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    What This Crazy Texas Weather Is Teaching Me About Seasons

    Sitting pool side with warm rays of sunshine hitting my face is not something I get to do often. Doing that in February though is crazy unheard of. It’s been an uncharacteristically hot winter. You could even say that we have skipped spring and beckoned summer to come play with us a little early this year. It’s a bit ridiculous. A bit ridiculous yet still super cool. I’m loving reading outside in my backyard this time of year in spite of the crazy Texas weather.

    There’s quite a downside though. I love fall and winter fashion. I enjoy fashion year round, but there’s nothing like throwing on a vest and a scarf and heading outside to face the frigid temperatures. (Okay, in Texas frigid temperatures are like 60 degrees. Laugh all you want northerners. This Texas girl just can’t handle it.)

    It’s not just about the fashion though. Texas can’t make up her beautiful little mind. Leaves on the ground or bluebonnets bursting through the ground. What has happened is that we’ve been switching from tshirts and shorts one day to a winter coat the next. It’s a lot to handle and is causing severe problems. I just got back from running some errands in a long sleeve tshirt and a vest. It’s February. That seems like a considerably warm outfit for this time of year. This is insane. I’ve been sweating for hours! Thank the good Lord that a/c still runs on 60 in most stores. (Actually, that could be changed too but for different reasons.)

    All of this back and forth between the seasons stopped and made me think about what we’re missing out when we miss the seasons. I’ve been painfully aware of them over the past several days. God’s even placed on my heart an overt awareness of the season my life and heart are in.I like to sum up seasons with a word to remember them by. (I’ll be sharing my word on the blog for this year/season which happen to be the same soon.) If you’re not sure what season you’re in, it’s okay. Ask God to show you what he’s doing in you, what the key themes he’s trying to get you to grasp right now are. You may just be surprised.

     

    Be Aware of the Season You’re In

    I could have easily hit the weather app on my phone while I was brushing my teeth. I would have known a short sleeve tshirt would have been enough for running errands this morning. This seems so simple. Yet, how many of us don’t check what season of our lives and we’re in or where are hearts truly are? Right now I know I’m in a season of healing, a season of giving myself grace and a season of intentional growth. With this seasonal perspective, I know how to prioritize my time, what to say yes to and what to say no to, and how to equip myself for this current season.

    Live Into The Season of Life You’re In

    Living into the season where you are living is the absolute hardest thing one can do. We long for the future. In the future, we’ll be better, we’ll eat healthier, be more fit, have our life perfectly balanced, a successful career, the happiest of happy homes, and all of our relationships will be satisfyingly perfect. We will have our quintessential version of a perfect us and a perfect life. That’s just not true friends!

    It’s so easy in the midst of a tough season to say that you just have to grit your teeth, hunker down and try your hardest to get through this season. You can certainly do that and I have definitely done that a time or two. It gets you through, but you miss so much of what is going on around you. I wish I could go back several seasons and start over. If I could go back in time to past seasons, I would focus on and learn the things that I am learning now. I could have learned some lessons in past seasons if I had stopped to truly realize what God was doing in that season and let Him fully do it.

    I’m in a weird season currently. I’m in a season that I long for to be over. I know that if it was over tomorrow, I would have missed it in so many ways – settling into a new marriage, discovering who I am sans my identity being tied up in what I do for a living, learning to give myself grace. I need this season. I need to lean in fully and be okay with what awaits me. Even when what is waiting for me turns out to be something scary.

    Do Prepare For Future Seasons

    Seasons change. It’s a beautiful thing. It can be a scary thing though. Each season is meant for it’s own purpose. If we live into that purpose while being aware and preparing for future seasons, I think we’ll be better for it when we face that season with all of its unknowns.I know that I won’t be in this season forever.

    One day, I’ll return to a traditional job. Knowing that, I’m getting ready for that future transition now. I’m seeking opportunities I may be interested in when the timing is right. If my skills don’t match up with something I’d potentially love to do, then it’s time to see how I can acquire those skills. It’s time to look at what has held me back in the past and how that can be changed for the future. The ground work I am laying now is in the small things. These things like learning to eat healthy seem small and maybe even too easy with a lot more time on my hands. When I go back to work though, I’ll have new eating habits where I’ll be okay leaving the entire box of donuts in the break room for other employees.

