Wednesday, June 29, 2011

When I Am Weak, I Am Strong

I used to never cry. In high school I would go through break ups, fail test, (insert high school drama here) and never cry.

Then I started walking with the Lord and I became a totally basket case. Now I cry a minimum of three times a week. Crying for me can be brought on by a range of things from the ├╝ber-serious to, I don’t know, let’s say, The Biggest Loser or a credit card commercial. And don’t even get me started on Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.

But, the fascinating thing is that even now, people who don’t know me very well are surprised to find out that I am a “crier”. Micah was certainly shocked when we got married. Sure he’d seen a few very feminine tears glisten down my face during dating and engagement. But, he was not prepared for the Niagara Falls of ugly crying he would experience in marriage.

So, why is that? Why do I default to this pulled together front even though I am actually very emotional? I think it’s because I value strength. I like being strong. I like other people thinking I’m strong and powerful. Unshakeable. It makes me feel important and in control. People can’t have power over me and know my soft spots. I don’t have to be vulnerable.

And to make matters worse, somewhere along the way I decided that being strong is Christ-like and the only way to reach people. I started teaching people that “I’m strong, and you can be strong too!”

Which is….ridiculous. And definitely not the gospel. In fact, God loves our weakness.

Paul says this:

So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
-2 Corinthians 12:8-10

When I am weak, then I am strong.

In our weakness He is strong. He is our power and our security.

The fact is that strength and perfection IS very God-like, but it’s not very me-like. The strength in me is God. So, why am I teaching that it is me? People don’t want to hear that. And frankly, it’s not a very good sell. I don’t think anyone’s testimony is going to be: “Well, I saw that Ashley was perfect, and I wanted to be perfect too, so I became a Christian.” Ha!

People want to hear the truth. That I am broken and a certified wreck. But, God is my hero and he came in my life and put the pieces all together. He made me whole. 

So, like Paul, I want to live a life of integrity but still boast in my weaknesses. I want to show my imperfections and not be scared others will think less of me and run from the Lord.

Because the true gospel and my story is...

 For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. – Romans 5:6

Monday, June 27, 2011

My Health Update: The Maker's Diet

This year has been quite a journey for me. I could probably write an entire blog about all the things God has taught me through this one thing, but, for now, just a summary will do.

Starting exactly one year ago I began to have a string of unusual health problems. I have been healthy and fit my entire life, so it came as unfamiliar and scary territory for me. The worst of the symptoms has been canker sores in my mouth. At any given time I will have as many as 15 in my mouth as once! It is horrible. Especially since two of my favorite pastimes (talking and eating) involve my mouth. Often it would completely handicap me from even being able to carry on a conversation.

I also have experienced many other symptoms in addition to the canker sores, but the most prominent are stomach pain and extreme fatigue. Nothing is worse than being tired and in pain…all the time. After seeing countless doctors, taking all the tests, and trying too many remedies to count, there is still no answer. Isn’t not having an answer terrible?

At one point my doctor thought I had Crohn’s disease, and I was terrified. I stupidly went home and read about hundreds of cases of Crohn’s on the internet and convinced myself that I was on my deathbed. Thankfully I did not have Crohn’s, but I remember being so disappointed with not having an answer. The mystery was killing me.

I have had several rock bottom moments in the last year, but the most recent was at a Young Life camp in Colorado in May.  I found myself in the nurses station with a full body rash from an allergic reaction to an antibiotic I was on. I just sobbed like a little baby in front of numerous people, and side note: I absolutely hate crying in public. But, I was a leper, and I couldn’t help it. I was so defeated.

Hopped up on Benadryl and quarantined to the nurses station, I decided now was a good time to read up on a health plan I had heard about: The Maker’s Diet. Four out of six of the girls in my community group are gluten free and I live in Austin (hippies), so I am very aware of the world of clean eating. But, until now, I couldn’t have cared less about it.

