Wednesday, September 11, 2013


Last Friday I had a meltdown. A crazy schedule, difficult classes, and some recurring health issues had joined together with a healthy dose of insecurity to create a giant monster designed to kick my butt. And that monster succeeded.

You know those days... the ones where social interactions are just a little off. You did or said something mildly embarrassing. You can’t seem to have a good hair day. You keep feeling weird and out of place. Well, it had been one of those weeks. I was gradually feeling more and more insignificant. Despite my best efforts to regain my confidence (deep down I know the outfit I’m wearing isn’t really a make or break issue!) I was clearly fighting a losing battle.

Friday night I confided in my journal: Sometimes I am just so confused. What is right? What is wrong? I am so insecure, and I know it, and I try to be confident, and I can’t because I have so many insecurities. Is life just one long process of coping?

I shed a few tears and went to bed. Nothing changed.

The next day it was like a switch had flipped. I hung out with friends all night and had a great time. On Sunday I went back to my journal and wrote a little reflection on insecurity. I have found it is a pattern in my life. I tend to fluctuate back and forth between confidence and insecurity as if I have little control over this pattern. After looking at my past experiences with this issue, I feel as though insecurity is something I cannot control or keep from happening. However, I can control what I choose to do about it.

Every time insecurity creeps in, I have a few choices to make. I can allow it to overtake me, believe the lies that I am not good enough, and sink in depression. I can try to make myself feel better by looking nice or seeking out approval. But the only thing that will truly deliver me is to look outside myself and find my identity in Christ.

Focusing on myself feeds insecurity. Intentionally searching for ways to serve others, seeking the Lord in prayer, and holding on to God’s truth and promises is what delivers me from it. 

After I reached this realization, it was like climbing a mountain. The theme “Identity in Christ” kept repeating itself in various ways: speakers, devotions, books, Bible studies. This morning our chapel speaker challenged us to take a look at our motivation. Am I motivated by the approval of man, which is fickle and unreliable, or am I motivated by the love of God which has no end?

Chapel ended with the song “How He Loves.” I’m not really a church-service-weeper but I could not hold back the tears in my eyes. He is jealous for ME! Me? Small, insignificant, failure of a person--me. How He loves me. In that moment I was overwhelmed with the realization that I need nothing else. I don’t need the approval of man. I don’t need to be accepted by my peers. I don’t need a boyfriend to tell me that he loves me. I don’t need to be praised by the people I come in contact with. God’s love is enough for me.

I write this down because I know that I will soon forget it. I will start to feel under appreciated. I will feel ugly. I will feel boring. I will compare myself to other people and wonder why I can’t have that personality or why my hair doesn’t look like hers or why I am so horribly bad at small talk. And when this insecurity creeps back into my life--I know that it will--I will remember the truth that I realized during this battle with insecurity:

God is enough.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Dear Myself

I’m a huge fan of goal-setting. As summer comes to a close and the fall semester approaches, I decided to take the time to put down a few goals that I have for this semester.
  • Make time for daily devotions. When you get super busy it can be easy to set this aside and say “I’ll just do it later.” Don’t fool yourself with that lie. Do it right now, because otherwise you won’t.
  • Work out at least 3x a week. You’ll feel better, stay healthier, look better, have more energy. Just do it, even when you don’t want to! You’ll thank yourself for it later.
  • Eat right. Living in a house this year will mean more control over your diet. It might take more time to chop up a salad and fruit, but your body is worth it.
  • Give something up regularly. At least once a month, sacrifice something for a week. Facebook, sugar, social media, movies... Something. It builds character and helps to reevaluate goals.
  • Focus on intentionally deepening friendships. Relationships take time and intentionality. Don't allow busyness to cloud what is REALLY important. Spend time getting to know people and being an encouragement. This season of your life will be over before you know it! Use the time that you have surrounded by these incredible people to the fullest.
  • Study hard. There’s a reason this one is last on the list. It would take a brain tumor or something of that nature to get my perfectionist self to not study hard. This is important, so work hard and learn all you can, but remember it’s not THE most important thing.

