November 30, 2018

Perfect Love Casteth out all Fear

I want to share with you a very personal experience. Not because I am proud of it . . . but because I am tired of the shame that I feel when I have experienced it, and hope that this visual can help you understand a little more about the voice in your own head, and the dark trap it can feel like.

This pregnancy has been a big struggle for me. I know I talked about it briefly a few posts back, but I want to get a little more real with you about some of the battles I have been fighting. The battle of “Am I enough?” has been a silent one for me for a long time. I have shared with all of you the times in the past when I have had to face that deamon, but I wanted to describe ways in which it still tries to show up now.

Being enough isn’t just a one-time battle, but a lifetime pursuit.

Every day we will face triggers—reminders of trauma from the past—that try to take us to our weakest points. Sometimes we will feel armed and ready for them, other times they will shake us to our core. Fear of inadequacy is not always a fight we will be prepared to win.

For the first time in months, this week I finally felt pretty good. I went out and bought maternity clothes—so I would stop trying to squeeze into my old pants and feel depressed when they didn’t fit. A few weeks back I had discovered I was low on iron and it was really messing with my emotions—and that was finally leveling out. Morning sickness had faded away, and I had stopped dry heaving every time I walked into a room. I had overcome a lot of the triggers that had come up during the early months of my pregnancy—I talked about a few posts back—I was feeling ready to embrace this changing body and just enjoy the miracle that was growing inside of me. Life was feeling pretty good.

I couldn’t wait for my doctor’s appointment—and hear that reassuring sound of the baby’s heart beat. Everything went smoothly, until my doctor stepped right onto the landmine that I had thought I had covered pretty well. She looked up from her chart and said, “My only concern is . . . you have gained a lot more weight then we want you to at this point.” I looked over at Scott with a get me out of here look on my face. I tried to hold back the tears as I listened to her remind me of the “healthy choices” I should be making.

By the time I got to my car I wasn’t really embarrassed and ashamed of my body any more—I was just pissed. Angry that a fear I had been working through for weeks now had voice again. I said a little prayer, “Heavenly Father, I see what he is trying to do. Get me all worked up about my changing body and lose my focus on the things that really matter. I know what I can do to help my body and my baby be healthy, please help me stay focused and not let this fear creep back in and make me lose track of the progress I have made in working through this truma and help me to be able to see pregnancy as the blessing that it is. A few extra pounds—I don’t care about that—I just want a healthy baby.”

The night went on. We put up all of our Christmas trees and had fun decorating the house. Morning came and I got all ready in one of my new maternity sweaters. Everything fit, and I actually felt pretty in my own skin. I walked into the kitchen where Kaleeya was sitting at the bar. She looked at me and in the sweetest little voice said, “Wow, Mom! You don’t even look pregnant in that shirt, you just look fat!” A meaningful complement I am sure, sunk deep into my heart . . . where it met the little voice that spoke even louder than it had for months, “You aren’t enough—Scott isn’t going to love you with that disgusting body.”

My soul sunk low—believing every fearful word in my head. I got the kids off to school and as I walked in my house and shut the door, I burst into tears. Every fear—all the dark memories of the past—surrounded me. I felt trapped. For a split second I was taken back to a moment when I was sitting in the bathtub almost 8 years ago.  Tytus was just a few weeks old. I had already started to feel the tension and knew that something wasn’t right. Emmett came walking into the bathroom. After weeks of wondering what was wrong whenever he was around, I had come to the conclusion he didn’t want me because of my just had a baby body. All I needed in that moment was for him to look over and tell me I was beautiful, but instead he looked into the mirror, checked himself out for a few minutes and then announced he was heading out.

The fear came back as strong as it had been that day, and in the few weeks that followed. Chaos is what followed. Murder. Truth of affairs. A life turned upside down. Somehow my little mind was just sure, it all started with a changing body—a body too fat to love.

And there it was again—this toxic feeling of wondering if I was going to be enough.

I changed my clothes, got in my car and drove to the only place I know where pure darkness cannot follow. As I sat in the chapel at the temple I opened up a set of scriptures to a random page. I looked down in the middle of the page and there was a scripture I know well.

“For perfect love casteth out all fear”. Tears filled my eyes as I was taken back to another memory—the day I had to write Emmett’s funeral. In all my anger, and fear, and shame, and guilt, and humiliation . . . that was the only scripture or quote I read that felt worthy of being on the bottom of the program. Everything else seemed like a sham—in that moment, those were the only words I could believe.

