Mama Bird

Anna Asbury has been a great friend and leader to so many women, including myself. Though I do love sharing a first name with her, what I love most about knowing her is being able to see the deep well of love she has for Jesus and the graciousness she has towards others. And how could anyone not be proud to have a friend who looks this gorgeous when being pregnant?! 

A MOOS : Okay so, you're very obviously pregnant! how did you find out, and what's the story?

ANNA A : Well, Cory (husband to Anna) decided we should have more kids. Ha! It freaked me out a little bit because I wasn't sure if I was ready to be pregnant again. But we decided to give it a shot. I thought there was no way that I would get pregnant quick, I thought I'd have a good 8 or 9 months to prepare, because I did with Gabriel and Lily. So it's been like 3 or 4 weeks, and I get in the mail this gift registry from Target. I was like, what?? Cory was out of town and it was so weird but I started to feel sick. And I was like, no way, there's no way. So I took the kids and rushed to the store, got the pregnancy test, took the test, barely even looked at it because I just thought there was no way. A little later I took a look and sure enough, it said I was pregnant! 

A MOOS : Haha I didn't know that, that's so funny! What's your favorite thing to wear when your pregnant?

ANNA A : Well it depends on what time during the pregnancy it is! In the beginning, it needs to be flowy, because you just feel so bloated. Then, second trimester it feels better to wear more tight fitting things, because you want people to know you're pregnant. And then third trimester... leggings and stretchy pants haha! And dresses feel really great too.

A MOOS : Oh yeah that floral floor-length dress you were wearing the other day looked so good on you!

ANNA A : Yeah, dresses really do feel good at this point, or really at any stage. It's also best to wear them in the summer, because you can wear them every day if you want. 

A MOOS : What do you feel is different about yourself when you're pregnant?

ANNA A : I am unafraid to say anything! haha. Usually I have a pretty good filter, but when I'm pregnant and I'm feeling something, I have no apprehension about saying exactly what I'm thinking. Sometimes that can be really awesome because I will say things that I may usually be more afraid to say, like I'll tell people about Jesus and I'll go into situations that I normally would feel more apprehensive about. On the flip side, if someone annoys me, they're gonna know!

A MOOS : Haha! So tell me about Kate! What do you know about her so far?

ANNA A : Well, her name is Kate River, and we felt pretty early on that we were going to name her after my grandmother who was a missionary to Kenya. She was also one of the first woman-pastors in Ohio. And I feel that mantle on Kate. The River part was because we believe she is going to carry a peace like a river or a stream, and that who she is is going to be a really peaceful, restful person. That she would carry a strength about her, but it would come from this place of humility and kindness. And that she would be very much in touch with the delight of the Father. I'm also hoping that she'll be a great sleeper!

A MOOS : I hope that for her too! So Anna, you've told be about Kate. Now tell me about you! Who do you see yourself as? 

ANNA A : The first thing I would say about myself is that I am a daughter of my Heavenly Father, and I have really made that my first identity. Secondly, I am a mom. I used to not really like that, or I used to be afraid of that. I thought that being a mom meant I had to give up all of my dreams. But what I have realized is that family is the most important and beautiful thing that I could ever give my heart and my life to. My heart really comes alive in ministry, I love to sing and I love to paint and to worship, and there's parts of my heart that really come alive when I do those things. But what I've realized is that Jesus is about family. He spent 30 years of His life, doing things that no one really fully knows about, but we know He was with his family. We know that 3 years of His life was His ministry, and 30 of it was spent with the family He was born into on earth. And I think that's a beautiful picture of what the Kingdom is supposed to really look like. So for me, though it's taken a while, my first callings that I've loved to discover is being a daughter, a mom and a wife, and leading through serving.

A MOOS : See, this is why I love interviewing people. I have a really small and unintelligent and scared view of being a mom, but hearing you talk about it gives me so much insight that I could never have found on my own or known from personal experience.

