What to Do When It Hurts

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There have been numerous occasions throughout my life where it seems all I’m able to do is breathe, and maybe even that doesn’t feel possible. Some situations are really ugly, feel really debilitating, and knock even the strongest people to their knees. Nobody gets exempt from pain in this life, regardless of the facades they may put on.

I feel like I am finally free from a long season of recurring hurt, some of which could be attributed to the typical teenage emotions, but really, that was the icing on the cake of dealing with trials that run far deeper, ones that seem endless. But that is proof again of how no season lasts forever, even the bad times won’t be there to stay, not when a person has Jesus. But in the midst of one of those ugly seasons, what is a person to do? Sometimes even with faith, life can feel worthless and unbearably painful. And if you really feel that way, then I do encourage you to get help from others, because there are people who can help you with those feelings. If you genuinely do battle depression or something along those lines, please reach out for help because like I talk about in this post on anxiety here, there isn’t any shame in that and sometimes it’s necessary. I can’t and won’t make this post about medical advice; all I can do is share my struggles and how God has helped me through them. And I’m praying it will inspire you, too, because even the strongest people go through times where life doesn’t make sense and everything hurts.

Contrary to what people believe, it’s not something to be alarmed by. I would be more worried if you’ve had a cushy life, seemingly without big trials, never knowing what it’s like to have nothing to cling to except God Himself. People like that will be brought to their knees one day, and without making God first, it won’t be good. Then again, sometimes people have to fall like that to find Him. We can’t think we’re exempt from that. But there is nothing more beautiful and liberating than that moment where you realize everything has come undone in your life, and now all you have is God, and it’s just you and Him, and there’s this amazing sense of conquering the world even though everything is a mess. That’s called His peace, that’s called knowing He is all you need, that’s called having the best joy in the whole world because that’s what it is—pure happiness that the world is a mess and there’s not a thing you can do about it except trust God. I’ve been in those moments, and you think you’re going to be freaking out, losing your mind, but you’re not. If you’re in God, He won’t let you. That’s when He’ll pour out His joy in your heart. Everyone else may be hysterical, and you’re the happiest you’ve ever been in your life. Why? Because you’re sadistic? No! Because that moment of total surrender, of knowing you don’t have to be the one to fix things and that the God of the universe is instead fighting for you at that very moment when you need it most is one of the most glorious feelings in this life!

That’s something a pain-free life will never give you—if you even want to call that life pain-free, because anytime you’re doing life without God happiness is just a fleeting pleasure, and pain is by default the norm. I don’t mean to sound harsh with this, but I have to be blunt. I absolutely can’t get on this blog and write about temporary crap that might help you be happy, because it won’t do a dang thing if it’s not accompanied by an authentic relationship with God. I talk more about true happiness in this post here, but God is our Maker, so of course to be happy, we have to be walking with Him.

In those moments of overwhelming pain, it can sometimes be hard to even know where you stand with God. I know I’ve felt that way. Even just recently when I’ve gone through some stuff, I feel so out of control, so everything feels out of control, including Him. And then I accuse Him of not caring for me, of not helping me. But that’s never the case. My grandma has had to remind me several times, that when bad things happen, He’s not the one doing them. That’s such a common misconception people have, and it can be easy to have. It seems natural that when something goes wrong, God made it happen, because He didn’t stop it, did He? But that’s, again, not the case. God looks at trials very differently than we do, and in His eyes, trials are not a bad thing. That’s not to say that He doesn’t think horrible things that happen aren’t horrible—because He absolutely does. But He uses trials to shape us. We should expect them not because He causes them but simply as a result of living on an earth plagued with sin. It’s only natural. But we should handle them differently, because we know more than anyone that this world isn’t going to remain the way it now is, and that even through the darkest nights, God has already won the battle (more on this here)! He’s already taken care of it! Just because you can’t see that, doesn’t mean He hasn’t.

I know it’s hard to think this way when you’re in the midst of something huge. Believe me, I do. And I by no means have always acted like the perfect Christian example in all of my trials. Just recently, in fact, I had a meltdown I am in no way proud of. Sometimes God has given me a strength that surpasses my own understanding in trials, and my character is exemplary. Not so this time. I remember talking with my mom, and literally just about every word that came out of my mouth was a curse word. I really don’t like cursing at all, mainly because everyone does it and thinks nothing of it, and I don’t think it honors God at all. Even so, I’ve been guilty of thinking bad things in my head or letting the occasional one slip here and there, but this time I was going off. And I wasn’t just using the “little” words. No, I was using the big ones. And my mom was like, I don’t think I’ve ever heard you like this before.

Normally I’m not, but on that particular night I was so mad and upset about how certain people acted, about things that kept recurring and never going away. I won’t say I didn’t know what I was doing because I did. I knew what I was doing, and I wanted to do it. And that’s the worst part. I knew I was mad, I knew I felt out of control and distant from God, and it was like I wanted to prove something. Of course, it got me nowhere. Does God still love me? Of course, and I’m so thankful for that. But does He also know I can do better than that? Absolutely.

We can’t justify our behavior because of pain. Everyone has pain, so to think people get a free pass on bad behavior as a result is not okay. But thankfully, God can help us do better. And why would we not want that? Just because we are out of control never means He is. He knows exactly what is going to happen before it does. And because of that, one mistake doesn’t have to be the end.

