Not a sponge.

I took a break from my social Friday night to wash my dishes.  Sometimes you just need to withdraw and wash your dishes.  Not only is it productive, but it’s a little therapeutic.

I can’t explain why; it just is.

I washed all the silverware that I got from the dollar store and my coffeemaker parts and my tupperware.  I’ve got this great sponge with a handle that stores soap.

Now, sponges are great.  (I promise, I’m not going crazy or becoming obsessed with mundane domestic tasks.  This is going somewhere.)  I was sitting in one of my classes – Dialogue, a course that combines philosophy and theology and writing – thinking of how I didn’t want to miss a thing.  I wanted to soak everything in.

Like a sponge, I thoughtJust sit here and soak in everything and squeeze it right back out in my papers and such.  Yes, I will be full of good thoughts and ideas and all of that.  

But then I had another thought.  I’m not here to regurgitate what I’ve been told.  I’m here to think critically.  And what comes out in my papers should be a combination of me plus the information.

So I’ve decided to become a tree instead of a sponge.  I’ve talked about wanting to be a tree before, but this time it has a little more biological meaning.  Trees take in carbon dioxide, which helps them to live, makes them better off.  But then they give off oxygen, which doesn’t benefit them much. It’s for the rest of us.

I’d like to make oxygen for the world.


This morning began with a thump. Literally.  As in I got onto my bed – perhaps with a little too much gusto – after sugaring and creaming my coffee, the bed went down.

If you’ve ever seen the bed risers that are sort of cone-shaped, you might understand why.  My MacGyver-esque daddy helped me by using boards to stack two sets of them.  Thus, I have enough room for my luggage, under-bed drawers, and a laundry basket under my bed.

And I’m not sure how it happened, but somehow the way I wiggled back onto my bed caused a shift.  Poor Kathryn, who had just reached a full state of consciousness (she usually takes about twenty minutes to get her eyes fully open) watched with me as the bed and I jolted forward and backward and down.

This is your introduction to Kathryn.  She’s really great.

After the bed went down, we looked at each other – still sort of in the morning-brain haze – helplessly, wondering how that happened.  Then, still without much talking, Kathryn lifted and adjusted the risers in order to get it back up to its right place.

I can tell she’s a good friend already.  That’s what good friends do when your bed falls down and you might have caused it by wiggling too much.  They just look at you like, well.  that happened and help you get back up.

It’s too soon to know, but I’m sure if I start wiggling too much on my bed or suggest jumping on it, Kathryn will be the first to warn me about what happened last time.  (not that I’d want to jump on my bed.  I’d hit my head on the ceiling.)

There we are, the happy roomies.  Actually, I just told Kathryn that I was blogging about our bed escapade this morning and she told me that if it happened again, she wouldn’t be there to help me.  She’s joining the rowing team, and they practice from 5:15-7:30.  That’s AM, folks.

I guess I’m on my own now.


Permission to be original.

Have you ever wanted to compare growing up to mashed potatoes? Yeah, I’ve definitely wanted to do it.  And sometimes people frown upon that. Sometimes there are the nay-sayers to creativity. No, we have to compare growing up to being a little sapling or anything else organic that matures.
Heaven forbid that we should be original and not simply regurgitate what others have deemed are the valid metaphors or word plays.
I was reminded today in class that originality is the point of writing. If you don’t have anything to say that hasn’t been said before, then say nothing.
So someday, perhaps I will tell you all why growing up is like mashed potatoes. And maybe it won’t be a perfect metaphor or make total sense to everyone, but it would be original.
Those are my thoughts as I sit here by this ancient washing machine in a the basement.

Feeling invincible.

I’m a freshman, so those words are foolishness to anyone who has ever been in college and been older than me.  The words they would say are just wait or but can you get downtown and back by yourself? or that only lasts til your first paper is due the next day and you have 8 other assignments to finish.

Sure, it’s probably true that it won’t last.  But while it does, I’m going to savor it.  That’s what this whole experience is about, right?  Living in the moment, living fully, living right, and living with purpose.

Things that have gone right today:

1. Woke up on time, had plenty of time to brew my coffee, drink it, consume the Word of God, and eat breakfast with Kathryn.

2. Found both of my classes without a hitch.  It helps that they’re in the same building.

3. Successfully mailed a package – with loose change.

4. Remembered people’s names.

5. The sun’s shining.  Right, I didn’t make that happen, but it’s going right.  And walking around with my rainbow zebra sunglasses and my backpack and girly outfit makes me feel like a real college student.

