Fun Filled Journey

Guess what, everyone? The day has finally come! I can finally announce that the Lord has brought me to a new place in life and where He’s taking me…. And I actually don’t mean that with the slightest hint of sarcasm. Really, it’s finally happening.  It’s hardly what I ever imagined or expected, but it’s just one more way that He’s showing me how magnificent He is.

One of the lessons Jesus really made me soak up during my season of rest, was how much I never want to be where He is not. I don’t mean that I wasn’t in the center of His will, and that’s how I realized it. It was simply through the process of us communicating and Him confirming, that even though my life was sitting obnoxiously stock-still, He was there. He was not forward, He was not backward, He was there. I read an excerpt on She Reads Truth the other day that summarized this whole point perfectly:

“We all have different “kingdoms.” Each of us has been led to a different destination, by a different path, journeying through unique circumstances to get where we are today. Where you are right now—where He has you in each moment—that is your kingdom. That very place is the piece of God’s Kingdom that He has entrusted to you. Whether you believe your kingdom is substantial or completely irrelevant, it is still yours and it is still His. You are still His. He has brought you here on your journey for such a time as this. .” – She Reads Truth

Rest was my kingdom. That was my domain. But now He’s graduated me to a new domain. So without further ado…

When I was little, my definition of a good, successful, adult, life was one that was FUN. I told my mom, “I don’t want to grow up and things not be FUN! That sounds miserable!” When I was little, I had a hard time grasping and understanding what made me happy. At that time, if I was in the McDonald’s playhouse and had a Happy Meal, I was having fun which made me happy. If it was after school and I was in the woods with my neighborhood friends pretending in our playhouse, that was fun which made me happy. If I was going to the beach and going to get to swim and make sand castles, that was fun which made me happy. (That last one is still quite true). You see the pattern here. FUN=HAPPY.

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Epitome of a very happy “little me”: full abandon going down the slide at McDonald’s. (Clearly unaware of the static in my hair).

I think for me, growing up has also meant learning what makes me happy. Now I know that it’s not always fun. In fact, I can be doing the most boring things like eating on the couch, watching TV and I’m happy. The truth is, none of those things determine what a good, successful life is. It is solely based on Jesus, who brings immense amounts of joy and peace, and that joy and peace brings a feeling that surpasses “happy”, because happy is dependent on other things whereas my joy and peace are not. They are dependent on the most valiant Savior that ever graced the world. I now know, that I can be living on top of the world, but without Him I am without joy and peace. And vice-versa, I could be in the pits with Him and be filled to the brim with joy and peace. It simply is not about FUN.

(If your looking for the big news, here it is). Recently, I accepted an internship with heidi elnora, a wedding gown designer in Birmingham and am working on in-house social media and public relations. I’ve been here for one week, and already I’m having a blast. I’m surrounded by creativity, a brand that is well-established, and there are so many good things to come for them in the near future, such as her show called Bride By Design by TLC that will premier soon. I’m a mere intern, but it’s a move in the direction of the professional world (what what?) Not to mention, it’s FUN.

I know what you’re thinking, and I know I said fun does not determine happiness. It does not. But the Lord took me on quite a journey to get here, that I would not trade for anything in this world. He defined for me what makes me truly joyful. He set me upon His rock, and I know that no matter what, because of Him I will not be moved. So essentially, He gave me true happiness and then, knowing the desires of my heart, has given me a job that I enjoy. It’s pretty phenomenal the way that He has worked. He kind of did the reverse route of what I always thought would be necessary to be a good, successful adult. Instead of going fun-happiness-fulfillment, He went fulfillment-happiness-fun. And now no matter what, I am fulfilled. That’s actually what it’s all about! I’m thrilled and excited to see what the future continues to hold, no matter what it is.

Now, for a FUN added bonus to all of this. God is just mind-blowingly awesome at loving us. Psalm 37:4 is so commonly referenced because it provides us with the promise that if we “seek the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart”. It’s a good, heart-warming promise, but at times I’ve doubted if my desires were true or wholesome. Something that this scripture doesn’t say out loud is that He knows our hearts and our desires and He knows which ones are true and wholesome, even when we don’t.

During my break, I was really forced to give everything over to Him. From my worldly desires of success, in what I thought meant success, down to my very last ounce of talents that I had rejected because I didn’t deem them legitimate.

Basically, I thought that PR and politics was my game. I thought it was my domain, and in college I thought law school was my road to success. Why? For some reason, growing up in elementary, middle, and high school, I really began to think that there was no way to be successful using writing, art, creativity, acting, singing, and design. Unfortunately, that was everything I was good at, and pretty much the only thing I was (still am) good at. In my mind, the only way to be successful was to excel in science and math. Science, I could hold my own in (not excel), and math? HA. Y’all, I have Dyscalculia, AKA Mathematics Disorder, meaning I transpose numbers. It’s like dyslexia, but with numbers. In fact, they’re in the same family. So clearly, the Lord didn’t create me to calculate numbers. I now know it’s okay, because He created other people to do that for Him. But growing up, I just didn’t think I was smart.

In high school, I went to Girls State and found out that I was good at improv, speech writing, and public speaking. Rather than recognizing those elements, I automatically assumed public policy and law should be my path.

All along, even until my junior year of college, I pushed aside my talents. The truth is that I run the gamut in the arts, but I’ve never counted it as worth anything, until now. I always thought everyone could do it, and that it wouldn’t serve me as a real career. But that’s not true. Even after I graduated, I didn’t think it was possible to incorporate my degree (which requires some of those talents) into a industry that I just loved. The other half of it (which I later realized) is that the things I do love: fashion, design, art, writing, reading, movies, acting, improv, I never thought could be turned into a substantial career. Yet, here I am doing PR for a wedding dress designer. I even work alongside the folks that do Birmingham Fashion Week.

It’s so so special how the Lord knows us, and how He delights in us and will treat us to things like a fun job. Just like Psalm 103:5 says, “He satisfies my desires with good things, so that my youth is renewed like the eagle’s wings”, He really does give us good things. In fact, this verse perfectly sums up what’s going on in my life right now. He’s treating me to things that I only dreamed of as a little girl. He knows me so well!

Again, I’m only an intern until the end of April. They may choose to keep me, or chalk it up to good experience, but either way, the Lord has shown me that 1. He does care 2. He knows me better than I know myself 3. I’ve got a lot of talent the HE gave me and since HE gave me it, it is worth something 4. If I give everything over to Him, He will take care of it all and He will do it in ways that I never even allowed myself to dream of.

Birmingham skyline to accompany the drive home to Tuscaloosa.

Birmingham skyline to accompany the drive home to Tuscaloosa.

So, all of that summarized, is that I am gifted, but not in a way that I deemed successful or feasible. I was discounting His creation, and also assuming that He couldn’t work in whatever way He wanted to. Which is horrible, I mean, what kind of connotation does that put on His vast love for us? It makes it not vast. I was putting limits on what He could do in my life, simply by believing what my teachers and peers had told me about how to be successful. It makes no sense.

He is beyond good. If He is simply good, than no other thing in this world deserves the adjective “good”. I know that I will have highs and lows in my life, but how can I get past what He has done for me? And then on top of making me whole, He richly blessed me with talents that are a reflection of Him! It’s amazing. And can I add, thank goodness He did not make us all the same. It just further shows how dynamic He is. He is a really really great King, Father, Friend, Lover of my Soul. I will never get past it.

I hope that this has blessed you today and served as a reminder of how wonderfully YOU are made in YOUR (His) OWN way! Just get happy about that. Have fun with that. And know that your talents and who you are please Him. They make Him happy! Never limit yourself to the definitions of the world. (I mean, use common sense). Don’t be like kid Chaslee and say, “my talents can’t do anything of real worth”. That’s not true. Listen to Him. Let Him reveal to you what He has created you to do and Let Him have control. Give Him your all today. 🙂

I have more news coming soon about something else that I have always prayed for: what is my mission field? He’s given me word on that, too. He’s doing so much today! Not just in my life, but all around! 🙂

Love y’all,

Chaslee

Good Roots

It’s funny, the kind of changes that can happen so rapidly in a week’s time. Especially when it’s God’s time. Which, let’s face it, we are all on His clock. He invented it. It’s His. But, we always think He takes such a long time to move,  when really I think He’s just like “Look, I’m a big God, so when I move, it’s big. I waste no time. When I get it done, I get it done. And I get it done, when I get it done”. Surely there’s a scriptural reference for that somewhere, but at the time I can’t recall it.

