Monday, July 11, 2011

Letting go of Me

This summer I can't help thinking how I want to be in Ukraine or Kenya or both or in some other country. This is the first summer in three years that I will be home for the whole summer. There is something in me that wants to go. I have a passion for missions. However, I have been reflecting on why I want to go right now. I realize that part of my thoughts and desires are unhealthy. As I look at people's pictures and posts from Ukraine and Kenya, my heart aches to be there. I want to go and love on these people, but a part of me wants to be accepted, loved in return, needed, and for my identity to be what I am doing to help others. Pride is huge factor and so are the unhealthy parts of my life that are being pulled out in front of me, realizing my identity is so grounded in what man thinks of me. This summer God has been showing me the unhealthy parts of my heart, the fears, and thoughts that are not of Him. I realize that my identity in man plays a huge part in my life. I long for my identity to be in God. That I may be so rooted in who I am in Him and not care what man thinks of me. Some of my fears or unhealthy thoughts are desire for approval and acceptance, fear of disappointing people, assumption thinking,and a desire to be needed and noticed. Yesterday as I viewed posts and fell into self-pity of not being able to go anywhere, I had to reflect why it hurt so much and what were my motives. It hit me hard when I realized a lot of it stems from a focus on ME and not the people in the other countries. So many people have asked me where I am going this summer and I have to tell them I am not going anywhere this year. Not being able to tell them I am going anywhere hurts my pride and identity. I notice now how much I was allowing those trips to be somewhat of an identity for me.

 I see now that God wanted me here this summer to purge me of fears, thoughts, and desires that are not of Him and to learn to let go of 'me.' These are hard lessons but so good. Growth is hard but beautiful at the same time. I know in my heart that God has given me a passion for missions and will use that someday. I am learning that I need to remove the 'me' from my passion for missions and my identity and make it fully about Him.

God please remove the dirt and scum from my heart. Please fill it with the more of You! God, humble me and change my heart. Lord may my identity be changed to reflect who I am in You. Continue to teach me and help me to fully understand Your love and grace for me. Thank you Abba! God help me not to miss what is going here this summer instead of where I could or want to be. Change my heart God!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Freedom

"Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is Spirit." 2 Corinthians 3:17-18

This week has been interesting. Monday was a super encouraging day. I met up to with a friend and her mom to help out with a ministry that makes food for the homeless. We talked while we made peanut butter sandwiches. I was able to tell them what is going on in my life and the ups and downs I have been having. My friends mom spoke truth and encouragement into my life. She asked me do you have a fear of control when it comes to your family? Do you struggle not being in control of the situation in regards to my brother? I realized I do have a fear of control. I have no control on what is happening and can't change it. She was telling me that releasing the situation over to God is so freeing. When we don't surrender, in a way, we are saying we don't fully trust God and don't think He is capable to control the situation. It was a good wake up call to surrender and trust God. That night I went to a ministry that goes to pray and worship with sick kids, people with cancer, hurting, etc. I haven't been in a really long time but had the night off and felt the need to turn my focus off myself and my family and be able to love on others. Before we go out we always have a time of prayer to prepare our hearts. There were only 3 of us going that night and so we were able to spend more time praying for each other and our night. They asked me how I was doing. The woman that leads the ministry told me that I seem to carry the presence of peace with me and went on to explain that as Christians we all tend to carry a different presence with us. It was encouraging to know that I carried a sense of God's peace and had been encouraged that day, but in the depths of my soul I was hurting and worried about my brother. They both prayed over me and as we prayed, the woman asked me to picture my brother and ask God where He was in relation to my brother. I saw my brother surrounded by a huge cloud of God's presence. It was so encouraging that God reminded me that my brother is not alone that God is surrounding him and loving him. :) After our time of prayer we went to visit a friend's mom who was diagnosed with cancer around March. We worshiped and prayed with her. In what seemed contrasting to the situation of cancer, I just had an overwhelming sense of joy for this family and knowing that God was working. I totally saw God working that night and left even more encouraged. 
           Even though I had a day of encouragement on Monday this week I have felt lonely and a struggle. Honestly, I don't even know fully why I feel this way. I lack motivation to be exercising which is more then just working out but a time that I clear my head, listen to worship music, and talk with God. I have just felt alone but allowed myself to wallow in it this week. I am struggling to keep pressing into God. This time with my brother situation and my struggles I don't want to push Him away and feel numb, but I want to press into Him. I just feel like it is a fight though this week. Also, I have been pondering where my community is. I would love to just live in community with people all the time that encourages and strengthens each other to follow Christ wholeheartedly. I think I have just felt distant from people this week and so I have a longing for community. I love Circles and Rock Harbor, but don't know where I belong exactly ... I am just rambling at this point. I really don't know what I feel and why. 
        This morning my friend invited me to go to a Bible study at Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa. For some reason I really wrestled with going. Last night I kept thinking well I have had a long week and I would love to just sleep in, but I felt like what else was I going to do in the morning once I woke up. I thought maybe I would just check it out. Well, it ended up being exactly what I needed to hear. The talk today was all about Freedom. She asked us do you really know that Jesus loves you, all of you? Do you not just know in your head that He loves you, but in the depths of your soul? I sat there questioning if I really did. She continued to say that the desire to satisfy or fill our lives with other things besides Christ shows we are lacking in knowing His full love for us. It is the power of His love that will set us free! The disciples were not radical followers, but followers of Christ that were radically changed by His love and transformed in the process. When we fully grasp the love Christ has for us that brings us to freedom and transformation. We should look like radical authentic followers of Christ that are transformed by His love. It was such an awesome message! I feel like God keeps bringing up freedom and love in my life.  This is what we have been talking about at Rock Harbor. I want to live in a life of freedom and transforming love, but I am not quite there yet. I know God is working. It has just been tough recently. 

