Faith booster.


“So why should I worry? Why do I freak out? God knows what I need.”

-Jon Foreman

Look at the lilies and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. And if God cares so wonderfully for flowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith?

Luke 12:27-28

I should not worry.

Really, I shouldn’t.

How much easier is that said than done? If there was a contest for who could worry about the most things over and over again, then come up with new ways to worry about the same things and new things to worry about in at least ten different ways, I would definitely make the top ten.

I know how to churn my thoughts over and over in my mind and how to imagine the worst possible scenario and the second to worst possible scenario and all the horribly bad things that could happen or the semi-bad ways my circumstances could turn out. Really, I have an amazing negative imagination.

I’m really great at worrying about my finances, and being abroad, there are a lot of ways to worry about that. I won’t get into all the creative ways I worry that I will become destitute before I get home, but there are lots of ways I do it.

I’m realizing as I lay awake at night worrying, though, how destructive worrying is. It keeps me awake when I want to sleep, it ties my stomach in knots, it makes me feel despondent. It makes it hard for me to breathe deeply and to enjoy life.

I’ve told you a couple times before about how God continues to provide for me. And it’s always the day after I finally tell him, “Okay, I’m done worrying about this. I really am. I trust you to provide. I trust you that even if it isn’t money or if it takes more time than I’m comfortable with, you hold me in your hands and are interested in my well-being.” I also like to remind him that I sponsor a child through Global Fingerprints, and does he want her to lose her sponsor?

Yes, that is manipulative. Good eye, dear reader.

It happened again yesterday. Of course, I would have liked to receive my check for my editing work a few days before my credit card bill was due, but Jesus made me wait until the day before. It came, and I was expecting that my rate would have been met.

Not only did they pay me what I asked for… they paid me two and a half times that amount. I have no idea why. I don’t understand. But I know that it was Jesus, saying Remember how you said you trust me? Here’s why it’s worth it. I know what you need. I know that you need a faith boost. I know that money isn’t the only way to satisfy your needs, but here’s my promise that I will provide for you even in the little ways that you humans need, like with money. 

Jesus knows when I need a reminder that He’s worth trusting. Really, I have enough reminders to looks back on that I shouldn’t need new ones. But He knows that I need it, so He keeps reminding me.

I remember whose I am today and why it’s so important that I am His.

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The ultimate guide to packing for study abroad: Part 3, SHOES


Now, gentlemen, don’t write me off because you think this is just going to be about which of your high heels to bring. Most of this will apply to you. You wear shoes, do you not?

So far we’ve talked about BAGS and APPAREL, so our natural next point is: SHOES.

Why are these so important? you ask. I’m not walking there. I mean, I’m going to a place where there’s great public transit. Any reason you can think of for not needing good shoes is nonsense. Here’s why: even if you don’t plan to walk very far, getting lost is a big part of being new in another country. Airports require a lot of walking, especially those international hubs. You will have to walk into class and maybe even walk to school. Sure, they have a tram system. Can you afford to take it every day? Do you even want to take it? Does it go the places you need to go?

Trust me. Take the good walking shoes. In fact, bring very few pairs of shoes that are not good walking shoes.

Which kinds? you ask.

