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Today I am linking up with Lisa-Jo Baker's blog to participate in Five Minute Friday {except that Lisa-Jo is away so really I'm linking up with Crystal Stine's blog....Yeah, I didn't just totally confuse you at all. ;)} Our word this week is belong. 

Belong

Sitting on my desk at work is a picture of my best friend and I at her wedding this past April. We’re both done up all pretty with her in her white wedding gown and veil, hair in an updo and me in my navy blue bridesmaid dress, hair curled, both with our bouquets in hand as we pose for the picture. Soon, another picture will join it. This one will be of me with the aforementioned bride’s sister as she gets married this coming Septemeber. Both of these girls….these women, are cherished in my heart. They make me feel like I truly belong. Not that others can’t have the same affect but when you have someone or someones that you can talk to and they know what you’re thinking before you say it, that’s belonging. I honestly thought that once I was the only single one left in our little trio, things would change drastically between us but you know what? As they’ve grown, so have I and even if I were to feel like I no longer belonged with them, there is one Person that I will ALWAYS belong to. His Name? Jesus.









 
 
It’s amazing to me how much two little words, “Good morning”, can do for a work day or a work office environment. I sit at the receptionist desk in the office I work in. Most of you who know me know that being in the receptionist position isn’t exactly my forte. I often have to push myself to be friendly and speaking first when someone walks in the door is not at all easy for me. What’s interesting is that I had to be receptionist at two previous jobs as well and both were much more hectic than where I am at currently. At least now I don’t have to answer a phone on top of greeting people! And this office is not that busy, which helps. My previous receptionist positions helped to prepare me for where I am at currently and while it still isn’t my favorite thing in the world to do, the job has become easier over time and I actually enjoy being a common meeting place along the main route that many of my coworkers travel (I wouldn’t have said that 10 years ago when I started my first stint as a fill-in receptionist!).

God works much in the same way; what you’re going through today is shaping you for what will happen tomorrow. Everything in life has purpose; I honestly believe that there are no coincidences in life. Against everything I think I can possibly accomplish, God has called me to be a Christian nature writer. I look at that calling and think, “I’m honored that you think so highly of me but seriously, where and what is my calling?” I can’t see it yet but He can. He’s been preparing me for this since I was a kid. At age 10 I wrote a “report” about rabbits…just for the heck of it. What 10-year old does that on their own?? At age 13 or so, I was dealing with a very oppressive spirit of fear that would have me awake and totally frightened at night. One night, in the midst of being awake, afraid and not knowing what to do, I heard a lone bird singing. It was 2:30 am so this bird really shouldn’t have been awake but yet there it was, singing all by itself. I found that very consoling and I felt led to write about that only I didn’t know what being “led” to do something meant at that time. Looking back I can see where my love of birds and bird songs has come from. My point here is, although I have no idea how it’s going to play out, as I look back over my life up to this point, I can see God’s hand preparing me for where I am today and where I will be in the future. As you look back over your life, where do you see God’s hand?

 
 
God has been prompting me that writing needs to come to the forefront again and not just the little blurbs about wildlife that I post on Facebook daily....actual, in-depth, exploratory writing. To start back up again I am participating in Five Minute Friday, a five minute, free form way of writing a post based off of one word started by Lisa-Jo Baker on her blog, Surprised by Motherhood.

Today's word is Messenger so here is my post!

God made all of us to be a messenger somehow and our message is to those of our own species, humans. Animals, plants, rocks…they all know the glory of the Creator and I believe that somewhere down deep even the most staunch atheist can sense the presence of God. He gave us all unique likes, dislikes and abilities which we are to use to get the message He has trusted us with. I believe that our God-given passions should be used as assets toward telling people the Good News and how they can come to know Christ better. My God-given passion is for wildlife, especially birds, butterflies and mammals. As I try to get back into the groove of writing to pursue the God-sized dream that God has laid on my heart, I often wonder to myself, “How exactly can I reach people with the message You have entrusted me with using the passion You have given me?” I know there’s a way but what that way is has me stumped at the moment. I get glimpses but nothing whole yet.

