Saturday, November 29, 2008

Give Thanks with a Grateful Heart

I'm going to jump on the bandwagon here and do a Thanksgiving post. Now, before you get all excited and start saying to yourself, "But Ashley, Thanksgiving was TWO days ago. Do you realize how LATE this post is?", allow me to explain. I returned yesterday from VA - where my grandparents are still using AOL for internet access (how old school), which makes it quite difficult to use whenever I so desired - and felt it was more important to catch up with friends than make sure this Thanksgiving post was up in a decent amount of time. Allow me to use this as an example that I don't have to ALWAYS be on time! Now, back to the important stuff...

On Thursday when I came inside after playing with my cousins I overheard my grandmother talking to my sister. Now, my grandmother loves to sing, especially when she's working in the kitchen. It's not unusual at all to walk into the house and find her singing a hymn and washing dishes or something similar. Thursday, she and my sister were trying to remember the words to the song "Give Thanks". Naturally, I took it upon myself to look up the lyrics when I had the chance.

Give thanks with a grateful heart
Give thanks to the Holy One
For He's given Jesus Christ, His Son

And now let the weak say "I am strong"
Let the poor say "I am rich"
Because of what the Lord has done for us

If that doesn't sum up what Thanksgiving's all about, then I don't know what does. Now, I know that there are a lot of people who have many things to be thankful for and who don't know of everything the Lord's done for them. How much more thankful should I be that I know of the incredible lengths which my Father took to have me by His side for all eternity? We went around the table before we ate and each person thanked God for one thing. 

"Thank you for the food placed before us and the hands that have prepared it" 
"Thank you for my mommy and daddy and my friends"
"Thank you for the food before us, for our health, and for those not able to be with us today"
"Thank you for this beautiful day to spend with family"
"Thank you for my cousins being here to play with me"
"Thank you for sending Jesus to die for us"
"Thank you for the much needed break from school and the ability to spend it with family"

The list went on and nobody had trouble coming up with a single thing to thank God for because He is so abundantly good.  So, I'm going to take this time to list more than one thing, and I guarantee that even this will be incomplete because there's no way to name everything God's done for me and given me - that's what I have eternity for! I have plenty to be thankful for, so I'm going to try and use these tangible pictures to sum up all the intangible gifts I have been blessed with.

First and foremost, I am so thankful for my parents and the example they have been and continue to be in my life. From raising me to know and love the Lord to showing me what it really means to pursue a personal relationship with Him. For my mom who has never been anything but supportive and is my constant example of what it means to serve God selflessly From attending band concerts and field hockey games to midnight chats at Round the Clock when I needed them most. From driving me to youth group and choir for so many years to pouring herself into the small group ministry at Zion. For my dad who has always worked to give our family more than we could ever need and who serves as both my voice of reason and encouragement. From reading all of my papers for school to leaving poems on the kitchen table for me to find in the morning before school. From getting up early every Thursday to lead a mens group to serving the youth group for as long as I can remember. I couldn't ask for better examples for what it means to live a life seeking God's face.

I am thankful for my beautiful little sisters. I have had the incredible opportunity to watch them grow up from little girls to young women of God. We've been through everything together and I am so glad that these girls are truly my sisters in Christ now as well. Through the years we've transitioned from "sleep togethers" to eventful car rides, from passing journals around to texting each other and hour long phone conversations, and I wouldn't trade a minute of it. I am thankful for Your Joy which bubbles through Courtney and Your Compassion which flows so gracefully from Melissa. I am thankful that I grew up with these girls and that I can see You in their lives today.

I'm thankful that Nana's surgery went well and she's recovering quickly. Her hospitality has been such a blessing to me and my friends since I've been here at school. Her strength through everything life has dealt her has spoken volumes to me. And through it all, she, like my mother, is the perfect example of serving the Lord selflessly. Whether its serving directly on committees I can't even pretend to keep track of or working with CASA so tirelessly, she throws herself into things 110%. Nana's unswerving faith in You shines through in absolutely everything she does.