  • At least two pairs of casual, tennis-shoe type, really supportive shoes that you could wear for at least three hours and not have much discomfort. Break them in before you go. Wear them to work at least a few times. Walk around your house in them. You don’t want to break in new shoes on your first few days. Why two? Because your feet need variety. Feel free to quote me on that one. Don’t wear the same pair of shoes every day.
  • Supportive walking sandals (unless you will be abroad in the dead of winter or in Antarctica) Again, if you bring those cute sandals that hurt your feet when you wear them for longer than like 20 minutes of walking, you won’t end up wearing them. You’ll instead start wearing your tennis shoes all the time. I have some Ecco sandals that are really comfy and have good heel support, so I actually wear them to walk. Even if they don’t look adorable, go for support. You probably won’t care what’s on your feet after a couple months, just as long as your feet feel good.
  • No more than one pair of fancy shoes Unless you have an internship or some kind of special circumstance that means you need to dress up frequently. If you really like going to clubs, too, then maybe you’ll need fancy shoes. But you’ll have to talk to someone else about what kind since I know negative zero about clubbing. I brought a pair of black flats and have worn them a total of maybe 3 times, but each time, I’m glad I have them.
  • Cheap flip-flops for showering at hostels, taking out the trash, running to your neighbor’s building, getting the mail, doing your laundry. Those are always good to have.
  • I also brought a pair of TOMS, even though they aren’t the best for walking long distances. They are mediocrely comfortable, so I can wear them for shorter errands or walks. I mostly brought them because they’re from an Etsy shop (ibleedheART, link to the shoes I have but she has tons of amazing designs!) and I love them.

Other tips about shoes:

  • For European adventures in particular, high heels aren’t practical unless you have great balance and thicker heels. Cobblestone, uneven streets do not lend themselves well to unbalanced walkers or stilettos that can get stuck between stones. More than that, tram lines and such make this kind of footwear even more dangerous. I’d forego the heels, even though I am looking forward to getting back home to mine.
  • Wear your most comfortable, bulkiest shoes on the plane. Kind of obvious, but it saves space in your luggage AND keeps your feet happy during a long trip. Double whammy.
  • Make sure you have enough socks to go with your shoes! Socks are important to not get blisters. Get good socks.

All in all, show your feet some love.

Got questions? Ask em in the comments! I love shoe questions.

New days.


Good morning, world.

Good morning, Jesus.

Good morning, anxious feelings that everything will go badly today.

And by badly, we mean, we might feel uncomfortable or out of place or tired when we need energy. We might not have the right thing to say at the right time. We might disappoint someone. We might not know something we should know.

Does anyone else find themselves in a perpetual state of worry at the start of a new day?

If I get out of bed, I might run into the door frame on my way to the bathroom. If I go into the kitchen, I might see one of my flatmates and have to attempt conversation before I’ve had coffee (which is hard since they aren’t native English speakers). I will likely say something stupid. 

I, for one, would rather not live that way. I’ve also found that every time I tell God that I’m not interested in worrying about it, and I’d rather trust Him, I feel peace and security, even though sometimes awkward conversations happen and inopportune circumstances come my way.

It’s not a matter of saying, “God I trust you that everything will go my way.”

That’s no good.

My way is not always* the best way.

* usually not

God has proven to me over and over again that He’s worth trusting, because he brings peace in the middle of the trials and frustrations and brings meaning to the madness. (and by madness, I often just mean confusion or getting lost or feeling exhausted… sometimes madness isn’t really that mad but it feels mad)

It’s still not my natural instinct to wake up in surrender and assurance that Jesus is mine. But until that becomes second nature (I have a feeling I’ll still be saying this at 80), I want to make a conscious effort to trust.

Trust.

Trust.

Trust.

Trust.

Exams and spinach.


I got a bit overzealous with the amount of spinach I put in my smoothie this evening. It was one of those things where I thought: Spinach is good in smoothies. Spinach is good for me. If a little bit of spinach is good, more must be better.

Let me tell you, more is not always better.

No, in this case there was too much spinach and milk, too little yogurt, and hardly any berry flavor to cover up the milky, spinach-y mixture. I was pretty disappointed. What was intended to be both tasty and healthy ended up only being healthy.

I think I’ve gotten my daily amount of iron.

After I posted yesterday about going to the doctor, I thought about it again and realized that I’d rather try to change up my shoe habits before I go get an x-ray. My friend had a similar problem before, and getting new shoes fixed it. So I’m going to wear my ultra-supportive tennis shoes as much as possible while walking this week and see if that helps. We shall see!

