Thursday, September 14, 2017

For Such A Time As This





And in this moment, I was made for this........

Goodness gracious life has been crazy yall! The past few weeks we have experienced fevers, walking pneumonia, I somehow got Shingles and to end the it all, a random stomach bug. Did I also add while all this was going on, people from HOLLYWOOD flew to little ol' Bessemer, Alabama and filmed a movie at my husband's workplace? JOHN TRAVOLTA himself was there for TWO days while I was covered up in shingles and cleaning snot off kids noses. And the stomach bug hit one of my little ones RIGHT after my husband landed in Detroit for a week long work trip. I have to admit, jealousy has been EATING ME UP this week. My husband got to hang out with movie stars all last week and now he's resting in a quiet, cool, clean, 5 star hotel in Detroit. One afternoon when he got done with his meetings he said he was bored and didn't have anything to do …….. bored…….. while I was cleaning up after a stomach bug and spraying lysol on the kids 24/7. Bored - I don't remember the last time I was bored? But sometimes being bored sounds REALLY REALLY FUN! LOL

My Husband with
Mr Grease Lightning Himself
In all seriousness I LOVE my husband dearly. I am so thankful to have such a hardworking husband that will go above and beyond to make sure we are always taken care of. He deserves a break. He works crazy hours at work and on the nights where he gets home early, he completely takes over the kids and gives me a break. He is AMAZING and I am so blessed to have him. We celebrate 7 years of marriage on Saturday. I am a very lucky girl even if I didn't get to hang out with John Travolta! lol 

But sometimes I don't feel lucky. I can get so jealous of the things he gets to do. Not only him, but of many others. I can feel so inadequate and end up having a pity party of 1 while watching an episode of Golden Girls and eating candy corn and peanuts. So depressing, I know lol.

Why does this person get to do that while I'm here doing this? Why is that going on there while this is going on here? How is any of this fair? I get downright bitter y’all. 

Sometimes I have to remind myself I am an almost 30 year old woman with a COLLEGE DEGREE who graduated with HONORS when my 2 year old makes me feel like I am 2 feet tall. lol. 

I had big big dreams when I was a kid. If you ask anyone what I always said I wanted to be when I grew up they would tell you I desperately wanted to be Diane Sawyer. I wanted to be on Good Morning America SO bad. I wanted to be on television. I wanted to help others. I desperately wanted to make a difference as a news anchor.  

When I was in college, things changed. I met with one of the teachers in the Department of Communications and they silently laughed (I could tell in their faces!) at me while I described my dreams. They told me if I ever wanted a job in broadcasting I would HAVE to get rid of my accent and it would involve me moving out of the south. Yep, those 2 things were a BIG deal breaker to me. Removing the word “Y’all” from my vocabulary and living too far from a Milo’s didn't sound like my cup of tea. Thats when I first started realizing things sometimes don't go as planned. 

I graduated from college, got a job in a marketing, and after a few years I was married and expecting our first child and became a stay at home mom. 

WOW.

Theres another thing that didn't go like I thought. 

Lets talk about this whole stay at home mom gig. 

Yes I live in workout clothes. Guess what - the only workout my workout clothes have ever seen is when I'm chasing my kids when they escape from the stroller or when I'm running up and down stairs putting up laundry. 

I found out real fast that being a stay at home mom didn't involve sleeping late and living a life filled with perfect pinterest crafts. Yep, it meant remiding yourself to eventually sneak in a shower every once in a while, trading in your nice clean car for one that is filled to the brim with carseats, french fries, dirty diapers and who knows what else, and living life on the edge, the edge of a nervous breakdown every single day! lol! When I had my twins and life consisted of 3 kids under 3 things really got chaotic and the dreams of things I had planned for my life were so far out of my head. I was just in survival mode. But in that survival mode was when I started loosing sight of my purpose and bitterness started slowly making its way into my life.

Being a stay at home mom was something I never planned for myself. It has been the hardest job I have ever had but one of the best jobs in the world. I am so blessed I get to be with my kids at all times, but the ups and downs of motherhood are so hard. For a while I felt like I was supposed to enjoy this job 24/7 and hide my feelings of frustrations. I was never supposed to complain because some people would do anything to be in my place. I am also Southern - You keep THOSE feelings to yourself hun!!!!! 

Then I started feeling guilty for being so depressed and lonely while I was with the kids, the most precious blessings the Lord had ever given me. My bitterness grew and grew. Whether you are a working mom or a stay at home mom, the “mom guilt” can eat you alive! 

Was this what I was called to do? This was my purpose? Being surrounded by people who were much smaller than me who said “no” and “mommy” 24/7 was starting to drive me totally mad. 

Many times I felt like I had lost my purpose, there was NO plan for my life other than taking care of kids and I just went thru the motions day by day, not enjoying the things in this life that I have been given because I was so mad that it had not been what I thought it would be. 

This whole year the Lord has really been speaking to me to make me realize how important it is for us to use EVERY moment of our life for him. As I've mentioned before in other blog posts, 2016 was a hard year for me and I just knew 2017 was going to be 100% better. Things continued to far from where I had planned them to go and ,on and off, I have had some hard days! But no matter what is going on, I've learned its all about our story and how our story can help others. 

A while back I started reading about Esther in the bible. Esther was Persia’s Queen. She was just an ordinary girl but had an extraordinary purpose. She was a Jew but was sought out by the King of Persia as his bride. Mordecai, the leader of the Jews, encouraged Esther to hide her faith from the King and her advisors so she did. Very long story short, the order had been given for all the Jews in Persia to be killed. Even though Esther was Persia’s queen, she did not know if she could make a difference. But Mordecai, recognized that Esther had been prepared uniquely by God for this crisis. Though she had doubts, he told her, “Who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” After 3 days of fasting, Esther approached the king. Her courageous actions changed the course of history and saved her people.

So how in this world does this have anything to do with me being a bitter about motherhood and feeling like all my purpose on this earth is to pass out goldfish and change diapers? Well it gives me hope and puts purpose in my moments. 

It says in the bible that even though Esther was the King's wife, she basically had to have “appointments” to see her husband. I'm sure she was very bitter. She couldn't even see her husband when she wanted. She had to wait until he had time for her! I can imagine Mitchell telling me he needed to pencil me in his schedule - hahhahaha yep, that aint happening! lol! 

I can imagine her thinking “Here I am, hiding my faith while everyone is planning on killin' all my kin folk (I picture everyone in the bible as southern, sorry lol),  I'm mad because I'm here and all this is going on and I cant do a thing about it!” I can imagine her crying out to God, thinking she had no purpose and no reason to be where she was.  But you know what she did? She was brave and she opened up about her faith at the perfect time which led to the saving of all the Jews. And God used her in the PERFECT moment. 

I LOVE Esther 4:14:

 “Perhaps you were born for SUCH A TIME AS THIS” 

Such a time as this - Wow. 

