spending intimate time with God daily | part three: prayer

Wednesday, November 26, 2014


 
I love to pray. 

It's never been something I felt forced to do. Even when I was a complete mess in my walk with Christ during my preteen years, I would still go into the prayer room/office at our house and just still before the Lord. I didn't quite know His character the way Scripture so beautifully paints it. However, I knew He was ruler of all, and was the only One who could change my heart and heal the pain I was dealing with. 

I still love to pray and probably stop for just a few seconds to have a mini-convo with the King at least...well, honestly, I don't know how many times a day I do that; it's a lot. 

But that's the beautiful thing about prayer; it's ongoing. 

We don't have to wait until we are in a large gathering, reading from a book of Common Worship.
 
We don't have to wait until sunrise or sunset. We don't have to wait until something bad happens. We don't have to only shout praises to Him. We can be real with Him. 

I can stop typing at work for a little bit and ask Him to refocus my wandering mind on the task. I can suddenly smile at the thought of something sweet my husband said and whisper an almost inaudible "thank You, Father" into the air. I can thank Him for a meal, ask Him for direction, tell Him I trust Him, and even tell Him I'm nervous about the unknown. He knows that I'm flawed. He knows how much I need Him even more than I could ever begin to comprehend.

He knows you need Him too. 

Go to Him. 

Slow down for a moment and sit with Him. 

I try not to get caught up in any kind of formula of prayer. I know several doctrines are taught on how we should pray, many of them being modeled after the Lord's Prayer found in Scripture. If you're unfamiliar with it, it reads:

"Our Father in heaven, 
hallowed be Your name, 
Your kingdom come, 
Your will be done, 
on earth as it is in heaven. 
Give us today our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts, 
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation, 
but deliver us from the evil one." 
|| Matthew 6:9:13, NIV ||

When Jesus prefaces this prayer with the statement, "This, then, is how you should pray:", I do not believe He meant we should say those exact words every time and nothing else. Mainly because He prayed in many ways throughout Scripture and we should always strive to imitate Him. 

But there are a few things I notice that seem to come up over and over again when He prayed; He was grateful, He was bold, He was corporate-minded, He was honest, and He was humble. 

Those are how I want my prayers to look. 

I want them to be a time where I can be completely naked in spirit as I pour my heart out to my Daddy. 

I want to be humble enough to see gratitude all around me, and know He's the one who provided it all. I want to speak (or write in my prayer journal) the gritty unpleasantries of my life in all honesty, and rest knowing He will still love me anyway. And I want to boldly make petition for His blessings to reign in my life. 

I also, want to make sure my prayers aren't just about me. I want to pray for His kingdom as a whole. I want to look beyond my little corner of existence and pray for strangers around the world with the same amount of passion that I have for my own children.

I keep a little journal in my handbag (that I definitely don't pull out as much as I should), with prayer requests from other people and world issues I want to focus on each month. Mine is from ValMariePaper, but any little journal that's small enough for you to keep with you all day will do just fine. You could even keep the things you want to remember to pray about in the notes section of our cell phone. The point is to keep them somewhere you will actually see them. My husband even writes his on a sticky note and puts it on the inside cover of his Bible so he knows he'll see it.  

I don't want this post to be one that gives you a list of things to try, but instead I pray it's a little reminder that you can engage in prayer all day everyday


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spending intimate time with God daily | part two: studying

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

 
 
"You don't have to have a 30 minute quiet time every day
to have an intimate relationship with God."


This has become one of my favorite quotes lately.

It's just filled with so much grace. Grace that I often feel I don't deserve, but am slowly learning to accept as a new mom.

When I first gave my life to Christ (like...for real) in 2010, I quickly became very structured in my quiet time. It wasn't because I was made to do so by my then spiritual leaders or anything like that; it's just the type of person I was. I'd just finished undergrad the previous month, and had become accustomed to spending long hours reading, taking notes and memorizing passages. So, I naturally approached learning Scripture the same way.

