Downsizing: The Simple Life

My husband and I began talking about a pretty significant idea back in April of last year: downsizing. (Side-note: I cannot believe 2016 is now past tense…where does the time go?!) It was our 4th anniversary weekend, and we had sent our oldest with some family and had a mini stay-cation at a nice hotel here in NWA. Being just the two of us, we had all the time in the world to discuss things that are many times otherwise interrupted and pushed aside these days. On our last morning “away,” while we ate our breakfast, we flipped our hotel television on to our favorite channel: HGTV. Of course a show popped on that we didn’t ordinarily watch, but it was immediately intriguing to us so we kept it going; it was a show on ‘tiny living’. “That is so cool, but I just don’t see how these families do it. Especially with kids!”

I remember saying this to Jer a few times while we watched these families (some with kids, some without) take their belongings and their space and condense it all into a space of about 400 sq ft or less. We marveled at the idea, and slightly envied the people who nipped America’s stereotypical house in the bud, dropped 80-90% of their belongings, and headed straight for the simple life. It was a concept that we just couldn’t get out of our heads.  “What if we did this?”

At first we thought it would just be too hard. After all, we had one toddler and had recently found out we would be having a second baby in the fall. How in the world would we make the (lack of) space work? We lived in a decent size home, about 1800 sq ft, and we had “stuff” in every room! I should also note that we had only moved into this nice home months before, adding even more insanity to our scheme. But what we finally realized, was that much of our living space was not utilized; it was just holding all the stuff we’d accumulated over the course of our marriage, much of which we could certainly live without.

The idea of simplifying our lifestyle grew more and more compelling to us, and the more we researched and read, the more we loved it. Not just for the mere fact of getting rid of “things,” though that was a large portion of it. We also loved the idea of taking our girls out of the cycle that we tend to get caught up in of not being content unless we have the latest and greatest, the nicest, the biggest and best, [insert ‘thing’ here]. Taking them out of this cycle and raising them in an atmosphere that was safe, promoted creativity, created closeness, and of course was always truly ‘enough.’ We were sold.

Downsizing Simple Life

A few days after listing our house for sale, we placed an offer on a small home in my childhood hometown, and were accepted. A couple weeks after our house was on the market we were under contract, and thus officially began our downsizing! “Simplify” quickly became our word for the remainder of 2016. Bit by bit we sifted through our things, donating a substantial amount of our belongings that we would no longer have the space for. A few weeks later we packed up what was left of our things and moved into a home that is just under 1000 sq ft. Of course, this was our version of a big downsize, and we didn’t move into a truly tiny home. But those of you with kids know that moving a family of four into a very small, 2 bedroom home is quite a feat! Simplify.

It is in no way an easy thing to accomplish, especially with kids, and we are still in the process of slowly downsizing more of our things even 6 months later, but as we’ve moved into 2017, we haven’t once looked back! I believe our word to live by this year is “intentional.” One of the biggest things we’ve had to do in our downsizing process has been to be so intentional with our space and how we utilize it. Do I love this piece, and does it make me smile? Like (Emily Gilmore, anyone?) Every piece we own must serve a purpose, and if it can serve for more than one purpose, even better!

Our space is very intentional. One of the main things we wanted to fit into our small home was our full size dining set. We wanted to have a space to bring people into our home and have good food, good discussion, and close relationships. I have my reading corner, the girls have a play space…every part of our home has been thought out, and is utilized! As far as the girls’ things go, we haven’t cleaned them out of all their toys, and they have a substantial book collection in the making, but we do have regular “sorting” days where we filter through and weed out the toys that have since become unexciting, and make room for the new. I can tell you our oldest never misses a thing!

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Since downsizing and simplifying, we’ve decided we love it so much that we are working toward ways to simplify even more! There is such a freedom in knowing that there isn’t a wrong or a right way to “live,” and for us this lifestyle has been so rewarding! Don’t get me wrong, we see nothing wrong with consumption, and having “things.” We still have things, and we still love to buy certain things! But where I have seen a difference in our consumption is in the intent behind our purchases. Is it compulsory, or is it intentional and for a purpose? Let’s be real, in this small space we live in, there isn’t room for anything but intentional and purposeful–and I love that!

My favorite thing about downsizing has been that it consistently makes us reflect and consider the things that are most important to us, and then the freedom we feel when we condense down to only those most important things! Living small may or may not be forever for our family, but the idea of working toward more freedom with how we use and spend our time and where will be a theme that sticks with us wherever we go from here on out.

I am excited to share more about our downsizing, different projects that have ensued in order to make a small space the most efficient, and updates as we progress to an even more minimalist lifestyle. My husband jokes that our next downsize will be our wardrobes…okay, he’s only half joking (insert nervous sweating emoji).

For more updates and peeks into our day to day, follow me on Instagram ( @terapianalto ) and be sure to follow all of Oak and Earth’s social media accounts!

Here’s to a fresh start to your 2017!

Tera, xo

 

 

Kancamagus New Hampshire Fall Autumn foliage

FALL in love with New Hampshire

At the beginning of October, I had the opportunity to travel to the White Mountains of New Hampshire to see my pen-pal of 15 years, Becca Cahan, get married. New England natives, Becca and her – then fiancé, now husband – Tom, wanted to get married amongst the gorgeous Fall foliage that New Hampshire is well-known for, and coincidentally, where they got engaged.

