Grace – Part 16


One year ago today, we were in this beautiful place for Grace’s first vows. A lot has happened since. Struggles and graces, another visit, her eventually leaving Carmel. I’m not going to lie. I’ve cried. There have been some dark days. Did we not do enough? Pray enough? Sacrifice enough for her? Not write enough? Not bring her up in a good enough way for her to make it there? Should I have made her wear the skirt to the talk she gave to a hundred kids right before she entered instead of the skinny jeans?! Not allowed her to get the double piercing?! Joking! But my thoughts have gone to all kinds of crazy places.

When we were driving away from Carmel, my heart broke. It was an instant loss of something that had became such a huge part of our lives. The trips, the visits, the letters, the joy, the heartache, all gone. That sounds dramatic and I don’t really understand my emotions still. For sure, part of it was that I thought this child was taken care of, checked that box. She’s living a holy life in a holy place. Also, I knew we were constantly covered in powerful, protective prayers. And maybe most importantly, because she was doing something so hard, it was easier for me to try to do hard things. She had no idea her choice to follow this call would affect us so deeply and so many others! She truly had no idea until she read the many beautiful emails and comments here in social media land.

I need to now apologize to Hallie Lord and everyone. When we knew Grace would come home, before I went to get her, I put everything I’d written in a blog. I had wanted to do it for a long time. I did it anyway because I wanted my family and friends to know what we’d been through. I didn’t want her to come home and have people who hadn’t followed along or been a part of it to act like it was no big deal. It was selfish and Grace would think me silly because of it, but I’m glad I did! There is still much more to share and I will try! For now, I thought I knew how this was going to go. I totally didn’t! But God did and does and even though I stink at it, I’m getting a little better at simply trusting Him. Thank you again and again and again for your prayers for Grace and all of us! 

Adding that part of my struggle in Grace leaving was questioning God and wondering why if she had chosen to keep doing this hard thing for Him, why wasn’t He giving her the graces to perservere in Carmel. All of this is just my weak, weary, impatient side of things. Her side is much different. It has been incredibly, beautifully, surreal having her home. Peace is coming for me too. More to come.

Grace – Part 15

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If you read all the way to the end of Part 14, you will know that our Grace came out of Carmel. I flew out and got her. It felt as hard to do that as it was to leave her there! We were both in tears driving away from that beautiful place. But Grace is amazing! She answered a true call and Mother confirmed this saying God called her there for only two and a half years, but it was still a call. All of our lives changed forever because she listened and followed His plan for her. Her deciding to leave happened very suddenly. She said when she spoke with mother and it was decided, she had instant and total peace. She still has that peace and is very happy. The beautiful thing is she says if she would have left when she was in a bad way and really struggling, she would have regretted it and questioned whether or not it was the right decision. She would have not wanted her sisters or anyone else to go there. She says because she was recently in such a good place and had decided to persevere when God showed her clearly that she was to leave, she would want anyone to go there. Every time she speaks of Carmel (which is a lot) it is with total love and gratitude for the time she spent there. I’m still struggling with her coming out for silly, selfish reasons that I’ll share in a separate post. And I do want to share more about our drive and her coming home too! But for now, dear friends, we wanted you to know all is truly good here in the Sanchez home. Having all my children around our table is something I did not expect to ever happen again and I’m savoring every single minute. Kind of hoping God hits pause on the extreme roller coaster we’ve been on, but we doubt it. This crazy ride feels far from over. This photo was taken about an hour into our journey home. My beautiful, strong, peaceful, happy girl. I pray she feels called to share too. ❤

Sister Marie Elizabeth, Part 14

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Since Grace entered Carmel, I’ve had five dreams about her being home. Each one felt so very real. In the dreams, I would suddenly realize she was there. Once she was in the front passenger seat of our van. Then in our house. I would question her, not thinking it was true. Sometimes the other kids would be with us, everyone laughing and talking. I would go to her and touch her hair and cradle her face in my hands, crying, asking, why are you home? are you okay? are you sick? you’re home? you’re home! I’d wake up thinking she was home. For about 10 seconds. I would quickly realize that she wasn’t home. The last dream I had was during Lent. We knew she was struggling. We were understanding more of the sacrifice she was making and the spiritual attacks she was surely enduring. We prayed and sacrificed for her, in what felt like insignificant ways. Time went on including the long Lent. We were anxious for a letter. I had another dream, much more intense than the others. We were all walking and skipping and talking, through a nursing home, through a school, through a park. Dreams are so weird. Grace was with us and she was so, so happy. I was so confused and did the same things as in the previous dreams. Stroke her hair, cradle her face. She was so very happy. I woke up sobbing, loud, big sobs. My oldest came running. I think I had been holding all of the struggles, the not knowings, the questions, the everything so deep and tight inside me. It all came pouring out in those few minutes. I know dreams are not reality, but I was shaken in a way I hadn’t been before.

Lent is over and we receive an anticipated letter. We also receive a message from a Deacon very close to her. All is well with her! She would tell us all about it at our visit, about the big, intense things that happened, the graces she received that lightened her suffering and her questioning. And she did tell us! I wrote about that visit. A month later, back home, we got another sweet letter full of talk about future things, our next visit, and beyond. She sounded so happy and content.

