A Year Of Courage, 2016 In Review
I decided to jump on the bandwagon and do an end of year, review of 2016 post. I thought it was going to be a quick little write-up, but as I scoured a year’s worth of social media posts it called to remembrance a year full of incredible adventures. This year has held so many new beginnings and opportunities that I can hardly believe it all fit into 365 days! Thank you to each of you who made this an incredible year.
Fair warning: Lots of shout-outs and pictures ahead!
Where I Have Been Featured
My article “Losing My Song And Finding My Voice: Story Of A Woman Preacher” was published in a Huffington Post blog, much thanks to Kelly Ladd Bishop.
I wrote 3 articles for Christians For Biblical Equality International. The last one was published as a blog post with an audio recording of the correlating mini sermon, as well as being published in the printed copy of Mutuality Magazine.
I was shocked and ecstatic to find that The Junia Project listed me in their “49 SERIOUSLY GOOD BLOGS FOR CHRISTIAN EGALITARIANS”.
I’ve begun a relationship with and was featured on the seriously cool Baptizing Feminism website.
It was an honor to be a guest on The Heartbeat podcast with author, South African minister, and equality warrior, Aliyah Lauren Jacobs.
Both The News & Advance, and the Bedford Bulletin graciously included The Courage Conference in their printed and online issues.
In April I ended a well-paying, long-held nanny job and jumped full time into writing and advocacy work. It was a leap of faith to leave the childcare business, which I had been in for half of my life. Not bringing in an income was also a scary notion to me, but God had fingerprints all over this and provided above and beyond our financial needs by blessing my husband’s business.
In March, I did the scariest thing in my life. I began to tell the true story of my spiritual abuse experiences, culminating in sharing about the abuse I experienced by a leader in the homeschooling movement. This was by far the most defining moment of the year. It brought about many challenges, but ultimately it was one of the best decisions I have ever made. As a result, hundreds of people have contacted me. I have been able to offer support and resources to many abuse survivors, and have had the privilege of walking with several victims as they came out with their own stories and found professional help.
In May, my new friend Charlie Olivia and I decided to start our own podcast called, “Christian Feminism Weekly with Ashley and Charlie.” We are currently on Season 2; people seem to be resonating with the show and we are having so much fun! Recently we even added our show to iTunes. You can find Season 1 here.
As a Valentine's Day gift Will hired a designer to give the blog a fresh update. I am in love with this new design and the accompanying video. And to go along with the new look, Nate Horton, Charlie Olivia’s husband, has been skillfully putting his stellar editing abilities to work to make the reading experience more streamlined. This is no small task when editing a dyslexic’s work.
I joined a new, local women’s preaching support group called “Finding Your Voice”. This is a group for women who feel they may be called to preach and are looking for a safe place to practice and get feedback. This has been a wonderfully healing experience.
I also found a group of 3 amazing and progressive local lady pastors/ministers to be mentored by. I honestly never expected to find such people in Lynchburg, VA (a.k.a. The Buckle Of The Conservative Bible Belt). This is dream come true for me!
The growing, international Facebook group Biblical Christian Egalitarians asked me to be an admin for their page this year as well. There is such a wonderful group of leaders running this page and I am honored to work with them!
Perhaps the most precious new beginning was the opportunity to connect with some relatives who I have previously been estranged from. They stood up and supported me as I came out with my story, and loved me through one of the the most challenging parts of my life.
The Courage Conference
When I came out with my story, the flood of victims who contacted me confirmed to me that the Lord was asking me to start The Courage Conference. This too was a leap of faith, as I had never planned an event of this size before. Additionally, we paid for a large part of the event out of our family budget, but the Lord miraculously provided a full refund through several generous donors.
Survivors, advocates, pastors, and supporters got behind The Courage Conference and helped to make it happen. It was exciting to finally meet so many people whom I had only interacted with online. And Boz Tchividjian, Monica Daye, Rachel Jordan-Williams, Jory Micah, Tom Edward, and Natalie Greenfield brought down the house with their inspiring speeches. I also had my first opportunity to give a live mini sermon, and that in and of itself was quite healing.
