Holiday Roundup: Our Favorite Seasonal Posts

Stockings are hung by the chimney with care, presents are wrapped and nestled cozily under the tree, the kids are out of school, and their parents’ sanity is hanging by a thread (of tinsel, obviously). It’s Christmas Eve!! Would you like an early present? We thought so! Our gift to you this year is a holiday roundup of some of our favorite seasonal posts. We hope you enjoy!

The 12 DATES OF CHRISTMAS

Bethany’s “12 Dates of Christmas” post is sure to light up the holidays for you and that special someone. A list of 12 holiday inspired date ideas, designed to bring you together during the most joyous season of the year. Once you get out of your comfort zone, you’ll be surprised at how much closer it makes you as a couple. Don’t worry, she threw some binge watching dates in as well. After all baby, it’s cold outside. (PS – these ideas are good all winter long!)

diy holiday dreamcatchers

One of our favorite things about the Holiday season is decorating! If you’re looking for a fun DIY project to do with your kiddos while they’re out of school, or just with your besties, Shelby has the perfect thing – Holiday dreamcatchers!

This is such a fun project, and we are so excited about it! So, grab some cocoa, slip into your comfy clothes, put on your favorite Christmas album, and get ready to craft the night away!

Making Christmas Memorable

This most wonderful time of the year happens to be Tera’s favorite (Going in her house anytime from November to February is a little like stepping into the North Pole). With a growing little family of her own, she wanted to be certain they were making Christmas memorable, while keeping their main focus on the true reason for the season. She created a list of simple things you can do as a family that will make great memories, provide quality time, and can respect even the most frugal holiday budget. Check it out!

Oak and Earth Holiday Roundup

We hope you’ve enjoyed this little roundup, and that you’ll try some of the ideas found within. This season is all about making memories with those you love, while always remembering the true reason for the season.

“For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord!” – Luke 2:11

From our families to yours, have a very Merry Christmas.

– Oak & Earth

An Open Letter to My Unborn Child

This is Bethany here, and I wrote this letter to my son, Oliver.

I start the third trimester of my pregnancy next week! My husband, Denver, and I (that’s our family above) are so excited for him to arrive. This is a sentiment close to my heart, and I welcome you to peek inside our little family.

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Oliver,

As I sit down to write this letter, I’m overwhelmed with the thought that you have been in my tummy for almost 7 months. Even though there are times when you knock the wind out of me, my heart swells with so many wonderful emotions. When I found out I was having you, I was so surprised and happy! Even though I was excited, I was also a little bit scared.

My mind was abuzz with thoughts. Had I taken care of myself when I didn’t know that you were inside of me? Would daddy and I have to move, make more money, and would we be able to shuffle our busy lives to make enough time for you? As I looked at the positive pregnancy test, I realized that all of these little questions could be wrapped up into one heavy one. Would daddy and I really make good parents?

With these questions looming, I still had to do one important thing — tell the love of my life that we made you!

When I told your daddy that we are having you, he hugged me and cried. He was so surprised and so beautifully happy! This is one of our favorite days. What a special memory you made for us, Oliver. We made an appointment to see the doctor. You know, the guy you’re always shy around! As the doctor was searching for you in my tummy, all of those scary questions started flooding back.

Then we saw you.

You were nothing but a white speck in a sea of black. As small as you were, we saw the flash of your precious heartbeat. Oh my son, I will never forget that moment. Do you know what I found out? You are a strong and perfectly healthy baby. This made me realize that the love we already have for you overshadows all the worry! God is so good to remind us of how blessed we are to have you in our lives.

I want you to know a few things about your daddy. As soon as he found out about you, he started praying for you every day. I am always so grateful for how much he does for us. Daddy and I work really hard so that we can have a happy home, but daddy works especially hard. Aren’t you proud of him? He brings us food when we are hungry, and he even eats ice cream before bed because he thinks it helps you! That’s your silly daddy. He kisses you goodnight, and he waits by my side to feel you kick and roll.

He held my hand so tight when we went to a big check up to see how you’re growing. On this day, God gave us peace about you. Your daddy lit up when he saw your face and features in 3D for the first time! You were just 22 weeks old! He thinks you have my nose, and when you wake up from a comfortable sleep, I think you scrunch up your forehead just like he does! We got your picture taken, and he took it to the office and showed all his coworkers. He’s already so proud of you.

Most of all, I want you to know how much your daddy and I love and respect each other. In fact, we love each other so much that we asked God to bring you into our lives! When God said yes, He let us learn so much about you.

This is what we know about you so far — You like to roll around my tummy at work and hide away when we visit the doctor. You love it when I rest, and when I sing and play my guitar. The only time I feel you take naps is when I exercise! I even know a few things you don’t like. You don’t like spicy food at all. Don’t worry, your daddy doesn’t like it either. You must not like it when I try and bend over to tie my shoes or paint my toenails, because you stick your little feet in my ribs when I try. It makes me grunt and laugh. You sure are a stinker. You’re so active, and I love it when you circle around my tummy and play.

Do you want to know my favorite thing about you? You’re so sweet and loving to us! When I am sad, you dance around. When I am tired, you kick me and remind me that you’re there for me. And when daddy and I are overwhelmed with how busy we are, we pull out the pictures of your face and you remind us to slow down and to count our blessings. Thank you for all of that, little one!

Although your room isn’t all the way put together yet, and we aren’t rolling in a big pile of money, all that really matters is the love and time we share together as a family. We have to wait a little bit longer to share this time together. You’re due to be here very soon after Christmas! Don’t worry little one. Whenever you decide to come, we will make your day so special. I know right now you think somersaults are fun, but you should see all of the wonderful and colorful things of the world! Your dad and I like to draw, play music, hike around, and see friends. Some people have told us that we can’t do these things when you get here. But we will find a way to make our own special and fun memories with you by our side. We can’t wait to share all of this with you!

Oliver, whenever this day arrives, I want you to know the world you’re coming into. Not everyone in this world has peace in their hearts, and this world can be a scary place. Despite all of that, know that God is always holding you in His hands. I have a few important promises I’m making to you. I want you to remember them when the world seems too much to bear.

