We’ve Got Bigger Problems

My playlist landed on that song, it happened just as I was turning into my neighborhood in Georgia.

It poked at my heart, it nudged at some pain I’ve been carting around.

I turned it off and put it out of my mind.

This morning the same song came on, but its weight didn’t crush me. Today, I’ve got bigger problems. I’ve got bigger problems than sad songs that remind me of disappointing seasons and of people who didn’t turn out to be who I thought they were.

This morning he left. I lost an uncle. My family lost a father. The world lost a fighter.

Sad songs didn’t really seem like such a problem after that. The little heartbreaks didn’t really seem to matter when I thought about his life, the miracles he lived. The world seemed more gray this morning. The news felt like bricks breaking in an earthquake, I could hear the sound of crumbling clay around me.

The earth should shake when someone is no longer here. There should be breaking glass and falling objects when someone takes their last breath.

There are harder things than people who refuse to grow up and the problems they cause us.

Our lives should be defined by more than small obstacles, inconveniences, bad days and hurt feelings. These things are really not worth the time we give them.

If we’re going to value small things, let’s value the good ones. Let’s put our energy into falling in love with cups of coffee shared with old friends, long walks beneath cracking winter branches, take-out food with your family, and sweet memories of uncles who knew how to say i love you.

The rest of it, the little heartbreaks and disappointments, the days that are uneventful and the discontent seasons…let’s stop letting them keep us from playing a song we used to love.

It’s Okay to Not Be Okay

Blood shot eyes, I just sat there with my face soaked in tears. Hands beneath the table, I was clenching that elegant white table cloth, praying we could just get that meal over with.

No one asked.

I think that had to be one of the most monumental moments of that year. Sitting at a table in some of the deepest pain I’ve ever known, and the people I thought were closest to me never even asked.

He was gone. Not gone on vacation, not moved away. He was really gone and at that moment being prepared to be lowered in the ground.

I could have tapped my glass, stood to give a toast, and at the end tacked on: “and with this sip of water, I toast to the life of a childhood friend who isn’t simply moving away, but who no longer has breath in his body.”

I didn’t, thank God. My mother gave me the sense to know that doing those kinds of things wouldn’t have changed what had already occurred. Still, sometimes I lie awake and wonder if it would have been an alarm clock to a room full of people who claim to love me.

I want to be the person who asks, even when I don’t want to, even if it’s uncomfortable. I want to see brokenness and not be afraid of it. I want to love people so much that even if their arms push me away, I push harder to let them know that it’s okay to not be okay.

I think sometimes we’re just all afraid to dig deeper, to ask painful questions. We’re afraid of what could occur if we light a match next the pile of dynamite pain. I don’t want to be standing too close if and when this explodes. 

“I’ll let them come to me.” We tell ourselves, “When they’re ready to talk about it… they will.”

Sometimes that’s true, but most of the time it’s an excuse.

We sit at fancy tables with white table cloths and we just try to shield our eyes from the person dripping tears into their lap. This isn’t the time or place. Can’t they just get it together until the time is more appropriate? I’ll ask them later, when there are less people around, when I have more time.

We give them a little side hug, buy their food, a little pat on the back, but we steer clear of words and apologies. It’s easier just to not ask, to say a little prayer and hope that God handles it and we don’t have to.

We’re always waiting for better moments to love people. We’re waiting until we’ve changed into lesser clothes before we sit down in the mud with them.

I’m not sure when it became embarrassing or improper to not be okay. As though it were a choice, or as if it could be controlled. We treat it as though little bandaids can hold back the blood of gaping wounds. Just put this over it, put on a little smile until it’s more convenient, but don’t break, not here, not in public.

Sitting at that table on that Sunday afternoon where no one asked, I nearly bled out. While faces were turned and entrees were served, I felt almost everything drain out of me.

I wondered if that was how he felt. Had he been stabbed with that same feeling over and over again? Had he just sat in room after room, at table after table while no one asked? Did he feel inconvenient, weak, shameful? Is that what caused him to end his life? Did they watch him bleed out, never willing to put their hands on his wounds and call for help?

You can’t save people. Those words have been said to me over and over again, I know they are true. But I can scream, I can yell, I can make a scene to say that you are loved and you are not in this thing alone. I may not can save them, but I must be willing to push people out of the ways of trains, away from cliffs; to bring flashlights to them on dark paths where it seems like there’s only one end.

I can’t save people, but that can never be a reason not to fight for someone’s life with all the fierce love inside of me.

I want to dig my heels in and say “It’s alright if you make a scene, let it out, be angry or broken. You are not an embarrassment. I don’t see you as a fragile or useless person when you’re not okay. It’s okay to not be okay.”

Pain is not a gentleman. He pushes himself to the front of the line, knocks displays over, and wounds others in his way. He does not wait patiently on the porch. He bangs his hands brutally against your door and barges in before you’ve even had time to fix your hair.

