How to self care while caring for others

As an enneagram 2, I relate all too much with this writing prompt. 

Let's talk about self care. I think all too often, we don't even know what it looks like. For me, I hate taking care of myself because I immediately feel selfish. My time should be used more wisely in my mind. I should be writing, working, serving my husband, reaching out to my friends and honestly, I don't even do any of those things enough. I spend so much time thinking about balancing self care with working hard, I neglect a lot of things that could be beneficial to my daily life. However, on the rare occasion I stop checking things off of my to do list and park the car from running endless errands and just enjoy time for myself, it's amazing what happens to my attitude. I feel full and happy, which makes me want to share that with others. It makes my serving them more intentional and thoughtful. 

I started making a list of things that I love to do for ME ranging from 1 hr to 5 seconds that helps me continue self care in the midst of serving others. Here is what some of mine look like:

1 hr - Go to the gym or on a lunch date with a friend

45 min - Organize my space with a glass of wine in hand

30 min - Watch friends or play on Pinterest & feel inspired

20 min - Write with no intention of putting it in the world so it doesn't seem forced.

10 min - straight up JAM. Dance, sing, pretend my mop is a microphone to my favorite songs.

5 min - Talk to Jesus and listen to worship music

1 min or less - Make a list of the things I'm grateful for and/or text a friend

I encourage you to make your list and whatever time you find, do the thing that fits in that time slot.  You don't have to be smothered in a face mask watching the Bachelor if that's not your thing, but no shame if it is! 

Self Care on, sis! 

The early 20's & their scaries!

Y'all, my early 20's were so scary.

At 21 or so, I was suddenly put in a position with a small platform and I sort of had to create a foundation of who I would be to thousands of strangers when I was still trying to figure out if I was going to stick with my Sports Journalism major or switch to Mass Communications.  Life changes and the paralysis of fear is so real. Often, I felt frozen in decision making and wondering if the path I was taking was the right one. Will I get a cool job when I graduate college? Am I going to marry the guy I'm dating? Is God ever going to answer my prayer? Is sin really so bad?

I want to tell you I soared on the wings of eagles as I made life transitions, moving states, making and breaking friendships, dating, etc. but the truth is I often sat in the tension of the unknown and I struggled a lot. Honestly, in many areas I still feel this way, so maybe I should wait a few years to write this, but I guess you and I are just going to ride this wave together. The tension of the unknown is daunting. It feels like practicality has one of your arms and your dreams has the other and they are pulling in total opposite directions. 

So, if you may be wrestling with God in the tension of your unknown, I want us to look at Genesis 32:24. So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. 25 When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man. 26 Then the man said, “Let me go, for it is daybreak.” But Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” 27 The man asked him, “What is your name?” “Jacob,” he answered. 28 Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.”29 Jacob said, “Please tell me your name.” But he replied, “Why do you ask my name?” Then he blessed him there.

There is a lot to unpack here, so I'll try to do this efficiently and clearly. First, no clue where this man came from, like many situations or changes in life, you're like, "HELLO WHAT IS GOING ON HERE?!  HOW IS THIS HAPPENING?! WHERE DID THIS COME FROM?! NO ONE WARNED ME!" Second, Jacob wrestled and did not give up. It says "for it is daybreak" indicating that this had gone on for quite some time, I assume through the night, which sounds very tiring. It says that the man could not overpower him and I immediately thought of free will here. Jacob chose to wrestle, as we do when we resist God. God gave us our free will and while He can certainly do whatever He wants at the blink of an eye, He allows us to choose our journey which is what paralyzes us in fear. "What if I make the wrong choice? Let me go, for it is daybreak. I don't want this tension, I want to be free and have a clear path set out." Though, as we keep reading, Jacob demands a blessing before he leaves. So, you're telling me that he just used all of his strength to fight against God, then, when he surrenders WITH AN INJURY, He's like, " I'm not going anywhere until you bless me." What a crazy story. When I feel like God and I are wrestling, I usually run away like a dog with it's tail tucked between it's legs, but I aim to be like Jacob who uses all of his strength to get into the hard places with God, getting so close that our sweat meets as our foreheads touch and I am scarred, forever changed and ask the Lord for a blessing because if Jacob can do it, why can't I? You can't wrestle with someone from a foot across the room right? You have to be near to that person, you have to be so close that you are touching. Usually, when I have a tough conversation with the Lord, I come out of it changed, impacted, marked. I may not walk with a limp, but my walk certainly changes physically and spiritually. 

I don't know how old Jacob was in this story, but he seems resilient and stubborn, much like I was in my early 20's. There is a lot of history and context surrounding this story that would lead to so many other lessons and parallels, but I just wanted to take this short segment because it feels so much like my early 20's, always wrestling with God, tired of the tension, tired of the unknown, but knowing that God is right there in your struggle and in your heart is the biggest blessing of them all. 

