Count it all joy

Theres a big bulletin board hanging in my kitchen that holds so many memories… both recent and from what seems like a lifetime ago. I’m feeling so thankful for each of these people today- family and friends who feel like family- and for frozen moments in time that we get to remember with them forever ❤️✨

But, I wouldn’t be telling the full truth if I didn’t say that I’m feeling a little sad too. You see, this bulletin board hangs right beside our back door and the sunlight from the window has, slowly, over time, faded the ultrasound pictures I had hanging on it from when Landon and Harper were growing in my belly. I don’t mind that they’ve faded, I have more in baby books and between the crinkled pages of my Bible. But, as I was taking them down and rearranging and making room for new memories to go up on the board, I couldn’t help but wonder if I’ll ever have another ultrasound picture of a sweet little profile. I couldn’t help but remember the sound of Landon and Harper’s heartbeats and think about the hours I spent studying every curve on those little black and white images and praying over the people they’d one day become.

Grief. It hits you when you least expect it. When you stop to do a simple task between unloading the dishwasher and folding loads of laundry. When you haven’t even had time yet today to stop and think about the hurt in your heart. It creeps up quietly and suddenly, you’re thinking more about what you’ve lost than what you’ve been given. I stopped, stood back, and looked at this beautiful reminder of friendship and loyalty and growth and change and the Lord’s faithfulness and provision, and I chose joy. Of course, part of me is still sad. Part of me still has questions that will probably never be answered. But in the midst of it all, I choose joy. And whatever you’re going through today, you can too. Because just look at all we have to be thankful for. Let’s not miss it, friends ❤️😭🙌🏻 He’s a good, good Father.

Count it all joy and let Him carry you through.

From Shadows of Sadness to Warmth of Hope

It all feels so complicated. There are so many layers to grief. Today is the first day of October and for a few weeks in early spring, I thought we’d be welcoming baby #3 this month. Grayson was so sweet and so excited. He wondered if the baby might share his birthday. We talked about names. And then, I lost the baby. I suppressed the sadness and disappointment and just moved right along, justifying it by deciding that if I hadn’t taken a test so early, I might have not even realized that I was miscarrying and that it was so early, I didn’t even need to go to the doctor to be checked out. Fast forward several months and we were filled again with hope and excitement and awe and wonder over who the little person growing in my womb might be- only to lose yet another baby, twice as far along, and be left with far more questions than answers. I decided keeping it all to myself wasn’t the healthiest route, so I shared my story and was blown away by the outpouring of love and encouragement we received and by the number of women I know and love who have suffered in silence for years over babies they too have had the opportunity to carry in their hearts, but never in their arms.

This kind of grief is confusing and complicated. We can be so filled with joy, yet be angry and frustrated at the same time. We can ask God, “WHY?!” while in the very next breath, thank Him for what He’s given us and for His perfect plan that we know is for our good and His glory. This kind of grief is complicated because one minute we can be laughing and pushing our babies in a swing at the park, and the next minute completely overcome with the kind of ache only a mother who has lost a child understands when we see another mom nursing her newborn on a bench while watching her older kids play. We wonder if we’ll ever have that privilege again and feel heartache. And we thank Jesus that we’ve had that privilege before and feel honored. It’s complicated. It comes in waves and sometimes, it can be hard to see the sunshine through the trees. It can be easy to miss the joy because of the hurt. It can be easy to become more focused on the gift than the Giver. And that’s when we have to step out of the shadows of sadness, into the warmth of hope. We have to preach the Gospel to ourselves and remind ourselves that our Father loves us and can use heartache for good if we let Him. We have to talk about the complexity and overwhelming nature of the grief we’re sifting through and do the messy work of tilling our own hearts because it’s our own hearts that Jesus has entrusted to raise little disciples. Motherhood is kingdom work, and like grief itself- it’s complicated and messy and hard. But trusting Jesus to hold our hand and walk with us through it makes every step of the journey worth it. Step into hope with me today, friends. Whatever season you’re walking through, choose hope and cling to the Father.

