On Happily Ever Afters

I tend to be an all-or-nothing person. I’ve told you this before, haven’t I? I speak in shades of always and never, “here’s the thing” and “there’s nothing I hate more.”

John sent a sigh-laugh from across the kitchen recently. “You know, there sure are a lot of individual issues you hate more than any of the others.”

Why, yes, yes there are. And they change daily. Hourly, even.

On Happily Ever Afters - Ashleigh Baker

We bought a house. Our first home. And I didn’t tell you about it because I was afraid.

In June, we stepped lightly onto the front porch of a yellow house surrounded by several acres of pasture, roses, grandfatherly maple trees, and a small red barn. We slipped the key into the door handle and turned it, stepping inside and filling our lungs with it, tasting the very wholeness of its being.

It’s ours, military transients that we’ve been, and it welcomed us, smiling and telling us yes, we’re home.

After the boxes were sorted into their respective rooms and the Keurig was given its necessary place of honor on the granite counters, I tentatively loaded a picture or two to Instagram.

But still I didn’t share more than one grainy, square photo. I didn’t tell about the miracles that brought us to this front porch, nor about the significance we discovered in every room, nor about the way God spun me around and grabbed my attention. Not on Facebook. Not here, with you, my friends on the other side of the keyboard. Other than our families, our coffee shop tribe, and a few almost-family friends, everyone found out we’d bought a house - our house – via the same online “announcement.”

Ingleside Cottage

I’d like to stand on my well-worn soapbox and tell you I kept quiet about this life-altering step and all of its joys in a statement about privacy in our online era, some sort of desire to keep the sacred close to my breast, to enjoy our moments without broadcasting each of them. Those sentiments wouldn’t be completely untrue. But the thing is (there I go again with the definitives) I didn’t want to talk about our magnificent new home and all of its quaint glory online because I was afraid.

I was afraid of my own penchant for polar declarations, for planning and list making and pendulum swinging.

I was afraid of myself and of the other shoe’s drop and of gloating. I didn’t want you to think everything was perfect and would always be perfect.

 

It was glorious. Each morning dawned pink and green and silver outside our paned bedroom windows, and the evenings slipped gently away like Anne’s pearls on a string, with John and I watching the sun dip behind the trees from our lazy porch swing.

I believe in magic because of this summer.

Muddy Little BoyMorning At The FarmhouseJohn and Ash Pancakes in Vintage Dish Tire Swing Red Star Chick, Male Belle's Story Rose

But, I worried. I thought of my own foggy days and the way darkness can wrap around my shoulders like a too-thick blanket, and I remembered the sinking in my stomach when I was struggling to breathe and then lovely, precious friends would turn up so dang happy.

I could reprimand myself, sweating in the blanket and the fog, to suck it up, rejoice with those who rejoice, stop being so selfish. And there would be a bit of truth right there.

But I know. I know that when we’re sweating it out, holding on to the cliff’s edge with our fingers and drowning simultaneously, it just… sucks. Even wanting every good thing for friends whom we love dearly isn’t always enough to keep us from crawling into our closets for a good cry because when is it going to get better?

 

I posted some Instagram pictures throughout the summer, which did accurately depict our fairytale days, but I saved most snapshots on my phone. I said, over and over, that the world must be on the verge of an explosion because what happens next? This is happily-ever-after, the winding down of the story, when the dragons have been slain and the downpour has stopped and the lovers kiss in the sunset.

But somewhere, under my definitive statements and encompassing need to check the boxes and consider it done, I knew there would be another chapter to this story. Likely a sequel, or even a collection of volumes. The credits weren’t rolling, of course, and I was hesitant to speak in the pause, to give in to my own notions of completion, zeniths and epitome. I was afraid to flaunt, to be too happy, to wave and dance in my pretty new frock. “See? Look at all the perfection! All the beauty! Yeah, yeah, we’ve walked down a few rough roads, you and I, but I’m over that now. It all gets better and, lucky me! I got to the good part first!”

No. Just… no.

