Another Letter To...

A little over a year ago I wrote this letter to my future husband. I just reread it again and kind of cringed in some parts, but oh well. We're going to do this again so that one day I'll have more cringing to do!! Yay! I also think one day I may (or may not) look back on these and be glad I wrote them. I guess only time will tell!

Dear future husband...

One thing I noticed about that last letter is that it wasn't very serious. Some of it was. And I'm all for being fun and witty and all that great stuff, but I don't know if this one will be like that for two reasons. First of all, that letter was written a year ago. I'd hope there'd be a difference. Second, I guess I just see the world differently. I was passionate about my faith last summer, but I've gotten even more serious now.

For one thing, I didn't go to church at that time, nor did I think I needed to. I kind of looked at the Bible and looked at it in such a perspective that would make me feel good. I didn't go to church and didn't want to, so I told myself I didn't NEED to. I excused a lot of my own sin and a lot of my family's sin because I didn't want to change, and I didn't want to confront people. Thank goodness I grew out of that little phase.

Now I try to eliminate sin as much as possible, and when others sin, I don't want to take it lightly, meaning that I don't excuse it. I will still give them grace and mercy as God does, but I'm not going to say it's okay. It's not. And neither is my own sin. And I'm done living in it because Jesus didn't die just so I could keep remaining stuck in my sin.

So with that being said, I'm also a lot more serious about my faith. And I'm thankful for that because I believe you're either growing closer to God or farther, and I don't want to be farther. 

I'm also a lot deeper. I always was, but I'm getting more and more that way just because I like to ponder verses and keep that fresh in my mind. Basically, I like to talk about everything people shy away from. If you want to talk about anything controversial, chances are I want to be in that conversation because I like to fight people. Jk. I'm just really passionate about my beliefs not so that I can prove people wrong but just to show them how much God has helped me. I could write a book about it, and I will!

But enough about me. This whole me being deep thing also leads me to thinking about you a lot. Awwww. Yeah, I know, and you better be doing the same thing. ;) But seriously, there's not a day that goes by where I DON'T think about you or pray about you. Except for when I fall asleep during my prayer. Whoops. That is NOT THE POINT, though. Fine, I'll say extra prayers tonight. Jeesh.

Now, if you're sick of this already, you are going to have a long life because this letter is just getting started. Let's start with the funny stuff because (a) I can't resist and (b) gotta have balance.

Ha, let's get a dog! Poor Willy... Living with my brother is hard... See! All kinds of fun!

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So I've already told you about me now, but one day when I look back on these, I want to know how I changed and where I was at, so here's a little about me now. I still write and will probably always write. That is definitely the thing I love. I've had many little phases and hobbies and things I thought were my calling but could not be farther from my calling. Things such as...

Being a pet groomer, being an Olympic athlete both in swimming and gymnastics (I went through both of the phases at different times, though)... And I've had thoughts of being a YouTuber or vlogger, a journalist... I've thought about doing something with travel like I don't know, being a flight attendant. I've thought about doing sports and having that be the way I glorify God. But none of that stuff clicks with me. Not at all.

I've tried doing videos so many times, and despite the fact that I think I sound like an idiot, the passion just isn't there. For awhile I was really eager to travel, but now I'm just thankful where God has me... For awhile I clearly wanted sports to be my thing: swimming, gymnastics, basketball, running... I'm definitely not going anywhere with swimming or gymnastics, and maybe if I really tried with basketball I could do something there, but I don't want to. I really feel like I don't need to. Waking up super early and spending my entire week doing basketball practices where all I can think about the entire practice is how I want it to end so I can go write that blog post/book/writing idea/devotional/etc.

I do like to run but only for fun, and HELLO. 683 some donuts (and counting!) later, I have to burn that off somehow. And now Mom is running with me so that is a huge win!

My point is that writing is what I want to do. I feel like I can glorify God best when I'm writing. I did finish my novel and am ready to query. Problem is, I don't know who to query to. At all. There aren't many Christian agencies accepting queries from new authors, so I don't know what to do except pray and work on my second novel. Whatever is God's will and in His timing.

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So here's the thing: time is going fast

Way to state the obvious, right? Well, it's true. And I say it a million times because for a lot of people this doesn't register. The reason I am so focused and dedicated on writing is because time is going fast, and throughout this letter, I'll tell you more about the spiritual battles we're in, but now is not the time to focus on things that won't mean anything. I want to be careful when I say this because what I don't want to say is that every single thing you do has to have a purpose.

It's not a sin to have some fun and play a game of basketball or something even if you know it's not going anywhere. The point that I want to make is I'm not going to spend three some months of my life spending my entire evenings on a sport that I will not be doing anything with. I'm all about having fun, but I can have fun with writing and glorify God while I'm doing so, so I want to manage my time well on this planet because time is fleeting (Psalm 102:11).