Pain shows up and there isn’t always a warning, a phone call to say what time he’ll arrive, he shows up with guns blazing. Pain is not proper, so Love is does not wait for convenience.

Love doesn’t care if her dress is wrinkled or her eyes are bloodshot. Love doesn’t mind weeping in public or knees hitting the carpet. She doesn’t really care what the onlookers at the restaurant think of her or the one she holds. She doesn’t keep a watch, doesn’t wait for quiet, isn’t afraid of words or silence. Love has no expectation, no requirement, no desire to wait for a better time. 

Pain will surely come, most times in a loud and unruly manner. When he does, may he be met with Love, who never minds a mess and isn’t afraid of making a scene.

Lovely Letters: This Burden Will Be a Blessing

They’re back! Here’s the newest Lovely Letter!

I broke up with my fiance. We’ve been together for almost 5 years and were planning to get married this coming December. I feel so empty, I’ve just tried to keep myself busy.

 

-L

Dear L,

Sometimes, choosing the hard thing can result in our biggest blessings, but before that it often feels like our heaviest burden.

You want to feel loved. You want to be respected. You want someone who fights as much for your heart as you fight for his. I think, at the end of the day, that’s what we’re all really hoping for.

Your heart wanted something different and it took letting go of something you thought you could learn to be content with, in order to open your hands for what’s better.

You made a decision and it was a hard one. You decided that even though you invested so much time, energy, laughter, memories, and heart with one person, that you wanted something different than what you were holding. That’s brave, but it’s painful and heart-wrenching. It’s going to take time for that one to heal, L. You cut out a big piece of your world and the sting can stay around for quite some time.

I know you feel empty, that you’re trying to fill that with work and hobbies. My best advice, the thing I can tell you will help the most, is to fill up your time with people.

Choose to let others see your heart during this time. Yes, I realize it’s bruised and broken. You may cry, or scream, or feel completely depressed, but whatever you do, don’t let yourself believe that you are alone.

We’ve all been there, in some way or another. Your situation is different than any I’ve had, but I know the pain of walking away from something that became a part of who you are and the future you saw for yourself. I know the weight of that stone that sits on your chest when you wake up and realize that this isn’t where you thought you’d end up.

But it’s a blessing, L. Right now, it feels like you’re being torn beyond repair, but I promise that it’s better to feel this pain now than to wake up in ten years and wish you had walked away.

You already know what your life would have been if you would have married him. You spent five years learning what your world wrapped around him would turn out to be. You realized it wasn’t the world you wanted, don’t waste another second wondering if you should regret desiring something different for your life.

You know what I think? Sometimes, we willingly choose the hard things because we can’t stand the idea of things staying the way they are. And you know what? Sometimes, doing those things that scare you, that seem to leave you empty handed, lead to the best surprises.

So, you have no idea what your life is going to look like without him. I get that, L. I know that you’re not only walking through the sadness of losing something you loved, but you’re now stuck in the worry of wondering if the future before you is really going to be better than what you had.

So, are you willing to walk away from a life you thought you wanted, in order to see something amazing happen? 

You said yes to that question; now things can change and I think they will.

You knew in your heart that it wasn’t right, and you chose to follow that despite how much it hurts. That’s pretty amazing, if you ask me.

This is your life, L. This is your shot and it’s your choice who walks next to you along this crazy journey you’re living. You chose to unlace your fingers with someone who wasn’t right for you. I’m proud of you, for all the times you forgave him, for all the times you apologized, for all the times you were willing to try and work it out. But mostly, I’m just proud of you for realizing that it’s not your responsibility to change someone, and that as much as you wanted to make things work, the only choices you can make are for yourself.

Just breathe, sweet friend. Know that you are not alone, surround yourself with people who will soothe your heart during this seemingly unbearable time. Be grateful that you had the strength to take a stand and that you realized the choice is yours. What now seems like a burden, you will one day see as the biggest blessing. Take a breath of relief that you were finally able to let go of what you were gripping so tightly, and that you now know it was never really yours to hold.

Ashlin

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I WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU!

Lovely Letters is a series that happens every Wednesday (well, at least once a week)! I’ve gotten such an amazing e-mail response from many of my readers and I try to respond to as many as I can directly; and some of them have inspired me to share thoughts and ideas on my blog. You guys seriously inspire me and what you’re going through is universal and I think other people need to hear that they’re not alone.

So… if you’re interested in inspiring the next Lovely Letters post, send me an e-mail and let me know what’s going on in your life. I absolutely love hearing from all of you!

E-mail:  ashlinkayh@gmail.com

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I’d Rather Be Brave

It seems like we’re always waiting for something.

Waiting for an answer, for a direction, for an open door. Waiting for the right person, the right opportunity, the right words.

I think I’m just tired of waiting, of wondering. I’m tired of thinking that one day we’re all just going to wake up and have it figured out. As if we will suddenly know who we’re supposed to be, what we’re supposed to do, and that we will possess the bravery to do it.

