wearetheparsons —> family bio picture
  • hi!

    there are five of us in this tribe. we are wild and messy and imperfect and vivacious and delightful. from adoption to raising nature-loving boys in the city, to being free-spirits who still have to be grown ups, this is our life.

    and I'm ash. although random, haphazard and somewhat inconsistent, this is the place on the interwebs where I am most honest about our life. and by honest, I mean brutally so. crappy grammar is likely, swear words are even more likely, and messy stories are guaranteed. but you are welcome to follow along as I process through the wonderful love and grace extended in the midst of it all. xo

This is a season.

Living in the Midwestern Plains of the U.S. isn’t as sexy as it sounds.
Oh wait. It doesn’t sound sexy?
Well, good, ‘cause it isn’t.

But one thing that I wouldn’t trade about this part of the country is the drastic changing of seasons. We don’t have to wonder if winter is here because we wake up one morning and the world outside our window is white. We don’t have to wonder if it’s spring because the long death ends with green and pink buds on trees everywhere we go. We know it’s summer because it’s so hot and humid that it feels like the devil’s ass crack has sat down on the earth.

But fall is my favorite.
One morning, that hellish humidity just vanishes and we are left with air so crisp you could almost be in the mountains.The trees finally show their true colors and the whole area comes ablaze.

I find the reliable changing of seasons comforting. Within each one lies an acceptance and a letting go, as well as embracing new temporary things to enjoy.

This morning, as I walked our four year old into his preschool twelve minutes late, I couldn’t help but notice the shade his teacher was throwing my way. Granted, I wasn’t looking my “best”, per se. A long night with a sick husband and a little one who decided to wake up at 4am had left me totally exhausted. When I finally got back to sleep, it was time to get up and that meant I and everyone else was up late and exhausted. I paraded my hungry child into that classroom like any proud mother of three – dressed in mostly pajamas, with a giant rats nest in the back of my hair and dried mascara bits stuck under my eyes, looking like a crack whore.

The crack-whore-mommy-look is real. How about that for a new hashtag, you little instagramming lovelies? I drove away from the school feeling guilty. Guilty for being late, for making my son miss half of breakfast time, for parading myself around in public looking like a homeless person, for not begin more sympathetic to my husband when he really does feel awful, not giving more stress-free time to our older boys, for having a dirty house, not having enough groceries for the day, for all of it. As I drove home with all the other stressed-out and crazy drivers of earth, I noticed a group of leaves changing color on a nearby tree and I remembered, “oh yeah… this is a season.”

And it has been one hell of a season, for me and for many of my dearest friends. I have close friends going through everything right now from broken relationships with family, financial crisis, depression and anxiety attacks, miscarriage, job loss, addiction, poor health, and doubt. There is a broad range of human suffering surrounding me on a daily basis, and I am right there in it with them. I am reminded of that every time we go to another appointment at the children’s hospital or realize Zion isn’t meeting another milestone.

This morning I remembered that this is a season. We are all in these years of not just having small children, but being responsible to feed and water and clothe and parent them in hopes that they will come out of childhood alive. Some of us, myself included, are also trying to run businesses that support our families while dealing with much of the above. This means we exist in a perpetual deficit. These are the days of shorter showers and interrupted bathroom breaks, of being woken up in the middle of the night just to share your bed with a four year old and have them lie there and kick you in the ribs for the next five hours. This season includes an increased volume level just to be heard, dirty hands and feet pawing the walls and running the floors, a minimum of two people that need something at all times, an unfinished to-do list, and all the while, we are still just trying to figure out how to finally be grown-ups. Things like coffee dates, long walks, “alone time,” balance, and feeling well – rested just aren’t in the cards for us much these days. And I’ll go ahead and speak for myself and say neither is texting back in a timely manner, staying on top of emails, making uninterrupted time for friends, keeping my laundry done, or having the margin to volunteer for anything.

