Ashley Wilda

Author

Tag: Creative Nonfiction (page 1 of 2)

Question Mark in the Space that Is Nothing

Sometimes, we all need a resting place.

Somewhere just to stop

And sit

And take roots

Even if just for a moment.

We all have a place where time stops

Something we do that makes now feel like someplace else.

Alternate.

But when we’re done, time leaps forward again

And we are left more exhausted than before

The abated worries piling up on our backs like a car wreck.

Focus.  Action.  Purpose.

It’s all good and well, until we wake up and time has just

Leapt

Into what we tried to avoid

And now we’re just

Bone

Weary.

When the L has been taken out of Live and now what is left?

You tell me.

I can’t know.

World is grey, the sky no cheer

The very plants are brittle

The chap of the air sucking the blood color from your skin.

And you, me.

We.

Just huddle here, motionless

Hugging our knees

Waiting for the springtime

That will it come.

Home

Today, I felt my whole world was right again.

You, something about you, makes me feel complete.

I laughed more than I have in a long while, it seemed.  Felt that thrill in conversation I only get with you, of hearts connecting, uplifting, encouraging.  Carrying each other’s burdens and somehow diminishing them in the process.

I’ve decided–your soul and mine are the same.  Sisters, meant to belong together since the beginning of time.  No, beyond time.  Before it.

I am happiest when we’re side by side.

And today, you confirmed it again–you are too.  There’s something special about the thing that exists between the two of us.

You understand me, head to toe, inside to out.  I can tell you anything and you’d still love me.  More than that, you’d understand.  You’ll be there for me through everything, when life feels like walking through mountain-mist rainbows or slogging through mud.  I can say things to you, things that would sound silly or stupid to anyone else, and you understand and appreciate them.  Like how the sky is deeper upside-down, or how the farthest, palest-blue mountains issue a call that I can’t ignore.

Your soul is one of the most beautiful I know and will ever know.

I can be my complete self around you.  You understand all the sides of me, not just engage with one or simply appreciate them all.  You know me, see all of me.  You make my heart happy.

We can be our goofy, so-easily-entertained, child-like selves around each other.  Within weeks of first meeting each other, we were dancing in the rain… or should I say thunderstorm… and today, we hung our heads over the wall by the lake and stared deep into the pool of the sky and the ripples of the new water ceiling and talked and laughed and just soaked in the beauty of God’s creation.  For a good ten minutes.  Standing up was a new experience, and I was glad to share it with you.  Who needs to get drunk to be tipsy?  Not us.

There are days where my heart just aches for you, and yours for mine, but we know, just know, deep down, in the deepest part of us that knows and hopes and dreams and loves with a deep and abiding and fiery passion–

We will always love each other.

And best of all?  We get to spend eternity worshiping the One that saved us both.  Think there’ll be climbing in the new heavens and new earth?  I sure hope so.  Regardless, I’m sure we’ll have a blast.

Love ya, sis.

Ash 🙂

Wondrously Dangerous Thing

I don’t think anyone understands how fiercely I love.

I don’t think anyone understands how intense love grows inside of me, how quickly it blooms, how loudly it roars.

It bellows its presence and dares any challenger to remain standing.

I don’t think anyone can really, truly understand what love means to me.

Love means this: you protect your own at all costs.

Yes, I know the women are meant to be the “nurturers.”  The men are the ones with all that testosterone, the big muscles, the aggressive instincts.  They are the protectors… right?

Yes, I say.  Yes they are.  They are better suited to the task.  But…

Some of us are born just a bit different than the others.

Yeah, I do feel the urge to nurture once in a blue moon.  But to tell the truth… I enjoy a good tussle over a pedicure any day.  I enjoy things that get my blood pumping.  I enjoy things that challenge me physically and mentally.  I enjoy wildness and rough-and-tumble-ness and things that test my limits, push me ’til I break.  I like things that are rough and raw and real and challenging.  I think differently.

When I love someone, my first thought, my first instinct, is to protect them.

And I make that my mission.