I don’t know what you’re waiting for, but if it’s a sign you’re in need of, consider this yours.

You’re never going to be ready. You’re never going to have the perfect answers and the color-coded map that guarantees you won’t get lost. But not making a decision is making one. I’ve learned that this year if I’ve learned nothing else. If you refuse to choose, to change, to try, to explore, you’ve made the decision to keep things exactly as they are.

Don’t let fear make your choice.

Don’t let it decide to keep you comfortably inside the lines. You’re not made for a life consisting of waiting rooms and Netflix.

Make a choice. Do whatever it is that you’re trying so carefully to weigh and plan. Let go of the questions about what if, how, and what if I look like a fool?

Well, if you end up looking insane, then you can just e-mail me and join my little club. It’s called the I-do-at-least-fifteen-things-a-week-that-make-me-shake-my-own-head-and-cringe-and-laugh-at-myself club. It’s a mouthful, but we’ve got each others backs, we go on unexpected adventures, scream loudly in the car and eat a lot of peanut butter.

Do something risky and if you fall on your face, come sit here with me and just know that you are not alone or stupid for trying. 

In fact, I’m thinking of changing our name to i’m-ridiculous-but-at-least-stuff-happens club (we accept checks, so that’s a little shorter for the pity donations that might start rolling in).

The reality is, you don’t want to spend a lifetime waiting, toiling, and wringing your hands, trying to make a decision. Decide to do the unexpected, the difficult, the crazy, the thing that will make for a good story at Thanksgiving. Be someone who has something worth saying, stories worth telling, a life that leads to having books written and songs strummed.

Just do whatever it is that seems so incredibly scary, irrational or uncertain right now. Just do it unapologetically and decide that whatever the outcome, you’re just going to laugh. That whether it’s good or awful, whether it’s what makes you famous or infamous, just decide that you’re going to take yourself out to lunch and laugh hysterically at how brave and hopeful you were. (Trust me, it’s a lot more fun and a lot less tragically pathetic than it sounds.)

We need a world full of people who celebrate hope, possibility, bravery, courage, guts. People who finally said, “I’m not made for always taking a number, standing in line, waiting for the perfect moment”.

This is your permission slip. Chin up, it’s time that you take that trip, or make that dinner reservation, or leave that voicemail with your shaky apology.

The reality is, you’re not just going to wake up with a rush of bravery. You can’t cash in all your saved cool points to ensure that everything will work out just right.

It’s going to take deciding that whatever the worst outcome, it’s not enough to break you. You’ll survive, you’ll grow. Maybe one day you’ll be courageous enough to let it be a permission slip for others to take some chances.

When people are around me, I want them to feel like they’ve been given an all-access pass to becoming fully alive and fully present. I want them to feel the permission to embrace all that the room they’re in has to offer.

So, whatever it is that’s got you so wrapped up right now, whatever decision, situation, person, opportunity, just know that it’s okay to throw your heart out there. It will be alright if you risk looking like you’ve completely lost your mind.

If it happens, I’ll be here with you. I’ll be here in this little cafe, writing stories and bleeding hope and laughing about all the times I’ve learned the benefits of choosing to be brave.

After all, people who aren’t afraid to take some chances are the reasons why we’re all still here.

I’d rather be brave than spend my days waiting for the perfect moment, waiting between white walls and hoping someone will finally call my number.

You might stumble, or get stared at, or still end up watching Netflix on Friday by yourself. But if you’re ready to take some chances, just know you won’t be alone. There’s a little club here on the other side of this screen that’s cheering you on and loves hearing your stories.

Lovely Letters: When Your Plans Are Wrecked (& You Can’t Find a Map)

Happy Wednesday! Here’s a new Lovely Letter and a challenge. After reading this, leave a comment for the girl who sent in this e-mail with a simple sentence of advice/encouragement about what you know when it comes to plans failing and life changing.

“And while my heart has been changed to accept that the life I once planned won’t happen, it’s still hard. I appreciate this stage of growth in my life, but I also really wish I could have gotten this lesson without so much heartbreak. ”

-O

Dear O,

Something happened inside of me when I heard her say these words:

“I just feel connected to you.”

A complete stranger, working at a kiosk in the middle of the mall just stood with her dark eyes looking up at me. She leaned her head on my shoulder and it felt like a bandaid was being placed across my world.

All because I stopped (and I never ever, under any circumstance, stop at a kiosk in the mall). I am the rude person who will not even glance over at them, because I know that they’re going to harass me in attempts to sell me what is probably the last thing I’ll ever need.

But this time was very different and there was something about the way her voice sounded when she called out to me. It was like the voice of an old friend, it was as though we had been on a thousand coffee dates and grew up having movie & ice cream nights together. I knew her, I just did. Though I had never seen her face before, I knew her.

So, I just stopped.

