Trusting Through Fear and Uncertainties.

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I’m a little bit tired these days. I’m a little bit stressed out and a little bit overwhelmed.  I’m a little bit anxious and a little bit afraid. I am having a difficult time staying present, yet I feel I’m walking blind down the path of my future. I’m also a little bit excited and a little bit enthused. I am a dreamer, and even in the midst of changing seasons I have great vision and high expectations.

I’m reflecting a little bit these days. I’m packing boxes and choosing which of my belongings are coming with me when I move and which are remaining back at home. I am rediscovering old photographs and unfolding the pages of old notes and letters from friends and family. I’m feeling a little bit bittersweet these days as I cry tears of joy and sadness.

Am I making the right decisions, God? Is this really where you are leading me? Am I following and obeying your instructions? Can you hear me, God? Are you listening? Why are you so silent? Why do I feel empty? Be gracious and merciful, God. If I stepped off the path you prepared for me, redirect me. Open my ears that I may hear you and you alone. I want what you have for me. I want to follow your ways for I know that they are higher and greater than mine. Hear my heart and know me, Lord, as I cry out to know you more. Send me reassurance.

I remember learning to ride a bike as a child. My parents bought me a bicycle with training wheels and after a little while they removed the training wheels because they believed I no longer needed them. I remember going to a dirt road behind a local playground where my parents strapped on my helmet and sat me up on my bike. “Ok now start to peddle,” dad said as he placed one hand on my back seat and one on the handle bars. “I got you. I won’t let go.” I trusted dad, so I peddled. I kept my eyes focused on the road, and I heard mom praising me from behind, “You got this kiddo! You’re doing great!” Then like all good dads do, he let go of my bike. Dad let go and I fell. Dad let go and I fell and I got beat up and bruised. “It’s ok! Get back up and hop back on! I’ll get you started again!” Despite my torn up elbows and knees I trusted dad, so I peddled again. Dad guided and dad let go. I fell and he reached his hand out to lift me up once more. All the while mom was there to champion me and comfort me. Eventually dad let go of my bike and I reached a point where I didn’t fall. I didn’t need the training wheels and I didn’t need him to hold onto my bike any longer. I was free and able to balance and steer on my own. I felt confident and grown-up and mature. I chose which pot holes to avoid and which bumps to joyfully ride over. I went from riding on the abandoned road behind the playground to riding out on the streets, but even on the streets mom and dad were still there guiding me. They gave me instructions. They wanted to be sure I stayed protected. “Always wear your helmet! Make sure you watch for cars! Look both ways before crossing. Don’t stop and talk to strangers. Don’t ride too far and make sure you stop at the stop signs!” Despite my ability to ride my bike on my own I still needed those instructions. I needed guidance and their wisdom prevented me from potential danger.

These days I find myself getting too wrapped up in a fear of abandonment. I’m leaving behind much of what I know and am comfortable with. I had to make some big girl decision all within the past few weeks, and most days I can’t decide what I want to eat for breakfast let alone where I want to live and how I want to share my love. I began to fear I would make choices and decisions apart from God and be left alone, even though I daily seek his instruction. I pray and wait on God to speak, but these days I find he isn’t saying much. My trust band is being stretched.

I believe God is much like my own parents when they were teaching me to ride a bicycle. As God’s child, he provides the means for me to grow and become the woman he created me to be. He is constantly guiding me and protecting me. He instructs me, and at times he calls me to walk upon the waters of life with no more training wheels. If I fall and scrape my knees, God my heavenly father, will surly pick me back up. He will guide me once again until he gives me the opportunity to take a few more steps of faith. I believe he wills for me to trust him and make choices on my own. His guidance is still there. “Yet I am with you always; you hold me by my right hand (Psalm 73:23).” His protection is available always, “Put on the full armor of God.. (Ephesians 6:11).” I have come to realize that I am not God’s robot, but I am his daughter. As his daughter, he shepherds me, but also trusts me to make choices according to his will.