I’d give you a rundown on everything that’s happened over the past eight days– and truthfully, I REALLY want to– but Jesus is wanting me to remain a little quiet for a little longer. So I assure you, things are happening. He is beyond my most strict definition of faithful that I could ever pull together. Never under estimate Him. Actually, never try to estimate Him at all, because we’re too small to even try. Lesson learned. He is to remain a mystery, I suppose. (And I mean that very lovingly, because the trust and love that’s developed and refined in that process is like nothing I’ve ever experienced. It’s beautiful.) Also, eventually you will hear of all this news. I promise.

However, over the weekend, the full prospective of having a good “root system” came into focus. You know what I mean, right? A root system is made up of your people. For me, it’s my family and closest friends. In fact, I suppose there was a time, back in the glory days of college, that I was so busy that I never took the time to nurture those relationships the way I should have. It wasn’t that I didn’t appreciate them, I just didn’t prioritize them. Another wonderful thing that this break has allowed me to do, is take time to just dig into those relationships and make them grow. From my aunts, uncles, cousins, to my core group and friends, and beyond, my heart has been enlarged by the room that’s been made by their company.

I’ve been noticing this for quite some time. Ever since before the end of grad school, I’ve noticed how important these relationships are. But everything sort of epitomized over the weekend and the magnitude of it’s notoriety became more than noticeable. So I just have to tell y’all about how amazing fellowship with friends and family is.

The week was packed with so much news. Of course, my imagination is larger than life, and after this fast I’ve really started to understand how much I truly don’t want to go where the Spirit is. The idea of there even being one single force, the Enemy’s or my own, against His will is seriously depressing to me. I had some amazing opportunities arise, but if they weren’t of Him, then they weren’t even possibilities. So I called on my people to help me pray for discernment and protection and blessing. (And the answer was totally surprising, but again, another story for later! 🙂

My friends were so absolutely supportive. It was the warmest goodness to my heart to have them be there for me. In fact, I had to miss one of best friend’s wedding showers because of schedule overlap, but nonetheless, she cheered me on in my endeavor. I mean, how selfless is that?

Then I sent a big group message to my family to send them an update on all the news. Y’all, I can’t even describe what ensued next, so I’m just going to let you read it.

*Sent them all my news and concluded with, “Go Jesus!”*

Paige: We’ll be keeping you in our prayers. And hoping that neon sign is large and blinking, cause those are the best. We are proud of you. Lots of love.

Perri: Ditto. And if you don’t SEE the sign right away we’ll pray that it hits you in the head but that you sustain no injuries from the blow. Seriously though, yay! Gimme a J!

Papa: God answers prayers and He honors faithfulness and obedience. Indeed we see Him keeping His word.

Julia: J!

Perri: Gimme an E!     Obviously Julia and I are the only two on the JESUS squad.

Julia: E! Gimme an SU! (Werd *with prayer emojis*)

Perri: Wait. Gimme an S!

Julia: S!

Perri: Now… What’s that spell?!?!?!?!

Julia: JESUS! Rollllllllllll Jesus Roll!

Paige: I think y’all need to call each other.

Julia: Meh meh meh

Perri: YEA!! Hey, it’s a group thang. We’re just spreadin the LOVE 😉

i said *y’all are awesome hahahaha*

Perri: You are going to be amazed at what God is about to do for you! The whole crazy family is excited!! We love you! And to show you how much, Paige is planning the most incredible deer bbq party! I don’t remember seeing her so excited about cooking for someone. I know I can’t wait!!

Papa: [Bless him, he probably had no idea why his phone was buzzing so much]. Mom and I think you are really tired but we’re glad your focus is RIGHT ON. We are swole up with pride.

Perri: Ha! gotta love the group messages!

*more love from me and Thomas*

Then later,

Richard: Hahaha. Y’all crazy

Paige: I don’t know about BBQ but there 2 ducks in freezer.

Richard: Mmmmmmyum

Paige: Maybe some duck liver pate’. Or do they even have livers. I don’t know.

Richard: I’ll take your 2 ducks and raise em 4 t-bones. Haha jk jk

Perri: I’d see your duck livers and your t-bones and raise you 20 fried chicken tenders. But they’re gone now. So, 10 cans of cat food- the good kind. Or 1 box of salt and a banana. OR 1 half roll of duck tape, 5 empty toilet paper rolls and half a box of raisin bran. And everything has a liver.

Richard: Hahahaha! Y’all are hilarious!

Perri: I miss y’all. Anyone up for a family trip to Nashville? Richard said we can ALL stay with them 🙂

Paige: We’re packing right now

Just a few of the bunch. Love them, dearly.

Just a few of the bunch. Love them, dearly.

Now, as you can imagine, the conversation continued. If you ever wonder why I love my family so much, this is part of why. They are hilarious, supportive, and above all loving. I can always be confident that if I ever just bust it so hard, that Jesus will be there to help me up, and my family will help me, too. A lot of people may think we are a little different, but they are exactly what I need and I wouldn’t trade them for the world.

In that particular moment, they not only supported me and gave me love, but they even entertained me while I was waiting to find out what was next. Just. What. I. Needed.

The overall truth (no matter how corny it may sound), is that in order for a tree to grow abundantly and produce the perfect amount of fruit, it’s gotta have an amazing root system. Yes, water and sunlight are necessary. But look at the Bradford Pear. Lovely tree to put in your front lawn. But many times they get too top-heavy before they can develop the proper root system, and they split in half or just topple over. (However, DO NOT discount remaining in tune with the Spirit. There’s a perfect little example of that with this tree in Geneva County, AL and it’s the oldest tree in the state!)

The Lord made us to live in fellowship. Not alone. But just because we aren’t lonely doesn’t necessarily mean that we are nurturing our root systems to their full potential, and that just isn’t right. It’s a little sad that it took me being on a huge break in my life to realize this. God gave us life, and that should be all about love. Nothing more, and nothing less. What we do, (job, hobby, or anything else), is just another part of the love story that He writes for us. It’s the fun part, you know, how He proves His love to us and reveals Himself to us. But the main star of the show is love and fellowship. Because just as He lives in us, He lives in our families and friends, too. So why not experience Him in those relationships? Make it a priority. The rest of the details will follow and work out on their own.

Perhaps some of you already realize this, but what’s the harm in taking time to appreciate our root people a little more? They deserve it.

Can’t wait to tell y’all what’s to come. Thanks for joining me. Y’all da best!

Love y’all,

Chaslee

I ❤️ Food

This week has truly been one of those “whaaaat is liiiiiiife?” kinda weeks. On so many levels. Irony? Check. Humor? Check. Happiness? Check. Frustration? Check… but oh, that frustration did not have victory. I mean, I don’t want to confuse you. It hasn’t been a bad week. One word to summarize it in? Weird. Just weird.

Fasting is something that’s supposed to be done in quiet. Jesus is pretty explicit about that. Wouldn’t you want someone you love to be a little more hush-hush about something that was just between you and them? But here’s the thing. This season of fasting brought more understanding and just all-around good stuff than ever before. So I’m gonna give Jesus some praise for what He’s done. (And why am I doing this today? Cause the fast is over now).

As a Methodist and Catholic school kid, I’ve been participating in fasts ever since about 6th grade. They’ve included everything from simply giving up Dr. Pepper, to all out abstaining from bread and sweets. But this is the first time that I’ve actually spent more time in prayer than what I was fasting from could amount to. And let me tell y’all, I love food. I take solace in food. Food is bae for me (and I hate the expression “bae”… it’s so dumb). So it’s a big deal. You get the point.

