2013Walking Worthy: 2013

Monday, December 30, 2013

Big Give: From a Receiver's Perspective

Today I would like to introduce you to a guest blogger, my friend Heather. Heather and I met through work, we both planned events and worked together at a big event I plan each year. Then we found out we went to church together and our friendship just grew over time. Heather and her family became church planters supported by our church. The money you gave toward the Big Give directly affects their ministry. So welcome my friend Heather! I pray you will be blessed by her story:

As I sit in my living room on Vancouver Island on Christmas Day 2013, I remember one quiet Sunday morning late in 2010. The boys and I went into the worship center at First Baptist Church, Euless, while Matthew took care of his responsibilities with the Single Adult Ministry. I listened intently that day to Pastor John preach on the parable of the talents, to multiply the gifts God has given us for His Kingdom…not to hide them away and waste them.   Already being convicted to do more for the Kingdom, our family was preparing for our first trip to Vancouver to pray over the city and to see if the call Matthew already felt would be confirmed in Ethan, Joseph and myself.   I listened to Pastor John urge us to be used of God, but how could my little family really multiply our talents for His use. Could he really use my talents? Dear Lord, if I have anything you can use, oh Lord, please use me.  Then, to our surprise, we were each given an envelope with $5, $10, or $20 inside! Who gives money away to the congregation? Have they gone mad? Pastor John was challenging us to actually multiply our gifts for the Kingdom work. What an object lesson! So, we were to take our money, multiply it in some way, and return everything on the Sunday before Christmas. Wow! What would we do? What could we do? Honestly, I cannot even remember how much we received that year, or what we did to multiply it. I just remember thinking that God was giving me this small challenge…this one, small talent, to multiply as a first step in the things that were to come.  There would be the need of much bigger talents and much greater responsibility as a church planting family.
Heather and her family. Photo Credit: Matt Miller

We did do something halfway creative with that money. I think we baked and sold cookies to our seminary neighbors. But more than that, God convicted me that year that I was to use all of my talents to multiply His Kingdom. As we walked the streets of Vancouver that December, amazed and terrified that God could use us in His Kingdom work, He confirmed to each of us that He is working in Vancouver, that we were to join His work here, and that He would equip us for every good work that He has prepared beforehand (Eph. 2:10).  It is a calling that He confirmed as we walked the streets of Vancouver and prayed for the city. It is a calling that God confirmed every Sunday morning as Pastor John urged us to walk worthy (Eph 4:1) of our calling as Christians. It is a calling that God confirmed as He molded, and shaped, and developed our talents during those seminary years.

Now, three years later, I am still greatly impacted by the “Big Give.” As FBCE Church Planters on Vancouver Island, part of our support is provided through The Miracle budget. Those gifts allow us to live and work and love the people of Vancouver Island. We are planting Ekklesia, a Kingdom-Focused Church and we are engaging our community with the hope of the Gospel. We are using our talents of faith, love, teaching, and Southern hospitality to show the love of Christ and increase the Kingdom.

I have enjoyed following Ashlee’s “Big Give” journey through her blog. Seeing her excitement and anticipation of the coming “Parable Sermon,” and then her fear and anxiety of how she could multiply her talents, and her devout prayer to be used by the Lord. I fell in love with her prints and applauded her creativity in the way in which she used her talents. I had to have one of each print and was excited to have such beautiful artwork for our Sunday worship gathering and our upcoming community Christmas Eve Celebration.  So I ordered them, printing the “O Holy Night” print just as Ashlee did in the 18x24 size and mounted it on a large canvas. I printed the other two 16x20 and framed them with white mats and chunky black frames. Oh, how I love them!

Christmas Eve finally arrived.  We prayed, we advertised, we invited, and now we were hosting our first Christmas Eve Celebration at a local coffee shop. We have a display of appetizers and desserts, a musician playing and leading Christmas carols, free hot drinks for everyone, and of course our beautiful Christmas prints telling of the Hope of our celebration. Many people wandered in off the street for a cup of hot coffee, and were totally surprised when they found free drinks, appetizers, desserts and music. Many stayed and enjoyed the fellowship. We sang Christmas hymns, celebrating Advent by lighting the Christ candle, and read the Christmas story. Matthew read from John 1 and reminded us of the blessed gift of the Christ child. Many un-churched people heard the “good news of great joy.” We pray that these seeds fell on good soil and that in the days to come we will get the honor of seeing lives changed because of the reality of the birth of our Saviour. 
So, as I sit in my living room on Vancouver Island, three years later, reflecting on that first “Big Give” Sunday, and how the “Big Give” still impacts me, my family, and so many for a Big Kingdom Impact, I am thankful. Lord, may we all walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have called us and be found faithful to use our talents for your Kingdom purposes. Amen

You can check out the ministry of Ekklesia at ekklesiabc.ca

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Friday, December 6, 2013

Big Give: God's Whispers

I just want to thank you for the love and support you have shown me as I step out in faith on this new adventure. I am truly overwhelmed by the sweet encouragement the Lord has given me through each of you! I am particularly blessed by my precious husband who has prayed for me, cheered me on, and even promoted my not quite existing business.

