Between My Ears

I’ve learned a very profound truth from Finn and Paisley this month:

What we say about ourselves in our mind eventually becomes our reality.

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Mindset is EVERYTHING for any real life change. Yeah, yeah, yeah…but I like action. I’m a doer. I do things…I don’t generally spend much time thinking about things. I often tell my clients not to “think about it, just do it.” We can waste time contemplating, worrying, planning about the good habits we need to establish instead of actually doing them.

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In January, Craig preached about personal declarations, a message called, Words to Live By. Joey created his and recites them every morning. Great idea, I thought, but not for me.

Last month, my business mentors noticed I’ve been speaking negatively about my leadership skills, feeling very much like a failure. They told me to change my mindset. “It’s all between your ears, Ashley.” A couple friends told me to find and recite daily affirmations. Okay, okay.

So, I did. I found some online and then changed the verbiage so it included God instead of “the universe” and I taped them on my bathroom mirror under a note card with the word, SERVANT, my word for 2017. They are statements about the kind of leader, entrepreneur, mom, wife, and believer I AM and the kind of life I WANT.

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I can’t tell you how awkward and clunky it feels to say overly-positive, optimistic, almost arrogant things about myself in the morning. It feels…contrived; and I value authenticity so much that to say positive things when I’m thinking negative things almost affronts my core values.

But, here’s what I’ve learned: when I’m filling my mind with positive thoughts, my thoughts become positive. Imagine that. 🙂 Thoughts of gratitude will have the same effect.

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“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.” Philippians 4:8-9

My kids reinforced this truth for me. Here’s what I’ve heard them say just in the last week:

Finn:

“I’m so strong.”

“I have lots of friends.”

“I can do anything.”

“I’m like a superhero.”

“I am really fast. No one can catch me.”

Paisley:

“I am so pretty today.”

“I am really really big.”

“I am so strong and brave.”

“I am going to be a princess in a really big dress.”

“I am so good at coloring.”

 

Where did they get such confident, overly positive thoughts? Well, Joey and I, of course. They’ve adopted our beliefs as their own. What’s in their minds hasn’t yet been polluted by comparison or the opinions of others. I envy them.

Last week Pastor Craig reminded us that comparison either makes us feel superior or inferior…and neither honors God.

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When did I stop believing what my Heavenly Father says about me?

Probably as I scroll through Instagram. Or when I’m not in the Word, filling my mind with my Father’s thoughts. Or when I focus on my failures instead of my potential. Or when I allow Satan to warp my truth.

So much of the battle for all good things in our life is won (or lost) in our heads–between our ears. I pray you are combating your negativity with simple, biblical truths. And though it may be awkward at first, try say something positive about yourself and the life God gave you every morning.

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Pre-K

We sent him off to his teacher’s bench early Tuesday morning. It was his first full day of Pre-K, the first of many days of public school.

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This day was one I feared since the NICU, watching Finn’s tiny pink lips breathe in and out, closed around his feeding tube.

Sure, he’s been in daycare since infancy, but this was different somehow. I was sending my heart off between two wheels, trusting the world to treat him fairly, give him a chance, open doors, be kind.

He popped a wheelie, yelled, “Wahoo!” when he saw cute little Mrs. Brown, and zoomed off.

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I turned around, my eyes stinging with tears. Then Paisley almost ran off the curb into a line of cars and I forgot to cry. A busy day at work kept my mind distracted.

He won’t really tell us anything about his days…nothing true, anyway. He said he played in the dirt all day and that his new friend’s name was Booty. 😉 Mrs. Brown tells me he always asks when nap time is and even fell asleep sitting upright in his chair.

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Thank you, Jesus, for Mrs. Brown.

He’s adjusting well and is excited to go to school each morning, a blessing for sure.

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When asked by kids in his class why he’s in a wheelchair and “what’s wrong with him,” Mrs. Brown says he responds that “his legs aren’t very strong and he uses his wheelchair to move.” I’ve never heard him respond to anyone about his disability before; probably because we answer for him. This is pretty close to what we’d say, except I don’t want him to believe he isn’t strong…just stronger in some ways than others.

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I’m so proud of you, Finn. You are teaching us all that it’s okay to be different. And what’s more, that it’s okay to LIKE being different! Your joy humbles me. You don’t make excuses for the things you “can’t do;” you simply find a way. I am so grateful for the confidence God gives you.

