Saturday, November 24, 2012

Our first Thanksgiving

At what point in a girl's life does she make the transition from simply feasting on Thanksgiving goodies to actually partaking in the preparations? Although I have always helped my mom in the kitchen on Thanksgiving (okay, maybe not as much as she would have liked), I decided that since I was a Mrs. this Thanksgiving that it might be time for me to contribute a little more.

I made sweet potato casserole and green bean bundles and had to take a few photos as evidence.

Now I'm no Pioneer Woman, but I will do my best to share the recipes... This sweet potato casserole is my favorite - and I have had lots of sweet potato casseroles in my 24 years.

Start with boiling 3-5 sweet potatoes, depending on size - you should end up with about 3 cups of sweet potatoes. I peel them after I boil them and mash them up.

 Add 2 eggs, 1 cup milk, 3/4 stick butter (melted), 1 cup sugar, 1 Tbsp. vanilla flavoring, 1/2 tsp. salt, mix it up and pour into an oblong casserole dish

Now make the topping -

1 stick butter, melted
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup flour
1 cup chopped nuts 

Pour topping over sweet potatoes 

Bake @ 350 degrees for 30 minutes. After 20 minutes, put marshmellows on top (I like a lot of marshmellows) - I added more after I took this picture - and then finish baking for 10 minutes until the marshmellows are melted.

This isn't the prettiest picture ever but they are awesome!

 I also made green bean bundles but I was too preoccupied to remember to take pictures at this point (I could never been a professional). I did remember once I put them in the oven..

Use whole cut green beans and wrap in half slice of bacon. Mix up 1 stick of butter (melted) and 1 cup of brown sugar with 1 tsp. garlic salt and pour over the bundles. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes.


We have enjoyed four Thanksgiving meals this Thanksgiving. We spent Thanksgiving Day at home in Louisiana and ate with Andrew's parents at lunch, went to one set of his grandparents Thursday evening and then to his other grandparents Friday at lunch. Then we were off to Mississippi for Thanksgiving with my parents this weekend. 

Andrew has fried turkey after turkey this year with our new oil-less turkey fryer that some of our sweet friends gave us as a wedding present and they were all delicious. I meant to take pictures of the process but as it turns out, I am a terrible photographer. And honestly, I am so sick of turkey at this point that I don't even want to look at another turkey for at least two weeks.

Here we are (a little squinty eyed) Friday outside Andrew's grandparents' house on the bayou. 

We have so much to be thankful for, but I am especially grateful for the new family that I gained this year. I could not imagine a more loving family that I could have possibly married in to. They are absolutely wonderful and mirror my own family in so many ways. I am thankful for how much our families are alike and how we were raised with the same values. I am also thankful for a patient and loving husband who is teaching me how to become a better person everyday.

"I will give thanks to the LORD because of his righteousness; I will sing the praises of the name of the LORD Most High." Psalm 7:17

Sunday, November 18, 2012

The Difference a Day Makes

This is a picture of me the night before I drew Andrew’s name in Sunday school and my life changed forever.

June 25, 2011

In some ways, I don’t even recognize that girl in the picture. Single. Insecure. Dying for someone to truly know her heart. She has it all together on the outside and although no one can see her insecurities, they are there. She struggles with feeling that she isn’t good enough, isn’t pretty enough – to have someone win her heart. 

She seeks God daily, falls on her knees before her Creator, begs that His plan would include fulfilled dreams. How much time did she waste waiting on tomorrow? How many lives went untouched? How many selfish prayers did she pray? How many blessings did she miss?

Oh the things I would tell that girl if I could. If she could only understand that tomorrow is coming. That tomorrow will change everything. But today is full of its own blessings. Today holds opportunities that tomorrow will never know.

As I look back at how God’s plan for my life unfolded, I realize a few things. First of all, it was only after I truly surrendered to God’s will – and realized that even if that will did not include a husband, God would still be more than sufficient to meet my needs – that He allowed me to meet Andrew. I specifically remember that conversation with God. And I know that it was only shortly before meeting Andrew because it took place in the apartment where I spent the summer of 2011 – the summer that changed everything.
I remember reading this quote and it resonating with something deep inside me.

