November 30, 2016

Our greatest honor

This morning I got my kids off to school. I cleaned up my house for a few minutes, and then went into my office, wrote in my journal, and did ten minutes of sit ups and push ups. I got on my computer to get some work done for my January conference coming up in Arizona—opened up my email to see a few new emails from Bailey stating boldly she finally decided what to do her debate paper about: Why Guns should be Illegal. Accompanied with a graph that showed the percentage of murders by weapon—guns being the greatest source of wrongful deaths.

An all too familiar feeling took over my body. My heart started racing and my breathing felt heavy. I looked around the room—in slow motion—as I could feel my body racing back in time. Images, thoughts, fears, anger, sorrow . . . the usual wave of triggered emotions engulfed me within seconds.

I haven’t sobbed so hard in a long time. First of all . . . for the pride that swelled for my brave daughter as I knew this decision must be part of her healing process, but second for the fears and insecurities that beckoned inside of me. For a few minutes at my desk I felt like a failure—reality of my children’s childhood blaring at me across a screen. Thoughts began beating me down—You didn’t protect them from this. You are a joke of a person. Clearly you haven’t survived anything if your daughter still hurts this much. You let them hurt. You can’t fix this. You are a pathetic loser, and not even a real mom. If you had been a better wife none of this would have happened to them—they wouldn’t have to spend the rest of their life hating guns, and trying to figure out how they can fix this world you ruined for them.

For a minute I let the thoughts have their voice in my head. I felt confused and panicked and alone. I felt trapped, and dark and full of fear. Tears kept on coming as I whirled through the facts that proved all of those thoughts true.

And then all the sudden I realized something—they were all lies. I said a small prayer and begged for angels to come take the darkness from my mind. I closed my eyes and pictured what I know grace to be—a Savior who loves us and holds us through our struggles, a brother who never leaves us alone, a friend who understand ALL of our pain, and a partner who stands by our side—I knew more than anything I needed Him in that moment. And guess what? Within minutes the fog faded, I opened my eyes, and stood up and walked out of my office. Not just feeling ok, but feeling strong. I felt confident and proud of my daughter who was fighting just like me.

Grace in action. He promised us He died for all of our pain . . . but how come in those moments we almost always forget that promise?

Moms. We do so much. We hurt for our babies, we cry for their pain. We plead for their peace. In a small little baby fraction of a way we know how powerful the Savior’s job must be—not just for a few—but for all of us.

I have talked to thousands of moms about the battles they face. This post is dedicated to those moms in this world who never stop fighting.

First I want to start by talking about a few of the fights that I—and other moms—have battled. These phrases are direct quotes from moms who have been there.

Survival mode. (Also known as denial)
No progression. Stuck. Frozen. But not debilitated. Fake it until you make it. When the damn breaks it is hell...cause that pain comes oozing out. Shakes, upset stomach...constant companion. Hard to eat, or to stop eating.  Hard to find joy in anything . . . but try purposefully to remain neutral on bad things as to not upset the fear that is keeping you alive. (I lived in this mode until long after the trial)

“This is reality” mode: when everything you thought would bring happiness is over—or finally yours—but you are still hurting. Closure isn't in your vocabulary. Everything seems harder than in survival mode, because your fog of denial has been lifted—this is reality. Debilitating fears. Panic attacks. Hard time. Constantly overwhelmed. Harder to fake your smiles. Not even surviving . . . just breathing.

Fighter mode: when every life trial that comes feels so overwhelming that you literally have to fight every day for your life. Something goes wrong every day. Feel like you are constantly overcoming something hard and looking to its end for relief . . . only to find that another trial comes to replace it. Feel like the universe is against you. No rest. Sitting at the window looking into the dark. Feeling unsafe wherever you are. Always on guard.

“Too Overwhelmed so I avoid” mode: Even the simplest of task—like the thought of helping a child with homework can shut you down and make you want to scream . . . or run away. Pretending to be in the bathroom for long stretches of time, seeing everyone else’s perfect lives. Wondering why you didn’t get the life you deserved. Kids watched a movie all day. House is destroyed all the time. No order. Just chaos. Kids out of control, won’t listen. Always fighting with siblings. Turn to addictions: working out, shopping, eating, social media . . . just to avoid the overwhelmed feeling of the lists you need to complete. But the more you avoid the lists . . . the more overwhelmed guilt engulfs you. This cycle is one of the craziest, because until you stop it—on purpose—it takes over your life. But you usually can’t even see you are in it, because those avoidance tactics feel so much easier than facing the battles.

