January 4, 2015

Proceed to the Route

This summer while driving to a speaking engagement in Morgan, Utah, we ran into some road construction. The detour caused us to have to ride on the other side of a widely divided highway. My phone began to panic—Siri kept yelling, “Proceed to the route! Proceed to the route!!!” as loud as I have ever heard her speak. She knew something was wrong— the route I had asked her to guide me to, was not the one I seemed to be following. To my phone, I was traveling on the wrong side of a one-way highway.

It almost scared me how persistent my GPS was that I was headed down the wrong course. It caused me to reflect upon my actions and ponder all the turns I had taken. At one point I even stopped and asked a stranger outside of a gas station if I was on the right course. It turned out I was still very far away from my destination, but had been on the right path to get there. 

I don’t know how many times in my life I have felt like I have taken a wrong turn. There have been many occasions when I have had to slow down and reflect upon the course I have taken to lead me to where I was. I have questioned some of my turns, as they have brought me to some pretty rocky roads.

But other times, no matter who has told me I was on a wrong path—I knew I was right where I was supposed to be. Life is strange, each one of ours is so very unique.

With this time of year, as one year turns into the next, I have paused to reflect on where I have been . . . but even more on where I am headed—and where I want to end up.

Exactly a year ago tomorrow I was having one of the biggest internal battles of my life. I had spent Friday night in the temple and had received the strongest prompting to start blogging about my journey. I wrestled with that feeling all weekend long. I didn't say a word to anyone about it. I was cross and snappy; I was scared and felt so alone. I was in a depression just thinking about opening up and sharing the deepest pains of my heart, and could not talk the rational side of my brain into believing this would be a good path for me.

By Monday night Shawn called me out, “Ash . . . is everything ok? You have been like somewhere else all weekend long, and I . . . just . . . how can I help you with whatever you are dealing with? Ever since we were in the temple and you were crying so hard, I  . . . you seem like something is wrong.”

I didn’t want to say a word about the powerful feeling I had received. I didn’t want to put him through anymore of me “dealing with the past”. I didn’t want to hurt him. I didn’t want to scare him off, or have this be another thing that made him feel like we could never just be a family. And even more, for the first time in our marriage, he had been the one to ask me to go to the temple for him. I thought I was going that day to help him with a struggle he was having, not to get inspiration on anything I was supposed to do. I felt very selfish. I didn't dare tell him about the decision I was wrestling with.  I dodged around the truth.

By the end of our (fake on my end) conversation he offered to give me a blessing. The blessing was powerful. The words he spoke pierced my soul. One of the very phrases that had come to my mind in the temple, was spoken by my husband into the air, “I need you to be a voice to others of my children who aren’t listening. They are hurting too.”

When the blessing was over Shawn flipped me around and hugged me. He looked into my eyes and grabbed my shoulders and said, “Ash . . . do you know what all of that meant? Please tell me you know what you are supposed to do? I have never in my life heard or given a blessing like that.” I reluctantly answered as I sobbed out loud, “Yes . . . but I don’t want to do it . . . and I don’t know how I am going to. I know exactly what I am supposed to do, but I can’t . . . I can’t. It is going to hurt more than anything I have ever done. It isn’t fair. I have been through enough humiliation . . . why me? Why?”

He grabbed my hand and said the exact words I needed to hear, “Ash . . . Whatever it is . . . if I were you, I would stop fighting . . . and just have faith—and do it! I will support you . . . heck we have been through so much. You know I am not going anywhere. Whatever is going on—I know more than I have ever known anything . . . you have to do it.”

The next day this blog was born.

When I went to push publish on the first post I paused for a few minutes. I remember praying so hard with bullheaded tears falling down my cheeks, “Heavenly Father . . . I don’t know why I am supposed to do this, I don’t understand how this is going to help anyone but me and the kids . . . but I have faith that the one person who needs this will find it. I pray that it can make a difference for them. I don’t really want to do this, I am scared to share so much humiliation and heartache . . . but I do this for THEE. I dedicate this blog to my children who will one day need to hear the stories it will hold . . . but only because Thou has asked me to. I have been carried by angels, I have seen Thy hand in my life every single day . . . I have faith that You are putting me on the right course. Please let anyone in pain, who reads these stories, find hope . . . in Thee.”  Chills covered my body. I felt so much love surround me. I knew what I had to do. I clicked publish.