I promise to show you love and understanding. I promise to guide you when you’re unsure of what to do, and I promise to listen to what you have to say. I can also promise you that I will make mistakes. Some days will be hard, and on those days you might not like me very much. So when those days come (and they will come), know I still love you because you are my son.

Do you know how I can promise you this? You have already helped us know a kind of love we never knew we could feel.

We still have so much to learn about you, but we can’t do this until we meet you face to face! All of your cousins, aunts and uncles, and grandparents are so excited to see you too! Some of your little cousins have been practicing your name. So be sure you answer to the name of “Obbaler” when you come out so that you don’t hurt their feelings.

Daddy and I are ready for the sleepless nights and for our world to be turned upside down. Because that means that you have arrived.

I can’t wait to meet you, son.

Mom

Thank you so much for reading! I enjoyed opening up my heart to my son, and to you as well. You can follow our family journey on Instagram @BethanyMPoteet.

-Bethany

Waiting on the Lord

It’s no question that I am an impatient person. When I am working toward a goal or dream of mine, or when I have an idea in my head, I want those things to come to fruition right away! I want to see the fruits of my harvest before I’ve even taken the time to till the soil and allow my ideas to mature and bloom. I want immediate results with minimal time and effort. I am bad at waiting. 

So naturally, when it comes to waiting on the Lord’s timing for certain things, I struggle. When we have a need or a desire deep down in our hearts, and we ask the Lord to part the waters for us, we kind of mean, like, “now.” Sometimes, He does do this right away. But many times, whether it be for a short or a long duration, He puts us in a season of waiting. This is never an easy test of faith for me (and maybe some of you), and the wait to us seems unwarranted, especially when the intentions of our hearts are good and pure. In one of my very favorite songs, one line says:

“In the process, in the waiting–You’re making melodies over me.”

I love this song, as it speaks to my heart in a lot of ways, and this line in particular has always stood out to me; maybe because I’ve found myself in this season many a time. In any case, I love it, and I truly believe that is exactly what the Lord is doing for us in our times of waiting!

I think about how long Israel waited for their Messiah–thousands of years, and nearly five hundred years after the prophecies were made! God said He was sending a Messiah, and He was faithful to Israel; but, not before a long period of waiting. He made sure every last detail was in place and aligned first. Sure, it took thousands of years, but His timing for sending Jesus to earth was perfect! He waited until Jesus’ time and ministry on earth would be most effective and make the greatest impact–and boy, did it! I’m not saying God is going to make you or me wait a thousand years to fulfill our dreams and goals (thank goodness), but I do take comfort in knowing that He is going to wait until every little detail is just so for me, too–and you! Even the things that right now, we can’t know about or that we have no control over.

Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. -Ecclesiastes 3:11 (NLT)

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Our season of waiting is so much more than what it seems. God is carving out every detail and paving a path for us to walk on. While we wait, He is making a beautiful melody over our lives. He is working on the toughest, darkest parts of our hearts. He is shaping us and maturing us. He is working on us to relinquish control over the parts of our lives that we cling to so tightly. He is growing our wisdom. He is teaching us that there are beautiful moments in our waiting, and that His timing for the things in our lives (that we want so badly right now) will bring greater blessing to us and glory to His name, rather than in our own timing.

I can’t help but picture a budding flower. Every flower has its season, and before that season approaches, the flower must change a lot. We tend to the soil, give the flower  plenty of water and sunlight, and protect the flower from damaging bugs and insects, or weather that can cause premature blooms, or no blooms. Eventually, when the right season comes to be, the flower blossoms, and it is beautiful! God is growing us and protecting us, so that when He says our season is here and our dreams and callings are in bloom, they will be the most impacting, most glorifying, and most fulfilling. He is preparing us while we wait, for when that time does indeed come to be, it is going to be even more magnificent and beautiful than anything we could have given ourselves.

Whether you are waiting on the Lord’s timing for motherhood, divine inspiration, a new opportunity, or the love of your life; in any season, take comfort and know that a beautiful story is being written over you, and  in the meantime, there is beauty in the waiting.

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Wait for the Lord, be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord! Psalm 27:14 (ESV)

Love,

Tera   -xo

Tea Pots and Deep Talks: The Power of Female Fellowship

In the midst of an absolutely crazy month, I sat on the floor and poured myself some tea. Before you get too worried about my stability, I was not alone. After reminiscing about how much fun tea parties were when we were little girls, our 20 something women’s devotional group decided to have a little tea party of our own.

While our plan was to set up a spot outside in the beautiful spring sun, what we got was a large dose of rain and cold. Thankfully we all know how to roll with the Arkansas weather, and we set up our own little version inside on the floor! I would be lying if I said I wasn’t in little girl heaven. Floral dresses and lace tops, vintage tea cups and pink lemonade, mini quiche and sweet treats, patterned quilts and a lot of laughter, it was a breath of fresh (indoor) air.

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This is what I determined: God gives you little gifts wrapped in peculiar packages. While I knew this would be a fun memory for us, I wasn’t expecting sitting around with women in their mid-twenties drinking tea to be a spiritual gift. Who knew that a moment to pause, laugh, and indulge in sugary treats was exactly what the Good Lord ordered?

As I drove home from our tea party, I wanted to dissect the power of female fellowship and why it has impacted my life as much as it has in the last year!

I had been spiritually starving myself of fellowship, and I didn’t even know it.

 

Why female fellowship is so important.

“Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow.” Ecclesiastes 4:9

The Bible says that when two or more are gathered in His name, He will be there too. When Jesus walked the earth, He loved to gather people together to laugh and dance and enjoy one another’s company. Jesus knew what He was doing when He gathered people together. Having people around you means someone is there to listen. To relate to your pain. To share in your joys. To sharpen you. Notice this blog post isn’t about fellowship in general. It’s about female driven fellowship. While it is beneficial to have fellowship in all forms, positive women are important to have around you! Find a group of women who understand your personal struggles. This particular team of women know of my horrible flaws, my embarrassing stories, and what I struggle with on a daily basis. Even so, talking it out with other women who have been through similar struggles is one of the best feelings in the world! They’ll never know the impact each of them has had on me or how this time set aside during the month refreshes me when I need it most. I encourage you to find a group of women you feel  you can confide in.