Antique Nightgown

The truth is this (and I can say it definitively):

I still fight off the fog and darkness every day, and I don’t always win. I count a fabulous therapist and the developers of Voxer among my greatest allies. I yell at my boys because Legos and mud exist. I self-medicate with exorbitant amounts of yarn and The Mindy Project and obsessive cleaning of my house. I blame John when I’m overwhelmed by everything I’ve taken on. Stress and its many demons knock on the doors even of pretty yellow farmhouses.

 

I do want to share with you our peaceful nook in the country. We have chickens, did you see? And I’ve taken up spinning yarn like a crazy person. I have an actual spinning wheel in my living room and bags of raw wool. I’m nothing if not hopelessly nostalgic and romantic.

The boys run like hooligans through the pastures and over the fences. They swing on the gates and ride bicycles down our gravel lane. They spent the entire summer up the trees, shirtless and wild.

We call it our fairytale farmhouse, our storybook cottage. It’s my Ingleside, where I’m becoming and the children are growing and John kisses me on his way down the front steps each morning.

Baby and Tonka Truck Watching The Burn Pile The Dog, The Kids, The Trampoline The Ingleside ChickensUSMC Reenlistment

Daring Babycakes Spinning Wheel, Homework and Guitar - How We Do Monday Nights The Old Homeplace

But I want you to know that I see you. Those of you who have cheered for us, moved boxes and lent your hearts and hands in support, I see you, I love you, and I appreciate you. I also see those of you who have walked beside me and are still walking the rocky paths, who are wrapped in a dark blanket, who are wondering when, when, when does it get better?

 

I want you to know that it does get better.

It won’t get better when you click out of this tab, and it won’t necessarily get better tomorrow or even next week, but I pray, earnestly, that this time next year you’ll look back and feel the changing winds. It won’t happen simply because of a new house or a new location or a new job or a new family or even winning the lottery. It will get better because you are you, you are enough, and you are doing the hard work of living.

So when it gets better, when you see the pinhole of light at the end of this seemingly endless tunnel, keep moving toward it. You won’t find your happily ever after out there in the light, because we all know life gives us better gifts than run-of-the-mill fairytale endings. And it won’t come without struggle and acceptance and perhaps a few drastic measures, but you will find a respite.

It’s coming. I promise.

 

Lovelove,

Ash

 

34 Responses to On Happily Ever Afters

  1. Lexie Dache October 28, 2013 at 11:00 pm #

    Amazing post. Just stumbled across your blog and felt so connected to your words in deep, complicated, personal ways. Thank you for writing and sharing. Happy for your house and for the beautiful moments captured :)

  2. Jenn @ Beautiful Calling October 19, 2013 at 1:01 pm #

    The photos are beautiful and make my heart sing. Your vulnerability, it makes my heart sing too.
    Congratulations.

  3. Amanda October 18, 2013 at 9:52 pm #

    I’m stopping over from a link I saw on a friend’s blog (Leanne from Thoughts N Whatnots). What a lovely post. Congratulations on your house! I understand your reluctance to post and I appreciate your honest. Also, I just finished rereading the Anne series for the millionth time, so I loved the Ingleside reference. Don’t you just wish you could go there? I told my husband that Anne is a real person to me! haha. Anyway, great post! Glad to have found you :)

  4. Courtney October 18, 2013 at 10:31 am #

    I’m not even sure how I stumbled upon your blog, but I’ve had this post open for three days. I keep coming back to it because it’s hitting me so hard right now, and because I need it. Thank you for sharing your heart. In this dark time, your words were a pinhole of light for me…

  5. Marsha Davis October 18, 2013 at 10:05 am #

    Would you please publish a book as I am a book person. I would find it so uplifting to look at pictures and comments and be reminded of every day joys and trials. Thank you for sharing.

  6. Jessica October 17, 2013 at 10:27 pm #

    I nearly cried. It’s beautiful. All of it.

