If you're still reading over here at {simple.little.joys}, update your reader and come check out my new blogging space, Rachel Rewritten

It's beautiful and fresh and perfect, and I'm SO ECSTATIC to be back to blogging, especially in a space so gorgeous! 

So, click on that link up there, come follow along, and keep up with what's going on in my life these days!



Until Next Time...

I've really been pondering lately over what to do with this little piece of my life. Clearly I've been doing something else, because I sure as heck haven't been writing much. I've been so sporadic with posting that I may as well not call myself a blogger anymore...and if I have to say "Sorry for the absence (yet again)" one more time, I may just stop following myself.

So for now, I'm going on a blogging break. This one will be intentional, as all of my other absences were not. It may be long, it may be short, that part I'm not sure of. I'm sure I'll be in and out as it gets closer to the wedding, but otherwise, my lack of inspiration is just going to dull you all. I need to take some time to work on some things in my personal life, but I'll be back soon, I promise. This isn't the end, my friends. I just need a little rejuvenating.

I'll be keeping up with your blogs, I promise. And I'll still be on Instagram and Twitter (because if I gave those up, you need to come check my pulse) so check in with me there if you just need a little Rach fix.

So, until next time...



God's Goodness Through the Hard Times

I have sat down to write this post so many times now that I've lost count. I tried to write it in the middle of the struggle, just to update everyone and to spill my heart a little bit, because I needed some therapy, but the words wouldn't come. Well, let me be honest--the words came, but they weren't the words I wanted to say. I was bitter. I was questioning God. I was emotional. And my words showed it. I don't want to be someone who publicly doubts God, even when my heart is feeling it--I don't want to show it.

If you are friends with me on Facebook, you've seen my updates over the past few weeks. This is old news to you (and to us at this point), but I still need to write it, even just for me. Because my heart has changed, my spirit has been awakened, and I see everything just a little differently, as cliche as that sounds.

One of the last posts I wrote before my unintended blog hiatus in August (again) was about my brother and what was going on with him--how he was improving and was out of the hospital, healing well. Clearly, I spoke too soon. Over 3 weeks ago (early Thursday morning,) I was at work at my mom texted me around 2 am saying they were taking him back to the ER--that he was vomiting uncontrollably and his pain was so intense he could hardly stand up. Over text, my mom made it sound very tame, probably to just calm me while I was still on the clock--because the nurse in me wants to jump up and fix things.

Around 5 that morning, she called and told me they were readmitting him to the Greenwood Hospital (a small hospital in our town) for pancreatitis and a severe infection to his incision (from his previous surgery.) Pancreatitis is a huge deal--and I know that, but I tried to keep my calm and talk through it all with my mom. She and my dad were exhausted, my brother had just finally gotten enough pain medication to calm him down, and I was a mess. I clocked out right at 7 am and went straight back to Greenwood.

By the time I got home, the surgeon and T's pediatrician had already come to his room and rounded on him--and the decision had been made that T was critical enough and needed a specialist bad enough to transfer him to Le Bonheur Children's Hospital in Memphis. As scary as that was, knowing he was about to be in an ambulance and that they considered him sick enough to move to a higher care facility, that was the best decision they could've possibly made. He was sick. A lot sicker than we could see on the outside.

Thomas lost around 25 lbs after his surgery up to his admission to Le Bonheur (a 2 week period.) They had to put an NG tube back down his nose to drain his stomach, had to put in a PICC line (a central line) to administer TPN (nutrition in a bag), and had wound care coming 3 times a day to take care of his dressings. He was so miserable he could hardly move. He had a dilaudid pain pump and it barely took the edge off. Le Bonheur was the best place he could've been, but it was still so scary for me to see my baby brother attached to that many monitors, with that many tubes and wires, and that level of care going on. He had so many doctors reviewing his chart and making rounds that we lost count of them and couldn't even remember their names.

My heart hurt for him. I couldn't grasp WHY it was happening--why my 15 year old brother was so sick that he couldn't get out of a hospital bed. Why he couldn't eat for a week+ at a time...why his body was fighting against him. It made me sick to see him so discouraged--his spirit was broken and he was so down. My usually happy-go-lucky brother wouldn't smile...he'd hardly even talk. I begged my friends over and over again to just pray for his spirit...to pray that the Lord would take hold of him and kick the negativity out...that the devil would let go of him and give me my happy brother back. It's hard to make a 15 year old realize WHY it's all happening when you can't understand it yourself.

