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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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I Want to Hear Your Thoughts | Reader Survey

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

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

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

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

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What Web Design Has Taught Me About Life and God

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Welcome Back!!

Hi everyone!! Thank you so much for coming back to my blog that has been inactive since June 2017...!!! I really am so sorry for that; I never wanted to quit blogging for that long, so I am stoked that I can finally blog again. I'll attempt to explain my absence in this blog post, but this is truly like a flashback to January 2015 when I had to take a two month blogging break because I was busy designing my blog and rebranding it. I don't even know where to start!!! I'm already almost done with my freshman year of high school, which feels surreal! It seriously feels like each year goes by quicker, and this impatient girl doesn't necessarily mind that because I'm looking forward to things like college, publishing my writing, etc. But then I'm also learning to appreciate each moment, because there are some things I'm not looking forward to, like getting a job, learning to drive...ugh.

But gosh do we have catching up to do! I have so many posts I want to share over my faith and what I've been learning, so many stories I want to tell you all, and obviously, writing updates also.

I suppose we should start with why I was gone! You all probably thought I died. Thankfully I didn't, and I'm back with this blog being pink and sparkly as always! (Sorry, that's one thing that will never die.)

Okay, so, my last post it looks like was June 2017, in which I announce my hiatus from social media. That was probably one of the first things that caused me to take a break from blogging. I think I put too much pressure on myself to be writing super long, intellectual, perfect blog posts that will help people and contribute to something in their life. Because that seems to be what blogging has become. If you're not giving a tutorial in your blog posts or sharing something practical that can help people, then you're not making worthwhile blog posts, right? Wrong. I miss the days when bloggers just used to write about their thoughts and life. That was more helpful to me than some how to post or anything along those lines, because I was making connections with them and I felt like I could relate to their life, and they entertained me with their writing.

I talked about in this post, also, all of the pressures I felt to blog this way. And I think, honestly, that's the reason I stopped blogging for so long. Because that's not me. I don't want to worry about making how to posts for things; I just want to write about my thoughts with faith, life, and everything else. As a writer, I really do believe in the power of words, and I hope that when people read my blog, they can take a break from the stresses of their life and be entertained for a little while or, more importantly than that, that maybe they can even be inspired in their faith, which will then help them face the stresses in their life.

Because that's my goal in life and my goal as a writer: to inspire and entertain people. I don't want to entertain people in the sense that I help you escape from your life. This world has enough fluffy crap you can read if an escape is what you want, and that's not in and of itself bad—sometimes I like to read books and movies just to get a mental break, too—but I also think there's a fine line. This society has a literal OBSESSION with entertainment, and for so many people, it's like a drug. It truly is something they do so that they never have to deal with the pain of life—buy a million books, buy travel tickets, go shopping for luxury items you'll put on a credit card, buy season tickets to sports games, and the list goes on and on. And don't get me wrong: it's not a sin to go shopping, or to travel, or to a sports game. But it can be a problem when you buy all of these things just because you're desperate to get a high off of them.

So, do I want to entertain through my writing? Of course. But I also want to be authentic and real with you, and so I'm going to share my faith and write about deep, serious topics because as a society, we need to do a better job of facing the pain in our lives instead of trying to hide it and run away from it. And maybe if I open up and be real, it will inspire you to do so, also.

So that's where I want to go from here. I did end up deleting all of my social media, and I thank God I did, because it was truly destroying my mental health. I remember on Instagram, specifically, I would be looking at these people's profiles, and I would be literally shaking because it made me so upset how people portrayed their highlight reel of life, as if every day was full of traveling and hanging out with friends and the like. So I needed to be done; I just can't handle inauthenticity like that. It's becoming the norm, and I just shake my head at that. The only social media I did decide to keep was Facebook, because the other day as I knew I was getting close to finalizing my blog again, and I got to be thinking, how are people even going to know my blog is up again if I'm not on anything? So I decided to keep that; I figured I owe you all that much. :) My Facebook page is here!

Since I'm only on Facebook, it takes away so much of the pressure the other social media did: I don't have to worry about creating a bunch of images for Pinterest or Instagram; I don't have to send out five thousand tweets on Twitter to promote my posts. I'm all about marketing yourself, but once again, I think there's a fine line. There comes a point where I just have to write and then trust God to get my writing in the eyes of people who need it, instead of me tirelessly trying to promote myself and then in the process, getting sick of writing altogether.

Going forward from here, I am saying this to keep myself accountable: I'm not going to worry about planning out so many blog posts. I'm totally a perfectionist, and so I just overthink everything when it comes to my writing, and then that's usually why I only had one blog post coming out per week (if that!) because I have other responsibilities, too, so it just got pushed back. But now, I just want to share my thoughts. They may not always be perfect or articulate exactly what I want to say, but the whole point of me starting this blog even as a kid, was that I just wanted to share my observations on life through what I was learning. No how to posts. No fancy intellectual posts—those can be fun to write, and you'll see some of those sporadically, but again, they're super time consuming and don't necessarily reflect the authenticity I'm trying to shoot for with this blog.

