Goodbye November

At the beginning of this month, I talked about how we were keeping up with what we are thankful for each day. We put them on a cork board, so that they would be on display. You can read more about that here. After displaying them, we decided to keep them in our Family Memory Catalog, so we could look back on them year after year. I am a sucker for traditions, so starting this one with Sam has been a lot of fun. I look forward to continuing it with Henry and our other future kiddos in the future. img_3134

In the post, I mentioned that I would do a wrap-up of this project/tradition at the end of the month with my favorite cards that we made. For the sake of vulnerability, there were a lot of days that we had to play catch-up. When we traveled or were running around like crazy, our cards slipped by the wayside and didn’t get done, but now, we have thankful cards for every single day, and even a few extras that my mom made.

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There are 61 cards here. We haven’t done the ones from November 30th yet, since today’s not over.

As you can see our cards added up, and it was so much fun for me to look back on them today. Even though a month doesn’t seem like a long time, I realized that I had forgotten some of the things that I had said I was thankful for. Looking back on the things that we’ve been blessed with is so good for us in remembering the Lord’s faithfulness.

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Sam really put me to shame the first day. He said he was thankful for me, and I said I was thankful for…coffee. Whoops.

I decided I would break up some of my favorite cards into categories in order to share them here. It was interesting to see themes that ran through our cards as things we were thankful for. When looking at all of our cards there were themes of family, friendship, our new church and area, and…football. And just a sidenote here, Sam was such a good sport about this. He never once complained about making a card, and he always tried to be creative with his drawings and decorating of his cards. I can’t wait for our kids to see the way he loves his family and participates in fun traditions.

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CiCi’s cards

My parents stayed with us, and we stayed with them at different times throughout the month. My mom decided to play along with our new tradition and added a few cards of her own. If you can’t tell, she really loves Henry 🙂

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We have lots of family things to be thankful for.

November was a month that allowed us to spend time with almost all of our family. This led to several of our cards revolving around the family that visited, hosted us, and hung out with us at some point throughout the month. We are so thankful for the grandparents that we have had the honor of loving and being loved by, and we are so thankful that Henry gets to have the same experience.

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Our friends from college and before gave us reason to be thankful in this season.

Along with seeing our family, we also got to see and spend time with some friends from college and before throughout the month. Weddings, trips home, and work gave us opportunities to connect with people that we have missed. Seeing them and having them love on Henry was such a sweet treat.

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In this season, we have made a lot of new friends through our church.

This month, we have really begun forming deep friendships with people that we have met through our church. We are so thankful for the community that is forming around us and with us. We know that we are not meant to do life alone, and we’ve been grateful that after spending a few months searching for people to do life with here after moving, we are finally seeing people that are coming alongside us.

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We couldn’t leave football out of the things we are thankful for.

And finally, after all the sweet things we are thankful for, we can’t get away from football. As you can see, a lot of our lives on Saturdays in the fall revolve around football, SEC and most importantly, Alabama football. Like they say about Alabama football, we live it. Roll tide!

So, November has come and gone, and we have realized just how much we have to be thankful for. I will be sad about not seeing Sam’s drawings every day now that December is here. Maybe I can get him to do some Christmas drawings for the cork board this month. We’ll see!

Rain

I remember one year in college where it rained the first 2 weeks of spring semester. I’m talking every day, all day rain while walking to class in the “cold” of Tuscaloosa, Alabama. I am not one for cold weather, and I am definitely not one for walking around in said cold weather while it is raining from class to class all over campus. Needless to say, I wasn’t in the best of moods those days.

In the midst of all the rain, I remember one of my friends at our weekly life group praying and thanking the Lord for the rain because “it was such a picture of the way He cleanses us and makes us new.” Well alrighty then, that’s all I needed to hear from that week’s life group to say the least, considering it has stuck with me for 2-3 years now.

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Yesterday and last night, it rained for the first time in months in Alabama and Georgia. We were in a serious drought (and probably still are, but I’m no meteorologist). There were bans on burning things because there were wildfires that could swallow up huge portions of forests and land. Can you say dangerous?? As I was sitting down this morning with my coffee and journal, I thought back to that quote from my friend’s prayer a couple years ago, and I thought about what it looks like when there is no rain, when we are in these droughts.