How do you find time to fellowship?

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 5:14-16

All of us ladies have excruciatingly busy lives. But carving out specific time in the week just to be with others and relish in daily joys is so incredibly important! We often call it our little getaway. That being said, I haven’t always had a group like this. Although most weeks we gather on the couch and go over our devotional, fellowship can happen anytime and anywhere if you invite Him to join. You can fellowship over coffee, at each other’s house, during a walk etc., however you can find the time. Often times, us girls of Oak and Earth cram into my Prius after our devotional group and talk up to an hour or more. We discuss what crazy thing happened that week, what we can pray over each other, and how we can offer each other encouragement. I consider even this little moment in time to be one of my favorite times of fellowship!  Once you make the time, it will be easy to understand why it is so important (especially as young women).

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How is your story an important asset to other women ?

“Iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another” Proverbs 27:17

Often times I don’t feel worthy of helping others. Yet for all the dirty parts of your past, there is also God’s unwavering grace to meet you in the present! As I have gotten older, I have learned how important it is to lift one another up. I was terrible about this in years past. Be it due to insecurity, self-doubt, anxiety, depression, or whatever you might be going through, remember your unique beauty and talents over any negative thoughts or phrases. Seeking God and building relationships with people who speak positivity over you is a complete life changer. You never know how your story might help someone who is struggling! Can you think of a way you’ve sharpened a fellow female? What about someone who has sharpened you? Every story is important. You are an asset to this world.

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As much as I enjoyed our little garden party,  I have enjoyed getting to know these beautiful and strong women over the past year even more (including my girls of Oak and Earth). Even when we are just telling funny stories, ranting about our busy schedules, or sitting down to sip some tea, I know that God placed this group in my life for a very specific reason. When you’re around positive people, you can’t help but want to do better. I encourage everyone to find some wonderful women to fellowship with. Have you had a time that women’s ministry has impacted your life? Is there a way we can be praying for you? We would love to hear your thoughts! You can find us on social media @OakAndEarth, or you can comment below to keep the conversation going. You can also find me personally (Bethany) on Instagram @BethanyMPoteet. If you’re wondering who this Life Group is through, us girls of Oak and Earth go to New Life Church at the Fayetteville location. If you’re in the area, feel free to check it out!

“By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.” 1st John 3:16

Thanks for reading!

-Bethany

Chasing Our Purpose

 

 

For me, and I feel for many of you who might be reading this, knowing our purpose and feeling like we are fulfilling that purpose can be something of a struggle. There are many days when I am sitting at home with my daughter, that I let my mind wander to all of the things I think God may have for my future: my purpose. My dream of running a children’s bookstore (I blame Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks for this), my passion for women’s ministry, my love for writing…I wonder if someday, one of these dreams will be where my purpose is fulfilled. I wonder if the plan God had made for me even before I was born will come to be in another 10 years from now, 15 years, 5?

I believe that while these may all be great things, there is a danger in waiting around for our moment. It is a skewed perspective and mind set to think that the purpose God has called us to is something that we work toward, and then one day we’ve arrived. I’m not saying that God doesn’t want or allow our dreams to come to fruition, or that if we work hard at something, we won’t be blessed with the fruits of our harvest! What I feel the danger is, is going about our day to day feeling as if there is no real purpose if it isn’t our ultimate purpose, and consequently, often times finding a lack of joy in our lives–especially when we are in a season that is less than joyful.

It’s easy to get in this rut! I’ve been there, many times, and I have to remind myself that there is such a meaningful purpose in every season I go through. As a stay at home mom, the schedule can feel a bit mundane at times, the days can feel doubly long at times, and it can be totally exhausting. Though Norah brings my heart so much joy and I truly love being able to stay home with her, these are the times when it is easy to feel like I am not doing enough; that maybe God has another hat for me to add to my collection (as if I’d really have the time). I lose sight of the great importance my purpose today holds with being a mother, even and especially in the mundane.

Sometimes, if we haven’t landed our dream job, or we’re working our way through college and are unsure about our major, or we haven’t met the one, or we’re a stay at home parent, we can get caught up in this rut. We compare our lives to a standard in our own heads, and when it doesn’t measure up, we start to wonder what our purpose really is. “What am I really supposed to be doing? When will I feel unstuck?”

Your eyes saw me when I was inside the womb. All the days ordained for me were recorded in your scroll before one of them came into existence.” Psalm 139:16 (NET)

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When my flesh is tempted to feel this way, this verse reminds me that not one of my days here on earth is unknown to the Lord. That God created every hour of my life with a purpose. I may never have a distinct moment of arrival for my purpose, because my purpose is stitched into each new day, and in every season of life I am in. Sometimes His purpose for me may be a waiting period, so He can stretch my faith and grow me before He unveils a plan with greater responsibility. Sometimes it’s to teach me, sometimes it is to let my heart heal, sometimes it’s to take me out of my comfort zone, sometimes it’s a time of preparation of my mind and spirit- (the list could go on).

I truly believe that God’s purpose for us today (yes, even in that place we feel is a rut) is just as important and imperative as His purpose for us tomorrow and the next day. There is purpose and reason for every circumstance! Whether we are waiting for a new job opportunity, or whether we are discovering our passions and chucking our way through school (one all-nighter at a time), or whether we’re at home with our little ones, where the days can seem so long at times–there is purpose. Shifting our focus from “chasing our purpose” to making God our purpose and our center, wherever we are at, allows us to see how He’s using each season to teach us and prepare us for the next season. Waiting for our “arrival” to our life’s purpose is a never-ending road; you’ve arrived already! Live out each day knowing that God has distinct purpose and importance within it!