So, if you're in the tension of the unknown, you need to know that God is so close to you, you can wrestle with Him if you feel lost. Get close, tune into His voice and know that you can't make a wrong choice if you're in His midst and keeping Him close. The early 20's can be scary, but you'll get through them leaning on the Lord. 

I hope when you wrestle with God, you leave with a new walk.   

I feel fat.

This morning, I was getting ready for work and nothing was going well. I couldn't find a single thing to wear, my hair wasn't cooperating and I'll be honest, I just felt so fat. I don't want complements or "Nooo you're nooooots" in reply to this. I know we've all been there so I really would just rather a "cheers, me too" because my point is that I let it bother me and ruin my morning. It made me so angry that I've been working out SO much and things in my closet still didn't fit right. I didn't even want to talk to God because I was so moody. I had a lot of plans to get things done before my 10am shift, but circumstances forced those to change and I ended up wearing my "fat dress" just to get out of the door comfortable and clothed. I got to work a little early and went to get my Acai bowl. As I settled in, I turned on my audio book by Alex Seeley, "Tailor Made." 

Think you could guess what the section I happened to be listening to was about? It was about Alex's husband who had a suit two sizes too big and they went to get a new one. She mentioned how much better he felt when he was fitted for a suit that actually matched his measurements. She then goes on to talk about how we are to put on the fruits of the spirit like we put on clothes. How much more confident and joyful we will feel when we are clothed in our tailor made, God given talents and purpose. We are to focus more on inward beauty, which we hear all the time in various places, but God chose this morning to speak to me through this audio book, even when I didn't want to speak to Him. She talks about putting on love, joy, peace, etc. and I imagined myself slipping into those attributes verses actual clothes. I imagined looking at God with puppy eyes, "I'm sorry I'm mad at you. I'm going to focus on showing other's the love of God today and not worry about my appearance as much. You call me beautiful, you call me radiant. I pray for an opportunity to encourage someone today as I needed it this morning." 

I actually am in one of those "I kinda just feel like crying today," moods. My to-do list is overwhelming and I may have over caffeinated so my anxiety is paying a visit. Something heavy in my spirit is just getting me today and this is when I clothe myself with what He calls me and put on my war paint. I have to go into battle, fighting the lies the devil is trying to plant in my mind. I have to *drumroll* UNVEIL myself. You think it's a coincidence that the Lord had me title my non-profit something that I have to actively practice? Keeps me honest I guess.

If you're in a season of tear stained cheeks and low self confidence, cheers, me too. How about we join forces and go into battle together? Also, wanna grab a green juice? They always make me feel a little better…

 

Psalm 46:5(NIV)

5 God is within her, she will not fall;
    God will help her at break of day.

How to balance career, friends & family!

This one may be a short one, but I think it's still a very important question.

My simple answer? Get a little selfish. You don't have to be everywhere and do everything for everyone all the time. If you can't make a birthday party because you need to meet a deadline at work or you just need some "me" time, do what you need to do so you aren't a ball of stress when you stretch yourself too thin. People will understand, especially if they are your friends and family. Then, when you do have space to breath, make sure you're reaching out to people to let them know you value them and appreciate them. That will help a ton if you may feel guilty for not saying, "yes" to everything. I've heard The Best Yes by  Lysa TerKeurst is a great book and it seems like it'd be relatable here. I'm working through a few right now but it's on my list of audiobooks. 

In short, don't be afraid to say no, be intentional about the time you do spend with friends & family and take care of yourself! 

Reconnecting with Jesus & your faith

This one might be my favorite writing prompt I received when I did the Instagram questions because it's such a real, honest, relatable question. 

I want to start by saying I think reconnecting with Jesus starts with reconnecting with a heart of gratitude. When I feel farthest from Jesus, I feel like I don't stop and look around in wonder. I sit in my air conditioned home with running water and plenty of food and I don't think about the millions or billions of people that don't have the same luxury. Man, I don't deserve such kindness, Lord. I did nothing to deserve being born into the world with a loving family, a safe environment and a good education. That alone is evidence of God's mercy and love for me. 

Reconnecting with gratitude reveals God's presence all around you. Then, I acknowledge that. I look at everything around me and know that it's only there because God loves me. Because all good things come from Him. (James 1:17)

Before I go any further, I also want to say that sometimes I do this daily or weekly if I feel disconnected from God. I don't think you have to be removed from communication from God for years to feel like you need to reconnect. If you do feel like the prodigal son, remember the open arms that the father welcomed his son with and know that God is doing the exact same thing. (Luke 15:11-32)  

So, this applies to you if you have felt disconnected from God/your faith for years, days or hours. 

After I audibly or in my mind thank Jesus for everything around me and the people in my life, I wonder why I feel disconnected. What made me separate from Him? Shame? Guilt? Did I feel like I didn't need Him because things were going well? I repent. "Father, I'm sorry. I have been a terrible communicator and I don't feel like I can boldly approach the throne room because I feel like Adam and Eve, naked in the garden covered in shame and leaves. I don't even know what to say if I'm honest. Please forgive me." 

