Planner panic.


Let me lay out a little absurdity for you here.

I have never been without some direction in my life. I have never wanted for employment when I desperately needed it. There has always been a bed for me to sleep in and a roof over that bed. Even though it’s not part of the package when I signed up to follow Jesus, He has provided for all of these things in every stage of my life.

Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

I’ve been anxious lately. Panicky. One year from now, I’ll be headed out into the world with a piece of paper that says I’ve completed college, maybe even know something. Which world will I be headed into? What field of work will I apply for? Will I even have a job? Will I have three jobs? Will I live in my childhood bedroom? Will I live in Chicago? Will I actually escape the Midwest that I love so much (really, I do) for a warmer climate?

You get the idea. If you’ve ever graduated from anything, you can relate. If you’ve ever reached the end of something enormous, you can relate.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil.

Sooooo, I’ve only been in school for the past sixteen years of my life. Now what?

You can tell I’m an anxious planner type because I’m still a year away from this and getting my stomach in knots about where and what and when and how much and with whom?

How much of this goodness and mercy can I count on? My fear isn’t that I’ll end up homeless or destitute, because it would have to be an act of God for all of my safety nets to fall. My fear is that I’ll be doing the wrong thing in the wrong place. What will make it wrong? If it isn’t the best.

Does goodness and mercy follow you if you misinterpret God’s will for your life? Does it follow you when you direct your steps through the valley of the shadow of death just because you weren’t totally sure which path to take, and this one looked bright at first?

I like that word, follow, but I’d rather do the following. I’d rather follow goodness and mercy, the Love that has lead me all the days of my life, into His house. Is it possible to want to follow so desperately and to get totally lost?

I’m putting my money in the bank account that says, “No, it isn’t possible to be incapable of following God into His plan for your life.”

I think that’s what the verse in Romans is for about God working everything out for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purposes. If I love God and am trying to follow Him, He honors that.

This one is mostly for me, to remind me that God cares more about where my heart is than that I’ve figured out His ten-step plan for me and am following it to the letter.

Shared custody.


“Write every day,” they say. So, here I am, doing my writing for today, though my brain feels a little less than sharp at the moment.

Why aren’t you feeling so sharp, Ashley?

Not sure. It probably didn’t have to do with the fact that I had math today. Our worksheet for class today was entitled, “Counting.” Welcome to General Education life.

No, not much has been required of me today. I’m just fuzzy.

But I finally painted my toenails… just in time for a cloudy, cold day where open-toed shoes aren’t really an option. You win some, you lose some, right?

I’ve been trying to walk the line between being responsible and pro-active and being peaceful this week. Those two camps kind of go to war with each other. Responsibility and Pro-activity both say, “Look ahead. Worry. Pace. Write things down. Don’t forget.” And peace? Well, I’m still trying to figure out what peace says. I’m thinking it must say something like, “Look ahead, but don’t worry,” because peace has to still care about my responsibilities, right? I can’t just throw my hands up in the air and say I don’t care.

Or maybe I’m supposed to throw my hands up because I do care? I know I say I need to let go of control all the time (Hi, I’m Ashley. I’m kind of a control freak sometimes), but it’s still true today because I still haven’t figured it out. If you’re sick of reading about real life where people can’t just blog about their issues and move on to something else, then well, I don’t really have anything for you.

I feel like God and I have this shared custody thing going on with my worries and responsibilities and anxieties. Like he’s responsible for all the doing and carrying and making things work, and I’m responsible for… continually giving it to him and taking steps as they come.

I have to remember that I can only walk up on staircase at a time, one step of that staircase at a time.

Whew. And that will be tiring enough.

Healing and French toast


Some things just stay with you when you change countries. French toast is one of those things for me. So are depression and anxiety.

the orangest egg yolk I've ever seen

the orangest egg yolk I’ve ever seen

goodness in process

goodness in process

golden perfection

golden perfection

During the 7 days I’ve been here, I’ve made French toast three times. Not only does it bring back heartwarming memories of cooking an entire loaf of the stuff every Sunday night with my friends in Chicago, but it’s cheap and tasty. You can put just about anything on it. I’ve been using peanut butter this week because that’s protein, my friends, and because it’s a sweet and salty taste of America.

I tried to put applesauce on it today, but I couldn’t get the jar open for the life of me. Tried all the tactics I could think of, but nothing worked. Applesauce went back on the shelf unopened, and the peanut butter came back out to play.

I’ve been trying for a long time to get my jar of normalcy open again, the jar that always wants to get out of bed in the morning and doesn’t have a hard time breathing or going out of the house or talking to people. I’ve been trying to crank it open for a while now. Actually, this month marks about year since the struggle began. Some days I think I’ve got it almost open – I can practically smell the contents – but it’s not open or perhaps knows how to re-seal itself.