ANNA A : Totally, I mean it is definitely harder than not having kids. But I think what our generation has lost is the gift to see the beauty of family. And also that there is no greater thing on this side of time, than to be able to love and raise and give yourself to other people. I have now been entrusted with little ones. I used to think that ministry and love looked like giving up me, giving up Anna, being selfless and being a servant and giving up my life. What I have learned is that I was selfish when I wanted to be seen a certain way, to have certain dreams or to give in a certain way. I just didn't know how family could fit within those boundaries. These dreams are still alive, I still do ministry and serve. But my little people are the best gift that was ever given to me, and I get to build a legacy through what I do. What I teach them will go from generation to generation. The gospel of Jesus is all about creating our family. If I can't learn how to do that with my own husband and kids, then how am I going to do that anywhere beyond them? Because the place here I get my strength is within my home, with the Father, with my husband, and with my kids. Everything else needs to be overflow of that. 

A MOOS : That is so beautiful Anna. I know you are talking about the family aspect of the things that create who you are, but tell me what you would like to do through your life to impact the people outside your immediate family? 

ANNA A : I would say that I want to aid others in finding their identity as sons and daughters. I would hope that my life would be an example of that, and that it would inspire people to discover that for themselves. 

A MOOS : What was the first worship song you ever wrote?

ANNA A : "Where I Belong"! Well, it was the first one that was ever recorded. Cory and I were leading a set and I was sitting there as we were singing on of Jason Upton's songs. All of a sudden I got this phrase as we were singing, "I finally found where I belong", and I just started weeping on stage. It was because I had been searching so hard and striving in my heart for where it was that I really fit. I felt like I had all of these gifts and talents, but I didn't know in what direction to go with any of them. I was searching and searching and wanting a place to belong so badly, but I was looking to my talents and looking to people to say, come belong here! But in that moment I felt the Father say, "You belong with Me. In my Presence is where you're going to find fullness and the most belonging." So I started to sing that, and then we wrote a song out of it!  

A MOOS : I can't believe that was your first song... Because it has really stood the test of time. I feel like it's just as good and powerful as it was when you first wrote it. 

ANNA A : Totally.

A MOOS : So when did you first discover your love for worship?

ANNA A : When I was a really little girl. My parents were both worship leaders, and so it's just been such a big part of my life ever since I was small. I was super little, and my parents would pull me onstage, and we'd sing together. In our house there was always worship going on. I think that's what has kept my heart steady and set on the Lord. I didn't really have a huge falling-out with God. I just have loved to worship Jesus ever since I was little. And when there were hard times and I did fall into sin, there was still a cry in my heart to be close to Him and near to Him. Every family has their negative things, but I am so thankful for my parents who taught me how to worship. 

A MOOS : And in return, you guys are teaching your kids how to worship too. I love seeing that. As far as worship leaders go, who would you say is your biggest inspiration?

ANNA A : I have a few, but I would say the biggest influence would have been the Helsers. When I was 13 I went to my first worship camp with them. They taught me how to worship without this religious mask, just to be myself. I loved their worship because it was so raw, so real and hidden. They weren't big back then. 

A MOOS : Yeah, I feel like they still don't feel big even though they are now.

ANNA A : Yeah, it's because they keep it so intimate, even though their song is one of the biggest in all the world right now. I would say they taught me to lead people into worship in such a real way, to know that it's not a show. And then another is Misty Edwards, because her songs got me through some of the toughest times. Just beautiful, intimate songs of love to Jesus. Lastly is Jason Upton. His worship taught me how prophetic worship is so powerful. How worship sets are more than one fast song and one slow song, that there is a real God who is here speaking right now, who is wanting to be heard and to touch us. I fell in love with real worship through those people. And Cory Asbury!

A MOOS : Haha! Speaking of Cory, what does it look like to share a similar profession as your husband? 

