What Life Is All About

A little over a week ago, I got to attend my cousin Kirsten’s graduation ceremony at the University of Iowa, and I have to say, the entire day we spent with her and family was amazing. So amazing that I felt the need to write all of it down that I could possibly remember in my journal, and now my nails hurt from clenching my pen so much! It was one of those days, though, that you just want to hold onto forever. But of course reality has to set back in, and as I texted her the next day, I felt depressed thinking of the fun times and then having to return to the monotonous grind of school/”the real world.” Of course, it doesn’t have to be that way because I can look back on that time and let the joy of it radiate in me now. I wanted to blog about it, though, because not only did I have a great time and want to remember it, but I also…well, I’m trying to think of some other way to say “learned a lot of lessons from it!” because I feel like I say that with literally everything on this blog. Lessons learned from hockey, lessons learned from shopping, lessons learned from staying up late on my phone stalking social media… Okay, fine, I get it. It’s always important to learn, though, am I right?! We may as well just change this blog tagline to “everything a teen girl does and every lesson she learns from it.” Well, there’s worse things to blog about, I think!

Anyway, I really enjoy spending time with my family, and Kirsten is the type of person you just always have fun with. I’ve blogged about our times together before, including just last summer when we tried jet skiing, an experience I highly recommend! You can read all about that and many other adventures right here.

Kirsten was graduating from Iowa, and seeing as we live only an hour away from Iowa City, my mom and I were going to go to her ceremony. Mom gets pretty anxious about the driving and making it there on time when we knew it was going to be crazy, but once we got that part out of the way, we were able to relax. I’ve only been to Iowa City one other time before this, when I had to go see my surgeons there to talk about jaw surgery, and I wrote about that experience here as well and—you’ll never guess it—more lessons I’d learned!

ashlee-mom.jpeg

I was very overwhelmed by how many people there were and how big the stadium was that the ceremony was held in! There were crowds of people so big that when trying to walk through, you’d actually rub against someone, haha. Trying to find her family to sit by was a little hectic, but thankfully we were able to find them just before things got started and settled in. I enjoyed where we sat because we sat at some table/desk-like structure in the middle, and these plastic rolling chairs were actually very comfortable. It was nice to see her family!

ashlee-family.jpeg

Even though the ceremony was super long, it didn’t really feel that way. We were able to spot Kirsten just before we missed her haha, as it moved fast and in no organized order. We did get good pictures of her, though. Then afterwards we were able to meet up with her and, seeing as my mom and I were starving since we hadn’t really had breakfast that morning, we decided to go eat somewhere. Kirsten wanted to check out the mall they had and try Zombie Burger which was in their food court, so we ended up deciding to meet there. Before we left, though, we took some pictures with Kirsten.

ashlee-kirsten-herky-iowa.jpeg
ashlee-kirsten-graduation.jpeg
ashlee-kirsten-graduation.jpeg

I was, of course, ecstatic to be going to the mall, but Mom was still frazzled about getting out. Getting out was actually very stressful because there was not nearly adequate enough organization to directing people out, so everyone was just going as they please with no real flow. Once we got out of that mess though and then out of the mess of driving all the way through Iowa City because Siri thought that was the best route to the mall evidently, and after Mom was able to make it inside the mall and get food and such, it ended up being more relaxing with the stressful part behind us. We got food right away and enjoyed catching up with Kirsten and her mom. They actually ended up coming back to our house with us for a bit because we were going to end up going back anyway to pick up my brother, who wanted to see them, and spend some time at their hotel in Altoona. So it did end up working out that we were able to do just a bit of shopping, too! I made Kir go to one of my fave stores with me, and I was thrilled that finally a day where I go to the mall and they were having deals at my store! Mom went with my aunt to pick up some new soaps and stuff like that, and we met up with them later. We didn’t go too crazy, but hey, I was able to leave with something on sale from my store—and actually convinced Kirsten to get something, too—so I was more than happy with how it all played out. And then Kirsten and I went into a dressing room literally just to take a picture, and I’m sure the sales lady was wondering what the heck we were doing, but anyway, we got the picture, so what else matters?

ashlee-kirsten-shopping.jpeg
ashlee-kirsten-shopping.jpeg
ashlee-family-shopping.jpeg

