Limitless

First of all, Happy Valentine’s Day! You are loved!

Do you find yourself putting boundaries on God? Do you often think, “He can do this, but probably not this.” Those thoughts can cause us not to seek God because we’ve set limitations on His capabilities. For some reason we think we know best. We give up on God and then go about trying to fix our problems alone.

“The voice of the Lord is over the waters; the God of glory thunders, the Lord, over many waters. The voice of the Lord is powerful; the voice of the Lord is full of majesty.”
‭‭Psalms‬ ‭29:3-4‬ ‭ESV‬‬

This passage doesn’t describe a God with parameters to me. I see a God of mystery, wonder, might, and power. I picture a God to be feared and to be praised. I do not see predictably or complacency towards creation.

Maybe you’ve thought, “God answers prayers like that for others but not me.” When we think like this, we make ourselves feel as if God might love us less. We start believing our prayers might be answered if we behaved better. We begin thinking we are less adequate compared to those around us.

“for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,”
‭‭Romans‬ ‭3:23‬ ‭ESV‬‬

God doesn’t answer prayers based on good behavior or favorites. We have all sinned. Our only righteousness is in Jesus Christ.

Don’t let your doubts stop you from praying. Your requests aren’t too big for God.

“pray without ceasing,”
‭‭1 Thessalonians‬ ‭5:17‬ ‭ESV‬‬

God wants us to come to Him. When Jesus died and rose again, we gained access to the Heavenly Father. Why why why would we ignore this privelage and try to do life on our own? Nothing is too big for God! Stop thinking God won’t answer your prayers. There is always an answer. We have to be willing to listen, patient, and trusting. Nothing is off limits.

“If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.”
‭‭John‬ ‭15:7‬ ‭ESV‬‬

If you are someone who struggles to pray, it’s okay. I’ve been there. Here’s some things that helped me:

  1. Don’t be rigid. God doesn’t delight in wordy prayers. He wants us to be real. You are talking to a person. A friend. A Father. It’s a real actual relationship. There are no rules. Be real.
  2. Start a prayer journal. In those moments where focus is an issue, I find writing to God beneficial. I don’t forget what I was saying because it’s on paper! I also tend to feel extra connected to Him this way.
  3. Use the Psalms. The psalms are full of so much emotion. When you don’t know what to pray, start there. Utilize those words and turn them into your own prayers.
  4. If all else fails simply say “Jesus.” There is power in his name alone.

I hope this was an encouragement to you!

Much love,

Ashley

Don’t Be Hard Play-Doh

Yup. You read that right. Today I’m talking about willingness to be used by God. I’m talking about taking your life plans, handing them over, and saying “here God, your will not mine.” Be open to what the Spirit has to say to you.

“For God is not a God of confusion but of peace.” 1 Corinthians 14:33

This verse speaks to the character of God. When the Spirit speaks, He doesn’t lead to destruction, disorder, or ruin. We can trust that the Lord’s plans for us are good.

I know this because I made plenty of plans for myself, some with good intentions, but I led myself down many wrong paths. I didn’t consult God and didn’t think twice about being His instrument. I was stubborn. Un-moldable.

I was hard Play-Doh.

My decisions led me to pregnancy a month after my high school graduation (at least I made it right?), marriage at 18, multiple affairs, living in my car, divorce at 23, making money illegally to obtain that divorce, remarriage at 23, second pregnancy 6 months later, a suffering second marriage, and finally—a 16 year battle with eating disorders and various mental illnesses.

In short, when I do life on my own: I’m a train wreck.

Had I listened to God, my life would have turned out much differently. I would have saved myself an inexplicable amount of heartache. Looking back, the Holy Spirit prompted me not to make certain choices. I felt that still small voice saying, “dont do this”, but I didn’t listen.

“Do not be like the horse or the mule, which have no understanding but must be controlled by bit and bridle or they will not come to you.” Psalms 32:9

In other words, don’t be stubborn, or hard of heart. Don’t be so set on your own way that you lose sight of the fact that God is bigger than you are and His ways are higher than yours.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
    neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
    so are my ways higher than your ways
    and my thoughts than your thoughts” Isaiah 55:8-9

God desires to use us for our good and for His glory. He can’t if we don’t listen to Him. Jesus understands our pain. He lived as we lived so that he could empathize with us as human while fully God. However, this doesn’t mean he wants us to experience pain.

“But now, O LORD, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand.” Isaiah 64:8

Start by asking God for the willingness to be willing. Give God your plans. He won’t harm you. Trust Him. Listen to Him. Love Him. Don’t be hard Play-Doh.

