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)

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)

Do Not Lose Heart!

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“A Dandy Sunset” – September 25, 2017

 

I’ve been ruminating over what to write about next. There’s been so much animosity, sorrow and distress in the world lately: Hurricanes and flooding in the Gulf Coast. Raging wildfires here in the Northwest and elsewhere. Puerto Rico demolished by Hurricane Maria. Ongoing political dissension. Earthquakes in Mexico. The looming threat of nuclear war. The list goes on… there’s so much to pray about! With all that in addition to dealing with my own stress and physical issues, I really needed to slow down a bit and try to relax. Like millions of others, I’ve been experiencing what one might call “drama fatigue”, and just want to hear some good news for a change.

Then, just when I think we all might be able to take a (short) collective breath, another tragedy unfolds, this time in Las Vegas. When I overheard there was a mass shooting, at first I avoided the news. Later as I took in the full scale of what happened, my mind shifted to the big picture, thinking of the countless souls who don’t know the Lord, many of whom are reaching a tipping point in their lives. Just one more calamity, and they could suddenly tumble off of the mental and emotional cliff into despair, potentially becoming the next headline themselves. At each painful turn, the world’s need for the Lord becomes more apparent. They say evil wins when good people do nothing. It also wins for lack of hope.

This past week I’ve been torn between wanting to escape, trying not to think about anything, and yet at the same time, wanting so badly to go out and evangelize the world that so desperately needs to experience the love, HOPE, peace, joy and forgiveness that is only found in Jesus Christ!

So, what have I been doing? Praying A LOT, taking sanity breaks, and writing as I feel led; trusting that God uses my blog to help others lean in a positive direction, and perhaps put their trust in Him. As I go about my day, I still look for little ways to shine God’s love into my corner of the world. Though I’m not an expert in the field of psychology, and I’m not a certified counselor or a particularly gifted public speaker (which is okay, because after all, I have two ears and only one mouth!), what I can do is be quick to listen to others, slow to speak and slow to get angry (James 1:19-21). To rejoice with those who rejoice, and mourn with those who mourn (Romans 12:15), and offer hope.

As we pray for those going through hardships and pain, we can take comfort knowing that God cares for us and grieves with us. Yet He is still on His throne. He knew these things would happen, and somehow He will bring good from the bloodshed in Las Vegas.

Indeed, just as other events before it, humanity came together in extraordinary ways to help others in their time of crisis. In the days following the shooting, reports surfaced about several off-duty police officers, firefighters, and nurses who happened to be at or near the outdoor concert, and ended up tending to wounds and pulling the injured to safety. I believe it is no coincidence that those public servants were there. As horrific as it was, the death toll surely would have been higher had they not been there and willing to stay or put themselves in harm’s way when the bullets began flying. God is merciful (Isaiah 30:18).

As servants of Christ, in the midst of evil and loss, we must not become weary in doing good (Galatians 6:9), but keep fighting the good fight of the faith (1 Timothy 6:12); merely resting when necessary so God can fill us back up. Heaven forbid that I myself should become too bone-weary or “drama fatigued” to write something positive for this blog! I’m learning to view and engage the folly and evil of this world only enough to know how to best pray and show others the way out of the dark. For our struggle isn’t against what we can see, but the enemy who is at work behind the scenes, in the spiritual realm (Ephesians 6:12). But our Lord is stronger! Our best weapon is prayer, our sword is God’s Word, and our motivation is love. And if God is for us, who can be against us? (Romans 8:31)

As I’ve written before, the birth pains (disasters both natural and man-made) will continue until Jesus comes back, and no matter what happens, we know Who wins at the end of the story! Instead of fretting about what’s going wrong in the world, I am trusting that in some small way He is helping me to be a part of what’s going right.

As I stay focused on Jesus, leaning fully on Him, I’m filled with a contagious hope as the Spirit reminds me that He is with me, that God will work things out for the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28), and I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength (Philippians 4:13)!

Do you have a contagious hope?

Pray, listen, accept His love, and fall on His grace.
Then share that grace and love with others.
Hold onto your hope, for God is faithful (Hebrews 10:23)!
Don’t give up the fight!

“We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed…. Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.” 2 Corinthians 4:8-9 & 16

“Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect…” 1 Peter 3:15

Blessings to you, this day and always!

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

A Healthy Balance

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Marsh Marigold (closeup) – March 12, 2017

I have LOT on my mind these days, and May is looking to be a particularly jam-packed month for me. It seems the busier I get, the more can distract and pull me away from God. That even goes for Christian service as well as everyday activities.

Besides my responsibilities, there is much going on in the world to read, think and pray about. Yet, for me it’s gotten out of hand: recently I’ve been spending precious minutes reading practically every article under the sun, plus taking a few too many online surveys and playing games on my phone. With such sensory overload, it obviously creates a struggle to stay focused on Christ. There has become an imbalance – it’s a fine line between staying informed and relaxing, and just wasting time.

Here’s an older poem about time suckers:

“Distractions”

Wanting less to want more,
except more of my Savior.
Feeling regretful
of my consuming behavior.
The details of daily life
take an enormous toll;
Although I know full well
that God is in control.
This world distracts
entertaining time away
which can’t be relived
to take a minute to pray.
A simple, “I am here, Lord”
With open mind and heart
is enough to break the chains
and make a brand-new start.
As I give Him my moments,
He’ll steer me from wrong.
God is in the details,
and to Him I belong.

