You are what you Read

Hey guys! How’s your Saturday going?

My day has been pretty busy so far. I flew in from Cancun early this afternoon. Now I’m stuck in Houston for the next couple hours waiting to work a flight to Newark. And of course the plane is late. But it’s all good; it gives me a chance to check in with you guys! Tomorrow morning —fingers crossed —I’ll be back home in Florida. See, the life of a Flight Attendant isn’t all instagram worthy photos and backdrops of the most beautiful places on Earth. Alright, that’s mostly what it is.

I’m teasing. I had to dig that photo from the archives of early 2017. Like most people, I vacation annually. But seriously, if you guys are interested in my escapades as a Flight Attendant, drop a question in the comment section and I’ll do a once a month post about a cool city or experience I’ve had on the job!

Okay, I’m way off track here! Back to the point I’ve yet to make. I love to read and I figured some of you might share my predilection. Over the last few months, I’ve read quite a few thought provoking books and I wanted to share some of those titles with you. Don’t worry, I have some page turning fiction suggestions too! Although we understand the importance of monitoring the content we allow into our spirits, that knowledge doesn’t always make it easy to avoid picking up the latest trash novel. As if living in a world we’re called to be separate from isn’t challenging enough, who needs the wrong books providing further interference?

So, without further ado:

Alright ya’ll, you’ll need your big girl panties for this one because it is not for the faint of heart. It took me around four months to read this book. Even as a person who grew up in church, hearing and reading the word of God regularly, this book had some heavy digestion time for me. It challenged me to live more than a Godly life, but to live the life that God purposed for me. The overarching theme is that God is going to judge our lives, not on how we lived, but if we lived in accordance to our individual callings. What I love most is that the author, John Bevere backs up his claims with scripture. Of course, each of us is accountable for doing our own studying and meditating on the Bible, but I did appreciate all the biblical references. “Driven by Eternity,” took me through a wilderness of emotions that led to finding my way out of the jungle. It scared me, inspired me, admonished me, and ultimately motivated me to live my life intentionally in light of eternity.

I couldn’t put it down! Francine Rivers doesn’t write a bad book anyway, but this story of abandonment, loss, and love had me awake with the moonlight. “Bridge to Haven,” centers around Abra, a girl searching for her identity in all the wrong places. It puts me in the mind of the prodigal son and reminds me that there is no depth too deep for God’s love to redeem us.

Another fiction book by Francine Rivers. Amid all the abortion debates, this plot softens the heart to a perspective not often explored. It weaves into the intricacies of having to choose.

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These are the Good ole Days

‘Tis a shame that tomorrow, I’ll long for today. While today, I long for tomorrow. And yesterday I longed for the day before. Can happiness truly be that elusive? I shudder to think that felicity exists everywhere but here and now. I can’t recall, ever, a time in my young life where I was content with the present beyond brief highs. Bursts of pleasure when surrounded by the warm laughter and company of my loved ones. I’ve known bliss in the moments when I received jobs I desperately wanted— and eventually hated— or when strolling down the magical streets of cities unknown. My contentment has always been dependent on the constant demand of something new. The millennial Y2K of THIRTY, is encroaching and I don’t want to enter it wishing for anymore than the present. In high school, I had grand ideas of what my life is suppose to look like a year from now. In reality, my life couldn’t be farther from what I anticipated. And I’m supremely delighted to be totally okay with it! I’m looking forward to the treasures of the unknown and the beauty of God wrecking my plans. Life is never, ever what we plan but that doesn’t make it any less beautiful. Today, filled with mostly rest, “Designing Women” reruns, absence from church, shortcomings and nothing new except a new day is still, “The good ole days.” ✌🏾

Delayed Obedience is Disobedience

Instead of attending church and licking the plate of a home cooked meal, I spent Easter Sunday in Rochester, New York, held up in a hotel room binge-watching the first season of “Gilmore Girls.” As usual, I’m late to the amazing television series party.

Relax. It’s not like I’ve never heard of the show. A few of my friends watch the reruns on Netflix. I’m a, “Law and Order: SVU” kinda girl myself, so the idea of romance and drama in a small town named Stars Hollow was never all that riveting to me in the first place.

Anyhow, I digress.

During a discussion with my two flying partners the day before, the topic of mother-daughter relationships came up and the less than perfect bond between Emily and Lorelai Gilmore was referenced. The flight attendant who had seen,”Gilmore Girls” raved about how great it was and assured me that it was “clean” and “You could watch it with a five year old.” A wholesome show at least in part about a dysfunctional mother-daughter relationship? Now the Gilmores had my attention. I figured, what the heck? I’ve got thirty hours to kill in Rochester, why not give it a try. So I committed to watching at least one episode of, “Gilmore Girls” on my layover.

