The Value of Reflection

As I sit here on this cold January evening, I can’t help but reflect on how thankful I am for where God has me. 2016 brought about some huge, life-chaging milestones in my life: graduating college, moving, my husband starting medical school, and becoming a mom. It was a year I’ll never forget, and in a way, it was a little sad to see it come to a close; however, I find much comfort and joy looking ahead into this year and the ones to come. I agree with C.S. Lewis when he said, “There are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind.”

One of my favorite parts about reflecting on the past is seeing and proclaiming the Lord’s faithfulness. It reminds me of how He has always taken care of me and answered every prayer. It’s not always easy in the moment to remember He is in control, but reflecting on all He has done for me and how He has never, ever failed me, helps keep things in perspective and enables me to live full of gratitude, hope, and genuine peace.

One of the best parts of Duncan still being in school was the fact that he had a Christmas break. It was the first time since Lively was born that we were able to spend that much quality time as a family (no studying for tests, no being preoccupied with thoughts of school or needing to study). In the midst of him being in rigorous schooling, a Christmas break was such a sweet blessing. How special it was to spend Lively’s first Christmas as a family and be able to soak in every second.

Here are some of my favorite memories from Christmas break:

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We brought Lively to church for the first time. Bloom Church will always be a special place to us!

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Lively’s first time in the mountains & seeing snow!

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We went on our first sleigh ride (sidenote, this is not the actual sleigh :)).

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Lively’s first Christmas!

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We went out to lunch at the beautiful Dogwood Canyon.

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And Lively got to spend lots of quality time with her daddy. She loves him a whole lot!

 

I love reflecting on these cherished memories, and I’m excited to see what 2017 brings!

 

Always and forever,

Alex

 

 

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Crunch Time at Christmastime

Christmas is by far my favorite holiday! My family grew up with lots of Christmas traditions, with my favorite being our “25 Days of Christmas,” where my parents had a festive Christmas activity for us each day. Some of the activities were more grand, like a carriage ride through Christmas lights or the Dixie Stampede Christmas show, while others were simple, like a family snowball fight with paper snowballs or making our own snowflakes out of printer paper to hang in our entryway.

I love Christmas traditions, and having a daughter now makes me want to start some traditions of our own even more. Last year Duncan and I didn’t have the chance to put our tree up, since we were planning to move to Grenada just 2 weeks later (funny how God keeps us on our toes and how this Christmas looks so much different than I’d imagined). I’d come to terms with the fact that we probably wouldn’t be able to get our tree up again this year, as it’s crunch time for Duncan in his schooling, but Duncan was so kind to set aside a little time to grab our tree and a piece of garland out of the attic last weekend!

My family always grew up with a real Christmas tree. Each year we went and picked out a live one, which I would love to do with our family someday! This year, however, I am just so thankful we were able to get a tree up. It’s pretty bare, with only a handful of ornaments (less than 10 to be a little more exact), the lights that came on it, and is lacking a tree topper, but in my eyes it’s beautiful and perfect for the season we’re in.

I hate to admit it, but I’m one to get pretty wrapped up in expectations. With having Lively now, I’d love to start some special Christmas traditions. It can be hard not to compare or stress out when I see countless families all over Instagram and Pinterest doing all kinds of family Christmas traditions all December long, like elaborately decorating the tree together, going ice skating, and a variety of other Christmas activities seemingly every night. I don’t mean to complain or seem like a victim; it’s humbling and reminds me to cherish the little moments we do get together, like a quick run to look at tree ornaments or watching part of a Christmas movie as a family, instead of focusing on what we don’t have/do.

There’s nothing wrong with traditions, and even though we’ve had minimal time together this past week and the next two weeks, I can’t complain because Duncan will take a short break from school  for Christmas break, and I really appreciate how hard he’s working and finishing out the semester strong. He has some big tests in the next couple of weeks, so if you think of us, please be praying for him!