Also, I must admit, it became an obsession.

An obsession I'm quite proud of.

I wasn't studying Scripture because I was anxious to get it in my brain so I could spit verses at the drop of a dime like the fancy, Bible-teacher-ladies I watched on YouTube. No, I was hungry to know more about the God I'd chosen to serve. I wanted to know His heart, and to try and understand how I could be anything like Him. The whole concept of being made in His image seemed like a huge stretch to me. I'd heard people quote this fact on Sundays since I was a little girl, but I was finally beginning to understand just how much of a grandiose statement it was.

I was made in the image of God?

So...I'm like Him?

God? ...like THE God?

I soon went from newcomer Christian to youth leader to high school Bible study teacher at the church I was attending. It was all a little intimidating, but exciting. I am so grateful to have been under a leader who saw potential in his pupils and never really gave us the opportunity to say no when the Holy Spirit told him to give us more responsibilities in ministry. About nine months into my walk with Christ, I started graduate school at Liberty University and was able to repeatedly quench my unquenchable thirst for Bible study. It was literally part of the curriculum in every class, so studying, reflecting, and applying God's word in my everyday life was somewhat of a breeze.

Then...life happened.

Within a six-month timespan I started dating, got engaged, separated from (yea, all that), reconciled with and married my superman of a husband. Though he certainly has a passion for the Lord, I soon learned we approach our relationship with the Trinity quite differently. I was used to starting my day either on my knees in prayer, or sitting in my bed or at my kitchen table with my Bible, journal, inductive Bible study materials spread all about and some worship music playing. Whereas, he's content to just read his Bible from beginning to end (repeatedly) with just a highlighter and some headphones on as the computer-voice-lady reads the Bible to him, cross-referencing and taking notes all the while. I would be so excited after reading, or even while I was reading, and want to instantly share what I'd read. He likes to process things for long periods of time and will talk about if he feels the desire to, or simply tuck it away in his heart for another time.

When I was single, I could stop in the middle of the day at my favorite coffeehouse and dig into Scripture for as long as I wanted. Suddenly, I had a husband who has needs that to be taken care of and we have a home requires a great amount of attention. And about a year and a half after we got married, I became pregnant with our first child and we are now expecting our second.
 
Yes, the day-today structure of my life has drastically changed.

I started to feel like I was losing the level of intimacy I was used to with God. I couldn't hear His voice like I used to. I could see His beauty and grace in the face of my daughter and in hugs from my husband, and now I feel them even in the teeny-tiny flutters of Baby Flores #2. However, I was still missing those long hours with Him and felt like they were the only way we could have a real relationship.

I was wrong.

Yes, there is a great satisfaction I feel after spending thirty+ minutes doing some Holy Yoga or reading a few of my favorite Psalms, but my relationship with God goes so far beyond that.

He is with me with every breath of the day.

This doesn't mean that I don't study anymore. I have simply had to become creative in the season of life. I have discovered some wonderful tips and study tools to help me stay engrossed in His word throughout the day even when my hour of quiet time in broken into pieces over a twelve-hour time span.

