How to Be Happy {The Basics}

How-to-Be-Happy-Sparkles-by-Ashlee.jpg

This is a short post I wrote back on May 5, 2016, that I never published. It talks about how to find true, lasting happiness. With all that goes on in my own life, I need this - the TRUE way to get LASTING happiness. Believe me when I say these are just the basics. Since then, I've had my faith seriously tested over and over again, an insane amount of mood swings, and yeah. It's great. The perks of being a hormonal teenage girl. I'm kind of kidding.

But praise be to God that is He is sovereign over any trial, mood swing, and yes, hormones!

I will eventually write a longer post over this topic, but I have also written more extensive posts over the topic of happiness and joy, such as Is Life Beautiful? (my newest post over the topic; talks about having a joy despite circumstances), The Power of Jesus (written in June 2016 over what truly gives me energy and peace), and It's a Beautiful Life (my oldest post from summer 2015; this is when I would just write and never cite Scripture, but I still agree with what it says).

I will also write a post with what is new in my life because believe it or not I've actually made a pretty big decision that will affect how much I write on this blog.

Oh! And if you haven't seen my new and FIRST vlog, you totally need to go do that :)

Without further ado, here's how you find true happiness...


Happiness is something we all want. In today’s society, there are so many things that scream at us, saying that if only we do X, Y, or Z, we will be happy. And so many of us believe those lies. They’re all over in the blogging world. The common theme these days is that if you follow your dreams and have a profitable business, you will be happy, and the list continues with just about everything except what happiness really is.

Or, worse yet, a common message we hear is that we create our own happiness, and that couldn’t be further from the truth. We live in a fallen world, and no “good vibes” or dreams that you fulfill can make you truly happy. They might offer some temporary satisfaction, but that is fleeting.

So what is happiness?

The only way you can find happiness is by accepting Jesus Christ. Nobody wants to admit that anymore. They’re worried they’ll offend people - even Christians do this! - and so they come up with some pathetic, cheesy, temporary ways you can create happiness. What they don’t realize is that they’re setting people up for failure - as you are doing whenever you don’t tell someone the truth out of love. I’m trusting you can have discernment on that. If somebody got a shirt you hate? Don’t tell them that. If somebody is living in a certain sin? Tell them that.

This world is a hard place, and Jesus is our only hope. Those dreams you have are going to die with you, and if you don’t accept him...then what? It’s pointless to fulfill your dreams. Pointless to think about good vibes. But those with Jesus have something to live for. It might not always be easy, but God promises to never leave us (Deuteronomy 31:6). To those who accept Him and keep Him first, He promises a good plan (Jeremiah 29:11).

I have three tips to help you find your REAL happiness versus the fake kind everyone throws at you.

Meditate...on verses. NOT good vibes or whatever meditation people say to do. Chances are they’re not talking about Bible verses, but that’s what you SHOULD do. For example, I cannot stand bumblebees. I’m sorry, but they just scare me. I live out in the country and go out to run a lot, so unfortunately, avoiding bees is practically not possible. Sometimes they’ll buzz around me, and for awhile I would sprint off. After lots of prayer and reading verses, I feel better. I’m still not a fan of bees, and I may never be. Whenever I hear one, I still get tense and apprehensive. But I learn to trust God.

Here are some verses that helped me with my fear:

Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. - Psalm 23:4 (Or in my case, a valley of bees!)

For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline. - 2 Timothy 1:7 (Yes, Ashlee, self discipline. DO NOT SPRINT AWAY!)

And this is the verse I remember about my dreams and life in general:

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. - Matthew 6:33

Read the Bible...not e-courses. I don’t have a problem with e-courses. I think they’re awesome. But I notice that is the new big trend, and everyone is trying to solve a problem with them and their blogs in general. The only problem they fail to even address is people rejecting Jesus!! God’s Word is the only thing that will fix your problems. Period.

Recognize your need for God, and cling to Him. Day after day, choose to follow God and His Word. Trials are going to come at us everywhere, and you’re going to dig yourself a deeper hole without God’s Word in your life. You can’t create your own happiness. It is only by your relationship with God that you can experience the true peace and joy He gives us.

Philippians 4:7 says, “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Be close to Him. He loves you so much, and with Him, you can get through this world.

<3 Ashlee

Is Life Beautiful?

