Thursday, April 12, 2012

Fused in the Ordinary.

So its been a while since I've written on here. Over a year and a half. But my heart is heavy with a moment tonight, and I type faster than I journal. And I want to keep this before the hustle and bustle of life threatens to creep in again. I know I am prone to forget.

Something different happened tonight when I went to put Weston to bed. Instead of feeding him with my eyes on the clock, and putting him right to bed, I held him. And held him. And rocked him. And just looked at his face. The outline. His sweet nose. His wide-open, fast asleep mouth. His tiny ears. Thinking about how just 12 months ago, this little life did not exist. And God formed him from absolutely nothing. And grew him in my womb. And brought him safely into this world and into our lives. For the first time in a long time, I just cried and cried and prayed with thanksgiving to the Lord. Why is it so easy to take this for granted? Psalm 139 was singing in my heart. He knit Weston together. His works ARE indeed wonderful, my soul knows it well- and can see it with my own eyes in this tiny work of His creation.

I feel like this was a culmination of a few things that I have read and a few conversations I have had with some dear sisters in the Lord. When Weston was just a few weeks old, a sister encouraged me (in my endless questions about baby schedules/feeding/sleeping/you get the point) to remember to enjoy my child as the gift that he is from God. Routine and a framework are definitely helpful and beneficial and necessary for the whole family, but if I take that framework and stress about it so much that I fail to just take in the moments to hold my sweet boy, I have a sense that I am going to regret it. I have also heard from moms with multiple children that you don't get nearly the snuggle time with your next kids as you did with your first. Things just understandably get busier. And babies just grow up quickly. Life just goes fast. James had it right. A vapor...

I LOVE checking things off a list. I always have. Can't go a day without my planner and a trusty to-do list! And although I think there's definite value to organization and planning, these qualities gone ary can often set me up to be consumed with the next thing to do, the next thing to cross off and accomplish. I'm on the computer and Weston needs my attention and I am agitated because he's interrupting my productivity. Wow! Really, Ashley? Now I am not advocating a child-centered home, and I believe there are times when it is good for him to fuss a little and get a delay in mom's attention. But as a general rule of my heart, I am constantly challenged to die to myself and my to-do list in order to love my family first (don't ask Nathan how I am doing on this one). I realize there's a definite possibility for me that one day soon I could look around and probably see trophies of productivity, but not have near the amount of trophies of precious memories or teaching moments with my kids. This sounds good on paper (or a blog), but is the area in which I feel most weak. In these moments, my mind often lands on my favorite theologian, Sara Groves, and this particular song. "Love to me is when you put down that one more thing and say I've got something better to do..."

Then there was this article that I saw today the 6th time I logged onto Facebook (can we say addiction??). So helpful.. Now that I am home, I do feel the pressure (mostly from myself) to have it all put together. To have the most creative home or meals or kid. Honestly, my mind has been occupied by the extra 30 pounds I am carrying and how unattractive I feel right now- I can't do my hair right, my fashion sense stinks, I'm so out of shape, blah blah blah. But the reality is that Nathan and Weston love me. And the even truer reality is that the Creator God, Ruler and Reigner of this Universe, went to the ends of the earth to rescue my sinful heart from the punishment I deserved by sending His SPOTLESS Son to die in my place. In the span of eternity, does my concern with my image really deserve the place I am giving it in my heart? Absolutely not. God's glory alone deserves that place. Is Weston going to look back in 20 years and complain that Mom wasn't cuter or skinnier or more crafty? Yeah right. My hearts desire and prayer to God is that he would be able to look back and say that Mom (in all her flaws) did what she could to show him the beauty of Jesus Christ. With or without Pinterest or sandwiches cut in the shapes of animals. ***caveat here: I don't think Pinterest is bad! Lots of cute ideas. My HEART is what twists it!

And then I spent some time tonight listening again, to Sara Groves, talk about her newest album, "Invisible Empires" here. Frenetic lifestyle- that's me. Value in slowing down to take it in. Later she talked about one of her songs "Precious Again" and I love the lyrics:

New tender mercies and infinite graces woven like thread in the cloths of my day. Deep wells of glory behind common faces. Where is the wonder? .... Press mud with holy fingers. Light the ineffable. Fused in the ordinary. There is the wonder.

