BOSS UP OR BOW DOWN

I didn't choose this life. 

Being divorced with two children before I hit thirty certainly wasn't on my bucket list.

However, I also never had the desire to launch my own businesses and become a member of the new honorary society of involuntary #MOMbosses. The aforementioned life-altering experience begat the next so, here I am. Thrust into a life where the only choice I was given was to fly or fall and my children will never crash and burn on my watch

So, I grind. 

IMG_5881.JPG

After having dinner with my family to celebrate my birthday last week, a friend came over to hang out for a while. Our schedules had been crazy busy for about two months and some much-needed quality time was the perfect birthday present. We joked, laughed and shared the joys and weights of the past few months. At one point, he mentioned that he'd been so busy lately that he didn't even know Hurricane Nate was barreling directly towards us a couple of weeks ago until about two days before it was scheduled to hit. In the midst of more laughter, I looked at him and pressed pause on the chuckles for a second to make a quick confession.

"You know I was a little (lot) salty that you didn't check on me to make sure I straight before the storm hit, right?"

Just as he responded with a smirk and "You right. I dropped the ball on th...", I interrupted. 

See even though my feelings were real, I didn't feel like they were justified. I reminded him that it wasn't his responsibility to look after me; I'm no one's responsibility but my own. We aren't involved romantically, my children are precisely that; mine. The situation forced me to get ish handled on my own. Growing up on the Gulf Coast has made me nothing close to a stranger on how to prepare for a hurricane. I Googled a checklist and made sure me and my little people were fully stocked with bottled water, non-perishable foods, flashlights, batteries, candles, snacks, coloring books, crayons, etc. I bathed everyone early, downloaded their favorite movies to my iPad, dressed everyone in our pajamas for the night and waited. 

He still apologized, and tried to convince me that it actually was his responsibility to check on me as a man who has placed himself in my life as someone who cares about my well-being so he should've done more. 

Unfortunately, I believe I would waste several irreplaceable seconds of my life by filling them with feelings of disappointment if I lived life within the walls of that version of truth. 

When I found myself almost nine months pregnant with my son and sleeping in my grandmother's guest room with my 15-month-old daughter as my then husband and I were on the brink of disaster. Now, at that point in time I had a few options. I could have allowed hurt to overcome me and sink into depression. I could've allowed bitterness to consume me and attempted to retaliate. Or I could've pressed HARD into my Savior, stepped up my game and got on my grind by creating several ways to provide for my little family just in case I was ever in a position where I had to do it all on my own. It was sink or swim. 

Boss up, or bow down. 

Rise to the challenge, or kneel in defeat. 

I lived life under the covering of my step-father from age 6 to 26. That covering then shifted to my husband, and it has rested in my own hands since he allowed the words "I have no desire for there to be anything between us anymore" to flow from his lips in 2015. At this moment, the only consistent covering in my life is God and there's no better protection than that.

So yes, I have issues being dependent on other people. Especially men. I pause when he holds doors open for me, often tell him I don't need help carrying things because I've been carrying the weight of abandonment on my own for so long that I've somewhat forgotten how to let someone share the load.

However, these are the cards I have been dealt and I have placed each one in the hands of The Father.  

I didn't seek out this life. 

But I'm living it. 

Like a boss. 

 

xoxo, 

Ashley Danielle

 

BIRTHING GRACE

Last Friday, I turned 31.

Thirty-one.

I spent the day thanking God for blessing me with another year. Another year to smile, to laugh, to cry, to dream, and to love like never before. I'm entering this next chapter of my life with my heart set on what matters most, and aware of the strength He has given me to accomplish great things. Great things like refusing to allow fear to keep me from pressing through the weight of the last few years and write and publish my first book.

This book is so much more than words in a book; it's my heart on paper. 

Yesterday at the 5th Quarter Classic Pop-Up Brunch & Art Exhibit signing copies of Swimming In Grace.

Yesterday at the 5th Quarter Classic Pop-Up Brunch & Art Exhibit signing copies of Swimming In Grace.

Honestly, I can't believe the day finally came. I literally wanted to cry, laugh, shout it from the rooftops and hide in a corner all at once. Not because I was afraid of whether or not it would be received well. The fact that God specifically spoke to my spirit and gave me the honor to write this book has always been without contestation. However, adrenaline was running through my veins like fire the entire weekend. My first book (yes, there will be more) is making its way into the hands of women all over this country that I've been praying for since the beginning of the year. Writing has been a passion of mine since I was in the third grade, but this is the most vulnerable writing I've ever done.

