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Date Night at a Vineyard

We try and get a date night every so often - always married, forever dating, am I right?

Our favorite things to do are

  1. adventure
  2. drink wine
  3. listen to music

and by chance last night, all of the three above happened!

Last year we found a sweet vineyard tucked away in the hills of Medford, Oregon (this is about 2 hours from where we live in California). It's called Dancin' Vineyards and goes off of the theme that everything they do from growing and picking the grapes to serving people is a dance. Love that.

All of their seating is out side - first come, first serve. It's lit by sweet market lights outside of a yellow stucco Italian looking home with vines crawling up each corner. In the back, they raise chickens and have their Chardonnay grapes.

This particular night, there was a musician, an incredible guitaristcovering some of our favorite songs to sip our wine flight to. We both got the wine flight and tried a variety of white and red wines from their winery. We also ordered the charcuterie board with Willamette Valley Cheese Co. Brie, Rogue Creamery Brutal Blue, Briar Rose Chevre, Fruits, Bee Local Cherrywood Smoked Honey and Focaccia Crackers. YUM!

We were told the pizzas were big enough to split, so we did. We each had three pieces of the Passo E Mezzo with Duck Confit, Easy Valley Spinach and Pumpkin Seed Pesto, Buratta. It sounds super fancy but it was basically a pizza with duck meat, spinach, pesto and great great cheese.

To top off the lovely evening, we shared an ice cream with chocolate shavings and a Pinot Noir port before walking around some of the garden trails to see the coy ponds and the rest of the grounds.

Date nights are so special to us. We spend these evenings chatting about our dreams, our weeks and where we feel like the Lord is calling us in the next few days and years. It opens up great opportunity to hear each other and to understand each other without the pressure to be understood first. Needless to say, this date night was one for the books and this memory will be cherished forever. 

What's your favorite thing to do on a date night?

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5 Lessons I've Learned in Marriage

Woah, Today, Thomas and I have been married for one whole year. It's been a year full of fun, adventures, traveling, moving, graduating, and so much more! Through it all, we've learned a few key pieces that we use practically almost everyday. Out of a spirit of vulnerability, we wanted to share those with you all because no marriage is perfect but there's so much we can share with one another.

1. You don't meet each other in the middle

For so long, I've imagined marriage as a "you give 50% and I give 50% and then we'll be at 100%." But, I was so wrong. Most days, I can't give 50%, much less 10% so with my theory, that would mean Thomas is giving more than 50% a lot. That's not "fair." At least, that's what the world will tell you. But, if our motive is to serve each other well and out-give the other, it becomes fun to "out serve" one another. So when I aim to give 100% of myself and he aims to give all of himself. Then there's more room for improvement, for failure, for grace. And that's what marriage is alllllll about: tons of grace.

2. Marriage is a covenant, not a contract

Along the lines of "meeting each other in the middle," the world tell us that we signed a contract when in reality, we are apart of a greater thing: a covenant. A contract can be broken when one doesn't uphold their part of the deal. It goes void. However, when I fail or I get upset or grumpy, Thomas still aims to love me well. Likewise, when Thomas isn't having a great day, that doesn't give me permission to give up on him. What binds us together is not the words, "I do" or signing a marriage license, it's the commitment that we made to do life together and believing that we can go farther together even though we may be able to go faster alone. Farther is better.

3. You can't love on your own

So many times I try and give love, give love, give love. But, y'all, that's exhausting. I try and cook meals, clean the house, make sure that Thomas is feeling respected and loved, that he has clean clothes, that I'm hugging him and greating him with a kiss and gosh! That's a lot when you're doing it out of your own strength. Sometimes, I wake up on the wrong side of the bed and don't feel like hugging anyone, I don't feel like doing the laundry or the dishes, I don't feel like respecting Thomas, I feel more independent and not dependent. Those times that I feel like doing something other than what I've been called to do as a life leave me selfish and Thomas feeling unloved. Most of the times that I feel those ways are because I am relying on my own heart rather than overflowing from the Lord's. When I tap into the resources that I have with God, he gives me the strength, the desire and the craving to want to serve Thomas better than I ever would have wanted to if I tried it on my own. For so long I had it backwards. I have to love Thomas so that I'm doing it right, so that I'm a "good Christian." When really, I must first be in love with Christ so that I can then love my husband.

Just like a car, we have to fill up with gas and then we can run. When your gas runs out, your car doesn't work or go anywhere. The world and it's culture tells us, "your car isn't working" so you need a new car" when really all you need is to get to a gas station and fill up with some more gas. A car can't just run on it's own just like we can't love on our own. Just because we're feeling empty and our gas tank is out doesn't mean it's time to go searching for a new car or give up on the spouse that we have. 

4. You're constantly learning one another

I'm still learning what makes him tick, what grinds his gears, what he loves, what his childhood was like and it's a fun adventure! We're constantly "taking notes," discovering new things about one another than make us more efficient in fighting fair, conversations, daily routines and such. So the times that are hard and we're having to jump some hurdles in a relationship can't be times that we get discouraged. Instead we should celebrate that we know each other more deeply and that we are making progress! 

5. Community is key

Without the community that we've made in Birmingham, being a part of our small group, having people over for dinner and going to other's homes for meals, we wouldn't be standing still. It takes people to encourage you, rebuke you, remind you of what marriage is. Community should be full of vulnerability and freedom! To be able to say "yeah, last week was not a good week for us, we were really struggling" and someone to respond, "it's okay, us too" or "yeah, we've been there" is a great relief! We are not doing this whole marriage thing alone. Hallelujah! You must have a community of people to uplift you when you need someone to pray and lift you up, someone to remind you how great your spouse is when you're just to frustrated to see through the clutter, to release the enemy's grip when you feel weak. 

 

So, no. By no means do we have this figured out. However, we have learned so much and are still learning! From glory to glory, it keeps getting better and better. The best is yet to come!

5 Things Every Bride-to-Be Should Be Doing

The build up to the wedding day - sheesh. There's the venue planning, the caterer, the dress alterations, seat planning, making sure you won't run out of food, etc. But, if you're anything like me, you're an organizer and you want to make sure that there is not a thing that will get overlooked. Although, that's a silly expectation (because nothing really goes seamlessly) there are a few things that I found important throughout my engagement season that all brides should know about.

1. Perfume

Sounds crazy, but this was one thing that I did that I am so so thankful I remembered to do. Find a scent that you love and buy it. Don't use it until the wedding day, let it sit in the box (patience) or have your groom give it to you as a gift. Bring it out on your wedding day and spritz some on the morning of and then again before you walk down the isle. Bring it on your honeymoon and continue to use it on special and fun occasions afterwards. 

It's such a sweet concept: every time you spritz some on, you'll remember your special day, all the romance, all the love and your incredible adventures in the few days after your wedding day you spent in paradise. Whenever I go to put mine on, it's impossible for me to not remember the memories attached to that fragrance. 

2. Box of sentimentals you want photographed

Your photographer should set up these expectations with you. But, incase she hasn't: put together a box of valuable items that you'd want photographed. Your dress, the wedding party, the reception is all great and fun to look through when the album comes back but don't forget to cherish the details. This is why the box is so important. Stuff it with your invitation suite, his ring, your ring, anything you're carrying down the isle, ribbon, etc. 

Hand this over and designate this responsibility to someone else that can get this special box to your photographer before the chaos begins.

3. Writing letters

It's so sweet to receive letters that are delayed. Write letters throughout your engagement season. Write him what you're looking forward to, what you love about him, what's been difficult, what's been easy and hand them over the day of! You may not have time to read them then and there but those letters are something you can both work your way through and read in the weeks after.

4. Date! Date! Date!

Go on dates with your fiancé. This anticipation feeling and eagerness to finally call each other "husband" and "wife" makes date nights all the more fun. They include dreaming with each other about careers, houses, children, family, etc. So, soak it up! Don't forget to treat each other to a date night: dinner and a movie, mini golf, dessert and coffee, but please date! When you do go on the dates, the wedding and planning and such is off limits.

5. Block out the haters!

You'll get a lot of people that disagree with you about your decision to get married. My mom told me during my season of engagement, "if you wait until everyone's approval, you'll never get married." So, trust yourself, trust your fiancé, and block out the discouraging noise. Don't let their tainted view of marriage taint yours. 

