So I Never Forget: Part 2

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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

Defining the Generations of Belles Who Love a Good Book

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“Dreamy Far-Off Look & A Nose Stuck in a Book”

Defining the Bookworms of the World

Tumblr.com com has this amazing blog called: Bookfessions. I have never seen it before in my life until today and I instantly fell in love. I grew up reading and reading and reading. 95% of the time my parents truly wonder how they ended up with such a bookworm when both of my parents are more logical and mathematical. Even my brother, who does like to read, has an aptitude for the sciences than I. You put a mathematical equation in front of me and my whole body cringes. Now, I am not saying I didn’t do well in math; I did–until Pre-Calculus, but when I am constantly studying it every day I retain it fine. Once I stop it goes far, far away to a galaxy hidden among the stars.

The one category of knowledge which doesn’t leave are books. You can ask me about a book I read in Middle School and still be able to tell you the main character names, the plot progress and a few minor details that many readers don’t even pick up. I do this in front of my parents a lot in conversation and my dad just gives me the blankest stare, which is quite fun to watch.

So going through Bookfessions fills my heart with so much joy because it gives me the warm feeling that I am not alone in my world of fiction. This tumblr has 1068 confessions of a bookaholic! I have only read the first hundred and I found myself saying “Yup” and “I so do that!” What is it about coming together has a community that brings the emotions to the surface? Well, it is probably because us bookworms have a tendency to be over-emotional anyways. And if you are a lover of books and disagree with that statement you aren’t reading right.

Book

So I started to wonder: “What do I think are the major characteristics of a bookworm/nerd/holic?” I mean I am one and I need something to help define myself because I am tired of trying to make them understand on the spot. This way when I am reading my book and they try to ask me why I read, instead of looking at them with hatred while I try to explain it without killing them I can say four simple words: “It’s on my blog.”

 

So here we go. Let’s define us 🙂

  1. BookWe emotionally attach ourselves to characters, plotlines, and places of the novel itself.
    • Trust me! If you tell a bookaholic it is stupid to breakdown about a character’s death you will be flogged and shunned, especially if you are family.
  2. We ALWAYS have a book of some type on us. This is why we need big purses, because of our multiple books.
    • A sub-definition of this law of bookworms is you will find us reading ANYWHERE.
      • Road Trips
      • Beach
      • During a Meal
      • Work Break
      • Walking down the sidewalk (Yes it can be done without killing you or someone else. I know I did it all through college going from class to class)
      • Even you can find us bookaholics reading while in line at Disney World or any other long line at amusement parks. (Again, it does happen! I do it all the time when I am having a me day at Disney. Don’t Judge)
  3. When you ask us if we want to go shopping, you better be prepared for spend at least two hours in whatever bookstore is near the shops. If you tell us no then we won’t be shopping with you–ever!
  4. BookThis rule mostly applies to the YA Lit Junkies:  Once attachment to a book occurs multiple times by multiple readers a Fandom is born.
    • Google defines Fandom as “the fans of a particular person, team, fictional series, etc., regarded collectively as a community or subculture.”
      • Examples you will never escape: Harry Potter, Divergent, Hunger Games, Percy Jackson, John Green, Lord of the Rings, Narnia, and others, but never Twilight. Twilight must be purged. (And yes I have full rights to say this because I have read and seen all the books and movies, so yes I can make a comment on them.)
  5. We are a loyal people…well loyal to characters and authors who we have grown to know and love through the words we read on their pages.
    • How to gain our loyalty?
      • Love reading
      • Appreciate our Fandoms
      • Understand our sudden outbursts when our fandom emerges in conversation
      • NEVER tell us the movie is better
      • Giving us a gift? Books and more books and maybe throw in a book gift card or a bookshelf for the books you have boughten me.
  6. We are a sleep-deprived people. If you have to ask why you just need to walk away.
  7. BookIf you are a girl, your favorite Disney princess is Belle. I mean have you seen her library!?
  8. Lastly, being a lover of books is a part of who we are. Yes, there are rules, which are more “like guidelines than actual rules” (Pirates of the Caribbean). And yes these seven above only scratched the surface of being a bookaholic, but each reader is different and unique in their own way. If you are blessed to have this love or to love someone like us, don’t take them for granted, because we are more than nerds with our noses’ stuck in a book. We are Imaginative, Fierce, Passionate, Loyal people who grab hold of life any way we can!