This is all metaphorical, but stick with me because I think the rain has a little something to teach us. If the rain is a symbol or reminder of the way the Lord cleanses us, only by the blood of Jesus, to where we are white as snow and blameless in His sight, what does it mean when there is no rain, no cleansing? Now, I know that we don’t have to go back to Jesus over and over again for Him to cleanse us because He did that once and for all on the cross, but my thought is that, when we aren’t meeting with Him and having a relationship with Him consistently, it’s kinda like a drought of sorts.

Seasons of Drought

Just like the earth yearns for rain when it hasn’t had any, my heart and soul yearns for time with Jesus when it hasn’t had any. When life seems to extinguish all the time that I could possibly have in a day and there seems to be no margin for spending even five minutes with my Savior, my soul is cracked and dry thirsting for something that will satisfy me. When I am apathetic and value physical rest over spiritual rest, my heart is shriveled up waiting for the only thing that can fulfill it again.

And what about these droughts? What about the things that can catch fire and destroy everything in its path? I know there are things in my life, seemingly good things too, that can catch fire and run rampant. When I am thirsty, I will take anything that seems to satisfy me even for a moment, but the thing is, it never lasts. These things–blogging, reading, social media, comparison–leave me high and dry when I need them the most. They leave me with the kind of headache that comes from dehydration. They leave me wanting more.

Living Water

I am suggesting that just like the earth needs to rain to function properly, our hearts and souls need time with Jesus just the same. He is the only thing that will satisfy us. He is the only thing that will fill our hearts to a place of overflow when there doesn’t seem to be enough of anything else. He is the living water that will never leave us thirsty again (John 4:13-14).

Identity & Cleansing

One last thing, when I’m not meeting with Jesus, in relationship with Him, I’m trying my hardest to cleanse myself because I forget my identity. I forget that He has already made me clean.

Whenever I think of cleansing and Jesus, I think about Eustace Scrubb in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis. Eustace is one of those characters that is just awful, but also the character that you kinda identify with because you see your worst traits in the way that he acts. Long story short, Eustace finds treasure on an island and his greed turns him into a dragon. He tries his best to shed his skin over and over to make himself back into a boy, but he cannot. Aslan approaches him and lets him know that he will have to let Aslan undress him. After Eustace realizes what he has to do, he allows Aslan to do what he must. When thinking back to it, Eustace says,

“Well, he peeled the beastly stuff right off – just as I thought I’d done it myself the other three times, only they hadn’t hurt – and there it was lying on the grass, only ever so much thicker, and darker, and more knobbly-looking than the others had been. And there was I smooth and soft as a peeled switch and smaller than I had been. Then he caught hold of me – I didn’t like that much for I was very tender underneath now that I’d no skin on — and threw me into the water. It smarted like anything but only for a moment. After that it became perfectly delicious and as soon as I started swimming and splashing I found that all the pain had gone from my arm. And then I saw why. I’d turned into a boy again. . . .”

Keeping with the theme of metaphors, is it so crazy to think of ourselves as Eustace and Jesus as Aslan? Is it so crazy to put ourselves into that story, dirty, changed, and in desperate need of something or someone to help us get back to being who we were always meant to be? And after all the cleansing, is it so far-fetched that we would begin splashing around again realizing that the cleansing was all that we ever needed?

Jesus chose the cross, so that we could know His Father. Jesus chose the cross, so that we could have a relationship with Him. Jesus chose the cross, so that we could be cleansed of the only thing holding us back from the family that we were always supposed to be a part of. Jesus chose the cross, so that we could claim our identity as a child of God.

So, today, I am choosing to be thankful for the rain as it cleanses the earth in a way that only it can, I am thankful for the drought for reminding me that I, too, become thirsty and cracked without Living Water, and I am thankful for the relationship I have with my Savior. He reminds me of who I am and fulfills my thirsty heart and soul like nothing else can.

Belong Tour 2016 Wrap-Up

This past weekend, I had the opportunity to attend the Belong Tour at the Infinite Energy Arena in Atlanta. One of my friends texted me asking if I wanted to go with her after she got some free tickets, and I couldn’t pass that up!