A year ago, I wrote this blog post about why I believe life is beautiful. I don't necessarily disagree with that post, but I've learned a lot more since then, and I wanted to update it. Plus when I was younger, all I did was rant about things, and I never used any Scripture to back up my thoughts because it does not matter what I'M saying, it matters what God is saying.

I think I've talked about my growth from 2015 to 2016 before; I know I did here. In 2015, I think I was more on the lines of being that Christian that looks at whatever makes me feel good. I know I did that because I underestimated the importance of church all the time, and I did that as a way to ease my guilt about not going to church. I know I've still got a lot to learn, but thankfully times have changed since then. So now I wanted to tackle a certain question: is life beautiful? This is actually a question I'm writing about in my next book.

This could vary from person to person as well. To somebody who just lost a loved one and is still grieving, I'm sure their first thoughts probably aren't going to be about how wonderful life is. And to somebody who's just got everything going great, pretty kids, a charming spouse, money in the bank, well, yeah, I'm sure they won't be complaining too much.

Except all of that varies because it's all circumstantial, and all of us have a need for God. So I also think it's possible for that to totally be in reverse, and someone who just lost a loved one but knows God may actually have a joy and peace from Him despite the fact that they're grieving. And the person who appears to have it all, if they don't have God, they could be unhappy, miserable, and searching.

Circumstances don't define how joyful you are. There are two types of people in this world, and the other titles you can claim don't mean nothing except for which of these you fall into: lost or saved. A saved person may not always feel joyful every second of the day, and a lost person may experience some happiness, but for both, those emotions should be fleeting. The saved person will find their joy in God; the lost person's happiness is fleeting. We'll look at that in a little bit, but first, addressing the question: is life beautiful? That depends how you define beautiful.

The word "beautiful" is an adjective and means "of a very high standard" or simply put: excellent. I think what most people are asking when they ask this is not so much if life is beautiful but if life is happy, if life is worth it, if it is excellent. Again, this differs drastically depending on whether you're saved or lost, so let's look at it both ways and see ultimately, as Christians, is life beautiful, or is this a horrible world that needs revival? Here is my conclusion which I will elaborate on: I do think life can be beautiful, excellent, and joyful, right now. I also think we live in a world of sin, a cruel, depressing world, that desperately needs revival.

HOW can I think life is beautiful while living on this earth full of sin? Again, joy is not circumstantial. HAPPINESS is circumstantial. I have plenty days I don't feel happy, but there is always a certain peace. Sometimes I can't seem to think of one positive thing on this earth, but I think of Jesus. So long story short, life can be excellent on this planet crying out for revival but only with Jesus. Let's look at this.

The Saved

Not dependent on circumstances

There are a frightening number of "Christian" preachers that are preaching this prosperity Gospel which is all about how Jesus will make you rich, successful, etc. It's all about your faith and how your faith will reward you on this earth, and it's truly not about Jesus at all but all about us, and true Christians know it's the complete opposite way around. Christianity is about dying to ourselves (Galatians 2:20) and taking up our cross (Matthew 16:24). That's a topic for a whole other blog post, but despite what these preachers will tell you, our happiness does not come from prosperity.

How often are we told to rejoice? ALWAYS. Here are some verses:

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice.
— Philippians 4:4 ESV
This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.
— Psalm 118:24 ESV

We are even told to rejoice in our sufferings . . .

More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope,
— Romans 3:3-4 ESV
Rejoice always,
— 1 Thessalonians 5:16 ESV

I think you get the idea. We may not always be happy in life, and until our planet is completely revived, there will always be things and circumstances that don't make us feel very happy, but we can have joy, which means "rejoice", because we have Jesus, and the pleasures and happiness he gives us far surpasses our present circumstances (Psalm 16:11).

The Lord has done a wonderful thing

So, why? Why can we be joyful? Especially NOW in a world full of sin? I believe we can still be joyful now, and I believe that as Christians, our lives can be beautiful and excellent when we're putting Jesus first. We still deal with sin and, in Paul's words, are living on a groaning planet (Romans 8:22), and we know that right now, Satan is the prince of this world (2 Corinthians 4:4). So why do I think Christians can still have joyful, beautiful lives here? I'll give you three reasons besides it being a command, and the first is that Satan has been defeated. The Lord has done a wonderful thing!

At Jesus's birth, this is what the angel said:

And the angel said to them, ‘Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.’
— Luke 2:10 ESV

We can be joyful because of what the Lord has done and because of who He is!

