Wednesday, October 1, 2014

What They Called Themselves - 31 Days

So there's this thing called Write 31 Days that starts today (October 1). The challenge is to choose one topic and dive deep in just one month's time, inspiring writers to write more and readers to read more.

Simple enough....right?


I've been mulling over this for weeks, trying to decide whether or not it was worth the stress of having to figure out a topic to stay writing on for THIRTY-ONE days. Thirty-one!

Don't these people know that I'm a full-time student, part-time employee, part-time-babysitter, youth worker, fiancé, daughter.... Right.

And just like that I've found my topic.

Sometimes I am so stressed that I literally cannot form one cohesive thought and yet, that doesn't stop me from saying 'yes' to everything. And I do mean everything.

Do you ever feel that way?

Like, life has spun so far out of control that all you can do is cry?

Me too.

But it doesn't have to be this hard. It shouldn't be this hard. God has made us for joy and peace and laughter just because. He sent Jesus to this earth because life is not supposed to be so full of anxiety and stress. If He sent Jesus to pay the price, then why do I keep beating myself up because I can't be everything to everyone?

Genesis 3:10-12 says, "He replied, 'I was afraid because I was naked.' 'Who told you that you were naked?' The Lord God asked. 'Have you eaten from the tree whose fruit I commanded you not to eat?'"

Adam tells God that he hid because he was naked, but God's response is what breaks my heart. So often I have pictured God as being angry in this moment. I always feel like He's disappointed in humankind, in me, for the things I have done wrong. But this morning, I saw a different side of God.

He is genuinely asking, "Who told you this about yourself? I certainly didn't speak this over you. That's not what I had in mind for you."

In that, I break.

I now see a Father who isn't mad and doesn't want revenge. He's sad. He's sad because this wonderful creation He sees as having so much untapped potential has identified itself with something other than Him. We allow so much unnecessary fear and stress into our lives when we believe anyone other than God. That's what I want to explore.

As I sit here and type, I've got a messy kitchen, day-three hair, and a way-too-early Christmas Tree-scented candle. I spent the entire morning babysitting and desperately need a shower. I certainly don't know what these next 30 days, much less 30 minutes, will hold, but I do know that amidst the chaos, I have an anchor, and that's enough. He is always enough.

Twitter: @Smashley355

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Shearer Bliss

My love had always been there.

He played the trumpet in the back of our sixth grade band. We took the same advanced spanish class in eighth grade. He was in my tenth grade chemistry class and my ninth grade history group and that english "pod" we had that one time.

And now we're getting married.

On August 24th, 2014, on the beach, surrounded by unlit candles and a threatening tropical storm, he asked me for my forever and I said 'yes'.

'Yes'. That word has never sounded better to me.

But it didn't always sound so good. Saying 'yes' to God before I said 'yes' to Jacob sometimes hurt so badly I didn't think I'd be able to make it because love is about so much more than kisses and pretty words and "Good Morning" texts every day. It's about choosing and sacrificing and knowing that God Himself is the only reason why you're still breathing.

But boy, am I breathing.

There is something so freeing about living right in the center of God's will. From choosing colleges, to leaving our home church, to getting engaged, Jacob and I have had to make some tough decisions over the last few years. Decisions I didn't know I was old enough to make on my own.

But here we are.

Twenty and finishing school and working for a living. After all this time all I know is that I don't. God does. And He speaks to me.

If there's a lesson to learn from our mistakes, it's that no one knows God's plan and purpose for your life except for God Himself. He's in the business of making something out of nothing and I have full faith that He will do so with my life, no questions asked. So when your well-meaning friends and family decide that God intends on speaking only to them about your future, just smile and say "Thank You" because God's got plans for their lives too.

They just might not know it yet.

So, if you'd like, stay tuned for updates on the road to "I do" via Facebook, Twitter (@smashley355), or our wedding hashtag #ShearerBliss.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Stop the Madness: Who Is Actually Killing Chivalry?

I was on Twitter the other day, and kept seeing tweets that looked like this:

"Every girl deserves this.."

"Every girl should have this kind of guy.."

I am totally for dreaming about the kind of guy you'd want to be with. That's healthy and I sure did my share. But when we start to demand that guys be chivalrous, the situation becomes completely unfair. We, as women, cannot expect guys to be Jesus-loving gentlemen if we aren't first willing to be Christ-centered.

We sure can make it easier for men to be gentlemen if we're willing to meet the same high standards we expect from them.

Here are a few of the things I do to empower myself as a lady and Jacob as a gentleman:

1. Call him out
My pastor, Chris Tomlinson, says that inside every man is either a prince or a punk. It's up to us to speak to the prince, not the punk. I think this applies across the board. Often times, we waste so many words on negativity that people just stop listening. It hasn't always been easy for me, as I'm sure it hasn't been for you, but it is my heart's desire every day to speak life into my guy and others around me because they're worth it. Remember that your guy has the weight of your world on his shoulders too. Let him know he's doing great job and that he's strong. Don't just refrain from the negative. Strive for the positive.

