"The thistle is a prickly flower, aye, but how it is sweetly worn."

Thursday, June 11, 2015

June Reflections

Oh sweet sweet summertime.  To be honest, I really doubted my ability to make it to this point.  Every Sunday night the past few months, I would cry and tell Jimmy I just didn't know if I would be able to make it to June and how can 30...20...10...
5 days seem like an eternity?  It was so hard for me to just show up each day.  Sometimes the bravest thing you can do is show up, and that was definitely how it was for me.  I'm beyond thankful that The Lord carried me through that.  And I'm so thankful to be officially a "stay at home mom".  Well sort of- The Lord faithfully provided me a part time job which met all of my three requirements.  1- I am working 20 hours a week.  2- I will be able to more or less make enough to cover my mortgage payment.  and 3- I don't have to prepare anything outside of work hours.  I can just show up.  Hallelujah.  The Lord has been truly faithful.  When I look back over the last year, all I know is that I was broken, but God was faithful.  I'm thinking this summer will be a time of great healing, rest, and reflection.  Here's my reflections thus far:

Am I thankful for my life and how I'm living it?  Here's what I've noticed in my one week of summer.  When I am not working, I am a better mom!  A happier mom.  A more patient mom.  A more involved mom.  I cannot express how thankful I am for this time right now.  I get to be the person I so desperately wanted to be all year, but just didn't have the energy to be.  More than anything, I love being a wife and a mom.  I love that I can give these people priority.  And I love the way I feel fulfilled when doing those things.  It's amazing how much easier your personhood flows when you are living within the role you know you were designed to fill.  So I am so very thankful right now.  Thankful to not be stretched so thin.  Thankful that my everyday actions can center on serving God through serving the two people he has entrusted to me.

What have I tried this month?  Over the past month, Jimmy and I went to a concert.  When we were first dating, we did a lot more concerts.  Actually our first real date was to a concert.  We have celebrated anniversaries and birthdays at concerts.  There is just something about concerts that makes me feel like 'us'.  That is a priceless feeling.  Life takes precedence as you grow up, but those moments that allow you to just be yourself without the millions of other roles clouding your vision are wonderful. 
That being said- it's summer and we need adventure!  We had wanted to go camping in Oklahoma during May one weekend, but as you know if you watched the news any day in May, there wasn't a dry day in Texas or Oklahoma it seemed.  I'm not sure what we will do this summer, but I am dreaming of something simple but memorable.

What am I doing to get out of my routine?  Summer is the perfect time to get out of routines, and I love that about it.  I feel like the teacher side of me is fairly 'Type A'.  I am a mostly organized person.  I do better and accomplish more when I have a plan and a checklist.  However, summer is the time I try to let my brain rest.  I don't plan more than a couple days in advance.  I try not to make schedules or to do lists.  Right now Jude has swim lessons, and a part of me dies inside at 4:30 because I have to make a plan to go somewhere :)  That being said, this summer I have joined a bible study, and I am loving it.  I love that it is over the book of John- not a resource book.  Just using only the Bible and answering the same 4 questions over each chapter.  It's only met twice, but both times have been so encouraging.  I'm so thankful to get to spend the time with some old friends as well as get to know new people.  John is such a great book, and being reminded about how Jesus can do what no one else can do in my life has already been so healing.  I'm really looking forward to not being so overwhelmed so I can allow God to work!
Also getting out of my routine is my yearly 'dye my hair a crazy color'.  I've been doing this during the summer for years.  Just a small piece of rebellion against the 'professionalism' of teaching.  I didn't get to do it last summer because I got married.  While I love my pink/purple/blue/green/whatever hair styles, I didn't think that was what I wanted in my wedding pictures :)  Excited to go all over baby coral/pink though today!

What have I learned about God this month?  He is faithful.  I don't know how He did it.  I don't know how I survived this year.  And the surviving I did does not negate the severe bruising and brokenness that came in the midst of survival.  I look back over this year and it is just a blur of tears.  But The Lord got me through to the other side.  I just didn't see how I was going to make.  Even the last week of school I wanted to call in every single day.  But I made it.  Definitely not of my own power, but solely because the Lord is faithful.
He was also faithful to provide exactly what I needed.  If you go back and read my May Reflection, you will notice so much confusion and unanswered questions.  The Lord was faithful to answer so many of those.  I know who I am right now.  I know what I will be doing next year.  He was faithful to provide exactly what I needed job wise- the perfect number of hours, the perfect role, perfectly in the middle of Judes school day, so I can take him to school and pick him up.  And as is so true of God, he provides the lagniappe- or immeasurably more than I imagined.  I will get to be working at the same place as two of the ladies from my community group.  He doesn't have to provide these extra blessings, but He is so loving and good, that He always does.

What brokenness is holding me back?  To be honest, compared to the brokenness that held me back this year, I feel amazing.  That being said, I think there is a lot of healing that needs to be done in my heart.  This year truly broke my heart.  I had people assume the worst of me, pick apart every little thing I did looking for fault, and just question me within a context I absolutely loved.  I felt kind of like Prometheus doomed to wake up each day with birds eating my flesh while I was chained to a mountain.  Gross analogy I know, but I felt continually kicked down.  I would start to pull myself up only be kicked straight down again.  So while I don't feel broken in the same way.  Or maybe just am not afraid of what is seeking my destruction around the corner now that it is summer.  But I know I need time to heal.  I know The Lord will be faithful in that healing.  But I need the time to heal.  Thankful to know that I have that time.

