Calee Reed and Jon Adams: Hope When the Holidays Feel Hard
Calee Reed and her husband, Jon Adams, have experienced a lot over the course of their young lives: divorce, loss and the blending of families to name a few. In our first-ever live recording of All In, they share the reason for the hope that carries them through times of great joy and sadness.
mixat6studios.com- Special thanks to Derek Campbell for all of his help in making this live episode happen.
Calee set out to create a Christmas album that captures the two things most important to her about Christmas: a Christ-centered holiday and a joyful feeling of celebration. She accomplishes both goals with this unforgettable collection of Christmas favorites.
Music Video: "Best News Ever" by MercyMe
Calee’s references a quote about there being no norm in the Church. We were unable to find an exact quote but here are some that might be helpful:
"As to different plantings: some women work, some do not; some feel awkward in their situations, some don’t; some have good health, others do not; some cry when they hurt, others don’t; some are shy, others aren’t; some are married, some are not. At times our differences seem glaring, almost stark; at times, our similarities cause confusion and discouragement. Yet the Lord created and saw our similarities—the need to have sustenance and rest for our bodies, air to breathe; to love and be loved; to reach for higher realms. The Lord saw our similarities as well as our differences, and he valued both. And from that wisdom, he provided within the Church the Relief Society where gospel principles that can touch the heart and life of each woman—you, me, young, old, married or single as I am—could be taught."
—Sister Addie Fuhriman, "Singleness: How Relief Society Can Help," ChurchofJesusChrist.org
"My dear sisters, each of you is unique. You are different from each other in many ways. There are those of you who are married. Some of you stay at home with your children, while others of you work outside your homes. Some of you are empty nesters. There are those of you who are married but do not have children. There are those who are divorced, those who are widowed. Many of you are single women. Some of you have college degrees; some of you do not. There are those who can afford the latest fashions and those who are lucky to have one appropriate Sunday outfit. Such differences are almost endless. Do these differences tempt us to judge one another?"
—President Thomas S. Monson, "Charity Never Faileth," ChurchofJesusChrist.org
"When we gather with this focus, the work of Relief Society is relevant whatever your circumstance—whether you are 18 or 88, single or married, have children or not, or whether you live in Bountiful, Utah, or Bangalore, India."
—Sister Julie B. Beck, "What Latter-day Saint Women Do Best: Stand Strong and Immovable," ChurchofJesusChrist.org
"Whether we serve in Primary or Young Women, whether we’re active or less so, whether we’re married or single, whether we’re spring chickens or fall hens, we all belong to Relief Society. I’m a fall hen, but I feel like a spring chicken! We need your voices, your feelings, your hearts. Relief Society needs you. And you know what? You need Relief Society. When you don’t participate, you’re depriving yourself and you’re depriving Relief Society.
"Sisters, we can have no divisions in Relief Society; all 'members should have the same care one for another.'9 'And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it.'10 For 'the body hath need of every member, that all may be edified together, that the system may be kept perfect.'11"
—Sister Bonnie D. Parkin, "Belonging Is Our Sacred Birthright," ChurchofJesusChrist.org
Video: "What (& What Not) to Say to Divorced People at Church"
Music Video: "Lead Kindly Light" by Calee Reed
Talk: "The Ministry of Angels" by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland
"I have spoken here of heavenly help, of angels dispatched to bless us in time of need. But when we speak of those who are instruments in the hand of God, we are reminded that not all angels are from the other side of the veil. Some of them we walk with and talk with—here, now, every day. Some of them reside in our own neighborhoods. Some of them gave birth to us, and in my case, one of them consented to marry me. Indeed heaven never seems closer than when we see the love of God manifested in the kindness and devotion of people so good and so pure that angelic is the only word that comes to mind."
—Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, "The Ministry of Angels," ChurchofJesusChrist.org
Quote by Sister Patrica Holland on Calee Reed's Instagram:
"If I were Satan . . . I would keep women so distraught and distracted that they would never find calming strength and serenity . . . catching them in the crunch of trying to be superhuman instead of realistically striving to reach their individual purpose and unique God-given potential. We must have the courage to be imperfect.”
—Sister Patricia Holland, "'One Thing Needful': Becoming Women of Greater Faith in Christ," ChurchofJesusChrist.org
Scripture: Nephi prays for Christ to come—3 Nephi 1:10-13
"10 Now it came to pass that when Nephi, the son of Nephi, saw this wickedness of his people, his heart was exceedingly sorrowful.
"11 And it came to pass that he went out and bowed himself down upon the earth, and cried mightily to his God in behalf of his people, yea, those who were about to be destroyed because of their faith in the tradition of their fathers.
"12 And it came to pass that he cried mightily unto the Lord aall that day; and behold, the bvoice of the Lord came unto him, saying:
"13 Lift up your head and be of good cheer; for behold, the time is at hand, and on this night shall the asign be given, and on the bmorrow come I into the world, to show unto the world that I will fulfil all that which I have caused to be cspoken by the mouth of my holy prophets" (3 Nephi 1:10-13).
Music Video: "Heaven's Here" by Calee Reed
Website: Find more events by Deseret Book at deseretbookchristmas.com.
2:04- Christmas Memories
5:51- "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing"
9:24- Rebirth After Suffering/Loss of a Parent
14:10- Coping With Divorce During the Holidays
18:33- Differences in Grief/The Passing of a Spouse
23:37- "Lead Kindly Light"
25:49- Single in the Church
29:29- Jon and Calee's Story
37:43- Blending Families
40:02- "Do You Know Where My Mommy Is?"