This means that when we’re walking from the car to the dorm at night, and I get a funny feeling, my mind goes into overdrive.  I walk a little bigger, stand a little taller, throw my shoulders back a little more, walk with a slight swagger. Walk like I own the street.  The whole city, even.  A walk that says, don’t you dare mess with me.  I think of what kick or punch I would throw first, what I would say, what would we do.  I’m always aware of the people around us, the vibes I get off them, always scanning, always looking.  I’m analyzing places, situations, one step ahead, expecting.  Listening to my gut.

When I dream up stories and put the people in my world into them… the plot always turns out the same.

I fight for them.  I protect them.  I sacrifice for them.  I prove myself to be strong enough.

No matter what.

No matter what that means.

No matter what sacrifices need to be made.

I. Push. Through.

Yes, I care about feelings.  Yes, I love conversations that have depth and emotion and substance and are just plain real.  We all do.  Yes, I care about romantic relationships.  Yes, I care about the everyday ins and outs of caring for the emotional and spiritual well-being of those around me.  I am human.  And yes, I am a girl, after all.

But my first, primal, gut instinct that will not be denied–

My mission, my calling–

Is to protect you.

And this is why, oh this why, when something goes wrong and I find out and my gut just clenches and my breathing quickens until I find out it’s all okay and then I surprise myself and cry just a bit–

The first thought that goes through my head is why didn’t I protect you.  why was I not there to protect you.  why didn’t I see this coming.  

And every single time that has happened… it hasn’t been a physical thing that I can prevent.

It’s been a sickness.  A sad thing that’s affected you.  An injury.  Someone’s scared you.  Broken your heart.

And outside I’m normal but inside the anger sparks and flares and shoots into the dark dark sky and I’m all big and bursting and aggressive inside and ready to lash out at whoever hurt you, make him pay…

But sometimes there’s no one to blame.  And sometimes there’s nothing I can do.  And sometimes I have to take a deep breath and realize that I can’t protect everyone I love from the world.

But I can try.

And I can be there.

And if, heaven forbid, it actually happens some day, actually happens that I have to put my life on the line for you–

I won’t even blink.  Won’t even think.  All this purposeful, cyclical, pointless thought will turn into action.

I will become so ferocious you won’t even recognize me.

A she-panther fighting for her cubs.

I will fight tooth and nail.  I will take a bullet for you.

I’ll simply explode.

And you will know exactly how big and ferocious and burning and unquenchable my love is for you.

And so when I watch that movie, and hear the girl crying, and I start and my heart twists a little bit because for a second it sounds just like you…  I’ll smile ruefully to myself.

But the truth is… I wouldn’t change a thing.

And if it all crashes and burns someday…

You’ll know.

Love is a wondrously dangerous thing.

Strong Enough

When I realize I’m not strong enough.

When I feel like I’ve failed when I thought I just might be good enough.  Yeah, I was on the edge, but I thought I tried hard enough…

I tried my best.

But my best wasn’t strong enough.

I immediately think of all the things I’m doing wrong, all the things I could be doing that I’m not, comparing myself to all the other people–because, obviously, they were strong enough.

And I wasn’t.

They’ve got something I don’t–and I’m gonna run myself into the ground until I get it.

Sometimes I wonder if I’ll ever be strong enough.

Sometimes I don’t think they can know that the littlest word or phrase or touch or look can light up my day or rain on it.

I don’t think anyone understands how badly I want this.

I feel like I can almost guarantee that I want it at least just as badly as the most passionate person there–at least as much as the most determined, yearning, wanting to be included, to be strong, to win.

And yet–I still wasn’t strong enough.

I didn’t realize how bad I wanted this–didn’t realize until I didn’t get it.  It’s always this way for me–there’s nothing I can do to change that.  I always say I care, but I can handle the disappointment.  That I’ll be fine either way.  But no–and deep down I know I’m telling a lie to myself.

But at the end of the day, I know… that it’s not about being strong enough.

It’s about running ’til you can’t breathe, pushing ’til you can’t stand, fighting until you win or lose.  It’s about straining every last muscle and pulling every last breath and shouting, rooting each other on until you lose your voice.