The Maker’s Diet is basically based on a diet from the Old Testament on what God told the Israelites to eat and not eat. I read the entire book in only a few days, and I was reenergized to try something new. The diet is 40 days and consists of three phases. Hardest to easiest. As you go along you get to add more and more foods. If you want the details you can download them here: Maker’s Diet Phases 

Well, today is my 25th day on the diet and I am currently canker sore and symptom free! Praise God! About a week ago I had 7 canker sores in my mouth, but as of now they are all healed. The book says often your symptoms get worse before they get better, so I am praying this is true.

It has been SUPER challenging for me. Mostly because I love cheese, bread, sugar, and lard. At first, eliminating all these things made me feel like a drug addict going cold turkey. (“Must have queso!!!”) And I will spare you the details of the “Raisinette incident” where I yelled at Micah for bringing my favorite candy into our house. But things have gotten easier as my taste buds are changing and I don’t loathe every person I see eating a cheeseburger.

For those of you that stumbled upon this blog by Googling “canker sores” because you suffer from them and have tried all the basic remedies (rinsing with salt water, ect.). Here are a few things that have helped me tremendously:

1. Praying healing scriptures over myself
This has absolutely been the most healing thing I have done. Spiritually and physically healing. I try to read them as often and as faithfully as I would take a healing medicine. My personal favs are listed here

And when I’m really feeling low this is my go to:

Jeremiah 17:14-15
 Heal me, O LORD, and I will be healed; 
save me and I will be saved, for you are the one I praise. 
They keep saying to me, “Where is the word of the LORD? Let it now be fulfilled!”

2. Cleansing Smoothie every day
This is my own adaptation from the Maker’s Diet. It has been fabulous for my sores and stomach pain. I make it and drink half in the morning and half at night. It includes mixing:
·      1 Scoop of Super Seed (whole food fiber blend)
·       1 Scoop of Perfect Food (green superfood blend with HSOs)
·      1 tbsp extra virgin coconut oil
·      1 tbsp flaxseed oil
·      1 tbsp Apple Cider Vineger
·      1 cup organic frozen fruit
·      8 oz filtered water
Optional Additions:
o   1 egg
o   1 Tbs honey
o   spinach leaves
o   yogurt or almond butter for texture

3.  Daily Whole Food Multi-Vitamin
Must be a “whole food” multi-vitamin to be most effective. I use Vitamin Code Women.
Garden of Life's Super Seed, Perfect Food, and Vitamin Code Women Multi-Vitamin

4. Oral B Amosan
This is an oral wound cleanser in the form of a powder that you mix with warm water. Use it when you have sores in your mouth and they will heal faster and feel better. 

5. Debacterol
This is the serious stuff. I only use it when I am really desperate. It is prescription only and will heal any canker sore. The  downside is it burns like the fires of hell. Seriously, we’re talking tears streaming down your face. It is a small acidic swab that you hold on the sore for a few second. It will heal over immediately.

I hope this helps someone out there!

And for the rest of you, thank you for your prayers! 

Saturday, June 25, 2011

I Trust You

Yesterday my friend Leah and I spontaneously went to the outlet mall where I bought an embarrassingly large number of Nike shorts. Not the kind that all the college and trendy high school girls wear, but a much more mature Nike Dri Fit version...obviously. They are the perfect length and fit, so I stocked up. 

Leah has an adorable little boy, Henry, and another bun in the oven, so I asked her what has been the most surprising aspect of having children. She said, 

"Everyone told me I would love my kid. But, I don't just love him, I continue to love him more and more than the day before." 

I didn't tell her right then, (I prefer to say encouraging things over the internet rather than in person.) but it captivated me. God has entrusted Leah with this precious life, and she is being faithful in a thousand tiny ways. 

Jesus said, "From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked." (Luke 12:48) 

Those of us who God has given gifts are held to a higher standard. Which is everyone! He gives us something precious. He gives us a role, a part to play. 

I imagine it this way... 

I walk up to a king's throne and he hands me a small bag of gold coins. He leans in close to my face and whispers, "Be wise and faithful with these." He owns the coins, but he is allowing me to manage them for him. He is investing in me. Months later I return to the king and have started a business with the gold coins and now have two bags. I hold up the bags, excited to show the king. "Well done!" The king exclaims. "You have been good and faithful with the few coins I have given you; I will set you over much." He reaches behind his throne, grabs a golden treasure box, and hands it to me. I open the box. Inside are rubies, diamonds, gold, silver...there is such a large amount and variety of treasures in the box it's hard for me to take them all in at once. Now he has trusted me with much more. I have a greater responsibility but with greater potential rewards!  

