For many of you listening, 2018 was so hard. A year that you will likely not want to remember but will forever mark a life-changing moment so you will likely never forget. Last year felt hard and heavy for me personally, not in the way it did for you, but hard and heavy still — there was simply too much on my calendar and too much in my mind and so much weighing on my heart all of the time. But I decided to intentionally look back at 2018 with eyes wide open searching for the good that I was sure God worked, in spite of me.
It’s so easy for me to move forward without ever looking back in a way that is purposeful in celebrating the good. Typically I only see what is unfinished, incomplete, broken and imperfect. Maybe you’re in that spot too. Maybe you want to move on and never think about last year ever again, BUT I would encourage you with these two truths: that God is always working and our pain is never without purpose. So after this podcast is over take a few minutes or hours or days and prayerfully consider the good that God did in you and through you this past year.
So, in an effort to not miss the good that God did here, to look beyond that which is unfinished and goals unmet, I want to celebrate, I want to acknowledge out loud tangible evidences of God’s grace here. I want to spend our time together in this first episode of 2019 taking a look back at 2018. Because when I choose to look for the good and to celebrate and I am immediately reminded that God is always working even when it feels slow or painful or hard and heavy.
When I started thinking about this past year I began jotting down a few notes and it was crazy how quickly that list grew and how long it became. God did SO much here last year. I almost couldn’t believe. Had I not taken the time to do this I could have very easily run headfirst into this new year without acknowledging all the amazing things that happened in 2018. So, again, no matter how hard last year was for you, I would encourage you to do this exercise.
You can start by opening your calendar and thinking back to last January, what happened in that month and how did God show up? What good can you find there? What did you learn? What prayers were answered? If you are forgetful like me take a peek at your paper planner or digital calendar or your journal or social media to see what was happening a year ago. And then keep going until you’ve gotten through the entire year. Journal your thoughts and write down the things that you are grateful for, the things you’ve learned, the prayers that were answered but also write down the things that still feel hard and heavy and ask God to continue to work healing in your heart in those specific areas.
Remember, looking back doesn’t mean we pretend everything is and was perfect; and asking God for healing in the places your heart feels broken is a great way to start this year. Gratitude and sorrow are not mutually exclusive — they can both co-exist. I am grateful to God for my son, for his life and all that I have learned because of him but there are still parts of my heart that feel broken parts that I am in constant need of God to fix, to heal, to restore. I say all that to say, do this exercise with freedom, knowing that the expectation isn’t for you to feel ok but rather to look for the good even amidst the heartache.
So, let’s spend some time specifically looking for the good from 2018.
No. 01. I launched a podcast!
Since the podcast launched in August it has had over 32,000 plays. To some that might seem like small numbers but for this girl who wasn’t sure who in the world would want to listen to me talk about such hard things I could not be more grateful. It became very clear very early how much this podcast meant to you all. Thank you for tuning in each week. Thank you for downloading and subscribing and sharing and leaving reviews. I am honored that you would want to listen, truly honored.
In case you a newer listener I wanted to share the most listened to episodes from Season 01 so you can go back and give those a listen — the favorite episodes from Season 1 were:
- Episode 005 with my sweet friend Katelyn Alsop who grieved with such grace and transparency after she learned during pregnancy that her 2nd baby James Michael Alsop would not live after birth. Our time together on the podcast was raw and honest and would be incredibly helpful to anyone who has received a terminal diagnosis for their baby.
- Episode 006 with Lindsay Ostrom was also a favorite, Lindsay so beautifully puts words to my grief, even now 10 years later. Her baby boy Afton was born prematurely and her honesty about infant loss and grief in general is so incredibly helpful.
- You all also loved the first 3 episodes where I share my personal story of loss in Episode 01, an interview with my husband in Episode 02 about what we’ve learned, what we would have done differently and what advice we would give to newly grieving parents today. In Episode 03 I talk with my best friend, Shay Cochrane about how to love your friend who is grieving. We share super practical and honest insights about what it’s like to pursue friendship amidst such loss.
