Weeks of Reflection

My family took their annual trip up to Canada where they would be fishing for a whole week, and this city-loving-girly-girl took a pass on that last year and did so again this year. I did spend the two years before that going on the trip with them, and while I highly enjoyed the experience of seeing another country and the outdoors in that way, I’m more than ready to explore other things. Like cities! And more shopping!! And hotels!!! (I did recap my experiences of Canada here and here.)

But the time hasn’t come for me yet where I can pursue those fascinations except for the shopping, so instead I spent about two weeks with my grandparents in MY “happy place,” their little small town that is also not too far from MY ideal version of the lake life in Okoboji. And I shopped online. A lot. I didn’t buy anything though, unfortunately. And we ate a lot. But I really had a good time with them. It always feels bittersweet when I leave their house. After that period of time, I was definitely ready to see my family again and my lovely room. My three minute a day conversations with Mom weren’t really cutting it, since there’s no internet up there or phone service and so she had to call me with a calling card. But I miss my grandparents terribly. I miss just going for drives around town whenever and our talks. I miss getting all dressed up everyday. I miss staying up late with Grandma!!! Most of all I miss all the time I wasted online shopping. Well, kidding, because let’s be real, I do the exact same thing just about everywhere.

It was one of those times where I did want to write, or at least, my intentions were there. Because I guess what I really wanted to do—and did do—was stuff my face with junk food and go online shopping. Pray for me, my motivation at this time could use a little work.

As the days went on, though, I began thinking about a blog post that would be perfect to recap this time. I didn’t think I would write one, honestly, because eating and online shopping are interesting to me, but probably not to the rest of the world.

The one productive thing I ended up doing was journaling. I know I’m one of those types of people that can be guilty of trying to do too much, too soon, where a time to relax can’t be that because you feel like you have to be doing something productive constantly. That’s important to some extent, but so is rest and taking time to renew your mind. I’ll be honest about this time: I still felt like my mind was reeling from the end of the school year. When my last day of school came and went, it didn’t even feel like the end, and it still doesn’t. These school years have been more challenging than most, for sure, because my greatest struggles aren’t really with academics or even people.

They’re with my mind.

And I was kind of taken aback when my “happy place” didn’t give me all the answers. Didn’t just erase the anxiety or the sadness. I know I’ve expected that before. You go on a vacation or plan out some time that should help you regain your sense of sanity, but it doesn’t. That’s not anyone’s fault but mine. You can have everything, but usually the people that do are some of the most unhappy because that can’t fix you, and then you become confused as to why. I want to share more thoughts on this from the weeks, but first I have to share all the little moments that make it so wonderful and that make up true life.

First off, anytime I am with my grandparents I feel so much joy. I thank God so much for them because they’re encouraging, loving, and are always there for me and listen to me and all my teenage problems and negative mindsets. Having people like that is truly a gift from God, since there’s nothing I did to have them be in my life. And it’s things like that I have to remember when the days get hard and it feels like you can’t trust God: remember all the things He’s already done for you. Sometimes when you want something so much, you are unable to see what you’ve already wanted and been given. I think that is one of the main issues I faced my sophomore year that trickled into this time, is wanting what I want, right now, and God is not ready to give it to me yet. Then I let lies from the devil tell me that He doesn’t care about my dreams or desires or that He won’t do anything with them. Yet when I pause to truly think about that and be rational, I realize that all He’s done for me proves the exact opposite.

This is why reflection is huge. I’m too guilty of letting my emotions run my life and just going with the flow in terms of what I feel. If I’m not intentional in praying to God about what I think, my thought life will be a mess and threaten to destroy me. I’ve never believed more in the power of what you think since I’ve started reflecting on my own thoughts. It’s amazing and almost kind of frightening how one problem can look like the end of the world to one person yet another person can look at it with peace and clarity, and it has no control over their behavior. Why? Because they think about it differently. This is true even for me. There are days I could cry because I am so thankful for the life God has given me and all the little miracles He’s done to keep me on the right track, and then there are days I could cry because I feel so down about everything and nothing seems right. This could happen over the course of two days, when nothing has really changed at all. It’s called watching what you think, and the Bible even talks about this in being on your guard for attacks from the enemy (1 Peter 5:8).