The Lord puts us in these places in our lives for a reason. Not so we can be bitter and jealous about how our life is going but so we can grow from it and help others. Who knows what divine appointments the Lord sets up for us during the day. I have this philosophy that if you are open with people about your struggles and battles they are more likely able to open up to you, therefore you are able to help each other and grow stronger in your faith. 

There are many reasons we can feel inadequate and incapable of making difference when we are walking around in the valley of motherhood. Who am I to help someone if I cant even get my act together? How can I make a difference when I haven't brushed my hair in 3 days?

We all want to live a different life than the one we have right? The grass is always greener on the other side? Haha, Sure! 

This is the enemy telling us we can never make a difference and the purpose that we have for our life is much better than the one that God has for us. 

Everyday I try to focus on Gods plan for MY life. I want to live EVERY moment with the idea that maybe that moment is what I was meant for. Whether its changing a dirty diaper or playing the same hot wheels game with my 4 year old for the 100th time, maybe that moment is important in my story, maybe these moments are what I am called to do. 

I once read somewhere that “The World is changed and lives are saved when men and women realize that they have been called “for such a time as this”

It is no accident that I am who I am and I have what I have. Everything is ordained by God in each season of life we are in. We must remember that the Lord has an appointed time for every single second of our life. He has it all written out and he has it all under control. All we have to do is surrender ourselves to him and he takes on all the rest. 

He takes the rest - I love this. 

I imagine a load being taken off my back. I imagine all the disappointments and frustrations of things not going as planned being totally taken from my thoughts and replaced by words of hope and encouragement from my precious savior. 

If we are all honest and open with each other and live EACH moment as if it is the moment we are made for, our lives on this earth can be so much better. I try daily to shift my mindset to what I can do on this earth for the Lord, not what I can do on this earth to make Ashley the center of attention and make Ashley’s life better. I want the Lord to use me and use my story help others. I want people to look at me and not see perfection but and see that God has done a work in me and continues every day. 

We all go thru highs and lows. That is why the Lord has placed certain people in our lives - He uses them to help us when we are in our pit and we can help others when they are in a pit. We can't forget what we are about and why we are on this earth. We are here to make a difference for HIS kingdom, no matter what it is! 

Bitterness can come like a thief in the night and steal so much of the joy of motherhood that the Lord has given you. Don't let it win! 

Focus on Esther. We may not be saving lives like Esther helped save all the Jews, but if we focus our lives as if we are living for the moment we were created for, we can MAKE a difference! 

God has called me to be a stay at home mom in this season of my life for a reason. He has called me to have these 3 special children for a reason. I will live EVERY moment of my life as if I am fulfilling the calling he has given me. 

Moms, don't forget you have a purpose on this earth. Raising children is one of the most divine callings the Lord can place in our lives. It is a hard job and the devil wants us to hate it. He wants us to grow bitter when our plans do no go like we wanted. He wants us to become jealous when our husbands get a silent car ride to work while we listen to VeggieTales sing "Oh Where Is My Hairbrush" for the 100th time while the kids are screaming in the car. He wants us to hide our feelings and frustrations so we can make ourselves feel inadequate.

I challenge you today to live your life as if you are fulfilling your purpose in every single moment. Motherhood is hard. We cant do it alone - You need some sisters along side you that are willing to be honest about the trials we face as moms. Find a small group! Pray the Lord will send some friends your way that can help you in this time of your life! Focus living towards your purpose!

All of us, ESPECIALLY MOTHERS, are created 
for a time such as this! 


If you are in the McCalla area and you are looking for a group of mothers to fellowship with, we would love to have you join our small group. It is an honest open group where we share our ups and downs and support each other 100% in these moments of our lives! Email me at ashleyvwatts@gmail.com to join!




Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Grace & Poop

I’m convinced there is a hidden camera in my house, in my car, in my diaper bag - somewhere someone is watching my life and showing it to everyone for a laugh. 

Remember the “Truman Show” - yep thats me - I always feel like Jim Carrey, stuck in a world he thought was reality while really millions are watching him laughing at their tv at every moment of his life.  The day the cat was found in our car (revisit that fun story here,), the day the neighbors dog ran into our house, the time Charlotte crawled under the bathroom stall at Chick Fil A while I was changing Bubbas diaper and TERRIFIED the woman going to the bathroom in the next stall,  the day Steven told everyone his brother was a drunk (when John Daniel had ear issues he walked around unbalanced and we called him a drunk - yes we shouldn't of done that but we did and Steven most definitely told everyone around him his brother was a drunk), the time John Daniel opened every bottle of my brand new shampoo and conditioner and poured it all over himself and the bathroom - yes moments like these are some where I look around and I just know someone is watching from afar laughing really hard at some of the things that go down at the Watts house. 

Today was another day I was convinced I was on candid camera. It was one for the books. Some days are more calm than others but today - Nope - it was wild. My husband and I have been 100% dedicated to the newest campus of our church. Our church opened a new campus in McCalla, Al and since day 1 we have been giving everything we have towards meeting all the new member and serving in any way possible. I had been leading a “Mommy & Me” group at our previous campus for almost 4 years. It has been a wonderful experience and helped me meet SO many wonderful moms that have now become some of my best friends. I knew I wanted to do this type of group at our new campus so after much prayer, one of my best friends and I decided to plan and lead a new McCalla Mommy and Me Small Group.

We had a huge amount of interest in the group. I got dozens of emails from new moms of the campus excited to come join our group and fellowship with each other. Every week we would meet at the indoor play place at the local McDonalds and talk with each other while the children played. It was a great idea - its air-conditioned , clean, and the kids cant escape. 

The morning of the group went about as chaotic as a Sunday morning (read about chaotic Sunday mornings here lol). The twins woke up earlier than usual, who knows why? By 9:00 they were tired, fighting with each other and I had already asked the Lord for some Grace probably 100 times by then. Steven on the other hand decided that this would be a day he would sleep in - this rarely happened so at 9:00 knowing we had to leave in 15 minutes I went in to battle, woke up the sleeping threenager and dressed him as fast as I could without giving him any time to realize that I had woken him up out of a deep sleep. I put everyone in the car, passing out juiceboxes, fruit snacks, toys and pacifiers to keep everyone quiet and calm,  locked the house up and was so happy when I saw 9:20 on the clock as I was pulling out of the driveway.

“Well” I thought to myself “This is a great start! I will be on time! Thank you Lord!”

Steven begged to listen to scary music on the way to small group, so trying to look for the most “kid friendly” halloween music I could find, we listed to “Which Witch is Which” by Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck for the entire 15 minute drive. Probably should not of been blasting a song about witches on the way to a church small group but you gotta do what you gotta do.

I arrived early at the McDonalds playplace, got the prayer cards ready, said a little prayer over the moms and children that would be coming in to fellowship soon and took a deep breath. Ive been leading small groups for so long but I always get so nervous before they start. Doubt starts creeping into my head telling me I can do it, I'm not good enough - you know all those things that make you want to run out the door but my sweet co leader walked in just in time and I felt confident we would have a wonderful day. 

