EverythingIsAStoryBeach

On one hand I’ve always been the rule-following sort; on the other, I can’t stand being fenced in, and (at least internally) reject being limited, defined or told what I should care about and how.

I’ve usually found joy in this subtle rebellion, in the quirk and uniqueness that manifest in passions that are sometimes a predictable line and other times alight from the periphery into the center of my life.

At a deep level, I value the uniqueness of creation and human beings — each made to manifest a facet of the loving God in whose image we’re made. And I recognize that the ways of this God are complex, unpredictable and often mysterious.

When it came to Draw Near, my blog since 2011, I relished the fact that I could write what I wanted to write, when I wanted to write it. Whether about mothering, marriage, social justice, anxiety, loneliness or peace, I could contemplate the unseen and attempt to express it in the things we can see and feel.

The work I compiled on the blog represented my own unique walk toward freedom, as well as a significant milepost on my journey toward wholeness.

And I’ve always considered it a blessed gift to enter into a conversation between God and me, me and you. That has never changed.

However, as homes sometimes do, this online one began to feel small.

A few years ago, I ventured into more speaking and recognized, along with many other bloggers, I suspect, my inability and lack of interest in churning out content. Around that time, I began to receive divine nudges toward pursuing greater training in spiritual direction work.

Yes, I knew a massive remodel was in order. Yet like hordes of home remodelers before me, I felt stymied. Stuck with all the directions I could go, all the decisions to make and with a reluctance to pick, lest the results not be all I’d envisioned.

Then The Open Door happened. Among other earth-rocking experiences was this one:  along the shores of a sun-kissed lake and around a pit fireplace, my mastermind group of four talked about dreams and hopes (I loved that part), as well as brands, plans and action steps to bring them to fruition (didn’t love those parts as much).

I knew I needed to be writing and speaking and engaging in spiritual direction work, and I wanted to inhabit an online home where all could joyfully co-exist. I knew I wanted to move forward.

Over the course of our conversations, I recognized for the first time that independence and fear of failure (which led to a stubbornness against saying this is who I am) were holding me back. I felt stuck and frustrated, with a heaviness in my gut.

Before the retreat, I engaged in an assignment, seeking the opinions of some of my closest people and asking for five words they’d use to describe me. (I highly suggest this.) None of my people’s answers surprised me because I could look at each of their descriptors and recognize, “yep, that’s me.”

Still I wondered, sitting around the fire pit, what could bring these parts together in my online space. What could hem in seemingly disparate pieces? What could create boundaries that actually lead to the best kinds of freedom?

Then my soul sisters mentioned STORY.

What if story could be the invitation to connect, the skin housing the bones that holds the parts together? What if the things I care most about — relating, connecting, communicating, encouraging, healing, helping, teaching, finding meaning…what if they all are ultimately about story?

And so the new AshleyMLarkin.com was built. A place for telling stories, sharing stories and transforming stories — recognizing both the tender specifics of our lives and the ways we are the same.

This is a place for considering and holding room for how our stories, in light of the greatest story, matter at all.

I truly hope you feel welcomed here. That in these pages you would experience grace, encouragement and light. I pray you would catch glimpse of the truth that we’re not so alone as we fear, not nearly so limited as we often believe.

I could not have (re)built this house without my personal cheering squad and the incredible work of my web designer, Susan Stillwell, who asked good questions, heard the complicated answers, gave meaningful assignments and helped me along in the most responsive and detail-oriented of ways. She cared that this online place reflects what matters to me. She helped me create the wide-open home I so wanted.

I don’t mean to sound like I’m giving an Oscar acceptance speech — I’m just so excited for what’s ahead. And I want to slow to recognize that this, while the next step, is not at all a small one for me. I hope you’ll forgive me.

In the next few days, I’ll be back, sharing an interview I was privileged to conduct with the warm, thoughtful and wise, award-winning singer-song-writer-storyteller, Ginny Owens, in advance of her local show at Lake Bible Church, on September 24th. A true joy and honor.

Next week, I plan to share with you my first big-girl subscribers’ newsletter, with content you’ll only see there — including behind-the-scenes details of my interview with Ginny and how the thing you most fear may be the thing you most need.

(You’ll want to subscribe to the website to see that. All former Draw Near blog subscribers should have been magically migrated by Susan’s wand to the new website’s mailing list.)

For some of you, welcome back. I’ve sure missed you. For others, I’m so glad you’ve come and do hope you’ll stay awhile.

For all of us, it’s time to share some stories.

I’d love to hear yours.

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