Faith

Abide // Being Rooted in God’s Love in 2016

One of the things I love about this time of year is the opportunity that the New Year provides for new beginnings, growth, and renewal. While we can receive renewal any time of year through Christ, it’s just something that makes this season so special. About a month ago, John 15:4 came to mind as I began to think about the Christmas season and the upcoming New Year. The verse, of course, reads;

“Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.”

We can make all of the resolutions and goals that we want, but if we are not living a life that is rooted in the Lord, how can we really expect for those things to stick? For me, 2016 is setting up to be a year of reflection and a crossroads. I know that I cannot embark on this year without first establishing myself completely and totally in Christ. Ultimately, I know that I want to live a life that fully comes from God’s plan and purpose for me but I also know that this requires faith, trust, and a whole lot of prayer.

It is my hope that 2016 is a year of rest, rejoicing, and abiding in God’s word and truth. Rest, as I look forward to a new season that will hopefully allow me to focus more fully on my job as a teacher. I’m in the midst of my 3rd year teaching and I’ve never fully allowed myself to just be a teacher only, between a part-time job followed by a year of grad school. Rejoicing, as I continue through day-to-day life with a new understanding of God’s promise of eternal life and the comfort that He provides to us through our sufferings. I never imagined that 2015 would be a year of such grief, but the profound and undeniable hope that is found in Christ continues to carry me through every passing day.

While my hope is that I begin to be more centered, keeping Christ at the heart of everything I do, I also know that this is more than just me being more diligent in my quiet time. That is a big part of abiding in the Lord, but I need to not just be completely rooted in Him but also rooted in life. For too long I have allowed work and grad school completely run my life. I shouldn’t be as burnt out as I feel, only three years into the workforce, but that’s where I’ve found myself. Although I live at home, far too little time has actually been devoted to spending actual quality time with my parents. If there’s anything I learned in 2015, it was that we should never take our family for granted and to always make the moments with them count.

What are your hopes and dreams for 2016?

Unto Us a Child Is Born // 1st Sunday of Advent

Advent; noun: the arrival of a notable person, thing, or event

Welcome, officially, to the Advent season my friends. This season is such a precious time as we prepare for the coming of the King of Kings, our Lord and Savior. When I think about this time of preparation and reflection, I find myself prayerfully considering what this season could look like in the coming days in my own life.
Contrary to what our society and culture is putting out there, this time is not about the best deals we can find on toys that your kids will likely forget about in a couple weeks. Nor is it about uncovering that daily piece of candy or trinket from behind the cardboard flap of a mass-produced Advent calendar. It’s very easy to get wrapped up in what this season “should” look like. Perfectly decorated Christmas trees, stockings hung by the fire with steaming mugs of hot chocolate…it all seems so idyllic. 
Something that continually comes to mind during this time is “come as you are.” We don’t have to get ourselves perfect and presentable to celebrate the birth of our Savior. Jesus embraces us and meets us exactly where we are; flaws and all. Whether it’s through an Advent devotional (She Reads Truth and Naptime Diaries have great ones!) or just a few moments of prayer each day, I hope that no matter where you are on your walk with Jesus that you embrace this season and find some quiet time to spend with Him. 

How do you celebrate Advent? Share in the comments below!

I Will Sing of Your Love // Psalms 59:16

“But I will sing of your strength, in the morning I will sing of your love; for you are my fortress, my refuge in times of trouble” // Psalms 59:16

November seems to be the unofficial month of gratitude, all due to Thanksgiving. Personally, I think our society needs to get better about expressing our gratitude the other 11 months of the year as well…but that’s just me.

Sometimes it feels like so much of this blog is me looking back. I guess it’s only natural when there are so many things over the course of the past 2 years that have truly shaped the person that is sitting here today typing this.

Instead of hopping on the bandwagon and sharing one grateful thing every day in November, I wanted to wait and share my greatest gratitude on one day. One particular day, in fact. November 19. If you have followed this blog for any length of time (and if you do…hi there!), then you will know some of what I have experienced since 2013. The loss of two of my dad’s siblings ten days apart, followed by a stressful school year at work with an aggressive, emotionally-draining, but very special little boy, and more recently, the loss of my beloved Grandmother and Aunt two days apart this past September. But there’s been something that I haven’t really talked about here.

One year ago, on November 19th, my Dad was admitted to the hospital.

His hospital stay lasted six days and he was discharged two days before Thanksgiving. When your dad comes from a family of six and his father, brother, and sister all died of cancer…your anxiety flares and worry begins to creep in. Thankfully, what was ailing my Dad was not cancer, rather, an auto-immune disorder that had been attacking his kidneys, but you can imagine that worry that was felt and the prayers that were prayed.

Those were probably the longest six days that we had ever experienced. There is something very strange about seeing your father in a hospital bed and your mother looking so scared yet still staying strong for everyone. My one consolation was the fact that, despite his ailments, my Dad was probably the healthiest looking one on the whole floor. From the outside, you would have never guessed he was sick.

The fact that I have my Dad still with me today and sitting in the other room, fills me with a gratitude that is indescribable. For days and weeks we prayed for answers to what was ailing him and that it would be treatable. Our prayers were answered and then some.

If I have learned anything in the past two years, it is that in those moments when we feel broken down to nothing, those are the moments in which the Lord is doing some of His greatest work in us. As much as I wish the pain of the past two years didn’t happen, it has molded and shaped me in ways I never imagined. I recently discovered Clayton King and his amazing book, Stronger, and it is there that he phrases it perfectly.

“The thing that is hurting you is the thing that is humbling you, and the thing that is humbling you is actually helping you to get a clearer view of God’s holiness, beauty, and strength.”