Because nights later, when I was extremely upset and frustrated again over the same thing, I was pacing, trying my best to talk to God instead of stewing about things. Anyone who’s actually felt that knows what a burden that is to carry anyway, to be mad. It’s not worth it, but sometimes necessary. But that’s why it’s so important to let God have it. So I was talking to Him, and I walked out into my kitchen, and I just had to breathe. And I stopped and I just became conscious of that fact. I’m breathing, breathing just fine. You know why? Because I am just fine. What God is listening to me tell Him does not define me and does not define my life. Is it painful? Does it upset me? Yeah, a whole lot. But it’s not the end. It’s not everything. I just had to stand and breathe and literally feel the strength God poured into my veins, that beautiful feeling I talked about at the beginning. Of knowing despite my rampant thoughts and feelings, I am doing just fine. I’m better than fine, as a matter of fact. Considering the circumstances, I’m doing great. Because He’s promised to make sure of that, to provide for you, to fight for you. But you have to let Him.

Moments before I felt this, I was accusing Him instead of merely venting about things: I was venting and then turning on Him, saying I felt so far away from Him, how I didn’t understand why He wanted me to hurt like this, etc. etc. And I said I didn’t feel Him, didn’t feel Him talking to me or telling me what to do. So finally I’d had it, had it with being mad, had it with fighting a battle I knew I would never win. So I sat on my bed, and I just told God, what do You want me to do? And then a verse did flash in my head: Philippians 4:6-7.

It’s a verse I’ve quoted many times before, but I’ll quote it again:

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
— Philippians 4:6-7 NIV

But notice how there is something God was telling me to do in there, as a prerequisite to that peace. Present your requests to Him. With thanksgiving. That is huge, that content, thankful mindset.

Because most of the time, that’s half the battle. We construct ideas in our head that we’re somehow exempt from trials and then get entitled and angry when we do go through something. I know that’s how I felt on this particular night. I thought it shouldn’t be happening to me. I shouldn’t have to deal with it. And granted, that may be true. But the world is sinful, and we don’t yet live in a world where people are exempt from heartache. And it was my expectation that life should be better that was really getting me down. But when I thought about that verse, it did hit me. How many times had I just wanted to be done? Fed up with the world and life? But how could I be so blind to how good God has made my life? That’s the real question. Because the truth is that none of us deserve a dang thing. Pain should be a constant in our lives because we deserve it. We’ve all sinned against God and brought this curse against ourselves. But God in His amazing love isn’t going to leave us to suffer in that. He doesn’t owe us anything, but He chose to do that. He chose to die for our sins, to lift us from that curse. And if we are in Him now, we’re not a slave to sin (Romans 6:1-7). That alone is the best gift in the world, to have that perfect relationship with God Himself. Anything else He gives us is extra blessings we also don’t deserve, yet God gives freely because He’s the perfect Father, and that’s what they do.

I haven’t had a bad life by any means, despite the trials. I’m not going to have a bad life. Trials come for seasons, but seasons don’t last forever. Literally speaking, the winter we are hopefully coming out of for good here in Iowa was horrible. But these last few days have been beautiful, dream weather, the kind that makes everything seem right in the world. Nothing bad will last forever.

And for those of us in Christ? We don’t have to worry about anything no matter what season, because we know that He’s going to get us through every single one and make everything beautiful in its time. There will be warmer days. There will be better days. But with Him, every day can be good. He’s the only One who can heal a broken heart, and on your worst of days, He’ll be right there with you. And your best of days, He’ll be right there with you. And a true Christian does not forget about Him once they enter the lighter days. No, those days are sometimes what brings us even closer to Him as much as the bad days because He’s walked you through that journey and now brought you those gifts of wonderful days, and you see Him at work through all of it. Everything good in this life is from Him, so it’s not a sin at all to enjoy good days. Let the good days keep you even closer to Him. Because this is life, the cycle of bad and good, but with God:

Everything ends up being for good. And you just have to remind yourself of that, allow Him to remind you of that. That’s what you’ve got to do when it hurts.

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Disappointment | A Reflection

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I’m no psychologist (though I am taking advanced psych right now, which is everything I hoped it would be), but if I had to hypothesize about what distorts people’s minds the most in life, it’s disappointment and rejection. And by distortion, I mean the things that stay with you and have the potential to influence how you think and behave in a negative way. The things that stay with you and hurt you and give you the potential to hurt other people—if you let them, that is. Of course there is always the choice to overcome the bad things that have happened to you, but many people struggle with this, and I think especially so when it involves two of these feelings, which at many times overlap with one another.

I had something that happened to me recently that felt like one of the biggest letdowns. I’m sure we’ve all had those moments before; you look ahead to a certain moment or event and think it’s going to give you some sort of completeness and joy, and then something comes up and screws everything up. There are so many things in life that God has blessed us with to give us joy, but completeness is one of those things people have to be careful with because anytime someone expects something to fill one of their deepest needs, it literally invites disappointment. That’s why it’s so crucial to trust God with those deepest needs because He always delivers. I almost said that God will never disappoint, which IS true, but I have to be honest, there are times where it doesn’t feel that way. If we put life in perspective and look at the grand scheme of things, which I did upon getting some upsetting news that led to my disappointment, you get this beautiful view of life that examines it and says it doesn’t matter. Disappointments and rejection, that is, do not matter, not when you have God. He’s bigger and so much better than even the worst trial and can give you peace through literally anything. When you take time to calm your mind and conflicting emotions that arise in intense situations, you get that supernatural perspective.

