Hosea 2:14-16

Therefore I am now going to allure her; I will lead her into the desert and speak tenderly to her. There I will give her back her vineyards, and will make the Valley of Achor a door of hope. There she will sing as in the days of her youth, as in the day she came out of Egypt. "In that day," declares the Lord, "you will call me 'my husband'; you will no longer call me 'my master.'"

Friday, July 15, 2011

just living in the now

Wow. It's hard to believe that the summer is already half way over. I'm having a blast. I'm still not used to the fact that I am in California for the summer! It hits me every time I look out and see the beautiful mountains I'm surrounded by. As great as the summer has been so far, it has also been very stretching. The Lord is humbling me and stripping me of everything that is comfortable. Just when things seem to get easy, another situation arises. Sounds like life to me, I guess :) It's been really painful at times, and most of the time I don't understand what the Lord is trying to do, but I know He is working it out for good. So I don't have to know, and I can be okay with that. As much as I want to try to fight it, I've had to stop and realize that He is giving me such a sweet gift of faith where it's all I have to hang onto. I always want to be at a place where I say," yes, Lord!" I'll admit, that hasn't been my first response to everything that has been placed in front of me this summer. My flesh wants to kick and scream, but my spirit really is willing, because I desire His will above my own. I am discovering so much more about myself. I see how the Lord is transforming me. There are things about myself that I do not recognize, but I love them. There are aspects about myself that I can clearly see the Lord changing. I love delighting in the Lord. That's all I have to do. He does the rest. I can't change anything about myself, really. These things are a product of just enjoying the Lord. I am so excited to see what He will be up to next.
I got the privilege of coaching a Second Wind team of 14 girls and guys, ages 15-17, for two weeks. I loved it. The Lord was all over my experience. He did the work. And I got to sit back and watch :) He is teaching me a lot about living in the now. I am pretty sure I am not going back to school this semester. I will most likely be staying at the ranch to help them until mid September. After that, I'm not totally sure, so I'm just kind of living week to week right now. It's not my natural tendency to be okay with not having plans. That's one thing the Lord is changing in me.
Our Lord Jesus is doing mighty works out here in Etna, CA. I wouldn't want to be anywhere else. I'm so enjoying being with the people out here. I love these people. We just want Jesus, and we want Jesus for other people. Our Lord is so good. He is faithful. I am so incredibly thankful that I am covered by His blood and that His grace is sufficient for me.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Best of both worlds

Just thought I would take few minutes to give a quick update from the West coast! It's been a great 2 1/2 weeks in California so far. The first 2 weeks were non stop training. And when we weren't training, we were working. Most of us weren't prepared for the extremely cold weather, and on top of that, it rained almost everyday.  Everything had to get done, so we had to work through all of the weather. I will be on programs for the summer, which entails mostly ropes and bikes, and I will possibly be coaching (leading teams that come through each week). Training weeks were a lot of fun, but also busy, overwhelming at times, and exhausting. Some of the jobs that we were asked to do during our work days seemed pointless, but we didn't ask questions. Just smile, nod, and do it :) It felt like we raked every square inch of the ranch. It is definitely a different atmosphere than what I have been around for the past 4 months, and I miss getting to talk and hang out with people whenever I want, but there is joy in all of it because I know I am doing it all for the Lord.
I am also part of a group that is rotating back and forth from the ranch to Scott River Lodge about every other week. The lodge is a 5 star getaway on the river where up to 9 couples can stay for a week. Very high class out here compared to the ranch. I mean, I iron the sheets! My shift starts at 6 am and ends at noon. I set up and serve an extravagant breakfast for the guests and the groups going down the river, then I clean the rest of the time. I get the afternoons to myself and just get to relax. I really love it out here. It's a very different feel from the ranch. We stay in a cozy house by the lodge, and we get to cook our own meals for ourselves and other staff and river guides each night.   We also have to milk the goat every evening. It's a very peaceful place, and the Lord knew that it would be good for me to be out here at the lodge this summer. I am going back to the ranch on Saturday, and I am very excited to see all the new guests and all of my friends. I really feel like I get the best of both worlds.
Nothing at all is set in stone for me after the ranch, and the Lord has me in huge trusting and waiting season. It's a relief to know that I can't mess up His plan. It really is a daily, even hourly thing to surrender my future. I am so glad that Jesus has already taken care of it all. He has me here, right now, so I'm just going to enjoy that.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Truly Blessed

