Have you ever looked someone in the eyes and… shuttered? Almost as if they were looking into your soul? Goodness, if you haven’t, let me tell you – What a naked and vulnerable feeling. The common, immediate response is to look away. Drop the eye contact. Hide yourself again. Justify the disconnection you just made by running through the files of memories you’re convinced could surely scare anyone away. But maybe it didn’t happen like that for you? Maybe it was in the process of getting to know someone else. Thankfully, this is not an experience solely limited to romantic relationships either. The idea of being fully known can be a scary one. But in this season, the Lord has been challenging me to keep the eye contact and take deep breaths through the uncomfortable shutters.

To

Hey you! You continued reading. This means that you can either relate, are confused but kind of curious or you are probably nosey. Okay I was joking on the last one haha but just know you were supposed to be reading this at the time you were and I am glad you are here.

Now.

How did I get here in the first place

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We all have secrets. We all have a past. And there has been a point in everyone’s lives where something about us has been revealed and not received well at all. In a nutshell, we have all been rejected for something that we have genuinely portrayed. The damage could have been done in social settings, from your parents/caregivers, significant others, the list goes on. This rejection, if not dealt with, can manifest into some really messed up communication patterns and relationships. That’s what happened to me. I became clever at showcasing who I knew for sure would be accepted and only allowed maybe one or two people to see the unfiltered me. (Let us not fall into the trap of having the demeanor of “Everyone doesn’t deserve the real me!”. You owe it to yourself and your calling to be authentically who you are wherever you are. And of course, wisdom in all of your actions)

Wasn’t til about 2016 (the year I gave all of myself to the Lord) that random instances happened where I felt as if someone was getting to know me way better than my comfort level was allowing. I seriously held everyone at arm’s length and wasn’t even aware. Even my community at the time. Yea we definitely prayed for each other and the Holy Spirit would reveal things to those in prayer for me, making me feel exposed and seen, but I limited those experiences to ONLY when someone was in prayer for me.

 Y’all not expecting me to live this way 24/7 are you?? Feeling naked? And seen. And..exposed. Ha. No thanks.  

I mean, biblically, I understood the value in community, but it was not until about two months ago the Lord BLEW my mind as to how necessary community really was/is.

Be

What does it look like to just “be”

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Ready for a quick praise report? So this will definitely be another in depth post, so no worries, but from the month of November to my birth month of February, I set a goal to lose 30 pounds. And I did! Silly me for thinking that that process was just a physical transformation. My weight was/is connected to so much more than my appreciation of sweet treats.

As glorious as this victory was, I was still sitting in bits of shame. I had made a weird verbal commitment to myself to not share about my weight loss until I was about 50 pounds down. I was so scared to let people in my life and in the cyber world know what I used to weigh. I wanted to be as far away from that number as possible. It represented so much shame for me.

This is where the subject of community came back in. I would update people in my community periodically about the weight I was losing every week, but I would never tell them the actual number on the scale. But one of my friends asked me one day what was it holding me back from just expressing the number when the number was obviously changing weekly. “I don’t know, it’s just weird. It’s no one’s business.”

I’m scared that the weight will come back and I will let everyone down

I’m scared that if men really knew how much I weighed, I would be deemed as unattractive/undesirable

I’m scared to admit that I feel as though I have messed up what the Lord meant as fearfully and wonderfully made

Woo. Let’s take a moment. That was a lot. But that was how I felt. The raw and honest truth I did not mutter but felt gnawing at my shield of protection.

But! Crazy thing is…I pressed in and said it. I even told my friend what my starting weight was and I will tell you guys because thankfully I am not bound to the shame of those numbers anymore. I was at my heaviest weight Summer of 2017 at 313 pounds. Like WHET. But I had reached 268 pounds by my birthday in February. (Still working on another goal and my weight is fluctuating, but I’ll keep you guys posted.) After I had revealed my weight, the rejection/disappointment/disgust I was expecting never came.

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Wow God. So this is why community is important. We literally experience your love through others. Your relentless, healing love.

Fully

But…aren’t there risks to being my full self?

