All Things Rooted

If you have followed our family’s journey for a while, you know we have been on many adventures- doing things most people think are crazy! This blog has been something I have wanted to keep updated with all of those adventures, but I sure haven’t!

In fact, the last “update” I gave on here was 2 years ago! A lot of life has happened since then. We finished a house, sold that house, bought 33 acres, had a baby, built a small house that we currently live in but will one day be an Airbnb, AND started our big house. That’s the short list! Life has been full force and and we are excited about what’s next.

When we started our construction business we wanted a name that was going to really reflect who we are as a family. We landed on Rooted because we are rooted in faith and family.

“Rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.” Colossians 2:7

As we have prayed about the direction God has for our family, we knew that we wanted one place to bring all our adventures together, so All Things Rooted was made! The website is a work in progress but will allow us to keep everything we do in one easy place.

Rooted Homes (our construction business), Rooted Cottage (this will be our Airbnb), Rooted Farms (our growing homestead), and of course the blog, where hopefully updates happen often! We feel as time goes on, All Things Rooted will grow and shift as God leads us, but for now this is it! www.allthingsrooted.com

Thank you for following along with us and encouraging us over the years! We have loved sharing the journey and look forward to continuing to share it!

Family, home sweet home, My Story, Uncategorized

A little update

FinalEditsJessicaM(42of194)July 6th has been an exciting day in our house.  3 years ago we closed on our land and construction loan and 1 year ago we sold the home we thought would be forever. (read about that here)  I imagined that 1 year later we would be in our new house but that isn’t the case.

The last year of our lives have been fairly difficult.  We moved out of our house thinking we would need a place to stay for about a week while we got electricity and water to the shop but the electric company was behind and that week turned into over a month!  We had gracious friends and between 2 families welcoming all 7 of us, and hotel stays we made it work (I won’t say it was stress free!)

House plans took longer to finalize than we expected, loan process took longer than expected, so we didn’t even get to start dirt work until NOVEMBER!  Then weather kept us delayed and framing wasn’t completed until January.  It has been the longest process but that is certainly how construction goes, especially if you are doing a lot of the work yourself in “free time”.

In the fall we had to make a really hard choice.  We knew we had to close our business of 13 years.  This was not easy nor what we had planned but it opened the door for us to do something we both had dreamed to do.  Joel applied for his contractors license and together we are now building and creating for other people!  How fun to get to work with your spouse using both your gifts and talents?  Joel has the knowledge and skill to do the work and I help with the design and management aspect.

I wanted to share a few pictures from a photo shoot we had done a few weeks ago (on the hottest day so far this year, in our house with no AC yet!).  I had a vision to capture us in the building process. Our kids, in action, by our side helping us build our house.  They all help along the way, from picking up trash, to helping move tools, paint, stain, caulk, and so on.



We are all so thankful for Joel’s hard work and his dedication to our family!


Since we are doing this as a business I also wanted to capture Joel and I working together.



We try to have fun in the process!  It is stressful living in the shop, trying to run a new business, and build our house BUT we really try to have fun as often as we can!


The house has changed so much since these pictures!  Countertops are in, flooring is much further, we have lights (and electricity!).  We are currently working on finishing floors and lots of little details.  Tile work will start soon too.  We are waiting to paint the exterior until we move in and it is a little cooler.


This journey is full of ups and downs, fun and chaos, smiles and tears.  It is real, unscripted, and rarely goes as planned but we all are learning along the way and making the best of each step!

(photo credit to Whorton Films)


Encouragement, My Story, Uncategorized

Thriving or Surviving?


Are you thriving or surviving?  And why is it important to know the difference? 

Drowning.  Overwhelmed.  Struggle.  Not enough.  Failure.  These were things I was using to describe my everyday.   What is wrong with me?  Why can’t I get it together??  After praying and seeking answers constantly, it hit me- I am trying to live like I am thriving, but the reality is, I am surviving.  

