When You’re Given More Than You Can Bear



I have often heard throughout my life, “God never gives more than you can bear.”

I’m here today to call a flub on all of that. I’m here today to tell you that not only does God give you more than you can bear, but that He also knows that you can’t bear it all.
At the age of 26, I became an instant mother to a 4 and a 6 year old. Through a set of circumstances that I believe were created by the Master orchestrator, our new family of two doubled literally over night. We were not foster parents, we were not trying to have children, and we didn’t have plans in the foreseeable future to grow our family. But we knew without a shadow of a doubt that we were supposed to be parents to these two precious children, and we thought it would be forever.
During the past four years every hour of our lives have revolved around our kids. We’ve been through everything together, created routines, boundaries, joy, and love together. It was as if life before them never existed, and life without them never would make sense. We were together, in every aspect of the word, and we were a family. There’s a note at work that I keep near my desk that one of them left for me on my night stand one morning, after he had gotten mad at me the night before. It reads, “I love you because you always light my way.” All four of us knew how to light each other’s ways. We knew what each member of our family needed, we could perceive those needs, and then meet them. We grew together. All four of us grew in those four years more than I would have grown in my entire life without them.
I’ll never forget the day I opened my mailbox to find a letter from the court. It was in fall of 2015. My heart was racing because my biggest fear was happening. I sat on the couch in my front room, and read what I had feared would happen the entire past 2.5 years that we were a family… I ran into the kitchen because the sink was the closest place that I could throw up. I stood over it, shaking, while Mike held me up because I literally could not stand. I experienced the biggest panic attack I have ever had in my entire life and my whole world went dark. I was overcome with so much fear I didn’t think I could possibly live another second.
That day, our entire world changed, and for the next year and a half we entered into what could be described as nothing less than Hell on earth. The court proceedings and details that followed are not important, nor are they mine to share. But during that time, I’ll tell you what happened to me. The life that I had inside of me was sucked dry. I was beaten so incredibly that there wasn’t much left of me. My name was slandered by so many untruths that I could hardly handle it, our emotional, physical, and financial resources were depleted, our time was spent in a legal battle that sucked up everything we had…. and all the while… I still needed to raise our children, help them through the battle, allow them to be protected from it all so they could have a happy childhood, be a wife, and run a company. It was impossible. It was truly more than I could bare. I was trapped inside of my own life. It had to remain private due to the nature of it all, and the weight was on our shoulders. We were suffering silently, with no end in sight.
During the legal hell, my faith was shaken to a place that I can’t even explain. I felt as if God left us. That He abandoned us and His miracles were not coming. I tried so hard believing that they would… but there we were… with so much stress and anxiety and unbelievable things happening to us with no protection from any of it. We were given more than we could bare.
Last week, our entire world stopped while I was out of town and it was decided that the children were going to be reunited with their biological family. We were told that we had less than 24 hours to pack them up, to send them off to school like nothing was wrong, and that they would be gone. Since I was across the country, I wasn’t able to hold and kiss and cuddle them for one last night. I sat in my hotel and had to write goodbye letters to my two children. How is that humanly possible to even accomplish?! How is it even comprehendible to expect that of someone?
It’s not… and yet, we did it.
Mike flew out to meet me after the kids were gone and we spent a few days away to try to catch our breaths and try to figure out what in the hell just happened to our family, to our lives, and to everything we had believed so strongly in. Sunday night we had to go back to our house for the first time. I was so afraid to do this, because I knew how empty and sad and painful it would be. I opened the door to the house and immediately went upstairs to the kids rooms. It was like I was hoping that everything that just happened wasn’t real, and that I would go in to find them there, playing with their toys and pets, and that they would look up and laugh and yell, “MOMMY! I missed you so much! I’m so happy that you’re back!” Just as had happened in times past…
But instead I looked around their rooms and saw nothing. No toys out of place, no dirty clothes on the floor, no books on the bed, no pet cages, no unmatched pairs of socks… no anything. I wept in the corner of the room, closing my eyes to remember the years of stories before bed, the smell of clean cheeks after baths, the family prayers around their beds, the stuffed animals that took over every corner of their rooms, the giggles, the kisses, the hugs, the excitement, the achievements… It was all gone… and there I was, alone, screaming on the floor.
The past 7 days have been a blur of confusion, pain, torment, grief beyond words, and pure horror. I did not know it was possible to feel such deep sorrow and distress, and be able to live through it. Because of how strongly I knew we were supposed to be a family, during our battle I would often wonder what my feelings about God would be if we lost… There were times I felt so distant from Him because I was so mad at the pain He was allowing to be inflicted on my family. One minute our family was, and the next minute, it was not. Just as fast as our children came, they left. It has shattered us.
And here is where I have learned what happens when you’re given more than you can bear. What has been more surprising to me right now than any other feeling I have felt during this time, are the feelings of peace and assurance that He IS there. And that not only is He there, but He’s carrying my load so that it won’t destroy me. In the midst of the destruction of our lives and our family, God sees us, and although He didn’t stop the storm and part the red sea, He has in other ways so that we have what we need to continue on.
How do you move on after loosing a child? How do you bear horrific life events that you have no control over? How do you have enough strength to live through the impossible?  You can’t and you don’t. And He knows that. Which is why He has given the world a Savior. A Savior who takes the heavy load, and places it upon His shoulders so that you don’t have to. There is pain in this world that would make us crumble and knock us flat on our backs if we had to go through it alone. But we don’t have to. And we’re not expected to.
So when God gives you more than you can bear, know that He also gives you strength beyond your own to bear it.
You are stronger that you know, because He is stronger than you know.
Thank you for supporting our family during this time. I can honestly say we have felt the power of your prayers and pleadings for us.
Our night is dark, but we’re still going to shine.

