Thursday, October 31, 2013

Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween! Here are a few pictures to enjoy from the good ol' days. 

My memories from Halloween have always been sweet. All the excitement throughout the school day, then we would rush home eat an early dinner & dress up. Our neighborhood was full of children & our best friends lived down the street (see pic below). All the families would meet and we would hit the streets together. It seemed like hours of trick-or-treating, but I know that it was probably more like one hour. After we'd filled our buckets, we head back to our house to start the trade. Y'all, the trade was serious business. I, being the weirdo that I am, don't like chocolate and never have so usually the trade would begin with me sorting all my candy into two piles- chocolate and other sugary treats. Sadly, a lot of people gave out chocolate so my brother really lucked out in this trade. Also, Adam, being three years older than me, I'm sure was wiser and could convince me that that ONE piece he had was really worth TWO of my pieces. At the end of the night, though, we always felt like we had gotten the better trade & were pleased with the loot. The only other thing I remember about Halloween is that we had way too much candy and inevitably when Christmas rolled around we still had quite a selection. As I got older, I learned that Halloween candy makes for great gingerbread house decorations and that its smart to save some for that project.

Oh Halloween, you've always been a blast! Its such a fun day filled with imagination, homemade costumes and sugar-highs. I look forward to the day that we can dress our kids up and share in the memories of trick-or-treating.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013


Over the past few days, I have been reminded of how short our time is here & how no day should ever be taken for granted. In my classes, we are talking about día de los muertos (day of the dead) and I was explaining how Mexicans use yellow marigolds to represent death and as a reminder that life is short. As I explained this to these sweet children, it really hit me that no life is guaranteed, even these young lives. Fast forward a few hours later and I received a text from one of my best friends about her six year old cousin who may have an inoperable brain tumor. Followed by hearing of a young man, just twenty-five, that passed away from leukemia, leaving behind his young wife. Life is unpredictable and incredibly short. My heart is heavy for those that have lost husbands, wives, children, mothers, fathers and friends too early. I am comforted by the fact that through Christ our destiny is secure and where we are headed is so.much.greater. 
I am reminded that we must not hold back. Words of encouragement you've wanted to say to someone for some time, today is the day. The time you've been meaning to spend with the Lord but seems to get pushed to the side? Stop that email and pray. The phone call to your grandmother, do it now. I am so guilty of putting things off. We must not wait, for each day is a gift,  and tomorrow is not a given. My hope is that I am not afraid of this, but that it pushes me to live my life differently, boldly and purposefully. We have been given this life and are called to bring glory to His name and shine His light. Let us not hold back, but rather dive in head first because tomorrow we may not be able to swim. 

Monday, October 28, 2013


This week, I am thankful for ...

this view-off our front porch

children & their desire to learn

pumpkins on porches

warm slippers for crossing hardwood floors on cold mornings

a quiet, empty beach

Cats in bow ties (he hated every minute of it)

afternoons spent fishing in our neighborhood

halloween parties and wonderful friends

Saturday, October 26, 2013


Over the last few months, I've been beginning to understand what is true rest. I think this partially comes from moving into a job where I work significantly less hours, but I am beginning to see what it realistically looks like for me. I'm realizing that everyone experiences rest in different forms, but its important to find what works best for you.

A cup of steaming hot, breakfast tea, a slice of pumpkin bread and a cozy seat by the window with my journal- thats what rest looks like to me. An afternoon spent reading a book or reading blogs while sitting on the back porch or an hour or two volunteering with some kids. All of these things are restful for me. I realize that the volunteering, to some, seems like work and it absolutely can be, but to me, volunteering has always been an outlet, a getaway where I can use my gifts to serve others. 

