when they pack up and move out

Chris and I had the chance to attend the Catalyst Conference in Dallas last week. It is always a breath of fresh air to get away with Chris, but the conference was so good too. All the speakers were fantastic and I am sure I’ll be talking more about what was shared over the next few weeks. Reggie Joiner spoke on how time is limited, our time with kids is so short. He said something about giving new dads a suitcase to place in their baby’s nursery reminding them that one day that suitcase will be packed and gone. That tiny baby will be moving out.

Later that night Chris and I talked over dinner about luggage and the days ahead when we will watch our kids move out. I really don’t care about the physical stuff that they will pack. What kind of jeans they’ll shove in a suitcase. What the thread count of their sheets for the dorm room will be. None of that stuff really matters to me. What I do care a great deal about is the intangibles I hope they will take with them. I don’t care to raise kids that know what is ‘cool’ when they leave my house. I do care about raising kids that leave my house as men and women of character and substance.

Intangibles are a hard thing to narrow down. I could list a million little things I hope for, like the lyrics of a country song. And yet, I know there are only a few things that I can really focus on…can really work on instilling in them. Right now my kids are young and they are looking out at their future like it is a long distant road. But all to soon, they will look back at me, pick up their suitcases and begin down a road that is marked just for them.

Chris and I are still working through our list of things we hope they pack in those suitcases, but we have some nailed down…

To love the Lord their God with all their heart, soul, mind and strength

To love others as themselves

To choose courage over comfort

To be hospitable, gracious

To be confident in their identities

To value wisdom over smarts

To be brave, knowing that some of life’s greatest gifts involve the risk of pain

To embrace the bittersweet

To laugh and laugh often

That is just a snippet of our list. Making a list is the easy part…putting in the time and attention to actually make it possible for our kids leave our home with these things…that is a whole lot harder. Ultimately they will make their own decisions, their own choices, choose their own paths. Nonetheless, if we don’t work to model and teach certain things to them we leave it up to chance that they will gain those things elsewhere. The greatest things in life require work though. This is the stuff that makes parenting exciting and scary at the same time. Wisdom. Intention. Patience. Time. Hope. And letting go.


And on a lighter now, FireCracker saw us taking pictures and she wanted to pose for some. I hope her spirit is nurtured in our home and when she leaves she still has that strong spunk and sweetness that oozes from her.

I have a feeling when she leaves, she’ll make this exact face again…ready and excited for an adventure.

back to top share on facebook tweet this post pin site image email a friend
  • Danielle - Great post! I often think about what am I doing today that will make them the men they will become. Adorable pictures!

  • Allison - great post!

  • Sharon @ Discovering Blog - You are so right, making the list is the easy part. It’s so easy to judge others before you become a parent, and then once you’re in it, you’re begging for a rule book.

  • Heather - Your posts always bless me! Thank you.

  • Allison - Thanks for this post and sharing your list! I don’t have kids (yet), but your posts really resonate so much and help me feel like having a family is the right path for me, even if I have to wait a little longer.

  • Abigail Carpenter - I love your list

  • Rebecca - I LOVE that list also!! I think as an adult I still struggle with a lot of the things on your list. But then God sweetly reminds me that when I have that #1 in it’s right priority all the rest of those things will fall into place in his time. Thanks for your reminder in this post.

  • colleen from alabama - Interesting. I have kids a little older than yours. Two very smart, strong-willed kids. While i have had a list since they were babies that my husband and i have prayed for them, modeled for them and encourage in them, the lesson right now for me is that I cannot “make sure” they pack ANYTHING that i may want for them. We have been super intentional. Given MUCH grace. They pack what they want to. A+B does not always equal C. Very much like your youngest will eat when she is ready, and she won’t eat if she doesn’t want to, no matter how much we pray, model, beg, our kids make their own choices. Many times they are directly opposed to what they have been taught. It is way too much pressure for me to feel like i have to be the one who “makes sure” of anything. Not chiding you. Just saying I am experiencing a different reality. I am praying for the Lord to change their hearts, to open their eyes, to reveal His amazing love to them in a way they get. I just know i cannot hold myself responsible for their wrong choices. That gives me the grace i need to keep praying, modeling, and being intentional…

  • Jessica - I love this post! On a side note, I have that suitcase. It was my parents. It’s made it into a few photos and I love you how you used it in this one. It’s a powerful visual reminder.

  • Debbie C - Yes! 7 of your items are on my list too. 🙂 I’ve been reading Grace-Based Parenting and it’s been really helpful in shaping my vision of how to raise my child and the kind of parent I want to be. I’m realizing the hard part is that I have to model all these things first, I have some changes to make in myself.

  • kelli - This is one of my favorite posts ever, right up there with the day you got Little One. My little girl is 20 months old, and that short time has flown by. It is often overwhelming to think of all that we need to teach and model for her in these short years before she is an adult. We remind ourselves constantly that our God is mighty to save, to teach, to help, and to heal the mistakes we make along the way. I love your list, it is good for me to see these goals written down. Thanks for sharing!

  • Anna@agoodhome - What a powerful post! I love your list; I think I’ll print it out 🙂

    Those pictures are wonderful! Now you’ll just have to see if they’ll pose for them again when it’s actually time for them to move it!

