The Grace to Grieve.

December 15, 2008.

Exactly one month after my son died I sat across the table from a woman who changed the way I viewed Jesus.

Only one month after I said goodbye to my baby and I felt like the entire world had moved on. Forgotten my son. Forgotten my pain. My heart was in shambles and there was seemingly no one that could identify with my new normal.

On a cold Virginia night in a busy Barnes and Noble, I met Kate Kelty. A sweet, sacrificial mutual friend introduced us and sat with us. She would later cry with us and pray over us. What a blessing sacrificial friendship is, the kinds that put away a desire for the comfortable and dive into suffering.

Kate looked knowingly into my eyes and said “How about I tell you my story of Anna?”

See, she knew that in those early days you have no idea how to communicate your grief. You are a dam ready to burst at any given moment and so out of fear of bursting you do your very best to keep silent.

So she talked. She gave me the grace to not say a single word. I just nodded along with tears streaming down my face as I mourned her loss of her precious Anna.

Kate was God’s grace to me.

She shared with me her own story of redemption, how Jesus met her in the midst of her grief and refused to leave her there; and how He was daily meeting her and speaking to her and healing her still.

Kate gave me the grace to grieve. To feel the depths of it. To be angry. To be overwhelmed with sadness. To be so afraid I couldn’t sleep for days on end. She reminded me that my pain, my frustration, my anger, and my fear did not and would not shorten the Hand of my Savior; not only would Jesus meet me in those darkest moments but He would not leave me there. He was big enough, mighty enough, healer enough, redeemer enough to rescue me from the pits of my grief.

Kate, thank you for being grace to me.

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. 2 Corinthians 1:3-4

I have had the privilege and honor to be a friend of Kate’s for the last almost 6 years. She is an enormous blessing to me and to so many women who are hurting.

Last week Kate released her very first book, The Jesus of My Grief. I have had the privilege of reading through Kate’s honest and real words to those grieving in her writing on her blog, ‘The Grace to Grieve‘ and now to read her book is just an amazing gift.

Jesus of My Grief by Kate Kelty

Her experience with Jesus challenges my view of Him in the best, most amazing way possible. If you know anyone who is in the midst of suffering or if you are in the midst of such great loss, I encourage you to read this book. I promise that it will press your heart towards Jesus.

Accusations rose loud and clear from the depths of my soul, and they scared me. As I prayed, “Lord, use this to make me better and not bitter, and Lord help me to grieve in a holy way,” I heard whispers rumbling deep inside me, words of hatred directed toward the Savior of my youth. I knew a war was on the horizon, and excruciating days were ahead.

A new part of the journey was now beginning, the long road to discovering the Jesus of my grief.” – Kate Kelty, The Jesus of My Grief.

 

 

Stationery Academy!

Stationery Academy | Lenae Photography & Video Portraits

In July I had the most amazing opportunity to attend and speak at the Stationery Academy. If you have ever heard me share the story of my business you know that my experience attending Stationery Academy in 2011 (read about it here and here) played the most integral part (i.e. life-changing!!) of where my business is today.

What I Love About Creative Conferences

Creative Community. In the creative business-owning world we can sometimes forget the big picture. We see nothing beyond our own struggles and our own failures; we get stuck in our own little world, playing our weaknesses against everyone else’s supposed strengths. (Thanks to social media we see only what people let us see and that is rarely the failures and hardships.) The beauty of community is that you realize, maybe for the first time, that you are not alone!! There are women out there, super successful women, with the exact same pitfalls and insecurities and fears as you. And even more beautiful than that realization is what happens next. Encouragement. And accountability. And truth. A wonderful pushing to go after that which is hard and scary.

Learning. I went to school to do this. I know the ins and outs of gorgeous typography and page layout. But no one taught me how to run a business. That was on me. And I was a terrible business owner. Thanks to a ton of super gifted and gracious women I can now say I am no longer a terrible business owner. I have learned core elements of running a strong business and how to put those into practice daily by simply putting myself in situations where I could learn from others.

