I Have an Agent!

Standard

Me_Signing2

I’m excited to announce that I have signed on with Hartline Literary Agency!

I met Cyle Young, my new agent, at this year’s Florida Christian Writers Conference. I told him about the children’s books I’ve written as well as the book I’m writing for young women (Girls with Gusto). It turns out that Cyle writes in a lot of different genres, including children’s books. And he’s a pastor, which I think is a very neat combination.

I’m honored that Cyle has agreed to represent me on behalf of Hartline, and I believe that our hard work will result in publication. Everything I write is intended for God’s glory, and I trust that if God is giving me a message to share that He will pave the way for it to be successful. (See Isaiah 55:11.)

Thanks to all of you who continue to support me here at BigSisterKnows. Your comments, likes, shares, and your prayers are appreciated more than you know. Please continue to pray for guidance, wisdom, and favor—for me and for Hartline.

“Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.” Ephesians 3:20-21 NAS

~Ashley

Six Rules to a Rock-Solid Relationship

Standard
Joneses

Robby and me on our wedding day six years ago.

This year, Robby and I celebrated our Sixth Wedding Anniversary! (Hand-clap, please.) Before we were married, our friends and family shared some sage advice with us. We added that to what we had picked up along the way and, before we knew it, we had several great rules to live by.

In honor of our sixth anniversary, I’d like to share with you our top six rules for a rock-solid marriage. Some of these can also be applied to relationships with friends and family, so keep reading, even if you’re not married.

 

1. Pick ‘em Right

Robby and I had great peace when we got married because we knew God wanted us to be together. We started our marriage on rock-solid ground because we promised to keep God at the center of our relationship.

Before you say I Do, make sure he’s right for you! How? Pray earnestly and with an open heart. If He tells you to walk away, then do it, knowing that His plans for you are good. (See Jeremiah 29:11.)

A rock-solid relationship has to be built on God, the one true Rock. (See Deuteronomy 32:2.) God has to be the focus of each of your lives in order for your marriage to succeed.

Marry the one you find the least annoying to be around. – Jeremy E.

2. Treat ’em Right

It’s so hard to find time to just be together, but Robby and I have learned to make it work. We don’t always answer the phone when it rings or get the dishes washed after dinner. Sometimes, we have to go out to eat to ensure we’re not distracted by the demands at home. But we do whatever it takes to carve out quality time for one another.

Your spouse is the one person on earth who has vowed to love and cherish you above all others. Don’t take that for granted.

If you’re having real marital problems, sort them out before they get too big to heal. If you’re just starting out, then treat each other with love and respect, and you’ll avoid a lot of heartache.

Just be decent to each other. – Jeremy E.

3. Watch Your Mouth

Robby is the quiet one in our relationship, and I’m more of a hothead. I’ve had to learn to guard my mouth—especially when I’m emotional or tired—so I don’t say something callous or hurtful.

The Bible says the tongue has the power of life and death, for good and evil. (See Proverbs 18:21.) Make sure the words you speak into your marriage are a blessing and not a curse. Tell the truth, but say it in love. Avoid yelling or saying ugly or demeaning things. You can’t just say, “I didn’t really mean that,” and make it go away.

Also—and this is extremely important—never, ever, ever, say “divorce.” Once you say the D word, it becomes an option. Once it’s an option, it’s much more likely to occur.

Lord, keep your arm around my shoulder and your hand over my mouth. – Unknown

4. Give Him Space

Robby and I are both analytical, and we need time to process our thoughts. After hanging out with friends or family, or spending time in town, we like to go to separate corners of the house to “piddle” (that’s “work on house stuff” for those of you not from the South). Sometimes, we’ll just veg in front of the TV. That allows us to be close to one another physically without draining each other mentally.

Give your spouse the space he needs. When you have room to breathe, you’ll enjoy your time together even more.

It’s a good thing that you have different hobbies, so you’re not always on top of one another. – Jeff M.