44 thoughts on “When You’re Given More Than You Can Bear”

  1. I am so sorry for you pain. I pray for you both to find peace and also for the children to know how loved they are. I cannot imagine how you feel but I do know God heals and has a plan. It may not be the plan we like or understand but it is in fact His plan.. For your path, for their path and for all involved. Blessed are the children that were placed in your care no matter how short the time. They will remember. Blessed are you and your husband to have had a chance to spread your kindness and love.

  2. Thank you so much for sharing, Ashley. I and many others will continue to pray for you and your family. He chose you and Mike for this because He knew what a light you would be to those children and that you will have a lasting impac on them.

  3. Thank you for sharing everything that has been going on. As your followers, it feels like we are a part of your family, seeing your life through Instagram, and I can honestly say that my heart hurts too. The empathy and genuine sadness I feel will never compare to yours, but if you need to pass it on, we will carry it for you. I hope your strong faith guides you during this difficult time. Thank you again for giving us your time and we are all thinking of you and sending our love & light to help brighten your darkness.

  4. I have often cringed when I heard the phrase “God doesn’t give you more than you can handle.” I’ve never believed it to be true. But I do believe in redemptive hope. And grace for the journey to it. I cannot imagine the pain you are experiencing. Love and peace to you as you continue forward.

  5. I have never agreed when someone says God never gives us more than we can bear. It is simply not true, as you so obviously know. Thank you for sharing something so painful with the rest of us so we, too, can witness God being beside you and loving you only the way He can….and know that He does the same in our own lives. I don’t even know you but you and your family have been flooding my thoughts and prayers these past couple days. Love and light in the darkness…

  6. I am reading this with so much pain inside for your family, you and your husband and those kids. I can’t even imagine how they are feeling right now. I am so incredibly sorry for this season of life. There doesn’t seem to be any words that can come close to console or support but know that your raw emotions are felt worlds away and those of us reading are holding you tight and upright. We are here….we hear you…we know your pain. You have us here , we will listen every day you want to talk, everyday you want to complain, everyday you want to be angry….we will be here. God bless you.

