Don’t Give Up

Have you ever been told that you cannot achieve anything? Have bullies told you that you are a loser and worthless? Have people mocked your dreams and tried to stop you from bringing your dreams to reality? Or, have you allowed fear of failure or fear of rejection stop you from moving forward?

I have!

Bullies have called me names, told me I was a loser. People who were supposed to be my “friends” mocked my dreams and what I wanted to achieve. I have allowed fear of rejection to stop me in my tracks. But, not anymore! It doesn’t matter what people say about me. Greater is He who is in me, than he who is in the world-1 John 4:4. No longer will I be sitting on the sidelines, but I am getting on the field, ready to play the game. I am ready to do what God has called me to do.

The same thing goes for you. Greater is He who is in you, than he who is in the world. It is time to stop sitting on the sidelines, being a benchwarmer…it is time to get on the field and be all God created YOU to be. It is time to look at the opponent (the enemy) straight in the eye, and tell him to get behind you because you are moving forward with full force, not looking back. With God on your side, who can stop you? What may seem impossible to you, is possible with Him! You are meant for so much more.

Sure, getting on the field will be challenging at first. When you walk in the calling God has for you, it is great and exciting, but nerve-racking at the same time because of the unknown. That is why we have faith and trust that God will work out all things on our behalf. Romans 8:28 [NKJV] says, “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God…” In junior high and high school, I played basketball. I remember the first time I got on the basketball court facing our school’s rival. I was excited to be one of the 5 starters, but I was nervous at the same time. I was usually the one who started the game. I thought, “What if I mess up?” “What if I knock the ball out of bounds?” “What if I get hurt?” Then, the referee blew his whistle, I looked up at the ball, jumping as high as I could to slap the ball to my teammate…those first 10 seconds, I was a nervous wreck…but once the game got started, I loved it.

I believe that is the same with all of us. We are excited to do what God has called us to do, and sure it can be challenging; but, we don’t have to let it stop us. God would not lead us somewhere that would bring us harm. He would not put us in a situation we cannot get out of. God would not make us do something if we could not handle it. What kind of father would do that to his child? The Bible says in Psalm 84:11 [NKJV], “For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord will give grace and glory; no good thing will He withhold from those who walk uprightly.”

Never allow fear to stop you in your tracks. Don’t allow the naysayers, the critics, the judgers, the bullies, the hypocrites stop you from achieving your dreams. I truly believe that Jesus’ return is so near, closer than we think. Let that be your motivation to do what God has called you do. Let that be your motivation to accomplish all that you can. Don’t hide your talents and gifts from the world because of what people said about you. Jesus mentioned in a parable about the master giving his servants talents (Matthew 25:14-29). As the master left, he gave each servant a certain amount of talents. They didn’t know when the master would return. When the master returned, he asked the servants what they did with their talents. Two of them invested their talents and the third one buried it in fear, not investing at all. Woe to the third servant! Don’t be like that servant, hiding the gifts and talents that God has deposited inside of you. You are capable because God will give you the strength to achieve it.

I am preaching to myself too! There have been times where I have let fear stop me, but I am dusting the dirt off my shoes and I am going ahead full force, walking on that field! Regardless how many rejections, no’s, judgments thrown my way…I will not stop! We would not have Disney World if Walt Disney gave up because of the multiple “no’s” he received. We would not have “I Love Lucy” if Lucille Ball quit theater because she was told she lacked talent. We would not have Physics if Albert Einstein accepted his teachers calling him stupid. Do you get my point? Don’t give up. Ever. You are here for such a time as this. You are God’s masterpiece created in Christ Jesus for good works that God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them-Ephesians 2:10. God has great things in store for you that you cannot imagine. 1 Corinthians 2:9 [NKJV] says, “But as it is written: Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those love Him.” God has great things prepared just for you!

Will you join me on the field?





Be a Leader, Not a Follower

When I was growing up, my dad would share with me words of wisdom, in which he called “golden nuggets.” I never knew when I was going to receive a “nugget.” In junior high, I was severely bullied. When I came home from school, I would share with my parents what occurred and how the bullies would treat me. I didn’t understand why I was being bullied because I was a straight “A” student, involved in sports, and participated in extra-curricular activities. This goes to show, anyone can be bullied. A “nugget” that my dad would share with me during that trialing time: “Be a leader, not a follower; if you have to follow, follow a leader.”

