Get on the Field

Do you ever feel like you’re on the sidelines of life, watching everyone else have all the fun? You’re the chipper cheerleader or the rude dad barking at the ref from the bleachers, but you’re not playing the game.

IMG_8095

At the risk of sounding ultra-spiritual, I believe one way Satan makes us ineffective as believers is to get us to “sit the bench” and watch our lives pass us by. There is no era more prone to this than ours of social media.

We scroll feeds. We watch YouTube videos for humor. We follow transformations on Instagram instead of journeying through our own. We binge watch (isn’t that even the grossest terminology?!) TV shows. We Netflix on Fridays. We are taking life sitting down, becoming fat and lazy–if not in our bodies, in our minds. I am guilty of this too, friends. Often I have to remind myself, “Ashley, put down your phone. The people you love are right in front of you. Be present.”

06a76fd02dbd505c0ed8c92dc0f64dca

GET ON THE FIELD OF YOUR OWN LIFE.

There is no place I get a swifter kick-in-the-pants of perspective more than the Endeavor Games.

IMG_8059

This is an adaptive sports event–a pre-qualifier for the Paralympics–for people of various physical disabilities. That word, disability, is laughable here. These athletes are ABLE. They are blind but fast. They have one limb–ONE LIMB–and swim 800m. They use wheelchairs to race and play basketball. They run on blades. They are real-life superheroes in my book.

FullSizeRender 82IMG_8098

These individuals have every right to sit on the sidelines of their lives, watching us able-bodied people have all the fun. Oh, but no. Excuses dishonor them. They’ve decided (or someone in their lives has decided for them, perhaps) that life is a GIFT. It is meant to be lived…messily, frustratingly, joyfully and victoriously.

IMG_8096

Finn has “competed” in the Endeavor Games at UCO for the past three years. This year our goal was to not get disqualified by crossing over the lines. Success!

IMG_8039IMG_8032

He took home three gold medals for the 20, 60, and 100m dash! This was the first year he was actually crossing the finish line first and he kept looking back over his shoulder to find his buddies.

IMG_8067

This child continues to amaze me with his joyful spirit. It truly humbles me that God chose me to be his mom.

IMG_8053

Paisley was SO ANGRY that we didn’t clean off Finn’s old wheelchair in the garage and let her compete. 🙂

IMG_8033

IMG_8064

She’s not a side-liner by nature, and I love this about her.

IMG_8097

Stop watching others live. Stop giving your very best for another person or corporation’s advancement.  Start living your life. Use your gifts, given specifically to you by God. I need your friendship, your talents, your wisdom, your drive, your love to become the best version of me.

IMG_8058

Sweet friends, The Whites, came to cheer Finn on!

We need you to get in the game of your own life. Your children, your marriage, your career, your friends, the Kingdom depends on it.

“Life is either a great adventure, or nothing.” Helen Keller

Advertisements

Rooted

“Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness.” Colossians 2:7

Sometimes I’m more like a dandelion than a tree. Shallow and fragile, coming apart at the slightest puff of wind.

I want to be an oak. Roots planted deep; grounded into Jesus. I know I have yet to reach His mysterious depths. Firm identity and foundation. Unshaken by my circumstances. Immune to the approval or disapproval of others. Adapting with life’s changing seasons. And the result, according to Col. 2:7, is an abundance of gratitude. I’m in.

Oak-Tree2

Rooted. My word for 2016.

http://www.life.church/

Getting Away

When life is hard, I go somewhere else in my mind–some fantastic place I’ve been before. This is the magic of vacation: the carefree memories last beyond the holiday. They get us through the arduous days and nights that follow.

I think about Colorado: Cascade Falls north of Durango and waking up in our tent beside Lime Creek.

IMG_5250 IMG_5386

I go poolside in Mexico with my hottie husband doing a crossword puzzle at my left. I am climbing a rock face in Slovenia, slurping linguine in Florence, exploring ancient cathedrals in Rome. I’m bike riding up to a castle in Salzburg, on the dock with my family at the lake, canoeing in the Boundary Waters or whale watching in Alaska.

Getting away forces me to rest, breathe a little deeper and separate myself from the people and things that produce the most stress. But it also helps me appreciate those very things. With some distance between us, I am grateful for a home to clean, children to feed with butts to wipe, and a job with oftentimes too many clients to manage.

Most recently, we spent 4th of July weekend at my parents’ home in Bella Vista, AR.

IMG_1269

These two are something else!

