nine03His brothers tell him he is a “Momma’s Boy” and with delight he agrees. He knows all he has to do is smile my way and I’m putty in his hands. His brothers could learn a thing or two from him!

He turned nine this week. Nine. I remember when Corbett was turning eight and I was kind of having a bit of a panic attack about it. Now my youngest boy is nine. What is the deal with these kids growing up? I mean, I’m glad they are and all, but they could slow it down a bit!

The third boy. The very middle of our 5. HeΒ is like a peaceful river in our family – an unpredictable peaceful river. He is calm and quirky. Passionate, yet passive. Strong, but gentle. He says the oddest things, notices the strangest stuff and never lets a day go by without giving me the greatest hug. He fills my heart and soul with so much joy.

nine01nine02I like him. A lot. I love him even more.Β 
nine04

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  • Kristin - Happy Birthday!!

  • Tiffany - Awww, he’s blushing, sweet sweet post. Happy Happy Birthday!

  • susie - Happy birthday from Gillette Wy! I was following your trip on Instagram when you visited the Tetons a couple years ago and you guys had car troubles somewhere between the bighorns and rapid city, I am guessing it was here in Gillette so you guys probably remember our town too! 9 is a great age.

  • Carrie Campbell - Happy birthday!!! What a cutie!! Every family needs a peaceful river in the middle! A gem. πŸ™‚

  • Jenn - love this. nine is fine. my oldest is nine. soon to be 10. holding on to 9 for a few more months. double digits may rock my world. :/

  • Laura J - Happy Birthday from California! Hope you had a terrific day!

  • Shannon - Happy Birthday from Ontario, Canada! My middle of the family boy is turning 9 next week and he is a momma’s boy too. Can’t start my day without a big hug from him:) Hope you have a fantastic birthday!

  • Abbi Hearne - I love how much you LIKE you kids. It’s honestly so rare and inspiring to see how happy they make you and how much you enjoy being their mom. I feel like when people have kids around the ages yours are, we hear mostly complaints, but you always write positive things!

  • Emily Bartnikowski - Happiest of Birthdays!

  • Nicolet - I love how you describe him. also the post about his brother turning 8. I only have one child, a 8 year old boy. We are going through a difficult period, with a lot of discussions about obedience and listening and rules. It was a good reminder to read your blog. thanks

  • Miriam - Feliz cumpleaΓ±os, chico! πŸ™‚ From Phoenix, Arizona!

I have had a week now to think about our car being broke into and all the circumstances leading up to it. We were driving home from visiting family and stopped off in an unfamiliar city. Chris and I are pretty avid travelers and usually smart about the dangers/challenges of travel. Our car was full of all the things you take as a family of 7 when you’ll be gone for a bit. To break up the drive home, we decided to stop by City Museum in St. Louis. We had researched all about the museum, but had not looked into the crime rate surrounding the museum. I wish we had. A simple google search would have shown us that the parking garages and lots surrounding the museum have held the largest concentration of car burgularies in the city…already 330 in the last 6 months (according to City Museum). However, we didn’t know that. We parked in a place we thought was safe, highly visual and everything was covered.

Then we walked into the museum. As someone held the door open for us, we did not see the small sign taped to the door warning museum visitors about car break-ins.

A few hours later, we returned to find a hole punched below the car door handle (disabling the car alarm and lock) and our car basically cleared out. Β As a parent, my concern is always my kids first. As they were processing their own feelings of loss and being violated, I knew they were intently looking to Chris and I regarding how to respond. Soon after we met individuals that saw a young man in our car with his black pick-up pulled up next to ours. They thought things looks suspicious as he slowly went through our car.

A police report was filed. Long conversations had with the law enforcement. Lots of questions and little answers. Eventually, we began driving home.

The car was pretty quiet as the kids were concerned for their parents. We began counting all the good in our lives. We considered the danger those that saw the break-in were potentially in and chose to be grateful that they were not harmed. We chose to be thankful we did not witness it either – knowing we could have put ourselves in a very dangerous situation. We chose to be grateful he didn’t take our car – we were able to drive home. As we pulled into the driveway, I joked that at least I didn’t have to wash any dirty clothes.

