Reflecting on My Favorite Quotes {Faith}

Around this time last year, I started a post series where I summarize some key concepts I’ve learned from quotes I’ve saved that follow truths that align with God’s will. I’ve wrote two posts in that series, and I really want to finish it. I share my struggles with anxiety here, as well as the lessons I’ve learned to deal with it. And I also shared my favorite quotes about fulfilling your dreams here and how I live by those.

I also have some quotes that specifically go along with faith I want to summarize. I’ll try to keep this post short because obviously I’m constantly talking about faith and what I learn on this blog. But a lot of these quotes offer good reminders of the Christian faith we all need to hear. So hopefully some of these can inspire you, too!

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1. Nothing is ever irredeemable.

I love quotes that talk about how God works through brokenness in people and how those people can become some of the strongest when they allow God to take over. I know that has been true for so many people in my family, and I hope it’s true for me, too. I don’t always feel unbreakable every day. In fact, most days I do struggle with some thing or other. But God is always so faithful; there is never a pain I’ve had in my life where I haven’t seen how He’s used it. There are definitely times when I’ve gotten close to thinking I’d never see it. For example, in the first post of this series where I share my struggles with anxiety, I felt like the biggest failure. I thought I was regressing as a Christian and losing all my faith, and I had no idea how that was ever supposed to propel me forward in life.

But now? I can totally see how God used it. Because of my experience with anxiety, not only am I able to understand others better, but I also have a better perspective on life because I know what it’s like to go through life both with and without anxiety and how God can help me through it. That helps me in the future when I get anxious, that helps me assure other people, and it helps me write more authentically. So please know that whatever situation you’re in, God really will make it better when you trust Him with it. I’ve seen some super ugly, heartbreaking situations, and I’ve seen God do miracles through them in the sense of how He works in people’s hearts. And that’s the true meaning of life, is not even gaining external things, but when people’s lives change. If you want any hope for making the world better, it all starts and ends with God. There is no more beautiful thing than watching people’s lives be transformed for Him. I think that’s one way God uses pain, is because you can see how He alone steps in to these terrible situations and revives them. Sometimes you don’t see it right away. I know I’m guilty of looking for showy signs from God that He is working, but honestly, you have to look at those little things He’s doing.

It’s like physical growth in people. When you’re around them constantly, you never notice those changes in height or whatever it may be. But then sometimes it hits you, like oh my gosh, you’ve gotten so tall. And I’ve noticed the same in life. With so many situations in life, one day you just see it. It hits you, like wow, look at what God has done through this, and I didn’t even see it. So just trust Him. It’s so hard in the middle of heartbreak to see what He’s doing, which I talk further about in this post, but you’re not going to see it then. He’ll show it to you in His timing, when you trust Him. So just rest in Him. He promises He will take care of you! I read Exodus 14:14 in my Bible study last night—look that verse up, it’s a beautiful reminder of this.

2. Believe in what God promises you.

His love is always there for you, that never stops. I know sometimes I am guilty of doubting His love when I struggle repeatedly with the same thing because I feel He’s tired of me messing up with that. There is a beautiful quote, though, that talks about how God would rather have us coming to Him when we mess up and believing He still loves us rather than distancing from Him until we make ourselves “better.” Also, I know that doesn’t work, running away from Him like that. Going to God when you fail is precisely how you end up getting “better” because the more aware you are of His love for you, the more you respond in love naturally, and the less place sin has in your life. He is always patient with you. I am so thankful for that. I talk all about His love more in depth here.

Believe that He will do good things for you when you are living for Him! He has good plans for you! Sometimes I get this false idea that because I love God, He’s going to do things to somehow test me or whatever, and these are all bad things I imagine, like never being successful at things He’s laid on my heart or fulfilling my dreams. But that’s when Jeremiah 29:11 is so crucial. His plans are good, not bad! He does care about your desires and dreams! As I talked about in my post reflecting on quotes over that here, they were given to you BY HIM if you are in Him.

The whole point of having faith is you believe that even when you don’t feel it. When you place your trust in God like that, never think that goes unnoticed by Him. Do whatever you have to do to submit your worries to Him and believe His promises. One night, I made a list on my phone of things I would tell myself everyday, whenever I felt upset. These were just simple statements ranging from beauty to dreams to faith in Him. You can’t just hope to trust Him, you have to be intentional in believing what He says. That is also why studying the Bible and what exactly it is He promises is so important, which I talk about here.

One of my favorite quotes says that if we fully comprehended how much God loves us, we would never fear anything. That is so true. So meditate on His promises daily. In eighth grade, when I was so down and upset all the time, one of the things that helped me the most was immersing myself in God’s love. Reading about how He loves me, asking Him to remind me how He loves me, etc. You cannot feel upset when you think about how God loves you. There is an amazing book on this by David Jeremiah I totally recommend, and I talk about it here.

3. Talk to God all the time, just by sharing one thought at a time.

I don’t know how much I’ve addressed prayer on this blog, but one quote I have by C.H. Spurgeon says, “Short prayers are long enough.” The whole point is that no prayer is ever a “bad” prayer. Lots of people, myself included, get the idea that prayer has to be like ten minutes long at a time, or it has to be about “meaningful” things, etc. Whatever the misconceptions may be, the only way you can “mess up” prayer is by doing just that, filtering things from God because you think it’s not worthy of telling Him. Well, He knows it anyway, and He wants you to tell Him. Be completely real with Him. I know I used to hide things from Him. Now I’m the opposite, I say things I probably should never tell Him, like when I’m so mad at someone I could hurt them or I actually swear. Well, again, it’s not like He doesn’t know I’m thinking those things! And He can save you from actually hurting someone if you go to Him in prayer first. ;) Haha, seriously, I’m not kidding, people: He really can handle whatever it is on your heart.