It’s a season.
I realize there’s going to be a day when there aren’t 2,000 legos hiding in all of the corners of my house where I walk barefoot. There will be a day when Zion can clearly communicate his needs with me so I no longer worry that his shunt will fail and we won’t know about it in time. There’s probably even going to be a day when we no longer run a business and have unanswered emails coming out of our ears every morning. There’s going to be a day when my friends and I don’t have any kids at home anymore, and our days and nights are solely ours to begin the day with a four hour shower, followed by slowly applying makeup and styling our hair, followed by coffee dates, lunch dates, ending with wine and cocktails. Or something like that.

But for now, we are in the thick of it. We are the ones embracing the struggle and not pretending that it’s always pretty or easy to do so. So to all of you fellow mama’s out there, embracing the crack-whore-mommy-look just to get shit done, I salute you, and I’m right there with you… for a season.

Jesus loves the broken ones, this I know.

I am a person in process.

I don’t like this reality most of the time. I try to tell myself a happy little line that there are things about me that were bad and broken “back then” but now that I’m older and wiser those things are good and fixed.

Turns out, most of the time, they’re not.

When I was in high school, I had an eating disorder. A bad break up with a boy I thought I was going to marry – you know, cause everyone marries their high school boyfriend – had lead to secret shame, self-loathing, and depression. I didn’t know what I was supposed to do with these feelings. Those weren’t things we dealt with in my family or circle of friends. So I began concocting a way to make myself feel in control and lovable again. The answer was simple: skinnier. I must be skinner to be lovable. I started a regime of starving myself and purging whenever I didn’t. It was a fancy mix between anorexia and bulimia. A psychiatrist I saw called it bulexia.

I eventually told my parents, saw a therapist, and forced myself to get over the break up and stop trying to harm my body. I put on weight. My esophagus healed. I “got better”. I must have played the part well because I actually ended up being interviewed on a morning show at the local radio station with my therapist, as her “proof of effective treatment” of girls with eating disorders. As I look back I marvel at the situation a little bit. I was just in high school, just a lonely teenage girl trying to figure out her heart, and yet being shared publicly with the city as a shining beacon for recovery.

Decades have passed since I sat on the other end of that radio station plexi glass in front of the microphone, but lately, I can almost feel the same familiar discomfort in my stomach. I don’t feel right and I am too old and too tired pretend that I do. Rhabdo followed by atrophy means my muscles aren’t working properly yet. I spent last week in Colorado and after a handful of shoots, I felt weak and shaky and unable to stay standing long enough to have a short conversation. I watched my husband walk a dirt path up in the high country and all I could do was stand, watch, and wait to sit down on the nearest rock. My lack of physical ability means I can’t exercise so I find myself conveniently forgetting to eat and living on a steady diet of coffee followed by more coffee followed by dinner.

Which brings me to this blog post and the theme of today’s song: I can either pretend that my broken places are fixed and add “pathological liar” to my list of secret sins, or I can walk through life accepting my current broken places and knowing that Jesus is with me in them.

I have been reading the Bible a little more these days. It’s not an exercise that comes incredibly easy for me, and it’s an exercise that I have done in a really self-serving way for most of my life. But I am being challenged more lately to look at the Bible as a book about God and his grand story of big love, instead of a book about me and my story and iron will to fix myself.

The more I encounter Jesus and study his life on earth, the more I realize he was a really big fan of broken people like me. He made a career out of eating with, sitting on the floor with, healing, working with, befriending, walking with, listening to, being touched by, and empathizing with the broken people. The broken ones were the ones who got to be closest to him. The more I look at the story of Jesus and the more I examine the story of my life with all of its positive and negative turns, the more I am coming to the conclusion that Jesus loves – really loves – broken people, and my brokenness is an invitation to be close to him, to sit on the floor and eat with him.

After my last blog post, I wrote a friend and asked for her feedback on what I had shared in the previous two posts. Her response was breathtaking and true, and just stopped me in my tracks in the most beautiful way –

“You are very brave.
What I see, also, is how God has given you a perfectly personalized tension for the restoration of you into the Christ-likeness you are made for. You have a deep desire to be successful and admired on a big stage, but the things you are most passionate about saying and creating only ring true for the outcast, the weak, the unpopular poor of spirit. The truths that are most important to your soul will only draw the smallest crowd.

And so if feels almost life-threatening to write them and make them public. It also feels absolutely essential.