What do I want less of?  STUFF.  We are currently trying to get rid of as much stuff as possible.  We have a great little house, but unfortunately it has little storage.  So we are trying to get rid of as much as possible.  It's amazing how you can get rid of so much, yet you turn around and still have copious amounts of just stuff.  Regardless, we want to learn to live on less, but also learn to live with less.  Americans are so busy and our lives are so full of stuff.  So little of it is necessary.  So little of it enhances are life by any large amount.  I want to learn to live more simply with what I have. 

What do I want more of?  Living.  I don't want to spend my summer wasting the minutes.  I want to live it to the fullest.  Spend the time invested in Jude's life and Jimmy's life.  Spend the time invested in enjoying my mom while she's in town.  Spend the time invested in hanging out with my sister and Camden while we have the time.  Jude is growing up so fast.  Having taught for so many years, I have seen the blur that is childhood once you enter school.  It seems like in no time the kids I saw in kinder are heading off to middle school.  I feel like I need to savor the moments with him this summer because he is at the end of my time with him being 'little'.  This breaks my heart, but as much as I can, I want it to spur me on to invest in him deeply.  So thankful for him.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

May Reflections

Here I am finally in May.  I think I have been dreaming about May since September.  It's been a long year.  I've never had a year that time seemed to pass by so slowly.  When I think about this school year, I just think about tears.  I think I cried daily from September to December.  And at least weekly from December on.  I'd love to tell you that has changed, but I am pretty steadily crying about it weekly.  Because this year has been so hard, looking back on it is like looking on events that happened a lifetime ago.  I'm so glad that The Lord and Jimmy are providing me the opportunity to try something different.  But I also feel like I'm in the midst of an identity crisis.  I may have blogged about that before...  I just am not sure who I am when I'm not a public school teacher.  And honestly, it's way too easy for me to look at this year and feel like a failure.  I've been trying to remember truths about God- that I am always 100% adored by Him and that this year happened without taking Him by surprise.  He faithfully brings beauty from ashes and while I may see only ashes now- I will see the beauty one day.  He is good, and morning is coming and so is joy and dancing.  Anyway, here are my monthly reflections.

Am I thankful for my life and the way I'm living it?  To be honest, I just feel confused a lot right now.  I have so many more questions than I have answers.  Do I want to sub next year?  Do I want to teach preschool next year?  Am I even a good teacher?  What do I want to do with my life?  Who am I?  What do I want to be known for?  And then I remember that none of those questions matter unless they are defined by what God wants for me.  I don't know the answers to any of these questions.  But I am so so thankful for my family.  When I look beyond family, I just see confusion.  But when I look at Jimmy and Jude and our home everything makes sense.  And maybe that's my answer right there.

What have I tried this month?  Not much.  We were going to go to Oklahoma and go camping this weekend, but Texas and Oklahoma are basically flooded and experiencing multiple tornadoes currently.  I did get the opportunity to wait out a tornado inside TJ Maxx today though, which is certainly a new experience.  Luckily we were all safe and the tornado passed on.  This weekend has been nice though as it has been mothers day weekend.  Jimmy took us to a Brazilian steakhouse Friday which was amazing.  I wish my stomach was able to hold more food though!  I got a donut maker, so on Saturday we made donuts, paleo of course.  They were yummy- not exactly a donut, but they were good.  I've also started reading the Divergent series this month.  I am a huge conspiracy theorist, and dystopian stories just feed my imagination in interesting ways.  Loving that book series so far!

What am I doing to get out of my routine?  I'm not sure about this one either.  This month feels like it's just about survival.  I'm trying to get my classroom packed up, trying to get all assessments finished, trying to get these kids ready for 2nd grade, etc.  I feel like I've put my house on hold until summer.  It's very frenzied, and honestly, my anxiety is really kicking up.  I also am trying to apply for jobs for next year.  I have already interviewed at one preschool and will be interviewing at atleast 1 preschool this week.  It's an exciting time, but I feel like I am spinning a few too many plates at one time.  So survival.  There is a time for adventure and a time for survival. 

What have I learned about God this month?  He loves me.  He absolutely loves me.  I have prayed for a few months (even mentioned this in a blog in February) about how I wanted to enjoy dinners and community and depth with friends.  Well last month, I joined a friend who started an IF:Table.  I really hadn't heard much about it, but it is literally verbatim what I spent 4 months praying for.  Dinner and community and friends and depth.  That is what IF:Table is.  Those exact things.  I am so unbelievably blessed by my friend for answering God's call to start this.  It is in every way 1000 answers to prayer for me, and I cannot wait to meet with them again!  But more than anything, I am so thankful that God loved me so deeply.  Dinner and conversation can seem like a frivolous prayer.  Yet, he cares about my desire for even deep friendships.  It is so comforting to think about because if He is faithful in the things like friendships, surely he will be faithful to take care of our needs next year.  And surely He will be faithful to lead me to new passions and surely He will be faithful to bring beauty from the ashes of this year.

