Friday, April 30, 2010

This week jumped out of NOWHERE and knocked me off my feet.

Not in the romantical "swept me off my feet" (I wish this week had been a whimsical fairy tale of wonder!) but in the sense that "so much STUFF happened this week -both good and bad- and has just knocked me over." Mentally. I am brainily exhausted!
I don't think I'm complaining. (If this reads in a whining tone, you're reading incorrectly! ...)
Once again I feel that everything in my life, which had been collected and arranged and wrapped up nicely thankyouverymuch, has been thrown up into the air and all the different parts of me are being tossed about on one of those giant parachutes you bounce a beach ball on in kindergarten. (Awkward sentence).
Anyways. This week. Craziness.

It's been like 2 weeks now and I'm still reeling about being okayed for the OMF Serve Asia Cambodia team!!! The trip is from August 9-30 and I will be assisting long-term missionaries stationed in Phnom Penh and working with young women and children who are involved in sex slavery. I can't believe how the last 8 months or so are just... adding up and multiplying passion in me to learn more and do more and BE more for God's glory! It's so humbling and so amazing and such a relief as I learn more and more that it's not about me.

I have made the decision to stay rooted in Peoria for another year, and I feel so EXCITED to see what Year 2 in Central Illinois will have in store for me. I feel like there is SO MUCH that God wants to teach me here... I know that I do want to be more involved in church ministry and in community service... can't wait to see how our small group will grow and change... how my PCS kids will change and mature (fingers crossed!!!) in the next year... eeehehehehe.

So. This week I:
-confirmed that I would be returning for another year with Mrs Soo :)
-completed some more paperwork for OMF and sent it back to my awesome awesome team coordinator Bonnie
-have been working on my personal testimony+sensitive way to make people aware of human trafficking presentation for the next(?) Amplify worship night AND for the Women's Ministry Worship Night on May 11
-have pored over and completed typing up my Cambodia Prayer Letter
-taught myself a song on the guitar
-have gotten plugged in to start volunteer-counseling with Pastor Steve at the church office
-looked into online Biblical Counseling courses/degrees
-journaled a whole lot
-ran a total of 8 miles (so far!)
-blew up at my guys last night because I was sooooo frustrated and tired

Ah. There's something therapeutic about just getting your thoughts out and ordered in a list. I love lists!

Today is gray and kinda blah-ish outside, but I am thankful for it. This kind of day puts me into a pensive, curl-up-with-a-cup-of-coffee kinda mood.

Which reminds me...I should get working...

P.S. How do you present the TRUTH about the horror and filthy sinfulness of the human race to young adults in a way that is unflinchingly impactful yet instills hope for change and redemption in Christ??

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

What I Learned from Detoxing

I have only recently begun to realize what a blessing (and BEAUTY!) sunshine is! After months of grey, cloudy weather in a new environment (where yes, I had met new people but yes, it was slow going making many meaningful connections), I found myself feeling depressed quite often. But days when the sun was able to wrestle its way out from behind the clouds and peep out for a few hours of sunshine-y goodness reminded me that there WILL always come light, after the darkness!

For the past month I embarked on Detox Diet #...I believe 3! A little background on what exactly "Detox Diet" entails, according to The Complete Guide to Nutritional Health:

In the past 50 years, there has been an increase in heart disease, cancer, and auto-immune or degenerative disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis. These illnesses may be directly or indirectly linked to toxicity in the body created during digestion. This toxicity is exacerbated by the excessive consumption of refined sugar, cereals, oils, meat, dairy products, and animal fat that characterizes the modern diet, by food processing and preserving methods, and by the buildup of toxins in the food chain owing to the use of hormones, chemical fertilizers, antibiotics, insecticides, and antifungal agents in farming.
A detoxification diet can facilitate the rapid and efficient elimination of toxins and improve both short- and long-term health (p. 134).

The diet is divided into 4 one-week phases, with different instructions and advice to follow for each. The general gist of the diet is to eliminate animal meat, fats and products (dairy and eggs included), refined sugar, processed foods, salt, and wheat. (Not eating bread is what kills me about this diet!) Detoxification diets should be incorporated into your lifestyle once every 6 months to cleanse your system.