I am thankful that I have people to help me with this. Sometimes all it takes is just having a conversation with my grandma to bring me back down to earth or her encouragement to quit worrying and just turn to God. I’ve always been a worrier, which is not something I like about myself, but I’ve also grown so much in my faith through God helping me overcome it. And one quote I remember saving as a kid said something about just taking a breath and letting that worry go. It’s amazing how just that very simple word—breathe—can make all the difference when it comes to anxiety. Seriously. When I have a worry just consuming me, and I actually take the time to stop and take a breath, it loses its power over me. Or I take the time to stop and pray about it. It’s no wonder the Bible is filled with words like “be still,” and that is why Psalm 46:10 is one of my favorite Bible verses. “Be still, and know that I am God.” Worries don’t hold a candle to that if you just stop and meditate on what that means. God is sovereign over any worry, over your whole life, and you can know you can trust Him. I write this for myself just as much as I am for all of you because I know I’ll be back to worrying about something, and that’s when coming back to read this is so important.

I also am extremely grateful for the influence my grandparents have. They’ve been through so much recently and are of course still human, but their faith is so strong and has inspired me so much. It proves that God can get us through anything.

ashlee-grandparents.jpg

If I didn’t recap the food we ate, would it have really been a week with my grandparents at all?! Grandma made me these bagels for breakfast, and then I also discovered frozen French toast sticks at HyVee that taste just like the ones I used to love at my school. I’m not sure how healthy they are, but I don’t really care either because they were amazing and I was finally eating breakfast because normally I don’t… Grandpa was undergoing radiation treatments over in Spencer when I was there, so we would have to leave by noon, which didn’t leave us time for lunch until the late afternoon, but let’s be real I didn’t wake up until ten most days anyway… #summer

breakfast.jpg

This was the real highlight of all the food we consumed. Their Hardee’s has these little sliders you can get, and they’re super cheap and the perfect size for me because I don’t usually eat a full sized cheeseburger unless I’m super hungry, and then the curly fries are the perfect addition. I miss these so much…

hardees-sliders.jpg

This was in the waiting room that Grandma and I were in while Grandpa had his radiation done. Thankfully, it didn’t take long, but it takes its toll, so I was glad I could be there with Grandpa. He had to do it everyday, Monday through Friday, and now we just pray that it got all the cancer. I was up for the end of his time doing this, which just proves how every moment should be appreciated and is a gift from God. I also remember talking with Grams in this waiting room about the thoughts I’ve been writing about and needing to release my grip on things. Life can feel very unpredictable, but we can’t let that shake our faith because God never changes. He is always good, faithful, and His promises are always true. That’s something I have to remember when life hurts or when I feel anxious for the future.

Their waiting room also had these cookies, which I ate most of the days, so yes, please still pray for my diet. It’s just as wonderful as ever. And that’s one thing I don’t have any desire to change, which is why I need all the more prayers…

cookie-waiting-room.jpg

I loved getting to go for car rides, too, like we always do. I had good talks with Grams on those, and then Grandpa would take us out for an ice cream cone at McDonald’s, too, almost every night, and we’d drive around town. I regret letting worries about things that aren’t even relevant to my life right now seep into my time with them, but now I can take it all as a learning experience to just be in the moment. That is so huge and something this society is forgetting how to do. We’re so driven by what’s next, what we should be accomplishing next, etc., and that is draining us. It’s okay to just have some weeks like these that are low-key and maybe not the most productive but an essential time for God to speak to you and for you to just rest in Him while He takes care of it all. Because He can, and He will, and the thing I have to remember is He doesn’t need my help with that. He’s never asked me to worry about my future or otherwise try to manipulate it and figure it out myself. He knows just when to bring the insights, opportunities, and connections that I need, and me worrying and obsessing about finding those doesn’t change anything. It doesn’t make time go faster. It doesn’t lead to any answers. Again, be still, He says, and know that He is God. That’s His job. I just need to obey and relax.

