You are good when there's nothing good in me.

September 26, 2013

^^^Neon night @ Awana's (These two women are two of my best friends and also two of the most positive influences in my life, always keeping me on track)

I got baptized this weekend. Besides the moment I decided I was going to fully commit my life to God, I honestly believe it was and always will be the greatest moment of my life. So many people consider the day they married their husband/wife, the day they graduated from college/high school, the day they got that dream job, the day they won a National Championship or even the day they got that new car they have always wanted to be the best day of their life. And I just feel sorry for them because they couldn’t have things any more backwards. Just to get things straight, if you don’t live the way I do or make God your #1 priority, I don’t judge you or think any less of you, because for almost 24 years I was the same exact way and I probably did worse things than you ever thought of doing. But I DO hurt for you and I DO want something different for you and I DO pray for you and all I want for you is to make that decision to change your life. I didn’t it make it for so many years because I was selfish and I wanted to experience all this world had to offer me. It took me until August 29, 2013 to realize I was dead wrong and on the road straight to hell. I want you to realize NOW that this world has nothing good to offer you. And I don’t want this for myself. I want it because that’s what God wants. I wish you could put how it feels to have a personal relationship with God into words. But it’s not. Until you experience it for yourself, you just are not going to be able to understand. This example doesn’t do God justice but just think about your best friend. The person you tell all or most of your secrets to and even share your problems with. You probably trust them more than your parents or anyone else. You love them and they love you. When I first went to college I didn’t know hardly anybody. I was playing softball at UT Tyler and was going to be rooming with two random freshman girls and another girl that didn’t play softball. If you know me at all, until I get to know you I’m extremely shy and I don’t like to be the center of attention. I definitely don’t like to get out of my comfort zone. Anyways, at first college was miserable because I had no friends, but one of the girls that was my roommate quickly became one of my very best friends. We were inseparable. We literally spent every waking minute together and would sometimes even sleep together at night. I would not have made it through college without her. I can remember so many nights that she would just lay there in one of our tiny twin beds rubbing my back until I fell asleep. We went grocery shopping together, we went to softball practice together, and so many other things. It was such a great feeling to never be alone and have someone there that you knew always had your back. College would have been miserable and unbearable without her. The whole point of this story is that this is what your relationship with God is like. Once you have this relationship you suddenly realize that life is and was miserable and unbearable without him. And even better, he is always there even when nobody else is, he loves you no matter what you do-there is nothing you could do to make him love you any less(this is really the most amazing thing to me because you think of you and your best friend and sometimes you lose best friends or they stop loving you or you just know there are certain things you could do either on purpose or accidentally that would make y’all not friends anymore or not as close of friends-but with God that relationship isn’t like that at all he will always love you unconditionally) and he knows every single thing about you even the stuff you think is too embarrassing to tell even your best friend AND he still loves you not in spite of these things but because of these things. One of my favorite verses that Kayla Casey showed me is 2 Corinthians 12:9-10. It says, “But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” God doesn’t need or expect us to be perfect or never make mistakes. He can use every time you screw up and even if you have a less than exceptional past…he still is able to use these things to glorify him. The person who was speaking to the Corinthians in the verse I just quoted was Paul. If anybody had a less than exceptional past that some might think “Oh there is no way that God could ever use this guy”… it was Paul. He had murdered and persecuted so many Christians before he made the choice to change his life and have a relationship with God. But this didn’t make him any less of a follower of Christ and it didn’t make him less able to share the word of God so that others could come to know God the way he had. In most ways, I feel like he was the one with an advantage because after he was saved he was so dedicated and so passionate about sharing God and following God’s plan for his life and through this he never forgot how great God’s grace was or where he had come from.