What brokenness is holding me back?  Idolatry of other people's opinions.  I would say it's anxiety or dwelling on situations- but ultimately it comes down to my idolatry of other people's opinions.  I am allowing people to define me and my opinion of myself rather than staying grounded in who God says I am.  God says I am loved, adored, forgiven, and enough.  Bringing it back to my word of the year- Rest- I am learning I need to Rest in the way God sees me.  His opinion is the only one that matters.  I need to keep my eyes above- not on others, or opinions, or how I feel I am doing today.  I just really need to worship more- but I am very distracted by trying to survive.  I am stuck in this cycle of survival and not resting in God.  Trying to do it all on my own.  I certainly can't.  Ugh- any truth you can speak into my life would be appreciated right now.

What do I want less of?  Distraction from my heavenly purpose and the stress that distraction is causing me.  I just feel so confused a lot of the time.  I am easily losing my focus on Jesus.  That's been a pretty common struggle this year.  The storm is hazy and it is hard to see.  I just need to walk as though I can see, walk in faith.  And sometimes I just am having a hard time with that.  This year has left me hurt, and that gets my focus so many times.  I need to remember Christ is my Comforter.

What do I want more of?  Christ my Comforter.  I'm pretty wounded I guess to be honest.  My heart hurts.  My feelings are hurt.  I cry easily because I'm hurting.  No friend, no husband will comfort me like Jesus.  I want more of His comfort.  I need more of His comfort.  I need more time to sit in His lap and let Him tell me it's going to all be ok.  Psalm 23 has become my psalm this year.  I know its one everyone knows, but I just find myself quoting it to myself many times throughout the day.  I focus a lot on the imagery of quiet waters.  I'm longing for a day filled with quiet waters.

Friday, April 24, 2015

On Becoming Paleo


2014 was the year I discovered oils.  It was easily one of the best gifts I've ever been given, and I am so thankful to those who have walked with me on my oily journey.  It has allowed me to find options that I feel actually help my body as opposed to mask my symptoms.  Oils are lovely, and I love nothing more than to have in depth conversations on oils. 

But 2015 seems to be the year I discovered paleo.  I kind of love it as much as I love oils.  I am beyond thankful that I took this plunge, and I am completely amazed at how much it has changed my life for the better.  Paleo is as lovely as oils, albeit in a different way.

Back in January, I had a zyto scan done (scans body frequencies to determine what oils/supplements you body needs).  It showed that some things were off with my gut, which wasn't surprising.  I have had an easily upset stomach for years now, although I have never been able to tie it to a particular sensitivity.  In response to that scan, I did a candida cleanse.  It was so hard because you basically starve your body of all sugar.  I had no idea how addicting sugar was until I went without it.  I craved sugar in the most surprising way, but I was determined to make it the 30 days.  I really didn't enjoy it at first.  The meals I was eating were fairly unappealing.

And then a friend suggested AgainstAllGrain.com and I probably immediately bought her cookbook.  When that book arrived, it was like the heavens opened and my soul smiled again.  I found a passion for cooking I don't think I ever had.  I felt like I had found my purpose standing in the kitchen mixing sauces and sautéing vegetables.  I didn't know how pleasant it would be to make something I am proud of, and that is completely healthy for me, and completely healthy for Jude.  He has adapted so well to this lifestyle too.  Just ask him about mashed cauliflower ;)

Left: Mexican Chicken Chowder by Against All Grain
Right: Sausage and Butternut Squash stuffed Tomatoes

I have stuck with meal planning for the first time in my life.  I plan out healthy vegetable and meat based meals that are delicious (because of her recipes, not me).  It's exciting and thrilling and also cathartic after a long day.  At the end of the dinner, I have a quiet satisfaction knowing I did something good for my body.  It's delicious.  I have baked so many of her desserts- I don't feel like I'm depriving myself of anything.  I don't miss bread, or sweets, or even ice cream.  In fact, now when I taste normally sweetened food, I lose interest in a bite or two.  That sugar addiction is real, and now that I have broken the addiction, there just isn't much enjoyment in super processed sweet food.  I prefer my slightly sweetened chocolate chip cookies to the real ones.  I find real ones icky!  Which is just crazy that in 4 months I can completely alter my lifestyle, but also my food preferences. 

It's exciting to me because when I discovered her book, I discovered the rest of my life.  I can't imagine not eating this way.  For one thing, I realize now that my system is very food sensitive, and it just runs better on healthy food.  The times we are out and I eat less paleo, I pay for it for the next 3 days.  I really love this lifestyle.  Paleo is something that I can and will stick with, simply because I enjoy it.  I prefer it.  I have had tons more energy.  My moods have been more stable.  My gut health has shown improvement (I still have some healing to do).  My hormones seem to be more stable.  I can't tell you how many people have told me my skin looks great and that I look like I'm glowing.  I haven't had bad acne in months!  I've even lost 12 pounds!  And for the first time in my life, I find myself truly wanting to exercise.  I have all this energy that I need to get rid of.  I still have a long way to go with that, mostly because of scheduling, but the desire is there.  And that is not something I've ever enjoyed.  I have a long way to go to help my body recover from just the hazards and toxins that are 21st century life, but I truly feel like I am on the right path.  It's a change that was hard the first 2 weeks, but now, it just feels right.  I can't recommend it enough!