“So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” 1 Cor. 10:31 (ESV)

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Peace and Love!

-Tera, xo

 

Why "I love you" Isn't Always Enough

Hello, dear readers. It’s Bethany here on the blog today, and I am so excited to be writing again! I really enjoyed getting to spend some quality time with my husband this weekend. He woke me up by bringing me donuts and a dozen beautiful roses. Donuts? Don’t mind if I do. We spent most of the day sitting over coffee and reminiscing on the six years we have shared together. What a special time!

With Valentine’s Day wrapping up, I found myself reflecting on the complexities of one of the most powerful feelings I have ever experienced—love. I mean think about how many things we say we love. I love Flaming Hot Cheetos, I love this song, I love Netflix. This feeling is so complex, that the Greek have several versions of the word reaching from sexual passion, to love for deep friendship, to longstanding love. I couldn’t find a Greek word for the love of Netflix, but I’m sure it’s out there somewhere.

If love is so prevalent, why are marriages ending every day? Have you ever seen a marriage end and upon asking why, they say “love isn’t always enough.” You can love a person and your relationship or marriage can still end. Maybe it’s not love that keeps a marriage going, but instead, two people understanding and practicing the characteristics of love. If you’re happily married, single, in a long term relationship, divorced, widowed, or not even looking, don’t write this off as something to only be attributed to marriage. No matter what season of life you’re in, how to choose love is something to consider learning.

1 Corinthians 13:4-13  “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”

This is a highly referenced quote about what love really looks like when it’s broken down and put into practice. Whether you’re a follower of Christ, or not, these characteristics of love are undoubtedly admirable. I always end up feeling a little guilty after reading this scripture. We can agree to this all day long, but practicing this is so challenging.

We are humans, and when you tell me love “is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs…”, I can think of ten ways just this week that I have not kept that word, despite loving my husband more than words can express. When you argue in marriages, it’s easy to hurl wrongs at your spouse. Wrongs that you’ve supposedly forgiven them for. I feel like the words “you always” or “you never” tend to come out. It’s like you keep these phrases and record of wrongs just sitting in your pocket like ammunition. I know I’ve been there. In reality, it’s hard to choose to to keep no record of wrongs. In these types of situations, you have the choice to forgive, or to keep record of wrongs even after the behavior has changed. That’s why I believe that love is more than a feeling. Especially in marriage, it’s an action…a choice.

What does choosing love look like in a marriage?

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I am just one person in one marriage, and I want to grow as well. The only way to do that was to gather many opinions. What do other people consider the basis for a successful marriage? Did they believe in choosing love as well? After reading their responses, I believe they do. From friends, to family members, to acquaintances, I was blown away by the significance of what people shared with me when they were asked to complete the following task:

Choose one word that you believe allows a marriage to last “until death do us part.”

↔   C  O  M  M  I  T  T  M  E  N  T   ↔

“If you truly commit to forever than you stick to it. In times when you are in love you stay committed. In times when you don’t like each other you stay committed. There is no other choice than staying committed to your oath. And that commitment creates trust and love”. – Age 51, Married

↔   C   O   M   M   U   N   I   C   A   T   E   ↔

“The hard part about marriage is that we already have certain expectations in mind, but our spouse is not a mind reader. Communication allows you to express expectations and needs, set goals together, and discuss issues as they arise so they don’t grow and fester.”-Age 25, Married 2+ years

↔   S   E   L   F   L   E   S  S   N   E   S   S   ↔

“I could say communication or loyalty is most important, but it all really comes down to being selfless. Because within those character traits, the partner MUST be selfless. Must put the other first in every situation. If you’re doing that, and loving with all you have, you won’t fail”-Age 24, Married 1+ years

“If both people are completely selfless, considering the needs/desires of your partner before yours, then there will be no room for selfishness. Marriage breaks down because we start caring more about what we aren’t getting or what we want more than our spouse. Then we start linking for me instead of us and that is a slippery slope.” –Age 28, Married 7+ years

↔   S   A   C   R   I   F   I   C   E  ↔

“Dying to self every day is something he and I have to make a conscious choice to do. It’s putting each other’s needs in front of our own. Each choosing to give 100% daily, even on the hardest days. That’s why sacrifice is my word.”-Age 24, Married almost 4 years

↔   F   A   I   T   H   ↔

“Faith in Jesus that in good and bad times that He will bring you closer to each other and Him. Faith that God picked you two to support and love one another forever.”-Age 25, Married 2+ years

↔   P   A   T   I   E   N   C   E   ↔

“It’s something I’m not good with but I want to be! I heard a story one time about this little old couple who had been married for like 60 or 70 years, and when they asked how they made it work, the man wrote on a piece of paper front and back as many times as he could fit the word ‘patience’. I remember thinking when I heard that story- that is so true!”-Age 24, In a Relationship

↔   L   U   C   K   Y   ↔

“In my opinion, people want love so badly that they start to convince themselves that they’re in love, and often get married. Those marriages fail. It takes true love to stay devoted to someone for a lifetime. Those that find it are lucky.”-Age 27

↔   O   N   E   N   E   S   S   ↔

“Oneness isn’t two halves joining together; it’s two wholes morphing into one undivided being. You become an unbreakable force that nothing can stand between. When you give it all, you get it all. Focusing on what makes us a successful whole rather than two happy halves is important.” -Age 26, Engaged

↔   H   O   N   O   R   ↔

“To honor is to show the utmost respect to.”-Age 25

↔   L  A  U  G  H  T  E  R   ↔

“I always think that the amount of laughter in a relationship tells a lot about its state. Never stop finding reasons to laugh with one another. Laughter exudes joy, fun, understanding, and healing.”-Age 25, Married 2+ years

↔   C   H   R   I   S   T   ↔

“Always trying to keep Christ at the center of our relationship has only allowed us to love each other that much more. Because of this, I honestly couldn’t tell you the last time my wife and I fought, but I can tell you the last time we’ve laughed together – this morning.” – Age 26, Married 2+ years

“If two people are wholeheartedly serving Christ, serving each other will fall into place and they will progress in their marriage together after God’s own heart.” –Age 24, Married 2+ years

What I love most about asking others is how they’re all coming up with this word based upon different life experiences and backgrounds. Many of their answers can be related back to the actions expressed within the 1st Corinthians reference. Words are tools. Imagine what would happen if we put these words to work in everyday life. How many relationships would be benefited?

