A Sunday Well Spent

On Sunday, Grayson surprised me with a picnic at the park and it was by far the best picnic we’ve ever had. He planned it with the help of my Momma, who always goes way above and beyond to make everything extra special – which is one of the qualities I treasure most about her. The weather was absolutely perfect and it was the sweetest way to spend a warm Sunday afternoon.

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There was fried chicken, potato wedges, baked beans, fresh fruit, chocolate dipped strawberries, caprese salad poppers, and southwestern salad complete with hard boiled eggs, tomatoes, avacado, corn, black beans, cheese, snap peas, peppers, and cucumbers. There was cheerwine in glass bottles and sweet tea in mason jars, real plates to eat off of, and my favorite quilt my great aunt, Iny, made for me when I was in college.

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Is this not the most incredible picnic you’ve ever seen? It was amazing. Momma made every detail special – even writing Daddy and Mommy to be on the lids of our mason jars. My heart!

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After enjoying our feast and soaking up the warmth of the sunshine, we packed up and strolled over to Caravan Coffee, one of my favorite little local coffee shops. We walked around downtown Belmont with smoothies and enjoyed each other’s company and it was just a Sunday well spent. My cup overflows!

Also, today I’m 27 weeks pregnant! It’s hard to believe that time is passing so quickly, but we are so ready to meet our little Landon!

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E.D.I.A. Maps

I met a sweet couple today who have their own map making business.  As much as I love maps and anything travel related, I couldn’t help but be intrigued. They travel all over the place, trying out new restaurants and taking pictures (like seriously… DREAM JOB) and then make these super cool, hipster maps with watercolor and illustrations done by a Charlotte-based artist.

It’s really inspiring to see a young couple, not much older than Grayson and I, creating a life that’s filled with all their favorite things. They found out what they like to do and just use their talents to accomplish a lifestyle that makes living their dream possible. He has a photography background and she has a creative writing background, and together? They’re pretty much a dream team.

Also, in case you were wondering, the name of their company, E.D.I.A. stands for Every Day Is an Adventure. How perfect is that? I love it.

I am so inspired by meeting people like this and hope their story inspires you too!

You can visit their website here and their instagram (which is a fun compilation of local and not-so-local restaurants, travel photos, and artsy maps) here.

…. and you can see my personal favorites here and here!

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Social Media, Peter, and Comparison

Are you familiar with the passage in Matthew 14 where Peter walks on the water? When he kept his focus on Jesus, he stayed above the water, but when he lost focus, he sank. Matthew 14:31 says, “Jesus immediately reached out His hand and took hold of him, saying to him, ‘oh you of little faith, why did you doubt?'”

This passage has come to my mind more times than I can count throughout my life when I’ve questioned God or let fear steal my focus. However, it’s not been until recently that I’ve been reminded of this passage in another light. The light of comparison.

Chances are, if you’re active on any form of social media (although I’d say instagram and facebook are the ones that affect me most, personally), you’ve experienced the dangerous trap of comparison. It’s an easy trap to fall into, especially if you’re in a season of life that is challenging.

Some days as I scroll through my news feeds, it seems like everyone (except for me) is living some kind of dream life. I scroll past pictures of perfect lattes in real mugs at cute little cafes where someone’s having brunch… while I sit behind my desk at work. I scroll past pictures of plane tickets, because someone’s husband just surprised them with a trip to somewhere exotic and beautiful (and no doubt, already had their bags packed for them) while Grayson and I are just sitting on the couch. I scroll past pictures of dreamy quiet times (and how pathetic of a thing to be envious of is that? but trust me, it’s possible) complete with hot tea, a cozy reading nook, a well-loved highlighted and note-scribbled Bible laid out before them, and a journal filled with thoughts (that took time I don’t have to write). I go past the beautiful, Pottery Barn inspired houses that I’ll probably never be able to afford, the girls in those size 2 dresses that I’ll probably never fit into, and those marriages that seem literally too good to be true. And what does all of that do?