In a current house, theres a place that I always sit to rest and relax. We have a kitchen "nook" with a small table and built- in seating around that have cushions on top. The nook is, as must usualy are, beside a window and I love to sit there in the morning and afternoon, as the sun is shining in. Will laughs because if I'm awake when he gets off, I am typically sitting in the nook. I just love it! Its perfect for some quiet time in the morning with a cup of tea, or in the afternoon to do some reading.  I think its so important for us to find places where we can rest and let go of the worries of the day. We are called to rest and seeing a husband who works 75+ hrs a week with little rest, let me tell you, we NEED rest. 

Will snapped this of me in the nook. Bed head, mismatched pajamas and all....

 Even Clyde loves the nook!
Clyde seems to make an appearance in every post. This is not intentional, but has more to do with the fact that he is at my side at ALL times.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Reading & learning

Around our house, we spend a lot of time talking about books and interesting articles. I really love that and desire for our house to be one of learning and growing in every stage of life. We've been reading quite a bit and definitely have discovered new things, learned about different lifestyles and ideas and every so often, drifted off into fiction land (we're more into nonfiction for the most part). 

I'm  always looking for new books and wanting to share what I've been reading, so I thought I'd write about what we've been reading the past few months. 

So fascinating & a great read for parents & teachers, but honestly anyone

I have a whole new perspective on introverts now & find myself recognizing them & how to encourage those who are introverted. I even realized I have introverted qualities (not a ton, but some).

This is a late elementary/early middle school book, but it is beautifully written & we all could learn a lot from Esperanza. Also, love that the family is Hispanic. Really, its SO good!

All time favorite books:

Same Kind of Different as Me- Ron Hall

Wild at Heart-John Eldredge

Captivating- John Eldredge

I have a list that is ridiculously long of what I want to read. I'm currently reading Yes, Chef, a memoir by Marcus Samuelsson. Memoirs are typically my favorite genre because I'm fascinated by others' lives and their stories. Will is reading The Box: How the Shipping Container Made the World Smaller and the World Economy Bigger (sounds super nerdy, but apparently its really good). 

Other books on my "to-read" list: 
One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Exactly Where You Are by Ann Voskamp
Power of Play: How Spontaneous, Imaginative Activities Lead to Happier, Healthier Children       by David Elkind
A Million Little Ways: Uncover the Art You Were Made to Live by Emily Freeman.

Let me know what you're reading, I'm always looking for more suggestions!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Marrying young.

I read a series of posts recently about marrying young written by a variety of women, some of whom married young, some single and some who married late in life. I found it interesting to read the range of opinions, thoughts and reasonings and began thinking more about it. Most would say that Will and I married young. We were 22 and 23 and based on our society today thats pretty darn young. I think the national average is more like 28 or somewhere in that range.
Last weekend we were at a wedding and the father of the bride was talking about when he got married, he said, "we got married when we were 21 and 22, so young... no one really does that these days." Will and I glanced at each other and laughed, a few of us do, but yes, most people don't.

sophomore year of college

From the start, our relationship was mature and committed (I was about to type "serious," but I really hate that term for relationships. We're definitely not serious, just committed). The first few months of dating were in the midst of some very difficult life changes for Will. I knew that I either had to be all in or just kindly let him know it wouldn't work out. I prayed for months asking the Lord to take away my feelings for Will if it wasn't meant to be. Months went by and I became more involved in his life and his family's. I was captivated by him and pretty sure that one day we would get married. 

You see, as a child, I was never one of the girls planning her wedding or envisioning getting married young. I knew I wanted to get married, but honestly I didn't put a lot of thought into it. I was more interested in the here & now. As I continued dating Will, I began to realize that we would get married and, most likely, we would be very young. I have never been more sure of a decision in my life than the one to marry Will. From early on, I was confident in him, our relationship and ultimately the Lord's plan. 

So fast-forward to senior year of college, we had lots of conversations about marriage and what it looked like. We discussed future plans and if we should move to the same city or pursue jobs in different locations. I spent a lot of time thinking of engagement and getting married young. I feared others' opinions and wondered what peers, family friends and outsiders would say about our decision. 