People see marriage as a "lock down" as "you'll never be free again" but in my opinion, I've never felt more free. Marriage is really great and has challenges but anything worth it is worth fighting for. My marriage is not dead and yours will not be either as long as you continually serve one another and seek God's will for your family first. 

Enjoy this season - it doesn't last forever.

 

"He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus." Philippians 1:6

Photography by Jessi Nichols Photoraphy

Valentine's Day in Nashville

To be honest, the real reason we swung by Nashville in the first place was to pick up a washer/dryer set that we bought #adulting. But thanks to that, we were able to spend the day walking up and down the streets of The Gulch and 12 South in Nashville, TN. If you've never been, you're missing out -- incredibly. If you have, you'll probably read this and the whole time be nodding your head and saying "yes!" 

Here's a look at our itinerary and the places we found along the way. 

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On our way into the 12 South neighborhood, we stopped in the Gulch to grab some Biscuit Love coffee to-go. I'm convinced they have the best brew.  I grabbed a chai and Thomas got his regular order, iced coffee.

We ended up parking at the very end of the 12 South strip so we could walk all the way from Jeni's ice cream all the way down to the White Mercantile and we didn't miss a thing.

12 SOUTH

Places to Shop:

Amelia's Flower Shop

The sweetest flower truck that parks in different corners around Nashville carries the greatest selection of flowers to create the bouquet of your dreams. It was just my luck and I was able to put together a Vday bouquet with the help of Thomas. Lots of carnations, eucalyptus and other beautiful flowers. Praise!

Cadeau

A super cute and funky place to just walk around and enjoy all the beautiful knick-knacky things. They have beautiful bar cart stocking items, coffee table books, things for your office that are rather odd and lovely. Not to mention, the music you're shopping to is always on point and the manager could easily become one of my best friends. 

 

White Mercantile

If you love antiques, the farmhouse look or anything that has to do with rustic contemporary, be sure to stop by. The White Mercantile has antiques and odd-ends in one room and the other has everything from women and mens clothing to toys to really great socks and journals and thing to make your pet super happy. 

Draper James

This store, owned by Reese Witherspoon, is a great fun shop if you love being identified as a "southern belle." Almost every clothing piece has the word "y'all" incorporated, they offered Thomas some sweet tea and they have the cutest nooks full of classic southern decor. 

Places to eat:

Bartaco

I can't rave about this place enough. If you want authentic Mexican food with a great atmosphere, personal servers and want to sip on a margarita while you're at it, Bartaco is your place. They make their tequila in house so you can imagine how magical their margaritas are. Their menu is sushi-style meaning that you order at your own convince and fill out a paper with how many of what tacos you want and they come by, pick it up and your tacos come out in no time. We, however, ordered the large tray with 9 tacos and 3 sides and 2 tamales. It was the perfect amount for the two of us since we've been walking around all day until then. Greatest news - if you eat outside, they're dog friendly. So, Remi got to join us and eat his dinner right next to us. 

Five Daughters Bakery

The pink neon lights, the white subway tile, the lines and lines and options of donuts, it's truly magical. I love Five Daughters because of their tiramisu and maple bacon donuts. They're filled with a buttery cream (I normally don't like cream filled donuts) so the donuts are well worth the four dollars. Must go. If you don't have time to go in, no problem! You can order them and pick them up to-go!

Our First Christmas Together

Joining forces on traditions is the most fun -- especially Christmas, I love Christmas. We never officially purchased our own stockings but my mom let us borrow ours from her house. Christmas Eve, we baked cookies, finished wrapping, put presents under the tree while watching Home Alone 2 with hot chocolate steaming in our mugs. We packed up Remi, in his Christmas sweater, and hopped in the car and headed down the road to some Christmas lights. When we came home, we plugged in the Christmas tree and kept it lit all night. 

Yeah, sounds dreamy until your dog (*cough* Remi *cough*) threw up all night because he ate all of the wrapping supplies that we wrapped presents with the day before. Ugh. 

Also, I went out and ran errands with chocolate on my face from making cookies so really Christmas Eve was just a blast. 

We did stockings for each other this year and it was the most fun, getting things for other people is my love language so BOOOYAH. It's tough to put together the stockings for each other without each other seeing. So, we assembled stockings and put them under a blanket on the couch for the morning. 

Christmas morning, I woke up to the sound of the Hallelujah Chorus playing. This is special to me because that's the song that woke us up every Christmas morning at my home. We lifted the blanket and opened stockings and gosh, my man knows me. All of my fave candies, nail polish and gadgets were in that stocking. 

We packed up our car with gifts and duffles and Remi, of course, and headed down the road to our home town to see our families. the car ride was full of jazzy Christmas music, and our travel book -- Me Before You. When we got to my family's house, we unwrapped presents after brunch with the smell of fried oysters, with excited shrieks and dogs running around each other eating wrapping paper. We unwound by taking a quick nap before heading to Thomas's parent's house. 

There, we had a blast opening presents, smiling until our cheeks hurt and sat down for a huge Christmas dinner. Needless to say, we went to sleep with stomachs completely full to the brim with food, incredible memories that will always last when we recall the first Christ we shared as husband + wife. 

 
what they're not telling you about marriage

There's a lot about marriage that is inexplicable until you are actually in the covenant of marriage. So I'm going to try, with words, to describe to you a few things that are extremely important when thinking of marriage. 

It's beautiful. But, the world has perverted it and it deserves a redefinition to it's original meaning. 

1. Marriage is not the end goal.

I overhear conversations in coffee shops (sorry for eavesdropping...) or the grocery store and girls are staring at the wedding magazine drooling over their dream wedding day. It's not about the wedding, it's about the marriage. It's about the thousands-no-millions of hours that follow after those eight that deserve the investment. 

Other conversations include dialogue like, "I just can't wait until marriage because ______"

  • Finances will become easier
  • I'll always feel loved
  • My problems will be fixed 
  • Etc. 

However, marriage was not given to us as a gift to fix our problems. We've put the stress on marriage to complete us, make us happy and be able to add to our value. This is why the divorce rate is just as, if not more, popular as the keeping the covenant of marriage. Because marriage was not created for our happiness. In fact, it was created to humble us. It's so that we learn the relationship between Christ and the Church. It will never be perfect like Christ's love. Marriage, our spouse, will fail us. That's the design. That's the gift. We are gifted with failure of one another so that we are continually pointed back to Jesus. If you had a perfect marriage, there'd be no room for Jesus to satisfy. So embrace the struggle, right?

2. Marriage is just  a piece of the amount that God love us.

Like I mentioned earlier, marriage is s gift because it gives us a picture of the way that Christ loves us. Just a picture. It's microscopic to the way that he pursues us. 

Confession time: last week was pretty nuts for me. I got overwhelmed quickly with the items stacking up in my agenda, dishes in the sink, Remi peed on our linen duvet cover (bitter about it still, I'll admit), we had no food in the fridge that looked appealing (angry) so I, in my sinful nature, came in the door and walked right back out. I didn't return home for about 2.5 hours and found myself finishing up some of the things that needed to be scratched off of my to-do list. On the way home I thought, gosh, I left Thomas, not telling him where I was going, he doesn't know when I'm going home and he knows that I'm upset. This immediately broke my heart, my speedometer sped up and all of a sudden I was anxious to get home, to be greeted by him, to snuggle Remi despite the fact he had an accident on one of my favorite things ever. 

Then it clicked. Why am I not as anxious to come home to the Father? Why am I okay avoiding Him, His home and His Kingdom when I think mine takes precedence. He waits for us to return, with open arms, but we have to decide to make the u-turn and be the prodigal son we've read about. Thomas missed me when I left. How much more does Jesus miss me when I storm out because things don't look the way I think they ought to?

Success in marriage doesn't come until eternity. I'm not successful because he feels loved or because I feel loved in return. Success is when Thomas stands before the Throne of God and is told, "well done good and faithful servant" and I may know that I am part of the reason why. There's something bigger than my family. 

"Return to me, do not forsake me" Jeremiah 2:19

When we get in a habit of being "happy" and satisfied with what we experience on Earth from our earthly relationships, we are neglecting the good gift which comes from Christ. Not our husband, ladies. 

