Sunday, June 1, 2014

Why I don't like Christian Women's Conferences

(Ok, I've only been to two but have had similar experiences.)


A while back I mentioned having gone to a women's conference and that I was processing some things from the weekend. One of which was something I have been struggling with and working through since going. I know many loved the women's conference and I will say I did enjoy my time, seeing all those women worshiping God and being encouraged and inspired by the events of the weekend, but I struggled with the lack of bible, of Jesus, of gospel.



A lot of great things were said, a lot of truth spoken and encouragement delivered, but I struggled with the fact that very little scripture was used. This isn't to say that scripture isn't and wasn't the original basis of the things that were being talked about, its just to say that it wasn't very openly, deeply used.

And that rubbed me the wrong way.

I saw a multitude of examples of 'bible abuse' where pieces and parts and fragments of scripture are plucked up and inserted into someone's talk but in the process is taken entirely out of context or is molded and stretched to fit the point they are trying to make, to emphasize the emotional trigger they are going for.

Something about that didn't settle right.

And for the past few weeks I have been telling myself that it was just me being critical. It was just me, who watches sermons with her husband for fun, expecting more than what these types of events are all about. It was just me nervous that I will do the same thing the next time I get an opportunity to speak to a group of women. It as just me.

But then, toward the end of last week, I was reading in scripture and came across the following verse and so much of what was creating unease within my heart became clear to me as to why. Take a look with me. This passage is Paul talking to the Corinthians about not being divided, not being caught up following people but to be always following after Jesus:
For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.

Is it possible that too many words, too much emphasis on creating catchy phrases and incorporating lengthy words empties the gospel of it's power?

That instead of Jesus getting the credit, the fancy talk is.

That many of the good talks have actually become a distraction from Jesus. An intricate combination of words peppered with pieces of scripture so it can be disguised as bible teaching and not just a good speech.

I'm not saying all messages presented did this, or that even any of them did, although it feels like this with some more than others. I'm not saying those messages don't have a purpose and weren't used in powerful ways to touch the hearts of women. I'm not saying that God didn't use the words spoken and allowed them to speak directly into the situations of those hearing.

I'm not saying that I could ever do any better.

In the end, if anything, my conclusion is that this was eye opening to me. The unease I felt, the unsettled feeling was necessary because it drew my attention to the direction any speaker could easily go - forfeiting the true power of Christ in order to get a seemingly bigger emotional reaction. Eye opening because speaking to groups of women is a passion and dream of mine and I want it to contain the power and authority of Jesus, not be mere words of eloquent wisdom. I don't want to get caught up in trying to say the right thing that I take away the power of Christ which is my sole purpose for doing any of it.

I praise God that he can take my weak but best efforts and turn them into whatever he wants to use them as. That he can take the powerless and fill it with power. That he can take the timid and insecure and overflow them with authority.

I pray that as I continue to speak to groups of women, that my focus be Jesus and that the cross be held forth, that the work of Jesus be glorified, the light shine on the power of God and not on the words coming from my mouth.

And for that, for the heart of the women who spoke, for their love for Jesus and desire to spread his love, for their passion to encourage and uplift other women, for all of that and more - I thoroughly enjoyed the women's conference and did actually like it. I pray that their efforts and hard work are used by God to cause a revival in the hearts and lives of women across the nation!

I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments! Have you ever been to a Christian women's conference? What did you experience? How did God use that time in your life?

Live Each Moment By Faith
Ashley

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Your Body: His Beautiful Creation

Last time I wrote about how I have come to love my body as it is and I have to clarify two things that I didn't have time to go into all in the same post.



