Saturday, October 9, 2010

Rejoicing in Suffering

"But rejoisce that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed...So then those who suffer according to God's will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do so" ~1 Peter 4:13, 19

I have always wondered how it is that we can suffer and yet rejoice at the same time, but here it is right here. God wants us to rejoice in the fact that we suffer because as Christians we will be persecuted, looked down upon, and judged. That is only a little of the suffering He talks about though. If I look back on my life and look at my own personal story, you may be surprised to learn that I am absolutely in love with God.

I have been telling people lately that I am an open book. They can ask questions about my life and I will answer. This is partly because I feel no reason to hide the experiences that have made me who I am today. If it weren't for the hard times, I would't have grown and learned. I wouldn't be as in love with God as I am today. Therefore, in this blog I will be sharing my own personal testimony of faith and how I have grown more and more in love with God through the years.

* * * * * * * * *

I grew up in a single-father household. A rarity it seemed to me, because most of my friends assumed that a single parent household meant that I lived with my mother. When people heard I lived with my dad they assumed that my mother had died. No one could understand how a mother could abandon her children. I was only 5 when my mother left my father for another man. Many would think that I would hate her for this but I don't. They ask me if I have regrets because I didn't have my mother there. Of course, there were times when I needed a mother figure, I mean what girl doesn't need an older woman to look to when she's growing up. However, I do not regret not having her there. If she had been there, then I probably wouldn't be the person that I am today.

However, I did grow up feeling guilty. I felt as if her leaving had something to do with me. I won't go into the full reasoning here, but you can always ask if you would like. It took years before I finally figured out it wasn't my fault and is still something I have been working through recently.

So growing up, it was me, my dad, and my beautiful younger sister. I did go to church every weekend, but it was more to see my grandma and half brother (and to experience her amazing cooking). The church she attends is one for Christ Scientists, and I never truly felt comfortable at the church. I love the people, but not the teachings. To me God was just a character in a book just like in all the other books I had ever read (and I read a lot).

It wasn't until I was about 9 or 10 years old that I had learned that you could have a relationship with this "God character" that I had read about. This was when I met a girl from down the street. She became one of my closest friends and her family were the ones to buy me my first personal Bible. I had read through bits and pieces of it, talked to them about it, and they would work with me to answer questions as well as ask me questions. I didn't know what an Evangelical Christian was, but I did know that what they were telling me was interesting. I didn't go much beyond that however. They moved away before I was finished with elementary school.

When I was in 7th grade, my older sister Catherine started dating a pastor's son and attending church. She took me with her a couple times, and even started doing daily devotions with me each night. She shared the truth of God's unwavering love for me and how He wanted me to be one of His followers. I knew she was telling me the same things that family had told me years before, and I longed so deeply to have that relationship. I prayed with her one night to ask Jesus into my heart and became a Christian.

Shortly after that, a girl from my middle school, Kylee, invited me to attend youth group with her. God really was working to keep me following Him! Through the years I continued to attend youth group. But I struggled a lot with the idea that God could love me for who I was, mainly because I didn't love me for who I was.

My older sister graduated high school at the end of my 7th grade year and went off to college in California. I didn't have that role model at home anymore of what it meant to be a Christian, but I did have youth group. But it wasn't enough to make me believe that I was good enough to be loved by God. I continued to struggle with my self-image and the idea of being grateful for who I was and loving what i looked like. The summer before I started high school, my struggles came on head strong when I started skipping meals. That was the beginnings of what I consider to be an eating disorder. It wasn't full blown anorexia, but there were many episodes of not eating for days on end.

Throughout my freshman year of high school, I continued to not eat, exceptions only being when friends would want me to join them for lunch and even then, eating was minimal. I became depressed and spent a lot of time locked in a bathroom stall or sitting in an empty classroom crying to myself because I felt as if I wasn't good enough. God had left me in my mind and didn't truly love me and if the One who made me couldn't love me for me, why should I. It wasn't until March of that year that God finally cought up to me. He had been chasing me for months and just waiting for me to stop running from Him so that he could hold me in His arms and show me just how much he loved me. It was the first night in a long time that I had found myself truly still and crying out to God. I was sitting in the bathroom at home, razor in hand, and ready to kill myself, but first I was taking my anger out on God. I was cursing Him, when out of nowhere, it was like a voice stopped me and told me that I was wrong, He said "I never left you! I have always loved you and never will stop loving you. The question is, are you willing to love yourself as much as I love you?" There was no doubt in my mind that God was calling out to me to come back to Him. Follow Him. Trust Him.

