Friday, July 22, 2016

Treasures

Purging.  Cleaning out.  Check list.  Get it done. Focus, Ashley.  Oh, look! (Smile spreads across my face.)
My summer days at home have looked and felt a lot like this.  I have felt the need to try to get organized.  I hate it.  I am easily overwhelmed by stuff.  I've never been good at organization.  My dad is organized to the extreme.  He raised me.  It didn't take.  His closet is pristine, a color-coded array of bliss - until I come along and put a white shirt right in the middle of all the blue shirts.  You either love me or hate me, and I'm his daughter, he loves me.

I have realized the other 5 people who live in my house might just benefit from some organization.  So, it is my duty to try harder!  This keeps me going for about 10 minutes, then it's back to external motivation.  I use music, bowls w/pieces of paper telling me what to do, dance breaks, starting 3 rooms at a time and going back and forth when I get bored, and then there are treasures.  Finding treasures is one sure way to get me to stay put in one place for an extended period of time.

My latest task was our linen cabinet in our bathroom.  That thing is huge and endless.  You can put your hand in to reach something in the back, and pull out 1988 - yes, the whole year.  So, for someone like me, this says, "Put that in here.  Still more room.  Put that in here, too.  You don't know what to do with that, still plenty of room in here!  I want it!  Give it to me!"  Maybe your linen closets don't speak to you, but everything speaks to me.

This thing houses our towels, our bed linens, and an array of things you would find in a medicine cabinet, make-up counter, hair studio, and cleaning supplies cabinet, with miscellaneous items as well.  A few months ago one of the shelves caved.  Um, I could still get to what I needed, so it sat crooked for those months and I went on with life.  No more.  I attacked.  This battle was long and arduous.  Too many sheets were threatening to overtake my joy.  Baskets, whose intended purposes were to organize, overflowed with an array of non-related jokers trying to confuse me.  What would have taken a normal person an hour, took me 3 days of walking away to "finish it later" and about 3 hours of "I will win this battle TONIGHT!" determination.  So, I did win.  The battle is over.

Amidst the rubble I did find some treasures - prenatal vitamins, um, and EPT stick still in the wrapper (I might have had some fun with Randy with this), those sexy fish net panties you get from the hospital after you have a baby (I might have had an obsession with these), and then this bracelet.  Oh, how it took me back.



I sat in our little blue denim rocker giving baby Asa his bottle.  Both precious angel girls were taking a nap at the same time on my bed. (hallelujah!) The phone rang.  I clicked the button, and before I said, "Hello?" I heard a guttural yell, which I knew belonged to my husband.

My heart went into my stomach as I said his name.  He then spoke quickly, trying to be calm and keep me calm, giving me as much information as he could, while he was in pain and soon shock, that I just can't even imagine.  "I've had an accident.  I've called David, and he is on his way.  I have a forklift in my leg.  I can hear the ambulance."  I was confused, but informed strangely.  I cried a little as I said, "Oh, Randy!  Are you by yourself?"  He told me he was, but that David said Jeff was close and he would be there any minute.  He needed to get off the phone.  I knew this.

I began talking out loud to Jesus. I called David, Randy's boss.  He was in front of the ambulance, and I could hear it in the background.  He would call me when he got to him and knew more.  He didn't call me back fast enough, so I called him back.  David told me that he was talking, and he looked good.  He said it was serious, but he would be okay.  At this point, I'm thinking the forklift had fallen over on him somehow and that something was in his leg.  Nope. The blade of the forklift broke off while Randy was in the cab of the bobcat.  When it broke, it impaled his leg. As the blade broke skin and began crushing his muscle, the weight of the blade caused Randy's foot to press the accelerator, which caused the impalement to go even deeper. We would learn later that the blade was just a couple of inches from his femoral artery, which would have been fatal.  David said he would call me when they knew which hospital he was going to.  When I got the call from David, he told me that the Lifesaver helicopter had been called, and they would be taking him to UAB.

Lifesaver.  I knew this was serious business.  My knees should have buckled, but they didn't.  I wanted to panic, but I couldn't.  I needed to go.  I called my friend, Michelle.  She is the reason Randy had a toothbrush, clean underwear, and clothes.  She prayed for Randy and for me.  She talked to me as I gathered things for him.  She told me what to do.  I love her.

Next, I had to call Randy's mama.  She was an hour and a half away, and I wished I could fly to her and tell her this news, but I couldn't.  I knew this was going to be so hard for her and Papaw because no one wants to receive news like this over the phone, much less have to drive that distance to get to their son.  I did the best I could on the phone with her.  I told her everything I knew, and that he talked to me.  This was a great comfort for all of us.  My dad came and got me and Bebe stayed with the kids.

All I could think was that I wanted to see his face.  I would know so much when I could look at his eyes, and his countenance.  A longing was stirring, and I just wanted to be there.  My thoughts were interrupted by my daddy's voice.  It said, "Now, Ashley, Randy didn't plan for this to happen.  He didn't do this on purpose, so you don't have to yell at him."  I looked at my daddy, and for the first time, I laughed out loud!  He was really worried that I was going to let Randy have it when I saw him!  Little did he know what I was really thinking.  I promised my daddy that I would not yell at my husband.

We arrived at the hospital before Randy did.  Lifesaver did come, but Randy could not ride in it because, get this, they needed him to sit up and help HOLD the blade that was in his leg.  WHAT?!?! He was helping to keep the pressure off that artery and they NEEDED him to be able to do this.  So, he rode in the ambulance, down 280 in 5:00 traffic.  Our pastor, Tim Evans, was already there when we arrived.  We love that man, too.  Finally, his ambulance arrived.  I had received my "training" in where to stand and what to do when the EMT's brought him inside.  I could see the back of him, and then they wheeled him around.  I could see the doors open and then his face.  It was lit up like a redneck yard at Christmas!  Huge smile across his face, as he said, "Did you bring the camera?!"  I almost broke my promise to my daddy.  I was not thinking about a stupid camera.

My crazy husband was okay!!!!!  I saw him briefly and had to wait again.  We both are gore seekers, so he begged the nurses to let me come back before they wheeled him to surgery.  Oh my goodness!  I got to see amazingness.  At that point I wished I HAD brought the camera.  It was truly unbelievable.

