A Girls' Road Trip to Calgary & Banff, AB #1: All the Views & Bonding

Simply amazing, is how I would describe what was already a week ago. Already over a week ago, I got home from a fun, mostly easygoing road trip with my mom, cousin Kirsten, and my aunt Corrine. They are lots of fun to be with, and Kirsten and Corrine are basically travel agents, and they scored us some amazing deals on hotels as well as found some great places for us to explore both on our road trip and in our main destination, Calgary, Alberta. Yes, I went back to Canada. But this experience was radically different from my experiences in Ontario, which you can read about here.

Before I get in to recapping this, some background information. First off, I’ve blogged numerous times about my cousin Kir on this blog, with the most recent post being here. I’m grateful I have her and that we have so many common interests, including driving our moms insane by taking ten thousand photos of us. Thanks so much, Corrine and Candi!!! Really, most of the photos you see here will be because of them, and Kir took some for me, also. I appreciate it so much. On that note, I literally probably have a good 500 some photos I want to share here on this blog, so instead of breaking my website and writing you all one big book to read, I’ve decided I think it will work best if I break this trip recap into four parts. The first part, which you’re reading now, will recap the road trip portion of our trip on the way up to Calgary, where we spent three nights. We spent two full days and a half driving up to Calgary. That is what this post is going to recap—our first two days. Then the second part will be about arriving at our hotel and going to see Banff, which was an amazing tourist town only a little over an hour away from Calgary. We spent two days checking out that place. The third part will be all about Calgary, from getting back from Banff to the full day we spent exploring the city. The last part will cover our trip back and hit hard on everything this amazing trip taught me.

I have always tried to learn something from my vacations because I think anytime you experience a different part of the world or take in new experiences, there is such a potential for you to grow as a person and become wiser if you let God speak to you through the experience. I also learned rather quickly that you can’t expect a vacation to go perfect, and you can’t expect it to be an escape. If you have crap thoughts at home, you’re going to have crap thoughts on vacation. I’ll write more on this throughout this post, but there were definitely some overall major takeaways I learned from this trip that I’ll share once I’ve recapped all of it. So stay tuned! We were so blessed by God to witness so many parts of His beautiful creation, and so many things worked out great. While of course there were still some hiccups because a vacation can never be perfect, as is true of life, God worked them all out, and I can look back on this trip with wonderful memories and thankfulness to Him for it.

Kirsten had been wanting to go on a trip for awhile, and when she invited my mom and me, I was ecstatic. We bounced ideas off each other for awhile and, at first, I didn’t think this trip was going to work out. I think it was something we all definitely needed, though, to bond with each other after our extended family had been hit hard with trials, and I think God blessed this time for us as a result. Sometimes it’s hard planning for four people who all have slightly different interests, and there were a couple times I didn’t think things would work out, but of course God is faithful, and everything had a way of falling into place. One thing I really appreciated about this trip was how it combined both nature and the city. My mom is definitely more of a nature person and loves things having to do with the outdoors or with history, and this trip had that. This trip also had the city, which was a dream come true for me, so it truly was the best of both worlds. I only feel a bit overwhelmed on recapping this as there is so much to share, so hopefully I haven’t missed any information.

Now, without further ado, let’s get straight into recapping this because there’s a lot, and I’m so excited to share it all with you!


The Day Before


Driving Up to Corrine’s House

We live about four hours away from their house up in Minnesota, which is also not too far from the Twin Cities. This is where our road trip was going to start. I didn’t mind the extra drive with my mom at all because we talk so much, and it seems there’s never enough time for that. We left later in the evening, after my dad had gotten off work. I was going to miss my boys, so we made sure we talked to them and said goodbye and made plans to be in touch throughout the trip. One of our cars doesn’t have air conditioning, either, which makes things brutal in the summertime, so that’s another reason why we left later. I know I’ve said this before, but I truly do love my state, so I enjoyed our mini road trip through Iowa as it was the last I would be seeing of it for a week.

Mom and I decided to have our supper at Wendy’s. We ate inside, at a Wendy’s off the interstate in Clear Lake, also home of the Surf Ballroom, which I’ve had the privilege of seeing when I attended a Hairball concert there with my family. Yeah, that was an experience in and of itself I need to write about eventually…

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What can I say, I love Wendy’s. We wanted to eat somewhere where we couldn’t easily at other times, and we don’t have too many Wendy’s around us, so I’m glad we ate there. One of the wonderful but dangerous things about this trip was all the eating out we did. I absolutely loved it. I’ll make sure I recap everything we ate, don’t worry!