 God break down whatever is holding me back from freedom! I want to surrender the doubts, loneliness, and fears, and let You consume my heart with Your love. I want to be so consumed by Your love that I am transformed and become a 'radical' follower. I want to live in freedom. God I ask that You will break down walls holding me back from full surrender and giving up control. I want to trust You! I want my identity and life to reflect You! Please fill and consume me. May Your Spirit reign in this place, that there may be freedom!! 

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Identity

The last few weeks I have been realizing how much I put my identity in what man thinks of me verses who I am in God. A couple weekends ago I was around several people that I struggle standing up to and tend to be manipulated by. I hate conflict and I hate people not liking me or being mad at me. A part of that fear leads me to allow manipulation and not stand up for myself. I want to trust people and think that they would not treat me in a manipulative way. I know I have always struggled with this but I feel like God wants to bring this to the surface of my heart and bring healing and freedom in this area. It is a hard lesson that I think will have to continue for awhile. The same weekend I was struggling through being around difficult people, Darrin spoke on freedom over idols. That message spoke right to me and I felt like "Okay God I get it..." I realized my idols are acceptance, approval, and fear of man. I loved how Darrin brought up that we need to walk in the Spirit and that giving up our idols and following him doesn't happen over night. We need to continually surrender. I want to be so grounded in who I am in Christ. I am his daughter, beloved, vessel, and bond servant. I want to be used by God. I want to be done with living a life in fear of man and what they think of me. This keeps me at times from sharing who I am in Christ, and sharing the gospel and hope to other people, especially people I work with. I want to be a humble but bold vessel for the Lord.

God please help me to continually lay my idols at your feet and surrender myself before you. Abba, give me strength and confidence in You. Help me to learn to hear your voice clearly and to follow you with all that I am :)

Another thing I have noticed lately is how awesome the Old Testament is. Growing up in a Christian environment, I heard the Bible stories many times. I never really dove into and read the Old Testament that much. Recently, I have been reading the stories of Joshua, Gideon, Sampson, Saul, David, Ruth, Esther, and Samuel. Now that I have been reading them I noticed how messed up, raw, and real these people were. I always tended to hold these people on pedestals as the heroes of the Bible. I realize now they are just like us today. They struggle, doubt, disobey, and question but God wanted to use them. He loved them and did not stop pursuing and using them. He even considered David a man after His own heart when we could look at David and consider him a murderer and adulterer. I also loved that even though Gideon need continual reassurance from God, he did step out in obedience and God continued to reveal Himself to him. I love that even though we do stumble and fall, God will continue to pick us up and use us. We need to have hearts of repentance and surrender and to walk in the Spirit. Thank you God for Your forgiveness and faithfulness to us and for using us to further Your kingdom!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Hope