The Belong Tour was composed of women who are passionate about stories and vulnerability. The line-up included Shauna Niequist, Jen Hatmaker, Patsy Clairmont, Angela Davis, Nichole Nordeman, Sharon Irving, and the band After the Rescue. It was a beautiful weekend filled with laughter, a few tears, great stories, and Jesus.

Here, I’m going to include some one-liners and phrases that really caught my attention, so the bullet points below are either the words of one of the ladies mentioned above or a paraphrase of their words.

  • Story-telling is verbal hospitality.
  • When we’re attentive to those around us, it gives us the opportunity to make connections with others.
  • Stories connect us heart-to-heart.
  • There are things that are hard to talk about, and when we take those things into the dark, they flourish and grow their way into our identity.
  • The dark can hide the things that we don’t want others to see, but we only see the truth when we brings things to the light. And the truth will set us free.
  • We are like Russian nesting dolls, and the very smallest one is our “essential self,” who God created us to be before we bent to the expectations and affirmations of the world around us.
  • When we love our neighbors as ourselves, we are trying to provide for them the safety and security that we want/need for ourselves.
  • Sometimes, the light minimizes things that have grown large in the dark.
  • When we share our mistakes, our humanity, we make room for grace and closeness with one another.
  • When we begin to feel like we need space from ourselves, it is probably time to be still and silent.
  • We tend to live out of our history, regardless of whether we have claimed it or not.
  • Sometimes, when we grow out of our brokenness and into His grace and mercy, it can be painful for a season, but then the truth will set us free.
  • We were all created by God on purpose and with purpose.
  • No matter where or how we unleash our purpose, whether in a job or at home, IT ALL MATTERS.
  • Claim the gifts you have, not the ones you want. There is maturity in realizing what your individual lane is.
  • Champion other peoples’ lanes.
  • Be brave. Be faithful. Invest in your gifts. Take yourself seriously.
  • You are not in charge of outcomes, but you are in charge of your obedience.
  • God’s story is always a love story, a redemption story, a forgiveness story, and if you’ve made it a shame story, you may not have an accurate view of the Father.
  • There is nothing we can do to buy more of His love, and there is nothing we can do to squander His love away.
  • You do NOT have to hustle for your worth.
  • Let’s make room on our shelves for the things that matter.

These are just some of the wonderful things that I learned at the Belong Tour. It was such a blessing, and isn’t there just something about being surrounded by our sisters in Christ and opening our hearts to the Father?

Oh, and if you’re a mom and want to sob through a beautiful song about kids growing up, here you go:

Did you attend the Belong Tour? Have you read any of the speakers’ books or heard them speak before? What stood out to you?? I would love to hear from you. Leave a comment or email me at openhandsopenhome@gmail.com.

 

A Picture of the Gospel

Adoption is such a picture of the gospel. I cannot separate the two in my mind, honestly. Jesus chose the cross and crucifixion, so that we could be adopted into the family of God, the family that our sin had separated us from. Jesus became sin, so that our sin could no longer keep us from having a place at the table and a place in the family. And when He defeated death by rising again, He sealed our place there forever into eternity, so that one day, we can all sit around said table at a family dinner and praise the Lord for the plan He always knew He would carry out to rescue and rebuild His family.

“But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.” – Galatians 4:4-7, emphasis mine

This is the good news. This is what we can celebrate. This is what we can be thankful for, but more than anything, this is something that we have to share and carry out in our own lives. Now, I know that not everyone is called to adopt. There are people that carry this out in the most incredible ways that I could never even imagine, but I know that the Lord has called me to share this good news by modeling it in my home, in my family.

Sam and I have always wanted to adopt. Even before we were engaged, we talked about it and knew it was something we both wanted and felt called to do. We have since talked about the family that we want someday. Maybe 4 kids total, definitely one adopted, maybe two, maybe the third one, or the last one, but as Sam says, “we’re free-spirited”.

I always thought having kids was a long way away, but then about a year ago, I found out that I was pregnant with Henry. “A long way away” came much faster than I ever thought, but like I said, we’re free-spirited, right??

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Since moving to Georgia and starting to attend our church, we have seen many families that foster children and have adopted children, and it makes my heart so, so happy. Every time the subject of adoption comes up, my heart does a little flutter. I know it is something that I am passionate about and called to. The Lord has deepened this passion over time, but it, too, has always felt a long way away.

