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Home: A Letter to Maddox

My Dear Sweet Son,

You’ve had a whirlwind of a week. You’ve been hauled across three states, put to bed in an unfamiliar room in an unfamiliar apartment. Honestly, I feel I’ve ripped you away from anyone who knows you well.

You’ll never know the Northwoods the way you could have, so there’s a couple things I want to tell you about the place where you were born. I’m very proud to have been born where I was (in East Michigan), and I hope someday you’ll recognize and appreciate the same about your own birthplace.

It took no time for women in our church and community to reach out to me and include me in dinners and Bachelor nights where we screamed at the television when the wrong woman walked away with a rose or  the bachelor acted like an idiot (looking at you, Nick Viall). It’s not a show I ever cared about before, but being in a community of women became important to me.

I worked a few strange jobs, one in particular that I would only do all over again because it would lead me to First & Vine, the shop Kate and I owned together. This shop, and especially the relationship behind it, became a pillar in my life. While your dad followed his heart and passion in youth ministry, my heart lied in this shop and the creative outlet it gave me. In some ways, it saved me.

There were several times over these last five years when I didn’t feel adequate, when your dad didn’t feel adequate either. We sometimes felt unqualified to be married, let alone lead a ministry in Northwest Wisconsin and ten hours from family. We put pressure on ourselves to cover all our bases, and sometimes had to step back to prioritize what was most important to us.

But there were wonderful, life-changing times too. And those trumped the hard times by a mile. From games nights with friends to trips to Duluth, we found ways to recoup. We found friends who poured into us. Some of my fondest memories happened when the lines between friendship and family blurred so much that we were invited to sacred Christmas Eve days and birthdays. We were taken to family cabins. We were driven out on pontoons. We were thrown the most beautiful, fun, and thoughtful baby shower I’ve ever seen – something done just for you, sweet boy. We were invested in, believed in, and loved.

In our final weeks there, the Darby crew gave us an incredibly thoughtful gift. They surprised us with family pictures. I was floored. Anyone who knows me knows I love surprises. It’s my love language. I’ll also accept coffee and kind words. Write that down, buddy, for the day you break my kitchen window with a baseball. At the end of a busy Saturday at the shop, your dad carried you in to see me. Close behind, you were followed by Kate and Kristin Tischer, a friend who’s done photography for our shop on a few occasions. I had five minutes to throw on my cute outfit and head out the door.



And because Kate can read my mind, she had her extended family photobomb the final pictures back at the shop, knowing that I would appreciate that. They taught me so much about friendship, motherhood, and Jesus. They lead by example and love people with their whole hearts. They’re generous, kind, and forgiving. I grew more confident over these last five years, and a big part of that is due to them.  I’m a better friend and mother because of them. More than once, Kate walked in our house and grabbed you without asking because you had just peed all over me or choshed  all over the couch. She’d drop off dinner or invite me to run errands just because she sensed I was getting cabin fever and needed Caribou Coffee to get through the day. They’re family, Maddox. But you already knew that.

I think this is the moment Bentley told me we were all headed to a taco bar party:

Oh, B.

Me pretending to be a Foss:


Three days before we moved out, we were thrown a going away party on one of my favorite properties on the lake. This time it was with all of the wonderful friends we’ve grown close to over the last five years; the people we’ve done life with, laughed with, cried with, and turned to. These girls see a need and make it disappear. I’m stepping out of the local churches in the Northwoods just before they (God willing) step into important leadership positions. These women are the church and Spooner is lucky to have them.

Maddie, the place where you were born has really become special for us. It’s where we chose to have you. The people who know you best and the ones you’re most familiar with are still living there. Our time in Spooner became a pivotal point in our lives and in our family. It’s become home. And while I’m nervous to embark on a new adventure – to leave our friends, the shop, and everything familiar and easy – I know that my last adventure led to one of the best decisions of my life.

Be brave, sweet boy. And remember where you came from. You are so loved.


Ashley Cooper

I strive to find joy in each ordinary day.

  • Pam Weesner

    So Proud of the Woman you have become.

    June 27, 2018 at 9:20 pm Reply
  • P

    You’re amazing Ashley ❤️

    June 27, 2018 at 9:40 pm Reply
  • Jaena Hardin

    Your posts seem to always make me choke up, Ashley. (I think that’s a sign of a gifted writer.) I love this and pray for deep friendships and community in Michigan for you all. Change is hard…hang in there. <3

    June 27, 2018 at 9:44 pm Reply
  • Jenni Hughes

    Oh my goodness Ashley. I don’t think it is possible to read that and not cry. Miss you guys so much but hope you are settling into your new adventure. I’m so excited for you girl. Love you all!

    June 27, 2018 at 10:09 pm Reply
  • pam helstern


    June 28, 2018 at 7:54 am Reply
  • Gracia Gormong

    Oh. My. Word. Literally tearing up. Love this and you sooo much. I’m so grateful for you and Patrick. Spooner is a better place because you were here. I am a better person because you invested in me. I love you all and already miss you like crazy, but am so unbelievably excited for what God has in store. Please bother me on FaceTime anytime–especially on Sept. 26th (What’s so special about a random September Tuesday? This Is Us Season 3…obviously). You are SO loved. <3

    June 28, 2018 at 10:47 am Reply
  • Gracia Gormong

    Oh. My. Word. Literally tearing up over here. I am incredibly grateful for you both and for God’s perfect timing in sending you when He did. Spooner is a better place because you were here. I am a better person because of the consistent, everyday love you poured into my life. I already miss you like crazy but I’m so excited to see what God has in store. Please feel free to bother me anytime with a FaceTime call, especially on Sept. 26th (the season release date of our favorite Tuesday activity). You are SO loved. <3

    June 28, 2018 at 10:57 am Reply
  • Ash Williams

    I appreciate your bravery and honesty, Ashley. Your words are encouraging! You will always have a place here

    June 30, 2018 at 5:48 am Reply

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