I have been in seasons of thriving.  I was able to juggle my marriage, kids, homeschool, a photography business, volunteering, and friendships with little problem.  I could eat healthy and make everything from scratch.  I could lead groups, go to bible studies, social gatherings, and always felt so driven.  I strived to be a better person everyday and wanted to encourage and love everyone around me well.  I was able focus on my health and wellness, as well as those in my family too.  

But here I am now.  Feeling like life is just a crazy mess.  Living in a shop with temporary living conditions.  Even though our basic needs are met and we have more in the shop than a lot of people do, it is anything but ideal or easy.  I don’t do well in clutter or dysfunctional living spaces and that is exactly where we are which leaves me feeling exhausted.  We are building a house that we are personally doing a lot of work on which is also hard.  We have 5 kids that keep us busy, even though we aren’t involved in much.  Our kids range in age from 2-16 so we are constantly trying to balance the needs of teenagers and toddlers.  We started a new business which requires lots of attention too.  Then there are all the regular things of life, like dentist appointments, haircuts, and shopping trips for new shoes and so on, x7 people= time consuming.  

The past 5 years have been really hard on our family.  In 5 years, we have had 2 babies, one of which was born with a cleft lip.  My dad took his life which left unshakeable grief at times and has been a lot to process.  All 7 of us lived in a camper while we built a house.  Then we knew the unexpected right thing to do was to sell that house.  We had to close our business of 12 years and start a new one.  These are just a handful of the events that have happened that have kept us all feeling as though we are on an emotional roller coaster, fighting to keep going.  

As I prayed, I felt God saying to me “Stop fighting.  Float.  I have given you the ability to float.  The more you fight the quicker you sink.  You are exhausting yourself for no reason.”  I felt so much comfort in this but I wasn’t even sure what it meant.  The more I went to The Word for affirmation, the clearer it all became.  I was fighting for so much that God wasn’t asking me to fight for.  If I would stop, rest in Him, and seek only what He was calling me to, I wouldn’t be sinking any more.  

I am in a season of survival.  Each day I’m just trying to make it through.  There are so many reasons why I am here in this place but I had to understand what being here meant for me.  I realized that what I was doing was trying to give something I didn’t have to give at the moment, all because I use to be able to.  I don’t have extra energy, time, or strength to give anything or anyone outside of my home.  I can’t volunteer, lead bible studies, manage others, or start something new and exciting.  For me, this doesn’t seem natural or normal.  I can do all the things.  But when I give what little I have to people outside of my home, I am short of everything I need to do well at home.  I know God has called me to be a wife and mom first and in this season, that is about all I can do if I want to do it well.  

Being able to name the season– surviving not thriving, has allowed me to adjust my expectations and understand what needs to happen for me and my family.  

I can’t do a lot of things that my heart desires in this season, but that is ok.  I also can’t compare my journey because some people have more to give right now then I do.  All I can do is assess where I am right now and make choices that makes sense for us.  I know that every yes means no to something and because of this season, I have to be even more careful about how I balance my yes and no’s.  I know that this season isn’t forever and one day I will enter back into a season of thriving.  

For now, I am embracing this season, adjusting my expectations, giving myself lots of grace, and setting my sights on what I know is mine.  I write this as an encouragement to anyone who feels like they aren’t making it.  Who feels overwhelmed and unsure what to do.  Name your season and decide what you can do in it.  Don’t feel bad for needing to let things go in this season.  Do what is best for you and your family, knowing one day this season will pass and you will get back to where you want to be!

Encouragement, Family, My Story, Uncategorized

Our adventure

adventureThe word adventure tends to lean towards a positive note.  Sometimes people set out on great adventures, exploring, traveling.  New stages of life, such as getting married, having kids, or maybe starting a new career can be labeled as adventure.

For us, adventure usually means this dictionary definition:

adventure: an exciting or very unusual experience

We are rarely doing what most people consider normal and more times than not people are questioning our sanity and sound reason behind our choices.  We have gotten use to it.

