Experience the things.

This summer while in Barbados, Reid and I were inspired when we heard someone say they gave their kids an experience for their birthday, rather than buying them a gift to unwrap. With Sadler’s 7th birthday right around the corner, I put a plan in motion.

She loves rocks. Both our girls do. In fact, they’ll pick up driveway gravel and swear it’s a crystal, toting it around in their pocket and forgetting about it until it ends up in the washing machine and I give it back to them.

I Googled the best places for gem mining in the NC mountains and we decided to go to Hendersonville. Searching for an Airbnb in Hendersonville returned few options, but I was immediately and repeatedly drawn to this one . So, I booked it.

I think leading up to the trip, Sadler was most excited for alone time with Reid and I. Having more than one child is a beautiful thing, but it became seemingly easy for us over the last 3.5 years to lose sight of Sadler as an individual. Admittedly, I was very much looking forward to time alone with her.

The back seat of the truck is much quieter with only half our crew back there. She read. She watched movies. She gazed out the window at the mountain landscapes. No one to bicker with. No one to compete with our affection. Just her.

Our hosts were most accommodating. We arrived and they were waiting to hand us the key. Their poodle, Kai, greeted us with so much excitement as we exited the truck to stretch our legs.

We explored the property for a bit with the homeowners and I found myself in awe of Sadler’s bravery. Her zeal for adventure. Her heart to explore and run and be free.

There were baby frogs everywhere, and Sadler made it her mission to pick up every single one she could while exploring this 150 acres of heaven.

Don’t let the name fool you; although the Airbnb link calls it “Zirconia”, we’d learn soon enough that we were in Tuxedo. And that only recently in the 1990s did the postal service even recognize this area with addresses. The homeowners refused to called it Zirconia. Was and always will be Tuxedo to them.

For dinner we drove 20 miles “into town” and discovered that Hendersonville is a precious place. It offers a Mayberry feel and dinner at Never Blue didn’t disappoint.

I slept better than I’ve slept in weeks. Since our two bedrooms were on opposite ends of the house, Sadler chose her Daddy to sleep with her and I had a room all to myself. With the windows open, the midnight storm put me right into tranquility. The breezes were scented with mountain air and they were perfect.

In true travel fashion, I peeked my head out the window to see the sunrise. Unfortunately, it rose behind us, so I enjoyed some extra sleep. Reid and I had coffee and quiet outside facing the mountains while Sadler slept.

We enjoyed fresh baked muffins, fruit and OJ from our hosts and grabbed our fishing poles. Sadler has never been fishing before. It wasn’t her thing. The bass were biting, and Reid and I each caught a couple. Meanwhile, Sadler held a frog…the entire time. I’m not sure how long it took her to figure out that it took its last breath while tucked away in her sweaty palm, but we had a moment as we placed it in the water to float away and blessed its little life and time with Jesus that it would soon receive.

The homeowners graciously took us on yet another trek around their land, pointing out which mushrooms were edible, all the variations of wild orchid, and telling us about the history of the land. We were very surprised to learn that most of their guests opt not to explore. I highly recommend it if you visit yourself. They are kind and willing and honestly seemed honored to show us around.

We hiked through this temperate rainforest (literally) to discover a waterfall. The sounds of nature humming and buzzing and moving around presented peace in every sense of the word. Sadler was fearless as she hopped over downfallen trees, stretched over the water from rock to rock and followed our leader with intent and grace. I became overwhelmed with emotion watching her and loved every minute.

Soon enough, we’d be back at the house packing our stuff to check out and head to the gem mines. It only took a few minutes of watching before Sadler was an expert at sifting through the dirt to pull out her treasures. She loved every minute.

I didn’t get a picture of her final finds, and only took videos of her sifting through them. But trust me when I say, it was well worth the drive to experience this with her. Elijah Mountain Gem Mining did not disappoint.

I hope that Reid and I have started a tradition. Birthdays come with so much stuff (that we are very grateful for) and our girls already have more than they need. Why not experience this beautiful life with them instead? Why not travel and try new things and make memories. It blessed our whole family, indeed.

Your life is a gift, Sadler Mae. Thank you for your heart and the way you love others. Thank you for your kindness and teachable spirit. What a blessing you are to so many. It’s an honor to be your mama.

Barbados

It’s different here.

The people are warm, like the breeze, and they wear big smiles and look you in the eye.

