3 Free Activities for You and Your Besties

This post is written in partnership with Frieling USA . All opinions are 100% our own.

Hello, readers! It’s Bethany here on Oak and Earth today.

Us girls of Oak and Earth love our coffee. With the leaves finally changing, we love to work in a coffee date outside in the crisp air! Little get-togethers like this make us giddy. In fact, we’re already planning another coffee date to watch the Gilmore Girls reunion! Is anyone else losing sleep in anticipation for this event?! Yes, I’m calling it an event. We’re getting so excited to plan this simple  get-together that it got me thinking about other free activities that bring us so much joy. Here’s a little guide detailing a few ways to bond with your besties on a dime!

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While coffee shop dates are a must have, we really enjoy gathering together outside of that! Try mixing it up and have your coffee at home on the porch, curled up in your living room, or even your bedroom! Wherever you gather, make it an intentional space. Create a fun atmosphere with pillows, music, string lights, magazines, or fresh air. We recently took to the front porch to chat in the gorgeous fall weather. To make it special, opt for French Press coffee like we did! Not only is this fun because it’s portable, but our Frieling French Press gives our coffee a really smooth and rich flavor perfect for our fall vibes. Just the way we like it! Setting aside time to talk and laugh and enjoy one another’s company is always what we need in the midst of all the craziness of the week. And trust us, coffee is even better when you can kick off your shoes and laugh as loud as you want.

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Being from the natural state, this is one of our favorite actvities. Whether it’s a five minute jaunt around the nearest lake, or an all day trip up the mountains, hiking is the perfect way to bond with your girlfriends! We love this time away from social media and technology to focus on our relationships! This allows you to get out of your head space and really relax.  An added bonus? Most hiking spots are free!

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Get out and explore! We love museums. Art museums are a fun way to bring out your creative side and immerse yourselves in culture! We have a beautiful (and free) museum in Northwest Arkansas called Crystal Bridges. If you don’t have a free museum near you, there are many that offer free or inexpensive mini-exhibits and showings throughout the year. This a fun way to learn more about your girlfriends. What kind of art do they like? What’s their favorite way to express themselves? It’s amazing the bonds you can walk away with. And the views aren’t bad either.

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Whether you’re lounging it up with your coffee, wandering up the mountains, or exploring the downtown culture, don’t limit yourselves to routine. What better way to get out of your comfort zone than with your besties! Did one of your favorite free activities not make our little guide? Tell us about it! Leave a comment below or keep the conversation going on @OakAndEarth or my personal Instagram, @BethanyMPoteet. We LOVE hearing from you all.  Now, excuse us while we go grab another coffee to survive the busy week!

Cheers!

-Bethany

5 Ways to Know You and Your Tot are Totally BFFS

Hey, readers! Self proclaimed nap time writer is back at it this week (it’s me, Tera). When I’m not drowning in last night’s dishes and days of laundry, I love getting to use Norah’s nap time to squeeze in a little down time for myself, and let’s be honest, sometimes a nap of my own (second trimester insomnia has me dragging these days)! Today’s nap time is consisting of a few of my favorite things: a bowl of fresh raspberries (all to myself), burning the best candle ever made (Capri Blue’s Volcano…mmmm), and this–blogging!

Since motherhood is one of the biggest roles in my life, I love getting to share little snippets of my everyday happenings and experiences, mom fails, and mom successes! This week, I wanted to share something light-hearted and something that all moms of toddlers (maybe even more specifically, moms of little diva tots) can relate to. We mom’s need to give ourselves a break every now and then from the pressures we feel with doing this mom thing the “right way,” and just have a good laugh. Motherhood is messy, tiring, never ending (I mean like 24/7 all day, everyday, whether you work or stay home), humbling, and completely wonderful! Now, have I done research and created this compilation based on facts? Yeah, basically. No better way than living it first hand, #amiright?

So, with that, I share with you my list of 5 Ways to Know You and Your Tot are  (Totally) BFF’s

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  1. You’re Attached at the Hip

You and your tot go everywhere together. You’re the inseparable duo, two peas in a pod. You’re the peanut butter to their jelly, the glaze on their donut, the cheese to their macaroni–catchin’ my drift? So much so, they want to go everywhere with you. Literally. You wanna just run and pee really quick? Not without the ying to your yang you don’t! Thinking about taking a nice bubble bath to soothe your sore muscles at the end of your day? Funny you should think that, because that’s exactly what your tot would like to do–and look! You’ve got it all set up and everything…how convenient! Wanna make a quick run to the s-t-o-r-e for a few to grab a couple groceries? They see that glance over to your spouse. Spelling the words don’t help, they know that glance, and they “pobby need to come get sum snacks too, tay?” In true best friend fashion, you two are attached at the hip; many times, very literally. They don’t want to be separated from your actual hip. If this sounds anything like you and your tot, this could mean that you two are BFF’s.

