Valentine’s Day and Love — A Single Teenager’s Nightmare

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It is EVERYWHERE

If you are a teenager, which means if you are in middle school or high school, sometimes February can be just as harsh for you as it is for adults. Our society loves young love and you see it everywhere! Media. Music. Books. Pictures. Your Peers walking around the hallways. It is EVERYWHERE. I know I said that twice, but I am making a point. Now my personal viewpoint, especially after working with youth age for the past four and half years is you shouldn’t date yet, but that is a tangent for another time.

In reality, you are dating or your concept of dating. I mean seriously, can you even drive yet? But there are a lot of you that aren’t and I am here to give you some comfort in this time of lovebirds, flowers, and chocolates.

Single Teenager’s Nightmare

Many of you look at this time of year and think you are unworthy or ugly or too fat or whatever negative viewpoint about yourselves come to your mind. (I am telling you, you are wrong, but we will get to that). Watching your best friend giggle at some lame line their boyfriend came up with can make you vomit. And you’re trying not to still because she wants you to come over and help her pick out the right outfit for their “date.” Honey, you are not alone and I have been there. I mean you are happy for your best friend, but inside you just wish it was both of you picking out cute little outfits. By the end of hanging out, you want to climb into bed with a tube of ice cream and either a romantic YA novel, crying over the main characters love or a slasher novel, where everything is killed. It is literally a Single Teenager’s Nightmare.

Some Truth to Hold onto To

Single Teenager's NightmareThe problem is we females (and yes, I am saying me too), we tend to put our worth in relationships, whether it is with friends or a boy. Ladies, our worth isn’t found in our friends or relationships with boys. Our worth needs to be founded in Jesus Christ!

Psalm 139:14 says: “I praise you for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Your works are wonderful, I know that full well!”

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Ephesians 2:10 says “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

God created us and made us each unique and special. We don’t need the approve of someone who might be in our lives for only a blink of an eye because we have the approval of the one who made us and will love us forever! So even if the boy you have drooled over for the past six months asks somebody else to spend Valentine’s Day together, doesn’t mean you are unworthy of someone’s love. You are already loved more than any mortal man can give.

What to Do on Valentine’s Day

Like I said, you don’t need a man. There are many things you can do to celebrate Valentine’s Day.

  1. Get a group of friends together and hang out.
    • Go to the movies together.
    • Grab dinner and socialize.
    • Go bowling or ice skating (roller blading if you are down south).
    • Have a sleepover.

Yes, many people view Valentine’s Day about couples and their love, but we have a love for friends, right? Why not celebrate those relationships too! So don’t feel like you need to hide away in your bedroom. You can always find a way to make it a great time of year!

God Bless,

AshleyDannie

Listening for God’s Voice through the Torment, Turmoil and Transparency

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Listening for God’s Voice & Follow the Footprints

To say that I am great at following God’s instructions would be a massive lie. To say that my stubborn and bullheadedness has brought me trials I would have avoided if I had just listened would be the biggest truth I can confess. Life is our path–our journey–but along the way, there are moments of torment, of turmoil, and of transparency.  

Torment:

God's VoiceMy whole life I wanted to leave Indiana. I wanted to get out and far away. God answered that prayer, sending me down to Southeastern University in Lakeland, FL. SEU gave me the best  four and a half years as I met friends that became family and earned a degree in teaching, the field I thought I was meant to do–my calling. After graduation, I diligently applied many places and by the next school year, I landed a dream job. I saw the footprints in front of me and I followed, not considering them being an illusion of my own making. The timer on the bomb started its countdown as situations arose, making my life as a teacher laborious.

By February I messed up. I let my temper win. It cost me my job. Now don’t get me wrong it merely was me letting the kids get to me and I screamed, but nowadays that is enough because to the administration it doesn’t matter how much a brand new teacher of 22 is trying and reaching out for help, the kids and parents are always right. I walked away from teaching that day. In the moment, I walked away from more than just my job, but I thought I was walking away from my calling.

At that point all I knew in my life was teaching, so where did I go? I turned back to my college job and then to a marketing job I thought I would do well in. It broke my sanity. I remember crying to my mom every night as I drove the one to two hours on I-4 because I was breaking. Not because of the job, even though it looked that way, but because of the emptiness I felt. The new job took me away from the church, aiding in my silence with God. I knew I should have left. I knew I needed to come home and regroup, but I didn’t want to leave the sunny, humid jungle of Florida, with its year-round beach days and outrageously pricey Disney World. I said I never would move back to Indiana.

The vast hole grew, filling up with overwhelming disappointment, crushing emptiness, and doubt. I was drowning.