IMG_1306

We watched fireworks over the dam, water skied, swam off the boat, and played games when the kids went to bed.

IMG_1251 IMG_1284  IMG_1292 IMG_1297 IMG_1243 IMG_1260

Chad surprised us and drove up from Dallas to join the fun!

IMG_1301 IMG_1271

This is going to be one of my new favorite traditions.

Last week, Joey and I left Tulsa on the earliest flight in the history of aviation, met our Norman friends in the Dallas airport (and two more met us in Mexico!) and continued on to Cancun.

IMG_1315 IMG_1314

We were celebrating Dustin’s 40th birthday and our 9th anniversary.

IMG_1309

We stayed at Secrets Playa Mujeres.

FullSizeRender 20

It was a new, all-inclusive resort with beautiful buildings/decor and really yummy food. I felt like Lady Edith, dressing up each evening, choosing anything I wanted off the menu and letting someone else do the dishes.

IMG_1312 IMG_1338 IMG_1350

We spent a couple blissful days at the spa.

IMG_1342 IMG_1328

Anytime I get a massage, I pray…just so grateful for a moment to be pampered; a complete luxury. The masseuse would think I was a weirdo if she heard my inner monologue: “Oh, thank you Jesus. You are just so good. Always good…” 🙂

IMG_1321

LOVED this book! Thanks, Leah!

We had never traveled with friends before, and to be honest, I was a little nervous I wouldn’t get enough time with Joey, but it was perfect. We loved sharing meals with our friends each evening, laughing over the mariachi band’s lilting vibrato and tasting each others’ gourmet dishes. I miss the everyday-ness of our friendship with them. They are good people. Life-long friends.

IMG_1344

After day 4, we were missing our kids like crazy and ready to get home to our food, our workouts, our bed. We came home with a new appreciation for the regularity of our little life; ready to tackle parenthood head on.

Thank you, Mom, Dad and Chad for taking such fantastic care of our babies while we were gone. We can only travel like this because of your sacrifice.

Tuesday, Finn was diagnosed with an ear infection and sent home from school, then Paisley spiked a fever too. Yesterday, after hours of simultaneous crying and whining from my little loves, I took myself back to the relaxation room in Mexico. White robe. Cucumber slices on my eyes and eucalyptus in my nostrils. Breathe deeply. It’s going to be okay and it can always be worse. Dear friends are struggling with much worse diagnoses these days.

I’m grateful for the opportunity to get away but even more grateful for the opportunity to come home.

Invincible Summers

Summer is coming.

The colicky newborn days and nights have turned to giggling and peek-a-boo.

IMG_0634

My fears for Finn at school–though still very present–have subsided, and I love to watch his classmates hug (and kiss) him at pick up. Yesterday a new family was touring the school. We walked out together and two little boys watched as Finn raced down the ramp to our van. They were obviously staring at him, so their sharp mom kindly ushered them over to us to introduce themselves. [Side note: introduce yourself and your kids to people who are different. It’s a teaching moment for your kids and a display of respect for the person.] “I’m Ethan and this is my little brother, Will.” “I’m Finn Joseph Armstrong.” Finn spun a few donuts for them and finished it off with a wheelie. Will exclaimed, “I want one of those!” While strapping Finn into his car seat, he asked, “They love me, Momma?” Yes baby, you’re so cool.

In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer.” -Albert Camus

I first came across Camus’ writings in one of my college Literature classes. This particular quote spoke to those cavernous places in my soul and has influenced my life ever since. At the time, I was drowning in an unhealthy relationship. I quite literally lost myself. I had forgotten the confidence and bravado of my childhood, I temporarily neglected my parents’ nurturing and biblical upbringing, I denied the redemption I had found in Christ as a child and then again as a young adult.

Freshman TWIRP date. See Joey in the back row?! He was NOT my date. ;)

Freshman TWIRP group date. See Joey in the back row?! He was NOT my date. I actually can’t remember who was.

It was winter in my heart. My dreams were icicles, hanging above me, threatening to fall. I was bitter and angry, struggling with the sting of rejection and emotional abuse. If you want to destroy me, speak ill of me or deny me verbal affirmation. I will crumble. I pretended to be strong but I was brittle inside. Despite the changing seasons, this winter of mine lasted about two and 1/2 years. I finally went through Beth Moore’s Breaking Free bible study and spent a lot of time memorizing and praying Scripture. I went to counseling and learned how to distinguish truth from a lie. Most pleasant afternoons, you’d find me lying on my back in a field behind the dorms, singing or crying out to my Redeemer. He thawed me. He reminded me of my worth, showed me others who were hurting much more than I was, and re-established who He created me to be. A daughter of the King.

