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There’s a lot of debate these days around the topic of masks…no, I’m not talking about Covid masks right now, I’m talking about the proverbial masks that a lot of us put on. Maybe we are putting on a mask that says that we think we’re perfect or our life hasn’t been hard, or maybe we’re hiding things in our past. Those masks can be so dangerous, but when we begin to remove those masks to reveal the deep layers of truth within us, that’s when we really come alive. My guest this week is Ashley Abercrombie, a writer, speaker, and author of the book Rise of the Truth Teller: Own Your Story, Tell It Like It Is, and Live with Holy Gumption.She’s also the cohost of the hilarious and helpful podcast, Why, Tho?and can be found basically wherever there is a coffee or a cheese board. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and two sons. I had the absolute best conversation with Ashley. When I met her, I knew she was my kind of person. With no further ado, join me to hear more about Ashley and her mission.
Ashley is an author, speaker, and podcaster.When she was 21, she moved from the small town of Eden, North Carolina to Los Angeles where she met her husband and they had their first baby. Four years ago, they moved to Manhattan and had their second baby. Not long after, they realized how much they missed their home in California and decided it was time to move back to their beloved community there.
Ashley has been writing since she was her little girl. Her best-selling author and chart-topping podcast were not overnight successes. Ashley has been writing since she was a little girl; hers has been a journey of 20 + years spent writing on lunch breaks, early in the morning, and late at night because she simply loves expressing herself through the written word.
Writing has been a way for Ashley to process her own pain and serve the community around her. In her early 20s she became distracted from that calling and experienced a lot of pain, but was able to process it, recover, find her voice, and pursue writing and speaking full time.
It took a long time for Ashley to understand how to put on her own oxygen mask first but take off her “performance” and “strong” mask to realize she couldn’t be strong all the time, every day.
Especially in the Christian sphere, we can act like we need to show up with everything clean and tidy and that we can’t have messy stories, which is obviously a lie from the pit of hell.
Growing up, Ashley and her brother spent a lot of time with their grandparents and great aunt while their parents worked. Ashley went to church with her great aunt every Sunday morning and brought flowers for the alter and opened the library for the pastor and church members. For Ashley, it represented a place where she could find respite and quiet from the noise of school and the hustle and bustle of trying to figure out everyday family life.
When she was 16, Ashley decided to walk away from the faith community because as a teenager, she was struggling to relate to an older church crowd. At 21, while living in Los Angeles, Ashley came back to the church in one of her most broken moments. She found a community where she was loved and not judged.
So many people grow up in the church but walk away from it at a young age, wrestling with their faith and what church looks like as an adult. We can absolutely be constantly wrestling with God and asking hard questions.
There is so much shame around difficult conversations. Often the church makes judgements or avoids these conversations all together. The silence of shame became unbearable for Ashley and becoming more an more isolated worry what people would think about her but knowing she couldn’t tackle her struggles on her own.
She started asking God where He was. One day she took a drive around Raleigh, NC and it started to storm. She started shouting at God and as she did, she felt flooded by the love the Holy Spirit had for her. She’d never experienced anything like it before, especially since she thought she had to have everything right before she could be loved by God.
It was the first time she admitted to herself that she couldn’t hold things together, and certainly not on her own. It’s when she started to take the mask off and stopped caring what people thought about her.
Recover communities lead with stories. The first thing you hear when you go to a meeting is other people’s stories. They also helped Ashley realize the things from her childhood that affected her as an adult.
Ashley leads with stories in her book, the way she learned in recovery. It’s connective and teaches us that we’re not perfect. We don’t have to wear masks all the time, performing for each other.
For the first time in her life, Ashley started to read the Bible and listen to sermons. She realized in the church she was fed a “victory narrative,” but when she took time to examine the lives of people in the Bible, she realized their lives were very hard and began to identify with the imperfection she was finally learning about.
The Bible makes room for ALL people from all walks on life on all different journeys. Ashley realized she could finally stop trying to be perfect all the time because victories never came from easy times in the Bible. God uses imperfect, flawed people with imperfect, flawed stories.
These biblical stories were literally the foundation of our faith and God’s plan! The more we own the dark parts of the story, the more healing it is for others who have parts of their stories they feel shame over.
It’s easy for our shame to creep back in even in the midst of owning our stories in their entirety. God doesn’t lead us with shame or guilt or holding our past over our heads. We may have to reconcile our pasts, but you can identify that shame is not from God. It is not how we would speak to ourselves or anyone we love.
We’re often expected in our cultures and societies to stay inside certain boundaries and stay in our little boxes. If we branch out from this, we’re told to get back in line. This is especially true for women in our culture. The reality of integrity is a deep commitment to being who we are, even when we’re working toward improving our lives.
