To The Woman Who Is Cruel,

I want you to know something.  I know that you are hurting.  I know that you are in pain.  I know that you are doing the very best that you can to cope and process and deal with everything that has happened to you.  

I am also learning one very important thing...none of the things that you say, the cruel messages, the slander and gossip, the name calling and verbal abuse...none of it has to do with me.  You are suffering and you don't know how to handle it or where to place your anger and frustration.  

I am close so I am an easy target.  I have things that you have lost and that makes you mad and angry.  I am distancing myself and that makes you insecure.  

I am learning so much from you and from this situation.  I have watched as things fell apart, not able to do anything.  Not stepping in sooner when I should have.  I have watched you try and quit the fight.  I am learning that I am MAD and that I am beating myself up for the names that you called me and the attack you made on my very character.  I am learning that I care deeply about what people think about me...I need to be better about  that.  I am also learning that I don't have a very forgiving heart and I know that I NEED to work on that.  

We don't really know anything about each other.  We think we do but we really don't.  How well can you really know someone that you are not intimately invested in.  My husband, my kids, my small circle of people.  There are VERY few people that really know who I am.  

In one text message you attacked the very things that I have spent years trying to overcome.  In one text message you made me question my very worth and existence and the kind of person that I am and the way I treat others.  

I am not that person you described.  I know that you are sick.  I know that you are in pain and I know that I trigger something in you.  I am sorry about that.  I am deeply sorry that you are in pain but I know that you are projecting your grief on to me.  

I want to love better, to serve better, to keep my own personal feelings more in check when things like this come up.  I know I will never be able to be loved or even liked by everyone.  In fact I am learning more and more that I actually have a lot of people that don't like me that much...but I think that is stemmed from very similar reasoning behind your complete and utter dislike for me.  

It is never ever my intention to hurt someone.  I would never go out of my way to purposely hurt you or anger you or add to your daily battle for mental health and happiness.  I know it is harder for you than most.  

I am deeply sorry if I have done anything that would have caused you more pain.  

I am sorry that you are sick and that you are just doing the best you can to survive.  

I am sorry that you are alone and that you have lost so much.

I hope one day you will see that I am not the person that you think.  Maybe one day when you are not looking at life through busted glasses you will know different.  

 I know that all of this is misplaced.  I don't have to take the abuse.  No one should be treated that way no matter what you have going on...so I will set the boundaries necessary to protect myself...but I do hope and pray that you can continue to get the help you need, that you can see that I am not the enemy in your life and that you will one day see more clearly.  

We will never be friends but I remember you at a different time and I know that all of this isn't you.  

And more importantly I know that none of this is me.  

To My 14 Year Old Self,

As I sit here living through my 36th year of life I have been thinking about you.  I have been wanting to have a conversation with you for a long time.  

I know you are still in there.  Maybe hiding from all the hard, scary things that you have seen.  

I hope you will come out of hiding, sit, and talk with me.  I want to tell you so many things.  

It is almost impossible for me to remember what life was like then.  Such a different time, an innocent and wonderful time BUT not without its trials as you struggle to find your place, to discover who you are and what possibilities are available to you....I have to tell you that even after all these years later we are still trying to figure that out so cut yourself some slack...it will change more times than you can count.  

You are so beautiful.  Yes you are beautiful on the outside and yes you will continue to grow into that look BUT that is NOT all you are.  You have a light inside of you...A very bright light.  There will be years when that light is almost completely snubbed out...by yourself, by others, by lies.  You must understand that your outside beauty is not your worth.  You put that identity on yourself.  At some point around the age you are now you started to believe that the ONLY thing you had to offer anyone was the way you looked.  It became who you were and you sacrificed so much to make that lie truth.  The light grows dim.  

Even now at 36 I find myself overcome with the lie that if I don't look a certain way that people wont listen, wont take me seriously, wont pay attention to me, wont like me and that terrifies me.  It terrifies me to be invisible.  But I am not....my light is bright and it shows...not because of how I look but because of who I am, my energy, my passion, my voice and my desire to help others.  

  Even now you are starting to do the "self-hate" talk.  You are already so judgmental, so hard on yourself, so insecure and scared.  I am so sorry to tell you that there will be many many years that you will hate yourself.  That you will barely be able to look at yourself in the mirror.  