Y’all all know that I’m at a pretty “moldable” place in my life. Scratch that. I’m at a very vulnerable place in my life. I knew that I needed this fast, and I expected Jesus to move. It’s just always so interesting how He always makes moves that I could never guess Him making. Case in point: this past week.

For example: my mom and I went to the grocery store to pick up a few veggies to make ratatouille for supper. That’s the kind of trip that should take maybe 20 minutes, tops? But let me tell you. We saw everyone we knew that day. And even people we didn’t know. It was lovely, and so many great conversations were had. We loved it. However, by the time we finally left, 3 hours had passed. Not to mention, there we were, in the middle of a fast, enjoying the distraction from our hunger with friendly conversation, SURROUNDED BY FOOD GALORE IN A GROCERY STORE. This was the irony I was dealing with. But in the midst of that irony, a man that we didn’t know came to speak to us simply because he thought we were nice.

Before we pulled up to the grocery store, I had been telling my mom about some of my concerns, (ahem, worries, I’m ashamed to say), and she was reassuring me that the Lord has it all together. Well, this man, about mid 70’s, came to talk to us and he told me his secret to life. His secret y’all. He told me: “It’s all about God. If God is at the center of everything you will be alright.” He also told me that I should let God find my husband (as he noticed no ring on my finger), and he told us several stories about his life. It was exactly what I needed to hear from a stranger. Who knew? Total encouragement in the produce section. And not in the most conventional way (…I always feel like the less conventional it is, the more “neon sign” the Lord is being). It was like Jesus was nudging me, like, “See Chas? Told you. Hahaha”.

I’ve spent more time in prayer at 6 AM (braving the BITTER cold… I HATE the cold) for the past few weeks than I have in a long time. I forewent everything I took solace in.. and that went beyond just food. It was a total immersion in Jesus, and although I felt reduced to nothing, I’ve never been more overjoyed. There’s a lot of “I” in those sentences, but much like reducing and humbling teaches us, the truth is none of that is about me. It’s about Him, and how He loves us. And how fortunate are we, that He loves us in the most creative of ways?

Fasting brings us to our knees, and when we’re at these places in our lives things can get a little wirey. For example, my aunt Perri’s lunch she packed for Thomas (my cousin, in high school). They were fasting during these past few weeks, as well. They would come to prayer in the mornings with my mom and I, and one morning Perri told us this story. She said, “Oh y’all, I just have to tell you this story. Okay, so yesterday I packed this great lunch for Thomas. It had a corn and couscous salad, hummus, some veggies, a Clif bar, and some juice that had fruit and vegetables in it (they were fasting too and this made my mouth water). I put it in a sack, and into the fridge the night before so I could have it ready for him the next morning. So the next day, I grabbed the sack from the fridge, gave it to Thomas and got him to school. Well, later that day I went back to the fridge and found another sack, opened it, and there was the couscous, hummus, veggies and juice. I thought, ‘oh no’, so I sent Thomas a text and said ‘oh baby, what did I send you for lunch?’ Well, the day before, I asked Andy to slice up 10 huge carrots from Sam’s and put them in the fridge for dinner the next night . So Thomas said, ‘ I knew something was wrong when I opened the sack. You sent me a bunch of carrots’. I said ‘I am so sorry, what did you do for food?, and He responded, ‘I ate them'”. Bless my cousin, he ate all 10 carrots for lunch and that was it. We had a pretty good laugh about it, but it’s another example of the kind of week we all had.

The funny thing is, this is the type of vulnerability that leaves juuuust enough room for Christ to have complete control to work miracles in our lives. This entire time we prayed fervently, and were expectant, and still are remaining expectant to see Him work. In the process, prayers were answered, healing occurred, and the Lord even started articulating more promises to me that I know He will fulfill in my life… promises that I never imagined I was even deserving enough for. I’m more excited about the future than I’ve ever been. But above all, I’ve fallen even more in love with Him and His will makes sense. I don’t care what happens to my life as long as it’s for His glory. (A lot of what I’m saying is waaaay easier said than done, but don’t you see the splendor that comes from complete surrender?).

I say this a lot, but I really don’t know where many of y’all are in your life. But if you ever are looking for a recommendation from me, a total dedication to not only fasting, but also amping up your prayer simultaneously is the best way to get answers, understanding, healing, and whatever else you may be seeking the Lord for. My advice? Try it. And do it all in.

For some of you this may be quite elementary. In fact, I feel somewhat inadequate because here I am talking about where I am in life and what I expect the Lord to do and what He’s doing, and yet this is really the first time I’ve completely unplugged from the world and completely plugged into Jesus for more than 10 days. But it’s a journey right?

There’s so much that’s going on, and I know that I will be able to tell y’all even more over the next few months. I’m so excited for what’s coming, no matter what it even is. Truthfully, the future means more time spent with Jesus, and that means being with Him more and more. If the future means more of Him, that’s all I need to know. No matter what it is. I. Can’t. Wait.

He’s all we need, friends. Really. Just let go, and see what He does. He might just make you laugh.

Love y’all,

Chaslee

Strength and Endurance: Part 2

I’m finally back to give you part 2 of strength and endurance! I know I said I’d post this a week ago, but the other post was just drawing all sorts of its own attention, so I figured I’d wait a while.

Before I get into the second part of this (endurance), I have an announcement for y’all!

After some prayer and thought, I’ve decided to lead a small group this semester (February 1-May 2) with Church of the Highlands here at the Tuscaloosa campus. Here’s what it will be like: it will include about 20-30 minutes of a workout session (ranging from HIIT’s to weight training to yoga), followed by 20-30 minutes of Bible study and prayer. Details such as day, time, location, are still to be determined (after I find out who will want to participate and their schedules). If you want to sign up, you can go to churchofthehighlands.com and find it listed under small groups, or you can get in touch with me. You won’t need any materials besides yourself and maybe your Bible or journal. The details say that it’s for women ages 20 and up, but it doesn’t really matter. If you want to come, then come! And tell your friends!

Okay, so endurance. I gotta say, it’s a little ironic that I’m talking about endurance today, because I over-trained yesterday and strained my calf muscle. That is very bad. Do not do what I did. When you’re tired, keep going. When you’re sore, keep going but don’t kill it. When you’re tired AND sore, just sit it out.

Endurance is basically when your body can sustain an amount of work for a certain amount of time. It can be shorter or longer depending on the type of workout you’re doing, but it’s good to work on endurance regardless of the type of workout you’re doing.

When most of us think of endurance, we think of cardio, but like I said above endurance can be improved in both cardio and weighted workouts. When our body is at a moderate amount of work, type 1, or slow-twitch, muscles are more active. They are what can push us through a long distance run as opposed to a sprint. They are also what carry us through a high amount of reps and low amount of weight in weighted workouts as opposed to maxing out in the gym. In addition, they are leaner muscles than type 2 muscles which are used for heavy lifting and provide our body with strength.

Type 1 muscles are why most people who are trying to decrease body mass or clothing sizes focus on cardio. Because they’re lean muscles. But they build just like Type 2 muscles build when they are worked out over a specified period of time (even if you’re working with body weight!…. Looking at you Pure Bar. Ever wondered why your lats and back muscles are getting big? That’s why!) But it’s actually endurance that should be focused on, because it provides the body with balance and endurance should be achieved in both cardio and weighted workouts. So how do you achieve that?

Endurance in Cardio

Boosting endurance during a cardio workout is going to be measured by how long you can do your cardio, so, the length of time or distance. A really great way to boost your endurance in cardio workouts is to add time/distance onto the workout in specific increments. An awesome example is the Couch to 5K approach. It sets you up with goal of running 3 miles, and starts you off by walking for a portion of time and running for a portion of the workout. Eventually you increase the running interval and decrease the walking interval to the point where you run the entire 5K. But if you’re not a runner, this same approach can be taken for swimming, biking, kickboxing, elliptical training, and rowing. If you’d ever like for me to set you up with a cardio schedule to increase endurance, just send me your goal and I can help!

