A Rough Work in Progress

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I’m so thankful that the Lord is patient with me! The past few months there have been good reasons not to write here in my blog, but not REALLY good reasons. My digestive issues flared up again, along with my depression and occasional anxiety. Thankfully I’m much better now, with a steady vitamin regiment, taking lots of strolls in the sunshine, and getting appropriate rest. The spring blooms are once again popping here in the beautiful Pacific Northwest. It’s such a blessing to live here.

I’m also continually grateful for my family and friends, who have encouraged, supported and challenged me, especially over the past four years. I’m especially thankful for a dear couple from my church who walked with me in the frustrating years leading up to what finally ended in my divorce. At their invitation and in God’s perfect timing, I began and continue to serve alongside them at Simonka women and children’s shelter, helping to lead chapel time three times a month. Ministering to others and sharing my story has strengthened my faith, increased my confidence, and has been a healing balm to my heart.

Last Sunday, the message theme for chapel was about how God uses circumstances to smooth out our rough edges, much like river rocks are smoothed by the rushing water and the silt and sediment in it. Reflecting on how the Lord has worked in me to smooth out some of my edges, I wrote and shared this new poem:

“Go With His Flow”

Thinking back over these past few years,
I’m filled with awesome wonder to see
how the Lord worked during pain and tears
to refine and slowly reshape me.
Like a rock in a river or stream,
the current of life swiftly flows;
Below the water’s surface gleam,
there’s a spiritual undertow.
Troubles, like sediment and sand,
scraped along this jagged stone,
teaching me to trust and understand
who I am and that I’m not alone.
Through our struggles, God can soften
the edges of self-doubt and fear;
He’s who I must cling to most often
whether the water’s silty or clear.
For I have the choice every day:
Either bitterly complain and frown,
or trust God, asking how His way
will smooth my rough edges down.
In rushing rapids or gentle flow,
when I surrender to His correction,
worn but not weary, I joyfully grow.
I’d be up a creek without His direction!
Through troubled water, God wears away
those things that only cause more sorrow,
giving me strength and hope that I may
go with His flow better tomorrow!

4-28-19
©Ladeena Ashley

Last week marked a year since the divorce papers were signed. I still catch myself marveling that I’m on my own. Only I’m not. Jesus has faithfully walked beside me every step of the way. Jesus ROCKS! The more I stay focused on Him, the Spirit lifts me up, giving me a thousand reasons to smile. It gets a bit easier every day.

I’m trusting that He will continue smoothing out my rough edges so that I will more easily follow His leading, and be the loving, faithful disciple He calls me to be. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me!

We’re all rough works in progress. As it’s been said, Jesus loves you the way you are, but He loves you too much to leave you there. As I pray for myself, I pray for you: that you will surrender to God’s flow and let Him work in you. Don’t be up a creek without Jesus!

Blessings to you, this day and always!

©Ladeena Ashley
All rights reserved (blog content and photos)

Why A Baby?

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So it’s not your imagination. I really haven’t posted since July! I felt it was time to step back for a bit and wait for the Lord to nudge me toward my laptop, in His perfect timing. A holy nudge came this evening, so here I am!

I’ve been working on healing and adjusting back to single life, but also dealing with some health issues, which thankfully have finally improved for the most part. Recently my health had even kept me away from church and from volunteering at Simonka House a couple times, but I was able to return to both, and even shared a new poem at the women’s shelter on Sunday night.

The message title was to be, “Why A Baby?”, which I ruminated on for a couple of days. Though I grew up in the church and don’t ask questions like that, on Saturday I tried to put myself in the shoes of a new believer or unbeliever for a bit, and the Lord inspired me to write this new poem:

“Why A Baby?”

Father God, why a baby?
Jesus could have come in power:
Born of a royal family,
ruling from a golden tower.
Father God, why a baby?
He could’ve shown Who is boss!
Instead, born and placed in a manger
of wood, like His destined cross.
Father God, You sent a baby.
Power and glory filled the skies;
Heaven came down to meet us,
Shepherds couldn’t believe their eyes!
Father God, that tiny baby
became Savior for all on earth;
Through Your plan of sacrifice
begun from one lowly birth.
Promised child asleep in a stable –
You used the foolish to shame the wise;
From small beginnings come miracles,
Your power and love have no disguise.
Father, thank You for that baby
Who became my Savior and King!
I share the joy of Your priceless gift
that made the herald angels sing.

