an introduction: behind the letters of ColorfullyEnthused *
God’s Vision for My Life*
~ to encourage, motivate, and uplift others
with my words, work, and smile
Well here it is, the promised introduction!
WHY?! >> Because, I believe, in order for any business to grow and thrive >> its customers, clients, and biggest fans must* understand its story, and know – trust – and stand behind its owner… And hey! That’s me!
Please know that I am not telling my story for either “applause” or a “woe is me” response to any of its bits and pieces, but rather hoping that my story can encourage you to 1) dig deep during your* times of despair, to truly DISCOVER the gifts that they may be leading you toward and 2) take time to invest in realizing the unique, energizing, and empowering vision that God has for your* life!
So here we go… let’s start with my instagram/facebook post that sparked the desire to tell you more. It had said the following:
“There is no higher calling you can have than to receive and TIRELESSLY PURSUE God’s unique* vision for YOU” >> WOWZERS. Now THAT* was a powerful half hour [The Power of a Half Hour by Tommy Barnett]. Okay, I don’t know where to begin but basically God’s been aligning the dominos to get me to this point – this point of CLEARLY SEEING His vision for my life. And not just seeing it — He’s shown me glimpses of it before — but SEEING IT!!! >> with Power, AND Clarity, AND Courage!!! It’s too long of a Great & Exciting story to share in an IG/FB post – but… There are so many of you who have recently started following me that don’t quite know me, so I’d say it’s time for an introduction. An introduction to the face, heart, and hands behind the letters! Stay posted — It’ll be posted THIS WEEKEND! Right now it’s time to get working on your orders!”
And here we are! So… “the alignment of dominos.” I wish I could give the credit to Tommy Barnett – as it was while I was reading his book, The Power of a Half Hour, when it clicked and triggered this POWER-filled moment of revelation. I wish I could give the credit to Stephanie Ackerman & Shanna Noel – as one of the reasons the revelation occurred when it did is because of Tommy’s words being paired with the Truths* I’ve been storing up in my heart during the study of these ladies’ devotional: Bloom. I wish I could give the credit to Carol McClure – as it was her counseling that led me out of the darkness & paralysis of anxiety and into The Light* of grabbing hold of my identity in Christ, and step-by-step, re-entering the peace & energy of doing life with God ((which in turn moved me toward Bible Journaling, the Bloom devotional, and Tommy’s book)). I wish I could stop and give the credit to these and say –IT WAS HERE. IT WAS THEM. MY LIFE CHANGED THEN. But the truth is… God is so much more intricate and powerful than what that would entail.
YES, He does change lives & reveal plans in mere, flashing moments. And YES, He does change lives & reveal plans through passing encounters with others. But – He’s also* capable of intimately designing each experience of your life in such a way that leads you to the revealing of His Will… step-by-step, at the pace in which He knows you* can handle, and through the means which He knows you* will best see, hear, feel, and follow. That’s how He decided to reveal His vision for me, to me. And, gosh. I’m blown away by the beauty of all of the unfolding and layering that my story beholds!
I’ll try to stay as linear as possible, in case you decide to use my story as a way to try to understand your own. But EEK – I can’t promise it’ll be as clear as I hope! Because again, there’s so much unfolding. layering. reversing. & re-doing. It’s been a journey. A journey that I’m so beyond-blessed and enthused* and humbled to claim as my own.
Tommy Barnett suggested reflecting on possible indications of God’s vision, that likely appeared at a young age. So here’s where my reflecting began…
>> Growing up, I literally spent every summer >> 1st grade through…. high school! << exchanging color-coded, quote-covered journals with my backdoor best friend, Jenny. We sometimes exchanged them multiple times within a single day, and spent MANY* days sitting side-by-side as we wrote to each other, decoratively. We still have those notes and journals – I really think, every single one. And reading them tells the story of our friendship – the highs & lows, the constancy, the ongoing encouragement, and the unconditional acceptance of one another. My favorite, favorite parts of these letters are 1) the obbbbbvious external prettiness of them! and 2) the real* beauty that’s found in the words of affirmation that we exchanged. The BEST* of those summer days were Wednesdays >> Swim Meet Days. And that’s because, on Wednesday afternoons, we never had any plans. We had to “rest” for the meet that evening – so we made the most of those hours: writing, doodling, and looking up encouraging quotes to share with each other :)
>> I was a weirdo. WAIT a minute. Back track… I still AM a weirdo ;-) But really… what KID went away to camp-after-camp-after-camp and CLAIMS with sincerity >> then, and still now << that THE BEST* part is the D-A-I-L-Y QUIET TIME. The time when NOBODY is allowed to talk, or even whisper. And the lights have to be dimmed. And counselors are napping. And most kids are tossing and turning and churning and anxiously waiting for the mere 30 minutes to end. Ahhhh (sigh) – I . WENT . TO . CAMP . FOR THOSE . daily* . 30 MINUTES . I absolutely, thoroughly embraced every single minute of them. During that time I’d read, underline, & highlight my Bible ((that I’d packed with a bag of writing utensils, of course)); journal; and write notes to friends and family. It was – LITERALLY – the best.