44:30- A God Who Knows Us
48:10- Earth Angels
54:49- What Does It Mean To You To Be "All In" the Gospel of Jesus Christ?
57:40- "Heaven's Here"
Morgan Jones 0:00
Calee Reed Adams and her husband, Jon, are not strangers to grief or hardship. In 2011, Calee lost her mother to cancer. Jon's first wife passed away in 2017. When the two met, Calee was a recently divorced, single mother of one and together they have blended lives and families. Inspired by her mother who taught her to sing, Calee Reed has released four albums through Deseret Book. Her most recent album, "Rejoice," is a collection of her favorite Christ-centered Christmas songs and was released earlier this year. Calee and her husband Jon are the parents of six children.
This is "All In, an LDS Living podcast where we asked the question, "what does it really mean to be all in the Gospel of Jesus Christ?" I'm Morgan Jones, and I am so grateful to be here with Jon Adams and Calee Reed Adams. Jon and Calee, welcome.
Jon Adams 0:59
Calee Reed 1:00
Yeah, we're excited to be here.
Jon Adams 1:02
Let me point out that we have six children under the age of 10. So we haven't slept in a while.
Calee Reed 1:09
6, 10 and under. So we're happy to be here for a break.
Morgan Jones 1:12
That is truly amazing. And welcome to date night, everyone. We're glad to have you here. So I guess first of all, just as we kick things off, I just wondered if you both have a favorite Christmas memory?
Jon Adams 1:31
Sure. I think, like many of you, tradition is something that's pretty important in my family. And one tradition that we would have is we would go to my grandparent's house, and we'd have the same Nativity, the same Christmas decorations. And the one thing that sticks out that's just a very vivid memory to me, is every year, my grandmother knowing that I loved eggnog, she would take me to a different room and she'd always buy me one little pint of eggnog which made me feel that I like I was the most special grandchild of all. So that's maybe one for me.
Morgan Jones 2:05
That's amazing. And that actually reminds me of my favorite Christmas memory, which I'll share as Calee's getting set up. But Calee, give us yours.
Calee Reed 2:12
Um, the first thing that I thought of when I, you know, I'm thinking about my favorite Christmas memories is probably not the best Christmas memory. My, my baby sister—so I grew up with three sisters, there are four girls, we're all really close in age. And my baby sister one Christmas got grounded on Christmas Eve, and she was—I think she was like seven, she was little. And so she got grounded for you know, being crazy and she went upstairs and she got this huge bottle of lotion, like the Costco size bottle, and she poured it all over everyone's bed. Like all over our pillows, all over my parent's phone, you know when landlines were a thing. And then she got baby powder and sprinkled baby powder all over.
Morgan Jones 3:01
I don't know whether to be like disturbed or super impressed that a seven-year-old came up with that.
Well, we knew she was smart.
Calee Reed 3:07
I seriously, I just remember we all went upstairs and it was like, "Ohhh." And I thought, "My parents are going to kill her." That is what it's going to happen right now, there's going to be a death in the family. And to this day, it is so funny to me because she has always just—she is just kind of a wild one. Do you know what I mean? She's actually in a JD Ph.D. program right now in Nebraska.
Yes, she is amazing. But it is just so funny how from such a little age—and I think another reason that's one of my favorite stories is because my six-year-old has a lot of that fire in her. And so I just, yeah, it makes me think of her.
Morgan Jones 3:52
That's hilarious. That's an amazing story. Okay, so Calee, as you some of you heard in soundcheck, she's going to grace us with her beautiful voice and as you get set up, I will share my Christmas memory, one of my favorites. So, my grandparents, their house was always magical at Christmas time. And they would hire someone—I think it was them that hired the person but maybe it was a neighbor—to drive down the street with like a horse-drawn sleigh. And one year we were outside and my cousin said, "Morgan look!" As Santa is like driving down on the sleigh. And I turned around, and I was so stunned that I just dropped the glass of milk that I was holding. The glass shattered everywhere anyway, the eggnog, milk, you know. All right, Calee.
Yeah, a real horse-drawn sleigh. We don't mess around in North Carolina.
Calee Reed 4:43
A real horse? Like real horses pulling the sleigh?
I suddenly feel very ripped off.
**CALEE SINGING Hark, The Herald Angels Sing**
Morgan Jones 8:40
See what I mean? I love that song so much and I love that it says, "Born that man no more may die." And tonight, we're going to talk a little bit about grief, especially during the holiday season. And let's start, Calee, if it's okay with you—your mother, Rita McBride Schroeder, passed away in January 2011, which means that you went through at least one Christmas that was probably really hard. Is that right?
Calee Reed 9:10
Yeah, I mean, so my mom was diagnosed several years before and so she had battled for a few years. But that last Christmas was really hard.
Morgan Jones 9:22
You describe that season of your life, the time surrounding your mom's passing, both before and after, as a rebirth. What have you learned about the purpose of trials having gone through that experience?