If you haven’t listened to those episodes I would encourage you to do so! And while those may have been the favorites, it wasn’t by much, meaning, you all loved all the episodes nearly equally — so if you’re new here take some time to go back and listen to some of the oldies in Season 01. And my personal favorite episode of Season 01 was Episode 17 – 10 Ways I Have Found Purpose in the Pain. If you are newly grieving, when all the pain feels utterly arbitrary and pointless, and it’s hard to see any good at all – I think this specific episode might be helpful and bring a bit of encouragement to your broken heart.
No. 02 – The Birthday Project
In case you don’t know what the Birthday Project is, let me explain. On my son’s would-have-been 5th birthday we launched The AadenSage Birthday Project, to honor my son Aaden Sage Proffitt on his birthday — as a grieving mom myself I realized and experienced first hand that one of the biggest fears when a baby dies is that they will be forgotten. And I wanted to remedy that. So every year for the past 5 years we celebrate my baby in heaven’s birthday by reminding parents their baby is not forgotten. During the month of October we gift parents a tangible reminder in the form of a card and an art print that their baby is forever loved and remembered.
This year as we celebrated my son’s 10th birthday we had our biggest Birthday Project year to date. We sent the most prints ever and more than doubled the number we shipped out last year. That means we doubled the number of parents who were reminded that their baby is not forgotten and doubled the number of parents who were told they were loved and their baby was loved and that their pain was not forgotten. Being able to tell someone who is hurting “I know, I see you, I remember too” is a gift that I do not take for granted.
No. 03 – Funeral Planning Resources for Babies
Planning a funeral for a baby is something a mother should never have to do. And yet because this world is broken and tragedy occurs more than it should, young mothers too often find themselves in the horrific position of having to plan their own child’s funeral.
When my son died at almost 6 weeks old I had no clue how to plan a funeral service for him. Nor did I want to. I had no idea where to start, what my options were, and how to make it meaningful and special for this baby boy who I loved and wanted to honor and celebrate and treasure one last time here on earth.
Most funeral planning resources are for adults and don’t really feel appropriate for honoring a baby. So I created a step by step planning guide and dedicated an entire podcast episode about how to plan a memorial for a baby (episode 008) – all the things I wish I would have known and had access to when my baby boy died.
I realize that if you are listening you most likely no longer have need of those resources however I also know from experience that because you have lost a baby others will reach out to you if they themselves or someone they know has to walk that same road one day. So tuck this resource in your pocket just in case someone you know could use it in the future.
One of the resources I created specifically for funerals or memorials was a line of beautiful paper goods that are customizable and available instantly. Again, this resource was developed as a result of my own experience and realization that nothing truly beautiful or baby appropriate existed. I am so grateful to be able to offer these beautiful designs to grieving families.
04. 70 Blog Posts in 2018!
That feels absolutely crazy! I had no idea until I went back and counted. I am the kind of girl who typically feels like I don’t get anything done so when I saw that number rise as I counted I was so grateful! I am so encouraged by that number because that means 70 individual pieces of helpful, practical, hope-filled, honest content was created for women who are grieving. Resources that I pray met you in your moment of need with reminders you aren’t alone and reminders that it’s ok to not be ok and reminders that one day you will laugh again — reminders of hope and joy amidst your brokenness.
Among those 70 posts were personal stories of finding hope and healing after loss. In 2018 we launched the “Share Your Stories” feature and we got to hear from you. The Morning was never meant to be just about me and my experience. Instead, The Morning was created to be a place where women are reminded that they aren’t alone in their grief and what better way to do that than to hear from you, for you to share your personal story of loss and what it looked like for you to find hope again. It is no surprise that out of 70 posts in 2018 these personal stories were our most popular.
If you are interested in sharing your story with us, we would love to hear it, simply go to themorning.com/sharemystory for details.
Among those 70 posts we also created and shared countless practical resources about walking through grief. Resources that included self-care tips and tips for sleeping better and what foods are helpful and what foods are harmful while grieving. You can find those posts under the category “Helpful Tips for Grief.”
