In February of this year my oldest son and I traveled to Ecuador with Compassion International as part of a blogger trip. I won’t go into all those details again, but you can access those posts here.

Hundreds of you joined us and became sponsors for children living in poverty. Today – this post is for you.

Months have passed and maybe you have written your sponsored child regularly or maybe you started strong and it has been a bit since you last wrote. I want to encourage you to write your sponsored child today. Sometimes we all need a little nudge to be reminded to do things that deep down we really want to do, but life distracts us.

I also know many of you may still be waiting for a letter from your sponsored child. In any country it takes a while for letters to make their way to sponsors. It is a tremendous undertaking to get letters from every sponsored child. In a country like Ecuador that has recently faced a huge natural disaster – well, it complicate the process more. We typically get 2 letters a year from our sponsored kids. Seeing how much effort and man power it takes to get letters to sponsors, I am celebrating even getting 2!

On the flip side, letters are delivered monthly to Compassion Centers. Your sponsored kids are waiting to hear from you. They are waiting for your pictures. For your stories. For your notes to simply say you care. Being a sponsor is a selfless act and in the case of sponsorship it often means pouring into a child without any expectations.

I’ve seen the faces of kids reading letters – what seems small to you, is huge to these kids.

I wanted to give you a peek into the Compassion headquarters in Ecuador. When you write your sponsored child, your letter first arrives here. The letters are translated here and then divided up by centers before being delivered monthly.

3.16CompassionLetters-013.16CompassionLetters-023.16CompassionLetters-033.16CompassionLetters-043.16CompassionLetters-053.16CompassionLetters-083.16CompassionLetters-093.16CompassionLetters-10What starts with you sitting down to write a letter or pulling up the Compassion app to type one leads to something extraordinary….

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It is the weekend…lets make sure we do something completely worthwhile with our time! Will you join me?

For extra tips on writing letters, here are a few links:

A post I wrote about seeing kids in Ecuador with their letters & writing tips

Compassion Pinterest Board with ideas by age

3 Letter Writing Ideas

Tips for using the Compassion App for letter writing

Ecuador

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  • Michelle - Love this!
    Thanks to your trip in February and outreach for Compassion, I sponsored a child in Ecuador as well. It was the best feeling. I have been writing periodically, even though I have yet to hear from my sponsored child. I have his picture on my wall as a daily reminder and to know that even though I may not hear from him, he is receiving the support, love and prayers he needs.

  • Sarah Kinnard - This brings up a question I’ve been wondering about: I have been wanting our family to start sponsoring a child, but recently read this article which gave me pause, as it describes a sponsorship situation in which the funds sent go not directly to the child but to the community, and the child and family are unaware of the sponsorship and bewildered by periodic mail they cannot read: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/08/03/world/middleeast/worldvision-palestinians-sponsor-a-child.html?_r=0

    I’m glad to see that Compassion translates the letters. In other areas, do you consider the Compassion program to be significantly different in structure and outcome than World Vision’s? I am not trying to be cynical, just was very disheartened by that article and wondered if sponsorship really makes as much difference as I always thought it did.

  • Tracie M. - My family sponsors 2 children and I love writing to them. Thank you for showing us how much they love getting letters! Good to know that this matters!

  • Katie T - Thank you, thank you, thank you.
    This was the push I needed to get on track and write my dearest Obed.
    Thank you!

For most families, school is back in session and it is a perfect time for many adults to begin learning something new too. I know how hard it is to find time for online courses that require logging in at a certain time or with limited access. In January, I combined my SnapShop: DSLR and SnapShop:Phone courses into one online photography website with new lessons added monthly. Instead of logging in at a certain time or only having couple weeks to access content, the new site is subscription based. As a subscriber you have access to all the content for as long as you keep your membership. The monthly membership costs less than a fancy latte.

For the first time…I’m holding a flash sale! The initial registration fee will be 50% off for TODAY only! The registration fee will be discounted to $25 (normally $50)

Flash Sale started at 12:00am CST on August 24th and end at 11:59pm CST on August 24th.

