Thursday, December 12, 2013


it's advent season. the season characterized specifically by waiting....

by nature, I'm not a patient person. I hate traffic and lines and thinking way far ahead into the future.

but I suppose advent is a different kind of waiting. waiting with joyful anticipation of celebrating something wonderful and beautiful and well...the most important thing!

I heard once that most women don't like surprises, because they enjoy the exciting anticipation of looking forward to things. I get that. perhaps that is a small taste of the joy in our advent.

as people sing Christmas carols and stores are crazy crowded and people bake cookies, I think of a dear coworker in great pain in this season. she's in the midst of saying goodbye to one of those amazing friends that is, actually, 100% family. and it seems cruel and unfair and just doesn't make sense that her life be taken all too soon. away from her friends. her family. her husband and 6 year old son.

she said today, face streaming with tears, she didn't know how to say goodbye. said she felt bad for bringing everyone down at this time of year that's supposed to be filled with cheer. I told her that was ridiculous and to not think such things.

and then I got to thinking about the anticipation of advent and waiting for Christmas. waiting for our king. waiting for redemption. sacrifice. love. grace. mercy. 

human pain and grief that doesn't make sense seems to make perfect sense, in all actuality, in this season. Christ was born into this broken, fallen world because of this pain and heartache and mess. He was born -- He, being the embodiment of perfect love and hope.

hope that we need in midst of heartache and pain. the kind that brings us to our knees. crying out because we don't understand why life isn't fair. why we have to lose the ones closest to us. the ones we love. in the midst of this advent season, and always, there is hope. all is not lost. we have the biggest treasure that isn't on this earth. our pain is but temporary. death has lost its sting, for the battle is already won. 

happy advent. 

Thursday, November 14, 2013

thoughts on pain

have you been in a place where pain seemed to linger? or rather, caught you off guard at random moments throughout  the day? like suddenly, the feeling sweeps over you and you can't breathe.

I was "boogie boarding" on vacation one time as a kid, and a wave crashed down suddenly, smashing me down onto my board. I remember that feeling so vividly. the wind was knocked out of me and I couldn't breathe or comprehend anything. I couldn't remember what it felt like to feel normal. 

sometimes heartaches can feel like that. 

as I have walked through this season, I have thought of "what if's" and "if I hadn't" and regrets and wishes and wonderings. 

and tonight as I came home and had conversation with a few dear friends who are also walking through forms of heartache, I felt a strange peace and calm and joy. I felt the fruits of the Spirit. I felt comforted in knowing that I was not alone. that we all feel pain. that it's so very....human

I think there is something beautiful about sharing our battle scars. the things that have shaped us, taught us lessons, and made us relate-able. able to connect with one another. able to see God through the healing. because while He closes the wound, it's not quite the same. there's something different. something that's caused us be formed into who He wants us to be. 

I firmly believe that He can make all things work together for His purpose. I don't think everything happens for a reason, necessarily. I think that evil occurs and things happen that He wishes didn't. but in all things, I think there can be redemption. a story of some good. and that is why I will be thankful for painful seasons. 

Sunday, November 10, 2013

thankfulness and choosing better

I just got home from a long trip to visit a dear friend. and while I don't mind driving long distances, the drive home proved to be a little rough. in struggling with several things currently, I found myself fixated and hurting. it made for a rather long 10.5 hour drive. 

and as I got home I felt the rush of emotion sweep over me and I began yelling at God. have you ever done this? it seems so silly to me to even say it, because, this tiny ant/speck in the ENTIRE universe, is screaming at its creator. at the creator of the world. at the one who has full power over EVERYTHING. and I'm yelling. at him. smaaaart. 

now, I've calmed down a little and am reflecting on thankfulness and choices. while at my sweet friend's house this weekend, I noticed she had small magnets with handwritten notes on them on her refrigerator. she had made a wall of thankfulness -- listing out all the things she was thankful for in this season of life. she informed me that thankful people are more self-compassionate (something we both struggle with) and happy/healthy. 

as I drove home, I talked to a few friends who always give me some good perspective. and as I told a heartache with my one friend, she encouraged me not to settle. to hold on to my faith and trust God has good in store for me. why am I always reaching for good enough for when He has great? 

and I thought about my last few weeks. how I've tried to get up early to spend time with God and start my days off right. a grand plan, but something this non-morning person is not so great at actually carrying out. until my kind friend at work encouraged me, even telling me she'd buy me a donut if I succeeded. needless to say, I got up early last week. 

all of these jumbled thoughts concluded to this: I am thankful for the people in my life that encourage me to choose better. my good friend, jenna, uses this phrase and it just seems right in this stage of life. I must learn to choose better. but sometimes it is hard, and I need encouragement. accountability. a little nudge. and just when I think God has abandoned me in a city I'm not used to without my support system, I see that He has not. that support can be long distance. or in the office. or on the other end of the phone. 

