Who’s At Your Table?

A few weeks a go, I was volunteering at a conference, when I Just happened to sit in on a session. I was planning to serve, see my South African friend Andi, and head home. I didn’t know Louie Giglio and the passion band would be there, and I had no idea the revelation God planned in advance to bring to my life. I walked in and stood in the back just to soak in a song or two.

The worship was so anointed. Raw, real, genuine, and powerful. The team led a new song – Worthy of Your Name (go listen to it HERE.) I stood in the back, with my hands in the air, and I wept.  The words pierced my heart, and my soul was moved to worship. I remembered His faithfulness, His goodness, and His sacrifice for me.

In the moments that followed, Louie began to preach, and it was as if the Lord said “Ash, are you listening? This moment. This message. It’s just for you.” I was honestly kind of in shock. Louie was so transparent and raw about his own personal life and some struggles and battles he’s been through in recent years. As he spoke, the Lord reminded me of very similar battles I’ve been fighting and whispered in my heart “you’re not alone.”

Louie got to the Scripture focus, Psalm 23, and camped out on verse 5. “You prepare for me a table in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil. My cup overflows.”  I’ve always sort of breezed right on by the “prepare a table for me in the presence of my enemies” part of that verse. I don’t really know what to do with that, so I just haven’t done anything with it…even in seminary. The wisdom and revelation about this scripture that Louie brought was absolutely tailor-made for my heart.

He talked about this idea of sitting down at the table Jesus has prepared for us and locking eyes with Him, the good Shepherd….in the presence of our enemies. Then Louie gave a truth and a warning that has stuck in my brain like superglue.

The Truth: “At the end of the day, the salvation of our lives is intimacy with God.”
The warning: The enemy is angling at your table and if you’re not careful, he will just grab a seat and get comfortable before you know it.

So… who’s at your table? Have you locked eyes with the Shepherd or has the enemy succeeded in his angle to distract you and shift your focus?  For most, the enemy angles at our table with a few thoughts in our mind, as Louie suggests. He tells us we aren’t gonna make it, that life is better at another table, that God doesn’t care, and that everyone is against us.

I sat there recalling all of those lies the devil has whispered in my ear at my own table with Jesus. I’ve believed them much of the time. I stood in the back of the sanctuary with tears streaming down my face as the revelation of spiritual battle in my life was unveiled. How did he even pull up a chair to my table?! Then Louie said something I will never forget.

“The only reason the enemy is talking to you is because you’re letting him…You have the power in the name of Jesus to dismiss the enemy from your table.”

Say WHAAAAT?!  My heart was full of sadness at how much ground I’ve given the enemy in my heart and life because I simply didn’t dismiss him from my table. Then came the hope and belief. I am full of the power of Jesus through His Spirit, and I have authority over the enemy!

In the weeks following, I’ve been so keenly aware of the enemy angling at my table. There have been some difficult moments where I could have let him pull up a chair. However, the Holy Spirit  reminded my heart “just dismiss him from your table”….and it was that simple! I simply said no to those lies and plans of the evil one, and CHOSE to fill my heart with the TRUTH that Jesus has spoken. I chose to lock eyes with my good Shepherd and focus my attention on Him.

I’m not saying it’s easy, but I am saying I am so grateful that the Lord ordained for me that time to walk into that conference session…all because He knew what was coming in the weeks ahead. I have strength because of His divine appointments and intervention in my life. His promises are good and trustworthy. He is for us. He invites us in to sit at the table, lock eyes with Him, and receive the power and authority to dismiss the enemy and move on down the road into all He has for us.

The Bachelor – Job Hunting – Same, Same.

In December of 2016, I followed a tug from the Lord on my heart to leave my job. I’ve had tons of interviews, and I’ve had lots of great companies and organizations talk with me. BUT, I’ve been looking for a new full-time opportunity for 11 months next week. None of them have been “the one”.

First, I have to say, God has been faithful and I’m grateful.  He has taken care of me these months. He’s provided contract work, grown my own business with Plexus, and has shown up with random financial blessings when I needed them.