I remember specifically having a conversation with a good friend about how there will be many times in life where you just have to choose what looks best for your life, even if that is extremely different from the world's view. A few months after we graduated, I did just that. Will got down on one knee and I, without hesitation, said absolutely yes. You see, I believe that there are lots of routes in this life. I don't think that everyone should get married young, nor do I believe that everyone will get married. And thats the great thing about life. Our relationship is totally different from others and sometimes you just have to ignore the "wait til your 30" or "don't you want time to find yourself & be on your own?" comments and go with your heart. 

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Trip to Charlotte

We had such a wonderful, busy weekend in Charlotte! As always, it was so much fun to spend time with family and friends. We packed a lot into one weekend and we definitely felt it yesterday, but wouldn't trade all the fun we had.

After I finished work on Friday (Will was off), we hit the road. The drive to Charlotte is always one we dread because you go through little towns and the speed limit goes from 70 to 45 to 35 over and over again. This time, though, we just enjoyed driving together and catching up on the weeks events. The sunset was beautiful and made the ride even more enjoyable.

Saturday, we started off the day with coffee and delicious baked goods at the 7th Street Market. If you live in Charlotte, you should check it out. Either way you should read about it here. Will had heard of a great coffee place called Not Just Coffee and they have pour over; he'd been dying to try it so we invited my brother and sister-in-law to join us. I was so impressed with the market and ever since have been talking about how I wish we had one here in Wilmington. The market also had bakeries, a variety of cheeses, wines, fresh seafood and a little shop that sold tea and spices! 

We got food from Local Loaf which was delicious. Adam & Will had this southern chicken biscuit with a cheerwine & honey sauce. I (as always) chose to go for a sweet bread option and got the cranberry scone, which was also yummy!

We hurried back to my parent's house to get ready for the wedding of a long time family friend, Allie. Growing up Allie's younger brother, Jimmy, was my best friend in the neighborhood so naturally I spent a lot of time with her as well. The wedding was so beautiful and there was so much joy and happiness. I'm such a sucker for weddings. The story about Jimmy is a long one, but lets just say that he is a living miracle and when I saw him escort his mom down that aisle, I was fighting back tears. We love their family & are so thrilled for Allie & Joe!

I may be a little bias, but pretty sure my date was the best looking man there. It is truly an honor to be his forever date. 

My sassy Grannie looking beautiful! As we were loading her oxygen tanks into the car my mom said something about how she {Grannie} would probably leave early & my Grannie responded, "who says?! I might stay the whole time!" She insisted that we take enough oxygen just in case and let me tell you, that lady partied til almost the very end! She was dancing and everything. Also, as someone walked into the wedding they introduced Grannie as "Grannie" and said "she's everyone's grandmother," so so true. Love this sweet lady.

Somehow my dad missed all the pictures. Pretty sure he was going to get the car to pick up Grannie, such a good man!

There was a pretty long break between the wedding and the reception so Will and I explored downtown for an hour or two. There just happened to be a bbq and blues festival going on down the street so we stopped in to sample some bbq. We were definitely way over dressed for the occasion but we had so much fun! The mac n' cheese was delicious and the perfect pre-course to the reception meal (go big or go home, right?). 

 The reception was gorgeous and we enjoyed time outside for cocktails. It was cool and crisp, the perfect weather for a fall wedding!

Beautiful Carolina sunset.

 y'all, this boy loves sparklers. and dancing.

We had a blast at the wedding and catching up with family and friends! Its hard living away from my family, but I'm thankful its short enough that we can make weekend trips to visit. Already looking forward to the next trip!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Child-like Joy

Yesterday I tutored some of the sweetest kids I've ever met. Our church has a partnership with a local elementary school; we provide supplies for the students, lunches for the teachers, support etc. It is a wonderful idea (the church I grew up in also does this) and frankly, I think we need more churches involved in the public schools. Many of the students at this elementary school are Hispanic and quite a few of them live in a trailer park right near our church. 