I hate that it has been so long since I have posted! It's so hard to know where to begin. I will start by saying that the past 4 months were the fastest 4 months of my life. And the best thing that I could ever do. For so many reasons. The time that I spent in the barn in Alabama is time that I will never have again. It was so treasured. It's where everything in me was challenged. It's where tears were spilled and dealings took place. It's where healing began. It's where close bonds where made. It's where my life was changed. It's actually where I lost my life. But most of all, it's where I fell in love with Jesus. I fell in love with True Love Himself.

We got back from Israel a week ago, after being there for 3 1/2 weeks. It was an incredible experience. It was a hard trip in some ways for me, but soooooo much fun. I can't tell you how many rocks we saw. We often joked by saying, "All that I feel like I've done this trip is eat, sleep, and look at rocks." Honestly, a lot of it runs together. We moved around constantly and saw so many different things and places. Many of us were "over it" not too long after arriving at a site, not because we didn't want to see it or we weren't grateful to be there, but because it wasn't a physical object or place that excited us. It's Christ Jesus Himself who we stand in awe of and worship. Those places weren't holy. Jesus is holy. At the same time though, I really am thankful and so blessed to be able to experience all that I did and to be in the region and areas where Jesus lived and walked. It was hard to believe I was actually there, even as I stood in the very sea on which He walked, floated down the river in which He was baptized, and dove in the sea that Moses parted. A huge reason why we traveled to Israel was to be exposed to religion. There was so much emptiness, so many rules and rituals, and so much darkness and death. It was a breathe of fresh air when we did encounter people who had the Holy Spirit living in them. They radiated Life. I really appreciate getting to be immersed in the Jewish culture, all the while knowing that I KNOW Jesus and He knows me and living in that freedom.
A lot of people got sick on the trip, so vitamin C was a treasure throughout the tour. It was only by the grace of God that I did not get sick, because I was surrounded by it. Praise the Lord that everyone got well enough to get scuba certified. It was an amazing week underwater!

The trip home seemed to never end, but I was able to sleep over 6 hours on the plane, which NEVER happens for me. My mom and brother surprised me at the airport and most everyone had lunch together before going our separate ways. We had to say goodbye to a brother and sister who will not be with us at the ranch this summer, so that was not so fun. My time here at home has been good, even though physically I haven't been so well. But it has been great to be with family and see some friends. It was definitely very strange for me to come back home after 4 months of being away. I come back home and it seems like everyone I know is engaged, married, or having a baby! Haha. I feel like a lot has happened since I have been gone! Kind of feel out of the loop on a lot of things. I have been missing my LEGACY family so badly, but I get to see most of them tomorrow! I leave for the airport in about 6 hours. I am also so excited and feel so blessed that my brother, Thomas, will be working at JH Ranch this summer as well! It's a huge step for him, and I am believing that the Lord is going to do amazing things while we are there. I am so thankful that we get to experience this together. We are not sure exactly what our specific job will be yet, but we should find out after the first week of training. I will be working for the Lord whether I am mountain biking, working in the kitchen, or house keeping. The Lord knows where we need to be!

I have so many stories and details from my time in Alabama and in Israel that I so wish I could share, but  it's pretty much impossible for me to do over a blog and it would take quite a while. I want to thank all of you again for your continued prayers and support. I could not have done any of this without the Lord leading each of you to give and/or pray for me. I am so sad that those 4 months are already over, but I know they are supposed to be, and I am ready for what the Lord has next for me. This next season is going to be different, because we will be going non stop and encountering new people each week. After being in our little "bubble" (I guess you could say) we are now going back into the routine of life where we now have the opportunity to serve and work. Praise the Lord for His grace. I know this summer will be challenging. But we have all we need. Jesus. He lives inside of us, so we don't need to be anxious or worried. I still plan on going to UGA in the fall. I am not sure on my major yet or where I will live, but that will come. I get back on August 7th and classes start on the 15th. I trust the Lord with all of the details with what I am supposed to be doing, even though my flesh wants to take over and freak out. The waiting part is hard for me right now....with a lot of different things in my life, but i know He will let me know and reveal in His good time.

