Wednesday, February 4, 2015

My Fangirl Friend

There are a lot of different types of friends. Some people are your "let's chat during Bible study" friends or your "check out this sale!" friends (hi, Jen!) or your deep-talk friends or your philosophizing friends. And even though it's possible to bond over a short period of time, I really cherish those friendships that have had years to deepen. 

When the Foleys came to our church years ago, we quickly realized we were kindred old-movie spirits and hit it off immediately. And every time I come to Georgia, I love spending time with them-a part of my extended "church family" that reminds that this is "home." 

The best kind of friends kind of span the "categories" and that is Claire for me. We can talk about anything (and do) but most importantly she is my fangirl friend. She and I (and Rory) faithfully watched Psych "together" for years, texting quotes and reactions throughout. She and I FaceTimed after the finale (both weeping) and spent an hour analyzing it all. And whenever I need to gush about a book, show, movie, or character, she is my go-to for an always-satisfying level of enthusiasm. Plus she is adorably tender-hearted and tends to cry easily (which is endearing as well as funny.) 

Is it weird that one of my favorite people- and sweetest friends- is sixteen? Oh well. (I'm a little young for my age and she's very mature for hers, soooo.... it all evens out.) Tonight I'm just thankful for friends... old friends, sweet friends, friends who will cry with you while you watch your favorite show, friends you can text at any time with an emoji-filled message about a fictional character and receive an equally hysterical reply... friends like Claire, who is far too grown-up and responsible these days. (Can I say I'm proud? I had nothing to do with her turning out so well, but hey.)

Love to all my friends... and to Claire. On the alpine highway of life, you are my all-weather tires. =)


Monday, February 2, 2015

Missions Monday

When we first started this whole moving-to-Texas process, I contemplated starting a separate blog or Facebook page or whatever for those wanted to keep up with our progress. I decided not to since I already have a blog and I didn't want people to be like, "For crying out loud... Ashley is taking over the internet!" So I've stuck to using my own Facebook or the occasional post here for the same purpose, but now I kind of regret that because there's been so much to share and I don't want every post to be all about our missions stuff (even though it's kind of the biggest thing going on in our lives right now!). ANYWAY, long, pointless story short, I've decided to do missions-themed posts on Mondays (maybe not every Monday, but most, I hope.) Ironically, our deputation is nearly over so it's a little late, but I'm hoping to continue sharing even after we get to Houston... which I think is fine since that is the whole point of the past few months!

So, our service schedule has really picked up since Christmas, mostly recently in the past couple weeks. On Friday, January 23, we left for Nashville (ah, I love that city!) and spent the night with Jonathan's cousins Brandon, Kristen, and Kristen's husband Daniel. We ate at Cheddar's and watched some truly horrifying reality show about a swamp family (?!) and just had a great night. Every time we're there I wish we had more time together... and Daniel is John Krasinski's doppelganger and the closest I'll get to meeting Jim Halpert in real life so obviously we get along splendidly. =) 

The next morning we woke up to snow on the ground (!)... just a little bit, but still... ate breakfast, and then drove over to Green Hills to see my cousin Jonathan and his wife Janie (they work at Nordstrom and I may have had a minor stroke looking at all the designer stuff.) We got to eat lunch with Jonathan and hang out for a little while before he had to go back to work but it was a fun, if too short, visit. THEN we hit the road again to head to Memphis.

I said this Instagram last weekend, but I was a little nervous about our visit to Jonathan's other side of the family. I haven't met his cousins or his aunt since our wedding (which obviously doesn't count since I was in a bride-fog all day) and it's a little weird to meet strangers who happen to be family, you know? But we had such a good time with them. Rachel and Megan are so sweet,,, if I may gush just a little =), they're the kind of girls that make me want to be a better person, honestly. They're awesome! We stayed at Jonathan's grandmother's house for about four days and her husband spoiled us... if nothing else, his cooking was the bomb! 

On Sunday morning, we had a service at Jonathan's grandparent's church in Olive Branch, Mississippi, and Sunday night were in Millington, Tennessee, where we met the man who had been Jonathan's pastor when he was really little (he was there the day Jonathan was born!). We went to dinner with him and his wife and they were a hoot... it was so fun. And the next few days were relaxing... lots of walks, shopping, reading, Netflix... my favorite things. =) 

We left Tennessee on Wednesday morning... on our way to our next service, we were able to meet up for lunch with our friend Eric. We had such a good time catching up and it's always fun to hang out as "adults" (used loosely =) with someone you knew in high school. Then we headed to Dothan, Alabama, for our service at Corinth FWB Church. When we were visiting Houston last May, there was a group from this church at Woodforest and they got the new children's space all ready for use... it was fun to see some of those people again and enjoy seeing some old friends (one all the way back from Guin who said she knew she recognized me because I look just like my dad. Ha!). 

