Grace for the paper.


I hate writing first drafts for a paper.  Even if I have a clear idea of what I want to say and a general structure that I want the document to take, the initial cranking out of the paragraphs is intensely painful.

Usually.

This is another one of those times where I realize how insanely ridiculous I am.

I spent a good portion of yesterday mapping out my paper (and by mapping, I mean literally… there’s a great app for macs that helps you mind map) and dreading the writing.  In fact, I dreaded it all through lunch and Comm Theory.  Then I went back to my room, procrastinated a little bit, mapped a little more, and dreaded it all through choir. Then I dreaded it all through dinner.  And I dreaded it all through my shift.

This is a significant portion of my day spent dreading.  It wasn’t the most restful day – which is ironic since my paper was about ambition – which, I’m sure, you an imagine.

Picture my surprise when I got home at 9:30, started writing my paper around 10:03, and was all done by 10:58.

It’s just another reminder that God cares about the things that weigh me down. There was a great amount of grace in that paper-writing process.  (It’s not even a bad first draft, which is what my professor says he expects.)  And because God carries those burdens with me and infuses grace into the situations that come with them, I don’t need to be weighed down.

Are you getting sick of reading about how I keep forgetting that?  Come ON, Ashley.  You’ve talked about this 800 million times.  I think you just need to get the point now and learn something else.

You’re probably right.

I’ll get there.

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Thanks, Monday.


It’s Thanksgiving week, folks. That means a couple things:

1. I can’t despair over ARA food this week since I know that I’ll be eating well soon.  Actually, I should just eat salad this week to prepare and maybe work out 3 hours a day.

2.  My issues with my living space (aka, the fact that I’m pretty sure the heater has a live squirrel in it. and the only thing that keeps me from thinking its live is the fact that the heater makes it hot as hades in here) can take a backseat.

3. I need to make an extensive list of the things I’m thankful for and why.  And maybe I’ll include things that I should be thankful for.  Sounds like a good activity for the plane ride home.

I think I forget sometimes that the whole premise of Thanksgiving is to give thanks…. to God.  It’s not just feeling gratitude in my heart for all that I have and releasing it into the universe to find its way to whatever being has blessed me so much.  (though if I did that, the praise would obviously end up at God’s door)

We talk about the reason for the season at Christmas since without Jesus there isn’t any Christmas, but without Jesus there isn’t any Thanksgiving either.

And let’s be honest, without Jesus there isn’t even Flag Day or Monday.

As much as Thanksgiving is about pie, I hope my attitude this year is different than most years. I hope that I can foster a real attitude of thankfulness for what God has done in my life and what He is doing and what He will do. And that that attitude will extend past Thursday towards the hectic-but-wonderful Christmas season where we often get too concerned with consuming and getting things.

So, to begin this week the right way:

I’m so thankful for a God who not only hears every word I say but knows the deep needs beyond the words.  I’m thankful that He’s REAL and ALIVE and that I can’t do anything to deserve His love.  I’m thankful that He isn’t just powerful but that He’s also supremely wise.  And I’m thankful that he asks for my burdens and troubles and anxieties and worries so that I don’t have to carry them (since I do a pretty bad job of that).

What are you thankful for?  Comment!  Let’s start our weeks off by giving thanks!

 

lights and reminders


Every now and then, you find yourself downtown in Chicago with masses of other people who also wanted to see Michigan Avenue in all of its lighted glory as a way to usher in the holiday season.  It’s not as though Chicago is ever devoid of people, but when I say masses, I mean hold hands, girls, or we’re going to lose each other in this crowd.

Through these experiences, you find yourself noticing that people are messy, as indicated by the amounts of garbage on the streets after the parade and tree lighting.  When a group of people (who we found out later didn’t speak English and might not have understood that what they were doing is considered poor etiquette) stand right in your line of view and women with small children get feisty, it sometimes gives you pause to look at yourself and what you care about, what drives you to action.

Today, I need to remind myself what’s important to me.  I need to remember what I care about, what I stand for, and what takes priority.  And then I need to act like it.  I need to remind myself that love is high on my priority list, that people matter more than things, that I’m in school in order to learn – and that learning requires homework and diligence in reading and such -, and that, more than anything, I want what God wants for me.

And I need to remember that it shows in the little things I do.  In the small responses.  In the seemingly insignificant encounters.

So, maybe this post is more to remind me of what I want to be, to remind myself where I think God is telling me to journey.

Either way, that’s what’s up today.

 

On armor.


I was all ready for winter, as you know.  I’d gotten my tea bags to help warm up, set my fake Uggs out, and mentally prepared myself for bone-chilling winds and mountains of snow.

So, you can imagine the cognitive dissonance that came when I stepped outside today and realized that my wool coat was totally unnecessary.

It’s 51 degrees and sunny, folks.  And I’m not sure what to do with it.

That’s something to think about: what happens when you not only prepare for a wintery spell of life but expect it… and then things start to look up?  Should you change your expectations and prepare for springy times?