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

Their Godfather’s went out, which still upsets me, but we ate at Pizza Hut instead, and theirs was also wonderful. Then at the end, we asked for one brownie and cinnamon roll, but I guess they only come in packages so…we got a whole box of both! Which was perfect for our diet!

pizza-hut.jpg
brownies.jpg

Lastly, we of course had to stop at Okoboji, and while it was a really hot day, I had fun just looking through some of the stores. I actually didn’t buy anything though I thought about it, but I’m glad I didn’t because one day we went to a JCPenney’s in Spencer and I scored much cuter finds at much better prices there. A dress and sweater totaling under $50. June is the time to buy sweaters, people. It was like $5, regularly $40 or so. Then I also got a dress I hope I ever find an occasion to wear it to, and that was on sale.

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

Back to the thoughts I was talking about earlier. I actually cried a lot during these few weeks. Again, that wasn’t really because of any circumstances. Hanging out with my grandparents is a blast, and it wasn’t related to being there at all. However, I let thoughts that I battled my whole sophomore year consume me. One thing I’m learning has to do with desires because sometimes my dreams absolutely consume me, and it’s exhausting. Constantly looking for opportunities because I’m afraid I’ll miss something or waste my life if I don’t. Constantly wondering, obsessing, and letting what I want in the future take me out of what God has given me in the present. It’s a battle I constantly face, but I’ve learned this: every moment, no matter how joyful or painful at the time being, is part of the journey God has you on to shape you into the person you’re meant to be. You’re not going to miss anything, unless you do go on your own way ahead of God. Then you’ll miss blessings He wants to give you right now. Because my life doesn’t start when I publish a book. It doesn’t start when I get married. It’s unfolding right now. There’s so much beauty in the right now. I have so much anticipation and longing for things I still want to do, but God knows. He’s given me those desires, and He says if I am seeking Him first, those pure desires will be given to me also (Psalm 37:4).

But that’s where I went wrong. I’m consumed by my desires to the point where God isn’t first anymore. How can I expect to get those things—and actually be satisfied with them—if God is not the center of my life? My desires mean nothing without Him at the center, and my life will not be enjoyable if I’m not putting Him first.

ashlee-mirror.jpg

We love listening to country music on their TV station and in the car, and two songs I found that I love and that spoke to me were “Catch” by Brett Young and “Living” by Dierks Bentley. The former talks about how when a guy was just going about his life and not looking for anything, a girl came along. It reminded me that God knows just when to bring everything into your life that you need, and just relax in that. You don’t need to go looking for things and wear yourself out. The latter is another good song about just appreciating the life you’ve been given and really taking in your blessings and each moment as it comes. I listened to both of them a lot when I felt down.

Chasing after dreams and desires is exhausting. It’s exhausting because God never asked me to do it. He already knows the plans He has for me, for you. And He knows just how to accomplish them in His timing. So here’s to letting go of all the how’s—that’s not our job to figure out. The most amazing, wonderful miracles come when you least expect them and when you may not even be aware that you need them because when you’re seeking God, He knows how to keep you on the right path. He knows how to bring you back when you’ve strayed. And if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s to stop trying so hard. Take the pressure and expectations to perform off. Let God do His work in preparing you for what He has planned. And rest assured that when you’re seeking Him first, all of the pain, all of the longing, and all of the desires He’s put in you each have their purpose in your journey. He WILL work it all for the good. You don’t have to know how. You just have to believe Him when He promises that and enjoy what He’s doing right now in the everyday.

signature.jpg

If You Would Just Let Go

des-moines-skyline.jpg

Stress is something that imprisons most people in this society. I see it everywhere. I’ve been to hockey games, which are supposed to be fun, and I see people that are agitated while they’re getting food or otherwise exhibiting an all around edginess. I’ve been to hockey games, and I’ve been stressed because my mind isn’t there; it’s jumping clear ahead to things that are not even close to being in the future yet, such as meeting people and finding people in college and getting a guy, etc. At school, everyone feels pressure to perform and meet some sort of expectations, whether their own or of others.

