Stop and Smell the Roses

God’s presence can feel like a mystery. Have you felt that too? I’ve felt myself weave in and out of my understanding of His presence–the engulfing of His being to a space that feels hollow and often times lonely.

In the hollow and distant, it can be hard to grasp who God is and what His plan is. If you’re anything like me, you’ve questioned your efforts towards Christ or even His pursuit of you. When the feeling of His presence is gone, it’s easy to fall back on fault, whether from God or myself. And let’s keep it real, my pursuit of God isn’t perfect and it isn’t always consistent (hello distractions from the world!), so the blame could easily be shifted on what I am and am not doing. But friend, He isn’t distant and He’s not pointing fingers. I mean, thank goodness! His mystery doesn’t equal distance or retreat. Instead, it’s something that can be cherished and enlightening.

Okay, so if He doesn’t remove Himself from us, how can He feel so estranged at times? Great question girl! What if we reshifted perspective and readjusted our eyes so that we can know Him more intimately and uniquely in the season we are in?

I want to reiterate this again though before we jump into the latter half of this blog–the suggestions below aren’t checklists and they don’t make you a better or worse Believer. You are not measured by how you perform or how you welcome Him in. Sometimes, the season is hard and it feels dry and that’s okay. If you dive into the things below and still feel that distance, you are not doing things wrong. Seek to pursue in those seasons and let the seeds planted in those times bloom into something stunning later. He is constantly in pursuit of you no matter what–you are His beloved.

Alright, let’s open our eyes to him lady. Here are some ways we can shift perspective and heart so that the dry and vacant times can be times of refreshment and deeper intimacy:

Let’s talk to our Creator–Let’s pray for our world and the world, but let’s thank Him for who He is, what He has created and what He is doing (Psalm 100). Sometimes, it’s just easier for me to go into the routine of prayer or into the asks, but I want to know Him more through the beauty of who He is. Then, let’s keep it real with our Father. Toss out the mundane and routine prayer, and speak honestly and openly with Him. Pray out loud if you need to and lay it out. Express value and receive depth.

Pray boldly–Ask for awareness of the Holy Spirit. Then, be. Take time to sit in the awkward and dry air or the fruitful and warm air. Whatever the space holds for you, take it in and let yourself feel whatever it is before you.

Slow down–God doesn’t just welcome us in in the quiet, but in His creation. Sometimes I feel like I have to do the same thing over and over again to know Him and welcome Him into my space, but many times, He is beckoning me into His presence in other ways–how I know Him in each season doesn’t have to look identical to the previous one. Take in the little things. He shows us Himself in His creativity in humans (I mean, if you really take in each life, how incredible the detail and difference!), the detail in a leaf or the joy an animal brings us. Smell the roses, embrace the warmth of the sun on your skin, take in someone’s laughter or their role in your life. You can feel and know His presence in the daily routines, people and things.

He is pursuing you, no matter what you feel. He is always present and sometimes we just have to open our eyes to His ever present presence, whatever that may look like in that moment or season. When we seek Him in the ordinary and open our eyes to who is in the here and the now, a shift happens in our world. And whether we feel it deeply or not in that moment, we’re changed.

I hope that you open yourself up to experiencing God in the quiet and in the chaos this week, friend. I am in this with you.


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Wow, you look so skinny.

April 15, 2014

As I was doing my daily browse sesh on Instragram I recognized the word ‘skinny’ being thrown around. “Girl, you look so skinny there” or “Wow, those jeans make you look so skinny.” On most days, this word wouldn’t phase me, I mean it’s a pretty common word used among the circle of women. This time it got me thinking though. Here’s the thing, most of us love to be told we look skinny- you know, especially on those “I feel like poo and bloated, so I am going to wear my “fat” jeans kind of day.” I get it, trust me. There have been moments when someone has mentioned this to me and I feel like I am instantly glowing. Somehow my day becomes brighter and I walk with a new confidence. But as I was looking at these pictures and really began to chew on this word skinny, this big fat “WHY?” hit me in the face. Why do we consider this a compliment? Why do we even allow ourselves to receive it as a compliment?

