Happy Birthday. Welcome to Now.

One year ago yesterday, I shared my very first blog post on this site. I actually bought this laptop for the sole purpose of starting this blog.

It wasn’t the first time I had written on the internet; I had a Tumblr account that I piddled with once-upon-a-time. But, when this site was born last February, it was different.

I’d been pulled in a direction that led me to write again, but this time, it’d be different. I had recently made the decision to leave my career to stay at home and be a mom. I felt God telling me to be patient and not to worry, but to slow down. I knew I’d have to find ways to make money from home and did a little bit of research on making money through blogging. But that wasn’t what was important to me. I was eager to walk in my truth and tell my story.

I felt called to put my creative gifts and love for communication and passion for inspiring others to the test, creating the ultimate trifecta. Writing gave me life and fulfillment and sprinkled pure joy in my days. (I pray it always will.)

What may come as a surprise, however, is that when I get the urge to write, it stops me in my tracks. My blog post ideas l i t e r a l l y come out of nowhere, and I usually have to stop what I am doing and go write. And the not-so-cool part about it is: I can’t stand writing from my phone or tablet. It MUST be on a laptop or something with keys. That I can aggressively and quickly bang (ask my new co-workers/roommates or darling husband, they will attest to my annoyingly loud typing. Bless them all for their tolerance.) But my point is, I have to get to my computer, dial up my diffuser and get busy. I’m not much of a mobile blogger much at all. Ever, really.

But y’all. I can’t help it. I just get moved to say stuffAll the feels. ALL THE JOY.

When I opened my laptop to pull up WordPress to write this post tonight, I noticed a folder on my desktop that I created a few months ago: “Things That Move Me”.

I only saved one thing in it…

Hugh Laurie

This quote says so much about my journey last year. There was so much uncertainty and many faith-based decisions. I had no idea when I started this blog what it’d lead to. I just figured I’d inconsistently write when I felt the urge. I wrote each post from the heart and was sincerely moved by each opportunity to share my journey with a friend or stranger.

Writing became my safe space. My release. My peace.

Never in my wildest dreams did I think that 2,220 people would view my site 3,288 times in 27 countries all over the world in just one year. Goodness gracious, am I grateful.

I’m deeply touched for each blink of an eye that my words sit between. I appreciate each kind remark and comment. It’s been an honor to share my heart with you.

To think about all that’s happened since this blog began brings me back to grace, and gratitude, and awestruck wonder. God’s led me into deeper waters. I never want to feel like I’ve arrived, but I sure do long for more.

If there is one thing I know for sure, it’s that this time of year is just not my best. I battle darkness during this season each year of my life. I’m certain lots of us do. I’m thankful that things like writing and hot yoga and coffee and worship music bring me back to life on tough days.

Here is to Spring being around the corner.  But for now, may we ride the wave of this season together and keep our eyes on what we can’t see. There’s beauty there.

Amen. Namaste.

img_1134-1I grew up in church. It was a Southern Baptist church; the pews were wooden with fabric cushion. The hymnals were blue, and they were sporadically placed along the backs of each pew in attached wooden shelves. There were little pencils in little holes next to bigger little holes that were there to hold your communion cup. There were cards for first-time guests to fill out, and there were envelopes for tithing.

Church was a place we just automatically went. My great-grandparents and/or grandparents generally took me along with them on Wednesday nights. First we would go eat at either K&W or the O’Henry Grill, and then I would go to the Youth service while they went in “big church”. I remember being shy in youth group because I was so little in comparison to the “big” kids.

I remember years before that attending Vacation Bible School and making crafts out of popsicle sticks and coloring pictures with Bible verses written on them. I remember being in a play as a 7-year-old and thinking I was the coolest kid on the planet because I was acting. I remember around this same time, singing a solo on Sunday morning and being terrified when the time came in the music for me to start, and instead of singing I ran straight off the stage and into my cousin Sissy’s lap as tears rolled down my cheeks. I remember lots of softball games on Friday nights watching my dad play. I remember covered dish lunches in the Fellowship Hall and that I always had to find what Mama Dot or Granny brought because I knew it was likely one of my favorites. I remember laying across Mama Dot’s lap during the church sermon and getting some of the best back scratches the world’s ever known. I remember being baptized by Pastor Bud and even remember what I wore that day.