It makes me feel like I’m not good enough. Like my life is not good enough. Like where God has me right now isn’t good enough. And you know what that is? It’s a lie. It’s poison. It’s a trap from the one who wants me to sink.

When I focus on all the things I don’t have, or the things I don’t get to do, or the places I don’t get to go… it does nothing but take my focus off of Jesus – the Giver of all good things, the Provider, the Faithful One – and I start to sink into that pit of comparison just like Peter.

Being reminded of this passage teaches me several different things:

1 | Don’t allow yourself to fall into the trap of comparison. Nothing steals your joy quicker.

2 | Remember that things aren’t always as they seem. Everyone has their struggles, so falling into the trap of thinking someone else has some kind of perfect life is just a lie sent by the evil one to distract you from your own blessings.

3 | Be conscious of the fact that other people may be feeling this exact same way because of you. This makes me want to be as authentic and real as possible, because I would never want to cause someone to fall into the trap of comparison. Also, just knowing you aren’t alone in this can be a huge comfort.

4 | It’s easy to look at pictures of things like I’ve mentioned above and think that just because someone else is experiencing success, you’re a failure. Nothing could be further from the truth! We all go through different seasons, different times of trials and triumph. Hold your head high and know that God has you in the season of life you’re in right now for a reason, and through Him and Him alone, you’ll be filled with joy (Psalm 16:11).

5 | Lastly, it’s just amazing to me how this Bible story from years and years ago is still applicable to us today. Just like Peter, we struggle with losing our focus. Just like Peter, we need to reach out and take hold of the only One who can save us. He’s a good, good Father.

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The illustration above is not my own artwork, but was found on pinterest.

Laundry Room Transformation

Yall. I am SO excited that this little room is finally “finished.” I say “finished” because if home ownership has taught me anything, it’s that nothing is really ever completely finished, especially with me because I’m always changing my mind or seeing new things I like or ideas I want to try (thanks a lot, Pinterest).

When we bought our house in August of 2014, this is what the laundry room looked like:

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Why it was ever painted this ugly green color, I’ll never know…  but I knew it had to go. Two gallons of Kilz primer and some pretty light pink paint later, I was finally satisfied with the color. I knew I wanted to go with a shabby chic theme in this little room, and it was so fun adding some pretty things we got as wedding gifts on the walls.

Shortly after we moved in, some very dear friends of ours met one of the biggest needs we’ve had since moving into this home… they gave us a washer and dryer that were both in like-new condition. Every single time I go into this room I’m reminded of their generosity and I’m overwhelmed with gratitude.

When I found this fabric at Hobby Lobby, I knew it was perfect for the curtains I had in mind. I have a precious friend who is unbelievably talented and she made them for me. She puts such love and passion into everything she creates, and it’s truly inspiring. Just being around her makes me want to make something too!

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I love that the curtains hide what’s on the shelves behind them. Although the room did originally have shelves, Grayson had to completely redo them and they’re much more usable now (wider, spaced out better, sturdier). With these curtains, I don’t have to worry about how my bottle of detergent and whatever kitchen appliances I decide to store there (like my crock pot and fry baby) looks… and that makes me real happy.

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I found this darling little detergent tin at Home Goods:

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and my Momma got me this cute little dustpan at World Market:

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I love this pretty little shutter with vintage knobs. The glass knob reminds me of my favorite doorknob in my great grandmother’s house, and I love using this as a way to store some of my favorite aprons:

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These are just a few of my favorite pieces of art that we got as wedding gifts. Anytime there’s an opportunity to put together a collage wall, you better believe I’m going to take it:

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I’m really thrilled with the way this sweet little room came together, and when I think about the love that went into it (from the wedding gifts, to the washer and dryer, to the giving of her time to make the curtains), it makes it that much more precious to me. This is what making a house a home is all about!

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23 Weeks

As promised, for all of you who’ve asked, here’s a quick update on how I’m doing at 23 weeks pregnant… plus a few highlights of this past week.

