You’re an Overcomer!

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Monthly snapshots of the healing process of my scars.

Right before surgery

I admit, the photos taken of my knee before and after surgery were hard to look at.

I look down at my knee and am dumbfounded because I thought, Oh my… this is actually happening, NOW. As raw as those photos were, this post is one where I’m about to let you into what was going on in my heart and mind with this whole procedure (ACL arthroscopy reconstruction) – which is basically a reconstruction of the joint — in this case my left ACL.

7:30am My family came with me that morning. We arrived, checked in, got my wristband, got my cute blue patient gown on, received paperwork, and I was off to the drugs – painkillers and numbing meds in my knee and an IV in my left arm, I was a druggie for the day 😛 LOL.

8:30am Waiting. Just waiting for my turn to get into the OR. Mom sitting by my side, staring at my knee, taking pics and feeling nervous for me. She didn’t have to say it, but I could see it in her eyes. I’m gonna be okay Ma, God’s got this. 

9:30am. The nurses wheeled me into the OR and all I remember is coldness, lights so bright, and the cling clanging of surgical tools. Yikes! This is ACTUALLY happening. And my surgeon said, “Hi Ashley! How’s it going?” Umm, Doc, are you really asking me this question right now?… “Good, I guess? Let’s do this!” was my reply, and all I remember seeing was this jumbo oxygen mask that came over my face, “We’re just gonna give you some oxygen so you can have a great sleep, okay Ashley?” Did I have an option now? NOPE! I said, “okay”, and bam, before I knew it, I was going for a little itch on my nose but knocked out before my hand could even move. Womp Womp…

11:40am.  I could hear again. “Ashley wake up, you’re in the recovery room. Surgery is all done. You’re going to feel really.weak and dizzy so just take your time opening your eyes. We will move you to the post-op room shortly.  I knew I was awake and somewhat alert because I recognized my name. As I opened my eyes, laying there, still temporarily ‘paralyzed’, I knew I was okay. Lacking sensation in most of my body, head spinning 100 miles an hour, but awake. God is good.

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Day 1 post-op

12:15pm I got transferred to the post-op room. Nurses and doctors walked to and fro and I knew I was so out of it. Wanting to utter words because I just wanted to eat, I wanted to drink, but couldn’t gather enough energy to speak up. I had no idea what this journey was going to be like, but I knew I was ready for it. Energy or not – so ready!

6 months later I look down at my scars and am reminded of the pain I had to endure to be stronger, more confident, and ready to move forward.

I get it now, God.

The healing process takes time. It takes commitment to taking the necessary steps to be a better walker, jogger, runner, swimmer. It takes perseverance and challenges to be pushed through to make it to the next step. I couldn’t step up stairs, I couldn’t bend my knee as much as I was able to before surgery. But stretching my limits allowed me to warm up my muscles, allowing them to remember how they used to work.

I look down at my scars now, and am reminded of the healing that comes through pain. I’m stronger now, more confident, and ready to take the next step. Almost 6 months post-op and I can’t stop praising God for His healing on my knee. The scars are one thing, but feeling sensations and gaining strength and range of motion was another. I’m now able to jump, leap, jog, and swim! Only through God’s healing could this have been possible.

Like the song says,

“I believe You’re my Healer,
I believe You are all I need.
I believe You’re my portion,
I believe You’re more than enough for me.
Jesus You’re all I need.”

This song helped me through my first 2 weeks of recovery. Sitting on that couch for so long got my butt numb and my back  aching. But it was well worth it! Why? Because now I’m able to praise God through my struggle.

6 months post-op

As I conclude this post, I hope you’re inspired by the journey of my ACL recovery up to this point. There’s so much to learn from it, and I pray that you’ve gained some type of insight as to what the struggles you’re going through are doing to you. This surgical procedure was serious, and I was scared to my bones to get with it, but I did it! #Justdoit

Not to say whatever your struggling with now isn’t serious, because it may as well be. Maybe not as serious as getting under the knife in an OR, but serious enough to be taking over your time, energy – your life. Your struggle may be consuming all of you right now, but know that God is greater than your struggle, and the promise of healing. The promise of healing that comes from your Healer.

