Jetlag is kicking my butt. I fell asleep before 10:30 last night and woke up wide-eyed and introspective at 5:20 this morning. I laid in bed staring at the ceiling and my phone and attempting to fall back into blissful dreamland, but it didn’t work. I listened to my father starting his day quietly throughout the house, I waited for my cat to jump into bed with me (he didn’t), and I wondered how long it would take my body to realize that I’m back in the central time zone. After an hour, I gave up. I groggily led my feet to the cold floor and wandered into the kitchen, admitting defeat to my father and the world. I slowly measured my coffee, started the dryer, and began making breakfast. If jetlag is going to win, I won’t let it waste my time.
There’s something meaningful about waking up with the sun. At some deep place in my heart, it makes me excited to see the world and get shit done. This morning my early morning has led me thinking about Spain—the first steps of processing.
Being in Orange Beach always leads me to familiar thought patterns. I become introspective, wondering about my past and future. I ask questions about who I am and often fall victim to lies and self-deprecation. I don’t tell people about it because it goes away when I leave my driveway, but the pattern returns as soon as I do. But coming home from Spain has been different. It’s been free.
I learned a lot about myself in the past four weeks. Going to new, unknown places leaves you with nothing certain buy who you are (and who God is). I met a lot of people from all over the world and they taught me a lot about myself, too. I spent a lot of time thinking about who I am and what I believe and what I want out of life. More than thinking about who I am, I prayed about it. I asked my Maker who He thinks I am and how He loves me. I allowed Him to draw me in, I allowed Him to answer the questions that my time in Europe raised within my heart.
I learned that I cannot sustain myself. I didn’t know what it would be like to go a month without alone time. Honestly, I didn’t know that I would legitamently go a month without alone time. I think that part of me idolizes my introvert habits; I lust after those slow morning and late nights where no one can interrupt my thoughts or actions. In June, I had one single hour by myself. Seriously, one hour. And here’s the thing: I was okay. It was never hard to be an introvert in Spain because Jesus provided me with what I needed: Himself. He kept my heart at rest, He gave me a necessary roommate, He gave me headphones. He sustained me, He blocked my heart from desiring alone time that I could not have. He met me where I was and He showed me how to love myself there.
I believe that I will always be learning about who I am. There’s a quote that says, “Jesus didn’t come to help me discover who I really am, He came to tell me who He knew I really was and to do something about it.” And after my time in Spain, I believe that to my bones. Since the year turned, my identity has felt fuzzy. It hasn’t been, but it’s felt that way. I was apathetic about it, unsure of how to hear God’s voice or care about how sad I was to be Ashton. I put up a front for myself and for others, lying about my confidence and convincing everyone, even myself, that I was confident and free. Right before Spain, I felt myself leaning back into habits of self-hate. I ate poorly, dressed poorly, and didn’t talk to many people. I didn’t feel like myself but I didn’t care. It took a nine-hour plane ride and removal from everything familiar to snap me back to the truth.
I don’t know what happened, really. I think it goes back to the fact that I didn’t have anything to cling to but the consistencies of my Maker. I needed Him—not that I didn’t need Him in the States, but it was easier to act like I could get by on my own. In Spain, I ran to Him like a magnet. From the moment our plane touched the ground, I leaned into His whispers and allowed Him to open my heart to His truth. I allowed Him to teach me how to embrace who Ashton is—both in Spain and in America and France and anywhere else. In the States it’s easy to clothe myself with titles: student, writer, daughter, roommate, friend, introvert, employee, Christian. In Spain, none of that mattered. In Spain, I was Ashton: Daughter of God, heir to His throne, beloved. Coming home, I am all of those things, but I can soberly know what titles don’t matter. I can confidently say that I love who I am again—and I am going to fight to continue to love who Ashton Virginia Ray.
I didn’t think that Spain would change me, but it did. It was the setting for me to fall back in love with my God and the life He has gifted me with. He grew my heart for Spanish, for America, for my friends and family, and all the other gifts He has given me. He taught me about myself and through that He taught me about who He is too. It was such a gift, such a season of rest and laughter and joy.
I am jetlagged, but it’s okay. I will eventually fall back into the central time zone, but I won’t rush. I will use these unwelcomed early mornings to process and pray and give myself grace. My Spain season is over, I’m back in America and I am ready for what’s next. I don’t know what it’ll be, but I know who I am and who God is and what kind of gifts He gives. It’ll be good.