What Are You Listening To?

The music we listen to can affect us. It can affect your current mood. It can affect what you are thinking. It can affect how you treat others. Music can be pretty powerful, in positive and negative ways. So what are you listening to?

Your answer to that might actually depend on your current mood. If you’re happy, you might listen to something different than when you are angry. I know that I have chosen certain types of music to listen to based on my current mood.

I used to listen to angry songs when I was angry. You know, the kind that really gets your blood pumping, makes you want to seek revenge, and really just fuels your anger even more…

I try not to turn to those songs anymore. Hateful lyrics just fuel hate. We have enough hate in this world. We don’t need to make it worse by listening to hateful music.

Last year was an extremely difficult year for me. There were days that music really had an affect on me. The music I chose to listen to really helped me through some heartaches.

When things were not going right, and the ones I love were hurting me, I could have turned on the angry music. What good would that have done though? It would have just fueled anger inside of me, not love. So I turned on KLOVE, my local Christian music station, or my favorite CD (Lauren Daigle’s “How Can It Be”). The songs I listened to helped heal me. The lyrics were positive and encouraging.

Two of my favorite healing songs from last year are Lauren Daigle’s “Trust in You” and Ryan Stevenson’s “Eye of the Storm.” The lyrics in these songs spoke to my heart. Listening to them reminded me that there was still hope, and God was still in control, no matter how uncontrollable my life felt.

Right now my power song is “Fearless” by Jasmine Murray. This song has been a great reminder for me to be brave. I crank this song up!

Do you have a power song? Do you have a song that just sparks something good inside you, that keeps you going, that feeds your hope?

I encourage you to pay more attention to the music you are listening to. Pay attention to how it makes you feel. Pay attention to how it affects you. You may realize what you are listening to isn’t really good for you. I’ve been there. I’ve had to make changes.

This reminds me of a children’s song we used to sing in church: “O Be Careful Little Eyes.”

One of the verses goes like this:

“O be careful little ears what you hear

O be careful little ears what you hear

For the Father up above

Is looking down in love

So be careful little ears what you hear”

 

It is a children’s song. It still applies though.

Are you being careful in what you let your ears hear?

xoxo

-Ash

 

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Trying to Live With Less

Trying to Live With Less

A while back, my husband and I became interested in minimalism. We liked the idea of living with less, but we didn’t really act on it until a few weeks ago. Now we have started going through our house and weeding out our belongs, deciding what to trash, or what to sell, or donate.

There are different degrees of minimalism. Some people have managed to fit all of their belongings into a suitcase. Hubby and I aren’t looking to fit everything we own in a suitcase, but we would like to get down to where we could pack up our entire house in a day.

This is a much easier goal for him than it is for me. I am on board with this goal. It’s just going to take me longer to get there.

I am a very sentimental person. I have trouble letting go of things that bring back memories, or that people gave me, or that I have held onto since childhood. I used to have probably half a dozen totes of keepsakes in our home. Now I am down to two totes. I have put items that I want to see in my curio cabinet. Some items I have photographed and then discarded. Then there are items I just haven’t been able to let go of yet, and I may not.

Right now my biggest challenge is trying to minimize my wardrobe. I am a t-shirt and jeans girl most of the time, but I do like to dress up. So I am struggling with keeping the right amount of t-shirts and right amount of blouses and dresses. I would like to dress up more, but t-shirts are just more comfortable to me. So I am feeling stuck with my closet.

I have already weeded out the items I know I don’t wear enough, or really like anymore, but I still have over 100 items hanging in my closet. That seems like a lot…until I try to find something to wear. Maybe the problem is having too many choices…?

I am also a “what-if” girl. What if I need that as soon as I get rid of it? What if I gain weight? What if I lose weight? What if the entire economy crashes and we can’t buy clothes anymore?!?!

Okay. That seems a bit extreme, but my brain seems to go into that type of panic and exaggeration when I go through my clothes.