Well, I think it's about that time. I need a few hours of sleep before the start of this next adventure. By the way, Jesus is the best adventure buddy. You never know what He is going to come up with next! I pray that He is as real to you as He is to me! Bless you, my brother, and my sister. I praise God that we are bound by His love and that we can boast in Him. May the Lord bless you and keep you. May the Lord make His face shine upon you. And give you peace. And give you peace forever.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Something is different

It is absolutely gorgeous today in Eutaw. EVERYTHING is green. The sky is so blue, there is a cool breeze, and the sun is shining. After class today and right before lunch, the Lord told me to take a walk. It might sound ridiculous, but I feel like colors are becoming brighter. The yellow wild flowers and the turtles sitting on the log caught my attention. Everything seems so vivid and bright today. I really believe that is the Lord giving me new eyes to see. As I was playing catch with the Lord, there was peace.

Last weekend was so enjoyable. I drove to Columbus, GA to meet my family. It was the first time I had seen them in over 2 months, so I was pretty pumped. When I arrived back at the barn Sunday night, I was in such a strange mood. I felt overwhelmed in a way, and I didn't know whether to laugh or cry. I was in deep need of some soaking time with the Lord and a washing by His Word. That is exactly what we did the next morning, which was just what I needed. The Lord is so sweet.

I want to share a burden that has been so heavy on my spirit the past week. I have been brought to tears many times, and at one point, out of no where in class, just because I feel so incredibly blessed to be in this season. I found out last weekend that one of my old roommates is engaged. All of my roommates are in a relationship of some sort. Two have boyfriends, one is now engaged, another is married, and another is married with a baby. And by the way, they are all younger than me. You see, this was all supposed to be happening in my life, too. Supposed to be. I was the one with the steady and certain relationship. I was the one that was confident in my plans. My wedding was in sight in the near future. That is all I have ever wanted. But that's just it. That is all I have ever wanted. Those were my plans. But obviously the Lord has something very different in mind for me right now. I am not telling you all of this so you will have pity on me or feel sorry for me. That is the last thing that I want. I don't want you to think that my life is going all wrong, because it's actually going just the way it needs to. When all hell broke loose in my life, at the time, it felt hopeless and devastating. And it didn't matter what people told me. I couldn't see past it. But now, whew....but now I can look back and I see the Lord's sovereign hand all over my life and every event. I am brought to my knees because He picked me to step away from my life. I feel so honored. And so special. He called me. This is such a rare thing. So rare. Sometimes I ask, "Why me?!" And that question used to refer to the suffering and seemingly awful circumstances I was in, but now, when I ask "why me?" I am really asking, "Why do I get to be called away to spend this time with you, Lord?" He must have some big, good, and special plans for my life. He is so faithful and sovereign. As much pain and heartache as I have gone through with different things, I can now say that I would do it all over again for the sake of knowing Christ. I would rather my soul hurt for some time than my spirit be hurt because I lack fellowship with the Father. Because no matter how much your soul is hurting or your physical body, when you know the Father, there is peace that surpasses all understanding.

