just calm down.

i have been struggling to write a blog for weeks.  in fact, i’ve started about eight different ones with the exact same sentiment.  they are still sitting on my desktop, half started.  i don’t why it’s been so difficult for me, lately.  i’ll blame it on the dreary weather.  it’s been dark and rainy.  but, the sun is trying to shine through today.  amidst the clouds, it’s peeking out.  so, despite the fact that i feel like i have so much to say and  nothing all at the same time – something is getting posted.  for all six of you to read.

we’re in another season of transition down here.  i’m beginning to wonder how long a season can really last – or if at some point, that’s just the way things are.  either way, things have changed and continue to do so.  for me, when there is a positional shift in a place, it naturally makes me wonder how it will affect the relationships i cherish.  i don’t really have answers to that question.  but i’m more confident in this community that i belong to then i ever have been.  i’m confident that we’re all in this together; good and bad, messy and put together.  we’re all here.  in the spirit, we’re knit together in a weird, supernatural way.  i used to be really afraid of these kinds of relationships because i was afraid they might go away someday.  my fear of what may or not happen on the back end of something kept me from blessings at the onset.  i’m not so afraid, anymore.  i wonder, sometimes.  but i think i can wonder without being afraid.

i’m doing a lot of pondering these days.  which can be both healthy and dangerous for me.  it’s easy to get excited about things, begin to dream up new ideas and possibilities.  it’s also really easy for me to look at the enormity that is life and get all super serious, contemplating the deep things of how the world works, why i’m on it, how there can be both good and evil, sorrow and joy.  it’s all very important to ponder.  but i go into debbie downer mode pretty quick, convinced that the world is, in fact, going to hell in a hand basket.  my insides get all dramatic and the voice-over guy in my head comes on.  oh, you don’t have a guy that does voice-overs in your life?  i do.  he probably works part time as a radio-show host.  he gets super dramatic on me with life lessons and how i need ot find significance in the flower petal that just fell to the ground.  it’s like life goes into slow motion until i slap myself.

but then i slap myself out of it.  stand on some furniture to, one more time, remind myself that god is good.  always.  that’s usually the cycle of my pondering.

my sweet friend caroline gave a really great word on monday at church.  yes, i go to church on monday.  there’s a chance we meet in a restaurant.  okay, fine. it’s a bar.  well, it has a bar.  and yes, women preach at my church.  young women.  and do you know what?  it’s the best church i’ve ever been to.  the worship is incredible, the teaching solid, and the people life-giving, honorable, and sincere.  i love my church in a bar.  whew.  now that that’s all out in the open….

so, caroline preached on how we need to rest.  about how when we find a deep place of rest and assurance in who God is the circumstances around us don’t really matter.  we can stop spinning and spinning and spinning and just stand with solidarity.  what i heard the lord saying through her was, “just calm down.”  so, i’m working on that.  calming down, knowing that it’s all under control.  the lord has it in his hand.  all of it.  remembering that can be hard.  especially in the midst of change, in the midst of watching people hurt, in the middle of confusion and chaos.  my thoughts and emotions go all haywire.  i get really riled up.  and right now, in the middle of it, the lord [and probably some of the people around me] are saying, “just calm down.  it’s all going to be okay.”

so, i’ll just be over here.  tea in hand, calming down.

embedded residue. i’ve been home one year.

well.  it’s official.  i can no longer start a sentence with “last year on the world race…”  i’ve been on american soil for three hundred and sixty five days. [minus the week-long stint in ireland last fall].  whoa.  deep breath.

i landed in lax sometime in the afternoon a year ago.  the lady looked at my passport and said “you’ve been gone for quite some time.  welcome home.” to which i offered a fake smile as i fought back tears.  then i stood in customs for three hours before finally walking out into american civilization.  i spent the evening with my world race bff’s before hopping on a red-eye back to missouri.

i walked off of a plane in springfield and hugged my family.  we drove home.  the first thing i did was try on an old pair of jeans to make sure they still fit.  then i took a nap.  we ate lasagna for dinner.  and normal life just kind of began again.

countless times over the last year when i have thought back to my time on the world race i’ve  felt like it was nothing more than a dream.  a crazy adventure that just kind of happened but it wasn’t real.  except that it was real.  so real, in fact, that the residue is still on me.  not the africa dirt and asia smell.  but the residue of the things i saw.  the prayers i prayed and people i met.  the residue of feelings i felt and dreams i dared to dream.  it’s still on me, the glory of it all.

