A Haitian Memory

It has been a little over three years since I last went to Haiti. Some days, my heart literally aches for the people, the lush, green mountains, and the sounds and smells that you could only understand if you’ve been there yourself. Haiti is such a special place, and holds a piece of my heart that is truly captivated forever. I could talk all day long about the things that make it so special, but instead, I’m going to tell you a story about something that happened the very first time I ever went to Haiti… something that resonated with me then, but even more so now.

On my first trip to Haiti, we prayer walked throughout the village of Cayes, Jacmel in the evenings. With our translators help, we stopped and talked to people, asking them if they knew Jesus, and often praying over them as they shared specific needs with us. To say that I experienced “culture shock” on that first trip is an understatement. Nothing could adequately prepare you for the kinds of things you see when you go to a country like Haiti. And, on the flip side of that, nothing can adequately prepare your heart to be humbled and touched in the way that it inevitably will be.

While prayer walking through the dusty streets of Jacmel, we saw a young woman who was very, very pregnant. I would guess that she was within days of delivering, and judging by the way she was carrying, I would say that it was perhaps, not her first child. The woman was barefoot, wearing very worn clothes, and standing outside of her home, which was nothing more than a shack – literally, just whatever she had found and managed to prop up for shelter – pieces of metal, a torn umbrella, some large leaves, some old wood. However, she had a brightly colored bag, made of all kinds of fabrics, hanging on her shoulder, which is initially what drew my eye to her. I don’t know if someone had just given her the bag, if she’d made it, if she’d saved and bought it herself at the market, but it’s unusual to see something like that in the remote village of Jacmel. I told her that I thought her bag was so pretty, and that’s when it happened. So fast, so seamless, without even second guessing what she was about to do, she removed it from her shoulder and offered it to me.

This precious woman, who had nothing. This precious woman, who had no chance whatsoever of delivering her baby in the comforts of a hospital like I have now had. This precious woman, who lived in a dusty shack and whose bag probably was her newest, and best possession. She offered it to me.

I lost it. What a wake up call. We go to a country like Haiti to minister to these people, yet it’s them that change our hearts. They’re unlike any people I have ever met. They have so little, yet their lives are full of joy and their hearts are open and generous and sincere. They don’t care about things, but instead, about eternity with Jesus. They love openly and freely and without the selfishness that my heart wrestles with on a daily basis. And although it was probably her most prized possession, there was no hesitation as she offered it to me, a stranger.


Fast forward about six years, and I’m married to a man who has also come to love the Haitian people, we have a 19 month old, and we’re due with our second in just a few short months. Over New Years, a team from our church went back to Jacmel, and as they shared a slideshow of pictures and gave a report of all the wonderful things the Lord is doing there this past Sunday evening, it all came flooding back. I sat there, with my hand on my growing belly, feeling Harper move around inside of me, with tears streaming down my cheeks as I remembered. I hadn’t thought about the pregnant lady with the colorful bag in years, but that night, it all came back, fresh and raw and it completely overwhelmed me. Don’t you just love how Jesus does that? He can write a memory on your heart that touches you in a whole new way, years later, for a thousand different reasons.

I’m so thankful for this memory that Jesus has allowed me to experience, etched on my heart, and reminded me of when I needed it most.

Renmen abonde. Love abounds.

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Shrimp & Grits

We have adapted this recipe a good bit over the years (to get it to it’s current state of absolute perfection), but it’s one of my family’s favorites and I just realized that somehow, I’ve never shared it here on Coffee Date With Kate! Despite requiring quite a few ingredients, this is surprisingly a very easy dish to throw together, it’s packed with flavor, and it’s so filling.

Ingredients:

  • Chicken broth (The amount you need depends on how many grits you make – you use the broth instead of water to make the stovetop grits for added flavor. You can do half broth and half water, if you don’t have enough broth or whatever.)
  • Grits (Just however many of the 5 minute, stovetop kind that you think you’ll need… We usually make the 4-6 serving size amount.)
  • Bacon (I usually fry about 5 pieces to crumble on top, then save the grease to saute my shrimp in for added flavor)
  • 2-4 tablespoons butter (for sautéing shrimp and adding to grits)
  • Shredded cheddar cheese (You can mix into the grits, if you like, and also use for topping.)
  • Chopped green onions (topping)
  • Chopped onion
  • Chopped red and orange mini peppers (just however many you’d like, I usually do about 4-5)
  • 2-3 cloves of minced garlic
  • Raw shrimp (peeled and deveined)
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup milk
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Lime (topping)

Instructions:

  • First, fry your bacon in a deep frying pan and set aside to cool.
  • Saute shrimp in bacon grease with butter and salt and pepper and set aside.
  • In the same pan, saute onions, peppers, and garlic. Add whipping cream and milk and allow to simmer while you make your grits.
  • Make the grits according to package instructions (using broth instead of water) and add butter and cheese if desired.
  • Add shrimp to pan (if you add them too soon, they’ll get rubbery and hard, so I like to add them at the end).
  • Scoop into a bowl over grits and top with crumbled bacon, cheese, chopped green onions, and fresh lime juice.