Friday, April 3, 2015

April reflections

Right now I feel completely captivated by Spring!  The weather is beautiful.  Today as I drove Jude to school and then went to pick something up from my sister's I was completely taken in by the beauty of the overcast skies contrasting with all the greenery.  Jimmy and I have set up our garden's for the year.  We have some basic flowers, I got a beautiful delphinium, and he got copious amounts of tomatoes.  I've set up birdfeeders and shamelessly downloaded a bird identification app.  I love how spring just feels like coming alive.  I hope to fully embrace life this season. 

I've been reflecting over the last couple months based off a book I read.  I love the way these questions make me dig a little deeper into my soul.  I'm actually reading her other book right now called "Cold Tangerines" and the topic is celebrating.  Perfect for this season.

Am I thankful for my life and the way I'm living it?
I am so thankful daily for Jimmy and Jude.  They are wonderful gifts.  As we all worked outside last weekend, I was so thankful for the simplistic beauty that is our life.  Hard work, dirt all over our toes and fingers, slightly sun kissed cheeks.  It could not have been more perfect.  However, I feel like I am so easily distracted by lists and the need to accomplish something.  I have a definite penchant for negativity.  I know that my life is lovely, but sometimes it feels like I see that from the a distance.  Like I always watch my life on a movie screen- seeing all the parts but not really a part of the story.  I would give anything to be able to not be like that.  1000 gifts made the biggest difference in my life with that.  But it still isn't a habit.  I really really want to be more positive and embrace the moment more- with joy.

What have I tried this month?
This month I tried crab at Cantler's Riverside Inn, which I actually saw listed in a copy of Coastal Living as one of the 3 best places for seafood in Maryland.  So I consider that a win!  I still probably ate more shrimp than crab, however.  That being due entirely to the fact that I am lazy.  I saw my first (and probably only) wedding at the Naval Academy.  Which was pretty much the most romantic wedding ever.  I love the quaint yet classy persona of the East Coast.  Wandering around Annapolis with all the houses that have been there forever, the sailboats in the water, people walking their dogs just speaks to my heart in every way.  Jude and I went on a run through Annapolis- my first run in a downtown city of any kind.  Of course, it was more play racing and sprints, but it was fun. 

What am I doing to get out of my routine?
Last week we focused on gardening.  I'm the best about gardening in the spring.  I would keep up with it more in the summer, and I do really try.  It's just so hot here in NTX...  And in a blistering, torturous way.  I miss coastal heat...
Also completely out of my routine... My brother of course got married.  And during the reception, I got my dance on with my favorite people- my family.  I don't dance very often, mainly because it usually would have to involve creepy people and creepy bars.  And Jimmy isn't a big dancer.  But I actually love dancing and being silly, and my brother and sister are probably my favorite people to do that with.  Can someone invent a bar that plays 90s music, and you have to intimately involved with another person to enter?  You know a bar for married people who just want to pretend they are 18 again.  But don't want a stranger touching them in any way...  Because I would go.  Often.

And this weekend, we are cooking Easter brunch this weekend, which isn't going to be a big deal by any means.  But 1- it will involve mimosas which immediately makes all things right with the world and 2- we never just get to have brunch.  I love reasons to celebrate, and I'm glad we get to.
Next weekend I am going to a gathering with some ladies, only one of which I know, but she's fabulous.  Just to talk about Christ and Life and whatever else.  And the only requirement is to bring our favorite bottle of wine.  My friend throwing this is one of the loveliest people whom I haven't seen since my wedding.  I'm so excited to focus on the good Christ is doing!

What have I learned about God this month?
I've been learning that God wants me to laugh, to be joyful.  I'm remembering that God is a God of celebration.  I mean what is Easter but a celebration.  There is so much death and darkness around us.  But that's just the middle of the story.  The end is beautiful and joyful and should make you dance in celebration.  The crosses of our lives will always bring us to a point of surrender, they will always hurt, they will always break us.  It's so easy to forget that the cross is temporary, but victory is eternal.  This year, I bore my cross.  But the rising is coming, indeed is already here in some ways.  Hallelujah for the cross, for the resurrection.  Hallelujah because He has blessed me with a godly, loving man.  Hallelujah because he has blessed me with birds that sing.  Hallelujah because he has blessed me with an engaging and kind little boy.  Hallelujah for baking and clean kitchens and pretty towels.  The Resurrection happens every day because God is actively redeeming everyday.  I want my Spirit to notice Him. 
And of course, we have a lot to celebrate this month, because my brother married someone lovely.

What brokenness is holding me back?
I continue to struggle with the pursuit of perfection robbing me of joy.  My to do lists rob me of joy.  This isn't a new struggle by any means, but it is currently showing its ugly face.  I hate it because it robs me of joy, but also relationships.  It puts a barrier between me and the people I love the most.  I realize that everyone has their thing they struggle with.  But I sure do hate mine.  So I am seeking to love Jesus more.  To fill my mind with Jesus so that He spills out of my heart more.  I need to use my oils more and pray more as I use them.  These were the kinds of things that eventually led to panic attacks and medication.  So I need to use the physical (oils) and spiritual (prayer, speaking truth over myself) tools and weapons to fight for joy. 