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

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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)

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

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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.

Feb. 25: Let’s End This Together

Today is the national day for slavery awareness. If you don’t know there are up to or even more than 27 million slaves around the world, working in the fields, brothels, traded for sex, etc. I was never aware of this until Jan. 2013 when I attended Passion 2013 in Atlanta, Georgia. The conference opened my eyes to the evil that is still occurring today. Most people, if you ask, say that slavery ended after the Civil War. If you are one of those people you’re dead wrong.

That summer my college small group friends and I decided to put our voice out there for the cause. We designed and executed a huge fundraiser at our church to raise money for an organization who helps and works with people who are saved from that life of slavery: Tiny Hands International. Through the experience of getting the fundraiser ready, I found my heart really reacts to this cause. There is a worship song that I love and one of the lines goes “Let my heart breaks for what breaks yours.” For many years I heard that as just a song, but after Passion it has become a prayer in my life and believe me when I say the issues of slavery in our world breaks my heart as it does God’s.

If you don’t know much about the cause here are some facts I found from the End It Movement website:

  • Slavery exists in 167 countries around the world. That’s 85% of the nations across the globe.

  • Nearly 1 in 5 victims of slavery is a child. The average age a teen enters the sex trade in the US is 12 – 14 years old.

  • There are an estimated 60,100 people trapped in slavery
    in the United States right now.

  • An estimated 199,000 incidents of sexual exploitation of minors occur each year in the United States. That’s one incident every 3 minutes.

Those are just four facts about what is going on with slavery, but what the facts don’t show is the cruelty of what goes on to the slaves. Rape, torture, starved, kept in tiny-unlivable rooms, and even death. The thought of men, women, and especially children enduring this breaks my heart every time.

One of the big questions everyone asks is how are these slaves taken into this lifestyle if it is illegal? IJM has a great explanation on their website:

“One of the most common techniques to entrap laborers is through false debts. An owner lures a poor person into slavery by offering a small advance payment for their labor. The owner then ensures it is impossible for the slave to ever repay by inflating the debt owed with exorbitant interest charges, not paying the victim the promised wages and prohibiting him or her from working anywhere else. These false debts can be passed from one generation to the next; we have identified entire families (from grandparents to parents to children) who have been forced to work for years after accepting advance payments as low as $20.”

How they entrap them is just another cruel tactic that breaks my heart as I read the paragraph above, but there is a door to the suffocating cage these enslaved people have lived in for so long. The world has been noticing the issue and are responding. International Justice Mission is just one organization fighting for the slaves around the world. Tiny Hands International is another, but there are more. All they ask if for our support in this fight, whether it is donating money, time, or even lifting up prayers for the workers and slaves. You can be a teenager or an adult, they don’t care, they just need our help. God says in  James 1: 27:

“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”

We shouldn’t help just because slavery is against the law, but because it is what God charges us to do. The children in these situations are usually orphaned and the women would be lucky if their husband is even alive. Even though men aren’t in this verse, I believe God wants us to help them too.

So this is our chance. We can spread the word about slavery and start helping in any way we can. Don’t be afraid to help and I pray you don’t read over this and just set it aside, because you are no longer ignorant to the issue of slavery. Say a prayer. Donate money or time. Be active in the fight because God didn’t call us to just sit on the sidelines in our Christianity, but to change the world in His Name. We are His children and He will give us the strength to fight this fight.

My Self-Image Journey

I am telling this story, because I know there are other girls and women out there who can relate. I am also telling this story to show that we aren’t defined by what we wear or the jewelry that adorns us.