1.) ONGOING PROCESS: While I KNOW that when I stay in God's word, washing his truths over me daily, moment by moment, it is the only way to maintain the correct perspective on who I am and the way I look. I know that, but it doesn't happen all the time. This is an ongoing process of refining and reforming my heart to look more like his. This is an ongoing process of fighting the lies of this world and transforming my each and every thought to line up with His. Also, this process will always be ongoing. It will be worth it. It will be tough, but worth it.
     Have you ever paid attention to your thoughts? The first time I read and really thought through the following verse:
"Do not be conformed to the patterns of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.." Rom 12:2
The first time I read that and stopped on it for a period time I realized something, you can't renew your mind, your thoughts, your self talk, if it happens so non-chalantly that you aren't even aware of what you are saying. So I decided to take on a personal challenge and write down every thought that I had that pertained to myself.
Myself.
 Just me.
Not other people.
 Not situations.
  Not to-do lists.
But write down everything I told myself about me.
And not only was I surprised by the things that formed in my mind, but I was EXHAUSTED. Truth be told, it is hard work to pay attention to your thoughts and then even more draining to pay enough attention and gie enough time to stop those thoughts and correct them.
But, like I stated before, it was worth it. It is worth it.

Why?
How?

Because as I continued to fight the thoughts, as I continued to correct the things I was saying to myself and about myself, my thoughts became more naturally, more instinctual and in line with God's word.

So extra work on the front end meant not only less work down the road, but a sense of freedom and lightness.

I was no longer bound by the harsh things I was throwing around in my head directed toward no one other than me.  Transforming my thoughts to the word of God and what he says about me brings about and has brought about unspeakable freedom and acceptance - I could accept myself. I could allow others to accept me. I could welcome in God's acceptance.

It's ONGOING, It's TOUGH, It's WORTH IT.


2.) ACCEPTING YOURSELF DOESN'T MEAN EXTREMES.
     From a girl who has graced both sides of extremes in weight, extreme dieting and utter neglect, neither of these is healthy, nor what I am talking about here. While God's word is filled with truths about who we are as daughters of a King and the way he sees us,beautiful wonderful creations of his just as we are, it doesn't mean we are to be satisfied with behavior that doesn't line up with his word, even in regard to our bodies.      
We are called to be good stewards of money, time, relationships just as much as we are to take care of our bodies. Not extreme dieting, not complete neglect. Realize the truths that are given in his word all the while doing your part to take care of your body. Take care of the creation that he has made in you. Take care of the temple that your physical body is and has become.

      Easier said than done. Yep. No doubt about that.
But I have found one way to help.
       Because Jesus died on the cross. Jesus rose then from the dead. And when he went to heaven, he promised that the Holy Spirit would be with us, in us, to be our support, our helper, our guide. Is it possible then that when it comes to what to eat and how to take care of ourselves physically that the Holy Spirit could and does guide us? Our physical bodies are important. Without them, we can't do the work that we do here on Earth. And therefore it's important to keep them healthy and do our part.

So what if you prayed and asked for guidance when you felt you were struggling with food, one way or the other? What if you prayed to have the Holy Spirit show you what to eat or how to exercise. I started doing this whenever I felt I was not being a good steward of my body and instantly I became more conscious of what I was eating and what I should or shouldn't eat. Try it? Couldn't hurt right? I also prayed about exercise and what to do. I started walking and over the course of a summer between walking and eating better, with the help and guidance of the Holy Spirit, I lost 30lbs. Was that my desire in the first place? Nope. But it was a benefit to being more aware of how I was taking care of my body.

More about this coming up in the next post on Friday - until then...

What is your journey with weight and your body? Good, Bad, Up and Down? I'd love to hear - comment below!

Also subscribe in order to get an update whenever a new post it up!

Live Each Moment By Faith
Ashley

Sunday, May 18, 2014

How I Have Learned To Love My Body.

I can tell you a million of things I don't like about my body, my self, my looks - if I choose to go there. Anyone could.
I assume.
If I let myself explore the imperfections that make me, me, then the list has the potential to be quite extensive.

There has been a good amount of stir, a slow bubbling up of people trying to encourage women to love their bodies, embrace their bodies, stop the self-loathing. And while I love the attention put toward loving our real bodies and not altered images of bodies, there is are a few things that have been bugging me about this.

