I Want to Hear Your Thoughts | Reader Survey

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Today’s post is not as exciting as others, BUT don’t exit out yet because instead of me doing all the talking today, I want to hear from YOU. I know over the course of my blogging I’ve done probably a million random surveys and you’re all sick of them by now, but this is one survey—if you never take one again—I would REALLY APPRECIATE if you could take! Your answers greatly help me improve this blog because I want you to enjoy reading my content. And to do that, I have to know what exactly it is you want to hear about. If you could take the time to answer this reader survey I’ve put together, I would love it so much. Then I promise I will write about all the other fun stuff you want to hear about. ;)

To take this survey, you don’t have to go to any other site because I’ve made it right here in this post! Thank you all again so much for reading and helping me with this!!

First things first, how long have you been reading this blog? *
And how often do you read this blog? *
How do you hear about new posts? *
Select all that apply.
What are your favorite types of blog posts to read? *
You can select as many as you want.
Would you be interested in hearing me talk about the topics below? *
Select any you would like to hear about.
How do you feel about the frequency of new posts? *
How do you prefer me to write about my faith? *

Okay, if you made it this far and submitted all of that, THANK YOU, really! I know you probably find these annoying, but I’m not lying when I say that they really do help me. Obviously I want to inspire and entertain you all when I write, and I can write about what I want as much as I want to, but if it doesn’t entertain or resonate with you all, it’s not as valuable to me, and your feedback helps me greatly in deciding what future content I will put out in the future. So thank you again!! Sparkles and prayers for all of you!! <3 Thanks for reading and supporting!

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What Web Design Has Taught Me About Life and God

I do not consider myself a professional website designer by any means, but ever since the creation of this blog I’ve had to learn how to do it. It’s a hobby and passion of mine I don’t talk about as much, save for the fact that I redesign this blog constantly and have lived to tell about it here. I have been thinking more about this hobby of mine, though, especially as I consider college programs and potential careers I want to pursue. And I have been reflecting on just how much I’ve learned through life by embracing this hobby and through having fun redesigning my blog countless times over the years.

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My calligraphy skills need some work, though, as you can see

I have countless memories of the joy and frustration—staying up late at my grandparents’ house experimenting with new color combos and new templates, trying to see how many looks I could create while still sticking to my branding, spending all my free time on the weekends in my early years of writing this blog mainly working on the design, more so than anything else. Was that really necessary at that point? Uh, no, but I loved it, and I began to develop an eye for what worked and what didn’t. I also learned more about myself and my “brand” and how I wanted to be reflected through seemingly more shallow things like color palettes, web templates, and fancy graphics. I also remember the deep frustration I would feel when I first began—when I was following tutorials, checking and re-checking each step I made to implement some new code, and it just would not cooperate. But I also have such fond memories of the rewards it really brought to me when I would finally figure something out I had been struggling with. I think life is very much similar to this process.

And then, looking back, you realize how you are gaining so much knowledge and new skills that have not only made you happy to practice but also have practical, meaningful use. I never saw myself as a coder or web designer or anything remotely technical like that, and I don’t think I even knew that’s what I was learning until I had. But I felt like I had to learn because things did not work out with the person I had hired for a website, and I got bored in the waiting process—figures—so I began doing things on my own. It just goes to show how God was preparing me—for this. When you need something, He gives it, oftentimes before you even know you need it or that’s what you want.

So I guess if I’ve learned anything from embracing this unexpected hobby, it reminds me of that. How God knows what you need and want long before you even figure that out. I have seen many examples of that in my life I will write about in later posts. I used to be terrified of uncertainty and always thought I needed to know exactly what I want in life, but I’m learning to relax my grip. I took every rejection so personally when now, looking back, I see how it is a blessing, even if I don’t exactly know why. Because God has worked everything to my good for His glory, and He can do the same for you, too. I talk about this here, but this hobby actually came to be when something else I wanted fell through for whatever reason. But how much better is this? I did not think I would be a blogger, but I thank God I can be for His glory. I never thought I would do this in my spare time while I wait on becoming an author, but I cannot imagine my life without it now, because it as an outlet God has used to help others, and that’s what I want more than anything.

It definitely wasn’t what I imagined or would’ve chosen as my plan, but God knew it would fit me better, even though it took some heartache for me to realize that. But it’s also proof that He does care about what you care about—who knew there was a purpose in me creating a bunch of pink, glittery images?

And as for web design? That was the first step He took in preparing me. Follow His prompting like that and what He’s laid on your heart, and you don’t know exactly where it will take you when you trust Him with it! As for me, I’m sure I’ll be redesigning this blog another twenty times over the next five years. ;)

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How to Love People and Show Mercy

So this post has been a really long time coming, since I first wrote down some thoughts on how to show mercy to people clear back on November 28, 2016. So two years later I'm finally getting around to writing this post... ;)

This is definitely an urgent message, though, that of how to love people, especially when that doesn't come naturally to you or isn't one of your spiritual gifts. What I mean by that is we all have our own strengths and weaknesses. Some people are actually really good at being patient, but obviously you know that's one of my weaknesses. The same is true with showing unconditional love and forgiveness. Some people are better at it than others. That doesn't mean they do it perfectly, but for some, it just may be one of those things they've either been blessed with or have worked hard to grow at. For example, I think my grandma has this gift of loving and forgiving people. Does that mean she does it perfectly all the time? No, she'll even admit to that. But I still really admire her desire to see the best in people and her recognition of all people as people God longs to save.

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No matter how good you are with forgiveness and unconditional love, this post, I'm hoping, will still be able to speak to you. Before I go into what I've learned about how to do it, I'll tell you how good I tend to be with doing these two things, from an honest perspective and not just what I hope I do, haha. I'll also tell you why forgiving and loving people IS NOT OPTIONAL and why it is so crucial.