I want to choose better. I will choose better. sometimes this is hard. sometimes, I really want to just eat candy for dinner. but in the long run, it will make me sick. sometimes, I want to talk to someone who tells me nice things. and makes me feel worthwhile in the moment. but in the long run, is it healthy? does it leave me crying for 10.5 hours on the way home? if so, maybe I should choose better

this week I vow to choose better. to spend more time with Him, to be healthier, to guard my heart, and to be thankful. 

Wednesday, November 6, 2013


if you live in cubicle world like I do, you know about office communicator. sometimes used for conference call comments (what'd she say? I zoned out...), important work questions (can you send me...), and of course some good old-fashioned humor to get you through the day.

when my IM starts blinking, I typically expect one of these three items. typically, for real, they are work comments or questions, but there's also the random:: "there's pie in the breakroom. and I want it. at 9 am."

however, the other day I got an IM that truly knocked my socks off. one of my coworkers uses a thesaurus a lot at work. she writes a lot, and it's her thing (seriously -- giant thesaurus and dictionary sprawled across her desk at all times). she sent me a note that said: "sometimes I get completely distracted by the thesaurus".

I was thinking..surely she'll explain. and she did. she followed it with: "sometimes a word will jump out at me. and if it jumps out several times as I'm looking for something else, I'm pretty sure it's a sign. like the way scripture can jump out at you just like you were intended to read it in that very moment."

hm...ok, I'm tracking.

then she just typed: "small potato".

me: "what? small potato?"

her: "yes! small potato. I just saw it 3 times. like I am worrying about things that are just small potatoes."

mind. blown.

I totally believe that the all powerful man upstairs communications in various ways. and I totally believe that he can choose to communicate through a thesaurus. and also, through a thesaurus-loving co-worker.

small potatoes. how many things that stress me out, wreck my world, consume my thoughts are small potatoes that won't matter in a month or three or five? SO many. SO SO many. most, actually.

and as I continued to think about it tonight, I thought about my view of what a small potato is. you see, I'm in a particularly un-thankful season. I haven't felt grateful for much lately. I have focused on what I don't have: a routine here, my close friends, my family, plans a lot of the time. I miss so much about where I was. I miss the people and the routine and MY LIFE. and then I realized that when I was there, all those things seemed like small potatoes. they were a given, so I wasn't jumping up and down in excitement for them.

and now that I don't seem to have them, I feel likely I would do a jig if I did.

so tonight, I'm thinking about the things I take for granted. the health of those I hold dear. my wonderful family and friends, even though they don't all live close by. my job, which I often am not grateful for, but is truly a place I enjoy going (thanks awesome coworkers!). food in my belly. my health. the friends from college who live here and I love seeing, etc. etc.

because the truth is, if I lost any of these things, they would no longer be small potatoes. the absence of these amazing things would leave a large large LARGE potato gap.

so, I will thank God for the large potatoes in my life. I will ask He continues to give me discernment on which kind of potato is which, and thank him for IMing coworkers who read their thesaurus.

Monday, November 4, 2013


messes. who likes them? I'm pretty sure no one. they might be fun to make. ok, they are typically very fun to make. but cleaning up? that's certainly a drag.

I may not be the most organized, clean person, but I still don't like messes. 

I've been praying since I moved that God would use me. that I would find a place where I could serve. that I could be a witness and a valuable member of God's kingdom. and yet, I haven't found a place quite yet. 

or at least I didn't think I had. 

