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This entire year has been an absolute whirlwind. If you asked me at the beginning of the year what I thought the next 12 months would look like, THIS would NOT be it. Being able to talk about what’s happening in my life again has been a great outlet for me, but also something I’m still remembering that I’m allowed to do. For the past almost 2 years, I couldn’t talk about the real parts of our life because I was under court order not to. Everything I did was used against me in court… My writing stopped, my blogging stopped, being able to share my truth… it all had to stop and I’m relearning how to find it and share it again. I’ll save all of that for a different day, but I just wanted to tell you how meaningful this all is, that I can even come back to this online world again and share my life with you.
The dust is starting to settle finally after moving across the country last month. The trips have ended, the moving is done, my family is no longer visiting, and now we’re learning what “normal” life is for us. Now that we’re here, I want to share with you how in the world we ended up in Nashville.
Our first trip up here was last April. We brought the kids for their spring break, and because of people who I had on my team that lived in Nashville, we decided to expand The Shine Project here. I’ve been a lot of places, and Nashville was the only place that I ever thought, “Wow, I could actually lived here.” Shiloh actually tried to convince us to move. But living in Nashville wasn’t something we’d actually ever do… we had kids who were integrated into their schools and community, we lived by my family, my office was in Phoenix, we had no desire or need to relocate anywhere, etc, etc. So, we came back up a few times with the kids just to visit and decided that it was one of our favorite places to escape to.
Then, it happened. We unexpectedly lost our kids in January, and our life took a very painful turn. When I got the call that they were being taken from us, I was in Atlanta for work. The next day Mike flew out and met me in Nashville, because we knew we needed to not be in our house so soon after they had been taken and we needed to be alone and try to wrap our brains and hearts around what the hell just happened to us, and what we were going to do next. As we spent those first couple of days, alone together for the first time in years, something inside of both of us tugged at us that we needed to move there. We drove around looking at different areas, wondering where we could find ourselves again, and knowing that we needed to move.
When we got back to Phoenix and I walked into our house for the first time, our empty, sad, lifeless house… I completely lost it. I sat in Zoe’s room on her little bed, and screamed and yelled and swore and felt every horrific, horrible, excruciating feeling I never knew existed. Every day in that house sucked out more and more of the very little life that Mike and I had left in us. We knew we could never feel peace there, or heal, or move forward, or be okay. Everything we did and saw was a painful reminder that there was just two of us now. I used to walk with the kids and the dog every day after school to get the mail, and doing little tasks like that became impossible because it was all a part of our old routine, except the people I used to share those moments with were no longer there. We didn’t check the mail for so long that after one really bad day, I went home to shower to find that our water was off. We figured out that bills hadn’t been paid (because life doesn’t stop for you when you’re going through hell) because they were sitting in our unopened mailbox. Going back to our house after work just added to the anxiety and depression that I already was engulfed with, and I physically, emotionally, and mentally could not take it.
As soon as we listed our house for sale, I flew out to Nashville, and we put an offer on a home that I showed to Mike over FaceTime. We wanted to sell our Phoenix house before we bought our new one, so we made an offer on the home that was contingent upon us selling our house in Phoenix. Within the week, a woman made a cash offer on our Phoenix house, which meant that we had 2 weeks to be out and that God was truly mindful of helping us on to the next chapter in our lives. We were so excited.
Less than a week before our house sale was supposed to be finalized, our buyer backed out. We lost the house in Nashville, and would spend the next 3 months in so much confusion wondering why nobody was buying our house, if we’d ever get out of there, and not being able to move forward AT ALL. It was honestly horrible. Loosing your children is the worst thing I could fathom going through in this life, and then to just be trapped in the pain in the home that was a constant reminder of our loss… it was all so impossible. After months of trying to sell our home, we decided that maybe we should try renting it out instead. We put our house up for rent in May, and within TWO days two people wanted it. We had 3 weeks to now be out of our Phoenix home, but nowhere to go in Nashville. When the family rented our house, I started sobbing. I realized as hard as it was to be there, that it was the last tangible piece of our family. I am so happy our Phoenix house didn’t sell, and that we still have it, but are able to have a different family fill it with love and memories now.
We immediately flew up to Nashville and spent 2 days looking in different areas of the city that we wanted to live in. The market here is crazy, so we’d go to look at a house we really wanted, to find out that it had just been under contract. Things weren’t looking great for us. We were driving down a street on the way to look at a house, and this one particular street had the most magical feeling. I was like Mike, do you feel that? This place is so beautiful and special and I want to live here. There happened to be 2 houses for sale on the street, but they hadn’t been listed yet… the agent let us go in to them… and that house we drove by on the most magical street, is now our current home.
During that same time, I needed to figure out what would happen with me working from Nashville and not with everyone else in Phoenix. I needed an office space, and the same day that one of my friends/business associates looked for one, was also the same day a new retail space was listed. She said, Ashley, why don’t you have a retail space with an office in the back? I was like hmm… that’s a perfect idea. Then she told me that the space was only about 10 minutes from my house and it sealed the deal for me.
Before we left Phoenix, we sold all of our things. The items we kept were artwork the kids made us over the last 4 years, or clothing of theirs I found left at the house, and old stuffed animals of theirs. Everything we owned fit in our car that we shipped up here. It was a weird, yet liberating feeling. We didn’t want to make a big deal of our move so we really didn’t tell anyone, or say goodbye to people. We’ll be back to Phoenix here and there because our family lives there and my office is there.
People ask us a lot why we moved to Nashville.
We have no family here, or anywhere within 1600 miles, knew maybe 5 people, had no reason to come for work…. we just came. We came because we felt a pull to. Because we want to find our lives again. Because God knew I needed to sit out front on my porch and watch fireflies light up my green yard that has trees and grass and blue birds, and have neighbors who bring me vegetables from their garden, and feel the sweet southern way of life that brings a little peace and healing.
We’ve been in awe of everything since we moved here. It’s all so different than our normal. And we needed different. We needed to feel excited about something… about anything, and we needed a place where we can heal… So when the time comes that Zoe and Shiloh see us again, they’ll be proud of who we are and who we’ve become.
Here we are, Nashville. Fighting hard to find happiness and joy again, and knowing that this is the place we need to be for a while. I have no idea what’s in store for us, but we feel like were at home. It’s the move we never wanted, never anticipated, and never saw coming. But it might just be the move that literally saves our lives.
I want to start blogging again. For so many reasons… but I need your help and input. Do you want me to? What do you want me to share? What will help you, or make you happy? Please let me know in the comments below… Thanks for following our insane and crazy journey.
We also just started a YouTube Channel here. We hope that our journey right now can help you along in yours…