#Don’t Give Up {on being authentic}

So my friend Jami Nato told me about an instagram project she was working on with two other friends: Don’t Give Up

The idea is simple – use instagram to authentically share with each other the various challenges we face, scripture we cling to in those challenges and encourage each other in the journey. The sharing takes place in the form of a photo posted on Instagram in one of the Don’t Give Up shirts. The shirts will travel all over the globe and record the stories of pressing forward and not giving up…sisterhood of the traveling shirt if you will. (Anyone else like that movie? I totally did.)

I love that this Don’t Give Up community is growing on instagram. The stories of not giving up on: anxiety, depression, struggles in motherhood, etc. are shared from such vulnerable and beautiful hearts. It is incredible. Here is a screenshot of some of the pictures. You can click her to see more and then click on the individual pictures on that page to read their stories.

When Jami asked me to participate, I didn’t hesitate to say, “Yes.”

I am drawn to authentic people. Those that don’t pretend like everything is perfect and life is always grand. Those that don’t pretend that there is no muck or mire, but choose to trudge through it and come out on the other side. I hope to be that kind of person. As one that writes a blog, I can never tell how I come across to others. I’ll write one thing and then be surprised when someone leaves a comment that is totally opposite of what I was trying to communicate. As a blogger and instagrammer (not really a word, but we’ll go with it), I want to be authentic. I don’t have time to pretend I’ve got it all together, nor would I want to. There is beauty in imperfection (I have to tell the perfectionist in me this daily).  However, it is a fine line for me. I am actually pretty private and very protective of the personal details of my family – our joys and our struggles. While I won’t always post details of struggles or even the joys, I do hope that when someone reads my blog they don’t walk away with the impression that I want the world to think I have it all together. Or that I want to convey myself as a wife and mom that always gets it right in her perfectly decorated home.

Because I don’t.

I want to convey the opposite.

A woman, wife, mom, daughter, sister, friend that gets is wrong all the time, but is striving to grow.

A girl that is not perfect. Does not have it all together. Makes poor decisions and has to ask for forgiveness. Daily.

A girl that despite all that – truly finds joy and beauty in the mundane.

A girl that tries daily to choose to see all the gifts in front of her instead of all the muck and mire.

The muck and mire exist. I don’t ignore it, but I try to press through it. One trudge at a time.


So I picked one of my ‘struggles’ and here is what I shared for my instagram post:

“She’s two and will only eat from a bottle. It isn’t an issue of stubbornness. It is the result of things from her first year ~ before she came home last September. Her progress has been slow in the eyes of some. Sometimes it is discouraging, but then I step back and am in awe of just how far she has come. So I won’t give up. I’ll keep filling her up with nutrients the only way I can. One day, in her time, she’ll take a bite and swallow. One day the seemingly impossible will be her normal. “But as for me, I trust in You, O Lord, I say, ‘My times are in your hands,'” Psalm 31:14 In this time, this struggle, I cling to that truth and hope. Her times are in His hands too.”


I know feeding my daughter what feels like a million smoothies a day is not really a big deal. But for me, there are days I am just worn out from it and it feels like a big deal. There are days I just want to leave the house for 5 minutes without packing a cooler of bottles first. There are days I don’t want to explain why she still takes a bottle or why I can’t ‘just force her to eat’. BUT. I won’t give up for a million reasons. She is healthy. She is strong. We have the best doctors and therapists and support walking her through this journey. We’ve got an arsenal of tips, tricks and methods – but ultimately it is all in her time.

And quite frankly, if we have years of smoothies ahead – that is just fine. This isn’t an issue we will force because it is not in the best interest of her overall healing and health. I pray one day she will be non-stop talking at the dinner table and I have to tell her to slow down between bites. But, if that doesn’t happen, that is perfectly okay too. I’ll just become the first person ever to wear out a Vita-Mix motor!

*for those curious, not all cleft affected kids struggle with eating to this extent. It isn’t a ‘common cleft issue’, every kid is wonderfully different.