We have started an after-school tutoring program for the kids in this neighborhood and every week more kids show up. Members of the church go and pick up the kids and we provide homework assistance, tutoring, and a yummy snack. It is WONDERFUL. Wednesday have become my favorite day of the work week because I get to see these sweet kids. Let me tell you about these kids.

Many of them, although not all, are Hispanic and have immigrated here from Mexico and Central/South America (a lot from Honduras).  A lot of them speak very little English, although they are learning incredibly fast! From the moment they walk in the door these kids are running and laughing, hugging us and capturing our attention. We let them play on the playground for a few minutes, then they head up to meet the tutors. My favorite part is when they come running up the stairs for tutoring, laughing and squealing because they are EXCITED to learn and complete their homework. Wow. I don't know many kids like that. They coming running in hugging all of us and overflowing with joy. Honestly, just thinking about their faces makes me almost tear up. 

I have been working with the fourth graders, specifically two kids that speak essentially no English. The first day I shocked them when I started talking in Spanish, say what?! A blonde-hair, blue-eyed girl talking in Spanish? We're slowly tackling their homework, which is ridiculously hard for them, but boy do they give it all they've got. Last week, I realized that one of the girls I've been working with not only does not know English, she is illiterate in Spanish too. Fourth grade and she doesn't even know the alphabet in Spanish. Oh that sweet, sweet girl. Life has been unfair for her but she is fighting on and asking lots of questions. My heart hurts for these kids when I hear of their childhood- moving from one country to the next, little schooling and a huge educational gap, but then I hear that laughter and remember that they STILL have so much joy because there is so much more to life than learning new vocab words. 

Every week I drive a few of the kids home, stopping to drop each one off at their trailer. And every week, I'm blown away by their living situation. The playground in the neighborhood is definitely not up to code and the kids told me "bad" things happen there like drugs. Many of the trailers are decaying away, but that joy, oh that joy they have. Children have so much to offer and teach us; I'm learning new things from them each week. Every week I am reminded that no matter what our life is like JOY can be found. What an incredible thing to know at such a young age, more than vocab words, or multiplication, these kids know of joy!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Slowing down

Often, in this crazy world we live in, we forget to slow down. We move from one thing to the next, rushing, rushing, rushing. Many times, we are just trying to "make it through the day." And lets be honest, we've all been there. Some days thats just what happens, but I am really learning about how to {try} to slow down and just be. Be still, be restful, be a friend, be a conversationalist or a listener, be in the moment.

I don't want to miss out on the wonderful joys of life because I'm rushing from one errand to another. Will and I have put a lot of emphasis on slowing down on days that allow for that. When he is off, we try to ease into the mornings or stay up a little later to sit on the porch and chat. Its nice to slow down. to listen. or sit quietly. to just be. 

Last night we did just that. It was one of those days where we'd been rushing from the moment we woke up (because we snoozed 10 times ... you've been there, I know it). The day was packed and we were just trying to make it through Monday. I left school around 8pm after an event to find a flurry of texts from Will saying he was off and picking up takeout. I hurried home to find a large Indochine (one of my favorite restaurants) bag on the table.

We set up a mini table outside on the porch and enjoyed a wonderful dinner just the two of us. After such a crazy day, it was exactly what we both needed. Time to slow down, catch up and just sit quietly and enjoy the fall breeze. I know that there will be many days ahead where we're rushing from one thing to the next, but my hope is that we will continue to find moments, however small they may be, to slow down and enjoy all that is around us.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Another week begins...

Another week begins and I don't know about you, but we were struggling this morning. Snoozing the alarm, then turning it off, only to wake up an hour later to realize I'd never gotten up. Woops. Oh Mondays, you come so quickly.

We had such a fun weekend and really didn't want it to come to an end. Trying hard to not wish away the week, but so looking forward to another full weekend with Will!

