Mar 31, 2012

Saturday SHINE.....

Good morning, sweet SHINE girls! It's Saturday, so no weekend reading. Take some time to catch up on your reading if you are behind.

Today, I have a sweet surprise for all of you. I have asked Ashley Brown to guest blog. 

A little something about Ashley: We met about 3 years ago in Madison, and I have never quite known anyone like her. She is absolutely the sweetest, most loyal, most generous friend in the world. The funny thing is, when I tell her how wonderful she is, she blushes and tells me that I am crazy. :)

Ashley would never, ever toot her own horn, so I will gladly do it for her. When I asked her to guest blog, the first thing she said was, "I have nothing great to say!". 

I knew she would say that! She absolutely has a lot to say though. I have told Ashley before that she is the definition of the Proverbs 31 woman. She works so hard in everything that she does, and she is always concerned about others. Ashley grows her beautiful dark hair out every year and then cuts it to give away to make wigs for cancer patients. She has done this 3 or 4 times! See, she is incredible!

I admire her more than she will ever know. Be blessed by her story. 

 Ashley's Journey:

When Jill asked me to be today’s guest blogger, my first thought was, what in the world would I talk about?  I don’t have anything “special” in my life to teach anyone.  This is completely out of my comfort zone!  I thought about it, and decided it is time for me to step out!
My husband, Jason and I started dating when I was 15 and he was 17.  We were the typical high school sweethearts.  We got married after college in 2001.  Our first son, Noah, was born 4 days after out 1st anniversary!  I quit my teaching job to stay at home and be a mama.  We had a son, Colby, 2 years later.  When my boys were 18 months and 3 ½, my husband decided to open up his own Civil Engineering business with a friend.  We then moved to our new town.  We had a wonderful new home, living in a beautiful small town, and business was great!
  Jason and I had talked about trying to have a 3rd child.  He was ready, I wasn’t sure if I was.  I didn’t feel our marriage was in a place to bring a 3rd baby into. Jason is a very devoted father.  He would do anything and everything for our kids.  He wanted to spend every waking moment while he wasn’t working with our kids.  But, that was the problem.  Our kids were his life.  They were #1 in his life, and I was #2.  He felt that as long as we were raising kids, they were to be the priority, and our relationship was put on the back burner, I guess until they were graduated and gone.  Then it would be our time to have a relationship.  I felt that if I had to wait until then, I probably wouldn’t be here waiting.  I come from a divorced home.  I never wanted to ever put my kids through that.  My biggest fear in my marriage is not that my husband would cheat on me or ever leave me, but that I would fall out of love with him.
   I HAD to find a way to have a relationship with my husband!  I began to pray for Jason and me to become closer and closer each day.  We would have good months and months where I felt completely disconnected.  I mean, we didn’t ever fight or anything, we just didn’t have much of a relationship outside of our children.
  Meanwhile, our 3rd child, EmmaClaire, was born.  Then the economy crashed.  Not good for a new engineering business!  We were trying to figure out how to survive on my husband’s income.  I worked in his office a few mornings a week as a secretary, started  keeping other children in my home, sewing baby clothes for people, anything I could find to help out.  When EmmaClaire was 2 I took a part-time job teaching Pre-K at a preschool, still keeping kids in the afternoon. 
  In April of last year, we came home from a beach trip to a kitchen with a leaking refrigerator, floors buckling up.  We ended up finding mold under the cabinets, and completely tore our kitchen out and remodeled the whole room.  This sounds great to get a whole new kitchen, and in the end it was, but it was a lot of work since we did most of it ourselves with help from family and friends.  Once we were able to move back into the kitchen, after having our entire kitchen (refrigerator, stove, washing machine, dryer, table and chairs) in our den for a couple of months, the washing machine leaked and had to be replaced.  Oh, and we had already replaced a broken dish washer, air conditioner/heat unit that went out, and our ceiling in our garage collapsed all within 2 months.  Man, it seemed like everything was going wrong for us.  My husband’s job was still very slow and wasn’t sure if it was even going to make it. 
  While all of this was going on, Jason came home early one day with what he thought was a stomach virus.  He could not stop throwing up and had severe pain.  So off we went to the emergency room.  We were now thinking he had an appendicitis.  After lots of tests and CT-Scan, the Dr. came in at 4 AM to tell us he had kidney stones and was diagnosed with Polycystic Kidney Disease.  We looked at each other in shock.  DISEASE??  We went to numerous Dr. visits to find out more information and get second opinions.  Both of Jason’s kidneys and liver have cysts on them.  There is no treatment or cure for this disease.  It may never affect him, or he may end up on dialysis or have kidney transplants since the cysts growth end up causing kidney failure.  This hit me hard!  I had to stay strong for him, especially since Jason has what they call “White Coat Syndrome.”  His blood pressure rises even for regular check-ups at a Dr. office because of anxiety.  I kept it together in front of him, but I couldn’t help letting my thoughts go to the worst.  What if I lost my husband at an early age?  What about my kids?  They have a 50% chance of having this same disease.  Should we get them tested now or wait until they are older?  There were lots of things going through my head. 
  I will never forget, while all of these things were going on in our life, my husband held me and said, “It is strange, with everything we have been going through, I feel closer to you than I ever have.”  All of a sudden a light bulb went off!  For 3 years I had been praying for our marriage to get stronger and for us to get closer.  It took a slow job, a house falling apart, and one of us being diagnosed with a chronic disease to see my prayer being answered.  Through all of this, the verse I lived by was, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace.  In this world you will have trouble.  But take heart!  I have overcome the world!”  John 16:33
  I feel so at peace with my life right now.  My walk with God is getting stronger and stronger. I still find myself thinking of what if Jason’s disease progresses or if one or all of my kids have it since we haven’t had them tested yet.  But, as soon as these thoughts hit my mind, I feel a peace.  I feel God taking those worries away and letting me know that everything is going to be ok.  I am learning to give it all to Jesus!  Jason and I are closer than ever. 

 We don’t have a “perfect” marriage by any means (who does?), but we are in a good place.  We recently celebrated our 10th anniversary!  I find myself looking at him and thinking, man, I love this man!  I truly believe God is working in this household. 

 I am involved in a Bible study with Jill and some great women.  Jason is in a Bible study with Lem and some great men.  My other prayer has been for my husband and kids to become closer to the Lord.  I can see this in Jason, and my 2 boys, now 9and 7, have recently let me know they are saved and have accepted Jesus in their hearts!  Praise the Lord!  God has lots of plans for this Brown family, and I am ready and willing to do whatever he has in store for us!

Jason and I on our wedding day 

The Brown Family--
Jason, Ashley, Noah, Colby,  and EmmaClaire

Fun times!

EmmaClaire and Me

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