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  • beth - Love the shirt, love the photo, love all the ways that this encourages. Praying for endurance for you today as you press on in this race. There are a lot of witnesses cheering you on. (Hebrews 12:1)

  • Jenna - We all have our “don’t give up” struggles. Always finding encouragement and beauty in your posts. Thank you for sharing your heart, your family, your faith, your home, and your passions with all of us.
    … I need to get me one of these shirts!…

  • Caroline R - This is surely one of my favorite posts to date- of course I think that a lot! I remember that IG post, and never really noticed what your shirt said- I guess because the message was being communicated in the look between you two. It is easy and at times frustrating to compare my life to all the beauty and ‘perfection’ being shown on bloggerland, and I especially appreciate when those such as yourself deviate from that to share the ‘real-life’ perspective from time to time. That said, I truly hope that you and other bloggers will continue to keep blogs the overall happy place that both writers and readers enjoy. There is more than enough ‘reality’ tv and news for those who want… I wish we were neighbors- I’d totally treat you to a sbux drink to say thanks for today’s message (hope that isn’t weird!).

  • Allison - Thank you for your words. The struggles and joys that you share keep me coming back to your blog over and over again. Your words and your spirit are so inspiring!

  • Lisa W. - I know that God put Little One in your care for a reason. It is so obvious that she needed someone – specifically you! – to care for her needs. Thank you for sharing your life. You are an encouragement to me!

  • Kelsey - Although this is something you said you didn’t want to see. I think you are perfect and let me tell you why, because in your struggles–in your joys you keep a positive gratitude filled outlook. You give credit to The Lord. So when you struggle you don’t spiral downward and depressed (like I tend to do) you face the trial, turn your head to the light and somehow seem to down play it. That is why you always come off perfect to me. It’s an inspiration. It keeps me coming back to see that your REAL whether negative or positive doesnt destroy you. You are perfect and although it makes me jealous, I love it.

  • Kelli - Little one looks so tall in photos. Do you happen to know where she and firecracker are on the national percentage for height? I’m wondering if little one looks tall because firecracker is on the short side? My youngest two are on the short side of the averages. My first graders is a full head shorter than anyone else in his class. Just curious, she is growing so fast.

  • Marissa - Your transparency and photos are what drew me to your blog over a year ago and what has kept me reading. I too value honesty and sharing the “ugly” with the beautiful. God gives us a story and uses it to humble, encourage, inspire, and give hope to people. You have been given even more reach because of your blog and many followers and I believe you’ve represented Christ well!
    PS I saw a link to a post you wrote yesterday titled “Night Reading and a Photo Comparison”, but when I click on it it’s not there. Is that just me?

  • Jody - I can’t begin to tell you what your post today meant to me! I’ve struggled all morning with feelings of inadequacy as a woman and mom. Perfection is my major hang up, always comparing myself to others. I just want to feel good about being imperfect!

  • Monica - Hi Ashley, I love the way you say the things. I like that you don’t try to pretend that everything is perfect. About Little One I think the most important thing is that she is healthy, I think she eats better that any other kid. :)I wish my oldest daughter drink a smoothie full of veggies and fruits, but she is picky with food. So don’t give up. I don’t give up offer fruits or veggies every time to my daughter, hopefully one day she will say yes. She loves apples and grapes at least. LOL. Like you say God has times for everyone. Have a wonderful day!

  • Tessa - You have no idea how badly I needed to hear this today. I am struggling big time with parenting my adopted 12 year old daughter. She has been with us for 3 years and my husband and I were honestly considering “giving up” on her this week. She wreaks havoc on our family and we want so desperately to have peace in our home … so we made the initial call to our service case manager to relinquish her to children services. I ultimately did not call children services, and I know that I truly don’t want to give up on her. So, I needed to hear this and I need to get one of those shirts!I might need to wear it everyday for awhile …

  • Sandy - I think what people are responding to when they seem to only notice your “perfection” is their admiration for your particular style. Looking at that picture above, you have so many beautiful touches in your life that really come from your innate ability to create beautiful things/spaces around you. They are responding to your genuineness. You aren’t constantly taking us on tours of your home. It is actually your private nature that makes what you share more desirable. So, while it may seem frustrating not to be “seen” completely, know that so many of us come here to catch a glimpse of your gift. Deep down we all know that you must have your flaws too!