Much Love,

Ashley

God Desires Good For You!

I’m going to be honest. I had a difficult time writing the title of this post, because I struggle to believe it myself. However, I write in order to encourage and to spread God’s truth. Regardless of whether I always feel it or not, God desires good for me. He desires good for you.

Let me ask you this: how far does your faith go? This isn’t to guilt you. We have to look at ourselves in order to grow closer to God—in order to know Him more.

“You have searched me, Lord, and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways.”
‭‭Psalm‬ ‭139:1-3‬ ‭NIV‬‬

God knows you, and He knows the extent of your faith. He’s not shocked if you doubt his goodness. He knows your every thought. Maybe you know you’re saved. You know Jesus lived the perfect life, died, and rose again so that you could be made righteous in the eyes of a Holy God. Yet, inside you know you aren’t living out this faith. There is a yearning for more. If this is the case you aren’t alone. I believe many Christians wrestle with these thoughts and feelings.

This is partially because we are foreigners of this land.

“All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth.”
‭‭Hebrews‬ ‭11:13‬ ‭NIV

We were created for heaven and that longing inside of us is for home. It’s easy to forget what our faith is pointing us to, so we try to fulfill ourselves with what cannot be found.

God delights in those who seek Him. Our faith helps us to believe in the unseen, satisfying that thirst we can’t quench elsewhere. We find that when we seek the Lord, there is direction. We aren’t wandering aimlessly and hopelessly throughout this life until we get to the next.

“And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.”
‭‭Hebrews‬ ‭11:6‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Do you believe that God wants to reward you just because you seek after His face? Or do you kinda just shoot off prayers into the dark with your fingers crossed, hoping that maybe he will hear you? God desires to be known by us. He wants a relationship. Like a good Father, He wants to love you.

“If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!”
‭‭Matthew‬ ‭7:11‬ ‭NIV‬‬

If we as sinful humans can show others goodness, why wouldn’t the Lord of all creation want to demonstrate the same towards us? Start believing that God desires good for you today!

Hope For All

I’m writing this post from my bubble bath, because yesterday’s topic was on self care and, I figured I should probably practice what I preach. Fingers crossed I don’t drop my phone.

Today I want to talk about hope. Hope fuels us so that we can overcome adversity. But where do you find hope? We live in a world of quick solutions. If you have the money, you can fix the problem…supposedly. But what happens when illness strikes? Natural disaster? Death? Relationships fail? Where do you turn? You can seek support, medicine, education, insurance, etc. but when those things just aren’t enough—then what?

I’ve heard it said once, “If it’s meant to be, it’s up to me.” That’s an encouraging and empowering statement. The only problem with it, is that I’m human and I fail.

I like this a lot better:

“But he said, “What is impossible with man is possible with God.”
‭‭Luke‬ ‭18:27‬ ‭ESV

Here’s the thing, I don’t want it to be “up to me.” That’s a lot of pressure. However, God plus me? Yes. I’ve faced a lot of heartache in my 27 years of life. I’ve tried solving my problems on my own. Mind you, I’m a determined and resourceful individual. I don’t lack ambition, and I’m not lazy. But life is exhausting. I’ve learned the hard way to hope in something beyond myself.

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”
‭‭Romans‬ ‭15:13‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Several things happen when you put your Hope in God versus in yourself:

  1. You experience joy. Joy is not dependent on circumstances.
  2. Your weights are lifted. The pressure is removed from you to fix your problems alone.
  3. You lower your expectations of others.
  4. You learn to trust God, thus deepening your relationship with Him.
  5. You experience peace.
  6. You gain the ability to refocus on the what matters most.

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,”
‭‭1 Peter‬ ‭1:3‬ ‭NIV‬‬

This hope we have is alive! Do not leave it behind and go through life thinking you have to do it alone. The same power that raised Jesus from the dead is alive and at work in you.

Much love!

Ashley

Take Care of Yourself

Do you regularly practice “self care?” I don’t mean like…showering. That’s basic. What do you do that recharges you, so you can be your best self? I’d be very interested to know.

Self care isn’t just important, it’s vital. It’s the difference between forming constructive versus destructive habits. Self care is especially important on those days when you don’t feel like making the effort. If we don’t take care of ourselves, we aren’t effective humans. We can’t give if we haven’t first received.

