Chris and I talk with the kids a lot about how we are each made differently and beautifully unique. Our strengths and weaknesses are rarely the same as someone else. I find myself constantly searching out real life examples and stories to share with my kids about people living out their gifts and passions. I want my kids to know the gifts and interests they have are there for a purpose. I want them to see how living out those gifts and interests can bring about so much adventure and joy.

About 11 years ago our friends Kelly and Erin began sharing with us their dream to make a difference among those that were hungry, hurting and in need of healing in downtown Tulsa. Through a chance encounter with a man living on the streets named Roy, they were in a sense forced to think about what they could do to make a difference. They considered what they had and along with another friend bought a couple lunches to share with the homeless.

Kelly and Erin both have children the ages of mine.

My kids know their families and know those men.

Last week Chris and I got to share with our boys the story of Kelly and Erin choosing to do something – to use what they had to brighten the day of another. We told our boys how these men they look up to faced fear and uncertainty. How their dream may have been criticized and how others may not have understood their actions. We shared with the boys how those men they look up to chose to love, to serve, to act selflessly and be a picture of Jesus despite their fears or what anyone else says.

We told them how 11 years ago they started with 5 lunches from Arbys….and how on Friday they would pass out their 75,000 lunch.

Then we loaded up the boys and let them watch Kelly, Erin and their Filling the Void team in action. What started with a couple men and some lunches has transformed into a team of individuals and companies doing far more than providing lunch. My boys got to watch firsthand the result of bold and selfless dreaming. It was awesome.

I took my camera along to document the 75,000 milestone day for Filling The Void. Out of respect to those in attendance, I’m only posting a few pictures of the team and my boys. What you see here is a very tiny picture of Filling the Void – this post is more about the gift of having incredible men in the lives of my boys….men that dream big, act boldly and welcome kids to come along for the ride.

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Many of the individuals receiving a lunch placed coins and small bills in an offering bucket. Everything raised goes towards another Filling the Void group in Denver. My boys were so impacted by those that placed money into that bucket. The significance of their generosity and sacrifice marked my boys.12.14ftv-0912.14ftv-10

I’m so thankful for Kelly, Erin and their families. I’m thankful for the roles they play in the lives of my kids and my family. I’m thankful for the hope, love and compassion they are among their friends in downtown. I’m grateful that instead of using their time and voices to criticize or complain, instead they use their time and voices to be light.

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  • the whyte house - What an amazing blessing!

  • Michelle Hill - You have such a special gift of reminding us what a beautiful world we live in, despite the madness and evil going around us.
    I wish I could experience that day through your boys eyes. What a treasure to learn so early in life, that there is good and purpose in everyone of us.
    I am determined to do the same to my family when the time comes.
    Your beautiful family is such an inspiration. Thank you for always sharing a part of your life with us.

  • donna - You are the “Martha Stewart” of mothers.

  • Arlene - Ashley, thank you so much for this post. The last sentence, especially, is a great reminder to me to follow hard after God, not looking back or nursing hurts. Merry Christmas to you and your clan!

  • Diana - This is wonderful and inspiring!

  • Tiffany M - What a beautiful example of loving our neighbor well. Your children will be able to love others well because of how you and your husband plug them in to the world in this way. Thank you for sharing this example and this organization!

  • Arifa - Do you even realize what a beautiful person you are? I have tremendous awe and respect for the way you think, the choices you make, the life you live.

  • Amber - What a wonderful blessing to those in need, and what a way to transform from the start for your boys! Thank you for sharing and for sharing that with your kids! Blessing to you and your family!

  • Sarah - Wow, I love stories like this. There is so much we can do if we choose to look for the ways. Sometimes it’s as simple as smiling at someone. Other times we may give a meal or money or words of encouragement. Thanks for sharing this.

  • Jeannette - Thank you for your kind words of encouragement. We are blessed by all you have done to document milestones for the ministry! As always, I love your heart and your passion for leading, guiding and teaching your kids to change the world using whatever gifts God has given each of them!

  • Tiffany - What a beautiful ministry– thank you for sharing it. This is one to remember, pray for, and support.