Registration includes access to all SnapShop content (used by over 3000 students since 2009), including:

  • SnapShop DSLR Course (a $200 value)
  • SnapShop Phone Course (a $50 value)
  • Interviews & tips with leading photographers & bloggers
  • Course discussions
  • Additional lessons posted monthly by Ashley Ann and guests!

To register click here and use the code: Back2School

Discount code is case sensitive and can be entered at checkout.  Subscriptions will renew for $5.00 monthly to maintain access to existing content and new lessons!  

Below is a glimpse at a few of the lessons. To see a listing of all the lessons and courses included and a FAQ page answering common questions visit the SnapShop website.

SnapShop8.16

 

 

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  • tiffany. - I took the DSLR course a few years ago and LOVED it! It covered the same material as a classroom photography course I took but was SO much more approachable and easier to understand. I also love that it told me not just what my camera was capable of, but also what settings I might consider for specific shots I wanted to capture (and there was a wide variety). The way the material made concepts easy but still challenged me to take better photos was fantastic. I just signed up for the subscription – thanks for the flash sale! – but wanted others to know I would highly recommend the course/subscription in case they’re on the fence.

  • Mrs Mike - so excited, I’ve been wanting to sign up for this since I got my camera for Christmas. Thanks!!

  • Devon - Super excited – definitely signing up. I was a part of your original online DSLR course and have been such a slacker signing back up. Thanks for doing the flash sale!

  • Julie - Thank you so much for this sale! I’ve been wanting to join for several months. I began reading through/practicing from the Phone Course today and it’s already been so helpful!!

  • KC - Yay! I just signed up. I love your talent of sharing your daily stories with us, and I am excited to learn from you.

  • Kathie M. - Hey Ashley!! I am so excited and have taken advantage of your sale!! Now I was wondering will my renewal fee be taken on the same day each month? I just want to make sure I am ready for it to come out of my account each month! I can’t wait to get learning new things!

    **Happy Dance**

  • Lexie Cook - I’m so excited to start this! I’ve been wanting to do it for a while but could never get up the courage. The discount definitely helped. I’ve got a 1 year old with one on the way so I’m looking forward to being able to learn ways to capture all the great moments. Thank you!

  • NdT - I just love your photographic style. It rally captures every day life is such a great way.
    I signed up last night & this is by far the coolest online course ever. Cameras can be so intimidating sometimes, this makes it so much more approachable.
    Thank you!
    xo

Over the last week I’ve watched many of my friends capture adorable First Day of School pictures and celebrate the start of a new year. This month marks the beginning of our 5th year homeschooling – so much for my plan to only do it for 1 year! We took the plunge to try homeschooling for a whole host of reasons. Chris works from home and since SnapShops are online, we have flexibility with our schedules. Not knowing how long this season of our careers would last, we aimed to make the most of it by traveling with the kids and camping as much as possible.

But life can just happen if we aren’t intentional.

We started school last week and I quickly returned to feeling overwhelmed with juggling teaching 5 kids and running a business. When I get overwhelmed it is easy for me to focus on the negative and to only see the tunnel without any hope for light at the end. I needed to step back and get perspective…or get a good slap in the face from a loving friend reminding me not to look to the left or right but remember the WHY in my own decisions. The bottom line is I truly love homeschooling, but it is so demanding! I love pretty much everything about it and what has happened in our family as a result. It is definitely not for every parent or every kid, but it is definitely for us. Sometimes I need to be reminded of that and the best way for me to do that is to pack up school books and get away – to take advantage of the schedule perks of homeschooling.

We loaded the kids up for an impromptu trip to take the trailer out and visit Silver Dollar City (yay! for season passes from the grandparents!). A couple of days watching my kids smile and laugh is just the motivation I needed to remember I can do hard things. I want to do hard things because at the end of the day there are 5 kids laughing and smiling and making me well up with so much gratitude I might explode. Homeschool is not for the faint of heart. Neither is public school. Or private school. They all have their amazing perks and they all have their huge challenges. And they all have parents overwhelmed and wondering if they are making the right decision.

