Posts tagged personal
2015 Review/Goal Setting
2015, wow where do I start with this year? I would say it started off full of hope and possibilities, which is a good place to start. We were still living with my parents in Denver and Daniel had his temp job at United, which he was so enjoying but was quickly going to be coming to an end. We knew things needed to change, and we went into the 40 days up until Easter really wanting to seek the Lord.

For 40 days we fasted up until dinner and we prayed for our specific needs. For me it was focused on three things really, for direction for our family and open doors, for my brother and sister-in-laws marriage which was in some trouble, and for my constant battle with my weight. {you can read some of that story HERE}
I was convinced that by Easter Daniel would have a new job, that God would hear our prayers and honor our fasting and provide, that my brother and SIL would be happy and that I would drop all the necessary "extra baggage" I had with ease. Things never go quite as fast as I would like them to. In fact I have found that things often seem to go backwards sometimes before they go forwards or make progress.

As I am given easily to complaining about my life, the Lord continually convicts me about that and that in fact the way forward is through praising and believing. As I glance over the posts I did manage to write this past year it's the same messages He is still whispering to me now. Hang on and BELIEVE. 

As time passed there were no easy answers, but I can say without hesitation that God has answered all our prayers that we fasted over. Ending up in Chico, CA with no job but a place of our own again. Getting down to the bare minimum and watching God come through in amazing ways. If you would like to read about those first few months you can check out this and this post. God has provided a great job for Daniel and he has learned a lot already in the 6 months he has been there and is getting great recognition for the job he has been doing.


It's not my story to tell, but I will say that my brother and sister-in-law were brought back from the brink of divorce and are doing so well now, and I am so thankful for what the Lord has done in and for them. 




And since moving to Chico I have lost 20 lbs. 45 in total since having Eisy. More to go this year, hopefully to my goal! ;)



As with all things, these are also still works in progress, but to not glorify the Lord and acknowledge that He has answered would just be ungrateful. 

These things that He has answered and just straight up miracles that become normalized to me as I find some other little problem to nit pick away at. I hate that I tend to the negative and the Lord is speaking to me so loudly about how maintaining anything, from weight loss, to relationships, to the house it all takes an effort that happens on the daily, and without it, it just starts to disintegrate. 

The truth is that at the beginning of this year I read John 15 every day as part of a challenge a podcast I listen to had going. This idea of "apart from me you can do NOTHING" became ingrained in my brain. I have seen what God can do when I am relying on Him, I have and am seeing Him answer and change me in ways I thought were impossible. But I still find myself grumbling and murmuring and mistrusting Him again.

I am such an Israelite.

I don't want to be like them, I want to be like Joshua or Caleb and believe God for the unseen and seemingly impossible. I want to have everything God has for me and not hinder it because of my unbelief. 
It doesn't take long for us to slip into that old pattern of thinking God has forgotten us, left us behind, or out altogether, instead of taking our thoughts captive and staying connected to Him, the only source of truth and life. It's not so much about knowing it as it is about living it, and living things takes discipline and maintenance and those boring every day choices that create our characters and in the end, our life paths.

Things have not gone as I would have planned in moving here. Not fast enough, not comfortable enough, not ....whatever it is I had thought was going to happen by obeying God and moving out here. I am lonely and Daniel works long days and has any one noticed you can clean all day but by the time your husband actually gets home, it looks like you have done nothing, nothing!

But over the past week I have realized I can't worship what is wrong with my situation. I can't dwell on all I don't have or all God isn't doing yet, what kind of faith is that? Sometimes believing what we can't see or hope for, it feels naive to me. But I so want to please God, and I want to believe Him for greater things and see Him do the things continued in my life like I have seen Him do this year. Because He did them for me, just an average girl, but so quickly it runs into my life and out of my brain and heart and here comes...oh poor me, why me, boo hoo. And of course its all very justified, don't you know? ;)

My word for this year was 
MORE

I believe God has done more and grown me more and given me more, and there is always more to have and know about Him. But I also have seen I have so much MORE to grow and learn and surrender.

I am still wavering on my word for 2016.

Believe
Thankful
Go
Dare

It's not quite clear yet what I want to focus on or perhaps what God may want to underline.