Here’s to 14 years of childhood education–Whew, that sounds daunting!–a rich education mentally, physically, socially and spiritually.

Will you pray with us for one or two really good, loyal friends for Finn? Friends that would see his differences as a blessing, not a burden. We all need a couple friends like that, don’t we?

 

A Perfectly Boring Marriage

June 30th, 2006 Joey and I were married in San Antonio, Texas.

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It was hot, but a coastal storm rolled in that evening and knocked the flower arrangements off my reception tables, cooling off our happy guests.

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Yes, I let Joey and his groomsmen wear those ridiculous sweat bands at the reception.

Joey’s dad performed the ceremony and it was personal yet powerful.

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Our sacred vows were witnessed by 350 of the most influential people in our lives. I didn’t sleep much the night before from excitement and my eyes felt puffy. There was no real drama, catastrophe or anxiety that day. I was marrying my best friend, someone who felt like “home” to me.

Now, a decade later, our love is standing taller, battered by a few storms and it’s maturing like a good wine. We’re friends; we like each other most of the time, and more importantly, we choose each other. Every. Single. Day.

We’ve been asked many times how we’ve maintained a healthy marriage. “What’s the secret to staying happily married for 10 years and beyond?” The answer is nothing fashionable, shocking or dramatic. In fact, you may find it boring.

Daily, (seemingly) insignificant good choices. Today. Tomorrow. The next day…

“…They [successful people] achieve these dramatic results in their lives through making choices that are the very antithesis of drama–mundane, simple, seemingly insignificant choices.” -Jeff Olson, The Slight Edge

I apply this principle to my personal training career, my own physical fitness, parenting, my Arbonne business, my spiritual life and marriage.

*Before I go any further, I must say, our marriage is far from perfect. In fact, this past year has probably been the hardest of our ten. But we are working on it, praying through it, and fighting for it.*

In the moment, these good choices seem inconsequential, but compounded over time, they yield massive results. (I’m obsessed with books, The Compound Effect, The Slight Edge, The Power of Habit these days.) The trouble is that these small, simple choices are just as easy not to do as they are to do. Kissing each other goodbye in the mornings won’t save or ruin your marriage that day—but done (or not done) for hundreds of days over time just might. Daily bad choices (or perhaps the absence of good choices) have the same effect over time: destruction, divorce, obesity, bankruptcy.

Some simple choices Joey and I have made, by the grace of God:

We go to bed at the same time every night. This causes us to be on the same schedule. One person is not more tired than the other, we pray/talk a little together in bed, and it allows for physical intimacy. No kids in bed either, unless it’s May in Oklahoma and they are afraid of the storms.

We are a team. This is tough when you feel like you’re playing a different game altogether, not seeing eye-to-eye. But like any sport, we practice and we get better. IMG_5778.JPG

We go out on dates regularly. With no kids around, we can give each other our undivided attention, we can listen and get to know each other, we can flirt, try new restaurants, hold hands. IMG_6259

We put the kids to bed early. No brainer: more time for us. Structure and sleep for them. High five.

We put toothpaste on each others’ toothbrushes at night. Silly, but sweet.

We don’t make close friendships with people of the opposite sex. This is just smart; he is the only man I should be “emotional” with.

We work out together on Fridays. He rarely lets me train him, but I love including him in something that is so important to me–physical fitness. We think it’s important to stay fit (aka: HOT) for each other. 🙂

We appreciate delicious, healthy food and black coffee. Oftentimes, we cook together. Chemex pour-over coffee every morning. IMG_6615

We play together and we play with our kids. Dance party every night; Justin Timberlake on repeat. Our kids remind us not to take ourselves too seriously. IMG_2874

We travel together (minus kids) at least once a year. It’s a true break in routine, scenery and responsibility. We invest in each other this way and create memories to think back to when “normal life” gets tough. IMG_1350If anyone has an excuse NOT to travel, it’s us. Two full-ish time jobs, I actually lose money when I go on vacation, two kids–one of which is disabled and has a potentially life-threatening condition. But it’s THAT important to us. Albeit, we have incredible parents that we trust to watch our kids.

