Wednesday, December 28, 2011

hope hurts.

The Bible says God is the God of hope. All through Scripture, hope is mentioned and encouraged. "Now these three remain: faith, hope, and love."

But I realize tonight that sometimes, hope hurts too much.
Tonight, my hope - about a certain situation - is shattered all over the floor like broken glass. It feels like my heart is there with it.
And I don't want to hope anymore.

Because when it fails, hope hurts.
Because there's no such thing as false hope - all hope is real and meaningful and fragile.
Because hope deferred makes the heart sick.

And yet, when you want something so badly, how can you stop hoping for it?

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Christmas..

It's Christmas.
No, it's not actually Christmas Day yet, but it's Christmas. The season. The spirit. I love this quote from a book that I read during this season every year:
"Christmas took a long time coming. It gathered speed, and size, and volume. It gathered songs and snow and gift wrap and hope, until it was this enormous avalanche..." (from What Child is This by Caroline Cooney)

So, I'm sitting here in my house tonight, drinking egg nog, looking at my Christmas tree with its sparse ornaments -- ones I've collected over my childhood and few years of adulthood -- and listening to the dryer running as I'm doing laundry so I can pack to go home for Christmas. It has been fun to have my own little place to decorate this year, and put up my own tree for the first time.

This evening, I exchanged gifts with my coworkers...my camp family. Man, I love those folks. What a blessing to have my boss and coworkers as truly my friends, my family, my Christian brothers and sisters, and to know they love me. I'm sooo blessed!!

I guess I'm a bit reflective tonight, thinking about how this year is coming to a close, and all the changes that are going to take place in 2012. In a few months, I'll be leaving camp, changing jobs...probably moving out of state. Nothing is decided definitely yet as far as where I'm going, but at this point I'll say that the leaving/changing is for sure. I'm excited about that, but tonight a little bit sad, knowing how much I'll miss the people here who I've grown to love dearly. And a little nervous because everything is so uncertain... but God has good plans and I'm choosing to trust Him every moment.

There's a newer Christmas-ish song that I've discovered this week that is totally rocking my world. I've probably listened to it 20 times in the last few days. Francesca Battistelli sings it on the multi-artist album called "Music Inspired by the Story." The song is called "Be Born in Me" and it's from the perspective of Mary, Jesus' mother. It's a gorgeous song, and man, the lyrics just kind of make my heart explode. Speaking to me right where I am right now. Check it out -- Be Born in Me by Francesca Battistelli.

Thanks, friends, for taking the time to read my rambling thoughts tonight. I hope each of you has a merry and bright Christmas with those you love, and may your soul rejoice in the indescribable gift God has given us. Merry Christmas!!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

it is well with my soul.

Great Redeemer, take our weakness
And show Yourself strong
Show Yourself strong

That's a line from a song we sang at the worship session tonight. I'm currently at a conference with about 600 other Christians, and the worship services have been amazing. First of all, hearing 600 people sing praise to God is pretty awesome. That's about as close to a multitude -- a multitude all intent on one purpose, like in the Bible -- as I can comprehend. To me, it's a small taste of what heaven might be like. A very small taste.
Secondly, the words of the songs have just blessed me this week. The songs are no different than the ones we sing at church or the ones I hear on the radio. But this week as we have sung them, as I've closed my eyes and focused on the words, I've just felt God's grace in each word wash over me. I've allowed the words to have meaning and to touch me, and it feels like my soul is being revived. It has stirred a hunger in me... a hunger for more of Him, for a deeper communion and a deeper love, a hunger to be spiritually alive again.

I don't want to lose that. When I go back home to Tennessee tomorrow, and back to camp, I don't want to fall back into the same old ruts.... the ruts of work, school, and sleep, and having to struggle to find joy in each day. I want to live and I want to love and I want to be alive. I'm afraid of losing what I've grasped onto this week.
But mountain-top experiences have to come to an end, I know that. We meet God on the mountain, but our place to live it out is in the valley. Tomorrow I'm going back to the valley. And praying God helps me stay close to Him.

There have been other really, really good things about this week. There have also been distractions pulling my attention in other ways. I won't go into all that now. But it's been a great week, and I'm so thankful for the opportunity. What God has done for me this week hasn't been what I expected, but then again.... isn't that how God works?

Thursday, October 27, 2011

to go or not to go?


So, last December, I went to this AMAZING event -- the annual National Conference of the Christian Camp and Conference Association. Yeah, that's a mouthful. Basically, it's hundreds of people from across the country who are involved in Christian camping ministry.
So I went to the conference last year, and it was sooooo good. Like really, I can't even explain how refreshing it was to be with ALL those other people who share my passion for camp ministry. It was such a good thing. I met some fabulous people, some of whom I still keep up with on Facebook, and I gained a lot of great information and ideas.

As soon as the conference was over, I was already looking forward to December 2011... until sometime this spring or summer, when I decided I wasn't going to go this year, wasn't going to spend the money. Not worth it to spend the money on it two years in a row, was my verdict.

Until this week. Now that it's just over a month away, I'm starting to reallllllly wish I was going to this year's conference.
It's expensive. And I'm young, single, and don't make a lot of money.
But then again... I'm young and single :-) AND have a job at a camp that will allow me to take a week off to do this. How many more years will I have opportunities to do stuff like this?
But is it wise to spend that much money? I have school, and bills, and a car with less-than-ideal gas mileage.

So I'm weighing the pros and cons, trying to consider what's best to do. Let me know if you have any input :-)

Saturday, October 22, 2011

It's 10:40 on a Saturday night. On week-nights, I would already be in bed, probably already asleep, but on the weekends, I tend to be a bit rebellious (for lack of a better word) and stay up late just because I can. If I don't have to get up at 6:20 for work, why not stay up a little later, right? :-)
Tonight I feel peaceful and content, hopeful, slightly restless, and a little bit confused. And sleepy :-)

This has been a long, busy week, but a good one. Especially during the 2nd half of the week, I got to spend a lot of time with different friends -- on Wednesday night, had dinner with a friend/coworker Madison. Thursday night, went out for dinner, ice cream, and shopping with my friends/coworkers/neighbors Katie and Brent. Last night, I went to a singles event at church, and tonight spent the evening with my family.

I don't think I've mentioned here that I've decided to "go" back to school (online) and finish my Associates Degree that was started long ago. I can finish that degree with about 5-6 more classes. The classes pack a full semester into 8 weeks, and this 8-week term starts on Monday. I'll be taking "Introduction to Christian Thought" and "Biblical Counseling of Children." We'll see how it goes with working full time and doing school! I don't think this term will be too bad.

All right, enough for now. Sleep well, my friends.
~Ashley

"Would you catch a couple thousand fireflies?
And put them in a lamp to light my world?"

