to my fellow women…on being made beautiful..

“you make beautiful things, you make beautiful things out of the dust.
you make beautiful things, you make beautiful things out of us.”

The first time I heard this song it came on the radio as I was driving to the children’s hospital to go sit in the NICU with our three pound baby boy. We had just adopted him a couple of weeks prior and every single day I would drop our older boys off at school, then drive to the hospital to scrub in at the NICU, undress my little coke bottle sized bundle, and put him in my oversized button down shirt and then cover us with blankets for the next six hours. I’d go pick up the kids from school, cook dinner, tuck them in, and go back to the NICU for the next three hours before falling into bed just around midnight. In just a couple of weeks, we had seen how this skin on skin time had really started to make a huge difference in the life and health of this tiny baby who had been lying there, mostly un-held and parent-less for the first month of his life.

“you have to hear this song” my friend Jessi said. “we sang it at church this week and I just kept thinking about you guys and zion.” and sure enough, it came on the radio one morning as I was heading to the hospital and I wept. I wept thinking about how zion had lost his first mother. I wept thinking about the brain surgery and the painful procedures he had gone through with no parent to hold him while he cried. And I wept thinking about the goodness of God that he would take us – a family somewhat comfortable and wrapped up in our own little bubble – and make something beautiful out of us, a blessing.

The same song came on this morning as I was running on the treadmill and I had to just smile at the irony and goodness of God. He taught me about himself and about myself through those daily trips to the NICU and now he is using the treadmill and food and drink to teach me more again. Yesterday I shared a private instagram account that I have been using as a journal for the past few months as Jeremy and I have surrendered our health and fitness more and more to the One who created us. And the response was honestly downright overwhelming. I am still trying to keep up with the requests of women who want to follow along with the journey and I’m learning more about myself. As I starting approving women to be able to see the account, I started to have pangs of fear. “wait a minute! … I know that gal and she is super skinny and prettier than me and way more fit than I am. and now she’s going to see me in my sports bra with my cellulite… I feel too exposed. what if she judges me for who I really am?” or “what if someone is much more overweight than I was when we stared this journey and she feels pressure or judgement or condemnation from what I am doing or saying? I don’t want anyone to feel small…” But skinniness or overweight-ness is not what this is about. This is a story about being weak and watching the Holy Spirit make me strong.

I see a lot of propaganda going around lately about how we women can become a #GIRLBOSS – that we can project ourselves into an awesome life where we can do whatever we want. But this journey is not about me becoming a girlboss. I am not trying to hate on anyone who has embraced this mentality or make them feel small. But honestly, from my experience, I’ve never been that successful at changing my own heart. I’m just not able to pull it off. Sure, maybe I can modify behavior a little bit for a short amount of time. But I can’t actually want the right things enough to do the right things 24/7. Not even 1/7. And health has always been one of those things. I told myself that image didn’t matter and that I didn’t want to be just another “skinny bitch” and I don’t. But I am realizing more and more that I was created out of the dust (and to dust I will return) to know God, glorify him in my mind, body, spirit, and in doing these things, become a truer self.

“I just can’t seem to quit _____.” I really want to try to be better but ______.” “I’ve tried a thousand times to get my butt in gear but each time, I just ______.” We can all fill in the blanks. But in my experience, all of my efforts were not good enough. My drive is weak and my will to do wrong is strong. And so, only God himself stepping into my world and changing my heart – my nasty heart that wanted to eat sugar all the time and smoke cigarettes and drink bottles of wine by myself and soothe my own pain with sloth – only God himself could rescue me from myself. And the beautiful thing is that he is. Each day, I am watching as he speaks in his still, small voice to transform my desires and make me new. Each day, I am watching as I recognize I am not a girlboss, but I am fearfully and wonderfully made by a God is strong, who loves me and will, himself, give me the strength to become what he created me to be. All I have to do is believe and say yes.

for now, saying yes looks like a change in diet to detox all the crap I had shoved in my face for years. and it looks like hard work at the gym five days a week. And it looks like a hiatus from alcohol and sweets. And it looks like failing sometimes and knowing that He is still stronger than any weakness I may have. And as I say yes I see that it also looks like the strength to carry our special needs (now) three year old around the hospital when he has three appointments in a week and the walk into those appointments feels like a mile long. And it looks like having the energy to play with our older boys at the park or to wake up earlier just to be with them. It looks like renewal in our marriage and clothes that were long stored in the back of our closet fitting again.

But mostly, saying yes has meant this: I wake up every day knowing deeper in my being that I am dearly prized and loved and accepted (no matter what) by the One who made me. And that his power and grace is enough to strengthen me for whatever today will require of me. I am so thankful to not feel like it’s up to me to be enough, to be a girlboss. Instead, I rest in the one who will always be enough in my place and trust that he loves me enough to make me who he created me to be.

if you want to follow along in the journey, the instagram account is @waytogoash . women only – trust me dudes, you don’t want to see me in my sports bra and cellulite anyways. 🙂
I really welcome all women into this place to share and be honest, because I think we are all hungry for it. You are, today, right there, loved, accepted, created, beautiful, and the one who made you longs to strengthen you where you are weak. Don’t worry. You don’t have to be enough and you couldn’t be if you tried. You don’t have to believe me, but I hope you will ask yourself “what if that is true?” He can be enough in you and for you and, in my experience, that is better.
with a lot of love, ash.

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Morgan Ashley. Thank you. Thank you for helping me to lace up my running shoes again this morning. Because I easily forget and get distracted, that this is not just running for me, it goes so much deeper. Last year around this time, I started a very similar journey of finally connecting the dots to body, mind and spirit. I was not only tired of feeling defeated in the physical aspects, but it was creeping into every area of my life…and to make a long story short, God made it very clear to me that He wanted more for me. Better for me, and that the victory in all of these things has already been fought and won. I just have to live in it. Saying it has been an amazing journey doesn’t even come close to covering it. It has been wonderful and hard, but I think that’s why it has been so good, because God works in the hard and He uses it for our good and His glory. The small, steady steps of healthy eating, running, and giving it all to Him led to something I honestly never believed I could do. I trained and recently ran my first full marathon. It was one of the most awesome personal experiences of my life. It was ALL Him. I spent weeks pouring my heart out during my training runs and the day itself was one of completely living life to the full, body, mind and spirit.
When I was running this morning, so thankful that I somehow ended up reading your post this morning, I was thinking about whether or not I should leave a comment…and then right in that moment, with my iPod just randomly set to shuffle, Beautiful Things started to play… He is indeed making all things new… many blessings to you on this journey, I have no doubt He is doing a greater work than you could ever imagine…December 4, 2014 – 2:50 pm

rosina I see a lot of propaganda going around lately about how we women can become a #GIRLBOSS – that we can project ourselves into an awesome life where we can do whatever we want. But this journey is not about me becoming a girlboss. I am not trying to hate on anyone who has embraced this mentality or make them feel small. But honestly, from my experience, I’ve never been that successful at changing my own heart. <—–yes and amen!

xxNovember 22, 2014 – 6:05 pm

Jenna Thank you for this, Ashley. November 22, 2014 – 3:39 am

maria always so grateful for what god does in and through you. thank you for sharing these thoughts.November 21, 2014 – 6:10 am

Coco “Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow.” I realized this morning that this line has run over and over and over again in my head the last day or two. I finally paid attention to it long enough to remember it comes the old hymn. “Great is Thy Faithfulness.”

Oh yes, very great, indeed.November 20, 2014 – 7:05 pm

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