“The soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul.” 1 Samuel 18:1.
All I wanted growing up was a sister. I had two brothers when my mom became pregnant with number four. I can’t explain how, but I knew I was finally getting my sister.
I sobbed my eyes out when my grandmother announced that I had a healthy baby brother. Another brother. It just about did me in.
Though I never got my sister, God has been so good to me by blessing me through the years with some absolutely awesome friends. Some of those friendships have only been for a season, but they have left a lasting mark on my heart. Others have stood the test of time and are just comfortable and precious. But then there are those few that are different; ones that I have a hard time finding the right words to adequately explain them.
Grace is one of those.
Recently, her husband gave her a surprise birthday party. He asked some of us to roast/toast her at the party. He told me that he wanted me to go last and REALLY roast her!
Oh, I got this!
I began to think back over all our years together and to jot down a few roast worthy things. Then I came to my senses and went back and scratched some out because I realized that if I shared them, I would be embarrassing myself, too. And really, I am learning that it really isn’t all about me so the attention really needed to be on her. Far be it for me to take the attention off of her.
I realized that we are really different in some areas.
She likes to get on these health kicks, and when she does, she’s all in and expects for everyone else to be all in too. I, on the other hand, have no interest in torturing myself or anyone else. In the 90’s she got on this juice kick. It almost killed all of us. I remember walking into her house one morning and being met with a full glass of something unidentifiable that she had just juiced. She said it was carrot, but it wasn’t orange, so I don’t know. When she turned around I poured it down her drain. I am not even lying – the drain spit the stuff back up at me. Obviously, the rest of her family was doing the same thing because they had to call the plumber several times that summer.
She juiced 24-7 and she juiced everything. When the goldfish turned up missing, I was suspicious. Sushi in a cup? Just saying.
She likes to drive when we go places for several reasons. One, she likes to arrive on time; I do not. Two, she thinks herself to be good with directions; I can get lost in my backyard. One morning we took off to pick our boys up from a camp near Rock Hill, SC. Campers were to be picked up by 10 o’clock so we left pretty early. She was driving because she knew the way. After all, she had gone to the same camp growing up. We arrived to find our boys sitting on their tiny suitcases in the parking lot all alone because the other campers had been picked up 2 hours earlier…at 10 o’clock. If we hadn’t gone to Rock Hill by way of North Carolina, I feel sure we would have been on time.
Did I mention that the camp was in South Carolina and that we live in South Carolina? So I really have no explanation as to why we were in North Carolina.
I am pretty black and white on most things. I tend to look at the evidence and draw my conclusions. She…not so much. Just recently, we were on our way home from a shopping trip when a highway patrolman pulled up behind us and turned on his blue lights (Clue #1).
I suggested that she might want to pull over, but she insisted that he was not after her. She changed lanes so he could pass her. He switched lanes, too (clue #2).
This happened 2 more times (clues #3 and 4).
No amount of rational and logical reasoning on my part could convince her that he was in fact after her. When he finally turned his siren on, she decided that maybe she should pull over. As she was pulling over, I was texting my husband to tell him that I was probably going to need some bail money.
Despite our differences, there are a few areas that we have in common. Neither one of us will turn down a good argument. If I have heard her say, “You’re wrong, and I’ll tell you why,” once; I have heard it a thousand times. We are both very good at thinking ourselves to be always right. It’s just a talent we were both born with. We are so good at it, that we have been known to convince each other to change positions on a matter at the same time. It is just wonderful that we are willing to see the other’s point of view, but not so wonderful when we realize that we are now, once again, in opposition because she has adopted my original way of thinking and I have adopted hers.
Grace: “You’re wrong, and I’ll tell you why.”
Me: “No need. I got it. It was my argument first.”
So what does any of this have to do with souls being knitted together?
Nothing. I just wanted y’all to know what I’ve had to put up with over the years.
Today, though, when I read about Jonathan and David and how their two souls were knitted together, I thought about several precious friends, one of them being my friend Grace.
We have grown up together in The Lord. We have that iron sharpening iron kind of friendship. For all the times I joke about her talkativeness and easy distractibility, she is the one who often speaks truth into my life with great accuracy and precision. She can listen to me and cut right through to the heart of the issue, and she loves me enough to tell me what I need to hear not what I want to hear.