We were not at all then in the least expecting what would happen next. I’m writing this while sitting in an airplane on my way to Carmel to bring my girl, my strong, brave, holy, beautiful girl, home. You’ll be reading this days after she is home, I think. We’ll need some time. You may be as shocked as I. Please know that she is good. Very good. Very peaceful. I, on the other hand, am a huge, messy mix of strange emotions. In a few short hours, I will be cradling her face in my hands. Like really doing it. I am praying to be brave and strong like her.  I have so many more things I hope to share, but for now please keep us all in your prayers.

To be continued…

Welcome / How This Blog Came To Be

I had been thinking about starting a blog, but I couldn’t seem to come up with good enough reasons to do so or a good title or a good design. I spent many hours trying to set one up and I did, mostly, but it sat for a long time (years!). There were things I thought I could share like our Rose’s adoption, homeschooling, college choices for our older kids, etc. Not until our second daughter entered a cloistered monastery did I try seriously to hit go. That was two and half years ago and I’m not totally sure what happened or what didn’t happen. 🙂

I did begin sharing her story on Instagram and Facebook and that is what is now posted here. All copied over for those wishing to find the older posts or for those not on social media. Thanks to my fifteen year old for making it happen!

I hope to share about the other things now too. In spite of me and my simple, average, sometimes lazy, sometimes unorganized ways, we’ve witnessed some beautiful fruits of this life we’ve chosen. Homeschooling a large clan like ours, being active at our parish, participating in far too many activities including sports, and trying to be good friends and neighbors can get crazy. Maybe we can be an encouragement or maybe people will think we’re plain nuts. Either way, here goes. Hitting publish. Finally.

P.S. I know part of the reason I have hesitated in making these writings public is my tendency to make grammatical errors. I truly wouldn’t mind a friendly correction if you see something. Shoot me an email. 🙂



Sister Marie Elizabeth/Grace – Unprepared

The year 2013 was a year that changed us. Getting Rose. Her hospitalizations, heart surgery, difficult adoption. Nearly losing our sweet Peter. We knew that God was working on us by allowing us to experience the great sufferings and great joys in all of that. Not long after that intense year, our second child, our daughter Grace, revealed to us that she thought she had a vocation to the religious life. My mind went right to the day of Peter’s accident. I knew now why God allowed that to happen. For two years I have silently thanked God for that day thinking that what was to come would be made so much easier for it. What was to come was that our daughter would enter a cloistered Carmelite order in the middle of Nebraska when she was only eighteen years old.


When we made some immensely difficult decisions regarding Rose’s adoption, putting everything in the hands of judges, lawyers, social workers and ultimately God, we surrendered. When Peter was on the floor not breathing after having nearly drowned, we surrendered, understanding in a powerful way that God is in control and these lives are His. I think in His great goodness and mercy He knew that I would need the reminder of this surrender.

We thought we were prepared to surrender our daughter to the cloister, but we weren’t. It was more beautiful than we ever dreamed it would be and more heartache than we imagined possible.

While preserving the mystery that is the Carmel, I wish to share more about the path that lead to this day. Not her path. That is her story. But our path with the good, the bad, the ugly, the beautiful. Only God knows what He has planned for our Grace. She may stay, she may come home. But in spite of me, my daughter entered a cloistered Carmelite order.




Sister Marie Elizabeth/Grace, Part 1


Written on January 28, 2017

One year ago, very early in the morning, she walked through the house, stood in her room one last time, sighed and headed for the van. Dad intercepted before we all loaded up for the trek to Nebraska where she would enter the Carmel. She was definitely not our most lovey-dovey kid, nor a big sharer of her feelings or self. She was actually quite stubborn and fiesty from in utero until pretty much the week before this. The emotions and the enormity of her vocation took over though. I got my big hug and breakdown the night before. I will never forget the look on her face. Love, forgiveness, fear, thanksgiving, an understanding between us of what was about to happen.

I’ve thought about sharing her story all year, even setting up a blog. I think I will try do it here.

It’s not the most flattering picture, but it captures what we were all feeling very well.

Sister Marie Elizabeth/Grace, Part 2


Written on January 29, 2017

My favorite picture from the drive to the Carmel.

We took our time getting there listening to our favorite music, praying, enjoying the beautiful countryside, all trying to be somewhat strong yet knowing everything would be different.

Grace was quite young when she declared, “Everyone thinks Emily has a vocation but what if it’s me!” Emily is our practically perfect oldest child (nickname from her grandpa) and Grace is our second. I already mentioned her fiesty personality and that’s how she sounded when she said it. I could say a lot more about that, but moms, don’t discount what God has planned for your fiesty ones!

It would be several years later and exactly two years before her entrance that our priests pulled us aside. The short story is that at that moment we understood the seriousness of it all. She was 16. Later, I’ll share about some funny things that happened in between. It was not a dull two years!