From there I either google "Bible verses about ______" Insert what you want to read about or I just open my Bible to a Psalms or the book of John (those are easiest for me to read and understand when I'm just dipping my toes back into the Word) and I just read for a minute. I read slowly, I try to imagine what the scene looked like and I place myself there. From there I'll just talk to God like He's right beside me. "Hey what does this mean? How funny did David look dancing in his underwear that one time? What were you thinking or feeling when this happened?" Sometimes I get a reply (which just sounds like thoughts but ones I didn't consciously think on my own) and sometimes I write down the passage and my questions until I can either talk to someone about it or do more research, also known as google. 

This practice feels like steps and boxes to check off and it may look different for you. I don't think I have to feel a huge shift in spirit to feel reconnected with Jesus. The more I talk to Him, consistently stay in His Word & stay grateful, the more my spirit will tune into His voice. There are tons of resources out there for communicating with God, but starting with gratitude always reminds me how small and out of control I am. 

I really hope this helps and please DM me with any questions on the above!! 

 

Dating in your 20's (without apps)

Let's dive in. First let me say, people have been dating pre-apps forever, so, you can too if you want! 

Once upon a time I had an AWESOME first date with a guy. We were outdoors, it was a beautiful day and we had great conversation. The next date? AWFUL. His dog peed on my favorite white dress and I'll leave it at that. We met on an app and to this day I'm proud of myself for going on the first date because I put myself out there. I tried something new and it went well, for the first date at least ha. Needless to say it didn't work long term, but I think the main thing that I want to drive home when it comes to dating is to continually try new things that may be out of your comfort zone, not to attract a guy necessarily, but to open yourself up to learning new things and having fun with them! I would go to the movies by myself, eat out alone, do things solo to build up confidence in doing so. It helped in other areas of life! 

Here are a few other random dating tips I learned over the years:

1. Around 22, I learned to always go on the first date (as long as you feel safe!), because it took a lot of guts for the guy to ask you out and even if it doesn't work out, being a great conversationalist is a huge life skill that can't always be taught. Best case you leave with an unexpected crush. Worst case you leave with clarity, a lesson learned and maybe a friend. This is in a face to face kind of situation or a friendship, not necessarily the case when we are speaking about apps. 

2. Instead of your phone screen, go places you enjoy and will probably frequent long term because chances are, you'll meet someone with a similar interest there, which is a great place to start. Volunteer somewhere, join an adventure group or meet up. I did that when I first moved to Nashville and still keep in touch with some of the people! 

3. Make your intentions clear. If you don't like them, be honest about it. I was bad about this because I enjoyed the company of a date, but that can give mixed signals to the guy and end up with both of you hurt in the long run. Know when to walk away and call, "NEXT!" even if you just enjoy their company. That is what we call self discipline, which we don't practice enough these days. 

4. Embrace the awkward. First dates and second dates, even third dates can be SO AWKWARD!! You don't know what to do with your hands, the tab and the texts, but embrace it! Don't over apologize, don't beat yourself up, and have fun! Also, ask the other person about themselves because everyone loves talking about themselves and you can find some commonalities that you might like!

I think the most important thing I was missing the mark on, was who I was in the process. When I would meet guys I would try to mold myself into their type. Oh, you like girls who work out? I used to Crossfit.  How about outdoorsy? I hike with my dog at Edwin Warner almost every day! Musical? Let's sing! Even though I vowed to never Crossfit again, I passed out on a hike one day when I saw a snake and I have INSANE stage fright, I would highlight the *true* things about my life I felt were relevant, just to add a little oomph to my already impressive list of interests. 

It wasn't until I stripped it all away and healed from all past wounds and drew close to the Lord, did I step into my full, confident self and ended up meeting Justin on a blind date! I remember how lame it was to hear, "Focus on your relationship with the Lord" when I was really wanting to hear anything but that. However, THAT was when I became my most true and authentic self, creating a healthy space to meet someone new. 

It's funny when I hear one of my single friends hesitate to talk to me about dating because, "I wouldn't understand" & I'm like.. yo... I've only been married for TWO YEARS. Literally my life before that was everything you're experiencing and I still vividly remember it all! Lean on your married friends, just don't try and "match" their story or use their story to find identity or hope because everyone is crazy different! 

Lastly, I'll say this. If you want to try an app, that's okay as long as you control the app and the app doesn't control you. YOU set your standards and boundaries and stick to them! Be honest and don't forget to try new things!! 

Why am I scared to post this?

When I was nearing the end of my college career, I had no idea that some things that happened in a season would plant little seeds of fear that I feel burdened by years later. Fear is so annoying, but I’m going to be honest about it because I was reading Carl Lentz’s book and one thing he wrote struck me. “The moment we talk about what scares us, it begins to lose its power on our lives.” So, here I go. 

