The Lost Art of the Love Letter

loveletterRemember when people used to write letters and send them through mail? More importantly, what happened to the lost art of writing LOVE letters? There are so many beautiful love letters that expressed exactly how people felt in the most memorable of ways. I adore the writing of these famous love letter excerpts…

“I drank no coffee since I left you, nor intend to till I see you again. There is none worth drinking but yours, if myself may be the judge.” Johnathan Swift, 1721

“I have always thought you the cleverest, most agreeable, absurd, amiable, perplexing, dangerous, fascinating little being that lives now or ought to have lived 2,000 years ago.” Byron, 1812

“Life isn’t half long enough to love all the different things about you in. I shall die in the middle of a little laugh at some new funny thing that I adore you for.” Katherine Mansfield, 1915

“Don’t expect me to be sane any more. Don’t let’s be sensible… I came away with pieces of you sticking to me.” Henry Miller, 1932

Why did we ever stop writing like this, or feeling and thinking in such poetry? The words are so beautiful and heartfelt. Today, we tend to think abbreviated. We might send a “:-)” over text or a “143” over email. These can be meaningful, but what would happen if we sat down to write a handwritten thank-you letter or left a sweet note on a post-it for our loved one? Dare I say we would appreciate the words that much more?

I decided to try a love letter myself, and I decided to write it to the one who means the most to me: God. Sorry that it is not hand-written (this is a blog), but I believe that it still makes my point, and allowed me to express my love in a more creative, heartfelt way.

Dear God, 

You are compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands upon thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. You are a jealous God, and for that I am grateful… that you would care for my attention. You chose to give your life for me. You bled and suffered so that I might be free. Your sacrifice brings me life. 

I long to sit in your presence forever and a day. I long to bask in the beauty of your glory. I long to see your face. But if not your face, your shadow will do. Because seeing any part of you is worth it all. I will wait for you like the moon waits for the sunlight. Shine on me and let your reflection be a testament to my lasting devotion. All my love is for you and I am yours… all of my heart, mind, and soul.

Yours truly, 
Ashley Beckford

There is too much love in this world to have it go unexpressed. Try writing a love letter to someone special in your life… a significant other, a best friend, a family member, etc. Let’s bring back the lost art of beautiful and meaningful writing. And let’s show love to those who matter most.

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Friendsgiving

ImageThis past weekend, my friends and I got together for Friendsgiving. (For those of you who don’t know what that means, it is a celebration of Thanksgiving dinner with your friends, according to Urban Dictionary.) We ate a wonderful meal together, played games, and talked about what we were thankful for. And as I sat in that room eating amounts of food beyond the capacity of my stomach and laughing till I cried, I realized that I have so much to be thankful for. Here are some of those things, in no particular order:

  • Friends. They make me laugh when I don’t want to and they make me a better person.
  • Family. They have always given me so much support and love, even when I didn’t deserve it.
  • Husband. He is the positive in my negative and loves me unconditionally. We fit together like turkey and gravy.
  • My dog, Oreo. He always greets me at the door with a smile (if dogs could smile) and a wagging tail.
  • My job. It is more like a family, and I am thankful that my passion has become a paycheck. The dream.
  • Health. In a world surrounded by sickness, I am so blessed to be healthy and thriving.
  • Music and Songwriting. It has become at outlet in the most opportune times and I love seeing how God is using some of the songs for His glory.
  • My house. Every time I walk in the front door, I feel like I should be more grown up than I am. And when it is filled with friends and family, it becomes a home. Blessed beyond words.
  • Food. Not only do I get to eat every day, but I get to eat wonderful foods that are a luxury to most people around the world.
  • Water. It’s clean and conveniently in my fridge. Yet another luxury that I take for granted.
  • My church family. They are so generous and loving, and I am glad to call myself a CCVer (attender of Christ’s Church of the Valley).
  • The space heater in my office. It warms my toes and my heart in the cold mornings.
  • Christmas. My favorite time of year, full of friends, family, fireplaces, and carols.
  • Prayer. I am so grateful that I have a medium to talk to my God every day, and I am thankful that other people use that medium to bless my life.
  • Technology. I can keep in touch with my friends in Africa and high school all in one facebook.
  • Clothes. Another luxury that I take for grated, and use to define my personality in so many ways.
  • The Cross. Without Jesus and His sacrifice, I would be lost. In Him, I have found new life and salvation.

