Recently church has been really refreshing for me. It's simple. Our kids are loving it. Both of them have memorized, "And Jesus says, Come follow me!" and "I love my church!" from the kids' ministry. I'm meeting new women and am excited to develop friendships + fellowship more. And this past Sunday we started a new series, 'Finding God's Plan for Your Life.' I mistakenly left my journal at home but I opened my trusty ol' iPhone and typed away in the Notes app. I seriously felt so pumped as a guy named Keith spoke, and thought it may be helpful for some of you to hear how and what inspired me the most.
First, Guys, I've gotta tell you, 2016 has been an incredible year. I launched this blog in January, a post went viral days later, I've done some pretty badass collaborations and sponsorships [new bunk beds, yes please / mattress, YES! / dining room table, soon to arrive / and more]; and I am so THANKFUL to the many companies I've been honored to work with. I think most of all though... I am most the most excited about getting to stay home. When last December, I looked at my husband and I declared that I needed to STAY HOME (because my firstborn starts kindergarten in August!)...well, I'm blown away by God's grace and provision in that He provided for me, so that I GET to do that! We've been over the bank account, studied the budget, numerous, numerous times. Of course there's a part of me that is so SCARED to actually rely solely on my saved income for this--but I know that God has huge things up His sleeve! I don't have a clue what they are, but my dream wheels are spinning and I've got things on my radar for 2017 that I really believe He is orchestrating.
So how many of you like to dream big? Or how many of you like it when you have a PLAN? [If you're completely laid back and don't enjoy filling up your calendar, I have no idea how you function, BUT I love you anyway.] I'm just the opposite is all ;) I was the girl who at age five had her heart set on moving to Kentucky to become a horse racing jockey, who dreamt of being the first female to win the Kentucky Derby. Did it happen? Not all of it, but a huge chunk! When I turned eighteen, I got in my car and drove to Louisville. I made connections via e-mail with several people, found a roommate, got a job at Churchill Downs, and it all started to come together. I made a plan, at a very young age, and began my journey to live it out. One step at a time!
You all clearly know that I am NOT a jockey. I did not win the Derby, nor did I even get to become a full time exercise rider. I actually ended up working for a guy who didn't have too much respect for me. He definitely had alternative motives when he hired me, and eighteen year old me had NO IDEA. Let's just say when he packed up his horses and left Churchill Downs, that was probably one of the biggest blessings for me as a woman. I went to work for a more upstanding trainer, loved every second of it, but summer soon approached and I moved back home to Michigan. When I came BACK to Louisville, I very soon after met my husband, fell in love, and haven't actually WORKED with horses since. [If you've kept up, you know that's ALL part of my future dreams, but currently, it's on pause.]
What does all of this have to do with my current life or future dreams? Well, when Keith said, "God leads us in steps. He gives you one step at a time," in my head I was reliving these baby steps that have placed me where I currently am. Eighteen-year old Ashley wouldn't have ever told you that it was her dream to be a blogger and professional photographer. She was seeing 5 feet in front of her face and all she saw was horses. And then later, a Godly and handsome man who would become twenty-year old Ashley's husband. But a HUGE part of my story from the track is I believe, what has inspired twenty-eight year old Ashley's 2017 visions: to write, and specifically, to empower women from across the globe in believing that they are WORTHY and LOVED.
I don't actually know HOW all of this will pan out. I want to stay home and focus on our kids, and I get to do that for at LEAST eight months. And I want to write and meet SO many of you, have dinner with you and share your beautiful story. I want a farmhouse and a few horses, and I'm not even positive where that will BE. Yet I don't need to have anxiety over my future. I know that God is not afraid to bless me (us) if we choose to put Him first. Keith said, "Delight yourself in every season, allow Him to LEAD you, and he WILL fulfill His plan for your life." (Psalm 37:4 for reference). Right now, I am absolutely in the baby stages of planning. I'm launching a new series, spreading the word, and I'm going to soak in every ounce of my three and four year old. And with God, no step is ever wasted. I'll be honest in that not all of my life has been sunshine and roses. It STILL isn't. There was quite a bit of hurt for a period of time, abuse, self-doubt, you name it. But I believe it is ALL part of a very intricately woven story, that only my Creator could write.
"Despise NOT the day of small beginnings," (Zechariah 4:10) is going to be one of my 2017 mantras. Have you ever been overwhelmed by the BIG picture, when you are just starting out? Or maybe scared of what's to come, how everything plays out, where YOU end up? I am going to allow God to take me through the process. "Treat the little steps like they are the greatest opportunity you've EVER had," was the most powerful piece to me in our message Sunday. Life comes in stages and phases, and this is how God meant for it to BE.
Guys! Don't be SCARED for the coming year. Hey, maybe you're reading this and thinking to yourself, "Heck, I'm not worried, I've got it all figured out!" But did you know even in THAT, God is doing something you have absolutely no clue about? I am so excited, and yes, a little scared too, to look back on this post in a year. Maybe I'll actually really NOT enjoy staying home with the kids and I'll be knocking down the door of a classroom begging, "LET ME BACK IN!!! I need to teach!!!!" Maybe we'll still be living in the same home [God, please no......] Perhaps my blog will FLOP [hopefully not!!], maybe Instagram will disappear [doubtful] and at the end of 2017 I'll be like, "Ashley, what were you THINKING?!" But Y'all, THAT is the beauty in this.
God leads us in steps. And no step is EVER wasted.
Tell me, what are you dreaming of?! What excites you (or terrifies you!) about 2017? We are all in this TOGETHER. From wherever you are, I am standing there with you. Leave a comment below and let's talk, because friends, I am excited to know your heart!
"The steps of a good man are ORDAINED by GOD; and He delights in his way!" -Psalm 37:23