2. Enjoy his company
After you've been together for a long time, the tendency is to get comfortable in your relationship and stop enjoying each other's company. It doesn't have to be like that. There was some point in time where you actually enjoyed spending time together; some point when he was your favorite person in the world. Remember to choose that.

3. Pray for him 
This is a biggie. I never realized how powerful prayer is as spiritual warfare until I started praying for Jacob. Satan doesn't like people that follow God. He launches full-scale attacks on those who love the Lord, and let me tell you, Jacob loves the Lord. I've seen him fight some heavy spiritual battles, and in those moments, it's up to me to fight with him. As women, we are called to be ezer kenegdo, or "help meet". That Hebrew phrase means we're to fight with them. Yes, men are created to carry more emotional, spiritual, and physical weight than we are, but that doesn't mean we can't help them carry it out.

4. Modesty
Don't write me off just yet. I'm not going to advocate for swapping out all of your shorts for capris and committing to turtlenecks forever. I live in Florida, guys. It gets hot here. Like, drive your car with oven mitts, hot. What I am saying though, is that there's a much better way to show people that you're confident in your own skin. God created you so beautiful and so special. You were custom made for a purpose. Do you understand that? You. Are. Beautiful. By wearing clothes that cover a little more and are super cute, by the way, we create an image that perfectly embodies that. Don't sell your incredible self short. You are worth too much for that. The kind of guy you're looking for will be thankful for it.

5. Gratitude
After all is said and done, be thankful for what he does do for you. He opened the door for you? Say "Thank you". Tried (and possibly failed) to surprise you by doing something extra thoughtful? Be thankful. Tell him you so appreciated the gesture and that he is wonderful for thinking of you. You'll both be encouraged to continue the behavior and strengthen the positive communication.

And that's it.

Do you know what happens when I strive to treat both Jacob and myself with the respect and love that Jesus would require? I get my prince. He..

Opens doors for me.
Takes me out on dates.
Texts me to say "Good Morning" and "Goodnight".
Fixes things in my house without me having to ask.
Tells me he loves me and that I'm beautiful and his favorite.
Prays with and for me.
Stands up for me every day.

Too often, we demand chivalrous men but expect punks. We cry when they put us down but are shocked when they shut us out over our negative comments. That's not fair.

If you want a punk, treat him like one.

If you want a prince, treat him like one.

It's that simple.

Like what you're reading? Follow me on Twitter @Smashley355

Friday, July 11, 2014

Better In Time

Me: Circa de 1999. Outfit complete with leggings and some unbeatable white sneaks. 

At the end of June, I celebrated my 20th birthday. Just typing feels so strange because there is a certain finality that comes with the change of a decade.

Turning 10 means that you're no longer a little kid. You're still clueless, but for the first time you're really aware of how much you don't know. 

Turning 20 means adulthood. Well, sort of. If you're doing the college thing, you are most likely half way through and halfway independent, which means you're expected to kind of know what you're doing. *insert scoffing from college students everywhere*

Turning 30 is the editing phase. You're much more established and are building on the lessons (or in some cultures known as "epic fails") you learned in your 20's. You definitely don't have it all figured out yet, but the fact that you're out of college and are (hopefully) pleasantly surprised by your career path should be a good indicator that you're headed in the right direction.

I'm definitely in the middle of cluelessness and understanding. Though I feel like I've always been much older, mentally, I'm still scared that the choices I'll make over the next 10 years won't be the right ones. Have you ever felt that before? Like the entire weight of your future rests on the decisions you're making right now?

Well, instead of embarking on some incredible resolution for my 20's as I seek to impress you with my nonexistent leg up on life, I've decided to go in a different direction. Throughout these next few years, I want to go back; a 10-year-long #ThrowbackThursday, if you will.

Rather than focusing on what I need to become, I want to return to some of the things I experienced and loved as a kid (8-18) in an effort to relearn much of what God has been teaching me up to this point in my life. After all, how long can a building last without a solid foundation?

Not that I don't have a good base for my life. I mean, I'm built on the rock of Christ, my Love, my Life, my Everything.

I do, however, think that there's things I've missed along the way, like:

Parents' advice.

Teachers' teachings.

Whispers of God.

I'd like to try and reclaim some of that before I'm too set to go back. I want to be filled with the childlike faith I used to have so that I can obey God's callings with reckless abandon.

I never want to be too grown up to listen to my Father and trust that He has my best interests at heart.

Like what you're reading? Follow me on Twitter at @smashley355 and tell me about your best lessons you've learned/are learning in your 20's. I'd love to hear your story!

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Dancing in the Minefields (5 Practical Tips for Christian Dating)

Four and a half years is a long time. Especially when you're dating (that's right, dating) the same person. Admitting to being crazy about each other in our sophomore year of high school seemed like a great idea at the time. Except that we're meant to be.

Seriously though, I love my guy. He's more than I ever could have asked for in a boyfriend and future husband. But just dating is hard. Most people get bored with each other after a few months, much less a few years.

So how do we do it?

I've been asked this more times than I can count. I guess it's because Jacob and I are somewhat of an anomaly, since we also haven't kissed yet -- yeah, that's a real thing. So I suppose we could write the book on the subject.