>> Those daily, quiet-time minutes at camp, transitioned into being my favorite* time at home. (Most) every night, I’d get ready for bed only to spend the next 20-30 minutes in devotional books, prayer journals, and my Bible. There were MANY* nights, I remember, when my mom would come in and say “Ash! I love that you love your quiet time, but you have GOT* to get to bed!” (( I think those were the only real* times I argued or disagreed with my mom! Over QUIET TIME! ))
>> Another favorite past-time, similar to days at camp, were days on vacation. Every spring break, and most summers, we went to Hilton Head. We’d spend all morning at the beach, eat lunch at the condo, and every evening we’d go to dinner, putt-putt, shop, and what-have you! But there, in-between lunch and dinner, we always had some downtime. Usually, Mom would stay out a little later at the beach ((as kids, we were tired and done with the salt & sand!)); Dad would maybe be vegging on the couch, sitting on the porch & staring at the golf course, listening to Phil Vassar on LOUD & repeat, or golfing; and my sister (Anne) always soaked in some good, looooong, screen-time; while I………. Did you guess it?! Yep… wrote to friends & family, journaled, prayed, and read my Bible. That was me. That was what I loved*
>> As you can imagine, I carried this with me to college. I was always up early, before my roommates and LONG* before class, to get in some quality quiet time with My God and my coffee :) And I even sustained a weekly goal, during my sophomore and junior years, of writing at least one letter a week. // Ahh, I want to get back to that! I guess, now, the IG community would call it “#happymail” that I engaged in so regularly ;-)
Anyway, you could say that maybe I loved* my “quiet-time” so much because my mom led a pretty FUN-PACKED* life for my family. Our days were pretty non-stop, and loud! But I believe that God had a much deeper purpose in those focused moments. He gave me a desire to engage in this regular quiet time… because of the purpose He had for me.
Motivational Speaking –
>> Another theme that initiated in my childhood was my love of motivational speaking. I was provided my first opportunity in 5th grade, when asked by the pastor of my family’s (large) church at the time (Reynoldsburg United Methodist Church) to share my testimony with the congregation. While many fifth graders would’ve become intimidated – I’m sure I had the normal stomach jitters myself – I remember feeling, overall, good. And not just good – but like… energized and excited and… fulfilled? Like some hole in my identity was just starting to fill.
>> Following that initial opportunity, I received several more requests/opportunities to speak publicly. My 7th grade class nominated me as one of the students to speak at our school’s traditional Heroes Ceremony; during my freshman year of college, my CRU leader asked me to speak at the yearly Women’s Retreat; upon completing my undergraduate degree, I applied and was appointed to speak in front of thousands at my graduation ceremony; after hearing that there was little desire among my peers, I volunteered and spoke at the familial ceremony that honored our earning of Masters degrees; and then a best friend requested that I pray aloud for her wedding and marriage on the night of her rehearsal dinner.
The thing is, public speaking is like THE #1 MOST DREADED FEAR among most people – but I… absolutely LOVE* it. I’m energized by it. I get excited for it. I was made to do it! (Now, don’t ask me to speak impromptu… that’s definitely not my forte – but I LOVE* the process of purposefully preparing and delivering a message that will hopefully move* and inspire* and encourage* the hearers).
Encouraging: Across settings, Of all ages –
>> The last – but not least! – constant theme in my life, that again started at an early age, has been my natural ability and desire to encourage people. I remember – (( the one other instance that triggered “arguments” with my mom! )) – I’d stay up late talking to friends on AOL’s instant messaging (- the pre-FB/IG “social media,” so-to-speak). But I’d always “win” the “argument” because she’d come in, see who I was talking to, and read what we were talking about and respond with: “Okay, well… finish up soon.” And the reason for it was because I was rarely chatting about day-to-day, teenage-life nonsense. Honestly! I was usually* encouraging a friend to make better choices, or break up with a boyfriend, or “hang in there” because their identity wasn’t determined by another girl’s approval, or even praying with a friend about the direction of their future, and/or leading a few of them to Christ. >> PUH-LEASE do not hoot and holler here – or, I know some of you are rolling your eyes and saying “Yeah, yeah whatever.” My point is merely this. I encouraged people, from the beginning.
>> In addition to the informal “AOL IM-ing” (haha!), my youth group leader asked me to lead a weekly, morning Bible study at my school in 8th grade – and then my pastor asked me to lead a girls’ small group in high school. Again… I loved* these things. Preparing “lessons” from The Word, vulnerably sharing my heart, and encouraging the hearts of my peers.
>> In a different scene, but using the same God-given skills and abilities, I taught swim lessons to people of all ages – from toddler to even adults! One of the greatest affirmations I’ve ever felt was when – as a high schooler – I transitioned an adult who was AFRAID of the water, into a SWIMMER! And some of my most fond memories come from coaching the summer league swim team that I had grown up on – year, after year – summer, after summer – during my summer breaks from high school and college. I thrived on encouraging children from 5 to 18 years of age to LOVE* the water, their teammates, and personal progress.
>> In college, I fell into several leadership opportunities. I was an RA (resident assistant), tutored peers with disabilities, became the coordinator of my university’s Office for Students with Disabilities, and was nominated president of a large on-campus organization called Student Alumni Ambassadors. Again – Please know that I do not* share these things with any ounce of haughtiness or pride, but rather… to illustrate that I’m constantly finding myself in positions that require – and nurture – my God-given gift of encouragement. It’s me. It’s what I was made to do.
In summary – – – > Discovering these themes of my life, that began in childhood, helped me to see CLEARLY that I was made to Write & Speak & BE* Encouragement.
Today’s Encouragement: Pause. Stop and reflect on your life. Think about your favorite* memories. What are the themes among them – what things do they have in common? What types of activities, interactions, and opportunities sparked your heart and ignited you to be the most complete YOU? What have you enjoyed doing, from the beginning? Reflecting on these is the start* of discovering God’s vision for your life! It’s the start* of living “colorfully enthused” days and embarking on a journey that was designed and prepared, specifically with YOU* in mind :)