12-22-18
By Ladeena Ashley

On my way to Simonka on Sunday night, I thought about the amazing amount of trust that my friends in ministry have placed in me to share my poems and thoughts, especially as I’m only given the message theme a few days prior. They actually have no idea what I will share until I voice it from the podium in the small chapel room! I’m also continually amazed at the trust the Lord puts in me to be a bearer of His love and hope to those souls who desperately need it. At times I feel like Mary, in the sense that I’m an ordinary woman who God can use in small and sometimes profound ways to spread the Word and further His kingdom.

Yet God specializes in using the ordinary to show His extraordinary love, grace and mercy. All we need to do is keep Him first in our lives and to keep ourselves available, and He works His perfect plan through these imperfect vessels. Glory be to God!

God sacrificed His Son for us, sending Him to earth in the form of a baby who eventually gave His life so that we could have eternal life in heaven. Let us daily offer ourselves as living sacrifices (Romans 12:1), giving our time, talent and treasures so that others may also accept the Greatest Gift they can receive. Not just at Christmas, but any time throughout the year!

I’m not sure when I will post next. Less poems have flowed into my notebooks lately, but there is definitely fodder for future posts, as the Lord leads.

Merry Christmas!

Until next time, blessings to you, this day and always!

©Ladeena Ashley
All Rights Reserved (Blog content and photo)

Steps To Healing

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Today I went to a local park to think and pray about the message topic my friend will be sharing at Simonka House tonight: loving others, along with the other “one another” verses in the Bible.

I was also ruminating about this morning’s sermon, the Parable of the Sower: seeds that represent the Gospel message (the Good News of what Jesus did for us), and the types of spiritual soil in people’s lives to accept it. There’s the path (just surface), rocky soil (accepting, only to fall away quickly), thorny, weed-filled soil (good choked out by sin and the cares of this world), and good soil (acceptance and steady growth). What stuck with me was the idea that weeds are native to the soil and so easily grow with no effort on our part. How true is that?!

Strolling around the rose garden, I noticed a lot of stray pieces of wood chips and branches that had ended up in the grass pathways. As I began absentmindedly tossing or kicking them back into the rose beds, I had to admit that lately I’d let my spiritual garden get messy in my desire to sequester myself and just “be” for a bit. Instead of tending to it, I’ve simply distracted myself, letting the weeds do what the enemy intends them to do… choke out the good that God has planned.

It’s been a while since I’ve written, and He knows I’ve needed the rest. On top of adjusting after the divorce, I’ve had ongoing car troubles over this past month. Resting is okay and even expected, to a point, but the Lord gently reminded me that I must continue tending to my spiritual garden and stay closer to Him.

Yet God had something more to tell me this afternoon. Finding a bench in the shade, I was about to sit down when I saw a flash of red on the ground underneath it.
It was a painted rock in the shape of a half heart. On the back were instructions on how to find the other half. I chose a direction and then carefully took the required number of steps, finding the other half on the first try!
Finally sitting down, holding these painted rocks in my hands, the Lord gave me this thought: at some point you have to take steps to put your heart back together and heal. Tears filled my eyes as I let that simple truth move from my head into my heart.

On my own, this is impossible. But through Christ I will have the strength to take the necessary steps to healing (Philippians 4:13). One way is to serve others. For even as I heal, there is joy to be found as I continue stepping out in faith to “love one another” and “bear with one another” as He commands us to do (John 15:9-12).

As Christ followers, we must all take the time, with the help of the Master Gardener, to repent of and deal with the thorns, brambles and stick-tights of life. Everyone’s weeds look different, but Christ died so that we can be weed free! Each day His mercies are new, and as we open ourselves to be tilled and fertilized by the Spirit, He helps us dislodge the weeds. Then the seeds of truth He flings into our lives will grow, yielding a bounty of love, hope and light that we can then share with the world.

Matthew 13:3-9, 18-23

Blessings to you, this day and always!

©Ladeena Ashley
All Rights Reserved (Blog content and photos)

Glass Half Full?