I don't even know where to start with this blog. God used several events yesterday to speak to me. The last few weeks I have felt distant from the Lord. I felt numb and like I didn't even know what to feel. I realized now that I was not wanting to deal with the situation with my brother. This is something I know I shouldn't do but I tend to push God away when I am hurting. I know I need Him desperately and I know that He is faithful but I think by "pushing" God away I won't have to deal with my pain, hurt, and situation. I haven't been spending much time in the Word or being as involved with Circles stuff including blogging because I did not want to deal with my situation and think about it. Instead of letting God heal me and be my strength,  I chose to live in feelings of emptiness and be numb to the world. The thing is this last few weeks I did not really realize that this is what I was doing until last night.

At Circles yesterday my eyes were opened to the talent of empathy. Doug, Lindsay, and I had a conversation about how empathy can be a really great talent but also can be harmful to yourself. A person with empathy tends to be compassionate and to feel the pain of others and take that upon themselves. However, it is really important that a person with empathy have a way to release those feelings so they don't bottle up inside. Doug was talking about how exercise or people with other talents can help point out to you to remember that those feelings are not always yours to take and you need to let it go. After I left Circles and was headed to a birthday party, I was reflecting on our conversation. I realized that I tend to want to take on the pain and emotions of my patients at work but also my family's. I spent the time in the car praying about giving over these feelings of needing to take on my family's hurts and pains as well as my own. I am not helping anyone by doing that. I was also praying that God would break the wall that was between us. I prayed " God I don't even know why I feel this way and why there is a wall between us. Please break the walls down and show me what they are. I don't want to feel this way anymore." 

I finally arrived at the birthday party and tried to be present with everyone even though I still felt numb and lacked joy. The night went on and about 10ish I announced that I needed to leave. My friend's mom who has survived breast cancer and is an amazing woman of God asked if she could pray for me before I left. I love this woman and her prayers and thought why not. She asked what I needed prayer for and if I minded sharing with the other women at the party. Again I thought why not. I told them how I feel like I am pushing God away but I know I need Him and I don't want to do that anymore. I shared how my family is struggling to deal with my brother's situation and how it is hindering my walk with God. Then they all laid hands on me and prayed for me, my family, and my brother. It was soo powerful! I couldn't stop crying. I just kept thinking about the fact that here my friend is giving up time from her party to pray for me and a bunch of women I don't even know care about me to pray. They prayed for God's love to surround me and I felt it through these women's love towards me. It was so cool because some of the words prayed over me were things that God has been showing me. One was to "be still and know that I am God."  My friend's mom pointed out that I have been keeping really busy in order not to deal with what is going on. She told me I need to make sure and set aside time for the Lord so that He can teach me and be my strength. She encouraged me to be consistent in reading the Bible. She shared how through her cancer she had to stay in the word because that needed to be her foundation and that was how God revealed truths and was her strength. Several of the women told me to put on the armor of God, let Him be my strength, don't let the pain divide my family, and that God will use this time of pain. I felt like God was using them to pour truth and love over me. My friend's mom also shared how as in the old testament the Israelites would place stone memorials marking where God had acted, God is creating memorial stones in my life. I recently had been reading in Joshua how they crossed the Jordan as the Lord parted it for them and they made a memorial of stones. God had been making memorial stones in my life in one from my brother being healed of cancer, getting me family through my grandparents death, and now with my other brother.
He definitely broke down walls for me. Walls of taking on my families pain, of business not allowing me to be still before the Lord, and of hopelessness. God restored my hope again for my brother and my family. I felt an overwhelming sense of God's love for me as He answered my prayer of breaking down the walls and how He used these women at a birthday party to minister to me. After they prayed for me, we then prayed for several other women and it allowed for a time of being open and vulnerable with each other even though we didn't know one another. It was so awesome to see the body of Christ come together in that way and have a common bond though Christ. :)