Forgiving and loving people is not optional for a Christian.

In one of my Bible studies, I remember I read something very convicting. It was a chapter about loving the unlovable—literally what it was called in the book I was reading—and the author was listing Bible verses that show how loving others is the most important command for a Christian, second only to loving God. So... I basically sighed in my head because my attitudes on people lately have been far from loving, so I knew I had to change. But lots of time, of course, loving people is one of those things easier said than done. But that's why I'm writing this!

Anyways, here are the verses she had that prove loving people isn't a choice:

Jesus replied: ‘“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”‘
— Matthew 22:37-39 NIV

There's also this verse about forgiveness:

But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.
— Matthew 6:15 NIV

So it's definitely not optional. And I would bet that most people wish that wasn't the case. I think nowadays we live in a very apathetic, bitter society where loving unconditionally and extending grace are not the norms. Look at the media and how grown adults behave towards each other. Look at the crime rates. Look at the overall brokenness. You know the reason most people are broken? I would be willing to bet it's a lack of love. Not always. But I would bet that's the main reason why people are so depressed in this society. And even though we have people that may say they love us, I think nowadays with the shifting and creation of new media, we don't even know what authentic love is anymore. But we as Christians are defined by the way we love other people (John 13:35).

How good am I with forgiving/loving unconditionally?

So I promised I'd share where I think I fall on the spectrum of forgiving and loving people. I feel like it depends on the day. ;) Some days I feel more compassionate than others, but I will say that I have the tendency to be overly judgmental. In a society where people want to think anything goes, I feel like I’ve almost had to be, because there are behaviors that should not be tolerated. With that being said, God has opened up my eyes to see that behind those behaviors are people who need Him just as much as I do, and He loves them just as much as me. Because of that, I feel like I’ve been able to be more empathetic, but it can definitely be a challenge giving people grace in the real world.

The secret, I’ve found, that has changed the game for me is not to look at people’s behavior but to their heart. When you look at someone’s behavior and how bad it may be, that is not going to help you at all when it comes to loving them. I think some people naively believe that if we love people, we can just sweep their behavior under the rug, but I disagree. Bad behavior doesn’t need to be excused even when you’re loving someone because what’s sin is still sin. I think this is where I struggled, is because I felt like to love someone, you had to be okay with everything they did in life. But that’s far from true. True love extends to the people who have done some of the worst things, and true love will not say it is okay. And I wanted to emphasize this, about how bad it is that someone acts a certain way, but then I realized something else about love.

What I’ve learned is that yes, you can condemn someone’s bad behavior, but then what are you going to do? Where is it going to get you? We still have to get along with people. You can scream at people and condemn them all you want, but it won’t change someone’s heart. The only thing that can do that is love, God’s love. And we are commanded to display that love through the way we live (John 13:35).

So back to looking at people’s hearts. I’ve found it helps if you think deeper than their behavior. If they behave badly, WHY? Is it possible that there are underlying hurts they’re running from, hence causing them to act that way? Behind every person who behaves darkly lies some inner pain. That’s NOT to say this just makes their behavior okay. But pain is easier to empathize with, and it can show you more of an understanding behind why someone behaves poorly, and you can also see your own inner darkness, which gives you the potential to be the same way. That helps you to better relate to that person and display God’s redeeming love all the more. Think of them with needs and desires just like you that have probably gotten perverted along the way. Because we all have those. And that really is one of the main causes for any sin, is a perversion of some desire.

How did I learn this? The main thing for me was being able to see firsthand that my salvation is truly a gift from God, and that without His grace alone to do that, I could have been just as “bad” as someone else. Take prison ministry, for instance. Not a lot of people would be too keen on going into that because most people don’t have a lot of mercy for criminals. And while their behavior is absolutely not acceptable, we forget that they are still people God loves and created. We have the same potential to do bad things, and besides, knowing God shows you that everyone does bad things, regardless of the severity, and are still in need of His salvation (Romans 3:23). If I just see a crime story on the news with some random person, it’s easy to just dismiss them and condemn them. But one time there was a more local story, and the person who did it was a lot younger and not a typical “type” of person you would imagine to do what they had done. When I did some research on that, it really opened up my eyes to see how any person, even someone like me, can be successful in society and yet turn to the dark side, so to speak, when bad attitudes, pain, and selfishness go unchecked.

And that opened my eyes, because maybe, without God’s grace alone in helping me become better through my pain, I could’ve been just like them. Turning to bitterness, letting my pain rule me and cloud my judgment and do the same horrible things. EVERYONE has sin, and therefore everyone has the potential to do bad things like that.

It is only by the grace of God I'm not out there, dead in my sin, like some of those hardcore atheists or criminals—whatever it may be. Because we are all perfectly capable of that. And when you learn that tremendous gift you've been given, it really humbles you. It is only out of God's grace I'm saved. I could just as easily been an atheist, a criminal, whatever. Now that I've recognized that, I truly remember I'm not better than anyone. And it makes me desperate for the people who are dead in sin. We have to quit hating them and go reach out to them. God may just use the spark you send, the seed you plant, to save their life. And if you were in their position, wouldn't you want that?! It goes back to what I talked about in this post: how do you want people to remember you?

It is terribly frustrating when people don’t do what they know they should. But it’s also a gift to know what you’re supposed to be doing in the first place. And when you do know that, we cannot be shy in talking about it or exclusive in who we share it with. That is Jesus. He has put in us our sense of what is good and what is not—He defines goodness, after all, and He is love (1 John 4:8).

