To you, my weary friend

The word “weary” has been spinning around my head recently. “I think I’d consider myself weary,” I think to myself. Sparing the unnecessary details, my life has dealt with far less than this. When it rains, it pours, as they say. I seem to be practicing anxiety-breaking breathing exercises more than just actually breathing like a normal human being. Yes, my life is filled with numerous blessings; a family who loves me, jobs that provide, a new car, the list goes on. But it’s like God’s favorite words are, “But wait! There’s more!” Except, there isn’t a brand new TV behind the curtain, it’s bad-news-Betty.

I say all of this to bring to you the idea of weariness. The dictionary defines weariness as this:

wea·ri·ness ˈwirēnəs

noun

1.

extreme tiredness; fatigue.

“he began to feel weariness”

2.

reluctance to see or experience any more of something.

“hardship at home produced war-weariness”

This looks a little different than “tired” or even “exhausted”. In Matthew 11:28 it says, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” That other word, burdened, is what takes the cake for me. Weary and burdened seem to flow together. When you feel weary, it’s probably because you feel burdened.

In Luke chapter 10, there is a teeny-tiny little story about two sisters named Martha and Mary. They lived together in Martha’s house in a village that I can only assume was the Bible time version of Belle’s provincial town. Well, before their very eyes, Jesus came knocking on the door of their humble, abode. This is the guy that everyone was talking about, the one that had these amazing stories to tell and could do some serious healing and he was wiping his sandals on their welcome mat. I like to think that Martha had that, “Dang it, and I just burned my last Bath and Body Works candle, now the house won’t smell like a woodland forest” moments. Mary on the other hand, she led him in to their house and listened. Sitting at the tired feet of Jesus, she left her burdens at the door and listened. As Martha rushed, Mary rested.

“But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, ‘Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!’

‘Martha, Martha,’ the Lord answered, ‘you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed — or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.’” Luke 10: 40-42

Weary and burdened with preparing her home to be fit for the King of Kings, Martha forgot that he was also sitting in her living room. He was waiting to tell her about how she was worth much more than the burdens on her back, but she was too busy carrying them to hear. Funny how the Bible and the dictionary can directly correlate sometimes.

I relate to Martha like a lot. Weighed down with the burdens of life, I can grow distracted and weary, unable to even process anything going on in the world around me. Blessings become blurry and happiness flees as I trudge up the mountain of life, breathlessly singing Miley Cyrus’ The Climb.

This life is made for so much more. God created burdens so that when we grow weary (when, not if, because you will grow weary), we turn to him. He created us with limits so that he can be limitless. He made us grow tired so he can provide rest. While your burdens are a part of your story, they are not meant to be carried alone. It’s like a refrigerator box. You know, it has that little picture on the side of the two stick-figure men carrying the box together (lifting with the knees, of course). It’d label you a bonafide Hulk if I met someone who could carry a refrigerator by themselves. There are things are are just made to be carried by more than one person because it’s just too heavy.

So, weary friend, give your burdens to God so you can sit at his feet and listen. Don’t let your blessings flee because you’re too weary. Be gracious and thankful that he is the one who created you for such a time as this. He knows you, he knows your burdens, he is ready to give you rest.

P.S. Also you should listen to this song if you’re feeling rather weary and also appreciate David Crowder. 

The One About Words

I love words. I love the way they look, all neatly organized into sentences. I love the way 26 letters can be formed in such a way to enlighten, inspire, and uplift. I love how powerful words are. I hardly hear of anyone walking around with broken bones due to sticks and stones, but I’ve seen and heard broken hearts because of a few choice words. I love that sometimes the most powerful of words are the simplest ones; “I love you”, “you are important”, “you’re beautiful”, “thank you” and sometimes even “I have food.”

We use words ask questions, write emails, sing songs, and tell stories on a daily basis. We read menus and send text messages. We write words into clever Instagram captions and giggle through the punch line of corny joke. We take notes in class and make to-do lists at home. With these mundane, everyday word-uses how many words do you think you use a day? I’m a babbler and also a story-teller – aka I must use A LOT of words. If my day had a word cap, I would probably be mute by noon every day.  What about you?

Let’s dive deeper into that – how many of the words you use are intentional? How many of them did you MEAN to use? How many of them do you tend to regret? If your day did in fact have a cap would there be any words that maybe wouldn’t make the cut? What if we had to live our daily lives actually thinking and mulling over every single word we could say or write – which would stay and which would go? It seems a little redundant to be saying such things while writing a word-y article but just like everything on my blog – just go with it.