2.  You Tell Them Everything

Here’s the thing: it’s not a true BFF unless you tell them everything. You tell your tot the things you never imagined telling anyone! I mean it. You don’t tell just any friend not to eat your family dog’s dog food, or to please not pick up said family dog’s poo from the yard to bring inside to show you that said family dog did indeed poo in the yard. No, this is BFF level talk. I’m fairly confident you wouldn’t inform just anybody that yes, panties are a must when walking out of the garage, and no, wearing them on top of your head is not an acceptable form. “Get down,” and “don’t jump off of that!” and “no, we don’t poo in the yard like the family dog,” might not be things you’d say to the average Joe of a friend, but BFF’s get down to the nitty gritty. You’ll tell each other the things that no one else will. Is your tot an actual good secret keeper? Negative. She’ll tell every stranger at Walmart that she saw mom’s boobies today (speaking from experience). BUT, you can expect some real honest talk moments–like, “Let’s not talk about mom’s boobies to people, ok?” If you tell your tot things you don’t tell anyone else in the world, you might just be BFF’s.

3. You Share All the Things

Best friends share the motto, “what’s yours is mine, and what’s mine is yours.” Mom’s food tastes better. No, it doesn’t matter that it’s the exact same thing…it might taste completely different on mom’s plate than it does on theirs. Or, that last cookie you hoped to enjoy to yourself…it won’t matter that you’ve already given your tot 2 cookies to eat, they will still give you the sad begging puppy eyes and ask “petty peas, jus one more bite?” until you give in, and it’ll be a bite the size of a large mouthed bass. That warm bubble bath we mentioned earlier? Your tot will insist that it’s more enjoyable if they join you. I mean you could run a separate bath for them, but it just isn’t the same as the one you currently have waiting for you; no, yours is way better and bubblier and the perfect amount of water. Your ice water is what your tot prefers. Not their ice water, not their juice. Your ice water. “I hab some of your dink, mom. Iss perfec’ for me,” they’ll tell you. In the early am when your tot sneaks in to your bed for some morning cuddles, your pillow becomes 3/4 their pillow. No need for them to bring their own pillow; your pillow will suit them just fine. You share potty time together, movie time together, you toot together and laugh together, all day. Have you been an excellent sharer lately? I’m sensing some BFF action–sharing is caring.

4. They Wanna Be Just Like You

Monkey see, monkey do. There is no greater role model in your toddler’s life than you, mom. You’re the bee’s knees, the cat’s pajamas. Whatever you do, wherever you go, your tot wants to do and go also. When you leave your bathroom with a fresh face of makeup, little tot will sneak in and apply that bright red lipstick on her lips (and let’s be real, her cheeks and forehead). She’ll layer her neck with half a dozen of your blingiest necklaces, because she wants to be a superstar like mom. Your tot sees the strange contraption you wear across your chest, and they want in on this action. You’ll need to find a nearly identical bra and assemble it for them, and yes, it’ll be a fight to get it off when you need to leave the house because, “mom wears her bra!” If you’re leaving the house in your sandals, your tot won’t leave until they change out of their sneakers, and into (you guessed it) their own sandals. Are you wearing your sunnies? Well, then I hope you brought a spare! And when you say a phrase that is deemed the funniest phrase ever spoken (by your tot of course), be prepared to hear that phrase for the rest of the day, from them. You’re a rockstar, mom! If only we could get our tots to copy cat us when we ate all of our veggies at mealtime (sigh). If you have a little mini me at your heels all day, then I’d say you’ve found yourself a little BFF.

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5. You Could Talk for Hours

A sure sign of a BFF: you two never run out of words. Best friends never shut up (I mean this in the nicest but most sincere way possible). From the moment they wake up, to the moment their eyes close for the night, words are spewing out of your tot’s mouths. If your tot could text, you’d have 56 unread messages by 7 a.m. Questions of “what’s dat,’ ‘what happened,’ ‘what you sayin’ about,’ and ‘why?” are oh so commonly asked by your tot, many, many times in a day. You’re even graced with the occasional 3 a.m. wake up call from the monitor with: “Mom, I wake up!” and an hour’s worth of conversation that follows. No matter if you’re in the bathroom peeing or showering, there is never a short in small talk with your tot; they do not run low on exhaust. Cows, princesses, toots, boogers, feet, raisins…do you see what I’m getting at here? The conversation is endless. Throw in 500 questions in the mix of small talk, and you have a whole 27 hours worth of words exchanged! What’s that you say? There are only 24 hours in a day? If you’re close to losing your voice and your eyes are nearly crossed at the end of the day from all the question answering, pretend phone call taking, and smorgasbord of conversation, you and your tot may just be best friends forever status.

 

There’s no one that loves you, looks up to you, wants to be like you, and who’s always by your side like your BFF.

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Me and my BFF

Thanks for reading! We are excited to share some fun summer DIY’s, recipes, and more, so keep an eye out for more posts! Follow our insta page @oakandearth or my personal handle @terapianalto for updates, and more!

 

XO,

Tera

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

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.”

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“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

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“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

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“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

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“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

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“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

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“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

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“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

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“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

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

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“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

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“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:

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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.

