Wednesday, October 31, 2012


Every year we celebrate Halloween a little bit differently. With little ones, we are still figuring this out. How do we find a healthy way to get in on the fun? Obviously, for us it is not about scary things or candy or death. It does seem to be an awful lot about the adorable costumes I can squeeze my children into.

(These might look like ordinary leopard costumes to you... but no. My girls went as extraordinary serval cats. Annike has been planning it for months. For a little help with what a serval cat actually is, see this post.)

Someone wise pointed out to me that Halloween is fun because it is all about community. Community.

It makes sense. The best part about this rather ghastly night is seeing the costumes that our friends wear. Having an excuse to laugh together. Taking pictures and making another memory. Giving a treat to someone we love. Community.

The trouble is that living out on this farm means we don't have a neighborhood, hence a community, to trick-or-treat in. And if we did have a neighborhood we might not want to walk around in it at night, which is an unfortunate reality in this day and age. When I was growing up, all of the kids in my friendly neighborhood went to school together and all of the parents loved seeing us come to the door for trick-or-treat. I am wondering if that will ever be the case for my kids?

But even if that is never a reality, we DO have community. We have an abundance of laughter, fellowship, and friends in our lives with whom we can share the fun. It just takes a bit more creativity considering they don't all live in the "neighborhood".

Every year we try something new for Halloween. This year it was a morning costume party for the kiddos who didn't have school...

... then some trick-or-treating with our friends in their neighborhood (which feels like cheating to me, but that is how it is done around here.)

It is worth noting that after examining her final collection of candy at the end of the night, Annike was most excited about the shelled peanuts in the bottom of her bucket. Instead of choosing a piece of candy to eat, she asked if she could just eat peanuts. Ah yes, things will one day be different.

All in all, we celebrated being a part of an amazing community. We shared silly costumes. We made some new memories. We warned each other about scary houses that should be avoided. We held hands and hugged. Community.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

apples in the orchard

My friend Jessica inspires me. A year ago in October, she had the brilliant idea to capture these priceless photos of newborn Sommer. Of course, the pictures were special at the time.

One year later, however, these pictures have reached a new level of meaningful. Only somewhat because Sommer would rather eat liverwurst than sleep, let alone in the orchard. I find myself staring at the baby in the photo on our wall with affection and nostalgia, and a hint of envy at her state of innocent bliss.

On this hot day last October a sliver of our experience on this farm was frozen in time behind that camera lens. Meaningful because the time is slipping away. Inspiring because never would I have personally thought to combine these two important elements in our life: baby and farm. And yet, they are immiscible.

This year, Sommer is not sleeping in the orchard. She is eating apples and picking weeds and getting muddy like a good little farm girl does. It seems those newborn pictures were prophetic. Life here is part of her very being. She is a lover of nature, an admirer of all things outdoorsy, and has a noticeably sunny disposition, just like her name might imply.

Thank you, Jessica, for inspiring our newest annual tradition of photos in the orchard.

Saturday, October 6, 2012


Can it really be that an entire decade has gone by in the blink of an eye? Actually, there have been many long days scattered generously throughout the decade, particularly long days. But 10 years sounds like such a long time, and looking back over it feels like nothing.

10 years ago today, my husband asked me to marry him.

We had travelled to Marin County (north of San Francisco) for my uncle's wedding. The day was a brilliant October Indian Summer day as only those who live on the west coast can fully appreciate. Not a glimmer of fog on the horizon. As I recall, we shared a hotel room with my parents as chaperons, which must have been awkward, but the details are eluding me. (Okay, maybe it really is starting to feel like 10 years ago.)

For most of our dating relationship, it had been clear to me that Christian was ready to ask me to marry him. I was the one holding back, hesitant to move forward. Only 6 weeks earlier we had been on a 10-day mission trip to El Salvador. Doubts had filled my heart, primarily about my own sense of readiness. I take my commitments seriously. Would I be able to give a forever-yes to this man? My mind was filled with fears that every single person must come to terms with before they wed. Is the timing right? Will I be able to live with someone who doesn't make his bed or pick up socks? Will I be the wife he is expecting? Does he know the real me who is hiding inside this exterior he thinks he loves? If he knew her, would he love her?

On this particular beautiful day of October 6, 2002, I awakened early at the hotel in Marin and went out onto the grounds to have a quiet time of prayer before our busy day of wedding and people began. I read the story in Luke chapter 1 in the Bible about Mary and Elizabeth who were both told by angels that they would be pregnant under somewhat questionable circumstances. Their response was to praise God because He had given them a gift. I wondered, Do I do the same with Your gifts, Lord?

Peace came over me and I knew that Christian was a gift given in my life and I was to praise God for him. I wrote in my journal that I was ready to marry him and I had no idea what was taking him so long to ask me!

That evening as we returned home from the wedding, Christian took a detour and stopped the car at a spot on the north side of San Francisco Bay that overlooks the Golden Gate Bridge. The sun had recently set and we sat in the 80 degree evening on a log enjoying the view. He held me close and began to sing a song that was special to me ("When You Say Nothing At All"). I felt so loved and appreciated, and told him that I would remember this evening forever. He said, "Yes, you probably will." Then, taking me completely by surprise, he got down on one knee and asked me to be his wife forever.

The timing was clearly God's because it had been only that morning that I had reached the stage of becoming impatient waiting for Christian to ask me. I recognized only in my impatience that I was truly ready and desiring to say Yes!

I found out later that Christian had been in possession of the engagement ring for weeks, carrying it around, waiting for the right opportunity.  He had contemplated popping the big question while we were in El Salvador surrounded by friends. In the end it had not felt right to him. That was clearly the Holy Spirit holding him back because he had no other way of knowing that I was wrestling with big questions. I can look back on that time of doubting and see that it was all a part of God's work in my heart to make me ready. I needed to thoroughly process some of the harder questions before I could say Yes with absolute joy and certainty.

And, I had never wanted an elaborate public engagement, which is also something Christian would not have known. Stories about women who were asked on a day when they were feeling especially grumpy or angry with their spouse made me cringe. I had wanted to simply feel surprised. And I was, in the best of ways.

Inevitably, after the wedding occurs we are dismayed in some way by our spouse, have an argument or disagreement, sometimes over something little, but also sometimes over something big. Because of the gift of timing God gave me to process through my fears, never have I questioned my decision to marry this man. Christian was a gift in my life, and my response is to praise God for it.

This photo was taken on our very first date to San Francisco. The Golden Gate is behind us.
On the right hand side somewhere is the spot we got engaged.

Here we are on the mission trip in El Salvador at a mercado where we were playing around with
some of the local items, such as the machete in Christian's hands.

Thank you, Sweet Christian, for loving me even when I am difficult to love. Thank you for listening to God as He softly whispers in your ear. Thank you for recognizing beautiful things in me that I can often not see myself. Thank you for supporting me in all my endeavors, dreams, desires, and heartaches. Thank you for choosing to love me a decade ago. 
And thank you for choosing to do so every day since. 
Love, Ashley