GIVE YOURSELF PERMISSION TO HURT

I ALMOST DIDN'T WRITE THIS POST.

I had firm plans to apply a generous amount of eye cream last night to prayerfully camouflage a good forty minutes of crying, put on a little mascara, work some magic with the best filters $2.99 can buy, take a bomb selfie and stroll into today as if yesterday never happened. 

But it did. 

It's Tuesday, which means yesterday was Monday and every emotion I felt was real and is now forever etched in the tapestry of history. 

I'm a lifestyle blogger. I have chosen to make a living sharing my life with my readers, and that means that I don't get to skip over the not so beautiful pieces. Yes, I can mold and sculpt how the intimate details of my heart are delivered, but I wouldn't be me if I just glazed over the moments that test me to the core. 

I got some really tough news yesterday. 

Now, exactly what the news was isn't important for the meat of this post. Nor is going on and on about the circumstances that led to it. Nonetheless, while wrapping up a meeting with one of my business partners in a private Facebook group the truth behind a lie I was unknowingly living hit me in the chest through a casual post from a friend. 

For about eight seconds, I felt like I couldn't breathe. My throat sank into my stomach, and I immediately wanted to vomit.

Yea...it was that serious.

I didn't know if I should cry, or scream, or race the to bathroom to find comfort with my head draped across the toilet bowl. 

I did neither.

Because before any other area in my life, I am a mother first. My children were with me and if you're a mom then you know we don't get the luxury of having childish breakdowns when things don't go our way. We have to toughen up, brush it off and keep going with our day. I sometimes feel like God gave me children just to stop me from doing 99% of the dumb ideas that come into my mind when I'm having a bad day. Diapers still needed to be changed. Snacks needed to made. My daughter was one squeal away from a complete meltdown if I didn't plug the iPad back up so she could finish watching Octonauts, and my son was napping so shrieking and sinking into a ball on the floor would have most likely woken him up; just sayin'. 

All of this may sound a bit dramatic, but I'm a poet; we're dramatic. 

I don't think we give ourselves enough permission to be dramatic when we are in pain. 

I spent the rest of the day trying to complete my regular "adulting", and not show any signs of what was going on in my heart. I taught yoga, I answered some E-mails, I spoke with some customers and even had a chat with a new SMM client. I was trying to just grab a piece of normalcy in the chaos. 

Until I couldn't try anymore. 

My kids spent the evening with my ex-husband, and I went home (with a brand new bottle of wine) to prepare myself for whatever I was about to unleash once I was finally alone. 

Nothing happened. 

I ate dinner. Watched a webinar. Did a little writing. But nothing happened. Now that I look back, I think when I first got home I was actually too afraid to really let myself become engulfed by the emotions I felt because I wasn't sure if I'd be able to turn the tears off. 

Then, it happened. One tear turned into a thousand, which turned into a scream, which turned into me on my knees before God next to my bed trying to recall the events that had led me to that point. 

"How in the Hell did I get here?!"

The wine bottle still remains unopened as I type these words. I questioned so many choices I'd made, and even questioned a few things that us good ol' Christian women should never question. 

...y'all know what I'm talking about.

And even though, in that moment, I felt completely broken and lost and confused and abandoned and weak and humiliated, I needed that moment. 

I needed to allow myself to feel every ounce of that pain. 

I needed to give myself permission to hurt. 

Walking through life pretending as if we don't experience things that pierce us to the core helps no one. Social media isn't the only place we present a highlight reel of our lives. We do it everyday at work, and at family gatherings, and when we're in the grocery store. I'm not saying it's a bad thing. We can't simply live everyday of our lives in sackcloths and covered in ashes. 

But there is a heavenly release that occurs when we properly flush out our feelings of despair. Just look at the Book of Psalms. We are able to see the pure anguish of King David, but also see how he knew exactly Who to take that anguish to. 

Your pain is real. Go there. Just don't stay there. 

Get up. Reapply your eyeliner. Find some good lighting in your bedroom. Genuinely smile from the comfort we receive in knowing that God will never leave us where our troubles may take us, and take that selfie. 