So. I. Gave. In.

Turmoil:

In other words, confusion set it. I broke my never promise to myself–Indiana. I moved back into the small God's Voicebedroom at my parents’ house. It wasn’t even my bedroom. My brother moved into mine thinking I wasn’t ever coming home. I thought coming back would give me a sense of normalcy, but even the walls I lived in had changed. I had to get used to a new bedroom that I lived next to my whole life, but never in. Even such a small thing  pushed me further under.

My saving grace arrived on my first Sunday back. My family changed churches and I could feel my lead body lightening as we sang song after song during worship. Something about Pathway felt…right. A weird sense of peace washed over me that morning and little did I know what God was about to do. I sat in my chair looking at the opportunities to serve in the church, feeling compelled to check a couple off, turning it in with the offering. See, before the marketing job, I worked in my Florida church’s nursery for five years and missed being able to serve. My first thought about serving at Pathway would give me that familiarity back of being apart of something. I checked off KidCity, but God was pushing me. I did not want work with students, especially middle schoolers.

I finally caved to my spiritual competitor and checked off Impulse and Impact (middle and high school ministries). The next day I received a call from Byron in middle school, asking if I wanted to check it out Wednesday. My brain screamed no, disappointed it wasn’t KidCity, but my heart won, having my mouth agree to check it out. The group of 8th graders I sat in with that night were rough. I honestly didn’t want to be a leader at all, but when Byron talked to me after youth that night something inside of me agreed.

To sum up the next three years from there I fell in love with middle schoolers. My first group of eighth graders was challenging, but God found the small piece of my heart that could love them and fostered it. By the end of their school year the black hole I once had for middle school filled with fresh soil and seeds. Each year the seeds grew a little more and in the summer of 2015 little sprouts pushed through the dirt. A position was opening up in middle school ministry for a new youth pastor because Byron was moving to college and Travis (the other youth pastor)  needed some help. I remember feeling my heart tug when they told me. I remember not being able to shake the feeling at all.

Needless to say, I wasn’t qualified, but the sprout was there. The seed started growing and through the 2015-2016 school year, I consistently sought God on what footprints to follow. Nothing. Nothing was working and I needed a solid job because of personal and financial reasons, so I thought since my girls were about to go to high school the next school year it would be a great time for me to go back to Florida. I would have my Master’s in English and a better head on my shoulders. So I ignored the sprout and started applying for new full-time jobs. I even had an interview in Florida, but with every application, resume, and interview rejection after rejection followed. Nothing was working and confusion set in more. During the whole process I leaned in on God, but I started to realize in May of 2016 that even though I was leaning in…God was keeping silent. I was following illusions my selfishness created.

I needed to fully give my path back to God.

Transparency:

God's VoiceWhen I did just that everything started to change. Brad, our student ministries pastor, came to me in June and started talking to me about if I would be interested working for the church. I remember the smile that crossed my face as my heart leaped from its spot shouting “This is it!” A small voice inside of me said, “This is what I wanted you to wait for.”

I couldn’t believe it. I thought okay, I will have an interview and this will be decided before we go to CDYC. Nope. Okay then after camps. Nada. The summer waned on as I waited for an interview and decision, but complications arose. I look back on the summer and see God testing me. I had to find patience, trust, and strength through Him as each new complication set in. God had me work for it. Now I know, God needed me to go through the stress, making sure I focused on Him and not strayed thinking it wouldn’t work out. Now more than ever I know I want to break another “never promise” I made to myself years ago–work in ministry.

I am now the new student ministries assistant for Impulse and hopefully a new student at Bethel in the spring for their Master’s in Ministry program. I see now the path I had taken and strayed. Even though most of my path seemed as if it was a delusion it really wasn’t. God knew He had to beat it into me and I see the moments in the past 10 years that have led me here. My path though still continues as I follow Him in a new part of my story. I pray I can continue to seek His path and walk beside Him.

Sometimes clarity takes more than a keen eye, but a willing heart.