I could go on. I am so blessed and s0 grateful. Thanksgiving is a time to reflect on those blessings, and I encourage you to do the same. Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family!

PS… if you are interested in hosting your own friendsgiving, here are some helpful rules that we went by: Rules Of Friendsgiving

John Mayer and Worship

John-Mayer-1So last week, I went to the John Mayer concert at the Hollywood Bowl. Oh man, I love that guy. He is super talented and the show he puts on is phenomenal. Phillip Phillips opened up for him, and he was great, but John blew him out of the water. (John… like I know him on a first name basis or something… lol). The show was sold out, and everyone was excited to see John Mayer and his band play because he hadn’t been on tour for a while… due to his vocal surgery. But amazingly enough, his voice sounded better than I had ever heard it before (Yes, I have seen him 2 other times in concert). It had a sweet and smooth quality to it, and he seemed like he could sing for days without getting tired. I was very impressed. He even had vocal breakdowns in a couple of his songs, where he was able to showcase his voice alone. Good concert and great show.

But what does this have to do with worship?

As I looked around the Hollywood Bowl on Saturday night, I saw people (and actually sat next to one) who were completely and whole-heartedly in awe of John Mayer. They were lifting their hands, singing at the top of their lungs, and shouting for a man who they WORSHIPPED and LOVED in every sense of the word. They were followers of John Mayer and because they loved him and his music so much, it was easy for them to get excited at the concert. It was a no-brainer. John Mayer appeared and they responded to who he was and what he was doing.

So why don’t we do this on Sundays? Why don’t we get that excited during worship or the message? Why do we come to church and stand there with blank stares on our faces, arms crossed, and minds wandering? We serve a God who created the entire universe and everything in it. He is the one who put the stars in place and the moon in rotation. He is the God who made roaring water-falls and majestic mountains. He created the intricate nature of our minds and the beating of our heart. He sent His only Son to live on this earth, die on the cross, and resurrect to life 3 days later, all so we could access Him blameless and clean. He is holy, mighty, sovereign, great, majestic, perfect, gracious, loving… I could go on and on and on. Isn’t our God worth the best of us and the best of our worship? Shouldn’t we come to church on Sunday ready to lift our hands in surrender, sing at the top of our lungs, and shout for joy to a God who deserves it all?

John Mayer can be great… and he is.
But shouldn’t our God be GREATER?

My Husband

As I was looking through my old blog posts, I realized I had not written anything about my husband. And trust me, he is worth writing about. He is the positive in my negative and the inspiration behind so many parts of my life.

weddingWe have been married for 4 years now. Wow. Time flies! It feels like just yesterday that I was walking down the aisle towards his beaming face. I could not have found a better fit for me. Or rather, God could not have orchestrated a better team. He really does compliment me in so many ways. For one, he is the most positive person I know. This has proved time and time again to bring me up out of my negative rants or lifted me out of a depression. He always knows how to make me smile when I am having a bad day, and knows how to support me in just the right way. Especially being a ministry husband. So many times the politics of church can bog me down, but he stays strong and leads me through it.

My husband is a professional musician. Most people think that when we come home, it is a constant house of music. This can be true at times when we have to prepare or rehearse, but for the most part, music is removed from our home. We both do music all day so when we come home, we want a break from all the madness. Every once in a while, you will catch us songwriting together or talking about our favorite songs at the moment, but mostly we escape it all to just be with each other. My husband is super clean and neat. (Besides his desk… lol). God knew that I needed someone who was going to pick up after himself and take care of himself. I have a slight tendency to be OCD, which means I can’t relax until the house is organized and clean. Since my husband takes on some of this work as well, I don’t get stressed out very often. Perfect match.

My husband is the most humble musician I know. He is SUPER talented and can play any style, but when he is playing drums for our church worship band, he is never a show-off. He truly has a heart of worship and always points to God no matter what gig he might be at. This is rare to find in the musician world, but he exemplifies it better than anyone I know. Did I mention that he is hilarious too! He makes me laugh more than anyone.

lance and i

I am so grateful the God brought Lance into my life (that is his name by the way). 🙂 He could not be a more perfect fit for me. We didn’t always have a perfect relationship when we were dating, but God has somehow blossomed the Beckford team in marriage. We are better now than we ever have been, and my prayer is that every year I would fall more and more in love with this man. The secret, however, is not more time together or more kisses (although that stuff is wonderful). The secret is putting God first in our own lives and then living out a Godly marriage because of it. The secret is loving each other with a Godly love and sacrifice, all the while being as selfless as possible. Marriage is beautiful, and I am so blessed by my husband.