And that takes me back to this article I read earlier this week. It truly is in the mundane tasks of life, our everyday relationships, that the Lord has so much to teach us about Himself and His calling on our lives. In our Colossians Bible study at church we have been talking over and over again about how there is no extra spiritual revelation to seek after. God has revealed everything He needs to about Himself in His Word and through His Son. We seek to know more of Christ! And He is gracious to weave opportunities for that learning throughout the everyday things in my life. Trouble cleaning up the same mess after Nathan leaves for work in the morning? Frustrated that Weston wakes up early from his nap again and interrupts MY time? Look to Christ who gave up his very life for people who didn't deserve it. I am not good at this. I just complain and get frustrated.

I feel like this is a mumbled mess of my heart, and I feel like I still have a lot welled up inside. And know there are probably still a million things wrong with my thinking and living. But so thankful that God promises to refine me, and that my standing before Him doesn't even rest in my ability to get it all right, or to savor all the moments. Or to always put others first. Or to always act like Jesus. Because I know I won't always. My standing before Him rests in what He's done for me in Jesus on the cross. And its with that confidence and that peace that I can draw near to the throne of grace to receive mercy and find grace to help in my time of need (Heb. 4:16); that I can come to Him with these things on my heart and ask Him to change me and continue to make me into the wife and mother He would have me become, for my good and for the fame of JESUS!

Just some reflections from a new mom...

Sunday, September 26, 2010

My New Home.

Posting has been a long time coming. But I had some time on this quiet Sunday morning. Nathan is enjoying his first day of Dayton hunting season. And a wonderful night last evening at our home church has caused me to do some reflecting.

We've been in Dayton now for over a year. And I don't know if its just the milestone we've hit or the Lord bringing conviction in a number of ways (probably both)- but I have been rather convicted lately of my discontentment and unwillingness to settle here. I notice that when I talk to people or customers at the bank, it's always, "I'm from Kentucky. I'm new here." Like this attitude of let me make sure you know where I'm from... it's not here. But I'm not new here anymore!! I miss Louisville terribly. Not just the city itself, but more importantly the relationships and our church and our home and just the comfort of living what felt like a "normal" life. I haven't detached my heart from there in a way that is necessary when you move to a new place. And I think my lack of quickness to do so has probably robbed me of some really great joys and relationships here in this new city where God has us. I've sensed the Lord telling me in a number of ways, "Ash, it's time to move on. Praise me for what you had in Louisville. But open yourself up to the things I have for you here. You're not going back there anytime soon."

A lot of you ask about our plans with the military and honestly, its kind of up in the air. We hope to be in Dayton for at least another 2 or 3 years. But we do have opportunities for Nathan to get an all-expenses-paid masters degree. If we go that route, we're committed for an extra 3 years, making this military thing a total of about 8 years. But the military can move you whenever they want. We are for sure committed to them at least another 4 years. We have talked about moving back to Kentucky whenever our term is over... but the earliest that could be happening is 4 years! That's a long time for me to just be living in this state of "I want to go home" and not really settling anywhere.

This has been one of the hardest seasons in my life, but is no doubt from the Lord's gracious hand. I have been struggling with anxiety attacks for the past 8 months. They seemed to come out of nowhere, but through some wonderful counseling I am getting right now, I am realizing that the Lord allowed them at this specific time in my life to write it firm on my heart that HE is in control, and I am not. HE is my firm foundation when all around me seems to change and give way. Maybe one day in the future I will blog more about this new trial in my life. But I just feel like this whole struggle has caused me to be self-focused and kind of depressed since we've been here.

