Peace Pirates

Conquering the Beliefs and Behaviors that Steal Your Treasure in Motherhood


By Ashley Willis

Formats and Prices




$16.99 CAD

This item is a preorder. Your payment method will be charged immediately, and the product is expected to ship on or around April 7, 2020. This date is subject to change due to shipping delays beyond our control.

Peace Pirates encourages and equips moms to stay ahead of what steals their peace and joy, so they can fully experience the blessings of motherhood, that parenting isn’t just a title; it is a treasure.

Why do moms find themselves settling for a depleted and frustrated existence when motherhood is truly one of the greatest gifts from God? Being a mom is one of the most important-yet-difficult roles a woman will ever fill. Deep in their hearts, many women believe they are failing their families, are emotionally anemic, and are utterly helpless to maintain their peace while raising kids. As a result, hearts and homes are constantly defeated by the “peace pirates” that are allowed to take away the security God paid for His children to have.

As a wife, mother of four boys, and blogger to hundreds of thousands of mothers, Ashley Willis experienced the stress of trying to be the best mom God wants her to be, while constantly fearing that she’s missing out on the real treasure.

With God’s help, mothers can find the treasure in the midst of the struggle and remain faithful through all seasons of motherhood–especially the difficult ones–and claim their peace. peace pirates will teach readers how to stay “treasured up” by first helping them identify the four stressors, or, peace pirates, that challenge their zest and contentment. With powerful personal and biblical insights, peace pirates will encourage and equip moms to stay ahead of what steals their joy so they can fully experience the blessings of motherhood.


Part I

Confessions of
a Pirate Mom

Chapter One

Braving the Adventure

Key Principle: All moms must brave the various storms of motherhood, and they can experience peace through these storms when they choose to hold tightly to the Lord.

“I think the hardest part for me is always worrying if I’m forming my kids correctly. I want the best for them. I worry constantly about being too strict or not strict enough. I also worry about the example I set as a wife for my daughter and son. I so badly want them to have a wonderful Godly relationship.”

—Kayleesue L., married with two girls and one boy


I will never forget the day when I thought I was officially losing my mind. And I don’t mean it in the charming, “Oh, this crazy pregnancy brain” or “Man, there is so much on my plate these days” kind of way. I am talking downright cray-cray…or whatever young kids are calling it these days. I had no idea that rapper DMX was foreshadowing my future as a mother in his nineties hip-hop classic “Ya’ll Gon’ Make Me Lose My Mind (Up in Here, Up in Here).”

I was “acting a fool” with my four rambunctious boys more than I’d like to admit. And I will never forget when I realized that we were becoming a “ten-testicle home,” as my husband loves to say. I seriously almost passed out when I saw yet another little baby penis on the ultrasound screen during my fourth pregnancy (and yes, I used the “p” word, which is most often the word of the day in my house). Between my boys’ constant arguing, my requests that seemed to fall on deaf ears, and the older boys teaching my youngest an additional funny term for his genitalia, I was done.

I was so completely frustrated by the state of my position as mother and the behavior of my children that I found myself shutting down. I couldn’t utter another pointless instruction or remind them for the four hundred and thirty-seventh time that we don’t say, “Deez nutz!” at the top of our lungs in public (or anywhere else for that matter). Enough already!

Please don’t misunderstand my candor, friend. I know it is a tremendous blessing to be a mother, and I thank God every day for my crazy kiddos. I just wish that the good Little House on the Prairie moments outweighed the bad Roseanne ones. Seriously! Not long ago my then-seventeen-month-old was dipping Oreos in the toilet and eating them, for crying out loud! The craziness is real, and some days—okay, most days—I feel in over my head. I feel like I’ve become a “pirate mom” just trying to navigate the raging seas of raising my precious little mateys, stealing chocolate from my kid’s Halloween candy stash, barking off orders like it’s my job, and bumping around the house in a sleep-deprived stupor until I gulp down enough coffee. Yeah. I may or may not have said, “Make haste, scallywag!” a time or two. Okay, it hasn’t gone that far…yet.

Recently, my youngest sported a legit eye patch for months due to a lazy eye. Not to mention, my other boys are obsessed with pirate swords. We even dressed up like pirates for a Disney cruise with our extended family. My eldest son recently told me that he thinks I have an obsession with “pirate jackets,” and you know, looking at my closet, I think there’s a lot of truth to that statement. I mean, what’s not to love about some lace-trimmed sleeves and military-style buttons adorning a blazer? I love it! So, yeah, we’re pretty much a pirate family.

