Blooming Boundaries

DSCN0196_0046

 

Last night my friend’s message at Simonka Place was about boundaries. None of the poems I’d composed before seemed to fit quite right. So, once again an 11th hour poet, after work I sat in my car and wrote a new poem. I finished the first draft and scurried to the homeless shelter, sharing my newest creation with the ladies about 10-12 minutes later. God is good!
After some further editing today, here’s the poem:

“Boundaries”

It’s far too easy to lose your voice
when people-pleasing is a knee-jerk choice.
Instead, identity in Christ my King,
I have strength to overcome anything!
Though I’m not perfect, I’m so much better:
Bolder overall – more of a go-getter!
I’m so blessed a new “me” has bloomed,
dispelling the fears that had me entombed.
More sense of self than ever before:
If limits are exceeded, I use the door
to walk out or show it to another –
loving myself, not appeasing my brother.
Thankful that God has taught me to live
more intentionally, my all to give
to Him, in surrender, so I could see
each pitfall and needed boundary.
Stepping forward, then edging back,
trusting Him for the words I lack.
Knowing when to let go and when to stay.
What to allow, and what I should say.
Not automatic, but filled with power
relying on God’s wisdom each hour.
More of a holy dance than a tightrope,
for Christ set me free and gave me hope!
He will ever lead as I seek His face,
navigating boundaries by His love and grace.

3-9-18
©Ladeena Ashley

My poem focused mainly on boundaries in relationships, however in his message my friend spoke of boundaries across many facets of life. The part that hit home with me was in the area of self-care. Taking care of myself has always been something I “should do”, a basic priority of life. (In my mind, boundaries are mostly outward while priorities are inward.) I called it self-discipline, but I didn’t consciously sub-define it as using boundaries within myself. Yet that is so true.

The recurring verse my friend used was: “Everything is permissible, but not everything is beneficial” (1 Corinthians 10:23). We all have choices but don’t always make the best ones for ourselves, and by extension, for others.

My main struggle is getting enough sleep. I am a night owl, and have been for as long as I can remember. However, the last few weeks I’ve found myself staying up even later than normal, and it’s beginning to catch up with me.

Alone time is important to me, and I do need some time to unwind if I’ve had an especially hard day or to process things after a tough conversation. Yet often I’ll stay awake for unimportant reasons, usually ending up looking at a screen of some sort. Honestly, I hate to admit it, but at times lately I’ve felt so overwhelmed. So tired but not wanting to hit the hay because then morning soon comes and I have to do it all over again. I get stuck in my own head, right where the enemy wants me. No one deals as well with anxiety and the everyday stresses of life when their resources are depleted. It’s a vicious cycle.

Yet this is the opposite of how God calls me to be. Through Christ I am more than a conqueror! (Romans 8:37) God’s mercies are new every morning (Lamentations 3:22-23). Instead of avoiding the morning, I must pray, leave my troubles in God’s hands and most importantly, not take them back! Only after a full night’s rest can I hope to awaken refreshed and excited about the possibilities and blessings of a new day. I need better boundaries to stay out of an unhealthy rut.

One point my friend made that struck me last night was: How can I be there for others if I have barely enough energy to function myself? I can’t. Jesus set the example for us by napping when needed, and going off by Himself when the crowds got to be too much. Even God rested on the seventh day once He’d finished creating the cosmos.

We all need to take time to recharge, but there are limits and healthy ways to do it. The Lord has helped me set outward boundaries, and now it’s time to tackle and refine more inward ones. I’m glad He’s not through with me yet!

He’s not through with you, either. He who began a good work in you will be faithful to complete it (Philippians 1:6). What boundaries do you need to set or adjust? Seek His guidance through prayer and His Word (and perhaps even some counsel of godly friends), and He’ll help you figure out what is both permissible and beneficial.

Blessings to you, this day and always!

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

Do A Happy Dance!

DSCN8047

 

Yesterday evening, while in search of a poem to share at Simonka, I came across a page of bits and pieces of poems I’d started a few years ago. Taking one of the longer ones, I proceeded to add, edit and scoot lines around until I had something that might be presentable and in alignment with the theme of the night: freedom in Christ.