Not just these days, but all the days of my life, I wish to live for God. To serve. To love. To encourage. To shine the light of Christ in the darkness that fills this Earth. That is my heart’s desire, no matter where that leads me or what that looks like. But if I want to live for God, I must start living. I must propel myself into action and move. I mustn’t fear making decisions because my father knows the depth of my heart. I mustn’t fear abandonment because God promises to never leave me nor forsake me.  I mustn’t get caught up in changing circumstances because he who is in me is greater than he who is in the world.

Remain in me, as I also remain in you. |John 15:4|

If you find yourself entangled with indecision or if you find yourself tangled up in fear, remain in God through it all. He will unwind you with love and kindness. If you make a decision apart from his plan for you, he will lift you up and put you back on the correct path. He will cheer you on and give wise instruction along the journey. Don’t give way for fear to enter into your life. I fear abandonment from God, but quite the opposite is his promise over me. These days I am made brave and bold and free. These days I am loved by love itself. I am human and I have been given the great gift of freedom from Christ Jesus. I will not take advantage of the freedom given to me, but I will make mistakes. I will question and doubt and fall and get back up, but I will not allow fear to stop me from living. I’ve been created for a purpose and on purpose and so have you.

These days we all need a little reminder that we are strong, capable and significant. Each and every day the maker of heaven and earth is the proud maker of you. He is for you, not against you. He is on your side and wants you to stay close to his. I’m a little bit tired and a little bit unsure, but today I say no to fear and yes to love. Join with me!

In Light of Recent Events, We Have A Light.

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In light of recent societal events, I have much to say but I have much more to pray. I have anger and I have grief. I feel burdened and I feel disgusted. I no longer want to listen to the news. I no longer want to see the newspaper headlines. One online article after another: violence, death, injustice, hate — sorrow, brokenness, wondering. Wondering what direction this world is taking. How could we have reached such a place in time? Why can we not love one another and live in peace? Who is the next target? Where is the next target? The tidal waves keep crashing in.

I do not have the answers, but I do know the answerer. I know there is a time for everything, and I know everything includes all the joys and sorrows sweeping through the currents of this world. I do not understand the reasons, but I have faith in a hopeful purpose. In a torn and beaten world, there lies but only one creator of ultimate peace. There is but one maker of perfection and he is God, our father, who mourns for his lost and broken children. For God SO loved the world… God, whose love is jealous yet zealous, gives us freedom of choice. We have been given the liberty to choose love or to choose hate. Therefore, we must be careful not to blame God for all of the disasters and darkness nor should we solely plead for his grace and mercy.

Let us not forget we also have an enemy. The devil prowls around like a lion looking for someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8). The devil is deceptive and masquerades himself to appear as a angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14). In a sinful world, it is easy to fall into his temptations.

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit,which is the word of God. |Ephesians 6:10-17|

This is our call. This is our hope. Be strong in the Lord and put on his armor. We are more then conquerors. We are made in love, so we must walk in love. We must recognize our God is Emmanuel, God with us. In seasons of grief he is there. He is in the waiting and in the pain. He has equipped us for these current times. If you are here today, you are here for a reason. Rebuke the devil and remember who the true enemy is. The enemy isn’t humankind. It is not ISIS or police officers or terrorists. Our enemy isn’t made of flesh and blood. Our enemy is the one behind the power of darkness. Let us rise as sons and daughters of the victorious one and stand firm on the days of evil.

When the world around us appears to be covered in a blanket of grey clouds, let us stay focused on the one preparing to make his way through the dark sky and bring to us a new life. This may seem like a time of massacres and gun shots, but I refuse to let hate and injustice have the upper hand. Brothers and sisters, let us reach to the hopeless and lift them up. Let us sit with the grieving hearts and share the hope of Jesus Christ. The harvest is plentiful! Don’t let the workers be few. Pray for a renewed mind and ask God what purpose you have in this mess. Troubles will continue to come and come stronger, but no one and nothing will defeat the strength of God.

I hear the great commission, “Go therefore and make disciples of the nations… (Matthew 28:19). I have the hope. I have the faith. Let us be instruments of God making music for which the tired and weary souls will stand and rejoice in the presence of our savior. In light of recent societal events my eyes can see the pain and suffering, but beyond the clouds there lies a grander greater purpose. In light of recent societal events, my heart believes in the Light, the light that pierces through the darkness.

Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. |1 Corinthians 13:8-13|

 

Time to Wake Up, Church.

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To the western Church,

Our enemy, the devil, is on the move. Like a thief in the night, like a pitpocketer in the midst of a large crowd, he creeps around us. He is killing, stealing and destroying. He is on the move, and our western church is too blind to see it. If in fact she does see it, she is not standing on her solid ground. She is sinking low in the bellows of culture rather than on the rock where Christ built HIS church. She is conforming to what society has molded Truth to be rather than doing what the Word has commanded us to do. She is falling apart and suffering, and if one part of the body suffers, every part suffers. I encourage you to read the book of Revelation, “To the churches…(chapters 2-3).” The Church is fulfilling the prophecies written about ages past. Satan is entering into what has become of the body as we allow our ears to listen to his deception and our eyes to believe his actions. Dear Church, it’s time to wake up.

I have much to say in regards to recent events both on a public note and a personal note. I have much to say which may offend a few (or more than a few), but what I say I proclaim from living active world of God as I feel Holy Spirit revealing truth to me. As I write, I pray my words are not my own. I pray my words are filled with truth. I pray for God’s wisdom and I pray you receive this with an open heart. In love, I wish to share with you some concerns I have for the collective church body and the institutional churches as they find themselves in the midst of a broken world. I, too, am human, prone to wander and prone to make mistakes. Therefore, I myself am included in these struggles; as the early church began as a fellowship of believers I make a call unto all of us to once again return to the Gospel truth of what is means to be the Church of God.

A major concern I have for the Church is our misunderstanding of love. Love does not equal agreement but it does equal acceptance. Love does not equal judgement, but it does equal accountability. Love does not expect to receive anything in return, but it does require sacrifice. It does not expect sacrifice alone, but it expects compassionate sacrifice — the kind that involves vulnerability and empathy. We are all familiar with the popular “Love is patient. Love is kind.” passage of scripture. It is found in 1 Corinthians 13. I encourage you to go back and re-read it because in all those verses about love you will find that the apostle Paul only says what love IS two times. Love is patient. Love is kind. In the rest of his letter to the church in Corinth he describes what love is NOT.

Love does not envy. If we truly love as Paul describes the definition, why then do we constantly fall into the realm of comparison?  Love does not boast, so why do we post the best moments of our lives on social media but not the painful messy moments? It is not proud, yet many of the institutionalized churches are so wrapped up in their own systems and politics they cease to step out of their comfort zones and get their hands dirty. And I’m talking about more than a missions trip or a one-time out reach. I’m talking about getting our hands dirty in the way Jesus did — sitting with the leapers and being bold enough to say “go and sin no more.”  Love is not self-seeking, right? So why are churches causing division within the body? Why are people struggling to forgive where they’ve been hurt? Love is not easily angered. It keeps no records of wrong.

But there is more. We must stop being a people whose desire is to make others feel good. We must not be in agreement with homosexuality or drunkenness or adultery. Love does not delight in evil. Love rejoices with truth and the Gospel truth clearly states those patterns of living are wrong. Love, however, protects and always trusts and always hopes and always perseveres. Love never fails. In 1 Corinthians 13 Paul describes love as the most excellent way to use our spiritual gifts as the body of Christ. Above hope, above faith, love is the greatest. As we rise up and be the Church and exercise the gifts freely given to us, we must exercise in love.

I find it concerning that this world thrives on the struggle for humanity rather than the hope of it. We would almost rather feed our minds with the stories on the news full of tragedy and destruction rather than fill our hearts with the written Word of God. Flipping through channels on TV or scrolling through our Facebook newsfeed is mindless. It takes little effort. Finding quiet time away from the hustle and bustle and reading words rather than statues or Instagram captions takes more reservation. It takes more..discipline. In a world so fast pace and on-the-go we lack spiritual discipline, which leads to a concern that the Church is losing her identity to cultural norms. I fear she is falling into worldly habits and slowly forgetting spiritual truth. Brothers and sisters, we are not of this world. We belong to Christ and Christ alone.