Driving her to the Carmel…we thought we were prepared. We had been through *a lot* with Rose’s adoption and Peter’s near drowning. We thought God used those things to ready our hearts and of course they did, partially anyway. We thought we were prepared to leave our girl at the cloister. We were wrong.

Sister Marie Elizabeth/Grace, Part 3


Written on January 30, 2017

One year ago today, Grace entered the Carmel of Jesus, Mary and Joseph in Valparaiso, Nebraska, which is the motherhouse of a cloistered Carmelite order. I remember being the last one out of the guesthouse heading to Mass in the chapel, one of the few places visitors could be. It was cold and the large Mission-style bells started pealing out over the beautiful farmland. They rang out for so long and so loud calling us to Mass and calling her in.

It was work getting everything in order for her entrance and getting 11 of us there. But here we were. Wishing time would stand still. God’s grace swept us along and the enormity of the moment overcame us. Tears flowed freely and would for days.

We had some time for individual good-byes and then one last group hug. It is difficult to put into words how this went and so much of Carmel life is to be hidden. I won’t be able to share all. We had total peace and trust about what she was doing. And then it was done.

We have only since seen our daughter behind the grille. If she stays, and she can come out anytime before final vows are taken, that last hug is the last time we will have physical contact with her. I think most us grew up not realizing that this still exists, men and women choosing this monastic way of life. It is so counter to how we all live. So old-school. So other worldly.

On our long, quiet journey home, Cash said to me, “You had all the time with her.” He meant because we homeschooled that I was with her all the time. It’s true and I’m so grateful.

Sharing a bit of this and your amazing responses and prayers means a lot. If you think of it, pray for now Sister Marie Elizabeth and the other men and women in monasteries. They are for sure praying for us.

Sister Marie Elizabeth/Grace, Part 4

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Written on February 21, 2017

Sometime before Grace entered the Carmel, it all kind of flashed before me and I laughed out loud in wonder at God’s mysterious ways. Grace’s conception and birth were like none of our other kids. Her conception is probably only relatable if you are or were an NFP user. Happy to share about that privately. Even in utero, Grace was fiesty and active. I would wake up and she’d be traverse. She’d be breech. Our doctor had us go to the hospital, me gowned up and in the bed. He wanted to turn her hoping she’d stay put until birth. She had turned *herself* sometime during the night!

She eventually turned breech again and when I was many days overdue, we had to schedule another attempt at turning and induction. But I went into labor the day before! I had a house to clean and toddler to get settled so I ignored it. At some point, I thought it best to call and the nurse sternly said to get in the office. On the way, my water broke! I am still mad that I let Cash, who had met me there, talk me into sloshing up to the office instead of straight to the hospital across the street! 🙂

We were quickly sent over and I felt calm, being reassured that it was possible to deliver breech. But at some point they called it and I was being pushed down the halls and elevators for what turned out to be a crash C-section. They didn’t even take the time to prep Cash. He had to stay outside. I was crying and the sweet nurses were trying to console me but all I could selfishly say was, “I don’t want a c-section.” It’s funny now. Never did I think anything was wrong with our baby.

I woke up from anesthesia for a few seconds asking for my baby. She was somewhere getting checked out. Cash had run back to work to clear his desk. The nurse asked if we had a name. I said Grace. Grace Judith. Two names not even on our list. Then I went back to sleep.

Neither of us saw her being born. She was perfect and beautiful. We learned that as they were wheeling me into the operating room, nurses were crying and the doctor prayed! Now it all feels like such a God moment. Like He knew all along. And of course He did..

Sister Marie Elizabeth/Grace, Part 5



Written on March 6, 2017

Happy 20th birthday Sister Marie Elizabeth, our beautiful girl so far away from us!

Last Fall, someone innocently asked if Grace would be coming home for Thanksgiving. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. When Mother Superior took Grace through the door to the monastery, that was it. Unless a Sister leaves before a final vow is taken, she does not come out of the monastery. There are a few exceptions like if one needs special medical care. Sister Marie Elizabeth did actually go out to have her wisdom teeth pulled and we can’t wait to hear the details when we next visit!

For her Carmelite order, we can visit twice a year, call once on her birthday, and write letters each month, except for Lent and Advent which are quiet. We got to call her last week before Lent began.

Grace was not one to share or talk about herself, her feelings, her plans. Definitely not in her teen years. Definitely not to us. She was sweet and chatty with probably most everyone else outside this home and most definitely with Emily, her sister and best friend, but often seemed annoyed with us and often acted like she couldn’t wait to get out of here. 🙂

Being apart in this dramatic way has changed all that, changed us. There is heartache for me not knowing anything about her day-to-day, if she is happy, sad, struggling, sick. But, there is a deepness now. And love and gratitude and apologies. She thanks us for everything and wonders how we put up with her. The letters especially are what I treasure. There are tears but also much joy and funny stories.

So while we miss her presence in our home and daily living in ways we didn’t know our hearts could, through this separation God has given us the sweet consolation of growing closer to and loving deeper this daughter than we knew possible.

I am a bit of a mess looking at pictures of her infant and childhood today, but happiest of days and all the love to our girl, our Sister Marie Elizabeth! Thank you for your prayers for her!