And here's a motivational quote to close this out! :)

Daily discipline is the DOOR to full freedom. 
~Ann Voskam

Friday, July 26, 2013

Past Redeemed

"I wouldn’t ask too much of her," I ventured. "You can’t repeat the past."
"Can’t repeat the past?" he cried incredulously. "Why of course you can!"
(The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald)

I watched the movie The Great Gatsby when it came out and then read the book a week or so later. Nothing stood out to me quite as much as this quote. After some pondering, I came to a conclusion: We may not be able to repeat the past, but we certainly have the power to change it. I’ve witnessed that firsthand. Present actions become a part of the past, and thus change those memories. Say you and your best friend have done all sorts of things together and made tons of memories. Then one day, you find out that your best friend has been spreading rumors about you behind your back. All those memories in the past will no longer be sweet. You will remember them with bitterness and regret. Or say that you have an acquaintance whom you see from time to time and never really think much about. Then one day, you find out that that acquaintance has been leaving you encouraging notes and sends an anonymous birthday present every year. Suddenly, your past friendship with this person becomes a whole lot more important.

We, as human beings, have a certain ability to alter the past through our actions in the present. And this is not something that can be taken lightly. Being kind to someone once won’t mean that that person always views you as a nice person. One act of betrayal can wipe away a whole past of good memories.

At first this was discouraging. There are memories in my past that will never be the same because of circumstances in the present. Then I remembered something I had heard once in a discussion or a book (I can’t remember exactly) about heaven. When we get to heaven, God will not only redeem us from our sins for all eternity--He will redeem our pasts as well. The redemption of the cross is powerful enough to not only make us pure and clean for all of eternity, but it is powerful enough to redeem our lives here on this earth. Just as memories in my past have been changed because of sin, one day they will be changed back because of redemption. That is the hope I can hold onto. God will make ALL things new. Not just the future, but also the past. This moment I am living in right now will one day be made pure. What a promise.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Thought for today

If I am not willing to be continually seeking out the Lord’s will through patient study and hard work, I cannot expect for Him to suddenly reveal His will or pour down wisdom at a particular moment when I happen to want it.

Lord, give me the strength to persevere.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013


It was this week that everything just hit me. It all became reality. I would think about where I was at at this time last year, and where I thought I would be now, and just want to cry. Over the years, my family’s annual vacation to the lake is a time we all look forward to with anxious anticipation. The year may have been hard, relationships may be strained, but when we all pack up and head to our cabin, everything is okay in my family. Stress takes a leave of absence. Our family bonds are strengthened. Family vacation has always held an incredibly special place in my heart. This has got to sound overdramatic, but I am being 100% serious... It was close to sacred.

This is the first year that family vacation happened without Dad. I thought I had completely come to terms with my parents’ divorce, but this week is when it became reality. The terrible thing about a broken relationship, I have learned, is that you do not only lose all the future moments, but in a way you lose the past as well. I think that’s one of the hardest parts. When someone lets you down in an irreversible way, you lose the potential of future moments with that person, yet you can't necessarily cling to the past memories either because they have become tainted with what has happened in the present. There’s pain everywhere you look.

2 Corinthians 12:9-11 has always been my favorite verse. It has spoke to me in countless times in a hundred different ways, and tonight once again it touches me at the core:

"And He said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong."

I have realized that I have always had this picture in my head of what my life will look like in the future. It is really hard for me to face the reality that I am living in a broken family. It wasn’t just Mom and it wasn’t just Dad and it wasn’t just that random person I prayed for one time who grew up in broken families. It is now me. And that realization leaves me with so much insecurity regarding my future. But... His grace is sufficient for me. SUFFICIENT. Enough. Adequate. He is All I need. With Paul, then, can I can take pleasure in my distresses? I believe that I can. I am hurt, I am broken, I will continue to be hurt, and I am sure that I will be broken again when reality hits me in a new way. But in the midst of the tears I can claim the promise that His grace is sufficient, and though I am weak... Now I am strong.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013


It’s strange to think that one day I will be completely and utterly forgotten. And not just in several centuries when the world is a completely difference place, but probably in a few short generations. I could be popular, I could be funny, I could be well liked, I could be rich, I could be successful, I could even be famous; but no matter what, the odds are that my entire existence will be totally forgotten in an extremely short amount of time. Even if I were to become famous so that my name was repeated or written somewhere in a history book, life will go on, for the most part, completely without me. Someone reading that dry history book might yawn when they come to the words “Ashley Elizabeth” and their mind will be much more occupied by the attractive girl sitting across the aisle than by those two words that represent a life: a human with feelings and emotions just like you, and thoughts and decisions that she had to live with every moment of every day.

