whether or not Your lips move

You speak to me

Harmonious Relationships July 27, 2010

Just now I was reading 1 Peter 3:8, which says followers of Christ are supposed to have unity of mind, or as some translations put it, be “harmonious.” I don’t know about you, but a lot of times it can feel like we’re not even singing off the same page of music, let alone singing in harmony!

I struggle a lot when I realize I have a difference of opinion, taste, or thought than a friend. I like peace and really dislike arguments. I struggle even more when I realize that there is someone in my life that just doesn’t like me and isn’t all that interested in being friends.

This verse helps me feel a little better, though. Harmony is all about complementary notes and often what notes aren’t played are just as important as the ones that are. It doesn’t mean you hate the other notes. It just means they don’t need to be played at this moment in time.

I wonder what life would be like if I applied this to my everyday relationships. I could take some stress off myself with trying to “play every note” all at once–that probably ends up sounding like a great big mess. Instead I can focus on this chord here, and this one here. So these individuals aren’t interested in interacting with me on this. That’s OK. Maybe next time. So this person doesn’t want to hear my thoughts on this subject. No problem; maybe just bad timing.There might be certain topics or people that I just need to let take a rest.

So maybe it’s OK when we don’t all agree on something. As long as we are being sympathetic, loving each other, and being kind and humble, maybe we can work out the significant differences and just let the rest fade.

Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble.
1 Peter 3:8 (NIV)

To sum up, all of you be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit…
1 Peter 3:8 (NASB)

 

I want my crayons back June 28, 2010

So lately I have had this indescribable desire to be creative. I am a creative person (all people are in some way or another) but there are certain things I am not so great at, like painting. But even in college I would get a coloring book and crayons now and then, especially around finals!

Recently with my Mosaic ladies we had a creativity workshop led by two lovely, beautiful, and insanely creative friends, Lisa and Trae. They pointed out how our Creator God empowered us with the ability to create. Trae read a quote out of a book that really hit me. Basically it said that whenever we get restless and bored with life, it may be our inner Kindergartener saying we want our crayons back. We want to be encouraged and empowered to create, like we were when we were kids. Why did we ever stop being taught to imagine?

It’s interesting. I used to love to write stories. Even from a very young age, Anne of Green Gables was a hero of mine for many reasons, but mainly because she wrote stories and was a teacher. When I was in elementary school, I would write these crazy tales about my hamster’s secret nightlife. After my family and I were in bed, she would go on adventures to the animal mall, and she had fabulous accessories she’d don before heading out. And of course the stories were illustrated.

I can’t tell you how many ‘books’ I wrote as a young teenager. Spiral notebooks were my constant companion. Admittedly, many of my tales were more like retellings of whatever Babysitters Club Super Special I’d read most recently, only cast with my friends and me and slight adjustments to the plot. But I still had a great time writing them. I never finished them, though.

Then came high school AP English. Four years of it. By the time I graduated my desire to write had all but disappeared. I would write poetry here and there, especially when I was depressed, but no more stories. No more hamster escapades. No more outrageous summer vacations for me and my friends. No more hours wiled away with daydreaming and imagining and pretending to be Anne Shirley. The creativity in that area had been sucked away. Wilted like a flower long neglected.

So. I’ve been rediscovering this passion for stories. I don’t know where it will take me. I guess I’ll let you know. I read so very little fiction (only about 3 or 4 writers). But more and more I have learned that fiction is almost truer than nonfiction, if that makes any sense. There are things you can say and do with a “fiction” story that communicate more truth than any “nonfiction” way of writing ever could.

I’m finding other creative outlets as well. It kills me that I don’t have enough time or energy to do musicals right now, but I will return to that stage. I’ve nurtured a growing interest in fashion design ever since Project Runway season 1 aired (and I’ve watched every episode since) and am hoping to learn how to thread my sewing machine soon. I’ve become my own (quite amateur) makeup artist over the years, and recently fell in love with the book Making Faces. I learned to decorate cakes when I was a manager at Cold Stone, and am getting to take a fondant class in a couple of weeks. I started scrapbooking at least a year ago (and true to form have not yet finished even one album).

