Coffee Date with Ashley Owen

Confession... I'm a little teary typing these words this morning. I was trying to come up with the perfect way to introduce you to this sweet friend when a realization of God's faithfulness overwhelmed me. 

I was replaying my favorite moments with Ashley from high school, many of them taking place in first period Government our senior year. And then I remembered that summer before our junior year of college when God brought us back to our small hometown and placed us in a Bible study together. That was the summer that God transformed my heart, and Ashley was there to witness it all, to pray for me and encourage me along the way. She plays a bigger part of that story than she probably knows. 

Ever since that sweet summer, we make it a priority to meet up for breakfast when we're both in town, and we always pick up right where we left off. Anyone who knows Ashley will agree with me when I say that you can't help but smile each and every time you're around her. She's witty, she's full of joy, and she has an honest, lovely heart. I'm so thrilled that I get to share her with you this morning!

What's in your coffee mug this morning?

The real question is what I wish was in my coffee mug this morning. I typically drink whatever "middle shelf" coffee is on sale at Kroger. While Private Selection French Roast always gets the job done, deep down I am craving a non-fat Dirty Chai from the local coffee shop across the street. It is a heavenly drinking experience with the right amount of kick to get me through my morning. Plus it is really fun to order. You always get a few strange looks from those who have yet to be enlightened to this gem.

What is the first thing you did today?

Hit my snooze button? Haha but actually. Typically I start my day by reading a current events email called the Skimm. It is a daily email blast that summarizes yesterday's current events in a witty, woman-friendly way. Instead of staring at the ceiling during those transitional moments of struggle, reading the Skimm makes me feel like I'm doing something productive.

I then shower, fix my breakfast, and slow down for a short quiet time before frantically running out the door to get to school on time. Often my physical appearance is a hot mess. However, spending adequate time with Jesus prevents my soul from being a hot mess so I'm willing to make sacrifices. Plus, I'm still in school and see the same 42 people each day so looks are low on the priority list. Oh, I can't forget my morning jam session during my 15-minute commute. It's vital to my mental wellbeing and gets me psyched to face the day. Recently the song "The Man" by Aloe Blanc has been on repeat.

What is something you've been loving lately?

Bluegrass music. The warmer weather causes me to crave music that is a bit more upbeat, yet still southern and sentimental. The soulful strumming has been just the ticket. Last week, my roommates and I saw the Punch Brothers at the National Theatre in Richmond. The concert helped to catalyze my bluegrass kick. Since then, bands like Nickel Creek, Crooked Still, and the Infamous Stringdusters consume my Spotify stream. I grew up listening to bluegrass music and classic country while sitting in the passenger side of my grandfather's pickup truck, so these sounds also bring back pleasant memories of my childhood.


What is something you struggle with and what are you learning as a result?

God is teaching me that his sovereignty and his love for me are deeply intertwined. In this season of my life I am working through a lot of insecurities and facing a future that is uncertain. Being in graduate school and navigating this pseudo-adult life on my own creates pain, stirs up emotions, and often causes me to question God's love for me. During these trials I often default to thinking my ways and wisdom are better than God's ways and wisdom. Recently, God is reminding me that all of the challenges that he places in my path are actually acts of love. If he did not love me, he would not be working to refine me, to grow me, and to make me more like Christ. I am thankful that I can look in the mirror and see tangible evidences of God's grace and love in my character.

Life can get busy and stressful. How do you simplify?

Running and to-do lists. Graduate school forces me to think all the time. My classmates and I joke that our professors constantly want us to think about how we think. Self-awareness is a great skill to develop but does not help to simplify your mind. To help simplify my mind, I try to go for a 30-minute jog at least every other day. During my jog I force myself to not think about school. Rather, I try to think about all the things that I am grateful for or just to take pleasure in my physical surroundings.

I also make TONS of to-do lists. Sadly, my organization is not that fancy. I have a cute pocket-sized notebook from Target that I use to write down everything that I have to do and any important information that I may need at any given time. It fits in my purse, my backpack, and my back pocket so I have no excuse to be without my to-do list.

And lastly, what is something that made you smile this week?

I babysit for three precious kids on a weekly basis. They LOVE the movie 'Frozen' and have told me many times that I need to see it. Last week it was playing at the $2 theatre in Richmond so I finally saw the film. Being that I am a sucker for musicals, cheesy kid humor, and Disney movies, I fell in love. While babysitting the munchkins this week, I cranked up the movie tunes and the four of us danced around the kitchen belting the lyrics. I loved the opportunity to channel my inner 7-year old and let my goofiness shine through. Plus the smiles on their faces were an added bonus.

Ashley needs her own blog, doesn't she?! Until then, you can gain a smile from following her on Instagram :) Happy Friday, friends! I hope your weekend is blessed.