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Since the dust has settled from the divorce and changing my name, I’ve been taking a breather, praying and working through this odd season of life that has me examining my life and reevaluating what it is that I want in it. I was on my own while separated for two and a half years, but everything changed once the papers were signed. Now it truly feels like I’m starting over and moving on. Unfortunately, my feelings morphed from simply considering what sort of hobbies and “stuff” I really feel is worthwhile in my life – reorganizing and consolidating – to looking at my whole life, wondering what the heck I’m doing with it! Overwhelmed, I kind of folded up into myself, a lot like the rose in my photo, even taking a step back from writing, as well, to just “be” for a while.

God Sighting
Yesterday I made a quick stop for groceries and got back in my car only to find that it wouldn’t start. Each time I tried, the engine turned over but apparently it lacked either spark or fuel to fire up and take me anywhere.

My first thought, as a generally glass half full person, was how glad I was that perishable items were not among my purchases in the store.

Over the next 20 minutes or so I contacted a few friends, and thankfully one couple who live nearby came to my rescue. When they arrived, the husband asked me to go ahead and try starting it again, so he could hear how it sounded, and wouldn’t you know it, my car started right up!

After turning off the engine and restarting it again, my car seemed okay. The husband had an errand to run, but his wife and I ended up going out for lunch and had a great visit. Turns out that they were preparing to travel soon , so if I had called even a day later, I likely would not have caught them at all. It was perfect timing.

God knew I needed to reach outside of myself and talk with someone, so He used car troubles to prompt me to do just that! He truly does work in mysterious ways.

New Poem
Tonight I joined my friends to lead chapel time at the Simonka Place women’s shelter. The theme this evening was “Glass Half Full or Half Empty?” This afternoon, after a bit of prayer and once again surrendering my self-doubt to the Lord, He inspired me with a new poem to share:

“The Glass”

At times when the glass of life
feels half empty instead of half full;
At my wit’s end, amidst the strife,
yet good out of evil You pull.
Greater than all I could ask or think,
larger than my hopes and dreams;
Though some days are harder to drink,
still You’re working behind the scenes.
So I will keep looking to You,
my sparkling hope in this transition;
Smiling, knowing You’re not through,
for even now, You give inspiration!
Yes, thank You, Lord, that I have a glass
and that there’s something inside;
Yet beyond that, this moment can’t pass
without praising You, for You abide
in the future, the past and right now.
You hold my heart, Your love will prevail.
I trust that some way, somehow
Your perfect plan will never fail.
So I pour out my glass to You:
in surrender, I’m refilled each day,
peace and joy brimming anew
as by Your grace I get out of the way.
Daily closer to You I’m growing,
lacking nothing I need, in Your care;
Instead, filled to overflowing,
I forget the glass as Your love I share!

6-17-2018
©Ladeena Ashley

My life is different now than I ever thought it might be, but my attitude has remained focused on the bright side, seeing the glass as half full. Many times though, I’ve just been glad I have a glass and that there’s something in it. Contentment is great, yet as I wrote in the poem, we should take it a step further. Instead of focusing on the glass and how we view its contents, we should pour it all out to the Lord, so He can fill us to overflowing with His love, power, grace, strength, joy and peace. When we’re filled with Him and flowing out to those around us, we’ll forget that there’s even a glass!

I believe that is what Jesus meant when He said, “Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.” (Matthew 10:39) It’s not about us, our limitations or our circumstances, and it’s not about what we have or don’t have. We follow and serve the God of the universe! Through Christ we have been given access to greater things than all we can imagine!

The enemy will tell you that you aren’t good enough or smart enough. Resist him and he must flee (James 4:7). Instead, pour out your glass to the Lord so He can fill it with Himself, transforming and equipping you to perfectly fulfill His purposes. Through Christ you are more than enough!

“Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” Ephesians 3:20-21

Blessings to you, this day and always!

©Ladeena Ashley
All Rights Reserved (Blog Content and Photos)

Masterpiece

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We had another awesome time at Simonka this evening. The theme was “Celebrating You”, about what God thinks of the women at the shelter, through Jesus (hint: good things!).

Once again, the subject was perfect timing, as I needed to refocus and take a breather for myself after the divorce, changing my name everywhere (I hadn’t realized just how many places and accounts it would affect!), and the emotional impact of all that’s happened this past month.

None of my existing poems quite fit the theme, however, I was feeling tired and not at all sure about writing an uplifting poem when I myself felt so depleted. So I prayed and left it up to God to speak through me or not.