  7. tricia October 17, 2013 at 9:40 pm #

    This is the first time I’ve read your blog and may I just say, I love the way you write. I love your new home and congratulations on such a beautiful, romantic, and almost idyllic place. I just “retired” my blog and I recently remarked to another blogger friend that the art of writing in the blogging world seems to be dying but you have restored my hope in that. :) Blessings!

  8. Leigh Kramer October 17, 2013 at 9:03 pm #

    Immeasurably proud of you for finally sharing this in the way only you can. I cannot wait to visit and experience this wonderland for myself. And those words toward the end about a year from now? You know.

  9. natalie dyer October 17, 2013 at 7:31 pm #

    I’ve never read your blog but that was elegant, honest, thoughful. Real and hopeful. Thank u, thatbblessed and encouraged me

  10. Jane October 17, 2013 at 6:06 pm #

    Ashleigh, you never cease to amaze me. What a beautiful woman you are, and so talented. You deserve the best, so glad you have it in your husband, your boys, your home, and your God.

    Love you, Jane

  11. Joy October 17, 2013 at 5:21 pm #

    ‘”the way darkness can wrap around my shoulders like a too-thick blanket”
    What an accurately worded description of depression. Thank you for speaking to those of us who also struggle with this all encompassing blanket in our lives. We often can’t enjoy today because of our dread of tomorrow. I’m so glad the fog lifted some for you this summer and I wish you many clear days ahead.

  12. Meghan October 17, 2013 at 4:29 pm #

    Your transparency always blesses my heart. That is {mostly} all. ;) Glad to find another yarn/Mindy combo-lover.

    • Jaylene August 14, 2014 at 10:47 am #

      You’re the gratsete! JMHO

  13. Bekah October 17, 2013 at 4:24 pm #

    This is beautiful in every way. So happy for you and your tribe of boys.

    I needed to see this. I needed to hear, “It does get better.” I need to be reminded of what I know is true, but have a hard time holding onto in the darker moments. It’s life-giving to see this. That despite all the pain you have walked through, and maybe because of it, you are finding abundance. When I see this I feel my charismatic-evangelical roots prompting me to break into spontaneous praises of thanks and awe.

    Thank you for seeing me, seeing us, remembering, even in your happily ever after.

  14. Thomas October 17, 2013 at 2:03 pm #

    Beautiful writing – I’ve never seen your site before or read anything of yours but this was moving. Yes, please do enjoy your life as much as possible and no need to apologize for it!

    I don’t know if you can accurately promise happiness to those of us who are still searching for it, but thank you for your well wishes. We all have things to work through and hopefully each day all of us will experience life to the full.

  15. Wendi October 17, 2013 at 1:47 pm #

    Words cannot truly describe this post…..it truly is a blessing that you got your farm..it is also great that you are open and honest…I have learned that you must treasure and embrace those amazing moment’s!!!

    The picture of M in mud and out by the fire is priceless…I also love S in his overall’s with the truck…and of course the tramp picture rocks because we have been and are blessed to enjoy your little piece of heaven!!!

  16. tara pollard pakosta October 17, 2013 at 1:42 pm #

    Congrats on your new home!
    It’s beautiful and the photos are pure magic!

    thank you for this, it was written beautifully.
    I struggle every day with depression/anxiety but I don’t say anything about it
    out of fear of being labeled or rejected. Of course right now my anxiety is stress related
    with our life right now, but I have hope it will one day be better.

    xoxo
    tara

  17. Trina October 17, 2013 at 1:33 pm #

    I think it takes just as much courage to live in the happy seasons, honestly. And I’m very delighted for you, especially about the chickens and the spinning. Both add such comfy joy to life.
    I’m inspired to keep pressing on toward joy. Thanks for this glimpse.

    • Deandra August 14, 2014 at 6:46 pm #

      You’ve maanegd a first class post

  18. Rebecca October 17, 2013 at 1:30 pm #

    I can relate for just waiting for the other “shoe to drop” so to speak. Yes it does get better and some days you worry about it all over again. But it does get better. Congrats to you on the house, on the space for the boys and on the days that you don’t think about the what-ifs. They make those when you do a bit easier. Hang in there.

