Reblog: It Takes Losing What You Were Settling For To Remember What You Deserve

I think it’s a natural occurrence to look back on your life and marvel at the changes over the years. Though there may be some changes you would like to reroute to their original path, most changes have probably been for the better. It is normal to want to strive to be better and do better and become better in all areas of your life. Some may argue that is the very concept of humanity — to grow into our own perspective of better with every passing year.

With that in mind, I was perusing one of my favorite sites to pass the time and came across an article by Raina Naim who discusses how loss can change us for the better. If you’re someone who has been following my blog over the years, this is one of my key beliefs also. I am a firm believer that when you lose something it is only because something better is about to take it’s place. I know of a few friends out there who need to hear this message, and Raina says it beautifully…


It takes loss to make us realize what we deserve.

It takes heartbreak to make us realize the kind of love we want.

And it takes falling in love with the wrong person to make us realize who’s really right for us.

It takes losing what we had to realize that it wasn’t what we really wanted or needed. It takes losing things to realize that we can do better. We’re destined for greater things. We’re meant to be with better people. We don’t deserve pain. We don’t deserve to suffer. We don’t deserve to settle.

Many things in life make us settle for things we don’t deserve. Maybe it’s loneliness, maybe it’s a lack of self-love, maybe it’s peer pressure, maybe it’s family traditions. It can be a lot of things we’re unaware of doing but we’re just conditioned to be a certain way or do certain things that we frankly don’t know why we’re doing it or who we’re trying to please.

Which is why losing things is the best wake-up call. It’s the beginning of you transforming your life. It’s the beginning of your self-awareness and your soul-searching journey to unlearn everything you’ve ever been told and listen to your own voice.

It takes losing people to find yourself.

We sometimes eat lies when our hearts are hungry. We believe that mediocre things are the best. We hold on to people who don’t respect us. We tell ourselves the lies we want to hear as we bury the truth because we just don’t want to live that kind of reality. We don’t want to wait another month or another year. We don’t want to start over. We focus so much on what we want that we end up forgetting what we deserve.

We sometimes spend our lives fighting for people who only hurt us and disappoint us. We fight for people who don’t fight for us. We fight for people who break our hearts because we think we’ll never find that feeling again or this chemistry or this vibe again. But it’s only when you fight just as hard to let go that you realize you deserve more. You deserve better. You deserve someone who doesn’t break your heart and call it love.

It took me a few years to get over certain losses in my life but when I look back now, I realize that every loss brought me closer to finding myself. Every loss taught me what I truly deserved. Every loss reminded me that there’s something greater to be gained.

Written by Rania Naim on February 8, 2019. Find the original post here.


There is nothing better than losing some and gaining more, friends. Looking back, my life has been full of little losses than have resulted in my greatest blessings. Even the “big” losses grew bigger than have imagined! I would not trade any of my past tears, grief, or heartache for happy moments because they’ve brought me to where I am right now… and that’s a pretty amazing life to live now.

All the best,

Saying Yes & Following The Path Of Fulfillment

I have been struggling lately. I have been struggling with the question, “Who am I?” There are so many possible labels: a wife, a friend, a Christian, an advocate, a member of my community, a woman, a dreamer, a runner, an organizer, a finance assistant, a blogger. Yet when I consider those labels, I don’t feel I embody any of them completely. I have this unrelenting  want to add the word “BETTER” before each title. I want to be a better wife, a better friend, a better Christian, etc. All at once. All together. All to perfection. And as I wonder about who I am, I begin to feel overwhelmed with disappointment at my elusive potential.

That is where my biggest struggle lies: in the want to be “better” than how I perceive myself. Focusing on that want which seems so unfathomable, unapproachable, and unreachable, I recognize I am viewing my life from the base of a gigantic mountain. I can see multiple trails I could claim as my path, each with a directional sign reading who I yearn to be. Yet I feel if I choose one path, then the others will go unaltered. Never being explored, never being grown, never being conquered.

Smarter hikers than I would venture down a path to see where it leads and then retrace their footsteps to explore another trail. Stronger hikers than I would choose one path, complete it, and return to the beginning to begin anew. Not me though. I want to take all the paths at once without giving any specific label up. All or nothing is what I felt was necessary to give my life meaning and purpose.

