The Most Inspirational Days of My Life

Sometimes I’ll be out doing something with my family or just having some time to myself in the middle of a school day where I think and reflect on my life when it hits me. How grateful I am for my life or, more accurately, going through life with God as my best friend and letting Him be in control. I wanted to share some of these moments or days that God has blessed me with to grow me as a person and inspire me to live the abundant life He wants all of us to have (John 10:10). And, the thing is, not EVERY DAY has to be great or even remotely significant to make an impact. Sometimes, the worst days of your life can even be the most inspirational. You don’t think this at the time, of course—something I will address in a bit—but God uses those just as much as He does the good days. It’s often because of those challenging seasons that make those moments of reflection so much sweeter and rewarding on all that He has done and carried me through. So let’s get into it—the most inspirational days of my life, and I want to hear what yours are, also.

city-lights.jpg

Shopping days. I have some fond memories of going shopping with various friends, and I remember talking about deep issues while bonding over that shared time. It makes me realize how a lot of those things, shopping, eating out, or whatever it may be, are just as much about being with people as they are the event itself. And I’m very thankful for the memories I have with people who have taken me shopping. :)

Hunter’s doctor appointments. This might seem like a weird thing to put on here, but being around my family and observing how they have learned to release his health has been very special to see how God is honoring that and taking care of him and, more importantly than that, giving us the faith we need to trust Him always. I also loved getting to be in the city—shock—and remember dreaming about future careers (because I would always see different psychologists or other professionals in the medical field, or one time we were in a waiting room overlooking the skyscrapers* outside and so then I would think about if I worked in one of those), future guys and what my husband would do for a career, and just my longings and having to trust in God for my own future.

*Yeah, I realize we don’t have “skyscrapers” in Des Moines, Iowa, because I said this one time, and my family made fun of me. I am just a small town Iowa girl, so they look like skyscrapers to me. ;)

Nights at Knoxville. That shared camaraderie with family as everyone has their people to talk to and that sense of everyone belonging and fitting in their own roles while being entertained at one of these events is priceless. Those are the kinds of memories that stay in your heart, like I talk about here.

Struggling in school. There was quite the variety of drama throughout middle school for me, but I remember how God put special teachers in my life at just the right times, and they helped me greatly in determining the truth amongst a society that preaches lies. I talk more about this here. Even the drama with my friends all ultimately made me who I am today, and I had to go through it like every other teenage girl to get where I am now and to own my faith like I have now. But there were also those brief funny moments or times of fun where you are thankful for that break of being able to laugh and enjoy life even if you’re not exactly where you want to be.

Car rides with family. On our way to Estherville and traveling across the state under various times of day, like sunset or nightfall or in rain or cloudiness or sunshine, I just remember enjoying that and it was always a time for me to think and reflect. A time to give me this blog post idea. :)

Having Willy. Having our dog become part of our family and going through his life with him has been a blessing, one that you often don’t realize is so special until after that time has passed, like when I was able to pick him up! You can read more about him here.

ashlee-willy.jpg

Taking Willy on walks. Having revelations about ideas for books and thoughts laid on my heart from God as I’m taking in His beauty to relax and unwind, always while listening to my favorite music I had just discovered, in the heart of summertime, and then taking pictures of all the gorgeous views from the country, are some of my favorite days. Somedays I would walk specifically because I was stressed or upset, but talk about a way that God can help you when you do feel that way. Probably why my heart will always gravitate towards summer, too.

Nights at the lake. Fishing with Dad and just daydreaming about story ideas or enjoying nature once again. Dad would sometimes take me to do that when I was stressed and the weather was nice. It was always a great getaway.

The early days of putting together this blog. That joy that is always running through you when you begin a new project and trusting God to use this blog, though I would not have guessed it would mean as much to people as it is, and I’m very grateful and thankful to God for that. You all have inspired me. <3

ashlee-fishing.jpg

Nights persevering at intense basketball. Having to push through comparison issues for the first time and the start of my days of crying all the time. :D While I have great memories of playing basketball and enjoying the game and feeling of being active, it brought with it quite a bit of heartache as I struggled with not feeling good enough. But again, God used that immensely to help me know my worth in Him alone. I talk more about this here.

ALL the times spent with family in Estherville. This is my grandparents’ small town, and I won’t be redundant, I literally have a whole blog post dedicated to this town and what it’s meant to me you can read here. The bonding with family and our deep talks over real struggles have been absolutely priceless. So much of my development in faith and as a person has taken place here. Read that blog post for all the details on that; it’s really been such a gift to me.