  • Helen - Beautiful. If only everyone were as full of light.

  • Kate @ Songs Kate Sang - I love that you bring us examples of doing the next thing. I love that you share with us how people are making a difference and inspiring us to do the same!

  • Julie B - I work across form the BOK center and we often have guys coming in from all over the US who are amazed at how many homeless people there are downtown. Sometimes the weight they are carrying is so heavy on their faces. What a great thing you did with your children. Learning to give of your time and self is such an important lesson.

Both of my girls love to match. They want to match each other. They want to match their cousins. They want to match their friends. They want to match me.

Every time they celebrate matching each other or matching me, I can’t help but think about what future conversations might head my way.

My oldest daughter looks so much like I did at her age. We have the same hair and similar features. She loves looking like me. I’d say most people see her and can guess she is my daughter. That is pretty normal – most of us resemble the parents that call we “mom” and “dad”.  However, that is not true for all. It is not true for my youngest daughter.  Looking like me doesn’t make my oldest any more my daughter, just as not looking like me makes my youngest any less my daughter. My youngest daughter excitedly points out every character with Asian features in her books. She loves her dolls with beautiful black hair the most. While happily combing her hair in the mirror, she tells me our hair isn’t the same. Right now she doesn’t mind that we don’t ‘match’. Actually, she seems to delight in it.

Adoption is a beautiful, bittersweet, unpredictable road. No one can tell me how my youngest daughter will feel about looking differently than I do. Every adult adoptee I talk to has a different experience and opinion. How my daughter feels at various stages in life will be unique to her. There is not a wrong or right way for her to feel about her adoption, about looking differently than her parents, about growing up with so many unanswered questions. It is her story and her feelings. However she feels about any and all of it, I can listen. I can laugh at the things she wants to laugh about and I can cry with her over the parts that hurt.

So right now I will celebrate with both my girls. I will celebrate with my oldest the fun parts of resembling me because that is special to her right now. I will celebrate with my youngest her gorgeous differences because that is special to her right now. At the end of the day, we are all Campbell girls – and that is pretty special to me.

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An oldie, but a favorite….12.14matching-04

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  • Liane - This was just simply beautiful :)

  • meg - Love this! I never quite know how to answer when people talk about how much my boys look like me. Because yeah, one kind of does -ish. The other, not so much. I think maybe it’s just one of those things people do. Look for similarities. But we love celebrating the differences too!

  • ranee - beautiful post…beautiful girls!

  • bev - I’m adopted and when I was an adult I found my birth family. It was really neat to find people who I look like (unfortunately for me – most like my birth father ;)) but as you said that is not the most important thing – of course! Continue to celebrate your family for all of their sameness and uniqueness. I am like my mother in that I am practical, organized and thoughtful, I am like my father in that I pay attention to the details and am philosophical. I am like my birth mother in that I am sensitive and that I have the same ‘snaggle tooth’ that EVERYONE in the family has! I am like my birth father in that I have a sense of adventure and that I am basically his twin. Being adopted has its inherent losses but it has so many more . Merry Christmas

  • bev - oops – *gifts. It has so many more *GIFTS! :)

  • Morgan - You have a beautiful family! I’m half Japanese and half Caucasian and grew up not looking like either parent so bio-kids have the same kind of experience. I now have two kids – both blonde and one with green eyes and one with brown so my kids don’t resemble me either! I love it though and it’s kind of fun to see just how unique everyone is on the inside and outside!

  • Chris - So sweet Ashley. Your girls are both beautiful. I love seeing them (and all your kids) in photos. Merry Christmas to your family.

  • lisa and tate - I have a 6 year old daughter adopted from China at age 9 months. I read something from an adult Chinese adopted daughter, a comment which really made me think and then add to our interactions. The simple thing as to refer to her birth parents in ways that connect our daughter to who she is. When fixing her hair I will say “Your birth mother must have amazing shiny black hair just like you” You are so good at coloring, your birth family must have talents in art.” Whether this is true or not, these comments help her connect to who she is and how her genetics affect her. We may never know if her mom has amazing shiny black hair or if she has an artist ancestors but in Tate loves to feel this connection to her past.