I want to take a moment to share a few with you, and I pray they bless you as they have blessed me.
  • Get up early. Think of whatever time you need to wake in order to get to work/class on time. Now, make it a point to get up at least 45 minutes earlier. Yes, this will be hard! It's still hard for me now. I actually have a friend of mine who works as a producer for one our local new station's morning show call me at 5 a.m. because I am good for hitting my snooze but for another 15 minutes or so. It's a struggle, but it's worth it. I have so much to do in the morning. People need to be dressed, fed, and out the door and I basically orchestrate most of it. If I don't fight for some time in Scripture before dawn breaks, I might spend the rest of the day broken myself. No, studying your Bible in the morning is not a law, but there is just something about starting our day at the feet of Jesus, instead of squeezing Him in whenever we decide we're done with the really "urgent" stuff. 
  • Find a great app. There are so many Bible apps out today, but I have only found two that I really love. Of course, the o'so popular YouVersion Bible app is a must on my phone. what I've been loving about it the most lately is that I can put a widget that displays a daily Bible verse right on the home screen of my phone. That makes it easy in the mornings to grab my phone, hit the alarm, and immediately flip to the verse. The only danger there is that I can sometimes read the verse super-quick and then get caught up in the business of the day. I have to remember I still need to take the time to slow down and meditate on the words carefully. I also enjoy the new app by She Reads Truth (also available on iOS). I have been rockin' with these amazing women since about April of 2012 when I followed along with their Women of the Bible study plan, and I even helped backed the app during their Kickstarter campaign this past Spring. They have really created a community for women to dig into Scripture together and grow in Christ. The app allows me to read the Scriptures associated with that day's lesson, the devotion, access the message board, take notes, make bookmarks, and share the reading via social media all from one place! Fab!
  • Get some accountability. Ladies, community is so important! I know there are some people who feel like we shouldn't need someone on us to make sure we study God's word. We should just pray that His Holy Spirit guides us, and ask Him to increase our desire when we are lacking. Totally true! But at the same time, God created us to be in community. He created us to know that we cannot do anything our own; nothing. We can't pray in our own strength. We shouldn't only study His word with only our own insight (because we are all biased and proud and flawed in some way), and we shouldn't think we don't need a little guidance and accountability here and there (or A LOT for a long time) when it comes to digging into Scripture. Find a class at a local church, or do one online. Ask your spouse or your sister or a friend to text you to make sure you read today. And don't just tell them you read, tell them what you read and how you are responding to it. Ask them questions about what you don't understand. They may have more insight, and if they don't the two of you could search for the answers together. It's a win-win!
  • Keep a journal. One thing about journaling is that it requires me to sit still, I can't really rush it. You don't have to love to write in order to start keeping a journal. You just need to have something to say to the Lord. A question to ask. A praise to give. Some anger or frustration to get off your chest (hey, we've all been there). Just look at the Book of Psalms. It's a beautiful mixture of joy, pain, victory, confusion, and faith. If you're really not into long sessions of writing, draw instead. I follow some wonderful people on IG who doodle in their journals and their Bible instead of writing out the typical prayer or Bible verse. Let a little journal become the heart song of your life as you create a beautiful keepsake to reflect on in the future. 

So, on those days when I just can't seem to find 30 minutes, but I can find ten before the hustle and bustle of the day get started, these tools have helped me. 

Do you already do any of these things? What tools have you found help you study God's word better and easier? I'd love for you to share in the comments below to maybe give us all some new ideas!

xoxo, 
Ashley Danielle



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spending intimate time with God daily | part one: introduction

Monday, November 24, 2014

Headphones: Charlotte Russe /// Simplified Journal: EmilyLey.com


I am one busy mama/wife/daughter/sister/friend/working-lady!

I know I'm not alone in this, and that we live in a time where wearing as many hats as humanly possible is not only common, but is also praised. Though it's important for us to prioritize what we spend our time on so we can spend quality time abiding with Christ, there are some titles that we simply cannot get away from (like the ones I listed above).

I learned really early as a new wife that the way I spent time with God daily had to change. The Mr. meditates on God's word much differently than  I do. We process information differently. We take notes differently. We find different kinds of teaching styles interesting, and we relay the Gospel differently to others. This was a tough pill for me to swallow, but a necessary one nonetheless.

When the princess came into the mix last Christmas, my "quiet time" with God really took a drastic turn! She was definitely calling all of the shots so I was forced to revamp yet again.

So, what does my intimate time with God look like now?

I've decided to do a little mini-series to give y'all a peek into this area of my life. Yes, it's very sacred and something that I don't like to broadcast the details of. However, I do believe that we need to encourage one another in any way we can to stay focused on the goal; true intimacy with Christ.