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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

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Photography by Shelby Briley and Jeff Rose

15 Healthy Snack Food Alternatives

Greetings! It’s Bethany here on the blog today.

With New Years resolutions in full swing, I am sure many people are already struggling to keep one of the most common resolutions: eating healthy. I have decided to discuss the Achilles heel of any of my attempts to healthy eating —snacks. If I am exercising and eating healthy meals, why does a little snack matter? Snacks can  account for many of our calories throughout the day, and some days snack calories can surpass calories from our meals! In the past, I have tried cutting out snacks entirely. Not only is this not necessarily a healthy choice, but I failed miserably.

I remember it like it was yesterday. I had decided to cut out anything that wasn’t extremely healthy. On day five, I could feel my will power fading. I went to bed pretty hungry, but I decided to “sleep it off”. The next morning, I woke up feeling full! What a miracle. Sleeping it off had worked! Except it totally hadn’t.

When I went to turn off my alarm, I had some peculiar observations – my hands were sticky with a powdery orange resin. Then I saw it. The empty family sized Cheeto bag I had purchased before my health plans. When I thought it couldn’t get any worse, I noticed a single shameful Cheeto stuck to my back. Not only is this not a sanitary way to sleep, but I had no idea how this even happened!

After this incident, I officially believe three things:

1. Sleep eating is a real thing.

2. You need to listen to your body. Don’t completely deny yourself of enjoying your food.

3. There has to be a way to be healthy and not compromise taste.

Whether you’re a working individual or a stay-at-home parent, unhealthy options are all around us! In my office, there is a full candy dish within arm’s reach, a snack machine right outside my door, and a free birthday cake for [insert coworker name here]. Since the Cheeto incident of 2014, I realized that I don’t have the will power to cut out every wonderfully tasting snack food available to me.

What’s the good news?

I have compiled a list of snack foods that have helped alleviate my cravings without completely compromising my health goals. In other words, the snacks can stay! In fact, I have found that these snacks in particular energize me throughout the day.  If you find yourself overthinking what you’re eating all the time, step back and make sure enjoying your food!

This list is not to completely cut out food you enjoy, but to equip you with some healthier options if you so choose! Eating some healthier options throughout the week also leaves some room for special treats (ice cream or lattes with friends etc.)  You can always try substituting out one or two snacks for the healthier version and go from there.

I made sure to try all of these snacks myself to ensure that they are easy to access, obtainable for busy individuals like myself, and tasty.

We are starting off this list with three healthy snack recipes that I recently made for the first time. I am really excited to add these three recipes to my collection. Let’s take a look!

1. Chilled Greek Yogurt Dipped Fruit

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This snack is great for your sweet tooth cravings. I’m surprised I have never made this sweet treat before now, but I was in love as soon as I tasted it. I am excited about all of the options with this snack. You can choose your desired fruit as well as your desired Greek yogurt. I used what I had on hand this day: a granny smith green apple and light berry Greek yogurt. I would suggest apples with plain Greek yogurt and local honey!

For this recipe, I simply sliced my apples, dipped them in Greek yogurt, and I chilled them in the freezer for 15 minutes. Chilling the yogurt onto the fruit is optional, but I suggest this for added dimension in texture. It’s also a lot less messy this way, and makes them easier to eat on the go!

Why Greek Yogurt? Find out HERE.

2. Baked Zucchini Chips

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As a person who is constantly craving chips, zucchini chips are a great alternative to the ones I would normally turn to. I was really excited to try this recipe, and for good reason. They turned out to be DELICIOUS. Since the baking time for these chips is two hours, I prep these at night and store them in an air tight container for next day use. The recipe was really simple to follow, and I’m incredibly happy to have found a chip alternative that I really enjoy!

You can find this recipe HERE. (Check out her awesome food blog while you’re at it.)

I like zucchini cooked many ways. It’s a side item to my meals several times a week. My next zucchini venture is try zucchini fries! You also might enjoy hearing about what nutritional value zucchini provides HERE.

3. Poached Egg on Wheat Toast (with optional avocado spread)

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While this recipe is not as travel friendly as my other options, I couldn’t resist adding a snack that contains eggs. Poached eggs are a great addition to your health plan. I pair mine with wheat toast so that I can have the complementary textures of crispy and soft. I would also suggest smearing on some slices of fresh avocado!

Poaching eggs can be a little fickle without a poacher. I learned how to poach eggs on the internet, and they turn out pretty great! To learn how to poach an egg, check out these simple instructions by one of my favorite chefs HERE. If you’re a visual learner, I have  found that the method in this video works as well: HERE.

Sometimes eating healthier is easier when you understand why you should eat certain foods. To hear some of the benefits of poached eggs, check out this article HERE.