Oh my darling if only I could change those years for you.  If only we knew then what we know now.  If only you could see the path that was waiting for you and your life.....but maybe just maybe those years of hate was the only way to turn to years of discovery and love.  Perspective.  

i wish I could say that we went on to reach our fullest potential.  I wish I could tell you that we did everything we ever dreamed of doing.  I wish I could say that life just worked out for us.  Maybe I could tell you the ending now, but I will wait....

For many years you will experience so much pain and suffering.  You will break in ways that no one should ever experience.  You will cry and wail in agony over so much that was lost.  You will harm yourself in others in tragic ways.  You will have great grief and shame in that.  

You will think you have found love only to be broken down, stripped of light and love and respect.  You will come to care very little about yourself and your worth.  You will lose that bright, funny, and caring heart for a long time.  

You will want to die.  

You will try.  

You will fail.  

And then, my darling.  My beautiful Ashley, something happens.  LIFE happens to you in a way that you thought would never happen for you.  YOU, the forgotten are NOT abandoned...you have been tested, you are being prepped, you are ready to do ALL that you are meant to do.  

It is not the picture you have now in that clean and pure thought of yours.  In some ways it will leave you filled with regret of opportunities lost or missed.  BUT in some ways it will make your heart and spirit SOAR like nothing you have ever felt.  

You will know GREAT LOVE in your life.  You will spend the best years of your life with the best love of your life.  You will be honored and respected and restored.  You will walk into motherhood in a new form that you thought was lost forever.  And you will embrace ALL of your children.  Being a mother will challenge you and push you and infuriate you but it will keep the flame burning bright.  THEY ARE FUEL TO YOUR FIRE.  

You will look in the mirror one day and finally see YOU.  See you in a way that you haven't since you were your age. You will see the light.  THAT IS ALL YOU WILL SEE.  You will see the love of your Savior.  You will, for the first time in your life start to understand his atoning sacrifice.  You will be deeply humbled by His love and you will know the truth of the lies that the enemy shared for so long.  You were meant for so much more and Satan would have done anything to keep you from living that divine potential.  

My dear Ashley, please remember that you have a family that loves you and that has truly sacrificed SO much to love you.  You are NOT alone in this journey.  You try to be so brave and strong, you try but there are just going to be times in your life that it is not possible.  

You will become a Big Tough Girl™  but that will not be done on your own.  Embrace the love, support, prayers and helping hand from others.  You will have many opportunities to pay it forward.  

YOU CAN DO THIS.  YOU WILL SURVIVE ALL THAT IS COMING TO YOU.  It wont be easy and it wont be anything that you wanted or planned for but I have watched a strength from you that I didn't know existed in a woman.    

#TheSummerOfGrace Introduction

You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment. Fools stand on their island of opportunities and look toward another land. There is no other land; there is no other life but this.
— Henry David Thoreau

I was watching a cheesy movie a few weeks ago and a quote struck me that made me think about my life and the work that I do...this work...that I love, that fills me up and gives me purpose and fuels my passions.  

"though we serve them, we are not their servants."

I have been feeling this way for the past 8 months or so....  That I make myself available to take on, help with, work through SO many of the troubles of others that I have completely ignored the needs of myself and my family.  

After a big launch party for Life After Placement I had a few weeks to just stop, this was the first break I had on my calendar for months and months!  My body shut down and I was sick sick sick.  I was tired and depressed and super moody.  My body was mad at me and my well was dry.  I WAS SO DRY. 

So for a few weeks I didn't do much.  I sat around, finished up the rest of the school year with my kids, attended all of their end of year activities and counted down the days until we left on our week long family vacation....something that was LONG overdue.  I needed it, my family needed it.  It is amazing how you can miss people that you live in the same house with.  

Life does that.  It pulls us away from those closest to us if we don't make any effort to connect on a daily basis!  

We decided last minute to add an extra day to our trip.  To hell with the money, to hell with the prior commitments, to hell with the stress and consequence...we were going to get out of town and not regret the decision for a second!  

We had an amazing trip.  My little family of 4 spent a few days in Las Vegas and then we met my family of 23 in Carlsbad, California for 4 days of Legoland, beach, Padres game, new family pictures and more!  