I am thankful for friends at home who make life so much fun. I love coming home and catching up with them. Whether we sit down and talk over a meal or coffee, play frisbee in the park, travel to Baltimore and get lost (JOPPA ROAD!), enjoy a beautiful fall day on the Rail Trail or just chill at somebody's house in the basement or around a campfire, we never cease to have a great time. We've known each other for a long time (kindergarten for some, 6th grade for others) and I am so thankful that no matter how long we may go with minimal conversation while at our separate schools we always seem to be able to pick up where we left off.

I am thankful to have a group of wonderful G.I.R.Ls at home who love God and were willing to give their Monday nights this summer to come explore the reality of His love for us. I couldn't have asked for two better people to lead these girls and the relationship that grew and flourished between the three of us this summer couldn't have been more blessed. I am so thankful for the openness of each of these girls this summer and for their continued support, encouragement and prayers that have followed me to VA.

I am thankful for a roommate who understands exactly what is going on in my life because its her life too. Okay, not exactly, but it sure seems that way sometimes. Having a Christian roommate has been so refreshing this year. And not just any Christian, but my partner in crime and fellow LT member! It is this often unspoken bond that makes our relationship as roommates so strong.

I am thankful for my "big sis" and everything she is to me. Whether she's playing the role of big sister, Bible study leader, friend, or - let's be honest - chauffeur, her ability to see You and the way she follows so willingly never ceases to encourage and inspire me. I am constantly encouraged to push forward and seek You in every aspect of my life. I am thankful for the person You created her to be and for the time we are able to spend together every week.

I am thankful for our "sisterhood" and the way we each have our God-given roles to play that makes it work so wonderfully. I can't imagine school without these girls - I absolutely love the way each one of them loves You and encourages me to do so as well. Sadie for her open and fun heart and the way she seeks You in her daily life and isn't afraid to show it. Noelle for the way she relies on You for everything and her ability to to see You in the small things and the large. Lisa for the way she loves others in Your name and her caring and loving nature that just shines for You. Mary Beth for the joy that comes only from You and radiates from her and the way she is so grounded in You and wants everyone to know. (Sorry Jen -you got your own picture, no use repeating myself...)

And those were only the people! See what I mean - there's a lot to be thankful for! I guess what I'm really getting at is that instead of focusing on stuff this Thanksgiving - which I am very thankful for - I wanted to really look at the stuff that's going to last. I am so thankful for the foundation I've been given and the people around me who have helped to strengthen that. 

Matthew 7:24-27

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Locked In

Overall, I was pleased with how the lock-in turned out. As far as fulfilling the purpose we laid out for the event, I'd say God really worked through the event and the people there to establish and strengthen relationships with people new to the BCM this year. That being said, I'll be honest - it was not the best time for me. Yes, I had a lot of fun in the beginning and I do feel like I made some new friends and built on existing friendships. I enjoyed the morning with everybody and had a wonderful time at brunch. Unfortunately, or fortunately depending on how you look at this - stick with me, this'll make more sense in a bit - those aren't the parts of the event that are going to stick with me for the long haul. Those fun times are the ones that have been captured in pictures and on a surface level that's what I'll remember. But when I think more about my time at the BCM that Friday-Saturday the deeper things are going to come flooding back. Watching people leave at different points throughout the night and fighting back tears the entire way. Slightly resenting the help that people offered while cleaning up the kitchen and wanting so badly to be alone. Watching everybody fall asleep and searching for a place to be alone with my thoughts. Grabbing my Bible and blanket and closing myself in the prayer room for the first time since I set foot in this building. Crying out in desperation trying to figure out what about that night triggered the tears now flowing down my face. These are the events that are going to characterize the lock-in for me. 