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Henry’s dedication at church!

Now, I’m not saying that it’s not still a long way away, but the Lord has been stirring my heart more than ever before. A couple weeks ago, Sam and I sat in a presentation about a ministry that a couple in our church heads up that sponsors orphanages in another country among other things. During the prayer time after the presentation, I started tearing up thinking about the children without parents, without a family, without a true home. Then as I was scrolling through Facebook today, I came across an article about a family that ended up adopting twins. While reading the article and watching the video included, I found myself crying before I even realized what the premise of it all was. Adoption has gripped me. The Lord has softened my heart to a place of wondering and questioning if maybe its closer than “a long way away.”

So, this is what is on my heart today and in this season. Will we be adopting in the near future? I have no idea, but I do know that the Lord will carry out His plan however He sees fit and in whatever timing He sees fit, and I am so excited about seeing it unfold.

November Reads (Quick Lit)

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I set a goal back in February that I would read 50 books this year. Everything was pretty much right on track until Henry got here. Babies take up a lot of time, okay?? So, it doesn’t look like I will meet my goal, but I have read some really great books this year.

Sam and I watched all of the Harry Potter movies last month, because he had never seen them or read the books (crazy, I know). After watching them all again, I have an itch to re-read all the books. I’ve never really been one to re-read books before, but I’m thinking now may be the time to start.

I’m linking up with Modern Mrs. Darcy to talk about the books I am currently reading/have already read this month. Unfortunately, I haven’t finished a book already this month, but I am currently reading a few that I will share here.

A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving

First of all, this book is LONG. I am reading it on my Kindle, and I am making sloooow progress. Second of all, the characters are very intriguing!! The narrator, Owen Meany, and several others have me hooked in. There’s an element of wondering what in the world is going on as it is told in memories, but overall it has been enjoyable, and I plan on continuing to read it.

Letters of Note: Volume 1: An Eclectic Collection of Correspondence Deserving of a Wider Audience

This book contains 125 letters written by all kinds of people to all kinds of people. We are talking presidents, queens, artists, and so many more. There are even pictures of some of the letters included. This has been such an interesting and easy read. It is easy to pick it up and read a few letters at a time. Shaun Usher also gives a little insight into why the letter was written before the letter itself is included. It is so cool to read what people put in the letters they were sending. It really gives you more information about who they were as a person and the things they really cared about. Definitely something I would recommend.

Grace-Based Parenting by Tim Kimmel

We’re reading this book in the MOPS Bible study I am in, and wow, it is good stuff. This is another book I am reading on Kindle, and I already have so much underlined. I’m only a couple chapters in, but I have already recommended it to my sister-in-law. While Henry is only 3 months old right now, I’m excited to read this as foundational in the way I want to parent.

I wish I was reading more right now, but I’m trying to figure out a rhythm of making it part of my daily routine. What works for y’all when you’re trying to read more? What books are you reading?? I love book recommendations! Comment on this post or e-mail me at openhandsopenhome@gmail.com, and if you’re looking for more book recommendations, check out Modern Mrs. Darcy.

We’re Thankful For…

It’s been November for 2 weeks now (already?!), and Thanksgiving is only 10 days away (whaaaat?!). I know that I am not the first person to come up with the idea of saying something you’re thankful for each day of November, but we’re having a lot of fun with the way we are keeping up with ours.

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We got this chalkboard/corkboard combo as a wedding gift, and it’s one of my favorite things that we got! We use it to hang our keys up and do a little bit of decorating. It had the same things on both the chalkboard and the corkboard for a while, but last month I decided to dress it up seasonally with some October/Fall notecards and “Happy October!” written on the chalkboard. I liked seeing it in its festive glory, so I decided to continue that into November. This month the “Gobble Gobble!” has been displayed as well as our “We’re thankful for…” cards.

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Sam hadn’t gotten home from work to do his card when I took this picture.