After thinking about all of this, it is absolutely ridiculous that anyone would ever think--even unconsciously--that life is all about them. But then again, trapped inside our bodies and minds and ways of thinking, forced to view everything so subjectively as ourselves, it is hard to think of life as anything different. How are we supposed to make our lives matter when we are so very us, so absolutely forced to never be anything but that one insignificant subjective individual, trapped by time and mindset?

With all this in mind I look at I Peter 1:3 with a fresh wonder and gratitude for what God has done for me. According to His abundant mercy He begot us again to a LIVING HOPE through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. This, this is where I find meaning. This is where my fleeting life can rest assured of a definite and fulfilling purpose. Life without purpose is nothing. I choose meaning, hope, and purpose. I choose to believe in Someone bigger than myself; I hope in His master purpose in which I am less than a tiny speck in the exquisitely artistic masterpiece. I look to Him with gratitude and I resolve to make this life a speck totally devoted to Him.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Reflecting on the Heart of God

I was on vacation, sitting on the lake in a kayak. A bird flew by and I thought to myself, “God knows the name of that bird. He knows exactly how many feathers it has, knows when and where and how it was born, watched it grow up, and will see when and where and how it dies.” That got me thinking.

I thought about all the people in the world. ALL of them. (That’s about 7 billion people.) I thought of the tiny, tiny, tiny percentage...out of all those people...that I know personally. People that I have actually made face-to-face contact with and am therefore aware of their existence. That’s a ridiculously small number. Out of this tiny amount of people that I know, I narrow it down to the ones I actually care about: the people I have talked to and interacted with enough to have a personal interest in their lives. Even smaller. Out of this group I narrow it down to those I love. The people whose cares and struggles are so close to my heart that when they hurt I hurt, when they weep I weep, when they rejoice I rejoice. The people that I know and love on an extremely personal level.


That is a tiny figure. Even lots of people that I care deeply about do not make it onto this very personal love list - simply because I as a human being do not have the time or energy to invest so personally in that many lives! Add a few hundred more people to this list and there’s a good chance I would shrivel up and die under the weight of so many problems and struggles laid deep on my heart.

But then I turn my eyes to God. God, who created every single being on this earth: not just all 7 billion of us who are living right now, but all those who have lived before. Yet He loves and cares for each of us...EACH of us...on an infinitely deeper level than we care about our most special friend in all the world. Imagine taking your tiny personal love list and spreading that kind of affection to every single person in the entire world. Imagine knowing the thoughts, desires, struggles, and lives of everyone who has and will ever live on this earth. Imagine not only possessing that kind of knowledge, but also experiencing each individual’s life on a personal level: weeping when they weep, rejoicing when they rejoice, understanding their confusion and anger.

Not one of us finite human beings would last a minute with this kind of knowledge. People say, “What if I was God?” as though the responsibility of being God is something easy. No. What God does, day in and day out, without rest or pause, is something that is far, far more difficult than we could even imagine. Think of all the sin He has seen! He knows the human condition better than any of us. He watches every day as we slip into the same exact patterns of sin that thousands and millions and billions of our ancestors have slipped into before us. And yet...He is patient. He is kind. He is even merciful! He blesses us when we do not deserve it!

