family

Visions for 2018

 
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I love the fresh start of the new year, casting vision for what it will become, writing out big dreams and goals and praying circles around them, waiting with an expectant and hopeful heart for what the Lord will do. Each year I pray for a word to drive my steps, and this year I was given two... obedience + redemption. Through walking in obedience and relinquishing my desire to control, the Lord will begin to write our redemption story. Redemption from financial burdens, from a season of waiting towards a dream the Lord placed into our hearts. Because we have been obedient and will continue to walk in obedience, He will bring us redemption. It is a beautiful promise.

We have words for our family, our marriage, areas where we need growth, areas of vulnerability. We wrote down practical steps towards achieving our goals, which follows with our theme of obedience. To whom much is given, much is required. And while I'd love to sit on the couch and watch Friends after the littlest goes to bed, the Lord is calling me to more action, more work and a solid day of rest on the Sabbath. Sundays will become church, family meals, outdoor play, trips to the park, resting at home. No work, no technology, no meal prepping, just resting in our blessings and focusing on what the Lord has given us.

 
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Since our family word is presence, Friday nights are family night. Maybe we watch a movie, build a bonfire, go on a short hike or simply take a walk around the neighborhood and have dinner outside, but whatever we do it will be intentional, and we will be fully present. 

We are also focusing hard on some financial goals and using YNAB as a budgeting tool. We've used others in the past, but always go back to this one. There is a slight learning curve, but I really like the accountability of having to enter every transaction into the budgeting software! Our big dream is to have zero debt and pay cash for our next home, and we are making small changes that will result in big overall differences.

We have personal goals, financial and savings goals, marriage goals and God-sized dreams, and I cannot wait to see what unfolds in the months to come. I believe that I have a spot at the table of abundance, that I am a daughter of the Most High King, and that He wants to bless me mightily so that He might be glorified. I pray that you believe those things about yourself too.

Wishing light + love to you and yours this New Year!

Β 

A Merry Little Christmas

 
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I truly love the Christmas season - the lights, the family focus, giving gifts, making cocoa. I know many people that feel the pressure of society to make it bigger and better and perfect every year, but when we focus on simplicity + genuine anticipation of the season, then we find the joy and awe of Christmas. For us it's keeping gifting simple + intentional, carving out time for rest (watching movies together, snuggling on the couch reading books, wintry walks in the park, family dates to see the lights), keeping an advent tradition with our little ones, and making lots of time for family.

 
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Every year we spend Christmas Eve with my family, and it's one of my favorite days of the year. My mom's house is decorated with lots of color, whimsy and farmhouse touches, and she always go the extra mile to make things special. (See her lovely, festive sangria below!) I love being in that house - the one where I grew up - and it's so special to me for Elliot to open presents right where I did as a child! He gets to see his cousins (who adore him), open presents and play outside. We exchange gifts for the kids, then do adult white elephant, which is always fun! My family has great taste, so we always end up with something thoughtful that we love! 

 
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The only thing I love just a tiny bit more is Christmas breakfast. Everyone comes in pjs, sips coffee + eats a big breakfast together - eggs, cinnamon rolls, bacon + sausage, grits, fruit, the works! This year we had the honor of hosting since Elliot is the youngest grandchild, and it was the best morning.

 
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Every year my mother buys me, my sister and herself a pair of Christmas leggings, and we wear them for Christmas breakfast! She also give us each a new pair of the softest pajamas + cute, cozy slippers!

 
 
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The rest of our day was spent at home, playing outside, exploring new toys, reading new books, spending all day in our pjs. No toys were put away in their bins and instead rested under the tree when not in use. We built a fire, made a gluten-free pizza, and just sat on the floor together. It was probably my favorite day of the entire year. Simple, intentional. No rushing around, no commitments, nowhere to be but home.  

 
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I hope you had the most wonderful Christmas (or other holiday that you celebrate!) with the ones you love! What is your favorite holiday tradition with your family?? 

Snow Day

 
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We received a tiny Christmas miracle this year in Atlanta - snow in December! I grew up dreaming of snowy white Christmas and watching movies with beautiful glistening snow, and while the Christmas season is festive around these parts, it is never snowy. We may get some snow (or ice!) in February, but it rarely hangs around for long. Last week however, we were gifted some December snow! 