They are genuine. And helpful. And seem to really appreciate life.

From our resort, the beach is private. Maybe they are all that way, I don’t know. The trees aren’t tall but they’re everywhere, offering extra shade to the sand and changing the landscape completely.

We are on the west side of the island. At 5AM I watched the sky change from lavender to pale blue, but never saw the sun.

I walked down the beach and climbed up on this cement structure about a hundred yards from our resort. If I had to guess, I’d say it’s acting as a dam but I could be wrong. At any rate, it’s giving me ba good view, a dry place to land my butt for reading and reminds me of The Karate Kid.

Today’s adventure will be Catamarans and snorkeling.

Tomorrow yoga and beach lounging.

I like you, Barbados. You give good vibes.

One More Day

I took a trip to the Greensboro Farmers Curb Market today. If you follow me on Instagram, you likely know that because my feed and story were flooded with it (sorry…not sorry).

I forgot about this place. I hadn’t been since I was a kid, and midweek I decided I’d go early on Saturday.

While Reid was with Sadler at swim team practice, Everly and I made the short drive to the old War Memorial Stadium. We parked and walked across the street to find a good crowd, even better vibes, and lots of smiling folks.

Everly lasted about a half hour and started begging to go home. With two heirloom tomatoes, two cucumbers, a soap sample, and a Citronella plant in hand, we walked back to the car and I drove her home. I grabbed my favorite bag perfect for more market finds and headed back out–alone this time.

For all my fellow mama friends, y’all know the feeling. Being alone doing just about anything becomes somewhat like magic. But being able to browse and buy and make real conversation with a stranger is a precious thing to me.

I scored some homemade laundry soap, a soy candle, peaches, a beautiful bouquet of wildflowers, grits and ginger pancake mix, and some goat cheese.

I was met with warm smiles, solid eye contact and just enough southern charm to remind me how much I love North Carolina.

Two old men and one lady referred to me as “cute”. I smiled and said “thank you”.

As I leisurely walked back to my car, I recalled all of the baseball games I went to at that old stadium. Remembered the summer my dad played. And I thought of Mama Dot.

Mama Dot and Papa Fred (the best great-grandparents that ever did live) lived just a few minutes away. As I drove home, I felt an urge to go by their old house. They’ve been gone for 9 years now, and visiting their old house hasn’t been something I could do until today.

Without being too much of a creep, I pulled over just long enough to take a few pictures. The memories started to rush through my mind as I sat there.

The driveway I rode my bike down 500 times and scraped my knee.

The rose bush by the road I would smell near the wood fence at the top of the driveway.

The garage doors that led to Papa’s favorite place to be, filled with tinkerings and lawn mowers and tools for days. Those garage doors used to have an iron rooster and hen hanging over them. Thanks to an amazing person in my life, those now hang in my kitchen.

The mailbox that I remember watching be made. I was fascinated as each stone was stacked so perfectly, like a puzzle. All the mail I fetched from it over the years.

The basement door that led to “under the house”, where you’d find a small grocery store filled with canned goods. Plenty to last two winters.

I’d give anything to have one more day with them.

For them to meet my children.

To sit around their kitchen table and eat a tomato sandwich and daydream as Mama Dot would say, “a penny for your thoughts…”

To write Papa’s checks so he could pay his bills.

To help Mama Dot make one more banana pudding.

For one more “wowee” kiss and one more bedtime prayer.

To hear her complain about the rusted water tower a block away. (I wonder what she thinks about it now, because it looks much worse today than it ever did then)

As I write these words, I taste the salty tears that are dripping down my cheeks.

Knowing they are both with Jesus is a reason to smile, and remembering all those good days I was blessed to have with them is a reminder of many things.

A reminder to love better. To be kinder. To walk slower.

A reminder to take time to really know people. To cherish family and to be a good friend.

A personal challenge to see my kids the way God sees them. To love my husband deeper and to keep clinging onto hope that life only gets sweeter as relationships deepen.

One more day would not be enough, but it sure would be a plenty.

This side of town will always be special to me. I’ve watched Revolution Mill transform from a busy place where many worked long hours, to an empty space with unused potential, and now to a thriving retail and corporate facility.

The word “love” is in the word Revolution. Backwards, but it’s there. I kind of like that.

Love really is all you need.