Thursday we headed to Georgia (yay!) and were able to spend the weekend with my family (minus Amanda and Steve... stupid Connecticut!) and had our service at Berean Baptist, my home church for nearly ten years! I was so excited about it and we had a great time sharing our work on Sunday morning. (I say "we" as if I have any part of the presentation which I certainly do not... I did sing with my sisters which should count for something, right?) And then this morning Jonathan headed back to work and I stayed for a few extra days since I won't be able to get down here again for probably a long time. 

I said this on Facebook already today but I really am so proud of Jonathan... this whole journey (love the melodrama of that word!) has not been in his comfort zone. Asking for money and meeting strangers isn't really fun for anyone but if you're an introvert it can be even more stressful, but Jonathan has worked so hard and been so enthusiastic about everything. At least one person at every service has said, "Well, you're really excited about this, aren't you?" and he really is. (I am too, for the record, but I tend to get excited easily so it's not as impressive. Ha!) I can't imagine going through this process with a husband who wasn't so dedicated and at the same time understanding of me and all my limitations (which are many.) He's the best!

So, back to the "missions" part of it all... we have raised some more support in the past couple weeks but we're still about $700 short of what we need in monthly support. (That means if you've been contemplating supporting us, feel free to sign up right HERE... every little bit helps!) I'm not worried because God has provided everything we need up to this point, but obviously he does that through people so... don't be shy if you'd like to be one of those people. =) 

Here are a couple of BIG prayer requests right now: 

-Jonathan has a job interview at Woodforest National Bank next week. Ah! Pray he gets the job!
-Due to the job interview and the fact that we still need to find a place to live, we are flying out to Houston on Saturday. We're super excited about seeing the Fergusons and meeting more people at church on Sunday but we'll have a LOT to do in a couple of days and some big decisions to make so pray for clarity (and sanity, for me.) 
-We're coming down the home stretch of deputation with just a few services left. Pray for a great response and for that last bit of support to come in! 

That's all, folks! As always, thank you, thank you for your support! I'ts hard to be believe we'll be Houston bound in a matter of weeks. (I'm not freaking out, I'm not freaking out, I'm not freaking out.) I promise. Okay, maybe a little. But it's mostly in a good way. You know how calm I am!


Wednesday, January 21, 2015

When High School Boys Read Your Blog

I subbed this week for high school English and one of the boys walked into class and immediately made reference to my "fashion blog." Ha! Not only is this NOT a fashion blog (for reasons documented here) but it's always disconcerting to hear that someone unexpected reads the blog. Finding out a high school boy reads mine was a little weird... I don't care but it does make me rethink the outfit posts, you know? 

BUT a little discomfort never kept me from posting an outfit (too bad, probably) but this week I had a real reason. Even though mine is not a fashion blog, I do read several and over the years Audrey has consistently been a favorite. Her remixing is the very best and honestly I don't think she's ever posted an outfit I wouldn't wear. So when she issued a weekly style challenge for a new series I was totally in! This week the prompt was wearing a bright color, and though sadly you can't see how very bright this skirt is, it's definitely hot pink. 

Oh, and speaking of high school boys (weird sentence... AND girls), I am not much of a blazer wearer but I have been known to toss one on when I sub for high school (or, you know, teach high school, since that used to my job- tears!) since I have been told I have a baby face and teenagers are hard enough to intimidate. Although, my lack of intimidation skills may have less to do with my face and more to do with my endless Disney references. "She loves High School Musical... she's not scary!"

Blazer: Eileen Tracy 
Top: Old Navy (Merry Christmas from Amy!)
Skirt: Belk
Shoes: TJ Maxx (They're my Elphaba shoes!)
Necklace: J.Crew Factory

Since I'm not a real fashion blogger, I get to share incredibly dorky poses like this.
Smooth, right? I wonder why people aren't asking me for posing tutorials.

I bought this necklace in the fall and let my mom borrow it and after weeks of her begging me for it, I finally bought it for her for Christmas. Nothing says cool like twinning with your mom. (Can you blame her for begging, though? It's so pretty!) 

If this post is a little all over the place it's because I haven't had caffeine all day and feel a little like my head's going to explode. I've tried being strong and it's just not working so I'm off to drink some coffee. Nothing rewards failure like peppermint mocha creamer, am I right? 