But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body. |Philippians 3:20-21|

The Church needs to wake up from her slumber. This world is broken and in need of a savior. This world wants to feel good and feel hope and feel peace, but such can only be found in God. It is our job as ambassadors to know our identity and know the Gospel and live from Jesus Christ’s victory on the cross rather than to strive for it. “Our culture has accepted two huge lies. The first is that if you disagree with someone’s lifestyle, you must fear or hate them. The second is that to love someone means you agree with everything they believe or do. Both are nonsense. You don’t have to compromise convictions to be compassionate (Rick Warren).”

Christ laid a strong foundation. We are surrounded with a great cloud of witnesses, those who have run the race before us. The early Church made disciples of nations and embraced signs and wonders. They spoke with confident boldness and without any fear. They faced imprisonment and persecution but they never stopped walking in love. They never backed down. They pressed onward toward the goal of Jesus Christ. Jesus promised troubles in this world, but he also made it known he overcame the world (John 16:33). Let us not be surprised when hate and persecution is thrown our way, but let us, “rejoice inasmuch as [we] participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that [we] may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. If [we] are insulted because of the name of Christ, [we] are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you (1 Peter 4:13-14).”

Now is the time for us to rise, for us to reconcile, to humble ourselves and be the holy priesthood Christ calls us to be. It’s time to take back what the enemy has stollen as one body under God. It’s time to love, love tough and love for the sake of making Christ known because HIS love is unaccountable, indescribable, relentless, fire-burning, all consuming, jealous and freely given. Let us not forget what as been given and assigned to us. Let us not forget who we are and what price was paid to be made new again. May we walk worthy of our calling and stand together as an army of God, prepared for battle, with the words of the Bible tattooed on our hearts. Like a surgeons knife which cuts in order the heal, the only way to bring healing onto our nations is to cut in deep with the word of God.

So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy,which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ. |Colossians 2:6-8|

Who’s with me, Church?

Your sister,

Ashley

Men After God’s Own Heart.

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I will praise you, Lord, among the nations; I will sing of you among the people. For great is your love, higher than the heavens; your faithfulness reaches to the skies. Be exalted, O God, above the heavens; let your glory be over all the earth. |Psalm 108:3-5,|

I love the book of Psalms. It’s one of my favorites. I try to read a new psalm every morning as part of my daily routine. The Psalms are so full of heart. They are raw, and they are real. They are easy to relate to because they talk about heartbreak, depression, loneliness, courage, strength and celebration. The Psalsmists depict more of an interest in how something feels rather than what something means, so reading the book of Psalms requires me to read with my heart not my mind. Though it can be challenging at times, I remind myself that it is God who dwells in my heart; surely he will relay the messages to my mind which is so full of worldly perspectives.

A man named David wrote many of the poems in the book of Pslams. David was the boy who slaid the giant with just a slingshot and a stone. After the death of Saul he was the anointed king of Israel. He was a man after God’s own heart because God knew he would do everything he wanted him to do (Acts 13:22). Oh to be like David, full of favor, full of faith. Then again, David was also a terrible sinner. He was an adulterer and a murderer. His enemies chased him into the darkest valleys where he hid in caves feeling lost and hopeless.

I relate to David in many ways. I relate to David not because I was anointed queen or because I recently returned from a safe zone in a cave, but because David lived a life of success and failure. He lived a life of joy and sorrow, strength and pain. David’s life is a timeless example reminding me that I am far from perfect and life here on earth is entangled with obstacles, challenges and temptations. Above all, I relate to David’s soul cries and praises because he was fully aware God had control over his life and fully believed in his deliverance.

I can only imagine how David felt when he killed Goliath and then again when at a place of complete turmoil he said to himself, “Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me (Psalm 42:5)?”  There are some days I feel like Maria Von-Trap skipping through the hills alive with the sound of music. On those days no one and nothing is strong enough to drain my tank of happiness. Some days I feel like Chuck Noland in Cast Away, completely lost and stranded. On those days I understand why he befriended a volleyball — feeling lost and confused can lead to some crazy thinking. Other days I have all the feels parallel to the ending of The Notebook. On those days I feel full of love yet heartbroken for the things lost. Some days turn into more days and more days sometimes turn into seasons. Ups and downs, twists and turns.