9-15-03
©Ladeena Ashley

Self-Control
Learning to put my phone down is an issue that comes down to discipline. Even as technology changes, our need for self-control doesn’t diminish. As one of the fruits of the Spirit, it is one of several indicators of how well we’re walking with Christ. The more intentional we are about being obedient to God and the more time spent in His Word, the more He transforms us and the fruits bear out in our life! We must be consistently surrendering and growing in knowledge of Him!

I don’t know what you may need to set aside more often. Like me, perhaps your cell phone has become like a cell, and you’re imprisoned by the constant need to check it. Or perhaps it’s the TV or other activity that hogs too much time or isn’t productive. Whatever the habit, pray about it and the Spirit will help you regain a healthy balance.

A few ideas: Set specific time frames for the activity, and stick to them. Occupy your hands and mind with something else more worthwhile. Grab your Bible instead of your phone (unless it’s a Bible app)!

It reminds me of a favorite hymn: “Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in His wonderful face, and the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace.”

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” Galatians 5:22

Extra Credit
1 Thessalonians 5:1-11

Blessings to you, this day and always!

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

Poems, Pictures and Providence

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I’m taking a minute to tell you more about why I’m doing this blog, and how it came to be.

Like many others, sometimes I have a problem seeing “the forest for the trees”, but with this blog, I also didn’t fully notice some of the trees! Oddly enough, it wasn’t until a couple of months ago that I fully realized how it all came together so perfectly, and I identified all the “saplings” that the Lord planted to form the “blog forest” I am now enjoying!

Poems

It continually amazes me just how many poems and other writings He’s given to me over the years. I’ve written on how the truths of God’s Word play out in my life, pouring both good and unpleasant life experiences out on paper, and giving voice to various periods of struggles and growth that have brought me here. Every time I’ve searched for something on a particular topic, I’ve rediscovered long-forgotten poems that will be great for future posts. I am thankful and humbled to have so much material from which to draw!

Timing

Though I’ve shared many older poems, I’ve also composed new, more extemporaneous works. This is exciting for me, as writing had largely taken a back seat to personal and financial challenges for the past several years. I see more clearly that this was always a part of God’s larger plan. Just over two years ago I began a journey of transformation, through which He has guided me back to my creative roots. Later, after much prayer, I felt it was the right time to share more fully with others. Blogging seemed a natural choice, as I also wanted to combat the growing negativity and unrest in the world by sharing His light and hope on a broader scale. God has affirmed that decision and is enriching my faith walk through this experience. It has been at once cathartic and invigorating, especially hearing how God has spoken through my humble offerings!

Pictures

Perhaps you’ve noticed that a photo accompanies every post. They are not stock photos, but all original snapshots taken by myself in various places; many while out walking by myself or hiking with family and friends. I enjoy taking pictures, but had often pondered what to do with all of them, as there are no children for me to pass things like that down to. Some images I’ve posted on Facebook, but I always wished to share on a grander scale, if not actually becoming a professional photographer (the thought has crossed my mind, but it is not my calling). The Lord has given me an artistic eye for color and composition, and with this blog, He’s also provided a way to share all those shots!

His Blog

Though I did not plainly state it at first, in my first blog post, this blog is HIS. Now that the “trees” and “forest” are in better focus, I feel even more strongly about that assertion. When beginning this blog journey, I wasn’t sure what He would do with it, but I remain confident that His purposes will be worked out as long as I keep my mind transformed by His Word (Romans 12:2), my heart trusting in His plan (Psalm 28:7) and my hands devoted to writing whatever it is He wants to say through me. Not that I will always say everything perfectly, but that He will use this imperfect vessel to inspire and encourage others according to His will (2 Corinthians 4:7).

Here’s a poem I wrote to reaffirm my dedication of this blog to His service:

“His Blog”

Your words, Lord, are what I seek.
Your will first in what I speak.
Your message, through text great and small.
Your gentle whispers shared with all.
This blog is Yours; it’s not my own.
Lord, set the rhythm, course and tone.
To further Your kingdom, for Your glory;
To uplift and inspire with my story.
For my story is You, and what you’ve done;
I rest in Your grace as each post is begun.
With expectant joy, I listen and pray
Holy Spirit, keep guiding all that I say.

10-1-16
©Ladeena Ashley

Pass It On!

I’ve been doing a LOT of writing lately, and am thankful for every word I’ve been inspired to write. For those who have been following, and those who are new followers: thank you for coming along on this journey. I pray you are blessed by what you read, but more than that, I pray that you too will pass along that encouragement to those around you. We are all blessed to be a blessing (2 Corinthians 1:4)! We are His light in the darkness, our words and lives shining the light of His love everywhere we go.

I have several favorite songs named “Shine”, but the one I’ll choose for this post is by Salvador. It is truly one of the songs of my heart.
Shine – Salvador (Note: link opens in new window)

“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in Heaven.” Matthew 5:16

©Ladeena Ashley
2016 All Rights Reserved (content & blog photo)