Calee Reed 9:37
You know, I don't know that I would call this season like, of her dying and death, a season of rebirth for me, it was more like the season of like, demolishing. Do you know what I mean? That set me up for rebirth. I was just talking to my 10-year-old this week. She was saying how sad it is the all the trees are dead. She's like, "Christmas is depressing all the trees are dead." And I was like, "You know, what's so funny though is that they're not. They're not dead, they look dead, but they're going to come back in the spring and they'll be beautiful." And I was explaining to her how that's, you know, it's symbolism. It's this parallel for us and our life experience. And we talk a lot about like death and grief and our family because it's touched all of our children. So for me, I feel like it was that laying waste phase where everything is just leveled. And that really set the stage for me to have to redefine everything about my faith.
What have I learned about the purpose of trials? Oh, I could spend a really long time answering that one. I think I spent so many hard years trying to reconcile a just, loving, merciful God with a God who would allow my mother to suffer so horrifically and still die. Do you know what I mean? Like I was holding out for a miracle, I thought, surely surely God will not, you know—like this torturous experience like Surely there's a miracle coming. Do you know what I mean? And it was so hard to try to understand how God could be loving and merciful and just and still call her home after everything she had gone through. And it really— I've done a lot of studying about struggle and about suffering, like in the scriptures and things. And what I believe now is that our progression and our growth spiritually is so important to God. Like this is the "why" that we become like Him, that He is willing to allow us to have all of these physical experiences that can be so incredibly painful because that is a part of how we learn to be like the Savior. That's a part of this empathy process. And I think the important thing is that we don't do it alone, that we invite God to walk with us through our struggles instead of just saying, "Take it, take it, take it. Take it away." Invite Him in, and say, "Do this with me. Like, I cannot do this by myself. Please carry with me." And it says in the scriptures over and over again, you know, "Come unto me, for my burden is easy, my yoke is light. Come, let me help you do this." And He invites us to walk with Him and I think that that's so important for us to do.
Morgan Jones 12:59
I think that's such a beautiful way of putting that. And I have found that in my own life, there have been times where I tried to carry it all by myself. And then there been other times where I instantly found myself turning to Christ. And it's amazing. Like you kind of feel like you go down into this hole for a little while, but how much more quickly you make it out when you allow Him to toss you the rope or whatever. So thank you for sharing that. You also went through the trial of divorce. What would be your advice or your encouragement to those who might be going through something like that this holiday season?
Calee Reed 13:39
Oh, I know that there are so many of you out there. I get messages all the time from people who are carrying that fun burden at Christmas time. It is so hard, it is the worst, I think especially at the holidays when everyone is like love and joy. Do you know what I mean? And you're like my life is over. This is the best, let's sing Christmas songs. And it's hard! Like when my mom was dying, it was the same thing. I'm like everyone is so holly jolly and it is making me extra miserable, so if you guys could stop, that would be great, you know? It's terrible, but it's so true. I think my advice, my encouragement, I have a few different things. Number one—one of the number one things that got me through was a really good therapist. So if you are going through a divorce, if you are going through heavy things, get yourself a therapist and make them your best friend, do it. If you're thinking I can't afford it, whatever, go talk to your Bishop, go talk to whoever you need to talk to you to figure it out. Because divorce makes you go to the bad place. Do you know what I mean? And so like, get some help, do it for yourself, for your kids, just for yourself, just do it. The second thing I would say is find a good media outlet that speaks to your soul. So for me, Christian music, that's a huge one. It's filled with reminders all day long, you know of who I am to God, how much God loves me, how much I am known. And it's so weird because like, I know these things like, in my head, but to really live in the space of, "I am a child of God. God knows me. God loves me," for some reason that's so hard for me to do. And so to have a media outlet, for me like K-love radio, I love reading old general conference talks. I love listening to you know, Calee read on Pandora, things like this, you know, really good, really good music, it's just really helpful. It was really helpful to me. And then, find something that you love and dedicate yourself to it. Give yourself permission to like, develop a new talent. I crocheted many blankets during that time. I felt so alone. And that's the gift that I have is crocheting things, right? Like who knew? I mostly do like, you know, potholders and baby blankets. So if anyone you know in your life needs a baby blanket, I have like 1700 in my closet from that time.
Jon Adams 16:17
If you think about—you know how a song gets stuck in your head? If you're listening to good music, there's a Christian song by Mercy Me that's been in my head all day today. And it says, it's talking about Christ and the gospel and it says, "It's not good news. It's the best news ever." And that's kind of gone through my head like probably 30 times today because of the hook of the song, right? And here we are at Christmas time, Christmas being like the big holiday, it feels like for mankind. And it's not good news, it's the best news ever, right? That we're saved, that we will be resurrected, that we can find comfort in times of trial, right. And that music keeps that line in my head throughout the day. Especially if you're struggling, it's good to have those reminders.
Calee Reed 17:07
Yeah, since I mean like, no offense Justin Bieber and like Taylor Swift, right, but I don't know if like, the hooks are as helpful necessarily, when you're going through a really hard time, as the hooks in Christian music. At least, you know, in my humble opinion.
Morgan Jones 17:21
There were a few self plugs in there for your crocheting, for the Pandora station. I hope you guys are writing all of these down.
Calee Reed 17:28
Please do, take notes.
Morgan Jones 17:31
But I think that that is so important. And I hope you guys all caught the plug for therapy because I think sometimes there's a little bit of a stigma around—
Calee Reed 17:40
A huge stigma.
Morgan Jones 17:41
—around using that resource. But I also have gone to therapy and it is so helpful. So let's just get that out of the way. Around the same time, Jon, you were experiencing a different kind of loss. Can you share a bit of your experience and what you have learned about loss and grief?