Sunday, October 16, 2011

"Be angry, and yet do not sin."

Believe it or not, I get angry sometimes. Some of my friends and coworkers say they can't imagine me getting mad or being disagreeable about anything. True, I'm not an angry person...it doesn't happen often, especially not where others can see...but it does happen.

I'm thinking of the day back in July, when I was mad about being stuck in the camp office while the other staff got to help with Olympics, and I spent the day with a scowl on my face, slamming doors and shoving things around in the office.
Or just the other day when I acted like a jerk and rode on some other car's tail, because they were going 5mph UNDER the speed limit, and I wanted to be going 5 or 10 OVER.
Or how about this morning, when I yelled at my dog because she didn't do her business outside as quickly as I wanted her to, and I was going to be late to church.

I think generally the situation is one of the following: 1) I get mad and irritated over a frustrating circumstance in my day. 2) I'm hurt and upset over something much deeper, and it just comes out in anger over a smaller, less-important situation. 3) There's really no legitimate reason at all to be mad; I'm just being childish.

Here's what I realized today (it wasn't the main point of the message at church, but something that jumped out at me)-- when I'm holding onto or acting in anger, I'm not walking right with God.

Some people will tell you it's a sin to be angry. That's not true. The Bible says, "Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger." (Ephesians 4:26) Experiencing the emotion of anger is not a sin. But when I choose to hang onto that anger and let my words and actions and thoughts be controlled by it rather than by the Holy Spirit.... then it becomes sinful. And holding onto anger is a telling sign that my relationship with God is not where it should be. I'm not trusting Him to be fair, to meet my needs, to be the "God of Justice" that the Bible says He is... to be my Yahweh, my everything. I'm not allowing Him to be in control.

But truthfully, I realize that I need Him, and need to be in a right relationship with Him, more than I need anything else -- anything I might be angry about. When we realize that, then that's when we have to choose to let go of it and run back to God again. He will take care of whatever the offending situation is, while we rest in His love.

Thoughts, anyone?

Thursday, September 15, 2011

my dream guy.

I'm learning about standards...or more specifically, God's standards.
Even more specifically, His standards on what's important in a person -- in a man.

Girls, if you're like me, you probably have an image in your mind of your dream guy. He's your "type," he's amazing, and he's drop-dead gorgeous. I'll give you an idea of mine:

Seriously, who doesn't want to marry a guy who looks like that?! :-)
But the truth is, only a small handful of girls get to marry the gorgeous, muscular cowboys. Chances are, I won't be one of those.
And the truth is -- well, my thinking of what the truth is, anyway -- most women probably have a dream of marrying someone gorgeous and muscular and perfect... until they meet a guy and fall in love, and suddenly that person is their dream. That guy may or may not be incredibly handsome. He may or may not be the "type" of guy that the girl envisioned herself with. But what matters is that he is a man of God, they love each other, and they share a deep connection.

Yesterday, I was reading in the Bible in Judges chapter 3. It tells about some of the battles Israel fought against their enemies. Toward the end of the chapter (I think it's verse 28), it says that the Israelites struck down 10,000 men, and all of those were "robust and valiant men."

Robust and valiant... that kinda describes that handsome cowboy in that picture, huh? What this verse says to me is that those things don't matter. The Israelites were weak and inexperienced. They were not robust and valiant! But God was with them, and in the end, that's what mattered. That's what brought the victory.

Yeah, I'd like to have a drop-dead gorgeous man. A cowboy would be nice. But you know, I'm learning and deciding that what I really want is a man who stands on the Word of God and loves the Lord with all of his being. I want a man who seeks God in everything and will walk with me through the mountains and valleys of life, secure in Christ.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

take my dreams, come and give them wings..

My prayer as I sat down with my Bible this morning -- "God, there are so many verses in Your word that say that You are with me, You have plans for me, You're leading and guiding me, all of that. And those promises are true; I believe them and could read them over and over again. But what I need right now is an actual word of guidance and direction!!"

Sunday, September 4, 2011

my week in a nutshell. and a good quote.

This past week:
Friends over at my house, swimming, filing paperwork, cleaning bathrooms, catching mice, Yoo-Hoo's, really good conversations with friends, riding in a convertible VW Bug, Salsarita's, frustrations, ambitions, good music, cleaning the pool, weed-eating, sore muscles, Avatar the Last Airbender, jigsaw puzzle, speaking Spanish, wardrobe malfunction, texting, cookie dough, petting zoo.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

what next?

So, I unexpectedly had to go out of town again a few days after getting back from Charleston -- this time to Mississippi for a funeral. I got back home early this afternoon, for a couple of days to rest up before starting back to work. It's been a quiet day of laundry, movie-watching, etc.
I have virtually no food in the house, so tonight I drove out to Subway to grab dinner. I brought it back to camp, and walked out to the Frontier Adventure field and sat at one of the picnic tables to eat. As is common these days, what came to my mind was -- where am I going from here? It's strange that this place that felt so much like home just a few months ago, feels uncomfortable and unwelcoming to me now. I know it's almost time to move on. But I have no idea where I'm going next. So my prayer continues to be, "God, show me where to go. Show me what You have for the next season."
I know He will, in time. The hard part is waiting on the answer to come. And I'm praying, too, that I can be content here until He opens the next door. I want to live with purpose, every day He gives me.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Charleston Road Trip

During one of the last weeks of camp this summer, my friend Amanda and I sat on the dock one night talking... and I mentioned that I had a week of vacation from work after summer camp ended. My family was not doing anything special that week, so I was trying to decide how to spend my vacation week. This is where the idea was born.... ROAD TRIP!
After a lot of plotting and planning, it all came together. A group of 4 of us girls (who all work at camp together in the summers) set off on a road trip to Charleston, South Carolina. I give you photos....
in the car, ready to go!

Yay South Carolina!!

pretty streets and buildings in historic Charleston

enough food to feed an army.... or four girls :-)


beach day!

dressed up for our last night in Charleston

And, shall we finish with the LOVELY concert we had in the car on the way home. We were tired and mostly quiet on the drive home, but this was the moment when the Starbucks rush kicked in....

video

Friday, July 29, 2011

my God is greater, my God is stronger

Fact: the devil knows us well. He knows me well. He knows what "pushes my buttons" and makes me angry....he knows what stabs and hurts me and pulls me down....he knows what appeals to my flesh and causes me to stumble.
And he put ALL of those things before me this week, trying to make me fall. Some just once, some daily. He tried hard this week.

But here's another fact: "Greater is HE that is in you than he that is in the world."