When you’re 33, you feel like surely you should have your life at least a little together, right?! Isn’t that what our parents trained us for?! Despite my best efforts, it’s just not been working out, and I had an epiphany that the job search is exactly the same as being on the Bachelor on ABC.

Recently, after 3 months of interviewing with a company that I really love, I was told I didn’t get the job. I’m not gonna lie, I was heart broken. I really thought this was it.
When I first got the news, I had my “back of the limo” moment where I was sobbing and heart broken, and truly, for a moment, devastated. I would have absolutely hated cameras being on me in that moment. No one needs to see my ugly cry and snot running down my nose. It was the kind of ugly cry where even my dog was looking at me strange.
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Then, I went into distraction/hiding mode.  You know, that part of the show where they leave, you don’t see them, you don’t know what they’ve been doing, but you can’t wait to see when they pop back up. I kept my best friends three kids for an entire weekend and was thrilled to have the distraction. I didn’t want to think about what just happened. I didn’t want to process. I didn’t want to move on. I didn’t want to “fix” anything. I just wanted to not think about it. So, I didn’t. If I wouldn’t have been scheduled to keep the kids, I would have gotten lost in movies, college football, or activities with friends and family to distract me.

I’m sure in a few days or weeks, I’ll be ready to resurface for the “After the Final Rose” episode. Where you at Chris Harrison? I’ll be ready to talk about it, maybe sit with the company I love and talk it out, to move on from it, to learn and grow. I may not have a TV audience eagerly awaiting my appearance, but I’ll resurface and muster up the strength and the will to go on the next season.
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It’s seriously the SAME DANG THING as dating Y’ALL!!!!  I put my best foot forward, make sure my hair and makeup, my personality even, is on. point. It’s the newness of dating – making sure they see all the great things about you so they will want to stay…and then…they don’t.  Most of the time, companies, like dates, don’t call or give you any feedback. They just “ghost” you or disappear. This company did give some feedback and was kind enough to “break up” with me, which I’m grateful for because for all I know, there are quite a few places I’m still in the running and don’t even know!

So, while I want to be mad, who am I gonna be mad at? My friends can be angry for me and tell me how awesome I am and how I’m better off…which is what great friends do during a break-up… but for me….I’m just weary in the waiting. Weary that I’m still in this place 11 months later. Weary in waiting for the right fit. Weary of dating…companies that is. Don’t even get me started on dating companies and dating men…that’s just too much energy that not even Plexus can give me! lol

So, stay tuned for the next season of Ashley on the Bachelor aka Job Search! I’m very close to saying “forget it” and starting my own thing, my own ministry, my own company, and just make life happen. Who knows, maybe that’s where the magic is at?

So…if you’re in a similar place, I just want you to know…you’re not alone. I know it sucks. I know it’s frustrating…believe me. But I also know that the story isn’t over. It’s not the end.

So, put on your best outfit, and go on those “dates”. We’ll find the right fit. Right? If not, we know at least, people love the drama of the Bachelor so maybe they’ll keep watching?

For those who don’t want to be in this place, and didn’t think you’d be here again, just remember…it won’t last forever (or we certainly hope not). As surely as winter is coming, spring will be around the corner. Life moves in seasons, and so does the Bachelor.

Maybe God has something unique and special, just like you, in store for your life!

Happy “dating” y’all!