However, emotions can feel paralyzing at times. I know when this event happened to me and I heard about it, I had to be strong for other people, and before I could even pray and process it myself, I actually did feel this sense of calm and peace that certainly came from God just when I needed it, and I had the strength needed to speak wisdom to others. I wish I felt that way all of the time, but being human and at times broken myself, that didn’t last forever. When the reality of it all had time to sink in, I was left with an overwhelming sense of emptiness. It felt debilitating. In fact, I remember feeling abandoned by God altogether, which tends to be the natural response whenever disappointment surfaces. That feeling, let me tell you, is one of the worst ever. It’s one thing to feel abandoned by people, but to feel abandoned by God makes you feel hopeless. So many of the Psalms talk about feeling abandoned by Him, though, so you’re not alone if you’ve ever felt that way and it doesn’t make you a bad person, AND most importantly it doesn’t mean that He actually has. He never leaves your side, though sometimes He lets us struggle with our emotions so that we can humble ourselves and grow closer to Him. I know it’s easy to wait for big, showy reactions from Him, but He works his greatest powers through even the seemingly most littlest things that end up working behind the scenes to coordinate things in your life that you don’t even comprehend. It does make you wonder how many things we take for granted that He’s worked behind the scenes on or how many things He currently is and you just have no idea.

I remember John Piper had a really good quote that I know is so true, about how God could be doing thousands of things in your life, and you are probably only aware of a couple of them.

I think that’s what we just have to remember in the midst of disappointment. It only tells one story. And it may seem heartbreaking, but you have to look at how some of the most inspiring and beautiful things in history have first started out looking depressing and irredeemable, but behind the scenes, God works everything together to make it beyond special. Look at the death and resurrection of Jesus Himself. Emotions can make us feel crippled, but tell yourself that God is greater. You don’t have to feel Him all of the time because feelings only tell a part of the story, too, and He’s there anyway. You get the strongest perseverance in life through those nights where all seems hopeless. The sooner you can learn that in life, the more peaceful, joyful, and mature you’re ultimately going to be.

There’s a song I heard recently that is not in any way associated with faith (so don’t get mad at me if my interpretation of the lyrics is way off hahahaha), called “Night Changes” by One Direction. I love One Direction, okay, and this song from what I gather talks about how a night can set off one way where you’re going on a date or something fun like that, and then something comes up that tries to ruin it. But the overall message seems to be that even when things come up and the night does change, it won’t change the relationship of the two people involved.

Like I said, hopefully I’m not way off on this and that song is not X-rated like one of my favorite songs of theirs when I was at the ripe age of 10 and had no clue as to its actual meaning until now…BUT I do not think that is the case with this one, and I think it can be applied to our relationship with God. Even when things come up and try to steal our joy and happiness in life, it’s never going to surprise or hold back God, and it is never going to stop His love and careful watch over our lives. It is never going to stand in the way of His joy and peace that we can have no matter what.

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By the way, to all my girls, the One Direction music video for “Night Changes” is absolute gold… Five cute boys each take you on a date, what could be better? Look it up and thank me later, it’s the little things in life. :’)

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My Thoughts Lately

Oh my gosh you guys I am so sorry it’s been over a month since I’ve posted….. I’m not on another hiatus, at least certainly not by choice, but I’ve been more busy than I ever have been between balancing the workload of school this year and then taking driver’s ed, too. Thankfully that is about over—I just pray to God I pass ***I DID THANKFULLY—UPDATES LATER IN THE POST***. But needless to say, a lot has happened since then, in my faith and in life. So I’m going to recap all of those things now as well as things I’ve been learning along the way… And then hopefully I can start getting back into all the other posts I’ve been planning, like my second letter to my future husband, and yeah, all that good stuff. ;)

First off, I would be lying if I said it hasn’t been hard, though over the last month, I’ve seen a significant change in my thoughts that God has helped me with, and I’ll go into that later. I’ve been trying hard not to be so stressed because life truly is short, and if there’s one thing that’s been evident to me lately, it is that God always works things out, but there have been some legitimate times that would cause any person stress. In terms of my extended family, we’ve been hit with one of the hardest trials I think any of us have faced yet. It’s led me to do a lot of reflecting on life as a whole as this trial is closely tied with life and death, and that puts things into perspective. Now it’s been a matter of seeing all the things I’ve previously believed about the meaning of life become reiterated on how true they are—and then living that out at a time where it’s absolutely crucial to do so. I know we all would appreciate prayers with this because it’s really hard, but I have been amazed by the faith of people like my grandparents, who are a couple of the people impacted most by this. They have been such a witness to people, as they are true definitions of people with authentic faith. You seriously can tell how authentic somebody is by how they respond to trials. I’m not saying they don’t ever have breakdowns or times where it doesn’t hurt because it absolutely does and would cause any sane person an excessive amount of stress, but it has not stopped them from pursuing their hope in Jesus or from witnessing to others. And they really have, especially to someone like me, where very little goes unnoticed.*

*That may be a half truth. I always thought I’m an observant person, but I went to my friend’s volleyball game, and evidently she tried to wave at me and I never knew, so! I apologize for all the times I’ve blown people off like a snob; my head is in the clouds far too much.

Upon reflecting on some of my own stress and still having to go to school and function like a normal person and meet constant deadlines, here is something God laid on my heart that I took note of:

You know you have the peace of God when everything around you should leave you crying hysterically and unable to function but instead you’re up and you’re not crying and there’s this sense of feeling good inside of you that makes absolutely no sense given the circumstances and moods. It makes no logical sense but it’s there and it’s undeniable.