  7. I love hearing your thoughts on this difficult experience. You were blessed as were those children to share that piece of your life that some people never get. I am impressed with the difficulty of the situation and the strength you have developed from this. I know that the Lord is aware of you and that he is preparing you for great things. You are one strong woman. You were a great missionary with a beautiful testimony and spirit and I have no doubt that you will continue to touch others in many different ways during your lifetime.

  8. This was not one of the first emails I was expecting to receive from The Shine Project. Truth be told, I only joined the mailing list on Sunday. My best friend and I both have chronic illnesses. It always seemed like more than we could bear but we had eachother and I had my husband. Brittany talked to me about The Shine Project all the time but I never got around to looking you up. She passed away late Saturday night unexpectedly. That was the moment I really realized, for me, what it was to be given more than I could bear. I don’t share this to try to relate or subtract from your grief. Instead it is to tell you that you have given me the message that I needed when I needed it the most.

  9. Oh how my heart aches for your family. I will continually hold you all up in prayer. I will think of you often each day and each time I will send you love, strength and prayers. You are so kind, good, pure… why???? I have no answers only questions. I pray for understanding and healing as well. I am here for you. Thank you for trusting us with your pain.
    Much love❤️❤️❤️❤️

  10. I wish I had the words that I could write to alleviate your profound pain…but once a mother’s heart is broken, the scar always remains…but what happens with time is the scar heals…not in a straight perfect line…but it heals in tiny twists, with raised soft, milky skin that replaces the red throbbing…it fades but it never heals and that’s a good thing because that scar becomes your badge…it reminds you that you loved and lived and, yes, lost…that you hurt profoundly but that you also SURVIVED…eventually, that scar that hurt you so deeply the first time you saw it becomes your healing place…it reminds you that you can bear great trials with great grace, courage and love…it reminds you of all the GOOD that came before and after and because of that great pain…I am praying for you. Blessings, Susan Biddle

  11. Oh how my heart hurts for you Ashley, Mike and your precious children. It boggles my mind so incredibly much! How impossible to not ask “Why? Why? Why? Why?” A part of me feels quite upset for you, but then a bigger part of me is rendered speechless…as your thoughts, words, the way you express yourself are just so poignant. I’m completely amazed by you. I want to lessen your burden. I want you to heal. I know it’ll take time, lots of prayers and the uttermost stength to take yet another step in your journey, but I’m so thankful God has given you a feeling of peace. Amazing.

  12. I don’t know you but have followed you for a while. Since you share this heartbreak I have thought about you everyday. Lots of love and prayers to you. I know there is nothing to be said that would be the right thing…Just know there are many who think you are an amazing lady.

  13. Your words are powerful and will touch more than you know. The world needs people like you and Mike…people who live through awful, horrible things and still are willing to wake up each day and share the light. You truly SHINE, both of you. If nothing else your refining fire has made you SHINE even brighter.

  14. “Our night is dark, but we’re still going to shine.”
    Such a perfect mantra. Prayers to you and your husband. And especially your children. Children understand so much more than we believe they do. Not an ounce of the love you put into them will be forgotten.

  15. I am so sorry… heartbreaking! May God heal your wounds and keep your kids safe and happy as they move forward through life. I am sure they will find you in the future to reconnect 💜

  16. Your testimony of Christ is so powerful. Through all of the grief and sorrow I have experienced, I can’t imagine the magnitude that you feel. I pray for you, your husband, and those sweet children. My husband includes “Ashley from the Shine Project” in our daily prayers. I don’t know you personally, but I feel like I do. In your darkest trial, you are still a light to so many people. We will continue to pray hard for you, I hope that you can continue to find some peace through this tragedy.