Playing Minecraft with Hunter. Bonding with my brother through that game on the Xbox in the summertimes when I had to babysit because our parents were working and our memories of our epic fails and having fun building things together. Although too often than not we would end up fighting, but it was mostly a bonding experience! ;)

iowa-wild-hockey.jpg

Hockey games. I need to write more about hockey because I love it *almost* as much as shopping, so that’s how you know it’s high on my list! Going to my first hockey game with my family, I was skeptical but loved the environment—it was unlike anything I’ve ever seen before, and take that as you want, ha—and then this has remained a constant in our lives, a way for me to release stress and enjoy time with family. It’s also been crucial for my development as well, like when I thought I was sick one time because of something I noticed that night but then learning to trust God and enjoy life while I have it—in that moment. I also have witnessed the (sometimes) trashy environment or the potential for that, just like what is prevalent at any event, and learning to love God all the more and be close to Him. He blesses me with nights like those, and they are not sins, but they have the potential to be if one is not pursuing Him and chooses to indulge in worldly things. I also remember writing to my future husband because hockey players sure have a way of making me dream hahaha, dreaming about the city again because THE VIEWS from Wells Fargo Arena—they should get a location award, honestly, and dreaming about going on DATES at a hockey game. ;)

AND SEEING ZACH PARISE made my life and was proof of how dreams do come true and God does care about those seemingly more shallow things because him coming down to the Iowa Wild was truly a once in a lifetime thing. I remember we bought tickets on a whim, like, the night before or something. It was awesome. And there was this one night not too long ago when I didn’t want to go to the hockey game because I felt down about life and stressed, but God worked out the most amazing, “small” thing that was like a miracle to me. It’s those little moments that come when you know God intimately and He knows everything about you, and those little moments that may not seem like much but are so special because of your relationship and how He works. Hopefully that makes sense, but hockey games have truly been a blessing He’s given to me. That’s why one day I want to marry a hockey player haha ;) <3

Also, when I was first getting into hockey and had my crush on that hockey player, it actually did push me to grow in my trusting God with my future husband and helped me narrow down what I wanted in a guy in the future. Oh my gosh, I literally remember being stressed because I thought my hockey player was so cute but knew I would never have him (he’s married and twice my age hahaha), but then I began to worry about if God really could find me another guy as cute or if He even cared about shallow things like that. I literally prayed those things! :D And it is what led me to one of my favorite books, “The Chase” by Kelsey and Kyle Kupecky that I talk about here. And yes, God does care about all of that, I have had quite the few experiences that show that. :) But I will write much more about this in future, but for now, read this post and this post.

Reading books at school. Craving that time for free reading so I could pick up where I left off when I was really into a good story that was truly authentic and inspiring and reading throughout my study centers in middle school. Unfortunately in high school there’s never built in time for this, and I feel like I haven’t read in forever. :( But it makes those memories that much more special. Oh, how much reading I did in middle school! And probably read through some mature books that were way above my head, but hey, I think I’m doing alright, and that’s how you grow, right… :) This was also true when I was reading for leisure at night on my Kindle and all the things I learned as I began to grow into a teen from reading young adult fiction. ;) My dog would lay with me, too, and I remember just plowing through books and, with series, always asking Mom if I could buy the next one ASAP because it was so good, and then at the end of that year (sixth grade) they would have a party for kids who read a certain amount of books, and there was all this ice cream and wide array of toppings. It was wonderful and even more special because I genuinely loved reading also, and that in and of itself gives life meaning.

The beautiful trip to Florida. Experiencing the world more deeply for the first time in my life and how big it is and my appreciation for my own life and my yearning to explore more and reach more people. I also remember a car ride home at night from our last day when we went deep sea fishing and talking as a family about how thankful we were for the trip and our lives and growth. Read all about it here. Definitely one of the highlights of my life.

Hanging out with my friend and our ideas we came up with as we developed and tried to make meaning of our lives. We would come up with stories and act them out. We were young, and I have great memories of doing that.

Going for walks with Grams and her always listening about my stresses and big dreams, and the memories of location like walking in the early mornings to Casey’s or around town at sunsets.

Time with my girl cousins and our bonding, watching movies, being goofy, taking pictures…I write about this here. Amanda came down one time, and we enjoyed being together after my family took a loss, and Mom and Dad went to have their fun at concerts while we got to talk deep and enjoy what matters in life with Gramps and Grams and just had fun going for walks in the summertime and more you can read about here. Kir and I went jet skiing also, which was another top experience of mine.

Dreaming with my friend while we would walk and talk about shopping and things we wanted, our dreams for our futures, and always (well, me, anyway) having BOYS on my mind and her being patient with me as I talked about my various crushes over the years. ;) Thankful for those memories. We also did cross country together and would run with each other at practice. I remember how nervous we were for our first meet but how I told her (and myself) to put it into perspective, and what is its impact in the grand scheme of things?