I had my moments of WHY to God...of anger towards Him. I begged him to let me take it away from him... I prayed over and over again for simple, meager tasks to be overcome, like for him to be able to swallow without his throat hurting...for him to be able to walk 2 times a day. Things that I think God doesn't care about, but I prayed so fervently for them, that I knew He did. I know without a doubt that the devil was trying to take a hold of the situation, because I had so many thoughts of "what if THIS happens?" or "what if he doesn't get better?" and worse. And the Lord just quietly took my heart and made me realize that He has it all under control. That no matter how helpless we feel at times, He is sovereign and HE is in control over every step.

I realized that things could be a lot worse. We'd walk around the hospital and see kids 10 times sicker than T, who had been there for months at a time, and it put things all into perspective for me. Thomas was going to be just fine...it was just going to be a slow process. We'd look out of his window and see St. Jude's off in the distance, and I'd just cry in praise that he wasn't there...that his body wasn't eaten up with cancer...that he would be home in a few weeks. My emotions clearly went from high to low, quicker than I could control. 

My parents were our rocks. I still don't know how they literally lived in a hospital for almost 2 weeks and never once complained, never once said how tired they were...constantly had smiles on their faces and gladly welcomed in the knock on the door, even when they were past the point of smiling and small talking with visitors. They amazed me. God carried them and it was incredible to see.

Finally feeling a little bit better! Seeing that smile was complete relief.

I got to come home one Sunday morning and was able to go to our Sunday school class, and the talk that morning was about James 1:2-4...

"Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything."

I believe without a doubt that God puts people and Sunday school lessons and specific songs and such in our lives right when we need it, and I needed that verse. I needed to be reminded that God wasn't turning His back on Thomas, He was just allowing us to face a trial in order to make us stronger--in order to pull us back to Him. I prayed this verse over Thomas continually, and I'm sure he was tired of hearing me say it, but I know that trial was for a reason--I honestly don't know what the reason is at the moment, but my faith tells me that there IS a reason, and that's enough for me.

Slowly but surely, Thomas began to get better. It was a long process, but after 12 days in the hospital, he was discharged home. He still has a lot of healing to do, but he's taking it one day at a time and is doing well. He looks like a different kid compared to him about a month ago...it's crazy how amazing God's goodness is. The next step will be gallbladder removal at the end of the month (another surgery--another recovery--more worries.)

I guess the moral to this long, drawn out story is God's goodness prevails. Through Thomas' trials, I was reminded of His Mercy and His Faithfulness and His Grace...I was reminded of His Love through friends and family who wrapped their arms around us during this time...for family who did housework, made dinners, drove all the way to Memphis just to hug us, brought us bills, sent us flowers, send Thomas gifts. His Love was abounding through our community and it was just overwhelming. More than ever, in a crisis, you find out who really loves you and who you can really trust--it's incredibly evident. God used this to pull me back to Him, to make me realize that I'm not self-sufficient, that I need Him so desperately that it makes me cry just thinking about it. My heart is so desperate for Him, so even in the hard times, in the hardest times, I'm thankful for those trials. 

My sweet brother still needs prayers...I can't wait to report that he is back to 100%, but we're taking it slow. I'm just so thankful that God's hand was on him the whole time. I'm thankful for this outlet and for all of your prayers through it all. God is good!


{Day 2 and 3 of Blogtember}

Day 2 of Blogtember with Jenni...
If you could take three months off from your current life and do anything in the world, what would you do?

That's a tough one. At this point, I'd be happy to just have 3 months off of work. I could actually sleep a normal schedule, actually see daylight on a regular basis, and have a social life again. But that's a boring answer, so let's see. What WOULD I do? 

If money were no option, I'd pack up some outfits and fly to NYC and pretend to be a native New Yorker for 3 months. The city is my happy place...so just let me explore through Soho, picnic in Central Park, shop flea markets in Brooklyn, find little rooftop bars on the Upper West Side, etc, and I'll be as happy as I could ever be. The culture, the food, the excitement, the constant energy of New York...that's what captivates me. I'm hoping to make this really happen one day.