God is still with us

Satan has no power over us. God is with us every moment. He will only be able to do what God allows him to do (Job 1:12), and we know that everything God allows, He will work to the good for those who love Him (Romans 8:28). Even in this world full of sin, our lives as Christians can still be excellent with God at the center; there is so much joy found in Him (Psalm 16:11), and why can't we enjoy that now? We CAN! The day is not yet here where evil is defeated, but it will be. And in the meantime, God has promised to never leave us (Deuteronomy 31:6; Matthew 28:20).

‘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

That's something to be joyful about right now. We shouldn't let the evil in today's world steal our joy because we know that it will be defeated; it has already been overcome by the power of Jesus.

There is immense joy to come

Satan will eventually be destroyed (Romans 16:20; Hebrews 2:14). The joy we feel now, the excellent lives we can have now with Jesus at the center, is just a slice of what's to come, when we will always have Jesus present with us (John 16:22). He is the life (John 14:6). He is our hope and what makes the next life amazing and perfect. And we can rejoice now knowing we have that to look forward to, and our joy will never again be taken from us (John 16:22).

So, if you have Jesus, you can have an excellent life now regardless of your circumstances because Jesus is what makes life excellent. He's the life (John 14:6).

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
You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
— Psalm 16:11 ESV
These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.
— John 15:11 ESV

The Lost

What do the lost have to be joyful for? This world? Don't they know it's all going to end? Even secularists believe that, so what? Find joy in your family, that will eventually all die and "become nothing"? Find joy in money and riches that will eventually be destroyed right along with this world? Find joy in popularity when there will be nothing for anyone to remember about you in the future? Find joy in success that will, seriously, come to nothing when the world ends? And what if you don't even get to experience those things in your life because not everyone does. Without God, life is meaningless, hopeless, and there's no point to doing anything. Here's why. . .

Your happiness would be circumstantial

‘Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.’
— Matthew 6:19 NIV

Your happiness would only be found in things of this world, but once you die, and once this world ends, it will not matter.

There is no joy or purpose ahead for them

Do not be overawed when others grow rich,
when the splendor of their houses increases;
for they will take nothing with them when they die,
their splendor will not descend with them. Though while they live they count themselves blessed—
and people praise you when you prosper—
they will join those who have gone before them,
who will never again see the light of life.
— Psalm 49:16-19 NIV

The lost would love to believe they can live it up here, and that's, in fact, what they do, and they would love to think their choices will not have consequences, but they will. Every choice has consequences. Not only will their glory and riches not matter when they're dead, but hell is a real place. God will not force you to choose Him, but the fact of the matter is that we've all sinned (Romans 3:23) against a holy, perfect God (Psalm 92:15; Matthew 5:48; 1 Peter 1:16), and so someone has to pay for that sin. You can either accept the amazing gift of forgiveness Jesus offers to you, or you can pay for your sin.

What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?
— Matthew 16:26 NIV

There's nothing good about that at all. Because everything will perish then. There's nothing excellent, beautiful, etc. about that. King Solomon, the richest and wisest king ever (1 Kings 10:23), came to these conclusions:

‘Meaningless! Meaningless!’
says the Teacher.
’Utterly meaningless!
Everything is meaningless.’
— Ecclesiastes 1:2 NIV
What do people gain from all their labors
at which they toil under the sun?
— Ecclesiastes 1:3 NIV
No one remembers the former generations,
and even those yet to come
will not be remembered
by those who follow them.
— Ecclesiastes 1:11 NIV
I have seen all the things that are done under the sun; all of them are meaningless, a chasing after the wind.
— Ecclesiastes 1:14 NIV
A person can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in their own toil. This too, I see, is from the hand of God, for without him, who can eat or find enjoyment?
— Ecclesiastes 2:24-25 NIV
Now all has been heard;
here is the conclusion of the matter:
Fear God and keep his commandments,
for this is the duty of all mankind.
— Ecclesiastes 12:13 NIV

Conclusion

So, to conclude, I do think life, when you are following Jesus, is joyful, even amidst the worst circumstances. He is what brings meaning to life.

With Jesus, life is excellent because we have the knowledge of the excellence to come. We rejoice in the good news of what Jesus has done now. Without Jesus, life is meaningless.