He came through surgery like a champ.  He had a week's stay in the hospital, and 1/4 of his muscle removed.  He completed his physical therapy and has never even limped.  He is a reminder that the Lord is gracious and mighty, and this man I'm married to is full of His favor.

Twelve years ago God saved my husband from physical death.  Last night as I won the battle, He reminded me of so much.  Randy and I are created so differently.  I love to encourage and to be encouraged.  He loves to point out all the things that still need to be done instead of what I did such a good job on today. ;)  He loves to do.  He is creative and hard working and is always looking for what he can do next.  I love to sit down and talk and hide from whatever is next on the to-do list.  I think about more things, he does more things.  Sometimes it's very hard, but I truly am glad we are in this together.  I can honestly say there is no one I would want to do this with besides him.  Somedays, if I had a magic wand, I would definitely get him to do things my way, but so would he.

So, Randy's theme song is "What a Man" by Salt n Peppa.  Like, I just hear it in my head when he walks in the room.  Sometimes I can get him to play along and flex for me, but that is rare.  I love this guy!  I don't always like him, but that's okay.  I treasure that bracelet because it reminds me of second chances, and that my husband can still hold me close and dance with me, when I make him.

We all need these little treasures to pop up and remind us as we reminisce on the good and the bad times in our lives.  If I hadn't been doing something I dread, I wouldn't have found it and had this little reminder.  What really matters in your life?  What can you cling to?  If you need something to cling to, rather someone, Jesus is there.  He never goes away.  We do.  He is always ready.  It's never too late.


Expectant with camera ready,

Ashley






Tuesday, July 22, 2014

If You Have It, Expect it to be Taken

We've all heard it said that imitation is the best form of flattery.  So, why does that green-eyed monster pop up in us when someone takes what we've done, and repeats it, shares it, or perhaps even does it better than we do?  At our church a person has the opportunity to learn his/her spiritual gifts and personality through a night of fun assessments.  It only takes about an hour, and you come out knowing your personality type, and the areas in which the Lord has chosen to gift you, supernaturally.  So, your personality is how you ARE - what makes you tick, how you function on a day to day basis, and how you interact with other people, based on what comes naturally to you.  Your spiritual gifts are not your personality.  They are gifts - something that has been given to you because God wants to use you to reach others.  Others will look at you and wonder how you are able to do what you are doing, if they don't possess the same gift.  This is God working through you.  It is not about your ability.  It is about His. 

I recently sat through this class at church for about the fourth time.  One of my daughters was on her third time through, and I just listened. I loved it!  I get excited when I think about people finding out what they were created to do!  This morning the Lord whispered something precious and profound.  "Expect everything you give in ministry to be taken." At first I was like, "Who is this for, Lord?  It's not like I am 'in ministry' anymore.  Who?  For whom are you giving this to me?  Alice?"  He replied, "You."  I may have said this before, but the Lord and I have this deal, that whatever He sees me through, I will share with others if it can help.  I was confused at first. 

Friends, the last few years have been hard for me.  I have been the needy friend.  I have needed and relied on the prayers of my sweet friends to get me through some seriously rough and dry personal times in my walk.  What has happened is that my faith has grown tremendously, and in a different way than it has ever been strengthened before.  I'm still not experiencing a victory in places that I am longing for it, though.  It's sort of like an athlete training, getting stronger, and having all this expectation for something big, and being ready for the big event, but something is keeping her from knowing the date of the competition.  In the disappointment of waiting, she finds herself slipping up on the easy things.  Things she's already conquered, and then the questions start.  "What has happened to me?  Where is my focus?  Why am I slipping up on THAT?  Why did I think I was ready for this?  I am a disappointment."  I know the real reason is that God has His own timing, and it is NEVER on my timeline!  I know this, but many times I lose sight of this.  Sometimes, the Lord wants to use us more in the journey through our difficulties than in the destination. 

So, what are your spiritual gifts?  Think about them.  Thank Jesus for them right now.  No, seriously, stop reading and thank Him - for each one. 
Thank you Jesus, for the gift of prophecy.  Help me to continue to find ways to share your truth, in love.  Thank you for the gift of exhortation. I mean, I LOVE to use this gift.  I enjoy the opportunities you give me.  Thank you for mercy, Lord.  I understand how much mercy you have given to me, and I love extending this to others.  May they see you in all these gifts, and not ever me.
Whatever gifts you have, they come easily to you.  Using them is not hard.  You will actually enjoy it tremendously!

Now, we all have a ministry.  Where has He called you? Where do you work? Who are your neighbors?  What are your hobbies?  Where are you sitting waiting on your kids to get finished?  Who do you keep walking past at church?  None of these places or people are accidents in your life.  It is your ministry.  Use your gifts.  Reach out to these people.  That prayer you've been praying, someone you come in contact with at these places may have the answer.  Here's the warning, remember, this was for me.  I'm just sharing it because someone might learn.  My gift is not MINE.  It is HIS!  He chooses to use me as a vessel. If I start to think of it as my gift, I will lose the joy that comes from the initial intent of the gifting. 

Let me drive this home.  I'm a teacher.  Many of you are in one area or another.  Before the days of Pinterest, we had to dig and pray, and work tirelessly on the perfect lesson plan for our unit.  Lots of blood, sweat, and tears went into that perfect plan - especially on administrative observation day.  I have met teachers who would rather die than share anything with me.  Then there are those teachers who poured into my life and my soul, because they shared their ideas, allowed me to use them, and encouraged me as I created my own.  The love and admiration I feel for these people is immeasurable!  Christy Nockels, my favorite, once shared something with me.  She said, "When the Lord puts someone in my life to mentor, I know I am supposed to pour everything He has given me into her, and pray that He will bless her with even more ability than I have known."  That, my friends is ministry.  We should expect everything we have to give to be taken from us, improved upon, and shared with the next person all in order to spread the love and the knowledge of Jesus Christ. 