I told the ladies at the shelter that God gives us many blessings in life, but the greatest is the blessing of freedom that we gain through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. When I stop to think about it: that I’ve been truly set free from the power of sin, and that I have the Spirit of God Himself living in me, it gives me joy. We should be so excited about what God has done and is doing in our lives, that at times we could easily do a happy dance!

Here is the poem I cobbled together, that one of the friends I serve with jokingly called a “Frankenpoem”, due to the nature of its creation:

“Reign Dance”

Blessings, like raindrops, cascade from above.
My heart, soaked and singing, drips with His love.
Splashing through puddles without a care,
so happily drenched, no raincoat I wear.
Far beyond the silver-lined clouds above
the holy drops of forgiveness and love
fall in unending supply from the throne;
My salvation and peace are in Christ alone.
Gazing toward heaven, immersed in His grace:
Glorious freedom! For He took my place.
Trusting my Savior, who washed every stain,
I sway in sweet surrender to His reign.
Matching His steps so joyful and light,
following with confident hope so bright.
Dancing with abandon, cleansed and alive;
Grace flowing free, I daily grow and thrive.
His Spirit transforms me, I dance and sing,
praising Jesus, who is my everything!

2-18-18
©Ladeena Ashley

I hope and pray that you are as excited about your faith as I am! Sadly, the longer you’re a follower of Christ, the easier it is to lose spiritual vitality. Of course, the enemy of our souls would like nothing more than for all churches to be filled with a bunch of lukewarm believers who are complacent and therefore posing no real threat to his schemes. I pray that those who claim to be His followers are (or become) so on fire for the Lord that, when they get out of bed in the morning, the enemy says to himself, “Oh, no! They’re up!”

Through Christ, we have been set free! We must do all we can to avoid letting ourselves once again become slaves to one sin or another. We’re all works in progress, and for me, following Jesus is like a dance. Most of the time, the Lord and I move across the floor in tandem, but sometimes my timing is off. Or I’m tempted to try doing my own moves, hurting myself or others in the process. Or, heaven forbid, the song itself starts to become more important than my dance partner. Yet He patiently waits for me, and the music will go on as long as I have breath in my lungs.

The world needs to know that music! With every school shooting and act of violence in the world, it is painfully apparent how much the world is hurting. Millions of souls desperately need the hope and peace that only can be found in Christ – whether they know it or not! You may be the only Jesus someone sees, so share His love with others. Things are only getting crazier – the time is now.

Are you letting the Lord reign in your life?

If you are a Christ follower, you’ve been set free – do a happy dance and share your faith with others!

“So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” John 8:36

“Who is it that overcomes the world? Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.” 1 John 5:5

Blessings to you, this day and always!

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

Joyful Journey

20170501_174337-crop

 

God is awesome! This past Sunday evening, in preparation for chapel time at Simonka Place, I studied the chosen scripture passage (James 1:2-8) and began pulling out poems to share. Reading and rereading those Bible verses about joy in trials, persevering and seeking God’s wisdom, my own journey came into focus and I thought, “I sure have a lot of practice with that!” After a quick prayer, I was inspired with a new praise-filled poem, finishing it just in time to leave for the shelter. Barely half an hour later, after sharing a bit of my story, I read the new poem aloud. Here it is:

“Joyful Journey”

It’s been a tough, but joyful journey
from the moment I said “okay”.
I’m “all in”, in full surrender –
peace flows as I humbly pray.
Lord, You’ve stayed with me through this trial,
Giving me strength to persevere;
Holy wisdom each time I ask,
and faith to follow without fear.
Blessing upon blessing have come,
for You give as I give my all:
With support from my family and friends,
Your love has broken down every wall.
My pack is filled with Your promises,
expecting that one of these tomorrows
they will be fulfilled in Your timing –
leaving mere memories of past sorrows.
But today, I continue trusting –
no doubt of Your plans for me;
Walking daily with You, Jesus,
I’m thankful, loved, and free!