Last week was a pretty bad one for me, especially toward the end of it. It was not good. But knowing that this week was the last week of Summer Camp 2011, I determined to keep my focus on God and finish strong. A lot of prayer went into this week. I wanted this summer to end in a GOOD way!
Like I said, Satan tried. But my God is greater!! I "prayed continually" all week long, and He helped me keep my focus in the right place, and rest in Him and be joyful this week. It was a great week! All because of Jesus :-)

So, Summer Camp 2011 is officially over. It's a bittersweet feeling tonight as I reflect on the past 9 weeks. Now we go on from here and see what comes next!!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

a week full of God.

Oh my goodness. Where do I even begin in telling about the past 7 days? I have experienced God working in such a tangible way, and been able to be a part of it, too. That’s an awesome thing.

Okay, so last Sunday, I arrived at camp as usual and started on my normal office work. Before long, my boss called me into his office and informed me that I was needed to be a counselor that week. We had so many kids that we were short on counselors (those who actually stay in the cabins with the kids and are with them one-on-one all week), so most of the staff girls (lifeguards, program, office, etc) had to be used as counselors.
Well, at first, I was not at all happy about this. And for entirely selfish reasons. Being a counselor is a wonderful opportunity to share Christ and disciple young kids, but I was focused on the difficult and less pleasant sides of the job, and had a bad attitude.
Gradually, over that Sunday evening, God changed my heart and I actually got excited about being a counselor for the week. That night, my friend Amanda and I had a long, really good talk about life and situations and the future and following God, etc, and prayed together. I think that really got both of us set on the right track for the week.

I was assigned to Cabin #4 for the week, and when the kids arrived Monday morning, my co-counselor and I had five campers ages 7-9. Let me just say that those kids were precious. Oh my goodness. No, it wasn’t all easy… there were times when they argued and whined, and moments that they drove me crazy and I needed to step away. But overall, what a wonderful week! It was better than I could have expected. Those little girls were hilarious and kept me laughing all week. But better than that, they were incredibly open and spiritually hungry, and I was SO encouraged by that. They participated actively in our cabin devotion times, asked lots of questions about God and the Bible, shared their hearts, and expressed a great desire to know God more and to do right.
People, if children like that can be nurtured by mature Christians and keep that hunger, then there is hope for the world.

God was just so present and working this past week…. as He always is, but I was just so aware of it, so in the midst of it. And I needed that. I’ve been pretty burnt out on camp the last couple of weeks. God knew that I needed that “change of scenery” and to experience Him in that way, to see Him actively changing kids’ lives… rather than just seeing rosters and paperwork and credit card numbers in the office. So I thank Him, again and again, for that. God is good.

Weekends are always extremely short in comparison to the long, hard weeks we work at camp, but I spent Friday evening and Saturday resting and hanging out at home with my family. This morning, I drove to church, looking forward to the next message in a series on Philippians we’ve been working through. When I got to church, I found that the pastor is out of town, and we had a guest preacher who spoke on something totally different than Philippians. I was a bit disappointed…but only for a moment. As always, God knew best, and this morning’s message spoke straight to my heart, with some stuff I’ve been thinking through the past few weeks.
To give a brief synopsis… the theme of the message was “letting go of one thing to take hold of something else.” He used the example of Abraham, and how there were 3 different instances where God asked him to let go of something.
1. His homeland/family (when God said, leave your family and go to a land I will show you) -- represents something that was comfortable, but was hindering him or holding him back from God’s will for him.
2. His first son, Ishmael (when God said Ishmael was not the promised son) -- represents something he had obtained in his own way, outside of God’s will.
3. His second son, Isaac (when God asked him to sacrifice him) -- represents something God had given him, but didn’t want him to hold onto too tightly, OR can represent something God gives us but only for a season.

I won’t go into detail about what this message meant for me, but it did really speak to me, and I’m just so grateful that God cares enough to speak to us in such tender ways, and that He has such great plans for us and guides us so lovingly in His path. I’m just so in awe of Him today.

So now I’m back at camp for another week… another week of working in the office. I’m going to make the most of it. I’m going to rejoice in the Lord every day. And while it won’t be the same as last week, I know He is still going to work, and is working even now, and He is faithful. Don’t forget that in your own life and situations… God is working and He is faithful!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

camp update

It has been a few weeks since I've written anything here. Boy, this summer has been crazy busy!! But what can I say.... it's summer camp! :-)

We have completed the first 5 weeks of camp, and let me just tell you that, without a doubt, God has been at work. At the very beginning of the summer, I read a devotion and was led to ask the Lord to "rain" on our ministry at camp this year. I had the sense that He was really going to "pour down" blessings this summer, and He certainly has! In 5 weeks, we've had around 80 decisions for Christ (there were 67 for the whole summer last year), along with 50 or 60 rededications. People, that is amazing. That is nothing but GOD raining down His presence and blessings on His children!! We as a camp staff are exhausted, stressed, and happy, and the kids are having a blast, but above all, God is working. This is eternal stuff. This is lives being changed forever. And I thank God, again and again, for letting me be a part of it.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

content..?

This morning, I walked from the lodge up to the dining hall for the pre-breakfast staff meeting. I left the lodge a little earlier than the others, so I could have those few minutes alone to pray at the start of the day. It was chilly, rays of sun were streaming through the trees, and a mist was rising off the surface of the lake. As I walked, I whispered to God, "Thank you for the beauty of a new day...for the beauty of being so small in the midst of your greatness...and for the beauty of being right where You and I both know I need to be."

It's now almost exactly 12 hours later. It's been a busy day full of phone calls, registrations, errands, etc, and now I have a little time off before tonight's campfire service. I just read this Scripture:
"I have learned to be content in whatever circumstance I am... in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need." (Philippians 4:11-12)
Those are not words I can honestly say. Because I am not always content.

Right now, I am content in some things. I'm content with my job at camp -- although there are hard days, like any job -- but mostly I am happy and content with this.
However, I am NOT content to be a single woman right now. This is the BIG THING that God and I have spent many hours wrestling over. This is where I cannot honestly speak the words written in Philippians. Paul might have learned the secret of being content no matter what... but apparently I have not learned that secret yet, at least not in the area of singleness. I still pray that God will teach me that secret.

A few minutes ago, I read this quote on another blog (which is what led me to this Scripture). This was posted on The Girl With The Smile 's blog.
"Contentment occurs when Christ's strength is infused into my weak body, soul, and spirit. To infuse means to pour, fill, soak.... How does God enable us to be content? He infuses contentment into us."

Yes. ‎That's what I want.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

quiet Sunday morning

It's 10:30am. I'm sitting on one of the ancient, lumpy couches in the staff lodge, listening to soft Christian music and the sound of the leaky faucet dripping in the kitchen. There is some action outside as one of the weekend retreat groups is getting ready to leave this morning, but everyone else in the lodge is still asleep upstairs.
I found the last bottle of orange juice in the refrigerator this morning, and was super excited about that. Love my orange juice in the morning.
Before coming downstairs, I spent some time reading my Bible and praying. The passage I read is still echoing in my mind.