Jeff went with me on this adventure, and I have to say, adventure is definitely the right description. We flew into Boston on Friday, September 30th, rented a car, and drove straight to New Hampshire. Thanks to a series of weather-related delays, we were unable to attend the meet & greet that evening, but we arrived safely late that night and with plenty of time to recuperate before the wedding the next day.

We went to breakfast at the most adorable little diner and got a taste of the New England experience, which I very much enjoyed. After breakfast, we ventured out to get the lay of the land, as we didn’t have much time before we had to get ready for the wedding.

You guys. I fell in love.

I am now convinced I need to buy a picturesque little New England home, and temporarily move to New Hampshire every Fall. I have never seen colors like that before. It was simply spectacular. There really is no other word to describe it. No wait, I thought of some: breathtaking, mesmerizing, iridescent, awe-inducing, shocking, gorgeous, unreal, insane, absolutely beautiful.

From the foliage, to the mountains, to the wedding, to getting my feet back on the Appalachian Trail, it was an unforgettable and wonderful trip. Becca’s wedding was of course, a dream, and I was so happy and thankful to be there, apart of it, and apart of the gorgeous New Hampshire Fall; if only for just a moment.

Fall New Hampshire New England foliage

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Wedding New Hampshire Fall foliage Becca Cahan

Becca and I on her wedding day

As always, live healthy and love hard!

-Shelby


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Life in the Ozarks: Spring Update

Spring and Autumn have always been my favorite seasons. Some of the things I love the most about Spring are the rise in temperatures, the abundance of daylight, and all of the new life – especially the flowers!

This year has been pretty rough.. so I was very grateful to get some much needed downtime this past weekend. Some friends and I stayed at an amazing cabin in the Ozarks and really had the opportunity to appreciate all the beauty the natural state has to offer this time of year. We were NOT disappointed.

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The beautiful cabin of a family friend, nestled in the Ozark Mountains

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The cabin was made from refurbished wood, sourced from several different buildings, and was absolutely beautiful

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I’m a sucker for a good porch… Just add coffee!

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We explored a new area of Lost Valley and Jeff was not enthused.. Kidding! He is the biggest nature lover of them all! He was just helping me test my new lens! (Which i am in love with)

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Last sunset at the cabin

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Sometimes it is crucial to take a step back out of your busy life, unplug, and just rest. I hope you all take the opportunity to get out, and do some exploring of your own this Spring! If you need a quick reference, try my guide to hiking the Ozarks.

We need the tonic of wildness…At the same time that we are earnest to explore and learn all things, we require that all things be mysterious and unexplorable, that land and sea be indefinitely wild, unsurveyed and unfathomed by us because unfathomable. We can never have enough of nature. – Thoreau

As always, live healthy, and love hard!

-Shelby

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.”

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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

The 12 Dates of Christmas: Holiday Themed Date Ideas

HEREHappy Holidays, readers! It’s Bethany here today, and I am so excited to be sharing this blog post with you during the Christmas season!

All right, picture this: I’m sitting on the couch after work, and my husband comes in and asks, “What would you like to do tonight?”. To which I always respond, “What would you like to do tonight?”. We tear open our blinds for inspiration and are swiftly reminded that “fall back” has conquered the sky. At 5:00 p.m. it already looks and feels like midnight. At this point, it’s easier to watch Netflix and call it good.

I’m all for binge watching Parks and Rec, New Girl, or whatever show you might be captivated by (I’m told I’m crazy for not having started Breaking Bad or The Walking Dead). HOWEVER. The holiday season should be properly celebrated in all its wonder! How much easier would it be to have someone else plan your Christmas dates for you?

Merry Christmas!

I am giving you a list of 12 holiday inspired date ideas. These dates are 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, I threw some binge watching dates in there as well.

While you may not have time to do all of these, you can save some ideas for next year, or opt to do a few off the list.

Let’s get started!

1. Ice Skating

I have a special place in my heart for ice skating dates. Ice skating was my very first date with my husband!  For some,  this date sounds completely romantic and movie-esque. For others, ice skating sounds like a humiliating situation waiting to happen. The good news is, laughter will surely ensue. Nothing brings out your inner child more than ice skating together. While this can take some getting used to, this activity leaves you plenty of chances for great contact. You might leave with some bruises, but you’ll also leave with some great memories.

**Helpful tip: Call around to some local rinks, and find out the best time to go! Some rinks will offer discounts on certain nights, and some close earlier than you would think. Call ahead for pricing as well.

2. Black and White Christmas Movie Marathon 

Yes, this is your binge watching date. While some dates are meant to be adventurous, others should have you in a relaxed and cozy environment. Get in your comfiest pj’s, and curl up with some hot cocoa or cider. Some of the best Christmas movies are the black and white classics! So, why not dedicate an entire night to them?

To get you started, I provided a short list of some of my favorites. There are so many great ones, you might want to make this a week long extravaganza!

  • It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)
  • Scrooge (1951)
  • A Miracle on 34th Street (1947)
  • The Shop Around the Corner (1940)

**Helpful tip: I have previously blogged a wonderful hot cider recipe that you can find HERE.

3. Downtown Date–Carriage Ride 

This is one of our “splurge” date suggestions. Go to a nearby square and check out the festivities and lights! Where we live, we have a couple downtown squares to choose from. It is worth it to drive to the best one around you, and really spend the night in awe. We usually bundle up, grab a hot chocolate, and walk around until our toes go numb.

This is a great date to soak in the wonderful holiday atmosphere as a couple. If you want to take it up a notch, many larger town squares offer horse drawn carriage rides. Denver surprised me with this once, and it was unforgettable. You  must do this at least once in your life. If you’re tight on cash, you can totally opt to just do the walking portion.

