Take the Shackles Off My Feet So I Can Dance (Ashley)

Most people are too embarrassed to talk about their struggles, because they think it makes them appear weak. But, in reality, we are doing more harm to ourselves and to others by pretending we have it all put together.

People, it is time we start taking our masks off!

Stop acting like you don’t have an addiction. Stop acting like you don’t have an issue with lying. Stop acting like you aren’t in pain. Stop hiding behind insecurities. Please just stop for one moment, and take your mask off.

Being vulnerable isn’t cowardly, it’s actually courageous. So here it goes, my mask is coming off.

My name is Ashley Sue Morrell. For most of my life, I’d say being involved with boys has been one of my biggest struggles. I’ve been boy crazy since I came out of the womb.

Okay, that is a slight exaggeration. I’ve only been obsessed with boys since I can remember. And you might think, “Oh Ashley, that’s not abnormal.” And you’re right, it is natural for people to be boy/girl crazy. But here’s another struggle of mine: I’m a fixer. And that quality, combined with a boy obsession, set me up for some problems. If you’re a girl who is similar to me in that way, you understand where I’m going with this.

I think we (as in you too) have a type, and it’s the worst type: I call them the badly-behaved-good-boys.

These BBGBs are our kryptonite. As most girls do, I loved the idea that I could have the power to change someone for the better; that I could make some “bad boy,” into the best kind of person. I loved the idea that I could influence someone, not just a boy, to want to change their heart. The frustrating thing is that when you have that mindset, it is so difficult to get out of it. I know that there are so many girls that have that same mindset about guys. I know that I did, and occasionally still do.  I wanted to change bad boys so badly, that I would do what ever it took to get the results that I wanted.

But ladies, listen to me and listen to me carefully: the only one who was changed by me was me. Not a BBGB.

Ultimately I  lost myself to boys at a young age; I lost myself because I put my identity in a guy versus in Jesus. I gave myself up in hopes that it would help me keep the guy I wanted. I was in no way, shape, or form prepared to take on the consequences of my actions.

Sadly, I had known better, but I still chose to ignore all the warnings. I had the best parents there to guide me. I had grown up in church, and I was taught the difference between right and wrong. But I was so focused on trying to fix BBGBs , that I ended up losing myself in the process. I became extremely jealous of other girls. I became comfortable with lying to my parents. I became more and more insecure about who I was and how I looked. I was drawn to gossip: I didn’t want to talk about my own issues, therefore I ended up talking about other people’s problems.

I felt so guilty about the person I was becoming, that I isolated myself from some of my family and friends who would have helped hold me accountable. I’ve always known God, but during those two years of my life, I chose to ignore Him because I felt ashamed.  I chose to run away from the One who had the power to give me relief.

The truth is, ladies and gents, guilt comes in the form of conviction from the Holy Spirit. However, shame is a weapon of the enemy. Shame keeps you in shackles, but wearing those shackles is a choice. You don’t have to wear them because Jesus came to break them.

That is the beauty of my Jesus. He wanted me even though my heart was turned away from Him. No matter how far I ran from Him, He just kept following me. He chased me down, and He broke my chains. While I was so obsessed with boys, my Jesus was obsessed with me. And that’s something that blows my mind. I had abandoned Him. I literally did not want Him a part of my life. But, even when I couldn’t feel Him, He was there; not for one moment did He abandon me.

If Jesus did not abandon me, He won’t abandon you. So what if you’ve made a lot of mistakes? So what if you are in a sticky situation? SO WHAT if you don’t live the typical Christian life style? So what!

You do not have to let your mistakes define who you are. I have made so many mistakes, and quite frankly I continue to make mistakes daily. And the mistakes I make aren’t always small. But the truth is, the only way I can face the guilt of my wrongs is with God’s love. His love for me gives me the courage to push forward. I refuse to believe that God’s work in me ends where my mistakes begin. On the contrary, I believe that God begins to use your mistakes and your struggles to prove Himself. No one is too far gone for Him. Your past is not your future. Jesus cares way more about you as a person than He cares about your mistakes. He has the power to break your addictions. He has the love to heal your heart. He is calling your name, and He is ready to give you purpose.

Listen to me: Jesus Christ loves big. And He loves you more than anything in the universe. So take those shackles off your feet and dance your heart out. You are not condemned. You are free.

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Pilot Part 2 (Ashley)

As Brett stated, the Pilot of any TV series is just the beginning to an epic story. The epic thing about our stories (plural because even though our testimonies somewhat intertwine, they are also completely different) is they are still being written.

So what I want to do tonight is to just share a chapter of my story with you.

I’ve always believed in Jesus, but it’s not always been easy for me to share that with people or to walk out my faith. It was honestly very difficult for me to even thank God for anything for a very long time, because I felt like He had abandoned me and my family. I knew He was there, but it was so hard for me think He was a loving God when I had to watch my older brothers fall victim to addictions. How could a loving God allow my brothers to loose control of their own lives?

I actually used to act oblivious to the fact that my eldest brother was an alcoholic, and that my youngest brother was addicted to pills. I tried my best to act like we were just like every other family: perfectly okay. I ignored them when they were wasted, I judged them for being strung out on drugs, but I cried for them when I realized they felt alone.

I feared that I was going to end up just like them: alone, depressed, and with no sense of purpose.  I was so afraid of being lonely, that it ended up controlling my life. I got involved with a guy at 14, in ways no 14 year old should; I thought if I was with a guy, I would never be alone.

But really I just had no self-respect, and I had no sense of self-worth.

That year was my freshman year of high school, and it was one of the most difficult years of my life. It’s actually kind of funny now, because looking back, I was so afraid of people not liking me, that I decided I just wouldn’t talk to hardly anyone. I was so afraid of being alone, that I isolated myself. Ironic, huh?

