For You Graduates

May is the time for graduation. Graduating from high school and college is a huge accomplishment. For you graduating seniors (whether high school or college), you should be so proud of yourself and you should give yourself a pat on the back right now. That’s right, go ahead, take a moment and pat yourself on the back. You did it!

However, after graduation, your life changes. Whether you just graduated from high school, you are preparing yourself for your next journey…college! Whether you just graduated from college, you are preparing yourself for your next journey…life! Graduating from college is a huge milestone but with it comes challenges as you try to figure out your career, your purpose…your life!

Therefore, I want to share with you all some valuable lessons that I learned when I graduated both high school and college.

1. You Have A Purpose

When I graduated from high school, I had a general idea of where I was going to college. But, as time began to crunch, I had to make a decision on what college to attend. When I arrived on campus and my parents helped me to move into my dorm, oh my goodness…was I scared! I knew God was with me, but as an only child, I am very close to my parents. Especially my mom, we are so close like Lorelai and Rory Gilmore. I wasn’t ready to leave them and live 7 hours away. The first two weeks of school was a challenge because I was absolutely homesick. However, I knew I was there for a reason and I chose to look forward for what God had in store. I knew that I have a purpose. Through the ups and downs, I managed to persevere, had amazing professors, met amazing people, and graduated Magna Cum Laude (honors) from college.

After I graduated from college last year, not going to lie….it was hard! I moved back to Texas to live with my parents so I can save my money to pay back my student loans. However, moving back to DFW, I didn’t realize how hard it would be to find a job. I sent out numerous resumes and filled out applications, but nothing was opening up. From August to December, I did not have one interview. I didn’t even receive one “Dear Ashley…Thank you for your interest, unfortunately…” letters. During August through December, it was faith building time in my life. I really had to let go of my plans and say, “God not my will be done, but Your Will be done” and rely on Him. Constantly, I was reminded of Isaiah 55:8, “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord.” I remained hopeful that God would bring the desires of my heart to pass in His timing. There are still things I am hoping for, but thankfully I found a job in January of 2014. God is slowly yet surely answering my prayers. His timing is perfect!

For you high school graduates and college graduates, don’t get discouraged if your plans fall through. Know that God is working behind the scenes on your behalf. When you feel like life is overwhelming or things are not opening up, remember that you have a purpose. You have hope and a future, Jeremiah 29:11. Don’t get discouraged, but trust that God is perfecting those things that concern you according to Psalm 138:8.

2. Dream Big

When I arrived at college, I had huge dreams. Big dreams actually, that seemed more unrealistic. I was very ambitious when I was in college. I wanted to be a communication consultant, public speaker, a powerful attorney, campaign speech writer, and a United States Senator representing Texas. However, as senior year approached, never would I have thought that I would have been an author. My plans and desires changed. Proverbs 19:21 [NIV] says, “Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.” I wanted (and still do) be a public speaker, write more books, and encourage teens who they are in Christ. My heart’s desire is no longer about me, but sharing faith, hope, and love to those dealing with bullying. I know what bullying feels like and thankfully I overcame with God’s help. That is why I wrote “Bullied Yet Victorious: How I Overcame Fear with Faith” which was released nationally on July 23, 2013. My passion is to share with teens that they can overcome bullying; but, more importantly the power of perseverance-to keep going and not give up. One of the greatest lessons I learned is that it doesn’t matter what people say about me; what matters is what God says about me. That is what I want to share with teens. They are overcomers! They are victorious!

These passions, desires, dreams that I have seem so huge…but I serve a big God! What seems impossible to us, is possible for Him. Matthew 19:26 [NKJV] says, “But Jesus looked at them and said to them, “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”” Don’t give up on dreaming big, but be willing for your dreams to change. You never know, God could change your dreams where they glorify Him rather than yourself. Be open for change, but continue to expect great things to happen in your life. Continue to dream big! If someone has told you can’t do it or you can’t achieve anything…know this, you can! With God, all things are possible. Don’t dream small dreams hoping that maybe God will bring them to pass because they are small…no, dream big! You have a purpose and you are here on this earth for such a time as this. Expect good things to happen in your life.