"My God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus."  Phillipians 4:19

Expectant,
Ashley





Sunday, November 10, 2013

39

I saw her walking toward me, her long white gossamer gown flowing.  Her hair was long and dark, just like I remembered it.  She was carrying a book in her hand as her eyes met mine, she smiled.  "Daddy, tell me your favorite verse, and I'll read it to you."  I noticed the book, seemed to be a Bible, but it was very thin - like a child's book.  I told her a verse, and she replied, "That one is not in here."  We went through this two more times before she said, "Daddy, the only verses left in here are the verses that need to happen before Jesus returns.  (A Dream from my Papaw, Joe Lee Gulledge)

(A few years earlier...)
Today is my birthday.  Those are my new tennis shoes on my feet.  I can feel them.  I hear music.  My hair is being brushed by my sister.  My husband is singing to me.  They love me.  What is this?  Headphones?  Ok, I hear a click... more music?  Oh, haha!  It's "Raspberry Beret".  My daughter must have sent this.  Wait.  Do you hear that?  Hold on.  Is she here?  She's talking to me.  Where is she?!  Ashie!  Oh, Jesus, this voice is such a gift today.  I wish I could see her, but I can't hug her or kiss her.  Still, I get to hear her voice.  She is laughing, oh, and listen to her trying to sound so grown.  She's trying to be strong.  Jesus, my girl needs me.  Who is holding her, and talking to her when she worries so?  Listen to that voice.  She is singing now.  Ooh, she made up her own song.  This is precious to me. 

When will I ever be able to talk again?  How will I ever tell them how much I miss them, and appreciate all the hours they've spent here with me?  Oh, Jesus, when will I hold my baby again?  He needs me.  My arms are aching to snuggle him next to me.  I want to look into his little brown eyes, and watch that precious face light up as he talks to me.  Where are they, Lord?  Who is loving them? Who is singing to them, and making them laugh?

"My daughter, soon, I will bring you home.  I am preparing a place for you, and when it is ready, I will come for you. I know you have questions for me, and I will take all the time you need to answer all of them, before we leave."

Oh, you mean, I'm not going to wake up?  I'm not going to see my children again?!  Jesus!  They need a mother!  Ashley.  She's only ten.  Teenage years are just around the corner, you know how she'll need me!  Lord, she worries so much, what will this do to her?  Jesus, my baby.  Hunter.  My time has been so short with him.  A baby needs his mama.  Lord, he has brought me such joy.  He has made so much in my life new again.  He brought me back to you, Lord.  He reminds me of your promises.  I can't leave him.  I can't abandon my baby. 

"Sylvia, I have made a way for you, and for those you love.  What Satan has meant for your harm, I will use for good.  I have a plan for you to all be together, very soon.  I will take you first, and you will help me prepare for the ones you love.  You are instrumental in my plan.  You are the firstborn.  I am choosing you, even before I bring home your parents.  All your siblings will know where you are, and when I know they are ready to join you, I'll call them home, and you will welcome them with me."

Neb?  He loves me so much, Lord.  He would do anything for me.  He's got too much to handle on his own.  I can't leave him. 

"Do you trust me?   Nothing will make complete sense, and they will have to choose my plan, but I promise you, I have a place for each of those you love.  I will use your absence from their lives to draw them to Me.  They will reach out to me in ways they would not if you were still in their lives. "

Help me, Lord.  I want to trust you, but you have to know that you made me to fight for my kids.  I'm trying to hold on, Lord.  I'm trying to get back to them, and now, You're telling me that Your plan is to not send me back to them?  How do I accept this?  For so long Ashley and I have been each others' all in all.  I wouldn't have made it through some tough times without having her beside me.  So many days, I kept going because of her.  Then, Neb came into my life, and brought me back to the place I needed to be.  Blessing after blessing, and then our precious joy came to us.  How do I leave my baby, Jesus?

"Let me help you.  I'll give you a sneak peak of what I have in store.  Since Ashley was six years old, every night she has asked me to not let divorce come into her marriage.  Sylvia, I am preparing her husband even now.  He has no idea yet.  Look.  Here he is in few years."

Oh, he looks like, like ...You. 

"Well, yes, he does.  What you are seeing is the future.  See all those kids on the beach?  They are at a  retreat .  This man, who will be your daughter's husband, is portraying me on my walk to calvary.  He is carrying a cross, just like I did so many years ago.  He is acting, but he will stir the hearts of many of these teens.  Many of them will make a decision to follow me for the rest of their lives, right there on that beach.  In a few years from now, Ashley will meet him at this very same retreat.  I have big plans for their lives together.  You're not going to want her to miss this."

Miss this?  No!  Wait, are you saying she could miss it?  Lord, please, don't let her miss this!  Okay, and Hunter, and Neb?  What about my brothers and sisters...and Mama and Daddy? Greg and Beverly?

"Come, I'll show you.  You will see the plan I have for each of them.  It has been 25 days since your birthday.  After I show you my plan for each of those you love, I will give you as many days as you need to pray, interceding for the plans I have for them.  When you are ready, I will take you home with me.  Once we are there, your daddy will join you very soon, and then your mama.  It will be just like preparing for a family get together.  You know someone always has to get there first to get things ready.  I have chosen you for this.  One more thing, once you are home with me, you will no longer feel this sorrow over your loved ones.  You will have a great anticipation of joy, that never leaves.  When you turn to see a loved one walk through the gates, that joy will swell like you never thought.  Just as your family arrives at the lake for get-togethers, so will your family arrive at your eternal home.  Some will arrive shortly after you, others will arrive at the same time, or one right after the other, others will seem to be running behind everyone else, but remember, I have a place set at my table for all of them."

Jesus, I understand.  I am ready to pray for my family.

"Sylvia, I have heard your prayers for all those whom you love.  I want to show you just a few more things.  It will make your departure easier.  You know Beverly.  She needs Ashley.  She doesn't realize it yet, but I love that daughter of mine, and your daughter is how I plan to show her my love for her.  Also, I will bless Ashley with two daughters.  One she will pray for desperately, and one whom I will surprise her with shortly after the first.  Sydney and Gracen will have a part of you in them that will bring Ashley joy and blessings.  I will also bless her with two sons.  Much like the girls, she will ask me for one, and I will bless her with the other.  Asa and Aaron. Oh, and Asa's name means healer.  He will be born on this day, nineteen years from now.  He will bring dancing to replace her mourning.  Aaron, oh how he will be a surprise!  He will complete her family.  He will remind her and all of your family that the plans I have for them are always far greater than any plan any of them could comprehend on his own or her own."

