Lord, Please Speak To Me and Please Let Me Hear You

This next blog post has been giving me a bit of heartburn the past few weeks. First of all, I experienced my first bit of writer's block since we've started this journey. Blame it on the hormones, morning sickness and fatigue I suppose. Sleep-deprived Ashley can write, but hormonal Ashley cannot. When the right idea finally came to me, I then struggled with how to write it down. I have talked about this topic over coffee with girlfriends, but I feel like that's so different than typing it out for everyone and anyone to read. It's easier to explain yourself in person than it is over the internet. Maybe I should start a vlog, but then I'd have to start showering ;-)

I'll just start and act like we are sitting in a cozy coffee shop sipping cappuccinos. Except in my current pregnant state, I'm drinking cold chocolate milk and eating the chocolate chip muffin. So, I'll let you be the hip one with the cappuccino. 

I'll start out blunt. I went almost two solid years where I didn't know if God was hearing me. I didn't know if He knew who I was. And it's wrong to say this, but to be completely honest, I didn't know if I was "good enough" for Him to listen to me and give me a response back to my prayers. Talk about the enemy shooting arrows directly at a person.

Speaking of arrows, during this period of time, there were other sharp arrows being shot at Colby and I. New parents trying their best to navigate some new harsh realities. It felt like the arrows were coming in hot from all fronts; like there wasn't a topic that didn't come with a punch or a defeat. I hate to sound negative or ungrateful, as there is much, much more pain on this Earth than what we endured during this time. But it was a season of impact and adjustment, uncertainty and fear, discomfort and restlessness.

The prayer I lived by during this time was a simple, "Lord, please speak to me and please let me hear you." I prayed it CONSTANTLY. I was so scared He wouldn't speak to me, and I was also so scared that I would miss His response and direction! That would be just my luck - God telling me what to do or opening a door, and me whizzing on by it or not noticing it. Have you ever had that fear before? You're so obsessed with getting an answer or a direction, that you're terrified you'll miss His response? Lord, please speak to me, and please let me hear you!

During this journey, the way I prayed changed entirely. I still always prayed my simple prayer, but what started as methodical, diligent and formal prayers, turned into constant conversations. I talked to Him like a friend. He knows what I'm thinking all of the time, and He's always with me, so it only made sense I verbalized everything with Him. I prayed constantly throughout the days, talking to Him as if He was in my passenger seat in my car and at the work desk next to me. Another blog post for another day, but changing my prayers changed my entire relationship with Christ.

Then there were countless nights I quite literally cried out to Him, begging for help. Surrendering all control and all of me to Him, I'd break down, "Lord, I can't do this with out you!" and "Please, Lord, I need you! End this, please!" Many desperate, broken prayers into the dark at night and alone in my car.  

I'd wait in silence for answers. I'd look to my left, look to my right, read into everything...desperately trying to find His direction. I looked for anything to be a sign. Again, not only did I want Him to speak to me, but man... I did NOT want to miss it! Weeks, months...nothing. No signs. No voice of God talking directly to me. Heck, I would have taken a strike of lightening (but would have preferred a nice little handwritten note)! Was I missing it? What was happening? Cue the thoughts of insignificance. 

I am amazingly blessed to have close girlfriends not only walking closely with Christ, but acting as His hands and feet here on Earth. Faithful, passionate women with hearts on fire. Their fellowship and sisterhood is pure gold, and I truly look up to them and their faith. During this time, however, I couldn't help but feel a pang of... envy? Confusion? A little bit of disappointment? When we would chat, some of my girlfriends could nonchalantly say something like, "God told me XYZ," and "God was really telling me here ABC," and "I felt that God was pushing to 123." Some of the sentences ended with more commonplace occurrences, while some ended with more specific direction to issues going on in their lives.

I remember vividly thinking, "Wow, God is communicating regularly and directly to this person, and even about some pretty normal, day-to-day things. I've been praying HARD for over a year, crying, begging for help, and I feel like I'm just over here waving my arms like a psycho!" In fact, at one point, I left a coffee with a girlfriend, got in my car, and said out loud, "Down here! Right here, Lord! Hello! I'm talking to you, too! Why are you talking to her but not me?"

During this time, I was also seeing a spiritual counselor who was immensely helpful and encouraging. I remember sitting in her over-sized, tufted chair, feeling so incredibly small, asking what I was doing wrong. Asking where God was, and why some of my friends were good enough to get answers and direction, but I wasn't. I felt hot silent tears, but also shame. She explained to me that God speaks to everyone differently - through the Bible, through fellowship, directly, through song, through praise - and speaks to everyone at different times. But that I am never alone. Your relationship with Christ is unique, as you are unique. Christ knows everything about you and everything that is to come for you, so He has a specific way to speak to you and a specific time when He will speak to you. Comparison is a dangerous game, as we are all children of Christ with different stories and different paths. God is all-knowing, and we are not. That's where faith comes in.

I remained diligent in prayer, I thought that was all of the faith I needed. I never gave up praying and never gave up hope, so yes, that is absolutely faith, but I didn't fully trust Him. I didn't fully trust that He was paving the path before me while walking alongside me on it. So in addition to hope and faith, I added trust. 