I’m scared of people saying mean, untrue things about me online. This isn’t my only fear, but every time I speak or write, it’s one of those nagging thoughts. Why? Because it’s happened before. I had/have, if they still exist, Twitter and Instagram accounts specifically made to say mean things about me and when you’re a 21 year old trying to figure out who you are as a person and what your life looks like, those things can stick. 

When I start to write my next book those voices (lies) resound, “You are two-faced. You are fake.” Literally never in my life was I called these things until an angsty 14 year old who I’d never met decided to put me on blast. When I start to type a blog or plan for a speech I am overcome with imposture syndrome and I put a name tag on my shirt that says, “Hello, my name is Unqualified.”

One post that I will never forget (although I keep trying) said something like I changed my name from Ainsley Lollar to Ainsley Britain because I was ashamed of my past and that I did pageants so I was trying to become a new person. I remember reading that and thinking, “I don’t even have a past to be ashamed of?!? I don’t care who knows I did a few pageants?! I had a blast doing them, won a free trip to Vegas and got to wear pretty dresses!” For some reason, that post and the rest of it’s multi-paragraph content of hatred really cut me. This was written probably around 2013 and I’m still talking about it in 2018 so that’s how much it effected me. Let me first say, I changed my name because I wanted to and there are many things I’ve done in life just because I wanted to and I’m proud of that. I’m proud that I sometimes throw caution to the wind and just say “yes” to things, not knowing their outcome. Maybe had I known people would read into me changing my name, I wouldn’t have done it! 

Ya know, I always hear about God qualifying the chosen, not choosing the qualified and every time I read that, I feel courageous enough to take one step forward. Instead of, “What if they hate me because I’m not perfect?” it becomes, “Thank goodness they already know I’m not perfect so I can skip that part and go straight to the salvation of Jesus.” 

Every time I step into something new or unfamiliar, I try to say, “Yes” as often as possible, despite fear. While I admit I still struggle with so many fears and I have certainly let fear win more than once, this is my personal way of fighting back. Throwing caution to the wind with changing my name, getting a tattoo and a nose piercing that made my mom cry (I took it out) is serving me in my rebellion against fear.  Fear says I can’t? Okay, watch this. 

Even if I fail, God still reigns and He still uses people and gets glory. 

2 Timothy 1:7, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love and self-discipline.”

Saying yes is one swift kick in the devil’s pants because it’s HIM who is trying to creep in and plant those little seeds. It’s God who uproots them and replants you in a safe garden, watering and caring for you making sure you get enough sunlight to grow and flourish. 

Say “Yes” to new adventures or just to a coffee date with a stranger. 

One time I was on my way to a coffee with a girl that went to Belmont, but I hadn’t known until we were both in NYC. I didn’t feel like fostering a new friendship and wasn’t excited to go, but I said yes and quickly realized that I was sitting across the table from an actual angel who has the biggest heart I’ve ever seen and she is now one of my favorite people on this planet. Her name is Graceann (@gbelgiorno) and she is one of my favorite “Yes” moments.

In conclusion, say yes more, kick the devil in the pants and don’t be a jerk just because you can hide behind your computer screen. 

P.S. - hitting “post” and not proof reading in case I get scared and try to talk myself out of it here I go BOOM bye

Dear 19 year old Ainsley...

Dear Ainsley - 

I’m going to be honest with you… 

Your coffee skills need some serious work, girlfriend. I know you can’t seem to get the water/grinds ratio right and I’m sorry to tell you that in about 5 years,  you’ll be sitting in your NYC apartment still unsure if you did it right. Thankfully there’s drive thru coffee available in Nashville, so you’re going to make it. You just moved to this new apartment where you live alone in a new city and all you know is that you felt God call you here (you were right) and you have no clue why (you’ll get your answer in due time). 

I remember the heart ache of loneliness you’re experiencing right now. A new city and new beginning is so exciting! Yet, it feels like a brick is laid on your chest every Saturday night seeing LSU game photos and the fact that you suddenly don’t have off of school for Mardi Gras break!?! Yeah, the rest of the country doesn’t get off for a holiday of parades and spoiler alert, nowhere else has drive thru daiquiri spots either. Louisiana just spoils it’s people. 

Your best/only friend in Nashville won’t be your friend forever and it’s going to hurt really bad. Just typing that feels like a punch in the gut because I remember the pain. I remember that it felt worse than someone dying because that person has chosen to walk away and allow the strongest friendship either of you have ever had to crumble. There’s no saving this one and many strangers are going to have opinions about it. Thankfully, you’ll draw near to the Lord and experience a supernatural healing. Those words “supernatural healing” feel like a warm blanket placed on a shivering body, but I don’t even think you’d believe them if I could go back and tell you. I’ll just tell you to talk to Jesus every chance you get. In church, during worship, in your car as if He’s in the passenger seat. Take Him on your hikes and late night trips to McDonald’s for a Oreo McFlurry, add hot fudge. You’re a few years from this heartbreak, but there will be disappointments and changes along the way. You’ll have to adjust and stick to your instincts and Jesus. Read the Bible more. Write more. Love others more. 

