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.

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.

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.

The Spirit of Sedona

I’ve been drawn to the idea of taking a solo vacation for about a year now. I don’t recall when I first felt it exactly, but I saw it in my mind many times. Beautiful scenery, rest, relaxation, reading, writing, outdoor exploration, disconnecting from the busyness of life. I didn’t have a strong pull toward any specific place, I just felt the urge to take a trip by myself.

Toward the end of the year, I kept being led to Sedona. I had no idea why. I’d only heard it mentioned in a Houndmouth song and honestly knew nothing about it. I didn’t even know it was in Arizona. It just kept popping up into my thoughts. I Googled it, and quickly realized that this was my place. It had all that I was looking for and I felt it through the photos on my phone screen that it was my place.

My soul sister, Ashli lives in California. We met 13 years ago at a temporary job I worked and quickly became friends. We’d only spend 6 months together before she moved away to New Jersey. And then New York. And then London. And then San Francisco. But she never left my heart, and we always have a way of picking up right where we left off each time we see other, which is hardly as often as either of us would like.

In a text conversation with her at the end of November, I mentioned my vision of taking this solo vacation. Being born a mere 14 hours apart, we decided to celebrate our January birthdays by taking a trip together. I pitched Sedona to her and the little bit I’d learned, and plans moved into motion. Flights booked. VRBO secured. It seemed too good to be true.

Work life and home life the weeks leading up to our trip had presented a good amount of stress, and I’d found myself in a bit of a funk prior to flying out Wednesday morning. I longed to be in a place of silence and solitude. Reid was completely supportive of the trip and could see how badly my soul needed it.

When I booked my flights, I didn’t select any of my seats on in advance and accepted taking it as chance where I’d sit. As I boarded my first flight in Greensboro to Charlotte, I realized I was sitting in the very last row – with a window seat at least. As I walked down the aisle to my seat, I spotted a familiar face from church. I smiled. He smiled. What are the odds that I’d see someone I know on this flight? The gentleman in the aisle seat in the back row had barely enough time to get up to move to make room for me to squeeze in before the flight attendant said, “Sir, I’m actually going to move you over here. These 2 seats are open for standby. This way you two can have a bit more room.” Score. I had both seats all to myself.
Our flight was delayed by 50 minutes, which didn’t bother me in the slightest. It gave me more time to sit and read my Bible, journal, and read a book I couldn’t wait to sink into to. Time that seems to be difficult to find in my normal life. So, I was grateful for the delay.

I landed in Charlotte with just enough time to dart to another terminal to board my flight to Phoenix. I grabbed a seat close to the boarding gate, put some Burt’s Bees on my chapped lips and chugged some water. I looked over my right shoulder and noticed a petite woman standing, seeming as if she had something to say. I smiled, and asked her if she knew where the restroom was. She pointed down the carpeted stretch of the terminal and I realized there was not enough time before I had to board. I will just go on the plane. She began to tell me that she missed her last flight because she went to the wrong airport in Washington DC and had to take a later flight. Her brother had just passed away. She was on standby for this flight and she wanted to go home. She began to weep. Hugging her seemed like the right thing in that moment. She thanked me. God, please make a way for this woman to get home, and bring her peace.

My 4 1/2 hour flight from Charlotte to Phoenix was as perfect as a middle-seat flight that long can possibly be. My new AirPods (birthday gift from my love) came in handy as I listened to the few songs I had downloaded on Apple Music on repeat. Bit the bullet and paid $16 for in-flight internet and spent 2 hours cleaning up the 5,000 emails in my Gmail, unsubscribed from a hundred emails I never read, and began to organize myself digitally. It felt cleansing, refreshing, and wonderful. To my right, a precious elderly lady who played Candy Crush on her iPad the entire flight, reading her Nicholas Sparks in between losing lives. To my left, a middle-aged male who read the newspaper and magazines. Both were pleasant. Quiet. And still. It was perfect.

As our flight landed and people began to move about the cabin, I looked 3 rows ahead of me and saw the lady from the boarding gate who was on standby. I smiled. She made it home. My heart swelled.

