"Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything."
James 1:2-4

The Gilland Family of 6!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

My Past...

“I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten—
the great locust and the young locust,
the other locusts and the locust swarm—
my great army that I sent among you.” Joel 2:25

I really have no idea who reads my blog!  I’m sure some are people in my life now, some are people from my past and some are people I’ve never met.   I feel like I need to acknowledge my past for those of you that knew me many years ago when I was not walking with the Lord.  So I’m going to write down for the first time my testimony…God’s amazing story of redemption in my life. 

My parents tell me as very little girl I loved to pray.  They say that as early as 2 years old I was praying very deeply for things other than my toys and my dog.  At 2.5 I prayed and asked Jesus into my heart.  But on December 30, 1987 while at Break Thru, a youth retreat my dad was a part of, I understood my sin and my need for a savior…Jesus.  That night I prayed and asked Jesus to come into my heart, to forgive me of my sins and to be Lord of my life.  My spiritual birthday is also my momma’s birthday.  You can imagine what a joy that must have been for her to experience.  There is no greater gift that my children could give me than to know we will worship God together for eternity! 

I really need to back up and give you some important details.   I am PK, a preacher’s kid.   I was born in Lexington, KY on March 20, 1979.  I grew up in Memphis, TN with my family which consisted of my momma and daddy, a brother 4 years younger and a sister 11 years younger.  My parents have always been in ministry.  My mom has always been involved in ministry with my dad.  They are amazing role models for me! 

So needless to say, I grew up in the church.  We were always there.  If the doors were open or something was going on we were there.  I loved the church!  I loved being a pk!  I loved that everyone knew me and spoke to me!  I was happy to share my parents with so many!  That all seemed to change when I got older…

Earlier I said that I loved being a pk, well I did up until high school!  Then the fun was over!   I felt like I lived in a fish bowl, like I was always being watched.   I was making foolish choices and was getting caught!  Because of my own insecurity and desire to be liked by all, I rebelled against my parents and God.  I resented having to share my parents with so many.   I resented being known and watched.   I hated the choices I was making.  I hated the way I felt.  I hated the distance I had created between Jesus and me.  Yet I continued on the same road.  Romans 7:15 says, “I do not understand what I do.  For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.” This verse totally sums up how I felt for sooo long!   I would tell myself that my sin was no worse than anybody else’s and that it was just for a time.  I want to be clear about this…… God was always there!  He was constantly pursuing me, loving me, wooing me, putting people in my path to point me back to Him.  I was choosing to not walk with the King.  I was choosing to walk in darkness and not in the light I had been exposed to.  I was choosing things of this world and things of the flesh.  Looking back I can see that He was always there protecting me, although I still had to suffer the consequences of my choices.  “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28
I know now that during those years I was living a “luke warm” life.  I shudder when I read in Revelation 3:15-16: “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot.  I wish you were either one or the other! So because you are luke warm – neither hot nor cold I am about to spit you out of my mouth.” Oh how thankful I am for the mercy of God…..that He didn’t spit me out, but rather continued to love me and call me to repentance.  During those “luke-warm” years I would say that I was a Christian and that I loved God…..but there was no fruit in my life and I certainly wasn’t growing in my faith.

After I married Doug (who grew up in a Christian family and has a similar faith story) we immediately moved to Atlanta.  We knew no one except each other.   This was our fresh start, our new beginning!  I was so excited to be somewhere new.  None of these people knew the “old Ashley”.  I finally felt free to pursue what had become a deep desire of my heart…..to be the woman that God had created and called me to be!  But how did I do that?  And what did that woman even look like?  I knew many women that I admired, who loved Jesus deeply and walked hand in hand with him. They were intimately acquainted with the Lord.  I wanted to be a woman of God, who knew His word, spoke His truth and lived completely for His glory.  I remember talking with my momma about this.  She is a woman of God.  She knows His word and she speaks truth and wisdom.   I trust her completely.   Her answer was very clear and direct.  “Get in the word of God….it will CHANGE your life; start having a daily quiet time, surround yourself with like-minded people who are living out the gospel, get involved in a church,  and begin praying for God to reveal himself to me and to change me into the woman He created me to be.”  Jeremiah 29:13 “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”

I had a hard time believing God could or would use me because of my past.  I struggled with forgiving myself and truly believing that God had forgiven me.  I continued to ask Him to forgive me time and again for the mistakes and choices of my past.  Someone gave me a wonderful illustration about asking repeatedly for forgiveness.  She said when you ask God to forgive sins you’ve previously asked forgiveness for; picture God speaking this to you, “Precious child, I have no idea what you are talking about!  Psalm 103:12 says, “As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.” Oh, that was so HUGE for me to hear!  They were gone…forgiven and forgotten.  I finally came to a place of forgiveness for myself.  God taught me through this time that regardless of where I had been or what I had done HE would use it for HIS GLORY!!! 

God is the one who has transformed my heart.  It’s all about Him.  He is the one who initiates anything good in me.  There is nothing good in me apart from the Lord.  When I look back over the past years from where I was to where I am now…I stand amazed at the faithfulness of God! Philippians 1:6 says, “being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”

I wish I could say that since I began seeking the Lord with all my heart life has been great.  But that would not be the truth.  The truth is that we live in an imperfect, fallen world.  Life truly is a roller coaster ride!  We have good times and bad times, easy times and hard times.  But, with Jesus this is the ABUNDANT life!!  No matter what season we find ourselves in, my husband and I have committed that we will seek Jesus and His perfect will for our lives.  Darkness cannot hide Him and we rejoice that by His light…..we can walk in the light too!!  If you haven’t said yes to Jesus, to His love, grace, mercy and forgiveness…..I pray you will consider this an invitation to do so.  I promise……you will never regret it!


1 comment:

  1. Sweet Ashley,
    How ever did you have time to write this beautiful account of your faith journey with a new baby and 3 precious older angels at your side 24/7? :-) The Lord provides supernatural strength and insight, and you, dear one, are living out your dream of becoming a woman of One God.

    You will never know who reads your blog; it is an opportunity the Lord gives today for many in the world to receive a glimpse of God's presence in our lives. May it continue to bring encouragement to others. I am so proud of the woman you have become and the many gifts you are sharing with others! with love,