Lord, may I ask one more thing?   I know this is quite a request.  I want my children to be comforted.  I sing to them, and they settle at the sound of my voice.  My sisters...we all sing together, praises to you, and I always felt close to you whenever we would sing.  Could I...

"Whenever your sisters sing, your children will feel my peace, and they will look twice, because they will hear their mama's voice in the midst of the praises."

"Come, child, it's time to go home."
____________________________________________________________________________________
 Yesterday was my 39th birthday.  I am an emotional nostalgic who makes small things very big.  I have known about my 38th and 39th birthdays since I was 10.  Yes, I have known about every birthday since I was old enough to comprehend birthdays, but I have known that these two birthdays would be significant, sad, and promising.  My mom experienced her 38th birthday in a coma, and it marked the beginning of celebrating my mama's birthday without her.  She never had a 39th birthday.  Yesterday, I celebrated mine.  Weird.  Those of you who have outlived a parent know what I'm talking about.  I also know the day I outlived my mama on this earth, and so do my closest friends. :)  I think my blog today was my birthday present from the Lord, and my mama.  It might have been one of the things she got to pray for me before He took her home. 

I know my God is sovereign, and I believe He has a plan for each of my family members.  If you are my family, and you are reading this, please, please accept Jesus' plan for your life!  We cannot miss the eternal celebration, where I'm sure there's a lake and a diving board!  I love you all, and I know how much mama loved all of you!  Please ask Jesus to reveal his plan to you. 

This blog tends to be my therapy.  I never really know who reads this, and I always say if it touches one person, it wasn't just for me.  Well, today, I really just needed it.  Yesterday was a battle.  I woke up today, so we won!  It's time to live like never before!  Since 12-12-12, I have been living in unchartered territory as far as mothers and daughters go.  You know, " Well when my mom was my age..."  My mom was never my age, but I am the age she was not.  I choose this blessing, and I am thankful that I get to hang around!  I want to take as many of you home with me as I can.  Who's in?

Expectant,
Ashley























Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Prowess

I pulled in the drive and immediately began smiling.  There they were - those crazy Highlands College guys.  They were pointing and shaking their signs at me.  They were so excited that I chose to drive up the driveway they were working.  I began honking at each set of sign holders.  Then I would look to the other side, and there were more!  Each one was waiting on their honk from Jane Honda.  I played the game fairly -waving and honking at each one.  I have no idea what their signs said, until I reached the last one.  "You are Beautiful".  My laughter ceased.  Tears began rolling down my cheeks. There was a catch in my throat.  It was as if Jesus was standing right there holding that sign, just for me.

As a young girl, I hated for people to see me cry.  I definitely considered it a weakness - something I needed to overcome.  That girl is long gone.  I gave up the battle.  When the Lord is dealing with me, when He is breaking my spirit, whatever has been a hard solid turns to a runny liquid, and it presents itself in my eyes. So, I knew the Lord was up to something, and I knew it was deeply personal.  With this knowledge I pulled into my parking spot and offered up my surrender.  "Already?!"  When we first began coming to Highlands, back when we met at Mountain Brook High School, I had been so dry.  By the end of the service I was usually in tears.  One morning it started during the opening song of worship.  Randy looked at me and said, "Already?" with a smile, of course.  I was all ready for whatever lay ahead for me.

To be sitting in this parking lot was a feat in itself.  Every year I had come up with reasons I didn't need to come.  Enter Aunt Jodie.  She called me this summer and wanted to know if I was going.  After hem-hawing around the subject, I said, "You know what, I'm just going to make it a priority.  Yes!"  She called back a few minutes later and said she had just bought my ticket.  Have I told y'all how much I love her?  This is a huge lesson in blessing others.  Several different events were going on with my kids, and if I had paid for my ticket, I would have missed Friday's session and just come on Saturday.  But, you see, Aunt Jodie bought my ticket, and it would have been rude if I skipped out on something she had paid for me.  Aunt Jodie and Kaci were there early and ready to get us as close to the front as we could get.  Bless us, we are all people watchers with a touch of ADD.  We all needed to pay attention, and sit close!

 I can't even build the anticipation for you.  She got us on the very front row!  Christy Nockels was leading worship that night (my all-time fav), and I could almost touch her.  Memories.  My mind raced back to so many years that Randy and I traveled to Franklin, TN to attend Worship Together.  We heard the hearts of Christy and her husband, Nathan. I looked up and there he was, on the keyboard playing as she sang.  Preciousness.  I remembered the rides home, talking and writing.  Getting home and seeing a scene resembling what was on stage in front of me, with my husband playing his keyboard and praising and worshiping our Lord.  Preciousness.  Those days seemed like centuries ago, but the Lord was bringing them to the forefront of my mind.  He began revealing to me how He sees my husband, and how He wants me to see him.  Randy and I had just been praying together out LOUD for the Lord to PLEASE allow us to see each other through His eyes, because we were obviously missing something.  We laughed about it, but we were serious!  Now, here I stood having my prayer answered, and my spirit and heart broken. 

Here is where I'll introduce you to Kaci.  When she was little, she would tell everyone that she was "precious".  She was speaking prophecy.  She is my sister from my mama's sister.  She is the first person whom I have loved from birth.  (Can you think of who that person is in your life?)  I am 6 years older than her, and after we both survived my teenage years (and her obnoxious years), we are each others' favorite.  We are such opposites, but so enthralled with each other.  She recently rescued the ugliest cats I've ever seen.  They are 8 year old Persians - brother and sister, and they really are cute.  She calls them "smooshiefaces", and I love that. The three of us ladies spent the night at Kaci's , and as if my night hadn't already been so excellent, I now got to spend the night with my favorites AND play with cats!  Every girl's dream, right?

 After you spend and evening with Jodie and Kaci, your sides will begin to ache.  Either of them is funny on her own, but together they are too much!  As we were getting ready the next morning, I realized as I was in Kaci's shower that my hygiene regime is pretty boring.  There were all kinds of fun stuff in there!  I used it all!!!!!  Another thing I should tell you about Jodie and Kaci is that they are beautiful through and through.  They always look polished.  They are the ultimate Pretty Pretty Princesses.  They speak fashion fluently.  Jodie showed me some tricks for my hair, and told me to "try this".  I love this about her.  I told my girls that Aunt Jodie is the one who taught me how fun it is to share.  Anything she has ever had, I have always felt welcomed to it.  So, here we all were.  I realized I had left my make- up in my car, so I just used Jodie's.  Kaci was putting on her finishing touches as I stood there admiring my jeans I had scored from the Lost and Found at dance.  You might think I felt out of place, but really, I didn't.  It felt like home to me, and I'm comfortable with their prettiness and my naturalness.