Well, here's 5 things we've survived on over the last four and a half years:

1. Date Night
A well-meaning person once told me that Jacob and I shouldn't have date night because we'll get too close and that is sure to lead to things we shouldn't be doing. Right. Things like talking, getting to know each other, and investing in our relationship. Actually dating the person you're dating is important, people. And going to parties, church, or school together doesn't count. Grabbing dinner doesn't have to mean you end up alone together at your apartment.

2. Choices
We choose each other all over again every day. It seems like a weird concept, but every day I wake up and say, "Yep. He's still the guy for me and he's still my best friend." I don't like to let myself get too used him because that's when we become bored with a beautiful, God-breathed relationship.

3. Laugh
No one makes me laugh like Jacob does and that's because no one knows me like he does. You see, to make someone laugh is to connect with a deeper part of him/her. You've got to understand what they like, don't like, and how to make that funny for that person in particular. The way I see it, the more you can laugh with someone, the better off you both are. Plus, taking yourself too seriously is entirely overrated.

4. Share
When we first started dating, he and I were actually pretty different. I liked country music, he liked rock. I loved sweet tea, he preferred to mix all the different types of juices he could find in the house. Over time, we've learned to share these things with one another and are finding that our likes are converging. I've become an avid movie watcher and he has started to read more. I've been more upfront about what I'm feeling and he's been more patient with me.

5. Prayer
We've also had people tell us that praying together produces intimacy that we aren't ready for. Well, they were right about one thing -- prayer does produce intimacy, but in such a way that you become bonded together for the cause of Christ. When you pray together, your relationship becomes something more than just the two of you. You're (theoretically) asking God to do as He pleases with you together and even if you aren't, you're inviting Him in and I promise, He'll do what He pleases anyway. God specializes in making something out of nothing, and I can tell you that if you will present your relationship to Him, He will use whatever story comes out of it for His ultimate glory.

Like what you're reading? Follow me on Twitter at @smashley355

Sunday, June 1, 2014


When I think of denial, I think of college letters, credit cards and that awful hotline many of you may have either given out or (God forbid) received sometime between the ages 12 and 16. I also think of this picture:

I haven't decided if that's sacrilegious or not yet, but either way, it's hilarious. 

My pastor put it differently this morning. We're doing a series called "Forgotten God" (Francis Chan's book title but not the same material) about the Holy Spirit. He talked about how the Holy Spirit is indeed a person of God, much like your mind, spirit, and physical body are three separate entities but still 100% you. When we deny one part, we deny all parts. 

He went on to describe various ways in which we deny the Holy Spirit. One of those ways was believing He's there and willing and able to act, move, and heal but refusing to walk it out. As soon as he said that, it dawned on me in that movie theater seat: 

That's my problem. 

God is reshaping, reforming, and refocusing me. My life looks less like mine every day and praise Him for that. In Jesus' name I am tired of not being so hopelessly in love with my Savior that I can't just do what He says. By not immediately obeying the movings of God in my life I am denying that He is who He says He is.

Last time I checked, I was a child of God. Not an adult or even a sassy teenager. I am God's kid and always will be. I guess it's time I start obeying without question. I hear that it usually leads to more peace, more freedom, and more love.

Like what you're reading? Follow me on Twitter at @smashley355

Monday, May 26, 2014

Every Plant

I'm in college, a workout enthusiast, a perfectionist and a Jesus lover. So my morning thoughts usually look like this: 

Morning already? 
Do I have time for the gym? 
Yes, I should if I get up now. 
On 3. 1, 2... no.  
But what if I don't have time for breakfast or a devotional? 
If I don't have time for breakfast, then I may pass out in class.
Then Jacob would have to leave work to come and get me. 
No, can't have that. 
So, breakfast then. 
But what about that homework? 
Ugh. I forgot about that. 
I'll fail for sure. 
I should probably get up now and get started. 
1, 2, yes! 

That's all before getting out of bed. Writing it all out here on the screen makes me think about how ridiculous those thoughts are. So many of us do it though:

Will I have time for...? 
What if my kids don't...? 
How will I handle it if...?

We weren't created for worry. Physically, spiritually, mentally and emotionally. Today's culture has so normalized being worried and afraid of the unknown when God just says "Stop". We often think about sin as lust or gossip but the truth is, by letting little things like worry take root in our lives we end up choking out the truths God has planted there Himself. We actually put those thoughts before what God says, creating idols. We are consumed with: 

What if I'm not good enough? Instead of "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." (2 Corinthians 12:9)

What if something happens? Instead of "You are not far from the Kingdom of God." (Mark 12:34)

What if I'm not taken care of? Instead of "Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find." (Matthew 7:7)

I say all of this because I am studying a book that is waking me up. It's called "Weeds of the Mind" by Aaron Maners, a pastor in Orlando who came to speak at our church yesterday. In just the first few pages, I'm wrecked forever. He talks about how weeds are sneaky, slow to creep in, and tend to take over. That's exactly what these thoughts have been in my life. I am so concerned with what might happen that I lose sight of what Jesus has already said will happen: 


Matthew 15:13 says, "Jesus replied, 'Every plant not planted by my Heavenly Father will be uprooted.'" To me, that means the stuff I've gotten so used to hearing that I believe it. 