**Helpful hint: If you decide upon this date, I would suggest putting your phones away. Maybe you can walk around once and take some cute pictures together, but I would definitely suggest putting them away the rest of the night. This allows you to really enjoy each other in such a beautiful environment.

4. Paint Ornaments and/or Ceramics 

This is an activity that I would often do as a child; however, I recommend this activity for adults as well. Why? It gets your creative juices flowing, and it can end up being quite humorous. Last year, Denver and I decided to paint 12 ornaments together. We threw on a Christmas movie in the background and painted away. Some of them did not turn out so fabulously, but I really enjoyed taking it back to one of my favorite childhood activities.

**Helpful Hint: If you decide to do some ceramics, these make for wonderful little gifts for children. It might be fun to have this in mind while painting them. If you decide to paint ornaments together, Hobby Lobby sells some inexpensive clear bulbs that are very easy to paint.

5. Candle Light Service

I would highly recommend attending a Candle Light Service together. I understand that many families enjoy this activity together; however, there are several services offered before Christmas. We suggest this activity as a date because it is important to come together and really think about what Christmas should be centered around. This date allows you to have some spiritual time spent together. In addition to that time spent together, most of these services are incredibly beautiful.

**Helpful Hint: I would suggest asking friends and family for their favorite candle light services in the area.

6. Christmas Picture Scavenger Hunt (Group date!)

This is one of my favorite date ideas on the list. This is a good weekend activity, as you might need to start during daylight and end during the evening. Remember that we suggest this date to be a double date or a group date.

HOW IT WORKS:

This is a picture scavenger hunt! You will need to take your phone or camera, and take a picture of everything you can find on the list I provided below. Break up into couples and make sure you each have access to the scavenger hunt list. Set a time limit that you think is obtainable but challenging. Once your time limit is up, you must meet at a local coffee shop to compare pictures. The couple that has the most pictures of the listed items gets coffee/hot chocolate bought for them by the other couples. This is a fun way to get out of your comfort zone! It ends up being a good laugh.

**Helpful hint: It is even more fun to up the game by adding one extra point for every picture that has one of the team members in the picture with the scavenger hunt item. If you are driving to each destination, please practice safety at all times.

SCAVENGER HUNT LIST: 

  • Nativity scene
  • Charlie Brown
  • 3+ Light Up Reindeer in one yard
  • Christmas Wreath
  • Pinecone
  • Mistletoe
  • Someone drinking hot chocolate
  • An elf
  • Star
  • Moving lights
  • Inflatable decorations
  • Candy cane
  • A dog in a Christmas sweater
  • Decorated mailbox
  • Silver bells
  • A Christmas vest
  • Angel
  • “My first Christmas” ornament
  • A good deed taking place
  • Christmas snow globe
  • The Grinch
  • Short video of Christmas music playing in a store/shop
  • Christmas tree in a window
  • A light display that plays music
  • Santa clause on a roof
  • Over-sized candy cane
  • An employee wearing a Santa Hat
  • A gift wrapped present
  • A gingerbread house

7. Angel Tree

Often times, a Salvation Army or school in your town will have a large Christmas tree with paper angels attached to it. These paper angels will include the age of a boy or girl in need, along with a list of their most wanted Christmas items. Go pick out these items as a couple! It’s really enjoyable to do something for a child that needs some Christmas cheer. If you are completely unaware of what the Angel Tree organization does, you can check out their website HERE.

**Helpful Hint: You can often find out where nearby Angel Trees are locate by asking the local Salvation Army. The earlier into the season you look into this, the better.

8. Ugly Sweater Date

What is the holiday season without a little ugly sweater fun? For this date, you must be willing to go a bit out of your comfort zone. Instead of picking out your own ugly sweater, you must pick out the ugly sweater for your significant other with maximum embarrassment as the goal. Why? This is a friendly little competition.

Once you have exchanged your ugly sweaters, it’s time to have your friends and family vote on the ugliest sweater. This can be done by an easy Facebook post or by physically asking friends and family to vote. Once the ugliest sweater has been selected, the person that purchased the sweater gets a Christmas treat of  their choosing. Have you been wanting to see a certain Christmas movie? Have you been wanting to have a certain Christmas drink? The winner shall receive it! This date is much more fun if you continue to wear the ugly sweaters the rest of the night. You might be embarrassed, but you’ll be embarrassed together.

**Helpful hint: If you cannot find ugly sweaters, opt for the ugliest ornament instead! Christmas sweaters of all shapes and sizes can often be found at Good Will or a simple dollar general store. Please don’t spend heaps of money on an ugly sweater! They can get picked over this time of year, so the earlier in the holiday season you start looking, the better.

9. Attend a Local Children’s Play

This one sounds a bit odd, but you’re going to have to trust me on this one. Nothing will put a smile on your face like watching a children’s performance. You know those puppies that are so ugly that they are cute? This is a similar concept. Cheesy children’s plays= adorable. Laughter is sure to follow.

*Helpful hint: Contact friends or family for a list of local plays.

10. Christmas Lights Drive

Put together the best Christmas music playlist you can find, and hop in the car for one of the classiest Christmas dates around. My family has done this for years, but this can also be a super fun date!  Drive around local neighborhoods and take in all the festive lights that you can. Although we had some alternative dates in mind for you, this one just has to make the list.