The car ride home flew by as we were lost in conversation the whole way. Seeing as Kirsten and her family live up in Minnesota, we don’t get to actually see them much, but when we do, it always goes by so fast. It’s those times you never forget, though, and they’re that much more special. I’m always so thankful to God, and even though the day stays full of activity and as a result I don’t feel like I talk to Him as much, I know that’s a blessing from Him and something He wants me to enjoy, is that time with family. It all leads me back to Him as I thank Him for those times and days and reflect back on them later. It reminds me constantly of His goodness and provision and the good times in life that I can enjoy while I’m here. We enjoyed talking with them once we got home after making a stop at our Walmart because Kirsten wanted to see if there were cute Hawkeye shirts—and normally there are—but unfortunately our Walmart let her down just like the Spirit Lake Walmart did last summer when she wanted an Okoboji shirt. Maybe one day, Kirsten…! I was happy Kir got to see my room because I’ve changed it immensely since she was last at my house.

ashlee-kirsten.jpeg

I love having her to take photos with because we both can be conceited together hahaha. But really, you gotta have some way to document those memories! And thankfully she’s as picky about her photos as me, so we always make sure we get some good ones and some not so serious, also, to highlight the fun of the day!

ashlee-kirsten.jpeg

Once we got my brother, we headed to Altoona to take them back to their hotel, since they’d be headed back the next day. That time was really special because everyone got to visit with one another in the room, although Kirsten and I were rarely in the room because we literally made the rounds walking around the hotel and talking and getting pictures about five different times, haha. We talked about everything from upcoming events we were looking forward to to guys to life now to Kir’s fear of elevators! And we took lots of pictures. And one time Kirsten literally walked into a room where there was a big dance for a wedding, which I proudly got on video, and then another time we walked into this group of dancers or something and that was quite awkward given how they were dressed, and then another time I found this cute guy, and we wanted to go look at the casino even though obviously I wasn’t getting in, and there was a gift shop, and all sorts of reasons why we were wandering around endless times! Probably one of my favorite parts of the day, just walking around with her like that and talking. I love being able to go for walks like that with people. Even when I’m at the hockey games in Wells Fargo, I always love walking around the arena.

ashlee-kirsten-hotel.jpeg
ashlee-hotel.jpeg
ashlee-family-hotel.jpeg
ashlee-kirsten-hotel.jpeg
ashlee-kirsten-hotel.jpeg
ashlee-kirsten-floor.jpeg
hotel.jpeg
hotel-room-view.jpeg

Gotta love that view!

I was so thankful we got to see them and have that time with them. I know that good gift of family is all from God, and it makes me so thankful for how He provides like that. He knows when I need a break or when the seriousness and routine of life needs to be broken up or when I need to be reminded of what really matters. And I know I probably say this all the time, but it just makes me so appreciative of my family and what He’s put right in front of me. It’s that reminder I need to keep enjoying the good and keep working because school can be difficult for me, both with people and with the stress of keeping up with the workload. It’s always nice to have that break, that reminder and refresher of what makes life rich. Working hard is good and important, but I don’t ever want to be so obsessed with things that I can’t let go or release control and just enjoy the season of life I’m in. Because believe me, I can get very uptight that way, and I can doubt God and lose my focus on Him and what matters. But then there are days like this, where He’ll remind me of it again and again, to remember those moments, those feelings, that knowing that He always provides and He is the One who makes life joyful. And there will always be those times for those who trust in Him completely. I’ll write much more on this in the future because learning to let go and appreciate the moment and NOT GETTING IMPATIENT LIKE I ALWAYS DO HAHA is something He’s been working on immensely in me this year. But we are getting there, people! So thank you for always following along and going on this journey with me. I pray all of you are doing well and will stop to align your focus in life with God’s because that is when you know what life is about and will have His true joy.

signature.jpg

Dear Future Husband... #2

ashlee-mae-mall.jpeg

*Okay people, time for the post I've been promising forever. You better read this post here before continuing!!! :)

**I am looking over that post linked above as I write this to see how embarrassing my first letter was and give me a guide to embarrass myself yet again in this letter! Why do I post these, you ask? Well, for one, they're fun. Second off, I have this romantic fantasy that somewhere off in la la land my actual future husband may just stumble across my blog and read this post as it is published. Of course I completely doubt this, but let me dream. And lastly, on a more SERIOUS note, the biggest reason I share these publicly is because as I get older, I am more convinced that it is immensely important for girls to actually think about their futures like this. In a culture full of hooking up and failed relationships, there definitely needs to be a conversation about becoming the types of people we want to be in a relationship and also what to look for in a partner. What I'm looking for might scare you (and him, too, haha), so let's continue already!!!

