Your Label Doesn’t Define Me.

A cute guy passed by me today. When we made eye contact, he spoke a smiling hello as he passed by. My heart stopped for a second and two things went through my mind: “he actually noticed me!” and “he probably notices the 4 kids in the stroller, too.” I nodded a shy, “hi” and returned his smile but walked away a little defeated.

Why had I assumed his impression of me was disappointing and let it hold me back? What was it that kept from flashing my pearly whites and returning a flirty smile?

Just as I was pondering my predicament I saw a man cross the street. His high buttoned collar, suit, tie, and big glasses immediately left me assuming he was a nerd. O U C H! We all crave to assign labels onto others. None of us are without fault! 

Who am I

Why are we so quick to judge? What’s the end goal?

Our desire to label and categorize each person we see displays how close minded we have become. How can we change that? After digging deep into why I was feeling this way, I realized it was rooted in insecurity. When I’m not grounded and standing firm in my beliefs, I tend to hold my real personality back.

The struggle begins where we allow our thoughts to go. I’ve recently started reading “Crashing the Chatterbox” by Steve Furtick, thanks to my good friend Cori, and the wisdom of scripture and perspective has radically reshaped how I spend my time and what thoughts consume me. Here are two highlights from the book that I’ll share in today’s blog:

                “When we allow our thoughts to go unchecked, a steady drip of lies cements the wrong patterns within our minds, building a Berlin Wall of bad beliefs.”

                “When lies are not confronted, callings are not fulfilled. How many contributions that God created you to make for His glory are still wrapped in your good intentions because they’ve been neutralized by spiritual hesitation?”

This book is full of lines that challenge and inspire you, saturated with thirst-quenching wisdom.  I don’t have all the answers but I do know that the more of God’s Word I drink in, the more of the world dispels from my thought life. What are we feeding ourselves? Is it negativity and judgement of others? Is it world-wide acceptance and oblivion? Or is it Wisdom and Love that encourages our true, special identity in Christ? 

In the opening story, my habit of judging others was projected on someone before I even met them. I automatically assumed they thought like I did. If my thinking was loving and open-minded, I could have made a friend that day. What is holding us back from our true potential?

Do you know how God, your creator, sees you?

How I Lost 30lbs Accidentally: Lifestyle Choices

Once I moved from overseas to America, I hit the gym as soon as I recovered from jet lag. My Mom became my personal trainer and I pushed through the frustration of re-gaining ground I had lost. 

When I set foot in Chicago on my own, I had no car and walked over a mile a day. Running up flights of stairs every day to catch a train took its own toll.  I made the resolution when I moved out on my own not to have junk food in the house because I saw the weakness I had towards mindlessly eating. Eating out was a rarity since my budget didn’t allow it and I purposefully chose low-in-fat recipes.

I accidentally lost weight by setting standards for myself. I didn’t intentionally workout and kept eating out to a minimum. It’s not a magic pill, it wasn’t easy, but it made ground that I was able to continue going harder after weight loss and the fit image I had for myself.

I am in control of what I put in my body. Choosing healthy foods to consume rather than eating out every week is a choice. I don’t eat organic but I always eat a home-cooked meal. Packing my lunches also keeps me from over-eating or over-indulging. It’s about the small steps. Working out keeps my body fit but eating well keeps me healthy.

  Once I discovered how much weight I was losing, I reconfigured my budget and joined a gym. During my consultation the physical trainer gave me the most haunting advice that I will never forget. “The fat on your body is from unhealthy, processed food you’ve consumed.” You know what that told me? I am responsible for what I put in my body. I am not controlled by what I eat. Or how I look. Or how I feel. Once the weather warmed up, I began to ride my bike to work, a 12 mile trek. That was hard at first but it soon became something I craved! Weight training at the gym continues to build the muscle I need and the cardio I do during the day provides the necessary exercise.

Waking early in the morning ensures I work out and making it a priority has been a huge lesson in discipline for me! I don’t work out to fit a size; I work out to stay fit and healthy. 

In my first post in this series I talked about how my mom was my inspiration to start losing weight. I had thoughts of insecurity and was upset about how my mom was going to be smaller than me. There is nothing wrong with that. The thought was a subconscious revelation of the jealousy I felt at how happy I saw my mom had become. She was no longer controlled by her desire for food, or to be skinny! She was simply living healthy and working towards being fit.

Going through photos of myself and discovering my journey through pictures was hard. We all love the before and afters but what about the durings? Seeing my low valleys and high mountain tops saddened me a little. It was hard to see and remember how I had felt: so uncomfortable in my own skin because I had already seen my potential. I didn’t understand why it was so difficult to lose weight and accounted it to not being able to go to the gym.

If you’re just starting this journey or my story has inspired you to live a healthier lifestyle, take baby steps and stay firm.  Allow cheat days and if you’re not ready to go it alone, bring a friend! Most gyms allow guest passes and LA Fitness gives ten of your friends a two week membership at the gym for free! Don’t get discouraged and keep an accountability partner to kick your butt in gear when you fall a little off track. 

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.)


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,