Here's what our weekend looked like:

A {very short} morning run. Its been a long time since I've been consistent with my running, hoping to change that.

A bit of alone time with some hot tea.

Hanging with friends by a fire; complete with hobo packs for dinner & s'mores for dessert. 

And a little camping action at Carolina Beach State Park with friends. We had so much fun! Definitely going to plan some more trips.

Friday, October 11, 2013


It's Friday! I'm celebrating with a cold cherry coke &  some bluegrass. We are pretty stoked that Will has a full weekend off (the first in well over a month). I am beyond excited to spend some quality time with him & friends. 

Enjoy the weekend & listen to this song. It's called "pie for breakfast" ... could it get any better?

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Thank you, teachers.

Teaching is incredibly rewarding and it is wonderful job to work with children all day. But, lets be honest, it is HARD. Teachers aren't just hanging out after 2:30 on school days; they are planning, grading and tutoring. They are working diligently to make sure that every child understands the content. 

Oh man, do I have a lot to say to my teachers growing up. First of which is THANK YOU. Thank you for loving me, for working incredibly hard to teach me not only the content, but life skills. Thank you for having patience with me as I struggled in reading and writing. Thank you for loving that little blonde-haired tomboy who thought recess was the best class. Thank you for having patience with the awkward twelve-year old in the flynn o'harra uniform and for pushing me in high school to go after my goals. 

Thank you to Mrs. Harris, who's kindness and gentleness I'll never forget. You had patience with me and encouraged me every step of the way. Even at eight, I'll never forget how you boosted my confidence daily.

Thank you to Mr. Deer who showed me that math can be fun, but more importantly that with a little hard work you can grasp concepts you never thought imaginable. Also, for showing us a wonderful example of a young adult, something we so needed in middle school.

Thank you to Mrs. Virgin (yes, Virgin. pronounced "ver-ga-en") who encouraged a lifelong love of Spanish in me and through actions alone exemplified Christ. I will never forget how she treated each student with love and respect, even the most troublesome students. You were a light to many.

I am so grateful for ALL the teachers I had over the years. You deserve so much more money for what you do, yet I know that none of you do it for the money anyway. 

Thank a teacher today & check out this video of some celebrities thanking their teachers. 

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Topics of conversation here

Here are a few things we've been reading or talking about in the Cooper house.

1. Prefab homes. They are so much cooler than I ever would have thought! Look at this cute coastal cottage (the inside is really cool too).

Also, did you know that people are now using shipping containers to create houses? I had no idea, but they are pretty incredible too. See some here.

2. This print & how to live that out. 

3. Butternut squash risotto with sage & bacon. Y'all, it was delicious. I would highly suggest it with a pork tenderloin and side salad. Its a good hearty meal, perfect for fall. Find the recipe here.

4. And this cutie. Clearly, the entertainer in our house & he loves every minute of it. Such an only cat. 

Happy hump day, the weekend is getting closer!

Monday, October 7, 2013

Salt of the earth

I've been kind of all over the place on this blog & I'm still not really sure if theres one set thing that I want to write about (food, life etc). For now, I am going to just write what is on my heart. I've debated being completely real in this space or holding back some of my thoughts/feelings in order to not be one of those "overly Christian" blogs. I know a lot of non-Christians and I love them dearly. I want to be open about my faith, yet I am hesitant of how things appear in the eyes of a non-Christian and never want to be unapproachable. Yet, when I really think about it, I am reminded of how we are called to be the salt and light in this earth and I must not hold back for fear of other's feelings or opinions (...i have a major struggle with pleasing people, can you tell?!...). 

So instead of writing about the books we've been reading or the things I've been baking, I'm going to share whats really on my heart. I am studying the Sermon on the Mount with my small group right now. The study we are using is by Jen Wilkin and I am loving it! She is able to really break down this passage that we've heard so often, yet know so little about (or at least I knew very little). Anyway, recently we discussed Matthew 5:13 and really broke down what it means to be the salt of the earth.

