One Pink Toothbrush

Welcome to One Pink Toothbrush, where I will be posting moments from my days as a mum and as a wife. Funny moments, messy moments, thoughtful moments, teary moments.... and hopefully using each moment to see what God might be saying.

Sunday, 25 September 2011

Interview With a Legend 2

Time for another interview with a legend. If I refer to her as the Bear Gryls of mums, that might give it away. Ladies and Gentlemen I give you the delightful Ashleigh Smyth.

So Ash, you became a Christian....when I was 15 during confirmation classes at a Presbyterian church with an amazing youth pastor called Rory Spence.

And you and Pete got together....when I was 16 & he was 18. We met at a Christian concert the first time I went to that Presby Youth Group after being saved. We were friends for about 18 months (liking each other alternately while the other liked someone else!) We went out for 5 years, all of which was long-distance (boarding school & separate universities).

Has he ever taken you for a Mr Darcy "turn about the room"? No, at our high school dances I loved dancing & he hated it. He rather annoyingly spent more time soul-winning than shaking his chassis! 

Ashleigh friends, my kids, Pete, our dogs, 'The Vicar of Dibley' and '24'.  Food. Cupcakes & ice cream & chocolate & puddings. Holidays by the sea, full body massages at the spa...

Currently you are reading....."Leave it to Psmith" by P.G Wodehouse (a delight) & "The Me I want to be" by John Ortberg.

So your role in life be Pete's wife, to love him, support him, be best friends with him, encourage him. And to raise, mother & train my 3 sons. I'm involved in Godfirst, with the key leaders and their wives. I travel a bit with him to visit other churches or conferences, which I love. I also teach swimming lessons at a nursery school in summer.

And your view of being a mum....I love being a mum. I love being able to be a full-time 'stay at home' mum for my boys. I'm so grateful not to work full-time. It's my best thing. And I'm so grateful for sons. I am one of 3 girls & wished I had a brother, so now love being surrounded by boys! I was a tomboy, so love the noise, activity & energy of boys. My parenting style is "Go outside & play" so I am very grateful not to have to dream up craft activities etc! I love being outside & doing outdoorsy stuff with my boys, anything from water-skiing to swimming the Midmar Mile to sliding down sand dunes. I love laughing with my boys, & cuddling with them (they all still cuddle!) And I'm very competitive & am finding it hard that they're starting to run faster, be fitter & beat me at things!!

How  did you share with the boys about Pete's cancer.....We explained that Dad had a type of cancer, which was bad, but that it was a 'good' kind of cancer in that the doctors were hopeful that chemo would get rid of it. We also said we were trusting God to heal him completely. We kept talking openly with them about their fears & questions, & regularly asked them how they were coping with it all.

And how were they coping with it all...They all did very well. We prayed a lot for them & they coped in different ways. The youngest (7 at the time) didn't fully understand, & would often just sob & say "It's the cancer making me sad". The middle one was a bit more stoic and needed to be asked how he was more than offering his feelings. The oldest talked a lot, he's good at expressing himself, & he took on a lot in a supportive role to me & his brothers.
The boys talked a lot with us, but at school after peoples' initial kindness & sympathy, they preferred people not to keep asking them how dad was as they struggled not to get tearful, & wanted things to be as normal as possible. We kept lines of communication open, but also tried to carry on with life as normally as possible. Whenever Pete could manage it, he went to watch a cricket or soccer match. When it was Jack's birthday party we asked some young guys from church to come, as Pete had no energy to engage, but was present. We were probably more emotionally sensitive to them during that time, but maintained normal behaviour & standards & discipline!

Can you share your first reaction of it all.....I was devastated when we first found out about Pete's cancer. I lost my mum to breast cancer as a child & I've fought my own battle fearing the same would happen to me. So it was a shock. I think the 'cancer' word is powerful & we hear it & think 'death' initially. I didn't want to lose my husband.

Your role must have changed......As Pete became sicker through the chemo, our roles shifted & I became more key in running the family. I was the primary parent, the primary presence, often the only decision-maker, & often the leader. For one who has a husband who is a strong & brilliant leader, this may have been a shock! But it was amazing how God enabled me -I hardly ever thought 'I just can't do this'. It was only when Pete started to get better & our roles slowly started to change back, that we realised how much they'd shifted. We often look at people who are suffering through something difficult & think 'I couldn't cope with that' but God really does come to you in suffering & enable you to do all that is needed.

And your support of Pete through this time......

And at home.....I accommodated myself & the boys & our household to him. He became quite reclusive at times, feeling too sick to even sit through family meals, so I learned when to shield him from people (even the kids). And the kids & I learnt to get on without relying on him being there. Sometimes I needed to encourage him strongly to keep his faith up, sometimes I had to help him sleep. Occasionally I got overwhelmed & he had to comfort & encourage me!

The worst part.....fighting the fear of losing Pete. How would I live without him? Who would father my boys? How would I support our family? My prayers swung between confident claiming of healing for him, & begging God to have mercy on me & my children & give him back to us. Also, it was very hard seeing him constantly feeling terrible, getting sicker, & feeling like he'd never be well again. We had a particularly difficult December (last month of chemo) when Pete was in hospital twice for different things & thought he might well die, & we came under quite severe emotional attack. That period almost finished us both off.

And your faith throughout....I never questioned God or said, "why us?". I was so grateful that God was sovereign, that we had medical aid to pay bills, that we had great support & friends walking alongside us, great oncologist & doctors etc. And we knew God's help, comfort & strength all the time.

You kept going, relationship with Jesus kept me going, & my love for Pete. Keeping the family going as normally as possible and being part of a church kept me going. We had one particular couple who walked very closely with us throughout & I met with her nearly every week & poured out how we all were. They were very wise, understanding & hugely supportive in everything from bringing food to us at chemo, and flying to Durban to bring us all home when Pete went into hospital. Also, I learnt what my limitations were in that period. I had very little emotional buffer, so only did things that didn't require much from me. I didn't do any church ministry, & only met with supportive friends, & I cut my activities down to a minimum, mainly centred around Pete & the boys' school & sports.

Worship encouragement.....Chris Tomlin's albums were wonderful for me, & Pete found Lou Fellingham's album so helpful.

You have learnt along the way.....that God really is God, & is all that he says He is. I've learnt that he helps us to go through what we imagined was impossible to cope with, & that I'm stronger than I thought I was. I've learnt that I love Pete very deeply, in sickness & health, for better or for worse. Our marriage stood up very well through the ordeal & we remained close & very in love. I've learnt that my boys are fantastic & there's more to them than meets the eye. I've learnt how different friends provide different blessings or meet different needs. I have deeper respect & compassion for families who are suffering or living through trials. And I've learnt that there can still be great joy in the midst of great sadness & difficulty.


  1. Hi Ashlay, Thanks for sharing your life with us, it is very encouraging, watching your flight (Isaiah 40:29-31). Philip Joubert

  2. Lovely reading this Ash and so happy for you all that Pete is in the clear :D