And this is what I want to end with: quit looking for anything but Jesus to satisfy your heart because it will never happen. No amount of money, fame, success, or even love from a person will satisfy you and bring meaning to your life like Jesus can.

If you have everything but are lacking Jesus . . . I'm praying he will open up your eyes to see your desperate need for him and him only. If Jesus has to take EVERYTHING away from you to have you see that, then I pray he does.

And if you have nothing and are desperate for hope, for meaning and purpose . . . I'm praying you will recognize that only Jesus can save you and cling to him and never let go.

This world is dark, sinful, and in need of revival. But that is what Jesus came to do, that is what he did do-defeat evil-and what he will do, and to all who believe in him, this joy we find in him alone is truly only the beginning.

He is amazing. All glory to God.

Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.’
— John 6:35 NIV

The Power of Jesus

I feel like I could go run ten miles. And this is why you don't go by your feelings, kids, because the reality of that is I'd probably die by the time I made it to one. And that's being optimistic. ANYWAY. I at least feel like I'm having a sugar rush. While I am definitely guilty of consuming way too much sugar, normally I don't get sugar high. And I haven't even had a lot of sugar tonight! Mom and I went to Casey's on our way home, and I refused to get anything. That is a huge accomplishment for me! Unfortunately then I had half of the candy bar she bought, but hey, we're making some progress.

So why do I feel this way??? Well, I just noticed that I haven't blogged since I returned from my trip to Canada. It's actually not the trip making me feel that way, although the trip was awesome, and I will blog about it very soon. I'm also leaving to go see my Gramps and Grams tomorrow for two weeks, which I am also very excited about. And I am procrastinating very well. It is 9:31 pm, and I have not a thing packed. Yay me!!

So what on earth is making me feel this way???

To some of you it may seem lame or even freaky, butttt I just got home from church tonight, one of my Wednesday classes that I have with some amazing people. And it just makes me feel awesome. Blessed. Humbled. Thankful. So, so thankful. Joyful.

Lots of times people in this world don't even stop to think about what Jesus has done for them. It just goes in one ear and out the other. I've been guilty of this. Sometimes I hear it so many times I'm just like yep Jesus died for me uh huh awesome thank you Jesus now let's check Facebook...! Horrible right? I know.

So these are the nights I'm reminded that I suck. That I'm a total horrible person. That I am so desperately in need of Jesus's grace and am so thankful for it. Nobody tells me that I suck, by the way. Quite the opposite. The people at my class are awesome and so encouraging and so genuine and so REAL. It's humbling. They admit their sins and understand it's horrible. They're not afraid to say that. They don't hide things. And I hope I can be somebody like that. I try to be. I understand that they are human, but man, they are HOT in their faith, and Jesus works through them.

I want to be like that. I want to be somebody that points to Jesus and what he's done for us. Our country is chasing all the wrong things. I am guilty of caring about worldly things, but at the end of the day, I hope Jesus reminds me that the one thing I should care about is other people. People are what matters and not just their happiness. If I have to shatter somebody's happiness with the truth of Jesus, so be it. I'll do it in love, and I'm not trying to make people miserable, but they need to know the truth. The truth won't always make you feel happy and give you all the sunshine and unicorns feelings. But in the end, it will be so much better than that.

Going to my class just reminded me of that. Every time, really, it teaches me these three things. Hopefully you'll think about some of these too.

1. Jesus is the only way to heaven and to life abundantly.

I saw a quote one time that said, "Good people don't go to heaven; forgiven people do." Amen! I can't tell you how many times I've heard something like this, "She/he is a good person, they'll go to heaven." Excuse me?!

What defines a "good person"?

No one is a good person! And your definition of good may be different from mine. My definition of good is maybe that somebody loves others. Yours may be that somebody hasn't killed anyone. How do you define good? The Bible says nobody is good.

for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
— Romans 3:23 NIV
Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
— John 14:6 NIV
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.
— John 10:10 NIV

Only by repenting and putting your faith in Jesus will you have eternal life and life to the full. You certainly won't have an abundant life without Jesus. Mark 8:36 NIV says, "What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?"

I want you to know Jesus. I want everyone to. I don't say that because I have something to gain by converting you. I don't. I truly just want the best for you, and I will not sugarcoat it: Jesus is the only way to eternal life and abundant life. I hope that doesn't sound like some commercial, but if it does, I'm not apologizing for it because it's true. Instead of buying more clothes and cool gadgets we see in advertisements how about we buy a Bible and dig into it?