This story is based on Jesus' words in Matthew 25. The truly fantastic twist is that God, our king, entrusts us with even more priceless treasures than in this story. He gives us abilities, friendships, gifts, insights into scripture, direction, leadership roles, a spouse, a voice in someone's life, the Spirit bringing someone to mind who needs us. The treasures are vast and unique to each of us. 

But, we must be faithful. 

We must utilize the abilities. 
Love the friends. 
Appreciate the gifts. 
Let the insights and revelations of scripture soak down into the deepest parts of us. 
Walk in the direction he is pointing. 
Lead with integrity and courage. 
Be patient with our spouse. 
Speak truth into someone's life. 
Call the person who comes to mind. 

And he promises that if we are faithful in the little things, he will give us even bigger things. Exciting! 

Here are a few things I know God has entrusted me with: 

Can you guess what they are?
What about you? What are some things you know he has entrusted you with? 

P.S. God has not entrusted me with that donkey. 

Thursday, June 23, 2011

A Birthday Gift

Well, hello, blog. Sorry it’s been awhile.

Since the last time I wrote, I had a birthday - 28.

To some of you that is old, and to some that is young, but to me it’s just…weird.
I remember being in high school and thinking 20 was ancient. At 28 I thought you were basically dead, or at least really, really boring. Contrary to my high school expectations, I’m liking 28 so far. It’s only been about 12 days since we were introduced, but so far she’s been good to me.

On my birthday, Micah took me to see the movie Thor. I recognize that many girls would not file this high on the birthday agenda, but a little known fact about me is that I love super hero movies. Batman, Superman, Spiderman, X-Men. You name it. It definitely comes from my Dad, who also introduced me to similar movies like Star Wars, Star Trek, Indiana Jones and the like. But, super hero movies were always his (and therefore my and my brother’s) favorite. We would go see one at the theatre and then go to Chili’s and analyze the entire plot over chicken fingers. I love those memories.

As I’ve grown I’ve realized there were many things that drew me to these types of stories. I loved the hero rescuing the girl. I loved that the characters were special. I loved the moment they discovered the power within them. I loved the concept of good conquering evil. I loved the seemingly impossible odds. It all fascinated me, and it still does. So, needless to say, I was excited to see Thor.

And I loved it. Maybe a little too much.

When the movie ended I felt sad. That might sound strange, but I started to have this thought that life is just not that exciting. I was pissed that Micah isn’t ripped, wears a suit of armor, and has access to some alternate universe. I was angry that we were sitting in a movie theatre and not doing something adventurous and of the utmost importance…maybe saving lives or conquering kingdoms or I don’t know ANYTHING! So, in my slight depression we  went home.

As I crawled into bed that night as a 28 year old non-super hero (or super hero wife) I reluctantly turned in my devotional to June 11th. It said this:

“There he broke the flashing arrows,
the shield, the sword, and the weapons of war.” –Psalm 76:3

Our Redeemer’s glorious cry of “It is finished,” was the death-knell of all the adversaries of his people, the breaking of the arrows of the bow, the shield, and the sword, and the battle.” Behold the hero of Golgotha using his cross as an anvil, and his woes as a hammer, dashing to shivers bundle after bundle of our sins, those poisoned “arrows of the bow;” trampling on every indictment, and destroying every accusation. What glorious blows the mighty Breaker gives with a hammer far more ponderous than the fabled weapon of Thor!

Beloved, no sin of a believer can now be an arrow mortally to wound him, no condemnation can now be a sword to kill him, for the punishment of our sin was borne by Christ, a full atonement was made for all our iniquities by our blessed Substitute and Surety.

I was stunned, and simply prayed…

Thank you, Jesus, for rescuing me and loving me. Thank you for being my strong protector. Thank you for making me special. Thank you for helping me realize the power within me that you have given me. Thank you for being the good that conquers all evil. Thank you for conquering even when it seems impossible. Thank you that you are coming back for me.