Each day, Sam and I both have a card with the date pinned onto the board that we fill out before bed. The “We’re thankful for…” card stays on the board throughout the month. My only specifications for Sam were that he had to write big in a marker and draw a small picture to go with it! It has been so much fun drawing, writing, and thinking about the things we are thankful for each day. It has also been a lot of fun seeing Sam’s drawings 🙂

My mom has even done a few cards when we have been with her during this month as well. When it is time for the cards to come down the next morning, they go in our Family Memory Catalog behind the date for each day. That way we can look back years to come to see the things we were thankful for.

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This would be so much fun for a big family with kids as well. I hope we have a corkboard full of notecards one day!

At the end of the month, I will write a post about how this cultivated a spirit of thankfulness in our home as well as some of my favorite notecards Sam and I made. Check back for that later!

How do you keep up with the things you’re thankful for? Comment on this post or e-mail me at openhandsopenhome@gmail.com to tell me what works for your family and how you incorporate thankfulness into your day! I would love to hear your ideas.

ATL to Charleston, SC to Savannah, GA in 60 Hours

Before Henry was born, Sam traveled a pretty good amount for his job. When we got close to Henry’s due date and for the first 6 or so weeks of Henry’s life, Sam slowed that down. Things were a little hectic, to say the least. Now that we’ve got more of a routine, Sam has started to go out of town a little bit more often again. When he told me at the end of last week that he had to go to Charleston and Savannah for work, I immediately jumped at the possibility of joining him. We contemplated how difficult it might be with Henry, but we decided to take the risk and turn his business trip into a little family getaway.

We left Monday around noon (after Henry pitched a major fit…) and got to Charleston around 5:30. Unfortunately it was already getting dark because of the time change, but we didn’t let that deter us from seeing at least a little bit of Charleston before we hit the hay for the night.

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Henry’s first time in a hotel!

We put Waterfront Park into our Google Maps and started driving. (We were staying in North Charleston for Sam’s job.) After driving for about 25 minutes, we parked on the side of the road, got Henry’s stroller out, and set off for dinner. We decided on sushi for dinner and got out our Yelp! app. We found Sushi Blue, which was about a half-mile walk away from where we parked. (Yes, we realize we could have parked near the restaurant, but what fun is that?)

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I snapped this picture when we went back by during the day.
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Henry was a hit at the restaurant, and a kind stranger even offered to take a family picture after seeing us with our camera.

We got the Yum Yum roll, the Buddha Belly roll, and the crunchy shrimp roll. They were all pretty good, and since we were there during their happy hour two of the rolls were just $6 each. I got a southern mule, which had sweet tea vodka in it. It was also part of happy hour and only cost us $5. Overall, we had great service, good food and drinks, and didn’t pay an outrageous amount, so we were satisfied with our meal!

After leaving the restaurant, we wandered around Charleston. Since it was a Monday night, it was a calm, quiet night. It was also in the low 60s, so we got to wear our sweaters and hoodies.

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We didn’t really have any destination, so we just walked around. We found some cool alleys and historic sites, but we decided we would have to come back for lunch the next day to see more of the city in its glory.

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Had to snap a picture of Henry’s!
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Part of the City Market. There weren’t any vendors there since it was a Monday night.

We ended the night at Waterfront Park. I snapped a few pictures, and we sat on a bench for a few minutes and talked to Henry. After a pleasant night out, we decided to head back with a plan to return the next day!

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It was beautiful at night, so we were excited to see it during the day!
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Even on vacation, we had to squeeze in a bath for Stinky Jr.

We got up Tuesday morning and ate the breakfast at our hotel. Sam went out and did the things he needed to do for work, while Henry and I hung out in our room and packed up our stuff. Sam came back and picked us up, and we headed to Charleston!

After asking a friend for a restaurant recommendation, we decided on Jestine’s Kitchen for lunch. We were going to meet one of Sam’s co-workers there, so we walked around for a little while before we went to lunch. The first things we discovered included going back through the City Market and St. Phillip’s Episcopal Church.

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We walked through the market and were amazed that vendors come back everyday to set up their booths after seeing it empty the night before.
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The view of St. Phillip’s from an intersection of the City Market

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St. Phillip’s is beautiful, and it has a large cemetery across the street with some very old tombstones.
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Sam was such a good sport letting me take pictures while he pushed Henry on some very bumpy sidewalks and cobblestone streets.