While we haven’t had tons of time with the three of us, I am thankful to spend my days with sweet Lively! She makes my daily Hallmark movie marathons even more enjoyable and loves dancing around the kitchen to Christmas music (“A Pentatonix Christmas” is currently our favorite!). I think we’ve almost marked every Christmas Hallmark movie off our list :). “Let It Snow” and “A Royal Christmas” are our favorites so far!

On a not-so-Christmassy note, I have had quite a bit of time with Duncan in the past couple of days as his practice patient. By the time Duncan finishes his degree, he’ll be a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine, and I’ll basically be a professional patient… is that a thing? Anways, I’m so proud of Dunc and cannot wait for a week and a half from now, when Lively and I will have him all to ourselves (no studying allowed! :))

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{Even though we didn’t get a real tree this year, we did get to go with my family to help pick theirs out at Sycamore Creek Family Ranch!}

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{LOVE this view: Lively with our Christmas tree}

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{Despite with demanding schooling, Duncan is still the best daddy to our girl}

 

Always and forever,

Alex

Lively’s First Halloween

This past Monday Lively experienced her first Halloween… well, “experienced” being used loosely; really, she slept most of the day and only woke up to eat and take a few pictures in her costume. It was also Duncan’s and my first time passing out Halloween candy in our own home; seeing all the little kids in their costumes was precious!

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I didn’t plan ahead on getting Lively a costume; I didn’t know what size she would be and, honestly, it just didn’t really cross my mind until the weekend before. My lack of planning didn’t leave enough time to buy a costume online, look around at many stores, or make anything elaborate. Duncan and I looked briefly at a few stores, but didn’t see anything we liked or anything Lively’s size. I was getting a little discouraged, because I didn’t want to be that mom who looked back and regretted not dressing up her baby for her first Halloween. Duncan and I sat in the Wal-Mart parking lot looking up costume ideas; when we saw a picture of a cow costume, we decided it was our best bet! We made a quick list of what we’d need and ran into the store; everything we needed for her costume for a grand total of less than $14!

I’m not the most creative or artistic person, so it helped having an idea to go off of. Her costume all came together Halloween day in about 30 minutes during one of her naps (side note: I’m so impressed by all the moms of multiple kids; I don’t know how you manage to get anything done. Lively’s naps are the only times I work around the house, and even during them I sometimes don’t because I want to snuggle with her all the time).

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For her costume, I started with a white onesie. I bought black bandana material, out of which I cut her spots, and hot glued them to her onesie. I also got pink construction paper (to glue the “udders” to and for the inner portion of her ears). The hospital gave me extra bottle nipples, which worked perfectly for the udders! For her cow ears, I got a black hat and cut out both ears from the black bandana material. I hot glued the pink inner portion of the ear to the black bandana material, and then hot glued the ears to the hat. And that was it!

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We can’t wait for many more holidays with our Lively Mae. Every day is special with her, so, of course, she makes the holidays extra special, too!

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Always and forever,

Alex

 

 

Branson with our Baby

This past weekend was our first time taking Lively Mae to Branson. It was surreal bringing her to the homes we grew up in and the bed & breakfast my family has owned my entire life! Lively was able to meet more of our cousins, aunts, uncles, and grandparents, as well as spend more quality time with our siblings and parents.

Road trips with a baby are definitely a little different… longer & louder… our normally 4 hour car-ride turned into more like 6, due to a nice stop for feeding and a diaper change… But I still would way prefer having our darling daughter along for the ride with us! She is the perfect addition to our little family, and we can’t get enough of her!

Cannon also loves visiting our family and their dogs in Branson. It was a special treat for him, since he hasn’t had as much of our undivided attention since Lively has been born. He’s been so good with her, though, and it will be fun to watch them grow up together and see them interact more as Lively gets a little older.

Here are some pictures from our weekend getaway to Branson!

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Lively’s first time at the Bradford Inn (my family’s bed & breakfast).

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One of our many attempts at a family photo.

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A successful one!

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Spending some time with my cousin, Carissa, and her daughter at the Carley wedding at Sycamore Creek Ranch. Her daughter, Finley, is only 5 months older than Lively, so we’re excited for them to grow up together!