*Helpful hint: We feel like 7:00 pm – 8:00 pm is a good time to start this drive. This gives people enough time to get home and turn on their lights, and this allows you time to drive around before people start turning them off for bed.

11. Volunteer as a Couple

While there are so many other activities that could have made our list, we feel that this one is incredibly important.  Let me tell you, there are plenty of volunteer opportunities out there. Denver and I volunteered in the community for Thanksgiving this year, and we will be doing the same for Christmas!

Why volunteer as a couple?

Volunteering in the community gives you more joy than you will ever know until you experience it. While this is a cheerful time of year for many, some families are struggling horribly. In the past, Denver and I have made excuses as to why we can’t do this. We’re too tired after work, or it’s more fun to do something else. You name it, we’ve thought it.  I encourage you to think differently for at least one date. Volunteering allows you to give one of the most precious gifts of all: your time. Not only does this benefit the community, but it is a GREAT bonding experience for a couple. Win. Win. Win. Speaking from personal experience, it is so worth it to give your time. Here are some volunteer ideas to get you started:

  • Deliver meals
  • Visit a senior
  • Angel Tree
  • Toys for Tots

**Helpful Hint: Contact your local Salvation Army or City of Commerce for some volunteer events in your local area.

12. Sunrise/Sunset Yearly Reflection 

Before you automatically discount this date because of the cold, I have a warmer option for you as well. I don’t think I’m alone in that I enjoy quality time and open communication.  But how do you make this fun? One of the best ways to do this is to spend some time watching the sunrise or sunset. There’s something special about dedicating time to wake up early just to reflect on God’s beauty. Not everyone is awake during sunrise, and there’s something about catching it together that is just plain magical. While it can be tough to wake up early enough to watch the sunrise, it would definitely be my first choice because of the seclusion. Bundle up and take a hot drink and some blankets, and find somewhere special to look back on the year. For example, Denver and I like to hike to a local look out spot.

If rising early is out of the question, opt for the sunset option. If hiking a mountain trail seems like an unrealistic option for you, we have found that lakes are also a great place to reflect! (pun intended)

What are these warmer options I spoke about earlier? For those of you who are less enthused for this adventurous idea, park at a local sunset location and talk in the heat of the car! As long as you’re talking and watching the sun go down or up, you’ve completed the task.

Sunrise/sunset dates are hands down some of the most cherished dates I’ve had with my husband. Don’t let the year go by without giving this date a shot.

**Helpful hint: Be sure to use an app or Google to research the time the sun rises or sets in your area and plan accordingly. Partly sunny days emit the best color. Completely sunny days are your next best option. If it’s completely cloudy outside, you’ll never see it. Trust me, we’ve tried.

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This concludes our 12 dates of Christmas!

We love hearing from you, so please feel free to leave a comment, ask questions, or say hello. You can keep up with our holiday experiences on  Instagram at @OakAndEarth and on my personal Instagram BethanyMPoteet. While I have listed some great options for couples, you can get a list of more family oriented ideas by visiting Tera’s latest post HERE! We have more Christmas posts to follow, so stay tuned.

Happy Holidays!

-Bethany <3

 

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Dessert Apple Cider: A Crock-pot Recipe

Hello, readers! It’s Bethany here for this autumn drink recipe!

Autumn is here in all its glory. With bonfires, hayrides, camping, snuggling, pumpkin spice, boots and scarves, it is time for Hot Apple Cider to make its way to our blog! Not only does this amazing cider have a 5 minute prep time, but  it is made in the kitchen appliance that was brought down from the heavens–the crock-pot *enter hallelujah chorus*.

I love this recipe because it can be made for several different occasions. You can add the dessert toppings and serve this for a fall party, OR  you can choose to keep it as a simple and rustic cider in a mug. The dessert version makes for a fun party favorite, and the simplified version is great to curl up with after a long day. This recipe is based off of a recipe I found on a site that I visit quite often for slow cooker meals: Taste of Home. I highly recommend checking it out! I have tweaked it to my taste, style, and convenience Let’s get started!

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WHAT DO I NEED: 

  • 8 cups apple cider (I buy a gallon jug.)
  • 1/4 cup caramel syrup. **Note: The original recipe calls for 1 cup of caramel, and this was too sweet to me and a few of my taste testers . I prefer a spicier cider, so 1/4 cup is more than enough for me; however, I would suggest 1/2 cup if you like a sweet cider. 
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 2 cinnamon sticks (3 inches) **Note: I found a small and inexpensive package of cinnamon sticks in the baking isle. 
  • 1 tablespoon whole allspice
  • Cheesecloth or non-bleached coffee filter
  • **Dessert Version: Garnish with  whipped cream, hot caramel ice cream topping and cinnamon sticks (3 inches)

DIRECTIONS (5 min prep time, 2-3 hour cook time) 

  1. In a 3-qt. slow cooker, combine the apple cider, caramel syrup and lemon juice.  
  2. Place the cinnamon sticks and allspice on a double thickness of cheesecloth. Bring up the corners of the bag and tie with string to form a bag. I did not have a cheesecloth, but I have found that a non-bleached coffee filter does essentially the same thing for this recipe! If you find yourself without a cheesecloth, you can follow my lead. After putting these ingredients into my coffee filter, I tied it off like a bag, and left it to steep in my cider mixture for the rest of the cooking time (as seen below). 

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3. Cover and cook on low for 2-3 hours or until heated through. Discard spice bag. Pour cider into mugs; garnish with whipped cream, caramel topping and additional cinnamon sticks if desired. Yield: 12 servings (3/4 cup each).