(And just FYI, I still don't date yet, except I think maybe possibly my parents said I can date when I'm 16? HA, at the time I’m finally getting around to finishing this, I am 16!!! Haha it's irrelevant anyway as I highly doubt anyone will show up for me in a year, but I suppose you never know. Anyway, as a young girl, younger than I am now, I blogged about why not rushing into dating at such a young age is important in a blog post here. And I still stand by that. But I definitely don't think it's a sin to dream, pray, or write to your future husband. So write away and maybe post it online so you can embarrass yourself with me in ten or twenty years or so.:)

-This is coming completely sporadically from my brain with the prompting of some past notes I've wrote at 12:36 am as of right now and is probably not going to be finished tonight, as of June 15, 2018, because Grandma is already whining to me about going to bed. This is going to be wonderful, haha! My brain always comes up with its finest past midnight, so brace yourselves. :)

-Okay, it’s now March 11, 2019 (it will still be later than that when I publish this…), go me, here we go again finishing blog posts I started almost a year ago. Maybe my next letter will be more coordinated. We can only hope. :) And also, time flies. And also, Timeflies is the name of the singers who sing my future wedding song, “All the Way.” <— I discovered this song at a hockey game, and it’s going to be in MY wedding, so don’t steal it from me. ;)

Dear future husband!

Hello! Have I scared you off already with my intro to this post? No, you are going to love this letter, I promise, and you'll want to frame it. ;) I hope you've already read the first letter I wrote to you because I'll be referencing it here throughout. Also, do you know it's my biggest pet peeve in the whole wide world when people don't respond to me? Well now you know the quickest way you'll get divorced, you're welcome!

Ha, maybe I shouldn't already be talking about divorce before I even know who you are? Yeah........................................ I'm sure that hasn’t showed you that I'm wife goals as of right now. Moving on...

My previous letter told you that I think about you all the time, which is still true, of course I do, just like I daydreamed about high school (ha...I bet that sounds like a joke to you) and like I do now with college. I've always found excitement in the future events of life that I have to look forward to. Not the waiting, though. NEVER the waiting. Gosh, I hate waiting for things. Another character flaw I have is that I've always seemed to want to grow up faster, and I don't know if that's a good thing or not because one day I'll probably regret it. But I really do look forward to the days of loving you. Geez, does that sound sappy and too deep? Well, I have no life, you know; I spend my days after school doing this, haha. In all seriousness, though, the closer I get to God, the more I ponder the beauty of what marriage should be. It is supposed to be a symbol of His love for us, you know. I think that's pretty amazing and how He gives us these desires.

Before we continue, I have something very urgent to tell you. Okay, so you know my look alike theory? It's actually not my theory—I just saw it online somewhere—but I have so much evidence to prove it. At the time I wrote my first letter, I had just discovered the first guy to go into the seven look alikes of my one crush that is never going to happen unfortunately. Well good news for you, I found two more! That means there's only four left, so I hope you're one of them! :)

Uh, actually, update from me in March, I’ve found so many hot guys I can’t marry that fit my “type” it’s not even funny. It’s really not; it’s actually quite tragic. But I know you’ll be the best of all, so that gives me hope! :D

Yes, looks are still important to me to the dismay of my grandma, who is always lecturing me about personality over external beauty, haha. You know I'm all about the aesthetics! Apparently when I was a little girl, I threw a fit because I didn't get the gumball I wanted, and my mom had to carry me out of a store "like a football." My guess? The color wasn't pink. That is how I am going to feel if you don't have brown, curly hair or nice muscles. No pressure or anything.

Okay. Don't worry, I'm not expecting you to look like a Calvin Klein model or anything, even though I do have some pictures of one of those in my "Guys" folder on my laptop. I have my own "type" I go for, and seriously, brown curly hair and toned muscles is just about what does it! I've studied the millions of crushes I've had over my sixteen years, and those are very common characteristics. You don't have to be a supermodel to look like that; I have found plenty of everyday people who fit my type. Four to be exact! No, actually, a lot more than that, so I have no worries you’ll be one of them.

Okay so that is going to be phase one of the test in determining if I even go on a date or not, so seriously, if you're reading this, don't sweat it. You fit my type—there's no way I would be marrying you if you didn't. ;) Mom says that my liking guys based on how they look is something I will grow out of? Yeah, I don't think so. I've cared about how my guys look since as long as I can remember; I think that's just a shallow trait I have. ;)

Anyway! Enough about that. Believe it or not, I do have meaningful things to tell you.

I have learned so much since that first letter I wrote you, about what marriage is truly designed for, about what I want ours to portray, and most of all, what God wants and thinks of marriage. What He wants for us. Because sometimes, my feelings and longings for marriage are so intense that I worry it’s become an idol for me. And then I feel guilty, but the guilt still doesn’t cancel out the longing. Then I talked with the people I am closest to and trust their advice about God and my relationship with Him, and I read a lot. And I realized that those desires are human and put there by God Himself. I know marriage can become an idol like any natural desire if it gets put ahead of Him. But here’s the thing: I don’t want a marriage that doesn’t end up leading me closer to Him. All of my dreams, all of my desires, marriage itself, truly, is a reflection of the unconditional, perfect love everybody wants and that God alone provides. The marriage I want is one that is going to be a reflection of that. So how can that desire be bad? It’s not.

