Ashley’s husband, David, and their children enjoy reading “When I Hold You”

Birmingham author writes children’s book while fighting cancer

Cancer. A word everyone fears and no one expects to happen to them. Hearing the word changes lives forever.

However, God can bring good out of the worst of times — and Ashley Huffstutler’s story is an example of His faithfulness. After testing concluded she had a brain tumor, and despite dealing with chemo, radiation and language difficulties, Ashley said she felt God call her to write a children’s book. “When I Hold You” was released in April.

“I wrote this out of obedience to Christ,” Ashley said. “As I started my recovery from my initial surgery and treatments, I never set out with the intention to write a book. I just wanted to put my words together for my daughters to have something to read and know that God is ever present.

“The further I got in to the process, the more I questioned God on if I could even write this,” Ashley admitted.

Always wanting to be used for Him, in 2016 the Huffstutlers prayed God would give them opportunities to share His faithfulness. They were active at The Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, and had no idea the twists and turns their lives were about to take.

In October 2017, David said, “Now, if you had told me a year ago that I’d be sitting in a semi-uncomfortable chair in a Neuro-ICU room at UAB writing a blog at 12 a.m. after quite possibly one of the toughest days I’ve ever faced, and it was the answer to that prayer … I honestly would have doubts about actually praying that prayer.

‘The Lord heard our prayer’

“However, the more I live this story, the more I see one thing clearly: the Lord heard our prayer and faithfully provided.

“He has, for His reasons, set us on this journey. He is sovereign, and as hard as it may be, He truly is providing an opportunity to make His name known.”

Ashley’s first symptom wasn’t that ominous: she lost sight in the right half of her right eye. Since she was pregnant with their second daughter, she couldn’t have a test to definitively diagnose the problem.

They delivered their daughter early, and Ashley was tested again. The diagnosis: a low-grade glioma … a brain tumor … cancer.

Their first reaction was to cry.

“This is my wife we’re talking about. My best friend, my bride, my love. She’s sick and I can’t fix it,” David said.

But their next step was to turn to Jesus.

“The real answer to keeping it together is knowing you don’t have to,” David wrote in the family’s blog. “Everything is broken and dying. Everyone is broken and dying.  Every situation is broken and dying. There is absolutely nothing that you or I can do on our own accord to prevent/stop/heal that brokenness and dying.

‘Lay it down’

“Not to get all Ecclesiastes on everyone (‘everything is meaningless’), but we literally have no hope of rescue in this world … apart from Jesus. The only call on my life is to lay it down. The only call on your life is to lay it down. That’s the beauty of true Christianity.”

The next four years brought ups and downs for the Huffstutlers. Ashley has had multiple rounds of chemo and radiation, deals with seizures and has difficulty with communication, memory, stability and weight-loss. She even contracted COVID-19 in February.

“But the more time I spent in isolation,” Ashley recalled, “I realized this isn’t about me. It isn’t about COVID. It isn’t about cancer. It IS about trials. It IS about hardship. It IS about knowing God more intimately.

“I pray God would continue to use these trials to grow my faith, to increase my hope and to build my confidence. I’ve asked Him to teach me more of Who He is; that in anything we have to deal with, that He’d help me to seek Him in all circumstances.

“When I Hold You” ends with, “When our day fades into night, I gaze at dark but dwell on Light.”

It’s apparent the Huffstutlers gain strength from “dwelling on the Light,” evidenced by their faithfulness.

“One of the main truths I continue to find myself saying has provided sure footing …. . I’m sure many of you have heard it, but take a minute and read this. Once you finish, take a deep breath and read it again,” David wrote in the blog.

One constant: Jesus

“God works all things together for our good for those who love Jesus, and ultimately all things are used by Him for His Glory (Rom. 8:28 / Col. 1:16-18, 27).

“I really find that remembering that nothing is wasted by God and that through EVERYTHING (not a few things, not some things, but ALL things) God is working for the good of those who love Jesus and for His ultimate Glory. If we truly believe what Scripture tells us, there is not a single circumstance that happens outside of the sovereignty of God’s authority, and if it is not outside of His authority, it is being used by Him for our good and for His glory,” David wrote.

“For all of the unknowns and all of the change, there is but one constant … Jesus.”

“When I Hold You,” a beautifully illustrated board book with Scripture intertwined in each image, is available at major retailers. Read about the Huffstutlers’  journey on their blog, “Ever Singing for Joy,” at

EDITOR’S NOTE — This article was based on their blog; used with permission.

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