  • Steph - I had a similar but much smaller scale problem when my breastfed daughter could not take bottles. It was immensely stressful especially with work and daycare and travel looming overhead. People were AWFUL to me about it. They sincerely insinuated I was inventing the problem. So many tears were shed for several months, both mine and (it pains me to say this) my poor confused daughter’s. Being questioned and pressured and interrogated and having basic Google search results suggested to me, not to mention being told my BABY was manipulative and stubborn and should be taught a lesson…I am getting fired up all over again. So when you wrote here about having to explain the situation again, my hackles went up and my fists clenched, for you. You are strong and patient and I send you my fiery energy right now in the hopes that in the journey from my heart to yours it mutates into positive energy for you. You are a warrior for that little girl, and she is stronger than any of us. March on, pretty Campbell ladies!

  • Caroline T - I absolutely love your “I’ll just become the first person ever to wear out a Vita-Mix motor!” Humor in difficult times is how I get through things. I’m glad to know you still have a sense of humor when things get tough!

  • Kara M - Wow, love this post! Blessed my socks off. Love this project! I know exactly what I would take a picture of.

  • Anja - It’s so funny to read a post from you about imperfection :-)! Because everytime I read your blog (really love it for years now) I get the picture of a absolutely perfect world. Your home, your activities with the kids and friends, I mean, you even do homeschooling while your floor always seems to be clean! sometimes I really need a lot deep breathes after reading to not get frustrated over my sloppy life :)! But it is so very worth to take the challenge and fight those bad feeling of inferiority and take all your beautiful, wise, heartwarming things with me.
    I really love your wonderful blog! 🙂

  • Amy Huff - Love this. We’re having some struggles now and the intranets can make it appear as if everyone but you is leading the perfect life! Thanks for sharing that sometimes it’s hard but you get through it and there’s joy and happiness.

  • Amber - My two cents worth, I think you do a beautiful job of choosing what you share. I often leave your blog feeling replenished and more optimistic. Thank you for sharing with us.

  • Christy - Beautiful project and a beautiful post!!!!!

  • Samantha - Thank you so much for sharing this! What a great idea and your words are so encouraging! I appreciate your heart, transparency, and faith. Holding on to, “Don’t Give Up.”

  • Kat - Explaining, or having to feel like you have to explain, is exhausting. So is motherhood. She looks like she is doing wonderfully – I just love coming here and hearing your stories about parenting and teaching. It helps me feel a little lost in my own parenting journey. As far as I am concerned you’re a supermom – literally. Sometimes I get overwhelmed with one. I don’t know how you find time in the day to do anything, let alone be creative.

    And as far as anyone is concerned, look at all the wonderful greens she is getting in those smoothies! I can’t get my toddler to touch half of those foods. She’s probably healthier than all of us combined.

    Thanks, as always, for sharing your journey.

  • Debbie C - “Force her to eat”…many of us with small children know this is not the best route, sometimes not even possible! I have struggled with my toddler’s pickiness for a while now…unless it’s juice or carbs she generally refuses to eat it. Very frustrating! The fact that Little One is eating such healthy things in those smoothies is wonderful! She is blessed to be part of such a wonderful family who encourage her patiently.

  • Nat - Poste mais fotos dos loiros, eles são lindos! Gostamos deles aqui no Brasil ?

  • Betsy Berre - Love the disheveled rug in the background. Real life. I still remember that post you did about your great big round awesome chair…your laundry chair:) and that we never see it cause its covered in laundry

  • Monique - Reminds me of one of my very favorite verses, one that graces our walls and I have to read daily during hard seasons, Galatians 6:9. “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”

    Love to you! I’m so grateful for your blog. Reading your honest words and watching your spiritual growth is like a mentor to me. I always leave refreshed, challenged, and encouraged.