How do you learn to pray all the time? Seriously, just take it one thought at a time, even if it is something so simple like what you’re doing. Make it like a conversation. You probably talk to yourself in your head anyways, so why not tell God what you’re thinking? That’s how you develop that relationship. Before you know it, you’re praying all the time, all day long, exactly how we’re commanded to do. Just because it’s a command doesn’t mean it has to be dreaded. Prayer is such a gift, to be able to have that relationship with God. So treat it like any other healthy, special relationship you’d have with someone who loves you and then some. Because God loves you more than even that person, and a relationship with Him is literally what we are made for.

My favorite quote to end with

There is a quote I love that can be seen so much throughout the Bible as you look at the people who are close to God, that says the people who fall and get back up are a lot stronger than the people who never fall—or don’t seem to, anyway. Don’t feel like a failure if you’re in a hard situation. Just keep doing these three things: remembering nothing is irredeemable and submitting your life to God, remembering what He promises you and resting in His love, and talking to Him constantly about whatever goes through your mind. I tried to pick some of the “main” points or messages I think people need to hear or be reminded of the most. Again, I know I talk about a lot of these things, so I hope this wasn’t overly redundant, but I know I need reminders constantly of these things. I pray they can encourage you, too!

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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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An Honest Post: Me and My Thought Life

Whenever I do a blog post specifically titled "An Honest Post," it's probably really personal to me. I mean, ALL of my blog posts are personal and honest; I make sure to keep them that way, but there are some topics that even I feel more hesitant to talk about, or I just need a disclaimer to be completely real and raw because some things aren't the easiest to talk about, even if I want to. I've done one other post with this title, about my honest thoughts over what I'm like in school. Read it here. That was in SIXTH GRADE, people!!! It's just crazy to think that after this week freshman year is already done. And get ready for an honest post over that, too. ;)

But I do remember coming up with that title for that first post because I knew that really going deeply into my personal issues, such as feeling alone at school, may not be the easiest thing to write about on the internet. I had a lot of doubts because I didn't want people to worry about me or think I needed help, and I didn't want them to think that this had turned into my diary where all I do is whine about my problems. Because that is never my intent with this blog. Rather, the reason I ultimately decided to post those thoughts is because I thought that maybe they could resonate with someone, and I wanted to share how God had worked through that for me.

So nothing has really changed in that sense, this post will be along the same lines. Except this time instead of talking about feeling lonely at school, I'm going to go even deeper and tell you about my thought life! Haha as if you want to know :) No but really, I have learned a lot, even though it feels like I haven't. Dealing with the mind is complicated, which is why I want to pursue psychology, but it's necessary because almost everything is dictated by it.

I mentioned in my post about taking a break from social media here how I didn't like my thought life. That was the summer after eighth grade, and that whole year, really, had been a struggle for me. Don't get me wrong, I had some really special memories also, and in terms of how school goes it was actually one of my favorite years, but just mentally, it was like I couldn't get a grip on my thoughts. I began to keep a journal so that I could document my craziness of one day being completely depressed and the next day as I try to regroup and reflect on everything. My thoughts were just a mess. I had experienced deep sadness before, but what I was even thinking about the other day, was that it seemed like my rebound rate was higher. Like I could sort of just come out of it faster. But then as I got older, these started turning into patterns. And what I've learned about the mind is that once you form a certain way of thinking, it's really difficult to simply break that pattern. Because against my best interests, that's what started happening to me. It just became a pattern. Even when every part of me knew intellectually the truth, it was hard for my heart to accept it because I was so stuck in the ways of thinking.

**Just a note before I go into this: even though I've felt depressed before and it's felt pretty crippling at times, I still wouldn't say I have literal depression. Some people have it way worse than me, where they literally have chemical imbalances, and of course I would advocate for them to get help just like I did here in my post on anxiety. And as always, this isn't professional advice, this is just my thoughts and observations on my personal journey of battling with depressing thoughts. I don't need help or to talk to anyone; I have people that I can talk to and go to if I need it. I've gotten to the point where I think I'm doing much better, and I feel confident about writing this.

Anyway, so I've mentioned that I'm seriously getting into psychology. So the more I got to be thinking about this, I sort of tried to self-diagnose myself. It wasn't like my intellectual ability was skewed when it came to these thoughts. I knew perfectly well what was the truth, and even though I had these thoughts, they never interfered with my life in the sense that I couldn't function properly. I mean, I was crying, like every other night, but even that I had some control over, because it wasn't like I would be sitting in class and just start crying. I always did it in privacy somewhere, and then I would talk to somebody. And don't freak out if this sounds new to you, because at first I did too, thinking that I was literally depressed. But then I would hear other stories about girls, and the more I thought about it I was like, okay, maybe this is just a teenage girl phenomenon. :) And again, I'm not trying to undermine the severity of sadness, but I feel like I can do that to myself because I know I don't literally have severe depression. If I took a quiz about it or something, maybe I would have mild depression. But I also believe that some of it is inevitable, and it doesn't mean you can't function and need to freak out about it. But I'll talk more about that in the future.

Anyway, so I started tracing back to the past. I started looking for where this curve was, where it switched from being some deep sadness that could be resolved the next day to always feeling this sort of longing and emptiness that was followed by a pretty jaded attitude. And then I realized that the curve honestly came around when I turned 13. :)

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Honestly, though, I do think hormones play a huge factor in this. That was when I began getting my wonderful monthly gifts, so that's always fun to deal with. And I've read stories from Christians I respect who look back on their childhood and are like, oh, that year I think I cried every single day, because you're an adolescent and that's just how it goes. :) But it was still difficult for me to cope with after awhile, which is why, ultimately, I'm writing this, is to share how, FINALLY, I'm learning to control my thoughts once again. This is going to be a long post, I apologize in advance... ;) And also, sometimes I like to blog these types of posts even for myself, for two reasons: 1) writing is SO therapeutic, but don't worry, I'll save the deep rants for my diaries, and 2) it really is assuring to look back in time at how I thought. Some of that is actually what has helped me with this. I can look back and see, oh yeah I was crazy then, too, so this isn't anything new. ;) Haha but seriously, it really does help. God can teach me things that you subconsciously begin to forget over the years, so going back and looking is a great way to refresh and remember that you can get through hard times.