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Not So Romantic

So I’m 32, single, and my encounters with the opposite gender from the time I was little have been nothing short of a Josey Grosey moment in Never Been Kissed.
I haven’t quite figured out what it is that makes me so goofy and awkward around men (I feel like I still have to call them boys), but I know that it’s enough material for a sitcom, stand up routine, or some form of entertainment.
From the time I was little, I fell in love with fairy tales. I was the queen of Barbie’s and Disney princess films. I day dreamed a lot, and imagined my life having a happily ever after ending. It was a beautiful idea that came with a lot of harsh reality the older I got. I’m not saying there is anything wrong with little girls in princess dresses and dreaming of their prince charming. I did, and I’m glad I have those memories and had that experience. But, when you realize life doesn’t usually end in happily ever after’s like the movies, it can be a bit unsettling.
As I got into Elementary school, I don’t think I ever went through the “boys have cooties” phase. I was head-over-heels in kindergarten…maybe even preschool, and I for sure always thought that boys were great!
As I grew up, I began to have so many awkward encounters, and I really think they just built on one another to make me more uncomfortable as time went on. I never had a bad or traumatic experience with men, I was just so shy when I was little, and then it turned into this sort of giggly fear. My friends would say to me growing up “I can tell you like him…cause you giggle.” Even in college, one of my best guy friends told me “I can tell when you’re interested in a guy because you don’t make eye contact and you laugh a lot.” Just picture Drew Barrymore in the cafeteria…”Hi Guy, Yes. You are a guy.” …Life with boys has been about like that for me. If I like someone, I run away because, I dunno, I never knew how to be normal, and maybe I put too much pressure on my fairy tale ideals?
Here are a few examples of my not-so-romantic, yet very comedic life.
I walked into my 3rdgrade homeroom on Valentine’s Day to a pleasant surprise. There was a box of candy with a heart shaped snoopy balloon attached to the top that said “I love you”. The only problem was, I had no idea who it was from! It said, “Happy Valentine’s Day!” but there was no name attached. I was so excited, but also freaked out a bit on the inside.
As I looked at my amazing Valentine gift, two of my best friends in my class ran up to me, giggling. “It’s from Kevin but we’re not supposed to tell you, so don’t say anything.” My heart jumped out of my skin and I was the happiest girl in the whole world. Like that moment in Hairspray when she sings “I can hear the bells”.  
Kevin had transferred to my school the year before and it was one of those moments. You know, the moment in the movie when the cute boy walks in and some cheesy Mandy Moore song plays as he enters and looks at you for the first time? Yeah…that was my moment with Kevin the day he came to our school. He was wearing a neon green cast on his arm, and my class was looking at a slide show (before the days of power point), and I just daydreamed my life away.
Then it hit me…I wasn’t supposed to tell anyone?! Yeah right! I wanted to scream it over the principal’s intercom. However, I exercised control…or so I thought. I shared the candy with my class, and played it off like it was no big deal. Later in the day, however, Kevin and I were in a group together outside at recess. This is how I know that my awkwardness with men is not a newly developed thing.
We were standing there in the middle of the playground and I decided to tell him. Or maybe I just blurted it out because I felt awkward and nervous… 
“See those two over there” pointing to my friends, “they told me that you gave me the Valentine.”
He looked like a deer in headlights.
“Oh, uh, yeah…they weren’t supposed to tell you.” 
You would think that all would have clicked and we would have ridden off into the sunset.  Nope. That was the end of our conversation. We both turned around and walked away. 
My mom was so excited for me, and FORCED me to write Kevin a THANK YOU NOTE! For the little shy, nerdy kid who was in love and terrified, writing a thank you note was mortifying!!! So, what did I do? I wrote it, and then when I got to school the next day, instead of handing it to him, like a normal person, I THREW IT…more like CHUNKED it into his cubby!!!! I think I sent some mixed signals saying something to the effect of…
“Thanks for embarrassing me in front of our whole class and giving me an I LOVE YOU Balloon. I’m never going to recover from it. Love, Ashley.”
When what I really meant to say was…
“I’m in LOVE, I’m in LOVE and I don’t care who knows it!”
So, you see, I have never known what to do when I like someone. I get nervous, don’t make eye contact, giggle uncontrollably, and run the opposite direction.
I even was asked to go to the symphony with a guy while in graduate school, and I got so nervous/awkward that I blurted out “I don’t like music, but thanks.”
UM…WHAT?! Hello?! I am a singer, songwriter, and dabble in guitar and piano. Lol Immediately I wanted to crawl into a hole and die. I still to this day have no idea why I even said it. It just came out.  

