I Saw God Today

Today I had one of those A-ha! moments. I did not go to church this past Sunday, choosing to study for my two midterms instead, so after my second midterm today, I decided to hit the 11 o’clock mass. There was a total of about twenty people in attendance, and I kind of liked that about it. There was less distraction.

But as I sat there in my usual seat, like always, I looked out the panoramic windows. Sitting down (or standing for a short person like me), you can’t see much but the trees and the sky. It is gorgeous when I go on Sundays because I get to watch the sky turn pink and purple. Today was gloomy: white sky, browning hillside. For some reason, though, all I could think was, Wow, the world looks prettier from here. I had an overwhelming sense of peace in me right then; it was so powerful, I almost cried.

I have had some moments like these before, but this one felt so different. For the first time in such a long time, I felt like I was with God. Like He was right there with me, leading me through the morning. I don’t know when I last felt that close to Him. It made me want to cry all over again.

Now, I am not enthusiastically religious. Yes, I believe in God, I am a Confirmed Catholic, I go to church almost every Sunday (and when I can’t, I try to go during the week), I pray, and I hold the beliefs of Catholicsm close to me. But I do not preach my beliefs and I have not really formed a strong bond with God. I mean, for quite a while, I did not even go to church other than Easter and Christmas. You could say I was a pretty bad Catholic.

I lost so much of my faith to the Darkness of depression. I spent every day and night begging God for a reason to stay. I implored Him to show me a sign for all this emptiness in my life and in my heart. I wondered what on Earth His plan was. It did not seem to me like there was one; it felt like He was dangling life in front of me and snatching it away like a game. I did not think He really cared about me, like I had been taught during my nine years of Catholic school. I thought He was punishing me for my sins, and I began believing that I was going to Hell, whether I killed myself then or waited for Him to do it. I never thought I would see Heaven. Life was dim and worthless for me, and sometimes I wondered if I was praying to nothing and that there was not a single thing waiting for me after death. Not Heaven, not Hell. Just…nothing. I don’t like thinking of that time.

But here I am, a few years later, rediscovering my faith and mending my relationship with God. I have been trying to rebuild for the last year or so as a part of my fresh start in college, but it has not been easy. Now, I feel like I need to go to church, not because I am obligated to, but because I need that time with God in His house. I feel closer to him, and I am surrounded by people with minds like mine. It is an hour that I can take away from the burdens of every day and leave them outside. I get to be free from my schoolwork and alone with my thoughts and with God. I wish I had realized I had all this before, that I had realized the sanctuary in church and with my community.

That moment looking out the window and seeing so much beauty in a less-than-fabulous day left me breathless. I had to keep looking, and I had to keep fighting off tears. I had never felt like this before–at least, I don’t remember ever feeling like this. It reminded me that there is so much more to this life than what I thought. There is a plethora of things in this world I do not even know about, and I am excited to learn all about them. This moment that I had with God has pushed me to go further. I cannot half-ass recovery–any of my recovery–because then I am not really living.

There is so much of this world that God has given me, and I wish I had seen that before. I wish that it had not taken me this long to remember my faith and all the goodness that came with it. But I am remembering and learning every day, sometimes a little, sometimes a lot. Better late than never, right?

xx Ash

Goodbye to You (but not for long…)

As I write this, I am between class and homework and studying on Ash Wednesday. This evening at 5 pm I am going to Mass to get my ashes with Mads. I love that I have such easy access to a Catholic Church, and thankfully, my Sunday schedule now allows me to make it to Mass every week.

Most of the time, I go by myself, and to be honest, I think I like it much more than going with friends. When I am with other people, I sometimes get distracted from what I am supposed to be focusing on. When I go alone, it gives me ample time to be in tune with my thoughts, and it reminds me of the person I am trying to be. It is a chance for me to really pray for the people in my life and to talk to God about whatever is on my mind.

Usually being alone with my thoughts leads to negative things. The Bad Thoughts just love to infiltrate my walls when I am quietly reflecting on my life. Fortunately, while I am in church, I can stay focused on the good things: my friends, my family, my successes. I can also ask for guidance about my losses and failures without it really getting into my head and letting my anxiety take over.

It’s freeing.