3. Intimacy is not natural. 

"When I get married, then I'll feel loved." Ehhh, not quite. Intimacy and feeling loved and connected comes when the two of you fight through an obstacle together, when you do something for the Kingdom. Francis Chan made a good point when he compared intimacy to sport teams. Intimacy + community and the dog pile doesn't occur after they've been in the locker room holding hands and singing with one another. No. It happens after a touchdown, interception or first-down. It happens when a goal is completed, there's a celebration. Intimacy is the same. It's not something that is always a part of the relationship, when the two of you combine forces for the Kingdom, intimacy is rewarded.

"Intimacy is the by-product of living on mission with one another" -Francis Chan

Some of you may be thinking, "gosh. That's a lot different than I expected" or "mmm maybe marriage isn't for me." Let me repeat, I think that marriage is a gift. It's a beautiful display of the way that Jesus loves us and is sacrificial for us, it shows us that when we are vulnerable, there are blessings. It shows us that there is a greater mission than loving ourselves and loving others. It shows us that we are loved more than we can ever imagine or experience here on Earth. It displays "faithfulness" and the replication of the way that we are called to be married to the Lord. 

It's beautiful friends. I pray that you get to experience the ultimate love of Christ. Anything other is incomparable. 

A Diary of a Newlywed Kitchen

If you don't agree that the thought of your husband picking up the fork with a steaming creation inching closer (in slow motion) to his mouth gives you a little anxiety, you're either 1. Paula Deen, herself or 2. completely confident. 

I, at first, was not either of the above to be honest. Thomas has a mom that is phenomenal in the kitchen so I knew that expectations were a little high. If you're a married woman a little apprehensive about whipping up some great meals for your family or unmarried and dreading the day, this is for you. 

One time I tried to make beer bread. I followed the recipe, poured the batter in the bread pan, poured on the glaze and popped it in the oven. Three minutes later and there's smoke starting to seep into our tiny home. I glanced at the oven and double take real quick when I saw a flame in our oven. Yeah, go Rachel. I didn't know what to do so I yelled, "fire!" followed by a few other words I would never claim and I frantically went for our fire extinguisher. 

Thank God for a calm husband that grabbed my shoulders (yes, the fire is still going at this point) and say, "Calm down, it will be okay." He let the fire die down in the oven on its own and long story short, the beer bread was never fully baked. 

Another time, we went to Greenville for a while and knew we weren't coming back until later so I put some spaghetti squash and sauce in the crockpot, following another recipe, and we came back, hangry (hungry + irritable) to absolute mush. Oops. My bad. 

Here are a few things that save my tush in the kitchen. 

I highly recommend getting a cookbook and figuring out which recipes look a little manageable to ya. They're the best! They're like picture books for adults. I flip through until I see a picture that I love and drool over, dog ear the page and continue to flip. It makes it so much more manageable and also gives you some hope of what this mean could look like. 

This one, The Newlywed Cookbook, is the best because it is made for the simple wife, the "let's just try and see" woman. It's easy and even gives some tips how to incorporate your hubby into the process. Hand over the knives and towels and let him put some sweat in, too!

Pinterest is more than wedding planning and outfits, y'all. If you don't pin food, I don't even know who you are. Create a board with some of your favorite recipes and stock up. A lot of times these are food bloggers that are great to follow but also give additional advice for the process, not just the ingredients and directions.

The kitchen is more than cooking the food. It's about the savory smell and reaping what you sow. It's about the time, energy and effort you're putting into serving your significant other. He will understand and be grateful regardless. I'm blessed with a  husband that scarfs down even the nastiest of foods that I mess up or make the best of.

One of my favorite books that stresses this concept is Bread and Wine. She does an incredible job of describing the real reason of the kitchen: to fully know, remember, serve and glorify the Lord. Seriously, there's room to acknowledge him in everything. While pouring your sweet tea or red wine, flipping your burgers or rotating your chicken, seasoning your carrots or peeling your sweet pot remember communion with your community. Remember what Christ did for us. This makes your time cooking in the kitchen so much sweeter with a greater purpose than making a tasty meal. 

I'm no pro, I'm still learning how to chop, peel and not make my home all smokey. But, there's grace and room for improvement. If your is better in the trash than your mouth, light some candles, play some jazzy music, pray over the meal and own it. Someone once told me, "burnt food tastes better under candlelight" and I fully agree. 

 

B E H I N D   T H E   S C E N E S   I N   O U R   K I T C H E N

Behind the Scenes of a Wedding Day

A wedding day: every girl's biggest dream. I can't describe how much fun we had and how much of a thrill it was to see the fruits of all the labor at the very end. Planning seems like a nightmare to most, but I, with the help of my mom, lots of friends and an incredible party planner, would consider it one of my favorite parts of being engaged.

Here's a tip for the newly engaged or the soon-to-be fiancés: your wedding day is not what you are preparing for in this time. It's not the wedding, it's the marriage. If you put your heart into this day, tell those you love the (sometimes hard) truth of what matters to you most, and enjoy it-you've done it right. As soon as it becomes overwhelming, obnoxious or consuming, take a break, go on a date and host a conversation with your significant other about something else besides the wedding. Just some free advice..

I'm sharing a little bit of my inside experience as a bride. The truth, honesty, fun + messy parts of the process-not just what you see in the pictures or in movies. I'll share some secrets, fun tips, great vendors and helpers in the process along with some pretty fantastic pictures from our day shot by the beautiful, Jessi Nichols

V E N U E

We found our venue out of happenstance. Mom suggested it to me when we were first considering locations and of course, because it's what all daughters do, I said, "no." Fast forward a few weeks later, Thomas and I drove by the property, located in the heart of Historic Columbia and thought, "gosh, what a beautiful place to get married." My mom smiled and nodded in polite agreeance and we scheduled a tour. 

The Robert Mills House and Gardens in Historic Columbia, is a large white house with two brick buildings on either side with a grand front yard entrance and a large grassy backyard with tall oaks occupying the space. On either side of the house are gardens. One is a rose garden with a gravel pathways weaving in and out. Another is a wildflower garden with a fountain and another grassy lawn we used as a cocktail hour. 

The contrast between the white painted brick, the historic touch of the South, the modern feel of the outdoor garden venue paired with the archways that lay underneath the patio made for the greatest party location. No driving, no relocating, simple. (Highly suggest).

F L O W E R S 

One of the parts of planning I loved the best: people were so eager to help and step up. We had people popping out of everywhere running all of their talents and hobbies by us and asking if we would appreciate their service. I am so grateful that an extended family member did. Our florist was Thomas's aunt's mother-in-law. She owns a quaint florist shop in Columbia and has always helped with all of the family's weddings. She had a great eye and the most unique contributions when it came to deciding which flower for which costs. It's important to find a florist that will 1. listen to you and what you want and 2. team up with you to make the best bouquets or centerpieces without all of the additional costs. 

 

T H E  D R E S S 

I feel like I'm saying that every part of my planning process was my favorite, but for real: shopping with your bridesmaids, family and friends for your wedding dress, the wedding dress, is one of the most exhilarating experiences. You get to try on lots of fun dresses, with a pile full of people to affirm you, love on you when, let's be honest, us women aren't the kindest to ourselves. We get to see that, "oh wait, that Pinterest dress actually does not look the same on me" and you find something that fits your style not your board's. 

I walked away with a dress I would have never drawn up for myself. But, with the help of my best friends, family members and myself (remember your own opinion, too), I carried out a beautiful, classic yet modern dress I was so proud to wear. 

E X T R A   H E L P

I highly recommend that you have at least a "day of coordinator." I was blessed to have an entire planner that is a dear and close family friend that is not only good at loving people but is phenomenal at doing her job and making your day goes as plans. Of course, there are plans that go a little nuts the day of because everyone is trying to do what they know to do but to have that one person to keep it all together and arrange things is perfection. Taylor Batt, with Alyson Taylor Events (aka super woman) was the one to think of all the disasters waiting to happen before they did. she put out the fires before they arose. What a gal! Everyone needs a Taylor Batt on your wedding day. In fact, in your life!

P H O T O G R A P H E R 

When you start planning, sit down and list out all of your priorities, in order of importance. Photography sat at the top of mine. I was willing to pay a price to get moments captured by someone I trusted. Once the memories fade, the pictures will always be there. And, if you can't tell, I'm a picture-girl. I love me some beautiful pictures.

