Sparkles by Ashlee: faith, funny, + fulfilling dreams

Welcome to Sparkles by Ashlee, a Christian lifestyle blog over faith, funny, and fulfilling dreams. I'm Ashlee Staerk, and I'm a teenager in love with Jesus and writing stories for His glory in Iowa. Grab your fave drink (I'll take a Dr. Pepper), and peruse my blog, where I document what God is teaching me, encouragement He lays on my heart, the good and the bad in life (always keeping it real), and my journey of trusting God with my dreams!

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Let's Catch Up

One of the fun things about the end of the year is looking back. Reviewing the goals. The dreams. The fun moments. The painful moments. Using those as guidance as you head into the new year. And dreaming new dreams and setting new goals.

It's not exactly the new year yet, but I'm impatient and would really like to review my yearly goals. God was faithful this year. I'll never have anything different to say because He's always faithful. In a separate post, I'll focus more on the bad and good times of this year and what God taught me. Today, I want to review the goals I set here in this blog post. I'd also be super interested in hearing your goals for this year as well as the next and how God is working for you, so make sure you reach out to me in the comments.


Goal #1: Decide if sports are my thing or not.

Completed - They are not.

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I did quit basketball. Yes, I quit. I'm not one of those people that thinks you can never give up on something because that's not always true. I like to look at the big picture of things, and honestly, after careful review of my life and where I want my life to go, I just don't see how basketball, something that as I grow older is going to get even more competitive and time consuming, is going to benefit my life. I always did it for fun, and I really did enjoy the time and memories spent on that sport. But it's not a just for fun thing anymore, it's becoming more serious, because everything does as you get older. Only the people that really want that are going to be in it as you get older.

And I'm not one of those people.

I don't consider myself to be that competitive, and I'm more timid, shy, observant. Being in on the action really isn't my thing; I'd prefer to watch. Because I'm a writer. That's what I do. That's what I want to do. That's the talent and gift God has given me; I'm absolutely positive of that because the passion has not once died since I first wrote terrible stories when I was eight years old; it has, in fact, grown stronger over time as I found what I wanted to write about, the stories I loved to tell, and my own writing style.

When you're sitting at a basketball practice dreaming about how much time is left and what you're going to do to your next story, I think that's a pretty good indicator of where your passions are. And with the insane, hectic schedules and growing pressure, I just thought, what's the point? What's the point losing my mind over something I won't go that far with--and something I don't WANT to go far with it? And I do not regret that decision to quit.

I still love to work out. I like running on my own time but, once again, not competitively. And I still do my own workouts because I like exercise and staying fit, and you don't have to be in a sport to do that.

And I still love junk food. Some things never change unfortunately.


Goal #2: Makes Sparkles by Ashlee a brand that points to the hope of Jesus.

Not Completed - because after changing my mind millions of times, I want this blog to be a blog, not a brand.

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I always went back and forth debating whether or not I wanted Sparkles by Ashlee to be a blog or a brand. A brand is more like a website type thing, where the blog wouldn't be the main focus. I decided the brand can come later in my life; for the time being, Sparkles by Ashlee was created as a blog, and for right now, it just needs to stay that way. But one thing is definitely staying the same: it will always point to Jesus and the hope through him. This post helped me discern how I wanted to be real and keep this site a blog.


Goal #3: Get some of my writing out there.

Not Completed - due to a lack of busyness and priorities.


This year, I was busy just trying to keep up with my blog and managing my priorities while trying to still write books. If I could get a system going to do all of that, then maybe short stories would be something I could do, but I think for the time being, I need to focus on my novel writing and maintaining this blog.


Goal #4: Get Uggs.

Completed - and I LOVE THEM!!!

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Uggs are the comfiest, prettiest boots ever, and haters gonna hate, I don't regret getting them at all. They are simply incomparable to all the other boots I've owned. I might just wear them the rest of my life. Like they're on my feet right now as I type this, and my feet are in utter bliss. All I can feel is comfort. It's like walking in clouds. So if you've ever wondered what it feels like to walk in heaven . . .


Goal #5: Grow in my relationship with the Lord.

Completed - I will write another post about everything, but this one was definitely completed.