Be sure to come back over the next couple of days to, hopefully, grab a few tips, and to (PLEASE!) share a few tips of your own.


xoxo,
Ashley Danielle



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4 easy steps to guarantee a divorce

Friday, July 18, 2014


Me and The Mr. at our engagement photo shoot, 2011.

Marriage is hard work.

There's no attempt to deny the truth in that statement, and if you're not married or have never been please just take my word for it.

It can be full of fun, and smiles, and laughter and all that goodness, but it can also become what appears as a never-ending ball of tears, fears, and disappointment.
Fortunately, we live in the age of "upgrade the outdated"! So if you feel your marriage has reached its expiration date and you want to trade-in your spouse for one of the 2015 models that will be out shortly, follow these quick and simple steps toward gliding seamlessly into a divorce.

STEP ONE: Be selfish.
Think about yourself a lot. Put the majority of your energy into your own dreams and goals, and spend as little amount of time as you can asking your spouse about theirs. Criticize them for resting after a long day at work because they could be helping you out when they get home. Spend hours (two or more to really get the job done) doing office work at home. Make it known that your lunch breaks and weekends are reserved to catch up on even more work, or spend time with colleagues or people you are mentoring. All other breaks are reserved for you to have your own quiet time so you can refocus on your own peace of mind before tackling your next project. Prepare meals only for yourself, or pick up fast food on your way home without checking to see if your spouse has eaten. Keep secrets from them, and make important family decisions about finances, travel, jobs, your living space, etc. without consulting them. Allow your concern with their emotions and struggles to strict limits because eventually they need to learn how to stand on their own two feet and not depend on you. After all, this is a marriage not a partnership.

STEP TWO: Fail to communicate.
Never communicate your feelings in a productive or respectful manner. Avoid eye-contact as much as you can when you two are together, and keep your responses to "yes", "no", and "I'm not sure", (synonyms for any of these phrases will also suffice). Make it very difficult to start conversations with yourself. Keep some sort of electronic device with you, like your cell phone, laptop, or tablet so you can also be communicating with someone else. Create an atmosphere that does not welcome their opinions. For example, cry the moment you feel you are being attacked or misunderstood, or better yet, become a complete brick wall so you can't receive any of their observations about the negative parts of you. Rarely explain your actions or decisions. They aren't the boss of you! You're the man! You're not his slave! You can do what you want to do and if they have a problem with it it's probably because they don't trust you to make intelligent decisions on your own. And oh yea, switch back and forth from smiling to a placid demeanor quite often so they never know how you truly feel.

STEP THREE: Compare them to others.
Be sure you treat your husband poorly for not being like your dad, or pastor, or another man you admire. Express utter disappointment that your wife is not like your mother, or you ex, or the wife you dreamed of. Wish they dressed the way you want them to, instead of they way they've been dressing since you two met, and make sporadic comments about your displeasure with their appearance until they change. Extend them small amounts of grace because eventually they will get exhausted from trying to meet your demands and will hopefully run to a divorce attorney before they have a breakdown!

STEP FOUR: Tell God what you are going to do and what you refuse to do.
This is a big one! Pretending Jesus is the actual Lord over your life is key to getting a divorce. Pray to Him. Read His word. Share it with others. Hey, even make some note cards or get a cute journal to write things down in. Watch Bible study videos, or even make some of your own. But in the end, only do the parts that sit well with you. Don't step too far out of your comfort zone. Don't fully forgive, love, or reconcile with your spouse after an argument as the Word teaches us. Just tolerate their presence enough to avoid an argument. Blame your spouse for your shortcomings and God for allowing you to choose such an uncompromising life partner.
-------


Now, I'm sure you have caught on that this entire post is satirical. And these are just a few things. I know "more serious" problems can occur like adultery and abuse, but I think it's so easy for us to blame the other person when things go wrong in our marriages.

I know I've done it.