Smile, girl. 

xoxo,

Ashley Danielle

ME TOO

14 LIVES WERE SAVED LAST SUNDAY

...and the rest of the world didn't even notice.

Not because they didn't care, but because we live in a society that has convinced us that lives that have not taken their first  breath yet do not hold the same amount of value as those that have. And the lives that were saved Sunday are still in the womb. 

They have not seen the moon, or felt the warmth of the sun on their skin. But they are still very much alive, and I stood on that stage and fought for them. 

I stood in front of hundreds of people and allowed one of my deepest wounds to be exposed. I didn't try to sugarcoat, or sensationalize, the intensity of what it's like to walk this earth with the invisible scar left behind after an abortion. I simply delivered raw truth

Truth. 

That's all it took for 14 people to make the decision to partner with Save The Storks and become a voice for the voiceless. There are so many places to find what I like to call "legit lies" when it comes to the abortion industry. I shared how one of the biggest things that pressed me to start speaking publicly as part of the new pro-life movement was the way facts were purposely omitted when I researched the abortion process before making my decision.

You believe in a woman's right to choose?

Me too. 

In the midst of my selfishness, I prided myself on the belief that I'd made an informed decision. Being the focused, collegiate superstar that I was, making sure I was in control of what was going on in my life was very important to me. Not to mention I was seeking a degree in journalism at the time so thoroughly researching everything had become an obsession.

But I was lied to.

No one is to blame for the decision that was ultimately made other than me and my child's father, but I can't help but wonder if my decision may have been different if I had known more of what really went on inside of the clinic. Better yet, if I'd been able to easily find what goes on inside the conference rooms when abortion industry execs meet to set their annual budget and set their quotas. Most importantly, if I had known what the child growing in my belly really looked like at the stage of development. 

He had a heartbeat.

Would I have responded differently? No idea. 

What I do know is this: The pro-choice movement robs women of their right to choose when they only present information that makes their choice appear to be the only choice. 

You think abortion is a personal decision that should be solely up to those directly involved in the end?

Me too. 

That is why I will not be silent. 

If I stand in front of 10,000 people and only one makes the decision to support this mission, then it's worth it. 

Because the one child that decision represents deserves a chance to do what everyone who is reading these words has done. 

Live. 

Click here for more information on how you can partner with Save The Storks.

xoxo,

Ashley Danielle

STAY OUT OF GROWN FOLKS BUSINESS

"YOU CAN'T TELL GROWN PEOPLE NOTHING"

I've heard the above statement countless times throughout my life. Especially living in the South where the family name is practically worshipped and you better not be the one to taint it. 

I never really saw too much of a problem with it until I was in college. I would see acquaintances of mine sit back and watch one of their friends make a horrible mistake, and simply brush it off as, "She's grown; you can't tell grown people nothing." It's the idea that people will do what they want to do regardless so there's no point in trying to stop them.

But where does this concept fit within the body of Christ?

Now, I'm certainly not saying that we need to blast our business all over the city (or all over the world for that matter via social media). There are several circumstances in our lives that need to be dealt with in private between me and the Holy Trinity. However, in the context of genuine Christian community, when is the wall between what is to be kept private and what is to be shared with our brothers and sisters for the sake of edification removed?

Towards the end of last year, a friend of mine unexpectedly apologized for her part in my divorce. Needless to say, I was completely taken by surprise and immediately assured her that the destruction of my marriage was not her fault in the least bit. However, she quickly came back and said, "No, as the Church we are supposed to pray with one another in hard times and give each other Godly counsel based on His word and I didn't do that for y'all. I'm sorry." She went on to tell me how she and her husband let their own feelings about some of the conversations they had with my ex-husband caused them to draw back from us altogether instead of pressing into the root of the hurt that was apparently a lot more obvious to those around us than I thought. 

Whoa. 

I didn't want to admit it at the time, but she was speaking on something that plagued me throughout the months leading up to my ex-husband and I separated. Don't get me wrong, our divorce was our fault. We made that final decision and the aftermath is now ours to deal with. However, there were times when I felt like my community of prayer warriors got ghost when the situation became uncomfortable for them.

