Reflecting on 2023

Reflecting on 2023

 I had no idea until I opened my Blogger account that I had not posted here in nearly three years, but to quote Genie, "Look who's back from the dead!"

She lives!

When I shared these questions from my friend RA earlier this week, I jokingly told her I wanted to go old-school and write the answers out on my blog a la 2013. I didn't have any real intention of doing that, but the idea stuck around like a little mental barnacle so here we are. 


1.    What did you do on your birthday? I went to work and avoided telling my students that it was my                birthday. =) We also went to Willie's and I got a lemon pound cake from Montgomery County Bake            House like i do every year!

2.    What are your strongest memories from this year, and why? Oh, man. Walking laps around my little            corner of the campus at Sam. Driving to work. Lots and lots of walking in the neighborhood too. Too         many trips to the dentist. Car line with Alice. Days at home with Amy Jane. Lots of sweet times with         both girls and Jonathan, especially bedtime. And my trip to Connecticut.

3.    What did you do this year that you'd never done before? Started therapy!

4.    What did you want and get? Some momentum and help with my mental health, a new car (more of a            need than a want), more books.

5.    What did you want and not get? More bookshelves. =) Also, new carpet. Maybe this year!

6.    What would you like to have next year that you didn't have this year? Less anxiety, worry, and fear;            more intentional time with my girls, especially reading aloud

7.    Did you keep your new year's resolutions, and will you make more for next year? I kept some big               ones! Maintained my bullet journal another year, started and stuck to using Goodreads and also stuck        with sharing my books consistently on Instagram stories every Sunday night!

8.    What are you most proud of this year? Admitting that I needed help. Starting therapy, finding a new           (amazing) doctor. Trying new forms of treatment and trusting God to use a variety of tools to bring             healing. Also having good relationships with and getting great feedback from my students!

9.    What do you wish you had done better? I wish I had been a more patient and present mom. 

10.    What did you rely on when you were overwhelmed? Scripture, breath prayers (a game changer!),                audibooks, long walks, Diet Coke

11.     What are your top recommendations for entertainment from this year? (books, television, movies,               music, etc) Book: All My Knotted-Up Life by Beth Moore (number one by a mile!) along with the               three Elisabeth Elliiot biographies I read. I'll be thinking about them forever! TV: All Creatures                   Great and Small (the new season comes to America next week!) Movie: Matilda (kind of cheating             because it came out last year but we love it!) Music: new releases from Keith and Kristyn Getty,                JJ Heller, Broadway cast albums for Parade and Sweeney Todd.

12.     What song will remind you of this year? "All the Wasted Time" and "This Is Not Over Yet" from               Parade, "We Know the Way Back Home" by Dave Barnes, "I Set My Hope on Jesus" by the Gettys,            "Holy Forever" by Chris Tomlin,  Midsummer album by Joel Clarkson 

13.     Quote a song lyric that sums up your year (not necessarily from the song that reminds you of the                 year). "I'll follow you right where the road it splits in two, and if we get lost it's me and you and we             know the way back home." Dave Barnes

14.     What was your most enjoyable purchase? FOR SURE our new car. Praise hands!

15.     Did you travel? If so, where? To family- NC, GA, CT, and whatever's in between on the drive!

16.     What do you wish you'd done more of? Playing the piano, praying, journaling, drinking water, more            consistent devotional time

17.     What do you wish you'd done less of? Worrying, reading (I've got to slow down!), being grumpy               with the girls over things that don't matter, being afraid of how people perceive me

18.     Compared to this time last year, how are you different? I'm more open about what I'm struggling              with, naming it and taking the power from lies my anxiety tells me. I'm more okay with not being               okay but more committed than ever to taking care of myself so I can be the best mom and wife I can            be. I'm also more aware than ever that I absolutely cannot put my trust in anyone but Jesus. 

19.     Compared to this time last year, how are you the same? I'm still my Broadway/Disney/book nerd                self, reading too much and sharing too many memes with my family and friends and being sarcastic            and self-deprecating to an unhealthy degree. Still the good ol' Ash you know and tolerate. =)

20.     What's a life lesson you learned this year? People will surprise you in ways you never imagined (not            in a good way). Standing up for what's right is always right and siding with wrong is always wrong.            "Help" is a full prayer. What you don't repair, you'll repeat, and what you don't transform, you'll                transfer.

Brought to you by @definitelyra

As I’ve been reflecting on the last year and all the changes, both good and bad, that it’s brought my way, there are so many things I could never have predicted at the beginning of 2023. Obviously the biggest issue is that I’ve struggled with my mental health at new and scary levels, but I’ve also sought real help for the first time. It’s been slow going, and I’m really just getting started, but I’m thankful for all the resources and tools God is using in my healing process.

I’ve always loved personality tests, from silly Buzzfeed quizzes to more serious tools like the Enneagram or Four Tendencies. I think Jon Acuff is right when he says, “Self-awareness is a superpower.” And knowing ourselves doesn’t just help with decision making or relationships; it helps us become more fully who God made us to be. A lot of the reading and study I’ve done in the last few years has focused on those topics, and I know it’s helped me to understand just how my brain works (or doesn’t!) and how to respond accordingly.

But a quote I read a few years ago has stayed with me all this time and I’ve thought about it often in recent months. All the work I’m doing with therapy and books and medication is good and it’s helping. I know myself and my limits. But Charles Krauthammer (whose invaluable voice I miss more than ever these days) said this: 

"The dictum for this age should not be that the unexamined life is not worth living, but that the unlived life is not worth examining." 

I don't want an unlived life. I don't want to be crippled with anxiety, bound up in fear, or paralyzed by uncertainty. I don't want my peace or my presence or my passions to be dictated by the lies my mental illness tells me. I want to relentlessly pursue healing and walk in freedom in Christ, in clarity, in constant hope and expectation for all that God can do when I trust Him for help and strength and the courage to face another day. I'm not even sure what this will mean for my work or my parenting or my writing or my health, but I'm bound and determined to seek out the opportunities for growth and wholeness when I'm able to.

I'll continue to examine my life (I'm too neurotic not to!), but more than anything, this coming year, I want to live it. 

"I have come that they may have life, and have it more abundantly." John 10:10