Colby and I were over a year into this hard season when we began reflecting one night on what we had been through as a couple and individually. We realized how much we had grown as a couple during this state of adversity. I'll be honest, in the beginning of this season, we fought a lot. We didn't know how to handle what was happening, and to be really honest, marriage was not fun. It was exhausting, and we both felt so alone. It sucked. 

However, at some point, we went from putting our problems on each other to giving all of our problems to Christ. We were praying constantly and praying together. We were leaning on each other, supporting each other, listening to each other and making hard decisions together. We were on the same page. Let me repeat that - because this is huge for those who know Colby and I - we were on the same page! Our young marriage had endured what some seasoned marriages have yet to go through. Then Colby said something that night of reflection I will never forget:

"I would go through this all over again with you if it meant our marriage would always come out this strong. God meant for this to happen to our marriage."

After that night, my entire view of the season changed. God was with us the whole time, changing our hearts individually and strengthening our marriage. It was all part of His plan, and the Lord was actually so active and so deliberate in everything that had happened. God is good. All good things are from Him. And it doesn't get much better than a marriage filled with unconditional love and support. 

I started glorifying our Lord and giving Him thanks for our hard times. Literally, I thanked him for our problems. I thanked Him for the growth in our marriage and for having His hand in everything, always. I genuinely and purely started to trust God no matter what His end plan was - if He spoke to me or not, if He took all of our problems away or not - whatever His plan was, I didn't care, because I knew the good that would always come from Christ. I knew He was going to always be with me and take care of me and my family. I. Just. Let. It. Go. It was such a relief to arrive at this place. It was like taking off my obnoxiously heavy, middle school backpack, and it was a place of peace. 

I kid you not, after about a month of arriving at this place of peace, I heard from God. Directly. And I broke down right there in Panera in the pick-up line. I couldn't believe it. And I will NEVER forget it.

Since hearing Him speak to me, God has abundantly blessed us, and has been working so incredibly boldly in our lives. Many prayers have been answered, and we are watching His work unfold. We aren't meant to understand all things, and I'm sure we don't want to understand all things, but He is revealing to us His timing and showing us why some things had to be a certain way. And it's awesome. What always blows our mind is how God's timing has been nothing short of absolutely perfect. I now understand why I had to wait to hear from Him. And I also understand He doesn't always reveal these things to us, so I am especially grateful. To look back at the past three years and the work Christ has done in our lives brings Colby and I to tears. 

This post is really long-winded, but I thought it was important to share, as everyone is going through something at any given time. I hope that my story offers some sort of help or hope to those feeling alone or not heard. I promise you that Christ not only hears you, but He loves you and is for you! He doesn't want you to trudge through this on your own. As humans, we aren't designed to do that! He is with you and working in your life in some way. How, when and if He reveals that work to us is what we need to trust and be at peace with.

In this amount of time, I imagine you would have drank four cappuccinos and I would have eaten three chocolate chip muffins, so we might need to wrap this coffee date up. Next time's on me!

"Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." - 1 Thessalonians 5:18

"By joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer." - Romans 12:12

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God." - Philippians 4:6

"The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged." - Deuteronomy 31:8

"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to His purpose." - Romans 8:28

Ashley Flynn
Flynn Story Time: What we're reading!

So now that I'm in the children's books and authors "scene," I thought it would be fun to share the children's books that Nina and I love to read together. I was thinking maybe once a month I'd write a quick post on our current bedtime books.

Nina and I read for about thirty minutes before bedtime. She likes to read the same four or five books for about a week, then I try to sneakily cycle a new batch in, because Mom has a limit on some of those books. Some may even disappear for awhile... 

 Make room for mom, kiddo!

Make room for mom, kiddo!

Here are two that are "in cycle" right now that we both LOVE! 

The Pink Umbrella by Amelie Callot. Here it is on Amazon.

 The cover and illustrations alone are just darling! The story takes place on the French countryside, and it has the French-chic flair while still remaining charmingly simple. 

The cover and illustrations alone are just darling! The story takes place on the French countryside, and it has the French-chic flair while still remaining charmingly simple. 

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The main character, Adele, owns a popular, quaint cafe. She is vibrant, dedicated and caring, but the bad weather and rain really kill her spirits (same girlfriend, only I'll take rain over snow). Reading this book in February in South Dakota is a great reminder to keep a positive attitude, and that life is what you make it! Super cute book with a heart-warming twist at the end. 

Here is the official book description:

"When it's bright outside, Adele is the heart of her community, greeting everyone who comes into her café with arms wide open. But when it rains, she can't help but stay at home inside, under the covers. Because Adele takes such good care of her friends and customers, one of them decides to take care of her too, and piece by piece leaves her little gifts that help her find the joy in a gray, rainy day. Along with cute-as-a-button illustrations, The Pink Umbrella celebrates thoughtful acts of friendship."

Love Is by Diane Adams. Here it is on Amazon.

 Again, the illustrations are to die for! Sophisticated and stylish but so appropriate for kids. Reminds me a little bit of the original, first Amelia Bedelia book!

Again, the illustrations are to die for! Sophisticated and stylish but so appropriate for kids. Reminds me a little bit of the original, first Amelia Bedelia book!

 Ugh, so cute. Just a girl and her duck!

Ugh, so cute. Just a girl and her duck!

