their life, but it took some people in particular to open up my eyes to this. Of course, I’d always known this, but it lit within me a passion to share my own experiences with people who may not have anyone to do that, and it was one of the most meaningful things I’ve done.

Shopping with Mom. We dream and talk about my own future one day and how thankful we are for our relationship, or those nights when the boys would go their separate ways (like to hockey games—they were the ones to start first and then we all ended up loving it) and we have our time. I wrote about our time in November spent holiday shopping here and how that was actually a really special time in particular for me because before we went, I had felt down about a lot of things and just very insecure and doubting my own worth or if God would do things for me in the future. But she was so patient with me and talked with me about all of that as we drove over to eat out afterwards, and we were just so thankful for our relationship with God because He alone does that, and it’s awesome to think of just what He’s done since that time.

Beginning my novels. I’ve “officially” started two books but have attempted to start many others that get pushed back either because I try to start too many at one time or just want to come back to a certain project later. But either way, that feeling of starting something is very special and trusting God to use that for Him after He’s laid ideas on your heart. I love that feeling.

My doctor appointments with Mom in Des Moines. It would turn into a full day event, and we had to learn to navigate it together (because Mom hates city driving), but we kept an open mind, and it worked out well. I don’t feel guilty for making time amidst business or school for those fun times because they’re crucial for your mental health, to take those breaks and have those special times, and what ultimately matter and what you remember in life. I remember one time I had one on a school day and my doctor even saying things like how she remembers those days where she took her daughters out to do fun things like shopping or eating after an appointment and those times really are priceless. I don’t think you should abandon responsibilities, obviously, but this society gets so wrapped up in productivity, and sometimes it really is good to take that break just because. Look at the big perspective of things. These days will inspire me and stay with me more than any productive thing I could’ve completed. That stuff can’t love you back, I heard it described well in an article one time.

Playing an online game with my friend. These days were wonderful because that was my way of releasing stress and hitting pause on other things, like writing, even. I remember always looking forward to playing that when I got home from school. And actually, I remember not wanting to go to that first hockey game as a family because I wanted to play that game. ;) It actually did help me be creative, too, though, and it was just a fun way to unwind and appreciate that season of my life. I was 12, haha.

Seeing hard work pay off at the end of middle school. I got this award at the end of the year, but it wasn’t even that so much that meant things to me. During eighth grade, a year I felt very lonely and overlooked, I remember a teacher pulling me aside and thanking me for everything I had done for their school and telling me not to think that goes unnoticed. I was shocked because, being as quiet as I am, I didn’t think I really did anything. But I think that goes to show that God does make people pay attention to you, even when you think they aren’t, which is why it is all the more important to lead by example always and live for His glory.

Time with Grams at her Y. I remember dreaming about college a lot (because she would take me to Ames sometimes, which I loved, and I’ve been considering going to school there), and just relaxing my body in the swimming pool after some anxiety about various things I was struggling with going into high school. I remember one time, probably the first time I went with her to a class in the swimming pool, reminding myself to take it a day at a time and trust God to take care of me and appreciate each gift He gives me, like a simple day with her at the pool or if we go out to eat or go to Ames. Those seemingly simple days end up being some of the very best, truly.

My struggle with anxiety during my first year of high school. It felt absolutely debilitating for awhile—the thoughts were just relentless and irrational—but I am honestly thankful to have gone through it. When you deal with something like that, it only makes you that much more prepared to handle future worries better, and I know God used that to strengthen my faith even though it made me feel like a failure at the time. I talk more about my anxiety and what I learned to help overcome it here.

Days in PE just relaxing. Having time to think about all that God has done for me when we did things like tracking our resting heart rate and had to lay down for about twenty minutes was wonderful and just having that break between stressful classes to work out was great. It opened up my eyes to how much I really do enjoy exercise.

Eating out with my parents and our talks. When it’s just me with my parents going out and doing things, or like just me with my grandparents, there’s something special about that sole attention and having time to do both fun things and also spend time together and be able to have discussions about more serious topics. Those are some of my favorite times. The lesson I’ve learned from all of these inspirational days that I will get to in a minute came from a night where just the three of us were going out to eat.

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Furniture shopping with Mom. We went on a whim one day on a beautiful, rainy spring day (I’m not being sarcastic; I seriously love those), and the furniture store we went to was so nice, and I enjoyed dreaming about my own future house. Half of these days included me dreaming about something hahaha, but I like how all of that has been sparked by the moments I was in at that time, God’s way of reminding me to enjoy the right then.

Going to the city at night. Staying up late in our hotel with my family to make sense of some horrible trials in life but still having that joy only God can bring from hard times and knowing that we would make it through despite how hard and ugly life can be sometimes. I think those times in life have probably been the most inspirational, is going through hell but still being able to see the light at the end of the tunnel that only comes from living for God.


The takeaways from this

Here is what I wrote down, as the basis for one of my blog posts that I thought went really well with all of this. I wrote it in the car on a night not long ago when I was going out to eat with my parents: “The beauty of loving God: how my heart overflows with the beauty of my life because of Him that even makes me cry joy about the bad times because of His faithfulness and just those special moments I’ve had where I really feel like that and how He shows me a joyful balance between work and play and how it all leads back to Him AND YOU LITERALLY HAVE EVERYTHING TO GAIN WITH HIM - WE WERE MADE FOR HIM <3 <3”

You often don’t realize the moment you’re in until it’s gone. I know I especially can be prone to thinking about what’s next in life and where I want to be that I forget where God has me now, but then you look back and think of that and how you would love to have it back. So just enjoy every bit of life as it comes, even the bad times, because to grow in life and get to that point where you aren’t burdened by the chains of this world, you have to develop through the trials and can’t run from them. Appreciate the right now, as that is where God wants you to be, and He provides for the rest. He’ll give you that next step whenever He sees fit—you don’t need to go around looking for it or trying to make it happen on your own, something I am also guilty of.

And the last thing I will say is don’t evaluate your life in the middle of the hard seasons. It’s hard, a lot of times, to see what God is doing when He’s in the middle of it, but looking back, it begins to make sense. You begin to see why you had to be so alone for a season, or why your family had to go through ten different things at a time, or whatever it may be. You look at your life and don’t even realize the growth and work God has done in your heart if you’ve surrendered to Him, just like when working out, it takes several months or more sometimes to see the big results. That is why try not to think about why you’re going through a certain thing or why a certain season is hard. Because that is just life, and it’s hard, but it has to be hard to motivate you to totally depend on Him. And when you do that completely—not perfectly, but with your whole heart—you will be amazed at how beautiful life really is despite hardships (more on this here). Because God makes it beautiful. He alone is the key to an abundant life, and I’m so thankful for His work in mine.

How about you?

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