A Life Overflowing

DSCN7529Drift Creek Falls – November 4, 2016

The love of God is amazing! It lasts forever, and it is deeper and stronger than any human can fully experience on this earth. Growing up in the faith, I learned that God’s love for all of us is so complete that He sent His Son Jesus here to live, teach and then die on the cross to take the punishment for our sins (Romans 5:8). Then He rose again so that we could have new life – a life overflowing with the love of God.

When I was 13 years old, I believed that for myself and began to follow Christ. However, with so much of my emotions muted or trapped behind an inner wall, my experience of God’s love was also limited. There were faint glimpses, often only during the safety of quiet times with Him. Thankfully, that has changed.

Here’s a poem I wrote about the love of God:

“God Is Love”

In all my failings
God is patient
In all my fears
God is faithful
In all my desires
God is complete
In all my calm memories
God is consistent
In everything I receive
God’s fingerprints are on it
In all my accomplishments
God gets the glory
In all my hasty actions
God still moves slow.
In my impatience
God reminds me
Life is short
Eternity is long.
In my selfishness
I forgot
God is love
and others don’t know
God loves them
just as much.

©Ladeena Ashley

Bearing Fruit

I’ve been slowly reading through a devotional book entitled “Abiding In Christ”. The latest segment speaks about bearing fruit, and how the purpose of each Christian is to bear fruit in serving others, by God’s power and to His glory. The main driving force is always faith expressing itself through love (Galatians 5:6), living to joyfully serve Him in all we do.

I got to thinking: In my own life and walk, have I been more than a “clanging cymbal” (1 Corinthians 13:1), just doing what is right or what is expected, but not from a place of deep love? Being kind, colorblind and non-judgmental is great, but it is a shallow substitute for the selfless love that God calls us to share. Thankfully, by His grace God works with me, as He does with everyone who humbly looks to Him. The Lord uses us right where we are, if we let Him. In all my weaknesses, God is truly my strength (2 Corinthians 12:9), and He helps me grow and improve every day. As I’ve experienced God’s love more powerfully in my own life, His love overflows more freely to bless others.

God Sighting

Recently I stopped at a yard sale. It was nearing five o’clock, so as I browsed, the homeowners chatted with me, asking if I could use this or that for cheap. A few minutes later, as I began pawing through some clothing, they said I might as well just take whatever clothes I wanted because it was all headed to Goodwill. Without a second thought, I told them that I volunteer at Simonka House women and children’s shelter, and they could definitely use the clothes. Intrigued and excited, the family asked about the shelter, and then began asking what else the shelter could use. Before long, the family had eagerly helped me fill my entire car with clothes, luggage sets, bedding and children’s items. They said their kids would be especially happy knowing that their unwanted things would be a blessing to other kids! The ladies at Simonka House were very happy to receive such a generous donation, and it was also an incredible feeling for me!

If I hadn’t spoken up, those blessings would not have been passed along in such a meaningful way. As the Spirit works behind the scenes, it is becoming more natural for me to reach out of myself to care more deeply, to be more empathetic, and to be more engaged with others. As long as I remain pliable to the Lord’s direction, He faithfully leads me step by step, in preparation for whatever He’s got planned next. I have to say, it’s been awesome so far!

How about you?

If you know the love of Christ, pray for opportunities to share His love, and stay open to His leading.
If you used to know His love, it’s not too late! Turn back to God with an honest heart. He will forgive and transform you!

Faith Notes

One of my favorite songs is Your Love by Brandon Heath
(Note: Link opens up in a new window.)
God’s love meets us where we are and fills our deepest need! Once we’ve experienced His love, we can’t help but share it with others!

“… God is love. This is how God showed His love among us: He sent His one and only Son into the world that we might live through Him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” 1 John 4:8b-11

Extra Credit

Colossians 1:3-14

Blessings to you, this day and always!

©Ladeena Ashley
2017 All Rights Reserved (blog content and photos)

Reflections of Growth

Camera at the ready, I meandered through a nearby park the other day and caught this unique shot of a tree.

My immediate thought, besides how cool it was that its reflection fit so neatly into the sizable puddle covering the pathway below, was the phrase “reflections of growth”.  I thought to myself that it’s good to pause every once in a while to take stock of the positive changes, growth and blessings in our lives.

A long time ago, in a moment of repose beneath a similar tree, I contemplated how complex and messy life is, yet joyfully remembered in Whom my life is rooted:

“The Growing Place”

Tangled, messy
Crazy mass of limbs and branches
Reaching out
in all directions.
Yet all is in order.
Connected to a central support.
Origin of creation.
The growing place
Stronger, knowing
even in perfect chaos
God holds my life together.

© Ladeena Ashley

Patterns of Blessings
Whenever we’re tempted to be discouraged about the future, the best thing to do is look at the patterns of blessings in the past. Not only to reflect on how far we’ve come and how much we’ve grown, but more importantly how God has shown Himself faithful time and time again. It’s so encouraging and easier for me to look forward with hope when I recall the various yet specific ways the Lord has blessed, nudged and otherwise spoken powerfully into my life as I sought His will above my own. Those patterns also give clues to how God may direct me through situations to come.