So grab a tissue for this one. It's similar to "Love You Forever" on the cry-o-meter. I'm just going to drop the official book's description in here because I can't describe it better:

"Perfect for any fond gift or tender moment, this story of a girl and a duckling who share a touching year together will melt hearts old and young. In this tenderly funny book, girl and duckling grow in their understanding of what it is to care for each other, discovering that love is as much about letting go as it is about holding tight. Children and parents together will adore this fond exploration of growing up while learning about the joys of love offered and love returned."

So this adorable girl takes care of this adorable duck, and the whole time you're thinking, "This is what it's like to take care of you!" And then things get real. And then they get a little heartbreaking. And then you'll cry. And then you'll ugly cry. And then it will be okay. 

Both of these books are wonderful to talk in-depth about with Nina. We always discuss the illustrations and what the characters are feeling. Nina becomes so invested! Highly recommend both books!

Speaking of LOVE and being a mommy, I shared some fun news last week on Valentine's Day:

 Get it?? Mini heart in a big heart??

Get it?? Mini heart in a big heart??

 Just in case you didn't get it. 

Just in case you didn't get it. 

 We're having a baby!

We're having a baby!

 Look at that stinker's face!

Look at that stinker's face!

2018 is proving to be a big year for the Flynns! We have so much to praise God for! 

Have a great week and happy reading!

Ashley Flynn
Pink and Red are My Jam.

Give me all the pink and red, please! I get it, Valentine's Day has spiraled a little out of control. I respect and understand that some people don't like it. Some people despise it. But I tell you what, after a long, cold and gloomy January, I get a little skip in my step when all of the paper hearts, eye-catching cards, and the chocolates come out. Call me a sucker, but Valentine's Day gets me. I am being personally attacked at Target right now. 

BUT - I'm not one who expects the expensive candle-lit dinner or bouquet of a dozen roses. I promise I don't pressure Colby to woo and wine and dine me. That is saved for my birthday, and one day a year is enough for the poor man. But it's fun to acknowledge the day, make a nice dinner at home and excuse Ashley for looking like a 5-year-old with her outfit's color scheme. And it's been SO fun to include our little cutie cupid in on Valentine's Day, too. Lucky Daddy has had two dates!

Red and pink are my jam - I just love those colors. For everything. I wish Colby loved them so I could have a pink bedroom with red throw pillows. I can confidently say nine times out of ten I leave Sephora with a red lipstick. HOW do they keep coming up with new shades?! And it brings me so much joy to put Nina in red and pink. I don't know how much longer I have to control that, so I am going to intensely roll with it as long as I am able. I'm not claiming to be a fashion blogger or expert, but because this holiday is a shout-out to red and pink, I wanted to share what Nina and I will be wearing on the day of love.  

Okay, I'm not exactly sure what Nina will be wearing. There are two options (what girl doesn't need two options though, am I right?). I found this preppy little red dress and these spunky heart tights for her at Janie and Jack. The girl can really pull off a bold red well! I had ordered the boots from Nordstrom about a month earlier, and knew they'd work perfectly.

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However, I forgot she had this darling pink dress I had been saving (WHY on Earth do we "save" things?! I always do that and it almost never works out. Only buy what you need, when you need it). I also had these adorable red Mary Jane's (sold out from ZARA) I've been dying to bust out. I mean, for Nina to bust out.

Nina has a very fair complexion. Like, in the movie Snow White, if the queen asked "Who is the fairest of them all?", my money would be on the mirror saying, "Nina Rose Flynn" if he knew her. She has the blondest hair, too. Pink is just darling on her; it's so her color. Even Colby can pick out that Nina looks like a doll in pink. Okay, now I'm gushing. But here is the second option:

 Cute little pink heart clips from  Fancy Free Finery .

Cute little pink heart clips from Fancy Free Finery.

I bet we end up going with the red dress since it literally screams Valentine's Day. I'll continue to "save" the pink dress...

Every year for Valentine's Day, I go to my closet and pick out everything pink and red, lay it on the bed, and put something together. Here is what I came up with this year:

 Red blouse:  Zara  Skirt: Anthropologie (no longer available) Hat: Anthropologie (no longer available) Shoes: Nordstrom (no longer available)

Red blouse: Zara Skirt: Anthropologie (no longer available) Hat: Anthropologie (no longer available) Shoes: Nordstrom (no longer available)

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And then because of the whole intense thing, this is happening:

   Heart shaped sunglasses  are Nina's, for the record. Top pink ones are no longer available at Anthropologie, but may be somewhere else. They are Sonix. 

 Heart shaped sunglasses are Nina's, for the record. Top pink ones are no longer available at Anthropologie, but may be somewhere else. They are Sonix. 

Say what you will, but it's hard not to love love. Happy Valentine's Day!

Ashley Flynn
This is My Story Part III: And now we are here.

We’ve reached the final, third part of the series, This is My Story. Whew. Made it, and even still have a few people “following” my blog. Shout out to my family and my BFFs who are probably just re-visiting the blog over and over from multiple devices in order to get my page views up. ;-)

My last blog post discussed the inspiration behind My Favorite Job is You. This week, I’d like to talk about how it went from a poem on the back of an envelope to in the middle of being published into a children’s book.

