As an unapologetic optimist, I used to assume the best about people which made me an unfortunate judge of character. Sometimes I honestly couldn't identify fake friends from real ones. But the sarcastic words? The little insults? They were the hundred paper cuts that eventually made me bleed. I had to learn the hard way that not everyone likes Ashley. And some people never will.
I’ve always been good at being self-sufficient. If I had a problem, I’d find a way to fix it. If I were feeling sad, I would realize it was my responsibility to make sure I stopped feeling that way. Essentially, I’ve always had the logical sense to realize that nobody else could fix my problems; I knew I had to be responsible and take care of them myself. In many ways, I applied that to my relationship with God. He had good works prepared for me to do, so I’d better get my act together and get them done, right?
For as long as I can remember, my dream has been to become a wife and mother. In my mind, the ideal scenario was to start dating in late high school, get married fresh out of college, and start a family not long after. The only problem was that there was never a guy in the picture. I finished high school without dating anyone, so needless to say, things didn’t start out the way I had imagined.
I remember crying myself to sleep in high school because of a joke some boy I barely even knew had made about my weight. I was about seventeen at the time, but my struggle with the way I looked had begun much before that. I had always been a “normal-sized girl” growing up, until I hit puberty. That, plus all the junk food I consumed when I went away to boarding school, caused me to put on a lot of weight. It wasn’t until people began to notice that I realized what a large part of my identity was formed around the way I looked and even more so around the way that people saw me.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve been the “Good Girl.” The kind one. The honest one. The encouraging one. The happy one. The good one. I knew the right things to do and say: what my family wanted, what my friends wanted, even what I thought God wanted. I was polished on the outside, doing all the “right” things, but on the inside, I was selfish. I was angry. I felt inadequate. I was driven by performance and perfection.
Being in my 20s, I’ve had more of a mixed friend group and have been trying to navigate these sometimes murky waters. At times more successfully than others. I find that when I talk to guys I can be at a loss for words, afraid of giving them the wrong impression, and even avoid being caught in a conversation with them. To narrow it down, my friend and I both found ourselves becoming increasingly awkward and rude.
Like most of you, I love to watch rom-coms. I’m not the biggest fan of the Hallmark channel, but my parents are in December and February. My personal favorite movie is 10 Things I Hate About You, but I am definitely a sucker for the storylines in The Notebook, The Longest Ride, The Proposal, The Lucky One and plenty of Disney favorites (I am a proud Disney fanatic, no shame). But friends, we need to WAKE UP.
Sex is confusing. The church has overcomplicated it. The world has overcomplicated it. But it doesn't have to be that way. God's ways are actually quite simple. Our co-founder & director, Ashley Giovannucci, spoke about holistic purity with one hundred 6th-12th graders at the One Heart Youth Conference last weekend. She talked about failed attempts to navigate our sexuality - the purity movement of the 1990's, abstinence education, and the free love movement. And she ultimately shared how the simplicity of God's way brings clarity to our lives.
We all have those people in our lives who are difficult to love. You know who I’m talking about - It could be a co-worker, or an in-law, or a so-called friend. Something inside our stubborn hearts bristles at the thought of serving these people. But Jesus asks us to follow His example in loving those who make our lives difficult. God can work through these people to bring about our sanctification and to make us more like the image of His son.
You’re not good enough. You’re ugly. You’re not thin enough. You’re not smart enough. The voices get so loud that I can’t focus on anything else. As I stare into the mirror, the feeling that I’m worthless plagues my mind and suffocates me. My joy is gone. But what if our perspective meant more than our perfection?