MAKE YOUR DESSERT

It’s time to decide how you would like to serve it up! This cider can hold its own in a mug or it can be elevated to be a stunning fall dessert drink. If you are going to make it into a dessert drink, be sure to remember that if you put your whipped cream onto your piping hot drink, it might turn loose pretty quickly. I waited a few minutes for it to cool a bit.

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This cider has been a great hit and I can’t wait to share it at my next fall get together! Maybe I’ll have to whip up some  Pumpkin Spice Cakes that Tera blogged about last week to go with it! Be sure the keep up with all of our Oak & Earth adventures through social media, and tell us about your experience! You can follow my adventures on Instagram @BethanyMPoteet.

Happy fall y’all!

-Bethizzle Potizzle with the Apple Cizzle.

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Nothing Bundt Pumpkin: (The Yummiest) Pumpkin Spice Mini Bundt Cakes!

Hey y’all, it’s Tera! As I am typing this post out (briskly, during my little’s nap time), I can hear the rain trickling off of the trees outside and the cars slushing the water along the street. It’s cool enough outside that I have a cozy blanket wrapped around me, and I’m daydreaming about the fast approaching holidays (not wishing it to be here too soon)….FALL is in full swing! Fall is nostalgic for me. I think of warm, cozy things, the family gatherings…the weather gets cooler (amazing weather, I might add), but the season is so warm to me! This fall in particular will hold some special memories for my family! Our life has been so hectic and busy since moving back to Arkansas from Colorado, and our most recent endeavor has been a whirlwind of a time in the home purchasing world. I’m excited to say that there should be some fun and treasured news coming soon for this Pianalto Family. It’ll be fun to share with you more about that soon! Okay. Back to fall.

I LOVE all things fall; the hayrides, the football, the yummy scented candles (a serious obsession of mine, really, ask anyone), the scarves and boots, the parties, the weather, the magnificent, beautiful colors, the smells–usually accompanying the food, and the PUMPKIN. SPICE.-aka. the most commonly used phrase throughout the entire fall season [and we all know Starbucks started this pumpkin frenzy. Have you guys tried their “mini” size, by the way? It’s perfect. #PSL for life]. I have entirely boarded the crazy train for this one. I want my home to smell like pumpkin spice. want to smell like pumpkin spice. And I want to eat all things pumpkin spice.

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Side story: Just last night–no not joking, last night–us O&E girls spent upwards of an hour in the candle aisle at Target. We literally got kicked out of Target for closing time and essentially sat and sniffed candles the whole time. We could have spent another hour, unashamedly. Obsessed much? By the way, I got one called Market Roast and it is a perfect fall scent for your dwelling. End of side story.

Of course along with fall comes all of the fall themed recipes and delicious foods shaped like turkeys, but are actually cheese and salami. I love seeing how creative some people are with their food presentation. Let’s just call them Pinteresters, and I am not excluding myself from this. It’s just when it comes to those amazing platters of food and those perfectly sewn DIY baby rompers, some people got it, some people don’t got it. (hint: I tend to ‘don’t get it’)

Pinterest: sharing deceptively difficult and unattainable ideas since 2010. Still goin’ strong.

Let’s get back on track now…

One of my favorite recipes for pumpkin spice is one that is in an old family cook book of my husband’s fam. It’s hard to beat a homemade recipe, and really, really hard to beat this particular one! With all of the fun parties and gatherings that happen this time of year (and food is bound to happen at them), I wanted to try and put a twist on the recipe and up the ante a little with presentation and taste. Level: Pinterester.

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So, instead of just whipping this recipe up as a loaf or as muffins (which you can most certainly do), I baked them into mini bundts and came up with a cream cheese glaze to top them off! It makes you look like you know what you’re doing when it comes to pumpkin spice, without actually making your job any harder, and your friends will all want your recipe. Plus, make them even more festive like I did by adding a little tootsie roll “stem” to make pumpkin bundts! So cute. If you want your house to smell delicious, and your guests’ mouths to fall off from the goodness (or your own, no judgment here), look no further! You have found the spot. Read along!!

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Okay, here’s the yummy part:

For the Pumpkin Mini Bundts:

(you’ll need a mini bundt pan, or a doughnut pan for another fun idea!)

  • 1 can of pumpkin
  • 1 3/4 C. cake flour (you can use all-purpose flour too. I like cake flour because it is so light and airy)
  • 1 1/2 C. sugar
  • 3/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cloves
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 T. cocoa
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 C. mini chocolate chips (semi-sweet)
  • 1 C. (optional) crushed pecans
  • 3/4 C. oil (or substitute all or half with applesauce for healthier option)
  • 1/2 C. water (I usually use a tad less so my mixture isn’t too runny. If you feel like your mixture is runnier than you want, add a tiny bit of flour)

Mix together your dry ingredients, and in a separate bowl mix your wet ingredients. (I add the chocolate chips and nuts very last) Slowly add your dry ingredients into the wet ingredients and mix them well. (hint: Don’t over mix ingredients to allow the bread to rise well. Just mix all the dry into the wet and make sure it is well-combined) Grease your mini bundt pan (I use coconut oil), and spoon mixture into the cups, about 3/4 of the way full. Set your oven at 350 degrees and bake these for about 15 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. The chocolate chips will come off onto toothpick, but as long as the bread part is clean, they’re ready! Let these cool before adding the glaze on  top.

