America just celebrated another free birthday last week and the party was FANTASTIC. The 4th of July is one of my favorite holidays because people get so excited to celebrate America! This past election process has divided our nation. Whenever I see people violently protesting, rioting, starting a Facebook war, etc. I immediately think, “How unpatriotic”. I mean seriously, do they really not love our country enough to disrespect others political opinions SO much they cause division in relationships?? SERIOUSLY, how disrespectful! Many people claim they do those things out of LOVE for our country. In my unpopular opinion, there is NO love in causing division which is exactly what these people do. They “fight for love” (yes I’m talking about the gay protests here) but is fighting love?? No. It’s not. It’s okay to have an opinion on the matter. In fact, we are ALL entitled to having an opinion because we are a FREE country. Live your life with your opinion, but don’t force it on everyone else just because they differ from you. How SELFISH is it for us to live in the greatest nation in the world, but still be so defiant in our opinions to intentionally lose focus on the important things, and won’t stop sharing our opinions until we get OUR way? Anyway, Independence Day is fantastic because everyone, for a day, unites and celebrates our love for America together! Key word: UNITE. We are the UNITED States of America. So let’s act like it. Every day. Not just on the 4th of July. ‘merica.
Winshape Camps is another summer adventure I’ve had the amazing opportunity to experience! For those of you not familiar, Winshape is a weekday camp put on by everyone’s favorite fast food restaurant, ChickFilA. A team of 28 members spend 10 weeks traveling around the country leading Winshape at various churches. Our church has been hosting Winshape Camp for the past 6 years! The day is filled with LOTS of energy and excitement. Kids are able to participate in different skills throughout the day, such as painting, cooking, basketball, archery, and SO many more. They also play tons of “easy to learn, hard to accomplish” games outside and, best of all, they learn about following Christ in a super interactive way. The Winshape staff does an amazing job leading and teaching the kids in their group all while having fun. And trust me, it’s not easy. Volunteering for winshape means seeing first-hand what the staffers experience. Our church has always had a huge number of kids (around 400) which means each group has about 20 children in it! Amongst the kid-fights and challenges, it’s not easy. But it is so WORTH IT. The blessing that the staffers receive are amazon to witness. They prove that challenges are worth facing if it means you’ve learned something, or taught another in the process. And THAT is what makes Winshape an incredible opportunity that no child wants to miss out on!
So on our way back to the airport from a week serving in St John, our team stopped at a Subway (sandwiches) on St Thomas to buy lunch to take on the plane. As we’re piling out of vehicles and making our way into the restaurant, a man was coming out of the store when all of a sudden a simple “Good morning” from a team member set him off. And when I say “set him off”, I mean really set. him. off. The man started screaming and cursing us because we were white American’s. As he’s standing outside screaming and yelling at the top of his lungs, the rest of us quickly hurried into Subway and locked the doors. Somebody called the police, and the rest of us just chose to ignore him (after circling up in prayer for him) and continued buying our lunch. Choosing to ignore him, however, was very difficult when the man in all of his rage swung the LOCKED doors open and whipped off his belt yelling, “HIT ME! HIT ME!” As the instant fear set in to most of us, the girls ran to the back of the restaurant and all the men to the front. Now of course nobody was going to hit him first, so in protocol, we waited until he finally went back outside and continued screaming out there. Nobody really knows what happened to him, but he went from cursing us to yelling “I want food”. A man from our team responded and bought him a sandwhich and a drink. He took the meal, brought it outside to Mr. Crazy and said “God bless you”. The man calmly walked away, and we never saw him again. (Mind you, by this point the police still weren’t here. Talk about Island time…) In the midst of shocking emotion, fear, and courage, we very soon realized the power of Christ that was shown in that short moment. This man (obviously on something, or even possessed) never physically touched us. He threatened it, but he never did. He also wanted somebody to hit him. One thing we know is that the Bible tells us to love our enemies, and not to repay anyone back evil for evil. The man on our trip who gave this guy a sandwhich repayed evil for kindness. And obviously that kindness calmed his raging spirit. If that man from our team chose to fight the guy, the story would have turned out completely different. Our witness to him would be negative. So moral of the story is: big or small situation, always choose to do what is right, it will benefit you in the end one way or another!
Beyond sweating in the heat and humidity, constantly having several kids crawling on you while others are running away, craving A/C and knowing it won’t be accessible until you’re back home, being physically, emotionally, and spiritually exhausted…. there was a greater purpose. I along with 19 others, just got back from the island of St. John where we led a Vacation Bible School for the children that live there. Having been on this trip once before, my expectations for the week were completely different than the challenges we experienced. But despite the many challenges we had this past week, I can honestly say that it was one of the best weeks in my entire life. Our group of 1st/2nd graders had SO much fun pretending to be astronauts all week. We made our own shooting rocket ships, hung out in our space station, and ate candy from our (self) control station. One of the best things about the culture of the island is that no matter how tacky we thought something was, the kids LOVED it. They love the simple things… in fact, they PREFER the simple things. It’s one of the most charming things about the island: they know which things are trendy and modern, but most still prefer to live simply and don’t mind being set apart in that way. As Christ followers, we should be doing the same. To know what society says is right, but to still be set a part and follow what GOD says is right. Not just to physically show people in our lives what it means to be a Christian, but to commit to do what is right in our hearts as well. It is truly amazing that I went into the week expecting to teach kids, but never would I have expected how much was taught to me as well. Our entire team has so many different stories to share but in a nutshell: we all had so much fun spreading love to these precious kids, and can’t wait to be back one day!