Patience for me is another story. I have to trust that God knows what I want and that He’ll provide it when He sees fit and, in the meantime, not make it an obsession or idol of mine. I dream about you and pray for you all the time. I’ve felt called to do that by God for a long time. The key with humans is that we have to have someone to love us and someone else to love, which is not a bad thing; it’s precisely how God wired us. When I think of you, I think of how God is making me for you, and He’s making you for me. I’m a rather passionate, intense person, and I want my love for you and our love for each other to be the same. I want to go all out because life is short, but one of the greatest gifts is that partnership and bond that God has put in lots of people to have. I don’t want to be lazy. Marriage is a gift that should be treasured and invested in, like the way I invest in writing or a career and even more so than that because we’re talking about loving another person, the person God has trusted me with to love and respect—YOU.

Life is hard, but what a gift it is to do life with someone who understands you, who you can connect with deeply about the meaningful things and work with together to overcome struggles. I’ve been blessed to get a good taste of what that’s like with my own family, but I want it with you, too, and I want our struggles to always drive us to be better, to chase after God harder, to love each other deeper. That’s how He designed it!

And this love is possible no matter who you are, what you’ve done, or anything. If you know God, and I know you will, then I know you’ll come to grasp this, and what a beautiful thing that is. I pray for you to make good choices, wherever you are right now, but I understand that sometimes making bad choices is what can bring you to your knees and see your need for Jesus, so if that’s what it takes for you, I won’t hold that against you. As long as you end up learning how to treat a girl! And learning how to treat a girl is only found through loving God. You can’t go by what the world says to do because the world doesn’t have a clue about mature, deep love that everyone craves but doesn’t know how to give. That comes only from knowing God. And I pray that you will know Him and love Him and that we can live and do life together to please Him. It’s the best way possible to live and has given me so much joy, even when I do feel utterly alone. So I cannot wait to share that with you. And we’re going to hockey games, I hope! I’m still praying you’re a hockey player, so if everything works out, hopefully I’ll be watching you. ;)

des-moines.jpeg

I cannot tell you how lonely I feel sometimes or how much I long for the true love God has instilled in every person the desire for. And I constantly feel bombarded by lies, that I have to get a guy’s attention by being immodest, that love does not exist in the long term, etc. But none of that is true. True love might be rare, but it’s definitely out there for anyone who is willing to put in the time to cultivate it. And I will. I hope I already have through the way I live. And I pray you do, too. Because that is what I want for us more than anything, is built upon God’s love, which is true love. I can’t wait to see what God will do through our love and change our lives with it. I won’t settle until I know you have this true love because it’s out there. Everyone wants it, but very few will work on their own hearts first and actually get themself into the condition to be able to truly love someone because it’s not easy whatsoever and requires total surrender of oneself to God and to the person they love. But I’ve been praying I can do that.

It’s hard for me to fathom, sometimes, a guy who will be able to love me like that. I’m a complex person—but who isn’t—and I care about my relationships immensely because I know the most beautiful moments in life are surrounded around people, the way God intended. And I don’t just want surface level relationships; those are my biggest pet peeve. I want to stalk you and know everything about you. ;) Haha, seriously though, I want us to be best friends. I want us to care deeply about the other’s past, what we’ve missed with each other, learn and study each other and create a deep bond together in the present, and pray for and want to be apart of the other’s future, no matter where it takes us.

There are days I get really tired of waiting. There are days I doubt if God even wants me to get married. But in the end, I know these are just that, doubts. God has created you for me, I know that for a fact, and He’s working on me right now, to make me for you. Why? Because He’s given me the desire for a bright, raw love that is almost unheard of nowadays. And that comes directly from knowing Him and who He is, which IS love. I’m so very restless in everything, but I have to be careful not to settle. The world will say men of this intensity and maturity don’t exist, but you do. You do because you know Jesus and not just of Him but actually love Him and want to live your life for Him. And that’s the key to any other admirable quality being multiplied in a person.

I have huge dreams, for our marriage, for my life…and I have to believe that God knows all of them and is going to bring them to be in His timing because they all honor Him. I hope you have your own dreams, too, dreams that you trust God with, and I pray for yours, also, regardless of what they are. I pray for you all the time, and it’s weird not knowing who you are or what you’re doing, but I’ve learned again and again how just because I cannot see something doesn’t mean it isn’t out there or God isn’t doing anything. Just the opposite. So I know you’re out there, and I know God is at work on you right now, even if, at the time I write this, you don’t know Him yet. You will, and I know you’ll be so thankful once you do.