You get it through humbling yourself, by reading His word, by talking to Him as often as possible. And then He works in your heart and it catches up.
— My note

I have been honestly amazed by the times it feels like any other person my age would lose their mind, and instead I’ve felt downright happy, almost on top of the world, even though my world could be crashing. But that abnormal feeling is exactly what God promises for His followers: it’s the John 14:27 peace He’s promising for anyone who is in Him, the peace that sustained His followers through their darkest times repeatedly throughout history. And even though my trials may feel insurmountable, they’re seriously nothing compared to some of the horrors that Christians before me have went through, yet they acted amazing and did not give into sin or pressures of the world. They are my inspiration, and my prayer is that my life can reflect that, too.

And you CAN obtain that peace. It comes from developing a relationship with God. So many people say they believe God gives that peace and that they personally have tried to find it but still feel incredibly stressed in situations—situations that I think, to be blunt, are just drama compared to what some people go through. And then I look at their walk with God, and I’m like, well, how serious are you, really? Because these are the people who go to church when it’s convenient and otherwise spend no time with God save for their prayers that are purely about their own problems. A) I am not saying prayers about your problems are always selfish, but I am saying when that’s all you pray for and the only time you give God attention and never just because of who He is, then yes, I think that’s selfish. B) If you are not dedicating yourself to God everyday, why would you have His peace? These are the people who just want to use God or use Christianity as a social label or insurance for heaven, and it doesn’t work that way. The very essence of Christianity and the whole purpose of why Jesus died for us is to connect us to God, so we can have a complete, intense relationship with Him. So if you give Him your time when it’s convenient or when it looks good or when it’s fun such as during retreats and games (which again are not bad but can be if that’s the only time you give God attention), then would you honestly call that a relationship?

And if you don’t have a relationship with Him, WHY would you have His peace? His peace comes from knowing and enjoying Him, from the faith when it’s hard, from the readings in your Bible even when you don’t feel like it, from the diligence of praying for things you already have a million times. THAT is when a relationship with Him is built, when good seeds are sowed, and that is when you really develop that relationship through good and bad that sustains you through anything. But don’t think you can give Him attention one day out of the week or between five second prayers about your problems and then experience that peace, because you don’t know God, so why would you know His peace? I know this from personal experience. When I am so stressed to the point where I can hardly think—which has happened to me about thirty different times over the past few months, no lie, about stupid things—it truly is because I haven’t been devoting myself to God. That’s the hard, honest truth, and I’ll be the first to admit it. But when I focus my attention on Him? It’s amazing, the changes that happen. It’s why I can’t stress this authenticity enough. People act so shocked when they fall apart during trials because they claim they had faith, but I’m like, well, if your faith was only as good as going to church every Sunday or talking to God when it’s convenient, that just isn’t enough as the purpose of being a Christian is that you’ve died to yourself and live for God—ALL OF THE TIME. And again, I’m not saying you don’t ever screw up, but your heart is right with God, and He helps you back on the right track because you feel that conviction.

We were blessed in spite of all this to still create some special memories, though, and get to do fun things. On one weekend, we went up to Estherville again (read all about that town here) to see my grandparents.

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In the meantime, I became addicted to these. I actually bought these thinking they’d be chocolate overkill and therefore disgusting, but no, they’re actually amazing:

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AND I got the most gorgeous (and most expensive ha) notebook to add to my expansive collection, BUT IT HAS MY NAME ON IT so what’s not to love?! This is actually my writer’s notebook, so it’s a comprehensive notebook consisting of everything from novel ideas to blog post ideas to character development ideas to song inspiration. I’ve been needing a notebook like that, and I’m certainly getting my money’s worth with how much I’ve already wrote in it.

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See, isn’t Estherville beautiful? I had fun getting to see some cousins of mine, and also I spent a majority of my time outlining this notebook, which was a tedious process as I’m a perfectionist and this is the prettiest notebook I’ve ever owned, so it has to be perfect. ;) This is the Swinging Bridge we were on that goes over the Des Moines River.

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There have been so many little things that have stressed me out where God has always remained faithful. I ended up being sick pretty early in the year for multiple days, and missing a couple days with my workload is like missing a month, so that had me stressed beyond measures. BUT there would be times where I may not know exactly what I’m doing, but somehow manage to get a high score on an assignment. I pray for favor, and I know my mom and grandma do that for me as well, and it just goes to show how God honors that. I’ve had to do a lot of reflecting on that because it’s turned into a pattern, where I stress excessively about something and somehow it works out. In fact, one day after learning how to park in driver’s ed (a huge stress for me haha), and it went way better than I thought, a verse I read in Psalms came to mind: “The righteous person may have many troubles, but the Lord delivers him from them all,” (Psalms 34:19 NIV). That has been so evident for me. It oftentimes feels like problem after another, and I just think, well, once I make it out of this, or that, etc. But then I am reminded of what God revealed to me in my prayer here, that life is a series of good and bad and the only joy that can be found is knowing and enjoying Him in the right now. He works the rest out. :)

The next weekend we headed up to the Cities for some much needed and cherished time with family up there. That visit was wonderful, and I loved having another opportunity to connect with my two cousins Kirsten and Amanda, who are like my sisters. Read all about them here in this recap of the fun things we did in Okoboji and the Cities last summer. We were leaving right after school for a weekend, so the downside to that is since it’s a five hour drive it made for a long night, BUT I got to do something I absolutely love: seeing city lights at night. I don’t know why that appeals to me so much, but it always has and always will. Going through Des Moines at night is my fave, too. But I’d never seen Minneapolis illuminated at night. I got some decent pics; what I really need is better camera quality haha. On our way up, we stopped and ate at Wendy’s by Cabela’s (of course the boys had to go there…whoever said men don’t shop has never been with them there for hours ha…).