So, I turned 13. My birthday is in February, so that would be maybe about halfway through the school year, or maybe a little more than halfway, I'm not entirely sure. At that time, I was in seventh grade, and if you read my post here on my middle school years, I went into my thoughts on seventh grade... Essentially, seventh grade was my worst year in middle school. Once again, academically it was fine, I even remember some of the projects I had that I enjoyed, and really, I did have some good memories made with some friends over the course of the year. But towards the end of the year, things really got bad, because I lost a lot of friends, and suddenly I wasn't just feeling lonely, I was lonely. I'd always felt lonely, clear back to the beginning of sixth grade, and I had some really good friends. But I just craved this deeper connection, especially with my faith, that I didn't get with anyone. But suddenly when I lost my friends altogether, I felt lonely, and then I was lonely. I hardly had anyone, and that was a struggle.

There was also a ton of guilt that went with it. I started wondering about myself and having doubts, thinking things like, what did I do to cause that, and maybe I should've been more this and less that, etc. You start to wonder what it is that you're doing wrong. That hurt me, too. I began to think that maybe I was just unlikable and insatiable, where nobody would be "good enough" for me. And I tried my absolute hardest to be loyal, to be the friend that I wanted. I know I didn't do it perfectly; I could still get sucked into drama, things that I look back on now and ask myself what the heck I was thinking. But then, that's life, and that's middle school.

I wrote about this struggle here towards the end of that year. But I think that's where it all started. Life is hard when you don't have any good friends. Thankfully, I had my family, which definitely made up for a lot of it, but there's still that gap there, and then it made me really anxious because I kept thinking, maybe I'll never have friends, and it won't get better, and I'll be alone my whole life. But I know that's not true. I've made some really special connections with teachers, and I met this wonderful girl who's a couple years older than me, who really took me under her wing and was there for me through all of eighth grade and even into freshman year. I seriously don't know where I would've been without her and the teachers that God put into my life; it would've been an even longer year. And plus, it also made me feel a little bit better to know that I was capable of having human connections, haha. :) I wasn't turning anti-social just yet. ;)

That happened near the end of fall during my eighth grade year. But during the summertime of 2016, I think that's really where it all began. I was able to trace back my anxiety, also, when I was dealing with that, and sort of self-diagnose that, too, and I think that's really important. I remember looking back at years where I felt pretty stable emotionally, and I would go and make lists of the things I did during that year that could've contributed to that. It was just a way for me to kind of help think about what I could be doing differently, and it did help me.

Anyway, summer 2016. The beginning of it was pretty great; we went to Canada for the first time, which was a blast. (Oh, but this year they're going for the THIRD time in a row, and I refused to. The second time kind of killed me; I figured out pretty quickly that fishing all day wasn't really going to cut it for me, so I'm going to MY happy place instead.) After that, though, it seemed like it just went downhill. Circumstantially, nothing had really happened. But my thought life? Yeah... I blogged really in depth about it here as well as what I learned from it. I just started feeling down about everything. The country, people, morals, school, everything. And it was like I couldn't pull myself out of it; I just became obsessed with it. Which I learned is a big mistake. I become obsessed with things pretty easily. I don't like to admit that, because some of those things I am actually passionate about, and hearing that it's an obsession doesn't make you feel very good. But then again, when you're getting to the point where you're depressed about it, you probably should put some boundaries on it.

And, finally, I'm learning and reflecting on ways to do just that, which I'll go over.

But I'll tell you what happened first. I became interested in a lot of different things. One of those that I talked about in this post here was prison ministry and how it was something I wanted to go into. I won't say it was a phase because it wasn't; I still have that desire and feel passionate about that. But going more deeper, I think it was just this overarching goal to help people and make a difference. That wasn't a phase either; I still definitely have that. But I think it was a lot more intense then, where I would get so impatient and frustrated that I couldn't do anything. Then that just sort of morphed into an obsession, and whenever I heard of anyone doing anything I would get jealous and cynical that I would never do anything. That lasted all the way through eighth grade; I wanted to do things and just couldn't because of age or because the timing was off, my absolute favorite. Not. I was impatient then, and I'm still impatient, so I wouldn't be expecting any posts on how to deal with that anytime soon! You guys should be writing those for ME, haha. All mine would have is cry and throw a fit, maybe you'll get your way, maybe you won't. Sometimes I did, but lots of times I didn't. ;)

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So that, I think, is a summary of how I got to where I was. Again, I blogged more in depth about things I learned during eighth grade in this post. Looking back on my journals, those were the things that kept coming back, as well as a couple other personal things, too. The thing that I noticed is that these weren't any new feelings I had. I was feeling lonely in eighth grade, but I can also remember the night before school started in sixth grade, I basically threw a huge pity party and cried to my mom about the popular girls and how much I couldn't stand them and how great their lives seemed to be, blah blah blah. But yet, I didn't turn depressed or get cynical then. So I began to wonder, what changed? ALL of the things that I said had worried me or made me sad, none of them were new. In fact, there were times where they were actually worse, and I coped way better. So what changed?

I started investigating that, and I started taking note of the things you should do to be mentally healthy. Things that tap into each level of who we are as people, like the physical sides of us, and the intellectual, spiritual, etc. There are a lot of great Christian resources out there that my mom shares with me and that I find, too. Ha, if there was one thing I remember doing in eighth grade practically every night was stay up until eleven, twelve, one just reading on my phone, on these Christian blogs where I would go to their topics, find what I was interested in, and there you go, read about it until my eyes are dead. No seriously, my eyes are a mess now and that's probably why. It was the first year I didn't have to follow any time-to-go-to-bed-now rules; I could when I wanted to. Clearly I handled that responsibly, haha.