Healing

I still get a little teary-eyed on our walks to the grocery store. We walk to the store now because we want to, but there was a time not long ago that we did it because we had to. We were a one car family for two years, and it was a hard season. But during that time, I learned so much. I learned that it’s okay to ask for help. I learned that sometimes doing things the unconventional way makes for some unforgettable memories. I learned that when they’re that little, your kids don’t know that you have less than other people. Especially if you can find a way to make the struggles feel like an adventure. I learned the meaning of “this too shall pass.” And most importantly, I learned that Jesus was (quite literally) walking with me every step of the way.

Today, it started raining just as we got home from our walk to the store and I couldn’t stop the tears of thankfulness from flowing- partly because I was glad it held out til we got back- but mostly because I couldn’t stop thinking how Jesus washes away the hurt of hard seasons over time if we let Him. Just as we can’t miss the beauty in the midst of pain, we have to trust that healing is possible.

We’re in the midst of a very different hard season right now, but our walk this morning reminded me not to wish it away, but to instead ask, “Jesus, what are You teaching me through this? Don’t let me miss it.”

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge Him,
and He will make straight your paths.”
Proverbs 3:5-6

Beach Recommendations (food, treats, shopping) // OKI + Southport Area

I haven’t been blogging much lately because to be quite honest, I’m out of media space and it costs an arm and a leg to upgrade my WordPress account (that I already pay a small fee per year for my domain name). Somehow, blog posts just seem a little less magical with only words and no pictures, but maybe that’s just because I love a good photograph and also, I’m a very visual learner.

Anyway, I decided to share a little bit about our favorite places around the Southport and Oak Island area so that if you’re ever vacationing there, you can enjoy the same places that we love!

I have been going to Fort Caswell with our ladies’ group at church for years, so I have been familiar with Southport for a while, but this past week was my first time ever staying at Oak Island and honestly, I think it is my favorite beach I’ve ever stayed at. I have stayed at Holden Beach, Myrtle and North Myrtle Beach, Garden City, Morehead City, Cape Carteret, and Folly and Isle of Palms (Charleston) and out of all of those, Oak Island is my favorite.

Restaurants:

The Frying Pan

Location – Right on the water in Southport (319 W Bay Street, Southport, NC 28461)

Atmosphere – The entire wall facing the water inside is glass so you have a beautiful view of the ocean facing Bald Head Island and Fort Caswell and you can also eat outside and it’s shaded which is nice during the hottest months. This is a great place to go for a date night or to get dressed up and go with your girlfriends… not as casual as other places but not too fancy, either.

What I love – The blackened shrimp wrap, the shrimp po boy with thai dressing, the shrimp and grits (you can get grilled or fried shrimp!), their homemade chips, and best of all… their sweet potato biscuits (an appetizer… they are melt-in-your-mouth delicious and I never go without getting them!)

Provision Company

Location – Right on the water in Southport (130 Yacht Basin Drive, Southport, NC 28461)

Atmosphere – So casual, it’s not even funny! The entire establishment is pretty much just outside with a cover, and lots of people pull right up to the dock, hop out of their boats, and grab a quick bite to eat. Don’t let the line turn you away; it moves more quickly than you’d expect. There are plastic chairs and tables and drinks are self-serve. You have a beautiful view of the water!

What I love – I can never decide between the crab cake sandwich or the blackened yellow fin grilled tuna sandwich, so I usually make whoever is with me get one and I get the other and then we split! You also can’t go wrong with “thee special” or the blackened yellowfin tuna on a salad! I also tried a bite of my sister-in-law’s grouper salad sandwich (think chicken salad, but made with grouper instead) and it was amazing!

Note: I have been to the Provision Company at Holden Beach… and it’s not nearly as good! I realize this is a bit of an unpopular opinion (ha!) and I’m not sure why I feel this way, but ya’ll know I just tell it like I see it and Southport’s Pro Co is better… hands down!

Kai Joes

Location – 4722 E Oak Island Drive, Oak Island, NC 28465

Atmosphere – Super casual, outdoor seating at picnic tables

What I love – The avocado bites (fried avocado slices with spicy ranch dipping sauce… so heavenly), buffalo cauliflower bites (also comes with spicy ranch), the “Uncle Swilly’s Quesadilla” (a huge quesadilla big enough to split with spicy chicken, tater tots, grilled onions and peppers, spicy ranch, thai curry BBQ, and cheese).