I came up for air for a few days. We drove away. We rode rides. We laughed. We fought. We were filled with gratitude. We complained. We just did life and remembered why we have made certain decisions for what school looks like for our family. It was short, but it was good.

I am not sure if I have ever shared our quickest camping meal here before. Pizza pockets. We can whip them up really fast after a day of exploring and all the kids like them. You could get super creative with the ingredients, but we just use bread, cheese, pizza sauce, pepperoni and some garlic salt. Put your ingredients in between two slices of bread, close the sandwich things, put over the flame and then enjoy.




He prefers to take selfies over his mom taking his picture. He does like to pose…however oddly.Corbett is quite the book critic and is happy to tell me if he thinks books are a good fit for his brothers. When a package of 2 books arrived on our doorstep (the author’s wife reads my blog!), he tore into them before I could even look. As we asked him for details on one (Countryside by J.T. Cope IV), he response was, “Yeah. You are just going to have to read it.” He said it reminded him a little of Harry Potter and Chronicles of Narnia. He hasn’t put it down, so that is a good sign….unless it is dinnertime and he is breaking my “No books at the dinner table” rule.


This is how my kids will probably remember me from their childhood. Hair pulled back. No makeup. T-shirt. The opposite of glamorous and put together. They won’t look back at their growing up years and remember Chris in a suit or me in heels (though heels would be so fun every now and then!). They may not remember a fancy mom, but I do hope they remember lots of pizza pockets, campfires, and a mom not afraid to pull back her hair and get messy in life alongside them.

We’ll return home. I’ll probably return to feeling overwhelmed and then I’ll remind myself to take it all a day at a time and choose joy. I’ll pause in the midst of feeling like too much is on my plate and I’ll remember my WHY. I’ll remember how incredibly good I have it and that my definition of what a ‘hard day’ is, well it is privilege. This is the day – whatever the day holds – that the Lord has made. I will rejoice and be glad in it.

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  • Ashley - Man, that last picture is just stunning. Thank you so much for sharing your family!!

  • Heather - Thank you for this! I was feeling much the same way this past week. So many cute pictures of kiddos heading off to school while I was toiling at home over homeschool lessons. It’s our first year homeschooling and we did it for the flexibility to be able to see things in the area we live. This week…no looking left or right and I’m going to take some adventurous field trips to remember why we did this in the first place.

  • kate - I could not love this post more. Thank you!

  • Ashley - Thank you for being honest. I was feeling the same way. That was so encouraging to remember the why.

  • Ashley Anderson - Such a great post! I like what you said about every type of homeschooling being difficult & how all sorts of parents find themselves wondering if they are doing the right thing.

    Do you live near SDC? We live in Springfield, MO, just north of it.

    Happy homeschooling!

  • Liz - Great post to read as I send my oldest to Kindergarten in two days. I feel like I can still relate even though I choose public school. I still have kids at home so my stay at home job is not over but it is so hard to have one go away when he has been with me for 5 1/2 years. BTW I love that you have to have a “no books at the table rule” just shows you are rocking the homeschool mom role!!!

  • Christine - Well said what a great reminder to change my perspective. As a mom and a homeschooling mom it gets so hard somedays to remember why we do what we do and that is in fact a privilege. I was up last night worrying and praying! about a lot of things that are on my plate – finishing a house, my husband starting a business, trying to move in and create some normalcy, and still getting ready to homeschool my 4 kiddos. Yikes, sometimes it’s easy to feel the weight of the world on us. But as I type that out you have done a similar thing and seem to have made it to the other side!
    Hope your week is full of blessing and God’s grace showing up. Thanks for the reminder. Always trying to count my blessings. ?