You know how hard it is to open jars sometimes. Sometimes you feel arthritic just because you can’t open the darn jar. Or you feel that maybe you haven’t been doing enough to work out your arm muscles. Something must be wrong with you because you can’t open this jar. But it’s really not your fault.

So you put it back and open an easier jar until you can muster up the strength or tenacity or whatever its going to take to get that jar open. Obviously, you don’t know what it takes, otherwise you’d be chowing on applesauce with your French toast.

So I’m here, in Austria, eating my French toast and healing because healing is a process that begs to be lived. It asks for you to learn and to walk one day at a time. I think, in spite of all my trepidation and fear about being across the globe while I still don’t feel right yet, I think I’m supposed to be here, healing.

I got lost on purpose yesterday, because walking is healing. No reason why. It just is. And each day I have to depend solely on God because I know few other people here and none so well as Him.

There is a time to hurt.

And there is a time to heal.

Friday boats.


Sometimes you try to write a blog post before you’ve actually drunk any of your coffee, and it sounds like a slightly personal research essay. Then you realize that just because you have a cup of coffee sitting beside you on the desk doesn’t mean that you’ve actually drunk any of it.

Then you realize how much you need caffeine and delete everything you’ve written.

It’s another Friday, which surprises me since it seems like yesterday was Monday. People say that life accelerate progressively faster with each passing year, and it’s true. I’m pretty sure that last week it was June, and the week before that was March. But today it’s September, and what are you doing with your life?

[side note: if you have the hiccups, use caution while drinking coffee. End side note.]

Sometimes I feel like God has this boat that He’s asked me to travel with him on. I’m standing on the dock with one foot on and one foot off, confused look on my face while I yell up to God (who’s on the boat already), “Wait. Where did you say this boat was going?”

“I didn’t!” He replies, and He motions again for me to come with Him. “But it’s going to be great!”

And I stand there, sometimes with two feet on the gangplank or two feet on the dock or one and one. And I’m still not on the boat, because I want to know where I’m going before I get in.

I think this is supposed to be the part where I put both feet on the gangplank, walk up, and get on board. I think this is supposed to be that pivotal moment.

I’ll let you know when I get there.

Pile-up.


I used to have an incredibly erroneous idea of what a writers’ life was like.

I assumed that every person who had ever published anything had boatloads of money. I figured that being published meant that you instantly got rich and didn’t have to work for the rest of your life. Now, I wonder how the writers of some of my favorite books are doing. I wonder if they have enough to live on. I wonder if their works will actually take off after they’re dead, like so many of the greats.

I talked to a publisher yesterday who said that he knew someone who published with a big name publisher and only got 80 cents per book.  Thats not much, even if you sell 5,000 books. Think of how many hours went into that book.

So it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to base my whole future on this idea that I’m going to make money as a writer.

But it didn’t make much sense for the Israelites to cross the Jordan River into a land where the people were big and strong and not friendly, either. The Jordan River was at flood stage, so you know it wasn’t this dinky little crick they had to cross. Still, because it was God who had led them there, when the first people (the priests) set their feet in the edge of the water, the river stopped flowing upstream and piled up.

Piled up. A river. Piled up. And the Israelites traipsed across on dry land. That’s just the first of many highly unlikely victories they had. It didn’t make sense for them to be able to cross a wildly rushing river at flood stage and conquer the land beyond it. It really didn’t make sense for them to even try.

That’s probably why God kept saying in the weeks beforehand, “Be strong and courageous” and “Be strong and very courageous, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Why does it matter that God was with them? Because God’s the one who piles up rivers, that’s why!

Today, I’m trusting God to pile up my rivers because he’s given me dry land to walk on before, and He’ll do it again as long as He’s the one who’s leading me into a new land.

Defining nineteen.


I’ve been nineteen for about two and a half weeks now.  This in-between age needs defining, so I’m going to recount what it means to be nineteen from my time here thus far.

I filled out a couple forms and caught myself trying to say that I’m eighteen.  Silly girl.  You’re nineteen now, whatever that means.  I know this type of transition isn’t unique to me or my age – no one can remember how old they are when the time comes.  When they used to ask you for your date of birth at the airport security checkpoint, I always had a panic-filled, fleeting moment where my thoughts went something like: date of birth… DOB… do I even have one of those? Shoot, what’s mine? Is it..? Oh, nope that’s Brooke’s. WHAT’S MY BIRTHDAY? how old am I? six? eleven? Oh, right, sixteen. 