I can tell you that the middle part of the lock-in was the result of a long week and pent up frustrations towards various people and situations. There are a lot of underlying issues that made everything seem so much more of an issue than it needed to be. I've been looking to friends for things I should have been looking to You for. And apparently I have abandonment issues that I didn't even know about because it absolutely kills me to know that these people I care so much about are starting to move on and leave me here. It's perfectly natural, and there's really no reason this should bother me as much as it does but for some reason it really hit me Friday night as I watched them one by one leave the building. It just seemed so symbolic at that point of what was inevitably coming. So I fled to the only place I knew to go. And let's be honest - that's the first place I should have run. 

Joshua 1:5 "No one will be able to stand up against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you."

Seriously, who else can say that? Because no matter how much I cling to these people there will be a time when I can't count on them for everything. And I have a choice, I can turn to God in my hour of disappointment and know that He'll be there for me. Or, I can choose to go to God first and trust Him to take away the pain of disappointment and replace it with His ever present comfort. I want to be locked in to Your love.  

Thursday, November 20, 2008


Psalm 46:10 "Be still and know that I am God."

Hm...this has begun to be a habit - doing this instead of paying attention for class stuff. Ok - so this is just lab and we are currently waiting for the gel to run so we can analyze the proteins in the plasma membrane of sheep blood cells - fascinating isn't it? Yeah - that's what I thought.

What I was really getting at is that I enjoy the fact that this time with You is how I've chosen to spend my downtime, no matter where it may be. I cried out for You to fill me with the desire to know You more and if this isn't the manifestation of that then I don't know what is.

People all around me are consumed with school work and weekend plans, and while I know all of these things are issues - I'm so thankful that You can take those and other worries away from me so that I can come to You and enjoy this downtime together. It's something everybody struggles with - finding the time amongst our many daily activities to  to devote to You. I remember contemplating this over the summer and I've again started to recognize how completely unproductive I've been with my time, but it wasn't until Tuesday night when Noelle came to talk to me about the retreat this weekend that I was really convicted of this. I brought up the activity we did this summer where we wrote down a list of things that kept us from coming to You and placed post-its over them with practical ways to approach these issues. Looking back at things I had written down and seeing how little progress I had made in some of those areas - it'll get you. Don't get me wrong - I've grown in numerous ways since this summer - many were ways I didn't even know I needed to grow - kudos for that God - by the way. But Tuesday night, I just realized how little I've been doing to change myself for You. Not that i can do a lot on my own, but when I ignore the time You give me I'm not giving you a whole lot to work with. Luckily for me - You are so much greater than I could ever imagine or anticipate and You continue to amaze me with the things You're able to do. That's why times like Sunday night are so incredible. I give you almost nothing and You turn around and bless me beyond my wildest imagination.

I guess what I'm really getting at is that I'm so incredibly grateful for Your ability to exceed expectations instead of falling short, to impress instead of let down, to provide, protect, and comfort instead of abandon. I thank You for taking the little downtime I've given to You and allowing it to be so much more productive and rewarding that I could have ever anticipated. This time has driven me closer to You and has not only quenched my desire, but made it deeper. So now, whether it's downtime in lab, between classes, in the morning, or before I go to bed I want to devote it to You. Continue to teach me what this means and show me how I can be using my time to glorify You.

1 Peter 4:7 'The end of all things is near. Therefore be clear minded and self-controlled so that you can pray."

Everyday is a journal page
Every man holds a quill and ink
And there's plenty of room for writing in
All we do and believe and think
So will you compose a curse
Or will today bring the blessings
Fill the page with rhyming verse
Or some random sketchings

Teach us to count the days
Teach us to make the days count
Lead us in better ways
Somehow our souls forgot
Life means so much

Everyday is a bank account
And time is our currency
So no one's rich, nobody's poor
We get twenty-four hours each
So how are you gonna spend
Will you invest or squander
Try to get ahead
Or help someone who's under

Teach us to count the days
Teach us to make the days count
Lead us in better ways
Somehow our souls forgot
Life means so much

Has anybody lived who knew the value of a life?
And don't you think giving his own
Would prove the worth of yours and mine?