So to review the scene, it’s August 2016, and I have this piece of writing that I know I am called to do something with. Passionate to share this story with others, I prayed persistently for God’s will, God’s timing and God’s way. I wanted this poem to glorify God, as He was the one to put it on my heart.

I had no idea where to start or what to do. This was an entirely new wheelhouse for me, but I was up and excited for the challenge. Most of 2016 and into 2017 was a series of connecting with fabulous, talented individuals with experience in the book industry and trying to publish the book myself versus seeking out a publisher. However, I encountered many issues along the way. I wasn’t finding the traction. I ran into quite a few dead ends and definitely had many disappointments. It just was not coming together at all. During this time, I was also working hard at my previous job, so although important to me, the book really didn’t receive that much time or attention. It was mainly me just chucking handfuls of spaghetti at the wall every once in a while to see if it would stick and stay. Let me tell you, PILES of spaghetti on the floor.

I’m very much a type-A perfectionist. I become easily stressed, easily overwhelmed, and can easily get discouraged if something isn’t going the way I’d like it to. I’m also pretty impatient. Colby’s thinking, “Tell me something I don’t know.” However, I will say, I’m also very self-aware and am constantly am trying to defeat these flaws. I think because I was praying so consistently about God’s will, timing, and way for the book, God totally shielded me from thinking these frequent, negative thoughts in regards to the book. They did not pierce me during this time. I never was stressed or overwhelmed during the time of the “book-wandering” phase. While I did get discouraged, it just really didn’t get me down. I didn’t dwell on the dead ends, and I somehow was able to think, “Well, God doesn’t want it done this way.” This way of thinking is SO not like me!! I felt so overwhelmed and stressed in other areas of my life. Even a little hopeless and helpless. But somehow, it was almost like the book was this sacred bubble that couldn’t be marred by my normal thought patterns.

However, I’ll admit: I did have one moment of weakness in July 2017. I had hit a major, disappointing, and expensive road block. Feeling very defeated, I thought I’d (figuratively) “put the book on the shelf” and just accept that this timing wasn’t right. Perhaps God wanted me to wait another year or two. I didn’t feel over it though; I just was at a total loss of what to do next. If this was God’s will, why was it going so poorly? We were coming up on a year of trying to get this book published, and I had nothing to show for it. Literally, all I had to show was that I transferred the writing from the back of the envelope to a word document. Nice.

Then in October 2017, a little over a year after I wrote the poem, the fire in my heart was urging me to take another stab at the book. At this time, God was doing incredible work in my personal and family life… like, moving mountains people. Unreal stuff. I had this amazing trust in Him that I had never experienced before, and I just knew I needed to try again. I knew God had my back and had a plan. I Googled “publishers in Minneapolis and St. Paul” and found Wise Ink Creative Publishing.

Then, the ceiling of my house opened up, a ray of light came shining down on to my computer screen, and doves flew beautifully around me and my computer. Okay, exaggerating just a little, but wow- what an answer to my prayers! Passionate about being an independent author and the self-publishing process, Wise Ink is everything I could have asked for. Wise Ink is a publishing agency that coaches and consults independent authors with the publishing process. They tell me what to do, when to do it, the best way to do it… and they have all of the connections, too. It’s basically a one-stop publishing shop for independent authors.

To back up the tracks here a second, let me try explain the difference between self-publishing, a publishing agency like Wise Ink, and using a publishing house. This is probably only going to be like, 90% accurate, so definitely do your own research if you’re thinking about publishing a book. Full disclosure!

Self-publishing is what I was trying to do in the “book wandering” phase. No clue what to do, who to connect with, what the steps were to get this done and failures along the way. With self-publishing, the author is personally in charge of every stage of the publishing process.  Not that it can’t be done, I just wasn’t very good at it ;-) And I’m not trying to discourage self-publishing, because what an outstanding accomplishment, and some people have the tools they need and the time and patience in order to get it done.

If a big publishing house picks up your book, they own the rights to the book. Because they own the rights to the book, they pay for all aspects of the book (editing, illustrations, printing, marketing, PR, Web site, etc.) – super nice! However, since they own the rights and are funding the book, as the author, you may be limited on, if not cut off from, decisions throughout the creative process and publishing process. Also, since the publishing house is in charge of marketing your book, you’re kind of at their will with how hard they push sales. It’s also very difficult to get picked up by a publishing house. Every publishing house has different deals, different purchase agreements, and different author involvement, but that’s kind of the gist of it. 

Wise Ink is an agency that allows me in a way to have a self-publishing experience, but they’re consulting me and lining me up with the appropriate people I would have otherwise not been able to connect with. They are the puzzle piece I had been missing throughout the “book wandering” phase. I get to have a voice in every aspect of the book. I have been very much involved in every stage, from editing to illustrations to book design. It was very important to me that I had a hand in the entire book’s journey to make sure it continued to glorify God’s will and share the message I want moms to hear. I am also in control of the destiny of my book as far as book sales and the book’s success, too. I am in charge of the marketing plan, the book tour, PR, the Web site, book distribution, endorsements, events, etc. That part is a little terrifying (plug – GO ORDER THE BOOK NOW!), however, I believe in the book, the topic and the story behind it.

So here we are now! We just finished up the book design stage, and we are on track to go to print on February 27th and launch right before Mother’s Day! Absolutely unreal. God is good.