It was never a conscious choice, I had no interest in the product she was selling, but I just stopped. I can’t even explain the reason, other than it’s just what you do when you see a familiar face, you don’t question it; you just stop to say hello.

And with an ease we just meshed into conversation. We talked about how she was from Israel, about my trip there three years ago. It was like we’d been there together. We talked about the food, the nightlife, the way people greet you on the street. We laughed, as though together, we had shared memories and jokes during our desert days.

I ended up buying something, she ended up asking for my contact information and she told me to come back. She invited me to stop by again and see her. She asked to be friends.

And in that moment, I learned something I thought I already knew.

The best things in your life are the things you didn’t plan on, the moments you can’t make sense of, the moments that simply had to be pure fate because they weren’t on the map, but they somehow changed your entire direction.

I wish I had known a year ago, that some of the best things in my life would happen in the middle of the mall or walking down hallways.

Not yet arrived to the place I’m trying to get to, I’ve stumbled into some pretty incredible moments along the way. Usually, it’s just when I’ve left a room of heartbreak and I’m trying to get to whatever room holds the next big thing. Usually, I’m in search of some kind of map while I’m in these hallways, I’m looking for some kind of sign to show me which door to walk in next.

Almost always, that’s when I collide with something that grabs at my heartstrings, something worth stopping for and suddenly, I begin to panic. In those moments, I refuse to even focus on the beautiful surprise, and rather start frantically searching for a compass, something to get me where I was supposed to go.  I tell myself, Don’t stop for this, it’s just a distraction. You don’t have time for this. You’ve got places you need to be, more important things to do.”

I wish I had known earlier how to enjoy the hallways; the people you meet, the paintings on the wall, the things that may just look like common decor, or that may seem unimportant. Usually, these are things worth giving a second glance.

You know, O,  I don’t always want to be in a hurry to find what’s next.  Sometimes, I just want to love what is.

Rather than searching for a map, I wish I had met & asked strangers for some directions along the way. I wish I had met more of the people coming in and out of the rooms around me. I wish I had known that it’s okay to walk alongside some people and go wherever they’re going. It’s not always a bad thing, you know; to trust someone new.  Even though that’s gotten you heartbroken in the past, there’s no  time limit or safety guarantee on how many people you should pass by or how long you should walk until  it’s an “appropriate time” to walk beside someone else again. Yes, they start as strangers, but seconds later they might just change your life.

That’s a lesson you can put in your back pocket today, O. Don’t let fear keep you from trying again, from making new plans, from turning the corner and starting down an entirely new hallway with a whole different set of doors. Don’t let it keep you from stopping when someone stands with their hand extended, waiting to meet you.

I know what it’s like to let go of the life you planned, the uncertainty of beginning again, or trying to figure out which direction to head in. I know what it feels like when dreams die and everything you thought you wanted starts to look colorless.

It’s okay to want new things. It’s okay to change your mind, to explore possibilities, to give yourself some room to make mistakes. Sometimes you’ll open the wrong door. Sometimes you’ll linger in the hallway too long. 

But sometimes, you’ll leave the wrong room and just realize that you’re grateful you didn’t get stuck where you weren’t ever meant to stay.

I just want you to know that you don’t have to keep waiting for the next thing. Sometimes, you can find the best things right where you’re standing, right in the middle of the uncertain hallway, where you never expected to meet someone who could make you laugh. Sometimes, you find people that change your life in the middle of the mall and you get to be enchanted by the mystery of not even knowing what made you stop.

Life is funny that way, O. You spend your days trying to find a room filled with your destiny, and most of the time you end up tripping over it in the hallway.

It never looks like you expect, but that’s the wonderful thing about surprises; they’re often much better than the things your mind could have imagined.

Life has some surprises for you, O. They may scare you, they can sometimes seem like hurdles and messes that cause a detour from the path you thought you were supposed to take.

But they’re there for you, they’re gifts if you open your heart. O, you’re going to get to where you’re supposed to go. But I don’t want you to end up there alone, exhausted, discouraged. Choose to enjoy the artwork, to peek in on others’ rooms, stop and make some friends; I promise you when you arrive at that place you’re wanting to be it will seem so much sweeter.

You’re going to get there, as will I. It may not be where we expected, the route may look nothing like we imagined. It may take longer than we thought, but we’re going to get there (whatever there looks like for our lives).

Don’t stress out about maps or compasses. Just keep walking. You are meant enjoy the walk, the process it takes for you to end up stumbling through the door of where you were always meant to be. 

You’ll get there, O; you couldn’t miss it, even if you tried.

 

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I WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU!

Lovely Letters is a series that happens every Wednesday (well, at least once a week)! I’ve gotten such an amazing e-mail response from many of my readers and I try to respond to as many as I can directly; and some of them have inspired me to share thoughts and ideas on my blog. You guys seriously inspire me and what you’re going through is universal and I think other people need to hear that they’re not alone.