But then what happens when the weather does what it tends to do in the Midwest – change all of a sudden to be horribly cold?

It makes little sense to continue to walk around in my mittens, headband, and scarf when the weather doesn’t call for it, but I think that’s my figurative approach sometimes.  They’re not needed now, but they will be soon.  So, why not stay prepared?  It might seem like it makes sense to walk around in your armor even when life isn’t a battle – because the enemies might be right around the corner.  But doesn’t that sound like a burdened life?

So when do you know when you put it on?  When do you suit up and prepare for the battle that will ensue?  Anxieties and troubles don’t always announce themselves before they attack, but the thought of living constantly on the defense isn’t too appealing.

I’m not sure I’ve got an answer for this one.  Maybe there are certain pieces of armor that you always leave on, for the minor battles, for the times when you just need to keep your heart or mind safe.  Or perhaps you just keep it on hand.

It’s a good question for Friday – or any day for that matter.

Pocket Change


image

We used to have this big, green, rocking armchair in my living room.  I remember rocking in it with my mom in the mornings and sometimes when I was sick.  In most of my early memories of visits from my Granddaddy and Grandma, my Granddaddy is sitting in that chair.  When they would leave to drive back to Texas, Brooke and I would wave at the screen door, then – shortly after we mourned the loss of their company – we’d run upstairs to check under the cushions of that green chair for all the change that had inevitably fallen out of my grandpa’s pockets as he rocked in there.

I’m not sure how we initially found out about that phenomenon, but we did. Granddaddy had left, but his presence was still felt in the coins we looted from the chair.

Sometimes it seems like we don’t leave much with people.  Sometimes I feel like my presence and words and influence is like a few pennies dropped between cushions.  Sometimes when I try to make a difference or speak up, I feel like I’m throwing pennies at people – which they aren’t inclined to catch because it’s not worth much and requires concentration to catch it.

It’s easy to feel like you leave no mark on the world at large with your contribution.  It’s easy to feel like you’re only dropping pennies, that you leave nickels and dimes for other people.  And, really, what can nickels or dimes buy these days?

Granted, if we add up all those nickels and dimes, if we all were dropping pennies of change, it would mean a lot more.  But does that mean that we have to wait for the whole world to decide to speak truth and make a change to do anything of significance?

Maybe people are like piggy banks.  Maybe when pocket change is dropped in consistently, over a long period of time, it eventually gets to a point where they have to empty what has been poured into them.  Maybe the weight is overbearing or they realize the impact of what they carry.

Hmmm. Maybe.

Tweeting and thankfulness.


In case you didn’t already know, I’m a slight social networking junkie.  It’s not a debilitating condition, so no need for worries, folks.  So, this morning, when I wanted to tweet about Jesus, twitter told me that my account “may not be allowed to perform this action.”

um. It’s a twitter account.  I got it for the purpose of tweeting.  I’ve done this over 4,000 times.  I think my account is allowed to tweet.

Oh, Wednesday morning problems.

Today is a day when I’m a little tempted to get anxious over all the things that need to happen.  I’m also a little bit tempted to think that I’m never going to go home again, even though I know I will be heading out in exactly a week.  You could say that I’m wasting my time with these worries, which would be totally accurate.  I am.  I’m wasting time and emotion over this.

If you’ve been around for a while here, you might know what’s coming. Yep, that’s right.  My list of things that I’m thankful for this morning.  It’s almost Thanksgiving, so this is even more appropriate than usual.

1. I am so darn thankful that God is charge of my life, that I am not behind the wheel.  I’m thankful that I don’t need to worry about a single thing.  And I’m thankful that God is worthy of trust.  Otherwise that whole thing would be hard.

2. I’m thankful for instant oatmeal.  It’s so nice to be able to make a warm breakfast in my dorm – without need for stovetop or microwave (both of which are contraband in my building).

3. This won’t be news, but I’m thankful for coffee.  We all know why.

4. I’m thankful that tonight I’ll get to see some friends from Minnesota — a couple of whom are BABIES, which is exciting because we have a shortage on campus (which is a good thing) — and not have to eat dinner in the ARA.

5. Speaking of ARA, as much as I dislike the food there and dislike the fact that it makes me feel funny, I’m thankful that I don’t have to eat cereal, instant oatmeal, or boxed macaroni for every meal.

6. I’m so so so so so thankful that I get to go home in one short week.

7. I got an email this morning that one of my classes isn’t meeting today!  Hallelujah for a free hour.

8. I’m thankful for my job and for my boss who made Thanksgiving week optional.

Sometimes I feel like I’m not really free from anxiety or fear or distress.  But then I remember that in Christ I’m not a slave to my sin or to the chains of anxiety that hold me down.  In fact, I’m the only one keeping me there.  I’m binding myself when I was made free.

Also, sometimes I feel like I can’t just make a list of 8 things, that I have to make it to ten since everyone else tries to do that.  But then I remember that bucking trends is fun.

Happy Wednesday, people.  We’re at the hump of the week.  Let’s make the most of today.

Snowfall, sort of.


