Hi! I’m so glad you stopped by. I hope you’ll feel welcome here. This is just my little nook in the great big world of the internet where I like to share my stories and hear yours, too. I believe God is writing a story in each of our lives. Some days it’s an adventure, some days a drama, and a lot of days feel like a slapstick comedy. No matter the day and no matter our story, I believe we’re meant to share them to encourage one another. Wherever we might be in our story, we can’t give up. We never know what God has in store for us just around the next bend. We just have to keep turning the page.
I saw you over there from my seat on the back row.
We stuck it out, you and I. Two tedious hours of an elementary school awards ceremony to acknowledge all the hard work throughout the year.
Two hours of a seemingly endless list of names called out, a few over and over and over again.
I saw you clapping for each and every one of those names. Even when the same name was called out for the 17th time. I saw you smiling congratulations to the parents tripping over themselves to get the good photo spot in the aisle.
I noticed your smile grew a bit tight as the long minutes passed. I’m sure mine looked exactly the same as we waited, you and I.
The number of awarded kids grew and grew while we waited and waited for our kids to have their names called.
We knew going in that our kids probably weren’t the top grade earners in their classes. We knew they weren’t the captains of any sports teams. But surely there would be something. Some reason to hear their names called and to feel a bit of pride to be ending well. Something.
I saw you look over to where your child was using empty hands to cheer on classmates collecting handfuls of awards. I saw you quickly wipe away that tear. My heart hurt with you.
We’re stuck in this gray area, you and I. There’s a tug of war between the two sides. One says, “Give every child a prize.” The other says, “The world is a tough place that makes us earn it and so should they.”
We’re torn. We understand both sides. We’re the ones in the middle.
The children who won all those awards should absolutely be celebrated and acknowledged. They worked hard. Their parents should be so proud.
But we should be proud, too.
While our children might have come home empty-handed, feeling embarrassed and left out, we still have so many reasons to celebrate.
Because there are plenty of achievements that don’t come with certificates.
He always showed up, even when it was hard.
She often shared lunch with a friend who had none.
He could be counted on to encourage classmates who were sad.
She worked harder on that project than she has ever before worked on anything else.
He invited the whole class to his party, even that one kid no one likes.
She is that one kid no one likes and yet she didn’t give up.
Make sure they know that what they accomplished this year is worthy of celebration.
Because the world is tough. It wears on our souls.
I am so thrilled to be able to share some of our stories at The Huffington Post. Today, I’m sharing How We Told Our Son About His Autism. I would absolutely love for you to click through and join me. You can leave a comment or share with someone who might be encouraged by our story. Thanks, all!
We realized we were done having babies. Our youngest was almost five when I watched some men load up our crib and changing table into the back of a pickup truck. They drove away, carrying all my original plans with them. We’d always said we wanted three or four kids.
That night, I had a good cry and some good wine, and let go of my expectations. We counted our blessings. We had two amazing kids who daily taught us life lessons of love and faith and perseverance.
It was almost exactly one year later that I found out Abby was on her way.
We never expected a six-year age difference between our youngest kids. We would have never planned it that way. They say hindsight is 20/20 and I have definitely discovered some major benefits of having our last baby so much later.
1. Everything is more relaxed.
With our first two babies, schedule was king and every hour of our day was dictated. I found that I was homebound most of the time due to naptimes, playtimes, and mealtimes. Now that I’m older and wiser, I know I have the power to create flexibility. Also, I’ve seen the other side of the mountain. I’ve lived to see that truly, one day they really will sleep. Or be out of diapers. Or be able to face forward in the car. Or whatever my current frustration is. I know it’s just the briefest of moments in the grand scheme of things.
2. Going along with #1, I’m not as rigid in my thinking or expectations.
There is freedom in knowing that I don’t know it all. And it’s okay that I don’t know it all. I don’t think I even want to know it all. Each kid is so unique and one method will work beautifully for one and not at all for another. I’ve actually saved myself quite a few headaches in approaching baby #3 as a blank slate. We’re learning what works best for us together.
3. Kids are stinkin’ resilient.
In my early days of motherhood, I was completely convinced I was screwing up so badly that my kids would never recover. Emotionally, physically, spiritually, you name it. Now that I’ve been mothering for almost a decade, I’ve learned that my kids are just awesome in spite of me. God is on His throne and my stupid mistakes in parenting are not going to thwart His plans for my babies. I just have to show up every day and do the best I can and He’s got it covered.