As I walked through the airport to the next terminal to board my last flight to Flagstaff, I texted Ashli to let her know when I would land. I texted Reid to let him know I had landed again. I enjoyed the fast pace of the conveyor belt walkway that airports have – you know, the ones that get you there just a tiny bit faster than walking with your own energy – I enjoyed the ride and watching the people that passed by.

I grabbed a quick salad and as I walked to my gate, I heard a familiar voice. “Are you on my flight, my love?!” It was my Ashli. Reunited at last, and it felt so good. A hug that seemed to last for 7 minutes quickly turned to conversation that took many turns in a short period. Our conversations are always authentic. Always deep. Always magic to my soul.

We switched our seats around so we could sit together and chatted the whole half hour to Flagstaff. We exited the plane and found ourselves in the tiniest, most precious airport imaginable. With baggage claim and the car rental desk right in front of us, it seemed like a dream.

Since Flagstaff was expecting snow in the upcoming days, the convertible she rented for us as a surprise wasn’t available, but a shiny black Jeep Wrangler Sahara was! We immediately took the top off, bundled up in our scarves and jackets and made the drive to the Grand Canyon. The Enterprise clerk suggested we take 89 all the way to the Desert View entrance – “because that’s just where the best views are”. In part due to the conversations taking place and not paying attention, we missed our exit and ended up arriving at the main entrance to Grand Canyon National Park instead. No big deal, we will just drive through the park and enjoy the views along the way to Desert View.We pulled over to put the top back on (it was pretty cold), got stuck in the mud, realized we were in a Jeep and quickly escaped. We had a good laugh.

Our unplanned detour worked to our benefit, as we could stop at several view spots along the way and get some great pictures, while taking in the serene beauty of it all. As luck would have it, we found our way to Desert View, almost exactly at sunset. Seeing the Grand Canyon with snow was a bonus and one neither of us expected. We both talked about how magical it would be to be the only people there. The silence. The tranquility. The vastness of God’s creation out in the open. It was breathtaking.

We hopped back in the Jeep to head back through Flagstaff on our way to Sedona. Scored dinner at the most incredible eclectic restaurant, SWITCH. Potato Leek Soup with Apples, Pickled French Fries, Sunchoke Panna Cotta, Braised Cauliflower, and Orange Granita with a Root Beer Sauce. IT. WAS. DELICIOUS.

On the hour drive into Sedona, my eyes were heavy. My body thought it was 11PM, and I’d been snoozing for sure if back in NC. But I stayed awake as Ashli navigated the windy roads through Sedona. I can’t wait to see this place in the daylight.

We unpacked, washed our faces, brushed our teeth, and tucked into bed. I was wide awake at 6AM the next morning, made some green tea, threw on a hoodie and toboggan, grabbed my Bible and phone and came outside to watch the sun come up. The sky was glorious. The millions of stars from the night before were fading into the distance as the sunlight kissed the sky. The mountains came to life as the light peeked over their tops. The clouds were like an abyss of cotton candy and tranquility, blended into the most beautiful sky I’ve ever laid eyes on.

As 10AM approached and my night-owl, late sleeping soul sister continued to rest, I was hungry. We hadn’t picked up any food yet for the house and my body thought it was noon. Must get food.

I showered, took the keys to the Jeep and headed out to get some breakfast. I had spotted a place called Wildflower Bread Company on our way in the night before and learned on Google that it has the “best breakfast views”. So, I ventured off on the 10-minute drive with the windows down to grab some food. When I pulled into the parking lot, I hopped out of the Jeep, not really knowing where I was going within the shopping center. I noticed a man getting out of a beautiful convertible to my right. We made eye contact, quickly. No smiles exchanged, we both just kept going about our journey.

I walked into the restaurant to get in line to order my food and noticed the same man in line in front of me. The cashier commented on his accent. “I took French in college, but I don’t remember much”, she said.

“I’m actually from Holland”, he replied.

He got his bread loaf to go, I ordered my frittata and latte and headed to a corner table outside on the veranda. Just as I was snapping my first breathtaking photo of my breakfast view, I looked over my shoulder as the same man walked outside. With arms extended, he said, “Isn’t it amazing?!”


