Author Archive for: Ashley Cottrell

About Ashley Cottrell

Interested in reading more of her work? Check out her blog: www.ashleyamor.com With a B.A in English, Ashley Cottrell has written blogs for Virginia Bride Magazine, Bronze Mag, and has been a contributing writer for numerous other digital entities. Although a Virginia-native, Ashley resides in Puerto Rico fulfilling her passion as a freelance writer. She aims to use her gift of writing to inspire others and share the gospel of Christ. When she's not writing, you can find her nose-deep in a game of chess, Salsa dancing, or making homemade skin care products.
  • Many can attest that life’s blessings are a result of discipline. Learning to hold ourselves accountable and making wise choices is definitely a process, sometimes easier for some more than others. This is why teaching and sharing tips with one another is a beautiful thing. So, if you’re ready to practice budgeting (and save a […]

    Living Your Best Life on a Budget

    Many can attest that life’s blessings are a result of discipline. Learning to hold ourselves accountable and making wise choices is definitely a process, sometimes easier for some more than others. This is why teaching and sharing tips with one another is a beautiful thing. So, if you’re ready to practice budgeting (and save a lot of money while doing so), continue reading.  

    Change your Vocabulary

    The key is to identify priorities, understanding the difference between a “want” and a “need.”  These two words are not synonyms. Before you can change lifestyle habits, you must have a renewed mindset. It’s important to learn your weaknesses and limits.

    Let’s not worry about someone else’s opinions. Possessions are not our validation for approval. Even Bill Gates, Microsoft founder and billionaire, wears t-shirts, jeans, and old sneakers.

    Accept “No” for an Answer

    No, you don’t need it.

    No, you’re not dying without it.

    Yes, you can wait.

    It’s okay to tell yourself “no” sometimes. You’ve got bills and student loans to pay back (this is what I remind myself, daily). If you can’t afford it (meaning if your income does not support extra spending after all of your bills and necessities are taken care of) then don’t go shopping. Avoid Amazon, Ebay, and anything else that entices you to buy something fast.

    Clothing

    If you’re unfamiliar with thrifting, it’s time to get on board. You’ll be amazed at how much great stuff you can find in a thrift store (for cheap!). Seriously, there are people in this world who donate expensive clothing they’ve worn only once or were just too busy to return and exchange. If there aren’t thrift shops in your city (or if you have difficulty searching through them), the next best option is to shop during major sales. The best time is off season, when department stores are trying to transition from cold to warm seasons and vice versa (also, right after major holidays). You can find stores that mark down clothes and shoes below half its original price just to get it off the rack.

    My store options: Goodwill, Hope Thrift, Target, Ross, Kohl’s, Marshall’s, TJ-Maxx, and Forever 21 (and sometimes Macy’s, but only clothing on clearance racks and after major holidays). To help save, create rules for yourself as to when you can purchase a new outfit, such as only for special occasions like a wedding or job interview.

     

    Food/Groceries

    Eating out every day can be the death of your wallet. We live in a society where food is a convenience, especially quick, cheap food.

    Pull out your mental calculators, and multiply three meals a day (at about $5 each), by five times a week. That’s $75 spent each week on food (not including weekends or groceries).

    The best thing to do is grocery shop first, and make a list of everything you need prior to going. This avoids subconsciously throwing things into the shopping basket. Also, eat before you grocery shop.The average shopper buys more food when they’re hungry. Make a budget for your grocery spending. Whatever is left, use only that to eat out (occasionally). Better for your wallet, and healthier for your wellbeing.

     

    Grooming

    As women, I know we tend to put a lot of money into our appearance. Opt to only spending money on what you can’t do (or learn to do) on your own. For example, washing and styling your own hair to eliminates hair salon costs, and self-manicures at home to cut down on trips to the nail salon. We have great resources like YouTube and Pinterest to learn and draw creative ideas from, so take full advantage!

    Savings

    Let’s revisit ‘discipline’ for this topic. The only way you’re going to save money, is if you convince yourself not to spend a portion of what you earn (I know, extremely hard). Some banks allow you to set up a savings account where a few dollars are automatically transferred from your direct account to it weekly. Another good method is the “$5 rule.” Whenever you have a $5 bill, immediately stash it away. After about a month or two, the average person may have saved at least $50 dollars.

    Aside from the above mentioned, here’s another great method: selling items. When you own things you no longer use nor need, selling them is best option to make some money back (and declutter your home). Yard sales, Craigslist, Letgo.com, flea markets, the lists goes on. All of those unused items are but a second away from becoming extra money in your pocket.

