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Sunday, July 10, 2011

Playing Catch-Up --> Preparing for Uganda

Sadly, I feel like a layer of dust has settled over my blog :( Sorry about this! But -as you can imagine- I've kept pretty busy! As some of you know I've been in Uganda for the past couple weeks, but I want to rewind and shed a little light on these past few months.
The time before my departure was quite stressful, but really exciting at the same time! I was able to conquer some of my big fears. . .like my fear of needles and taking pills. Although, when you weigh them up against yellow fever and malaria. . .you can guess which I chose. I almost passed out in the nurse's office after my Yellow Fever shot actually, a start to my list of "firsts" made with this trip.A lot of time was spent in research and filling out forms, but I know that it is all worth it in the end!

Through all the fundraising needed for the trip, I've discovered a deep love for my church & community during these past months. Thank you to all for your support, you know who you are! I will never be able to repay you for the opportunity you have helped me obtain. Also- a shout out to all who purchased Ashewelry! You were a huge help, as all the profit received went straight to paying for the trip.

I've really been able to connect with people in a new way since my decision towards missions and specifically missions in Africa. I actually have a couple of close friends who are also planning on taking missions trips during the summer; one to the Dominican Republic another to China. It's comforting to know that others have chosen to stretch their faith in this way and I can't wait to share stories! Although, I have to say (other than my immediate family) the person who has encouraged me the most in preparing for the trip has to be a fellow co-worker of mine. She has gone to Africa in the past and plans on living there as a missionary in the near future, as the Lord wills. Actually, her and her future husband plan on moving to Uganda! So I'm sure we are to have long conversations about the country and it's culture specifically. Her knowledge of the challenges of missions trips and basics of living in a third world country have already helped me immensely! Note to anyone traveling to a third-world country: Bring baby wipes & baby powder. There is no guarantee you will shower regularly. . .something to look forward to, I know :)

The week before my departure I was flooded with several emotions.
***Sunday -Father's Day- I talked to the parents of the friend I mentioned earlier who traveled to China. They said that life was very tough their for their son. Knowing that this guy is very independant and emotionally stable, the fact that HE of all people was homesick. . .I was uneasy to say the least. This is coming from a girl who hasn't spent a week away from family, much less 6 weeks thousands of miles away from them. So, the beginning of the week I was nervous about feeling homesick.
***Tuesday night I went to a weekly bible meeting that has been such a blessing for me already this summer. It's called "Pop-In" , the summer version of an outreach at school. The people at these meetings bury me in compassion and caring. Just walking in the room brings me peace. These gracious people prayed over me, knowing that this was the last week I was able to see them before leaving. Honestly? I've never been prayed over before, but God has showed me the power of prayer through many occurences this past month, and this was one of them. I was no longer anxious or worried about anything dealing with my trip. The peace of God that surpasses all understanding. Thank you God! The talks I was able to have the rest of the night gave me even more assurance that God was in control of my situation. It is He that called me to Uganda this summer. It is He that will keep me safe.
***Thursday I discovered how much funding I had through being the missionary for VBS this year & support letters I had sent out. The result? Not what was expected. Finances has always been something I have been able to control in the past; organization in this area has been crucial to me. This was the first time that I had no control over my finances, but you know what? God had control over it and He still does. Right after hearing the total, I came outside and sat down to hear the LOUDEST clap of thunder I have ever experienced. No joke. Have you ever heard that God speaks to us through storms? Well, I know that God was telling me "Trust me! I called you to this trip, I alone will provide."
That night our family was having a going away supper for me because my sister & brother-in-law would not be able to make it to the airport that Saturday. After dinner we took a walk down our road; we live out in the country so this is a walk I make pretty frequently. But this time it was different, the sun was setting, and I knew that this was the beginning of my "lasts" before I left. The last time I would walk on this road, see a Kansas sunset, see my sister, brother, and brother-in-law, not to mention my 3 month old nephew. I was battling nostalgia and homesick-ness and I hadn't even left yet! I now have a photo album of pictures my sister-the photographer took on the walk, and it is tucked in my suitcase.
I talked to my sister Amy about the challenges of the next 6 weeks. You know what she said? Something to this extent: "Ashley, you'll experience a lot of hardship during your trip; like homesickness and emotional rollar coasters (like that past week). But this is the life of a missionary. Sometimes God has to take us out of our comfort zones to stretch our faith in ways He couldn't do while we are at home. Your faith will grow as a result of this trip, and I'm excited to see the results!" Amy, I am so blessed to have such a wise sister. I love you!
***Friday of course was anxious excitement! I spent the whole day packing and imagining life in Uganda :)