6. Took the initiative to meet my advisor and had an informative conversation.

7. Liked both of my professors and heard that one of the ones I have tomorrow is “a fine human being.”

8.Found out that my health form did make it to the health office – meaning that I don’t have to re-fill one out or make my father search madly around my room at home for it.

9. Received the best care package ever. Pictures and descriptions to follow.

10. Felt good. You can have these exact circumstances on another day and not feel good.  The day can be colored badly, a shade of gray instead of the nice combo of blues and purples I’ve been feeling.  Mellow but beautiful.

See that?  I just found out an hour ago that I need that notebook for one of my classes.  “a little pocket notebook for observations,” she said.  And, obviously, the metallic crayons are extremely welcome. The Reese’s Pieces will go in the freezer, because I’ve discovered that frozen M&M’s are better than melted ones, and I bet that transfers to Reese’s Pieces.  Naturally, the picture of the baby is my favorite part.

Today has been full of the little victories, figuring things out, taking initiative, finding out that people in the financial aid office are nice, not making a fool of myself.  Now, I foresee (because I know myself well) a day in the near future where I feel slightly less victorious, where the day has been full of minor failures.  I’ll say something stupid in class – meaning to say something totally intelligent, of course, but what will come out will not be so – or trip in front of one of the perfectly put together Swedish guys on campus.  Not that I’m interested in them, but to look uncoordinated in front of something that seems so completely coordinated would be crushing.

That will be the day where I don’t have time for lunch or know that there’s something important that I forgot to write in my planner.  It’ll bother me all day, and I won’t remember in time to do it.

Today, I say that God is good, that He has given me a good day.  I say that He is gracious to me, that He knows what He’s doing.

That day, I will need to say the same.  I will need to see that day as a reason to be thankful for the better ones.  I’ll need to understand that I wouldn’t grow into who I need to be without spending some time being uncoordinated.

Today – victory over most little things. Another day – victory over my attitude.

Bread crumbs and willpower.

Later in the semester, when my floor desperately needs vacuuming, please remind me of today.

Today, I got out the little compact Dirt Devil for the first time, and since it was the first use, it was a novel thing.  Just like the first time I washed my own dishes in the bathroom sink with my cute little sponge-soap-thingy.  Just like it will be the first time I have a ton of homework.  The first time I go to Starbucks/the library/undiscovered study place to study.

When the floor starts feeling like I’m walking on bread crumbs and the novelty has worn off, I need to remember this moment.  How it took less than two minutes to run Arthur (named after the anteater since a vacuum cleaner sucks stuff up like an anteater sucks up ants) over the floor, how simple it was.

That goes for all other things.  To remember when I start a mundane or monotonous task that I have done it before – and it had an end.  It didn’t last forever, and it didn’t kill me.  All it will take is a little discipline and willpower.

Someone please remind me that I’ve said this when I start to sound lazy or as though the tasks at hand are too much.


spread it out.

Would you like to hear a story?  Here’s a good one from my day today:

I went downtown with my CREW.  No, that’s not just what I call my group of friends; it’s my orientation group.  We crammed into the Red Line and headed to Water Tower Place to shop around a little bit.  That lead to stopping over at the Hershey’s store, where we gaped at the huge chocolate bars (some for the first time), inhaled the chocolate air, and bounced the super bouncy balls around like little kids. Then we sat outside and talked about how hungry and exhausted we were.

So, naturally when we all got to Portillo’s, my eyes were much bigger than my stomach.  Also, I underestimated the portion size.  When you pay $8 for pasta, you actually get $8 worth of pasta.  And when you ask for a small cake shake (made by blending an entire piece of cake into ice cream), they give you more than would come in a medium fast food drink.

And the stuff’s good people.  You want to eat all of it.  But you can’t.  It’s something that has to come in installments.  The rich cream and butter and cheese on that fettuccine alfredo (aka the best you’ve ever had) makes for a hurting tummy if you consume too much.

Isn’t it beautiful?  And the amount pictured is the amount I took home in a take-home box.  I brought the shake with me as we walked down the street to the movie theater, sipping as I went.  The will to sip, to taste each of the three flavors – frosting, cake, and ice cream – individually but blended into the most incredible beverage-dessert ever was so strong, but unfortunately, the reality that my stomach could hold no more was stronger.

cake shake, yo.

