That’s Not What My King Died For

 

I’m in love with a boy- three of them actually.

I’ve been so blessed to nanny for the same little kiddos the past two years. To be honest, I’m not quite sure what my college years would have been like without the sounds of little ones saying “Miss Ansley,” infinite dirty diapers, Goodnight Goodnight Construction Site, and Paw Patrol.

I vividly remember taking the boys to Chick-Fil-A one afternoon last fall. I watched three little mouths rush through 4-count nugget meals as their eyes stayed locked on the multicolored playground behind the glass panes in the back of the restaurant. After the crumbs were brushed away, spilled milk was cleaned up, and little hands were wet-wiped, we removed the shoes and they began to climb the plastic play set as if it was their Everest.

I sat on the bench with the diaper bag as my heart exploded each and every time they emerged at the end of the slide with a smile. As if their tank of energy was bottomless, they hopped out of the slide, ran over to the stairs and began the adrenaline rush all over.

I did a headcount in order to make sure all of the children were accounted for when I noticed one of my children trying to play with someone else’s- and they wouldn’t let him. I watched the interaction play out from afar as my little one was continuously shoved out and ignored. After a few more tries to join in, he came over to me and I prepared to begin wiping tears off of his round cheeks. Instead, the blue eyed child came over and said nothing about it. In fact, his smile was bigger than ever. Like every 3 year old, he just needed to reaffirm that I was watching him go down the slide, as if I had not watched him the first twenty times.

Although the child remained unaffected and unaware of the rejection that he had just experienced, I was well aware and confused. How could someone NOT want to play with him? Above all, why was he still trying to be friends with them?

Somehow, I had forgotten about that upsetting moment until yesterday.

My mind had blocked out the sorrow of that situation until I saw something that I had never seen yesterday on my college campus.

As I walked out of my class, I tried to dissolve into the sea of students attempting to stuff themselves onto a university bus. As I began to fight my way to the street, I heard an uproar of yelling coming from a nearby lawn. Attracted to the commotion, I aborted my mission to board the bus and began to walk toward the noise.

What I walked up on was unexpected. Working my way through the crowd of students, I could feel anger and tension thickening the air. I passed students crying, professors taking pictures, and police officers portraying steel faces.

In the center of the shaken up crowd were a few nicely dressed men who appeared to be preaching. However, as I got closer and the words became more audible, I realized they were not preaching. In fact, the words they were saying were like a chizzle continuously chipping at my heart.

As I watched the men continue to yell hateful and condemning things at students on my campus, my heart broke. Tears streamed from my blue eyes as I read the signs that contained the lists of people they believed were going to hell. My fists began to clench as I listened to the darts of audible hatred that were echoing around me.

For the students on my college campus, I want you to know that the finger-pointing you witnessed yesterday is not what my King died for.

That’s not Christianity.

The things listed on those signs yesterday, the things that “qualified you for hell,” are what my sweet Jesus washed away.

My sweet Jesus died for you to have freedom.

His love for you is overwhelming.

His love for you is unending.

In the words of Amanda Cook, “His love is wild for you. His love is proud to be seen with you.”

Angered by the men causing the chaos, the Lord reminded me of that heart breaking moment I witnessed at Chick-Fil-A months ago. The moment when that sweet child was rejected from the play set at Chick-Fil-A…but he didn’t care. The toddler didn’t run over and tattle about how he was being treated. He continuously tried to be their friend anyways.

Despite the horrendous things that were said by anyone yesterday, God still loves them. He’s still fighting for them. Like that three year old, God isn’t phased by yesterday’s events. He’s continuously trying to be their friend.

Taste and see that my God is good.

He’s not who the men on the front lawn described yesterday.

Not even close.

The Heart Of The Sea

 

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I love the ocean. I love the sand that naturally exfoliates my skin, the salty water that texturizes my wild hair, the steady waves and ripples that crash against my body, and the marine life that swims around and nibbles at my toes. Above all, I love the sounds. When I find myself tossing and turning late in the night, I often turn on the melody of waves crashing upon sand to soothe me back to sleep.

Before I actively seeked God, I saw the ocean as a mysterious and frightening body of water- a body of water that someone could get lost in and in result would most likely never be found again. To me, the sea was a treacherous abyss of the unknown.