We soon began the work of listing all that was gone. Easy things to replace like toothbrushes and shoes. Irreplaceable things like my Bible – filled over the years with notes to my kids, answered prayers and struggles. Things that hurt financially. Each day we remember something else that was tucked in someone’s bag. Each day I am reminded it is all just stuff.

Each day I get into my car and I think about the young man that was sitting in my seat a week ago. While I expected to feel anger and a general sense of yucki-nesss – that is not where I am landing. I keep thinking about his story. I don’t know anything about him, but I do know that no one just goes from being a newborn to robbing cars. While I do not condone his actions, I don’t have overwhelming feelings of anger towards him.

Chris works hand in hand with the Department of Human Services in Oklahoma. Our dinner conversations often land on issues related to foster care and vulnerable children in our state. When vulnerable children do not have a safe, loving home to grow up in, they can often become at-risk teens. At-risk teens, who age out of the system, are set up for failure. When you are fighting to stay alive – everyone can become the enemy, even yourself.

IMG_6101

*Graphic from fosterclub.com

The young man who broke into my car has a story. I can’t change his story, but I can advocate for other young men and women, who are on a dangerous course if someone doesn’t step up and in their lives.

Of the 609 children currently available for adoption in Oklahoma, 45% of those are 13 years old and older.

Of the 392 families waiting to adopt in Oklahoma, only 47 are open to adopting a child 13 years or older. Β  Β  Β 

If the greatest need in Oklahoma regarding foster care and adoption is for teens, I am guessing most states are the same. I asked Chris what kind of families are needed to step up – knowing often families with young kids are encouraged not to. Instantly, Chris responded, “Empty nesters.”

Many teens in the foster care system need strong, gracious, firm and compassionate homes. They need the love and attention that empty nesters are uniquely qualified to give. However, that doesn’t exempt the rest of us. Some of us are in a perfect spot to welcome a teen into our homes. Some of us can volunteer. We can mentor. We can throw open our front door and say, “Dinner is always at 6:00.”

As I sit in my car and I think about the young man, who sat there last week, my hope and prayer for him is that someone would come alongside him and speak truth, grace, compassion and hope into his life.

I miss my Bible, I miss my favorite jeans, my planner, and bags of other ‘important and valuable’ stuff, but at the end of the day it really is just stuff.

As we continue working through the hassle of last week, the insurance, the inconvinences and the loss, I want to lead my children well. When I tell them that our treasure is not in the temporal, I want them to see it in me. When we talk about how everyone has a story and compassion is a great first response, I want them to see it in me. Lastly, I want to use this experience to advocate and raise awareness for the need of loving adults to step up and step into the lives of hurting kids, teens and young adults. As I tell my kids, “Let’s be the change, not just complain.”

 

*Sidenote: As I was working on this, Chris got a call from someone in Virginia who found his planner in the back of a car she rented while in St. Louis. That thing is full of notes and dreams regarding foster care in our state, I’m so thankful it will soon be back in his hands!

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  • Kristin - I am so sorry that happened to you, and that it happened in the state we now call home, but I think your response and attitude is wonderful. Our house was broken into 11 years ago, and our cameras and many of our wrapped Christmas presents were stolen. We were sad to lose photos on the card, but our general reaction was to hope that whoever stole our things needed them more than we did.

  • Kristin S - That sidenote? Well, wow.

    Ashley, I’ve thought about you guys often in the last week. Thank you for your perspective. I’m sure emotions are running the gamut but this is just beautiful.