Consider the COMMITTMENT you have made when you start to question your oath. Choose to COMMUINICATE instead of icing one another out when conflict arises. Choose to SACRIFICE your own selfish ways. Choose to be SELFLESS when you know your spouse needs those small wins throughout the day. Choose to have FAITH that God can rebuild relationships even after great hardship. When you could easily let anger control you, choose to be PATIENT (speaking for myself here, that  means in the car too). When it gets hard to be patient, choose to remember that you are LUCKY and blessed to have one another. Choose to stand as ONE when you and your spouse are tested. In doing so, you show that you are choosing to HONOR and respect him/her. Choose to share in LAUGHTER when pain is too great to carry on alone in sadness. Choose CHRIST to be at the center. From there, all of these other choices become much easier, and even habitual.

Why is saying “I love you” not always enough? It is if you equip the word love with the weight it deserves. When both people commit to do love instead of just feel love, that’s when a marriage lasts.

Some people come from broken marriages, broken homes, or have experienced painful relationships. Whatever your season in life is, I encourage you to apply these choices in any way you can find. Apply them to your marriage, your future marriage, or use them as a way to understand a broken marriage so that you’re able to move forward. If you haven’t already, you should check out this short book HERE, to find your top love languages! Denver and I did this before we got married, and it has helped us understand how we each  communicate love. Even if you consider your marriage to be a successful and happy one as I do with mine, there is always work to be done. Let this be a wonderful reminder from the mouths of many!

I really enjoyed having others contribute to this project, so thank you so much for those who participated and for those reading this week. If you have an questions, comments, or suggestions, let’s keep the conversation going! Leave a comment below, or find me on social media @BethanyMPoteet. As always, you can hashtag your experiences with #OakAndEarthBlog. We are starting to blog more frequently, so look for some exciting updates in the future. Have a wonderful week!

Thank you, friends.

-Bethany

On Grief

Grief. It touches all of us at some point.

I recently experienced the first loss of a grandparent. My Granny, Alice Ann Briley. A day after she passed, one of my friends and co-workers, Stacy, was killed in a car accident. She was 30 years old. Needless to say, it was a lot to handle at once. While I realize I was fortunate to have all four of my grandparents in my life as long as I have, the realization does nothing to lessen the pain of the loss. Although I know Stacy and my Granny are in heaven with Jesus, it still hurts. I do not pretend to be an expert on any state of the mind, but I wanted to share a bit about what my experience with these losses, this grief, has been, even if only for my own sake. A life-long journal keeper, I’ve always felt that writing things out does wonders for the soul, so here I am. Writing.

In November, 2015 Granny suffered a major stroke. Although she was at home with my Papaw when it happened and received immediate medical attention, the stroke did permanent damage. Her health began to rapidly decline, and although she fought very hard, it was a battle she could not win. She never went home again. She was admitted to hospice on January 7th, exactly one month after her 82nd birthday. I was able to be with her almost every day from then until she passed on January 20th, and it was one of the most awful experiences of my life. Watching someone in the process of dying is a horrible thing. There is nothing you can really do. Keep them “comfortable”, tell them you love them, and pray God will take their suffering away.

I wrote down some thoughts while I sat with her:

January 14

I never could have imagined how it would feel to be here. Sitting by my Granny’s bedside in the hospice ward. It feels so completely unreal and at the same time the reality of it presses hard against my heart. How could there be a world without my Granny in it? How is it that I might never hear her voice again, in that thick southern drawl? How is it possible that she won’t be there on the day I get married? Or have children? I need her to teach them the names of all the flowers and trees, like she taught me. How can my Papaw go on without her beside him, as she has been for the past 62 years?

My Granny is a remarkable woman.. as Papaw says, ‘one of God’s best workers’. So why would God want to take her home to be with him when there are so many of us here who need her so desperately? I am comforted by something my aunt told me last night, as I sat curled in a ball by the fire thinking about my sweet grandmother: ‘Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints (Godly ones)’. I may not understand the reasoning, but I take comfort that no death is really an accident. I know Granny will go home to be with her Lord, but that doesn’t make her passing hurt any less for me and for all of her loved ones.

I read her a devotion today and I could barely get through it. My vision kept blurring and my voice kept getting choked up. It was about rest and trusting God and how He is always with us… it seemed written for her in this moment.

January 18

Every day has been worse for Granny and for us. I’ve taken off work again tomorrow. It’s the worst kind of waiting game. I can’t comprehend why she can’t either be healed or just go home to be with Jesus. It’s horrible. It breaks my heart. I wish she could comfort me. Tell me she will be fine. That we will go on our annual camping trip this summer, and have coffee together like we have a million times before.

The ward is crowded with hurting families. I see others like me, who come out in the hall and cry and try to pull themselves together – to be strong. There are so many hurting people all around us in this life that we never even notice.

January 20

Granny passed at 7:42 this morning. Her stroke happened on November 12, so she was in the hospital for a little over two months. My first thought was relief. She isn’t suffering anymore. She’s home with Jesus and her son and her parents. She’s in glory. My second thought was despair. She’s gone. Never to call me again. Never to tell me she loves me. Never to take us camping. Never to make coffee, or her amazing sourdough rolls. She will never see my children. She won’t be at my wedding. My family is reeling… Granny was the cornerstone – the center – the anchor. I miss her. I want to talk to her. To hear her voice telling me it’s going to be alright. Telling me anything really.. I wish none of this had ever happened. How can life go on without her? It doesn’t feel real. I feel like she will call me tomorrow. But she won’t. And she never will again.