For the Cream Cheese Glaze:

  • 1/4-1/2 cup cream cheese, softened (depending on how much you want)
  • 2 T. half and half or heavy whipping cream
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla
  • 1/4 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 C. powdered sugar
  • add a “pinch” of pumpkin spice for extra yummy flavor (to taste)

Make sure your cream cheese is super soft (nuke it in the microwave if it’s not), to prevent little cheese lumps. Combine these ingredients together and mix them up well. Once your mini bundts are cooled off, take a spoon and drizzle the glaze over the tops  of the cakes. YUM!

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These turned out super yummy and I love how cute they are in little bundt form. So festive and a creative way to bake them for your fall parties and get togethers with friends (plus, it’s the best pumpkin spice bread recipe there is)! They look like mini pumpkins to me, so if you want to indulge in your super festive side, add the little tootsie roll stems on top! This was a fun day of baking for me, and the mini bundt cakes got thumbs up all around.

I’m so excited to continue sharing more festive ideas and crafts over the next few months! Us gals at Oak and Earth would love to hear your favorite recipes for this time of year!! If you don’t already, follow my instagram handle @terapianalto to hear all of the blog updates and happenings. We have some wonderful things planned for the near future that we are so excited to share with you all. And as always, if you try a recipe, adventure, or craft, and love it, instagram with our hashtag #OakandEarthBlog so we can share your O&E experiences with you!

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Peace, Love, and Pumpkin Spice,

Tera Pianalto -xo

Hiking the Ozarks

Local Flavor: Hiking the Ozarks

Hey guys! Shelby here. So the girls and I have been talking about adding a reoccurring  segment to the blog which highlights great aspects of this little state we call home: Arkansas. If you’ve noticed our tagline (common roots, different routes), well this is where the “roots” come in.  We’ve decided to call this segment “Local Flavor” and because I’m a bit of a nature freak, I’m going to start it off by telling y’all a little bit about hiking the Ozarks.

My entire life I’ve been captivated by nature. It’s only natural (no pun intended) that I would enjoy hiking. Since moving to Arkansas in 2006, I’ve had many opportunities to hit the trails, and for the past two years have explored the Ozarks even more with my own personal trail guide (and boyfriend), Jeff. What I’ve found there is splendor and peace.. stillness and chaos… the untamed wild. If you have the opportunity to see it for yourself, please don’t hesitate! In fact, for your convenience, I’ve prepared a list of the best hiking/exploring in the Ozarks, so you don’t even have to wonder! Only wander. Ok, I’ll stop being cheesy now, but we do hope our wandering inspires some wandering of your own! In no specific order, here are my top ten trails of the Ozarks.

(Note* this is not a trail guide per-say, just a list, and completely based on my personal experience and opinion. Feel free to comment below with your experiences and/or tips and tales.)

  1. Hawksbill Crag
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Hawksbill Crag

Easily the most photographed spot in the state, the hike to the crag, formally known as Whitaker Point Trail, is easy and only about 3 miles round trip. Treat yourself to an amazing view! Best seen at sunrise. Fun fact: our very own Tera was proposed to atop this crag!

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Bethany, Me, and Christiana, hanging out on a foggy morning

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Overlooking the crag

2. Steel Creek (along the Buffalo River Trail)

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The Buffalo River is known for its towering bluffs

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This trail is more about the river and bluffs than the actual hike (in my opinion). Stunning views of the famous bluffs, a superb (slightly secret) swimming hole, and a wonderful quaint campground that will have you rushing to stake your ground and set up your tent!

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Can’t wait for fall in the Ozarks!

3. Big Bluff

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View from Big Bluff overlook

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Jeff and I at Big Bluff

At 550-ft tall, Big Bluff is the tallest sheer bluff face found between the Rocky and Appalachian mountains.  The hike, round trip, takes 4 to 5 hours to complete (6 miles RT), and it is  worth every minute. The Buffalo makes a wide horseshoe turn right below the bluff, making an incredible panoramic view, best seen at sunset. If you are so inclined, you can also set up camp right on the bluff in one of the many shelter areas.

It is important to note the the trail to Big Bluff is called the Goat Trail, and actually spurs off of the more prominent Centerpoint Trail. From the Centerpoint Trailhead, it is about a 1-hour hike downhill to the spur trail that takes you out onto Big Bluff.  This is where the trail opens up into a large, rounded flat area with a fire ring that directionally is at about one o’clock on your right.  The spur trail (Goat Trail) to Big Bluff is off to the right of the fire ring.  From here, it’s about a 1/4-mile hike out to the start of Big Bluff!

Note* also on the Centerpoint Trail (if  you don’t take the Goat Trail) is the tallest waterfall in mid-america, Hemmed-in-Hollow.

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Hemmed-in-Hollow

4. Indian Creek Trail

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The Eye of the Needle

I personally have never hiked this trail, but Jeff has and was insistent that it make the list. According to him, it is one of the most scenic hikes in the state. Huge bluffs, amazing rock formations, beautiful streams, caves, and waterfalls; the landscape is epic. The hike is intense – possibly the most high risk in the Ozarks – but in his opinion, totally worth it. Some of the notable features are Copperhead Falls, The Eye of the Needle, Tunnel Cave, Arkansas Cave Falls, and more. For those who have a big heart for adventure, this trail is for you.