The moms started coming in one by one, We laughed and joked about how crazy the kids were. We exchanged stories of where we were from and how we got to where we are in between feeding babies, opening jukeboxes and changing diapers. I was so happy that this wonderful small group of moms was starting to form at the new campus. It was just what we had been prating for.

I went to the front to get everyone coffee and the manager who took my order noticed my Church of the Highlands shirt. She started asking about our church and I went on and on about our new campus and told her who we all were and why we were there. I told the manager we would be meeting there weekly but we promised to keep the play place cleaner than when we left and thanked her for letting us use the playground every week.

Yep - probably should of left out the “cleaner than when we got there” part but anyways.......lol 

The kids were having a wonderful time and for the first time in a while, we all were able to drink our coffee and have a few minutes to relax while our kids were occupied with the indoor playground. 

You see - sometimes when I drink coffee, I try to imagine myself on the front porch of the lakehouse, drinking nice warm coffee and watching the water sit so still and peaceful while I enjoy every last drop of that wonderful liquid gold and remember how wonderful life is and how blessed I am. I was feeling that way today - drinking coffee, talking and laughing with other moms while the kids were playing and “leaving us alone”. Yes - even though there was lots of screaming kids around me and the playground was starting to smell a little funky, I was still transporting myself into that “relaxing” state of mind. I thought to myself “I made it to small group before anyone else just like the leader should do, I printed the prayer cards, the moms seem to be enjoying themselves - yes this is wonderful” 

AND THEN IT HAPPENED.

“SOMEONE POOPED IN THE SLIDE, SOMEONE POOPED IN THE SLIDE” One of the kids came running out screaming at the top of their lungs they had discovered poop all in the slide. I looked around and saw all the kids running out to their moms as we all looked at the slide and sure enough, there was poop.

ALL. IN. THE. SLIDE.


I was calm - There was no way that it was from any of my kids -  my twins had diapers on and Steven would never do something like that. I looked around at the other moms as they started to check their kids pants when I saw something I did not want to see - John Daniel emerging from the bottom of the slide - he got off the slide and turned around and my mind went back to the scene Christmas vacation where he Chevy Chase turned around with a squirrel on his back and everyone ran - Yes watch the video below and that is pretty much what it was like when John Daniel turned around and we all saw his backside COVERED in poop and realized HE was the culprit of the DISASTER on the slide.


Mortified doesn't even express how I felt when i realized it was my child, MY BUBBAS, that had made the giant mess in the playground. It my boy that had stunk up the whole playground and it was my little bubba boy that all the kids were running from because he was covered head to toe in nasty nasty poop. He must have gone to the bathroom and slid down the slide, making a giant mess the whole way down. I ran over to him, apologizing to all the other moms and trying my best to keep under control. Some of the moms took this messy situation as their que to get out of there - and I don't blame them - IT WAS GROSS!!!!!! LOL! I started changing his diaper, stripping him down and wiping him with every baby wipe I had left. His clothes were ruined and he obviously couldn't wear them home so I sat him down in a diaper while I walked towards that hot smelly slide to clean up the damage. I had told the manager we would leave it much cleaner than when we first got there. I didn't actually think that I would be cleaning MY child's poop off the slide when I said that. What kind of small group leader would I be if I left poop in the slide? It wasn't the “Highlands Way” so there I was in the claustrophobic purple smelly slide, wet napkins in one had and hand sanitizer in the other, cleaning poop.


Y'all being a mother can you numb you to a lot of things - like the smell of throw up and the smell of poop, nasty old milk or food - those smells don't really bother you anymore after you have smelled them a hundred times, but y'all I can promise you - the smell of that slide was like none other - the sweat of hot smelly kids mixed with my sons nasty poop - Ive never seen or smelled anything like it. 

As I was cleaning the slide, I had many thoughts go thru my mind such as, “I have a college degree, I graduated WITH HONORS yet here I am cleaning POOP OUT OF A SLIDE! Its now all over my clothes - will I have to ride out of McDonalds half naked just like poor Bubbas? Please Lord let me not get pulled over! Is this real life? Where is that RIDICULOUS CAMERA that HAS to be following me!” 

I was hot, irritated and now smelly and then it hit me - all those moms! We were having such a good time until the poop hit! They are never going to want to be around me ever again! I will always be seen at church as the mom who's kids pooped in the play place slide of McDonalds! Things were going so well - I was making so many new friends - I can kiss that all goodbye! 

The few remaining moms left helped me get all my stuff together and my sweet co leader carried a stinky, half naked Bubbas in the car while I fought to get Steven and Charlotte out of the play place and into the car. We loaded everyone up, I thanked my sweet friends for their help and we headed out of McDonalds. We had left the play place cleaner than when we got there but that poor slide would never be the same. lol. 

My spirit was crushed when we were in the car. I just knew no one would want to come back - I had scared everyone away. Steven cried the whole way home because “CRAZY ME” had promised him a trip to the store after McDonalds so he could spend some money he had in his piggy bank. John Daniel was half naked, I was covered in poop from cleaning everything and Charlotte was about to pass out from exhaustion from being up since the crack of dawn.  There was no way I was taking this crazy train into target so Steven could spend his $12.85. Nope - no way. There wasn't enough money in the world to get me out of that car and back into public. lol. 

We got home. Everyone was ill and tired. I put everyone to bed and cleaned myself up. 

WHAT. A. MORNING. 

Just as I was feeling defeated I started getting texts from many of the moms who had visited the group that morning. Things I needed to hear. One of them said “Thank you so much for today. It was great to be around someone so real. I am sorry about the poop fiasco but I am looking forward to this group and making new friends” Another one said "We had the best time today - it was much needed - Cant wait for more!"

I am so thankful for Grace - these precious mamas in my group still had a good time even though it ended in poop and chaos. They had shown me so much Grace by not letting it bother them and letting me know that no matter what had happened they had still had a wonderful time and looked forward to doing it again. 

Even though I was pretty upset about all the poop, it taught me a valuable lesson - ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS show Grace. I experienced that today first hand by some friends I have known for years and some I had just met. Show Grace to your spouse when you feel like they are struggling, show Grace in the workplace to those who are giving you a hard time, show Grace to that person who cut you off in traffic or driving to slow, show Grace to your children when you think you can't handle it anymore and most of all show Grace to yourself -  We are all just trying to make it day by day and we are all not perfect.You never know what someone is going thru and YOU NEVER KNOW -  Your child may be the one who poops on the slide tomorrow!!!! lol! 

Now go wash your hands because I know you want to after reading about my morning!!!! lol!!!! Im gonna try to extend some grace to this hot, sweaty and tired toddler of mine! 