I’m a late adapter (Last person I know to get an iPhone. I always like Taylor Swift’s songs three months after they’ve been released. I didn’t start online banking until 2017. Seriously.) but once I realized completely giving something to God results in His perfect will, timing and way…there’s nothing I won’t give to Him. He has taken care of me and my family, and continues to abundantly bless us time over time. While I know trials will always arise and life is not perfect, I pray I can look back to all of the times He has been faithful to me and trust He will see me through.

Matthew 7:7-11 (NIV)

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask Him!”

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Ashley Flynn
This is My Story Part II: The story behind the book

Back to business this week. Serious business. This post was intimidating to write, and I’m still struggling with the vulnerability of it. Women can be so critical of each other, yet for every critical woman, I know there are three supportive, graceful and compassionate cheerleaders, and even some women who might relate to something I’ve said. So that’s giving me some solace. I’m also in a Bible study right now covering the topic of insecurity (shout to my Wednesday group!), and I have to start applying some of these confidence skillz at some point. These next words are an important part of my story. To leave out how the book came to be would be leaving out a crucial chapter in this journey.

Nina started daycare full-time in April of 2016. To say it was a season of adjustment for our family would be a kind description. From changed relationships to new priorities to completely redefining who I was as an individual, everything transformed quickly.  

Nina and I had twelve extraordinary weeks of an irreplaceable maternity-leave together. Not saying it was this blissful, heavenly and idyllic three months of cuddling and swooning over each other (because, come on. We are still questioning why the hospital even let us come home with a baby. And there’s too much poop, spit up and not enough sleep for the word ‘bliss’) but man, that time that’s dedicated solely to getting to know your baby, and finally knowing what it means and feels like to be a mom… words are incompetent in describing what that time reflects.  Many mothers can relate to the challenges of coming off of maternity-leave. What a blow!

 Meeting Dad for lunch on our last day of maternity-leave! It was also St. Patty's Day, a very important holiday to the Flynn family. 

Meeting Dad for lunch on our last day of maternity-leave! It was also St. Patty's Day, a very important holiday to the Flynn family. 

 Bedtime kisses and watching the Kansas game before the big first day back at work. Based on her face, I think Nina was actually looking forward to getting a little space from me...

Bedtime kisses and watching the Kansas game before the big first day back at work. Based on her face, I think Nina was actually looking forward to getting a little space from me...

The transition meant spending much, much more time away from Nina than with her. I no longer was the face that she saw the most. Her daycare teachers fed her more, changed more diapers, and held her more than I did. It felt crushing at times knowing that my time with her boiled down to three hours a day, and only two whole days a week. Many weeks less time than that. Our two hours together after work were literally like precious gold to me; you couldn’t even pry me away from her to change out of my work clothes. At this point, she was still waking up multiple times throughout the night, and I was pumping twice a night, but I was EXCITED to see her at 2AM. I desperately wanted every second with her, and I wanted every second to be amazing. Oh, we played so hard, we talked and sang constantly, always exploring… I so badly wanted to give her every ounce of me, and the best version of me.  Every (happy) atom in my body was poured into her. Our time together was so short, so when we were together, my priority was to be the mother she deserved. Yet I still always thought she deserved better. I always felt like I was falling short.

 Our darling Miss Nina a couple of days into daycare. As you can see, she was very receptive and understanding of the changes! ;-)

Our darling Miss Nina a couple of days into daycare. As you can see, she was very receptive and understanding of the changes! ;-)

I was unwilling to give up any time with her unless it was mandatory for work, so friendships suffered for a bit. With the little free time I had, I needed to make choices and somehow prioritize. After Nina went to bed, I often had piles of laundry, dishes, housework or errands to do. If I did meet up with a girlfriend, it was always after Nina went to bed, and not much longer than an hour. Meeting up with a girlfriend went from a regular, expected occurrence to now a luxury.

And forget about “me-time”. And working out. Putting on make-up, doing my hair, or heck, sometimes even showering (even on work days… sometimes it just doesn’t happen!) Even the basic human function of eating, I somehow couldn’t find time for or it was simply forgotten so everything else could function. If doing something for myself meant less time with Nina, then my goodness, I was not going to do it! The list goes on and on (as all moms know). Ashley was on the bottom of the list, always, in every way. And I accepted it because I felt SO DANG GUILTY. Constant, overpowering guilt. I felt like I deserved to be on the bottom of the list; not in a self-punishing way, but in an over-compensating way, if that makes sense. I was a hot mess, but it didn’t matter to me as long as I gave my all to Nina. I was happy to do it, and I felt like it was what I needed to do. 

 At this point, you might be wondering how Stew and Colby are holding up. Let me assure you, they were just fine. 

At this point, you might be wondering how Stew and Colby are holding up. Let me assure you, they were just fine. 

