It’s Been a While…

It’s Been a While…

Hello Friends,

It’s been a while since I’ve stared at this blank page wondering how to carefully place my thoughts in a way that could be understood. To be completely honest with you, I still don’t know how to do that. Somewhere along the way, I forgot how to express my feelings in a healthy way. Why? I’ve been asking myself that question for quite some time now. The only thing that I’ve known for sure is that I want to write. I don’t want to stop reaching out to people who are experiencing the same trials and tribulations that I am. I love to help people. It has always been in my nature, but how do I help others when I’m not sure how to help myself?

It has come to my attention that I have been neglecting myself. Not in an “I need to get a massage every once in a while” way, but in an “I’ve completely lost myself and not sure where to find her again” way. Realizing that you’ve completely abandoned yourself can be a shell shock experience. Everything that you thought and knew you loved could be a complete lie like you’ve been woken up from a dream. This realization can be the result of trauma like it was for me.

I’ve experienced a lot of devastation in my life, but my current situation has been a ball buster. It has resulted in a zombie-like presence in my existence that has deceived me into thinking I can’t live without what I thought was true and real. Only to realize with a lot of self-evaluation and God-seeking actions and prayer, that maybe this “shell-shock” was what I needed to zap me out of the trance I was in and self-neglect.

I am proud to announce that not only have a come up with what I would like to write about for my book, but I have actually started to write it! That is huge for me. I’ve always wanted to write a book, but goals always seem so far away when your attention is focused on other things and people around you. When we are left alone to put our priorities, our needs and wants into perspective, we may find ourselves having the will and motivation to complete projects and goals that we have longed to do.

Truthfully, it started to keep my mind off of the trauma circling my mind. I was tired of living in sadness and rejection, so I wanted to concentrate on what I could do and not what I’ve lost. Realizing that I can only control my own life has been a pivotal role in my recovery. Trauma can make you or break it. It could build you or tear you down. It can make you better or make you bitter.

There is a specific way I want my life to go; God’s will. Because God wants nothing but good for me, I’m choosing to believe that following Him is the only way to get my “good thing.” What I thought was good for me, turned out not to be. Doing things my way has caused more heartbreak, confusion, and damage to not only my life but my loved ones.

VWAQ VWAQ-1926B Know The Plans I Have for You, Jeremiah 29:11, Bible Wall Decal #2

I understand now that Jesus will take away the things or people that we want and replace them with the things that we deserve, or at least make those things or people better for not just our lives but for theirs.

Trauma is real. Trauma can be tragic when not carefully attended to, thus the reason for my long absence. Right now, I’m still not sure who I am completely, but I appreciate that I have the will and desire to want to know.

Thank you, God, for the revelations that You have given me these past few months. Thank you for revealing your undying love for me and the people around me. Jesus, so many of us are hurting, whether we know it or not, so I pray that you draw close to each and every one of us. Save us, Jesus, even if it’s from ourselves because you want what is best for us. We weren’t meant to live in turmoil, confusion, depression, and anxiety. Those are the enemies tactics. Yet, your Word says to look to you because you are the illuminating light in our darkness. Thank you, Father, for your grace, mercy, peace, and love.

Please remember to pray for one another.

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Irrational Fears

Hey Friends,

Today, I would like to share an irrational fear that I have. Thefreedictionary.com defines an irrational fear as:

a. a persistent, abnormal, and phobia of a specific thing or situation that compels one to avoid it, despite the awareness and reassurance that it is not dangerous.

b. A strong fear, dislike, aversion.

For example, my baby girl, Hannah was deathly afraid of pink cotton balls when she was a toddler. I have no idea why. She wasn’t going to daycare or preschool at the time because I was a stay at home mom. I always had white cotton balls in the house, so I guess she wasn’t used to seeing the pink ones. I’m not sure what caused the fear, but every time she saw one, she would scream bloody murder.

I took advantage of this fear by placing them around objects that I didn’t want her touch in the house, like, the old school water heaters. Yea, it was a little mean, but she never burned her hands. She always wanted to touch the heaters, even when they were scolding hot during the winter, but as soon as I placed pink cotton balls around them, she never touched them again.

One of my irrational fears is being judged. Since I was a kid, I would always worry about what other people thought of me, but it has gotten worse in my adult years. I would find myself living for other people, doing what I thought other people wanted me to do. Honestly, sometimes it worked out in my favor, but most of the time it didn’t. Ultimately, I paid a very hefty cost; not knowing who I really am and years of unnecessary depression and heartache.