Whatever the case may be, I know God has done amazing things for me this year. The heaviness of those "desert years" have certainly lifted in many ways and I am thankful for that. Before this year comes to a close I just wanted to take the time to document all He has done


For record keeping sake I am going to do some review question and goal setting question and answers below as well, love looking back on them year to year.


HOW AM I?
What three things are challenging me life today or lately?
1) Living in Chico
2) Not feeling released by the Lord 
3) No friends

What three things am I thankful for?
1)My little family
2) Being able to work on life and goals
3) The Lord's faithfulness to me

WHAT WORKED IN 2015?
Prayer & Fasting
Trusting God when things made no sense
Working with and trusting God with weight loss and exercise
Ashton starting school
Routine

WHAT DIDN'T WORK IN 2015?
Not spending time with the Lord consistently the end of the year
Blurring boundaries
Mistrusting God's plan
Being Negative

WHAT DID I LEARN FROM WHAT WORKED?
That God is always faithful.
Having space is good for me to be who I am, protecting my introvertedness
Believing and protecting true changes God has helped me make or made in me

WHAT ARE THE BIGGEST THINGS I LEARNED FROM WHAT DIDN'T WORK?
It is imperative for me to keep pursuing God first, His heart because my perspective of my whole life gets out of whack without that.
I need certain things and I have to be willing to be clear and actually know what those things are before I am broken over something I could have easily avoided
Boundaries are very very important for me to have and maintain
Having faith is a choice, not a feeling

WHAT FIRES ME UP?
The Lord and His freedom for all of us
Truth
Creativity
Having Purpose
Doing something that matters

WHAT IS MY 2016 VISION?
{what kind of life do I want to live this year}
I want to live a life of intention
connectedness
relationships
adventure
try things our of my comfort zone or
attempt a few things that scare me:
start back up on youtube
attempt writing a book 
getting to goal weight
be more free than ever

WHERE DO I WANT TO BE WHEN I AM 80?
I want to be near my family, still serving and loving people.
Be known as someone who was intentional about knowing people and investing in them in some capacity
A grandmother and great grandmother
A Teacher
A writer
An innovator in some capacity
An artist

WHY DO I DO WHAT I DO?
Everything I do is driven by my need to not waist my life
To do something that will matter not only now but eternally

WHAT IS MY MISSION?
To live fully alive as who God made me serving Him in any way He wants to use me and be a part of Him doing amazing and extraordinary things.

IF I COULD ENVISION MY BEST YEAR YET, WHAT DOES IT LOOK LIKE?
In general:
Becoming successful at something I love and becoming connected with real great and meaningful and FUN relationships. Kids continue to thrive, grow and connect.
In specific:
Daniel or I or both of us getting full time jobs in ministry.
More family time.
Traveling 
Getting a house

2016 IS THE YEAR I....
Pay attention to what I am fearing and stop letting that make choices for me
Become more intentional in relationships
Continue on in my weight loss journey
Enjoy my kids and Daniel more
Stop complaining so much
Read at least 6 books
Join a Missional Community
Get more involved with church
Make a choice to enjoy Chico as long as God has us here

WHAT AM I SAYING NO TO IN 2016?
Being so negative
Unnecessary drama
Apathy
Fear of failure/success/trying new things
Isolation

WHAT AM I SAYING YES TO IN 2016?
Time with the Lord
Opportunity
Dreaming/Hoping Again
Trying new things








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Answered Prayers


For weeks I have been meaning to write about the conclusion to our adventure with the Lord, at least for this chapter. I know when it's hard and a real struggle, the intimacy with Him becomes beyond compare. Life is so very uncomfortable that you are desperate. These are the seasons that teach you, He is in fact our actual hope, our actual peace. That if He doesn't come through, that's it. Its a different kind of him being our all, it becomes more than words. This is where I have been existing for months, if not in some senses, years.



We came to Chico and I was full of faith and expectation. My last post was something to the effect that it was much harder and much more of a battle that I had expected. It was about choosing to continue to fight, for my faith and trust in God even though nothing appeared to be happening.