We can made mistakes and find freedom in forgiveness and repentance, but there may still be consequences to our actions. Even when David repents and has been forgiven, God tells him he will still have to face the consequences of what he did.
When we’re brave enough to take off our masks and make mistakes and try again and do our best and be honest with our story, we give others the courage to do the same. We are supposed to value people as made in the image of God. It creates community here on earth as God designed it when we drop our performance narratives and allow our real stories to come through.
Ashley is passionate about social justice, fighting human-trafficking, and initiatives against mass incarceration. There’s a huge relationship between faith and justice and for many people in the world right now, they are waking up to it for the first time.
Justice is the heart of God and goes hand to hand with righteousness in scripture. There is never a way we can hate our neighbor but say we love God. We can’t divorce our love of God from love of neighbor.
When Ashley really started listening to people’s stories, she finally started to understand how unjust our systems are. God invites us to learn His ways in a relationship with Him that includes humanity. We must hold people and systems accountable to right damages and injustice that they create, which includes letting them feel the consequences of those actions.
God has a lot to say about injustice, over 300 scriptures as a matter of fact. We are to create righteous communities and connections, valuing all people in God’s image.
Find out what Ashley’s professional athlete hype song would be, how she’d prove she’s from the future if she could time travel, what she thinks we’ll be nostalgic for in 40 years, and a few of her guilty pleasures. Be sure to stay tuned to find out what it means to Ashley to run a business with purpose.
(So Many) Memorable Quotes
10:26 “I believe that I have a voice and that it’s important that I use it. I believe that about every person, no matter our sphere of influence. I believe that God has created us so uniquely to speak and that we live in this very wild world that is looking for hope and looking for grace and looking for more nuance than our news narratives and social media narratives allow us to have.”
10:59 “I didn’t know how to let people in I didn’t know how to say, ‘I have needs too,’ and I just thought I could always be the fixer or the advisor, the one people came to, the strong one…you realize that falls apart at some point. I’m not strong all the time.”
11:19 “I had to go on a real journey of taking off my mask and getting real and stop pretending and performing and learn how to be in real relationship with people. We can be loved even though we’re broken.”
14:58 – “I’m still unlearning some of the things [in the church] that are cultural and not biblical. Even though I’ve been hurt in the church, and I think if you’re human you have and the church is not perfect (it has imperfect people in it), overall I really do love that gathering and the corporate worship, and being together.”
15:27 – “For me in some ways the church has been a deep wound, but it’s also been a lifeline.”
22:27 – “I have come to a place where I value so much more, integrity over image.”
23:32 “I really began to identify, and I began to allow myself to be imperfect because that is all I saw in the scripture … imperfection.”
“The bible is so diverse and rich. It makes room for people. It makes room for people of all colors, all shapes, all sizes, all backgrounds, and I just began to cultivate a life that did that too.”
35:59 – “When you meet a free person, you feel free to speak…when you see a brave person stand up against injustice, it makes you feel brave. It makes you feel like there’s a normal person doing the right thing, so I can be a normal person doing the right thing instead of pretending this thing doesn’t exist.”
“Our courage gives others courage. Our vulnerability allows space for vulnerability for others. Our love for humanity cultivates diversity, equity, opportunities for people to be together and I think that’s really what we’re here for.”
39:23 – “Justice is just not a trend. It’s the very heart of God. Justice and righteousness are present together in scripture.”
About Ashley Abercrombie:
Ashley is a speaker and writer, whose work has been featured in various magazines and digital outlets, including Darling, OprahMag.com, Relevant, and Grit and Virtue. She is the author of Rise of the Truth Teller: Own Your Story, Tell it Like it is, and Live with Holy Gumption, and her YouVersion devotional, Finding God in the Hard Places, has been completed by over 250,000 people. Ashley is the co-host, alongside Tiffany Bluhm, of the hilarious and helpful podcast — Why Tho.
For more than 15 years, she has worked in non-profit spaces, leading faith-based initiatives, serving as a prison chaplain and pastor, and speaking at conferences, churches, and events. Ashley has an unrelenting passion for justice, particularly anti-human trafficking and mass incarceration initiatives, and serves as the Executive Board Chair of Treasures, a non-profit that reaches and supports women in the sex industry, and victims of sexual exploitation. Ashley and her husband, Cody officiate a lot of weddings, leading couples through premarital counseling, and are developing a curriculum and course to help people prepare for marriage.
Born and raised in the Southeast of America, Ashley has called Los Angeles and Manhattan home, so she’s got a little southern, east coast, west coast twang. Ashley currently resides in Los Angeles, raising two boys by the pool, with her husband and beloved Nespresso machine.
Connect with Ashley:
Thank you to our partners of the show:
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