Endurance in Weighted Workouts

Endurance in weighted workouts functions much like endurance in cardio workouts, except it measured differently. Like I said above, this usually looks like higher reps and lower weight. However, it doesn’t mean you should always use a low amount of weight. In fact, making endurance your focus actually makes increasing your weight load much safer. Let me explain. For me, I am currently capable of squatting about 110 lbs at 3 sets of 10 repetitions. For me, that’s a challenge but not too difficult so I’d consider it “high weight low rep”. However, as I continue my workouts that will become easier I will be able to squat 110 at 3 or 4 sets of 15 reps. Then when that becomes easier I’ll bump it up to 120 and back off to 3 sets 10 reps again. See what I mean? I increase my endurance and then bump up the weight to increase my strength. Again, if you have a goal in mind and would like an outlined workout schedule, just message me!

Being able to break this concept down, has helped me achieve long term goals much easier and better know how to create daily workouts. Now, something to keep in mind when working on endurance is intensity. Intensity becomes a factor when you add more speed and strength (power) into the workout. That will definitely shorten the amount of time you can maintain the workout, but it doesn’t mean your lessening your endurance. It’s just a different type of endurance. But understanding this helps you customize your workout much easier than when you’re just trying to lose weight and start doing workouts that may or may not actually help you achieve your goal.

Simple and easy, huh?

Well, that’s all for now!,

Love,

Chaslee

Praises on the Twelfth of January

There are a handful of experiences that I can wholeheartedly say helped shape who I am. (Note: do not translate that to “define” who I am… Christ defines who I am and that is all). At the top of that list, ranks the experience that I had growing up with my dear baby sister Laura.

Today marks 5 years since she left this world to go be in a more majestic place with Jesus. You won’t hear me say the word “die” because, although our bodies die, our hearts and souls do not. Praise be to my Savior for what He did on the cross so that we could LIVE with Him. Point being, my sister isn’t dead. She’s alive, with Jesus.

While Laura was here, she was one of the bravest, most stubborn, smart-as-a-whip, strongest, people I have ever known. While she could talk (as a toddler), it was pretty obvious that she was going to be the sister with the good grades, good looks, and all the talent. But the true tenacity of her character showed during the years that she was unable to speak, walk, sit up, or hold her head up. (For those of you that have never read or heard, she had Metachromatic Leukodystrophy (infantile)… link to what that means is somewhere on here, or you can just Google it. The point of this post isn’t about disease. Disease gets no attention or time from me).

Here’s the thing; if it’s raining on the wrong day, or I’m sick with a cold, or there’s some other stress going on, then I just want to go home, sit the rest of the day out and start again tomorrow. Laura was not like that. At all. Every day for her took effort. Lots of effort. She had to be spoon-fed mushy food for every meal, and that could take anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour. Baths weren’t the most comfortable because she had to have those baby sponges, and sometimes they didn’t cushion very well. The rest of the day she would spend on the couch, unless we ran errands in which she would come with us while seated in a car seat or wheel chair. (Let’s just take a moment to realize how amazing my parents are, too, because they always took the best care of her). Nonetheless, she woke up and faced every day with determination for 12 years with her condition (she lived to be 14) and didn’t give up until she couldn’t breath anymore. She could’ve given up on life but she didn’t. And she had a couple times where, while in the hospital, she could have. She’s a living testimony to how we should face every day.

I, by no means, am even remotely as good as she was at facing the day with courage. Some days, I slip into routine and forget that that’s how life was for so long. (It’s funny how 5 years can seem so close, but so far away at the same time). Other days, I snap back to 5 years ago and think “oh I need to be quiet because she’s sleeping”. Regardless of the memory of the circumstances of the situation, I won’t ever forget her and her character.

One day, (about 3 days before she passed away), she and I were in her room listening to a CD a friend had given me. The song  “I’m Ready Now” by Desperation Band was on, and as the chorus began to to build up, she began responding (which for her, was a sort of a soft, humming in her voice). So we just talked and when my parents came in, they asked “she sure is talking a lot, what are y’all listening to?” The lyrics to the song were this: “I’m ready now, do what you will”. That’s something else about her. Not only did she face every day with a spirit of determination, but she knew the Lord was with her and she was ready for Him to do His will. Even at the very end, when she wasn’t able to breath easily, she had complete faith in her Lord. And she made it completely apparent in her agreement with the song. (If you click on the song, it’s a little older, so don’t judge).

There were so many times that I was sure she could see angels, (the ones protecting her, and doing battle against the Enemy). In fact, being with her was comforting because you could feel the presence of the Holy Spirit with her. The Lord is faithful and presides over every circumstance, and He made it extremely apparent in my sister’s life. Not only did He create one of the most beautiful spirits I have ever seen, but His presence was palpable in her life. When I say that my experience with her helped shape my spiritual journey, I mean it in a multifaceted way. She was a light, and He used her to show that He can fuel our strength in all circumstances.

I’ve never taken the time to write or talk about her quite like this, because, well, when someone can’t walk or talk, how can you really explain who a person is without being able to give physical reference? But on the anniversary of the day she went to live in Heaven with Jesus, I wanted to do more than just post a picture on Instagram. I’m not seeking attention at all, but I do want to highlight the life that my sister led. She was amazing, and I only hope that I can learn to be that strong in tough circumstances.

The thing is, she trusted God. And how could she not? In that situation you’d have to be desperate for Jesus every day. But she didn’t get discouraged and give up. She lived life to the very end. Me? Well, after she passed away I went through a long season (nearly a year and a half) where I didn’t doubt God, or His love, or His existence, but I just didn’t understand, and I made some poor decisions. Nothing life altering, but they could have been. See, it went like this: I knew from a very young age that the faith of a mustard seed could move mountains, and that by His stripes we were healed, so all we had to do was receive what He did for us. And we trusted God for her healing. But in the process, I put God in a box. I shaped what I expected Him to do by my mold of what it meant. In actuality, there is an entire part of this that we can’t see and we won’t see until we get to heaven. God didn’t work any less of a miracle and I’m more than certain that He was glorified in the life and passing of my sister. I guess I’ll just have to wait to see the magnitude of said miracle, when I go to be with Jesus.

I miss her, a lot. I miss talking to her, holding her hand, her attitude, her personality, the whole thing. And yes, that does make me want to cry. But even though it might seem like a long time until I get to see her again, I do get to see her again. I can’t wait to see her and all the jewels in her crown. Moreover, I can’t wait to see Jesus and for us to be together with Jesus. It will be… like, ahhh! I can’t even fathom it.

So I really hope that you walk away from this post feeling inspired, joyful, and with a sense of encouragement that He has it all in His hands. Not sad. Cause here’s another thing that experience taught me: no matter what, if He is at the center of you your life and you have given Him complete control, everything, literally EVERYTHING will be okay no matter what. I never allowed myself to even think about “what if” Laura passed away. It was never talked about, and it was the worst possible scenario I could think of for years. But in Him all things are made new. He is the Bread of Life that sustains us, and let me tell you, He SUSTAINED me. Every need He has provided, every fear He has taken away, and I know that no matter what we face He will provide.

Today, on January 12, 2015, I’m giving praise for the life of my sister. She was an amazing girl, and I’m just honored that I got to be her big sister. I’m giving praise, that I will get to see her again one day. I give praise for His faithfulness and grace during my wretched season of life where I didn’t understand and have full trust. I’m giving praise for the opportunity that I had to see Him work in a completely unique way. Laura, I love you, and I hope you are celebrating and praising just as much as me right now.

Love y’all,

Chaslee

Laura could find the humor in the chaos, kind of like what you see here.

Laura could find the humor in the chaos, kind of like what you see here… she’s the baby that’s belly laughing in the middle.

She had loads of personality. For example, her shades of choice were these pink cat-eye sunglasses from T.J. Maxx. And if you messed with her doll house, she would not stand for that!