I've usually been very moan-y and grumpy during detoxes past, but it was different this time. I began this diet at the end of January, as I realized that I want to be more aware, more wise more intentional about how I live my life. I want to be a better steward of the physical body I have been given on this earth! So this kick-started my (hopefully) healthy 2010. The Year of Change. haha

I always had an inkling that I had a dysfunctional, if not outright unhealthy relationship with food. This time around with detox made me consciously acknowledge it, not just to myself, but confess it to God. I LOVE FOOD. Anyone who knows me knows that my favourite channel back home is The Food Network and I could literally watch it all day long. I love eating and the way things taste and feel when eaten. I respond to ANY emotion (positive or negative!) by first reaching for something to eat. My mom knows that a habit of mine is just to open the fridge and stare at the food inside... go and do something for awhile and come back and do the same, even if the contents haven't changed. Needless to say, I have struggled with eating disorders in the past as well.

As I cleaned up my diet and talked with friends who for their own health reasons had to have restrictive diets, I realized that DUH- I had made food an idol in my life. This is a big thing for me, because I don't think I have ever truly understood what "idol" meant until now. I idolize the way food can comfort me, I idolize the convenience with which I can take a peek into other people's lives on facebook (and then get caught up in a sometimes hours-long trek through the labyrinth of the social networking site doing absolutely NOTHING productive), I idolize the way I feel needed and wanted in a relationship and the reliable physical comfort of being with a significant other, etc.

The Process and the Hopeful Result
So as I physically cleansed, and felt myself becoming more energetic (I stopped drinking COFFEE, even!) I began to also cleanse and energize my spiritual body.
I have slowly begun (and to be honest, sometimes drag my feet in the process) to "get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word that is planted in you, which can save"[James 1:21].
I've never before been so sensitive and so disturbed at the sin and dirty-ness of my heart as I have been in the past few months. I know that God has used my physical environment, and relational "kilns" in the past several years to refine and shape my character. However, in this season of my life, I feel that the refining fire I am entering into is an internal one, a kiln for my mind especially, to be rid of thought patterns and tendencies but also definitely of the heart and spirit.
Let my heart always be glad of the triumphs AND the trials! Of open doors AND closed doors!
I am so thankful for "progressive sanctification"- that life is a continuous journey toward greater purity, holiness and beauty.

er.. Conclusion...?
I want my life to be lived out of love for Christ, and not for any cause in and of itself.
My desire to serve Cambodian women and girls (or whatever cross-cultural mission field God has planned for me) let it not be because of their destitution, brokenness, or suffering, but because of Christ's love for them in their destitution, brokenness and suffering.
Let me strive for excellence not because it will show others that I am a good Christian, but because God deserves only our best.
Let me reach out to others and care for them, not because I feel that is what my call is, but because God loved them first.

Let our intentions and motivations for all things be purified... cleansed... "detoxed", so that our actions, words, and thoughts reflect Christ's character and love!

Click to watch the Youtube video for "Jeremy Camp - Empty Me"

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

2010 Lenten Season

Tomorrow is the beginning of the Lent season - what will you be surrendering in order to partake in Christ's suffering?

I admit I do not know the ins and outs of this upcoming season, I have only started to observe this as part of my faith in the past few years. However, I do believe that it is a blessed time to focus on and walk in the suffering of Christ as we approach Easter.

Something I think a lot of people may miss out on is that Lent is not merely a time to "give something up", but it is, I believe, more importantly a time to
fill this void with more of God. Our Father's purpose is never to make us miserable for the sake of being miserable! Do we dare excitedly anticipate this season of sacrifice in order to make more room in our hearts for the Creator of the universe??

Our "sacrifices" and "suffering" that we voluntarily undergo during the upcoming 40 days are nothing. We will never come close to the sacrifice and suffering of Christ's cross. But let us bring these small, embarrassing sacrifices to His feet and ask Him to beautify them.. burn away any selfish motivation and sanctify, purify, accept these offerings.