4. It really does take a village.
I once worried almost daily about each kid getting his or her “share” of me. I just knew for sure that I was failing at fully meeting any one of my children’s needs. Guess what? I was. One human being cannot be the ultimate meeter of needs for any other human being. We are not created that way. We have to delegate. I always thought the saying, “It takes a village to raise a child,” was all about the kid, but it’s just as much about the village. It’s a beautiful, mutually beneficial balance.
5. If parenting is hard then you’re doing it right.
I’m planning a whole separate post just on this point. Parenting is hard. Sometimes it hurts. There are countless, priceless, golden moments scattered like diamonds throughout this parenting journey. There are also moments when you feel like banging your head against the wall because you’ve doled out the same consequences for the same offenses over and over. It takes a lot of work to be consistent. It’s frustrating and exhausting. If it were easy, you’d be doing it wrong.
What hindsight would you add? Share in the comments!
I am so thrilled to have a post up on The Huffington Post today! Here is a preview of my post and I hope you’ll click through and join me to read the remainder of my story!
When I was a little girl, I was fascinated by the story of Cinderella.
Here was this girl who had a rough go of it but she worked hard and followed all the rules and her life turned out happily ever after. She made it seem so easy. As a teenager, I assumed if I worked hard and followed all the rules, my life should turn out happily ever after, too. Makes total sense, right?
(I know, I know. Quit laughing.)
These days, when the dishes and the laundry are piled up and there’s some unidentifiable stain on my clothes and I have to think really hard to remember if I brushed my teeth this morning, I want to throw something at Cinderella. Seriously. Even during her floor-scrubbing days, she looked perfectly lovely and was always ready to try on new shoes.
I think Mommy Groups can be a lot like Cinderella.
When I walked into my first MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) group, I was such a mess. I felt like I was failing at just about every aspect of my life. Just that morning, I yelled at my kids, snapped at my husband, and the dishes from last night’s fairly unhealthy convenience meal were still in the sink.
The ladies I met that Wednesday were very welcoming and sweet, but I honestly considered never going back.
They were all so put together. They had real clothes on. They smelled nice. It sounded like their families were perfect. Being there in the presence of these moms, I was forced to let go of the idea I’d been clinging to that no mom was perfect and no one had it all together. Because these women obviously did.
They were just like Cinderella.
To continue reading, please join me at The Huffington Post! http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/community-is-the-best-gift-we-can-give-ourselves_us_5730cb33e4b046ff51c0e292
“Babe. Wake up.” I shook my husband’s shoulder as he lay sleeping peacefully. “JAKE! Seriously! Get up! We have a gas leak!”
I was sitting straight up in bed staring at the ceiling and walls of our bedroom as they swirled before my eyes. My husband finally rolled over, still half asleep, and looked at me with concern. “Ashley. We don’t even have gas. You’re hallucinating.”
Hmm. That might explain the purple bunny I thought I saw hopping down the hall.
I was five weeks into my second round of motherhood and apparently not handling the sleep deprivation especially well. The two-year-old and the baby seemed to work together as a team to keep us hopping all night. Hooray for sibling bonding!
Fast-forward through seven years of glorious sleep, and despite not growing the third arm I was convinced was necessary for a third baby, we have a precious new lamb. She is nine months old and a firm believer that sleep is for slackers. So while my husband is working night shifts at the hospital, I’m working the night shift at home. Despite the occasional vibrating eyeballs, there have (mercifully) been no more hallucinations.
With or without purple bunnies, I have been learning quite a bit during these countless sleepless nights.
I’d love for you to click through to join us over at The Glorious Table to continue reading about the important life lessons that can be learned in the middle of the night. http://theglorioustable.com/2016/05/lessons-from-the-middle-of-the-night/
Two days later, I followed up with my doctor. There was another silent and still ultrasound. There were tears. There were a lot of labs drawn. There was a brief glimmer of hope in the doctor wanting to wait before making a final treatment plan.
More loops in the roller coaster.
And this is where we were on the day my husband and I were to head out of town on a very rare getaway to see Rend Collective in concert.
