Big things coming soon!

Dear friends and readers of Circling the Story:

I’m getting serious in 2015. It’s time for us to tell our stories this year. Real stories. Vulnerable, lovely, faltering and frail stories; stories of hope and redemption and brokenness.

I want to help you tell your story.

In the coming days, Circling the Story is changing its look and feel and focus to reflect these goals for this year. I’m so excited to share with you everything I’ve been dreaming about. So please watch this space so you can make the transition with us!

You can find me on Twitter or Facebook and I’ll let you know all of the details soon.

Let’s live a scary brave story together this year!


Are you Scary Brave? Wanna be?

Scary brave.

That’s what I want to define my 2015. How about you?

There’s a whole bunch of fake-brave out there: machismo is usually the first impostor. But there’s also the safe-brave and I’ve been doing that dance for years. It’s why I never joined the swim team. It’s why acting and singing were diversions and not passions. Fake-brave is when you only succeed at the things you know you can succeed at. Fake-brave is hedging your bets because you’re more concerned about your perfect record than showing up, day after day, and maybe failing or maybe knocking it out of the park. Because failing feels like you’re a failure.

scary brave | circling the story

I don’t want to be fake-brave anymore.

I want to be scary brave.

Scary brave isn’t the same as stupid-brave. I’m not going to be jumping off any cliffs just to be “brave.” No, scary brave is the perfect marrying of faith — of stepping out into the unknown — and assurance. It’s knowing that your performance doesn’t define you. It’s knowing that even if your house is a mess and you’re a mess and you’re kids are leaving their belongings like Hansel-and-Gretel crumbs dotting the floor, that that doesn’t define you. You’re still free to cuddle your kids, to speak grace upon grace to them, and pick up the pieces. There is a new day dawning. It’s walking into that boardroom with your great ideas and knowing they very well may get shot down; but going in anyway. It’s trying that new food, or talking to the homeless man with a twinkle in his eye, instead of saying “Sorry, I don’t have any money” and walking away with your own empty eyes.

Scary brave means we have nothing to prove. So it means we have everything we can risk.

Because risk or failure don’t define us. Did you hear that? Failure does not define you.

scary brave | circling the story

Okay, true story here: when my husband and I were teenage lovebirds, we went bowling once on a date. Like, how cute were we? Borrowed shoes, the jean skort, rocking out to 80’s music overhead, and trying to flirt between a 10-lb. ball. Bliss, I tell you. Well, about 6 frames in I was a wreck, a grumpy, pouty wreck. Because my handsome boyfriend was killing it and I kept getting gutter ball after gutter ball. I think I seriously had 33 points. But I couldn’t laugh at myself because I was failing at bowling. And failing, even at bowling, was still failing. Do you know what that wise man said to me? He said, “Ash if you’re going to suck at something, bowling is a pretty good thing to be bad at.” Even in those funny shoes, I couldn’t laughingly embrace my poor performance.

So I kept doing what I was good at. School. Standardized tests. Cheerleading. And then College and a Wedding and  Grad School. I just kept going up the mountain where the perfection path was well worn and, from the path, success looked pretty great; I looked pretty great.

And then I became a mom. We all hit a perfection wall, yours might be different. Motherhood was my wall. Oh man, was it my wall. 

I wanted the perfect pain-free birth. And guess what? I had a c-section. All my dreams about “perfection” hit the fan. And there were poopy blowouts, and no sleep, and tears (me and the baby), and milk everywhere. And that baby would not stop crying no matter what I did. I was at the end of my rope. I couldn’t climb that hill any longer. So most of the time, to cope, I chose bitterness. “Look at that other ____ (baby, mom, wife, husband, employed person). They must have it so much better than me!”

But we die on the vine of bitterness.

So today, I’m choosing scary brave instead. 

For me, scary brave means that I’m trying out this writer-gig for real. And it may flop. No one may want to publish a word I write. You all might run and never read a word I type out again. But I’m skirting that perfectionism path and bivouacking through the thickets instead, because I don’t need to sit at the cool table anymore. I don’t have anything to prove and risk feels like the fresh breath of freedom.

Who wants in? Who wants to be scary brave with me? What dreams do you make too safe?

Your dreams can push you into failure, but that’s okay. It’s okay to fail. Failing does not mean that you are a failure. If your book doesn’t make the bestseller list, it says nothing about your dignity as a human being on this planet. Your story still means something. Because we’re all part of a much larger story, and sometimes we can’t see the beauty in the quiet moments, where our stories are forged. We can’t see how the crumbs we sweep up again and again mean something; we can’t see how the onslaught of papers or work projects affects change; we can’t see how our paltry $2 affects the woman on the side of the road.

But I think when the flames burn up all the dross in our lives, what’s left will be things like bravery and story and little acts of love to the least of these. So I’m tossing in my lot with the simple, vowing to focus on the things that matter, and to leap off the edge knowing that faith and calling come through failure. I’m ready to be scary brave this year. How about you?

Book Musings Monday Link-up: New Year Edition

Welcome to Book Musings Mondays Linkup!

Book Musing Hosts

Mary @Maryandering Creatively

Blog/Facebook/Twitter/Pinterest/ Instagram

Ashley @Circling the Story


Welcome to Week 5 of Book Musing Mondays: the New Year Edition. I want to wish everyone Happy New Year! 2015 is upon us! What are your New Year’s Resolutions for reading and literacy? Please share this week.

Congratulations to Reesann who received the most clicks for her linked up post: 10 Classic Books Every Child Needs to Read. You could be featured too if you receive the most links for your posts! Good luck.