 
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We drove up to my sister in law's house to build snowmen and throw snowballs with Elliot's cousins. This was really his first time playing in the snow, and despite being ill prepared with regard to waterproof clothes, he loved it! I think his favorite part may have been throwing snowballs at me... 

 
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St. Augustine, Florida

One of the things on our list this summer was a beach trip. It's been four years since we took a family vacation... and four years ago it was just me and the husband. We've been on camping trips and adventures, I've taken a girl's trip to the beach with my mom, sis and her kids, and we went on a family beach trip when E was a few months old, but we haven't taken a trip just us three since before Elliot was born. It was important to us to spend a few days together just us three, enjoying the sand and sun together. So we searched and searched until we found a place in our price range, and you guys it was the perfect place! 

We found the place on VRBO, which we love. It was on the south side of St. Augustine, which was great since it was mostly homes and smaller condos. Our place was on the ground floor with a pool just steps away and the boardwalk just past that! It was the perfect set up for us. We loved the king sized bed (family slumber parties!) and watching cable (ummm Fixer Upper marathon anyone?) during our down time. We spent all our time between the condo, pool and beach, so having a nice, comfortable place was important. Elliot had so much fun playing in the waves, digging in the sand and chasing the birds. Naturally, he loved the pool and wanted to spend most of his time there, ha! 

I was a little bummed that we didn't get to explore the old downtown area, but we will make it back with some family next time so we can sneak away! 

New Year, New Beginnings

I love the New Year - the fresh starts, the endless possibilities, the white and bright and shiny. I am a dreamer + doer by nature, so resolutions are something that I take to heart. And I've decided to extend some of my resolutions into this space as well. 

I feel as though I am in a transitional stage in life. I am still learning and growing and figuring out what I want my life to be, and in the midst of that the Lord is teaching me about marriage, motherhood and purpose. I'd love to share some of that with you because I am certain I am not the only thirty-something out there who is still figuring it out. When thirty seemed so far away, we were certain we'd have it all by now, but the reality is that life is messy, parenting is hard and marriage takes work. 

So, all that to say, that I've decided to give the site a little facelift to encompass all the things that I want to share with you:
+ Living a natural, healthy lifestyle
+ Continued tips + tricks for eating a whole-foods diet on a budget
+ Healthy recipes
+ Tips + tricks for using essential oils in your everyday life
+ Personal finance + freedom from debt
+ The heartbreaking joy of motherhood
+ The beauty and intentional work of a Christian marriage
+ Thoughts on faith and growing through the hard seasons
+ Maintaining balance + staying grounded in a world of endless distractions

So today, I invite you to thiscommunity - a place to talk about life, health, love, motherhood, joy + pain as we walk through this imperfect life. Will you join me?


*I'll be updating the site domain as of January 4th, and the new URL will be www.balsamandbirch.com. Make sure to update your browser favorites with the new domain!

Our Little Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays, mostly because it is the perfect excuse to be off of work and hang out with family and friends. We spent the day at my parents' house, and it was such a great time. The boys played outside in the gorgeous sunshine, we ate amazing food (my mom is such a great cook!) and had plenty of leftovers, and we were able to just be together. The fellowship was just so wonderful. I love stopping and listening to my people, hearing about the ins and outs of their life, knowing what makes them tick. We are so richly blessed! 

A few pictures from the day.... 

This kid is SO fun right now. I say it at every stage, but my favorite stage of childhood is now ;)

This kid is SO fun right now. I say it at every stage, but my favorite stage of childhood is now ;)

This picture of E with his older cousin melts my heart! He adores the 'big boys', and they love him right back. He is also enamored with my sweet niece and loves to play with her!

This picture of E with his older cousin melts my heart! He adores the 'big boys', and they love him right back. He is also enamored with my sweet niece and loves to play with her!

I snagged a jar of my mom's homemade pickles, so so good! 

I snagged a jar of my mom's homemade pickles, so so good! 

Family Photos with Jamie Sapp Photography

Just after Elliot's first birthday we had a little afternoon photo shoot with the talented Jamie Sapp, and I am overwhelmed with how beautifully she captured our little family. It was a fun afternoon where we just played in the fields and grass, and E had just started walking, making it even more of a fun play-filled afternoon. I love how Jamie captured those sweet little moments and brought out just how much light and love this little one has brought to our lives. 