Two masters. You already know the one you want to follow. But the other one doesn’t give up easily, fights a little dirtier when he sees he’s losing.

It’s ok though. Perfect love casts out fear.
There is nothing to fear.”

I wrote her back and said I had wrestled with her words all week long. I was making peace with the idea that my story speaks to the outcast and the weak one because I am the outcast and the weak one. I can either push against it and spend my life not being known or I can raise my hand and shout out,
“That’s me! That’s the kind of journey I am on! I’m the weak one! I am not on the journey of being put together and having my shit figured out, but the journey of being one of the broken people!”
I responded saying I choose to be weak because I see how clearly God uses the weak ones. “I think the weak ones are some of his favorites.”

I can’t force my body to heal more quickly and I am not going to be able to go burn mega calories tomorrow. I’m not going to wake up and suddenly be over my fear of getting un-skinny and un-lovable. Those things aren’t in the cards for me. But I am at least able to wake up in the morning and know that I am one of the weak ones. I am not fixed yet. And that’s ok. That makes me one of his favorites.

Kristin - Dear friend! Thank you for this post. Thinking of and praying for you. And please know that that I am in that ‘small crowd’ cheering you on and totally identifying with you in brokenness and the unending need of God’s grace over my life.September 21, 2015 – 1:06 pm

a letter to Micah . the time you asked a girl to the dance for the first time ever.

To my oldest son, Micah,

I cried this week just thinking about you. I cried because it feels like you came into our lives about five minutes ago. Five minutes ago, I was holding you, inspecting the features of your face for the first time, nursing you through bleeding nipples to keep you alive, and counting your breaths as you slept soundly next to me. I know 90% of the things I just said would be “gosh, totally gross, mom” to you now, but someday you will be an adult and you will get it a little bit more.

Five minutes ago, you were accidentally scratching your own face with your long newborn nails and haphazard, uncoordinated movements. Then, all of a sudden, this week came and the baby who used to dream on my chest is a middle schooler for the first time, asking a girl to the middle school dance.

You are getting up early these days to get dressed and do your hair. I gave you a new haircut right before you went back to school, one just like dad’s, and you are feeling pretty good about life in that new haircut.

you also get up even earlier now to go running with your dad twice a week. I don’t know all you two will talk about and I could care less how far or fast you run, but I know how proud and at peace I am knowing that, for those hours, your journey into young-man-hood is in really good hands. Then, you get dressed, wet your hair down, pat it dry with a towel, and apply just the right amount of pomade. You still kiss me on the lips while drink my coffee and wave goodbye, you smile with your slightly gapped teeth, look me right in the eyes and say “love you” every single day.

I look at you these days, that hair and those teeth, and marvel at how in between you are. in between being my baby and a young man.

Micah, you asked a girl to the dance this week. You got up the nerve, found her by the lockers, stood up straight, and asked her. Then you found out one of your friends had already beat you to it. He moved in first, she told him yes, and she told you no.

I will be honest. You don’t know what it means yet, but when I heard this,
But you? You, thank God, react differently than I do when you are hurt or disappointed. Your response to this little turd moving in on this girl? “Well, he’s my friend, mom, and so is she. I just want them to have fun at the dance, so I’m happy for him that he asked her and I’m happy for him that she said yes.”

You will never be a mom so you will never fully get this. But you, Micah man, break my heart into a bajillion pieces over stuff like this all the time. it’s not the bad kind of heartbreak, although it still makes me ache in places I didn’t discover until I had you. It’s the kind of heartbreak from being opened to a new kind of beauty and bravery in the world. Sure, there was that season when you got way into Greek mythology and your daily mythology stories were 1000% uninteresting to me and I wanted to gouge my eyeballs out because I thought they would never end, but even then you were perfectly, undeniably, you. You, my love, are a new and miraculous kind of beauty and brave the world has never known before. God is telling me something about his love and his grace and his empathy every single time I interact with you.

I was talking to a friend about you the other day. (I do that often and I hope you know I’m the kind of momma who longs to guard your secrets but honor your strengths to my friends.) I told her I didn’t have a clue what you would grow up to be. What profession in the world exists for the most loving, empathetic person, who cares most about his family, is exceedingly brilliant academically, speaks fluent French, and is leaning Mandarin? The world’s first neurosurgeon with a good bedside manner? Or something they haven’t come up with yet, maybe.