What do I want less of?
Less striving, more rest.  That's the theme of my year and my life right now.  I want less of working beyond my limits.  Less defining myself by how clean my house is.  Less taking for granted the beautiful moments I have to pour into Jude's life.  Less sarcastic, impatient speech on my part.

What do I want more of?
Jude and Jimmy.  I want to savor them.  I want to invest in them.  I want to build them up and encourage them.  I want to bless their lives and I want their days to be better because I was in it.  I'm so hopeful for our next phase of life with me working less.  I hope I will have the energy to invest in them like this.  I want more of a gentle and quiet spirit.  More words that are weighed carefully.  More joy, more peace.  Basically, more Jesus.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

March Reflections

In February, I blogged based on some reflection questions I got from Shauna Niequist's book Bittersweet, which I highly recommend reading.  I felt like it was so healing for my soul to reflect that way, but also projected my soul into a good place.  I would mentally go back to that blog throughout the rest of the month and allow it to push me to try more, be better.  So, I'm hoping to make this reflection time somewhat habitual.


My favorite people on one of the many snow days NTX has been slammed with this year.

Am I thankful for my life and the way I'm living it?
In many ways, yes.  I'm noticing how God's Spirit is really filling me from the inside out and allowing me to rest.  I'm noticing how it continues to get easier to Rest in His Grace.  I'm not insanely critical of myself like I used to be.  I find myself more and more able to let things go.  I am so thankful for that because it's been a prayer of my heart for years, maybe a decade.
       I oscillate between feelings of thankfulness and frustration.  I struggle with giving grace still just as I struggle with accepting it.  I get very fixated on what the correct way is and it's hard for me to let it go.  To be honest, I've considered using some of my Young Living Essential Rewards points for this oil because I keep seeing it come up when I look up emotions I'm having.  Anyone tried it?
       So in short, the Spirit is alive and well and praise Him because He changes me.  But I am still learning about resting in gratitude for all He's done as well as resting in faith for all He has yet to do.  Resting is proving itself to be my word day in and day out.  I think Rest goes hand in hand with thankfulness.  Because by in resting in what God is doing and has already done, I am thankful.  Whereas by not resting, I'm really being ungrateful because I'm complaining about how far I want to be/go etc.

What have I tried this month?
Last night I tried my hand at cauliflower crust pizza- which was awesome!  I tried Charleston, SC late February- which is officially my favorite city of all time.  It combines everything I love about New Orleans- the Spanish moss, colonial architecture, porches, coastal weather with everything I love about Texas- cleanliness and guns and a Don't Tread On Me attitude.  If it were at all practical to move there, I totally would.  I also tried some award winning restaurants while there.  I could go on about things I've tried, but they are all food related :)  One thing I've learned though, is that I really love trying new food! 

What am I doing to get out of my routine?
I'm trying to run more.  And while I've only ran 6 times this year, I really want to change my routine to include this.  My goal is to just keep trying to make this a routine through December.  I'm not trying to aim for a certain number of days a week or times per month- just continue to plug away at trying to get out there and run.  I actually have a special plan for a special run this coming week....
     ...  Because the most exciting way I'm going to be getting out of my routine this month will be to go to Annapolis for my brother's wedding.  Prior to discovering South Carolina, Annapolis might have been my favorite American city.  (I have a thing for the East Coast...)  Again with the colonial architecture, the cleanliness, and of course Don't Tread On Me is originally a Navy thing...  My brother is marrying a lovely girl there this weekend.  It will be an amazing wedding just because it will be at the Naval Academy chapel, which is where my brother went to school.  Full uniforms and the sword arch and everyone staying in the little downtown.  So fantastic!  In light of us being downtown and walking distance to everything, I'm hoping to include a run through downtown Annapolis into it.  I could look at sailboats all day.  Also planning to include crab into the diet as a way to break my routine.  If you have never been to Annapolis, go!  It's just really one of the most beautiful places.

What have I learned about God this month?
I mentioned this on a previous blog post, but learning that He is my provider.  He definitely provided this past month despite traveling and big electric bills and just all these little things that come up with being in a busy season.  So thankful He is trustworthy.  He provided lovely bits of growth with my little YL group and met all of the goals in my heart for that month, which is so encouraging to see. 
       I am learning about the importance of trusting Him for future provision.  But also that trust is gentle and quiet.  Not that you can't ask questions, but some questions or maybe over questioning is really a lack of trust.  Rest- rest in the trust and allow Him the space to work, to provide.  I've really been coming back to the verses in the Bible on do not worry about tomorrow... look at the birds of the air...  God knows what we need... Jimmy knows what we need... Both of them love me more than I will ever know and are seeking my good. 

What brokenness is holding me back?
I keep coming face to face with the thought that The Lord has set us free from slavery, both in my on reading and just friends speaking into my life.  There's much to explore here.  But I know that I haven't allowed the Lord to free me from everything.  I am enslaved to my perfectionist ideals.  And while I do see him setting me free in many ways already.  I'm not quite there yet.  So while this is nothing new, and this is something I've been working through, The Lord continues to reveal deeper facets of this struggle and the ways it continues to hold me back.