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This freedom I got a taste of left me in awe of the Lord. The only thing I would have to exchange would be myself or “bad” parts about myself that I wanted to keep hidden. Talk about a word vomit season. There has not been a time in my life I have been so forthcoming about struggles and lessons I am currently learning. Even while I am typing this blog now. I love to share about what I have already mastered before I present it. But I will tell y’all, this stuff is HARD and I am so lost most days. I still run from the Lord’s love on some days because being in healthy relationship with people is hard and demands a part of yourself that does not have the right to be protected anymore. It’s exhausting some days, but the fruit connected to being fully who you are is so worth it.

I had to let go of the fear of risks that pertain to:

  • Not being perceived as having it all together
  • The judgment of other Christians who opinions I truly value
  • The Lord seeing so much of me that He turns away (Psalms 139- He will never stop chasing you and you can never leave His presence)

There are probably more that just did not cross my mind in this moment of time, but these are definitely the big ones.

Known

Once you’re known, freedom is available to you

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In some of my current classes, we have discussed when taking a look at the Bible one can conclude that knowledge is just about synonymous with love. You can find this terminology all up in 1 Corinthians (1 Corinthians 8:3 but if anyone loves God, he is known by Him), Jeremiah (Jeremiah 1:5 Before I formed you in the womb I knew you…), and I can go on but I hope you are getting the picture. But this deep love that is spoken for is usually always tied to behavior, acts of love, and other signs that a deep relationship is present. And since I have stepped into this realm of freedom, I can testify that there is so much freedom tied to a relationship where you can be authentically you and loved and the same time. That understanding gave me such a different perspective for so many other things surrounding me. It made sense to me why it seemed that people close to me stayed in toxic relationships. Though toxic, usually the other person in the relationship knew them, flaws and all. I will admit that taking a risk to let that tangible relationship go if you have never felt that before is beyond scary. There’s this unspoken security with full knowledge, so it’s understandable. But that relationship cannot be at the price of your peace, by no means.

If you get nothing else from this, understand this and understand it quickly: MAN will fail you. The only perfect form you find of this love is having a relationship with Jesus. And if we’re being honest with ourselves, that’s really what’s happening everyday as we form these empty connections to address deeper issues. The loud voice telling you that you won’t even be good enough for that kind of love, SILENCE him now. Jesus pursues us without even having the expectation to be loved back the same or at all. Wouldn’t tell you this stuff if I haven’t tried it myself.

Yesterday, someone squinted their eyes and told me, “Ashley, you look cleansed.” I laughed. Then I said, “Yea, I’m free.” Believe the hype. It’s available to you too.

To God be the Glory

***What about you? Have you ever experienced being fully known?

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Poem dedicated to underlying fears of rejection

Impatience is my best attribute in situations like this

Lazer stares at slow drivers

I’m disconnected from the feeling of the steering wheel underneath my fingers

Or the sound of the muffled engine

Matching the pace of my tapping index appendage

Back straight to not miss the changing light

…That doesn’t seem to happen quick enough

But

When it’s not me in control of the destination

Everything is different

I am no longer a driver trying to beat the time

I am a passenger trying to savor the seconds of my beloved

Trying to casually be as close as possible

In these situations, appreciation is my best attribute

The once glare is a subtle shy grin that only represents about 10 percent of what I feel

I think, “how sweet. Something intentionally put in place to stop time with you.”

I want more time with you

But the prideful sphere of my existence won’t allow me to speak.

The muffler is my mouthpiece projecting scrambled thoughts of anxiety and fear

Of ruining this moment

Too scared to ruin the peaceful silence

So I stare at the red light, thankful, for giving us something I’m too nervous to ask for

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“Located on your left and right are EXIT signs illuminated in case of an emergency. When it is time to exit, please do swiftly and promptly.”

Not sure about you guys, but escape plans are comforting to me. To know I can escape when danger is imminent, near, approaching. Nothing is better for my over thoughtful and overly imaginative mind.

But unfortunately, there are no illuminated EXIT signs in everyday life interactions. Such as social situations that serve as a recipe for anxiety.

For those who are familiar with me may be a little surprised at that last statement. Ashley? Anxious? In social situations????? A social butterfly being anxious in social situations is a paradox.

Hello. My name is paradox. How are you?

I LOVE PEOPLE. AND CONTROL.