So… if you’re interested in inspiring the next Lovely Letters post, send me an e-mail and let me know what’s going on in your life. I absolutely love hearing from all of you!

E-mail:  ashlinkayh@gmail.com

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Lovely Letters: Jesus is enough, BUT…

This Lovely Letter is coming at you early! I just needed this to be out of my hands today. It’s longer than usual, and it’s quite bold. I know that some of my readers don’t have a religion or belief in God or whatever you want to call it—I do. Whatever you believe, I still want you to read it.

“Everyone always says that loneliness is an opportunity to get closer to God—-I’m failing to see it now. Does that sound like Jesus isn’t enough? Because I know He is, but He can’t go to the beach with me.”

-S

S,

I can already say that this will be one of the toughest things I’ve ever written.  I read that line in your e-mail, but He can’t go to the beach with me. One after another, tears slid down my cheeks and I just sat slowly nodding my head because it was so in sync with the ache in my heart. He’s enough, but He can’t go to the beach with me.

He also can’t go to the doctor with me.

Today, I just sat there on that tacky mauve-colored exam table and stared at the wood paneling on the walls. When those appointments first began, I used to talk to Him. I used to have little conversations and ask Him questions while I waited for the doctor to lightly tap on the door and make an entrance.

But today I just sat there and I waited. I looked at my phone, I read a poster on the wall, I picked at the threads hanging from my shirt. I waited. 

Mostly because that’s all God has been asking me to do lately, and so I didn’t expect anything else from Him.

Then I thought about that Facebook status I posted the other week. “When you’re single, people always say “You should just let Jesus meet every need” while I know what they mean, I wish those people had been here for the last fifteen minutes I just spent praying that He would open the world’s most difficult jar of pickles.”

A lot of people liked it, a lot of people laughed. I knew they would and I meant for them to. But even though I intended to be funny, there was still a raw truth lying in those words. He is enough, but He can’t open a jar of pickles for me.

Sometimes, that makes me cry. Because I’m spending weekends at baby showers and getting bridesmaids dresses altered and beating pickle jars with knives hoping that if I just grip tighter and turn it harder it will finally open.

But sometimes the pickle jar doesn’t open.

Sometimes you go to the beach alone.

Sometimes you go to the doctor alone.

I’m not going to tell you the annoying truth (and yes, it is true) that Jesus is there even though you can’t see Him. I’m not going to throw a Psalm at you and I’m most definitely not going to tell you that you’re a bad Christian.

I’m going to just simply say that today I felt alone.

So, when the appointment was over and I got into my car, I just kind of sat looking at the passenger seat and I felt an incomparable pain at the sight of it being empty.

People offered to come to my appointment with me, and I was the one who declined. But S, even though there may have been ten people I could have called and asked to go to my appointment with me, it wouldn’t have changed the fact that none of them are who I really wanted sitting next to me.

Because when I’m sitting in an office where women are smiling with their protruding little baby bumps and their endearing husbands sitting next to them as they wait for an ultrasound, I didn’t want to be sitting there with a random friend or family member. I didn’t want to be that pathetic girl. Maybe that’s prideful, but the reality is, I would have felt just as alone if any of those people had been next to me.

So many people tell me to let Jesus “be my husband through my singleness”. He might have been sitting there, but I couldn’t see Him and He couldn’t put His hand on my back and tell me I’d be okay. S, if I’m being honest with you, in that moment, I wanted to smack those fluffy-talking Jesus nuts in the back of the head. I wanted to take all those married people (who have lost touch with the loneliness of the single life) and who have fed that line to me and give them a not-so-pretty piece of my mind.

And I don’t think Jesus was angry at me or disappointed in the fact that I just wanted a a husband next to me today.

Last I checked, Adam was only alone on this planet for about 2 seconds before God was like “Hey, no, wait a second! It isn’t good for this guy to be alone!”

S, God’s not sitting up there crafting this hard road of loneliness for you. He’s not trying to make you miserable.

Honestly, I don’t know why you’re in the state you’re in. I don’t know why it seems like He’s not helping you out with this. Because He did make us for companionship and community. I don’t know why you don’t have it. I know you’re trying and there’s not a thing in this world wrong with you. You’re worthy of love and friendship, affection at the greatest magnitude. But today you feel alone, and there’s just no good reason for it.

I’m not going to try and write this big long speech about community or the value of finding a small group or Bible Study of people to invest in. I’m just going to tell you that I felt the same thing today. That I don’t know why. Sometimes God doesn’t make sense. My heart will always know that He is good, but sometimes this human flesh of mine just isn’t going to always have a grasp on Him and why He lets us go to the beach alone.

But I can tell you that He’s not happy about it. I don’t know why He allows it, S. But it doesn’t bring God joy to watch you sit on the shore with no one to share that view with.

He is not selfish. I know that much and I am certain that He is not threatened. I don’t care what the church told you, He is not sitting up there biting His nails, worried that if you get a husband that you’ll lose focus on Him. God is not in a competition with your future spouse.