For now, I’m choosing not to worry about your future career. Instead, I’m going to choose to put my phone down more, look you in those wide green eyes, hold your freckle face in my hands, and tell you how proud I am as much as possible.

..and that girl, the one going to the dance with your friend? well, in my opinion, she’s missing out on the best, most loving and remarkable heart breaker she will ever know.

I love you.
forever and ever.
no matter what,

Kristin - He’s amazing. and you are such a wonderful mom.September 21, 2015 – 1:07 pm

hootenannie - This makes my heart swell up – and also break into a million pieces. I am so proud of him. He is so special (and I know that all kids are, but he is EXTRA special). He deserves the whole wide world, and I can’t wait to see what that means for him.

Dying about the Greek mythology. :) September 9, 2015 – 1:08 am

here’s why I lied.

I think the readership of this blog is about five people, four of my friends and my mom (hi mops). So I even hesitate to spend any of my time here writing these things, but I will because I know that someday
- I may suffer a debilitating car crash where I lose my memory entirely but finally get a great nose job or
- my sons may grow up and read this.

So I press on knowing, either way, my readership will grow and it will matter that I was honest.

My last post, I shared about the past handful of months, about being obsessive work out girl, getting injured, being in the hospital and told I might die, then being bed ridden and lost and tired of it all. Then I did what a Christian girl is supposed to do: I tied it all up in a pretty bow that basically said that now that I’ve gone through all of that, I finally know God loves me and everything is better and it’s all going to be unicorns and rainbows now, cause I’m fixed.

That was a lie.

And here’s why I think I told it.

As a girl who has grown up in the Christian community, and a woman who has been wounded by the Christian community, I feel this propensity to wrap God up, and the things the things he allows to happen, into a pretty package with a big happy bow on it. I feel the need to end every story of pain with “everything’s all better now, guys! God made it all better for me and he let me know why he did this!”

I grew up on the mission field in Africa and then as a pastor’s kid in America. The pastor’s kid in america thing messed with me. Not because of anything my dad ever said or taught, not because of how my parents raised me, but because of the other people – the random people in the faith community who paraded around like “Christians with a capitol C” with flowing white capes coming to save the world from the gays and the people who get abortions and have premarital sex.

Bible stories weren’t about God, they were about me. They told me how I could learn from Jonah that “you better not run from God because Jonah was swallowed by a BIG FISH for running from God!” or how “God hated sin and sex and gay people so much that he had to save the one family that didn’t sin and then flood the WHOLE EARTH so everyone died..” The messages “don’t run”, “don’t hide”, and “don’t sin or be caught sinning” were sometimes spoken that clearly.

Here’s the problem: I hide, I run, I sin and get caught sinning. ALL THE FREAKING TIME.

mkay? that’s the reality. That’s the truth. I have doubted God, hated God, wondered where he is, wondered why things have happened to me and not to others, run fast and far from him, hid from him and others, and been caught in the act of being intensely broken, sinful, and messed up.

I did a great job of hiding it in my younger years, but I still had to live with me, with the little voice inside that reminded me “that’s not actually the truth, ash… you know you aren’t perfect. you’re really messed up…”

In my college and early adult years, I started to find freedom. I found some Christians who didn’t have capes. Instead, they had this concept called the Gospel: you are more sinful than you ever thought or imagined, but (because of Jesus living the perfect life you should have lived and dying the death you deserved) God’s love and grace for you are greater than anything you ever dared hope. You ARE messed up and you ARE still loved and accepted. Be honest, be free, be welcome here.

I started trying it out. I started being honest about little ole me, and my bag full of sins. I made some new friends, found the man who was to be my husband, funnily enough also a pastor’s kid, and we started living life trying to wrap our minds around this Gospel thing that felt too good to be true – God wasn’t mad at us!

I tried to reconcile the two types of Christianity I had been modeled.