I don't want to sound smug when I say I am so thankful I know Jesus. I'm not trying to be smug. I'm not trying to be like, "I have Jesus and you don't!!! Na na na na na!" To be honest, being a Christian - a Christian ON FIRE for Jesus - is a lot harder than being an atheist in my opinion. On this earth, you probably have more to lose as a Christian, easily, than you do being an atheist or a Christian not so serious about Jesus. But who cares! Mark 8:36, people! I'd rather have a horrible life here and go to heaven and show others the power of Jesus versus having it all here and being condemned to, well, hell.

2. We need a generation of Christians on fire. Hopefully not literally. Let me explain.

Let me first say that good works don't get you to heaven. We've been studying other religions at my class, and that's a common theme in most of them. They think in order to be saved, you have to do good works. This isn't true (Titus 3:5 ESV). Even if we did good works, they wouldn't be enough to save us (Romans 3:23 NIV). BUT I am seeing a bad theme in our generation.

Let me mark my religion as "Christian" on Facebook.

Fine, I'll put "God" in my Instagram bio with the praying hands emoji.

Ughhhh, I'll check in to church on Sunday because that's what everyone says to do.

Actually, I'm too busy for church. I can't go.

ACTUALLY... Church isn't that important. I'm still saved; I don't need to go.

I have a Bible. I don't read it much, but at least I have one.

Fine, I'll take my Bible to church.

FINE. I'll look up this verse as my homework for youth group.

I'm just so busy! I don't have time to read my Bible! I'm sure God will understand.

I'm saved. I believe in God. I'll go to heaven. Isn't that enough?!

With the above list, I'm not trying to judge you. I'm not saying those things are required to get you to heaven. They're not. But, guys, wake up! You're too busy? For what?! Work that is draining you? Then find peace in God's Word! You're too busy running your kids to sports games that will at the end of the world mean absolutely nothing?!

Get prioritized. Don't be a lukewarm Christian. Get lit on fire for Jesus! Wouldn't you say that he was on fire for you when he died for you? We won't ever be able to repay him for that, and that's not what doing this stuff is about. It's about being passionate about him. It's about giving him the worship he alone deserves. It's about telling others the hope for this life. It's about being joyful even when you're not happy. It's about the one thing that makes sense in this life. The one and only real God that is deserving of praise.

When I was younger, I was an idiot. I still am an idiot even pursuing Jesus, but imagine me without doing that! I was a drama queen (okay...I still am), but I would be so worldly at school. I would start drama. I would gossip. I used to think that church didn't matter and it was overrated. I used to think reading the Bible was not a necessity. And let's examine my life. At school, I had it made. I had friends. I had a social life.

Let's look at me now. I am still an idiot, but I know I need Jesus, and I am doing my best to pursue him and the things he wants me to do. Maybe to the world I am "religious", but I know that these things don't get me to heaven. I don't want to be religious; I just want a relationship with Jesus. But, if that makes people think of me as religious because I am striving to do the things he wants me to, so be it. At school, I try not to create drama. I try to witness to my friends. I'm not better then them; I just want them to see how amazing Jesus is and how much he's helped me. I will never, ever doubt church again.

Our church is not perfect, but it's amazing. There are passionate Christians there. Our pastor is amazing. And just seeing how Jesus emphasized the importance of church. I'm so, so thankful for church. I hate the Sundays I miss out. Scrolling on my iPhone is so dull compared to how we worship Jesus there. I do think reading the Bible is a necessity, not to be saved, but to be renewed. Do you think you're fine without the Bible? Try reading it. Try not reading it afterwards. Something will be missing.

When my mom would get grumpy, I'd ask her, "Have you done your devotions yet?" Actually, I'd probably start with, "Are you on your period?" (Come on now, the struggles are real.) But you get the point. Every time I finish reading the Bible for the night, I just tell God, "Thank You for this." What more can I say? I'm in awe of it!

Ever since I started doing these things and living my life for God, my social life has pretty much died. Most people don't know who I am. I lost some friends this year because of my faith, and I'm sure they think I'm a religious, holier-than-thou, judgmental freak. Ah, well. I've never felt lonelier. (Read here and here for more on how hard it's been but also what God has taught me. If you think my life has no problems, think again!)

