Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Don't Be a Stupid Emotional Idiot

Wanna know what the worst possible advice is? I guarantee someone has given it to you at some point in your life. You may have even advised someone else with this line. What is it?

"Follow your heart" 
We hear this All. The. Time. 

I've always hated this saying, even though at first glance it sounds nice. Then today, Lady Antebellum got their song Compass stuck in my head. Which makes me mad, because the only lyrics I know are "So let your heart sweetheart be your compass when you're lost and you should follow it wherever it may go" and I hate this sentiment! 

Following your heart is how you make stupid decisions. For example, if I had listened to my heart when I woke up this morning, I would have shut off my alarm and slept til 1pm. Then I would have blown off work and all responsibility, spent my bill money on a plane ticket to London, and stalked Benedict Cumberbatch until he married me. Finally, we would have a cumberbatch of adorable British babies, and hang out with all The Doctors and Martin Freeman and live happily ever after (Moffat's not allowed near us).

Obviously, my heart is not the reason I am a well-adjusted adult.

Here's the truth:
[photo source. Quotation mine.]

Sorry to break it to you, but your heart is stupid. The Bible calls it "deceitful above all things and desperately sick" (Jeremiah 17:9). It also says to "guard your heart", not to follow it (Proverbs 4:23). And why do you think David was always asking for a pure heart? Because our hearts are messed up. Left to their own devices, our hearts will lead us to short-term comfort, bad decisions, and heartache.

Yes, our hearts are important. They hold our dreams, our emotions, our passions. Ultimately, our hearts are who we are. We shouldn't completely ignore what our heart is telling us. But because the heart is the seat of our emotions and dreams, they can be fickle, which leads to stupid decisions. God knew this about us, so gave us a brain and the Holy Spirit to help make the right choices. When we add these two into the mix, we are able to wisely follow the dreams in our heart. 

For example, I am now saving and planning for a trip to London where I can "accidentally" run into Benny, and researching the UKs laws regarding stalking so I don't end up in prison. 

So do me a favor and stop saying this? Maybe say, "Follow the Spirit", or even, "Follow your dreams", but stop following your heart. Don't be a stupid emotional idiot. Be a brilliant rational boss.

What did your heart tell you today? What should we say instead of "Follow your dreams"? 

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

"Yoga for Runners"

Wow! This book was so much more than I expected when I first requested it! Felstead uses this book to chronicle the whys and hows of yoga, focusing on the benefits for runners. She goes in depth with full descriptions and sketches of the anatomy involved with each move. Every aspect of the running/yoga connection is covered, including dealing with injuries and adapting for pain.

Despite being comprehensive and so in-depth, this book is very accessible and easy to understand. Felstead includes several series of yoga poses to accommodate every need and schedule, from 10 minute TV sessions to 90 minute whole-body routines. Every exercise is described in detail through muscle group specific chapters.

This is an amazing resource for any runner or yoga newbie, like me. A great way to relax and enhance your running through a yoga practice. I will definitely be referring to this often.

Recommended. 4/5 Stars.

I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

My Journey With Compassion....So Far.

It's not even 11am yet, and I've spent the last 40 minutes or so tearing up on my couch and wondering just how much of a bad idea it would be to empty my savings to go on a Compassion trip. Currently, there is a team of Compassion bloggers in Uganda, touring the centers and meeting the children and families supported by Compassion.

Follow the Compassion Bloggers in Uganda

And the stories they are sharing are breaking my heart, then putting it back together. Stories of brokenness, of slavery, of hopelessness. Stories that make you realize that sometimes, doing everything is not enough. But then, then there are stories of hope and restoration. Of what Compassion does in the lives of "the least of these". Of what it's like to meet a child you sponsor. And both ends of the spectrum have me a blubbering mess.

And I want to hop on a plane to go join them. And someday, I will. But now is not my time. But just because I can't get on a plane right now doesn't mean I can't make a difference. I can continue to support the child I sponsor. You can do the same. Compassion's goal is to get 400 children sponsors during this trip. You can click here to see the list of kids in Uganda needing sponsors. As I write this, there are 3386 kids on the site needing someone to give them hope. Will you be that person?

The more I become involved with Compassion, the more I absolutely love the organization. I first heard about Compassion in high school, and have sponsored 4 children (at different times) since then. Through sponsorship, I have had the opportunity to interact with this amazing organization in several ways. At different times over the years, I have seen what happens if a child moves away from a center, what happens if a sponsor can no longer afford to continue, and what happens if you get behind in your payments. Every time, Compassion has responded to the situation with grace and hope for all involved.

Then, about a year ago, I started blogging for Compassion. It is such a pleasure and honor to receive the emails from Bri and the team with an assignment. Over the past few months, I haven't been so great about Compassion blogging. For that, I apologize, and commit to get back at it this year. How can I not blog about something so close to my heart? I love having the opportunity to share what this great organization is doing in the world.

In December, I had my first experience working a Compassion table at a concert. A friend's father is a Child Advocate and invited us along. I never realized that the people working the Compassion table at events aren't employees or regular event staff! I had such a good time that I came home and looked up how to become one of those volunteers. I am now officially a Compassion Child Advocate! In the process, I learned so much more about Compassion and what they do around the world. With everything I learned, my respect for and love of this organization grew.