God spoke to me clearly about remaining in Him at the beginning of this year (2015), reading John 15 every day in the month of January. He emphasized to me clearly what should have already been clear, that apart from Him I could do nothing. Funny thing is I started reading through John again recently and today was again, John 15. That every day I have to come to Him, be connected to Him, that I will literally shrivel up and die without being connected to Him. This was still true and especially necessary in these weeks of waiting for Him to provide. Everything within me wanted to be bitter and angry towards Him, and a few times I was. It is so hard to keep faith when you feel like you are "doing everything right" and getting nothing back, there is always that matter of timing. 

We were down to our last items of food with no for sure source of anymore income. What are you going to do Lord? You have to do something, right? Right?! We were on our faces, quite literally begging Him to come through for us. We have never felt more desperate.


Soon after Daniel received a phone call letting him know that our unemployment was approved to start up again from the job that he had been let go from. {On a funny side note, we have believed when this happened it was completely under false pretenses and was very wrongfully fired. Turned out we used every bit of unemployment money one company is required to pay when firing someone. On top of that the company was investigated after Daniel was let go for not paying overtime to employees while he was working there and he will be receiving back pay for all that time. God loves justice more than we do, and He will defend His people}. 

The news of the unemployment was such a relief to me and an answer to our prayers. We would have the money for groceries and rent. The whole time during fasting and praying and waiting I would pray Eph 4:20. That the Lord would do exceedingly, abundantly, more than we could ask think or imagine. So very many days in a row the answers were no, wait, no, and wait some more. I had this thought, a hope, that someday something would break, change, that a day would come when it would no longer be no or wait but rather...yes! This was that day. I was so overwhelmed with thankfulness of God's provision that I had to go worship. I locked myself in my room and for an hour I blasted Kari Jobe in my headphones and praised the Lord for the way He provided and just in time.


At the end of my time I returned a call to a friend whom I had missed. She let me know that her and her husband had some money that they had thought they were meant to give someone, and after praying about it extensively decided to give it to us. I had no idea how much but I was just so crippled under the weight of God and His provision and His love and His answers, always faithful, always good. His exceedingly, abundantly, above and beyond. More than I ever could have expected or hoped for. Its as if He had a chuckle to Himself and said, "oh you thought that was good, just wait till you're done worshiping!!" With that money we were able to do things and get things we had been needing and I had been praying so specifically for, yet still no word on a job.

That next week I decided to drive down to the San Francisco area to see another great friend. That night we had what I would consider a perfect friend night. Dinner in a great Mexican restaurant, walked around a cute down town, got coffee and sat outside and talked till late in the evening. That alone was such a blessing to me as well, so good for my soul. When I was there Daniel let me know that two places had offered! He took the manager at a trailer sales position by the time I was on my way back. This job we had been praying about for almost a year, he finally had one. Turns out it was almost a fluke that he even got it because it was so rare they would hire someone with very little experience with trailers...but God. Through all the shut doors, the many no's, the move, etc. we view this job as I have viewed bringing Daniel to me to be my husband, a gift that keeps on giving.

I could have never understood what a blessing marrying Daniel would be years later, after marrying him after knowing him less than a year. I gave God many suggestions along my wait for my man, but when you really leave the ultimate decision, He takes it seriously and He always provides better than we ever could have planned for it. 

This was so similar in how we kept waiting and trusting through the no's, how it wasn't what we thought it might look like, not really fully understanding how it had the potential to be such a blessing to our family. I still don't understand all the why's or whats but we stand here still, willingly waiting on Him.


Also, for years I have wondered and worried about where we would be and where Ashton would go to school. He started on Monday, we walk to and from the school and apparently its a really good elementary school. Everything has worked out in regards to little things, including his immunization and other little things that have weighed down on my mothers heart. God has just blown my mind and totally blown a sense of real peace over me. "I've got you Ashley, I've always had you, but you had asked to know me deeper, right?" 

Last week we drove to Bethel to listen to Christine Caine speak. She talked about the feeding of the 5,000 and the 12 baskets that were left over for the disciples to carry with them. That it was directly after this miracle happen that Jesus sent them into a storm without Him. They freaked out, of course, and He told them they hadn't understood the meaning of the feeding and breaking of the loaves and fish. In the same way this has been such a test for my faith, to choose again that I trust Him, sometimes a moment by moment choice. That this is another miracle I will carry with me into whatever my next chapter or next storm may be. That He is always faithful, He does love me and delights in me, and my heart to fight to believe Him and that I am now more rooted in His love than ever before.