So now that I've scared you and made you not want to be serious because of the possibility you might lose all your friends, let's look at my overall life when I was younger and how joyful I was.

Answer: I don't think I was. We had a lot of stuff going on back then, and I remember worry consuming my life. Some nights I was happy, but it was fleeting. I would go insane from all the drama. My life was headed nowhere. (Read this post for more on wasting your life.)

There are still nights now when I am sad. One night I was being attacked by the devil in the sense that he was putting lies in my head and fears in my head about my friend situation. He was telling me that my pain was never going to end. I would always be alone, and God wasn't going to fix anything. The devil will attack the people on fire for Jesus. Why would he attack the ones who aren't? They're already distracted by the world, so why does he need to get them? He really doesn't. He wants to get the strong Christians. He wants to make us doubt God.

It made perfect sense that he would tell me those things. Ashlee, your situation will never change. As long as you're serious about Jesus, people are going to ignore you, so you better turn away from God! Ashlee, God is not doing anything to fix this; He must not care.... He must not be real....

Oh, what a bunch of bull. The things he'll tell us. Well, I realize that hasn't done anything to convince you to be passionate about Jesus. Great, Ashlee, I'll lose all my friends, and Satan will always be after me. Sounds like an awesome thing, pursuing Jesus.

But you guys, it is. That night, Mom had me listen to these beautiful lullabies that just sang verses about God protecting me and God working, and then I started crying again because I realized I am so thankful to be serious about Jesus. Christians that aren't are running around chasing the wrong things, and they're missing his peace. They're missing the joy. They're missing the blessings. Yes, they'll be saved, but at the end of the day, who is comforting you if it's not Jesus?

I just cried because I was so thankful for God's love. I was so thankful that He chose me, redeemed, protected me.

And guys, I've never been happier. Some nights I may fall in bed crying, but my tears will be wiped before I fall asleep because God is protecting me. He loves me. I love him. And my life on earth is for Him alone.

Some times, Christians at my school that merely use that as a title and don't do anything to pursue Jesus will be so stressed over grades, boys, friends, and the list goes on. Those things get me concerned, too! But I wish they would find the peace of Jesus. I wish they would be passionate about him because when I have those worries, he takes them away. He is fighting for me. Even on the darkest nights, I've seen proof of that, and it just makes me want to cry thinking about it because I wish people could see that! Not because I'm holier than thou, not because I'm judgmental and think it's what they ought to do, but because I know. I've gone through trials, and he is the only thing that makes sense. The only thing that helps me through.

The news scares the crap out of me. I'd like to just cry over our world. But then I remember Jesus. He wins in the end! Because of him, WE win in the end!

And sometimes I get so mad when I see Christians that aren't living for Jesus. I think, well, I'm doing the hard work! I'm losing my friends, I'm becoming more and more alone, I'm being persecuted for my faith, and yet you aren't doing anything for Jesus and are having a good life! But then I have to remember...

A) I am working for the Lord, not for men (Colossians 3:23). It's not about the reward. God already provides for my needs; that's enough. AND yet when I do good works, He does reward me! I don't deserve that, so I need to share how amazing He is whether I get a reward or not. But the awesome thing is, by obeying Him, we do get rewarded! James 1:12 says that those who persevere under trial will receive the crown of life. And God has blessed me so much.

B) God is near to those who are near to Him (Psalm 145:18).

C) And  I wouldn't trade being near to God for anything. He is with me and blesses me (Genesis 26:3). He loves me like nobody else ever could (Jeremiah 31:3). He guides me (Isaiah 58:11). He keeps me (Isaiah 42:6). He upholds me (Isaiah 41:10). He provides for me (Genesis 22:14). He will never leave me (Deuteronomy 31:6). He strengthens me (Psalm 29:11). Guys, I could go on all night, which probably isn't a good idea right now anyway because it's 10:46 pm, and that packing won't do itself....

The world needs your faith. Don't be lukewarm. Jesus loves you so much, so why aren't we giving him the love and praise he deserves? Show your faith (more on that here)!

3. There is incredible power in the name of Jesus, and we, as believers, have that!

I don't mean that we're equal with Jesus or anything like that, but we as Christians that are putting on the armor of Jesus and humbling ourselves and praying and getting real... We can move mountains! I've been praying so much for our country. I've been praying for so many people. And when we as believers unite, we can do incredible things! Being with my little group of people that go out and share Jesus, that are truly living their lives for Jesus...maybe that's why I'm feeling a sugar rush, just seeing how Jesus IS working!

