Friday, March 22, 2013

Is It Worth It?

This post is part of the Freedom Friday series of AspiringAshley. For older posts in the series, click here

Once upon a time, my family was normal. Well, fairly normal. My parents worked to pay the bills. We had the things we needed, and the things we didn't (within reason). They loved us and each other. We were active in our church. We helped our neighbors and supported missions. I worked at soup kitchens with the youth group. Sure, we filled our pool with bubble bath, danced in the kitchen, and once chased a squirrel around my bedroom, but mostly, we were just your average American family.

Then, Mom saw The Sign. "Hungry, please help." And things changed.

Her name was Mary, her husband was Bill. Some bad choices led them from success to the streets. To drugs and alcohol and a dirty mattress in the trees. But my mom saw past the dirt and the drugs and the sign to the woman beneath. That day, that one decision to stop and talk to the Woman With The Sign was the beginning of a ten year relationship, to a song, to a ministry.

There were court dates and housing agreements and hospital visits. There was laughter and there were tears. There were mistakes and there was forgiveness. But mostly, there was love. Love like Jesus. Because my mom didn't see a homeless couple. She saw her friends, Mary and Bill. She saw the potential and gave them hope, dignity, family.

And while I know there were times when it was painful and seemed hopeless, I know without a doubt that if you were to ask my mom today, "Was it worth it? Was befriending two drug-addicted homeless people worth it?" she would say yes in a heartbeat.

Because the thing is, when you think of missions, of ministry, of justice as just "work", it will wear you out. But when you think of it in terms of people...well, it changes everything. Justice becomes a lifestyle, the air you breathe, as natural as smiling. Justice becomes family. It's no longer "I have to do this to be a good person", but "I have to do this for a good person."

So when you say "Is it worth it?" the people who are coming along side the hurting are the ones who will respond, "well, duh!" while giving you an offended look. (Okay, maybe not...maybe I'm the only one who uses the "duh" anymore.) Micah Bournes puts it into words a little better than I do.

Is Justice Worth It? feat. Micah Bournes from World Relief on Vimeo.

I was 15 when Mary and Bill became family. Know what happens when your mom introduces a homeless couple into your life as family? It changes how you live life. How you view compassion and justice. My mom has shown me what Bournes put into words: "You never stop fighting for your own." You don't give up when it gets tough, you get stronger.

This world is full of injustice and evil. But it also holds wonder and freedom and love. The only remaining question is which side are you on? Call me crazy, but I'm on the side of wonder and love! I am free. I will use my freedom to free others.

Ponnammal, friend and co-worker of Amy Carmichael, was quoted as saying,
"Let us work until we drop, but let us never lower the standard." (From A Chance to Die by Elizabeth Elliot. Go read it, it's one of my favorite, most inspirational books).

So let's fight injustice together. Let's stand on the side of the hurting and use our freedom to bring about their own. Let's fight with everything in us and never compromise for the sake of ease. Because it is always worth it

To learn how to make victims of slavery part of "your own", connect with The Exodus Road.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

When I Get Old

Now, when I get old, I plan to be like these people. Specifically, the lady second to last with the little smirk like, "I have no idea what I'm doing, but we'll just pretend...I am so uncoordinated...why is no one else laughing at this ridiculous exercise?!" I plan to be active and healthy and scooting around town keeping busy and helping others.

But if by some chance I end up in a nursing home, I have my care plan all ready. See, I work in a nursing home. And after spending the past two weeks on the dementia units, I know what I want when I get old.