1-28-18
©Ladeena Ashley

One way I’ve had joy in my trials is by sharing my struggles and faith with others. In particular, to be a witness of God’s faithfulness to the women at Simonka Place, most of whom are way out of their comfort zone, hurting and in desperate need of hope. Having been in a similar situation myself, I can speak from a place of experience and a depth of compassion, with greater empathy for each soul I encounter. God is in the business of transforming lives and using bad circumstances for our ultimate good (Romans 8:28). My mess, placed in God’s loving hands, becomes a powerful conduit for His message.

And it never ceases to amaze me how He does it! The inspiration to write about my journey is already an incredible blessing, but then I get to read it aloud and have people respond with hugs and teary eyes, saying God spoke to them through my humble offering! As His servant, my prayer is always that folks see and hear Him, not me. I’m just along for the ride, but what a joyful ride it is!

I’m humbled and thankful to be used to encourage others, even as I continue trusting and waiting for His plan to come to fruition in my own life. For sure, the trials of life are not easy, but by God’s grace, I am persevering, one day at a time!

James 1:2-8:
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.”

We can have joy today and hope for tomorrow, as we daily surrender our ways for His by seeking His wisdom above our own, and relying on His strength to persevere and grow.

Is your journey joyful, or are you simply trudging along the trail?

How can you help brighten the path for others along their journey?

Blessings to you, this day and always!

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

A Plethora Of Promises

DSCN8757

 

For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through Him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God. 2 Corinthians 1:20

We all make promises. We try to keep them, but sometimes we fail miserably. Thankfully, as a follower of Christ, I have witnessed over and over that we serve a God who is faithful, just and good, and we can count on His promises.

These past few years, I’ve leaned especially heavily on the Lord in prayer and in meditating on His Word; in particular, several promises have been an important part of my walk with Christ. Without the love of my Savior and the support of family and friends, I would have crumbled long ago, but God is faithful!

God’s promises offer hope, and hope is a powerful thing! It was such a blessing to share the hope I have in Christ, helping to lead chapel time at Simonka Place women’s and children’s shelter yesterday evening. Once again, the Lord inspired me to write a new poem only the day before! Here it is:

“The Promise Maker”

The promises of God forever stand;
He is faithful, His Word is true.
Clinging to Him as I walk this land,
I trust His love will see me through.
Yet some promises have a condition:
We must first ask, seek and knock.
A give-and-take of holy volition
with full surrender and daily walk.
If we believe, if we confess,
if we commit our ways and plans,
He will save, forgive our mess
and guide our lives with His hands.
God will never leave or forsake us,
He’ll finish the good work He’s begun.
The enemy seeks only to break us,
but in Jesus, the war is won.
God’s promises offer victory and power,
and all are “yes” in Christ our King,
on Whom we can rely every hour
to carry us through anything.
Claiming God’s promises, hearts overflowing
with thankful awe and peace, we pray
for wisdom and strength, seeking and growing
closer to the Promise Maker each day.

1-20-18
©Ladeena Ashley

As my teammate shared during chapel time, some are general promises, like God’s love for us. Other promises were directed at certain people or groups, but to all believers, as well. Many promises require action on our part before God will act, such as 1 John 1:9, which I referenced in my poem: “If we confess ours sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9

According to one count, there are 3,573 promises in the Bible… a plethora of promises, you might say! The great news is, in His perfect timing and wisdom, God will fulfill every one!

No matter who else has broken promises to you, or let you down, God is good and He’s got your back! He loves you so much! If you seek Him with all of your heart, you will find Him (Jeremiah 29:13), and He will faithfully direct your paths as you trust in Him (Proverbs 3:5-6). Give your hurts to God, claim His promises, and watch Him move!

Here are a few of my favorite promises:

“I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:13

“Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in Him and He will do this: He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn, your vindication like the noonday sun.” Psalm 37:4-6

“If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” James 1:5

“Cast your cares on the Lord and He will sustain you…” Psalm 55:22

“I will lie down and sleep in peace, for You alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.” Psalm 4:8

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world!” John 16:33

Blessings to you, this day and always!

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

 

 

Redone and Transformed

20180113_215338 A little tag I found (shown larger than actual size).