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Target

The weather was mostly nice on the way up, but it started raining as we got closer to their house. I was so thrilled to see Kirsten again, even though it had only been a month since I’d seen her last. We had lots of fun talking to each other the night before on the phone as we packed. What we packed is a whole other story, haha. As we arrived, Mom realized that of everything she packed, she forgot a coat. There were a couple other things, so we wanted to make a run to Target, especially since we don’t have too many Targets nearby except for in our “cities” like Des Moines, Ames, or Iowa City. Kirsten adores Target, so I knew she’d come with us. Theirs closes earlier, like around ten, so by the time we arrived we basically had to pick her up and then head over.

And of course we got distracted right away. Right away, they had the cutest swimwear. I’d been wanting a Fourth of July bikini for awhile. I don’t know why. Maybe because I’ve always had a thing for the Fourth of July and it’s one of my favorite holidays, or maybe it’s because I still have my fantasies of being on a boat in Okoboji for the Fourth if that ever happens… Either way, they had the cutest bikini top but no bottoms left. But I bought it anyway. Kirsten got a new one piece there, too, that she ended up liking.

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It was also pouring rain while we were in Target. Mom ended up getting a denim jacket as her coat, but another thing about this trip we were so blessed with was nice weather. It was never too hot or too cold. I mean, there were a couple times I felt it was chilly, but I’m always cold so what’s new. We didn’t really have much rain, which would have basically ruined all our plans if we had since most of what we did on this trip involved being outside. I am so thankful to God for that.

While heading back, we stopped at a gas station to fill up our truck so it was ready for when my mom and I drove back home, and there was a guy in the gas station who dresses up like Johnny Depp in those pirate movies, so we just went on in there to get a picture with him. Kirsten had known who he was, and Mom is evidently not afraid of just walking up to people and asking for a photo, so that’s what we did. He was great, haha.

At the House

Once we were back, we talked with her family for awhile and carried our luggage inside. Thankfully the rain had let up by then. It was fun because we had gotten them some little gifts for our trip—my mom got Kir and me these adorable custom made notebooks—and Kir got us some things, too, like a hat for me we wore for one of our pictures you’ll see in the next post.

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It was also fun because we were down in their basement where Kir’s room is that my mom and I slept in, and her computer was down there, so she and her mom booked our first two hotels on the way up. We’d had our hotel booked in Calgary for awhile. They go through some awesome sites that find hotels for really cheap. I don’t think we ever spent more than a hundred bucks on any hotel, except for the one in Calgary, and even that one had a good deal. There was also not a bad hotel we stayed in, either. Some were better than others, but I couldn’t say I didn’t like any of them. But I love hotels!! It was heaven for me getting to be in that many different hotels in the span of a week. I’ll write on all of those, too. We had decided to break up our road trip into a couple different parts. For the first night, we were staying at a hotel in Dickinson, North Dakota. On the second night, we were staying in Medicine Hat, Alberta, and then we would drive the remaining distance after that to Calgary.

We went to bed somewhat early because we had to. To get our rental car, we had to be up at such an ungodly time in the morning. I don’t even remember what, I know it was before seven, and that’s too early for me.


Day One: Road Tripping to North Dakota

Getting the Rental Car

Yeah, so I don’t remember much about what I did in the morning because it was too early. All I remember doing is getting myself dressed and washing my face and making sure I didn’t forget any of my closet I brought with me, haha. All of us drove up to the place near the Cities in Kirsten’s car. Once we got that car, which we were thankful was a size small enough to be cheap yet a mid size car so there was room for all our luggage—which we each had a full suitcase just of our own clothes and then some, so it was a miracle everything fit in the trunk haha—Corrine and my mom drove it home with Kirsten and me following them. Kirsten and I enjoyed jamming to the radio. It also is worth mentioning that it cracked me up because I took a video of one of the songs on the radio, and Kirsten made the comment about making sure she recorded on this trip because she always regrets not doing that. Meanwhile, by the end of the trip, Corrine had driven Kirsten up a tree about everything she wanted her to record. It was hilarious.

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Breakfast and Leaving

It was also funny because we stopped at Target another two times before leaving as Corrine had to pick something up, so Kirsten joked that a couple hours later we would be on the road. Everything worked out really well, though, and we weren’t really in a hurry, which is nice. We picked up breakfast at some gas station. I had the breakfast of champions of course, a lovely donut, while the rest of them tried to be healthy, but I’m not about that life even though one of these days I really need to be.

