I’ve known Ashley (@theshineproject) for about 4 years now. She’s is one of the most inspirational people I’ve ever met, and I’ve always thought that, but even more now.
As she goes through this hard spot in life, I was lucky enough to capture some of these moments for her. Below is a video we created for her children that were recently taken from her. Our hope is that somehow, through the internet, they will find them and hear of her love from them. Please share this post and help it reach her babies.
Heres is a little bit of her story:
I have often heard throughout my life, “God never gives more than you can bear.”
I’m here today to call a flub on all of that. I’m here today to tell you that not only does God give you more than you can bear, but that He also knows that you can’t bear it all.
At the age of 26, I became an instant mother to a 4 and a 6 year old. Through a set of circumstances that I believe were created by the Master orchestrator, our new family of two doubled literally over night. We were not foster parents, we were not trying to have children, and we didn’t have plans in the foreseeable future to grow our family. But we knew without a shadow of a doubt that we were supposed to be parents to these two precious children, and we thought it would be forever.
During the past four years every hour of our lives have revolved around our kids. We’ve been through everything together, created routines, boundaries, joy, and love together. It was as if life before them never existed, and life without them never would make sense. We were together, in every aspect of the word, and we were a family. There’s a note at work that I keep near my desk that one of them left for me on my night stand one morning, after he had gotten mad at me the night before. It reads, “I love you because you always light my way.” All four of us knew how to light each other’s ways. We knew what each member of our family needed, we could perceive those needs, and then meet them. We grew together. All four of us grew in those four years more than I would have grown in my entire life without them.
I’ll never forget the day I opened my mailbox to find a letter from the court. It was in fall of 2015. My heart was racing because my biggest fear was happening. I sat on the couch in my front room, and read what I had feared would happen the entire past 2.5 years that we were a family… I ran into the kitchen because the sink was the closest place that I could throw up. I stood over it, shaking, while Mike held me up because I literally could not stand. I experienced the biggest panic attack I have ever had in my entire life and my whole world went dark. I was overcome with so much fear I didn’t think I could possibly live another second.
That day, our entire world changed, and for the next year and a half we entered into what could be described as nothing less than Hell on earth.
The court proceedings and details that followed are not important, nor are they mine to share. But during that time, I’ll tell you what happened to me. The life that I had inside of me was sucked dry. I was beaten so incredibly that there wasn’t much left of me. My name was slandered by so many untruths that I could hardly handle it, our emotional, physical, and financial resources were depleted, our time was spent in a legal battle that sucked up everything we had…. and all the while… I still needed to raise our children, help them through the battle, allow them to be protected from it all so they could have a happy childhood, be a wife, and run a company. It was impossible. It was truly more than I could bare. I was trapped inside of my own life. It had to remain private due to the nature of it all, and the weight was on our shoulders. We were suffering silently, with no end in sight.
During the legal hell, my faith was shaken to a place that I can’t even explain. I felt as if God left us. That He abandoned us and His miracles were not coming. I tried so hard believing that they would… but there we were… with so much stress and anxiety and unbelievable things happening to us with no protection from any of it. We were given more than we could bear.
Last week, our entire world stopped while I was out of town and it was decided that the children were going to be reunited with their biological family. We were told that we had less than 24 hours to pack them up, to send them off to school like nothing was wrong, and that they would be gone. Since I was across the country, I wasn’t able to hold and kiss and cuddle them for one last night. I sat in my hotel and had to write goodbye letters to my two children. How is that humanly possible to even accomplish?! How is it even comprehensible to expect that of someone?
It’s not… and yet, we did it.
Mike flew out to meet me after the kids were gone and we spent a few days away to try to catch our breaths and try to figure out what in the hell just happened to our family, to our lives, and to everything we had believed so strongly in. Sunday night we had to go back to our house for the first time. I was so afraid to do this, because I knew how empty and sad and painful it would be. I opened the door to the house and immediately went upstairs to the kids rooms. It was like I was hoping that everything that just happened wasn’t real, and that I would go in to find them there, playing with their toys and pets, and that they would look up and laugh and yell, “MOMMY! I missed you so much! I’m so happy that you’re back!” Just as had happened in times past…
But instead I looked around their rooms and saw nothing. No toys out of place, no dirty clothes on the floor, no books on the bed, no pet cages, no unmatched pairs of socks… no anything. I wept in the corner of the room, closing my eyes to remember the years of stories before bed, the smell of clean cheeks after baths, the family prayers around their beds, the stuffed animals that took over every corner of their rooms, the giggles, the kisses, the hugs, the excitement, the achievements… It was all gone… and there I was, alone, screaming on the floor.
The past 7 days have been a blur of confusion, pain, torment, grief beyond words, and pure horror. I did not know it was possible to feel such deep sorrow and distress, and be able to live through it. Because of how strongly I knew we were supposed to be a family, during our battle I would often wonder what my feelings about God would be if we lost… There were times I felt so distant from Him because I was so mad at the pain He was allowing to be inflicted on my family. One minute our family was, and the next minute, it was not. Just as fast as our children came, they left. It has shattered us.
And here is where I have learned what happens when you’re given more than you can bear. What has been more surprising to me right now than any other feeling I have felt during this time, are the feelings of peace and assurance that He IS there. And that not only is He there, but He’s carrying my load so that it won’t destroy me. In the midst of the destruction of our lives and our family, God sees us, and although He didn’t stop the storm and part the red sea, He has in other ways so that we have what we need to continue on.
How do you move on after losing a child? How do you bear horrific life events that you have no control over? How do you have enough strength to live through the impossible? You can’t and you don’t. And He knows that. Which is why He has given the world a Savior. A Savior who takes the heavy load, and places it upon His shoulders so that you don’t have to. There is pain in this world that would make us crumble and knock us flat on our backs if we had to go through it alone. But we don’t have to. And we’re not expected to.
So when God gives you more than you can bear, know that He also gives you strength beyond your own to bear it.
You are stronger than you know, because He is stronger than you know.
Thank you for supporting our family during this time. I can honestly say we have felt the power of your prayers and pleadings for us.
Our night is dark, but we’re still going to shine.