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.

ashlee-grandparents.jpg

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

breakfast.jpg

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…

hardees-sliders.jpg

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…

cookie-waiting-room.jpg

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.

car-ride.jpg
estherville-iowa.jpg
ice-cream-cone.jpg
ashlee-grandpa.jpg
ashlee-car-ride.jpg

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!

pizza-hut.jpg
brownies.jpg

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.

ashlee-okoboji-emporium.jpg
ashlee-okoboji.jpg
ashlee-dressing-room-okoboji.jpg

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.

ashlee-mirror.jpg

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.

signature.jpg

Talking About Dreams and Waiting

Talking-About-Dreams-and-Waiting-Sparkles-by-Ashlee.jpg

We all have dreams, and a lot of us are not good at patience. That's me! Lately I've been wanting to do so much with my blog. I want to start making money through it. I want to get paid to write about products/events I love. I want to make my blog a big thing because people can get book deals that way. The list goes on.

photos I found from over the summer - nice and bright, a reminder that through the hard times come amazing things with God

Making money through your blog as an adult is hard. Making money through your blog as a kid has to be even harder. There's taxes and legal work I know nothing about, I still need to figure out ways to make this blog profitable which can be done through e-courses (that are lots of money), and then there's that big what if people would even take me seriously. Nobody's ever said this to me, but I know sometimes people think kids change their minds about hobbies.

Sidewalk-and-Sunshine.jpg

And they do. I do. But this is not one of them. I've loved to write since I was eight years old. I've had a blog for over a year, and despite not getting a whole lot of success, I've kept at it. I'm always thinking about writing during basketball, school, running, and just about my whole life. I'm always dreaming up new ideas for books and new ideas to better my blog.

this might be cheesy, but I like it anyway: the trails sometimes get dark, but eventually you'll reach the openings with sunlight raining in - God is with you along the whole trail though

this might be cheesy, but I like it anyway: the trails sometimes get dark, but eventually you'll reach the openings with sunlight raining in - God is with you along the whole trail though

I am 100% serious about this blog. Maybe some think a kid can't be, but you just got proved wrong then because I am. It's easy for kids to get bored of something and give up when they're not getting instant success, but not me. I could have done that a lot of times with this blog, but I haven't because I know God has a plan. I'm not giving up.

Lake-from-the-Trail.jpg

To me, your passions are something you can't stop thinking and dreaming about. It's that activity you return to again and again, and writing is that activity for me.

Ashlee-On-Bench-by-Lake.jpg

I have three big dreams that I am actively pursuing every day of my life.
1) To publish a book - I edit my current one a little each day, and I type five hundred words of this new one each day.
2) To grow this blog hugely - I want to get a lot of readers. Who doesn't? The main reason for that goes with dream three, but it's also because I want a community, and I want to make money via blogging. I do, and it's not wrong to want that. Blogging is a job for a lot of people. Some people earn 10,000+ dollars a month doing so. It also opens up so many doors - it's a great thing to add to a resume, and you want to know what else makes me ecstatic about it? You can get opportunities such as
- participating in special events
- going to events FOR FREE to promote them
- interviews and publicity
- a book deal and more.

perking up at that book deal - what'd you say?!

perking up at that book deal - what'd you say?!

I want a book deal. I want to get my writing out there because my third dream is to be a light for God. I know I can do that with His help. Part of why I want to make money is because it will help me save for things coming up like a car and ways to improve my blog.

Ashlee-On-Trail.jpg

It's a huge dream I have, and I love to pursue my dreams. I hate the feeling of not working at my dreams. Making money blogging is something I really want to do, but let me be honest: I have no clue how.

yep, walking away now

yep, walking away now

I get that you need to email brands and what not, but in terms of actually doing that? So that's why there are e-courses. There is a class I want really bad, but since I am a kid, it's a lot of money for me. I know it'd be oh so worth it, but I don't really have the money to buy it.

Ashlee-On-Trail-Under-Sunshine.jpg

(Some might also argue I don't have time, but that's not true - I make time. I schedule my blog posts on the weekend. I plan ahead. I know how to work around time.)