I found our photographer on Instagram (highly recommend) because I knew what her work looked like: beautiful, bright and consistent. I sent in an inquiry and she invited me to coffee (another plus).

You want your photographer to end up being someone you can rely on for that day. Someone you can go ahead and warn what the hard parts will be and give them the social freedom to step up and be your advocate in those situations. 

Jessi Nichols did that and I could not flaunt her any more. I am so so thrilled with the way our pictures (these pictures) turned out. 

Photography is worth the splurge, people. 

 
 

V I D E O G R  A P H Y 

Not only was photography worth the splurge to me, but videography was as well. I knew that what pictures wouldn't always capture, video would. I am grateful to have two great friends that are stellar behind a lens. Max Huggins and Austin Koon shot and edited our video and created the best montage of memories that we will always cherish and re-watch again, and again, and again. These two also acted as our body guards throughout the day, they scooped us up and escorted us through people to get the shot we knew we would regret not getting.

Communicate your needs to your vendors/people before the day of and if they're good, they'll keep you accountable. On that day, the detail shot or all the other things that were important to you will not be on your radar. 

I N V I T E S    +   A L L   T H I N G S   P A P E R 

I did a big "no-no" and order too many Save The Dates for too much money. That really hurt me in the budget that my mom and I created. When it came to invites, because I had shot myself in the foot with the Save The Dates, I had to be creative, think a little outside of the box. I turned to some of my really great and wonderful friends that love graphic design and showed them what I was envisioning for my invites and they created it! I mean, right down to the font, they were perfect. I went on Etsy and found really great floral watercolor images that I would carry out through my RSVP cards, Information Cards, etc. I ordered my inner and outer envelopes online and had my invites and other paper items printed at a local printshop. 

People, my invites + all other paper items (including the programs) were all under $100. Try and match that price online...

Advice: step outside of the "norm" and use your brain to come up with alternative ways to do what you want. These website, and sometimes vendors, are pretty sneaky and try and getchya where they can because they know you'd pay almost anything to make this day "perfect." 

F O O D   +   C A K E  

Oooooh, I wish there a rewind button just for our buffet. Forget the fancy menu, we wanted the deep south combo! We had all of our food catered from Palmetto Pig, a local BBQ restaurant. With BBQ, fried chicken, mac and cheese, green beans, baked beans, cole slaw, hush puppies and biscuits, no one left hungry (I hope).  We aren't really "fancy people" so a "fancy menu" just didn't fit us. 

The only food that was not catered by Palmetto Pig was the pimento cheese that my mom whipped up 20 pounds of and the fresh cut watermelon for cocktail hour. Thankfi;

I've been to a few weddings where I just haven't really been in the mood for cake, not because I don't like cake (ya girl loves cake) but because I wasn't really a fan on the flavor. One of our biggest hesitations about the cake was the flavor because everyone has a different taste pallet. We came up with a solution: a cake bar. We had 7 different flavors from chocolate to carrot to vanilla and raspberry to caramel and more. That's a great way to please the entire crowd. 

 
 

Honestly, this was the part I was most anxious about. Not because I would be walking down the aisle to my soon-to-be husband; but, because of all the people that would be there to watch. Ceremonies are great but a little weird if you ask me. It's a great celebration with an audience, I think they call that a play...

There's a lot of pressure to make sure everything goes as plans: don't trip down the aisle, don't stutter on your vows, don't lose your veil in the middle of your ceremony (guilty). But, it was critical to me that in the midst of everything going on that our ceremony felt real. I didn't want it to seem like a show. We got rid of a lot of the traditional stuff that you'll normally find in the program. We added the parts that were significant to us: communion, a prayer from our guests and bridal party, a music selection that would remind us of "the day" every time we heard it, etc. 

 
 

Thomas and I decided that we would write our own vows: we wanted them to be similar to each other's yet incorporate a lot of our promises in our relationship to help the transition be as smooth as possible, spiritually and emotionally. 

I asked Thomas in the midst of the wedding planning process, "what means the most to you on our wedding day? What is one detail you cannot live without." He answered, "I want you to come through doors." It was a silly request because we were married outside. Naturally, there are not doors. But, we were able to put our hands on some and rent them for the day to fit Thomas's wishes. He still had the "grand entrance" he had always imagined and I still got my breezy, birds chirping ceremony that I had always dreamed of.

 
 

This, my friend is what you'll have to make your wedding day all about: compromise. Listen to one another, be up-front about your dreams, aspirations and desires. This will avoid a lot of conflict when decisions are made out of assumption and tempt the other to get upset over something that could be really silly and pointless (like for us, what point the groomsmen walk down the aisle LOL). 

A topic for another conversation, what it's like on your wedding day if you've lost a parent. But, honestly, this was one of the hardest hurdles for me.  I thought about my dad greatly in the planning process but it never seemed like he was actually missing out, until that day. If this is something that you are preparing to go through, it will be okay. In all the ways that I knew I would have to find a stand-in, I did so with purpose and affection so that I would be comforted in these moments. My brothers walked my down the aisle, one on my left side, one on my right. My grandfather gave me away to Thomas (a sweet moment I will never forget).  

 
 

We wanted our ceremony to also be a worship service. We included music from our favorites, Hillsong, Phil Wickham and more. We took communion together as our first act of marriage and afterwards we had our bridal party and congregation pray over us. Thomas crafted and made by hand a cross that was draped in a floral arrangement for our alter. It was a time that we dedicated to our relationship not being the "end goal." Thomas and I wanted to take the opportunity to have all of our friends and family gathered to declare the purpose of our marriage: to glorify the Lord. I hope we did just that. 

All we wanted was a party and, I may be biased, but it was exactly that. We had a DJ (Carolina Dance and Sound) that brought his own laser lights, had a dance floor laid down, turned up the music, said, "yes" to requests, had glowing market lights strung from oak to oak to light up the night and we had a hard time shutting the party down. 

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We, like a lot of weddings, ate our dinner during the reception. Thomas and I decided to eat out with everybody else. However, we switched it up a bit and ate at a table just the two of us. This was my favorite because we were able to enjoy our supper with each other while also still enjoying the company of our guests and being involved with them since we knew this time would only last for a short while. 

 
 

We both had 10 people on our side the day of and we don't regret it one bit. We'd get the "oh my! That's a lot of people" response quite frequently. But, we asked for a party, didn't we? There was always someone there to fix my hair, fan me when I got hot, have a glass of water for me ready to go, have a joke for me to laugh at, put my veil back in when it fell out.  We loved it. 

Thomas's guys were a blast as well, they kept us girls cool, calm and collected. While the bridesmaids and I were getting ready, the groomsmen and my groom went skeet shooting the morning of. I'm jealous. 

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All of our cousins, nieces and nephews went down the isle as our flower girls and ring bearers. Yep, all of them. Again with the party thing. They loved the parade of throwing flowers, one of them even ran. I was told it was the cutest thing ever and I'm pretty sad I missed it (I was behind the rental doors). 

 
 
 
 

At the end of it all, I am thankful that we made adjustments when we saw fit. We made that day ours but also kept with tradition and loved every bit of it. It was more than just the wedding to us, it was the start of an embarkment that is still continuing today. So, after the curtain falls, what will you want to remember most? A sigh of relief or tons of giggles and "that was so much fun!"?

 

xoxo,

Rachel

Let's talk about money

I remember the first time Thomas and I sat down and actually talked about what was going on in our bank accounts. My palms got super sweaty, we were eating wings and fries, trying to make it causal, and we just straight up talked about right now, how much we had in checking and savings.  Lots of "ummm"s and "uhhh" and awkward pauses completed the conversation but at the end of it, I felt this relief. "We're going to be okay" I thought. 

We weren't going to be okay necessary because we had a lot of money, in fact we didn't. But, I knew we were going to be okay because the dialogue had been opened up. "Communication is key" you hear that a lot; seriously, it is when it comes to your marital finances, or finances in general.

When money becomes an issue for women, we feel unsafe, unprotected because there is so much unknown. When money becomes an issue for men, they feel uncontrolled, irresponsible which leads to a lack in confidence. 