Jon Adams 18:01
Sure, it was actually at a different time, but—
Morgan Jones 18:05
A little bit later, right?
Jon Adams 18:06
A little bit later. So a few years ago, my first wife, all of a sudden, kind of came down with what felt like flu symptoms. And a few days later, we checked into the hospital with an ailment that wasn't super serious, but it could become serious. And a few things before maybe I continue there—that week was a very interesting week in my life. My whole life to that point was, I don't know, 34 years or so, God had spoken to me somewhat quietly, but through feelings and happiness and peace and calm. And then all of a sudden, that week, He started speaking to me much, much louder. And I think, you know, as we are in a trial or as we are in something hard, there's commensurate power out there to help. And so there was about nine days that she was in the hospital and then she passed away. Kind of a very quick, sudden, shock. And through that, you know, and through your question earlier to Calee about why trials or what have you, I've come to find out that, as Calle mentioned, about growth. When things are hunky-dory and smooth, we tend not to look for God, we tend not to rely on God. But when, you know, something like this, all of a sudden happens, you have a choice, right? You can turn towards God, or turn away from God, right? Every day you have that choice. And it's my belief that as I turned towards God, and every time I took a step towards the light, more and more light came into my life, peace, more understanding, more hope, more faith on my part because you're in that trial. Right?
Morgan Jones 20:08
Calee, you've talked about how during that time of your life where you were a single mom, that it was difficult for you to go to church. And I don't know if you can speak to that. But Jon, also, I wondered if you went through any of that at all.
Calee Reed 20:22
You know what's so interesting just to speak a little minute about the grief process. I think, Jon and I had such different experiences with grief and loss, and it's really helped open my eyes. I used to be, I still am sometimes a little cynical. And, you know, when people would have these big spiritual experiences around someone dying or whatever, I would get a little bit snarky about it inside myself, because that wasn't my experience. My experience felt very lonely, my experience felt like God was very far away from me. And I just want to put out there that I think that there is room for all of our experiences. If you are a person who is in the boat with me where God feels very far away, I think God is teaching us through that. If you are, you know, in a different boat where it feels like God is very near you, and He is carrying you and holding you through it, what a beautiful thing. Embrace that. But I, I used to think that maybe people weren't being very honest when they expressed their last experience that way. And I mean, if I can say anything about Jon, it's that he is incredibly honest. And so knowing him and hearing his story and like loving him, has opened my eyes to the fact that everyone is blessed and challenged in different ways, and that all of our experiences are equally valid. And there's no need for me to be so snarky all the time inside myself.
Morgan Jones 21:49
Jon Adams 21:49
Maybe I'd add to that, you know, I'm not conveying the taking a step towards God in those situations is very easy. It's a very hard thing. But in my particular case—and I have some beliefs around this—in my particular case, God became very, very loud. And so sometimes people have said, "Oh, you showed so much faith, you're so incredible." And I say, "Not really." God became very, very loud, and many miraculous things happened. Things that I thought could happen, I believed that happened, but God became very loud. And so I just followed some of that direction. And as I followed it, more and more light came into my life. But I don't want to say taking a step towards God in a really hard trial is like the easiest thing to do. But I shudder to think had I taken a step away from God, at that time, what my life would look like. It wouldn't look like it looks today, talking back to that week, that first week where certain things happened, a particular song kind of became my anthem when I would go to the hotel at night. "Lead Kindly Light" was that song. And it just had this amazing impact on me. I wrote, like a prayer—I'd never written a prayer before—about this song and I played it at my first wife's funeral. And it kept cropping up in different times. Fast forward some period of time and I see it's kind of become this anthem for me. And I see a performance of "Lead Kindly Light," by Calee, of which I clicked on this link and the feeling in the room just changed, it was almost like a light was turned on. And so I sent her an email, I just told her thank you for that experience, thanks for that great song, a little brief explanation. And God continued to speak to both of us through that, and we were married.
Calee Reed 22:34
Don't tell them how long— a long time later. Many months later.
Morgan Jones 24:07
Okay, really quickly though, I want to get—so this is the very happy part of the story. And I want to get, Calee, you get a message from a complete stranger.
Calee Reed 24:18
Everything about my experience with dating Jon has broken like all of my dating rules ever. I am like the biggest date for a year, people are crazy and they hide it. Don't jump in. Don't do it. I just, I can't. Did we want to talk for a quick second about this single mom thing or no?
Jon Adams 24:35
We can, but the point I was trying to make was
Morgan Jones 24:38
This is Jon's podcast. We're all just here for it.
Jon Adams 24:40
I told her not to invite me! It was—if I'd taken a step away from God, at that point, us coming together and our meeting, that ship might have sailed.
Morgan Jones 24:55
Wouldn't have happened. Thank you, Jon. I was just kidding. Don't worry, you're doing a great job. Thank you.
Calee Reed 25:02
They'll edit it out.