 

Always & forever,

Alex

The Best Change

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It’s amazing how quickly and drastically your world changes when you become a parent… in the best way! I guess you technically become a parent when you become pregnant, but it didn’t really hit me until I saw our beautiful daughter for the first time. The instant love I felt for our baby took my breath away.

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The last couple of months leading up to Lively’s arrival were a big transition, with moving to a new city and Duncan beginning his journey through medical school. We knew we wanted me to be able to stay home with Lively Mae once she was born, so that left a couple of months leading up to her arrival for quite a bit of free time. It was totally different from the fast-paced lifestyle we lived before, and for the first time in a long time I had to be intentional about finding things to fill my time and pursuing new friendships; that being said, I cleaned the house pretty much constantly, so it was nearly spotless (it was definitely a tangible way for me to feel like I was accomplishing something). I walked every morning with Cannon and a friend and her dog, and other than that, I really didn’t have set plans most days; about once a week I’d have a doctor’s appointment, but that was basically the extent of what I had to do.

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As much as I enjoyed those couple months of rest and being able to get settled into our new home, it made me even more excited for our baby’s arrival. And now that she’s here, my life has changed all over again! I love that my days revolve around taking care of our precious Lively. Even though it’s challenging (I’m sore; I don’t get much sleep, because she wakes up multiple times at night to eat, and even when she’s not awake I check constantly to make sure she’s still breathing… I think I’m a little paranoid since she’s our first; learning how to feed her isn’t as easy as it seems and is a little painful at first), I wouldn’t change a thing! Nothing compares to the sweet moments when she looks up into my eyes or wraps her tiny fingers around mine. I cherish how happy she is in the mornings and the cute cooing sounds she makes.

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Our lives are changing once again, but it is the best change I could imagine. I’m blown away by my husband; he goes to his classes all day (which is hard enough in itself), then comes home and is so intentional with Lively Mae and me. The three of us snuggle up on the couch, while he holds her and talks to me about my day and his. He studies hard, but takes breaks to feed her a bottle in the evening and just spend time with her. He prays over her each night, and I know without a doubt he cherishes this time and our daughter the same way I do. The love we have for our daughter is something we’ve never felt before, and I now have a better idea of what people mean when they say God’s love for you is revealed in a whole new way when you have a child.img_0865

The house isn’t nearly as clean and there are always things left on my to-do list at the end of the day, but I would never want it any different. I would a million times rather have my day filled with baby snuggles and prayers for our Lively (and a fair share of dirty diapers, spit up, and baby cries). We are so grateful to our Heavenly Father and all of the amazing people He’s placed in our lives who support us, encourage us, and who love our daughter. A special thank-you to our moms who took turns coming to stay with us the past two weeks and helped with everything; they’ve made the transition so much smoother! More pictures of our girl and her birth story to come soon!

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Always and forever,

Alex

A Shift in Perspective

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I read this quote by Mother Teresa a couple of days ago, and it really resonated with me! I love being in a new town, supporting my husband on his journey to becoming a physician, and preparing to welcome our precious firstborn daughter into the world; however, it is not all easy and doesn’t always feel “fulfilling.” That sounds horrible, I know, and I do not take for granted the fact that I will be able to stay home with our daughter, but it is a difficult transition after leading such a “busy” life.

Usually the fall time is extremely busy, with starting school and all of the chaos that entails. This year, on the other hand, it has been quite the opposite for me. Of course, it is a little busy with Duncan having started such intensive schooling, and I know it’ll be busy once our little girl arrives, but it is much different than being bombarded with homework, campus events, and trying to balance all of that with work. When I was in college, I felt like I was constantly around people and opportunities to serve others. Now, I don’t interact with nearly as many people in a given day.

It’s easy to feel like what I’m doing now is insignificant. I know that is a lie the enemy tries to let creep into my mind, though. My husband is in school, becoming equipped for his dream job as a physician- a career in which he will make a significant impact on many lives. I see friends on social media or hear about others it seems like are making such an impact in the world, and it’s tempting to compare the contribution they are making with the small contribution I feel like I’m making. BUT, I have to remember that comparison is the thief of joy, and God created each of us uniquely, with the purpose of serving Him and loving others, and that is not going to look the same for everyone! He places us in different seasons and grows us in different ways throughout our entire lives.