List Continued:

The rest of this list is a compilation of my favorite snacks that I have made in the past or keep on hand. There is a mix of sweet, savory, soft, and crunchy. This allows some variation and a full pallet experience:

4. Hummus with Celery or Carrots

5. Air Popped Popcorn

6. Whole Grain Cereal

7. Dark Chocolate (in moderation)

8. Whole Grain Crackers with Laughing Cow Cheese

9. Almonds

10. Dried Fruit

11. Sliced Cucumber  in Vinaigrette (soak overnight)

12. Edamame with Sea Salt

13. Kale Chips

14. Wheat Toast with Blueberries, and Light Cream Cheese (or Greek Yogurt)

15. Air Popped Popcorn with Dark Chocolate ChipI hope you enjoyed my list of healthy snack foods!

Please let us know if you try any of these recipes! I would love to see how you put your own personal preferences into these snack options. What are some of your favorites that didn’t make this list? I’m always looking to expand my repertoire. While I love these healthy options, I believe that food should be a great experience. So have fun with it, and don’t forget to treat yourself every once in a while. Please feel free to follow me on Instagram @BethanyMPoteet, and hashtag your blog experiences with #OakAndEarthBlog. We would love to hear from you!

Have an incredible week!

-Bethany

 

 

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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Make Christmas Memorable for Your Family While Keeping it Simple

Merry Christmas season, readers! It’s Tera here on Oak and Earth today. This time of year is by far my favorite, for so many reasons! It is a time for family, a time of giving, a whole season of yummy foods, a time for Christmas lights and hot chocolate, and most of all a time to celebrate and remember the true reason for the season: the birth of our Lord and Savior! I have the most special memories of the holidays from my childhood years, and the excitement and fun my family had during the Christmas season has most certainly carried on in me into adulthood!

 I was reflecting recently on Christmas time and my own little family, and I tried to think of ways to make this a memorable time of year for Norah (and us), while keeping our main focus on the true meaning of Christmas and not getting wrapped up in the common mindset of, “more is more.” I want to instill meaningful and treasured memories into Norah’s core for Christmas time that teach her what principles are important to have and to pass down, and that will tug her heart strings (in a good way) for years to come. Simple moments that create a lifelong impact. So, I have created a list of some simple things you can do as a family that will make great memories, give quality time, and can respect even the most frugal holiday budget. I’m sharing my list below, and I hope you can be inspired for your family by some of these ideas! ‘Tis the season!

1.   Christmas Lights Outing  

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Downtown Siloam Springs, AR

This is an easy way for you and yours to have some fun during the Christmas season! My family would do this every year after our Christmas Eve service, but this is something you could do any time during December! Many of your local neighborhoods will have some fun light displays, or your downtown square (for us NWA folk, the Fayetteville square, for example). Some houses even connect their light displays with one of your local radio stations, and it’s really fun to see the lights flickering to the rhythm of the music! Your kids would love it if you all dressed in your comfy, festive Christmas pj’s, whipped up some hot chocolate, and hopped in your car together for a ride around town to see the pretty lights! It’s a nearly free activity (minus a little gas), and the kids will love starting this tradition with you!

 2.  Trim the Tree as a Family 

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My Christmas mantle in my pretty new house!!

Another fun memory I have from my childhood is helping my mom and siblings decorate our Christmas tree together each year! We would all get a new hallmark ornament every year to add to the collection. My own Christmas tree now is full of all of these ornaments (plus Jeremy’s and now Norah’s). There is something super special about those homemade ornaments and little hallmark collectibles that make a Christmas tree so sentimental and nostalgic! Pick a day where the whole family can be a part of this; and if you want to make a whole afternoon of it, visit a local tree nursery and choose a real tree to take home and decorate! The prices are usually very reasonable and it’s a fun and neat experience for the family. Set your tree up, stick some cookies in the oven, and choose a favorite Christmas movie to watch while you all have fun decorating (our tradition is The Polar Express). Let your little ones have a role in making the tree pretty! You can “touch up” some bare spots after they go to bed and disperse the ornaments that are stringing around the bottom half of your tree up and throughout (they’ll never know the difference), but, in the meantime, let them feel special and like they have an important part of this Christmas tradition! They’ll grow to love it, and their decorating skills should improve over the years ;). For the teeny tots who are still trying to grasp what a Christmas tree is, and from whom you’d like to spare some of your favorite glass ornaments from the game, “throw it on the floor,” try purchasing a mini tree and some plastic ornaments and set it up next to the big tree. We did this for Norah and let her decorate her special tree while we did the big tree and she loved it, (and we purchased her tree for $8)! Until they can better understand the concept of the ornaments and the tree, this is another way to get the littlest tots involved, and they’ll have their own special tree to decorate!

3.  Do an Advent Series Together 

Make some time during the month of December  for everyone to reflect on the ‘reason for the season’ by doing an advent series together. There is nothing more important that you can instill into your children’s hearts (or your own for that matter) than the love of Christ. Make sure in the hustle and bustle that your family stays grounded and that you make some quality time for this! I realize we are already part way through December, but this is something so important that I am adding it anyway to encourage you to do! You can play a little catch up, or just pick up where you are! It will help your whole family remember what matters most during Christmas, and you will instill this most important thing into your kids’ lives–and this is something you can’t put a price tag on! I am linking a great advent series for the whole family to partake in HERE. If you want to save money for budget purposes, there are some great online resources to pull verses and stories from to read each night as a family. Try doing this at a time where everyone is always together, like at the dinner table either before or after a meal (while everyone is still gathered). Making a routine like this is a good way to keep from having to try and squeeze it in at the end of the night while kids are dispersing to bed, or forgetting to do it altogether! After a long day at work or school, this is a great way to end each evening this month and will be so impactive on your kids’ hearts!