Getting to know God will change your perspective. Now that I know Him, when I look at the sea, I feel the exact opposite of fear. I feel a peace so big that the salt water in front of me looks small. At an average depth of 12,254 feet, 71% of our Earth is ocean. Something of that enormity is incomprehensible.

Knowing my Father doesn’t change the depth, though. It doesn’t change the width or the physical greatness of the sea. However, it gives me the greatest sense of comfort to look at the vast magnitude of the deep blue and know that the one who created it is bigger.

Not only is He bigger- He loves me.

As I sit here on this dock and gaze out onto the horizon of the gulf, I see more than the ripples of azure hues. I see God. I feel more than the coastal breeze on my salty, sun-sensitive skin. I feel a love greater than I could ideate. I don’t see uncharted territory. I see God putting Himself on display for all to know Him.

Psychologists and color experts categorize blue as a “cool color,” causing our brains to release a chemical that causes us to feel calm. For some people, the shade of the water before them may bring them peace. However, for me, knowing the heart of the sea is what puts my soul at ease.

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Behold, he scatters his lightning about him, and covers the roots of the sea.” Job 36:30

Bloom Brightly

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I feel like most of my life consists of being on the road. Whether it be driving to Perry, Atlanta, Douglasville or wherever else, any second of my free time is spent maneuvering white lines and red lights. Today while driving through Cartersville, Georgia, I found myself in awe of God’s creation. I stared intently at the mountains surrounding the town, the colors of the trees lining the streets in the historic district, and the billowing clouds hanging above my head in the suburban sky.

While driving down a winding road on the outskirts of the town, I felt an uprising sensation of calmness in my chest as I gazed at the golden fields surrounding my car. The grass was swaying wildly in the light breeze that was pushing through the cracked windows of my car and blowing my hair into my face. Of all the fields that my blue eyes fell upon, the one that put me at ease the most was a field packed tightly with rows of little to no vegetation. As my car travelled down the asphalt path, I examined the rows- each the same distance away from the one before it and looking as if it contained the perfect amount of moisture.

As I focused my attention back to the road, I wondered why that rural field caught my eye. Perhaps it was the crisp rows of dirt running perpendicular to my car, as if not a single grain of soil was out of place.

Whether we want to admit it or not, we are attracted to perfection. We want the perfect body, the perfect grades and the perfect internship. We dream of the perfect spouse, the perfect kids, and the perfect job. When the day comes and we wake up and realize we don’t have the perfect things we’ve wished for, we crave the perfect life of someone else.  Despite how flawed our lives are, we strive for perfection.

Like the unblemished field, we want to look as if every aspect of our life is in place. As we get so immersed in the fantasy of perfection, we often forget that we weren’t created to be perfect.

We were created by the One who is perfect. (Chills? Just me?)

Your life is not meant to be pruned down to perfection. The King of Kings did not create you to live perfectly within the life-lacking rows of dirt. He designed you to bloom colorfully toward the sky.  You were created to flourish with wildflowers, ground cover, and weeds. You were created to thrive with vegetation and such beautiful hues that only God could paint them Himself. Although you will endure powerful winds, heavy rain, and droughts, hang on because its worth it. Continue to bloom brightly for God. The harvest will be here before you know it.

Bloom Brightly,

Ansley

 

 

The Unappealing View

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Warning: I’m about to be vain.

I love myself. Of course, there are a few physical traits that I wish I could tailor to my liking but I have always loved my personality. Put me in a room full of strangers and I’d come out with a new family, a few phone numbers and ten new Facebook friends. I love my outgoing spirit, my hobbies and interests.

I’m sure most of you are thinking, “Good for her. She’s confident!”

Believe me, that’s what I thought for the longest time.

I had confused self-confidence with self-obsession. Being in love with myself ultimately kept me from being in love with the one who made me that way.

My whole life, I had been told I was supposed to be God’s clay in order for Him to mold me for His glory. I often resisted when my parents tried to mold me. Imagine my rebellion towards an intangible God trying to alter my prized persona.

With every piece of my personality that I yielded to change for Him, I added a brick to the wall that I was building between me and God. Eventually, I had built a wall between us that was so sturdy, the mention of His name felt awkward.