  • If my pills have to be crushed, I want them in ice cream. 
  • Speaking of which, I want ice cream for dessert at least once a day.
  • Also, if I'm pretty far gone mentally and age-wise, I don't need vitamins every day. Only give me the essential meds.
  • I want to sleep til 10am. I'll take my breakfast in bed, please.
  • I want a DVD player fully stocked with Gilmore Girls and Doctor Who playing at all times.
  • Play the "bedtime" playlist on my iPod every night.
  • I don't want showers. I want baths. In those nice whirlpools that are hardly used. I don't like showers now, why would I like them when I'm old?
  • Two words: Fuzzy Socks.
  • Keep my stuffed animal with me when I'm in bed.
  • Also, I like lots of fluffy pillows around me in bed. Key word, fluffy.
  • I want a Coke at least once a day. Real Coke, not "cola" or "pepsi". With ice.
  • My wheelchair should be pink, with sparkly stuff on the wheels.
  • Keep my books around to keep my mind busy. If I can't read for myself, please get me audio books, or better yet, a live person to read to me. 
  • If it comes to it, I want to be on hospice. The aide can read to me after she gets me dressed.
  • I MUST have my glasses. I'm blind as a bat without them, and after wearing them since fifth grade, their kinda an extension of my face. Even if I am actually blind, I'll probably freak out without them.
  • Don't make me eat veggies if I don't wanna. I'm old, who cares if I finish my veggies?!
  • Keep my nails painted, even my toes. Now it's always chipping, but I love the look.
  • If I'm able, I want to do crafts often. Keep me well stocked.
  • I love pictures. I want a shelf for all my scrapbooks.
  • I want to smell good. Use pretty body sprays and lotions that I like. 
  • Take me to church sometimes. Or at least play some good worship music.
  • Take me outside when it's nice out.
  • I like blankets (unless it's hot). I've got some favorite memento blankets. Keep them on hand.
  • I like to be silly. Sometimes, put my pink wig on (and/or a boa) so I can have fun.
So that's the beginning of my list. How about you? Anything you want when you get old?

Saturday, March 16, 2013

New Book Alert!!

Start by Jon Acuff

I'm so excited for this new book coming out next month by Jon Acuff! I am a huge fan of his blogs and of two of his other books (Stuff Christians Like and Quitter. I haven't yet read the Gazelle one). Without fail, reading anything by Jon Acuff either inspires me or makes me laugh. Often both. 

Seriously, go read his blog, and get your hands on his books. Start promises to be just as awesome and inspiring, and if you've ever wanted to take your life from average to awesome, you'll want to read this. I mean, just look at that cover! How can you not want to read a book that tells you to "punch fear in the face" right on the front?? And if you preorder Start, you get a whole bunch of extras, like ebooks and downloads to continue inspiring you.

You can bet that as soon as I read this book, I'll give y'all a review. (I just used "y'all". That was weird.) Better yet, let's both read it, and talk about it after. Deal?

Have you read any Jon Acuff? How has it inspired you?

Disclaimer: I am entered in a traffic contest with Jon Acuff's team. Every click on my blog linking to the Start book, helps me get closer to a prize. But know that I sincerely love Jon Acuff's writing, and would be promoting his books anyways (I had already planned to review Quitter this month). So help a sister out, while helping yourself reach your dreams? 

(Sheesh, using y'all and sister in the same post? Is this what happens when I have a full Saturday off???)

Friday, March 15, 2013

Not Enough Tears

Welcome to Freedom Friday!

Freedom Friday is the time I share about all things justice, whatever comes up or comes to mind. I know it's been a few weeks, but eventually I'll make this a weekly thing. For now, I'm aiming for at least once a month, hopefully twice.

This week's Freedom Friday comes by way of a friend's newest music video, Not Enough Tears. Take a look:

Ever feel like that? Like there's not enough tears to cry because a situation is so bad? I know I have.

For the child with absentee parents,
The father struggling to provide for his family,
The family with no hope in a two-thirds-world country,
The young girl trapped in a brothel,
The parents watching their child slip away from illness,
The boy forced to be a soldier,
The woman and her children mourning her husband's murder,
The couple unable to have children,
The young man working long hours in a brick factory.

Sometimes the realities of these situations are so overwhelming that our tears seem inadequate. Why isn't the whole world outraged at this? Why am I the only one crying? Doesn't anyone else see these horrific tragedies? How are there not more tears shed for them?

It's at those times all we can do is let go and wait for rain. Wait for relief. Wait for rescue. But at the same time, we need to know that we've been given hearts that break for these situations so that we can take action. Sometimes God sends the rain, the rescue through us.

So cry the tears. Allow the broken heart. Then do something.