It wasn't an easy journey back to being happy with who God made me to be. It wasn't until I started listening to God again, that I realized He truly had been chasing me all year. He had been speaking to me and i hadn't been listening. But how do I know this you may ask? Well, my older sister had me memorizing Psalm 139 in order to be able to visit her the summer before my 10th grade year. That entire Psalm is about how God created every aspect of who I am for a reason and loves me for who I am. I had spent the time memorizing that Psalm without actually listening to what God had wanted me to hear, until after that night.

I continued to be strong in my journey with God. I started college in 2007 knowing that God had brought me to Mount Mercy College, though I didn't know why. I started in nursing, but God soon led me to major in psychology and sociology. He knows that i am a good listener and a people person, so why not go into a field where I can listen all day! Though I continued to believe that God does love me, I didn't do much to continue to grow in my relationship with Him.

I stopped reading my Bible, other than on Sundays. It was as if I felt empty inside, and yet I continued to follow God half-heartedly. The passion I felt had dwindled, and I was blindly following without actually applying myself and applying his teachings. I was baptized my sophomore year of college. Was diagnosed with seasonal affective disorder, and continued to follow blindly.

My junior year, I knew I had to fix my relationship with God. However, God also showed me that if I were to fix my relationship with the Heavenly Father, then I would need to repair my relationship with my earthly father. Though I grew up with just my dad and younger sister, I didn't really have an open relationship with my dad. He was emotionally distant and therefore, I didn't open up to him either. In as long as I could remember, my father hadn't told me he loved me or was proud of me. In my mind, if my earthly father couldn't love me or be proud of me, then my Heavenly father may not either. I constanly compared my two fathers and knew that this was wrong. I started talking to the counselor at school and we worked out a plan. I was really good at writing out my feelings, and therefore, I worked out a letter to my dad and gave it to him to read. It outlined everything about my life that I didn't think he knew, including the eating disorder, depression, and suicidal thoughts/tendencies. Since he read that letter, our relationship has improved. We talk more, and the summer before this last year of college started, he told me he loved me and was proud of me. For the firt time, I truly believe that my Heavenly father feels the same way.

God is truly amazing. He has been working in my life constantly within the last year. He has helped me forgive my father, reconcile our relationship, and continue to grow. He has helped me forgive my mother and is working on me to try and reconcile some kind of relationship. He has led me to an internship at House of Hope, a place I never imagined myself working at, and He has shown me that I truly am strong when I listen to Him and do what he says.

I am still continuing to grow in God, and honestly that will never stop because you can never stop growing more and more in love with the one who Created you! Though I have been through suffering, I can rejoice in the fact that I have always come back to God!

"I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me" ~Philippians 4:13

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

God Truly Knows What's Best

It was only 2 months ago that I found myself wondering where I would be interning. My previous opportunity fell through and I was getting frustrated and anxious to try to find something that I wanted. Notice there, that I was looking at what I thought was best for ME not what God wanted for me.
For a couple weeks, House of Hope kept popping into my mind (as a psychology major, we would call that the unconscious) and I kept pushing it away. Yes, I knew it was faith based and that they do great works for women, but it didn't seem like something I would want.
It took me a while to realize that it wasn't my unconscious telling me to contact House of Hope, but it was God trying to get me to see that this is what HE wanted for me. He had been chasing me for some time, trying to show me that if only I trusted in Him, then I would know what to do with my life.
So I finally let Him catch me at a time where everything seemed to be going wrong. I figured if God really wanted this then I would do it. I contacted House of Hope through email about the possibility of an internship (I must admit part of me still didn't want to do it, but it's really hard to say no to God). When Lenchen emailed me back saying that we might be able to work something out, I figured, "Okay. Might as well."

After weeks of emailing, I finally met the woman behind the typing and was instantly amazed. God truly knows best. This woman made me feel right at home and comfortable not only with being there, but also with talking openly about me and my life. She had me talking about how I had repaired my relationship with my dad in the last year and how my mother had left when I was 5 and returned years later when I was 17. Things I had never talked to anyone but a counselor about, were talked about with this woman only 10 minutes after meeting her.