ANNA A : Well it didn't start out easy. We were both pretty selfish when we started out at ages 20 and 21, when we got married. But we've grown up together. At first it was hard because we had to figure out the place where we got fueled internally. The reason why is because a lot of the times when you're doing ministry together and doing things together that are so similar, it's so easy to feel like you're connecting or getting full off of the actual ministry. But then you kind of lose sight about what is really important and how to really connect as a couple. So, it was rocky at first because Cory isn't actually fueled from the big events and the the teaching and discipling, but I am. So there was some tension there. But the tension is beautiful. For instance, when you look at a guitar, the strings play beautiful music because there's tension. And that's Cory and I's marriage. There's a tension because I'm an extreme extrovert and he can be extroverted, but he swings more on the introverted side, which means he needs time alone to get fueled. So in the beginning, there was tension and the music didn't sound very good... but we learned how to play really pretty music together in the last 10 years because we figured out where we get fueled, where we connect. Some of the most beautiful times we've ever had have been when we have time alone with the Lord, and then we come together and we share the overflow of what the Father is speaking to us. We now can even say to each other, hey what's going on, maybe you need to go spend some time with the Father, that tension isn't sounding too good right now! So our story now is mostly about how we have learned in our home about the source and where the overflow of our life with God affects our ministry. If ministry takes the place of the overflow that happens within our home, with our kids, in our marriage, it creates that unhealthy tension. We can connect so much now through our ministry because of that overflow within our home.

A MOOS : What's your favorite thing about your husband?

ANNA A : His compassion! And his tender heart. Cory is very discerning of hearts, and he is very tender with hearing, with our children, with me, and I love that about him. A lot of people see this ferocious, courageous, intense and super joyful guy on stage, or if you have a conversation with him sometimes people can think, oh, he's a little intense. But I get to see the tenderness of his heart all the time. How he'll cry at the drop of a hat, you know, over anything, if God is breathing on it. So that's my favorite thing about him.

A MOOS : That's so cool I love that about marriage! It unlocks things about the other person or yourself that most people probably won't see. It's the coolest thing ever, as if you have a bunch of beautiful little secrets.

ANNA A : It's really fun! One of our close friends who was at IHOP with us came up to me once, and he goes, I think I finally figured you guys out! I've been working this out for a long time... I could not figure out how Cory and Anna work together. But I now know that it's because you two are opposites. And I was like oh yeah, how? Then he said,  a lot of people think that I'm the really tender one and Cory is the extremely intense one. We can both operate that way, but maybe deep down I'm the one that is tenacious. And Cory was actually the really tender one deep down. And we both even each other out. And I couldn't agree more with him!

A MOOS : Me too! So, what is your favorite thing to do with your kids?

ANNA A : I love to read to them. 

A MOOS : What do you like to read to them?

ANNA A : Well, at certain stages it's different. With Lily it's usually anything really. I love books for kids because it unlocks so much imagination. I love picture books because I love seeing all the art, and I love watching my kid's eyes when they look at them and seeing these other worlds come alive to them and inspire them. Now, with Gabriel, we can read these chapter books, where in his head he's imagining these stories and picturing himself in these places where he is the warrior or he's conquering far off lands or in the middle of the mystery. I think as a mom it's such a powerful teaching tool, but also it's just so fun to watch their little imaginations come alive with these stories and see these beautiful things erupt in their brains. That's one of my dearest times with my kids. I love seeing Lily as we read these stories of fairies and castles and seeing her imagine herself as a princess. It's so fun to walk into a bookstore and go, Ok Holy Spirit, what is the book for my child that's gonna speak identity and destiny over them? I also love watching my kids with art. I love seeing how it connects to them and watching them have a beautiful reaction to it. 

A MOOS : Do you think they would ever enjoy just walking through an art museum?

ANNA A : Oh yes I think so. I think it's because I have opened up that world to them and it's beautiful in their minds. They watch me paint, and they watch their mommy and daddy sing together. There's just a creative side that we have opened up to them that has caused them to fall in love with beautiful things, and they notice it. You can see God in everything and hear Him in everything, or you can actually miss Him in everything. So I've tried to teach them that, to cause them to have wonder.