It’s really a sad thing we’ve got going in this society.

Nobody knows how to enjoy life as God intends for us to. While the world can be a stressful place and is full of sin, I don’t think a lot of people realize that it’s not actually what God wants for us to push ourselves deeper into it and let it rule our lives, thoughts, and attitudes. Just the opposite, really.

I’m not always good at this, but what God has shown me when He has helped me be at peace and witness others who are not is that I can’t keep quiet about the secrets to peace and how being this stressed and negative is not worth it. It’s really not. Negativity is one of those things we seldom comprehend we’re even doing until it becomes a habit, and that habit ends up defining how we think and view the world, thus influencing us to act that way and not be able to enjoy anything or appreciate the fact that God has freed us from that way of thinking.

It needs to change. As a Christian, I feel I have the responsibility to set an example of this change. When I am just as negative as my peers who are not following Jesus or are not surrendered to Him, that’s an issue. It says a lot about how my relationship with God is going and that I need to get my attention back to Him because I’ve been spending too much time immersed in the worldly ideals and not what He tells me to focus on, which is to be renewed by my mind, not feel depressed like the rest of the world and dwell on everything that’s wrong.

There really is such a simple fix, though, one that God says repeatedly throughout the Bible: just let go. Let Him take care of and fight the battles. He promises He will (Exodus 14:14).

I try to fight way too hard. I know that. I don’t want to wrestle with God, though, as it’s the quickest way to lose your peace and inherently pointless because His plans are much better anyways. Our perspective is so limited, and there have been many times where I’m reminded of just how little I really do know about what He’s doing in my life. It’s a humbling, reassuring reminder. It shows me I don’t know all He’s doing, and it is more than I can imagine, and He is obviously handling it even when I’m not conscious or aware of it. Isn’t that an amazing thought? And it is TRUE. If you are surrendering your life to Him, He is always fighting on your behalf. The God of the universe. Wow. You can’t be stressed or depressed when you meditate on that. You may not see solutions or how things are coming together or how they will be. But He does, and He promises to take care of you.

If you would just let go, you’d know this, and it’s the most reassuring, beautiful feeling. That moment of total surrender, of knowing He’s got you. You can have it right now. Even if you don’t “feel” it, believe it anyways. Life is not dependent on our emotions, and if we want any lasting joy, we cannot think based on our circumstances, stresses, or anything else along those lines.

If we want true peace, we have to focus on the only source of peace, God Himself (Isaiah 9:6). Let everything else go. Put the other thoughts to rest. God knows your every thought, and He’s more than capable of taking care of your battles without your trying to stress about it yourself. He’ll give you the insight, the solutions, when you need them. In the meantime, believe that He is already doing it. Because He really is, people.

It’s so easy to get wrapped up in wanting the control, of wanting our way. But God knows what you want, and He promises the best. Life is only found in Him, not through the things you want, so place your life in Him, and anything else that comes is ultimately going to point you back to Him and how good He is.

If you would just let go, I can promise you from so much trial and error that that’s where true life is found. God never designed us to dictate our own lives and plans. We can’t do it all anyhow. We are designed to follow His lead. If you would just let go, He’ll take over. He’ll give you His perfect peace. And He’ll give you true joy and abundant life, no matter what (John 10:10; 16:33). The world thinks this is impossible, that being depressed and filled with despair and anxiety is the norm. And under sin, it absolutely is. But if you would just let go, it never has to keep you down in life. Ever. Jesus enables us to be the most peaceful, joyful people because He Himself is those things. And if you would just let go…

He’ll bless you with those special gifts also.