     

    Expense vs. Investment

    It’s important to learn the difference between the two. An expense is money spent and gone; an investment is money spent now that is expected to return profit later or benefits in the long run. For example, taking a taxi or bus vs. buying a car. Purchasing a car is obviously more money spent than public transportation every day, but considering the benefits of having a car (immediate and reliable transportation, no wait time, avoiding weather conditions, etc.) the worth outweighs the cost. Before buying anything, such as a new outfit or phone, it’s good to weigh your options (basically the “want vs. need” concept I mentioned earlier). You don’t want to spend money on something you’ll probably never wear or use for a long period of time.

    Credit

    When used wisely, credit cards are beneficial. They’re good to have in case of financial emergencies. Running away from credit cards doesn’t keep you out of debt; paying your bills on time keeps you out of debt. To be trusted with loans (for a car, house, furniture, etc.), it’s beneficial to have a good credit score. Yes, it takes patience but will be well worth it. You can start small, like only using your credit card for groceries or gas (anything you can easily pay off within the month). This will help build your score over time. Also, paying your rent and other bills on time improves your score.

    Yes, it’s okay to have fun, go out with friends, and treat yourself. But, once again, only occasionally if you cannot afford to. It’s very easy to fall into debt, and very hard to get out of it. Only do and buy what you can afford.

    For anyone trying to watch their spending habits, consider an accountability partner (someone who knows you well, cares about your wellbeing, and isn’t afraid to be honest with you). Learning how to save and budget takes time, but is definitely well worth it.

    ——

    Scriptures to Study:

    • [Romans 13:8] “Owe no man anything, except to love one another.”
    • [Luke 19:17] “and he said to him, ‘Well done, good servant; because you were faithful in a very little, have authority over ten cities.”
    • [Matthew 22:21] “Give to Caesar the things which are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”
    • [Matthew 25:14-30] Parable of the servants given the talents (2 invested, 1 didn’t)

    Passive Income ideas:

    • Sell what you own (yard/garage sales, Craigslist, etc.)
    • Side gig hustles (Uber, babysitting, barber/stylist, freelancing, etc.)
    • Leasing out spare bedroom, guesthouse, pool house, etc.
    • Investing
    • Write a book/blog/Vlog (YouTube videos)
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  •   It’s the elephant in the room that no one likes to mention. The topic of conversation that many choose to avoid. But it’s there. It’s real. And it’s emotionally painful. So, let’s talk about it.   Church Hurt.   If you have ever felt offended, betrayed, abandoned, ridiculed, or dealt with controversy within a […]

    Church Hurt: Trusting God through Emotional Wounds

     

    It’s the elephant in the room that no one likes to mention.

    The topic of conversation that many choose to avoid.

    But it’s there. It’s real. And it’s emotionally painful.

    So, let’s talk about it.  

    Church Hurt.

     

    If you have ever felt offended, betrayed, abandoned, ridiculed, or dealt with controversy within a church or ministry, which has either led you to be angry, distrusting toward and convinced to leave, then you have experienced hurt from a church.

    There are many people today, both Christians and non-Christians alike, who have dealt with this type of emotional wound and, unfortunately, many who still suffer silently. It’s easy to expect pain and disappointment in life, but what do you do when those who are devout Christians, who serve God alongside you, have caused it?

    You’re not alone.

    God knows what you’ve been dealing with and will help you through it. Although the coined term is not directly stated in the Bible, being hurt by other brothers and sisters in Christ is acknowledged, as well as how to handle it.     

    1. Draw Near to God

    No matter how we feel, we should always come to God with our problems and our cries. He is Our Creator, Our Healer, and Our Provider. God can fix what no man can’t. Choosing to give up on God, or church altogether is not fair to Him. Don’t allow a human’s mistake to twist your perception of who God is.

    Remember that Jesus Christ, too, was ridiculed, mocked, and falsely accused. That didn’t stop Him from loving, from praying, nor distract Him from what He was called to do. So, if you need to, go ahead and cry it out, pour out your heart in prayer or a journal to God. Fall at His feet and express your pain to Him. Then, allow Him, through the Holy Spirit, to comfort and heal you [Matthew 11:28-30].

