Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Our Greatest Surprise

So a thing happened. The story is long and complicated and beautiful and God is obviously present every single step of the way. I wish you could all hear everything, and maybe someday you will. But for now, a baby was born to a woman my husband, a police officer, has met on the job and whom I randomly met on a ride along once when she was newly pregnant. When asked who her support system was who could care for the baby she basically mentioned the only person who she could think of was a compassionate police officer she knew. So they called us. And we showed up. And our community rallied behind us.

So, absolutely unexpectedly and without warning we are excitedly bringing home another child today! We are literally just showing up and loving and caring for a baby who has no one else in the world to love and care for it. 

We believe that though foster care and adoption are not God’s first choice for families (His first plan was the Garden. Wholeness. No pain, orphans, barrenness or heartbreak) that He is the great redeemer. And He can take our most broken moments and pull them together for beauty and good. With that being said we would LOVE your prayers, for us, for our daughters, for this baby, and for the birth parents.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

How To Reimagine Pro-life (and get a free shirt!)

When we moved to Colorado Springs I knew one person in this area. Through years of blogging Amber and I had become friends and when we got here, she graciously invited my family over for dinner that first week and we had a blast. At the end of the night, my husband and I were sharing with Amber our specific heart for post-abortive women.

The biggest pushback we receive when I talk about Save The Storks and abortion is the fear of divisiveness. "Oh I don't want to align myself with protestors" "We can't address it, we don't want to exclude the women who have had an abortion", "How do I talk about this but be sensitive to my friend who had an abortion?", "I have no right to speak on this, you see I had an abortion". If the church is to stand for love, then where can we stand? It has seemed to be nowhere, and so we have stayed silent.

But did you know that 43% of women who have had an abortion were attending church weekly at the time? And 1 in 4 Christian women is post-abortive, and no one is talking about it. These are our sisters, our friends, our family members. Living with this secret shame. When I think of my church, of myself and 3 Christian women I know, I cannot bare the idea that one of us is hiding this hurt and the church has abandoned them. Amber stopped me and said "Am I blushing?" And then she shared with me her story.

This freedom and redemption is what I want for you if you are post-abortive and for all the other women who are post-abortive. My personal desire is to give post-abortive women a voice to tell the story that only they can tell. To see that there is no condemnation in Christ and that they do not have to stay in the bondage of shame and guilt. That instead they can walk free in the redemption because of the blood of Jesus. I personally feel like the way to win the cause for life is not protesting, not defunding anything, but giving women so many other options and education and freedom and true non-curated stories from other women, that abortion will instead become unthinkable.  Kind of like we don't have to defund sewage plants to prevent people in america from drinking sewer water. There are just so many other options here in america that it is unthinkable. And Save The Storks is doing this in an innovative way.

Save The Storks is an apolitical pro-life nonprofit that is taking a woman at the well approach to basically reimagine the pro-life movement. So many in our generation have been turned off by protestors and hate speak and honestly none of that is Jesus so we desire to change the conversation and give women real choices.

Right now we do this through mobile medical units inside of super beautiful mercedes sprinter vans. We connect with pregnancy resource centers, grant them the vans, and they are able to go mobile (i.e. to college campuses or right outside abortion clinics) and super lovingly serve the women patients and the staff who work there. They provide free ultrasounds and all the resources a woman would need to choose life (free prenatal care, free parenting classes, free adoption services if thats their choice, free diapers for a year, free clothing until 2T, free formula for a year, free carseats, free cribs, and on and on). If a woman chooses to go through with an abortion, they offer free post abortion counseling. They get to know the staff at abortion clinics and love on them. They have decided to love actively, so they start and end with love, no matter what.

Incredibly, 4 out of 5 women who board these Stork Buses choose life. In fact, the first year with the first bus there was something like 396 women with scheduled abortions that chose life instead. Like literally they were about to walk in the clinic to have a pre-scheduled abortion and they choose life instead and were offered all these resources.

My husband left law enforcement to work for Save The Storks so I feel like I have the inside scoop. And y'all, its incredible.  Each bus saves about 360 women and babies from the heartbreak of abortion each year. And they have 20 buses currently launched with 6 more launching this summer! And y'all, they have about 14 other pregnancy resource centers somewhere in the process of getting their bus. If we could get all the buses funded- 40 total so far- thats 14,400 women each year being given real tangible choices.  

And this, my friends is where you come in. And, where you get a free shirt designed by Nic Schumacher.  Their greatest need is for monthly partnerships to put one of these buses in every community. I would love for you to use your catalytic network of influencers to join us as we champion life, both here on earth and the eternal life that comes through a relationship with Jesus. So here's how you can help.