There is a Bible verse that says, “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love” (1 Corinthians 13:13 NIV). I have to be honest, when I was younger and read this, I did not like the idea of love being the most important. I wasn’t as mature about it as I am now—I cared much more about hope, for instance. Focusing on God to save me from all the other dumb people, is probably what I thought ;) And the same goes for faithfulness. I wanted to just focus on myself and my behavior and how good I could be. But thankfully God opened up my eyes. There’s more to life than living for yourself and your own faith. If you want to change the world, it has to be done through love. That’s the only way to do it. Because true love—God’s love—does not condone bad behavior, but it also does not disregard the hearts that struggle with it. And glory to Him for that. When I learned this, it’s filled me with that much more urgency, to be gentle and kind, because that is what people respond to. Being arrogant or trying to be right or more intelligent about a concept does not change a person’s heart. But true love does. It has the discernment to know when to be gentle and understanding, and when to be gentle and truthful.

I also feel like I need to define true love as God intends for us to have, and I really believe it is reflected most truly by cultivating the fruits of the Spirit: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23). I’ve been striving to have all of those character traits—patience is one I am still working on desperately—but that is what I want people to think of when they think of me. I remember all of a sudden how one time in middle school at some assembly emphasizing kindness or something with character, I believe we did some activity where we had to write three traits about somebody we were assigned, and it could be good or bad—yikes. I remember for one of mine, someone wrote “gentle,” and that stood out to me because I didn’t understand what that meant and I was almost embarrassed by it.

Society thinks being gentle is a bad thing, but it’s not at all. It’s a beautiful thing, especially because not a lot of people have it. Being gentle doesn’t make you a pushover—having no boundaries or values does that. As you know about me, I am still very confident about my values and will not change them for anything, BUT being gentle means that even in spite of that, you can still be kind and loving while at the same time sticking up for what you believe in. This is what people are searching for most, I think, are people who are real about what matters in life and set in their values but are not mean about it. They have Jesus’ peace about life, and the sin that is so prevalent in the world does not steal their joy or love. And I’m not just saying this because I’m a female, either. Why do you think women are so attracted to guys when they see them doing sweet things like interacting with little kids? Because Jesus Himself was the most gentle person and yet also the most truthful person about what is good and true in life. It doesn’t make you any less masculine or feminine to be gentle—just all the more like Jesus for showing His love to people. (Seriously, I just watched a video of a hockey player I like doing something sweet for a little boy, and it melted my heart. #iwanttomarryhim)

I can also tell you so many stories about how I’ve done this at school and how I’ve seen it work like nothing else. This true love does not make you any less worthy as a person or take away your worth (like people think when they imagine it making you a pushover), instead, actually, it makes people have all the more respect for you. Like I said, I could tell you stories about how this has been true for me. Most of all, showing love to others pleases God, and that is what is most important.

If this is something you struggle with, don’t feel guilty. I’ve struggled with it as well—every person does. But as long as you have the desire to obey God and ask Him for help in this area, He promises to help you (James 1:5). He will give you the wisdom needed to do this.

It’s definitely not always easy to love people, and sometimes it feels overwhelming, but the key, really, is to know and love God because with that comes His wisdom and His love that He puts in your heart, and people can tell when this is present in a person. His love is what changes people’s hearts and can spark any change in the world.

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2018 | Reflection

I know every person in the world, just about, has done the cliche new year posts from blogging to social media, and one thing I have tried to be conscious about when doing mine is to always keep it centered on Jesus. While it is just another year and there is no need to be worked up about it beyond what is healthy, I do think reflection is crucial. And this brings about the perfect opportunity to share everything God has done and taught me in 2018. It’s not all about recapping trips and career milestones like some seem to think it is, because while those things are fun and should be shared, there is a lot more to someone’s year than that. And I sure hope that many are not just living for the good times, because it is only through being present in the bad times that you can grow as a person, with God, which is the ultimate goal for any of us.

2018 was a stressful year. Oh, I loved and enjoyed so many parts of this year, but no year is without pain. As long as we’re in this sinful world, that is normal. But the key to that, I’ve found, is to be PRESENT in it. And by being present in it, I don’t mean simply enduring it. Plenty of people endure pain, but they never think about it. They try to cover it up with the good times or choose to ignore it. But we need to be present in it and what pain is telling us. There are so many essential things in life—joy, peace, intimacy with God, to name a few—that very clearly can be learned through pain and really no other way. Pain provides the foundation for growth if you listen to what is happening through it and choose to think about what God is allowing through it.

I had plenty of opportunities for that this year.

But I know I have been made stronger for it, as well as others who have gone through pain, and that is a beautiful thing to see. I would like to share that with you through this post as I recap each month (I promise I will try not to make this post a book and will instead link back to other posts you can read at your own time, if you wish). It was especially cool because I consistently grew throughout the whole year. In 2017, it seems I fluctuated a lot, but this year each had its own season, and I’m thankful for that. I’ll also share some of my favorite moments from this year and some new projects God helped me work on and, lastly, share a few goals for 2019. As always, I want to hear about you all as well, so if you have anything about your year or something you want me to pray for, please let me know!

Without further ado, let’s recap 2018!


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January

The year began with me halfway through my freshman year. I took a long break from blogging towards the second half of 2017, which led into the beginning of 2018, so I don’t have any posts to link back to. I do remember, though, the struggles of freshman year it seems I fought a lot, with hormones to restlessness to anxiety struggles. While I was not thrilled about starting the year that way, I actually think it’s better to be broken because that is when God can help a person become better than even before. I know that was definitely true for me as the rest of the year unfolded.

Lessons

I also started an online college course I was thrilled I got to take, about current events in the world. I loved the broad scope of the topics learned, and it opened my eyes immensely to the complex problems of the world and how there’s not an easy solution like we wish there would be, but with God, all things are possible, and no situation is without hope, thankfully. Sharing Him is always what’s most important.