But in reality, pirates aren’t fun or even fashionable. Pirates take from others. And when I allow myself to morph into a pirate mom—letting life toss me about like a ship at sea—I enable certain thoughts, circumstances, and people to plunder the peace in my heart and home. And consequently, our home becomes a topsy-turvy place lacking comfort, understanding, stillness, assurance, and most important, peace.

Our family spends a lot of long imaginative days at sea clanging plastic swords and finding buried treasure because it seems like the thing to do, but there are some days when I feel the heaviness of the playacting closing in on us. The reality of trying to steer clear of the chaos and avoid losing something valuable (like my mind!) throws us around—and it feels as if my peace and sanity are tossed overboard in the process. And I become even more pirate-y, if you know what I mean. Except I don’t have an intimidating eye patch and my weapons aren’t plastic pirate swords. My weapons come in the form of impatience, harsh words, eye rolls, frustration, and sighs toward the ones I love the most. I lash out—like a crazy pirate—at my precious little mateys. Then, I feel guilty, defeated, and depleted.

We’re all emotionally seasick and desperately in search of the peace that was lost at sea. This is where Peace Pirates comes in. I want us to reclaim our hearts and our homes rather than giving them away to an elusive pirate that steals from us in the form of emotions, time, and other thief-like assaults on focus and frame of mind. Any other pirate mamas with me?

When I first became a mom, I envisioned my children challenging my authority on occasion, but I was sure they would be listening and following directions with a smile most of the time. I don’t think any mom sits around daydreaming about her children running around half-naked and ignoring her instructions while burping the alphabet or begging their brothers and Dad to come look at their extra-long turdy in the toilet. Not what I expected at all. I wasn’t prepared for the reality that I would nearly have to move Heaven and Earth to have some much-needed alone time with my husband to simply get on the same page and foster our relationship. I never thought this season of raising kids would be so hard!

I get so angry and frustrated sometimes because my role as a mother is nothing that I imagined and I feel completely out of sorts. I never imagined how shipwrecked and utterly helpless I would feel at times. I thought becoming a mom would make me better, not bitter. I thought it would make me grow, not grumble. Can you relate, Sweet Mama?

One night, I had more than I could take. I slipped into my bedroom and had one of those can’t-breathe, mascara-all-over-the-face, ugly cries. My husband was so sweet to sit with me and rub my back as I let it all out. My kiddos happened to walk into the room and stared at me. I could see the thoughts swimming through their heads, like Oh no! It’s happening. Mommy is losing her mind!

I just feel like I am missing it most of the time. You know? I have prayed for these kids since before they were born, and I continue to do so every single night. I have read countless parenting books on both child-rearing philosophy and practical correction advice. And yet I feel like I am not even running on fumes anymore. I have so many people in my life that I can lean on, including my amazing husband and mom, but I can’t seem to shake this feeling. I love God, love my husband, and love my children, so why do I find myself missing out on the joys of motherhood so much of the time? Why do I feel like I have been pirated out of my peace, or worse, that I’ve become a pirate stealing affection away from my children? I certainly don’t want my kids growing up with a mother who keeps something back due to anger or frustration. I don’t want my emotions to ruin my marriage either. There is so much at stake, and I desperately want to get this right!

One aspect of our family that I have been determined to get right is our ability to work together as a team. Surely that can’t be stolen from me, can it? I have so often admired those families in our lives who truly enjoy being together. They exhibit a kind of family togetherness that is inviting to all members of the family, young and old. My husband, Dave, and I desperately want this for our family, so a few years ago, we decided that we could cultivate this not only through prayer and daily interaction but also through taking on certain “adventures” as a family.

Most of our adventures have revolved around travel. We’ve become road warriors together, but sometimes it has felt like cruel and unusual punishment for all of us. After hours of driving, a few sweet moments of family singing, fights over gaming equipment, some impromptu games of “name that smell,” and Dave and I saying, “If I have to stop this car… like a broken record, we finally arrive at our destination completely exhausted. No matter how stressful the trip—which is now the expectation—we always seem glad we made the effort, and the memories do seem to bring us closer together as a family.

One year we decided to try a new kind of adventure. There was an absolutely beautiful canal in Augusta, Georgia, near our home, and Dave and I would often take long walks along the trail beside it. For years, I told Dave how much I would love to take our family on kayaks down the canal. He always looked at me funny when I mentioned it, but I finally convinced him that we should give it a try…even when I was thirty weeks pregnant with our fourth boy. Yeah. Ahem.