But Ash Wednesday signifies the beginning of the Lenten season, which means fasting and giving up things. Typically, I try to give something up and then totally fail. I also accidentally eat meat at least one Friday on Lent. I beat myself up about it for the rest of the year, even though Lent only lasts a few weeks. Last year, against my better judgment, I gave up chocolate. I cherished those Sunday cheat days.

This year, especially since I have been going to Mass weekly, I have decided that this will be the year that I make it all the way through without messing things up. However, this year is also the year that I decided to be a little ambitious with my fasting.

I am giving up chocolate and donuts.

I know, I already and beating myself up about it. But my sweet tooth gets the better of me so often that I really need to let up. Lent is the perfect time for me to cut back from my “Treat Yourself” philosophy. Because I have been treating myself far too often.

Like this professor just set up a table full of pizza right next to my table. “Free pizza!” might be my favorite two words. But I have been madly craving pizza, and I haven’t eaten any in quite a while. I took a small piece though because I am supposed to be fasting today.

This might be more of just a pep talk to myself about why it was okay to accept some free sort of cold pizza. I was hungry, okay!

But back to the chocolate and donuts: I think this will be really good for me! Whenever I want chocolate or my mouth waters at SloDoCo’s snapchats and instagrams, it will only motivate me to not give into temptation. We all know food is the biggest temptation for me.

Now you might be thinking: Ashley, this really is not good for your recovery! I have also thought this, and I both agree and disagree. Ignoring my cravings was (and still is) an issue for me, so I am doing my best to conquer my fear foods. However, I am not giving up all sweets or food I need to survive–that would be crazy! And quite frankly, I do not think I could do it, especially the survival foods part, for obvious reasons.

I am not giving up food, and I am still adamant on recovering. I have not put myself through this rollercoaster to give it all up at the snap of a finger. Of course, I will eat when I am hungry, and of course, I will eat what my body needs. But chocolate and donuts (as much as it pains me to say) are not vital to life. My life yes, but don’t talk about it.

All this means is I get to fill the void with ice cream and peanut butter! Just kidding, that totally defeats the purpose of Lent. I am giving these things up because I rely on them. A mini Snickers after dinner is common for me. Doffle (that is a waffle and a donut combined–I know, heaven is real) Tuesday and Thursdays are a staple. No, I don’t get them every Tuesday and Thursday, what kind of person do you think I am?? I do think about it, but I have successfully resisted that urge for the last two weeks. It is because I love these things so much that I need to be able to live without them.

Not eating chocolate or donuts for a few weeks won’t kill me. In fact, it will be so good for me. I can focus on countless other things that are actually important. Like my grades and studying abroad and writing. And since I have been needing to recharge from being extraverted more often than I would like to be, this will give me the opportunity to focus on rebuilding my mental stability and health as well.

So chocolate and donuts, I will miss you dearly these next few weeks, but it does not mean I don’t love you. I do love you. And I will miss you so much.

Okay, I swear I am not crazy, I just love food again and that is huge for me. Now my Lingustics midterm study guide is calling my name, and that is a call I must answer.

Eat lots of donuts for me.

-Ash

New Again

This is me as I write this:

And this is me when this post goes up:

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Bitmojis, though. Am I right, ladies??

That is right, folks. It is Christmas Eve!! Tonight, my family and I are going to dinner together and then going to mass.

Going to Christmas Eve Mass is one of my favorite things. It used to be because it meant that Christmas was almost here. It used to mean that we got to drive around the Burbank Hills looking at Christmas lights (which are seriously lacking in the city this year). It used to mean I got to dress up and sing Christmas songs in the pews and admire the pretty poinsettias around the altar.

Now that I do not go to church often, I greatly enjoy this time to really think about my faith and about the man who saved our souls. His birth is a miracle. And because of how I feel about going to church nowadays, I have also been thinking about some New Year’s Resolutions.

One of which is to go to church more often. I signed up for the email list for the Newman Center just off campus. This past quarter, I was not able to really make it to any of the services. There is a mass on Sunday evenings, but it overlaps with chapter meetings, so I cannot make it. There are also various times on Saturday, though, that I want to put more effort into attending.

I am afraid to go alone, which is one of the reasons that I have yet to go to mass there. I do a lot of things alone: shopping, getting food, buying groceries, getting gas, and so on. I love doing things alone, but for some reason, I am afraid of going to church solo.