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My sweet little family at our church; New Life Church, Fayetteville

Free online resources:

4.  Christmas Cookie Decorating 

You can’t go wrong with a fun day of baking and decorating (and eating)! Tune in on your favorite Christmas pandora station, and you have a festive party right in your own kitchen! Google or Pinterest some easy sugar cookie recipes, pull the sprinkles from your pantry, and check Target’s Christmas aisles for some adorable (and cheap) Christmas cookie cutters! This is something you can do whether you have two or twelve people, and have fun doing it without breaking the bank! Take it to the next level on your baking day by trying a salt dough recipe and making some homemade ornaments that the kids can decorate and hang on the tree! This is a low stress, low cost way to get festive and celebrate the holidays, and will be a fun tradition the whole bunch can look forward to each year.

Fun cookie cutter set HERE ; Delicious sugar cookie recipe found HERE ; adorable and easy salt dough ornament recipe HERE !

5.  Christmas Caroling            

This is an outing to get your extended family and friends involved in! Take a big group around the neighborhood and sing some popular and well-known Christmas songs together! My family has not ever done this, but I think it sounds like a super fun way to spend an afternoon, and would love incorporating this into our yearly festivities! The more the merrier for this activity, so a little planning may be required to get the group together, but it would be well worth the effort, and would create fun memories for the whole family! End the night with some hot chocolate and a nice fire (because you can’t go wrong with hot chocolate)! This is a free way to lift people’s spirits and put a smile on their faces. If you want to go the extra mile this season, look into caroling at your local nursing home and share some love and Christmas cheer with our beloved elders…no one would love and appreciate it more! This is a totally free and fun way to get the whole family involved in some fun times together, and share some great memories!

6.   Gingerbread House Contest

  Nothing like some friendly competition to make for a fun night! You can purchase gingerbread house kits for fairly cheap at the store; why not buy two and make a friendly contest of boys vs. girls and have some fun?! You can have as small or as big of teams as you want, and that makes this activity super universal and accommodating to any family size! Spend the evening dressing your gingerbread houses up, and have some friends be the judge (without them knowing whose is whose). Let the winners choose the next Christmas movie for movie night, or spice it up with a bigger incentive for the winners! This is a tradition that your kids will want to repeat next year, and they’ll cherish their memories!

7.  Downtown Parade (or your town’s Christmas festivities)             

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Aren’t my besties totally adorable holding children?? 😉 We were able to enjoy the downtown parade together this year!

Going to our annual downtown Christmas parade is a tradition my family has held for years. It’s always a fun night of warm bundles, a hot drink in hand, and lots of pretty Christmas floats! Check your calendars for your town’s holiday festivities and make it a family affair! Bundle up, grab some extra blankets and a warm beverage (you know what would be great for this? Hot chocolate), and share some laughs together. If you missed this year’s, make it a goal to try it next year and start a new tradition together!

8.  “Christmas” Game Night

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“Louie” themed socks and hot cocoa are my secret to winning 😉

Here’s another fun idea for the entire family and even some of your friends to join in on! For the last few years, my husband’s side has done a fun game night together for our Christmas tradition, and it has been a huge hit! You can find some Christmas themed minute -to -win it games for your inspiration on Pinterest, or even google, and most of them look super fun! Get the group together, share some yummy snacks (and maybe some hot chocolate), split into teams, and let the laughs begin! What’s nice about these games, is that any supplies you may need can most always be found at the dollar store, so you can stretch your dollar and enjoy lots of games. Make your prizes as big or small as you want, or nix them all together and play just for the fun of it. There will be guaranteed a ton of laughs, and with or without the prizes, everyone will look forward to next year’s annual game night! Here are a few links to some very fun minute to win it ideas you can try:  Here , here , and here !

9.  Christmas Angels

Teach your kids the importance of giving during this holiday season. Magnify this and make it a higher priority than being on the receiving end. If we are honest, most of our kiddos who live in a warm and safe home do not really need much for Christmas! I’m not saying our kids don’t deserve gifts, or that we shouldn’t let them receive any. It’s so fun to watch Norah open her gifts and seeing her face light up! But, the more important thing we can give them is to teach them selfless love and share what we have with those who go without. Go to your nearest Christmas Angel tree and choose a couple angels to give a nice Christmas. Let your kids have a big part in choosing the Angels and the gifts. It’s important to show our kids that there are some big needs in our communities, and that they can have a part in making Christmas special for someone who otherwise wouldn’t have the same experience. Partake as a family in spreading love this season, and make it a tradition to give to others in a very tangible way every Christmas! If you don’t have Christmas Angel trees in your area, research some places that you can donate items and help make Christmas special for someone else!