We've been going to an Acts 29 church called Mercy Hill for a year now, and honestly, for a number of different reasons, I hadn't really committed to being there. We were going to community groups and I really liked a lot of the people we met there, but I wasn't making an active decision to pursue these new friends or to serve them, or to allow my heart to love them fully. Just kinda living in selfishness: "What's best for me at this time in my life? What am I not getting from this church?" And then my counselor a few weeks back told me that as believers in Jesus, we are all given gifts that we are to be using to benefit the body. And that God gives us great joy in doing that. When we're not serving in our giftings, there's a sense that we're missing out on some of that joy in loving others and serving them. I had heard all of this before, but I certainly wasn't living in line with the truth. I started to examine myself: Ash, where are you using your gifts? Who are you seeking to love and pursue? Don't you remember that every church is imperfect and its really not about you and your preferences anyways?

I realized I wasn't really doing that anywhere. And that this wasn't good. For me, for the women in my community group, or for God's overall plan to use His imperfect church to spread the gospel in this world. I live here, in Dayton. Not in Versailles. Not in Louisville. Just here. And there are some really good things and people here. I certainly plan on still keeping up with those I love most dearly in Louisville, women and men whose friendships changed my life and my ideas of community and fellowship. I don't ever think I'll find a better sushi bar than the one we found there. There will always be fond memories of Lovetown and mine and Nathan's first home on 2nd street. We will always want to know how Third Avenue Baptist is doing. But for now, that season in my life is over and God has great things for us here. He really does. But I will be missing out on them if I don't allow my heart to move here.

After a wonderful community group this past Wednesday where I confessed these sins to the women, and a wonderful church service last night where I got to use some of the gifts GOD has given me, and after spending time with some of those awesome brothers and sisters after service last night, I am feeling that joy my counselor was talking about. By His grace alone, I have noticed a difference this week even in my attitude and the ways I have allowed myself to love and to serve. And it's true, I have felt more at home here and more joyful in what God is doing in Dayton than I have since we moved here. I am praying more for a love for this city and the people here. And I know, just as He always does, He will provide...

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Nathan's Birthday Cake

Most of you who know my man knows that he LOVES hunting. I had this idea for his birthday last year, but didn't get to it. So I stowed it away in my little book of ideas, and made it happen this year. So check out the cake I made him for his birthday... it was definitely a hit!

I don't know if you can tell from the fuzzy picture above, but I even made an arrow going into the side of this buck. What's a hunting cake without a good kill?

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Visits from Friends

I feel like Nate and I have been so blessed with friends who have been faithful to visit. It is always refreshing to be with people who know me so well. I will admit, settling in Dayton has been hard. College was nice because none of us really had any huge responsibilities. We went to class, ate lunch together, lived together, and just spent all kinds of time with each other. Relationships, therefore, happened quickly! Here in Dayton its much slower, and I guess I expected it to some degree. It's been difficult to manage a full-time job, taking care of a home, cooking dinners, and trying to get closer with the people God's placed in our lives here.

It's a good lesson that every season is something new. I can't wait around and expect for Dayton to feel like Louisville. I don't think it will. But it will be a new blessing and a new thing all in itself. I know God didn't send us here to feel alone- and we have met several couples in our new church that we adore. It's just going to to take time to develop those deeper relationships. And that's okay.

In the meantime, God has been so gracious to give us friends who will brave the 2 hour drive to come stay the weekend with us. I love having them in my home!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Gettin' Organized!

As we're finally settling into Dayton and the busyness of full-time work, Nate and I have noticed lately how unorganized and unintentional we have been in a lot of areas of our lives. We've kinda just been surviving- which isn't bad. But what is is that we've watched our hearts for the Lord grow weak through lack of time spent with him, our bank account grow smaller through lavish spending, and endless battles over who's going to cook what on which night. These are new things were struggling through. So last week, we sat down and had what I called a "plan night". For any of you who know me well, this is no surprise. I love organization and method, and will make thousands of lists until I'm blue in the face.