For starters, those photos of models, although altered in the pages of magazines, are real faces belonging to real women. So before you promote 'real' women with 'real' bodies at the expense and dignity of those in the magazine remember that while they may be altered to sell a product, they are still a real woman with a real body that is most likely fairly close to the size and shape of the end result in the magazine - and they are beautiful. Just like you and I are beautiful. Putting down others in an effort to make a point or fuel a movement is counter productive.

Secondly, lastly, coming from a post-pregnant woman in a post-pregnant body, which, although numbers bounced back, the shape is still catching up, there is only one way that I do and will ever feel comfortable in the skin I'm in.

While I love the movements happening to promote positive body image, I love the effort and attention drawn to changing or rather expanding what beautiful really looks like, there's more to it. I don't know the essence of these movements or what is at the core of them but I must share this.

For me, and I feel for most, it's more than positive talk and positive choices, although that is a lot of it. It's more than having a positive body image although that comes. Those things are great, but can be shaken. They can be shaken when the numbers move in the opposite direction or when the needle gets stuck and no matter what you do it doesn't seem to shift.
They can be shaken when someone glances at you in a way in which you perceive judgement.
They can be shaken when you see another woman who, in your eyes, seems more beautiful, more fit, more perfect than you.

Just being positive can be shaken.

But, it's when we are grounded in the truth that God's word says about us that we can fully live comfortable in our skin. Not only comfortable but confident in who we are and what we look like with whatever digit blinks across the scale in the morning, with whatever imperfection never seems to go away.

With God, with Jesus and his words about me, whispered to me, I no longer see anything as an imperfection but everything as a beautiful creation, wonderfully made, very good. And to know that in doing so, in walking confidently with how he created me, I am no longer shaking my fist I him, proclaiming and pointing to the mistake that he made in me, rather I am raising open arms, open heart to the beauty that he creates and is continuing to form. 

Effort can change your body but Jesus must be the one to change your heart and with your heart your perception of reality. 

There was a video the popped up on my facebook feed that was a woman starting a documentary because she was sick of not being able to embrace herself with who she is. And to see if she attained her perfect ideal body would make any difference, she entered a body competition - and to no surprise, she still struggled with her looks, her imperfections, her 'problem areas.'

Effort can change you body but Jesus must be the one to change your heart and with your heart, your perception of reality.

So how do you view yourself? From your own perspective? From his perspective?

And know we have a part to play in all of this and with our bodies. Just because we are beautiful doesn't mean neglect is the best path. We'll talk more about this next time!

Until then conform your thoughts no longer to the ways of the world but to the promises and truths found in God's word - you are beautiful, you are wonderfully made, you are cherished, you are not a mistake, the one who created the sun and the moon also did a marvelous work when he created you!

Live Each Moment By Faith
Ashley

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Happy Birthday Baby Girl


Happy Birthday To YOU
Happy Birthday TO you

Happy BIRTHDAY dear SOFIA
HAPPY birthday to you. 















And some playtime after with the new toy!


Wednesday, May 14, 2014

The Story Behind It All

Last week Friday I announced a new project I have been working on - the Emerging Dignity Workshop - and having had people ask me more about it, I wanted to give the back story as to where it came from, the why behind it, and the journey God has walked with me through in creating this.

In college I was blessed with the opportunity to work alongside of a pastor who spoke at schools about mentor-ship and the importance of it in life. The realization of the power of relationships began to foster and grow. God continued to grow the desire to call out the potential that lives within his women to live powerful, compassionate, genuine lives following hard after their King and Creator.

Post-College, my husband and I moved to SD where I worked, and worked, and worked. That was my focus. That was all I did aside from hanging out with my husband. For a while we were working opposite shifts so even that didn't happen as much as this new bride would have liked. I put all God-given goals and dreams aside for the time.