“You’re wrong, and this is why.”
And she’s right.
And even though she has gotten me physically lost on more than one occasion, she has a way of helping me find my way when I most need it. I will never forget the night I was driving back home after my mom passed away. I was in the car alone having a hard time making sense of what I was feeling. In my heart, I knew I needed to call her. I don’t remember anything she said, but to this day I remember the comfort that fell over me as she talked and I drove.
Over the years, God has knitted our souls together, and because He has, our friendship has turned into sisterhood. Which makes total sense in light of the fact that we have the same Father.
I am better because of her friendship, as are so many of her friends.
I pray this kind of relationship for my own daughters.
Have a great week!
The other morning I woke up, sat down, prayed that God would show me something in His word and then asked that He would tell me what to do with it... here it is.
I’m currently reading the book of John chapter 4, where John recalls Jesus declaring His Messiahship to the woman at the well. He begins describing this metaphor for living water and never thirsting again, but in this passage she just wasn't following Him. Jesus was trying to speak to her spiritual needs and when that didn’t work, He kind of called her out.
Now, I don’t want to make Jesus sound rude or insensitive, but He knows us, right? Sometimes (often times) we need to be told straight up, how things are in our lives. I am a real person and I need to be talked to in the same way. Too much fluff and flowers and you can lose my very direct, straight forward mind.
This woman at the well had been with several men and Jesus brought it up to her. She was at the well at a time when no one else was, due to what I imagine was great shame and shunning by her community. But Jesus met her there AND acknowledged her.
After talking with Jesus, the woman was so moved by her encounter with Him, the one who knew all of her sins and still offered her an eternal “well of life." He showed up and her shame left. Scripture says that she left her waterpot at the well and went straight to the townspeople in the city to tell them of her experience with this man called Jesus!
I have read this story before and I've heard this story told in sermons several times, but when I read it the other morning, it seemed different in some way.
The shameful woman at the well was no longer the focus in my mind.
Her sin was no longer the focus of this story for me.
It was her going immediately to the townspeople and telling them about her encounter with Jesus.
Here is this woman, who wouldn't even collect water at a well when others did, leaving her waterpot, and going to the townspeople to declare boldly about her meeting with this man who "told (her) all things that (she) ever did!"
For a woman with her reputation, bringing up past sin wouldn't normally be an encouraging thing (I mean, who would enjoy that?)...but it wasn't about her sin. It was that this man, Jesus, knew her sin and STILL HE MET WITH HER. Still He acknowledged her. Still He offered her what He knew she needed most.
When we encounter the LOVE of Jesus...the grace filled, forgiving LOVE of Jesus, we are compelled! We run! We share it! WE LOSE OUR SHAME.
Shame that keeps us hidden away, disconnected from loved ones, drowning our feelings of worthlessness or self pity in anything and everything. Sometimes it's substances and sometimes it's other relationships. Sometimes it's actions, things we do, and other times it's things we buy or partake in. But guess what? Typically those things create more shame or only a temporary haze to keep our shame just out of view for a little while. None of those things take it away though.
But here, in just a moment... it was gone. And as a result, she reached out to others who were then so moved by her words, her testimony, that they left the city and went to find Jesus.
How often do we let fear of others or influence of others keep us from sharing what God has done in our lives or better yet, BROUGHT US THROUGH? We've all done things, said things, experienced things that we are not proud of. That's called sin.
My name is Ashley, and I am a sinner. I sin. Every day. Major bummer.
Ok, now that that's out of the way, guess what?....
There is forgiveness for that, BUT....and it's a big one...there is also an undeniable influence in that! When we turn our shame into a testimony of what God has done, that brings Him GLORY! And glory is evidence of Him; it's showing the world that my God is real, and here's how...
"But I don't want to share this horrible thing with others!" ...no one is making you, but if you have come out of it, whatever situation "it" is or was, there is a story to tell. Maybe your ending was better than you could've imagined, or maybe it was worse than anything you've ever experienced...either way, don't let the shame keep you at the well by yourself.