Before attempting to write, I first had to remind myself who I am in God’s eyes and then hopefully pour out my thanks to Him on paper. Reviewing an organized list of Bible verses that my counselor friends gave me a long time ago that’s simply entitled “Who You Are In Christ”, I chose a few that jumped out at me, and as usual, references to a few other scriptures also found their way into my writing. Not surprisingly, by the time the last line was typed, I was feeling more centered and re-energized! Here’s the poem:

“Masterpiece”

Even when I feel depleted,
God, I find myself in You.
In all, Your will is completed,
Your strength always pulls me through.
For I am Your child, joint heir,
loved daughter, saint, Your friend.
Joyfully, my all to You I bare,
though You know me beginning to end.
In my every coming and going
You anticipate each thought!
Grand mystery, how, all-knowing,
You bring good and rework the plot.
Masterpiece in the making,
unfinished and carried by love
to shine so there’s no mistaking
that my worth comes from above.
For all that I am and will be
is from You and for Your glory;
In You I’m forgiven and free,
so I’ll keep sharing my story.
For You call me Your own,
by Your sufficient grace I stand.
You empower this flesh and bone
to carry out what You’ve planned.
May I always see myself as You do:
A warrior clothed in victory.
Walking boldly ahead as You
celebrate and sing over me.

5-27-18
© Ladeena Ashley

After I shared my poem at Simonka, my friend began his message by commenting that my poem really set him up well. He was right! I chuckled to myself several times as he cited most of the same verses and points. I hadn’t seen his notes, but the Lord had, and lined things up nicely!

Here are some of the highlights:

We are joint heirs with Christ – by grace we are made righteous and will have eternal life in heaven! Romans 5:17

We are children of God – we are loved, guided, and disciplined. John 1:12

We are called to shine like stars in the sky – we’re empowered to share the joy of salvation. Philippians 5:15

We are God’s friend – we can talk to Him about anything. His Spirit works with us and gives us wisdom. John 15:15

We are His workmanship – God created you on purpose! Ephesians 2:10

We are clothed in victory – we have victory over sin and death! 1 Corinthians 15:57

God delights in us and sings over us – God thinks we’re pretty great! Zephaniah 3:17

It’s important to know our standing with God, through faith in Christ. It’s entirely different than how the world sees us, but ultimately, God’s opinion is the only one that matters. God loves us so much that He actually rejoices and sings over us! It is vital to keep that in mind during difficult seasons, to keep hope and joy alive. On the flip side, however, when things are going well, we must also remember from Whom those blessings come!

I hope this helps you remember how God sees you through Christ, and that you’re living like you believe it!

Blessings to you, this day and always!

©Ladeena Ashley
All Rights Reserved (Blog content and photos)

The Greatest Designer

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The message theme at Simonka last night was “Allowing God to Run Your Life”. I looked in my poems for a piece that would fit, and ended up doing what seems to have become the norm for me: writing a new one instead. Once again I finished it a mere half hour before sharing it with the ladies at the shelter! It is about how the Lord renovates our life, if we let Him…

“The Greatest Designer”

God won’t barge into your heart, He gently knocks,
then waits for us to answer the door of our soul,
look through the peephole and unlatch the locks,
to invite Him inside, and grant Him control.
I can tell how God works in myself and others:
Turning each shack into a cozy home,
working closely with sisters and brothers
who no longer call their lives their own.
We joyfully share about each renovation:
He brings hope to every room and closet:
Exposing our flaws with truth’s illumination,
sins He already knew, but still paid the deposit!
God redecorates lives in the brightest hues,
knowing best how our heart, Christ’s home
can function fully, as daily we choose
to let it truly become His throne.
So that’s the choice you have this day:
To back away from the threshold in pride,
or open your heart’s door and humbly pray
for the greatest Designer to step inside.
You won’t regret it, though change is pain,
great peace and love fills each space,
as He restores every tile and window pane
we’ll change the neighborhood by His grace!

5-20-18
©Ladeena Ashley

While writing that poem, in my mind was playing an older Christian song by Shaun Groves entitled “Welcome Home”. In it, he sings about opening up the door of his heart so that God, by His Spirit, can help him make changes in his life. Our bodies are but the outside packaging, but our heart and souls are where we “live” and where, from the abundance within, the mouth speaks (Matthew 12:34). We must guard our hearts (Proverbs 4:23). If we don’t have our inner lives in order, everything outside will be thrown into chaos.