When I would do something that was more “me”, people would be confused and say, “this isn’t the Ashley I know. The Ashley I know would never say or do something like that.” When in fact, yes, this Ashley would do or say that. No one knew the real me, and quite frankly, a lot of people still don’t.

I keep a lot of my life private because of that fear. I don’t handle confrontation well because of that fear. People feel like I’m not approachable in fear of my reaction. There have been times I have had a full-blown anxiety attack because I was accused of doing something that I didn’t do. Instead of simply saying I didn’t do it, I was so distraught at the fact that someone thought I was capable of doing such a thing. Then I would become worried because then I would think, “Am I capable of doing that?” Then I would think about for days and days and days because of what this person said I did. See how much time is being wasted?

I would like to think that my family and friends can come to talk to me about things that are concerning them when it comes to something they see is happening that I am unaware of. Maybe my addiction wouldn’t have gone as far as it did if I wasn’t too afraid to speak up and say, “I need help!” No. I kept it all in because I didn’t want, 1. My family to judge me and 2. To be gossiped about.

Gossip is becoming the new normal in society because we think that everyone does it. Well, maybe it’s not new since God warns us against it in His Word.

“ ‘Do not go about spreading slander among your people. “ ‘Do not do anything that endangers your neighbor’s life. I am the LORD. -Leviticus 19:16

I won’t argue that the majority of people gossip, yes, but it doesn’t mean it’s acceptable. I have done my fair share of gossiping and to be honest, I never feel good about when I am done. I always feel like I’ve betrayed the person that I was talking about. And I never want to do that.

Venting, on the other hand, is completely different because you are explaining to a third party about what happened between you and another person. Gossiping is talking about someone else’s business, which shouldn’t be none of our business. Even if you are concerned, it should be shared with you and that person, and maybe another trusted person out of love. Not talked about carelessly. I keep a lot of things bottled up in fear that my situation will be talked about for entertainment purposes.

You may be saying I am overreacting. I would agree with you. That is why this fear is irrational. It controls my life. It keeps me in bondage.  I am unable to share what is happening and ask for help in fear of judgment. I shouldn’t care what my loved ones think, but I do. I shouldn’t allow what someone says about me dictate my every move, but sometimes I do.

I am getting better at it each day because I am learning that:

  1. People will talk about me regardless and what they say about me is not my problem. But how I react to gossip is my problem.
  2. God will take care of the people who choose to gossip. Yes, the majority of us may do it, but in God’s eyes, it’s still sin.
  3. People will judge and talk about what they don’t understand. They will always see what’s in front of them and sometimes that is not always the truth.
  4. God knows everything. He sees and hears everything. His opinion of what I am doing and how I am doing it is the only opinion that matters.
  5. In this life, I only aim to please my heavenly Father, which is to live by His Word and guidance from the Holy Spirit.

I’ll conclude with a short story:

When I was a young kid, my oldest sister lived in New York. I admired her so much and so did my other family members. Everyone loved her. I remember when she would come home to visit, she would receive so much love and attention. I wanted the same. A friend of mines gave me a bag of marbles that we used to play with. They were really pretty and were being kept in this awesome fabric bag. Before she moved, my big sister was always there for me. Made sure I had the nicest clothes and my hair was always done. She always took care of me. Looking back, I think I was missing that and didn’t realize it after she had moved away. She was my escape from the chaos that we experienced in a small apartment almost filled with 9 other people. On one of her visits home, my moms living room was filled with laughter, hugs, and excitement for her arrival.

I quickly thought, “I want love, hugs, and kisses”. I was so small, I felt like I was being looked over or ignored. So, as quickly as I could, I ran and gave her my bag of marbles. I didn’t have much to play with during that time, so it was a big deal that I parted with them. As memory serves, she took them, looked at them, and thanked me. That was it. I thought, “I want more”. I craved more. I wanted her to pick me up in the air, smile really big, and give me the tightest hug a person could give.

I wanted her to tell me how much she loved the marbles and that it was the best gift she had ever gotten. But that didn’t happen. My expectations were too high. I immediately began to feel that her reaction had to do with my character. I internalized it, thinking that I wasn’t good enough. That was my first thought of never wanting to share what was close to my heart with anyone. That I couldn’t do anything to make her happy the way that she has made me happy. I felt useless.