We all take turns praying at the beginning, and everyone prays so honestly and so real. No one hides their sin, and nobody likes their sin. We are a group of people with a hunger for Jesus, and it is amazing how Jesus fills that (Psalm 107:9). We all know we're broken people, and we are humbling ourselves before God because without Him our lives are meaningless and we can't do anything of meaning (John 15:5-7), which is why I'm stressing the importance of passionate believers. If you're a Christian and it says that on your Facebook bio, great, but start living it out! I told my group today that the greatest compliment they can give me is telling me that they can see that I love Jesus. In fact I about bawled when they encouraged me.

It warms my heart when I think of Franklin Graham's Decision America Tour or Ken Ham's Ark Encounter or Karen Kingsbury's writing or David Jeremiah's ministry and just on and on. We are in the minority, but we are not alone. God is for us, and He will protect us and never leave us (Deuteronomy 31:6).

So, to the people at my church, thank you so much for all you've done for me. For the short time I've been at my church, you've reminded me the importance of humbling myself. You showed me how important a godly church is. Every Wednesday you leave me feeling encouraged, and that is because God is working through you. I know you're not perfect, and I pray for your faith, but I want you to know that you are all such role models for me. Thank you for serving like Christ calls you to do.

Well guys, it's 11:01 pm now. My mom has been very patient with me as I write this. She understands the importance of needing to write, of when God lays something on our heart, and I'm so thankful for her too. I may be alone at school, but it could always be worse. My church was a godsend. I don't think I could ever go back to Sundays without church, to nights without reading the Bible.

I've got so much to learn. The people in my group are so wise; I feel like an idiot compared to them and so grateful I can listen to them, which is also how I feel about Jesus.

Anyway. Yeah. I think that's what I wanted to say for the night. The world is an evil, dark place. My heart shatters for people who don't believe, and for the Christians that aren't pursuing Jesus, I just wish they could see how much they're missing. Yeah, they'll be saved, but I don't know where they're getting their hope. They're just surviving.

But there is light, and I'm so thankful to have it. It's time for me to go spread it and you, too! We aren't meant to keep quiet! 

Alright guys. I really need to pack. You're in my prayers, guys. I'm here to talk whenever.

Here's to many more sugar rushes! Fine, Mom, I understand it's 11:10 pm at night. Maybe tomorrow.

It's a Beautiful Life

Its-a-Beautiful-Life-Sparkles-by-Ashlee.jpg

There's a post idea I've had in mind for awhile, but I didn't come back to it until tonight. My cousin Amanda came down to my house with Gramps and Grams, and they'll be here until Friday. Tonight Hunter, Willy, me, and Amanda (who is now the new recruit of my photography team, that's not a good thing) went out to take photos. I saw this quote one time that said "Because when you stop and look around, this life is pretty amazing." It's true, even when you think it isn't. The point of this post? To show you hope and refresh your attitude. To show you that this life is worth living, and it's worth standing up for what you believe in.

Summer-Clouds.jpg

First of all, how many of you have some sort of problem in your life? If you don't, then it's probably pretty easy for you to say, "Well of course Ashlee, it is a beautiful life." Bad times, bad things, and dark feelings are inevitable, though. You may say, "Oh, I'm doing fine, we'll be fine, everything's working out." That can change in an instant. All it takes is an instant for you to receive bad news whether that be a death, job loss, financial problem, and the list is continuous. You might say something like, "I know bad things will come, but I'll be fine, I have my faith." That is true to a point. Some problems you will feel that way, but let me tell you...

There will be problems where it just sucks. Life sucks. The world seems to be clouded in a haze for you. God doesn't make sense, why the problem is happening makes no sense, and truthfully, you might just ask "What's the point? What is the dang meaning of life?" Kind of getting off topic here, but over spring break a few months ago, I watched a movie. A sad, moving movie, and I was upset about life. I know, it's a movie, I need to get a grip. It was just thoughts about death and purpose, and I was just sad. I wasn't depressed or anything, and I quickly resumed back to normal a few days later, but when I don't understand something: I like to ponder it and think my way through it. 