Staying home and making sure our home is a comfortable place for Duncan to come home to is worthwhile. Being fully devoted to spending my days taking care of our daughter is not settling for less or making less of an impact than if I were traveling around the world doing missions work. The mission work God is calling me to in this season is to love my little family and invest in them, as well as everyone else I come into contact with along the way. It is so reassuring to know God always is in control and simply wants us to remain faithful to Him. We don’t have to compare ourselves to someone else’s standards of what is significant; rather, our worth and the impact we make comes from our Heavenly Father!

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*Totally not related, but just wanted to share how much we loved having my parents and youngest brother come visit us this past weekend. Bowling & visiting the arcade were definitely highlights!

Have a wonderful weekend!

 

Always & forever,

Alex

A Month of Memories

This week marks one month of living in Jonesboro. Time is a funny thing… it feels like we just left Branson and like we’ve been here for months, all at the same time. It’s been tough being away from our friends, family, and the town we grew up in, but it’s been a month of growth, new experiences, and big changes.

It has been so humbling to watch Duncan begin his journey through medical school. Duncan and I have been praying for this opportunity for years, and it’s so cool watching God open doors and helping us overcome obstacles.

I’m adjusting to Duncan’s busy school schedule and all of the studying required, spending lots of quality time with Cannon, and cherishing Duncan’s and my weekly date nights. Honestly, Duncan’s been amazing about keeping me informed on what he is learning and not letting me feel alone. I cannot say thank you enough for the way he intentionally tells me about his day and asks me about mine. There’s no one else I’d rather go through all these crazy changes with.

It would be easy to be negative and discouraged amidst these new challenges and this drastic change of pace; however, I’m choosing to seek the Lord and what He is going to teach me in this season. I’m choosing to treasure the good memories we are making and learn from the obstacles. Below are some of my favorite memories from this first month:

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I love making new friends. It’s such a blessing spending time with wives of some of the medical school students Duncan goes to school with, who are walking through the same new season as we are.

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We loved having Duncan’s family come visit us for his White Coat Ceremony!

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We went to Memphis for an evening with the Porters, exploring the city and even going on a horse-drawn carriage ride!

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I love my quality time with Cannon! We go on walks every morning and basically spend all day every day together. He’s such a good buddy.

Not every day is easy, but I will continue to focus on the good. We’re taking things one day at a time and are not taking a single day for granted. Our Father has never failed us, and I know He won’t start now. There is always something to be thankful for, and perspective is everything. This month we’ve laughed more and harder than ever before. I’m grateful for this unforgettable first month of memories!

 

Always & forever,

Alex

Little Life Updates

Since I last posted several months ago, Duncan’s and my lives have changed pretty drastically. We graduated from College of the Ozarks, found out we are having a daughter this fall, bought a house, and moved to Arkansas for Duncan to begin medical school.

In the midst of finding out about all the transition to come, I couldn’t bring myself to blog. I could hardly process through all the upcoming changes and needed time to start working through all of it before I could even think about blogging.

Up until the middle of December, we were planning on moving to the Caribbean for Duncan to start medical school there; we’d sold my car and packed up our entire house. Then, two weeks before we were supposed to move, Duncan was accepted into a school here in the States. After seeking the wisdom of various friends, family members, and physicians, we made the decision to stay in the States for Duncan’s schooling. Even though I understood it was probably the smarter decision for us, I struggled with the last-minute switch. I’d prepared myself for the island life and had a difficult time getting past the “glamorous” and “adventurous” life I thought I’d be missing out on. The Caribbean sounded exciting and new, while Arkansas was a place I’d told myself I never wanted to live… it’s shallow, I know, but I didn’t want my first “big move” to be to Arkansas.

My attitude was something I had to give up to God and wrestle through with His help. I can’t follow God wholeheartedly and allow Him to grow/mold me when I’m constantly getting caught up in my selfish “dream” desires and comparing my life to the lives of others. I’m realizing it’s not living in a breathtaking place that’ll make me happy, nor anything else circumstantial; rather, joy and contentment are based on seeking the Lord, allowing Him to shape me, and embracing where He has me.

