Sparkles by Ashlee: faith, funny, + fulfilling dreams

Welcome to Sparkles by Ashlee, a Christian lifestyle blog over faith, funny, and fulfilling dreams. I'm Ashlee Staerk, and I'm a teenager in love with Jesus and writing stories for His glory in Iowa. Grab your fave drink (I'll take a Dr. Pepper), and peruse my blog, where I document what God is teaching me, encouragement He lays on my heart, the good and the bad in life (always keeping it real), and my journey of trusting God with my dreams!

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We Need to Stop Wasting Our Lives

I went to my first Christian retreat over the weekend. It was an absolute amazing experience, and I can't wait to go on another one. I've began to keep a journal, and I have always believed in the importance of journaling. I wrote down everything that happened and what I learned because I want to remember it, and I especially want to remember what I learned. I thought I could share some of those things on here, too.

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Friday Night

I got out of school early, which I definitely didn't protest against, and Mom and I drove up to meet the people in my youth group who were going. Our youth group is very small, and while I wish more people would want to learn more about Jesus, I kind of prefer the smallness.

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We dropped off our bags at the house we would be staying at for the night and had supper at Chick-fil-A. Oh my gosh, I've never been there before, and I have been missing SO MUCH. At the retreat, we looked around a lot before it actually got started, and then there was worship. Worship was amazing.

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We got to have one class or session that night. The two girls in our group and I went to a class about the judgment day in heaven that comes when Jesus comes back. Each session for the students was also serving food, but each class served from a different restaurant. Ours was serving Buffalo Wild Wings. I've never been there either, but they were good and SPICY.

We watched this movie I looked up and found here and will eventually buy because it was amazing. This guy acts out how he infers the judgment day in heaven will play out. I learned two things:

1. Jesus loves us so much, and my confidence needs to be in him ALONE.

This guy accepted Jesus into his life, but he went on to live a life of sin - wasting the talents and blessings the Lord had given him. But Jesus never stopped loving him.

And #2 is what I really want to talk about.

2. This life is meaningless.

We need to remember #1 and live our life for JESUS because PEOPLE are what matters!!

Everyone knows pink is my obsession. They can see it just by looking at me. I want my faith to be like that too. It is my prayer.

Because people, if you're not using your life to honor God and share Jesus...

YOU ARE WASTING THEM.

Notice how big and bold I made that. I want you to understand this. I don't know if I have any more excuses for people who are quiet about their faith. I'm not SAYING that you have to be a pastor to do this or write a blog all about your faith and FAITH ONLY. I'm not saying you have to tell every single person you come into contact with about your faith, but I am saying that you need to be sharing Jesus.

Some people are private people. I get that. But your faith should not be private. And when I say it needs to be public, again, I don't mean you have to go around plastering it everywhere. By making it public, I mean just don't keep it to yourself. It could be as simple as encouraging your friend with the gospel.

Sing to the LORD; praise his name. Each day proclaim the good news that he saves. Publish his glorious deeds among the nations. Tell everyone about the amazing things he does. Great is the LORD! He is most worthy of praise! He is to be feared above all gods. - Psalm 96:2-4
For when I preach the gospel, I cannot boast, since I am compelled to preach. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel! - 1 Corinthians 9:16

And remember to not make a name of yourself doing it. It's easy to get caught up in doing that for yourself, especially for me with my blog, but it's all for God and His glory.

I learned through this video just how meaningless stuff is. I'm serious. It shows you that once you get to heaven ALL that matters is prayer and sharing Jesus. And I encourage you to take those steps today in talking to God a little more. Sharing Jesus with one new person, and ask the Holy Spirit to give you discernment on who to share it with, when to speak out, and what to say. Remember to be humble and patient. It doesn't matter if you take baby steps, just so long as you keep growing.

Related: We're All on Different Levels and Show It

After our class was finished, it was around eleven and midnight. We headed to the house we were staying in. We plugged our phones in, set out our sleeping bags in the living room, changed into pj's, and we went straight to bed.

One thing about me is that I am a very homesick person. When I'm in a new location, especially for the first time, I tend to get bad thoughts. I was a little concerned that falling asleep would be hard for me because of that. Well, I fell asleep perfectly.

It surprised me when the real struggle was morning. And I do not mean it was hard getting up. More like it was hard WAITING to get up. We had to get up very early, like six in the morning. I have four words to describe this.

1. 4
2. am
3. Antarctica
4. insomnia

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Saturday Morning

The end. Well, finally morning did come. We all got either two or three hours of sleep. We felt on top of the world. We stopped at McDonald's for breakfast. I'm constantly being advised that you'll have much more energy if you eat a healthy breakfast. Those health nuts think they're such cool cats. I'm telling you, I was perfectly content with my three pancakes and three chocolate chip cookies.

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Philip Yancey, an amazing speaker we'd listened to the other night, had books for sale. And hey, I didn't persuade my mom to give me tons of money for nothing! I got two of his books, Where Is God When it Hurts? and Prayer, but then they offered me a deal on Disappointment with God, and I'm like, "Why the heck not? I didn't regret my breakfast choice this morning, and I certainly will not regret this!"

Yep. The rest of the day went something like...

- I met Philip and got all three books autographed
- For our first session we listened to him talk about prayer
- The girl I was hanging out with and I stocked up on caffeine
- She accidentally kicked her drink over during the session
- Then we chose a homosexuality session and learned while we must stand firm on our beliefs, we have to be compassionate and not shun those who are gay
- Ate lunch and let our feet dangle over this overlook thing
- Listened to a hilarious comedian *not a session
- Our final session was over Prince Charming; I love reading about Prince Charming, so everything they told me was review; click here to read about my favorite Christian and life books
- Moving prayer at the end

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If an introvert like me can survive this event, you can too! I totally recommend going on a retreat whenever you get the chance!

Have you been on a Christian retreat before? What was it like?