Oh, and you’ll make more friends, better friends, don’t worry. You’re going to meet some incredible people who are actual gold and you’ll feel Jesus more than you’ve ever felt in your life. You’re going to feel His nearness because quiet mornings with Him and your fireplace will remind you of how worthy and loved you are. 

One Tree Hill is not your life so stop trying to act like Brooke Davis and just be you. You don’t have to pretend to be someone else to be interesting. When someone tries to change you, walk away…and they will try. The Lord has some incredible plans for your life. 

I’m here to tell you that life gets harder and more confusing, yet more exciting and God continues to prove His faithfulness. There will be so many times the Lord extends His hand to you. Take it and hold on for dear life, every time. He is doing a magnificent work in your life and this is only the beginning. You had to make a change to get out of your comfort zone and lean into Jesus so heavily. Keep your arms and heart open for His blessings. 

He is faithful. 

I think the main thing I want you to know is that everything is going to be okay. I won’t say it won’t be hard, but it’ll all be okay and you will love again. The Lord will breathe LIFE into you like you’ve never known and He will never stop loving you. Cling to His promises. Write them down and read them over and over, until they come to mind in every day life. You’re so worthy and loved and valued. Remember this and remind others of the same Truth. 

Hearts & Rockets,

AB

p.s. - your future husband is SO HOT! & all of God’s people said, “Amen.”

I cried during cycling class.

Honesty Hour. You know when people randomly have other people walk up to them and give them a word from God? Like, “Hey I think God wanted me to come tell you blah blah blah.” It’s so crazy and magical and I’ve always wanted someone to do that to me. I imagine hearing whatever they say and crying because it’s so relevant and profound for my life. Yet, it's never happened. 

The other day I was in cycling class when there was this one part where the instructor has us cover our numbers so you can't focus on that, rather you focus on your breathing, why you came to class, etc. & I usually take that time to chat with God. I closed my eyes and imagined myself in His throne room when I heard from Him, "why are you hoping for my Truth to come from someone else when you have a direct line of communication to me? All you have to do is close your eyes and you're here in my throne room. I want to be the one communicating to you." 

Cue tears. cue feeling like a jerk from hoping to hear from others & not God. Cue realizing I'm crying in cycling class.......

This was the most relevant and profound word for me and my heart because it was the Lord talking directly to me, his daughter and saying, "I want you and your heart. I want to communicate and relate and to be here for you. I want you to depend on me for guidance and confirmation." 

What is he trying to tell you that you may be seeking elsewhere? 

*Gut check*

 

The One That Got Away

I was recently chatting with a friend about dating. See, I know how amazing this person is and I watched them get anxious and unsettled while waiting for a text from someone they had met recently and gave their number to. Days went by as we kept going back and forth wondering why they haven't texted yet and the longer we both waited, the more anxious and confused my friend grew. This is the same conversation I've had many times with single friends and hello, I was doing the same thing just a few years ago! I remember freaking out to my friend Whitney about Justin and whether or not I was reading into his reply or if he was really into me, when he would text, etc. 

Then this rang through my mind and I don't think I heard it enough when I was single: Don't be afraid to be the one that got away. 

I recall two specific times when a guy would say, "You're the one that got away," and I would think, "Yeah, but you're the one who let me get away. You made that decision." I would be so annoyed, but now I'm so thankful to be the one that got away to those losers because the Lord paired me with someone who is better than I ever imagined and never once let me get away. 

Have you ever had a friend go back to the same ex over and over expecting different results? Like the definition of insanity, it drives me crazy when someone doesn't realize how incredible they are and they fall back into old relationships that are doomed from each "restart."

When you are your most full, confident, passionate self, you understand your worth and that it's okay to be The One That Got Away...don't be afraid to be that if someone doesn't value you enough.

11ab59e3f07dbb8b640bbb1adfbc5eeb.jpg

"Then Come Home..."

My body ached and I wept on the bathroom floor as my hope dwindled, minute by minute. A pounding headache, nausea, fever, chills, you name it. I had the flu. I was hoping it wouldn't be very serious, a 24 hour bug before I could get back to cycling class, but as I type this, I'm on day 7 with the slowest recovery I've probably ever had and frustration is my middle name. My sweet husband turned CVS upside down getting every medicine possible, as we used trial and error to figure out what exactly was going to lessen the pain. A trip to the ER and lots of Gatorade later, Justin had to leave town for work and I just wasn't ready to be alone yet in our house, which felt more like a dungeon because of the torture that went down for the last week. I was texting my mom through the week and when Justin flew out I felt so anxious and didn't want to be alone. I was telling her how I felt when she replied, "then come home."  