A few months ago we bought a house in Arkansas. We came down one day, and by the end of the day we knew which house we wanted to put an offer on. By God’s grace, the house was ours just about a month later!

Despite the fact we’re only four hours away from Branson, the process of moving has been more challenging than I expected. We’re constantly learning new things every day, and I’m working on taking it one day at a time. We’re discovering what is involved in buying a home, moving to a new state, figuring out insurance, delving into the world of school loans… and a myriad of other things. In the midst all the big unknowns, I’m trying to see everything as a learning experience and not stress out.

We officially moved down here three days ago and are enjoying getting settled in.. making our house a home! I love hanging up our decorations on the walls and making our home cozy, getting to know the town better, and spending as much time as possible with Duncan before his classes begin. It’s hard not seeing our families on a daily basis, but we’re beyond thankful for their endless support. It’s hard to believe that (God-willing) our daughter will be here in a short couple of months, adding to our little family!

With all of this being said, I’m ready to embark on my blogging journey again! I want to keep everyone posted on our new adventure, share what we’re learning, and hopefully encourage some of you along the way! I’m learning to boast about my weaknesses and give them over to my Savior, so His power can be made perfect and my strength truly comes from Him (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).

I’ll be posting about our house, pregnancy, motherhood, life being married to my medical school student, and more :).

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Coffee at Shadrach’s (the BEST local coffee shop) before our moving crew headed back to Branson!

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With my sister on the front porch of our new house!

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In front of our new home!

 

Always and forever,

Alex

Best Valentine’s Cookies!

With Valentine’s Day being only a week away, I thought it was fitting to post one of my favorite cookie recipes (with pink & red sprinkles, of course!).  I found this Softbatch Funfetti Sugar Cookie recipe on Averie Cooks, and it has quickly turned into one of my go-to cookie recipes!

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These cookies are soft, delicious, and the perfect solution for a sweet tooth.  I used pink, red, and white sprinkles this time, rather than the normal rainbow, to celebrate Valentine’s Day drawing near!  Another modification I sometimes make when baking these cookies is substituting 1/2 cup coconut oil in place of the 1/2 cup butter.  There are numerous health benefits to coconut oil, and I have been substituting it in almost every recipe I’ve been making lately!  The cookies still taste amazing, and the flavor is not lessened whatsoever with this healthier substitute :).

Attached here is the recipe for these delicious cookies!  Make sure to fully follow the directions for the best results!

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If you’re in the mood for some Valentine’s Day baking, these cookies are definitely worth a try!  They are sure to be the perfect way to impress your valentine (I know my valentine loves them 🙂 )!

Always and forever,

Alex

How to Make Walking Your Dog a Million Times Easier

I love our big pup… all 90 pounds of him!  We started taking Cannon on walks as soon as we got him last May to get him accustomed to walking on a leash from an early age.  Once he reached about seventy pounds he got much too strong for me to take on walks.  It was sad, because he needed the exercise and he loves walks,  but I was drug behind him any time I attempted to take him out on a walk.

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Cannon wearing his PetSafe Easy Walk Harness!

After a little research I discovered the biggest lifesaver: the PetSafe Easy Walk Harness!  I found it at Petco and was a little skeptical at first, but this harness has turned out to be a miracle-worker.  It is safe, comfortable, and allows me to take Cannon on walks anytime!  The harness has a shoulder strap, belly strap, and chest strap with a ring to attach the leash to (pictured below); the design prevents your dog from being able to jerk forward, making walks with your dog doable and enjoyable (exactly as they should be)!

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I would totally recommend this harness for anyone who has the least bit of difficulty walking your dog!  Our 90 pound German Shepherd wears a large in the collar.  I put the harness on immediately before we go on a walk and take it off directly after, so Cannon never has the opportunity to chew on it.  Feel free to contact me if you have any other questions about the joys of raising a puppy!

Always and forever,

Alex