A MOOS : As you were talking that was the word I was actually thinking of that I love about you and your family. I have always loved how you and Cory have decided to set that kind of culture of wonder with your lives. Even at such young ages, it's evident that your kids appreciate the beautiful things and that they always are looking for it. (Anna and I were sitting outside, and at this point we saw a few birds in the trees in front of us.) Oh, look at that bird! It's so beautiful.

ANNA A : Oh, it's a cardinal! I love them. Every time I see one, do you know what it makes me feel? 

A MOOS : What?

ANNA A : It makes me feel like God is saying "I love you" to me. The first time I ever saw one, I felt like God said something to me. He said that every time I see one, it's Him reminding me of how much He loves me. So when I've had a hard day, sometimes I'll look outside and see a cardinal out there, and I'll be reminded how loved I am by God.  

A MOOS : So Anna, Tell me a little bit about She Paints Virtue

ANNA A : Okay! Well, I am almost 31. And at 29, you think you've already discovered all of your gifts, and you just have to pick which one you really want to go after at that point. Well... God had a different plan for me. He decided at 29 that it was a perfect time for me to discover a new gift, through painting! It's really funny, I went to this wine and painting event, and the painting I did was so bad! So I left going, I know I can do better than that. And everyone was laughing at me like, sure Anna, if you say so. But I just had this strong feeling that I could definitely do better! So I went home and I started painting this deer. While I'm painting it, I feel the Holy Spirit resting on me in such a tangible way. I was like, ok, I'm paying attention Lord. By the way it was with Gabriel's six-pack water color set...

A MOOS : Haha! I feel like you went to that painting event and didn't do your best because you weren't working with the right medium. You needed watercolors!

ANNA A : Yeah! And I was trying at that place to paint a picture that someone else had vision for, and it just wasn't working. So, I got done with my deer painting and was shocked with the results. I sent it to Cory and he was like, you did not just paint that... and I was like yes, I did! And I felt the Holy Spirit so strongly when I did, I think there's something more to this. So then we go to Israel right afterwards, it will be 2 years ago in August. While we were there, one of the guys on the trip who's a business guy has a word over me. He starts talking about how the Lord is going to use me in the arts, and he says to me, I don't know what you do, but I feel like God is gonna blow up a business that you're going to steward and you didn't even know that this was in your heart, but God sees it and has given it to you as a gift. And I am like woah... I hadn't even told anyone including Cory about some of the things in my heart pertaining to this, but this guy just brought it all up. So in the next few months I continued to paint, and then I felt like the Lord gave me a name one night when I couldn't sleep. I heard Him say it's gonna be called "Virtue", because what you are doing is you are painting these virtues. Even though you aren't painting specific words, people are gonna see and feel the virtue behind it. They'll feel inspired for justice and courage, and love and hope and compassion. Or they will feel like you are prophesying over them. And what I felt most is that I would do this over children. That I would be able to paint something for children that would be in their rooms and in their homes that they would see daily, and it would speak identity over who they are. So, I don't know exactly where it's gonna go, I have big dreams for it, but for now I'm just being obedient and I'm sending paintings out all over the world and praying that they bring hope and prophesy and life to dark places.   

A MOOS : I can speak for myself in saying that this was an obvious Holy Spirit-driven gift. I have been familiar with painting and lots of different kinds of art forms, and I have never seen anyone pick up watercolor as easily as you did.

ANNA A : It is definitely from Him, the Lord has really taught me everything about how to paint. I want to obviously be diligent to learn more, you know, now that I have this gift I want to steward it well. But the gift is really from Him.

Anna sells original paintings and prints on her Etsy site, and you can check it out Here. The process of the paintings is important and precious to her, and she pours herself into creating as well as praying over the right painting and feel for the pieces she creates. It is so evident that the Lord speaks through each one of her paintings, I encourage you to check them out! You can also follow her on Instagram Here for sneak-peeks of upcoming projects she's working on. 