But really, when I thought about it, there wasn't anything I had done differently or that I had stopped doing. Physically, they say exercise is great for you. I still walked my dog, though not as much, but I also ran a lot during the summer because of cross country. I did cross country during my eighth grade year again, and you can read about how fun that was here. Spiritually, I was actually doing more than I ever had to be close to God: we had found a new church with inspiring classes, I bought a study Bible that was helping me understand the Bible more deeply, and obviously I was READING tons of articles at night haha. So I started realizing that there wasn't a lot that had changed, but I had changed.

I had let the temporary times of being down turn into patterns. I let them fester and let myself grow bitter and cynical, something I wanted to remain committed not to do, as I talked about a long time ago in this post over basketball. Patterns of thinking, really, are what make or break you. I was telling my mom, you know, some sadness and feeling down, that's just normal and inevitable. There are going to be times where I cry and vent about popular girls, or feeling lonely, or because I'm sick of waiting, haha, and that's normal and bound to happen. The problem began when I started making these patterns, when I stopped chasing the light, stopped chasing God for my joy, and instead was bound and determined to seal off the pain by hardening my heart, essentially. Then it became a pattern, and that's what killed it. It's hard to break patterns of thinking. That's why so many people are messed up and why you can't just sweep in and save their life. That takes TIME. It takes God time to break down those walls that people build, to abolish those patterns.

But I'm tired of living with mine. I realize now more than ever that it seriously is a choice. I got so weary of going back and forth, of one day we're high, but tomorrow we'll be low. And I'm realizing that if I don't want to think that way anymore, I have to surrender to God. I can't keep shutting Him out, thinking that these petty things I'll keep for myself. Yeah, I might feel awkward telling God some of the REALLY petty things that bother me, but that's what got me into this mess. Because I don't tell Him, and so then I keep them to myself, and I obsess over them, and they keep festering, and then before you know it, that's a pattern of thinking that gets exhausting and out of control.

But guess what? If you get yourself IN to one of those patterns, you can get yourself out. Maybe not on your own. Probably, definitely not on your own. You'll need God's help, for He's the only one who can fix a mind that's broken. I never understood why the Bible said to take each thought captive (2 Corinthians 10:5). I mean, I tried to obey it, but sometimes I really didn't know why it mattered, why each thought I had was such a big deal.

Ha. I completely get it now. Our thoughts are literally everything; how you think is for sure going to determine how you act. You know that quote that everyone probably thinks is cheesy, over watching your thoughts because they determine your character? Yeah, well, it is so true.

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When I was getting into prison ministry, that was actually kind of a beginning for my interest in psychology, but I didn't know that until later. Because I always wondered why some people behave so badly, or what motivates them to choose to commit a crime. That all leads back to the mind. It starts there, ends there. It's just like when the Bible warns about not hating someone because that's the same as murder (1 John 3:15). You might say, oh get a grip, how can hating someone be the same as actually committing murder?

Well, how do you think murderers make their decision to carry out their crime? Do you think they just wake up one day and say hey I think I'll go kill that person? Usually not. Now I know a lot of them do have some legit mental illnesses, but not all of them do.

For a lot of them, that's how it starts. It starts off by hating someone. And that hatred and anger, when left unchecked, continues to grow and fester—it becomes a pattern of thinking. And ultimately it consumes you, and then you act on it. It's the same with lust, too—the Bible says lusting after someone is the same as adultery. It's true. Adultery doesn't just happen—it starts with a thought. And what you do with that thought is up to you, but let it become a pattern and consume you...it might not be good.

And this doesn't ever mean you don't have bad thoughts. Of course we will; we're human, emotions are a part of our life. But this is why it's dangerous to let them go unchecked. It really IS a big deal, because big screw ups don't just happen. They start off with the little things. That's why I'm so passionate about having good morals, because if we can't have good morals in the little things, what makes us think we can have good morals in the big things? How you handle the little things ultimately is what defines your character.

But about getting out of these patterns, and about what I've learned through all of this. First of all, renewing your mind is absolutely essential. And making sure you're being renewed on all levels—not ONLY spiritual—is something that I think sometimes Christians can forget. Being spiritually renewed is critical, but we're also physical, intellectual, emotional beings, so you can't let those things go, or else you might feel down, and it may have nothing to do with you being distanced from God. I've also learned that going to Him is essential—don't hide things. Even the bad things that fill you with shame. Seriously, God knows it anyway, whether or not you tell Him. And He wants to hear it from you, that's how you have a relationship. That's how you get your mind renewed. It's incredibly hard to hate someone when you're praying, especially when you're praying FOR THEM. Why? Because God is not going to let you hate them. Not when your mind is on Him, and you're filled with His love.

This morning, I was feeling cynical again, just bashing people and not really caring. Yeah, what happened to my lovey-dovey blog posts about unconditional love? They became nonexistent in my mind when I let these thoughts go.

I think that's what really killed my mental health, is the cynicalness. Because I've been sad before and deeply down because of the reality of life, but the thing was, I always had hope, so it wasn't crippling (to see more on what I mean: read this post). It was more of a pure sadness for our world and longing for Jesus, whereas this sadness, without hope, turned ugly and selfish easily. Then it was about me being a victim, which is something I never try to be. I have more of a realist personality; I always have. I don't spout cliche lines just for the sake of being positive, so if I'm feeling sad, I will not try to fake it. But I also had a legitimate, authentic knowledge of the hope through Jesus, so I was fine. But take that hope away, and you're headed on a downward spiral.

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Now, as I'm completing this on June 6 and actually am a sophomore now and have published my reflections on freshman year, this is the biggest thing I learned, or maybe relearned. And I praise God I did because I don't want to fall into that gloomy way of thinking again. I remember praying, on the morning I began this blog post, for God just to work a miracle in my mind. I didn't know what to say other than that; I just knew that my down, grumpy thoughts were out of control. I didn't know how to fix it, so finally I just asked Him to. And then, as I'm going through the day, the bones of this post just came to me, and it poured out. I'm so thankful for His patience with me and what He's taught me about this.