And I know that fifteen people will probably e-mail me with scripture about how God is jealous. I’ll probably delete them. Because I know that He wants my heart and my affection. I know that He wants all of me. But I also know that Adam walked in perfect unity with God and God still saw that He needed someone else.

So, let’s get real here, God’s not making you be alone because He thinks you are so immature that you will abandon Him for a spouse. His jealousy for you and me isn’t rooted in fear. Jesus isn’t intimidated when someone takes you out on a date. He doesn’t go into strategic counter mission planning. Jesus isn’t threatened by marriage, or dating, or friendships.  He can sustain his pursuit of you no matter what stage of life you are in. So, if someone made you think that He says it’s good for you to be alone, they’re preaching from the wrong Bible.

I’m not going to give you a theology about “the one” or about “true love waits” or whatever other wagons there are to jump on when we need a theology to defend his goodness in regards to our loneliness. I’m just going to tell you that it is hard, that there are no clear answers. That God didn’t have Paul write a book about dating and finding Mr. Right (though I think that may have saved God a lot of time listening to all of us whine).

He knows when you feel alone. He knows when I’m being stubborn in my silence at the doctors’ office. He knows when my flesh and faith are failing. He is not unmoved by my pain, but nor is he unnerved by my doubt. He is still there, whether I feel Him or not. Even if He isn’t physically here to take me for a milkshake and pull the car up to the door for me when it’s raining.

S, it’s hard. I wish I could come to where you are, sit on that beach with you. I wish I could wrap you up in a good conversation. I wish that I could make this all a little easier somehow. So, if I, a complete stranger, could want to do those things for you; I’m certain that a God of love longs to do them more.

That’s why He came, that’s why He isn’t finished here. Because He hates our loneliness, our lack, our pain far more than we do.

I think that’s why He told Thomas, “Blessed are those who believe and have not seen. That’s my proof that Jesus knew it would hurt. He knew I would cry at the frustration of not being able to have him physically hold my hand. He knows the weight of that pain. He feels it and he cares.

But there’s a timing, and a reason, and a purpose. It’s all for my good and somehow in the grand scheme of everything, it makes sense. And even though He knows the end and all the reasons, He still hates the incomplete things in our lives, the things that are not yet made right.

But they will be and He is working on it. He’s got you, in your uncertainty and in your blindness, He’s got you, S. 

You don’t have to figure it all out. You don’t have to come up with a list of ways you plan to change your loneliness. You just have to know that though I sit in my corner of the world, uncertain of how far that is from you, that I feel it too.  So let the words on your screen be tangible proof that despite it all… He’s got you. 

I may not be there to hug you, S. I can’t buy you a coffee right now. I can’t watch a good movie with you and laugh over a big bowl of popcorn…but it doesn’t mean I’m not with you.

That’s what I’m saying, and I’m pretty sure that’s what He’s saying too.

 

 Love,

Ashlin

P.S. I hope it makes you laugh that I’m adding the disclaimer that despite the fact that there were a lot of pregnant women there, my appointment was not because I’m pregnant.

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I WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU!

Lovely Letters is a series that happens every Wednesday (and apparently, on the occasional Monday)! I’ve gotten such an amazing e-mail response from many of my readers and I try to respond to as many as I can directly; and some of them have inspired me to share thoughts and ideas on my blog. You guys seriously inspire me and what you’re going through is universal and I think other people need to hear that they’re not alone.

So… if you’re interested in inspiring the next Lovely Letters post, send me an e-mail and let me know what’s going on in your life. I absolutely love hearing from all of you!

E-mail:  ashlinkayh@gmail.com

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Lovely Letters: You Can Draw Lines

Let’s do this! Round of 2 of Lovely Letters is here!

The balance between wanting to completely shut down and let it all in is really really hard. How do I “guard” my heart without shutting it off completely?

                                                                         -A

Dear A,

It’s funny, just the other day I was talking about the very same thing in a little diner near my hometown. My best friend and I were about three hours deep in a long conversation and were sipping our coffee, trying to answer that very question.

Somewhere in between sips and the last few bites of omelette, I just shrugged. “Draw a line, don’t build a wall.”

I saw something in her eyes light up and I immediately knew that she understood exactly what I meant.

Don’t let your life be something that others cannot see, don’t make yourself closed off and untouchable. Put away the bricks and mortar, take a breath.

Take a look down at your feet, all around them there is sand. The reality is, this life is sand. Our moments here in this beautiful, crazy, messy world are sitting on those shifting grains. The things you’re surrounded by now will eventually wash out to shore and you’ll have to re-evaluate the world all over again. Nothing on this earth is solid, stable, certain. It all shifts…over and over again. 

The reality is, you can’t build walls on sand. They won’t stand on that kind of foundation. And unfortunately, when you build walls around yourself on sand, they always coming crashing down and usually it’s on you, not whoever you’re trying to keep yourself safe from.