Abba I surrender and want to be near to You. Thank you for Your Faithfulness, Love, and Hope and that You don't give up on me. Thank you for restoring my hope. Use me and help me to be still before You. I love You!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Trust

To be honest these last two weeks have been pretty tough. I found out in these last two weeks some devastating news about someone in my family.  I can't share the news over blog but don't mind sharing with you all in person and some of you already know.  Anyways, at the initial time of hearing the news I was comforted as I saw how God's timing was perfect for me. I couldn't have handled hearing the news a day earlier. At the Japan fundraiser I was able to talk to a friend about what is going on in my life in regards to this family member even before I found out the devastating news. I had already lost hope somewhat in the current situation with my family member and she was able to speak into my life and pray for me. She told me to ask God to reveal to me how much He has transformed my life and how much He loves me so that I can bring this love of restoration to my family member. The next morning I was so encouraged and went on the beach and spent awesome time with the Lord. On my way back from the beach I was able to pray with a friend over the phone for this family member. That afternoon my parents told me the news. I was devastated and crushed. I went to church that night and cried out my heart. I was encouraged though as I reminded myself of God's faithfulness and received prayer from others. However, these last two weeks I let depression, my fears, and my mind take over. I knew deep in my heart that God is able, that He is faithful, and that I can trust Him; but instead I wanted to believe my mind in thinking that this situation is impossible. I wrestled with this the last two weeks. I felt discouraged and a heaviness about the whole situation.

  I ended up going to Third Wednesday even though I kind of just wanted to go wallow in my depression at home instead. I am so glad I went though! As I joined into worship at first I was struggling. I felt like how I can praise God when I can't even let myself trust Him. I have seen Him heal my brother from cancer and walk my family through some gnarly things but for some reason I let a wall up in this situation. As I continued to worship I just cried out to God and poured out my fears, doubts, and frustrations. I asked Him to lift this heaviness surrounding me and to break the wall of fear of doubt. By the end of the night, God broke through to me. I realized then that I had let my flesh and mind take over and that by not trusting God I wasn't changing anything. I was just hurting myself in trying to stay in control of the situation with my mind. That night I finally surrendered and let it go. I feel so much lighter! This situation is still painful but God has restored my hope and I will not stop praying and crying out to the Lord. I am so grateful to be His daughter and that I can receive true peace, joy, and hope during trials.

Thank you Abba for Your Faithfulness and for being Trustworthy! Thank you for healing my heart :) I want to remain in surrender and to trust You. Nothing is impossible for You! Even if the circumstances do not change help me to continue trusting You. Please continue to give me Your strength. Please continue to transform my life. Show me Your love for this family member and help me to share that with them. Thank you Jesus!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Temporal vs Eternal

This last week I let myself get caught up in worrying about certain situations. I let my mind wander to asking questions such as "How will this work out? What am I supposed to do? Why doesn't prayer seem to be enough? Why do I feel so lost and confused?." Last night, I realized I needed to just go on a walk and be quiet and still before the Lord. I just poured out my frustrations and confusion to Him. I asked Him to take this burden of worry from me and to be ever real before me. I walked along the beach with no one around me and just listened to the waves crash and looked up at the starry night. It was then I realized all these "worries" and "burdens" are temporary. Eternity with God is what matters. The burden then just melted off of me and I felt so much lighter. It put things into perspective for me. It made my burdens seem so small and insignificant. I realized that God is so much bigger than anything and will give me strength. I am desiring to be more aware of God and to be open and listen to Him. I was listening to a song by Brandon Heath as I walked last night. These words from his song Stolen spoke to me:
                        
                          You catch me like a thief in the night
                          You hold me when I put up a fight
                         You chase me when I run from Your light
                         Because You love, You won't give up
                        'Til my heart is stolen

These words were so encouraging. God doesn't give up on us. I poured out my frustration with him and fought somewhat, but He doesn't let that stop Him from loving me. Thank you Jesus! Steal my heart away, Abba! :)