5. The Narrows

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The Narrows, affectionally referred to as “The Nars,” is thin ledge of limestone rock rising up amidst the Buffalo River and Richland Creek Valley. This ledge is the last vestige of a once mighty mountain high in the Boston Plateau. Many moons ago, Richland Creek scoured the mountain away and then slowly moved across the valley to it’s current location at least a 1/4 mile away. As Richland Creek meandered away, the Buffalo moved in and took out the other side of the mountain, leaving this narrow strip of hike-able rock.

6. Lost Valley

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Eden Falls

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Bethany and Denver, being cute crossing the creek

I think I’ve been to Lost Valley three times now, and there is always something new to see there. Less of an epic overlook than some of the others on the list, Lost Valley is more about the hike and less about the destination. Acclaimed as the most popular trail in Arkansas, it features waterfalls, amazing rock formations, and few caves. Make sure to bring a flashlight (or preferably a headlamp) if you want to explore the caves fully. Also note that the waterfalls flow best after a good rain. This trail is great for beginners!

Another thing I personally like about the trail is its abundance of medicinal plants! The wide variety of species found there include, bloodroot, crested iris, columbine, mayapple, comfrey and Ozark trillium, just to name a few.

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My brother Seth and I, exploring

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Denver and Bethany at the base of Eden Falls

7. Richland Creek Wilderness Area

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Richland Creek

This one has a special place in my heart, because if it wasn’t for the Richland Creek Wilderness Area I would never have met Jeff. We met after he hosted a hike/exploration of the area that I heard about through the Instagram Account, Igersarkansas.

Located deep in the Ozark National Forest, miles from civilization, and home to hiking trails, swimming holes, cascades and waterfalls, wildflowers, fall color, bluffs, rock formations and so much more, the Richland Creek Wilderness Area is one the most scenic areas in all of the Ozarks or Ouachitas. Designated by Congress in 1984, this Wilderness Area offers 11,801 acres of the most rugged and scenic beauty of the Boston Mountains. Home to Twin Falls, Richland Falls, Hamilton Falls, and more, this place is a real wilderness worth exploring.

8. Sam’s Throne

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Sunset at Sam’s Throne

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My brother Seth, Bethany, Me and Denver

A brief bit of lore: “It is believed that Sam Davis, born around 1795, came to Arkansas from Mississippi. It is told that Indians captured his young sister and fled with her into the Arkansas hills. Sam set out to find her traveling up the White River to the mouth of Buffalo and thence to the mouth of Big Creek. Coming up Big Creek he lost track of the Indians, so stopped and settling at the mouth of Dry Creek, above present Mt. Judea. Sometime after Davis had settled on the Big Creek farm he went into the woods hunting cattle. His hunt took him to the head of Pud Cove. While standing there calling cattle, he was shocked to hear a woman answer him at some distance. The voice sounded strangely familiar. The two kept calling and walking in the direction of each other until they met. The woman was his long lost sister who by then was the wife of an Indian chief. She too, had recognized a strange familiarity in the voice she had heard. In Sam’s latter years he had become demented. He was known for many strange actions during that time. In this case, Sam would take a ladder, climb up to this knob, pull the ladder up, and there stay for days. During those times he could sometimes be heard preaching “to the wind.” He also planted peach trees there, which lived and bore fruit for years afterward. Sometimes it would take considerable persuasion on the part of his family and others to get him down from the knob. In time, this knob became known as Sam’s Throne,” (source).

This one is not so much a hike as it is a must-see of the Ozarks, overlooking the Big Creek valley below. It is so accessible that you really have no excuse not to go see it. This location is very popular for rock climbers, photographers, and star-gazers. Fun fact: there is a geocache hidden here! See if you can find it when you make your trip, and tell us about it if/when you do!

9. Pedestal Rocks Scenic Area

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Image from “Explore the Ozarks

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This is a great place to explore, and offers two awesome loop trails, each leading to its own scenic area. There is also a waterfall, Kings Bluff Falls, which is one of the tallest in the Ozarks. The scenic area takes its name from the “pedestal rocks,” massive natural stone columns or “pedestals” that rise up from the valley floor. Formed by natural erosion of the rock bluffs, they took thousands of years to form and have attracted human attention almost since the first Native American hunters entered the mountains.

10. Devil’s Den State Park

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Yellow Rock, overlooking Lee Creek Valley

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Me, exploring one of the many crevices

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Camping at Devil’s Den

Last, but not least, I give you Devil’s Den State Park! This Park has miles of hiking and multiple use trails winding through Devil’s Den and the surrounding Ozark National Forest. Caves, crevices and bluff overlooks can be explored here. You can take a wet-water hike up Lee Creek, or trek the 15-mile Butterfield Hiking Trail! This trail, from the park through the Ozark National Forest, leads backpackers deep into the hills and hollows of the rugged scenic Ozarks. Two of my favorite trails here are the Devil’s Den Trail (for the Cave lover) and the Yellow Rock Trail (for the overlook junkee).

This is my favorite on the list for mostly nostalgic reasons. Only an hour from home, my family and I take an annual camping trip to Devil’s Den to see the fall colors. My Dad’s family also camped here when he was a boy! Most recently, it has also become even more special to me since Jeff asked me to be his girl atop Yellow Rock about a year ago (insert swoon here).


So there you have it! Get out and go explore this beautiful place we call home. As always, live healthy and love hard!

– Shelby

Sam’s Throne

*Photocreds for the vast majority of the photos go to my wonderful boyfriend, Jeff Rose. Book him for your next session!

We Aren't In Arkansas Anymore Toto…

WHAT A WHIRLWIND-

The past two weeks of my life have been!