I know everyone says that “everything changes when you have a baby,” but it’s amazing how little things start to change when you’re expecting, too. Instead of picking up the latest Nicholas Sparks novel, I spend my time reading things like Baby Wise, What to Expect, and every birth story blog I can find. In addition to my TJ Maxx and AC Moore rewards cards, I’ve now added a Babies R Us card to my keychain too (what is life?!). My habit of constantly rearranging our furniture has been focused on ideas of where bassinets, pack and plays, and bouncy seats will go, instead of what looks most like an episode of Fixer Upper. My list of favorite blogs to read daily has multiplied, and now includes more motherhood blogs than fashion, food, and travel blogs. My Instagram and Pinterest reflect my excitement and obsession with all things baby related, too.

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It’s such a sweet time of change and I finally feel like I’m starting to enjoy this journey that for so long, seemed like a mountain I wasn’t sure that I could climb. We registered at Babies R Us last weekend, which made the fact that Landon will be here in just about 17 more weeks that much more real!

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My most recent craving is donuts… which is extra funny to me, because I have always favored savory or salty things over sweet things. I guess that means Landon has a sweet tooth! Now that I’m well into the second trimester, I’ve let up on my caffeine hiatus a little and although I’m still not drinking regular coffees or lattes, I am drinking more sweet tea and have allowed myself one decaf hazelnut latte a week… which literally tastes like Heaven in a cup.

I had another ultrasound last week, since he was not cooperative at the last one I had in January (they needed to see his face and he refused to roll over… stubborn little guy). I was thrilled to see his face and his sweet little profile. He was wiggling all over the place!

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I am feeling him move around and kick more and more every day and it’s the most incredible feeling. I can’t even explain it, except that it feels like there’s a little fish swimming around in there! I know I’ll miss this feeling after he’s born.

The only negative things I’ve been experiencing are continued break outs on my face, tiredness, and most recently…. swollen feet and ankles. I’ve been trying to elevate my feet and soak them in hot water with epsom salts when I get home from work to keep the swelling to a minimum.

The love of Jesus that people have shown me this week has been so incredible, there really aren’t even words. One night this week, when I really needed an extra boost of encouragement, one of my dearest friends surprised me with a goodie basket for Landon, full of the sweetest little special things. A stuffed pup who looks just like my Sam, complete with Landon’s monogram on his floppy ear, beautiful burp cloths, and a darling little sensory book from one of my favorite children’s boutiques!

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My aunt also surprised me with some darling little night gowns and a bonnet and Bible set, which I can’t stop looking at. I can’t wait to see our little boy all snuggled up in my arms in these. He’s already so loved!

Also, some good family friends surprised us with Landon’s very first Appalachian gear… and I can’t wait to see how adorable he looks in them. He’s pretty much destined to love the Mountaineers just like his Momma and Daddy do, so he might as well get used to things with that black and gold “A” on them!

Then, one of the most precious ladies at my church who just has a contagious joy-filled spirit, despite going through so much hardship, completely out-of-nowhere, made my day on Friday by surprising Grayson and I with supper. Baked spaghetti, garlic bread, salad, and dessert… all packed up and ready for us, delivered to me at work with a big, warm smile on her face. That’s Jesus, my friends. Loud and clear, on display for my tear filled eyes to see. When you ask Him to reveal His glory to you in ways that you can’t miss… He’ll do it every. single. time. And often times, it’s through people when you least expect it.

My sweet Momma surprised Grayson and I with this delicious Valentine’s breakfast, which was the best, most unexpected blessing! She’s seriously the most thoughtful woman on the planet and I’m so thankful for her.

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Coming to work after a holiday weekend is always hard, but I sure did have a wonderful Valentine’s with this handsome man of mine. Five years of Valentine’s celebrations and he’s still my favorite part of every day. It’s hard to believe that this time next year we’ll have an 8 month old!

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Joy upon joy upon joy. That’s what this season is. My cup overflows.

Sanctifying Love

As I sit here typing this, my swollen feet are soaking in a big galvanized bucket full of hot water and epsom salts. Bethel worship music pandora is flooding my candle lit home and my heart (and mind) are resting for the first time all day. My sweet husband and cuddly pups are by my side, I have on my favorite floral night gown, and we just finished a delicious home cooked meal.