I am still struggling with feeling inadequate. In fact, just the other evening I had a freak out moment where I wanted to shout from the windows of my apartment. I GIVE UP! I CANNOT DO THIS! And in that moment of feeling unworthy I was reminded of our Sunday School lesson from last Sunday. A lesson I thought was for everyone else but me. We  walked through Ezekiel 17 and talked about the trouble God was allowing to happen to the children of Israel because of their sin. And we  talked about trouble in general and how do we respond to trouble. Do we allow panic to set in or do we seek God in prayer and in His Word. And I realized as I sat in my apartment freaking out that I was allowing panic to set it. I was allowing the lies of the enemy to reign and rule in my head. And I wasn’t seeking the Lord AT ALL. So there in my panic, I stopped and began to pray, asking the Lord to help me, to show me what to do, to direct my next move.

As I sit here and write this I am reminded of a little nugget of truth that God opened my eyes to this week. In Luke 1, we find Mary and Elizabeth. They have both been told children will be born to them. Each of them will experience what is truly a miracle. When Mary goes to visit Elizabeth, Elizabeth says to her in 1:45 “Blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what had been spoken to her by the Lord.” I have read these verses many times, but this week this verse popped out to me. I have never really noticed it before. Here is Mary who must be beyond stunned by what the Lord has said He will do, and Elizabeth acknowledges that Mary believed what God said would be fulfilled. And as I read these verses the Lord whispered in my ear and said, Ashlee do you believe there will be a fulfillment of what I have spoken to you? Do you believe or are you resting in doubt and unbelief. Ashlee, do you really believe I can do anything or do you simply not trust me.

Please hear me, I know this verse in Luke 1 is not about me. But God used it to whisper His truth in my ear and remind me He is faithful. It is in His character to act. And I know, I keep saying this, yet I continue to not trust in God’s faithfulness. In His sweet mercy He has not shot a lightning bolt out of heaven and taken me out. Instead He continues to wrap His arms around me and whisper His Truth into my ear. And I am so grateful and blessed beyond measure that He would extend His grace and mercy to me. 

Thank you for continuing this journey with me. I am so beyond blessed by you! What is a post without some pictures? I want to leave you today with some pictures of my Christmas decor. I wanted to show you how I used some of my Big Give prints in my own home.

Here is my Adore Him print. I took it to Staples and had it printed on card stock. Then I put it in an existing frame.

Next is a faux canvas I made with my O Holy Night print. I enlarged it and had it printed as an 18" x 24" engineer print at Staples. Then I adhered it to a 16" x 20" canvas with spray glue. The print was large enough that it could be wrapped around the edges of the canvas. I love how it turned out!

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Monday, November 25, 2013

The Big Give: The Big Reveal

Overwhelmed, terrified, untrusting. These feelings have fueled me. These feelings have kept me from pursuing what God has called me to. God has clearly spoken, so today I step out in faith. I know for some of you the wait is killing you. So....here we go!

Today I would like to announce that I will be starting a design business. What does that mean? You might wonder, well, I am not exactly sure myself. And for those wondering, I am NOT quitting my day job.

The last few years, I have fallen in love with…fonts. Yes, you read that clearly.  FONTS!  I am a regular Dafontaholic. You see I have always loved words. I love reading beautifully crafted words in novels. I love cleverly constructed word art. And for some strange reason the Lord has given me an “eye” for it. At least that is what people keep telling me.  

I am not sure what pursuing this business will look like. I’m not even an official business yet. I am still learning what I need to do and  crafting a plan. 

It still blows me away that this new business came out of a prayer to God asking what He wanted me to do for the Big Give. I had two main ideas. One idea was my “safe” idea. It involved baking and selling my FAVORITE holiday treat (totally from scratch and yes there is yeast involved). My other idea, well it seemed “risky”. If you know me, you know risky really isn’t my style. I am safe and practical. Yet God kept dragging me toward the risky side of things completely out of my comfort zone. It’s definitely not the first time I have created word art or prints. It really floors me that anyone might want to BUY what I make. I know that sounds really dumb, but it’s the truth.