We were all dressed to go out for dinner, but we decided it was too gorgeous of a day to waste it indoors. So we took our boys to the canal to see the rapids and small waterfall. It was a perfect day: seventy degrees with a soft breeze and just enough crispness in the air to feel like fall when we stepped out of the sunlight. The boys loved seeing the rapids and were in great spirits. So Dave and I, intoxicated by the breathtaking sights and weather, decided to take the plunge.

We rented two tandem kayaks, put on our life jackets, and off we went on the four-and-a-half-mile, two-and-a-half-hour trek down the canal. No, I am not exaggerating those numbers, and yes, they were as daunting as they sound.

Without thinking of my growing pregnant belly, I decided it made the most sense for me to hold Chandler, our squirmy three-year-old, in my lap while trying to paddle in the back of one kayak. Meanwhile, we placed Connor, our quintessentially free-spirited middle son who refused to bring a paddle, at the front. Dave and our oldest, Cooper, each having his own paddle, were in the other kayak. Right before we pushed off from shore, our friendly rental agent told us we had better try to paddle the whole way down the canal or we would miss our shuttle back to our car, unless we wanted to paddle upstream in the dark. Sure, I thought. What could possibly go wrong? Sigh.

We started out on a pretty good trek. The weather was amazing, and our kids seemed excited to experience something new. About ten minutes into the adventure, Chandler, our youngest, decided he wanted to move around the kayak at his leisure. If you have ever kayaked, you know that this is impossible unless you want to tip over. So I tried to calmly tell him to sit down and I even tried distracting him by pointing out an interesting bird on the water in front of us. He loved watching the bird, but he refused to sit down. I sharpened my tone a bit, insisting he sit down, because the kayak was shifting with his movement. Connor, the middle son at the front, thought our rocking kayak was hilarious, so he, too, began to move his hips back and forth to get the kayak rocking even more. My “what could possibly go wrong” attitude had been a bit presumptuous. I could feel my annoyance and frustration starting to mount.

Meanwhile, Dave and Cooper were oblivious to the catastrophe that was occurring in my kayak. They were paddling without a care in the world, pretty far ahead of us. At that point, I was getting desperate and could feel my blood boiling. Limited to a boat that was near tipping over with two kiddos, my pregnant self, and crumbling composure, I said loudly and obnoxiously, “I. Said. Stop. Moving. And. Sit. Down. Now!

I might as well have said, “Or I am gonna throw you in myself!” from the look my youngest gave me. Yes, that’s how classy this whole thing went down.

Chandler started crying uncontrollably, while Connor, feeling the awkwardness of the moment, started laughing like a hyena. Over by the trail, I could see a sweet, young couple strolling along and then stopping to gape at the crazy, tacky mother loudly reprimanding her kid in the middle of the canal. On a side note, I realized that I quite possibly might have made that young couple never want to have children. Lord, please erase that scarring memory of a crazy mom from their minds. Have mercy!

Finally, Dave and Cooper heard our clamor and began to paddle upstream to meet us. Dave could tell that I was spent and offered to turn us all around and head back. I, in my frustration and stubbornness, said, “No, we can’t. We have been through too much and come too far to turn back now. We have to press on!”

So Dave, knowing that I was on the verge of tears with my raging pregnancy hormones and having only one paddle for our kayak, suggested that he tether our kayaks together. After all, we were cutting it really close to making it in time for our shuttle, and we certainly didn’t want to paddle upstream in the dark. Dave found his inner “MacGyver” and creatively fastened the two kayaks together. And then he began paddling as fast as he could.

Knowing that he couldn’t single-handedly get us there, even though he is some kind of Hercules in all of our eyes, he enthusiastically said, “Team Willis, I need all of you to help. Cooper, you’ve got to paddle, and Connor, you and Mommy can take turns with the paddle in your boat.” So that’s exactly what we did. It was hard work, but we found a way to make it to the end and even managed to take in the beautiful scenery around us without losing heart from our “adventure.”

When we reached the finish line, we were all drenched and exhausted, but there was such a feeling of accomplishment. We knew we could’ve given up, but we chose to press on. We knew we could’ve continued fighting, but we chose to get along. We knew we could’ve let our anger and frustration ruin our adventure, but we chose to change our attitudes (with me apologizing to my son for yelling) and enjoy this special experience together. That is what being a family is all about. We start together and finish together. We don’t let anyone fall overboard or leave anyone behind. We are family, and we are on the same team, win or lose.

Although the kayak adventure was extremely difficult at times, and Dave now has tendonitis in his wrists to prove it, I would do it all again. I can now laugh at my frustration and appreciate the memories we made that day. It is all part of the adventures and sometimes misadventures of building family togetherness.