Ok, these are just some of the stories I have heard, or felt in my own life, when it comes to parenting through struggles. Some of these woman say they have no reason to be dealing with this stuff—AKA no huge trauma that brought on these struggles—so what we are going to clear up first and foremost is that thought, because even just thinking that your battles aren’t worthy fights causes more guilt that ultimately creates more failures in our homes. The idea that your struggles can’t be as real as someone who has been through a traumatic event is absolutely not true. Each person’s dark fogs are as real for them as they are for anyone else.

So here is the deal . . . we all suck sometimes—some of those sucky parenting moments are “justified” because of the life experiences we have been handed . . . but whether we are aware of why we are triggered—with overwhelm and anxiety—or not . . . it is happening, or will happen at some point along the way.

So this post—though I could spend seventy years writing about the failures that I justified because of the failure I perceived as my life—is to empower us moms to not just fight the battles in survival mode. . . but to fight them with intention. Make a plan against the enemy who wants us to spend this life avoiding—not doing anything “bad”—but forgetting where we are going to make the most impact, or seeing where we already have.

We have the power to undo the damage that Satan does to our minds and our souls. We are not worthless; we are more powerful than we even know. He wants us to forget it every day—don’t let him. We have to fight through the fog.

So let me break this down for a second.

We have to start every day with a plan. Write down a few goals you want to accomplish. Do something every morning to get spiritually centered, because when mommies are off . . . aint no one going to have a good day.

For me this looks like: writing a letter to God, listening to an uplifting talk or inspirational video, uplifting music (my favorite is Paul Cardall’s Pandora station) at least ten minutes of some sort of exercise (even if it is dancing around with your newborn in your arms) and a morning prayer. I know the physical part doesn’t seem like it goes with spiritually centering yourself . . . but it is what engages your body to be able to get centered on where God needs you to be each day . . . here on earth. Healthy food, drinking more water, living within your means, getting out of debt, and cleansing your surroundings are other ways we can show God we are taking care of the vessels He has placed us in to fulfill our mission. (I will cover a few of these in some later posts)

So once you feel connected to God, and to the earth . . . you can better be able to figure out what your day is to look like for Him. Visualize the connection—vertically up to Him and down to this earth. (Horizontal connections keep us in the fog . . . ex: depending on other people’s approval before doing anything, addictions we use to avoid life, waiting around for a new outfit to make you feel pretty enough to find your confidence) And that part about also being connected to the earth—it is where we are and the place we have to be to find our purpose and mission. We can spend all day trying to get close to God, but if we don’t allow ourselves to be content in the path we are on . . . we will continue to avoid the inspiration He tries to send us.

So this is the first step—always—when overcoming the fog. NO other person can take it away, just Christ. That is what grace is—it is His mission alone to carry us through and help us fight our way through our battles. Notice I didn’t say OUT of our battles . . . because if we don’t work through them, they will only come back stronger. We have to feel and allow ourselves to be vulnerable to really heal and overcome the hardships and triggers in our lives.  

Ok, so now we have the first step. With the fog cleared we can find our center, and in our center we can find our mission and purpose each and every day. When we know who we are and why we came here—we are powerful. As mothers, as wives, as friends . . . in all the roles we play. So that is why Satan wants us to forget. Our greatest battle we will ever fight is to keep remembering our truths.

So here is the truth: I want more than anything in the world to be the wife and mother I believe I can be. I want to be patient and loving. I want to teach my kids how to physically and spiritually find their way. I don’t want to let them use any excuses of their past to ever live under their full potential. I want to teach them to be respectful and kind, and how to tell the truth. I want them to be loyal. I want them to know they have good inside of them. I want them to one day see—as I am still fighting to do—that we don’t have to be afraid of guns. I want them to be proud of the men and woman they are going to grow up to be. I want them to always remember me as a mother who took the time to listen, who made the most of every moment and who wasn’t afraid of the dark. I want them to know how to find the light in their lives, and remember the miracles that we have seen. I want them to grow up to be warriors, who never give up or give in. I want to keep my promises, and show them how to do the same. I want to teach them how to stand, because their story has so much good in it. I want them to be proud that the one consistent in their lives is Christ. I hope that each and every day I show them how to live like Him.