Again, I heard the word "beautiful", this time from Aunt Jodie.  She was talking about my eyes.  I thanked her and moved on.  She tried to linger on the issue, but that was enough.  A few minutes later, a stranger asked me for Ibuprofen.  I was looking through my pouch, and as I looked up, she said, "Oh, your eyes are beautiful."  Aunt Jodie chimed in again.  I thanked them both, and felt uneasy.  "Why are you repeating this, Lord?"  I was uncomfortable.  Why was I uncomfortable?  I mean, I'm wearing my t-shirt and my lost and found jeans.  I'm not supposed to be beautiful.  I'm natural, and plain, and comfortable.  Beauty takes work, and "ain't nobody got time for that!"

By now you know I like cats.  I love BIG Cats, too.  I have a healthy respect for them, but if I had a chance to pet a tiger, I totally would!  Lisa Bevere spoke to us about the Lioness.  You absolutely must google this!  It is powerful!  What I heard was this...  Lionesses calculate their ovulation cycle so that they can have babies at the same time.  They raise their cubs together because there's strength in numbers.  A lioness hunts in the dark, but she lives in the light.  She is strong, and powerful.  Her power comes from knowing her strength. When we humble ourselves, His power becomes our strength, and only when we understand this is Christ's beauty truly revealed in us.  I had to be broken before His beauty could be revealed in me.  "Your eye is the lamp of the body, when your eye is unclouded, your whole body is full of light.  But when your eye is evil, your body is full of darkness." Luke 11:34.

The lioness is also the huntress.  She stalks and kills her prey.  She must do this in order for her family to survive.  She embraces her prowess, and she uses it to her advantage.  Sydney found a defintion for the word "prowess" that we love - to study, observe, and practice.  I will close with the story of a lion and 2 lionesses.  I am totally stealing this from Lisa, so read her book, Lioness.  This family of 3 had been raised in captivity.  The time had come for them to be released back into the wild.  The problem was they would not step over their boundaries.  The keepers decided they needed to stir up a hunger in them.  Still, nothing.  Finally after days, the keepers killed a bull.  The Alpha Female smelled what would satisfy the hunger in herself, and the other 2.  She leaped over the boundary and approached the kill.  She made eye contact with the other lioness.  Now, the two of them were standing over the bull.  The lion was still inside the boundary, hesitantly waiting.  The two lionesses pulled the bull back inside the boundary and laid the bull at the feet of the lion, where they all 3 ate their meal.  The lioness honored the position of the lion - not because of how he was acting at the moment, but because of what he would become in the plan God has for his life.  She knew the strength of her power.

How is your prowess?  Are you studying, observing, and practicing the things God wants you to?  I pray that you find all God has for you.  I pray that we will be able to honor those whom God has placed us under.  I pray that we will all realize the strength of our power, and that we will humbly use the gifts He has so graciously given us. I pray that we will work on the things that He speaks to our spirits, that we will allow Him to break us, so that He can place upon us all that He has planned for us.  " Let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us."  Psalm 90:17


Expectant,

Ashley














Saturday, June 15, 2013

I love in RED!

I am coming to the end of my busy wedding season.  A friend recently prayed, "Thank you Lord that seasons don't last."  Her words wrapped a breathe of fresh air around my heart.  I have been in the middle of a season for a while now, and well, I hate it.  If you know me, you know the "h" word is almost considered a bad word in my vocabulary, and I reserve it only for things that truly deserve it.  The season I am speaking of has nothing to do with weddings, but everything to do with my heart. 

Let me tell you what I love about my job as a wedding director.  I get to work at a place that is nothing short of magical.  The animals in the garden or the meadow almost speak out loud to me.  Something is always in bloom, and I am surrounded by the beauty God has created.  Then there are the people.  At Mathews Manor we all work together as a team.  We are an all-inclusive venue, and we all work very well together to make a bride's dream come true for her wedding day.  I love to get inside that dream, and I do my best to make this dream a reality.  I listen.  I hear her heart.  The dream has built itself over years in which the bride has made mental, and written notes on what she wants to happen on this day that is hers and her groom's alone.  I am the obstacle remover.  I love to find the joy in every situation, and I enjoy keeping her day stress and worry free.  As the day approaches, we have a rehearsal to get all the kinks out, and to ease the bride's mind.  Wedding day arrives, and everything and everyone is transformed.  When I step back and look, it truly is amazing at how magical it all becomes.  The bride in her gown, her hair just right, and the look I get to witness when a groom sees his bride for the very first time...mmmmm ummmmm!  That's good stuff! 

There is always something from each wedding that will speak to my heart.  I've been married for 15 years, but I know I can always learn something from a new couple.  Tonight's couple touched my heart so deeply, my eyes overflowed a bit.  They wrote letters to each other.  In them they included what they loved about each other, and their hopes and dreams.  A common thread in both was the thought that they would do anything for the other.  Working to provide whatever the other needed, facing life beside each other, helping you be all God created you to be - these were just a few of their thoughts.  This couple has already thought of the future.  I thought of my future, and my past.

On my way home, I listened to a cd that my girls had in the car.  I smiled as one of the songs began.  A friend told me she had wondered about one of my girls.  This one can be quiet at times, which can be confused with insecurity.  My friend said, "Then I saw her in the talent show.  She was wearing red, and she danced to the song "Red", and she owned that stage. I knew she was just fine."  There is so much I could dissect from that statement.  You see, this was my friend, Debbie, who has known me since 5th grade.  She knows I love the color red.  I really think the Lord used those little details to confirm that my girl was confident in who she is.  I love that He used that day to show her.

So as I listened to the song, I thought, "Lord, this is my life."  I love in red.  Sometimes I try not to, but it just comes out red.  RED is translated for me as "much" or "everything" or even "all-in".  Gray might be half-hearted, blue might be expecting the worst.  Red means giving everything you've got, because you just can't love any less.  See, Jesus loved me in red.  I understand this.  How could I love any less, knowing how amazingly red He has loved me?  So, He shows me so much through His eyes.  I see most people through His eyes.  I honestly think it is a gift He has given me.  If you are in my life, I love you, and you know it.  Jesus has given me gifts, and they have names.  People names.  I love people, and I love making people feel loved. 