The Little Mermaid’s starring crab, Sebastian, says it best, “The human world, it’s a mess.” He’s a crab but he’s right. It’s so easy to get caught up in our messy lives and forget that the words we are saying to ourselves and each other are so important. If our first words are so important, then why aren’t the rest of them?

Jesus spoke on this as well – duh. He became frustrated with the way of the world. Pharisees where doing what they do, questioning Jesus and His ways (sidenote: if I met Jesus today, would I question His ways? Or just go with it? Food for thought.). “Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? They don’t wash their hands before they eat!” (Matthew 15: 2) I might be asking that question too but that’s coming from a girl who has a small collection of Bath and Body Works hand sanitizer but I digress.

Jesus, after what I would assume to be the equivalent of a Bible-times face-palm, continues to essentially bring the conversation away from worldly things like the washing of one’s hands and to more important, heavenly things; the use of words. The Pharisees were more deeply concerned with the idea that unwashed hands + food = spoiled health. Jesus, per the usual, was more concerned that they were concerned about that over their heavenly reputation. He goes on to explain; “Don’t you see that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and then out of the body? But the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them. For out of the heart come evil thoughts – murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. These are what defile a person; but each with unwashed hands does not defile them.” (Matthew 15:17-20)

Believe it or not, unwashed hands goes under the “things of this world” category in Jesus’ eyes according to this scripture. While we are concerned about germs and undercooked food, Jesus is up in heaven like, “Um, I already guaranteed you eternal life up here with me!! Why don’t you try and preserve that instead of your fleeting, earthly life!! HELLO!” Evil thoughts defile our hearts and build a wall between us and God, unwashed hands just give us the sniffles.

Our time on here on earth is so short. To us, it’s all we’ve got here but to Jesus, we have so much more waiting for us. It’s so easy to worry about the things of this world but we have to ultimately choose – are we going to worry and think about the fleeing things on earth or prioritize and preserve that which get us closer to heaven?

Jesus was so intentional with His words. I like to think that he carefully chose his words so that as they got passed around the world for years and years to come, they would always hold the same meaning. I also like to imagine the people he had in mind when he chose his words, told his parables, and preached on the daily. I feel like when he thought about his father in heaven, he was encouraged to speak intentionally but when he thought about the people of this world and the world to come, he was intentional times 1,000.

So, friends, be intentional today; with your thoughts and your words. Words can build bridges or walls, which are your words building? Make important what is WORTH making important. Don’t treat your words like they aren’t worth it, because they are. Don’t be so blinded by earthly worries that you become deaf to your future in heaven. Your words hold the power to do great things, so go do great things.

God knows I need a little bit of this, too.

To: you

Hey ladies, this one is for you. This is for all of you who flip through Instagram, click through snapchats, or scroll down Facebook; this is for all of you who are stuck in the comparison trap. You see, I got myself stuck in the comparison trap just yesterday. I was scrolling through Instagram, a chocolate chip cookie in one hand and my phone in the other, admiring all my pretty friends in pretty bikinis on pretty beaches on their pretty awesome spring breaks. I looked down at my own body, realizing that the cookie in my hand certainly wasn’t my first and it was the only thing I had really eaten that day, besides the chicken salad sandwich that was my lunch. Needless to day, my couch potato body was not the same as any of their bikini bodies.

I was stuck. Officially stuck. As I refreshed my page, I felt myself getting stuck-er (so stuck I have to make up a word for emphasis). I was mad that they were so much skinner than I, that they were so confident in themselves that they flaunted it. I was jealous; first because of the previous explanations and second that I was playing couch potato while they were in tropical places. I was sad, I didn’t feel like could ever be as pretty as them. If that’s not stuck, I don’t know what is.

So what did I do next? I realized I was certainly not the only one thinking and feeling these things. I realized that, while these feelings feel real and viable, they are lies. Then I realized that maybe, just maybe there might be someone else out there that might feel like these feelings are real but don’t know that they are lies. So here I am, freshly unstuck from the comparison trap, hoping to maybe help someone else get unstuck.