I have often tried to tell people I am not adventurous- I have no desire for adrenaline rushes of any kind, but people argue that having 5 kids is in fact, an adventure.  I admit, they are right.

I like control, even though I know I don’t really have any.  I want to know what is going on and when.  I want to know how.  I want to plan and then to execute the plan.  I don’t like the unknown.  I like to know the odds are in my favor.  BUT God keeps asking us to do things that put us in positions where none of those things are possible!

2.5 years ago we were living in a camper, building what we thought would be our forever home.  We designed the house with our family in mind.  With our desire to host and love on others.  With dreams in hand, we built the house.  My husband mostly did all the hard labor while I tried to keep us afloat in the camper.  But there were nights I’d bring the monitor out to the house after everyone was asleep  and help in whatever way I could.  That house was a true labor of love and although the process wasn’t easy, we have so many good memories of this time together.

Our story starts long before this.  The journey of learning to trust God and let Him lead.  It has been a process and not one we are always good at.  I want ensure the magnitude of God’s goodness in our life is evident.  I want to tell you every single detail.  Maybe, in time I can.  But today I want to share what got us where we are right now.

We lived in our newly built, gorgeous home for almost a year when God started nudging us.  We felt pretty confident that God was telling us to sell our house.  At first I resisted big time.  No way am I selling this house!  Are you nuts??  Our reclaimed wood walls, gorgeous oak hardwood floor.  The sacrifice that got us here….. There was just too much I wasn’t even willing to humor giving up.  But my heart softened and I started trying to really listen to what God was saying.  In the end its just a house and what makes a home is who is in it.  Ready or not, we moved forward.

We knew what selling the house meant for us.  There were so many pro’s for our family and the more we looked at it, the more it made sense.  God’s hand was in it all too.  The timing of every single thing.  The details.  He was there.

Our house sold a few months after listing it.  We immediately started building the shop where we live currently.  Our agreement with the buyers gave us a little time to stay in the house after closing so we could get the shop ready, but we knew the shop wouldn’t be fully ready when we had to move.  We had several friends who offered to let us stay with them.  Talk about good friends- 7 extra people is a lot!  The biggest thing we were waiting on for the shop to be livable was electricity.  They told us 7-10 days to get it all ready.  30 days later we had electricity!  We were displaced much longer than we thought and it was more difficult being homeless than what I anticipated.

Nothing so far has gone the way it was suppose to.  Our house plans took longer to finalize than what we planned.  The construction loan…. Then weather kept us from starting the new house.  BUT here we are now, building a house again!  Another labor of love.  Another adventure.  Again, the way God has shown us His grace, favor, and love in the process has been amazing!

I’m starting to think that maybe we (Joel & I) learn best when we are in difficult situations.  Sometimes the stress wears on us, but often times it pushes us closer as we navigate unexpected hardships together.  2018 was nothing short of one big crazy, messy, adventure.  We faced lots of things we didn’t plan for.  We had to change direction.  We found ourselves wondering in a valley we would rather not be in.  BUT, I can’t imagine we could have learned all we did otherwise.

My hope is that this year brings newness to our family.  I plan to share so much of our adventure with you too.  I want to share the real trials, the humor, the joy, and most of all, I want to share God’s goodness in the daily details of our lives!

Encouragement, Family, My Story, Uncategorized

Remember the light


Have you ever been asked to do something, then later forgot what was asked of you?

I tend to feel pretty on top of things.  I am a people pleaser by nature and so disappointing others is something I try very hard to avoid- to a fault.  I have had to find balance in my people pleasing and learn what is truly mine.  Some days I do good and some days, I find myself trying to figure out why I said yes.  If I tell you I am doing something, I am going to do whatever I can to do it.

About 5 years ago I prayed regularly for God to show me MY next step.  I prayed and prayed.  Asking God what He wanted from me right now.  I voiced my readiness for whatever was next.  He kept answering “share your story, encourage others.” I tried to ignore it because it seemed, well, like not much of a calling.