"Make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped (or asserted), but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant." (Philippians 2:2-7)

God spoke to me through this today, and I pray that He keeps reminding me of it throughout this week.
Some other things are dancing around in my head, too... some questions, some ideas, some dreams. Things that will continued to be talked about and prayed about, and we'll see what God might have up His sleeve. Dreams that move the mountains...that's what faith can do!

And week 3 of camp begins this afternoon. I wonder what God will do this week.... keep us in your prayers, please?

Saturday, June 4, 2011

And it begins.... Summer 2011

One week of summer staff moving up to camp, and working together to get camp ready for kids. Then, the first official week of Summer Camp 2011. That's what my life has been since the last update! It's been a great 2 weeks overall. I love the people I get to work with, and so glad summer camp has begun and we get to be a part of God's work in children's lives.... as well as experiencing His work in our own lives.

Highlights of the past two weeks:
reunions with friends
evenings on the dock watching the stars
lots and lots of laughing
back rubs
hearing God speak in the quiet of the morning
getting lost and almost driving to North Carolina
Ultimate Frisbee
wiffle-ball
spiritual discussions with the camp pastor
mysterious insects
good moments with good friends
being myself and feeling at home
the arrival of children
talking with kids about their favorite parts of camp
watching counselors pray with kids
19+ decisions for Christ

God is already at work.... Lord keep raining down Your presence and Your blessings!!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

what if Your blessings come through raindrops?


I have probably listened to this song about twenty-million times in the last 2 days. Well... okay, maybe not that many times... but definitely a lot.
The past couple of weeks have been weird. I've been drifting from happy/excited, to frustrated, to kind of melancholy, and back to happy. There are reasons for these feelings, but I won't go into details of circumstances here.

What matters is that Jesus, my Savior, is Lord of my life, and I can rest in knowing that He loves me and has good plans for me. A line from that song says, "What if my greatest disappointment and the aching of this life is a revealing of a greater thirst this world can't satisfy?" So true. Disappointment and pain are inevitable, but if it drives me closer to God and causes me to reach out to Him... then it's worth it.

His love and patience..... are beautiful.
"You hear each desperate plea, and long that we'd have faith to believe."

Friday, May 20, 2011

waiting ain't fun..

Do you know what it's like to be waiting for something and to feel like your whole life, every breath, is on hold until it comes?
Do you know what it's like to want something so bad that you can't even pray for it... all you can say is, "Please, God"?

And you tell yourself again and again that it will all happen in God's perfect timing. That He is maturing and perfecting me in the process of waiting. That He is my satisfaction and completeness and peace, whether the awaited-event comes or not.

But it doesn't make it any easier.

"Wait for the Lord; be strong and let your heart take courage; yes, wait for the Lord."

Monday, May 16, 2011

grass and sweat... mmm.

I love the smell of fresh-cut grass.
I hope that when I get married, my husband will go out and mow the yard and come back smelling like grass and sweat. Love it.
Is that weird?

Sunday, May 15, 2011

wouldn't you say that life is beautiful?

Just as I was about to start writing this post, someone knocked on my front door. It was 2 of the guys I work with at camp. Apparently, they, along with one of the other guys and his girlfriend, had decided to make a "fancy" dinner for all of us in the Dining Hall, and they wanted to know if I had any candles. I happened to have a couple of vanilla scented candles, so I took those and we went to the Dining Hall, where the 5 of us had a candlelight dinner together. Random? Yes, but quite fun. Man, these coworkers of mine... gotta love 'em!! :-)

This past week has seemed really long. On Monday night, my whole small group came out to camp. We hung out by the lake, went canoeing, and had a campfire. It was sooo much fun! I'm really thankful for that new group of people God has put in my life in the past few months. They have really been a source of encouragement to me. I can't wait until Monday nights roll around each week, and am really going to miss it during the summer!

Our office at camp is getting a MUCH-needed remodel, so we've been working on that a lot this week. I have a brand-new, custom-built desk, and the walls are being repainted. It's going to look fabulous when it's done.

The countdown to Briana's wedding.... one week away! Unbelievable. I hope all the details are worked out and it's a gorgeous day for them. After I get back from the wedding, it will be a week until our first group of summer campers arrives. Crazy.

Okay, enough Ashley's life updates for one night. More could be said, because life is pretty crazy and adventurous...... and beautiful :-) I'll just leave you with this thought: don't forget to look for the beauty, the fingerprints of God, in every day of your life.


(if you want to see the lyrics, click here to go to the actual YouTube page, and the lyrics are there.)

Friday, May 6, 2011

Fast Forward Life

This has been an interesting week. In fact, all of life is just interesting right now! Briana's wedding is in 16 days, and summer camp starts in 24 days. Add the rest of "life" into that madness... and there you have it. I told my dad the other day, that I feel like every aspect of life is in fast-forward right now, and it's not gonna go back to a normal pace for quite awhile!

Today and yesterday, we've had a volunteer work group here at camp, working on various projects, and we've cooked each meal for them. They leave this afternoon, and tonight begins our first-ever Father/Son Retreat. We're not sure how many people to expect to show up for this... could be anywhere from 5 to 50. We will also be cooking meals for them, as well as running some activities tomorrow. And tonight... my boss has asked me to play my guitar for the worship service with the fathers/sons. A few people will be singing with me, but I'll be the only one playing. I've just taught myself to play guitar over the last several months, and have never played in public before. I'm nervous!!!!

The past couple of mornings, I've been reading in Romans 12:9-21. Briana and I memorized this passage when we were younger, but I've only in recent years realized how much good, challenging truth it contains. The phrase that spoke to me this morning was in verse 9: "Cling to what is good."
No matter what.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

then sings my soul

I always appreciate quiet evenings at home...those evenings after getting off work when I have nowhere to go and can spend time just chilling and catching up on life. This evening I sat on the front steps and watched my dog play in the yard, did some laundry and dishes, goofed off on the computer, went to the field and shot my bow & arrows, ate leftovers for dinner while watching 1/2 of a movie (didn't feel like finishing it, haha), and played my guitar. It has been very nice!!

But after a few hours, evenings like this can sometimes start to seem a bit long and quiet and lonesome. It's on these nights that I tend to get thoughtful and introspective. Questions like who am I, and what is my purpose here, and where am I going from here... start dancing around in my head. I think about life and myself and God and the people around me. I think about the future, and wonder why I'm still alone (relationship-status-speaking). I long for an adventure. I long for something bigger, something deeper, something I can't even pinpoint or explain.

Sometimes on these quiet, thoughtful nights, I feel so full and so empty at the same time that it feels like I might explode... or implode.