It’s about learning.  And playing.  And loving those around you.  It’s about doing something fun and crazy and taking a deep breath through your nose and feeling sweaty and powerful and new.  It’s about embracing the game and being there for your team.  No matter what.  Winning is great–but that’s not what it’s about.  That’s just the icing on the cake, if you’re lucky.  But that’s not what it’s about.  Yeah, I know it sounds cliche–

But it’s not about being strong enough.

It’s about being you.

And when I think of it this way, think of it as the grass prickles my neck and two lone stars shine through the yellow light of the street lamp–

I remember.

Remember the way the whole team is so close, like a brotherhood.  Remember how I want that, yearn for that, long to be part of that, accepted.  How they didn’t act like I was new.  How they didn’t disdain me for my limitations but accepted me with them.  How I got passed to and messed with from day one.  How I respect my captain, as a coach and as a team player and as a person.  How I appreciate every high five, every look of respect, every team huddle, every “We are UR.”  How I feel wanted whenever someone takes the time to help me out.  How I felt on top of the world when he told me the strengths he sees in me–basically, that I belong on that team.  That they all want me on their team.  How I’m part of another family again.

And they’ll never know how much that means to me.

They see my commitment.  They see how much I push myself for the last everything I have in me.  They see how I smile when I play and how my face goes grim and intense when I’m determined, when I really get into it.  Hey, I even got a nickname today, because I don’t go down easy.  They hear me when I cheer them on, accepting them as I hope, I think, I know they’re accepting me.  I love even the pep talks, even when others just smile, I feel something.  I love this essence, this tangible thing, that we have with each other, on and off the field.  We are family.

I think it’s called a team.

So whenever I get frustrated with myself, think myself weak.  Inadequate.  Insufficient.  Not good enough.  Not strong enough…

I will remember–they think me strong enough.  More than that, they think my heart big enough.

And that’s enough for me.

-stone dragon

Wings

Tonight’s a big night.

The last night in my own bed for a while.  The last night of summer for a year.  The last night with my family in a long string of nights.

Tomorrow’s a big day.

The first night under a new roof.  The first reunion with my friends.  The first in a long string of celebrations of just living.

Tomorrow, I spread my wings.

I want them to be strong.  Big.  Powerful.  Gentle in their brown soft feathers speckled with sunlight.  Gentle in their strength–yet ready to whip the wind.  Shape it to my command.  Ride it, soar me high, anywhere I want to go.  To anyplace.  To anyone.  Following my heart, at my will.

But not only are my wings strong–they are wise.  Faithful.  Loyal.  Intelligent.  Not only at the beck and call of my heart but also in line with my head.  And on a perfect day, those two will never be at odds.  The center of their compass is love. Home.  Constancy.  Protection.  Sacrifice.  Ferocity.  Forever embrace.  Reliability.  Adventure.  Love is all of these things–love is my friends and my family.  Those dearest to my heart.  Those I would give anything for at a moment’s notice, although I may strive to see the small needs right in front of my nose.  Although my wings fly on the call of the wild and the whisper of the unknown on the wind, they train true to the strong beauty of love.

When I spread my wings, it will mean six things–

I am ready.

I am strong.

I am free.

I am brave.

I am an explorer.

I follow my love.

And when I get a little scared, and my wings wobble a little even as they hold me up–

I will remember to be confident, and trust the One that gave them to me.

Right Now

Do something stupid.

Jump off a cliff.  Lie in the road.  Roll down a hill.  Take a bike ride to nowhere in the middle of the night.

Go on, do it.

I’m serious.  Right now.

Now, you ask?  Yeah, now.  Right.  Now.

‘Cause if you don’t do it now, you never will.

If you play it safe, you’ll never be alive.

What if I told you your life is in danger.  Right now.  What are you gonna do about it?  Anything it takes, of course.

What if the only way to save your life is to risk losing it.

Throw caution to the winds.  Heck, throw yourself to the winds, literally.

Adrenaline is your friend.  So is the wind, and the waves and the earth and water and fire and dangerous, possibly not-so-legal acts and the runaway beating of your heart.