All of that in a span of about two seconds while I hope that the security guard doesn’t think I’m pausing because I have to remember the lie.  No, sir, I have to remember the truth.

But, anyways, back to what nineteen means.

So far, as a nineteen-year-old, I’ve had to balance being assertive and being gracious.  Sometimes, you have to go to bat for yourself but not actually hit anyone or anything with the bat.  So I suppose a better metaphor would be just stepping up to the plate, bat-less but with your uniform and cleats on.

Being nineteen has also meant that maybe I need to be extra prudent with my money, since there are opportunities ahead that cost a lot of money (and are totally worth it) that are much better than a cup of joe from Starbucks (especially since I make a great brew in my room… thanks for the good coffee grounds, Mom!) or using an actual clothes dryer to dry my clothes.  With the dry, hot environment of the dorm room, who needs those?  Save $.50 and $2.00 here and there, and maybe it’ll add up someday.

It’s also meant that when I say that I trust God, I need to consciously stop worrying.  This is the hardest one.  When curveballs come, (man, I’m really using the baseball metaphors this week… it must be that time of year) I need to remind myself that it might be the best thing that ever happened to me.  I have my plans, but when God intervenes and closes doors, He probably has an amazing window to open up.  It just might take a little extra effort to get my long legs through.

I’ve been listening to this song quite a bit lately, remembering that Jesus, in all His fullness, walks beside me, “firm and steady to lavish mercy at the ready despite my wandering, despite my weakness… unrelenting strength and goodness.”

Have a listen.  It’ll do you good.

(update: apparently since I’m not a premium user, wordpress denies me the privilege of embedding stuff. So, use this link!)

Honest Fridays.


Here’s what’s up right now.  Get ready for some total honesty.

I’m not very good at being on a budget.  I can justify nearly any purchase.  I’m really, really good at it.  (Think expert here.  Or if you’ve seen Confessions of a Shopaholic, you have a vague idea of what goes on in my mind) Sometimes I justify it because the money goes to a good cause – like buying a t-shirt from an organization I support or buying fair trade things that support good business practices.  Sometimes I can justify purchases because, sure, it’s a lot of money to spend at one time, but look at how long that will last me!  Divide that by months, and look – it’s barely anything.

Sometimes I justify it because it’s food.  I can always justify a food purchase – well, nearly always.  But especially if it’s on sale.

I’m a work in progress.  That’s the truth.  And right now, I’m progressing towards being more financially responsible.

Here’s some more total honesty: I get anxious about things I can’t control.  It sounds stupid because it is stupid.  Remember how we talked about how I treat God like a shelf sometimes?    Yup.  I keep reverting to that kind of relationship.  I say God, I trust you with this job opportunity that I really, really want and think is perfect for me and would like to have.  Then I worry about it a lot.  Because somehow, there’s this part of me that knows that God is on my side, but there’s this other part of me that knows that God knows what’s best for me – which is not always what I think is best for me.  My ideas and God’s ideas clash sometimes.  And sometimes I try to convince God that things really are in my best interests – He just missed a small detail.

… I know…  It’s a good thing I’m typing this so that I can realize the stupidity of it all.

There are tons of stories in the Bible like this, people saying hey, this sounds like a good idea.  Look how nicely my life will work out if I live this way.  Then God shows up and tells them that He has something different for them, freaks them out a little bit, but in the end – if they obey – things end up being pretty cool.

I have a hard time remembering that if my plans don’t work out, it might be the best thing that ever happened to me.

This Friday, I’m going to ask God to help me live on a budget and trust Him that His plans are the best.  Not just good, the best.

I might have forgotten that in an hour.  I’ll keep this tab open on my computer so I’ll remember.

 

No surprises.


I just wanted to show off how beautiful my campus is in the rain.  I’m truly in love with it.  (photo credit for the rain boot picture to Mel)

I started thinking before I drank my coffee this morning.  It’s remarkable that it was a coherent thought, but there you go.  It was coherent.

And here’s what I was thinking:  I wonder what God’s response is when I finally surrender things over to Him?

Here are the possibilities I thought up:

1. The Hot Potato Theory – “ah, *catches problems, etc like He’s not sure what it is or what to do with it* what’s this? uhh, I’m not sure what I should do with this. Wasn’t expecting that one. umm, this is so awkward because I told you to come unto me and give me your problems, but I didn’t actually expect you to.  And this is heavy.  Umm, can you take it back now?”

2. The Unconcerned Theory- “Oh, look it’s something you care about.  Isn’t that just a nice little problem? I’m sure it matters to you, but it’s really not that big of deal in the grand scheme of your life and a much smaller deal in the grand scheme of my plans.  I’ll take care of that later… if I get around to it at all.”