I found myself praying at this multi-directional trail head for weeks. How could I be a better wife while simultaneously attempting to be a better friend and a better runner and a better active member of my community? There did not seem to be enough minutes in the day or energy in my body to keep up with everything necessary to make me into the person I felt I needed to be.

Then Sunday happened.

It amazes me in the ways God can speak to me. He either gives subtle nods that have me constantly second guessing if I’m reading the signs correctly or He drops something so obvious into my lap that I’m left dazed at my own ignorance.

Sunday’s sermon was that mountain being dropped onto my head, dazing and enlightening me into shame of my own stupidity.

A guest pastor gave the sermon. He was a director at Life Action Ministries, an organization that believes in calling people to authentic Christianity in order for the gospel to shine brightly out of lives transformed by God’s presence and power. He spoke about the brokenness of our world and the effects of sin on society. He talked about renewing our spirits to revive not only ourselves, but the world as a whole. And his method of doing this was by saying “YES!” to God every single day.

The sermon as a whole was specifically aimed towards saying “Yes” to God when it came to our faith and spiritual well-being. This pastor spoke on topics of selling ourselves short when it came to being followers of Jesus and how our actions today effect a number of outcomes tomorrow. Spiritually, I needed to hear this message because I am constantly worrying if I am a good enough Daughter of Christ.

However, the message hit me in all aspects of my life.

I began to see my life as a series of Yes’s and No’s. Sometimes I chose to say Yes to a path of my own and rely on myself to not trip on the obstacles along the way. Yet looking back, I know that when I chose to say Yes to the paths God directed me towards is when my life truly flourished. My best Yes’s were those where God led me!

One prime example of these differences in Yes’s were when I was led out of my pre-House lifestyle. House, as some of you may remember, is my young adults Bible study group. Prior to House, I had focused mainly on drowning my unhappiness with late nights and a careless attitude, dating the wrong people because I lacked knowledge in what I deserved, and caring more for earthly matters than my eternal soul. I sought pity. I sought relevance. I sought anything than what I had been taught through my Christian upbringing truly mattered. I was choosing to say Yes to an overgrown, boulder-strewn trail. I didn’t like who I was becoming, but the thought of turning off-course to a path of revival was scary. I felt I would be heading into that unknown alone, and I knew there were a lot of burning bridges to be mended before I could make it to the summit.

When the time came that I finally realized I no longer had the strength and endurance to cut my way through the briers of my own path, I turned to God. I knew I needed to go down the path of revival, but I also knew I couldn’t lead myself. Life Action puts the Path of Revival in good terms: my first step was to find humility. Then honesty, repentance, forgiveness, and obedience. None of these were easy obstacles on my own, but by saying Yes to God and His leadership, I began my journey.

And following God brought me to a beautiful clearing of my life.

I earned friendships with the most honest and supportive people imaginable. I went through many trials that ultimately grew me into a stronger and wiser individual. I faltered many times, turning back and looking at the path I once walked, but I never turned to salt. Instead, I might trip and scrape my knee, but I picked myself up and endured the pain until finally the summit of that stage in my life was reached.

Nonetheless, the mountain continued ahead, and life went on. I hadn’t reached the end. Instead I was given the option of continuing to say Yes to hiking up my current course or choosing another path. Free will is a gift from God, after all, and the choice was mine to make.

In the same way, sometimes I said No to paths I knew were the Godly direction and chose to go my own selfish way. And though those No’s brought a lot of growth and wisdom through life lessons, they also brought a lot of hurt and sorrow.

One such No was when I wanted to keep walking my current course, but there was clearly a blockade in the trail. God kept subtly giving me signs, but I shook my head No at Him and continued up anyways. I was in a floundering relationship where I provided support with hardly any in return. The trail I was attempting to climb was turning to sand and washing away under my feet, but I fought to move forward still. There were no tree branches to help pull me upward, there was no covering to protect me from the headwinds. I kept saying No to the signs God was handing me and instead tried to force love and adoration and respect into a relationship that never was bound to have those emotions reciprocated. I gave more and more of my heart until I had no more to give, and I came tumbling down the mountainside when the rainstorms finally gathered and let loose.