“When I learn to say yes to God’s will and I am no longer preoccupied with myself, my abilities or the dreams for my life, only then am I free to finally receive what God has for me. Letting go of my dreams means my future will not be the way I always expected it to be. Only then when I have released my death grip on what I believe God should do, the way I believe He should do it, and when I believe it should happen, am I free to finally receive what God has for me. If God calls me to put my dreams on the altar, I need to trust Him to replace them or revive them in a way that makes the original pale by comparison.” –Gary Mayes

I remember the tears, the quiet whispers, the overwhelming peace from a loving Father. I could face tomorrow because I knew He had all the answers. I knew that He would satisfy the desires of my heart in a way that I could never imagine.

Looking back, I also realize that it took moving me away from my comfort zone – away from the fake securities and the distractions – for God to have my full attention. There, away from everything familiar, I fully relied on God in a way I never had before. It was uncomfortable at times, but God met me there. And He was so faithful. He provided for each need in a way that was better than I could have ever imagined. And through the discomfort, I grew into a stronger person. 

On June 26, 2011, I woke up and got ready to head to the church I had been attending since moving to a new town a month earlier. This church was just another answered prayer that God had blessed me with. I never expected my life to change that day. Just the day before I had been a single girl, insecure, lonely, praying for God to fulfill my desires with more of Him. Is it only by chance that I met Andrew just after I had fully released my dreams into God's hand? I don't think so. I think God waits for us to trust Him, waits for us to release our control and the plans we have for our life so that He can give us something better. 

If you are in a place in life where you are waiting for God to fulfill lifelong dreams, please know that I am praying for you. I pray that God would comfort and encourage you in the way that only He can and that He will satisfy each and every desire of your heart. 

“Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart.” Psalm 37:4

August 2011

Monday, November 12, 2012

I is for Introvert

So.. I am still in the process of figuring all of this blog stuff out and I hope you all will bear with me over these next few weeks and months. I feel as if I have years’ worth of stories and experiences to share, but I am struggling on where to begin. How do I begin to share twenty four years of God's works and wonders in my life - of all the ups and downs along the way that led to where I am today?

You must know that I am a writer at heart. Even when it was still "uncool" and I pretended that I hated writing, I still secretly kept a journal. It has always been my time to self-reflect, to unwind, to learn and to grow. Recently I attended a personality conference at work that one of our patient's mothers was so kind to provide for us. And there I made a huge realization about myself, one that I have denied for a long time. The realization that I am an Introvert. There I said it. An Introvert. And that doesn’t mean that I’m shy or dislike people. As a matter of fact, I love people and am thankful every day for a career that allows me one-on-one interactions with people and the opportunity to have a small place in their lives. Being an Introvert means that I get my energy from time spent alone in self-reflection, whereas an Extrovert can pull energy from being in a crowd. Being an Introvert means that I would rather spend time getting to you one-on-one rather than meeting and greeting you along with fifty other people at a party. 

So all that to say, I will be spending a lot of time writing here. It is my personality to write, to self-reflect. It is how God made me. And I will share here for several different reasons. First of all, I feel that God has led me through experiences and circumstances in my life so that I can share what I have learned with others. And maybe, just maybe, I can use these experiences to encourage others. Even if I never know it. I will also share stories and lessons from the here and now, the today, so that Andrew and I will be able to look back and remember the early days of our marriage. And how God is working in our lives. 

I write also to become part of an awesome community – a community where others come together to share life experiences and to learn from each other. I have been an invisible blog reader for many years, and there were so many times that I would sit at my computer with tears in my eyes and wonder how a stranger could have possibly known just what I needed to hear. I received so much encouragement through years of being away at college, through grad school, broken hearts and lonely days. 

And now it’s my turn to give back.

“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.”
- 1 Thessalonians 5:11

And a few pictures of our sweet family, just for fun.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Avery Mae

The story of Avery and her place in our family really begins with a story of another precious lab named Roux that was in Andrew's life way before he knew I existed. She was a true companion - and enjoyed everything from duck hunting to naps and football games. I remember the first time I visited Andrew's house and met Roux and I realized then how special she was to him.