God truly does have a sense of humor. For such a long time, I have been believing that what I wanted to do in life is work with teens and I was going to do this my own way. Now He has me stepping back and listening to Him. Through working at House of Hope, I have become much happier than I have been in a long time, and I've only been there for 2 1/2 weeks!

During my internship, I will be helping with events, attending the annual banquet, attending a Thursday night class for women, attending a class on how to have difficult conversations and interacting with many different people.

So far, I have attended the Thursday night group: 3:12 and have had the chance to meet some women in my age group who are truly sold for God and I absolutely love it. I love the women I work with, and all the women I've met through my internship so far. I have heard stories about how women feel as if their life has been changed by House of Hope and how coming to House of Hope saved them and it's just amazing to see God working in the lives of so many women!

I've also gotten the opportunity to talk with one of the residents about her life story and how she became saved after being at House of Hope. I love it!

And to add to it, God has shown me that once I stop and let Him have the reigns that He will make Himself known in so many ways. He has led me to Lenchen, Celeste, and back to Melody, all women who are absolutely in love with God and want Him to work in their lives and in the lives of women all over! Through this He has also led me to a church just up the street from school that, for the first time since starting college, has made me feel as if I am home, as if I am in the presence of God, the wonderful Father who made me to be His lamb, His servant, and the one who can bring those around me to Him through living my life Hopelessly Devoted to Him.

"For I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart." ~Jeremiah 29:11-13

Saturday, August 28, 2010


I have finished my first three days as a Senior with the realization that this may not be so bad! I am taking 4 classes and doing an internship and I believe I will be able to handle it (mainly because one of those classes is meditation and who can't relax after meditating?).

The one class that I thought would be stressing me out is Senior seminar. This is the one class every senior dreads! With senior seminar comes a senior thesis! This semester I will be working on my psychology senior thesis, which will actually work out pretty great! I have decided on a topic and have only attended the class once so far. I'm thinking Pastoral Counseling or something like The Psychology of Faith and Spirituality. Obviously I haven't narrowed down a title or specifics or anything but I got a start!

Meditation will definitely keep me grounded and relaxed...unless all the reading kills me! And history will be blah but it's just a class to help me get the correct number of credits to graduate!

Developmental Psychology. What else is there to say other than as I continue through this class this semester I expect to start as a baby and slowly develop into a beautiful young woman before finding out that eventually I die.

Not the most intriguing post but life isn't always exciting or intriguing. Oh well.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Senior Year!!!!!


This my friends is my final year of attending college as an undergrad! I put it this way simply because I have no ideas yet of what my future will hold, but there's no doubt that a book lover like me who loves sitting in a classroom learning from others can stay away for too long. I am sure that I will end up in grad school at some point down the road (though definitely not right away). I know that sounds strange. Book lover? Loves sitting in a classroom? HECK YES! I am definitely a geek, a weirdo, put it however you may. I just find something exhilerating about walking into a classroom and learning new information from someone who knows their stuff! Why wouldn't you want to learn from others so that you too may one day be able to teach someone else?

So my senior year. I've finally reached it and am celebrating it by being more outgoing and random as ever before. As my friend/boss put it: I've acquired a bit of SASSINESS! I accept this comment because I know that it just means I am putting myself out there. I am trying not to fear the unknown and trying not to care what others think. You see, I am an upperclassmen (or woman) and I feel it is my duty as such, to show the new freshmen that you can step out of your comfort zone. You can try something new. And maybe, just maybe, they may find themselves where I am now. A senior who has come a long way from that shy, quiet freshmen who stepped onto Mount Mercy College's campus and has become a more confident, skilled, and accepting/outgoing woman as I get ready to embark on my final year at what is now Mount Mercy University.

I am a proud mustang. I am a loving daughter, friend, and fellow student. I am an RA who loves the opportunity to be there for the new students. I am a sister who loves her siblings and misses them more and more everyday. I am an aunt who cares deeply for each of my nephews and would give anything to be able to hold them and give them a great big hug. I am a person who loves to give hugs. I am a psychology and sociology major who will be starting internships this year along with working on a senior thesis each semester. I am unsure of what my future holds. I am unsure of whether I want to work with troubled teens or explore a career in Christian counseling.

I am ME.

Senior year, I'm ready!!!

Friday, April 2, 2010

...Keep Moving Forward

It seems as if everything can come crashing down in an instant. Things that affect the people around me have devastating consequences for not only them, but me and so many others. This week has been the most emotional week I've had in a long time.


