July 28, 2015

Life Expert

I had the opportunity to do a lot of speaking engagements and interviews during the month of June. It is amazing how much I learn each time I do: things that I remember—or lessons I am taught—as I go around to share my passion, in a message that has become a part of who I am. 

For a long time, as I would share our story, I thought it was to save someone from choosing evil. I thought if I could just help one person stay away from a bad choice, it would change the course of their life . . . or save them from an unexpected death. I hoped that I could save just one wife from ever sitting across from a room full of strangers, being told of a real life nightmare. I hoped if I could save someone from hurting their spouse—that would be one less victim doubting their own existence. 

I set out on a journey to open up my pain—in a desperate plea to all who could hear—to help them see that they could never let anyone they loved feel the pain that ate me alive. 

But this funny thing has happened—more and more, I am starting to learn that the real purpose of sharing our story is to bring hope—not just in a reminder of trauma and death—but in a light full of life. To remind people that no matter where they have been—they still have good inside of them. To help others see, that no matter who has doubted them or left them alone . . . they are still enough. To not only give people a list of the things that they should avoid—but to help them remember all the good inside of them that they might be forgetting. 

In a search to find how to be enough for myself I have found thousands of friends who are on that same journey. A silent battle against our own minds—looking and hoping to find a place where we feel like we can be free from the pain of the past. 

So friends. Our journeys are not the same—but I feel one with so many of you. We are all fulfilling a mission: trying to become experts in life. 

Thank you for letting me have a voice these last few years. I never would have asked to stand on a stage and pour out my soul—or sit on my bed and type through my tears—but I have never known more, without a shadow of a doubt, that I was right where I was supposed to be. 

On my road to healing I have found my way to a new journey. And it has been beautiful. 

A few weeks ago I got an email insisting that I just must be an expert in life. Ironically, the same day, I got another email insisting that I must be a fraud . . . that the hard things I have had to endured were my own fault because of who I am. One of these woman saw the good I have been trying to find; the other only saw flaws and imperfections.  

Sometimes I have felt very inadequate for the task of talking about life. I am NOT an expert on anything. I doubt myself in one way or another every single day. I mess up. I say the wrong thing, or screw up in some form or some way. I lack in perfection in parenting, and obviously in love. I have days that I suck at being a wife. My laundry—is a joke. My cooking has been weak. I compulsively check on my children in the middle of the night. I get jealous and insecure. I have panic attacks and get paralyzed—some days—in fear. On the bad days I am a horrible friend. I forget to call people back, and am told I never respond to questions on Facebook, and sometimes weeks before I answer emails. Hurtful emails have been given the power to ruin my day or cause me to doubt my purpose and mission. I have only mopped my floor twice this whole summer. I get nervous every time I have to speak in front of people. Some weeks the only clean clothes I fold for myself are pjs and sweats.  I hate swimming in water that I cannot see what is beneath me and I am afraid of the dark. (And these are just a few examples of the negative characteristics that I posses that cause me to doubt myself in the roles that I play.)

For every fight I wage to find goodness, I fight against my self-doubt, or others who willingly share their opinions of who I am. 

One thing is for sure—every word I have ever written and every speech I have ever given . . . has not been intended as a sermon from anyone who has perfected anything. On the contrary . . . the words that have come from my heart, have only been written because they are what I needed to hear. As the opposite of an expert in life—I have found that I have much to learn, and hope that I can always strive to grow and stand a little taller. To fight less, and let go of things that are not in my control. 

But there are some things I will never stop fighting for.

#1.  I will—at the end of this life—have completely forgiven all who have wronged me. 

#2.   I will not let a day go by without telling my family how much they mean to me. 

#3.  I will fight to find joy in being a mother. 

#4.   I will love faithfully. 

#5.   I will fight for the light. 

#6.   I will search for hope. 

#7.   I will testify of Jesus Christ and his infinite grace. 

#8.   I will strive each day to be better than the last. 

#9.   I will smile. 

#10.  I will put my family first. 

I still have much to write on this blog. I have stories in journals, and in my mind, that testify of these truths and the moments I am still learning how to stand tall in them. Thank you to everyone who has believed in me as I fulfill this mission—to find hope and healing. 

Life is going to be filled with storms. It has been said many times . . . it isn’t about calming the storms—it is about learning to stand through them. 

Our storms are never done, so our faith has to be unmovable. Looking back, after the storm, we might not be given the answers to why . . . but God will always show us how. 

Find your purpose and seek out your mission. With those two things, the answers will come. We may never become experts in all that we do—but we will become full of life. Life is not about perfecting ourselves . . . it is about perfectly being where Heavenly Father needs us to be. 

It is through Him we will find our purpose. It is through His grace we will be lead to our mission. I do not fully comprehend the WHY’s of my own life, but I will never again let them hold me back. 

The most amazing blessings come after the greatest sacrifice. Most of the time we don't get to choose what those losses and lessons will look like . . . but somehow it must have been part of the plan, or it wouldn’t have been. 

So to all the other experts that have only found perfection in failure—I get ya—the only thing I have constantly succeed in . . . is imperfection and failure. We are all experts in losing in one form or another, but as long as we don’t ever lose sight of what really matters . . . we will win.

Put your family first. Put your trust in God and rely on His Son’s grace to carry you through your storms—and you will make it through. Not because it will be easy . . . but because there is so much good in you. You are stronger than you think and smarter than you will ever know. You have gifts you haven’t even begun to realize. The spiritual strength that is hiding inside of you is the powerful tool that will be the armor that helps you win all of the battles worth fighting. 

