Thankful.

As I sit in my chair on this Thanksgiving morning and reflect on the last year, there is so much to be thankful for.

Growth.

Healing.

Surrender.

Friendship.

Rituals.

True miracles if I’m being 100% real about it.

God grabbed my pain and past and hurt and carried it to a new place. One where I could observe it and see how He was there the whole time.

I had an opportunity to sit with a Spiritual Director this past week. In the words of Thomas Merton:

“The whole purpose of spiritual direction is to penetrate beneath the surface of a person’s life, to get behind the facade of conventional gestures and attitudes which one presents to the world, and to bring out one’s inner spiritual freedom, one’s inmost truth, which is what Christians call the likeness of Christ in one’s soul. This is an entirely supernatural thing, for the work of rescuing the inner person from automatism belongs first of all to the Holy Spirit.”

In one hour’s time, I had some of the deepest revelations that I have had in my life. I won’t go into all of the detail here (maybe another time) – but I can tell you that one thing she said to me has been stirring in my heart, sitting in the forefront of my mind, and lingering into my days since I first heard her say it.

At the end of our session, she shared with me that she once had the privilege of sitting with 3 very prominent spiritual directors. At the end of their talk, someone asked them what one takeaway they would leave for their audience. After a few minutes of converging, they said this:

RUTHLESSLY ERADICATE HURRY

When she told me, I sort of froze for a minute. I felt all the tingles – the good ones (and yes, I feel bad ones, too, but not there. Not that day). I felt that this message aligned so beautifully in truth with what God has been saying to me over the last few weeks of my life.

I hear Him often say “Be still.” My response to this is not always obedience. Sometimes, I roll my eyes and carry on with my “to-dos”. But other times, I obey. I sit, in silence, and I close my eyes and I allow my “to-dos” to wait. I almost immediately feel a sense of peace overtake my body and I often begin to weep.

As the spiritual director said these words to me: ruthlessly eradicate hurry…I felt that same peace. Those same tears welled in my eyes.

Just one day before I sat in her cozy office, I found myself in a place I hadn’t been for a long time. I woke up that morning, heavy. Having literally 100 feelings all at once, and unsure which one to feel first. Which one to name first. Which ones to ignore and which ones to just sit in.

I was overwhelmed.

I have been in a season of feeling so much for so many others lately. Praying for so many. (To be clear, I am not complaining about this.) The Bible calls us to pray without ceasing, and to pray for others. I had been carrying the feelings of so many for so long that my own feelings had been silent in a way. And on this morning, it was as if God put a red siren into each of them and said, “Feel these, Candice. They are yours.”

I found myself caught between feelings of true joy and gratitude and thankfulness for all the ways I have been stretched and healed and grown over the past year. Grateful for the triumphs in my marriage and the revelations within my relationships.

But on the other side, I felt discontent that there wasn’t more. That God hadn’t done more in my life. I still felt like I was “too much” for some people. That my voice doesn’t matter. That I wasn’t enough.

Honestly, it felt like I was a quarter in that cylinder thingy at the Science Center. You know, the one you place a coin on, at the top, and the coin spins round and round, getting closer and closer to the narrow entry point at the bottom where it disappears forever.

I couldn’t keep up. All I could do was cry. I even took a picture of myself amidst my cry fest and texted it to my husband. In hindsight, I think I wanted to be understood. I wanted someone to step into the place I was in and to just be there. Not to fix me, or to say any words at all, but to just be there. (For the record, he did just that. Because that is what amazing husbands do. Thank you, Jesus, for this man.)

But, let’s get back to my three words from that day.

RUTHLESSLY ERADICATE HURRY.

Because within them, there is so much truth packed inside. A true correlation to how I got myself all entangled in those feelings that morning. It had been a week of rushing. Of hurrying. Of so many places to be. So many hats to wear. So many people to please. So many jobs to do. So many “yeses” to fulfill. My pace had been fast. I had been in whole lot of “doing” but not much “being”.

I came home and looked up the definitions. I knew I had heard them. Used them. But I wanted to really get them in this context…

“Ruthlessly” – in a way that shows no thought or worry about pain caused to others; without pity or compassion

I struggled with this one at first glace. No thought about pain caused to others? That doesn’t seem very noble. But let’s keep going.

“Eradicate” – to put an end to; to destroy completely; to do away with as it pulling up from the roots

So, to put an end to something without worrying about what pain it might cause others? Ok, ok. Like, boundaries. And anyone who has worked through boundaries at all can tell you that the people you set boundaries up with are often the ones who protest the most. It’s ok. The boundaries weren’t for them, they were for you.

