Image Map

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

When {GRIEF} takes over

I'm not sure about everybody else, but I've been ready for 2016 to see its way out the door and for 2017 to make her grand debut. 2016 has been a year for the books and I'm ready to leave it in the past. Hunter and I were talking about it the other night and I commented that I've been to more funerals and experienced more deaths (not including the celebrity deaths) this year than I've ever experienced in my life.
Between family members passing away due to old age and sickness, to friends that were so suddenly and tragically taken from us, it's been quite a year. This was the year we watched my MIL go through chemo treatments and praise God she's in remission, but it still wasn't easy. 2016 brought miscarriages for friends, heartache for family, struggle in all the many ways.
And we grieved.
People grieve in all sorts of ways - I, for one, grieve in such a way that I have to stay busy. I may come off as cold or not caring, but that's my way of dealing with grief. But I feel like that no matter how we each grieve in our own ways, we should allow it to be just that - grieving. I once had a close friend who lost her son to cancer tell me, "You never GET OVER the death of your child, loved one, or whoever it may be. You just learn to cope with the new normal."
A new normal.
Friends, if you are grieving over losing a loved one please take heart in His love for you. Allow yourself to grieve and to feel all the emotions that God so divinely gave to you. And know that He grieves with you. Did you know that Jesus grieved and wept when John the Baptist was killed for his beliefs? Even Jesus grieved.
As we journey into this new year, I want us to take a moment and thank God for bringing us to this point. Even if you have been through hell and back, you're here now and God has you here for a purpose. His wisdom is so much more vast and infinite than ours will ever be thus we cannot fully comprehend why things happen. Why bad stuff happens to good people. My answer to that and the only way that I can rest my hope in that question is the fact that my GOD loves the hell out of me and He can and will use me and my life in whatever way to bring glory to Him.
2017, bring it on sister.

Image Map

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Expectations {EXCEEDED}

Happy "Monday" to you fine folks! Today is my Monday and this week will be a fairly short work week for me (hello 4-day weekend round 2) and I can't say that I hate it. Did everyone have a wonderful Christmas?? I've loved seeing all the pictures of family and friends coming together to celebrate life, love, and Christ's birth.
We enjoyed a beautiful Christmas eve service at our church with Hunter's family and then some yummy Carabba's afterwards. Hunter and I decided to revert back to our childhood ways and when we got home, we all hunkered down in the living room (2 adults + 2 large dogs) and watched movies.
Christmas morning came bright and early for us as we took a few moments to enjoy our Christmas together and opened gifts. We then headed over to Hunter's parents house to continue the Christmas fun and deliver all the yummy goodies that were packed up. It's always such a treat being able to bring a smile to someone else's face. Just about every place we delivered baked goodies to were totally caught off guard and pleasantly surprised.
Even Ezra had fun packing those baked goodies
After that we headed over to my parents' house to continue the Christmas fun there. It was the first time in awhile where all the siblings were together under one roof and it was glorious! Even though we're all adults now, your siblings will always be just that - your kid siblings.

Don't mind my "no makeup" look {Impromptu photo sesh)
I can honestly sum up this past weekend in one word - RESTORATIVE. It was exactly what our souls needed to start back fresh this week, ready to tackle all the tasks ahead of us, and to bring in 2017 with such flair. I hope each of you had a wonderful Christmas, however and wherever you may have celebrated it. Thank the good Lord He sent His son to live, breathe, teach, walk, and eventually die for us. Let's embrace this coming year with all the goodness it holds!