So now I am trying to focus on a few reminders as to why I should be okay with less.

1) We are supposed to trust God to provide. All my what-ifs just lead to worry and anxiety. God has already helped me let go of the anxiety I used to have. I don’t want it back. I need to trust Him.

“Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” Matthew 6:26.

2) We could have lost it all. In 2011, an EF5 tornado went through our city. Just a few blocks away from us houses were destroyed and apartments were half gone. From the sounds inside our storm shelter there were moments I thought we had already lost it all. We didn’t though. After that event, I started thinking more about which items were really important, and which weren’t. As time went on though, we went back to living the same. I need to remember again that it’s just stuff, and we could easily lose it all in a few minutes. So we might as well have less of it to lose.

3) Someday others will have to go through our stuff. The loss of my grandmother has opened my eyes to this. The more stuff you have when you leave this earth is more stuff your loved ones will have to go through, or fight over. We might as well minimize now. So our loved ones don’t have to later.

Our short-term goal for going through the whole house and weeding out unused, or unnecessary items is the end of the month. I would like for us to reach our long-term goal of being able to pack our entire household belongings in a day by the end of this year. That’s a big goal, but I am hopeful. I am learning to let go.

It’s time we focus more on filling our lives with experiences, instead of things.

I encourage you to take a look around your house. Are there items you need to let go of too?

Be brave; let go of stuff!

XOXO

-Ash

 

 

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Have fun and be cheerful!

Don’t be afraid to have fun and be cheerful. I married a man who rides shopping carts like he’s on a dog sled. This used to embarrass me. It also used to worry me. I was afraid he was going to run into a car, or tip the cart and get hurt. (Note to self: I’m not my husband’s mother.) Then one day, another couple laughed about him riding the cart, and it changed my heart. I realized I needed to loosen up. He was just having fun. He was. I wasn’t. So I changed that.

Now, I am behind him helping push and smiling, instead of scowling. Some people smile and laugh about it. Others may shake their head. I don’t really care what anyone watching thinks about it anymore. It’s just my husband and me having some fun.

I’m sitting here now wondering how I even got to the point where I didn’t find it to be funny. When did I become afraid of having fun? I had fun with friends in high school. We drew attention when we went places and acted silly. So what changed? Why did I become boring?

I think I know the answer. I got married. I think when we got married I felt like we were supposed to start acting like grown-ups. We had to act responsible now.  I had become too serious, and I wasn’t very cheerful anymore.

Well, good gracious! Being a grown-up doesn’t mean you can’t be funny anymore. Being responsible doesn’t mean you have to be “a stick in the mud” either.

The girl I am today can hardly believe I let myself become so serious and boring. This girl now sings and dances again – at work, in stores, and around the house with my hubby. Life is so much more fun when you actually let yourself be fun.

We were not put on this Earth to walk around hum drum and boring all the time.

So sing! Dance! Laugh!

Spread cheerfulness! It’s good for the soul.

Do something brave, and have fun this week. I dare you!

XOXO

-Ash

Let’s Help Each Other

Last weekend hubby and I went to an early morning garden sale at one of our local home improvement stores. The Lawn & Garden department becomes quite crowded during this event. Customers frantically move from section to section searching for the veggies, trees, or flowers they want. It most certainly is not the place to be if one has anxiety. It can quickly become an overwhelming experience.

This is our third year at this sale. So we know what to expect now. We also know that it works best for us to not get a shopping cart and just carry the items we need between the two of us.. Shopping carts get you stuck in aisles. When people get stuck, patience fades quickly, and anger rises. Anyway, the whole ordeal turns into a circus.

I realized something this year though. If customers help each other, it becomes a much more pleasant experience. I realized customers were just taking turns nudging their way up certain aisles, and then they would read the tags on the items just to discover the item they wanted was not in that section. After a few minutes of doing this myself, I realized I could just speak up to the person in front of me who was checking the tags on the items and ask if my item was one of them. I mean, what are they going to do? Either answer me, or ignore me, right? So why not speak up?