Getting involved in church for the first time and my deep talks with Mom at night as we would drive over. This led to my increasing hunger to read through my Bible for the first time, and I started doing that shortly after and finished that following summer. There was also my longing for a friend there, but that all led me to deeper relationships with adults and that shared fellowship because of what God has done for us was amazing to see.

The intense season of school basketball. Those early morning basketball practices and having to learn to be independent by setting my own alarm so I’d have enough time to get ready and realizing that isn’t what I wanted because throughout every practice, I would always dream of my book or my blog and how I wanted to work on those. I was also very stressed for games because I would overthink a lot, and I remember one of my teammates even telling me that I was just trying to come up with every scenario that could happen and overthink it, so it was good for my faith to go into the unknown like that and really surrender my worries to God. And He would always deliver. I enjoyed being able to have fun with my teammates for that season also, like talking on the bus, and I also remember it pushed me to manage time well. I had to pre-write all of my blog posts on the weekends and schedule them out for the week because I had absolutely no time for writing during the week, but I knew I didn’t want to abandon this.

Staying up late to watch movies with friends. Some movies they showed me are like OHHHKAY BUT ended up fostering talks about issues we were facing as teens and our curiosity about other things and our guys one day. I also remember bonding through writing together with a lot of my friends because we had that in common, and those memories are very special to me, even if they were only for a short season.

Studying my Bible in depth at church through discipleship and having those mature conversations I craved and feeling reassured that amidst feeling deeply lonely at this time in my life, I wasn’t doing anything wrong, and living for God and learning to completely depend on Him gave me a sense of freedom and completeness like never before.

My first church retreat and dreaming about my future guy (I was hoping I would find someone there but not God’s timing ;) and reflecting on the impact I want to leave for the glory of God. I remember recapping all of it with Mom when we got home that night and as she picked me up and we drove home. I talk all about this retreat and how wonderful it was here!

Our wonderful family trip to Canada that exceeded my expectations and affirmed how I need to trust God with everything because He alone can work things out, and I also did a ton of theological reading (I had bought about a million books from that retreat ha). That was a big growing stage for my faith as well.

Nights where I felt extremely alone. Because I was so thankful for my joy in Jesus on these nights or when I just felt out of place at school, because I was able to feel the peace and assurance He alone gives (John 14:27).

My heartbreak over some broken people. I say “some,” but literally every person is broken or has been at some point in their life, but it took some people in particular to open up my eyes to this. Of course, I’d always known this, but it lit within me a passion to share my own experiences with people who may not have anyone to do that, and it was one of the most meaningful things I’ve done.

Shopping with Mom. We dream and talk about my own future one day and how thankful we are for our relationship, or those nights when the boys would go their separate ways (like to hockey games—they were the ones to start first and then we all ended up loving it) and we have our time. I wrote about our time in November spent holiday shopping here and how that was actually a really special time in particular for me because before we went, I had felt down about a lot of things and just very insecure and doubting my own worth or if God would do things for me in the future. But she was so patient with me and talked with me about all of that as we drove over to eat out afterwards, and we were just so thankful for our relationship with God because He alone does that, and it’s awesome to think of just what He’s done since that time.

Beginning my novels. I’ve “officially” started two books but have attempted to start many others that get pushed back either because I try to start too many at one time or just want to come back to a certain project later. But either way, that feeling of starting something is very special and trusting God to use that for Him after He’s laid ideas on your heart. I love that feeling.

My doctor appointments with Mom in Des Moines. It would turn into a full day event, and we had to learn to navigate it together (because Mom hates city driving), but we kept an open mind, and it worked out well. I don’t feel guilty for making time amidst business or school for those fun times because they’re crucial for your mental health, to take those breaks and have those special times, and what ultimately matter and what you remember in life. I remember one time I had one on a school day and my doctor even saying things like how she remembers those days where she took her daughters out to do fun things like shopping or eating after an appointment and those times really are priceless. I don’t think you should abandon responsibilities, obviously, but this society gets so wrapped up in productivity, and sometimes it really is good to take that break just because. Look at the big perspective of things. These days will inspire me and stay with me more than any productive thing I could’ve completed. That stuff can’t love you back, I heard it described well in an article one time.

Playing an online game with my friend. These days were wonderful because that was my way of releasing stress and hitting pause on other things, like writing, even. I remember always looking forward to playing that when I got home from school. And actually, I remember not wanting to go to that first hockey game as a family because I wanted to play that game. ;) It actually did help me be creative, too, though, and it was just a fun way to unwind and appreciate that season of my life. I was 12, haha.