5. Mystery Alive!

Robby and I agreed early in our relationship to keep the “mystery alive.” That means we don’t do anything really gross in front of the other person, including belching, passing gas, going to the bathroom, spitting, or picking our teeth. (I still can’t understand why some people do this stuff in front of their spouse. How do they go from gross to intimate? I don’t get it.)

If you want a strong relationship, keep the gross stuff to yourself as much as possible. This isn’t about being fake but about being courteous. You’ll respect each other more, and it’ll be easier to be romantic on a daily basis.

Mystery alive! – Me

6. When in Doubt

I can honestly say I’ve never doubted Robby’s faithfulness. I know he loves me and would never do anything to hurt our relationship. In the few instances when I couldn’t reach him by phone, or he came home later than usual, it never crossed my mind that he was doing something inappropriate.

A strong marriage is built on trust. That means you should always give each other the benefit of the doubt. When he’s late and he hasn’t called yet, or when he doesn’t text you back right away, don’t assume that he’s out doing something wrong. If you really trust him, then you trust his actions when he’s not around you.

Happy couples give each other the benefit of the doubt. – Topic of several studies, books, and articles.

 

What are some rules you live by in your marriage? Please share them here to encourage others. Thanks!

 

 

The Problem with Proverbs 31

Standard

ProblemProv31_BSK_jpg

The following blog was posted this week on Lift Up Your Day and is included in its entirety below. For more encouragement, check out the other posts on LUYD.


 

The Woman

If you’ve been a believer for a while, you’ve probably heard about Proverbs 31. Depending on your Bible translation, you may know this as the chapter describing the “virtuous woman” or the “excellent wife.” (See verse 10.) I used to think of this fictitious person as the Perfect Woman—Mother Theresa, Martha Stewart, and Ivanka Trump rolled into one modern day Super Hero.

Sounds cool, right? Sure, until you read the details.

This woman

  • does good things for her husband every day of her life (with no exception);
  • makes beautiful clothes and linen for her family using exotic raw materials she’s sourced in the marketplace;
  • finds time to make additional items, which she sells through her own clothing line;
  • is also a successful farmer and vine dresser;
  • never sleeps, rests, or is idle (and probably doesn’t blink for that matter);
  • still has the energy to mentor others;
  • is strong, wise, and dignified; and
  • apparently doesn’t have a negative bone in her body. (God bless her heart!)

 

The Frustration

Is it just me, or does this woman give us over-worked, over-stressed, under-paid girls a bad name? Don’t you just hate her? Can we agree to ignore this chapter all together?

Okay, so I was a little mad at the Proverbs 31 woman for a while. I was also frustrated at the preachers and teachers who lifted her up as the standard against which all women are measured. I was doing good to get out of bed on Sunday morning, so this comparison to the Proverbs 31 woman was becoming a stumbling block for me. I began to feel guilt and self-condemnation because I couldn’t measure up. My solution was to ignore that entire chapter as best I could.

 

The Truth

Fortunately, the Lord didn’t let me off that easy. Over a period of years, He kept bringing me back to Proverbs 31. Eventually, I discovered something amazing: this isn’t a to-do list of all the things we have to accomplish daily for God to love us and use us. Instead, this chapter is like a map of our spiritual journey as seen from a 20,000-foot vantage point.

For example, the woman buys a field, plants a garden, sells the produce, and then buys a vineyard with the earnings. Later, she helps the poor and needy. (See Proverbs 31:16-20.) We all recognize that we can’t reap what we don’t sow, and we can’t bless others if we have nothing to give. Even from a spiritual standpoint, we can’t offer the gifts of knowledge and wisdom until we’ve received them ourselves. Proverbs 31 contains many such natural laws, which helps us understand our spiritual journeys and track our progress.

