"May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to you, Lord, my rock and my redeemer." Psalm 19:14
Ashley says, "I want my words to bring life to my kids. When I consider what I want my kids to hear and see in me - I want it to be those things that are pleasing to God. The second part of the verse reminds me that God is my Rock and my Redeemer. I do not stand on the shifting sand of culture, the tide of opinions of others, or lies I might believe about myself. My aim is not to please others, but the One who is my Rock and Redeemer."
Chris and I are both life-long Okies. We've been married 15 years and have a crew of 5 kids (aging from 5-13 yrs old). I homeschool our kids and am the founder/owner of SnapShop - an online photography hub for new and growing photographers. Chris is the executive director of 2 non-profits in the foster care realm. He spends his days working alongside churches, agencies and the Department of Human Services to make sure no child in our state is without a loving, safe home. He is a change-maker and inspires me daily. As a family, we relish any chance to travel, explore or create an adventure. We are also all Crossfitters - totally random, but it is something that we can do together and keeps us ready for any adventure that comes along. My kids can put most adults to shame on a difficult hike!
I went into motherhood with no expectations and completely clueless. One thing that has surprised me is how incredibly fun it is to be a mom. Of course there are hard, challenging moments and some seasons are more difficult than others. However, there is no one I have more fun with than my kids. They keep life light, full of humor, and unpredictable. I look forward to waking up each day and discovering what randomness will greet me. A couple of my kids are quick-witted and have a natural knack for humor. I had no idea laughing would be such a tremendous part of motherhood.
My routines as a mom have changed with parenting seasons. When my kids were in the baby/toddler phase, I regularly met up with friends for lunch (kids in tow). Those regular times with friends kept me from feeling lonely or isolated in the early years of motherhood. As kids got older, it has become much harder to meet with friends. Over the last few years the routine that helps me thrive the most is starting my days at CrossFit. Getting up while everyone else is asleep and being active gives me energy to handle the day. There are many mornings I hear the workout and think, "There is no way I can do that!" Somehow, I always finish. Throughout the day, while facing the demanding routines of motherhood, I often remind myself I can do hard things - I start everyday doing hard things. It also gives me a chance to daily connect with other adults that I wouldn't have the chance to interact with otherwise. Those adults, who aren't in my other circles, provide perspective and encouragement that has become vital for me. I have a healthy outlet for stress each day while getting physically and mentally stronger...all of which allow me to thrive as a mom.
Psalm 19:14. We are a homeschooling family, which means my kids are around me a lot! Not only do they hear nearly every word I speak, they pick up on all my unspoken thoughts and feelings (the meditations of my heart). I want my words to bring life to my kids. Often what comes out of my mouth is the overflow of my mind and my heart. When I consider what I want my kids to hear and see in me - I want it to be those things that are pleasing to God. If the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart are pleasing to God, well, they will also be the types of things I want my kids to hear and pick up from me. The second part of the verse reminds me that God is my Rock and my Redeemer. I do not stand on the shifting sand of culture, the tide of opinions of others, or lies I might believe about myself. My aim is not to please others, but the One who is my Rock and Redeemer.
I can be a bit of an adventure junkie. I've gone skydiving, took trapeze lessons, did stunt horseback riding, did barrel roles in an old war biplane and a host of other things. In college, I had aspirations to become a stuntwoman. If the opportunity presents itself, I still wouldn't mind taking up that career! (If anyone reading this wants to take me on some kind of a physical adventure, let me know!)
I began that hashtag as an extension of my SnapShop workshops and blog. I do not live an extraordinary life in the way most people would define it. I live in a small town in Oklahoma. I homeschool 5 kids. My parents and in-laws live a few miles away. There is not a single formal gown in my closet, but you can find a lot of t-shirts. However, from my perspective my days are full of extraordinary moments. You don't have to teach kids to stand in awe of the world around them.
As we age, it seems like we lose that ability. Maybe it is the hustle and the demands of responsibility. I'm not sure what it is, but I'm fighting it with eyes wide open. When I go through my regular, mundane days looking to notice the extraordinary around me - I see it. Simple moments like watching my kids out the back window are no longer ordinary, I see the magnificent. The hashtag is simply a way for others to share and celebrate those moments too.
I know I have a million, but I think I've blocked them all out of my memory. I could list a bunch of my friends' embarrassing moments though! I'm sure my friends could list some for me!
Well, that is a very loaded question and I could write pages and pages on each section of that question. I'll just hit a few things here. I would say, "Hang in there and cling to Jesus." Goodness that road can be so long, confusing, and difficult. No one can prepare you. The challenges, beauty, and pain do not end the day a child is placed in your arms - that is only the beginning. Your path and experience will not look just like someone else's, so you might as well let go of any expectations right now. Expectations can eat you alive when they aren't met and rarely are they met when you are talking about adoption and foster care. Don't let fear of being hurt hold you back - especially with foster care.
We were made to love - love is risky, but it is always worth it. I would also encourage you to keep taking steps forward when you can and find contentment when you can't. So much is out of your control and, at least for me, it was (and is) the ultimate lesson in learning what it means to wait on the Lord and place all my hope in Him. The darkest moments and most overwhelmingly good in my life have come through the building our family through adoption. I don't want to imagine what my family would look like if adoption (and foster care) were not a part of it. (I documented our adoption journey here: http://www.
Set social media boundaries. Social media really wasn't a thing when I was a new mom. Blogging was just emerging. In watching young moms now (I'm still a young mom too), it seems like many place unrealistic expectations on themselves because they are trying to live up to what is portrayed on social media. There are so many voices telling you how to mother - you've got to be able to block a lot of them out! If you follow someone and you leave feeling yucky about yourself as a mom - unfollow. Motherhood is hard enough, so there is no need to bring yourself down following people that don't encourage you, make you laugh or lift you up.
I think setting social media boundaries also allows you to discover who you truly are as a mom. God picked you to mother your children, not the mom you see on Instagram or at the park. He picked YOU. Embrace your unique gifts and don't chase after mimicking the talents and abilities of others. I have to put 'virtual blinders' on all the time to keep myself from comparing and feeling less than. My kids need me to be walking with Jesus and loving them out of that overflow...your kids need the same.
I want to give my kids the world - not in the sense of giving them everything they want or dream of, but literally giving them the world. We want to travel to as many places as possible, experience all the cultures we can, and meet people from all walks of life. I want my kids to experience the beautiful diversity of humanity - to respect, love and celebrate our differences. I also hope they see in me that following Jesus is an adventure - a fulfilling, exciting, surprising, beautiful adventure.
I hope I can offer them an example of the joy of living with margin, loving extravagantly, serving with a smile and being deeply grateful for the little and big things of life. We joke that we should have installed revolving doors at our house because there is a constant flow of people coming and going. I hope my kids take with them a love for hospitality and desire for their homes to be refuge for those that wander in.
Beyond all that - I want to offer my kids unconditional love. I want to be a soft place for them to land. I want my arms to bring comfort, rest, and tenderness. I want to offer them a place to laugh, to cry, to be angry, to be sad, to celebrate and to know love.
Because of grace,