I pray for a grand story for us because I’m a writer, so I live for coming up with stories, and I have both realism and idealism at work in my personality, so while I want something practical, I also get a thrill of doing things that sound impossible. Because God can do anything, so I’m asking Him to go all out with you and me, to make both of us bright lights for His glory, and for our story—whatever that yet may be—to also be something beautiful for His glory. God has a unique story for everyone, as people I look up to have told me, and I know that is true for us. We will have our own special story, and since both of us will be pursuing God, there’s no limit to how beautiful that may be.

In fact, when I published my first letter to you, a sweet girl read a part of it and then was kind enough to reach out to me and tell me how she enjoyed my blog and also that she believed God would send me a guy who is the number one follower of my blog. You know I have this dream that you read every single blog post of mine? It’d be wonderful of you to do that. My first post is here, then you can just hit the next link at the bottom and read through my whole blog. And perhaps leave a comment on each one, you know, so I know you actually did it. :)

That may be a little much, but that is how I want our love to be. God went all out for us, so the least we can do is try and go all out for each other. That is marriage at its best, is pure, unconditional love that never gives up on the other person. It’s not about ourselves, so whatever you want me to do, just tell me, and I’ll probably do it. :)

Above all, knowing God will lead us to be the best people we can be, to have that perfect balance of work and play in life because that’s what I truly want, a partner who I can adventure with and go out with and do all sorts of fun things with but also someone who’s mature enough to know when certain types of “fun” are inappropriate and won’t sacrifice morality and serving Jesus for temporary things this world preaches.

I really want to get married. And I definitely don’t want to idolize marriage. Truly, I don’t. But I definitely think it’s a calling of mine or else I wouldn’t be writing this letter. ;) I’ve been boy crazy from a rather young age, and while I definitely have to keep that in check and not make bad choices as a result, that is a good thing when I think about you and preparing to meet you one day, but I do have to learn not to worry or get overwhelmed about things that aren’t here yet. It’s something I’m guilty of, and I want to live in each moment. I know I’ll enjoy every moment of being with you, but they’re not here yet, and no matter how many fits I throw about waiting, they’re not coming any sooner. So I may as well enjoy the season I’m in right now and use this time to prepare, to be shaped by God, to do all the things and fulfill all the dreams He wants me to and has laid on my heart. Right now, for me, that means writing, education, and always developing as a Christian, of course. They may not seem like big things to me right now, but they will be. I know God is going to use those “small” things to guide the rest of my life, mold me into the person I need to be to do all He’s called me to do—including being there for you—and I want to be present in that. I also pray for you, that right now at whatever season you’re in, it will be a season God works on your heart and develops you and prepares you to be the guy He wants you to be and do the things He wants you to do. And I can’t wait to hear about your dreams, goals, and how He does work in your life. Life is about Jesus, and I pray your life will reflect that and mine will, also.

I continue to pray for you, that God will help you develop a strong foundation on Him alone and then bless you with others as well, that He will help you develop good morals, undying hope in Him and His plans for you, a positive, healthy mindset, and passion and ambition to never give up in life. I also pray that He’ll mold you into the man He wants you to be, a leader for His glory, because I truly look forward to following your lead. Though I consider myself a pretty independent person, dependency has its place in life, and contrary to what the world says (there are two extremes), you can (and should!) depend on certain people—you being one of them for me—but the world also goes to the other extreme and makes dependence on another person everything, like you can’t survive without them. That’s not true, but I definitely can’t wait to have you in my life and have that godly dependence on each other that is healthy in the bond of marriage. So please take the best cares of me; even though I’m a moody drama queen sometimes, having someone secure enough in his walk with God means everything to me, and I’ll be forever grateful for your leadership, guidance, reassurance, and wisdom you help me with.

Patience, of course, is not one of my strong suits, and in the waiting I tend to doubt everything about my life, including if you even exist. But God has shown me time and again how He provides when I just let go and let Him. I know when His timing says it’s right, our love and our story will be beautiful. I won’t know quite how my prayers and these letters will affect you until God brings it altogether, but I know He will because when He calls us to do things like this, there’s always a reason and a purpose. I still feel lonely at times, and I still get upset with life. I’m learning that’s okay. I’m learning it’s all part of the process of becoming more mature, of being ready to handle things for the future, of being stronger in Christ. And I pray He will help you with this, too.