     

    I pray you’re living into the lessons of this season friend,
    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

    A Little Breathing Room

     

    A new friend of mine from the Start Experiment and I’ve been messaging back and forth. The other night she sent me these words of wisdom: “Give yourself a little breathing room – you’ve got a lot going on IRL”. (IRL means ‘in real life’) This is in response to trying to get my new site up and having everything ready by Monday. It’s Tuesday and I’m not ready to introduce it yet (although a few of you have already found your way over there).
    fiftyone. fiftytwo. [53]. fifty4. fifty5. fifty6. fifty7. fifty8. [59]. 60! sixtyone. sixty2. sixty3. sixty4. 65! sixty6. sixty7. sixty8. [69]. 70!
    This is an old photo from my Project 365 that I did awhile back which perfectly describes how I’m feeling today – stressed and rushed. I’m going to listen to that friends’ advice because I do have a lot going on in real life. I’m working through some major changes which will shake up where I’m living, my friends group, my daily eating habits, my morning routine, my career, and pretty much everything else tied into all of that. In addtion to that, my Dad’s been sick and I’ve been helping out with my sister which cuts down a bit of my hustling and dream time.
    Right now though, there’s not a deadline. There is no finite date. Jon Acuff won’t be mad at me and say I’m never allowed to read any of his blogs ever again because I wasn’t able to get my new site up how I wanted to by yesterday. That’s just ridiculous. He has different things he should worry about. There’s a deadline for some of the other things going on in my life which I really need to figure out.  The whole situation is overwhelming like a nightmare of ending up in a Calculus Test unprepared.
    The reality is that sometimes, real life gets in our way and we have to attend to some other things first. It’s easy to focus on the one thing that we feel like we can control in a time like this. For me currently, it’s the layout of my new site. There are other things that I am desperately not in control of in any way. Those things I definitely can’t change because I’m not in control, but I am in charge of how I react to this situation.
    How am I going to react? I’m going to react by deciding to act on the things which most need to take precedence. I’ve got things I need to take care of. I’ve got things that I wish had already been taken care of. What can I do now? I can stop feeling rushed about things that don’t really need to take place now and focus on things that need to be taken care of more immediately. It’s time to focus on dealing with the real life stuff rather than a layout because at the end of the day, this real life stuff matters a whole lot more than the layout of a blog.
    What do you need to stop focusing on? What do you really need to take care of this week?

    Seeing Past The Excuses

    Ever had an excuse so brilliant that you had to listen to it? An excuse that seemed to speak so much truth that it was impossible to ignore? I have.

    My Favorite Excuses to be Wowed By:
    1. You don’t really have time for that.
    2. If it’s not perfect the first time, you should wait.
    3. What kind of value does that even have in the world?
    4. But he/she/they did it better than I ever could, so why try?

    Let’s Dissect This a Bit:

    1. You don’t really have time for that. Yeah, that could take like 30 minutes to 1 hour, but you have some emails to write so why not pop in a season of Friends and answer emails. You can turn off the season whenever you finish the emails and go do something else. The reality is that you will have answered those emails during the first episode and will still be watching when it’s time to put in the second DVD. You had time. 

    2. If it’s not perfect the first time, you should wait. Where is the standard of perfection here? Perfect for who? Is your college professor going to look over this work? Will there ever be a perfect time, place, situation or what for you to complete this? If I wait forever, will it ever get done? Probably not.

    3. What kind of value does that even have in the world? With so many idea people, storytellers, film makers, creators, bloggers, leaders, etc. etc. who am I to try to step into any of these roles? What can I contribute when others have contributed so much already? What area of expertise do I really have in the matter? I’m just a kid straight out of college still trying to figure out the world around me.

    4. But he/she/they did it better than I ever could, so why try?  I follow some tremendous bloggers. I follow designers who I could only dream of designing something that great. I follow four filmmakers who made award winning movies while on summer vacation during college. I follow photographers who travel the world and have I am surrounded by people whose lives seem to be so much more, so much deeper, so much more impactful than mine. Maybe those people should do this, not me. 

    You know what lives in these excuses and the questions that they back? Fear.