 

Many years ago, I randomly found this small round tag on the ground. The red and white plastic tag has just one word engraved into it: “redone”. The concept which immediately struck me was that when I decided to live for Christ, I was redone – fundamentally changed – on the inside, as the Bible promises: “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Corinthians 5:17). As I continue following the Lord, I am constantly being redone – transformed – with the help of His Spirit. Over the years, that little tag has become a unique symbol of my life in Christ.

Whoever commits to being a Christ follower is “redone” at the moment of salvation. We are new creations in Him. However, we are also called to daily work out our salvation (Philippians 2:12) and to be transformed by the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:2). We are all works in progress, and though God sees us as perfected through Christ, we are not perfect, and fail every day. I know I do.

God lovingly created each of us, with our unique personalities, likes and dislikes, and tendencies. When the Spirit enters our life, He begins to change us, in ways both small and significant. From the way we assert our personality, to why and how we use what we’ve been given; materially and in gifts and talents. The same God who created each of us helps me to be the best “me” possible, as I let Him, while living in this fallen world. My good traits are enhanced and the less desirable habits are replaced with more fulfilling ones that benefit not only myself but can positively influence the community around me.

Many folks have experienced dramatic changes almost instantly, such as the desire for cigarettes, alcohol or drugs being taken away. Those kind of miracles at conversion are great, but with many other entrenched habits or shortcomings, it may take months, years, or even a lifetime to “get it right”. Every day is a spiritual battle to conquer our imperfections and sin nature. As I’ve written before, we fight that battle by walking daily with Jesus through prayer and reading His Word, and sharing our faith journey with other believers through fellowship – all in full submission to His leading. None of us is perfect, and there are ups and downs. At times we’ve all experienced dry moments, or made decisions we wish we could take back. Yet God is ever faithful, always ready to forgive us and set us back on the right path! (1 John 1:9)

I wrote this poem exactly 22 years ago (!), after a short dry spell in my life:

“Commitment”

This broken vessel I give to You –
My offering, knowing You’ll see me through.
Surrendering all to follow Your lead;
For though I’m imperfect, You plant a seed.
Shortcomings don’t limit what thru me You can do,
with my eyes set toward heaven, my heart toward You.
What little I have expands in the grace
You give me to serve You, wherever the place.
I’m not perfect, I’ll never meet
these high expectations I lay at Your feet.
Disappointments arise from unfinished plans;
as You take over, I free my own hands.
It’s been some time, but Lord, now I pray
with faith that You’ll guide me on from this day.

1-14-96
©Ladeena Ashley

Have you been redone? Are you in the process of being redone? Is there anything you’re holding onto, thinking you can overcome it using your own wisdom and by your own strength? Jesus is just waiting for us to admit defeat – that we can’t do it alone – and once we do that, then He can do His work and we can claim the victory! Besides, the blessings He has waiting for us are so much better than the mediocre things we often pursue or settle for.

If you don’t know what it’s like to be redone, trust that God the Father loves you more than you love yourself, and has your best interests at heart! Believe in His Son Jesus and accept the gift of forgiveness and new life in Him! Through the Spirit, He will walk with you and help you to be the best redone and transformed “you” that you can be. Surrender your imperfections to the One who alone is perfect and has a perfect and loving will for your life.

“My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” Psalm 73:26

Blessings to you, this day and always!

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

Victory In The New Year!

DSCN4779Super Moon Through Droplets (Taken: May 6, 2012)

 

So, I’ve got a confession to make: Although I spent some of my December with family and friends, and participated in church activities, too much time was actually spent watching movies and playing games. Sadly and ironically, real meaningful moments with the Lord – the One whose birth we just celebrated – were diminished in the name of holiday vacation “down time”. My first priority must be my relationship with God. To grow closer and be more like Jesus every day. Yet lately my focus had shifted too often towards pursuing comfort and fun.