Day 3 of Blogtember...
Pass on some useful advice or information you learned and always remembered. 

I'm a huge worrier. When there is something going on in my life behind closed doors, I let it eat me alive. I constantly pick through options to solve it, even when resolving it isn't an option. I think that gets to me more than if a resolution could actually happen--when I know that there will never be a quick fix. I'm a fixer by nature, so this just kills me.

I was actually talking to one of my best friends this morning, discussing a problem in my life at the moment, and she said something that was so simple in theory but really hit me in the moment of my struggle...

"Let it go and then let life go on."

I won't always be able to solve every issue that comes my way, and I know God creates it to be that way. Some things are out of my control, and I need to learn to just let it go and let God intervene in the meanwhile and calm my heart to realize that life still happens in spite of that difficulty not disappearing. I need to stop dwelling on the bad and focus on the good, because the good is constantly around and greatly outweighs the difficulties. 

If something is weighing you down, pray about it, do what you can to make it better, and then just let it go. God is teaching me day by day that I'm not in control--but how thankful I 
am for that promise from Him, that He IS in control. Amen, y'all. 
Life is too short to hold grudges and bitterness, let it go!
Happy Thursday, y'all!


Will You Be My Bridesmaid?

I know I'm partial, but I think I have the best group of friends around. From friends I've known since I was in diapers to friends I made in college or in my sorority, each of them is someone I can't imagine not having in my life. 

When it came to choosing my bridesmaids, that part was easy. I knew exactly who I wanted to stand beside me on my big day. Now the HOW to ask them was the hard part. 

I've seen it all done before--every idea is cute and unique, but I wanted to do something that captured my personality and wedding colors. 

I thought for a while and finally came up with something I thought was cute but simple, easy enough to execute but would turn out to be creative and fun. There's a cookie company in Memphis that I love--one of the owners was one of my sorority sisters. If you're from the South or near Memphis, go to Whimsy Cookie Company--it'll change your life. Those cookies are TO DIE FOR. Well, I contacted their baker and started brainstorming some ideas, and she came up with a cookie in the shape of a bridesmaid dress and then a cookie in the shape of a bouquet. The dresses were in my colors, and the flowers were in shades that I hope to use. Each dress had the bridesmaid's name on it, to personalize it.

I also ordered some sweet cards off Etsy that said "Will you be my bridesmaid?" and "Will you be my Matron of Honor?" I searched high and low for a cute way to box all of this up, but couldn't find what I was looking for. I ended up getting plain brown gift boxes and gold glittered the top of them. 

It was simple--a little ModgePodge and some glitter was all I needed to add a little sparkle and put my touch on them. I added some brown crinkle paper to fill the box and then placed my adorable cookies on top, then put in the card. Easy peasy! 

I think they turned out pretty cute--pretty pinks with cream and champagne colors and a touch of sparkle. Simple, girly, and delicious! 

I sure hope my girls enjoyed getting them as much as I enjoyed making them...and those cookies made them all worthwhile, without a doubt! Now, if February 1st will just hurry up and get here, I'll be the happiest girl in the world!

Happy Wednesday, y'all! I'll be back next week to tell you more about the wedding details!


I'm Choosing Joy

"Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance." James 1:2-3

If you follow me on Twitter or Instagram (or know me in real life) you've probably seen a post or two with me updating about my brother. I've had numerous sweet blog friends send emails or tweets about him, just checking in, so I figured I'd tell y'all the whole story and ask for some more prayers.

Two weeks ago, my mom was at the beach. It was Monday morning and she sent me a text message that went something like this: "Hey Rae, T had a pretty bad hit at football this morning and is going to the doctor--not sure what's wrong or if it's serious, but just keep your phone near you." (I was about to go to sleep for work that night.)

I reply and honestly didn't think much of it--pulled muscle, internal bruise. No big deal. Well, about an hour later, she calls me and says, "Rae, I'm about to get in the car and drive back to Greenwood. T is about to go into surgery. They're not sure what happened but the surgeon said it was serious." Of course, the nurse in me starts to panic and calls in to work, jumps in the shower, and then gets in my car to head to Greenwood, all while trying to gather more info from my dad, who was with him. 