Highschool was difficult at some points, but I don’t really have anything bad to say about my classmates. We were just all trying to figure out who we wanted to be, and sometimes people just don’t mesh. And that’s okay! I learned a lot during those four years, and I was finally able to push past my insecurities. It was a long process, don’t get me wrong. But it was during that time of figuring out who I wanted to be, that I began to find out I wasn’t satisfied by anything but Jesus. No guy, and no friend made me feel complete like He did. Everything was fleeting, but He was constantly with me.

Brett’s calling came in 2014, which somewhat set my calling into motion. When I saw him get free of his addictions, it started a fire in my soul; his walk with God is so inspiring, and I can’t wait till you guys hear the rest of his testimony. My eldest brother, Jerry, also fueled my fire; he would tell me that he wanted people to know that they don’t have to be perfect to have a relationship with Jesus. Even though he was never freed from his addictions, his life motto was “God is good always.” How inspiring is that?!

My calling didn’t come until my senior year of high school, and I’ve just recently begun to walk in it. Even though I made a lot of mistakes (I still make mistakes daily), and even though I was not the most qualified (still not the most qualified), I felt called to reach out to girls, to encourage and empower them. And I still do.

I just want girls around the world to know their value; I just want girls of all ages to dream big; I just want to uplift and encourage all girls to be who God has made them to be.

I am not perfect, and I can’t say that I don’t mess up big time. But I can say that walking with Jesus is the best decision someone can make. Life with Jesus is just as difficult as a life without Him, but it’s so much more fulfilling, and so much more joyful. There is a peace beyond explanation.

So if you feel Him tugging on your heart, you should respond. Don’t live in fear, and don’t worry about being under qualified. As my cousin-in-law Matt Anzivino once said, ” God doesn’t call the qualified. He qualifies the called.”

He sees so much more than your mistakes and fears. He sees you. You’re not alone.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pilot (Brett)

Nearly every great TV show starts with a pilot episode. It seems fitting that I’d also start off our blog with a pilot.

Each of us can be looked at as if our lives are one big book. I like to look at my life as a series. My story has taken several twists and turns, some for the good, and some for the bad. So, I want to write about the beginning of my newest book that started in November 2014.

My search for purpose started the day a close friend of mine called me in early November. I noticed he was drunk, which was unusual to me since I never saw him drink. We had other sorts of addictions, and I had only heard about his struggles with alcoholism. While on the phone, he told how he’s worried about losing his family. His wife had threatened to take their kids to her parents and call the cops. So, I offered to pick him up and drive around a little to let the alcohol wear off. He refused and eventually hung up.

There are a couple things I want to mention about our relationship at the time. Our families go back a ways to our grandparents being close friends. I grew up in church and had quit 8 years earlier. He, as a child, had only came to service occasionally. He had been an atheist for nearly 20 years, and I was extremely agnostic. I say agnostic, because I had hoped there was a God but had settled with myself that He wasn’t real.

Anyway, that next day he calls me again. This time I’m not sure if he was still drinking but he was much less frantic. He starts telling me certain things he’s noticed about our parents.

“Have you noticed your parents and my parents have peace? Because we don’t have that.” I gave an “uh-huh.” He goes on, “They have purpose and happiness. And what do we do everyday? We work, we hang out, and we smoke every day with no meaning.” I gave another, “uh-huh.” Then he says, “If there is a God and He is the one that gave them this then how do I do that? How can I know if He’s real? I want what they have. I don’t want to live like this anymore.”

When he asked me this, it’s like he was looking to me for direction on how to find God. And, I had no real answers for him. All I could think to tell him is it sounded like the first step. And, that I had asked for years if He was real but never got a confirming reply.

(I get a little emotional writing about this. This was the weekend that my whole life changed.)

I found out later he asked his step-father to help him receive Jesus Christ into his life. They went to a church right then, and they prayed right there. He gave his life to God that weekend and his life completely transformed in a way that I had only ever heard about in stories. I could not believe what I had witnessed! I saw him delivered of all substance addictions. And, he would call me each night during the next week about how God was teaching him how to be a better father and husband. He was making it through each day by praying and reading a bible he just started to pick up. Then, he would go to bed each night with a bible app playing through his phone. He would call me around midnight to see if I would come over and read the bible with him since he wasn’t sleeping well. Which, I did this happily, but I started getting jealous.

I got very jealous that God had, so clearly, revealed himself to my friend and yet I was still ignored. So, I leave his house one night, bring my bible into my parent’s basement, and I got down on my knees.

I prayed holding my bible, “God, you can’t hide from me anymore. There’s no way I could deny that it’s you doing this, and I’m glad to see it. But, why am I ignored? Do you just not want me? Have I made too many mistakes that I’m beyond you redeeming my life? Am I not redeemable?

I continued, “I’m going to open my bible, hoping you will give me something. If I open up to something that makes no sense then I’ll leave you alone. I’ll stop looking for you, and I’ll be OK with that. But, if you do want me and I am redeemable, just this once, would you let me know?”

What I opened my bible to was Isaiah 43:1 and it goes like this:

Thus says the LORD, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.”

I didn’t feel overwhelmed, I didn’t speak in tongues, and I didn’t shout for joy. I chose to believe it was true, and it would be 6 months later before I truly got to experience it.

I will have to write more about this at a later time. I didn’t intend to do a novel so I’ll end with this.

If you’re hearing God’s call for the first time, but you don’t see what He’s doing, just continue to trust that He has a plan for you. If He didn’t leave me behind in His work then He won’t leave you where you are, too.