What weeds could you identify, isolate and remove from your everyday life to make room for joy today? 

I would love to hear your thoughts about this. Comment below or follow me on Twitter @Smashley355 and Tweet me your experiences with "weeds". 

Friday, May 2, 2014

Being Endorsed

You know those days when your fullest intention is to be this superstar christian and read an entire book of the Bible but instead God just won't let you forget one verse? That verse ends up being so prevalent in your life that you can't seem to not think about it all day long?


That happened to me this morning. I spent at least twenty minutes soaking in Galatians 1:1 (NLT).

I know, right. Of all places to get stuck- the starting line. Here's what the verse says:

"This letter is from Paul, an apostle. I was not appointed by any group of people or any human authority, but by Jesus Christ Himself and by God the Father, who raised Jesus from the dead."

Lately I've been battling lies of the enemy. He tells me no one cares and that I'm not equipped. He reminds me of the hurtful words of others. He sinks his nasty claws into my flesh and doesn't let go.

But I have called you, daughter. You are called and special and filled with purpose. 

God showed me that human endorsement means absolutely nothing when it comes to His calling on my life. Paul had no one on his team when he first started his ministry. In fact, most people-religious people-were out to stop him, on purpose. But Paul had hope in nothing less than Jesus Christ who called him. That endorsement means a thousand times more than any Twitter Followers, Facebook Likes, or books sold. I could write for the rest of my life without one reader and God would still be proud because I did something with His calling on my life.

So will you pray with me today? That we would be a people with a thirst for life in Jesus' name; A people who don't wait for life to happen to us. I'm praying today that we would happen to life.

Like what you're reading? Follow me on Twitter at @smashley355

Thursday, May 1, 2014


Wow! Is it really already May? All of a sudden I find myself in my junior year of college, about to turn twenty, living in a condo in the middle of my city. I can walk to get groceries from Publix and a bagel from Panera. Needless to say, my life is becoming my favorite.

You know what I mean? Like I'm no longer (for the most part) concerned with how he's living his life or how she conducts herself because I am me, and my life is my favorite.

But before I get in too deep, here are a few of my other favorites from this past April:

Olan Rogers:

I cannot say enough great things about this guy. He loves Jesus, storytelling, and pizza parties. This particular video is about his paint-balling experiences as a middle schooler. Needless to say, it is one of the most quoted videos in my home.

Packing Light by Allison Vesterfelt: After accepting Jon Acuff's Empty Shelf Challenge, I embarked on a book frenzy of sorts. My 13th read was Packing Light by Allison Vesterfelt and to say I was convicted would be an understatement. Her words about a trip she took across the country challenged me to leave behind unnecessary baggage and "leave my expectations at the door." From now on, I'm packing light.

I dare you not to like this meme. I was at small group last night when my leader started talking about this story about Peter from the Bible. I absolutely could not picture this scenario any other way. I mean, seriously. This is hilarious!

"Imagine if Christian and Ben were secret agents. Who would be 007?" My small group played this game the other night. Normally, I'm really not one for board games but to avoid being that person in the room that refuses to play, I decided to give it a go. I can honestly say I haven't laughed that hard in a while. Most of the answers were totally bogus, but I feel like if you can't laugh at yourself every once in a while, you are seriously missing out on a whole different realm of joy.

All in all, April has been a pretty great month full of newfound joy in the little things. I feel like God puts these funny things in my life to remind me that He has put me here on this earth to enjoy life. I pray that you get to discover a little bit more of His joy in this coming new month!

Now, what were your favorites from April? I'd love to hear about what God is doing in your life! Feel free to leave me comments :)

Like what you're reading? Follow me on Twitter at @smashley355.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Duty and Destiny

I didn't want to go. I didn't want to go like a five-year-old doesn't want to drink that cough syrup all our moms have made us take at some point. You watch it, tiptoe around it, and maybe she just won't notice. I mean, this cough isn't that bad. I'm sure I'll get over it.

But that's the thing about God. He isn't in the business of bandaids. He calls us to fullness of healing and greater tomorrows. I had a bitter pill to swallow in order to do what I knew in my gut He wanted me to do. So I went.




Like a bone, He allowed me to be broken so that I could be set in a familiar place, but in the right way; to heal properly. Can I tell you a secret? Just between us?

It worked.

I fell back into old steps like never before and joy flooded my soul. What I first saw as my duty became a part of my destiny in Christ. I was completely and utterly dependent on Him to form something out of my brokenness and it was beautiful.

You see, sometimes God sends us back into the desert we just came out of with a map. Like, "Okay, you've been here before. Now what can you do differently this time?" Did you know that the Israelites, the ones who wandered in the desert for forty years were actually only a few days' journey from their destination originally? God let them wander so that they would learn to trust Him, wholeheartedly, before leading them straight into the Promised Land.

