Friday, May 31, 2013

The Hiatus

Hello Fans!

This blog is going to be a mixture of personal and business, as well as being pretty lengthy. As you know, The Art of Encouragement is very dear to me and is something that I have poured my heart into for many years. So really, whenever we talk TAOE, we are talking personal. I want to thank you for standing along side of me in this journey. Can you believe we are moving into our 6th Christmas? I can hardly believe it myself!

Well, here it goes...

As I'm sure you remember, we were MOTIVATED and ready to start off a record breaking 2013 as soon as we woke up on December 26th. We released plans for our first ever cookbook and even set up an appointment with a non-profit lawyer to get the ball rolling on applying with the IRS for non-profit status (FINALLY, you will soon be able to write off those donations).

Let's start with the cookbook. The idea came from one of my favorite ladies ever. My Aunt Peggy loved her cookbooks and had more of them than anyone I've ever known. She had organized a cookbook fundraiser for her church and raised over $1000. Seeing as how that is how much it costs us to send 10,000 cards, she had me talked into it immediately. She told me all of the tips and tricks that she had learned along the way and had me excited to get back home and share the news with all of you. She always had a way of getting me excited about TAOE like it was our first year all over again. Sure enough, that weekend we tackled our 3rd year of airport outreach, made it through the Christmas holiday, and on the 28th I released a blog sharing my excitement about the cookbook.

2 days later, I lost my Aunt Peggy

Breast cancer stole her away, and I can't say I didn't know it was coming. When I'd hugged her less than 10 days before, I knew it would probably be the last time, but I didn't want to believe it, and I truly didn't think that I'd be getting that call in less than 10 days. I didn't just lose my aunt, or one of my best friends, I lost one of TAOE's most loyal supports. I lost a women who continually pushed the sweet old ladies in her Sunday School class to give a few dollars and sign a few cards. She took TAOE to her volunteer club and persuaded them to choose TAOE as one of their projects for the year. Each year I'd come to visit and we'd spend the days screening all of the cards she'd had people sign (over 1,000 each time), and then she'd hand me a check for all that she'd collected over the year, each year growing from the last. She lost the use of her entire right arm, but that didn't keep her from signing. She joked "I finally know why God made me left handed." I laughed at that, at the time, but she truly thought that. In her heart, she was left handed that day to bless me, to bless TAOE, and to bless a veteran with each card she signed. She was sick, she was tired, and she was in pain... but she never quit. She never even complained. I sure could take a note from her book. My Aunt Peggy didn't just support TAOE, but she supported ME. There are times when organizing how to get the cards and the money together, getting them screened, calling facilities, boxing cards, and filling up every post office drop box in a 10 mile radius of your house can be exhausting. There are times when I'm not sure I can do it another year, but she always reminded me that TAOE was not my own. She knew that TAOE was a calling from God, and He would always find a way to give me that extra push I needed to get it all done. She was often that extra push.

I continued to take submissions for the cookbook, but when I started to put it together, I just couldn't do it. It hurt too much and it took too much energy to try and not hurt. I met with the non-profit lawyer, started to make some really big strides in the paperwork, and then had ZERO energy to push through and complete it.

Energy, let's go with that next. In every heartache, there is a blessing. My sweet husband and I found out in late January that we are going to have our first baby! We've since found out that it is a little boy, and we are going to name him Lucas Allen. We couldn't be more thrilled! When I first found out, I was over the moon and couldn't wait for my husband to get home. I immediately downloaded an app to try and calculate when I would be due, and suddenly felt as if I'd been hit by a ton of bricks. If you don't know much about pregnancy it's calculated based on your last cycle and your due date is 40 weeks from that time. The beginning of my pregnancy started December 29th. One day before I lost my dear Aunt Peggy. I didn't know whether to smile and thank God knowing that He had exchanged a life that was so dear to me for another that would also be, or be utterly heartbroken that she would never meet my children or that I couldn't call her that second and tell her. Excitement and thanksgiving soon won over my heart, but part of me continued to ache by the lack of her presense. It still does, actually, and probably always will.

So with feeling like a part of my usual TAOE 'experience and encouragment' is missing, and having a sweet little baby sucking a large portion of my energy, I haven't quite been on my game the last 5 months.  I never stop thinking of TAOE, but the motivation to press forward has just not been there. I want to apologize for the haitus I have taken. This organization can not function without all of the wonderful volunteers (that's YOU!) who are willing to take the time and effort to give a piece of yourself. That piece of you, no matter how large or small, is a part of a larger picture. A picture of 10,000 American Veterans who know they are appreicated and not forgotten on Christmas Day (or ever). A picture of active duty men and women, travelling through DFW, who get a Christmas card reminding them that they are appreciated. A picture of a hero who has lost hope, but is reminded by your letters that they are appreciated for their sacrifices.  I owe you my sincerest apology that my piece has been missing from that picture, so far, this year. You all deserve better, and I'm hear to tell you that better I will strive to be!

My husband and I closed on our first home last week, and that means that TAOE 'headquarters" (both our storage and the office) are in the process of being moved. Once we are all settled in, I am back to hitting the pavement and getting things done! Will this year be different? Absolutely. Peggy will not be a large part of our card collection and fundraising, but you can be! I will be having a baby during our PRIME TIME, but I won't let that stop me. In fact, I still have plans of finally breaking our 10,000 card mark and adding at least another 1,000 to the card count. I have an amazing family and support system that will help me every step of the way, and I look forward to teaching little Lucas all about TAOE and the men and women who have sacrificed on our behalf to give us freedom. Afterall, he will need the passion to run this for me one day ;)

Thank you for being patient with me through this time. I appreciate your prayer and continued support, and I'm here to tell you I'm back and better than ever. Who's ready to get the 2013 card count started?!

Happy Signing Ya'll!

Ashley Fuhr
Founder of The Art of Encouragement