Image Map

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Christmas Day

I always love hearing about other folks' Christmas traditions, how their days go about, what they have planned to do with their families and friends. That's something that marriage really taught me - not everybody's Christmas looks the same but it's still so wonderful and beautiful. Hunter and I have started a couple of our own traditions but we also meld together each of our own individual traditions that we had when growing up.
Our Christmas day looks a little something like this...
... We start by waking up pretty early and opening gifts with each other. We might have Christmas music playing in the background (I get this from my dad, we ALWAYS had music playing in the background). Of course, coffee is consumed because #NotAMorningPerson.
... Next we head out to meet up with Hunter's family and friends to deliver Christmas cookies to folks who have to work on Christmas day. This is something we started about 3 years ago and it has stuck. We always get the best responses when we deliver the goodies - people are always so shocked and appreciative. Totally makes the entire day worth it. Be Jesus every day, all day.
This was from a couple of years ago (I think)

Last year's cookie packing party!
... From there, we head to my in-laws house to eat a yummy breakfast and do Christmas gift exchanges with them. My MIL can make some dadgum good food ya'll. I'm talking biscuits and gravy, sausage, casseroles. Lord help me, my mouth is already watering. Some people always seem irked to have to spend holidays with their in-laws but I'm quite the exception I guess. I love it!
... This year will include a new tradition that was inspired by a friend of mine (hi Denise!). She was telling me about how she and her late SIL's friends will all get together and make a beautiful cake from Southern Living's magazine to honor her and her life. I was so moved by the idea that I decided to snag a copy of the December magazine and I will attempt to make a pretty cake too. I'll keep ya'll posted on how that goes.
... For Christmas dinner, we all (my in-laws included) head over to my parents' house to chow down. Ya'll, we have folks tell us all the time how lucky we are that our parents get along and like to hang out with each other. AND WE KNOW. We seriously LOVE that our parents are friends, text each other, call each other, hang out with each other (sometimes without us ha!). It seriously is such a blessing for us because we're both so family oriented. I could not even imagine a marriage where our families didn't get along (I know this is sadly the reality for some people).
... And finally, one more tradition being added to the mix this year - GAMES. I'm talking the hilariously quirky Christmas-themed games. And yours truly will be leading the charge and planning that! I will gladly be sharing those pictures.
What are some of your family's traditions on Christmas day? I'm hoping I can add "wear footie pajamas on Christmas eve" to the list of traditions but let's be real:  I will never get my country boy in footie pajamas. It would be a sight to see and probably hilarious. HA!

Image Map

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

When the {UNEXPECTED} comes knocking

Monday morning was just like any other typical Monday morning for me - running slightly late to make it into work on time, fumble around for my badge to enter into the gate, try to manage carrying multiple items in without dropping them. And then my phone went off with a text from my mom with news that truly rocked me to my very core.
A family friend of ours had been killed in a tragic, unexpected accident.
It's the kind of news that kicks you in your low gut, causing you to drop everything and gasp in shock. It's the kind of news that you mull over throughout the day and your inner mind wars with itself on the insane thought that he's actually still alive (this is all one bad joke, right?!). It's the kind of news that makes you desperate to hold your loved one as close to you as possible.
Brad was a father, husband, brother, friend, son, firefighter, and so much more. He was the neighbor to my parents; his son grew up with my sister; I babysat their boys in between the parents' shifts; they are real people. Real people who's lives were turned completely upside down and inside out Sunday evening. I've tried to wrap my head around it all and quite frankly, I'm too numb to process it.

Please take some time today to say the words I love you to your loved ones and hold them tight. Tell them how much they mean to you, how much you appreciate them. We're never guaranteed tomorrow and can only live for today. Embrace today as if it were your last to live and soak in each moment as it comes.

There is a Go Fund me page to help the family. If you are able to give financially or prayerfully, it would be much appreciated. Pray for God to surround this family right now with peace and love, as well as the community, as we are all reeling from this devastating loss.