    Chris’s planner being found and someone actually calling to return it? What a gift and a tangible picture of God’s care. It doesn’t seem like a big deal but it is. Years ago I drove across the country and stopped at every single state welcome sign to take a picture. I propped my planner on top of my car and camera (film camera so developing those photos brought laughter and tears) on top of it. No problem. Until I was at my very own state line. We pulled away and I heard the tumble of my planner rolling off my car roof. We pulled off and searched and searched and searched. I had really long red hair at the time and some friends heading the opposite direction on the interstate saw me, turned around at the next exit, and helped us look. We never found it. Pre-smartphone, my life was in that planner. Well, weeks later I got a call from a truck driver. He had spotted the sun’s reflection on the zipper of my planner from his truck while driving down the road. He pulled over on his next day on that same route, found my planner (!!!), called me and then mailed it to me. Such kindness. He didn’t have to stop.
    I know this doesn’t compare to your tangible, physical loss. BUT it’s a story I have remembered for the last 20 years.
    Praying for y’all as you lead your family through this time – especially that none of them will be fearful.

  • Kathryn Humphreys - I love that you are choosing to advocate for those who cannot advocate for themselves, that you remind everyone that no one gets to these points alone. I work with these children every day in Chicago and I hear so many people willing to take away rather than to give and understand. Humanity, humility, and kindness. Thank you.

  • Amy K. - Since I read your initial post about your Bible being stolen, I have been praying that the original text and your additions will be a blessing to someone else’s heart, Ashley. I know it does not replace the irreplaceable, but hopefully the thought of a stranger’s faith growing because of it will be some comfort.

  • Ryan - Ashley…once again your heart and grace overwhelm me. Man I’m lucky to call you friend.

  • Susannah - Ashley, I’ve been reading your blog for a few years now, and I just wanted to say thank you! You’ve been through many trials, but you always point to Christ and others. Our focus is so important, and it’s so easy to be drug down by hard times. Thank you for realigning our focus and for the encouragement that your blog brings! ?

  • Anne Eicher - I will be praying that the young man will spend some time reading in that special Bible of yours… Those notes you wrote might be just what he needs to turn his life around and make a new start! πŸ™‚ So sorry for your loss, though…

  • Tiffany - Tears. Amen. Amen. <3 *Praying for new and great new blessings on your week this week~~

  • kim - Thank you.

  • Steffany - Ashley –
    Your heart, your heart, oh…your heart. It is a beautiful thing. That your bible is gone, all of your love poured onto those pages. My hope is that whomever stole it, opens it and reads it. And wonders what type of a person does this? Who writes these words in bibles? Who underlines passages? And I hope that curiosity causes them to read more and absorb, like a sponge, all that is said. Maybe that day they robbed the right car, the one which will cause them to make a turn, even a small one. Maybe your “things” will give them hope for a better future, their better future. I worked as a teacher for 17 years, in title I schools and not title I schools, with felons and those with a lot and everyone in between. I haven’t seen it all but I’ve seen a lot. And you are exactly right. It takes one person, a few words, a pat on the back, so very little to show we care. Maybe your “things” will show them there are people in the world who do care and that a different life is possible.

  • Gail - Finding compassion when we have been hurt can be difficult. You and Chris are teaching your children through your words and actions to look for compassion as one of their responses to this dark event. That is a lasting gift. I’m sorry for the many things you have been separated from but so grateful you are all safe and have each other.

  • Meredith - Ashley, for years I have read your blog, I think heading on seven years. I feel like a part of your family and ache for the loss you’ve endured. But the way in which you carry yourself through difficult times is one to be proud of. I don’t know you personally, but I feel like I do. One day I will have kids of my own and you are one of the biggest role models I look up to when it comes to parenting. So I thank you for the difference you have made with not only me, but countless readers.

  • Shana - You are setting an amazing example for your children and I hope that if I were in the same situation I would be able to handle it with grace! Also the note that someone called Chris – amazing and how great that she reached out and called πŸ™‚

  • Allison - This. This is exactly why i read this blog. Your perspective. Your grace. Thank you.

  • Holly - As a foster mom of two little ones, I often think the exact same thing. I have never raised a teenager, and don’t feel that I could be an effective parent having never one. I think often about those empty nesters and how great they would be as foster parents to older children and teens.