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As we left the Cities, I admired all of their glass buildings and how one of them is a college. And I let everyone know about my dreams of having a career where they send me off to different cities around the country, haha. If anyone knows where to find these careers specifically with communication or writing or design, it’s not too early for you to give me much appreciated advice!!

See, like look at this. They’re rose gold buildings.

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Mom was really good about helping Corrine with directions, and Corrine was very gracious about doing most of the driving, especially in the city, which Mom can’t do. Once we got on the road, we started plotting our route and the things we could check out along the way.

Stopping for Lunch

I don’t know what town we stopped in to eat lunch, but we had KFC inside. And we were so rowdy, oh my gosh. That’s what being in a car for that long will do to you. Like we couldn’t stop laughing about things. Mom said there was this one cute guy sitting by himself Kir and I noticed that seemed quite amused by us… We kept poking fun at Kirsten because Mom said there was some pyramid attraction thing, and then we drove by one of those big piles of dirt that forms a pyramid shape, and Mom joked to Kirsten, “There’s the pyramid!” And Kirsten was like, “Is it really?” But then I had a moment at KFC when we got this biscuit with frosting or something like that, and I go, “It tastes different. It’s like…a biscuit.” Well, what summer does to your brain, anyways.

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Well, KFC didn’t really work out for one half of us as we found out a couple hours later, and that’s all I’ll say about that, so we didn’t have that on the trip again.

“WHERE DA OTTER AT?” or Fergus Falls, Minnesota

My parents used to live here, so Mom asked if we could stop there for a trip down Memory Lane since we went right by it on our route. They had this giant otter structure by a scenic pond, so we had to get pictures. Kirsten is the author of that wonderful quote, by the way.

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I’m not huge on this photo of me below because I look wide for whatever reason, which reminds me of one of the most hilarious moments on this trip—to me, at least, because I don’t think Kirsten is going to appreciate this—but we were having issues with how we looked in the photos, and Kirsten made some comment about looking 500 pounds, and Corrine was flustered and said, “Well, you are what you are!” I about fell off the picnic table I was laughing so hard.

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I thought Fergus Falls was a nice little town, and I know my parents appreciated the memories because my mom was texting my dad about it.

Driving Through North Dakota

We stopped at some gas station in Fargo, North Dakota. Mom was looking at shirts, and at first North Dakota didn’t look much different than Minnesota, but that eventually changed.

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We had bags of snacks for the road, and Corrine and Kir introduced me to these little chocolates you can eat about ten of.

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Kirsten was our pro at taking selfies with all of us in them, and it was hilarious as we tried to get one in the car. I remember all the laughing the most, which is what is so special. Life isn’t meant to be stress, pain, stress, etc. Pain is part of life, but it doesn’t have to kill you. God wants us to have an abundant life, and you can know for sure that joy and laughter is part of that. Don’t take everything so seriously, that’s one thing I learned on this trip. Just relax and enjoy the moments of being with each other.

Jamestown, North Dakota and a Buffalo

Our first stop we made and decided to check out and that was free was this cute little town called Jamestown, and this hit on the history that my mom enjoys. They had this old town set up where you could walk around and read about past buildings and such, and this is where the “World’s Largest Buffalo” is. We enjoyed stopping to walk around and check out all of those things.

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This was our view of the interstate we had been on:

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More Driving Through North Dakota

For supper I had way too many Mike and Ike’s. I had way too many of these on the trip, but they were wonderful for the car rides…

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North Dakota could be extremely flat at times…

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I always enjoyed the radio playing, too, and we heard so much Kenny Chesney and Shawn Mendes from listening to Kir’s and my stations, and then Mom played some of her and Corrine’s music, too. We had a good variety, and I found quite a few new songs I liked. We got lost a bit in Bismarck, but it was okay because I enjoyed seeing one of their “cities.”

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Eventually, as our drive continued and we got closer to our hotel, it got a lot more hilly, and that was cool to see. I actually really enjoyed the scenery of North Dakota.

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I found it cool how they would put a bunch of power lines or towers on top of the hills. It reminded us all of communicating with aliens haha.

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Dickinson, North Dakota

I was very excited to finally arrive at the hotel. The hotel we stayed at in Dickinson was a Ramada and my favorite we stayed in on our road trip. It had a lodge theme and was very nice. I loved the style of the rooms, and all of the beds in the hotels we stayed at were heavenly. Dickinson was also a fairly good sized town, so it was nice to be around civilization haha.