We are going to make mistakes moms. We are going to stumble and fall, and some moments are going to hurt. But we aren’t alone. I know from the bottom of my soul we have a Creator who made us to be just the way we are, and sent His Son to live and die for us. Grace is for us too, in those moments when life feels like it is letting us down—again. Your story is beautiful, you just have to fight to remember why.

They won’t remember the perfect pictures, they won’t remember if their socks matched or if your kitchen floor was always mopped and the food was always hot . . . they will remember your smile, your warm embrace when they were scared, your bright eyes that told them they were safe, and your soft hands that wiped their tears. 

We cannot take away all their pain, but we—with the Savior—can show them how to win. The real failure will not have anything to do with the awards we did not recieve, or the sites we did not see . . . it will be if our babies grow up without us because we were so wrapped up in waiting for something more.

You are there. Live in this moment, today. And do it on purpose. No regrets. What they will remember most is the easiest to do, but also the easiest to forget . . .

You are doing a great job. Don’t you dare give up. Put down those phones and laugh like you have never laughed before. Not because everything is finally how you thought it should have been . . . but because it is exactly where you were born to be. Motherhood is the greatest work we will ever do. The world might fail to recognize all the sacrifices you have made, but God has seen EVERY. SINGLE. ONE.

(I got on here to write some recipes, requested by a few of you on Instagram Story. Apparently I got a little distracted. I will work on those in the morning, also a post on my mommy store I shared on Instagram Story!! Thank you for always encouraging me in the little things. If you have read my first book, you know that cooking used to be a HUGE trigger for me. It has been fun to get back to finding passion in it again. I will be honored to share those recipes and ideas on here! Thank you so much for asking. 


Priya said...

As a person affected by gun violence. ..i always tell ppl there is no reason for anyone other than Police officers to carry a gun😢

Anonymous said...

I was affected TWICE by impaired/ distracted drivers. Life as I know it has changed because of IRRESPONSIBLE choices made by people. I do not blame the "cars"- I blame the people. Guns don't kill, PEOPLE DO.
I believe in protecting myself as much as possible & I am all about gun rights.
Have you looked at how many people die each day in car wrecks? We aren't going to make cars illegal & we shouldn't make guns illegal to carry either. Choices are made - whether it's driving or carrying a weapon.
Rob made a poor (Deadly) choice-- the gun didn't make the choice. The consequence is Rob's to carry now-- he went to the slammer... not the gun.
Knife deaths appear to be the 2nd runner up -according to the graph you show... I don't see a day where knifes would ever be illegal. If people are disturbed enough to harm others- they will find a way. It's NOT the guns... it's the people & their choices!

Unknown said...

Thank You Ashlee!! I needed this for sure!! Look forward to recipes also!! I have been trying to figure.out my problem for 2 years high stress and futile lol...i WILL laugh like i havent laughed in a long time. Lifes storms knock us down and it sure is hard to hold ourselves up sometimes and when there's little children to take care of it can be difficult.

I Know God is on the throne so Ashlee Thank You for reminding me that I can cast my care on Him because He cares for me.
God Bless You and Yours!!

Unknown said...

Thank You Ashlee!! I needed this for sure!! Look forward to recipes also!! I have been trying to figure.out my problem for 2 years high stress and futile lol...i WILL laugh like i havent laughed in a long time. Lifes storms knock us down and it sure is hard to hold ourselves up sometimes and when there's little children to take care of it can be difficult.

I Know God is on the throne so Ashlee Thank You for reminding me that I can cast my care on Him because He cares for me.
God Bless You and Yours!!

Anonymous said...

This post is inspirational and wonderful, thank you for taking the time to write so many of your personal thoughts and experiences down to share your goodness with others. Love reading your blog

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