Other than drinking spinach and reconsidering my doctor’s appointment, I have been studying for my first exam in Austria for my American literature survey class. I know, you’re thinking, but you’ve been there since February! It’s almost June and you haven’t had an exam yet? No. I have not.

The Austrian system does most of its examination at the end of a course, usually only requiring that you keep up in the middle. Actually, with some types of courses, you don’t even have to take the exam right when the class is over. You can choose one of three exams, spread out over a sixish month period, and if you fail then, you can take it again the next year.

Ah, but I won’t be here for the next exam or to take it again next year. So, yes, I need to get a 1 (the equivalent of an A) the first time.

So, I’ve been drawing timelines and reading literature and thinking about American identity according to these authors. It’s been lovely.

Over icc cream this afternoon, I retold all of American literary history to my friend, Evelyn. So, I should be ready to clobber that test tomorrow. It’s been a while, but I think I remember how to take a test.

In other news, I’ll be back in the States in 38 days, which is just over a month and really strange. I’m trying to use the rest of my time well. What would you do if you have 38 days left to be in a foreign country/Austria?

X-ray fun.


Dear readers,

I write you today to inform you about an amazing cultural experience which I will be taking part in some time this week. Yes, you guessed it: going to see an Austrian doctor named Ursula about a possible stress fracture in my left foot.

You know how we don’t walk much in the States? You know how I walk everywhere here? I think that’s taken a toll on my foot. Whoops.

So, since it persists and has been since I got back from France, it’s time to take advantage of that fancy health insurance we had to buy before I left. In typical Austrian fashion, the doctor’s office is only open for like three hours everyday, and I’m not sure whether she actually speaks English well or not, but I can point to where it hurts.

Though I actually hope that nothing is seriously wrong, I have to admit that I’m kind of excited about the possibility of an x-ray. How fun of a souvenir would that be? Do they let you keep them? I mean, what would they do with an x-ray of my foot? Keep it for posterity?

And here, children, is the x-ray of an American college student’s foot. This is what happens to lazy Americans because they don’t walk enough at home then come here and think their poor little feet can handle the burden that we handle every day. And this is why Austrians are better…. mwahahaha.

I jest.

But, in all seriousness, I’m interested to visit a doctor’s office in a socialized health care system. I’m also interested to visit a German-speaking doctor. (just a reminder that I speak German very poorly, in case I haven’t mentioned that enough)

So, all that to say, get ready for a really exciting post. I think, at least. I’ll try to get a friend to go with me so she can document it.

I just paused writing to call Ursula, but since it’s out of her opening hours, the call won’t even go through. This is typical Austrian behavior, cutting the telephone lines when they aren’t in the office.

We’ll try again tomorrow.

Until then, dear readers, I am your truly,

Ashley

My Truths.


PANO_20140525_093814When I first arrived in Graz, I didn’t have much to do. I had a couple acquaintances (many of whom later became friends), only 6 hours of orientation spread out over three days, no knowledge of German, and very little knowledge of the city I found myself transplanted in.

So, I bought a pad of paper and some colored pencils, and I drew out three phrases that I knew were good for me to remember.

“Be joyful always,” Not so easy when you’re starting over in a foreign country and feel a little bit alone.

“Pray continually,” Right. You don’t need to tell me twice. “Jesus, where can I find a bathroom?” “How do I get home?” “Can I have a friend, please?”

“Give thanks in all circumstances.” Look at what you’ve got, not all the things you’re missing.

It was a good thing to have up, since I spent a lot of time sitting in my room and wondering, what I was going to do with myself?Look at the wall. Oh, well, I suppose I’ll be joyful, pray, and give thanks. Then maybe I’ll take a walk.

Since I hadn’t found a church yet either, I watched a lot of Beth Moore teaching videos online. Whenever she said something that resonated in my heart, I added it to the wall.

“The essence of covenant is loyal loving.”

“‘Get rid of the old yeast that you may be a new batch without yeast – as you really are.’ I Cor. 5:7…We can’t let our past characterize our present.”

“Only God can love like God.”