in fact, it’s just being embedded deeper and deeper into who i am.

i spent three weeks at home.  mostly i tried to catch up with the friends and family i had missed for eleven months.  i ate a lot of food and drank a lot of coffee.  i packed up my life and drove to georgia, where i’ve spent the last eleven months on a brand new adventure and at the same time discovering a new kind of normal.

my first few months in georgia were mostly spent in tears.  i cried because i was lonely.  i cried because i missed being on the field.  i missed holding babies and praying for sick people.  i cried because i had no plan.  i cried because i had absolutely no idea how to do my job.  sometimes i cried because it was the only thing i knew to do in the midst of trying to process and re-enter to so many things.  but, over the months, slowly but surely the tears have become fewer and farther between.  i promise.  ask allison.

i’ve become somewhat settled.  in gainesville, yes.  but mostly in my spirit.  i’ve got a bit of handle on why i’m here.  i’m not so lonely anymore. and i’ve figured some things out about my job.  i feel like i’ve processed the things i’ve seen; even though i still miss the african babies.  i guess i don’t really have a plan.  but i don’t feel like i really need one right now, so that’s refreshing.

anyways.  a lot has happened in the last year.  a lot of good things and a lot of hard things.  some broken places have been exposed and some other broken places have been healed.  i’m more whole than i was a year ago.  i’m more confident and hopeful than i was a year ago.  i’m definitely more free than i was year ago. and i am so much more thankful thank i was a year ago.

i’m thankful for the journey of the world race.  i’m thankful for the journey the last eleven months in georgia have been.  as thankful as i am for the past, i want to be the kind of person who looks ahead to the future with hope and great expectation.  there’s really no telling what’s in store for the next three hundred and sixty five days.  but my prayer is that the residue of my past journeys would become more deeply embedded as i set my eyes and heart towards the journey ahead.

with that.  enjoy the video i made of our world race journey.

happy home-one-year-aversary k-squad.

grateful. no, really.

nothing is ever good enough for me.  ever.

that is a statement that i have absolutely let define me over the years.  it’s something that was spoken over me over and over and over growing up.  ungrateful.  nothing is ever good enough.  it has shaped and molded the way i see myself, the world and most importantly, the Lord.

it wasn’t until recently that i even realized what a stronghold that lie has been.  it’s only been in the few weeks that the Lord has been revealing to me the gravity of it and the way that it has affected so many areas of my life.

tonight i was sitting in an all-too familiar training center at the aim headquarters.  listening to my dear friend give a talk i’ve heard at least a dozen times.  almost thirty leaders showed up this afternoon for a few days of training before over 200 college kids will get sent out to the nations next week. for two months they will serve the world.

as i was sitting there listening to kelly tell stories about past participants she told stories about how their lives were changed.  stories about how a man in africa woke up out of a coma because a real life team prayed for him.  she told the story of a participant who overcame an eating disorder and a drug addiction; whose life was transformed by the power and grace of God.  she told stories about how it rained in kenya when our participants prayed and massai warriors were saved as a result.  she spoke about how she believes wholeheartedly that these participants will change the course of history this summer; that lives will never be the same because they were sent out into the darkest of places with a commission to bring light.

as kelly shared more of the vision for real life i found myself about to lose it.

tears streamed down my face as we prayed for the nations, once again, from that place that has become so comfortable and familiar and yet always transitioning and changing.

because for the first time in a really long time i felt absolutely, unreservedly, filled-to-the-brim grateful.

grateful that i get to be a part of the whole thing.  grateful that i had a hand, small as it may have been, in getting over 200 college kids to the mission field.  grateful that of all of the qualified, competent people out there God chose me to partner with Him and with this ministry.  grateful that in the midst of my brokenness and my process and my junk i am surrounded by people who believe in me and who fight for me, especially when i can’t fight for myself.  grateful for the reminder of who i am and whose i am.  grateful that i don’t live under the lies that were spoken over me.  that i am not defined by what i was told or not told. but that i am defined only by what God says about me.  grateful that even though it seems minuscule i maybe might be starting to learn some things.  grateful that even if wake up tomorrow with my sassy pants on, there is grace to cover it.

i don’t know.  maybe it seems silly.  but i’m just really, truly thankful tonight.  for who God is.  for who I’m becoming and for this life i get to live.