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And I just walked around being conceited as always and trying to find photo opportunities and expensive clothes to buy and daydreaming about my future husband probably and if I’ll go through the same with him ha. You know, the usual ;’)

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Here are some of the best pics I could manage, even though they weren’t as great as they could be:

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All of that of course put me in a very contemplative and wistful mood because then I started dreaming about where I may live or what job I have, but the whole visit really put life into perspective for me, and I decided, while praying to God on the way there as we passed through the glowing city, that this needed to be my prayer through it all:

I pray that all the success I get in my life may be used to glorify You, God, and that I can have success for Your glory. And help me to have a positive attitude and know that You will use me, I just have to be patient.
— My prayer

We got to stay in a hotel, which thrilled me, because I just all around love the hotel/city life. A random side note is these flip flops I got—they were the only shoes I wore the whole weekend, and I absolutely love them. I picked them up super cheap at some JCPenney store I believe, and for the price they are very comfortable and add that sparkle I need to any outfit. :)

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Another random note is that I think it’s cool they have a Bible in the rooms like this. My brother asked me if I was going to read it, and while I didn’t get around to doing that, I think it’s nice that each room has that. It’s what people ultimately need, and cities often make me think of where different people are at in their lives. Everyone needs Jesus, though, and everyone needs the hope He alone offers, so it is appropriate that they have that. It also reaffirmed my dream to have a job where I can (a) travel to various cities and (b) stay in hotels. I think some job in business communications would be good for me if my dream to be a millionaire author doesn’t work out ;D Luckily an English or communications degree can open doors for both, something I definitely am going to pursue.

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That night I did some really deep thinking and deep writing; I’ll have to share some of that in a later post because this one is already turning into a book. I had an awesome visit with everyone, though, and got to see my two fave girls!

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Headed back to the hotel

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I do love working in hotels

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Except I always get distracted with shopping :’)

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My dog while I was sick

The good news is that lately God has helped me get my thoughts aligned with His, which I am so thankful for; it was something I prayed over here. For example, I’ll use body image. That’s something I started struggling with heavily since entering high school, but God has been showing me just the encouragement I need to combat that unhealthy mindset. I read Kylie Bisutti’s book I’m No Angel and have also looked into her blog and interviews, and God has used her to help me immensely. She was a former Victoria’s Secret model who actually left the modeling industry to pursue her faith. The advice she gives about body image and the insight she has on that horrifying industry is exactly what I’ve needed to hear—and essentially what people have been trying to get through to me all along. But it finally clicked, and I’m so thankful. I’m actually learning to have godly confidence—not to be arrogant, but not to always put myself down, either. Going off the example of body image, just because I see another pretty girl doesn’t mean that I am not, necessarily. And that could be with anything: writing, school, etc. God is teaching me not to be so competitive and just to trust Him with opportunities in life. I’m very grateful for that.

Another fun thing—well, fun for the time being—was getting to go to Iowa City to consult with my jaw surgeons. That is unfortunately going to get worse before it gets better, but I was thrilled to check out Iowa City since I’d never been before, and I got to go shopping, so for right now it’s all fun and games, and for right now, just let me stay in denial, thank you.

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So when it comes to the Hawkeyes vs. Cyclones debate, I’m personally a Cyclones fan, haha. Which is totally against, like, everyone in my family… But for whatever reason, ever since I’ve been little, I’ve wanted to go to Iowa State. My grandma and I have had some fun trips over there to this one bookstore I love and just driving by the campus, which I am convinced is the prettiest. But we’ll see… Iowa is known for its writing program, so I might convert… Might…..

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Kinnick Stadium, home of the Hawkeyes

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My mom and I walked around for a little bit after my appointment, which went very well. The downtown and traffic was actually dead for whatever reason, but I know Mom was in heaven because she had been terrified about the driving.

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Then we went to the mall of course :)

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I got these adorable stationary items my mom picked out for me that I can’t wait to add to my collection and a tee from PINK.

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So I suppose I should also talk a little bit about driving. Well, I was stressed to the max every single time, but again, God remained faithful. I did have one traumatic moment… All I will say is that I-80 sucks, but I passed thank God, so I’m more than happy for that part of my life to be over.

And here is Kylie’s book that I got signed!!! She is so sweet and such an inspiration in faith. I would recommend her book to any girl; it sheds so much insight on a world that is portrayed as being glamorous when the reality is far from.

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Another thing we did as a family was attend an Iowa Wild hockey game with some of the Minnesota Wild players in it. Unfortunately my fave Zach Parise couldn’t come see me but whatever… Oh my gosh I don’t even remember if I told you all this, but I actually got to see him!!! Last December, he came down to play with the Iowa Wild for a night to see how he was recovering from an injury, so of course we got tickets on a whim because Zach Parise coming to Des Moines is an opportunity one should never pass up. SO I GOT TO SEE HIM!!!!! <3 I went down by the glass with my brother, and we were so close to the players. He actually waved at this little kid next to me, but of course I got nothing… :’) And Mom with all her practicality of course was like “well he’s married so why would he wave to some teen girl?” Well, some actors have been known for teasing their fans even if they don’t actually mean it, so he could have still winked at me but again, whatever. ;D

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Zach Parise <3

Well anyway I hope he never reads that… The game was still a blast, though, as they always are, and I know Mom enjoyed me badgering her for food and to take my picture by this window I’m in love with because all.the.city.lights.

