One life at a time, we're choosing joy and surrendering to the pen of the always-faithful and always-loving God who is writing our stories. Your life is significant, because you are a part of a much greater story that is being told through you and in you and all around you. We're shifting our Featured Reader column and re-naming it, "One Life: Choosing Joy.
Today, I'm thrilled to introduce you to the lovely Ashleigh. A young wife and mom fighting Multiple Sclerosis, she is an incredible example of faith and hope through trial. Join us for a cup of coffee with our newest One Life: Choosing Joy feature:
Tell us a little about yourself!
I’m a 26 year old wife of almost six years and a mother to a very energetic three year old girl. I lifestyle vlog on YouTube, occasionally blog and I have just launched my first e-commerce family lifestyle brand (Est.2010 Designs) on Zazzle. I am also home pre-schooling my daughter (with plans to homeschool her for the rest of her schooling). I love music (right now Toby Mac is a favorite here) and I really enjoy DIY crafting (I just discovered Mod Podge).
Tell us about the challenges you face on a daily basis.
A typical day for us is very routine, which we need because without one we would not get very much done. My body is fighting Multiple Sclerosis, and with that comes a myriad of issues in my body caused by the damage to my central nervous system. Having a plan for how to use my energy is important (energy conservation plan).
On a daily basis I deal with the damage caused by Multiple Sclerosis (i.e. neurological muscle fatigue/weakness, balance issues, patchy numbness in limbs, involuntary muscle movements, etc). Due to the difficulty I have with walking (and doing so without falling), to remain as safe as possible as I care for my daughter, I use a wheelchair as a tool throughout the day. Not because I cannot walk (I can for very short distances with a walker).
However, the issues that MS has caused in our lives, though challenging, is not our greatest challenge. As a family, we face misconceptions and lack of understanding about how different MS can be from person to person. We also find that people around us can often lack the understanding that although I am technically “sick,” I am not fragile, incapable, or in constant need of “help”.
We understand that this is a chronic-progressive disease (and that the rate of progression differs person to person) and that as a family, as a team, that we have to learn to depend on each other and God first and foremost. Our family’s view of “normal” and “good day” vs “bad day” is not going to be the same as everyone else’s, and that is okay. We have to daily find a “new normal” and trust that God will be riding it out with us. What’s “normal” for us seems very daunting for others.
What does choosing joy mean to you?
To choose joy means that despite the laundry list of issues and problems due to my health and any and all other life situations, I can make a choice as to where my heart will be focused.
I can choose.
My situation does not determine my outcome.
I choose Jesus every morning, every evening, and throughout the day because if I stayed zoned in on my “problems” joy would be nowhere to be found.
How did Jesus first get your attention?
I was 12 years old in youth group. My youth pastor (Pastor Roy J Roy) was so excited about Jesus and so full of life and joy.
I wanted to know what he knew.
I wanted that same hope and joy.
I remember praying and asking Jesus to forgive me of my sins and to please have his Spirit dwell in me.
Though life has not been easy since being that 12 year old girl, life has also never been the same either. Changed for the better because I know I don’t have to battle out life alone.
What truth has God been pressing on your heart lately?
"Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess because he who promised is faithful," (Hebrews 10:23).
No matter what happens, not matter what the doctor report says, hold onto my hope in Christ.
What fears do you battle? How do you face those fears?
I battle the fear of not being enough. Good enough.
I face those fears by turning to God’s word and my journal. Also, talking to my husband who is great at encouraging me when I need it.
What books are you reading right now?
I am not reading a book yet, but soon I will be picking up some information on homeschooling.
I like books that have more of a purpose vs fictional/character type books (my husband is opposite, he loves a good mystery novel and really shrinks away from “help” books.)
OK--let's shift gears and have a little fun...
Do you have a most embarrassing moment?
My most embarrassing moment was when I had soy milk squirt through my nose in college. I was laughing and couldn’t control it. (There was so much soy milk all over the wall.)
What’s your favorite food?
My favorite food is anything shrimp related.
Shrimp-kabobs, shrimp creole, shrimp gumbo, anything shrimp related.
What are your biggest pet peeves?
People teasing other people. It’s just mean and pointless.
You have 3 free hours to do absolutely anything. What will we find you doing?
I would probably be binge watching “Fixer-Upper” and eating shrimp-something.
What is your favorite childhood memory?
My favorite childhood memory was the first time I strapped on my snowboard. It was one the best feelings and one of my top memories.
And back to some deeper thoughts...
What's a book that has changed your life?
I really enjoyed the book “Boundaries” by Henry Cloud. This book was on the reading list for my undergrad psychology degree and it was one of the few books I have kept (and referenced to many times since graduating.) I was such a people pleaser growing up and I can see how that need to “please” everyone else left little room for me to fully be who God created me to be. Setting up healthy boundaries for life has really helped my marriage get and stay on a strong ground.
Where do you need to be reminded of truth most in your life?
I need to be reminded that my identity in life is not based on what I do, who I know, etc, but solely based on the fact that I am a child of God.
That’s good enough and more than enough. And that I can rest in that.
I was someone who always had a plan (Type A personality), and when my “grand plan” went out the door, it left me feeling useless and pointless.
I can easily forget that knowing Jesus and him knowing me is all the identity I need in this world.
If you could share one thing with our readers, to encourage them, based on what you've learned, what would it be?
Make a commitment to choose joy every day; to choose Jesus every day.
Our lives may be difficult, but even so we are not doing this alone.
Take hope in that, have joy because of that.
How can we pray for you?
Please pray for understanding doctors to come into our lives. Please pray for our hearts as we interact with family and friends. Please pray for understanding, and simply to not be seen only as the sickness in my body; but as a person who loves God and her family.