It's like I said from what He showed me clear back in fifth and sixth grade: pain doesn't last forever. And there's always hope through it, so never, ever lose sight of that.

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Darkest Hour, Brightest Hope

Sometimes all the lights go out in your life.

There doesn't seem to be any hope.

Nothing can satisfy you.

Everything hurts.

The world seems hopeless.

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The pain, suffering, and brokenness of the world slaps you in the face, leaving you feeling stressed, desperate, and lost.

I've been there, done that. More than once. This is another old post, written in November 2016. Not only has God revealed to me the hope found in our sufferings, but He's also delivered me from pain, too. I'll go into that in another post, but today, since Good Friday is coming up, I want to share this post. Over seemingly hopeless situations.

There are two specific times I can remember feeling utterly hopeless about this world, and I really just had a longing for eternity with Jesus, which was then redirected into a deep desire to go tell others about Jesus, our only hope. I don't like the despair I feel in those times, but I've had to learn to appreciate that feeling because when I don't see any hope, the hope through Jesus alone shines so bright. Overwhelmingly bright. It's the best feeling in the world, a person lost in despair being flooded with the power of Jesus. When that happens to me, I want to tell anyone and everyone about Jesus, amazing Jesus.

Over the summer, I spent two weeks with my grandparents, and I love spending time with them. I love both of them so much, and we always have so much fun together. When I left, I had just come off a major high from the night before. Now of course I didn't actually get HIGH, I actually went to church and felt so inspired and joyful [read about that here]. I had just completed one of my hardest school years yet [read here], and I didn't want to have to deal with anything. No drama. No problems. No worries. I wanted my mind to be renewed, I wanted the two weeks to be full of fun and good talks, and I honestly just didn't want to have to worry about anything.

There's nothing wrong with wanting a break and wanting to renew your mind except for when you expect that break to complete you or when you expect something or someone to renew your mind. Whenever you expect anything or anyone except God to give you peace, make you happy, or provide for your needs, you're going to actually lose your mind and have even more unmet needs.

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Everything was going perfect for awhile. Mom and I had great talks on the way up to meet Gramps and Grams. This is random, but isn't it interesting that you can remember you have good talks but not even remember what they're about? The only conversation I can remember that we had was about insurance. How or why we were talking about that is beyond me. Oh! And we talked about eating and when eating becomes a sin, and is it sinful to eat a donut now? Yes, we got donuts. Multiple donuts were consumed over those two weeks. Was that sin? I don't know. I probably don't want to know. At least I did cross country . . .

Anyway, we are not talking about my eating habits because we're just not going there. Unless, of course, you want me to add to my list of problems. If so, yes, I need help. We came, we ate . . . end of story. Just like the previous summer I was with Gramps and Grams. So yay, those expectations were met! I guess some things never change.

But no, we are done talking about eating. Forever. Unless you have (a) reservations to go take me out to eat later or (b) tips on how to actually like healthy food (besides eating is a learned behavior as Mother always tells me because let me tell you, that never works). But yeah, we're done.

Back to whatever it is we're supposed to be talking about. Good talks. Donuts. Yes, what more could you want? Then we met Gramps and Grams, took pretty pictures, consumed more junk (but don't get me wrong, it was good) at McDonald's. We drove up and had great talks over all the things we were going to do. Sometimes I get to the point where I'm just never going to make plans because when I do they all fail. And sure enough, that happened. I learned things aren't going to be my way because life happens. And I was mad because these were my two weeks that needed to go well.

And they did. Because of the fun.

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But more because of what I learned.

The problems rained down over the weeks. Sometimes it felt like there was a new one each day. Most of them were just my same old, long term problems catching up with me, trying to steal my joy. And they did as Satan so perfectly targeted them at me to shake my faith.

First there was the realization that these two weeks were not going to play out perfectly like I wanted them to. Over the week I just saw complete godlessness everywhere and the flat out promotion of sin, which grieved my heart and made me desperate to renew my mind. I come to renew my mind and find it needed to be renewed even more.

Then there was persecution Christians are facing across the nation, and I thought of all the ways I've been persecuted, made fun of, and told to be quiet about my beliefs. Don't you just love it how atheists get to be so vocal about their disbelief in God, but Christians have to shut up? Once again, the promotion of sin, and heaven forbid a Christian ever calls anything sin.

I thought about drama at school and what I was going to do and how I was going to connect with people when nobody is serious about their relationship with God, and as I thought about that, I began fearing 8th grade and returning to school. Then there was all of those police shootings across the nation. I remember watching that live on the news at night, and the next day everyone went crazy on social media.

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I witnessed firsthand people in pain. So much pain.

I heard local news stories, stories once again filled with pain and darkness and the ugly consequences of sin, and that made me feel worse to know the pain other people are experiencing, and there's nothing I could do about it. I also saw how people try to cover up their pain, and I tried to cover up my pain. I thought shopping would help me to have a positive attitude. I thought hanging out with my cousins would cause me to forget my worries and pain. I thought talking with Grandma would renew my mind. And it all did.

Temporarily.

But when the fun wore off, when I turned in each night, the pain was still there. Maybe even more so. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: not addressing your pain is the worst thing you can do. Covering it up, pretending it isn't there, playing the role of somebody happy without problems when your life is really falling apart, is a foolish route to take because in no way does the pain dissipate. Pain has to be addressed, and it has to be addressed correctly.

