Devotional Thursdays- Strength

Strength

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go. Joshua 1:9

Some days, I get home from a big day with a lot of things happening and I wonder how I am still standing. In fact, some days, I get home, sit down and don’t get back up until I get myself into my bed. I am that tired. Those days are fewer and fewer lately, I’ve been working on not adding so much to my plate. (Growth!) Then there are days I wake up, think about all the things that need to be done and stress about how I am going to do it. I get new opportunities and stress about whether or not I will do a good job. 

Recently, for example, I was stressed about a new opportunity I had at work. It was something that I was so excited for. The day came for me to start and I was so nervous I didn’t know what to do with it. Naturally, I turned that nervous energy into stress and started stressing about things I couldn’t control or things that were already settled. I used that nervous energy to second guess my decisions that un-stressed Ashleigh already made. 

I was telling my husband about it and he sent me the sweetest message that included “don’t let the enemy get you down.” I was so wrapped up in my stress and felt discouraged before I had even started this opportunity I was excited for. All those decisions I was second guessing, they were decisions we made for a trip we are about to go on. All good things that I was starting to doubt because at the core of my stress, I was afraid that I wasn’t good enough. That I wasn’t qualified to do what I was told to do. 

That’s where God comes in and His word tells me to chill. Be strong, God says. Don’t be afraid, he reminds us. God goes with me wherever I go. I like to envision this as if I’m walking down the street with God and he is holding my hand guiding me. 

Write it Out

  1. Where do you need God’s strength?
  2. How can you work on allowing God’s strength work rather than your own?
  3. Where do you need peace? 

Adjusting to Change

There are thousands upon thousands of popular quotes regarding change. A lot of people try to convince everybody else that change is good. Then there are those that resist change like the plague. I fall in the middle that leans towards the resist side. I resist change because change makes me worry. Last week I wrote a devotional about worry and the number one thing that makes me worry is change. Sometimes, I believe those who resist change, are those who are content and see no reason that the change is necessary. I’m very content in my life, even in the storms. In fact, I feel like the crazier my life is or the more stressful my life is, the more at peace I am. However, this could be a conditioned response because I worry like nobody’s business when things are calm and good and normal seeming. I’m not used to calm, good and normal. 

Growing up, I was constantly surrounded by change. Divorce, terminal illness, moving, new schools, old schools, summer school, new friends, old friends, am I painting a good picture? What’s crazy to me is how I went through all that change growing up, with a constant revolving door of new information daily, and yet today, I fight against it. Today, I struggle with the adjustment. Perhaps, as a kid, I already knew there was nothing I could do so I just rolled with it. As an adult, I thought I can change all the things and if I was just ___ enough, I could change the outcome. A lot of lessons I’ve learned as an adult is from the mistakes of the adults around me growing up. Perhaps I viewed their mistakes harshly because I thought they could control all the things that were happening. They were adults! How could they not have control over the things that were happening? Now that I’m an adult, I’ve learned just how little adults have control over. I’ve learned that you make mistakes regardless of your control level or even knowledge level. The best I can do is make the best decisions with the information I know and pray that God will cover the rest. I’m sure the adults in my life were trying their best too.

That doesn’t make change any easier. I can go with the flow when I need to, but if I see change on the horizon, I’m instantly questioning why it needs to happen. Change forces me out of my comfort zone. Change takes away the control I think I have and that is probably why I resist it the most. Even though I know I have no control I have this illusion that I do. At least, I have a handle on things and things are going smoothly. Why do we need to change it up? I don’t need it to change.

I’ve said this before somewhere, but change is where you grow. Growing is a good thing, regardless of what anybody says. You don’t want to always be the same person forever, do you? I don’t. If someone came up to me today and said I was the exact same person I was when I was sixteen, I’d probably be slightly offended. Maybe even a little hurt. That would mean all the growth and work I’ve done over the past decade have done nothing and I don’t want to be the person that goes through something and doesn’t learn something from it. I don’t need to revisit the same lesson multiple times. I’m trying to nail the lesson the first time, you know?

So how do we adjust to change? How do we accept it and just allow the change to happen? For me, anytime I see change on the horizon, I start praying. I ask God for guidance and I ask for a willing heart to go with the flow. That is actually something I pray daily. I ask for guidance and the wisdom to know what I’m supposed to do when I need to do it. (Sometimes, I get really attached to my plans and still try to make every single thing happen the way I plan it.) When change is coming though, I know it is because God is allowing it. I have the freedom to trust is something bigger than myself and someone who sees the WHOLE picture. I only see the small amount of change coming and it terrifies me. God, however, sees how the change will effect me and how it will be good. God sees the endgame and the entire picture. God even sees the next round of change to bring you to the next step. 

