The Forgotten Ones

A year of reconfiguration. 

From when my world was blown open. 

And I’ve done most of my thinking in empty parking lots. 

Perhaps this year, your world was blown apart. Grief. Heartache. Depression. Anxiety. Anger. Addiction. Death. 

There’s a hole in your life, and it’s in the shape of your worst shame, your worst fears, your worst pain. And every good, joyful thing keeps slipping right on through the rend.

And now, it’s at Christmastime when perhaps you feel the most displaced.

You dream of home, but maybe you have never really had one. You dream of home, but maybe in yours there’s a gulf between you, and the ones you love. You dream of home, but the faces of the ones you long for have faded with the fires of time into nothing but ash.

You dream of home, but maybe it’s more that you’re wanting a place to belong, a place to rest, than a place to lay your head. You want a place to set down what ails you behind walls that feel safe. 


It’s allegedly the most beautiful time of year. Meanwhile, you feel like a sojourner. Like you’re driving down rows of homes slowly and silently on snow covered streets. Headlights illuminating the pavement, your muddied reflection in the window. You’re outside looking in at the joy of families, of people.

And it’s worse than realizing that you don’t have what they have. You’re beyond feeling the ache to have what they have. You feel like maybe, it was never for you. You want a plug for the shame-shaped hole in your life, and it can’t be filled.

You felt forgotten this year.

Others were allowed to carry on, while you just carried pain.

You’ve worn the mantle of hardship this year, and you’ve really just wanted a place to set it down. Maybe it’s been longer than this year that you’ve been carrying the luggage for loneliness. 

You’re in a place where pain feels like the primary nerve, and you forgot what it feels like to belong so much that when your heart beats in your chest, it’s actually thudding hard against hope, and with the reality that you were made for more than this. 


We think our pain sets us aside and ostracizes us. That it casts us out, like a vagrant flung out into the night to skid across the sidewalk beneath streetlights where no one sees them. That we have to carry our anguish alone. That it discards us.

This is the lie of pain that I have become versed in on dozens of starry nights, in empty parking lots while groceries melted in the backseat, and the streetlights were the only ones who knew.

In the place where I finally breathed. Where I exhaled. Alone. I let it out. My anguish. Where it couldn’t hurt anyone. In between running errands so that I didn’t have to stop. Where I didn’t need to bother anyone. Where no one might miss me for an hour.

This was and is the wall I built tediously. Encased inside the mistruths of pain and grief and hurt and anger. The belief that the only one who should have the burden of what hurts me is…me.

After many days of feeling forgotten and discarded. Like my pain was a hot potato for others that they didn’t want to end up stuck holding. Hardly anyone wants to talk about it. Who could have even said what I needed to hear?


The lies of pain. The ghosts of failures past that tells you it won’t ever be the same. That it might not even be worth it anymore. That tells you that you are a ship lost as sea, already forgotten and mourned before you’ve even sunk.

It took many internal dialogs with myself and with God while the radio crackled for me to see. To see how many things…never really belonged to me in the first place. That I wasn’t just grieving something lost, I was really grieving what I really am: my humanity. And grieving the reality that I controlled nothing.

I was grieving that thing that left a hole in me, wondering why God wouldn’t just patch it for me. When the truth is that we are actually the patches that belong in HIS tapestry, and have been all along. He doesn’t fill our holes, He makes us a part of his woven glory for all of the tomorrow’s. And each imperfect square tells a story of how He has hemmed us in.

It took me a while to realize that my pain doesn’t shut me out. It is my pain that actually gives me a seat at the table, and a portion beyond words.

Especially at Christmas.

We forget that Christmas was really about saving. About the frailty of humanity. About needing something to fill us and plug our holes.

The peel of the bells pierce through the dark of the night telling all to come close.

A star in the empty skies that shone forth the way.

Angels and heavenly hosts that illuminated the crests of green hills dotted with their flock, and bid strangers, the least amongst them, to not be afraid. Not anymore.

I remember that the shepherd went out to find that one last sheep, and left the other 99 who were safe while he did. And it was His joy to do so.

I remember the father who welcomed back the prodigal son who left, and got lost along the way in his own mistakes and pride. Whose redemption had nothing to do with him, and everything to do with a Father’s unwavering love.