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We really didn’t have trouble finding things too much thanks to Mom’s GPS on her phone, so it wasn’t too far of a drive to our hotel.

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We had to bring all of our luggage into the hotel because we needed mostly everything but then later figured out to condense some stuff, but in the meantime Kirsten and I had quite the time trying to figure out these carrier things and find our room. We only got lost like three times… I’m sure the people at the reception desk were like there they go again!

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We made a run to Walmart that night to get more snacks, and then while Kirsten and I wanted to eat at a restaurant, it got to be super late by that time, so we decided to just have fast food for supper. We ate at Burger King! It was wonderful to me of course.

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When we got back, Kirsten and I wanted to check out the hot tub. We didn’t stay too long, especially because it was packed with kids even though it was so late, but it was relaxing while it lasted.

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We got to see a lot of the lights while driving around from Walmart back to the hotel. The town reminded me of the size of Ames, so there was a considerable amount of city lights, my favorite thing.

The main thing I learned from this first day was to just let go of negative thinking. If I’m not careful, thoughts of how I should look or how things should be and other things I think I need right now can steal my joy out of moments like these. I typed lots of notes to myself on my phone for this reason. I knew I didn’t want to be thinking negatively on my trip, but you can’t just rely on the trip itself to fix that. You have to be intentional and seek God, which can also be hard to do when you’re so busy like we were on this trip. But remember it’s as simple as just telling Him your thoughts. Or taking some time while everyone is laying there in the hotel room falling asleep to stay up a couple more minutes and share what’s on your heart. And you’ll be amazed at how much that makes a difference.


Day Two: Road Tripping Through Montana and Alberta

Once we had our first day of driving down, it made things easier as we knew what to expect. We had to find a route, however, that had a station where we could cross the border into Canada. In the meantime, we were going to continue our road trip by going through Montana and then up to Canada.

Breakfast

Things were slightly more laidback in the hotel. We had free breakfast at this one, so we got dressed and ready and headed down. I tried eating eggs and sausage for protein, but once again the only thing that really impressed me were the chocolate chip muffins… #ineedhelp

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And as far as packing for this trip goes…I think all of us agreed we overpacked a little bit. But you never know, and Kirsten and I think it’s better to be safe than sorry, so we take our closets with us basically!

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On the Road

Before we got on the road, we stopped for gas. We didn’t have too far to go before we would cross into Montana. I was excited to see Montana because I’d heard it has beautiful views, but another thing I found interesting to see in North Dakota that you’ll all probably think is ridiculous were the oil rigs. The reason why is because of my favorite movie Twister, and if you’ve seen the opening scene where it shows all the clips of storms brewing, there’s an oil rig in one of them… Well, I’ve never seen one of those in real life, and I got to see tons, so I was quite happy about that.

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Theodore Roosevelt National Park

We made one last stop before leaving North Dakota. This park looks like just a rest stop off the main road, but it gives an absolutely surreal view of the Badlands. We definitely stopped for a million photos here and took some for other people as well, since it was fairly popular. Mom cracked us up because Kirsten and I were first to discover the views—our moms were busy in the gift shop, and my mom bought a buffalo stuffed animal! His name is Buff. We did see a buffalo, by the way! It was laying down way out there, but it probably can’t be seen good in photos, and I don’t have the photos of it, but I’m sure my mom took some. These views are what we’d been hoping to see, and talk about humbling. It’s just amazing to know God created this and to take it all in and just wonder how He formed all of it.

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They had an awesome overlook perfect for photos! Kirsten is a photographer and was hoping to get photos of views like these, so she took a lot, and then we got some altogether, too!

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On the Way to Montana

After those views, we were all super pumped for the rest of the trip, as it was truly only the beginning. I ate more crap food and brought my favorite pop with of course.

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The Montana Sign

Yes, I’m not kidding when I said we were all pumped. So pumped we had to pull over to get a bunch of photos with the Montana sign. There’s even a little path along the side of the road for it. And we had quite a few people honk at us as they went by on both sides of the divided highway. I have such fond memories of this! It sure is fun being tourists, haha.

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Driving Through Montana

The pretty views extended into Montana for quite aways, too.

