I was around 15 years old. I had bought this yellow blouse with black roses swirled at different angles. “Hmm very elegant”, I thought, “Yet casual enough to be worn with skinny leg jeans.” I felt like a Queen in it. I was surely the bomb.com. And get this, this blouse was so beautiful to me that I vowed to never even wear it until my first date. Yea….I know lol. I had it placed on a velvet hanger at a specific end in my closet so that none of my other “not so worthy” apparel would ruin it. I marveled at it everyday. My mom told me I wasn’t allowed to go on a date until I was 16, so I was hopeful that in a few months that my most precious blouse would be put to use and I would be on that first magical date.

16 came.

And went.

No boy had asked me out yet. And honestly, I was devastated. That once beautiful blouse that I kept preserved was now a haunting reminder of the date I never went on.

Fairytales… or Reality

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I guess you can say I was a nerd in high school, and I don’t say that as a defecit to my social character. I was a really happy nerd honestly haha =] I had friends and I had fun with said friends. But my favorite place was the library. Talk about a world of possibilities!! I wasn’t reading Harry Potter or the other huge Bible sized novels. I was reading teenage high school romance novels of awkward girls miraculously, through the stumbles of falling books in the hallways, getting the attention of THAT guy. The one everyone wanted.

Okay, I definitely read other genres. I was a big fan of random facts about the world. But those were the books that captivated my attention the most.

Back to the awkward girl. That image of the least likely being chosen was fascinating to me! Goodness, it was almost addicting. Those books gave me hope that one day, I will be that girl that turned heads of the top tier attractive. I was convinced that once I turned 16 that everyone would know that the rule my mom gave me was expired and I was on the market.

When the reality set in that those were just fictional characters and made up stories, a deep sadness swept over me. How can I make what I read a reality?

I’ll Be Fine

There was a certain part of me that wanted to stand in the hallway and say “pick me!”. Then there was another part of me that said “Where is your dignity?”. Then there was another part of me that I hated to listen to, “The Lord has someone special for you.”

BOOOOOO

All terrible choices in my high school brain.

The Roaming Heart

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So which part of myself did I listen to? You guessed it. Neither voice. I settled for whatever attention came my way. I thought “some attention is better than none.”

And it didn’t matter if that attention was from social media (I had a myspace boyfriend yall, so embarrassing) , from guys I knew had no good intentions, from older men, etc. I had a roaming heart and I wanted to be chosen. I wanted someone to look at me and think, “Yep, you’re worth it.”

SKKKRRRRR. You hear that car wreck coming? Yeah, not a good set up to put your worth in men. Nothing good will come from it. Nothing good did come from it. Besides tears and heartache and confusion.

And I think the part that frustrated me the most was that most of these guys were guys who proclaimed to be Christian men. I was confused. But I didn’t realize at that time neither one of us had an actual relationship with the Lord, we were just church goers.

My self esteem was shot. I would win academic awards all the time, accolade after accolade, get invited to fancy dinners because of my accomplishments, and I was even  valedictorian of my high school class. But the craziest part of it all, I would have traded everything to say I had a boyfriend. Yeah it was bad. Crazy even.

Unexpected Solution

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You ever struggle with something so long that you literally accept this will be your daily fight until the end? I got to college and accepted the fact I would never feel complete if I did not have a boyfriend. I was extremely involved and had a lot of fun, but at the end of the day I was disappointed by the lack of interested guys texting or calling me.

Well fast forward, I eventually gave my life to Christ forreal this time December 2015, but I didn’t think much would change besides me going to heaven now (smh, sooooooooooooooooo much more God has for us) Let me tell you how I know God is real. I gave up EVERYTHING in my life that I did not think lined up with His word. I removed dance, parties, alcohol, hints of sexual immorality, music, and the list goes on (to clarify, I separated myself from these things to look into what the Lord said about them). I replaced these things with the study of His word, day and night. When I gave these things up to walk with the Lord, the desire disappeared. THE DESIRE DISAPPEARED. That longing for a boyfriend, a date, etc. , it vanished. Yall, I knew in that moment He was real. How was it that the feeling that loomed over and inside of me for years could leave with a snap of a finger. I felt full. I felt COMPLETE. I thought I was fooling myself to be honest. But this peace remained constant over me and I was able to look at female/male relationships so much more differently and analytically. I couldn’t believe it. Still pretty shocked.

It’s 2018 and I will not lie as if this battle does not try to peek its ugly head back in. The Lord is still carving things out of me and I still have to be intentional about what I speak over myself. Sometimes we fall into the trap of only doing what it takes to be delivered but not being faithful and walking out that deliverance. It’s not easy to believe that you’re fearfully and wonderfully made if for years you believed the opposite. But it’s POSSIBLE. How bad do you want to be free from your own mind? It looks different for everyone, but the bottom line is Jesus.

If you resonated with any of this and/or are dealing with these current feelings, talk to someone. This is hard, I know. But the other side of freedom is available for you.