The breaking point came when I was looking at Facebook. I was looking at some local news and just news in general with the state of our world. There was this one comment that really upset me because it was talking about this person before they made a bad choice, and I just thought about how life never goes how you plan. I'm sure the person who wrote that complimentary comment never fathomed that later bad choices would be made, destroying everything. And I thought about my own life, the plans I'd dreamed that had failed, my family, my country, sin, the persecution I was facing, school, the horrible situations unraveling in our country, disease, all the pain numerous others besides myself was carrying, my desires to reach out to people that I couldn't, local sad situations, and more finally all fell on my shoulders. And I just walked into the room Grandma and I slept in, giving up the fight, tired of holding in the pain. All of it fell down on my shoulders, and I collapsed onto the bed and began to cry.

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Every light was turned off. I began to realize nothing was going to take away this pain--hours spent in Okoboji would eventually fade and bring me right back to where I was when I left, talking to somebody wouldn't help because they didn't have any answers or solutions to my fears, sadness, and unmet needs, the things I bought made me happy until I realized like they could do anything meaningful, and these fun times could not erase the pain that would always be waiting for me when it was all said and done.

Pain needs to be addressed. I learned that.

Pain needs to be addressed properly. I learned that the hard way.

As I was laying there in my pool of tears, I told God, "Am I depressed?" That was honestly my biggest fear. Nothing would make me feel better, and so I was worried I was never going to see the light of day again. It took me looking for my happiness everywhere but God before I finally broke down to Him. So I suppose when I asked Him that, He could have been like, "Well, you've just looked for your happiness in every single thing except Me even though I've only told you a million times to find your joy in Me, and now you wonder why you are sad?"

So praise Him that God is love and doesn't say that, though He really could. He gives mercy and grace, and He showed me where my hope needs to be.

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Grandma came in. I vented all of my problems to her after I vented them to God, and she prayed with me. She did exactly what you should do when you want to encourage someone in a godly way: she listened, she showed compassion to how I was feeling, she prayed with me, and she told me Bible verses. She has a desk right by the bed, and on that bed she has many Bible verses taped to it and displayed.

That's how I found this amazing Bible verse.

As I regrouped, I scanned the verses, and one immediately caught my eye. It was printed on a small blue sheet of paper with a flower in the corner. It was from a calendar that displayed a new Bible verse each day. Grandma had torn it out and tacked it on display. And it spoke volumes to my soul, God's reminder to me amidst all of my pain.

The verse came from 1 Peter, which, ironically, was the Bible book I'd been studying at that time. It was 1 Peter 5:10, NCV.

And after you suffer for a short time, God, who gives all grace, will make everything right. He will make you strong and support you and keep you from falling.
— 1 Peter 5:10 NCV
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After you suffer: God uses sufferings for our good, to strengthen our faith (Romans 5:3, 4). Like I mentioned earlier, there is something that happens when you lose everything: you either cling to Jesus as the bread of life (John 6:35), or you look for other worldly ways to dull the pain. Whenever you have to suffer, you want hope. We all want hope--we all need it. And that is what suffering does. It has a way of revealing where your priorities really are and a way of helping you to adjust your priorities. My priorities were in God, I do believe that. But I think I was getting confident and placing too much hope in things of this world: MY dreams, MY plans, and when they all failed and the pain came rushing in, I was reminded of where my trust really needs to be. And the beautiful thing about that moment was surrendering all to God, trusting Him and Him only, not having any other desires in my heart except knowing Him and making Him known. A hope that cannot be shaken.

Who gives all grace: God will give you the grace to get through whatever He allows in your life. He works everything for the good (Romans 8:28). God gave me grace that day. He listened to my pain and cared about it (1 Peter 5:7). He did not condemn me; He reminded me of His goodness and His plan. All of the pain I was feeling, He would work for the good. I didn't know how or when, but He did know, and He wanted me to trust Him.

Will make everything right: In time, everything is going to be right. There will be no more death, mourning, crying, or pain (Revelation 21:4). We will be united with Jesus (Romans 6:5).

He will make us strong. He will support us. We will not fall again.

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When the lights go out, the light of Jesus shines brightest (John 8:12). He has overcome the darkest night (1 John 2:8).

Hang in there. Your sufferings are all going to be worked out for your good. God is going to make everything right one day, and in the meantime, He will give you the grace to endure what you need to.

That was a dark night for me, but I experienced peace, the peace of God, because He has overcome (John 16:33).

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The story of what happened to Jesus, His death. The darkest story in the entire world. How upset and disappointed the disciples must have felt that day.

But also, in the end, the brightest. And they had no idea until afterwards.

The Ultimate Hope

I absolutely loving share the hope--the true hope--of life with people. Especially broken people that see no hope. In my previous three blog posts, I've wrote three personal letters to you. Yes, they were to YOU. God wants you to know what He did for you and how much He loves you. So we talked about that.

First, it is crucial to know that our hope is through Jesus (John 3:16). Without him, we were condemned, dead in our sins, and there was no hope (Ephesians 2:1). But he died for you. God sent His Son for you to die for all of your sins, to take your place. Why did He do that? Because He is your Father, and He loves you so much. And we talked all about that here and here.

Then we talked about His plan for you. There is still a plan for you, and it is great, and your work does not go unnoticed. We talked all about that in the third letter.

And all of this is building up to what is to come: the hope. I love exploring all four of those topics, but I really, really love talking about the hope because it's a reminder I need daily.

Each of the four things we've discussed is so crucial to understand. You have to know Jesus died for you, and you need to know God loves you and that He does, in fact, still have a great plan regardless of what you've done in your life.

And regardless of what you've done in your life, this is for you.

Regardless of where you are in your life, this hope can be yours.

Without hope, life is meaningless. So let me encourage you with the hope God has given us in my final letter. To YOU.

There is hope for any situation through God. And He can take even the most broken situation and turn it into something beautiful for His glory and will (Romans 8:28; Isaiah 61:3).