She had loads of personality. For example, her shades of choice were these pink cat-eye sunglasses from T.J. Maxx. And if you messed with her doll house, she would not stand for that!

Here was her at her seventh birthday party. She was laughing at the tissue paper. Like I said, she faced life head on and kept up her faith.

Here she was at her seventh birthday party. She was laughing at the tissue paper. Like I said, she faced life head on and kept up her faith.

Strength and Endurance for the New Year: Part 1

This post might take a while to read, but there’s a treat waiting for you at the very end 😉

First of all, I’m going to say this plainly because it’s the only way I know how. I’ve never had as many people support a post as I did on Monday. It was awesome. Lately, I’ve been blogging because it makes me feel productive and I only do it if I feel that the Lord has put something on my heart to share. Obviously, my prayer is that this blog can help you connect with Him in another way and I never want what I have to say to hinder that. This week has been pretty amazing, so thank you for taking the time to read, and I hope you get something out of it! If I, in any way, can be an instrument for Jesus then that makes me joyful. Really joyful. But even more, if He’s glorified, that makes me SUPER joyful.

That being said, the Belief Before Proof post was still receiving a good amount of traffic this (Wednesday) morning, so I have delayed this post until Thursday. If the Lord is being glorified in one post I don’t want to stop it with this one. The only reason I do workout posts on Wednesday is for the alliteration, which is just a cheesy PR quirk anyway. Sorry to disappoint if you just love the alliteration.

Now on to business…

It’s the new year, and if your resolution is fitness focused, then you’re going to want to hear this!

The most important part about becoming physically fit, is setting your goal. So do you have your goal in mind? If so, great! Then what type of goal is it?

I’ve said several times before that working out is two-fold. If your goal is to become overall healthy and fit, there is nothing better than balancing your workout schedule between strength training and cardio training. Girls, y’all need the weight training, and guys, the cardio is not going to ruin your muscle gains.

Now I’m going to explain why all that is so. The human body is made up of all types of different muscles. Muscles burn fat, so the more muscle you have, the more fat you are capable of burning. (Some people think that muscle turns to fat and fat turns to muscle, but no. The only relationship they have is that muscle burns fat. They are completely different types of tissue). The best way to condition your muscles is to focus on gaining strength and lengthening endurance. It’s the level and ratio of work that goes into developing those two components that effects muscle atrophy (aka growth). But both exercises still build muscle and they are both completely necessary!

So, in keeping with the beginning of the new year, I give you part 1 of Strength and Endurance!

The purpose of these two posts are to give you just a little bit of extra information to help you put together a better game plan for your workout or fitness resolution. The truth is fad diets and exercises are just that: fads. They don’t last long, whether they work or not. They aren’t sustainable. If you want to make a permanent change, then you need the right information so that you know how to work out and how to achieve your goal. So today, I’m talking about strength, and next week will be about endurance.

Although strength usually makes us think about dumbbells, barbells, and weight machines, strength actually applies to more than just getting big muscles. In fact, it comes in handy more often than when you’re lifting something. Strength is also used when we need to produce power, and power is important when it comes to sprinting, HIIT workouts, and any type of athletics. When we work on our strength, that’s when we get that definition in our muscles too.

So how do you improve strength?

Guys, you obviously know more about this typically than girls do. This also might seem slightly repetitive from what I’ve written before, but weight training is essential.

One of the best ways to build up strength is gradually (obviously). When you’re starting out, choose a weight that is comfortable, but  challenging and start out with a lower amount of repetitions and sets (usually 2-3 sets of 8-10 reps). Yes, it’s low, but you have to build a good foundation in the beginning or you will hurt yourself. In the past, I’ve said lower reps means muscle growth. But with this low of weight it simply won’t happen. At least not enough to make girls look like football players.

Once that weight becomes easy at those amount of reps and sets, then increase your sets and reps some more (i.e. going from 10 to 15 reps or 3 to 4 sets). Then when that becomes too easy, increase the weight. See? So easy!

Just to help you be able to picture this a little easier, here’s what I’ve worked on over the past two years. When I first began training in 2012, my weighted workouts included body weight (doing wall sits, body weight squats and so on), and some cable machines. If I was adding any weight, it was low; usually 8 pound weights– haha!– for my arm workouts, and maybe 10 for leg workouts.

Now I’ve worked up to weighted workouts that use dumbbells, machines, and barbells. The weights I use for my arms (currently) are 15-20 for each arm depending on the workout, 25 pounds on each leg for lunges, about 40-60 pounds for my back or laterals, and around 110-120 for squats and leg press. And ladies— this is quite low because my muscles are naturally bulky and I don’t want to build too much. However, I will still continue to increase my weight load. (Side note: I recently backed off because I’m working on training for a half marathon… saving that for another post!)

Sticking to your schedule is the best thing you can do. And one of the best mentalities to maintain is this: the workout that you have ahead of you is not going to be your last workout.You’ll have another one tomorrow. So don’t exhaust yourself so much that you can’t work out the next day. Work hard, but listen to your body and don’t hurt yourself! It’s a gradual process and you want to make it to the end.

So when your working on increasing your strength, think of the process like this:

1. Choose a comfortable but challenging weight (can be body weight or added weights) and do a moderate amount of reps.

2. One to two weeks after (or until those reps become easy) increase your amount of reps by a few or until it makes to tired.

3. Once you’ve achieved that many reps at the weight you started out on, then increase your weight by a little bit.

4. Repeat.

Now this process can be applied to more than weight training. If yoga is your thing, then turn reps into amount of seconds you hold your pose, and make the poses more challenging. It’s so simple, but so important.

So there’s just a little bit of info on how to tackle your strength goals. It’s a process for sure, and it takes time. It’s taken me 2 years to get up to where I am. But here’s the thing: the time is going to pass regardless of what you do. So do you want achieve your goal by the end of the year? Or make the same resolution next year? It’s only an hour out of your day, so get up a do it!

 

P.S. For those of you wanting to add a little worship into your workout without sacrificing a good tempo, but you don’t know where to look, then follow me! I’m on Spotify and have created a playlist for my own workouts. Some of you might enjoy it, others may not. But feel free to listen along with me! Here is the link to my workout playlist!

Love y’all and happy sweating!

Chaslee

Belief Before Proof

It’s finally here! The sun is shining, the holidays are behind us, and a brand new year is in front of us! Happy 2015 to all of you! There’s so much promise that lies ahead!

….Okay, if I’m being completely honest with you, my new year did not begin that brightly. Like, at all. I celebrated New Year’s Eve by going to bed before 11:00 PM (partly because I wanted to, and partly because I was too busy to make any plans beforehand), I woke up the next day to find that the cat had used the floor of my closet as a litter box, it rained non-stop, and Alabama lost to Ohio State in the playoff. Plus there was the inevitable reminder that continued to reoccur all day (between the billions of engagement announcements and job hiring announcements and other accomplishments featured on every form of social media possible), that I’m 24, jobless, and living at home with my parents. Yeaaaah, not much of it was promising at all.

I got really sarcastic on New Year's Eve. This was my Instagram for the world to see.

I got really sarcastic on New Year’s Eve. This was my Instagram for all the world to see.

Fortunately, what we do on New Year’s Eve/Day, has absolutely no indication of what the rest of the year will look like. January 1–and 2 and 3–, 2015 was simply a day that the Enemy kept coming up behind me and poking me in the side incessantly. It doesn’t mean anything else.

I’m not going to lie to you, for those three days I was extremely bored and pretty annoyed. I couldn’t stop hashing over the fact that I’ve been waiting so long for the Lord to open up the door and me enter the next chapter of my life with a strong sense of purpose, and it kept making me more frustrated and more frustrated. So dumb, I know. Don’t worry, I’m over it now. But here’s why.

I’ve told y’all about the She Reads Truth site on here before, and if you don’t remember surely you’ve heard about it from someone else or at least seen it on Instagram. If not, visit it here. Out of all the modern day apps and junk, this one is actually worth your data usage. Currently, they are doing a study on the book of John.