  • Kayla W - Ashley Ann, I just love you. I wish we were friends. No voice on the Internet inspires and uplifts me more than you. I pray for you and your family to have strength in your struggles and peace in your joys. Thank you so so much for sharing yourself.

  • kimberly oyler - what i love most about you (yes, love, not just like) is how authentically you share your life. while i know that i’m only getting bits and pieces of your days through your blog and instagram, you choose to share the hard parts too. you choose to be grateful for the hard things. you choose to grow and identify things you need to work on. you have taught me SO MUCH about what it means to see the beauty in my days. i cannot wait until hope spoken when i finally get to see you in person and hug your sweet self. i’m a hugger, i can’t help it. 🙂

    also, you make me want some holey jeans. like, i’m going to go shop for some. haha.

  • Seamingly Sarah - “wonderfully different” – that says it all. I hope each and every person I meet or just pass by that I always give them the grace that I would hope for in my own struggles. I hope that if I met you in passing that I wouldn’t judge or push my own agenda on you for seeing you feed a smoothie in a bottle to your daughter. I hope that for everyone.

  • mandi@herbanhomestead - I love the last part of this the best. All kids are different- and those that come from hard places have challenges that not everyone would expect or understand. And it’s ok.
    Love your heart. xoxo

  • Nancy - We have the same breadbox!! This is really random, but I saw it in the picture and was so surprised. I got mine from my grandmother’s house when we had to move her to assisted living last year. It’s one of my most cherished possessions. I’ve never seen another like it and I’d love to know where you found yours!

    Nancy (Stephanie Q’s friend, who also had the baby with a broken leg)

  • NanaBeast - Like many here I find you to be so authentic that I come back again and again. I have found that when people post beautifully photographed content, most viewers don’t “see” the imperfections of things in the subject of the photos. Does that make sense?

    I’ve had family and friends so impressed with some corners of my (dirty) home because it happened to be a good photo. They didn’t even notice the cat-scratched couch, the animal hair, stained rug, dust bunnies and such that I cringe at every time I see the photo. Could many who visit your blog see the beautiful photography, vibrant colors, and precious subjects and not notice the dirt and wear of everyday life?

    I hear you about not posting EVERYTHING in your blog. These are your children and family. Everyone deserves privacy. It is bad enough that technology has gotten so advanced and prevalent that we can’t feel truly feel private even on our own computers,in own yards (satellite photos) and on the road!

    Blessings to all the Campbells!

  • Elissa Roberts - In a Bible study I’m doing, the author Priscila Shirer said the divine is often disguised in the ordinary. Thank you for sharing this picture and this story. Your writing encourages and inspires me. Thank you for being vulnerable.

  • Josephine - Ashley, there are quite a few reasons I keep checking in here (and have been since you were pregnant with Firecracker). I love your ‘voice’, I love how you tell a story (whether it be good, bad or random), I admire your energy and creativity and your dedication to your family. To put your mind at rest, I don’t come away from here thinking it’s all rainbows and unicorns for you, but you inspire me to push through and make the best of things during my own struggles.

    Speaking of which, may the force be with you in Smoothie Quest. I hope that whenever it does happen, the transition to pieces of food is relatively painless! Till then, least you know Little One has a faultless diet!

    Thanks for posting this.

  • Eva - Ashley, your authenticity is what drew me to your blog and photography class. You have a perfectly imperfect family and life, and that’s why so many people are drawn to your blog. You capture it so beautifully. I agree that it’s difficult to convey your life isn’t always a bed of roses on your blog when you’re a generally private person. That’s why I’m on Facebook but rarely ever make a status update. lol I love the struggle you chose to share while participating in Jami’s project. And I’m not surprised one bit that you jumped at the opportunity. Keep rockin’ your authenticity, girl!

  • Cassi - beautiful post to follow the instagram picture and comment. It’s truly been amazing to watch her grow this past year through your blog. And inspiration to other moms and each our own struggles.

  • AshleyAnn - Nancy – I got it at a local flea market!