Sunday, May 28, 2017

Don't Stop

Easy like Sunday Morning

Oh Sundays - for some it means a day with no obligations. A day where you wake up from the fun events of Friday night and Saturday - take the day to relax before starting your week back. A day that is easy and free. This “easy like Sunday morning” idea is the theme of the 1977 classic hit “Easy” by the Commodores.  Good ol’ Lionel Richie sang about breaking up a relationship with a controlling woman and becoming “easy like Sunday morning” free from anything that may gives him stress, rules or restrictions. Picture him waking up after a fun weekend on Sunday morning around noon (because thats what time you get to sleep in when you are “free”) having a cup of HOT coffee, reading the paper, heading out for brunch, and laying around the rest of the day catching up on tv or just relaxing  - you know an “EASY” day. But one thing that Lionel didn't think about when writing this song is the version of “Sunday mornings” we parents have, especially the southern mamas and daddy who are doing their best to get themselves and their little ones to church on Sundays. So sit down Mr. Richie and let me tell you a little bit about how Sunday mornings are FAR from easy around here at the Watts household. 

I am a firm believer that the devil is real - he isn't an “idea” or just something we use to scare people with - he is real - and I am also a firm believer that on Saturday nights, around bedtime, he comes inside my house, sets up camp right by the stairs leading to my kids rooms and plots out his evil scheme to make Sundays at our house the farthest thing there is from “EASY.”

TRUE DAT
His scheme usually starts at bedtime around 7:30 on Saturday nights, when my husband calls and says “Honey Im sorry it will be a late night” and I realize Im alone to conquer that awesome bedtime routine all by myself once again. After fights, screaming, tears, lots of bargaining with fruit snacks and juice after everyone has already brushed their teeth, I get the kids down for bed - and then go back up 5 minutes later to make them go to bed again and then 10 minutes later I go back up yet again. The goal of a 7:30 bedtime on Saturday nights so they can have a good nights rest before Sunday is usually squashed around 8:30/9:00 when they finally pass out after screams and cries about not being able to stay awake “just one more minute” to wait on daddy. I finally come downstairs to start cleaning up and realize I forgot to get their church clothes down so I could have them all ironed and ready for an “easy” Sunday morning. I usually set an alarm on my phone at this point for 30 minutes earlier than i usually wake up so I can have the extra time to iron the clothes that I forgot to get down but forget to actually turn it on so it never works (true story - I always forget). I stay up way too late waiting up for my husband to get home from work, cleaning up a mess so I don't have to wake up to a dirty house, packing the diaper bag, sippy cups, nursery bag or doing just “one more load” of laundry that usually ends up being 2 or 3 more loads. I go to bed WAY too late which causes me to wake up WAY past the time Im supposed to the next morning. Yes, thats the way the devil works - he keeps you up thinking that if you have everything nice clean and tidy the night before you will have an “easy morning” but really you spend too much time doing pointless things that will all be “undone” 5 minutes after the kids wake up the next morning and wake up WAY too late which causes more chaos and gives that ol’ devil a chance to keep you out of church that Sunday morning. Yes, I know his tricks - sometimes I give in to them thinking that this time will be different and sometimes Im smarter - but most of the time I give in to the struggle and before its too late I realize he won that Saturday night battle - But the best news of all, is that Satan may win a battle here and there but I know who always wins the war - our precious savior Jesus Christ - and although the struggle on Sundays is always more real than any other day - I will always keep pushing to get to our family to church that morning. I will never let the devil win the war! 

Let me tell you a story about Easter Sunday. Now every Sunday, the devils works hard to get us OUT of church instead of staying IN church. - but he worked EXTRA hard on Easter Sunday.

Some of the amazing picture perfect shots I got Easter morning
Just like I stated earlier, the Saturday night before church was a typical chaotic night. We decided to let the kids open their easter baskets the night before since we knew I would be alone with the kids easter morning while Mitchell served early at church but >crazy us< didn't remember that chocolate and bedtime DO NOT go very well together. Bedtime ended up way behind the time it was supposed to be and we all stayed up way too late. Mitchell had to be at church early that Sunday morning which meant I got the privilege of getting the kids all dressed in their VERY Sunday best. It was Easter Sunday and because we are in the south, that means every hair is curled and every tag is popped off of those new easter clothes you searched for weeks and weeks to wear for today only. The kids screamed for candy for breakfast, I warmed up my coffee 5 times (I kept tally on the chalkboard beside the coffee maker!), no one wanted to come downstairs and once I finally got everyone down, the kids acted like I was injuring them while trying to get them dressed. My hair and makeup that I had gotten up early to do 3 hours before anyone else was awake was now the true definition of “a hot mess”. My hair was now as flat as pancake and my makeup had been washed off by all the sweat I had produced while battling 3 little ones who were much smaller than me yet somehow much stronger than me lol. I finally got everyone dressed and in the car and away from their Easter baskets by convincing them they could have just one piece of candy on the way to church. Steven screamed for me to play “Thunderstruck” by ACDC in the car (his favorite song because he thinks Ironman sings it) and after the 50th screaming request I gave in. We rolled into the church parking lot dressed in our Easter best while “THUNDER” blared very loudly from our big fancy family SUV. We hurried out of the car and into church before anyone could put my face with the car that was blaring heavy metal in the church parking lot with 3 little ones in the back seat. lol. We made it to the line at the nursery check in 15 minutes before service started. Last Easter, during nursery check in, I had both twins in my arms when Steven lifted my dress up in front of everyone. With my arms filled with kids, I was totally helpless and left me showing everything I had to everyone around me on the most populated day at church all year. When that didn't happen this year I thought things were finally looking up! lol!  It wasn't until I walked the kids into the nursery I realized Stevens entire rear was covered in yellow marshmallow candy and the twins had chocolate all over them and their fancy expensive Easter outfits, and it looked a whole lot like something else instead of a whole lot of chocolate. I ran out of the nursery before anyone could notice I was the one who had dropped off the dirty kids and joined Mitchell just in time for worship. Worship was amazing and all the troubles of getting the kids to church had been melted away from my memory. We sat down ready to hear the sermon and I realized “ Wow, Mitchell got some great seats right in the front- this is awesome but I sure hope I don't have to get up and go anywhere during the service because Ill have to walk in front of all these people!” - As that thought crossed my mind Mitchell nudged my shoulder and pointed up to the top right of the screen on the stage where I saw Charlottes number flashing. At our church each child has a number and if the nursery cant get your child to calm down they flash your number on the screen as a way for you to come get them. I ALMOST DIED. Here we were sitting right in the front, everyone knows what the flashing number on the screen meant and everyone would know that I was the mother of that flashing number when I got up and walked in front of EVERYONE to make it to the back door to the nursery. Mortified, I walked back to get Charlotte, who was totally loosing it and crying for Candy - yes candy - she was screaming it over and over. I tried to calm her down but when I couldn’t get her quiet,  I took a peppermint I found from the lobby and let her eat it. I thought it would calm her down and buy me some time to listen to the service outside the door but she ate it in record time and the started screaming “candy” louder and louder. I gave up, got all the kids out of the nursery early and waited in the lobby with the kids until the service was over. I was SO upset - jealousy flooded by head, my face was burning. I kept thinking “Well Mitchell is inside hearing that wonderful message that I needed to hear SO bad while Im out here burning slap up trying to remember I'm at church and I need to keep my voice down as I threaten the kids lives if they run from me one more time”.  When the service ended,  I put on my fake smile as friends and family came out of the service. Everyone looked so refreshed - They had all been inside celebrating the most wonderful day of the year. Yep - I was not happy I ended up spending the service I had worked so hard to get to running after 3 kids who were hyped up on sugar and caffeine.