Step one: Donate Sign on as a monthly partner at $30 a month via and you'll get one shirt for free (maybe one of these!) AND provide real options for a woman in need. $60 per month? Two shirts, two women, two babies. And so on. I'm over the excuse of "I need to pray". Yes, please pray and please be talking to our Father about this but y'all, there is no reason NOT to donate. Every day women are walking into abortion clinics and choosing death because we aren't there to give them another choice. Thats 20 abortions in the 10 mins its taken you to read this and 3000 by the end of today. 

Step two: Share Take a picture of yourself in your shirt and share it on social media with the hashtag #savethestorks. Share this post. Share the vision of this organization with your friends, your small group, your church. We do these things called "A night with Save the Storks" and "Stork Sundays" where someone from the nonprofit comes to speak to you church and shares about the incredible work this nonprofit is doing. This is the best way to get Stork buses all over America. I know many of you are pastor's wives, y'all, talk to your husbands. I will come FOR FREE and share about Save The Storks with your congregation. 

Step three: Volunteer There is a Pregnancy Resource Center in your area that is caring for women, loving them, providing them resources and helping them care for their children and they are  understaffed and underfunded. These PRCs are always looking for volunteers. So go on, be the hands and feet.

Step Four: Reimagine The next big idea in the pro-life movement is coming from this generation. If you have an idea to reimagine the movement, email my husband Jesse(at)savethestorks(dot)com. He would LOVE to talk with you. And like I said before, women with abortion stories are who I think will change the game. If you are post abortive and want to share your story or are seeking recovery help or counseling PLEASE feel free to email me at heyashleynoelle(at)gmail(dot)com. In the past 4 months, I personally have talked with 4 women who have "never told anyone" and are on their way to finding freedom from their past abortions. I would love to work through this with you.  

I know it seems crazy or lofty to imagine changing the pro-life movement or making abortion unthinkable in our time, but I bet thats how people felt about slavery. All it takes is a movement of people, born out of grief and brokenness instead of frustration and anger. All it takes is people to share their stories, the truth of their experience. All it takes is for us as a generation, for the church, to stand up and say no more. To boldly serve and love and provide resources. To not abandon women. To Save the Storks. To also save the babies they carry. To change hearts and minds and generations. 

Lets do it, y'all. Lets reimagine the movement. 

Monday, March 14, 2016

How To Start Your Own Supper Club

About 2 years ago I read the book Bread and Wine by Shauna Niequist. We gave them out at The Influence Conference and it was so inspiring. In it she writes about some women (6 total) she meets with roughly once a month for a cooking club of sorts. They have been meeting for a few years and she speaks of how they spur each other on and have walked through really good and really hard times together. Around that time I also saw this video about IF:table which basically has the same heartbeat. Women meeting together monthly, focusing on Jesus, and pouring into each other's lives over meals.

In Shauna's book she has this whole little section on the bread and the wine as communion (definitely as communion) but also the bread and wine and remembrance of Jesus at every meal and I love that. I wanted to break bread and drink wine and talk about Jesus with a group of women. And I decided to do just that. So I started my own supper club. And you should, too.

Setting The Boundaries
I've found that when starting any group, not just a supper club, it is best to set some boundaries before asking everyone's opinion. You can hold your plans loosely but it is always easiest to go in and change a few details than to get a bunch of opinions first. I also hate feeling left out major FOMO over here and hate leaving others out even more. I'll tell you one thing, the odds of everyone agreeing on everything are slim to none and I hate the responsibility of choosing one person's preference over the other's, so if the boundaries are pre-set, the people it works for can come and the people it doesn't work for can start their own. 

Choose your women
I'd say for most supper clubs 6-8 is the ideal number although our group had nine. Most recipes make 6-8 portions, most tables can squeeze in 6-8 people, most meals are made up of 6-8 items. Pragmatically, its just the simplest. You can find your 6-8 people any number of ways:

  • ask 6-8 of your closest friends
  • choose 3-4 couples total
  • write a post on social media
  • Email a group of women (bcc) and see who responds
I personally chose to do the last: I emailed every married woman I'd met at my church within my basic age range. I told them what I was thinking and asked them to email me back if they were interested. I thought it was important to BCC everyone because I wanted to be sure the people were committed to the idea of the group and not wanting to do what everyone else was doing Hey, I'm a purist... what can i say? I told everyone that if more than 6-8 of us were interested in doing this, I'd randomly draw names and split us into groups. 9 people committed so it just kind or worked out best that way.