I had to learn not to worry or get overwhelmed about things that aren’t here yet. I have to rest in God’s good plans for me now and focus on the things in front of me now. Time always comes sooner than I think—high school certainly did—and so just enjoy right now.

Memories

Playing Minecraft with my brother. We started doing this the summer of 2015, where we would have fun playing this game on our Xbox together when our parents were working and I had to babysit. We have a lot of funny stories of trial and error on this game, and it’s one of the few things we do where we don’t fight! We also did this a little bit in the beginning of the year. I’m not a gamer at all—though my brother definitely is—but I do like the creativity in this game. Plus my pattern texture pack is gorgeous, but of course Hunter doesn’t think so ;)

Hanging out with my cousins at our grandparents’ house. We have “our” own little room upstairs that we hang out in, watch random things on TV, and just hang out. I always laugh a lot, which throughout the year I learned is so important, and enjoy that time together a lot.

Staying up late with my grandma and cousin Kirsten on the phone, tormenting her because we won’t let her go to bed. ;) And then Kirsten and I sharing our fave songs with each other and blaring those. It’s also hilarious to hear the things that come out of Grams’ mouth past a certain time of night… And the poor thing doesn’t understand double meanings of things in this society where people pervert things, and given the right context, she has said some absolutely hilarious things as a result.

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February

Again, I still hadn’t woke up from my hiatus with the stress of high school and my own anxiety problems at the time, so I did not blog throughout this month. I turned 15! We went to our first hockey game of the year—love those. We got to go down on the ice afterwards, for some event they were holding where they let the public skate on ice. Hunter brought his skates; I attempted not to fall and kill myself. Thankfully, I was successful. Our dog, Willy, had a near-death experience I witnessed, which did not help any anxiety I had and almost became a contributor to the year’s stress, but praise God he was okay. I’ll write about it sometime when I recap more about Willy’s life.

Lessons

I had to learn to just be a kid at times. Being extremely sensitive, I don’t respond well to conflict or when circumstances and changes come up with my family. I never have. It’s not that I respond poorly in the sense of my reaction, it’s just that I feel distressed and powerless when things like that happen. A lot of things happened this year like that. February brought the beginning of that. But I remember, amidst uncertainty about what may happen with something and my anxiety as a result, I actually FaceTimed my cousin, Kir, and had fun just talking to her about our inside jokes and the not so serious part of life. I think I needed that. I think I needed to know I was capable of putting adult, mature problems on hold to just act like a kid. Kids don’t worry about family problems. And this can be good or bad, because I do think A LOT of kids need to learn to care more about other people, especially their families, but when it’s excessive and you can feel like you have to put your own life on hold, like I felt, that’s when I had to learn to release what I can’t control. I can’t control other people and their decisions. I can’t control the consequences. And I should not have to. God has promised to take care of everything, and the reason some people have extra problems is because they interrupt His work.

I reached out to a Christian leader I had respected for some time from hearing his personal testimony of living a reckless life that resulted in tragedy for himself and other innocent people but how through it God changed his life. I sent him an email telling him about my faith and how I admired his story. He also provided me with some valuable insight for my current book and was overall sweet, genuine, and godly. He is a living example of how seemingly lost people can be redeemed and live productive lives in society for the glory of God.

Amidst researching colleges (as only a freshman, yes, but I love making plans and knowing my direction, so I was very eager to jump on my college search), I was considering both Christian colleges along with secular, public universities. I became worried about even considering those because of the potential things they may teach contrary to living for God since they don’t have that faith distinction, but then I realized—and really, have long known this since it’s true for me now in high school—that the way to “remain” a Christian (I mean staying dedicated to God and am not talking about salvation), then it does not matter where you go. Knowing God is just like any other relationship that you must invest in daily, and as long as you focus on one day at a time, doing what you can to live for God, that is enough, and no one can take that from you.

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March

Back in December when I went to my annual eye appointment, I was told I could get glasses to help with eye fatigue and another minor defect I had. I love the frames I got, which arrived this month. Sometimes I like wearing them just for fun. ;) For spring break, I got to spend time with my grandparents in Estherville, which I always love.

Lessons

There were times this month where my feelings of loneliness and sadness intensified, leaving me to struggle with even the basic truths I took for granted that I had thought, such as that people cared about me. Of course I knew intellectually that people cared about me, but going to school day after day amidst people who share such vastly different life goals and feeling so out of place as a result, it was easy to forget that truth and just listen to my raging emotions and the lies from the devil. I remember, though, specifically: I was on my way to my PE class—and I don’t know why, but I was deeply upset about something pertaining to school and my peers, and I remember doubting my worth again. But I had also just gotten a message from a girl I keep in touch with online and is a complete sweetheart who also loves Jesus and has been encouraging me with my dreams for Him since I was really young. And I remember the way she ended that message was by telling me that I am loved, even though she had no idea about my feelings. And as I walked into that locker room to change, I remember that dawning on me specifically and reclaiming that truth. You are loved. Never let the ugliness of the world make you forget that. Don’t let feelings of despair overrule.

Speaking of PE class, I also learned the importance of exercise on mental health and overall wellbeing. Okay, I remember looking ahead to my last trimester of school and being terrified for PE class because my time in sports left me feeling insecure about my athletic ability, and I just wasn’t looking forward to having to do activities for it. Well, PE ended up being my favorite class that year. The mental strain of my other classes left me counting down the hours until PE, where I could run and enjoy being active without pressure or worry of deadlines and other projects. I also regained my confidence in my athletic ability by playing team sports like volleyball and other fun games (normally I hate games, but I thank God I had friends in my class that made it fun).