I wanted this to fit into a nice, neat box. volunteering every Tuesday night at a homeless shelter, inner city, habitat, hospital, etc. -- surely that was the way to go. and while I'm not saying it's not, I haven't found that specific opportunity yet. rather, something else: life.

situations have surfaced around me that I've shied away from. a friend went MIA for awhile, and I heard he was in rehab. rehab??! what?! no way. he surfaced today and my first reaction was avoidance. I didn't know how to react. how awkward. 

then I started thinking about the bravery it takes to admit that something is wrong in your life. to admit you have a problem and to take steps to fix it. to publicly admit that you need help and then COME BACK to face everyone who knows. WHOA. how courageous! how strong! how amazing! at this eye-opening realization, I almost wept. and wanted to welcome this person with a hug. and love. and acceptance. and happiness. I felt a little bit of what the father might have felt with the prodigal son. maybe just a hint. 

isn't that a little messy? 

another one of my friends from the past is believed to be gay and wants to get together (we haven't talked in what feels like forever). my initial reaction was to ignore. this is clearly not a situation I need to be in. this is messy! it will surely be awkward. I'll just ignore. who cares? 

but then I thought about Jesus. and it gnawed at me. would Jesus ignore someone reaching out because of a sin? no way! Jesus would seek them out to hang out. come over to my place. let's be friends. 

Jesus embraces messes. and a good thing, too, because I'm a mess! I'm so thankful God doesn't ignore me. 

when life gets a little scary, and awkward, and...well...messy -- I have to turn to the Word for perspective. my instincts and the world may tell me to back away from messes, but Jesus always embraces. and as a mess myself, I am ever thankful. 

Wednesday, October 2, 2013


I love the imagery of seasons. the way the physical, earthly seasons parallel our physical, early seasons in life.

seasons are fascinating and difficult and beautiful. when you're in the heart of one season, it seems like it will never change. think about it: when you're building a snowman or sweating balls in the heat of summer, are you thinking about how the next season is coming? I surely am not.

about four years ago, a wise friend told me in a particularly rough season: "ash, you're just in a season. season's change."

in that moment, I wanted to thump her on the head. I was in Siberia, and she was telling me Hawaii was around the corner. I couldn't see past the snow and cold. it felt like it would surely last forever. in my mind, Hawaii didn't even exist.

and then a funny thing happened. I can't put my finger on when exactly, but I woke up one day to find lush, beautiful greenery covering my life. somehow, the cold had left and been replaced by warmth and fellowship and deep joy. my season had changed. in the same way it doesn't go from 30 F to 90 F overnight, it was a transition I can't quite pinpoint, but it was beautiful and wonderful and awe-inspiring. I remember thinking to myself, "ye of little faith. God provides. and seasons DO change. don't doubt again."

but it's hard to remember the spring when you're in fall.

and as I find myself in a particularly challenging, confusing, sometimes painful and lonely season, I am reminded of His promises. and His goodness. and that His plans don't revolve around just my life or my happiness. there's a bigger picture.

seasons change, and from the ground, new life occurs. as good ol gungor says:

all around hope is springing up from this old ground
out of chaos life is being found in You
you make beautiful things out of the dust
you make beautiful things out of us.

I suppose no matter what season we're in, it's going to change. it's the nature of life; the nature of nature. but God is good. and the final, everlasting season is life. beautiful, abundant life.

Monday, June 24, 2013


the calendar days are slowing diminishing, and sometimes this hits me like a wall. a wave of emotion and fear and sadness and disbelief all mingle and crash over my consciousness. it's been building up, but I've put it on the back shelf of my mind, right behind my five year plan and what I'm going to do when I grow up.

moving has become something I've been able to deal with from a distance. but distance is creeping closer.

tonight the wave hit and a thousand thoughts rushed in all at once. I think of when I moved here. how I cried daily at the loss of the familiar. I missed my family, my friends, everything I'd known my whole life. and now I cry for the things I've gained since being here, things I can't imagine my life without. that my best friends won't be there to giggle or tease me every time I order a pop. that snow will actually occur without the whole world shutting down. that sweet tea won't be a staple at every restaurant, people will probably stare when I say y'all, and I won't be able to sing along quite as loudly to sweet home alabama.

I cry for the things that alabama means to me. for a proof that I can survive on my own, away from my parents. for a real-life adventure, a leap of faith. for answered prayers and truth-speaking friends and a first job. I've learned what feels like a lifetime of lessons here -- how to say no, truths about myself, the rewards of stepping out of my comfort zone, so much about the Lord and my journey with Him.

as coworkers ask when I'm moving, I can't bring myself to answer. and it seems that I'm not leaving as much as everyone else -- no kids to pry away from friends, and moving closer to family! clearly I should be nothing but thrilled. (and this is not to say that I don't love my family and friends in ohio -- I do, dearly!)

but they don't see that the people I leave behind have been my family here. the ones who've held me through heartbreak, through death in the family, through broken-in apartments and big life decisions. the ones who've talked me through and loved me through mistakes, spoken truth to me. prayed with me. laughed with me. cried with me. took on new adventures and challenges with me. traveled, ate fro yo, went to midnight premieres with me. walked through life with me.