Monday, March 21, 2011

Lead me to Repentance

        After discussing Lent with several people a couple weeks ago, I decided to follow Lent this year for the first time. I didn't want it to be legalistic practice, but a time to have self-reflection and to prepare my heart for Easter and to remember what Christ has done. I have been going through a Lent devotional which has been convicting and helping me to reflect in a deep good way. One of the recent daily devotional shared a suggested prayer to pray. It says "Lord, I am willing to be left alone with my sin, so that I can be transformed. I prayed that prayer which kind of scared me to do.
      These last few weeks have been interesting in that God has been revealing sins in my life.  I have been convicted lately of how selfish I am. I so easily get caught up in what people think about me. I want to be noticed, I want people to like me, and I don't want there to be conflict. I feel guilty and dwell on the fact that maybe I am making someone unhappy and they won't like me anymore. When I write this out, I know this may seem like elementary thinking, but this is what has been going through my head. As I reflected on why I feel this way, I realized that it is because I place my identity in what others think about me. My prayer has been that I would be freed of these thoughts and my hearts desire would be to place my identity in who I am in Christ. He has continually shown me that I am a precious daughter of the King and that He loves me so much, but at times I struggle to rest in that. I also have been realizing that I approach Jesus and Christianity in a selfish way. I was listening to a podcast by Britt Merrick, and he was talking about how we read the Bible selfishly in trying to get something out of it for ourselves and make us feel better instead of learning about God's character and what He wants us to learn from His word. This is something that I realize I struggle with and have been reflecting on, especially as we talked about the Bible a couple Saturdays ago. Also, this weekend Darin spoke about Judas and how he followed Jesus for personal gain. Darin said " We pursue Jesus for what He can do for us, but we should pursue Him because He is God. " That statement hit me hard. I think many times I turn to God in expectation for Him to make me "feel better." The message also spoke about how Judas felt remorse, a sadness over what he had done and so he hung himself. However he never turned from his sin and repented. It finally hit me that I have been feeling remorse over the sin of selfishness that God has been revealing to me, but I wasn't repenting of it. I wanted God to just make everything better so I could "feel" him again and not feel distant, but I wasn't willing to come to repentance. I was just sitting in self-pity.

      God I don't want to live in my selfishness any longer but I want to turn from it. Forgive me Abba of my selfishness and pride and help remove these areas of my life that are not pleasing to you. Help me to view my identity as your daughter and in who I am in You and not in what the world thinks of me. Thank You Jesus!

      Sunday night during worship I got this picture of a child being playfully turned upside down to remove the junk hidden in his pockets. I started laughing to myself as I though about how this is what God is doing to me. Lovingly, He is removing the hidden sins of my life. Thank you Jesus!

       Another area that I was convicted in on Sunday is one of gratitude. I was feeling bummed before Sunday service about not feeling enough gratitude from my brother for throwing him a birthday party. He thanked me and was appreciative but I wanted him to be ultra-grateful since I had put a lot of work into it. Dannah and I were talking that day and she read me an insert from the Charles Finney paperwork you guys went over a few week ago that I missed. She read the part about ingratitude toward God. I then realized that I expect gratitude from others for things I have done, but I barely show gratitude for God for all the amazing things He has done in my life. So Sunday night was just a time of conviction, repentance, and thankfulness. I am still processing all that He is showing me and know it will be a process as He reveals more to me. I am grateful for this time and know that He is transforming me. I want to be open and receiving and humble and ready to repent. I am so grateful to be a child of God and to be forgiven! Thank you Jesus! :)

I know this is a big post of all that I have been convicted on but I know that God is using this time to bring transformation. Thank you for letting me share and pour out my heart with you guys. I am so grateful to be in Circles with you all and to see the transformation God is doing amongst our group. :)

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Gungor - Beautiful Things

This is the song I mentioned in my last blog :)


Craziness!