Then I watched eight.

In the days following my newfound obsession, I found myself being constantly lulled to sleep by the heart warming banter between Lorelai and Rory Gilmore. Night after night, I was peeling my body from the sofa and dragging myself to bed. One morning, after one of those nights, I commenced my quiet time with God. Propped up against the chaise at the end of my bed, I bowed my head and began with thanksgiving. As my prayers transitioned from one topic to the next, the Holy Spirit began to interrupt my thoughts. I stopped talking and listened. Then, I heard. Per the command of God, I had to stop watching, “Gilmore Girls.”

Yes, fully involved and several episodes into the second season, God said no. Completely crushed, I told God, Okay. I’ll give it up…next week. What I heard next was as clear as the cloudless blue sky currently hiding behind my living room curtains: “Delayed obedience is disobedience.” I knew then that I had to decide in that moment whether I was going to heed the voice of God or give in to my own desires. And so, my short lived affair with, “Gilmore Girls” came to an abrupt halt.

It may seem silly that God would ask me to give up something as seemingly harmless as a t.v. show, but it didn’t come as a complete surprise to me. My spirit had already been stirred by some of the minor themes in the show. I’d simply chosen to overlook them because they weren’t that bad. Two things in particular that bothered me about, “Gilmore Girls,” was the promotion of sex outside of marriage and promiscuity.

Because of it’s prevalence, fornication (among many other “little” sins) is sort of…expected these days. Not a big deal, even. Yet God is reminding me that we don’t answer to the culture or times, we answer to His word. And if there is anything we watch, read, listen to, participate in, or entertain that is not in line with His word, then we are out of line. Period, no exceptions. We as Christians should not be entertained by the same things as the non-believing world. We cry out for more of God as we continue to embed ourselves deeper into the heart of this world. Then we wonder why He feels so distant…

I believe that God is challenging his people. Calling our bluff, if you will. Are we really willing to lay it ALL out on the line to follow him? Are we willing to give up all the things that keep us grounded in this world? The answers to our prayers to forge a deeper relationship with God lie in our obedience to him. We fall into step with the spirit of God when we learn to trust and believe him the first time. In his time, not our own, for he is our commander in chief.

War movies are my favorite to watch because I love the art and organization of war and seeing how tactical skill and knowledge lead to victory…and sometimes defeat. One of the most vital rules of battle is to follow the orders of the commander. A Lieutenant/Colonel is not given rank over a group of soldiers, but rather, earns their title by proving that they are capable of leading in battle. They have more knowledge and insight than the majors they reside over, which makes it imperative that their subordinates heed their guidance.

If a Lieutenant/Colonel yells to his platoon, “Take Cover!” and one of his/her majors asks why, exclaiming, “I don’t see the enemy!” it’s likely that that individual will either lose his/her life or become severely injured.

Likewise, if God tells us to stop, go, yes or no, we need to be in a position to act immediately. Christians are taking unnecessary fire from enemy lines because we are disobedient to our commander, which is ultimately an indication that we don’t trust Him. If God tells us to move out of the line of fire today and we don’t move until tomorrow, we will have already been burnt. But grace. Even in our disobedience, He is a good God, for He allows us to get burned without being incinerated. Still, why waste time nursing wounds that can be been avoided through obedience. We can say all the prayers, read the Bible in every translation, go to church three times a week, and still not get any closer to God because we don’t listen.

Before God can transition us to the next level, He has to trust us to trust Him. We cannot sustain ourselves in the place He has purposed for us. Giving up, “Gilmore Girls” wasn’t easy at first, but I’m glad I did it. I’ve given up a lot of worldly pleasures (some things I’m still working on letting go) this year in obedience to God. And I’ll be honest, it’s hard and it hurts. It sometimes feels like I’m being stripped of everything that makes me, me. But I guess that’s the point. The Christian journey isn’t about becoming more ourselves, but becoming less like us and more like Jesus.

When I first started working on this post, I typed up some questions related to obedience to get my writing juices flowing. Feel free to answer them in the context of your own life and walk with God. Share or not, but ponder please.

  1. Why is it important to obey the Holy Spirit at the time of prompting?
  2. What are the consequences of being disobedient to the Holy Spirit?
  3. Should God entrust us with inside information if we can’t follow His instructions?
  4. Is it possible that we wait as long as we do for our desires because God is waiting on us to show that we are capable of being obedient?