Out of all the resources we created this year I personally think the following two are among the most helpful:
- What to Expect When Grieving a Miscarriage or Infant Death. it’s a resource about all the things that I personally experienced that I would have loved to have known were a normal part of grief and healing. When you are in the early days of grief and everything feels so new and strange it can be easy to assume that you are “doing it wrong” — you can easily question every thought and action and dissect every word said or decision made wondering if this is normal. And often what comes as a result of that questioning and wondering is shame. Shame that you’re not doing it right. You’re not crying enough or you’re crying too much. Shame that you’re moving on too quickly or that you’re not moving on fast enough. So many questions that I remember so vividly; so I pulled together this resource — just a general what to expect when you’re grieving. My hope in that resource is to give a bit of freedom, a reminder, maybe for the first time, that you’re not doing it wrong and you’re normal and you’re going to be ok. You can find that complete resource at http://www.themorning.com/whattoexpect.
- The second resource that I think is incredibly helpful is: What I Wish I Had Known About Miscarriage. This post was essentially written by 40 of you, telling me what you wish you had known so that women walking through this in the future would find comfort and help and a knowing that what they are experiencing is normal. And they would be reminded that they aren’t crazy and most importantly they aren’t alone. You can find that post at http://www.themorning.com/ihadamiscarriage/
05. We walked through tough seasons together
We walked through tough moments like Mother’s Day and the Christmas season together. And we did so in a way that was purposeful and intentional and filled with hope.
For Mother’s Day you got to hear from women who were grieving just like you every day leading up to Mother’s Day. My hope was that your heart would be so reminded of how loved you were, so filled up, that it would provide the strength and the courage to face a hard, hard day like Mother’s Day. And if you didn’t feel courageous or strong enough to face the day, my hope was that it also gave you the permission to not feel like you had to. It was a joy to walk through Mother’s Day with you. To tell you that you are a mother even when you’re arms are empty and your heart is aching.
And to prepare for Thanksgiving and Christmas I interviewed two sweet women Meg Walker and Sterling Myers in Episode 018 and asked them to give us all their honest advice about navigating the holidays when you’re grieving. It was such a helpful and honest episode. And then we spent the 25 days leading up to Christmas with a short podcast every single day that was meant to point your heart towards true hope.
The holidays are a land mine when you are grieving, every step you take feels dangerous a reminder of what has been lost and spending that time together through December, I pray, set your feet and your heart in a safe place where you could be reminded of God’s goodness and restorative power — because that’s what Christmas is all about — redeeming and rescuing that which is broken.
06. A Few Exciting Numbers
I’m not typically a numbers girl. Remember, I typically charge forward and never even think about taking a look at such things. But numbers are fruit and I want to count the fruit! I want to thank God for what He grew last year. So as we finish up celebrating let’s talk numbers for a second
- Friends, we grew our online community by 170%. Did you even know we had an online community? A place where you can feel known and understood because the other women are just like you. Women who can offer help and advice and hope and encouragement. If you haven’t joined us yet, come on over, just go to http://www.themorning.com/community to join!
- Another exciting number is that the blog readership grew by 200%! That’s crazy! Because remember, when I started this thing I had no idea who in the world would actually want to read what I might write here so to see that number is incredibly encouraging– I am so incredibly grateful and to be honest it just motivates me to create more helpful and hope-filled content for you in 2019! So keep reading friends. It matters!
- We saw the biggest growth in our social media presence and saw our reach expand by 250%.
None of those numbers are just numbers to me. Those numbers represent real women who are hurting. Those numbers represent grieving mothers who I have the honor of getting to come alongside and help. Those numbers represent friends and family of grieving mothers who have said “help me love my friend better.” Those numbers represent healing being brought to broken hearts and of joy being restored.
So, we talked celebrations let’s talk challenges for a bit. We live in a broken and fallen world. So unfortunately for this perfectionist, nothing is ever quite perfect. That means there were quite a few challenges I faced here last year but the biggest challenge, if I’m being completely honest and transparent — was simply that I am on my own, doing all of this work by myself.