AshleyDannie

So I Never Forget: Part 2

Today marks 10 years. I know I wrote a short story a few months ago, but I wrote this poem first. It is a re-write from a poem I did many years ago about Josh. If you want to read the whole story click this link. Otherwise, enjoy the poem. josh We love you and will rejoice the day we get to see you again~

 

AshleyDannie

“Things I’ll Never Say” to the One My Heart Longs For

How do I Say this to You

 Things I’ll Never Say by Avril Lavigne

“I’m tugging at my hair/ I’m pulling at my clothes/ I’m trying to keep my cool/ I know it shows/ I’m staring at my feet/ My cheeks are turning red/ I’m searching for the words inside my head

[Pre-Chorus] (Cause) I’m feeling nervous/ Trying to be so perfect/ Cause I know you’re worth it/ You’re worth it/ Yeah” 

I started speaking without thinking, letting everything out, “Every week like clockwork I see you. We are apart of the same group and there is some foreign alien inside of me that makes me think I have to look perfect–not like I used to be. Ten years ago I would wear baggy jeans, a baggy t-shirt, and a huge sweatshirt with no make-up or purpose to my hair. Now? Now, I tend to be more girly. I now fuss over my hair, perfecting my curls or styling it up. Even the part had to be precise. Then I rummaged through my closet, trying on multiple outfits, throwing the rejects onto my bed. I even sat in front of the vanity mirror, blending, shaping, and painting the colors and shades onto my face for an “airbrushed”  look. When I finally gazed into the reflector of lies I saw me, but maybe trying to hard. Sadly, there have been many times I might not like my hair or my outfit and I go back to the rummaging or sculpting. Not tonight. Tonight I was happy with me and I didn’t let the liar change my mind.

So, I grabbed my messenger bag and keys, headed out to my car for the drive here. Everything I do around you is intentional. I park in the same area every time just in case one night we walk out the same time because I tend to stay late. I’m always early too. Mostly because my father taught me to be super early to everything, so it helps that you have to be here early as well. The problem is the interacting. We are friends, which helps, but when I get near you, my heart thuds and all I seem to talk about is all business. My nervousness makes me fear getting too personal, because if I do will you notice? Shouldn’t I want you to notice?”

“[Chorus] If I could say what I want to say/ I’d say I wanna blow you away/ Be with you every night/ Am I squeezing you too tight/ If I could say what I want to see/ I want to see you go down/ On one knee/ Marry me today/ Guess, I’m wishing my life away/ With these things I’ll never say”

“I have this image of what we could be. We believe the same things, have similar humor, have some complimenting interests, and we both have the same passion for this group. It gives me hope that someday you might realize I could be more than just a friend. The problem is I will never say anything…”

It don’t do me any good/ It’s just a waste of time/ What use is it to you/ What’s on my mind/ If it ain’t coming out/ We’re not going anywhere/ So why can’t I just tell you that I care

“Part of the reason I wanted to leave Michigan in the first place was to start a new. A fresh start to maybe get you out of my head, because I see you multiple times a week. A heart can only take so much and nothing will happen as long as I stay silent. Remember when I told you I was trying to move? Remember what you said to me? I do. I have played it over and over in my head, wondering if there is another message in it. Remember when I told you it didn’t work out? Remember how your smile reached from ear to ear? I do. I just pray it isn’t false hope.”

“What’s wrong with my tongue/ These words keep slipping away/ I stutter, I stumble / Like I’ve got nothing to say

“I’ve been wanting to tell you all this for so long…three years actually. I can’t believe I am saying all of this, but it is true. I lo…”

“Guess I’m wishing my life away with these things I’ll never say/ If I could say what I want to say/ I’d say I wanna blow you away /Be with you every night/ Am I squeezing you too tight/ If I could say what I want to see/ I want to see you go down/ On one knee/ Marry me today /Guess, I’m wishing my life away/ With these things I’ll never say/ These things I’ll never say…”

I just stared at myself in the mirror as I couldn’t finish the last line because I don’t want to admit to myself what I feel. I sigh as I pick up my bag and keys to head to the group, leaving behind the words that might forever be stuck in my throat.

(The italic lyrics are from Avril Lavigne’s first CD and the song Things I’ll Never Say)

Easter

Today the Lord has Risen! No amount of words I write can express the joy and thankfulness of what God did for us! Here is the passage for the day!

Matthew 28

Jesus Has Risen
1After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb.
2There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. 3His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. 4The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men.
5The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified.6He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. 7Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.’ Now I have told you.”
8So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. 9Suddenly Jesus met them. “Greetings,”he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him. 10Then Jesus said to them,“Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”
The Guards’ Report
11While the women were on their way, some of the guards went into the city and reported to the chief priests everything that had happened. 12When the chief priests had met with the elders and devised a plan, they gave the soldiers a large sum of money, 13telling them, “You are to say, ‘His disciples came during the night and stole him away while we were asleep.’ 14If this report gets to the governor, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.”15So the soldiers took the money and did as they were instructed. And this story has been widely circulated among the Jews to this very day.
The Great Commission
16Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.19Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,20and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Blind Date+Blind Ex+Blind Love =Long Lasting Marriage

My Parents’ Love Story

November 1980. It all started with a blind date, a blind ex, and blind love.