So much greater, faithful provider, healer, friend, my everything. Let the redeemed of the Lord say so...

So, and on we go. 


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DENVER:Years in the Desert
I feel like I would be missing an opportunity if I didn't stop and reflect for a few moments on what God has brought me through in these years moving to Denver. The funny thing is that I grew up in an actual desert, but He brought me somewhere lush and green to teach me about wandering, about trusting Him and about humility.
A couple Fridays ago I was asked to speak on part of my story of redemption at our women's Bible study at church. As I prepared for it and reflected on this season that I am still in, I was overwhelmed with gratefulness that God was giving me this chance to say out loud all He had brought me through, all He had taught me and I was overcome with His goodness. That as hard as these five years have been here, I am not the same person I was when I moved here. I heard a talk recently where the woman said God doesn't want us to miss the rose for the thorns. That I was so aware of the thorn after thorn after thorn, yet looking back and seeing what God has done, I see that rose. 


When we moved to Denver it was to be a part of a church plant and I was filled with expectation and really hoping for relief in a new life from something that I was already suffering in. I was in full fledged postpartum depression and it was severe. My life's circumstances were piling up on me, one after the other and I began to break. For these past five years I can only classify them as brokenness. 
There were so many little pieces that I blamed things on, situations, relationships, and I really just stopped talking to God. I blamed Him in many ways, I isolated myself and blamed everything and everyone. Mostly I blamed myself, for not being a good enough Christian and not being able to pull myself up by my bootstraps. For knowing truth but feeling helpless to do anything with that truth. I was angry, bitter, and my depression grew and grew. 

I kept looking for relief, trying to control things or make changes, but ultimately I would end up back on my face. On top of that, we as a family seemed to deal with one blow after another. Thinking back on our second year in and sitting on our apartment balcony not knowing then how we were going to make it, trying to then trust God with the little I had. It felt like Manna, the day by day provision, but that wasn't what I wanted. I wanted the long term plan, I wanted the nice stuff like "everyone else" seemed to have, but Manna it was, and so it continued. 

Many, many hard things happened; the church plant didn't take off, my relationships (especially with my mom) were disasters, we lost income, we lost our vehicle, I was suicidal, I dislocated my knee, we lost a job, I lost my tooth, we lost our independence and we lost Daniel's dad and the boys grand-daddy. 

Many, many amazing things happened as well; I trained and ran two marathons, my relationship with my mom was fully restored, God provided for us (albeit in what I considered humiliating ways), God brought us to and ministered to a great church. Even up to 5 families related to us also moved out to Denver through our first move to come here.  We got pregnant with and had our silly, amazing Eisy and most of all God did a work inside me I could have never ever have learned or known without all of the hard things.


When I went through my testimony I realized that God took from me everything that I considered security or my identity. Money, appearance, church "position(s)", relationships, self reliance, health. One by one each was stripped from me and I finally got to the point with the Lord where I just realized, I could walk through it with Him, or I could walk through it alone, blaming Him. I decided that I was just going to choose Him. That was the 2nd of January, that second day my knee dislocated and I found myself in the back of an ambulance. And for the rest of that year up until now God has taught me what it means to truly rely on Him, every moment and every day. That in fact, control is a super big illusion and hoping in jobs and money and a full set of teeth ;) is not real, all of that can crumble, and it did. The only thing that is worth putting all of my hope, trust, dreams, life in, is Him and Him alone.


It would take me a book to write all the things God spoke and taught me through this time. I couldn't begin to even really put my whole mind around it. 

Knowing Him from such a young age and serving Him and loving Him for so long, you think you got it on lock. You even base your identity in your knowledge. I feel God spoke to me when I was living overseas that my calling was that of Is 61, like Jesus. But that, in Him, I would bring into light those that sit in darkness and free those in captivity, help bring healing to the brokenhearted. I was going to help "those" poor people. 