I just have to say that life has been crazy lately! It cracks me up that my last blog was about peace and now I am feeling crazy!  Honestly, I feel like I haven't been able to breath for the last 2 weeks. I had such an awesome time in New Zealand and came back refreshed. I had an amazing opportunity to spend time with God, enjoy His creation, and be encouraged. Coming back, I wanted to keep up with Circles and make sure I spent time with God each day. However, that has not happened. It seems like I am just running and that God wants to show me things but I need to slow down to see them. I want to give my all to God but I am so burnt out that I offer Him just a little morsel. I know I need to manage my time and cut back on some things to make sure God is a priority in my day. This is the first day I have had off to just relax and have nothing planned. It is still hard for me though to be quiet and still before God. Lately, I have been overwhelmed with starting school, work, volunteering at Catalyst West conference, and all the other little things I planned for myself before I started school. I am one of those people that loves to be a part of everything and to hang out with everyone, but I realize that I am at stage in my life where I can't do that. I tend to say yes to do everything but my new answer will be " I will get back to you on that." ;)  Basically, I need to focus on being intentional with you all as my community right now and also focus on school. I am so blessed to have you all in my life and I don't want to miss opportunities and friendships because I am spreading myself to thin to be of use to anyone. My goal is to be more intentional with Circles and to be dedicated to you guys. Thanks for being in my life and I really am looking forward to growing with you all in the next few months :)

For a little side note, I want to share some things I learned from the Catalyst conference. I was so exhausted going into it and did not really have the right heart to serve the first day I went. I was soo tired and honestly didn't really know what Catalyst was all about. I only heard of it a couple months ago from a few friends and decided I would help out and go for free at the same time. :) The theme of the conference was to "Take Courage." I am still trying to process all that was said there but there were some powerful messages. That first day I helped out, I felt so selfish and in a funk. I decided to stay for the evening session and was so blessed. The guy that spoke talked about how Jesus is the sum and substance and that we should not feel like we are lacking anything because with Jesus we have everything! As I sat there feeling unworthy and just a ball of selfishness, the band Gungor played the song "Beautiful Things." This song spoke to me so deeply! Basically that even though I felt selfish and unworthy to serve because of my heart's condition, I was reminded that God wants to use us. He makes beautiful things out of US! He used the disciples who had no training or degrees and who were selfish and who failed at times. It is so amazing that God wants  us. The next day I came back with a new perspective and with a heart ready to serve and be used by God. God blessed me that day and I felt refreshed to move on to a weekend at work. One of the blessings that day was being able to give a Starbucks card to someone at the conference. Those on our volunteer team were asked to start a conversation with someone who needed encouragement and then bless them with the card. So Dannah and I went around super awkwardly trying to find someone to encourage. For those of you who have been to Mariners Church they have a little chapel on site. Anyways, Dannah and I couldn't really seem to find anyone so we went into the chapel just to take a look at it. Well, inside they had set up a time of reflection, confession, and time to be with the Lord. We took communion and wrote down our fears and confessions and nailed them to the cross. Then we wrote on this wall the fears that we wanted to let go. I wrote the fact that I fear man and lack boldness and want to let that go and just trust God! After our chapel experience we went outside and right in front of us were two women sitting on a bench. I had seen these women around the conference working to clean the church. It felt like just people to bless. We went up to them and just told them even though it may not seem like anyone notices the work that you do we appreciate it and want to bless you with these Starbucks cards! It was so awesome seeing that God placed the opportunity in front of us once we stopped trying to force it to happen :)

I know this is a long post of rambling but I have had a lot on my mind. I have been going so fast that I am just now starting to process what God has been doing and wanted to share that with you guys. Thanks for bearing with me :)
Ashley

Monday, February 21, 2011

Peace

Hey Circles! I am so excited to be back from New Zealand to dive into community with you guys. I know I am a little behind on blogs and getting to meet you all, but I already feel as if I am part of a family :) I have been so encouraged by how fast we have come together as a community. It shows me how being raw and vulnerable and having a passion for Jesus can really bring people together. This is the community I have longed for. Thanks for all being so real and open with one another.