Desserts:

Sunset Slush

We fell in love with Sunset Slush when we stayed at Holden Beach and we were so excited when we found out there is also one at Oak Island! If you buy a koozie, you can take it with you and get it refilled for $5 (and we usually split that). Also, they have a cart that comes down the beach (and it tastes even better when you’re hot and need a break from boogie boarding haha) so we keep a koozie in our beach bag as well.

Location – 6006 E Oak Island Drive, Oak Island, NC 28465

Burney’s Bakery

I fell in love with Burney’s years ago and I still think the croissants are even better than a fresh Krispy Kreme doughnut. They have a huge selection of croissants that are made fresh every morning (and ya better get there early because they sell out sometimes). My all-time favorite is the chocolate but we also love the german chocolate, orange creme, raspberry filled, cream cheese, Bavarian creme, apple, and cinnamon sugar flavors.

They also have all kinds of baked goods and pastries that I look at every time and have still yet to try. We always make at least one trip to Burney’s if we’re close by and usually leave with a dozen to bring home.

Location – 808 N Howe Street, Southport, NC 28461

Note: A Burney’s Bakery did open a year or two ago in Charlotte but I won’t go because first of all, I’ve heard it isn’t as good, and second of all… some things just need to be special while you’re on vacation, ya know?

OKI Scoop Shop and Donuts

This little gem has the best ice cream and the best donuts. Everything is good.

Location – 4922 E Oak Island Drive, Oak Island, North Carolina

Shopping:

I’m not a big fan of shopping at the beach (you’ll probably never catch me dead spending a day at the outlets or anything like that when I could be on the beach) but there are a few little locally owned shops we love to visit when we’re in the area!

Ocean Outfitters

This might be my husband’s favorite store in the entire world. They have everything he loves (brands like Chubbies, Patagonia, Old Row, Columbia, Hey Dude, Yeti, etc.) and I love it too.

Location: Downtown Southport (21 East Moore Street, Southport, NC 28461)

Strands

This is where we bought our Shibumi Shade and the kids Yeti cups. They have a great selection of clothes, beach gear, and sun protection (we also buy Sun Bum products here).

Location: 5319 E Oak Island Drive, Oak Island, NC 28465


Grayson, my father-in-law, my brother-in-law, and Landon took a backwater fishing charter one morning and caught several flounder and a sheepshead (which Grayson cooked us for dinner and it was delicious!) and Landon caught the first fish of the day – a six pound flounder – and it was a highlight of the trip! Unfortunately, they weren’t able to keep the flounder (thanks a lot, Roy Cooper) but it was still a sweet memory (and you can see a picture of my proud four-year-old-fisherman on instagram (@coffeedatewithkate). They took Angry Pelican Charters and had a great experience!

On our last night, Grayson and I took the kids out to the point at the end of the island and it was so peaceful and beautiful at sunset. It was one of my favorite moments of the trip!

I also spent more time with my nose stuck in a book than I’ve been able to in years, which was so nice! I read a book called Sea Born Women (by B J. Mountford) that I found on a bookshelf in the beach house we stayed at and it may be one of my favorite novels I’ve ever read! I never wanted it to end!


I’m sure there are a lot of other great places in the area that I don’t know about yet and I look forward to going back and visiting the spots I already love again and trying new ones as well! If you have a favorite spot nearby that I didn’t mention, leave a comment below!

Brown Shugga Oat Cookies

Okay, first of all… I wish I could take credit for this delicious recipe, but it’s not mine. I didn’t even tweak it a little, like I usually do, because nothing Ree Drummond does needs tweaking. She’s pretty much my foodie crush, and I’m almost positive that I’ve seen every single episode of Pioneer Woman, like ever.

These cookies are thin and chewy and buttery and just delicious. The edges have a satisfying lacy texture and you literally can not eat just one!

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup softened butter
  • 2 cups brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 2 eggs
  • 1-1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3 cups old fashioned oats

Instructions:

  • Preheat the oven to 350 and line your baking sheet with parchment paper.
  • In the bowl of an electric mixer (or using a hand mixer) beat together the butter and brown sugar until fluffy. Add vanilla, then add eggs, one at a time. Be sure to scrape the bowl as you go!
  • Whisk together the flour, salt, and baking soda in a medium sized bowl. Add it into the creamed mixture slowly until just combined.
  • Stir in the oats until just combined.
  • Use a cookie scoop (or a regular spoon) to drop dough onto baking sheet, spacing them a couple inches apart. They do spread out when they bake, so keep this in mind when you space them out.
  • Bake for 11 minutes.
  • Yum! Serve with ice cold milk or coffee!