Through this season He showed me, it's not me and them, it's just us. I learned what it meant to need a Savior. That I didn't need a Savior just one time when I was saved at 6 years old, that I needed Him to save me again and again, day after day. That I was the one that was brokenhearted, I was the one sitting in darkness, I was was the one in chains, and I was there helpless and wanted to be saved. I wanted my church to save me, some pastoral leader, my friends, my family, Daniel, anyone...and all I found were blank stares and no answers. No one could do it, no one would do it. Finally, I gave up. I surrendered, and I let the one who loves me and formed me and knows me, I let Him begin to save me...one moment at a time. One thought at a time.



My mind had become so broken. Every thought negative, destructive, hopeless. I thought them about others, and mostly I thought them towards myself. He taught me what it meant to receive from Him, even when I was ugly, even when I had nothing to offer Him, even when I felt useless and like a beggar for His bread. That there was not one thing that I brought to the table, I was nothing but needy. I had to stop thinking I could be good enough, do enough, change something. If I have said it once, I will say it till the day I die. Grace saved me, but I thought it was up to me to change me, and I was nothing but a failure. I couldn't change myself, I couldn't get myself back on track, I couldn't save myself. No amount of prayer journaling and serving at church was going to do it. I had to simply agree with the Lord, repent, and throw myself as fully as I could into His grace and depend on Him to change me.

For someone who "grew up good" I never understood grace. This season, receiving from God something I couldn't fix and could never earn, I now understand it in a way I am so grateful for. Day by day God spoke to me who I was in Him, something I could never know outside of spending time with Him. As He spoke to me about who He was and who I was in Him, then He began to renew my mind. He taught me how to take every thought captive and make it obedient to Him, one thought at a time. And, He freed me.


He had a plan bringing me to Denver. Back in Northern Ireland I heard Him almost tell me the verses He spoke to Peter about Satan asking to sift him like wheat, but that He would pray for him. The things He wanted to remove from me, that couldn't come and remain a part of me as I continue on in being a mom, a wife and his servant, they were sifted. But He also says to Peter, "but when you return, strengthen your brothers".  That is what I want to do .

All that I know now is that I am overwhelmed by the goodness of God to answer my prayers, even though these are the hardest years I have ever walked through. My prayers that I would love Him more than anything else, that I would have an unquenchable thirst for His word, that He would show me His glory. It's not in this miraculous one moment that He just bops me on the head with a God touch in a moment, and ta-da..it's all done. Although He could do that, most often I learn and receive those desires in the Lord through crawling through trenches and seeing things I have never seen before and knowing His love in a way I can not help but be overwhelmingly more in love with Him. To see how powerful His word is, that it works, that it changed me, freed me and how could I not then want more and more and want to share it with anyone I can. That His glory is revealed in His goodness, His faithfulness, His amazing power and intimate love and that I know Him now in a way I have never known Him before. He has and is answering me.

I don't know that my season of desert is over. Oh how I would love to claim it to be so, but God is sovereign and I will trust Him today until tomorrow comes and the next, and then we will all know. We go to California trusting God that He will provide all we need. Man... has He begun to teach Daniel and I how to fight on our knees, how much He has brought us through and I know He is nowhere near finished.  That He is helping us have the courage to let go of what we know and find security in and abandon it all for Him, both physically and spiritually. That when He calls us to a life of faith, He intends for us to actually walk in faith. That means trusting when things don't make sense, when things hurt, when you literally have a lamp for your next step and not the spot light I was really hoping for. That His ways are not just good, but perfect.

So much more to learn and grow in, although I have asked the Lord for a vacation from it for a little while, if at all possible. ha. But these ones, these are the moments when He does renew our strength, that He is our strong tower and we can run into Him and we are safe. That we can boast in our weaknesses because then His power is made perfect in us. That we learn what it means to be content in plenty and in want. When the Bible isn't just something we read and agree with and know, but it's our every day living breathing reality. 


To be able to say that I am at least willing to stop wandering around holding onto my bitterness and brokenness and realize there has to be more than this, there has to be healing and wholeness and freedom. And God says, yes, that the desert isn't the final destination but to go into promise lands. It takes whole-hearted obedience and full faith. That going places God takes me, facing wounds in order to be healed, trusting God through deep pain...I want Him to take me there, gracing me with more faith all the way out of the desert of unbelief and wounds and disappointment, and into the person He died for me to be.


These are my stone of remembrance of what God has done in this season. 
I am so grateful He is always so faithful. 




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