 

The truth is, I could share this and no one would know about the ugly. No one would know about the tears shed or the anxiety or the hurt. Neither Grayson nor I had a good day. Work is draining, unexpected bills come (ready or not), and worry creeps into the back of our minds no matter how many times we try and push it away. All I wanted to do on my way home today was stop and grab take out for dinner (again). Grayson, who had a painful dental procedure done today, just wanted to rest. But Jesus calls us to love each other the way He loves us. He gives us the strength to make the choice to show each other that tangible love when it’s not convenient or easy.

So, instead of turning right to pick up Japanese food, I turned left and ran into the grocery store on my way home. I came in, put on my favorite apron, and cooked a meal that was one of my grandma’s old go-to’s. Nothing worthy of sharing a fancy recipe, just a good, old fashioned week night supper. Afterwards, Grayson started heating water to fill this big bucket, poured in the epsom salts, and here I sit… amazed at how the Lord gives us the strength to serve one another. He’s so faithful to keep His promise of loving us with an everlasting love, and sometimes, the way He shows us that love is through other people. Tonight, I saw that sanctifying love in my husband.

Sometimes, in our brokenness is when we’re most able to be a true display of Jesus’ love. When we need a touch from Him the most, when we’re hungriest for His grace, when we long for that tenderness… sometimes that’s when we are able to portray the softest side of who He is. If we choose to let Him lead, instead of our feelings or emotions lead, we can both give and receive the sanctifying love that only He can provide.

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Stir in me a love that’s deep
A love that’s wide
A love that’s sweet
And help me Lord to never keep it to myself
And if my heart should dimly burn
And if my feet should fail to run
Call my name and I will come right back to You

There’s no fear in love

I want to stay close to You
It’s really that simple
I want to stay close to You
Just as simple as this song

I want to stay close to You
It’s really that simple
I want to stay close to You
My whole life long

Steffany Gretzinger, No Fear In Love

Creole & Dangerous Prayers & Wendy’s

Today, I wished I knew more Creole.

My life changed forever in 2012 on my first ever trip to Haiti. I fell in love with the beautiful people and their huge hearts, contagious joy, and hunger for the Lord. In all honesty, I went on that first trip because I had a genuine desire to bless people, but they blessed me far more than I could ever bless them. Physically, they have so little, yet they’re filled with an unexplainable joy that shook the very innermost part of who I am.

I had always considered myself to be a joyful person. I love life, I love adventures, and I love people. I’ve always tried to live a life full of laughter, song, and happy memories. But, the Haitian people taught me that joy is not measured by our attitude or disposition during the good times. When our real joy is revealed is when we have nothing. When we’re at the end of our rope. When things aren’t like we think they’re “supposed” to be. When we’re exhausted and frustrated and burnt out.

In December 2015, I missed a trip to Haiti that I had prayed over, planned for, and been so excited about for over a year (because of my pregnancy). Even though I knew it was the right decision for my baby’s health and my own health (especially now, with news of the Zika virus), it was such a hard decision to make. Haiti holds a very special place in my heart, and although I don’t know when the next time I’ll be able to go back will be, I know that I’ll go back there one day eventually, because the calling on my heart to share the love of Jesus with those people is one of the clearest, most obvious things Jesus has ever revealed to me.

In the meantime, I’m here. I go through my daily routine in my own little world right here in North Carolina, and to be completely honest… sometimes it’s draining. Sometimes, when you’re forced to put your dreams, passions, and calling on the back burner so you can work to have insurance and help pay the bills, you start to feel suffocated. You start to lose sight of what really matters. That’s where that kind of joy the Haitians taught me about comes in.

I’ve been praying a prayer lately and I didn’t realize until today how “dangerous” it is. Have you ever heard someone say that it’s “dangerous” to pray for patience because you don’t know how the Lord will teach you to have patience? Well, come to find out, this prayer I’ve been praying is a lot like that.

