December 31, 2013

a new year, a new journey

have you ever hiked before? you know, where it's up hill the entire time, no flat roads or disneyland trams nearby, no bathrooms or drinking fountains... it's steep and narrow, and most of the time you can't see where you're hiking to.

you know there's an end somewhere, but you can't see it. there are thick rows of trees as far as the eye can see with little rustling critters amongst the forest floor foliage [say that 5x times fast]. the tiny, rocky trail is shaded for the most part, making the sun and sky barely visible at times. but you know it's there.

after awhile, you wonder when you'll reach the destination. for a moment you feel as though it might be better to turn back, like maybe you made a mistake and don't have the strength to keep going down this path, up this hill. you think that the destination can't possibly be worth it all - the sweat, the aching muscles, the sharp pain in your side, the scratches on your legs from fallen branches...

and then you see it. a slight change in scenery and you know you must be getting close, you gain a renewed sense of strength and endurance. you can do it.
suddenly, you're out from under the canopy of trees, the sun is warm and bright on your face again, the quiet refreshing water sits still and sparkling. the feeling of relief and peace and accomplishment flood your soul, washing away all those thoughts of giving up and you can't even remember why you wanted to give up so badly.

and then something amazing happens... you realize that it's just as much about the journey as it is about the destination. the beautiful rest at the end wouldn't be nearly as beautiful if it were an easy ride to get there. the journey, the struggle and the endurance make the destination - a destination is created when we're journeying. if we weren't traveling or moving, there wouldn't be a destination. if we stood still and let comfort control us, we'd be going nowhere or even backwards. it's all about the journey.

and now that it's the final day of our journey through 2013, i've realized that this year was [as most are] quite the unexpected adventure. there were plenty of rough patches and steep, narrow mountain sides - times when i wanted to give up and turn back to the easy road. those times were felt deeply and struggled through, but then came joyous victories and mountain tops of relief - making all the blood, sweat, and tears worth it, making it evident that this journey is to be enjoyed because this is our calling: to journey, to move, to press on, to walk, to adventure... seeking and receiving from God, who equips us with endurance and patience, strength and peace, leading us when we can run, and carrying us when we can't go on.

i love that picture. we're not alone on this adventure, ever. it's something i pray sticks in my heart and yours as we move into 2014 - that this year may be marked by our enjoyment of the journey, being present in all steps, knowing without a doubt that not one step is taken without our Guide taking it first.....  what an adventure this will be!!

happy new year + new journey friends!!
ashley :)

some highlights of 2013 [top left to right]
celebrated spring by gathering for breakfast; visited Ca and got to spend father's day with my daddio; thorn + sparrow grew to heights i never dreamed of - yay!; husband and i found a frozen waterfall; i camped for the first time; my family took their first trip to montana - loved having them here!; my favorite desktop/wallpaper ever has continued to remind me to be present; archimedes dressed up as lincoln for halloween; started and ended the year with lots of snow; 'don't give up' was a recurring theme this year for me; husband and i celebrated 7 years of lovely marriage; we bought our first home... complete with a flower box out the kitchen window!

December 21, 2013

the only constant thing

constant: adj.
1. not changing or varying; uniform; regular; invariable
2. without pause or letup; unceasing
3. regularly recurrent; continual; persistent
4. faithful; unswerving
5. steadfast; firm in mind or purpose

God loves you.

you've probably heard that a million times, right? you've seen it on bumper stickers, heard it from pastors, read it in the Bible. it's a phrase used over and over, almost becoming commonplace, when really it's anything but common.

in my darkest, most sinful moments, He loved me. in my moments of spiritual victory, He loved me. in my insecurities, in my failures, in my struggles, He loves me. in my few moments of selflessness and giving, He loves me. in my devo time with Him, He loves me. on those mornings i forget to give Him devotion time, He loves me. in spite of my ups and downs, He loves me the exact same way today as He did yesterday.
isn't that so freeing?! His love is not based on my performance, it's based on HIS. which is, obviously, perfect.

i love that. there's nothing i can do or have done or will do that changes or moves His love for me. His perfect love covers me, so i'm already accepted! i'm already His bride, His child, His friend, His follower. in my inconsistencies, in my wandering mind and wavering heart, HE is constant and unwavering. He is the constant Light, He's the unshakable rock.

He's not seeking perfection from me, because He's already perfect! unlike us, He doesn't have a void in His heart, rather, He is the very definition of complete. He's not looking for a perfect heart in us, He's looking for an open heart. all He seeks from us is a willing heart, a willing heart to be filled with His love and Spirit, to accept Jesus - the manifestation of His perfect, sacrificial love.

oh, i'm so thankful for christmas, for Christ, for God's persistent, constant love.

cheers friends! hope you're all having the loveliest christmas season!