I did some fact digging and here's what I found: finances and the struggle of is the number one cause of divorce in America. You may be thinking, "I'll marry rich so I don't have money issues" and I'm going to be real honest, you can't get away from them, honestly. You'll either have too much or not enough. 

Money is always an awkward topic. When friends asked me to go to out to eat and I realized I didn't have cash on deck to do so, I'd sometimes make up another excuse because, let's face it, no one wants to talk about the dolla dolla bills. It's tense, awkward and something we like to keep to ourselves. This can lead to destruction, "what's hidden can never be healed." Handling your money well is Biblical. "Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God's grace in its various forms." 1 Peter 4:10. Whether this is spiritual gifts, characteristic gifts or financial gifts, we must steward them well. 

So, Thomas and I sought out some guidance on this issue, prayed about it and were actually gifted with an awesome wedding gift. My aunt and uncle gave us all the workbooks, audiobooks and classes for Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University

This is a must take. This is not a sponsored blog, I am not being paid to say this. Actually y'all, this is the best class I've ever taken in my life. It gives you the low down on saving for emergencies, how to invest in your 401K, Roth IRA, how to pay off your student loans or other debt and how to spend smart and how to set up a budget. 

Ew, budget. Most of you probably just cringed. Let me clear something up; a budget is actually made for you, not against you. It provides healthy boundaries so that you can live the way that you want to. It gives you the power instead of your debit card. "If you don't tell your money where to go, it'll find a place to go itself." Dave Ramsey said it himself. 

We meet in a class with other people in the community also signed up, once a week at a local church in Greenville, South Carolina. Thomas and I take the opportunity for date night and to get out and do something fun.

I love the class so much because not only have you opened up a tense topic in your family, but you've opened up the conversations with strangers in your class. You're able to see that you're not alone in this money thing. Talking about it and being vulnerable about it leads to so much more closeness and intimacy inside your home. 

True story: when we first started the class, Thomas and I went one month budget free just to see how much we were use to spending and on what exactly. We'd log into our accounts and check out balances and always be shocked to see a massive decline in what we thought we had. But, if we know what we were spending, why was this a shock? Because there was no planning, no follow up and no idea where our priorities were set.

After that month, we sat down, looked at all the numbers and figured out that "oh my gosh, we spent that much on just coffee??" or "oops, yeah, sorry, I just really had to have that dress and shoes." We talked about priorities, we like to eat well and healthily, we like to have fun and go to concerts, we really don't care much about buying clothes (ehh, sometimes), we don't have kids to support, we really believe in tithing and saving. Once our "non-negotiables" were on the table we built a budget, a friendly guideline so that we don't blow all of our concert money on stupid stuff like "I'll just grab a granola bar" instead of waiting to drive 5 minutes to the house to fix food I already have in the fridge. (I bet you're catching on who's the spender and who's the saver, my bad.)

Here's how we track it. With another awesome money friendly tool we found, Mint. Mint is an app where you link up your bank account (I'm not skeptical but some are) and it tracks every time you swipe your card. When it catches a transaction it allows you to categorize it, in the budget you built, where you want it to go. Sometimes we pay for gas for a business trip for Thomas and it budgets that automatically, but then when he gets reimbursed, we're able to "pay ourselves back" on the app so that the money gets added back to our budget. Say goodbye to all the ins and outs and question marks that are normally left on the budget. That's the reason why it's easy to quit, it gets confusing. But, this app makes so much practical sense and keeps you accountable to every single swipe. 

Like I said before, we like to eat healthily and we all know that healthy grocery lists full of produce and fresh meat are expensive lists. But, no fear! Thomas found another app, Flipp. Flipp allows you to put in your zip code and it brings up all the coupons that may be available in your area. You can add your grocery list and it searches for deals in your area so that you can plan your trip accordingly. You can even add your rewards cards to the app so that you don't have to keep up with your bulky wallet, you just scan the app when you want to get those points. This makes grocery shopping fun (for me at least.)

Men, they don't like to walk around a grocery store with ya, honestly. Sometimes, I don't want him there either to be real with ya because he sees that thing he "has to have" that's not on our list and you spend an hour in the grocery store instead of the allotted thirty minutes. I have an app for you kind of people, too. It's called Shopkick. Shopkick is great because it acts almost like a scavenger hunt. You get "kicks" or basically points for walking into a store, scanning a certain item and buying that item. For example, we were in Target and we got 50 kicks for walking in and then we had to find a certain brand of cat food and dog food and scan it to get 100 more kicks. Thomas goes and finds the items to scan and I do the shopping. It's a win-win scenario because each kick adds up to give you money on a gift card. Yes, you read that right. You are going on a scavenger hunt for gift cards. How could you not resist. Hand over the phone to your distracted BFF, boyfriend, husband, or kid and have them earn you money. Work smarter, not harder people. 

Doing the money thing is totally possible, you just have to find the resources. 

Are you able to still buy the things you want even though you share money with someone?

I get this question at least 3 times a week. I'll admit, I love to online shop, I love the dollar section at Target and I can't go past nail polish without purchasing a new color. Thomas knows this about me. I wouldn't consider it a "struggle" because there's nothing wrong with treating yourself. But, as soon as the "treating yourself" jeopardizes someone else's goal, it's no longer a treat. So, Thomas and I set aside money in our budget called Pocket Money, another Dave Ramsey piece of advice. It's allotted money that is set aside for us as individuals. We both get the same amount and we can spend it on whatever we want, coffee, drinks, nail polish, a new shirt, fishing gear (Thomas), anything we want. And because it's our own money and it's set aside for us as individuals, it alleviates the "you bought something else??" or "what's in the bag?" It actually makes us excited for one another when we buy something because it was agreed upon. Woohoo to freedom. 

Marriage and finances should be the ingredients for success because you have someone that can keep you accountable on spending and saving, you also have someone to chat about your fears and failures within the world of finances and also, you have someone to share them with so when you can't make a decision on your own, you don't have to. These are all great "pros" to money + marriage but if you don't actually talk about it, none of these will occur. 

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Question Submission
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This past summer, Thomas and I had the privilege of being on a dating panel. We were asked questions by high schoolers about our dating experiences, engaged experiences and our so far marriage experience. Needless to say, we loved talking about love and each other. We realized that throughout the several times we sat on the panel, nearly every time we would get the same questions. 

After the panel ended we chatted about:

1. How mature those middle and high schoolers were. There's no way we could have come up with those thought provoking questions when we were there age.

2. With the amount of times we received the same questions, there are probably more that are thinking the same ones.

3. Not that we did it "the right way" because there's multiple right ways. But, we do love to share our experiences, date ideas, pursuits, and mistakes with others so they can learn from our experiences, try out the date and pursuit ideas and avoid the mistakes.

So, we have decided to continue the "dating panel" on the blog. 

Submit your questions below and we will respond in our creative way in a few weeks. Include your name, keep it anonymous, just your email, whatever you want! We will only be able to see what you submit. We just ask that you ask the questions that have always been on your mind, anything you're curious about and we promise to be as honest as possible. 

If you'd like to continue to be included in upcoming news, some fun videos, short word vomits of what's on my heart and just to be informed whenever a new post comes out, subscribe while you're at it and we'll make sure you're included in some exclusive fun. 

Looking forward to posting the answers to your questions soon!

Name (feel free to leave anonymous if you wanna) *
Name (feel free to leave anonymous if you wanna)
5 reasons I knew he was the one

Most of the time when people hear our story, or get to know Thomas and I as a family, they’re interested in our process and why we decided to move forward in engagement and then eventually marriage. My reasons for knowing he was the one were great for me, but by no means is this for everyone or a method or a checklist for you and your relationship. I just want to invite you into my thought process and the convictions I had for my life to be vulnerable and hopefully that vulnerability will lead to a breakthrough for you. So here were the five things that stuck out the most to me and propelled me into following Thomas into this season:

We met in high school when I was 15 and he was 17 at a church youth group. It was great but let’s be honest: not everyone is the same person they were the other six days of the week as they were in the sanctuary. Of course, he was great and a gentlemen but I wanted to know the entire Thomas, not just the "Sunday-Thomas" and I’m glad I did. I was often invited over to his family’s house after church for lunch, so I’d go. He was the same Thomas at church as he was with his family. I was then invited to a few of his baseball games and was able to sit with his friends and soon figured out that he was the same guy around his family, our youth group and his friends. This says a lot.