My poor mom had a 6 hour drive ahead of her, not knowing if her baby boy was going to make it out of surgery or not. I don't have kids, but I can't imagine the feelings she experienced on that drive. I cannot fathom it! 

By the time I got to Greenwood, I had gathered that Thomas was hit in football practice and immediately couldn't take a breath in or stand up straight. His coaches instantly knew something was wrong if he was lying on the field, unable to get up. My brother isn't a complainer--his pain tolerance is crazy high and he's hardly ever been sick in his life, so they knew something was up. Upon getting to the ER, after uncontrollable vomiting and immense pain, a CT scan was done and a good bit of fluid/blood was seen in the abdominal cavity. Which meant something was leaking or had ruptured--and if you know anything about internal organs, neither of those things is a good thing. 

The surgeon was very grim with my dad--he said it could be something easily fixed or it could be something really difficult to mend; he wouldn't know until he got in there and got a good look at it. T was already in surgery when I got to the hospital, so I joined my dad, sister, and brother-in-law in pacing and praying. 

I can't begin to tell you how hard it was for me as a nurse to know my baby brother was on the surgery table--that he was intubated and sedated. I knew all of the horror stories that I've seen or heard, and I knew all the things that could go wrong. At this point, all I could do is pray. Constantly. Thank goodness for my prayer warrior friends--without their text messages, I would've been an absolute nervous wreck.

Long story short, Thomas made it through surgery just fine. He tore the top of his small intestine (his duodenum) in the hit, and the surgeon was able to repair it pretty easily. Poor T had a bunch of tubes coming out of him all week long though; he had a rough recovery. A week in the hospital doesn't sit well with an active 15 year old who is used to being outside constantly. His pain level was a lot higher than I could've imagined and you could tell he was really hurting. My sweet parents didn't leave his side for more than 10 minutes. It was a rough week on them, for sure. 

He's home and healing now, thank the good Lord above; he has a pretty intense (but awesome) incision going down the middle of his stomach. He'll be out of football all year, but we're just thankful he's still here and healthy. I'm thankful I get to hug him one more time. Those first two days were hard to see him so different than we're used to seeing him--I hate being on that side of the patient, especially when so many things could still go wrong. It totally put a whole new perspective on my nursing career--I look at the families a lot differently now. 

T's football team came to visit!

The moral of all of this---I've never been more humbled and amazed at God's presence in a situation. From the little details that we couldn't see at the time, to the community that surrounded us in prayer, in love, in visits, and in text messages--God is so good. I don't think I've ever had more phone calls or text messages ever--people I haven't talked to in years reached out to me and my family on Facebook, if even to offer up a prayer. God is so good. It really puts everything into perspective--all my wedding planning and stressing is SO trivial compared to this.

My relationship with God falters. I am a human and I am imperfect, but recently, I've been in more of a valley with Him than a mountaintop--and all on my own doing. I've been absent in the word and absent at church, and it shows in my actions, thoughts, and relationships. Sunday school on Sunday hit on this topic--we talked about James 1:1-4, how we should be joyful in trials because trials make us stronger and draw us closer to the Lord. How close that hit to home! 

As terrible as these trials are, and as much as I wish I could just rewind and change all of the difficulties my sweet brother just went through, I know it's all for God's glory. I know He allows trials to happen to make us stronger, to bring us back to Him. And as far away as I get sometimes, I need those. I need to be on my knees praying for His presence. I need to be begging Him for answers. I need to choose to be joyful in these circumstances, because even in the midst of the struggle, He is still right there in the middle of it with me, pulling me through it. And I'm thankful for that. 


Hey, LOOK--I'm Blogging!

Have y'all forgotten who I am?

I have had such an urge lately to get back into blogging. I'll be honest--I lost the joy I had for it a long time ago. It started to become such a chore. I noticed myself taking pictures and trying to remember little details in order to have a good blog post--not to make memories or enjoy the moment. A lot of times slipped through the cracks and looking back, I regret that. So I had to take a step back and wait for the joyfulness to return to me wanting to write and wanting to share my life with this little blog.