Imagine waking up every single morning and looking out your window expecting to see the rising sun and the green grass. Instead of seeing the natural beauty on the opposing side of the pane, there was a brick wall blocking your view of the world. We all build walls. Perhaps you’ve gradually been constructing one the past year. Maybe you’ve been building one your whole life.

The worst quality about walls- we get so used to the unappealing view, we forget what they’re hiding.

Believe me when I say that the reoccurring view of dusty, red brick gets old.

I’m here to tell you the wall you’re tired of looking at, the wall that is blocking your view of the beautiful world, the wall between what you are now and what you’re called to be can be torn down.

A few months ago, someone gave me a glimpse of the sunshine that would shine through if I would take down the brick wall in front of my window. Intrigued, I removed a brick or two. I began with bricks that didn’t bear any weight and ones I forgot I placed to begin with. Something was so appealing about what was peering through the holes. Once a golden ray of God’s light touched my skin, I found myself wanting to knock the wall down.

Each thing that kept me from God, every calling that I refused to follow, and all the self-obsessions came crashing down.

There have been times I wondered if taking the wall down so quickly was a good idea- that maybe I should have continued brick by brick. There have been times when I thought that God was trying to take something from me when he was merely trying to redirect me to something better. There have been times when I have felt tempted to grab cement and a few clay bricks so I could build the wall back up. Since the day that I finally saw the beauty behind that ugly wall, the self-obsessed person that I loved so much has done a lot of changing. I won’t tell you that it has been easy. In fact, it’s been a really challenging adjustment for me and those around me.

However, it is 100% worth it.

If you had found me on UGA’s campus last fall and asked me what my next semester would look like, I wouldn’t have told you that I would be involved in 2 campus ministries, a local church, 2 small groups, singing in a praise band, getting ready to lead a small group, minoring in Religion…

…and still wanting more.

It’s the light. 

If you are looking out your window today and all you see is a dirty, old wall you constructed, let in His light. Let it warm your cold skin. Your Father is calling you with open arms. Get a glimpse of the beautiful world you’ve been missing- and don’t do it brick by brick like I did.

Bring in a wrecking ball.

Soak up the light,

Ansley

Run For Your Life

Close your eyes and picture a person that invades your comfort zone. A person that touches your arm within the first thirty seconds of meeting or bypasses the handshake and goes in for a full on hug- not a side hug but a full frontal hug.

The person you have designed in your mind is me.

I am a person of touch. I need to show my excitement of hellos through handshakes. There’s no way that I can fully explain every detail in a story without touching the person next to me and I can’t express my thanks without an overbearing hug.

I’ve recently been praying for something that has been troubling me. Like He always does, God has so beautifully answered my prayer and given me the guidance that I had been begging Him for. However, I can’t get into my car, drive to Heaven’s pearly gates, walk into the throne room and give God an overbearing hug in return.

For the longest time, I struggled with the fact that the person I’m madly in love with is intangible.

However, the Prince of Peace has struck once again. While looking through old Facebook pictures, the Lord showed me exactly what I needed to relieve my frustration.

I used to run cross-country in high school. My favorite races were the ones that my sweet Grandparents came to. I can remember turning the corner, and seeing their smiling faces cheering for me. It would give me the boost of energy to run harder as I approached the finish line so I could wrap my sweaty arms around them.

As I flipped through the pictures, I realized that our walk with God is easily comparable to a cross-country meet. Some parts of the course are filled with hills, making it harder to run than the flat stretches of land. Sometimes we will be so out of breath that it will feel like there is no way we could take another step. However, if we could muster our strength to look over to the sideline, we would see our number one fan. He’s always there – decked out in our school colors, face painted, wearing a button with our picture on it and holding up signs he made just for us.

No, I can’t physically touch God right now but that’s because I’m still in the race. Although I can’t physically give him a “high five,” with every step I take, I get to joyously listen to Him cheer me on. I get to watch as He jumps up and down and yells how much He loves me. I get to witness His excitement as He runs alongside me and waves His foam finger in the air.

However, eventually I will cross the finish line and He’ll be there handing out snacks, waters and “Good Jobs.” One day the race will be over and He’ll be waiting for me as I take my last steps. Though I will have crossed the line, I’ll continue to run into the embrace of my number one fan. In that glorious moment, I’ll receive the best hug I’ve ever received- the hug that will put all other hugs to shame.

