For decades it was my sister and I gathered at Grandma’s table making the rolls for holiday meals. Now it is me and my kids. I wasn’t paying attention when Chris grabbed my camera and began capturing us working to fill the pans. I am so thankful he took these.3.16easter-013.16easter-053.16easter-06You know those people that can hide what they are thinking? I am not one of them. 3.16easter-083.16easter-07The tables got a fresh coat of white paint. The apple trees were trimmed (not at the correct time, but I’m good with that). 3.16easter-02My mom. My nephew. My grandpa (my mom’s dad). My nephew’s first Easter.3.16easter-04Family and friends gathered around our tables. There was more food than we could eat. More people than tables. More kids than adults. Of all the holidays I could host a big meal – Easter is my favorite. The sun is usually shining. Outside all things are blooming. Everything feels lovely, fresh, vibrant and sweet. Easter to me feels like a taking a deep breath in and slowly exhaling…a beautiful pause savoring the sweetness of the moment and overwhelming hope of a risen Savior.

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  • Jenny - Beautiful pictures! I love that you guys already have blossoms on your trees. I’m hoping we will soon!

  • Ramona - Your mom and grandpa look amazing! You are so lucky. Or better say, blessed. You are very blessed. :)

  • Mary - I love this post!! Lovely words, lovely photos, lovely family!! I agree … Easter is a time of hope, new beginnings, and thankful hearts for our risen Saviour!!!

  • Byron - Well done, Chris! Great pictures!

    ***You know those people that can hide what they are thinking? I am not one of them.***

    LOL! No, you certainly aren’t in that picture….

  • mandi@herbanhomestead - Love this. We hosted an impromptu Easter lunch of grilled cheese and chips with friends from church. I think we will make it a new tradition- it was perfect. ps: i’m one of those people that can’t hide what I’m thinking either. You should see the pictures from my sister’s wedding (insert money hiding his face emoji).

  • Kimberly Oyler - i have no idea why, but those pictures of you made me miss you SO MUCH. i need to come get my sock asap.

  • Lisa - What precious memories! Also I love the table and green dresser. ?

Last Friday I published an old post and decided to do it again. It might become a Friday tradition. Chris was randomly searching on my blog this week and came across a post from 2011. It was wild reading it. I wrote about several different topics and was absolutely clueless how significant they would one day become in our family. Reading it again reminded me how I can make all the plans I want, but really I am not the One directing my steps. I am beyond grateful for that reality!

This is excerpts from a post originally published in July 2011. It was a post full of examples of how we can all be involved in the lives of vulnerable children in different ways. I’ve added notes from my present perspective. The notes I am adding are written in blue.

likeyouYou know I love being a mom (at least I sure hope you can pick that up reading this blog). Kids – all kids – are so unique and special. My kids know they are loved and cherished. They are secure and don’t question anything regarding their basic needs. I think of this reality often….because I often think of the kids that have a different reality. When I was growing up there was a wonderful woman in my church who was a foster parent. She was my first exposure to foster care and the knowledge that kids didn’t get to grow up with loving parents like I did. Being exposed to that as a child changed my life. I recently came across the 111project.org in Oklahoma. It is a great solution for a realistic way to provide homes for those in Oklahoma’s foster care system. It is exciting to see passion growing for finding real solutions to real problems regarding foster care. I am very confident that one day Chris and I will be foster parents….it is really just a matter of time.

Every child should know they are a miracle. It haunts and breaks me to think of kids right here in my town and across this globe that will never know love. It is a devastating reality. Sometimes it can be easy just not to think about ‘those’ kids. It can be easy not wrestle with things outside of our comfort and have to deal with what you feel as result. But the easy way in of most life is usually the least rewarding….and least exciting for that matter.

Foster care…adoption…orphan trusts….child sponsorship…..respite care….supporting those that adopt…..

SO MANY WAYS TO MAKE SURE A CHILD KNOWS LOVE.