Over the last few weeks since the divorce, I’ve been praying about how to move on, and what is really important enough for me to have in my life. In complete surrender to the Lord, I’ve asked for wisdom, and am trusting that He will help me make healthy changes so that how I spend my time and resources will be more honoring to Him.

When invited, the Lord helps to organize and protect the good, while giving us strength to toss things that aren’t necessary. The hard part is, He needs full access to every nook and cranny, every dark and dusty corner, in order for us to have the full measure of joy that He promises as we submit to Him (John 15:1-11). It’s not easy, but we must allow God to show us where and how to make changes, even painful ones, in order to follow Him more closely.

Of course, daily prayer and time in the Word is essential to keeping ourselves open to the Lord and His perfect designs for our life. I often pray this verse: “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” Psalm 139:23-24

My prayer for you as well as for myself, is that we keep the doors, windows and closets of our hearts open to the moving of the Spirit and the light of the Son, so He can transform us inside and out!

The greatest Designer, the God who created the universe, loves you so much! You can trust in His design for your life, because He is good and what He has planned is infinitely more fulfilling than anything you can ever ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20-21, 1 Corinthians 2:9). I know from experience that the more I fellowship with Him, allowing Him to “have the run of the place” in my life, the stronger, more hopeful, joyful and more at peace I am.

Is your heart’s door open?

“Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.” Revelation 3:20 (NKJV)

Blessings to you, this day and always!

©Ladeena Ashley
All Rights Reserved (Blog content and photos)

Peace in the Pain

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I’ve written about waiting, of showing God’s love and caring for others by His grace. For over two and a half years, with heart fully committed to the Lord’s leading, I’ve done all I could to work toward reconciliation with my husband: from tough love, setting healthy boundaries, to counseling, offering help when appropriate, along with encouraging and of course, praying. Friends have said that I’ve been faithful and shown more patience and grace than anyone else they’ve met.

Late in March, however, despite my best efforts and prayer, the frustration and pain were so great that I began to realize that this could not be how the Lord intended us to live. Things just couldn’t keep going the way they were, and I sensed from the Lord that the time for waiting was coming to an end.

Sharing my struggles with a close friend, she suggested putting out a “fleece”, similar to what Gideon did (Judges 6:33-40), to confirm what seemed like the right choice. I decided to try it, and the Lord answered.

First I found a shiny penny while on my way home from church. Not knowing the year on it, once at home I prayed, “If it is from this year, then I’ll know it’s okay to divorce [him].” Since it was still only March, it seemed highly unlikely that it would be a 2018 coin, yet it was.

The second answer was after a heavy-duty time of prayer one evening several days later. I left everything on the altar, finally just asking for reassurance that divorce was okay in this case. As I walked into the next room after praying, I heard His still, small voice tell me, “It’s okay. I love you.” Those phrases repeated 3 times.

The third answer was even more profound: I awoke the next morning with an intense headache, mentally wringing my hands over the increasingly awkward and complicated situation with my husband. I desperately wanted to write in my blog, but felt emotionally and physically useless. My heart was broken and without reservation I simply thought this prayer: “If it’s okay to divorce [him], please just take away this headache, and I’ll sit right down and write the blog.” No sooner had I thought those words when my headache evaporated! The unopened bottle of ibuprofen, now unnecessary, still sat on the table. So, true to my word, I promptly grabbed my laptop and posted the April 7th blog entry.

Honestly, divorce was never an option in the past. Many times during arguments the subject would arise, but I immediately dismissed it. Even once I was ready to consider it, the Lord had to tell me three times that it was okay for me to walk away. The decision was not taken lightly, and only came after countless hours of tearful prayer. I’ve gone through several boxes of tissues!

I know God hates divorce, but He allows it because we are imperfect people who live in a fallen world. Yes, we’d made a commitment before God and with each other, but eventually we had to face the fact that it was not ultimately healthy nor honoring to God to remain married. For one thing, as I’ve mentioned in the past, the dysfunctional nature of the relationship and the ongoing stress it caused definitely took its toll on my body – my digestion and anxiety levels in particular have been out of whack for a long time.