 

 
 
The moment you begin to think that Satan can’t touch you (cue MC Hammer music!) in a certain area of your life, you become vulnerable to attack. Satan is the ultimate deceiver (John 8:44) and to further confuse believers, he disguises himself as an angel of light (2 Cor. 11:14).

Satan would love to distract you, to make you feel totally helpless and to make you feel completely unworthy.

Lies.

Those are all lies.

Jesus came to save, ya’ll….to give life! He came down from heaven as a helpless baby born to a teenage virgin. Of all the…unique, shall we say, plans that God has designed, this has to be the ultimate in its unique-ness. 30+ years later, Jesus died the death of a criminal so that you and I could have eternal life. But more than that, He died so that we could live in the grace, love and freedom that being a son or daughter of Jesus provides.

So I say again, Jesus came to give life. Satan wants to extinguish that life.

Are you going to let him??

 
 
I am just on the cusp of realizing this incredible dream that God has laid on my heart. I don't know what it will look like completely, as it changes constantly but I am excited to be where I am!

There was a time, not all that long ago, when I came very close to giving up on having a dream at all. Those around me had dreams that they were following, but not me, or so I thought. My best friend seemed to have her life in some sort of order. God told her very clearly the path he wanted her to take and so she started down it. Her passion for the path He placed her on arose the further she traveled with Him. Another friend had known what her passion was for some time and while the path was not always easy, she too was following her dream. And then there was me, feeling like a car stuck in the mud, it's wheels spinning to no avail. I had recently graduated with a degree in history, a subject I love, but something just wasn't clicking. I knew before I graduated that I was becoming bored with my chosen major (never a good sign, by the way) so when a co-worker pointed out to me that my passion for animals lit up my face whenever I talked about them, I was intrigued. She made a suggestion for a major to pursue and I took it and ran with it. 

Except....

That wasn't in God's plan for me. His dream for me  was bigger, much bigger.

After a series of "growing opportunities" God placed something completely unexpected in my path at a time when I was feeling about as down as a girl can be. When I thought that pursuing my God-sized dream was impossible, He laid the foundation for where I am currently, which is the beginning of something huge, I can tell. It may not be huge to the rest of the world, but honestly, that doesn't matter. What matters is that God is the one in charge and He laid this dream on my heart which means this is important to Him as well. God never puts us on a path that doesn't have a purpose and He always, always has a plan and purpose for our lives, no matter what present circumstances look like.

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans for a hope and a future." - Jeremiah 29:11

So, what is your God-sized dream and are you willing to trust Him with it? I'd love to hear it so I can pray for you!
 
 
At the end of my last post, I talked about choosing a word for 2014. In my case that word is Discover. Before I go on, may I encourage you to choose a word for the new year? We are only six days in to the new year and already God is revealing some amazing things to me so I can attest that it really is worth it!

Discover. You may be wondering how I came up with that word. Well, I'll be perfectly honest here and tell you that I didn't. God did. I was reading a friend's Facebook post about her word for 2014 which reminded me that I wanted to choose a word as well. After about ten minutes of staring blankly at the brick wall in front of me, the word Discover came into my mind and I knew immediately that it was my word.

I didn't know anything about choosing a word before the very end of 2013, but if I had chosen a word for 2013 it would have been Hope. Hope eternal, hope in God, hope that there is something more. The book that I have been inspired to write (which is coming along at an extremely slow snails pace) is built around the idea of hope. Hope was and still is all around me and now that I have hope, I can go on an adventure of discovery!

I can discover, as I did this morning when I looked up the definition of the word "discover" (which is, "to notice or learn, especially by making an effort") that an adventure such as this is going to require effort on my part. It will not be easy sailing the entire way, of this I can be rest assured but to some extent, I welcome the storms because I know that out of the testing they bring comes strength and fortitude in Christ and a deeper understanding of the One Who created me. I will also discover more about myself and develop my self-confidence. These past couple of years have been an interesting journey for no other reason than because I am finally pursuing something that I am passionate about rather than pursuing something that someone else told me I should. This year that journey will continue and I'll learn even more about myself and in doing so, embrace who God has created me to be and learn to love myself wholly.

