For Ashley

I just returned from vacation. Children’s books are my favorite vacation souvenirs because I read to my young grandsons nearly every day. They love the repetition of their favorite stories, but to be honest, after a dozen or so reads, Nana craves something new. Therefore, I am always shopping for colorful, simple, fun, and uplifting children’s books.

Looking at my latest book haul from vacation reminded me of a small hidden stash of children’s books I purchased a few trips ago. The books fit my purchase criteria, but they were a little advanced for the boys at that point, so I put them in a special spot in my room. Spring cleaning demanded the books be relocated to the large bookcase in the family room, but I forgot they were there. I almost panicked! Where were my special books?! I needed to find one of them in particular because I felt it would be perfect to share on Mother’s Day. The book is called When I Hold You by Ashley Huffstutler. The book is all about mothers and their children. The illustrations are gorgeous, thanks to Airin O’Callaghan, and there are Bible verses throughout.

Nervously, I called out to my daughter and asked her if she knew where my books were. She found them immediately, and I returned them to their rightful place in my room; emotional breakdown averted. I immediately pulled out the Mother’s Day book and gave it a home on my desk, where it would rest until I could share it.

With my mind at peace, I turned my attention back to my college Bible class. However, from the corner of my eye, I kept noticing this beautiful book. I tried to ignore it and keep typing, but it was useless. I finally stopped what I was doing, picked up the book, and looked at the back cover that had been distracting me the entire time. Looking at the cover, I noticed something that I didn’t remember noticing before. It was a tiny square photo of the author, a beautiful young woman with a beaming smile and outstanding red hair; her name was Ashley. I decided to read Ashley’s bio. When I did, I found out that she was from Alabama. (“I’ve been there,” I thought. “I even have friends from Alabama.”) I discovered that Ashley was married with two daughters and that the book I was holding was Ashley’s first children’s book. I am a first-time author too. Ashley and I had some things in common. I also found that after the birth of her first daughter, Ashley was diagnosed with brain cancer. I wasn’t expecting to read this; it made me sad. But the next line I read said the trials of surgery and treatment, caused Ashley’s faith in Jesus to grow, and value motherhood all the more. I determined to find Ashley on social media and follow her journey.

After a quick search, I found someone on social who I thought was her; but I wasn’t sure, so I clicked the blog link. Yep. I had found the right Ashley! It was obvious that cancer treatments had somewhat altered her appearance, but it did not diminish the beauty that still beamed from within her. This beauty comes from the faith in Jesus Ashley mentioned in her bio. I read a few blog headings and became increasingly concerned about Ashley’s condition. It didn’t take long to discover that she had joined her Jesus in Heaven. As I kept reading, I discovered that Ashley passed away last year in May. “May? That’s the month of Mother’s Day,” I thought. Looking closer, I saw that Ashley passed away on May 14, 2022. “It can’t be. It isn’t.” I quickly opened the calendar and scrolled to May. Mother’s Day is May 14 this year. I sat quietly for a moment, feeling the presence of Holy Spirit and thinking about my beautiful friend, Ashley, whom I haven’t met yet.

A few days later…

Today, May 14,2023, Mother’s Day, marks Ashley’s one-year anniversary in Heaven. I don’t believe in coincidence. All I can tell you is, I was prompted to find Ashley’s book and share it on Mother’s Day. I believe the events that followed were a Holy Spirit-inspired chain reaction. Today as I share Ashley’s book, I honor her life. I found and was drawn in by her book last year when I was searching for a cover for my own book, Pages of Sunbeams. I purchased her book a few months later at a Christian bookstore hundreds of miles away from my home. This book was already special to me, but it’s even more special now. I recommend this book for anyone, especially moms and grandmoms. I hope you will honor Ashley’s memory by purchasing a copy. Again, the book is called, When I Hold You by Ashley Huffstutler, 2021, B&H Publishing Group. I invite you to join me in praying for the Huffstutler family today. This will be their first Mother’s Day without Ashley.