Live to the beat of the music only you can hear.

You don’t not drive even though it’s dangerous, right?   Even though, at any moment, you know that your soul could be blasted into the sky.  You don’t let yourself be dictated by those fears.  Don’t let yourself be controlled.

I hate to break it to you, man–the same principle applies to everything else.

The world isn’t safe.  So don’t pretend it is.

So do it, go do whatever makes your heart beat faster and your breathing quicken and your hands shake.  Jump out of planes.  Climb cliffs.  Paddle whitewater.  Soar with the birds.  Pick you adventure, it’s everywhere, you’ll find it inside.

Our number one priority should not be safety–it should be living.

Some things are more important than staying alive.

Routine and comfort zones and luxury and money and safety and even education are your worst enemies.  You can only trust your fears.  The wild.  The open spaces.  All the things you swore never to do.  Listen–they tell you what you should do, not what you shouldn’t.

Be rebels.  Be creators.  Daredevils.  Risk takers.

You are the only ones who can change the world.  Edge your toes over the literal no trespassing signs and the stark white lines and the metaphorical limits drawn in the sand.  Let that rebel spark ignite you, consume you whole.

Be you.  You’ll be hated for it.  You’ll be loved for it.  You’ll be feared for it.  You’ll be admired for it.  But you will never fail to challenge and inspire.  Never stop living big, living loud, no matter what anybody tells you.  Close your ears to the haters, and listen to your heart.

And one day, the world will wake up to find its shackles broken open on the ground.

So paint with your fingers, howl at the moon, dance with the stars, spin till you fall over in a laughing, breathless heap. Wear your hats backwards, rip holes in your jeans.  Get dirty, roll in the grass, pick flowers, pieces of multicolored velvet sky.  Grow your hair long, cut it short.  Breathe deep, or dive even deeper.  Kiss often, and hug even more.  Smile most.  Laugh always.  Wear bright colors.  Go barefoot.  Count clouds instead of sheep.  Confound it all, skip sleep altogether.  Watch a sunrise and sunset in the same day, and be just as awed by every one you see.  Never underestimate the power of letting go and riding every opportunity to shore.  Freedom and happiness can be found on every star, adorning every wildflower, tucked away in each seashell, and hiding in each clasped hand.  But most importantly, you’ll find them within yourself.

Be bold, be brave, be true.  And you’ll be more You than anyone else.

Be impulsive, not rational.  Feel, not think.  Believe, not doubt.  No matter the circumstance.  And you will get through, and shine all the brighter for it.  Love others, love God, love life, love adrenaline and adventures and spontaneity and unexpected good times–and you will be all the better for it.

It’s your new world.  It’s all yours.  A little scared, you say?  Good.  Now go live it.

Right now.

Recombobulation of Love

When I was at the airport a week ago, I was reminded how disorienting security checks can be. Take shoes off, pull jacket off, empty pockets, remove computer,  dump backpack, raise hands, lower hands, hold breath as the x-ray machine scans, answer police with yes ma’am and yes sir, pick up backpack, insert computer, refill pockets, don jacket, yank on shoes.  It’s enough to make a girl dizzy.  And by the end, I sometimes don’t know what to feel.

Figuring out crushes is kind of like that.

I didn’t have my first real crush until I was seventeen.  A little late, I know.  It didn’t truly last, but now my brain is catching up with the reality of the huge switch that’s been flipped.  My mind is still a bit shocked at this new fact…

that boys are cute.

Yeah, I’m a little behind schedule.  I’ve realized this over the past few months, and I decided to make a list to help reorient myself as I figure out what all this means for me.  Almost like the humorously entitled “Recombobulation Area” in the airport… a place to gather my wits, figure out how I feel, and get my feet back under me.  A place to begin directing my thoughts toward the future and embrace this new season.