“The Lord will strengthen him on his bed of illness;
You will sustain him on his sickbed.” – Psalm 42:3

Circumstances break us, keep us paralyzed for a time, but do you want to stay in that paralysis? I hope not. We all have struggles, we all will have struggles. But why let our struggles defeat us? The Defeater of struggles has already won the victory by dying on the cross for us. When we wallow in our struggles, we hold onto the weaknesses that we shouldn’t be claiming. When we see past our struggles, we can zoom out and attempt to see the bigger picture – that we are actually stronger than we think.

“And He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness” – 2 Corinthians 12:9

What’s holding you back? It’s obvious what it was for me – the lack of muscle in my new ACL, and the lack of courage I had to want to walk on it because I didn’t want to hurt myself. But look, gather than courage you’ve been storing in your back pocket and use what you’ve got! Give it all you’ve got to get past this struggle. It’s not impossible – I’m possible –> you can do it! (had to throw that in there LOL)

“If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you.” – Matthew 17:20

Seriously friend, why let your struggle win your life over? Aren’t there better things, worthwhile you could be doing than holding onto your problems? I understand there are situations that will take longer than others, but that doesn’t mean you won’t overcome them. Lose your life for the One who lost His life for you! The last verse I want to share with you is this:

“He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it.” – Matthew 10:39

Yeah, take that one in. I mean it, read it again. And again. And again. Let it sink in.

Stop trying to find your life your own way. Stop trying to find things to cover up your struggle. Face it! Tell God about it! Talk to your close friends about it, and be humble enough to pray over it. Maybe your friends are struggling, the same applies. Life is so much better with Jesus in it! I have a pencil that has no point (meaning it has two ends with just an eraser, so you can’t actually write with it). Because that’s what life without Jesus is like – pointless! (Yay puns LOL)

I pray that this was an encouragement for you to see past your battle scars. Your struggle may seem big now, but just know there’s a God far greater than it.

Be inspired. Be a testimony of love.

-LifeisaBeaut ❤

New Frames

It takes time to get used to a new pair of glasses.

There I was, sitting in the same place as I had been when I wrote “Can You Be Still?”, but during the day. My feet were up, toes exposed to the breeze, elevated on a chair. It’s crazy to think that just over 4 months ago, I couldn’t even put my feet up without using my other foot to raise it up. #wowza #progress

I reflected on the last 4.5 months I’d been home. I came to realize that summer came and gone. Although a short time, it was enough to make an impact in the lives of those around me, and they to me; I believe I’ve become a better version of myself.

Bear with me as I share some defining moments from the summer 🙂

  • Getting through 4 exams in a row, one day after the next. Having to drive over with my uncle and aunt to write my last one, nearly 1 month after surgery.
  • Making it through my first physiotherapy session
  • Exercising daily just to get my knee to bend and bear weight again.

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    Family fun at Niagara Botanical Gardens

  • Attending Alumni Weekend with a crutch and reconnecting with high school friends. Need I mention your new VP of the Alumni Association 😉
  • Learning to make chia seed pudding and buffalo quinoa bites! (oh so good)
  • Rediscovering my love for reading and how much I actually missed it
  • Getting my first 50mm prime lens (oh so good, too)
  • Realizing how much of an “Ate” (older sister) I am to my cousin and brother

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    Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupre Shrine (Montreal, QC)

  • Kayaking!
  • Reconnecting with college friends
  • Learning about my Nanay’s story before and after coming to Canada #inspired
  • Starting my role as a board member for World Changers
  • Spending the day with Ma, volunteering for World Changers’ Connect Initiative
  • Finally getting to wall sit
  • Spending weekends with my family and actually spending time
  • Holding a 4-week old yorkie puppy
  • Supporting Rach and really seeing her grow
  • Food adventures: Max’s Restaurant, Casa Manila, Adelaide Eats, Hollywood Cone,Pizza Studio, Bubble Republic, 3 Brothers’ poutine, The Zen Fine Hakka & Thai Cuisine, Filipino Festival (x2), Saravanaa Bhavan Indian Cuisine, Auntie Anne’s Pretzels, The Halal Guys, and Poutineville

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    Soft serve dipped in chocolate fondue YUM!