What kind of self care you choose depends a lot on your personality. There’s no right or wrong, it’s about what is best for you. I’m an introvert. I recharge by myself. It doesn’t mean I don’t like people, but when I’m down and out, my “go to” just isn’t hanging out with a friend. I know the best thing for myself is to read my Bible, pray, take a hot bubble bath, get physically active, listen to uplifting music, and things of that nature. Self care takes effort, but in the long run I’m happier, healthier, and more productive.

Unfortunately I’d often rather lay in bed. Ignore my family. Lash out on the people around me. Think negative thoughts. Those behaviors are easy, but they are not self care. They hurt me and they hurt others.

Self care isn’t selfish. It’s even biblical.

“Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place.”
‭‭Mark‬ ‭6:31-32‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Even Jesus just needed to get away. He needed peace. He needed breaks. He needed to eat. He needed recharging. The Son of God! He was human.

How do you practice self care? Do you? What about those days when you’re struggling and you’d rather just not get out of bed? That’s when self care matters most. Life is tough, take care of yourself.

Focus Forward

It’s too easy to look at one wrong thing and let it turn into a laundry list of negativity. Before we know it, we’re being sucked into darkness grasping for anything and everything to make ourselves feel better. After reaching for whatever that was, we find it didn’t satisfy. In our sober thinking, we realize those things we were upset over that led us to act out in self destructive ways, weren’t worth it.

There’s an enemy. I often forget the devil exists, and even though he has already lost the war, he still wants to inflict pain during the battle.

“Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” 1 Peter 5:8

In order to move forward, we first have to acknowledge the devil and his desire to break us. He wants us to stay focused on what is wrong. When we are fixated on what isn’t going our way, we can’t be satisfied in Jesus.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”
‭‭Philippians‬ ‭4:6‬ ‭NIV‬‬

This verse is a game changer. It absolutely works. Instead of trying to fix our problems with tools that are often broken, let’s take them all straight to the God who is known for his restoration powers. We don’t have to be anxious. We don’t have to drown ourselves in worry and fear. There may not be immediate resolution to what is bothering us, but there is peace to be had.

“And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
‭‭Philippians‬ ‭4:7‬ ‭NIV‬‬

In this peace we find ourselves able to move forward. Our thoughts are no longer consumed by the defective. Negativity fades away, the cross comes into focus, and we can resume life forward with new confidence.

Quit beating yourself up. Seriously.

I’m my own worst critic. The thing is, I’m critical over details that don’t matter. They don’t move me forward in life. I obsess and criticize myself to the point I end up stuck, or send myself backwards. I have an inability to let my mistakes and imperfections go. Darn me for being human. I’m working on it though, and awareness is key. Unfortunately, I’m a hard learner. I also have a feeling I’m not the only one out there.

I’ve even taken this mentality into my faith. I understand grace. However, I’ve had thoughts that I could please God more or less based on my behavior. As if grace applied to everyone except for me. It’s a lie, but a tough one to get out of once you’re stuck in it. If you’re like me and wrestle with that kind of thinking, you quickly find yourself on a grading scale. You try your best every single day, but when you don’t measure up in the way you hoped, you find yourself let down—and worse you feel somehow separated from God.

I’ve done a fair amount of 12 step work in order to recover from my eating disorders. 12 step was the only thing that helped me along my recovery journey. I feel though, that practicing my 10th step a little too harshly contributed a bit to my inner critic. I say, contributed, not caused. In the 10th step you do a brief daily inventory. How did you conduct yourself within the past 24 hours? Did any character defects surface? Do you need to make any amends? What did you do right?

That last part I failed to write more about. You’re supposed to keep your inventory balanced so you don’t walk away injured. I became too good at picking out all of my “defects”, that I grew blind to the ways I was growing.

I share this hoping that some of you can relate. It’s pretty hard to untangle the lies in our minds we weave, but that’s why we have the Word.

“Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.”
‭‭Romans‬ ‭8:34 NIV

Who condemns? No one. Just as we shouldn’t condemn others, we shouldn’t condemn ourselves. Jesus was condemned for us on the cross over 2000 years ago. We don’t have the right to sit around and beat ourselves up. Can we strive to bear fruit and ask the Holy Spirit to change us? Yes. We don’t ruminate in our mistakes though, we live in grace.

“What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?”
‭‭Romans‬ ‭8:31-32‬ ‭NIV‬‬

God is for us. He gave His Son up for us before we were born. He isn’t all of a sudden going to let us go now. Respond with gratitude instead of effort. There may be things in your life you need to improve. Nobody is perfect. Ask God for His help. Through Jesus we have power that we don’t possess ourselves. Stop. Beating. Yourself. Up. Seriously.