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Glendive Dinosaur & Fossil Museum

This was the first stop we made early on in Montana. I LOVED THIS PLACE. We didn’t have the time to actually pay the fee to see all of this museum, but we perused the gift shop, where they had lots of neat items, from jewelry to other artifacts. They also had so many books I wanted. Why? Because this place has a distinctly Christian and biblical view on the creation of the world, aka the truth you never hear about in public schools… I’ve always despised learning about evolution in school. If they were going to teach it as a theory and also share these other views, that would be one thing, but instead this manmade idea of creation is considered and taught as a fact. It’s very reassuring to see places like this that accept the truth and share it. I wanted honestly like five books, but I just got one to start with, and I’m definitely excited to begin educating myself on the truth.

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Driving in Montana Some More…

Okay, here’s the thing about Montana: it is absolutely gorgeous in some areas and so very dull in others, haha. As our drive stretched on, there was basically a whole lot of nothing, and at some points we were the only car on the main road. But those speed limits though!!! You wonder why, haha. I remember we were all about to die because we were getting so hungry for lunch, but all of the towns we would pass through were so small and run down we couldn’t fathom them being a town, so we kept waiting and eating whatever crap food we had left. Finally we stumbled on a town that was more populated, and they had a Subway! We also found people who were very nice at a gas station and helped us with directions because we were trying to figure out if we were on the right track to cross the border. I don’t know what you would do if you ran out of gas there. It was also the beginning of the end of our phone reception. In more populated towns, you would have data, but way out in the middle of nowhere you didn’t get much of anything.

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However, we had so many funny moments and just times to talk with each other. My mom had said she’d always wanted to go on a road trip, so I’m very thankful we were able to do all of this together. There were points where it felt drug out, but really, everything went quickly in the scheme of things because of that. We were still able to contact our boys back home for awhile, too, which was nice. I couldn’t believe the amount of ranches out in Montana. Yeehaw, haha. It started looking more and more like the mountains…

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I mean, look how flat this is. But hey, it’s still beautiful. All of God’s creation is beautiful, and Mom kept telling us to imagine life as a cowboy and that’s what you saw. Kir and I were more like please find us a cutie cowboy but anyways, I probably shouldn’t because I don’t think I could do that life personally, haha. I did enjoy seeing and imagining what it would be like, though.

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Driving in Alberta

Oh, my gosh. So we thought Montana was bad. Alberta was absolutely nothing for MILES. And the speed limit made a rather steep drop. We couldn’t figure it out at first thanks to the lovely metric system and our rental car didn’t have conversions to kilometers, but Mom finally found a photo of our speedometer she had for some reason, and then we got to go a little faster. But we were going at a turtle’s pace for awhile and thought we were going to die. That final stretch did get long. We had aways to get up to Medicine Hat, where our second hotel would be. It did get hillier at some points, though, and at another point, I saw those trees that are littered abundantly throughout Ontario.

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Arriving in Medicine Hat

Medicine Hat was another fairly good sized town. It was my first time seeing a “normal” Canadian town because you don’t see too many of them in Ontario, that’s for sure. Corrine spotted a Dollarama there, which is their version of a Dollar Store or something, and she is in love with those the way I’m in love with a lot of my stores. We saw like three of them throughout our trip, and we stopped at most of them except one was closed. Kirsten was thankful. But the first time we went, Kirsten got a Canada t-shirt, and I got one, too, which we wore in photos I’ll recap in a later post. The hotel we stayed at here was still nice but probably one of my lesser favorites of the trip. It was a lot older, but for the price, it still was nice, had a comfy bed, had a hot tub, and we got free breakfast, so no complaints from us. This is one of the structures Medicine Hat had, and actually we had a funny moment later that night at the hotel because Kirsten said, “I don’t really know what people would stay in this town for,” since we quickly figured out it wasn’t a destination for tourists primarily. And Corrine goes, “They can go see that teepee!” We all cracked up, including her, and she ended up spitting out her water, which just added to the humor. It was neat looking, though.

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Corrine and Kirsten took a pass on the hot tub, but my mom wanted to go to relax our muscles, so her and I went while they went to pick up some things, and we ordered pizza, so they were going to stay for its delivery. Those hot tubs were the perfect thing to look forward to after a long, full day of being cramped up in a car. This hot tub was much more tame compared to the other pool. There weren’t as many people with their kids.

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We ordered pizza from Papa John’s, and it was delicious, especially after being in the hot tub. It was such a great feeling to come back from that, get dressed in comfy pajamas, and then eat pizza on the bed with Kir.