“Oh my goodness, it really is.”

He came over to my table and sat down. It was an immediate level of comfort that is difficult to put into words. He asked where I was from and what brought me to Sedona. He and his girlfriend had lived in Sedona for 8 years; they moved here for spiritual reasons. He went on to talk about how the energy in Sedona is so very healing, and how many people visit and leave with their lives transformed. I mentioned that Ashli and I were interested in some energy healing while we were in town, and that we had a place in mind. He told me that the place we were considering was “okay”, but if we wanted a truly amazing experience, we should check out his friend, Cherie, instead. He gave me her contact information and I put it into my phone. There was an immediate sense of trust that I should listen to his guidance. This is God’s grace, guiding me in this moment.

He looked at me mid-bite of my home fries to say, “You know, when I saw you get out of your Jeep, I knew there was something you needed from me. I didn’t know what it was but when I saw you again inside the restaurant, I trusted my intuition and I approached you.” He and his girlfriend, Iona, rent out part of their home on AirBNB. He passed along their business card. Well, I know where I will be staying next time I’m here. I can’t wait for Reid to visit this amazing place. The views were breathtaking.

Huib told me about the myofascial release work that he does–that he and Iona are healers themselves. He talked about how our society today is so very quick to hear from doctor that their hip needs to be replaced, when taking a whole-body approach to determine the root cause of the pain or symptom is more effective. Music to my ears, and I couldn’t have agreed more. I mentioned how chiropractic care was a big part of wellness for my family and that I didn’t rely much on manmade medications. “I knew that when I saw you”, he said.

Huib told me about free spiritual classes that were held every day in Sedona. I tucked the card into my wallet and couldn’t wait to get back to Ashli to share about all my new findings.
As I finished my breakfast and savored the moment of solitude and reflection, I sent a text to Cherie, the energy healer. We were chatting on the phone within 15 minutes and appointments for sessions the very next were booked. I drove back to our house and couldn’t help but thank God for the miracle I’d just encountered.

Ashli and I headed out to Safeway to get groceries for the next 4 days, came home and unpacked them and headed back out for some Sedona exploration. We spent a few hours at The Chapel of the Holy Cross. I’d seen a picture prior to making the trip, but never could have I imagined the breathtaking site in person of what I’d witness: a giant wooden cross, dropped into the face of the mountain, overlooking the serene landscape of Sedona. On the other side of the cross, a massive artistic form of Jesus himself, hanging on the cross. As I entered the chapel, I became warm. Tingly. Comfortable. Immediately at peace. It was such a welcoming place of worship, and it was truly an honor to be in such a space with so many others from around the world.


I approached the alter and prayed for what felt like hours. Moments of tears, moments of smiles. Intertwined with full gratitude and moments of thankfulness to God for the miracles before me. Being in the presence of the land in Sedona has a way of opening the heart, quietening the mind, and awakening the soul. I kept picturing Reid there with me, and manifested a vision of our return together in the very near future.


We came upon Tlequepaque Arts and Shopping Village. The smells of The Secret Garden Cafe led us to an unexpected happy hour, where we enjoyed some delicious tapas and refreshing beverages, and we were back home before the sun set.
What’s a girl’s trip without wine? We played Trivial Pursuit, sang in the kitchen, laughed, cried, and enjoyed the presence of being together. It felt like home in that moment. We decided that we’d have weekly FaceTime date night form this point forward, as we both realized the necessary healing our friendship brings about for the other.
The next morning, we headed to the Sedona Community Center to check out “A Course in Miracles” and “A Course in Love”. We’d spend the next hour and a half amongst the most open, authentic, Christ-centered individuals. Sharing. Healing. Praying. It was divine. And who would be in the chairs beside us, but none other than my friend Huib from the bread company, and his girlfriend Iona.

At the end of the class, he said to me, “So now you see that meeting me yesterday was no coincidence, yes?” A single tear formed in my eye as I soaked in the truth of what was being spoken to me. As it turns out, Huib and Iona were hosting a dinner party at their home that night. Ashli and I received an invitation to join 7 others and were excited about what the night would bring.