But eventually I started a blog (this one) and I wanted to share openly.  At the time I was pregnant and knew the baby boy I was carrying would be born with at least a cleft lip and the extent of his birth defect was unknown.  I thought maybe I was suppose to share about my experience with that, and I did.  I am thankful I have those posts because looking back on the things God showed me during that time has been such a blessing!

Then, 6 months after our sweet boy was born, my dad took his life.  It took me almost a year, but eventually I listened to the nudge God gave me to share and wrote about that.

Since then, I have shared lots of stuff, off and on.  I have never been consistent.

I find that I often doubt what God called me to.  Am I really suppose to be sharing? Do I really have anything to say?  

Like most people, I have gone through many different seasons of life.  Some last weeks, some months or years.  We don’t normally get to choose seasons.  We don’t get to decide when one ends and the next starts.  We just get to live them out.  There are seasons where life feels dark. Where things just seem harder than others.  Then there are some seasons full of life and joy.

I can doubt what God told me to do in the light, as soon as darkness comes.

I love to share and find so much joy in it.  I believe that it is a God given strength that He gave me for His purpose.  Anything that God gives, the enemy will want to take away.

As I sit here writing my thoughts tonight, I am reminded how easy it is for me to doubt. As I cried, saying “I just don’t have anything to give.  Nothing to offer.” my husband looked at me and said “really? because you have been asked to speak by 3 different people in the past 2 weeks.” I started trying to remember all the things that have happened to affirm God’s calling.  There are SO many things.

But friends, in the darkness, those things don’t even seem clear.  I have to try to remember.  I have to remind myself of HIS calling on my life.  To remember the things He spoke to me so clearly in the light.

Today, our sermon was about fear.  What does fear keep us from?  Are we questioning “is this safe?” because God doesn’t call us to safety, He calls us to obedience.  What keeps me from sharing?  FEAR.  Fear that I am not good enough.  That I don’t have anything worth sharing.  Fear tells me it is better to be safe.  I was reminded that being vulnerable, sharing my life, my story- it isn’t safe.  It is scary.  But I know, in the light, that is exactly where God called me to.

What are you allowing fear to keep you from?  What has God shown you in the LIGHT that you are allowing to fall silent in the dark?  Fear can keep us quiet.  Desiring safety can allow us to ignore God’s calling simply because safe feels better.

Tonight I am thankful for those who see something more in me and encourage me to keep going.  For those who see God’s grace in me and give me a chance to share, even when I don’t feel I have anything to say.  I am ever grateful for a handful of women who I know God placed in my life to help remind me of the importance of this calling.  Grateful for a husband who supports and encourages me, who won’t let me give up!

If you are reading this I hope you will be encouraged to keep going after the calling God has given you, even if it feels scary.  Fight the fear friends!

Encouragement, My Story, Uncategorized

Daily Bible Reading Really Matters.

IMG_6259Does God really have a plan for me?  How does he communicate with me?  What is my next step?  The questions were many and and I always felt the answer I would get was “are you reading your bible?”  It honestly discouraged me.  Yes.  I do!  I read it.  But I rarely feel like I am truly hearing from God when I read.  At least not clearly.

I was constantly wanting more than what I had.  I prayed, I did bible studies, devotionals.  I felt like I was doing what I was suppose to, but what was missing?

A little over a year ago I was told our church was starting discipleship groups.  These would be small groups of women/men, 3-5 in each group and they would commit to meeting weekly for a year while reading through the bible together.  I was in.  I didn’t even need more info, I was just in.  I knew I wanted and needed more in my spiritual life.   What I didn’t know is how much the year would transform the way I thought about the bible and deepen my relationship with God.

The reading was assigned each week and was structured to be done 5 days a week.  Along with reading, we also were to journal our thoughts.  Sometimes I journaled lots of questions that arose from the reading and then would dig deeper to find answers.  When we came together each week, we would discuss what we read and what we got out of it.

