Monday, August 25, 2014

The Disillusioned Writer In Me

Yet Still Pressing Forward


A season of deep disillusionment with writing has kept me from approaching my computer with an intent to put my thoughts and feelings to words on the screen.

Disillusionment seemed to be the word that fit the inner struggle that has been happening before I even fully knew what that word meant. So, I looked it up.

My conclusion, what I thought writing to be, what I saw others doing with their writing and blogs, pushed me to lose sight of why I was doing what I was doing and what direction I was going with it.

I began giving this more thought in the past few days and weeks to try and pin point exactly where this was coming from and where I wanted to go, moving forward in the same or different direction.

Much of this feeling of unease and of being unsettled came from an annoyance of other bloggers. I let others and their blogs become my focus rather than pour into what I felt God was leading me to do. I would see their posts...which did multiple things that frustrated me: bible abuse to get an emotional reaction, writing the same sort of thing over and over (i.e. your typical 'I see you' 'I hear you' Cliche motivational type posts) and I became annoyed with the surface attitude and the dig and forcing of an emotional response.

I get it.

I get that as a blogger you want readers and to get readers you need to connect...but sometimes, many times, it felt so forced and fake. Even when they said they were being real it felt fake, forced. So maybe I also got frustrated with the community of bloggers. All doing the same thing, going in the same direction, but all spinning their tires trying to get there, wherever that is. 

Rather than look to God and stay focused on him and his guiding, I looked around me and became fed up with all that was there, or not there. 

All of this led to me feeling lost in my own direction of my blog. I didn't want to become a surface, emotional writer. I wanted my writing to hold more to it, to mean something more eternal, more lasting, less temporary as emotional responses are.

But I didn't know what that was.

I don't know what that is.

I feel I'm getting closer.

Maybe.

Hopefully.

I just had to use this time to remind myself of why I write.
I write because when I do, when I sit down and begin to type, when I allow God to use my words, I rarely feel as close and connected to him as I do in those moments. With my computer open and my bible pages spread next to me I feel as if I am doing exactly what he is guiding me to do. I write because I have to. I write because this introverted self needs solitude and internal reflection to get all that runs through my head out before me so I can see it, process it, correct it, use it, grow from it.

That is the focus I need to hold on to. This isn't for anyone else. They may benefit from it, or not. But this ultimately is for me as I follow God in this.

And with that, the clouds break, the disillusionment begins to dissipate, the sun warms my face, I feel in the right place at the right time once again. Constant reminder.

-Ashley

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!