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A lot about my kids...

Austin and Ashton Parsley I will try to condense year’s worth of complete love in my description of my kids without trying to be really obnoxious! Our daughter, Ashton Blaire is currently 24 years old. She earned her Bachelor’s Degree from Miami University in English/Creative Writing. From there she graduated from Liberty University with a Master’s Degree in Human Services. College was a wonderful experience for her and now she’s using her gifts and abilities to create and implement programs for Valor Christian College as Director of Student Life. Ashton also travels with her dad, and recruits for Valor at many events nationwide.

So, she is a busy girl and very accomplished but most importantly, she still loves and serves God. Ashton is very driven and goal-oriented, much like her dad. She was a strong-willed little girl so we knew that if we could channel that, she would and could do well. There is a difference in being strong and strong-willed and the former is what we were aiming for. She was full of drama (can’t imagine where she got that!) and always doing productions with her cousins and friends growing up. I have lots of fun photos of her in her various costumes that I will bribe her with one day!

Beyond what most people get to see, Ashton is amazing (I think) in many ways. She has always been wise beyond her years and uses common sense and sound judgment that sometimes surprises me for someone her age. She is thoughtful, supportive, and one of the most generous and loyal young ladies I know. She is the best big sister and always has been. She is extremely protective of her brother as well as a patient and loving teacher. I have always loved listening to them laugh and joke or recite funny movie lines while they speak their own language of sorts.

Ashton is not only a great daughter and sister but she is also a great cousin and friend. She is so close to all of her cousins and has a unique relationship with each one (I will also be talking about these wonderful kids, as well). Her friends, the true ones, have her for life in a way that is inspiring. I think that is a good way that I can characterize my daughters’ life - it is inspiring and so is she. She can bypass the fluff and get to the heart of a person or situation and sees what others miss. She is brave and independent yet sensitive and heartfelt.

It is something, for a mom to admire her daughter as a person, in her own right, with a separate identity from hers. Then again, she is God’s handiwork and I was given the gift to have a part in this miracle called Ashton. From the moment I looked at her, I was captive and have been ever since. As for her dad, she really did “have him at hello” and nothing has changed since! She had two pillows in her room - one said “Mommy’s Angel” and the other said “Daddy’s Girl”. She packed those away when she left for college, I guess she knew she didn’t need pillows to remind her…she has us forever.

How can I begin to describe my son, Austin Chandler? Just saying his name brings a smile and that warm fuzzy feeling and he is even a young adult! When Austin was two and a half, he was diagnosed with a high-functioning form of autism called Asperger’s Syndrome. I won’t lie, this news was devastating and took us on quite a journey. Rod and I went from “why did this happen to us” to “I can’t believe that we were trusted by God to do this”. That transition took some time, a lot of prayer and immovable faith and most of all, a patient and loving God. I don’t believe that God gave Austin autism but I do know, without a doubt, that He did give us Austin. We had our marching orders to mix all of our heavenly and earthly resources to help Austin so off we went.

Years of research and different therapies helped Austin make leaps and bounds but it happened step by step. He went from being completely non-verbal to talking and communicating, thanks to a team effort but due largely to his amazing speech therapist. God sent us many heroes over the years with teachers, tutors, therapists, doctors, family, friends, and prayer warriors. I will surely be discussing Austin’s story along the way, but I want to tell you about him. Austin graduated high school in June of 2010, which doctors told us would never be possible. He not only graduated with over a 4.0 GPA but gave a speech introducing his Dad during the ceremony…there wasn’t a dry eye in the place! Austin currently attends Valor Christian College with an emphasis on English and Communications. His future is in God’s hands but Austin has many talents that could lead him in many directions. We’ve been so blessed to have had such devoted teachers, tutors and great friends along this special and unique path.

It is difficult to describe a pure heart because I think one must experience such a rarity. I know I may sound like any mom who thinks their kids hung the moon, but I am touched by this gift daily. Kids that grow up with special needs are faced with so many varied challenges that they do not focus on what others do. Over the years, I have noticed the most amazing hearts in the children I have met with a host of special needs. They simply have not learned all the games that we learn to play and do not have a selfish bone in their bodies. The love that pours from these hearts is the god-kind of love from a god-kind of person. As for me, I am most blessed to be the recipient of this bit of heaven-on-earth.

Describing Austin is like quoting scripture. He is patient, kind, generous, loving, and thoughtful. He is very creative, funny, intelligent and sweet-natured. Austin loves to read and play video games as well as classic arcade games. He is an avid collector of vintage comics, books, and bobble-heads! Austin loves animals (especially our pets), enjoys bookstores, movies, and four-wheeling with his dad. He told me, a few days ago, that he wants to devote his life to loving Jesus! It is lessons like that that make him my teacher and my example and I am listening and watching. When Austin was little, I asked him if he was really an angel from heaven and he replied, “Yes, mom I think I am and my wings are hidden in my heart.” Need I say more?!

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