More of You, so much less of me

So farewell, Facebook. I'm sorry I let you eat so much of my time. Maybe when we meet again we'll be able to have a healthy relationship.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

God is Good (all the time)! All the time (God is Good)!

Finally have gotten my butt into reading mode again...
I read an article recently that commented on how the infiltration of the Internet into virtually (haha) all aspects of our lives has changed the way neural synapses are made and thereby how we process information. We are so bombarded with Internet and its links and advertisements and distractingly flashy ways that we are unable to genuinely concentrate our mental faculties on one medium for any significant amount of time.
If you're interested, take a look at the original article here:

I am hoping, however, that I may preserve my ability to process and appreciate the written word by jogging my mind with various forms of literature.
As tempting and "convenient" products such as the Kindle and IPad seem, I really hope I do not grow tired of the delicious satisfaction of holding a book or magazine in my hands... feeling the crinkly/smooth/aged/dusty/soft pages and even the particularly musty perfume of certain books... Mmm.

All that said to lead into my main thought of the day- :)

I've been REALLY sucked into Internet usage lately and as I've mentioned to some friends already, I really do not feel this should be so!
I appreciate the fact that Facebook and email and instant messaging services can help us all remain in contact, and I have definitely taken advantage of this aspect of social networking sites to encourage and spur others on and vice versa... But as a friend commented recently, "the biggest temptations are rooted in something good."

I have personally tried to be proactive about this life-sucking time-wasting by (trying to) regularly getting into the Word (PRAISE GOD, He is drawing me in and teaching me discipline in this area!), devotionals via My Utmost for His Highest, buying The Economist and reading it throughout the week, picking up books more often (I'm currently finishing The Tipping Point and about to start Gandhi's autobiography!) and recently subscribing to Voice of the Martyr's monthly newsletter.

All this seems like a lot written down, but it really has been such a GOOD way to use my time. I want to be more informed about the world in order to pray into the areas of need, and in order to have the strength to do this I draw on God's Word!!!

As I fumble my way through this VERY enlightening year of "stretching" and transition, I am learning so much that I feel as though my heart and mind will explode. Or at the very least are getting into confused knots and tangles. There are so many areas I want to be used in...serve in, that I am very overwhelmed and its quite easy to just turn off my mind to it for the time being and shove it away into some corner of my consciousness. But instead of this I want to turn my mind ON to God's voice and rely on His guidance and not my own! After coming across Mr Terry's blog last night and being quite moved, I unexpectedly read this same passage (Numbers 9) in my Old Testament reading for today as part of my natural progression through the Bible!
It's not about me and my timing, but my readiness and willingness to obey Your call, on Your time.
God is SO good.

Last, but definitely not least, I want to talk a little bit about Voice of the Martyrs and what I've drawn from my readings this morning.
After reading Tortured for Christ (by VOM founder Richard Wurmbrand) in October, I realized that persecuted Christians EXIST today and that we Christians with religious freedom have an urgent responsibility to be praying for and supporting these brothers and sisters!
I had been lazy in reading the newsletter and praying for a couple weeks but was blown away when I finally picked up this month's issue. To read the words of Christians who are TRULY living (and dying!) for Christ is a deeply humbling and challenging thing. Here are some quotes I highlighted:

No matter what our educational level is, how well known or little known we are, in the light of eternity we have only a moment of time on this earth to offer our lives in service to Christ. --Tom White, Director of VOM

"Then my brother tore up the Bible. He and my father began screaming and beating me... For an hour they kicked me, slapped and pulled my hair...Then they beat me with a stick, shouting, 'Leave the Bible; don't talk to Christians.' ... When the head of the phone office heard from my phone conversation that I had converted to Christianity, he took me into a room and, holding a gun, he raped me." -- daughter of a Muslim teacher/leader ('imam') who later married a Christian man

"This pastor, uncultured theologically, did not even know that he was thinking the same way as Kierkegaard, the most eminent Lutheran theologian who, from another standpoint, also denied that a Christian can ever speak academically about Christ. A Christian is a person who is madly in love with Christ. Juliet could not make an eloquent speech about the anatomy of Romeo's body. She could only caress him and express to everyone her burning desire for him." -- excerpt from Richard Wurmbrand's With God in Solitary Confinement

Lord, more of You! Less of me.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Say "eeeeee"

Have been browsing orthodontic office websites for London...

