Pleasing. Learning. Redefining.

Last fall, after a few years of going to my church, Hope, on my breaks from college and a few months of being back since graduation, I decided to officially become a member. At Hope, that means taking a two-day class and learning everything you might want to know about the church. We sat at circle tables, and a girl sat next to me with her haven as our table filled up with a bunch of twentysomethings. That girl was Ashley. 

She was outgoing and bubbly and kept conversation alive at our table of random people and I knew I wanted to be friends with her right then. Ash and her husband, Tyler, talked about their photography business and I definitely went home that night and stalked their website thoroughly. They are an awesome team and they shoot incredible pictures of engagements and weddings and more. If you don't keep up with Herrinton Weddings on Facebook and their website already, here's a shameless plug telling you to GO DO IT. 

The first time we hung out, Ashley came over to my parents' house with a bunch of her crafting supplies and we made a huge mess of the kitchen table making cards to mail to friends. It was so much fun getting to share a common interest with a new friend and get to just chat for hours while we crafted. I hardly knew her at that point, but we had so much fun just hanging out.

Then, at some point last winter, Ashley and I met up at my favorite Starbucks in Carytown to chat. This girl seriously has a heart of gold, and I saw that in her from the very beginning. She loves the Lord wholeheartedly and loves people (even people she just meets!) so well, and it's such a beautiful thing to see. She has the biggest smile and laughs easily and often in a way that just makes you feel so at ease around her.  

We connected over conversations about social work since she was working on her Masters and I was working at a human services nonprofit she knew about. We talked about our community groups and what God had been teaching us through living life alongside those groups of people. We talked about boys, our blogs, everything. In just that little coffee date, I felt like I really got to know the real, true Ashley with no guards up. She is so genuine all the time, from the way she writes blog posts about her life, marriage, and work (you will feel like you know the Herrintons and are best friends with them just after reading a few posts!), to the way she serves around Hope and loves on students, to the way she connects with the brides and couples they work with...this girl is a gem.

If you've browsed around my website at all, you've seen pictures by Ashley-- yet another example of her sweet, servant heart. In the off-season of shooting weddings, she wanted to keep up with photography and improving her (already awesome) skills, so she offered to take pictures and headshots of me for my site. I was blown away by the generous offer and also so excited to see her work her magic! I absolutely love all of the pictures she got, but loved even more just wandering around Shockoe Bottom with her and having a blast in front of her camera. She made it so much fun and effortless, even though I usually act really awkwardly which never makes for good pictures!

In just this first year of knowing Ashley, I have absolutely grown to call her a true friend. She is passionate about Jesus and serving Him in every aspect of her life. She is dedicated to her work (and schoolwork) even in the times where it can be stressful or chaotic. She is gorgeous and legitimately could be a J. Crew or Ann Taylor model...not kidding. Girl has the best/cutest wardrobe and always looks perfectly put together-- a true talent. She loves so well and pours into people selflessly. She is hilarious and so much fun to be around, and even just passing her briefly in the hallways at Hope brightens my day.

I could go on and on. This girl is one of the very best and I'm so thankful for how that membership class at Hope brought us together and made this sweet friendship possible! 

Here is Ashley's story.

My name is Ashley. I am a 24-year-old grad student at Liberty University, pursing my masters in Marriage and Family therapy. I also run a wedding photography & videography business with my husband, Tyler, properly named Herrinton Weddings. This story you’re seeking is not one that depicts my life story, or my conversion of faith, yet one that is continuously being written by a God that desires the best for me and calls me to turn from the things that distract me from Him.  

I grew up in a small country town surrounded by nothing but trees and fresh mountain air. I was a twin and my sister and I lived a normal twin life. There was much competition, however unspoken it may have been, we both felt it. This competitive routine caught me firmly in the people-pleasing trap. I did things I thought would bring attention to my successes and minimize my failures. Because in the world of pleasing you do little to upset those around you. You also wear pride like a badge of honor. I was a “good girl” and never did anything “wrong” which kept my pleasing stature highly elevated.

Now, 6 years after my high school graduation, 3 years after my college graduation, and a year and a half into my master’s degree, I find myself still on this people-pleasing journey. A journey with more heartbreak and disappointment than you’d probably understand. Being a people pleaser robs my life of margin and the ability to say “no” when I know I should. It breeds discontentment and constant striving for something. People pleasing limits rest, masks pride, and drowns my soul.

The journey of breaking off this unhealthy habit has not been a long one. For years I simply thought I was confident, independent, and strong. However, in searching the depths of my soul throughout this past year, I found it. People pleasing.

I remember walking through a season with a dear friend in college about her struggle with people pleasing. I remember wondering what made her feel different or feel like it was truly something she wrestled with. And as much as I talked to her about it, I never considered it for myself.

I recently started reading a book, Grace for the Good Girl by Emily P. Freeman with some dear friends in a book club that I just love. In one chapter she talks about hiding behind strength and responsibility. She shares, “for the girl who wears the mask of strength and responsibility, it is important to explore her perceptions of weakness. Consider what Jesus says about weakness. He chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise and the weak things of the world to shame the strong (1 Cor. 1:27). It doesn’t make sense to me and it isn’t the way I’d have done it. But it is the way of Jesus”.

This draws upon exactly why I never explored people pleasing in my life. I hate exemplifying my weaknesses. I hate failure. I hate doing the wrong thing. And more than anything, I really hate sin. The mask of strength and responsibility is easy to use to cover up those vulnerable places and draw upon the things that make other people happy. While limiting the need to live a healthy well balanced life with proper emotions. Dismantling all of this is quite a process. I’m relearning the line between reality and straight up emotion. Sorting through feelings and triggers of said feelings and sending up more prayers than I think I ever have.

People pleasing is drawn me closer to my savior because I’ve even more so realized my need for Him and invited me to a deeper journey that He’s asked me to walk. I’m excited and nervous about the ways in which he may write my future but I ready to de-mask and live fully and wholly as myself.

To read past Story Seeker posts, click here.