I grew up a preacher's daughter. I've been raised in a Christian home by two loving parents who, I know, think the world of me and my other three siblings. I accepted Christ as my Lord and Savior when I was 4 years old. Mom said I would beg her every night to help me pray the salvation prayer, but she waited until she knew for sure it was coming from my heart. I guess I must have been a pretty mature 4 year old!
I started school a year early in a Christian private school (I had a late birthday but Mom didn't want me to wait another year to start school). After the first half of the school year was over, we moved and I finished kindergarten in a Christian homeschooling program. I continued home school all the way through 4th grade, and in 5th grade, God told Mom to send us to public school. So my childhood was not faced by many social hardships. But 5th grade exposed me to many things that I was not aware of before. I had friends who knew every cuss word that existed (and said all of them), watched rated R movies, outwardly disrespected all forms of authority, and frankly, had very perverted minds for 5th graders. I'd never heard of any of these things before. I just knew these kids were not raised in Christian homes like me.
In middle school, I was not a very well-liked person. I was open about my relationship with Christ and what I believed in, but a little too open. I became judgemental of what I saw my friends doing and I would say something about it when I really shouldn't have. My "friends" talked about me behind my back all the time but I was so oblivious. I didn't know people could be as mean as they were. I was protected from the world as I was growing up so people being mean was a new thing for me.
During Christmas break of 7th grade we moved again, but only to a city 30 minutes away. I met new friends and was treated more nicely at my new school. I felt loved and accepted for once. People knew I was a preacher's kid and they knew I was a strong Christian. Or should I say a strict Christian? I admit, I was a rule-follower. I did what I was told to do in Sunday School and thought Christianity was just a list of Do's and Dont's. Although my new friends accepted this about me, I knew they didn't like it. Nobody likes somebody who points their finger at every thing every body does wrong and condemns them for it.
It wasn't until the end of my Freshman Year in high school when I found out what true Christianity is. It's not a list of Do's and Dont's. It's not about being perfect, doing everything right, and condemning those who screw up. It's a passionate relationship with Jesus Christ. In 9th grade, I found my best friend. I talk to Him and confide in Him every day. I tell Him when I feel hurt, excited, happy, sad, mad, or like I could conquer the world! He listens to every word I have to say to Him. But I listen to Him too. When I'm done spilling my guts out to him, He comforts me, rejoices with me, calms me, and He's with me every step of the way in this journey called life. His name is Jesus.
The closest I ever came to Jesus was the first semester of my Sophomore year. After I got in a four wheeler accident with my youngest sister on October 8, 2011. I was 14 turning 15 and she was 10. We grew up riding four wheelers and it was one of our favorite hobbies. In the back of our neighborhood there was a huge pecan orchard that was perfect for riding. One day we decided to go out and ride, me, my Mom, my two younger sisters, and my older brother (Dad was at work). I was driving the smaller four wheeler with my 10 year old sister sitting in front of me. On this particular day, we went to an area of the orchard we had not been to before. Mom drove around a little bit to make sure there weren't any big branches or broken glass or anything laying around. It all looked clear so we headed out. I was going at high speeds, racing through the tall grass, me and my sister having the time of our lives. All of a sudden, a 6 1/2 foot deep ditch appeared and I drove right into it. As I was driving, it didn't look like the ditch was that deep, a few feet maybe. I thought we would just land in it and it would give a little jerk. I figured my sister might get hurt but maybe just a bruise on her head.
Once we landed, she screamed. She turned around and her face was bloody. Her nose was crushed and pushed straight up, like a pig's. I was horrified and climbed out of the ditch, screaming for Mom. "Oh my gosh!! Mom!!! Come here!! Abby's hurt!!" I saw my brother and other sister coming on the bigger four wheeler. Abby had somehow managed to climb out of the ditch herself and was running behind me. My other sister jumped off their four wheeler and ran to Abby. I told them, "Go!! Take her to Mom!!" And they drove back to where Mom was standing, expecting the least when the worst was coming.
Immediately I called my boyfriend at the time who was my best friend, and still is. I told him what happened and I was crying my eyes out. "I didn't know the ditch was there...I didn't know," I remember saying. He told me to calm down and he was going to pray. We hung up and I just knelt down on my knees and cried. I didn't go to my family. I stayed by the ditch and cried, and prayed. "God please heal her face, make everything go okay. God please..." Eventually my other sister came back to get me and said Mom wanted to see me. The first thing that happened when I walked up was Abby called me. She told me to go to her. She told me, "Ashley, this isn't your fault. I'm going to be okay. But it's not your fault." I explained to everybody what happened and Abby and Mom were sent off in an ambulance.
Abby had to have four hours reconstructive surgery the next morning. Pretty much all of the bones in her nose and around her eyes were either crushed or gone, and there was a lot of internal damage in her face/head. It's mostly made of metal now. Her face looks very different than before but she is my beautiful little sister (the red-head you'll see in several of my pictures is Abby). Through all the hardship we as a family faced after the accident, God was there. Speaking to us, healing us, listening to our cries for help. For about 7 months (from the accident to the end of school) I was depressed. I didn't understand my purpose in life and didn't know how anybody could love me or care about me. I knew the accident wasn't my fault and I told myself that all the time. But we do have an enemy. Satan crawled into my mind and planted the guilt into my heart. I may not have realized it, but it was there. I believed his lies, that I didn't belong and that nobody loved me. This was when I began having suicidal thoughts.
These thoughts were not my own. I knew they came from a dark source, were very dangerous, and I needed help, quick. I told Mom and Dad I needed to talk to them. I told them everything. I trusted my parents and I knew they would be the ones to help. They helped me fight against my suicidal thoughts. For a while I got over it. But it started up again when I faced drama with friends who had betrayed me once again. I felt unloved, like I didn't matter, nobody cared, and like I didn't have a purpose in life. These thoughts scared me and I fought them as hard as I could. I came to Jesus about it. He showed me that I WAS loved, and I DID matter, and I HAD a purpose in life.
Now I have been set free from suicide and depression. I am a STRONG Christian and I have a deep desire for spreading the Word that I never had before. I want people to see the REAL Jesus. He's funny, fierce, human, generous, honest, cunning, scandalous, loving, compassionate, and beautiful. My goal is to show the world who God really is. I want people to see these traits in my photography. A picture's worth a thousand words right? So come and meet my best friend, Jesus. He's anxious to speak to you.