sparkles-by-ashlee-signature.jpg

My Thoughts Lately

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ashlee-travel-road-trip.jpg

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

reeses-candy-road-trip.jpg

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

ashlee-mae-writers-notebook.jpg

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

estherville-iowa-swinging-bridge-river.jpg
estherville-iowa-swinging-bridge.jpg

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

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

wendys.jpg
cabelas.jpg

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

cabelas-ashlee.jpg

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

city-lights.jpg
city-lights.jpg

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

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

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

ashlee-hotel.jpg

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

bible-hotel.jpg

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

ashlee-kirsten.jpg
ashlee-amanda.jpg
city-lights.jpg

Headed back to the hotel

ashlee-writing-hotel.jpg

I do love working in hotels

shopping-hotel.jpg

Except I always get distracted with shopping :’)

dog-begging-food.jpg

My dog while I was sick

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

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

iowa-city-iowa.jpg

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

iowa-city-downtown.jpg
kinnick-stadium.jpg

Kinnick Stadium, home of the Hawkeyes

iowa-city-hospitals.jpg
iowa-city-hospital.jpg

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

ashlee-iowa-city.jpg

Then we went to the mall of course :)

ashlee-shopping.jpg
mcflurry-shopping.jpg

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

pink-stationary.jpg

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

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

kylie-bisutti-books.jpg

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

ashlee-hockey-game.jpg
zach-parise-iowa-wild.jpg

Zach Parise <3

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

ashlee-mom-hockey-game.jpg
ashlee-city-lights.jpg
ashlee-city-lights.jpg
ashlee-city-lights.jpg

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

bridge-lights.jpg
hockey-game-food.jpg

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

city-lights.jpg

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

bonfire.jpg

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

willy-hunting.jpg

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

ashlee-grocery-store.jpg

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

ashlee-pink-coat.jpg

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

ashlee-sparkly-boots.jpg

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

ashlee-doing-makeup.jpg

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

ashlee-wavy-curls.jpg
ashlee-blowout-curls.jpg

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

ashlee-pink-ornaments.jpg

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

ashlee-food-court.jpg
ashlee-mom.jpg

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

ashlee-mall-shopping.jpg

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

beautiful signature.jpg

God's Got This

Hey, everyone! This is another old post I wrote that got lost in my drafts and never published, so I thought I'd share it today! I wrote this on June 6, 2016, right before we were leaving for our trip to Canada! I can't write as much content on this blog right now as I normally could because I'm hard at work on a new project to be announced SOON! I still pray for you all, though, and I hope that this post over what God has taught me about trusting Him can help you, too! xo Ashlee


We all have that something in our lives that causes anxiety. Maybe it's a long term thing, or maybe it's just something temporary that is stressing you out. Whatever it is, I want you to know that God has it in His hands. He really does.

I have a lot of fear in me. We all do, but I think it's safe to say that some people are better at trusting God than others. We all go through struggles where we question Him, though. Still, I want to be somebody that doesn't fear because I totally trust in the Lord. Most of us think it's easier said than done, but it's really not that hard because you can totally let go and let God. The hard part is resisting the urge to worry.


You can totally let go and let God.

CLICK HERE TO READ MORE


I'll give you an example of a worry that is short term and one that is long term. A short term worry would be preparing for a trip, which we are doing. I'm not even the one dealing with most of it, but I still have to get prepared, too. It's easy to have doubts about it, too, because there's never a guarantee that a vacation will go the way you want it to.

A long term worry could be something like someone dying. You're so afraid of losing someone, and it constantly steals your peace. I've learned a lot about keeping your peace over the last few months, and I'm still learning. But God has been so faithful and patient with me, and He's showed me a lot. I pray that He would for you, too.

Understanding Where Worry Comes From

There is one thing that causes you to worry and one thing only: Satan. That doesn't mean you can just blame your worrying on him. You have to fend him off with God. But worry does come from Satan.

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.
— John 10:10 ESV

My mom and I have talked about how Satan will attack you at your worst areas, too. He knows when you're at your worst and most likely to believe his lies. He knows when you're tired or stressed about something. He knows your weak areas and is going to hit you there. For example, I used to have this huge fear of losing my parents. I think I've mentioned that before, and every time they left the house I feared for their lives. I definitely don't worry as much about that, but it is still one of my weak areas, and Satan knows when to taunt me with it.

