Wednesday, April 30, 2008

the end.

don't look for me here. you won't find me anymore.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

If you didn't find me, I would have found you.

I walked into my aunt's house to find a literal shower of presents. It was so overwhelming. Everything was decorated so wonderfully, and it just made me feel so great inside. To know that so many people were supporting this huge decision in my life, and for those people to be close family whom I value the opinion brought tears to my eyes.

At some point during the day, I looked over to find Wesley holding my nephew, looking at him in the eyes and talking to him. It occured to me that he had spent the majority of the day with my nephew. He held him, pushed him on the swing, played soccer with him, etc. And then I started thinking about how when Wesley comes around, everyone is SO happy to see him. He really does brighten up a room. Everyone hugs him, not in the flyby hug, but in the Spruell "You are a part of this family" hug. All of my younger counsins love him because he will play with them for hours, and they always ask about him.

I realized that he is so much like me when it comes to children. My cousins are the same way about me. They always ask when I'm coming to visit. This is because I've spent hours playing with them in the past. He is going to be my partner in this. That also makes me tear up.

Often times I will look over at him, and in a dose of reality moment, I will find myself where I am, and I will praise God. He is everything I never knew I always wanted. I never was necessarily attracted to guys that liked to play sports, yet because he does, I have grown to enjoy them. I didn't particularly like Christian rap music before, but now have grown to appreciate it. The list goes on. He was a surprise that I didn't expect in the slightest. And although it hasn't been fairtaled throughout our whole's becoming that way now. Sure, he gets on my nerves, he makes mistakes, and he's not perfect...but he is everything I could ever possibly want in a man. My happiness is really finding itself in a real-life fairytale setting. And although I know that will fade with time, I also feel that no matter what, there will always be a hint of it. I feel like we're going to be the type of people that look over at eachother 50 years from now and still feel butterflies. I know of people like that. I have prayed for a relationship like that.

I sometimes feel like God has protected me because I didn't have an earthly father. I know my father would have loved Wesley just like my family does. He has allowed me to get hurt because of wrong actions, but He has always chosen to bless me through it all. It's a miracle I even found Wesley, and a miracle that he found me.

Think about that as you pray for the person you love. You are two miracles tied together. Your paths did not cross by chance. God loved you enough to give you that person. The one that "gets" you. I never really had that before. I had little specks of it, but never did I have someone completely get me. Wesley does.

This isn't so much a "let's brag about Wesley and make everyone gag" post. It's more of a charge for you to really think long and hard about what God has blessed you with in the person He gave you. He loved you enough to not keep you alone on this earth. He loved you enough to give you someone that you fit perfectly with. I pray you praise Him everyday for this, and that anytime you find yourself in disunion with the person, you remember what a blessing and miracle they are.

//song of solomon 2:16//

Friday, April 25, 2008

Microwave me.

I am leaving to go for my shower in IL tomorrow. I can't wait to see all my family. I miss them sooooo much.

I tanned for the first time in awhile today. I know it probably makes no sense, but lying inside of the tanning bed is very soothing to me. Soothing poison, I suppose. I love how you can automatically tell a difference. I am already a half of a shade darker than I was before. It just makes me smile really big for some reason. I like immediate results. That's why I've never been good at dieting. I also bought a corset thingy, and it made my dress have a nicer shape, so now I won't have to get it altered. Yay! I had to have Barbera help me zip it up, and she has about 15 Bible study girls over for a sleepover. Barbera told me to go downstairs with it on, and they all oohed and awed over me like I was some model. It was really flattering. A strong, secure end to a weak, insecure day.

I tried on bathing suits today. I hate that. No, loathe that. It's like taking every insecurity I have and putting it inside of fabric. I didn't really find one I liked. It was depressing.

Wesley and I took a sun-soaked nap in his backyard on a quilt. It was lovely. Nothing is better than being able to lay down and take a nap with someone you love. We usually nap on the couch, quite accidentally at times while watching a movie, and that is usually the place where I get the best sleep. But now I think a nap on a blanket in the sun is just as good :)

I can't wait for this all to be over. Internship. Papers. Graduation. Wedding planning. Wedding day.

