I Once Was Lost

I don’t remember when it happened.

One day, I just realized that I didn’t do it anymore.

I couldn’t remember the last time I had prayed aloud.

Well.  There were the bedtime prayers and meal blessings with the kids.  But other than that?  It just didn’t happen anymore.

I’m not sure why.  With church or small group or Bible study always going on, there were plenty of opportunities.  I would just sit there, though, with the weight of the pause pressing on my shoulders and the heat of the moment burning my cheeks.

It’s not like I thought my friends or church family would jump to their feet, laughing and pointing at me.  Why was I so self-conscious?

ash mountain top

Once upon a time, I was an adventurer.  Once upon a time, I was fearless.  Each day was lived to the fullest.  Carpe diem and viva la vie boheme and all that.

Once upon a time, I climbed mountains and flew across oceans.  I had a passion and I wanted to offer it to the world.  I prayed aloud all the time.  In the arms of my dearest friends and with complete strangers at the next gas pump.

Somewhere along the way, that fire quieted down until only embers were left.

I think I got lost in the haze of day-to-day.  Over the last decade, my adventures have consisted of navigating Walmart without getting our faces on the evening news.  The only mountains I’ve climbed lately are the lofty peaks in the laundry room that I have to step on to get to the dryer.

When I became a mother, I think I hit the pause button and entered some kind of self-imposed hiatus on me.

My life now focused on sleep schedules and potty training, supporting my husband through nursing school, encouraging him in his music ministry, arranging the therapy schedules, and somehow making sure each one felt loved and validated.

Moms.  You get what I’m saying.  It’s in our nature to give and give and give to our families.

And that is part of what makes a mom so fiercely beautiful.  It works until the time comes when we have nothing left of ourselves to give.

That is where I was two weeks ago.  Drained.  Short-tempered.  Exhausted.  Spiritually parched.  Easily frustrated.

I was getting everything in place for me to go to a leadership conference.  I was pretty nervous because no one else from my MOPS group could go with me.  I would be on my own, not knowing a single one of the few thousand other moms that would be there.

And a funny thing happened.

It started slowly with just a glimpse here and there on the flight to Kansas City.  Then the flashes came more frequently until, on the second day of the conference, I caught my reflection in a Starbucks window.

It was me.  Me me.  I saw it in my eyes and heard it in my laugh.

I left home with a heavy cloak of expectations tied tight around my shoulders.  But there at MOMcon, it was a blank canvas.  No one knew me.  They didn’t expect anything of me.  I wasn’t “supposed” to be acting or speaking a certain way to fulfill the roles of Jake’s wife and the kids’ mom.

I was Ashley.  The cloak had been dropped somewhere along the way.

It could have been the result of any one of the amazing speakers (Beth Moore, Jen Hatmaker, Lysa TerKeurst, Kathi Lipp, Elisa Morgan, Alexandra Kuykendall).  It could have something to do with the empowering workshops offered.  It may have been the new friendships forming.

I think it had to be all of that but with the key element of an incredibly rare experience of being totally on my own with no expectations.

I once was lost.  But now I’m found.

I’m Ashley.

And if you see me at the gas station, be prepared.  I’ll be the crazy lady who drops the pump to run over and pray for you.  You might want to avoid eye contact.

Flight Lessons

The unmistakable smell of jet fuel hit my nose and I immediately felt the cold sweat break out across my forehead.  There was something stuck to the wheel of my suitcase that created a rhythmic whirring as I rolled across the dark parking lot.  I tried to match my breathing to the sound, but my pulse wasn’t as cooperative.  It seemed to speed up with each step.  Despite the predawn hour, our little regional airport was already bustling with activity.  By the time I made it through the sliding doors, my head was spinning.

This was happening.

I waited in the security line, trying to keep up the appearance of being an active listener to my new friend.  What was actually going on in my mind – about a thousand and one things that could go wrong in the next 20 minutes.  What if my bag was too big?  What if I was wrong about the allowed liquids?  What if I didn’t make it through security?  What if I didn’t have a seat?  What if had a complete and total breakdown in front of all these strangers?

There was no backing out.  I was getting on this plane and I was flying to Kansas City for the weekend of a lifetime.  And I was going to do it no matter how terrified I was to fly.

From my seat near Gate B7, I stared at this seemingly tiny jet and watched the pilot through the window as he checked gauges and turned dials and did whatever pilots do before they take off.  He gulped some coffee from a cup.  “Yes sir,” I thought.  “Drink up!”

As we began to board the plane, I walked down the tunnel with all the enthusiasm of a death march.  Just before I walked through the little door, I placed my right hand on the cold surface of the plane and whispered a desperate prayer.

In the blink of an eye, the flight attendants were in their seats and we were zooming down the runway.  I felt my body sink into my seat as we defied gravity and left the ground.  My eyes shut tight as my lips moved over the words of Romans 15:13.

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

When my ears popped for the last time and the plane leveled out, I managed to squint my left eye open a tiny bit.  And this is what I saw…


Seeing the sunrise from 30,000 feet just took my breath away.  For the rest of the flight, I was completely fascinated by my view from the tiny window.  When I had my moments of wishing my husband was there with me to hold my hand, I felt God whisper to my spirit, “Not this time.  This time is just for you and me.  We’re going to do this together.”

I had no choice but to rely on God.  I went to him with my fear.  I went to him for comfort.  His words calmed my spirit.

How many times in my life have I seen this?  When all is stripped away, when there are no other options offered by this world, when I just can’t do it on my own.  Those are the times when I am closest to him.  When I’m desperate to grab hold of him.

And he is always there.  Again.  And again.  And again.

He is faithful.

When the jobs are lost.  When the bank account is in the red.  When the diagnoses come.  When I am feeling lost and alone.

He is with me.

Now.  Did I still jump two feet when the landing gear popped open?  Of course, I did.  Much to the amusement of my neighbors.  But I am holding tight to those lessons I learned and I’m taking them with me.  Now when I see that streak of white against the blue sky, I smile and remember that sweet time I was able to spend one-on-one with my Father.