I had never read the bible from cover to cover because it seemed so daunting.  Even when I had attempted it before, I never stuck with it.  I use to feel “less spiritual” because it took the accountability of a group to get me to consistently read my bible, however all throughout the bible, community is encouraged.  I know God didn’t intend this life to be be done alone and I am so encouraged to have the accountability of others who are seeking the same thing.  Growth.

If it takes the accountability of a group of other women, meeting for a year, to get me in the word daily and to make it a habit, I can’t imagine God is shaking His head at me saying “well I can’t believe that is what it took.” Nope.  He is just excited that our relationship is deepening.

I quickly realized that God was communicating to me through the assigned reading of His Word- something I was somewhat skeptical about.  Could God really speak to me when someone else was telling me what to read AND the group was all reading the same thing?  How could He speak specifically to me this way?  But, I would pray about things going on in life and then read my bible and there were the answers.  For the first time, I realized that consistently reading the bible daily was how God was moving, answering prayers, and speaking to me.  Affirmation after affirmation, I would see whatever I was praying about in my reading.  God was moving in my heart and I experienced how powerful being in God’s word is.  Transformation happens here.

There were times I would be struggling with my self worth and the reading would reassure me of how loved I am by God.  We made several big life decisions last year and throughout the process of making those,  I felt God encouraging me as I read His word.  God also gave me insight into parts of my life I needed to work on.  I was able to see Gods character more clearly when I was reading the ALL of the story and not just part of it.  The commitment of daily bible reading has helped me grow spiritually and deepened my faith and trust in God.

If you have ever been stuck feeling like you don’t hear from God, I am giving you the advice I was always given but with a little encouragement.  Read your bible, but don’t read your bible randomly.  Be consistent.  If you know you need accountability, find a friend or group and go through it together.  There is power in accountability and community.  Not only did I learn so much from the bible, but I also learned from the others in the group and experienced community.

Don’t let fear or pride keep you from growth.  It is ok to need help in this journey.  I just started year 2 of this Discipleship journey with a new group of women and I am enthusiastically excited to see how God moves in each of our lives this year and in our group as a whole!

Celebrate Recovery, Encouragement, Family, My Story, Suicide Awareness, Uncategorized

This is grief…

dad.jpg Fall is by far my favorite season.  Temperatures are suppose to be cooling off (we are in AR though!), pumpkins are everywhere, sweaters are a staple and apple cider is served at all the parties.  But in the midst of my favorite season is October 4th.  4 years ago this day started having a significance in my life.  It is the day my dad died.

If you have followed my blog  you know that it was a tragic day.  My dad ended his own life a few months shy of his 60th birthday.

Grief.  If you haven’t ever experienced it, there is no way to truly understand it and it certainly looks different for everyone.  I didn’t understand it before my dads death.  I thought I understood it- there are 7 stages to it.  I am sure you just work your way through each stage. That is what I thought.  I couldn’t have told you the stages or anything about it.  Grief was sad, I knew that much.  It seemed like some people struggled with grief more than others but I never had taken time to really understand.

I made a counseling appointment within days of my dads death.  I knew I needed it, even though at that time, I had no idea how much.  I remember being shocked when my amazing counselor explained that the stages of grief didn’t happen in a particular order  and it wasn’t like you work through one stage and then you are done with it.  Sometimes you bounce around several times, through several stages, over several months, potentially years.  He said on average, the initial grief lasts 12-18 months.  DO WHAT?  No way!  This was not what I wanted to hear.  You see, I am a tell me what I need to do to overcome this and I will do it kind of girl.  Grief seemed to have no real rules, guidelines, boundaries, OR a step by step guide.  I was discouraged knowing it wasn’t going to be over quick.  That he wasn’t going to hand me an outline that I could neatly work through.

I am so thankful that my counselor explained grief to me.  It allowed me to have grace for myself in the process and not get so hung up “doing it right” or feeling like it wasn’t going as fast as I thought it should.  I tend to place expectations on myself that are fairly high (working on this!) and I know without his guidance, navigating grief would have left me a bigger hot mess.