What this all came down to is that my relationship with God is important and should be protected above all else. Jesus said “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters – yes, even their own life – such a person cannot be my disciple.” Luke 14:26. Not that I should actually hate them, but instead I must love the Lord more. My love for God takes precedence over any human loyalties. We are called to love Him with ALL of our heart, soul and mind (Matthew 22:37). To do that, in this case I needed to walk away.

The divorce was final the day before I wrote my last post. I feel sad and relieved. It was the most difficult decision of my life, but under the pain, there is peace. Here is a poem I wrote about it:

“Peace in the Pain”

There is peace in the pain, calm even in my sorrows;
A rainbow in the rain, hope for our tomorrows.
A new chapter of life because another ends:
I’m no longer a wife, we’re now simply friends.
A decision so daunting, but the Lord walked me through.
So focused, only wanting His will in all I do.
There’s a time to mourn for the good that’s gone,
but joy will be reborn as with courage, we move on.
Missing a piece of my heart, yet my soul is in God’s hand;
I’m making a new start, stepping toward what He’s planned.
Into a future unknown, taking one day at a time;
By grace I don’t walk alone, even as I compose this rhyme!
What was meant for harm, the Lord turns all around,
As I resist the devil’s charm, I’m set on solid ground.
God makes beauty from ashes, bringing comfort in distress;
Rebuilding what Satan trashes, making a message of my mess.
God is working for my best, even through this painful story,
Overall, I’m still so blessed, and all to the Father’s glory!

5-6-18
©Ladeena Ashley

If you’re still reading this, thank you for caring and sticking with me. The negative stigma of divorce, especially in Christian circles, has lessened but there still is an element of judgment. I can’t help that. The Lord knows all about the situation, and by His grace I’ve done my best to walk in His love and according to His wisdom. Now I’m taking the next step into a new chapter of life. God will keep working on us, just not together, and it is healthier for both of us this way.

Blessings to you, this day and always!

Side Note: As you likely noticed, my last name is changed. I went back to my maiden name, which ironically has a better “ring” to it than “Bell”, I think.

©Ladeena Ashley
All Rights Reserved (Blog content and photos)

Undercurrent of Grace

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The Lord continually amazes me. Lately my life has been marked with deep pain and frustration – which I’ll share more about in a future post – yet God never fails to give me strength and grace to endure. God is good even when life feels terrible!

The message theme for this past Sunday evening at Simonka Place was frustration. The Lord has impeccable timing! I love how He gently teaches me so that, sometimes sooner than later, I will write down and pass along what I’ve learned. Sharing my experiences and encouraging others makes the trying times a little less so. Yet again, the Lord inspired me with another faith-affirming new poem to share:

“Undercurrent of Grace”

When frustration and pain weigh me down,
riles me up or causes me to frown,
I turn to You, Jesus, You lift me up,
You lighten my heart and refill my cup.
Caught in the swift undertow of my fear,
I just call out Your name and You draw near.
In short-sighted times when things fall apart,
I trust that You forever hold my heart.
Through every hardship, as I humbly seek Your face,
You carry me with an undercurrent of grace.
In the darkest moments when many fail,
You call me Your champion, and help me prevail.
Swept into new depths of hope and love,
eyes off of myself and reset up above.
Strengthened to faithfully follow Your lead,
for it’s all You ask; You’re all that I need.
Sure of what I hope for, my confidence in You;
Turning all things for good is what You do!
Lord, Your perfect love rewrites my story
so it shines the light of hope, for Your glory.
I trust You, Jesus, I lean into Your embrace,
content to be carried by Your transforming grace.

4-22-18
©Ladeena Ashley

Sources of Inspiration

Earlier on Sunday, during the morning sermon, the idea that most resonated with me was that God calls me His champion. That when troubles come into our lives, He has confidence that we can fight the good fight of the faith (1 Timothy 6:12) and overcome by His power. As the phrase goes, if He brings you to it, He’ll bring you through it! He believes in us more than we believe in ourselves. As His beloved children, when we remain committed to His ways, we are carried by a grace that transforms our fear into faith and turns us from worriers into warriors!

Sunday school class also dovetailed neatly into this concept of overcoming. The only way to not only survive but thrive during hardships is to keep our eyes focused on Him instead of all that’s wrong in this world. That in particular, we could all watch a little less news and media in general, which seems increasingly negative and sensationalized, and spend more time reflecting on whatever is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent or praiseworthy (Philippians 4:8-9). Not that we poke our heads in the sand, but that we adjust our internal lens to view life from a godly perspective, instead of being emotionally tossed to and fro by every shocking headline or story. “You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come.” (Matthew 24:6) Instead of getting yanked into the undertow of fear, live your life in gentle surrender to the undercurrent of grace.