It was an amazing time but even during this week in paradise I found myself having a hard time enjoying everything that was around me.  I found myself tired and wanting to stay in bed and not do anything.  I craved the quiet and the disconnect.  It has been SO long that I could disappear and not have people be able to find me.  

I had a few deadlines to meet while I was gone, a few work obligations that I needed to complete while I was out of town.  I brought my computer with EVERY intention of logging in and doing everything that I needed too....but what happened?  I got my computer out and it sat closed on the table...I just stared at it with NO desire, motivation or excitement to login to see what I had missed, to catch up on emails or to meet deadlines.  It sat there for a week, unopened!!  

When we returned home I was filled with anger and dislike for the responsibilities that were waiting for me and every phone call, email, text message, private message just made me physically ill....too much pull, too much need, too much giving and NO FILLING.  

My well was dry.  I was so dry.  I had nothing to give and people needed more from me and I literally had nothing to give.  It made me angry....

"how selfish are all of these people that put so many demands on me...I am ONE person...I am so empty and dry but they just keep asking, keep demanding, keep taking."

UM HELLO ASHLEY!!!!!  

Why are they doing that??  

BECAUSE I FREAKING LET THEM!!!!!!!!!!  

I have control over my life.  I have the power to say no, I have the right to make decisions for my life FREE OF GUILT.  I have the right to follow my true passions and walk away from things that suck me totally dry, that leave me empty and sad.  

After I got home I had a conversation with my dear friend and told her everything I was feeling.  We had support group coming up and I couldn't bring myself to even want to go and help others, to listen to others, to serve others.  The more we talked about the group, the community, the responsibility the more angry I got, the more tired I felt, the more empty I was......she said "I got this, don't worry."  

FOR THE FIRST TIME IN YEARS I said ok and walked away from the obligation with no guilt.

I made a decision that was BEST for me and I said that I couldn't go.  That I didn't want to.  That I couldn't give any more.  I didn't care what others thought, I didn't worry about whether or not they were going to be mad that I wasn't there, I didn't stress about her ability to do what needed to be done.  

Saying yes to something that you don’t want to do doesn’t make you a good person, it makes you a liar.
— Ashley Mitchell, Big Tough Girl™

I realized that saying yes over and over, trying to do everything, to serve where I could, to never let anyone feel like they didn't have support was killing me.  I ended up doing things with great resentment and that doesn't make me a good person, that makes me a liar.  

SO what does all of this have to do with #TheSummerOfGrace ?  

I am going to tell you right now!!!!! 

I am excited to announce my new blog series.  My husband and kids will also be the authors of this series.  

10 weekends

10 locations in UTAH (where we live)

#TheSummerOfGrace

My husband and I decided that I was going to clear my calendar for the summer.  That I was going to say NO to everything new that came up and that I was removing previous commitments and obligations from my schedule.  I walked away from planned events, dinners, meetings, travel and more to make sure that I was here and home and present for myself and my family!!  

Does that sound selfish?  I think it sounds healthy.  

Do I feel guilty?  Yes but I am working on letting that go.

Do we really have to time or money to do this?  NO but we are doing it anyway!

We sat down as a family and selected 10 places in UTAH that we wanted to visit, some silly and random, some amazing and breathtaking, some historical and important.  

We have 5 that are just "day trips" and 5 that will require us to take a night, either in hotel or tent.  

Our family name is GRACE but the literal definition of Grace is:  Simple Elegance

Oh my goodness...that sounds so heavenly already!!!  If you have been following me at all you know that SIMPLICITY is truly one of my greatest goals in life....one true accomplishment that I would be proud of...I don't know if that is something that can be obtained but I am going to die trying!  

So enter the summer blog series of simple elegance, of time together as a family in some of God's greatest creations.  A summer of NO and guilt free decisions that are MINE to make for me and my family.  A summer of reconnecting with my spouse and kids, a summer of self discovery and awareness, a summer of health and healing and LIVING. 

We are excited to share this adventure with you!  We will post Mondays about our weekend adventures together...

I hope this will inspire you to do WHAT YOU WANT TO DO.  To say no more and yes to things that light you up....that keep you connected to those that are most important to you.  To let go of the things that you can't do and to find those that FILL YOUR BUCKET WHEN YOU ARE EMPTY!!!!  

xoxo,  The Grace Family.  

Follow us on IG for more updates as well.  @bigtoughgirl