It’s amazing how when you allow people to make more withdrawals than deposits into your life, how out of balance you will find yourself. You get to a negative space and you’re not sure how to “close the account.”

For me, when that unhealthy relationship ended, I found myself knocked out of breath from the avalanche. My heart was hardened from the fall. My happiness and willingness to listen to God ceased. My negativity was at an all-time high when I was at an all-time low. I felt isolated in my situation, feeling heavy emotions of depression and hatred for everyone involved. I chose to be a victim of the mountain, and I blamed everyone involved including God.

But He wasn’t who led me on that path, was He? No, I had chosen not to abide by His clear signs stating “Trail Closed Ahead” and wandered forward on my own. Looking back, it is so clear the paths He meant for me to follow instead. I stuck to my own crummy intuition though. I made excuses. I tried to convince myself the path was not as bad as it really was.

After the tumble down, I tried to shake myself off. I tried to be strong on my own. I defiantly began climbing a path of Self-Yes. I clung to other unhealthy relationships like a lifeline, I relied on pills and drinks to numb the pain, and I made decisions unfamiliar with my character for the sole purpose to hurt those who hurt me. I wanted to do what I wanted to do, and my situation became worse due to my own leadership. My life became a dark, sunless void as I went further and further into the forested hills that I was creating for myself.

It wasn’t until I turned back to God that my life made a drastic change. (Surprising, right? If only I had remembered my lessons from previous “No Times” as well.) As I said No to my selfish path and Yes to God’s directions, I began to find rays of sunshine again. A light through the treetops showed roots to step over so I wouldn’t trip. A clearing brought warmness and happiness and laughter. The forest was dying away and I could see the next summit for which I was aiming. It was obvious that following God meant a life full of love and contentment.

And so I continued to say Yes to Him.

Life was great, and I believed the reason wholeheartedly was relying on God to direct me. I centered my life on Philippians 4:8:

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think about such things.

By taking the examples of what a God-pleasing life entailed, I attempted to live by this passage in my thoughts, words, and actions. And I found peace.

I know that if I had chosen to say No to reconciling with God, I would not be where I am today. God not only led me to a healthy and complete relationship with G, but he led me to stronger relationships with my family and friends. I was able to see those who were meant to be a part of my life and why I needed to close the accounts with others. My career flourished, my other responsibilities and hobbies blossomed, and I found contentment in the person I was. I loved myself and I was eager for the future God had awaiting me.

Transitional periods are tough though. I reached the summit of that beautiful hike on my wedding day. Since then I have found myself again struggling with my image.

Who am I?

I’m now a wife, but I find struggle in claiming that as my only label. As someone who once was overwhelmed with all her hats being juggled, that addiction is a hard thing to break. I sometimes find myself feeling guilty that I have “down time.” I knock myself for not jumping to return text messages to friends. I put myself down for not writing a blog post every day or allowing my workouts to go by the wayside. I want to be a great wife, but I also want to be a great blogger and runner and friend and, and, and…

It took the sermon on Sunday to remind me that maybe that’s the problem though — struggling with perfection rather than stopping to listen my Lord. Maybe I am confusing fulfillment in my life’s goals with contentment of the here and now.

I think it is time to readjust how I view myself and glorify God in all He has provided me.

Let me be honest with you, I had a breakdown a few weeks ago where I questioned what my purpose was outside of being a wife. I had put so much focus on preparing for marriage before the wedding that all other hobbies and past times were thrown to the curb. Now that life has gotten back into a routine, though, I realized I missed having things to do aside from making dinners and cleaning the house. Not that I feel any of my wifely roles are beneath me or not valuable, but because I feel I need to juggle more responsibilities to be valued in other areas of my community other than just my home.

I want to be relevant to more than just my family and friends. I want to be relevant to the world.

This is not something I believe is uncommon for a newlywed. After the excitement of the wedding, there are the slow times when you are attempting to distinguish your new self. While focusing on being the best spouse possible, you also want to remain an individual. I don’t think that want is a terrible thing, but I do realize it is not always inline with Godly ventures.