Memories

During PE we got to lay down on the mats for twenty minutes to track our resting heartbeat, and it was so nice because I could just pray and talk to God about life, about everything. It was so special. I’m beyond grateful for our relationship.

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April

In school, I took a practice college entrance exam, which was exhausting, but I was glad to have the practice. But I started blogging again!!! Read my first post back here. I also shared some of the life lessons I learned while being away so long (read here). I remember during this time how society seemed to be in upheaval about many complex social issues, ones that especially touched on morality. I wrote about how sometimes it’s okay not to have all of the answers and how we ultimately need to rely on God in those times (read here). I also recapped the spring break with my grandparents and how memories like that never fade here. And lastly, I opened up about my struggles with anxiety and everything I’ve learned to help me cope with it (read here).

Lessons

I had to learn how to find peace from feelings of sadness and despair. On a note in my phone, I wrote how it comes through reflecting on who God is and the wisdom He’s trusted me with. From getting real with Him and knowing that He doesn’t expect me to have my act together before I come to Him. From praying just whatever is on my heart, the dumb desires or things I’m too ashamed to ask for out loud. He understands and He is so good to me. I’m writing this so I can always remember that.

Memories

Going shopping for my birthday with my mom. We went to Jordan Creek together and ate at a hotel we had stayed in the year before, and though we had to spend literally an hour at American Eagle just to buy three pairs of shorts (trying things on is so fun!!!!!), I also got some other fun things at my other favorite stores, and it did get me in the mood for summer with all of the wonderful spring fragrances and styles.

Falling in love with One Direction again and putting their songs on repeat ;)

Lots of fun traveling down to the Amana Colonies to eat with Mom and Dad while Hunter stayed home playing video games (figures). One time we went in the pouring rain at night, and when we came back into town, this local dairy ice cream place that is so popular amongst people in our town still had a line out to the road. In the rain. #itsworthit I loved being able to talk with them, though, and of course my usual cheeseburgers never disappoint. ;)

Mom and I also discovered a wonderful new ice cream place at Jordan Creek because we had to go back to the mall even after spending an hour at American Eagle because one of the jeans didn’t fit. Hey, it’s shopping, who am I to complain?

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May

We actually had some spring storms, which I love, except one time we actually had a tornado warning and my brother and I went to the basement. I don’t think it was very serious for us, but one thing that is serious is how many notebooks I have as you can see… I don’t bring things down into the basement like I used to as a kid, but I do bring things I can’t replace, and I’m thinking I really need a new system of organization for my five thousand notebooks… I also got a free trial of Photoshop! I love web design, so it’s about time, right? That’s typically top of the line in commercial design, and it’s very expensive as a result, but I was shocked to see that they offered a free trial that didn’t even require entering billing information. It was overwhelming at first for me, but I watched some tutorials and just learned how to do one thing at a time and actually made some cool things with my short time having it, like my signature at the bottom of this post ;) In terms of blogging, I wrote a comprehensive blog post about my grandparents’ hometown and how it is so dear to my heart because of them (read here). I also wrote down my observations about life learned from shopping, which I did plenty of thankfully because shopping makes me a very happy girl ;) (read here). Lastly, I shared some of my thoughts on morality and why I believe it needs to be emphasized (read here).

Memories

Chilling with my brother in the basement for a storm warning and going shopping of course ;)

Going to Slumberland with my mom and having fun browsing and picking things out. It made me dream about my future house (that is going to have a king sized bed; I actually saw one in person haha and they look wonderful). It was also a gloomy, rainy day, which for whatever reason are my favorites, and it was perfect spring weather instead of the snow we had in March and even April.

Lessons

I learned to stop doubting God because waiting does not mean He isn’t working, or that nothing will happen. In fact, usually it is the opposite. I am still impatient—what will ever change, ha—but God showed me multiple times through this month how people I didn’t think would notice what I’m doing actually were, which showed me how He is working, and that just because I don’t see it or get the results when I want them, does not mean He isn’t. In fact, that’s usually when He’s doing the most on my behalf. And I have to trust Him and just relax. People are watching you. I’ve wrote about that numerous other times, but it’s worth repeating. I see it again and again.

Going along with above, you never know what exactly God is doing behind the scenes. I was surprised immensely by something someone did for me without my knowledge of it, and—had someone not said something—probably would never have known. It just goes to show that God is doing things, and just because we don’t see it doesn’t mean it isn’t there. Faith is believing what is unseen, and as I got older and more cynical, I found this a challenge. But God was patient with me and gave me an abundance of reminders and instances like those where I was brought to my knees by His faithfulness and humbled by how little I really do know or see. Trust Him all the way—you can be sure that with Him, He is always fighting for you, regardless of what you see. <3 Isn’t that amazing and so humbling? It’s one of the most crucial things I learned and something I must remember daily when impatience threatens my peace.

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June

I became a sophomore and got freshman year done, which really did seem to fly—not that I’m complaining. I spent some really special time with family and cousins this month, since my immediate family ditched me for Canada, which after enjoying past years there, I had decided I was ready for a break of the fishing life. :’) I found out during this month also that I am going to have jaw surgery eventually. :/ Upon completing freshman year, I wrote about the biggest lesson I learned: how to control my thoughts again, something I had been careless about and payed the consequences for (read here). Read this complete post of the lessons I learned from those weeks with family as well as the fun experiences I got to try, like jet skiing!

Lessons

I learned just how important it is to be able to have people to talk to. I enjoy my cousins so much, and I really enjoyed spending time with them. It’s important to be able to have that time to relax and just enjoy companionship with other people, and it helped me renew my mind immensely that summer and better prepare me for sophomore year.

Memories

Eating out with Mom after my last day of school and that glow of knowing I’m a sophomore and getting to talk with her about future plans.