My mom’s friend knew she needed a better guy in her life and set her up with my dad. Mom always tells me she knew of him, being a year older and the reputation of being one of the “Kreager Twins,” but she didn’t actually personally know him. It wasn’t much different the other way around either. I think I remember my dad telling me he knew of Mom because she was miss cheerleader and her senior year she became head cheerleader. As I write that I really wonder where I came from. Mom was athletic, popular, and beautiful and Dad was very bold, a ladies man, and hot, according to the many girlfriends during school. (Just so you know saying my dad was hot back then makes me cringe a little. I mean he is my dad…sigh…). How did the two of them come together and create me? The writer, the reader, the non-athletic, un-popular, un-attached 27-year-old mess of a girl. I wasn’t head cheerleader or even a cheerleader for that matter and I didn’t have all the boys chasing me, but I do look at it as a blessing in disguise. To be honest, if my crazy parents didn’t raise me the way they did my previous blog post about staying a virgin in our society probably would not exist and I would be writing a totally different story.

But I am following a puppy down a long and winding road. Yes, I like puppies better than bunnies. For one you can cuddle them and two they are better pets in my opinion.

So because of the blind date, Mom fell in love right away. She knew he was the one and mostly because of the blind ex-boyfriend of hers. I won’t name names or put too much detail but what I can say he was the worst! I thank God every day that he didn’t keep my mom’s attention! Now I do want to clarify something. Her ex wasn’t physically blind–more metaphorically. He couldn’t see the damage he was doing in their relationship and according to my father he didn’t realize it until Mom and Dad had their date. I kind of laugh at the thought of him begging my father to not go on a date with Mom again. Honestly, I would have loved to be the fly on that wall!

Thankfully Mom had the great sense to leave the idiot and date my dad. Now their actual story is something I would never write without their full permission because like the rest of society relationships have ups and downs, so I am going to just give you the highlights of why I am writing this post. In the midst of their relationship they did have a huge fight and for a moment it looked like it would have ended, but Mom was blinded by God or something because it didn’t end.

I want to clarify something else. When I say God gave my mom a “blinded love” I don’t mean that in bad terms like some people might think. I believe there is a moment in every relationship where you have to make a choice–stay with them or leave. My mom came to that choice and in most circumstances many women would have probably left, but when God has a plan He makes it work His way. My parents are a product of that. God blinded my mother of the faults (that all humans have), so she could see the beautiful future she was to have with my father. I know down the road in their relationship God did the same thing with my father and someday God is going to have to blind my future husband to see underneath all the mess. That is the beauty of having God in the middle of our relationships–he takes care of us.

Anyways, the relationship continued and Dad finally realized how much he loved my mom. I have no idea the day or even month when he proposed, but I know it was winter and snowing because either right before or during the proposal Grandpa Kreager was calling Dad, telling him to hurry up because they had plowing jobs to get to.

Oh Grandpa… …such a Kreager thing to do, but that didn’t change my mom’s mind and she said yes that day. Months later in March on the 26th of 1983, my parents stood before God and vowed to love each other until death do them part.

Today it has been 33 years since my parents married and I am so thankful for their love and friendship. Like every relationship, it is more work than love that gets you through the years. As a youth leader, I have seen my girls struggle over divorces of their parents and I can say happily I haven’t had to endure that. (And my parents know my brother and I never will. It is not allowed. You think I am kidding–I’m not.)

I love to be able to look at my parents and see a great model for when I get married. I have seen the low times and the high times and the times in between. I have seen them face finances and sickness, face loss and love, face raising siblings and letting them go, face moving or staying, face jobs highs and lows, but the center of it all, whether small or large, I saw them run to God for it all. That is what marriage is, placing God in the center of it because marriage is more than just love.

I want to wish my parents a Happy Anniversary and I know there will be much more to come! I love you both so much!Love