One night when I was still in graduate school, I was hanging out with a a few friends and we got into a very serious conversation about the habits and vices we struggled with the most. I pulled out my poetry book while others shared stories from their past that had caused them to keep certain areas of their lives a secret, sins that were holding them in a bondage they weren't quite sure how to shake. That night, I penned my first piece about my abortion. 

I will never be able to fully describe the freedom I felt afterwards.  

At this point, I have performed that piece for hundreds of people and seen weights be lifted and hearts set free. James 5:16 reminds us of the glorious healing power of confessing our sins to those who can pray with us as we walk out this Christian life. I pray   Swimming In Grace    helps others experience the same freedom in Christ I have. The enemy has no power over us when we fully immerse ourselves in the reality of God's grace.

My prayer isn't exactly that people take my side, but moreso that hearts are healed after reading this book. I don't care if people know who I am; I simply want you to know His grace. I want everyone who lays their eyes on these pages experiences the freedom only God's grace can provide, and that they pour that energy back out into the universe. 

Seeing this book make its way across the country is one of the most gratifying feelings of my life. I've been pregnant with these words for so many years, and I've now given birth to such a huge part of my purpose. 

Whether you have had an abortion, know someone who has, currently work or have previously worked in an abortion clinic, or have simply ever felt like you were drowning in the aftermath of a series of bad decisions, I hope you will add Swimming In Grace to your reading list. 

CLICK HERE TO ORDER. 

 

xoxo, 

 Ashley Danielle 

HAITI: AND HE SENT THEM OUT

I don't have the words to accurately pour out the way my heart felt after returning from a medical mission to Gonaives, Haiti last Friday.

My plan before we left was to write every night once we returned to the hotel, then compile it all when we made it back to the states. However, each night I found myself sitting on my bed with my laptop in the empty space beside me not being able to type a single thing.

I still can't find the words to quite describe the way it felt to have a woman stand in front of me with four small children who all need antibiotics for stomach worms. My senior seminar didn't prepare me to vividly illustrate the way people smiled as I handed them the rare medications they so desperately needed, but couldn't afford or didn't have easy access to. You know, things like over-the-counter pain pills, cough syrup and allergy medicine. None of my writing courses in undergrad taught me how to paint a portrait of children playing and taking baths in a polluted river under a bridge, or decaying concrete walls in a church bathroom.

But I can invite you into one moment.  

We toured a hospital before leaving Gonaives. I'd managed to keep from crying this entire trip, then we walked into the hospital room where they cared for the malnourished children. There was only one child in there. She was so tiny that I'm not even sure how old she was. My eyes filled up with tears so fast I just had to walk away.

I thought about my own children and how I feel when they just have a simple cold, and could only imagine how her mother might feel. I remember holding my daughter to my chest in the back of an ambulance when she had RSV and could hardly breathe. I felt so helpless and just kept praying and praying. When we were being discharged the doctor told me I did the right thing by following my mother's intuition and bringing her in because she was moments from going into respiratory distress.

Then, I wondered where her mother was.

Had she been abandoned?

Did her mother have other children she couldn't leave so she couldn't stay in the hospital with her? Was she even alive?  

I will never know why God chose for me to be born in the country I was, and to experience the privileges I have. My children have never known hunger. Not only was #FelicityGrace able to get the care she needed quickly, my insurance paid for it and I didn't have to question for a second if she was getting the best care available.

The people of Gonaives don't have that.

I understand that not everyone reading this is in a position to take two weeks off work to serve abroad, but I want to encourage each of you take action in two simple yet powerful ways: pray and give. 

Pray for people around the world who live a life of poverty that most of us could never imagine, and pray for those who have committed to serving them. Give to The Luke 9 Project, the organization I travelled with, by clicking here to help us prepare for our next trip to care for the people of Gonaives. 

God has given us a mission "to proclaim the kingdom of heaven and to heal". The Luke 9 Project has taken on the task of sending medical missionaries to the front lines of this fight. Please pray for our team, and donate whatever you can to fight alongside us. 

 

xoxo,

Ashley Danielle

 

 

 

WITHOUT THE CHERRY ON TOP

I had an interesting encounter yesterday. 

When I made it to my women's small group that evening, I was still trying to process in my mind what my exact feelings were. I had lunch with a friend (I promise I do more than go to lunch with friends, y'all), and it just left me with an awkward feeling. 

Let me first say this; the entire little day-date was great. It was light-hearted and innocent, even though we did discuss a few heavy topics, and I'm so blessed to have someone in my life who I can just be casual with.

Nonetheless, I left disappointed. 

Even as I write this I'm judging my own thoughts. I'm sure they'll read this and be completely perplexed because everything really did go smoothly. The food was good, the weather was nice so we chose to eat on the patio, and I even laughed so hard at one point that a tear made its way from my eye. So, why wasn't the seemingly perfect "let's catch up" moment between two friends not enough the way it played out? What was missing? What was I still wanting?