Sometimes, it may feel as though your feet hurt so bad you may have to take a break but your number one fan is going to tell you to keep going. Some days you’re going to meet people in the race who try to convince you that no one is cheering for either of you but you’ve got to keep going. Some days it’s going to rain but your number one fan will be there in his poncho, running alongside the course.

I used to think that 3.1 miles seemed like the distance from Georgia to New York. However, it was always over before I knew it. The race we run is so short that it’s incomprehensible. So…run hard. Run knowing that the creator of the universe is giving you the energy to put one tired foot in front of the other. Run knowing that one day you will no longer run on grass and gravel but on gold.

Run for your life,

Ansley

A Small Frame Of The Big Picture

Out the window of Starbucks, I see a child playing on the sidewalk. Cheeks rosy-red from the cold, he runs across the concrete, stick in hand and hits every tree that he passes. His blonde hair is blowing every which way and the fact that he wears dirt stains on his white cable knit sweater doesn’t phase him. With every step, his smile grows larger and the little green monster inside of me grows more envious of the joy that overfills his tiny body.

With every day that passes, our bodies grow more fragile, our brains become more aware of the world around us and it gets harder and harder to find that carefree, over-the-top type of joy. The combination of planners, alarms, and deadlines, makes precious, savory moments impossible to find…or notice.

This past Thursday, I met my favorite person. I met someone that changed my perspective, showed me the meaning of unconditional love, and strengthened my relationship with God. I met someone that I thought I would make smile but he has given me so much joy that a simple smile would be incomparable.

For those of you reading this sentence and hanging onto the hopes that I will tell you the man that I met is my future husband, I hate to crush your dreams but this isn’t him. (God’s not ready for me to meet him yet.)

I met Thomas.

He’s 49, he’s homeless and he’s the best thing that’s ever happened to me.

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As I made my way to class, I asked the homeless man on the corner if I could buy him some coffee. One cup of coffee and five sugars later, I found myself sitting with him in the cold air. We exchanged names, talked about the weather and other non-heavy subjects to keep the conversation going.

I’m not sure what the turning point of our conversation was but Thomas began telling me his story at ease. The words flowing from his mouth became tears flowing from his eyes. The more that Thomas cried, the more that I cried.

So, there I was having a good sob-session with a homeless man that I had just met. I might have looked crazy. The longer I sat with him on the cold concrete, the less affected I was by the frigid air penetrating the seams of my jacket.

Although, Thomas’ tears had begun to dry, mine were still freely flowing. Thomas took a death breath, looked at me, smiled and said “I live for the Lord and I know that this is just a small frame of the big picture.”

Eventually Thomas’ hands moved from his warm coffee cup and into mine as he prayed for me and thanked God for his new friend.

Since meeting him, I’ve been unable to write. I didn’t know how I could even write about him. I knew that no matter how long I sat at the computer turning letters into words and words into sentences, I could never encapsulate the beauty of that morning.

As I watch this child running back and forth on the opposing side of the Starbucks window, it all makes sense to me. Thomas may be the only person I’ve ever met that has as much joy as the toe-headed child carelessly rolling in the dirt outside of this window.

Aside from being joyous, I’ve never met anyone that was as grateful as Thomas.

This morning, I woke up and had breakfast with my awesome roommate and handsome neighbor. I put on clothes, and drove my car to Starbucks where I spent the day studying with a friend. I’m heading to dinner shortly and plan to meet friends tonight. I’m beyond blessed. However, I can 100% guarantee you that wherever Thomas is right now, whatever he is doing, regardless of what he is lacking, he is more grateful than I.

So often, I catch myself doubting God’s plan for me. I wonder why certain things have happened to me and why certain things haven’t. More often than not, I wrestle with God as he tries to lead me down the path he designed for me before I was ever created. Thomas taught me that life is about praising God in the small frames, regardless of the circumstance. Each individual frame compiles into a big picture- a picture that the most amazing artist painted with his two holy hands.

I once believed in luck. I once believed that the world was on my side. However, now that I have God on my side, I realize that there is no such thing as luck. Everything that happens to me, everything that happens to you, is God’s doing. God knew exactly what he was doing when he caused me to cross paths with Thomas.

What I thought would be a simple gesture turned into a change in vantage point.

