How I Lost 30lbs Accidentally: Photoshop Couldn’t Fix Me

After going from a size 14 to a 6 in less than a year, I started my Junior semester of High School in great shape. As my schedule filled, staying fit became less of a priority. Hanging out with friends every weekend resulted in junk food consumption and I slowly lost my ground. Every summer I’d hop back on the fitness train but it was never truly a priority.

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When I moved to South Africa for an internship, I couldn’t drive but was required to work out. I became inventive with what I could use to burn calories: volleyball, swimming, lifting bricks (I’m serious!) and what I absolutely despised: running. My commitment was on and off and I became bored and unmotivated. Discipline was dwindling and as the year drew to a close, I became more homesick. Homesickness resulted in snacking on popcorn and Nutella which resulted in a pretty significant weight gain.

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Working out at a gym every day during Christmas break, I developed habits and routines to help me stick to it when I went back overseas. Discipline began to decline once again 3 months in as I became busier and less active; I started to put weight back on again. This did nothing for my confidence. I could Photoshop my hardest for those photos on Facebook, but I couldn’t hide how gross I felt at times. I was craving an outlet of control and was using food verses working out.

Tune in next week to see how I accidentally lost 30 pounds and how I’m keeping it off!

How I Lost 30lbs Accidently: Misconceptions and Inspirations

The perception of my body image and weight has been a struggle all my life. I was never a “skin and bones” kid and that alone made me feel fat. When I transitioned to High school (which came with its own battles,) I began to eat out of boredom. We’ve all been there. Nothing wrong with a little snack once in a while – but I found myself eating to stay focused. I grew more insecure and reserved (certainly not the real Ashley!)

My weight loss journey really started with my mom. She took action and decided to ditch the diets and hit the gym. My mother will always be an inspiration to me in how she sets her mind on a mission and doesn’t get side tracked until it’s accomplished. Wow. (Read her short testimony, here! It’s inspirational.)

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My mom and I on May 10, 2015

When the reality sunk in that my mom was about to me smaller than me (and more in shape!) I said, “Heck no!” The summer of my sophomore year in High school I went to the gym every day and in 9 months went from a size 14 to a size 6. I had never felt better.

But school started back up and as my schedule filled, staying fit became less of a priority.. (Tune in on Wednesday to see how I’ve arrived to where I am now!)

Looking around you think.. she’s got everything

First off, I must say, forgive me for the long blog hiatus. In the crazy whirlwind of moving to the city, making my first apartment a home, teaching full time, and interning with a Christian non-profit in Chicago you could say I’ve had my hands full. I’ve been writing blogs for Empower Chicago and usually all my “revelation” is posted there. This however, is a not-so-spiritual outlook and I figured it would be more appropriate to be read here, amongst peers and supporters. (Thanks for reading by the way!!)

I have had the Little Mermaid’s song “Part of Your World” stuck in my head for a week. Ask my coworkers, apparently I’ve been singing it for that long, too. (whoops.)

While in the middle of humming the lyrics, “Flippin’ your fins, you don’t get too far..” I immediately saw how the character, Ariel, was comparing her life to an unknown one and believing it to be better than her own.

Friends, we are plagued by this “grass is greener on the other side” mentality every day. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve stepped away from friendships because they have become so consumed with materials or social status. Life is about exploring, relationships, and shouldn’t depend on what we have or others have. Life is not about looking Pinterest perfect or how many likes you got on the thousandth selfie you posted on Instagram.

As this obsession grows in our culture I’ve been drawn to becoming more simplistic in my way of living. (Granted, my simplifying things could be complicating it for others.) It’s the little things we do that show where our priorities are. Sometimes, you don’t have to look picture perfect before stepping out of the house. We live in a world where no one is perfect. And in my case, if you live in Chicago, everyone is a little weird. Even the girl on the train sporting her Michael Kors bag and Hunter rain boots.