We speak highly of each other. We chose early on not to make fun of marriage or put each other down, even in jest. We respect marriage and each other too much.IMG_4085

We apologize and try to fight fair. Even when we don’t feel like it. Ugh; this one’s hard.

We kiss each other every morning. 

We value friendship outside of one another. Life is more fun with friends. I think this is partly why our marriage has been hard this year–we’re lacking consistent friendships with other couples. DSC_2511

We take turns doing household chores and getting up with the kids. As a working mom, this is such a blessing to me. Joey is so helpful (acts of service is my love language).

We make time and energy for sex. I’m blushing just typing that…we are really private about our sex life. It’s the part of us that’s just for us.

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6 months pregnant with Finn

We share our calendars. This means less surprises for me.

We support each others’ careers by asking questions and allowing time for personal growth and study. Joey pushes me to achieve my goals and I’m so grateful. IMG_1922

Joint bank account. 

We read. Less screen time is my struggle, but I’m working on it. Currently reading The Slight Edge by Olson and up next are Niequist’s new Present Over Perfect, Maxwell’s 12 Indispensable Qualities of a Leader, and the new Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.

And finally…We individually seek to know Jesus more and work on improving ourselves. This is, without question, the most important element. The secret sauce. Because without Him, our love for each other is incomplete, shallow and self-serving.

I believe God made marriage a sacred covenant, binding unto death, because He knew that at some point, we’d want to get out.

“So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, let no one separate.” Matthew 19:6

It seems easier at times just to give up, do our own thing, or try someone new. But I said “I do,” to Joey on June 30th. Then again on July 1st. And July 2nd…And I’m saying “I do” today.

A healthy marriage isn’t fancy and it doesn’t make you famous. There’s no one event that changes everything. It’s the boring, mundane, good choices over time that lead to renewed vows when you’re 75 and wrinkled.

To the singles: are you the person that the person you’re looking for would want to marry?

To the married and healthy: thank you for your example! We’re watching and inspired.

To the married and struggling: dig in your heels and fight for your family. It takes two to make it work, yes. But pray for your marriage like it’s your full-time job. Go to counseling. And work on you. Let God work on them.

To the married and abused or neglected: Get help. In some cases, get out.

To the divorced: there is redemption. I’ve seen it and it’s beautiful.

To Joey: thank you for choosing me then and choosing me now. Happy TEN YEARS, my Love.

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Santa Magic

I never believed in Santa as a kid.

I’m not really sure why, except that I tend to come by skepticism naturally. Also pretty certain my parents didn’t push it. One frigid Minnesota night when I was five, I stayed up and sat in the living room near the lit tree, hoping to hear reindeer hooves on our roof. Never happened. So I went back to bed, convinced it was a sham. No hard feelings.

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Fireside chats…

But the Santa we met today…he very well may have been the real thing; The Legend.

We have never taken Finn to sit on Santa’s lap before for several reasons:

  1. I am allergic to long lines. Hives. Hyperventilation.
  2. Shopping malls and/or crowded places used to terrify me with Finn wheeling around. So much staring and bumping into things and chasing. It’s exhausting, emotionally and physically.
  3. I don’t believe in Santa.

But all you people and your adorable Santa-sitting-photos made me wonder if I was depriving my kids of something. So this morning we waited an hour and 1/2 at Bass Pro Shop to meet and take a free photo with Jolly Ole’ St. Nick. It was surprisingly organized and the staff were friendly and warm. We received a Santa pass for an 11:30 photo reservation. We chased our kids, watched the striped bass in the tank and ate at Uncle Buck’s restaurant while we waited. Not too bad.

Here’s where the magic happened…

While in line, Finn was spinning around and stalling on his back wheels (our new fav trick), and Santa looked over between crying toddlers and waved at Finn. Finn smiled and waved back.

Then as we were nearing the North Pole entrance, Santa signaled “wait” to his helper elf and waved on a little girl from the side. She was beautiful in a sparkly white gown and appeared to have Down Syndrome. Santa held both her hands at once and spoke directly in her eyes. She probably told him what she wanted for Christmas and he listened intently, nodding. He was not in a hurry. They hugged and hugged.

Once it was our turn, Finn wheeled excitedly toward the throne and Santa said, “I’ve been waiting for you to come visit me ever since I first saw you!” He took Finn’s little face in his gloved hands and whispered, “You’re so handsome.” I was struck in my gut by His warmth and kindness.