I keep uncovering all these reminders of my fleeting attempts at different creative endeavors, and fight the temptation to get down on myself for not finishing or excelling at any of it. But my how fun it all has been.

I think I got a couple of my crayons back.

 

Culture Chameleon? June 2, 2010

Even though I am free of the demands and expectations of everyone, I have voluntarily become a servant to any and all in order to reach a wide range of people: religious, nonreligious, meticulous moralists, loose-living immoralists, the defeated, the demoralized—whoever. I didn’t take on their way of life. I kept my bearings in Christ—but I entered their world and tried to experience things from their point of view. I’ve become just about every sort of servant there is in my attempts to lead those I meet into a God-saved life. I did all this because of the Message. I didn’t just want to talk about it; I wanted to be in on it!
(1 Cor. 9:19-23, The Message)

I’ve been thinking a lot about how Paul sought to be “all things to all people” so that he could build relationships with them and hope that they might trust Jesus. I particularly like the way Peterson paraphrased it in The Message (see above). Even though Paul had the freedom to do whatever he felt was necessary, Paul modified his behavior so as not to offend the people he was with. When he was with the Jews, he wouldn’t go eating a big slice of ham, even though he had the freedom to do so. When he was with the Gentiles, he wouldn’t berate them for not being circumcised and expect them to be like him.

So was Paul a “culture chameleon,” changing his stripes depending on who he was with? Weren’t we told in youth group that this was a bad thing? Haven’t we always been told that we should stand out and be different and not look like the world? Aren’t we supposed to be pointing out the errors of the world and making a difference?

I think this is really a “both/and” kind of thing. Balance is a beautiful thing, is it not?

We have to live our lives in obedience to what God has asked of us. Each follower of Christ has a special calling on his or her life, certain groups of people that he or she will be most effective among, and personality traits and talents that will support him or her in those particular endeavors. None of us is just like another. Generally speaking, we will have the same message but a myriad of ways of conveying it. My unique voice and point of view will resonate with people that perhaps yours won’t.

At the same time, however, that doesn’t mean that I can be a total jerk to certain groups of people (followers of Christ or not) that I don’t particularly like or agree with. It doesn’t mean I can come down on you for hanging out with them. It doesn’t mean that I pass judgment on you and question your every word and move if you have felt called to love that group of people. I have to trust God enough to let Him be the Holy Spirit to you and not try to take that role myself.

“But what will people think of me if I hang out with (insert group of people here)? Won’t they think I’m one of them?” Well, maybe. Jesus got called all sorts of things and people thought all kinds of incorrect things about Him simply based on who He spent time with. So yeah, people (even other Christ-followers) may label you something you aren’t. They might assume you’re “sinning” right along with the group of people you’re trying to love. But their opinions really can’t stop you. Not if you are following God’s call on your life to reach them.

Besides, you’re not going to be taking on their way of life; you’re going to “keep your bearings in Christ.” The point is, you will be entering their world to “experience things from their point of view.” You’re going to attempt to see things the way they do. You’re going to try to empathize with their feelings. You’re going to try to figure out what motivates them, what hurts them, what offends them, what makes them joyful. You’re going to spend a lot of time with them in order to reach this goal. And in the process, you will have earned the right to be heard. They just might actually believe you when you tell them you love them, and that Jesus does, too.

At the same time, you’ll need to remember that not everybody is going to understand what the heck you’re doing. You’ll need to find your self-esteem in God and not people’s approval. You’ll also need to deal gently with the people who misunderstand you, and be aware that there may be certain things like particular actions or phrases that are offensive to them. Know your audience as best you can, and do everything you can to live peaceably with all people (Romans 12:18).