It all started with issues with a friend. I have this issue with always feeling like I have to be perfect. Like it's my responsibility to make things work out correctly. I realized this week that I can't do all the work and that in any relationship it really does take two people. This young woman is a force in my life that holds me together. She is my crazy wacky side who keeps me smiling. Recently, however, we both seemed to be pulling away. Understandable on her part with the death of a close friend and understandable on my part with this whole Seasonal Affective Disorder. While I felt like things were good, I was wrong. I have recently learned that she has a jealousy bone in her when it comes to the relationship I have with another close friend. Granted, I apparently talk about her a lot, but I never knew that my being really close with someone else could cause rifts in our friendship.
Needless to say, as of yesterday we talked and hopefully things start to get better. I explained that I never meant to make her jealous and that I never meant to make her feel as if she weren't important. She is a beautiful, strong young woman who makes me a better person.


That however, was only one of the two things that rocked my world yesterday. I am an RA and my other good friend (the aboved mentioned young woman who caused my other friends jealousy) was as well. However, as of yesterday, she was fired from the position for reasons that are lengthy and not of importance here. This young woman is also a really good friend and is the one who keeps me grounded and sane. She is easy to talk to and always knows the right thing to say. Seeing her sitting in my room crying was difficult. This girl has a heart of gold and loves the girls on her floor in such a way that could never be measured. I felt as if a part of me was broken because this girl is like a sister to me in a way. Hell, with that red hair she could be!
She is my other half. Part of the A-Team. And while she may no longer be an RA, she will never be replaced in the hearts of those beautiful young women on her floor. The sad part about this whole ordeal is that she was fired on April Fool's Day and many still think it's a joke. I can tell you as one of her good friends, this is no joke. She is devastated and is hoping and praying that the girls will be okay without her being a constant presence on the floor.


To top that all off, many of the freshman girls have been speculating about who will be taking her place as the RA for the last 7 weeks of school and to many I am the front runner. This is a big fear for me. The young women on my floor are my family. Without them in my life constantly for these last 7 weeks of school, I don't think I could make it. I have no idea if the rumors are true. What I can say is that these young women could never be replaced in my heart the same way my friend can't be replaced in the hearts of the young women on her former floor.


The one good thing out of this is that for the first time in a long time I let myself cry without caring about control. Needless to say Tricia would be so proud. She has been telling me that I need to let myself feel. To let myself cry. That it would be good for me to not always be in control. I came a long way yesterday with constant crying for at least an hour or so. While I didn't like the feeling of not having my emotions under control, I can say that it actually does feel good to let it all out.


So what is the point of me telling you this?? Well, first I have to say that you don't always have to be in control. If things seem as if they are collapsing around you, just remember that you can cry. You can get emotional and you can talk to people around you. Even if relationships are being tried don't forget that these people are important and the only thing that matters is that you make it through and grow stronger.

A movie quote from Rocky Balboa sums it up perfectly:
"Let me tell you something you already know. The world ain't all sunshine and rainbows. It is a very mean and nasty place and it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain't how hard you hit; it's about how hard you can get hit, and keep moving forward. How much you can take, and keep moving forward. That's how winning is done. Now, if you know what you're worth, then go out and get what you're worth. But you gotta be willing to take the hit, and not pointing fingers says you ain't where you are because of him, or her, or anybody. Cowards do that and that ain't you. You're better than that!"

~Keep Moving Forward

Monday, March 29, 2010

Welcome Back...Old Business...New Experiences

It's the first full day back at classes since Spring Break...UGH! While my day started with a cancelled class which is typical in the life of Ashley (just ask my hall director), it quickly became apparent that the day would drag on. This cough persists and while I don't mind that I'm getting better, I do mind that I have to hack up a lung every ten minutes (beats the ten seconds from Friday night though)!
To top it all off...there is this thing called an exam tomorrow morning that I need to be studying for. While I have some of the stuff down, other parts tend to escape me but I am just hoping that by the time I sit down for the test, all the information will magically come to the forefront of my brain and make it onto the paper. Who could happen. Of course, I knew about this exam before break so if you think about it, this is all old business that is just now starting to come to the foreground. Or as Gestalt therapists would say, it's unfinished business that needs to be confronted and resolved if I am to move on to focus on the present or the now (just a hint of what that test is gonna be about) :)