Around the same time that me and Andrew got engaged we realized that Roux was sick. I was at home in Mississippi finishing up my last clinical rotation and five hours away. We had been noticing a terrible odor coming from her mouth so Andrew took her to get her teeth cleaned at our vet's office. They discovered that the odor was a result of kidney failure and that her body was collecting toxins that her kidneys were unable to filter. Apparently she had been born with bad kidneys and we had never known. Our hearts broke for this precious pet who had become our friend. We prayed for God to heal her body and comforted her as much as we could. She had become so weak that she was no longer as energetic or playful as she had once been. I did my best to comfort Andrew over the phone and visited on the weekends when I could. They told Andrew that she would steadily grow worse and it would be really rough on her. He had to make a decision that no one wants to make. My heart ached for him and for Roux who tried so hard to act herself. We spent as much time with her as we could and loved on her more than most dogs know in a lifetime. Andrew made the decision to let her rest peacefully instead of suffer through her last days. We each grieved her loss in different ways as she had been so special to us all.

When I visited Andrew his house had never been so quiet or felt so empty. I knew how deep his love ran for animals and wondered if he would think about getting another dog. I never asked because I wanted to allow him his time to grieve Roux and knew that eventually he would bring it up. Andrew has a blanket that Roux loved to sleep on and I never really looked at the picture that was on the blanket - it was a fleece and I never thought much of it. One night at his house he unfolded the blanket for me to show me the design. It was a picture of an older black lab and a smaller chocolate lab looking up to her. He told me that he felt like we should get a chocolate lab next and completely surprised me by saying that he had already been looking into breeders. It only took him a few weeks to find a breeder in South Mississippi that had some puppies but we had to wait three or four weeks to get them.

I'll admit that I was unsure of getting a chocolate lab - neither I nor Andrew had ever had chocolates, we had each had only black labs before. I don't know what I thought would be different about them but all those uncertainties were gone the first time I saw little Miss Avery Mae. We dwelt over her name in those weeks waiting to get her and it took us the whole four weeks to finally figure it out. We had two other names in mind that we were trying to choose between when I saw the brand name "Avery" on something and immediately knew that was it. I told Andrew and he immediately knew as well. Andrew had already told me he wanted her name to be something related to hunting and I wanted her name to be something that wasn't overused. The name "Mae" just so easily fit and we got her in the month of May so it made sense. The weekend we were supposed to pick her up happened to be Mother's Day as well and since I was about to move to Louisiana, I felt that I should spend the weekend at home with my mom. Andrew begged me to go to South Mississippi with him to pick up Avery, but in the end I chose to spend the weekend with my mom. He snapped a picture of her when he first put her in the truck to send to me and this is the first picture I saw of her -

That sweet face! I was instantly in love! And I had to wait several days to see her! Andrew kept torturing me with several other pictures...

And here we are the first time I saw her! I thought she was the most precious thing I'd ever seen.

She is now almost eight months old and she has been through so much with us.

She has helped me study for boards...

Taken road trips to visit her family in Mississippi..

 Spent time with us at Smith Lake..

She even got to visit with us for a little while during our wedding reception! Hopefully I will have some of those pictures from our photographer later. But she has brought so much joy to our house - I have never lived with an inside dog before and was a little hesitant at first, although I would never have been able to change Andrew's mind anyway. She is definitely the most spoiled dog I have ever known. Her favorite thing is going to Andrew's parents house and chasing their chickens around inside their pen. She has literally worn a trail around the outside of the pen from running laps.

Andrew is training her to be his duck hunting partner and so far she has caught on really well. We will see how things go when he takes her next weekend. She can sit, heel, give kiss, fetch & shake hands. She just learned "shake" and is so proud of herself that she is constantly wanting to shake hands.

She just wants to be everywhere we are. She is even sitting here with me as I write this. She loves everybody - and has made good friends with the mailman at Andrew's office. Oh yeah, Andrew is able to take her to work with him everyday. Can you say rotten? 