Have you ever read A Grief Observed by C.S. Lewis? Lewis is my favorite author. In my childhood he introduced me to Narnia. In college helped me understand my faith via Mere Christianity and many other wonderful writings. Now, in my mid-20s, I am revisiting many of my favorite quotes from A Grief Observed. I highly recommend reading it to anyone going through any type of loss. Lewis wrote, “We were promised sufferings. They were part of the program. We were even told, ‘Blessed are they that mourn,’ and I accept it. I’ve got nothing that I hadn’t bargained for. Of course it is different when the thing happens to oneself, not to others, and in reality, not imagination.” It never feels how you think it will feel. You never react how you think you will react.

I stood in the snow on Saturday, the 23rd of January, said goodbye to my Granny, and felt nothing but thankfulness for her life and sorrow for her death.

Its been a week and a half now, and the pain hits me at unexpected times. In the middle of a shift at work. As I wait for sleep to come each night. In photographs. In the sunset. You hope people will notice and you hope they won’t. You dread talking about it, yet you feel the need to. You imagine all the might-have-beens.

Photo Jan 31, 5 46 02 PM

Grief experts, Elisabeth Kübler-Ross & David Kessler wrote, “You will not ‘get over’ the loss of a loved one; you will learn to live with it. You will heal and you will rebuild yourself around the loss you have suffered. You will be whole again but you will never be the same. Nor should you be the same, nor would you want to.” Whether it be death, divorce, or a breakup, you will be affected.

Grief is a complex thing. Everyone experiences it differently. You can’t say to someone who is grieving, ‘I know how you feel,’ because you don’t. I’ve noticed two things I personally do to cope. I keep myself busy, and I look for God. I don’t want to be left alone with my thoughts that run wild and unchecked. I cling to scriptural promises; two in particular:

“The righteous perish, and no one takes it to heart; the devout are taken away, and no one understands that the righteous are taken away to be spared from evil. Those who walk uprightly enter into peace; they find rest as they lie in death.” – Isaiah 57:1-2

“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” – Psalm 34:18

There are so many verses I love that have helped me through hard times in my life, but those are two of my favorites. Again, I am reminded of a C.S. Lewis quote, this time in The Magician’s Nephew. He wrote, ” ‘But please, please – won’t you – can’t you give me something that will cure Mother?’ Up till then he had been looking at the Lion’s great feet and the huge claws on them; now, in his despair, he looked up at its face. What he saw surprised him as much as anything in his whole life. For the tawny face was bent down near his own and (wonder of wonders) great shining tears stood in the Lion’s eyes. They were such big, bright tears compared with Digory’s own that for a moment he felt as if the Lion must really be sorrier about his Mother than he was himself. ‘My son, my son,’ said Aslan. ‘I know. Grief is great.’ ”

As I sit here typing this, I remember something my uncle shared at the funeral; a list Granny wrote of things she loved. I’d like to share a few of them with you:

  • Gardenias
  • Lilacs
  • Roses
  • Honeysuckle
  • Camping
  • Shiloh/Heber Springs
  • Sunrises and Sunsets
  • My babies and grandkids and great grandkids faces
  • Rainbows
  • The smell of rain and also leaves burning
  • Whippoorwills and Turtle Doves calls
  • Jar Flys
  • Rom. 8:1-2, Isaiah 43:1, and Isaiah 41:13

Granny was a woman of God. She impacted so many throughout her lifetime, including me. I was blessed to have her for a grandmother for almost 25 years. I have memories I will always treasure and she taught me so much that I will pass down to my children and my children’s children. I can hear her voice in my head, saying my name, lifted in song, laughing – always laughing. The last thing she said to me was she loved me… I don’t have any doubt in my mind about how much she truly did. I miss her so much, and I would give just about anything for one more cup of coffee with her.

-Shelby

Photo Jan 17, 9 01 22 AM

Photography by Shelby Briley and Jeff Rose

Brave

Hello, reader, it’s Tera! It feels SO good to be writing again on here after being away for a bit! The girls of Oak and Earth took a small break over the holidays to enjoy some family time that was much needed, but we are back and excited for what we have in store for 2016 (one thing being that we want to post much more frequently)! I hope you and yours shared some special times over the holiday season. With that being said, what better way to start off 2016 -and this week- on O&E than with a little devotional?

My initial thoughts for this devo were sparked by one of my favorite songs right now (“You Make Me Brave,” by Amanda Cook). The lyrics are powerful and beautiful, and as of late, have really resonated with me. You would be doing yourself a great favor by checking it out if you haven’t heard it yet!

In this song, she sings about how the Lord makes us brave. In one line she sings, “You make me brave, You call me out beyond the shore into the waves.” When I first heard the lyrics, I loved the power that was behind them. I pictured myself in the vast world of unknown future, taking long strides and doing things that I am only capable of doing with His help and through His grace. How true this is! But one Sunday morning, we sang this song at our church. It was a Sunday that would lead to a week of anticipated anxiety, and was sure to surface some pretty sensitive and wounded areas of my heart. This particular Sunday while we were singing this song, the lyrics took a whole new meaning to me, and it hit me. The lyrics became deeper for me when I realized that the Lord does make us brave, in more ways than this daydreamt adventure!

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This picture is makes me feel like a hobbit looking out onto the shire! Any other LOTR fans out there??

