That’s What Faith Can Do

John 13:7 says, “You do not understand what I am doing now, but someday you will.”

If we’ve talked at any point in the last several months, you probably know that this season of life had me crying out to God on a regular basis. I had never been broken down in this way before, and I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy. This kind of soul crushing is relentless and comes and goes in waves, but it’s revealed just what I’m made of and who I truly belong to.

On the bad days, it’s had me questioning God in every single way. I just couldn’t understand why Kaz and I were being put through this. How could a good God allow this kind of thing to happen? That’s exactly what the devil wanted me to believe though, and it would have been so freaking easy to ya’ll.

The crazy thing though? I am so incredibly grateful for this breaking down of what I thought my life was and who I thought I was. You see, it’s easy when you’re in something to make the excuses and convince yourself that things aren’t that bad or maybe if I would have done or not done something it could have been prevented. That’s a whole other issue to breakdown another day though.

Without going through this, I know I wouldn’t have been able to be rebuilt so much better than I was before. I wouldn’t have been forced to strengthen certain relationships in my life. I wouldn’t have specific people in my life at all had I not gone through this, and something about that is so beautiful to watch unfolding in the midst of everything else.

People tell me how strong they think I am. They say that they don’t think they’d be doing as well as I am right now, but I can also tell that people are waiting and watching to see if I fall apart again.

The truth? Part of me knows it’s expected of me to be sad and upset at the way things are unfolding. I did the whole sitting on the kitchen floor at 3:00 AM crying my heart out. I did the struggle through the day while pouring absolutely every last bit of energy I had into taking care of Kaz only to crumble the second he was asleep thing. I did the crying out to God when all I could get out was, “Why?”. Looking back, I’m starting to be able to see why this had to happen though.

I may never fully understand. That thought alone was paralyzing at the beginning of this all but not anymore. It’s true; I may never full understand, but I no longer feel the need to in order to move forward and on.

This season of life will always be marked by some of the darkest of days I have experienced thus far, but also some of the brightest. I have had family step up and in in ways I didn’t even know to ask for. I’ve had friends, both old and new, love me (and Kaz) so fiercely and be there for us especially when family was so far away.

Life has a crazy way of doing that though, and God has an oh so perfect way of giving and taking exactly what is needed in or out of our lives.

These days I know I still have mountains to face, but instead of being scared by the size of it I’m reminded every single day that my God will always be bigger!

XOXO,
Leah

When It Wasn’t on your Calender

I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again; 2021 has been a year for the books so far!

If you would have asked me at the beginning of it how I thought the year was going to go, I wouldn’t have even been close in my guesses. Just like you, I had hopes and plans for things I thought the year would bring and of course the non-negotiables that the Army throws in, but God had other things in mind.

I’m not the same person I was at the start of the year, but then again, is anyone?

I’ve had to change courses more than once. I’ve had to re-evaluate my priorities and start the process of letting go of things I thought I’d never have to let go of. I’ve started down paths that weren’t even on my radar. And honestly? If I would have been given the option of them, I would have run so fast in the opposite direction!

Ecclesiastes 3:1 says, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens”.

You see, I’m a planner. I like knowing what’s coming next. Most things in my life have had a list and sublists attached to them. I’m also so guilty of trying to control things that have never been mine to control. Maybe someday we’ll be able to sit down together, but for now I’ll spare you the details.

Most of this year has been defined by what’s felt like an uphill climb in which I’ve lost my footing more times than I’d like to admit.

Don’t get me wrong, there have been so many good and wonderful moments, honestly more than bad, that I am beyond grateful for! I have had so many people surround Kaz and I in the most amazing love and support. Just because there’s been so much good and growth though, doesn’t negate the bad, the tears cried, the damage done, or the questions left unanswered.

Genesis 50:20 says, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”

I know I wouldn’t be who I am today without the bad. I wouldn’t have had to look deep inside myself and to do and continue to do the hard work. I wouldn’t have cried out to God like I should have been doing all along. I wouldn’t have realized how misguided my faith has been in the wrong things and people for years. I would have never fully admitted that something I used to define myself by and find my identity in was never something God meant for me in the long run.