Teach us to count the days
Teach us to make the days count
Somehow our souls forgot
Life means so much

"Life Means So Much"
Chris Rice

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Life Chats

While it is now late Monday evening/early Tuesday morning, I feel that it is necessary to take a closer look at this past weekend. As previously mentioned, Friday was a good day and that spilled over into Saturday via a movie night with the girls. My day of work was interrupted numerous times by many welcomed distractions including lunch with Sades later to be joined by Joe, chats with Beth, and the wonderful combination of a keyboard and hymnal. Oh yeah...did I mention the spontaneous walk to Giant via the McDonald's drive-through to buy nail polish? Somewhere between working at the BCM and ending up at Giant at 9:30 on a Saturday night for nail polish Mary Beth was called and ended up picking us up and returning us to the Willard parking lot where we remained for a good hour just loving life with one of the big sis(s?)es (couldn't for the life of me figure out how to make the plural of 'sis' look right...) "Life Chat" suggestions were quickly thwarted by enthusiastic friends and caffeinated mints. Despite the lack of serious time, the fellowship was enjoyed by all (as far as I know...there may be some speculation as to MB's opinion on this...) and I know that there was a reason this chat was put on hold - but more on that later. For now, I need to rest and prepare for a day spent with high school students...I will resume this later. Have no fear!


(I wrote this during Practicum...don't worry, MOST of it was done over lunch, only a little in class...and felt that it needed to be added here)

So here I am, sitting in another honors bio class - it's the second bio class, third science class, I've sat in today and I still have one more to go. And...I just realized this lady and I have the same sweater on...creepy. I should be observing the class and I'll be honest - I kind of want to be paying attention to this lecture on tRNA. I just took a test on this stuff and as much as I'd like to think about, I'd rather spend a bit of time reflecting on what kept me from sleeping before that aforementioned test. I started this last night, but then realized that I needed sleep in order to function today, because it's going to be a long one. But, I told you not to fear - I have returned. If I remember correctly I left off on Saturday night after our excursion to Giant. As Noelle so aptly stated that night, we shared many a life chat because we were chatting and living...Yes Noelle...but it was more just a night of enjoying each other's company. Anyway...we finally allowed MB to return to her APT and made our way to Willard 112 where we watched the night quickly turn into morning.

Sunday began with the ever eventful ride to Falmouth. Church was really good as per usual (Fight just broke out in the hallway - oh the joys of high school) I don't think I really realized how much I missed the more traditional service with hymns and good preaching. Don't get me wrong - I enjoyed my time at Fairview but I just needed something different. Brunch followed church and then it was back to work...aka attempting to learn about photosynthesis and geeking out about protein synthesis. Dinner with Sadie and Noelle, Praise and Worship, and a stressful meeting regarding the upcoming lock-in all provided very welcome breaks to the studying process.

It was in finishing up the studying process and saving a sample exam that God found a way to squeeze into my busy planned out day and show me what His Goodness is all about. In going through my intense filing system to save the exam I ran into a document where I'd saved a conversation Sam and I had last Monday night. For some reason, I listened to the little prompting in my head, opened up the document, read through it and shared it with the only other person at the BCM. "It's 1 in the morning, this shouldn't take too long, I'll just have Sadie read it and we'll chat on our way back to the dorm." That was the thought process going through my head. I can't take any credit for what that turned into - that was all God. Sadie read the conversation and slowly the bags were set down and we settled on top of the table and stayed there for three and a half hours. It was marvelous. Nothing else mattered at that point - God had ensured that by waiting until we were packed up and in a place with no comfy couches, clocks or any other distractions. It was just two friends sharing a legit Life Chat in the presence of their Prince.

