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.

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.

Peace, be still.

Ever wondered what it’d be like to sit on a beach alone at 5:30 in the morning? It’s so dark that the white crests of the waves are the only way to tell where the sand stops and just becomes water. Every few seconds, the Bald Head Island lighthouse flickers white. The Big Dipper and Small Dipper, both above me in the big, dark sky – they are getting fainter now as the lavender light of the morning sun creeps in over the horizon. The tide is low and rough, and I can hear the swell and crash of every wave. The breeze is perfect and the air smells warm and salty. I wonder if there is anyone else out here.

Yesterday on my sunrise walk, I saw a woman sleeping. Pillow, beach towel, and peace are the three things I noticed. A few yards further, I saw a man meditating, his fingers connected to make a circle at the fronts of his shins, his eyes closed and his legs crossed. Again, peace.

It’s 6:09 now and much easier to see. I can read the words in my Bible without a flashlight. The sky looks like cotton candy and every time I pause from writing to look up, I see a new cloud.

I smile. Peace, once more.

I spot an animal down the beach and notice tracks beside me. Did this little guy walk past me and I missed him?

I see more people. Mostly alone. Some couples. Two parents with their young children. And then, they all stop to stare.

“Sonder” – the realization that each random passerby is living a live as vivid and complex as your own.

The same man I saw meditating yesterday was out again today, and I saw him walk closer to the shore to take a picture.

Being fully surrounded by the beauty of God’s creation…

Connecting all of the senses simultaneously in wonder and awe…

Just being still, knowing that a new day is beginning and having gratitude for the breath just taken…

That’s p e a c e.

Realizing that we have choices each day, the ability to choose joy and peace and love rather than sadness or anger or hate. Realizing that we can choose to be kind, no matter how others treat us, because negative people are suffering. Realizing that maybe a smile or kind word is what they need to turn their gaze the other way.

The choices we make craft our life, and if we aren’t careful we will spend our lives focusing on all that’s wrong and miss all that’s available, all that’s peaceful and all that’s beautiful.

May peace be with you today, and always.

#BeTheChange

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.

309 Days

Do you know what the word epiphany means? Lots of us have heard it. Used it. But do you r e a l l y know? It’s an experience of sudden and striking realization. When you figure something out, almost always out of thin air, and the thought comes to you that allows you to finally piece together the puzzle.

Was the cup half full? Or was it half empty?

It doesn’t really matter, because the cup was refillable…

It had been 309 days. That’s how long I lasted as a stay-at-home-Mom.

I started this post on December 5th and it hasn’t been touched since then. I started writing it the night before I went back to work as I laid in bed. I fell asleep without finishing it. Since then, I’ve often thought about what I would write when I picked it back up again.

And in my mind, I honestly didn’t have a strong pull for what direction this post should even go next. Should I write about how incredible my new job is? How it was the first job posting I read on that cold Sunday November afternoon (just days after deciding to go back to work) and when I read through the job description, I felt deep in my bones that it was meant for me? And how I got so excited about getting called for an interview, that I took my kids for ice cream before dinner?

Or should I write about the guilt part? The part about feeling invisible on many of my days as a SAHM, or the part about feeling guilty for feeling like I need to be seen in the first place?

The reason why I was hung up on finishing this blog post was because the part I was meant to tell in this story hadn’t happened yet…

As I rocked Everly to sleep tonight, in our favorite spot in the house, I started to cry. I could hear her tiny snore and closed my eyes as I rested my lips on the top of her head. The smell of her fresh bath, the limp weight of her sleeping body against my chest. I didn’t want to put her down.

It was tonight that I became overwhelmed with gratitude for the days I had with her. For all the afternoons we had together as we walked to school to pick up Sadler from Kindergarten.

For all the musical story times in the park we got to attend with Mr. Pete, and for all the fun Costco trips, eating samples and smiling at strangers.

It was tonight that I realized how much more engaged I’ve felt with my girls since I went back to work. I felt it the very first night; I remember that first night vividly. I couldn’t stop smiling. I remember noticing that I looked more at the details of their faces.

It was tonight that I recalled the moment I had my epiphany, and how I’d come to realize that my time home with my girls gave them more quantity time with me, but certainly not more quality time. I had allowed myself to become a martyr to my home, my chores, my expectations as a wife, my role as a mother. I wasn’t happy, and I was in denial about it.

It was tonight that I realized how grateful I am for every experience I had last year. For every bit of perspective that was gained. For every book that was read. For every new person that I met. For every old friend that I reconnected with, and for every (sometimes) long winded phone conversation. For e v e r y s i n g l e minute I shared with my children. For every essential oil class I taught. For MOPS. For it all –I am, and will forever be grateful.