Wow. This is a tough balance. Be true to who you are and your mission in Christ AND at the same time be mindful of who you’re with? Stay true to your calling, not walking on eggshells around those who judge you WHILE still being sensitive to them? Definitely an ongoing, developing balance that only the Holy Spirit can bring to a person’s life.

So. Maybe being a “culture chameleon” isn’t such a bad thing. Some people call the art of knowing how to communicate truth without being offensive tact. Most of us could probably stand to have a little more of it. Maybe we could get so good at it we could even be accused of “speaking the truth in love.”

 

Dealing with Loneliness May 28, 2010

This is a repost from my other blog, Keep Him or Dump Him?

On this blog we talk a lot about being the kind of women we know we can be, and not settling for anything less than the best in our relationships.

If you’ve been on that journey for even a short amount of time, you’ve probably come to realize something. It’s a lonely way of life.

It can get lonely when you feel like surely you must be crazy for holding out for the “right” guy. You might have even been called “too picky” and told you need to lower your standards. Nobody’s perfect they tell you. And you know this, but you also know that you are worthy of the deepest love and respect possible in a relationship with a guy. And so you continue to hold on to hope as best you can.

It can get lonely when you see another girl partying and hooking up with few consequences, while you continue to wait. She seems to have so much fun. But you know that even if her body isn’t showing the effects of it, her mind and emotions are taking a beating that she may not be aware of—or that she just isn’t equipped to acknowledge. Somewhere along the way she was tricked into thinking that this is the way it is done, this is who she is, and this is how it is supposed to be. It can be very tempting to want to try her way of doing things. It can also be very tempting to set yourself up on a high horse above her. Instead of judging her or joining her, you decide to love her and be her friend.

It can get lonely when you’re the last one of all your friends to be in a serious relationship. You find yourself surrounded by couples and feel like the third wheel. You may even begin to scrutinize yourself and think there is something wrong with you. You feel like you have to choose between bitterness of soul and just accepting reality. You fight the temptation to just go out and find any guy willing to fill the void in your life. But you realize that when you draw your strength from God, you can think a little more clearly and try to keep your eyes on what’s really important.

It can get lonely when you are being pursued by men that you know are totally wrong for you. You get tired of always saying no. You might begin thinking that you should just go ahead and take what you can get. You might start thinking that God is holding out on you and this is what you have to choose from, so why not just go for it. But you are reminded that God has good, exciting plans for your life and choose to focus on that instead—even if it is a daily battle to do so.

I speak from experience on all of this. “But Ashley, you’re a happily married woman now, and therefore I am going to stop listening to you.” (I remember totally tuning out married women’s opinions at one time in my life, too.) Yes, but I have a very good “emotional memory” and remember very, very well the way it felt to be alone.

I didn’t always handle my loneliness very well. Often I was very immature about it. I’d avoid friends who were in happy, healthy relationships because it just put a spotlight on what I didn’t have. I would totally ignore the advice of happily married women because my jealousy painted them as being totally out of touch with the real world and what it was like to be single. I manipulated guys for their attention and affection to fill the void in my heart, but didn’t understand that this was what I was doing.

Finally I found a decent way to deal with loneliness. I guess that after a while I just got tired of being miserable. I started taking a good look at myself to evaluate who I really was. It was painful and not fun. And—you guessed it—it was still lonely! But I was at least learning to be a little more content with it. I had a lot of alone time with God because I didn’t really have much of anyone else. I ended up reading the Bible a lot, journaling a lot, praying a lot. And after a few months of it, I realized that I was becoming a different person. And I kind of liked her.

I need to point out that just because a woman is married, it doesn’t mean she is never lonely. Loneliness has more to do with your soul than your relationship status. It comes and goes, often staying longer than we’d like. But sometimes a little loneliness is OK. When we are dealing with it in appropriate, healthy ways, it can be a tool that helps chisel us more into reflecting the image of God.