But you can draw lines. You can draw them as close or as far away from yourself as you need to. And the beautiful thing about lines in the sand is that they can be erased and redrawn. There’s room for growth, change, mistakes when you draw lines in the sand. You can decide that you need a little more space and draw it a little further out, you can decide that there’s someone you’re willing to let closer and you can bring them further in.

They’re yours to draw, A. You can draw them wherever your heart needs to. Don’t be the girl who uses her pain to lock herself away, don’t become cold and unapproachable. Don’t let love leave your limbs and ligaments, hold on to every bit of affection and enchantment you have inside of you. Don’t let anything or anybody steal that from you.

You let someone too close; trust me, I’ve been there. Forget lines or walls, I made everything in my life free admission for a select group of people, and they left some serious garbage and stains, they broke a lot of what they touched. But I learned to let go of the pain and anger because the fact was, I gave them access. 

And I chose not to regret it, not to call myself a fool; because the reality is that I did it because I knew love was worth the risk. Even in my deepest hurt, I still believe it was always worth it. But I’m not saying I would do it all over again, A.  I’m saying that now I know about lines in the sand, and I’ll know how to wait, watch, wage whether or not I really should move that line to let someone have full access.  I’ve learned to be careful with this fragile, but stunning thing that beats inside my chest.

You can’t hide behind lines. People will still see you, so there’s no opportunity for you to lie about who you are or what you’re going through. Lines aren’t for people who choose to be fake. But you, Sweet Thing, are not made for being fake and that is one of your greatest qualities. You wear your heart on your sleeve, your hurts on your face… you’ll be good at drawing lines. You can let them know you’re hurt, you can cry if you need to. A, if you need to sit down at their feet and sob on the floor; don’t you for one second be ashamed of that. You are human, imperfect, breakable… but you are also fierce and powerful. Tears and pain do not make you weak. 

But what makes you relentless, strong, and a force to be reckoned with is the fact that you’re able to get up, wipe your face and even in your pain, you can draw a line. They will see your struggles, your pain, your heartbreak; but what they have to say or think about it can’t cross your linesYour line is for you; not for them. Draw that line, but not to keep yourself from loving others, rather to guard what you let in.

Don’t shut yourself off from people, A. You’re far too exquisite to be locked away somewhere; the world needs to see all that you bring. The people that have tried to break you, they need to see you too. They need to see what it looks like for someone to draw their line on the opposite side of  what they threw their way.. Draw a line where their mistakes, jabs, lies, and problems no longer affect you. What they think about you, say to you, try to take from you can only go as far as you let it. 

You’re going to be okay, A. I don’t know if anyone has said that to you yet, but you’re going to be okay. You are going to be a pro at drawing lines and breaking down walls. Today might be difficult, you might draw a few lines in the wrong places, erase and start again. But as hard as this life surrounded by sand is, there’s always room for change.

If you’ll go back and read, you’ll see that I said you’re surrounded by sand. But you, darling, are made for standing on a rock. You can’t control the fact that everything around you is sand, but you can choose what you yourself stand on. The things around you are always going to be changing, you’re always going to have to draw lines and choose not to build walls. But who you are, what you know, what you believe… those things are made for standing on the rock. Don’t let them be something that moves and shifts with the sand.

Stand firm and steady, A. People that truly love you, they’ll wait patiently for you to erase the lines you draw. When you finally do let them come close, they’ll come stand on The Rock next to you, they’ll know about standing on things like love, honor, grace, humility. Keep holding on… and know that even though it feels like it sometimes, you’re not standing here on your own.

Standing with you,

Ashlin

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I WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU!

Lovely Letters is a new series I’m starting that will happen every Wednesday! I’ve gotten such an amazing e-mail response from many of my readers and I try to respond to as many as I can directly; and some of them have inspired me to share thoughts and ideas on my blog. You guys seriously inspire me and what you’re going through is universal and I think other people need to hear that they’re not alone.

So… if you’re interested in inspiring the next Lovely Letters post, send me an e-mail and let me know what’s going on in your life. I absolutely love hearing from all of you!

E-mail:  ashlinkayh@gmail.com

_____________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Sometimes You Just Walk

“Baby, you’re going to be quite alright.”

These are the words I heard sitting in my car this morning. I was just staring at bare tree branches during the final moments of the morning’s thunderstorm.

Just seconds before, it had taken everything I could muster not to just sit down in the floor of Target’s fitting room and let my eyes pour their own kind of rain.

I’m going to Ireland. I have two (pretty much three) amazing jobs. I am living my dreams, doing all the things I love. I am exactly (well, for the most part) where I hoped I would be at twenty-one. Honestly, I’m doing better than I ever expected.

But… and isn’t there always one of those? That word, she follows me everywhere I go; her fingers are almost always laced with mine. Sometimes, she sits on my shoulders and she is forever kicking me in the gut.