 

Beach Babe

A couple weeks ago I had the pleasure of taking a trip to LA to hangout with my sister and my friend Ashton Strutz. I love these two girls with my whole heart, sometimes it hurts how much I love them! I've seen them go through so many phases of life, and i couldn't be more proud and inspired by who they are both becoming. I lived with Ashton and her family a few years ago, as well as traveled to Africa with her for a missions trip. Both experiences only grew our friendship deeper, and I have come to know Ashton as one of my bestest friends. So when I visited her in LA I knew I had to take some cute photos of her in her element and interview her a little bit about who she is so I could show her off! 

ANNA : So Ash, It's your birthday. The big Two-O! This week we spent some time celebrating your birthday. How do you feel about being 20?!

ASHTON : Eh. I don't know. It's weird because I feel like a lot of my friends freaked out when they turned 20. I know, it's a big deal. It feels like you're no longer a teenager. But because I've seen so many people go through that, I wasn't as freaked out. I think I was more prepared. But then again, I also don't feel like a 20 year old. 

ANNA : Really? How old do you feel?

ASHTON : Haha I have no idea... just younger I guess. 20 sounds big once I say it. But in my head I think I just feel a bit younger. Honestly, I think I just look younger. You know how when you're a kid, and you think of being 16 or 20 and you think to yourself, oh those people are so old! And you paint a picture of what it would look like... now here I am and it's really not like that. So it's not that my personality feels young, it's just weird to think about how I used to think of 20 year olds, and it doesn't feel like that. 

ANNA : Yeah! That's how I feel walking around here (Biola University). When you guys sneak me into the cafeteria, no one second guesses it or looks me over because I literally look like a freshman in college haha! 

ASHTON : Oh my gosh haha so true. But then again, what does a normal 20 year old really look like anyways? 

ANNA : Yeah, good point. Looking back, what things are you proud of in the last year of being 19?

ASHTON : Well, I'm proud of myself for switching my major. And I'm proud of myself for being happy my new classes. I think that I usually like anything I'm learning and find ways to get into it, but there's something about now having psyche and sociology that is so intriguing to me. I feel like I can use those in my life right now, rather than thinking about using what I learn in classes far in the future. And I'm also proud of myself for branching out and doing things that I wouldn't have done before. Like go places with people. I'm also proud of myself for applying for Australia.

ANNA : Of course! How come?

ASHTON : Because it's doing something that is so out of my comfort zone. Going to college was a big deal, but I had some sort of cushion in doing so. Going to Australia, I don't know anyone, I have no idea what it's going to be like. It's really fun to think about, but it's also scary. I just feel like anything that makes me comfortable where I am is being stripped away in doing something like that. 

ANNA : Oh for sure, it is. Tell me more about why you're proud of the relationship-side of the last year of your life?

ASHTON : I think that making lasting friendships is one of the most vulnerable things people can do. Mostly because you're waiting long enough for people to know the true side of you, and they've seen you in a lot of different forms. So in that, you're remaining vulnerable. and then they also recognize when something isn't right with you, and you can't fool them about it anymore. So I think maintaining those friendships has caused me to stretch and grow and change in ways that I otherwise wouldn't have because I have to really keep being vulnerable. And I have to keep hearing what I'm doing wrong, and then I also have to express to people what I need from them and how they've hurt me, which is probably even worse! Only because it's easier to shut down. But good relationships force you to open up and to keep sharing. 

ANNA : Who are you becoming then?

ASHTON : That's a big question! Hmm.. Okay, maybe I'm getting a little cheesy. But there's this C. S. Lewis quote, I can't quote it verbatim but it talks about how we sense that the Lord is building a house. And the house is us. So we're all excited and say 'yay he's building us a house!'. And then he starts tearing down walls. It hurts! And we ask, why are you doing that God, it doesn't make any sense! Then in the end, after all the pain and confusion of the process, we realize that the Lord had in mind a castle instead of a shabby little house that we had imagined. I think that this is what the Lord is doing in my life. I can't really see what He's doing, so in a way that gives me more faith that helps me believe it's much different and better than I could imagine for myself. I don't have as great of an imagination as Him, and it's His plan which makes me really happy because I don't have to control any of that. 