And then I go to bed. And the next morning at 6:15, there is static-blurred country music playing on my radio just like always, and I get up, get ready, and go to work, and everything is fine.
Life is weird.
But it's good.
Because God is good. He's also mysterious... and so is life.

In case you're interested... this video has really blessed me this week and I wanted to share it. As I sat in my car last night watching an incredible lightning storm, I thought, I'm so often distracted and focused on unimportant things. How can I look at what's before me and around me and NOT focus on "how great Thou art"?? He is great.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

soaking Him up

"SAVIOR KING" by Hillsong
Let now the weak say I have strength
By the spirit of power that raised Christ from the dead
And now the poor stand and confess
That my portion is Him and I'm more than blessed

Let now our hearts burn with a flame
A fire consuming all for Your Son's holy name
And with the heavens we declare
You are our King

We love You Lord, we worship You
You are our God, You alone are good

Let now Your church shine as Your bride
That You saw in Your heart as You offered up Your life
Let now the lost be welcomed home
By the saved and redeemed, those adopted as Your own

Let now our hearts burn with a flame
A fire consuming all for Your Son's holy name
And with the heavens we declare
You are our King

We love You Lord, we worship You
You are our God, You alone are good

You asked Your Son to carry this
The heavy cross, our weight of sin

I love You Lord, I worship You
Hope which was lost, now stands renewed
I give my life to honor this
The love of Christ, the Savior King

Last night I went to the Good Friday service at the church I have been visiting for the past couple months. We sang this song at the service (among several other really good ones), took Communion, and had a some good prayer time. It was a great evening of worship that I really needed... and when I came home last night, I grabbed my Bible, journal, and a blanket, and drove up to the lake for my own personal time of worship.
The dock is a good place for Jesus-time. The crickets and frogs were singing, and I counted the stars as they came out one by one... all while talking and listening to God.
Even though I live and work at a Christian camp, I often feel like my relationship with God suffers. I squeeze in 15 minutes with Him each morning while getting ready for work... and I hunger for a word or touch from Him, but if it's gonna happen during my "quiet time" in the mornings, it'd better be something "quick and easy" so I won't be late for work.
A relationship can't survive like that.
So by the time the weekends or days off come around, I'm like a dry sponge -- so thirsty for a real time with Him. That's the way I felt last night, and the music, the words, the Scriptures, the prayer, the crickets and frogs and stars, all of it just poured over me and I soaked HIM in.
I don't want to keep letting myself get that thirsty. Practically, it's difficult to make that time during the work-week.... but I know some of it is a matter of priorities. Please pray for me on this?
There is nothing more beneficial that you and I can do than to soak up our Savior, to worship Him and to listen to His word. We need it like air and water.
He is beautiful, our Savior King. Take time to think this weekend about what He did for you on the cross. Where would you be without it?

"I love You Lord, I worship You
Hope which was lost, now stands renewed
I give my life to honor this
The love of Christ, the Savior King"

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Disney Princess Bridal Shower

Today, Holly (one of Briana's other bridesmaids) and I gave her another bridal shower. This one was a Disney Princess themed shower. We put a lot of time and work into it, and were really happy with the outcome!! Each table was a different princess. Some pictures....







Monday, April 11, 2011

♫ you can't fence time and you can't stop love ♫

Well, it's 1 month and 11 days until my little sister gets married. So hard to believe! I helped give a shower for her yesterday, and will be giving another one this coming weekend. I'm also addressing their invitations for them, and in a couple of weeks will be shooting some of their engagement photos (so very excited about that!)! So the wedding prep has been keeping me kinda busy lately in my off-work hours.
Last weekend, I went and spent the weekend with Briana at her apartment -- I guess the last "just the two of us" weekend we'll spend together before she gets married. It was a lot of fun :-) We spent Sunday afternoon lying on a blanket in her back yard, soaking up the sun and writing silly stories.
Here's a shot from the shower yesterday... the centerpieces turned out so pretty!
Wedding day will be here before we know it!
Savoring every moment until then...

Friday, April 1, 2011

Things I've Learned.

Since beginning my year-round job at Camp a year-and-a-half ago, I have learned a TON about the Christian camping ministry. But I realized recently that I've also learned a lot about myself and life in general. I'd like to share a few of those things... if you don't mind :-)

-- I've learned that working hard and getting paid for it is rewarding... but working hard and then seeing positive fruit of your work is even so much more rewarding.
-- I've learned that interstates are not quite as confusing and terrifying as I once thought them to be.
-- I've learned that I really can't please everyone. There are some people who just don't like me (and some people I don't like!!) and that's okay. I'm learning to accept that.
-- I've learned that in every ministry project/outreach, there is SO MUCH detail work done behind the scenes, that most people don't even think about.
-- I've learned that "behind the scenes" is where God often likes to put me, to teach me humility. Because I often want my hard work to be noticed... but I'm learning that God sees it and that's enough.
-- I've learned that no matter how much you enjoy your job and the people you work with, the weekend (or a day off) still causes great rejoicing.
-- I've learned that 5:30am makes me angry. I'm normally just fine with mornings, and am one of the few camp staff who actually enjoys doing breakfast assembly in the summer. But getting up at 5:30am makes me kind of hate the world.
-- I've learned that saying a positive word to someone, even something as simple as "you're doing a great job," can be a blessing to both sides. Making the effort to brighten someone's day brightens mine.
-- I've learned that I actually can live on my own and not be drowning in loneliness all the time (although it does happen on occasion).
-- I've learned that life and circumstances aren't always fair. But I'm learning that I need to be a giver, and have a submissive, serving heart.
-- I've learned that telephones and microphones are not so terribly frightening...most of the time...
-- I've learned that I am stronger (physically and emotionally) than I thought I was... and yet it's not my strength. "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."

These are just a few of the life lessons I've learned at Camp since last October. Can I say "everything I know about life I learned from working at camp"? Well, maybe not. But definitely some important lessons and growth.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Fictional Character Development

So, a couple of blog-friend people are doing this monthly thing for writers to further develop their characters. They're giving a list of questions each month, and fiction writers can answer the questions about one of their characters. I thought it sounded pretty fun, so I'm gonna give it a shot :-)


What is your character's full name?
Brandon Tyler Austin. He is the main character in a novel I've been working on for... oh about 5 years or so :-)

Does his/her name of a special meaning?
Yes. He was named after the town of Brandon River where his mother grew up. The town has a special significance in the story.

Does your character have a methodical or disorganized personality?
I'd have to say more disorganized. He's a 17-year-old guy who gets into trouble and wants his own way in life... definitely tends toward disorganized.

Does he/she think inside themselves more than they talk out loud to their friends? (more importantly, does he/she actually have friends?)
He does have friends, but this story doesn't show him interacting with them much. In his current circumstances, he's spending more time than normal "thinking inside himself," although he does have plenty of interaction with the people around him.