Some rest is expected this time of year (though it’s never a good idea to take a vacation from Him!), and I did give myself some grace as I continued working toward reconciliation with my husband within an especially awkward emotional climate. However, I could easily have spent more time with Jesus, who, as I’ve written before, loves and pursues us, and wants to spend time with each of us, too. When seeking my own desires, I’m not seeking His and not growing; therefore I have nothing to offer on this blog and can do nothing of eternal worth (John 15:5). That simply won’t do! So I prayed and wrote this poem to express my regrets and feelings about where I was at:

“New Year’s Battle”

Blithe comforts quickly become a jail cell.
It’s hard to resist; the devil knows me well.
Caught up in self-pity, I waste precious time
fretting over falling short of the sublime.
Distracted from fellowship to recount fears,
immobilized, in a haze of salty tears.
My Savior waits so patiently once more
for my gaze to shift from off the floor,
where my fleeting notions lie scattered
alongside pursuits that never mattered.
My life, simply an assortment of choices,
listening for His whisper amidst the loud voices.
Each day I’m fighting to hear and follow
– for Christ lives in me! I can face tomorrow.
Knowing He is there, and here, and always,
my heart is lifted in His love and grace.
Pulled from the mire by His mighty power
to battle another year, each day, each hour.
Shortcomings and failures transform to victory
as I receive His love, and see as He sees me.
Only by wisdom and strength from above
can I hope for the future and rest in His love.
Emboldened to move forward as He casts out fear,
trusting with each step, He’ll guide me this new year.

1-1-18
©Ladeena Ashley

We all stumble and get lost in our fears, failures and human reasoning. Good thing our Father is the God of second, third, and many more chances! (1 John 1:9) God is so good and faithful, and through Christ He calls us His own, and we can claim the victory over sin!

Though not a goal-oriented person, here and now I resolve to rekindle more focused time with the Lord, using a devotional book that I have in mind. The closer our relationship, the stronger His light in me, and the more folks who may be drawn closer to Him, even through this imperfect vessel.

I’m guessing that you have a similar goal, perhaps even as part of a longer list of New Year’s Resolutions. We all need to keep learning and growing in Christ, and to be more lovingly bold followers of His. Overall, I’m praying that 2018 brings a worldwide “spiritual shake-up” and a revival in that sees many more souls saved by the love, power and forgiveness of Jesus Christ! Get out there and shine His light, and as the saying goes: when necessary, use words!

Blessings to you, this day and always!

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

Share the Greatest Gift!

DSCN7826
Just like that, two weeks have gone by since my last post. Amazing how time flies during the holiday season!

Several years ago I had fun using Christmas song titles within a poem. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed composing it!

“Christmas Poem”

It Came Upon A Midnight Clear,
the reason for our holiday cheer.
‘Twas the Night Before Christmas,
and all through the land,
very few knew what God had planned.
O’ Holy Night, Silent Night it was,
when Emmanuel came to live among us.
While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks By Night,
they left after beholding the sight
of Angels, who were Heard on High,
as the star in the east led the magi.
Joy to the World! The Lord had come!
God gave to us His only Son.
Go, Tell it On the Mountain, or just to a friend
that Jesus came for all, God’s love to send.
Oh, Come, All Ye Faithful, let us rejoice,
with old songs and new, with one joyful voice!

11-9-96
©Ladeena Ashley

Jesus is the greatest GIFT that anyone can get, and unlike fruitcake, I’m happy to “re-gift” Him! My prayer is that all who celebrate the true meaning of Christmas will be PRESENT with others, and DECORATE others’ lives with His love by sharing the joy of our Savior’s birth and the hope He brings. May we all shine and twinkle with the LIGHT of the Spirit; dispelling the darkness and showing others the way to lasting peace beyond anything this world offers.

In this season of giving, I pray that more folks receive forgiveness and new life through Jesus. That people hear how the birth of Jesus Christ the Messiah fulfilled scriptures, setting the main stage for our ultimate redemption. How in fact His birth was not simply a quaint story or fairy tale, but that the King of kings and Lord of lords was born and placed in a manger in the most humble of circumstances. But most importantly, that He lived a sinless life here on earth before willingly giving it up on the cross for our sins, put in a tomb, and rose again on the third day.

In the nicest way possible, we should spread the less-than joyful truth that we all get to live forever, but we have free will to chose where: eternal life in heaven, or a tortured existence separated from God. Let’s share that through Jesus’ death and resurrection, God offers us the greatest gift of all: the gift of a Savior who broke the chains of sin and death. For God loved the world so much that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him would not perish, but have everlasting life (John 3:16). Let’s share the true meaning of Christmas.