I say all this to say that God could have offered me the same opportunities in the place I was in. I wouldn't have had to say goodbyes or hurt or deal with the bitterness. But He allowed me to be broken so that I could be set in right standing with a direct map to the Promised Land, more abundant than before. He wanted my duty to become a wonderful destiny, replacing the old memories with new ones. I am thankful for the heartache in the long run. I am. Because God's grace is bigger than me and it always will be.

Like what you're reading? Follow me on Twitter at @smashley355

Saturday, April 19, 2014

The Seder

Thursday night I attended my first "Seder" dinner with my boyfriend and his family. I really wasn't sure how to approach this medium-sized, Marriott Hotel ballroom filled with yarmulkes (traditional Jewish skullcap) and "regular people" at first. All I knew was that this Passover-style dinner mimicked a time in the life of my Savior.

We prayed, worshipped, took parsley flakes dipped in salt water and bitter herbs that would put wasabi to shame. Think I'm kidding? You try eating that mushroom-looking explosion of spices. In my feeble mind, the sheer magnitude of what my on-fire mouth was experiencing alone must have meant Jesus meant business.

We then moved on to enjoying an all Kosher meal that consisted of chicken, vegetables, sweet potatoes. Not my usual cup of tea, but I was determined to soak up every bit of this experience because my Jesus had done something very similar. I had spent a good portion of my morning in prayer, asking God to do something in my heart that I had never experienced before.

Jesus, show me. 

We finished dinner and stood up to worship. The first song was in Hebrew and I was lost. Discouraged, I listened and prayed as Jewish hands went into the air.

Jesus, show me. Please.

The song changed to something I knew in english (I can't even remember the name to be honest) and more hands went into the air. The praise in the room swelled and suddenly I felt my heart would burst.

That's when He showed me. 

"There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male or female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus." -Galatians 3:28 (NIV)

Sitting in the back of the room, I saw each and every one of the worshipping hands and heads, capped and uncapped. The loudest and most heartfelt praise I had ever experienced was coming from Jews and Gentiles alike, and that is what He wanted to show me.

Ashley, this is why I died. So that you could worship alongside my other children without shame or condemnation. The church is one body, worldwide. It is the essence of who I am. 

Tears fell. How could I have missed it? He brought me there to show me that people from other churches, Jewish people, pastors I've never met before all worship Him the same way I do. The church is supposed to represent the whole body of Christ, even when we don't recognize His skin tone or traditions or language. Sometimes we lose sight of that in the quest to get people saved and raise attendance numbers to that we "outgrow" our spaces. What God showed me was that we have to be praying for the other churches across our city, country, and world. How would the state of Florida, Alabama, California, Tennessee change if we began praying for the churches we drive past on the way to "ours"? My prayer is that I will see another congregation and not think of them as another "body of Christ" but another part of the same body.

Jesus, change my heart. Let me see them like You would: whole and beloved. 

Like what you're reading? Follow me on Twitter at @smashley355

Tuesday, April 15, 2014


I've written this post a thousand times I think, mulling over grammar style and subject matter and ways that I can convey an idea that bubbles inside my soul. But at the cross, that stuff doesn't matter. When we're faced with the humanity of who we are, only Jesus remains. His soft grace lulls me into a peace I haven't felt in a while.

Jesus, You are beautiful.

I can't help but melt at the vastness of Him, taking me over in all His glory. I think I've forgotten to notice lately. No excuses, just transitions.

Sweet Jesus, thank You. 

I rest in Him and let myself dream. Sometimes I want to be a speaker; sometimes a writer. All the time though, I just want to be heard. A lot has changed in the last few years and joy floods my soul now more than ever, but not without a little fear. Do you think they'll listen? Does what I have to say matter? The answer is that it doesn't. What matters is what Jesus has to say. What matters is who He will touch through my life's "questions".

"Right" I think, and His grace begins to wash over me like sweet perfume. Can you feel it? He's closer than a brother because He's lighting me up from the inside, filling my countenance with love and mercy, just like His. Oh, those wounds are mending. Can you see them? Me neither. They fade in the sight of Jesus and I'm wearing His frames from now on.

A thousand praises to You, God. Hallelujah. I am caught in the current of grace.

Like what you're reading? Follow me on Twitter at @smashley355

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Thursday Morning Laundry

I sit in a small room, taking it all in.

Someone speaks but I do not recognize their words. Instead, I take special notice of the insignificants: the computer a few feet away, a newsletter laden bulletin board, the polish on my shaking toes. It's cold in here and easier to ignore the blows this way. 

I'm bleeding now, but I don't fight back. Something inside of me broke and this is all I can do, sit and listen to my dream deferred. I let each droplet hit the floor as everything else hits the fan and I am reminded:


When I leave this room, the whole world will tell me I have a right to be upset. When I leave this room, the whole world will tell me I do not have to forgive someone who will never apologize. When I leave this room, the whole world will coddle my wounds and tell me savor them.


But the whole world is not the benchmark for treating people. Jesus is the minimum for how anybody should be treated because "Ashley, do you remember all that I forgave you of?"