summer [about to] happen-ings.

so, we’re about to walk into busy-town over here at aim.  all kinds of goodness is happening and tons of people are being mobilized to the mission field this summer.  it’s the most wonderful time of the year.

i feel like we’ve been talking about it for weeks, so you’d think i’d be prepared.  but, leave it to me.  procrastinate. procrastinate. procrastinate.  i was feeling okay about everything that i need to do but, all of a sudden i just became really overwhelmed by everything happening in the upcoming weeks.  and the amount of things that need to get done.

so, let’s see.  tomorrow is memorial day.  lucky for me the office is closed so i can work on tackling my inbox while simultaneously cleaning my bathroom and preparing my house for the guests that will be in and out all summer.  tuesday our real life leaders come for training camp.  [wahoo!].  friday 200 [holy moly] participants come to join them and we’ll all head to the hills of tennessee.  sunday i’ll leave camp for a wedding back in georgia and then leave right after the ‘nuptials to start a 13-hour trek to missouri to represent AIM at a conference.  we’ll be there until thursday when we’ll make our back to georgia for another two-day conference in hot-lanta.

a week of ambassador [high school] training and sending out and then i’ll head out for a marketing retreat.  right after that i go back to hot-lanta for another conference.  there is also a wedding happening that same weekend – probably need to figure those logistics out.

the last week of june is our second training camp for ambassadors and then we’ll head back out to tennessee for world race/real life immersion camp for six or seven days.

and then.  it will be the middle of july and i will take a nap.  🙂

that pretty much gets you up to speed on my schedule.  i am thrilled about all of the things happening down here and feel so blessed to be a part of it all.  if you could just keep me and the rest of the staff in your prayers that would be great.  some of them have crazier schedules than i do [throw in some international trips and eek!].

i’ll do my best to keep you posted with all the lord is doing as we mobilize over 500 young people to the mission field this summer!

dear jesus, please don’t come back.

dear jesus,

i am sure that by now you’ve heard the news.  the news about the rapture happening on saturday.  yes, this saturday.  may 21, 2011.  you’re comin’ back to get your people. or something.  they tell me the elect of God will be taken up to heaven and then in five months on october 21, 2011 the earth will be destroyed.  a lot has happened since you were here last time so i bet you’re ready.   you’re probably real excited to have a party, to have all of your favorite people with you, and to rest for a bit.    i get that.

but.  well, here’s the thing, jesus.  i just.  well.  i just don’t want to go.  yet.

it’s not that i’m not ready to have a party with you for all of eternity.  because i am.  really,  i am.  and when i start thinking about all of the stuff going on down here in my life, all of the stuff you are trying to teach me and lessons i’m learning; all of the junk you’re bringing up in me for the greater purpose of wholeness…when i think about that stuff i realllllllllllly want to come to up there.

but then i start to think about all of the orphans that still need to know the love of a father.  and i think about the friends and family who i love dearly who just don’t know you yet.  i think about my friends in africa with aids.  i think about children with cancer who need to be healed.  i think about prostitutes in thailand and adulterers in america.  i think about how they need to be set free.  i think about the hurting and the dying.  i think about widows and single moms.  i think about my friend judy who i met in wal-mart and how she desperately needs to know you.

and i know.  you could make all of that go away without lifting a finger.

but i want to help.

i want to help make dirty water clean. i want to hold orphans and kiss ’em and love ’em and squeeze ’em until they feel loved.  i want to bring food to hungry people.  i want to see aids patients healed and paralytics walk.  i want to see prostitutes freed.  i want to tell my friends and family about you. about how you died for them because you love them.  i want to comfort people who are abused.  i want to share my story.  because it matters.  and because it will bring hope to people who need it.  i want to comfort widows.  i want nations to be transformed by the power of the holy spirit.

i know some of that is happening now.  you’ve sure helped me.  but i’d like to see some more.  i’d like to see more of those “greater things” you talked about.  i’d like to be a part of bringing back some more of your inheritance to you.  i’d like to see restoration and redemption and reconciliation that i just haven’t yet.

so, maybe i’m making a selfish request, it wouldn’t be the first time.  but if you would, just wait a little while longer to come back.  because i think we’ve still got some things to take care of down here.

love, ashley

p.s. if you decide to come back anyway and need to find me  i’ll be at world race training camp getting saved. again. because that happens at training camp, you know.

twenty four[th] year.