Growth. Not the growth that we wrongly value in social media followers and likes. Real growth. Growth as an artist. Growth as a friend. Growth as a business owner. My first creative conference was Stationery Academy and it was there that I met real life business owners and made life-long friendships, both of which have encouraged true growth in all of those areas.

Stationery Academy | Lenae Photography & Video Portraits

What I Love About Stationery Academy

Stationery Community. There are so many creative businesses out there that are so amazing. But when I first started down this road of owning a stationery business, I found no resources for this specific industry. There were photography business books, event planner books, floral designer books but no great resources for me, the stationery designer and online boutique owner. Stationery Academy was so specific to my world that I walked away with more knowledge than I knew what to do with. Literally it took me about a year to implement all that I learned.

Unique Strengths & Gifts. Sometimes it can be hard to identify our strengths and our unique style and aesthetic as creatives. We feel like we have nothing of real, unique value to offer the world so we sometimes make the mistake of trying to be like someone else. Finding myself in this creative community finally helped me see that I do actually have something unique to offer. I was reminded that I see the world in a way that no one else does and though that may just seem normal and even boring to me, it is so special to the world.

Always Learning. It can be so discouraging to feel like everyone else has it together and we are the outliers who are constantly struggling and will seemingly never figure it out. However, being a part of this specific creative community has allowed me the freedom to say, there will always be challenges and there will always be something new to learn. We will never have it all figured out perfectly and that is part of the joy in this journey.

Stationery Academy | Lenae Photography & Video PortraitsStationery Academy | Lenae Photography & Video Portraits

So while I may have been at Stationery Academy to teach about branding (and you know I LOVE branding) my favorite part of Stationery Academy were those moments spent one-on-one with women. Hearing their hearts for their business, for their families; hearing their struggles and working through solutions specific to their journey. What a joy it brings me to come alongside women and bring encouragement and wisdom. Thank you Stationery Academy for having me. You are a blessing to my business and to my creative stationery-loving heart.

Jennifer Faught, Whitney English, Natalie Chang, and Nicolle Spitulnik you are an absolute incredible blessing to me and it was an honor to come alongside you to encourage and teach these women.

A special thanks to Lindsey McClennahan of Lenae Photography for the pretty images above!

Pursuing Dreams & Goals While Being a Mama First

Intentional Mama: Pursuing Dreams & Goals While Being a Mama First | by Ashlee Proffitt

Some may say I did things a little backwards. I was married as a senior in college and was pregnant the day I graduated.

Neither of those enormous life events were on my timeline. But if I’m honest I didn’t really have a timeline either. God did that planning for me and I am certain that His plan was for my good and His glory.

I had dreams and goals that I willingly put aside for awhile. At the time I could only see what was right in front of me and that turned into baby after baby after baby after baby. Literally. If I had had a woman in my life just a few steps ahead of me I am sure she would have said, this season will be fleeting. Enjoy it. There will be time for dreams and goals soon, just not yet.

My husband, my children and my ministry were my priority. And they still are. And I pray that with God’s grace they will forever be. But as the babies grew into toddlers and into sweet little children with a teeny bit of independence I entered a new season. A season with a teeny bit more freedom and a teeny bit more time to dream and set goals.

So, I thought it would be fun to share with you a few simple tips that allow me to dream big dreams and set attainable goals while being a mama first.