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Here is our littlest angel, to give you all the feels!! *sigh*

10.  Wise Men Gifts

One principle we really want to keep incorporated into our Christmas as a family is simplicity. The excessiveness that is so common during this time of year we believe takes away from the specialness and “sacredness” that simplicity holds. Keep your gift giving simple with your kiddos this year by trying the Wise Men Gift method. This is a concept I first heard from Oak and Earth’s Bethany, whose family started doing this several years ago. Whether your budget is $3,000 or $300, this is a concept that you can easily incorporate into your family’s traditions. It’s very simple: each kid (and/or spouse) would receive just three gifts, and their stockings. You can arrange them however you choose; two smaller gifts and one big gift, three small gifts, one “Santa” gift, and two from you–there’s no method to it other than keeping the number simple with 3. We loved the idea and decided to start this tradition with Norah! It’s an awesome way to keep the sweetness of Christmas time by not drowning our kids (and our finances) in “more.” Our little ones will expect only what they are used to when it comes to gifts, so why not start this tradition now and keep your gift giving sweet and simple. 

If you want more ideas for gift giving methods, here are a few others you can try:

  • Do the “4 gifts” (something they want, something they need, something to wear, something to read)
  • For older kids (this is what we do for my husband’s side), draw names and each person gets one person a gift or two.
  • Sock exchange (buy your kids some christmas socks and fill them up with goodies, much like a stocking), or just their stockings!
  • Encourage your kids to read and grow their imaginations by giving books for gifts!
  • If you are opting for “no gifts” this year, try donating to a charity in honor of each of your children. It’s a great way to give back and will be a special way to honor your kids.

I absolutely love getting to start new traditions with Norah, and I’m excited to start with some of these ideas together as a family! Keeping our holidays sweet and simple by focusing more on the memories and fun, and less on the “things” will hopefully create a special place in Norah’s heart for this time of year, much like it did for me! I hope I have given you some ideas that you can start incorporating into your family festivities each year too! No matter how you choose to spend the holidays, try to do some fun things as a family that will make it memorable for everyone!  If you want some fun and creative date ideas to do with your special someone, make sure to check back in a couple days for Bethany’s “12 Dates of Christmas” post coming soon! Also be sure to keep up with Oak and Earth this month, as we have several holiday inspired posts that we can’t wait to show you!! Follow me on Instagram @terapianalto if you don’t already, so you can stay informed on all of our blog happenings, and make sure to hashtag any Oak and Earth experiences you have with #OakandEarthBlog. We love your feedback and would love to know what you would like to see us write about on here! We’ll do our best to try out your ideas! Wishing you the sweetest and merriest Christmas yet!


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Happy Month of December, and Holiday’s best,

Tera (with Jeremy and Norah, and Louie)   -xo

Local Flavor: Oak and Earth Does the Dogwood Festival

It’s Bethany comin’ at ya for this post!

Funnel cake, hot pavement, trees blooming, music, and a bunch of people you vaguely know but don’t want to talk to. Must be a small town festival! Holy festivals, Batman! I’ve experienced all kinds of festivals and fairs in my lifetime. My favorite is still claimed by none other than the Dogwood Festival. I feel like every town has an annual festival that they are super proud of, and this is ours. In this post you’ll find a video of me chatting it up with festival goers, you will discover OakandEarth’s Dogwood Festival musts, and share in Dogwood experiences that were new to me this year!

I felt compelled to write about the festival because this festival celebrates OakAndEarth’s common roots! Our tagline for our blog is Common Roots, Different Routes. Our common roots are planted in Siloam Springs, Arkansas. Siloam Springs is a charming town of about 15,000 people. We have beautiful parks, a downtown with coffee shops and antiques, and dogwood trees (ahhh, now you’re getting it, right?). At a typical Dogwood Festival there are a ton of booths with handmade goodies, fair food, live bluegrass music, and an awesome kid section that I find myself mindlessly wandering into each year. (I wonder what this says about me).

When I wandered into the kid section this year, I found a ton of happy families. I’m throwing it back to the early 1990’s for a second. After my family’s first trip to the festival, my older brother left in tears. Sugary treats, warm weather, music, why was he crying?? Simply put, he thought the Dogwood Festival would have dogs. “There weren’t any dogs!!!”. A clear rookie mistake that could happen to anyone. Names are not always as literal as we wish them to be.

Denver and I spent Saturday being slightly creepy, and asking random festival goers what they enjoy the most. Let’s take a look at the festival this weekend and what people think about it!

OakandEarth Dogwood Favorites:

–CHRISTIANA–

We caught up with Christiana at the festival, and she said her festival musts are the Kettle Corn and the book sale at the local library! She also bought some honey and a few other treats that she will discuss next week!
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–BETHANY–

My favorite treat will forever and always be the Tigers Blood snow cone. I get one every year, and this year was no exception! Tigers Blood is a mixture of watermelon, strawberry, and coconut. Good for a hot day, and also good if you desire an obnoxiously red mouth.