well, it’s that time again.  twenty four-years ago i came into the world on easter sunday.  last year i found myself in thailand getting tatted.  and this year.  well, this year i’m sitting at my desk in gainesville, georgia.  i’m sending emails and making powerpoints.  i’m getting birthday hugs and looking forward to dinner out with friends tonight.  i’m blessed.  really, really blessed.

i decided to make a list of twenty four things i want to do in my twenty fourth year.  i was working on it last night and kept getting stuck.  so i did what anyone would do.  i googled.  i googled all the things i should do in my twenties, 101 things to do before you die.  normal google-ing things.  i found a few good ideas.  but for the most part i just realized how much i really have done in my life.  like, i’ve had some incredible and amazing opportunities.  and i was browsing the world wide web last night, clicking from link to link to link i was overwhelmed with how very thankful i really am.

really, i am.

anyways.  i came up with some things i’d still like to do in my twenty-fourth year.

so, without further ado :

. make an adult purchase.  i’ve decided i want a hope chest.
. buy and wear nice pajamas.
. learn to make sushi and order good wine.
. save money.
. read some classics.  [huckleberry finn, catcher and the rye, little women]
. leave the country.  at least once.
. spend a weekend in isolation.  with jesus.
. sing karaoke.
. read poetry. write poetry.  let people read my poetry.
. get my etsy shop up and running. and sell at least ten things on it.
. memorize all of romans chapter eight.
. become an excellent coupon-er.
. learn basic phrases in greek.  you know, for when i go back.
. pick five recipes and learn to cook them from memory.
. play in the rain.
. sew a quilt.
. lead someone to jesus in america.
. send more random, just-because-i-love-you mail to my supporters, friends, and family.
. visit a new state for the weekend.
. take a dance class.
. deliver a prophetic word to a group of people.  a small group of people.
. grow professionally.
. document the things i’m thankful for.  send lots of thank you notes.
. compete in something.
so.  those are my things.  whatdayathink?
[also. i’ve been praying for a very specific birthday present from jesus.]
i’ll let you know if i get it or not.

so, i have questions.

i have a good friend who usually writes a ‘stream of consciousness’ blog on fridays.  i love it when she does this.  i tried it for awhile on my other blog but haven’t maintained it very well.  i mean, i should have.  since i’ve got all kinds of time for it and stuff.  but, alas.  something always pops up.

until now.

so.  we were in the big apple last week on bid-ness.  it took us nearly twenty hours to get there. but,  it was a good time.  except for the part where our gigantic van wouldn’t fit in a parking garage.  and also the time we got so lost we ended up at the newark airport.  twice.  buuuuuut. we met with a bunch of really great organizations and people.  charity water and ijm were probably my favorites.  we learned so many great things about marketing and creativity and missions.  i am definitely still trying to digest it all.  definitely.

we just got home wednesday night and i was back in the office on thursday morning.  apparently emails don’t stop coming in even though i’m out of town.  who knew?  thursday night we kicked off leader training for all of our brave souls taking high-schoolers out this summer.  god bless ’em.  so…i’ll be popping in and out of that all weekend.  should be a good time.

on a different note, people keep asking me how my heart is.  like, random people.  i know they mean well and it’s probably the lord trying to tell me something or get my attention.  but, i think that’s a weird question.  probably i think it’s a weird question because my heart is currently on overwhelmed capacity mode.  so it doesn’t know how it is.  i mostly respond “it’s fine.” and then they just stare at me because they know i’m lying.  but that’s the best answer i can currently muster up.  i don’t really have answers.  to anything.

mostly i have questions. a lot of questions. that just grow and and grow.

questions that i’ll probably never have answers to.  but then i wonder about that.  and then i wonder why i can’t have answers.  and then i wonder about the lord.  and this is where it gets dangerous.  because i start to ask questions about the lord. about his character.  questions about his goodness and his faithfulness and his timing and his plan.  but, i think it’s okay to ask questions.  because it means i’m in the process [which i love] of working some things out. but he doesn’t give me answers.  no one gives me answers.  they just keep asking questions.  which makes me ask more questions.

and then it makes me want to scream. but just sometimes.

do you ever have those moments where you just want to scream?  not even in a bad way.  just in a way that you need to get some kind of release and that seems like the best option at the time?  no? okay, so it’s just me.  cool.

maybe i’ll go do that now.

bet you’re real glad you stuck around for that blog, eh?