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Snow Day // January 2018

We were thrilled to get a “big” January snow here in North Carolina this week! I’ll be honest, when the talk about a chance of snow started, I really didn’t think we’d actually get any – not any that stuck, anyway. But, to my surprise, we got about four inches and it was one of the prettiest, fluffiest snowfalls I’ve ever seen!

We woke up Wednesday morning to snow falling and it was still coming down when it got dark around 5-6 that night! I made a big breakfast, we snuggled up and watched movies, made snow cream, and went out to play. A few weeks ago when it snowed in Hickory (where my in-laws live) we let Landon play in it and he was not a fan. He wouldn’t really move and finally just sat down and started crying, so we figured he was just too little and maybe next year he’d like it better. But this time, he loved it and even cried when we decided it was time to go back inside! He had the best time and I wish I could bottle up the wonder and pure joy on his face and just save it forever! Children have such an untainted, honest wonder about them that is so contagious.

Landon and I were so happy to have Gray home for two whole days in the middle of the week! It’s so fun to watch the two of them play together and I know that in the years to come we have sledding and snowman building and all sorts of things to look forward to! I love seeing everyone’s snow day pictures, so I just wanted to share a few of ours!

Happy Friday, friends!

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Lately // 1.9.18

After a refreshing few days at the coast with Grayson over New Years, I came back with a long list of things to do to begin preparing our little 800 square foot home for a second baby. There’s so much to do, and I feel like the clock is ticking before I’m too big and uncomfortable to be able to get it all done. It’s hard to believe I’m already in the 22nd week – we only have about 18 weeks before we get to meet our daughter! I’m somewhere between scared-to-death and so-excited-I-can-hardly-stand-it.

Like many of you, I get on a lets-clean-everything-out kick every year around this time… something about starting a fresh, new year just gives me that little push I need to go through closets, organize drawers, and part with things that can be donated or thrown away. I’ve been working specifically in the nursery, trying to rearrange it in a way that will allow us to have both the crib and a toddler bed, which I think Landon will be moving into soon (thanks to his newfound climbing skills… eeeek!).

I’m sure Harper will sleep in our room in either the rock n’ play or the pack n’ play for the first five or six months, like Landon did, but there are still preparations and changes that have to be made to the nursery before she is born. Because the closets in our bedrooms are so small, Grayson uses the closet in the nursery as his own, while the one in our bedroom is mine. Landon has never really had any clothes that had to be hung, but Harper will undoubtably have all kinds of pretty dresses – meaning I have had to get a little creative about finding a place to hang those.

About a year ago, my friend, Carol gave me a vintage canning cabinet that immediately found a home in my kitchen. I had admired it in her home for years and when she decided to get rid of it, she offered it to me first (love her). It reminds me of my great grandmother’s canning cabinet, and up until now I have used it very practically (as opposed to as for-display-only) to store plates, cake plates, glasses, and all kinds of things in my little kitchen. After giving much thought to what we could do about needing a place to hang Harper’s clothes, I decided to convert the canning cabinet into a wardrobe, and although it’s not finished yet, I can’t wait to show ya’ll how it turns out! This week, I got it cleaned out (which required me to clean out every cabinet in my kitchen, purge, and make room for the items that had been stored in the canning cabinet in the cabinets…. whew!) and moved into the nursery. It needs some touching up and new handles and Grayson will have to take out the shelves and put in a rod to hang the clothes, but my little project is coming right along! I will share before and after photos when it’s complete!


Grayson started his new job as an Instructional Technology Facilitator at Charlotte Christian School on January 2nd and he is loving it. Everyone has been so kind and welcoming and he’s finding his niche, while learning and growing so much. I think a part of him will always miss the classroom, but I can tell that he’s so thankful to be in an environment where Christ is the focus of every aspect of the day and faith is freely talked about and cultivated. I am so proud of him for taking such a huge leap of faith and constantly chasing his dreams and putting the best interest of our growing family first.