If you would have told me, even weeks before that very minute, this journey would have been mine—I would have shrugged my shoulders and laughed. There has been little about this journaling mission that has been fun for me—but it has brought me so much joy. I have so powerfully felt, for the first time since Emmett died, that I am on the right course.

Yes there have been others who have tried to tell me I am doing this for a purpose different than I am—there have been many with cruel opinions about who they think I am . . . and that is ok. If there is one thing I have learned it is this: when God believes in you—or asks you to be more than you are on your own—you grab His hand and follow. You don’t wait around to see who thinks it is a good idea, or ask for the support of anyone but Him. You merely have faith that the right GPS is the one telling you to get back on the right path.

Sometimes God is whispering, “Proceed to the route.” (Sometimes He has to shout it quite loud . . . especially for me!). And sometimes He is merely sticking you on a trail He needs you to be.

Faith—as scary as it is—is what brings us to find our missions.

This blog has not just been an amazing outlet of the pain and anger from my heart—as I thought it would be when I started last January. It has saved me from myself. It has helped me remember all the truths I have known all along. It has given me an opportunity to remember the good times I had before the murder, and to look forward to the ones that lay ahead. It has been a time for me to reflect upon my relationship with God and the foundation He has been in every single day of my life.

It is strange to look back on certain days, that I once felt were as black as night, and remember all the tender mercies that have been a light to help me find my way through them. In the moment, tender mercies seem to be mere coincidences. Sometimes for me, it isn’t until I look back upon them that I truly see Heavenly Father’s hand.

So this New Year doesn’t just mark the change of one year to the next. It marks, for me, a milestone of the blessing this opportunity has been for me. Thank you, anyone who has cheered me along. (Though the first time I got a comment from a stranger I almost shut the whole thing down)—the kind words and tender stories have been a huge support to help me remember why this was the path I was supposed to take.

For all those years I felt so alone—I cannot feel so now. There is a whole world of quiet pain—each one unique. Maybe your answer will not be to share publicly how it has felt for you—but please know you are not alone. Heavenly Father is always on your side. Our older brother Jesus Christ has shared with Him every pain you feel, and every fight you have battled.

So as you reflect upon your story of the years gone by—look for the times when He was there for you. As you look to the future, pray that the course you are walking is for Him. Maybe others will tell you to “proceed to the route”, but the only trail worth traveling is the one being paved by God.

I hope 2015 is the best this world has seen. I pray there will be more love and we will be able to better serve one another. I hope we will think a little more before we speak, and we may love before we hate. I wish for peace, healing, and hope for all. 

But even more than all of this—I pray for each of us to feel of God’s love. When things are going your way, and even when you are flat on your face . . . pray to be able to see yourself how He sees you—and you will feel joy.

If you have lost your way, now is your time to “proceed to the route”. This life isn’t over until it is over. If you are standing at a crossroads, and have forgotten what trail you were trying to follow—seek the right guidance to help you proceed back to the route where you will be able to protect, and be protected.

Not all crossroads are a battle of right and wrong, but each path we follow will lead us to the next. Protect the dreams you are already living, but don’t doubt yourself when you are asked to proceed to the next trail. Each of us will have a unique route to conquer, but only you can know which trails were meant to be followed.

I feel as insignificant as I did a year ago as I pour my heart out with memories of the past, but many things have changed: I am starting to remember who I always have been, I am embracing my story, I am seeking truth, and I am finding hope every day. I still battle the temptation to doubt that I am enough. I still fight the dark fears that try to creep in and destroy everything I know to be true. Life is still hard, and I struggle in some form or another every day. But one thing is for sure— for every time I fall—I am still finding reasons to stand.

For the one year anniversary of Emmett's death Bostyn and Bailey wrote a song they called Memory Song. I was going to write about that one year anniversary tonight but felt I needed to write about this one instead. Someday I will write about this day, but for now here is Memory Song (Bostyn and Bailey)

Looking back:


Stephy Snell said...

