find your safe haven

Monday, January 18, 2016

Femme Haven co-founders Meagan Callier, Selena Coleman, Kayla Coleman,
Christal Johnson, and Shacovia Howell.
Beautiful.

That's how I'll describe the afternoon I had over the weekend with the women of Femme Haven.

The brain child of Kayla Coleman, Femme Haven was created to provide a place for women to gather locally and just get real. No filters. No fluff. No crap.

Just truth.

I sat in a room full of women, most of whom were strangers before this gathering, and watched them let it all hang out. If there was any judgement, everyone kept it in there heads and allowed the atmosphere to breed positive vibes.

I don't know about each of you, but my heart needs more nights like this.

I think people sometimes look at my life via social media and assume I have a plethora of friends to turn to for girls' nights like this. Honestly, my nights are usually spent alone; well, expect for when I'm binge-watching Sophia the First with my princess.

*insert all the feels*

I have a large amount of women in my corner who support me and pour into me regularly, but most of them don't live here. I appreciate their friendships to no end, but there's just something special about having women whose shoulders you can physically cry on when life just makes you go there. Aside from my sisters, I only have one or two friends who fit that description.

Moving right along...

The theme for today's discussion was "Breaking Bad". We focused on providing one another with tools to break bad habits in our finances, relationships, and overall mindset. The conversation was raw, the stories were detailed, the wine was flowing (ha!).

Yea...it was pretty fabulous.

Here are just a few tips I want to share with you, my loves.


FINANCES:

  • "Good credit" would be considered debt someone acquires that has the potential to create a return on their investment. For example, a small business loan and even some education loans. "Bad credit" is unfortunately more common and include store credit cards, and any credit on an item that depreciates in value such as a car. Focus on building your good credit if you must. 
  • When considering ways to build additional income, consider your talents. Whatever you are passionate about has the potential to become a way to gain wealth. The beautiful part is you won't even feel like it's work if you really enjoy eat. Yes, I get paid for writing. But writing has been one of my greatest ways to spend my time since elementary school so, it's not a hassle; it's a privilege. Personally, I believe discovering the best way for you to create a residual income is one of the best decisions anyone can make. It allows you to stand behind a product you enjoy, and depending on which avenue you choose, it will require very few man-hours on your part. It's literally making money in your sleep because orders are placing and customers are shopping on your site (if the company offers one) without really needing too much assistance from you. 
  • Set a budget and stick to it! If you're single, or your spouse is just as bad at budgeting as you are, this may mean taking a class on budgeting or getting a friend to help you plan each month. I use Mint.com to help me stay on budget. I'm not perfect at it, but it helps a lot!
  • Don't worry about not being the first person to create a new outlet for your desired field. All of the top companies in any industry have competition that have the same level, or similar level of success in their ares. That's because someone made the decision to not let someone else's success stop them from going after their own dream. Point...Nike and Adidas. (Thanks for that mental pic, Kayla.)
  • Build your savings account. Even if it's just to add $5 a month. If you've never been good at saving before, start small and build your way up. Someone even recommended having your savings account at a separate bank, maybe a credit union, so you're less likely to dip into it. GENIUS idea! Ideally, you should have about 6 months worth of expenses in your savings account at all times. 
RELATIONSHIPS: 
Took a quick pic with my dear friend Christal Jones,
one of the co-founders of Femme Haven. 
  • STOP comparing yourself to someone's life as it appears on social media; just stop it! We all know that someone's social media feeds are usually the highlights of their life. Smiles. Laughs. Victories. We all need to have the tunnel vision required to stay in our own lane. 
  • Accountability is the best thing you will ever have in life! You need a tribe behind you. Even if it's just two or three people. Pray to God for women who are positive, and focused, and have your best interest at heart to be in your corner. We all need someone to cheer us on, call us out when we've wandered off the path. But don't let their absence stop your flow. Until the Father brings those women into your life, celebrate your own victories and, as I said yesterday, "fist bump ya dang self!" (...I may or not have said something other than "dang", but y'all get the idea).
  • Appreciate the beauty of the season you are currently in. Paying too much attention to what the woman ahead of you already has, can not only slow down your process of reaching the next level God is trying to get you to but it also has the potential stop you from noticing the woman behind you who still needs guidance to get where you are. 
  • When in a romantic relationship, always be exactly who you are from jump. Don't try to hide "your crazy". The person who is for you will love all of your crazy and is somewhere praying you can love "their crazy" too. 
  • You have to set boundaries in regards to your personal time. All of your time is valuable. Being able to tell people "no" is very important. It may be hard to do in the beginning, and may cause several relationships to break off. But you can't be the best version of yourself if you're constantly allowing people to drain from you, but no one is pouring back into you. 
MINDSET:
  • Put yourself in environments that bring you peace instead of happiness. Happiness is a temporary emotion, and peace will outlast happiness every time. 
  • Be strategic when it comes to executing your goals. Take it day by day, step by step. 
  • Be selfish with your time and your energy. 
  • Read! You know...like a book...with words in it. There is a book on everything these days. And as much as I love you guys reading my blog, sometimes my posts are just the appetizer to a revelation God has waiting for you within the pages of someone else's lyrical masterpiece. Not sure what to read? Leave what you need help with in the comments below so, we can all chime in and make some recommendations for you. 