I also believe that God has set me on a path of discovering my voice through my writing, which is exciting, exhilarating and a little scary, all at the same time! I am finding myself more and more inspired to blog and the main point of my blog is to help me learn to be a better writer so that when I do start my book in earnest, I will have confidence in the writing skills that God has gifted me with.

I am incredibly excited to begin on this journey of discovery in the new year.

Lord, I pray that you would inspire each person reading this with a word or phrase to strive towards in 2014. I pray that as a result of their word or phrase, they would come to know You more intimately. Bring peace into their hearts as they listen for Your voice. In Jesus' Holy Name I pray, Amen!

What word or phrase has God laid on your heart for 2014?
 
 
I find myself feeling outcast more often than I think I ought to feel that way.

It’s my own doing really.

I fear allowing people in because if I let them in, then they might find out something about me that is ugly or find out that I really don’t have it all together, despite outward appearances, and then they might leave, taking a piece of me with them as they go. So rather than jumping right in to new relationships with fellow believers and non-believers alike, I remain on the outskirts of the conversation, eagerly waiting and hoping that someone will notice me and invite me in.  It’s always been this way and that’s probably the way it will always be.

Wrong!

As we begin this new year, my prayer for all of you is that you would know, by Jesus’ blood and grace, that the way that it always has been is not the way it always has to be. The Lord tends to call us out in areas of our lives where we feel the least confident or the least comfortable. His ways are not like our own (Isaiah 55:8). No, indeed his ways are much better than ours and that means that when we follow him, our lives and circumstances will forever be changing.

From my own life I see that the Lord has called me into a career path that will, in one way or another, involve public speaking. I detest public speaking, or at least the “old me” detested public speaking.  As part of my schooling, I had to take a Natural Resources based public speaking course last spring. When we started, I was a stiff, jabbering mess who had no clue what to do with her hands or arms and who couldn’t make eye contact if her life depended on it! While I still need to work on my self-confidence, the end result of that public speaking class was the very beginning of a beautiful transformation that is still taking place, similar to a caterpillar transforming into a beautiful butterfly.

God has led me to several blog posts in which the author asks the readers to pray about a specific word or theme to focus on for the new year. My theme for 2014 is “discover” (confession here: I’m a closet adventurer. I love seeing where unknown roads and paths will take me as long as I know I can return safely to where I started). While I don’t know all of the discoveries in store for 2014, I do know that the beautiful transformation that God began will continue as a result of those discoveries, and that is a wonderful blessing!

What transformation is God making in your life? Are you embracing the changes that are happening as a result of this transformation or are you digging your heels in?

Read Isaiah 43:18 and Revelation 21:5

 
 
As my parents and I headed out to Christmas Eve service earlier tonight, I felt a bit of grinch rising up inside me. This is my favorite time of year so needless to say, the grinch within was NOT welcome. As I sat waiting for the service to begin, I prayed that God would reveal reasons for joy in my life. Not the fleeting joy of opening a gift but real, lasting joy. As always, he came through! There was the joy of hearing a child read the Christmas story, the joy of singing Christmas carols in unison with my church family members, the joy of spending the afternoon with my brother and sister-in-law in their new (gorgeous, I might add!) home, the joy of coming home to see my cat, Bella looking out the window expectantly and having her as an overjoyed welcoming committee as we walked in the door. My point in this post is to say that there are many, many reasons to be joyous this Christmas season! If you find yourself battling with the grinch within, take a look around and thank God above for the blessings he has bestowed you with. If that doesn't do the trick, think of the joy on the faces of Mary and Joseph as they welcomed a baby boy named Jesus into their little world and then think of the joy He finds in you each and every moment of each and every day.