Years have passed as I have completely forgotten that moment, that defined, with many other moments, during my youth, what I thought about myself. How fearful I would become of judgment and rejection. Then I didn’t know that I would soon try to find my self worth in the response to what people said about me and make awful mistakes related to that way of thinking. One day about five years ago, my sister was cleaning out her closet. I was resting on her bed, playing with my baby boy Christian, as my sister and I talked about life. Then she said something that brought yours truly to tears. She said, “Hey, do you remember when you were little and you gave me that bag of marbles?” I said, “Oh my gosh, I completely forgot about that. Yea, I remember.” Then she says, “Do you know I still have them. Every time I travel, I take them with me wherever I go. I never leave home without them.”

Wow! That blew my mind. The fact that she has not only kept those marbles for over 20 years, but she never travels without them meant more to me than a brief moment of praise when I first gave them to her. It means that every time she got on a plane or drove a long distance to go on vacation or travel for work, I was always with her. And my sister doesn’t do light traveling. She has always been one to travel all over the country multiple times a year.

Do you see how the enemy used me as a young child to stir up the fear and insecurity inside of me? Being a kid, of course, I didn’t know what was happening, but this is a perfect example of how the enemy will even attack us as children to further his agenda; kill, steal, and destroy (John 10:10).  I told you that story to say, I no longer want to be afraid of what people think about me. Sometimes we never know what people are thinking about us. All this time, I never knew that she held those marbles so dear to her heart. I want to concentrate on the good things that people are saying about me and leave the negative things to God because He knows who I am and I know whose I am.

We have to live our lives for the glory of our Father all while keeping our eyes focused on Jesus. Everything else is irrelevant.

Then, turning to his disciples, Jesus said, “That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food to eat or enough clothes to wear. 23 For life is more than food, and your body more than clothing. 24 Look at the ravens. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for God feeds them. And you are far more valuable to him than any birds! 25 Can all your worries add a single moment to your life? 26 And if worry can’t accomplish a little thing like that, what’s the use of worrying over bigger things? -Luke 12:22-26

 

Why You Should Get Yourself A Mentor

Why You Should Get Yourself A Mentor

Hey Friends,

The past few days, I’ve been struggling with mental illness stuff. Nothing too dramatic, just everyday life situations. Things that I happen to go through, I remember other people being judged for the same things when I was growing up. So, it makes me want to “suffer in silence” because I want to avoid the same judgment and gossip. It’s usually the reason why most people suffer in silence; they are afraid of what other people may say, especially by our loved ones. Personally, this is why I’ve been such a “private” person. Although, I am fortunate enough to not just have a spiritual mentor who isn’t family, but also mentors who happen to be family.

But, why should you get yourself a mentor? It’s nice to be able to talk to someone about what we are going through without being judged. This is why I love having a spiritual mother or mentor to turn to when I feel like the battle of life is just becoming too much. She is more invested in my spiritual walk than anything else. So if I call her complaining about my marriage, for instance, she is there is give me advice from a godly perspective versus a bias one. I know that I can call her ten times in the same week about the same issue and she will help me discern the voice of God. She rarely adds her own personal opinion, which I wouldn’t mind because she has a very kind spirit. It also helps that she has had a very successful marriage herself.

When I tell her something I’ve done wrong, I’m not met by a finger shake in my face. I’m met with the same kindness that Jesus would show me if he were standing right in front of me. She is able to do all of these things because she is a woman after God’s own heart. She has lived long enough to grow so close to God, that she is able to pour the same love that He has given her, into other people, like me.

She is not doing it in her own strength and not by her own will, but God’s alone. God sent her to me because He knew I needed her. We both didn’t seek each other out. It was literally a miracle from God.

Not only is she able to pour into me when I need it, but I am able to pour into her. No judgments. No expectations. Just God. Peace. Love. Faith. All from Him. It’s nice. I always used to tell her that if she knew the real me, she wouldn’t want to deal with me. She would tell me that it didn’t matter because I am anew in Christ Jesus and that is who she sees.

People who judge us that love us can be heart-wrenching because it may come across as them not caring about your situation, just about what we’re doing wrong. They have a preconceived notion about us because of our past mistakes, so when we make another one, they incidentally assume we are the same person now than we were in the past.

But when we become new in Christ, the old life is left behind and we have a new perspective on how to handle certain circumstances in our lives. Those who know about our “old self” may not or will not understand. Say, for instance, you’ve been a drug addict for most of your adult life. You’ve been known to steal and destroy in order to support your habit. But now, you’re clean and free from drugs and a completely different person. Well, when you come to family dinners, your aunt still hides her purse from you and someone continues to bring up the old stories from when you would disappear on drug binges.