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This is really random, but I think this bridge would be a good place to be proposed to on. Maybe, I don’t know? I’d really like to walk it sometime, I know that much, and for whatever reason it just seems like an ideal location for that.

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I also want to go driving around at night in Des Moines just to see the lights, which may or may not be a good idea, who knows, but I’ll definitely be having someone drive me haha…

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I’ve loved the fall weather these past months, and one night we got to have a bonfire.

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Willy has also been doing a good job hunting. <3

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It’s also worth mentioning that I embarrassed my mom with this picture in the middle of the grocery store aisle. ;)

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And though you can’t see it very well in this picture below, over the summer I got this strawberry pink winter coat that I adore:

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AND these booties that Mom thought were quite obnoxious, but once I saw them I knew I had to have them… :) I am SPARKLES by Ashlee after all!

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I also want to start trying makeup haha. I bought a lot last year but never use it because I’m too lazy to get up in the mornings to do it. I’m also unsure of exactly what type of makeup I should use…like blush, foundation, bronzer…? I know a lot of girls are way more knowledgeable about this than me, so leave me recommendations please! :) My mom was trying to put some mascara on me in the below picture, but I can’t hold still because I thought my eye was going to be gouged out, so I ended up wiping it off and then taking this mirror picture like the conceited girl I am. :’) But seriously, leave me makeup recommendations that don’t break the bank please, and I’ll let you all know how that process of me doing makeup turns out…

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But I ALSO HAD ONE OF THE BIGGEST HAIR WINS OF MY LIFE… You know, God is very good at surprising me with the little things, and He totally did with this. I left my hair in that bun pictured above and slept in it like that, and then the next morning I pulled it out and got my dream blowout hair… It didn’t last long, but if I would’ve used hairspray then we might’ve been onto something… I took about two thousand pictures of myself with it, because oh my word, it made my day. I’ve wanted curls like this since I watched Big Time Rush as a kid and saw some blonde with curls like this…

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I also got a whole stash of pink ornaments I’ll be putting in my room eventually, because my room can always use some more pink as you can see! :D

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My mom and I also got to spend a nice day together for an appointment. We want to go to an Altoona outlet mall in November for some Christmas shopping, and I’m thrilled for that. Getting Mom to shop with me is a hard job but is always worthwhile!

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And so of course while we were in the city we did do just a little of this…

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And I think this recaps about everything. I would love to hear from all of you now: what have you been up to lately? What are you struggling with that I can pray about/write about? What future posts do you want me to write? I love and appreciate your feedback, and thank you so much for following along with my thoughts and adventures! xo

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I Can't Sleep

Sometimes you can't sleep.

No matter how tired and worn out you are, sleep will not come. Sometimes this is part of facing the consequences of looking at your phone for two hours (haha guilty as charged; there's no better time to check Facebook than at eleven at night). Most of the times it's because of fear and relentless anxiety as you lay there mulling over everything that is uncertain. Sometimes it's for downright funny reasons like the story I am about to tell you, when the urge to check Facebook is just too much. ;D

Quite awhile back I was up in Estherville with my grandparents. I always sleep with my grandma, and I probably keep her up way too late when I'm playing on my technology haha. But one time it was actually HER that woke ME up. And it was one of the funniest things . . .

Grandma loves to be on Facebook. She says she doesn't, but she totally does. And she has no idea what she's doing, which is even better, ha. But everyone likes to tease her about it saying that she is addicted. I don't know why she needed her phone in the middle of the night, but she did. And this is what happened.

I don't know what time it was. We were in our room, and the bed was in the corner. I was right next to the wall, and Grandma was on the other side next to her nightstand, which is where she kept her phone and also where the lamp was. But the lamp was off. Why she needed her phone, I have no idea. She's moving around, though, and the room is pretty much pitch black, so I can hear her rummaging around trying to find her phone, and I wake up. I look over and see her on her side reaching for the phone. And I'm half there, and I despise being woken up, so I'm like, "Grandma, what are you doing?" Translation: what the heck are you doing that is more important than my beauty sleep.

But I am so glad I got woken up because what happened next is priceless. You just had to be there to witness this, so my apologies if this doesn't come across as funny as it actually was. I hope you can visualize well. :)

Okay, so, I'm listening to her grasping for her phone, and then finally I hear something tumble to the ground. Which would be the phone falling off the nightstand and onto the carpet. Oh my gosh, I'm dying just thinking about this again. There is never a dull moment with my grandparents.

I hear Grandma mutter something, and then she's trying to turn the lamp on, which is also nearby, but since it was so dark, Grams couldn't see anything. Then I hear a big crash, and keep in mind I still was only half there, so I'm like what in the world... I had no idea what Grams was doing. I thought she'd lost it. Turns out that was the lamp falling to its death since Grandma knocked it over! But it doesn't stop there. . . . 

Then I hear the loudest thud of all . . . and I realize Grandma isn't in the bed anymore. I hear Grandma say, "Ow." I look over, and there is Grandma, sitting right on top of the lamp. And then she tried to get up, but she kept stumbling over the lamp. And she shows me the lamp, which she totally killed, saying "Look." Needless to say we never used that lamp again. :D

Oh, that story just kills me. There's nothing quite like waking up to hearing your grandma fighting with the lamp. And what is my point in telling it?