Then I decided today to try something new. There was this thing called a Seder Meal going on at the Sacred Heart Convent here at school (yup I'm at a catholic college). It's a Jewish meal and I signed up to go and try the food. Kiska (probably misspelled) was great! The deserts were chocolatey and the chicken soup had me smelling out of my nose for the first time in days! Then there was the horseradish! One of the nuns started to talk about how she loved the stuff and I thought okay maybe it won't be so bad...WRONG! I could barely bring myself to finish chewing! Then there was chopped liver. I've always told myself I hate liver but of course I had never actually tried it so how could I know for sure. Now I know: I DO HATE LIVER! But it wasn't as bad as the horseradish :)

So while the day started out with me sleeping in after ignoring my alarm clock. It ended with these blends of tastes in my mouth that I washed out with a cough drop to stop my coughing fits even if for a short time. So...when you go to college, try not to get sick right before a test, study at least a week in advance or you won't be able to take anything in, and try new things. While you may find that you don't like the taste of liver or horseradish, you may find that you love the bread pudding and the chocolate desert at the end.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Sick as a Dog, Giddy as a Schoolgirl

While the temperature I had has disappeared this cold persists. I feel as if I'm wearing a nose clip that is making it difficult to breathe normally. My voice has that tone you get when you have a stuffed up nose and food has no taste.
Just last night I was up all night with fits of sneezing and coughing and the inability to breathe through my nose and when I tried to breathe through the mouth the sneezing began. It was a battle of cold versus mind and unfortunately the cold won with a whopping no hours of sleep til 9am this morning when I won over 4 hours of sleep! Yup an amazingly short 4 hours and while I feel awake my body feels like crap.
So I guess you could say I am still sick as a dog! But what does that really mean anyways? How can you be sick as a dog if that dog is healthy? why not sick as a cat? I mean who really likes cats anyways? It's not like they can go for walks with you and have a fun time playing tug of war!!!
And yet, as I sit here feeling crappy during my last full day of spring break before I'm back at the mount ready for the last stretch of the semester I can't help but feel giddy! Why is that you may ask?
Well, to tell the truth, I feel at home when I'm there on that mount! The girls on my floor are some of the most amazingly mature and beautiful young women an RA could ask to have on one floor. I miss my family of college women who make me smile each morning I wake up. That is why you could say I am giddy as a schoolgirl. I get to see my other half of the A-Team (a coined nickname for me and one of my besties) and I get to see Libby (lemondrop) who is, and will always be like family to me! That girl completes me even if she doesn't always know it or feel appreciated, she is one of those forces in my life that holds me up and keeps me moving each day!
And of course, it is near the end of the semester where I get to finish up all those exams and papers and just pray for passing grades before I move on to the final year of college and to the next beginning of a new trail of life.
It's only March, but any college student can tell you that as soon as Spring break is over, there is only a short sprint left til the end of the year. And while the family we have at school will be missed suring those summer months, there is always that giddiness one feels as the next year approaches.
That said, I may be sick as a dog, but I am definitely giddy as a schoolgirl as well.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Sunny Beach Somewhere...I WISH!!!

So it's almost the end of my third spring break since starting college. Like most who've seen the movies and heard the stories, I believed spring break would be a time of relaxation and fun when I was a feshmen. While some individuals I know do travel during their spring breaks, many do so for sports or for service projects. I have yet to hear of someone going on the infamous MTV spring break you see on TV where everyone is partying it up and getting drunk. But honestly, who really wants to spend an entire week wasted and unable to remember half of what goes on?
To me, spring break this year meant time spent working at the daycare here at home where I learned that there are no full-time positions open this summer but "you can work up to 20 hours a week." This of course damaged my plans for the summer because now I will need to figure out a second job to pick up this summer so that I can save up for a car!
Spring break also meant time to work on homework. Homework? Yeah that's right! College professors love to give you homework over the break simply because I believe they don't think you should be able to enjoy yourselves because many of them will be grading. It's not our faults that they schedule exams right before break so that they will be bogged down with grading!
And to top it all off...I had to spend one day sick meaning I missed out on making money at the daycare and spent the entire day hoping and praying that I wouldn't be sick the next day.
And here I am. Two days away from being back at school and just now sitting down to start on studying for one test and working on another take home exam along with hours spent working on an art project that isn't even half done.
This is what college is about! No such thing as spring BREAK...just a break from being on campus and time spent doing homework in your living room with basketball games for March Madness playing in the background!