I pray you talk to Him, too. Constantly. I have no way of knowing where you happen to be at in your life right now, but the sooner you can find Jesus, the better. Regardless, however old you are when you read this or find this, I hope you will not wait any longer in surrendering your life to Him. He loves you so much, more than I ever could, and that relationship with Him is what will define your life in the best ways possible, more than you can imagine. I know because I’ve been there, and the journey I’m walking with Him is amazing. He wants that with you, too, and so do I, and I’m not marrying you if you don’t have Him, so then there’s that. ;) Haha but really. I wouldn’t emphasize it as highly as I do if I thought it wasn’t important and going to be for your best. God is literally who we're made for, and then marriage is a reflection of that, a gift He gives out of His love for us.

Also, there is something important you should know: take me shopping. Like I literally need you to, there’s no way our relationship can thrive without this. I even read an article about things husbands can do for their wives to improve their marriage, and this is actually on it. And it says it should be for “fun things”—GROCERY SHOPPING SUCKS AND WILL NOT CUT IT. And it’s not about being practical, like my mother thinks. You don’t go shopping for what you need, you go for what you WANT. The article also says you should be happy while doing this and flirt with me and don’t even worry about the money. That would literally make my life and our marriage. That’s all it takes for me. Yep, just write me a check and call it good. :’)

As I wrap this up, there actually is another personal letter I wrote you after a hockey game one night. You’ll get that when we meet, too, but here is the key points I want you to know from it: “I think about you and dream about you all the time. I need to get better at praying about you, though, I’ll admit. As awesome as I’m sure you are, God is always going to be my first love, and I don’t want to be obsessed with you. I don’t want you to be obsessed with me, either. I pray we’re passionate about each other and passionate about loving and caring for each other, but I pray that beyond and above that our hearts are always putting God first. Life is only rich with Him. Do you know that? I’m praying you will. Right now.”

By the way, patience was as much a struggle for me when I wrote that at 14 as it is for me now….

I’m going to unapologetically have high standards for you. I want you to have them for me, too, because I want us to constantly strive to be the best we can be for God’s glory. I’m not saying we have to try and earn each other’s love or God’s by being good (that’s totally not the case!), but our love should be expressed for each and for God by the way we live our lives.

You’ll get a lot more when we meet, so this is just a summary while you’re waiting. I sincerely hope you’re better at that than me. Do you know there really are people who are patient in the world? I find it hard to believe, but there really are. I need those people in my life. But if you’re not… It’s fine, we can just cry together about waiting for everything. ;)

I always like to include a little blurb about what I’m doing with my life right now, and I wish I had some amazing things to tell you, but God makes me wait for literally everything. :) That’s where we’re at, but it’s fine because I know the best is yet to come from Him. Including you, awe. <3 I’m almost done with my sophomore year of high school—still crazy to believe, as I can still remember driver’s ed from the fall and how forever ago that feels now—but that’s okay. I’m ready for summer so I can continue to spend my entire life on the internet writing things like this! I am about 3/5 of the way through with my second novel, I have actually been leaving my blog design alone because unfortunately I don’t have time to mess with it every day like I did when I was 12, and that’s about it. I spend too much time shopping and at hockey games, but without those, my mental health would be nearly gone, so it’s all good. They’re God’s gifts to me to survive the other work and grind of life. :)

In the meantime, I am going to keep dreaming and dying without you. Literally. There is this song called “A Thousand Years” by Christina Perri, and it’s really good and we should have it at our wedding or something, but this one lyric in particular says, “I have died everyday waiting for you.” Is that not literally me. Because I have no patience so everyday without you really is a struggle for me and is slowly killing me. :)

I still love pink. I love sparkles. I am going to pinkify and sparklify our house. Oh my gosh, I had such an awkward conversation with my mom about this when we walked into a certain store… You’ll have to remind me to tell you about it. We still are having a chandelier in every room. I don’t have much decided about our house as of yet, but the chandeliers are set in stone. There’s also this adorable ruffly bright pink comforter I found on Macy’s about a month ago, but don’t worry, I think I’m going to have it in my dorm room one day instead…because I’m sure there’s nothing you’d love more than a neon pink ruffly comforter to sleep under, am I right?! :)

Waiting really does kill me, though, but God is surely helping me with it! Every time, though, that I’m at a hockey game, or I’m shopping, or I’m bored in school…I always think about you and pray for you. It really is a beautiful thing, to marry the person God has for you, and I long for it quite a lot. Probably more than I should for the given time and that’s why waiting is killing me, but nonetheless, I can’t wait to meet you, pray with you, do life with you and love God with you. :) I have a tendency to make everything I write a book, which is fine for my career, but for everyone else’s sake I better cut this off here, though I literally could write you a book. I’ll probably put you in one of my books, so you better treat me like the angel I am!