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I will write a post like this one I did last year where I recap the year and how God worked through it, but I will also do one specifically for what God revealed to me this year. It's funny, because every time I put these goals on to grow closer to God, I know it will happen, but I never know how, and I never know exactly how MUCH I will grow. I grew a LOT this year, and I give God all the glory for that. I was also surprised and kind of in awe at some of the situations and things He orchestrated perfectly to grow me closer to Him. That's all I will say for now, but stay tuned for the full recap. :)


Goal #6: Go to a Minnesota Wild game.

Not Completed - Haha I wish. I need a credit card for this to ever happen.


But honestly, I am not too happy with my team. We didn't do so well the end season of 2016, and then they were all saying they'd turn it around in the Playoffs, which was basically a joke. And this season? So far more of the same. I don't care, though, because I still want to go to a game, and my cousin Kir and I have a certain someone we want to watch. ;)


Goal #7: Get better at saving money.

Haha you can go read what I had to say about this here because nothing has changed. Maybe I can get a job this year though???


Goal #8: Redo my room.

Completed - for the most part.

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Most of my room is done! Yay!! I got a new nightstand, new bedding, new decorations, a new way things are organized. . . . I just have some finishing touches to make and, unfortunately, an entire closet to clean, but, I'll get to that eventually.


Goal #9: Create a bucket list to survive Canada with no internet.

Completed - and I actually didn't need it!

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That was such an awesome trip. It was definitely one of the highlights of my year. Read part one here, then part two, and part three of the recaps.


Goal #10: (a) Completely finish my book and (b) publish it.

Completed (a) - Yay!!! (b) - Not Completed

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I totally finished EVERYTHING with my first novel (read about that journey here). I don't have any revising, editing, perfecting, or anything else to do on it.

So I thought.

One of the great things about time and learning is that sometimes you can look back on your own writing and (a) think it sucks and (b) see a million different things you could do differently or a lot better. I guess that's the beauty of learning, and I'm definitely thankful for writing growth. Unfortunately, I'm thinking I needed to rewrite the book. I mean, I did finish it in December 2014, so I was only eleven.

We'll see what God has in store for it this year.

One thing I've really had to learn is to be thankful where God has me now. For the longest time, I've always thought I NEED to publish it. NOW. But I've honestly learned to embrace where I'm at right now. The book will be published when God wants it to be. Sometimes I worry too much about how far my writing is going, and it just takes all the fun, passion, and purpose out of writing. I wrote some of those observations here.

Too much of my life and my writing career has been spent on being the best or being well known. I don't care about that anymore because I know all of that--popularity, fame, whatever--is meaningless and insanely temporary. I wrote about that and other thoughts in my post over jealousy.

Rewrite my first novel.

The thing about my completed first novel is that while I think in a lot of ways it still sucks, I really do like the story, and I think that instead of just throwing it out and continuing on to the next story, I want to enhance this story and make it even better than what it is. So I would really like to go over this novel, brainstorm some new scenes I can add to make the story come alive even more, rewrite other scenes, and just edit it again with what I've been learning.

Write two more novels.

I have only five million different ideas for books, but I have these two storylines in particular that God has spoken to me immensely about it. In fact, while my first novel summed up all that God had teached me 2014, what was originally going to be my second novel--one that I've had ideas for since 2015 and really need to get going with--sums up everything God taught me in 2015. And now, just this summer, I got a good idea for a plot based on a situation I'd witnessed take place, and God has really spoken to me so much about that, too, and I think that sums up everything I've learned this year. I pretty much have both of these all planned out, and I have so much material from them that I want to write both as soon as possible.

Begin my first book series.

I have a series I've also been wanting to write for what seems like forever, based on my own life and everything I've learned. I want to start working on that this year and hopefully get a lot of those books started.

Get a job.

I would really like to start working somewhere. I still think it'd be cool to make money online with my blog, but realistically, that probably won't happen yet.

Learn to drive.

And 2017 might be the year I die. Also, if I live long enough to survive learning to drive a car, I'm still dreaming about my dream car, aka my summit white 2016 Chevy Equinox. It's going to happen one day.

Completely finish my room.

I still have to clean some areas, rearrange some other things, and there's still some decorating dreams I have. Like a chandelier! I also need to buy some things, including but not limited to: a white dresser with four shelves, white curtains, a white fluffy rug, yes, I want a chandelier, and a king size mattress. I'm especially serious about that last one.

Create my brand.