You can likely recall answers to prayers, uncommon strength in hard times and other pivotal moments in your own life when God was there for you, both in mighty ways and in gentle whispers. Yet it’s not always easy to recognize His presence, especially in the “perfect chaos” of our lives. That’s why it’s important to pause and count all those blessings, especially the hidden ones we miss while in the tangled branches, thickets and thorny times of life. As each gift is uncovered, a contagious joy and hope grows anew as we remember God’s faithfulness.

When we remain rooted in God and His love as our central support, staying grounded in His Word with grateful hearts, we will keep right on growing in grace by His power. In fact, we will never stop learning and improving until the day He calls us home.

Final Reflections
Reflect on what God has done in and through you.
Reflect on His faithfulness and love.
Reflect that joy and love into the world.

Make the most of every puddle!

“I pray that out of His glorious riches He may strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge – that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Ephesians 3:16-19

Blessings to you, this day and always!

©Ladeena Ashley
2017 All Rights Reserved (blog content and photo)

Accentuate the Positives!


After reading a blog post that a friend of mine published recently regarding taking offense too easily, it got me wondering: What’s the difference between being offended versus disagreeing? I hadn’t pondered that question until recently, because honestly, I hadn’t allowed myself to be offended by much of anything.

Keep the Peace

While growing up I learned to let things slide in order to keep the peace with my father. My survival mechanism was to focus on the positive attention (gifts) while ignoring or placating the negative. My father’s actions didn’t always make sense, and many times his words were hurtful. So I gleaned what good there was in situations, and mostly just stayed out of his way. This approach actually served me well, at least until I was a teenager; then it converted to being defensive. But that’s another story.

It took me a long time to realize that I viewed God similarly to my earthly father, although in a much different light: He is God and I am not; He will do whatever He wants, I will adjust, and it’s okay. The BIG difference is that I trust that God truly knows what’s best and His plans for me are good (Jeremiah 29:11). My Heavenly Father was there for me when my earthly father wasn’t. That I could trust God so implicitly from a young age is something for which I am immensely grateful. My life could have easily gone the way of bitterness. Instead, the reassurance of His faithful love is obvious in the many poems He’s inspired me to write over the years.

Offense vs. Disagreement

So, back to the subject of perceived offenses. Due to my upbringing, taking offense didn’t make much sense to me. However, in recent times, stronger emotions have emerged, bringing internal reactions I’m not used to or prepared for. But the question remains: am I actually personally offended, or am I simply not happy about or disagree with whatever it is? Thankfully, my reactions lean more toward dismay than anger.

Take the hullabaloo surrounding kneeling during the national anthem. Does that offend me? Well, they aren’t doing it to me personally, they’re simply trying to make a statement in order to raise awareness. So, no, it’s more that I don’t agree with their methods. Personally I think it’s silly to kneel and point fingers at the problem instead of actually going out and doing something about it. Unless you’re kneeling to pray with those with whom you have the problem. That might accomplish something.

The Real Battle

In fact, no amount of debating, finger-wagging, hypothesizing or protesting will do any good. It will only widen the divisions between us. We have to stop fighting each other and fight the real battle: the one for our souls. The enemy would like nothing more than to keep us distracted, up in arms about everything and nothing, and at each others’ throats about what we think is right. He laughs with evil glee every time we reply with a retort or say something negative instead of sharing God’s love.

Indeed, this country has lost its collective mind because we’ve lost our hearts; lost our first love. Love is the only answer for a world gone mad. Not the self-centered love of the world, but the self-sacrificing love of God. If we ever hope to effect change in the world, we must stand united in humble but fervent prayer to the One who can direct the hearts of kings like streams of water through His hands (Proverbs 21:1) and heal our land if we humble ourselves and turn from seeking our own way (2 Chronicles 7:14).

Make A Difference

So let’s all accentuate the positives! Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good (Romans 12:21). Instead of focusing on what’s wrong in the world, set aside the gauntlet and lift up those in need. Take steps to love others as God loves you and do good in His name. Smile at people. Open doors for people. Pay blessings forward by giving to others who have less than you. Join or start a group that focuses on serving people. Above all, PRAY! Pray with and for people, and watch God move! Make a difference by being a bright and positive light in the dark places. The need is huge, and the call is daunting, but prayers do make a difference, if only in your corner of the world. Yet the positive ripples will extend far beyond anything you can imagine.

Who’s with me?

One of my favorite songs from Danny Gokey is Love Will Take You Places.
It speaks of the sacrificial, selfless love of Christ that leads us through great adventures as we follow Him and share His love with the world!
(Note: Link will open in new window.)

Extra Credit

My favorite Bible chapter is Romans 12, because it pretty much encapsulates how we should live as followers of Christ. I highly recommend reading it often, and committing at least parts of it to memory.

©Ladeena Ashley
2016 All Rights Reserved (content & photos)