While typing this, I tried to make sure I included a lot of things I know I've done myself. Give it a try. Re-read this post and mentally underline each action you know for a fact that you have been guilty of. If you underline any part of the final step, which I'm sure you will, then you certainly need to take some time to reevaluate your self-perception.

There will be times when you want to throw in the towel and sign the papers. And if some of us are really honest with ourselves, we emotionally checked-out of our marriages and signed fictional divorce papers ages ago. We may not have packed our bags and hit the road just yet, but we certainly aren't giving our all in our marriages and don't really plan to.

We're tired.

We feel like we've done enough.

We feel like we don't deserve to be treated unfairly, or unjustly, or unappreciated.

So, we're just going through the motions trying to honor vows that God knows we have already forsaken in our hearts.

So what do we do?

Nothing.

Let Him do it.

The more we try to do the worse it will get.

I recently read these beautifully honest words from an amazing woman that I'm blessed to have in my life:

"By the grace of God, we slowly started to put our marriage back together. It took both of us committing to the work of marriage to turn things around. And turn around they did! When I say that God made miracles happen in our lives, I mean it in the truest sense of those words. Miracles, people. The work of marriage is the best work I’ve ever done and work I want to do for as long as I live. No matter where you are or what you are feeling, I want you to know that Love is worth it. Love with a capital L! True Love is possible with God. It’s not about changing someone else. It starts with you. 'Loving does not at first mean merging, surrendering, and uniting with another person, it is a high inducement for the individual to ripen, to become something in himself, to become world, to become world in himself for the sake of another person; it is a great, demanding claim on him, something that chooses him and calls him to vast distances.' – Rainer Maria Rilke.
I choose Love. Love never fails."
Amen and amen!
Maybe your marriage is over. Maybe there is no turning back from where you are currently.
But maybe, just maybe, God is about to use your simply magnanimous choice to try again to create a love story that will change the world. 



 xoxo,
Ashley Danielle

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GIVEAWAY | Influence Network Lifetime Membership

It's a double-giveaway kind of Friday!

I'm excited to be able to offer y'all some cool goodies today from one of my favorite handmade shops and the most rewarding women's network I've ever belonged to.

First, Chamel of Chamel's Creations is blessing one of you with one of her lovely wristlets and another with beautiful necklace.

Not only am I impressed with the quality of her products, but I am in awe of the genuine way she loves God. She throws herself into her worship of Him, and has dedicated her business-life to giving women a practical (and fashionable) way to encourage themselves and others.





Enter below for a chance to snag one of these lovelies. The winners will be announced next week!

Chamel's Creations

Now, for the second giveaway!

If you follow me on any form of social media, then you have probably seen me mention The Influence Network before. It's a great way for women who have a heart for God to connect and encourage one another to grow even closer to Him while being a light for others via their online presence and in their day-to-day lives. Whether it be a blog, or a tweet, or a status update, or a new pic on Instagram, or the pinning of a recipe on Pinterest (that may or may not get cooked in real life), Influence is all about Christ. Through the basic membership, which I have, members are able to also take advantage of one free Influence class a month in addition to everything that comes along with it.

I have been blessed by several of these classes in more ways than I can count, and I am honored to be able to offer a LIFETIME MEMBERSHIP to one of you! This is a $200 value, people!

I would not be able to bring this giveaway to you without the help of some amazing bloggers! These ladies all have made this possible so make sure to check them out and show them some love.

Oh, and the lifetime membership includes the following: 10 free classes to take anytime Open Forums Weekly Free Resources Discipleship Groups Pursuit Groups One Free Monthly Class Extra Surprises!! So this is seriously the way to go, lifetime members receive their money's worth times 1,000 in my opinion! You get so much and the investment is well spent! The giveaway will run for one week, and all entries will be verified so play fair! We will email the winner on how to receive your membership upon the closing of the giveaway! Good luck!



xoxo,
Ashley Danielle

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