"You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything, but it is thrown out and trampled under foot."- Matt. 5:13

I've heard this verse a million times but after I finished with Jen's study questions I had myself all confused. As a small group we went through a few points that Jen makes about Matthew 5:13. I left small group overflowing with joy and excitement about this passage, so much that I came home and immediately began telling Will all about it. Here are a few points about salt that help better explain what the verse means to us:

1. Salt is used to preserve things:

  • When salt is used to preserve things, it has to be touching the meat. This is significant because it is a reminder to us that we must be "in the world"- we must be rubbing up against the world as salt does to the meat. It's also important to note that while salt has to be touching the meat, it is still distinctly different from the meat. The phrase "in the world, but not of the world" comes to mind. We must remain distinctly different not getting pulled into the sins of this world.
2. Salt makes you thirsty:
  • Jen asks, do others become thirsty for Christ when they look at your life? Do they look at your life and crave something? Not craving a quality you possess, but rather, seeing Christ in you and wanting Christ. Wow... that really makes you question how you're living your life.
3. Salt is common:
  • There's nothing too fancy about salt & its pretty common. In the same way, you don't need to be the most talented person to be used by the Lord, in fact, it is often the least educated, qualified, etc, that He uses. Keep in mind 2 Corinthians, where it talks about how the Lord is glorified in our weaknesses. Heard a great saying recently ... "God is not glorified in your awesomeness." The times that you feel most unqualified or lacking are when you are giving it all to the Lord and trusting completely in Him.
4. Salt has value:
  • Salt is essential to life; sodium chloride is essential for your body & if there is an imbalance it can be life-threatening. This is a pretty straight forward one. WE NEED SALT IN THIS WORLD!!
5. Salt dissolves:
  • Salt dissolves in water. We are meant to be used up in this life. We were made for hard work and to give everything for the sake of the Lord. It is important to remember that we can be used up completely in hope that another will be preserved in eternity.
So let us go out & be the salt of the earth. You may want to listen to this song if you need a little boost & wake up; I sure needed one this morning.

Also, if you'd like to do the study by Jen- you can find it here

Wednesday, October 2, 2013


Six years ago, I had no idea that the friendships I was making would last for years to come. In fact, most of us would say that when we met, we weren't sure that we would even become friends. Oh, but we have. And despite life changes and miles of distance, our friendships continue to grow.

Two weekends ago, I had the opportunity to go camping with my college roommates. There's quite a crew of us, since a combination of seven of us lived in a house for two years. I always look forward to reunions with these girls; I leave feeling incredibly blessed, full of joy and 
sore from laughing too much. Also, it is a guarantee that when this group gets together there will be LOTS of hilarious and absolutely, ridiculous stories.

We headed to Pilot Mountain, NC where the forecast was 100% chance of rain for the day/night (devotion, right?!). We spent the day setting up camp, hiking and canoeing in the rain. It was such a blast and things were going smoothly; we were even bragging about how quickly we put the tent up.

Lets just say that very quickly plans changed due to a monsoon. We ended up packing up camp and heading out in search of a hotel. While stopping for gas down the road from camp, we saw a sign that said CABIN and a phone number, so (naturally) we called & hallelujah it was open and available for the night. I know what you're thinking, thats pretty sketchy, because, well, I thought that too. But, it turns out that this was the best thing EVER. A two bedroom cabin with a HOT shower (necessary at this point as I was drenched and freezing), as well as a kitchen and living room. 

We spent the rest of the evening curled up in the living room with piles of blankets and way too many sweets. We celebrated birthdays that had passed, shared stories and reminisced for hours about college and all the wonderful memories we have shared together. It was by far the best camping trip I've ever been on (maybe it was the hot shower or cozy bed) and we're already planning our next trip. This time we'll hope for better weather, but secretly pray for rain so we'll find our way to Danby cottage again.