  • Ingrid - Your response to the unfortunate event is amazing. You have such a great ability to turn loss and feelings of hurt and vulnerability into a way to serve others. That is an amazing example for your children and others!

    A few years ago, my parents’ car was broken into while they visited my brother on Thanksgiving Day. They were heartbroken at some of the material goods stolen, but lamented that the person who broke in didn’t steal the books that were in the car. They thought at least the books might have done them some good, or opened their eyes. That may be what is happening with your Bible right now! Changing hearts and minds.

  • Krystle - Oh, Ashley… I’m so glad that we have a BIG God that can work good in bad situations! I hope you find a new pair of favorite jeans and that your story is the seed someone(s) need to be more loving or look into ways to help or let go of something that they have been angry over.
    I hope today is a great day for you and yours.

  • Shelley - Oh, Ashley! As we chatted on IG, I *feel* you.

    Our precious side effect was that our kids were so little, what stuck with them was all the shopping that happened afterwards to replace everything. Not understanding insurance claims, it just seemed to translate as: We can buy so many things, now! I wrote about what I learned from that: https://www.shopdignify.com/blogs/shopgoodblog/42399809-how-to-raise-a-child-who-isn-t-materialistic-5-tips-br-it-s-just-that-easy

    So much to be thankful for, including that your kids are old enough to have this β€” the event, and your response to it β€” be a formational, memorable event in their growing-up experience. God bless you as you lead them in the way of grace, mercy, dignity.

    But also: we groan with you! Noooooo!

  • Alamama - You have such a great heart and perspective. God will Bless you guys beyond measure. And Praise God for the side note. Praying right now for more things to be returned, especially your bible. Praying that as this person and whomever else goes through your stuff they would feel the presence of God, the conviction, and grace of the Holy Spirit, that they would themselves repent and find Jesus through all of this.

  • Tina S - So happy to see your side note. And so sorry to see the hard time you are going through. Prayers to you and your family.

  • Claudia Kiley - Ashley, I’m so sorry this happened. My girls and my husband are traveling to St. Louis in the spring for music. I try not to get too nervous because we live in Chicago and sometimes the stories you here are not what every place is like. With that said I think of this often too, especially when I see someone on the street or struggling. I think what happened in this person’s life. They were once a child and now they are forgotten. They had a mother? I have five young children as well so right now opening our home up might not be the right choice but I think one day when the younger ones are on their way I might foster. I feel as I get older my patience is better and I have different perspective then when my oldest was a toddler. No one knows where the road may lead. You are an inspiration to me, in the end its just stuff but no one can take the love you put into your family.

  • tammy - You radiate God’s grace so strongly it’s almost impossible to take in. I hope you will let us know if there’s any slack we can pick up after the insurance has kicked in. It would be an honor to help such an amazing family.

  • Patti Schreiner - Your story reminds me of an article I read in the NYT this week, The Increasing Significance of the Decline of Men. There are huge societal implications from these young men growing up without an anchor, education and a compass to guide them. I believe it takes a village and more of us need to get involved when we see those who fall through the cracks. Thank you for your words and for the work Chris does as well!

  • Byron - Blessings to your and your family, Ashley. Prayers and blessings to the man who broke into your car as well.

  • Cynthia - WOW, yet again a POWERFUL impactful message!!! You have a genuine beautiful soul! This message brought tears! I will definitely find a way to contribute. I had no idea! Thanks for sharing your heart! I hope many of your valuable things return, especially your Bible! Thanks again for your beautiful message in a turbulent moment! ;’)

  • susie - What a thing to steal, a bible! Hope he reads it. Hope someday he will get someone in his life to help him.

  • Jenn - i so hate this for your family. you are right. it is just stuff but still hard to deal with. i love that way you are choosing to handle it.

  • Nicole L. - As soon as I saw your IG post about this last week I started praying that the boy would read your Bible. That he would be flipping through it and see something you had written and God would grab his heart. It breaks my heart for you that you lost your Bible. That would be so hard. But then, what a gift it could be to him or someone else who finds it if he abandons it!