CLEARLY, I had some balance issues. Looking back, I wish I could give Summer ’16 Ashley a hug (well, and maybe Fall ‘08, Spring ’09, Spring ’17, Summer ’17, too…ha!) and help that sister out. Isolating is best word that would describe that season of life. Isolation comes walking hand-in-hand with anxiety on the left, and guilt on the right. I don’t want to generalize, so please don’t be mad at this next statement if it doesn’t apply to you. In my particular case, and in some other cases I know of, working moms tend to try to make it look like they have it all together. There’s quite a bit of added pressure and fear of failure because there are literally so many freaking balls up in the air at all times. Statistically, there’s a bigger chance of a ball dropping when there are more flying around. Trying to manage a career, be successful and grow within that career, run a household and all that comes along with it, be the mother you have always dreamed of being, and be the wife you’ve promised your spouse you’d be… big balls here, people. Big balls. But also big ambition, right? You are committed to do all of those things well! If you don’t have it together, or at least fake it ‘til you make it, well… Big balls fall hard.  

Have you ever found that it’s hard to talk about things that make you feel guilty? It’s like you’re admitting out loud that you’re wrong for something bad that you’ve done. You normally only feel guilt after you’ve done something bad or something you regret. Guilt = shame, and who wants to talk out loud about things they are ashamed of? Not me. So if you admit out loud that you feel guilty about being a working mother, does that make it a reality that you’re a bad mom? Does it mean you’re a bad employee? You feel guilty about it, so you must be doing something wrong! This thought was always in my head, and it took me a long time to push it out.  

Between the anxiety, the guilt and the lack of balance, I was lost in isolation. I often thought, “SO many people are working moms. Why do I feel so awful and why can’t I figure out how to make this work? I’m not the first person in the world to do this.” I was embarrassed too, to top it all off. Little did I know, many people felt the same way I did.

It was during this season the idea of my book came to me. I wrote My Favorite Job is You in August of 2016. Up to that point, my poems were either short, silly little blurbs or they documented Nina Rose’s current baby stage. This was different. This was something I felt like God was specifically putting on my heart. I sat down, and using the back of an envelope and the voice memo app on my phone, words just gushed out of me. Everything I had been trying to keep inside and trying to control released, and it miraculously rhymed. Praise the Lord! I wrote the entire book except for three stanzas within twenty minutes. I finished the last three stanzas on the drive home using my voice memo app. To God be the glory, because woof. Only our Father could give me such clarity in that difficult season and bring good and purpose out of pain.  

 A little picture of my little pumpkin noodle around the time I wrote the book. How could you not be inspired?? Sigh. The perfect little muse. 

A little picture of my little pumpkin noodle around the time I wrote the book. How could you not be inspired?? Sigh. The perfect little muse. 

The book simply encompasses the daily life of being a working mother, but also pulls out those feelings in our hearts we are afraid to voice. Our hectic mornings, getting through a stressful day at work, coming home to more chaos, all while dealing with this emotional roller-coaster of endless feelings. It’s very child-friendly though, I promise ;-) My hope is that other working mothers can relate to this poem. I want to alleviate those feelings of isolation for women going through what I was feeling.  I want this book to support working moms, to let them know that they aren't alone. They are not isolated.

We have a faithful, compassionate, powerful Father through whom all things are possible. He doesn’t want to leave you alone to fend for yourself. He doesn’t want you to walk through life dragging your feet in the mud.

In Bible study on Wednesday, we read Psalm 40:1-3. It speaks perfectly to all of the difficult seasons we endure through motherhood:

“I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear the Lord and put their trust in Him.”

He has a much greater plan for you, and although you may not see what the big picture is now, I promise you that if you’re asking Him, He is working in your life. Seek Him.

“If I told you my story

You would hear victory over the enemy

If told you my story

You would hear freedom that was won for me”

--My Story, Big Daddy Weave

Ashley Flynn
Going off on a tangent. Home Office!

Clearly new at blogging, I am already diverting from the series I started last week. Nice, made it through Part I. I should have planned this out better, I suppose. But since I posted my headshot, there has been some interest in my home office. Experiencing a little bit of writer’s block on Part II of my series, I've decided to go ROGUE and talk about my home office this week! Rebellious. 

My goal was to create a home office space where I would WANT to sit and work. I hear of so many people who have an office, but still spread their work across the kitchen table. Their intended office slowly turns into a storage space or a Museum of Untouched Office Supplies. It was important to me that this space was always my designated spot to work. In order to attain this goal, I set these two parameters:

1.       The space needs to be inspiring. To me, that meant BOLD and DARING. I’d say the style of the interior of my house is pretty neutral – grays, cool browns and stone whites.  I wanted the space to be completely different than the rest of the house in every way possible – color, finishes, textures, etc.  Despite the interior of my house, I am always drawn to bold colors and styles that are nearing “over the top,” so I felt like if my office reflected that, I would always be excited to work there.

2.       It needs to be in a convenient location. We have a guest bedroom upstairs and a guest bedroom downstairs, so the initial thought was to have my office in one of those rooms. However, Nina’s play area is downstairs, and I wanted to be able to have the option to work while she’s home. There’s a nook downstairs that is open to the rest of Nina’s play area that fit the bill perfectly. I’m not tucked back in a closed room with a door, yet I still have a nice sized space and can still keep an eye on my little dare-devil while she plays.

To start, I needed to decide what the bold and inspiring elements were going to be. A few pieces could be daring, but not all. I didn’t want my office to scream at me, just confidently encourage me. I love a good wall paper, so I knew that’s where I should start to set the tone on the space.