I know, to you, that may not sound profound, but this is the first time in 8 years that I've lived close enough to drive home within just a few hours. I realized I was pouring my guts out to my mom hoping she would have an answer I liked and those three words were just what I needed to hear. A call to action that led me to comfort. 

I was immediately reminded that that is the same reaction the Lord gives us when we are desperately searching for peace and comfort. He is always, always saying, "then come home." He is calling us to His presence and love over and over. It's just that we need to get in the car and go, so to speak. 

See, it took a move to Houston from New York City to get me close enough to my family where it was an easy, "I'm on my way." Maybe you need to make a move in your faith to get closer to God so when he calls, you can immediately act on the call. 

I know it seems like a leap to go from flu to Jesus, but yall, He and I were closer than ever as I begged and pleaded for healing over my body, so He was pretty top of mind ;) 

God's Promises

Kat+Lia.png

Honesty Hour. 

I have been feeling frustrated and hopeless in this season of "waiting" or, more accurately, the season of "unsettled." I'm so thankful that my parents opened their home to Justin and I while we wait for our home to be finished in Houston, but man, living out of one drawer for 3 months is getting old. I am super hopeful and excited, but at the same time I feel unsettled and a little anxious about being a sitting duck. 

So, this morning, I was practicing my speech for Sunday & one of the lines *I wrote* says, "When I feel unqualified or not good enough, I love reading what the Lord says about me." Then I thought, "Well, when I feel unsettled or anxious, I should read His promises!" So, after finishing my devotional (currently using Annie F. Downs' 100 Days to Brave) I looked up scriptures of His promises. 

He says that He will fight for me, that He will give me strength, that He will help, guide and comfort me. I felt a peace wash over me and then it got more personal. "I have called you to lead. I have given you a heart for youth. I have set you free. I am with you, I love you and you will fulfill prophecies." 

Anxiety ceases when promises are proclaimed. 

My 2018 word is "Focus." Focus on God, my passion, selflessness and preparing for the future. I cannot focus when I'm anxious, so I wrote down the scripture promises and the personal promises and have them in my planner so I have to look at them every day. 

Growing up and still to this day, my biggest pet peeve is empty promises. Like, I would rather you not say anything than say something and not follow through. I'm so thankful that God's promises are concrete, never changing and consistent. It's such a source of security. 

This year, I'll be focusing on God's promises and I'm very excited for what's to come from those! 

Oh, and consistency *eye roll* I have to get better at that. 

Girl Porn.

Did you know_.png

We all know that porn is a romance killer that effects the brain, heart and world. We know that men are a huge target for these productions and though both men and women have struggled with an addiction to what we know as porn, it’s mainly a struggle for males. Roll with me on this. You’ll see where I’m going.  

Men are a more physical driven gender and it creates an unfair physical expectation that women just can’t measure up to because fantasy isn’t real life. It’s impossible for men to expect women to measure up to the fake reality of sex that is being presented to them. Perfect hair and make up, lighting, etc. is just ridiculous and incredibly damaging to a relationship. 

Now, travel with me to the girl’s mind or emotions, rather. While men are a more physical driven gender, women are a more emotional driven gender, right? We want to be pined after, wined and dined. We want to hear how beautiful we are and how much we mean to you. My favorite thing my husband does is write me little love notes, while his favorite thing I do for him is scratch his back or hold his hand or, since we are married, have sex (sorry mom, but there’s only one way to get grandchildren).

So I have this theory. When we watch The Notebook and see Ally reject Noah, only for him to build her dream house and wait on her forever or when we watch A Walk To Remember and see the cool guy abandon all of his friends to pursue a girl with a terminal illness who happens to be a super nerd at school, it all just pumps unrealistic expectations in our minds on how a guy should fulfill our emotional needs. On Friends when Ross rushes over the airport to stop Rachel, THAT IS NOT REAL LIFE. In real life, Noah would have moved on because his pride would not have let him go so deep into that hole and it’s kind of weird that he built this whole house for Ally who was engaged to another man! 

Chick flick movies… are porn for girls. Girl porn. Men do not do the insanely romantic things that the movie productions show you. Trust me, I have an amazing man and it just doesn’t cross their minds to do ridiculous stunts or gestures like Hollywood portrays. Does he do sweet things? yes, of course, but it would be so unfair for me to think, “I wonder what he will do for my birthday this year… surprise me with a hot air balloon ride and a new puppy after we got into a big fight the night before?” No! We are human and it’s unfair for me to expect these things of him because he won’t measure up and I will constantly be disappointed! Just like I will disappoint him if he puts those physical expectations on me. 

I remember after I watched a chick flick a few years ago, I thought of Justin and resented him a little bit for not being that guy on the screen. When I thought about what it was doing to my mind, I immediately stopped watching those movies or guarding my heart when I would watch them, recognizing that they are fiction and my heart is being cared for just fine. 