These visual snippets were ringing true in my life. I am new, God loves me unfailingly, and I love because He loves me.

I kept adding to it as I kept learning. The wall doesn’t encompass everything I’ve learned this semester, but I’ve got some poignant parts of what I’m learning in everyday view.

“If God doesn’t do it, it’s not going to happen… If we forget the Giver, it can become an idol. It is God who has done this thing.” – Tim Dilena

“Taste defeat, then brush your teeth.” – Relient K

“So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Jesus, and because you belong to Him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death… And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love.” – Romans 8

“Love comes from God. No one has ever seen God, but if we love each other, God lives in us, and His love is brought to full expression in us. We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in His love.” – I John 4

“Be not proud of race, face, or place; it’s all by grace.” – Charles Spurgeon, as quoted by Tim Dilena

“If I can stop one heart from breaking,

I shall not live in vain;

If I can ease one life the aching,

Or cool one pain,

Or help one fainting robin

Unto his nest again,

I shall not live in vain.” – Emily Dickinson

When I’m not sure what my health insurance covers or don’t know how to not miss home or have no idea what my American Lit exam will be like, I have something to look at. These are my certainties. When the world shifts from under my feet or when I shift above the earth in a jet, God stays the same, and even though not all of these truths come straight from a sermon, they are true as well.

Opposite that wall is a reminder of where I am and where I came from.

PANO_20140525_093833

My map of Graz, my pictures of friends and family, and all the cards that people have sent me since I’ve been here.

Thank you to all of you who helped me decorate my walls, whether with a card or for being in a picture, or for speaking truth into my life. You’ve helped make my room a happy place to be.

 

Because we hurt.


Sometimes we leave our wounds open for a bit before we even reach for the first aid kit. Sometimes we let them fester.

That blow that we took, that fall that we fell, that slash that cut us open, sometimes it’s worth bleeding for, at least for a little while.

Sometimes we honor the blow and let ourselves hurt, because ibuprofen only masks the pain. We say Yes, that hurts. Oh, how it hurts. LET IT HURT. I HURT. I HURT. because it’s the only way to eventually heal.

Because if we weren’t wounded, then we can’t heal, can we?

No one needs a band-aid when there was no paper cut. You don’t put a cast on an unbroken arm. You keep your antibacterial ointment sealed when there are no gashes.

We have to acknowledge our wounds, to say you’re here. You hurt. I ache because of you. Something about validating the hurt, of feeling deeply the pain of an open sore helps us accept treatment and heal properly the first time.

You can’t treat a wound that you won’t say you have.

We have to feel our wounds, to cry into them and hold it where it hurts, to see our lives spilling out and want to keep it inside of us. We have to want to heal, don’t we?

We do. It’s the process of healing. We hurt, acknowledge the depth and magnitude and effect. We get sick of hurting. We seek treatment and dutifully apply ointment and shower with a plastic bag over our casts. We use our crutches and lean on our friends. And, in time, we heal.

All because we hurt.

Language skills… or lack thereof


Okay, I don’t particularly enjoy the German language some days. You could say I’m a fair-weather friend. When people understand what I’m saying and I get the numbers right the first time I say how much I want to pay: “Fünf… oh, no, Vier.” Whoops.

I like it when it’s not in my face, when I can walk down the street with people who speak English and understand me easily then walk into the ice cream shop and order in German… then leave.

“Ein kugel Joghurt-kirsch und ein kugel Edelbitter Schoko.”

(Translation: one scoop cherry yogurt and one scoop dark chocolate)

I know. I’m pretty fancy.

When I was on the train to Switzerland two weekends ago, the only other lady in my compartment tried to converse with me. Bless her, she was so patient and knew to talk slowly so I could absorb at least part of what she said. I tried not to give her my half-glazed over, deer-in-the-headlights, really, really focused stare while my mouth hung partly open, but I don’t think I succeeded. We managed to navigate some details about our lives and trips, however.