For the past couple of weeks I’ve been using the time I’d normally be doing my makeup or hair in the morning and adding 15 minutes to spend time with the Lord. It’s not a big amount but it helps me focus on who is really in control of this day. It’s not me. It’s not others. God is my center.

We all can lose our focus and think if we just had a little larger salary, we’d be able to really make an impact. Then things would be better. But what if you get that job and you work with people you despise to sit around all day? There is no perfect job other than the one you’re meant to do. And even then, every day is a choice. Yes, dare to dream! But don’t compare and imagine it to be perfect. We’re human. *laughs* We’ll never be perfect.

If you are not happy in the now with what you have,

When will you be satisfied?

“Looking around here you think
Sure, she’s got everything

I’ve got gadgets and gizmos a-plenty
I’ve got whozits and whatzits galore
You want thingamabobs?
I’ve got twenty!

But who cares?
No big deal
I want more

Flippin’ your fins, you don’t get too far..”

Re-calculating En Route…

Sometimes I feel like a GPS as I acclimate to America and my new surroundings. “Re-calculating, re-calculating.” It has been a joy to experience America and all it offers with eyes wide open. Every time I have come back from missions trips I have been preparing to go on the next one. After a year and a half of ministry (including my month back home of preparing for school and fundraising) it is great to rest where no agenda wipes me out.

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The strangest thing to re-adjusting is how I remember places differently than they are now. Two years have passed and the place I once remember has completely changed! I find myself becoming more of an introvert and pulling in to avoid repeating myself by answering everybody’s same questions. Don’t misunderstand me, I love meeting people and swapping stories of the lives we’ve lived, ministry moments, and missions. The phrase I hear all too often is, “That is so great. I wish I could do that.” I want to shake them by the shoulders and say, “You can!!!” If an 18 year old can go for a few weeks (or years), please consider taking a week and go evangelize! You don’t even have to leave the country!

The first week of being back in America was difficult as I fought relaxation and yearned to go and minister to others. God showed me how much I needed to be ministered to and rest in His presence. A few days later I was able to pray for a young girl I met (some of you may have seen my Facebook post.) It was so fulfilling and I was extremely thankful that I had set aside that time for the Lord to re-coop. What an exciting journey ahead of listening to His voice and discovering new things along the way! My heart for missions will never dull and the cry of my heart for more Christians to fulfill the great commission will never be reticent. I am really excited to go to ORU and meet more young adults my age who are crazy about missions and inspire others about God’s work, too!

Thanks for reading,

Ashley

Can’t Say Goodbye

Wow. The past year and a half has been quite a whirlwind! Thank you to you all who try and keep up with the small notes I have time to put up (as you can see, it’s been a while!) I’ve missed blogging about the events and people that I meet here in Africa but God has been teaching me a lot this season about living  in  the  moment.

Some of you may know but I’ll summarize for those of you just jumping into this quirky girl’s life of adventure. I have been with Impact Africa for a year and a half as an intern. My job is a bit of a catch-all but in my time spent in South Africa I have not only made friendships that will last a lifetime as well as organized trips for the orphan-vulnerable children we have at our schools in several communities and planned weekly crafts, stories, and picked up the large amount of food that feeds all (close to) 200 children! I’ve learned much about blog writing as I wrote blogs for the organization as well as leadership through leading mission teams and coming back to “guide” this year’s interns. (I say guide in parentheses because there were definitely times they were guiding me!) I’ve helped teach an English class we set up for people in the community to help provide better job options and battled through wanting them to desperately know English as well as questioning if teaching was in my future. I’ve grown in compassion as I watched people try to hold their lives together without Jesus and then turn to Him and begin the journey of learning to trust how great He truly is. I’ve also struggled with the thought of never leaving and keeping these people under my wing forever, but I know that’s not God’s plan.