I also realized that Proverbs 31 applies to both men and women. There are numerous Scriptures depicting God as a bridegroom courting His bride, which is the Church. (See Matthew 9:15 and Revelation 21:9-10.) So, when we read figurative Scriptures referring to the marriage relationship, we can usually put ourselves in the wife’s role and Jesus in the husband’s role. Applying this to Proverbs 31 has given me a new outlook on how we, the Church, interact with Jesus.

 

The Encouragement

Over time, I came to see that the problem with Proverbs 31 wasn’t with the Scripture at all—it was with my own misunderstanding of the Word. I encourage you to read this important chapter again with fresh eyes. Notice how the woman grows over time, from faithful servant to wise teacher. Then read the verses again as if the woman is the Church body and the husband is Jesus.

Instead of running from this chapter—like I wanted to—lean into it. Seek God’s guidance and understanding. Let go of the guilt of not being a Super Hero and pursue the greater role of an obedient child of God. May this bless you and encourage you on your journey.

“A woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised” (Proverbs 31:30 NAS).


The book I’ve been writing, Girls with Gusto, delves into these topics of perfection and Proverbs 31. As I pull these sections together, I’ll share them here with you. Please give me feedback—what you like or don’t like, what you find encouraging, and what’s difficult for you to live out in your daily life. Thank you!

Loving the Unlovable

Standard

loving-the-unlovable_bsk

 

The following blog was posted on Lift Up Your Day and is included in its entirety below. For more encouragement, check out the other posts on LUYD.


What did you do this past Valentine’s Day? Did it involve standing in line to buy fuzzy teddy bears, overpriced chocolates in heart-shaped boxes, mushy greeting cards, or Star Wars candy for your kids? Perhaps you had a nice dinner out or watched a Rom-Com at home.

However you celebrated Valentine’s Day, I bet it involved those you love. You certainly weren’t spending time and energy on those you don’t love.

 

The Unlovable

You know who they are. The woman who said hateful things about you behind your back. The guy who deceived you and broke your heart. We all know people like this. The ones who make life harder. The ones who hurt others to get ahead. The ones we can’t stand to be around. The ones we cannot, under any situation, love.

And yet that’s what God has called us to do: to love the unlovable.

 

An Impossible Command

Jesus said we should love our enemies and pray for those persecute us. (See Matthew 5:43-47.) I thought about this for years, wondering how I could possibly live this out in my own life. How can we muster the courage, strength, or whatever goodness is needed to love those who hate us?

I finally have the answer: We don’t. We can’t. We simply don’t have what it takes.

But God does.

 

A Godly Love

Before we knew God, we had to manage on our own. Our emotions—from love to hate—were based on passion, desire, and fear.

Then, we accepted Jesus as our Savior, and the Holy Spirit took up residence in our hearts. The Bible says that God is Love. This doesn’t just mean that He Loves us, but that His Love abides within us. (See 1 John 4:8 and 15.) If we will tap into the Holy Spirit in us, we can dispense God’s Love (with a capital L).

Remember, Jesus sacrificed Himself so all who believe in Him will have everlasting life (John 3:16). He saved each of us while we were still sinners. God’s Love is bigger than any sin we can commit, and there is no one God doesn’t want to save.

 

Exercises

There will always be people who wound us, aggravate us, or simply annoy us. But we aren’t limited to our own anemic emotions any more. Now, we can draw from God’s perfect Love that dwells within us.

The next time you happen upon your enemies, try these godly tactics:

  • Fake it ‘til you make it. Act like you sincerely care for their wellbeing. This isn’t about lying but about positioning yourself to draw from God’s wellspring of Love.
  • Don’t be ugly. Even when they’re not in the room, don’t say anything hateful about them. That would only negate the good work you’re trying to accomplish and open the door to hypocrisy.
  • Pray for them. You can’t hate someone you’re praying for, so pray and pray some more.

Whatever you do, ask for God’s guidance and wisdom. Treat each interaction with your enemies as opportunities to be His hands and feet in the world. By this, God’s love will be perfected in you. (See 1 John 4:12.)