  • Sophie - I read your blog every day but rarely comment. Each day you bring such beautiful thoughts and I look forward to reading it.

    I’ve been reading the book Daring Greatly by Brene Brown which fits so wonderfully with this post. I highly recommend it – to everyone! She is all about vulnerability and honesty, and resisting shame. We all need to practice being authentic and it doesn’t happen all at once. Thank you for being an authentic voice and bringing us along with you.

  • Maureen - Ashley, following for a long time but first time commenting. It’s Maureen from the phone class. Two of my four kids have Celiac disease and one was diagnosed 7 years too late and we have MAJOR eating issues in our house. I so empathize. I’ve been given so much eating advice I have to ignore from others. It is so hard when kids won’t eat. But, forcing just doesn’t work. I love reading about your patience with Little One b/c I can so relate. A few years of occupational therapy and a LOT A LOT A LOT or patience and we are seeing improvements, so hang in there. But, I am with you, I miss spontaneous eating! Can’t imagine just picking up and going out to dinner! Anyway, just commiserating (sp?) with you on eating issues. Ironically, our newly adopted daughter from China eats everything in sight. Love your blog, btw.

  • Stoihc91 - Wow can you even be an even more beautiful person OH ME! ;D Plus I don’t think you’ll have to do the smoothie thing for years to come – praying you’ll see the light of dawn soon!

    Don’t like to comment on her size b/c that is personal yo! 🙂 But I did see her in a previous post and think DANG those smoothies can pull some weight! She looks so big and healthy! Love you all, love the journey!

  • Amanda - Thanks for sharing your struggle. I’d be interested in some of the smoothie recipes you’ve come up with to get nutrients down if you care to share them. I would love some ideas on how to incorporate veggies into a blended drink since my kids don’t always enjoy their vegetables as much as I would like.

  • Anniken - I think both of you are doing great. I can understand that it is more work, but all the things you can put in a smoothie… Smoothie recepies would be great! Cause my son (2,5) eats good. The problem is what he eats… Healty and diversity doesent go well with his diet. He wants pretty much the same every day and never any fruit/vegetables. So i would be soo happy to have him drink a smoothie. But we all do what we can… And one day… That one day when they eat what we want them to… I think that day will come, so just hang in there.

  • sindhu - So cool and encouraging!

  • Kara K - But look how tidy your counters are behind you! 🙂 Little one is beautiful and was made beautiful in His eyes.

  • anne marie - love this post! i’ve been struggling with finding out that we’re expecting our 4th boy… i know that sounds awful and i love my baby already but i wanted a girl soooo badly and have been praying for 3+ years that the next baby would be a girl… so it’s kinda hard to give up ever having a little girl in the kitchen with me! my “don’t give up” is that i want to be an awesome mom of all boys! my friends have been such a great support and given so many encouraging thoughts… and really i suppose a boy will fit into our rambunctious family better! lol… my encouraging thought for you is this… “think how much healthier foods you can give her in a smoothie… my boys are funny about textures and flavors and sometimes i just can’t get them to eat healthy foods!”

  • Shannon - You are amazing. Even when you don’t feel it, you are. Little One is lucky to have you.

  • CIndy - When I can steal away a few alone-mom-moments, I find myself on your blog…..
    I was thinking back to all the days I sat and read a little bit of your adoption blog at a time this past year (while crying) as we’ve been waiting for our little one in China.
    I even borrowed your idea for family photos (hope you don’t mind, but I LOVEDDDD the idea & often am not to good at coming up with original ideas….I usually NEED inspirations!!!)
    I found courage through reading your blog….and a way to release the tears I didn’t know I even held in. Thank you for not having the “perfect image”…..but for allowing imperfections to shine His truth on all our hearts!
    We are currently waiting for our 21 months old, sweet baby girl from China. It’s hard to express all the feelings that come with this time of waiting….so I love seeing pics of your family together …..while we wait for our missing piece.
    My heart aches for her….in a way I can’t explain to most.
    Thank you for your heart that so openly shares and glorifies our amazing Father in heaven.
    Have a beautiful weekend!