Thomas will admit that a lot of times guys are quick to impress someone, especially us women, and I found this to be true. In their attempt to impress you, they may alter who they are because of them wanting to impress the other people they may also be around at the same time which leaves us confused about their character. Thomas’s consistency was comforting to me. I saw him as "safe". He was confident and because of that he was the same Thomas at the movies with friends as he was at the dinner table with my family. 

Some people don’t know but Thomas and I actually broke up my junior year of high school and rekindled about 2 years later during my first semester in college. In those two years we were separated, lots of things changed. My normal routine had changed, my friend group had changed, my dreams and aspirations had shifted, my family life was completely rocked and to be honest, I wasn’t quite sure who I wanted to be which drove me to make a few decisions that I wasn’t too excited about catching him up on. Here’s how that conversation went:

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Thomas and I were broken up, it was towards the end of my senior year and he had just returned back to South Carolina from all of his military expeditions with the Air Force. He called me to let me know he was in town, I loved/hated it because I didn’t know if I wanted anything to do with him but I gave in to a “smoothie get-together” that I didn’t want to categorize as a date. I dreaded it, not because I didn’t want to see him but because I didn’t want to answer the conversation I knew was coming: “so, what have you been up to?”, “how’s your family?”, “what’s changed?”

...I’ve been up to the worst things, I don’t know how my family is doing and what’s changed? Ha. Absolutely everything. I was in a dark spot and my pride never wanted to admit it because deep down inside, no matter how hard I tried to hide it, I still felt something for him and the last thing I wanted was to disappoint him with the direction my life was headed. 

I held back as much as I could when those questions surely came up but it didn’t last long. I word vomited all over him, told him everything. I immediately regretted it just imaging his reaction. But, he surprised me. He looked at me with kind eyes while I held my breath and he replied, “That's it?”

Uh, what do you mean that’s it? That’s like the plot of a Lifetime movie…

But, right then and there I knew that, although we weren’t dating yet, he was the one. He wanted all of me, not just my right now, not just my dreams but he was excited about me, my story, my past, my mistakes and he saw my potential. I wasn’t too little, I wasn’t too much, I was just enough. 

Despite him now knowing everything, it never held him back from seeing the true me, seeing my potential even when I didn't. Standing up for myself when I was the one tearing myself down. He fought for me whenI wasn't fighting for myself and held me accountable to the dreams I had once verbalized. He asked me the hard questions no one else would want to, he challenged me further in my goals by asking me "why" and then again to my answer to drive me into a deeper meaning of why I wanted to do what I wanted to do. He was/is my advocate and was driven to coach me while cheering me on, and that was something that not many other people had done for me in that point in my life. 

When I felt that others were holding me to what people heard about me, what mistakes I had made, my grades, my family situation, my living situation, etc. Thomas chose to see through that and remind me that I "am not defined by my circumstances." When my circumstances become (and have now became) our circumstances, I knew he would fight to see through them and chose to see the true me. 

He slowly started mentioning, "we" into his futuristic vocabulary which sort of freaked me out at first but eventually became comforting. I couldn't figure out what about the idea of "we" was so comforting to me. Then it hit me: the choice in his vocabulary about our future, the choices of behavior (financially, personally, academically) all of them were becoming less and less about him and more and more about us. This use to scare the shenanigans out of me because of my "commitment issues" but slowly I became more and more okay with this idea because he, unlike a lot of others that had come across my path, was looking out for my best interests, our best interests. Sometimes those weren't fun. It's in the shift from an immature fun to a mature fun that I realized he was the one. He made hard choices so that we would later have an abundance. He was putting aside what he knew would be fun now so that he could have more fun later, so that we could have more fun later (financially, relationally, spiritually). His mind wasn't so "in the now," he was no longer a boy, he was a man. Boys are fed a harvest, men sow and reap the harvest. Thomas was starting to sow what he wanted to reap and I trusted him more because of that. The idea that I could hand him something as small as my phone to something as big as my dreams and know that he was going to handle it, take care of it and steward it well meant the world to me. 

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One of the biggest red flags for me in previous relationships was telling my friends or parents about the relationship and immediately getting nervous. I had my first boyfriend in sixth grade, I remember telling my mom that I now had a boyfriend and she told me that I needed to tell my dad. My spit somehow got so much thicker in that moment and it became hard to swallow. Not because I feared my dad but because I knew that this guy wasn't someone I was super pumped to bring home (even though his mom would have had to bring him at that point), I knew it was silly. It was a gut feeling. This "intuition" carried through my experiences in high school and there were times that I became all weird when something would happen and I wouldn't want to tell my friends or I wouldn't want to tell my mom, I just wasn't excited about it. Or sometimes, I was excited about it and I got some weird faces back at me that said, "what the freak" all over them.

In the case of Thomas, I was thrilled to tell my parents, no shame, no guilt because I was confident that we were doing it healthily. Having a blessing on my relationship from my parents in the beginning has had so much benefit on our relationship now, I can't even explain all of it. It's moments I'm grateful my parents were involved when Thomas and I were in a small tiff and I was able to ask my dad for manly help. Or when I was going on a date and my mom was able to stand in my closet with me and help me pick out an outfit. I felt supported, loved and nurtured through this process. 

In fact, our very first date was at my house on an autumn morning. Thomas came over and brought his rode bike and my dad dismounted his from the garage and they peddled away down our driveway and the Lord only knows what they talked about. Mom and I cooked them breakfast, they came back and ate it and that was it. It was lovely, so pure and so simple. The greatest part, he had a better time than I did. Cue the sigh of relief, the release of pressure, the permission to be myself. From the support of my family, I too, like Thomas, was free to be consistent and confident in myself and never having to strive for acceptance from this once high school boy and now man. 

But at the end of all of these reasons, there still was a risk because I didn’t know and I still don’t know how my life will play out, what obstacles are waiting five or ten years down the road and if Thomas and I will make the best team. But, although I don’t know it, I chose to believe it. The Lord made himself evident and if I knew everything that was to unfold, there would be no room for faith. Yes, there are five reasons sitting above for a little back story to my confidence in our relationship but those aren’t just to share with others, they’re for me. To remind me, to keep me accountable because somedays marriage is the best thing and other times marriage isn’t the best thing. So, I chose to believe that although people called me, and still do, “crazy” and “too young” that my God is bigger than logistics and my obedience would lead to blessings. So, here I am. 21 years old and married to love of my life, my soul mate and the person I can’t wait to tackle these hardships with.

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Photography // Sophie Brendle

Our first actual home

All I'm saying is at the end of this year, we will be professional movers. Let me just explain these past few months. Thomas graduated at the beginning of May from the University of South Carolina. A week later we got married (!!!!) and honeymooned in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic. When we came home from our honeymoon, we had 5 days to get everything together and moved out of our childhood homes, open wedding presents, stuff everything in a storage unit and pack for California.

"Woah" is right. 

Well, fast forward to now when the California season has come to an end (until next summer) and we are still moving people. Yet, this time, we moved back home to South Carolina so that I can finish my last semester at Clemson University (insert all of the funny-marriage-rival jokes here). Thomas is working from home for the Ranch until we move to Birmingham in January.

Yes, I said "move" again. 

Since we'll be in Clemson for only 5 months, we decided to go with a one bedroom, one bathroom "Tiny Home" cottage at a complex close to campus called, The Pier.

When they said "tiny home" they weren't kidding. We're so thankful to have spent this past summer in a camper so that we were conditioned to what we were getting ourselves into. It's small and quaint, sweet and accommodating to exactly what we need.

Your feet first walk through a circle of other tiny homes with a green lawn and a fire pit in the center on your way to our cottage which will make for epic block parties. Your feet then step up to a sage colored house with a dark red door and through it lays our home. 

Our kitchen, to the left, is my new favorite spot. A fridge with all the fresh veggies and Thomas's chocolate milk inside, with our copper ware perched on top, my new KitchenAid mixer that I can't wait to make and bake with all the greatest goodies (thank you wedding gifts), our programmable coffee maker that brews at exactly 8:30am every morning and our four eyed stove holding my teal tea kettle for a pop of color. There's a rug that sits right below the sink that I bought in Oregon last summer. It's colorful and bright and I love that it catches all of the suds, marinara sauce and dirt but never really stains. It's very loved. Storage has been an interesting issue, but our ceilings are so extended, there is a lofted space for all of our wicker baskets holding the hosting dishes and other fun stuff for when you come over for dinner.