 

He doesn’t have to call us on a grand journey in order for His power and love to make us brave. He certainly can and does sometimes, but taking a giant leap of faith into a sea of unknown is not the only prerequisite in order to be capable of being very, very brave. God makes our love brave, to love even the people in our lives who are the most difficult to love, to be a good friend, to have a heart of compassion for others. He makes us brave in our strength. To fight for our marriages and hold on even in our marriages’ darkest seasons, or to stand up for our faith unashamedly, (the list goes on). God makes us brave in our insecurities. Whether it be our body image, our fears of acceptance, our fears of not being enough, our lack of a higher education, our jobs…[insert insecurities here], we can say “I love myself. I am beautiful. I am enough just the way I am.” He makes us brave in our shortcomings, to take it day by day and say, “Today, I want to be better than I was yesterday.” He makes us brave so we can forgive– even the ones who never ask you for your forgiveness– to have a freed heart and a cleared conscience by saying, “I forgive YOU.” God makes us brave in our circumstance. When we feel so unsure of why we are going through a situation(s), when we want to get out of our rut(s), when we don’t know who we are fully and we wish we had the answers…He makes us brave to embrace this season, to learn from it, to know that it will not be forever, and to trust that He is always at work behind the scenes. And He makes us brave in living out our purpose. Maybe He’s called you to be a homemaker, maybe you teach, maybe you are taking that huge leap of faith in a new adventure He’s called you to, or maybe He has you somewhere right now to prepare you for what your purpose will be in a few years. Whatever it is, He makes us brave to fulfill our purpose with love, grace, and with happy hearts, even when it feels mundane, tiring, and hard. The capacity we have to do these things is so grand when we rely on God’s abilities rather than our own. Because of God, our love stretches, our strength endures, our self worth shines, our shortcomings do not overcome us, our forgiveness is limitless, our circumstances we face teach us and encourage us, and our purpose fills us. Because of God, in God, we are brave.

2 Cor. 4:7 “We now have this shining light in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves.”

A4

Aren’t these photos beautiful?! They were taken by my brother on his trip to Alaska.

 

 

 

We would love to hear your ideas for some future blog posts you’d like to see! Follow me on my social media if you don’t already for blog updates and daily snippets of life; Instagram @terapianalto, and Twitter @terapianalto. We always love your feedback and love being a part of the blogging community!

 

Love Fiercly,

Tera -xo

A Pig Out Session You Won't Regret: Your New Morning Ritual.

GETTING DOWN AND REAL WITH JESUS AND FEELING FULL IN THE PROCESS?

ALL BEFORE YOUR MORNING COFFEE, UMM, WHAT? 

Me in my comfy bed,curled up with a book. (I

Me in my comfy bed, curled up with a book. (I”m NOT a morning person by the way.)

If you’re like me, mornings can be rough. Especially when you wake up with the burning eyelids of not enough zzz’s and a full day ahead of you that can feel discouragingly monotonous to the day before (and the one before that.)

You have to think about if your work shirt is clean or if you just left in a crumpled pile on the floor.

Yep. It was the second option.

(Of course.)

BUT ALAS:

THERE IS HOPE!

Sometimes, we just need to set ourselves up a little pig out session with the Man Upstairs for an all day pick-me up that will get you going better than espresso.

This past week, I decided to change my pattern and see if what I chose to see or listen to within the first half hour of waking up affected my mood or perspective of the day.

My first realization was that without even being conscious of what I was doing, I had formed the habit of checking some form of social media within the first 30 seconds of opening my eyes. (WHICH IS KINDA SAD REALLY.)

Also, without realizing it, my senses were being saturated with bright pictures, happy smiles and a brain full of sub-conscious comparisons.

Instead of climbing out of bed feeling refreshed and with a hopeful sense of determination for the day ahead, it has too often become more like rolling out of bed feeling emotionally exhausted before my day has even really begun.

I don’t however, think I’m the only one.

Are we starving ourselves of emotional/spiritual/mental nutrition?

By choosing day after day to make social portals become a daily fix that we consume before breakfast, can it at some point begin to consume us?

I think we all know the answer.

Why not be kind to myself and begin my day fueling up with something more sustaining?

So here is what I have tried and I dare you to try it too:

Don’t be afraid to have a morning pig out sesh with your number one fan and the best dose of daily encouragement.

(Here is the part that may seem like a challenge at first, but is insanely satisfying and WORTH IT.)

Instead of scrolling through your instagram or facebook while still laying in bed:

make a little sacrifice this week and refrain from having any physical food before you take in some spiritual fuel for the morning.

Instead of scrolling through your instagram or facebook while still laying in bed, try this instead:

(It will feel as sustaining as french toast, eggs, and bacon on a Monday morning, PROMISE.)

HOW TO INITIATE YOUR SPIRITUAL BREAKFAST DATE:

Choose one or a couple of verses of scripture to read and mediate on them. Read them once straight through. Then read them again, word by word, reading them as though God is having a conversation directly with YOU through His words. Read the verses one last time, and think about how you can try to make it a point to apply what you have read to your day.

For example, yesterday I read Psalm 139:14 “I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.”

And it stuck with me.

I meditated upon it. I read it. Re-read it. And read it again.

Instead of mindlessly scrolling through a feed of a girl’s new blonde highlights (while mine are growing out) or another friend’s exotic travels with my bed head and tired eyes, what my eyes and heart took in was that verse.

And that was exactly what I needed that morning.

I needed to remember that despite life’s distractions, frustrations, and tired mornings, I AM “fearfully and wonderfully made.”

And while I strive daily to be kind and loving to others, I sometimes forget to be kind to myself.

Throughout my day, I focused on honoring God’s plan for my life by trying to have a heart of thankfulness and to even give myself a compliment instead of a comparison.

If you want to feel the difference, try it yourself!

Let God be your morning date and dig in to His word.

Don’t worry, overindulgence is encouraged.

And you won’t regret it!

 

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(ONE LAST REQUEST.)

If you try it out this week and find that it made a difference or you have some constructive criticism, I would love to hear about it!

facebook: Christiana Ewart

instagram: christiananoel

But not first thing in the morning, you have a date, remember? 🙂

-Christiana

Fog

Hello, I am Tera! You can read a tad about me and my sweet family in the about section of our blog. Mostly you will learn about me through my posts! My page will probably have lots of glorious (that’s what we will call it) motherhood moments, an occasional recipe from my once monthly home cooked meals (okay, I’m not that bad about it), Diy crafts that may or may not have turned out, and sometimes just random thoughts that I feel like writing about (I can sense your excitement already)!

Originally, I had a post in mind that would have been light hearted, fun, and (in my opinion), somewhat humorous. Thus is the life with a child and I love every day of it! But, I’ve since decided to post something quite different; it’s me being raw and vulnerable with you all, and just…real. My intent is for this to [hopefully] be relatable and encouraging for what readers come my way–and I pray that it will be!