because when you're in your 20's and not married, your friends are your family.

and my family has been incredible.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013


tonight I got out my journal to...well...journal. duh. I was going to copy down some scripture that had jumped out at me, when the pages turned as I picked it up, and I began to read my prayers from earlier this year.

my mouth quite literally dropped open as I read words I'd written from a silent retreat several months ago. I had prayed for direction. I had prayed for a change -- something to draw me closer to Him. I actually even asked if I needed to move

every year on that retreat, I have found myself on the same trail. and it boggles my mind the way God uses that trail every year to teach me something new. it's like He knows I learn well in parallels and analogies, and the symbolism of a path is just too good for my mind to pass up and He knows it. it's like He created me or something. weird.

as I read through the lessons God was teaching me on the trail this past time, I realized those lessons were for now. I had asked Him where I should go. where my future was taking me. and I had been frustrated because I didn't feel like I got answers. I felt like I was screaming at Him that I needed guidance, and what I got was a still small whisper. the whisper of "trust me, I am with you".

and at the time, that seemed rather frustrating. uhm...hello God. I am an action person. I like to take action to make things better. improve them. make something go from good to great. I was looking for an action item, something to cross off my list to make my life and purpose better.

but what I got was a "trust me", and a bunch of obstacles that made the path a little difficult to traverse.

and as moving looms closer and imminent change draws near, this hits a closer to home than it did in november. as co-workers announce their moving dates, that their homes have sold, and we discuss packing up our offices and shutting off our phones, my heart aches a little. calendar notices of "last marketing lunch" and "office farewell party" make it seem a little too real. a little too close.

I know He wanted me to find that in my journal tonight for comfort. I didn't know what was coming back in november. apparently it wasn't time for me to know. but God knew. and as I kicked the ground and felt cheated for not getting my answers, I can now see His purpose so clear.

moments like this touch me so deeply, because I don't think we always get to see His plans and reasons this side of eternity. bad things happen, pain occurs, we don't get answers, and we don't always get to know why. we don't always get to see what the bigger picture is, or why we can't know now, or what a heartbreak was for. but tonight, I think God nudged me to this finding in a way to show His love and grant me peace. and it has.

 He is so good. all the time. even when my world seems shaken and uneasy and unsure, and my head is full of unknowns and doubts. He is good. 

Sunday, May 19, 2013

transitions and tears

today I have been feeling particularly emotional about upcoming life transitions. and also reflective. and since writing is therapeutic for me in these times, here I am.

I've always had trouble with change. any large life transition is typically followed by tears and an aching in my heart for things to remain the same forever. graduation from high school and college were  nearly detrimental to my emotional state. and just when I thought I'd never have to go through that type of change again, here I am, almost four years later (ironically), staring it in the face.

when you know you're about to move from a place and people you love, every happy moment becomes bittersweet. the lovely memories you make start to take on a sharp sting, as if the universe is taunting you. this past month as I've laughed and talked and enjoyed the company of the people I have come to deeply know & love, I've struggled with how hard it will be on moving day to leave.

and this has made a part of me want to push away. stop making memories. wouldn't that be easier?

tonight as I cried to a friend about the difficulty of leaving, she pointed out that my pain was a good thing. I'm sorry, what? she pointed out that the fact I'm so torn up about leaving was a sign that I had spent my time here well. being sad about leaving is good. saying goodbye should be hard. otherwise, what have you been doing with your life?

connecting with people deeply is one of my favorite things about life. it reminds me most of Christ here on earth. and while it is wonderful in all of its glimpses into God's love for us, it also opens us up to heartache and makes us vulnerable. but I guess that's why it's beautiful. anything so spectacular and meaningful can't come without investment and risk, right?

goodbyes and change are hard for me because I love to connect with people. to invest and form deep and meaningful relationships. and while life circumstances are not always stable or guaranteed, I'm not going to stop just because I don't know what's going to happen in the future. I'd rather love deeply and hurt deeply than be disconnected and numb. I'm going to have to remind myself of that as I'm up to my elbows in tissues the next few months, but I'm standing by it.

Huntsville, Alabama, you are a very special place. I've called you home for four years, and you have truly been that -- my home. I could write a book about all that I've learned here, from life in the south, to being on my own, to lessons about myself. and I'm not ashamed to say that leaving you will be very, very hard.