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    Undaunted + How God Used These Words In My Life

    I’ve given myself a huge undertaking. With my desires for diving back into a life of reading, I’ve given myself 29 books to read this year. When I set out to make my 2017 Reading List, I didn’t venture to add so many books. It just happened. The sheer number of it, kind of scares me as it begs that I won’t be able to finish. In fact, to date, I’ve only read three of those in their entirety.

    When I saw that Christine Caine was starting a book club for those reading Undaunted: Daring to do what God calls you to do, I figured I’d sign up. It was on my list anyway. Y’all, this book wasn’t on my list. The author isn’t even on there with a different book that I planned to read this year. This has to be God’s timing. The words I have read this past week and over the weekend have cut deep into places that I know He spoke directly into using Christine’s words.

    The words ‘rallying cry’ are evident and were placed on my heart as a summation of her words. With every chapter, Christine pleas for our generation to step up and step outside of ourselves. For us to know who we are in Him and to throw our fears aside to follow Him. To live undaunted.

    Her Stories

    Australia has long been a fascinating place for me and more recently, Greece has captured my interest. It’s funny that Christine Caine, a Grecian girl who is from Sydney, Australia would write words that would land in my hands and even more so into my heart. She’s filled with wit, draws from personal moments from getting lost in a rainforest to the very moments God placed A21 on her heart in the most unlikely of places.

    Christine’s tales suck you in as she shows you how God’s hand has been evident in her life. Her gentle yet fierce words beckon the reader to look at where God has been evident in their own life and where their relationship with Him is currently. She speaks of the fears, disappointments, and unknowns she has grappled with and yet overcome. Her ability to overcome with God at her side invites and imagines for us to have the same in our lives.

    Undaunted. That’s a word that escapes me. It’s a word that I’m not sure if I’ve ever had roll off my tongue. I know what the feeling of being daunted is – full of fear, unknowns looming in the future, a general yucky atmosphere up ahead. What about undaunted though? Undaunted is a word brimming with courage, an unstoppable force as it faces challenges head on with the confidence and faith that God will help you overcome them.

    That’s the way I’d like to live. What about you? So often though, it’s a life we’re wishing for rather than the confidence we are living in.

    Her Use of Scripture

    Christine laces her words with scripture in a beautiful, captivating way that makes you want to read more, to read deeper. It’s a way that is uniquely her own. I read a lot of Christian Living books. While I absolutely adore this genre, sometimes I feel that God’s words are standalone next to the author’s own. They flow in and out, yet keep their words separate as they relate them back to the scriptures. As a fellow writer, it’s hard to not admire Christine’s gift for writing. Her use of bringing the scripture so vividly in front of her readers not just in a way to reference but in a way that it dances on the page in front of you and leaps into your heart. It’s like reading it for the very first time even if it’s the millionth.

    Words I Needed + Maybe You Do Too

    Rick and I decided to spend some time in our hammocks this weekend. We spent hours relaxing, reading and just resting in two different parks over the weekend. The most surprising this to me was God choosing that time to meet with me. I’m not sure if you’ve ever had intentional time with God in a hammock, but I’m now convinced there may be no other way. In a world where distractions are constant and loud, there’s something about a hammock that seems to block them all out.

    Christine Caine’s words are so God breathed, I want you to read them for yourself. These are words that hit my heart in the best of ways over this weekend:

    “If you allow those labels to loom larger in your heart and mind than the promises of God, they can fool you into missing God’s truth about who you are, into not pursuing the purpose God has had in mind for you from the beginning of time… You need to return to the truth of God’s Word that will last forever, not meditate on circumstances that will change and fade.”

     

    “If we allow other people to tell us what we are and are not qualified to do, we will limit what God wants to do with us.”

     

    “When you let fear run your life, you close yourself off from anything that might hurt or cost or make you uncomfortable – including opportunities to serve God and claim his promises.”

     

    “When Jesus asks, Do you love me? he is also saying: Then keep your eyes on me. Keep believing in what I have created you to do. Turn over to me your fear, and hold fast to faith in me. Replace that fear – fear that I did not give you – with the love, power, and sound mind that I have given you. Know that my presence is your antidote to fear.”

    Words for the Weary

    Lately in our home, we’ve been discussing work versus play. Mental health and self-care are frequent topics. This weekend our hammock time served to be a complete separation for us. After so much talk between us over the past week, I thought it was interesting that Christine discussed it. In the midst of a book calling us to live undaunted in our faith for ourselves and to reach others, she devotes time and words to slowing down, recharging and rest.