I feel so deflated though and can't seem to get back to where I was. Where did my fire go? I know I love Jesus but my passion is gone. Do they realize what they've done?


Only sound. No sparks.

Six months later I'm doing Thursday morning laundry. It is too mundane and I feel like I should be doing something else. Never enough and now nothing at all.

But maybe that was the point? In light of Jesus, we're all down for the count. What matters is what we do with who we are. Will we let that sin defeat us or use human fallibility to inspire us into God's individual calling on our lives? As lead pastor of Next Level Church Matt Keller puts it, He is the "God of the Underdogs."

So I keep going, keep writing, and keep washing my clothes.

Spark. Flames.

Turns out that dryer lint and grace are highly flammable.

Like what you're reading? Follow me on Twitter at @smashley355

Friday, March 14, 2014





I walk the line through the auditorium. Dead center, I face the ledge. Cheerleaders, thespians, honor students, jocks, dance team. We are all present, standing together one last time. Here, I am my mother's daughter and you are your father's son. By last name we anxiously await to be called, knowing that everything is about to change. 

My mind spins and I can't stop to breathe. Eyes shift from left to right and we know we will never see these faces again. Not like this. I close my eyes and try to lock them in, my souvenirs. His face when he finally asked her out, their cheers as he sunk the winning basket, the sound of the final bell of our year when they took a victory lap around the lockers. Twelve years in this place and tomorrow we're free. Today, we jump. 

I hear my name called as our row stands. Maneuvering in those heels, I pray that I don't trip. Holding that diploma (or lack thereof, for all of you graduates) and shaking the hand of my principal I realize that this is my time. I leave this stage and I am no longer a Providence Stallion or my mother's daughter. I'm not the cheerleading captain and I'm not a senior. I am Ashley. 

So I jump. 

I do what I have been waiting twelve years to do. So scared, so unprepared, but I do it. Do you know what happened?

He caught me. 

So often I realize that I'm scared to jump into the unknown where God is calling me. I know where I come from so that has to be enough. But staying two steps outside of the Promised Land because I'm afraid of how far I might fall is a crime. That day though, I chose to jump because that's the only way the promises of God would come to fruition for me. I had to let go, that day and every day, so that God could be God in my life. 

Today, I sit in my condo and type as an almost college junior, two years out from that day. I am my own person outside of the shelter of my parents and my high school, but only because I decided that jumping into the unknown had to be better than the "what ifs" and "could have beens". Every day I take small hops and big leaps into life so that God has a chance to catch me. Like a toddler jumping to his/her parent for the first time in the pool, I want to close my eyes, squeeze my arms under some Holy Spirit floaties and leap into the unknown. 

Will you choose to jump to Him today? Those strong arms are reaching for you, waiting to grab hold of His child. 

“It’s the oldest story in the world. One day you’re seventeen and planning for someday. And then quietly and without you ever really noticing, someday is today. And that someday is yesterday. And this is your life.” - Nathan Scott "One Tree Hill"

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Monday, March 10, 2014


I fell.

Like Alice down a hole but I didn't land in Wonderland. I landed in an attic. But it wasn't a dream. It was my reality. I had been pushed out of my world and landed in the "real world", covered in cobwebs and dust.

I look around and find memories I faintly recognize. The writer I was going to be in the third grade. The broadway dancer I wanted to be in the fifth grade. The boy I couldn't let go of in middle school. My cheerleading days in high school. I brush off some dust for a better look. Why is this stuff here?

"A Dream Deferred" indefinitely. The packaged boxes make me claustrophobic, each holding an idea that used to be. What I didn't realize is that I never could let them go and that's why they were there, collecting dust in my attic. I've spent so much of my life buying into thought after thought that I've never gotten to use any of what I'd purchased. So concerned with doing it all that I've don't nothing at all. My heart and mind somehow became that closet no one ever wants to acknowledge is there because its too full of "stuff" you don't need.

So I went through my boxes.





Honestly, some packages needed unpacking but some needed to be moved out. The unforgiveness I found after cleaning up the hurt dust on top was the first to go. With the help of a Jesus-sized dolly it has been permanently removed.

Then I unpacked a love for writing that I've had for as long as I can remember. Each day that I type a few more words onto a tiny, lit up screen I unpack a little bit more and my heart and mind get a little bit lighter and warmer.

I guess you could say I've been doing a lot of Spring cleaning lately. Every day I'm trying to unpack a little more so that I can settle into the new me. Besides, this "house" is way too expensive to hold all of that dust and clutter. I have been bought by the blood of Jesus and hope you see that value in you too. He loves and adores that little house of yours, so help Him make more room for you to be you.

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Wednesday, March 5, 2014

What its about

My favorite thing in the world is laughing until my stomach muscles ache. Those surprise moments where catching your breath is just about all you can do. Those moments seem few and far in between now, but when they do come, oh, the feels. My head down to my orange painted toes light up with joy.

To the left is one of my most cherished moments to date. Pictured is my mother, our immediate family (my dad and brother), her two sisters, their families, her brother and his wife, and my grandparents going on 54 years of marriage. That silliness shows me real family but more importantly real love life. 