I guess it's those immediate results that I'm craving.

Monday, April 21, 2008

God, employment, life recently, and rambling.

I haven't written in so long. And it seems like what's happened between the last post and the post now is a completely different season. And I feel it is. It seems like as soon as Spring began, God began a new season in me, complete with weeding out the mess, and planting youthful buds in its place.

I was scared to death before my interview. I heard the previous intern making the three interviewers laugh, while I sat on the outside peeking through the window and wondering if I could remember any funny jokes to one up this person. She wanted the job anyway. I didn't know anything about JJ [Juvenile Justice] except that you worked with the "bad kids." I hadn't even considered interviewing for it until I got a letter in the mail informing me that the position was open for interviews. I decided I would interview anyway, because I needed the practice, and the more interviews I went to, the more familiar my face would become.

As I walked in, it was a bit intimidating. I had never interviewed with more than one person at a time. Not only was it three people, but two out of the three people looked very well put together.

The questions began. Critical thinking questions. Questions that usually terrify me because although I can answer them with little struggle on paper, spouting the answers out loud usually leaves me tongue-tied and embarrassed. I felt like I had an out-of-body experience, because each question I was able to answer professionally and without struggle. I watched in slow motion as the interviewers were continually impressed with answer after answer, and me wondering where this was all coming from. It felt as if someone else took hold of my body [um, GOD] and answered those questions instead of me. I even answered a question a way that they had never heard before. And they have been interviewing for a loooong time.

I walked out of the interview feeling fairly confident, but also knowing that the competition was cutthroat. I was just relieved to be through with it.
I got a call that night at cracker barrel.
"Thank you for calling your Jackson Cracker Barrel, this is Ashley, how may I help you?"

"Is this the Ashley we interviewed this morning?"

"Yes ma'm."

"We have been trying to get ahold of you, girl! We've left voicemails and everything! I was calling to check your reference that you left, but I want to talk to you also."

"Oh, ok! I'm sorry you haven't been able to get ahold of me. I've been at work since I left training."

"Oh no, that's fine. Well Ashley, I just wanted to call and let you know that we were VERY impressed with your interview...and [at this point, I knew it was coming, somehow I knew]we wanted to offer you the position. Is that something you'd be interested in?"

"YES!" followed by squeals and shouts.
They weren't joking. They left THREE voicemails. They really really loved me.

Fast forward to the present. DCS works in teams. My team is:
Pat-team leader

I LOVE all of them!!! My supervisor (Pat) is SO amazing and helpful. It is such a positive work environment, despite the work that we do! And I am really excited to get started!

The way that a child gets put into JJ is the child either violates probation or commits delinquent acts (acts that if the child were an adult, they would be charged/incarcerated) that places them on probation. It is my job to get them out of a facility (if they are in one) and get them off of probation. An example of a facility would be a youth detention center. I develop and implement a plan to get the child out of the facility and back in the home, or off of probation.

Basically, no matter how intimidating it sounds, I'm beginning to really get pumped for this job! I have been shadowing case workers, and although I think I'll get a lot of flack at first (because I'm new, because I'm too "white girl", lol etc.) I think I will know how to do the job very effectively.

How do I have this confidence in myself? That's what's amazing about it. I don't. But God grabs hold of me at work all of the time. It's like I have this 6th sense called Social Worker. It comes out at times and I am automatically able to assess how to handle a situation. I know that there will be times where I will fall flat on my face because God will allow it, but I know that other times, God will be guiding my every step. That is so comforting.

God has also protected me in this job. A couple of days after I got hired, they made budget cuts that took away 161 jobs in the region. But I was safe, because my supervisor did what she was supposed to do to get me locked in, while unfortunately, two other classmates were hired, and then got their positions taken away due to budget cuts. God has protected me.

God is teaching me in this new season as well. He has been teaching me to be content no matter the situation, and most of all, to TRUST that situation. The times when we go through rough waters are times when God may be using us to witness to others. He may be using that to perfect our influence as a follower of Christ. I cannot question whatever comes my way, even if I believe that God told me something, and then something else happens. I must accept that God is GOD, and He can change His mind whenever He pleases. Too often I treat God like He's not God. Instead, He's this scapegoat to blame when things get bad, and my best friend when things are good.