The photo above was taken while on vacation in Colorado with family. Unknown to me at the time I took the photo and posted it here, it was also the week our youngest daughter was born. We had just began the process of filling out paperwork for an adoption. I also had NO IDEA that Chris would one day become the Executive Director of the 111Project. In fact, shortly after writing this post I forgot about 111Project and Chris was on a different career path. I was so surprised when Chris found this old post and I read those old words. “We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps.” (Psalm 16:9 NLT)

Last year I shared about my friend Angie that was selling gorgeous headbands and bags to raise money for her adoption. You know what, she is headed to China to get her little girl less than two weeks! They have a beautiful story and my family will forever be changed because they were willing to share it. I CAN NOT wait to see Emery in her arms!

Angie led me to Nicole & Katie. I was daily checking photographer Nicole Renee’s family blog while she was in China meeting her daughter and preparing to bring her home. Aren’t the best stories the real life ones! Can you believe how gorgeous Brooklyn is? What an incredible gift she must be to her parents!

I hung on every word that Angie and Nicole wrote about their daughters. What I didn’t know was 13 days before in a little town in southern China my daughter was born with a cleft lip and palate. My heart was being prepared in ways I had no idea. “We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps.” (Psalm 16:9 NLT)

And then there is Katie….Katie is in the starting stages of her adoption of a little girl in the Congo.

Go visit Katie’s blog. Now. Read the stories of her daughterS. (not one, but two).“We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps.” (Psalm 16:9 NLT)

Earlier this year I shared about a new friend I met during the craft weekend at Meg’s. I remember sitting in the back of a van learning all about Amy and her family. She’s the NASA all-star that sent me the Astronaut Legos! She shared about her amazing son Ben. If you visit her blog you’ll see how Ben lights up the whole space. Ben is an incredible kid…and he has Down syndrome. Amy began looking around Reece’s Rainbow – part of Reece’s Rainbow’s mission is “to rescue orphans with Down syndrome through the gift of adoption”. It didn’t take long before Amy’s family began the process to welcome another son into their family. They are working hard at bringing little Davis home…. meet Davis:

A big brown eyed cutie, he lives in Ukraine right now. But he’s got a big brother in America who also has Down Syndrome….and those two boys need to be together. Their mommy needs Davis in her arms!

Davis. This is a much harder part of this post to look back on. Amy and her family fought long and hard for Davis. They held him in their arms. They heard his laugh. Comforted his tears. And the story did not end with Davis at home in America with them. Adoption laws changed in Ukraine right before he was to travel home. There are no easy answers and so much grief. However, their family did grow by another amazing son. It wasn’t the story any of us would have written, but it is full of so much beauty – the hard kind and the most wonderful kind. “We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps.” (Psalm 16:9 NLT)

About two years ago I shared a little session I did with my good friends Robert & Rachel. They were getting their family book together for a domestic adoption. Since that time they’ve added two handsome boys to their family. Not only have they gained two sons through open adoptions they have been given an incredible gift to have healthy relationships with the strong women that gave life to their boys. This is Rachel and her youngest son (yeah, she’s gorgeous).

7.11rcI’ve had the privilege of watching that teeny baby grow into a funny little guy with the world’s best smile. When I took his pictures, I didn’t know my youngest would only be a month younger than him. I see his baby pictures and can’t help wondering what my daughter looked like at that age. I’ve also watched as Rachel’s two boys welcomed a little sister to the mix. I’ve learned so much from Rachel. I’ve told her I would love to have her guest post someday about open adoptions…“We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps.” (Psalm 16:9 NLT)

So, yeah, we can make a difference. Maybe it is opening your home to a child currently in the foster care system. Maybe it is looking beyond what a medical form says and finding your child waiting in another country. Maybe it is being the answer to the heart cry of a birth mom in your town. Maybe it is supporting someone else on an adoption journey. Maybe it is advocacy and raising awareness. Maybe it is babysitting for those foster care parents you met the other day or playing a game of basketball at a nearby DHS shelter. You can make a difference. I can make a difference. And really….why wouldn’t we?

Because every child deserves to know love & security.