I kind of feel like that with mental illness. When people find out I have a mental illness, every decision I make comes into question. The decision that I make compared to the decision they “would’ve” made is talked about and speculated. That’s why it’s nice to have someone give us advice from a godly perspective on our life’s circumstances. People will have the best intentions to show concern, but it doesn’t mean it hurts any less.

So, why did I type all of this out? Are you confused by anything that I’ve been rambling on about? Well, I will simply say…

Family and friends will always try to look out for you the best way they can, but get yourself a spiritual mother/father or mentor who will have an unbiased opinion about you and your life through God’s perspective. Family and friends will have your back, but their delivery may not come out the best way. It’s not their fault. We are all broken and doing the best we can. But to avoid hurt feelings, you won’t have to face any criticism or judgments that may come from well-intentioned people in your life if it’s coming from someone discerning the voice of God. On top of that, you will feel the Lord’s love pouring into you each time.

Thank you for reading my thoughts today. I pray you are having a wonderful start to your week. Please remember to pray to one another.

Since you have heard about Jesus and have learned the truth that comes from him, throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy.” -Ephesians 4: 21-24

February Monthly Theme: What Is Real Love?

February Monthly Theme: What Is Real Love?

Good Day Friends,

Valentines Day is coming up and most of us are preparing to share this special day with our loved one. As you may know, Valentines Day is one of the most expensive “holidays” celebrated in our culture. Even my own husband decided to spoil me with a new wedding ring to celebrate all that we have overcome these past few years in our marriage.

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Some people with equate love with today’s corporate America’s idea of what love is, but that couldn’t be furthest from the truth. People will spend thousands of dollars to make their loved ones happy with expensive jewelry, trips, shopping sprees, candy, flowers, etc.

I’m here to tell you, marriage itself is hard and it’s not what is portrayed on television or social media. You may experience loving moments, but a marriage relationship itself takes a lot of dedication, work, and a constant renewing of your mind as your marriage evolves in good and bad ways.

I truly believe that if most people knew beforehand how hard it is, many people wouldn’t go through with it. Divorce rates would be lower because when couples go through the rough times, they are prepared because it’s expected.

Society gives a false representation of marriage. You see it all over social media with hashtags about how a marriage should be. You’ll see a picture of a couple with matching outfits, big bright smiles at their perfect expensive wedding, bragging about how they never fight or how life is so grand. You may even see someone bragging about how their wife/husband bought them a brand new diamond ring with their birthstone on the sides *cough, cough*.

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Even the royal wedding seemed absolutely perfect.

What people don’t tell you is when you get married, it is very likely that you and your spouse are bringing some pretty heavy baggage with them; addiction, fear, shame, guilt, selfishness, heartbreak, childhood pain, and so on. This is unintentional of course. Most of the time, we are unaware that we are bringing that much baggage into our marriage. We think, “oh, I’ve gotten over my abuse” or “I’ve moved past being cheated on in my last relationship.” But then, we are triggered, thus causing a chain reaction of fights, slander, and separations.

For me, mental illness is under very large umbrella of baggage I’ve allowed myself to bring into my relationship with my husband. There are things that I thought I have “moved past” or “gotten over”, but has reared it’s ugly head during a manic episode. My husband knew that I struggled with mental illness, but the poor guy had no idea how much of a struggle it was and how much I’ve allowed it to control certain aspects of my life.

When my husband and I attended a marriage seminar back in April of last year, our instructor asked: “what percentage do you feel you would need to put into your relationship to make it work?” Every couple had the same answer; 50/50. Make sense right? Apparently, we were all wrong. The actual answer is 100/100.

Meaning, there are times when your spouse would have to put in 100% when you are unable to put in 0%. And there are times when you’ll have to put in 100% when your spouse is unable to put in 0%. And then, there are those moments when both of us are able to put in 100%. That is when things are absolutely great.

I believe when relationships fail, it’s because people feel like they are giving more than their spouse. And when they feel like they’re giving more, then they want to give less. And when their spouse sees’s that they’re giving less, then the spouse gives less, until both people are giving 0%, thus giving up completely.