I'm honestly going to try and update this blog every day, and once a week at the very least. Because really, I learn something everyday, and now since I've been gone forever, it's probably going to take me blogging everyday just to catch you all up with everything that's happened! I'm honestly so looking forward to it. I hope you guys know that me taking a break was in no way because I had given up on writing or that I stopped enjoying writing this blog. I have loved writing on this blog over the years, and I'm so thankful to God that He's given me this blog that hopefully gives Him glory.

So here's a little snapshot at what's to come in future posts (I'm putting this on here partly so that I can keep track of everything I want to share with you all, haha):
✧ things I do to renew my mind
✧ posts on topics like how I learned to show mercy, for example
✧ my views on some current social issues
✧ sharing some of my favorite quotes
✧ what I've learned through things like my favorite movies
✧ posts on deep topics like anxiety
✧ psychology and how it applies to life
✧ another letter to my future husband because I've been dying to do that ;) (first one here)
✧ and a ton more!
✧ basically, just my life, thoughts, and faith

I also have to say something real quick, too: this blog covers a lot of deep and oftentimes controversial issues. My blog posts are my opinions, and of course, I try to be educated with my opinions and have the facts to back up why I think a certain way, but at the end of the day, they're my thoughts and you can do as you will with them. If you don't agree with me, that's fine, but it's just a fair warning so that people don't come on here and get nasty about things in the comments or whatever. If you don't like my writing, then of course you don't have to read it, but the one thing I won't tolerate is hateful comments. Thankfully I haven't had many instances like that, but it's just a little disclaimer I have to have.

With that being said, two other reasons that contributed to my absence that I forgot to mention: anxiety and my photo site that I use to design images for this blog.

My freshman year was terrible in terms of anxiety; I've always had some anxiety throughout my life, and I've always been a worrier, but it was really bad this year, for whatever reason. I think it stripped a lot of motivation away for blogging, but now that I'm back, that's yet another thing I'm looking forward to writing about. It's not that writing about anxiety is fun, but I hope it can be another opportunity that I can share my own struggles in hopes to help you with yours. Because as much as it has sucked dealing with anxiety, God has taught me a lot having gone through it. Really. I didn't think there was a lot I would learn through it, but there has been, and I know it will make me stronger in the future. I think it already has.

Ah, and then there was this site I use to design my images. I had been using them since the very beginning of this blog: clear back to 2014 and actually maybe even back to 2013 or 2012, as this blog wasn't the first time I'd gotten into designing things like that. And it always used to be free! I mean, sure, there was an option to pay monthly if you wanted to be able to use all of their features, but you still had features to choose from and could make and download images for free.

UNTIL 2017.

No, in 2017, they got the wonderful idea to make me pay monthly just to SAVE my images to my computer. And it was like $10 per month! Sure, that may not sound like much, but keep in mind I'm just a broke little freshman. I don't have ten bucks to spend every month on making my images.

So it took me forever, but finally I bit the bullet and bought it because I couldn't live without my pink and sparkly images. The reason this blog has had a password is because, ON TOP OF ALL THE OTHER REASONS I LISTED FOR MY ABSENCE, I was trying to do a rebrand of my entire blog. I just got to be thinking that well hey, when in doubt completely redo your blog design! (I have done this since I started blogging, for those of you who are knew; it's a problem I still haven't solved.) I was thinking I should pick new colors, new everything! So I came up with some color palettes on Pinterest and then sent out a survey on Twitter with the different options and asked which palette people thought would go with me/my blog best. I should also probably mention that my original colors—pink and gold—were an option in that survey.

And what did they pick? The pink and gold. So nothing has changed! And you know what, I think I needed people to pick that, and it's God's way of saying that I need to get a grip on the whole changing-my-blog-design-every-week thing. But I am content for the time being now! Next week, probably not, but oh well, I'll deal with that. At least now I have a blog design and I can write, and I'm thrilled about that.

But seriously, can you just imagine me with my house one day? I have this same issue with my room, where I constantly change my mind on the colors and overall look of it. My mom is fed up with me; she says she's going to decorate my room if I don't figure things out soon. But yeah, with my actual HOUSE? I will probably change the decorations and look of things every month. My husband will probably want to kill me. So yeah, maybe learning to get a grip now would be the wise thing to do...? I still have a couple years until buying a house, we'll see if I can learn to be content with my blog designs in that time...

Last but not least for this post, I want to show you all what I updated and where you can find the info you may happen to need or want if you want to creep on me or something, which I won't judge you for because I do that all the time to people. I would be lying if I didn't say that part of the reason I got back on Facebook was because I missed creeping on people. ;) My family tries to guilt trip me for this, saying that I "stalk" people, to which I reply that if people don't have their accounts private, it's simply using your resources, case closed. ;) (Part of the reason I "stalk" people is for writing research, and, well, some of it just because I'm nosy... But sometimes I do have a legitimate reason...)