I chose to set myself apart from the crowd at school. I didn’t submit to the bullies authority, rather I chose to take the high road; unfortunately, I was still targeted. There were moments in life where I didn’t understand why my friends were going down another path or why I was treated rudely; but, my dad would always remind me, “Ashley, be a leader not a follower; if you have to follow, follow a leader.” The words my dad shared with me, I strive to live that out on a daily basis. Being a leader can be lonely on top because that is a road less traveled on. We see in today’s society how leadership and leading by example (standing out from the crowd) is severely lacking. It is time for us to change that culture trend!

Two questions I want to ask:
1. How are you leading?
2. Who are you following?

How are you leading?
This might sound like a tough question to answer, but take a moment to think about it. What are you doing in your everyday life to lead and help people? What are you doing to set yourself apart from the crowd? In high school, I applied the same principle in my life. I was involved in reaching out to the community and participated in leadership events. I was not one who followed the crowd of my peers or attended their parties where underage drinking occurred and police were called. I set standards for myself. In college, I kept the bar high and chose to lead by example. I wanted my actions to speak louder than my words because someone was always watching. Whether you know this or not, someone is always watching your behavior, actions, how you handle situations, etc. There could be young children and young adults in your life watching how you are behaving. Eventually, they may mimic what you do. This is a problem we see in Hollywood and sports…people are placed on a platform and some actors/athletes/popstars don’t care there are young people looking up to them. I want to challenge you to go the extra mile and take the high road. Set goals and standards for yourself. Be a role model that young people can truly look up to.

In May of 2013, I attended NEW (National Education for Women) Leadership Institute held by the University of Oklahoma. 30 young women and I traveled to the State Capitol where we met with female politicians. It was such an incredible experience getting to hear how these women fought their way to being Oklahoma Congresswomen and Senators. One congresswoman shared with us the tough battle she endured to get elected. As she was sharing her story, she gave each of us a rubber band. Toward the end of her story, she told us that she was stretched greatly beyond her comfort zone but God did not give her more than she could handle. The rubber band was used to illustrate that sometimes in life we have to stretch ourselves, and a great way to stretch ourselves is by going the extra mile. She told us that the “extra mile is not crowded because it is the road less traveled on.”

Don’t get caught in a traffic jam on the highway of mediocrity…go the extra mile!

Who are you following?
One time I heard that the top 5 people you surround yourself with, you become just like them. Who do you surround yourself with? Do you surround yourself with people who are positive, visionary, a leader, and goes the extra mile? Or…do you surround yourself with people who are negative, lazy, complainers, and have no goals? I encourage you to evaluate who you are following. The crowd you hang out with can either lead you down a good path or a wrong one. Romans 12:2 says “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind so that you may know the perfect, good, and acceptable will of God.” If your friends are following the world and participating in events in which you know is not good…then why follow them? Stand out from the crowd.

If there is no one personally in your life who you can follow or look up to…look for a leader or mentor. Growing up, I looked up to four people: my dad, my mom, my grandpa, and Michael Jordan. Even though I don’t know Michael Jordan personally, I admired his focus and determination to be one of the greatest NBA stars of all time. My dad had a poster of Jordan that said “Success Comes From Failure.” On the poster it shared his story how numerous times he was given the game winning shot, and even though there were times he missed…he learned from it and practiced harder. He learned from his failures and that is what made him successful. I also looked up to my grandpa because any issue I had, he would always direct me to the Bible. He would say, “Ashton, the Bible says…” I admired him for pointing me back to the Word and seeing what God says about the situation.

You may be wondering what steps you can take to set yourself apart. Well, if you are a student in school, you can set yourself apart by:

  • turning in your assignments on time
  • respecting the teacher
  • standing up for bullied victims
  • watching your words
  • edify others
  • hold the door open for others
  • ask the teacher what you can do to help
  • being honest with the coaches
  • maintaining sports etiquette on and off the field
  • respect your parents
  • showing up to class on time
  • help your friends reach their goals
  • hold Bible studies.

If you are in college or young professional, you can set yourself apart by:

  • showing respect toward those in authority
  • being honest
  • being a man/woman of character
  • turning in assignments on time
  • asking professors/boss what you can do to help even though the work has been completed
  • showing up to class/job 5 minutes early
  • show up to interviews 5 minutes early
  • push your chair in after you get up (tip: sometimes future employers look to see if you push in your chair-shows them you pay attention to detail!)
  • dress modestly
  • help others achieve their goals
  • Work hard
  • Set standards/goals for yourself

Remember, “Be a leader not a follower; if you have to follow, follow a leader.”