  17. You are both so strong and incredible people, just wanted to let you know that God is in control of every situation and we may not always understand his will but if he permits certain things in our life is with a purpose and you may not see it now but I know he has a Huge Blessing for your lives , you were a Huge blessings to your children and you will continue to be that for them and others . Never loose hope, never loose Faith your day of Glory is Coming. God bless you

  18. As a child, I was raised by practicing Roman Catholics, grew up in the church, even taught CCD to the little ones of our parish when I was in HS. In college, I had a son, obviously unplanned, and many challenges stemmed from this, and somewhere, along the way, my faith was challenged, and I didn’t challenge life back, because I was barely surviving. I didn’t believe that there was a reason to have faith in anything, much less a God who could seemingly and unfairly place more on my lap than I could handle alone, much less with an infant. I’m lucky enough to say that over time, my view has changed. When I felt as though every court appareance, whether it be for custody or to stand up for myself and my son in our domestic violence trial, (his dad is not very nice), was sucking the life out of me, I would walk outside and feel the sun, and be reminded of how fortunate I was, simply because I had the strength to find hope in the smallest of moments. I am not a religious woman, but I do have faith. I have faith that when I have prayed for you since you have shared this struggle, that you will be shown how much you truly and positively impact the lives of countless children, a dream that many have, but few achieve. Please know that despite your heartache and the setbacks you have encountered, that you truly gave those children your gift of light. You lit a fire inside for them, a fire that burns for compassion, a fire that will guide them to a path of kindness, empathy and real love. A love that will someday guide and inspire their own family, who you will forever be a part of, for you forever touched their hearts with your love. Your love is changing the world, one child at a time, and I hope one day when I am established, I am able to create even half as much of the positive change you have given to this world in such a short time. Sending you all of my love from Rhode Island. Thank you for always shining so bright.

  19. Your story made me weep. My husband, our daughter and myself have just had our 18 month foster daughter old ripped away from us three weeks ago, after 12 months of loving, sharing and living as a family together. Like a bullet, this event has changed our lives forever with no notice, choice or say. How to recover, trust, invest again is uncertain at this time. Our family has searched for answers when only silence is given to us..but today I found you. Not knowingly, you were placed in my life when I needed someone to help me through our pain..cosmic forces perhaps? Why did He make me hear of you and what you are going through? To help our pain perhaps. For this I am grateful..because reading and feeling your words have comforted me through this unimaginable pain and darkness. Thank you for continuing to “light” the way for other. Big hugs..

  20. I am sorry to hear about such a difficult time in your life, but glad to hear you are holding on to your faith and God and staying strong through it all. About seven years ago I went through what I hope will be the biggest trial of my life: losing my husband to cancer and becoming a single mom of two. After watching him go through treatment for almost a year, see him do better, then watch him get sick again and pass away in less than a week, I felt so numb to almost everything and emotional all at the same time. It was almost indescribable. Like I was standing at the eye of a tornado and everything was just swirling around me in utter chaos.

    I know what I went through is not comparable to what you did at all, but as I read your post I remembered having a lot of the same feelings as you did. So I guess I’m just writing about the feelings part of all this. I wanted to share how my faith stayed, like you. Although hurt and destroyed, I felt I was staying strong by clinging to my faith and continuing onward in life. I had so many positives to remind myself of. Children who I loved, super supportive family and neighborhood…I could keep going on. But what I didn’t expect was negative thoughts would seep in for years to come, just a little here and there. And while I think it’s ok to have good days and horrible days, I realized there was something slowly gnawing at my faith in tiny areas I hadn’t even thought of. I had my faith in God, I thought, but I had completely abandoned my faith in prayer to Him. There seemed no point since I had prayed about something before and he hadn’t answered me–I may as well just let Him do as He wanted. It wasn’t anger, I know not all prayers are answered how we want, it was just complacency.

    About six years later I was talking about it to my now second husband and he explained that prayer isn’t because God needs us to talk to him, it’s because we need to talk to God. It changed so much for me. I have learned that humility is needed in ever aspect of my life. It was one thing for me to stay positive and strong and never loose faith, but it was so much more to be humbled and realize my weaknesses and remember I needed to constantly speak to God no matter what. So now I pray that you will also stay strong and humble at the same time. It is good that you and your husband can support each other. And it’s also good to learn to let others support you too (that was one of the hardest things for me). Some days I feel very healed from my trials and I can look on them as something I know has helped me grow, and still some days I find it hard to understand why it had to happen. I’m sure I’ll feel that way forever, so I won’t tell you things will be ok with time, but I will share that happiness will come back into your life in bigger and bigger doses.