Landon is growing like a weed, jibber-jabbering all the time, and saying so many new words every day. He amazes me with words I didn’t even know he knew, but then I realize that since I literally talk to him all day every day, he picks up more than I realize! We will be at a restaurant and a family with a little baby will come in and sit down at the booth beside us, and he’ll say, “oooh! baby!” and then point to my growing belly, or he’ll see the moon in the night sky and he’ll point to it and say, “moon!” or he’ll notice an airplane in the sky and say, “airplane!” and then when it’s disappeared from sight, say, “airplane all gone!” He loves to play with his horses, trucks, and balls. He adores our dog, Kai Kai. He eats everything and is getting so big, and is still a great sleeper (lets all pray that Harper will be too!). Sometimes I look at him and my heart just hurts because I see a little boy in place of the tiny baby that I brought home. He was so teeny tiny and now he’s practically going off to college! Ok, I need to stop because these pregnancy emotions are no joke (just ask Gray… I’ve cried over Publix commercials).


Just wanting to keep ya’ll in the loop about what’s been going on lately! I have a feeling these next few months are going to be a whirlwind, so I’m all the more thankful for God’s grace, pursuit of my heart in every season, and unconditional love. We serve an awesome God, don’t we friends?!

Happy Tuesday!

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Harborlight Guest House

Two years ago, my Mama gave us a gift certificate to bedandbreakfast.com and we finally used it this weekend. We didn’t get an opportunity to go before Landon was born, and then after he was born I was nursing and we just never found a few days to get away. We realized last week that Grayson’s Spring Break isn’t until the end of March, and by then I’ll be much too far along to travel very far in a car as I’ll be approaching the end of this pregnancy. After Harper is born, it will be the same as after Landon was born, and another year would have passed that we would not have used our gift certificate. So, this trip was kind of like a now-or-never thing. Sometimes, spur of the moment decisions end up being the most fun!

I had never been away from Landon for three full nights before, and Lordy mercy did I miss my boy… but I wouldn’t have traded these few days alone with Grayson for anything. It was the most fun!

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Bedandbreakfast.com has tons of great B&B’s to choose from, and we knew we wanted to go somewhere near the beach. We go to Morehead City with some friends every summer and love the area, so we were happy to find a B&B called Harborlight Guest House nearby in Cape Carteret. When you already have at least a little knowledge about the area, restaurants, and shops, I think you get more out of your trip. Not to mention, knowing our way around (for the most part) makes it easier.

We left early Friday morning and made it to our favorite little drive in for lunch. El’s Drive In in Morehead City has been in business since 1959 and they’re famous for their shrimp burger and super burger. It’s delicious!

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We had no idea what to expect when we checked into our B&B because the website has not been fully updated since the new owners took over, but we were so pleasantly surprised. When we pulled up, we were captivated by the beauty of the property. The B&B sits on a peninsula with great views all the way around of the Bogue Inlet. The owner, Perry, came out to meet us and was so warm and welcoming. He and his wife, Dana, have just recently purchased the Harborlight Guest House and are only a few years older than Grayson and I. Come to find out, we share the same alma mater (Go App State!) and they were both just as sweet as could be. He gave us a tour, helped us carry our bags, and showed us to our room, all the while giving great recommendations for local restaurants.

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Our room, the Swann Suite (named after the nearby town of Swansboro), was darling and so clean and cozy. The bathroom had a beautiful claw foot tub (which, you better believe I took advantage of) and as beautiful of a view as our room did. The sunrises and sunsets were breathtaking and we felt like we had the best seat in the house.

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Breakfast was phenomenal and served in-suite in two courses. First, a breakfast appetizer was served with juice and coffee (which just happened to be some of the best coffee we had ever tasted) and then the rest of the meal. The first day, we feasted on poached pears with raspberry jam, an egg quiche, bacon, and sweet potato muffins, and the next day we had mushrooms stuffed with sausage and cream cheese, fruit, sausage links, and the fluffiest pancakes. It was far better than anything we expected and the housekeeping and kitchen staff were so sweet.

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We didn’t really make any plans for how to spend our time, which was a refreshing change. We just went with the flow, Grayson fished, I napped and read and wrote and soaked in the clawfoot tub until my heart was content. We ate good food, spent some time in Beaufort, watched funny movies, and woke up without any alarms. It was so restful and peaceful.