I’m not saying I’ve never watched a chick flick and I’m not saying I won’t ever again, but when I’m watching This Is Us, I have to constantly remind myself, “This is a show, not real life.” 

I’m just saying… watch out for the unrealistic expectations you’re putting on your significant other… 

 

Happy Birthday H & R!

12 Things I love about Hearts & Rockets...

For every month Hearts & Rockets has existed, I want to share what gives me the warm and fuzzies...

1. Your book selfies! Hands down my very favorite thing about sharing this book with yall!

2. It's not in my comfort zone. I love writing and creating, but this was a whole new thing to tackle and I love that it challenged me.

3. It's super cute. I took the cover photo in Colorado (my favorite place duh) and my best friend Whitney designed everything. Isn't she amazing!?

4. When you give a copy to someone else. Sharing is caring and Jesus shared so we should too.

5. It chronicles my journey of growth in my personal and spiritual life. It's so encouraging to look back on passages and see how things have come full circle!  

6. The simple fact that I can say "I am an author"  - that's pretty cool 

7.  I love that it's for anyone in a season of change or transition. Generally speaking, I would recommend it for teens or young adults, but really, the Lord can speak to us in any stage of life through anything!  

8.  The idea of Hearts and Rockets has been my thing since I graduated high school and I love that it's still something I cling to. Loving hard and shooting for the stars. 

9. It's easy to travel with. I love bringing books on planes but when they're heavy, it's harder to justify bringing them. H&R is light and easy to bring with you.

10. It forced me to be vulnerable. 

11. I get to talk about it with you. Messages, emails and comments oh my! I love hearing your thoughts. 

12. I love celebrating its birthday! I can't believe it's already been a year! Thank you all for buying it and sharing your sweet words of encouragement with me!

The BCBG miracle

I was walking down 5th Ave. after a Barre Burn class. I was sweaty, had rosy cheeks with frazzled hair and no make up on. If you know me, you know that I can't walk past BCBG without just taking a peek, so in I went. After all, it was wedding season and maybe they had a white dress on sale for a shower or something?

I was greeted by Lexi who was one of the most beautiful women I'd ever seen. Her flawless black skin was framed by a low ponytail and the whitest smile appeared on her face. As she sorted items, she told me to let her know if I needed help with anything. 

I knew BCBG stylists work on commission, so I was adamant about finding my own items and not needing any help. Of course, when you show up in the frazzled state I was in, I wasn't a hot target for big spending anyway. 

I found a couple of items and made my way to the dressing room. She let me in and we made small talk. "I really don't need anything at all, I just love coming in so I decided to pop by." I asked her opinion on the first thing I tried on and she said that it was cute, but she thinks she has something that would work for my body type. I let her bring over a dress. She brought a long sleeve lace white dress that wasn't so impressive on the hanger but ended up fitting like a glove. As she brought some heels over and helped me put them on, she noticed my foot tattoo which reads Hebrews 11:1. She asked what the quote was and I told her the verse. Mind you, my first tattoo doesn't look that great. Some even think it's a barcode. The font is bleeding together and I'm the least proud of that one, but it's usually covered up. I said, "Oh it's just a Bible verse. Hebrews 11:1" She picked her head up and said, "Really? I have a favorite BIble verse!" This was NOT the response I'd heard before in NYC - most people just say "oh" and it gets awkward for a second.

She grabbed her phone and read it to me. I'm pretty sure she read an entire chapter but the more she read the more my spirit felt the Lord urge a conversation with Lexi. I asked her what it meant to her and she said, "Well, I found it as my very last option of hope. I recently hit rock bottom and it really makes me feel good." I replied, "I'm so sorry to hear that but I'm so glad you've found some hope! Do you, have a church here?" She shook her head no and another coworker walked up. "Hey Lex, you can go home now, I'll take over."  Apparently, her shift was over so I quickly asked if she'd like to come to church and got her number. After the new girl was SUPER pushy and salesy, I grabbed my dress and bolted.

Over text, Lexi agreed to come to church with me. "Hillsong at the PlayStation Theater, 10 am." On my way there, I asked the Lord, "She said she recently hit rock bottom. What is her rock bottom, Lord?" All I heard was "her mom". That wasn't much to work with but I said, "ok..." When I found my seat next to her during worship, I felt the urge to ask about her mom. I leaned over and said, "This might be really weird since we just met and I know worship is starting but is there something going on with your mom?" Her mouth dropped and her eyes got huge, total shock was written all over her face and I was so nervous I said something wrong. Tears started streaming down her face as she looked at me & said, "How did you know?" I started to stutter because now I'm in shock too and she wept, "She was just diagnosed with stage 4 cancer and doesn't have long to live. How did you know? How did you know?" I explained that the Lord just told me on my way to church and asked to pray for her.  At this point, mind you, I'm crying too so we are both crying, sitting down in our seats while everyone around us is standing in worship. It was a moment I'd never forget as we held hands and went to the throne room together.