3. Prepare Yourself

In high school, I had to prepare myself for college. How? I had to study hard, maintain good grades, and study for the SAT and ACT exams. In college, I had to prepare myself for the future. How? By studying hard, learning all I could, internships, building my resume, and learning time management. However, the desires I have…speaking at churches, schools, youth groups, FCA, youth conferences…I need to prepare myself. How? By creating notes, PowerPoints, Prezi, reaching out to ministries/organizations/churches regarding speaking, and building myself up spiritually. More importantly, I am learning to trust God to open doors of opportunity as I continue to knock on doors.

In 2 Timothy 4:2 [NKJV], it says to be “…ready in season and out of season…” In 1 Peter 3:15, it says to be “…ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you…” Prepare yourselves in season and out of season. Don’t despise having time off before you start your next journey, rather embrace it and use that time to prepare yourself. Prepare yourself for the dreams you want to accomplish. Prepare yourself spiritually as well by getting into God’s Word, spending time with Him, praying, and listening…learning to hear His voice.

4. Keep the Faith

Whether you are entering college or leaving college, know that what lies before you are challenges. You will face roadblocks. But, you know what? Keep the faith! No matter what lies ahead, always remember that God is for you not against you. Hebrews 13:5-6 says, “Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” So we may boldly say: “The Lord is my helper, I will not fear. What can man do to me?””  When you reach the moment where you want to quit…keep going. Don’t give up, but continue to run the race that is before you. God has an incredible purpose for your life. You don’t have to have everything figured out at this moment, but know that God is directing your steps. Psalm 37:23 [NKJV] says, “The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord, and He delights in his way.” Remain encouraged and not discouraged, everything will be alright. When circumstances surround you, always remember that God will bring you through victoriously. Keep the Faith!

For You Graduates, congratulations on your big accomplishment and remember, you can do all things through Christ who gives you strength (Philippians 4:13). Your journey is just beginning and God has amazing things in store for you!

 

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Bullied Yet Victorious

Have you heard about the book “Bullied Yet Victorious” or have you seen the commercial? There are many people who do not know that I have written a book. I would like to use this opportunity to share the reason and purpose I wrote, “Bullied Yet Victorious: How I Overcame Fear with Faith.” But, first I would like to tell you that this Saturday, February 22nd, I will be having my first book signing event at Firewheel Coffee in Garland, TX, from 1:00-3:00PM.

In the summer of 2011, before I started my junior year in college, I was sitting in my room thinking about the bazar bullying incidents I endured growing up. As I sat there recalling what occurred, I grabbed my computer and began to type away. I began writing the incidents as if I were talking to someone and within a few days, I finished my book. I read it to my mom and she recommended I get it published. In my junior year, I was on the search for a publisher to accept my manuscript. I knew what I wrote would encourage the reader. I knew that I had been given this book for a reason. As the search continued, I began to get discouraged because publishers were not accepting solicited manuscripts. I was disappointed because I knew this was a dream God had given me, yet I wasn’t seeing doors opening.

In the summer of 2012, I received an unexpected email from a representative at a Christian publishing company. The rep requested that I send him my manuscript and notified me that within a few weeks, they would inform me of their decision. It was less than a week when I received an answer…”Congratulations, we would be honored to publish your book.” I was ecstatic! I couldn’t believe it! Finally, someone was interested in my story! I was stepping closer to the dream God had given me.

In the summer of 2013, my book was nationally released-on July 23rd, to be exact. The first challenge I faced was finding a publisher. The second challenge I am facing is spreading the word-getting the word out about the book. I didn’t realize how tough it would be! However, I choose to believe that every day is a step closer to fulfilling the dream God has given me. Whatever challenge that arises, it just makes us stronger! God’s timing is ALWAYS perfect! We may not understand it, we may not see things happen right away, but we have to trust in His PERFECT timing.

