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?
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.
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.