And we all know what hurry means, but just for fun:

“Hurry” – to move or do things more quickly; to rush

We have permission to not rush through our life at the expense of our sanity.

We have permission to take care of ourselves, while still making sure our kids get to school on time.

We have permission to take a beat, and just chill out for a minute and regain perspective around what we are doing in the first place.

Who are we trying to win over?

Who are we trying to please?

Did we say yes for acceptance?

What would it look like if we didn’t go through life in a hurry all of the time?

I can tell you, friends, what that would feel like, for me at least..

It would feel like peace. Like calm. Like realness. Like warmth. Like honey.

I don’t believe we can hear God speak in our lives if we are moving too fast. He is in the stillness. In the calm. In the waiting. In the silence.

Sure, he is in the busy, too. It’s just that we probably can’t hear him with all that  background noise and whirling around us.

So this holiday season, which seems to be the time of year with just.so.much…let’s just be. Let hurry wait. And unapologetically, at that.

Be present. Notice what changes within you and around you.

We cannot give what we do not have, my friends.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours. May God remind you of every blessing that surrounds you.

 

 

It is Finished.

Two years ago today, I did something. Something some of you know. Something some of you’ve wondered. Something some of you may be surprised to learn. And something some of you will question how and why I could choose share.

Two years ago today, I packed my bags and walked out of my house and I left my husband. I was only gone for 10 days, but I know wholeheartedly that those 10 days needed to happen in order for us to get where we are today.

To be clear, this post has been shared with permission, and every word was read by my husband’s eyes before it was made available to yours. These words have been stirring in my soul for a very long time. Not because I want you to feel sorry for me, not because I want you to feel differently about me or about my husband, and not because I want attention. But because I know in my heart that there are people out there who are in a marriage that’s on life-support, hanging on by a thread, thinking about calling it quits, who are in desperate need of hope.

From his perspective, if you’d asked him then how he felt about it, I’m certain he’d tell you that he did nothing to warrant me leaving. That I was impossible to please and that he didn’t even miss me when I was gone. I’m not certain he would say that now.

From my perspective, leaving was easy. I felt unloved, betrayed, misunderstood and was in deep pain. I was so blinded by my own feelings, I couldn’t see that my husband felt the very same way. We were seemingly living in parallel universes.

I spent 10 nights in a family member’s basement. Nights when he asked for the girls, I cooperated and agreed. He had them 4 of the 10 nights I was gone. On nights when I was alone, I’d spend hours praying, crying, reading, journaling, meditating, and seeking consolation from family and friends. The family I stayed with attended Daystar Church, and would encourage me to watch sermons from the last couple of weeks. As God would have it, those sermons were about conflict. So it seemed fitting that I watch them.

The night of Halloween, we trick-or-treated as a family in our neighborhood, the kids slept in their own beds and I left to go back to the place I was staying. In bed that night, I recall weeping for hours. Crying out to God for help, for wisdom, for understanding. I cried out for a miracle. I began to meditate while listening to soaking music (instrumental worship music intended for deep prayer and meditation). I meditated for almost 2 hours. I recall opening my eyes and looking at the clock in disbelief that my mind had transcended time for so long. It seemed like minutes. But it was in that time of deep meditation on that very night that Jesus met me in a profound way. I got a very clear, almost serene vision of Him carrying me, in His arms, while walking slowly down a beach. He was wearing a white robe, my feeble body in His arms as He whispered to me, “It’s ok. It’s all ok. I’ve got you. Don’t look back.” As He continued to tenderly speak to me and slowly walk across the sand and along the shore, I recall looking over His shoulder and seeing my husband standing there, wearing what he wore on our wedding day, just watching me be carried away. He didn’t move toward me. He only looked at me. His arms stretched out almost as if asking, “where are you going?”

I was met by the Holy Spirit in an incredibly profound way that night, and I was shown that going home was exactly where I needed to be. Leaving may have been easy, but coming back was easier.