Some moments are more frustrating than others, but all the Lord asks is that we do our best to faithfully follow His lead. He will do the rest. Hold onto His promises, trust in His plan for you, then get in there and fight like the champion you are!

Blessings to you, this day and always!

©Ladeena Ashley
2018 All Rights Reserved (Blog content and photos)

Delightful Details

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Perfectly fallen leaf in the sidewalk… I found it that way, honestly!

 

A good friend of mine tagged me on a Facebook post for a photo-a-day challenge, with a different theme or concept to capture and share each day. The post was by Operation TheraPic, an organization that promotes photography as therapy for veterans who suffer from post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other negative effects of their military service.

Photography is certainly therapeutic for me, and I’m all for supporting our armed forces, so enthusiastically I accepted the challenge. After all, I already notice things that most other folks walk right past, naturally living life every moment as a scavenger hunt for blessings of all kinds, in both abstract and visual realms. The beauty of God’s creation especially draws my attention, but I also enjoy contrasting the natural with man-made structures and items. Overall, to me the world is a wonderland of colors, shapes and patterns, every perfectly or uniquely placed bug, flower, leaf, shadow or reflection is like a little love note from the Lord.

Here is a poem I wrote while reveling in nature, and how it points to heaven, our true home:

“Pause”

All manner of shapes
combine in harmony
Heralding with flicker of leaves
and sun-dappled symphony
The splendor of what’s to come
once our souls dispense of earth,
Holy communion with the Creator
and consummation of our rebirth.

All manner of sounds
– Nature whispers God’s love
Rustling leaves like ocean waves
point to the Father above.

Gentle avian choruses
bursting into exuberant throngs
foreshadow the glorious melodies
of worshipful heavenly songs.

All manner of evidence
of God’s providence and grace,
given freely, with ample to share
when we pause and seek His face.

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©Ladeena Ashley

It feels good to discover and document life’s beautiful details in pictures, but lately I’ve collected more images than I have composed my thoughts in words. As often happens when out shopping, while looking for one thing to grab, there are dozens of other things that catch my attention. I’ve already taken more pictures than usual this month!

Details are a blessing, but I also can get caught up in amazement while totally missing the bigger scene. It’s like a colorful connect-the-dots but I don’t see the whole page. Instead I notice a few tiny circles in groups like polka dots, while others are tie-dyed or form interesting patterns. I get lost in child-like wonder. On the flip side, when I am anxious, I often miss what is most important while fretting over the minutia of life. In either case I must step back, review the situation from the beginning and connect those dots in order to see the bigger picture. I’m getting better at being objective.

Dogged by details?
They say the devil’s in the details – life is definitely more challenging than we all thought it’d be when we were kids – but we can navigate them with God’s help! He created every last molecule of existence, His handiwork shows His love, He delights in sharing it with us (Psalm 19), plus He sees the beginning and the end of it all (Revelation 22:16). None of our problems are too small that God is not concerned, nor too big for Him to handle.

When we’re overwhelmed and dragged down by worries, we must stop and pray, casting those cares on the Lord (Psalm 55:22). At times we simply need to step back and and take a deep breath every once in a while to notice the blessings around us, so we can once again regain that sense of wonder, purpose and joy. When we connect the dots and see the big picture of grace, then we can more joyfully move ahead into whatever adventure the Lord has for us next!

For me, the best kind of details are in God’s Word, worship, fellowship with other believers, and enjoying His creation. As I delight myself in the Lord and look to Him, He gives countless blessings along the way that keep me smiling (Psalm 37:4)!

Hopefully the photos I share for the challenge are a blessing for others. I always look for life’s little blessings and then look for ways to share that encouragement and hope with others! I hope and pray the same for you.

Blessings to you, this day and always!

©Ladeena Ashley
2018 All Rights Reserved (Blog content and photos)

30 Years of Faith

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Flowers and faith (see the cross?) – March 5, 2018

 

Easter is almost here! Yet today I’m thinking of an Easter several years ago.
Why? Because recently I hit a milestone: 30 years old in the Lord.
Happy re-birthday to me!