  • AshleyAnn - Colleen, I completely agree with you. It was a bad choice of words on my part…shouldn’t type late at night! I re-wrote that line…

  • Kelly - I love your list! I could think of a verse for every single one of the things you mentioned. Making sure my kids are deeply rooted in their faith is my #1 goal and was our #1 reason for bringing them home to do school. The time we have them is so short and I wanted to be sure that when I send them off it’s without regret.

  • Melyssa - I aspire to be the kind of mother you are when I have children. I know you aren’t perfect and you must have your moments where things just aren’t sunshine and daises, but I feel at my core that you are doing it right. You are beautiful and inspiring. Thank you for sharing this blog with me and the rest of the universe.

  • Lex - Beautiful. And definitely provoking. I think my husband and I may need to have a similar conversation soon …

  • kelleyn - Thank you! This is a perfect list!

  • Tina - Perfect timing! The imagery: provoking! Thank you!

  • LeeH - But it’s nice when they need a little help with the suitcase.

  • Anna - Wow, Ashley! What a beautiful and thoughtful post! I don’t follow many blogs, but have been drawn to yours in so many ways. Thanks for taking the time to write! You’ve definitely pricked at my heart as my husband and I consider adoption in our future, and the potential of adopting a child with a cleft palate. Loved this perspective in relation to raising children. Love observing (from afar) you raising your children for the glory of God!

  • Shelly Cunningham - Her piggies in the last picture are adorable!!!

  • Lori - Great post. Reminds me of one of my favorite quotes on parenthood: “Our children take their flight into the future with our thrust and with our aim. And even as we anxiously watch that arrow in flight and know all the evils that can deflect its course after it has left our hand, nevertheless we take courage in remembering that the most important mortal factor in determining that arrow’s destination will be the stability, strength, and unwavering certainty of the holder of the bow.” (Jeffery Hollland)

  • Moriah - I love this post and it gets me thinking about creating my own list for my kids. Thank you! I have to say it does get me a little teary-eyed, thinking of my babies packing up and moving out. It all goes so fast!

  • the inadvertent farmer - As I type, my number two son is furiously working on finishing his VW Camper van so he can return to Colorado and marry the girl he never thought he would meet. He never intended to marry and I always knew he would be the one to return home from time to time to hang out with me for 6 months or so before he moved to another adventure (the last was snowboard instructor in CO). Now he is moving…for good. I am thrilled he has found the love of his life but at the same time heartbroken to lose him for good this time. Sons always love their mamas but it is not the same when they have a wife…even though this is exactly as God intends, it still hurts.

    Ohhhh and don’t even get me started about how I might just fall apart when Sweet Girl leaves the nest…raising them to be God-fearing, responsible human being should not have to involve them leaving and moving across the country.

    Ok, now I’m crying to hard to type…love ya, Kim

  • AshleyAnn - Oh Kim! I can’t imagine…both having to say goodbye and not getting to keep his camper 🙂 You always make me smile and are such an encouragement to me. Thank you.

  • Lisa Vandenberg - Reading this post and tears are pouring! Firecracker reminds me so much of my oldest and she leaves next year. I so hope I have helped her pack the right things :). Not ready but I know it will happen.

  • tracy a - oh lady, thanks for this post today. always seems like you write something like this on a day when I’ve been a crappy parent. you know the one…pms-ing, boys are going crazy and you have to repeat instructions way more than you’d like, house is a wreck, etc, etc, etc.
    Always finding a little reminder of how I ought to be from you. God is good to use you in that way! Thanks friend!

  • ashley - Hey, AshleyAnn.
    I took your SnapShops class last year and still love reading your blog for inspiration. The Sunday school class my husband and I attend just started a month of parenting discussions. The discussion leader has decided to focus on the book “Grace Based Parenting” for the next 3 weeks, and when I sent her the link to this post she said it was exactly the direction she was hoping our discussions would take! I might try to recreate the top photo with my girls and print out a large copy for the blackboard in our classroom as inspiration as we begin our discussion this week. Just wanted to thank you for sharing and to let you know how this post is moving on to others!

  • Kate @ Songs Kate Sang - I just read the post out-loud to Brian (he loves it when I do that – LOL). This is beautiful. Our next date, we will write down our hopes and dreams for the kids and pray over them.

  • Sarah - Hi Ashely, this is my first comment after following your website for some time. I just really appreciate you sharing your family, thoughts, and useful craft/photo tips! It’s so encouraging and always makes my heart warm. May your children grow to be man and woman of God! God bless you and your family 🙂

  • Hannah - I’m not sure whether I’ve commented before but I started reading your blog a couple of months back, you write so beautifully and have such inspiring words – thank you!

  • Tyra - I love your list. You inspire me to sit down with my husband and put together a list of our own. Very inspiring:)

  • Ellie - Yes, the world will have to adjust to firecracker. She could be anyhting less than how God made, only more.

  • elizabeth H - My husband & i have been pondering this exact issue for the past couple of weeks … our oldest is *only* 12, but truly, his life has flown by & we know the next 6 yrs will also…he’ll be 18 in the blink of an eye.
    We want SO many things for them ~ but mostly we want them to **know** LOVE above all else; to know how much we delight in them,
    & to hear the voice of the Holy Spirit who will guide them in all