But you know what? I also wouldn’t know my true worth. I wouldn’t know that I could go through something so soul crushing and come out stronger and better than I’ve ever been. I wouldn’t know what it’s like to stare one of my biggest fears in the face and send it packing. I wouldn’t have experienced just how faithful God truly is!

One day I’m going to look back on this season of life and be able to tell the story of how I overcame this battle. Maybe, just maybe, it’ll end up being part of someone’s survival guide and a living testament that even when the giant seems big, how much bigger and greater is He who is within me than he who is in the world!

Share the Love: Raleigh Cheesy

If you live in the Raleigh/ Durham area, chances are you’ve heard of Raleigh Cheesy before! 

Courtney Bowman is the brains behind the operations and it all started in October of 2019. Raleigh Cheesy strive to offer hand-crafted cheese and charcuterie boards. From personal sized snack boxes to grazing tables to feed a whole party, there’s a little something for everyone.

In February 2021, their first brick and mortar location was opened at 1460 Chapel Ridge Road, Suite 170 in Apex, NC. Inside the charming store, you’re able to get grab and go snack boxes, pick up orders you placed online, place orders, and buy other items you might need to make your own board at home!

Raleigh Cheesy is located in Apex, NC at 1460 Chapel Ridge Road, Suite 170

I’ve had several of the snack boxes and love how convenient they are to just grab and take with; road trip snack, picnic in the park, movie night, etc. They really up the snack game with how delicious they are! Recently, Courtney also started offering private cheeseboard making classes at the store! It’s a great chance for you and some friends to get together and learn how to make the perfect cheeseboard!

To keep up to date with all the happenings and to see her drool worthy boards, check Raleigh Cheesy out on Instagram or see what all they have to offer at their website!

Charcuterie jars make for perfect appetizers for a large crowd!

Share the Love: Top Shelf Organizing

Top Shelf Organizing helps bring all of your organizational goals to life and even some you might not have known you had. Jenna Nelson is the brains and real life person behind it all! From services for your home, to staging homes to sell, unpacking after a move, and a little bit of everything in between, Jenna is your girl (and mine)!

I’ve known Jenna for as long as I can remember and even before then! She’s been a family friend and is like a sister to me. Jenna is currently based out of Tennessee, but also offers remote services!

When we first moved into our home, I was in full nesting mode and wanted to get everything organized and put away ASAP! Not only was our little one a few shorts months away from making his debut, but we were hosting both of our families. Needless to say, I was in full on go mode. This is where Jenna was a serious God send in helping me conquer my what seemed like a huge a daunting task. Her guidance and expertise were so helpful to me so I didn’t just run out and buy everything that looked good!

Jenna had me send her lots of pictures, dimensions, and what I was wanting to do with the spaces. From there we talked about how my husband and I live and how we wanted to be able to make the space work for us. All of the bins and containers in the world are no good, no matter how pretty they look, if they don’t help make the space functional!

One of the best parts of working with Jenna is that she genuinely cared that we were happy with the outcome. It wasn’t and never is her just trying to get you to buy buy buy! In the end, we did end up getting a few of the products she recommended, but I honestly can’t imagine our home without them now! They help us make the most of the spaces they’re in and give us systems for easy organization!

Our sink caddy helps keep clutter off of the counters. I love that the rack allows things like brushes and sponges to dry as well! https://rstyle.me/+6ZP5yeQejP0NVrH-X3sRJw

We have these sink organizers under all three of our sinks; kitchen and both bathrooms! Neither bathroom is huge, so making the most of the space was a must! These allow us to take advantage of every last inch. https://rstyle.me/+QQxwScV9L7RDEnW-sqMYnw

We cook a ton in our house; everything from good old midwestern comfort food to Indian inspired and a little of everything in between. This means, we have so many different kinds of spices and seasonings! This spice stack organizer helps us keep them all in one place and not having to dig in the cabinet trying to find them. We paired them with these glass spice jars since we like being able to reuse them since we buy from bulk bins! Spice stack: https://rstyle.me/+aJWtk103VLz5av0mjGc8-A Spice jars: https://rstyle.me/+CWH0a64m0G6Ou6CBKJet8A

