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.

4,000 days.

I look at you now and I see the 6th grade you. The one who put notes in my locker and sang songs with me in chorus. The one who was afraid to say hello.

I look at you now and see that same boy, that same love. And my heart says it remembers, too.

It remembers those deep hazel eyes that have locked with mine one million times, and even as a kid when you looked at me, I felt you.

I knew you were different. That you saw me.

I love our love and our story.

Every twist and turn and moment of pain, connected to so many moments of joy and celebration.

I love our love.

I love that it’s as deep as it is wide and that it never gets old.

I love that you never try to change me and the way you love our daughters. Growing old with you is becoming my favorite thing in life.

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.