I found this striking print at Anthropologie within the first ten minutes of browsing papers. I saw it and immediately knew that I needed to go for it. I love that the floral is feminine, but the deep, vibrant colors make it really daring. It’s definitely not demure or conservative. The colors, lines, flow, detail and textures are so gorgeous; I knew it would offer endless inspiration and motivation. I knew I had to build my office around this specific paper. 

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 Seriously giddy on application day. 

Seriously giddy on application day. 

Next, the most important piece: the desk. I knew the style of desk I wanted was a writing desk, but I had no idea what stain, wood, paint color, etc. to choose. My first idea was to go with a black painted desk to bring out the pops of black in the wall paper, but I just was struggling with a painted-furniture look. I didn’t want it to look farmhouse-ish. Then I started looking at restored French provincial writing desks, but those were way out of budget (you’re welcome, Colby). Man they are amazing, though!

While browsing through desks on Wayfair for ideas, I found “the one” – a navy blue, high gloss finish, writing desk. Like the wall paper, it’s totally feminine but at the same time bold and daring. It matched the blue in the wall paper perfectly! I absolutely love the shape of the desk. It gives a bit of a nod to the French provincial desks I was eyeing, too. My best friend said it reminded her of something out of Beauty and the Beast, which is the best compliment EVER! I should have asked if I remind her of someone out of Beauty and the Beast. *cough* Belle *cough* JK, it’s my best friend so she has to be honest: I’m totally Cogsworth. My mom’s reaction to the desk was the greatest, “Ooooohhhh. Sexy.” Only Gena.

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 Colby, his brother, Brandon, (aka our DIY blessing), and Nina securing the desk. I think Nina is yodeling into Colby's back, actually. And the pink oven mitt was key in the assembly. 

Colby, his brother, Brandon, (aka our DIY blessing), and Nina securing the desk. I think Nina is yodeling into Colby's back, actually. And the pink oven mitt was key in the assembly. 

 Nina's contribution: pretending to go night-night in her baby doll's cradle and making mom laugh. 

Nina's contribution: pretending to go night-night in her baby doll's cradle and making mom laugh. 

 Those white spots are styrofoam remnants, but LOVE that shape! 

Those white spots are styrofoam remnants, but LOVE that shape! 

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 Bam! 

Bam! 

The style of the desk called for a grand chair. Something with a tall back and that mimicked the curves of the desk. I couldn’t go with something too sleek or office-feeling. I really liked this route of “sophisticated chic” I was on. Since the desk was blue, I wanted a chair that was more of a feminine color. I was looking for either a powder pink or a plum, and found the perfect plum chair at Wayfair. It’s surprisingly very comfortable and I think it pulls the look together.

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 The principal will see you now. 

The principal will see you now. 

From there, it was all the details. Gold metals for the frames and accents. I found a great filing cabinet from World Market that’s really legit. The best detail of the office is the print on the wall I made through Minted. “Oh to tell you my story is to tell of Him” is my favorite line in one of my favorite songs, “My Story” by Big Daddy Weave. My last blog post was the first part of a series I’m writing about on my story, and how God has been faithful. This stark, crisp, white piece just pops off the wall paper. I wanted my eyes to be naturally drawn to it. Every time I look at it or read it (which is about every five minutes at my desk), I thank the Lord. I thank Him for my life, my family, everything I have been abundantly blessed with… It reminds me of how Christ has truly walked beside me throughout this journey and will continue you all the days of my life.

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 A couple of special things here:  The framed piece hanging on the wall on the bottom shelf is the most kind, encouraging congratulatory note from The Sampson House. It was actually folded up in a cube as a box, and inside the box was the candle that sits below it. So cool!  My brother, Christopher, gave me the dog bookends for Christmas. They are awesome!

A couple of special things here:

The framed piece hanging on the wall on the bottom shelf is the most kind, encouraging congratulatory note from The Sampson House. It was actually folded up in a cube as a box, and inside the box was the candle that sits below it. So cool!

My brother, Christopher, gave me the dog bookends for Christmas. They are awesome!

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Also, because Nina is a little boss lady, she pulled up her little desk, “puter” and chair to sit and “wooohrk” at while Mommy “wooohrks”. I have to say, she has a great eye for design- I really like what she’s done with the her space!

 Big things happening here. Love how she needed her backpack, too! 

Big things happening here. Love how she needed her backpack, too! 

 Heart and office are complete. 

Heart and office are complete. 

Ashley Flynn
This is My Story. Part 1.

My first social media post quoted Big Daddy Weave’s song, My Story.  

“Oh to tell you my story is to tell of Him.”

This line sings loudly on repeat in my head and has been stamped on my heart the last few months. This one line is what I’ve been celebrating, clinging to, and sharing every day. If you were to tell me four months ago that I would be in this current season of life, that I would be here in this moment, I just wouldn’t have believed you. I wouldn’t have laughed, but I probably would have made an ugly face and dismissed you. I never would have believed that God had written this story for me. I wasn’t even sure if He was hearing me, if I was of any significance to Him. But to tell you my story is to tell of Him, our compassionate, faithful, powerful Father. He heard me and He saw me.

In these first few blog posts, I’d love to tell you my story of how I got to this point – pending children’s book author and wannabe blogger. I say “wannabe” because I don’t know where this blog is going. I’ve re-written this thing six times. I can’t believe you clicked to read it (thank you!!!!), and I’m having high-school-speech-class-level anxiety right now thinking about someone reading this. Lord help us all.