I can't say that it has fully returned, but my fingers have been itching to type, so here I am.

I've been busy lately (along with everything else in the world, of course.) This summer hasn't really felt much like a summer to me--we went to the lake once and I've been to the pool once, but other than that, life has been constant. Between work and life happenings (which I'll get to later this week), not much else fits in the schedule. 

I CAN say that the past few days have been completely enjoyable. I worked the first part of this week so I've been off since Thursday am, and 4 nights off of work in a row might as well be a vacation to a nurse! No big plans really (other than ONE thing that I'll get to :)) other than just resting and relaxing. My kind of weekend, y'all.

I got home from work Thursday morning and had two little packages waiting on me...I'm telling you, my bridesmaids are amazing. I am blessed with some GREAT friends! Thanks, Annie and Ree! Little happies like these make me even more excited to marry Andrew!

My wedding shoes came in just in time--Friday was the day for wedding dress shopping. So I grabbed my pretty pink heels and headed to Arkansas to meet my mom and sister. Aren't these to die for? I'm gonna do a wedding update on Wednesday and give y'all a little sneak peek into my vision, but this will give you a quick preview!

It still feels surreal to me, but I found my perfect wedding dress on Friday! My mom and sister were at my side, cheering me on the whole time. Thank the Lord they weren't those crazy family members you see on Say Yes to the Dress! We went to Low's in Brinkley, AR and it was a wonderful experience!

There was a specific style that I always pictured myself in, so that was one of the first I tried on. Although I absolutely LOVED it on, the 3rd dress I tried on made me rethink my whole bridal vision, so a few more were grabbed after that! Isn't that how it always goes? Most people told me to just go in with an open mind and the right one will find you--which is exactly what happened. My DREAM dress isn't too different from the style I initially wanted, it just has a few aspects I never saw myself wearing. Oh, how I wish I could show y'all a picture of it right this second, but you'll have to wait until February :) My mom and sis gave it 8 thumbs up, so I know you'll love it, too!

This was my "I said yes to the dress!" picture that my sister Instagrammed. I was ecstatic and still kind of freaking out, honestly!

Friday night, Andrew and I had date night to celebrate! A kept saying, "It's your dress day! Let's go celebrate!" even though he won't see it for 6 months. Is he cute or what? I lucked out with my fiancé. He is just the sweetest.

Saturday was lazy--we went to breakfast with A's aunt, uncle, and cousin, and then hit up some local farmer's markets. The perfect Saturday, if you ask me! I love a sea of fresh produce...so gorgeous!

We got a big box of delicious peaches (I have a recipe coming for you soon!), some huge heirloom tomatoes, and some green tomatoes. Naturally, Andrew HAD to make some fried green tomatoes Saturday night. They were so good...reminds me of my grandmother's recipe! His frying skills are pretty impressive.

We decided to get out of the house and drive 10 minutes to a lake near here...and we got there at just the perfect time!

Isn't God good?

Well, after all the fried green tomatoes I ate Saturday night, I woke up feeling miserable Sunday morning. Fried food overload. My diet has been less than stellar lately, so I figured it was a new day, perfect for a fresh start. I pulled out the old trusty MyFitnessPal and got back into counting calories. After church, Andrew and I even went for a walk around campus--it's amazing what a little extra physical activity will do for your mood and energy. Now I'm starting to remember why I used to strive for such a healthy lifestyle--well, that girl is back (with the exception of my wine, of course!) Our wedding is only 6 months away, so I want to be the happiest, healthiest ME that I can be. It's going to be the best day of my life, so I want to feel that way about my body, too!

Just a glimpse of the Grove was enough to get me pumped about football season.

I'm not going to promise to blog more because I've said all of that jazz before and it hasn't happened. I WILL promise to blog when my heart is in it, and when I'm not just going through the motions. I've got a lot on my mind, so hopefully blog posts will come from it. Y'all know better than anyone--blogging is my therapy. So we'll see what happens.

I hope your week starts off wonderfully--remember, it's all about what you make it! Choose joy and joy will follow you. Happy Monday!

Linking up with my girl, Sami, because she's awesome.
Sami's Shenanigans
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