We left church and started the journey from one end of the county to the other by visiting our families on each side and spending the rest of the day trying our best to get the kids to nap in the car from one family event to the next. Because my kids are freaks of nature some days, they went the whole day without naps, and when we finally got home at 8:00 that night, they refused to go to bed like I assumed they would easily do! The kids were crying and soon after I was crying too!  I wanted to end this day with a feeling of joy, not a feeling of jealousy, anger, frustration and exhaustion. I wanted a blessing from the Lord that day and when we finally got everyone down for bed and I sat down for the first time the whole day, I realized I was not going to get it. Mitchell went on to bed and I stayed in the living room feeling so defeated. I wanted to go to church, serve the Lord with my whole heart and end my Sundays feeling like I had accomplished something for the Lord. Instead I felt like I had been running a rat race the whole day - The devil was still hanging out laughing because he thought he was winning the battle on that Easter Sunday. 

I stared at the wall and just sat there - totally quiet. When we are quiet we are able to hear our precious Lord speak to us. I felt the lord stir up my spirit and as I began to pray I heard him speak - “Don’t stop”. It was exactly what I needed to hear - Don't stop trying to get everyone ready for church on Sundays - just get them there and Ill do the rest. Don't stop trying to serve me - you are serving me while working hard to keep your family on track. Don't stop fighting for your family, Don't stop playing for your family, Don’t stop trying to hear the word - you can watch that service you missed online right now - and even better - you can watch it your pajamas instead of that dress and that uncomfortable shape wear that was making you sweat more than ever. Just don't stop. 

Sunday Morning Southern Belle 
Those words made me think back to my childhood . One of the biggest thing I can thank my parents for is making sure when we were growing up we were always at church on Sundays. It didn't matter what had gone on that weekend, how tired we were, what kind of fight we put our parents through, how much we did not want to be there - we were there. Because of that - the seed was planted deep in my heart, my Sunday school teachers, youth pastors, church pastors, church friends and family watered it every Sunday and it helped me become the Believer, Wife and Mother that I am today. All because my mama didn't let all that Saturday night and Sunday morning drama keep us from hearing the word of God on Sundays. Steven is still young but he knows about Jesus and knows that Sundays are the days we spend time at church. When he sees me cleaning and setting out chairs, he always asks me if its time for “Small Group Jesus time” - He may only be 3 but he sees his mama and daddy serving the Lord - something that I hope starts that seed inside of him. 

Sundays are far from easy-  they are the hardest day of the week around my house. But I know its because the devil is working overtime to keep me from getting to church and serving my King. I can look back on my life and remember so many times when it would have been so much easier to not have to mess with church. It was even easier when Mitchell and I just went to church instead of serving. It was when we discovered our purpose the Lord had given us here on this earth and began to pursue it with everything we had that we realized it wouldn't be easy but it would be worth it. Luke 22:27-30 “Who would you rather be: the one who eats the dinner or the one who serves the dinner? You’d rather eat and be served, right? But I’ve taken my place among you as the one who serves. And you’ve stuck with me through thick and thin. Now I confer on you the royal authority my Father conferred on me so you can eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and be strengthened as you take up responsibilities among the congregations of God’s people.”  The greatest in God’s sight are those who humbly serve, the ones who face the challenges of the day and keep pursing Him and keep serving Him no matter what. Its the one who keep going and never stops that the Lord sees, not the ones who sit back and say “thats just too hard for me, I’m not dealing with it”  Would it be easy for Mitchell and I to just watch church online and avoid the hassle of getting the kids dressed and out the door? Would it be easy for us to stop teaching our small groups, finding a sitter for the kids and getting the house clean in time for company? Would it be easier for us to avoid serving at church and raising new leaders up so we could just sit at home and have that “easy like Sunday morning” experience? Yes it probably would - but what do we gain?? Earthly pleasure? Not interested - I’m here to win souls for Christ and fulfill the purpose that the Lord has made me for and to work towards the rewards that I will benefit from in Heaven eternally, not just worldy, short term gain.

A picture from this morning before church - everyone really cooperated 
I always listen to the Commodores sing “Easy” on Sunday mornings as I get dressed or on the way to church so I can always laugh and think about how far from easy it actually is, but I focus on the fact that even if its not easy, just like the Lord told me in my living room that Easter Sunday, I wont stop. Easter didn't go as planned for me and I may not of gotten the blessing I had pictured but I got something much better - that was the understanding that Jesus came and died on the cross not just so I could go to heaven, but so I could have the opportunity to get my family and friends to come to heaven with me. I wont stop taking my kids to church on Sunday and I wont stop serving Him because I want my children to see that no matter how hard things can be - you can always run to Jesus and feel that freedom and that “relaxing, easy Sunday morning feeling” that really only the Lord can truly give us. 

Mamas, can I encourage you to fight through that Sunday morning and get your family to church. It is all worth it when you see your child engaging in the children church lesson, hearing them say sweet prayers, being able to understand exactly who Jesus is and accepting them into their heart. I can promise you that all that drama of getting them dressed for church, struggling to get them in the car and how they acted that morning is nothing to the feeling of seeing your child begin a relationship with Jesus. And because you “didn't stop” your children will be in heaven with you one day. They will tell others about Jesus and then those people will be in heaven and it goes on and on.  Its easy to feel like you are not “serving” God in the way that you would like in this season of life but remember Hebrews 6:10 “For God is not unjust so as to overlook your work and the love that you have shown for his name in serving the saints, as you still do.” The Lord sees us working even when we think no one sees and by getting our family to church so they can hear the word and feel His spirit, we are truly serving God. We will get that “easy like Sunday morning” feeling one day when we are in heaven, relaxing and rejoicing that we are with our family and our Lord and Savior. Don’t let the devil continue to camp out at your house on Saturday nights and Sunday mornings -  remind him who always wins and no matter what - DON’T STOP! 

Monday, February 27, 2017

"Girl, You got two in there!"

TWO WHAT!

Thanks time hop - I realized today that 2 years ago I found out I was pregnant with the twins! How was that 2 years ago????? Here is the story of how I found out, something I will never ever ever forget! Hope it makes you laugh and gives you some encouragement today! 