I did this again while trying to find a certain tomato variety. A nice older gentleman said he had not seen it yet, but he had seen this other variety. Then a woman came up asking about the variety the man had just mentioned. So I let her know the gentleman next to me had seen that kind. After looking around a bit more, I heard a woman mention an item I was looking for still. So I asked her about it, and she politely informed me that they were in front of her. While searching for the lettuce I wanted, I let another woman know what was in front of me.

Do you see where this is going?

I noticed that once a few of us were helping each other, more people started speaking up and helping also. Sometimes people need to hear others ask for help, or offer help, in order for them to do the same. One person can start a chain reaction.

If I had remained quiet and too afraid to ask a stranger in front of me for help, I would have spent a lot more time searching for the items I wanted. I was grateful for the help I received, and in turn, I helped others.

I want to encourage you to be someone who starts a positive chain reaction. Look for the opportunities in your day to help others see the benefit in helping others.

Be brave. Speak up!

Xoxo

-Ash

 

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Setbacks Don’t Mean Failure

Setbacks Don’t Mean Failure

Sometimes I am just a mess. When the tears are flowing I feel like I am falling apart. I turn something simple into something complicated, and then before I know it, I am kicking myself.

“You’re not strong. You’re not brave. Seriously, some brave girl you are… You’re just a mess! Who are you kidding? Just give up now.”

I go back and replay the situation that caused this breakdown in my head, thinking of how I wish I had handled it from the start.

Then the regret sinks in. I regret my indecisiveness, which led to causing confusion for someone else, which led to aggravating my husband, which led to me fighting back tears. I regret letting the tears fall down my face. I regret kicking myself. I regret my regret.

Then I realize I need to stop before I get too deep into the dark abyss. As I breathe through the tears and regain my peace, I realize I am okay. It is okay.

Rome was not built in a day.

I am still growing on this journey. I am still learning to change my thinking and be more confident in my decisions.

I am not going to let others discourage me during setbacks. You know those nasty insecurities that cause others to be mean? Don’t let them project those on you. We are all on our own journey. So if they have something to say about you messing up, remind them that the race is not over. We are all a work in progress.

There are going to be setbacks. When you are trying to more confident, you are going to come across challenges that cause you to question yourself. When you are trying to eat better, you may have times when you give into that craving. When you are trying to break a bad habit, you may momentarily give into it again. We just mess up sometimes. Don’t let those moments, or days, make you give up the entire race.

This is a process, not an overnight change. I don’t have to give up because of a setback. I have not failed the entire day because of a few moments. The day is not over. I have nothing but opportunity to improve from here. I’m running a marathon, not a sprint.

So let’s shake off the bad thoughts. Let’s stop sulking. Let’s stop kicking ourselves over mistakes.

Put down the potato chips, or the tub of ice cream. Dry your eyes. Put a smile on that beautiful face, and keep moving forward.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” Hebrews 12:1 (NIV)

I can do this! YOU can do this! WE can do this!

Brave Girl – Arise!

XOXO

-Ash

 

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Be Brave, Not Mean

Women need to stop being mean. You want to be brave? Be kind. Speak up and say something nice. I think it takes more courage to compliment someone these days than it does to tear them down.

It’s so sad how often women put other women down, and it’s not just by what we say. Criticism is seen in our actions too: scoffing, eye-rolling, those head-to-toe looks.

I would ask why we do this to each other, but I know why.

The main reason is insecurity, and it is ugly. Insecure women hurt other women. Don’t hate the skinny girl because you want to be thinner. Don’t hate the married girl because you are single. Don’t hate the momma because you wish you had kids.

Whatever is going on in your life is not the fault of these other women. So don’t squash their happiness.