To see Ree Drummond’s post about these cookies, click here

Some thoughts on Quaran(time)

Fun things to do with toddlers during this extra time at home:

  • Get outside! Ride bikes, play ball, go on a walk, blow bubbles, have a porch picnic…
  • Bake or cook together
  • Use rolling pins and cookie cutters with play dough
  • Make homemade play dough!
  • Use bath paints and crayons for an extra long bath time
  • Popsicle bath!
  • Sidewalk chalk! Hopscotch, lay down and trace each other… if you grew up in the 90’s you know!
  • Go through their toy box together and help them decide on some items to donate and use the opportunity to talk with them about giving to others who aren’t as fortunate
  • Make a tent in the living room! Watch movies in it, have a picnic in it, and let them play house and bring their favorite toys in!
  • Teach them about mail by letting them color pictures for friends, grandparents, or their pastor. Let them put the stamp on the envelope you’ve addressed and attach to (or drop in) the mailbox!
  • Fingerpaint!
  • Make homemade popsicles!
  • Sensory play with shaving cream, dry rice or beans, or water
  • Let them play “car wash” outside by setting them up with a plastic container filled with warm, soapy water, an old toothbrush, and all of their toy vehicles

… and as for us Mamas:

  • Feeling motivated? Choose one small project to tackle each day (clean out the bathroom cabinet, go through your tupperware and throw away anything missing a lid, go through your pantry and throw away anything that is out of date, clean out your closet and make a pile to donate, etc.)
  • Write a letter to each of your kids about this historical event so they can read it when they’re older. None of us have ever experienced a pandemic like this, and although our toddlers probably won’t remember it, your letters explaining what things are like in our world and how you spent your time together while we all wait it out may be something they cherish as an adult.
  • Use their nap time intentionally. If you need some extra sleep, take a nap. If you want to binge watch a show, do it. If you need to catch up on baby books, use your favorite pen and get to writing. If you like yoga, take the time. Read a book! Start listening to a new podcast. Whatever! Just don’t look back and realize you laid on the couch scrolling through your phone for two hours every day (…because I’ve had days like that and I usually regret it).
  • Get creative with meals for your family! Look through your pantry and freezer and make a list of meals that you have all the ingredients to make, then plan out what days you’ll make what so that you have one less thing to worry about/decision to make each day.
  • Back up/organize your photos! I use Google photos to back up photos directly from my phone, then organize them in “My Photos” by date in two month increments. Taking the time to do this every few months keeps the amount of photos to organize from getting overwhelming.
  • Reach out to your friends! We’re all in this together and we all know this can be a lonely time so let’s encourage one another and build each other up (1 Thessalonians 5:11).

Things are honestly not too terribly different for us around here (although, we do miss church, our friends, going to the YMCA, and the park). I love being at home with my babies and I think this has been a really good reminder of what really matters, to use our time wisely, and that we have so much to be thankful for.

Some last thoughts-

I have been so encouraged by how everyone is working together for the common good during this crisis. It seems like medical professionals are working with the leaders of our country more closely than ever before, people are getting creative about solutions – all the way from packing and passing out free meals for students who rely on school lunches to utilizing cruise ships for medical treatment.

Our kids probably won’t pick up on political, economical, or social effects of this crisis – but they will pick up on how home felt while the world goes crazy. They’ll remember your calming voice and how safe they felt snuggled up with you on the couch watching their favorite movie. They’ll remember the way you handled cancelled plans, their many messes, and whether or not you were really listening when they talked or whether your eyes were glued to your phone. Little eyes are watching, little hearts are being molded, and this time is precious.

Another thing I’ve been thinking about all week was – how amazing was it to see Facebook completely blown up by online sermons last Sunday?! This could be the start of a revival our nation (and world) so desperately needs! It’s so easy, as busy as we are, to just kind of mind our own business and not take the time to really love others and spread the Word like we’re called to, but what if this crisis leads to people hearing the Gospel that may not have otherwise? The Lord works in mysterious ways! Let’s keep it up and share good news in a world that needs Jesus more than ever before.