As I have reflected back on my trip to New Zealand, I have felt so full of awe and joy with being blessed to be in God's beautiful creation. While I was there I was on a bus a lot of the time, but I was able to just sit with my Ipod listening to worship music and talk to God while looking at all He has made. It was so awesome! I struggle being still and present and with giving God my time in prayer. It was cool to be able to do all of that. Now that I am back home, I feel that I have come to appreciate God's creation even more and want to make prayer more a part of my day. :)

I have felt so at peace lately even though my life has a lot of changes going on right now. I am starting school up again, starting Circles, and my life group of one year just ended. I am actually excited for all the changes which is normally not like me. I don't like change. It has been cool because over the last few months I realize God has been transforming my plans and thoughts for my life. I went to Kenya and Ukraine last summer for five weeks and came back a wreck. My heart broke for the people there and I felt overwhelmed by all I had saw. I have had a growing desire and passion to do missions work. It became even stronger on this trip. I came back wanting God to just let me go into the mission field and to lay out a plan for me. I felt like 'I am willing so why not just show me what you want me to do.' While in Kenya I felt that God kept showing me that I need to trust Him and not worry about the future but live in the moment. The verse that I felt God gave me was Jeremiah 29:11 "For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope." I think I am now finally resting in this thought that God has a special plan for me and that I need to trust Him and not try to plan out my life for Him. Awhile ago I came to peace that God wanted me here in California for now. Now that I am staying in California, I was blessed with the opportunity of Circles and now will be going back to school to further my education in nursing to help others and possibly open more doors for the future. I am so excited knowing that I am exactly where God wants me even though I don't know what is going to happen. It is amazing how we can have peace in the unknown :) I was out running yesterday and this song came on my Ipod by Sanctus Real called "Whatever Your Doing".  The chorus says:

Whatever You're doing inside of me
It feels like chaos but somehow there's peace
It's hard to surrender to what I can't see
but I'm giving in to something Heavenly

This rang so true for me. I feel like surrender is so hard especially when I can't see what is going to happen. However, once I do surrender it is so amazing and there is so much peace! So anyways, my prayer right now is that I be still before the Lord. Even though I am at peace I find myself already starting to try to plan my life again in all these amazing opportunities that Circles and other things in my life are presenting. I know I can't do everything but I realize now I need to take it all before the Lord and let Him rule my life. His plan for me is so much better :)

Saturday, February 5, 2011

New Zealand Beauty

I am here in New Zealand with my friend Brenda and loving it! I will have to post pictures when I get back :) A friend of ours is from New Zealand and set it up so that his grandparents picked us up and have been taking us around. It has been amazing! They are the sweetest couple and used to work for WYAM on the Mercy Ships. It has been really cool to ask them all sorts of questions about their experiences since the Mercy Ships has been something I have considered doing. Anyways, we have had the opportunity to go on a bus tour to see the upper part of the North Island. They drove the bus on a 60 mile stretch of beach which was amazing! The beaches here are soo beautiful. Then yesterday we went on a boat tour of the  Bay of Islands and go to snorkel and feed fish out of our hands. We also go to go boom netting which was quite the experience!! Basically a couple of us went in  a net that was attached to the side of the boat while the boat was moving. It was pretty crazy but fun! I have been overwhelmed by the beauty of God's creation. Yesterday as we were in the boat viewing the harbor I couldn't help but praise God and thank Him. I feel so blessed to be here and to enjoy God's creation. I have been reading that book "Here and Now Living in the Spirit" The first chapter was talking about living in the present. I know we all talked about it last Saturday that we met. It is so hard to be still and live for the moment but I am trying to do that. It has been great here just trying to take in every moment and enjoy each day :)
I can't wait to join back in the group when I get home. I am praying for you all!
Ashley

Monday, January 31, 2011

New Zealand!!!

Hey Circles,
I am off for New Zealand tonight at midnight. I will be gone for two weeks but may have access to internet so I will try to blog. I can't wait to get to dive into relationship with you all when I get back. I am praying for the group. See you all in two weeks!
Ashley

Encouraged

I was so encouraged after our meeting on Saturday. I felt so blessed to be a part of Circles. I have longed for community where people want to be real and open with each other and  help one another grow closer to God. Even from the short amount of time we have had with each other I already get the feeling it is going to be a great community.