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Something I had never noticed at the fair before was a food truck that sold roasted corn on the cob! Okay, readers. If you’re going to learn anything about me, it is that I have 3 loves (listed in no particular order)– stew, corn on the cob, and Denver (my husband). At the festival, I got two of those fixes! The third will be relieved in few hours when I make homemade stew. But I digress. This corn on the cob is one food item that could make me shout a curse word to the high heavens. Thankfully I have some restraint (in public). For now, just enjoy pictures of me in what can only be referred to as  corn heaven.

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 –TERA–

Tera was in Colorado this year! But she was with us in Dogwood spirit! She said her favorite part of the Dogwood is the atmosphere, and the Funnel Cake. Since she could not partake, Denver  stepped in a did the difficult task of consuming a funnel cake for her! Poor, Denver. *sarcasm*

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 –SHELBY–

I met up with Shelby and her boyfriend Jeff in the later part of the day. Shelby is fun to go with, because she hops along to each booth with great intention. She snagged some honey, beautiful succulents, and some food! Her favorite treats are the Kettle Corn and Lemonade! How southern are we?

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New to me!

While these are our  festival musts, I saw a few surprises this year! One being the corn booth (have I talked about corn enough?), another being a neat home made guitar booth! We also walked right up to a kids’ martial arts show in the midst of them breaking boards (see video for that goodness). As many years as I have gone, it’s neat to experience new booths.

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Although the Dogwood may be a stereotypical small town festival, I like to think that it’s special in it’s own right. And I will keep going as long as it comes around. I hope you enjoyed getting to know a small part of our Common Roots as we bring in the spring season! I have some great ideas for my next post, and I look forward to connecting with you all again. As always if you have any suggestions or questions for us, please feel free! Christiana has a pretty neat spring themed blog coming at you next week, so be sure to look for it!

Peace, love, and Rocketships,

Bethany

 

Becoming a Weekend Warrior

Hello!

My name is Bethany, and you can learn a little more about me in the “About” page of our blog. I’ll be making all different types of blog posts (adventures, cooking, how to’s, music, art, fashion, life battles, stresses and more).This first post explains a life transition I have made. I’m on the slow road to happier life, and it starts with the weekend! In the post below, I give a bit of info on my lifestyle change, why I chose this path, what I consider a “Weekend Warrior”, and 11 steps to becoming one. Enjoy.

Meet me ( Bethany):

Me and a Mocha. A divine relationship.

Meet the husband (Denver):

Denver. I call husband.

Meet our marriage. (The Poteets)

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My Lifestyle Change:

This is my marriage of nearly two years. We both have college degrees, bills, and day to day stresses. What we DON’T posses is the mundane desire to stay in one place and do the same thing every day. What we DO have is the itch and passion to do things differently. So, we do. What do I mean by differently?

For a while I was feeling depressed about living every day the same way: Wake up early, go to work, come home to make dinner, eat said dinner, watch Netflix, sleep (or try to ), and repeat. Occasionally there would be some Olive Garden thrown in the mix (crazy, I know), or some frisbee. Most week days were the same. Week days are busy and tiring, because the bills must be paid! So then what about the weeekends? I suppose we did typical married couple activities. The thing is, I  don’t think we’re particularly typical. One day I found myself asking,  why follow the pattern that society puts directly in front of you? This is when I learned that there is no right way to live your life. Life is not absolute.

The Pizza Theory

It’s like society tells you it’s time for dinner and the only thing to eat is plain pizza. What “the man” doesn’t tell you is that there are so many toppings that make life delicious! Better yet, you don’t have to eat pizza at all. In fact, you can eat dinner any time you want. So why do we always choose what society puts in front of us (plain pizza)? If it were so simple to live life on different trajectories, wouldn’t everybody? Living differently is not easy. You will face questions and hurdles. What you need to remember is that the life you live is what you create.

Why have I chosen a new path?

“20 Somethings”, as we are so often called, have a few different paths we tend follow. There is nothing wrong with any of these normal paths. I graduated college with a BA degree in Corporate Communication and a minor in Art in 2013. After college I went straight to work, and I had a great job. What I struggled with for years was feeling like my creativity was locked in a cage. I like to play music, paint, take pictures, hike, and write. My husband likes to do many of the same things, meaning I was not alone in this struggle. I felt as if I was not dedicating any time to my hobbies, let alone my passions. So why the change and how did it occur?

My husband and I moved states (a discussion for another post). The move was only about two hours away from where we were first located. With this transition I found it hard to find a job. I have had a lot of time to consider what makes up a life. I haven’t quite made the life I desire, but I am finally making steps toward it. My husband works full time, and we are often busy during the week. So why not take weekends and create steps toward a happier or more fulfilling life? A life full of many pizza toppings, if you will. For Denver and I, that meant dedicating time specifically for creative activities. Since this change, we have traveled, gone to concerts, hiked, biked, climbed, painted, made music, worked on video games, and made time for friends and family–we are becoming Weekend Warriors.

What does being a “Weekend Warrior” mean to me?