    You are amazing and strong! And just a little side note: I don’t really wear jewelry beyond my wedding ring, but I follow The Shine Project on Instagram because I love the positive vibes and wonderful things the company does! That’s how awesome you are. 🙂

  21. My story is nowhere near similar to yours, but it’s left me asking the same questions and feeling the same doubts. Thank you so much for this needed reminder that I have such a perfect source of help standing nearby.

  22. I cant imagine the pain and heartbreak you are all feeling right now. I don’t have words, but I want you to know all four of you are in my heart and in my prayers.

  23. I cannot imagine the pain, hurt, frustration and angst you and Mike have gone though and are continuing to live. I am praying for you and your precious babies and so thankful that the Lord is carrying you through. You are stronger than you know because He is stronger that you know – I love that. Thank you for being a becon of light and sharing with us all.

  24. Along with the other comments, it’s so sad to hear what you have been going through! I think that it’s very brave to be able to share your thoughts and to be able to try to express how you feel. You are an incredible person and I look up to you in so many ways. I will add my prayers to yours and hope you can find answers and comfort at this time.

  25. Ashley,
    You have always been my hero (i even traveled to LA to meet you at an outdoor craft fair) and after reading this my feelings have been even more validated. My heart is SO heavy for you. I felt I knew your beautiful family through your snaps and instagram pictures and I truly admired what a wonderful mother you were to those amazing kids! I will be praying that God continues to give you strength and peace. I felt God’s presence just reading this entry. I’m so so sorry that you have to endure this!
    Love and prayers,

  26. My heart aches for you! You and your family are in my prayers. Thank you for sharing your story. I’ve always hated that saying as well. I have followed you for awhile and your blog and Instagram posts have always been there at *just* the right time. When you said you disagreed with that quote I thought,yes. She is “my people”. I knew it. As the body of Christ we carry your burden and I will continue to pray.

  27. Ashley- I’ve followed your story from the beginning. Unsure of how our paths originally crossed but it wasn’t a coincidence. I’m joining with the other prayer warriors for you and your family during this difficult time. Thank you for being vulnerable and posting. Just know, you are never alone <3

  28. My heart feels for you. I just stumbled on this because someone had shared it on Facebook, so I don’t know you, but my story is eerily similar. In 2010, my husband, three children, and myself sold everything we owned and moved all the way across the states to be Group Home Parents for a Baptist and State Home. In spite of being told we would be given toddlers and babies (due to being nervous about our own very young three kids), we were instantly given a half dozen inner city at-risk teenage boys. We persevered and loved those kids. We were a family. An exhausted wreck of a family, but a family. Obeying all the state laws, plus all the religious requirements was a task I can’t even explain. Then you add in the issues our teenagers had: can’t even begin to list them. Yet, we were a family. Exactly one year after arriving, after a few kids moving in and out, but mostly staying with our core group, we were abruptly fired. We were given one hour to say goodbye. We were slandered and drug through the mud. I lost my voice for many many days due to the raw throat from crying. My youngest biological child was only three, so he didn’t understand that this was goodbye forever to his big brothers, and he couldn’t take it seriously. We had nothing to our names. Literally nothing but our clothes, and my book collection we had kept. We had been paid so little by the organization that when we tried to apply for unemployment they laughed at us, and said, “I think what you had was a volunteer job, not a paid job.” We had to be gone in three days, with nowhere to go. The church raised enough cash to send us on our miserable way. It was about $800. We started driving and on the last $20 we made it across the states to Oregon, where we had family, and moved in with my in-laws, in their little house. 2010-11 was the worst phase of our lives, and yet, we wouldn’t take it back because of our boys. I feel for you. I hope your heart heals and you find peace.

  29. I am so sorry for your loss. I can imagine it feels like a death; that you are mourning the life you once lived together. There really are no words that can help soothe this pain, but I pray that you will feel God near during this time. You were a blessing to those kids, and there is a reason God put them in your life, even for a short time. You will be in my prayers.
    Much Love.