After wandering around a little bit, we headed back to Jestine’s Kitchen. Before we even got back, we decided that we were going to get an appetizer. We got a basket of cornbread, which was served with honey and butter. I got the pecan fried chicken breast sandwich with fries and a sweet tea, and Sam had the meatloaf with mashed potatoes and mac’n’cheese. Needless to say, it was Southern food, and it was delicious. We had a great experience with an awesome waitress.

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Notice the turkey salt shaker. I can get on board with a restaurant that makes sure to celebrate Thanksgiving before Christmas.
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Henry was enamored with the turkey salt shaker.

After lunch, we headed over to Peace Pie for some ice cream sandwiches with pie filling. Y’all. So good. I had a pecan pie, Sam had a new classic, and Eli, Sam’s co-worker, had a coconut cream pie. We got to interact with the owner, and he was really nice and answered all of our (many) questions.

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Peace Pie is in this stretch of buildings.

After getting our ice cream sandwiches, we wandered around some more with the intent at seeing Waterfront Park and Rainbow Row before we left for the day. We found some alleys and walked some extremely bumpy cobblestone streets (that Henry slept through).

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Sam had to take a business call, especially considering this was a business trip.

We made our way to Waterfront Park, and it was just as beautiful as the night before. The fountain was pretty, and there were lots of families around having picnics and throwing their coins into the fountain making wishes.

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We wrapped up our Charleston wandering by heading to Rainbow Row. This was one of my favorite things we saw in Charleston. The houses are so brightly colored, and it just puts you in a good mood. We saw several people with cameras snapping pictures of the houses and window flower boxes.

After a somewhat lengthy walk back to our car and a fussy Henry, we hit the road for Savannah. We left around 2:30 and got to Savannah around 5:00. We checked into our hotel and took a few minutes to chill out. Henry was very appreciative of the time.

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We got on Yelp! and found Treylor Park for dinner. It was only a 3-minute walk from our hotel and had good reviews. We walked into a cool atmosphere with friendly staff. I ordered a “Peach Pit,” which had peach cider and bourbon, along with a few other things, in it. Sam got the Biscuits Benedict, which was right up his alley. I had the patty melt with chips. We got the banana pudding creme brûlée for dessert, which was served in a mini-cast iron skillet with vanilla wafers. All of our food was awesome, our waiter was great and offered us recommendations when we needed them, and the atmosphere was something we enjoyed.

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After dinner, we headed back to the hotel, so we could watch the results of the presidential election while resting up for a half-day of wandering through Savannah before heading home the next day.

We got up and packed our things after deciding that we would go eat breakfast somewhere, explore Savannah, go to Sam’s job, and then head home. We decided on eating at a breakfast place called Henry’s, pretty much on the name alone. Sam and I both got Henry’s combo, which is essentially their version of a Waffle House All-Star Special. The combo included 3 eggs, bacon and sausage, 2 pancakes, and grits. I substituted hash browns for my grits though. This may have been my favorite meal we had on the trip, but I am partial to breakfast food. Our waitress was also very sweet.

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His very own restaurant!

After breakfast, we went wandering around Savannah. We went by the Savannah Cotton Exchange building, River Street, and several of the squares around town. We even made our way to Chippewa Square, where Forrest Gump was filmed, but unfortunately, the bench is no longer there.

We didn’t have much time on this trip in particular, but if/when we go back, I would love to do a carriage tour of both cities and be able to spend more time seeking out historical sites. There is so much to do, we definitely didn’t have ample time to cover it all.

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On our way home, we stopped in Macon, Georgia on the Mercer University campus and ate a late lunch. We had Francar’s Buffalo Wings, and anyone who knows me knows I love buffalo wings. We got 15 wings and a large fry to share, which was plenty for us. Our food was good, and we had great service!

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We sat outside and enjoyed the weather to give Henry a good break from the car.

Overall, we had a great trip and ate lots of yummy food! What are some of your favorite things to do, see, and eat in Charleston and Savannah? Comment on this post or e-mail me, so I can begin making my list for next time!

Family Memory Catalog

I LOVE taking pictures. I love that we have phones that can take quality pictures any time, anywhere. I love that my mom passed down her camera that she started her photography business with to me. I love that pictures allow you to capture memories. And I really love taking pictures of Henry because I am already forgetting how small he was, and he’s only three months old!