I think on this, and I am ashamed.

And I know that all my life, God has had this protective bubble around me. My life is annointed, and I can't figure out why He chose me. All I know is that things always tend to go not only right for me, but better than a lot of others. And I don't deserve that. I deserve the worst of the worst. But God protects. God perseveres. God loves.

As I reflect on these things, I don't do it to brag and to say that I'm so much more blessed than anyone else. Time will come where I will struggle hard. I have struggled hard this past year, but not like I deserve. It's simply to praise God and His goodness:

I have never had a broken bone in my body, despite being clumsy.
I have never gotten hurt in wrecks that could have cost me my life.
I have always been provided for; I've never seriously struggled [despite what I might sometimes selfishly think]
I have had no serious health problems
I have been protected in storms
I have never lost a loved one besides due to natural causes
I have never gotten seriously sick on a mission trip
I have a job the day before graduation. a Job that pays more than I've ever made in my life
I have a place to rest my head before I get married...and a place to start my marriage household at

These are just a few of the many blessings God has chosen to bestow on me. But the beauty of all of this, is even if all of that had been negative... if all of that had been reversed, and it actually had or hadn't happened to me...I should still have the same attitude. And God's teaching me that, bit by bit. It's so much more of a challenge to praise Him in the dark times. I admire those that can, those that have that down. Those that did lose things in the storm, that have health problems, that don't have jobs or plans...those that trust God through all of THAT...I hope to one day be like you.

I have gone through a lot with Wesley in the time we've been together. I love him now more than ever before. He has such a pure, youthful heart. I admire that so much. I only wish circumstances could be different so that we could have the experience we both wanted to have in getting married. But he has been married before, and I've had many boyfriends. Neither of us waited for one another, but still, God has maintained those "first relationship" butterflies. I know they will fade, and have begun to, but what has replaced it is an even deeper emotion of unconditional love, love past anything that person might do to get on your nerves, loves past their mistakes and flaws. It's so beautiful. I thank God He has purified our hearts back to the place that they should be, and that we will stand at that altar with pure commitments and pure hearts. I LOVE it! God is a God of restoration. I've learned that more than ever this past year.

Praise Him. Praise Him. Praise Him.
Praise Him that He doesn't weigh His love according to our obedience. Praise Him that He doesn't see us for who we are, but for who we can be.

His love is overwhelming.

Friday, April 11, 2008

The journey is my home.

Home is the one place in all this world where hearts are sure of each other. It is the place of confidence. It is the place where we tear off that mask of guarded and suspicious coldness which the world forces us to wear in self-defense, and where we pour out the unreserved communications of full and confiding hearts. It is the spot where expressions of tenderness gush out without any sensation of awkwardness and without any dread of ridicule. ~Frederick W. Robertson

725 Rushmeade Street. Apartment A.

[I may have to change this later if I find out I got the numbers wrong]

It's not the typical model home of most Union marrieds. But it is a home.
It is a duplex; the other end shared by a sweet, quiet hispanic couple I hope to practice my Spanish with. It has a huge backyard with plenty of room for half a dozen hammocks.
It is directly behind the Columns, so walking to Books-a-Million on sunny days will become a regular adventure.
We can have any pets we like, and as long as we perform upkeep, there is no fee for pets.
There is no deposit.
Two bedrooms, one itty bitty bathroom.
New carpet. New paint. Big windows.
If we earn enough money to buy a house before the 12 month lease is up, as long as we buy it from the realtor, we can break the lease with no fees.
It is $400/month + utilities.

God is SO good. Even though it's not something I would have originally wanted, He has provided us with a place that is not only affordable, but lovely, in its own unique way. I still can't fathom how we will have a two-bedroom house for only
$400/month, with no deposit! That will definitely leave us to build up our savings in no time!

I am ridiculously giddy.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

I am growing weary of waking up before the birds do.

I have TWO big girl interviews next week. I hear they like to tear people alive, especially interns.

Just what I need.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Trust and obey.

I sometimes feel like God is a cat. A big, playful cat. I am the mouse. He has me by my tail.