Sometimes you can't sleep. Worry creeps in. Who knows, maybe someone was calling, and that's why Grandma needed her phone, out of fear for what was wrong. Maybe anxiety is paralyzing you, making you lie there and think about all that could go wrong. Maybe you are wrestling with doubts and problems in your life that seem to have no answer. Maybe grief is killing you, making you unable to think straight.

I don't know what your needs are, but I know you have them.

I don't know what keeps you awake at night, but I'm sure something does at some point or another.

I don't know why, Grandma, you decided to check Facebook in the middle of the night and kill a lamp in the process. ;) But hey, we all know you get violent without that phone.... ;D

On a serious note, though, we all have fear. We all have dreams. We all have sadness, and pain, and anger, and doubts. We all have desires we want to act upon. And we all handle them differently, portray them differently. Some people act like they don't have pain in their life. I think you all know by now I'm huge on keeping it real. I'm not afraid to share what bothers me, what hurts me, how I sin, etc. Because I know we all do. And to me, there's nothing worse than not being able to relate to somebody because they pretend their life is all sunshine and unicorns.

So I'll tell you some of the things that keep me awake at night, in all honesty, so maybe you can relate. And maybe you can soak in what it is God has taught me.

Fear keeps me awake. I worry about losing loved ones. I worry about getting sick somehow (this is probably what I worry about most; ask my mom - I drive her nuts, haha, because I'm always asking if something is wrong with me and do I need to see a doctor again?!). I worry about school, grades, projects, and how in the world I'm going to do XYZ. I worry about my dreams, what will happen if I don't get moving on them, if I don't get to fulfill them.

Dreams keep me awake. Some nights I stay awake dreaming of things I'd like to happen. I dream of what it would be like to publish my book. I dream of what it would be like to be in prison ministry. I dream of how it would feel to see your prayers get answered for somebody to be saved, to know that God used your prayers and witness to be a light for a person and lead them to Him. Sometimes this can be fun.

But it's not so fun as you start pondering all you've tried to do and take stock of how so many of those dreams are no closer to becoming a reality, day after day.

Sadness keeps me awake. I think about topics I see on the news that simply break my heart. Terrible issues like human trafficking. Stories of families being ripped apart by sin and terrible choices. Sadness in my own family. I reflect on my loneliness, my unmet hopes, my unmet dreams.

Pain keeps me awake. There's pain from seeing issues in my life take place. There's pain from broken relationships I have. There's pain from rejection. There's pain from situations I'm powerless to do anything about.

There's anger sometimes, too. Sometimes there are people that simply drive me nuts. There's jealousy on why I can't be used like certain people I know to inspire.

There's doubts. So many doubts. Should I keep praying for this person? They're not my problem, so why should I, especially when there's no evidence God is using my prayers in their life? Was reaching out to this person a good idea? Did I make things worse for intervening here? Does what I do even matter? Does God still want me even after I've failed again at the same sin I battle everyday and swear to try harder at?

I saw a quote one time that said something along the lines of when you're not able to sleep, it may be God's way of saying that now you have time to talk to Him.

And I have never found this to be more true.

We live in a crazy world. There's so much to be afraid of, so much we could stress about. But God tells us, repetitively and relentlessly, not to worry. He's there. He can take whatever it is you are feeling. If you are angry, then you tell Him. If you are heartbroken, then you tell Him. If you are stressed, then you tell Him. EVERYTHING. Talk to Him until you have absolutely nothing else to think of to say. Talk to Him until you fall asleep.

The truth is that God wants you (Zephaniah 3:17). He loves you so much. And when you can't sleep, try remembering that. He loves you. He sees you, and He loves you.

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

Do not be anxious. That is a command. In every situation. Every. Single. One. Pray about all of it. And thank God for His amazing love which cares so deeply about every single part of you. There's no better way to fall asleep than that.

And you won't even have to kill a lamp. :)

When Running the Race Sucks

On Tuesday back in September I had a cross country meet. It's been awhile, but I haven't forgotten the pain it caused me. They have a nice way of reminding me how out of my mind I am thinking running could ever be fun. The meets feel just pretty much like torture. As a teenage girl, I'm prone to exaggerating things. Naturally I'm kind of a drama queen anyway, so yeah. But I am not kidding when I tell you that. I've had some painful experiences in my life where I say, THAT WAS TORTUE. But nothing can quite compare to the way these meets feel.

I'll paint a picture for you while you sit down and breathe normally. Don't ever take sitting down for granted. Don't ever take walking for granted.

So I go to the meet, and my mom was going to meet me there. I didn't have high hopes for how well I would do. First of all, I'm not that good a runner. I like to run for fun. How I just used "run" and "fun" in the same sentence... I don't know. But anyway, I'm not the best runner on my team. Actually I'm probably one of the worst. My goal is just to not come in last! And then when I'm running, I don't even care about that! I just want to not die.

I start walking around with my team and examine the course. I've ran it before, the year before. There is a nice, big, long hill to run. Then maybe fifty loops. Which is an exaggeration. And the heat was so bad. It felt like a hundred degrees. In reality, I think it was around 80. It was very uncomfortable to run in yet not hot enough to cancel the stupid thing!