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We found a new favorite restaurant- the Icehouse in Swansboro. It’s right on the water in the cutest historic waterfront district and our food was so delicious that we went back there the next night! Their crab tostadas were heavenly and we loved the shrimp and grits and grouper with garlic mashed potatoes. I love eating on the water, too. The service was fantastic, the food was amazing, and the view was so beautiful!

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We were sad to leave on Sunday morning after breakfast, but I could hardly wait to have my boy back in my arms. It’s about a five hour drive home from Cape Carteret, so I’m glad we didn’t wait any longer in my pregnancy to make the trip. We are so thankful to have been given such a wonderful gift, a trip that we’ll remember forever.

2017

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I’m going to keep this short and sweet, but I love seeing everyone’s yearly recaps so I wanted to share a little about our year. 2017 was full and sweet. We faced some of our biggest challenges, and also some of our life’s sweetest memories.

Watching our sweet boy grow this year has been so much fun. He has brought us so much joy and being his Mama and Daddy is the greatest honor. I still can’t believe he’s ours. I pulled a favorite picture of him from every month this year (which was hard to pick just one!) and look how big he is! I wish I could freeze time. My boy, my whole world.

Thinking of adding another little life to our family in 2018 is overwhelming but so exciting. It will inevitably be a year of growth and change and we’ll be clinging to His promises as a fresh, new year unfolds.

 

Peanut Butter Fudge

Growing up, making homemade fudge with my grandma, who our whole family lovingly called Baba, was always a sweet, special time. Every Christmas, we’d have a day devoted to “makin’ candy” and she’d have all the ingredients laid out, the pans buttered, and her apron on.

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She was the best cook in the world, and as mischievous and playful as they come. My memories with her as a little girl are treasures that I’m so grateful for. And what I wouldn’t give for my little girl to be able to have those same memories with her. We all miss her every day!

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Now, my Mama and I continue the “candy makin'” tradition every year at Christmas in her honor. This year, Landon sopped the spoon and couldn’t stop saying “mmmmm!” Do you ever have days that you wish you could just freeze in your memory forever? That’s what this day was like for me. What a treasure!

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Once you’ve had this fudge, it’s honestly hard to eat any other kind. This really is the best recipe… and I might be just a littttle biased. It’s not grainy or dry like some fudge recipes are, and the flavor is perfect – not too peanut buttery (if there is such a thing), not too much vanilla, and it makes a ton – so there’s plenty to give to your friends and neighbors!

It’s so easy and fun to make!

Ingredients:

  • One jar of marshmallow fluff
  • One bag of peanut butter chips
  • Two sticks of real butter
  • 5 cups of sugar
  • One can of cream
  • One teaspoon of vanilla
  • A little bit of butter to grease your pan with

Instructions:

  • First, go ahead and butter grease your pan. It should be a big, deep baking pan.
  • Put marshmallow cream and peanut butter chips in a large bowl.
  • In a pot on the stove on medium heat, begin stirring together 5 cups of sugar, can of cream, and both sticks of butter. You must stir continuously.
  • When this mixture comes to a boil, continue stirring and boil for 7 minutes.
  • After the 7 minutes of stirring while boiling, pour into bowl over marshmallow fluff and peanut butter chips, add teaspoon of vanilla, and stir until well mixed. Everything should be well dissolved and creamy.
  • Then, quickly pour into greased pan (it begins to harden quickly) and allow to sit overnight.
  • The next morning, your fudge will be ready to cut!

The Billy Graham Library at Christmas

We went to the Billy Graham Library one night this week and I shared some video clips of our time there on my insta story. I was so surprised to have several people message me asking where we were, all very interested but never having been. My family has been going to the Billy Graham Library for years, ever since it first opened in 2007. It’s a special place to go at any time of year, but Christmastime is my favorite!

The atmosphere is so peaceful and there’s so much to see, including Billy Graham’s childhood home, which was built in 1927 and moved onto the property. The Gospel is presented beautifully and it’s a great place to go spend a few hours or a whole day! There’s even a cute little cafe there, and my Mama loves their chicken salad sandwiches. At Christmas, there is a live nativity and lights and the biggest, most beautiful tree in the lobby. It’s such a pretty place, and you can truly feel the Lord’s presence.

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You can read more about the Library here and find directions and more details about hours, parking, and admission (which is free) here.

Salt Dough Christmas Ornaments

My cousin, Kristen and I are six months apart and our little boys are also six months apart. It was so much fun growing up together and now watching our boys together is so special! Briggs is such a sweetheart and I can only imagine all the fun he and Landon will have as they get older… and all the trouble they’ll get in together!