I remember that no matter where I go, where the wings of the day take me or where my days might eventually end, that there is nowhere hidden I could go. Because I have been seen since before I came to be. And because nothing is hidden from Him. 

I remember Mother Mary of sorrows. At the foot of a rugged cross wondering why, and what it must have felt like for her three days later. 

I see time and time again that being in pain, is never reason enough to not be found. Never a reason to be forgotten. That it is never a reason to be lost entirely.

I see time and time again that pain is actually the reason that God came for us. That the author of all of me must know what it means to hurt. That to taste sorrow is to taste God.


We find that we weren’t forgotten at all. We had just forgotten who are. 

Or maybe, we had to learn who we have really been all this time. 

And when we arrive at the place we were always been destined to be, we find He has already been there. Before us. Each step measured, each point charted in His map of the stars and eternity.

Every beautiful AND hurting thing named. 

And our heart will not beat so that we can live. 

It will beat because we are named.

Because we belong.

Because we are free.

Because we are home. 






Just take the picture.

About five years ago, my husband gave me a swanky camera for Christmas. 

Upon opening my gift, I was speechless.

My mind immediately jumped to worrying over the cost of such a gift – a gift with all of the bells and whistles. I knew that he had spent more on me than he would ever expect anyone to spend on him, or that he would spend on himself. I can’t even tell you the last time he bought a new pair of shoes.

This is his generous heart.

My new camera opened up the world of photography to me.  And he, being the supportive and wonderful husband he is, made it a point to encourage my newfound pursuit. For him, it was as much an investment as it was a gift. He was investing in a happy wife who could pursue creative outlets and build her confidence, while hopefully helping to preserve my sanity in the meantime.

It was a pivotal moment for me. 

(He gave me a way.)

This past Christmas, I gave him an album full of photos from the year gone by. It was wonderful to give him something tangible that was produced by my hobby five years after he gave me a leg up on a new journey in my life. He had encouraged an outlet that wasn’t directly related to chasing small children, even though it at times has been almost exclusively used to record those child-related happenings.

I can look back between when I unwrapped that wildly unexpected present and now, and see a pronounced change in my abilities from that first Christmas to this last one. I have much to learn, but I’m further than I would have been without his generosity.

(I found a will.)

Recently, our computer decided that its memory was too full. So lately, I have spent time tediously deleting unnecessary photos and files from it in order to create more available storage. Try not to be jealous of my totally fast paced life.

Just this morning, I found dozens of videos, and hundreds of photos from a seemingly bygone era in our home.

A time when we just had one child. When the kitchen was still painted yellow, and we didn’t have the white shoe cabinet in the corner of the dining room that smells like cedar. Our son was a chubby-cheeked, floppy-haired chipmunk who kept two fledgling parents on their toes. 

As I thumbed through these photos and videos, some slightly blurry and a bit fuzzy, I realized that I had no immediate recollection of having even taken them.

The video of my son and me in the cozy green chair in the living room, nestled up with a pile of books stacked high. Him sitting on the back steps in the kitchen, covered head to toe in Crayola markers – I’m still to this day praising Jesus that they were washable markers.

Videos of my son, turning on the shower head, and drenching himself while naked in the tub, and the look of amused shock on his face. 

Then there were the photos. Pictures upon pictures of yellow haired and tiny. Ice cream mouthed children asleep in their car seats after a day at the beach. Afternoons spent at the park or out in the backyard. Afternoons that now seem like a short lifetime ago. 

I looked at that tired mother in some of the photos. I studied a version of myself with less gray in my hair, and a lot more brightness to her face. It’s a face I don’t see anymore. I was transported back to feeling every ounce of anxiety I felt in those moments. That gnawing fear and wondering if I was doing a good enough job. I still don’t know the answer to that, quite honestly.

Those days at home with two small children that seemed endless and tedious are now just one small footnote in the pages of our family’s story. 

The mother in those photos was so tired, so unsure of herself. Today, I wish I could have given her a hug to say thank you

Thank you for taking those photos.

Thank you for not giving up and putting the camera down even when the kids weren’t being cooperative.

Thank you for not closing the camera on your phone just because someone at the park might have been giving you side-eye.