The birth of Femme Haven started out as a warm burst of energy in someone's heart. What's that one idea that keeps burning in your spirit that you've been hesitant to put into action? It doesn't have to stay a dream. 

Find your haven, your safe place to be yourself and spread your wings. 

I'm praying for you. 


xoxo, 
Ashley Danielle

the intro

Friday, January 1, 2016

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Hey y'all!

Wow.

It has been a super-long time since I've spent some time with my bloggity family. I missed you guys.

But I promise I have some really legit excuses...like having babies a stuff.

I'll dig a little deeper into a lot of the past craziness over the next couple of weeks, but right now I want to just take a few moments to share my heart and hopefully hear a little bit of yours.

So...how's your heart today?

Mine is a little "wonky".

A lot happened in 2015. The way my life looks as I sit in my bedroom at 2:49 a.m. and type these is nowhere near the way it looked on this very same day one year ago. I entered 2015 feeling beat down spiritually and emotionally. I felt like I was drowning as the weight of life held me down. If it hadn't been for the infectious smiles of my previous Felicity Grace, or feeling the kicks and rolls of my still then baking baby boy, I'm not even sure if anyone would have seen me smile. As January moved along I started to see a glimmer of hope that things would turn around, but it all came to a screeching halt in February and I found myself in very unfamiliar territory.

Have you ever felt like God hadn't thrown you a curve ball, but more like you finally realized the game He wanted you to play all along wasn't even baseball, but soccer and you'd ended up in the wrong arena some kind of way? Like He wasn't attacking your happiness, but that you were finally realizing that He wanted you to press towards His dream for your instead of your own?

Yep...that's where I was.

Being suddenly thrust into a position where I had to regroup and recharge almost overnight forced me to reconnect with the woman I was when I first gave my life to Christ in 2010.

I was so sure of who I was. I was certain of who He'd called me to be. I hear people say how they struggle with God's plan for them, but He honestly placed His desires for me in my heart early in my walk. I was nowhere near perfect at following His commands, but I walked with confidence nonetheless because I knew I was walking in the right direction.

But somewhere along the way I took a wrong turn.

I got comfortable.

I once heard someone say that we shouldn't get too excited when it appears we aren't getting attacked by the enemy because that just means he doesn't see us as a threat anymore.

Just think about it. Why does the enemy have to spend time throwing extra obstacles in your way to distract you from the path God is trying to take you down when you're doing a great job at just halfway living for Him anyway?

...let that sink in for a minute.

Sometimes the most damaging time for us to make big decisions is when life seems to be set on cruise control.

Anyway, there were some major shifts for #teamFLORES in 2015, and it ended up being one of the most fruitful pruning seasons of my life. It's amazing how God can still bless you even while you're struggling to crawl through the consequences of your mistakes.

He's just cool like that.

I'm excited to have this little space of the Internet up and running again, and I hope y'all will stick around with me throughout the rest of the year.

But again, before we part ways for the morning, how's your heart today? I'd love to have a little chat with you in the comments below if you're up for it.


xoxo, 
Ashley Danielle

healing my heart after an abortion

Friday, May 16, 2014

**this post was originally written for the Wifessionals "Tough Topics" series**

I was twenty-one-years-old when I killed my son.

If you're a mother, then your heart probably just cringed when you read previous statement. But I don't want to sugarcoat anything in this post. Kaitlyn has done a wonderful job in this series of making sure the women are open, honest, and straight-forward with these tough topics and I don't want to change any of that. It took me forever to even contact her about wanting to write this because I sort of felt like I didn't have a right to be in the same line up with so many women who have been giving us intimate entry into portions of their lives where their children's lives here on earth had been cut so short (by our ideas of time anyway). But I think shame, confusion and fear try to hinder us from lifting our heads after life-altering experiences like an abortion, but this is one of my final stops in my personal journey to refuse to be silent on the issue any longer.

You may be wondering, how do you truly find healing after an abortion?

I still remember the first time I found myself staring at a positive pregnancy test. I was in complete shock and irrational disbelief. I'm not exactly sure why being that I'd understood where babies come from since I was about nine years old. Nonetheless, my heart was broken and I was intensely disappointed in myself and instantly afraid for my future. I was never supposed to be that girl. In the fall of 2008, my life could have easily been categorized within the picture of college perfection. I was serving as the Attorney General for the Student Government Association, I'd recently joined a sorority and become very involved, I'd fallen into some great new friendships, was one of the feature editors for the school paper, etc. etc. etc. Basically life was good. I couldn't be pregnant.