Sometimes a person falters as a newlywed by shifting too far to one side or the other. You may focus solely on being a spouse and lose yourself and the plan God has for you. Or you may focus too much on remaining an individual and not put in the effort necessary for a functional and lasting, God-pleasing marriage.

The key is to find a balance.

After Sunday’s sermon I realized that I am not reaching that balance and that I am selling myself short.

Who says I am not a good wife? Who says I am not a good friend? Who says I am not good in any of my roles except for my own sinful mind?

God led me to where I am today. He led me into my role as a wife, and He also led me into the role of being a finance assistant and a lifestyle blogger and a cancer awareness advocate.

In the same way, there were roles He told me to step down from because He knew I was becoming overwhelmed, tired, and distracted. Being the person I am, quitting anything, even for the sake of my health, is giving up. I disappoint myself by backing away. But God told me No for some responsibilities I felt compelled to complete. And it was when I listened to Him that my life was revived.

The roles I have in my life have continuously been rejuvenated. I excel, I receive praise, and I get promoted. Sometimes it is like a light is switched on in those areas, and I could trek full-steam ahead into unknown territories without any fear. And it seemed that even when I was hiking down one path, the others I simultaneously needed to focus on interwove with my current track. As I hiked the “wife path” those of friend, Christian, advocate, and others joined the route of my next big expedition.

So why should I not listen now to all the Yes’s He has before me? Why am I struggling with my current roles and wishing for even more to cascade down onto me? Why should I not strive to find fulfillment where I am so that I am prepared for what He has coming around the bend?

Today I say I will.

I say Yes to what is before me and I say Yes to being content with who I am right here, right now.

I choose to say Yes to God in performing my current duties to impact myself and others in a positive way. I choose to say Yes to God in finding fulfillment with who I am right here, right now. I choose to say Yes to God for the plans he has ahead of me and to lead me to the best outcomes possible in an unknown future.

I choose to say Yes in loving where I am and who I am right now, and trusting in God to mold me into a better version of myself each and every day. His purpose comes first, and everything will fall perfectly into place as I move forward in His peace.

Climb the mountain, not to plant your flag but to embrace the challenge, enjoy the air, and behold the view. Climb it so you can see the world, not so the world can see you.

For those interested, here is the sermon as a whole for those who would like to witness this powerful message also:

Happy hiking, my friends, 

Advice To Myself At 18-Years-Old

Last Friday G and I were leaving the county clerk’s office to apply for our marriage license when we ran into one of my high school teachers. Even though I graduated eight years ago (O.M.G. has it truly been that long ago?!) we recognized one another right away. Partly due to me working for him at summer camp for several years, but also because I come from a high school boasting an average of 30 graduating students each year. In other words, there aren’t that many students to forget.

After a bit of catching up, I asked him how his school year had gone and how many more days until summer break. I don’t keep up with my old high school so I was surprised to hear the senior class would be graduating the next day. The whole encounter had me vaguely reminiscing on the past and all the changes which have happened since I stood on the stage myself in my cap and gown.

Then today my Facebook’s daily memory was of my graduation. Looking through my FB photo album of that day in 2010 had so many memories flowing.  I could recall the feelings on that day: the fears of the future, the thrill of college looming, the excitement of my first summer as an “adult.” It was like looking into the life of a stranger. There have been many lessons learned since that day. So many experiences have brought me to where I am today and molded me into this 26-year-old Ashley.

The memories continued as I was lazily scrolling one of my nightly go-to apps and came across a great question posted by RobbeVermont. The user asked,  “What is something you wished you knew when you were 18 years old?” And as I read through the vast majority of the 10,800+ comments I realized so many of the life advice being provided were 110% on the money. Pulling all three discoveries together — the run-in with my teacher, the flashback of my graduation, and this Reddit question — I started listing a few key topics I wished I’d known upon leaving high school and considered what difference hearing that advice as an 18-year-old would have made. Perhaps none, but then again, maybe some…

You’re going to make mistakes, and that is okay.

