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

 

 

 

Get It Done - 2017 Goals Part 2

THIS IS LATE; I KNOW. 

Life got busy in a really good way, and I never got around to posting the second part of my 2017 goals. I actually jumped in headfirst on accomplishing my goals the past week and it didn't give me a lot of time to write this blog post, but I have a  few minutes to spare before I grabbed the little Flores humans from Mom's Day Out, so here goes!

GOAL FOUR: Become more financially responsible

WHY: Because I desire to be a better stewards of the money God has given me so, I can better serve His kingdom. Also, I know that when I am financially stressed, I am not the best version of myself. I want to make sure my children are able to live a life that is a direct reflection of the good financial decisions I am making now. Even though I love using Mint.com to keep me on budget, I have realized that nothing works better for me than the envelope system. I first heard it from Dave Ramsey, and as I'm recommitting to Nancy Ray's #ContentmentChallenge I plan to get my envelopes back in my wallet. 

GOAL FIVE: Relaunch Code Blue Mentoring, Inc. 

WHY: This is a program that my eldest sister and I started in 2007. It was birthed after a friendship between me and one of her former students blossomed into quite the sisterhood. She became really attached to me, and I was honored she wanted to be around me so much. I was a sophomore in college, and as the year progressed, I got extremely busy and eventually had to cut back on how much time we spent together. A few months into her sophomore year of high school, she found out she was pregnant. I was the first person she called. She was 15 and about to have twins. (...whew.) Yes, I know it wasn't my fault, but I have always felt like if I'd been able to spend more time with her, then maybe it wouldn't have happened. Well, we now run a program to help mentor as many young girls as we can in hopes of keeping them focused on their education, gifts and talents while they are in middle and high school. The program has fallen off the past few years for several reasons, but all of those are easy to fix and I'm ready to get back to my girls!

GOAL SIX: Fall back crazy in love with Jesus. 

WHY: Well, this should be pretty obvious. It's no secret that I love God. But there was a time in my life when I absolutely craved spending time with Him. I would grab my Bible and a colorful pen, and spend hours at a coffeeshop reading through some of my favorite stories. Honestly, I think my divorce hit the intimate part of my relationship with God really hard. I'd gotten so used to spending most of my "quiet time" in prayer for my marriage that all of my time sounded like wails of desperation from the Book of Psalms. The loving embrace I used to feel when I read God's Word was replaced with just trying to find a moment of peace from the turmoil going on in my heart. I don't want to be in that place any longer. I long to long for Him. ...And I will. 

GOAL SEVEN: Respect my temple. 

WHY: Take care of your body. I know these goals are supposed to be about me, but for real...take care of your bodies, y'all. As a Christian, I fully believe that my body is a temple for God's Spirit; therefore, I shouldn't treat it like trash. I already drink my Greens (click the SHOP link above to order yours with my 40% discount!), and take the best plant-based supplements I've ever tried, but I have also decided to make it a point to exercise more as well. I'm a Holy Yoga instructor, but I want to exercise outside of the classes I teach. I asked a friend to hold me accountable in training for my first half-marathon, so that has given me an actual reason to be at the gym as soon as the nursery opens. LOL. 

 

So, and new goals you guys want to share? I'd love to hear what's on your list, and please let me know if I can be praying for you. 

 

xoxo,

Ashley Danielle   

Get it Done - 2017 Goals: Part 1

WHY ARE YOU READING THIS?

Seriously.

I want to know. 

Is it because you're really curious about what I'm going to be up to for the next few months? Have you been following my blog for a few years, and now you're simply used to reading this every January so you want to see what's new?

If those are your reasons, please log out of this post now. 

My goals shouldn't really matter to you. Whether or not I finally finished writing my book or lose a few pounds or learn how to fold and put away laundry within the same week it was actually washed and dried is no concern of yours in the grand scheme of life. However, if reading these words will help you find footing in your own journey, then please continue. If you have been trying to figure out how to break down the seemingly hundred of ideas swirling around in your mind to just a few, then please continue. If you are feeling like an aimless wanderer, and need helping figuring out what matters most, please continue. 

Last week, I took some time and really dug into my 2017 PowerSheets. I made sure that my goals were a reflections of things that really matter to me. The deeper the connection each goal has to my heart, the more likely I will want to complete it. They are all centered around an individual "why". One of my mentors recently me, "Your why should make you cry." 

So, let's call me a crybaby all year. Lol!

Okay, 2017...let's go!

GOAL ONE: Spend more quality time with my children. 

WHY: Because before I know it, they will be adults and I wants to savor these moments. Being with my children is one of the main reasons I chose to fight to work from home full time. They attended a wonderful daycare, but it never sat well with me that they were there for almost ten hours a day. If they became sick, I would have attempt to take off work to be with them (which wasn't always possible). If I couldn't stay home with them when they didn't feel well I would feel horrible, and if I was able to wiggle some time away from the office, I felt guilty about making someone else have to finish my work for me. Now that I'm home, I want to be intentional about making the most out of our time. I already turned out cable off so we don't just watch Disney all day, and have connected with some other WAHMs to find out about little meet-ups throughout the month we can go to. I want this to be a year where we create wonderful memories

GOAL TWO: Deepen my relationship with my sisters. 

WHY: Because I love them. For real, I really really really love my sisters. We are one of those weird families that actually enjoys spending time together. My sisters and I don't always agree, but we don't fight. We were raised in a house where we were allowed to argue with one another so that's just not how we interact. We're all adults now (I'm the baby), and we all have our own lives, and I want to make sure we not only stay in touch, but grow even closer. When our mother passed away in 2010, I learned very quickly that she'd been the glue that held so much of our family together. So many of us drifted away from each other when she became sick in 2009, and after her death it just never really got back the way it was before. I miss those days. This is the year we work to get back to who we used to be as a family. 

GOAL THREE: Grow my home-based businesses.

WHY: Because my family, and so many other families, depend on it. I run two businesses and a non-profit from home. Though it allows me to slowly wake up to toddler snuggles instead of rushing out of the door every morning. I realized in 2015 that even though I had hold two degrees, I was in a profession that was causing me to settle. I was settling for an income that was not only below my skill-set and academic level, but was also below what my time was worth. Just keeping it real. So, I did something about it. I tapped into my talents and the things that really set my heart on fire, and figure how to make those things generate my income. I plan to do that on an even larger scale this year. 

Well, I think this is a lot to digest for one day. I'm going to post my last three goals tomorrow. Hope you come back to back them out! Also, be sure to check out Lara Casey's Goal Setting Series. It has helped me a lot!

Until then, what are some of your goals? Leave them in the comments below. I'd love to encourage you in any way I can. 

xoxo, 

Ashley Danielle