Need ideas? Here's 5 ways to take action against slavery from The Exodus Road:
  1. Educate Yourself. Take some time to research the issue of modern day slavery. Check out the slavery map on It’s a great resources. You may also want to visit CNN’s Freedom Project for resources and current news stories.
  2. Write your Congressman. International Justice Mission does a fantastic job lobbying governments to make changes that support freedom. Stop by their site and sign their latest petition. You can visit them by clicking HERE.
  3. Buy Fair Trade. Since the majority of slavery involves labor, make an effort (and spend the money) to purchase fair trade items as much as possible. This is a practical way you advocate for the oppressed as a consumer. Consider checking out places like or Yobel Market to shop for gifts, and take a few minutes to see what your Slavery Footprint is.
  4. Socially Share. Commit that every time you see something about slavery or justice, you’ll take the time to share it with your online circle of influence. When you consistently share, you become an advocate for positive social change. Like anti-trafficking organizations on facebook and follow them on twitter– this will help abolition efforts to remain at the forefront of your attention, too. This is a simple, practical, and free way you can actively become an abolitionist.
  5. Donate to Freedom Efforts. Find a specific organization that fights trafficking and do research on their efforts, their financials, their methods. When you feel good about their work, start by choosing a specific project that connects with you, like financially supporting prevention efforts in the United States with Love146 or helping a national undercover investigator with The Exodus Road buy a covert camera.

Other worthwhile organizations working against other justice issues:
IJM is combatting injustice by legislation.
Invisible Children seeks to end the atrocities of the LRA's child soldiers.
ONE fights against all areas of poverty.
Compassion provides hope for children and families living in poverty.

Whatever issue(s) stirs your heart, get out there and take action! Uses the tears as fuel to keep you going, and to wash away the hurt in the world.

What breaks your heart and makes you think there's not enough tears to cry? What do you do to end that issue? Please share!

Now, believe it or not, there is good news in the battle against injustice. This video from Bono is a little long, but it's worth watching. Extreme poverty can be ended in our lifetime, and we've seen crazy results over just the past ten years. I don't know about you, but I plan to continue fighting injustice, and to see extreme poverty and issues like slavery eradicated fully in my lifetime!

"We are going to win because the tears that come from our eyes, actually come from our hearts."

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Celebrating Idiosyncrasies

For some reason last night I was thinking about all the weird things that make me me. Those little things that few people understand. I'm sure you've got some too. Like, who doesn't like to mutate themselves in PhotoBooth?
I really had way too much fun with that when I first got my Mac last week. 
Waayyy too much fun! haha. 

But seriously, there are some things about each of us that are just plain WEIRD. But those are the things that make us unique, that make us who we are. And I believe that in time, we find out why God created us with those little idiosyncrasies. Why we love some things and hate others is all a part of what we're created for. Well, mostly.

Here's some of the things that make me who I am, and yes, some of them are strange. And no, I don't know where they came from.

  • I LOVE taking baths. My record is being in there for 3 hours...then they made me get out. 
  • I am very particular about my bedtime routine. Even when on vacation or anything else, I'm very set in my preparing-for-bedtime ways.
  • One of my favorite foods is a peanut butter and button candy sandwich. YUM!
  • I can turn almost anything into a song quote...or a Doctor Who reference.
  • I've become seriously addicted to Doctor Who. (Okay, that's not so weird) 
  • On nice days I occasionally go super out of my way to drive home, just because I like driving.
  • I love Disney and fairy tales more than the average child.
  • I often forget how old I am. Sometimes I think I'm much older, other times much younger.
  • In art class once, I made a Roman Duck (It was supposed to be a whale, but ended up looking more like a duck in a Roman soldier's helmet, so I went with it)
  • I tend to dance at random moments.
  • I am usually singing in my head...sometimes I forget where I am and sing out loud at inopportune moments

  • Once I get an idea in my head, I usually want to carry it out ASAP, though I do my research. Case in point, I made my own duvet cover. I barely sew!
  • My best friend disagrees, but I am very much an introvert. I rarely talk on the phone, and need alone time frequently to recharge. While I love being with my friends, and doing everything I do at church, I really love my Ashley time.
  • I have an entire wall of quotes that inspire and delight me. Seriously. An entire wall.
  • I could eat my weight in candy cigarettes (the good ones, not the newer kind...ick!) My favorite candy!!
  • I'm a major bibliophile. At last count, I have over 1500 books in my possession. 
Okay, so that's enough of me. What are some of your strange things? What makes you you?