Last night instead of teaching Awana’s we went and worshipped with John Sherrill in the Sanctuary with all the Youth Group and a few other adults. Near the end of service, he was calling on people to speak up about struggles they were having or had been praying about and to come up to the altar and kneel down and pray. Towards the end he said he really felt like he had an adult on his heart that was struggling with something. I was so convicted. I knew it was me but I just could not make myself get up and walk down that aisle in front of those few adults and teenagers and admit to everyone that I was struggling. The main reason is because I keep “looking back” as Toby said last night. I haven’t let my past go when God already has. I am belittling the sacrifice he made when he sent his OWN SON to die on the cross for my sins. I don’t want to turn God’s grace into something cheap and that’s exactly what I keep doing when I allow my past to control me and when I allow myself to still be a slave to my past. I am and always have been a big people pleaser ever since I was a teenager. I have always wanted to be well-liked and accepted and could never stand if I hurt anyone or if anyone was mad or upset with me. Last night, I was so afraid that someone was going to judge me because I had recently got saved and I was already struggling, or that I was going to somehow be seen as a bad example that I completely ignored what God was putting on my heart. He had even put it on someone else’s heart I believe because he knew I needed that extra push and I still ignored him!!! What is wrong with me?? Last night as I worshipped and watched some of those kids I remembered what it felt like to be in middle school and high school and go to Wednesday night church. Back then I didn’t give God my full attention and focus on Him and worshipping him with all my heart. I was always more worried about who had texted me, looking cool and cute in front of my friends by making some joke, whether or not my voice sounded good when I was singing, or if someone was going to think I was a loser because I decided to speak up when a question was asked. And even after all that time and having a totally different relationship with God at this point of my life, I was STILL worried what others were going to think about me instead of just listening to God and putting my faith in Him. How could I want something different for these kids or expect them to put their faith in Him when I still was not willing to do the same. Toby has been asking me to come and share my testimony with the youth group on a Wednesday night. I keep telling him “No, I’m not ready yet…I still need time to grow in my faith and become more secure in myself” when the whole time I’m thinking to myself that he will eventually forget about it and then on top of all that I’m lying to myself and reassuring myself that God has forgiven me for my past and he just wants me to let it go. While it’s true I am forgiven for all of that, God can still use my past. But he can’t use it if I don’t allow him to. It’s not enough to sit behind this computer screen where I’m comfortable and have time to organize my thoughts and make my story all pretty and inspiring and to where there are no ugly tears falling down my face, no cracking voice as I’m sharing my testimony, no pain at remembering all of the terrible decisions I made before. God wants more from me. He wants to use everything in my past that hurt me and taught me to reach out to someone else and keep them from following that same, long hurtful road or maybe give them the strength to come to know Him now instead of 10 years down the road. Maybe they are just getting a little sidetracked and need that little nudge to get back on track. Just like God wants more from me… I can almost guarantee you that God wants more from you then what you are giving him. If everything is easy and going smooth in your walk with God, then you are probably not 100% committed to what God’s plan and what he wants for you. One of the hardest things for me to accept is that I shouldn’t fit in anymore. I should stand out because I do not belong to this world. I belong to Jesus Christ. In the video that played before I was baptized, I said when people look at me I don’t want them to see everything I had done in the past, but I wanted them to see Christ through me and working in me. But how can I expect them to ever see that if I don’t break my barriers and borders down and allow Him to work through me in ANY way, not just the ways that Ashley’s comfortable with right now? Answer: I CAN’T. In a song we heard at Breakaway Tuesday night, part of the lyrics say “Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders”… A lot of times I sing the words-yes it’s from the bottom of my heart and I mean them with everything that I am, but I sing them without fully realizing and comprehending what I’m even saying until I really listen to them several times or look them up on Google and actually read them to myself. I realized I was singing, worshipping God and asking Him to let the Holy Spirit lead me to where my trust in Him is without borders, which is the very thing that I was not allowing the Holy Spirit to do in me. Finally, last night John Sherrill convicted me without ever realizing it and helped me make this breakthrough in my faith and break down these barriers I have put up without even realizing it, to try and protect myself and keep myself in my comfort zone. I don’t want a feel-good relationship with God. I want a raw, honest fully accountable relationship with Him and the scary thing is that it is so easy to stray from this. The same friend that was so hurtful when I first got saved and told me not to go around acting like a Saint apologized to me and told me they didn’t mean for me to take it the way I did. They said they were happy for me, but not to lose myself in my new relationship with God. They didn’t realize and neither did I at the time, but that statement kept nagging me and I couldn’t get it off my mind. I finally recognized that maybe that’s exactly what I need, I just need to completely lose myself in God and forget my fears and doubts and shortcomings and just allow the “Spirit to lead me where my trust is without borders.”

Love y’all. And thank you again just for everyone’s continued support and encouragement. I couldn’t do it without a single one of you and I wish everyone knew how much I truly appreciate everything you have done for me, including every prayer.