Sitting in my new furry white chair I got for my room and completely finishing it over the summertime (except for my closet, but if you can’t see it, it doesn’t necessarily count…that would be a this-year goal okay).

The talks with my mom as we drive up to meet my grandparents halfway to their town, and spending a wonderful week by myself with them and making Grams walk their downtown trail and take my pictures, and then spending a few days with my cousin Kirsten and getting to go jet skiing.

The feeling of the warm, morning summer air and the sunshine beaming down while cruising down the street on a bike with Gramps—so happy he can still ride bikes with me!

Falling in love with the girls’ room decor section at Hobby Lobby because talk about pink and sparkles galore—what I live for.

Eating out, laughing about anything and everything, and doing nails with Kir and then talking of course until the early morning! :)

Getting to see my cousin Amanda and sitting in her room cuddled up with blankets on opposite ends of the bed or floor—whichever we happened to prefer—and being on our laptops or devouring the books we bought. We also called Kirsten and all talked about guys, inside jokes, and all that fun stuff! I’m very thankful for those girls. <3

Eating cheeseballs all the time in the summer because Mom was so kind to make them for me :D

Doing an immense amount of daily reading because I bought tons of new books and wanted to finish off a series I loved, so I saved them for last to give me motivation to read all the books I needed to.

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July

I spent a lot of time with family, mainly, which was very nice. I went to a swimming class with my grandma, which I always love, and then we ate out and went shopping, my favorite things in life! A big store at the outlet mall was also going out of business, so EVERYTHING was on sale and she bought me a wonderful Michael Kors sweater that was under $20 I believe. :) I also wrote about what I learned from reading all those books I bought the previous month—very interesting things, I promise ;) (read here).

Memories

Getting to swim, shop, and eat out with my grandma. At her Y, she had a meeting the night before the class because I spent the night, and so I went upstairs and walked around this track that overlooked the rest of the Y—which I love, by the way. I thought only walking would not phase me because how active was I really being? But this was at the time I was not doing anything exercise-wise, and I think I walked maybe about three miles total. MY HIPS WERE SO SORE THE NEXT DAY. I basically floated my way through the class the next day; EVERYTHING HURT. But I remember dreaming about working out in college one day and just how much I enjoy being active. I also remember these mirrors I walked by at a certain point, and I would always check out my outfit because I am conceited and also because I plan my workout outfits as much as my real ones. :’) I also loved getting to eat Mexican food with my grandma and having fun looking through all the fashions at the mall together. Those are the types of memories that won’t fade away.

ALSO SHOPPING WITH MOTHER AGAIN!!! I could never shop too much. We went to an outlet mall again, one of our favorites down in Williamsburg, because she needed something as a gift for someone, and hey, I’m just along for the ride!!! We got some really awesome deals on stuff, though. That obnoxious—no, BEAUTIFUL—pink winter coat I have from Columbia? We got that for under $25. My life has become dedicated to finding good deals on expensive items, and I don’t regret it one bit. ;) Also, you all should pray that my future husband will shop with me one day because that’s just essential. ;) Everyone I love will shop with me, so he better! And besides, my father and brother, if you put them in Cabela’s, they are there for HOURS. At least an hour, minimum, every time. As long as it’s what they want, they’re all for it!

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August

I began working out daily, something I found to be very beneficial. I spent a lot more time with family again. I began my sophomore year of high school! I recapped going to the Knoxville Nationals with my family in this post, as well as the deep themes about life I noticed while there. Also, this prayer I wrote in this post about me entering 10th grade, basically sums up the biggest lessons God taught me throughout the year and in my whole life, really. If you only ever read one other blog post of mine, I would definitely read that one because of how God spoke to me through those lessons and how it’s really changed my life for the better.

Lessons

Working out is great for you not just physically, but mentally. I’d made it a goal to do a workout every night—nothing fancy, just simple toning exercises, and it’s definitely been worth it. I’d heard that exercise can strengthen someone psychologically, and I can definitely confirm that. It quiets the noise and makes you feel like you’re doing something, which you are, so it’s a total win.

Memories

Going to the Knoxville Nationals as a family and with some friends and enjoying the buzz in the atmosphere as well as the great food and just taking in a fun event on a perfect summer evening and night.

My mom buying me pretty pink flowers, just because. I LOVE FLOWERS ESPECIALLY IF THEY ARE PINK! :D

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September

I began driver’s ed, which was not one of my favorite times of the year, but it needed to be done. I still got to see family again this month a lot—which is nice, because they really are so important, and we learned that this year especially while enduring one of the hardest losses. I got to go to Iowa City to consult with my doctors about jaw surgery, and while that reality is not one I like to think too hard about, Mom and I went shopping!!! :) I didn’t break the bank, though. And we went to a hockey game!!!

Lessons

Comparison really is a waste of time. I struggled with so much insecurity near the beginning of sophomore year, thoughts left over from freshman year, and I compared myself relentlessly to other people—with beauty, talents, just about everything. And I would get irritated when people would tell me to just stop doing it because I felt like I had to or have what the other people had, or I wasn’t good enough. But that really is a lie. Reading some books from people and hearing other people authentically talk about this—who were some of the people I had actually compared myself to—opened up my eyes about this. Even the most seemingly successful people compare themselves, and just because someone else is pretty or successful or talented or whatever it may be, does not mean you aren’t.

Believe in what God promises. I had to be so intentional about my thinking or else it would take over like I let it back as a freshman. I had to make the choice to trust God even when I felt upset or just didn’t feel like I could trust Him. I had to specifically write down what I knew to be true because He had shown me that through relentless praying throughout my life and cling to that. And that really does help fix your thinking, is by fixating on Him.