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

March is Here!

I started this month with such high hopes! I set my goals for the month, made a new workout plan, I was really excited. Except this sinus cold thing will NOT go away! We're on day eight and I still feel miserable. Not quite as bad as last week, but still not good. Just want to sleep the week away. So nothing is getting done, and my gym clothes are just sitting there all sad because I can't use them. I've been pushing myself to go to work, but I did get cancelled yesterday, which was fortunate because I really felt run down yesterday. So since I'm not really doing much, I don't have much to share. I bought myself this fancy new Macbook I'm writing on, but I think that's the most exciting thing all week! Oh! And I got chosen to be on the Launch Team for Jon Acuff's new book Start. Pretty excited for that.

But you didn't come to see me ramble on in my sickness. You want something entertaining or meaningful (I'm assuming). Here's what I've got. Today we did our last Kids Night on Elijah (we've been studying him for the past 3 weeks). Tonight we talked about when he ran from Jezebel after the showdown on Mount Carmel. You can find the story in 1 Kings 19. If you're not familiar with it, Jezebel has wanted to kill Elijah for over 3 years. He comes to town, has a massive showdown on top of a mountain between his God Yahweh, and their god Baal. In the end, Baal's prophets are unable to rouse their god to accept their sacrifice, no matter how hard they try. Elijah utters a simple prayer, and God sends fire to consume not only the sacrifice, but the entire water-soaked altar as well. After winning the "My God is bigger than your god" battle, Elijah kills all 450 of Baal's prophets, which prompts Jezebel to send a messenger to him stating her intentions to kill him. Elijah freaks out and runs away. Like, really really far away. Over 100 miles away to a desert.

So Elijah the prophet, who has been crazy courageous and has performed amazing miracles, is now hiding in the desert, scared, feeling alone. The man who prayed and caused a drought, then prayed again and made it rain after 3.5 years, now prayed to die. He curled up under a tree and went to sleep. An angel wakes him up twice and feeds him a nice desert-cooked meal, then sends him on his way to Mount Horeb (aka Sinai). On the mountain, hiding in a cave, the Lord comes to Elijah and asks, "why are you here?" Elijah whines to God like a little kid might: I've been so good, telling everyone about you, and none of the other Israelites are following you. I'm the only one left and they're trying to kill me! God passes by the cave and there's a mighty wind, but God wasn't in the wind. There's a large earthquake, but God wasn't in the earthquake. There's a roaring fire, but God wasn't in the fire. Finally there's a small whisper. Some translations say a deafening silence.

Now, if you've grown up in church, you're going to tell me that God was in the whisper. But that's not what the Bible says. God's presence produced all that racket and the whisper, though he wasn't IN any of them. After all the noise, that sudden stillness brings Elijah out of the cave. I imagine that he was used to the "noise" of God. Think of all the miracles he did! Of course he knew God's presence when he saw it! It was the still quiet that seemed different and brought him out of his cave. God again asks him, "Why are you here?" and Elijah replies with the same whine.

I imagine this scene like a very tender father-son moment. Elijah's whining, digging his toe in the dirt, not looking at God. But the ever-sensitive Abba Father sees exactly what Elijah needs. He tenderly tells Elijah what to do, where to go, and gives him a helper, as well as reminding him that he's not alone; there are 7,000 other Israelites devoted to the Lord.

This passage makes me happy. It tells me it's okay to be a little whiney to God sometimes. It's okay to be moody and tired and want to give up on occasion. God understands us. He knows just what we need, and will meet us where we're at, even if we've run 100 miles away from where we should be. He'll send his presence in many ways until we turn to Him. He will provide the support we need to fulfill his promises.

So many times we hold Elijah up to an impossible standard, as the ultimate in Christian heroes, and this story gets left out. Yet this is one of the most important stories his life offers. Not many of us can relate to bringing a person back to life, but we can all relate to disappointment and feeling alone. If one of the mightiest prophets of all time had a dark moment, it's not so bad for us to have a dark moment, either. What matters is that we continue to trust in the Lord, and move on. We have to leave the cave and answer the question, "Why are you here?"
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