In the garden, in the dew of the morning, when my sister and I grew tired of working, we’d lay in the cool, black dirt, our pillows the bellies of stray dogs our Mema had taken in. We’d whisper sweetly to them as they lay there with us, “I love you—you don’t hurt, like people do.” Butterflies filled the garden. “Mema, look!” I’d shout. “They are coming to me!” “Baby, it’s the spirit you carry within you…” She’d respond, “They sense it.” I would get caught up in the moment, jump up to fly, imitating the butterflies, wanting them to land on my hand. I can feel that moment now, when time slows down, a moment you will remember forever—watching butterflies’ wings flutter in slow motion, vibrant, delicate, with intricate patterned colors, and longing to be like them; to fly with freedom and grace. I watched as they descended down, as if to connect, and in some way say, “Hello.” Natalie Parrish’s strong connection to her grandma and the wisdom she shared would stay hidden within her a lifetime—through abuse, struggle, hardship, and even a suicide attempt that nearly stole her life. In this book, Natalie recounts her transformation, coming full circle to embrace her true self, and revealing to us all the Girl Behind the Smile.

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Natalie Parrish hails from rural North Carolina, where she met and married her best friend, Will. Holding an MBA and certifications in International Missions, Health Coaching, and Entrepreneurial Leadership, Natalie is passionate about mentoring, volunteering, and encouraging others with her gifts. Her life’s purpose is to provide hope to those in need and to help people find their way to living their best lives now. When Natalie isn’t listening to music or using her unusual talent of bonding with butterflies, she is out engaging with people and loving on others, including sponsoring children in India, Africa, and all over the world.

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