Here goes nothing…

  1. I do want a relationship… and eventually marriage.  Dating will never be recreational, but instead always have a purpose, linked to marriage in distant possibility at least.
  2. There’s a difference between thinking someone is cute and having a crush.  The first is just a fact, but the latter is something more real.  A crush is also based on someone’s personality and character, not just looks.
  3. Kissing always sounds “bleh” (aka disgusting)… but that’s okay.  Kissing will come with actually falling in love.  There’s nothing wrong with that.  The day I hold hands with someone will be a huge step–and truthfully, I like it that way.
  4. Dates are not as confusing or scary as they sound.  Two people hang out on their own, and the guy usually pays for things, but that’s it.  Nothing to shy away from.
  5. Chivalry is okay.  Actually, better than okay.  I have emerged from my hard core tomboy stage realizing that if a man holds a door open for me, it’s not an insult… it’s a complement.  It’s not that I can’t do it on my own; he just wants to do it for me.
  6. Wanting to spend lots of time with someone and enjoying his company is a better sign of interest than how high he rates on the cuteness scale.
  7. I don’t feel the need to be as strong or as athletic or as tough as a guy I truly like; the ones I strive to impress in that way, I see as brothers.  Someone I can be my true, goofy, Ashley self around… that’s different.
  8. Marriage means life forever with your best friend with something else thrown in… I think it’s called romance.  A ring is freedom, not a restraint.
  9. The four criteria for dating material: a) He must be a true Christian. b) I feel completely safe around him. c) Attractive not only physically but in personality and character. d) I enjoy just spending time with him.
  10. He will talk about God with me and will not be afraid to be deep and real in conversation.  He will appreciate my passions and value them even if they’re not his thing.  He will enjoy my quirks.  He will love me for being me.
  11. I’m not a girly girl, but I do like flowers.  Stars and campfires seem much more romantic than a fancy restaurant and expensive clothes.  The smell of wood smoke is better than that of perfume.  Candles are good.  Jeans and flannel shirts are comfortable and attractive.  And I do love to dance.  He will be the only one I’ll willingly wear a dress for, and he’ll understand the significance of this as soon as he talks to my mother.
  12. He will see me as equal but special.  He will understand the power in a simple touch or a smile.  He will help me get over my phobia of phone calls, simply because I’ll love to hear his voice.  He’ll call me by my nickname, without being asked.  He will have a goofy, wild streak.  He will understand the power of adventure and spontaneity and the untouched, open places.  He will know when to rough around yet how to always be gentle.  He will know how to enjoy the comfortable silence between two open, happy souls.
  13. I’m going to get scared.  I’m going to be that blindsided, deer-in-the-headlights kind of girl when asked on my first date.  If I accept that now, it’ll be easier when it happens.  I must never shy away from an opportunity because I’m scared, yet I must never do something stupid because I’m scared to miss something good.  I’ll be a little slow, but that’s okay.  Scary and exciting often go hand in hand.
  14. How he interacts with those who can give him nothing in return will say more than how he interacts with those who already love him.  How he interacts with children and his elders will say more than how he acts around those his own age.
  15. I love you will be the most powerful words for us–never common, never trivial, never misused.  His love should not be unlike the love of 1 Corinthians 13.
  16. He will make me laugh, make me smile, make me be silly, make me sing louder, make me dance faster, make me try harder, make me see more beauty, make me live fuller.  Make me more than I am apart from him.  We will be better together than apart…

And it will be good.

I think… I think… I think that’s called love.

 

Playing Favorites

These are a few of my favorite things…

mowed grass between my toes

cold, thick custard on a hot day

new friends, new hugs, new laughs

singing songs loud and bold in the car with the windows down on a winding road

pastel fire sunsets over a rocky mirrored river

spires of a new city poking the sky with the trees

buttery noodles and a tall lemonade

a new world, a new story, pirate gold, unlikely friends, and unexpected humor–aye aye, ahoy matey, and land ho to you all

two AM talks with a sister in Christ

fun teacups and salsa to end the night

I guess playing favorites is okay, after all.

Wonder

There’s an essence that is one of the most precious in the universe.

An element that’s becoming increasingly rare.

A fleeting bit of childhood that slips through adult fingers almost without fail.

A shining bit of quicksilver undervalued and dismissed although it glints precious, almost extinct, right at your fingertips.