God Bless,

AshleyDannie

Good Friday

Today is a time of remembrance of what Jesus went through for us. The first passage is from Isaiah and the second is from Matthew. Read and meditate.
Isaiah 53:3-10
3He was despised and rejected by mankind,
a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.
Like one from whom people hide their faces
he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.
4Surely he took up our pain
and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
stricken by him, and afflicted.
5But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
and by his wounds we are healed.
6We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
each of us has turned to our own way;
and the Lordhas laid on him
the iniquity of us all.
7He was oppressed and afflicted,
yet he did not open his mouth;
he was led like a lamb to the slaughter,
and as a sheep before its shearers is silent,
so he did not open his mouth.
8By oppression and judgment he was taken away.
Yet who of his generation protested?
For he was cut off from the land of the living;
for the transgression of my people he was punished.
9He was assigned a grave with the wicked,
and with the rich in his death,
though he had done no violence,
nor was any deceit in his mouth.
10Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer,
and though the Lordmakes his life an offering for sin,
he will see his offspring and prolong his days,
and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand.
 Matthew 27:11-66
Jesus Before Pilate
11Meanwhile Jesus stood before the governor, and the governor asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?”
“You have said so,”Jesus replied.
12When he was accused by the chief priests and the elders, he gave no answer. 13Then Pilate asked him, “Don’t you hear the testimony they are bringing against you?” 14But Jesus made no reply, not even to a single charge—to the great amazement of the governor.
15Now it was the governor’s custom at the festival to release a prisoner chosen by the crowd. 16At that time they had a well-known prisoner whose name was Barabbas. 17So when the crowd had gathered, Pilate asked them, “Which one do you want me to release to you: Jesus Barabbas, or Jesus who is called the Messiah?”18For he knew it was out of self-interest that they had handed Jesus over to him.
19While Pilate was sitting on the judge’s seat, his wife sent him this message: “Don’t have anything to do with that innocent man, for I have suffered a great deal today in a dream because of him.”
20But the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas and to have Jesus executed.
21“Which of the two do you want me to release to you?” asked the governor.
“Barabbas,” they answered.
22“What shall I do, then, with Jesus who is called the Messiah?” Pilate asked.
They all answered, “Crucify him!”
23“Why? What crime has he committed?” asked Pilate.
But they shouted all the louder, “Crucify him!”
24When Pilate saw that he was getting nowhere, but that instead an uproar was starting, he took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd. “I am innocent of this man’s blood,” he said. “It is your responsibility!”
25All the people answered, “His blood is on us and on our children!”
26Then he released Barabbas to them. But he had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified.
The Soldiers Mock Jesus
27Then the governor’s soldiers took Jesus into the Praetorium and gathered the whole company of soldiers around him. 28They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, 29and then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on his head. They put a staff in his right hand. Then they knelt in front of him and mocked him. “Hail, king of the Jews!” they said. 30They spit on him, and took the staff and struck him on the head again and again. 31After they had mocked him, they took off the robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him away to crucify him.
The Crucifixion of Jesus
32As they were going out, they met a man from Cyrene, named Simon, and they forced him to carry the cross.33They came to a place called Golgotha (which means “the place of the skull”). 34There they offered Jesus wine to drink, mixed with gall; but after tasting it, he refused to drink it. 35When they had crucified him, they divided up his clothes by casting lots. 36And sitting down, they kept watch over him there. 37Above his head they placed the written charge against him: this is jesus, the king of the jews.
38Two rebels were crucified with him, one on his right and one on his left. 39Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads 40and saying, “You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself! Come down from the cross, if you are the Son of God!” 41In the same way the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders mocked him. 42“He saved others,” they said, “but he can’t save himself! He’s the king of Israel! Let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. 43He trusts in God. Let God rescue him now if he wants him, for he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’ ”44In the same way the rebels who were crucified with him also heaped insults on him.
The Death of Jesus
45From noon until three in the afternoon darkness came over all the land. 46About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lemasabachthani?”(which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”).
47When some of those standing there heard this, they said, “He’s calling Elijah.”
48Immediately one of them ran and got a sponge. He filled it with wine vinegar, put it on a staff, and offered it to Jesus to drink. 49The rest said, “Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to save him.”
50And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit.
51At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split52and the tombs broke open. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. 53They came out of the tombs after Jesus’ resurrection and went into the holy city and appeared to many people.
54When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified, and exclaimed, “Surely he was the Son of God!”
55Many women were there, watching from a distance. They had followed Jesus from Galilee to care for his needs. 56Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of Zebedee’s sons.
The Burial of Jesus
57As evening approached, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who had himself become a disciple of Jesus. 58Going to Pilate, he asked for Jesus’ body, and Pilate ordered that it be given to him. 59Joseph took the body, wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, 60and placed it in his own new tomb that he had cut out of the rock. He rolled a big stone in front of the entrance to the tomb and went away. 61Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were sitting there opposite the tomb.
The Guard at the Tomb
62The next day, the one after Preparation Day, the chief priests and the Pharisees went to Pilate. 63“Sir,” they said, “we remember that while he was still alive that deceiver said, ‘After three days I will rise again.’ 64So give the order for the tomb to be made secure until the third day. Otherwise, his disciples may come and steal the body and tell the people that he has been raised from the dead. This last deception will be worse than the first.”
65“Take a guard,” Pilate answered. “Go, make the tomb as secure as you know how.” 66So they went and made the tomb secure by putting a seal on the stone and posting the guard.
Ashley Danielle