P.S. Linked up with Audrey

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Can't Stop Won't Stop

I've always been a creature of habit- really though, aren't we all?- but lately there are a few things that I have been reaching for over and over again, whether to wear, eat, drink...etc. You get it. Hence the title (^) of this post. This week, I've played favorites and "can't stop, won't stop" with the following:

Wearing: these sneakers from Target. I'm a little obsessed with all things quilted right now. Also, they're still full price online but I got them 50% in store so check your local Future Home of All Your Money.

Eating: okay, I can't help myself. I have a favorite candy for every holiday. At Christmas, it's candy cane Hershey kisses, Easter is Cadbury mini-eggs, Halloween is Reese's pumpkins, and Valentine's Day is these. And they totally don't taste like the other conversation arts (aka like CHALK. Bleh.)

Wearing II: April got me this bracelet for Christmas and a box of letters 

Drinking: Chick-fil-A coffee. Sooo good. The creamer is killing me but that's a sacrifice I'm willing to make.

Listening to: This soundtrack. Stephen Sondheim is a genius, I'm obsessed with Anna Kendrick's voice, and well, it's just great. I love it. Jonathan is less than thrilled to have the songs stuck in HIS head but hey... "the family that obsessively plays music over and over together stays together" is a well-known proverb.

Loving: this awesome, awesome mug from my friend Emma's shop. (She made it for me because she knows me SO well and she's the best.) Check out her cute stuff or let her know if you need anything customized. 

I'm not saying I want credit if you get hooked on any of this stuff, but... I better get it. Enjoy, friends!


Sunday, January 18, 2015

Ten Years

Ten years ago today, my sister Amy and I got up early in the morning. My parents drove us to the San Jose International Airport, my dad walked us to the gate, and then I stood and watched him (through my own tears) weep while his two youngest girls got on a plane to fly across the country alone to live with their grandparents for nearly a month and to start at a brand new school (in the middle of the year) only two days later. Our family was together when suddenly we were being flung thousands of miles apart. 

The events that led up to that day were less than ideal... to be honest, they were awful. I really don't even want to dignify them with an explanation of the details. They're a decade old and why rehash sad memories? I have to mention them briefly only because they were the cause of the rest of the story, but this post is about what happened next.

Amy and I traveled all day. I wore a green and yellow track jacket from American Eagle. I held tightly to the cards and scrapbook made for me by the friends I had just tearfully said goodbye to the night before, after a basketball game and a trip to Taco Bell. Neither Amy nor I had a cellphone so I had to attempt to use a payphone during our layover (unsuccessfully) and then very reluctantly ask to borrow a stranger's cellphone so we could let our parents know we were okay. Looking back, I think I was a terrible sister because I don't remember checking on Amy or comforting her... maybe I did, but more than likely I was too wrapped up in my own teenage heartbreak to notice if she was upset. We finally arrived at Raleigh Durham Airport late that night, where Justin, our good family friend, was waiting. I had never been so relieved to see a familiar face in my life. The next day we went out to dinner with Uncle Mike and Aunt Lisa, and Sunday is a total blur. Even though being with Mamaw and Papaw was comforting, I just remember a mixture of fear, anger, sadness, and anxiety. 

At fifteen, I thought that my entire world was falling apart. I guess technically it was... leaving all my friends and everything I was involved in- sports, youth group, music- and leaving the Silicon Valley to move 3,000 miles away to a reeeeally small town and a school full of what I snobbishly considered rednecks who wore the ugliest shoes I'd ever seen (Sperry Topsiders, actually... and of course now I own several pairs.) 

I vividly remember waking up the following Monday and feeling like I would suffocate from the feeling of dread at the thought of facing all those people I didn't know at school (thank goodness for my cousins Stephen and Kailyn, but they weren't even in my class. A whole day full of strangers!) I know I'm not exactly shy, but really... a fast-talking girl from the West Coast stood out just a little bit. I lay in bed and just prayed that the Lord would get me through the day. 

And you know what? I got through the day. I got through all the following days... and over the next few weeks and months, I made some of the best memories of my life. All the stress, fear, and uncertainty that characterized our last few months in California vanished as I thrived in a brand-new environment where people loved on my family. I made the best memories, played softball (badly), sang my first solo (thanks, KD), became friends with my future best friend (hi, Brookie!), and developed an important, lasting crush on my future husband (that ended very well.) Even though I attended and worked at Faith for several years later on, that season cemented it as "home" in my mind. Our family was taken in, loved, and allowed to heal while spending precious time with family. It was an oasis after a desert, and we are still thankful for it.