So again those words spoke to me. As I sat there I tried to picture perfect love. All I could see was the Savior. He is perfect love. He is the only one who can take it all away. The fear, the pain, the unknown, the uncomfortable, the guilt, the anger, all the ‘I am not enough’s, the grief—losing a loved one, or losing a relationship you cherish . . . He has the power to carry it away and bring peace. He has angels standing around us daily ready to go on errands, just for us. To take away the darkness we feel trapped in, and to help Him carry in the light.

With that truth, no amount of fear can take us down. We have to remember we only have one enemy, and his goal is to bring us fear—to remind us often that we are not enough—it is never from God.

We all have scars. Instead of shaming the parts of us we think make us not enough, I was reminded that—because of Him—I have the power to love me, which makes me even more capable of loving those around me. I have the gift to heal after divorce, abuse, infidelity and murder. I have a healthy body capable of creating life. I have a strong spirit and a trusting heart. Because of Him, I have the power that can help me find my truths, over and over again. I can move forward. I have the ability to let go of the pain of losing a relationship with a stepdaughter I adore. I have the chance to forgive the people who have hurt me in my life. Because of Him, I can be forgiven when I have forgotten who I am. I am capable of anything. I am worthy of fighting for.

Because of Him, we can overcome. Because of Him, we can feel light. Because of Him we can one day feel perfect love. And because of Him . . . perfect love casteth out all fear.  

Here we are 13 weeks. We will find out December 20th if it is a boy or girl. What do you think?


Anonymous said...

You and your baby bump are beautiful!

Not that this has anything to do with it, but are you sure your doctor isn't on crack?

Kamilla said...

You are beautiful! Seriously. Your doctor is cray cray. Commenting on weight gain should be off limits since no one gains at a consistent rate and no one is the same. I had months were I gained a bunch and months were I didn't. The only goal is having a healthy baby.

Shelly said...

Oh Ashlee!! I am SO EXCITED for you and Scott and the rest of the family! You deserve happiness, security, joy, peace, hope, love, etc. etc. etc. I am anxious to find out what you are having, I can't wait. BTW, this is Shelly in Ephraim and I am excited for you and thankful for your strength and wonderful example. P.S. I needed this post today as that ugly voice has been yelling at me for a few weeks and I have been struggling. However, I am going to make that scripture my mantra for the coming season!! Love ya!!

ALICIA said...

You are beautiful mama!
That voice is the thief of all JOY, you are wise to seek peace in the temple.
You are beautiful. You are enough. You are special.
I heard this once and loved it, so I want to share with you...
As women, our bodies are the ONLY way spirits can go from spirit world to earth side. �� wow, what an amazing and beautiful gift we were given. Look at yourself everyday and remind yourself of that special miracle, and find 5 things you love about yourself.
You are a true inspiration, and doing great things ��

Carrie said...

You are incredibly beautiful. Not just physically, your spirit shines through!!! I feel so honored to know you. That little baby is blessed to get you for a momma!

Jenny said...

You are radiant! Pregnancy glow plus the Spirit of the Lord:). Don't let anyone (especially the adversary) every convince you otherwise!! Thanks for being such a light and inspiration! God bless you and your beautiful family!!

Annica said...

First of all, you look absolutely beautiful!
Second of all, I can totally relate to this. A doctor told me the same thing during my first pregnancy and told me to eat healthier and that I would risk having a "big baby" that would be difficult to deliver. I felt awful and scared about what the doctor said about a big baby, but I continued gaining weight as I found that I could not stop it no matter what I did, and even though I was not eating too much or anything.
When I gave birth to my first son he ended up weighing 6 pounds, which is not a big baby at all. So all the fear I had let someone else put in my head turned out to be nothing.
Thanks for sharing your story! God bless you and your family!

Donna Tagliaferri said...

You are a miracle....own that. And you are right, you chose the voice to listen to. xoxo

Tara said...

Thank you for sharing your insecurities and how you are able to overcome them. I have the best ob in the world. He was referred to me by several ladies in my ward and is so wonderful, understanding and will take as much time as you need to talk to him. I have used him for my past 3 babies and though it's a bit of a drive for me, it is totally worth it. I'm not sure where in Utah you live, but his name is Dr. Christian Froerer and he is in Murray at Cottonwood. You may not be looking to switch, but I have had a more harsh and critical ob and it made the experience not great at all!