Seeing hard work pay off at the end of middle school. I got this award at the end of the year, but it wasn’t even that so much that meant things to me. During eighth grade, a year I felt very lonely and overlooked, I remember a teacher pulling me aside and thanking me for everything I had done for their school and telling me not to think that goes unnoticed. I was shocked because, being as quiet as I am, I didn’t think I really did anything. But I think that goes to show that God does make people pay attention to you, even when you think they aren’t, which is why it is all the more important to lead by example always and live for His glory.

Time with Grams at her Y. I remember dreaming about college a lot (because she would take me to Ames sometimes, which I loved, and I’ve been considering going to school there), and just relaxing my body in the swimming pool after some anxiety about various things I was struggling with going into high school. I remember one time, probably the first time I went with her to a class in the swimming pool, reminding myself to take it a day at a time and trust God to take care of me and appreciate each gift He gives me, like a simple day with her at the pool or if we go out to eat or go to Ames. Those seemingly simple days end up being some of the very best, truly.

My struggle with anxiety during my first year of high school. It felt absolutely debilitating for awhile—the thoughts were just relentless and irrational—but I am honestly thankful to have gone through it. When you deal with something like that, it only makes you that much more prepared to handle future worries better, and I know God used that to strengthen my faith even though it made me feel like a failure at the time. I talk more about my anxiety and what I learned to help overcome it here.

Days in PE just relaxing. Having time to think about all that God has done for me when we did things like tracking our resting heart rate and had to lay down for about twenty minutes was wonderful and just having that break between stressful classes to work out was great. It opened up my eyes to how much I really do enjoy exercise.

Eating out with my parents and our talks. When it’s just me with my parents going out and doing things, or like just me with my grandparents, there’s something special about that sole attention and having time to do both fun things and also spend time together and be able to have discussions about more serious topics. Those are some of my favorite times. The lesson I’ve learned from all of these inspirational days that I will get to in a minute came from a night where just the three of us were going out to eat.

restaurant-food.jpg

Furniture shopping with Mom. We went on a whim one day on a beautiful, rainy spring day (I’m not being sarcastic; I seriously love those), and the furniture store we went to was so nice, and I enjoyed dreaming about my own future house. Half of these days included me dreaming about something hahaha, but I like how all of that has been sparked by the moments I was in at that time, God’s way of reminding me to enjoy the right then.

Going to the city at night. Staying up late in our hotel with my family to make sense of some horrible trials in life but still having that joy only God can bring from hard times and knowing that we would make it through despite how hard and ugly life can be sometimes. I think those times in life have probably been the most inspirational, is going through hell but still being able to see the light at the end of the tunnel that only comes from living for God.


The takeaways from this

Here is what I wrote down, as the basis for one of my blog posts that I thought went really well with all of this. I wrote it in the car on a night not long ago when I was going out to eat with my parents: “The beauty of loving God: how my heart overflows with the beauty of my life because of Him that even makes me cry joy about the bad times because of His faithfulness and just those special moments I’ve had where I really feel like that and how He shows me a joyful balance between work and play and how it all leads back to Him AND YOU LITERALLY HAVE EVERYTHING TO GAIN WITH HIM - WE WERE MADE FOR HIM <3 <3”

You often don’t realize the moment you’re in until it’s gone. I know I especially can be prone to thinking about what’s next in life and where I want to be that I forget where God has me now, but then you look back and think of that and how you would love to have it back. So just enjoy every bit of life as it comes, even the bad times, because to grow in life and get to that point where you aren’t burdened by the chains of this world, you have to develop through the trials and can’t run from them. Appreciate the right now, as that is where God wants you to be, and He provides for the rest. He’ll give you that next step whenever He sees fit—you don’t need to go around looking for it or trying to make it happen on your own, something I am also guilty of.

And the last thing I will say is don’t evaluate your life in the middle of the hard seasons. It’s hard, a lot of times, to see what God is doing when He’s in the middle of it, but looking back, it begins to make sense. You begin to see why you had to be so alone for a season, or why your family had to go through ten different things at a time, or whatever it may be. You look at your life and don’t even realize the growth and work God has done in your heart if you’ve surrendered to Him, just like when working out, it takes several months or more sometimes to see the big results. That is why try not to think about why you’re going through a certain thing or why a certain season is hard. Because that is just life, and it’s hard, but it has to be hard to motivate you to totally depend on Him. And when you do that completely—not perfectly, but with your whole heart—you will be amazed at how beautiful life really is despite hardships (more on this here). Because God makes it beautiful. He alone is the key to an abundant life, and I’m so thankful for His work in mine.

How about you?

ashlee-mae-signature.jpg