Braids, Dolls, and Faith

There is a story from my childhood that seems to recur in my thoughts this year. It’s a story about braids – yes, braids. Cornrow braids to be exact. If you do not know the type of braids I am talking about – Google is your friend, lol. Anyway, I keep thinking about the moment I finally learned how to braid hair in cornrow braids.

I asked my mother to teach me how to braid hair the way that she had done my hair countless times. I expected for her to drop what she was doing and start a lesson right away. I thought she would start to do my sister’s hair and give me a play by play on what to do. This did not happen. She simply told me to “go play with your dollbaby” – that is how she referred to our dolls. I was confused. “What did playing with my doll have to do with what I had asked her?” It did not make any sense to me but I did what she told me to do. I played with the doll the way I had always played with her. I pretended to be her mom. I fed her and changed her clothes. I put ponytails in her hair. I still did not know why my mother told me to do this? A couple of weeks later, I asked her to teach me again. I thought maybe her answer would be different this time. Maybe this time she actually had the time to properly teach me? I asked her again. “Mommy, can you teach me how to braid?” Her response was the same, “Go play with your dollbaby.” Again, I was confused and a little frustrated. Her answer did not make sense and this is the second time that she said it. I actually remember thinking, she may not have wanted to take the time to teach me but I went and played with my doll again. This time I had the idea to place my hands in the doll’s hair the way I had always seen my mom place her hands in both me and my sister’s hair. I tried to form a braid the way that she did but it did not form. The more I tried the more frustrated I got until I gave up. I did not ask her again for a while. I thought if I let a little time pass, she would forget about her previous responses and finally show me how to braid when I asked her again. Months went by and I asked her again. “This time there will be a different answer”, I thought. “This time she will give me exactly what I asked for the way that I wanted it.” I asked once again and what do you think happened? Nothing different. The same response came my way, “Go play with your dollbaby.” I didn’t show it but I was in shock. Her response nor her demeanor ever changed no matter how many times I asked her the same question. I went to my grandfather’s den and looked at my doll. “I guess I will try this again”, I thought. I formed my hands in her hair just like my mom did in my hair and I tried to move my hands the way I saw her do so many times before. I could not believe it! I was actually braiding hair! It finally happened! I combed the braid out of the doll’s hair and attempted it again and I was able to do it again – even better than the first time! I couldn’t run to my mom fast enough to tell her the feat I just conquered. She looked at me and said, “I told you.”

Now I know you must be thinking, “This is a great stroll down memory lane but was it worth a blog post?” I promise I am making a point – a few points.

I can’t tell you how many times I have asked God for something and I had the answer already planned out in my head. I knew exactly how I thought God should answer my prayer. I, of course, never shared this plan with God – not that it would have done much good as He knows the best way to get things done. I have asked Him the same questions or made the same requests over and over again and He gives me the same answer over and over again in the same manner my mother did (calm and sure). I will sometimes wait before I will ask again because I think that He will change His mind over time and He doesn’t. This frustrates me because He is not following MY plan. If I gave in to what He was doing I could have avoided the frustration. (Psalms 46:10)

Also, I spent enough time with my mother and watched the motion of her hands so many times as she did our hair, that a lot of what I needed to complete the task was already in me. When I spend time with God the way that I should, I take on his mannerisms and I start to act the way that He does and respond to different situations the way that He would. I will never be perfect but as the old saying goes, you are who you hang out with. (2 Corinthians 5:17)

I still braid my hair from time to time and I usually get a compliment along with the question, “How did you do that?” Each time it brings me back to that moment I realized my mom knew what she was doing all along. My response is always, “Practice.” The truth is everyone can learn how to braid just like I did. I can tell you about my experience and give advice on the subject because I am now on the other side of the hump. It’s the same way in our lives when God brings us through lessons and experiences we can then share with others and inspire hope. As we share our story it will inspire more confidence in God and His love for us. Proverbs 3:5-6 is my favorite scripture because this is where it all starts. The moment I fully trust in Him and not my own understanding, life starts to take shape a lot better.

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Believe the One He Sent

According to the dictionary, self-confidence is a feeling of trust in one’s abilities, qualities, and judgement.

Admittedly, I do not have much trust in my own abilities in many areas of my life and at times, I rely on accolades of others to point me in the “right” direction.  As I type that, it feels weird; but it is honest.  When I am at work, I move and make decisions without thinking about them because I am confident in my abilities and the asset that I am to my team; or if called upon to make something look aesthetically pleasing, I am pretty sure I can complete the task.

When it comes to other areas of my life, I will do the different tasks with trepidation and a little anxiety although I try to hide it.  I do enjoy these things and aspire to build on certain skills, but I don’t always believe in my own ability.  I work hard at talking myself into doing things that I already want to do, but also fear to do.

On the other hand, at times I do have confidence that I am able to do something well but choose not to share it for fear of being boastful or taking somebody else’s shine.  Generally speaking, at times, others have put us in a box and expect that we are supposed to stay in said box; and we allow it to continue.

What I just shared is a storm that brews in many of us that breeds frustration, anxiety, and maybe depression.