This post is part of Ember Grey‘s weekly Grateful Heart linkup! Hop on over there and rejoice in the gratitude shared by her and many other fantastic bloggers!

This Profound Hope // Psalms 119:50

“My comfort in my suffering is this: Your promise preserves my life” // Psalms 119:50

The thing about suffering is that we are all guaranteed to experience it. To be human is to be susceptible to pain, no matter how much we may try to avoid it. God never promises us a life free of suffering, but He does promise us an eternal life if we believe in Him and trust Him enough to lead us through the hard times.
I wish I could put into words how the losses from the past two months have impacted my family. My grandmother was the light of all of our lives. I’ve never met anyone stronger, more quick-witted, or more giving. My aunt was the baby of the family, the youngest girl. She was quick to tell anyone that she was the baby. She was also one of the funniest people that I’ve ever met. You could not be around her and not be laughing. To know that these two amazing women are gone from this Earth is absolutely heart-wrenching. My mom’s family is very close knit and the pain of these losses will be felt for a very long time. 

When horrible things happen in your life, I think the tendency is to retreat inward and shut yourself off from everything that is causing you this pain. We want to go home, throw on the sweatpants, grab the ice cream and wallow and dwell on what is happening to us. I don’t know about you, but all wallowing seems to do is prolong the journey that we all must go through in order to come out of these seasons. While it may seem like these seasons of hurting are never-ending, particularly when the hits keep coming, if we trust in the Lord as we say we do then we automatically have a light shining at the end of the tunnel. The hope that can only be found in Jesus Christ is powerful enough to restore and renew even the most broken souls.

The hope that we are promised through Christ eases my aching heart in ways that are inexplicable. Our God loves us so much that we need only say a “see you later” to our loved ones and even in great loss, we the incredible gift of profound hope in Jesus Christ.

Hidden Treasures // Ecclesiastes 3:11

It’s been about two and a half weeks since my world changed forever. Sometimes I wonder if grief is easier when loss comes when you are an adult, rather than when you are young. The consensus seems to be that no matter when a loss occurs, grief comes in waves. On September 17, 2015 at 10:35am, I said my “see you later” to my dear Grandmother. Less than 48 hours later, at 1:45am on September 19, 2015, I unexpectedly had to say my “see you later” to my sweet Aunt Shelia, my Grandmother’s youngest daughter.

In the days and weeks since those span of days in which I swore the world had stopped moving, my family and I have grieved with one another, supported one another, and  most of all, loved one another. My mom has had to endure the loss of her mother and her baby sister, both of whom she was close with, just two days apart. And here we thought my dad losing his older brother and younger sister ten days apart in 2013 was as hard as it could be.

But despite the immense sorrow and grief that has been felt every day, by all of us, I can only speak for myself when I say that I have truly discovered comfort in the arms of our Savior. I don’t have much shame when I tell you that up until about a year ago, my faith was not resting on the firmest of foundations. I don’t because as I sit here and type this, I can’t help but be absolutely awestruck by the divine timing that our Lord has and how often times this can only be seen in hindsight.

One year ago this week, I received a new student in my classroom that challenged me in more ways than I ever thought a four year old could challenge a person. Although it didn’t feel like it at the time, God had used that student to bring me back closer to Him and in this past year, I have learned so much about what it means to completely trust and follow Christ. While I may still have more learning to do (don’t we all?), I know without a shadow of a doubt that the highs and lows that I have endured this year have absolutely prepared me for this season of sadness. Do I miss them both terribly? Oh, do I ever. But do I have any doubts as to where these two special women that were so instrumental in my upbringing are today? None.

One of the verses that came to mind in the past two weeks that brought me comfort was Ecclesiastes 3:11. The verse came to me via the She Reads Truth “Bible in a Year” reading plan and I had bookmarked it on the same day that it was published; August 22. The verse reads:

“He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.”

At the time, I had no idea when I bookmarked this verse that I was going to come back to this just a few weeks later. I remember coming back to it because of how it talks about we, as humans, simply cannot fathom every thing that God has done. I came back to this verse after hearing my Uncle Bobby, husband of my Aunt Shelia, say something like this, “I trust in the Lord, but I’ll never understand it. Maybe when I get to heaven He’ll explain it to me but we’re also not meant to have that kind of understanding.” Now, I’m paraphrasing slightly but what he said really stuck with me. If we possessed the kind of understanding that allowed us to know why He planned for certain things to happen when, where, and why they do…then we’d be like God ourselves and that is an impossible feat. We just have to trust Him and trust in His plan for our lives.

This past Sunday, I found Ecclesiastes 3:11 coming back to me in a way that I never anticipated. My parents had driven back up to my Grandmother’s house and while there, my mom had discovered some notes that my Grandmother had written. One of them was on the back of a card that my sister had sent her and the other was on a type of prayer card that had Ecclesiastes 3:11 on it. On these pieces of paper, my Grandmother had written prayers on them and the words on the Ecclesiastes card began with my name and my sister’s names specifically. In my 24 years, I never knew that my Grandmother would write like that. When I verbalized as much to my mom, feeling the goosebumps popping up, she looked at me and just said, “I know, Ashley. But I think someone’s trying to speak to you.”

Her words read: “Sarah – Ashley, all my children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren are all beautiful. Thank God He made you that way. All of you love God and he loves you. That’s what I’m so proud of. When I was in so much pain, you all called me, told me you were praying for me. All of you- that’s what helped me so much.”

I have not been able to stop reading the words that my Grandmother wrote, who knows how many years ago. To know that I was one of the people on her mind as she read over these precious words from the Bible is beyond words. This hidden treasure is one that I will keep with me forever. And what sweet truth this is to be reminded of.

“He has made everything beautiful in its time”

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