  • Sarah - Your response to the situation is beautiful. Great perspective. Hugs!

  • Cecile - You are an inspiration…

  • Mary Karen - Ashley-I shared this with my husband because we hope to be parents like you someday! (For the record, we’re 50–parents to two teens and a tween girl from China.) Thank you for the reminder that everyone has a story.

Well, I’ve been a bit MIA here. I thought I’d check in to say “hi” and I’ll be back soon. We took a little trip over the weekend and it didn’t end as planned. I’ve mentioned it a bit on Instagram (link on my sidebar), but in short our car (full of stuff you take as a family of 7 on the road) was broke into and a substantial amount of things were taken – things of monetary value and sentimental value. We are working through all the aftermath and, unfortunately, some of the things taken affect my ability to blog. I’m taking a break this week, processing things with my family, and counting the goodness of God in my life. Hopefully, I’ll be back in this space next week.

 

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  • Jo Moseley - I am sorry that your family was violated in this way. It’s sad and scary. I’m praying that all that was taken will be restored, perhaps not in the same physical manner, but that this can be a time of teaching and guiding into what might make someone do this. I pray for all of your hearts to find Peace. And, more importantly, that all will find forgiveness, even though it feels hard to do. I love you, C Family. – Jo

  • Kim B. - Hang in there Ashley. I’m so sorry about this, and especially about your precious Bible.

  • Kim - Years ago we traveled with 4 kids in a suburban packed to the gills with everything a family would need for a week away, including precious possessions the kids could not leave home. The whole car was stolen as we slept in the hotel room. It’s a creepy, unsettling experience, for sure. In the months after, the kindness we were shown completely overshadowed the bad feeling we got from that random crime. I’m sure your outcome will be very similar, and soon we’ll be reading the inspiration you take away!

  • Addie - hugs, dear one!

  • Carrie Campbell - I’m so sorry that happened to you. πŸ™

  • Phoebe K - Oh, I’m so sorry this happened to you. A few years ago, my car was stolen and returned overnight. I never knew it was missing while it was gone, but they parked it several houses away, turned the opposite direction that I had left it in. They took everything that was in the car, except my daughter’s carseat. That was moved to a different seat, though, and I never felt comfortable in that car again. I sold it a couple of months later. I still think about the notebook they took. It cost 79 cents but it was two years of my thoughts and ideas. The whole ordeal was very unsettling.

    Good luck as you have to go through the hassle of the aftermath, both logistically and emotionally.

  • Shira - Oh no!!!! I’m *so* sorry. πŸ™ I’m not an instagram person, so I didn’t know, and I’d been wondering how you were and missing your posts. (Really just wondering how you were – isn’t it strange how we feel like we know you, and you might be creeped out by that? πŸ™‚ really just testimony to your wonderful writing and insights.) That must be SO upsetting. I am really sorry.

    Wondering, and I realize that this can’t even remotely replace the sentimental items (your Bible?!?? That’s just terrible πŸ™ ), but would you be ok with us starting a gofundme account for you and your family to replace some of the items? I can’t say that I am in a place to contribute much, but our collective efforts might help a little – a small balm. I’ve never created one before, so don’t know if I need any specific info (how would the money get to you?) but I’m happy to do it. Just wanted your permission first. I’ll bet many would love to help your family!

    Really sorry. Really glad that you and your family are safe.

    Warm regards

  • JuliAnne Berry - This really breaks my heart for you guys. I am so sorry! My family and I will keep you guys in our prayers as you all work through this scary and painful time.

  • alice h - in the midst of all of this, I just can’t believe how much grace you still have. you are quite amazing and I am so sorry that this happened to your wonderful family. I hope the criminals that stole your items get caught and have a coming to Jesus meeting.

  • Carrie - I have missed the usual blog posts this past week. How shocking to read it was due to your car being broken into! I am so very sorry for your loss.