But when you think about it, going to mass by myself would benefit me greatly. It would leave me time to think about God and reflect on my faith and my sins. It would not distract me from what is going on. I will not have the urge to whisper to a friend, and I would feel ashamed to glance at my phone. That is not what the time is for.

I would get much more out of it if I went to mass alone, so I am planning now, promising now, to go to church. It is also an opportunity to make more friends who share my beliefs.

Religion these days is such a taboo topic and everyone is so afraid to talk about what they believe in. I am not ashamed of being a Catholic. I am not ashamed to be a Christian. But I feel like sometimes I forget what those words mean and what they entail. I want to be more aware.

I do not want to blindly quote the Bible. I want, when I see someone post a verse, to be able to generally know what they are referring to without needing to look it up. I don’t need to preach to disinterested ears, but I would really like to be able to talk about my faith and answer questions about it, should I be asked.

Sometimes in a class, a question about religion comes up. They are questions that, after nine years of Catholic school, I should know the answers to. Only I do not.

I will be better. And that is a goal for 2016.

-Ash

My Sweet Lord

Got some changes going on on the blog! I am back to using the Adele theme 🙂 I wanted a change, and I couldn’t settle on anything else. I like this theme a lot, so I thought it only necessary that I go back to it.

I also updated my “The Girl With the Laptop” page! Check it out if you dare. Now, onto other things.


Lately, I have found my mind wandering to one topic. This topic in particular is one I have been sort of neglecting to focus on. Of course, I think about this all the time, but I never stop to really reflect on it.

I’m talking about religion.

The subject of religion has come up a lot in three out of my four classes repeatedly. The fourth class is French–we talk a lot about food there. I am hungry…

Okay, back to religion. The first few weeks of my Liberal Studies class focused on the Puritans/Congregationalists and how religion and their beliefs influenced education. Since then, we have discussed other Protestant denominations, Roman Catholic (holler), Deism, and a few others. Of course, this class is about education, so it all relates back to that, but we talk a lot about the religious (and not religious) beliefs.

My English class talks a lot about religion and how that influences writers. There are so many allusions to the Bible and religious teachings. As a writer, I would like to get more in touch with my faith, and see how that can influence my writing. I think it does already without me realizing it, but I still want to get more in touch with it.

My Sociology class focuses on society (duh), but religion does make appearances. Religion often affects society in some way.

Last summer, I talked a lot about getting back into reading the Bible and focusing on my faith. Thanks to class, studying, homework, Greek life, more studying, etc I have not had the chance to get very far. I have been struggling so much lately as far as eating disorders and sometimes depression goes, and I remind myself that God has a plan for me. There is a reason this is all happening, and I can’t give up on myself. God created this beautiful world for me (and everyone else, obviously) to live in.

Like, I didn’t not peak in high school for nothing. Something greater than those four years is meant for me. I have seen that in all that I have accomplished since September. And every time I have Bad Thoughts, I have to remember that this isn’t the end. I am meant for wonderful things.

More than writing, I want to help people. I want people to be inspired and influenced by my writing in the way I have been throughout my life. I was blessed with this creative mind for a reason.

And the more I think about it, the more I feel like I would love to teach young children. Kindergarten teachers are some of the most important people out there. I want to help children discover the wonders of learning. That sounds so nerdy, but I really do love to learn, and I think education is so important.

But now I am getting a little off topic.

My relationship with God has been an interesting one for the last near decade. It was a constant battle between “Why are you doing this to me?” and “I know you will help me get through this” thoughts. Then there was the “Why did you give me this body and not a perfect one?” It has taken me a long time to get to the point of “He has a plan for me, and if I just have faith, I will get through this.”

I want to strengthen my relationship with God and my faith. It is because I have faith that I am here today and thriving in life. I have drawn my strength from believing in a better life after depression. I am supposed to live a full life. I believe that building a better relationship with God will help me with that.

Summer will be the prime time for Bible reading and church going. I can’t this quarter, but next Fall I would really love to join Cru. We have the Newman Center, which is a small Catholic church right off campus. There are many options for me to renew my faith here, and I can’t wait to utilize them.

This year has been one of a lot of adjustment, and next year will be more of settling into my niche. I have Greek life, I have my roommates, I have my schoolwork. My faith is something I can incorporate into all aspects of my life, and I will do as such.