I recently shared on social media how hard this past year was wearing all the different hats that go along with starting something like The Morning. I am personally in charge of every aspect of this thing from writing every single piece of content that goes out from a blog post to an instagram post to an entire podcast episode, to figuring out how in the world to even start a podcast, to recording and editing and producing every episode, to managing the money and the accounting and paying taxes. I am both the visionary and the CEO and the CFO and the administrative assistant who should be fired by my complete inability to respond to emails in a timely manner.
What’s the point Ashlee? The point is there’s a lot going on over here and my hope for 2019 is that I figure out how to do this thing better. Because I love this work and I love YOU and I want steward well this opportunity that God has given me. I want to be around to see more healthy fruit grow! And getting this thing to a healthy place means that it can be around serving you for a long, long time, and that’s my hope.
three hopes for 2019
Speaking of hope, I want to end our time together by sharing my 3 hopes for you and this community in 2019. Sure, I have tangible measurable goals for this community in 2019 – goals to see more resources developed and produced that would help you find healing in your grief; I have a crazy goal to finish that book proposal I’ve been working on and a seemingly even crazier goal to host a retreat for grieving women. I mean what better way to remind a woman she isn’t alone in her grief than by putting her in a room with dozens of other women who are grieving just liker her.
But more than even those goals are my three specific prayers for The Morning Community, for you, in 2019:
- Ephesians 3:14-20
“For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name.I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.”
- I pray that every resource I create, every post that I write, every podcast episode I record would remind you how wide and how long and how high and how deep is the love of Christ for you; that you would be reminded of His goodness and His power at work within you, for His glory and your good.
- 2 Corinthians 3-5
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.”
- My prayer is that by God’s grace and power I would comfort you as God has comforted me so that you might be able to comfort others. Our pain is never without purpose and one of the purposes is that we might, at some point in the future, comfort others with the hope and comfort we have received from Christ.
- Psalm 30
I will extol you, O Lord, for you have drawn me up and have not let my foes rejoice over me.
O Lord my God, I cried to you for help, and you have healed me.
O Lord, you have brought up my soul from Sheol;
you restored me to life from among those who go down to the pit.
Sing praises to the Lord, O you his saints,
and give thanks to his holy name.
For his anger is but for a moment, and his favor is for a lifetime.
Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning.
As for me, I said in my prosperity, “I shall never be moved.”
By your favor, O Lord, you made my mountain stand strong;
you hid your face; I was dismayed.
To you, O Lord, I cry, and to the Lord I plead for mercy:
“What profit is there in my death, if I go down to the pit?
Will the dust praise you? Will it tell of your faithfulness?
Hear, O Lord, and be merciful to me!
O Lord, be my helper!”
You have turned for me my mourning into dancing;
you have loosed my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness,
that my glory may sing your praise and not be silent.
O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever!
- My prayer is that we would be women who cry to God for help and that He would provide healing. That He would restore our life and that in turn we would sing praises to Him, giving thanks to Him in our soul. I pray that He would turn our tears to laughter, that joy would come in the morning. My prayer is that our knowledge of who God is would grow, that our trust in Him and our love for Him would increase, as we grow to understand Him more and more. I pray that He would turn our mourning into dancing and that we would never forget the ways He healed our broken hearts, that we would forever give thanks to Him.
Thank you for being here friend. Thank you for letting me walk alongside you amidst your brokenness and pain. Thank you for joining me in 2018, I am forever grateful. I am praying for you today friend, and know this you are more loved than you can ever imagine and you are never alone in your grief.
Resources Mentioned in Episode 020
- Favorite Podcast Episodes
- Resources for Planning a Funeral for a Baby
- The Joyful Mourning Community
- Share Your Story
- Helpful Tips for Those Grieving
- What to Expect When Grieving a Pregnancy or Infant Loss
- What I Wish I Had Known About Miscarriage
- Episode 018: Navigating The Holidays with Meg Walker & Sterling Myers