As I have told some of my friends and family, I am overwhelmed by the sweet encouragement they have given me. I want each of you to know that God has used your encouragement to continue to confirm to me where He is leading. Thank you for being faithful to send a text, Facebook message, email, or have a conversation with me. 

So I begin this journey toward design with the Big Give. Exclusively for the Big Give I have created three prints for purchase. 

Each print is available in three different background colors: chalkboard, red, and green. You can purchase any print for $5. All proceeds will be given to the Miracle of Missions at First Euless. You can contact me for more information or to purchase a print. If you would like a color others than the ones listed, I would love to customize one just for you. Please note you are purchasing a digital download of this print, which you are then free to use as many times or as many ways as you would like!

Other Posts on the Big Give: Pt 1: Feeling Defeated, Pt, 2: When God Shows Up

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Thursday, November 21, 2013

The Big Give: When God Shows Up

I could not believe it was happening. I sat at the lunch table stunned.  I could barely look at my friend who sat across from me. I felt exposed.  I looked up and said to her, “you are a huge answer to prayer”. Not 24 hours earlier I sat down and wrote out this prayer in my journal:
Lord, I need your direction. I need you to speak clearly to me. Lord would you help me know what you have for me? Lord, I feel like I am at a crossroad. I am not sure if you want me to proceed with this or how you want me to proceed. Lord, the entire process scares me. I don't have a clue how to go forward. Lord help me. God bring someone who can give me wisdom. Help me to know if this is what You want me to do. 

And not 24 hours later, God was showing up answering this specific prayer. He brought me a friend who could share her wisdom with me and answer all the questions. I sat down to pray about what I felt God calling me to do for the Big Give, and that prayer led into a prayer about something bigger. Something I had felt God calling me to, that He had affirmed many times, but I was afraid to even speak anyone even my husband. 

I have been in a season of being stretched by God. He continues to ask me to step outside of what I think my life should be and call me to different things. Now, He is calling me to something different that seriously scares me. It’s different, I feel inadequate (as in I have NO training), and I’m afraid I will fail. For the last few months I have tried to pretend He was not calling me to pursue this, but He continues to bring it to my attention. God simply will not let go of this new direction in my life. It’s funny because all along the way God has put people in my life to encourage me and believe in me even when I did not believe in myself.
As I prepared to walk away from the lunch table, another friend looked at me and  in her best momma voice said, "Ashlee you are now accountable to what God has shown you". Heaviness and peace set in at the same time. Heaviness, because it still feels overwhelming.  Peace, because God has clearly spoken. 
I sent my husband this text: God just showed and answered a very specific prayer request. At this point I had not even shared with my husband what God was leading me to. He was totally in the dark. I was honestly afraid to tell him, because I knew he would hold me accountable to what God was telling me.
As I went throughout my day, defeat set in again. (You think the enemy is totally against me pursuing what God has called me to?? Yeah, I’m thinking so.) By the time I made it home and was able to sit down and visit with my husband the heaviness weighed on me. I felt annoyed and my introverted self just wanted to hide. My husband looked at me and asked, “Are you even excited about this?”  Honestly? I am totally thrown off guard by what God is doing. I am still terrified. It’s so ridiculous. God has shown Himself to be more than faithful to me, yet I still doubt Him.

I’m actually mad at myself and the enemy for the doubt that weighs in my head. The doubt presses down with a heaviness I cannot describe. It is like I am wearing hundreds of pounds on my shoulders and this cloud is pressing in all around me. Yet in the heaviness the Lord quietly speaks to me, “Ashlee press on, trust Me, rely on Me, remember who I am, remember My character.” And He continues to show up in the smallest and greatest ways. A truth of God's character as I scroll through Pinterest, urging me on, reminding me of God's character. A husband who looks me in the eye and tells me he believes in me.

I have a choice to make. I can allow the heaviness and doubt to press in, or I can choose to walk remembering who God is. I can freak out or I can remember He is my covenant partner who is worthy of my trust and my faith. I am so grateful that He shows up and just the right time! 
So stay tuned. Next Monday I will share all about my Big Give and share more about what God is calling me to specifically. 
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Monday, November 18, 2013

The Big Give: Feeling Defeated

I slumped in the recliner, feeling defeated. How is it that only a few hours ago I was so excited about this opportunity? But now? Now I am ready to wave the white flag in defeat and say: I CAN'T DO IT! 
The Opportunity
My husband whispered in my ear as we entered church “We are doing The Big Give again.” My heart jumped with joy and excitement. My mind immediately began running with ideas. As we sat down and the message began, I knew the passage pastor would take us to. I knew we would read the parable of the talents.  As we read, I judged the slave who buried his money and didn’t invest it.  As he preached, pastor shared with us the opportunity we were going to be given. He told us as we left we would each receive an envelope with money. He urged us to take this money and multiple it and bring the multiplied money back on December 22 to give toward The Miracle of Missions.