They saw the pain. They saw the confusion. The saw the anger. They saw the hurt. They saw us walking down a very dangerous path. But they walked away.

There were older women I admired and turned to for guidance who cancelled coffee dates because "something came up" or didn't show up for major events without any warning. There were ministry leaders who silently smirked when they noticed conversations between he and I taking a wrong turn, but never took the time to talk to use in private about it later. Again, not blaming any of these people for what was going on in my marriage, but where was the accountability?

I have had people tell me they figured that's just how we did things and didn't want to get involved. 

Let me just pause right there for a moment. 

When on earth did it become acceptable for us to simply watch anyone, Believer or not, participate in seriously damaging behavior because it looks like they enjoy it or are accustom to it? I can't find one scripture that says that is okay (and if you try to twist Romans 1:24 to back up this way of thinking you are delusional). If you see me getting ready to walk into a room that is on fire, please let me know. Likewise, if you tell me you're about to drive down a road you know is severely flooded I promise I won't just standby and watch you slowly drown in your bad decision. Deal?

God's word tells us we are to hold one another accountable within the Church. Not only is it my job to come to those who can pray for with me about the current struggles that are plaguing me, but He also instructs me to lead those who are going astray back to His glory. I am grateful for the people in my life who will call me on my trash and then help me take it out. We are told in Titus 2 that older women are to teach those of us who are new to this wife-mom life how this whole thing is supposed to work. They are supposed to encourage us and show us how to put our selfish desires aside so we can truly serve our family. In the same token, men are supposed to be receptive to the leadership of men  who may have already been down the road they are traveling. 

But we have become a culture that wants to keep everything bottled up inside, and that is how the enemy gets his power. He thrives off secrecy. He is empowered by shame. Arrogance fuels him. 

So, this is my declaration: When destruction appears to be inevitable, I will warn you. 

You may hate me. 

You may feel I have overstepped my boundaries. 

You may never want to see me again.

You may call me out on social media. 

You may bring up all of my shortcomings and ask me how dare I say anything to you when I did the same thing.

That's okay. 

I'll take that. 

I feel like more of us need to be willing to take that. 

 

Thoughts?

THIS HERE #BLACKGIRLMAGIC

I DON'T NEED ANY HELP BEING REMINDED THAT I'M BLACK. 

I was born, raised and still live in Alabama. Not just anywhere in Alabama, but in Mobile. Mobile, Alabama, where beautiful beaches are just a short drive away, the food is delicious, and oh...the last recorded slave ship made its way onto our shores as the result of a drunken bet. This is just about as Southern as it gets. 

well...if you don't count Mississippi. That's a whole different level of...uh...yea. Lol.

Moving right along...

For as far back as I can remember, my mother made it very clear that as a Black woman I would have to be put in double the effort of my White counterparts in order to receive the same amount of recognition. Some of you reading this may not agree with what she said or that I should have been told that when I was so young, but it has been my reality for most of my life.

Yes, I have some amazing friends of different races (not a real thing), nationalities (a very real thing), and cultures (the realest) that have shown me nothing but love. But in the grand scheme of this American life, our journeys are not and may never be the same.

That is, unless you are of any type of African decent and live in America. 

My friend Esther is Haitian-American. 

Here, she's a Black woman. 

My ex-husband is Belizean.

Here, he's a Black man. 

My friend Marie is Nigerian-American. 

Here, she's a Black woman. 

My friend Heather is half of European decent (a nice little mixture of a lot of nationalities lol), and half of African decent. 

To most of the world, she's just another Black woman preachin' about Jesus. 

We are all lumped together and our cultures are often ignored unless they can generate revenue. This is something I've always know. It's a truth my people have lived with our entire lives. I know most of my White friends can make a similar claim because we often don't take the time to call someone Irish-American; they're usually just White. However, the difference is that this usually works in their favor. 