With all the love God has put in me for you,

Your future wife, Ashlee

ashlee-mae.jpeg
ashlee-mae-signature.jpg

10 Unknown Facts About Me

This post is a little different from what I normally write about, but I know I always find it fun to be able to learn more about the bloggers I follow, especially “random” facts that may not seem like anything significant but end up defining a person. I’ve had this idea in my queue for awhile, and since I don’t know how many of you are new around here, I thought it would be a good time to share some random, unknown facts about me! So I won’t tell you I love pink because you can all see that if you have eyes. :D

1. Dayne and Katy, from the Baxter Family series by Karen Kingsbury, are by far my favorite literary characters, especially Dayne. That series by her is also my favorite, and I’ve been dreaming of a love story like theirs since I read it, at the ripe age of 11! It’s about an actor who is very wild, but he goes to this small town because of family ties and he sees this sweet, Christian girl who stays in his mind even after he goes back to Hollywood. Long story short, I’m not going to spoil anything, but it’s a wonderful series. And one of the themes in it is that God can do anything, change anyone, cross anyone’s paths, so… Dream big and pray for mine haha. :)

2. I have a thing for guys with brown, curly hair. That’s obviously not the only factor I take in to consideration, and just because a guy has that doesn’t necessarily mean I’ll be attracted to him, but my look a-likes all have this, as do most of the guys I seriously crush over.

3. A few of my favorite places: Estherville, Iowa, which I talk all about here as to why, Okoboji, Iowa, a small, summery beach town with the lakes that attracts tourists, and I somehow think I am getting a house here one day (yes, pray for me, I wasn’t kidding when I said my dreams are much too big) and Des Moines, Iowa, because I love the views of this city and have so many good memories and fun times that have taken place here (to be wrote about soon!!).

4. I want a castle for a house (not in size, necessarily—think architecture). I also somehow think this is going to be my primary house and still have one in Okoboji… I love the look of those houses, though, that have those towers and look fancy and modern yet have that gothic styled architecture to them… I don’t need a mansion by any means, but a nice house with that style and one of those towers would be lovely.

5. I want a destination wedding. I’ve been dying to go to the Bahamas since forever, and I have talked about that multiple times, but I think actually getting married there would be amazing and something to remember forever as an experience. I have so many wonderful ideas for my wedding; I’m just going to tell my husband not to worry about doing a thing—except paying the bill for it all. :)

6. I could work in a mall easily. Maybe I will when I’m in college because I know an embarrassing amount of things about my favorite stores. I know all of their collections, I know all tips and tricks for various types of styles, and I’m equally passionate about everything they make so getting people to buy would come naturally! The major problem to this is that my paycheck would probably be gone before I even left work, so then there’s that.

7. I have an obsession with fragrance. It’s almost creepy because when people smell good, I can just tell and I just want to be around them to smell whatever they’re wearing. I have way too much fragrance in my room, probably like ten different things of it not counting the rollerballs. I can’t wait to buy my boyfriend a million different types of cologne!

8. I live for both the simple and finer things in life, if that even works. I love designer items and anything fancy or glamorous or basically whatever a fashion blogger talks about #onit, but it also doesn’t take MUCH to make me happy. As much as I enjoy getting those expensive things (when they go on sale haha), I do not NEED them to be happy. I could buy something as simple as a new nail polish, and that makes me happy. I try to appreciate whatever God gives me. It makes every single thing that much sweeter, especially when I actually do get a “bigger” item because you develop that appreciation for the little things in life and happiness that is not dependent on material things, so then getting something like that can be enjoyed in its proper place.

9. My whole life is a paradox: while I am an introvert and need my space, I have a need for adventure or else I get restless, and I love the city life! I try to always keep a balance of things. I’ve found that to be the key. I feel like I am a balance of things, honestly. I like to work, but I like to play, and too much of either one leaves me agitated. The good thing about that is it’s helped me learn to balance things out and take breaks when I need to of both.

10. My personality = both a realist and idealist. Hopefully some of this comes off in my posts, but I try to look at things for what they are and not sugarcoat them. With that being said, I’m a romantic and have the most unpractical dreams, so it gets hard managing the two. VERY hard. There’s a lovely quote on Pinterest I saw that talks about my personality (as identified by the Myers-Briggs quiz) being caught between these two things and, as a result, that can lead to us feeling anxious and fearful, depressed, cynical, insecure, restless, meaningless, and hopeless. Isn’t that special! #personalitygoals

It has been good, though, for me, as in some ways it’s the best of both worlds. I don’t have a distorted reality, but I also have the ability to think beyond what is. Because with God, anything is possible. It has had its challenges, though, and God has used that to strengthen me.

It works both ways. Sometimes, God has had to bring me back down to earth because my idealism wants to get lost in dreaming about the future and looking to what’s next or jumping ahead, and He wants me to enjoy what is happening right in front of me. On the other hand, sometimes my realism leads me to feel very pessimistic and stuck with situations, and I doubt that God can do more than I imagine, but there have been times where He’s showed me I just may never know all He’s doing and that He can open doors that don’t seem practical whatsoever, but He can do it because He can do anything. It’s all about balance!