What do I want less of?
Less screen time.  This- like my striving for perfection- seems to constantly be a goal.  As I learn grace, I am quicker to forgive myself for wasting precious minutes.  And as I learn to forgive myself, the hold these things have gets more and more broken and less able to control me.  Which is lovely, and I must acknowledge that The Lord is faithfully breaking me free of distractions.  However, I still want less of it.  Sometimes not just with me, but even with people I'm around.  Not that I have control over that.  I just want less of modern America...

What do I want more of?
... and more of simple America.  More hand made from scratch meals.  More making things on our own.  More hard work within the home.  You know that feeling you get sometimes when you know everything is aligned perfectly and you are right where you should be?  I feel like that when my little tribe is home and I am in the kitchen.  I feel like serving them is both cathartic and soul nourishing.  Like this is why I was created.  I find more joy in the mundane like grocery shopping, cleaning, baking, cooking than I can find anywhere else.  I want more homemaking time.  And that j'ne sais quois feeling I get when I am doing just that makes me excited and confident for the next stage of life.  I'm my best self when I take care of my home/family.  And amazingly, some of these struggles I've had throughout this year seem to affect me far less in these times of greatest peace.  Which also gives me great confidence.  Like my soul knows that teaching full time like I have isn't where it's supposed to be and it just started to give out on me.  And investing in family is where I am supposed to be- and those struggles just fall away.  So simplify.  I want more of that.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Trust in the Wilderness

The wilderness- it seems so exciting to think about.  Freedom, wind blowing through your hair, no direction, following your heart, open fields, climbing mountains, exploring jungles are what come to mind for me.  It seems exciting....

... But sometimes the reality is less so.  I'm coming out of the largest season of doubt I think I've ever been through.  I'm so hopeful though, because I do believe God is a God of redemption.  I am already seeing fruits of redemption in my everyday within my classroom.  I haven't cried over school in a few weeks, which is a miracle.  But you know getting there, felt like sure and certain death.  I think in some ways a part of my soul did have to die.  The part that cared what people thought for one thing.  I'm seeing how true it is that blessed are they that have lost everything because you see Christ.  When myself is lost, all I can do is look up and see Christ.  That's a beautiful sight.  And I am beginning to see more and more clearly.  I know he will make all things new.  He is a Redeemer and a Rescuer and a Resurrector.  Praise him!

And yet, despite what I know to be true, I find myself plagued with doubts.  What if we don't have enough money?  What if this isn't God's will?  What if I'm allowing Satan to win by quitting?  What if we lost our house?  These thoughts pop up randomly.  It convicts me of two things- 1) I'm not trusting God to be faithful, good, or provide.  But also 2) I'm not trusting Jimmy to be faithful, good, or provide.  Ouch.  That makes me so sad.

:::Blog within a blog- I cannot tell you the blessing a godly husband is.  One thing I've learned since marrying Jimmy is that I really didn't understand the gospel or God's attributes as clearly as I thought.  Because Jimmy so faithfully and beautifully lives out the gospel and Christlikeness towards me, I find myself more and more able to understand the depth of Christ's love and sacrifice.  It's a beautiful conviction- one where I'm better able to love the Lord because Jimmy loves me so well.  I'm able to understand why I don't want to sin- not because I want to check things off my list, but because I love him/Him and want to please him/Him.  I'm just so proud of him because he lives his life so well.  He was worth the wait. :::

So trust- I am speaking that truth to myself some.  Right now, it's not that scary.  But I know that this is going to call me to a place of deep trust.  A wilderness where I won't have all the answers.  I didn't realize how much self trust went into me having a higher paying job, which is sin honestly.  Part of me is excited because I know I will get to learn to trust God deeply and learning more about Him is always beautiful.  Part of me is scared because of that same thing.

What I know to be true is this- like Peter walking on water- the secret always lies in the vantage point.  Am I focused on the storm, the water, the depths, the what ifs?  Or am I focusing on the truth- my Savior loves me, he is with me, he controls this?  I'm choosing to continue to look up.  To continue to seek His face.  To comfort myself with his steadfast love.  I want to embrace the beauty of Him because I do believe he is leading me.  I'm so thankful that He and Jimmy understand my heart.  I'm so thankful that I am being given the time to invest in family.  I'm so thankful for Jimmy's dedication and hard work.  I'm so excited to discover my passionate side again.  I'm thankful for time to breathe, for the ability to fully invest in Jude.  Sometimes when I just really stop to think about it all- all I can do is praise Him!
So we fix our eyes, not on what is seen, but what is unseen....

Saturday, February 14, 2015

On Opening Up

I used to be the kind of girl who tried to be tough and strong.  I listened to punk rock.  I marched to my own drum.  I probably didn't need your help.  Or at least I tried to make you think that.  I had some pretty high walls up.  I knew how to keep people out.  And if I didn't, there was always sarcasm.

I was reading tonight (still Bittersweet- which I love!) and reflecting on a chapter about how she says this referring to a dark period in her life "I see the moments of heartbreak that led to honesty about myself I wouldn't have been able to get to any other way".  I love that. 

It made me think of all the times I have cried- very openly- this school year.  When people ask me how my day is, no matter how casually, there is a 75% chance I will tear up right then.  Some have even been concerned for me regarding this.

But maybe the tears are a good thing. 