After the class, we ventured the 5-minute drive to our energy healing appointment and met Cherie. I’d read her story on her website prior to our appointment, but in person, she truly was a breath of fresh air. Of authenticity. Of openness and of wholehearted healing. She works out of her home, and it was an inviting, safe, warm, joyful space that brought about a level of trust and comfort for both Ashli and me. I felt connected to her instantly. And the work she’d do on me would leave me transformed. As God would have it, Cherie would be one of the dinner guests that night and we’d be fortunate to spend more time in her presence.

After our energy healing session, we needed nourishment, and took Cherie’s recommendation and visited ChocolaTree. With a table in the garden out back, we’d enjoy fresh ginger lemonade, live spring rolls, vegan chili, goddess salad and the kindest people in the world it seemed. The décor and little ornate signage all around the building caught my eye. Even the parking spaces spoke to me.

We had just enough time to rest at our getaway home, reflect on the day, and just be in the presence of God and each other before we headed out to dinner.

We arrived at Huib and Iona’s home promptly at 7PM and I nearly ran the Jeep off the side of the mountain as I took in the views on the drive in. Ashli was mid-sentence, talking excitedly about something I honestly don’t even recall. “Ashli, stop. Take this in.” It was majestic. It seemed as if we were in a movie, traversing through Hollywood Hills, or somewhere we weren’t meant to be. I had chills as I made the drive through the gate of their home.


The company we’d meet that night was nothing short of delightful. Everyone within those walls was open to trusting intuition, open to trusting God, open to healing, open to authenticity, open to divine grace. I instantly had a vision of visiting this home again, this time with my husband. Throughout the night, I continued to talk about the idea of living there. The energy was calling me. It felt like home. It felt like where I belonged.
I mentioned how several times while in Sedona, I’d seen 11:11 on the clock. 2:22. 3:33. 4:44. 5:55. 11:22. The synchronicities the universe presented to me only reiterated that I was right where I was meant to be and that everything was unfolding exactly as it was intended to unfold. For through God, there are no coincidences. I knew this before, but now there is no question.


Ashli and I ended up making appointments with Huib for myofascial release the next day. It’s funny – I’ve heard my massage therapist talk about it before, and just sort of brushed it off. I thought it was massage work on the face. Little did I know that it moves connective tissue in the body to expose emotional trauma and stale energy. Very similar to massage, but much more transforming. I’ve never cried during a massage session. During this, I cried. Beautiful tears trickled down my cheeks as I released old stories, lies I’ve told myself, broke free from patterns of unhealthy thinking. I felt release on the table in that session. I felt healed. I felt my heart open and each breath that I took in: life. Each breath that I exhaled: things that no longer served me. It was a deep expression of love and awareness that I never expected.

As we left the house that day, I could tell Ashli had been transformed, too. I’d stumbled upon a hot yoga studio that morning while she was in session, and during my session she did a little hiking and journaling at a trail nearby. We both spent the morning in our own healing spaces, doing what our souls needed. No judgement. Very little words. Just being.


At the dinner party Friday night, as I soaked in the library of books adorning the shelves, Iona and I were in conversation. She said something to me that I won’t soon forget. “There are different levels of consciousness that we as humans can experience. When someone can’t hear you, or can’t see you, it’s not their fault. Because that is the level of consciousness they are in. They can’t help it. So we must love them right where they are.” Those words moved me. And will resonate in my heart forever. I often feel like I’m misunderstood, alone in the world, unable to be seen for my authentic self by many in my circle. I realized that this is likely due to not living my authentic self. For trying to please others. For saying what I think people want to hear rather than what’s really in my heart. For melting into the vibrations of others rather than holding my own energy and protecting it. That night in Sedona, I felt I’d found my tribe.

Coming home from this trip, I know and accept that I’m not the same person who left just five days ago. Sedona transformed my spirit. Awakened my soul. Healed old wounds. Re-wrote my story.

I’ve missed my family, but I didn’t want to come home.
I see our life here.
I see my children here.
I see my husband here, and long for him to come visit with me –soon. To experience the journey in his own way, on his own time. For his soul to be quenched, too.