Something that has been a huge struggle for me for a long time, and I know for so many other people, is locating my spirit. We get so bogged down and frustrated with trying to discern what the Holy Spirit is saying and what we are saying. I have been talking about all of this recently with a few people, and today, the teaching was just what I needed to hear. We tend to worry so much and make things much more complicated than they really are. Everything is starting to make sense. The bottom line is fellowship with the Lord. That is it. I'm done trying to figure out my purpose, career, life, etc. I already know my purpose, and that is to be one with the Father. When we are in fellowship with Him, things start to become clear. He longs to reveal to us because He is not a God who wants to confuse us. I'm going to be honest and say that no wonder things have been so rocky and shaky and back-and-forth in my past. When we are always saying, "Today, God told me this," and then the next day, "Oh, now God told me this," it simply means we are lacking in true fellowship with the Lord. We often approach God and His word with our soul, and that is why everything is so incredibly confusing because we are going off our feelings and emotions, which is absolutely ridiculous. We can't touch God with our body or soul, but only with our spirit, because GOD IS SPIRIT. A brother shared a good word this morning: When you know that the Lord has told you something, then that word is the same for you the next day and the next until He tells you something different. I'm done with the fickleness, and dealing with the fickleness of others. Do I need to overcome an addiction? Just fellowship. Do I need clarity? Fellowship. Do I need direction in my life? Fellowship. Francois has given us an example that fellowship is just like tossing a ball, or frisbee in my case ;), back and forth with Jesus. You say something, He says something back. Another brother made it more clear in saying that it's just like tossing a ball because when God throws something at you, He can't toss it back unless you throw it back to Him first. I'm at such peace with life because Jesus IS MY LIFE. Yes, things are still hard, but I don't feel as much swaying back and forth as I used to. He is regulating everything inside of me.

I can't believe my time here is almost up. We leave for Israel in 2 weeks, and I am at total peace with going. I'm sure a lot of you have heard about the bombing in Jerusalem a couple of weeks ago, but we are just following the Lord's leading, and as of now the trip is still on. I am getting so excited. We looked  at our itinerary this past week, and it made me even more excited!

I am trying to soak up and receive everything that Jesus has for me the next 2 weeks here. I am not the same. I know that I know I will NEVER be the same. I'm still Ashley, but a lot of things are changing. I have more of the reality of Jesus Christ. And it's nothing that I have done. It's all Jesus inside of me. I have said this before, but I wouldn't want my life any other way right now. It's the most satisfying thing doing what the Lord has called me to. I still don't know what He is going to call me to next. I still have no idea where I will be in a few months, but I am at complete peace with that. I'm just waiting on Him. I trust Him. I need Jesus. I need Him so much and I give Him my future and my life.

I really can't wait to see all of you again, whenever that time comes. I pray that the love of Jesus becomes so real to you that you cannot hold on to your own life anymore. I pray for His breaking and cutting in your life, so that you may refined and molded by Him. I pray He will come after you with His constraining love and captivate your heart so that you will never be the same.


p.s. I have reached the full $11,500! All glory to my Heavenly Father! I had no doubt in Him, because with Him, ALL things are possible!

p.s.s. If y'all would like to see pictures of my time with LEGACY, go to my facebook page and there are quite a few!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Jesus paid it ALL, ALL to Him I owe

Well, we leave for Israel a month from today. Unreal. I can't believe 2 months have already gone by. I want to soak in every minute! So I'm sitting here on the barn porch on this gorgeous afternoon listening to Francois and Jonathan play the guitar. Tonight we are having family night dinner and then having swing dancing lessons. I love family night! We have a very intense weekend ahead of us. Starting at 8 AM tomorrow we have class almost all day, with a break for lunch. Some parents are coming to grill out for us. By the way, the Lord has blessed us so greatly with parents and relatives that stock our pantry and refrigerators and bring us delicious homemade meals. But anyway, they say that this will be one of the best and the worst weekends. We will be learning about suffering- not suffering because of sin, but because of refinement. They say we will probably start to shut down sometime tomorrow afternoon. Tomorrow night we are going to watch the movie The Passion of the Christ, which was intense years ago when it came out, but I know it will touch me more now that Christ's death and resurrection is becoming personal to me. The past couple of days we have been learning about what Jesus accomplished in the grave. I have always just said, "Yeah, Jesus died on the cross for my sins, and now I am forgiven." It has been SO sweet to learn about what actually happened on the cross and also in the grave. It is becoming so real. How could I not live for the Lord after what He went through for me?! This is all stuff I have really never heard before. Something that has really touched me this week is that Jesus went through COMPLETE separation from the Father so that you and I would never have to. I would rather go through any trial or struggle than be separated from my Father. That is the worst thing I could ever think of. And Christ did that for me! Oh thank You, Lord! I can live in peace and enjoy God because of what Christ accomplished. There is not one reason why I should ever worry again. The work is done and I am living forever with God. I won't ever experience true death, Hallelujah!