I know that God doesn't work like that. My human mind can't fathom how all that He is doing right now is being worked toward His glory.

201 Massachusettes Street. After looking at about 15 houses, this was the only one I felt God speaking through. And it was nothing that special, really. Built in 1960, it had ugly pink walls and small closets. But it also had so many things going for it. A sunroom where I could set an easel and paint; it was lined with screens so that I could let the breeze in while I worked. One room upstairs that could be transformed into two rooms for two little Calvert children to run around in. (a wall seperated the one room into two rooms). A clawfoot bathtub. A HUGE yard, fenced, where a playful puppy could run, and dozens of children. So many possibilities.

I didn't bring those ideas on. In fact, when we first arrived, I wasn't impressed, and was already thinking about the charming house we'd looked at previously on Division Street. But something jarred me. Every single thing I spoke of in the previous paragraph were visions I began to have. This hadn't happened in any of the houses we'd looked at. And if it did, it was brought upon by me. But I felt as if this was different. Wesley and I would discuss the houses throughout our tours, but in this one, we were quiet. At the end of the tour, when the realtor left, he asked me what I thought. When I turned to look at him, and we locked eyes, he didn't need to hear my answer. The same thing was going on inside both of us. He was having visions as well, about our future children and the possibilities of the house.

This scared the crap out of me. Mostly because, we've been looking for a house for "right now". In two years, we expect to try and get our travelling ministry on its feet, and head out west. But this wasn't a house for right now, like the one on division. This was a house to settle in. To raise a family in. To foster children in. To paint the picture clearer, it is in walking distance from the park! We were both really scared of that. And scared of what God was doing inside of us. Because it seemed as if He was saying He wanted us to settle. But we trusted, and knew it was him. We just knew this house was the one God had for us.

We entered our information for the loan company to run a credit report. It cleared; everything seemed to be ok. We went out to look at the house again today, and noticed something that made my heart sink: "sale pending" was hung beneath the realty sign. I was devastated.

Why was a devastated? I hadn't even really liked the house as much as some others. I was devastated because I was "sure" that that was the house for us, based on what God had done in both of our hearts. We experienced the same visions; we had the same feelings. You know when you feel like you're in line with God's will, you just feel like such a better person because of it? Well, that's how I felt. I felt like I had actually heard God and He had jarred me to tell me "this is the one!" And now, I'm back at square one. I'm just another Christian who can never discern God's voice clearly. And that hurts.

My first reaction: anger, hurt, anxiety. How could God do this to me? To get my hopes up that we had actually found a place to live, and then snatch the rug from underneath us? I felt like one of the abandoned kittens in a cardboard box left on the side of the road during a rainstorm.

But then God began to really help me understand. No matter how much I sometimes DON'T like it, He IS God. And there's nothing I can do about it. He is going to do whatever He wills, and that is so frustrating to me! I think a lot of times, we create a God that isn't God at all. A God we can control, and use His name when we make big decisions (I'm not saying the house was an instance of this; I believe my visions were accurate, but not for that house).

That is a frustrating thought, isn't it? It's like that boyfriend that doesn't listen to you. You can scream and scream and scream and cry, but if he doesn't want to do what you want him to do, in the end, you're only making yourself more miserable.

I am letting go. I am trusting that God is God. What does it mean to trust that? It means that no matter what is going on in my life, that He loves me. What does it mean to love me? To look out for the BEST for me. For a toddler, to play in the street is not a danger; they haven't a care about the passing cars. But think what would happen to that toddler if their parent hadn't let them know how dangerous the road was? If the parent hadn't, so to speak, changed their path? They may think what's best for them is to play in the road, but the parent knows better. I guess what's so confusing is when you really do think you're hearing the parent's voice, but then that voice points you to a dead end. That's how I feel.

But I am letting go.

There is a reason for all this, and in hindsight, it will make sense. I will one day see those visions brought to life, however God wills them to be. I know it was Him. I know it was. But He's not through taking me on His ride. He won't be until the day I die. And as much as I hate being led, I have to view it as being led blindfolded. I have to rely and trust on the person who can see the things in front of me that I cannot. I have to trust Him.