It has been 4 years and there is still grief.  I still experience all the stages at times.  I honestly don’t know if it will ever go away completely,  it is a major loss.  But grief today looks so different compared to grief the first year.  At first, I was a roller coaster of emotions and EVERYTHING reminded me of my dad.  I worked hard to get past the initial PTSD responses I had.  We found my dad, the day was very traumatic.  It left a lot to work through.  Once I was past that, every time we ate a food he liked, drove past a place he enjoyed, or really anything- I would either cry devastating tears that my dad wasn’t here to experience it or I would laugh and smile recounting the memories we shared.  It was  fairly constant up and down emotion.  When I say EVERYTHING reminded me of him, I  mean it.

Suicide probably complicates grief a little because there are so many what if’s.  The what if’s are so difficult and it took me a long time to let it go. I put in lots of work, trusting my counselor in the process and now the what if’s don’t consume me.  They creep up from time to time, but I remind myself of truth and move on.

4 years later….. I still think about my dad and wish he was still here so there would be a chance our complex, not traditional father/daughter relationship, could have a opportunity to heal.  I think about my dad often and usually I process the emotions that come, and go on. I still get sad he never met our 5th baby or that he is missing out on so many amazing things my kids are doing.  I can’t go eat BBQ or catfish without thinking about how much he would be enjoying it right now.  We think about good times and good memories- like the way he ate 1/2 a peanut butter sandwich with a glass of OJ every morning, like clock work, and never missed his Irish Breakfast hot tea. The library is such a fond memory too, because as long as he could get there, he went daily.  He loved to read and remembering him reading to my kids is the best.

But sometimes, I am overwhelmed by a rush of grief over his death, that takes me by surprise, leaves me breathless, with a face dripping wet in tears.  Sometimes the what if’s flood my mind and cause me to be angry.  There are times that I just don’t understand and none of it seems real.  At times, I have found myself smack dab in the middle of grief, 4 years later.

“Don’t worry, it gets easier with time.”  This is something people say to comfort others.  I often wonder if those people have experienced grief.  I guess maybe easier is an ok way to say it, but I just think it gets different.  I am never going to not be sad my dad died.  Honestly, that is just a weird thought.  I think saying it gets easier potentially puts expectations on grief.  Loosing someone you love is never easy.  Time doesn’t make it easy.  Time has made it different.  Grief over my dad will probably always be here, but I am thankful there is peace.  I am thankful I have healed so much.  And I am thankful there is grace- even when the grief creeps in and I am crying crocodile tears.

If you are struggling with grief and haven’t seen a counselor, I highly recommend it.  Give yourself grace, but also allow yourself to process and heal.  It is truly a process and I for one, haven’t given it an end date.  Grief hasn’t kept me stuck, but I have accepted that it hasn’t fully left and maybe it never will.

{I am not a counselor or professional.  These are my opinions, thoughts, and experiences that I am sharing simply to encourage others.}

For more on this topic see these posts:

My Truths about Suicide & Depression

Suicide Still Hurts

When God Fulfills His Promises





Family, Uncategorized

Valentin Imperial Maya- Trip Review

DSC_0678ccWe just celebrated our 15th anniversary last week!  We knew we wanted to get away to celebrate and started looking and planning.  We debated so many places but we remembered how amazing our trip to the Valentin was 3 years ago and in the end, the thought of relaxing and being spoiled by the amazing staff won!

I enjoy real life reviews of people who weren’t paid to write them, so I decided I would take a little time to tell you about our trip!

First of all, we always book with Cheap Caribbean.  We have booked 3 trips with them and have had a fabulous experience each time! We use them to book the resort, airfare, & our transportation to and from the airport.  It has been a seamless process each time.