I would love to do some things to actually create my brand, though I will always keep Sparkles by Ashlee as a blog. Some things I want to do to take action on that:

  • work on creating a website, even if I don't publish it for awhile
  • create a newsletter
  • use my Facebook account to promote blog posts
  • be more consistent on Twitter
  • engage with more people on Instagram and create an account just for my mission
  • publish a short story - I'm actually working on one I'm really excited about!!

Just write.

I want to write way more on this blog--whatever God lays on my heart. So hopefully I can post at least once per week, but above all, I don't want to put pressure on myself to do that. I just want to write. I think the best way for me to do this is write whatever--my daily observations, thoughts, etc., and publish what God wants me to.

Pray. Pray a lot.

I've learned a lot about prayer this year, especially the importance of it. I've been keeping a journal of key moments in my life where God is working and even just answers to the littlest things. For example, I suck at art. Art class was so stressful this year, haha, but I managed to get an A- at literally the last week before grades were turned in for the trimester. And another time I got a perfect score on a project I'd worked hard on and what I'd hope would give me a chance to share my views on important things. And just today, I've been struggling in my math class, and we had a test a week ago, and I knew I had to get a good grade to boost my grade. And trust me, it needed to be boosted.

I thought I did good. The problem with math is that I never say that because every time I think I did good, I don't. So I was thinking, I'll probably miss about five questions, but hopefully that can still get me a decent score. I prayed the entire time I took the test, and I still prayed as I waited for it to be graded. Today in study hall I checked to see if the grade was put in, and I about had a heart attack. I had a perfect score on the test. And my grade was raised.

Of course, there have been times I've struggled--many times this year in fact--and it doesn't seem like God is answering me or working on my problems. Let's face it, not everything ends like the perfect score situation.

But I can say, 100%, God has never left me, even on my darkest nights. And there have been dark nights. There have been lonely nights. But I saw this quote just the other day that said with Jesus, you will never know what it's like to be alone. And that is so true. On the darkest days, He's there. Guiding me through a bad grade, a difficult assignment, another lonely day, a day of heartache, a day of doubt. Always He is there (Deuteronomy 31:6). Always He cares (1 Peter 5:7). And always, sometimes in the littlest ways, I get to see a glimpse of how He is working. Like today with the math test.

I write these things down. I've also gotten better at being totally honest and real with God because He does care, and the Psalms portray honesty all the time. When I'm impatient, I tell God that. When I'm angry at someone, I tell Him that. I even ask Him to hurry on some situations, because David did that in the Psalms, too. I tell Him about my deepest concerns, sometimes concerns that aren't directly my problems, but they still bug me, and I know I can pray about them because I've been told to pray about everything. Isn't this verse amazing?

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.
— Philippians 4:6 NIV

I love this verse because I've been convicted of how sometimes I place limits on God, or I don't believe He cares or can work through a situation. Let's look at this one situation. I saw it on the news; it has absolutely nothing to do with me other than the fact I just heard about it because it occurred nearby a place I visit. This situation reminds me of 2 Samuel 11, if you read about what David did. I won't go into specifics, but basically, evil was done, sin committed, and two young lives along with everyone who knew those people will now suffer the consequences of that sin.

It's a perfect example of a dark, depressing, hopeless situation.

It has nothing to do with me. I don't know anyone involved. But I do know God. And something my pastor said last Sunday hit home with me. The more you know and love God, you start loving His people (1 John 4:20). And I'm not just talking about the "good" people, the ones you see in church. I'm talking about EVERYONE. Even the most offensive sinners.

So I pray for this situation, I pray for the person who committed the sin especially because I know how full of love God is (1 John 4:8), and because of that, God has taught me what it means to love people. So I pray. About this situation. About situations in my own life. About anything God lays on my heart. God is capable beyond what I can imagine (Ephesians 3:20). So I get honest with Him and pray bold prayers. That's one thing I seriously want you to do in 2017: pray like people's lives depend on it, because, they do. Pray for people you can't stand, situations that look impossible, etc. Pray about all of it. Philippians 4:6 says to pray about everything.

Travel somewhere.

It doesn't take much for me to be content when it comes to travel. While I definitely would love the opportunity to travel, I'm not the girl that dreams of going anywhere and everywhere. I'm content where I'm at, but of course I want to see the world. But seriously, my idea of traveling would just be going up to my grandparents' house and staying with them for a few weeks again. I love doing that. The time spent with them is priceless. So I pray I can do that again this year.

So . . . how did you do fulfilling your 2016 goals? What are your goals for 2017?