Now, tell me about you! I love hearing from all of you! Thank you for getting to know me. :)

sparkles-by-ashlee-signature.jpg

How God Is Teaching Me More Than I Ever Dreamed & Other Updates

I wanted to take the time to write a “lighter” post because I think Iowa is maybe in the clear for lighter days? I pray so, anyways. I’m a summer girl and live for the warmer weather. I can’t stand being cold. And so far I think we’ve been transitioning decently, at least compared to other years! How are all of you doing? As always, I’d love to hear what’s going on in your lives and any thoughts or requests you have for me, whether that be blog post ideas, prayer requests, etc. So please do reach out to me and let me know!

I have a couple things I want to share with you all in this post, and I’m excited about all of them and about the things I’ll be doing in terms of writing this summer, when I finally have nothing but time. The good thing about my classes this trimester is that I’m taking a few English courses, so I’ve been getting to write and develop new stories, and it is so cool for me personally to see how God helps me write based on past experiences, emotions, and lessons He’s taught me. Oh, and hockey also ended on Saturday. :( October is way too long of a wait for me, but our Iowa Wild actually made the playoffs this year! I already miss it, though. I have so many pictures to show you all from hockey, but I’m going to save them for future posts where I’ll write all about it. If you can’t wait (because I never can), you can read this post about hockey here or this one where I talk about lessons you can learn at a hockey game.

ashlee-mom-hockey-game.jpg

My advice for these final months of spring is to take the pressure off in life. I have heard so many stories over the course of this year of the stresses people feel they have to take on, and I am no exception to this, but please really take the time to be still and know God—a reminder and verse I need to hear constantly. It is so important for your wellbeing to do that. It’s really not His will for us to be stressed and depressed all the time. There are of course medical reasons for that in some cases, but for people where it’s not, it’s really a matter of attitude. It can be so hard to have a good attitude in some circumstances. Journaling has honestly been what God uses to save my life throughout the past couple months. I learn things, then I regress, then I relearn things. Such is life. But without looking back at what He’s done, I probably would still be on the same path, bound to chains He’s freed me from. I’m trying to remember those things and learn from them, even when I don’t “feel” it.

He is teaching me more than I ever dreamed that way. Even with the pain I feel, there have been times I’ve been so upset with why I have to feel pain, but one way God has shown me He’s used it is through some of my writing. Some of the scenes for my stories have been wrote when I feel the most upset, and it provides both me an outlet and the story a real, raw glimpse of pain. And that is what He can use to resonate with people, to relate to them and reach them.

This is also something I will be blogging about more. I learn so much through journaling, and so many of my thoughts go into that. I’d like to start posting some of those entries on my blog. Of course, since it’s essentially my diary, I’ll have to filter some of it. ;) But most of it can be shared. I think there’s no reason to keep it to myself, not when God has given me the ability to write and the insight I need to know Him more. So stay tuned for that! I have some blog post ideas I’ve been promising forever and that need to be wrote, but once I do some of those, I want to start posting more of those thoughts from my journals. I ended up finishing one of my whole journals just from using it consistently from the beginning of the year. Seriously, without it, I’d lose my sanity.

Now… I have a few questions for you all that I really want you to answer. They’re just super quick polls, one word answers you can select, and you don’t have to tell me your name or anything. Unless you want to comment, which I would so love. ;) But I’ve been reading some more stories on Wattpad, which is just where people can publish some of their writing like short stories. I’ve been writing a lot of stories for this creative writing class, and if you all would be interested, maybe I will post some (here or on Wattpad), and continue some of them into stories I write in my spare time. So, are you interested?!

Would you like me to share some of my fiction writing? *

One more question if you all would be so kind to entertain me… I know I asked this on my reader survey (which if you have not already, COULD YOU PLEASE TAKE HERE?), but I’ve been considering social media things and want to know which platform you receive updates from this blog on.

Which social media do you get updates from Sparkles by Ashlee on? *

Unfortunately, that’s all I have for you today. But I really am serious when I say I love hearing your feedback, and if you have not taken my reader survey, it would mean so much to me if you did!! Just click the button below!

Thank you all so much for reading! Leave me comments below about what you want to hear about and about how you’re all doing. :)

sparkles-by-ashlee-signature.jpg

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.

city-lights.jpg

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.

ashlee-willy.jpg

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

ashlee-fishing.jpg

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! ;)

iowa-wild-hockey.jpg

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.

restaurant-food.jpg

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?

ashlee-mae-signature.jpg