Lord, show me your glory and faithfulness in the midst of my every day, mundane routine.

Well, today He did just that… and it made me wish I knew more Creole.

On my lunch break, I went to Wendy’s and noticed the lady in the window had a thick, familiar accent. When I asked her where she’s from, she told me with a big, wide smile. Haiti.

She must have thought that I’m an absolute lunatic, because what did I do? I busted out crying. Right there, in the Wendy’s drive thru, as she’s handing me my cheeseburger and sweet tea out the window. Then, I showed her my necklace, which is one of my most treasured pieces of jewelry. My Mom gave it to me right after my first trip to Haiti and I wear often as a reminder of the place that I love so much. Her big, brown eyes lit up like a child’s on Christmas morning. She told me she’s from Port au Prince, a place I could never explain to you unless you’ve experienced it for yourself, and I told her that I go to Jacmel. The tenderness and grace and hunger in her eyes was mixed with the same humble pride in their country I’ve seen in so many of the precious women I’ve had the privilege to wrap my arms around during my time on Haitian soil.

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Before I finally pulled away, after sharing this moment with a complete stranger, I smiled through the tears and said, “Bonswa, my friend!” She had tears rolling down her cheeks too as I drove off, and was saying something in Creole that I wish I could have understood.

When I say I busted out crying, I mean… ugly, mascara-ruining tears. Like, how-in-the-world-am-I-going-to-go-back-into-work? tears. I hope she saw my heart and love for her people through that mess.

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So then, of course, I asked God why would You let that happen!?

I was already having a hard day (a hard week, really) and an emotional melt down was the last thing I needed. And then, it all made perfect sense…. It’s exactly what I asked for.

Sure, I didn’t get to go back to Haiti this year, but I found a Haitian to connect with right here in Charlotte… literally across the street from where I spend the majority of my time (work). In the midst of my boring little routine, He gave me exactly what I asked for… a little glimpse of His glory and faithfulness. He loves me so much, that He reminded me (when I needed it most) of that joy my Haitian friends taught me about all those years ago. Come to find out, He’s still using them to teach me about that joy four years later.

Spinach & Ricotta Stuffed Shells with Italian Sausage

This stuffed shells recipe is better and more flavorful than many I’ve had in restaurants. It’s creamy, savory, and very filling. Grayson and I had so much fun stuffing the shells together, and paired with salad, I think it’s safe to say it’s become one of our new go-to recipes. I love that it made a full casserole dish full plus another smaller dish, because who doesn’t love their doorbell ringing at 9pm to a surprise piping hot stuffed shell delivery?

Ingredients:

  • 1 (12oz) package of jumbo pasta shells
  • 4 cups ricotta or cottage cheese
  • 12 oz shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2 tsp of garlic powder
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 3/4 cup parmesan (grated or shredded is fine)
  • 1 large jar of spaghetti sauce
  • 4 packed, heaping cups of spinach, rough chopped and stems removed
  • 1 lb ground Italian Sausage

Instructions:

  • In a skillet over medium heat, brown and crumble the sausage. Drain any excess fat and remove from heat. In the same saucepan, cover and cook spinach until wilted or about 1-2 minutes. Cook the shells according to package directions (I cooked them until they were pliable for filling – about 7 minutes- and no more).
  • In a mixing bowl, combine the ricotta, 8oz of mozzarella, 1/2 cup of parmesan, eggs, oregano, and garlic powder. Stir in the spinach.

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  • Coat the bottom of a 9x13in pan with the entire jar of spaghetti sauce. Spoon the cheese mixture into the shells and place shells open side up, very close together in the dish. There will be more shells than will fit into this pan and you can either make a second smaller pan or freeze for future use. Sometimes the shells also break in the box so this is fine.

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  • Sprinkle the cooked sausage over the top of the shells.

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  • Then sprinkle with the remaining 4oz of mozzarella and 1/4 cup of Parmesan cheese.

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  • Cover with foil and bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes or until the cheese is bubbly. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

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*Note: This recipe is adapted from Craving Some Creativity