These girls were my laughter.

These girls were my laughter.

We’ve all endured (or are enduring) those seemingly endless winters; the ones that leave a little frostbite on our hearts. Finn’s diagnosis and disability is oftentimes heart-breaking. One of my friends has lost both her mother and mother-in-law to tragedy. A client lost her brother, her niece and now her daddy–all too soon. I ran into a sweet momma at Target today, and though we had never met before, she reads my blog and recognized Finn. She said she was directed here by a friend-of-a-friend because she gave birth to a stillborn little boy at 40 weeks. Then several months later became pregnant with a precious daughter who has Down syndrome. One of my best and most faithful friends endured divorce when she was counting on forever. Many of you have suffered multiple miscarriages. You’ve felt the sting of abuse or neglect.

These pains can freeze us up; cause us to lock ourselves away from the world, curl up with a blanket over our heads and let the blizzard rage. And that’s okay for a while, but at some point, summer will come. It’s relentless. In your life, allow buds to grow, flowers to bloom, and eventually pluck those petals to share them with others who are still in the shadows.

...my blogging spot. Carrots and hummus. Overripe peach. Birds. Breeze. Summer.

My blogging spot. Carrots and hummus. Overripe peach. Birds. Breeze. Baby monitor.

If you’re shivering in winter, there’s hope. Summer is coming. I hear it right outside my window.

Macarena Mary

Mary Lou is turning 80! The Eitreim family (mom’s side) all convened at my parents’ home in Bella Vista to celebrate. I hadn’t seen my extended family in over 2 years and it was such a blessing to be together. We missed you, Becca Boo.

photo 2 copy

 

photo 1 copy

 

photo 5 copy

 

We shared meals and air mattresses and lake floaties.

 

photo 1 copy 2

 

photo 4 copy 2

photo 2 copy 2

 

My kids were so well loved; Finn was on attention overload. One night we worshiped together in the living room while Joey played the guitar.

 

photo 2

 

The next morning, we surprised Gram with a tea party while the boys went skeet shooting.

 

photo 3

Gram telling wedding stories.

Gram telling wedding stories.

photo

The Man Van.

Grandma Mary requested one thing: a dance party and pizza. So that’s what we did. We rented out their neighborhood clubhouse and danced. We did the chicken dance, the cupid shuffle, some square-dancing, had a hula-hoop contest, and Gram’s favorite, the Macarena.

photo 1 copy 3

photo 2 copy 3

 

I love my family. No one was “too cool;” everyone shook their groove thang. 😉 Just when we thought it was all over, Grandpa Milt announced that it was time for the grand finale. Grandma disappeared. Minutes later, Gramps hit “play” on the boom box. Marching band music and the toot of a whistle sounded in the hallway while Grandma marched in wearing her old majorette uniform. White boots, a red hat, blue whistle and her baton. She flipped that thing around her graceful arthritic fingers like a teenager. She even tossed it and caught it under her legs, brimming with pride. To say we were impressed is an understatement. Jaws dropped as we watched our matriarch perform. The confidence of this woman is beautiful.

 

4 generations

4 generations

Grandma Mary, you are the life of the party. You’re classy and kind. Strong-willed and resilient. You raised three stellar kids, have been married almost 60 years and fought cancer twice.

 

photo 4 copy

 

Thank you for teaching me how to be grateful for what I have and generous with it too. You are cherished. Happy Birthday (on the 25th)!

Outdoor Fix

I’d been looking forward to camping in Arkansas with the college ministry over Spring Break for months. I love getting to know those smart, creative students, and I love being outside. I crave it. I haven’t been really camping since before Finn was born.

As a result, I’ve felt as though something’s been missing for about the past three years of my life. I’m pretty sure it’s fresh, woodsy air. The chorus of crickets at dusk. That awed, small feeling I get when I feel the magnitude of God’s mighty creation–especially in the mountains. Being outdoors feeds my soul and has since I was a kid. (See post: Cooped Up)

So when the forecast for Horseshoe Canyon Ranch, where we were to be camping in AR, was 3-5 inches of snow the day before our trip, I was bummed. I knew it wouldn’t be wise to take Finn out camping in frigid weather. Joey and the college students continued driving east of Siloam Springs, while Finn and I headed north to my parents’ house in Bella Vista.