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Today I am returning to the States to prepare and begin college at Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Part of me can barely contain the excitement, the other can barely hold in the tears. As I alluded to before, this season has been a bit of a tricky one. I feel that every time a season ends God’s grace seems to pull back a teensy bit so you can see what living life outside of His will is like (just in case you decide to change your mind and do something else.) Even in the moments I wanted to run away from the situation at hand, God always provided strength. While I was humbled, He was exalted and that is what I live my life for: His glory.

Some people say when God shuts a door He opens a window, but I believe God gives us the choice at times. Both will work just fine, but one is closer to His heart. These past six months have been difficult, but God refined me in so many ways. He gave me the choice to come back or to go back to comfortable Ol’ America and I didn’t come back because it was easy. I came back because I knew this is what God has planned for the rest of my life: missions. In whatever aspect that may take. Thanks for journeying with me during my time in South Africa. So this is not good-bye. Missions is an overflow of the heart and that’s how I live my life now. And for South Africa? It’s just a, “See you later :)” Can’t wait to see the new adventures that await us!

Sangoma Meets Jesus

Two long weeks had passed in anticipation. The excitement was so thick you could feel it in the air as the interns walked into Kya Sands. Short, quick conversations and prayers were had with many people we came across. Two hours later, we had one more hour on the field and I knew just how to spend it.

After being in the community for a year, you quickly learn the places to avoid and who is where. Just before we left last year someone mentioned to me a sangoma (witch doctor) that lived right off the main street. At the time, a mental note had been made to avoid the house. It was scary at the thought of opening myself up to demonic activity because of what I had been taught years ago.

After leaving South Africa last year, something in my spirit whispered next year would be different. While on break Life Church prophesied over this year for increased flow of the Spirit and if the Lord healed last year, there would be even more healings for 2014! Taking a hold of that prophecy and speaking into 2014, this year began to be declared one of more healings, breakthroughs, and deliverance than last year. I stood in faith for increased faith and deeper relationship with Christ.

 As we began to walk back through the community we stopped at the same house I had run in fear from last year. Determined to not only show the interns what they were up against in the community and minister to this woman, a translator was quickly found once we realized she didn’t speak English. As we made small talk she mentioned she was a “traditional healer”. When we told her (us) the Americans did not know what that was, we asked if she would like to show us. She happily invited us into the corner where she would sit her clients while taking to the ancestors to “discern” what was wrong with them.

Questions were asked to extract information for the interns who were still a little shocked this was real life. She showed us her certificates and told us how and what she exactly did. When most people become sangomas it is usually because they have a dream of an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14b-15) or their family insists. When I asked her why she became a sangoma she told me it was because her grandfather’s spirit appeared to her and told her to become one. Later she told us any messages she “discerned” from the spirits were visions. When the question was asked if she believed in God and she said yes and then we asked if she believed the Bible was true she nodded her head. We shared the verse in (Ecclesiastes 9:4-5) where it explains the dead have no involvement with the present on earth. Nelly resisted a little and defended she did not dabble in those kind of things.

Like a light switch flipped on, God began to reveal the direction of the conversation was all wrong. We began to tell her of the one true spirit and what He did for her. As we told the story of the perfect man that God had sent, she was glued to the speaker, eyes fixed on me even though the translator was the one speaking her language. After the gospel was shared, she still was not entirely convinced. Our overpowering heart cry was for God to open up her eyes to see what was separating her from the Truth!

We told the story of Adam and Eve and how what looked like they weren’t anybody, separated them from God. As she heard about the snake, her eyes widened and her face fell when God told them they had to leave the garden. As I told her the plan God had and how he had sent his perfect son to die for her, she became more excited and drawn into the story.

We asked her questions to ensure she understood the story. She really connected with the story and began to tell us that she could now feel spirits fighting for her. “Pray for me that I would have a deeper desire for Christ and that he would show the True spirit.” As the group huddled around her, people began to come to her store to purchase things. She so passionately wanted prayer she did not stir to respond to the customers waiting at her shack. It was surprising because even the most earnest people we minister to answer their phone or talk to their friends while we talk with them.

What a divine connnection! So thankful for the amazing things God is doing in Africa!!