For any of you reading this who don’t already know-

I recently moved from my small, safe, lovely little hometown in Arkansas to one of the biggest and most difficult to live in cities in the country….

LOS ANGELES.

Me getting ready to leave Arkansas and head to the airport!

Me getting ready to leave Arkansas and get to the airport!

“Be careful, or you will be swallowed up in that city.”

“Are you sure this is what you really want?”

“Why don’t you try somewhere smaller first and slowly transition to L.A.?”

“Go for it!”

“Pursue your dreams with head held high!”

“Be careful and stay true to yourself.”

“First follow God, and all other things will be added.”

“Never forget where you come from!”

-Before Moving, I heard it all.-

I think that somewhere mixed in the extremes of all of the feedback, support, thoughts, negativity, and encouragement that I have received are two underlying truths-

Picking up and moving your life to a place where you know no one, have no family, no friends, and are not guaranteed any “success” is probably one of the most risky, unclear, and illogical moves that a person could make.

Picking up and moving your life to a place where you know no one, have no family, no friends, and are not guaranteed any “success” is probably one of the most exhilarating, life altering, leaps of faith that a person could make.

That said,

LIFE IN L.A. IS NOT ALL A GLAMOROUS RED CARPET AFFAIR CAKE WALK-

(Although there is quite amazing choices of cuisine here.)

What happened was:

My mom flew with me here for the first week.

She spent her week of “vacation” driving around L.A. with me getting lost and loading cars with heavy suitcases in the heat.

One day in particular, we spent an entire afternoon in IKEA trying to find things for my new apartment. It was our first time to ever go to one, and we were both overwhelmed.

There was floor after floor of desks, lamps, kitchen ware, bedding, and after three hours and no map, we had apparently barely scratched the service.

We had gone there to find me a small, plain, black desk for my room.

To say the least, we left desk-less, slightly exasperated, and starving.

THEN:

In the distance, across the street, we could make out the red and yellow letters.

It felt like a sign from the good Lord himself.

Then as we looked closer, it was true.

It was an IN-N-OUT Burger.

A major plus of moving here...

A major plus of moving here…

My mom and I sat there in that packed-out place like we had arrived at the gates of heaven with with our greasy and delicious in-n-out burgers and animal fries. (LOOK THEM UP IF YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT I’M TALKING ABOUT AND YOUR LIFE MAY JUST HAVE CHANGED.)

And as we sat there we watched the people around us, some dressed in tough-guy jean jackets, some girls in high stilettos, realizing how far from Arkansas we really were.

And then, it seemed in the same instant, it hit us.

As we sat there with  messy fingers and ketchup stained napkins, we dabbed mascara from our cheeks and tried to contain our crocodile like tears.

In just a few short days, this place, as exotic as a jungle compared to my hometown would soon become my home.

I would be staying here.

Alone.

And things got real the night before she left.

She stayed with me at my new place that night so that she could make it to the airport in the morning.

We had to wake up at 3:30 a.m. to make sure she got to LAX in time for her early flight.

I stood there with my mom on the curb that morning, cars already zipping past. Her with her suitcases and me in my pajamas with a scared heart.

She got into the car and i stood there until I could barely make out the outline of the car in the distance through the traffic.

I took a deep breath and there in my p.j.s with ruffled bed hair and groggy eyes, I realized that for the first time in my twenty-four years of life, I was truly on my own.

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It’s been a little over a week since that day and I have:

GONE-

Out to dinner alone

To the beach

To a bible study

To watch a photo shoot

GOTTEN-

Lost

Honked at

Confused

MISSED MY-

Sister’s birthday

Grandmother’s birthday

Rice cooker

Spices

Best friends

Big fluffy bed

FELT-

Overwhelmed

Frustrated

Lonely

Enamored

Underdressed

Blessed

Thankful

Sunshine on my back

The sand beneath my feet

TASTED-

California wine

fresh, fresh, fish

local produce

dry air

salt of tears

IN-N-OUT

EXPLORED-

my neighborhood

local cafes

MADE A FEW:

Mistakes

Amazing, authentic, Christian friends (YES, EVEN IN THE ENTERTAINMENT INDUSTRY.)

BEEN INSPIRED BY-

God’s presence in a time of worship

A random act of kindness

Beautiful sunsets

The sound of my mom’s voice on the phone

God’s love that follows wherever you go.

AND THE LIST GOES ON..

The past two weeks here have exposed places of my soul that I had never explored.

I’ve felt afraid.

I’ve felt restored.

I still can’t see a defined horizon line of the future.

I have never felt this alone,

and this afraid-

but I DO know this:

God was with me back in Arkansas.

AND GOD IS WITH ME HERE IN L.A.

LA PIC

I am excited to find out what adventure is in store for me here in this city,

with my head held high and never forgetting where I came from.

SO IF YOU are sitting here thinking about your own personal dream or personal journey, something or some place you have felt a tug on your heart about for the past few weeks, months, or years..

I AM HERE TO TELL YOU:

It IS worth it.

You WILL feel crazy.

You WILL doubt your decision a hundred times.

People WILL try to talk you out of it.

There will NEVER be the perfect time.

You SHOULD pray about it with patience and an open heart.

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Whatever It Is:

TAKE THE JUMP OFF

THE DIVING BOARD.

JUMP BLINDLY.

FOLLOW YOUR HEART

IN THE DIRECTION THAT IT PULLS YOU

AND YOUR COURAGE WILL BE WAITING

IN THE DEEP.

<3 Christiana