Thank you for not worrying over whether or not your house looked clean enough, if your kids looked like they fell off the pages of a Baby Gap magazine or if your hair was even brushed that day, because you knew an Instagram filter really can help mask those piles of laundry on the dining room table, and the deepest of dark circles under someone’s eyes.

Thank you for ignoring the thousand and one articles on the internet say that you can’t ever fully experience a moment if you have a lens out. 

Thank you for having enough presence of mind, even though your eyes were so heavy with exhaustion that you thought they might fall out, to think to snap a photo of the things I truly want to remember.

Thank you for clicking away even when everyone in the photo had a bad attitude, because you knew you’d get at least one shot where everyone was looking at the camera. 

Photos tell our stories. Photos let us relive our story. Again and again. 

No, not every photo is of a pivotal, life changing moment. 

But a photo in the hands of the heart that’s looking to remember is like eyes that set themselves on a hidden jewel.

The things we take photos of are assuredly the things we love. The things we seek. The things we want to think about one day, when we’re old and we have forgotten. When we are gray, and crows feet branch out around our eyes, and time creeps in through every crevice like a thief in the night.

Our photos will only ever be precious to us, like some distinct, bespoke treasure.

This is why I click. 

So listen, all of you non-photography inclined people, I get it. 

It’s the holiday season.

And if she hasn’t already, your mom or wife or grandmother or girlfriend will soon want you to put on an odd sweater that you realize at the Thanksgiving table matches everyone else’s odd sweater. She might make you stand in front of a wooden barn or out in some Christmas tree field or in front of some odd background that looks like it came from a school yearbook. You might feel like a JC Penny catalog model.

It’s going to be uncomfortable.

She’s going to want you to shave, and wear that tie you never wear. She’ll want you to dress like you just emerged off the pages of an L.L. Bean catalog. She’ll insist you all wear matching denim tops and Santa hats.

She’s going to want you to help her dress the kids in stockings and button down shirts that will get messy if the kids even breathe. She is going to want you to load the kids into the car, and drive to the park or to some photographer’s studio.

Or maybe she’ll just drag you out to the backyard where she has a tripod set up, and she’ll be hurrying everyone up and yelling something about the lighting being perfect

She’s going to want you to spend half an hour smiling so hard that your cheeks hurt, while you have to pretend like you’re having the greatest time of your life. She might cry. She might even threaten you a tiny bit. She will turn into Gestapo, and you’ll see a side of her that you have never seen before. At least one of the kids might cry. She might tell you where she’ll hide someone’s body if you all don’t smile, and you’ll wonder how long she’s been planning for this day. 

She’ll tell you that she spent nineteen hours in labor with you, and then six months after that dealing with your crying because you had colic. She’ll remind you of the time you let her leave the house with spinach stuck between her teeth as she was heading to the PTA meeting.

She will call in every favor you could ever possibly owe her (even though you’d never be able to repay her for, like that time that your threw up in her hair while she was laying down or when you taped the superbowl over your wedding video.)

She will turn into some unrecognizable, scary Kanye-West type person in the pursuit of one Christmas card worthy shot.

You must actively fight off the instinct to resist her every step of the way. In fact, you should cooperate so willfully that it will encourage others to do the same.

I say this, with an urgency and sincerity: the memories of you, on this day, mean more to your mom/wife/grandmother/girlfriend than literally almost anything. 

These photos will warm the nooks and crevices of their coffee stained hearts for years and years to come.

Whether they end up in an album or stuck to the fridge with a magnet, on someone’s desk at work or on the side of a mug. Or maybe, they will end up in a pair of hands weathered by time belonging to someone who loves seeing the people the love. These photos now are the stored treasures for when these moments are long gone. For people who will one day be long gone. And for those of us who are left.

These photos show that we were here, even if we might have been pissed off at the time because we didn’t want to wear a bow tie.

And one day, when times have changed, and you’ve gone the way that we all eventually do, when you’re old and gray, and you’re holding in your hands the faces that smiled long ago, no matter what’s happened in between now and that day to come – you’ll remember that you were there. They were there.

And that you all lived. 

And it will be your hidden treasure. 













O Christmas Tree


I know that none of this is technically your fault.

But in between children waking up too early, babies that won’t let me put them down for even an instant, and my daughter deciding she *NEEDSMOMMYOMGRIGHTNOW* the moment I sat down with my fresh cup of coffee, I had a heck of a day before it was even 10 a.m.