I after college I was a part of a community who lived together for months, learning the Bible and hearing faith speakers from all over the world. One night at dinner, there was something in the soup I was allergic to. I knew it, but I made myself eat it anyways to not look ungrateful. The entire rest of the night was spent in my bunk, ahem, “peeing out of my butt” and regretting my choice. The leaders of the community came into me late that night, sat by my bed, held my hand sympathetically and then proceeded to tell me, “this is happening to you because you have unconfessed sin. if you would just tell us what your sin is, God would forgive you and you would be well.” I cried. I told them my unconfessed sin was eating that SHITTY SOUP and they left me and wrote me off. I most definitely wasn’t going to get the bible teacher’s pet award.

Later when Jeremy and I got married, we were a part of a bible study. These people seemed more grounded when it came to God’s love, and so I tried them out. One evening, when just the women were meeting together, I began to share some of my past history and my struggle with sin. They all stayed pretty quiet, but seemed to accept me, even offering some kind of condolences. I was approached by them a week later. They had talked. I was too big of a sinner to be in their group. Jeremy and I were out of the bible study and would have to find somewhere else to be honest.

A couple of years ago I was asked to contribute to a faith based publication. It was a great opportunity for me as a photographer and a writer – using gifts that I love to work beautifully in tandem together. The first piece I wrote were and the photographs I made to go with it were so well received, and were “going to print!” for the next issue. This was a big deal for me, like, huge. About a week after that agreement, my husband got in a car accident. The guy who hit him ran a red light because he was on his phone. It totaled our van, and left us in a horrible place with insurance because there were no witnesses and the guy lied about it. I wrote about it on social media that night and called the guy who hit him a “jackass.” The next morning I woke up and had an email from the editor. My “curse word” had been seen, I was committing a sin publicly. I was told I could not be a representative of the publication while being someone who openly sinned. If I wanted to contribute, I needed to take the post down, and then apologize openly on social media for sinning and causing others to stumble. I wrote an honest response back to the effect of something like, “you think THAT’S bad?? That’s nothing compared to what I was thinking! I’m more sinful than you even can imagine. But I am also loved by God because of Jesus’ living a perfect life in my place.” After a few more altercating emails from the editor with lists of bible verses being used as weapons to push me back on my stance, I was done. I was no longer welcome to be part of the project. I would have to take my sinning self and go elsewhere.

My blog post last week wasn’t entirely a lie. The “I know God loves me” part was true. I do. I know it like I know the sun rose this morning. But I can’t tie his love up in a pretty bow for you or for me. Shit happens and brokenness happens. Lot’s of it. and it happens all our life long. The pain and the struggle can’t be ignored by me because they aren’t ignored by God. He had to send his son to live in my place, and then he had to murder him to pay for all the brokenness on my behalf. I can’t ignore it because He didnt’ ignore it. He has allowed it as a part of His grand story, and his story is filled with struggle and conflict and pain and broken people in capes and broken people who aren’t. But as Andy Gullahorn sings in his song Grand Canyon, “the story isn’t over yet.”

For today, I know that God loves me because of Jesus, and nothing else. Through unconfessed sin, the stomach flu, or having a mouth like a sailor, he loves me. Through looking for my identity in working out or being laid out on my back for a month, he loves me. Through offending people and not fitting in, he loves me. I now am a part of a community here that believes that and talks about it on the daily. It’s changed my life, and has allowed me to experience God’s love amidst my brokenness.

But the whole song and dance on that blog post, implying that this injury event was THE event that solidified that into me like cement so that I will stand steady in the faith forever… Well, that’s just some bullshit right there.

So, friends and mom (or my boys in the future), forgive me for lying. It wasn’t the first time, it sure as hell won’t be the last.

I can be a real jackass sometimes. But I’m a jackass loved by God.

and if you made it this far, thanks.
this is clearly the tip of a very large iceberg in my life, and I am thinking about exploring it a bit more on this space. If you know me, love me, feel me, or have a thought, leave me a comment.
xo ash

Annie - I love you Ash <3September 17, 2015 – 10:10 am

Kristin - Amen. Thank you for sharing this truth. Love you.September 7, 2015 – 12:56 am

Megan Gielow - Amen!