You’re probably reading this right now and thinking “Well duh, Ashley. We all know the answer to that. Leave us and our skinny dreams and aspirations alone!” (Okay, just kidding about the last part ;)). I feel ya girl. Like I said before, until now this has been a very well received and valued compliment from my fellow ladies. And if I am honest, something I have strived for. If I am really honest though, this compliment and “new confidence” last for about…well umm…a minute or until I see a beautiful skinny (and majorly photoshopped) woman on a magazine. Then, if I allow myself, I can get caught in the downward spiral of obsessing too much over this word. I’ve even *gasp* given this compliment before…many times. And honestly meant well by it. But it’s fleeting. It’s surface level. Get down to it and it may just be one of the worst compliments you can give. Is that too far? Maybe it is. I mean this thought did just come to my mind about 30 minutes ago, but here’s the thing, I think it is a word that is worth chewing on and wrestling with. Can you do that with me? Can you just really take some time to consider how much value it is truly bringing to your friends, family, or loved one’s life before you let it roll off your tongue again?

In a culture that says beauty defines us and that we must strive for perfection, don’t you think this compliment can be damaging? You may disagree, and that is okay. But my mind is just racing on this topic right now and I keep thinking about the struggles women face each day. We are constantly seeing images and ads about how to make ourselves look thinner, but what about the beautiful depth of each of us. When we are only complimenting on how skinny each other looks, are we pushing each other to a deeper love and understanding of ourselves? Or are we adding fuel to the fire that says, “Skinny is good. Yes, stay this way because it makes you look better. Being thin is what matters.” Simply put, I am annoyed at this superficial talk and yearn for so much more for us as women.

I have mentioned this in a post before, but one of my favorite things about women is how unique each of us are. We all possess an incredible inner and outer beauty that is unlike anyone else. There are women who are naturally skinny, and I am not saying any of this to offend them. That is beautiful- if that is how you were created. But for those of use who strive to be skinny- and when I mean strive I mean put ourselves on endless diets, seek for compliments, etc.- know that you are beautiful the way you are. It seems to be a reoccurring theme in my blog, but who you are is enough. Don’t let the word skinny poison you with an idea that you are not good enough as you are. Beautiful comes in every form and goes so much deeper than how you measure up to this world’s standard of beauty.

Here’s the other side of things too. I would be lying to you and myself if I sat here and said, “Never compliment my outer beauty again. I don’t want it.” It’s true, I like when my husband says I look beautiful. I also want to be a healthy person, but I do not want skinny to be what I strive for or obsess about. I think we should compliment each other …and do it a lot. I just believe that we need to be aware of the language we are using and the balance between outer and inner beauty compliments. How will my words affect this person? What does this compliment really mean?

So this is where I am at on this crazy thought. I am going to run with it though- wrestle with it a little more. And in the mean time, compliment you on something else. 

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September 18, 2013

My heart is heavy tonight. For some reason I cannot sleep, but instead this overwhelming sense of sadness has swept over me. A sadness for any girl who is struggling with fully loving herself..for any girl who is aching to feel cherished, loved, and beautiful. My heart yearns for you to know your value.

I am not sure why but I cannot get a story of a certain girl out of my head. When I graduated college the first place I went to work was a group home. I was only there a few short weeks, but those couple of weeks left a lasting impression on me and I wanted to share with you one of my old blog post from when I was there. It is long, but I want girls to know they aren’t alone. That there is freedom. And that we should be in prayer for this increasingly powerful spiritual battle happening to so many of our men and women today.

“When I was really having a hard time wanting to be here yesterday, God provided a crazy opportunity to be there for one of the girls. This story is long, but I wanted to give some detail so that you may able to get a glimpse of her pain and I hope this urges you to pray for her and others alike.