Why could loving in red ever be a problem? Well, because we're imperfect.  Jesus could do it beautifully, and without flaw - you know, that whole "perfect" thing.  I love in red, I also hurt in red, and react in red, and yearn in red.  As exhilarating as it is to love in red, all the other feelings in red can be incredibly painful.  That's why I hate it.  I hate pain.  I hate being hurt, and I hate that I probably hurt others because of my hurt.  I am in the middle of an almost silent battle, and it's been raging for a long time.  I don't show it often, and only those closest to me see it at all.  It's there - my red season.  You know, if I were to  lose an extensive amount of blood, I could die.  If I accept the blood Jesus shed for me, I can live forever.  Death and life from the same source. 

I feel that I have experienced death in areas of my life that need to be resurrected.  Death and life from the same source.  Some seasons are for growing, getting fuller, bigger, better.  Some seasons are for pruning, suffering, yes - even hurting.  My heart has this in it tonight.  I'm sharing this season, because someone needs to know she or he is not alone.  I know joy in red is around the corner!  I know I have to persevere in red to get through this as fast as I can.  I need to be the obstacle remover from my own race.  I do need accountability.  I have a responsibility to get through this and come out on the other side.  Some days all I can see are the broken pieces.  I know my God sees the big picture, and I trust Him.  I've been here before with my little eaglette.  I remember those days of praying, "Lord, please give me enough faith for this day." My faith is strong right now, but my heart is not.  Death and life from the same source. 

Jesus died so that we could live.  His death is the source of our life.  It's Father's Day.  My Father says He has made a way for you.  Are you struggling through a season right now?  You're not alone.  Trusting in Jesus does not mean your troubles will be erased or that they will never return.  It just means that He will be there right beside us along the way.  He'll be there in red!  I don't know when my season will end, but I know that it will end.  Jesus has never let me down.  If you have accepted Him as Lord of you life, can I ask you ...are you closer to Him today than you were a year ago?  I hope you can see Him as a person, with whom you can have a relationship.  Just as you would talk to a friend and keep her updated on what's going on, He wants to hear from you.  Tell Him.  If you're like me, and ready to move out of this season, let's keep knocking!  "Lord, it's me again.  I'm ready to move, can it happen today?"  I am confidant that I am learning some hard truths that I will gladly share when I know I've heard correctly, and reacted obediently.  (Okay, so this may take a while, still.)

One thing I am determined in is that I will not stop loving in RED!  To quote Taylor Swift, "Losing him was blue, like I never knew.  Missing him was dark grey all alone.  Forgetting him was like trying to know somebody you've never met.  But loving him was red."  Obviously, she's talking about a silly boy.  I think we go through our lives feeling blue, dark grey, and ...um, trying to know somebody you've never met (what color is that, Taylor?).  Life is a roller coaster of emotions.  The most vibrant color I know is red.  That's why I've always loved it.  I'm not going to love in dark grey, or even light grey.  I know I'll go through some blue days, but y'all...!  Loving, and experiencing in RED makes you forget those meaningless grey days, and the big ole' blue days, because RED is worth it - everytime!

Expectant in RED,

Ashley

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Sydney Raina becomes a Teenager

"For this child I prayed, and the Lord has granted my request."  1 Samuel 1:27  These words were spoken by Hannah as she petitioned the Lord for a child.  Many of us find ourselves in her shoes.   This prayer started for me as a young child.  I knew I wanted children.  I prayed the Lord would allow me to be a mama.  After losing my mom, I wanted to be a mama even more.  Somehow,  I wanted to pick up where she left off, and continue a journey til it's very end.  I have prayed that the Lord would allow me to be a mother to my children, and my children's children.  Thirteen years ago, the Lord blessed my life like never before with a sweet little bundle whom we call Sydney Raina. 

Her name is close to my mom's, but it is her own.  After I named her, my Mamaw said, "Oh!  I named your mother after an actress because I loved her name."  You'll never believe what the actress's name was!  Sylvia Sydney!  Everytime I think of that, I smile!  When I was pregnant with Syd, I prayed my heart's desire.  I would have loved her just as much if she had been a boy, but I did ask for a girl.  I never knew how much I needed this girl!  My Jesus did.  I know now that I was praying God's desire for my life.  Sometimes we need to do that.  Pray in faith for something that we want with all of our hearts.  It just might be Him nudging us to pray His will.

From the start this girl has been amazing!  She has always loved books.  She talked like an adult very early.  I found myself having grown up conversations with my 2 year old.  She has a gift for translating baby talk.  She did it with Gracen.  For the life of me, I would not know what Gracen wanted, but Sydney would tell me what she was saying, and Gracen would nod her head.  I was reminded of this when Aaron was talking to me, and I kept asking him to repeat it.  Sydney walked through and told me what he was saying.  I just looked at her like, how do you do that?!  When she was very little, she got one of those toy piano/xylophone toys.  Apparently, one of the pieces was off key.  (I never would have known this.)  Randy took it to his work bench and hammered it until it played the correct note.  I laughed so hard at this, but honestly, I'm so thankful her daddy has the gifts that he does, and that he uses them.  My sweet girl plays the piano and sings.  She can read music, but she plays mostly by ear.  I discovered this when she was in fourth grade.  I was fixing dinner and I heard her playing Beethoven.  It was good, but I didn't think she had music to play it.  I walked downstairs and asked her how she was playing that.  She said that she had heard it at school today.  Amazing!

She loves to dance, and I love watching.  She has always looked deep into my soul with her big ole eyeballs.;)  She wants to figure out everything.  Her heart is tender, but she is emotionally strong.  She doesn't let herself get beat down with the everyday life of a junior high girl.  She has let me in when the world has been too much, and for that I am so thankful.  She sees my needs, and bless her heart, she tries her best to meet them - at times to the point of a little mama guilt that my girl can read me so well! 