What is this treasure, you may ask?

Wonder.

Yes, wonder–that thing that you were born with and have somehow lost along the way.  That thing that sly time and this overrated experience called “growing up” have begun to strip from you.

And I’m telling you, no, begging you–hold on for dear life.  Yes, for your very life, reader–for life is much, much dimmer and dingier without wonder.

If you want to see what you once were, look at a child.  Really look.  Listen.  Feel.  Learn to recognize that thing that lights up their eyes when they gently cup the velvet petals of a white and yellow wildflower in their small fingers.  That thing that bubbles up in their laugh when they fly through the air on a tree swing, eyes closed, arms outstretched to embrace the breeze.  That thing that inhabits their voice when they bury their nose in the new spring grass and say, “It smells green,” or when they reach their hands up to the sky as if their fingers could graze the white, fluffy clouds and say, “They’re so soft.”

Next time you watch a child, don’t dismiss their antics as “childishness.”  Instead try to see the world through their eyes. Become like a child again.  Try to rediscover…

The story in a strain of wordless music.  The way a book can make your heart beat faster.  How a picture can take your breath away.  The excitement and eagerness and the dash of danger that floods you when you stand beneath the ocean waves.  The wildness that overtakes you when you sprint, barefoot, along the deserted shore.  The way the soaring of a hawk can lift your heart with it.  The way the feel of grass under your bare feet or the wriggle of a newly unearthed worm can make you giggle.  How a hug can be the safest place in the world.  How joy can be a whole-body experience, not just a thought.  How wonder can imbue your life with color again.

Take nothing for granted.  Seek out every little beauty, for there is beauty in everything.  Wonder is hidden in plentiful pockets and caches for the open-hearted treasure hunter, if we will only seek.  And this lifelong search just keeps on giving.

Will you become a seeker?

Not a Tame Lion

We do this–put him in a box.

A safe box.  An ordinary box.  A decidedly normal, smiley, unmessy, unradical box.

So when we hear about miracles, healings, spurts of uncontained joy and the roaring of the Spirit–somehow we manage to cover our ears and say, “It can’t be real.”

Not only is it too good to be true, it’s too scary to be true.

We don’t want action to be required of us.  We want to stay comfortable and safe in our sane if a bit dull little worlds. Sitting in nice houses with nice jobs and nice friends and nice hobbies.  And yes, these are all good things.

But not at the expense of ignoring the call.

You know, the call.  The call of the Lion.  That great roaring, that’s decidedly not safe, but also undeniably thrilling, wild, and good.  The rebel in each of us is drawn to that echoing, commanding, immediate call.  It’s the same drawing that we all feel when listening to tales of intrepid explorers facing imminent danger and insurmountable odds, ignoring the naysayers and the danger signs, fighting through the evil until they attain the unimaginable… the uncharted mountain summit.  We hear the tales of their struggles and follow their progress, trying to appear not too eager, but inwardly our heart sings when we hear their victory shouts at the peak, standing with arms spread among the wheeling of the eagles.

We feel this.  This defiance.  This urge to set off on adventure of the mind and body and soul and suffer a bit and push through and do great, never-done-before things.  This is what the call awakens in us… and once fully realized, it can never be unheard, never quieted.

No one can ignore a Lion roaring in his face for long.

Unless, of course, he is deaf–made deaf by his own luxuries and fears and expectations.  By the world’s acceptance and even endorsement of small hearts and little love.

So unstop your ears, sleeper.  Take up your belongings tied in a bandanna on a stick, dreamer.  Lace up your sturdy shoes, adventurer.  For this will be the greatest adventure of your life.

Follow the Lion.  For he his wild.  He is dangerous.  He is powerful.  He is defiant.  He is radical.  And he is free.

And so are you.

“‘Aslan is a lion- the Lion, the great Lion.’ ‘Ooh!’ said Susan, ‘I’d thought he was a man. Is he-quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion’…’Safe?’ said Mr. Beaver; ‘don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.'” -C.S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

“‘He’s wild, you know. Not like a tame lion.'” -C.S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:19-20

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