Do you understand and celebrate the real meaning of Christmas? If you haven’t yet received Jesus and trusted Him as your personal Savior, you are truly missing out! To accept the free gift of salvation, I invite you to pray something like this: “Father God, thank You for loving me. I believe that You sent Your Son Jesus to earth, and I believe He died on the cross and rose again, as a payment for my sins. I accept the gift of eternal life through Jesus, and ask You to help me to follow You the rest of my life. In Jesus’ name, amen.”

If you prayed and accepted God’s free gift, congratulations! I’m sure many of the same angels who sang in the skies over Bethlehem are rejoicing that another soul has escaped from death into new life with Him! If you don’t have a Bible, get yourself one, and find a Bible-believing place of worship where folks will help guide you on your new journey with Christ.

This Christmas, whether you’ve just accepted the gift of Jesus, or you’ve been a follower of Christ for many seasons, let us all share the true reason for the season with everyone we meet!

Merry Christmas!

Blessings to you, this day and always!

©Ladeena Ashley
2017 All Rights Reserved (blog content and photos)

Pining For A Happy Ending

DSCN9270
The Christmas season has officially begun, and I’m feeling a bit disjointed. This will be the third holiday season in waiting mode: living apart from a loved one while continuing to navigate new emotional territory in myself.

Those of you who don’t know me personally might have guessed by now that the relationship I’ve been writing about is indeed my marriage. My husband and I have been living separately for two and a half years. In the grand scheme of things, that span is barely a blip, but at times it seems like an eternity. This morning in Sunday school, we discussed patience and perseverance, and I’ve had plenty of practice with both! There is much that is unresolved and will take more time to work through, but God faithfully walks with me each day.

It seemed like a good time to reveal the nature of the relationship in progress, because I’d like to talk about Christmas movies – the cheesy romantic ones in particular. I’ve actually already watched several of them this season. For most who are living alone or struggling this time of year, the last thing they want to do is be reminded of what they’re missing, or that their situation is less than ideal. For me, however, it’s a pleasant distraction that offers a smidgen of hope that things can work out. Yes, I’m fully aware that it’s all just fluff, and real life is never fixed by a kiss under the mistletoe. Loose ends and troubles aren’t all neatly wrapped up in a big red bow within short time frames like they are in the movies. Real reconciliation and lasting love takes godly wisdom and tenacity.

No, I don’t rely solely on those sticky-sweet, unlikely story lines to give me hope. My hope is in Christ. When I’m feeling disjointed, I look to Him, trusting that He is active behind the scenes. None of this is a surprise to Him. In a way, each of us are in our own Christmas movie. Let me explain:

Many of the plot twists and story lines we find in chick flicks are similar to what happens with the Lord, such as the main characters disliking, ignoring or misunderstanding each other in the beginning. For instance, many folks these days celebrate Christmas while ignoring the reason behind it. Before we know God, we may not understand His character or believe what the Bible says about Him. Even once we do, we forget, or the antagonist of the story (the enemy of our souls) tries to convince us that God isn’t really as loving, trustworthy or perfect as His Word says He is. The angst and distrust between people make for interesting drama on TV, but in relation to God it’s a real spiritual battle.

Like a tentative couple in a movie, we walk snowy paths, spending time learning more about the Lord and getting to know who He is (minus the stolen smooches, of course!). Things go well, until complications arise and we wonder how this will all get sorted out. In the movies, it must happen within the final ten or fifteen minutes, but in our lives it may take hours, days, or even years, depending on how stubborn we are.

At some point, one of the characters often makes some grand or incredibly thoughtful romantic gesture to communicate their love. Of course, God already did that by sending Jesus to earth to die for our sins. It was the grandest gesture of all (Romans 5:8)!

In the end, with misgivings resolved and love professed and expressed in kind, the happy couple embraces, looking forward to a bright future of life together. Once we are reconciled through Christ by grace through faith, realizing and accepting God’s infinite love for us, there is a sense of wholeness, joy and peace as we are wrapped up in a spiritual embrace that assures the hope of eternal life (1 Peter 1:3-4).