I thought a lot about what we talked about yesterday in the fact of engaging with people and being intentional but at the same time listening. I made a point today while I was at work to be more intentional with people and to try to be present as well. It made me realize how much I go throughout my day missing how people are feeling because I am not present. I attempted to ask people at work that I don't normally talk to how they were doing. It was cool to see their faces light up in the fact that I was interested in how they were doing. This thought process today led me to be able to engage conversation with someone I didn't know. She was recently diagnosed with cancer and had a lot of complications occurring as a result of the chemo. I attempted to be intentional and engage with her. She started telling me how she was feeling and started crying. She shared how she didn't think she could be strong any more in getting through this and was afraid of what was going to happen next. I knew God wanted me to pray with her. This time I listened and got to pray with her. I shared with her that God is the only one who can get her through this difficult time. I then got to share with her my brother's story to offer encouragement.

My brother Sean was diagnosed at the age of 17 with a brain tumor. He was a wrestler and very active but started to feel off balance and was getting severe headaches. Then they did a MRI which showed the tumor.  About two weeks later he had surgery. Before he went into surgery, we all thought it was non-cancerous which the tumor itself was already scary enough but after the surgery we come to find out that it is cancerous. This was one of the worst days of my life when I found out my brother had cancer. He then had to have a grueling year of chemo and radiation treatment. It was hard watching my brother suffer but I am so grateful for what this experience brought about. Many were praying for healing for my brother and God first brought it about in his heart. We all grew up Christian but my brother made the decision to finally give his life over to Christ and became a Christian during this time. He now is is in remission and going to nursing school to be an oncology nurse :) I learned so much through this time. Some of it was learning that God is the only one who can give true peace and joy and strength. He taught me to lean on Him and to receive His love through others. God truly turned an awful thing to be used for His good in bringing my brother to Him and teaching my family valuable lessons.

Here is my brother with a couple of friends during his treatment in the hospital


Here are both my brothers. Sean is on the left and his twin Brett is on the right.



So anyways,  I have been very encouraged in Circles and the lessons I am already learning. I look forward to getting to know you all!

Ashley

Friday, January 28, 2011

Introduction :)

Hey Circles,
I am so excited to be starting this journey with you all and to get to know all of you over the months. To start off here is a brief introduction of my life. I am twenty-four years old and currently live in Costa Mesa with two amazing roommates who also go to Rock Harbor. I had been attending Rock Harbor for two years on and off.  Last February I moved up to Costa Mesa partly because I wanted to be close to work and  a huge part was to make Rock Harbor my home church. I love Rock Harbor for their worship and for their passion to teach the church to go out into the community and the world to be the hands and feet of Jesus. One thing I have been seeking this last year is for community at Rock Harbor. I have made some amazing friends but still seek for what community really looks like. I desire a community that looks like Acts. I wonder why our churches look so different from those in the Bible and why it is so hard to find a deep, real community that keeps one another accountable and encourages one another as they strive to share the gospel. I was so excited to have this opportunity to be in Circles and look forward to becoming a community together. :)

I come from a family of six. I have brothers that are twins that are three years younger then me and an older sister who is seven years older then me. I grew up in Lake Forest for most of my life. I was home schooled from third grade through high school. I know most people do not have a good view of homeschoolers but I feel that I am not the stereotypical homeschooler. I am not socially awkward and love to be around people ;) I was involved in sports and different outside classes so I don't feel that I missed out. Actually I am grateful to homeschooling for bringing my family together.

I am currently a nurse in the Emergency Department at Hoag Hospital. I have been a nurse for two and a half years. I am going back to school actually next month to start getting my bachelors in nursing. My passion for nursing is to be a global missionary. I don't know where God wants me to go but for now I do know that He has me here. He has been teaching me to trust Him with my life and to be at rest in knowing that He has a plan for me that is better then I could plan. The reason I named my blog 'Beautiful Feet' is that it is what I hope my life will portray. I want to bring good news and peace to the lost. I definitely pray for God's boldness to do that.

Anyways, that is a little snapshot of who I am but I look forward to sharing more of who I am with you all and getting to know each one of you in Circles.

Ashley