Is there something he/she is afraid of?
Facing the past. Being seen as weak.

Does he/she write, dream, dance, sing, or photograph?
Not really any of the above. If he was a girl, it would be different, I'm sure :-) This is really my first story in which a guy has been my main character, so it's been different.

What is his/her favorite book? (or genre of book)
He's not really the reading type.

Who is his/her favorite author and/or someone that inspires him/her?
Again, not the reading type. But someone who inspires him would be his Mamaw. When he really begins to get to know her, he's kind of taken in by her sweetness and gentleness, and she starts to really have an effect on his life.

Favorite flavor of ice cream?
He's a teenage guy. He'll eat pretty much anything!

Favorite season of the year?
Summer. No school, more time to hang out with buddies.

So there you have it. Character development. And maybe one day I'll actually finish this novel... it's one of those things that just gets put away until I have occasional free time.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

oh lovely weekend!

Yesterday:
Friday! :-)
Gorgeous day
Getting the word out about Camp Job Fairs
Helped a coworker/friend with a fun project
Banana pudding milkshake from Chik-Fil-A
Drove home for the weekend
Today:
Home with my family
Slept in till 11:45
Another gorgeous day
Played in the back yard with my 9-yo sister
Tomorrow:
Soccer game!
So thankful for weekends full of little blessings :-)

Monday, March 14, 2011

the pursuit of love.

I've been visiting a new church for the past 3 Sundays... still praying about if this is where God wants me. I do like it. Just want to be sure, ya know? Because church is a pretty big deal.
Anyway, the pastor is currently doing a short series on marriage and relationships. Two of his statements that have really stood out to me are these:
"Marriage is a spiritual issue. It is intended to bring us closer to God."
"Love happens when someone decides to pursue the well-being of another person."
Wow, that second one especially makes me think. Love is not feelings. Love is not passive, and it's not self-centered. Love is active and it's hard work. It's intentional. It's pursuing the well-being of another person!
In a romantic relationship, of course, feelings are involved. I don't know how all that balances out. But I do know that true love is not based on romantic emotions. It's grounded in God's love... which definitely has nothing to do with feelings!

"Love bears all things
believes all things
hopes all things
endures all things."
(1 Corinthians 13:7)

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Refreshing.

In a recent post, I mentioned that God had spoken to me through chapters 31 and 32 of Isaiah, and I shared from chapter 31 about how God alone is our steady Rock. In this post, I want to continue and share with you the treasure in chapter 32 that He opened my eyes to. I had never read this passage before last week, but when I read it, it really grabbed me.

Isaiah 32:1-2 says, Behold, a king will reign righteously and princes will rule justly. Each will be like a refuge from the wind and a shelter from the storm, like streams of water in a dry country, like the shade of a huge rock in a parched land.

Do you see what I see? I believe that God is telling us how He wants us to be in this world. If God is our King, then we, as His children, are princes and princesses in His kingdom. We are His representatives in the world. So this description in Isaiah 32 of the princes… it should describe you and me!

This has really affected how I’m thinking and how I’m relating to people these last couple of weeks!

Each will be like a refuge from the wind and a shelter from the storm. Think about this -- you’re outside and the wind is blowing like crazy. It’s messing up your hair and blowing things out of your hands, and it’s cold. You’ve experienced that, right? How nice does it feel to finally get inside or into your car? You get out of the wind and give a relieved sigh. Maybe you’re still annoyed that your hairstyle is destroyed for the day, but you’re glad to be out of the wind.
And the same situation when you get caught in a sudden rainstorm. You get soaked, but it’s such a relieving feeling to make it to shelter. I experienced this just the other day. I walked out of the mall to find rain coming down so hard it was like a thick gray curtain. By the time I made it to my car, I looked like I had just showered with my clothes on. I hopped in the car, shut the door, and let out a relieved -- and slightly amused -- laugh. My car was a safe place, out of the rain.

Like streams of water in a dry country, like the shade of a huge rock in a parched land. This portion of the text has much more of a personal significance to me, because of my experience last summer in working as camp staff. We had some very, very hot days last summer, and there were many days that I was -- like others -- out doing physical work in the heat for hours at a time. I would be totally drenched in sweat, and so thirsty that a bottle of water would become the sole motivation for finishing my work.
Think about the hottest and thirstiest you’ve ever been. Not a good feeling, is it? You’re sweaty, the sun is beating down on you mercilessly, and you’re parched. Can you image how amazing it would feel at that moment to jump in a cool stream? What a blessing it would be to sit down in the shade, and maybe feel a gentle breeze?

Isaiah 32:1-2 is telling us that this is how we should be to the people around us -- that place of shelter from the wind and rain, that refreshing stream of water, that shady spot out of the blazing sun. What kind of feeling or impression do people leave with after they’ve been in our presence? That’s a question each of us has to ask ourselves. Am I a safe place, a place people can be comfortable and feel relief from stress and troubles? Do I give out Living Water? Am I refreshing? Do people leave my presence smiling and feeling more rested, more peaceful?

I could name just 2 or 3 people I’ve met who are like that. You know, those people who make your day better just by being who they are. I want to be that kind of person… an Isaiah 32:2 kind of person.

Like I said, this Scripture has been affecting me the past few days. I’ve been trying to take into more careful consideration, “How can I be a shelter or a shady spot to this person? How can I make their day better?” Ultimately the question is, “How can I show God’s love to this person?” Because that’s the basis of it all. It definitely won’t always be easy -- sometimes we don’t feel like it, and there are some people who are just hard to be nice to.

But in the end, the goal is to point people to God. It’s NOT to get attention for ourselves… it’s not ONLY to bless people and make them smile… it’s ALL about God’s glory.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

frustration.

At what point do you just decide that the friendship is not worth the effort anymore?

Thursday, February 24, 2011

On Christ the solid Rock I stand

I’ve been being quite drawn to the book of Isaiah lately. This week, God showed me some stuff from chapters 31 and 32 that has really stuck with me -- stuff about Him and about me. Today I’m going to share just the first part.

The end of Isaiah chapter 31 talks about the Assyrians, who were enemies to God’s people. It foretells their ruin and how they will be defeated. Verse nine states, “His [the Assyrian’s] rock will pass away because of panic.”
When I read this verse, my immediate response was, “I’m so glad to know that my Rock will never pass away!!” Isn’t that true? God, our solid Rock, never fails and is never shaken, no matter what happens. We can always trust Him to be there for us -- He’s the same yesterday, today, and forever.