  • Fully embrace the season you are in. As a mama for almost 8 years now I can tell you with complete certainty that though it may not feel like it right now, this season is indeed fleeting. So embrace the one you are in. Enjoy it. Revel in it. Pray for the grace to fully dive in right where you are and the conviction to not wish it away for the hopes of something better. “Where ever you are be all there.” -Jim Elliot
  • Write it down. We are our worst critic as mothers. We feel guilty for ever wanting anything besides the call of motherhood. In the moments where you find yourself dreaming and planning, pull out a trusty journal and write down all those big ideas. Fight the guilt and the urge to suppress those dreams and get it down on paper. The beauty in getting the dream out of your head is that you are actually giving yourself the freedom to dream. If you continually deny yourself that freedom, bitterness will creep into strange places of your heart allowing you to start causing you to question (and even resent!) the glorious call of motherhood.
  • Communicate. Dream big dreams but do it with your spouse. Communicating those dreams with your husband will be the best way to ensure that you are on the same page which is so important as you set out to pursue anything. Dreams can quickly become divisive if not treaded carefully and in unity. He will keep you grounded in truth and objective wisdom.
  • Pray. Pray over these things that God has set in your heart; for His wisdom, discernment, direction and leading. Ask your husband to pray with you and for you too. Having my husband invested in me that way is one of the sweetest ways he shows me love.
  • Plan. At the end of each year I make a giant list of things I want to accomplish the next year, both within our family and in my work. I set end dates for those things and then I work backwards setting small attainable goals throughout the year to accomplish those big giant goals. Planning in such a way gives you the freedom to pursue those dreams a little at a time creating joy in your work and eliminating a good majority of the stress.
  • Plan With Your Husband. My husband and I sit down with our calendars the week between Christmas and New Year and make a tentative plan for the next year. We set dates for family vacation and time away for the two of us. We set our family calendar first because family comes first. Then, we add in extra things like conferences and speaking engagements and any other thing we may want to do that coming year. Obviously that calendar gets edited throughout the year but spending the time to actually plan together is so important as we discuss and have potentially hard conversations about what we are going to pursue that coming year and what we are going to choose to let go of.
  • Work Boundaries. Set strong work hours that are non-negotiable. And set those work hours around your spouse and children’s schedule. If they truly are you first priority then your calendar will reflect that. I have set office hours that I communicate to my clients on the front end. That work time is done apart from my children because I have decided that I am not great at doing two things at once and trying to mother while trying to focus on work left me resenting one or both roles. If there is a time that calls for extra work, I get up early or work during nap time.

While I am not perfect and there are definitely moments where my dreams and goals and pursuit of my work take precedent over the family,  having an overarching ideal in mind that I am striving for, a picture that helps me stay focused on the way I do want my life to function, helps tremendously.

I would love to hear from you! How do you pursue dreams and goals and work that you feel called to while keeping your husband and children first?

 

Branding: Paige Simple

Branding Inspiration Board for Paige Simple by Ashlee Proffitt

Hooray!!! At last I can show you an absolutely gorgeous brand I have had the privilege of working on this past year!

Kristin, from Paige Simple contacted me early this year and after taking a peek at her Pinterest account and reading through her in-depth branding homework I knew I had to work with her. I mean, how gorgeous is her Brand Inspiration!? (above)

Kristin is a rare gem, knowing exactly what she wants, what she’s drawn to and even why. She has a firm grasp on the mission of her business and makes solid, intentional and purposeful decisions without second guessing. I am in awe of her ability to hone in on what it is she wants to offer her clients and to be the very best at that offering.

Congratulations Kristin!! Paige Simple is amazing and I cannot wait to see the continued success that lies ahead.

P.S. The collateral pieces and client experience elements are just as amazing! I cannot wait to show them to you next!

Paige Simple Final Brand Board

Brand Board for Paige Simple by Ashlee Proffitt

Fashion: Top 3 Apparel Stores

Fashion: Favorite Shops | Megan Michele for AshleeProffitt.com | Banana Republic | Ann Taylor | J.Crew

Banana Republic. J.Crew. Ann Taylor – all make up my top 3 favorite apparel stores.

And the number reason why they’re my favorite: Because they offer tailored, clean lines with great quality. The majority of their pieces are classic and will stand-up through several years of trends. And as an extra bonus, they have great sales!