So I’ve mentioned how much I LOVE coffee and I’ve mentioned how much I LOVE traveling. Coffee fuels me for my travels… they pretty much go hand in hand. But I haven’t mentioned yet the core of what REALLY fuels me: My faith. My faith in Jesus sets my soul on fire. I have felt the Holy Spirit in me since I was 5 years old, but for the last 6 years I have felt God’s presence in my life more than ever before. Thanks to a few inspiring role models, I have been able to grow in my walk and truly realize what it means to *thrive* off of my faith in Jesus. It is my prayer that every person gets to experience Christ’s love at some point in their life. The peace that His love brings is unexplainable and if you have never felt it before, you are truly missing out. To know Christ is to know genuine love. And to be genuine about your faith is one of the most pure qualities a person can have. To truly believe in God’s power and desire to have a relationship with Him is so rare these days. Many people base their Christianity on going to church every Sunday, or having good morals. Unfortunately, neither of those will give you a relationship with Jesus. Revelation 3:16 says, “So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth.” One of my favorite things about reading the Bible is the bluntness of living for Christ. It’s black and white, there are no gray areas. Jesus says this in Revelation to tell us that he would rather have a genuine relationship with us, or not one at all. He wants us ALL in. He wants us to love Him with ALL of our heart, soul, mind, and strength (Mark 12:30). This means no gray areas. No claiming to know Christ because you know OF him, but claiming to know Christ because of your relationship WITH Him. You have to work hard at your relationship with Christ more so than a relationship with anybody else. We’re not perfect, we make mistakes. But the perfect thing about Christ is that His love in UNFAILING. He forgives us, loves us, and craves a genuine relationship with us. Being in a constant state of prayer and communication with Him….. and not just on Sundays. Once you seek Jesus, you get to experience more than just genuine love. You get to change for the better. The Holy Spirit changes the way we interact with others. We have more patience, more passion, and more love to share with one another. And when the world is filled with genuine love, good things happen. Christ shows up, and the enemy flees. That’s the power of Jesus. And with that power, you can accomplish ANYTHING with Him by your side! (Luke 18:27)
…Looking down at creation… or so it seemed. Another recent adventure I had the opportunity to experience was to Stone Mountain in Atlanta, GA. Our trip went downhill (literally) once the sky lift dropped us off on the top. By the time we took in the breathtaking views, captured precious moments on the camera, and got the hair out of our faces from the wind, we were ready to take the sky lift back down to the bottom of the mountain. Or so we thought… because the wind was so strong, the sky lifts shut down which forced us to hike down the mountain instead. I would love to say that we were all prepared and wore proper shoes, but that wasn’t true in my case. Hiking down a giant rock means one thing: it’s slippery. And if you don’t have shoes with good grip, the walk down becomes very challenging, very quickly. I made the poor decision of wearing my Tom’s that day, shoes that the soles consist of a rubber/leather combination… not ideal for a long walk, let alone somewhere slippery! Luckily I had a team of 4 to help me down the steeper parts of the mountain. On the plus side however, I only fell twice and it was well worth the incredible views we saw.
Being a senior in high school, one of the staple items on just about every seniors bucket list is a senior trip! Now before I go on, I would just like to put it out there that: yes, homeschoolers CAN take senior trips. (And have proms, dances, sports teams, etc…but that’s another blog post, for another time.) Unlike most high school graduates, I had the opportunity to choose where I wanted to take my adventure. The world was my oyster. “The world” meaning the United States… traveling on a dime had its limits. So after making countless pro/con lists about where I should go, I finally landed on my decision: New Orleans, LA.
NOLA seemed like the perfect destination. It had everything I was seeking to experience: intriguing culture, eclectic buildings, captivating architecture, and of course, delicious food! So we picked a date, mapped out our trip, and drove all 13 hours down to good ole’ Louisiana. Home of Creole people, Cajun food, and some pretty fine Po’ boys. One of the very first places we stopped at was a staple to New Orleans, Cafe Du Monde. Here we found delectable beignets, (kind of like a thicker, fancier version of fried dough) and a strong cup of Cafe Au Lait. It is all that people have raved over! Another NOLA staple we got to experience were the street cars. The street cars run up and down different highlighted streets throughout the city, making frequent stops at the most common places to visit. If you ever get the chance to visit, riding one of these is a must! Out of the many things we experienced throughout our trip, one of my favorites was a steamboat tour. Quite possibly the best thing about the boat was the bright red paddle in the back that pushed us along. We even got to enjoy a live jazz band as the boat paddled upstream! As these are just a few highlights from our trip, we also got to take part in a swamp tour where we saw alligators, walked bourbon street for the first time, (and might I say, the last time…) and visited different historical landmarks.
The history, the atmosphere, and the culture all made this the perfect senior trip. Here’s to many more new explorations!
First blog post, yay! Since I am a die-hard coffee fanatic, I just thought it would be appropriate to start my blog off with sharing a crazy goal my dad and I are aiming to complete: sipping on a cup of coffee from 100 different places by the time I go to college. (Note: as of today, we have 150 days to go to 65 coffee shops left.) So far, we’ve tackled places from the cliche Starbucks, to the nameless hole-in-the-wall shop that just so happens to serve coffee. It will be quite the stretch to accomplish our goal, but we like to view it as a fun challenge that will be worth it when we finish.
Hey there! My name is Ashley and I live in the crazy state of North Carolina. Growing up in upstate New York, I am a northerner by heart but a southerner by choice. I love to bake, shop, travel, and explore new things all while sipping on a hot cup of coffee. I have a passion and calling to love on, serve, and befriend people of all ages. I am so excited to share with you my passions, experiences, and just life in general!