First off, let’s decipher the lies from the truth. Lie: You are not skinny enough, pretty enough, fit enough. Truth: You are enough. See Luke 12:6-7. Literally in the Bible, Luke tells us that sparrows are basically sold in bulk for two pennies, yet God sees and knows each of them. That’s like Costco seeing, naming, and knowing each and every one of the paper towel rolls that is sold from their stores. It’s crazy to think about. The verse goes on to say that not only are the hairs on your head literally numbered, you are worth more than many sparrows. So, yeah, you’re more than enough. Lie: My weight determines who I am and who I’ll be and who will want to be with me. Truth: Weight is literally just a number. You’ll have a different number on Mars and a different one on the moon and an even different-er one on Jupiter. See 1 Samuel 16:7. You could go anywhere and that number could change, but who you are will no change whether you are in this world or another. Who you are determines your future, not the number on the scale.

So, you know the truth. You are enough. You are fearfully and wonderfully made (check Psalm 139:14 ). What’s next? Here are a few simple things that have helped me get unstuck.

  1. Surround yourself with truth. If you’re like me, you’ll crack open that Bible of yours and soak in the truth. Or put on some praise music and get lost in some of that beauty. Whatever floats your boat, do it. Don’t let lies become truth. Run after the truth, even when your stuck (I know—that sounds a bit redundant, just go with it).
  2. Compliment someone. The minute you scroll through the gram and find yourself getting trapped, compliment someone. Comment something uplifting, slide into those DMs, double tap the heck out of those cute photos. Don’t get jealous, get compliment-y.
  3. Remember who you are (sounds like a Disney reference, right?). My mom has always told me this, “it’s about who you are, not what     you know.” This extends to this pesky body thing. It’s about who you are, not what your weight is. It’s about who you are, not what your size is. It’s about who you are, not how on fleek your eyebrows are. It’s about who you are, not [insert pointless, comparison trap lie here].

“Then Jesus said to his disciples: ‘Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?’” (Luke 12:22-26). I seriously imagine Jesus with a pair of sick Ray Bans, dropping a gold mic as he walks away from his speechless disciples. If this passage doesn’t sum up literally everything, I don’t know what does. 

You are fearfully and wonderfully made. You are more than enough. You are loved, cherished, and adored by the Father. You are more than your jean size or the number on the scale. If God knows every sparrow that is sold and takes care of the ravens, why would he not value and care for you? Your precious self is worth everything to him. While he just spoke light and dark into existence, commanded trees to grow and animals to roam, he created you. He didn’t just speak you into existence, he knitted you together. He knows you by name, has numbered the hairs on your head, knows every beat of your heart. There is no such thing as an unworthy person under the blinding and beautiful love of a worthy God.

H O P E

Today wasn’t awesome for me. In fact, last week wasn’t awesome either. I have this nasty habit of falling in the victim trap where the whole wide world is falling to pieces around me and it’s everyone’s fault but my own. To be honest, I fall into that trap more than I’d like to admit. In these moments of pointing fingers and gripe-y grumbling, I completely disregard anything and everything my Bible has ever pointed out to me. I forget how much Jesus loves me. I forget the sacrifice He made so I can live and breathe and worship and dance and just be ALIVE. I forget that He is literally looking down at me going, “Golly Ashleigh, I freaking made you from nothing the least you could do is be HAPPY.” Today, I was reminded of the wonderful, delicious HOPE of Jesus. He didn’t do the amazing things He did for me to groan about going to school, He did it so I can live in total grace, gratitude, and worship. So, if you feel like you’re tripping into the sloshy pit of victim despair, here is a bit of hope, a bit of love, and a whole lotta Jesus.

See, this same world that we might complain and gripe about is absolutely over-flowing with hope. His grace is abounding, even today, thousands of years after He walked around performing miracles on the daily. This is the same guy who made the blind see, healed the sick, made his best bro Peter WALK ON WATER. He rose people from the dead and even rose from the dead himself. This guy isn’t just any guy, He is a miracle and a miracle worker. He is literally living, breathing hope.

Psalms 33:15 says, “He made their hearts, so he understands everything they do.” He (meaning God) made you, He made me. He picked how tall you would be (or how short in my case). He sprinkled in sense of humor, athleticism, kindness, joyfulness, and smarts to create YOU. He knows how many hairs are on your head because he put them there. He put your kidney in it’s place and structured your bones just right. He made your heart, He made your mind. He made it all from scratch. He made you so that, when you are ready, you can follow His flawless, beautiful, amazing plan for your life. He made you able and available, there is a lot of hope in that.

Romans 12:12 says, “Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble and keep on praying.” Okay, so if you’re walking through trouble, rejoice in confident hope. If you’re sad and mad and anxious all at the same time, rejoice in confident hope. If school is stressing the joy right out of you, rejoice in confident hope. Rejoice confidently in Jesus knowing that He knows what He’s doing. And, if you don’t know what to do while you’re trying to rejoice confidently, trying praying. Pray and pray and pray and pray. We live in a world where Jesus is leaning over and listening for you. He’s waiting for the unmistakeable sound of His precious people praying to Him. Prayers are answered. He still heals, He still listens, He is still hope!