I have tried to put it into words, but the truth is that I cannot come close to fathoming the width and depth of the heart of the Lord. It is so great, so perfect, and so wonderful, that all I can do is fall on my face and praise Him. On this earth, I will never fully understand the greatness of His love, but I can certainly increase in my learning. And the more that I know, the more I will praise Him for who He is and for who I could never be.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Total Devotion

Today in my Bible reading of John 21:15-23, I was learning about total devotion. In this passage, Jesus asks Peter the same question three times: “Do you love Me?” The first time Peter is quick to answer. “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” Of course he loved Jesus! Jesus had just made the ultimate sacrifice right in front of his eyes. Peter was probably on an emotional high. He had just seen the Lord and Savior of the world give Himself up completely and die a horrific death on the cross, then miraculously rise to life again. Of course he loved Jesus! Like Peter, it is easy for me to love the Lord in words. When I think of all He’s done for me, I just want to shout for joy . . . and tell all the world how much I love Jesus! However, Christ knew how easy it is for humans to enthusiastically profess their undying devotion, then crumble when it comes time to put that love into action. Therefore, “Jesus wanted Peter to love Him so supremely as to forsake all that he was familiar with and be exclusively devoted to being a fisher of men.” (John MacArthur) Am I willing to forsake all that I love - all that is familiar to me - to follow Christ wherever He leads?

Jesus accepts Peter’s answer. All right, he says, if you really love Me, then feed my lambs. As Christians, one of our primary duties is to draw others into closer relationships with the Lord. In order to provide others with a constant supply of nourishment, we ourselves must always be connected to a well that never runs dry- the Living Word of God, Jesus Christ. We can’t feed others when we are running dry.

Peter probably nodded his head and turned back to his fishing nets. But Jesus wasn’t going to let him off the hook so quickly (get it? “off the hook”....ha ha). So He asks him the same exact question a second time. Peter was probably a bit surprised. Did I mumble the first time? Oh well . . . I’ll say it again in case He missed it. “Yes Lord; You know that I love You.” Jesus replies: “Tend my sheep.” Peter nods again and turns back around. Then, Jesus drives the lesson home. He says it a third time. “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?” Peter is grieved. I would be too. All of my sins . . . all the times I HAVEN’T shown my love . . . all the times I’ve let Him down . . . all the times I’ve disobeyed . . . missed opportunities . . . chosen the flesh . . . grieved His heart . . . that’s what would be going through my mind. A tear would run down my cheek. “Lord, You know all things,” I say with Peter. He knows every time that I have let Him down. He knows every sin I have committed. He sees the filth and dirt and grime that is on my heart. He knows how often I’ve been unfaithful. But . . . He also knows that this pathetic sinful little heart wants desperately to love Him more. “Lord, You know all things,” I say. “You know that I love You.”

Jesus sympathizes with our weaknesses. He understands the depravity of the human heart and He wants to help us love Him more. So for the third time He says “Feed My sheep” and then He adds the ultimate challenge. He tells Peter that one day Peter will be asked to give up his life for the glory of the Lord. Will Peter be willing? Whenever a Christian chooses to follow Christ, he must be prepared to face suffering and death. We cannot give half of ourselves to the Lord. He calls for all, or nothing. Am I willing to sacrifice everything? My hopes, my dreams, my plans . . . my friends, my reputation, my comfort . . . my possessions, my gifts, my passions . . . am I willing to give it all up? To follow Him wherever He may lead me? If you are willing to do this, Jesus tells Peter, if you are willing to give yourself completely up for me . . . then “Follow Me.”

And that is where I realized that I, just like Peter, am faced with that very same decision. Jesus doesn’t call for something: He calls for everything. He doesn’t want sacrifice: He wants complete sacrifice. He doesn’t ask us to surrender: He calls for total surrender. I began to take a mental inventory of everything I hold dear, and that’s where I found my dream. I have to ask myself: Would I be willing to give up those things that are dearest to my heart if He calls me to? This isn’t the first time I’ve asked myself that question and every time my mental answer is “Of course I would!” But  deep down inside there are things I don’t really believe that God would ever call me to give up. I mean, if He had really wanted me to give it up, He wouldn't have created me with these dreams and desires, right? No. Because then it wouldn’t be a sacrifice. I’m not saying that I believe God is calling me to give up all of my aspirations. I am just asking myself if I would be willing to give up everything . . . everything . . . for His sake. Including my dreams. Would I?