Usually I am not allowed to be with the girls alone right now, but they allowed me to stand by the shower as a girl occupied it. She has been sick for the last few days and has been in and out of the doctors office. I had asked her if they had figured anything out and she said she had pulled a muscle in her stomach. I asked how this happened and she said it is because she has been excessively purging.

Instantly, my heart sank.

I did not tell her much, but that I had struggled with similar thoughts and feelings as she is now. She was astonished, but continued to just talk about what she had been going through.

She confessed to feeling disgusting, controlled, and alone. Lies have captivated her.

She expressed how she desired to change, but at the same time she wanted to continue what she was doing. She sees no hope and no way out.

For over a year now she has viewed food as her enemy. Her deception has caused her to believe that the mirror reflects an unworthy and unattractive girl.

While we were talking she confessed that she had not eaten in days, and the time she at a peanut butter and jelly sandwich in that three-day span, she felt disgusted and ended up emptying it from her by purging.

She said she feels powerful and in control when she does this to herself. I expressed to her how I used to feel similar things. I told her about how I believed what I was doing to myself was a way to make me feel in control, accepted and beautiful. In reality though, I was doing the opposite to myself. When I hit the place where I knew I no longer had control, I told her how it was one of the most scary and embarrassing things I ever had to confess. I mentioned to her how my journals from that time were day and night. One day I would get a glimpse of hope and a life outside of this sick addiction, while other days I felt trapped and suffocated. However, I told her that as my journals progressed, the more I saw hope. The more I saw freedom.

She told me her desire for that, but that she did not know how to get out of it, and she said how she felt that no one there understood. She said that she felt encouraged that I could relate in some way. (Ding! Okay God, I get it! )

We talked a little more about the help she was receiving there and what needs to be done next. Her frustration was that the girls did not understand her, and as she purged, they would just tell her to stop. We talked about how she felt like noone could help her here and we agreed I would try to hold her accountable in the best way I could…even when she did not like me or want me to.

Later on I noticed that she had left, so I followed her into the bathroom. As I walked into the bathroom I made myself known and that I just wanted to speak with her…to talk with her about what she was thinking and feeling. With a trembling and desperate voice, I was asked to go away, and as I sat unnoticed in the bathroom, she began to harm herself in the ways she has become addicted to doing so.

My anger with the enemy was overwhelming, and I could not help but weep and tell her that I was so sad for her and to know she was struggling in such a way. I pleaded she let me in..not just the stall, but in her heart. I told her that I knew she did not want me there and I could not stop her at that moment, but that she is worth so much.

The bathroom has become her escape and her current comfort. A filthy and unkept stall has become a common place for this young girl. Her actions are screaming for her to be noticed, loved, accepted, and found beautiful. If only I could help her grasp that God believes each of these things in her and that His view will never change.

I was placed in her room before all this had happened, and since I went into the bathroom, we have only said goodnight. I am not sure how she is doing today, but ache for her and find reason in our meeting yesterday. Whether it was to allow her to see she is not alone or to help encourage her to find help somewhere that can truly help transform her, there was reason. Please be praying that God provides guidance and courage for her. Also, that she may see hope through Him. She needs Him and us to back her up. ”

Sadly, I am not sure where this girl is, but I know there are more of her struggling out there.  I pray and hope she has found healing, and I do the same for anyone else caught in this trap. If you are struggling, please know that you are loved and you don’t have to go through anything like this alone. Please reach out- I know without talking to a trusted person about this, l may have never taken a step towards freedom and restoration.

So many girls are struggling. We feel the deep desire to be wanted, loved, and found beautiful but have become so consumed in the temporary satisfactions of the world that we are blind to the way we are viewed by the one who created us. God created such an incredible world, yet you and I are His most prized and beautiful creations. Why is this so hard to see sometimes? Yet, this is truth. He has wonderfully made each of us and we need to take hold of this, so that it can be proclaimed to all who look up to us. YOU are beautiful. Who you are is enough. He loves you just as you are. I love you just as you are.