So, my friends…don’t let today get you down. It’s just a day. A Tuesday, in fact. Go about your day, knowing that you surely can’t be as awkward as 3rd grade me or graduate school me. You are awesome…quirks and all…just be you. It’s a great day to remember that so many people love you…Friends, family, and most of all by the God of heaven. This day is a big build up to celebrate a fat/mostly naked guy with a bow and arrow. But nonetheless, a day to celebrate those you love. I may be 32 and single, but I have a lot of love in my life. I have amazing friends, great family, and important people in my life that span across oceans. And, perhaps most important, I have learned to love myself…quirks and all.

Loving Lawi

It was a very long, very squished matatu (van taxi) ride to see Lawi and Molly. The vans are made as a 15 passenger, but they cram in a minimum of 20 people, and on the way home, there were 26 at one point. There was even a live chicken on board…thankfully not pecking my head this time. 
After two hours, we reached Muhanda, the town Lawi and Molly are in. We walked in the school, and before I could spot them, Lawi came sprinting to me and jumped up in my arms, almost knocking me over!! One of the teachers said she wished she would have had a camera, and oh how I wish she would have gotten that moment on film. It is a moment I will not soon forget, being reunited with that sweet boy. 
Molly is much more shy and reserved, but came quickly to give hugs! Then they took us in to the Head Teacher’s office to meet them, pay school fees, and hear how they are doing in school! I even got to go see both of their classrooms which was a first for me!  They are both doing so well and it was a joy to see them in their element! 
After that, we went to their grandma’s house which is sort of buried back in the trees. I had many questions for her, but most of them were answered before I asked. When I walked into the house I saw Lawi and Molly’s demeanor immediately change. No smiles, no talking. They were afraid to talk and be honest, and it just broke my heart. 
I was able to ask the grandma a lot of questions about what she has been doing with Lawi, if she is taking care of them, if he is still having seizures and how she’s handling it, and if he’s still running away. I was able to pray over him, and do some more investigating, and then we were off to school. 
This was the hardest part of my day. Lawi ran to grab his backpack and said “I’m going to Kisumu with you.” When I said no, and told him that he has to finish the semester, he started bawling. I tried to comfort him, but he just cried harder, and then he tried to run away from school. Chasing after him, finally we cut him off and Mama Bon put him over her shoulder and carried him back to school and into the head teacher’s office, where he counseled him and calmed him down, while we snuck out the door.

I remember feeling so helpless and so conflicted in my heart. I wondered if I had made a mistake in coming to his school, or if I had done some sort of classic “when helping hurts” maneuver that I was unaware of. I told mama Bon that maybe I shouldn’t have come, and it was so hard for me to leave him, knowing that his heart was breaking, thinking we were just leaving him behind.

Mama Bon, being very wise and strong, told me that I didn’t need to worry. She said, “Lawi knows you love him, and he doesn’t get that much. He is always sad to see the staff go when we visit, and he’ll be okay.” Then she said “Believe me, if Lawi wants to get to Kisumu, he will show up there tomorrow.”

Lawi has had a track record of running away and not telling anyone where he is going. He’s run from Kisumu to his grandma’s, and vice versa. We laughed at the thought that Lawi could probably even beat us back to Kisumu if he really was determined to get there.

That next morning, I went to the office and there were no signs of Lawi. Mama Bon told me “Your boy has grown. He isn’t running away to Kisumu today. He’s staying and going to school.” She had called the Grandma to check on him and make sure he was still there. Sure enough, our little Lawito (as we sometimes call him) had grown a bit! Instead of running to be wherever he thought best, he was sad, but he knew he had to stay and finish his semester. This was an unintentional test and he past with flying colors. I on the other hand failed miserably as I was so sad about that day.

Once I returned back home, I heard from the staff that Lawi came running to the office after his exams asking where I was. They told him I’d be back and he just dealt with it. He and Molly stayed with Allison over there break and there was no attempt to run away or be disobedient. Proof that our little guy is growing up and learning!  It was a moment where I felt the Lord whisper to my heart “Ndoto is doing good. Doing what’s best for Lawi, and raising up a young man.” I had a peace come over me, knowing that I hadn’t done something terrible in going to visit him.