3. The Impossible Multi-tasking Task Theory – ” You have a problem? Yeah, I see that, but as you can see, I have my hands full right now.  I care about you, but I just have to much to do that I can’t possibly take care of that at this present moment.  There are just way too many things to take care of. I’ll take care of it later. I promise.”

That’s pretty much all my un-caffeinated mind thought up.

But I’m pretty sure that none of those are accurate.  How ignorant would I be to think that God’s never seen my problem before or is intimidated by the things that weigh me down?  How little I understand God if I think that He does not take interest in the things that matter to me?  How small must my view of God be if I think that He can’t manage the entire world and take care of me at the same time?

I’ve come to the conclusion (which I’ll probably have to remind myself of later) that God is knowledgeable, caring, AND powerful enough to take care of me.  It’s one of those truths that allows me to rest.

 

 

Bread and butter.


I’m trying to develop a reputation on campus as the girl who always has a tub of butter with her.  So far, this hasn’t been a practical endeavor since butter needs refrigeration, but I”m compromising by buying day old bread at Jimmy John’s, spreading butter on it, and eating it as I walk to class.

Bread and butter is one of the most simple pleasures in life – one that has been lacking at college.  You’ve heard me talk about the horrible problem of no butter in the cafeteria here before, so I won’t harp on that.

Today, it’s a whole bunch of little things that make me happy:

1) I did my speech, did it fairly well, got a good grade, and now have three weeks without anything to do in my public speaking class.  It was another thing that I had put in Jesus’ hands, and kept having to put it back up there after I took it down to worry about some more.  And, what do you know?  I only said about one stupid thing and said “um” a lot – which I expected.  It’s hard to un-learn that.  Turns out I can trust this Jesus guy.

Okay, so maybe they’re not that small.

2) Learned today that I can create my own major and still study abroad and graduate in three years like I’d hoped.

3) My advisor is great.

4) Lotsa bread and butter.

5) Got another page written on this difficult essay

6) Took a dorm-made mocha to Comm class today, got out twenty minutes early.

7) Received a letter from my daddy and a Starbucks gift card from someone else

8) Was finally able to get cash since my bank accounts got synced – you don’t realize how nice cash is until you don’t have it!

I won’t recount the little things that made me tired or overwhelmed.  They’re just not worth it.

 

You’re a witness now.


I’m back in the jazzy Starbucks, and I’ve got a few things to say.

Number one: I’m convinced that my heart doesn’t beat in the morning until I start to drink my coffee.  Absolutely convinced.

Number two: I read a really good book that I hated while I was reading the first half, but now that I’ve completely finished it and analyzed it a bit, I’m realizing that it’s incredibly significant to me.  If you’ve ever struggled with the creation account in Genesis and modern science and wanted to understand it a bit better, The Lost World of Genesis One by John Walton might be a helpful read.  I’d let you borrow my copy, but I rented it.  So go on Amazon or to your local library.  You’ll find it.

Number three: This one’s mostly for me.  God is so faithful.  I just have to keep records.

Here’s how God has been faithful to me this week.  (And I’m keeping the record here instead of in my journal because now there are witnesses to His goodness and when I forget, you can remind me.)  I applied for a job last week.  I sent in my first resumé, completed a phone interview, and was told I’d be notified in a week.

I was really tempted to worry, folks.  Real tempted.  Because I have this faulty notion in my head that when I worry about something as long as possible, I can make things happen.  (It’s never worked before, but hey, whoever said I thought logically?)  I have this idea that if I let me stomach get in knots for as long as possible and keep my brain coming up with all the possibilities of what could happen, that I’ll be better off.

Well, I decided to try something different this week.  I decided that if I say that I trust God, I should probably live that way.  So I told God that I wasn’t going to worry about the job.  I told Him that I was putting the whole thing into His hands (and to help me, as a visual person, I pictured it in my head), and whenever I started getting that knotty feeling in my stomach, I pictured it there.  Or put it back up there if I had taken it back into my own hands.

And what do you know?  I had a nice, worry-free week.  That would have been enough, proof that I can trust God.  But to make things better, I got the job.

*wild applause for Jesus*

It was an experiment.  When I put the job into His hands, I put some other things up there too.  And I’m learning to trust on a daily basis.  Learning that my worry doesn’t only not do me good, it doesn’t help the situation I’m in.

The cliché fits: Don’t worry; be happy – when you’ve transferred the worry-inducer to someone capable.  We should always add that caveat.

It’s dangerous to say that I’m trusting God on here, because I really shouldn’t lie to you.  It’s going to keep me accountable.  Also, I have a sticky note system that does that. (more on that later)