Maybe you're there, at the well, pulling up your bucket and you don't even see Jesus anywhere, so how could you possibly hear from Him?
Ask Him to meet you at the well. Sitting by yourself with nothing but your shame, looking for something, anything, that will fill the longing you have. the thirst. the hunger.
He will meet you. But you've gotta be at the well...that place of humility where you know no one else is gonna show up and sit with you. It's gonna be hard. But if we don't all go there at some point, our shame will keep us so far from the one who takes away our sin. The one who breathes life and love back into us again.
I think that's why God gave me these words. Too many people I know are walking through tough things right now, but not sharing it with anyone because of their shame. Because of their concern with other people's perception of them or their situation.
Maybe you know someone who is walking through something right now. And man, it looks bad. It's covered in filth and what looks like a long road and so you've just checked out. You've left them in the middle of their shame, all for a little less "ick" and a lot more comfort on your end. I get it. I've been there before too. But maybe try and revisit that person or situation. Maybe it's only in prayer, but maybe it's also in person. There's nothing that says "I'm here for you" like a warm, living, breathing, body knocking on your door.
So I want to challenge you. I want you to think about your life, or maybe it's someone else's life that comes to mind, and I want you to pray and ask God to help you. Maybe helping you looks like bringing you to a place of humility, so that you can make your way to the well. Or maybe helping you looks like the Holy Spirit giving you courage and grace to step back into someone's life who could really use a friend...and if you have a box of donuts and a movie, those wouldn't hurt to carry on you either.
Sometimes we need those too.
With love & laughter,
1st Photo by Qang Jaka on Unsplash
2nd Photo by Mitchell Orr on Unsplash
3rd Photo by Claudia Soraya on Unsplash
Media- you’re everywhere. You’re so loud that it’s deafening.
You’re deafening our ears to hear truth,
blinding our eyes to see direction,
yet somehow amplifying our mouths to speak opinion…
to speak our views or judgements we’ve formed from you, Media,
with our deafened ears and our blinded eyes.
We have become like overly pompous horses.
We appear grand, strong, powerful, galavanting the great wild world,
yet with bridle and bit in mouth, our stance is directed by someone else.
By something else.
It’s you, Media.
What is truth anymore?
We’ve taken this guiding light and altered it to fit our perception of reality.
But that’s not truth.
We seem to have lost what truth is.
We no longer seek it earnestly, instead we settle for being led by uncertainty.
What happened to education? Where have all of the books gone?
We no longer thumb through pages of factual information,
rather settle for a comment feed without any rationalization.
Where do our convictions lie? I can’t seem to find them.
What was once an internal voice of logical process
is now a methodical scroll thumbed thoughtless.
Our hearts seem to be led by self-righteousness, no longer led by love.
Our words led by “likes,” as if that were ever enough.
We are affirmed by our “friends” and motivated by a “follow,”
all of which returns void when what we post is hard to swallow.
So we settle in for hate and slander, all done through our words.
So gratified in our voice, finally being heard.
But what have we accomplished? What’s been made better?
We still live in a virtual world, filled with friends who are fair-weathered.
We have to put down our devices and stand up with our back bones.
Get out of this world’s vices and find our way back home.
Because home is where we left it, where we lost all of our hope.
Where we chose our own knowledge, our own truth, when He warned us, “No, don’t!”
Now we’ve let the enemy in, and he’s running all amok.
And we’re all just looking for hope again, with no such luck.
We’re crying out to leaders; we’re giving them the blame.
But they’ll never be able to hear our cries, because our hope has a name.
Jesus is our hope, the way, the truth, the life.
Watch as He’s running after us, His forever, eternal bride.
So Media, I’m using you now, to accomplish some good.
To remind a hopeless people, that their pain is understood.
I’m unplugging the deafened ears and removing bridle and bit.
To no longer be guided by the world and constantly listening to it.
For my hope, He has a name, and His father suffered great loss.
They both know our feelings of pain, for their pain involved a cross.
And right now ours does too, a crossroads of sorts.
Do we buy into this Hope? Or stand idle with abhor.
If we want to go to battle in this never ending strife,
We must make sure we are standing behind lines worthy of our lives.
The fight we choose will be costly, no matter which side.