Some women seem to just be mean in general and proud of it. I don’t know if they learned this from the women in their family, or if it is a behavior cultivated by society. Being mean is not something to be proud of friends.

Some women don’t realize how mean they are being. I know this. I used to be one of these women. I regret that it took many years for me to see how I was treating others, but I can’t go back and change the past. So I worked to become a better me going forward. It took daily work to change my thoughts and actions to get where I am today.  And there’s always room for improvement.

I have a friend that I admire. When I see her difficult yoga poses, I think, “Yay for her!” When I see her post photos, or videos of her kids, I am proud of her for being a good momma. When I see her posts about date night, or events with her hubby I am happy for her.

Do you know what I’m not? I’m not jealous of her. Does she do things I want to do? Does she have things I want to have someday? Yes. Does her ability to do these things, or have these things take away my ability? Nope. Not. At. All.

If I want to do the yoga poses she does, then it is on me to stretch, practice, and fall until I either get it right, or decide maybe it’s not really my thing to do.

So what do I do? I support my friend. I encourage her. I cheer her on! I am happy for her!

I’m inspired by her, and I tell her this.  You know what?  I inspire her too. She encourages me too.  She’s happy for me too.

I am extremely grateful for our friendship and our ability to genuinely be happy for each other.

This world is mean enough. Be brave, and choose kindness. Be supportive and happy for others. It just might amaze you how much it can improve your overall attitude.

Mean Girl – Change your ways!

Brave Girl – Arise!

XOXO

-Ash

 

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I Used to be Afraid

I used to be so afraid. Afraid of change.  Afraid of failing.  Afraid of what people think of me.  Afraid of not being good enough.  Afraid of not fitting in.  Afraid of standing out.  Afraid of death. Just afraid.

used to…Oh, sweet past tense!

I am no longer so afraid.  I am no longer a slave to fear.  I choose to not let fear control my life anymore.

My life has changed drastically in the past 5 years, and I am taking steps to purposely change it over the next 5 years.  I am tired of living afraid.  Life is going to change whether I move or sit still.  So I might as well bravely make the moves myself towards the me I want to be, instead of letting this world decide who I am.  Bye-bye fear of change!

I am going to fail sometimes. Accepting that saves me from worrying. I used to spend too much time worrying about whether or not something was going to work out. I used to get upset when I tried something new and it didn’t work out.  I thought it was a waste of my time.  I would never know if could do it though if I had not tried. Failure is bound to happen. Sometimes we have to find out what doesn’t work in order to find what does. Bye-bye fear of failing!

What people think of me really isn’t any of my business. I have come to learn that no matter how much I try, I can’t change what some people think of me. I’m learning to accept that it really doesn’t matter what others think of me anyway. What matters is what God thinks of me. If I am living for Him, then I am doing what I need to do regardless of what others think about my life. Bye-bye fear of what others think!

All I can do is what I can do, and what I can do is enough.” I’m not sure where that quote originated, but it has become a good mantra for me. I used to strive for perfection – in school, in marriage, at work. I was afraid of not being good enough for my parents, for my husband, and for my job. That fear only hurt me. So now I am accepting that my best is good enough. I am good enough. Bye-bye fear of not being good enough!

I used to think I needed to fit in. I needed my hair to be straighter. I needed to wear name-brand clothes. I was afraid that my curly hair, my department store clothes, and my braces made me stand out. We’re supposed to outgrow this need to fit in after high school, right? I thought so. Then I grew up and found myself still trying to fit in—at work, at church, at the gym. Good grief! It’s exhausting trying to fit in. I’m becoming more and more comfortable with who I am as I’m working on being the best me now. Bye-bye fear of not fitting in and fear of standing out!

I am no longer afraid of dying. I am a Christian. If I’m living for God, then death means something better than this life on Earth. I’m learning to appreciate the short time I have here, and use it more purposefully. Bye-bye fear of death!

Afraid Girl – No more!

Brave Girl – Arise!

XOXO

-Ash

 

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