When tough times come our way, I automatically think to myself: “Okay, what can God be trying to teach me through this?” Sometimes these situations ease quickly, and a sigh of relief can be breathed. Sometimes, much like we have found ourselves at current, these times are a lot like a thick fog in which you cannot see what is ahead of you except for one. step. at. a. time. Through a lot of prayer, I feel like what God is trying to teach me the most in our current obstacle, is to have all of my t r u s t placed in Him. Now I know, you’re like “really, Tera?” Yes, really. Trust. Such a simple word with SO much depth to it. This is something that (for me, anyway) is so easy to say and to think in my brain…”Okay God, I trust you with this.”; “Do I trust God? Of course I do!” But I have found that allowing my heart to believe in this and to rest in it is totally different. I still want some control with my life, my family, my successes. There is still a teensy part of me that wants to have a back-up plan “just incase” God doesn’t show up like He says He will. And He has! Over and over again He remains faithful to me, even despite my doubts! It’s my selfish human nature that wants control, and it is something God has called me out on.

My husband and I both felt God’s calling to move to Colorado for ministry in a church plant at the beginning of last year. Through a lot of planning, raising support, and more prayer, we found ourselves here in the Springs by August. This took a big leap of faith for us (me in particular). You see, we had a [beautiful] daughter in February of last year–you will hear lots about her on my blog in future posts–and moving to a place where we knew nobody while also being a new mom, was not appealing to me. Fundraising for our living expenses, was not appealing to me. Moving away from our family and friends, also, not appealing to me. God really pulled us both out of our comfort zones (let’s face it, He loves doing this!), and though it was scary and held a lot of unknowns, we took that leap of faith and felt a great sense of peace about it all. We raised our support in less then two months, felt as if we were already making life long friends before even moving out here, and we just knew it was God’s hand on us through the whole process. This was one of those quick *sigh* of relief moments. Hashtag blessed<<< We were this family. Through different circumstances that I will not go into detail with here, almost 8 months after our ministry began with this church plant, we found ourselves suddenly no longer a part of this family. [Side note: This was nothing immoral or wrong done by us, just merely different views amongst a few things.]  This is one of those thick fogs that we are just trying to see through to our next step. This is where the trust lesson comes in for me.

You see, trusting God to move out here was the easy part. He wanted us here; those doors were flung open for us (He was not so subtle with this)! The hard part is where we find ourselves now: with no job, no understanding of God’s plan for us, no direction. A whole lot of questions and confusion: Why would He call us here for such a short time? Where are we supposed to be now? What just happened (ha! this is literally a question we have asked ourselves)? What next? This is where that teensy part of me is wanting to control the shots, and to take care of everything and make it all better. But through a lot of tears and prayers, God has shown me how important to Him my utmost trust is. To know that He is who He says He is, and to trust God for His undying faithfulness, not for my circumstance.

Ironically enough, our neighbor had given me a book not too long ago, called Ruthless Trust by Brennan Manning. An excerpt from the first chapter stuck out to me, and it reads: “Brennan, you don’t need anymore insights into the faith,” he observed. “You’ve got enough insights to last you three hundred years. The most urgent need in your life is to trust what you have received” (p.1). We can drive ourselves crazy trying to find understanding of these situations that just do not add up in our heads. They sting, there’s hurt, frustration, confusion..we pray for God to show us the reasoning for it all. What we forget sometimes, is that His wisdom far exceeds our own. God knows exactly what we need to know about certain things, and what we don’t need to know (though our human nature is quite nosy and we tend to think we deserve to know all the details). He knows we don’t need all of the details to get us where He wants us. This is where He wants our trust! I have found this to be so true in this season my family is in. I find it impossible to have trust and knowledge mutually. If we knew all of the details of our future, would we need to trust God with our lives? Would it give us the chance to grow in our faith, or would it harbor our faith and go lukewarm? Though my mind was going a million miles a minute (does it ever really stop? I don’t know), trying to make sense of my life and trying to find solutions for my problems, I felt God tug on my heart and say “Tera, trust Me. I have not forgotten about you.” That was the point in which I finally decided to lean on Him, and trust Him because of who He is to me, not because of what my human emotions were feeling in the moment. I learned to pray for trust over clarity; that it was more important for me to trust God now, than it was to possess more knowledge. That wasn’t going to change my circumstances, and may invite bitterness to creep in. There were ugly tears, guys. It was not a beauty pageant moment on my part to say the least. But I was real with God, and I laid it on Him; all my frustrations, confusion, hurt, doubts. He can handle it all, He even tells us to load it on Him– and He still meets us with His gentle grace. He picks us up, brushes us off and fills us with His strength and peace. He tells us “I am right beside you. You can do this.” What an awesome God.

I cannot tell you that God clearly spoke to me and gave me direction on exactly what is next for us. I can only tell you the peace I felt when I finally gave the questions and the frustration and the unknown back to God. To feel the weight of these things come off my shoulders and to know that they are not unknown to Him, that all of this comes together in His overarching plan for our lives, gives a great sense of peace to me, even though the fog is still so dense! There is no greater feeling than the sense of intimacy with God when you are hurting. He wants to walk with you through it all…better yet, He wants to Lead you through that scary dense fog of unknown future. Sometimes, in order for Him to lead us through to that next step, it requires a daily devotion of trust in Him. It may be one small step at a time, but each time we choose to trust and take a step, God is slowly pulling us out of the fog. We have to allow Him to use certain things in our life to teach us, refine us, build our faith, and have the opportunity to experience Him at work when we are seemingly helpless. I challenge you, next time you feel like you are walking through the thick fog, to choose to trust God with the nitty gritty details and the scary unknown, hold His hand tight, and say “God, lead me through it.”

“Trust is our gift back to God, and He finds it so enchanting that Jesus died for love of it” (Ruthless Trust p.2).

Peace and love,

-Tera