Mistakes are a daily way of life for everyone whether they want to fess or not. Every day you are going to make a decision that may or may not work out in the way you intended. You might hurt someone’s feelings or say something without thinking or forget an important to-do item that causes stress to you or someone or something further down the line of time. The only daily guarantee is that every single person on this planet is not omniscient when it comes to how Life works.

This can be a humbling thought: that no matter how much experience or knowledge you receive, there will always be something you know nothing about. However, this can also be empowering. Use your lack of skill to better yourself, better those around you, and better the world. Making mistakes teaches you a new lesson every single time. Don’t get down on yourself for not being perfect because no one in this world is! Learning and teaching is an ongoing struggle, so throw yourself into the fight.

Apply yourself in the present and let the future worry about itself (especially if you choose the college track.)

I was that student in high school who skated through. Every class was easy for me and I excelled. By the time I made it to college though, I was tired of school. I was tired of homework and reading textbooks and listening to boring lectures that did not apply to my future aspirations. I was just plain tired of the norm I’d played for the past twelve years.

College could care less if I was tired though. College is the metaphoric high school bully who beats you up, laughs at you, and steals your lunch money. Except the beating lasts at least four years, the laughing can follow you through your career path, and your lunch money is thousands of dollars for a paper certificate. High school can never fully prepare you for what college is about to do to your health, sanity, and wallet.

Looking back, I realize I held a high disregard when it came to college. I was tired of school so I did not care about my college career. I didn’t apply myself while in college. In high school, I was the “the know-it-all” who could study five minutes for an exam and pass with flying colors and I expected the same results once I started at my university. However, college requires you to actually apply yourself and study and work hard. My main concern became my future — what would be my career, where would I end up, who would I be with, and how would I pay for it all. My current courses, and ultimately my present grades, took second seat to the future because I relied too heavily on my past successes.

If I could go back in time, I’d do everything differently. I would apply myself completely in every single one of my classes because each adds up in the long run. If you drop or fail one course in your early years of college, it is a big deal. Not only do you lose GPA status (which is incredibly important when job seeking or applying for graduate school), but you also lose credits necessary for graduation AND money for those credits. Can I express the importance of money in adulthood? The vast majority of college students come into their minimum-paying careers with $50,000 or more in student debt. Do not increase that debt by giving up credits or prolonging your graduation by forcing yourself into more semesters of college. Seriously. Be mindful of your present situation and go into college knowing every credit, class, homework, exam, extracurricular, etc. are preparing you for the best future possible.

Time moves at an alarming speed, so enjoy what moments you have.

They say time flies when you’re having fun. These last nine months of my engagement have flown for sure. But before I was engaged, time still flew through both the good and bad times. It seemed once I graduated high school, time started to slip by faster and faster. Sometimes I wonder where that time has gone, but then I reflect on all I’ve gone through and am thankful for each and every minute. Some were happy, some were sad, but all have helped me become who I am today.

Do not rush anything in your life. Enjoy the good times, learn from the bad times, and embrace everything in between. Everything shifts and changes, people come and go, and the memories we have of our time spent in this world are what we have to hold onto.  Remember we’re all given only a certain amount of seconds during our lifetimes, so why push any faster than another? Relish every second!

And relish every person who shares your time with you. Those in your life are what are most important, not the adventures, toys, or anything else. Tell your loved ones you love them because today will never come again and you are not promised tomorrow.

Heartbreak is a part of life. Use the situation to better yourself and your life.

Another constant in Life: you’re going to be hurt. Again and again and again. One of the pieces of marriage advice which G and I have been told multiple times (and depresses me each time I hear it) is even in marriage you’re going to have your heart broken. In any relationship where two imperfect individuals interact there is going to have differing opinions, beliefs, and backgrounds. You will never see eye-to-eye on every subject and that means someone is bound to be hurt somewhere along the line.

When I graduated high school, I also entered into a new romantic relationship. My first relationship actually. And over the past eight years I have had my heart broken by my first love, my second love, my third, and so many others. Heartbreak sucks, but heartache is a very real part of Life that we all must pass through.