  30. I am so, so sorry. I am sitting here crying and heartbroken for your family. I pray that you all will find healing. Thank you for your words and testimony, they are so powerful.

  31. Oof. I’m so very sorry. You have lived through the unimaginable. I walked through a different trauma where I could no longer feel God’s presence. I cried out to God for help and heard nothing, felt nothing. It didn’t make sense because I wanted desperately to hear from him. I was angry and consumed by dark depression. I finally decided it didn’t matter what I felt, it mattered what I believed. So I kept living, surviving. It took two years to emerge from the darkness. I still don’t have answers as to why God felt so far away as I dealt with something out of my control. I don’t wish that on anyone, but it has taught me not to trust in how I feel about God, but to focus on the truth I know about him. His presence slowly returned, or at least my perception of it, and I have made it through. I fully agree that God does allow more than we can bear. I don’t know why, but it is an opportunity to trust him as we press on. I pray for you as the pain continues to pop up at random times throughout the years. May God make his peace known more deeply and may he create redemption out of this brokenness. Hugs and love.

  32. We do not know each other but I want you to know that I am praying for you, your husband, and for all affected. Thank you for sharing your story. Thank you for sharing Jesus in the midst of this all. Thank you for giving hope to those who need it and are also in the midst of grief.

  33. This totally breaks my heart. I follow you on Instagram and have been missing seeing your beautiful kids’ faces. I finally started reading all the captions and came to your blog to see what I could find out. I am sitting here crying reading this. I don’t know you. I don’t know your kids. I don’t know this kind of loss, but what I do know is that no one should ever have to go through this. That life is sometimes unfair you don’t know how you can live even more day. And yet you do. Life keeps happening whether you are participating in it or not. It’s a sad reality. Thank you for sharing your pain. Letting others in so you don’t feel so alone. Thank you for continuing to SHINE! xo

  34. I just wanted to say thank you for writing this. I can’t imagine your pain, but I can relate to the words you’ve spoken. My family recently lost our best family friends, my sister’s boyfriend (most likely future husband), and my mom’s other half/best friend in a plane crash. Since the crash, our family’s name has been slandered, we have not been able to do life with the two remaining boys, and we have been in a place of such deep loneliness, confusion, and pain. At times it seems unbearable, and that’s because it is. We can’t do it alone. I appreciate your words. I’m praying for your family!

  35. My heart aches for you, the love and beautiful life you and your husband gave those children is something no one can take away from you! I saw my parents bury my baby sister who was hit by a car at age 4. What stays in my heart every day since then is “Keep the Faith”……my mom was a very strong and religious person who taught us that without Faith you have nothing! Surround yourself with good people, those that love you and support you! I love this project you started and look forward to supporting it. God Bless you and your husband you are in my prayers!

  36. I read this post today to my daughter she lost her fiancé when she was 5 months pregnant with my grandson. He’s almost 3 and she is still trying to
    Wrap her head around how it all happened. In a moment her perfect world and the man she loved with all her heart were gone. Your story had touched us and we will pray for you and your husband and your children. God has performed an amazing miracle in our lives in another situation and He
    If out better than I could have even thought to ask. That situation was one that almost did me in .. but today I still look in amazement. I’m praying God restores your family and you stand back and say Wow I didn’t see that coming. Hugs and prayers

  37. I read this today for the first time and it made my heart hurt for you both. I fully believe God has big things in store for you and your husband and will bless you 1000 times over. Sending prayers your way as you prepare for this new chapter.

  38. This has been an emotionally trying year for me as well. I lost my mother and filled in that roll for all my 3 siblings’ weddings. As I try to welcome a new stepmom, be a loving present mom to my three young boys, and a supportive wife to my busy husband, I’m overwhelmed, depressed, and struggling with the day to day tasks. Thank you for sharing your struggles, words of encouragement, and experience. It has planted another seed of hope in my heart. I feel Christ carrying my burden with me, I need to acknowledge that and be grateful❤ thank you

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