I had about a forty-five minute pity party in the car. The Lord gently reminded me of my selfishness and the reality that sleeping under a roof instead of nylon is not that much of a sacrifice in the grand scheme of things. There are just some things you give up when you have kids. We’ll camp again. I’ll camp again. Just not this week.

My parents basically live in a tree house. It’s beautiful. photo 1 copy

While Finn took a nap, I lay on their couch, savoring rest for my aching back.

photo 4 copy

When he woke up, we spent a good hour noticing small little things outside the floor-to-ceiling windows like the red-headed woodpecker on the swaying tree. Two playful grey squirrels. Buds on the trees in the ravine. A fox den.

photo 1

We sang several rounds of Old McDonald until we ran out of farm animals Finn was familiar with.

photo 2 copy

When mom got home from work, I went down to the boat dock to pray a little and watch the bugs skim the top of the water. The sun was setting and I closed my eyes to try soak it all in.

The students and Joey joined us at my parents’ house the following evening, and the next day we all went to Crystal Bridges American Art Museum. It’s a fantastic place.

photo 5

Joey had this brilliant idea that we’ll take about 30 minutes to go through the museum on our own and choose a piece we connect with; maybe one that inspires our faith. Then we’ll all walk through together and point out the painting or sculpture we chose and tell why.

love this man

love this man

I chose The Good Shepherd by Thomas Cole.

photo 2

I love the depiction (based on the Biblical parable) of the shepherd who left his compliant herd of sheep to find the one lost lamb and bring him back. With a loose rope tied around his neck, the boy leads him gently to safety and obedience. Jesus does that for us. He is our Shepherd, seeking us out when we’re lost or confused and speaking kindly to us, “leading us beside quiet waters” (Psalm 23).

photo 3

I didn’t expect to find my outdoor fix lying on my parents’ loft couch or in an art museum in Bentonville. I was hoping for a hike in Durango or rocking climbing in Horseshoe Canyon.

You just have to take rest where you can find it. Refreshment wherever it is given…and soak it up.

Spring Cleaning

I don’t know if it’s called “nesting,” if I’m finally feeling well enough to stand for longer than ten minutes, or if it’s just because the sun was shining for a couple of days, but I have been in the mood to CLEAN! And I know it’s not really Spring yet, but I’m pretending.

On Sunday, I organized my closet and made room for baby girl. I collected a few bags of clothes to donate or sell on consignment. Also organized our game closet. It made me miss our Baylor/Truett buds so badly…we played games together weekly. photo 1

Wednesday, I cleaned out the guest bathroom cabinets. I filled four garbage bags with random linens to sell in a May garage sale. I always clean on Wednesdays while Finn naps, but this week I really cleaned. Can anyone other than my grandma really fold a fitted sheet neatly? photo 2 copy photo 3 copy

Wednesday evening I organized my JBF (Just Between Friends) items to sell in April. All the buttons snapped, all hangers facing left. They are very particular at JBF, those ladies.

Thursday, I bought a new basket. A larger one to keep Finn’s toys from overflowing onto the furniture. I hate a living space cluttered by toys. Especially in a small house.photo 4

Today I swept out the garage. I was so tired of tracking in sediment from this winter’s ice storms and the popcorn ceiling residue from Joey and I’s miserable de-popcorning project. If you’ve ever thought of de-popcorning your ceiling, don’t. Hire someone. Anyone.

Finn also got his first big boy haircut today! I took him to Dawna at Lollie’s Beauty Bar. I love Dawna. For the hour or two I spend sitting in her leather swivel chair, I believe we are the best of friends. We bring each other coffee from Starbucks, I bake her cookies, she remembers every detail of my life and is a professional conversationalist. Not to mention a stellar hair stylist.

ANYWAY…Finn was a little apprehensive at first, but he sat bravely on my lap and watched PBS Kids while Daddy cheered him on. photo 1photo 2photo 3

What a stud! He looks like the two year old he’ll be next week. I’m so in love.

Before and After

Before and After

My dream Valentine’s gift came true this year: A car detail.photo 2

photo 3There aren’t many things that make me happier than a clean car. It makes me feel fancy, sane and for the short week it stays that way, I feel like my life isn’t quite such a mess. Thank you, Joey.

This weekend I plan to take a few moments to pray and clean out some messy areas of my mind. Nooks and crannies cluttered by fear. Worry piled high in corners. Selfishness thick on the sills of my heart. Like my home, my son’s hair and my vehicle, my spirit needs some spring cleaning too.