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.  Continue reading “Saying Yes & Following The Path Of Fulfillment”

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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…

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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.

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“That’s What She Said.”

I knew something was awry when G was adamant we go for a walk on the North Pier at 7:00pm Tuesday night. The walk didn’t cause suspicion, but the change in scenery and necessity of time frame made me suspect this Tuesday night might not be like any of our other typical one-night-of-the-week lazy nights. His suggestion of us going to a fancier restaurant for dinner that night (when we had plans to go grocery shopping anyways) made my eyes slant a little deeper too — what did he have planned? Being a Tuesday evening, though, I wasn’t quite sure what to think of all these oddities.

After watching an episode and a half of our latest Netflix binge “The Following” (Yes! He made us pause in the middle of an episode — that guy!), we prepared to head over to the opposite side of the river for our walk. As I put on my shoes, G disappeared outside for a minute — another odd behavior. I ended up meeting him at the door to leave and noticed he was putting his phone away. He took me by the hand, opened my car door, and we left for the Northside.

When we pulled into the beach’s parking lot, I really began to question what this walk was going to entail because there was a professional photographer setting up his tripod on the sidewalk leading to the pier. G, checking his phone quickly, never even glanced at the camera. Instead he steered me to the pier and its lighthouse.

If you have never been to Michigan, then I definitely recommend you make a trip sometime during the summer to come and enjoy our numerous beaches and lighthouses scattered along Lake Michigan. Sunbathe during the day and witness the breathtaking sunsets at night. They truly are incredible! G and I walk down to the beach very often to watch the sun set; I live only a quick minute’s walk away (thus the unusual request to drive to a different beach for this night’s walk.)

Tonight’s sunset was one of the best of Summer 2017. With only a handful of dates remaining of summer, the days of our pier walks were numbered before the cruel winter months would make the piers icy boardwalks, unsafe for anyone to attempt to trek. Tonight, though, was a perfect 70-something degrees, cloudless, and still on the water.

G and I strolled along the river towards the pier hand-in-hand. We talked about the ducks diving in the water, the light waves crashing on the sand, the fishermen along the sidelines, and the lighthouse looming ahead of us. We stopped several times to marvel at the sunset, to look back at the coast, to talk about God’s glory, to just enjoy one another’s company — our typical type of walk.

Our walk took us to the end of the pier. We meandered slowly, taking pictures like tourists to document the evening. My mind kept flashing to the photographer on shore and I attempted not to keep looking over my shoulder to see where he had ended up setting his camera. Was he here for us? Did G plan for him? On a Tuesday night? It seemed odd but…

Then we began heading back to shore, walking on the same side of the pier as we had come. The side towards the river, away from the beach where the cameraman could possibly be catching any snap shots of us. I started to doubt my suspicions and physically felt my heart beat slow a few beats. This was just a typical walk after all.

With his arm around my waist, G was still steering me to shore. As we passed beneath the main lighthouse, however, he halted and stepped sideways to face me. He pulled me into an embrace and I could feel him fumbling for something in his pocket. My heart soared; this was not a typical walk after all!

I was smiling as G pulled away with the box in his hand, and asked, “Babe, do you remember what we’ve been talking about?” Then he dropped to one knee. I was nodding and smiling like a fool as he continued simply, “Well, I think it’s about time we made it official. Will you marry me?”

I said, “YES!” and we kissed as people on the other pier clapped and cheered. There were also the unmistakable sounds of camera lenses shuttering. G pointed towards the lighthouse where not only my parents stood waving, but also his parents did as well! He had orchestrated his proposal to be witnessed by our closest loved ones!

G and I had been discussing marriage for some time leading to the proposal. We knew God had brought us together and that we were made for one another. There was something about our relationship that simply clicked like nothing else before. It is kind of amazing how quickly you can know you have found the One with whom you’re supposed to live out your life…

G’s persistence to take a walk at 7:00pm was due to our parents meeting and hiding out on the pier that Tuesday night. As family is incredibly important to both of us, G wanted our closest family members to be a part of the evening. I’m an only child, so my parents loved being involved, and G’s parents look at both of us as their kids. It was a beautiful decision on G’s part and one I (and they) will treasure.