If you are wondering what my dream is, I will tell you. I was bullied all throughout my life. When people see me, they have a hard time believing it because they say, “You don’t look like a bullied victim, you look like the popular girl at school” or “Why should people listen to you? You look like someone who has been raised with a silver spoon in your mouth.” Both statements are false and judgmental. I didn’t realize that to be a victim, you have to have a “look.” I am not a rich person, my parents never raised me with a “silver spoon in my mouth.”  Sadly, the bullying took place in the Christian environment-Christian schools and church. I was a straight ‘A’ student, athlete, involved in extracurricular activities, and involved in church; yet, I was bullied. However, I love what Romans 8:28 [NKJV] says, “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” What the enemy meant for harm, God turned around for my good.

Bullying hurts. Bullying is real and it can happen to anyone. I am living proof of that. However, I learned that it doesn’t matter what bullies say about me. What matters is what GOD says about me. In the Bible, He says I am blessed, overcomer, worthy, beautiful, smart, priceless, and victorious. There is truly hope in the Lord. I wouldn’t have not been able to face bullying if it were not for relying on the Word of God and realizing I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength according to Philippians 4:13.

I wrote “Bullied Yet Victorious” to encourage teens who have faced bullying or dealing with bullying. I share my personal encounters starting in the second grade (I was bullied by my teacher/principal) all the way to college (I felt like I was living in a movie my freshmen year of college). I encourage the reader to dream big and know that God will help them through. This upcoming generation needs help and their self-esteem built. Every time I hear on the news that a teen was bullied or a teen committed suicide due to bullying, it breaks my heart. IF only someone would have helped. IF only someone would have stood up and told the victim, “Don’t give up, you have a purpose. It doesn’t matter what bullies say, they don’t define you. You are more than what they say. You are victorious. You are an overcomer and God loves you very much.”

That is my dream. That is my message. Bullies don’t determine your future, God does. Bullies come and go, but God is everlasting. Don’t let the words of bullies get you down. You have a purpose according to Jeremiah 29:11 and wonderfully made according to Psalm 139:13-16. You are a blessing!

My dream is to write more books; but, while on this journey, encourage teens they have a purpose. I believe God has given me this book as a platform to testify His goodness and uplift, encourage the broken hearted. My heart’s desire is to speak at conferences, youth groups, and churches. I  want to challenge churches to be the church…bullying should not even be happening in churches. I don’t believe that is what God intended for the church. In my opinion, bullying can hurt worse when it happens at church. I was devastated and didn’t want to go to church for a long time because I was bullied by church members my junior year of high school. I didn’t blame God for what happened, but I couldn’t believe how people who professed to be “Christians” were so mean and hateful. Bullying in the church can cause serious damage. In 1 John, John constantly mentions how we should love one another. Jesus said the greatest commandment is to love God with all our heart, soul, and strength…and to love our neighbor as ourselves. Why then, is it hard for some “Christians” to truly show the love of God?

If you have been bullied or dealing with bullying, I want to encourage you that you are meant for so much more. You have been created for such a time as this. God has a wonderful purpose for you. You are priceless, worthy, smart, beautiful, overcomer, and you are, victorious. You are Bullied Yet Victorious.

Not My Ways, but His!

I know that I have not blogged in…well, a long time! I have a couple blogs floating around in cyber space, but it is time that I pick it back up. So, today I am choosing to start blogging again. Hello world, I am back!!

This blog is about something I have faced over the past few months and something that I have learned to appreciate. For those of you who are in the same boat as me, I hope my blog encourages you. Even if you haven’t dealt with this, I still hope you find it encouraging.