Sunshine-While-Walking.jpg

Making money blogging is gonna be a hard dream for me to reach right now. Some might say I should just wait until I'm older, but that's not going to happen. I may not have until I'm older, and think of the things God could do RIGHT NOW.

Sunshine-While-Sitting-Outside.jpg

But that is where I have to trust Him. I want to make money blogging. I want to grow my blog. I want a book deal. And I want it all right now. That's where patience comes in. I'm not good at that, especially when it comes to my dreams. I think I need to be working at it right now, but sometimes we just have to let God work. And sometimes that takes a long time.

"God is never in a hurry, but God is never late."

I am going to keep doing research on making money blogging. I am going to save for some resources that I know could really help me, but until then, this is what I have. I have the ability to write, this blog as it is now, my family, God is still always with me, and I have life as it is right now. I'm going to make the most of that, and I know God will help me in my dreams. He has good plans for me, He has good plans for you. Appreciate what He has you doing right now, and pursue your relationship with Him. In the end, that's truly all that matters.

But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.
Luke 12:31 NIV

These Random Little Dreams | Link Up

These-Random-Little-Dreams-Sparkles-by-Ashlee.jpg

I'm finally doing a link up everyone! I'm so excited about this one! As you all probably know by now, I like to dream, and I'm not afraid to say that. I believe everyone needs to have dreams that align with God's will and then also to be passionate about them. Anyway, welcome to this fun little link up! Want to participate? Here's how it's going to work!

- List any random dreams you have swirling around in your mind that people probably don't know about. They may be in the future or just something you'd think about doing for fun. What I mean is, don't say you have a dream to start a blog when people are reading your blog! However, something like turning your blog into a business would work if it's something random you'd like to do one day, realistic or not!

- They don't have to be something you're dying to work towards right now. They don't even have to be something you're sure you'll do, but they can be. The point is random dreams.

- You might be confused on that, so basically it comes down to this: what are something you've thought of that would be cool to do? What's something one day you'd like to accomplish? Tell us.

- I'm going to list three dreams I have. You can do three, or you can do thirteen. It's up to you. I would ask that you please do at least three, though.

- Last but not least, don't be afraid to share these dreams! They're yours, not somebody else's. And they have no right to judge. Also, remember to keep God at the center, even if it's not necessarily a dream that includes preaching. It could just be a job you want. Still keep Him at the center. He loves you and wants to be a part of your goals, and if it's His will, no one will get in the way of them! So pray to Him every day about your goals, and seek His guidance. I promise, when you do this, He will help you on your journey of fulfilling dreams.

I haven't really told anyone about these three dreams, so here we go!

Sparkles-by-Ashlee-Three-Random-Dreams.jpg

1. Consultations

One thing I would love to do is meet up with people and do consultations. I would offer three different types: for the blogger and designer, for the writer, and for the dreamer. They're all pretty self explanatory. I would even travel to meet up with someone, but I'm not sure how that would work finances and all. The client would probably have to pay for that stuff like a bride does for a wedding photographer, but then that would get expensive, and who knows if anyone would actually wanna pay that much. I guess I'd have to be on top of literally everything, ha!

2. Editing Business

I like to be the first to make things up, but this is not the case when it comes to businesses. It stresses me out because of all the legal work and such, and if I have this brand new idea what paperwork do I need to fill out blah blah blah... But it's not happening anytime soon. Anyway, I would like to have an editing business. Not as a professional editor that works with a publisher, but like someone you go to for proof reads before sending your book off to a publisher. I would consult with you and basically be like a teacher before you actually take your work somewhere. I'm seriously thinking about doing that for a job one day, but that'll probably change. In second grade, I decided I wanted to be a pet groomer. I love dogs and all, but there's no way I'd do that now.

3. A Beautiful Life

I really like life. Sometimes I get mad over dumb things. Sometimes I worry about things that are pointless. And sometimes life itself seems like it has no point until Jesus comes, but I've learned that's not true. I want to take what I've learned in my faith and life journey and turn it into something. There's this really cool website called Society6 where you can design things, and it goes on different items like phone cases, bags, mugs, pillows, etc. I think it would be so cool to take a really picturesque photo I've taken and then put a quote over it. Despite having to get verified and stuff, this is probably the most practical dream on here and something that could actually happen. We'll see. Right now I want my attention on my blog.