You can get in touch with Jenna and see her amazing work on her website: https://topshelforganizing.com or via her email jenna@topshelforganizing.com

Follow along with her and the jobs she’s worked and working on https://www.instagram.com/topshelforganizing/ or on Facebook! https://www.facebook.com/tntopshelforganizing/

When God Knows What You Never Will

Jeremiah 29:11 says “For I know the plans I have for you” declares the Lord “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

Deuteronomy 31:8 says “The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”

To say that God has been fighting so fiercely for me in this season of life I’ve found myself in is an understatement. There have been days when the choices and actions of others have seemed like a weight too heavy to bear and it took everything in me to get up and do the things I needed to do that were going to be best for me and Kaz in the long run.

You see, God never promises us an easy life free from suffering or the trials of this world. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. We are told in John 16:33 “I have said these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

Somedays I still struggle to fully let go and trust in the plan God already has for my life. It is so easy to get caught up in the world and what others say when it comes to how we should feel, act, and/or behave. It’s easy to get caught up in the lies and to be tempted by the path that does everything but bring glory to God and only draws us farther away from Him.

Right now, very few people would blame me for going down that path. While it may seem like a much easier option and one that offers me a momentary feeling of justice or satisfaction, at the end of the day those actions or words said don’t reflect anyone else but me and who I am in Christ (as cheesy as that sounds).

Everyday is a struggle to remind myself that I am a daughter of the Lord most high. Who He tells me I am will always count for more than what anyone else could ever say about me. In Him I am loved, cherished, redeemed, created in His perfect image. The same God that created Heaven, earth, and the mountains created me.

While I don’t understand now why this trial is in God’s plan for my life, I take comfort in knowing that He sees the things I can’t. He hears the conversations I never will. He knows everything about what’s going on, and I don’t. I take comfort in know that God is using all the things (the good, the bad, the happy, and the sad) to work together for my good.

Things of this world fail me on a daily basis, but I rest assured that God never will!

XOXO,
Leah

New Year, Best You Giveaway

Happy Monday and Happy New Year, y’all!

2020 was the year of figuring out how to do it all from home; work, school, Zoom, home workouts, etc.

It was a year that really showed just how strong we are and revealed exactly what we’re made of. It wasn’t always rainbows and butterflies, but then again, no year ever is.

It was filled with new trials and obstacles to overcome that we never even thought would be in our path, but if you’re reading this, you made it to the other side of 2020!

That deserves to be celebrated for the accomplishment it truly is!

To kick of and celebrate the start of a new year, I put together this giveaway with some of my favorite things that I’m bringing into 2021 from 2020!

GIVEAWAY PRIZE: (1) three month subscription to Beachbody on Demand, (1) 32 oz water bottle, (1) daily gratitude/joy journal, and (1) $25 Target gift card!

Head in over to my Instagram (@alongftride) to see how you can enter!

XOXO,
Leah

United Monogram Pieces to Put You in the Holiday Spirit

Happy Wednesday, ya’ll! We are officially halfway through the week, and another day closer to the weekend!

If you’re like me, you love being comfy and cozy during the holiday season but also want to look good and put together.

I’ve been buying pieces from United Monogram for about a year now, and let me just tell you I did a little happy dance when they dropped their Holiday Collection!

It’s full of the things we know and associate with the holidays; snow, snowmen, candy canes, cute little red trucks, and all the stops! Did I mention they added glitter designs this year too?? *insert heart eye emoji here*

Today, I’ve rounded up a few of my favorite pieces from this collection that are giving me all the merry and bright and festive vibes! These are great “treat your self” pieces or great gifts to give to someone else! Did I mention that they’re all on sale too?!

What piece(s) will you be rocking this holiday season?

XOXO,
Leah

Your Perfect Cup of Hot Chocolate

These cooler temps and all things holiday season have really been getting me in a festive mood!

Growing up, my mom’s homemade hot chocolate mix was always something I looked forward to. Now that I have a home of my own, I love finding ways to incorporate that tradition into my little family!