I can't believe it's been ten years since we left, since our family went through such a painful time, or since I truly experienced God's goodness and faithfulness for the first time. I missed my friends and life in California so badly- and I still miss those friends- but I've thought many times about what our lives would look like if we'd stayed. I wouldn't have made the dozens and dozens of friends I have now. Our family wouldn't have gone to Georgia, where more best friends (Sara!!) were made and countless relationships formed through the years at Berean. I wouldn't have attended Southeastern. I wouldn't have been able to sing in Faith's choir or have a regular order at Rudy's or wear Sperrys. I wouldn't have been able to spend precious time with Papaw in the last few years he was with us. Most of all, I would never have become friends with or had a crush on or eventually married Jonathan. And for that matter, I wouldn't be moving to Texas!

I'm still learning this lesson, but I'm thankful that God showed me early on that His love is real. He gave me parents who didn't allow our view of the ministry to be destroyed by a hard experience. He gave us friends who loved us through those six months of change and culture shock. He allowed me to have teachers who remain mentors to this day. He put me on the same side of the country- in the same school!- as the boy I'd marry. My plan and His weren't even remotely similar, and a decade ago I would have given anything to stick to my plan. But, as usual, His turned out so much better. 

Ten years ago today, my life changed in a big way. I miss California... I miss San Francisco, I miss the weather, I miss Santa Cruz bonfires, I miss the A's and the Giants and the Warriors. I miss Jamba and Premier Pizza and Baja Fresh. I miss Rivermark and Montague Park. I miss Bears games and doing the stats for the Bulldogs. I miss garlic fries and lumpia and nachos and 7-11. I miss Camp Lucerne and the Youth Extravaganza. I miss all the older boys who stood up for me when the boys my age picked on me (and I miss those boys too.) I miss Syndee, Jenn, Gabe, Greg, Jordan, Stephen, Sammy, Allen, Paul, Jessica, Kim, Josh, James, Evelyn, Georgette, Kenny, Jake, Amber, Justine, Alisha, Matt, and Monica. I miss Mr. Carey and Miss Schweitzer, the Freds, walking to school, the neighborhood shuttle, and Youth Hour. I miss a time in my life where I made so many friends and had so many wonderful experiences. I'm so thankful for that brief time. Even though some memories aren't so happy, there are plenty of good ones.

One of my favorite songs by Mark Hall really sums it up best: 

"If your eyes are on the storm, you'll wonder if I love you still, 
But if your eyes are on the cross, you'll know I always have and I always will. 
And not a tear is wasted; in time you'll understand.
 I'm painting beauty with the ashes; your life is in my hands."

 I'm so, so grateful that the Lord took something terrible and turned it into something amazing... truly "beauty from ashes." I would never have dreamed that a decade later, I'd be thanking God for turning my life upside down as a teenager, but I am. See, Squints? Everything turned out just fine. =)


Wednesday, January 14, 2015


One of my goals for this year (which I should probably share for accountability's sake but then what if I fail??) was to read 125 books and to take notes while reading...Not like "there will be a quiz on this" type notes but just jotting down quotes or ideas worth remembering. Gretchen Rubin says that being a notorious note-taker has aided her tremendously in the writing of each of her books. And not that I'm going to be cranking out any NYT Bestsellers anytime soon (someday? ha!) but I liked the idea.

Sometimes these notes are thought-provoking, sometimes inspiring, sometimes humorous, and most of the time they're just so well-written that I feel they deserve to be preserved (you know, in the super-special gilded pages... of my iPhone Notes.)

Here are a few of the quotes I've jotted down over the past few months and books:

"Cassandra always hid when she read, thought she never knew quite why. It was if she couldn't shake the guilty suspicion that she was being lazy, that surrendering herself so completely to something so enjoyable must surely be wrong." Kate Morton, The Forgotten Garden (I definitely identify with that feeling!)

"The amateur works until he can get it right. The professional works until he cannot go wrong." Julie Andrews, Home: My Early Years (Wow! I've never thought about it like that but it definitely makes sense.)

"Sally wasn't really very pretty, but no one ever noticed because she behaved as if she were." Kristin Levine, The Lions of Little Rock (Truth, right?)

"To think was to dip the paint-loaded brush of doubt into the clear water of certainty." Kate Morton, The Distant Hours (I think?) (Seriously, that woman has a way with words.)