And one last thing – don’t forget to guard your heart. What you feed your mind and heart  really does matter. Remember that fear is one of the enemy’s strongest weapons and we don’t have to allow ourselves to be crippled by fear because we already know Who wins. Our God is still in control, He still has a plan, and He loves us and will never forsake us. In John 16:33, Jesus says, “In this world you will have trouble, but take heart! I have overcome the world!”

Some lyrics from my favorite worship song right now, “Here in the Presence” by Elevation Worship:

Here I lay my burdens down
Lose my worries in Your love
Casting every care on You
I have carried them enough
We’re not alone
Here within His love
Emmanuel
He is still with us
When the world becomes too much
Near the cross I will remain
Until every fear is stilled
At the mention of Your name

 

 

Sweet Knox Gingerbread Outfits

These Christmas outfits from Sweet Knox really just take the cake (or gingerbread man, in this case #punintended). I love gingerbread because my Mama always has too and when I first laid eyes on these, I knew I’d be looking back years from now remembering my little loves in them.

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The ric rac trim detail, hand embroidered gingerbread men, and beautiful red and dark green gingham make these pieces truly something special. There are two options for girls and two for boys:

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I was looking back through the pictures in this post about some cute zoo smocks from Sweet Knox and couldn’t believe how much Landon and Harper have grown since then. It doesn’t seem like too long ago, but as all Mamas know, time is a thief and babies just don’t keep!

 

Thanks so much to Sweet Knox for providing the items featured in this post. As always, all opinions are my own. 

Flavorful Potato Soup

This is by far the easiest and most flavorful potato soup I have ever made and I’m so excited to share the recipe with ya’ll today. It’s thick and hearty and just perfect for chilly days! And best of all, this recipe makes enough to share!

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Ingredients:

  • 5 pounds of potatoes (I used golden potatoes but think red potatoes would also be a great option)
  • 1 large yellow onion
  • 6-7 cloves of minced garlic
  • 8 cups of chicken broth (or two large boxes)
  • 16oz cream cheese (softened)
  • 1 tablespoon of seasoned salt
  • For garnishing: crumbled bacon, shredded cheese, chives

Instructions:

  • If using golden or red potatoes, there’s no need to peel them for this recipe. A little skin on the potatoes just adds flavor. So just start by washing the potatoes and dicing them into cubes.
  • Add potatoes, diced onion, minced garlic, seasoning salt, and chicken broth to crock pot.
  • Cook on low for 9-10 hours or high for 6 hours.
  • Add softened cream cheese to crock pot and use immersion blender to incorporate (or, if you don’t have an immersion blender, you could remove half the soup and cream cheese to an upright blender and then re-incorporate). This step ensures that the cream cheese is well incorporated and adds a creaminess to the soup while still leaving some “chunks” of potato.
  • Top with your choice of garnishes and enjoy!

 

This recipe was adapted from Mama Loves Food blog.

Eyelet and Ivy // Coordinating Mint Outfits

These coordinating pieces from Eyelet & Ivy are as comfortable as they are cute and I love that they can be paired with a long sleeve shirt or turtleneck when it’s chilly or worn with a short sleeve top when it’s warmer outside. I love dressing Landon and Harper in outfits that coordinate, even if they aren’t necessarily “matching.”

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Harper’s floral romper has an adorable ruffle detail on the sleeves and snaps in the stride for easy changing.

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Landon’s striped jon jon also has snaps in the stride for easy changing and is made of the same soft, pre-shrunk cotton knit.

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Other pieces we love from Eyelet & Ivy:

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Thanks so much to Eyelet & Ivy for the outfits featured in this post. As always, all opinions are my own.

No Tails Boutique

Ya’ll know me. If there’s a chance to wear matching anything – you can count on me. So, when No Tails Boutique made these adorable embroidered fall shirts, I could hardly wait to get to a pumpkin patch with my favorite little punkins! These are just so cute and I love the little girly details added to Harper’s to set hers apart from Landon’s (ruffles on the shirt and bows on the pumpkins, etc.).

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This was such a fun day and I’m so glad No Tails Boutique could be a part of making it extra special. Be sure to like them on Facebook and follow along on Instagram to see all kinds of precious, custom pieces – and if you have an idea for a shirt – shoot them a message and they’ll be able to make all your special-shirt-dreams come true!

Thanks so much to No Tails Boutique for providing the outfits featured in this post. As always, all opinions are my own.