Couple things you need to know before I get going:

1. This is post number 302, which is a prompt to me to thank you so very much for reading.  Maybe you go way back to July 2011, when this puppy got going.  Or maybe you started reading yesterday.  Or maybe you’re in and out.  Either way, I’m glad you’re here, and I so appreciate you.

2. It snowed last night.

There aren’t any traces of snow left, as far as I can see out my dorm window.  Granted, I lifted up the shades like 6 inches to check.  But I’m guessing that it didn’t stick since the weather is now headed towards 40 degrees for today.  In six months, this will seem like shorts weather.  But right now it’s use-extra-lotion and don’t-forget-the-mittens weather.

Facebook was my indication that snow was happening last night.  Thank goodness for social media.  I was writing a paper after work, taking breaks to check facebook after each section (I’m a kinesthetic learner, apparently we need study breaks… also a social media junkie).  As soon as the first post indicated flurries, Kathryn and I dropped what we were doing and each clambered to our windows to see for ourselves.

It wasn’t much, and at first, we both tried to act like we were annoyed by it, but the little excited children inside of us won out.  I played Snowfall by the Manhattan Transfer, and we got back to our homework.

In that moment, I got a little bit more homesick. My favorite place to be when it’s snowing is either outside (but only if it’s not windy) in a place where there are some twinkle lights and hopefully somebody to enjoy the flakes with OR in my living room, with all the lights but the Christmas tree ones off.  The soundtrack is the same as the one I played for Kathryn and myself.  And there are likely smells leftover from cookie-baking earlier in the day.

Winter before Christmas is more bearable because of moments like these, little snows that make Christmas and a month to spend at home a little bit closer.  We’ll save talking about winter after Christmas until then.

Oh, snow.  It takes me home.

 

No hibernation allowed.



Today’s the day the weather changes.  Today marks a long-term commitment to colder weather, to dormancy for the plants, for warm and  fuzzy sweaters for humans.  I always think about praying that God will turn me into one of the types of bears that hibernates all winter around this time of year.  For now, it is still sunny (and quite deceptive considering the chilling wind and mid-30 degree temps) and at least sort of pleasant.

But, I know the days are coming when it will be bitterly cold, with even colder winds and gray skies galore.  I know that the clouds might roll in for days at a time.  There will be slushy gray snow in the streets and on my boots. It’ll snow at inopportune times and interfere with my plans.  It’ll tempt me to stay in bed every morning when I wake up.

Today marks a resolution towards cold weather. Today is the day when we start a commitment to live through winter even though we might not like to.  I won’t judge those who move to Florida for the cold months, since – odds are – they have lived through their fair share of real winters.  It takes resolve to truly live in the winter, to not go into complete dormancy of emotion and purpose.  Simply because we can’t have warm weather doesn’t mean that we can’t live with warmth in our hearts and, if you live in my dorm, extreme heat coming out of the radiator.

It’s important to mark the season changes, to note that it asks for a different attitude than fall did.  Winter takes away a good portion of what I enjoy about nature (green leaves and grass, sunshine on my shoulders and arms and legs, sweet smells, and warmth), but it doesn’t give me an excuse to go into hibernation, to live only partially, to shut down.

No, it asks for adaptation and positivity despite the fact that I’m not totally sure what purpose winter serves.  I don’t know why we can’t just have summer and spring and fall and then start all over again.

I just have to trust that God in His wisdom created winter with a purpose.  Perhaps, simply so that I have more appreciation for spring.  Or to make me tougher, to build character, to take me places I wouldn’t go in the other seasons.

Winter asks for trust.  And commitment.  Here we go, in for the long haul.  No hibernation allowed.

Your Sunday.


There are days when the wind blows your hair dry because there’s a wind advisory and 30 mph winds, but that isn’t going to keep you from walking to church.  Those same days are the ones where you are reminded why you don’t blow-dry your hair.

Then you go to church, where the message was, again, intended only for you (or so it seems) and you wonder why everyone else came.  But you’re really glad that they’re there because then it won’t be as obvious when you tear up at the end of the message – like you do most weeks.

Then you eat lunch… if that’s what you could call it.  And you wonder why someone would cook potatoes with onion and green pepper when it’s for brunch.  So you eat a little bit and try to just ignore the strange flavors.

Then you get back to your dorm and see the sugar that you spilled as you made coffee this morning.  And you see your full hamper of laundry.  So you go to the vending machines to change dollar bills for quarters and take care of business.  Sugar is cleaned up, and dishes get washed.

Or maybe that’s just what happens to me on this fine Sunday.

I’m still amazed at how God reenforces themes in my life.  Remember when I blogged late last night?  Remember that whole, “seek God first” thing?  Well, not twelve hours later, the message at church spoke to a similar theme.  If it wasn’t apparent that this is something that I need to learn, I’m fairly sure it is now.  Pay attention to the things that pop up over and over again in your life.  They just might be significant.  Unless it’s acne or something.  That might just be adolescence.

And now, homework and works calls (actually work calls pretty literally, or rather, asks me to call).