I have lots of memories of church growing up, but none of them really include much about God. As I grew into an adult, I drifted away from the familiar place church offered me and my family. I found myself choosing sleep over sermons on Sunday mornings, often to nurse a hangover or just catch up from being exhausted. People in the church “family” started to ask questions. Gossip set in. My parents (finally) divorced. My life fell apart… and church didn’t make the cut for what was important to me at that time.

As I went off to college, not much changed. I made good grades, held sometimes two jobs at a time while taking a full-load of courses at NC State. I made some great friends – some of whom are my very dearest friends today – but church and God wasn’t something that was talked about much in my circle of friends. If it was, I don’t remember. Which only tells me it wasn’t impactful if it did indeed happen.

Almost a year to the day after I graduated from college in December 2006, I went on the first date with my husband. We had known each other since 1994 but never dated throughout high school. Our first date turned into moving in together, which turned into engagement and marriage and 2 beautiful daughters. But at first, church wasn’t something we did together. It wasn’t something we did apart. It wasn’t anything that we even talked about — at first.

We would go to church with my grandparents for the Easter service once in a while, and I recall attending his niece’s christening about 7 years ago. But we didn’t have a church that we attended regularly and we didn’t spend a great deal of time talking about our plans to change that. We were content in our lives with what we had and what we were doing and who we spent our time with. We didn’t pray. We didn’t talk about God. We just lived our lives.

It wasn’t until this past Fall that I made the connection. I decided to read a book called The Power of Now that was a turning-point in my life. This book talked about being present in each moment that we are living and breathing, and to actually pay attention to each breath that we take; it was a reminder to “stop and smell the roses” sometimes. This book was so much more for me than I can even begin to describe here… I remember not being able to put it down, and I had not read a book from start to finish in almost a decade. I remember wanting to tell everyone about it, and I tried. But I quickly learned that it was not something everyone wanted to hear. Not everyone wants to hear about a riveting self-help book that I read. Have you lost your mind, Candice? was the translation of the look on their faces when I shared it with some friends and loved ones. But that’s just the thing, I felt just the opposite: almost as if I had found my mind. Or at least myself.

I have been visiting an incredible hot yoga studio for about a year now and was able to relate to the points the author made about paying attention to your breath. Each time I would go to yoga after reading this book, I found myself channeling deeper into my awareness of my breath, and it became easier each time. I started noticing my breathing while at home sitting on the couch or cooking dinner. I started to notice when I had found my innermost feelings of peace and stillness. I noticed and embraced the quiet in my mind and in my body. I was thankful for the yoga teachers I have been led by in my practice as of late who have reminded me to just breathe.

I realized that the feeling I felt of warmth and white: that was God. And it was then that I began to connect the dots between my version of universe God and church God.  I realized that they were one in the same. I realized that the inner stillness I had found and recently tapped into was God within me. I started to literally see things differently, with more color, and with more appreciation of the beauty within everything around me. Once a lens that only reflected black and white images, I now see so much color.

Toward the end of last year, we visited a new church and my heart was open to accept everything that it had to offer. I found my inner stillness and peace and tears streamed down my face as my sweet friend poured her heart out through song on the stage. The walls were black, the lights were dark and the spirit of God was in that room. I was so moved. I was inspired to keep digging within to find God within me, and I am happy to say we’ve been back several Sunday mornings since this fist visit and not much has changed. Same tears. Same stillness and peace. Same good music that makes me cry every.single.time.

This week marks the one-year-anniversary of my return to work after maternity leave when Everly was born. Only one year ago I was in such a different place spiritually and emotionally. I couldn’t (wouldn’t) even engage in conversation with you about God. I didn’t want to. I was going through the motions to earn a paycheck and daydreamed about what life would be like in another version of it. I looked happy, but I wasn’t. I knew there was so much more to be gained but couldn’t put my finger on what it was.

Today I am happy to tell you that I fully accept that I am nothing without God. He is at work within me and I rest my case in arguing that I have a better way to do this. I am at full mercy of  letting go of fear and worry and anxiety in order to live fulfilled and am in awe of what God has planned for me. I start each day with personal time devoted to my relationship with God and appreciate the difference it has made in my life.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.”      

Proverbs 3:5-6

I hope and pray that I may always be able to stay mindful of something as simple as breathing. I pray that I can teach my girls to slow down and enjoy life each day rather than being busy in the process. May you find the color in your world and see it brightly. Namaste. And, Amen.