Then, we went for a playdate to a restaurant with an indoor play area. It all seemed well and good, and like it would be a successful trip out of the house before my daughter decided to stage a coup.

She had been playing happily for over an hour when she decided the erected play structure was too tall for her simple tastes, and that she was henceforth too afraid to climb it anymore because it was too high. 

I had to yell at her as she sat peeking at me through a plastic, plexiglass hole, ten feet up in the air, in order to get her to climb up or down or do something. My yelling was comprised of half encouragement, half threats because I am a good mother, I reiterated to myself over and over again.

But by the bleeding heavens, if I have to climb up there we are *leaving*, I shouted.

If I have to wiggle my way up those twisty stairs, and risk the embarrassment of getting myself stuck in a plastic, purple Burger King play place that smells like hundreds of sweaty toddler hands coated in old peanut butter, heads.will.ROLL. I vowed to myself.

She relented. Twenty minutes later.

What does this have to do with you?…

You know what.

I see you. Staring at me. Sitting in the corner of the living room. The giant soft-needeled elephant in the room. The reminder. Of yet one more thing in my life that needs to be done.

A reminder that I have to take every single solitary ornament off of you while being stabbed repeatedly by your dead, and drying pine needles a billion times over just to remove the lights off of your yuletide corpse.

But wait, there is more.

Then I need to drag you to my front door, itching and being prickled the entire way, while you shed pine needles into my couch cushions and into the cracks of my hardwood floors. Spilling water that, year after year, always seems to be left in your stand even though we haven’t watered you in, like, three and a half weeks.

There is always water left, water that spills across my floor. That your needles stick to.

You leave pine needles all across my floor that I have to sweep. You take up the largest corner of my living room, leaving my couch and rug askew. Making the room look more cluttered than it already is.


By December 26th, you disgust me.

Now, more than ever, I’m convinced of this fact: you know this.   

And you sit there, taunting me. Every day.

Watching me explain to my children that their legs are, in fact, not so tired that they can’t pick up their toys. You watch as my eyes twitch as I clean up the puke the dog left on the carpet. You watch me shuffle around in my pj’s well past lunchtime.

You see, Christmas Tree, you have seen it all. And now? Now you know too much.

You silently laugh. And remind me that even when I have succeeded in getting my children who have been hyped up on Christmas offerings for three weeks off to bed, and new homes for the plethora of toys and gadgets they received at Christmas time, I still have one more thing to do before my home can return to its pre-holiday normalcy.

I could clean this house from top to bottom. I can put away the stockings and snow globes, clean out the fridge from the leftover holiday ham and potato salad. But am I done? I mean really finished?

Heaven’s no. Because there you are. I won’t be done everything. It will never be over. Not until you’re gone.

Unfortunately, for you? Today is the day that I have decided that it’s all your fault. Alllllll your fault.

Not just the mess or the nuisance of you for just being a tree inside of a house that five other humans. All of it. Every bump in the road that has been my day. Every squirming, disobedient child or annoying dog or headache or chore.

It’s you, I have decided. And I just won’t feel better, it all won’t do, until you are GONE.

I vow to make it my mission to see personally to your banishment and subsequent destruction.

I will win. I will crack one evening, letting out a howl out of aggravation that will be heard far and wide throughout the house at the precise moment that I can’t stand it any longer. It will make all of the bats that live in our chimney flutter in fear. And I will carefully remove those precious ornaments, and NOT snap and simply throw the whole lot of you outside in the bitter cold where you belong.

I will win.

I will do this even though I know you’ll be back next year. And I will vow to remove you promptly on December 26th before my husband goes back to work the next day.  I probably won’t.

But just the same you will eventually go on top of the giant heap in the backyard. The Christmas tree graveyard. Where the twiggy bones of your predecessors still lay.

The deed will be done. And I will stand at my kitchen window, and sip my coffee in the quiet of the morning before the children wake. That cup of coffee shall be the most satisfying of all.

I will silently know you’re out there, slowly shedding your needles. One. By. One. Turning browner by the moment. Until you are but a shell of what you once were.

I shall have victory.

So enjoy your moment, you green brown son of a….

While it lasts.


Ashley freaking LeCompte

Well, I feel better already.