The Miracle of Missions
The Miracle began several years ago when our church was in massive debt. Our interim pastor, stood in the pulpit and asked that God would do a miracle in our church. That day The Miracle was born. A little over two years later, our church had paid off $6.5 million dollars of debt. The question was then, what do we do now? The Miracle turned it's focus toward missions. The Miracle now funds sharing the love of Jesus through missions in our area and around the world.

The Instructions
The instructions for the Big Give are really quite simple.  We are to first pray and ask the Lord what He would have us do with this money. Then we are to be creative and use our talents to invest this money. The options are really endless. Finally, on December 22, we bring back whatever amount we receive as our investment and that money goes to fund the Miracle of Missions.

My Problem
So you might be thinking…Ashlee what is your problem? Why do you feel defeated? Well, I feel a lot of pressure. And to be honest, I am really identifying with the slave who buried his money in the ground. I feel paralyzed by fear. What if I pick the wrong thing. What if no one wants to come alongside me and invest in whatever I do? What if I fail and have then lost the money given to me? Ya’ll I AM that slave. I am that slave and I feel so foolish and defeated. Last night my husband looked at me and asked me if I had prayed about it. I looked at him foolishly and said no. As I continued in defeat feeling like the slave who did nothing, God showed me that ultimately I am not trusting Him. He reminded me that He is powerful. He works all things together. And in my doubting of myself, I doubt who He is. So where does that leave me? That leaves me back in at step one. I know that I must stop, pray, and trust Him. Whatever He leads me to do. I need to trust Him and walk by faith.

So, this is the beginning of the Big Give for me. I recognize my lack of faith, stop and pray, and ask the Lord to do something bigger than me. I ask the Lord to show up, give me direction, and help me accomplish what He asks of me. Join me in my Big Give journey and together let's watch God do something Big.
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Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Letter to Myself

A year ago, God called my husband to take a college ministry position. Over the last year I have watched as God has stretched both me and my husband in big ways, grown us like never before, and given us people to lead that we love beyond expression.  If I could only tell myself a year ago all that God would do, I know that I would not believe it. Today I want to share wisdom with myself a year later.

You are about to embark on a journey like never before. God is about to rock your world. Your comfortable little bubble is about to expand. Be prepared because God is going to stretch you like you cannot even imagine. Don’t be afraid, God is going to bless you beyond what you could hope.

Not Just for Your Husband
You don’t know it yet, but God is going to call you specifically to this ministry. He is going to pull and tug and get in your face until you finally walk in obedience. Ashlee, this will mean walking away from youth ministry, but do not fear. God is going to give you a great love for college students.
 House Full of Girls
This may seem weird to you, because right now, all you see is a house full of boys. Mostly boys playing Halo. Mostly smelly, hungry boys playing Halo. I know you are content to hide in your bedroom and watch TV. But that is all about to change. It’s time to get up and leave your comfort zone behind and open your door and your heart to a precious group of girls.  These girls, they need a leader and God is going to call you to do it. These girls will stretch you, and ask you some of the toughest questions. They will make you dive deep into scripture and process again why you believe what you believe. They will bless you, love you, and serve you in ways you cannot imagine right now. Ashlee, God is about to bless you with an amazing group of girls.
Busy Life
Yes things are about to get crazy Ashlee. Crazier than you want most days. God is going to show you an idol in your life called “alone time”. You have bowed down to this idol too many times and God is going to rip it out of your hands, so you can struggle with what true rest looks like. You will be busy EVERY DAY, but don’t be afraid. God is going to show up and you will see that all that busy matters in Eternity.

Make Time for Rest
You have mistaken alone time for rest. Ashlee, find rest in Jesus, not in alone time. You see you take your alone time and fill it with busy things and in the end you really don’t rest.  Ashlee, you really don’t have a clue what it means to rest. God is going to show you how. You will struggle with it. In fact, there will be many hard conversation and tears over your need for rest. God will prevail and He will give rest to your weariness.
 Equipped Disciple Maker
God has knit in your heart a deep desire to see the next generation discipled. I know you have struggled and your heart aches for people who care for the Word of God. You have no idea, but those late night talks with your Lovie are about to come full circle. God is about to ask you to disciple an entire group full of young women. God is going to show you that discipleship is not an act, but a lifestyle. God is going to show you that discipleship is more than just teaching the Word, but walking through life with so many different people. It will mean giving up some of your sleep for late night talks. It will mean holding so many different women that are hurting and struggling. It will mean gently getting in the face of some and exposing sin in their lives. It will be hard, it will require more than you think you have, but God will be faithful. Ashlee, walk in the heart of discipleship God has given you.