This semester I've found myself torn between the BCM and my friends I live with. I don't know, the line has just seemed so much more defined this year and I've struggled to find the balance between the two. Obviously that has not worked out too well as I find myself missing the company of my closest friends. Sunday night was only the beginning. It was wonderful and blessed, but it can't stop there. While they don't happen often, I feel that conversations lasting until 4:20 in the morning are, in many ways, easier than our day to day conversations. My prayer coming out of this is that we find a way to make this last past the early morning hours. The cards have been laid out and there's a much deeper understanding that we can take into our future interactions. It's all rooted in prayer and there's now a better understanding of what we each need and where we're struggling and growing. Know that this time together is going to follow me and I love that I know better how to lift you up in prayer and what to praise God for on your behalf.

Hebrews 10:24-25 "And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another - and all the more as you see the Day approaching."

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 "Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up! Also, if two lie down together they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone?
Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three stands is not quickly broken."

Friday, November 14, 2008


Ok, so tonight's not "surprise night" but today has most definitely been a good day, full of...yup, you guessed it...surprises. My first surprise came at approximately 10:02 this morning when my professor walked into the room and told us the test we'd been studying for was going to be take home and the instructions were posted on blackboard. So, instead of taking the test we got to watch a bunch of clips from movies that took place in Venice. That was nice. I was literally singing on my way back to the dorm. Needless to say, I didn't feel quite as prepared for that test as I would have liked. You might be thinking to yourself "how exciting for you" but gets better. The instructions for this test are to take it in 40 minutes, pledge it, and then...wait for it...use our book and notes to make corrections. And long as we correct our mistakes, there won't be any points taken off. SURPRISE!

Next surprise. I have a bio test on Monday and we spent the ENTIRE class period today reviewing. It was marvelous! First time all semester she's done that! SURPRISE!

Those were probably the biggest surprises but I guess the big ones just really tuned me into the smaller ones today. A random text from Leslie, randomly running into people on campus, a trip to Caribou with friends to have a nice productive Friday night. These are things, the little surprises, that I should be thankful for everyday, but I'm usually too caught up in other things to appreciate them. 

So, tonight, instead of worrying about this upcoming bio test and all the studying that is going to undoubtedly surround it, I want to just take in all the little surprises that You have graced me with. Last Sunday the sermon was about the 10 healed of leprosy from Luke 17:11-19. Apparently this is the only Gospel that tells this story, but it's a good one. Not fully understanding who Jesus was, these 10 men cried out for help and they were healed. Not instantaneously, but when they turned around and started towards the priests as they had been told. But once they saw they were healed, only one man turned back to actually thank Jesus. This man didn't send a thank you card or politely shake his hand while thanking him. This man ran back to Jesus, singing songs of praise in a loud voice and threw himself at the feet of Jesus to thank him. 

That is who I want to be tonight. I don't want to be concerned with continuing on towards the priests, playing the role I think I ought to play. I want to be willing to notice all the things You do for me and come running back to Your feet. This is for friends at school to spend time with, for friends from home to encourage and comfort, for time I don't deserve and everything else this day has been. But most importantly, this is for being You. For being the One thing that will always remain Constant, Faithful and True. 

Sunday, November 9, 2008


First of is it Sunday afternoon already?!? It feels like it was just yesterday I was sitting in Dodd with friends watching Noelle's show and then going out afterwards. Ok, well, technically, that was yesterday, but I did that twice, so it was Friday as well. All I can say is that it's a good thing I don't have a whole lot going on this week because my weekend has not be very academically productive. It's all good though, because this weekend was one of rejuvenation and rewiring, if you will. 

