Blooming Boundaries

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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)

The Pursuit of Peace

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Every day, in our own ways, we all pursue peace. Conflict, uncertainty, worry and fear can easily tear us down and immobilize us if we let it.

As someone with chronic digestive issues and anxiety, peace is essential to my physical, mental and emotional well-being. Yet the peace we all need goes much deeper than simply managing stress or thinking happy thoughts!

The peace I’m referring to is not the kind the world promises, but the peace of God. Jesus said, “My peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:27) His peace is truly otherworldly! The best way I can describe it is: a deep sense of rightness, of inner calm despite outward circumstances. It is not merely lack of negative thoughts, but a clean sweep of emotions that leaves only a wholeness of spirit with a sparkling sense of absolute confidence in God.

So how do you get that peace? Philippians 4:4-7 shows us one way: “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”

As a Christ follower, I believe finding peace and discerning the will of God all comes down to these main habits that, when learned and practiced, keep us STABLE in an increasingly uncertain and hostile world:

Seek God – Accept and believe who He is, not merely what He can do for you.
Trust God – Surrender your all to His perfect love, holding nothing back.
Abide in Him – Spend time in praise, prayer, worship and reading His Word.
Be thankful – Count your blessings and thank God for what He is doing in your life.
Love others – Look for ways to encourage and serve others without judgment.
Every day – The more you look to Him in all things, the easier it becomes.

Prayer in particular brings me incredible peace. “On-the-go” prayers are okay, but God really shows up when I stop and find a quiet place (no rush), set aside my desires (no agenda), humbly ask for His will or what I should do (no pride), and trust in His love completely, regardless of the answer (faith).

No Holding Back
In the book of Psalms, David boldly shared all of his joys, sorrows and frustrations with the Lord in prayer. He didn’t hold back, because he knew God could take it. Yet no matter the situation, sooner or later he circled back to praise, ultimately reaffirming his faith and trust in God.

My prayers are much like David’s: because of my chronic digestive issues, I will sometimes whine about how I feel or what I can’t eat. Yet my discomfort never diminishes the deep sense of peace I have in knowing the Lord. In fact, quite often my prayers switch from complaining to praising God in the same breath, knowing that the Lord is SO very good to me!

Peace in Decisions
Peace for me is also an integral part of decision-making. Much like David did, I inquire of the Lord directly, asking specifically, “Lord, should I…?”, and pause to listen. Listing off each available option one at a time (even those courses of action I don’t really want to take), I keep asking until, with one option, the concern loosens its grip on my heart and the peace of God which passes all understanding gently carries my soul to that place of reassurance.

Lasting Peace
There are many ways to find peace and contentment: meditation, exercise, creative arts, etc, but the best way I’ve found is through my relationship with Christ. Everything else is temporary, and simply scratches the surface.

Are you looking for lasting peace? A hope that endures? If you don’t have a relationship with God through Christ, peace may feel more like a short calm before the storm, shallow contentment or even numbness. If so, you are missing out! Look no further than the great peace and love Jesus offers. Nothing else comes close.

Blessings to you, this day and always!

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

Moving Forward While Waiting

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Happy New Year!
The new year has arrived, and with it a clean slate and the hope that this year we’ll all  finally “get it right”. Or at least be happier, healthier, prosperous….you fill in the rest.

This day is bittersweet for me because an important relationship remains in a state of limbo. In that part of my life, I am poised to…well…continue waiting.

Some seasons of waiting are of longer duration than others; it’s easy to grow discouraged when changes aren’t happening at the speed or in the manner we’d like. We must always remember that God’s ways are higher than ours; He will not be rushed! However, He will be with us, loving us through every second as we trust in Him. My own faith, strength, and courage were certainly tested in 2016, but many joys also lightened the load. I never stop growing and learning.

Here’s a poem I wrote about where my heart and head are at right now:

“Heavenly Lenses”

Pulled up once more by my bootstraps
–the Lord seems slow, but He’s never late.
Uneasy with unresolved issues,
nothing more to do but pray and wait.
Moving forward feels like standing still,
must make better use of my days:
Proactively pursuing God’s will
–surrendered more fully to His ways.
In moments like these, He is my strength,
when discouragement dulls my senses;
I cling to Jesus, reading His Word
to see through heavenly lenses.
For God’s wisdom surpasses all
that my human brain can comprehend.
Not knowing is the hardest part
–when it’s time for this season to end.
Til that day comes, I trust His plan,
lifting my hands in thankful prayer,
for though the future is unclear now,
I know that God is already there!

12-30-16
©Ladeena Ashley

Waiting Wisely and Well
Waiting is never easy. We’ve all been through periods when we’ve done all we can do, and now the ball is in someone else’s court. To keep my faith strong and my sanity (relatively) intact, the Lord has helped me use the time wisely. Proactive waiting, you might say.

Here’s a short list of what I’ve learned, and questions to ask:

  1. God knew this would happen
    (He loves you and you can trust His plan)
  2. It’s okay not knowing what will happen
    (it’s not like you’d predict any other time, either)
  3. What is the Lord teaching you through this?
    (about His character, yourself, and life)
  4. How can you improve yourself while waiting?
  5. How are you preparing for the possible outcomes?
    (pray — this does NOT mean worrying or obsessing)

Waiting doesn’t have to be full of stress, anxiety and discouragement. Use the time to reflect, regroup and, yes, rejoice! Praise God in advance for what He will do. Before you know it, the answer will come, the situation will change or the problem will work out. When the time comes, you can be more ready because you knew how best to wait!

God’s Word About Waiting…

“Therefore the Lord longs to be gracious to you; He rises to show you compassion. For the Lord is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for Him!” Isaiah 30:18, NIV

“We wait in hope for the Lord; He is our help and our shield. In Him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in His holy name. May Your unfailing love, rest upon us, O Lord, even as we put our hope in You.” Psalm 33:20-22, NIV

“The Lord is not slow in keeping His promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” 2 Peter 3:9, NIV

“They who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.” Isaiah 40:31, ESV

Faith Notes
Here’s an awesome song that my heart sings every day!
Trust In You – Lauren Daigle
(Note: Link will open in new window.)

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