Why I Said Goodbye to Facebook

I remember creating my Facebook account. It was 2005 and I was in my last semester of college at NCSU. (I totally remember feeling like I was cheating on my My Space page when I joined. Didn’t we all?)

When it first came out, Facebook wouldn’t even let you create an account unless you had a college email address. It was different. Somewhat exclusive. And everyone was doing it.

Jumping on the wagon back then in my life never seemed like a hard thing to do. So this was just one more thing to jump into.

It’s crazy to think that was 14 years ago.

It’s crazy to think how many minutes, hours, days, weeks, and months of my life have been spent on Facebook.

Most of the time, I would post without scrolling. I was never much of a comment troll, and especially over the last two years, I would only post encouraging words and pics of my kids.

Much like many of us, during times of political change or when the media was trying to distract us with more bad news, my heart would literally break at all of the meanness, judgement, debating and downright ugly behavior from many of my “friends”.

I had over 1,500 of them. How did that happen? I’d often tell myself I was going to purge the list but never made the time.

I’d often hide the feeds of people on my friends list. People who complained too much, posted vulgarities and were unkind to others weren’t hard for me to remove from my feed. My heart couldn’t take it.

But the most painful part of Facebook for me, that led to my decision to leave, was the comparison trap. Almost without fail, each time I’d open the app, the first post I would see was another mama, sharing a moment with her kids. Or sharing a story about her life. While I’d often smile as I celebrated with them, I’d often end up thinking she was a better mom than me, or that her life seemed more put together than mine. I’d find myself judging them for only putting their best face on social media and wondered if what we were seeing was a true depiction of their life. I think this was easy to do because I know in my own life, it was always easier to post something good like a trip to the science center, rather than being vulnerable enough to share about the spanking I just gave my kid.

On the morning I made the decision to cut the proverbial cord with my 14-year friend Facebook, I was sitting in my car outside of my office. I’d been on a social media sabbatical for almost 30 days and had shared a new blog post the night before. I made the quick decision to log into FB to read any comments that had been posted (ridiculous, I know. But keep reading, God dealt with me in that area).

I opened my account and there it was. A post from a good friend sharing an experience she’d had with her daughter. As I read the post, I immediately became envious. Criticizing. Judgmental. It was as if I was having an out-of-body experience as I became aware of how I was feeling, and how quickly it happened. I threw down my phone and began to pray. Within seconds, I sensed the Holy Spirit show me exactly what I needed to do. “You’d better go ahead and delete Facebook, you don’t need that in your life.

I didn’t want to judge my friends. I didn’t want to be envious of their lives. I didn’t want to sell myself short as a human and a mother and an employee and a wife and a friend by comparing someone else’s life to my own.

I didn’t want to take the chance anymore of seeing someone else’s “best” when I was at my potential worst.

And further, God showed me how ridiculous it was to desire validation and an adrenaline rush through comments and reactions on social media. Your validation in this world doesn’t come from these people, Candice. It comes from ME.

Vulnerability is sort of my thing. I’ve never been one to wear a mask and inauthentic people in my life are a challenge to be around and an even bigger challenge to love well.

I hope you’ve never looked at my life through your phone screen and felt this way. I’m far from perfect. I can be difficult to love, too.

I hope you don’t spend your time making assumptions about people’s lives based on what they post to social media. There is always more to the story, and being able to connect with people in “real life” is far more gratifying. Making the choice to remove that possibility from my own life has been incredibly freeing.

While I do believe it can serve a purpose in some ways, social media has changed the way we enter relationships. It’s made us divisive, combative, entitled and righteous. It’s made it easy to put a fake foot forward and I wholeheartedly believe it’s contributing to the rising depression and anxiety in our culture.

Look around the next time you go out to a restaurant at how many heads are pointed downward looking at a phone screen. Notice how many families miss opportunities for real conversation at the sacrifice of scrolling. Listen to people around you as they boldly declare how well they know someone who or something because they “saw it on Facebook”.

When I told my husband about my decision, he was encouraging. He didn’t for one second discourage me. “Good for you, babe. I hope you start a revolution.”

Me too. I hope someone shares this post. I hope someone reads it and it quenches the curiosity and desire they’ve felt and they decide to cut the cord, too.

Life is short. It’s precious. It’s nearly but a vapor.

Don’t let your worth come from likes and comments. You’re worth so more than that. Trust me.