I know I've mentioned this in my earlier letters to you, but I want to bring up this verse again because it reminds us, again, of where our hope really is:

So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
— 2 Corinthians 4:18 NIV

"What is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal." That is so powerful when you stop and just grasp that concept. That in itself is amazing and gives us so much hope. But maybe you are in a situation that seems there is little to no hope. And oh, who knows what that could be. Maybe you just witnessed the death of a loved one, or your health is failing, or you just feel overwhelmed by the problems in the world, or you feel alone, or you just feel stuck. I don't know what your situation is, but I do want YOU to know that it isn't without hope. How do I know this? Like anything else I've told you, it really doesn't matter what I say. The letter is from me to you, but it's not about what I'm saying; it's about what God is saying.

So what does He say that gives us hope? Well, let me ask you something. Do you love God? Are you in love with Him and have a desire to follow Him? Through Him alone, you aren't without hope. He can take your messed up situation, and I don't care HOW messed up it is, it is not too hard for Him to fix. Romans 8:28 gives you this hope:

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
— Romans 8:28 NIV

God can take your messed up situation and turn it into something for His good. We talked a lot about this in my letter to you over His plan, and I want you to have hope knowing that good CAN come from your situation. I talked a little about this in the first letter that there was a situation I was following, and I talked about how God humbled me through it and how He helped me see people as He does. One thing He also showed me through following that situation is that it is not beyond hope. And this situation is pretty bad. Horrible choices were made. Consequences are going to follow and unfortunately not just for the person who made the horrible choice but everyone who loved him. And now that situation just broke my heart because you look at it, and it just seems like it's done. Nothing good came out of it as far as I can see, just pain. More pain for all the people involved.

BUT GOD.

If this person repents, if the people involved get their hearts right with God and surrender all their pain because of what happened to Him, I mean wouldn't that be amazing. That would be a beautiful example of God taking something awful and turning it into something good for His glory. And I pray everyday that that would happen. And there are many situations like these; this is just one I've been following and feel the need to pray over. But my point in sharing that with you is that this situation is not without hope, and I wish I could just go talk to these people involved and proclaim that, but until then, I'll pray that God reveals that to them. And I pray that He reveals it to you, whatever your situation may be.

So, I have another question for you. What are you doing in the waiting? It can take awhile sometimes for God's plan to be fulfilled, though for good reason (2 Peter 3:9). So what does God do while you wait? Does He just withdraw from you while He works, leaving you to wonder if He's even there? No, of course not. Just because you can't see the outcome of your bleak situation right now does not mean God isn't working, and it doesn't mean He's left you. In fact, He is with you every step of the way. Please, please, please know that wherever you are, this verse is true for you if you trust in God:

So do not fear, for I am with you;
do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
— Isaiah 41:10 NIV

Wow, what an amazing promise. Our God is amazing. So do you know Him? Have you trusted in Jesus to be your Savior? Don't wait! God is with you, and He promises to be your God in that verse. He loves you. So, so much. More than anybody else on this planet ever could.

And that love is being extended to you. Once you realize that His love and only His love can satisfy your deepest longings, that is when you can truly live a joyful life. This next verse is an awesome reminder of that because let me bring up prison again. The reason I bring this up is because (a) the people that surrender to God and live for Him in prison have such beautiful testimonies of God's love and forgiveness, and I've already talked about this in our previous letters, and (b) what I want to add is that people in prison have had a lot taken from them. And if someone is in there under a life sentence or the majority of their life, then what? These were questions I pondered as I thought about, if I had to go talk to a prisoner, how would I encourage them? What could I say to bring them true hope? And this verse came to mind. It doesn't just apply to prisoners; it applies to you. God is the only One who can satisfy.

for he satisfies the thirsty
and fills the hungry with good things.
— Psalm 107:9 NIV

He will satisfy you. When you are hungry for more in this life, he fills you with good things. You know, I can't tell you how many times I've heard people go on rants about how if they just get XYZ they will be happy, or if they don't get XYZ they won't be content, or their life has no meaning without XYZ. And I'm like, you better be talking about God because if not you're practically an idolater. And that means you are looking for something to fulfill your joy that is not God. And let me tell you something else: it can't just be God AND SOMETHING ELSE. It's not BAD to enjoy things of this world, but you must learn to rely on God and absolutely nothing else of this world for your joy. Not money. Not popularity. Not your hobby. Not your passion. Not your spouse or your boyfriend/girlfriend. Not your best friend. Not your family.

GOD.

When you have Him and trust in Him alone, it is not bad to enjoy those other things. It becomes sin when you put them ahead of God or even alongside Him. He needs to be FIRST and FOREMOST. He wants the best for you, and that is the best for you. Here's one like it:

‘Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.’
— John 7:38 NIV

And it is what God deserves. This is what He deserves.

Jesus replied: ‘“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.”
— Matthew 22:37 NIV

And wherever you are at, no matter how upset and broken you feel, God cares (1 Peter 5:7), and He is going to help you.

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted
and saves those who are crushed in spirit.
The righteous person may have many troubles,
but the Lord delivers him from them all;
— Psalm 34:18-19 NIV

The Lord is close to you and is going to save you. If you've trusted in Jesus to cover your sins with his blood he shed on the cross, you have been declared righteous (Romans 5:1). The Lord is going to deliver you. You're going to get through whatever pain is hurting you right now. That's a promise from God. Trust in Him to save you.

Here's another. If you've fallen . . . you are going to get up again because God is going to raise you up!

The Lord upholds all who fall
and lifts up all who are bowed down.
— Psalm 145:14 NIV

Now let these verses soak in.

He gives strength to the weary
and increases the power of the weak.
Even youths grow tired and weary,
and young men stumble and fall;
but those who hope in the Lord
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.
— Isaiah 40:29-31 NIV

If you're tired, God will give you strength. You're going to stumble and fall. Maybe you already have, and your life is a mess because of it. I want you to know that it's not too late. Believe that Jesus died for you, trust him as your Savior. If your hope is in the Lord, your strength is going to be renewed. It's not too late for you--just soak in what those three verses promise.

Here is what Jesus promised you. He may not be physically present with us right now, but he has left you with peace and hope.