And then I realized that too often, I look to other things in life to be a “rock” for me. Most often it’s other people. I want people to be steady and to be there for me and to meet my needs. I look to them and their approval as a source of my security and value. But people fall, and they’re shaken by circumstances, and their affections and interests change. No person can be a rock. That’s why even the Assyrian’s seemingly-solid rock was defeated when panic struck.
Sometimes I look for security in my job or my home, or in money, or in comfortable circumstances. Any of these can be things we’re guilty of holding onto, of standing on, of building our foundation upon… when in reality, Jesus is the only One worthy of that place.

Matthew 7:24-27 talks about the foundations we build our lives upon. The foolish man builds his house on the unsteady, shifting sand, and his house collapses in the storm. But the wise man builds his house on the solid Rock -- God and His words -- and his house stands, even through the fiercest storm.

If our security and our treasure is built on temporary things, it’s all going to crash one day. But if we’re standing upon the Rock of Ages and putting all our faith in Him, we don’t ever have to fear that our Rock will pass away. Because He never will.

Oh God, help me cling to You alone! Nothing else will satisfy, nothing else will save. You are the only One who will be firm and unshaken when everything else is in chaos. Help me to set my attention and affection on You. Thank You for being the Rock on which I stand. All other ground is sinking sand.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Blogging with a sinus infection = rambling.

I finally went to the doctor today... been sick since Sunday and not getting any better. So I start antibiotics for a sinus infection tonight and hopefully will be rid of this junk very soon!!
My boss has been great this week while I've been sick. He has let me take a lot of time off -- all of Tuesday, Wednesday afternoon, and Thursday morning. Therefore, I spent quite a bit of time this week lying on my couch watching movies. Thanks boss!! :-)
Now I get to spend the weekend at my family's and let them take care of me, which is nice. Nice to be taken care of and nice to be with my family.
Here's hoping I'm better and have a voice again by Sunday -- my commissioning service for serving with the NAMB is Sunday night, and I have to speak in front of the church! Still don't know what I'm gonna say yet.... should probably think about that :-)
Okay, I'll quit rambling. Have a great weekend, everyone.

Monday, February 14, 2011

it's the day of roses and hearts.

So, it's Valentines Day once again. How did I spend it? Worked alone in the office until 4... ran a couple of errands...cooked a frozen pizza for my dinner...watched a terrible movie. Oh, and I'm sick with a cold, too.
But I'm not complaining :-)
Really -- I expected this Valentines Day to be tough emotionally, but it hasn't been. Most of the day I haven't even thought about the fact that it's the 14th. It was just another day.
God used my sweet friend Amanda to help alter my attitude toward V-day a bit. She sent me a message on Saturday that really made me smile and encouraged me. Here's part of what she said:
Valentine's day isn't about who has a boyfriend, and who wants a boyfriend, or who had a boyfriend. It's about love, simple as that. I mean in a sense anyone you love can be your valentine, whether its friends, family, or a significant other, or even GOD. So I hope this Valentine's day you don't find yourself eating a gallon of ice cream, or a package of cookie dough, instead take the time to tell those in your life that you love them!! :) And then that day will come where you get a guy, and then your perspective on the holiday can change. I know he (whoever he is) is out there. God is continuing to work on you and him to create the husband you will need, and the wife he needs! I am convinced that True Love, no matter how long the wait, is worth the wait! This year I'm not sad, I am blessed and glad that I am loved.

I'm so blessed to have godly friends who are walking this "single" journey alongside me, and that we can encourage each other along the way :-)
I hope and pray that each one of you who reads this is aware of just how beloved you are.
Because Valentines Day isn't about boyfriends and girlfriends. It's about love. And GOD IS LOVE.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Pray for Kate.

I found this link through my friend Courtney's blog.
My heart was pierced and I cried for this precious little girl.
Kate and her family really, really need our prayers. Please, take a few minutes to look at her picture, read her story, and pray for her.
Thank you.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

"staring at these empty walls"

I'm sitting at work, but not being very productive at the moment.
I don't want to work. Usually, when I don't feel like working, there's something else I'd rather be doing, like playing on the computer or talking to somebody or being outside.
But today, I don't want to work but don't want to do any of that either. I feel like just sitting and staring and doing absolutely nothing.
Maybe I need sleep?
But here we go... gonna take a deep breath and get back into these personnel files, then go and do a camp presentation at a church this evening. Wish me luck ;-)

Monday, January 31, 2011

Romans 13:14

"Clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature." Romans 13:14, NIV
"Put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts." Romans 13:14 NASB.
A friend posted this verse on Facebook a few days ago, and it pretty much rocked my world. It speaks to me about my thoughts. You know, Jesus said that our sin begins in our thoughts. Hating someone = murder. Lustful thoughts = adultery. Etc.
Repenting and changing outward behavior is one thing, but changing our thought habits is something totally different. So the message God is repeating to me this week is "Take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ Jesus."

Saturday, January 29, 2011

one of my favorite quotes.

If you love something, let it go free.
If it returns to you, it's yours.
If not, it never was.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Random Ramblings.

Here I sit, eating Fritos with French Onion dip -- this is the salty to counteract the sweet brownie I have every intention of eating before going to bed tonight. Hey, I had vegetable soup for dinner, so it's okay... right?
I have some rather big news. Yesterday my approval letter came in from the North American Mission Board, which means I'm now officially a missionary, assigned to Camp... where, yes, I have already been working, but I will now, as a NAMB missionary, be transitioning from part-time to full-time, and will also be living at Camp, and raising support for myself. I'm excited! But more like kind of going back and forth between excited and nervous. This has been "in the works" for a couple months, but today it's HERE and NOW. I've been keeping this whole thing relatively quiet until the approval came in, so now that it's in and I've announced it to the world (aka Facebook), it's like, wow. It's for real, actually happening now.
I'll be moving within the next couple of weeks... and I've never lived alone before. I'm excited to "strike out on my own", but nervous about how quiet and lonely it will be at times. About how much I'll miss hugging and giggling with my little sisters, and talking with my parents every night while we watch crime shows together. I'll miss the familiarity of "home" and my own room that I've lived in for 21 years.
But I know we'll all adjust. And I'm excited to have my own little place to decorate and to make it "home".... for a while, at least :-) Speaking of which, I'm documenting the moving-in process in photographs, so I'll try to post a few here later. Except I forgot to take a picture of the guys moving my couch in today. Stink.
Okay, moving on to another subject. Umm.. I got mail today! You know, in this age of electronic everything, it's still so much fun to get real mail. When it's not a bill or a bank statement, of course. Today, I got a card from my sweet friend Amanda. It made me happy. When I opened the mailbox and saw that envelope sitting there, I actually announced aloud to whoever was listening (which was no one), "I got a letter from Amanda!" haha. So here's a challenge for you: why not write a real, legit, snail-mail letter to someone this week? It's fun, and definitely a day-brightener for the recipient.
Just so you know, it took me about 5 tries to spell recipient. I'm normally a very good speller, but that one threw me off a little.
Speaking of which, I find that good spelling and good grammar is very attractive in a man.
I think I shall go for now. I shall put away the Fritos and dip, and try to avoid the brownie for just a little while longer... but rest assured, it will be eaten before my head hits the pillow tonight.
Good night and God bless.
~your random, tired friend Ashley