I packed my overnight bag in a daze. We had been so looking forward to this trip. They are one of our very favorite bands and we’d already bought the tickets. Even though we were emotionally exhausted, we decided to make the best of it.
The entire four hour drive was spent waiting on pins and needles for the nurse to call with my lab results. I called her twice with no success.
Finally, as we were pulling into the parking lot, the phone rang. The labs were inconclusive.
I walked into the concert not knowing if my baby was alive.
Hindsight is a precious gift. At the time, I could not wrap my mind or heart around what was happening and the timing of it all.
But now I know the lesson God wanted to teach me that night. And His timing provided the best way to learn.
The concert was not a show. Not at all. It was a night of worship. And, if I’m honest, I was not in the best emotional place for that.
But God is on His throne and the Holy Spirit is not deterred by emotions. The Lord ministered to my heart and I could not help but worship the Creator.
My Creator. My baby’s Creator. I knew I had to trust God in His plans. No matter what the outcome might be.
There was peace. Such peace. And there was joy. Which seems so improbable. But the joy of the Lord is not situational.
God was merciful to us and the following week showed a strong heartbeat and a growing babe. We named her Abigail (“the Father’s joy”) and we’ll be celebrating her first birthday in just ten days.
God’s divine timing had us in the right place at the right moment to truly learn about the joy of the Lord. In spite of our emotions, we worshipped with abandon and chose to glorify Him no matter what. We got a chance to deeply experience the peace that passes all understanding.
Tomorrow night, we are getting a chance to worship with Rend Collective again and I am so looking forward to it. Our life has been less dramatic lately but still tough.
The icky things of daily life pile up one after another and it’s hard to shovel through when you’re not sleeping.
I’ve just been so worn.
I’ve found that sometimes a strong faith comes easier in the dramatic valleys of life than it does during the long hot trudges through life’s deserts.
I’m looking forward to celebrating Him tomorrow night.
Over Spring Break, I got a chance to sit out on the back porch of my parents’ house. They live in the quiet countryside of north Florida, surrounded by pine forest.
All throughout the day, the only noise is ours. Someone puttering in the kitchen. Someone else calling the dogs back in. Laughter and playing and the occasional argument between the kids.
But at nighttime, the woods come alive with a loud symphony of sound. Sitting on the back porch, with the frogs and crickets and birds all shouting their songs, God reminded me of something.
Each individual creature is tiny and fragile. On its own, it could be overlooked and not noticed. It could be forgotten, easily stepped on or quickly dismissed as insignificant.
But together? When they come together to raise their voices? It’s a choir that can be heard for miles. It will not be ignored.
The same can be true for us.
Individually, we feel fragile. But together, we are strong.
We are made for community.
I recently had the privilege of witnessing this firsthand.
Jennie Allen, a popular Christian speaker and author, was alone in a hotel room, trying to finish a book and realized her own need for community. With no real expectations, she tossed out a link for a Facebook group.
As of this writing, in the week since its birth, “Our Village” currently has 4,983 members.
Almost 5,000 people. Mostly women. Who immediately felt the need in their own hearts to connect and jumped in.
In the last week, I have seen hundreds and hundreds of posts. They mostly sound a bit like the one I wrote in my head and never posted:
Hey everyone. I wasn’t going to introduce myself because there are just so many people to know but I thought I might as well go for it. I’m so-and-so from somewhere. I’m a wife/mother/friend/sister/daughter/teacher. I’m glad to be a part of this group because _________.
And where that ________ is? Insert any one of five thousand incredible, unique, God-given stories. A story that might not have been told because there are so many stories that have already been shared.
And we tend to feel like our voice and our story isn’t as needed or as exciting or as important as the others.
But we are made for community.
We need to hear each others’ stories. And we need our stories to be heard. God made us that way.
For every reluctant introduction, the need to be known finally outweighed the fear of being overlooked. The need to be a part of something bigger than ourselves was stronger than the fear of rejection.
But strangers who are now a part of something bigger than themselves.
I have seen women jump to congratulate and cheer on successes. I have seen women humble themselves and bravely tell their truths once held hidden. I have seen women shower grace upon grace.
Strangers no more.
And again I’m reminded of the frogs, the crickets, and the birds. Each one a tiny creature. One small part of a much larger whole.
But together, we are strong.
We are made for community.