Ashlee said...

For some reason, this thing doesn't want to let me comment on each of your comments . . . I will figure that out. But thank you for your kind words. I had a hard time pushing publish, sometimes I gets so old feeling like I should share my insecure vulnerabilities. So I appreciate you all taking the time to comment and leave me some love. I am so thankful for all of you and your willingness to share a little bit of your lives with me.

Mari said...

Oh my goodness! You are SO beautiful! Thank you for being so open and sharing your feelings, it is so inspiring to learn from you and your life lessons. I have followed your blog since before my husband passed away, and you have been a light in my life, and I am truly grateful to you for that! I value your straightforward and honest way of writing, and your desire to share the goodness of life and the Lord, at the same time. I hope the very best for you as you continue on in your amazing journey! You really are gorgeous! Congratulations on your marriage and baby on the way! May Heaven continue to bless you Ashlee! :)

Your widow friend,


Avry said...

I had those same thoughts when my ex husband had an affair on me. I wanted to blame my body. I told myself that if I would have been thinner or didn't have stretch marks etc. then he would have loved me. It is hard to not pull out the beat up stick when all you wanted was love from someone else. Oh how I've learned, That was 15 years ago... I have the same body now as I did back then yet I love my body now and recognize the affair wasn't about me or how I looked. I learned to push Satan out of my mind and focus on all of the things the lord had given me. Over the years I have healed and found a man that loves this rocking body!! ;) You are absolutely gorgeous. I have followed your story for years and it is awesome to watch you over come time and time again.. You've got this! You've shown the world what it is to STAND!

Sister Brittster said...

Oh look AMAZING! I would find a new doctor because seriously, they should be supportive. That is crap. A good doctor would recognize that this is your 6th pregnancy (I think its 6th...or is it 5th...anyway....) You gain weight a little faster with each pregnancy in the beginning and you show sooner because your body knows what to do. Trust your body. Trust what it is telling you it needs. The weight gain will all even out in the least it always seemed to for me. Hang in there and know how amazing you are. Trust that you will always be enough because the Savior makes up any and all deficits when we trust in Him. HUGS!

Anonymous said...

I too am pregnant... Only a week behind you, pregnant with my fifth. This pregnancy has also been a huge struggle for me. The morning sickness has been horrible. The only way to stave it off is to eat every hour. I can't exercise or the nausea hits me hard. It's hard to even do basic things like make meals or play with my kids. I feel that in just a short time, I've lost my body, my feelings of well-being and pretty much my capability to be a good mother. I've been struggling with major feelings of inadequacy so I really needed this post today! Thank you for reminding me why I'm doing this and how amazing my body is. �� And also.... I think your bump is adorable! You look amazing! Truly pregnancy suits you well!

Jeanne said...

First of all, YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL AND WORTHY! The enemy comes to steal, kill, and destroy and would love to destroy us. A family member of mine shared your Christmas is Here on FB, I read it. How beautiful of a story, so I felt led to read more written by you. I’m a mother of two and have grandchildren. I remember feeling like you have about your body. Through the years, I have felt your same feelings and been through some of the same relationship issues as you. 6 years ago I was diagnosed with breast cancer, I went through chemotherapy and lost my hair, I felt super ugly some days and reminded myself that my family, heart, life, health mattered not my looks. During that darker time, I was in church and the message was regarding feeling down about ourselves, and not believing we are enough. The pastor mentioned that when we do this we are in direct conflict with God and how he has made us, the things He allows us to go through, etc. There was forever revelation for me that day. My hair no longer mattered, my heart and the fact that NOTHING could separate His love from me and/or my family’s love became primary focus. I no longer concern myself with the jiggle belly that came from having two C-sections that formed a cross scar on my stomach! I often don’t wear makeup like I used to. I like to look good and feel good about looking good, sure, I no longer focus on that. I focus everyday on life. The cancer recurred again 4 years ago, and I’m all clear again. God gave me another chance to show others Him everyday. It seems He is doing that with you! Your writings speak deep to the heart, your honesty is what many of us need to know that we all struggle with these issues. Thank you for your obedience to His call on your life and what you are doing through Him. Merry Christmas to you and your family. May 2019 bring you much health, pure joy, and His peace.

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