  • Sweet Tooth indulgences: Hollywood Cone, Bubble Republic, The Nutty Chocolatier, Fugo Desserts, Granddad’s Ice Cream Parlour, Ice Cream Truck ice cream, The Perfect Scoop Gelato and Juice, Cake Shack, and Chocolato
  • Celebrating and witnessing my high school friend’s wedding
  • Capturing the Toronto skyline
  • Progressing with recovery and actually seeing results
  • Walking through the Ripley’s Aquarium
  • Weekend getaway to Quebec
  • Celebrating Broski’s 20th

Wow, that’s a lot, eh? But how could I have remembered all of that? Those fine details, those events, experiences, and moments – why do they matter?

Because they make me, me. They define part of my life that makes me who I am right now as I write this at the end of September.

I call them Defining Moments because they were moments that showed me the value of life.

“How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog – it’s here a little while, then it’s gone” – James 4:14, NLT

So on August 12, I had attended my first General Youth Conference. I didn’t know what to expect, other than the fact that a lot of my friends were going to be there, and I was going to be blessed. Little did I know, God had something else planned.

That sabbath morning, the speaker had shared the impact published literature has made in the people closest to him, as well as strangers. He shared the value of surrendering one’s life to Christ through Abraham’s story. Abraham didn’t get the idea to sacrifice his son from himself, it was from God. Why was Abraham willing to give up his son? Because God told him to. Lord, give me a willing heart to accept your call for my life. 

I journalled as he spoke: Lord, what do you mean by “let go”? I cannot allow my own thoughts dictate how I will live my life. Where in the field of child and youth do you want me? Is starting a ministry worth it? We’ve argued and I’ve been stubborn to listening.

He continued by asking, “What does God know about you? The answer is – everything. Psalm 139

It was then that I knew I had to start living my life differently. With MORE intention, MORE purpose, MORE guidance, MORE trust in my Father.

The speaker had made an appeal, asking people who know they don”t want to live by the world’s standard, but by God’s. Calling for people not to worry about the standard, but worry more about the surrender. That was the morning I rededicated my life to Christ. I mean, I’ve stood up and walked forward to the stage for several appeals in the past, but it wasn’t until this weekend that God had confirmed that it was time to fully rededicate my life to Him. I was drowning in tears, glasses were fogging up, and my nose got stuffy. How gross. 

Friends, after the speaker prayed, I felt like I could see the world a whole new way. I opened my eyes, still a little teary, but more confident. I decided to see the world with intentionality and purpose. I choose to see the world how my Father would want me to see it: with compassion, care, discernment, and love.

So now I ask myself — Why did God create me? What am I supposed to do on earth while I’m here? Is my life really a testimony?

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“…we were meant to show others a bit of who God is, to share and display the love we’ve experienced with Him.” – Marshall Segal, Not Yet Married

I came back to my first love – God.

The summer was over, school was starting, and there I was. Driving back to my student house with mixed emotions. This is it God. One more year, by Your grace. Let’s do this! 

I share this story because reflection is so important. Looking back and learning is something I truly cherish. Can’t say I’m perfect, heck, no one is perfect, but I can say I’m blessed. We learn from each other because we choose to. We’re blessed with people in our lives because we can’t “do life” on our own. No really, we can’t.

That being said, I pray this post made you think a little more about how far you’ve come and where you’re headed. Look back and know that God is taking care of you. He knows your needs (Matt 6:8),

 

the Holy Spirit speaks for you when you can’t come up with words to pray (Rom 8:26, 27). Maybe you’re still questioning if God exists, or your doubting yourself because you feel like your faith “isn’t enough”. It’s okay. No really, it is. The slightest bit of faith you have is enough to move mountains. Legit. (Matt 17:20).

Are you ready to have new frames?

– LifeisaBeaut ❤

Starting Point

It’s the first day of my last year of university. Wow.

Here I am, sitting the dining room, just before I drive back to school, writing this post.

Reflecting, yet again on where I’ve come from. Four months of “summer” went by WAY TOO FAST. From food adventures, to road trips, to recovery, and my birthday surprise. WAY TOO GOOD. 