"Fear of trials sometimes depletes more energy than facing trials! Once we accept the inevitability of hardship, we can redirect our focus from fear to faithfulness." Beth Moore, Paul (I'm doing this Bible study and I'm pretty sure I could include quotes from every single day. I love Beth Moore and I'm convinced when I move to Houston we'll become bffs who meet for coffee.)

"As usual, we were supposed to spend 15 minutes jotting down our deep and cosmic thoughts about the quote while the teacher checked her deep and cosmic email." Jordan Sonnenblick, Curveball: The Year I Lost My Grip (This guy is the master of YA and capturing the teenage voice... a perfect mix of sarcasm and heart.)

"He was an English teacher and thought life should have a topic sentence." Beverly Cleary, Sister of the Bride (I will never not love Beverly Cleary and I also think life should have a topic sentence.)

"But supposing that by casting all these things into an imaginary world, stripping them of their stained glass and Sunday school associations, one could make them for the first time appear in their real potency? Could one not steal past those watchful dragons? I thought I could." C.S. Lewis, quoted by John Granger in Looking for God in Harry Potter (This was a fascinating book but I especially loved this quote about the Narnia series.) 

Have you read anything good... even quotable... lately? 


Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Word of the Year

When I wrote my word of the year post last year and the year before, I knew almost immediately what I wanted my word to be. (Of course, the first year I did it, I wrote the post in March and not January but that's neither here nor there.) But this year I just wasn't sure what to choose... after thinking on it for several days I finally arrived at.... (drum roll....) THRIVE.

If you've talked to me in person in the last year, you've probably heard me rave about this album and this book at some point. But the song "Thrive" in particular has been one that we've had on repeat in our house for months. Every time I hear the words, I'm encouraged or convicted (or both!) and I thought the word thrive would be perfect for this year.

After a year of change, lots of ups and downs, and finally a brand new direction for our ministry, I felt like my word needed to reflect my desire to do more than just survive (which I stole from the song, actually.) 2014 was a great year, but I feel like I spent the majority of it with my head barely above water. But God wants so much more for us than that- He wants us to THRIVE. And on the precipice of another year full of change (but in a different, better way, I think) I wanted a word that would remind me to live as richly and fully as possible. Thrive means, "to grow or develop well or vigorously; flourish, prosper." That' exactly what I want to characterize this year- vigorous growth and development in every area.

And (even though I started this post last week) I have felt even more sure about choosing "thrive" after the events of the past few days. On Saturday, we went to my cousin Bethany's funeral. I hate that I wasn't able to know her very well, but after the service I felt like I did. She was so loved, so vibrant, so excited about serving God, that even though it was a heartbreaking day, I left feeling inspired by her life and wanting that feeling to impact me more profoundly than just a fleeting emotion. Through the testimonies of many people, it's become obvious that Bethany thrived... as a wife, mom, sister, daughter, friend, teacher, and Christian. She thrived when ministry took her to foreign countries and she thrived when it meant uprooting herself (more than once) from the familiar. I think that Bethany's legacy will influence many people in many different ways, but this word is the way it's influenced me. I want to thrive just like she did.

Life is so busy, so crazy, so full of unexpected problems, and so exhausting sometimes that it's easy to go and go and go to the point of survival. Running on empty is not only possible but it's probably the state I'm in more often than I care to admit. In the last few years I've seen friends who seem to really be thriving in their ministries or jobs and thought, "Why don't I feel that way? I love what I do but I don't feel like I'm bounding out of bed every day ready to do it." Of course, no one will feel that way every day, but if I'm having more "surviving" days than "thriving" days, there's a problem. God's people should be the happiest and healthiest (spiritually speaking) people on the planet. 

I've seen evidence of this in my own family members this week; even in the midst of unbelievable sorrow and grief, they have been able to smile and praise God. Why? Because "we sorrow not as those who have no hope"! Thriving doesn't depend on our own emotions or even our view of our circumstances. John Piper said, "My feelings are not God. God is God. My feelings do not define truth. God's Word defines truth." As we were reminded at Bethany's service, things are not always what they seem! God's plans are always perfect, even when they're different than our own, and resting in that environment of sovereignty creates a much more healthy atmosphere for thriving than our own flawed agenda.

So, in 2015, on the precipice of a year full of transition, new beginnings, and even a change of address, I want to thrive- grow, develop, flourish, and prosper- like never before. 

"We know we were made for so much more than ordinary lives; it's time for us to more than just survive... we were made to thrive."

What's your word of the year?