I won’t lie to you.  The ARA (NPU cafeteria) food is not fabulous.  That’s being a little generous.  We have a great salad bar, I will say that.  But the food’s not great.  And there is a serious lack of butter in the facilities.  Since I come from a home where at least 8 sticks of butter reside in the fridge at all times, a little bowl full of teeny weeny margarine packets does not suffice to put on pancakes or on baked potatoes.  There isn’t enough in that entire bowl for a baked potato.

There are times in my life where I learn, where I realize, where I come across a truth about God or how I should live that makes my life so much richer, so much fuller, and the process of learning it might even be nice.  It makes me want more.  In a world where there isn’t enough spiritual butter and where we are fed mostly garbage, holiness and righteousness is like a sip of a cake shake.

I would like to think that I could handle more spiritual cake shake moments (or fettuccine alfredo moments) more frequently.  But then I remember that I once was really sick, and I still have the effects of a lot of those.  My sinful self probably can’t take too many cake shake moments and actually process them the way I should in order to use them for God’s glory.  It’s like trying to feed someone with the stomach flu too much too soon.  You stick to the easily digestible foods (I know the acronym is BRAT, but I can only remember that the ‘R’ stands for rice).  When someone is in rehab, they can completely become independent of the substance, but their bodies may not be able to process the good stuff the same way as before.

it’s not that we don’t need the good or that we don’t have the ability to take it.  But I think God spreads out realizations in our lives so that the change is permanent.  Because He knows it takes me a little while to even understand what He’s saying. Then from there it has to translate into my life, and goodness does that take a while.

Just like I won’t be eating another cake shake for about a month, so that I can handle it when I do.

Maybe it’s not a direct correlation.  But that’s what I’m thinking about after my night downtown.


live. move. have being.

He will be like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither.

Roots.  My roots go deep.

Not that I’m spectacular by any means, but I’ve got deep roots – as in deep Southern roots.

The story of how my parents ended up in Minnesota is long but simple – so basically not worth telling.  We got there.  That’s all that matters.  But they met in Texas at college.  My dad’s home state is Alabama, and my mom’s is Colorado.  Absolutely all of my family lives South now, spanning from Colorado to Oklahoma to Texas to Alabama and Tennessee.

And then there’s us, the Midwestern folks.

Those are nice roots.  I enjoy having a heritage that doesn’t include all of my family growing up in Minnesota and living there their whole lives and raising their kids there.  (though that is nothing to be ashamed of)

My most valued roots aren’t the ones with which I can trace my family around the country though.  They aren’t the genetic ones, especially since we can’t really figure out where my sister and I got our height.  They aren’t the habits that we have, the traditions that we enforce, or the way we say certain words.

It’s the values.  And how cheesy that sounds.  It’s the way I was taught to treat people and to conduct myself.  And the way I was taught that the basis (or the root, you could say) for all of the goodness and kindness and meekness is God.  That everything centers around Him.

In Him we live and move and have our being.

If living in Him and moving in Him weren’t enough, we have our being in Him.  We are because of Him.

It’s a thought that re-focuses me.  Thinking that I live and move and have my being in Jesus – or, at least, that is the phrasing that Paul uses in Acts.  I don’t know if it always describes how I live, but it certainly embodies the characteristics that I want to emulate.

live – interactions, words, thoughts

move – react to the Holy Spirit, go where I’m sent

have our being – resting in Jesus, abiding in His truth and love

I didn’t get that from like the Greek or a commentary or anything.  That’s the Ashley interpretation.  It’s what strikes me when I read that.

I would like to have all of my being in Jesus.  And I think I re-state this over and over and over again.  Because I continually find other things to be in.  Cal it spiritual ADD if you like, but I have to keep intentionally refocusing myself on this truth: in Him, I will live and move and have my being.  It’s personal now.

Not a zombie, a tree. And fully here.

I’ve been told today to not be like a zombie and that I am a tree today.  I’d tell you the whole story, but it would detract from what I really want to blog about – and really, the mystery is what makes that sentence interesting.

My purple lace doily patterned duvet cover has been stretched out over my bed, with sheets, mattress pads, etc below.  I have my Bunny at my side, coffee and cream in the fridge, enough toothpaste and contact solution to last me all semester, and Jonathan in a corner.  The open window facing a busy Chicago street is starting to bring in fewer car noises as the hour grows later.

My books are on their shelves. The pictures of the people I love and miss are hanging on clothespins from ribbon on the wall.  My Bible is at the ready to keep me grounded during this semester.  My beanbag chair is ready for company to sit on it.

And here I am, a college kid.