So there you go! I want to see what your dreams are! Join the link up below!

✧sparkles, ashlee✧

Let's Catch Up

Lets-Catch-Up-Sparkles-by-Ashlee.jpg

While you hold your cup of dishwater * ahem, coffee * I'll stick to my sundae while we do this little virtual drink dishwater around the table and talk about life type of deal. Because this is what I like to do, at twelve in the morning, when my grandma is begging me to go to sleep.

Excuse my horrible lack of writing.  Seriously, why have I done such a horrible job? I love blogging. I just edited a super pretty picture when it hit me.

Okay, grab your cups of dishwater, I'll be in the minority again, and we'll all talk about life. I'll start the conversation here, and then you keep it going in the comments. Ready?

A lot of kids in my school ask me questions like "Is your book published yet?" etc. etc. I really like how kids actually remember that I'm trying to publish a book and they ask, but alas... No. It's not published yet. I think there's some confusion between finishing a book and actually getting it published. Just because I am done with it does not mean it's going to go get shipped off and prettied up. As much as I wish that would happen * because revising sucks * it's not going to. I have to make it pretty myself, so it actually can get shipped off. Writing term for that: revising.

I am almost done revising, though. Then comes editing. Editing should not take me long. And after editing comes more revising + read throughs, which I call perfecting. Then, when all of this is done, I have to do some homework by writing out summaries, query letters, etc. Then I have to make a list of agencies I'd like to beg to buy my book. Then I wait for rejections. Millions of them. Our mailbox will break. I'm trying to be super negative here and prepare myself for the worst. Maybe then it won't happen, or maybe our mailbox will seriously explode off its post.

Let's transition to blogging now. I've been lacking horribly to keep my posts close together. Again, I know there are no when I have to blog rules, but I'd definitely love to blog more. It's hard though, because I want my content to be meaningful - and that requires some effort. You have to revise content just like a book. You also have to edit the images just right, and blah blah blah. It's worth it to me, though.

I'm excited for some new summer blogging activities I have planned. They are still a surprise, but I might start giving hints through my newsletters. I will be blogging more, promise! This is not an end, but simply a beginning.
with love, ashlee*

Writing, Motivation, + More

Writing-Motivation-Plus-More.jpg

Welcome back! Now it's time for the OFFICIAL 2nd post of this blog.

I thought I'd give you all a writing update for starters. I am working on a novel* currently, it's a little over halfway done just meeting the halfway mark. Okay. I need to get my butt in gear, but I do have a pretty good start.

*Don't ask me how many words a novel is. It's probably not a novel. I'm aiming for around 40k words, so what is the word requirement for a "novel?"

If I were honest with you, I haven't been doing a lot of typing AT ALL this summer. I have been too busy** with the following:

  • working out stuff for a website,

  • designing other stuff, like a blog my friend and I do,

  • and my mom needed a design too,

  • and then there was vacation,

  • and other stuff where I seriously was busy.

**Busy might not be the right word. It's more like I'd rather do anything than type. I did not just say that.

So... Unfortunately no news today that I got an agent. YET. Hey, it'll be the holidays celebration all over again just when I finish my book. Because, I've never done that. I start something, then delete it. But I feel confident in this storyline. I've day dreamed too much about it becoming the next big book or a movie. A girl can dream right?

Enough with my head in the clouds. I really should* type.
*Should but not gonna. That's my problem.

I need to lighten the mood here. I mean who wants to read a blog where all I talk about is how horrible I'm doing with my typing?

A few posts that I'm hoping to put on the blog this week:

-my faith: more details on why I do what I do
-my writing routine: how I plot, write, draft, & more
-having a purpose: a post where I talk about a point of view I have on something
-and also a fun summer link-up. (:

So stay tuned! The best posts of this blog are yet to come. Today I mainly just wanted to share a writing update. If you're on Facebook, please like my page here and maybe share my blog too so we can get some new attention and followers. (: Thank you soooo much for stopping by today!