And then I had a baby: a baby girl. I couldn't help but think as I held that precious bundle, what am I building for her and her generation to grow up in? What am I building for her to see how great God is, the love he has for her, the joy he sings to her, the hope he fills her with.?

This question stirred within me.
This question made me excited and anxious about what could happen, terrified and trembling about what could happen.

What am I building?

Then God laid on my heart to start creating opportunities for the ladies at the church we were going to to gather, connect, and build relationships with each other. He surrounded me with others who had the same passion and desire and we began building what God was showing us. In January we had our first kick-off event. Expecting maybe 20 people to show up, including the 4 of us, we were blown away when over 50 ladies came. That cemented something for me: ladies crave the opportunity to connect with each other in positive and uplifting ways.

At the same time, I was going to our MOPs group and had a great conversation with one of the mentor moms. During this conversation, we got on the topic of gifts, talents, and passions to be used for God and she was quite vulnerable and honest and stated that she had never put much thought into God having a path for her life and into what her God given abilities and gifts to be used for her even were. As I continued to talk with others, this seemed to be a reoccurring situation. It surprised me that women could go through life and not have even an inclination as to what made them unique within the body of Christ, what made them ESSENTIAL to the body of Christ. As The Word says, we are all members of one body and all equally important with differing roles and responsibilities in order to make the whole body work. So if an arm doesn't know its an arm and therefore doesn't do the responsibility of the arm - how will the hand do its work?

Knowledge, encouragement, growth.

The pinnacle of this project and the defining moment came when I attended a women's conference. I had completed the webpage and the development of the workshop but hadn't dared to do anything with it. I went to the conference burdened by the responsibility of organizing this opportunity for the ladies of our church. It was during the worship on the second day once things were running smoothly that I was able to take a break and look. I opened my eyes and looked. Really looked. The worship leaders, the band, the speakers fell silent as I scanned the arena. I saw hundreds of women, I heard their voice praising their making, I felt their hearts longing for him, their souls passionate for him and I was in awe.

What would it look like, what would it change if these women were confident, passionate, excited, strengthened in the areas that God has given them so that they can spread the love, joy, hope of Jesus to those they see daily?

What if these ladies walked in the path God has for them?

What if these ladies lived an abundant life for Jesus?

What if?

And then God took it a step further in my heart whispering that that is what he wants too - it's not some elusive thing that is reserved only for a select few. This isn't to say that everyone has to do something huge and extravagant and public for God but rather that where he has called each one of us - mom, daughter, sister, grandma, wife, friend, worker, church, wherever that may be, God wants us live passionate abundant lives.

So Emerging Dignity is about just this, all of this. It starts with restoring women to the dignity that they have declared over them as children of God, because of Jesus and bringing them to a place of walking in the identity they now have. It then transitions into discovering some areas in which God has given you distinct passions, dreams, desires, paths to journey in - this is done through a series of questions, scripture, as well as individual, small group, and full group sessions. The next step is realizing and defining the typical places where the women attending get 'stuck' when following after God whether it's in starting, maintaining momentum, or finishing well - we look at why they get stuck, what things lead to this, and ways to practically over come this.
      The workshop finishes up with a next steps session - more than setting vague distant goals, this looks at what can be done here, now, in this moment and working through the reality that even though the ultimate dream isn't standing before you now, there are things God wants you to do in this moment to prepare yourself for the opportunities that may present themselves. This final session also talks through other aspects of following after God such as the difficulty of disappointment, when God says no, moving through the wait, and encouragement from real life, every day women who have stepped out and followed God's direction whether it turned out like they were thinking or not.

We continue in prayer about what this was and is for but if nothing else, I have learned an immense amount about myself through creating this. The journey that God has taken me on is beyond what I ever expected when this started.

So, I leave you with this, what would it look like if YOU lived fully in the middle of your area of influence walking in your identity as a child of God, using your gifts and talents to serve Him and others, following after the dreams and path that he is showing you? What would it look like? What would change? What would remain?

Emerging Dignity

Live Each Moment By Faith
Ashley