There are a lot of organizations out there helping children and families. There are others offering child sponsorship. So why do I think Compassion is the best choice?

Five Things I Love About Compassion:

1) Holistic Care. They don't just throw money at the problem and hope it will go away. They partner with the families to meet physical needs as well as spiritual, emotional, and educational needs.

2) Church Partnership. Compassion doesn't set up centers around the world. They partner with local churches, enabling them to be the hands of Christ, as they should be. Rather than start something new, or promote themselves, Compassion relies on the people who know their community best, and then creates a bond between those communities and the sponsors.

3) Life-Long Commitment. They are invested in helping children in every season of life, from providing prenatal care to scholarships and university-level leadership training, through their four different programs.

4) Integrity. They are trustworthy and transparent. Every year they publish their financial reports on their website for anyone to see. They have received the highest ratings from Charity Navigator for over 5 years in a row. Plus, they operate based on the "Four C's" that set them apart from others.

5) Financial Responsibility. Your money goes exactly where they say it will. They are committed to making sure at least 80% of all their money goes to the programs and children they are working with. Usually, they surpass this goal. Last year, nearly 85% of all income went straight to the children.

This has been a long post, so thank you for sticking with it. By now, I hope I've convinced you that Compassion is an amazing organization making a difference in this world one child at a time. And I hope you've been inspired to join forces with them. Whether you decided to sponsor, blog, advocate, or a mix of these opportunities, you will not be disappointed. Your life will be changed in ways you never expected.

Do you sponsor? Did you decide to sponsor after this post? Share in the comments!

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

I'm Ready, 2014!

I can't believe it's already 2014! The past year just flew by! And it was a great year. I did a bunch of new things, and had some incredible adventures (and I just realized I never shared about Iceland...we'll see if I can make that happen this month.) I really enjoyed 2013, and I am looking forward to 2014 even more. Let's take a look back, and a look ahead, shall we?

2013 was deemed "The Year of Awesome". I set a bunch of goals. I didn't meet each of the twenty-six goals, but I did make progress on nearly each one. Some I achieved, though! Like, I read 50 books, was really good with my budget, left the country twice, and tried one new thing each month. I came super close to my book-reviewing goal (I did 14, my goal was 15). There were only three things on my list that made little-to-no progress. I'd say that's a successful year!

I even found new things to enjoy and set new goals during the year, like taking up running and joining the Group-That-Must-Not-Be-Named.  I filled up my Books Read notebook completely (my fave books of the year to come in the next post). I spent 10 Days Without Technology. I went to Iceland and did adventurous things I never expected to ever do in my life, and I crossed some stuff off my bucket list. It was a fantastic year.

Looking ahead to 2014, I've been thinking hard about what kind of goals I want to set. I'm not going to set another 26 goals. That's a lot, and I don't want to be overwhelmed this year (that's one of my goals: rest and relax). To be honest, I'm still getting them all set, but it's going to be a much shorter list than last year, though the goals will still be important and awesome. Like, I'm toying with the idea of aiming for 500 miles run this year. I haven't decided yet. But some of the real goals on my list: Pay extra towards my loans, get to a certain jean size, read the Bible in 90 days, and cross 4 more things off the bucket list.

I'm going to continue adventuring and trying new things, but we don't have a set goal of a new thing every month for this year. We do have a list of things to try, though! I'm really excited for the possibilities of this year, and for where God is leading me. I'm excited to rest and have fun, while growing and adventuring. Bring it on, 2014!

How was your 2013? Got any big plans for 2014?

Monday, December 30, 2013

"10 Days Without"

How can you help "the least of these" while also relating to them on a personal level? Daniel Ryan Day answered the question with an experiment to get a small taste of what others are going through, while raising money and support for organizations helping others around the globe. The premise: go ten days without something most of us take for granted to raise awareness and support for those who go without it daily. For example, 10 Days Without a Coat to collect warm coats for the homeless, or 10 Days Without Speech to support the anti-trafficking movement.

The book chronicles eight of Day's experiments and what he learned from each. It's a very simple read and makes an excellent starting point for anyone looking to make a difference in the world. As Day alludes, making a difference is not simply a 10 day experiment. Instead, the 10 Days Without concept is a starting point, a way of humbling ourselves and breaking the routine that keeps us only concerned about our own circle. It's an eye-opening experience to make us question the way we live and interact with the people in the world around us.

For those eager to embark on their own 10 Days Without experiment, Day offers suggestions and tips at the end of each chapter, along with resources and organizations worth supporting. His website also features more resources and other experiments worth looking into.

I received this book from the author in exchange for an honest review. I also recently participated in my own 10 Days Without challenge, going ten days without technology. It was not easy, but it was eye-opening. You can read some of my thoughts and experiences here.

I would definitely recommend this book to those unsure of where to begin making a difference in the world, and for fans of Jen Hatmaker's book 7.

4/5 Stars.


