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

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