Together at the conference, we encouraged each other and brought needed support and resources to those who had previously felt alone. My heart is so thankful as I look back on this event.
Twitter is an amazing thing, and it alerted me that author and advocate Mary DeMuth was coming to town. I managed to meet her twice, and the first time was just a few weeks before I came out with my story. This spirit filled woman prayed a protection prayer over me that I will never forget!
Boz Tchividjian introduced me to David Pittman of Together We Heal. I am looking forward to partnering with David in the future and his important counseling connection organization.
Josh Harris and I also had a few phone chats. I was encouraged to hear about the journey he is on and I look forward to seeing where it brings him in the future.
At S.N.A.P. I was introduced to MK Safety Net’s Dianne Couts and Shary Hauber as well as a few others. These women are tirelessly fighting for Missionary Kids who are abused overseas.
I had the opportunity to speak with Mimi Haddad, the President of Christians For Biblical Equality International, as well as writer Rachel Asproth, who helps with the department of publication, which provides amazing literature on equality.
I’ve been able to have uplifting conversations with Pastor Tara Beth Leach of PazNaz church, blogger Nate Sparks, blogger and artist David Hayward, and I’ve received much support online support from Steve Nue, The Christian Feminist Daddy.
And I cannot forget new blogger Laura Genn, one of the Egal ladies I’ve met in Lynchburg. Her passion and love of equality and abuse survivors is so obvious.
At The Courage Conference, I was elated to meet Ryan Stollar of Homeschool Anonymous. He truly has led the way in providing a voice for the homeschool alumni community, particularly those who have experienced abuse.
And, I don’t know what I would have done without the support of the many male and female pastors who helped in this promotional video for The Courage Conference.
It has been fun to reconnect with Bailey Steger of We Are Ezer. We used to know each other back in the day when we were both still involved inthe Stay-At-Home Daughter movement and blogged from that perspective. We’ve both emerged as Egalitarian/Christian Feminists and have reconnected these years later.
And then there was that quick “hello” and photo op with Presidential Candidate Gary Johnson when he came to town for a rally. His perspective rattled some of my long-held political beliefs and gave me a new view of the world.
There was also that one time I tweeted #takeitdown at John Piper in regards to his disturbing post speaking of children and sex... and much to my surprise he did! Let’s be real, he didn’t exactly have a conversation with me, but we (myself and other advocates) banded together to be loud enough for Piper to hear us and see the need to make a change.
Exploring The World
This was the year of travel! Will and I made multiple trips to North Carolina to visit his family in Mount Airy, to experience our first TedTalk event live in Durum, to meet Sarah Bessey, and then to return to the church we fell in love with, Church On Morgan, in Raleigh.
For my birthday we explored Norfolk, VA, and experienced our first Air BnB… it was amazing by the way.
In the late fall, we stayed overnight in Surry County, VA with Jason and Dela Widel. Jason is a blogger and the author of “Persecution Complex”, so when he invited us to come up for their annual Apple Festival we couldn’t resist the opportunity to spend time with these lovely people.
Our visit to New York City was the trip most outside of our comfort zone. We took a train just before Christmas to see the city that never sleeps. We watched a few shows and the saw the city dressed up for the holiday. While it was beautiful, Will and I were glad to get back to our own quiet, less populated home.
It’s been a full 365 days. I must say I feel abundantly thankful for this year. The Lord has been doing a healing work in me and I almost don’t recognize myself. At the beginning of the year I was feeling pretty low and discouraged. I knew in my heart I had to come out with my story, but I wasn’t sure what would happen next. When I took that leap of faith, it launched me into a most wonderful year. I am so thankful and overwhelmed by the support I received all year long from so many different, incredible people. The advocacy community has been a lifesaver, and the fellow survivors I have meet are truly inspiring. Thank you, to each of you who supported me in so many different ways and brought courage to my anxious heart.