Now, mind you, all these efforts to organize and plan are vain without the Lord's help, and a FULL understanding that we do not gain God's pleasure by having our lives and finances in order. It's easy for someone like me to default to legalism, to follow a plan "to the T" and feel empty doing it. So we're asking God to change our hearts and "fulfill every resolve we have for good work." I don't know if any of you can benefit from what we're doing, but I thought I would share nonetheless:

MEALS- This has been an area of struggle for us, especially as I have gone back to work full time. Neither one of us feels like cooking after a long day at work, but someone has to! Nate would complain that he didn't know what to fix or what we had in the house, so we have resolved to go grocery shopping together. That way, we both know what we're getting- and if Nate ever has to run to the store to pick up that one brand of coffee creamer I always get, he won't come home with something totally wrong! :) Also, I used to make a meal plan for the week- assigning one meal for a particular night. I've realized how unpredictable schedules can be, so now we're trying something new. I made two lists to put on our fridge- one that lists possible meals we can make with ingredients we currently have, and the other that lists possible sides and veggies. I guess its kinda "cafeteria style" planning. I'll let you know how it goes.

FINANCES- We have tried to budget and have done fairly well in the past. But after trying several methods, we have discovered that the cash envelope system works best for us. If I have full access to a debit card, I swipe it and swipe it with little self control. I don't see the money leave my hand, so it doesn't hurt to spend that $3 on junk from McDonalds until I look at my bank statement and see that $3 here and there really adds up! Now that we have two incomes, we want to be smart about saving- for long term things, and for vacations and things like that while we're still childless. We've also signed up to take Dave Ramsey's Financial class. We start that on Monday and I'm really excited.

TIME WITH GOD- As believers in Christ, we must be feasting on God's word and seeking Him in prayer. For His word is living and active and discerns the thoughts and attitudes of our hearts. And how can I expect to be any different at work or in my every day life if I'm not constantly calling on the Holy Spirit to fill me and live through me? We need Him! But this is often the first discipline that gets chucked from my daily routine. Oh no, I'd rather unload our dishwasher and make our kitchen look clean than allow God's word to cleanse my heart. I've known for years that my time with Him is much better and much more consistent if I draw near to Him in the mornings, before all the hussle and bustle of the day distract my heart. This does mean getting up earlier, but its worth it, and I have to remind myself of that often! Nate and I have also realized that we're not praying much together anymore or seeking God as a couple. So now on Wednesday mornings, we've decided to get up together and read something and just go to God in prayer together for different things going on in our lives. Its been good to be with Nathan (and God) in this way again.

That wraps up the biggest things we've discussed and implemented. I'm really excited too because we've signed up to go to a marriage conference put on by Family Life. That happens at the end of April.

Well, I don't know if that was beneficial to anyone else, but it was good to unload. Our jobs are going well. We're praying God would use our life and home and marriage for His glory and see Him doing that in small ways already. Marriage is better than its ever been. I praise God for the trials He's given us- for its made this time on the other side so much sweeter with Nathan. He is such a wonderful man. We miss Louisville and the fellowship we had there, but are trusting God to provide it here. I could go on and on. If there are other things you readers want to know, leave me a comment. Maybe then I'll know what to write about. :)

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Workin' Woman

Hello blog world. Well, this is week 3 of working for Ash, and I really like it. I really enjoy being back in customer service- you meet so many different people from different places. Our bank is a small, hometown kinda thing, so you see the same people all week. It's great and really good for establishing relationships. I am done with training and now on my own... and its a bit scary! I feel like I'm constantly asking questions, and definitely look forward to things getting more comfortable and familiar. There's so much to learn! But I know its this way with any job, and I'll get more and more used to everything. It's kinda nervewracking being in charge of so much money! :) I've really enjoyed getting up in the mornings and having somewhere to be. It's a new phase for Nate and I to learn how to now balance work, our marriage, church, ministry, and our home, but we just have to depend on the Lord to be our Guide. Tonight, we're going out to Bonefish to celebrate my first real paycheck!

On another note, we now have a family living with us as well. The Whitacres are staying with us for a few months- they have an 18 month old boy and one on the way! So the Opie house is bustling with activity. But we're thankful that the Lord is using the house He gave us, and how He is shaping us through the process.

Well, that's all.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Got the job!

I am very thankful to let the blog world know that today, I got the job to be a teller at Liberty Savings Bank here in Dayton. I am so excited.