ANNA : Yes! That is so cool. What do you hope for this next year?

ASHTON : I really hope that my eyes will be opened. That I will be able to see different perspectives that I could never imagine. I want to be amazed and I want to be in wonder of the world and the things going on around me. I think I want this next year to be full of awe. I want to see the Lord's imagination more. I think that the world is a much more exciting place than I give it credit for, and I want my eyes to be opened to that. I want moments where I can stand and say, this was really created just to be enjoyed, just for the fun of it. 

ANNA : That seems very present-minded. I don't think you've directly said this yet, so where are you going?

ASHTON : I'm going to Australia! At first, I was debating between there and London. Well, technically I always originally wanted to go to Australia. But then fear kicked in, because all of my friends were going to London to study abroad and it seemed like the logical choice. I thought, maybe I'll just do that. I'll be able to be with people I know, see more countries, it was very logical thinking. Then I thought about it more, and realized Australia has always been my dream. I think I was settling for something that was more comfortable and safe. So I'm choosing the more risky, but bigger dream to go to Australia.

ANNA : But you're also going to London too, right?

ASHTON : Yeah, hopefully! My friend invited me to stay with her for a little at the end of my trip, and I'm hoping to make that a pit stop. 

ANNA : So awesome!!

ASHTON : Okay, this is a side note, but I learned about this thing in my Bible class, and I feel like it's happening! So C. S. Lewis, he's the friggin man by the way, talks about a concept. It goes like this: there's a first thing and a second thing. The first is our number one priority, which should always be God if you're a christian. The other is your second priority, which could sometimes look like getting married or having children. But C. S. Lewis talks about how if you mix up your priorities and you make your second priority your first one, then God isn't your number one. This will mean that your second priority will no longer be God-ordained. So it won't happen the way He would plan it for you. I've been thinking about this, especially along the lines of going to Australia. As soon as I decided to make my biggest dream (which was going there) my reality, I watched as God put everything in order. He has allowed me even more opportunities than just doing my number one priority, like being able to visit Europe as well. 

ANNA : That's incredible. I feel like what I'm hearing you say is that if you do the thing your heart really desires the most instead of what is safe, God will always make a way. He'll also sometimes add extra blessing.

ASHTON : Exactly! It's so crazy.

ANNA : It's so eye opening to me just by hearing your process how good God is and how good He's being to you. I just sense His goodness over this next phase of your life. 

ANNA : So, you're a traveler. What is it about traveling that you love so much? 

ASHTON : I love being able to experience things that I've never seen and see things through different perspectives. That's one of my goals for this next year. I also think traveling teaches me to live in the moment, because the present is just so wonderful and so different than anything I've ever experienced. It also allows me to marvel at the world and the things in it, as well as appreciate what I already have. I end up seeing the beauty of the place that I come from, as well as the beauty of the place I'm visiting. 

ANNA : Wow, that sounds so romantic! How have you been personally marked by a place you've been? 

ASHTON : Well, when I went to Swaziland, I saw so much joy in the people there. They had such a simplistic way of living, and not on purpose. This lead to them not seeking after the aimless things that we as Americans sometimes seek after. They just seemed satisfied with whatever they had. That idea has stuck with me ever since, the idea of trying to be satisfied with what I have. I also love the place! The landscape was so beautiful. I remember that one time we were walking to that older woman's hut with the little girl named Ante... it was so incredible and such a good memory for me.

ANNA : Ahh, Ante! She was so sweet and adorable. I miss that trip.

ASHTON : Me too...

ANNA : How would you describe yourself as a friend?

ASHTON : I like to listen, so I would say I'm a listener. Umm...

ANNA : Don't be modest!