  • Sarah Wolfe - I can so relate to this post. Even though my oldest two are going to school three days a week now, I’m still plugging away with my three youngest at home, and am needed for moral support for my oldest two with their massive amounts of homework. And even though we don’t get out adventuring much except in the summer (mostly because of sports schedules!), I understand what you are saying. I think we all do it (whatever form of education we chose) because we feel it’s best for our kiddos and our whole family. But there are sacrifices. And in homeschooling you sacrifice a peaceful and quiet house. But I’m hoping there’s plenty of time for that later on in life when my kids don’t want to be with me as much anymore 😉 Blessings to you and your year, friend!

  • Jen - Thank you for this! I’ve been feeling very overwhelmed and we haven’t even started school yet. This year I will have 2 in private school, one homeschooling, one in preschool, and around Christmas we will bring home an 8 year old from China…which means homeschooling a child that doesn’t speak English! I know why we’re doing it and we will cling tightly to that. Thank you for the reminder to keep our eyes on our own path!

  • Alicia @ Sweeping Up Joy - “This is the day – whatever the day holds – that the Lord has made. I will rejoice and be glad in it.”

    Thank you for sharing!

  • Tara - Campfire sandwich makers are the best! As kids we loved them filled with canned chili and shredded cheese.

  • Anne Marie - Home school Moms are AWESOME!!! You have my highest respect! :) I feel incredibly lucky {blessed} to have a Christian school to send my children to… if it wasn’t for that I would definitely home school! Keep your chin up… and just letting you know… the reason I check your blog every single day {just in case you posted in between M-W-F} is because you let us in on the real life ups & downs and it makes me feel like you’re one of my friends! :)

  • Diana - We call those pudgy pies! I love reading about your camping adventures, make me want to go camping again myself!

  • Melanie - Pizza pockets are our absolute favourite quick camping meal! Everyone will eat them too!

  • Lacey Meyers - I feel like I can breathe a little easier just by reading your experience and thoughts on this. I can relate to this on so many levels and am thankful to you for putting it into words and perspective. <3 I'll remember it when we start our homeschooling year in a few weeks, for sure!

  • Leah - I’ve enjoyed following your posts for a few years now. It was fun today to see your family enjoying pizza pockets. We grew up calling them bush pies. Instead of assembling at the campfire, however, we would make a pizza mixture ahead of time:
    Mince and saute: 1 onion; 1 green pepper. Add: 1 chub (500g) pepperoni, shredded; 680 ml (sorry, canadian!) tomato sauce; 1-2 cups cheese, shredded (more or less depending on preference)
    It freezes great, and add a scoop between bread, and you’re in bush pie heaven! (followed by one filled with cherry pie filling!!!)

  • kimberly oyler - i love those sandwich things!! makes a reaallllllly good apple pie if you put canned apple filling between 2 slices of bread, generously, and i mean generously, butter the outsides, pinch the edges and then cook over the fire til golden brown. you’re welcome. 😉

  • angie - Ashley! This was just what i needed! We ‘started’ our fourth year of homeschooling today (what?!) and needless to say it was a day of seeing the long tunnel and not the ‘why’. Thank you so much for this reminder. I ‘amen’ everything you said. It is so good to acknowledge there is an eternal One actively guiding within our decisions and to exercise to have faith in that guidance. He is good at being God! May we let Him live within us this year and within all the up and downs of our daily lives that at the end of this year we may ultimately know and love Him more.

  • AmandaH - This is so great! Love this post. Thank you so much for sharing!

  • Christine - I really needed this! Some of my whys are similar, but it helps to focus on them, especially at this time of year. Thanks for the reminder.

  • Molly - Thank you for this! We live in China – we just pulled our 5 year old daughter out of Chinese school because it was HARD and now we’re dealing with all the hurt from that and transitioning her to international school. What a good reminder to take it one day at a time. I teared up when I got to the end of your post. Every day on our way out the door – into a city of 8 million people all wanting a glance at our blonde haired girl – I tell her, and remind myself, “This is the day the Lord has made! Let us rejoice and be glad in it!” Thank you too for sharing your life with a whole bunch of strangers – I find it a great escape from the city lights, car horns, and all the people that surround us!