J.Crew
My Favorite Current Piece: Cleo Suede Loafer

Banana Republic
My Favorite Current Piece: Sloan-Fit Faux-Leather Ankle Pant 

Ann Taylor
My Favorite Current Piece: Drapey Pant


 

All Things Fashion by Megan Michele | AshleeProffitt.com

Megan Michele joins us bi-weekly for a fashion & style post to keep us young busy moms and career women looking our best. She offers simple tips and ideas to create effortless looks that won’t break the bank and beauty tips we are all looking for. Check back here every other week for beauty tips and style inspiration!

Lessons on Friendship.

True Friendship by Ashlee Proffitt

When it comes to friendship, I have been on the receiving end of beautiful, grace-filled friendships for the better part of the last 6 years. When I was utterly incapable of loving others well or putting others needs above my own there were women holding me up, standing in my stead, pleading with the Father for grace and peace and joy on my behalf.

When one sees another experience tragedy, the tendency can be to run; run out of fear or out of sadness or confusion or simply out of a desire to avoid an awkward situation or pain or simply the unknown. And though I did encounter those reactions to a small degree, I mostly just encountered grace.

I found women, or rather they found me, and chose to do the hard thing… to dive headlong into my pain. They gave me the freedom to weep and the freedom to laugh. They prayed for me when I could not and would not and they challenged me to see a Jesus who heals those that are broken and comforts those who are hurting.

Through these women I have experienced selflessness when I have been the most selfish. I have experienced true sacrifice and thoughtfulness amidst the most uncomfortable of circumstances. I have experienced love when I have been difficult to love. I have experienced hope when all seems hopeless. I have experienced joy amidst absolute heartache.

I have experienced the grace of Jesus through women who chose to put their needs, wants, desires, ambitions, and feelings aside to care for another. To forsake their life, to love me well and in so doing show me light amidst darkness.

Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.
John 15:13

Experiencing such beautiful friendships develop was a real life, in the moment, in the face of hard and ugly realities, Jesus making all things new; He made beauty from ashes.

One of the biggest lessons I have learned through grieving the loss of a son is that I have gained a truer understanding of what it means to love another as Jesus loves us.

So, what does it look like to practically lay my life down for another?

  • It means I give without expecting anything in return because Jesus has given me all that I need.
  • It means I forgive when I have been hurt, wronged or betrayed because Jesus first, and fully, forgave me.
  • It means I can be transparent and vulnerable because I am fully known by a God who holds no guilt, shame or condemnation over me.
  • It means I ask hard questions and say the hard thing when necessary because I love their soul more than their opinion of me.
  • It means I pray diligently for their needs because I have seen Jesus faithful to answer the prayers of those praying for me.
  • It means I encourage those I love towards a life of obedience and holiness because I trust that His way is better than our way and that He is faithful to complete the work He has started in each of us.
  • It means I can sincerely ask ‘how are you doing? when it is so awkward and uncomfortable and my personal preference would be to keep it light and right at the surface and yet desire to hear the real answer and press for that real answer because I know that no matter the answer I am not the savior and I am unable to redeem, make new or ‘fix’ any situation or circumstance. BUT I have the freedom to point them to the Savior, the God who is responsible, fully in control and capable of working in all situations. I know and trust that nothing is beyond the redemptive hand of Christ.
  • It also means I take the time to get to know them, what are their needs, how do they feel the most loved and ministering to them in that way because I am already fully loved by Christ. Fully.

Lastly, it means knowing what are hard and sensitive things and just diving in to those, serving and meeting needs where you can.

For the longest time I could not physically check on my babies if they were asleep. I was the one who found our son no longer alive so that brings with it a level of fear that is otherwise unknown to a mother. My body would begin trembling at the thought that my napping baby was actually dead in the other room. Countless times I have called on my friends to literally go in for me. And countless times they said yes. And they never questioned. They never said, get over it or gave me counsel or tried to give me logic. And they never ever made me feel silly or ridiculous. They simply served me and loved me in those moments.

Listen for ways your friends are hurting. Listen for ways to serve them. I promise that God has not intertwined your lives in vain. Ask Him to use you in big ways to be grace to another.