I truly believe that this kind of life and laughter comes straight from Jesus Himself. Its no secret that He is the Light of the world and John chapter 1 talks about the "Light" coming to the world to bring "life". When we experience this soul illumination to our deepest core I like to believe we're experiencing a little piece of Him.

With that, I'm issuing a challenge.

Lent starts this week and as much as I love this season of church tradition, I think there is way too much focus on what we're giving up. I'd like to challenge you to think about what you could move out of the way so that you can receive that life. Move away the distractions and calluses so that your heart can be more easily "tickled" by the goodness that's still here.

You know what I mean.

I want the smallest, most childlike funnies to produce gut-wrenching laughter that has you in tears. Why? Because that's what happens when a heart that's sensitive toward Jesus is awakened with the very essence of Him. Childlike faith takes over because the Light has brought life like no other. Lent is about preparing for Easter. Easter is about new life in Christ. New life in Christ is what we're here for and that is why I acknowledge Lent.







What are you going to exchange for newness of life in this season?

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Sunday, March 2, 2014

What I learned

Emily P. Freeman, author of my new book obsession, A Million Little Ways, issued a challenge to readers of her blog. What did you learn in February?

February seemed to leave as quickly as it came, but not without shining a light on some new lessons first. Here's what I learned in the last 28 days:

1. You are as weird as your closest friends. 
My roommate and I are the oddest pair. I'm quiet, sensitive, and a slave to routine. She's loud, fun-loving, and the most dramatic person I've ever met. I'm proud to say she's rubbed off on me. Thank you for being my best friend, Kels.

2. If Hollywood were to make a female version of the Rocky movies, Mandisa would write the soundtrack. 
Don't pretend like "Good Morning" or "Overcomer hasn't motivated you to get up move. She's blessed with the gift of forcing others into productivity.

3. Waterlogue is sweet. 
As if the App store didn't provide us with enough ways to be artsy.

4. The best place to start a church is in a movie theater. 
I've had the privilege of visiting a local church plant this month called Destiny Church Jax. Not only was worship passionate as ever on that movie theater floor and the pastor just as fired up about Jesus, but the people seemed simply delighted to be greeting each other on the side of that very public building. Who knew I would walk into RoboCop and come out loving Jesus better?

5. My favorite people to watch movies with are less than 4 feet tall. 
Despicable Me, Despicable Me 2, The Lorax, Robots, The Swan Princess, and Finding Nemo. I've got a stash specifically for my favorite tinies. Secretly, I enjoy watching those movies more with them because they can't help but be overtaken by the magic of it all.

6. Sipper's Coffee.
Nestled within a tiny strip center, Sipper's Coffee is the Their hipster feel, friendly service, and food that will make your tastebuds sing the hallelujah chorus made my February Friday mornings that much better.

6.1. I should stop trying to make liking coffee happen. Its not going to happen. 
I just can't. I think I'm the only college student on the planet that doesn't like coffee but I physically cannot will myself to like it. I think it smells like Jesus is roasting a little "Good Morning" in a cup but for some reason I just can't ingest the stuff.

7. "You time" is good time. 
Today my roommate insisted on going to get pedicures, something I never do. After an exhausting week, I figured "Why not?" and left the excuses behind. I haven't been so relaxed in such a long time. Plus, my nails look good.

What did you learn this month? Tweet at me with your answers because I'd love to share in this with you.

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Monday, February 24, 2014


Surprise! I was a cheerleader in high school.

Pompom waving, pleated skirt wearing, "Let's Go Stallions!" cheerleader. In addition to Friday night lights, my team competed three out of the four years I spent on Varsity. As you can probably imagine, competitive cheerleading requires an incredible amount of gym time. After tryouts in April/May, the team goes to camp, then summer practices, then competition routine practice in August. We would spend months in the incredible heat of a Florida Fall just trying to hit that stunt, tumble pass, motion, one more time. 

But sometimes it was hard.

Hard to separate one bad two minutes and thirty seconds from another.

I'd get hit in a stunt or fall trying to tumble and that bruise would stay with me through the next run and the next and the next. Why? Because I couldn't separate my past failures from my future. I let what was already done and gone get in my head and sometimes I couldn't shake it.

But in those situations I have to remember:

"And since we died with Christ, we know that we will also live with Him. We are sure of this because Christ was raised from the dead, and He will never die again. Death no longer has any power over Him. When He died, He died once to break the power of sin. But now that He lives, He lives for the glory of God. So you also should consider yourselves to be dead to the power of sin and alive to God through Jesus Christ." Romans 6:8-11

There are too many people trying to live in the grave of their pasts. The thing about living though, is that you can't do it while you're dead.  2 Corinthians says you have been made a new creation. That's it. New, beautiful, life-giving, is what you are. Who you were is gone in the eyes of my Jesus. Listen, if we are going to live in the newness of life we have got to get up and walk out of that grave. Leave the past behind because we have been made new. WWJD? Walk out of an empty grave, that's what.