We kept up over text for weeks to come and our schedules never allowed us to meet up again, sadly, a few months later, her mom passed, but Lexi found strength in the Lord and continues to find Bible verses she loves and talks to God. I randomly pop into BCBG when I can, but she was never there. It's mind blowing how the Lord will use you, even when you're not ready. 

So often I only feel like the Lord uses people who are put together and beautiful or are in an amazing place in their walk with Him, but not that day, yall! I'll never forget sweet Lexi and I pray for such incredible, unexpected encounters as that day in my life and in yours. I LOVE that the Lord was like, "Oh you don't feel like being a witness? Too bad, love ya here we go!" haha 

Look for an opportunity to share God's love, even when you feel too imperfect for the Lord to use you... 

 

 

(Spoiler: Turns out the dress Lexi picked is Justin's favorite dress of mine and the one I wore to find my wedding dress!) 

Back to... Hearts & Rockets.

 When I started using the phrase "Hearts & Rockets" in 2012, it was my own version of just "going for it" in life. Loving hard and shooting for the stars no matter what that meant. I would dance in the streets and sing as loud as I possibly could to the radio with the windows down. I'm getting that back. As I write this, which is taking me a lot longer than it should and I feel so distracted and zoned out, I'm thankful that the Lord always has His hand in my story, my NYC apartment and incredible husband are proof that God loves me no matter what and trust me, He feels the same toward you. 

The back to school season was so dreadful when I was in school, but now it feels like a fresh start. The fall always feels so refreshing to me, so I'm going back to Hearts and Rockets. To vulnerability and transparency, no matter what. Also, back to writing... I used to write every day (hence, the way Hearts and Rockets happened) and now I barely do it at all. 

Have you ever forgotten a passion for a moment? Reclaim it with me this season. 

Grab your copy of Hearts & Rockets - let's go for it!

Hearts & Rockets,

Ainsley B. 

13 Reasons Why for PARENTS...

If you have a teenager or young adult, you need to watch 13 Reasons Why. 

I’m going to be honest with you. It’s a hard show to watch. I mean at some points my skin was crawling for the door while my eyes hid behind the steel trap door of my fingers. I was dying to whip out the Sword of the Spirit on these fictional characters as my heart ached for them. 

Despite the fact that it’s hard, it’s real. As I was watching, I could identify each character as someone I knew when I was in high school. Maybe they went to my school, maybe they went to another one, but Justin, Jessica, Hannah, I knew them all, just with different names. 

It’s scary to think that. It’s also crazy that most shows are dramatized, but this one didn’t seem as unrealistic as most.

I know, I’m not a parent so who am I to be giving advice, but hear me out:

Remember your first heartbreak? Or when you didn’t make the team that one time? What about the rumor your ex-boyfriend spread about you? Now those things don’t seem like such a big deal, but back then, remember, it felt like an earthquake. That was the first time you felt betrayal, anxiety and other emotions that you had no idea existed before. Or maybe you had an idea, but not in this magnitude. Also, this stuff called social media isn’t helpful either. Teens and young adults are constantly scrolling through beautiful photos of places and people that they are comparing themselves to. I was the teen of dial up internet and the very beginning stages of Facebook, Myspace, etc. I’ll never forget the pain in my chest when I read negative comments on Facebook about myself from classmates or the drama that followed who you did or didn’t include in your Top 8. Why will I never forget? Because it was the first time I’d experienced anything like it. Had I known that life was going to be a lot more painful and beautiful at the same time, maybe it wouldn’t be so significant, but I didn’t know. It felt like an earthquake. Oh, and hormones and body changes and the pressure of doing well because your entire future hangs in the balance of your 17-year-old self, so it seems.

Keep in mind, parents, that it’s likely that your teen is facing some serious issues for the first time and doesn’t necessarily have the coping skills to actually deal with them. This is their first encounter with an eating disorder, self-harm, sexual harassment, etc. When I was in middle school, yes, middle school - every Wednesday was a day that the guys were allowed to grab our butts. I don’t remember who made the rule up, but I remember feeling violated. During my senior year of high school, one girl per week was “exiled” from the group and couldn’t sit with us at lunch. WHAT!? The nonsensical actions of peers make it difficult to cope. Your teen feels the impact of these experiences in a big way, so please don’t be passive if they bring it up or tell them they’ll get over it. 

If you want a glimpse into their lives, watch this show. Learn how to use social media. Reach out and I’m more than happy to teach you. I’m sure you’re doing a phenomenal job at loving them and that’s great, but they also crave to be understood and heard. 

My prayer is that we can build a bridge of communication between parents and teens so we can eliminate life controlling issues in young adults. Please watch this show & for more awareness videos & resources, visit UnveiledCampaign.com

Hearts & Rockets,

Ainsley