Enjoy the small frames,

Ansley

28 Things, 5 Boxes, 120 Hours

On this dreary day in Athens, I am doing one of my least favorite things- going through my class schedules and penciling due dates, meetings and tests into my planner. Despite how cute Lilly Pullitzer makes her agendas, the stickers and bubbly fonts don’t make the spiral notebook in front of me any more fun.

Behind sips of iced coffee and the squealing sounds of machines steaming milk, I’m impatiently waiting for the “expected” snow to fall as I sit staring out the window at Starbucks. Someone opens the door and allows the frigid air to push through, hit me in the face and snap me back to reality. Glancing back down at the patterned planner, I notice that next week is so full of things I have to do that I may not have time to go to the bathroom.

I could feel it- the feeling in my chest, the tightening in my stomach, and the wave of anxiety that crashes over me. All because of a week that is still two days of peaceful rest away.

God has led me to many things here in this classic city. Wonderful friends, opportunities, organizations, an amazing education, and many other things that I could type but would most likely lose your attention.

One thing that I’m beyond thankful for is my job. I have been blessed with nannying three beautiful little boys- three little boys who know how to make my heart sing more than anything else.

Yesterday, I went to pick up the oldest child from school. Stepping out of my car, I shivered as the cold air touched my skin. I walked through the glass doors to get him from the playground when I saw him running carelessly on the grass. Despite the chilly wind, I stood for a moment and watched him play, dirt stains on his knees, wild hair, unaffected by the same cold that was making me wish I had worn two jackets.

Pressed for time to get him to basketball practice, I called his name and we made our way back to the car. After the buckling of seatbelts and his music choice, “T-swift,” we made our way across town.

Between instrumental breaks of Swift’s “Shake It Off,” I asked him about his day. Enthusiastically, he told me every single thing he did at school- friends he played with, pictures he drew, books he read, snacks he ate. “Shake It Off” fades out and the car is filled with silence and the repetitive click of my blinker.

“What did you do at school today, Miss Ansley?” I hear from the booster seat in the back.

I take a deep breath reflecting on my long day of classes, schoolwork, stress and irritation.

“Well, it was really long and boring. I had to listen to a guest speaker in one of my classes,” I respond.

“What did he talk about?” he asks from the back.

I notice the excitement in his sweet voice, genuinely intrigued by my response to his question and I caught myself wishing that I were as excited about things as he was.

That’s when it hit me. When did life become boring?

When did everything that I have to look forward to simply become a penciled mark in a dated box on a calendar?

A lot of things have happened to me in the past year. I’ve committed to the fact that my hair is curly, I’ve finally decided what I wanted to do with my life, I’ve formed new relationships and rekindled old ones, and best of all, I’ve found my way back to the one who started it all – Jesus.

During my bible study this morning, I realized the text that I was dissecting in front of me was exactly what I needed on this cold and rainy morning.

“What I mean, brothers and sisters, is that the time is short… For this world in its present form is passing away.” 1 Corinthians 7:29, 31

The words soak into me. This Earth is passing away.

Why are we so fixated on making things perfect? Why do we dwell on the past and plan the future as if it’s in our hands and not God’s?

Looking back down at my planner, I count the number of things I have scribbled into the boxes. 28 things all crammed into 5 boxes and 120 hours.

The numbers get into my head and I can feel it in my chest again- the pressure of time.

I glance down at the watch on my wrist; filled with numbers marking the hours and minutes, and tick marks defining the individual seconds. The minute hand passes the 12 on my silver watch, beginning a new hour.

I often forget that God has a different watch than I do.

God’s watch isn’t filled with numbers breaking down hours, minutes and seconds. God’s watch is infinite.

With God, every time that the second hand ticks, our time increases. With God, we live an eternal life.

I look at my planner one last time and recount the things I have to do in the upcoming week, hoping that I counted wrong the first time. The recount doesn’t change anything. The number is still 28 and I realize that I still have to get those things done by certain times according to my watch. I take a deep breath and rejoice in the fact that God has a different watch than I do – a watch where he makes things happen at the right time in our lives and not just because the hour and the minute hands lay on certain numbers.

With that realization, my worries melt away much like the ice in my transparent Starbucks cup. The feeling in my chest dissipates; the wave of anxiety flattens out and those 28 things, 5 days and 120 hours that had my stomach in knots simply become another week to praise God.