So maybe we will continue to lose. Maybe we will always suck at laundry, and burn our dinner. Maybe our children will see us stub our toes, and hear us scream. Maybe a small army could eat their dinner off of our kitchen floor. Maybe the world is reminding us of all our inadequacies every single day—but they are not the experts in our life . . . we are.  

From the outside, some might think we are experts at everything they do not know. From the inside, we might see ourselves as the farthest thing from perfecting anything . . . especially life.

We are all right there. Imperfect messes, hoping to at least become the expert at one thing. I hope I can give my whole heart to my family—perfectly be there for them in the way that Christ would want me to be.  I hope if I perfect anything in this life—it is that I always put my family first.

Life isn’t easy. Love can be scary—especially when you know what it is like to lose it. Don’t let your fear of losing something stop you from loving it with all your heart. 

You don’t have to be an expert to live life . . . you just have to perfectly be where you were created to be. As long as the right One is seeing the good in your journey, who cares about all the rest? 

Be in the moment. Stand. You are the expert of your own destiny. You are the perfect one to . . . be you. Only you can fulfill the mission you were sent here to live. So when all the experts around you try to get you to believe you should be something else . . . just be you. Perfectly imperfect. 

Expect imperfection. Expect to grow. Expect to change. Expect to hurt. Expect to lose. Expect to be surprised. But even more importantly . . . expect that the real experts in life . . . are the ones living it.

Moments in June that I will never forget. 
 From my journal in June: 

(Not too long ago, a boy met a girl. Just as the stories say it was almost love at first sight. Only Unlike the movies . . . The girl was what some might see as broken, used garbage. This girl had a rocky past and a lot of baggage. The boy had a past, and his own hurt heart. Somehow they saw past all of that and saw each each other for who they really were. But life has a way of blurring that view. There have been a lot of days along the way that this boy and girl have wondered if they made the right choice. They have wondered if their love was worth all the fight. They have battled the broken—together—to try make things feel whole. Tonight I got to speak at a fireside and for the first time in all these years this guy came with me. Looking out into the audience—and seeing tears fall down his face as he stared back at me with those big blue eyes—I saw that boy I fell in love with years ago. He is something else, and I am so proud to be his wife)

(For the first time I got to speak with my four daughters in the audience. It was amazing to speak up in the mountains to a group of strong young women, and look out and see these four girls. I am so proud to be their mom. They each have a unique spirit they bring to my life and I want to be better because of them.)

A few of the podcast interviews I was able to be a part of: 


Leane said...

"Don’t let your fear of losing something stop you from loving it with all your heart. "
That thought really stuck me today. Thank you for putting yourself and your story out there. It's a hard thing to do, especially when people choose to pass judgement on it. We all have hard things in life to over come, but I know with God, we can do ALL the hard things. The best is yet to come!

Unknown said...

Perfectly imperfect, love that! Just had to comment and tell you how much reading your blog has been an inspiration to me. I don't know you, but came across your blog and have been following for a while now. I can relate so much to your feelings and experience in my own small way. Thanks for sharing your life experiences and the wisdom you have gained through it all. You are doing amazing and are a great example to a lot of people, imperfections and all! You've definitely made a difference for me.

Rachel said...

There will always be people who want to be negative or judgmental. It's hard to not feel hurt when people choose to give that kind of unsolicited opinion, but try not to give people like that a second thought. Chalk it up to them having their own limitations...their negativity reflects on them not you. You are obviously authentic, brave and selfless for sharing vulnerabilities and your healing process to bless others. Good for you for being an inspiration. God bless you and your family.

Rebecca said...

Ashlee, thank you for sharing all that you have. You have blessed me and many, many others, I am sure.

glenda said...

I've always said that "I'm perfectly imperfect". Let the naysayers say what they want to say... let it roll off your shoulders... people will always judge... they are not walking in your shoes. You are enough! Continue to do what is right for you and your beautiful family and thank you for sharing your story with all of us. Peace & strength to you all! xx

Caitlin said...

You are beautiful! Thank you for sharing your heart! I'm so thankful for your words and the spirit you convey. Keep hoping, keep fighting.

Victoria said...

I can't believe someone would take the time to email you to tell you you're a fraud. What a sad person to do such a thing. You're a beautiful and inspirational young woman who was blindsided by something horrible that most definitely was NOT your fault or brought on by you! Continue standing tall and being who you are Ashlee!!!

Anonymous said...

I am so grateful for all of your thoughts that you have shared on your blog. I have my own "haters" in my own life. It is painful to be judged. Some of them are my own siblings. You are amazing! Thanks for sharing your journey!

Jennifer said...

You are not a fraud! Far from it! You are the real deal. It doesn't matter why trials come to us, what matters is what we do with them. This is your journey to heal and by helping others we help ourselves. You continue to inspire, uplift and give hope to us all. I've never posted on your blog, but I was feeling sorry for myself today and without hope and I knew your words would be something I needed. You are being led on your journey to truly lead others out of their dark hours. Thank you for being exactly who you are and being so courageous to share it all with the world.

Patty Johnson said...

I believe that those who are negative are the ones who are hurting the most. Don't take it personally. It has nothing to do with you and everything to do with them. I remember a story I read once where someone was being incredibly negative to the man in the story. When the negative person finished speaking, he asked this question: "If someone gives you a gift that you do not want, do you have to accept it?" The negative person replied, "No." The man said, "Neither do I accept your gift (meaning the sharing of his negativity)." Always allow yourself to accept the beautiful gifts in life and let others keep the things you don't want or need. You have incredible gifts to share with the world. May you remember each day how grateful the world is for your courage, strength, and compassion.

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