Reading the Bible and having time with God has really helped me while I am figuring out this stage in my life.  He is showing me a lot about myself and it is not always pretty. But it is very necessary in order for me to move to the next level of life.  God pointed me in the direction of Haggai 1:2-11. I invite you to read it (after reading this post) but I will give a brief synopsis.

The Jewish people of that time returned to Jerusalem from exile and there were many repairs that needed to be done, including the temple.  God told them to rebuild the temple and for eighteen years they let that project fall by the wayside, while they were busy building their own homes.  God sent Haggai to tell the people that they were supposed to have the house of God built.  They were so busy investing so much into themselves and their worldly possessions, but they saw very little benefit from it.  Haggai put a mirror to them, so they could realize what they were doing was not working.  The people began to build the temple and then began to praise God and He was with them.

What does that have to do with confidence, Ashley?

Many of us are on this hamster wheel where we are busy getting things accomplished for our goals and aspirations, but we are not fulfilled.

I have been working hard to exercise and eat healthy, keep an organized home and life, be the best that I can be at work – believing that if I can get all these things just right, I will be more confident in other areas of my life.  All of this is good, but without God in the center it’s nothing and it leaves me empty.  I am outpouring all my energy for little to no gains.  I have been on a hamster wheel and I want off.  Honestly, I have been looking at me, me, and more me and it is selfish.  Matthew 6:33 and Luke 12:31 says, “Seek first the Kingdom of God and all these things will be added to you.” Everything that I need comes from God.  Everything that I desire to attain from other sources can never be attained at the level that He gives.  The gifts that He gives are of the highest quality and they are matchless.  If we need peace, He gives it to us beyond anyone’s understanding.  We need joy? His joy will be our strength.  When I allow Him to be the center and obey Him, the energy that I pour out will still energize me because I am pouring into the things and people He wants me to pour into.  He knows better than I.  When I completely trust that, I completely trust Him; and as He leads, I will follow.  The pressure to be perfect and look confident is diminished because everything I have is in God.

I will give an example.  When my sister and I were young girls, we would sit in the back of the car and play or sleep while our parents drove to our destinations.  Sometimes we knew where we were going and sometimes we didn’t. Sometimes the front seats would block my view of what was ahead, but we trusted the driver completely and did not question every turn.  I want to be that way with God because it takes the pressure off being “on” all the time and all I must do is what He asks of me because He is perfect.

I also want to leave you with this.  Jesus said in John 5:36-37, “But the testimony that I have is greater than that of John.  For the works that the Father has given me to accomplish, the very works that I am doing, bear witness about me that the Father has sent me.  And the Father who sent me has himself borne witness about me. His voice you have never heard; his form you have never seen; and you do not have His word abiding in you, for you do not believe the one whom he has sent.”

Jesus, who is God, had confidence in God the Father and therefore, had confidence in himself because he knew that God sent him and gave him the abilities to do his work.  It is no mistake that you are in the position that you are in at work, you have the children that you have, or that you struck up a conversation with the person at the supermarket.  God has sent you into these situations on purpose and if His word is abiding in you, you will believe the one whom He has sent.

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The Jonah Story

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-What are you most passionate about?  What would you do if money was not an issue?

-Are you doing these things?  Are the things that you do giving back to you as much as you are putting into it?

At some point in our lives we must ask ourselves these questions and answer them truthfully.  God placed gifts and talents in each one of us and they are made evident in what we love.  It’s the thing that you can do better than everyone else.  God in his infinite wisdom created us to do it and it feeds us as we do.  Hence the phrase, “If you do what you love you will never work a day in your life.”

What many of us do is allow life, obligations, and emotions to dictate how we maneuver through life.  As time goes by we begin to justify why we never harnessed the God given gifts.

Have you ever though about the things that this world has never seen because someone didn’t put their talents to use – because you haven’t put your talents to use? Think about that awesome message that we should have heard, that awesome invention that has not come to be, or the avant-garde art that the world has no experienced because someone was too afraid to open themselves to the journey their gifts would take them.  What is the world missing out on because of your fear and doubts in yourself?

I don’t know what your religious views are, but I would like to share a short summary of a Bible story with you and maybe you can find something that you can relate to.

There was a man in the Bible named Jonah and he was moving through his comfortably, stagnant life when God called him to speak to the nation of Nineveh.  He did not want to do it due to fear.  He ran from his calling and trying to run from God.  He ended up in the disgusting belly of a whale (his lowest point) and then was finally pushed out to do what God needed him to do anyway.

I completely relate to Jonah and his story.  When starting this blog, I felt so unqualified.  It seems like everybody and their mama has a blog these days.  Why would mine be any different?  Who would listen to me?  I kept putting it off for years, but I could not rest until I surrendered to the idea of actually doing it.  Now I have a renewed fire inside of me.  At the risk of sounding cliché – I feel alive!

Does this mean that I never have doubts?  No.  Am I nervous about it. I battle with my mind several times a day.  In the midst of writing this, I feel a little nervous about the response to this piece and I am questioning if I should go through with this?  But deep down, I know that I am supposed to do this.

Everyone has the power to feel empowered to delve into their passions.  In the words of Steve Harvey, “You just have to JUMP!”