Lord, I pray that each and every person who reads this would be filled with the joy that only you can bring. I pray that they would look
at the world through new eyes as a result of this new found joy. Fill their hearts with your love and peace this Christmas season. In Jesus' Holy Name I Pray, Amen


Merry Christmas! :)
 
 
I tend to have a hard time excepting how much God loves me....okay, I just simply have a hard time excepting how much God loves me. It's so easy to know something in your brain that you have such a hard time excepting in your heart. God has tried and tried to get the point across until one day I took real notice of something that has been happening for years: I see hearts everywhere! That may sound a bit odd but I do! As a kid, I would think, "Maybe that means that _____(insert the name of a boy I had a crush on at the time) really does like me!!" Ha! I was young and really just an infant in my walk with Christ. As with most things, as I've grown in my faith, I see things much, much differently (thank You Lord for that!). Now, when I see hearts in leaves that have fallen on the ground, or when I see them on my towel that I use to wipe the water off my face after showering in the morning, I know that the love they are pointing to is one that no earthly love can ever dream of matching. I can't speak for you but personally, I think that's pretty awesome! He's definitely getting His point across and now, every time I see a heart, I thank Him for it.

God may not be putting hearts in your path to remind you of His love but believe me when I tell you, His everlasting, all-encompassing loves extends to all of His children. Please don't ever think that you could do something so horrible that God will stop loving you. That is an outright lie. To all of the mothers and fathers reading this, would you sacrifice your child for someone who didn't appreciate or love you? Would you allow your child to die a criminal's death for people who, at times, refused to acknowledge that you existed? That is exactly what God did for you and I (see John 3:16) and all He asks in return is our love and a commitment to Him and Him only. As we enter one of the holiest seasons on the Christian calendar, I encourage you to look at the world through new eyes....through the eyes of faith, hope and love, but most of all, love.

Blessings,
Ashley
 
 
Let this old life crumble, let if fade
Let this new life offering be your saving grace
Let this old life crumble, let it fade

I have had those song lyrics stuck in my head for a while now and, instinctively, I know that God is speaking to me through them. That is comforting to me. You see, I've been nervous about an upcoming doctor appointment, nervous to the point of tears. A little voice keeps hissing, "No one else is this anxious about a simple doctor appointment. What is wrong with you?"

How often do we fear the unknown? How often do we allow the enemy of our hearts to make us believe that we are the only ones who face that fear? A bit of truth, ladies and gents: You aren't the only one who has ever felt that way! There, I said it! Accepting that truth is at least a little bit freeing, right? Now let's apply God's truth to the situation. A verse that I read recently that has really stuck with me is Isaiah 41:10, "fear not for I am with you; be not dismayed for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand." The main part of that verse that has stuck with me is, "fear not for I am with you." God is with me always in the person of the Holy Spirit. Continue to repeat that to yourself until it truly sinks in. Once I become a follower of His, God never leaves my side! Oh be still my beating heart! The knowledge of His presence with me always is one of many unfathomable sources of comfort and joy in my life.

My joy level rises about ten-fold when I read Zephaniah 3:17 which says,

"The Lord your God is with you,
the Mighty Warrior who saves.
He will take great delight in you;
in his love he will no longer rebuke you,
but rejoice over you with singing."

He "will rejoice over me with singing." Wow! The God of all heaven and earth, of the entire universe (!) cares enough about little ol' me to rejoice over me with singing??

It almost sounds too good to be true.

Here's the thing: it's not.

You know that song I had stuck in my head earlier? I honestly believe that when songs like that, songs that speak to something I am experiencing, get stuck in my head, it is because He is speaking them over me and maybe even singing them over me.

If you're feeling bogged down by anxiety, first, please remember that you are not alone. Many of us struggle with fear and anxiety. God tells us in Philippians 4:6-7, "Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your hearts and your minds to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." Go to Him with the prayer of your heart, whatever it may be. Lay it all out before Him. He is a God who cares deeply about His children. Ask Him to bring His perfect peace to the areas that need peace and healing to the areas that need healing.

Don't know what to pray?

The Holy Spirit is already interceding on your behalf (Romans 8:26-27)!
 

    About Me

    Hello! My name is Ashley. I am so glad you are here! My passion is to educate others, specifically in the area of nature, but I am finding more and more that God has given me a gift and a passion for educating others in general. Anyhow, I hope you enjoy yourself while you are here!

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