Palm Sunday: Passage for the Day

It was written in Zechariah 9:9 that our King would come:
9Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion!
Shout, Daughter Jerusalem!
See, your king comes to you,
righteous and victorious,
lowly and riding on a donkey,
on a colt, the foal of a donkey.
Hundreds of years later the prophecy came true and was written down in Matthew 21: 1-11…
1As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, 2saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and at once you will find a donkey tied there, with her colt by her. Untie them and bring them to me.3If anyone says anything to you, say that the Lord needs them, and he will send them right away.”
4This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet:
5“Say to Daughter Zion,
‘See, your king comes to you,
gentle and riding on a donkey,
and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.’ ”
6The disciples went and did as Jesus had instructed them. 7They brought the donkey and the colt and placed their cloaks on them for Jesus to sit on. 8A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 9The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted,
“Hosanna to the Son of David!”
“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”
“Hosanna in the highest heaven!”
10When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, “Who is this?”
11The crowds answered, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.”
This is a season of celebration, remembrance, and repentance. Palm Sunday was the beginning of a the journey to the cross. Don’t forget, because our faith stems from these events. If you have never heard the redemption story it is never too late to listen, whether you attend church this session or you go to a bible app and read about it yourself. I will be posting other passages on Good Friday and Easter as well.
God Bless You All,
Ashley Danielle

Staying a Virgin in This Sex-Driven Society

Sex. One three letter word and I guarantee you I captured your attention. You probably didn’t even read the rest of the title or notice that Sex is the sixth word! This right here is why our generation swoons over songs about grinding, shooting up, and humping instead of words of compassion or small thoughtful, romantic gestures. Our society has pushed sex so much that we think it should be an acceptable part of who we are.

Trust me it isn’t who we are. Sex is a beautiful and powerful act given to us by our almighty Creator, intended for marriage. Yes, I am one of those people who believe sex is a sin outside the context of marriage. Don’t like it? Too bad. Want to move on? Go right ahead, because your opinions are not going to change 28 years of living the way that I have. How have I lived? A virgin—clean and clear and under control.

It’s not like I really wanted to be a virgin this long in my life. I had plans, just like any other girl. I wanted to be married by 22 or 23 and pregnant with my first one by 25 or 26. Well, I am six years late on the marriage and three years late on the whole baby train.

It’s funny, because the first question I get a lot from friends and acquaintances that don’t have the same beliefs about sex that I do is this: How? How do I do it? Great question and it might not be the answer you think I am going to give you. Most of you reading this probably think I am going to give you some holier than thou speech about self-control and how God is keeping me celibate by divine order…blah blah blah. NO. It has been a combination of the way I was raised, my relationship with God, my college education, and the fact I wanted to keep this treasure hidden until somebody worthy earned it.

If you have read my self-image journey you know I have been a Christian since I was twelve, so the mere fact God says don’t have sex until married is kind of a big reason. So yes I am going to throw some biblical truths at you, but I didn’t have the response you thought I might have. Trust me.

Hebrews 13:4 says “Marriage should be honors by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterers and all the sexually immoral.”

Where does the marriage bed come from?

Genesis 2:24 “That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.”

I can tell you right now when I learned about when you have sex you become “one flesh” with that person I freaked out and signed the no premarital sex card given to us at youth group right away. Growing up I never really understood the meaning or complexity of sex, but what teenager does? My youth group didn’t help the matter either. I loved the youth group I grew up in, but they had a tendency of making me feel like the slut of the group. The sad part is the most I ever did with a boy as a teen was kiss (no, not making out, just normal kisses) and holding hands. Oh no! Call an exorcist! The girl’s got a devil in her! … … …Sike! You know how to completely destroy a girl’s self-esteem in the church? Tell her that if you had kissed (or anything else “immorally wrong”) another boy, judge them and tell them they should have saved it for their future spouse, who probably is waiting for you (Okay, let’s be honest finding a person who has waited do to anything physical with their future spouse is a one in a billion chance.) I know to some girls this wouldn’t affect them, but as the only girl in my youth group at the time who had kissed a boy I felt attacked by it.

I am sorry, but they went a little above and beyond crazy. You guys want to not kiss until marriage–great, but don’t force it on a bunch of teens who don’t even fully understand the world of sex and sexuality yet. Maybe start by talking to them on how great and powerful it is and not just that we shouldn’t do it. You know telling us we shouldn’t do it will result in one of two things: 1) we run to sex, securing our rebellious nature or 2) we run from sex even in our marriages. Adults think before you speak! (And I am saying this to myself as well, seeing that in the youth group I volunteer at we are…wait for it…talking about SEX in the coming weeks…oh boy).