What I’m reminded of is that God is good and His love for Lawi far outweighs mine. That’s sometimes hard to believe, as my heart bleeds for him and the other kids I know in Obunga. However, having a hard time believing something doesn’t make it untrue. The Lord loves Lawi more than I ever will or ever could. And He’s a good, good daddy to take care of him no matter where he is. So, I’ll keep going to visit, and surprise kids at school, trusting that God has their life in the palm of His hands.

Have Courage, Be Kind

Last Sunday was one of those days that I will cherish in my mind for a long time. One of those days where I am reminded that God is at work in the slum of Obunga. One, where I’m reminded of the love He has put in my heart for this place and these kids. One where I remember the beautiful blessing of fellowship with other missionaries, and where I remember that God speaks. It was also a day where I remembered how great Disney fairy tales are and how I would love to write a screenplay some day.

For those that don’t know, I work in an urban slum community in the third largest city in Kenya. The city of Kisumu has restaurants, grocery stores, cars….and (drum roll please)….a MOVIE THEATER!!! This hasn’t always been the case, but since the movie theater has air conditioning, I am always happy to go there! It also provides good laughs to see advertisements for things like 3-D movies…

Although these things are readily available, many in the city never experience them because they cannot afford it. This is the case for most of our Ndoto students. They might see movies from time to time, but going to the movie theater to see them is something most have never dreamed of doing.  It’s always a joy for me to take a few students to the movies (usually some who have never been).

On Sunday, Allison and I took three students to see the movie Cinderella. One of the students who joined us was Rose, a recent Ndoto college graduate. She has been through a lot of very rough seasons in her life, including losing both of her parents at a young age. Her and her brother were forced to become the care takers of all the kids in the family.  Thankfully, God provided through Ndoto, and Rose has just finished college with a major in journalism! We wanted to celebrate her accomplishment, so we asked her to join us.

I could not believe it when she told me she’d never been to a movie before. She is a college graduate! Her smile was from ear to ear and she was giggling with excitement as we walked in, got our popcorn, and sat down to enjoy the show. As the movie started, she leaned over and said thank you, and then told me “I remember reading this in a storybook. I never imagined it to be like this!” She watched the story unfold, and was laughing and engaged in a way that was so beautiful.

I sat next to her enjoying the film (it’s great by the way…bravo Disney), and even cried at parts. I cried because the message of the movie was so applicable to Rose! Cinderella loses her parents, and is treated as less than her step mother and step sisters. She never gives up, never grows bitter, and never loses heart. She remembers what her mother always said: “Have courage and be kind.”

When I look at Rose, I see someone who has managed to have courage and be kind regardless of the circumstances that have come her way.  She’s always been a sweet girl, but in the last year or so, she has grown into a humble, kind, joyful, courageous young woman! I teared up as Cinderella’s fairy tale came true, not because I believe in happily ever after, but because I know that God has met Rose in her difficulties, taught her to have courage and be kind, and provided in the midst of her circumstances to create a beautiful story of her life! Things will not always be easy, but if we have courage and are kind, and trust in the Lord, we will come out feeling like we have lived a happy ever after kind of life.

A Badge Of Honor

Most of you know that I work for an organization called Ndoto: For Africa’s Future, and that I’m back in Kenya after almost a year. It’s been a sweet reunion with friends and family in Kisumu, but I also had a moment in Nairobi where I was told by other missionaries and Kenyan’s I know that I had finally received the “Badge of Honor”.

The Badge of honor came on the first day I was in Nairobi, when my wallet was stolen. I still cannot figure out where or how it was taken, but I know that it was stolen along with my credit card, debit card, and 8,000 Kenyan Shillings (Roughly $90 USD).