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I try not to be super repetitive in my posts, but for new readers (hey y’allll), I like to give a little background for context.

I’m a performer. Lover of the arts. Danced and acted in front of large crowds. Have given several speeches as well. In these situations, I am in control of how someone is viewing me. I can speak in a way that can manipulate specific emotions and so forth. I can sense what people want from me and can CHOOSE to give them that or not.

But in social situations where everything is pretty organic, it’s sometimes a hit or miss.

Okay let me be more clear.

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I graduated from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. A predominantly white institution. So the black community became pretty familiar with each other pretty quickly. But whenever there were social events mainly just for us, such as a party, set, and especially a cookout, I felt consumed with anxiety. I never felt like I fit the mode. I was always self conscious about my weight, my hair, if so and so thought I looked attractive, if I should speak to x even though we’re not that cool but I don’t want them to think I’m “acting funny”. Stupid right? I wasn’t that comfortable with myself in the beginning. I thought I sucked at talking to boys. I felt really awkward and disconnected.

Basically

When my role is undefined in a social setting, I am anxious. Allowing people to think what they want without me providing a shield of defense, i.e. role, is pretty difficult for me.

But put me on a stage in front a crowd. And you would never know.

I HATE SMALL TALK

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Man. Small talk is something I honestly dread. But it is INDEED necessary. Lots of times, I just want to jump to the part of knowing someone’s insides and ways. Yes, patience is a virtue I am still trying to master.

Those who have met me would regard me as a pretty energetic and bubbly person. I love laughing and making friends. But there is a certain type of exhaustion that takes place when I have to pretend as though I am interested in something that I do not care for whatsoever. I just don’t like the part of the standard questions. How many siblings do you have? Where are you from? Get out of here, blue is my favorite color too! 

Again, I am in a position of allowing people to evaluate me without an established defense. First impressions about me are funny to hear about as time goes on, but the initial time of it happening makes me well….a little anxious if you have not guessed the pattern yet.

AFFECTIONATELY AWKWARD

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Control is the difficult part here as well. I enjoy love, like the next person. But in regards to showing it….Where is my EXIT sign!!??? I want to control when and how it is happening and that’s just…well….not how it works.

It is a very difficult process for me. The fear of rejection has been a huge part of my life, and it has been a process to uproot the spirit of fear out of my life. Deep down, it kills me to think people close to me would reject my love. So I choose not to really dig into that side of my life much.

*BTW. I’m being very honest in this post. And this fact makes me anxious haha*

I feel unsure in affectionate situations. I have been conditioned to believe I didn’t know how to “do it right”. Yea pray for me saints, I am a work in progress.

SO. HAVE YOU PRAYED ABOUT IT?

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Philippians 4:6-7

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

Want to know something funny? But not really funny? I recently found out in my prayer life, while I was praying about my anxiety, that I unfortunately go before my Holy Father in anxiety as well. I try to push everything together quickly, and think of all the humans I have come in contact with to tell the Lord to protect them, and even more irrational anxious manners. I couldn’t believe it when the Holy Spirit revealed it to me. I rack my brain up with a list of things to tell God as if I am running out of time.

As if I only have a time limit with the Lord before He gets annoyed with me.

It crushed me to realize this.

Our Heavenly Father loves us and wants nothing more but to spend time with us.

I was angry to realize I had been putting the Lord in a category of regular humans who had rejected me.

In that prayer I just felt Him saying, “Slow Down. I’m Listening”.

I felt like a little girl who had scraped her knee, soon to get in trouble, so her only response was to quickly explain everything that that lead up to the injury.

But what kind of sense does that make? Would you punish your child for scraping her knee? The irrational fear of being pushed away for something I can’t control is something not only I struggle with, but several people I know and don’t know have bouts with it too. It almost makes me cringe to meet people with the same destructive habits as myself.

It’s hard to honestly believe at times, but God really does care about our anxious moments and the times we feel alone and the times we feel misplaced. I’m still trying to get it right myself, but be encouraged! God has placed His hand over me so many times with peace I couldn’t even understand. And it didn’t happen until I took the step to call out to Him. Allowing Him to love me through my fear ❤️

To God be the Glory