    We can get worn down by the needs in this world, and wearied by them, God knows. We need sleep, rest, restoration, recuperation. That’s why God gives us the end of a day, and he doesn’t begrudge us our rest. He doesn’t want us to come to the end of ourselves and be defeated and enslaved in a spiritual Auschwitz, tormented, thinking it is the work we do that sets us free, so that we have to get back up on the treadmill and do more, be more. No, he doesn’t want us to burn the candle at both ends so that we end up lethargic, fatigue, burned up, and burnt out. To do that is to walk into the lie that was wrought in iron over the arched entrance of Auschwitz – to be held captive by the idea that work sets us free. This is not what God meant when he said in Isaiah 1:12: “Why this frenzy of sacrifices?” (MSG).

     

    Working ourselves into a frenzy of tormenting others by working them to death is not freedom. It is enslavement. But we are not slaves; we are free. And we have been freed for a purpose: to share what we’ve been given. The Bible tells us, “he has shown you, oh man, what is good, and what does the Lord require of you, but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8 NKVJ). 

    It’s easy to work, work, work. Even now, in a season where I have slowed and am working on different projects than traditional ‘work’, I find myself working a lot. I research, I stay current, I do housework. (Although, I just realized that I started laundry several hours ago and now have wet clothes in the washer. Oops!) It’s tough to pause and separate from what we’re doing but it’s so very necessary.

    The Story That Stuck Out The Most

    I tend to overwork. In fact, the other night I literally had a dream where I was working to prove my worth to work. I fell in love with the story that Christine breaks down for us in It’s Not Business – It’s Personal.  She reframes a story from Luke – the man on the side of the road and the good Samaritan.

    Nowhere in Jesus’ story does it say that the priest or the Levite were bad people. But they were busy people, religious people. They were so consumed with keeping their schedules, appointments, and commitments that they ended up walking past someone they should have helped. The man lying on the side of the road was an interruption to their ministry, rather than the object of it. 

    These are words that having been in ministry, just kind of shakes me up. It begs me to wonder what could have happened if, “x program had happened”, if “x told her idea”, if “x really embraced God’s leading instead of brushing it off”, if “x truly cared and went out of their way”. The what-ifs don’t have to be what-ifs. So much of that is buried in busyness, personal agendas and fear.

    If you’re reading this, I pray that you don’t allow the interruptions to throw you off. I hope you choose to submit and embrace them. I know that I will be more consciously on the lookout for those God-given interruptions in my life. Moments where He has plans and a purpose greater than myself.

    Worth it?

    Oh my goodness, yes! Even though this wasn’t on my Reading List, I am so glad I worship a God that intervenes in the smallest of ways for my good. I know He set this book club in my path this past week. I needed to read these very words this weekend. This is a book that I would definitely recommend. In fact, I’m passing it off later this week to one of my best friends.

    I’d strongly urge you to read this, especially if you’re struggling with disappointments, past labels, knowing who you are in Christ and who you could be. Even if you’re not struggling with those very things, I recommend you read it. You can find Christine Caine’s Undaunted here. Order it today, her words are so worth it. You will not be disappointed. Especially, if God is leading you to hear these words!

    It’s Days Before Easter, Is It Too Late To Start Lent?

    My family didn’t grow up doing Lent. In fact, other than my parents and grandparents talking about fish for Friday meals, I don’t recall really hearing anything about it. One Sunday afternoon at youth group changed that. Someone mentioned that they were going to give up chocolate or soda. A few minutes later, the circled rounded to me I participated in my very first Lent. I think I gave up sweets.

    Over the years, my relationship with Lent and giving things up has been an on and off again thing. This year, I didn’t give Lent a second glance. When Lent was starting, I happened to be starting a very different kind of in depth study and didn’t feel I could give the time to both. I said a cold hard, “see you later, Lent” as I left it in the rearview mirror. As time has grown closer and closer to Easter though, my heart is changing. I’ve set aside the other study for a reprieve amongst the intenseness of it. Within this break, I’ve started to feel weird that I’m not as focused on Lent as my instagram feed is. Weird that I’m a Christian who is “failing” because I didn’t give Lent my all.

    Lent isn’t about pretty instagram sayings on little square backgrounds or the eloquent words some of my friends string together under photos though. Lent isn’t about giving up chocolate and then sneaking a piece on Sundays because that day doesn’t count. It isn’t something you can “fail”. It’s about Jesus. All the moments leading up to the ultimate sacrifice that He gave for us as he died for our sins on the cross. It’s about intentionally connecting with Jesus whether it’s for the entire season or for a few days. Isn’t having that relationship with Him what this is all about anyway?