Success. Failure. Joy. Sorrow. Strength. Pain. Temptations and celebrations. They’re all felt in the heart. They’re all emotions and influencers of how my life is lived. I have to come to learn those feelings in the heart are gifts, even the heaviest of feelings. My Maria Von-Trap days and my empty three tissue boxes end of The Notebook days are all gifts. They’re all gifts because I know the hands from which they’ve been delivered. I know the name my praises glorify. I know the arms that hold me in the pain. I know the light that pierces the dark. I know the redemption of the one who forgives. I know the shepard who guides me. I know the voice of the one who loves me. The feelings in my heart are gifts because they open up the love and faithfulness of my God.

We live in a imperfect world and we all are imperfect people designed with the ability to feel and express emotions. I find it’s always comforting knowing we’re never alone. We’re never alone when we tap into our best Maria and sing about our favorite things. We’re never alone when all we feel we have in life is a lifeless friend named Wilson. We’re never alone ever through anything because God’s love is great. It reaches to the heavens and his faithfulness reaches to the skies. And if his love can reach the heavens it can reach into the hellish messes we find ourselves in. If his faithfulness reaches to the skies it can reach in the mere mud and muck we sluggishly trek through.

We don’t need to be perfect because God isn’t looking for perfect. God is looking for us to embrace our humanness through faith and repentance and praise. May we all be like David — in our success and failures let us praise the Lord among the nations. Let us sing his praises among the people and let his glory be over all the earth. Let’s be men and women after God’s own heart.

From one to another,

Ashley

Searching for Purpose.

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Slowly, surly and a little painfully I am becoming more aware of areas in my life that need a little tune up. I will be the first to admit I am not perfect. Never have I struggled with feeling the need to be perfect, but I have (and still do) struggle with the idea that I might miss the perfect mark. I’m typically an indecisive person, and I think that is because I fear I will make a wrong decision. I fear I will mistake the voice of God with my own voice. I fear I will not hear God clearly and do what he otherwise instructed me to do. In major life decisions, in relationships, and in much of my thinking I often fear I will do something apart from God’s will.

What will happen if I do something apart from his plan? Certainly my whole life will be screwed up. Certainly God will shake his finger at me, take a deep breath and struggle to find a way to put me back on track. Certainly God’s purposes will be put on hold until I start making the right decisions. Certainly I will miss out on the brilliant things God has in mind for me because I didn’t make the right choice.

Certainly I am being a little bit sarcastic.

But I do struggle with similar thoughts nonetheless. I know this about myself, and I have been woking on conquering my fear of mistakes for quite a while. I learned God’s plans cannot be shaken. He is too big of a God to be thrown off track, and I am too selfish a person to think that I can stop his purposes from being fulfilled. The Message version of Job 42:2 says, “I’m convinced: You (God) can do anything and everything. Nothing and no one can upset your  (God’s) plans.” When I spend too much time worrying about missing the mark, I take too much time away from being present and trusting God is faithful in all his ways. I take too much time away from enjoying the simple things in life because I get too wrapped up in the bigger picture. I end up putting chains on myself even though Jesus paid the ultimate price to set me free. 

So I once again return to him. I once again to stand firm on his promises. As David stated,  “The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me; your steadfast love, O Lord, endures for ever (Psalm 138:8, ESV).”

If you’re anything like me you’re prone to wonder. I’m an over thinker and I ask top many questions. Even in my surrender I ask God, “What are your purposes for me?” After searching and practically begging for signs, I am left with one simple answer.

Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’This is the first and greatest commandment. (Matthew 22:37-38)

Straight from the mouth of Christ I find my purpose. My purpose is to love my God and to love others. I no longer have to be terrified of missing the mark. I no longer have to beg for God to reveal my calling. I am called to love, and because there is no fear in love there is no fear in living a life of love.