She loves sitting at our window and watching the squirrels run up and down the big oak tree in the front yard. 

If you don't have a pet to love you are definitely missing one of the most loyal types of love you will ever experience. 

We love our Avery Mae. And we have been so blessed by all the love and laughter she brings. Although my shoe collection has suffered a few losses due to her intense love for chewing, it is so worth it. She just loves no matter what, no matter what kind of mood I'm in, no matter how terrible I look when I wake up in the morning - she is there to shower me with kisses. She teaches me everyday about unconditional love and what it means to be a true & loyal friend. And I'm a better person for all the lessons she teaches me.

How has your life been blessed by a pet? We would love to hear your story.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Wedding snippets

 In order to pass the time until I receive wedding pictures from our photographer, I thought I would share some small pieces of our wedding and parts of the planning process.

I knew right away the colors I wanted to use (doesn't every girl think of these things her entire life) but I was having a hard time explaining them to others. So being the visual person that I am, I took off to Home Depot to pick up paint samples that resembled the colors I was imagining. This turned out to be one of the smartest things I did during this whole process. Later on when we decided to hire a wedding planner and during meetings with the florist & caterer, as well when my friends who were giving me showers asked about my wedding colors, all I had to do was show them. I highly recommend this, especially if you are going with a color palette and want specific shades. It helped when choosing flowers, choosing the color for the bridesmaid dresses, and everything in between.

I also knew immediately that I wanted a vintage/antique style wedding and my wedding planner referred to my chosen style as "shabby chic". A friend of Andrew's mom had found these fabulous lanterns for use during her daughter's wedding and she so kindly allowed us to borrow them for ours. Aren't they lovely? We had tons of unique lanterns and I loved every one.

One of the things a girl dreams about her whole life is her wedding dress, and I was definitely not the exception. I had printed off tons of pictures of dresses I liked and the stylist was able to help me find my dream dress - it was only the third dress I tried on. My mom, Andrew's mom, & Shanna (my wedding planner) were the only ones I invited to come on this trip. I assumed it would be a somewhat stressful day and I wanted to limit the amount of opinions to be sure and get something I liked, instead of something everyone else liked. The first two dresses I tried on were fine, but I was constantly noting things I didn't like about them. I remember Shanna telling me that when I put on the dress, I wouldn't be finding things wrong, that I would be speechless. When I put on the third dress and yelled for everyone to come into the dressing room and that I didn't want to move, I knew it was my dress. Had Shanna not just told me I would be speechless? That was exactly the way it happened. I will be posting plenty of pictures of my dress later, but just for fun, here is a picture of our moms on the day we went dress shopping, which also happened to be the first time our moms had met. They immediately hit it off, so much so that everyone around us that day thought they must be sisters. How lucky am I to have these two amazing and beautiful moms?

Choosing bridesmaids' dresses was actually harder than finding my dress - I wanted to find something I thought everyone would like as well as a color that fit my color palette and would look good with the guys' khaki suits. After searching many different locations, I found myself back at Bridal Path in Jackson, MS, which is where I found my dress. I tried on several dresses and finally found this style that had a really good fit as well as a variety of colors available in my color scheme. The colors are a little distorted on the picture from my phone, but we got it in the "sable" found in the color chart below.

 Here I am with all of my lovely bridesmaids on the day of the wedding.

Wedding shoes. Now that's a tricky one. I knew I wanted my shoes to be a shade of peach (that I had in my head) - but I had never actually seen shoes this color. I finally did find a pair of shoes online that matched the image I had in my head, but they were apparently trying to phase them out because every company that carried them only had one size left, and it was not my size. It was also a gamble to order them online, because who knew what they would actually look like in person? So I bet you will never guess the one online store that had these shoes left in my size? Amazon. I have to laugh at this because I never would have imagined that I would buy my wedding shoes from Amazon. But they were perfect. And on sale. And it really doesn't get better than this.

They were actually very comfortable too - which was an added bonus of course. And fit perfectly. It was as if these shoes were made just for me.