Memories

Driving through the city to see family at nighttime—ahh nothing makes my heart quite as happy as that!! I also loved getting to stay in a hotel; when I am older I want to stay in hotels all the time for the heck of it, but that’s obviously not that practical, but still. ;)

Sitting on the couch talking with cousins and my grandparents; there is something so special about being in the presence of warm, genuine people like that.

Being at Cabela’s for five years because see above ;)

Standing by my WINDOW at Wells Fargo! There’s this window in Wells Fargo (well, the whole arena has a panoramic view of outside, which is awesome haha) that I love and always must see because the river and bridge over it is so beautiful, I can’t even.

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October

I passed driver’s ed, thankfully! I was stressed out a lot about things, but God helped me through all of it and showed His faithfulness again and again, as well as perspective. How many of those things really changed my life in a drastic way that I’d worried about? None. I wrote more on this here, as well as more lessons I’ve shared.

Lessons

I learned not to compare myself to illusions. This goes along with what I was saying with comparison up above. It truly is meaningless to do so because especially in this digital age, everything can be made to look perfect. But don’t get caught in that trap. Most of the stuff, like images, you see online or on social media especially are edited to perfection. I know I got really caught into this with my looks. I would constantly see images of girls who looked amazing and then feel terrible with how I looked naturally. But that’s why comparing yourselves to others is a joke. You don’t see what really goes on behind the scenes or, more specifically, in their heart. People who feel the need to pretend are also very unhappy people, I can promise you that. It’s not bad to want to look nice or present yourself well, but again, it’s about that balance and still being authentic and relatable with others.

Remember the things God has done for you when you face feelings of doubt. I began to worry a lot about my future at this time and just getting impatient about when things would come, if ever. But I had to remind myself of all the wonderful opportunities and people God had already put in my life, and I didn’t even have to DO anything for them. It’s the same with those other things. He will surprise you when you least expect it, and you won’t have to worry about orchestrating everything on your own. In fact, some of the most special connections I’ve had in my life came truly from Him—I didn’t even do anything to reach out or have these people in my life. The best things in life come from Him, so don’t try to force them yourself.

Memories

Waking up and getting my dream curls in my hair just from being lazy and going to bed with my hair still up.

Appreciating life where I was and being with Mom in Des Moines for a doctor’s appointment and rejoicing for what we have, which is each other, and then some shopping afterwards of course :’)

Going to a hockey game with Dad and finding a new song I absolutely love—you’ll hear about this later, trust me—and just enjoying the environment with the food and the arena and MY WINDOW and the players too :D

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November

November had some sad times as trials worsened, but what God taught me about my thinking was a pivotal moment for me. When I went HOLIDAY SHOPPING, I shared some of those lessons here.

Lessons

Write down what you know God wants you to believe, and then believe it. This changed my thinking way for the better when I did this. And I absolutely had to. Sometimes you have to be firm with yourself if you don’t want to just wish for better thinking. You can’t just hope you think better—that’s not enough. I had “hoped” to think better this year, so when my thinking still didn’t align with how I wanted it, that’s when I knew just wishing for it wasn’t enough. I HAD to take action and be intentional about seeking God and His will for my thinking. I wrote down everything He had laid on my heart in response to the insecurities I faced and had my mom read them over as well. And I reread them when I get down again. THEY HELP IMMENSELY. It’s all about perspective. Don’t let your thoughts run wild—you have to be conscious about what you believe. Doing this is what has made my thinking so much better now than where it was. And all glory to God for that and for changing my mind. I’ve learned that there’s definitely a balance: while the world will put thoughts you don’t want in your mind, YOU DO NOT HAVE TO LET THEM STAY THERE. This is one thing I used to be so good at as a kid—would I get upset? Yes. But my perspective was always solid and I was able to focus on God and not let it bring me down for long. When I got older, I got lazy with that, and my thoughts ruled my life. But that’s happened long enough, and I begged God to show me how to get back to being optimistic again, and He did.

Memories

Going to the mall AT NIGHT (<3) to pick up some things, and just wandering around the aisles with Mom. We didn’t actually buy anything unfortunately, but I want to go shopping at night sometime—the atmosphere is so tranquil compared to going in the day.

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December

This month was very sad as we lost my aunt to a long battle with cancer, but it was amazing to see how our family came together and trusted God with her ultimately because talk about putting life in perspective—that is what matters, and situations like that prove it. I also shared some thoughts on dealing with disappointment and hard things in life here.

Lessons

I’m not alone in how I feel, and neither are you. There are times I would get upset because I felt I was the only one who felt lonely or misunderstood, but I remember rereading a book I talked about here and how a girl similar to me felt the same way. And I’ve heard so many people say that they may feel that way, even though exteriorly they look to be happy constantly. Sometimes, though, those are the people who feel the most lonely.

Memories

The wonderful anticipation and warmth of opening presents with the serenity of family.

2019 Goals

I am so thankful to God for another year and for all that I was able to accomplish in 2018. Though it didn’t feel like much, I am learning to be patient and enjoy where I am now and just do what I can with God’s help. I’m also working on making my goals more simple but still effective. Here are some of mine for this new year:

✧ Pray more. One time in the summer when I felt overwhelmed by emotions, I took time to journal out my thoughts and a prayer over them. Wow, does that change the game. Praying helps hugely with perspective, and I love God so much and want to talk to Him always—I don’t ever want to be too busy for Him.

✧ Go on college visits and consider programs I would like. I CANNOT WAIT FOR JUNIOR YEAR AND COLLEGE VISITS! I definitely have an idea about where I want to go as well as what I want to major in, but I definitely want to take the time to ask each college tons of questions to make sure they will be a good fit for me and help me with my goals for my life. I also want to consider additional minors I could add to my major to make myself more marketable, especially since the major I want is very flexible and pairs well with other things.