I didn't have time to be pregnant.

I had a degree to focus on.

I had countries I wanted to travel too.

I had an image to uphold.

I was living off of student loans.

I'd seen how much my parents had struggled trying to raise us, and I didn't want to have to go through that.

Yea, I had a lot of "I's" going on in my head those days.

I called my two closest friends at the time and asked them to come over. After explaining the situation, they both made it to my apartment in less than ten minutes and tried to lighten my mood a little while showing obvious concern (both already having a child of their own) on their faces.

I was afraid.

The time finally came for me to call the father. It's so strange to call him that. It's not like he was some random guy; we'd been friends for almost ten years and even dated for a while, but we certainly weren't married or in any kind of committed relationship at the time.

Now, I take full responsibility in my part in the decision that was ultimately made, but I will also never forget his words. After calming me down and reassuring me that we would be okay, he said, "I've always hoped that when I did have children one day they'd be with you, but I'll tell you the truth; I'm not ready to be a father."

And that was that.

As I look back, I needed him to tell me that we should bring our child into this world. I needed him (...anyone) to tell me it was doable. I guess you could say I was looking for a savior; I didn't know The Savior.

I didn't want to be responsible for possibly ruining his life, and mine, so we decided to terminate the pregnancy.

"Terminate the pregnancy."

I now hate that term.

It's the abortion industry's way of dehumanizing an act that is all about human life.

What was never addressed as he and I spoke on the phone that evening and the next few days, or as we rode to the next state over out of fear of being seen in my hometown, or as we walked around the flea market two days later in an attempt to get back to life as normal, was that this decision affected three people, not two.

Like I mentioned earlier, I didn't have a strong relationship with God so, I didn't know just how much He cares for all life. Growing up in the South can have a way of making an individual (not everyone, but a nice amount) "a Christian by default" as I like to refer to it. Which basically means everyone in your city is at a church somewhere on Sunday because that's just what you do, and if you aren't there you must be a weirdo and be damned to hell. Never mind if we are ever taught what it really means to live for Christ, to make every move as if we are temples for God's Spirit. Therefore, I abused His forgiveness by behaving selfishly and not putting my trust in His ability to guide me through any situation. I don't want to sound like I'm being insensitive to anyone reading this who may have gone through this exact situation, but I don't want to camouflage the truth either. The truth was hidden from me when I needed to hear it most. When it was truly a matter of life and death.

I didn't hear that truth until I participated in an post-abortion healing class after giving my life to Christ years later. For those of you who have never heard of these classes, it's for women who have either had an abortion, taken someone to get or encouraged someone to have an abortion, and some are even for people who have previously worked in a clinic. I'm sure most people reading this didn't even know anything like this existed, but I assure they exist and this one class changed my life.

I realized that I'd falsely convinced myself I was over the entire experience. I thought, "Yes, it happened, but it was a long time ago, I now knew it was wrong in every sense of the word and understood that the saving grace of Jesus' crucifixion had covered me in God's forgiveness." I didn't think I needed to sit in some room with other women, crying and eating Pinterest-inspired snacks while Hillsong played in the background. (Okay, maybe Hillsong wasn't playing, but y'all get the idea.)

I was wrong.

That class made me realize some very important emotions I'd been suppressing (which I will be expounding on in an upcoming series on my blog), and even led to me now co-facilitating the classes in conjunction with a local ministry here. It forced me to acknowledge my anger, and my shame, and my guilt and my hurt without making me feel worse. Ironically, I began to feel free. Free from weights that I hadn't even noticed were still shackled around my ankles.

Sisters, I want to tell you today that you can feel that same freedom.

Understand that the enemy gains control in your life with the secrets he convinces you to keep. There is power in speaking your testimony. It unbinds the chains.

I know this is a very sensitive topic, and it has divided rooms full of women for centuries (and can still cause flames to fly at the occasional women's Bible study group today). I don't want this to divide us. However, God's truth is God's truth. And if Gods wants someone to draw the line in the sand, I'll be her.

I have been blessed with a beautiful daughter and son. I don't deserve them; it's by God's grace and His grace alone that even with the sins of my past still lurking around the corner that I'm still being blessed with the gift of life.

It is the cry of my heart that each of you who may still be feeling the pain of this open wound would experience this type of freedom.

God loves you.

I love you.

And even with the scar this leaves behind, you are still worth everything Jesus did on the cross.

Until we are united with our children again in heaven, grace and peace.

xoxo,
Ashley Danielle

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***If you are in the Mobile, AL area please contact these resources for more info on post-abortive classes:


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