We worked a little in another vineyard this week. It's about time for them to start budding! I also got to help my brother Jake with a welding project, and another day I worked in the garden pulling weeds. There are so many awesome projects going on here. We had a little surprise one day, and they took us all on a trailer behind a four wheeler to go mud riding. I will just say that we were all brown when we got back. We have tons of fun here on the farm! 

I might be able to write a little more at the end of this weekend, but I am not certain. I would love to talk more about some spiritual things, but honestly there is just so much and I find it difficult sometimes to explain. But it will come. Just know that the Lord is doing a mighty work inside of me. I can't fully convey it now in this short time, but just know that He is long-suffering and wants to reveal Himself. And He is. 

Time to get ready for dinner. Jesus loves you. His love is constraining. Let Him be your everything.
Much love and peace. 

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Just a quick word

Hey everyone!
I don't have time to write much on this post, but I just wanted to write a little something so update y'all! Well, Jesus is still on the throne, and He is doing awesome works in all of our lives here in this barn! The teachings are still incredible. We pretty much finished pruning the vineyard last week, which needed to happen because the vine knows it's almost time to bud. Last weekend was our second off weekend, and a few of us drove to Sevierville/Gatlinburg, TN for the weekend. We were planning to go on the most strenuous hike in Gatlinburg, to the very top of a mountain, at some point during the weekend, but the weather was questionable. We had planned to go on Sunday morning because it was supposed to be a little more clear. Sunday morning, I woke up and looked out the huge windows to see it snowing, and it wasn't just flurries. These snow flakes were massive. We were not expecting snow, and it was so beautiful, but I was kind of disappointed because we wouldn't be able to hike. We decided to give it a try and stop if it got too dangerous, but the road to the trail was closed. Instead, we found another place to hike, and it was one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen! The Lord wanted us to experience His beauty through the snow! I was actually glad that it snowed instead of being sunny because I was completely blown away.

As I said before, the Lord is moving. I praise Him that He is so relentless. My God is long-suffering. Day by day, He is removing my fear of man and freeing me of myself. I have had the opportunity to help lead worship by singing on celebration night, without practice and spontaneously. I have also had to get up in front of everyone and speak on a verse that was given to me on the spot. This is all outside of my natural disposition, but I am being pulled out of all of that. It's not about me. It's about Christ inside of me.

Yesterday we all went to Greensboro, AL to Pie Lab, which I loved. In the afternoon, we came back to the vineyard to shoot skeet, and last night we all did the odyssey (a huge ropes course) in the dark. It was a full and fun day!

Last week was a "silent week." Everyone was supposed to be quiet until dinner at 6. It was a really good week and a good time of focus. Today we were silent again to get some reading done and to be alone with the Lord. It is really blessing me to see Him working through my brothers and sisters. It was so sweet to hear a brother testify tonight about the Lord's stripping him of his pride. Doing the ropes course really revealed a lot in all of us. This one brother was so confident in himself in so many things, but the Lord was working on him the whole time. He was trusting in everything that he was capable of doing and everything that he knew. The Lord stopped him in his tracks and asked, "Are you doing all of this because you are confident in your own ability and control, or are you doing this because you trust Me?" I think the Lord is stripping us all of our confidence in ourselves and teaching us about trust. He is calling us to that place of complete abandonment to Himself.

Anyway, I am being kicked out of the barn because it's bedtime, but I will hopefully write again next weekend. Once again, thanks for praying! May you experience the Lord's great love for you this week!

