Greetings, blog followers! It has been several months since we’ve met in this space and I apologize for my confusing, sudden absence. It was a goal of mine for the year of 2019 to create content more consistently, but Jesus had other plans. This post is going to address several things including, where I’ve been the last seven months, how I’ve grown and changed with God in this last year, and upcoming plans for the new decade in 2020.
First things first, you’re probably wondering: Ashley, why the heck did you stop writing? Or Where did you go? I honestly don’t have a simple answer for that question, but the easiest analogy I can use is that I lost my voice. Bear with me. A lot of things happened in this past year, a lot of BIG things: I graduated from my master’s program, got engaged, moved to a new city, started a dream job, and got married. All amazing, beautiful, wonderful things. But at the same time, with much change, often can come much difficulty. And the amount of change me, and my now husband, experienced in the last year left us completely brokenhearted, and shattered by bitterness, resentment, and loneliness.
As we went along, hand in hand, ebbing and flowing with the waves of change as they came to us, we found ourselves battered on the shore of our last resort. We were placed into some tremendously difficult positions over the summer and fall months, which at first we thought we could work through and overcome; however, at the end of it all, letting go of dreams, plans, and expectations we thought were aligned with God’s will, landed us where we are today.
This is why I couldn’t write. I couldn’t write through the process or grieve outwardly to my internet followers and do it well. I knew myself enough to know that if I processed my pain through my blog, although a healthy outlet, I’d find myself in a pool of ranting and slander that I would not let myself fall into. My life was already a confusing mess of knotted conflicts spiraling out of my control. So instead of keeping everyone in the loop, I chose to step back and grieve, process, and find vision in the quiet corners of my heart with Jesus.
Reflecting back on these months, I don’t actually know if I could have written. There were times where I wanted to and I just didn’t have words. It felt like my writing voice had contracted laryngitis and no matter what I did, I couldn’t force myself to speak. It was too painful. I recently started reading a book by Rebekah Lyons called Rhythms of Renewal; she summed it up perfectly in this quote, “If you lose your voice, be quiet a while. It’ll come back.” Thus, these feelings ushered me into a seriously quiet season of rest where I’ve found myself throughout this winter season. Jesus has been so gentle with me, healing and soothing wounds I thought would gape open forever, teaching me in the hushed whispers of my spirit.
Which brings me to where I am today. I’ve found myself in what I’ve come to label as a period of Deconstruction. I’ve questioned much of my faith in the last seven months: is God actually kind? If He’s allowed all of this to happen, is He actually for me? Who does God say I am? Who do I say God is? The last question probably the most important. In this season of quiet and rest, God has taken me back to the basics. All the Sunday school answers I’ve grown increasingly numbed to over my 24 years of following Christ have been called into question, and I’ve had to truly answer for myself what I believe about God and His character. At times my answers did not align with my Baptist upbringing. I’ve been angry, hurt, and at times felt betrayed by God. How could He let this happen to me? I followed everything He said to do to the fullest extent and I’ve come up on the opposite side of it all totally empty handed.
I’m in a space now where I feel free to answer all of these difficult questions for myself, tearing down the thoughts and beliefs I held to without question. Quite slowly, if I may add, as I continue on into the depths of who God is. I have come to terms with the fact that I am in process, but I also stand firm in my knowledge that I am not alone; I am in this process with Jesus, as He is walking me and guiding my hand in each new step. The answers still aren’t clear, but the fog of my heart and connection to God is lifting and I am full of such relief.
In the last week, in preparation for the future and this next year of 2020, I’ve taken a mini ‘retreat’, if you will, each day, taking an hour or two to myself to hone in on what I really want. This time was spent cultivating vision and direction for where I’d like to see my life travel over the coming months and years, refreshing dreams that had died throughout the summer. Since the unraveling stated, I’ve been so afraid to dream for fear it would end up horribly or God would leave me stranded. But I pushed through the anxiety of dreaming in the last few days and set goals for myself and stated outwardly how I’d like to see God move in this next year.
Let me tell you, I wrote down some SCARY things. Big, scary goals that made me not even want to speak them into existence for fear of failure. However, I’m choosing to believe that God can help me with these scary things this year and if they aren’t what He has for me, He’ll lead me in faith to the next (probably scarier) thing.
During this process, like the last few years, I came across my word for 2020. It’s something I wasn’t expecting and probably a word you’d have to dig a little deeper into to understand it’s relevance. The word is Receive. Receive has numerous definitions according to dictionary.com, including to accept delivery of something OR to endure or sustain. In 2020, I want to use the word receive as an active posture of keeping myself open to accepting what the Lord has for me: truth, blessing, guidance, and wisdom.
If you know me at all, you know that this year has brought me enlightenment through the enneagram. The enneagram is a popular personality assessment that describes your personality, traits, and motives by assigning you to a number. I am the truest One you’ll probably ever meet and in my One-ness, I like to close myself off, suppress emotion that I see as “bad”, and believe that I am not worthy unless I am perfect. ALL of these tendencies rear their ugly heads in relationships, especially my relationship with Jesus. I feel guilty when I think about receiving from God, even more so receiving blessings or good things from Him. My first thought is usually, I didn’t work hard enough for that, I don’t deserve it. Thus, in this year, I want to step into God’s love for me. Step into acceptance of what He has in store to teach and usher into my life. Receiving might seem like a passive stance, letting “whatever happen, happen.” But to me this is a grueling opening of my inner self to be vulnerable with the One whose given it all for me.
Let 2020 be the year I receive myself, for myself as I currently am
- the year I receive healing and truth from Jesus and a community where I can find peace
- the year I receive others as they are without the need to fix or manipulate them into who I want them to be,
- The year I trust those around me to accept me for myself
- the year I receive ultimate truth from Jesus about who He is and who He says I am.
As 2020 begins, I encourage each and every one of you reading this to take inventory of your year. What’s happened in this last year? What do you want to take with you into this new decade and what do you want to leave behind? Where do you want to be this time next year? Be brave and honest with your heart as we welcome this year with excitement and EXPECTATION that God can and WILL do big things. Because He is a BIG God with a big heart for those who love Him.