As we gear up to celebrate the freedom of our country from British rule tomorrow, we would be remiss to not recognize that the overall freedom of the Black community in America still has a long way to go. I think many of us are guilty of spending so much time celebrating the undeniable beauty in how far we have come, that we don't take the time recognize the mental and political chains we are still in. We have allowed ourselves to be blinded to the reality of our still very real oppression as we were taught to focus on the means of advancement "they" have told us we can have access to: higher education when able to overcome the very poor school systems many African-American come from, consistent hard labor professions that deteriorate our health, limited mainstream entertainment in which we degrade our own heritage in exchange for a spotlight, etc. 

Then, the 2016 BET Awards happened. 

And Jesse Williams spoke

And the world was forced to open our eyes to some truths that even Black America had been willingly ignoring for quite some time. 

-------

"We are no longer interested in conditional freedom. We want the freedom that we damn well deserve and we want it right now." - Jesse Williams

I pray the "Future"-generation who watched the BET Awards just for the music understands just how much of the actual future they really are, and what the actual message was. Beneath the fire and water, on the other side of the glitter and sparkle, there was another rhythm. Not one that could have been nominated for an award that night, but the hypnotic pulse of a heartbeat of a People. Forget the propaganda-painted, Hollywood activism you've been witnessing and hashtagging, but put your ear to the Spirit and feel the tug in your gut to do something.

To surrender to Him, be strengthened by Him, and stop putting up with the foolishness from them.

No, "them" is not a race. It's a system. It's something that has been masquerading as freedom and democracy and equality and whatever else that sounds good on paper. Stop only being free on paper. We stopped having to present our freedom papers a long time ago, yet many of us are still moving along in life as if we have to ask for permission to be great.

Be great. 

xoxo,

Ashley Danielle

 

/// So what are your thoughts? Let's chat in the comments. 

SAVE THE STORKS

...For an ultrasound with no volume.

I have another son.

His name is Evan. 

Everyone who frequents my little space of the cyber world knows that I am completely enthralled with my precious Felicity Grace and David Alexander. Their very existence brings a joy to my life that cannot be compared to any other feeling I have ever experience. I don't worship them, but they have created another way for me to worship Him. 

But I will never forget my first son. 

Evan. 

The son who I never met, even though his presence will always be felt. 

In 2008, his father and I made a decision fueled by confusion, fear and selfishness to end his life before he was ever given the chance to fully have one. 

As I listen to my children laugh today, I wonder what his laugh would've sounded like. I wonder which one of us he would've taken after. He would be eight-years-old by now. 

Wow.

8.

He would be a big brother.

I wonder how different my life would be, if when we took that drive to Florida the nurse would have let me hear his heartbeat

You do know that most abortion clinics don't let you see the ultrasound or hear the heartbeat, right? They feel that could be too traumatic for the "patient". 

Traumatic? ...or hindering?

I mean, how many clinics want someone holding up the line because she heard the life inside of her, full and strong and vibrant and alive?

I wonder what his heartbeat would've sounded like and if I would have immediately jumped up from the table and told his father I couldn't go through with it.

Could you?

If you have a similar story from your past, or if this is currently your present, how would your heart change if you heard your baby's heartbeat?

No, I didn't say "fetus" or some other term that has been misused to dehumanized a life. It's a child. 

A baby. 

A life. 

Did you know that 84% of post-abortive women feel like they didn't really have a choice? Save The Storks gives women that opportunity.

I am so honored to have been asked to be a social media ambassador for their mission. Save The Storks wasn't established to force you to change your mind, or condemn you if you still decide to go through with the abortion. But they are giving you all of your options, not just the one that will support the billion dollar abortion industry.

Yes, I'm pro-choice. 

And I choose Christ. 

And He chooses life. 

I support Save The Storks for the mission they are currently on to "save the storks" by allowing men and women the opportunity to receive a free ultrasound to hear their beautiful child, and then take them by the hand and tangibly help them should they choose to give that child the gift of taking their first breath. 

Will you support them too?

Click here for more details on how you can help break the silence and turn up the volume on those ultrasounds. 

 

xoxo,

Ashley Danielle