Just over 4 months ago, I was sitting in the living room, legs propped up, ice machine running to reduce the inflammation in my left knee. It was the beginning of my ACL recovery journey. I remember staring into the kitchen, watching my mom prepare my meals. I remember waiting for my brother to wake up just so he could help me get down the first step to get to the washroom. I remember my dad trying to get me out of the house for doctor’s appointments. Has it really already been 4 months? 

I shared my recovery story at church last Saturday, and couldn’t help but come back to the verses that God impressed for me to meditate on the day of surgery:

“I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Marvelous are Your works, and that my soul knows very well…
How precious are Your thoughts to me, O God! How great is the sum of them! If I should count them, they would be more in number than the sand; When I awake, I am still with You.” – Psalm 139: 14, 17 – 18

I’m humbled by the thought that I almost gave up on myself, despite the love my friends and family share with me; God never stopped showing me His love through them and their actions.

In the past I’ve gone through destructive and degrading negative self-talk that nearly crushed my spirits. I almost got to that point again this summer, but thank God for His love.

You see, when you’re in recovery, so many thoughts go through your mind. Well for me anyway. Thoughts like: Am I ever gonna get to run again? Why can’t this recovery go any faster? Am I even ready to finish university? What’s gonna happen afterwards? Why am I worrying again? I feel like I’m drifting away from my friends. Am I too hard on my brother? Are my parents ACTUALLY proud of me?

But then, God’s voice was like: Ashley, why are you worrying again? Remember I said,

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” – Philippians 4:6, 7

I’ve also told you,

“But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” – Matthew 6:33, 34

It’s amazing how my thoughts started to change: I don’t have to be anxious. I don’t have to worry, nor should I even consider it. I have a focus and that is God’s kingdom. I want to live my life more intentionally for Him. He deserves my praise. I’m His child. Nothing can separate me from him, nor can anyone give or take away the love He has for me. 

As a blogger, I read other blogs, too. They’re a great source of writing fuel – just saying 😉 I came across this quote, “You don’t make mistakes, mistakes make you.” I can’t exactly remember which blog or post I saw it from, I mean it could have even been a movie… But that quote just resonated with me. You don’t make mistakes, mistakes make youSo I may think I made the mistake, but the mistake actually builds me up. The mistake(s) help me learn more about myself, and as a Christian, about the God who loves me and gave His Son for me.

Sitting here in the dining room makes me remember that my falling down that ski slope on the evening of January 31, 2014, WAS a mistake, and it was the act of deciding to go down the hill that made me fall and injure myself. BUT, after surgery and working on recovery, I realize that this injury will forever define part of me. You can say I’m allowing this said “mistake” to define me, but not to break me down. Rather to build others up and remind them where I came from, hoping that they, too, will remember where they came from.

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Trillium Park, Toronto, ON

We all started somewhere at some point.
I started university for the third time, 3 years ago. I started skiing in December 2013. I started recovery after April 18, 2017. Had I never started any of the above, never would I be sharing these testimonies with you.

We all have a journey to take.
Whether you’re just starting your university journey, almost finished, or still hesitating to decide – you’re working towards something special.

We all have the ability to quit or continue.
Did you start something new? Are you still contemplating on what to do next? The key is to “Never, never, never give up.” – Winston Churchill.

So what’s it gonna be? You have the choice to make it or break it friends.

“Let all that you do be done in love.” 1 Corinthians 16:14

Make it count!

-LifeisaBeaut ❤

My not-so-little brother inspires me because…

Broski, if you’re reading this, just know I’m not doing it to embarrass you. Rather, It’s because I’m very proud of you.


He knows how annoying and out-of-the-loop I’ve been since surgery, and I simply want him to know how much I TRULY appreciate his patience. He listens to me, puts up with my forgetfulness, he’s pretty awesome.

I’ll never forget the day my dad came to pick me up after school saying, “Ready to meet your brother?”

We got to the hospital and as the doors opened to get into my mom’s room, I tiptoed over to the bed and crib. There he was, this little person wrapped in a blanket, tiny mittens covering tiny fingers, and a little bonnet keeping his little head warm. Everything about him was tiny and delicate.

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Nearly 20 years later, he’s over a foot taller than me, knows more of what’s happening in the world, and always has a new fact or story to share.