Ladies, before you tune out, this isn't just a guys book. It's not about being gentlemen, or holding doors for women, or some romantic spiel. Instead, Zach Hunter's newest book is a call to action urging all young people to develop and live by a code of honor. To live civil and just lives in an unjust world.

Using the knights of old as inspiration, college-student Zach Hunter uses his fourth book to inspire Christians to hold themselves to a standard of conduct higher than the world demands, but one it so desperately needs. He blends personal anecdotes and modern examples with classic philosophers and Scripture to present his case for modern chivalry.

The book includes a section of journalling or discussion prompts and encourages a commitment to chivalrous living with a specific "contract" for each chapter.

Chivalry would be a great book for Christian teens and young adults eager to stand strong in today's culture as they are beginning to form their worldview and strengthen their belief system.

Recommended 3/5 Stars
I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Techless Ten COMPLETE!

The first (and probably last) ever Techless Ten Challenge here on Aspiring Ashley is now finished!! I cannot tell you how happy I am about that! This has been a very tough and loooooong Ten Days Without Technology.

Before I get into the good stuff, let me apologize for the lack of posts during this challenge. You might be surprised to know that it's very difficult to post by proxy. Especially when you're working opposite hours from your designated poster. Also, my brother works retail, and this challenge happened to fall over the Christmas season madness. He was barely home to rest, let alone do much else. I had given him another post, but it seems he wasn't able to get it up. Sorry about that, readers! If I ever do this again (though that's highly unlikely), I'll make Blogger my one exception so I can post myself.

Going without phone, computer, and TV for ten days is, in fact, just as crazy as it sounds. While maintaing a normal work schedule and Christmas social life, Christmas shopping, and observing early bedtimes, I read the longest Harry Potter book (900 pages) and another normal-length book (190 pages). I also spent a lot of time just sitting on the couch or table and staring into space. I did not, however, get so bored I cleaned. I planned to use some of my free time for cleaning, but my house is super cold, so snuggling under a blanket and going to Hogwarts was a much more alluring activity.

You don't realize how much you use the phone and computer for until you go without them for ten days. The TV part wasn't too bad. Especially since I had the rule that I could watch if invited to join someone, which happened a few nights. But going without my phone and internet was so hard! People would be talking about the latest weather or news or Facebook gossip and I was completely clueless. Can't tell you how many times someone would say, "Did you hear about....oh, wait...."

Didn't know about the whole Target identity theft thing until I had already shopped there twice. Couldn't look up movie times when the family decided we'd all go. Had to get a battery in my old watch, since I usually just use my phone. Same with flashlights and alarm clocks. If I had a question or a fleeting thought, I couldn't just Google it. Didn't know what the weather was going to be for the next day. Had no way of contacting friends if I wanted to tell them something. Had to print a hardcopy of my calendar, since I usually use my phone. Couldn't document the mundane things of life with an artfully edited photo. No TV in the background while I made crafts, just silence.

The biggest complaint was the convenience factor. Staving off boredom with a little powerful device became impossible. While I was sewing Christmas gifts, it was just me and my brain. No entertaining show in the background. Instead of looking up a med real quick on my phone at the medcart, I had to go dig out the actual drug book and hope it was in there. Couldn't text my dad to ask him to bring home ice or whatever on his way home. Nothing to do while on lunch break, or standing in lines. Just me and non-technological means of entertainment.

The second facet of the challenge was the feeling of being disconnected. With my family, I see them every day, so I didn't feel too disconnected there, unless I was out and wanted to ask them something. But not being able to talk to my friends was tough. Not being able to share the events of the day, or something silly that happened that only they would understand is something uncommon in today's world. We're so used to instant communication, to the ability to immediately convey what's happening or what we're thinking with the world, that to take that away is very strange. Especially when you realize that ten years ago, cell phones were just starting to become popular. I didn't even get my first one 'til about nine years ago! Before that, if I was out there was no contacting home, unless I was at a friends house and used their land line (ha, remember those?). Yet today, it's odd if you don't have a cell phone. We're so over connected it's crazy!

Then, there's the whole reason I did this. Not just for bragging rights or so everyone could call me crazy, but to help children on the other side of the world find connection with people who love them. So their voices could be heard and their little hearts can find peace. The Kealey Family is heading to Thailand in approximately one week to work with kids who have been victims of human trafficking, or who are risk of being trafficked. I gave up my connections for ten days to connect this awesome family with these kids. Have you donated yet? If not, click here to make a difference.

I know that I am a bit addicted to my phone and the internet, but I made it through this challenge! Walking away from it, I am going to try to make a more conscious effort to put the technology down more often and focus on the now. In some ways, it was nice to be unplugged. Knowing that if anyone really needed me, they'd find a way to make it happen. Not feeling the need to check out what was happening on Facebook. By the end of the experiment, I had finally stopped having that mini panic attack when I didn't feel my phone in my pocket.

So while I'm glad I did this challenge, I am also so glad it's over! Going without technology for ten days was insanely difficult, but definitely worth it to help fund connection for the kids of ZOE.

This challenge was inspired by Daniel Ryan Day and his new book Ten Days Without, which is now available. I'll be posting the review hopefully tomorrow, definitely over the weekend.
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