Having read from day 1 and never commented, I feel perhaps it is my time. This year started put as the darkest of my life. I cannot express, how every single post shot a light of understanding and hope into my life. I would go through a new part of my trial, open your blog and yet AGAIN you spoke about the exact thing I was going through that week and needed to hear. I began to look forward to a new post from you desperately, clinging to them like a lifeline. There is an intense burning of gratitude in my heart, for your bravery and faith to follow gods path for you. Through your faith I found comfort, and love through my father in heaven that he was watching over me through my own personal hell, and it felt as many of us feel during conference, that you were speaking just for me and no one else. Thank you. I thank my father in heaven for you many nights. But thank you, for listening to him. And being there for a total stranger, in a way only our savior can orchestrate so masterfully. With deep love, from henefer utah.

Anonymous said...

Thank you!! You have been an inspiration to many!

Francie said...

I have to comment today to let you know that i needed to read your words today. This morning my husband drove out of the drive way headed to another state to start our new little business. I am staying behind to sell our home and pack our things. Our journey started just two months ago and we will leave the home we love and everything we know. It has been a decision that we have completely been guided to by our Heavenly Father. I know it is the right path and that we are on the right road but all week I keep having regrets and I keep looking back and I keep questioning WHAT ARE WE DOING? but your post today was meant for me to read today. I know my struggles are nothing like what you have endured but your message today was meant for me to read so thank you for that. I will proceed to the route that our Heavenly Father is leading us to and I will be grateful for each of these little reminders i get each day reminding me that he is leading us each step of the way. Thank you for your words today Ashley

Anonymous said...

I have also read your blog from the beginning. I really don't have any huge trials in my life right now, just daily motherhood type things, but still I found myself drawn to your story. Thanks for your wonderful example of faith and motherhood! That is what has really stood out to me! How you can do all you do and endured so much with so many small children in tow. My hat is off to you! Continue the great work!

glenda said...

Thank you! When I read your post it makes me realize though there's fear God is right beside us. Guiding the road. Just follow. Thank you Ashley! May the new year 2015 be filled with much health, joy, peace & strength to always move forward.

Anonymous said...

I have told you before but will say it again: your sharing your journey, struggles, faith, and insights has helped me find faith in my own pathway, and I know it is helping hundreds if not thousands of people. We were strangers, but I feel like you are a sister. I am so glad you did not shut down the blog when you got a comment from a stranger. Truly, we are all sisters and brothers and we all need each other as we grope our way through this life to the goal.

Lisa said...

Your posts bring tears to my eyes, but not always because of sadness. Tears because I know that I am not alone. Tears because I feel empathy. Tears because I feel the Spirit of a loving Father in Heaven through the experiences you share, words you write, and validation I feel....It is difficult for me to put into words. You have a gift. You are blessing so many lives and I am another unknown stranger who has been touched by your blog posts. I have been inspired by your strength. I have found hope through your relationship with Shawn....and the fact that yes, there are still good men out there in the world. I thank you so much for following the promptings you received in the temple, and through words in a blessing. Yours is a special work, a much needed work, and I am so grateful that you haven't let the negative people stop you from the work. I am so grateful.

Lori said...

Ashlee, thank you for creating this blog. You are a very inspiring & strong woman!

Anonymous said...

One yr ago I seriously considered divorce and was in a depression. Your thoughts have pulled me through this last year. I'm still married and getting help now. I have really appreciated your blog as I sorted through my own issues, doubts and disappointments. My story is completely different but I've gone through similar emotions and related to what you spoke. I look forward to your posts too.

Anonymous said...

I found your blog on Pinterest of all places this summer while going through a hard time and your words and your perspective really helped me gain perspective. Thank you for having the courage to share your story and thank you for what an inspiring woman you are.

Mari said...

I just want to say you are AMAZING!

I think sometimes it is hard to blog, because we never know who is influenced or reading unless they comment and say so, and most people don't.

I want you to know you have been a powerful force for good for me! I had been following your blog and I was amazed by your strength from the beginning. And then my husband died (an attorney colleague of Emmett's) leaving me a young widow with 4 children, and I started feeling an even stronger draw to your words and graceful way of handling your trials.

There were days when my husband first died that I would just devour what you wrote, I would check for a post hoping for something new so I could have some fresh thoughts and perspective. So often you would have posted something right when I needed it. My favorite post was the "What If?" post.

I do not comment every time, but I read every post.

The trials you write of have never made you seem vulnerable or weak, you are viewed in the opposite light -- you are strong and powerful. The more you share, the stronger you appear. I mean, you are still standing, and that's AMAZING!!!