On a side note, the actual photographer was not part of G’s plans at all, and he was actually pretty upset when he saw the man in the parking lot. He figured I would begin to wonder what was happening having seen him.

After the proposal, G, our parents, and myself walked the remainder of the pier to our cars and went to dinner together to celebrate. Following dinner, we began calling our closest friends and family members to tell them the exciting news. It has been a whirlwind since that night with wedding planning and enjoying being engaged, but I could not ask for a better partner in life and future husband. I could not have imagined a more perfect setting for the two of us, and the inclusion of our families meant the world to me.

I love you, always and forever, G.

Cheers to a bright future ahead and many fun and exciting projects to come!

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Grow Through It

I remember feeling that my 2016 was a horrific year and I just couldn’t wait until 2017 rolled around the corner. I had such high expectations for this year and what it was going to bring me. Or rather, I held high expectations of what the year should not bring me, as a change from 2016. I expected more gains than losses, I expected a lot of love instead of grief and pain, and I expected much happiness, the type of happiness where I wouldn’t spend a single night falling asleep to tears. It’s true how the saying goes, friends, don’t go into anything with expectations because you’ll only be let down.

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Guest Post: Strengthen Your Relationship with Shared Goals

Hello everyone! I’m coming to you from the great multi-colored cloud of activities, events, obligations, stress, thoughts, and feelings that has become my life. My hope is that one day the cloud will separate so all parts of my life fall perfectly into their own categories and I can take a breather… but until that blessed day comes, I am happy to share a wonderful post from my friends at First Beat Media.

I was approached by First Beat Media quite some time ago. The company focuses on online dating niche and similar services, and a content manager of theirs happened across Wine Dipped Quill. Some of my posts resonated with him to the point where he opted to get in touch with me and discuss options of guest posting. Being ever enthusiastic to grow my blogosphere network, I jumped on the idea. So without further ado, here is a wonderful article on sharing goals to strengthen your relationships brought to you by the authors of First Beat Media…

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Pity Party for One, Please

So today I threw myself a pity-party. I sat down on my bed, looked into the mirror, and sighed heavily. I sighed at the lifelessness of my hair, the tightness of my clothes, the lack of luster in my skin. I sighed at how mundane things seem to be right now. I sighed at the feeling of being under appreciated.

Then, when I was done noting all my faults, counting all the regrets, casting all the worthless wishes, I took a deep breath… and I realized I had just caught myself feeling like a victim.

Now you would think that after all my writing about responsibility and accountability, I would know when I was feeling victimized by someone or something, right? I would know that feeling victimized meant a lesson was right around the corner and I would willing embrace it, right? Well, let me level with you guys: about 99.9% of the time that I recognize the truth, I’m very unenthusiastic to find out what I’m meant to learn from the experience.

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Dear Future Spouse: Look This Way

It feels as if there are a lot of people out there that have not thought about their futures nearly as carefully or hopefully or simply fully as this young man. I came across this article during a late night Facebook scrolling-spree and couldn’t pass up the poetic truth it possesses. It was a pleasure to follow his path through marriage, children, and retirement in only a few short paragraphs and also to feel the faith that I hope I can one day share with a spouse as well.


Originally posted on the Odessey:

I’m writing to you at 19. I don’t know how many 19-year-old guys can truthfully say that they’ve been thinking about their future wife for 11 years, but I sure have. Imagining is sort of my thing, and I do it all the time. I’ve had a lot of time to think about what we’ll be like, and I’ve looked for you in some pretty strange places. I don’t know if I know you yet, but I guess that doesn’t matter. I’ve learned that when looking for something, the mindset one has affects what he finds. So, take a second to look this way.

Continue reading “Dear Future Spouse: Look This Way”