  • Amber - You have what is in her best interest in your heart. Keep up the wonderful work you are doing momma(and daddy!)! Most of us are not looking for perfection, we are looking for someone who is struggling just like us. Someone who is normal- whatever that is! : ) I enjoy your realness, thank you for that!!

  • Bethany - I recently stumbled across a blog written by the single mother of a young daughter with a very rare disorder. Her words eloquently depict the hardships of life scattered with beautiful bits of hope. Her words are real. Her words are authentic. Ashley, I implore you to check out her blog and read her story. I don’t know this woman, but if you could share her story with your readers, you could draw attention to her blog and her cause. She is trying to save her daughter’s life and her story needs to be heard. Thank you.

  • Bethany - Here is the link for the blog mentioned above: http://littlepoppyseeds.wordpress.com/

  • Trista - Hi, Wanted to let you know you are in my prayers with the feeding challenges you continue to lovingly support your daughter through. We are kind of a unique “club” of parents. Just wanted to cheer you on, and let you know you are supported in prayer in all that you are doing! And you are doing a GREAT job!

    We have a 4 year old who has had feeding issues since she was 6 mos. old, so I have a certain level of understanding about what you and your family are going through. I can relate to blending, blending, and more blending of food…to trying to answer questions/help others understand why our child eats the way she does and why she is not “just a picky-eater”, etc..

    We have been through regular feeding therapy and an intensive feeding program as well (all day, every day at the hospital for weeks on end). Over time – a long time – 5 meals a day working on tiny baby steps of progress she now eats solids!! We went from allowing a spoon to touch her mouth only…then teeth…then tongue, etc. – to Nora eating solids! Finally; after so many years!

    Granted, she does not eat enough solids to sustain adequate nutrition, and she does get her own “drink” with a plate of food, but we can put a plate of food in front of her and she will take bites..chew the food..AND swallow it! An amazing event that continues to be a beautiful sight to see! It is a multiple times a day event that brings about emotions I never knew could exist around a simple bite of food.

    I will continue to pray for you and your family as you work with your daughter on this ever-challenging thing called food. The road can feel so long, but I hope you know someone is holding you up and cheering you on through prayer. Blessings, Trista

  • julia - So sweet and wonderful. Thanks for sharing!

  • Jolie - Ashley, you are the least *givey uppy* (technical term!) person I know!

    I just had a thought when I was looking at that pic – I think it’s been germinating since I saw the image on instagram – but how does Little One do with frozen things? The reason I ask is it occurred to me that perhaps trying a frozen smoothie might help with starting to acclimatise to different textures, but without the shock of different flavours etc, iykwim. I haven’t lived this so it could be just utter claptrap – and I’m sure you’ve tried so much – but I just wanted to put it out there. My son (7) has some mild textural food sensitivities, and I have found sometimes the little obvious afterthoughts (I found him sucking on a smoothie Ice cube I was defrosting for his lunch several years ago!) can make a difference. Plus, frozen things are often seen as a treat, so it takes away that stigma as well. Probably not uber practical with winter coming on in your neck of the woods…
    Oh, and so very many kudos to you on not rushing her. What an utter treasure your babies have with you as their mother!!!

  • Domaine du gras - Don’t give up! this kind of iniciatives change the world!

    Your blog is so wonderful like you! Congrats for your family, because through the photographs I can see all them so happy!! It’s your best achievement!!!


  • Laura - I’ve had a rough year with my mom becoming ill and seeing her age and change so quickly. Its amazing how instagram life in pictures can let you forget that everyone has trials, hurts and dishes in the sink. How we all need someone to encourage us. How life is in the little moments behind closed doors that no one ever knows about or maybe will ever.

  • Rhonda Batiuk - I loved your post on instagram in the Don’t Give Up Community! It takes courage to be transparent and wisdom to not share all the personal details of the ones you love. I enjoy your blog because I see that you are someone that finds and shares joy and beauty.

  • DiAne Morin - How and where can I find the adorable ‘DON’T GIVE UP’ shirt?