beloved jenna // welcome to the beloved woman series!

dearly loved, a much loved person

In an interview once, a woman asked me, "What do you wish you could tell childhood Ashley?" It was a question that really stumped me. I felt flustered and nervous and like I could probably tell little kid Ashley a million different helpful things, but spilling out of my mouth was this:

"I would tell her to live loved."

Not a very common phrase, it's one that I discovered in Lysa TerKeurst's book Uninvited a few months ago. Both her and Lara Casey have written about it, seeking to empower women to live their lives knowing and embracing that they are loved. WE, are loved. You. And me. By so many different souls--Our Creator, who knew the hairs on our heads before we were born, and beyond; to the husbands we are wives to, the children we are mothers to, the brothers and sisters, the parents we were born to, and the friends that we cling to. But knowing that we are loved, and actually believing it, are two separate things. I know that I am loved by my husband. I know that my kids adore me and beg each night for it to be my turn to put them each down. I know my parents love me, my brothers, my friends. But do I believe this to my core, to the point that I don't doubt my beloved strengths? I'm afraid not. And I am guessing you may need some help here too.

Sisters, you are beloved. And I feel like it is my mission to help you believe this truth. I want to know you better, to encourage you, to wrap my arms around you, to challenge you to think deeper about yourselves; so that in turn, soon, YOU will feel the love. It is my great honor to kick off this series with my friend Jenna. She is a wife, mother, daughter, sister, and friend to SO many. This lady loves and dreams BIG.

A little background, and in her words:

"I met my husband about twelve and a half years ago while working at American Eagle, which is hilarious to anyone who knows us now; we are definitely not an American Eagle couple, ha. We just celebrated ten years of marriage in November. In those ten years, we've owned two houses. The first, a small 1-bedroom shotgun that was renovated. It was on a double lot and allowed me to grow food and raise chickens. It was a great little place. Then, when our daughter Darcy was about a year old, we bought our second home, which is a major fixer upper! We only live in half our house, have no kitchen, so yes, definitely a fixer upper! My husband does most of the work himself, so it's taking some time, but it's going to be absolutely worth it in the end. In addition to our daughter Darcy, we have Jake, our 6-year old Australian Shepherd who is our best bud, two cats, and five chickens.

Bryon has always let me be ME, and he is my best encourager, giving me confidence, love, and security. We have enjoyed a lot of outdoor adventures together and continue to do so with Darcy. She enjoys hiking and camping just as much as we do, which has been awesome to witness. I honestly wasn't sure I ever wanted kids, but God decided differently. Even though I was a little freaked out when I found out I was pregnant, I quickly realized after she was born, that of course God knew what He was doing! He gave us the most perfect addition to our family. Darcy fits us completely and has fallen right in step with everything we love to do. Having her around has made us look at life with such a sweet + simple perspective. I am so thankful at how God has so perfectly orchestrated our little family. I'm also thankful for the way Bryon and I have been able to approach life and all of it's surprises, good or bad. We have fairly laid back attitudes, aren't big planners, and I wouldn't change it. We rely on God and go with the flow of life; taking all of it and releasing it to Him. It's a wonderful life and I'm excited to live it!"

When asked, "What has been the most beautiful moment in your life?" Jenna responded:

"My MOST beautiful moment was the labor + birth of my daughter. I have never felt so raw and vulnerable. During labor, I felt helpless and weak, as I screamed for someone to help me. I also felt completely primal as I stripped off my clothes and screamed wildly, not giving a care in the world who saw or heard me. The bonding that happened by having my husband + my doula by my side, couching and encouraging me, it is indescribable. When it was over and I was holding this perfect little human...the memory of the whole experience rushed over me. I thought of all I had just gone through and felt more accomplished, more empowered, more confident...than ever before. What an incredibly miraculous thing it was to feel like my weakest + most raw and vulnerable moment, is now actually the most beautiful."

I wanted to know what the word 'beautiful' meant to Jenna, because as women, this word varies so vastly.

"Being beautiful, to ME, is to be in a place where you are able to humbly accept yourself at ANY moment, freeing yourself to live without hesitation. IN this place, there is strength in the ability to be honest about WHO you are, not trying to be what the rest of present society + social media may be; and freedom from passing judgements and holding prejudices, allowing you to be open to those you encounter. To me, this seems like such a raw approach to life, free from self-obsessing and worry, but instead being full of love and openness. How beautiful is that?!"

I asked her, "When do you feel the most beautiful?" and I just love her response:

"I feel most beautiful when I'm climbing. It humbles me every time, forcing me to accept my weaknesses and my strengths. It brings an awareness to my mind and body like nothing else. I feel raw + vulnerable, strong and weak, graceful and awkward, confident and defeated. In all of these things is where I find beauty: allowing myself to feel ALL of it, and embracing each moment, but never dwelling on any."

It's always interesting to hear what other women feel like their hearts beat for. I find it incredible that we are very similar in so many ways, yet also vastly unique in our differences. Here are a few of her biggest dreams:

"To one day live on a hobby farm, spend some time traveling out west, and to have our house completely finished in the next year or two." She then wrapped up my series of questions with this:

"Really and truly, when asked what I tick for, what drives me, well, my heart beats for life. I enjoy life and the people in it. I feel secure where I am, and that makes me ecstatic to keep on going. I love to hike, backpack, camp, climb, garden, and homesteading--all of these are things that help me better enjoy the day to day. But I truly believe that everything begins with Jesus; I lay everything on my Creator, so I am free from crippling worry, anger, jealousy, and self-doubt. It's simple + yet wonderful."

And Ladies! This wraps up my first Beloved Woman post, and I so hope that you enjoyed reading + getting to know Jenna. There is strength in numbers, and I really believe that if we can all believe the phrase, 'community over competition,' along with, 'I am beloved by many,' our lives can be changed. Do you have a woman in mind whose story needs to be shared? PLEASE e-mail me. Feel free to nominate as many as you'd like. My dream for 2017 is that I meet so many of you, from all over the world!

You are beautiful, brave, strong, and worthy. And you are LOVED by so many.

Thank you for reading! Please, spread this series, and give Jenna some love in the comments below! xox