You all know I've had a challenging year, especially with friends, and one thing that Satan would lie to me with is that since I don't have any godly friends, God is going to take away my parents, too. Along the same lines of losing my parents, he would try and tell me that God was going to take them away to test my faith. Yes, God uses things to strengthen us, but He is a good Father, and His desire isn't to take away everything you love just because.

***UPDATE: Sometimes, God does let you lose everything, but there is always a sovereign purpose for it, and if you know Him, He's always working things for your good (Romans 8:28). He doesn't set out to give you everything you hate.

If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!
— Matthew 7:11 NIV

How Do You Conquer Worry?

Focus on God

READ YOUR BIBLE. It is a simple yet powerful thing that totally transforms the way you think and live. Without it, then what? Where are you getting your inspiration? How are you growing as a Christian? You're not. And it will be that much easier for Satan to attack you, so put on the armor and submit to God.

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
— Ephesians 6:10-17 NIV

Pray Consistently

The amazing thing about God is that He understands your fears and is very patient with you. You can run to Him in prayer with your fears. Get real with Him - He can handle it. Ask Him for guidance and the faith to conquer your fears. Pray this for other people, too. Prayer is a vital weapon against Satan and the lies he tells us. I saw a quote one time that said Satan will try to keep you from praying because he knows that your praying will keep him limited.

Have you ever not prayed about something because it seemed like none of your prayers were being answered? I've done that. I think, well, it's not like this prayer is being answered, so I'm just going to quit praying about it. This is easily one of Satan's biggest lies, though, and I don't want you to fall for it. He only says that because it is true, prayer makes all the difference. You have to be patient sometimes, but God is working behind the scenes.

And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.
— Ephesians 6:18 NIV

God is always working behind the scenes, and we may not even realize that what He is doing is so much greater than what we could imagine.

CLICK HERE TO READ MORE


Meditate (On Verses)

The meditation where you close your eyes and say the little "OMMM" thing is not going to do you a stinking thing, and neither is any of the other meditation you've probably read about on cheesy sites and blogs that promise earthly happiness. But if you meditate on verses, that will help you so much because God is the only one who can satisfy your needs (Psalm 107:9).

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

Worry Is a Sin

Worry is a sin because you're doubting God's plan for you. You're doubting that He understands what you're going through, doubting that He could help you, and doubting that He would help you. All believers struggle with worry, but you have to give it to God. God definitely understands what you are going through, even if it's something petty. He made you, after all. And He cares.

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.
— 1 Peter 5:7 NIV

God can help you, and He will. People think that just because God doesn't help you the way you envisioned means that He didn't, but that couldn't be farther from the truth. He is the Creator of the Universe. He knows what's best. I say this a lot because, myself included, we get all high and mighty and think we've got it all figured out when we're just looking at a piece of the puzzle, and God sees the whole thing. We must look like total idiots when we do that, and we make God the enemy. Don't do that. He knows best.

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
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 16:10-11 ESV
‘I know that you can do all things,
and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.
— Job 42:2 ESV

Be Understanding

As I mentioned above, God is understanding of your fears and wants you to cast your anxiety on Him (1 Peter 5:7). You need to do this for other people as well. Sometimes we see somebody with a certain fear and roll our eyes, like good grief, what a ridiculous fear. But do you want God to feel that way with you? Just because that person's fear isn't yours doesn't make it any less real for them. There's nothing worse than being truly afraid of something, and all somebody tells you is to get over it.

I also understand that we DO need to face our fears. We do need to get over them, but God is patient (Psalm 86:15) and helps you get over yours, so you need to be patient with others, too. Pray for them to get over their fear, and instead of complaining about how stupid it is, ask them how you can help.

Besides, no one wants to have fear consume their life. Everyone wants happiness. And we can get that true happiness found in Jesus alone, the One who has commanded us again and again to fear not. Don't be that person that gets chained by your fear. Allow God to free you from it.