  • Lisa B. - I have to agree with Megan in loving the uniqueness of “mixed” kids. I have blond hair and blue eyes while my husband is Black and Korean. My kids look NOTHING like me and although you can see the family resemblance between the 2, they don’t really look alike. My daughter looks more Asian and my son, well, he just looks like himself. I get looks all the time that can only be described as a question mark. Then they meet the kid’s dad and get the “Ahhh-ha!”

  • Lisa B. - Oops! Morgan, not Megan! ;-)

  • Diana - We adopted our son domestically when he was less than 2 weeks old. People have told us from the beginning that he looks like us, and could pass as our son, and that people would never know he’s not “ours”. Umm..well. He is ours. I’m not trying to hide that he is adopted. But then on the other side we have some strangers that repeated ask where he gets his blue eyes (maybe I don’t want to tell you that, stranger). It’s a weird thing. Thank you for this.

  • Noelle - Such a good post! I have many of the same thoughts with my daughter, who we adopted a couple years ago.

  • Brenda - We’re also an adoptive family. One of our 2.5 year old daughter’s favorite books is a Sesame Street book, “We’re Different, We’re the Same”. http://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/0679832270/ref=redir_mdp_mobile/181-0242005-1824228

  • Maureen - There are some photos, though, that Little One looks so much like her Daddy, it takes my breath away, brings tears and warms my heart.

  • Jamie - I was just thinking today about my daughter. The one in China who I’ve never laid eyes on. The one who is still just a dream and ache in my heart. I wondered as I looked at my similar looking boys how she might feel looking differently from all of us. I loved this post. You’re all beautiful.

  • Kate @ Songs Kate Sang - So, so, true. So many questions about where he gets the red hair :) Bless his heart.

  • sarah k - I have two daughters, too–and one of them shares my genes and skin color and facial features and one does not. This post touches my heart. It feels so important and weighty, the process of raising my children to celebrate the things that all of us share in common and the things that make us beautifully different. Thanks for talking about these things. Those two girls are so blessed to have you as their mama!

  • kath - ok, this is a bit weird. i saw the photo you posted on instagram the other day of you and your ‘matching’ daughter and thought it was your Little One! just realised it was Firecracker! can they both be starting to look like you…?

  • Carrie Rowe - all three are such beauties!!!!

  • Christina - Even though your youngest might have hair a different color, and eyes that are a little different, I think you will both be surprised how much she is like you as she grows. I am forever seeing my stepdad in my son, even though there is no shared blood, and he died years before my son was born, I know I must have picked things up from him that i’ve inadvertently passed on to my son in the way of humor and mannerisms. So while some of the outside may look different, I think you will be pleasantly surprised how much you “match” over the years. :)

  • Suzette - I am an adult adoptee. I looked like my family (well, I didn’t not look like them). My mom could have never mentioned that I was adopted and I would have never known. But I did have this weird desire to look in someone else’s eyes and see “me.” I never wanted to find my birth parents because I didn’t want to hurt my mom’s feelings. She, on the other hand, would probably love to meet my birth mom to thank her. Fast forward many years and I became a mom. When my baby boy was born, I couldn’t wait to see “me.” But, my husband’s family’s genes are soooo strong that it seemed like I had been an incubator for a Hubbard clone. What?! His is now a teenager and I see so much of me in him (good and bad, physical and non-physical traits). Adoptions, families, people…all are so unique. It is so beautiful that you see what Little One experiences as her own to be shared, dealt with and celebrated by you and your family. You are an amazing mom, Ashley!

  • Suzette - *He ont his

  • Suzette - Oh my gosh! I can’t spell today!
    *He not his

  • Kimberlee Jost - Love your thoughts on this…and can’t help but feel like their heart resembles their Mom’s. xo.