The truth is, no matter how seemingly perfect it’s all going, there are always those things that can knock the wind right out of you. One minute, you’re admiring a clearance lamp shade and the next thing you know, you’re hyperventilating next to a horrid burnt-orange vase.

It hits you…you’re not perfect. You feel like a worn out puzzle and as though your pieces are scattered in a million places. Every day has been a prayer for finding the right fit for at least one of them.

Somehow, you’ve got to accept it. You have got to get over the fact that you’re going to do some things that you’ll immediately regret. You will make decisions that will forsake everything you ever stood for. You will betray yourself over and over again. You will at some point be your own greatest disappointment. You will break your own heart.

But then you’ll hear those words, “Baby, you’re going to be quite alright.”

Maybe you can’t hear Him when He says those words to you. Maybe you’ve never really known where to lean your ear to hear what your maker has to say to you. Well, I think He’d be okay with me relaying this message to you.

You’re going to be quite alright. I know there are loose ends. Oh, and there are dreams that fell off somewhere along the way. You lost some pieces of yourself, and you left behind some important stuff that you needed. You’re tired and you’re disappointed and really, you’re a little bit angry.

But you’re quite alright. You, with your bloodshot eyes and your faded sweatshirt, you are going to be just fine.

I took a walk on the edge of a busy street sidewalk today. As I balanced my weight on those strips of concrete, I decided that sometimes it’s okay to take a walk having nowhere to end up. I didn’t have a destination and sometimes, you won’t. Sometimes you just walk and you end up wherever you end up. Sometimes, it leads you somewhere else, but a lot of times you end up turning around. Yeah, sometimes you just walk.

And It’s okay to wander a little. The wanderers are the learners. They are the ones with stories and they almost always come back with a little more strength in their bones.

When I noticed the green starting to peak out from the ground, I closed my eyes and I told Him that I wish He would go ahead and tell her to wake up. I wish the hands that formed this earth would wake her up. I need to see her crawl out from under the winter covers. I think it’s time she and I both pull ourselves out from the beds we’ve made.

I know it’s not always so simple. We’re going to wander aimlessly, we are going to screw up and the winter is going to come and it’s going to feel barren and cold. At first, you might be enchanted with the change, but quickly you will remember how much you long for growth and green. When you do, and the winter has not quite passed, know that you’re doing just fine.

And you’re going to find your way. The pieces will eventually start to show up and they’ll fit where they were always meant to. 

You will disappoint yourself and then you’ll learn how to forgive your own heart.  The things you pick up and leave behind will mold who you are going to be… and as for us, we’re going to be quite alright.

You Stand Before a Harvest

There is no disappointment like sitting in the dirt.

Knee-deep in mud and glaring straight into the pain of barrenness brings an incomparable grief. Sometimes it feels like that’s all you’ve ever known, and when it fills your entire frame of vision, there’s only one option.

Stand up and step back.

When you do, you will see that you stand before a harvest.

It was the dirt and the mud that made this ground rich enough to produce crops that stretch farther than your vision can hold. You will see its richness came from every pain and every heart ache you have ever known. You will see how it has grown the seeds of love in you, ones that know the risk of giving your heart, and that still give it anyway.

In the way you are able to forgive and in the way you are able to return, you will see you are standing in a field of harvest.

You are surrounded by more than your belly could ever consume. You have produced something that will feed every person that walks into your life.

You stand before a harvest when you look into your own heart.

Abundance leaks from your veins. There are seeds and seeds of redemption that have been sown into every crook and crevice of your being since before you were even born.

You’ve got love down inside of you that knows how to hold its ground and how to let it go. You’ve been cultivating a garden that can grow the kind of love that will nourish the nations, and you’ve got the heart to give it away. Because you know in your bones and in your ligaments, even when you’re worn, that you’re giving from what you’ve been given.

You were born to give away the love that made you, the love that was always too big for you to hold for just yourself.

So when someone steals from your grain, or they pluck every last piece you seem to possess, know that you pull from an endless garden of grace. There won’t be anything that can be taken from you that you cannot let go of with joy, because redemption won’t fail to spring up in your fields! They cannot take one single thing from you that your Father won’t hand back to you. He is the finder of lost things, the Father who multiplies the lack, who brings the dead things back to life again.

I hope you really know that.

When you only want to wrap your arms around what you’ve lost, hold on. Because joy is going to well up inside of you and you’re going to be handing out your harvest by handfuls. Oh, you’ve got mounds and piles of love! You’ve got enough to go around, even to your enemies.

Your field has got some stalks that Jack ain’t ever even thought about climbing.

You’re going to feed the multitudes with your fields of favor because your Father doesn’t withhold. So lift your eyes from the dirt. There is more here than what your eyes currently see. When your eyes finally adjust you will see that the times of pain and plowing have caused you to be standing in a field of abundant harvest.