    2. Forgive

    Yes, you may be in a lot of pain. Yes, it may be difficult. And yes, you have a right to be angry. We must understand that forgiveness doesn’t mean your offender was not wrong, but instead that you’ve decided to extend grace and release the person(s) and situation from burdening you mentally, spiritually, and emotionally. Why? It is because Christ forgave us. Think of a time you were in the wrong, and someone or God forgave you. What a joyous feeling. As Christians, we are called to forgive, to be forgiven [Ephesians 4:32].

    Understand that humans can disappoint, even righteous ones. Stop wasting time on the should’ve/could’ve/would’ve and give it to God. We (myself included) have to be careful not to put Christians, especially pastors and those in the leadership of a church, on a pedestal. They’re humans too, meaning they’re still susceptible to making mistakes. Even if someone in the church doesn’t acknowledge or agree that they’re at fault, your decision to forgive is beneficial for your healing process and spiritual growth.

    3. Turn to the Word

    The Bible serves as our manual for all of life’s issues, especially in dealing with emotional pain and conflict. The New Testament, for example, is composed of many of the Apostle Paul’s letters to churches that were dealing with internal issues, many of which were indeed disagreements amongst church members. A few solutions throughout scripture include:

     

    – To first examine ourselves [1 Corinthians 11:28]

     

    -Bare and share our burdens with one another [Galatians 6:1]

     

    – To remember we are forgiven through grace [Ephesians 2:1-5]  

     

    – Not to worry, but to instead seek understanding through prayer [Philippians 4:6]

     

    Read God’s Word and let the Holy Spirit guide you on how to resolve the matter. If you’ve already taken the concern to the offender and the church [Matthew 18:15-17] and done all that you could do, leave the rest in God’s hands. Afterward, if you feel led to leave and join a different church ministry, pray on it and seek confirmation through the Holy Spirit. Our feelings and emotions may be strong, but they can also be misleading. Make sure that whatever decision you follow through on, that it is of God, and not of your own accord.

    Like a physical wound, emotional recovery takes time. It’s possible that your experience will build your character and faith, enabling you to comfort and minister to others going through what you’ve gone through and almost gave up on God. As I was inspired to write this article from my emotional healing journey, you too can remind someone else that there is no pain that God isn’t aware of, nor can’t heal us from, for He took it on for us.

    ~ Ashley R. Cottrell

    Photo by averie woodard on Unsplash

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  •   Kim and Kanye. Brad and Angela. Beyonce and Jay Z. How many celebrity couples do we follow or idolize? Sometimes, it’s not even a celebrity, but a cute couple’s photo we might scroll pass on Instagram and immediately think “I want that type of relationship.” Let’s be honest with ourselves. How many images of […]

    #RelationshipGoals

     

    Kim and Kanye. Brad and Angela. Beyonce and Jay Z.

    How many celebrity couples do we follow or idolize? Sometimes, it’s not even a celebrity, but a cute couple’s photo we might scroll pass on Instagram and immediately think “I want that type of relationship.” Let’s be honest with ourselves. How many images of couples have we seen, whether on social media or in magazines and assumed that their relationship is perfect? I’ll admit it; I was guilty of that in the past. Photos labeled with a hashtag Relationship Goals are a trend, not motivation. If we’re not careful, we may begin to worship false representations of love and relationships.

    So, how should we as Christians learn about love and healthy relationship habits?

    Plain and simple: by focusing on God. His love and desire for a relationship with us, as well as teaching us how to have one, is expressed through Jesus Christ and throughout the Bible. Let’s take a look at how Scripture identifies the three most sought for characteristics in a loving relationship:   

    INTIMACY

    Ever since the beginning of creation, God intended closeness and deep affection with humans. We were the only creatures crafted by His hand and directly receiving His Breath of Life [Gen. 2:7]. The Bible tells of Adam and Eve originally living in total and complete harmony with God, able to speak directly to Him. Fast forward to the New Testament; we see that Jesus Christ was able to do the same thing. He often left crowds to be in complete solitude, alone with God [Matt. 14:23].

    Having spent quality time creating us, God already knows everything about us, inside and out [Psalm 139]. How does one get to know another without spending quality time with them? Intimacy is developed, not discovered.

    COMMUNICATION

    You may have heard the saying, “Communication is key.” Why is that? It’s because communication enables us to understand one another’s thoughts and feelings. This way, we are aware of their needs, concerns, and experiences. How do we speak to God? Simple: Through prayer [Phil. 4:6]. How does God speak to us? By His Word [2 Tim. 3:16]. Effective communication requires both speaking and listening. Unfortunately, the problem occurs when people spend more time speaking than listening, or forget to listen altogether.