So your question was what was my experience in like a single mom realm? That's not fun in our culture. What I found, so I didn't get married until—the first go around—until I was almost 30. Which, you know, the joke I make is that that's approximately like 487 years in like Mormon years, right? Like, right? It is hard in our culture, because there are these expectations and we're so family-centric and everything at church is about family and marriage, and, you know, all of these things, and it's beautiful and wonderful and great. And sometimes, it can make like a whole demographic of people feel very marginalized, like, "I don't really quite belong, because all of these lessons are not geared towards me. They're geared towards all these other women in the room." And so for me, I would walk into sacrament meeting and like, just hide in the back and look out across the congregation of everyone with their families and husbands and wives, they all have their arms around each other. And I'm like, "Hey guys, cool man. See you later." You know, like just feeling like I so did not belong. And I went from singles wards feeling like I didn't belong, like I was getting really old and freakish there. To be married and it was awesome for a minute and then it got so not awesome and then I got divorced and then that was really hard. I heard a statistic which I wish that I had with me that I don't. But it was also, I don't even have the woman's name, but she was in the General Relief Society presidency several years ago. Maybe someone can tell me who it is. But she was talking about how we very often will put ourselves into these groups, kind of like Nephites or Lamanites, or whatever, right? And we kind of like divide ourselves out. Like I'm a married person, so I fit with these people here. I'm a single person so I fit with these people here. I've been divorced, so I fit over here. And she was saying it's so interesting that so many of us feel so ostracized and so separate because really, the percentage of people in our faith who really fit into that very narrow category of married with children at home, it is tiny. It's so teeny tiny. And yet, for some reason, if we don't fit into this little slice, we feel like we are so on the outside, you know what I mean? We can't have kids or we've chosen not to, or whatever it is, like we're pursuing careers. I mean it's crazy to me how many other people feel so "other" and so outside. And she was talking about how you know if we really look at our temple covenants, and if we really look at these lessons, everything at church, all of these lessons are specific to you, regardless of your circumstances. Because even if you don't fit into like the ideal mold here, in this life, the opportunities that we have in the next life like this is just, this is like a sec, do you know what I mean? It's like this big in our eternity. So just keep doing what you're doing, stay close to the spirit, like it's going to be okay. And for me as a single mom, and before I got married, even this talk by Sherri Dew called "Are We Not All Mothers?" That was a huge anchor for me and helped me so, so much. So if you're in this space, if you're feeling like I don't know what I'm doing, or this is really hard. "Are We Not All Mothers," by Sherri Dew is a fabulous resource.
Morgan Jones 28:32
When you were like, do you know what I mean? I was going to be like, I have no idea what you're talking about, but I couldn't even do it. Calee, you said that because of your experience with losing your mother—and you've talked about this quite a bit—that you had intentionally avoided dating widowers. So let's come back to that moment where you get this message from Jon about "Lead Kindly Light."
Calee Reed 28:57
Yeah, so it wasn't—I mean, it went When he first messaged me, because I get messages from people—and thank you. Everyone who ever reaches out to me, I mean, this is my why, right? When I first made my very first album, I didn't have a deal with Deseret Book. I didn't know anyone at Desert Book, it wasn't like a thing. You know, no one was like, "You should make an album." It was like, I hate everything. I had broken up with a boyfriend, I had saved all this money, and I was just gonna, like buy a house and fill it with cats. You know what I mean? That was like my plan for my life. Because what else am I even supposed to do? I had finished my degree and I had a career and like, that was my thing. And so instead, I took that money that I had for a down payment, and I did something totally spontaneous and crazy, which I am not that person. I am the biggest research, read the reviews, make the wise choice person. But I took all of my money and I moved up into my sister's basement in Utah and I recorded "The Waiting Place" with the idea that there were so many people, again, who have felt on the outside like me. Who have been in this grieving space where it's not pretty and it's not filled with stories about Jesus answering our prayers, like it's full of hard for long periods, right? And so that's where "The Waiting Place" came from. So when I get messages from people who are like, "Your song helped me through X, Y, or Z," I mean, it is like, I can't tell you what that does for my heart. So when I got this message from Jon—that was a really long tangent to get us here. I'm sorry.
Morgan Jones 30:29
But really quickly, if you haven't heard "The Waiting Place," it is one of my favorite albums ever, like hands down. So you should look that up. Or it's here, I'm sure, somewhere.
Calee Reed 30:42
And so when I got this message from Jon, and it was about "Lead, Kindly Light," and just this story, and I remember looking at his picture, and it's him and our twin boys. And these little boys, they're so little, just these little kids. And I clicked on his profile to just see some of his pictures. And I remember thinking like, "Oh my goodness, these babies are like, the same age as my sister's babies. And I cannot imagine if my sister died." And my heart was just like, oh, like this moment of like, this is so hard, I cannot imagine what this man is going through. And I do that usually when I get messages, I go and like, have a little minute, and like, look at your social media. And then I'll usually like say a prayer for the person and whatever. It's like a part of my process. And so anyway, that happened with Jon. And it wasn't until we had been messaging for a few hours that I went, "I am like messaging this man. Like we've been like going back and forth." And I'm sitting there, I remember him like texting. I'm like, "Hahaha" No, no, no, no, no. Because when my mom died, she died in January, my father was engaged in November, and it was not okay. I was not okay. And it was just not. And my mother my—Whoa. Whoa, that was weird, I've never done that before. Oh, that's kind of tender. I was talking about my stepmom and I said "my mother." Oh my gosh, whoa. Sorry. She is wonderful and I feel so blessed to have her. Um, and I was not ready for her and I was already for my dad to be happy. I really wanted him to be very miserable for a very long time. And, that's so Christlike. I don't know why I wanted that. Like it's somehow like, puts more value on my parent's marriage somehow. Why do we do these weird things? Like grief is so weird and can be so ugly and so I just wasn't ready for her. And bless her for being so patient and kind to me for the few years until, you know, I was ready and then we were able to be friends. But that was my thought with Jon when I realized I was like having this like moment of like, "So funny!" Do you know what I mean, and I'm like, absolutely not. Um, so I slowed it down, you know, like I waited 15 minutes before I messaged him again, I really took a step back. Whoa. And I'm one of the things you know, that I've said before, and I'll say again, is that I feel like God really blessed me, blessed me with horrible dating experiences for like years. So that way I could recognize like immediately what a gem he is, because every circumstance that he came with was like, no, we're not doing that. That's going to be so hard, I'm not interested. The family dynamic—like the crazy—like no, no. But yeah, then he asked me how like an hour later and I was like, "Well, I do like sushi. I'll go out with him just one time." Do you know what I mean? Because sushi is so good. And we did and we went out and it was like, within 10 minutes, I was like, "Oh, I am toast. This is great. This is great."