It’s By Design

A few weeks ago, I woke up from a dead sleep and my right arm was extended into the air, toward the ceiling of our bedroom. It was as if I was worshiping in my sleep, and I heard God say very clearly to me, “It’s by design.”

All through the winter, I struggled to wake up at 5AM for my morning quiet time. My alarm would go off, but I’d choose to hit the snooze button once or twice before finally getting out of bed. Once I got settled into “my spot”, I always regretted the decision to sleep a little longer.

A few days leading up to that morning, I had been waking up at 4:45 without an alarm. Wide awake and feeling fully rested, I’d look at my phone and notice the time. It was as if God was saying, “Get up, my child. Let’s spend some time together before your day gets the best of you. Give it to me instead.”

So, I’d get up. And this particular morning, I got out of bed, quietly. Walked from our bedroom and sat down in the recliner in the office. What did that mean, and why was my arm in the air like that? I was honestly half-weirded out by the whole thing.

As I think back on it now, I can’t help but wonder if it was an indication of my spirit being submissive to worship, even unconsciously as I slept. I remember that my arm felt as if it was being pulled upward, not by my own strength or might. And this wasn’t the only time it happened. It’s happened a few times since then.

I have meditated on God’s words to me that morning, “It’s by design”,  in an effort to make sense of what He was trying to tell me.

I’ve been in a season of uprooting. A season of deep-digging. A season of weed pulling. I am able to look back over the last 18 months of my life and see all that was rooted. I’m able to see things and circumstances and choices that captivated me and earned my attention in ways that Jesus could not. The soil of my heart has been tilled and turned, and tiny seeds have been planted along the way, many by way of the breeze around me and certainly not by my own doing.

It was the breeze of people that came in at just the right times, with just the right words and just the right encouragement. The breeze of peace and rest. These breezes blew seeds into that fresh soil even while I slept.

God’s been using my struggles and strife to write my story. He has shown me that He’s done something in me, and now he wants to do something through me.

I love The Passion Translation of Psalm 1:3: “[S]he will be standing firm like a flourishing tree planted by God’s design, deeply rooted by the brooks of bliss, bearing fruit in every season of her life. Never dry, never fainting, ever blessed, ever prosperous.”

I love this for so many reasons.

I love the vision I get of a tree, planted in rich soil, firmly planted and deeply rooted. Still waters pass by and the tree bears fruit in every season of life.  It reminds me very much of my Mama Chose Joy logo. I love that when I got the vision for it back in 2017, it was a prophesy of this very season of my life.

I love the reminder that the tree is never dry and cannot be blown over. I get a vision of the tree offering shade to those who need it, and rest for those who can’t find it anywhere else.

I love seeing the word “prosper” in this verse. God’s word declaring prosperity over us isn’t the same prosperity we’ve adopted through culture. It doesn’t have to do with money and riches of the world, but riches of the heart.

You can’t give what you don’t have. And I’m thankful God gave me this revelation so that I may impart hope or inspiration on someone in my life.

For we are God’s masterpiece. (Ephesians 2:10)

Chisel, God. Chisel.

The Best Advice I’ve Ever Gotten.

Yesterday was our 8-year wedding anniversary. Last night after dinner, the four of us sat down to watch our wedding video. As our girls sat one on each side of me and Reid lay on the couch behind us, we enjoyed moments of laughter, silence, and even a few tears (one guess who shed those). I found myself touched deeply as I listened to the words spoken over us, the words we spoke to each other, and I thought about how far we’ve come in the last 8 years. We are stronger, wholer, and happier than we have ever been.

This morning I listened to a podcast while I got ready for work. I do that on most mornings. I’ve been intentional this year about filling my time with things that feed my spirit, renew my mind and help me grow. Today I listened to a sermon that was recommended to me several weeks back. The title was “How to Get Healthy” by Dr. Les Parrott.

While the title may indicate otherwise, he talked about relationships. And I listened to him give one bit of advice that I replayed over and over. I wrote it down. And I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it.

If you try to build intimacy with another person before you have gotten whole on your own, all of your relationships will become an attempt to complete yourself.

This. These words. This is the reason my marriage is strong today. This is the reason our relationship has grown and is still growing.

We are getting whole on our own.

How often in a relationship do we find ourselves disappointed because the other person doesn’t make us happy? How often do we fall flat on our face in a relationship and only blame the other person?