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  • Carrie - This is such a cool post to see from current perspective the Lord’s leading in your life, the lives of your friends, and their children. Thank you!! It’s encouraging.

  • Southern Gal - Just breathtaking. Thank you for sharing it. This is why I love blogging so, so much.

  • Amy M - I’m loving these throwback posts. It’s incredible to look back and see how our lives were being directed when we didn’t even realize it. Comforting see how our sorrow and struggle was putting us on the path we were always meant to be on, though it wasn’t apparent at the time.

  • Laura in Sacto - I do not have children of my own. It was never in the cards for me I suppose. That saying, children are a gift from God may sound corny to some, but it is so true! I am almost 50 and 25 years ago, I was my friend’s birth coach and I was in the delivery room when she gave birth to her first child. You could have knocked me over with a feather during the whole process. It was a miracle…and what a blessing for me to witness such awesomeness. I cut the cord and thought if I never do anything else in my life, it is okay because witnessing a miracle is pure magic!

  • Jessica P - Just beautiful! God is so good.

  • JuliAnne Berry - I hope this becomes a series. I love to see how God unfolds the rose of people’s lives often so differently then we would think. It’s beautiful! Thank you for growing my faith in the Lord.

  • Trinity - I love these looks back Ashley and I really love your perspective now. It is incredible seeing God at work and you are a great example in recognizing it!

  • Lindsey C - It is so neat to look back and see how God was working even when you didn’t realize it. It November 2013 God laid on my heart to pray for a little girl by name. I didn’t know why because we weren’t having more kids, we already had two boys. A year and a half later God called us to adopt, something we had never even considered. We just received our I800A for a little girl in China. She was born just two months after I started praying but we didn’t know about her until just a few months ago. I discovered your blog when researching China adoptions and I have been so encouraged reading your story.

  • Leslie - love this fresh perspective. this is a favorite verse in our house – i use it often to encourage my husband. i think you typed “psalms” instead of “proverbs” for the scripture reference (i do this all the time accidentally – just saying it in case anyone looks it up to read further)

Shorts. T-shirts. Sun shining down and then covered by clouds. Bare feet. Basketball.

One of my students needed a study break. When he headed out the door, the rest of the class knew where he was headed. Before I knew it everyone was shooting baskets. 3.16basketball-013.16basketball-023.16basketball-04

3.16basketball-01Our youngest has been determined to join all the basketball games. She practices daily – always trying to get a basket. This week it happened for her. I thought it would be far in the future – she is so tiny and the basketball hoop so high. However, her persistence paid off and she can now swoosh the ball with the best of them.  It is ridiculously cute.

3.16basketball-053.16basketball-073.16basketball-083.16basketball-09As soon as I took the next shot, I smiled. I knew it would be one of those handful of all-time favorite photographs. The boys in the background – one in his signature neon green, one in his signature no shirt using all his effort to get the ball up, Corbett creeping up in height close to his dad. And her. Trying her hardest to be patient and wait for their game to end. Tiny in a big jersey. Little legs wrapped around her brother’s basketball.

This is why I pick up my camera everyday. I wasn’t trying to get ‘the shot’. I was just playing with my camera while they played. Real life – it is so much better than anything staged or formulated. Real life is captivating in the most beautiful way. 3.16basketball-11

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  • Nancy Farmer - I love this. Those girls know about that wrist action! I credit Dad & the older brothers for their teaching.

  • Hannah Hobbs - Oh that last picture is perfect!!!

    You’ve inspired me to go out and capture life more- thank you, Ashley!

  • Angie - It is a beautiful shot. I can’t believe how much she’s grown.

  • Byron - Great pictures all around!

  • Katie - Love, love, love this! Every bit of the family fun and LO’s persistence. :)

  • Jenny L. - Most kids would take the easy way and attempt a basket with an underhand shot. I love that LO is going for the real thing!

  • Sarah - I LOVE this photo!!! How lucky you were to capture it! It’s a printable one, for sure!

  • Lacey - Yes! I couldn’t agree more that these unplanned, unscripted, unposed photo opportunities are the best. Real life is certainly captivating. :)