  • kristina - I absolutely love what you said, “Take it one day at a time and choose joy.” I copied it down and I will be referring to it all day just to remind myself. Thanks!!

  • Mia White - As a fellow homeschooler I love this exercise and greatly appreciate your honest candor. Cheers to the new school year!

  • Vénusia - Thank you so much for sharing. In the past weeks your words encouraged me very much in my mom of 4 youngs kids, homeschooler life !

  • Chris Curtis - We love our pie irons. I never thought about making pizzas in them. We usually make desserts with cream cheese and fruit.

  • Kelly - Yes! Thanks for sharing the real. We have begun our second homeschooling year and I am feeling overwhelmed. I think all the mamas out there are feeling overwhelmed whether they are the teacher or they are getting back into routine of early bedtimes and wake up times and catching the bus or driving carpool. We need to give all the mamas extra loads of grace right now!! I like your idea of coming up for air. Sometimes I just try to keep trying harder through it, maybe not the best approach! :) Kelly

  • Carla - I too, needed to hear (and see ) this. We are half way through out school year here in New Zealand but still feeling the same way.
    I too need to remember the why.
    Thanks :-)

  • Cassandra - Thank you for this post! Thank you for sharing your why & lots of other stuff with us. Blogging can’t always be easy but I appreciate the time & thought put into sharing a piece of your world with the world. <3 And your photos <3

  • Carrie - Thank you for sharing. I admire how you dive in to do what is right for your family and following your passions-helping others capture the everyday. I don’t know how you do it all but it encourages me to stretch myself. A couple of months ago I was having trouble with my Snapshot account and Chris left a message offering to help. I totally geeked out. My husband was laughing at me. I ended calling and have a great conversation that included talk about the Boundary Waters (from MN). I was still geeking out so much I am not sure how much I made sense.Husband continue to laugh at me. It was very kind of you to follow up! So blessed by your blog. My daughter has a similar journey to your youngest. I appreciated hearing about her awesome speech teacher. Yesterday we had to say goodbye to her speech teacher after 3 years for she was moving on to a new hospital. Before this gets ridiculously long…wishing you a great start to your school year. Teach on!

  • efrat - you wrote so beautiful, I felt like you wrote from my heart. we are starting 3rd year of homeschooling, and remembering WHY we do it is so important… and of course the luxury of camping is a huge value. thank you!

  • Rebekah Tice - Love those pictures! Love those reminders! Love your Christ centered heart for your family and his purpose for you right now in this phase of life! THANK YOU!:)

  • Kate @ Songs Kate Sang - I read the most beautiful thing written by our friend Ruth the other day. She said she wants her kids to remember her with a smile. Oh, I just loved that. And this post reminds me of that! You’re doing a great job!

  • Jill - I enjoyed reading this today. I’m a public school mom and I teach at a small college. My schedule is flexible, but my job has many responsibilities that must be done by me. My kids and I have been back in school for almost 3 weeks and I think we are getting through the transition phase. I appreciate your acknowledgment of the difficulties followed by the gratitude. We’ve had some not minor, but not major health issues with my son this year and I continually wonder if I’m doing the right thing sending him to school. He wants to be there, which encourages me that it is the right decision. Thank you for always being relatable and encouraging.

  • Riann - Thank you for this perfectly timed reminder to remember the “why.” Just exactly what I needed to read today.

  • Ginna Neel - I’m a few posts behind reading your blog, but wanted to ask — what age do you let your kids read Harry Potter? I’m curious if you have a set age or base it on maturity level, etc. :)

  • AshleyAnn - Ginna – My oldest is the only one that has been interested so far…it will be more based on maturity level and personality if/when the others ask to read it. That is just us.