The thing about today’s society and having our phones to take pictures on is that we have gotten away from actually printing pictures out. I do not love that. In order to avoid taking pictures but never having them in my hands, I sought out a way to hold myself accountable to printing the pictures I took out.

Enter the “Family Memory Catalog,” or at least, that’s what I am calling it.

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I cannot and will not try to take credit for this idea though. I got this idea from something I pinned on Pinterest when I first got it, and I have wanted to use this idea ever since then. Design Sponge had posted about the project I got this idea from six years ago. (You can see the post here.)  The idea is that you have a note card with a date on it for every day of the year, and each year you write something you did that day. Over time it will create a sort of Timehop-esque memory catalog because you will have multiple years to look back on. She uses it as a gift you could give someone else, which I love and may do at some point as well.

When I was getting to the end of my pregnancy and needed something to do to distract myself, I started the project because I knew we would have so many pictures and memories we wanted to remember. I got 366 notecards and wrote the date for each day of the year (including Leap Day!), and then I put mini-sticky notes at the top dividing out each month. I’m sure you could find cuter dividers to use, but the sticky notes work just fine! (In the original post from Design Sponge, she uses vintage post cards to separate her months which is a great idea for something more fun.)

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I put the cards into a drawer from an antique sewing machine painted in Annie Sloan chalk paint. That’s not something you probably have lying around, but my aunt who runs Elizabeth Ann’s had one and gave it to me as a housewarming gift when we moved over to Atlanta. I didn’t intend for it to be used for this, but it ended up being the perfect size. You could use a shoebox if you have one handy!

I know you’re probably thinking, “Okay, so how does this hold you accountable to printing pictures, Erin?” I know, I know, I’m getting there.

 

After each day, I put any pictures taken that day behind it. I think that will make looking back on these days even better years from now when I am writing a new memory down.

Every two weeks or so, I do a picture dump from my phone or memory card in my camera, edit them the way I want them (making sure they are cropped to a 4 x 6 format!), and order them from Costco.

When I pick them up, I write “2016” on the back of them and put them behind the right date by using my phone or the memories I have written down to make sure they go in the right place.

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Right now, I am just laying the framework for a family project that I’m sure will be so much fun to look back on over the years. There’s nothing to look back on yet, since this is the first year I am doing this.

*Sometimes, we don’t really do anything, so I haven’t been writing things down on those days to be honest with you, but I think I may start writing even the small things because they’re important too.

I keep this out on the end table in our living room because I know that if I had to go somewhere to write down what happened during the day, I wouldn’t keep up with it. It’s also fun for others to look at our family memories too!

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Probably should’ve cleaned my table first… Whoops, real life, people.

So, I took Design Sponge’s awesome idea that I have wanted to do for years and combined it with my love of pictures into something that I’m already looking forward to using years from now.

Do you like to take pictures? Where and how do you keep up with the pictures you take? How do you keep up with family memories? I would love to hear things that work for your family as well!! Comment or e-mail me at openhandsopenhome@gmail.com.

An Abandoned Blog Post

I’m sitting here praying about, exploring options, and trying to prepare content for a blog that I’m so excited to start. I previously had a blog that actually helped snag my husband (story for another time, if you haven’t heard it already), but I abandoned it a couple years ago because I had no plan and no time to write posts or really do the things that I wanted my blog to be. Fast-forward to October 27, 2016, and I am a stay-at-home (whaaaat?) MOM (double whaaaat?) to an almost 3-month old son named Henry that I have lovingly nicknamed Stinky Junior, and I’m thinking it’s about time to pull out the old laptop and give this blogging thing another try.

As I was beginning to think about content that I could potentially put on my blog, I knew that I needed to have some posts in a queue in order to not feel discouraged or fall off again. While doing this I remembered a blog post that I had written, abandoned, written on again, and abandoned again that sat in my Google Docs for a year and a half. While reading it, I found myself needing to read the words that I did not even remember writing. I needed to remember that the Lord provides for us the things that we need, even when we don’t know that we need them. He is a good, good Father, and He loves to give us good gifts. So, in honor of transparency, remembrance, and new beginnings, let’s go back to April 28, 2015 when I started a blog post that I needed to read almost exactly 18 months later.