Religion will only become more prevalent in my life and in my studies. I want to know everything about it. Not only Catholicism; I want to learn more about other faiths as well. Catholicism is my religion of choice, but I think it is important to know about others. Judaism, Buddhism, other Christian denominations, and so on. I am kind of on a faith-kick, can you tell?

I encourage you guys to explore your faith, too! Or not faith, if you are into that. Whatever your little heart desires, really.

Much love, A ❤

Because He Lives

Goooood morning world! I am writing this to you on Easter Sunday, even thought his won’t be going up until Monday. Right now, I am on a train back to SLO, cursing myself for not downloading Mockingjay Part One earlier this morning. I got a quater of the way through the download (because my computer does not have a disc drive) and then I had to go to the train station. On the train, the wifi is not great, so while I can write this post for you, I cannot finish downloading the movie. *Sad face emoji*

I guess I will have to watch Into the Woods for the third time this week. Am I complaining? Not really…

Also an update from my last Right Now post: I have finished the latest season of Pretty Little Liars! I AM SHOCKED. It was a great twist, especially because I read the books. It is a twist on the major twist earlier on in the series. The show has definitely kept me on my toes. I cannot wait for next season!

Okay, so the reason I am writing this post today is because last night I attended my very first Easter Vigil. I have always gone to Mass on Easter Sunday, but this year, I knew two people getting baptized: Wayne Smith and Clark McKnight, two dads that I bowl with in the summers. Clark’s daughter, Shane, also comes to camp at GSG for a week or two in the summers. Ever since bowling, they have been two of my favorite dads at the parish, and I adore their kids.

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Luke – Wayne’ youngest and the love of my life ❤ I swear he loves me too!

I have had this day in my calendar since the summer, so I have been planning on coming home this weekend since then. I almost decided to stay at school, but I wanted to support my favorite dads (who are not my own) in welcoming them to our Church. I can say that I am so glad I went!

It was a beautiful service, and it was wonderful so see this community that I have been a part of my whole life welcome more members with Baptism, Communion, and Confirmation.

At a Catholic Mass, there is a lot of singing. And I mean a lot. As a former choir kid, and current lover of musicals and music in general, I do not mind much. I cannot always sing along, and it is the readings that are being sung, but it is not bad. There seemed to be extra singing at this Mass, which is not surprising. One of the people that did most of the singing was one of our Deacon’s, Jim Roope, who is my brother’s best friend’s father. He ran the Confirmation programs before being ordained, so I got to go through the process with him. He is an all-around cool guy. His daughter also taught me to knit. I love that family.

After singing the Gospel and then giving a short-and-sweet Homily, it was time for the Baptisms. I got to stand right up close to the pool and watch one of our Priests bless and pour water on their heads. The other Deacon said “Extra water for this one!” about Wayne, which got a laugh from everyone. Everyone clapped and cheered after each person got baptized. It was awesome.

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This is the first time they are entering the Church as official Baptized members! Clark is in the front and Wayne is right behind him.

Then they all got confirmed, to which we all cheered for as well. Then there was the transition to the altar for Communion, where each person was able to participate for the first time. I missed a little part of the blessings because my nose started running like Usain Bolt. Curse this illness!! I got back in time to see them eat the Eucharist and drink the Blood for the first time, though, so it was all good.

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Clark really likes that candle, don’t you think?

At the reception afterwards, they were both so happy that I had come down to see them, and I was equally glad. They each gave me big hugs. Anything to support my favorite dads! I said that to a few people at school who asked why I was going home so soon after Spring Break, and they thought I meant two gay dads. Nope, not that there is anything wrong with that! One of the leaders of the Confirmation program is gay and has a partner (actually, they might be married, I am not sure…), and he is awesome. Moral of this short story: gay is cool. Anything is cool. You do you, babe.

Overall, I am so happy I got to come home for this beautiful and glorious event to celebrate my friends and the Christ’s Resurrection. Yes, since I have been at school, I have been lacking on my church-going (well, that is kind of always, since high school) and reading my Bible and whatnot. Because of this, I plan on getting right back into it! My faith has gotten me through a lot of Dark Times and Bad Thoughts, and have to give credit where it is due. Of course, it is me who is getting through this, but it is because of my faith in God that I have been able to power through.

And today, even though I am on a train and complaining about not-so-great wifi, I am celebrating that Christ is Risen. The sun is shining a little bit brighter today, and I am a little bit happier.

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❤ A