Sure it would be nice to know if I should attend grad school and pursue a degree in professional counseling. Sure it would be nice to know if I’ll become a “real” teacher or if I will continue to substitute. I see before me so many doors of opportunities, but I’m not sure which door to open..or which door God will open for me. It’s difficult to take steps towards certain doors because my fear of missing the mark or making a wrong decision still creeps up now and again, but I remain confident that God will fulfill his purposes in me as I fulfill my purposes in him. My hope is that here is a secret passage way, a door I do not see yet. I hope he leads me there. I hope he continues to lead me on a grand adventure. He has yet to disappoint. My faithful God is full of surprises and brilliant plans. I love his works. I love his love.

His grace is sufficient for me. His grace is sufficient for you, right now, today and for all your days to come. God is King of Kings and Lord of Lords yet he still cares about each and every one of our journeys. In our obedience to Christ, we need to take more leaps of faith rather than more time to second guess uncertainties. In our obedience, we are to love God and love others. In return, God will surely fulfill his purposes.

Lessons From Chiang Mai — Time.

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It’s a funny thing coming home. Nothing changes. Everything looks the same, smells the same, even feels the same. You realized what’s changed is you. -F. Scott Fitzgerald

Time is an interesting concept. Sixty seconds makes a minute. Sixty minutes equals an hour. Twenty-four hours add up to a day, and so on and so forth. I spent the past thirty days traveling the other side of the world. That’s four weeks, seven hundred and twenty hours. We’ve heard it said time flies when we’re having fun, but fun or no fun, sixty seconds always equals a minute and there is always only twenty-four hours in a day. Still, we all experienced moments, days, and seasons of life when time…well, it flies by doesn’t it? Other moments, days, and seasons drag on for what feels like forever.

Sometimes we desire more time. There just aren’t enough hours in the day. We want to make the good times last. Sometimes we wish time away. We want to forget the past, maybe fast forward through pain because for whatever reason there isn’t joy in the moment. Other times we waste time. We spend our days waiting and longing for something better, waiting for summer, for love, for the life we’ve always wanted to live but haven’t lived it because we spent too much of our time in the yearning rather than in the moment.

Coming home is a funny thing for me. Everyone has their daily routines in place. Though time has passed, everyone’s lives seem to be just as they were before I left. If I didn’t know any better, I would think the pause button was pushed at home, and someone decided to press play again when I returned. Meanwhile I experienced time so differently than most people at home could imagine. I’m not the same having spent the past seven hundred and twenty hours in Chiang Mai. I have a heart full of precious memories. I want to share those memories with everyone on the home front, but I’m not so sure anyone will fully grasp the emotions and meanings behind my experiences. Time. I need time to process, and I believe God will show me how and when to pour out all he filled me with throughout the past four weeks.

Most of my time in Thailand was spent communicating with friends, strangers, and strangers who became friends. It was a very relational adventure. It was more of a journey of my heart than anything else. I learned a lot about myself. I was forced out of my comfort zone and recognized areas of weakness within me. I learned a lot about others, how to communicate in love, how to communicate with kindness yet with confidence and bravery. I learned a lot about purpose and a lot about God. I look forward to continuing my journey with those willing to hear my heart.

In the mean time, I invite you on an adventure. We don’t need to be world travelers to experience a new world. We don’t need a plane ticket to see new sites. All we need is to recognize time is of great value, and what we do with out time determines what great experiences we will have. You are not stuck somewhere unless you decide to be. Complacency is a deadly foe, and I think most of us need to learn to live more from intention than out of habit. Don’t let your time go to waste. Don’t fall victim to pain or anxiety, but allow yourself to process through those moments with hope in your heart. Enjoy the present and make the most of it. Don’t be afraid to take risks. Don’t be afraid to be bold. Speak what’s on your mind. Change up your routine. Try new things. Add a little spice to your life! ..and add a little spice to your food, too. It’s quite tasty. Eternity is set in our hearts. Let’s embrace that. The possibilities are endless.

|There is a time for everything,
    and a season for every activity under the heavens:

      a time to be born and a time to die,
    a time to plant and a time to uproot,
      a time to kill and a time to heal,
    a time to tear down and a time to build,
      a time to weep and a time to laugh,
    a time to mourn and a time to dance,
      a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
    a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
      a time to search and a time to give up,
    a time to keep and a time to throw away,
      a time to tear and a time to mend,
    a time to be silent and a time to speak,
      a time to love and a time to hate,
    a time for war and a time for peace.