I pray you pursue deep, meaningful, true, sacrificial and selfless friendships for your good and His glory.

And I pray that if you are not currently experiencing a true friendship, that you would ask the Father to put a woman in your life that you can begin to pour into. A woman that you can give to, pray for, challenge, encourage and sincerely ask ‘how are you doing?‘ True friendship starts with the laying down of one’s own personal needs and desires for the sake of another.


To those women who have been all these things to me:

Thank you for being God’s grace to me. Thank you for loving and serving me well in the hardest and most beautiful of days.

Happy Birthday Aaden.

Aaden

Dear Aaden,

October 8, 2008 was a pretty spectacular day, the day you were born. Mommy’s do not quickly, if ever, forget the story of their little one’s entering the world. I remember so many details about that day and yet so much is fuzzy. An enormous part of my heart wishes I could go back to that day or the 38 days after. I desperately want an opportunity to not rush a single moment with you, to let the moment’s linger. To hold you tight and and enjoy your smell and that mysterious look in your eyes.

You would be 6 years old today.

Even after 6 years this mama longs for her son; longs for you.

I imagine that longing will not too soon fade away.

mommy_aadenaaden_yawning

Aaden, you were and are an incredible gift. And today we celebrate your birthday, because your life is worth celebrating.

We will do our little Aaden Birthday Tradition today that involves skipping school and work and trading the normal in for lots of donuts, playing at the beach, cake making, birthday song singing and even blowing out candles. We will send balloons to heaven and imagine that because you are in heaven you are having one epic birthday party today.

You are forever loved little one. Never forgotten and celebrated often.

I am so thankful God chose me to be your mama. Happy birthday precious boy. Happy birthday.

love,
mommy

P.S. Last year we started this thing to help other mamas and daddies who might be missing their babies like we miss you. We wanted all those mamas and daddies to know that their little ones are never forgotten. The AadenSage Birthday Project was an unbelievable success buddy. Unbelievable. We sent out more AadenSage art prints than we could even count. We spent countless hours printing, packaging, note writing and praying. Because of you we brought joy and hope to the darkest of days for those who were in the amidst of terrible pain.

Aaden Sage Birthday Project | For Parents Grieving the Loss of a Child | by Ashlee Proffitt

That’s a receipt buddy. Just one of the many from my trips to the post office shipping out lots and lots of AadenSage Birthday prints!!!

I am so excited to celebrate your birthday the same way this year. There is no greater way to celebrate you than by bringing light to the darkness. We will send an art print to anyone whose name is submitted!! I even got this amazing artist to help me this year with the design of the print. It’s gorgeous buddy and I can’t wait to bless lots of mamas and daddies with it! Thank you Laura (of Paper & Honey) for blessing this ministry endeavor with your amazing talent. You are an enormous encouragement to me and so many!

Aaden Sage Birthday Project | For Parents Grieving the Loss of a Child | by Ashlee Proffitt

P.P.S. Your mama really loves you.


If you know someone hurting, submit their name and we will send them a reminder of joy.

To learn more about the AadenSage Birthday Project, to submit a name or to find ways you can help go here.  

Intentionality Through The Holidays.

Advent Art Prints | by Ashlee Proffitt | shop.ashleeproffitt.com

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. Deuteronomy 6:6-9

Christmas brings with it a unique opportunity to set aside what the world says is important (hustle and bustle and rushing from one event to another) and to live out what we believe has true value. And while, the hustle and bustle has its benefits and can most definitely be enjoyed, there is something wonderful about slowing down when the rest of the world is racing around you.

I created the Christmas Advent Calendars to do that very thing. To steady our hearts and bring our focus back to the true meaning of the Christmas season.

Advent Art Prints | by Ashlee Proffitt | shop.ashleeproffitt.com | Photography by Shay CochraneThe heart behind these calendars can be found in those verses from Deuteronomy; to love the Lord with everything I have, to fill my home and life with that truth and to teach that truth to my children.