Summer-Sunsets.jpg

I realized that life is definitely worth living. There's a bunch of crap, obviously. This nation is headed downhill so fast it's ridiculous and kind of scary. Faith is overlooked, and it seems everywhere around you people are just existing and living shallow lives. I realized something: I don't want to do that. I want to do more than just exist - I want to show what matters and prove it. I want to leave some sparkle on the world that shines to my faith. 

There have been trials in my life recently. First we were struggling with more car issues, and I had to learn not to worry so much and focus on MY problems. Now we got devastating news a week ago. Truthfully, I was freaked out, but I quickly snapped out of that. What I have learned over the years in my faith has taught me this: Things work out. They do. I've always learned we need to live for the moment. I know that probably sounds cheesy, and I'm not saying to never make plans, but you can't be so absorbed in everything wrong with the world. There are so many topics that have been discussed in the world over the last two months I don't agree with it's unbelievable. I could get mad and be like, well, this country will always be insane, there's no use blogging or anything because no one will listen to me anyways.

Yes, the country will always be insane. We'll all always be insane. It's a screwed up world. That doesn't mean I am going to sit around all day and sulk. There's still people with faith who want to be a light. God still promised to come back for us, and until then, the world still has good to offer! The sunsets, the clouds, the memories and the moments, even the people sometimes... We're all sinful. Unfortunately, some people don't care and continue to make bad decisions.

I am sinful, okay? I am truly an idiot sometimes. We all are. I'm not always going to be right all the time, but I refuse to sit around and never change! Jesus died for me to give me hope for this world so that when I died I wouldn't burn in hell and that I would also know God on a personal level, and I'm not going to waste that opportunity! You are here once. Trials will come, some people are rich, some aren't, it really doesn't matter as long as you're rich in faith. If you have faith, you can and will get through anything. You will have a good life if that's what you choose and choose to live a life for God. It's a choice, and I choose to not give up. If Jesus hasn't come back yet, that means there's still more work for us. Trials will come, it sucks, but I'm not giving up. I'm ready to join the fight.

Ashlee-Fighting-Hunter.jpg

And I'm gonna WIN hahaha! I may have pushed him ^, but only because he wouldn't stop kicking me! Really though, we will win. It's a fallen world because God gave us free will, and we blew it. That doesn't mean we have to keep blowing it. One of these days I would like to do a post over WHY I believe in God. I'm not a scientist, but I don't need to be. I love what Joyce Meyer says, "This works for me," but more to come on that. I also know that people will have an opinion now matter how clear He can be.

Ashlee-Hunter-and-Willy-Outside.jpg
Ashlee-Loves-Life.jpg

I am thankful though. I am thankful to witness all the beautiful scenic things, and I am thankful for all the memories I've made with my family. I'm thankful that God loves me enough to give me a chance at this life. HE created all of this, and it's been pretty dang sweet. The world needs our light now more than ever, so I'm not going to back down. If God sent His son for me, then I'm going to make sure everyone knows that. If I could help one person that would be awesome. So yes. It's a beautiful life. You need to stop, look around, count your blessings, and sometimes reminisce. It's not fair to hate life just because of your circumstance. It's all attitude. I've always found if you believe life is beautiful, it will be beautiful. Just like if you believe in God and His Word and study it, it's going to be applied to you for your benefit.

Willy-in-the-Weeds.jpg
Ashlee-Hunter-Willy-Walking.jpg
Pastel-Sky-and-Trees.jpg

This post talks more about hope and reward and why we need to be a light. Also, this post "Racing is Like Life" basically just talks about life in general, and how again, we don't need to worry. It also talks about how you can persevere through life in the midst of trials, and really you just need to go to Knoxville because it's a good place.

Willy-with-Stick.jpg
Ashlee-Outside.jpg

Enjoy life, trust in God like He TELLS you to, and be a light when needed. Don't be quiet and just say "Oh, it's always been like this." Well, maybe not anymore if you add YOUR voice. As this movie that I sobbed over said, "It's a good life." Yeah it is. That movie was The Fault in Our Stars by the way. Oh my gosh. They didn't mention a whole lot of God, and it was probably a typical Hollywood film, but at least that one had some truth to it. You can still have a good life. You only get one, so I'd hope you'd make it good. Remember: this isn't our forever home to those who believe that Jesus died for our sins and was God and His son. Know that something greater awaits you, and choose to be happy about that tonight.

Ashlee-is-Thankful.jpg
Ashlee-Blogging-and-Willy.jpg

Nighty night everyone.