Life: Unfiltered / Long Weekend

My little family took advantage of the long weekend to spend some quality time together in the mountains, and it was so refreshing.  It was simple, unfiltered, uncurated, and full of so many great moments. We spend lazy days wandering around in the warm, green woods, splashing in the cold river water, reading and dozing on the porch swing, and exploring all the tiny rocks, sticks and leaves in our path.. E was in heaven. He walked around the front porch for an hour, was easily occupied with any and every little thing on the ground, and surprisingly, loved splashing in the cold river. He was so excited he decided not to nap, which left me slightly harried, but it was a good lesson in parental adaptation, and the afternoon wore on with only a slight change of plans, and added pre-dinner stroll and an early bedtime. 

Husband and I spent the evening and mornings reading, chatting, planning and dreaming. We made some decisions and put things in motion to truly be able to achieve our dream. It feels good. I'm excited and optimistic.

As much as I love this internet community, sometimes I need to just step away and be surrounded with just my people, my boys. I feel like lately there has been a lot of pain, a lot of heavy surrounding me, and my heart truly breaks when I see the pain and loss of another. I carry that weight too much sometimes, so this weekend was a gentle reminder of my purpose. To extend the sacrificial, unending love of Christ to my husband, my son, and everyone I encounter. My attempt will be imperfect, yet His love is perfect. It is all we ever truly need. 

I am so incredibly grateful for this beautiful family of mine. 

Saturday Dates + Water Bottles

This past Saturday husband and I went on a mini-adventure together, and it was just so fun. We woke up early and went to walk around and hike to the top of Stone Mountain, pushing ourselves to get in a mini-workout on the climb to the top. Then we sat and drank cold water and hot coffee and let the cool breeze blow in our faces and looked at the gorgeous landscape around and beneath us. There is just something about being on the top of the world that I just love. We talked and wandered and took pictures (me) and did hand stands (husband). Then we climbed back down the mountain and had a breakfast date.

It was so refreshing to spend some time alone with my man doing the things we really enjoy. I am learning as much as I adore spending time together as a family, it's easy to ignore the need for couple time, that this time that we have alone together is so vital to our relationship and well-being.  I tell you, I wouldn't want to share this life with anyone else. 

And to top it all off, my sweet man surprised me with what may seem like a trivial gift to a lot of people, but to me it was completely life-changing, a stainless steel insulated hydroflask. We both drink a ton of water and don't leave home without a 48oz water bottle in tow. And since I love having ice-cold water in the summer, I often tote around a dripping wet water bottle with half melted ice all summer long. But my thoughtful man used our dividend and a gift card to get us each one of the hydroflask bottles. LOVE. I had ice in my bottle all day Saturday, and even after sitting in the car for four hours, the ice hadn't melted! Life-Changing. Sometimes, it's the little things.

Friday Favorites / For MOM

I can hardly believe that Mother's Day is next weekend! Last year was an especially sweet year since it was my first year as a mama, and my husband and family made it such a special time. This year I am looking forward to spending the days surrounded by those I love - my husband and little, my sweet sister and her beautiful family, my grandma, father and of course, my very own mama. It's amazing to me to think how I would not be able to survive motherhood myself if it weren't for my mom. We never fully understand the hard work and sacrifice of parenthood until we experience it ourselves! So take some time to really pamper and thank the moms in your life. Their work is truly never done! Here are some of my favorite ideas:

+ Spa days: massages, manicures and pedicures, facials, the works!
+ A night out! Call up the babysitter and make dinner reservations, go out for brunch and perusing a farmer's market or antique store. It doesn't have to be fancy or expensive, just make it about her and what she likes to do!
+ Personalized trinkets: a spoon with a sweet message for stirring her coffee or tea, a ring for each of her children 
+ Essential Oils! Seriously. I know so many moms who want to start taking better care of themselves (always putting themselves last!), and a kit would be such a great step in that direction. Added bonus is that it will benefit the whole family! Also, most moms need a little help de-stressing and unwinding at the end of the day, and there are some perfect oils for that in the starter kit (lavender, Joy, Stress Away)!

Happy Mother's Day to all of you mamas out there!