It’s so simple. This little Advent journey began 4 years ago when I found myself yearning to teach my little boys about the true meaning of Christmas, while making real memories doing all the fun things that we love doing during this season, like making ornaments and cookies and drinking hot chocolate and watching Christmas movies and dancing around twinkly lights.

Advent Art Prints | by Ashlee Proffitt | shop.ashleeproffitt.com | Photography by Shay CochraneAdvent Calendar | by Ashlee Proffitt | shop.ashleeproffitt.com | Photography by Shay Cochrane

So we did. I created this little calendar, 25 days of Scripture and 25 Activity Ideas to bring creativity and inspiration into your Christmas season planning. We don’t do an activity every day and sometimes we do more than one, but it isn’t about a task or accomplishing a goal, but instead about being together and asking God to center our hearts on Him while we celebrate His birth and all that represents… and having so much fun while we do that very thing.

Advent Art Prints | by Ashlee Proffitt | shop.ashleeproffitt.com | Photography by Shay Cochrane

Advent Art Prints | by Ashlee Proffitt | shop.ashleeproffitt.com | Photography by Shay Cochrane

I hope you and your family will find much joy in this sweet calendar as you focus on Jesus this coming Christmas season.

In addition to the Advent Calendar Scripture & Activity Set, this year I added a new product to the Christmas shop, an Advent Print Set! Hooray!! I am obsessed and am certain that you will be too!

Advent Art Prints | by Ashlee Proffitt | shop.ashleeproffitt.comAdvent Art Prints | by Ashlee Proffitt | shop.ashleeproffitt.comAdvent Art Prints | by Ashlee Proffitt | shop.ashleeproffitt.com Advent Art Prints | by Ashlee Proffitt | shop.ashleeproffitt.com Advent Art Prints | by Ashlee Proffitt | shop.ashleeproffitt.com

The heart behind the Advent Print Set is no different than that of the first calendar, to bring the Truth of Jesus to the center of our lives during the Christmas season.

This gorgeous Advent Print Set includes 25 mini art prints filled with Bible verses and phrases that will point us back to Jesus and the hope that He alone can bring. The set comes with a perfect little acrylic easel, so you can display one print at a time, changing them out every day and reading the scripture as you do.

Advent Art Prints | by Ashlee Proffitt | shop.ashleeproffitt.com | Photography by Shay Cochrane

Photography by the insanely talented Shay Cochrane

Happy October! Desktop + IPhone Wallpaper

Happy October friends!!

This month is super special to me and I cannot wait to share with you a few things that I have been working on over the last few months in preparation for the AadenSage Birthday Project as well as our Christmas product reveal. Stay tuned for details!!

In the meantime, dress up your computer and iPhone with these pretty little wallpapers.

Thank you Shay Cochrane and the SC Stockshop for the gorgeous fall image! It’s perfect!! If you have not done so yet, sign up to receive an SC Stockshop image free to your inbox once a month along with purposeful and intentional business (life!) tips! Sign-up here!

Free desktop calendar + iPhone wallpapers | ashleeproffitt.com/blog Free desktop calendar + iPhone wallpapers | ashleeproffitt.com/blogFree desktop calendar + iPhone wallpapers | ashleeproffitt.com/blog

To use Desktop CalendarClick on the image below, and save the large image to your computer. Then set it as your desktop wallpaper. 

Free desktop calendar + iPhone wallpapers | ashleeproffitt.com/blog Free desktop calendar + iPhone wallpapers | ashleeproffitt.com/blog

To use iPhone Lock ScreenClick on the images below, and save the image to your photos. Open your camera roll, select the image and click next. A box should pop up with icons (message, mail, copy, etc.) choose ‘Use as Wallpaper.’ Scale or position the image to your liking and then select ‘Set Lock Screen.’  

Free desktop calendar + iPhone wallpapers | ashleeproffitt.com/blog Free desktop calendar + iPhone wallpapers | ashleeproffitt.com/blog