As I grabbed my purse to pay for lunch, I realized it was gone. First, there was a feeling where my heart sunk, then I felt like I was going to throw up. I couldn’t believe it. I am always so careful, always aware, always on guard with my bag. However, despite my best efforts, it was gone and I had no idea!  I was sad that someone would do that, and sad that I wouldn’t get to shop at my favorite place in Nairobi, called Amani Ya Juu (A Higher Peace). It’s an NGO that hires women in East Africa who have been marginalized and teaches them to sew and make these beautiful bags, canvas’s, jewelry etc. It really reminds me of walking into Anthropologie.

A few minutes later, I made a decision to let it go. Why would I let something I cannot control ruin my day? It’s sort of funny because this is RARELY my reaction to things at home.  However, I was in a foreign country, no phone, no money, and completely unable to do anything about it at the moment. So, I decided to just enjoy the day. Then, I realized that the Lord wanted to teach me a lesson. You see, He has been showing me recently that I have a very difficult time receiving from other people.

When my friend and boss, Allison offered to let me shop at Amani on her. It was so kind, and something I would have done for a friend. However, being on the receiving end of it, was oddly unsettling. It was hard for me to receive, but it was a place I wouldn’t be again in a long time, and so I accepted her offer. The ladies at Amani even let me buy a bag that wasn’t technically out yet, because they knew I wouldn’t be able to come back. The kindness humbled me and blessed me so much.

It will take almost a week to get my new debit card and credit card, so I’m now in Kisumu completely dependent on Allison, the missionaries I’m staying with (Andrea and Jonathan), and others. I have no money to pay for food, tuk tuk, a phone…and yet, I have not gone without. If anything, I have eaten well and gotten where I need to go. It’s been one of the most unsettling weeks of my life. Why do I have such a hard time receiving? and if I can’t receive money for a taxi ride, how can I fully receive the grace, love, and mercy God offers to me?!

I’ve learned to be independent. I’ve always longed to be independent. For some reason, it’s even been hard for me to receive financial help from my parents when I couldn’t do things on my own. I don’t know where I got this or how it started, but I know it’s not good. I don’t want to be someone who is too proud to receive help, or too stubborn to accept such kindness. So, in these days that I’m without, I’m trying to be intentional in learning this lesson. I’m humbly receiving, or trying to! I have to.

I don’t want to be a believer who misses the fullness of grace, love, and mercy that God has to offer me  because I can’t receive in a time of need. He is showing me that He is here. He is pouring out grace, pouring out mercy, pouring out favor, faithfulness and fullness of life. He won’t force me to take it, but He is always offering it, and how foolish am I if I say no?!  I understand in a new way what it means to humble yourself before the Lord – not just that He is bigger and better than me, but humbling myself in order that I might receive all He wants to give to me, his daughter.

Wallets will come and go, money can be re-earned, and people can be reimbursed…it’s not enough to let it ruin your day. I consider this lesson the real badge of honor, and I’m glad I can claim it, that God has cared enough to reveal this and move me past it. I’m ready to receive all He has.

Sugar, Sleep & Spiritual Disciplines

So, I’ve been convicted lately of some things that I think many people probably struggle with in one way or another, and I figure, if I can save someone from having to learn the incredibly hard way by sharing, then it’s a worthwhile investment.

In the beginning of 2014, my church did a church wide fast for 21 days, prayer and fasting combined.  I’ve never been a faster. I remember in college seeing some of my peers learning about fasting and becoming very boastful about their righteousness because they could fast for x amount of days from x amount of things. I also had someone tell me when I was younger that fasting is for the super spiritually strong, and that if I couldn’t do it, I was immature. Needless to say, after that, I steered clear of fasting and those that involved themselves with it.  I always knew that it was a spiritual discipline, and something our Lord Jesus did on a regular basis, but I was not interested in taking part.  I had grown up Methodist/Lutheran and we sacrifice things during lent. it was so very different from fasting in my mind, though it was basically the same thing!