Maybe the tears are bringing about a beautiful, God ordained, perfectly planned change in me.  A change where I too am being led to honesty with myself I wouldn't have gotten any other way.  That makes me smile.  Yes- I am crying a lot.  But how beautiful is it that I'm not holding it in.  I've been the kind of person who's done that- held everything in.  It's been a huge struggle for me to open up to others, and anyone who has tried to get to know me can attest to that.  I'm excited for myself for being honest with my team, my community group, the world, whoever will listen.  I'm not saying I shouldn't keep training myself to look for the good- I should- God's gifts are everywhere.  But for the first time in my life, I'm not just saying it's all ok.

So here I am just openly saying thank you to anyone who has seen me cry and not turned me away.  Thank you for allowing me to be honest, to be myself, to open myself up completely raw and wounded.  Thank you for walking through this time with me where I've learned some difficult, beautiful lessons.  Lessons in being honest.  Thank you that I haven't had to feel like I needed to hide behind the wall.  Thank you that you have allowed me to be weak and broken in your presence.  For me, this is a great thing.  And I think the Lord for all of you.

And as always, thank you to my Lord and Savior for allowing me to be broken.  Broken so deeply in every way that I can't hold myself together, that I can't put my best face forward, that I can't fake it until I make it.  Thank you for forcing me to learn that honesty is good and being real with people is ok.  Maybe even lovely.

I'm a girl who thought she could handle a lot.  And now knows she cannot.  But I think I love that.  Because for the rest of my life, I will walk humbly and allow myself to open up easily.  I will cry with anyone and understand your pain.  I can pray with you in a way maybe I never could before.

My name is Ashley, and I'm pretty broken.  But I'm ok with that.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

February Reflections

If you follow me on instagram (@sweetlyworn), you may recall I took off this past Monday.  One of the things I did was pick up a book called Bittersweet by Shauna Niequist.  It's been lovely.  I like books of all types- the mindless, the thought provoking, and the debate provoking.  This one is kind of in the middle- easy enough to breeze through but little nuggets to ponder along the way.

Here are some things I'm reflecting on:

Am I proud of the life I'm living?  In some ways.  I'm trying really, really hard.  But one thing I'm learning in this current season is that I'm broken and there is a limit to what I can do.  I can't be everything to everyone.  Sometimes that makes me upset with myself.  I want to please everyone.  But I can't.  I'm extremely thankful for my little tribe of people who expect nothing from me and always offer grace.  What I'm proud of (or really more thankful for) is that despite all the expectations I can't live up to in the world, God sees me as covered, as Christ's beautiful bride.  He gave himself up for me to make me whole.  So while the world may see my humanness and my brokenness right now.  God just sees radiance.  And I love that.

What have I tried this month?  I am excited to say I've been trying a lot!  For all the bone weary day in day out stuff, I come home and try stuff!  So there!  I've taken up paleo- which means nightly adventures for me.  Some are awesome.  Some need tweaking next time.  But I am loving experimenting with food.  I love watching myself develop into a chef, constantly cooking from scratch.  I love smelling these things and watching them unfold into something exciting.  It's like a whole new world of possibility has opened up to me, and it's amazing! 

What am I doing to get out of my routine?  Bridget's bachelorette party!!!!  Insert high kicks!  In case you didn't know, my little brother is getting married this March.  This means two very important things for me.  I get the adventure of going to Charleston, South Carolina this month for a bachelorette party.  And I get an adventure next month for the wedding in Annapolis.  Back to Charleston though... I've never been there.  I'm so excited to see this city of Southern charm!  I'm going to have to reach back into the recesses of my mind (or drink lots of wine since it also brings this out...) for my southern accent.  Because South Carolina, obviously.  And possibly a big hat...  I'm excited for a change of perspective.  A way to take some deep breaths away from the day to day.  And I pray that I return with a new perspective realizing the world is both bigger and smaller than I thought before.  And that God is everywhere, but He's also right here with me.

What have I learned about God this year?  Right now I'm also reading Comforts from the Cross, so I'm learning that Jesus loves me.  Really loves me.  That I don't need to achieve or be anything for him.  He just loves me.  This is important, because I've felt forgotten by God this year.  Now I know in my head and have known all along that isn't true.  My heart has forgotten.  Even today my heart has forgotten.  This school year has been one week of tears after another.  A lot of times I wonder why God why.  Yet God is a God of rebirth.  And labor is hard.  I'm very much feeling that I am in the depths of hell in many ways each day.  But Jesus descended into hell and on the 3rd day he rose from the grave victorious.  So I am hanging on to that promise.  Joy comes in the mourning/morning.  Rebirth and resurrection happen.  As we enter Lent in a few days, there is probably more to ponder about this...
(Side note- it's not all hell.  I have some really great kiddos.)

What brokenness is holding me back?  Emotions.  My emotions hold me captive.  If I am despondent or sad or overwhelmed, I can't break free from that.  I am stuck in that place until something new jolts me out of it.  I'm trying to overcome it, but the truth is, I can't.  The Cross is my only hope there.  I am not a victim of circumstance- I need to take heart because He has overcome the world.  He is good and He does good things in life.  These things are true.  I need to control my thoughts though, because my thoughts are controlled by my emotions.  And my emotions can ruin me.