There was a time that I wanted to break up because I was convinced that my husband would get fed up with dealing with my mental illness and leave me. I was giving maybe 20% effort into my marriage because giving my all was too scary.  But my husband continued to give 100%. He never gave up on me. He never stopped loving me. He was convinced that I would move past my insecurity and believe him when he said he would never leave me. If he would have given me what I was giving him, we would be divorced by now, but he didn’t. And I love him so much more for it.

There was also a time where my husband wasn’t able to give as much as he wanted to emotionally due to his past issues, but I continued to pray for him. I prayed to God that he would soften my husband’s heart and to help him to move past his issues and forgive those who trespassed against him. It was my unconditional love and willingness to give 100% when he was able to give 0%, that continues to make our marriage stronger than ever.

This is what God wants for us in our marriages; to love each other past the good times. Unconditional love means loving someone when they are unlovable, praying for someone even if they aren’t praying for you, and trusting God that He will pull you through the hard times of marriage because there is nothing we can do to avoid them.

Like Paul said in Roman 5:1-11, problems and trials build endurance, which builds strength of character which leads to hope of salvation. We are living in a broken, fallen world and one of the hard parts of living in such a broken world is not believing the lies that Satan try to feed us every minute of every day. One of those lies is that God cannot save your marriage. When God can fix anything. All you have to do is ask and be patient.

Marriage is a gift from God that should be taken seriously. It’s not something you can choose to walk away from because it doesn’t fit what YOU had planned. It is a contract that you are making with someone else and with God. I didn’t know that during my first marriage. I didn’t like what my first husband was doing, so I kicked him to the curb like he was a cheap suit.

Don’t do what I did. If you are thinking about getting married or currently married and going through a rough time, I would advise you to put God first in your marriage, and the rest will fall into place.

My husband and I have gone through some pretty rough times, but the good times make it all worth it. He and I are willing to sacrifice to conform to each other’s needs while accepting what we can’t change. Will we continue to make mistakes? Of course. Will we have another fight? Maybe, but having God in the center and loving each other as Jesus loves us will allow is to last til death do us part. This is love.

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I love you guys and thank you, thank you, thank you for reading this extremely long post. I tried to cut it down, but I couldn’t. So smooches to each one of you who had enough patience to read all of it. I pray that each one of you is having a great start to your week and please remember to pray for one another.

Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love. -1 Corinthians 13: 4-7,13

Additional Scripture about Marriage and Relationships

Genesis 1:27-28: “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them. And God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.’ ”

Malachi 2:14-15: “But you say, ‘Why does he not?’ Because the LORD was witness between you and the wife of your youth, to whom you have been faithless, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant.”

Isaiah 54:5: “For your Maker is your husband, the LORD of hosts is his name; and the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer, the God of the whole earth he is called.”

Song of Solomon 8:6-7: “Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm, for love is strong as death, jealousy is fierce as the grave. Its flashes are flashes of fire, the very flame of the LORD. Many waters cannot quench love, neither can floods drown it. If a man offered for love all the wealth of his house, he would be utterly despised.”

Ephesians 4:2-3: “With all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”

Colossians 3:14: “And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.”

Ecclesiastes 4:9: “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone?”

Ephesians 5:25: “For husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church. He gave up his life for her.”

Genesis 2:24: “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.”

Ecclesiastes 4:12: “Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”

Mark 10:9: “Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”

Ephesians 5:25-33: “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, …”

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

Proverbs 30:18-19: “There are three things that amaze me—no, four things that I don’t understand: how an eagle glides through the sky, how a snake slithers on a rock, how a ship navigates the ocean, how a man loves a woman.”

1 John 4:12: “No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.”

Proverbs 31:10: “Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies.”

Ruth 1:16-17: “Entreat me not to leave you, Or to turn back from following after you; For wherever you go, I will go; And wherever you lodge, I will lodge; Your people shall be my people, And your God, my God. Where you die, I will die, And there will I be buried. The Lord do so to me, and more also, If anything but death parts you and me.”

Romans 12:10: “Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.”

1 Peter 4:8: “Most important of all, continue to show deep love for each other, for love covers a multitude of sins.”

Ephesians 5:21: “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.”

Ephesians 4:32: “Be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.”

Genesis 2:18–25: “Then the LORD God said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.’ … So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. And the rib that the LORD God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man.”

1 Peter 3:7: “In the same way, you husbands must give honor to your wives. Treat your wife with understanding as you live together. She may be weaker than you are, but she is your equal partner in God’s gift of new life. Treat her as you should so your prayers will not be hindered.”