After vocational training, this young man aspires to work in the food industry (which suits him 100%), and I have full confidence he will reach his dreams. I’ve seen him fail, almost give up, and struggle to make our parents proud.

But here’s the thing, he’s never failed to make me proud. Although he’s younger than I, he’s done more for me than he thinks. Bro, God is cheering you on because He knows you’re giving Him your all.

You inspire me because there had been times in this recovery process where I just wanted to give up and stop trying. You inspire me because you’re so open to new things, you look forward to what tomorrow brings, even if you don’t admit it. You’ve taught me that God is our best friend and that He will never give up on us.

I pray that God continues to bless you as you allow Him to use you to bless others through your ministries. You have so much potential, and I am so happy to call you my broski. You’re my #1 fan, and I know I’ll never be classified as a “girl” because I’m your sister (inside joke LOL). Do you bro, I’m here to walk with you every step of the way.

This post is dedicated to you bro, thanks for always being you. Here’s to more jinxes, food adventures, and awkward moments.

I’ll end this post with a quote a friend shared with me:

Shoot for the stars, but never lose sight of the flowers.

Do it up bro. I love you. I mean it!

A Day at the Park

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I had the privilege to spend a weekend in July with my godson, and captured such adorable portraits of him. This little man’s been practicing his walking, and these photos were taken BEFORE he started walking on his own. It’s now August and he’s walking and dancing! So much can happen in 1 month eh? Way to go champ. Ninang (Godmother) is proud of you ❤ !

Where you’re at

The best part of learning is just loving where you’re at. #AllenStone 😀

Ever wonder what the story of strangers are? I mean you’ve got to see people on your commute to work, school, the gym – you name it. Strangers are everywhere. Strange eh? 😛

It’s always during the summer months that I go on food adventures, take more photos than usual (and sometimes more than needed), and post on Instagram like crazy! I’m the type that likes to document everything, and when something’s good – I share it! Like the exciting feat of getting to create my own pizza at Pizza Studio, and squeaky cheese topped on an authentic Canadian poutine from 3 Brothers in Ottawa, not to mention my ongoing love for ice cream (and now gelato) – the list is endless!

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Currently at Starbucks as I write this post, and I hear voices of men to my left. I look over and I notice half of them with semi-graying hair, the other in baseball caps, each with hot java at hand. It sounds like they’re talking about their daily routines: reading the paper, walking the dog, sitting on the patio. Interesting. Don’t you think? ok, maybe not… but maybe — yes? 

Summer months are great for trying out new food, desserts, and discovering new trails and such, but seriously, think about the people you’ve encountered within the last 2 or 3 months. That’s right, backtrack a little with me here.

It’s ok if you don’t want to (yet), you may change your mind soon.

Care if I share some stories in the next few moments? 🙂

The photographer at Riverdale Park East, using a Nikon, wife sitting on a bench behind him. Tripod and camera set up to capture the Toronto skyline from one of the breath-taking locations to view the city. He’d been in Toronto for nearly 45 years and had just discovered the view from Riverdale Park. With a simple Google search of “where to shoot the Toronto Skyline”. Cool eh? I don’t blame him, my brother and I did the same thing. What will I remember? – his creativity and the support of his lifetime parter. #thatslove

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The man who claims to be a whistleblower in the city of Toronto, red-hair, beard, Iron Man t-shirt, sweater at hand. He caught my attention because he kept talking about his story. The hurt of abuse for the first 18 years of his life, the mistreatment from the city he receives, and the ignorance of fellow citizens of society. All he wants is to be loved, to be accepted, and to be acknowledged for being human. What will I remember? The tears that came to his eyes when I offered to pray for him, his situation, and his safety. #Godslove

The man who was persistent to get new shoes! “FANTASTIC!” He exclaims, once we got his shoes on. One shoelace loosening to the next – it was tough! LOL What will I remember? – His cheery smile and positive attitude.

You see. Strangers aren’t so bad. They all have something to teach you, just like you have something to teach them. You may not realize it in the moment, but once you get time to reflect and just recap your day and encounters, you’d be surprised to see what you come up with.

“Don’t talk to strangers” is all too cliche and too safe. I say talk to strangers (assess the situation first of course). It’s not so bad, afterall.

-LifeisaBeaut ❤