I have wanted this birthday to be so special for her.  It seemed that so many things were working against that this week, and especially this weekend.  Asa has a tournament in Montgomery, which would cause the family to not be together.  I had two very sweet friends pray with me, and help me see that it's okay.  When you have four children, and 3 are involved in their own activities, even to have one parent attend their events is a blessing.  Sydney and Gracen will be performing in their first clogging competition today!  We are so excited, and this is a perfect day for Syd - church, then dancing.  Just a little while ago, we got a text that Asa's tournament was cancelled.  Guess who gets to come see her today?!  Her WHOLE family!  All grandparents, parents, and siblings together!!!!  Woo hoo!!!!!  This will make her day!  Thank you Jesus, you knew this all along! 

I am so thankful for my girl who loves her Savior, her parents, her siblings, friends, and family.  I am thankful for the gifts the Lord has put inside of her and that she is learning  to use them to give back to Him.  I am not finished praying for this child, and I will continue to seek Him for her sake, and I will continue to ask Him to grant my requests on her behalf.  I can't imagine all the plans He has for her, but I am so ready to watch them unfold.  Thank you Jesus, for our beautiful teenager!

Expectant for all He has for my sweet girl,

Ashley :)

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

iRun (a marathon relay) with My Savior!

"THAT was so fun!"  My words after experiencing my first Mercedes Marathon Weekend.  I have the privilege of teaching elementary P.E. at Gathering Place Christian Academy, and I decided last summer that we would participate in the Kids' Mercedes Marathon.  The kids started in September logging miles. They each had to run 25.2 miles by the end of January.  Last Saturday they completed their marathon by running the last mile and crossing the same finish line the Marathoners would cross on Sunday.  What an accomplishment these kids have made!  I am so very proud of them!  Not only did they achieve amazing personal goals, but they motivated their teacher.

I decided to up my game a bit.  My longest distance before February was 5 miles.  So, I decided to see if anyone would be interested in running the Marathon Relay.  It's 26.2 miles broken down into 5 different legs.  Each runner runs a certain distance, and as a team, you complete a marathon.  How fun does that sound?!  So, my new goal was to run 6.05 miles, the 3rd leg of our marathon.  There were days that I would get so nervous thinking about race day.  What if I couldn't complete it? What if I fell?  What if I hurt my foot?  And my biggest fear...what if I failed my team?  I knew that all of this would only be defeated by knowing that through my Savior, I can do anything!  That is the truth, friends!  He sustained me, He strengthened me, and He caused me to endure. 

So, my goal was set, now I just needed some crazy people who would agree that, they too, wanted to do something so crazy fun.  Let me introduce you to them.  Our school, GPCA, ended up sponsoring our team.  Thanks GPCA!  We also had a team in the 5k on Saturday.  What an awesome school, with awesome support!

Mikey Keith, runner # 1, started us off with a strong leg! Mikey is an inspiration, and we had the honor of being his teammates as he completed his second full marathon! He is our youngest member on the team, and he and his wife, Julie, are expecting their first child in July. He is also the brother-in-law of teammate #4, Jennifer. Jennifer suggested Mikey as one of our strong runners, and we are so glad he obliged us. Mikey finished his 6.05 in 47:47, and he was 15 out of 250 runners for his leg! He took home the third place trophy in his age division in his latest 10k! He continued to make us proud as we watched him cross the finish line in under 4 hours!  Whoop whoop!


Myron Fisher, runner #2, is a Marine – need I say more?! He was recruited by his sweet wife, Yolanda – who is my partner in crime at GPCA. He, too, was chosen because of the strength he could give to our team. He had the hills, and the speed to do it. I  told him very little of what we needed from him, but he did not wavered in his commitment to us. I am honored to be on a team with someone who has fought for our country. Myron served us all in Iraq, and now he serves us as he shares this leg on our team. His 2.95 was a quick jog through the park at 26 minutes, and he came in at 22 out of 250 runners for his leg!

Ashley Morrison, runner #3 – me. I began running about 6 years ago. I took a girls’ beach trip, and had planned (and practiced) to run a straight 2 miles for the first time since high school while on this trip. I did it, and ran my first 5k that summer. I rarely run over 3 miles at a time, but last summer I set a goal to run 5 – yes, all at once. My next goal was to run 6.05 in the Mercedes Marathon Relay, and my team helped me reach that goal. I am not a strong runner, just a steady slow runner. "I WILL finish in front of the balloon lady!" It helped to have Mikey and Myron in front of me! So, my goal was to finish in under 1:20.I finished in 1:17:28! My ranking was the lowest on my team, but honestly, I'm still proud...117 out of the 250 runners that ran my leg!

Jennifer Eidson, runner #4, has been my running companion more than any other person, and we both started up our running regimen in the same year. I’m so glad we’re doing this together! She is strong, and she is a runner! She has been smoking me on our runs together lately. She was once the Balloon Lady in our Big Springs 5k, while she was pregnant AND pushing a baby in a stroller. She’s awesome! We call ourselves 2Mamas8kids, and I love that I get to hand off the chip to her. Her most encouraging statement is, “This will be fun!” She planned on finishing her 3.05 in around 35 minutes - and that was exactly what she did!  My girl finished 86 out of 250 in her leg!!!!! 

Tammy Mathews, runner #5, brought us home in style! Tammy is the female definition of inspiration. She picked back up her running shoes a few years ago on her journey to losing 80 pounds! This is her thing, y’all! She has come in first place 3 times in the Big Springs 5k, in her age group, and once overall for the women. Second place in the Power Run, 3rd overall (women) in the Crosspoint Run, Second in the Jingle Bell Run, and this is not all! Tammy has been my friend since we cheered together in junior high, and I am so glad that she agreed to run our longest, 8 mile, leg. She is thrilled to do it, which makes it even better! She planned to finish in under 1:17. She came in at 1:14:04!  57 out of 250 in the longest leg of the relay!!!! 

We all waited to see Tammy come to the finish area, and we all got to run (chase her) across the finish line!  She is so fast...even at the end of her race!  We all have a race set before us.  Each of us is called to do something different.  Each of us is given different strengths and abilities in order to get our job done.  In case you didn't catch it, I just went spiritual. ;)  I want to share with you a little more about what my Jesus taught me through my training, and my race.  We finished 64 out of 250 teams.  Go MidKnight Runners!