Climbing out of the Cave

I slept for over twelve hours last night. I didn’t get up until noon today. I want to go back to sleep but I can’t. I’m awake and being plagued by all the bizarre dreams I had last night. The most frightening one: I got fired. Dreams sometimes feel like an extension of reality. Dream emotions don’t feel any different than those of reality. I woke up to my heart drumming the beat of fear. It took me a few minutes to realign myself back to the dim room in New Jersey. And even once I convinced myself that it was just a dream, I still couldn’t completely shake what had seemed real just a few moments before. The dream was a replay of the year 2014 for me. A new job, a new place, and a wrecking ball.

I want to go back to sleep, but I don’t want to dream. My friend thinks I just woke up on the wrong side of the bed. I only wish it was that simple. Go back to bed, wake up, feel better. No this is much more. Today my burdens have mounted to the apex of my soul, and have nowhere to go but out. That’s made obvious by my melodramatic writing and bitter attitude. Truth is, I don’t have any real burdens. None worth mentioning in light of real atrocities.

I am my burden. Stubborn and strong willed about things I never do. I read my Bible. I read spiritually enlightening books. I think. Sometimes I hear from God. I do…I do nothing. I told my best friend today, God himself could stand before me and point out the direction I’m to take and I would remain another throw pillow on this couch. Given clear and direct instructions and still doing nothing.

I am my burden. “90 Days of Reign,” is my burden. A book God gave me that I only talk about because I’m too afraid to write it. Everyday, blank pages haunt me. I fill those pages with sleep, useless conversations, and thinning oxygen. Where does confidence come from? How do people know they can do something? Why aren’t they afraid to go for their dreams and I am. Is there a secret store that sells confidence and self assurance? Did I miss something growing up? Was I not pushed hard enough? Or am I just a coward. I know that God says our confidence should be in him, not ourselves, but why doesn’t that feel like enough? I thought I trusted God, but now I don’t know. My actions don’t reflect that I do. It’s not my book, this is not my blog, the vlog I want to start will not be my vlog. It’s all in his name and to his glory, right? Then, why am I still afraid to do any of it?

This post is obviously more questions than answers and maybe I’m just having a bad day. I’ve been in an apartment by myself for a day and a half, plans unknown. I’ve run out of distractions. If I hadn’t chewed my nails off, maybe I would’ve painted them. I cooked last night. I washed last night. I just discovered, “Gilmore Girls,” maybe I could watch that. No, today calls for bigger distractions than nail painting and television shows. I guess it calls for poor grammar writing.

I’m also reading this book. “Driven by Eternity,” by John Bevere. It’s freaking me out. It’s not at all for the faint of heart, let me tell you. It’s all about purpose. Well heaven and hell…and purpose. I’m not concerned about heaven and hell, but I do worry about what my life will look like when I stand before God. I want to have fulfilled his plan for my life here on Earth. The thought of watching some holograph of me sleeping my life away or travelling, or getting married and buying a house, and never answering the call of God is such a dread filled and terrifying prospect. What’s the point of being in this beautiful revolving hell if we don’t douse it with heaven?

And still, why am I so petrified? God’s influence in my life is growing but my body is floating in quick sand. Maybe, I just have never been exposed to hard work and I’m afraid of getting my hands dirty. Maybe I really am a coward. But should it matter if I am? Not by might, not by power, but by my spirit says the Lord. I mean, right? What am I missing? I sense the key all around me, but never tactile. I don’t trust God or do I? For he has not given me a spirit of fear but…of power, love, and a sound mind. I had to look the last part up. What exactly is power?

According to Dictionary.com, power is: ability to do or act; capability of doing or accomplishing something.

Did I just grasp the truth that’s been surrounding me all along? He has given me the spirit of power…of action. I feel lifted, so much lighter. Better. I’m going to call my friend and apologize for being crabby earlier today.

If you’re reading, thanks for joining me in this nonsensical climb out of the enemy’s cave. I don’t know a lot. In truth, I don’t know most things. Though there are two things I’m quite certain of: God is perfect and everything makes sense in written form. Even if I’m bad at it, I’m accepting that writing is my super power. I know it’s an oxymoron, but it’s very befitting of my day so I’m sticking with it.

The End of Me

Six years ago, I was sitting eagerly beside my Dad in a Ford Dealership showroom. “I’m impressed that your credit score is this good at your age,” the car salesman inquired from the opposite side of the round table. Beneath his surprise, respect and confidence lingered in his voice. I was a fervid twenty-two-year-old desperate to kick down the doors of my adolescence and strut into adulthood.

It was my first major solo purchase and as pathetic as it sounds, I needed the validation of a well informed stranger to tell me, yes you’re doing it right. Though it was likely a part of the car salesman’s pitch, he’d made me feel like I was on the right track. My newfound surety soon ushered me into a season of skipping merrily down the road to my downfall.