A pastor I know once said that when you are living for God, you will live out your purpose. Every single change is helping me live my purpose. That is how I adjust to change.

What about you? How do you handle change? 

Devotional Thursdays- Newness

Newness

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will remove your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. Ezekiel 36:26

The idea of new is amazing. As a society we get excited for the new iPhone or Samsung device. We use new as a marketing tool and companies everywhere are committing to the idea of new. We get new products and technology every year because they are so good at selling us “new”. Every season gets a new style of clothes. Every computer, phone, tablet, gets an upgraded device branded as new every year. There are even conventions for all the newness to be dropped. 

We never think about the old products because we’re too busy focused on the new. We upgrade and replace our things because new is cool. New is awesome. New is better. 

However, we only have that mindset when it comes to products. We might ignore the old products, even if they are still in great condition and can do all the things the new ones can, they are discarded like they never existed. We grab onto the new product and the old is gone. We do this with things. We hold people to a different standard. There is no such thing as new with people. There is no change. There are some people that can hold grudges for something that happened to them in high school. They’ve forgotten most of everything else about high school but this grudge is still holding a torch, living in their mind as if it just happened. We leave no room for improvement and growth with people. Our one perception, situation, incident with them will be what defines them for eternity. 

Imagine if God saw us the way we hold people to their past mistakes. He knows about our mistakes. He has walked through us in our mistakes. He forgives us though. Once we ask for forgiveness, the mistake is gone, as if it it never happened. (Hebrews 10:17). He chooses to not remember the mistakes we have made and instead allows us to be new. We are made new. 

Are you the same person you were in high school? I’m not. There are parts of me that are still the same. I’m loud, obnoxious and I’ll talk your ear off. On the other hand, I’m not as sarcastic. I’m not as mean as I used to be. I don’t look to tear people down or put myself above people. I don’t look for attention from boys. I am definitely a better student now than I was in high school. A lot of factors went into who I was in high school. My home life, situations, the people I surrounded myself with, all of these things; the good and bad, made me who I was. Since high school, I’ve lost friends and gained new ones. I’ve gained family, I’ve made colossal mistakes that I’ve had to climb myself out of. If someone I only knew in high school were to talk to one of my friends today, I bet they would describe completely different people, who have a few things in common. 

When you step into a relationship with Jesus, things start to change. You start to see the world through God’s eyes. I know I’ve changed, I’m still changing and growing. It’s part of the transformation Romans talks about. However, this transformation that is talked about in Romans, is the transformation God promised in Ezekiel. Transformation isn’t a new testament concept, it’s an old testament promise. 

Write it Out:

  • Think about yourself in high school and yourself today. List ways the you in high school would be described and list the ways you today would be described. 
  • What is different?
  • How else have you grown/changed? Sometimes our growth isn’t evident in characteristics, sometimes, it is in how we think.

Overcoming Fear

Fear is such a fun thing. You’ve heard that saying, right? Wait, no. Nobody says that. There’s the kind of fear that is fun. Well, I think it’s fun. The fear you get when you’re about to go on a new ride that you’ve never been on before. The good, excited, nervous kind of fear. I actually love that feeling, it pushes me to keep going, to try the new thing, to jump on whatever and go for it.

On the other hand, there is the fear that makes you not do what you’re supposed to be doing, your calling, your passion. The thing that sings to your soul and makes your heart happy. The fear of failing that isn’t always easy to place. The fear that makes you question if you are even doing what you’re supposed to be doing. The fear that makes you compare to others in the same field. That kind of fear is the worst. It is full of constant disappointment and confusion. It’s also full of lies. That kind of fear, that makes you just sit on your couch is lying to you. Whatever thoughts that pop into your head about why you shouldn’t do the things you wish and want to do, are lies. 

For me, I think a part of me always wanted to write. I just didn’t know I COULD write. I loved writing but I didn’t know anything about making a career or developing my passion for it. As I’ve gotten older and started pursuing writing, I’ve developed plans and dreams. I’ve seen a calling come into picture. I have a vision. It’s a big dream and a big vision. Something I know only God can help me do. Even though I know that God will guide me and give me strength, I’m terrified. Fear will poke at my heart and say things that make me doubt everything. I doubt my writing ability. I doubt my calling. I just doubt.

However, fear isn’t something that is going go away. In fact, there is some fear that will push you forward. I think the fear that turns into doubt is what I need to work on combating better. Maybe you do too. Fear can be a good motivator, in a healthy way. Like the fear I feel before going on a new roller coaster. That fear that gets me excited. The fear that makes me step over the safety line and get into the ride. I would consider that a healthy fears, but a doctor might just tell me that my adrenaline is pumping that it isn’t really fear. Whatever it is, it makes me take that next step. When fear and doubt start to dance, absolutely nothing gets done. So how do you overcome it?

