Wednesday, February 18, 2015

DIY Jacksonville (Why I love being a native)

I grew up in Florida. Jacksonville, to be specific. Home of M.O.C.A, 7 bridges, and the world's largest cocktail party (FLA/GA-in case you weren't aware). Some would say I'm from southern Georgia, but any true Jacksonville native would most likely beg to differ. Mostly because we're the best. Here's why:

1. Gators vs. Bulldogs
My dad is a Gator. He graduated from the University of Florida with a degree in Broadcast Journalism and Gator-pride. You will never be able to convince him that any other college football team is worth rooting for, especially UGA. That's how most of us down here grew up. Football is the most important thing in the fall and you have to choose. Weather that's FSU, Miami, UF, or UCF, we are die-hards here in Duval.

2. The Beach
It's a culture down here, no doubt. In Jacksonville we have the Intracoastal Waterway (aka "the ditch") which separates suburbia from the sand, linked only by the language of flip-flops. Once you cross over it's like a different world. I guess that's what happens when you live in the largest city (land-wise) in the U.S.

3. One Spark
Two years ago, my city birthed the world's first crowdfunding festival. It's basically a giant-sized block party for entrepreneurs trying to get off the ground and let me say this: it's legit. There's tons of seed money and prizes and food trucks. Food trucks. The shindig is sponsored by the Museum of Contemporary Arts (M.O.C.A) downtown and doesn't disappoint. Did I mention Berlin, Germany has now picked it up? Yes, we're going international.

One of my best friends, Jordan Poole, at his One Spark booth. He was raising money to build homes in Guatemala and will soon be releasing an EP to continue the project. 

4. The Gate River Run
Okay, so this one isn't exactly for everybody, but I've done it for the past two years. It's the largest 15K in the country and a beast to say the least. You run through downtown, San Marco, Riverside, and over 2 of our 7 bridges (The Main Street and the Hart). The race isn't for the faint of heart but it's awesome enough to attract over 20,000 people. I'm about it.

5. TPC
Every year we welcome many of the best golfers on the planet to the Sawgrass Golf Course in Ponte Vedra ("Pont-a Veedra"). There's tee times, country music, and lots of money. We like to put our best fancy foot forward at TPC Sawgrass.

There's so much more to love about Jacksonville, but these are my top 5. Is there something you love about this city that isn't on my list? Let me know!

Twitter: @Smashley355

DIY Soul Restoration (Cobwebs)

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.

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

Monday, February 9, 2015

DIY Moving Forward - The Jump

"Pre-School Graduation" © 2005 Gideon Tsang, used under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license:



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"

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

Friday, February 6, 2015

DIY Dating (Why participating matters)

Creative Commons License
DIY Dating (Why participating matters) by Ashley Marsh is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

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, February 1, 2015

DIY Distressed Dresser

As a college student surviving on microwave mac-n-cheese and scholarships, I can tell you that finding furniture that isn't made of plastic is difficult. I, for one, want to be able to fill my house with pieces that reflect who I am and where I am going in life. I want my home to reflect who I am.

For the longest time after moving into my current apartment, I lived without a dresser because I couldn't find one for less than hundreds of dollars. Until I went thrift shopping.

I ended up at the Salvation Army off of Beach Blvd one Saturday morning. I like that store because of their layout (tons of space) and surplus of nicer furniture. I mean, you aren't going to find the latest Anthropology couch there, but you can find your future look-a-like. That's what I did.

I came across this dresser inside the store that was an off-white color with a light brown wooden top. It stood about four feet high off of the ground and the wooden top was broken with holes on the sides that revealed the inside of the top drawer. It was one hundred dollars and I decided to go for it.

Since I live in an apartment with no space to do hard labor, I took the dresser to my finance's parents' house down the road. Thankfully, they have a spacious garage with plenty of room and tools to do the work. So we began.

First, we took the power sander that they have and began shaving down the outer, glossy finish layer. Paint will not stick on that layer unless it has something to grip. Then I painted the entire bottom part dark brown and let it dry overnight. While the paint was drying, we leveled the wooden top with wood glue and device that would hold pressure on the planks while they dried.

The next day, I painted over the dark brown paint with an off-white color I bought from Home Depot. I made sure that I got two coats but let the paint dry between the two. While I was waiting for that to dry, I took some satin finish, dark brown wood stain and stained the now leveled top of the dresser. I let that dry overnight as well.

The next day, I lightly sanded a few key areas of the white paint to produce a distressed look. The dresser now looks just like my favorite one from Anthropology for one quarter of the price. I even bought some knobs from Anthropology to replace the ones from the original dresser. That's what I call a win!