I am so grateful you obeyed the promptings to start your blog. It has been so helpful in my healing. I can only imagine how many people you have helped, and you will never know the impact you have had by sharing your story.

It has been 9 months now since my husband died. And I am still standing, too. :)

Thank you for your help!

Please keep writing!

Your widow friend across town,



KaycieQ said...

I'm so grateful you listened to those promptings. Your blog is so inspirational. Even though I've never been through a trial as trying as yours....I now know with more certainty that I can get through anything life will throw at me. Thank you for letting me be a part of your life.

Anonymous said...

Thank you.... Day 1 has helped a lot of people! Carry on!

Anonymous said...

I saw yours and Emmett's story on Dateline, and couldn't believe it. I found your blog and have been very inspired by you. You are a terrific writer and it seems as though you have come a long way. I will be praying for you and your family. Thanks for sharing your story!

P.s.: I deeply apologize if this is inappropriate, but Emmett was extremely handsome. However, that doesn't give any other woman the right to flirt/egg him on in any way when she KNEW he was married. It's disgusting. I personally don't know how you were able to look Kandi in the eye...He was insanely good looking though- not that it's any sort of excuse. Again, my apologies if that was inappropriate.

Alicia said...

I am another one whose life you have touched. Thank you so much for taking the time to share your story. Sometimes it is helpful just to know that there are other people out there who face difficult, and even overwhelming challenges, but they face them...and get through them. Your faith and courage has strengthened mine. Keep up the great work! Really, thank you...you will never know how much reading your stories has helped me. I especially loved this one...and I will try to proceed to the route, even when it seems scary. Thank you again!

Sharon Stone said...

I love your blog and also Bostyn and Bailee's blog. You have all shown remarkable strength through tragic circumstances. You are doing a great job as a mum!

Valerie said...

I appreciate the beginning of the post about the insistent message to go another way. It's gotten me thinking to things in my life right now. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

"A Time to Say Goodbye" was the first post I read here and I was addicted. For me, my "time to say goodbye" was in regards to an ex-boyfriend I'd been having an affair with for 5 years. He was married. I was married. We had/have children. I would get online everyday and hope you'd posted something new, and if you hadn't I'd just reread other posts and I'd feel our Heavenly Father speaking to me through your words. It had been a LONG time since I'd felt the spirit speak to me so strongly, and I knew my future was waiting for me to start it.... I just had to make that change and say goodbye. It was the first part of May when I last spoke to him. I didn't even actually tell him goodbye, but after our last conversations I knew it had to be the last. A week later I finally confessed the WHOLE truth to my husband, fully expecting it to be the end of us also... it wasn't. I don't know why he stuck around, but the last 8 months have been the hardest, most difficult time in our lives. However, during this time I have felt closer to my Father in Heaven than I can remember feeling in a very long time. You were a mouthpiece that brought clarity and hope back to my eyes. I have never posted on here, but I feel it is my turn to tell you how thankful I am that you followed that prompting to share your soul with the world. Thank you. You will never know the number of souls you have helped rescue just by putting yourself out there for all of us to see. May God continue to bless and strengthen you in all you do. Thank you.

Ashlee said...

Wow. Thank you so much for this. I needed today to be reminded why I do this. That was so powerful to hear. I pray that you may continue to feel the love Heavenly Father has for you. Thanks for being so strong.

Anonymous said...

I've been feeling a prompting to come back to your blog for several days now. I starter by reading the coat story, now this. A year ago your word and faith helped inspire me to read the scriptures more diligently. I'll remember the coat story tomorrow as I get my kids ready for church

Anonymous said...

... And your blog has inspired me on a number of levels. You have been an influence for good in my life. Thank you, please keep going.

Anonymous said...

... And your blog has inspired me on a number of levels. You have been an influence for good in my life. Thank you, please keep going.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for being the voice for those of us who cannot speak publicly.

Melissa Johnson said...

Tonight I needed this reminder that the Lord knows me and my trials, and that He truly is directing my path--even if I feel every day like I'm on a construction detour with the GPS yelling at me :-D

Reading through this post has felt like stopping to ask for directions, and being reassured that I am indeed on the right path. Thank you for listening to the Lord's inspiration and sharing your story.

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