Fast forward to 2014. I’d gone through three jobs, (one of which I was fired from) and was surviving off of what was left of my two credit cards, the aid of my parents, and meager unemployment funds. I had a car payment, an apartment and no income or savings. Adulthood had really taken me through the wringer. Eventually, my credit cards went into default and I stood idly by as my credit plummeted to a new low.

Here, in 2018, I’m still picking up the pieces from one hellish year. Working to improve my credit this year has been a constant reminder of my shortcomings in 2014. A few months ago, I set a goal to have my own apartment by the top of next year and purchase a home within the next few years. I knew my credit would be a major factor in reaching those goals, so time after time, I made plans to pay off the bills that had gone into collections. Every time I was close to saving the amount I needed, something else came up. It was difficult to save rainy day money, put away for retirement, pay current bills and save extra money for the debts that were ruining my credit.

I felt stuck. What’s worse, the more research I did, the more discouraged I became. From what I read, even if I paid my debt in full, the stains would remain on my credit for the next seven years, so why bother? Still, I was frustrated with the bill collector calls and constantly being reminded of past errors.

Eventually, I saved enough money to pay off my smaller debts. I then decided to take out a loan from my 401k to pay off the rest of my credit card bills that had gone into default. I didn’t expect to see any immediate changes to my credit score, I was just tired of that cloud of debt looming over my life. By this point, I’d reached the end of all of my resources and had done all I could to right my wrongs. I surrendered to patience and accepted the reality that I had to allow time to heal my credit score.

Much to my surprise, over the next couple of months, my credit score rocketed. It had gone from the red zone to the yellow zone, poor to fair. I was shocked, to say the least. To top it off, not only were my debts showing paid in full, they were removed entirely from my report! My past mishaps no longer had a place in my future!

What I find most interesting, is that out of all the worrying, researching, and effort, my breakthrough took place when I became still. It happened when I reached the end of myself. In doing so, I gave God the opportunity to work on my behalf in a way that only he could.

Sometimes, we don’t know when to stop. And by stop, I mean rest. And by rest, I mean turning over our situations to God completely. This is not an invitation to give up, but a call to recognize the power of the God we serve. We wait too long to come to God for the answer. Yes, be active in working toward whatever your goal is, but remember that we should be in tandem with the Lord, not passing off our problems to him like a baton at a relay race.

If we put God at the center of what we are trying to accomplish, we’ll get there a lot easier. I understand that there are times when it is beneficial for us to go through the storm but there are also times when God wants to bless us and we create unnecessary storms by trying to bless ourselves. 

We put too much effort into trying to fix our problems, rather than resting in the panacea that is Christ. God has already given us everything we need to succeed in fulfilling his glory in our lives, it’s simply a matter of activating those resources through him. Stop exhausting and worrying yourself over not having the answers and put that energy into prayer and faith in the one who does.

What’s Next?

Doesn’t it seem like every year goes by faster than the last? 2019 is encroaching upon us and I can hardly remember what went on in the last eleven months. The most memorable part of this year for me was the beginning. At midnight on January 1st of 2018, I was in the shower. I got out, fell asleep on the couch and I swear, it feels like I’m just now waking up.

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Seriously, where did the time go? I remember opting out of making any resolutions because I didn’t want to look failure in the face when (due to lack of effort) my “life goals” didn’t materialize. I figured I’d just do my best to be better. But if I’m being honest, I could’ve tried harder. Nonetheless, here I am.

That being said, if you’re reading this: congratulations, you’re still here too! We’ve still got time. How much, I can’t be certain, but carpe diem! I think sometimes we get too involved in our long-term goals. Truth is, we don’t know if we will ever get to kiss the brow of what we hope will one day be. Lately, death feels imminent. The axiom tomorrow isn’t promised has become more real than ever. There used to be a time when I couldn’t imagine death happening to me but those days have drifted away like a sweet aroma carried by the breeze.

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Normally, a topic so morbid would evoke a sense of sadness, but in this season of my life, it has awakened an urgency: an awareness, that my purpose can’t wait. It simply does not have the time. Every part of me recognizes the fragility of life and more than I fear not being successful in the eyes of the world (or myself), I panic at the thought of not completing the earthly assignment given to me by God.

This panic has prompted me to make a true effort to put my wants and dreams in perspective. I have to ask myself, do the things I want most align with the purpose God has given me? Not always. I’m currently fixated on moving out at the beginning of next year. The search for somewhere to live consumes a good portion of my day and when I’m not searching for places to stay, I’m busy making photo collages of home decor. It’s pretty bad. All the while, I’ve been given an assignment that I’ve been steadily neglecting.