While I still had lab on Thursday and classes Friday, I felt like my weekend started Wednesday night. Sheetz, Caribou, and late night excursions with Lisa really kicked everything off. Thursday included visiting our African babies and some wonderful sister bonding time with Jen. Throw in two visits to see MB and living across from Sadie and Noelle and the time with my wonderful sisters was going strong before the actual weekend even started! As I already mentioned, I saw Noelle's show twice this weekend. Once Friday night with the sisters, Quella, and Robyn then we all ventured out to Friendly's for a bit of a twist on our traditional triple date.  Saturday night we brought the rest of the fan club - all I'm saying is that girl better know how loved she is! We ended the night with a crowd of 13 at Fridays ( seems that we only ever go there on Saturday...just a side note) and had quite the fabulous time if I do say so myself. We seem to be expanding at Falmouth and our second row pew was almost entirely full today! After church most of us met up with another group and enjoyed brunch at Seaco for a good hour and a half. Add another hour or so trying to figure out Skype with my parents and you have my weekend. 

Except, that doesn't even begin to cover it. Because all of that, it's temporary and while I'm sure many a great memory was made this weekend, it can only last so long. As much as this weekend was about hanging out with friends and spending time with the family You've blessed me with (both at home in York and here in Fredericksburg) I really tried to focus on getting rewired. Reinforcing that connection to You and just taking time to reflect on the numerous ways You've been working this semester. Obviously, some of the afore mentioned activities were much more productive in this area than others. It truly is a blessing to have this amazing Christian fellowship here at school to keep me grounded and encourage me throughout everything. A late night chat on Friday resulted in an evaluation of the relationship I claim to be number one in my life. It's become increasingly apparent to me that I have a tendency to be very duty driven and I've let that interfere with our time together. With things piling up between school work, social engagements and responsibilities at the BCM I haven't stopped coming to You, but I have stopped desiring to come so that I may really grow and learn. I have stopped seeking you as my Prince and I know I have fallen quite short of Your perfect lily white vision for me. It's not a place I want to find myself, yet I am here. This weekend I've been reading Melissa's essay for Messiah college and I was stunned by her humility and her deep desire to know and understand You. That's the place I desire to be. I want to say that I seek Your beautiful face in every aspect of my life. I want to be completely rewired to live the wonderfully abundant life You have designed for me to live.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

I Voted! (but the absentee ballot people didn't send me a sticker)

Today is election day. I've read numerous statuses on facebook about who people are voting for and who other people should go out and vote for. If you ask me, it's kind of excessive. However, I do greatly appreciate the fact that we have the opportunity to elect the next leader of our country. Now, at this point, I'm a little more focused on the fact that I'm leading 5Alive tonight. It's Missions 5Alive and I'm in charge. It's kind of daunting, but at this point the only thing I can do is pray that Your Word is spoken through my words and the other students. Right about now, that's all I've got for you. Because that's all I'm thinking about. Just thought I'd share...

In case you were wondering...
No, I did not vote for the elected candidate
But no, I do not think my country is doomed, or going to Hell because Obama won
And yes, I do respect him as the next President
Oh yeah...I'm not planning on moving to Canada either...

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Life Lines

This summer Bradley did a series called "Life Lines" He essentially went through the major characters in Genesis and picked one verse that summarized their entire story and walk with God. 

Genesis 6:9,22 "Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked with God...Noah did everything just as God commanded him."
Genesis 18:12 "So Sarah laughed to herself as she thought, 'After I am worn out and my master is old, will I now have this pleasure?'"
Genesis 30:1 "So she said to Jacob, 'Give me children, or I'll die!'"
Genesis 32:28 "Then the man said, 'Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with men and have overcome.'"

If my walk with God up to this point in my life were to be summarized into one line, what would it be? What kind of example would my life line be setting for future believers?  I can't say how others see me, or how they will see me. All I know is the way I see myself and the way God sees me. And the difference between those two is incredible. I still remember at the end of Bible Study this summer, doing that activity with the mirrors. How comforting it is to know that we are viewed through the eyes of Christ, who looks past all our imperfections and sees us as his lily white princess. And that is why I pray that my life line is Christ. People should be able to look at me and see the One who loves them more than anything. I know I'm a long way off from that, but it's a life long process. So until I can say that my life line is the life line of Christ, I will desperately cling to him as my direct line to Life