Morgan Jones 34:33
Doesn't this story just make your heart feel so good?
Calee Reed 34:36
Oh, thank you so much. Don't encourage me! Why are you getting me tissues? Also, I just want you guys to know that I like throw up in my mouth when people tell stories like this. I don't believe them, I'm like you're pathological, you have a problem. Do you know what I mean? Where they're like, we met and we just knew and I'm like, "Oh, I'm going to be sick." Like I can't, you know, I really am that person. Because cynical, right? Like I don't believe in these things. And like I, I cannot tell you, I just cannot tell you like, how fabulous. I'm so happy and like it is real and it is possible and it is the best.
Morgan Jones 35:18
Thank you Jon what was going through your head? Was this like a deliberate, when you reached out were you hoping that it would turn into something or as she started responding more were you like, "Oh, this could be something!"
Calee Reed 35:30
You better say yes. Just kidding.
Jon Adams 35:39
Will you give me the question again?
Morgan Jones 35:40
Yeah. So when you reached out to Calee, did you think that it would turn into something or were you really just trying to thank her for the song? Because either way, good move.
Jon Adams 35:49
No both, so that week was interesting. So the recording she did of "Lead, Kindly Light" had been done like four years before, never released and she never could get her hands on it from the producer. And got her hands on it, released it right before she participated in an LDS Living video with you guys called "What not to say to divorce people at church."
Morgan Jones 36:14
Jon Adams 36:17
I saw the two videos on the same day because it was shared like a million times, I think at that point. And so it hit my feed. So I did know she was divorced, I knew she was funny, I knew she was beautiful. And then I had this experience so yeah, there was definitely hope there. But the initial messages were not intended for that purpose. But I welcomed the responses back and I remember, I've told her many times, I remember the parking spot I was in I came out of the temple, which is a thing that I was doing a lot at the time, and came out of the temple, got in the car and I had received a message back and boy did my life change from there.
Morgan Jones 36:59
So walk us through from there to when you got married. And then, very quickly, Calee, you went from being a mother of one to a mother of five.
Calee Reed 37:10
Morgan Jones 37:11
How does that work?
Calee Reed 37:12
It's thrilling. It's very exciting. I tell people, it's a lot easier physically to have a lot of kids that way. Do you know what I mean? But mentally, much more strenuous. Yeah, I went from one to five overnight. The good news is that our kids are incredible, they are fabulous. And I feel like a lot of the challenges that are present in our children, I actually struggled with as a child. An anxiety and you know, grief and loss and whatever and with my love of therapy—I feel like we just were set up in such a way that a lot of the really intense struggle that I know so many people go through with blending like that— I feel like we just had a really good launching pad and then I very quickly became pregnant. And so that was like, I feel like the real, you know, twist was now I'm sick and I've got these five kids. And then I like blew out a disc in my back, had a baby, then it was six, you know, that's math.
Jon Adams 38:17
Released two albums in the same time period.
Calee Reed 38:20
So it's kind of a lot. What's the thing? There's this thing that I say that, you know, "I used to say that my life was stressful, but I feel so much better now that I call it exciting. It's just really exciting." So you guys should try it. Next time you go to say, stressed out, just be like, "I'm just, I'm just really excited with all these exciting things happening in my life. It's thrilling." Do you know what I mean? Try that, see if it helps.
Morgan Jones 38:43
I like that. Jon, were you going to add something?
Jon Adams 38:46
Oh, I think I was gonna say we were both in our mid-30s and had lived quite a bit of life to that point. And so I think, yes, it was a huge change. But we also came with experience of life and hard things and knowing that not everything needs to be fixed overnight, right? So I can't imagine trying to go from one to five to six at 25. So I think a maturity level of just life and going through things has really helped.
Calee Reed 39:1
Yeah, that's true.
Morgan Jones 39:17
Thank you. I have heard you, Calee, talk before, I think it was Time Out For Women, you shared an experience where you kind of realized for the first time that you could relate to Jon's kids. Can you share that?