This January was different for me. I felt a strong tug on my heart from the Lord to participate in this discipline with my church family.  As I prayed about what I should fast from, the Lord spoke to my heart about food, something I typically don’t dare let him mess with! ha I try and eat healthy, take care of myself, work out etc…but why does the Lord need to be involved in my food choices?! It just didn’t make sense.  Well, sure enough, the Lord spoke even more specifically as I prayed and as I spoke with wise friends, about fasting from REFINED SUGARS. Say WHAT?! Initially, I thought…hmm…no ice cream for 21 days, no problem! I can do that…although it’s my favorite food.

Well, as I began to research refined sugar, I realized that I had made quite a commitment. Did you know it’s in literally EVERYTHING?! I had no idea. I just thought I was making good food choices! So, as the 21 days began, I slightly became depressed about my lack of choices for the next few weeks.  My church also had 21 days of early morning prayer at 7am, which was great for me to keep focus of why I was doing this to begin with.

Thankfully, Gateway had the early morning prayer online as a live feed and then throughout the rest of the day for you to replay at a time that worked.  For those that know me, you know I hate the early morning hours unless I am going to travel, or do something amazing! I would win an Olympic gold medal at sleeping.  For these 21 days, I was committed to wake up, roll out of my bed and at least turn on my computer and join in the hour long prayer time.  I was successful…for the first few days.
It was so good until I slept through my alarm!

What I learned in the process was profound. First, I have really bad boundaries with my time and how I spend it, which leaves me going to sleep late, and struggling to wake up on time or early. Second, I learned that foods with refined sugars have filled a lot of things in my life that I never knew.

I found myself stressed, upset, angry, happy, sad, tired…whatever it was…in the moments, I was often craving the foods I had vowed to fast from for 21 days.  Sugar was satisfying my emotions, and even spiritual needs that I should have been satisfying with the bread of HEAVEN, the WORD of God.  It really did sort of shock me that I’d never made the connection till now.  I’ve been getting healthy for several years now, and struggled in the process. In all my work outs, in all my healthy choices, viewing of the biggest loser, I never made the spiritual connection in my eating.

I found that I not only had more energy, lost weight, and felt better than I have in years, but above all, I was more closely connected with the Lord than I have been in a long time. Before the fast began, the Lord really impressed upon my heart this verse: 2 Timothy 1:7 “I did not give you a spirit of fear but of power, love and self-discipline.” I really felt the Lord say to me “Ash, I gave you a spirit of discipline. If you choose not to use it, that’s on you. I gave it to you. You are without excuse.” Ouch. Sometimes the Lord has to be sort of sassy with me, because let’s face it…I’m sassy, stubborn and don’t always listen closely.  But when I read that verse, I was so convicted that I had said for so long that I don’t have discipline, and I want it…and here the Lord was telling me He’s already given me a spirit of discipline. I just have to use it.  I was just being lazy in spiritual disciplines. Just like I was being lazy in my boundaries with my time, claiming I struggled with discipline. That’s a tough pill to swallow.

During those 21 days, the Lord spoke truth to me that I hope I don’t loose. I was made aware of a stronghold in my life, that I’ve hopefully broken free from but will continue to become free from daily.  I learned the importance of structure, though I’ve since failed at keeping those boundaries. I learned that God is alive and always speaking, but I may not always be in tune. I learned that American food is full of a ton of crap. I learned God’s grace is abundant, that I cannot wear out His patience, and that His love for me is so rich and so deep that He would not let me stay in the stronghold I was unaware of. 🙂

It’s a struggle to be disciplined, to have healthy boundaries not just in relationships but in your health, and your time….it’s just a struggle to be a mature adult. Sometimes, the growing pains hurt more than I expect, but at the end of it all, I’m so grateful the Lord revealed this to me as I started off the year 2014 with a desire to be different and not look back next year and say “I wish I would have _____”. I am confident the year will be hard, and that breaking strongholds will take work, but I am confident that the Lord will lead me and that as 2015 begins I will look back and say “With the Lord by my side I did ______ and this year I will do _____”.

What does the Lord want to show you?! I hope this snippet into my life as of late has encouraged you to press in and know Him more deeply.