  • ellen patton - That stinks. I’m so sorry.

  • Steffany - I am so sorry this happened to you and yours, Ashley. Frightening to say the least…also sad and disappointing. You know you have a whole tribe of folks out here who follow and listen and love and pray so just reminding you, we’re here with you and if you need anything, don’t hesitate to reach out. Sending y’all love….Steffany

  • Maureen - With a family so open, trusting, giving and generous, this is a whole new ground to cover.
    I’m sure you and your husband will be able to help your children grow from this, in the end, but it is trumatic. Prayers for you all as you work through natural grief, fear and anger that you receive Phil 4:7’s, Peace of God that guards hearts and mental powers.

  • AshleyAnn - Shira – that is so very sweet of you. We have insurance and are in the process of working through that. We also try to live far under our means, so we’ll be okay. Thank you so much for your kind offer and generous heart!

  • Cynthia - So sorry to hear!!! That’s most unfortunate and such a violation! You and the family are in my prayers!

  • Anne Eicher - Oh dear… I’m so sorry! I’ve been missing you and was hoping nothing bad had happened! Kinda crazy, but I almost feel like I know you from reading your blog for years. So glad you and your family are okay!

  • Avenlea Bixby - I am so sorry, Ashley! God will get you through. Praying for you and your family.
    Avenlea

  • Mary Osborne - Dear one, I have been enjoying your blog and photos for several years. You put your heart and soul into everything you do and it’s abundantly clear where your heart is – your faith, your family and your friends. An evil act was directed at your family. I cannot imagine how you begin to process that!! I do know, however, that God was not surprised by this robbery! Just as God uses you and your words to bring beauty and encouragement to your readers, your treasured Bible may bring light to someone’s darkness!!! They may have intended it for evil, but God meant it unto good…..

  • Stephanie George - Hi Ashley,
    I’m so sorry to hear about this. When I was a child we went on a road trip vacation and along the way we stopped at Carlsbad caverns. While we were on the tour, our car was stolen with all of our luggage, mine and my brother’s favorite stuffed animals, and all the jewelry my mom owned (including family jewelry). Before leaving on vacation, my mom had heard about a few neighborhood break ins, so she decided to take all her jewelry on our trip with us to “keep it safe”. Huge bummer. A loss that we never got back. It’s no fun dealing with something like this, especially while on vacation. But as you know, it could be worse. Thankfully it wasn’t your home. Big hugs. Take a week off and decompress.

  • Ramona - Who would do that?!!!! I just can’t get people. So sad. So scary and it makes you feel insulted and hurt. I totally understand how hard it is to lose important things… I am so sorry this happened to you. πŸ™ I hope you never stop blogging though. You are an inspiration for me and my girls.

  • SAB - Sending prayers for your family! I was in Hawaii in September of 2016 and was visiting family that met us there (we currently live in Japan) and while we were touristing around Pearl Harbor our rental car was broken into and a few items of mine: cell phone, camera bag, nothing to crazy, was taken. My mother had her purse in the car and it basically had her life in it, money, insurance cards, checks, etc. I had to replace the cell phone and then found out my auto insurance would not cover the rental car, but I looked into the policy on the credit card I used to book the rental and, after a bit of paperwork, found out they decided to cover the damage! I also found out that your CC may replace certain items if it was used to purchase them and you have proof via statements and police reports. Anywho, thought I would send out a related message….it hurts, but we buck-up, learn, and move on! Through God we will be stronger!

  • DENA - SO SORRY TO HEAR THAT!

  • Emily Bartnikowski - I am so sorry to hear about this. I am happy to help you recover from your loss in any way. You have given so much over the past several years and it feels right to give back in whatever way would help. (My first instinct is always to feed people, but I do recognize that I am a stranger on the internet. πŸ™‚ ) I’m keeping your family in my hear this weekend. <3

  • Alamama - I am so sorry to hear the bad news. I sure hope your valuables get returned and this all gets sorted out. Much happier that you all are safe. You are in my prayers.