I’d like to share my story with you. You could say this is my testimony.

It was the first day of spring, 1988, and I was 13. I had attended church from a young age, at my grandma’s invitation, but hadn’t made a personal decision to believe and follow the Lord. Partly because I didn’t feel the need, but mostly because I was shy and terrified that I’d end up exclaiming “praise the Lord!” all the time, and handing out gospel tracts to strangers on a street corner somewhere!

For a month or two prior, I developed a bad habit that got out of control. looking back now, I could chalk it up to my own insecurity and coping with my mom’s illness (she was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease), yet really there was no excuse. I knew what I was doing was wrong, but could not stop myself. Then the Holy Spirit nudged me and I realized that only God could help me stop and make things right. I needed forgiveness. I needed Jesus. Which would mean I’d have to trust and follow Him no matter what He asked me to do. I’d been taught that God loved me and had good plans for me, through stories of faith from the Bible and from folks at church. So on March 20th, while alone in my room, I prayed to the Lord for the first time, confessing what I’d done and asking Jesus to be my Lord and Savior. Then I poured my heart out to Him, saying, “I can’t do this myself, Jesus, help me…take over my life”. Immediately I felt a deep sense of peace, assurance, and incredible joy.

That day I grabbed a pencil and paper to write my first poem – an acrostic – as a new believer in Christ:

“Praise the Lord!”

Praise the Lord Jesus, who died and
Rose from the dead to bring us
All salvation.
I thank Him for
Saving me and giving me
Eternal life.

To seal my soul for
Heaven above, so I can
Enjoy His presence and love.

Life looks new,
Of course I will treasure this day, for He
Rendered His life for us and
Delivered me from my sins, because I accepted Him into my life today.

Next time you get the urge,
or the Holy Spirit you can feel through you surge…
Praise the Lord!

March 20, 1988
©Ladeena Ashley

At church, while the invitational hymn “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus” played, I went forward. I hadn’t said anything to my grandma, so she was as stunned but thrilled as everyone else. On Easter morning, April 3rd, I was baptized . There was the added blessing of my mom also being baptized that Sunday, as she hadn’t done so before.

Jesus set me free from sin’s power over me. By His strength I was able to stop, turn around and make amends as a teenager, and He has continued to transform me over the years. Through struggles and blessings, sometimes growing in fits and starts, ups and downs, it’s been a challenging but joyful journey overall. Yet each step of the way the Lord has proven over and over to be faithful. He is my sustaining source of strength, hope, peace wisdom, and…every good thing!

Remember why I was afraid to commit my life to Christ? Well, you probably caught the irony while reading the title and theme of the poem I wrote: “Praise the Lord!” Thankfully I haven’t been called to hand out tracts, as that method of evangelism seems to have gone by the wayside, at least in my circles. However, I have publicly declared my faith in many other ways, most notably in a couple of fun “March For Jesus” events in the Seattle area, and also, of course, in this blog. I’ve never regretted my decision to follow Christ. He works in my life, helping me to be more bold every day. “For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love, and of self-discipline.” (2 Timothy 1:7). “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16).

I’ve also written hundreds of poems since that spring day so long ago. I believe my poetry is a spiritual gift, and words flow most often and freely the more time I spend with Jesus. Like everything else in life, there have been times when energy and inspiration have ebbed and flowed. Much of what I write is full of thankfulness and awe from the first line to the last. Other times I’ve begun writing about things that weigh me down, but the Spirit never fails to provide an updraft of faith, so by God’s unfailing grace my sadness turns to joy and my anxiety turns to praise. Like a bird on the wing, once more I’m sent soaring both in heart and in verse.

It’s such a blessing to share my story with you. I’m continually surprised at the growing number of souls who follow my humble little blog. Thank you!

I hope you also have experienced the forgiveness and hope that only comes by grace through faith in Christ, and that you are living for Him.

If not, please don’t let another Easter pass by without knowing what it’s really all about. (Hint: It’s not about bunnies, eggs or candy!) Find a Bible-believing church and seek out the truth. God says in His Word, “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” (Jeremiah 29:13)

For me it’s been 30 years of walking by faith. The Lord has carried me this far, and will continue for the rest of my days until He carries me home.

Praise the Lord!

Blessings to you, this day and always!

©Ladeena Ashley
2018 All Rights Reserved (Blog content and photos)