Image Map

Monday, December 12, 2016

He {IS} mine

"Today, I choose JOY."
This past Saturday evening, Hunter and I spent time with our fellow youth Sunday school teachers and enjoyed a delicious, southern-comfort meal, complete with a hayride. It was just what the doctor called for. On our way home, I cranked up the different worship songs and sang my little heart out.
I got to thinking though: How cool is it that I can call the God of the universe MINE? And He claims me as His own. It says in John 10:29 that I am in God's hands and can never be snatched from Him. So think about it like this - Jesus has me in the palm of His hand through His death on the cross and my belief in Him. Then Jesus is in the palm of God's hand because that is His only begotten son. So I'm in the palm of Jesus' hand, who is in the palm of God's hand. I'm never getting out of that!
I think many times, Christians tend to either forget or dilute the beauty of being one of God's children. It becomes so second nature to our very thought process that we are no longer stirred into utter amazement when we stop to think about it. My challenge for you today, brothers and sisters, is to stop and meditate on the fact that you are HIS. You will always be His and that can never be taken from you.
Remember why we celebrate Christmas time and the joy that it should bring into our lives. Even if everything is going wrong during this time of rejoicing, remember that you are loved so deeply and vastly that your brain cannot even begin to wrap itself around that notion. Even when the day may seem dark and dreary, or the finances aren't there to be able to have "the best Christmas", or you're STILL waiting on your Christmas miracle in the form of a child, God is there. Has been there. Will always be there. Find your true JOY in Him this season.

Image Map

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Be {NEAR} me

I'm not going to lie - I started listening to Christmas music before Thanksgiving came around. I know, I know. I'm always the person that stresses the importance of not letting one holiday overtake the other... And I let it happen! No shame in my game though.

Have ya'll heard the new Lauren Daigle Christmas CD? Goodness, it makes me feel all kinds of feels. I especially love her "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" because of the New Orleans feel it has to it. I grew up listening to jazz music (thanks dad) so anytime I can get a taste of it, I'm always taken back to my childhood days when I didn't appreciate the music then.

I think we can take for granted the lyrics and meanings behind songs, especially Christmas songs. They're full of hope, rejoicing, and the fact that we can celebrate these things, is a miracle. For example, the following lyrics are from "Away in a Manger" (Third Day version):

Be near me Lord Jesus, I ask Thee to stay
Close by me forever and love me, I pray...

Don't you ask those words daily?? I don't know about ya'll, but I'm always thinking, "God don't fail me now!" My point is this - be sure to embrace the holiday season and all that it stands for. For me, Christmas is a time of rebirth, the closing of a chapter and the start of a new chapter. It's a time of reverence in my otherwise chaotic life, and a time to slow down.
How are you spending your time during this Christmas season?

Image Map

Monday, December 5, 2016

It's the most wonderful time...

Goodness, where have these last couple of weeks gone to?? Somehow, I think God thought I could handle some more speed in my life and alas, He giveth my friends. But it's been all wonderful - minus the sickly cooties of course. But let's catch up!
READING// Does the bible count? We've been working through Jeremiah for a bible study we're starting tomorrow. Jeremiah requires a bit of research on our parts because it's filled with so much. Even though it's part of the Old Testament, there is always truth and application.
EATING// I'm kind of in a cooking slump (again, I'm blaming sickly cooties). So I'm starting to peruse Pinterest again to get some ideas. Anything crock pot friendly is a must because I have about a 45 minute commute from work to home, so the minimal amount of prepping is key. We both love to cook so it's weird being in a slump...
DRINKING// All the Starbucks holiday drinks. It's like they know me. And trying to be better about drinking more water. My body is shriveled up from lack of water.
DREAMING// Of a white Christmas. Who am I kidding, we're in Florida. But I am dreaming of all the wonderful things that Christmas brings - renewed hope, sights, sounds, smells, warmth in the hearts. I feel like life slows down a little when Christmas comes around and that's something I'm craving right now.
PLANNING// For the future, naturally, because 2017 is right around the corner. 2016 has been quite a year and we've really been so grateful for every moment. We're excited to see what God has in store for us.

A few weeks ago, our sweet friend snap some photos of us to send out with our Christmas cards. Hunter and I are naturally a goofy couple, always laughing and cutting up, so it was only natural that these pictures reflect our marriage and who we are.

Life's too short to be serious. If you're from the area, Sara Beth is a mastermind and so wonderful. Have ya'll done your Christmas shopping? I know folks that have been done and are totally relaxed about it all. I've done most of mine... I'm just totally losing track of all time this year!
Let's enjoy this Monday friends. We've been finally getting some rain down here and my plants are thoroughly soaking it all up. I think cooler temps are coming our way too - thank the good LORD! My deodorant is tired of working in overdrive, ha! Happy Monday, friends!

Image Map