My experience in various airports was definately not as confusing as I thought, I had no problems...thank goodness! I met up with a wonderful couple in Dallas, and we toured London together! It was amazing being able to see the city and it's detailed architecture - so much better than just seeing pictures! All I could think about was what life would be like in Uganda. . .

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Questioning and Confirmation

As I've mentioned before, I'm really excited about my summer missions trip to Uganda with Empower A Child, but (unfortunately) the human mind is accustom to doubt. . .this is a big decision! I've been praying for a confidence that this is what He wants, not just what I want.

This past week, God definitely answered prayer! (Does He ever disappoint?) This Sunday, our youth group leader announced that we would be helping the members of our church with different tasks for donation; which would all be going to fund my trip. Wait! What? I expected to hear groans ("We have to do work for nothing?") But, instead, everyone looked really excited- they are glad to help with my trip :)

Last night something out of the ordinary happened: I got an order through Etsy!! My second order made to a stranger :) I was so happy! Then this morning. . .I was woken up by two very excited parents- I had another order from Etsy. What? Woo Hoo! It was for one of my more expensive items- a cuff I had been wanting to sell for quite some time!

Now I'm beginning to realize that "God WILL provide"

It's not just a saying, it's reality!

My First Home Ashewelry Party. . .

I've heard that home jewelry parties are a great way to get the word out about your business. I've also heard that they are pretty successful financially- which made it a perfect way to raise money for my trip to Uganda this summer.

I decided to have the first (of many- hopefully) @ my house- come and go. So, after getting the word out through FB, Twitter, and mostly word of mouth, many people were excited! So, we cleaned house, set up, I made a basket for a silent auction, made a "Ring Stack Station", and set out the Christmas cookies.

My expectations seemed to exceed the results. I thought there would be several sitting around our table sharing conversation and hot cider, a room full of friends, and (of course) lots of orders. Within the first ten minutes I had two customers show up!! Both of whom made orders- I was so excited! But...these two turned out to be my only customers all night. I spent the next three hours waiting for customers who had RSVP ed...but never showed up! Being optimistic though, the two orders I had that night was better than not having any orders and not having a party!

After seeing a lot of friends and neighbors the following day, I found that a lot had forgotten! BUT from that many made orders with me- by the end of the week, about 6% of my trip is funded :) it's a start!

A New Purpose for Ashewelry

A lot of questions have been enveloping my thoughts lately- as you can imagine. There are many choices that one makes in a day, in a lifetime...but I've decided that I should take mine one at a time.

Many, if not all followers of Christ wonder about God's Will for their lives, but I've heard once that about 97% of God's Will is written. (I'll bet you know what's coming next!) It is in His Word. As Luke 16:10 says: ""Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much." at this moment, we know a portion of God's plan for our lives- that we follow His commandments. If we can't do these things. . .how can we expect Him to reveal more to us? If we can't follow His original instructions, there may be a reason that He isn't revealing more to us.

With this in mind, it's a lot easier not worrying about what I should do next, because I am doing what I should at this moment. Although. . .I still wondered about which missions trip to go to this summer (or if I should go on one at all!) Many opportunities have come up- and I've seeked guidance from God and loved ones around me ((Proverbs 2:6-9 , Proverbs 20:18)) and God has gently shut the door on each one. Through each experience, I've become more sensitive to His leading.