    It’s days before Easter. Can I really start Lent now?

    Why not start now? It may feel weird. I don’t believe God thinks it’s weird. I think he just wants to connect with us regardless if we start on the right day or not. We can’t go back in time and start Lent weeks ago. At least I can’t, my DeLorean is currently in the shop. Just kidding, I don’t really have a DeLorean time machine. What we can do is start digging into the Easter story and the moments leading up to it. We can delve into the moments before Good Friday and give it more time than just an Easter Sunday church service. We can intentionally sit and spend time with Jesus starting today.

    This morning, I got up and did my normal routine which includes reading the daily quote on a quote-a-day calendar that I was given years ago. This is today’s quote:“Ours is a God of Mondays, of new beginnings, of starting again, of seasons and weekends and tomorrows. He begins the day with love and ends it with faithful. And then again tomorrow.” – Emily Freeman, Chatting at the Sky. It reiterated that it was okay for me to start whenever because each day is a new beginning, even with Lent.

    What Lent Study Can I really do before Easter? Will I even get anything out of it?

    I just started a Lent study a few nights ago on a YouVersion study. It’s called The Final Lessons: A Holy Week Plan and is by Becky Kiser of Sacred Holidays. I am loving it so far. It’s short, simple, sweet but has a huge depth to it. What stood out to me last night when we were studying John 12:12-13 is something that I always overlook. It’s the word hosanna. It’s been a word that ever since Sunday School was kind of a throwaway word as I read over it and around it but never truly read it. Becky’s words caused me to pause and really look at this so often overlooked word.

    “Hosanna was a form of praise, but it also was a word used to talk about salvation, help or rescue—to ask for it or proclaim that it is here.” – Becky Kiser. Hosanna isn’t a word that has particularly significant meaning to me by itself since it’s always alluded me. With those words attached to it though, especially rescue, it changes things. Rescue is a word that I can really understand there.

    Let’s take a look at John 12:12-13: “The next day the large crowd that had come to the feast heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, crying out, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!

    I’ve always read that with the connotation of Hosanna being something along the lines of “awesome” but that’s just a part of it. Putting the word rescue in its place changes so much. In my mind, it seems more active now. We know why we’re shouting Hosanna. We know that Jesus is here to rescue us. The combination of awesome and rescue intermingles praise with desperation. Something, that is so felt in my heart as I am desperate to be saved from the sins I struggle with and so thankful for how He has rescued me and continues to rescue me. 

    Y’all, I’m 2 days in and loving it. I highly recommend you go and download it. Don’t let Easter pass you by without even stopping to glance at it. With Easter baskets, Sunday best, nice lunches and Easter egg hunts, it can be so easy to forget about the true meaning. That there’s something more to Lent. Don’t let that be you. Yes, you can start Lent today. It’s not too late. You don’t even have to call it Lent. Call it connecting intentionally with Jesus. Call it a quiet time. It doesn’t matter what you name it, just let that time be His and don’t let Easter Sunday be the end to you connecting with Jesus. It’s not just a Lent thing. It’s a life thing.

    Happy Easter!
    Ashley

     

    Starting Over To Become A Better Me


    I love, love, love the idea of everyday adventures and unseen beauty. Oh how I wish my life could be that! I wish those were things that really exemplified my life – searching for unseen beauty in things that may not be so lovely and seeking out everyday adventures in the mundane. It just doesn’t seem like that is where I am though. Maybe it is where I was and maybe where I’ll circle back to in a different season. Right now though, that’s not the season I’m in. It’s not where my heart is. I think I just need to start over and work on becoming a better version of myself.

    Why Start Over?

    I believeIt’s a season of changes, healing and restoration. It’s also an incredibly challenging time of sorting out of the identity of who I’ve become versus who I wish I had become or could become. I’m questioning my current life path. I’m seeking out past hobbies that once brought me joy and looking at them in a new light. Due to all of this and the switching of priorities of taking care of family matters first instead of working for a career, it’s time for a fresh start, a new chance at who I wish I’d become. Some days, I have the desire to look at my life penciled on a page and start ferociously erasing. Afterwards, I’m left with imprinted scratches and a somewhat new-ish slate. It’s something I can start over with. With each pencil stroke, I can begin to build something new, something better.

    Why Becoming A better Me Starting Today?