ASHTON : Haha. This is a hard question though! I do like to encourage others. And I like to make connections with things that relate to the both of us. I love when I can relate to someone, because it shows me that we're not alone and it allows me to really appreciate and understand the other person that I'm with. I love to see new things in friendships all the time. I've been friends with Laura and you for a really long time, and I still feel like I'm learning new things about you two all the time. I love that! because there are endless levels to a person, you can never fully know a person, and that's so exiting to me. There are always new things to discover about someone.

ANNA : So who is your best friend and how did you two become friends?

ASHTON : Laura's my best friend! We met when she came to CSCS in the 7th grade. CSCS is a small school, so everyone knew that there was a new girl. We had a class together and sometimes we'd say say hi to each other, or make small talk. But the one time we really bonded was when we were both in the bathroom, and we were washing our hands. Laura went over and grabbed a paper towel and was drying off her hands, and somehow the paper towel got pretty wet. She went to throw it in the trash, but it fell on the floor and made this weird plopping sound. We both looked at each other when it happened, and just busted out laughing, and it was our first moment of friendship together.

ANNA : Haha of course that's how it started, laughing at something insanely stupid ha! What is so great about your friendship, and why has it lasted so long?

ASHTON : Oh man, everything. The one thing that really keeps us going though is communication. We have to talk about everything.

ANNA : You guys could teach a marriage seminar!

ASHTON : Haha! It seriously does sound like that! We just really do have to stay in touch and keep communicating though everything. Also, we both like to listen and have similar humor and we both really appreciate similar things in other people. We also have similar values and like to do the same kinds of things, and we share a common dream.

ANNA : Oh yeah? Speaking of sharing a common theme... tell me about Bella.

ASHTON : Oh my gosh, that is such a big dream!

ANNA : I know it's not a short story, so just do your best.

ASHTON : Yeah. So it started when I read through the book Redeeming Love. It was in 8th grade I think. That was at the beginning of Laura and I's friendship. The book is basically about a prostitute, and I started looking into more stories that pertained to sex-trafficking. I was shocked when I read them, because I didn't even know those kinds of situations existed in the world. I started reading up on the topic more, and I found a story about this girl and her cousin who were kidnapped and then sold into human-trafficking. While in a brothel, they met another girl who was around 8 years old, whom we now call Bella. The two cousins were eventually rescued when their Brothel was raided. However, a few girls weren't able to be rescued because some of the men got away with them, and this little 8 year old girl was one of the girls that got taken. This story just broke my heart. So I decided to start praying for that little girl, and I told Laura about it. I remember we were at Coram Deo, a youth group retreat, and we started praying about it then. As we were praying for her, I started to call her Bella and I didn't know why. It was just the name I gave her so I could call her something as I prayed for her I guess. Laura and I looked up what the name Bella meant, which stems from Isabella, and we found out it means "God's Promise". After that, I just felt so strongly that God was promising that He would redeem her and pull her out. That moment really ignited a fire within Laura and I and we still continue to pray for her and for all victims. This story has led me to really know what I want to do with my life, because of the experiences I have had reading many stories and praying through them.

ANNA : Why do you continue to pray for Bella or others?

ASHTON : Because I don't know where she is or where her life is at. Even if she has been rescued already, she is still a human who needs prayer. She's really been through a lot. I want to pray for her continuously because I know through prayer brings comfort. I think it's the most powerful thing anyone can do for someone. Prayer is giving the situation to God, and that's what I want to do with my life. 

ANNA : Do you think you'll ever meet her?

ASHTON : I do. I know it sounds crazy, but I really do. I believe that the Lord has that in store, and that the Lord will take her out of trafficking someday. And I believe that Laura and I will be a part of that process. 

ANNA : Wow. Ash, I can't wait to see this story unfold. You are so brave.  

ANNA : If you could picture the unfolding of your life, what does it look like 5 years from now?

ASHTON : Well, Laura and I want to open our own "Mission" for human trafficking victims. I don't know if thats going to happen in 5 years, but hopefully I'd be working towards that goal. Hopefully I'll be in a different country, most likely Europe, working towards our House for girls.

ANNA : I hope you are there too! So Ash, what do you believe God says about you? 