So we must be sure we choose wisely and set aside our pride.
I have chosen to seek the Truth, while He may still be found.
I want to have eyes that see and ears that hear, when the trumpet sounds.
If curiosity has sparked, a twinkling in your eyes,
ask me all your questions but tell me no more lies.
This Truth for you is free, for the price has far been paid.
So rest assured you weary heart, do not be dismayed.
For what Hope did for me, He’s also done for you.
And where Media, you confuse us, our Hope, you will speak Truth.
Our Savior will come through.
Taking hold of that Hope,
Yesterday was a first of an upcoming year of firsts. In January, my mom went home – to her real home. So this was my first Mother’s Day without a mom, without my Mama. I really wanted to just move on past the day and pretend that it wasn’t Mother’s Day. Unfortunately, life doesn’t work that way so I just kinda muddled through the day.
I was so blessed to have precious friends send sweet texts throughout the day. One even made the most amazing cake to let me know that she was thinking about me. I was blessed to have most of my children with me but, and I hate to admit this, I just wasn’t feeling overly grateful for the blessings that were around me.
This morning a sweet friend said, “You made it through your first ‘first’. You did it.” She knows what she’s talking about because she has walked this same road. She knows that there will be many “firsts” this year. As I left her house to head home, I started thinking about how much I don’t want to just make it through the next year of “firsts”.
As I drove, I began to become so aware of my ungrateful heart. God had so lovingly surrounded me with loving friends and family and I had just neglected to recognize it. But then He brought a precious memory to my mind. I want to share it with all of you, especially any of you who, like me, have a year of “firsts” ahead.
Back in January, early on a Monday morning, my Dad called to let me know that he thought Mama had just had a stroke and she was in the ambulance on her way to the hospital. We had made several trips to the hospital over the last few months. Her health had been declining and her body was worn out. I remember that my only prayer on the way to the hospital was just that God would be merciful and that her suffering would not escalate even more.
When we got to the hospital, she was on a respirator and was heavily sedated. We were told that she had had a catastrophic brain bleed. After a few more tests and much prayer, the decision was made to remove the respirator. That night, her family surrounded her as she took her last breath.
One by one, family left the room until the only two left were my son, Dalton, and me. His eyes were swollen and red and I knew his heart was crushed. I didn’t want to leave him in the room by himself so I just stood there, watching him out of the corner of my eye. My own heart was so heavy as the finality of what had happened sank in.
But as we stood there in that dark, cold room the most amazing thing happened. All of a sudden, Dalton’s eyes grew wide and his whole face lit up. “Mama, just think what she’s seeing right now…can you imagine what she’s seeing right now!” It was as if God had cracked the door to heaven just enough to allow us a tiny glimpse of what the real reality was. The whole room seemed to light up.
His words washed over me like a river of healing water as I was reminded that the empty shell lying in the hospital bed was nothing more than just that, a shell. But my Mama, well, she was face to face with her Savior. No more pain. She was free. And maybe, she was even dancing.
The reality of what death is for those of us who belong to Christ had escaped me for just a moment. But my son’s words reminded me that the truth is, “To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.” (2 Cor. 5:8)
Who was I to want anything else for her?
So, as I drove home today, I realized that I, again, had lost sight of the truth. I confessed my ungratefulness to my Father and asked that He renew a right spirit in me. I told Him that for the rest of my year of “firsts” without my Mama, I was going to celebrate her year of “firsts” with Him. I was going to just imagine what she was seeing and how she looked now that she was fully healed.
I also had to smile because I’m pretty sure she is rearranging all the furniture in the Mansion and telling the angels what to do.
Have a great week!
This past Friday, National Daughter’s Day thoughts were posted all over Facebook. Even though I wasn’t sure whether or not it was a real thing, I decided to post a picture along with everyone else. As I looked for a picture to post, I found myself thinking back over the years spent with my little girl who is no longer a little girl.
I remember when Philip and I decided it was time to start our family, I wanted four girls and no boys. I grew up with three brothers, all boy cousins, and mostly boys in my neighborhood. I did not want a boy.
I got three of them - and one girl.
Let me assure you, I am most grateful for my boys because I came to realize that raising up the boys was a whole lot easier than raising up the girl.