Decide the Deets
You need to decide on the following:
  • A day and time that works best for you. I chose Sundays at 5pm so everyone could get back to their kids for bedtime if needed. We switched the Sunday each month. 
  • Long term commitment- I asked for a 6 month commitment for a few reasons. A of all, it was long enough to show people that this group would be intentional. Because of the nature of the IF:table conversation cards that we'd be using, in order for women to be super authentic with one another, we needed to feel safe in our group. In this format consistency breeds safety and allowed for women to be open knowing this wouldn't be a group changing and people wouldn't be flippant with the knowledge of their inner most thoughts. And secondly, I know that people have their own schedules, husbands, some have children in our homes and/or children on the way. I know we also have women's group and community groups which are super awesome. We've got full schedules and I get that and I know this won't be for everyone. I don't want this to be burdensome for anyone. 6 months was long enough to be intentional and short enough that people felt like they could commit without being locked down for life.
  • Short term commitment- I asked for 2 hours of peoples time (although we often ran over). The 2 hour time frame let us jump right into the discussion and be super intentional about our time together
  • Meal Format- Potluck just plain works, but if you get too loose goosey with things, who KNOWS what you'll be eating. In our group, the person who was hosting in their home  loosely choose the menu and made the main course. They would send out a link to their main course recipe and a list of the other things they needed to make the meal complete. Everyone would sign up for what they'd like to bring. (ie. Main course- Drunken noodle pasta. Please sign up for the following: cheese plate, appetizer, salad, bread, dessert, wine, non- alcoholic drinks) This worked out great for a few reasons. First of all, we could choose different theme nights (Italian, Mexican, Indian, etc). Also, it worked well for everyones different schedule and culinary ability. Some people just want to pick up bread or wine at the store, some people like to bake bread and cakes, some love to cook, some can make a mean cheese plate. This way everyone has a great meal but no one is stretched too far out of their comfort zone.
  • Night Format- We would get together to eat a meal (sans children and husbands- although obvi newborns welcome!) and basically live out Acts 2:46. We'd all make plates and once everyone was sitting we'd jump right into the questions as we ate. We decided to go around the table that way everyone would speak and no one would feel uncomfortable. MOST IMPORTANTLY, I stressed the desire for real and genuine discussions. The prompts from one dinner party were "What makes a truly deep and healthy friendship? Why do we need to be intentional about close relationships that encourage us in Christ? What keeps us from being intentional about deep relationships with other people? How could we bless others out of the overflow of our healthiest relationships?"

Official Supper Club Business 
Once you've decided on your group boundaries, contact your peeps and host the first night. Start you discussion questions and try to be as honest as you can so others can be honest as well. And choose an original and unique hashtag.. it'll be super fun to look back at! My last supper club used #breadandwineclub so don't even think about using that one ;-) and I'll have to come up with a new one for my new club! 

Thats it! These women became some of my nearest and dearest friends. It wasn't cliiquey at all, we all only got together on Bread and Wine Club nights. But when we were together, we were real, honest, encouraging, and it was super fun. I couldn't recommend it more! If you start a supper club I'd love to know about it! Tag me (@heyashleynoelle) in your instagram or comment below! I'm happy to answer any questions anyone has! Enjoy!

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Write Scripture On Your Walls

Around 5 years ago I found some really beautiful prints (on etsy?) that I wanted for Reese's room. I purchased one from Naptime Diaries and started following the shipowner Jessi's blog. Over the years we have become good friends and I had the immense pleasure to work with her at The Influence Network

If you've ever been inside my house you have seen one of the Naptime Diaries prints. I literally had them in every room, even the bathroom. In this picture alone I know for sure I am missing three prints, and a lent calendar that are still packed away in a box following our move. 

I don't even know if Jessi remembers this but, shortly after that, my mother hit a rough spot in her doctoral work. She was not yet a believer (she is now!) but she had attended church twice in a row and they had been studying Nehemiah 6:3 She confided in me that even though she didnt really believe, she felt like that verse was God confirming in her that she should continue her doctoral work. I wanted to surprise her, so I told her I sent her something in the mail. After 2 weeks when it hadn't arrived, I emailed Jessi (we were still not friends yet). She assured me this never happens and sent a second copy to my mom. 2 weeks after that and neither copy had arrived yet and so Jessi overnighted a 3rd copy certified mail. My mom called me that day and told me that she had finally received her print. And, embarassingly received ALL THREE copies. She had just assumed that her church had been reaching out to a new comer and sending a really high end print of the scripture they were studying was like a "newcomers" gift. I emailed Jessi and offered to pay for all three copies and the shipping but she just laughed and graciously declines saying she would be praying for my moms salvation and her studies. And last year in July my husband baptized my mother. Later in December I watched her walk across the stage and receive her doctorate. 

So, as you can see, I have a dear dear spot in my heart for Naptime Diaries. And y'all, in a crazy show of faithfulness to the Lords call on their life, @jessaconnolly and @nconnolly and their team are closing the shop down. April 15 is the last day you can order an actual print and following that there will be digital prints available for a short time. After that you will never see these prints again unless you happen to find yourself in my bathroom. 

Seriously and truly, run don't walk to get some beautiful scripture to write on the walls of your home and heart.