How the Lord interacts with us is truly a holy romance. God has shown us His love in multiple ways; most amazingly by sending His Son, Jesus, to be born in Bethlehem, knowing He would eventually suffer and die on the cross in our place.

Here’s a poem I wrote in response to God’s pursuit of me:

“Holy Romance”

You have all eternity
to listen and care for me
Amazing love overflowing;
You wait so eagerly.
Who am I to deprive
my soul of all You give?
Holy romance of faith;
You’re the reason I live.
Longing for fellowship sweet;
help me leave all at Your feet.
Renew my mind, flood my heart.
Only in You am I complete.
May worldly chains be broken free
as You woo me by subtle charms;
Daily refreshing the Spirit in me,
’til in heaven, I run into Your arms.

4-18-03
©Ladeena Ashley

If you know the Lord, then you know how your story ends. Jesus rose from the grave so we could live forever with Him in perfect fellowship and love, in heaven. No cheesy Christmas movie can even begin to match that feeling. Until that day comes, we must keep looking to Him, trusting that all the broken parts are in His hands.

Sometimes I feel disjointed and often carried away by my emotions, but no matter how messed up life gets, or how drawn out the process, He ultimately holds my life together and all will work out the way it should, in His perfect timing. It’s taking a lot longer than two hours, but I’m okay with that because God walks with me and gives me strength (Philippians 1:6).

If you’re not sure how your story ends, look to God. He loves you, broken parts and all. Tell Him your misgivings, spend time with Him and trust Him with your life. Just don’t give up. Only God can truly fill that ache in your heart, and make you feel complete (Proverbs 3:5-6; Romans 15:13).

Blessings to you, this day and always!

©Ladeena Ashley
2017 All Rights Reserved (blog content and photos)

Blessed To Be A Blessing

DSCN9232

 

Thank you, friends, for reading my humble blog! It is such a blessing to bless others, especially when I hear that a post encouraged someone. It’s why I keep writing.

In preparing this post, a simple thought came to me:

Thanksgiving and Christmas are closely linked – not just because of Black Friday, marking the beginning of the Christmas season – but they are also in the perfect order. One holiday is set aside to give thanks to God for how much we have, and the next is focused on sharing with others from that abundance, because God the Father gave His Son out of His abundance. For those who have gratefully accepted that free gift (Ephesians 2:8), the natural response is to give back to God by paying His grace and love forward to others. At Christmas, and all year long.

Here’s a poem I wrote last year about paying it forward:

“Blessed To Be A Blessing”

Counting blessings is just the start;
our grateful joy should be shared
freely with others, from the heart,
because for us no expense was spared.
God gave Himself through the Son
with a thousand good gifts beside.
Who are we to hoard what’s been done
or to embrace such foolish pride?
All we have, do, or will obtain
is from His endless supply of grace.
Faith in Jesus compels, even through pain
to give with a smile on our face.
For through every trial, His light will glow;
the Hope of our life expressing
His love, so that all may know
that we’re blessed to be a blessing!

5-6-16
©Ladeena Ashley

Although the two holidays seem to get lumped together through countless store sales and online Cyber Monday deals, let’s give Thanksgiving – and the Lord – the time they deserve. If you skip ahead, you may not fully appreciate and remember all you’ve been given. The more thankful our hearts, the deeper the joy in giving! That same cyclical “give and take, and give again” spirit can only grow stronger by maintaining an attitude of gratitude throughout the year; and no matter how hard you try, you can’t out-give God!

As I’ve mentioned before, there are many moments when it’s hard to be thankful. Life in this world seems to get crazier and more polarized by the minute. So instead of focusing on the problems, and what is lacking, I focus on the blessings I do have. Like the rose in my photo above, I find the beauty and blessings in (or after) the rain.

When counting my blessings in prayer each day, I always end up first listing them all out, naturally flowing into praying, “You are so good to me”, which then quickly turns to simply, “You are good”. Every second spent just reveling in God’s goodness uplifts my soul, propelling me to share my blessings with others (2 Corinthians 9:8). May it be the same for you!

“Praise the Lord. Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His love endures forever.” Psalm 106:1

“Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise; give thanks to Him and praise His name.” Psalm 100:4

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!