This year, we opted to add out hot chocolate to our coffee bar! From now until the end of winter, if you stop by we’ll have all the options for your hot chocolate drinking pleasure!

Every good hot chocolate bar starts with good hot chocolate! Three of my favorites from Target are the Swiss Miss packets, Good & Gather Double Hot Chocolate, and since I’m slightly lactose intolerant, I always like to have a dairy free option on hand like this Swiss Miss Non-Dairy mix!

In my mind, the perfect cup of hot chocolate has lots of marshmallows. The more the better! I found these vanilla star and Christmas tree shaped ones along with the peppermint flavored ones on the Holiday section at my local Target. Both are by Wondershop and so yummy! I may have eaten a few of the peppermint ones just by themselves…

Before I found the peppermint marshmallows, I used to sometimes stir my hot chocolate with a candy cane to get that pepperminty flavor. Something about the chocolate and mint combination just gets me! This crushed peppermint shaker is perfect and so cute to sprinkle on top of a peak of whipped cream.

If you’re looking to have single serve and individually wrapped options on hand, these Hot Cocoa Stir Spoons from Wondershop are perfect for you! I picked up a few for my hot chocolate bar as well as to give along with gifts at Christmas!

What are you hot chocolate must haves?

XOXO,
Leah

Holiday Giveaway

Happy Monday, y’all!

2020 sure has been a year for the history books, and I’m pretty sure none of us could have even dreamed that this year would turn out like it has.

With all of the chaos and uncertainty, I’ve been trying to focus more on the moments of joy in my everyday life and on actively choosing joy! It can be found in something as small as a hot cup of coffee or something as big as a new home. The ways joy can show up are endless!

In honor of the holiday season and hoping to spread a little joy to someone, I’m hosting my first ever giveaway over on my Instagram (https://instagram.com/alongftride?r=nametag)!

Entering is super simple too!! All you have to do is give me a follow over on Instagram and like and comment on all of my posts until this Saturday (11/21). You also get a bonus entry if you subscribe to my blog!

The winner will be announced on my Instagram in stories and on the original post with the winner getting a gift card to my favorite monogram store (United Monograms) a Rae Dunn mug, and a Target gift card to buy something to fill your new mug with!

XOXO,
Leah

Military Life: Reintegration

When most people think of a solider coming back from a deployment, they think of the videos and pictures they’ve seen on social media or talked about on the news. A person in uniform, kids to be surprised, and lots of tears.

Don’t get me wrong, those always bring a smile to my face and the waterworks of pure happiness that those families are finally reunited after being apart, but what you rarely see is what happens after that initial high.

When it was getting close to my husband coming home from his deployment I did all of the things I thought I was supposed to do; decorate, make ‘Welcome Home’ signs, clean the house from top to bottom, stock the fridge and cupboards with all his favorite foods and drinks, buy a new outfit, etc.

Needless to say, I did all the things. In the end though, while they were nice, they didn’t really help prepare us for reintegrating my husband back into our family after being gone for so long and during a global pandemic.

For starters, our almost seven month old was now almost fourteen months old and getting into all of the things. Kaz and I had gotten into our groove of living life just us and Ailey. We had certain ways of doing things and a schedule (or as much as you can have with a toddler).

When my husband got back, we had a few weeks of him not going to work and being home with us. The first few days I think we were all riding on clouds of adrenaline and pure bliss from being reunited. When the dust settled (like it always does), we found ourselves stumbling. If you know me you know that I get set in my ways, I like routine, and knowing what to expect.

With all of the trainings, schools, deployments, etc., over the years, I’ve had to learn how to be pretty self reliant. This deployment was no different, and I had gotten so used to doing everything by myself. If I didn’t do something, it wasn’t getting done. With my husband being home, it was harder than I thought it’d be to let some of those go and fully accept that I didn’t have to be a one woman show anymore.

Now almost two months post deployment, I’d be lying if i said we weren’t still trying to figure it out. Here we are, just doing the best we can for ourselves and our little family.

It’s one heck of a crazy ride, but I wouldn’t want it any other way!

XOXO,
Leah

Photography by: Allison Vrhovac