The Story Hasn't Ended

It has been three years. 
Which is, frankly, unbelievable. 

Since my last entry in 2012:
I have graduated with a Bachelor's in Theology and a minor in English.
I have moved to FL, back to SC, and back to FL again. 
And, most importantly, I got married. (Happily since 1.4.14!)

I was inspired to "turn the pages" on my virtual journals (aka blogs) this morning. Something I do from time to time to revisit and remember. The good and the bad are zoomed out in particular view. It builds a huge amount of gratitude in my heart to see the "lovely traces" of God's grace interwoven throughout my life.

“By keeping a record of my experiences, I live my life twice over. The past returns to me. The future is always with me.” -Eugène Delacroix

But imagine my utter distress when I found out that one blog might be totally gone and the other inaccessible! If we should thank anyone for this post... it would be my mom. I wouldn't have been able to sign back in to either blog without her help. She saved two journals for me today!

I came to write... not to start all over again and revive this blog, but to say that the story isn't over. 

This blog is really just one of my journals. 

It had it's purpose, intermingled with a unique flavor and style bespoken of the time it was written in.
And now we have reached the last page.

I want to thank everyone who ever read this blog and made my day with a comment or two. I really appreciate your support and feedback. It still cracks me up that my most viewed post ever is the Dirty Mop Water one. Ha! (If you're curious what that entry could entail, you can click here for that.)

For those who are wandering through by old paths or curiosity... thanks for stopping by. Feel free to flit through these pages. I hope some of the words I have written are meaningful and encouraging to you. I know I'll be back to read them for myself from time to time.

As for my current story... you can see that here. ˂˂˂

This blog started with a fiery warningIt spans five years and entails my last two full years in the Dominican Republic, and ends somewhere during my first two years of college. Significant transitions, so much learning. And it is fitting to close it with.... what? I never know how to end my journals, except with a prayer. It seems to me that the Only One deserving of the final note is the Man who saved my soul.

Jesus, I have learned so much, yet I still know so little. You are teaching me day by day how important community is. Doing life in intimate honesty with those around me, learning to love more and more, to use my time on this earth wisely... And yet, foremost, I am always and ever coming back to the fact that it is all hinged on my relationship with You. It is meaningless apart from You. This isn't some melodramatic, sappy, puppy-love kind of "meaningless apart from You" -- this is life and death. It is the truth. I need You in my life. Your love is better than the sweetest wine. Your faithfulness is unfailing. Your patience, unwavering. Your goodness, untiring. Your kindness, I know, is how I've made it this far. And I'm so thankful that you watch my steps - though I stumble, I will not fall, for You are holding my hand. (Psalm 37-23-24) Thank You for inspiring me to write. I pray that You might use it for Your glory.


Two Kinds of Light

There is a saying:

“I have but one candle of life to burn, 
and I would rather burn it out in a land filled with darkness 
than in a land flooded with light.”

But what if the land is flooded with artificial light?

Today in chapel, the speaker encouraged us to be salt and light, based on a passage of Scripture in Matthew 5:13-16. He explained the salt makes people thirsty. That light allows us to see, causes growth and is used best in the darkness.

But he had a picture of a flashlight on the screen. And all of the sudden I got to wondering about the "causes growth" idea. What is the difference between light produced by the Sun and light produced by electricity?

Artificial light cannot make plants grow.
There's something different about light that comes from the Sun, there's something else to it. Both produce light... but only the light from the Sun can produce life.

© Ashley Santiago
The quote at the beginning is an encouragement to do missions work. In a land where there is plenty opportunity to be exposed to light, the call is to go where there is only darkness, that the small light of my life would be used to its greatest capacity, where it shines brightest.

But may I be so bold as to say that artificial light could be even more dangerous than the darkness? Because the darkness is certainly not able to deny the presence of light... but artificial light has the semblance of true light. In 2 Corinthians 11:14 it says, "Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light." But we know the enemy comes only to steal, kill and destroy. Jesus, however, came to bring life. [John 10:10]
I am amazed by those who are called to the land flooded with artificial light. It is a noble and hard calling. It looks crazy! Those with artificial light shrug their shoulders and claim to have the same thing... but they cannot grow. There is no life.