Saturday, January 22, 2011

DIY: Record Bowls


For our recent 50's theme staff retreat, I made bowls out of old records. They were fun to make, turned out pretty cool, and got a lot of good comments, so I thought I'd share here how I made them! It's quite easy :-)
First, I went thrift-store-shopping! Old records were 29 cents each at our local Goodwill.
For the actual bowl melting process, you will need:
- a record
- an oven
- a small metal (NOT plastic) bowl
- two oven mitts
Start by heating the oven to 200 degrees. Place the small metal bowl upside down on the oven rack, and place the record, centered, on top of the bowl. Close the oven door, but keep a close eye on your record. It will only take about a minute to begin to melt. When you see the record begin to melt around the bowl, put on your oven mitts, open the door, and remove the record. It will stay soft for just a few seconds, and you can use your hands (with oven mitts, of course) to gently and quickly mold it into the shape you want. If the record hardens before you are happy with the shape of it, just place it back in the oven for a few seconds.
That's all there is to it! Your finished product should look something like this:
Note: I should let you know that the safety notes I read online said to do this in a well-ventilated area and avoid inhaling the fumes. Also, don't serve food in these bowls -- packaged candy, etc would be fine :-)
Have fun!!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

it is enough.

"O My child, it is not appointed to you to know the future, nor to be able to discern beforehand My exact plans. It is enough that we should walk together in love and trust. No doubts need mar your peace, nor anxieties cloud your brow. Rest in the knowledge that My ways are perfect and My grace is all-sufficient. You will find My help adequate, no matter what may befall you.
To be unduly concerned with matters of the future is to your own disadvantage. So much is waiting to be done now."
(from Come Away My Beloved, by Frances Roberts)

Monday, January 17, 2011

Fond (and not so fond) Memories of Miss Anneliese

Today I remembered someone from my childhood who I hadn't thought about in a while -- Miss Anneliese Von Oettingen. I had to smile when I thought of her. Let me tell you the story.
I took ballet classes all of my growing-up years. My ballet teacher's name was "Ms. Elizabeth." Between the ages of about 9 and 13, I was active in the dance competition group, and in classes two or three times a week.
It was somewhere early in this time period that I was introduced to Miss Anneliese. She had been Ms. Elizabeth's childhood ballet instructor, and she came to visit and teach our ballet class more than once. Miss Anneliese was born and raised in Germany, received dance training in Berlin and in London, and opened the first successful ballet school in Cincinnati. When it came to ballet, Miss Anneliese knew her stuff!
By the time I met her, she was much older and no longer in dancer-shape physically. She was still an expert ballet teacher who challenged our class.... but she was also very blunt. Oh, she was blunt.
She hurt girls' feelings. She made girls cry.
Around age 10, I was chosen along with one other girl to perform a duet in our Christmas show. We worked very hard on our duet and were proud of it. When we performed it for Miss Anneliese, her only response was that the shoelaces on our ballet shoes were undone and it looked unprofessional. I was so mad!!
There was always mixed response when she was coming to visit. Some looked forward to her teaching, others dreaded it. For a while, I was one of the ones who didn't like her, but that eventually changed.
Miss Anneliese passed away in 2002. I appreciate her influence in my life as a person, a ballet expert, and a challenge! :-)

Thursday, January 13, 2011

do you fit?

The other day, I started thinking about how I don't really seem to "fit in" with any particular group. Not that I'm an outcast... I have a lot of friendly acquaintances and a few good friends. But what I'm saying is, if I look across a room-full of people I know, there are definite "groups." These 4 are a group with certain characteristics. Those 2 or 3 are a group who always hang out together. Some people are members of more than one group. But think about it... the groups are there.
What I realized is that while I can spend some time in many of these groups, and I love a lot of the people in them, I don't really quite exactly fit in any of them. Do you ever feel that way?
So I asked God, why don't I ever feel like I fit in?
The answer? Well, for one, if I fit perfectly with a group of friends, I'd be less likely to reach out to other people who "don't quite fit." This is how I met my friend Alisha. We were at an event where neither of our "groups" were there -- I was trying desperately to fit in & ready to give up, when I saw her sitting alone. We started talking, and the rest is history. If I'd been involved and comfortable with my group, we might not have become friends.
Second, being comfortable and secure in a group of people I "fit in with" keeps me from stretching/challenging myself. Floating between groups and getting to know various people takes effort and getting out of one's comfort zone.
And finally, if I'm secure in a group of people, then I don't get to practice being secure in God. My position with Him always stays the same -- chosen, holy, and beloved (Colossians 3:12 -- that's your position, too, you know!) Other people might not always treat us that way, but that's our opportunity to rise above and remember who we are. This is something that has taken years for me to grasp, because I want so badly to be liked by other people. I'm learning that being loved by Jesus is enough :-)
Reaching out, being stretched, and remembering our position in Christ... maybe being a "misfit" occasionally isn't so bad?

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The Fabulous Fifties - Midwinter Retreat

This past weekend was our annual Midwinter Staff & Counselor Retreat at camp! We were afraid we might have to cancel because of snow, but "the show went on"! Several people who had planned to come couldn't because of the weather (which was sad) but those of us who got to be there had a great time. The theme of the weekend was the "Fabulous Fifties", and our spiritual theme was "Happy Days." Since some of the outdoor activities had to be canceled, we spent a lot of time playing board games and card games, and playing in the snow. Here are a few pictures from the weekend:
Midwinter Retreat is always a fun weekend for the summer staff to get together again, catch up on each other's lives and on what's going on at camp, and to reconnect with God. And now that Midwinter is over, it's about time to dive into recruiting and hiring, so we can have another great summer!! :-)

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Saddle up your horses...

On New Years Eve, as 2010 ended, Briana went home, AND my favorite radio station went off the air, I was feeling pretty down and sad. I kept reminding myself that with every ending is a new beginning. There is always hope.
As Love89 went off the air, their final closing song was "The Great Adventure" by Stephen Curtis Chapman. An oldie but a goody! :-)
Saddle up your horses, we've got a trail to blaze
Through the wild blue yonder of God's amazing grace
We'll follow our Leader into the glorious unknown
This is a life like no other...this is the great adventure!
We'll travel over, over mountains so high
We'll go through valleys below
Still through it all we'll find that
This is the greatest journey the human heart will ever see
The love of God will take us far beyond our wildest dreams!
I'm ready for the great adventure God is going to take me on in 2011. Are you?
Happy New Year!