And I’m not totally sure how that happened, how I got here.  How I ended up being the person who gets to stay while my parents drive away.

Regardless of how I got here, of what circumstances have lead me to this day, I know I’m in the right place.  I’ve only been here for a day, but already I’ve had catalysts to think about how I want to spend my time here.  If I want to be a mindless consumer (like a zombie) or a critical thinker.

Do you ever feel like you’ve missed some stages of life?  Like you know you went through them, you remember them, you enjoyed some of them.  But they never felt like they were meant for you?  I felt that way most of high school.  I’m in 9th grade? Dude.  How’d I get to be so old? I don’t feel this old.  I must not be this old.

I think I had some trouble embracing where I was.  And by the time I got used to being where I was, I wasn’t there anymore.

I’m going to try to end those habits, stop the cycle.  To be where I am, to embrace it fully, and to look ahead to the next steps in life with the knowledge that they will come.  Surely.  And likely swiftly.

And now it’s time to learn the rules of the residence hall.

List of love.

I love Chicago.  Really, I do.

We drove along Lake Shore Drive today, up the coastline of Lake Michigan, in order to get to our rented apartment on the Northeast side.  City on one side, beach on the other.  Best views.  The sun was just starting to go down, and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky.  It was a perfect 30 minutes.

So I made a list in my head of the things I love about Chicago.

1) there’s a river running through it.  It’s added beauty.

2) You can drive around the city when you’re trying to get somewhere else (like Michigan) and avoid the traffic.

3) As you drive along Lake Shore Drive, you can look straight down a street and see sunlight on the other end.  It’s organized!

4) It has both beautiful, shiny, window-full modern buildings, TALL ones.  And it has older, gorgeous brick buildings, right next to them!

5) I love the skyline, how it is tall and distinct.

6) Dunkin Donuts is everywhere you look.  That is primo coffee, folks.

7) So many food options! I could get authentic anything at some point here.

8) My school is in the Northeast part of this place.

9) THE “L”.  hooray for public transportation.

10) I get to live here.

God knew I’d like it here.  And tomorrow, I will move in to my very own closet-sized dorm room.  And I will eventually tell you all about that process. Stay tuned.


Why we love and roadtrip.

If you have a quirky sense of humor and enjoy music, you should give Relient K a listen.  They’re great road trip music, which is how I’m enjoying them right now.  The song that just played is called “Faking My Own Suicide.”  And I know that could sound really morbid or irreverent, but the song is actually not like that at all.

It’s the typical story of unrequited love, except the guy doesn’t just pine for the girl – he takes drastic action.

He fakes his own suicide.

Because I know you love me, you just haven’t realized.  I’m faking my own suicide.  They’ll hold a double funeral because a part of you will die along with me.

I was laughing to myself about this because it really reveals a truth about us as humans.

We love people more when we don’t actually have to love them anymore.  There are those people in our lives that are easy to love while they’re alive and in our presence because – on the whole – they’re nice.  They’re pleasant and love us back.  Sure,  they make mistakes and disappoint us, but on the whole, we like them.  They merit our love.

Some people are easier to love once they move to Finland or Heaven.  It sounds horrible to say, but how true is it that we can so much more easily see testy people in a positive light after we don’t have to deal with them as much anymore?

It makes me wonder about boundaries in friendships and other relationships.  I wonder: is it better for me to love well and less often or to love mediocrely and only when I feel like it?  Is that how Jesus did it?

Or is it more that I need a change of heart, that the reason I love people isn’t based on them but based on the fact that I am loved unconditionally by God?  I’m thinking that’s more along the lines of why we love.  That actually takes pressure off of me, doesn’t it?   Sure, I have to love everyone as well as I can, but the focus goes to the One loving through me.

I’d like that much better.  And, as usual, it’s a little easier said than done, but it’s totally worth doing.

TRAVEL UPDATE TIME: We’ve arrived in Michigan to drop my sister off.  That’s probably not the best way to put it, since it makes it seem like we’re just stopping at her house and waving at her on the sidewalk while we speed away.

We’ll be here until tomorrow morning.  It’s sad to leave her here, but it does mean that there’s more room in the car.  I was just about folded in half in there today.  And, yes, that was my own fault for bringing so much stuff with me – including a massive mini fridge (yes, I do realize the irony of that combination of adjectives) and Jonathan – but I just refused to leave my beloved instrument at home.

So I sat folded for most of the day and am still suffering from soreness.  But, it will be worth it in the end.

All in all, excitement is building steadily.

By the way, my mom says hi.