My About Page

Go here if you want to stalk me, er, learn more about me, and you can read my whole "story" and testimony of how I became a Christian and basically my whole life story. I'll make using your resources easy. ;) Because God knows I hate that feeling when I'm doing writing research and have read every article there ever was on a situation and still can't find the info I need.

Frequently Asked Questions

I brought this page back so that you could easily ask me a question, you know, in case you're like me and have read every thing you could and still can't find the answer to your question. ;) If there are questions that a lot of people wonder, they'll be posted there.

Journey/formerly "Resources"

I combined my old "Resources page" with all of the posts that basically go over my writing and faith journey, as well as the best posts of my blog. Once again, use your resources. ;)

Writing

This page is very much a work in progress, but it's where I will put all of my writing/writing updates for easy access.

Contact

Last but not least, my contact page with a form and my email should you need to get in touch with me. And don't hesitate to!

I think that's everything I wanted to say in this first post. This reminds me of starting the first draft of a new book; I have about ten million thoughts in my mind and have no way to organize them except by simply beginning to write. And speaking of first drafts...I have been productive in the sense that I've begun my second novel! I will share details on that in one of the next thousand blog posts I have on my queue. ;)

Maybe I'll just have to send out ten posts in a day? Well, now that there's no pressure and I'm completely abandoning all the blogging "rules", why not?! Haha, we'll see, because unfortunately I still have homework I should probably get to...eventually...

I really am so grateful that I get to share my writing with you all, though, and I'm thrilled to start up again. Don't hesitate to comment below or get in touch with me elsewhere about whatever it may be; I LOVE hearing from you all and it's been FOREVER since I have! :) Thank you again for your continued support over the years. Many, many blog posts to come... Get ready and have your Facebook feed brace itself. :)

Ashlee Mae

Faith, Funny, and Fulfilling Dreams

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Welcome back to the new site! You'll want to look around at some of the new pages, but stay tuned because there's actually way more work to be done. As I mentioned earlier, this site is now a blog and a WEBSITE, too. I'm going to be updating a lot of the pages and creating some new ones I've always wanted for a website. I can't wait to share them with you all.

I thought I'd go over what I chose to be my main focus of the blog or my niche. Now whoever goes to the blog, it says right at the top "Faith - Funny - Fulfilling Dreams". I go into depth about all of those on my new homepage, and they have always been the main focus of my blog. But my blog has gotten a little all over the place, and I want to really focus on those three things.

Those are why Sparkles by Ashlee was created.

It doesn't mean that I can NEVER post about anything outside of those things. I'll still write about a hockey game I went to, and I'll still do "Let's Catch Up" posts. This just means I want to focus more on the three topics I decided are going to be my focus. I want Sparkles by Ashlee to be known for those as not just a blog, but a brand. And it starts on the blog.

So this is going to be my new direction! I'm super excited about it. That survey I sent out was also a huge help in deciding on this. Thank you all for filling it out, I could still use responses, so if you haven't done it yet, please do! Your most favored posts to read were under these three categories: Faith, My Life & Mission, and Random. Obviously I am going to be keeping my faith posts, and I will definitely still be blogging about my journey, because it's just getting started. I wasn't sure what you guys thought of the random posts, you know, the ones where I blab about random stuff or what's new in my life. I'm still trying to limit those, because let's face it, those are BORING. I'm still going to keep them because they were funny and held memories, so instead I'm going to be calling them "Let's Catch Up: Post Title". Because that's what they are - time for us to chat.

I have a lot of book news to announce, and a lot of my new pages are going to be based around my books. Book news such as: totally finishing my current book, beginning a new one and the details about it, entering a contest, and so much more. God is good, and He has a plan. Above all, I'm thankful He allows me to write and that I get to do it as much as I can. It never gets old to me. Obviously that's a lie, we all have days we'd love to shoot our books and writer's block, but um, MOST days... I still come back to it, and I always will.

I also have always dreamed about Sparkles by Ashlee being more than a blog, I want it to be a brand known for its faith, funny, and fulfilling dreams. I don't know what I want to do with it yet, but I want it to be a brand for my writing and my faith. God will give me opportunities when He sees them fit, and I'll listen to Him. In the meantime, I'm excited to grow my brand. It's going to be so cool to come back and look at all this in years later.

I think that about wraps up what I want to say. As always, thank you all so much for being apart of this. I know I say it a lot, but I really do mean it. It means so much that you all tune in and listen to what I have to say. I hope that you get closer to God and are more inspired to pursue your dreams with God's help. This life is short, and I don't know how long I'll have (I always think I have like a day because I'm a huge drama queen about things, especially disease, and my mom is like, "Ashlee, you think you have every disease known to man," so yeah). But I choose to trust God anyway, and despite the mess I am of sin and such, I want to share the hope Jesus offers us. None of us deserve it, but we got it anyway because of God's amazing love. That's something to be shared.