ASHTON : I believe He says so much about me. But I think one of the craziest things is that verse that talks about having my name written on His hands. It is just so beautiful and it shows what's important to Him. Also, one of my favorite passages is Isaiah 61. Even though it's talking about Jesus, I feel like the Lord has proclaimed a lot of that passage over my life. The setting of captives free, releasing people from chains. I think the Lord has done so much of that for me and given me so much freedom, that I want now to give that gift to people through my life.   

Interested, Or Interesting?

I've watched the greatest women, my closest friends, historical figures, my sisters, myself, all plunge head first into the pool of comparison, I've watched us drown. We sink all the way down to the dark and lonely bottom, with building pressure and lose sight of the sun. I've seen the hope of a beautiful friendship fade, the promise of a sisterhood bond disappear. Leaders that have become despised, purest intentions become false pretense. Why? Why have we seen such wonderful things become tarnished and destroyed? 

I feel like recently I keep hearing women say, "I'm no good at friendships with girls." I have even said it many times myself. So what do we do? We become lonely. We internalize our feelings and portray individualism, we stuff the truth because we'd rather be alone than tell someone we need them. Why have we made it easier to be apart? Why are we choosing to drown (and watching each other do the same) instead of fighting for air, for sun, for life? 

A huge part of this, I believe, is due to the culture of our time. America has tricked us into believing that self-protection and doing what's best for yourself is the greatest way to live and to think. This mentality has left us to never rely on each other, to lose the most beautiful and precious gift of a strong, caring community. We have decided that it is best to fight for ourselves than to fight for each other. Social Media is the quintessential example of this. SELFIES. I mean I get it. You're like, really pretty. I love taking a good selfie, it makes me feel like I. Am. Awesome. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying it's bad to post pictures of yourself. Being a fashion blogger I post tons of pictures of myself. And believe me, I've had to overcome a lot of insecurity to be able to do so, I know it's not always easy. All I'm saying is that a culture has been created that allows women to focus so much on themselves, to make sure the world sees them in a certain kind of light (natural light while you're facing your bedroom window, to be specific). It has become more important to do this than to show off the greatness of someone else. I see women craving so much attention, wanting to be loved and accepted by their peers. I see women forgetting about the beautiful art of friendship and championing each other. The love of encouraging one another has been lost. We now prefer to be interesting to people, instead of being interested in people. 

I don't want this culture. YOU don't want this culture. No one truly wants it to be like this. Unfortunately we all struggle with insecurity that we're not brave enough to open up about, and so we continue building the bad habit of seclusion. LADIES. All it takes is time and courage. It really is as easy as YOU choosing to not accept this kind of mentality in your own life. It takes time to build a healthy habit, and I propose the habit of being interested. Instead of spending all of your time thinking about how to convince everyone to pay attention to you, start thinking of ways you can make your friends feel listened to or appreciated. Instead of buying coffee for yourself on your way to work, buy it for your lovely co-worker who sits across from you. When browsing the sale section in Target, buy the cute floral top for your neighbor who complains of never having money to buy cute clothes. When hanging out with your gal pal, try showing her your interested by listening to her and asking questions about her life instead of talking about yourself. All it takes is small little commitments or gestures to show someone they are worth it.

In light of this, I have decided to focus a lot more on championing the women in my life through this blog. I have a passion for style and fashion, so I still will be focusing on outfits and inspiration and such. But I want to make a difference through what I write and what I promote. I want to share ways for you women who read this blog to find affordable fashion that fits your style perfectly, and I want to help you find the courage to express yourself through it. In addition, I want all my readers to be inspired by all of the incredible women I've met and know, so I'm gonna write about them. I want to take a stand for all women, I want to champion all sorts of personalities and ways of life and body shapes and fashion taste. I want us to believe in each other, to encourage each other, and to love each other well. I want to be interested in YOU. I want all of us to stop focusing so much on trying so hard to be interesting, and start focusing on being interested in the beauty of the women that surround us.