The past few months have been a challenging season in my life. However, without seasons of testing, enduring, persevering…how then is character built? How is faith grown? Seven months ago I graduated from college (majored in Communication & Government) and my book “Bullied yet Victorious” was released nationally in July of 2013. Before walking the stage at graduation, I had my life planned out. Honestly, they were ambitious goals rather than reality. I am a planner and a visionary person; so, naturally, I focus way too much on the future rather than the present. My plan was to have a job by the middle of August, my book would become a successful hit, I would meet the Godly man God has for me by October, and I would be on my way to being a successful career woman. Sounds like a great plan, right?

Boy, was my plan WRONG! After graduating from college, I enjoyed the time off during the summer. I was able to regroup and relax from the hectic college schedule that I endured for four years. First of August, I began the job search process. In August, I also contacted various ministries, Christian organizations, and churches informing them about my book. I also inquired about the requirements to speak at their youth groups. Since I want to be a full time motivational speaker, I also contacted professional speakers asking them how they started speaking. My book is about the bullying experiences I went through, but how God helped me to overcome. My heart is to share with my generation and the next that bullies don’t define their future, God does. They are created for a purpose according to Jeremiah 29:11 and wonderfully made according to Psalm 139. My heart is to encourage my generation (and the next) to be leaders and be all God created them to be. We are placed on this earth for such a time as this.

Days and weeks went by with no response from media, ministries, Christian organizations, and churches. Thankfully, the speakers I contacted responded back to me and shared with me how they got started. But churches? Pastors that preached from the pulpit that it is time for young people to rise up and reach out to this generation, being bold for Christ…couldn’t even help me! I received letters from ministries that said, “That is great what the Lord is doing but we have to decline from accepting your book…” or “We are excited for what God is doing, however we cannot help you…” or “Keep up the good work. We are excited for what God is doing in your life and that you overcame bullying. Unfortunately, we did not choose you to be on our program.” There were pastors that I gave my book to, who told me they were interested; yet, when I followed up with them, they treated me like an outcast. They totally dissed me. Very Christ like don’t you think? Days of rejection or flat out no response at all was overwhelming. As far as the job search, I have applied to several positions and have kept my eyes open for leads; but, have received no response.

So, here I am today-a college grad with no job, student loans approaching, single, and my book has not taken off. Sounds like I should be depressed right now, sitting in sweats, eating a tub of ice cream, and watching television all day-sulking in the fact my plan did not come together.

But, let me tell you, through all of this I have chosen to look at the beauty of this season in my life. I don’t sit around sulking. No, I choose to continue to dream big and know God is in control of my future. The beauty in this season is realizing my plans are not God’s plans, nor are my ways His ways. For that, I am so thankful. God’s plans are way better than mine, and I am glad that my plans fell through because that means God has even greater things instore for my future. Isaiah 55:8 says, “”For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord.” God knew where I was going to be at in life before I even approached this season. If anything, this has caused me to let go of what I was controlling like my desires, dreams, and plans. Rather, I had to come to that moment of realizing, “God, not my will but your will be done.” God knew all about the job search process before it even came to be. I choose to believe that I have a purpose in this life according to Jeremiah 29:11-He has given me hope, future, and a purpose. All the “no’s” I have faced just means my “yes” is on its way.

As far as being in a relationship, yeah, October has rolled through and I haven’t met my Prince Charming… yet! And you know what? That is okay by me! I have peace knowing that God’s timing is perfect. In His time, I will meet the man He has for me. I can’t put a time frame on it; but, this I know, God is working behind the scenes on my behalf. He knows exactly what I am looking for in a man, and I look forward to the first time we meet.

If you are in the same boat as me, I want to encourage you to look for the beauty in this season of your life. I have found to appreciate the rest, working out, writing my next book, and spending time with family to be beneficial. Know that God has a plan and a purpose for you. You may not know His plan, but trust that He is leading you and directing your steps. Psalm 32:8 says, “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will guide you with My eye.” Dreams, desires, aspirations that you may be holding onto tightly, give over to the Lord and watch Him work things out on your behalf. I already have! 1 Corinthians 2:9 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 who love Him.” All the “no’s” you may have faced, just know that your “yes” is on its way. Don’t give up, stay encouraged! You are closer to your breakthrough than you think.

