Change

Clarity

Earlier this year, I shared a little about how I was reading through the Old Testament and how it really resonated with me and the journey I felt I was on as I began this year. Much like Moses’ journey with the Israelites into the wilderness, my walk at that time was very much in a transitional and “in-between” place. Not yet to point B but not all the way back at point A.

When I wrote of this back in March, I felt that I knew the general direction that God was taking me. I’d spent the past 2.5 years working towards a career as a child life specialist – preparing myself to move into either full-time grad school for two years or into a full-time child life internship for four months. But then, the plans changed. These two things that I’d a spent so much time praying over and preparing for were no longer in my immediate future. To be perfectly honest, as someone who plans for every possible outcome, I wasn’t completely prepared for this one. My answer to people who asked me what I planned to do if neither grad school or an internship panned out was “I’ll just stay here and keep teaching,” but there was a part of me that really didn’t think I’d need to consider option #3.

I think most of us have been in places like this. Surprised, anxious, and a little confused as to how we ended up here when we expected to be somewhere else entirely. It certainly isn’t a fun place to be in the moment, but when viewed in hindsight it is one of the most beautiful of spaces. Uncertainty forces us to face head-on this unpleasant reality that we are human and that we have a limited view of the world around us. It forces us to make a choice, even though I think we often fight against the obvious one. It’s the choice that we make to look to and rest in the One thing that is certain in this world. The One who created the world and everything in it and therefore knows exactly what we can’t see or decipher.

I don’t share my stories with you because I’ve figured out the secret to all of this and have navigated the uncertainty and fear that have been near-constants in my life perfectly. I truly have not. Many of my prayers in the wake of these changed plans looked and sounded a bit incredulous. I had to spend some time reconciling with God this new reality and why He didn’t give me some sort of heads up that He was switching things up on me. This was about two weeks of my life before He shared some powerful words with me.

Disappointment shouldn’t make me desperate and hard seasons shouldn’t put me in denial. Denying myself of hope, of joy, or of just simply the opportunity to trust my Creator fully and completely is exactly what the enemy wants. The enemy wants us weak and fearful and so easily crumbled when things don’t go our way and life gets tough.

Somewhere along the way within my story this truth become sort of the backbone of who God is shaping me to be, I think. He still has to stop and remind me of it along the way, as He did recently, but with every new page of this story it becomes easier to choose God over whining or desperation. Sometimes I think faith is like a muscle – we have to put it to use and actively work to strengthen it or it just becomes wasted. The person I was before God transformed my heart and my life through a season of loss and uncertainty was someone who saw disappoints and hardships as anything but the perfect opportunity to give it over to God.

There’s been several moments over the past few months when I felt like other people didn’t quite understand why I was doing what I was. Why I only applied to one grad school program and a small handful of hospitals for their internships programs. Why I was prepared to move to a small town in Illinois, where I knew absolutely no one, if I had gotten accepted to graduate school. Why I moved away from option #3 to pursue option #4 – realizing I needed a change of any kind and applying to several job openings in North and South Carolina. The simple answer is that I was just simply doing what God told me to do, even though it didn’t make complete sense to me either. A slightly longer answer is that I’ve learned that loving and following Jesus often means moving boldly forward, even (especially) when you don’t actually know what He’s moving you toward.

But just as God carried the Israelites through the wilderness and into the Promised Land, He has carried me to a place where I can finally say that I do know what the immediate future holds. And He so beautifully paved the way for this to come to fruition.

In early May, I accepted a teaching position at a new elementary school in Wake County, NC and I will be moving to Raleigh in July/August 2018. The area is a familiar one with many extended family members nearby, but also my older sister who has lived there since college and who will be my new roommate! These past few weeks have truly been humbling as I think about how God wove things together, answered prayers, and provided clarity that had been lacking for more than two years. Humbled and overflowing with gratitude as I pray and prepare for this new chapter!

Courage

In the past few weeks and months, I feel as though I am finally coming to a place where I feel like I can hold the things in my life – my career, my stability, my relationships – all with open hands. A place where surrender is the initial response, rather than this clamoring for control whenever a change occurs or something bad happens. But it’s not as though the journey to this place has been easy – or that I’m necessarily great at surrendering to God’s will all the time.

It’s been a hard fought road to get here. And I’m crazy grateful for the growth, the bumps and the bruises, and the faith that has led me to this place.

When my life was turned on it’s head by a two year season of sicknesses, losses, and significant anxiety – my surrender was only born out of necessity. When life began spiraling out of control, I hadn’t stepped into church in months and was honestly the furthest from God I think I’d been up until that point, but I was in desperate need of something to cling to. I couldn’t control the things that were happening around me and I couldn’t make these terrible things go away but through the nudging and whispers that only God could give, I gradually found my way home to Him.

I’m not the same person that I was back then, but still I fight every day to remember exactly how that season of my life felt. I fight for that, not so that I can wallow in sadness but so that I can be revived each day by the pure joy and peace that God granted me through all of it. Because if I don’t remember how I felt, if I don’t remember the promises that were whispered to me as I stood in the front yard of my grandmother’s home, just 48 hours after she went home to be with Jesus, as the paramedics attempted to resuscitate my Aunt Shelia – than I will forget them. And to forget them is to forget the absolute miraculous way that God moved in my life and in my heart that morning.

We have to remember the way it felt to be utterly and wholly broken before we ever knew what it felt to be healed, fully and completely.

Which brings me to today. The present. If there’s anything that God is using this current season of my life for, it’s to teach me and show me the redeeming qualities of both presence and stillness. The gift of stillness has come primarily through the practice of mindfulness and meditation in recent weeks and has been incredibly grounding. God has shown me the gift of presence that has come in the form of both my active presence in my daily life in this season as well as the presence of specific people that God has sent to me in recent weeks. My cup surely runneth over these days….

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Change // I Will Follow

Change is hard.

I know, you’re probably like, Hey Ashley, way to state the obvious there.

There’s good change, of course, and there’s also bad changes. There’s also change that you’re just not quite sure how to feel about.

I find myself in that camp more often than not.

#allthefeels.

When it comes to spiritual change, also known as spiritual growth, that’s one that is particularly difficult to process. Spiritual growth makes you finally stop and look at that reflection in the mirror and take a long hard look at your life and your relationship with God. It forces you to celebrate the areas where you have grown and acknowledge the areas where you are still in desperate need of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Lately, I have been feeling a little bit stagnant within my church community and have been wrestling with a lot of feelings about it. I’ve been attending this church for just over two years and God definitely brought me to that place at the perfect time….

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