A Weekend Warrior breaks the mold of the average 20 Something individual. For me this means going the extra mile to achieve short term goals and to fulfill creative desires. It is not for those who tire easily. These steps are helping me get over repetition and mundane behavior. So if you’re looking to mix up your life and achieve some small goals, you might be able to realistically apply these to your weekend. While this phrase does have the word “weekend” in it, I am aware that some people do not have weekend off. If this is the case, apply the steps below to the time you do have off. If you prefer to chase bullet points, short cuts, and pictures, this next part is for you. These are my magic steps. 

11 STEPS TO BECOMING A WEEKEND WARRIOR

1) Stop accepting plain pizza. (Plain pizza theory explained above)

This first step starts by realizing what you want your life to be. We only have one. So what would you like  to improve on? What do you miss during the week that you really wish you had time for? If you want more out of life than what people typically accept, you’re already on the right path to become a Weekend Warrior.

2) Pick some rad activities, and practice your hobbies!

For my husband and I, we love to go outdoors. We love to do this because it feeds our creative bones. When I am writing music or painting, surrounding myself in nature is key. Nature is inspiring, and it keeps you thinking. We are also dedicating more time to practice our hobbies! This might mean a night of jamming on the guitar or painting. For Denver it usually means working on video game development. Whatever it might be, make sure you fit it into your weekend at least once.

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3) Get a partner(s) in crime.

Even if you do some of these activities by yourself, let someone you’re close to in on your change. They might want to come along with you. If they don’t, they might encourage you to keep going when you feel like slipping back into mundane life. Surrounding yourself with people who will support you in your endeavors is necessary.

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4) Kill your phone.

Okay, so that’s a bit dramatic. Something we have learned to do is to leave our phones on silent, stash them away, or don’t bring them at all. Sometimes I’ll turn my phone on airplane mode so it makes it impossible to get on the internet during my activities. When we hike we like to take pictures. So we will take our camera and phone and capture some amazing things we want to remember, and then we shut everything down. A moment of silence can go a long way. It can be easy for a phone or camera to ruin your experience. Don’t forget to be in the moment.

5) Be prepared to be exhausted. (Totally worth it)

So for many activities we start early and end late. Part of living the weekend to the fullest is being tired.  What helps is planning it out to have a day to recoup. Having a recoup day doesn’t always happen. If you can’t get this recoup time, you can’t complain. It’s a part of it.

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6) Make good Playlists.

Playlists can drive any weekend home. A really good playlist can put you in the mood to achieve great things. Trust me. (Future posts include some tunes I’ll recommend, and how they can amp up every day activities).

7) Be willing to drive…a lot.

We have gone from Arkansas to Colorado and back in one weekend (12 hours one way). We have also done this with Austin, Texas in one weekend  (9 hours one way). Both driving expeditions were to travel to see my favorite artist LIGHTS. They were both tiring but incredibly epic weekends. These endeavors are incredibly exhausting and induce a lot of driving, but it’s worth it to get to see something or do something you’ve always wanted to do. Sometimes we just have to work with the time given. These particular weekends were planned out, and the trip to Colorado required asking a half day off of work on Friday to kick it off. Life is too short to not go the distance. It helps that Denver and I enjoy driving.

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8) Be able to deviate from your original plan. (shiz-stuff happens)
Remember that you have to go the extra mile to obtain greatness. This is why being a Weekend Warrior is not for everybody. It’s not for people who require a lot of sleep, and it’s not for people who will break down if the plans don’t pan out perfectly (definitely guilty of that). When you’re doing multiple activities, the weather doesn’t always flow accordingly. When you get up and drive to see the sunrise and it rains so much you can’t see the sun, or when you’re hitting an ice storm on the way home from Austin, put in some awesome tunes and thank God for all the blessings in your life. Learn to laugh and go with the flow. Yes, these are real life occurrences during our adventures.

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 9) Face some fears.

Take this time to strive for something you have never done. Do something you’ve been too scared to do. Go places you’ve never been.

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10) Fulfill random thoughts.

You know when you have a thought like:
What if we got waffles right now?
What if we make a fort??
What if we leave said fort up for 2 months?
Want to sleep on the floor?
Do you want to go watch the sunrise in the morning?
Do you want to have a picnic?

DO THESE THINGS. My motto is–random thoughts are good thoughts.

12) End on the basics.
When my husband and I were choosing activities, we decided to go back to basics. What makes you inherently and uncontrollably happy? Forget what other people are doing. Live your life the way you desire, and take pride in being different. What makes you happy?

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I hope this helps you think outside the box a little. These steps can easily be adapted to different lifestyles. Get on the road to a happier and more creative you. I am open for questions, and I would love to get to know you!  If you end up doing anything different with your weekends, let me know! I would love to hear about your adventures. I’ll end with this quote from my favorite musician:

“You have to be uncomfortable in order to be successful, in some ways. Because if you stay in your comfort zone, you would never do the things that you need to do.” -LIGHTS

Peace, love, and rocketships.

-Bethany