I pray that the healing and divine transformations that Ashli and I discovered in Sedona will remain in our hearts forever. That others will travel to this magnificent place to find their own healing. That we may remain in our true self and express a deeper love to everyone around us. I pray blessings over every single person who touched our souls on that trip. That God may cover them with peace, protection, wisdom, grace, and miracles every day.

I’m grateful for trusting my intuition and going where I felt God leading me.

I’m grateful for a friend who trusted alongside me.

Our openness led to vast moments that transcended the understanding of our own minds. It led to a deepening in our friendship we didn’t fathom existed.

It reminded me of the power that lies within trusting the Holy Spirit to lead and guide, and reminded me that planning isn’t the plan at all. The process is the plan.

Thank you, Sedona. You are our miracle.

Happy Secret Anniversary, Babe

Eight years ago today, Reid and I got married at the Guilford County Courthouse. We invited my great-grandparents, our grandparents and parents as witnesses.

A wedding date was set for 3/11/11 in Riviera Maya, Mexico. (Anyone who knows my husband can deduce that choosing to be married on 3/11/11 was quite intentional. 311 is his favorite band and I figured he’d never forget our anniversary with a date like that. True story.)

We told very few people about our November 4th nuptials. I don’t even think my brother and sister knew this. We chose this date because it also happened to be Reid’s grandmothers birthday. Cecilia passed when he was a teenager and with his own birthday being the day before, we knew it would be a day we’d never forget.

We have pictures somewhere, but I couldn’t find them today when I briefly looked for them. Mind you, this was before the iPhone and someone actually took film to the store to be developed, which seems unfathomable nowadays. I’m sure my heart will swell when I find them one day.

I’m grateful for everyone who was there to witness our marriage that afternoon, but my heart is extra-grateful for the presence of my great-grandparents. Mama Dot and Papa Fred were precious to me. Mama Dot was “my person”. They showed up in their Sunday’s best and I could see the joy on their faces as they watched us marry one another. They really did love my husband.

Papa Fred gave us this as a wedding gift. I’m pretty sure he cut it out of the Readers Digest. And I’m also pretty sure it was the only gift he ever gave me all on his own. He loved Reid, and he was happy that I was happy. He was happy that I was starting a life with someone he knew would love and cherish me as he had for my whole life. He was proud to stand with us on that day eight years ago.

We knew they’d never be able to travel to Mexico. But what we didn’t know was that they’d both pass before our Mexico wedding ever took place. Papa died on December 15th and just 18 days later on January 2nd, Mama Dot followed behind.

I put their photos in a locket given to me by Mama Dot a year or so before she passed. My Dad had it in his pocket as he walked me down the aisle and handed it to Reid, who clasped it around my neck. They were there with me that day, and it couldn’t have been anymore special.

So, Happy Anniversary to you, babe. I’m sure Mama Dot is eating watermelon and watching “wrasslin'” today as she smiles down on us. And Papa is telling stories to someone and cracking jokes I’m sure.

What I wouldn’t give for one more meal around their supper table.

Counting blessings never seemed to come easy when you were only a phone call away. I sure do miss y’all. But I know that you know, Reid’s doing a fine job taking care of me. And you sure would love our girls.

How Sadler Got Her Groove Back (And, Her Name)

Sometimes, parenting is really hard. Sometimes, it’s like looking in the mirror at our selves. Tonight offered one of those nights and I’d be remiss if I didn’t document the memory.

Sadler (my 6 1/2 year old daughter) is very sensitive. It doesn’t take much for her to cry, and it can come on quickly. Ask her to please move over and share the sink space with her sister while brushing her teeth, she may cry. Ask her not to fuss at her sister for taking a snack she had her eyes set on, she may cry. Tell her she has to go to the dentist for a teeth cleaning, she WILL cry. Ask her to give back a toy that she took from her sister, she may cry.

All of the above happened today alone.

After the dentist and before the chiropractor, we had an hour or so to spare, so I took the girls to my office so that I could get some work done. It’s times like that when having 2 cell phones with You Tube Kids is something I actually appreciate, and a giant white board with lots of fun colored dry erase markers for drawing and practicing Eureka math comes in handy. They were content for a little over an hour and it was quite nice if I am being honest; I was able to get a good bit done. But toward the end of the hour, I turned and looked behind me and noticed something Sadler had written on the white board.