Calee Reed 39:31
Yeah, questions. that's usually where I start that is just by saying that I have so many questions that I've spent a lot of time trying to figure out with God. And for whatever reason, he has not found it that are necessary to answer my questions. And some of my questions center around my mother and like why so much suffering had to happen if He knew she was going to die anyway. And I had this really beautiful experience with one of my sons when Jon and I first started dating that helped me see just this—it was like this little glimmer of like beauty in having had the experience of losing my mother." And it was, I think the first time we went to church together, so we had all five kids and I for sure thought we were going to break up right afterward, just because five kids on one pew, like the thought of it like made my brain explode. And it turns out it's not that bad. It really depends on your kids, I guess. But we were sitting there all together and one of the boys who was just five at that time, Oh, and they're so cute. I wish you guys could see them, like these big blue eyeballs and his really long eyelashes. Oh, he's so precious. And he came and he was sitting right next to me and I had my arm around him. Jon and I hadn't known each other that long, I think it had been like maybe three weeks. And this little guy looked up at me just in the middle of the meeting and he whispered to me, "Do you know where my mommy is?" And I know. And I looked down at him and said, "Yeah, she's in heaven." And he kind of went back to, you know, to what he was doing. And I'm sitting there like, just my insides are like, ugh. This like little boy, and you think about what his experience is with this and like how hard. And anyway, I had this thought that came into my mind and I looked down at him and I said, "Hey, do you know who's there with her?" And he like shook his head and I said, "My mommy." And he smiled, and then he went back to what he was doing. And it was just this moment of connection. And I think that that is so much more important than I value on a daily basis, like this connecting with other people and for he and I, it was like this common ground where we could meet in the space of like shared heartbreak and grief and sorrow. And it made me feel so much more connected to him. I don't know if it was that experience for him, do you know what I mean? It's like a five-year-old, He's like, "Do you have my blue crayon?" But it was so precious. And that's something that's become like a platform for us and our family that we can talk about. We can talk about when my mom died, we can talk about when your mom died. It's this really beautiful, safe, space that has been like created that I am so grateful for.
Jon Adams 42:42
We talked earlier about trials and if you think about the first two commandments, love God and love thy neighbor, it's amazing what a trial or what something hard, long-suffering will do of turning your heart towards God. And then also, that shared experience of other people that are going through this mortal experience, that empathy that's created, that love that's created for your fellow man, that having gone through hard things, you now can empathize and mourn with those who mourn and really meet those two great commandments.
Morgan Jones 43:23
I'm so glad you touched on that. Because I think that that's something that's so important. When we are in the midst of those moments, we often think, you know, why is it that I'm going through this? But recently, I've had some experiences where I realized that it's changing me and the way that I'm able to relate with those around me. And I think that that's true of all of us and why that's so important. How has your marriage strengthened your testimonies of a living God and a savior who loves us?
Calee Reed 43:56
Oh man, you know, after having experienced this, you know, these years really, this like collection of like, I don't know, a little over 10 years of feeling like God was so absent or like turning such a blind eye to all of my pleadings to have more of Him. Truly meeting Jon and being in this family and creating this thing together, has reaffirmed my testimony so intensely that God knows me so well. The things that I was learning during that huge waiting period, the way that I was changing, the ways that I was growing, the capacity that I was developing, like during that time, set me up for all of the demands of my life right now. And it's so many specific things that like I don't even know that we would have time to name all of the tiny, minute details that are I feel like God has been so aware of this whole time. And it just took me many years to get to the place where I could appreciate that. But even just Jon and how—I'm going to throw up by saying the word perfect—but honestly like how perfect he is for me and what I need as a person like it is, it like blows my mind.
Morgan Jones 45:27
Jon, what would you add to that after you've been just called perfect?
Calee Reed 45:31
No, he's not perfect, he's perfect for me.
Jon Adams 45:40
The question was, how does our marriage strengthen my faith in God? Without getting into too many details, I said, that God started speaking to me very differently. And it was really for a short amount of time, He doesn't speak to me as loudly anymore. But for a short amount of time, there were some very direct things that happened. And essentially, they all led me to Calee. And so each step my faith was reaffirmed. And in some of the things, even prior to meeting Calle, I think it was a couple, maybe three or four weeks before, some things that happened spiritually that I started kind of letting my family know, I feel like I'm supposed to start dating. And that came not from me, it came from an experience I had with personal revelation. And so I kind of started telling people that and then a couple things happened in the next few weeks, saying, "Be ready, she's coming." And I mentioned that, you know, verbally to other people and then, lo and behold, everything kind of came into place. And so each one of those times that I stepped towards what I was feeling was His voice, it brought me here to to our marriage and our just beautiful family and there's a connection from kind of the result of that faith that I get to see every day.
Morgan Jones 47:24
Before we get to our last question, I loved a post that Calee put on Instagram earlier this week. And you said, "Our family situation is different - we’re blended after death and divorce...and that kind of blending can be everything from painful to hostile..." I should add before I get to this next part, this whole post was about Jon's first wife's mother. "But the only thing I've ever felt from this woman is love. That sounds like a lie, doesn't it? Like an exaggeration somehow. It's not either of those things. This woman is unreal, when it would be easier, I'm sure, to let grief make our relationship hard, she has always chosen to support and love me. It's truly incredible to consider the burden of loss she has carried in her life and even more incredible that she's chosen again and again to let grief bring her closer to God, instead of turning away from him, even when I'm awkward or feel like I'm failing, even when I'm not sure how to respond or react, she is endlessly kind, and that kindness 100% counts as valuable service in my book." I think this is something so many families go through. And especially in the wake of loss, it can be so hard to extend that kindness you talked about with your step mom. And I think that's normal. Like I think that's the normal reaction. But what has that meant to you and what has she done to demonstrate Christlike love to you and your family, and I'd love to get Jon's take on that as well.