What do I want more of?  Community.  I need regular rotations with dinner and wine.  But not at restaurants.  Like at houses.  I mean even if it were just once a month.  Maybe it's because I need distractions.  Maybe it's because I've gotten really into cooking lately.  I don't know.  I just want to have people over for dinner more.  I want to work on my hospitality skills, which is somewhat a biblical thing, so it's good for me.  Consider yourself invited.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

On My Heart- The Year I Got Lost

This year I got lost.  I'm not sure at what point I veered off.  Maybe I never really veered off, but more cocooned myself to relearn who I was now that I added wife to my list of hats.  I learned about oils, lived by oils, saw myself grow with oils.  But I also learned more about my body with oils- which lead to diet changes- and changes on what daily supplements I need.  So many changes.  None of them bad.  Actually, they've all been great for me.  Yet there were many changes.

I went through Redemption at my church.  And I learned first hand about my own idolatry.  And I had to reframe everything I thought I knew about myself.  It is so good.  But so hard.  And still so hard.  I learned to try to have grace for myself.  But trying to reframe a lifetime of thinking is a longer process than I would have thought.  I think a year later I am still learning how to have grace for myself and others.  I also think I'm learning just how un-gracious I really was.  That's such a hard lesson. 

I got remarried.  And my priorities shifted.  And I read this book "Woman After God's Own Heart" by Elizabeth George and my perspective totally upended.  And my focus became something totally new and foreign to me.  Not only is Jimmy my 'you need to have more grace' convicter, but he's also my #1 job.  For years, I focused on my career because that career was my sole hope for survival.  Sure, I wanted more time with Jude.  But I couldn't afford to not have a job.  For the first time, I don't depend on myself.  I'm just the helper.  It's so great, such a relief, and serving Jude and Jimmy couldn't bring me more joy.  However, for the first time ever, I realized how much teaching might not fit me forever.  Not that I don't still find myself getting passionate over teaching reading or developmentally appropriate practices.  I do.  But I realize that to be passionate over that, I have to sacrifice my relationships with Jude and Jimmy.  And I just can't do that.

And so I find myself at a crossroads.  I see my life direction changing from where I thought I was headed.  I have no idea where I'm heading, and that's so scary.  But I feel my emotions giving way, my physical energy giving way.  I feel lost.  I wonder who I am now?  What am I passionate about?  What do I want my life to be about?  Where do I go from here?  I definitely don't have the answers to that. 

But today in church I heard a sermon that ended with me tearing up.  And then a man stood up to share about how he and his family are heading to Turkey in August.  And I broke.  I remembered the girl a couple of years ago who was passionate about persecuted Christians and the gospel and passionately pursuing God.  I don't know where I lost that.  But I think it was when I realized I wanted a fairy tale with Jimmy.  I wanted the American dream with Jimmy.  And at some point I must have idolized it.  I valued my dishes over my passions, decorating over evangelism, people liking me over standing apart.  I've somewhat always known God has called me to something different.  I don't know the details on that.  But I've always known that the American dream wasn't God's dream for me.  That's so scary to admit.  It's scary because I know there will probably come a day where I'm going to have to let go of 'stuff' and cling to the cross.  I'm thankful for God's grace because wherever He leads, I get to go with the most amazing man on the planet.  I have no idea where we'll go or what will do.  But I know we're called.  So hear I am, admitting the truth I have never wanted to admit.  Yikes

This year is my year of rest.  I have so many off days, that I will probably mostly work 4 day weeks for the rest of the year.  And I won't be going back to teaching, at least in the public school setting.  (I am planning on finding a part time teaching job.)  I plan on resting in God's presence, because I am sure he has plenty to teach me this year.  I'm going to rest and wait on Him, while supporting my husband and son as much as possible.  Resting because there will come a day that life is different.  Please pray for me as I seek the Lord and seek where He has called me, where He has placed passions in my heart.  Pray that I will understand where the things I love like my family, blogging, teaching, oils, missions belong.  That I will understand the lord's will regarding their balance.  Pray that The Lord will mold me into the person He needs me to be.

Find rest, O my soul; in God alone.  My hope comes from Him.  He alone is my Rock and my Salvation.
~ Psalm 62:5-6

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Rest 2015

I must confess I have become quite disenfranchised with current Christian movements as of late. I'm not sure where my break came. I just know it is uncomfortable. Arguing within the church has never been prudent or useful to me. I've mostly always felt that as long as we are ultimately gospel focused and Christ focused, the varied differences weren't important. I do still agree with that to most extents. It's just here lately when I scroll through my Facebook feed I want to chuck my phone across the room.

Sigh. I'm not even sure why I'm so exhausted with it. Perhaps it's the "this is what you should do" attitude behind so much of it. I have certainly always been one to buck anyone's my way or the highway attitude. Currently though, a lot of it has to do with having read the bible cover to cover. Context makes things so much different than a verse here and there glance. A lot of things that are current waves of belief I 100% supported a year ago.  Then this year I also finished reading the Bible cover to cover.  And I realized many things, but one of which is some of these popular ideas are out of context.  That doesn't mean that those ideas are bad- as long as they are recognized as a personal, God given passion.  And not a mandate.  There is this air of if you don't support XYZ you are sinning or not a good Christian.  And given the slight lack of context some of these things have, that's a very dangerous attitude to have.