If you practice this enough, you will eventually prove something quite profound: thanks to God’s grace, no one is unlovable.

We love, because He first loved us.  If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen.  And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also. (1 John 4:19-21 NAS)

2016 Liebster Award!

Standard
liebster-award-nomination

Nominated in 2016 by Robin Baldwin of the Words for Life blog.

 

In 2016, one of my fellow bloggers, Robin Baldwin of Words for Life, nominated me for the Liebster Award! This award is passed on from one blogger to another as a way of encouraging them to keep on writing. I am very grateful to Robin for considering me for this!

As a nominee, I have to answer Robin’s questions below, nominate other new bloggers (with no more than 500 followers), and then ask those bloggers questions of my own.

The following are my answers to Robin’s questions:

  1. Why do you write?

The more I learn about God, the more I feel compelled to share it with the world. I simply can’t not write. (Yes, that was an intentional double-negative. As a writer, I take liberties from time to time.)

  1. What one thing do you want to do to leave the world a better place?

I want to help others develop a closer relationship with Jesus, whether that’s through example, personal discussions, or my writings.

  1. Who inspires you? Why?

My late grandmother, Verona Kirby. She was the most godly woman I have ever known. All of us who knew her were blessed because of it.

  1. What makes you laugh?

Cat videos. No matter how rough my day was, a crazy cat video will have me tearfully laughing in no time flat.

  1. If you could write a letter to your younger self, what advice would you give?

You are special, and you are loved. You don’t have to lower your standards for anyone.

  1. Who is your favorite author? Why?

Dean Koontz is an unbelievable author! His thrillers are terrifying, but it’s his imagery that leaves me shaking my head. What impresses me most, though, is that his books usually contain a message of hope. (Read The Face if you’re really daring and don’t care to sleep for a night or two.)

  1. What book made you become a lifelong reader?

I have to pick two: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee and The Andromeda Strain by Michael Crichton. I remember thinking, “Now, this is a book!” (I’m pretty sure I was in fifth grade when I read Crichton’s, and I’ve been hooked on adventure books ever since.)

  1. What life experience humbled you?

God recently led me away from a successful career in risk management to work in a management / support capacity for a local business. Through this, I’ve learned not only be obedient but to get excited with whatever God wants to do through me. His way is always better than mine!

  1. What do you do for fun (besides writing)?

I love photography! For me, the fun is capturing that perfect moment in nature, like a fuzzy bumblebee perched delicately on a flower. There’s so much beauty, but a perfect photo is only framed for a moment. To capture that on camera is pure magic.

  1. What is your favorite quote?

“I want to be the kind of woman that, when my feet hit the floor in the morning, the enemy says, ‘Oh no! She’s up.’”

  1. What is your favorite blog post that you wrote? Why?

I really liked “The Most Lavish Gift of All,” which I posted in December 2016. In it, I wrote about a homeless man I had watched spend a large sum of money on a Christmas gift for his sister. Through this simple but generous act, God made me realize that His love is lavish; He does not budget or skimp on us. It was a great reminder, and I hope the blog blessed others as much as the lesson blessed me.

No man is an island. If you’re looking for great blogs to read, here are three of my favorites:

And for beautiful poetry, don’t forget to check out Robin’s site at Words for Life.

Thanks for reading! I’d love to hear your feedback.


My questions to those I’m nominating:

  1. Where do you get your inspiration?
  2. Do you ever get writer’s block? If so, how do you get “unstuck”?
  3. Is there a writing rule that you like to break from time to time? If so, what is it?
  4. Most blogs have a theme. Do you have a topic you’d like to write about that doesn’t fit within your theme?
  5. Finish this sentence: I wish I were more _____.
  6. Do you write outside of your blog, such as news articles or books? Tell us about it.
  7. Why did you first start your blog?