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This time at night to just relax and talk with each other was also fun because we started generating ideas for what we wanted to do in Calgary. Kirsten had seen pictures of the mountains and lakes in Banff, which wasn’t far from Calgary, so she wanted to go there and get pictures. We also wanted to go shopping, I was dying to go up in a skyscraper so we saw the Calgary Tower was something we could do, there was this awesome bridge that went over a river by the skyscrapers we wanted to get pictures at, Mom wanted to see the Saddledome and get a picture for Hunter (home of the Calgary Flames!), and so on. We started browsing through ideas of things to do both in Calgary and Banff, and it was a lot of fun looking at photos of all the attractions and getting excited to soon be doing those things.

This is Buff. His full name is Buff Shawn Trip because we heard Shawn Mendes constantly, so now we named him after Shawn, but it only seemed fitting because Shawn is from Canada.

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And here’s all of us with Buff!

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All my energy and excitement must have finally gotten to me, proven by like five different things I wrote down on my phone that I thought were funny. I was driving my mom nuts because we shared one bed while Corrine and Kir had the other, and Mom goes to bed too early just like my grandma and I kept laughing, and it’s hilarious because I took a selfie of us where she’s, like, about knocked out, and you can tell she’s just about ready to strangle me, and then there’s me, wide awake and loving life. I’d post the selfie, but it’s really not that flattering of either of us.

And that’s about how I feel now about being able to share this first recap post! These days were truly just a glimpse of what was in store for us. I was so thankful for all God blessed us with and also for helping us through other times in the trip when some things didn’t go as smoothly. I’m so thrilled to share all of it! Stay tuned for the next post that should be out soon! I don’t know if I’ve ever had this much fun writing blog posts, even though I was irate with my photo app because evidently uploading 500 photos at one time is too much to ask. But it’s all coming together! The next post will recap driving to Calgary, our wonderful hotel there, and both our days in Banff! Thanks so much for reading about our adventures and the thoughts I have along the way as well as how God is continuing to grow me. There’s much more to come!!

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Weeks of Reflection

My family took their annual trip up to Canada where they would be fishing for a whole week, and this city-loving-girly-girl took a pass on that last year and did so again this year. I did spend the two years before that going on the trip with them, and while I highly enjoyed the experience of seeing another country and the outdoors in that way, I’m more than ready to explore other things. Like cities! And more shopping!! And hotels!!! (I did recap my experiences of Canada here and here.)

But the time hasn’t come for me yet where I can pursue those fascinations except for the shopping, so instead I spent about two weeks with my grandparents in MY “happy place,” their little small town that is also not too far from MY ideal version of the lake life in Okoboji. And I shopped online. A lot. I didn’t buy anything though, unfortunately. And we ate a lot. But I really had a good time with them. It always feels bittersweet when I leave their house. After that period of time, I was definitely ready to see my family again and my lovely room. My three minute a day conversations with Mom weren’t really cutting it, since there’s no internet up there or phone service and so she had to call me with a calling card. But I miss my grandparents terribly. I miss just going for drives around town whenever and our talks. I miss getting all dressed up everyday. I miss staying up late with Grandma!!! Most of all I miss all the time I wasted online shopping. Well, kidding, because let’s be real, I do the exact same thing just about everywhere.

It was one of those times where I did want to write, or at least, my intentions were there. Because I guess what I really wanted to do—and did do—was stuff my face with junk food and go online shopping. Pray for me, my motivation at this time could use a little work.

As the days went on, though, I began thinking about a blog post that would be perfect to recap this time. I didn’t think I would write one, honestly, because eating and online shopping are interesting to me, but probably not to the rest of the world.

The one productive thing I ended up doing was journaling. I know I’m one of those types of people that can be guilty of trying to do too much, too soon, where a time to relax can’t be that because you feel like you have to be doing something productive constantly. That’s important to some extent, but so is rest and taking time to renew your mind. I’ll be honest about this time: I still felt like my mind was reeling from the end of the school year. When my last day of school came and went, it didn’t even feel like the end, and it still doesn’t. These school years have been more challenging than most, for sure, because my greatest struggles aren’t really with academics or even people.

They’re with my mind.

And I was kind of taken aback when my “happy place” didn’t give me all the answers. Didn’t just erase the anxiety or the sadness. I know I’ve expected that before. You go on a vacation or plan out some time that should help you regain your sense of sanity, but it doesn’t. That’s not anyone’s fault but mine. You can have everything, but usually the people that do are some of the most unhappy because that can’t fix you, and then you become confused as to why. I want to share more thoughts on this from the weeks, but first I have to share all the little moments that make it so wonderful and that make up true life.