I want to get braces ASAP so I'll have a pretty smile for my wedding photos.
...A straight smile may also increase my likelihood of finding someone who will marry me.

Har har har! (Laughing behind my hand to hide my teeth.)

Ohhh how I wish I had worn my retainer.. silly immature Ashley of the past. I rebuke you!!! Rebuke and scold and wag my finger!!!


There are so many things on my mind and heart, and I hate that I'm not more consistent with blogging because I fall so behind on things on here. Thank goodness for real-life journaling, which I lurvs.

I've been experiencing mild episodes of vertigo when I pray or think about/read something that involves encouraging people spiritually..

Please pray that the Holy Spirit protect me as I continue to reach out and connect with people!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

(Grey + wet+ cold)days + hot tea = liveable.

God is rockin' my socks. Around the clock.
I know I've said it before, but being here has been such a blessing already.
Despite my homesickness and the feeling of loneliness creeping in at the edges of my days (which I 85% attribute to the depressing weather that just won't quit!!!) I have been experiencing a lot of what I shall call "awakenings" in my life! Awakenings in my own character, passions, career, relationships, faith journey!

The most exciting I think is regarding a potential career path...
So I was wondering how the heck the skills I am gaining here would benefit me in the future, outside of this position here in Illinois. I am basically picking up mothering skills (which... note to self: must no longer take umma for granted and be more thankful for her decades of packing lunches and preparing meals!!!!!) and learning how to care for people.

Which brings me to my second point! I am quite interested in at some point volunteering or interning in an aftercare facility for Cambodian girls rescued from sex-trafficking. It's something that's been on my heart and hopefully somehow I'll be able to go in the near future to see if maybe that's a more specific area that God is calling me to... who knows..

So! Combining those two previous points... I remembered that Will had recently suggested spiritual counseling as a career possibility. It was pretty random, and I hadn't given it much thought before that fateful car-ride to Michigan (Lisa you were there, too! I forget if you were awake when me and Will were having this particular convo-) but since he mentioned it, it's kinda been on the back burner of my mind. Until a couple weeks ago, when I realized that girls in aftercare facilities don't just need to be fed and "taken care of"... they need so much counseling to help them work through the HUGE step over into society from the pain/humiliation/suffocation of being trafficked.

Mmm... a couple weeks back, I attended a "Party with the Pastors" - a meet and greet thing with the leaders here at Harvest Bible Chapel Peoria, and during a conversation with the pastor of adult ministries I was explaining that I was kind of in a transition period, figuring out what direction God wants me to go... and I casually mentioned that I may possibly be interested in spiritual counseling. It turns out that he was starting a Foundations of Biblical Counseling course for people interested in counseling or just to learn about it in 2 weeks! So I asked him to let me know more about it and... this past Sunday I started the 4-week, 16 session course.

Anyway, to make a long story.... well, a little bit longer, I've just felt a bunch of puzzle pieces kinda fitting together in my heart and I can't describe how EXCITED I was when I first heard the *click*. I'm not sure if God will lead me to minister to those girls in Cambodia, but for now this feels so perfect.

Please pray with me!!! I've just been bombarded with attacks in my heart and mind in the past week... and God has been SOO good to me, I don't want to take my eyes off of Him and make it about me.

Er, I was going to touch on some of the other stuff that's been happening but I am literally falling asleep, so peace out! Thanks for letting me share this with you!

God is so GOOD!

"Even to your old age and grey hairs I am he; I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you. I will sustain you and I will rescue you." [Isaiah 46:4]

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Lace catsuit

I'm sorry, I just had to get this question out there, even if no one hears me. I like American Apparel, but some of their stuff is just waaaaay out there. This is an ad that I see occasionally on facebook.
What the !?!?! would you do with a "lace catsuit"???
How would you wear such a thing? It looks completely see-through. And yet covers the entire body. I just... yes. Just wanted to vent my frustration.