Lastly, I bring to you these words, straight from Jeremiah. “Long ago the Lord said to Israel: I have loved you, my people, with an everlasting love. With unfailing love I have drawn you to myself.” (Jeremiah 31:3). Ladies, Gentlemen, God is INCREDIBLE. He LOVES YOU. He LOVES this world. While we are picking and prodding and griping and groaning, He is looking down and saying, “I STILL LOVE YOU.” His love is unfailing, even when we stop rejoicing, even when we don’t feel able, even when we’ve lost hope, His love is unfailing. His love looks like His son, His beloved one and only son, with arms spread across a cross for the people who put Him there, the people He healed in His lifetime, the people who turned Him away, the people of His world, the people of this world, and YOU. He paid the ultimate sacrifice, death, so that we wouldn’t have to. He paid the price so that we would leave our earthly bodies and join Him in the place of ultimate peace, His Heavenly Kingdom. If that isn’t unfailing love, immaculate sacrifice, and ultimate HOPE, I don’t know what is.

 

Live in hope today and tomorrow and next Thursday and everyday. There is absolutely nothing this world can throw at you that He has not yet equipped you to handle. This world was created for you to fit right in, so rejoice in the fact that you have a place! Pick your head up, and be filled with hope. Be hopeful when there seems to be no hope left because there is and His name is Jesus.

Modest Isn’t Hottest

Yes, that’s right, you heard me, modest isn’t hottest. I have grown up listening to that phrase as mom and I shuffled through endless racks of “booty shorts” and low-cut shirts, trying to find something that actually covered things. In fact, I’m probably not the only girl who has heard this and lived by it for so many years, trying to be modest in a hottest world. Well, while it’s intentions are pure, I don’t actually believe s sentence is true at all. Modest certainly isn’t hottest.   

See, when I think of the word “hot”, I think of exactly what the world wants you to think of; an attractive person, usually sporting a rather small amount of skin-tight clothes. I would never think of a young lady in an ankle length skirt, her only accessory being her Bible with the handmade cover. Modest just isn’t hot.

   

Back in middle school, I took this phrase to heart. I sported oversized t-shirts and cargo shorts every day, putting up a wall to ward off any boys. Now, going on 18, I thought I needed to wear more flattering clothes to confirm to the world that I wasn’t afraid of wandering eyes of teenaged boys anymore. Even typing that makes me cringe. Beauty doesn’t come from how perfect your winged eyeliner is or if you have the “right” body for a crop top (Yes, this article did show up on my Facebook. Yes, I was fuming.), in fact, it doesn’t come from the outside at all. Beauty comes from who you are, not who you wear.

   

You, lovely reader, are so beautiful. Wearing shorter shorts or tighter shirts so the football teams checks you out shouldn’t ever be validation for that. What if you waited for someone who really, really cared for who are are to come and sweep you off your feet? What if wearing longer shorts wasn’t being a prude, but remaining new, waiting for someone curious about your heart and your personality, to come along?

   

As a more popular verse, Psalm 139:14 says, “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.” It doesn’t say, ” I am fearfully and wonderfully made when I wear attractive clothes to get noticed.” You are always wonderfully made, despite your clothes, body type, relationship statues, anything.

   

What if being “hot” didn’t matter at all? The right One should come along, like your outside but fall completely in love with your heart. Let me tell you, the amount of people who look attractive, not because their hairstyle is in, but because their face is completely lighting up as they babble on about their passion is uncountable. It’s simple, your heart, your personality, your passion, these are what makes you oh-so-beautiful. Your favorite shirt will change, but your patience, loving spirit, compassionate nature, these things stay to flourish and grow with you.

   

So, modest isn’t hottest, but being hot is overrated anyway. Now, go, keeping putting the “U” in beautiful. Embrace your heart, share your passion, wait patiently for your One because I promise he’ll describe you as breathtaking, beautiful, gorgeous, passionate, and amazing, not just simply hot.

Dear You,

To whoever might stumble on my little blog, today might not be the best. maybe you’re feeling a little down, a little rejected, just all around kinda defeated. Today might have been amazing. you’re feeling like you’re at the top, nothing can stop you. There are always invincible days and there will sometimes have to be breakable days, too. What ever day you may be in the midst of, I want to offer you 15 pieces of truth to hopefully encourage you along the way. Now trust me, I’m not the one to be skipping through fields of flowers, but I do like to see people happy and I certainly don’t mind feeling happy myself. I hope these little truths help you, even if only a little, and I hope they send you off to encourage some more because isn’t that what we are here for?