✧ Finish my novel. This absolutely does need to happen this year—it’s been five years since I wrote a book now…which I’m embarrassed to say. I really need to get one done this year because this, like other things, is also about being intentional and just making the time to do it, even when I don’t “feel” like it.

✧ Write with a more real approach on this blog. I want to start blogging more about my actual life experiences and telling stories through them—like going to a hockey game! If you have anything specific you want to hear about, tell me!!

✧ Be intentional with social media. I want to take baby steps to growing on social media, like sharing old posts from here on Facebook, for example, or replying to more people on Twitter—and not worry about results.

I also want to sincerely thank all of you for reading this blog and for supporting me. Just when I least expect it, someone will reach out to me and tell me about how my writing has impacted their life, just when I think it isn’t. And that humbles me so much—my dream for my whole entire life since I was only 8 years old has been to write and inspire people for God’s glory through that. And when I get caught up with impatience, I forget that this dream is literally being fulfilled right in front of me thanks to God and you all. So thank you, so much. I pray you all have a wonderful year and that you cling to the hope of Jesus above all because I promise you that with Him, nothing else in this life can bring you down. <3 Thank you all again!!

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Disappointment | A Reflection

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I’m no psychologist (though I am taking advanced psych right now, which is everything I hoped it would be), but if I had to hypothesize about what distorts people’s minds the most in life, it’s disappointment and rejection. And by distortion, I mean the things that stay with you and have the potential to influence how you think and behave in a negative way. The things that stay with you and hurt you and give you the potential to hurt other people—if you let them, that is. Of course there is always the choice to overcome the bad things that have happened to you, but many people struggle with this, and I think especially so when it involves two of these feelings, which at many times overlap with one another.

I had something that happened to me recently that felt like one of the biggest letdowns. I’m sure we’ve all had those moments before; you look ahead to a certain moment or event and think it’s going to give you some sort of completeness and joy, and then something comes up and screws everything up. There are so many things in life that God has blessed us with to give us joy, but completeness is one of those things people have to be careful with because anytime someone expects something to fill one of their deepest needs, it literally invites disappointment. That’s why it’s so crucial to trust God with those deepest needs because He always delivers. I almost said that God will never disappoint, which IS true, but I have to be honest, there are times where it doesn’t feel that way. If we put life in perspective and look at the grand scheme of things, which I did upon getting some upsetting news that led to my disappointment, you get this beautiful view of life that examines it and says it doesn’t matter. Disappointments and rejection, that is, do not matter, not when you have God. He’s bigger and so much better than even the worst trial and can give you peace through literally anything. When you take time to calm your mind and conflicting emotions that arise in intense situations, you get that supernatural perspective.

However, emotions can feel paralyzing at times. I know when this event happened to me and I heard about it, I had to be strong for other people, and before I could even pray and process it myself, I actually did feel this sense of calm and peace that certainly came from God just when I needed it, and I had the strength needed to speak wisdom to others. I wish I felt that way all of the time, but being human and at times broken myself, that didn’t last forever. When the reality of it all had time to sink in, I was left with an overwhelming sense of emptiness. It felt debilitating. In fact, I remember feeling abandoned by God altogether, which tends to be the natural response whenever disappointment surfaces. That feeling, let me tell you, is one of the worst ever. It’s one thing to feel abandoned by people, but to feel abandoned by God makes you feel hopeless. So many of the Psalms talk about feeling abandoned by Him, though, so you’re not alone if you’ve ever felt that way and it doesn’t make you a bad person, AND most importantly it doesn’t mean that He actually has. He never leaves your side, though sometimes He lets us struggle with our emotions so that we can humble ourselves and grow closer to Him. I know it’s easy to wait for big, showy reactions from Him, but He works his greatest powers through even the seemingly most littlest things that end up working behind the scenes to coordinate things in your life that you don’t even comprehend. It does make you wonder how many things we take for granted that He’s worked behind the scenes on or how many things He currently is and you just have no idea.

I remember John Piper had a really good quote that I know is so true, about how God could be doing thousands of things in your life, and you are probably only aware of a couple of them.

I think that’s what we just have to remember in the midst of disappointment. It only tells one story. And it may seem heartbreaking, but you have to look at how some of the most inspiring and beautiful things in history have first started out looking depressing and irredeemable, but behind the scenes, God works everything together to make it beyond special. Look at the death and resurrection of Jesus Himself. Emotions can make us feel crippled, but tell yourself that God is greater. You don’t have to feel Him all of the time because feelings only tell a part of the story, too, and He’s there anyway. You get the strongest perseverance in life through those nights where all seems hopeless. The sooner you can learn that in life, the more peaceful, joyful, and mature you’re ultimately going to be.

There’s a song I heard recently that is not in any way associated with faith (so don’t get mad at me if my interpretation of the lyrics is way off hahahaha), called “Night Changes” by One Direction. I love One Direction, okay, and this song from what I gather talks about how a night can set off one way where you’re going on a date or something fun like that, and then something comes up that tries to ruin it. But the overall message seems to be that even when things come up and the night does change, it won’t change the relationship of the two people involved.

Like I said, hopefully I’m not way off on this and that song is not X-rated like one of my favorite songs of theirs when I was at the ripe age of 10 and had no clue as to its actual meaning until now…BUT I do not think that is the case with this one, and I think it can be applied to our relationship with God. Even when things come up and try to steal our joy and happiness in life, it’s never going to surprise or hold back God, and it is never going to stop His love and careful watch over our lives. It is never going to stand in the way of His joy and peace that we can have no matter what.

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By the way, to all my girls, the One Direction music video for “Night Changes” is absolute gold… Five cute boys each take you on a date, what could be better? Look it up and thank me later, it’s the little things in life. :’)

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