My sweet Steven - When he was born he became my whole world.  He was the sweetest baby, one that hated sleep but LOVED his mama. My husband works a lot so many times it was just me and my sweet Roni. I took him everywhere, the park, museums, all the fun places toddlers wanted to go. It was just me and him the majority of the time. He completely changed me into a mother and everything revolved around him, when we ate, when we slept, when we went out. My love for him was so big I couldn't imagine my life with anymore children.  So when my husband said he thought we should have another child I was not so sure. 


How in the world could I love another baby as much as I love Steven? How in the world could I handle anymore sleepless nights??? (Steven was a horrible sleeper for the first 18 months of his life) All these thoughts flooded my mind - I just didn't think I could handle any more kids. I didn't think my love could grow any bigger! But after lots of prayer and realizing one child is not what God wanted for our family,  I finally decided that 2015 was the year to add another precious baby to our family - but I had ONE rule - I DID NOT want to be pregnant in the summer - I wanted a nice cool winter pregnancy, one where my pregnancy hot flashes could be cooled down by one step outside in the cool air. The southern summers in Alabama can be brutal and that atmosphere was something I did not want to experience pregnant. BUT God had other plans……

At the end of January of 2015, my husband came home from our church’s 21 days or prayer to a very sick wife - Me - sitting in the bathroom floor in a bathrobe, thinking I was totally dying, with Steven hanging on my back. Our church has a period of 21days of prayer at the beginning of the year so we can fast and focus on Jesus and the year ahead of us. I had been praying during the 21 days of prayer that God would use me to the best of his ability that year, that I would be able to trust him more than I ever had before. Little did I know he was answering my prayers in a way I would have never thought. 

“Mitchell , I am dying - I just know it - Also, Im pregnant so get Steven off of me for a second so I can go to sleep”  Yes I know - this was the most romantic way of telling your husband you were pregnant. lol. I don't do romance - I do TRUTH! LOL! I was sick and miserable and had just taken a pregnancy test that read positive almost the second I looked at it. I didn't have time to be all romantic and tell him in a special fancy way - I just wanted him to get Steven off of me for a minute and for me to pass out in the bed! lol! He was so happy, and although I was miserable, I was happy too. It happened very fast and that day while I was sitting in the bed trying to make the morning sickness go away, I realized that it was January - 9 months from January was September - I would be pregnant in the summer - the hot hot hot hot summer - I looked up as if I was talking to Jesus and said “Real funny God - Real Funny!”  I did not want to be pregnant in the summer and lo and behold - I would be pregnant in the summer. Bring on the high electricity bill because that air was being turned down to 60 and STAYING there until I gave birth! lol! 

The weeks leading up the first doctors appointment were ROUGH. No one knew I was pregnant but Mitchell and the ALL DAY sickness was horrible. I looked rough and felt rough. This pregnancy had hit me like a ton of bricks - nothing like the pregnancy I had with Steven. We went to the doctor for my 9 week check up - We had Steven with us because we thought we would be in and out pretty fast. We went inside the room for an ultrasound, the tech talking to us about the weather, about the wild toddler below my feet getting into everything, and then - in a nonchalant way she said “Girl you go two in there!”

“TWO WHAT?????” was the only response I could say. 

“Um - two babies - you are having twins! Congratulations” 

At this time, Steven knocked over a lamp that was in the room and in the few seconds after I started picturing my life - Kids, kids everywhere - chaos, money here and there, diapers, throw up, what. in. the. world. 


And then I realized the summer pregnancy - Pregnant with twins in the summer - that Alabama summer - the RECORD BREAKING HEAT OF THE ALABAMA SUMMER! 

OH JESUS! HELP!!!!!!!!!!!!

TWINS? HOW? WHAT? WHY? No one ever told me there were twins any where in our family! Twins had NEVER crossed my mind. TWINS! TWINS! TWINS! 

I didn't speak another word for the rest of the day. The doctor came in, congratulated us and told us how excited he was to deliver twins, how they looked perfectly healthy and how wonderful it was going to be. He gave me some medicine for my extreme sickness and sent us on our way with a picture of the twins just hanging out in my belly, growing perfectly yet terrifying me like crazy. 

The car ride home was a quiet one. Mitchell kept staring at me, nervous laughter, and then he would tell a corny joke, anything to try to get me to talk but I didn't. He dropped Steven and me off at home and went on to work. After I put Steven down for a nap, I got in the bed and pulled out my phone. I googled triple strollers and almost passed out at the prices of the strollers. Steven would be 26 months old when the twins would be born. I started doubting EVERYTHING- even doubting God. I thought of the things I wanted to do one day and literally felt them crushing at my feet. I had been given some of the best news someone could ever hear yet I was taking it as some of the most horrible news I could ever hear. 

I then picked up the phone and called my best friend, Jill Rae. Jill has been my best friend since we were in middle school. We are opposites but opposites attract and I couldn't do life without her. She is a missionary in Mexico and no matter how busy she is she always has time to talk and that day was nothing different. She answered the phone and the minute I heard her say hello I started crying. I told her I was pregnant with twins and started going on and on about how I couldn't believe it - how am i supposed to do this, how am I supposed to do that! What am I going to do?

I will never forget what she told me that day. She said “Ashley, you know God is giving you these babies because he knows NO ONE but you can raise them up the way he wants them to be raised! He is giving them to YOU because he knows you can do it! How amazing is that!”

Then I started thinking of my prayers from the 21 days. My prayer journal had “ God let me trust you more” written in it probably over 100 times. Now, here, in this moment is when I had to trust Gods plan for my life. He was giving me some of the greatest gifts on the earth. He thought so much of me that he was giving me not only one more precious baby but TWO more precious babies to add to our family. Why? Because he believed in me and he knew I could handle it. If God thinks that much of me, I will take whatever he sends my way!

The same day we found out we were pregnant with twins was the first night of our church marriage conference. Mitchell was so happy when he picked me up and I was finally speaking to him. lol. My attitude had been changed by realizing that God was blessing us more than he ever could. The marriage conference was amazing and knowing that I was pregnant and could enjoy the desert without feeling any guilt was just as amazing! lol! The pregnancy didn't seem so hard anymore - It seemed like something I was ready to take on - something I knew God had set for my life. Gods plans were different than mine - Why? Because he wanted MORE from me than I could ever imagine. 

Are you going through something where you think you just cant make it? Where you wonder if God is even listening? Is this part of his plan? What is he trying to do to me?!?!?!!?!?!

Can I assure you that even though you think God is not there, he is! Even though you think that what you are going through is not part of the plan for your life, it is!  Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” God KNOWS the plans he has for our life - plans to give us HOPE and a future! Everything we go through is part of a big puzzle, one we are adding to piece by piece, one that God designed specifically for our lives. To be honest, the day I found out I was pregnant with twins was one where I pictured my life in shambles. I cried so hard thinking I was going to never be able to do anything for myself anymore. I had a selfish way of viewing my life and I also had issues with letting go and letting God. My plan was to have another baby and live the perfect little life in my perfect little house with my perfect husband and perfect, equal numbered family. But that is not what God saw. He saw SO much more for me. He wanted to bless me MORE than I could ever imagine and more than how I had planned it out to be. My prayers were being answered - I was learning to trust him and even though some days are harder than others I trust him more and more every single day.  I am so glad that God is in control of my future and not me. Gosh, I can barely control my laundry pile - I sure don't want to be in control of my future! 