First off, anytime I am with my grandparents I feel so much joy. I thank God so much for them because they’re encouraging, loving, and are always there for me and listen to me and all my teenage problems and negative mindsets. Having people like that is truly a gift from God, since there’s nothing I did to have them be in my life. And it’s things like that I have to remember when the days get hard and it feels like you can’t trust God: remember all the things He’s already done for you. Sometimes when you want something so much, you are unable to see what you’ve already wanted and been given. I think that is one of the main issues I faced my sophomore year that trickled into this time, is wanting what I want, right now, and God is not ready to give it to me yet. Then I let lies from the devil tell me that He doesn’t care about my dreams or desires or that He won’t do anything with them. Yet when I pause to truly think about that and be rational, I realize that all He’s done for me proves the exact opposite.

This is why reflection is huge. I’m too guilty of letting my emotions run my life and just going with the flow in terms of what I feel. If I’m not intentional in praying to God about what I think, my thought life will be a mess and threaten to destroy me. I’ve never believed more in the power of what you think since I’ve started reflecting on my own thoughts. It’s amazing and almost kind of frightening how one problem can look like the end of the world to one person yet another person can look at it with peace and clarity, and it has no control over their behavior. Why? Because they think about it differently. This is true even for me. There are days I could cry because I am so thankful for the life God has given me and all the little miracles He’s done to keep me on the right track, and then there are days I could cry because I feel so down about everything and nothing seems right. This could happen over the course of two days, when nothing has really changed at all. It’s called watching what you think, and the Bible even talks about this in being on your guard for attacks from the enemy (1 Peter 5:8).

I am thankful that I have people to help me with this. Sometimes all it takes is just having a conversation with my grandma to bring me back down to earth or her encouragement to quit worrying and just turn to God. I’ve always been a worrier, which is not something I like about myself, but I’ve also grown so much in my faith through God helping me overcome it. And one quote I remember saving as a kid said something about just taking a breath and letting that worry go. It’s amazing how just that very simple word—breathe—can make all the difference when it comes to anxiety. Seriously. When I have a worry just consuming me, and I actually take the time to stop and take a breath, it loses its power over me. Or I take the time to stop and pray about it. It’s no wonder the Bible is filled with words like “be still,” and that is why Psalm 46:10 is one of my favorite Bible verses. “Be still, and know that I am God.” Worries don’t hold a candle to that if you just stop and meditate on what that means. God is sovereign over any worry, over your whole life, and you can know you can trust Him. I write this for myself just as much as I am for all of you because I know I’ll be back to worrying about something, and that’s when coming back to read this is so important.

I also am extremely grateful for the influence my grandparents have. They’ve been through so much recently and are of course still human, but their faith is so strong and has inspired me so much. It proves that God can get us through anything.

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If I didn’t recap the food we ate, would it have really been a week with my grandparents at all?! Grandma made me these bagels for breakfast, and then I also discovered frozen French toast sticks at HyVee that taste just like the ones I used to love at my school. I’m not sure how healthy they are, but I don’t really care either because they were amazing and I was finally eating breakfast because normally I don’t… Grandpa was undergoing radiation treatments over in Spencer when I was there, so we would have to leave by noon, which didn’t leave us time for lunch until the late afternoon, but let’s be real I didn’t wake up until ten most days anyway… #summer

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This was the real highlight of all the food we consumed. Their Hardee’s has these little sliders you can get, and they’re super cheap and the perfect size for me because I don’t usually eat a full sized cheeseburger unless I’m super hungry, and then the curly fries are the perfect addition. I miss these so much…

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This was in the waiting room that Grandma and I were in while Grandpa had his radiation done. Thankfully, it didn’t take long, but it takes its toll, so I was glad I could be there with Grandpa. He had to do it everyday, Monday through Friday, and now we just pray that it got all the cancer. I was up for the end of his time doing this, which just proves how every moment should be appreciated and is a gift from God. I also remember talking with Grams in this waiting room about the thoughts I’ve been writing about and needing to release my grip on things. Life can feel very unpredictable, but we can’t let that shake our faith because God never changes. He is always good, faithful, and His promises are always true. That’s something I have to remember when life hurts or when I feel anxious for the future.