  What do workers gain from their toil?  I have seen the burden God has laid on the human race. 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.| Ecclesiastes 3:1-11

Why Your Stories are So Important.

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History has always fascinated me. I remember being a little girl and sitting on my great-grandfather’s porch listening to him share stories of horror and honor about his time serving in the second World War. I remember hearing stories about working in the Schuylkill County coal mines and learning what life was like for a middle class family during The Great Depression. One of my favorite assignments in college was when I was asked to interview a woman at a retirement village and write a biography about her life. She lived alone because her husband passed away. She was a world traveler in her younger years and was filled with beautiful stories of adventure, love and heartache. When it comes to history, I’m certainly no buff. I’m thankful for Google, especially when I need quick facts. I don’t enjoy researching all that much either, but I do enjoy listening.

I’m not so sure what it is about the past that excites me, but I could listen to stories from times of old for hours on end. The more stories I hear, the more eager I am to hear other’s stories, to hear different perspectives and different outcomes. There are always lessons to take away and wisdom to discover.

Listening to a person’s story is hearing their heart, and when the heart has permission to open up, passion, hope, love, joy, sorrow, regret, and pain pour out in abundance. And if you open your heart to soak in the emotions of theirs, I bet you will discover that even the most painful stories have beauty hidden in them.

One thing that really fascinates me about history is that each of us has our own, and we have the ability to become our own historians. In fact, I think it’s our responsibility to be historians to ourselves. If we don’t write down or record our history who will? Leave it up to professional historians and we end up getting lost in the mass mediums of our time. To some, getting lost in the masses won’t be a big deal, but life is something to cherish and to share with others. Our stories are important. They are uniquely ours yet somehow can serve as empathy in the lives of others. Someone, somewhere, at some point in time will benefit from your stories. Or, like myself, they will simply enjoy listening.

Being our own historian requires practice and the discipline of pausing to reflect on place-markers in our past. It requires reflection of our geographical location, our emotions, the good, the bad and the ugly. I recently read an article about why people are so unwilling to admit when they make mistakes in life. In the middle of the article, the author wrote:

“This is why taking inventory of our lives and our emotions is imperative and revelatory. You feel angry—why? You feel excited—why? You love to travel—why? You hate to sit still—why? Our emotions are revealing priceless things to us about our past, present and future selves…if we dare to pay attention to them. It’s a discipline and it’s also one of the greatest gifts we can give ourselves and others.”

I think it’s important for us to remember who we were and who we have come to be. I hope in the process of doing so we find a desire to grow. I hope in the process of doing so you are honest with yourself and vulnerable in recording the truth. If you are your own historian you can be real and honest without the fear of judgement. Despite what we display on the front-lines of social media, we all have skeletons in our closets. The reality is it’s scary to show our shadows, but the truth is you are no less of a human by admitting you have wounds that need healing. The reality is it’s also ok to display your victories and accomplishments, too. We are to mourn with those who mourn and rejoice with those who rejoice, but I stick along side of “honesty is the best policy.”

During my travels in Chiang Mai, I had the privilege to hear so many different stories — stories of adventure and decision making, stories of confusion and wonder, stories of loneliness and love. I have been blessed and encouraged by each and every one of them. I am thankful they entrusted me with their stories and allowed me to be a part of the current chapter in their life. I hope all of  those people feel championed because no matter their past, they have the ability to look upon what was and the power to look ahead with hope in their eyes.

His story, her story, your story, my story. Each moment of it is valuable. From front-porch conversations with my great-grandfather to retirement village talks with a widow to cafe chats with total strangers, life has been full of stories. Who knows, maybe someday you’re moments of joy and the moments you lived in dark shadows will be just what the world needs to hear. Dare to be honest and vulnerable. Dare to celebrate times of despair and confusion. Dare to recognize the value of your life, and if you’re one of those who finds history dry and boring, dare to listen to stories rather than facts and figures.