All of our cookbooks are held in another copper wire basket with a customized cutting  board a dear friend gifted us with for our wedding. And what kitchen refrigerator isn't complete without a Rifle Paper Company calendar to keep your days straight? 

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Thomas designed and crafted the sweetest bistro table that fits just two for dinner and room for a few candles or maybe a jar/vase of a Trader Joe's bouquet. He built it super quickly and excellently and we're currently picking out a stain color so we can continue to use it in the future. 

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Right under the window across from the door sits our cream love seat accompanied by my favorite piece of furniture from my family's home my mom gave me to keep, a yellow, velvet ottoman. We converted it into a "coffee table" by adding a wooden tray complete with the letter "A."

The couch carries some of our favorite pieces, throw pillows from my mom, best friend and the teddy bear Thomas gave me when we dated in High School. (I just wasn't ready to let it go.)

The coffee table to the side is great! It has the best drawer and cabinet for storage for all of my textbooks for school and extra stuff. I guess you could call it our "junk" drawer. 

Lamp // Target

Throw pillows // Altr'd State

Copper Coasters // Anthropologie 

Side table // Ikea

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The door on the right is our bedroom. White walls, white linen duvet cover, white sheets, white lamps, calls for a pop of color so we added a few throw pillows for now until we crave something more. Above the bed is the same lofted storage as in the kitchen which means there are very high ceilings in our bedroom as well. Stay tuned, because I plan on refurbishing that dresser across from the bed with chalk paint, maybe grey (taking color ideas now), and adding a few of my favorite Anthropologie knobs. And yes, that closet is for us to share. #GodBless

Thomas and I recently bought these awesome throw pillows from Target. Do you understand how hard it is to create a bedroom that isn't too feminine or masculine? Geez. 

I created the "vow tapestry" for literally $10. I bought canvas fabric from Walmart and used a fabric paint pen to free hand calligraphy our vows onto the fabric. We hung it right above our dresser until we can find a mirror that is more suited for the space. 

Our dresser holds all of our favorite knick knacks: two copper tea light holders from Anthro, the ring box that once held my engagement ring, a favorite candle, and a chalk board for encouragement. All of our "dresser items" are held on a vintage Johnnie Walker Whiskey tin tray we found at an antique shop. 

The night stands also give us great storage for any books we want to keep on the shelf but give us extra room to hide junk in the drawers. 

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Dresser Lamp // Target

Copper Candle Holder // Anthropologie

Nightstand // Ikea

Nightstand Lamp // Marshalls

Pillows // Target

Knobs // Anthropologie

The door on the left is our bathroom + laundry room. This bright space is all thanks to the textured, white shower curtain and white walls. Behind the door is our washer/dryer. Not a washer and a dryer but a two-in-one. It's a European thing, I'll keep you posted on what this American thinks about it. 

Thomas mounted an organizer to hold our toiletries but also some eye candy. He's proud to have also picked out the his/hers towels, shameless plug. 

Mounted Storage // Walmart

Bath towels // Target

Hand towels // Anthropologie


 

Honestly, Thomas and I couldn't have asked for anything better. These hardwood floors will hold stomps and dance moves, these white walls will hold frame collages with memories, these grey doors will hold slams and "welcome homes!" I just can't wait for all the stories to come that came from this "first house."

My summer in a tiny home

We’re placed in Northern California this summer up in the mountains in an itty bitty town named Etna with the cutest breakfast spot, glorious sunsets, amazing locations for off days, and fields full of cattle that run as long as the eye can see and eventually meet the purple mountains majesty we’ve always sung about. 

Who wouldn’t want a newlywed adventure up in these secret spots? We asked for exactly that: an adventure. We received nothing short of one, that’s for sure. 

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The hectic days of Thomas running around checking on ropes courses, being able to gobble up a meal together so he can run back and check up again, pass by so quickly. And with working on a guest ranch, you’re also being hosted by the ranch. We eat our meals here, we take a four wheeler to work or, like we’ve begun recently, we walk.

There’s so many people to see, things to get done, books I want to read, but at the end of the day I look forward to our time to connect. 

Because of our desire for adventure + a place to connect, we took the opportunity to live this summer in a camper. A quaint, small  camper that we get to call “ours”. 

When it arrived, it got cleaned and handed over. Gosh, what a fun first home, right?

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I was just so happy that we got somewhere to ourselves. Thomas was just so happy to have a project, he loves to tinker. 

So here we are, a month in as “happy campers” (literally). We bought patterned contact paper and Thomas, the handyman, cut the edges to exact measurements to fit on our wall to replace the other wallpaper. We bought white canvas fabric and reupholstered the couches to make our home light and clean looking; “dreamy and creamy” as my friend Edith would say. Thomas picked out the perfect throw pillow and with a couple of organization tools, we’d say we fit in perfectly. Our lofted bed with the fluffy pillows and white thick duvet and linen duvet cover (that just was delivered!) complete the “home.” I’m recently grateful for the love of my life because he installed an AC unit-that tiny place turns into an oven after noon. It’s the small things that make it ours and I’ll never be more grateful for this “first home” we share together. 

Yes, living in a camper at a ranch is quite a change from the all inclusive resort honeymoon lifestyle but I wouldn’t trade it for the world. A place I get to call mine with the man that’s mine forever is something that I can’t express in this brief blog post. “Home” is late nights playing card games at the table and getting in small tiffs over what rules are fair, it’s the early, cold mornings complimented with the smell of coffee brewing that fills the air quickly, or the cereal dates before the work day, the small squeaking hinges on the doors or the rattling wheels when we walk, the natural light coming from the right at dawn and the left at dusk, the scooting around each other so we can spit our toothpaste out in the sink. It’s lovely. It’s home. 

It’s not about the large house with spacious rooms with hardwood floors and high ceilings. Home is the people, not the place. It’s the feeling, not the location. 

Whether you’re in a camper, shack, apartment, cave, lake or beach house, what makes it “home” for you?

Photography // MaryGrace Baker

Why my marriage will never be enough

We’re shortly over two months into marriage and wow, what a whirlwind. I’d love to debrief everything I’ve been learning but it would no longer be a debrief, it would be a delong.

So here’s one thing I’ve learned and struggled with and now I’m ready to share.

I’m so grateful for the love and excitement and celebration that my friends have shown me in this season. But many times, there's a misunderstanding.  

We glamorize love, romanticize it and look forward to it. We have Hollywood to thank for this. We watch Cinderella and see her in all of her misery, she meets a handsome man, she runs, he follows and they live happily ever after 

*cue credits*.

Or we watch the Bachelor or Bachelorette and see the final episode after watching all the ones previous where “What’s her name” goes through so much heartbreak, love and one-on-one’s to get herself to the final moment where “what’s his name” proposes. 

*cue credits*

But, just because love happens in real life, like we see in the movies, there’s one major difference.

The credits don’t roll. 

Our story isn’t over.

You see, we were created to never find any satisfaction or completion in this world, including the love we find in it. 

In high school I was an awkward girl who had a crush on a boy in youth group and wanted to be his girlfriend. The boy eventually asked me to be his girlfriend. Fast forward a few years where I’ve been the girlfriend for a while and I wanted to be a fiancé. He proposed. I got impatient and really couldn’t wait to be a wife. Now, I’m a wife. Recently, I’ve been around a few beautiful families with giggly children and I catch “baby fever” quite often. 

This world is so hung up on “next steps.” 

“I mean, I love where I am now but I just can’t wait for ________”

  •     marriage
  •     motherhood
  •     college
  •     retirement
  •     dream job

you fill in the blank.

I played it off on the “grass is always greener on the other side” concept. But, I believe there’s more. 

Nothing will ever be enough. Except for Jesus. You can have the fairytale marriage, you can have the tudor house you pinned on Pinterest with the dark floors and white cabinets for contrast, you can have the cute little girl in her seer sucker dress with perky pig tails, you get the bid from the sorority you always have dreamed of, you just got accepted into your dream med school….

but if you don’t first seek the Lord with the season you’ve been given and are grateful for the work He has first done, you will be greatly disappointed with where your feet are in this current place no matter how #goals it is. 