    FAITHFULNESS & COMMITMENT  

    “Thou shall have no other gods before me” [Exodus 20:3] Why would God say this, knowing that He is the only God? It’s because He knew that we could be easily swooned and redirect our attention to something else. Adultery is not only a sexual term. It’s also used to describe being emotionally unfaithful [Hosea 1:2], seeking happiness and contentment from someone else or something else. If we are to be faithful and committed to a relationship, we have to be careful of who we listen to or allow to influence us. There is a reason scripture tells us to guard our hearts [Prov. 4:23] and that bad company corrupts good character [1 Cor. 15:33].

    It’s no mistake why the Bible often uses spousal analogies to describe Christ’s love and affection toward the church [2 Cor. 11:2; Eph. 5:25]. With that said, don’t be misled by social media photos of couples who “appear” happy and in love. We don’t know what goes on behind closed doors.What we do know, is that the faithful and Mighty God we serve, humbled Himself down to human form to dwell among us, embrace us, and ultimately, sacrifice Himself for us. That, in and of itself, is a relationship goal worth hashtagging.

     

     

    Photo by Naassom Azevedo on Unsplash

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  • I’m convinced that Jesus would win any triathlon. From walking dozens of miles across cities and up mountains [Matt 14:23], you’d have to admit He was pretty active. Many people during Biblical times were most likely in good shape. If we incorporate a few of their physical and dietary routines, I’m sure we’ll see a […]

    What We Can Learn From The Bible On Health and Fitness

    I’m convinced that Jesus would win any triathlon. From walking dozens of miles across cities and up mountains [Matt 14:23], you’d have to admit He was pretty active. Many people during Biblical times were most likely in good shape. If we incorporate a few of their physical and dietary routines, I’m sure we’ll see a positive change in our physique and overall wellbeing.

    Walking & Cardio

    We know that cars and carriages didn’t exist back then, but truth told, many of the people mentioned in the Bible couldn’t afford horses and donkeys. They literally walked everywhere, dozens of miles to work, relay messages, to visit family members, and so on.

    Now I’m not saying trade in your car for a durable pair of shoes, but adding physical activities into your daily routine is a start. Something as simple as a morning jog (or walk) around your neighborhood, or walking to your nearest grocery store for food are great ways to incorporate more cardio into your day. According to LiveStrong, walking at least 30 minutes a day helps build and strengthen your muscles, relieves stress, reduce the risk of heart disease, and increases your metabolism, helping to lose or maintain weight.         

    Physical Activities

    Also, many of their jobs were hands-on activities. Carpentry, farming, reeling in fishnets, fetching water from wells–those weren’t easy tasks, especially when performed every day. And if you pay attention to their average lifespans, many folks during Biblical times lived well past their nineties. Since we now have machines to do much of that type of work in today’s society, voluntary physical labor is considered exercise.

    Exercise is any bodily exertion or activity requiring physical effort. When performed regularly, it improves overall health and, according to a Harvard Health Study, helps us live longer. And remember, exercise doesn’t have to be a gym workout or boring fitness routines. Swimming, dancing, pilates, rock-climbing, kickboxing, are all great ways to get your heart pumping and tone muscles.

    Eating Habits

    You may have heard in your church or from a nutritionist of a dietary plan called the “Daniel Fast.” Whether for spiritual or physical reasoning, the Daniel Fast is known to have a plethora of health benefits. Rooted from the Biblical book of Daniel, this diet (or fast) mimics the story of Daniel and his three close friends restricting their food intake to only fruits and vegetables, and drinking only water for an extended amount of time. The result? Daniel and his friends looked healthier and appeared stronger than those around them who indulged in meat, pastries, and wine [Daniel 1:11-16].

    You don’t have to be a vegetarian/vegan, but refraining from certain meats and foods loaded with fat and grease is wise. Fried and processed foods containing unhealthy amounts of salt and sugars not only slow down your metabolism but also can clog your arteries, increasing the risk of diabetes and diseases. Incorporating more fruits, vegetables, and water into your system will flush out toxins in your body, replace them with vitamins and antioxidants, and will transform fat cells into energy.       

    Remember, your body is a temple [1 Corinthians 6:19], you only have one. It’s essential for us to be good stewards of our bodies so that God can trust us in doing His work here on earth. Let’s hold ourselves accountable and aim for healthy lifestyle habits in 2018!

     

     

     

    Sources:

    Photo by Jason Briscoe on Unsplash

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