Remember, we try to make it worth your while to linkup with us by promoting your posts across our social media networks. We also pin your book-related posts to our Pinterest Board!

Follow Mary Hill’s board Book Musing Mondays Linkup on Pinterest.

We love to read family-friendly book reviews and posts about anything literacy related. For this week’s linkup, we would love to read your New Year’s Resolutions for reading! What are your reading this holiday season? What do you look forward to reading in the New Year. What do you think will be the break out books for next year. Share your posts so we can put them on our To Read lists.

Now it is time to link up to the Book Musing Mondays hop!

Book Musing Mondays final (1)

Linkup Rules:

  1. Include a link back or the blog hop button linked to this hop on your posts.
  2. Link up the urls to your posts not to your blog.
  3. Please remember this is a family-friendly linkup. We reserve the right to delete any posts that are not family friendly. We love all kinds of literature and genres including family-friendly inspirational romances. We do not welcome anything with excessive sexual content or cursing.
  4. Be sure to visit at least two other bloggers’ posts and share comment love! Remember it is also nice to follow them on their social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook.
  5. Follow your hosts and co-hosts on their social media.
  6. Tweet about the link up too!

Until the dawn appeareth

I’m stuck in the death part, maybe you are too. The part where we wait. The part where darkness feels like a companion and we wait for dawn together. It’s not cancer, or terrorism or racial strife – no, it’s just the daily hard, and it can feel like drowning.

My mind so easily travels where I know it’s unhealthy to go. To wistful thinking about my grad school days overseas, where I was young, and thin and could drink without worrying about a baby inside of me or breastfeeding. Or, I think of filtered Facebook pictures showing friends who have the time, money and lack of being tied down to travel around the world. And I want that. Oh, how I want that. What I wouldn’t give to be sitting in a rooftop café in Rome eating bread and mozzarella, curled up with a hot cup of coffee.

This laying down is a choice to sacrifice for the moment, waiting with eager expectation that the dawn is coming. But the dawn feels like a dream. There’s a daily laying down – diapers, and not sleeping, and late-night arguments because in all of the crazy, I forgot not only to care for myself but also for my husband. And we retreat to contempt or we sweep it under the rug. Maybe you’re wondering if someone sees you. If the mess of the house or your love handles won’t be the currency to gain you love. That even in the now, even without traveling the world, that you are worth so very much.


Because validation is never going to come from an outside source and be truly satisfying. For me, I notice how my mind spirals deeper and deeper down and away from a center, and I realize the caverns of what Christians call sin in my own heart. How I reach out with Grinch-like talons to grasp onto a life that is not mine, can never be mine. Because it’s not just the daily deaths of motherhood, it’s this whole life of faith.

Because this life is not mine. It’s His.

Frankly sometimes that stings. And the death hurts.

Yet, there is no meaning apart from this daily death dance that you and I do. And I want my life, my sacrifice, to mean something. There is a promise that is centuries old, and moves in waves across genders, cultures and political movements. And it is a grace that is bigger than me or you, and the diapers and the tiredness and the lack of “me time.” It envelops and brightens and makes the suffering beautiful. It takes twisted, broken things and turns them into beauty.

So we’ll wait – you and I – until the dawn appears.

Circling the Story’s Top 5

There’s so much chatter and static and noise inside our heads and around us — especially this time of year. (Does anyone else have their To Do list on a constant internal loop? Or is that just me?) My hope and prayer for you, my dear reader, is that this season would be full of hope and light and breath. Little things that communicate care and consideration — whether that’s the joy of reading a graceful sentence, a hot steaming cup of tea, a thoughtful present from a loved one, a flickering candle, or even a moment of stillness. I hope you find something small to hold on to, to keep you going. Because it’s not the grand gesture that speaks volumes, it’s the showing up, day-in and day-out, that communicate care. Maybe something here could give you that little something to mull over, words to cup into your hands and heart as you end the year. Here are Circling the Story‘s Top 5 posts; the posts that readers keep reading and sharing. I hope you’ll take a look. Drumroll…. 5. Stories save us: “As I walked the paths of the bookstore, lingering by enticing covers and feeling the heft of what-might-be in my hands, I really was longing for redemption.” Stories save us | Circling the Story 4. Am I enough? The god of the scale: “Every morning I strip down and step on the scale and I look to its numbers to tell me what I’m worth. With the softness of a belly that has swollen and receded four times, I ask it to tell me if I’m okay, if I measure up.” The god of the scale | Circling the Story 3. Real Food + Real People = World Changed: A manifesto about the simply subversive act of having people in your home for dinner. Real food, vulnerability, get people to help out; rinse and repeat. Real Food World Changed | Circling the Story 2. That’s the book I need to write: Yep, I’m working on a book. “It’s about how places sink into our souls, about how we learn to be a part of places […]. It’s about daily little liturgies of walking your kids to and from school, of bumping into friends at the supermarket and about feeling a sense of your own smallness in big places.” That's the book I have to write | Circling the Story 1. Red cup righteousness: My most-read post this year. “We think that the red paper cup holds out relief, or validation, or just respite from the weariness of the daily.” Red cup righteousness | Circling the Story

I hope you’ll have a very restful Christmas — that even in the chaos, you’ll take time to savor the moments of truth and beauty, even if (and when) it’s hard, or ugly or unlovely. Those moments are the ones that help to grow us into even more beautiful and graceful people. Thank you for reading Circling the Story dear friends! I hope something I’ve written has been encouraging to you; if it has, please consider sharing. See you in 2015! Love, Ashley