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
— John 14:27 NIV
‘I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.’
— John 16:33 NIV

And he promises you that he is coming back. And you are never going to lose your joy again.

So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy.
— John 16:22 NIV

And this is my prayer for YOU.

May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word.
— 2 Thessalonians 2:16-17 NIV

I pray that your heart would be encouraged as the verse says. Your hope in God is not misplaced. Wherever you are and regardless of what sins you've committed, if your hope is in God, you're going to be okay because here is what He promises:

The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him,
to the one who seeks him;
— Lamentations 3:25 NIV

And do you want to know what else is amazing? We get all of these ideas in our heads of situations that are hopeless and beyond repair. I've seen myself doing that, even in the situation I described earlier. But WHY do we put limits on God? He is GOD! Listen to this . . .

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.
— Ephesians 3:20-21 NIV

He "is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine." Wow. I just think of that situation, and there are many like it, but this one is definitely one that pops into my head when I think of a sad, sad situation. But I think of that because there are days when I hear on the news more about it, and it gets me down and discouraged. I remember when I first learned about it how upset I was. And there are days where I think nothing good will come of it. I thought it sucks, but that's life. And then I think of this verse. "Able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine." That is not just for me. That is for this situation too. That is for you.

Sometimes I get this ridiculous idea in my head that there's just too many situations for God to handle, and I get discouraged and think about not even continuing to pray for it. Well first of all, there I go again putting limits on God, and do I really need to repeat that phrase for the fourth time? I will because I really, really want it to encourage you like it has for me: He "is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine." I really believe that God is going to do that for this situation and many others in my life. I have no idea how. I just know He will because He cares as much about that situation as He does for one in my life. And I found this quote by A. W. Tozer that gave me great comfort, and it is true.

An infinite God can give all of Himself to each of His children. He does not distribute Himself that each may have a part, but to each one He gives all of Himself as fully as if there were no others.
— A. W. Tozer

That's so awesome. Put your hope in the Lord.

Israel, put your hope in the Lord,
for with the Lord is unfailing love
and with him is full redemption.
— Psalm 130:7 NIV

That is addressed to Israel, but the Lord will never change (Malachi 3:6), and He demonstrated how true that is for us through Jesus. And He is faithful forever! That is such a glorious truth! Let me just reiterate how awesome our God is. Words cannot even begin to describe His majesty.

I want this verse to also encourage you that your hope in God is not misplaced.

Blessed are those whose help is the God of Jacob,
whose hope is in the Lord their God.
He is the Maker of heaven and earth,
the sea, and everything in them—
he remains faithful forever.
— Psalm 146:5-6 NIV

Don't be afraid. God is your hope now and forever.

So we say with confidence,

’The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid.
What can mere mortals do to me?’
— Hebrews 13:6 NIV
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.
— Hebrews 13:8 NIV

Whatever situation you're in, don't be afraid. God will never leave you.

‘Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.’
— Deuteronomy 31:6 NIV

Your joy comes from Him alone. Your hope comes from Him alone. Rest in all of these verses found in all four of these letters. And to end, remember this:

You make known to me the path of life;
you will fill me with joy in your presence,
with eternal pleasures at your right hand.
— Psalm 16:11 NIV

You are forgiven, my friend. God loves you more than you can comprehend. He has such a great plan for you, and you have so much hope through Him that is coming and will never end. Please realize this no matter where you are no matter what you've done because God loves you so much. He will revive you. And please know that I am praying for you as you read this.

Finally, I want to tell you something else. Once you find this hope and love and forgiveness through Jesus, please don't keep quiet. Go write your own letters to people. Preach God's Word boldly. Truthfully. Unashamedly. And always with love. You've just found the ultimate cure for death, and Kirk Cameron had a great quote I want to share:

If you had the cure to cancer wouldn’t you share it? You have the cure to death . . . get out there and share it.
— Kirk Cameron

Amen! As Matthew 5:16 says:

In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.
— Matthew 5:16 NIV

What do I pray for you for? Honestly, I pray that you would see the hopelessness of life. That is, without God. And sometimes you have to fall for that to happen so that you can see God is the only one you need. Here's another quote I love:

Nothing teaches us about the preciousness of the Creator as much as when we learn the emptiness of everything else.
— Charles H. Spurgeon

That is true, and it's something I learned the hard way, but I'm so thankful God revealed it to me like that. And here's another one:

Sometimes God lets you hit rock bottom so that you will discover that He is the rock at the bottom.
— Tony Evans

That's what I pray over hopeless situations. I say, God, You've allowed it for a reason. Now let those people discover that You are the rock. That's what I pray for you.

You're going to have pain. Frustration. Sorrow. Anxiety. Self-hatred. Confusion. All of it. But Jesus will take it away. He said in John 7:38 living waters will flow from your heart. And then I saw a quote that said grace means your mistakes have a purpose instead of shame. They do. Learn from them. Repent of them. Then go share that good news. Don't beat yourself up about it; trust that Jesus died for you and your sins. And here's one more by A. W. Tozer:

You can be sure, the Holy Spirit never enters a man and lets him live like the world.
— A. W. Tozer

You're not under sin anymore but grace (Romans 6:14). Seek the things of God. Follow Him all the days of your life and shine your light. Go share these truths and the glory of God.

Because all glory to Him. Thank you very much for reading my letters to you. Go praise God. Live your life for Him and Hime alone, and to do that, read more about pursuing a relationship with Him here. Read your Bible everyday for nourishment for your soul. You are not going to get your hope anywhere else. I also encourage you to find a church with true Christians dedicated to living for God to encourage you. Fight your sin everyday. Shine His light. And I will pray all of these things over you. I will pray for a powerful transformation in your life where you start hating the things of this world and hating sin. Don't flirt with sin--keep your eyes on God and work everyday to obey Him.

This is just the beginning of the amazing hope we have in Him. It starts now and ends never.

Your sister in Christ, Ashlee Mae