I survived the Alabama summer bring pregnant with twins and a toddler. It was not easy but I did it!! lol! This time 2 years ago I was a terrified mother trying to figure out what Gods plans were for my life and here I am today, confident and in awe of what God has done in me since then. I am so thankful for these sweet precious babies of mine. And although I was so worried my love wouldn't be big enough for more children, it was. My love tripled when we added baby 2 & 3 to our life. I am so underserving and so thankful for his blessings on my life. 


And of course - I cant leave out the video telling our parents we were pregnant with twins. 

When we told my parents we were pregnant with Steven the video ended up on America’s Funniest Home Videos and of course this one is just as funny! They had been keeping Steven over the weekend so we could go to our church marriage conference. Doesn't my mama look just adorable in her moo moo? LOL!!!!!!! 

                                                             




Thursday, February 9, 2017

The Day I Found My Joy

The Story of the Cat 

Did you know as a mother joy is something that can be hard to find?  Hearing your kids laugh, watching them grow, learn and find out who they are, receiving their precious snuggles, hugs and kisses- these things can bring you so much joy as a mother. 

But sometimes joy can be stolen from us. 

Our thoughts go towards what are we going to have for dinner, cleaning up messes, worrying about what your kids are doing here and doing there, are they getting enough to eat, are they getting enough playtime, shouldn't they be doing this by now, shouldn't they be doing that by now - all while our kids are right in front of us doing things that can bring us so much of the joy we have been praying for God to send us.  

2016 was a hard year for me. I went through a lot of things - things that robbed me of my joy - My focus went from my precious children to worrying about useless things and putting my focus on things that did not matter at all. I worried about everything - This twin is doing more than this twin, big brother isn't getting enough attention, the twins aren't getting enough attention. The daily tasks of cleaning up after my family became things that I dreaded and fussed about, not realizing how blessed I was that I have a husband and 3 beautiful children to clean up after. The year was slow and time after time I realized I had become depressed and focused on doing my best to make it to bedtime. Everyday tasks because more important than the joy right in from top me. 

In 2017 I realized I had to make a change - it had to be a change in my mind and my thoughts - a change where I had to tell the Lord what I REALLY wanted and continue to pray and believe it with my whole heart. After reading over my prayer journal from 2016 I realized that joy was missing from my life. 2017 was going to be my year of Joy so during our church’s 21 days of prayer that is what I focused on - Joy from the Lord. Never in my wildest dreams did I think the Lord would use what he did to bring me Joy. But the Lord works in mysterious ways and I truly believe that. So here is the story of how I found my joy…….

Lets go back to February of 2016 - My husband and I had to decided to put our house up on the market (3 kids under 3 and a house for sale - a HORRIBLE idea but thats another blog post for another day). We truly loved our house but wanted some change and thought “Why not?” I cleaned and cleaned and cleaned all day everyday so the house would be ready for showings the minute it needed to be. We lived out of a laundry basket and our car during showings. I would be feeding a baby with one hand, burping a baby with another hand and then singing a toddler to sleep all while waiting patiently at the bottom of our neighborhoods hill like a secret agent spy in my explorer filled with kids, dirty laundry, toys, trash and anything else that didn't make our house look “perfect” to a buyer. Let me tell you - It was the time of my life y’all. 

I did so much work to make our house perfect so we could sell it and go on to the next adventure, but there was something that kept happening every time we had showings - a cat.  Our realtor had once mentioned that we needed to do a better job of cleaning up after the cat and making sure that the cat was not home during showings. I kept telling him we didn't own a cat and I didn't know what he was talking about. I kept wondering if he was even showing the right house because I had never seen a cat around our house. And then one afternoon I finally spotted THE cat. 

My kids and I were outside and I heard a loud scream. Steven threw his dump truck and ran as fast as he could screaming about some cat that had touched him. I saw the tail of a cat hiding behind a chair and when I pulled the chair back it ran, causing me to scream which then caused Steven to scream followed by the even louder screams of the twins. I heard water could scare cats so I sprayed some water around hoping it would prevent the cat from coming back. (Can you tell Ive never been around cats? My mom always said they were “of the devil” so we never had any growing up!)  We went inside, I calmed everyone down and thought “ Ok thats the end of the cat” - Um no. It got worse. For over a year, this cat (who no one claimed was theirs) was at our house all the time. I never once fed it, I never spoke to it, I thought if I don't look at it maybe it will go away, but it always seemed to be there. We eventually took our house off the market, the stress of selling a house, a husband that was at work more than he was home, raising 3 kids alone from sun up to sun down, all while trying to keep a clean house and keeping sane was too much for everyone. We took it off the market in June and went on with our daily life. We were finally about to “live” in our house again. Yet the cat was still around. Paw prints all over the kids toys, trash here and there, the kids were terrified to go outside because this cat was always lurking in the corner staring at us - like the eyes of Doctor T.J. Eckleburg in the old advertising billboard in The Great Gatsby. Just sitting there checking us out but really just freaking us out. The scariest thing it did was when I opened the blinds and saw it sitting not the perch outside just staring at me. I slowly closed the blinds and went into another room, totally freaked out. lol. I tried to find the owner many times. I posted on neighborhood pages, Facebook sites, I never had any luck. We continued to ignore it hoping one day the owner would actually remember they had a cat and it would not be hanging out at Hotel Watts anymore! 

This is the only photo I have of this crazy cat - I posted this to our neighborhood HOA page many times but no one ever claimed it! 

Now back to January 28th of 2017 - My husband came home from work that night and told me the trunk of my explorer was open. I thought one of the kids had gotten ahold of the keys and opened the trunk while pressing buttons here and there so He closed the trunk, we came inside, ate dinner, bathed the kids and put everyone to bed. Once we were ready to go to bed at about 8:00 that night lol - We did our nightly door and window check to make sure everything was locked before going to bed (the life of an adult is so wild right? lol)  While turning off the lights in the dining room I realized the emergency lights in my car were going off. It totally freaked us out and the worrier in me had totally convinced myself that someone was in the car - someone had broken into my car, turned on the emergency lights so I would go out there and turn them off and then I would be mugged, the person would drive off with me in the car and I would never see my family again - Yes this is how my mind works people. lol. I thought to myself “I cant go out there - Mitchell has to do it! If I'm not here the kids will go around malnourished, theres no telling what time they would go to bed and they will never match out in public - this is job for Mitchell, not me!” (once again - Im crazy yall) I got Mitchell and made him go outside. After telling him why I thought my lights were flashing, he got his loaded gun (because I had convinced him someone was in the car) and walked outside to deal with my car. I couldn't watch - I just knew I would hear a gunshot from the person hiding in my car but no - Mitchell walked back in came in the bedroom and said “I don't know what happened? Maybe the kids turned them on and we didn't see it because it was light outside”  “Yes who knows” I replied, with a sign of relief. I didn't think anything else of it so we went on to bed. 