  1. you. are. awesome.
  2. your clothes, likes on instagram, relationship status – none of it as important as being the best “you” you can be. be intentional and everything will fall right into place, just the way it’s supposed to be.
  3. never underestimate the importance of a nice, long walk.
  4. drink water. you’ll feel better, i promise.
  5. also drink sweet tea, not as healthy but definitely worth it.
  6. you are so loved. I promise.
  7. life is just too short not to indulge on your favorite foods. do it. no regrets.
  8. go on an adventure. be bold. be daring.
  9. take pictures of all the moments that are absolutely filled to the brim with joy because those are the ones you’ll want to always remember.
  10. your body thinks you’re awesome, too, and is working super duper hard to keep you going, even if you don’t feel like going. give your internal organs a round of applause.
  11. pick a favorite fruit (or veggie, i don’t discriminate) and eat it in every way possible. you’ll thank me later.
  12. did i mention how awesome and loved you are?
  13. look in the mirror every morning and find something you absolutely love about yourself, then believe it.
  14. throw glitter because that’s fun to do.
  15. remember that you are amazing, spectacular, beautiful, fun, awesome, talented, funny, and everything else inbetween and then remind someone else that they are all those things and more, too.

I hope you remember these 15 little things as you go about your day. I hope they can leave you feeling like the bad days maybe aren’t that bad and maybe, just maybe, you can even make a good day out of them. Never loose sight about the true things in life, because they are going to be the things that keep you looking forward and keeping you on the right track to all kinds of wonderful, on-top-of-the-world days.

Keep on encouraging.

much love,

me

#LoveWins

There is nothing quite like opening your Facebook to see an explosion of rainbows. I had to scroll a little into the Cave of Rainbows to realize this wasn’t publicity for a live-action My Little Pony; it was Americans, using their previous right of freedom of speech to gripe about America’s new right towards gay marriage. Words like “hate”, “hell”, “sin”, “unforgiven”, and the all-too-popular “#lovewins” were strewn across all my social media by lunchtime. Article after article about the in-depth look at what homosexuality looks like as a sin were linked by the profiles of my apparently opinionated friends. I promised myself I would stay quiet and keep my own opinionated self at bay, but here I am writing again. So here goes nothing. 

The hashtag really says it all, love truly wins. If you refer to my last post on love itself, you would realize I believe in this through and through. Love always wins. Here’s the stickler though- I believe that God’s love wins, not necessarily to rainbow-adorned men kissing on the street. “But homosexuality is a sin,” you say. “How could God’s love win when He just let a sin win?” (little tongue twister there, maybe we shouldn’t question God’s authority ;)) 

Let’s talk about sin for a minute. Romans 3:23 says, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” That may seem slightly demeaning, but it’s true. We are all born sinners. We all make mistakes. I am a sinner. You, my dear reader, are a sinner. Homosexuals? Yeah, they’re sinners, too. Jesus was and is the only perfect man to walk this earth.

So, here’s my very own two cents. Gay marriage is legal; no amount of blog posts and tweets can undo that. Our country has made a major decision, just like when we freed slaves and let women vote. It’s just another thing to go down in the history books. Truth is, gay people have been marrying each other for years. The only difference is now they can get married in the eyes of the government, not just live together with wedding bands on their fingers. Obviously, my words can’t halt the never ending opinions, but I might as well throw my words out there, right?

I believe love wins, just like I said before. Love can be a strewn in beautiful words to lift someone up but it can also be said and thought of in disdain, like it seems to be now. I want to turn this around and only let the words of love lift people and encourage them. What if we dared ourselves to love the gay community like Christ would? What if we waved at a gay couple passing us by instead of turning our heads in disgust? What if we, as Christians, showed exactly how Christ-like we could be, and just loved? 

Here’s my dare to myself and to anyone who might want to jump on my little bandwagon, pull out that old WWJD bracelet from Vacation Bible School and wear it as a reminder to live like Jesus did. Jesus spent His whole life on earth serving and loving and preaching. He died a most painful death so our sin could be erased. Every. Single. Sin. Yes, including homosexuality. So, forget hating. Our job isn’t to hate or scorn or rebuke. Our job is to love like Jesus did. 

The hashtag is right, love wins.