What are some ways you have dealt with loneliness?

 

ministry multipliers meeting May 25, 2010

Filed under: calling,mentoring,sex,women's ministry — Ash @ 2:55 pm
Tags: , , ,

I just came from a really awesome 2 hours spent with fabulous women from all across the country. They invest their lives in other women on a constant basis and it is just awesome to see their heart and passion for God and women of all ages.

In just those 2 hours, God further pressed into me the need for me to 1) be myself and the person He created me to be, and 2) speak out on the things that I am passionate about. Because there are dozens of others who are passionate about the same things, and we all need to be encouraged to continue in the paths God has carved out for us. For me, this passion comes out in the area of mentoring and what many might call “biblical womanhood.” Some of you who know me and spend a lot of time with me have heard me use the term “warrior princess” for this idea. (And yes, I’m still working on that paper– one of these days I’ll finish it and post it here!!!)

For those women who were there today, I want you to know I am going to work hard to create a blog post that will help empower parents to talk to their children about sex beginning from birth. There are several resources out there that have been useful to me as I’ve studied sexual development, and I’ll point you to those. For those who were interested in the Keep Him or Dump Him blog, you can click here.

I also want you to know that I want to hear from you. I have a very diverse audience on this blog, from teenagers to grandparents. I love each and every one of you and want to know what you need in your lives right now so I can pray with you and interact with you on this journey!

 

Grieving Nashville May 4, 2010

Filed under: Grief,Nashville flood — Ash @ 11:03 pm
Tags: ,

A deep sense of loss. Grief.

We didn’t lose any material possessions in this flood. No one I know personally was killed.

So why am I so sad?

I am grieving. Grieving Nashville.

I think you might be feeling this way too, if you live here. Especially if you lost property, precious photographs, irreplaceable heirlooms, or–and I pray not–loved ones. But even if you “lost” nothing, you may be experiencing complicated emotions ranging from fear to anger to helplessness, along with some survivor’s guilt. I know I have.

We’re grieving. We will have to work through this strange kind of grief, one that is totally foreign to me, personally. This is my first natural disaster. My first time feeling like my entire city has been pulled up by the roots and will never be the same again.

Places in which I made so many memories are now gone. My first house is likely underwater. I may never be able to drive my future kids to see it and tell them all the stories that happened in the first house their Dad and I ever lived in together. The lessons I learned there. The person I became there.

So. I have been angry. Downright furious, especially at the thought of having to return to “business as usual” the day after it stopped raining.

I have been sorrowful. When the pictures of the Opryland Hotel started coming out on the news, I couldn’t shake them. This was the place we walked around several times a year. This was where we always brought our friends and family visiting from out of town. This was where Aaron arranged for us to have our engagement photos taken, without me knowing we were getting engaged later that afternoon. I couldn’t help but break down and let the pent-up tears burst out.

I have felt unsafe. While the rain was pouring down, while I watched the footage of flooded communities, while I heard friends tell how they lost cars and possessions, I felt completely vulnerable. Would we be next? What should we do? Will we be okay?

In the midst of the fear and heart-wrenching sadness, I somehow managed to hold it together. I did what needed to be done. I survived. But I didn’t do it alone. More than ever, my husband proved to be my steady, unshakable companion. My sister kept me in reality and helped me gather water and supplies for our house and neighbors. We made it. The One who “sits enthroned over the flood” (Psalm 29:10) carried us through the storm.

So. What do I do now? God brought me here for such a time as this. We each have a role to play in the days to come. Whatever our new reality looks like, whatever our new city looks like, we each have something to offer. I don’t know what it means for me yet, but I know I am loved and I know I am not alone.

 

a little busy April 7, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — Ash @ 4:11 pm

Hi friends. I’ve been a little neglectful of this blog as of late. God placed a project on my heart and some friends and I are getting it off the ground. Check it out here:

Keep Him or Dump Him?