December 18, 2013

evening splendor, featured in hearth magazine!

deep in the forest, far from any cell service, my friends [and my dashing mandolin-playing husband] and i gathered around an old table, beneath a simple string of lights, and shared in lovely conversation over a warm, delicious meal... and it was recently featured in volume 2 of hearth magazine! this was a highlight for me, and i'm honored to have collaborated with such talented artisans! thank you for having us in your beautiful magazine, hearth! love it!

visit the journal to see more photos + video, and order the magazine to see it in print!
[photos by kelli trontel]

December 17, 2013

beauty bash designs!!

oh my, to say that i was ecstatic to create these looks for beauty bash would be an understatement!! not only were they so lovely to work with, i love, absolutely love their vision and heart!! if you haven't heard of beauty bash before, they're a coalition of women dedicated to encouraging and building confidence in young women through Christ with messages, music, and beauty workshops. love it!!

thank you all at beauty bash for wanting me to play a small part in your amazing ministry! love you guys! 

check out all the details of beauty bash 2014 here

i know i've mentioned my logo process here and there, but i thought it would be fun to share a little peek of the branding board -- a few varied options within the concept that comes from brainstorming, after the questionnaire has been read [one of my favorite parts!]. also included are font suggestions and little extras that could potentially be incorporated into the site. i loved all of these, and funny enough, they did too! they took them all! :)

also... christmas is in one week. who's ready? not me! ha! lots of gifts to find and lots of wrapping to be done. i'll be having some late nights this week, with hot chocolate, christmas music... the works! i'm diving in head first, starting tonight!


December 6, 2013

december desktop + wallpaper!

joy to the world! the Lord is come:
let earth receive her King!
let every heart prepare Him room!
and heaven and nature sing...

joy to the earth! the Savior reigns:
let men their songs employ
while fields and floods, rocks, hills and plains
repeat the sounding joy...

no more let sins and sorrows grow
nor thorns infest the ground:
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found...

He rules the earth with truth and grace,
and makes the nations prove
the glories of His righteousness
and wonders of His love...
and wonders of His love...
and wonders, wonders of His love.

yes and amen. :)

happy december, happy christmas!

[i know i say this every time... but this might be my new fave. love love love collaborating with my dear friend kelli trontel... and as always, please feel free to share!] :)

December 5, 2013

a cold + bright birthday eve

a few years ago, i didn't think much of my birthday, or rather, didn't think much of the year that had past... putting more focus on what the next year would bring. while i still look forward and anticipate the upcoming year, i've been pausing on the eves of the last couple birthdays, reflecting on the adventures, the griefs, and joys of the past year. i don't think any of my years have been quite so marked by such deep sadness and elated joy as this last one. this year was difficult in a lot of ways, but amazing and lovely in so many others.

as i think back to my birthday a year ago, i had no idea that my heart would break just a couple weeks later, mourning the departure of little lenya from this earth into eternal paradise.
it was the most difficult thing to watch my friends, my pastor and his wife, speak at their five-year-old's memorial service. it made me long for heaven, much like when my father-in-law went to heaven a few years ago. it reminded me that life is so short and to cherish every moment with every loved one, because not another minute is guaranteed. it also exemplified the inexplicable strength of Christ like i've never seen before, and the power of His peace that surpasses understanding. it made me so thankful [again] for the hope i have in Jesus!

with that at the forefront of my mind, i tried to be more intentional about spending time with friends and family, investing in relationships, being present and trying/training myself to choose joy in every circumstance. a lot of the time, happiness came easy this year - like when nic and i bought our first house!! or when we celebrated our 7 year anniversary [more to come on that]!! or when my family came to visit us in montana for the first time!! or when i got to visit california, twice! or when i went camping for the first time!! gifts that were so graciously given by God... so many milestones and mountaintops!

this past year has been so full and rich, days of mourning, of laughter, days of beautiful life... i'm so thankful for every moment, every trial, every conversation, every person in my life... i'm learning that's all that matters, that's all i want to fill my life with - good, hearty relationships with Jesus and people.

and so, moving forward, i really have no idea what this next year will bring [obviously], profit or loss, and i pray that this next year is marked by friendships, by love.... not choosing anxiousness, but choosing whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report... that my whole being would be pleasing in His sight.

i guess i just found my standard for year 29! :)

love to you, friends!! wish i could hug each of you... but i'll just say cheers! and pray that you know how much you're loved and appreciated. :)