  19. boomama October 17, 2013 at 12:47 pm #

    Sending much love to you, sweet Ashleigh. So happy for y’all.

  20. Alece Ronzino October 17, 2013 at 12:39 pm #

    a lump in my throat and tears in my eyes and a heart that’s wanting to burst…

    all these words… all these reasons… they are also why i haven’t shared about my own miracle home. the one whose front porch and dream kitchen and walk-in closet and original glass windows and craftsman charm have made my heart exhale—in equal parts gratitude, relief, and trepidation. the unpacked boxes, after years of transitional limbo, have seemingly begun to unpack my heart as well: all the mixed up thoughts, fears, hopes, losses, griefs, and gains that have haphazardly made up the mosaic of me, all spilled out. and what to do it with it all now?

    there is vulnerability in owning my joy. in holding my breath for the other damn proverbial shoe. in having so many i love who are still waiting for their own ray of hope.

    thank you for finding words i still can’t.

  21. Tarasview October 17, 2013 at 12:39 pm #

    mercy. This made me cry big huge weepy tears. I love that you have this beautiful bit of paradise to call home.

    And this is me nodding and agreeing with the rest of what you said too. I have no coherent words to express it so here is me hugging you and crying some too.

    And this is me wishing we were sitting in the same room so I could give you a big hug.

    xox

  22. Sarah Bessey October 17, 2013 at 12:38 pm #

    Love you so much.

  23. Kacia October 17, 2013 at 12:26 pm #

    I’m not sure it could be more magical and perfect. I might show up at your front door soon, just warning you.

    xoxo

  24. Erin October 16, 2013 at 11:12 pm #

    Wow, it looks so gorgeous! And I love all the space around it.

    I can so relate to the not wanting to tell good news as you are waiting for it to fall apart. This is me, always! And not wanting tobe too happy because I’ve been on the other side too many times.
    Glad things are looking up :)

  25. April October 16, 2013 at 11:01 pm #

    Love this. Love you.

  26. suzannah October 16, 2013 at 10:01 pm #

    dear one, this is glorious. i’m happy for you and your life bucolic. we’re gonna compare notes in person one day soon. i can taste it.

  27. the Blah Blah Blahger October 16, 2013 at 6:33 pm #

    I have chills, Ash. So proud of you for “coming out” as a woman living her happily ever after! Love you!

  28. Kathe Ferguson October 16, 2013 at 6:27 pm #

    Awwww Ash, Love You so much. There are many seasons of life, I am so happy for you that this season is blessed and magical. You now know why I moved from Orange County to Northern California to live a more peaceful life in the country. Yes, there are ups and downs, the schedules get very busy, but sitting on that porch swing, the back porch steps, or sitting in the tree and looking out on the Lord’s wonders and what he has provided to you everyday just fills my heart and rejuvinates me as I see it does you too. Listening the the chickens kackle, the cows moo, the frogs in the pond just makes the frustrations on our lifes worth it. I love that your boys are young enough to enjoy the outside, they will not become video game couch potatoes like so many children and young adults are nowadays. Love You so so much. Aunt Kathe

  29. Rachelle Rea October 16, 2013 at 6:11 pm #

    Thank you for this…

    • Mauve August 14, 2014 at 4:43 pm #

      Play invfrmatioe for me, Mr. internet writer.

  30. S.R. October 16, 2013 at 6:09 pm #

    Hurray!
    SOOOOOOOOOOO happy for you guys! The place is gorgeous and amazing. Country living is awesome, yes?
    So thankful that God has blessed you in this way.

  31. priest's wife (@byzcathwife) October 16, 2013 at 5:59 pm #

    what a magical place- I can’t lie…I am jealous- but still HAPPY for you! (is feeling both possible?)- this is our story- a bit the opposite of yours… God is good
    http://remnantofremnant.blogspot.com/2013/09/when-god-wants-you-living-simpler-life.html

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