To God be the Glory

2 years ago. If you would have put me in an empty room with a boombox, I swear I could have danced for hours. When I heard music, I saw movement instantly. Figures would began moving in my head. I could tell you if it was a solo, duet, group choreo; it was high key  AMAZING. I saw the moves, angles, formations, placements, visuals as if I was on the front row watching the show. I could dance all day. And that’s what I did. At one point of my college career, I was in three dance organizations. The co captain of a dance team, choreographer in another organization, and committed member in the last. I was maybe dancing at least 6 days a week. Along with a full load of classes. But dance was who I was. My passion. So I thought.

PARADIGM SHIFT IN 3..2..1..

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I gave the Lord complete reign over my life at the end of 2015. How I saw the world, our world, shifted. It was like a backdrop was torn in half and what was really happening behind the scenes was revealed. I had to know more. I was thirsty for truth. I needed to know that I was living my life “right”, and I use that word in quotation marks because…well…you’ll see why later.

Imagine this. There’s a big test you have to take in 24 hours. You have not studied at all. This test literally determines your future. And others’ around you. What are you going to do?

Most would say study. (I’m with ya pal). If you didn’t say study, umm, just come along with me.

If you’re studying, you remove all distractions in order to focus because the human race is depending on you,  right? Get alone. Silence the TV, Dre Beats, etc. Stop doing anything that doesn’t glorify the Lord.

Wait whet?

Ohhhh yeaaaa see that was added because that’s what I did. My dance life, in my opinion, in no way glorified the Lord and was a distraction to this new truth seeking process.

LORD GOOD. ARTS BAD.

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It just so happened that a lot of things I liked, according to YouTube (lol), was the devil’s playground. Goodness Ash, what is wrong with you.

I felt like my by-default sinful nature had ran rampant and no part of me was good. Anything after that 2015 point that I was naturally drawn to must be destroyed or silenced. My passion for the arts was on that list.

Okay wait Ash, what about praise dance?? Reenactments of Jesus’ life during Christmas?? Poetry about the Lord??  

Calm down people let me finish my post (haha).

I was not involved in any of that. I did mostly hip hop dance, some african here and there, and made a point to learn other styles. And I danced to some very raunchy music, but my argument was that I just enjoyed the beat.

It wasn’t just dance I turned my face away from, but any form of expression that did not outwardly say “Jesus is Lord, You are my universe”, I could NOT get with AT ALL. I stopped going to plays. I stopped watching movies. I stopped watching Spongebob LOL. I stopped listening to music, but the same 10 songs on repeat. Hopefully you’re getting the picture of how drastic of measures I was taking.

Side Note: Any new believers out there reading this? Stay away from YouTube. Until you are confident in the Lord’s voice, stay away from YouTube please. Thank me later lol

Anywhooooo

I felt…guilty. About everything I enjoyed. So to prove to the Lord He was really first in my life, I stopped everything. I wanted to align my desires with His as the scriptures would say. I felt the weight of the world in a sense that I needed to be perfect in order to reach the lost souls/ free of all worries because truth had come to realization in my life and I was satisfied.

MISINTERPRETATION 

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It went from silencing all distractions to get closer to the Lord to the process being translated into all dance was not good and any form of expression for any purpose other than glorifying Jesus was of Satan. That’s. It. And I still believe this statement, just in a much different way now. But that is another post. I became very judgmental as you would imagine and pretty close minded. I had completely lost the urge to dance again.

But one day I heard the song Oceans by Hillsong. This was probably in March or May of 2016, I really can’t remember. Just know that I was extra late on knowing who Hillsong even was.

I listened through my earphones while walking to get something to eat and I stopped in my tracks. That was the first song I had heard in months that ever made me feel like dancing again. I instantly saw the images moving in my mind again and this feeling started flowing through me. After I heard the song and basically saw a routine in my head, I honestly thought I was losing it. I pressed play again and the same thing happened. I thought it had left. That feeling of wanting to move. I was confused.

I wanted to cry. I thought I had messed something up and not prayed hard enough. I needed to pray harder so that this internal battle wouldn’t consume me. I tried to keep myself away from listening to that song, but I could not. I played it over and over and over and everytime that feeling did not fail to return. What is happening Lord? Why have you put me in a body determined to reject what is right?

UNDERSTANDING

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After long nights of prayer, it had become apparent that my interpretation was obviously a little off. Dance was a gift that the Lord had bestowed upon me. I was not to abandon it, but seek the Lord on how to go about using it. And all of the other forms of art I used to express myself in. The Lord had given me all of these gifts for the glory of His Kingdom. But in the legalistic manner I had taken with it, it was not the point I thought He was trying to express to me.

There have been a couple of times I have performed since then. I can’t even explain the euphoric feeling that goes through my veins on stage or the joy when I am one with a song. ESPECIALLY since it has been done for the glory of my Father.

I’ll be honest. I still can’t tell you I know completely what I am doing. And even in September of 2017, I battle with the idea of dance in my life even though it flows so naturally through my being. I can’t tell you if this particular artist is really of God or has strayed completely. I can’t tell you if rated R movies will send you to Hell or give you a clearer picture of how perfect our Father really is. I am in an in-between place in my life right now, but I can assure you I follow the sweet Holy Spirit that never fails me even when flesh Ashley is confused.