Calee Reed 49:05
You know, I think the thing that it immediately makes me think of, is my response to my stepmother and how—I wasn't unkind to her face and I didn't know her. That's the thing that I would always say, "I don't know her, I don't want to know her." And I had a good boundary for myself and I communicated that and I am grateful that I had that boundary for myself so that I could honor my own emotions and my own experience. And that, instead of feeling like I needed to do something for someone else, because that can really, like mess you up if you're grieving. But I think about her name is Teresa. And I think about just her kindness from the very beginning. She has just been so kind. Coming from my experience, and knowing how intense that sorrow of loss can be, and how sometimes, just a person being there, where your loved one used to be, can be so painful. It really has blown my mind over and over again just how kind she chooses to be and how separate, I don't know if it's work for her to make it separate, but she somehow was able to separate her grief in losing her daughter and her love for me. And it's a gift in my life that she chooses and is able to be that way. And in my mind, I think one of the most Christlike things that she does is extend that kindness. I think so often we undervalue kindness in a world that is so sarcastic, that is so quick to judge, that is so quick to, you know, belittle or demean for the sake of like a punch line, right? Like that's where we are in our society right now. This is the way that we deal with each other, this is the way we deal with things, it's very popular to be this way. And to be kind, truly kind to other people always, that is not very, like, cool right now, even among adults. Like I'm not just talking about teenagers. It's not very cool, but it is so powerful. If we could all just be a little more kind. Our world would be a much more Christlike place.
Jon, what would you add to that?
Jon Adams 51:59
I remember a talk by Elder Jeffrey R Holland, and it was about angels among us. And I remember thinking the word angels of those that are not living. And then he added at some point in the talk, and those who are alive—the angels in our lives that are living. And Teresa is truly that from you know, way before any tragedy she's always been that. And the strength that I gained through my relationship with her and especially after that tragedy, she essentially put me on her shoulders and just carried me around for a while. And not just her, my own mother, sister in law's, friends, neighbors that would come over and do my girl's hair before school. So many people stepped into that role of love and support. And it was just amazing to see. And there's no way to thank those angels other than just give them that love back.
Morgan Jones 53:30
Thank you. I think that if you walk away with nothing else tonight, I hope that you walk away with the reminder that this Christmas, while there are many of us who are very happy and joyful, that there are others around us who are struggling, and who may need an angel in their lives. And so I guess that would just be my challenge as we wrap this thing up, before we get to our final question is just that go and be an angel to someone else this Christmas because certainly, we are in need of more of those. Calee and Jon, first, thank you so, so much. I know that these are very personal experiences and you have been so gracious and sharing them with us. The last question is the question that we ask on each episode of this podcast and it is just, "What does it mean to you to be all in the Gospel of Jesus Christ?"
Calee Reed 54:27
I saw a quote the other day, I think it was from Patricia Holland, I actually posted it on my Instagram, if anyone cares to go read it. But she said, "We must have the courage to be imperfect," I think to me being "all in" in the Gospel means that I am willing to embrace all of my weaknesses, my imperfections, all of the ugliness that I perceive in myself, all of my failings. I am willing to look at those things and to give them to God and to let Him do with them what He will create in me, a more Christlike person. To not run away from the challenges, not run away from the hard things, but to like, embrace myself, love myself, and to love God enough to let him see all of those things, and then work in me through all of those things. And yeah, I think that in essence, to me is the gospel because when we do that, that's when all of these other things, you know, loving God and loving others and service and repentance, all of those things kind of fall in place when we're willing to be that vulnerable and authentic with our God.
Morgan Jones 55:47
Jon Adams 55:51
One thing that impresses me about other Christian faiths are their verbalized things of, I don't know, "hallelujah" per se or... But on a daily basis, I have some friends and they wear it on their sleeve that you know, Christ, this is the Lord. And I think, to be all in is to truly have faith in Jesus Christ and to try and do that which you feel like He would have you do at. Tou know at Christmas time there are so many things, there are so many parties, there's so much and if we, on a daily basis can connect to the reality that Christ is the Lord and that it's not just good news, it's the best news ever.
Morgan Jones 56:45
All right, so Calee is going to sing for us and then Calee if you'll come back over when we when you're done, and we'll record a little extro and then Calee will do a signing for us.
Calee Reed 56:57
This is a song that I actually wrote. This is based on some of my favorite scriptures and third Nephi, the scripture where—I don't even know who it is, oh, I am not righteous enough. There's a man in the scriptures who's having a prayer answered, and he's a Prophet. It's 3 Nephi, so maybe it's man name Nephi. But the people are facing certain destruction unless the sign of the Savior's birth is given. And in answer to this, like really intense prayer, the scripture comes, the voice comes and it's Jesus Christ answering this prayer and he says, lift up your head and be of good cheer for on this night shall the sign be given and on the morrow come I into the world." And that is like my favorite Christmas story. It is so full of hope. And so this song, I know it's like a little like jazzy Christmas tune, but that's what this song is based on is this scripture. And truly, even though some of our Christmases are harder than others, there is good, good news, there is hope in the Savior's birth. So this is "Heaven's here."
Also, there's an adorable music video that has all of my children, if you care to watch it, it's on YouTube.
Morgan Jones 1:01:38
We are so grateful to Calee Reed and her husband, Jon Adams for joining us on today's episode. You can find Calee's Christmas CD, "Rejoice," in Deseret Book stores now. And a very special thanks to our live audience. If you live in Utah, you can catch Calee again at the Desert Book Christmas events, happening throughout the month. Visit deseretbookchristmas.com for more information. Merry Christmas, everyone.