Oh, Ash. I can relate to this in more ways than one. Thanks for opening your heart. We’re all sinners and grateful for His grace each and every day.September 4, 2015 – 3:26 am

Jessica - I read (and love) your family blog. There are probably a million other things I could say about this post, but I will spare you. Thanks for your words, Ash!September 3, 2015 – 6:46 pm

the time I was hospitalized for working out (and the truest thing about me)

If your body doesn’t work,
If your mind isn’t sharp,
If you can no longer contribute to your life,
what is the most important, truest thing about you?

Really… If you can’t cook for your family, engage your friends, text someone back, call your mother, walk up stairs, cook dinner, email potential clients, or participate in your business or financial life or personal life, are you as valuable?

What is the truest thing about you?

I spent most of the past year being completely driven by the idea that, if I could just get physically fit, I could cross into some new plane of purpose and worth. I think most of us spend chunks of our lives trying to say “here’s what I bring to the table. here’s what makes me more valuable this year than I was last year and thus worthy to still take up space here.” I poured more money and time and thought into the fitness process than I can even count now. And in large part, my life did change. I not only saw physical repercussions, but also felt more aware, awake, and strong. But I also got a bit obsessed, took daily selfie’s, let everyone see what I looked like in a sports-bra, and way too excited about fat turning to muscle, about dropping jean sizes.

Change and passion are contagious, and I watched as other women joined in on the journey. I started up a blog that was visited by tens of thousands of women. I shared on a fitness Instagram account and began a movement of women embracing health. Somewhere in there, between the 2 hours at the gym each day, the $3,000 / month grocery budget, the complicated relationships with virtual strangers, I started to lose myself in the pressure. I not only felt pressure from myself to perform, but an unspoken pressure to lead these women to the promised land of health. As I always do, I went “all or nothing” on the fitness project and found myself tired, resenting it all, and missing out on other things that needed my attention – my spirit, my family, our business, and my friends.

In the spring, our family had a week away at a cabin in Colorado and I came home with perspective. I was healthy and getting skinnier every day, but I was losing those deep, interior places where I connected to myself and the people in front of me. In all or nothing fashion, I took a huge step back from it all. I stopped blogging about fitness, I quit social media, stopped training at the gym, pumped the breaks on the fad diet. Apart from an infrequent trip to the yoga studio or a morning walk, I really wasn’t exercising. I wasn’t unhealthy or gaining weight back, but I wasn’t being extreme either. I lived with a mix of joy that I was free from the performance and guilt that I was letting “my followers” down.

I have found something out about myself recently – I really like extremes. I like the idea of being the “most”, “best”, or “favorite”. I love the “all in” or “shit or get off the pot” mentality. The only problem is my humanity won’t support it. Not for long, at least. In case you haven’t noticed the state of things, our bodies aren’t perfect, and neither are we. We get sick, resolve weakens, and spirits get crushed. We are remarkable creations, but we are frail and breakable, and imperfect. We can’t live at extremes forever.

Just over a month ago I found myself in Brooklyn, NY doing some shoots and meetings. On a free Saturday my dear friend, total work out badass, and recent triathlon-et, treated me to one of her favorite and most challenging exercise classes in the city, soul cycle. Instead of spending paragraphs on this I will just say: Soul Cycle is insane. If you are in the best shape of your life, go do it. it’s madness and intense and addictive and you will get wicked high off the endorphins. If you haven’t exercised in awhile or ever, run away. I should have known the second I signed the medical waiver that I was getting myself into something a bit too over my head.

I was immediately in trouble, but my months of training and pushing myself had taught me how to mentally “power through” any work out. Even though my body wasn’t physically able to perform, my mind knew how to push to make it happen. Within seconds after the class was over, I knew I was injured. I couldn’t walk without locking my knees, my quads were destroyed, I was in excruciating pain, and my legs began to swell. I still had shoots and meetings scheduled, so I downplayed it and tried to power through. 24 hours later I was almost completely incapacitated, couldn’t see my knees because my quads had swelled so severely, was in more pain than anything I could remember, and was peeing brown.