Since time is going so fast, one of the biggest things I pray for you is that you would know Jesus. NOW. You might be in high school, or you might be in middle school; I don't care. I want you to know Jesus right now because we are in a battle right now (Ephesians 6:12), and we need to be alert now. We must know the Bible and what it says. We must live out our faith (Matthew 5:16).

That's what I pray for you now especially. I pray that you would have the desire to know God and His Word. I pray that you would be a light NOW. I pray that God would give you wisdom and protect you and your faith. I pray that you don't waste your life, and don't waste these years now. Most kids my age, and I'm assuming you're going to be close to my age, don't see the need to do this now. They think they have plenty of time to know God and live for Him later. That's not always the case because each day we are withering away (Psalm 102:11). And we have work to do NOW. But more on that later.

Besides, what good is our faith if we're not living it out (James 2:14)?

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I also pray that the Lord would guide you and encourage you while you walk with Him

If we are living out our faith, we will face trials (John 16:33). But like that verse also says, Jesus has overcome the world, which is why I pray that you would rejoice over that fact. There will also be times when you are sad and discouraged about the world. I've been there. Just recently was there again.

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This leads me to another point: you can't go by your emotions. Let's use my recent trip to my grandparents' house as an example. As I wrote in one of my Instagram captions (by the way, my blog readers need to follow me on Instagram - my favorite social media):

I’ve been processing the past two weeks I spent with my grandparents, and I really had a great time. I did have a lot of expectations, though. Expectations like how it would totally renew my mind and be a blast. That wasn’t always the case. Most days I actually felt the weight of the world and down about so many of the problems we face. But I’m so thankful for my Grams because she got me focused on the only thing that can take care of my problems: the Lord. At the end of each night, I desperately needed to renew my mind with God’s Word. But that’s okay because I need to do that. I did have fun. I had a lot of fun. And I had a lot of good conversations with my grandparents. But I was reminded that they can’t fix my problems. They don’t make me joyful. Only God can do that, and He’s the only one I want to do that. You may not feel happy every day. But if you’re rooting yourself in God’s truth, He will take care of you. He won’t leave you (Deuteronomy 31:6).
— @sparklesbyashlee Instagram

But I'm so thankful for my grandma, who is so wise in her faith; she got me rooted in the truth. She did not yell at me for feeling sad, and she did not just let me sulk my life away either. She didn't try to give me fancy speeches or worldly quotes. She didn't tell me to suck it up and that my sadness was ridiculous. No. She did the best thing she could: she gave me Bible verses. And she prayed with me. That's the hope. That's what we must cling to because Jesus has overcome the world.

‘I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.’
— John 16:33 NIV
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When we are together, I am praying that both of us will help lead each other to God because I know that I can't make you happy, and you can't make me happy. And for awhile, if someone asked me, "When you get married, do you expect your husband to make you happy?" I probably would've said no, but deep down, that wouldn't have been the case. Those expectations would still be there. There are still days I have to remember that you can't do that. So you can breathe easy now okay? Because God is showing me that.

In fact, like I mentioned in my caption up there, no one can make me happy. I've struggled so much with friends. I've been praying and looking and longing for a friend that would lead me to God. I haven't found that, so lucky you, I transferred all of my expectations to YOU. Like well, I can't find friends, so I guess my husband will have to be the one to lead me to God. And I do pray that. I pray that I can do that for you. But I got so caught up in needing to have somebody that can do that that what actually happened is I started relying on people to fulfill that need rather than God Himself.

So when I was at my grandparents' house, I started realizing this. And I started thinking about all of the problems in the world. I thought about family members that aren't saved. I thought about friends that aren't saved. I thought about the joy of returning to school and having to do that with only a few friends. There were some situations going on up there that I felt the need to pray over, and all of that just got to be so much that I just collapsed. Because I can't do it. I cannot carry the weight of the world and all its many problems.

Then I started thinking about how people feed their God void. For those who don't know, that's when people are chasing things other than God. And people do this all the time, myself included. I thought the situations going on up there had some perfect examples of people looking to other things to feel their need for God: money, people, a relationship, love (but not God's love), vacations, fulfilling dreams, fun experiences, etc.

I had so much fun up with my Grandpa and Grandma. We had a lot of fun times I'm really thankful for, and I know I will look back on them for many years to come and be thankful. But I could even feel my own longing for God.

For example, the more I read about the sad situations going on up there and the more I pondered all the problems in my life, I became sad. I tried to shake it off. I told myself there's hope. I need to keep going. So I kept living my life. I had fun with my cousins. We went to Okoboji. I bought things. I watched movies. I played on Instagram. I went for lots of walks. And let me tell you something, while I definitely enjoyed all of those things, as soon as they were over, the pain came rushing back in. All of it.

I went for walks with Grandma. I confided in her about all of the things bothering me. She was a huge help, don't get me wrong, and I definitely need people like her. As Christians, we need people that can encourage us with God's Word. That is why I feel so strongly about praying that for us. But even she could not take away the pain. The pain was still there, and it finally came out when I laid down and had a nice long cry.