  • Laura J - My bio son looks a lot like me. As a teen he couldn’t stand when people would comment on it. My daughter is from Guatemala, and has very different coloring. Sometimes she talks about how we don’t look alike & it is hard to hear her sorrow over it. As a teen, she does brag about her beautiful hair & skin. I tell her I am jealous! My sister-in-law( also a mom of a mix of bio & adoptee children) told me before we brought my daughter home, “You can never love them enough to make up for someone else giving them away”. I understood with my brain, but not my heart. They will grieve their whole life. My job is to stuff my daughter with every ounce of love I can, and be with her(when she lets me) in her grief. Hard, but lots of parenting is hard. Start looking into Holt Adoptee Camp. All counselors are adoptees. They do talk about(in an age appropriate way) some of the hard things. It is safe at camp to share those thoughts & feelings with people that really do understand how you feel. The other good part is that all the other families look like yours!

  • Steph - Beautiful. My older sister is my mom’s biological daughter and I am adopted. We have different EVERYTHING (our ancestors never crossed paths lol) whereas they are twins, even more so as my sister was born when Mom was 17. My mom always told me that one day I would have a little girl who looks just like me. But you know, that thought seemed surreal and confusing to me. In my world, families are melting pots. And as it turns out I did have a little girl. We could not look more different! She actually looks a lot like my mom :) Funny, the things God comes up with. I love my daughter’s bright copper hair and translucent skin. I suspect she’ll love my deep olive complection and black hair. We don’t match even a little. I love it! She’s my first blood relative but I forget that we are related, it just doesn’t come naturally to my mind :P

  • Steph - Oh and I agree that you may be surprised how similar you look to other people. Again my mom/sister and I are physical opposites on paper. But people tell my sister and I all the time that we look alike. Only after we became best friends in adulthood though…another funny thing we can’t explain!

    And I love love love how you speak about adoption. You have the attitude and outlook and sensitivity every adoptee deserves. Seriously, that’s pretty rare. It’s refreshing.

  • Martine Zoer - Hey Ashley, Love this post! Let me know if you’re interested in receiving some of our pink tees for your girls. I would love to send them our Best Friends tees! Happy Holidays! Martine

  • Kate S. - I think Little One’s perception of her looks and how she feels about them are directly related to confidence in herself. I know I don’t know you or your kids in real life, but I’ve been reading your blog since Firecracker was born (I even know her real name, lol!), and I cannot imagine that any of your children will struggle with self confidence too much.

    I also wanted to say, I am not adopted, but I was raised by a single mother. I have never met, nor seen a picture of my father and my mother’s descriptions of him leave something to be questioned. My mother is petite and tiny, has thin straight blond hair, and blue eyes. I was taller than her in the fourth grade. I am a woman and yet just shy of 6′ tall, I have dark, thick very wavy unruly hair and green eyes. My face is round while my mother’s is narrow. I have never in my entire life been called tiny, petite, or cute and I am certain that I never will be. In every way I can think of, my mother and I differ in appearance and although I have inherited mannerisms from her (don’t we all inherit these from our mothers?), our personalities are quite opposite as well. There is no one in my immediate or extended family who resembles me in any way. It has never mattered. My mother taught me to be confident in myself and loved me so well that it has never even bothered me that I have never and will never meet my father. I wish the same for your daughter. I hope she too feels complete in the family she does have and is not forever seeking the family she lost.

  • Michelle H. - Good morning Ashley! In our newspaper, The Omaha World Herald, there was a quote from Rachel Carlson an American biologis that ABSOLUTELY made me think of you……”If a child is to keep alive his inborn sense of wonder, he needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement and mystery of the world we live in.” I think your children have 2 adults! ;-)

  • erin - It’s been so nice to watch her grow and develop in her new family. I have a biracial family (my husband being asian and me being a blonde caucasian) and my twin girls look NOTHING like me. Actually, they look nothing like each other. One is tall, the other is nearly 3″ shorter. One is dark, one is light. One has almond eyes, one has round eyes. I mean, even their noses, teeth, nail beds, EVERYTHING is different between those two. And they don’t really resemble me or my husband other than skin tone. All of our features are so different. So I guess what I’m trying to say is that even though we share genetic material, we still don’t look alike. Your older children definitely resemble you and Chris, but it’s still very “normal” to not look like your parents, adopted or not :) She’s so lucky to have you as her mother!