One of the best pieces of advice I could give my 18-year-old self is each time your heart is broken use the situation to better yourself and your life. It was not until after my first break up that I began to discover who I am as a person. I was forced out of my comfort zones to make those discoveries, but that shove into reality was exactly what I needed. I found my courage and flexibility and fierce independence. I learned what I wanted for myself without the shadow of someone else in my mind. I tried new hobbies and met new people and placed myself into new situations all to discover who I wanted to be and what made me tick.

And most of all, I learned to love myself, something which you must do before you honestly and unconditionally love someone else.

In the same way I fell in love with myself, I also learned a lot of my faults through reflection of failed relationships. It is easy to look back on your exes and call them out for what they did wrong, but it’s much harder to reveal your own mistakes and failures. But you know what? You have them.

When I look back on my relationship with X, I realize I was too dependent on my significant other and was demanding on my expectations for him. When I look back on Wilbur, I see how I allowed myself to be quiet on topics that deeply hurt me and cast a blind eye to the reality of the relationship. Light has been shed on issues I had never noticed during the relationships. Issues either in my own personality or in the make-up of the relationship. As I’ve come to take responsibility for my own faults, I can work to better myself to not only have a happy life but also a healthy relationship with G. And that is worth the heartaches of my past, and the heartbreaks of my future — knowing I’m continuously growing and moving forward to be the best person I can be for my loved ones.

Also, remember relationships do not necessarily mean romantic. Relationships can be friendships, partnerships, colleagues relations, etc. All of the above are going to break your heart in some way and it is on you for your reactions and transformation. (Which brings me back to #1 above in that we all make mistakes. Live and learn, friend, none of us are perfect in this process.)

High school really isn’t that important.

In the end, I wish I would have known at 18 that high school doesn’t have a huge impact on the person I am today or the position I am in now. I was the stigma of a nerd in high school, but I was also a hopeless romantic with low self-esteem and no clue on where I wanted to go in my future. My closest friends in high school contact me maybe once or twice a year nowadays with the exception of Saki, who is my monthly wine date. I have no urge to return to my high school for alumni sporting events or host a class reunion or any other nostalgic reason. High school is strictly a short, four-year blurb in the past. A blink in your life, honestly.

Once you leave high school, you begin again. You start fresh in college or trade school or a career. High school labels stay in the past and you can create the persona for which you want to be known for the future and the things you did in high school no longer matter. If you were homecoming queen or a spectator in the stands, if you were valedictorian or 150th in your class, if you shot baskets or skipped classes or played trumpet or, or, or… None of that matters once you graduate. You’re now a nobody who can make a new name for yourself and become who you want.

So enjoy the celebrations and your summer before launching into the next stage of Life. Make memories, make mistakes, and most of all, make yourself who you want to be.

And for my personal favorite piece of advice shared on the AskReddit thread:

It doesn’t get easier. You get better. – mastercadium

Life never gets easier. The trials you had in high school will be replaced with trials of college or work or relationships or simple Life. It’s just a fact. So work with what you have and learn from every experience to become the best person you can. That’s the Human Project after all, right? We’re all just rambling through Life with no clue on how to obtain the ultimate goal, but we’ll get there though, friends. We aren’t alone in our attempts and we all have people to help support us, encourage us, and teach us.

Love the Life you have and know high school were not the best years — those are yet to come!

Is there anything you wish you could tell your 18-year-old self? What is it?Please feel free to share here or on RobbeVermont’s growing thread. You never know who is reading and who may need that little nugget of advice as they begin their adult life.

Warmest wishes for a happy Life, blogosphere, 

How We Met: His Story

My story with Ashley started when I moved back into the local area. I began attending FCOG (our church) and knew I needed a deeper level of involvement in the church than just attending Sunday service. I found out about a 20-30’s Bible study group called “House” so I gave my contact information looking for more details not knowing what to expect.

When I received the invite to the group, I remember initially thinking how kind the person behind the words in the email must be. As I read further and reached the end of the email, I saw the name of the woman writing, Ashley, and saw her accompanying profile picture. I thought to myself that I had just seen the most beautiful woman in my life. I didn’t want to get too excited as my main intention in joining this group wasn’t about dating, but challenging and maturing my faith. Plus my heart had been broken several times before and I told myself pictures could be deceiving.