Psalms 139:14 “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.”

I live by this verse. I repeat this verse every Wednesday during small group to my middle school girls. I am this verse. Every girl, lady, women, mom, grandma, great grandma, and daughter are this verse. There was one point in my life that I didn’t believe these words…

I was in sixth grade and an eighth grade girl, at our very first dance of the year, stopped me in my tracks and told me to stop sticking out my chest and stuffing my bra for guys attention. I will be the first to tell you I wasn’t. I was a very developed sixth grader and very comfortable in her own skin—until that moment. At that moment my great posture, which made it look like I was sticking my chest out, was demolished and what self-esteem I had shrunk back into the shadows of my heart. I started wearing baggy shirts and sweatshirts, only showing my figure when we had a dance, hoping that I could get some satisfaction from a guy, but it never happened—I was ignored.

I wasn’t ignored by the girls who I thought were my best friends, but only one of them ended up deserving that title by the end. I wasn’t ignored by the youth leaders who, unintentionally and without knowledge, made me feel like the slut of the youth group because I had kissed a boy and listened to secular music. I wasn’t ignored by my parents, who had no idea that someone stole my self-esteem. I wasn’t ignored by my teachers, who were better friends to me than some of the people my own age. I wasn’t ignored by the right people, but it didn’t matter, because my head wasn’t in the right place. I went through all of middle and high school looking for gratification from a boy, breaking apart when I was rejected or dumped. The problem was I wasn’t looking for the right attention from the right guy.

Now you are probably reading this and thinking I have parent issues, or my father isn’t in my life. Well, you are wrong. I have an amazing father who loves my mother with all of his heart and we had/have a great relationship!

So it goes to show that even a daughter who has a loving father and knows the love of God can have issues with self-esteem.

When college started knocking at my door I decided I needed new scenery. I had lived in Busco for so long that it became what Margo Roth Spiegelman calls a paper town (I RECOMMEND Paper Towns by John Green!!!!). I even started to feel like a paper girl walking among the paper teens in the hallways of our paper high school. I needed to get away. What I thought I might need is an environment of the spiritual sort. After the long process of searching and visiting colleges I landed on Southeastern University. A Christian college in Florida gave me two things: 1. a spiritual campus & education. 2. Four states between my past and me.

It did not help. My first year I allowed a boy to string me along as his “friend,” who he acted like he was dating when he didn’t have a girlfriend of his choosing. I thought I finally found the “love” I was so desperately searching for. I was blind. My friends couldn’t even talk sense into me. The last week of school I realized what I was allowing him to do and it wasn’t helping my self-esteem. If anything I buried myself deeper and deeper into despair. I found no healing during the summer, but a miracle was about to enter into my life sophomore year.

There was a girl. She lived next door to my roommates and me, but I would have never guessed the journey I was about to embark on. Her name is Bekah. When I met her I learned she was a cheerleader, popular when she was in high school, she was extremely skinny and pretty (she still is :] ), and my first thought was there was no way she would want to be friends with me. All I can say is it was a God thing, because we started hanging out frequently. She was so full of life that I didn’t know what she saw in me as a friend, but she saw a tiny common bond that could flourish. I don’t know if she saw my brokenness as we continued to hang out, but something happened that year. She cracked open my issues, like an egg, spilling out my insecurities, my fears, my hatred toward my appearance–everything.

As we grew as friend through the years little by little I started to love myself again. Little by little I saw what God saw when he looked at me. Little by little I started to become the woman God intended me to be, because I never really saw my calling until I saw myself. My calling? To help young girls see the beauty and importance of who they are. I never could have been the youth group leader I am today without Bekah. I could never have the confidence to be a Jewelry Lady if sophomore year didn’t happen.

How could we have known?

I am thankful for my experiences–good & bad–and I am thankful for a God who is always for me and never against me. If you have a story you want to share about self-image and want me to share, message me or comment. I can always change or take out names, but God gives us these stories for a reason–to share.

God Bless!

Ashley Danielle