I don't like feeling sad. Duh. Who does. But there is something kind of cool about those moments when I'm laying there feeling depressed, not knowing what to do about all the pain. Because those are the moments where I have to humble myself before God and admit my need for God because I NEED HIM (John 15:5). And something awesome happens in those moments. I begin to feel His love and His peace embracing me because He is there (Psalm 92:11).

So that is what I pray. I pray that whatever is troubling you now, the Lord would strengthen you and give you a peace. I pray that when I am with you, I would help you in a godly manner by encouraging you with the Scripture and by reminding you of how much you need God, and I pray that you would be encouraged by the fact that He is willing to provide for your needs, including your emotional needs (Philippians 4:19, and I also encourage you to meditate on Isaiah 41:10).

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It's not a sin to be sad (Matthew 5:4), but there is hope (John 16:33), and we have a race to finish (Philippians 3:14). So let's get busy! Now! There are opportunities all around us to be a witness for Jesus, and we shouldn't let them pass us by.

And I'm praying that you will get grounded in God's Word NOW. I have to do that on a daily basis. When I was at my grandparents', every night I so desperately needed to renew my mind and get into the Word. The scary thing today is that so many people don't think they need to be reading the Bible on a daily basis, and many of those people don't read it at all... I actually should write a blog post on why it's so important to study the Bible, but you've heard enough of my rants for the day, so I'll save it for later. You're welcome.

To sum it up, it will help you so much in your life. Actually it will do more than that; it will guide your life (Psalm 119:105). I'm praying God shows you how important that is and that you obey. I pray that for myself, too. I'm also praying that you find some wise, caring, fun, godly people that can encourage you and help you in your faith. I have a group of them at church, and they are awesome! It took awhile before I got them, but God has been faithful, and I know He will provide for your needs.

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We are in a battle (Ephesians 6:12). And we need to start fighting right now; our age does not necessarily mean we can't join the fight (1 Timothy 4:12). So what can we do now to fight the battle? Here is what I pray for both you and myself...

Put on the armor of God

Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
— Ephesians 6:13-17 NIV

Fill your mind with good things

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.
— Philippians 4:8 NIV

Pray pray pray

This is quickly becoming Grams and I's favorite saying because it's so important.

And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.
— Ephesians 6:18 NIV

Read the Bible

Because I haven't mentioned this at all. ;)

Your word is a lamp for my feet,
a light on my path.
— Psalm 119:105 NIV
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But there is joy coming

Like when you meet me :) Or we can look at what the Bible says about joy. I mean I guess that works too...

So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
— 2 Corinthians 4:18 NIV
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
— Romans 8:28 NIV

But see, we can make each other happy temporarily, but not all days will be filled with sunshine and all the flowers and donuts and yeah, and then what? We must remember where we get our true happiness from before we go to each other looking for that need to be fulfilled. We must remember verses like these:

For he satisfies the longing soul,
and the hungry soul he fills with good things.
— Psalm 107:9 ESV
The Lord upholds all who fall
and lifts up all who are bowed down.
— Psalm 145:14 NIV
So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you must endure many trials for a little while.
— 1 Peter 1:6 NLT

I could go on, but you get the idea, and praise the Lord for this hope we have in Him. So let's persevere. Right now and when we meet. We're going to have trials, but I know you can get through them because you have Jesus. I know you will have him because I'm praying for that. And I cannot wait to fight the battle with you and encourage you and do life with you. But right now I can wait because obviously age, but God also has a plan for me right now. There are things I need to do right now, and the same goes for you. We need to wait patiently for God's timing.

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Now I have to ask you for a favor. There's something you can do for me right now, whenever you read this: pray for me. Please pray that my faith doesn't fail, now or ever. Pray for my faith, that I would continue to walk with Christ, resist the devil, and go and share the gospel and live my life as a light for Him (Matthew 5:16). And pray for me to be a godly wife; pray that I will submit to you and love you and choose you every day. Pray that I can encourage you with God's Word. Pray that I wouldn't be selfish. And I will pray all these things for you.

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Now. See these flowers? I'm expecting lots of these. Especially the pink ones. Also, these are fake. If you're gonna get me flowers, make sure they're real. Flowers make for really good Instagram pictures, and good Instagram pictures are everything. K? K. If you need more ideas on what to do for me when we meet - just read the entire rest of my blog. Does that sound good? Too bad. Just because I didn't talk about being romantic doesn't mean I'm not praying for that either ;)

So I'll see you soon then. Be excited. As I said in my last letter, keep your eyes on the cross. But when we meet...you better look at me sometimes too. I bet you can't wait. I know. Me either. But don't worry, I'll write you a lot more about romantic things I expect, er, that you should do, wedding ideas... Yeah.

Much love, Ashlee

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