So I remember back to a Wednesday night of December 2016 and being very nervous about the prospect of meeting completely new people. What would they be like? What would they think of me? As I took a deep breath and swallowed hard, I gripped the door handle, twisted, and entered into the home of House. To my relief, I was greeted by very warm and welcoming fellow believers in Christ.

As I made my way to the gathering spot and looked across the room, there wrapped in a blanket was Ashley. At that moment I realized I was completely unprepared for this encounter and the way I already felt toward her. As our eyes met, she said, “Hi” and smiled. With a dry mouth and clammy hands, I returned a shy hello and sat on the couch adjacent her. As I sat there, I remember thinking how beautiful her blue eyes were and that she was even more adorable in person. Throughout the night it was hard not to seem like a creeper as I couldn’t help myself from stealing glances in her direction.

Over the next few months we came to know each other better while interacting through the House group. And I came to realize that she wasn’t only extremely beautiful, but that I admired how smart and strong she was in her faith and relationship with the Lord as well.

As some things in our lives shifted for the better, we were better able to pursue one another. I wasn’t sure exactly where she stood with our relationship however, until she asked if I wanted to join her at the Lane Auto Show. I was genuinely wondering if I had died and gone to heaven! My only response was to nearly yell, “Yes!” due to my extreme excitement.

If this wasn’t enough, Ashley also offered to come and pick me up for church that same weekend in her parents’ 2014 Chevy Corvette. By then, it all started making sense, and she had figured out the way to my heart: through four wheels and engines.

When she dropped me back home after church that Sunday, I asked if she would be willing to go out on a date together, just the two of us to get to know each other. I had never been so nervous to ask a question in my life! To my relief, she actually said she would love to go on an actual date.

I felt like I could do back flips, and that my heart had just been jump-started.

A couple of hours later I was in the middle of mowing the grass when I received a phone call. It was Ashley asking if I was busy that evening to take me up on that date. I suggested we go hiking at Grand Mere. Without missing a beat, she said that sounded perfect, and next I knew we were at the dunes, hiking up and down the steep sand hills. Being a part of God’s great creation never ceases to put me at ease and center my soul.

Being with Ashley has made me realize that she is the most beautiful creation in my life. I knew that she was so special to me that day, and we continued to grow closer on a new level and establish our core values, goals, and beliefs together. I knew she was my perfect match, made for me, and my heart was drawn to her and hers to mine.

Considering my life and where I wanted to go, I knew I wanted Ashley by my side. I was not going to let this blessing from God slip through my hands. So, making a commitment to be her man forever and always, I got down on one knee on the North Pier on September 19, and asked Ashley to be my wife. She said yes and accepted my offer, without any doubt.

I will forever be grateful to God and thank Him daily for bringing us together. This is no longer my story, but the beginning of OUR story…

I will forever and always love you, Ash.

Reblog: Calling Out Toxic Relationships

This is an edited repost from my Archives, with the original able to be found here.

It has become apparent to me over the past few months how important it is to be surrounded by people who truly want the best for you and are in your life to uplift you in the low times, encourage you in the rough times, celebrate with you in the joyful times, and walk beside you at all times. This is something that has been on my mind a lot lately as I begin looking at my tentative guest list and start asking my bridal party to stand beside me on my wedding day.

I am a huge proponent for taking care of everyone before myself. It’s an awful habit of mine, caring about everyone’s needs around me before my own. Honestly, if an airplane was going down, you wouldn’t want your child to be sitting next to me — I definitely would be trying to put their face mask on prior to mine. It is just my instinct. Some may say this is an admirable quality. Some may disagree and say it’s a weakness. I say it can be both, depending on the situation.

Unfortunately, though, I also see it as a quality not always shared among my peers. Over the past few months, I’ve become a bit more aware of how others interact with me and those in society. I have always been pretty observant, but perhaps not specifically to how people interact with me.

Recently, my vision has broaded and my observations have been enlightening.

Since becoming more aware of such interactions, I’ve made it my goal to surround myself with more “true” people in my life. More integrity-centered friends, real and honest. I have found Life is much more joyful when I have a handful of trustworthy friends rather than numerous questionable acquaintances.

It was about two months ago when I chose to begin calling out toxic relationships in my life.