We finally got around to making handmade Christmas ornaments this year and it was so easy and fun, I want to share the recipe! There are tons of different recipes and instructions for salt dough ornaments on Pinterest, and we were really happy with the way these turned out!

You may notice that the holes are at the wrong end of some of our ornaments… and we really don’t have any excuse except #blonde and #pregnancybrain – and also, keeping toddlers out of trouble while trying to make happy Christmas memories! Hahaha honestly, I think it makes me love them even more!

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Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup salt
  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup water
  • Straw for poking hole
  • Ribbon for hanging
  • Paint for decorating

Instructions:

  • Mix together ingredients, kneading into a thick dough.
  • Sprinkle flour onto surface and rolling pin so dough doesn’t stick.
  • Roll out dough, just like you would sugar cookie dough.
  • Press baby’s hand or foot into dough, cut out around it, and use a straw to poke a hole for hanging.
  • Bake on lined baking sheet for 3 hours at 200 degrees.
  • Once cool, paint and allow to dry and attach ribbon for hanging.

IT’S A GIRL!

Landon is getting a SISTER and Grayson and I couldn’t be more thrilled! I dared to utter that I had a feeling it was a girl a few times during my first trimester, but was not 100% sure. All I had to go by was how I felt, which just seemed different than how I felt when I was pregnant with Landon. With Landon, I experienced no nausea whatsoever, but this time around, I did struggle through a few weeks of queasiness (although not nearly as bad as some friends of mine have). I never actually got sick, but was noticeably more sensitive to smells and sometimes felt very nauseas at random times throughout the day.

At the end of my first trimester, I chose to have the genetic testing that checks for markers indicating chromosome abnormalities pointing to Downs Syndrome and Spina Bifida. I realize this is very controversial and I totally understand why some women feel that there is no need for this testing, especially considering that I am 100% pro-life, no matter what. But, I wanted to do the testing, just to give myself peace of mind (and I did so with Landon, as well). I didn’t think that gender results would come back with this testing, but… it did!

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, but I love the way Jesus works! The week of Halloween brought about a terrible stomach virus to my little family. It started with Landon, then I got sick, and then Gray and my Mama, too. We struggled through it, but it wasn’t pretty and as soon as I felt well enough, I threw the windows open and began cloroxing like a crazy person. Grayson caught the bug on a Sunday night and was up every hour that night sick as could be. The next morning, he was still in bad shape, so he got a substitute teacher and decided to take a half day to rest (which he never, ever does, so ya know it had to be bad). And that’s when the phone rang…

The doctor called to share the results of my genetic testing and had good news! Everything looked normal and our baby was healthy! I was so thankful and relieved, and glad once again that I had chosen to do the testing. Then, she asked me if I wanted to know the gender! I couldn’t believe it! The gender? At 13 weeks? Ahhhh! I put the phone on speaker just in time for Grayson and me to hear it together.

“It’s a baby girl!”

I lost it, ya’ll. All the tears. They came out of nowhere and didn’t stop. I couldn’t believe it. When I go to the doctor, I mentally prepare myself for days ahead of time. I wasn’t even expecting to hear the results of genetic testing for two more days, and I definitely wasn’t expecting to find out the gender! If Gray hadn’t been sick and at home that morning, we would never have been able to hear that news together! I’m telling ya, my God is a God who cares about the little details, and that makes me love Him even more.

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We chose a name for our little girl, should God ever entrust us with such a gift, a long time ago, before we even got married. We knew that we would want to name her after someone who means the world to us, someone who is a role model to us both, someone who loves the Lord with all their heart, mind, soul, and strength, and who we love dearly. Tony Harper. The man who has faithfully served our church for 40 years, a man who fought for our country, a man who is completely sold out to Jesus and loves his family like Christ loves the church… He has the biggest heart, loves people with an selflessness that is unmatched, and has more integrity than anyone I know. He not only married Grayson and me, but also filled a role that no one else could have. He walked me down the aisle. He’s loved me like a Daddy should have, and was not only there when I was born, but also when my son was born 23 years later. He and his precious wife, Karen, have been so influential in our lives and we are so honored to give our daughter their namesake. Tony is a rock, a tree planted by streams of water, and his humbleness and faithfulness will be his legacy forever.

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Nothing I could say about him would do justice to the amount of love in my heart, but with all that being said, we are honored to name our little girl Harper Gray Bedenbaugh.

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Photo by M.Lanier Photography