Another result of not understanding the full complexity of sex  is why we have so much hurt and broken families. And I am not talking about understanding it from a religious aspect (which is the best way to), but understanding it from an emotional and physical standpoint. From what I have gathered over my years is sex is more than just satisfying urges, but a union of two people who trust each other with themselves emotionally and physically. I am sorry I don’t want a little black book full of guys who I have given myself to emotionally and physically. I can barely handle my own emotional situations and adding a dead beat guy who only wanted one thing isn’t going to help me out. Society has moved to making it just something we can do for fun with our significant other or even random strangers, which honestly has been going on since bible times and I promise you God has addressed it. Don’t believe me? Well I am just going to put these right here:

Ephesians 5:3 says, “But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people.”

Matthew 5:28 says “But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

Yeah, notice the red text? That means Jesus said it personally and to him sexual immorality isn’t just doing the act, but think it as well. Yup, our society is in so much trouble…

1 Corinthians 6:18 says “Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body.”

Trust me there is more where those came from, but in light that many people like to oppose the Old Testament I just gave you the New Testament. Want to find more? Open the bible app, go to the search bar, type in sex, and you will find many verses addressing God’s viewpoint.

Again, looking at this for a moment away from religion, consequences couldn’t be a factor of why I have stayed away from a life of sex, right? Wrong. Possible unwanted pregnancy, health issues (seriously STDs are no laughing matter), emotional trauma, and so much more. Those consequences are the reasons I haven’t given into the social craze even after three boyfriends/boy interests breaking up with me because I said no. Yeah I said no before Tebow made it cool.

Do you know that 71% of teens that were 19 and younger said yes they had sex in 2014? it has been two years, where do you think those numbers are now?

It amazes me to see those type of numbers in our society, because if you ask them why they had sex already I bet it is one of these answers: 1) I wanted to feel loved, 2)he/she would have broken up with me if I didn’t, 3) My parents told me not too, or 4) because everyone else is doing it and it feels good.

In response to the first excuse, it all starts at home. If you don’t have a loving family, who expresses love in a healthy manner kids are going to search for love where they can find it. Thankfully, I was blessed to have a loving family, who are still together after 33 years. A family who sat me down and talked to me about sex and how it was good, but something I needed to wait for. Honestly, having a loving family covers the second excuse as well. If a loving family is supporting their kids and actually talking to them (not just lecturing them) kids are going to see if a boy/girl is making you do something it isn’t healthy.

So I have covered how my relationship with God and my loving family has helped me make this decision on my own, but how could my college education help? I did go to a Christian college and in the midst of homework, sporting events, and hanging out with friends, I was able to start understanding my beliefs more on my own. Middle and high school told me what to believe, but in college I was able to hash out all my questions and concerns about what I believed. In the end some things changed and matured, but one thing that didn’t change was my decision to save sex for marriage. I saw what premarital sex could do to a relationship. I knew a couple who was waiting to have sex until after they were married, but one of the members of the couple had a past before she/he decided to change their life. Watching them grow as a couple I saw heartache and tough times as they hashed out the past. That was something I never had to go through, at least on my end. College, like it should for any student christian or not, opened my eyes to many experiences and knowledge I would have never gleamed if I stayed in the small cornfield infested town of Busco.

I know I am an abnormality and as I continue to age the 40 Year Old Virgin jokes are starting to surface, but nothing is going to change my mind. I see what this society does to the idea of sex and in my opinion it is much more than a upbeat song played in the clubs or the scandalous pictures littering magazine covers and internet sites. That part of who I am is something I want to share with only one other person. I realize my future husband might not have done the same thing I have, but I won’t judge him and I will love him no matter what.

To any girls out there reading this who have lost their virginity or wanting to lose it, it is not too late to make a decision to safeguard yourself. It is a decision you can make everyday and no one can say any different to you. If you are reading this and you are just like me, trying to survive in this sex-driven world, you are not alone. Stay strong and know waiting can be done.