God’s plans are not your plans, nor are His thoughts your thoughts. God has amazing things in store for you, the question is: will you let Him be in control? I don’t know about you, but I am excited for what the future holds because I know who holds my future.

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God Is For You

Have there been times in your life where you might feel inadequate to do something? Have you ever been told that you are not good enough to fulfill your dreams, talk to a certain someone, share your story, or achieve your goals? Well today, we are going to change that! If you have not bought into those lies, good for you! However, those of you who have listened to the voices that have put you down…listen up!

Awhile ago, I attended a conference that was a “Christian” conference. There were some powerful speakers; their message really blessed me. Then, there were some speakers who are involved in ministry that were cocky and haughty to the point they appeared unapproachable. As I sat there in my seat observing their behavior, I felt so inadequate. There were speakers that I wanted to meet because I wanted to share with them my book and ask for advice on what it was like to be a first time author/speaker. However, the way they behaved, it made me feel like I was not worthy enough to talk to them. I had thoughts like “You are not good enough to talk to those individuals.” I tried really hard to switch the negative thoughts to positive ones like, “I am important! I am a child of the Most High God. I am worthy. I am victorious. God loves me so much. I am important to Jesus.” I didn’t get to talk to any of the speakers but I learned two important lessons:

  1.  1. Actions speak louder than words.
  2. 2. We are worthy. So, I am going to break down these two points:

1. Actions Speak Louder

The conference was talking about how the Church needs to be the Church; yet, it was ironic how some of the speakers were not reflecting Jesus Christ! They contradicted the very thing they were speaking about. Please don’t get me wrong, I am not here to try and wound the Church. I am not here to bash Christianity. But, enough is enough. I am tired of seeing speakers that profess to be Christ followers to appear opposite of Christ like when they snub people in the audience, acting like they are too good to be in your presence. People (not all) in the Church need to get off their high horse and remember that it is not themselves who got them there–it was God who promoted them. In John 3:30 it says that He must increase while I must decrease. Seeing the speakers’ behavior, it made me realize that I NEVER want to be that way. It showed me to truly be Christ like, loving and approaching others. Whenever I am asked to speak someday, I don’t want to come across as them. Knowing how I felt about them, I would be devastated if people felt like they could not approach me. I would want people to approach me and ask any question. There is a saying that actions speak louder than words. It is so true. Any one can talk, but until their actions meet up with their words, it sends a whole other message. Think about this, will you show love to others today? Can you go beyond the barrier of pride and approach people? What can you do to make a difference each day?

2. We Are Worthy

After the conference, I went home and reflected on the messages; but, also on what I saw. I was disappointed in some of the people’s behavior. As I was sitting on my bed reflecting, God reminded me of Moses. When God approached Moses as the burning bush, He told Moses to go to Pharaoh and demand him to let His people go. Moses went through a moment of feeling inadequate. He was nervous about his speech, “why would Pharaoh listen to me?” he probably thought. He probably felt unworthy and nervous to talk to someone of status, let alone telling Pharaoh what to do. Yet, Moses found favor with God. God gave him the strength to talk to Pharaoh. Moses was so worthy and precious to God. He used an ordinary man to do extraordinary things. God used Moses to lead the Israelites out of Egypt to go to the Promise Land. Moses not only stood up to Pharaoh, but he led a multitude. How extraordinary is that!! Never think you are unworthy. You are so worthy and precious to God. God turns the ordinary into extraordinary. You are just as important to God as any pastor/speaker/minister or even the richest person on planet earth. God loves you so deeply. You are a child of God, you are victorious, you are worthy, you are blessed, you are a part of the unshakeable Kingdom, and you are redeemed.

Go this day knowing that you are worthy. You can do all things through Christ who gives you strength. Don’t think one moment you are not important because you are!