Monday, February 28, 2011

Back on the farm

Well, today we have the day off to rest. We got back last night from an awesome weekend serving with Outback America. It was held at Grands Plantation and about 250 college students attended. We arrived Thursday afternoon to help set up, and we had a really sweet evening in the chapel sharing about Jesus and singing songs to Him. The weather was really bad that night, so instead of sleeping in tents, we all slept in the big barn-like thing. I think I got maybe a few hours of sleep. The wind was intense and the obnoxious noise it made while hitting the barn door kept us awake. The lights were turned off around 10:15, and around 1 am, the weather was getting extremely bad. There were all kinds of crazy noises and I looked out the big barn door that was open and I saw a big white thing fly across the sky. Then the other huge, wooden door on the other side of the barn flew open and slammed shut again. Someone ran in, flipped on the lights and told us that the prayer tent flew away and that we needed to start praying. So we all got in the middle of the room and started praying.
The next morning we got straight to work. The place was flooded. It looked rather silly seeing vacuums in a big, grassy field, but we had to do our best to suck up all of the water. We used dirt and hay to try to fill in the wet areas so that we could set up over 100 tents. I don't think I sat down all day. On Saturday I led a low ropes course with one of my friends, and it was such a privilege to be a part of what the Lord is doing in the lives of those college girls. I felt so unqualified to do what I did. We had a quick run down of everything, but that was about it. I really began to experience the reality of the Holy Spirit living in me. The old me would be so incredibly nervous and anxious about leading something that I had no experience doing. And I would usually want to rehearse everything I had heard and remember everything single detail. But the "new" me was not nervous at all and was at complete peace. Both Prissy and I both forgot everything Maury had said, which means the Spirit would have to speak through us! Every time we tried to remember things and speak from our flesh, we weren't able to. I experienced freedom from the fear of man and freedom from myself. It was not me, but Christ inside of me!
The whole weekend was amazing. The Lord showed up and so many students experienced Christ and freedom. God is so good. I feel so humbled and blessed to be able to serve the Lord and to see the work He is doing and the lives He is saving. I am glad to be home though!

Jesus is blowing me away with His love for me. I AM HIS GIRL! I belong to Him!! He is the best Lover any girl could ever ask for. He is the perfect Husband. He is the best Romancer. He is enthralled with my beauty. His love is becoming so real. He is the best Pursuer. He is captivating my heart. I have had some wonderful days in the vineyard just basking in His love. It makes me so giddy! I find myself getting very passionate when I talk about the Lord's love and what He has done for me, and the way He has redeemed me. So many things are coming alive. I have read Song of Solomon several times, but it blows me away reading it now. The Lord is the most perfect designer and creator! Lately, I have been so amazed at the symbolism of marriage. EVERYTHING is about Jesus! Every single thing. I have heard so much about marriage and the "two becoming one" and how it is all spiritual, but I am actually getting it! Oh, the Lord is so beautiful. Marriage is such a cool picture of Christ and the Church. Goodness, He is really ministering to me in some deep places, healing and restoring. There are some things I feel like He has placed on my heart, and I am just praying to see what comes from all of it.

God is resurrection and life. He is love. He is grace. He is so many things. It hit me the other morning as I was reading in one of our books, even though I have heard it countless times. Jesus didn't say He was coming to resurrect lives, He said He IS resurrection. It is not that He is a good example or even the best example of love, grace, forgiveness, etc. He IS all of those things!! I am a fool to think that I can love or forgive or do anything without Him. Y'all, without Him I have not love. There is no way that I can love my family, my friends, or my future husband without Christ. Absolutely NO way. I can strive to do all things good, but without Christ, I have nothing. Oh I praise Him for that revelation. I need Him every second. I have to call on Him constantly.

One thing that is kind of crazy to me is that I have really not thought about what I will be doing after LEGACY. Well, I guess I have thought about it, but not often at all. It has not been consuming my thoughts one bit. The other day in the vineyard I did start thinking about it a little more than I have been. I found myself getting a little worried at one point. After talking with a brother about how the Lord has been so faithful, I was quickly reminded that it is ridiculous for me to worry. There is no point. He has been so good and faithful in the past, so why wouldn't He continue to be?! The God of the universe that has had a perfectly put-together plan from the very beginning of time has my life in His hands. I am crazy for worrying about my future. He is already leading and guiding me, so all I have to do is continue to obey.

Wow, I know I could keep going, but I need to go do some other things. I just wanted to share a few things that the Lord is doing in me. I know there is so much more, though. In closing, I just feel so blessed. So incredibly blessed.