I've never run a race as an "official" team member.  There is something bigger about the goal for your team.  I'm not a big individual competitor, but put me on a team, and I see the purpose.  This was so much fun to me, and the biggest reason are the names, besides mine, listed above.  I love that this was my team - our team!

First, I must explain the balloon lady.  She was, after all, a huge motivator for me!  During the third leg, the half-marathoners would finish their race, and the marathoners and the third leg relay runners stayed to the right.  The Balloon Lady was walking at a pace of 13:44, and if she passed you in the third leg, you would be directed to the Half finish line, which meant legs 4 and 5 would NOT run, and the running that runners 1 and 2 ran would have been in vain, and your team would be disqualified.  No pressure.  So, every practice run had to be under 13 minutes per mile, because you do what you practice.  I had day horrors (never nightmares) about seeing her on my runs.  I would find balloons in odd places - no joke!  In my head she looked like a scary clown. In my spiritual run, the Balloon Lady is everything I'm afraid I will fail.  She is my own insecurity, she's my fear of the unkown, my fear of making the wrong choice.  My fear of not meausuring up to ...whatever.

Let me tell you how I kept her behind me.  "Let (me) strip off every weight that slows me down, especially the sin that so easily trips me up.  Let me run with endurance the race God has set before me.  I do this by keeping my eyes on Jesus, the Champion, who initiates and perfects my faith!" (My translation of Hebrews 12:1-2a  As long as I focussed on what Jesus could do in and through my body, Balloon Lady would always be behind me.  Mikey and Myron gave me a fabulous head start on her, but I held my own on my time staying in front of her.  During the race, I did go back and wait on her...tell you that in a minute. 

I started at the bottom of Highland Avenue.  I experienced such a rush waiting for Myron.  Looking for him, anticipating the had off.  Then, there he was!  Right in front of me!  I saw Sydney, Gracen, and Asa standing with Randy.  Randy was probably telling me not to start to fast.  I mean, I was keeping up with these crazy marathoners, and this was still the fast bunch!  Throghout my leg, if I got tired (2nd Avenue North - so boring!), I would tell myself, "Jenn's waiting!"  "Get to Jenn."  "Jenn has to run her race too!"  It reminded me that as we are running our spiritual race, there are times where we don't see the point.  If we get to that place, remember someone is waiting on you to do your part so they can do theirs.  Then, watch.  Don't miss your kids and your husband standing over there cheering for you!!!!!  There they were, smiling, cheering, holding their cute little signs, reminding me that my job was to finish!  Even when I was on 2nd Ave.N. that seemed so straight and long, with not much to look at on either side - just greyness.  Right after 2nd Ave. came the excitement of people cheering, and big buildings, and pretty streets.  Boring grey prepares us for the fireworks!  Then, came my little hill.  Yucko!  I heard something right here that I hadn't heard before.  "Come on, Baby, you can do it."  It was totally my mom's voice in my head.  Tears rolled a little bit, then pure joy that Jesus brought that out at that moment! 

As I rounded behind the BJCC, I knew I was well into my 5th mile, and that I was on the downhill stretch - except that it was an uphill stretch.  Then I remembered something else.  My daddy was at my finish line.  He was gonna be so proud!  My pace picked up.  I rounded my last corner, and I could tell where the relay station was, but I couldn't see which side to run to.  I always kick it up at the end of a race, almost to an obnoxious fault.  I was looking so hard for where to go, I was not hustling.  Then I realized my feet were about to cross the timing station. I was still confused, then I heard, "Heeeeeyyyyy, Ashley!"  My lips parted like the Red Sea, and my cheeks almost hurt I smiled so hard.  I said out loud, "That's my Daddy!" as I kicked it into high gear!  He was waving, my friends were cheering my name, and I was looking for Jennifer, but I could not find her.  I said, "Where's Jenn?!"  Then, my friend who is still witty in the midst of chaos, my friend who told me 2 1/2 years ago that my new journey would be fun, said my favorite words of the day.  "I'm right in front of you, I look just like you, right here!"(We both had on lime green shirts, black legs, and lime green softball socks...don't know how I couldn't see what was right in front of me.:)

So, I was done.  My race was finished.  Jenn was gone, but my Daddy was there.  You know, your Daddy waits at your finish line too.  He has placed people in your life to cheer you on when you're on those boring old roads - are you looking up?  He's got all kinds of people for you to meet, like blue hat, and hot pink pants who you might share a conversation with along the way, and receive or give a word of encouragement.  Your race might be boring..Run it.  Your race may be difficult.  Run it.  Your race may be uncertain.  Run it!  Enjoy it!  Know that when you're done, your Abba Daddy will yell your name, and He will be so proud of you! 

You might just get to be in the Cloud of Witnesses - the ones who have gone on before (Heb 1:1).  I think that might feel like this...   I waited on the corner that I had passed almost an hour earlier.  I knew she was coming.  Sure enough, there she was, coming up the hill.  She wasn't a scary clown.  She was a sweet faced, older lady with balloons.  Then I saw him.  Fit 2Phat.  He was 6 paces in front of her.This was my day horror about to come true for this man dressed in black!  "Gooooooooo!" I yelled!  "You're almost there, don't let her pass you!  Your team is waiting!"  He looked at me like he didn't think he could do it.  My heart sank.  "Jesus."  I prayed.  "You can do it!" I yelled again.  "How much further?" He asked.  I smiled as I yelled, "Just over the hill, and then left to finish!"  He scared me as he walked to the top of the hill, but then I saw him pick it up and jog, leaving only the Balloon Lady in my sight, and then she was gone.   My kids and Randy were with me then, and we walked to the finish line to cheer on our teammates. 

We don't know when our race will be done.  It's just our job to run it with endurance.  I don't know who in my family will cross the finish line first, but I think that as we cross, just like I was standing with my Daddy watching for the Balloon Lady, that our other family members will cross and come on over before we even realize we're there without them.  The hard part is being in the race still, when you know ones you love have finished their race.  Can I encourage you?  Make them proud.  Carry your team to victory, gain as many new teammates as you can, and have fun while you're doing it!  Don't give up!  They would never want you to throw in the towel, or to think that your part of the race is unimportant.  You were created for such a time as this. 

Friends, let this be our prayer in our spiritual run today.  "I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus is calling us." Phillipians 3:14

Expectant,

Ashley