Do you sometimes feel like you and your family have more misadventures than real adventures? I used to believe the lie that I was the only wife and mom who dealt with this…until I started talking honestly about it and asking my friends about their own struggles at home. I was relieved to find out that we are not alone in our struggle. In fact, most moms deal with feeling that peace is lacking—and the fear that they are messing it all up—on a daily, if not hourly, basis. I take some comfort in that, don’t you?

You see, I don’t think it is any accident that you picked up this book. You, like me, long to be the mom God calls you to be, but many days, you’re just not sure how that’s supposed to happen. We go to church, we pray, we read the Bible, but we still have this sinking feeling that we are missing the mark—and anxiety steals our peace.

Sweet Mama, God didn’t call us to live in defeat. Being a mom is hard, especially when you are navigating the rip-roaring seas of raising kids. This journey is difficult, but it is equally breathtaking in its finer moments. However, it’s rarely smooth sailing.

The hard truth is we are all engaged in a battle, but it’s not us against our kids. In fact, they are smack-dab in the middle of our ship with us, and all of us are holding on for dear life. This battle is a spiritual one. The enemy is ferociously trying to deplete us of our peace. I don’t know about you, but I’m fed up with feeling defeated. I believe my God is greater than these “peace pirates”: the negative influences that steal every ounce of peace from our hearts and homes and leave us feeling defeated and depleted. I know that every mom can learn how to thrive in these waters. We can and will defeat and stay ahead of these pesky peace pirates, but we can’t fight them alone. And we certainly can’t afford to turn into a pirate mom.

 If you’re like me, you feel a little guilty about getting frustrated or weighed down by the realities of it all. We tell ourselves things like, “My children are a blessing. Why can’t I just stop stressing and enjoy this season?” Or, “Women have been moms for thousands of years. Why didn’t anyone tell me how hard this was going to be?” Or, “Is there something wrong with me? It shouldn’t be this hard, right?” Sound familiar, friend?

Here’s what some real moms are saying about their struggle:

“I only really ever wanted to be a boy mom, but now I’m thinking a daughter who would profess her love for her momma might be nice! I love my boys so much, but what a difference it makes as mom of all girls (my BFF) and mom of boys & girls. My husband is so involved in our boys’ lives as coaches in soccer, baseball, football, basketball, and golf that I sometimes feel left out or overlooked...or not respected for all I DO for the boys!”

—Larissa A., remarried with three boys

“Both of my children are under five and require tremendous amounts of attention and energy for keeping up with, training, supervising, and general care. Everything is new and unexpected. It is difficult to attend to other areas at the same time, such as cleaning and maintaining my home, work/projects/other commitments outside of home and marriage.”

—Stephanie M., married with two kids

Friend, you are not alone in your struggle. This season is super hard. Don’t be afraid to talk about it and go to God for help. He has and will continue to equip you to be the very best you can be when the daily storms are swirling around you. He will steer you in the right direction. And He can bring you the peace you so desperately need, especially as you parent.

God never promised us that we wouldn’t be in rough waters, motherhood included. But he provided calm in the storm with the disciples and he’ll do the same for us. Mark 4:35–39 describes Jesus calming a raging sea like this:

That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.” Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.

Have you ever felt “nearly swamped” in the raging seas of raising kids? I know I have. The good news is that Jesus can and will calm the storms within our hearts and homes just as He did for those in His company. He equips us to brave the storm. He is our Prince of Peace, and He can provide calm and peace through toddler temper tantrums, potty training (isn’t that just the worst?), behavior issues, academic struggles, teenage angst, teenage relationship problems, back talk, slammed doors, and even silent dinner tables. During all those moments that can throw us overboard, pull us into the undercurrent, toss us around, and drag us under, Jesus says, “Peace. Be Still!”—sometimes to the moment itself, but mostly to our hearts. God’s Word confirms that we can do hard things. It is said in 2 Corinthians 4:8–10, “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.” And Romans 8:37 states, “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.”

We don’t have to live defeated. We don’t have to let ourselves become hardened, yucky pirate moms who lash out. We don’t have to simply “endure” motherhood. In fact, God made us for more than we think our own threshold is. God bestows one of the greatest callings a woman can have on a mother, and He will continue to equip us and restore our peace in the process. God certainly doesn’t call us to be a mother at the expense of our relationship with Him.

In truth, one of the most basic ways we can know that we are following God’s will for our lives is by accessing the level of peace in our hearts and homes. Peace is one of the Fruits of the Spirit that is evidence that we have the gift of the Holy Spirit through the acceptance of Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. Yet so many Christian mothers, including myself, have struggled to experience and hold on to His perfect peace day-to-day. Why is this?