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This is when he was talking to Finn…I wish Joey had gotten Finn in the shot too. Paisley was shy, but didn’t cry.

He called Paisley an angel and we snapped this adorable photo.

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As I was taking Finn off Santa’s lap, he said to me, “Before you go, I need to speak with Finn.” He asked Finn, “Now what would you like for Christmas?” (A miracle. Advancements in Neurological Science. No more shunt revisions. Strong, sturdy legs. Peace on Earth…) Nope. Finn stretched both arms into the air and with glee, he shouted, “Candy!” Spoken like the sugar-deprived son of a personal trainer. 😉 Santa laughed, gave them each a candy cane, and told Finn how special he was and that he was so glad he and Sister came to visit him.

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I know this sounds cheesy, but today I imagined Santa was a little like our Savior. Waiting for us to come to Him, noticing us and yearning for our closeness all morning. And then He cups our face in His hands and asks us what we want, what we need. And it doesn’t really matter if he gives it to us or not. What matters is that He listens. He smiles warmly and loves us as we are and looks us in the eyes. He is not in a hurry.

December 19, 2015 was the day I first believed in Santa. 11:33am. Bass Pro Shop. Broken Arrow, Oklahoma. Thirty-two and a half years of age.

 

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.

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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.

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These two are something else!

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

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

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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.

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

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We stayed at Secrets Playa Mujeres.

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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.

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We spent a couple blissful days at the spa.

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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…” 🙂

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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.

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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.

Bring Your Gifts

I’m all out of frankincense, but I have a few gifts to offer the Child King this year.

When you love, you give.

I love Joey, so I can’t help myself from buying him gifts…even if we agree not to. And when I see something at a store–hummus at Whole Foods, for example–I buy it for Pascha and Laura because they love it and I love them. When Finn wants the last bite of my cookie, he gets it.

And I love my Lord. I’m longing to give to Him. But what can I offer the Almighty? Everything I have is because of Him anyway.

Life has been whirling around us this Christmas season. I feel like I’m inside the snow globe. All I have to show for decorations is this tiny tinsel tree.

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I will offer Him my home anyway.

Despite the lack of festivity in my home, my heart may be more prepared for Christ’s coming than ever before. LifeChurch.tv’s worship series, Come to Worship, has been gently drawing my heart nearer and nearer to the manger–that stinky cave where the King of Kings chose to make His arrival, bringing beauty to my ugly. I will offer Him my heart.

As a personal trainer, I only get paid when my clients show up, and I’ve had six cancellations in the past two days. I will offer Him our money. Because it’s His anyway.

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Come see me at Sky Fitness & Wellbeing!

I’m a really good trainer. I haven’t always been able to say this with confidence, but over the years I’ve seen enough clients’ lives change because of an hour or three per week of training with me. I can say that’s a gift. It’s also my ministry. I aim to nourish the whole person as I train…mentally, spiritually, emotionally, and of course, physically. I offer Him my gifts of coaching and career.

I wish I was as good of a mom as I am a trainer. I sometimes feel unnatural and ill-equipped as a parent…especially in the middle of the night. But I sure love my kids. Goodness, I love them with everything in me. They are my heart. My nose gets all sting-y just thinking about their beautiful faces. Finn’s obsession with Thomas continues, he delivers astonishingly clear sentences, and has been working on walking using the RGO with our Sooner Start therapist.

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Paisley is no longer colicky. Praise Jesus! But she’s become the happiest, flirtiest baby during the day and the crankiest, loudest baby at night. She bunny hops on all fours and can walk if you hold her hands. She smiles for her brother like no one else.

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Paisley and Nana Deb at Thanksgiving

Paisley and Nana Deb at Thanksgiving

Dedication Day

Dedication Day

Baby will be 6 months old on Christmas Day. Can’t believe it. I offer Him my kids.

Jesus, thank you for giving Yourself. Your gift makes all mine pale in comparison. Still, I offer you my life.

Listen to LifeChurch.tv’s song, We Lift You High. Its lyrics inspired this post. And join us for Christmas services!

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.

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We shared meals and air mattresses and lake floaties.

 

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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.

 

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

 

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Gram telling wedding stories.

Gram telling wedding stories.

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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.

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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.

 

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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)!