Unknowingly to even myself until I was in the moment, I'd placed one small expectation on our conversation that wasn't met. And until about twenty minutes ago (it's midnight now), I was allowing myself to diminish the entire experience because it didn't come with a cherry on top

Why do we do this?

Why do we often miss out on the opportunity to be positively impacted by an experience simply because it didn't play out the way we'd imagined in our heads? We put people, events, and even ideologies on these pedestals they never asked to be on, and then we're left in a fog when the reality of their existence is less than the dream. 

Here is my challenge for you as we go into the weekend: Learn to let life just be life. 

Smile at things that bring you joy. Laugh at everything you find hilarious (even when the person next to you doesn't think so, makes it even more interesting *wink*). Stand outside and enjoy the feeling of the sun on your face. Dance in the rain. Dance in your car. Dance in your living room like you're on America's Best Dance Crew when in reality you have trouble keeping up in games of musical chairs. Don't live your life wishing for more and chasing the idea of who you believe someone is or should be, when what was right in front of you was all you needed. Their truth was precisely what God needed you to receive from them in that season of your life, not your illusion. 

Life is so short, and meaningful friendships are so rare. 

Appreciate every moment you have with those who care about you enough to want to spend time getting to know your heart and sharing their own joys and fears with you.

They won't always be there.

Cherish the memories you create with those you care about, and be grateful to have them as the perfect dessert to the sometimes much too heavy main course of your day. 

 

xoxo,

Ashley Danielle

NO HOLDING BACK

I'm not a runner. 

I recently ran my first 10K, and thoroughly enjoyed it, but I don't fit the mold of what most people consider to be a "runner".

I don't know how to pick out the proper running shoes. I buy my workout attire based primarily on aesthetics. I don't own any gadgets outside of my iPhone to track the little training that I do before a race. I'm not affiliated with any running groups. Heck, I can barely find just one friend to run a mile with me once a week. 

After the race, I met up with an old friend for brunch. He'd run the race as well, and he and I had been randomly crossing paths over the past year or so, and finally found ourselves in a position to catch up for more than twenty awkward minutes at an event surrounded by other people. The atmosphere was relaxed, the shrimp and grits served as a beautiful distraction from my throbbing knees, and the conversation was a relief to the weight of so much that had been going on in my life.

In the midst of us trying to fill each other in on the last eight years of our lives, he told me of an encounter he had while running another race earlier this year.

While running his first half-marathon, he started approaching a man on the side of the road who was encouraging many of the runners. He said he could hear the man saying, "Good job!" and "Looking good!" or "You've got this!" as those ahead of him passed by. However, as he got closer the man looked at him and said, "Looks like you're holding back." 

Well, dang. 

He said the remark took him by surprise at first, but as he thought about it for a second he quickly asked of himself, "Why am I holding back?" He realized that his body had been better prepared for the grueling demands of running 13.1 miles than he'd originally thought, and in return he wasn't giving it his all. He was allowing comfort to draw out laziness. 

I couldn't help but think of how I have done that in my own life time and time again. There have been moments where I was given the opportunity to do something that really pushed me mentally and physically and creatively, and I spent weeks preparing. Most of the time to motivation for such intense preparation was birthed from fear of failure. I would be so nervous that those uncharted waters would be too deep for me, and I'd find myself calling back to shore for help before I even lost sight of the harbor. So, I would do everything within my power to make sure the obstacles ahead wouldn't catch me off guard.

But what happens when the only thing that surprises us while pressing towards our goal is the simplicity of the journey?

We begin to slack.

We coast.

We sometimes stop giving it our all because we begin to rest in the confidence that even if we aren't doing our best, we're still doing better than most. Why do we so quickly become content with stepping out of our greatness, and settling for "good enough"?

Yes, my friend was still doing better than most people who were running that day, but the pleasant ease of the course he found himself on caused him to not tap into the strength God had given him to cross the finish line with excellence. 

To the beautiful heart reading these words: When God has prepared you to be excellent, don't settle for being "good enough". 

"Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it on my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus." Philipians 3:13-14, ESV

When we stop giving it our all because the journey appears to be easier than expected, we give the enemy a chance to capitalize on our laziness. Though we make look as though we are still ahead of the pack, he knows the benefit of us reaching the goal on God's timeline instead of our own, and will do whatever he can to thwart the mission.

Stay focused. 

Run your race with endurance. 

Use every tool God has equipped you with to succeed. 

Don't hold back. 

 

xoxo,

Ashley Danielle