Radical candor right here.

I’m fasting social media through Lent. But this was worth sharing.

We live in a culture that’s riddled with broken relationships. Marriages are in trouble. People are lost. I can think of so many people in my circle who I pray will read these words. I know if I had heard them years ago, we’d have fast tracked to this place much sooner. And it’s inspiring me to be even better, love even more compassionately and hold myself even more accountable.

So good.

Real Talk.

Parenting is hard. Such a short sentence packed with so much truth and vulnerability…

Before I begin, let me say that I am beyond grateful for both of my children. As a woman who was told “children won’t be likely”, I can assure you that not a day goes by that I don’t thank God for them. I often look into their eyes and feel awe and a sense of wonder and feel just downright lucky that they are mine to care for. I often get a lump in my throat when I think about how far we’ve come.

Soon after Sadler was born almost 7 years ago, someone told me, “if parenting is easy, you aren’t doing it right.”

Reid and I have been in a season with Everly lately that has tested every bit of patience we’ve prayed for and has aroused every ounce of fear hiding in the shadows of my mind that say, “You’re not doing enough”, “You’re not a good mom.”, “You’ll never measure up.” Yes, we know what happens when you pray for patience. You don’t get patience, you get opportunities to *be patient*. And I have not passed all the tests.

There’s an ebb and flow of emotion, where I find myself smiling while encapsulated in their voices and stories one moment, and biting my lip in a fit of anger in the next. In the blink of an eye, it all seems to go awry sometimes.

Thankfully, there is an awareness that continues to sweep over me and I catch myself often before this happens. But it still happens from time to time, and lately it’s been happening almost every night at bedtime.

I will be the first to admit that mornings at 5AM when the house is quiet and I can sit in stillness and peace, I’m at my best. But bedtime has come to be the part of the day that I absolutely dread. I literally anticipate whats to come and work myself up to thinking it will be different this time. And by the time we are ready to say our prayers, I’m literally crying as I ask for forgiveness for losing my temper.

Tonight at gymnastics, I talked about our 3-year-old bedtime tantrums with a fellow mama/friend/family member —one who happens to have *double* the amount of children we do and often comes to mind when I feel like *I’ve* got a lot on my plate. (She literally is my parenting hero.) We swapped stories and laughed as we shared book titles that have been recommended to us through the years. It was encouraging to be reminded that we aren’t alone, and to also be validated in our thinking that whomever dubbed the “terrible twos” as the hardest part of toddlerhood got it WAY WRONG.

Tonight after dinner, a wave of peace and confidence came over me. Bath (shower) time was actually enjoyable rather than a fight. We sang. We laughed. We acted silly.

I decided to read one my all time favorites to them, “The Velveteen Rabbit”. They recently watched the movie so Sadler was eager to spot the differences between the book and the movie. Everly assisted with turning the pages and we made it about 3/4 the way through before I could tell they were getting sleepy. We decided we’d finish it tomorrow night, said our prayers and tucked in for bed.

As I read my favorite part of the book, I couldn’t help but think how God is using this season of my life to make something real out of me. Yes, my outward appearance may be wearing down in the making, and I may feel tired and defeated at the end of a day, but he’s awakening my heart and bringing me to life.

It’s easy to think when we scroll through social media that those people and families we see “have it all together”. That their lives are only made up of what is shown in the pictures they post. That they are perfectly designed so they won’t break and are full of knowledge of things and places, much like those toys The Skin Horse refers to.

Maybe you look at me and think I’m all put together, too. I am here to tell you that I am most certainly not. I am fragile, I break easily and sometimes my edges are sharp. But if there is one thing I’ve learned to be true, God uses all things for good for those who are called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28) Ever so slowly, He is turning me into something real and full of life, and that takes time.

I know I will look back on these moments with my kids and laugh. That I will miss the simplicity of bedtime struggles when life hands me something new in another season.

I am optimistic that just sharing this story with you will free me from expectations tomorrow night and will give me a new perspective when I’m faced with a bedtime challenge. I am thankful that even amidst the struggle, there is always a shimmer of beauty amongst the strife.

As I snuck upstairs to snap a pic of these pages in the book, there they lay. Sound asleep. Peaceful. Content. Quiet. The light from the bedside table looked like the view from inside a diamond as it gleamed around the room.

We’ve got much to be thankful for.