  • Elizabeth Highsmith - We get to look like Jesus not because of our appearance or even really our efforts but because He makes us His and never leaves us. I think she’s going to “look” more like you than you think. I love your heart for the uniqueness of your children, it’s His work and image in you!

Two thirds of my growing up years were spent at the gym. Gymnastics was my life. The gym was my home.  It was my choice and one I would never change. I grew up in the gym. I grew up with my teammates. So much of who I am today is a result of years as a gymnast.  My very first memory of an answered prayer took place in the gym as an eight year old girl. It marked me. Everything there marked me. I have more memories gathered around a bowl of chalk with my teammates than I do gathered around the kitchen table with my family.

12.14chalk-01This week I had the opportunity to visit Aim High Academy in Tulsa and capture some images of the coaches and gymnasts. There is something about walking into a gymnastics gym that feels like coming home. And the bowls of chalk are welcoming like a home cooked meal.12.14chalk-02Aim High Academy is a non-profit gym that combines faith and flipping to help build bright futures in the north Tulsa community.  I can’t do the story of Aim High justice, so this is what you can find on the About page of their website:

“After volunteering with youth in the north Tulsa community for over 10 years, our Founder, Jennifer Patterson, saw a need for early intervention in the lives of the youth she was serving. Through prayer, God gave her the vision to combine her passion for the wonderful sport of gymnastics with her passion for North Tulsa children. Although unique, the idea makes sense. Children can begin gymnastics at age 2 or 3 – one cannot intervene much earlier than this!  Gymnastics, being such a disciplined sport, presents opportunities for so many lessons children can receive.”

12.14chalk-03I’m not easily excited. I’m a pretty even keel girl, but you show me someone using their unique gifts and passions to make a positive difference in the lives of others, well that excites me. Watching the Aim High coaches and gymnasts together – so fun and inspiring. It didn’t hurt that chalk was involved too:)12.14chalk-04I came home and told Chris that if I wasn’t homeschooling 5 kids, teaching online photography classes, being a mom of 5 and blogging – I would beg Aim High to let me come coach. Maybe one day.

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  • jessie - This post makes me so happy :) I talked to Amy afterwards and she said you didn’t stop smiling while you were there! If this is a dream for you one day, oh man I hope it becomes a reality!!!

  • Katie Moody - I think the perfect addition to this post would be some old photos of your gymnast days!

  • kim - Love this,5 of my kids swim competitively, they spend so much of their time at the pool, my hope is that they will have sweet memories too.

  • Erin - great post! and what a wonderful gym!!

    I’m a former gymnast myself. I got into the sport in high school and I coached in my later years at the park district and local high school (I helped with the freshman and we won the conference that year!) So I totally get the need to coach. so fulfilling, hopefully one day you can do it!

  • Carrie Campbell - Super cool, Ashley! :)

  • Kel - I was so excited to read this post and did not realize you were a former gymnast. So neat to hear of ways to help kids through that endeavor. It gives me something to ponder – as I too am a former gymnast. I gained so many good things from that sport and was also able to be a judge for a few years in college.

    I agree with an earlier commenter — pictures of your early days might be in order! :)
    Merry Christmas.

  • Kristi B. - I must say Jennifer Patterson is AMAZING! Heart of gold. So cool you captured her gym. She was my Kanakuk counselor 22 yrs ago! and she’s still sharing Jesus with girls– quite amazing!

  • Tracy - If the time was every right, they would be lucky to have you Ashley!

  • Michelle - Your website is a refreshing online experience. I much prefer checking in with your positive, uplifting blog every morning over checking news sites. When I get up from the computer I’m in a better mood than when I first sat down!

  • ellie - Aim High Academy sounds like such a great place! I was a gymnast also – and some of the coaches made such a difference in my life as a child of an alcoholic father. It’s fun to know you share another passion of mine (photography and adoption!)

    xo ellie