Last year's Reflection post [what I'm calling it anyway] covered a lot of things--how good 2016 was, how many blessings arose, and the ways in which God wowed my socks off. "Look at all the GOOD things God did in our lives this last year," I had written. "And yes, I'm saying this firmly to myself. All of those things do not mean that 2017 is going to go KERPLUNK. I don't need to have ANY answers right now, all I need to do is to take one day at a time. Starting Tuesday, in just two short days, I will literally be a stay at home mom and working from home. That's a HUGE dream turning into a reality!"
2016 consisted of a crap ton of hustle in order to fulfill that dream (staying home) and then guess what, 2017 was spent with me being home with our kids and really not working at ALL. I look back, however, and think that's just how God wanted it. I had dreamt of doing crafts and baking and going to parks with our Pierson and Reese before he started kindergarten. In order to do that, I photographed 8 weddings the year prior, took every paid partnership I could get my hands on, and basically booked every possible photo session. We saved every cent and I worked 6-7 days a week. I thank God OFTEN that the prayer was heard and answered and that for almost eight months (summer vacation included in that) I was "just" Mom.
It was a different kind of hustle and one that didn't exactly bring IN money.
Thank the Lord for His provision, friends. Here were my questions walking into 2017:
Will I be a good stay at home mom?
Will the kids like it? Will I like it? Will I be strong enough?
Will I be able to book a lot more weddings?
Will I be able to take this blog further? (What does that even mean?!)
Will I ever have another beautiful home NOT in our current neighborhood?
Will I ever live on land?
Will I have a horse?
Will I go back to teaching? Will I teach forever? Will we stay in Kentucky forever?
If you've followed along with me, many of you know how those questions panned out. I think back very fondly on my time home with the kids and being a 'stay at home mom.' The kids too have fun memories and tell me often that they loved reading Bible stories and doing crafts and learning about school. Some days I didn't LIKE it; [once I even threatened that I was going back to work if they didn't knock it off] or something super-rational and Mom of the Year statement worthy. But in hindsight, I loved it.
I shot three weddings last year. All three blessed my socks off but one left me with a little sting and a little hurt; communication wasn't the greatest with that one and I walked away incredibly bummed that they didn't want me to blog their special day due to privacy. Lots of things learned though in that regard, and realized some tweaks I need to add to my photography business!
We DID move to another beautiful home, NOT on land, but just one mile to my new favorite horse who I get to visit as often as I want. Well, not as often as I want because that would be 24/7 and ya know, mom life, work life, wife life and such... but still--HUGE blessing!
I DID go back to teaching, and halfway through the school year here I am wondering, "What am I doing with my life?!" Ha! My heart is with my children, and though they are in school (kindergarten and full-time preschool), I just want to be here. As I type our son is spiking yet another fever. He had one for FIVE days the first week of December and missed five days of school! He just went back to school TODAY from Christmas break and I'm like, dude. All the stress of "whose turn is it to stay home?" and "great, this means Reese will be next." I miss last year when that was never an issue because I knew my husband would go to work and I'd be home anyway...
I wonder what's out there--if I WILL teach forever, or if God will expand my photography and blog tenfold. I think the next best step would be for me to somehow teach part-time and that's probably a more realistic goal; I'm just not sure if even that can happen? There's a lot of factors to consider: student loan debt, new house payment, if I get a horse this year [what?!?! Yes, that's the dream but hasn't it always been? Ha ha]. Benefits and health insurance. Retirement. Life in general because let's face it, extra spending money is WAY more fun...
Let's go back to the new house though, can we? So many blessings have surrounded this home, and honestly, mostly thanks TO my photography and blogging business. (Being able to offer high-resolution images, blog posts, and other social media benefits for companies). I did a lot of research about what brands I wanted to work with, and the types of things we wanted here. We quickly learned that our style is more of an industrial/rustic/farmhouse one, and are having SO much fun designing rooms and spaces around that. It was SO fun working with Havertys Furniture to help us plan and furnish the living room--the main space where we bring people to gather (other than our giant dining room table). Definitely add that to 2017's TOP praise and to my favorite partnership list.
So, now what?
Lord help, because I have no idea, Y'all. I felt as if last year God was telling me to BELIEVE, and there were a LOT of moments when I needed to be reminded of that. I mean I literally wrote a post called, "Are You There God? It's Me, Ashley," because I was struggling to believe he had this home destined for us. Within that, I said, "It's not that I'm suddenly denouncing God or walking away from my faith," I said. "I am just in a season of struggling to find hope." But ultimately I did believe because He continued to show His face through the pain and through the questions that I had.
We are three days in and 2018 already has me wondering.
Asa's car broke down on the way to his job yesterday, the first day back TO work after our break. I came home to dog poo in our bedroom for the umpteenth time because we have senior dogs and one of them in particular [ahem, Humphrey, ahem] has questionable intestines. Our cat Manny [my favorite] was let out (pretty much like normal) and then proceeded to be gone for like 15 hours in subzero temperatures. Me being super-rational, proclaimed him dead and gone on my way to work this morning, positive I would never see him again. *Side note/praise: our awesome neighbor went looking and together she and another neighbor noticed him on our back deck while we were at work. One of them proceeded to quietly enter our backyard, grab him, and she kept him safe in her house the entire day while we were at work.* Pierson is more than likely going to end up with another virus/bug this winter which all sorts of bums me out. I just want him to be WELL and to be able to enjoy kindergarten and not miss a million days!
I seriously wrote this sentence last year: "But wait, Ashley. One day at a time."
And I think that's what I hear Him telling me again.
One day at a time. My sweet friend Sarah recently told me, "2018 is going to be your year, Girl. I just know it." And for whatever reason, I feel more hopeful than not that it is. What's that mean? Psh, I don't know. But I think regardless it will be good.
Instead of making to-do and checklists, here are a few things I want to work towards this year:
-Experience more, worry less.
-Be more intentional in every aspect: husband, kids, community
-Love our people, always.
-More grace, less shame.
-More strength, more rest, more joy.
-More faith, less doubt.
-And dream, always.