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.