This is going to sound so hipster, but John has been my favorite book of the Gospel since about middle school. Having grown up in a Catholic school, we learned a lot of history about the books of the Bible and what we learned about John was so unique. John was Jesus’ BFF… I mean obviously all the disciples (minus Judas) were, but John stayed awake the longest in the Garden of Gethsemane. John saw and wrote the book of Revelation. John was the only disciple to die of natural causes, not because he was executed. But beyond all that, the way the book was written was much different than any of the other books of the Gospel. Some find him to be cryptic at times, but he offers a perspective that’s really insightful. He focuses on details and stories that the other Gospels do not. I could go on and on (clearly).

I haven’t done a study specifically on John’s Gospel in a really long time, but I’m so excited to be doing it now. In the middle of all my icky gloom and doom, I began this study and started to notice a pattern that I guess I’ve never really focused on quite so much before. You see, John is all about “the point” that Jesus was communicating. The physical details don’t matter to him, but the truth that Jesus preached and lived out does. And in the first 4 chapters of John, I couldn’t help but notice how often Jesus would call out that what people were looking for was proof (often proof showed through those worldly details that don’t matter like wine or water at a wedding) so that they could believe. But He always would point them in a different direction, by basically responding with 1. “You thought that was cool? You ain’t seen nothin’ yet” and most importantly 2. that our faith doesn’t need proof in order for us to believe, we can just trust Him.

Now, don’t worry, I know your probably like “what is she saying right now?” First of all, I’m not under any circumstances condemning or even criticizing faith that comes out of seeing or experiencing “proof”. Second of all, it’s more like this.

Our world can be so misconstrued sometimes. Very often, we have to keep our hearts guarded so that we don’t get hurt or disappointed and one way to do that is to wait for people to prove themselves to us. It happens in so many relationships and walks of life, and it’s a plan that works when we’re learning how to trust people. That can apply to girls trusting guys before they date them, bosses trusting employees before they give them bigger responsibilities, parents trusting their children before they let them drive, and so on.

But one of the wonderful things about Jesus is that we don’t have to go through that process. We can just trust Him with our whole hearts, souls, and lives, and know that we can trust Him without needing proof first.

I know this sounds really lofty or out in left field. I’m not trying to be complicated or smart or whatever, but in realizing that point that’s written about in John, it reminded me that I’m entirely too worried about silly details that are so magnified by the world, but don’t really matter. I’ve been waiting for God to open up this amazing door to a job almost like I’ve been waiting for Him to prove to me that He has a plan for me, and that’s not fair to Him. Not when we’re talking about a loving relationship like the one we’re supposed to have with Christ. It’s like saying to my mom, “I’ll wait for you to buy me new earrings and then I’ll know you love me”. Not even remotely correct, because she does even greater things for me than buy me things, and I know she loves me without new earrings anyway. With Jesus, that’s not even remotely correct again, because He works greater miracles than that all the time, and I know He loves me. I mean, He lived a spotless life and gave it over just for mine.

How wonderful is it that we can just trust Him? It’s weird to comprehend because of the world we live in. It’s a little bit like the concept of time. God is not bound by time, and heaven doesn’t run on a clock. But we can’t imagine life without time. Likewise, trust after proof is a concept we’ve grown up around so we can’t fathom relationships without it. But unlike being bound by time while we’re on earth, it’s something that we get to experience on this earth just by being in a relationship with Him.

So whether it’s a job, or finding the one that you’re supposed to marry, or getting a promotion, or whatever is your looking for proof that He loves you or cares about you… remember that it’s not about that. It’s about being in a relationship with Him. Trust Him before He works the miracle, cause the miracles that follow after that are even bigger and more important anyway!

The Lord is uncovering parts of my heart everyday, that I don’t even realize I’m living with. It’s like those people who have bullets lodged in their body and don’t know about it until they go through a metal detector at TSA. I’ve always been open about how much I trust the Lord, but once again, He’s shed His light on the dark parts of my heart and now I’m learning about a whole new aspect of this trust thing. Hopefully, this will be the year where I can learn to be completely content with His ways and learn how to trust Him even more 🙂

Have a great week y’all,

Chaslee

New Year, New Mercies

You didn’t really think I’d let 2014 go by without a final post, did you?

It may be slightly corny, but truthfully I’m too much of an organizer for there not to be a good chapter closing for 2014.

Christmas was great. I would say it was perfect, but my granddad had to stay at UAB a little longer than expected so we didn’t get to have the Marshall family Christmas Brunch like we always do. Nonetheless, it was a great celebration. I don’t think I’ve ever fully realized how special Christ’s birth is and how amazing it is that our Savior and King humbly entered the world. Or maybe I have, and I just remember it as though it’s new every year. I mean the fact that His Majesty could be wrapped up into a tiny baby born among animals in a cave… wow. Just wow. So humbling.

The weekend followed with more wedding celebrations. This time I headed to Tupelo, where one friend got married to his sweetheart and another friend began the celebrations leading up to the wedding to her sweetheart. It just so happened that both parties were in Tupelo. I’ve never even been to Tupelo. It’s crazy how things work out. Anyway, both parties were absolutely deeeelightful and I’m overjoyed for both of my friends. (Not to mention, it’s kinda cool to have all these weddings juxtaposed with Christmas. It’s like, I have the opportunity to give thanks for how Christ entered the world to live humbly and save my life, but I’m reminded to prepare for the day He comes back in all His glory for His bride!)

I never quite imagined ending the year on this note. Actually, I really didn’t envision myself to be where I really am right now, 12 months after the fact. You see, I saw myself in a new job somewhere, perhaps preparing to enter into a new covenant of my own, and following a path that I had deemed “normal” or a life pattern that was “regular”. (Not to say that anyone who is currently in a new career or getting married is regular, or plain. Of course, each person’s plan is unique to them. But a lot of this is happening around me). Needless to say, I am at the very opposite of the spectrum from where I imagined myself. No job –yet– and definitely no where near getting married myself. To add to the “never saw myself doing what I’m doing now”, none of the marriages that I’m celebrating had been announced by engagements yet this time last year. It’s just crazy how much can be packed in 12 little months.

But this morning I remembered something as I was reading my devotional for the day. My resolution for 2014 was grow closer to the Lord. It was simple, but important. And that certainly happened this year. Praise Jesus for that.

Typical photo of a sunset for "then end of the year". Honestly, I'm just leaving this here cause it's a long post and I believe pictures make everything better. For my Bama fans, there's ole Bryant-Denny standing up on the left of the landscape. Roll Tide!

Typical photo of a sunset symbolizing “the end of the year”. Honestly, I’m just leaving this here cause it’s a long post and I believe pictures make everything better. For my Bama fans, there’s ole Bryant-Denny standing up on the left of the landscape. Roll Tide!

Then I started thinking about what I wanted this year’s resolution to be. However, coming off the heels of quite an unpredictable year I just wasn’t sure about what kind of goal I wanted to set. To get a job? It’s pretty clear that I’m doing what I can about that already. To get fit? I’m 2 years strong in that category (pun intended). To get organized? I have so much stuff that I’m beginning to need another closet. It’s as organized as it’s gonna get for now.

The truth is, I kinda don’t like New Year’s resolutions. For instance… the “get fit” goal totally irks me. I get to the gym, see the “resolutioners” that I know will only be there until about mid-March, they aren’t there for the right reasons and they just crowd the weight room, and I want to tell them to leave. (My selfishness confession of the day for you). I mean I totally get that as humans, to set obtainable goals helps us stay on track and stay motivated. That’s good and fine. However, they can also set us up for disappointment. Like those poor gym resolutioners don’t know that they’re making things difficult for themselves because they aren’t working out correctly, resolutions without the right solution are nearly useless. In terms of spiritual resolutions, it can be overwhelming too.

But just as I was thinking about all that, the Holy Spirit in His sweet whisper came through gently. He said, “My mercies are new every morning, not just on New Years”.

And just like that, my New Year’s reflection completely changed. How awesome is that?