February 2, 2018


I wrote this piece shortly after my father died.  It was very instrumental in my healing.  I am sharing this piece with you for several reasons.

  1. Many of you have lost loved ones and do not know how to move forward. I do not have all the answers, but I like to share my experience in hopes that it helps someone in any way.
  1. We all have gone through some kind of disappointment in life, but we can usually find the silver lining in any situation.
  1. Life may not have gone the way you planned, and you may not like the way you have lived it so far, but you can always make a change, like my father did.

 

 

Legacy: Tribute to my Father

The day my father left was surreal-to say the least.  It never occurred to me that this day would ever come.  I remember when I got the news.  I keep playing it over and over in my mind like a voicemail message.  My mother was on the other end of the phone with trepidation in her voice.  She said, “Ash”.  Even with that one word and the sorrow surrounding it I thought, “Maybe it’s not as bad as it could be, maybe he’s okay”.  Deep down I knew the truth before she said anything else.  After a pause that seemed like eternity she said, “We lost Daddy”.  At that moment my whole world fell into a tailspin.  This was not supposed to happen – not now.  What would happen to all of the unspoken appointments that we scheduled – to the times that were never shared?  Who would be the grandfather to my unborn children?  Who would beam with pride when I finally graduated college?  Who would love me as only he could love me?  As these questions flooded my mind so did the pain of not having him here.  I never knew that I could miss someone with such intensity and longing.  It was as if someone had ripped a piece of me and left with it.  I never knew just how much I took his presence for granted.  He was always there.  No matter when or what I could call and he would answer.  Why did God take him now?  If I could have just one more hug or one more “I lovest you, Princess”. (That’s how he used to say I love you).

As I began to wallow in all my emotions I was reminded of the words Pastor Brad White spoke shortly after his father died.  He said that God never wastes a heartache.  As I sat and heard him speak I thought that it was a great message for my husband – as his father passed away the year before.  I never realized that I would need those words so soon after.  If God doesn’t waste a heartache then it’s up to me to carry out whatever his plan is at this moment.  At this time God took me back to the beginning of this year when I was seeking his plan for my life.  He told me to think of the legacy that my mother has passed down to my sister and me.  My mother is a great writer and my sister and I also followed suit although admittedly I have been running from this gift for many years.  I felt as if God was saying it’s time to pick up a pen and do what I called you to do and walk in the legacy that my mother has set before me.  I was trying to figure out what to write about when my life tumbled upside down with the news of my father’s passing.  My sister is a spoken word artist and wrote a beautiful piece for my father’s funeral.  I was asked if I wanted to say something but I did not have the strength to write or to pray about what to write but this pushed me to look at the legacy that my father left.

My father was a stoic man with a heart of gold.  The tough exterior was only there to protect his inner teddy bear from outsiders.  Family was the most important thing to him on this earth.  Very rarely did I call and he did not answer and if he didn’t answer he called right back always with excitement to hear my voice.  With any issues that would arise in my life he would always give his advice.  I knew that his advice not only came from a great place but from a life full of experiences.  Even in adulthood he wanted to make sure I was protected. If there were issues with my car he would want to fix it right away.  I guess you could say he was the typical, loving, overprotective dad.  Even when I was in my adolescent and teen years and we battled over the fact that I was growing up I knew that amidst my frustration he loved me.  He loved me as only he could.  He loved to have the whole family together; it was one of the joys of his life.

His faith in God was so big.  He believed that God could do anything.  Even when he was not walking with God he would always believe and tell us – my sister and I – to believe.  After he became serious about his relationship with God you could see the difference and the change in his life.  The man who’s heart was already big with love had even more love to share.  He shared with everyone that he met.  As we ran errands after his passing and the news spread, people in the establishments near the house were so saddened.  They knew exactly who he was because he always left an impression.

As my sister and I went to school and later began working he always bestowed his wisdom upon us.  This advice only solidified the lessons of hard work and dedication that both he and my mother impressed upon us at an early age.  I would always get A’s and B’s on my report card and he would always say, “This is good but you got to get those B’s up”.  This would infuriate me as I knew that I had better grades than many of my classmates and was praised by teachers but I know now that he was trying to help me to always strive for better. Everything he touched was successful because he believed in excellence. He was the best in the restaurant business and cooked like nobody else could.  At home my parents saved quite a bit of money because he would research how to do certain home projects and do them just as good as any carpenter or handy man could.  It was always important to complete with excellence-it was the only way to do things in our household.

My father made many mistakes in his life but he made the decision to follow Jesus and at the end that’s all that matters.  Along with his mistakes came life lessons and he paired that with the lessons that he learned in God’s word.  All of these things and the things that I can’t even put into words are what I will miss about my father.  Kevin Miller left a legacy of faith, family, and excellence.  As I pick up the pieces of my life I also pick up the torch that he laid down.  I know that is what both he and my heavenly father expect from me now and I will not let them down.  As I finish my thoughts I will finish with a prayer.  God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.  My father could not change the past mistakes that he made but he made a decision to accept salvation and change the course of his life.  I cannot change the fact that my father has died but I have control over how I react to it.  What can you change today?

February 2, 2018