2017 was an awakening year for me. That January, I quit my job without a plan, and while I had my husbands support, little did I know that our interpretations of what was happening would be so vastly different. For me, I literally heard God telling me to slow down, to stop the chaos in my life, and to go inward. Once I went inside I found I had blockages of the heart in areas of shame, addiction, anger, comparison, and bitterness. God began a deep work within me, and while I grew at a rapid speed and felt liberated in my discoveries, I vividly remember my husband saying to me one day, “you’re not the person I married, Candice.” It was in that moment that I believed I had outgrown him. He wasn’t ready or willing to change, and in his eyes, he didn’t have anything to change and viewed me as already gone. I recognized that my growth was at my pace and my journey, and while beautiful to me and not to be taken for granted, was very different from what Reid was going through. I longed for him to grow with me, and at the pace at which I was growing. I longed for him to get in the river with me and to be called to where I felt God was leading me, but instead of him growing with me it seemed I only pushed him further away in my attempts to love him. We grew farther and farther apart and before I knew it we were literally living as roommates.

The mistake I was making and couldn’t see then: his growth was his journey and not to be compared with mine. I was expecting him to go where I felt God was calling me, and how could that be fair to him? His choices were his choices, and it was never my place to judge him or expect more out of him. It was my job to love him for who he was, in all that he was, and to trust God to work out the rest.

If there is one person in a broken, seemingly hopeless marriage that is reading these words right now, please hear me when I say to you: Do not give up hope. Marriage is hard. Truly loving someone is hard. Loving someone for who they are without controlling them and without wishing their behavior would change – just accepting them right where they are – is really hard.

Marriage counseling helped us tremendously. It’s not something we did prior to getting married, and I’d encourage anyone to see a marriage counselor before getting married. I think we have this naive expectation that once we find “the one” and we get married, we just exhale and we’ve arrived. That it won’t be hard. That it will be bliss. And that couldn’t be further from the truth.

Finding a church home where we both felt like we were part of something bigger than ourselves has been critical to our healing and finding (and staying on) our road to a deeper love. I went back home on November 1, 2017. We went out for our “first” date on November 3 (Reid’s birthday). And we walked through the doors of Daystar Church for the first time on November 16.

We found our way into small groups and people that started off as strangers quickly became friends. Hearing the life struggles of like-minded people without judgment personally gave me a feeling of hope, purpose, and encouragement. It’s no coincidence that we actually had small group last October 22, one year from the day I walked out, and the topic that we discussed was forgiveness.

A year ago, I started to feel the breakthrough I’d prayed about was taking place. That we’d begun to scratch the surface of exposing our wounds, and that we are learning to love the way God called us to love. I’ve watched my husband grow into the man God called him to be. I’ve felt the scales fall from my own heart, allowing me to truly love and be loved the way God designed me to love and be loved.

Marriage is not meant to be easy. Relationships in general can be challenging. I believe that even in their worst states, relationships are meant to build us up, to strengthen us, and to show us things about ourselves that we never knew existed. I knew that if I gave up on my marriage, I would possibly find myself an old lady alone in my bed one day, looking back on this experience in my life, wishing I had done more. Regretting that I didn’t try harder. Wondering where it all went wrong. And I’d potentially be alone, with myself still left to heal.

To anyone struggling, I also tell you to have faith and reclaim endurance. In a society where our pace is so fast and we thrive on the instant gratification of one-click ordering and notifications, we’ve found ourselves in a world where we need everything now. We have forgotten what it’s like to have endurance. We don’t know what it’s like to be patient and we get frustrated with people when things don’t work out as we had expected.

I’ve learned that expectation is resentment waiting to happen. I’ve learned the importance of mindfulness and being appreciative of the moment I’m in now rather than reliving past hurts or worrying about the future. And this is often hard for me. It’s been helpful to pray for eyes to see my husband (and all people) as God sees him, for only then am I able to love freely, without judgement and see areas of pain and brokenness. It’s been extremely helpful for me to view myself as the problem, rather than focus on what needs to be changed about others. Like we often say in our house, “If you spot, you got it.” Meaning, it’s much easier to see weakness in another rather than to look at our own junk, but trust me when I say that what we see in others is often a reflection of what’s in our own heart.

Last October, I paid a visit to my most favorite tattoo artist, and had one single word inscribed on my right forearm. Intentionally placed on my dominant arm so that I would it daily, and hand-lettered by a dear friend, this tattoo reminds me that the battle has been won. It reminds me that the battles we fight here on earth are not with our spouse, our coworker, our sibling, our friends. The battles we fight are spiritual, and whether you believe in God or not, please believe me when I say that we are not human beings having spiritual experiences. Rather, we are spiritual beings having a human experience. Choosing to forgive and to love others no matter what they’ve done seems countercultural and counterintuitive. We must lead with choices and let our feelings follow. And coming from a highly-sensitive person, I have to remind myself of this on a daily basis. I can’t get too worked up in trying to control a situation, an outcome, the events of my day, or the behavior of someone else. I have to remind myself, It is Finished.