New Year’s is cool because it’s nice to be able to summarize what’s happened in a year and reflect on everything that’s occurred. I love to watch those videos on YouTube that combine all the popular music of the year into one mix (even though I don’t really listen to pop music very often), simply because it reminds me of what each season brought forth in under 5 minutes. (I’m a nerd, I know). But set the worldly stuff aside, and we’re left with this idea that there’s one day out of the year to set new goals and start over. That’s completely NOT the truth!

The truth is, with Jesus in our lives, every day is like New Year’s. I’m not saying that we can completely fall off the cart every day and come back the next and say to Jesus “can I have my mercy for today?”… that’s not a genuine love for our Savior. That’d straight up be a weird relationship. But what it does mean, is that when we set our goal to become closer to Jesus, we don’t have to dwell on mistakes made because He wipes the slate clean for us every day. We ask for forgiveness, strive to be a reflection of Jesus, and pursue Him, and we rely Him, then He will be faithful and provide for us and give us a new day, every day.

I realize that this is a simple concept, but it brings so much hope! I had a friend talk with me other day about some of the struggles they have been encountering in their walk with the Lord. Basically it rounded out to be about how, at times, our hearts can know that we need Jesus and we want to seek Him, but there can also be another corner of our heart that is hearing the enticing temptations of the Enemy (whatever they may be) and it keeps us from wholly living for God. It’s scary to think that there is a force working to tear us down, and make us want what isn’t pure and whole and good. And what’s worse is to think that even with our determination to resolve and make new goals for the year, on our own we will still fall short. We will still encounter difficulty and not meet that perfect standard. We’re human.

BUT (and what a wonderful “but” this is), if we seek Him, and acknowledge the parts of us that aren’t pure, and we tell the Lord about it and give it to Him, He has this wonderful thing called grace that covers it and He conditions our souls and hearts to desire what He desires. Then we begin to want to live like He would live. And our actions become reflections of the work that is being done in our hearts. We can’t do it on our own. We have to give Him the opportunity to help us. Even though fear might creep in that we might fail, don’t let it! With Him, we cannot fail. One of the most popular scriptures is Phillipians 4:13- “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”. That is what that scripture directly addresses (not athletic ability… sorry y’all, although He can help that, too). With Him, we can become more like Him.

And eventually, our life begins to look like what’s written in 2 Peter: “His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness. Through these He has given us His very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.
For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But whoever does not have them is nearsighted and blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their past sins.”

So as you’re setting your goals for this year, you might need some encouragement like me. And if that’s the case, then just remember that His mercies are new every morning. 365 days a year. There’s nothing we can do to separate us from His love. Although we may fail, He lifts us up. What peace that brings!

I have no idea where I’ll be this time next year. If life has taught me anything, it’s that anything is possible. There are truly no limits on what God can do in our lives and what He provides us with. Obviously, I hope I’m in a good place, but if I define “good place” as in-step with Jesus, then I’m confident that He will be with me. And if He is with me, then… well, you get the gist.

As we walk into the New Year, I can’t really say that I have any resolutions. However, I do have prayers, and they go like this: I pray that the Lord softens my heart and keeps my ears tuned into His spirit at all times. I pray that you (my dear readers) experience His presence daily and that your hearts are softened as well. I pray for our strength to face our battles this year and that we will be victorious through Jesus. And I pray that we may never lose faith.

2015 will have it’s challenges, but with Christ Jesus as our pilot, at the helm of our ship, in the driver’s seat, we can only come out of it victorious! Hallelujah for that!

Happy New Year my friends!

Love,

Chaslee

The Monday Before Christmas

It’s funny, the amount of events, emotional fluxes, energy, and conclusions that can be packed into 2 weeks. I had to break my roll of weekly updates because this past week truly packed more into 7 days than I have experienced in a very very long time. I know that I’m not the only who’s busy in this season, but with Christmas being this week I didn’t want to forfeit another update. There’s something about the monument of the holiday that just brings about more cause for reflection and sharing. So here we go.

If there’s one way to describe this past week it’s this: So. Much. Celebration. And I couldn’t be more excited for all parties involved. While one friend entered into a covenant of marriage with her best friend, my sister was presented at the Holiday Cotillion. You can imagine how much joy was wrapped up in the weekend. You know the beginning of 27 Dresses when Katherine Heigle is in 2 weddings in one day? That was sort of what life looked like on Friday and Saturday. Only it was a Cotillion, not a wedding and there was no changing in a taxi (fortunately).

With the wedding, several of my friends came back in town (!!!) and it was awesome to be with them again. While they were here, we visited, ran errands, ate Chick-Fil-A, got pedicures and had a great time. Also, my BFF Jordan landed an internship with Chicago White Sox. So she’s a boss 🙂 Then of course we celebrated Kayla and Luke, and it was tons of fun. They’re a beautiful couple and I just hope that one day I can have a relationship like that (because they’re that awesome).

Cotillion was also loads of fun. My family loves a good excuse to dress up and shake it on the dance floor. We did it 2 years ago with my Cotillion, and did it again this year. It’s a great bonding experience. For the record, I LOVE my family. They are the absolute best. God gave me an amazing foundation and I am always amazed at how great they are.

So much dancing because we love dancing!

So much dancing because we love dancing! We had to take our heels off.

So today, as you can imagine, I was exhausted. Rarely do I let myself sleep past 9 because I hate wasting the day away in bed. (I’m also a morning person… lame I know). But today, I didn’t budge until 10:30. When I woke up, I was the only one at home (my dad is with my granddad (Bud) at UAB because Bud is going to have a shunt put in, and my mom took my sister to get her wisdom teeth out… so much surgeryyyy). Consequently it left me in the quiet, which meant my thoughts got really loud this morning. A lot happened this weekend. And if I’m being completely honest with you, I got a little sullen.

I am over joyed for everyone around me. The ones that are getting married, getting jobs, moving, making friends, and so on. God is so good, and He has surrounded me with amazing friends. He further displays His faithfulness not only through their precious friendships with me, but also in how He is working in their lives.

Now, I just have to preface this with saying that under no circumstances am I jealous. Nor have I lost any faith in what the Lord is doing in my life or His promise for me. I’m not shaken. Perhaps it’s just me going from being so busy to being so quiet, so quickly. But I am wondering what the future holds, and I’m getting anxious.

This semester has been quite a time of rest and change, and I am so grateful. The Lord moved in my life, and he changed my heart in so many ways for the better. I’m completely in love with Him, and I’m continuing to learn more about His nature everyday… (now, my execution in imitating that behavior is by no means perfect, but we are always continuing to be sanctified more and more everyday, right?). Basically, what I’m trying to say is, I’m in a much better place to move forward than before. I’m just really ready to know what the plan is.

My entire life, the Lord’s voice and direction has only seemed to be most audible in situations where He’s saying “Chaslee, this definitely isn’t right,” or “Chaslee, here. Go. Now. Time to move.” When I read about the stories of Abraham, or Moses, or Noah, or (in the spirit of Advent), Elizabeth, Mary, Joseph, and Zechariah I am totally jealous. Jealous that the Lord gives them vision quite sometime ahead of when He moves and they trust and obey His command in order to prepare the way. In my life, I’m told to trust, but I genuinely have no idea where I’m going or what I’m supposed to be doing. I have been stripped of all distractions and the possibilities are endless. I know what I like, what I don’t, what I’m good at and what I’m not. But nothing is happening. All I need is some vision! Come on Lord. What’s next? Just give me something to go on. I know I’m in the right place currently. I have no doubts about that. But I have no inkling of what’s to come.

I’ve been asked several times about what it is that I want for Christmas. I’m having so much trouble coming up with anything tangible, though. My closet can’t fit another thing in it (praise the Lord for that blessing), so I’m good there. (Mostly because I don’t get rid of clothes much). All my technology is up to date so no new laptops or phones are needed. I have what I need for my trip to France. And I would ask for things for a kitchen or living room, but I don’t have an apartment and have no idea if I will have one in the near future. Perhaps that’s part of being 24.

