Life

Eight Years

Last Friday, The Vampire Diaries ended its eight year run on The CW. Why am I writing that here? Because the show’s ending is actually very bittersweet for me personally.

(Which does seem a little funny and almost embarrassing to admit, truthfully.)

The Vampire Diaries played an important role in my life. I came upon the show not long after discovering the Twilight series and both franchises helped to alter the course of my life, believe it or not.

Full disclosure, admitting my fangirling nerdiness to you in this moment feels very strange, but bear with me.

As I think back to the past eight years that I was a fan of this show, it’s truly incredible to think of the ways in which I have changed in that time. At the time, I was a freshman in my first year of college. I was naive about the world and thought that I had my future mapped out. I was a freshman education major who was obsessed with pop culture and yearned for a career in journalism – covering my favorite celebrities, books, and films. It wasn’t much after this that I stumbled on the world of fansite blogging and found the way that I could write articles on the things I loved while also keeping myself on the more realistic path of teaching.

It opened the door for me to learn and fall in love with writing and blogging. Through Twitter, I found other women who loved the same books, movies, and TV shows that I did and our friendship has lasted through marriages, pregnancies, and endures still today.

After joining a Twilight fansite as a contributor and learning as much as I could, I launched a site that centered around The Vampire Diaries. It was short-lived, but it was a stepping stone towards launching my second site for the Divergent series. From there, I found myself running headlong into a life that was glamorous, exciting, and wholly unexpected.

I visited film sets, attended Hollywood premieres with a press badge, and interviewed celebrities in the Four Seasons in Beverly Hills. I became obsessed with social media notoriety, with the names of those that followed me on social media, and finding a way to make this life my reality for as long as possible.

Throughout all of it, I pushed God out to the wings and kept my distance. I didn’t want to ask Him what my future really looked like because all I saw were the bright lights and glamour that I thought could keep me satisfied. I decided to pursue a master’s degree in mass communication and I thought I was set. Until it all came crashing down when I entered a season that led me to lose six family members in two years.

I’m not the same person that I was eight years ago.

And I have God to thank for that.

I do feel incredibly honored that God would allow me the chance to live out my dream like He did over the past eight years. He didn’t have to. I wasn’t even in the practice of communicating with Him at the time back then, but He still knew my heart. He knows all of my hopes and dreams. Though a career in journalism or social media marketing never quite panned out, that time still represents a period of my life that I will never forget. God granted me the opportunity to live the live I had always wanted – and then led me to the life that would sustain me far better than the other ever would have.

Uncomfortable

In life, I think it’s safe to say that we like to be in a relative state of comfort, am I right?

Uncomfortable

We don’t particularly enjoy being pushed too far outside of our comfort zones and we don’t care for awkwardness. I totally get it. As someone who is super socially awkward (#homebody), I totally understand the appeal of living within my comfort zone and staying in my own little bubble. But every so often, I find that I am reminded that this isn’t necessarily the way in which God calls us to live. He calls us to both love and live life boldly for Him and for His kingdom.

All too often, I find that I can be quite stubborn and set in my introverted ways. Maybe some of you might feel this way as well. My current reality is that I am working full-time as a public school teacher while also taking classes online part-time. Soon, I’m going to be adding volunteer work on top of both of those things. So basically I’m an introvert and a workaholic. For most of my formative years in the church when I was younger, church was basically something I did on Sundays and really sort of just went through the motions. For far too long, I viewed community as something that needed me to be open and vulnerable around others and that just didn’t seem like something that would work for me. But then, just over two years ago, I felt the Lord whispering to me that He wanted me to take not just a step outside of my comfort zone, but a giant leap outside of it.

He told me that He wanted me to leave the comfort zone of the church in which I had attended since I was three years old. I wasn’t in the habit or practice of regularly praying or speaking with God at this point, so truth be told, that whisper was probably a bit more like a yell. I had been deaf to the voice of God for a long time, but I heard Him then. And I listened. I obeyed….

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Faith

For some time now (as in, the last two weeks), I have been reflecting, wondering, and praying over what my “word” for 2017 would be.

Now, I know choosing a word for the year is a very blog-y and social media thing, but I truly love the idea behind having a “theme” to help set your focus and intention for the year ahead. It can be hard to remember and to fully live according to that theme throughout the year, but it’s definitely something worth striving for.

Last year in 2016, my word was abide and I think it fit me well for where I was at this time last year. I was coming out of 2015, a year that completely changed my life from the losses of my maternal grandmother and aunt less than 48 hours apart to my decision to take my career in a new direction. I was in the midst of a season in which I felt the indescribable peace and joy of Jesus’ presence in my life so deeply and abiding in His undeniable presence and love in that season was such an incredibly beautiful place to be.

But as I’ve written in the past few weeks, I began to realize towards the end of 2016 that things start to look and feel different when you’ve “come out” of that immediate season of grief. While I certainly am not “over” the six losses that I experienced, the grief and the pain have gotten significantly easier. Now that life has returned to a sort of state of equilibrium, how then do I continue to root myself in God and abide in Him?…

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2016 in Review

It’s the last day of 2016, say what?!

It’s hard to believe that it’s about to be a brand new year. For me, the Lord certainly taught me a lot in 2015, but the bulk of 2016 was characterized by the return to a new sense of normalcy and reflecting on how to love and live well in the aftermath of a tumultuous season of loss. It’s “easy” to turn to God when you’ve been broken and He’s your only source of strength, but to keep turning to Him when things improve? That’s harder than one might think and something tells me that it will be something that I will continue striving to improve on in 2017.

In the meantime, let’s look back at some of what 2016 had for me!…

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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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