Some days, I feel like I’m right in my sweet spot. I read my Bible and have a prayer time. My mind and heart are in the right place to face the day. And then—Boom!—one of my kids decides to be disrespectful. And my peace and, frankly, my sanity begin to waver. As much as I want to blame my little mateys for stealing my peace, I know that I can’t. It has much more to do with the state of my heart than it does with my kids and their actions. There are certain “peace pirates” that I have allowed to get hold of me. Things like comparing my moments as a mom against someone else’s, my desire to control, and unmet expectations leave me angry, frustrated, and disappointed with my life.

So how are we supposed to break out of this cycle? How do we take back our peace and keep the peace pirates at bay?

We will talk more extensively later in the book about what peace pirates are and how we handle them. It’s important that we know we have more control over the things that steal our peace than we realize. We don’t have to simply react. We can stay ahead of it when we have a better understanding of what tends to plunder our hearts and homes most.

When I was driving to pick up my older boys from school one day, I heard the Trace Adkins song “You’re Gonna Miss This.” It’s one of those notorious country “cycle of life” songs about parenthood and how we should stop wishing away the tough moments. Honestly, in my more frustrating motherhood moments, I probably would’ve wanted to share some honest accounts with Mr. Adkins. However, in that moment, I felt like I needed to listen: “You’re gonna wish these days hadn’t gone by so fast…you’re gonna miss this.”

I used to think the song was sweet and kind of cheesy, but I think the message is one for all parents. We are not going to miss the arguments, messes, loud noises, back talk, or gross discoveries. And we probably won’t miss having to do all the things for them that consume our days. Instead, when our kiddos are all grown up, we are going to miss those little things that we forgot to really take notice of: the spilling out of laughter that can’t be contained, seeing pure and fearless joy deep within their eyes, big bear hugs from tiny arms that won’t let go, watching your kids help each other when they don’t think you are watching, the smell of the bathroom right after a big, messy bubble bath, your child saying, “I love you, Mommy,” the smiles on their faces when they know they have done something great, and the feel of a sweaty head falling asleep on your chest and their soft, rhythmic breaths…to name just a few. I will miss all of these moments. These are the real treasures in my life that no person or circumstance or peace pirate can take away from me. As a pirate mom striving to steer my family toward peace, I can use my skills to take the best of these moments, to actively hunt for these treasures, and hide them in my heart so I can cherish them forever.

As I was writing this chapter, my eldest son, Cooper, peeked over my shoulder and saw the part title. He laughed and asked, “‘Confessions of a Pirate Mom’?”

“Don’t you think Mommy is kind of like a pirate sometimes?” I said.

“Yeah…no, not really,” he said sarcastically, and gave me a big smile and a hug.

Little did he know…but this pirate mom was taking his little golden nugget of a reaction straight to my treasure chest.

As Cooper walked upstairs to bed, I couldn’t help but think that maybe I’m not losing it after all. Maybe I just need to scoop up and savor the many golden nugget moments happening all around me during all the different phases of raising our boys. It’s all around me for the taking, and Sweet Mama, it’s all around you, too. So let’s go after it!

We are not promised a life without frustration or hard times, but even so, God calls us to pursue peace and seek joy in all circumstances, regardless of our feelings. Friend, it is my hope and prayer that as you read this book, you will experience more peace and joy in your heart and home. Get ready, Brave Mama! We’re going after those peace pirates with everything we’ve got.

Let’s kick it off with a prayer for pirate moms everywhere:


On Sale
Apr 7, 2020
Page Count
224 pages

Ashley Willis

About the Author

Ashley Willis has a BA in Communication from Georgetown College and a middle grade teaching certificate from Eastern Kentucky University. She taught middle school English, Science, History, and Bible before deciding to be at home with her four young sons, Cooper, Connor, Chandler, and Chatham. She hit the jackpot when she married her very best friend and favorite author/pastor/everything in the world, Dave Willis. Together, they work to create marriage-building resources and events throughout the United States and online. Dave was the teaching pastor at Stevens Creek Church, a nondenominational church with the roots of the church coming from the Church of God denomination, for ten years. They often spoke together at church together, and Ashley led women’s Bible studies and often did pastoral counseling with wives and moms. Dave and Ashley also do initial pastoral counseling for couples together. They both recently joined the team at MarriageToday, an international marriage ministry, as content creators and speakers. They live in the Dallas/Fort Worth area in Texas.

Learn more about this author