My Masquerade’s Dance with God

I have always loved the idea of a masquerade ball: gorgeous dresses, fancy masks, hidden identity, dancing with a complete stranger only to have them take off their mask at midnight to find either a friend you have known your whole life or a complete, handsome stranger whom you fall in love with instantly. It is a romantic fairytale vision that many little girls dream about and single women long for. Although if I really think about it, that fantasy can never come true. It is mythical, but the idea of a mask is not. As I transferred from college age fantasies to a young woman many ideas have evolved and one of them is the thought of a mask. See I grew up as a Christian and I do not want to say I am religious, because that is a whole other negative annotation to get into, but what I will say I am is a strong follower of Jesus. So a little over two years ago I decided that God wanted me to start leading a small group of middle school aged girls at my church’s youth group on Wednesday nights. As my journey has progressed and matured through the couple years I have been with them I have discovered something about pre-teen age I never really thought about before—they were a mask.

The fantastical mask I once fantasized wearing as I danced with a dashing stranger is something middle school students, especially females, tie on every single day. This is not something we voluntarily do; we are trained to do this everyday of our lives. Just look at the different magazines that float from stand to stand. We want to be skinny or blond or blue eyed or tanner or taller or anything other than what is staring back at us in the mirror hanging in our bedroom. Do you realize that we are so obsessed with our image that we have a mirror hanging in almost every room? Take my old house for example. When I would walk in from the garage there was a mirror in our entryway to the left of me, then walking past my kitchen into my dining room there was a mirror hanging on the far wall. Of course we also had two and a half baths which had a huge mirror in each one and all three bedrooms had full length mirrors in them, adding to the vain lies that our world thrusts in our faces. If you weren’t counting that is eight mirrors–EIGHT! Who needs eight mirrors in their home of four people! Wow.

Mirrors aren’t the only negative entity in our weak and feeble minds. We allow songs, TV shows, movies, even pictures out of magazines influence who we become, but it doesn’t mean that is who we are supposed to be. It doesn’t help when a fashion designer or magazine editor says that you have to be this size, with this color of hair and eyes, and that height to be considered beautiful.

Our appearance is not the only thing that could be considered a mask—our attitudes as well. What people see us as is just another fancy dress we lace up and parade around for the world to see. As teens, stereotypical masks such as: Jock, Popular, Nerd, Goth, Hippie, Ghetto, etc., are all we think about when we are in school. Kids try and fit into one of those labels or they are accused of being it and can never scrub away the invisible tattoo their peers has inked on their foreheads.

As soon as you walk through the doors into the public eye, whether we realize it or not, we cloth ourselves in “who” we want to be. But is that really you? That is a question we need to consistently ask ourselves: “Underneath it all is this who I really am?” What if it is not who we are? What if we decorate our masks with frivolous feathers, beads, and sequins just to impress the friends and people around us? Is that really how it should work?

These are all questions that even as I grow older I still can not answer without a small hint of skepticism. The world of fashion and entertainment outline our clothes and what is ‘hot’ or ‘uncool,’ so are the answers we come up with on who we are truly real and from ourselves? We live in such a world full of technology that any answer of any question can be found by pressing a button and asking Siri, but even the internet can be full of lies for us. Where is the one place you can go and get the truth? I think for each person it is different, but I do not mean your best friend or boyfriend or your parents or even your husband or wife, because they do not know everything about you and your heart. They are not always privileged to see under the mask but in my opinion only one is: God.

We forget that, don’t we? God can see us. I believe God already knows everything about us. He designed who we are.  Last year in our youth group we talked about the mask we wear everyday and how we can strip that mask away. Its funny because every time I hear about ‘taking off the mask’ I feel like they are telling me to let everyone around me know everything about me; from my superficial interests to my deep dark secrets. I do not think that is what we should do. I know as a Christian I must present myself as a believer and follow the laws and commandments of my God, but I do not think we must show the world our hurts. There is a fine line between lying about yourself and being yourself. We can have a mask on and still be ourselves—our true mask.  The thing about the mask is we need to allow our imperfections to show. It is what makes us unique in a time when everybody wants to be the same. I like being unique. It means I was created for something special. Right now I could become depressed because I am college graduate, whom was let go from her supposedly ‘dream’ job, clawing at a graduate degree, hoping it will help me find my true career path, and, barely making ends meat because I don’t have a full time job yet, but I don’t. Why? Well, because God has a plan in this and He is preparing me for whatever is next.

It is the same for everyone, young and old alike. You might be at the low end of the totem pole or the bell of the ball; it doesn’t matter because God has a plan for what you are going through. I know it is difficult to see and to be honest only God sees His puzzle that He is constructing, the book He is writing, or the timeline He is plotting, but it is there, you have to trust him! I have to trust Him. I have to trust that there are going to be days when I will have to have my true mask tied around my head and ready for battle against our cruel world with God by my side and there are days I will have to trust He is holding my hand as I pull the mask down a little and display some of my deeper pain as I lead these girls down the rocky road of middle school and the masquerade issues of life.