According to John in the Bible, the last words Jesus spoke before dying on the cross: “Tetelestai” / Greek translation: it is finished.

I’m so thankful that I never gave up on my precious husband. I’m so thankful that God blessed us with two beautiful children. I’m so thankful for our love, for our past, for our present and for our future. I’m honored to be his wife and know our best days are yet to come.

Sometimes.

Sometimes I get these urges to write that stop me in my tracks. Like now, when I should be studying but I can’t. Because there are words and stories in my head begging to be let out.

Questions I wrestle with, like should I say yes to that thing I haven’t answered yet? Have I been a good enough wife? Why did I bite my lip and talk through my teeth at my kids this morning?

People I see and can’t help but wonder: what’s their story?  How do they feel and how have they hurt and do they know Jesus? Passerbyers in the coffee shop and in Target and driving down the road. It’s almost like I feel them, and for a second I get a glimpse of the answer, but then I move on.

What will my legacy be when I leave this Earth, and did I love well? Did I love well consistently or only when it was comfortable? How will people remember me when I’m gone and did I ever hurt them in ways I was unaware of?

When will I get the urge to finish all those projects I started and never finished? Like, sorting the kids’ artwork from the last 7 years into those fun albums my mother-in-law gave me, and finishing the gallery wall I started?

Why don’t we travel more as a family? And why is waking up to exercise so stinkin’ hard some (most) days?

Sometimes I stay in a place of recollection and I think back to the times when I’ve stifled my daughters God-given uniqueness in a selfish attempt to get my way. When I’ve silenced them and been too self-absorbed to see that they were only expressing themselves as the beautiful tiny humans that they are. When will I learn that these are the moments to savor in life, and give them grace to be children?

On other days, I am present to the point of pausing. I find myself breathing slowly, talking less and observing all that is beautiful around me. I see my children play together and imagine and create and fall and laugh and boss each other around and I feel complete. Whole. I feel peace.

I have come to learn and accept that routines serve me well. That my soul craves predictability and it’s almost freeing in a sense to be bound to a pattern. Like my soul knows what’s next and there is freedom to do the thing without feeling pressured to do the thing.

That the balance and rhythm I have found with working part-time is kind of like when I was a stay-at-home-mom trying to build a network marketing team. There are pockets in my day of meaningful contribution to a greater mission than my own (that would be my job, which for the record, is such a blessing and a gift to me – for the first time in my life I wake up and say I get to go to work today rather than I have to go to work today. It’s a game-changer, people). And deeper pockets in that same day spent contributing to the lives of the tiny humans God blessed me to care for. Seeing the joy on their faces when their school day has ended. Watching Sadler do her homework and witnessing her growth right before my very eyes.

How my word for 2019 — intentional — has played out. And is still playing out.

Intentionally taking off the notifications from my phone. Ohmygracious the visual peace on my  home screen and the elimination of distractions in my day – joy and magic for real, y’all.

Deleting Facebook. And only wishing I had it back when I wanted to sell something on Marketplace. Aside from that, I haven’t missed a single second of it.

Making a habit of washing my face and moisturizing it before bedtime every night. Yes, believe it or not, I did not do that for 36 years. Gross, yes. Ridiculous, yes. But true, also yes.

Choosing books over TV. And choosing to read books that grow me, push me, awaken me, feed me. Realizing that what goes in our mind’s eye is what comes out of our mouth, because that’s what gets down into our heart. The bible tells us to guard it for a reason.

There is a ton of room in the margin for me to be intentional about much, much more. There’s time yet. But what I do know is the good just gets better when I put a little effort into showing up with intention.

And to tie this rambling up with a bow: here are things I love in this season…ok, maybe some of them I have loved forever.

The beach. The Enneagram. A big soft blanket. Hot tea. The farmer’s market on Saturday mornings. Plants in my house. Sunrises. Mandolin Orange. Sitting by a fire (soon enough). Hearing my kids laugh. Sadler’s homemade jokes. My husband’s smile. Reading the gospels. The Lazy Genius’s Change Your Life Chicken. The thought of taking a morning run every  morning.

There’s always something to be grateful for.

xo,

Candice

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.