I encourage you to walk out of your grave today. There's so much that only you can do while you grace this earth with the beauty of Him through you. Regardless of what anyone else has said to you, you are loved and the world is super lucky to have you.

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Friday, February 7, 2014

Being a Regifter

Have you ever been given a really good gift? Like a really good one that didn't even need to be regifted? That gift was probably so on point that you used it until it was falling apart. You may have even accidentally "shot your eye out" you loved that thing so much. "Things" have a way of becoming a part of us, whether we intend for them to or not. I want my life with Jesus to look like that.

You see, we have been given this gift of life. By grace through faith we have been saved by someone who wants us to do more than just exist. Why do we work so hard to keep our lives perfectly in line and then fall to pieces when we realize we were never really filled in the first place? My theory is that we treat our lives like gifts we are so afraid to get dirty, messy, or worn because we are professional "regifters." We're too busy to even take care of ourselves because of school, kids, friends, jobs, whatever it is. We regift every last bit of unused life to anyone and everyone that will take it. We give it way like we really just don't appreciate it enough to use on ourselves.

For so long I was terrified of appearing flawed to the people around me. I needed them to know that I had everything under control so that if anything ever came up, whatever it was, I could be there to help. I was always "regifting" my life. I kept up with these habits until one day when my entire world shattered in an instant. I stared down the barrel of three unbelievable words: You are replaceable. Instantly my heart was ripped so far out of "perfect" that I still hurt, months later.

But you know what happened? I changed. Suddenly I was at ground zero with nowhere to go but up. I decided that I needed to invest in what I loved. I started to write, read every day, run more than ever, spend more time with my boyfriend and girl friends, and wear my life out. I began to be so filled with what God had for me, what I was passionate about, that I couldn't help but smile. All of a sudden worship became more beautiful, people became more of a blessing, that "C" on a test wasn't the end of the world, and a thousand other little problems I didn't know I had corrected themselves in light of my Savior.

I want my life to be so filled, stretched, worn, and torn that I begin to bust at my seams only to have love flow from my weakest places. When I'm not even trying to give patience or mercy or kindness but I give it anyway because that's who I am in Jesus. 

In her book Anything, Jennie Allen recounts a time right before she and her husband adopted their Rwandan son. After praying "Anything" to God she writes,

"Just because we were willing didn't mean it was easy. I still wanted God to be more clear, so we could be more sure. I asked a friend who had adopted if they were 100 percent sure when they adopted their two kids from Rwanda. I expected her to say yes; instead she laughed out loud, hard. She said, 'Of course we weren't sure. At some point you just jump, doubting all the way down.'"

-Jennie Allen

I have decided that life is worth the risk or failure. I don't want to look back at the end of my life or even this year and wonder why I'm not different. Jesus deserves more than for us to stay the same year after year. Today I challenge you to find out what you love, what brings you more joy in the Lord than anything else in the world, and go for it. 

Like what you're reading? Follow me on Twitter @smashley355.

Oh! And if you're thinking you may need a little bit more of a pep talk to get you passionate about life, here's kid president to help you out: 

Tuesday, January 21, 2014


"Miss Ashley guess what? Some people think I'm six OR SEVEN!"
"Really? That's great! You must be pretty tall then, huh?"
"....I'm ginormous." 

I believe that childhood is one of the most precious gifts from God. That's probably why I babysit as much as I do. The above quote came from a conversation I had with one of my favorite five year olds the other day and those words have stuck with me ever since. Each time the scenario replays in my head the voice of the Lord whispers, "He's right."

You see, childlike faith is a force to be reckoned with. Like nailing jello to the preverbal tree, we strive so hard to get it only to end up failing. 

So how does it work?

In the words of my college pastor, Aaron Austin, "Believe God and act on it."

The reason I think God so set that young boy's words on my heart is so that I would believe what He says about me. The boy knows that God loves him and that God is pretty ginormous so he must be pretty ginormous too. Barely old enough to read His word but knows he's loved by the One who created the universe. Simple as that. How much more should I, Christ follower of six years and college sophomore understand the love notes He has been etching on my heart for ages? 

Childlike faith.

"And then God answered: “Write this. Write what you see. Write it out in big block letters so that it can be read on the run. This vision-message is a witness
pointing to what’s coming. It aches for the coming—it can hardly wait! And it doesn’t lie. If it seems slow in coming, wait. It’s on its way. It will come right on time." 

-Habakkuk 2:2-3 (The Message)

Why is the promise less real when our Amen's don't look like His? Why is His promise for your life not as important as hers or his just because they can see it right now? The above verse says that His promise for your life is so real that you had better set it in stone. Write it so big that someone can see it while they are running. Friend, He knows what He's doing. Do you? Today I challenge you to rediscover what you know God has already promised and etch it in that stone. Believe God and act on what you know. That is how childlike faith is awakened. 

Recently I learned that the meaning behind the word "Amen" is "so be it". Lord, bless this food to the nourishment of my body. So be it. God, give me the grace to walk through today. So be it. Father, we come to you, Father, with humble hearts, Father, asking for Your promises to be awakened in our hearts, Father... 


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