A few days later, I found myself back home (after taking wheelchairs through airports), being admitted to the hospital. I had developed a condition called Rhabdomyolysis. my damaged muscle tissue was breaking down and releasing itself into my bloodstream. My kidneys were at risk of failing. According to my doc, normal protein levels in the blood are 30 to 200. Mine were 40,000. Just a day or two before that my levels could have easily been in the 100,000 + range. He immediately went pale and started reading me my rights, more or less. He told me I was at risk for shock or heart failure and they needed my permission, if it came to this, to take all measures possible to resuscitate me. I laughed out loud. I literally didn’t know what else to do in that moment. “um. yeah, doc. I wanna live.” He laughed back and said, “oh good. because, if you were going to say no, I had this whole speech prepared about how young your are and how life is worth living..” I made eye contact with Jeremy and he looked a little shellshocked by it all. That was a first.

One of the reasons I love intense exercise is because it reminds me of natural childbirth. As strange as that sounds, there is a zone I get in with both of those where it is just me and God. I push past walls of fear and pain and the past and enter into this place where it is just the Spirit speaking, and my only hope is to listen. I became an exercise junkie, in large part, to find that unmapped zone every day. And on that bike in that dark, loud, hot room at Soul Cycle, it happened again. I was pushing through pain that was actually my body telling me to “stop!” and I had a moment where God spoke to me:

“Ashley, my love is the truest and most important thing about you. I love you because I love you, not because of anything you do.”

I sit here over a month later understanding what those words, echoing in my heart during that class, meant. Just as the doctor predicted, It took me about a month to recover, and by recover I mean get out of bed, put on pants, and walk down stairs. For weeks I laid in bed, totally and completely worthless. The rhabdo messed with my mental ability to reason and think and process. The meds only made it worse and I spent most of the days sleeping or binge watching LOST and most of my nights having insane nightmares. The pain and weakness lasted weeks longer than I thought, and by the time the month had passed, I hardly knew what way was up.

I wish it wasn’t true, but this past month has reminded me that I really like to put my worth in my performance. Yeah, yeah, I know God loves me no matter what, blah, blah, blah. But, if I’m totally honest, there is this driven part of me saying I have to work harder, push harder, be better, go to the extreme to prove just how lovable and worthy I am. For the past month, I have not had that option, though. I have had to lay in hospital beds and in my quiet and empty room day after day, knowing that my performance, my participation, my mental agility, and my ability to be extreme, are not the truest things about me.

In the Bible, Paul writes a letter to the Ephesians where he prays that they will be strengthened in their inner being so they can grasp how much God loves them. He wants them to get stronger, but not physically. I can envision Paul writing the letter to people like me today saying something like, “there’s nothing wrong with going to the gym and taking care of your body. but it isn’t the truest thing about you, and it isn’t the point of your life.” Paul wants them to be strengthened in the deep, inner places because the pathway to knowing God’s love for us lies not in our physical fitness or what we can contribute, but in our inner being. I read his words and I realize that this is what this past year has been about. All along I dedicated this year as a “journey to health and fitness” but no amount of physical fitness, strength, or smaller sized pants could give me what I really needed – the inner strength to know and believe that God loves me, no matter what I do or don’t bring to the table.

I celebrated the anniversary of the year we dedicated to fitness with atrophied muscles and a different kind of selfie. Instead of coming from a place of being the best or the most impressive or extreme, this came from a place of having nothing to offer and being wholly and completely loved. I know God, my father, loves me. No performance from me or lack thereof is going to change that an ounce. I used to be able to say that and know it in my head, but the past month has drilled it into the deepest parts of my heart and experience – into my inner being. His love is the truest thing about me and it took hospital beds and a complete lack of contributing anything to remember it.

Kristin - You are so beautiful Ashley. I am so sorry you had to go through all of this and I will continue to be praying as you continue to walk through a full recovery.September 7, 2015 – 12:51 am

Andrea B. - I’ve sincerely missed hearing from you! I hate that you’ve had such a difficult month, but wow, what an experience. I didn’t even know what happened was possible and I am so glad that you’ve been able to just be still. I love that you are open to learning and listening. I hope you let us have sneak peeks as you navigate your new, balanced normal. Thank you once again for your authenticity and transparency. It’s so rare and needed.August 31, 2015 – 3:01 am