Choosing save the dates was fun and I played around with various programs and layouts online and had found several that I liked. I was trying to decide between them all when I found this one that was peach! Have I mentioned that I love peach! Luckily, I - I mean Andrew - had picked out a perfect shade for him to wear in our engagement photos that just made all the colors work perfectly. The save the dates also came with natural brown envelopes. The back of the card told a brief version of our story - you can read our full story under the "Our Story" page link at the top of our homepage on this blog.


Two hundred and twenty five save the dates ready to be mailed. I addressed these all myself - I wanted to save the really good stuff for the invitations which turned out absolutely beautiful.

Shanna and her team did an excellent job. I showed her a picture of a design I loved and she created it perfectly. It was letterpress, although you may not can tell from the picture. The handwriting on the envelopes was the prettiest I had ever seen. I really can't take credit for any of it except choosing the design. It was a blessing to have Shanna take care of this since invitations were to go out during an absolutely crazy time in my life - when I had moved to a new town to live with Andrew's parents, started a new job, and was studying for my board exam. To make things interesting, Shanna also had a baby during this time. I know she has an amazing staff that works for her and I was so thankful for them, although I didn't get to meet but one of them personally.

When I decided that I wanted homemade jams as the favors at our wedding, I really had no idea who I would get to make them. I should have known that as talented as my mother is that she could do it, but I really hated to add that to the plate of everything else that was having to be done. But my mother loves a challenge, and not surprisingly, they turned out perfectly. We added vintage material lid covers, twine, and special tags made by Andrew's mother as well. These favors were the ideal - made with touches of love from both my mom and Andrew's mom.

Not only did my mom contribute her talent, but my dad also made several props to be used during the wedding. I had the idea to be married under a cross used as a central point at the altar and my dad created my vision. He also built a table to be used to hold heirlooms displayed at the reception. The table was covered in a lace tablecloth used at my grandmother's wedding as well as included items such as her wedding pearls, wedding gloves, both mine and Andrew's baby shoes and many other items.

We found several pieces of lace that belonged to my great grandmother and used them in various places. I had a piece tied around a bottle during our engagement shoot, one around my bouquet (with her handkerchief & cameo necklace), and some on baskets we used at the reception.

The baskets were also used to hold sparklers at our reception that were used during our exit - Andrew's mom also made sleeves for the sparklers.

The inspiration behind my fabulous bouquet by florist Chris Allums -

And some of our flowers on the wedding day before arrangements were made -

Finding peach ties for Andrew's groomsmen turned out to be easier than I thought, considering the time I had had trying to find peach shoes. This is the picture from when I found them online and they actually looked just like this.

 Any bride-to-be knows how priceless Etsy finds can be and I was absolutely pleased with all the things purchased from people way more talented than I. I found handmade lace garters, a burlap/lace guestbook, engraved vintage cake servers, and my "Here Comes the Bride" sign carried by my adorable Ring Bearer.

Our wedding day was everything we had dreamed of and we kept saying how we felt like we were living in a dream. It flew by in a whirlwind of precious friends and beautiful memories. We were honored to get to share the day with so many of our friends and loved ones. I was especially grateful for those of my friends and family who traveled so far to be with me on my wedding day since we decided to have the wedding in Andrew's hometown. You may ask why I went the non-traditional route and had the wedding at the groom's church versus the bride's church. If you have read "Our Story" on this blog then you will recall that Andrew and I met in Sunday school when I drew his name for prayer partner. All of that occurred in Andrew's hometown in his church and we wanted to be married at the place where it all began. We made some sacrifices along the way, but we don't regret the decision to have had our wedding in such a special place.

Finding a reception site wasn't easy though - I wanted to have the reception outdoors and there really was a lack of choices available. I had had the idea a long time ago that Andrew's parent's house would be a good reception location and in the end that is what we went with. His mom had just built a barn for her art studio and my wedding planner fell in love with the idea of using it as a backdrop. With the addition of some awesome pole lights, cafe lights, & other light design by Stephen Davaine it was transformed to my dream location.

I can't wait to share more pictures from our special day!