If you’ve followed my personal page, you know that I’ve been rhyming my way through the past two years as Nina Rose grows before my eyes.  I’ve had many people ask how I come up with these poems, how long it takes me to write them, and a favorite question, “where did you copy and paste that from?” Would they ask that last question if I wore a beret? I think not, which is why I asked for a beret for Christmas. Thanks, Mom! 

 “Give the people what they want!” I thought this morning, while frantically prying an ice pack out of Nina’s mouth and removing Stewart (dog, not human) from her surprisingly dangerous headlock. Yes, in the middle of that standard scene, I was genuinely thinking of you.  So the first post of the series is going to answer these burning questions! The first part of explaining My Story.

Nina’s pretty perfect (not a biased opinion, by the way), but I will be the first to admit, the girl does not sleep. Since she’s been born, she just has not required solid nights of sleep, naps over an hour, cat naps, etc. I had been trying to convince myself, “it’s a stage, it will get better!” but since we are on year two of constant lack of sleep, I think we have more than a stage here, people. This is real life.

 One of our first many sleepless nights home with Nina. Look at those eyes. So alert. So not going to sleep. 

One of our first many sleepless nights home with Nina. Look at those eyes. So alert. So not going to sleep. 

 "Hi! It's me, Nina! Not sleeping in my crib again! Tee-hee!"

"Hi! It's me, Nina! Not sleeping in my crib again! Tee-hee!"

I see kids in videos falling asleep in high chairs while they are eating (absolutely unspeakable to Nina. Mealtime is life), falling asleep in jumperoos while jumping (so they just skip leg day?), falling asleep while watching movies (don’t they want to see how it ends?), etc. etc. Meanwhile, our little Nina Rose could not and still does not sleep for more than four consecutive hours. Nap times rarely exceed an hour-twenty. And it took us 23 months to reach that accomplishment. It’s fine though, really. Keep posting sleeping kids!

 Nina will sleep if the above conditions are met.. She loves a good robe. 

Nina will sleep if the above conditions are met.. She loves a good robe. 

 Wh0 am I kidding? We both love a good robe!

Wh0 am I kidding? We both love a good robe!

Colby and I are now very well-adjusted to the lack of sleep. However, at first, it was excruciating. Miserable. Breaking.  Many of you know this, but if you don’t sleep, you get kind of weird. You go a little crazy. You either speak way too quickly and frantically, or you can’t even process your thoughts and turn them into words. You either sit in a still, silent haze or somehow find the energy to re-organize your kitchen drawers and color-code pot holders. Anxiety runs rapid and emotions are so much more intense. There’s a lot of crying, praying for strength and grace, and even feelings of hopelessness. Yes, all of this happened to me (hopefully that explains a lot), but something else happened – I wrote.

Holding Nina in my arms and rocking her for hours on end, I had a lot of time to think about all of the powerful feelings motherhood brings on: unconditional love, fears, insecurities, my dreams for her, the future… Overwhelmed with these emotions, I used the pumping and feeding journal sitting on her nightstand (aaaaand I just lost all my male readers) and I wrote. I guess sleep deprived Ashley speaks in rhyme, because a lot of what I wrote came out in stanzas and rhyming.

 I wrote one of my favorite poems this night. She melted my heart in those little donut jammies. And the face touch?? Shattered me. 

I wrote one of my favorite poems this night. She melted my heart in those little donut jammies. And the face touch?? Shattered me. 

I have always loved to write and have written a few poems in the past, but I believe God aligned the perfect storm of motherhood, sleep deprivation and consuming emotions to put the words on my heart. Never have the words gushed to me the way that they have in the past two years. As always, His timing was undeniably perfect. If there is any point in my life that I’d want to be writing, it is right now, in this season. Would I want to write about anything other than my daughter and being her mother? No way. (Side note: this made me think about writing poems about college. What if that was the season God had put words on my heart? HA! “Tonight we are going to The Wheel. They have a good two-for-one deal!”) God opened a door to an old passion I had forgotten about. He gave me strength to endure the lack of sleep with this outlet.

 An exciting (and super cute) success after many failed attempts earlier in the day. Nothing like a 5:00 snooze to throw your evening off. 

An exciting (and super cute) success after many failed attempts earlier in the day. Nothing like a 5:00 snooze to throw your evening off. 

 Anything. We will do anything!

Anything. We will do anything!

 "Haha, Mom! Little do you know, I don't sleep because I drink Americanos all day!" 

"Haha, Mom! Little do you know, I don't sleep because I drink Americanos all day!" 

God also knew that in this season of struggle and weakness, something remarkable was coming. He had a way bigger plan than I ever imagined. “Ashley is going to write a children’s book and a collection of poems about Nina and motherhood with this sleep-deprived and questionable mind,” is something only the grace of God could come up with. Isn’t that so awesome? Here I thought I was just writing little chicken-scratch notes and poems to get through the night. He chose the perfect time to give me the words, and in the most perfect way.

And finally, to address the last question, "Where did you copy and paste that from?" Girls who wear berets do not do well in prison, so there is no plagiarizing. This is my story.

Angela Berry