First, add whatever it is to your schedule. If it is writing, write. If you love to draw, draw. If you want to create cute little bows for boys and girls, do that. Just do it for fun. Do it for you. Don’t do it because it is supposed to be something big. If you take the world out of the equation, it doesn’t matter what the result is, you cannot fail. If my goal is to write four times a week, and I am writing what I want to write about, I cannot fail myself. I just have to do it. There is no room for doubt when I’m just doing something I want to do as long as I don’t add other people and their thoughts to the equation. 

Second, find someone who does what you want to do and ask them how they do it. You don’t need to copy them but the advice they have might help you implement something new into your schedule. I met a speaker once who started out doing Spoken Word, which is something I’ve always wanted to try to write. She gave me questions that she used to write her spoken word and it was huge inspiration for me. An author I met explained that he has a writing time every single morning, and he and his wife got to a coffee shop and write for their scheduled amount of time. (At least, I believe it was a coffee shop). Sometimes, it’s hard to write at home because there are so many distractions and things you could start doing and would need to get done. For example, I’ll go to write, notice the carpet needs to be vacuumed and next thing I know, it’s an hour later and I’ve cleaned half the house, cleaned out a closet and reorganized my bedroom. I cannot do this at the library or a coffee shop. It’s not my job to clean there. Plus, as an extrovert, being around people gives me energy. 

Last, call fear and doubt like it is. If you notice the negative, doubtful thoughts creeping in, tell it to go away. Say no thanks, I don’t need that in my life and keep trying. Move forward instead of allowing the doubt to define you. Fear and doubt don’t define you. Tell it to go away. Get into a practice of calling out the negative thoughts, just as they are, and combating them with something positive. For example: I’ll think, I’m an awful writer. What am I even doing?  Instead of allowing that thought to be a thing and allowing it to define me, I can choose to combat it with something truthful. I’ve had the third professor in as many terms tell me that my paper was the best paper they got for an assignment. Clearly, I have writing skills. (I know writing for essays and fiction are different, but basic skills are basic skills.) 

Oh, bonus! Talk to someone about them. Doubt feeds off isolation and darkness. Fear lives in that same boat. When I struggle with doubt and fear, I’ll go talk to my husband or my best friend and they’ll encourage me. They’ll remind me what I do what I do. They’ll both tell me truths that I need to hear. Sharing takes that fear out of the dark and the light makes it so much smaller. 

& Jesus

Long ago, on one of my previous blogs I wrote a blog post I titled “& Jesus”. I was planning on reposting it here today because I feel like it is a relevant reminder.

My life looks different than when I first wrote that post. A lot different. The past year has been one full of change, more change than I could have ever anticipated, expected or wished for. While I talked about change in the first edition of this post, it was nothing compared to what this past year has been like. In all this change, I have forgotten the most important thing I should be focused on. The one who controls it all- Jesus. In all this change, I am processing, worried about more change and wondering what is going to happen next. “This has changed and this has changed and this has changed” and I am waiting for the next “And”

I am not going to repost the original blog post, there is too much I would need to change so I am rewriting it and modifying it. The message stays the same though. Instead of worrying about what the next change might be, what the next “and” might be, I need to be focusing on Jesus- who I trust in all this change. If change is happening then God is allowing it. Change is good, as much as I want to fight against it sometimes, change is growth.

Viewing life in the view of “ands” and worried about what “and” might happen next isn’t the way to live life. Life isn’t one long run-on sentence. There has to be a period somewhere. That’s where I need to decide that end, and it ends with “and Jesus.” A and B and C and D and Jesus. This sentence ender stops my worry. It reminds me that in all this change, while it is surprising to me, it isn’t a surprise to God. If I trust God, then I need to trust in his plan. It’s so simple when I write it out and when I say it. Just trust. God hasn’t let me down before, He isn’t going to start now. This simple sentence, the trust, looks and feels so different when played out. The actions are not easy. The feelings are not easy. The actions are not simple. I wish they were, but they are not. So I need the reminder. I need to end my sentences with “and Jesus” to remind me to shift my focus and to remember what God has already done. I’ve already said it, God hasn’t let me down before. God isn’t the in the business of let downs. God’s plan is the plan I want in my life because I know His plan is what is best for me. I want the best.

I am so serious about this reminder that I even titled my book “& Jesus”. It is a journaling devotional that I hope encourages people to journal more. To use journaling as a way to talk to God. Journaling has been so helpful for me. I use journaling to talk to God, to lay out my hopes and dreams and seek guidance. It’s where I put action to the & Jesus sentence ender and include Him in my life. Journaling is where “& Jesus” lives.