Meet Ashley Weaver – wife, musician, homeschool mom, and Grace Orlando Worship Director. (Spoiler Alert! Her heart is as beautiful as her voice.)
Tell us about your life before Grace, your background and upbringing.
So, I was adopted at nine months old. My bio mom was 16 when she had me. I’m the oldest in my bio family of eight kids, and from my adopted family I have two brothers and two sisters. And actually, my whole adopted family’s white. So I grew up in a somewhat different culture, being half-black myself.
What was that like?
My adopted family is great; I’ve always known they love me. But it’s been an interesting journey. I don’t think that I really even realized I was different until – I don’t know – maybe four or so years ago? I know that sounds weird, but I didn’t begin exploring and embracing the other side of myself – the black side of myself – until I was an adult. And most recently, in the last couple years, I’ve been realizing that being mixed with two races, and also married to a white man, and having mixed kids that look nothing like you can be a difficult journey! But it’s also been beautiful and empowering to press into that journey.
When did you discover a love for singing?
I grew up in church – went to church my whole life, started singing when I was eight, and leading worship when I was fifteen. I knew I wanted to do that for the rest of my life around that time.
Tell us about your husband, JD, and how God brought your family to Grace.
I met JD at church. I was a youth leader and he was actually one of the students! He was 17 and I was 21, but we were both musicians and we kind of clicked over that. Then we went on this mission trip, and I felt like – okay, I know people say these things and it sounds really cheesy – but I felt like God told me, “JD’s the person you’re supposed to marry.” And I freaked out and went to this lady, whose opinion I really valued, and she’s like, “Just let the Lord work it out! He’ll work it out.” And He did!
By 2020, we were married with four kids, and we had both just stepped down from being on staff at a church in Tampa. It was a very unhealthy church culture and just a hard season. But Casey, who plays electric guitar at Grace Orlando, happened to go to our church in Tampa. And one day he told JD, “Hey, I play at this church in Orlando. Do you want to come with me and play drums?”
So JD would play randomly at Grace, and I came along for one of the online sessions during the pandemic. Then Mike Price invited me to sing. I did an Orange Studio session, and eventually they started talking about a full-time position at Grace. By then, I had actually taken a job in Winter Garden, so I remember thinking, “Oh no, this is bad!” because I loved every minute of my time at Grace. I wasn’t unhappy at the other church, but I just knew Grace was the place for me.
One of the main themes in our current series on Romans is how to be strong. You are clearly a very strong individual – a wife, mother of four, and influential worship leader. What has God taught you over the years about how to be strong?
I think really, it’s dependence on Him. And I know that sounds cliche, but it’s so true. There’s been a lot of times when I’ve been a little uneasy about leading worship, or getting out there, and there’s such a difference when the Holy Spirit leads me. It’s not me. I can tell that it’s not me. When I lead worship, it is 110% Jesus working through me.
And I’m also learning to be strong through giving myself grace. Knowing that everything doesn’t have to be perfect. I do have four kids and that’s a lot. I homeschool them, I work here, JD works here. We’re always on the go. And I grew up with the mentality that perfection was expected. But giving myself grace is like telling myself, “Hey, it doesn’t have to be perfect. You’re trying, you’re doing this, but it doesn’t have to be perfect.” Which is hard, but I’m really trying to be intentional with that.
What are some of the biggest obstacles you’ve overcome in your life and how have you grown stronger from them?
Something I’ve been pretty open about on social media is my journey with weight loss. I’ve been obese since I was 10 years old, and it’s been a constant battle. In 2021, I had gastric sleeve surgery. Everybody at Grace has been so supportive of me. Even afterwards, Pastor Mike, I feel like he just genuinely cared, which is so sweet. It’s just different than how I’ve experienced church in the past, having everyone be so supportive of me losing weight and taking back my health. It’s really helped me be a better person, and honestly, a better leader.
I’ve lost 90 pounds in one year, and the truth is, I loved myself even 90 pounds heavier. I was confident. Although sometimes I think it was a fake confidence because it was like, “I have to be confident because I’m a bigger girl, or I have to do my makeup really well because maybe that’ll be what they see instead of my weight.” So I think just genuinely becoming okay with who I am, and finding true confidence in Christ, has been one of the biggest things I’ve learned in this journey. Because some days are good and some are really bad.
Bad in what sense?
Just mentally bad. It’s so mental. I didn’t realize that it was going to be this much of a mental struggle, but it’s been good because growing up I would suppress my feelings. I would just, you know, put a little blanket over it. It’s fine. Everything is fine.
But this weight loss journey has caused me to really get in touch with my feelings and open up about how bad my relationship with food was. And it’s still not the best relationship ever, but it’s getting better. And that’s something I’m proud of myself for.
I think “freedom” is a good word because I can do so many things I couldn’t do before – things that get taken for granted – like jumping on a trampoline with my kids. Even singing was more challenging before because it was harder to breathe. And now I have this freedom, and it’s so good because I don’t want anything holding me back. I love leading worship, and I want to lead worship for the rest of my life.