Why You Can Totally Let Go and Let God

I have mentioned countless times on this blog that you should trust God all the way. But you might be asking WHY? How do I know I can trust God and that He is really looking out for me? I promise you can. I see Him working in my life all the time, and I know He is looking after me. And you can totally let go and let Him take care of your life.

Why-You-Can-Totally-Let-Go-and-Let-God-Sparkles-by-Ashlee.jpg

He is real

I already wrote one blog post over this, but it's only an introduction to my thoughts: The 5 Biggest Reasons Why I Believe in God, and I want to write more that elaborates on those reasons with even more details and evidence. I added them to my list of 184982 blog post ideas, so be on the lookout for those in around 2035! Kidding, hopefully. And I do say hopefully.

But seriously, I totally believe that He is real, and the Bible is true, too. I have tons of thoughts over this, and I will write about them. Anyway, that is the first reason. Now we can look at what God says and does.

Ashlee-and-Willy-Walking.jpg

He sent Jesus for us

That, in itself, is huge. We are sinners, and yet Jesus died for us. That is proof of His love, and since He loves us enough to do that, we can definitely believe Him when He says He has a good plan for us.



Ashlee-and-Willy-Playing-on-Walk.jpg

He loves us so much

I could go on and on about this, but let me show you some Bible verses that come from Him about it.

But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
— Romans 5:8 ESV
‘For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
— John 3:16 ESV
He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.
— Psalm 147:3 ESV
The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
— Psalm 108:3 ESV
I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.
— John 10:9-11 ESV
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.
— Lamentations 3:22-23 ESV
The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.
— Zephaniah 3:17 ESV
The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.
— 2 Peter 3:9 ESV
Ashlee-and-Willy-On-a-Walk.jpg

He does have a good plan

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.
— Romans 8:28 ESV
And the Lord will guide you continually and satisfy your desire in scorched places and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail.
— Isaiah 58:11 ESV
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
— Romans 12:2 ESV
Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!
— Psalm 27:14 ESV
If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.
— John 15:7 ESV
Surely there is a future, and your hope will not be cut off.
— Proverbs 28:13 ESV
Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.
— Psalm 37:4 ESV

Personal examples

Where do I even start? I wrote about my website gone wrong story and how He worked through it, and I have at LEAST two other stories I want to share: my church story and a blogging story. But you know, it's just really cool how God works. Even in the little things.

For example, one time my mom was stressed, and I told her a Bible verse I really had grown to like and one I thought she needed to hear. It turns out her devotion for that day was that verse.

It's called having faith for a reason. It's definitely not going to be easy, but start memorizing these verses. Get to know God through His Word and prayer. The more I pray, the more I see Him at work. Just give it a try. I promise you won't be disappointed.

The reality is, this is a huge topic, and one blog post isn't going to transform your life.

You have to be willing to make that change. You have to be willing to surrender your whole life to the Lord. When you do this, you'll see Him at work. Just take one more step to doing this today. Be patient. Persist in prayer, and pray believing and pray continually as 1 Thessalonions 5:17 says. 

You can let go of what is bothering you because there's not a single thing you can do to change/prevent/fix about your situation. 

You can let Him because He is the Creator of the UNIVERSE , people! Sometimes we just shrug this off, but it is NOT something to shrug off! Seriously, God is God! He knows what He is doing; He knows the stuff we cannot see. As the verses repeatedly state above, He loves us and has a good plan for us.

‘I am the Lord, the God of all mankind. Is anything too hard for me?
— Jeremiah 32:27 NIV
‘Ah, Sovereign Lord, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too hard for you.
— Jeremiah 32:17 NIV

Are you able to let go and let God? Look closely at your life. What is holding you back? Leave a comment below or get in touch with me here or through my social media accounts, and I'd love to talk with you! P.S. This is really important to me, so if you haven't already, please take a short two question survey about your opinion on me posting some short stories here. Thank you so much! I have faith in all of you and that God is going to work through you! Let go and let Him!!