It was tonight that I smiled when I thought to myself, “I love my new job.” I am grateful for the wonderful people I work with and for the deep level of engagement each of my co-workers pours into in their roles. I love the energy in our office and that everyone has a good sense of humor. I love that I’m connected again with my property management family, and that I’ve met so many kind people on our site teams and in our corporate office. And although its been less than sixty days, I feel like I’ve worked there for months.

It was tonight that I acknowledged the rhythm that my husband and I seem to have found. The parenting balance that seems to feel a little gentler, a little more predictable, a little more whole.

It was tonight that I acknowledged never to take another day for granted, and that something as simple as a lunch break with adults five days a week can make you feel like a real human again.

There really is so much I could say about this new chapter in my story, and how the pages even turned to this point in the first place. If you had told me a mere season ago that I’d be back at work by year end, I would have probably rolled my eyes, and maybe even debated with you.

I will forever remember 2017 as the year I “woke up”. The year I grew closer to God and slowed down. The year I deepened in spirit and the veil was lifted. The year that I came alive to the awareness of what it means to truly be in your life path and followed my spiritual GPS. The year I gained wisdom of the power of the spoken word, learned the critical importance of gratitude, meditation, and how to better take care of my body.

And, most importantly, it was the year I had the privilege of being at home with my children. To be a Mama. To be a part of their every day, from start to finish. Every good day, every bad day. Every new experience, every memory, every adventure. We had an incredible year together and it’s one I will remember for the rest of my life.

My heart is full tonight.

I’ve got all the feels.

I chose joy then, and there isn’t a doubt I still do. Every day.

Balance.

Day four of Kindergarten is in the books. Sadler couldn’t be happier right now in these moments of her life.

 I’ve had all the feels this week about this whole starting school thing.

Filling out the form, using only 5 words to describe my only 5-year-old…my baby. I had never truly thought of words to describe her before. Just last week as we rode in the car, Reid and I gave our input on who we saw our daughter to be; I was filling in her name, and her strengths and weaknesses, and her “hot buttons”. It was heartwarming to come up with the best five words that we thought described our girl, together: STRONG-WILLED, KIND, TENDERHEARTED, LEADER, INTELLIGENT.

As I wrote the words in the paper, I began to cry. Who were we talking about here? Sadler, or me?

It’s so hard as a parent (at least for me at this place in my journey) when you see things in your children, qualities about them, similarities in their behavior, predictability in how they’ll answer questions…and you feel like you’re looking in the mirror.

I’ve coming to learn and accept that I am my own best teacher, but this little girl runs a real tight second. She teaches me things about myself, and I try to teach her things about herself because I just know how she sees life. Sometimes it’s as if we share the same eyes.

She speaks my language. She gets me and I get her. I feel so incredibly lucky that she is mine. 

But I want her to find her way in her way. I don’t ever want to be a tug of influence, but rather a beam of guidance that just leads her there, on her own.

She’s a 1. I’m a 1, too. 

So I know for her, it can seem like we are the only ones with the only way. Our hearts are protected yet open, and our ideas are bigger than us it seems. Yet we know we can always push harder. 

It’s been a struggle this week. Finding balance between being a good stay-at-home-mom and a servant leader/CEO to my newly-blossoming essential oil business. Can’t I do both?

Time-blocking. When I have (let’s be real, when I make) the time to actually block the time. It happens sometimes. We’ll call it 50 percent.

Meditating (actually just discovered Light Sourcing by Rebecca Campbell in her INCREDIBLE BOOK, “Light is the New Black”). My mornings have become my favorite time of the day for more reasons than this one. 

Hot yoga when I have someone to watch the girls (aka – when Reid gets home from work or really early on Saturday mornings). I’d go every single day if it were possible. It’s my sanctuary. 

  Lots of oils. I love and find comfort in knowing than whenever things get heavy, I can count on my oils for safety and solace. They usually change the game for me so profoundly that I’m moved to tell someone or make a Facebook live video about my experience. 

Affirmations. Written on a whiteboard, to be repeated each morning. Out loud. Because I know the power of the spoken word. 

Lots of deep personal development through books. Mindset transformations about money and budgeting.  Journaling.

I’m doing so many of the things. I’ve created so many positive habits. Yet, I still find myself feeling out of balance. 

Unsteady. Ungrounded. 

Flailing. 

I’m learning to soften into who I am. We all need to. 

I’m so worried about getting it all done that I can’t lose sight of what I’m doing it all for. 

I’ve prayed for answers for quite some time now. Shortly after (and sometimes during), I look up to see a squirrel balancing along the power line right in front of me. It’s like he comes out of thin air. I see that as God telling me to keep my footing, just one in front of the other. Slow and steady. 

Because as the old Chinese proverb goes, “Be not afraid of going slowly; be only afraid of standing still.”