So would I rather (as the quote says) use the candle of my life to shine in the dark places? Honestly, yes! Even if its a primal, cannibalistic culture, my light would shine true with acute contrast to the darkness. The difference is seen. It is something truly brave to take on a land flooded with artificial light... whatever that looks like. Because it could seem a waste. Your light doesn't seem as bright. It doesn't seem to make a difference.

But friends, do not be discouraged! Our little light is always of use because it comes from the Son! It's the real thing! Even in a land of artificial light, there will be a very distinct difference: only light from the Son can produce life.

And how are we that light? How are we salt?

"In this world we are like Jesus..." - 1 John 4:17
We are called to be ambassadors of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:20-21), representing Him. And how did He say people would know we are His? That we are His disciples?

"A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." 
- John 13:35 

"This is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another...  
This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life. And we ought to lay down our lives... If anyone has material possessions and sees someone in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth."
- 1 John 3: 11,16-18 

"Who is it that overcomes the world?
Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God." 
- 1 John 5:5 

"If you love Me you will obey My commands."
- John 14:15, 1 John 5:2-3

And that love looks like joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. It looks like trusting, persevering, keeping no record of wrongs, rejoicing in truth... not boasting, envying or being proud. It is full of faith and hope, and it never fails. And it is not by our own strength, but as we live by the Spirit. His light shining through us.
Mark 9:50; Galatians 5:13-26, 6:10; 1 Corinthians 13

© Ashley Santiago
Where you are now is where you are called to be faithful to the task at hand. 
Whether surrounded by darkness or artificial light, there is only one True Light, of which we are witnesses. 

Our war is waged in love.


Renovation to Renewal

It seems this renovation of my heart and mind has been going on for quite some time now... and may it never stop until it's finished.

On the one hand, I feel as if I owe some sort of explanation for my lack of posting in several months. On the other hand, I don't really have to justify it at all. Still, I suppose it is worth noting that any inconsistency seen here could be related to the inconsistency within my own life. I had a sinking suspicion that my lack of writing as of late (not just here but in my own journals) has been due to some issue that needs to be taken care of within me.

Perhaps to some, this lack of writing for a few months (or sparsely writing for the last six months) is not really a big deal. But I have kept a journal since I was in kindergarten. So, not writing is pretty much a red flag in my book.

However, my lack of writing could be attributed to the fact that I have been swamped with school work this past year... in which I have written well over 75,000 words. To put that another way, if I took all the assignments I've written for my classes, I could make a 300 page book. An appreciable accomplishment, I think. Of course, the semester isn't over yet... so I might add a few dozen pages yet to that book.

Gracious, with that in mind, I don't really feel bad at all for not writing here. In fact, you still might not hear from me consistently... it all depends really. I could probably get rid of a few things that tend to take up my time. Trash my phone... But, of course, I need to be realistic. Or maybe I don't?

God is currently teaching me that it's not just about prioritizing Him. It's not a list with Jesus at the top as Number One. No, as a friend put it, He is Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. He is not just number one, He is the Only One. My entire heart and life devoted completely and wholly to Him... out of which the rest of my life flows.

Whatever that looks like...


It is Finished!

In the heat of early morning on a hill
They call The Skull
The roaring of the angry mob
Had settled to a lull

All eyes were cast upon the man
Whose hands and feet were bound
They saw Him cry in anguish
When they heard the hammer pound

They saw the bloody woven thorns with
Which His head was crowned
They watched the bloody cross of wood
Be dropped into the ground

The soldiers gambled for His clothes
They watched them win and lose
They saw the sign above His head
That said "King of the Jews"

They searched His face for anger
For vengeance in His stare
Instead of eyes that burned with hate
A look of love was there

He prayed for their forgiveness
And bowed His battered head
And no one knew the meaning
Of the final words He said

It is finished
And the sky grew black as the night
It is finished
And the people scattered in fright

The work had been done
Redemption had been won
The war was over without a fight
It is finished

The provision has been made
The foundation has been laid
He paid the ransom due
And tore the temple veil in two
And opened up the way
For me and you

It is finished!


---> [John 19-20] <---
"...These are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name."

(lyrics by Petra, "It is Finished")
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