I have a friend, we’ll call her Tracy…mainly, because that's her name, and she gave me permission to share this story.
Tracy’s job between now and June 6 is to get me in "mother of the bride" shape. This is no small task, mind you. I really can’t think of anything I dislike more than exercise, except maybe surgery without anesthesia. Though I haven’t tried that, I’m pretty sure it would beat out exercise for my least favorite thing.
Anyway, the other day, as I pulled into her driveway and parked, Julie, another friend was headed to her car.
“She’s in A MOOD,” Julie informed me.
I felt a panicky feeling begin to rise up in me. What does ‘in a mood’ mean, exactly?
“She almost killed me,” Julie continued as she climbed into her car.
“Well that’s just great,” I thought to myself. Julie is in much better shape than me, so I knew I was sunk. There was no way I could survive if my friend who runs for fun almost died.
As I headed to the front door, my mind began messing with me. When I reached the front door, which is a big, heavy door, I realized that the doorknob was higher than the normal knob and it was gia-normous too… which made me feel intimidated and small - like Alice in Wonderland.
When I opened the door she was standing there, smiling.
“Are you in a mood? Because Julie said you were…” I started.
“What? No,” she assured me as she waved me off with her hand and headed for the stairs. AND I followed her.
As we made our way down the stairs to the basement she said, “You’re really not going to like me after today.”
Well, there it was!
And the hot flashes started.
I am in that delightful stage of life where my internal thermostat is struggling. There are a few things that set the hot flashes off. One would be heat, which is problematic because I live in the south and I own a blow dryer. And the other is anxiety, which I was in the full throws of.
Now listen, I have known Tracy for all of my adult life. I have never picked up on any “sinisterismness”. She has always been friendly and kindhearted. I have never been afraid of her…until now.
For the next hour, she made me do things I would never do left to myself. She wanted me to strengthen my core. “I don’t think I have one,” I told her.
She would say things like, “I know this is hard…you only have 50 more.” Evil I tell you, just evil. And she smiled the entire time.
She corrected my incorrect posture, showed me how to do certain things, and explained how each exercise was beneficial to me even though I was convinced each one was going to kill me.
She told me to do things that in my mind were just too stinking hard and then wouldn’t let me not do them.
Just a little side note: exercise also brings on hot flashes.
At one point, she opened the door to let some cool air in. My mind screamed, “RUN”, but the rest of me said, “It is just so not going to happen.”
To Tracy’s credit, she was very encouraging. She would say things like, “Good job”, and “I know you can do this.”
When I got in my car to drive home, I had two thoughts.
1. “What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger.”
2. “Where is my ibuprofen?”
As I drove home another thought occurred to me. Just as I need Tracy to come along side me with my physical conditioning, I also need friends to come along beside me with my spiritual conditioning. I need to put myself under strong Godly instruction. I need to seek out those wiser than me and learn from them. I need to surround myself with friends who are also in training. The Bible calls those kinds of relationships iron sharpening iron relationships.
I had asked Tracy for help, and she was doing exactly what I had asked her to do, and she did it well. Truthfully, if it weren’t for her presence, I would not have finished. Okay, while I’m being honest here, I would have cheated on counting the reps, too. It’s true. Sad, but true.
As much as we desire to follow Christ, the truth is, there are times when we face things that just seem too hard. There are times when we just want to do what we have to do to get by, or we just flat out want to quit.
We need sisters standing beside us encouraging us. But we also need them standing beside us lovingly pointing out when our spiritual posture is not correct or when we have become lax in our training and conditioning. Not so we feel beat up, but so we become stronger and healthier in our spiritual walk.
I am blessed to have such sisters.
If you don’t, let me encourage you to consider finding some for yourself. Here are a few suggestions:
1. Seek out a wise Godly woman.
2. Ask her to help you – just like I asked Tracy.
3. Give her full permission to speak truth into your life – even if it is hard or it hurts.
4. Trust her, listen to her, follow her guidance.
5. Meet with her on a consistent, regular basis.
6. Let her see your weaknesses and struggles. Drop the mask.
You will be amazed at the transformation.
Have a great week!
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