“I am sad and want sum won to macke me happy so I won’t be sad.” She had even taken it an extra step and drawn a perfectly shaped broken heart under these words. Alas, in black marker.

In that moment, I tickled her, asked her why she was sad and she was cheered up in no time it seemed. But flash forward to bath time a few hours later when she cried for being asked to give her sister back the toy, and I may have overreacted.

“Sadler, you seem to be sad an awful lot lately and cry for no good reason.
You’re using a whole lot of good energy and wasting tears. Why are you so sad?”

I brought up the note she wrote on the white board earlier in the day and told her that people don’t “make us sad”. That we have a choice to be sad or to be happy and that sometimes (or a lot of the time), our feelings can trick us into going to a place in our minds that we shouldn’t go. I told her that while it’s okay to feel sad or to feel mad or to feel embarrassed, we shouldn’t build a house there — we can’t stay sad or mad or embarrassed forever.

Fast forward to bedtime. Tonight’s books chosen to read: On the Night You Were Born and Where Ever You Are My Love Will Find You by Nancy Tillman. (Side note: I am beyond grateful that when our family hosted a beautiful baby shower for us before Sadler was born, they requested guests to bring a signed book rather than a card. Oh, the book collection we started before this child was even born! And a shout-out to my dear friends Melissa and Nicole for gifting us those 2 precious books – xoxo)

As we were reading On The Night You Were Born, after I read the words “You are a miracle…” she said, “Hey Mommy, what’s a miracle?”
“A miracle is something that happens that you thought never would. Something that only God knows how and why it happened. And you’re MY miracle.”
She furrowed her brow.
“Mommy’s doctor told her once that my body wasn’t working like it should and I would never be able to have my own kids.”
Her eyes lit up.
“Well, that sounds like a pretty silly doctor. And that’s pretty cool. My friend Miracle has the same name as a miracle,just like my name means that I’m sad.”

I may have stopped breathing for a second. Or maybe my heart stopped beating for just a tiny bit. I don’t know. But I knew I had to stop reading to straighten up a few things for her. My spirit was crushed that my little girl had taken her name and labeled herself as sad, and I was crushed to think that she actually believed it.

“Sadler, has Mommy ever told you where your name came from?”
Grins. “No. But tell me.”
“When Mommy got pregnant with you and found out you would be a girl, I asked GaGa what her Mommy’s name was. And her name was Cecilia Sadler. The moment I heard it, I knew that would be your first name. And my Mama Dot’s name was Dorothy Mae, so that’s how you became Sadler Mae Terrell.”

She smiled, a big smile. And then she wanted to know how her sister got her name. I told her that I had a friend in college who named her daughter Everly and I just loved the name, but that Everly’s middle name (Jean) came from Great Granny Betty (Betty Jean), GaGa (Debra Jean), my aunt Linda Jean who lives in heaven and Ga Ga’s daddy (Gene) who also lives in heaven.

“Mommy, Everly and me are SO LUCKY.”

“You sure are, my sweet girl.”

That moment will be one I never forget for as long as I live.
The joy I saw in her eyes as she listened attentively to her namesake was precious in every way. And the realization that she’d never have to identify herself as “sad Sadler” ever again, for now she knew the truth about how she came to be Sadler Mae.

We talked about how she could respond if someone made fun of her name and called her “Sad” — and boy is she ready! She repeated back to me (almost verbatim) what I told her, and even remembered that a “silly doctor told Mommy that her body was broken and she couldn’t have a baby, but she did.”

What a miracle you are, Sadler Mae.
What a blessing you are to your Daddy and I.
What an incredible big sister you are to Everly Jean.
What a gigantic heart you have.

You think you’re lucky. You have no idea how lucky I feel that God chose me to be your mama.

And as I tucked the girls in and we said our prayers, I asked her what she wanted to pray for:
“For Daddy to get home safely tonight and not to have mud on his shoes.
For me to never have to eat mushrooms again because I don’t like them.
And for God to give me a brother or a sister.”

Oh, dear.