Blessings to you, this day and always!

©Ladeena Ashley
2017 All Rights Reserved (blog content and photos)

Unravel the Loopholes

DSCN9353
Look up – through the mess – and seek Him… Oct 9, 2017

 

God is so awesome! Once again, He gave me a new poem to share at Simonka Place on Friday evening. I finalized and printed it up only an hour before nervously reading it during chapel time at the women’s and children’s shelter. My new nickname could be “The 11th Hour Poet”! I’d been told that the message theme would be “justifying our actions”, but I waited until Friday afternoon to begin looking through my works for a poem to share. Nothing quite fit, so immediately I prayed, “Okay, Lord, do You have something special I can write for the ladies?” With a pencil and notebook at the ready, this is what He inspired me to write:

“Loopholes”

Lord, I get so tangled in myself
– every loophole becomes a noose,
cutting me off from Your truth,
trying to justify with an excuse.
Yet there’s no excuse I can make
that You cannot see right through;
Any loophole I identify
unravels in light of You.
Your Word cuts to the heart,
exposing the enemy’s lies;
The truth behind every “reason”,
each sidestep and disguise.
So in humble awe, I surrender
my faulty wisdom for Your grace.
Laying down my foolish pride
– running into Your embrace.
For You gaze right through me
even as You see me through;
I’m justified only by grace,
through faith, not what I do.
Thank You, Lord, for loving me
and for Your patience when I stumble.
May all the loopholes in my life
remain unraveled as I stay humble.

11-10-17
©Ladeena Ashley

To some degree or another, we all rationalize our actions. We are made in God’s image, so among other things, we have intellect, emotions, and a will, but because we also live in a fallen world, our clever minds can easily get us into trouble. I myself tend to over-think things or selfishly want my own way, more often than I’d like to admit. There are several loopholes or spiritual gray areas we’ve all used to justify our actions.

For many, one struggle is telling white lies. It seems like the most loving thing to do, but it actually isn’t loving at all. A white lie is still a lie. Yet there are gentle ways to tell the truth. I’m generally honest to a fault, so the challenge for me is to avoid stepping on toes through my matter-of-fact comments.

Some folks act as if they can hide things from God, or attempt to somehow outsmart Him. Those notions have never made sense to me. It’s silly to think that we can convince God that He’s wrong by using the seemingly sound reasoning and logic of the world. It is also dangerously foolish to cherry pick doctrine to serve our selfish purposes. The enemy delights in twisting the truth. By picking and choosing what we believe or turning it to justify our agenda, we’re playing right into his hand.

God’s ways are higher than our ways, and His thoughts are infinitely higher than ours (Isaiah 55:8-9). We can’t even begin to comprehend the full measure of His wisdom, or fathom the depths of His understanding (Isaiah 40:28). Basically, God is God, and we are not!

That being said, the Lord actually invites us to reason together with Him (Isaiah 1:18). He welcomes dialogue. Yell, scream or even shake your fist at God. He can take it. Just know that no matter your argument, He will win. Yet when you lose, you win, for in surrendering yourself, you gain His wisdom and a deeper understanding of His will and workings.

Once again, the crux of the problem is trust in self versus trust in God. The more you trust in His perfect will and infinite love for you, the wisest (though not the easiest) choice becomes clear: to pray and seek His will ahead of your own. The God of the universe has your best interests at heart and has the unlimited resources to accomplish great things, even out of our knotted-up messes.

So with humble hearts, let us seek the perfect wisdom He offers freely (James 1:5), daily committing to follow Him with no pretense and no agenda except to do our best, by His grace.

May all of our clever loopholes be replaced with threads of joyful obedience, in light of His goodness, wisdom and love!

Faith Notes
Here’s one of my favorite songs that fits the theme of this post:
What You Want – Tenth Avenue North

Wisdom of the Word
“For the wisdom of the world is foolishness in God’s sight. As it is written, ‘He catches the wise in their craftiness’.” 1 Corinthians 3:19

“Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes and clever in their own sight!” Isaiah 5:21

Blessings to you, this day and always!

©Ladeena Ashley
2017 All Rights Reserved (blog content and photos)