I know you are hungry to use your gift of teaching. You have no idea how God is about to use you. God is going to call you to host a Bible study in your home. If you knew that it might scare you right now. It will scare you even when God calls you to it. But Ashlee, God has prepared you. God has given you all the skills and tools you will need. And He is going to blow your mind, because this Bible study is going to outgrow your little one bedroom apartment living room. And yet again God will provide. Ashlee, you have no idea how many teaching moments God is going to give you over the next year, so study up, buckle your seat belt and enjoy the ride!
That man you love, God is going to grow him and change him. God is going to answer so many prayers you have prayed for him. He will be given wisdom from the Lord that you just do not understand. And wait until you hear him teach when he leads at camp this summer. Girl, it is going to BLOW YOUR MIND. You will stand in awe and praise God for all that He is going to do. So wait, watch, and be in awe.

Ministry Hurts and is Hard
Your character and that of your husband will be questioned. Partners in ministry will move on. People will walk away from Jesus. I know you consider yourself to be without grace and mercy. But just wait. God is going to stir your heart toward compassion, loving kindness, and mercy.  You will experience heart break and pain. You will grieve for others. You will feel like your heart is being ripped out of you, but Ashlee, God will not forget you. He has you in His hand. God will show you how you hold too tight to things and people.  Be strong and courageous. Be prepared and stand firm in the gospel, hard times will come!

There is Victory
In the midst of all the pain, victory will come. People will confess their sin. Girls will walk in community together. They will trust another girl for the first time. They will love each other like sisters. People will hunger and thirst for Righteousness.  Ashlee, yes there will be pain and it will be great, but there will be the sweetness of the Victory of Jesus permeating their lives and transforming them from the inside out. It will be a beautiful thing to watch, so don't miss the moments.

A year ago God gave my husband and I a great gift by calling us into college ministry. It has been hard, it had been messy, it has been beautiful, because it has been the Gospel lived out in my life. 

Photo Credit: All the photographs in this post were taken by Laura Nicole Photography. She is a  gifted photographer in the Dallas/ Ft. Worth area who also loves Jesus. You should hire her. This is not a sponsored post, just my personal opinion!
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Thursday, November 7, 2013

Houston We Have a Problem

Last weekend, my Lovie and I packed up and headed south to Houston, TX. It was a much needed time of rest and refreshment. Since I had Thursday and Friday off we headed down on Thursday and spent the whole weekend.

We sat in our hotel room on Thursday night and pulled out the hotel book of things to do. You know that book, the one every hotel has of area attractions. We saw that we were literally minutes away from Space Center Houston. So we decided to make a day of it and off we headed the next morning.

Ticket Wisdom 
If you plan to make a trip to the Space Center, buy your tickets online. You save $5/ticket buying your tickets this way. Good thing I had coupons from our hotel, so I got us the same deal.

The Tram
Our first stop was the tram. The security guy told us that was where we should start and I am so glad that we listened. The Tram Tour takes about an hour. It takes you all over the Space Center. We saw the Original Mission Control (complete with original ashtrays), where Astronauts train, & got to be up close with the Mercury Rocket.
Meet an Astronaut
This was my Lovie’s favorite part! We got to listen to  a real astronaut. Greg had all of his questions ready at the end to ask Leroy. And yes he brought this picture home.
Starship Gallery
This show and museum was my favorite part of the trip. It was here that we got to “meet” several important figures from space history. We were able to look at moon rocks, touch a moon rock, and see one of the lunar rovers (well the practice rover, did you know the real ones are still on the moon?).
After we left NASA we headed to our favorite Mexican restaurant Chuy’s. Greg and I both ordered our favorite meal (which isn’t on the menu). Next time you go to Chuy’s ask for the stuffed sopapilla (I like fajita chicken, Lovie like Fajita Beef) and have them cover it with the Boom Boom Sauce. I promise, you will be so happy that you did!!

Saturday our main focus was rest. We slept in, went out for a late lunch at Pappa’s BBQ, and then got ready to head to the wedding of our friends Jeff & Lizzie. We got first pick at seats (because we were that early). The wedding was beautiful and we had a great time visiting with friends. 
I am so grateful for a great weekend away full of rest and fun! 

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