Their waiting room also had these cookies, which I ate most of the days, so yes, please still pray for my diet. It’s just as wonderful as ever. And that’s one thing I don’t have any desire to change, which is why I need all the more prayers…

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I loved getting to go for car rides, too, like we always do. I had good talks with Grams on those, and then Grandpa would take us out for an ice cream cone at McDonald’s, too, almost every night, and we’d drive around town. I regret letting worries about things that aren’t even relevant to my life right now seep into my time with them, but now I can take it all as a learning experience to just be in the moment. That is so huge and something this society is forgetting how to do. We’re so driven by what’s next, what we should be accomplishing next, etc., and that is draining us. It’s okay to just have some weeks like these that are low-key and maybe not the most productive but an essential time for God to speak to you and for you to just rest in Him while He takes care of it all. Because He can, and He will, and the thing I have to remember is He doesn’t need my help with that. He’s never asked me to worry about my future or otherwise try to manipulate it and figure it out myself. He knows just when to bring the insights, opportunities, and connections that I need, and me worrying and obsessing about finding those doesn’t change anything. It doesn’t make time go faster. It doesn’t lead to any answers. Again, be still, He says, and know that He is God. That’s His job. I just need to obey and relax.

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Their Godfather’s went out, which still upsets me, but we ate at Pizza Hut instead, and theirs was also wonderful. Then at the end, we asked for one brownie and cinnamon roll, but I guess they only come in packages so…we got a whole box of both! Which was perfect for our diet!

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Lastly, we of course had to stop at Okoboji, and while it was a really hot day, I had fun just looking through some of the stores. I actually didn’t buy anything though I thought about it, but I’m glad I didn’t because one day we went to a JCPenney’s in Spencer and I scored much cuter finds at much better prices there. A dress and sweater totaling under $50. June is the time to buy sweaters, people. It was like $5, regularly $40 or so. Then I also got a dress I hope I ever find an occasion to wear it to, and that was on sale.

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Back to the thoughts I was talking about earlier. I actually cried a lot during these few weeks. Again, that wasn’t really because of any circumstances. Hanging out with my grandparents is a blast, and it wasn’t related to being there at all. However, I let thoughts that I battled my whole sophomore year consume me. One thing I’m learning has to do with desires because sometimes my dreams absolutely consume me, and it’s exhausting. Constantly looking for opportunities because I’m afraid I’ll miss something or waste my life if I don’t. Constantly wondering, obsessing, and letting what I want in the future take me out of what God has given me in the present. It’s a battle I constantly face, but I’ve learned this: every moment, no matter how joyful or painful at the time being, is part of the journey God has you on to shape you into the person you’re meant to be. You’re not going to miss anything, unless you do go on your own way ahead of God. Then you’ll miss blessings He wants to give you right now. Because my life doesn’t start when I publish a book. It doesn’t start when I get married. It’s unfolding right now. There’s so much beauty in the right now. I have so much anticipation and longing for things I still want to do, but God knows. He’s given me those desires, and He says if I am seeking Him first, those pure desires will be given to me also (Psalm 37:4).

But that’s where I went wrong. I’m consumed by my desires to the point where God isn’t first anymore. How can I expect to get those things—and actually be satisfied with them—if God is not the center of my life? My desires mean nothing without Him at the center, and my life will not be enjoyable if I’m not putting Him first.

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We love listening to country music on their TV station and in the car, and two songs I found that I love and that spoke to me were “Catch” by Brett Young and “Living” by Dierks Bentley. The former talks about how when a guy was just going about his life and not looking for anything, a girl came along. It reminded me that God knows just when to bring everything into your life that you need, and just relax in that. You don’t need to go looking for things and wear yourself out. The latter is another good song about just appreciating the life you’ve been given and really taking in your blessings and each moment as it comes. I listened to both of them a lot when I felt down.

Chasing after dreams and desires is exhausting. It’s exhausting because God never asked me to do it. He already knows the plans He has for me, for you. And He knows just how to accomplish them in His timing. So here’s to letting go of all the how’s—that’s not our job to figure out. The most amazing, wonderful miracles come when you least expect them and when you may not even be aware that you need them because when you’re seeking God, He knows how to keep you on the right path. He knows how to bring you back when you’ve strayed. And if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s to stop trying so hard. Take the pressure and expectations to perform off. Let God do His work in preparing you for what He has planned. And rest assured that when you’re seeking Him first, all of the pain, all of the longing, and all of the desires He’s put in you each have their purpose in your journey. He WILL work it all for the good. You don’t have to know how. You just have to believe Him when He promises that and enjoy what He’s doing right now in the everyday.

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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!

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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!

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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Dear Future Husband... #2

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*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. ;)

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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

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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. :)

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