At first I had a good attitude. I didn't think much of the meet; I thought it'd be fine. Unfortunately, it was more difficult than I thought. When I talked to my mom before the start, she told me she knew God would give me supernatural strength. I had my doubts, but I chose to believe her and reluctantly got ready to enter these twenty some minutes of physical pain.

That's how I'd describe it in one word. Pain.

Everything is fine when you start. For about two minutes maybe, all is well in the world, and then it all goes downhill. Unfortunately, in a literal sense, it actually went uphill. By a lot. It was a stretching hill, and then you become very tired from the start. The rest of the course is pretty easy and flat, but like I said, it was also hot and humid.

Long story short, there's nothing quite like the feeling of your chest being on fire as you gasp for air. There's nothing quite like the feeling of your legs cramping up and becoming so stiff. I always say that I'm going to think about something to distract myself from the pain I feel, but in the actual heat of the moment, it's all I can think about. All I can think about is the next breath I take, the next step I take. I watch myself slowly cover more ground, and there's this war inside of my head with two main thoughts taking center stage: "Keep going, you don't need to walk yet," and "You need to walk now, and maybe it wouldn't be such a bad idea if you pretended to break your ankle."

It's a battle the entire race. Those are the only two things I can think about besides breathing: running and walking.

When the end finally comes, I really do feel like I'm going to die. My legs are completely numb practically, my chest is burning, my lungs are gasping for air they can't seem to take in fast enough. . . . And, sometimes, I literally even wet my pants a little. True story.

So afterwards my mom comes to get me thankfully because I'm definitely too physically drained to go find her. I usually just plop down on the ground and contemplate dying. When Mom comes over, lucky her, she gets to hear me go into full on drama queen mode as I tell her things like, "I'm going to die," "I can't breathe," "I need help," "I can't walk," and, most frequently, "No, I need to pee right now and I can't make it one more second." Yes, that's an actual comment I made, go run five million miles and then tell me how you feel when you're done.

I couldn't help but think as I was done that I did not want to ever go through that again. I'm sure Mom got pretty exasperated when we walked to the car, and I had to stop every five seconds and grip her for support and state over and over how I CANNOT BREATHE.

Oftentimes, we feel that way in life. Discouraged. Weary. Like we could honestly just die under all the trials we're facing. I also got discouraged because Mom told me God would give me supernatural strength, and I didn't feel like I had any strength. The whole race was one big struggle, and I didn't feel like I'd accomplished anything except survive. I would ask God for strength in the middle of the race, and sometimes I'd have to walk afterwards. And I kept thinking, where was it? Where is it?

I can think that a lot about life, too. The world seems to be crashing down on me, and I wonder where God is and if He's even helping me. I would love to say that when I ran, I ran faster than anyone and never felt tired. But that was not the case. I would love to say that during all of my trials I felt a miraculous sense of peace. That wasn't always the case.

Most of the times, it's the little things. The little things God is doing for me when I think I can't go farther. A subtle reminder He is, in fact, there, and He does care. There are times when, running the race, literally or figuratively in life, sucks. And when it hurts like that, I have to adjust my focus. When I'm running, there's one thing I always keep in my head, one thing I have to keep telling myself: keep running. It will be over soon. This pain is temporary. I have to finish. It will be worth it. And if the feeling of completing a race sounds satisfying, think how much more it will be in heaven.

When I think of a book in the Bible that talks about perseverance, Philippians is one that springs to mind. So I've been reading through it, and I found a verse that says just that.

He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
— Philippians 1:6 NIV

God has started good works in us, and they will be completed, though it may hurt now. One thing that running does nicely is gets you in great shape really fast. It is worth it. I could spend blog posts going over this book (and it's only four chapters), so right now I'll just give you a few verses Paul wrote, while in prison, sharing Jesus.

I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
— Philippians 3:14 NIV

We keep our minds set there, to the eternal life that awaits us.

But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.
— Philippians 3:20-21 NIV

And what do we do in the meantime?

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!
— Philippians 4:4 NIV

We rejoice at what is to come. We rejoice at how far God has taken us, and we rejoice that He is with us, even amidst all of our pain.

Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.
— Philippians 4:5 NIV

We need to be a light and kind to everyone, modeling Jesus' love for us.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
— Philippians 4:6-7 NIV

Don't be anxious. About ANYTHING. Keep praying and keep persevering in prayer. And rest in God's peace. And finally, I'm sure we're all familiar with these:

I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.
— Philippians 4:12-13 NIV

God will give you the strength to run that race, and even if you've lost it all, know that God will be there, and He will help. You can still be content in Him.

Also, from a running perspective, good does come after you run. Here's a little slideshow of what I did after I finished running: enjoyed good food/drinks as a reward. Or I consumed all the calories I just burned off. I PREFER THE FIRST OPTION OKAY.

I don't know how you feel about running, but I'm sure we all have something we put effort into knowing that the reward for that is going to be worth it. Imagine what that is for you, and imagine how happy you get when you receive the reward, when you know your hard work has paid off. Now imagine heaven, which is perfect, beyond whatever that something is for you on earth. It's going to be much, much better. Infinitely better.

Also, I had another meet a week from that one. I was super stressed about it because the previous meet had hurt way beyond what I expected, so I just expected this one to be like that too. But I started getting used to it, and it actually went great despite that course literally being one hill after another. You'd climb one hill, descend down it, and then climb another one. But that one didn't hurt nearly as bad. God is faithful. He knows how much I can take. He knows how much you can take, and He will complete the work He started in you.

So keep running the race. It's going to be worth it.