Through all this, I was reminded of what Elizabeth Elliot said about God's Will. "The Shepard is much more interested in making sure that the sheep get to where they belong than how the sheep are in getting there." I've talked to mom about this, and she mentioned that in Sunday school they discussed that very thing. We miss a lot of opportunities because of doubt. We want and audible voice and thunder! But some decisions require stepping out in faith! If the choice you're about to make is in accordance to the Bible and your concience, and after humble prayer your view doesn't change, then go ahead and act. If it's not what God wants, He will make it clear. He will shut the door someway. Even if the result is not what you expected, God was teaching you something!

I narrowed down what type of trip I want. . . and I think I've got one! :)

Empower A Child is an organization that brings volunteers to countries throughout the world to help in a variety of outreaches. Including an orphanage, juvenilles home, drama ministry, sports ministry, a childrens hospital, and VBS. I wanted a range of outreaches so I could make a better (career/life) decision based on experience. Otherwise, I will most likely be a liguistic translator (writing the Bible in a group's language) or a "Church planter" (developing a church where Christ is unknown). I would be able to choose when I go, and how long I stay. I'm also taking this trip with a close friend of mine, so we can share the experience.

The trip we've chosen is to Uganda. I'm still in the information inquiring phase, just past the informing my parents phase :) they understand. . .but mom still wants me to stay in-state (or in-country!)

~Although, I don't have to stop making jewelry! Ashewelry will be a great help in fundraising money for this (fairly costly) trip!~

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Change of plans :)

Alright, so if you have reading past blogs, you know that I'm 16 and my dream is to one day own a business selling my jewelry. Well, it's amazing how things change in a matter of only 2 weeks!

No, let me change that. It's amazing how God can change things :)

Within 2 weeks God completely changed my perspective. He let me realize that the many plans I had were made without Him, and were altogether selfish. My thought was "God, if you don't want me to have a business, shut the door on it." (Now, don't get me wrong. Those who own businesses, or sell their own products may have a different story)

Anyways, during those two weeks I seriously considered becoming a missionary-- something that I hadn't thought about since I was little. And, throughout those two weeks, all I could think about was "Seek first the kingdom of God" (Matthew 6:33) and "The labor is great, but the laborers are few" (Matthew 9:37). I spent A LOT of time in prayer, and in His Word...and these thoughts didn't change. I mean, think about it- what could possibly be better than to see people groups that had once never even heard the name of Christ, come to believe in Him?

I'm undecided on a lot of things...like whether or not I'm going on a missions trip, which bible college/training I'll go to, and most of all: what country I'll go too...but, God will let me know when the time comes! I will just have to remain faithful in prayer and commitment.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Oh...my brain!

After quite an impulsive decision that I was going to invest in a mutual fund (after going through Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University), and months of barely any research, I have decided that this is the week I get down to business.
Wow. Isn't THAT easier said than done! After signing up at Morningstar, an online investing help, I was mor.ti.fied. ...yup! Just a tad bit more than I am ready to handle!
Turns out I didn't know as much as I thought! So, I'm forced to click on various links from links from links just to comprehend what these knowledge filled authors and investors have to say!
Actually....that's what I was just doing, so I guess I. should. go. back :(
This will all be worth it, right? I sure hope so! :)

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

My first sale to ship!

Well, I can officially say I have sold jewelry to a stranger!

After having my shop on Etsy for a little over 3 months, I finally have sold something!! I've had a few generous friends make an account on Etsy in order to buy from me...but there's nothing like having your first (genuine, official) sale!

Just thought I would share :)

Now, this is one of the many reasons why I love making jewelry- I get to share it with the world!

And- I have found another! Packaging! Tailoring the ribbons and cardstock to the piece that I am shipping and my branding personality!

Yes, I will definitely remain selling Handmade on Etsy :)