Then we ran out of easy vocabulary for me to use and resorted to pointing out the window at the Alps and saying, “Sehr schön,” (very beautiful) every now and then and sighing with disappointment every time we went through a tunnel an had our view obscured.

If you ask Duolingo, I know 530 words. If you ask me, I only know like 50 words that I would actually use on a daily basis. And even though I might know how to ask certain important questions like, “How do you get to university?” I would have no idea what the response meant. Also, the Styrian (my region of Austria) dialect is quite hard to understand.

So, I just do my best.

Thank goodness I don’t have to know the language to walk or eat ice cream or breathe, though it’s helpful to be able to read street signs and ice cream flavors. I suppose not knowing the language well makes this even more of an adventure.

When you grieve, what does Love do?


I finished reading Love Does by Bob Goff about a month ago, and it’s been prompting a dialogue in my mind since then.

On Tuesday night, a high schooler from my home church’s youth group took his own life. Like a ripple from an explosion, everyone affected has been reeling and wondering what we do now.

Because once someone is gone, we can’t do anything for them anymore. We’ve had all our chances to do what love does. We entrust them to God, the ultimate Lover of our souls, the one who did everything to be in relationship with us. That’s where the hope and the peace come from, if not right away, then in time.

But we’re still here, aren’t we?

And we’re left with this question: what does Love do when someone felt hopeless and is gone now? What does Love do in the aftermath?

I can’t help but think that there must be something more than offering condolences. What does Love do now? What did Jesus do when people died? Well, He brought them back to life, didn’t He?

The enemy has come to steal, kill, and destroy, but Jesus came so we could have life. Not eternal life on earth (but we wouldn’t want that anyways) but to always live in communion with God, whether in body or in Spirit.

If Jesus brought them back to life, what do we – humans – do? How do we love? Bringing people to life is Jesus’ work, which we only have a part in.

In an action-based society, we want a list of ten things to do for grieving people or a top-seven of how to make a difference in people’s lives who are hurting to the point of contemplating suicide. We want steps to take and concrete results.

But I think that Steven Curtis Chapman said it best:

I will carry you to Jesus.

He is everything you need.

I will carry you to Jesus on my knees.”

Not only is this all we have, but He is all we need.

All. As in, everything. As in, it may take time and it may not be easy, but it’s more effective than our top-ten lists. Surely, Jesus will prompt His people to act in tangible ways that comfort those who mourn, but the best thing we can do it carry them (and ourselves, because we’re still reeling, too) to Jesus, faithfully.

He is everything we need.

Therefore, we have hope.


Sometimes counting on Truth and Hope feel like drinking cough syrup to cure our cancer. Or they seem somewhere far away in the back of our minds like something we knew once but can’t know now, and there’s a cloud raining gloom and grief over our present thoughts.

It doesn’t make the Truth any less true. It doesn’t mean there’s no Hope. It doesn’t mean that Love failed.

Because Truth and Hope and Love and Grace do win. They aren’t cough syrup to cure cancer.

They’re holy touches into our dead hearts that bring them back to life.

Because God brings us to life in the greatest capacity. He brings life that goes beyond mortal life. He brings hope that our salvation is sure, tells us the truth of who we are to Him – his beloved children. He pours out grace when we forget that.

We surely remember our hurts and our wandering, the bitter feelings and the bad taste it left in our mouths.

Yes, we remember them, and our souls feel heavy.

Yet. [what a hopeful word]

We have pulled a truth out of the deep wells of our minds, and because of it, we dare to have hope:

Because of the Lord’s great love, we are not consumed by that darkness, those fears, that grief, our sin, our past, our present.

His mercies are new every morning. Every single one. 

Great is your faithfulness, God. [hope, hope, hope]

‘The Lord is mine, everything I need, my inheritance,’ says my soul. 

Because he’s all that I have and all that I need, I will hope in Him.

(Paraphrase of Lamentations 3:19-24)

And this is the song we listen to on days like today.