Certain behaviors are incompatible with a healthy relationship, be it a friendship or romantic. Relationships that are the most debilitating and unhealthy give you the feeling that you’re not being taken care of emotionally, spiritually, mentally, or physically. At least, not in the ways you should. They may even start to shape you into someone you are not proud to be.

I think we’ve probably all been in those relationships where we just don’t feel like ourselves. It’s almost like your authentic self is withering away while you try to appease the other person with a faux version of you. We give away our power to other people sometimes and becoming someone another person wants us to be rather than the person we are is giving them ALL the power.

The word “toxic” means something drains the life and energy from someone. When you’re in a toxic relationship, you grow weaker and more feeble as you subject yourself to the whim of the person you’ve given your power. That desire to be agreeable is actually suffocating the real you!

All relationships can open our eyes to new perspectives and expand our awareness of society, but some relationships simply shut you in and hinder your development. Certain people are not assets in your life; some are liabilities. Your intuition tells you this, but we don’t always listen, do we? Sometimes the voice inside our head saying change and growth is good can be stifled by self-judgment and fear instilled by those in our lives. It is when you realize this voice is a good thing, however, that you also recognize that you cannot develop healthy relationships before first cutting off these unhealthy ones.

Now there are a few signs to decide whether or not your relationship with another person is toxic. The obvious signs are physical, emotional, or verbal abuse, cheating, lying, and stealing. However, a toxic relationship is any one which causes you to feel isolated, sad, trapped, criticized, or afraid.

Sometimes this means that you feel you can never do anything right. Your friend or partner constantly puts you down as not good enough. This sort of treatment might even lead you to begin acting like the judging person and reacting in ways not true to your character. Or you may simply go into a shell and try to hide the personality traits being mocked and become only part of the person you truly are.

Another sign is when you feel uncomfortable simply being yourself around the other person. You can’t speak your mind, you can’t participate in the things you love, you can’t go to the places you love, you can’t spend time with the friends you once enjoyed, etc. When you have to put on a different face just to be accepted by this person, then something in the relationship is wrong.

Or how about when everything is about the other person, and never about you. Have you ever heard the song “I Wanna Talk About Me” by Toby Keith? Yeah, it’s great to talk about other people and learn what’s going on in their lives, but you have feelings and situations going on in your life as well. Listen to the conversations you have with this other person. If the conversation is completely one-sided — meaning your opinions are not being heard, considered, or respected — then the other person does not care about your side of the relationship. If they don’t inquire about you and your life or take into consideration the points you do make when you have an opportunity to share, then why keep caring about theirs? This behavior just leaves you feeling isolated.

However, the biggest sign to me that you are in the midst of a toxic relationship is when the other person does not want you to be happier than them. Say you begin a new career, enter a new romantic relationship, or have some new Life opportunity open up which any friend and/or partner typically should be beaming with excitement for you. Instead, they become withdrawn. They no longer ask questions or take an interest, they go out of their way to point out the faults in this new opportunity, and they outright become hostile towards you when the situation is brought up. It is almost as if they place their insecurities on your shoulders and what once was a budding friendship or romance is now a twisted jealousy of a relationship.

The reason a toxic relationship is not ideal for anyone is because it does not allow you to grow or change. Is the other person encouraging and supporting your efforts to grow and improve yourself? Evaluate the relationship and be honest — what is the worth of this relationship to you? 

Embrace the answers that come from your intuition. Your own conscience is going to want what’s best for you, unlike the friend or partner of your toxic relationship. Don’t sit in an uncomfortable or unsettling relationship until the effects of isolation and sadness push you into depression or bitterness. Take deliberate action according to your gut feeling.

Sometimes this deliberate action may call for a very difficult decision to be made — you may have to cut off the relationship completely. However, in the big picture of Life, people come and go and some relationships have an expiration date. Friendships and romantic partnerships may, though incredibly hard to lose at the time being, be more worthwhile to lose in the long run in order to make way for a much more meaningful relationship instead. Chalk it up to experience, feel the grief of a lost friend or love briefly, and go about bringing more light into your Life than what that toxic relationship was shadowing.

You won’t be sorry.