Let's truly believe that the best season is the season you’re in. 

The grass is not greener on the other side, it’s greener where you water it.

Let’s agree to stop looking at our neighbor's green yard while ours is dying from lack of attention. Let’s turn around, turn on our own sprinklers and celebrate!

We can make our own plan in our own heart, but the Lord’s will come through every time. (Proverbs 19:21)

We can only be satisfied through Jesus: be overwhelmed by the grace He has shown us, the gratefulness for life we can live because of the Great Sacrifice.

“For he satisfies the longing soul, and the hungry soul he fills with good things.” (Psalm 107:9)

Thomas can take me on the most extravagant dates and meet every expectation.
Some days he can forget to do that one thing that meant the world to me and not meet the expectations my heart has set. 

The beautiful thing is this: the failure of people or ourselves or our circumstances to meet our expectations points us to the only One who can truly meet our expectations “abundantly beyond all that we can ask or think.” (Ephesians 3:20)

So let’s reflect over where we are now and seek the purpose behind our current situation and find peace and joy with where we are called and not dwell over what we have not yet accomplished, we risk the chance of missing every blessing that’s right in front of us. 

 

I say YES to surrendering my expectations for all that you have for me.

I say NO to passivity and distraction away from where I am now. 

I will dwell in the shelter of the Most High and rest the promise of your goodness. (Psalm 91:1)

Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.
— Matthew 6:34
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California Friends & Photos

There have been so many “favorite moments” of this summer but last night took the top. 

One of my quickest friends, Mary Grace Baker, happens to be out at the ranch this summer at JH Ranch as well. Our friendship is fueled by our inspirations for each other’s life, encouragement of our dreams and giggles about the silliest stuff. 

One thing you may not know about Mary Grace is her abilities behind a camera lens. It seems these days that photography is the “thing to do” but this one has been gifted with one crazy talent.

The talent has nothing to do with a camera (but it overflows to her ability behind her equipment). It actually is a talent of her heart: to see others as their truest self. She doesn’t add any filters to the way she sees them, but fights for their true identity regardless of what they have done or said to her. I love that. 

Yesterday Thomas and I had the privilege to romp around with her on mountain tops, no joke.

I threw on my favorite outfit, snagged my favorite pair of new shoes (Thomas picked them out, what a man) and headed out the door. Mary Grace and I had this picture for what we both needed. I needed a play date, she needed a change of scenery and creativity. So we headed to a friend’s property full of cacti bushes, dry land, tall grass and the grandest views. 

We tried taking the truck we were loaned to drive this summer, but the road turned treacherous pretty quickly so we headed back down and grabbed a four wheeler. Holding on tight to each other and laughing and screaming through all the bumps and ditches, we fought through to our ideal spot. 

Thomas and I ran and jumped, laughed and kissed, smiled and twirled and literally chased the light. 

We saw that the light was going behind the mountain, since we were in a valley, so we ran and hopped on the four wheeler again, stepped on the gas and full-speed-chased the light to the peak of the property just in time to get a few more favorite shots. 

Encouraged, we settled back on the four wheeler, held on tight and rolled back down the mountain, put away the four wheeler and drove off a few more miles to treat ourselves to a deserved Brown Bear Burger, curly fries and an Oreo shake from the greatest (and only) dinner spot in town, Dotty’s. 

This takes the top of many memories out here at the Ranch because of the balance we had of fun, laughter, running and rest and filling ourselves up with exactly our desire. 

Like the pictures, we have to adjust and move and sometimes can’t settle until we can make exactly what we pictured. Other times we’ll never be able to attain the image in our mind, or meet expectation, but the outcome is far greater than anything we could have imagined. 

That’s why last night was my favorite.

Thomas: Top (Banana Republic) // Shoes (Vans) // Watch (Daniel Wellington)

Rachel: Top (Anthropologie) // Shaw (Old Navy) // Shoes (Old Navy)

His side of the story
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I'm not a great writer, but it's easy to write about your favorite subject huh? Rachel and I met through youth group at the church we attended. It wasn't until my senior year in high school that I stepped my game up. We went on a mission trip together to a place called Ambassador Camp. Throughout the trip we had many "coincidental work locations together", meal, and hang out times, I was hooked. I came up with a new nickname for her as we painted buildings, flirted and hung out on the trip. We had a great week together and at the end I got her number before we left. I figured I should give her ample time after the trip before I texted her. So I was patient and waited till the van ride home obviously. I mustered up the courage and sent a very manly, enticing, romantic two word text. "Hey Squirt." (nickname) She had to be hooked after that right? We're officially talking, smooth moves. 

After that trip I came home spoke with her dad and told him that I wanted to pursue Rachel. To which he responded, informing me that there would be a series of four dates at home with Rachel and the family in order to make that happen. The first of which consisted of a 25 mile cycling ride at 7 AM with just the two of us, him and I, so that he could kick my butt, but that's beside the point. Our relationship continued to grow, and we had an amazing time in high school getting to know each other, hanging out with our friends, and dating each other for over a year until I graduated. After my senior year, I went straight into basic training for the United States Air Force. I was gone for 8 1/2 weeks. It was difficult to be long-distance in every sense of the word, and afterwards on the night I graduated basic training, we broke up. Curveball. "If we're meant to be together, we will be together," we said. We had some very wise counsel and we broke up until Rachel was a freshman in college. 

Life brought us back together and we would never be the same. I asked her out that semester, and we picked up where we left off. We were both very different, we were both really excited, and we were both a little confused. But it was amazing to start again and make up for lost time. Over the past two years, i've continued to fall. We are two people that together love Jesus, adventure, family feud, shagging, road trips, spontaneity, and each other. And that's pretty cool. I've learned to love, cherish, and confide in my best friend. 

Now? I can't wait to marry the girl of my dreams.

 

The Proposal

Thomas and I worked together this summer in Etna, California at a guest ranch (clearing up myth number 1 that he flew to Cali to propose). This summer was amazing. I got to see him lead, serve, grow, be humbled and had the unique opportunity to share a community together. Because we are long distance, this is the first time we’ve had this experience of being neighbors. Being proposed to away from home was probably not ideal to most people but for me it meant so much that we were able to share this moment with everyone including all of our lovely friends at the ranch because they had been a huge part of the maturation of our relationship. 

On this specific evening, I had finished work early and showered and put on a nice outfit for dinner but was a little early. I hung out at the lodge with a few friends chatting, laughing, looking at pictures-a couple of them knew what the night had to offer. Thomas came up and said he had been packing (we were leaving California to come home to SC in the next few days) and asked if I wanted to go on one more motorcycle ride before the end of the summer. (He brought out his motorcycle to the ranch-it was our date nights). “Yeah! I’d lov- wait…I have to finish some laundry. I can’t tonight, what about tomorrow?” All of a sudden, my friends at the table persisted and gave me reasons why laundry was unimportant and even offered to do it for me. So, I said yes that I would go with him.

We left dinner early to preform a skit for the guests at the ranch. Conveniently, it was the “dating skit.” When we left dinner, everyone on staff was informed of what was happening that night. After we finished preforming the skit, we hopped on the motorcycle and headed off property. At that point, I had NO idea anything was happening; however, I did realize everyone was being so friendly to me. He offered to take me to “the bridge,” a special place we’ve had this summer to watch sunsets and such. So we headed there.

When we ride on the motorcycle, he turns his right side-view mirror to face me so he can wink and flirt while we’re riding. This time, he told me later it was to see my reaction when we pulled up. 

When we were getting closer to the bridge, I realized it was glowing and kept glancing at the sun to see if maybe it was a reflection. “No, no sun tonight. What is that?” We drove up, he down shifted and we stopped. The bridge was covered in candles and daisies (he left me daisies on my belongings when he didn’t have time to talk some days). All of a sudden, our song came on-“Forever Like That” by Ben Rector. At this point, I caught on and my heart started racing. He brought me over to the set up and started telling me all that I meant to him. He sat me down on the bench that was placed there and went back to the motorcycle and retrieved the ring. He came back over, got down on one knee and asked, “Rachel McAfee, will you marry me.”

And here’s how it goes from there.