“I never would have guessed that it would be you!” I can’t tell you how many times that I’ve heard this since December 9, 2014. The “it” they’re referring to? Getting engaged at the young age of 20 years old, before most people my age, and planning on getting married while still having a year of college left. And the truth is, I never would have guessed that it would be me either. In fact, I always pushed “the first one to get married” on multiple friends over time and sometimes thought my younger brother of two and a half years might get married before I ever did.

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But God has bigger and better plans than we could ever have for ourselves, right? Now, the intent of this post is not about how Sam and I met, our relationship, or about anything of that nature, but it is about how the Father exceeds any and every plan that I’ve ever made for myself and how often I forget that.

Sometimes these plans aren’t as seemingly exciting, positive, pretty, or neat as getting engaged. Sometimes it looks like rejection. Sometimes it looks like disappointment. Sometimes it looks like confusion. It doesn’t matter what it looks like though because in reality, it is always good, and we can trust in that.

In the midst of knowing that the Lord’s plans are bigger, better, and higher than anything I could ever dream up, it’s still hard to trust. It’s still hard to completely relinquish control of my future to Him. Why? Why is it that I latch on to my plans so tightly that the exchange of mine for His always starts with a bit of disappointment that mine didn’t work out no matter how good His plans are? We have a false sense of control in our lives. It’s not an exchange of my plans for His but a realization that His plans will always prevail. He’s the One that holds my future, not just the One to shape my future around.

The Lord gives us passions and desires, but the way they manifest themselves in our lives can be completely surprising sometimes. We make expectations for what we think will come of something we’re passionate about all the time. Those expectations can even be subconscious, which makes our disappointment surprising and confusing, BUT the Father is faithful to fulfill our passions and desires that He Himself gave to us. It is not in His character to leave them unfulfilled, because by fulfilling them and continuing to be faithful, He is bringing glory to His own namesake.

He exceeds every expectation we could ever have if we just open our eyes and see His provision for what it is.

Fast forward to December 7, 2015. Two days ago, I took my third pregnancy test that came back positive, and I stumbled upon this draft of an abandoned blog post that was never published.

The first thoughts after finding out were, “How could this have happened?”, “Why us?”, and “We’re not ready for this.” There were tears, and not the happy kind, but the kind where you are scared and have no other way to express that. We had a plan! I was going to graduate and move to Atlanta. I would get a job, and we would save money for a few years to get into a house. Then, when we were ready and prepared, we would start trying to have a baby. A picture-perfect plan of our house with a dog and a baby… Then I read this abandoned blog post that reminds me that I could be upset that our plans didn’t work out, but then I would miss out on the goodness of the Lord’s plan.

No, I don’t know what we’re going to do. I don’t know how we will afford everything. I don’t even know how to take care of a baby. I don’t know where we will live. And no, we didn’t mean to get pregnant, but we are trusting the Lord that this isn’t surprising to Him, nor is it a mistake. He has gone before and made a way. He will continue to provide for us. His plans are bigger and better than anything that we could’ve ever hoped for or imagined for ourselves, even if it doesn’t look like it.

In the midst of the chaos and confusion, I am choosing to look at the Lord’s provision for what it is. I am choosing to trust that He will continue to provide for us in ways that we don’t even realize we need. I am going to praise Him for the life and the soul that will be brought into eternity though this. I am going to look to Him in hopeful expectation of what is to come because I know that His plan for us and our family will continue on and on into eternity.

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Now, here I am, watching my almost 3 month old swing and listening to him grunt and coo, and I think back to getting engaged to someone that I knew I loved even though we had only been dating for 9 months, marrying that man and making a covenant to love him forever, and the weekend I took 3 pregnancy tests to confirm the news that I was scared to accept. I also think back to the early morning that Henry was born, and I laugh at myself for being so scared and unsure. We are still new, inexperienced parents who are just trying to take care of our baby the best we know how, but what we’ve learned in the midst of it all is something that we have been learning all along. The Lord’s plans for us are immeasurably more than we could ever come up with on our own. He provides the things that we don’t even realize that we need and the things that we desperately know that we need.

“Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” – Ephesians 3:20-21 ESV

So, no, I never thought it would be me either, but my Heavenly Father did, and I am so grateful.

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