    This Fear doesn’t have to control you. You’re the one that gets to decide if it does. For me, it’s regarding my blog. I love to compare it to blogs when I know the stats in my mind aren’t real. Maybe if I do this or that to make it better. In reality though, I just need to write. Writing takes more time than I always want to give it. I want my writing to be perfect and if I’m not feeling inspired, I just can’t write. Writing could get me judged though. I judge my own writing against others who are more established and have written longer.

    Why haven’t I written in the past? I have accepted the excuses fear has given me.

    It’s time to write because I love writing. It’s time to blog because I want to be a blogger. I want to punch my fear in the face and do the thing I love regardless of the excuses. That my friends is what I am going to do.

    Unpacking the Unpacked Adventure

    If you’ve been reading here at my little corner of the internet for awhile, you’ll see that things have changed stylistically (is that even a real word?) in the last 48 hours or so. I’ve decided to go undergo a new me, a new blog and become a new dream chasing girl – one that I’ve always wanted to be but what scared me so.

    You see, it all started back in the days of xanga when I would read my high school friends blogs and posted one of my own. The problem with high school xangas is they are very high school. I say this in love though, I’ve volunteered with teenagers for over five years now and adore the age group no matter how awkward and confusing it is. As I moved up to blogger and wordpress though, I began to see true writers that posted hours and hours of content – funny, engaging, brilliant, thought provoking, life affirming stories and encouragement all surrounded by great designs and beautiful photography.

    Well y’all, the comparison game is a thief of joy and I have been its’ captive way too long. 

    I’m at a definitive crossroads (I guess you really could say I have been at one since I graduated college) and it’s time to step up and be the true me here. I don’t know where it’s going to take me. I know that there’s a lot of adventures ahead. I’m currently on one now. Jon Acuff of Stuff Christians Like has been a writer of one of my favorite blogs for years now and he tweeted out the other day that he would like information sent to him about his followers. He wanted real information emailed to him to take us on an adventure that may include a machete and a passport. I don’t usually respond, but I did.

    He’s invited me and 2000ish other friends to go on an adventure to punch fear in the face and start what we have wanted to start all along but have been too afraid of. He’s named it the Start Experiment after his book I’m currently reading entitled, Start: Punch Fear in the Face, Escape Average and Do Work that Matters, which I highly recommend (along with his other books – I’m a bit of a fan). Here goes my START!

    Unpacked Adventure. It’s a weird name. How do you unpack an adventure? Don’t you usually pack for an adventure? Unpacking isn’t the fun part – it’s the thrill of getting everything together before a journey, packing your necessities and heading off. I don’t know what the adventure looks like. I know what I hope it involves: transparency, a deeper level of writing, a consistent blog, some encouragement, a less fearful me, a few crafts, some reviews of some great restaurants, books and digs along the way, a few fashionable moments, a few thoughts and adventures, creative projects and photography.

    Here’s to dreaming!
    Here’s to hoping!
    & Here’s to STARTing!

    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.

    The Unphotographed Four. & Midterms!

    Four. Four days on my 365 went unphotographed.
    This is okay though. I knew that I would miss days starting the project and I decided to not hold it over my head. Missing days happens and it will not be the end of my world. Plus, I usually don’t just take one picture most days, so it’s not like I’m not getting the practice in.

    What did I do these days? I believe for two of the days, I hit the hay exhausted. Three days could be counted this way if you wanted to add in my birthday which I ended up taking a nap and waking up the next day. The other day is lost to the imagination as I do not recall at this moment why it went unphotographed. Plus, without a photograph it is as if that day never happened. Just kidding!

    I’ll probably upload new pictures in a few days. I’m editing right now and then will probably hit the hay. 22 hours of classes isn’t meant for humans.

    My planner a few weeks back told me this: “I try to take one day at a time, but sometimes several days attack me at once.” – Jennifer Yane. So true, so true.

    Here’s to the next 3 weeks of midterms!: 14 tests, 5 homeworks due (doesn’t include individual assignments), 1 photo project, 1 research paper outline/thesis/bibliography (If you know me and how I write, the paper will have to be practically done to get this.), 1 JHigh Girls’ Bible Study lead, and 1 youth retreat between weeks 1 and 2. Bring it, Midterms, Bring it!