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Next year, I’ll be making one resolution: Everyday make a conscious choice to take the next step toward my purpose. Whether it’s something as simple as a prayer, reading a novel, or writing the first sentence of my book, I want to step into my future, not leap. There’s invaluable worth in the baby steps. We get so caught up in dreaming “big” that we forget big was once small. So chill.

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In no way am I encouraging small aspirations. We serve a God who is not limited by any human notion and he has great plans for each of us. I just don’t want us to forget that great doesn’t necessarily mean big or famous, or wealthy, or a partner. It simply means surrendering to God’s plan for our lives and taking whatever step is next to fulfill it. That’s greatness. I think we’ll find that if we do this, we’ll gain more than we could’ve ever attained on our own.

So let’s forget about New Year’s resolutions: what can we do right now (and before the year is up) that would be a step in the direction of our God-given purpose?

I’ll go first. For me, it’s writing this entry. I didn’t feel like it and I’m not confident that it’s any good, but I’m going to post it anyway. Beside me are two notebooks, which contain outline drafts for my book, “90 Days of Reign.” I want to open them and work on my story but I can’t promise. Though it is, in fact, my next step and I don’t have forever…

 

 

 

 

 

Call Me by My Name

When it comes to inconsequential matters like ordering food or making minor reservations, I never give my real name. Celestial just seems nine letters too troublesome for a box of pizza. Besides, why put people through the bother of fumbling around the spelling and pronunciation? So to avoid any unnecessary confusion, when asked for my name, I respond: “Sure. It’s Ashley.”

In the first place, Ashley is a far simpler name than Celestial. But beyond that, it’s familiarity gives people a sense of comfort, however wrong or right they may be. Still, no matter my reasons for providing an alias to passing strangers, my name isn’t Ashley: it’s Celestial. And were I to develop a real relationship with one of these strangers, they could no longer go on calling me Ashley. To do so would be an indication that they still don’t know me, regardless of how familiar I may seem.

Familiarity: the thief of intimacy. Indeed, I am familiar with quantum physics, but I couldn’t begin to tell you even the most major concept of that theory. (Although, I probably could now because I just looked it up.) Likewise, just because we hear about or see someone often doesn’t mean that we know them deeply. For example, you know that friend of a friend who you occasionally see at gatherings? You always mistake her name for Brenda, when really it’s Shannon. Yes, that girl: take a moment to consider why you always forget her name. Could it be because you have no real relationship or ties to her and therefore her name could be Kjgwqeoigesokgn and she would still just be a friend of a friend, better known as Brenda?

Yet, isn’t that what many of us have done to God? We’ve put him in the friend of a friend zone, and as a result, we often forget his name. So instead of God, we call him The Universe today, Good Vibes tomorrow, and Positive Energy the next day. I admit these names are easier to digest than the mystifying name of God, but they hold no true value. They’re simply titles we use to circumvent the name of God because we’ve decided that his is far too difficult a name for us to be concerned with. 

What’s interesting though, is that we still want the benefits of God’s nature. We send positive vibes to The Universe in hopes of receiving the grace, love, and hope that is solely God’s to give. We don’t want to submit to his ways that are in place purely for our benefit, yet we want to reap the rewards that come through obedience. In any other iteration of life, this line of thinking would be illogical.

It’d be like asking me to help you come up with a budget even though you know I’m imprudent with money. Tiffany, however, is an accountant and frugal, but you don’t like her. So instead, you choose me and my likeability to help you budget, while somehow expecting the money conscious rewards Tiffany has to offer.

Life doesn’t work that way. At all. We don’t get to cherry-pick the characteristics of God we like, and with them, create our own deity. 

It’s easy to call God anything but God when we don’t really know him. I’m not talking about being religious, I’m speaking of relationship and spirituality. For Christians, we shouldn’t be reading the Bible and praying strictly because it’s our “religious duty,” we should be doing these things to forge a deeper relationship with God. I’m not saying it happens overnight, and yes, sometimes we will have to force ourselves to pray and read our Bible. Discipline is required, but the reward of our faithfulness is being one with our creator and thirsting no more.

Running from God to false names may provide a temporary balm to our plight, but ultimately, it will lead to further confusion. I know that living in this world can make it hard to believe in an all-powerful God who is allegedly good. I won’t pretend to have all the answers.

If I may, however, offer my advice: call God by his name even in your uncertainty. Don’t be afraid to confront him with your questions. But be ready for the answers. God is not daunted by your inquiries. He wants to show you who he is, and the wonderful plans he has for you.

Step one to finding God: call him by his name.

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