But the truth is this. If I could have any present for Christmas it would be direction. Don’t misunderstand me. I am completely content and trust the Lord with wherever He may led me. I’m totally cool with Him piloting me. Under no circumstances do I want to move without Him leading me. I just want some sort of  idea of what’s going on. Maybe I’m being selfish, and if I am I hope He will correct me.

So that’s my confession for today. In the meantime, there’s a very special holiday coming up later this week. Oh, the preciousness of Christmas. To be reminded of how He humbled himself for our sakes and became a baby born in a manger is so special. His love for us is so great. He is the One True King, but He loves us so much that He lived a life obedience and became lowly. My hope for this Christmas is that I can imitate Him and be a light of love for others. He is so wonderful. And we have the privilege of spending a few days simply reflecting on His precious gift among the presence of our loved ones.

I probably won’t post until after Christmas, so I want to leave you with this. Take time to be in His presence and remember His sweet, sweet love for us. I’m praying that each of you have a safe and happy Christmas, and wish you JOY during this season!

Luke 2:1-14:

In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while[e] Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to their own town to register.

So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
    and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

MERRY CHRISTMAS my dear friends! Love y’all and wishing you joy and peace all season long!

Chaslee

Be Filled

Before I even begin, I gotta say: I’ve heard back from several of you faithful readers lately and y’all are the kindest! When I began writing this quaint little blog, it was for two reasons. 1. It would be entirely too selfish of me to think that I am the only one who is going through this awkward phase struggle, but it’s not something that’s commonly talked about. I really felt like I needed to share if for no other reason than to sympathize with at least one other person. All I want to do is help. 2. When I was in school it was a fantastic form of therapy. Writing helps me process things, get it out, and move forward with what I needed to get done. Now, I’ve discovered that I actually enjoy writing more than I thought, so I’ve just kept on.

However, I never fully imagined that what I would have to say would actually strike a chord with anyone. But I am so grateful that it does! If you read regularly, (whether I know who you are or not), I truly appreciate you more than you could know.

Now for my updates. I passed my ACE certification exam, so now I am a personal trainer! Woo hoo! And a hallelujah to Jesus for carrying me through, cause I didn’t study for very long, nor do I test well. Now I can at least start some sort of work with a source of income, because quite honestly, I’m beginning to feel like a lazy sloth. So an even bigger woo hoo and hallelujah for that! I have also applied for a job at UA’s Rec Center, and will soon hear from that. Until then you can rest assured that my workout tips are at least legit, and if you want a trainer you can soon hire me (if you want… I promise it’ll be fun!).

Alrighty, now for what I’ve got for ya today. I gotta be honest with y’all, I got a little ways into writing about what I’m getting into, but then I just didn’t want to. I went to Hobby Lobby with my mom to gather a few more things for our Christmas decorations, and when I got there I just thought “no, I don’t want to think about all that. This is supposed to be a joyful time of year! Not melancholy”. But then the Lord confronted me. Although I may be filled with joy, there’s still turmoil in this world and others might not be so filled. So I’m going to continue.

Lately I have seen more loss posted on social media than I think I have in a while. Loss of friends, family, loved ones… and I hate to think of the sadness that these people are going through. Especially at such a time of year as Christmas. Honestly, I just want to put the social media down, and walk away. And that is so selfish, I know, but I think part of it might be because it’s somewhat reminiscent of when Laura died almost 5 years ago. Although it was after the holidays, this time of year reminds me of her.

In fact, I can still remember Christmastime 5 years ago, sitting on the couch with Laura while watching a show (I don’t even remember what it was). I looked over at her and she had tensed up her little body with a look on her face that seemed fearful and it broke my heart. So I leaned over and gave her the biggest hug and a kiss on the cheek, and told her it was okay, but she didn’t relax. Then, looking over at the Christmas tree, just beyond her, I prayed “Lord make this stop whatever it is, I rebuke this in the name of Jesus”, and I held her tight. Soon she relaxed and shortly after, my family called me into the kitchen for dinner and the night continued as normal. But I couldn’t shake the feeling that the Enemy was trying his best to take a swat. Little did I know that in a few weeks she would be gone.

I hate recalling unhappy memories like that. Still, the truth is that it happened, and no one should have to experience such sorrow ever but especially around the holidays. You already are reminded of their absence at the holidays, but if they leave you around the holidays then the feeling intensifies. It’s so so so unfair.

Fortunately 5 years can make a difference. In this situation, time often can heal certainly not everything, but some things. I miss Laura just like anyone would miss a loved one. In the 364 days following her death, the world was turned on it’s head. It was like figuring out how to walk again, and I lost sight of who God is. But His great love and faithfulness conquer and covers all.

For those of you who have experienced recent loss, I pray that you will be filled with the peace, comfort, and joy of the Almighty. I’ve been where you are and it is extremely difficult. But I encourage you not to lose sight of the ultimate victory that covers all pain, injustice, sorrow, sadness, and hurt: Christ.

A Christmas season should not be filled with any type of sorrow whether it be over a lost loved one, a hurting relationship, a difficult situation, a break up, or disagreements between families. The truth is, Christmas marks the birth of Christ. Advent should be filled with endless amounts of joy over the fact that God sent His son, the Lamb, in a tiny human package born to virgin mother, from the line of David, in a manger (that would have resembled more of a cave), in tiny, normal, regular, Bethlehem. The same Lamb that would take up a heavy wooden cross, and die for ALL the sins of the world, an event and necessity that in itself was the very definition of unfair. The truth is, no matter what happens in our lives, the most important and very best thing that could have ever happened to us happened because Jesus came to save us.

I borrowed this from She Reads Truth, which is producing a wonderful Advent series. Follow along on their website if you're looking for a GREAT devotional!

I borrowed this from She Reads Truth, which is producing a wonderful Advent series. Follow along on their website if you’re looking for a GREAT devotional!

That it is the kind of thing that should fuel our joy for all of eternity, and it does. But that doesn’t stop the Enemy from trying to steal our joy by distracting us with disaster. In fact, that only spurs him on to do so. Don’t let him have your joy! It’s so very hard sometimes, but ask God to hold your heart and give you peace and joy, and I can promise you that He will do just that.

This is a heavy subject that isn’t easily expressed in words, but it’s definitely harder to execute. I’ll easily admit, that after Laura died I had a very hard time understanding what God was up to. Her healing was something I had looked forward to since her diagnosis. Finding joy in the midst of that loss was so hard. I had even begun to think even though God existed, the details of my life didn’t matter to Him. Satan delivered a pretty hard blow that time. Not only had he stolen my joy, but he was lying to me too.

The truth is He does care, ever so much. In keeping with the theme of Christmas, here’s one example. Bethlehem in Hebrew means “house of bread”, and Jesus called himself the Bread of Life. So when He was born in Bethlehem, it couldn’t have been more appropriate. But there were so many people who denied Christ was the Messiah, because the way in which He appeared was so different than what they had pictured in their head. The Messiah was supposed to be majestic like David, yet He was a lowly carpenter. Again, it speaks to how God is present even in the ordinary, and sometimes His plan doesn’t look like what we have pictured in our heads. But it doesn’t make His plan any less right. Nor does it change the fact that every detail of our life matters to Him. And that is something to be completely joyous over.

I’m not minimizing loss, sorrow, and suffering. But I do want encourage each and every one of you that may be dealing with something this holiday season, to stay focused on One Who Conquered death. Let Him love on you. Seek Him. And be filled with endless amounts of joy in knowing that The Creator of The Earth has you in the very palm of His hand and He knows everything about you. Be joyful that the One Who Conquered Death is in the middle of the situation that you are in. Trust Him with your life, your heart, and emotions and know that He loves you with an infallible, steadfast love.

Be filled!

I’m praying for each and everyone of you this Christmas that you may experience the fullness of Christ. When Satan attacks, he attacks hard, but don’t let him steal your joy. Christ Jesus has come and saved us, and He will return!

Love y’all,

Chaslee