The next morning we realized our outside drain had been clawed apart by, yes you guessed it - the cat - so we decided to spend the morning at home depot getting the parts we needed to fix the drain. We ate breakfast, dressed the kids and loaded everyone up in the car and headed to home depot. I noticed the car smelled strange but Im a mom of 3 and there is always something crazy in my car!  I was convinced there was a diaper somewhere I had forgotten to take out so we just dealt with the smell and went on to Home Depot.

Everyone was quiet in the car, we listened to music, laughed at the way the kids were dancing in the back seat and 20 minutes later pull up at Home Depot ready to knock out the task of getting the kids out of the car and into the buggy as fast as possible. We were on a mission to get what we needed to get and hurry back home in time for the best time of the day - naptime!!!!!! 

I turn around to unbuckle Steven when I see something I would have never thought to see - THE CAT - sitting ever so careful on the headrest of the back seat facing our daughter, Charlottes car seat. I scream, Steven realizes the cat is beside his head so he screams, Charlotte screams because she sees a cat in front of her. John Daniel screams because it was so loud. Mitchell and I jump out of the car. Now we almost ran but realizing we were parents and had to deal with what was inside the car, Mitchell opened the car door and out jumped the cat, screeching as it jumped and ran off. Of course the parking lot was full and people turned around to see what the loud screaming noises were. A couple beside us saw what happened and came running to our car asking if they could help us find our cat, why did you even have the cat in the car, are the kids ok, all the questions I didn't even want to answer because I was still in shock there was a cat IN OUR CAR. Mitchell and some other people in the parking lot looked for the cat but the loud noises and crazy atmosphere had scared it off and it was no where to be found. I tried to explain to the people beside us that the cat did not belong to us, we don't even own an animal but they looked at me crazy when my worried face all the sudden burst into total laughter. The moment I turned around and saw the cat perched on the headrest kept running thru my head. I thought back to Christmas Vacation when Chevy Chase first saw the squirrel jump out of the christmas tree - That is how I felt at that moment. We got the kids calm, got everyone in the buggy and walked into Home Depot. We felt eyes staring at us left at right “ Those are the people who just let a cat out of their car and walked off!”  We even had people come up to us in the store asking what we were going to do about the cat. 

Now, we don't own any animals. Why? Because I have 3 animals of my own, Steven, John Daniel and Charlotte. I am able to take care of them and thats about it. I would never wish anything bad on an animal - I just don't have time to take care of one like it deserves which is why we do not have a pet. This cat was not our pet, we never once gave it food, we never talked to it unless we were saying “ please go away”, it had haunted us and had been freaking us out for over a year. And now it was running loose in the Home Depot parking lot. In the HOME DEPOT PARKING LOT YALL.

We left Home Depot, Mitchell and I doubled over in laughter barely being able to drive thinking about what had just happened. I started piecing things together - the smell in the car - it was cat pee, the cat had been in the car the whole night. When Mitchell closed the trunk it must have been trapped in there. While it was crawling around in my car all night peeing and shedding its hair everywhere it must have accidentally pressed the emergency light button which is why the lights had been flashing the night before. The whole reason we had gone to Home Depot to begin was to replace something the cat has broken. Mitchell and I spent the rest of the day cleaning the car and the carseats, spending hour after house removing all the evidence of the cat that had spent the night in the car. No one in our neighborhood admitted to missing a cat - We were convinced the cat was some kind of ghost or crazy zombie cat that only came around when we were alone or around the kids or had big things going on at our house. The whole day Mitchell and I would break out in laughter thinking of the cat jumping out of the car and the faces of the people around as they looked at us. Mitchell said he had never seen me laugh so hard, and he was right I had not laughed that hard in months, even years. 

That night when I was washing dishes before bed, a task I truly hate to do, I broke out in laughter all alone in the kitchen. I reimagined turning around and seeing the cat and broke out in such laughter I could barely contain myself. Then that laughter turned into to tears because I heard the Lord speak to me, right there in that moment of washing dishes and laughing. He said “Here is some joy Ashley”

Joy can be defined as the feeling of great pleasure and happiness. The bible tells us that Joy remains even in the middle of suffering. No matter what situation you are in, you can find joy. I had been praying so hard for joy - My idea of joy was my house clean and in perfect order, the children wearing stainless, crisp ironed clothes, my husband home every night for 5:00 dinner, and me dressed like June Cleaver, full face of makeup and dressed to the nines, sitting around the table with the kids while we ate a perfect dinner prepared by me - The kids would eat all their vegetables, our house would have sold immediately, there would be no cat running around our house, everything would go just as I wanted it to go. But this is so far from joy. Perfection is not possible - The only perfect peace you can get is from our savior Jesus Christ. And in that moment I realized that I was not able to find joy because I was looking for it in the wrong places. I needed the “situation” to be right to experience joy. I needed things organized so I could experience joy. I needed the kids to be perfect so I could experience joy. I needed my husband home at all times so I could experience joy.  I wasn't able to feel joy because I spent so much time cleaning up the messes around me that I didn't look at the kids making the messes and see how happy they were. Life will never be perfect. Your home will never be perfect, your children will never be perfect - your friendships, relationships, car, clothes - they will never be perfect. The Lord revealed to me thru a CAT that I can get the joy I need no matter what the situation. I could of been angry my car was scratched up and stinky but instead I chose to laugh about the situation, harder than I had laughed in years. It was the joy I needed to help me understand what I went thru last year and how I can face the future. Anytime I am going thru something I feel like I cant handle, I will always think of this crazy cat and the day it made me laugh harder than I had ever laughed before and I felt the joy in my heart and soul again. 


You may be in a place where your joy has been stolen. Focus on this scripture from James 1, verse 2-3 “Consider it pure JOY, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.” When you are going thru something where you feel joy is so far away, realize that it is not! Joy is the person smiling at that funeral because they know they will get to see their loved one again one day. Joy is the person driving too slow in front of you, they are enjoying the drive because even though they are were given only a few months to live, they are still choosing to enjoy the scenery around them. Its in the simple laugh of your child, the joy of knowing you have food in your refrigerator (even if you do have to cook it lol), the joy of knowing you are loved, you are cared for. Its finding the joy no matter what situation you are in. There is joy all around us. The hard times you go thru become part of your story. Nothing is easy. The trials we go thru today and how we overcome them could help someone find joy later in life.  Look around and always find the joy in your situation. You will find laughter, smile when you least expect it and feel the Lord working inside of you like never before. You never know - Joy could come at you thru a cat - just like me! 

Love, Ashley