    As this journey has started, one thing has become incredibly evident. I have changed significantly over the past several years. Unfortunately, I think the vast majority of these changes aren’t for the better. I’m not saying that I believe I need to be the perfect woman juggling her career, kids, faith, home, friends, family and everything else with exact and precise balance while living each moment with intentionality. There are areas of my life that I feel like I’m not good at though, that I feel like need improving. I don’t feel like I live each day with intentionality. The thought patterns I’ve developed over time could use a major overhaul. I don’t give myself grace, yet I know I need to learn to do so. These things won’t change overnight, but I believe I can start to become a better version of myself one day at a time starting today.

    What Does Becoming A Better Me Look Like?

    In short, I have no idea. So many areas of my life that need redemption. From my questioning faith after seeing so many Christian failures as well as my floundering relationship with Jesus to a new healthy lifestyle that isn’t filled with pinned workouts while I’m seeing how many donuts I can eat in one sitting. Due to my love of research and reading. I know that research and reading will play heavy roles on this journey. I know being truthful, honest and eagerly seeking out answers will be on the way. This journey will be filled with changing things/habits/thoughts/routines, trying new things/foods/workouts and discovering that even an older dog can learn new tricks. The cool thing is that each day is new and what becoming a better me looks like today may be different in a year or so depending on the season.

     

    Grab my hand and let’s journey together!

    Ashley

    Be satisfied. Be content.

    Psalm 63. A psalm of David. When he was in the Desert of Judah.  

    O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you;
    my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water.  

    I have seen you in the sanctuary and beheld your power and your glory. 
    Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you.  

    I will praise you as long as I live, and in your name I will lift up my hands.  
    My soul will be satisfied as with the richest of foods; with singing lips my mouth will praise you.  

    On my bed I remember you; I think of you through the watches of the night. 
    Because you are my help, I sing in the shadow of your wings.  
    My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me.  

    They who seek my life will be destroyed; they will go down to the depths of the earth.  
    They will be given over to the sword and become food for jackals.  

    But the king will rejoice in God; all who swear by God’s name will praise him, while the mouths of liars will be silenced.

    Keeper

    Psalm 121

    1 I lift up my eyes to the hills.

    From where does my help come?

    2 My help comes from the LORD,

    who made heaven and earth.

    3 He will not let your foot be moved;

    he who keeps you will not slumber.

    4 Behold, he who keeps Israel

    will neither slumber nor sleep.

    5 The LORD is your keeper;

    the LORD is your shade on your right hand.

    6 The sun shall not strike you by day,

    nor the moon by night.

    7 The LORD will keep you from all evil;

    he will keep your life.

    8 The LORD will keep

    your going out and your coming in

    from this time forth and forevermore.

    Relational Ministry

    Waiting for the next mission team to come in right now.

    We spend a lot of time between teams relaxing, coordinating with different team leaders from future teams, stocking up on supplies we need for the next teams, enjoying fellowship with each other, cleaning and doing relational ministry in Rio Frio.

    What does relational ministry look like?
    It’s different than a lot of other ministries. It’s not “let’s go build these people a house”. It’s not “we need to feed these people for x amount of time”. It’s not “a huge week production then nothing”. This is getting to know people, getting to know their life stories, meeting them right where they are and encouraging them to grow, taking them to the Bible and disciple-ing them.

    So what do these teams that come in do if they aren’t doing physical labor?
    They build relationships. Ted and Gracie’s ministry in Rio Frio is about building people, not buildings. They do this through couple’s meeting women’s meetings and youth meetings that the people asked to set up, not something Ted and Gracie decided to do. They will be starting a men’s group soon as some men asked Ted if they could start one a few weeks ago. The teams participate in these meetings as well as teaching values lessons in the local schools. We can’t outright preach the gospel, but caring for your neighbor is great coupled with the good Samaritan story just like the prodigal son teaches the value of unconditional love. We’re in a different school every week with the teams teaching different lessons. These may be the only values lessons these students get though. Costa Rica has seen a need for good values to be instilled in their people and are doing that with mandating values lessons be taught in schools. This is where Ted, Gracie, their ministry, and the teams that support them step in.

    Aren’t the people hungry? What about housing for them? What about programs?
    Sometimes, often, possibly always giving begins a cycle of co-dependency. If someone always came in and gave you what you needed, do you really think you’d be able to survive if that someone stopped giving? Giving things is great, but when people start to rely on them is where trouble begins to set in. The cycle of co-dependency starts and can really mess things up.

    Thoughts to think about today…
    We’re off to wait at the airport for the team now.