If I didn’t have a relationship with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, I would definitely still have the Lord in that box I wanted Him to stay in. Knowing that the Lord is truly limitless, I can put no restraints on His will or how He sees fit to make the world turn. All I know is that through my time of being near Him, He is one who wants the best for His children, even if it means being in uncomfortable places for a season.

To God be the Glory

Growing up, you had those friends who would always smother people with hugs, strangers or not. These friends would go out of their own way to touch you and let you know how much you meant to them. “I love you” rolled off of their lips just as easy as the next breath. And if we’re being honest, these people are still the same way today lol.

It is fair to say that we put these people in the “affectionate” category.

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But then you have those friends who just didn’t like to be touched or loved on at all. Rarely do they ever show too many signs of emotions either. It had to be a big deal, such as graduations, someone leaving for a while, those sorts of things. It is done when it really means something to the other party.

We put them in the “unaffectionate” category.

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My category. Or shall I say, former but most familiar with category.

If you have been keeping up with my posts, you can concur that I am a pretty friendly person, social, talkative, and love getting to know people. So how is it that someone so social did not enjoy being touched or loved on by others?

If you don’t deal with it, it will deal with you. The IT ladies and gentlemen isssssss…..INSECURITY! I know I bring this up a lot, but I am a living testimony of how insecurities and low self-esteem will blind you and make you think something is there, that is not. The two things that I am typing with right now, the two things you’re using to hold your phone, is something I have hated about myself for a long time. My hands.

Wait, did I read that right? The girl don’t like her own hands?

YES, you read it right unfortunately, and NO, I did not like my hands for a very long time. The size of them. The fact they would get sweaty when someone held them for too long. The fact I was labelled as “heavy handed” when I really tried to be gentle. These hands have broken so many things growing up. They have accidentally hurt people close to me.

Ok, so it’s okay to laugh now. I know I’m describing myself as Godzilla or something, but that is what I felt like. A monster with these huge things.

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Let me remind you of who I am. 5’10” plus size female. My father is 6’4” , played basketball, and as you would guess had very large hands and feet. Guess who inherited those things from their dad =]

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I am not sure why, but it was always a thing for my peers growing up to measure their hands against other people’s hands. I quickly noticed that girls were associated with smaller hands and feet and men were associated with larger hands and feet. Whenever anyone randomly wanted to measure their hands to mine, I snatched my hands away, folded my arms and made up some excuse of “Ion know where yo hands been??!” or “Personal space, please??”. This usually made them back off for a while. I just got tired of hearing the gasps of people watching to see that my hand was the same size or even bigger than some of the boys’ hands in the class.

MY SHAME GOT REALLY BAD..

I remember in class we were doing popcorn reading with one of our assigned books. I was probably in 9th grade at the time. It was a book discussing the descendants of slaves in Mississippi and this particular scene was about the family’s grandmother who cooked everything. Before I would have to read anything out loud in class, I preferred to skim over it so that everything would flow out naturally. I was so annoying haha. But my part happened to be the portion of the author describing the grandmother’s characteristics, including her big and rough hands from always peeling food and doing hard labor.

I froze.

What if they laugh? What if they look at my hands and think that was the perfect description of me?

Yea it was bad. I switched my paragraph with a friend to avoid embarrassment.

Even if a boy liked me and tried to touch me, I would do anything to distract him from holding my hand.

I feared that a boy would stop liking me because I was man-lier than he had previously assumed.

Sounds ridiculous and extreme, but it was the truth.

FAST FORWARD TO COLLEGE..

I was pretty comfortable with myself, but I had made it up in my mind long ago that I would not be forward with affection so that I could avoid rejection. At the time, I really didn’t know that that’s what my body was doing. I thought I was just wired to love through words and not the physical.

THEN WHEN I ACCEPTED CHRIST TO REIGN AS COMPLETE AUTHORITY IN MY LIFE….

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It felt like another person was released through me. IT WAS SO HARD NOT TO HUG PEOPLE. What was happening?!! Ashley was now giving people hugs, telling them she loved them, and just all other crazy affectionate things. Seriously, you can ask my friends haha. The affection that I was trying to suppress all of those years had no choice but to burst forth when I accepted the Lord’s love for me. In Him, I felt/still feel accepted and loved completely as I am. So it did not matter who rejected my affection from that point on. I knew that they were simply shying away from what/who was in me. I didn’t take it personal anymore. But the process of truly submitting all of my life to Christ transformed me. Being stand offish was no longer my defense mechanism. It felt good to finally show people love and allow people to love me. I relinquished control and let the Lord show His love through me. Although the devil intended for me to stay in this bondage of hate for my hands, the Lord placed His hand on my life and broke chains I didn’t even know existed. “I love you” is no longer taboo for me. I thank God that I am not the same person. Do I still have times when insecurities flare up? Sure I do. But I am a witness at how His love can change your direction and make you see yourself towards how He created you to be. Fearfully and wonderfully made.

To God be the Glory