Love Week

LoveLOVE fills the air this week. It’s Valentine’s week… a time to share your heart with the ones you love. It could be romantic… it could be brotherly or sisterly… it could even be with your pet. Love is everywhere.

I am grateful because I have many people around me who love me and I love them. My husband is such a blessing from God. He is kind, humble, hilarious, and my best friend. My family is so supportive in everything I do. My dog greets me with so much love when I come home, and cuddles with me on the couch. My church family gives me strength when I need it and points me in the right direction always. I could go on. I am so blessed and feel so LOVED on this Valentine’s week.

But more than the love of my husband, family, friends, and dog… I am so blessed to serve a God who loves me despite all of my failures and downfalls. He loves me so much that He sent his only son to die on the cross for my sins. That was the greatest display of LOVE in all of history. And I am so blessed to serve a God who accepts and forgives and loves unconditionally.

Happy LOVE week everyone. May love fill your minds and your hearts, as we reflect on the love of others and the immense love of our God.

-Ashley

 

Today, I Am Thankful

Today I Am Thankful

Too many times in life, I start my day off with a sour taste in my mouth… I am filled with negativity and un-thankfulness. I have been dealing with this the last few days and I really think it is the Devil trying to steal my joy. God has blessed me with so many things in life… an amazing husband, a dream job, a home, friends and family that love me, the cutest dog in the world… and the list goes on. So why do I get so down? Why do I allow little things to bring me to the bottom of my emotions? Why can’t I just focus on the positive and good?

Thankfully this week, I am doing a study on thankfulness. And it has really been a wake up call for me in several areas of my life. This was the scripture I read today:

Colossians 3:15-17   “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”

Thank you Jesus for this reminder. I truly want to do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God through it all. And whatever may be thrown my way, good or bad, I choose to be thankful. So instead of waking up with negative thoughts in my mind, I choose to wake up knowing that God has it under control. And despite my tendency to focus on the one negative thought, I choose to focus on the many amazing things God has blessed me with in my life. Because if I had to make a list of both sides, the good would for sure outweigh the bad!! So why am I even complaining?!

Today I choose to be thankful.

-Ashley

Atmosphere – What’s The Big Deal?

Christmas at my house

Christmas at my house

Atmosphere. I am big on atmosphere, especially when working. I cannot work effectively until my house or office is clean. I work even better when I have a candle on or some light instrumental music playing in the background. In this particular season of Christmas, I work EVEN BETTER when my Christmas tree is lit and my fireplace is providing a slight crackling noise in the background. In fact, that is what I am hearing as I write this post.

So why is it that atmosphere has such an impact on our hearts and souls? Why do we feel a sense of calm when our house has just been cleaned? Why do we instantly become happy at the smell of cookies in the oven or the sound of a fireplace crackling? Why do we feel suddenly comfortable when our toes hit the carpet in our family rooms? ATMOSPHERE. The definition of “atmosphere” (in the way that I am using the word) is: a special mood or character associated with a place.

So how does atmosphere relate to corporate worship? Well, I believe that just as atmosphere effects our moods at home and work, the atmosphere in which we worship together at our church can either draw us closer or further away from encountering God. For example, when it is cold in the worship center, all I can think about is wanting a jacket. When there is a crying baby next to me, all I can think about is how much I want to tell the dad to take his little girl out of the room. Alternatively, when the lighting is dim, it creates a mood of reverence. And when the room is full of singing voices, there is a sense of awe from the people worshipping with all they have.

Christmas at CCV

Christmas at CCV

Our church in particular always decorates the campus for Christmas. I love this about our church because it always feels so festive! This year, we have large paintings up on the wall that were created to show different ministries that are happening at the church, like Celebrate Recovery and our local outreaches. We also have testimonies and stories from real people in our church posted up on the walls. This last week, people were drawn to God because of authenticity and transparency within the vibe of the room. The pictures and stories created a mood that reminded everyone of the real meaning of Christmas. Amazing! I believe that no matter what season it may be, the atmospheres in our churches should always point to God and God alone. So that when we come together to worship, we are immediately aware of His presence.

May you be inspired this Christmas season to create an atmosphere full of love and peace and joy within your homes, workplaces, and places of worship… because ATMOSPHERE matters! Merry Christmas!