We book the cheapest room.  I have to say- the cheap rooms are incredible.  I feel like I am being spoiled big time.  The room is comfortable, plenty big, and includes so many amenities.  The other room options may be better for your needs or desires, but we loved ours.  We were in building 5 which is close to the main pool, one of the restaurants, and beach access.  It is a decent walk to the main lobby, entertaining area, spa, and other restaurants, but we spend most of our time on the beach so we don’t mind to walk to the main area once a day.

IMG_5186The beach is huge.  It goes on and on.  One side of the beach is clear and the other side does have a more rocky area.  However, if you love to get in the water, there is plenty of clear space to get out and swim.  One morning we went out the beach at sunrise and loved sitting on the rocky area, watching the waves hit the rocks!  So beautiful!  During the day, we parked under our favorite beach hut with the perfect view of the water!  IMG_5190

There are lots of huts that are free for the taking.  We usually got there between 9-10 and never had any issue getting our spot daily.  If you would rather have a reserved spot daily they have choices for you too!  You can pay extra to reserve a bigger cabana, that has bed style lounger.  They have these available at the pool too.  We were perfectly happy with our spot so we didn’t do this.  (Side note, the morning I took this picture we had gotten to the beach at 8am, but by 10 there are a lot more people out and fewer free cabanas)IMG_5187

**Tip: Take an insulated cup and have them put your drinks in it.  The ice melts in minutes otherwise.  We found this to be really wonderful, especially on the beach!

IMG_4794I know seaweed is a problem for a lot of the resorts.  Unfortunately, there is no way to keep the seaweed from coming.  The staff at the Valentin work so hard to keep the beach clean and free from seaweed.  They are out there all the time working to make sure it is cleaned up the best they can.  IMG_5188

The grounds of this place are immaculate!  Every walk way, building exterior, and pool side are all so well kept and beautiful!  I was in awe of how well it is landscaped and maintained.  It felt like we were walking in paradise everywhere we went!

IMG_5189Lets talk about food.  This is all inclusive so all of your meals are included.  There are several options.  2 breakfast restaurants that are buffet style.  We loved the omelet station and wide variety each day.  It is easy to overeat when the buffet is full of great food!  They have coffee, tea, and a variety of juices too! I love fruit and the selection was always exceptional.  At lunch there are several options as well.  There are 2 buffet options as well as a pool side option.  We chose to eat the buffet all but one day.  We grabbed a burger and ice cream cone by the pool the other!  My husbands favorite thing at lunch are the made to order fajita’s.  He can’t get enough! Each day there is a lunch theme but they always have a good variety so there is something for everyone.

At dinner there are 6 restaurants (7 if you count the one that isn’t included in the all inclusive package).  These aren’t the official names but rather the type: French, Italian, Asian, Mexican, Steak/Seafood, and Indonesian.  We were able to eat at 5 of the 6 this trip, everything but the Mexican.  We had a great dinning experience at all of them.  We had never eaten Indonesian food and it was different, but we found things we liked.  There is also a Hibachi grill inside the Asian restaurant which is included but you have to make a reservation.  The reservations are highly sought out so if you want to go, you need to start trying to make a reservation the first day because you may not get it! I could write a lot about the food, but I think the important thing is, we like it!  Everyone has their own expectations, likes/dislikes, but for us, the food is wonderful! OH- and room service is included, 24 hours a day, so that is always an option too!  (There is a dress code for the restaurants and they do enforce it, so please read the dress code on their website and pack according)

IMG_4764Next I want to discuss service.  From the moment you get to the resort you get incredible service!  They always say “welcome home” and want you to feel comfortable.  They take your bags, greet you with champagne and a cool, refreshing, infused towel.  Everyone from checkin to the waitstaff,  entertainment staff, and everyone in between- are friendly and ready to make your experience fabulous!  We always find our favorites each time we go.  We love hearing their life stories and how they got to where they are now.  The staff at the Valentin are certainly are perk to staying there!

IMG_5191If you have looked at this resort, you know they have amazing pools.  This trip, we didn’t get in the pool one time (I know, right?).  Normally we bounce from the beach to the pool but this trip we really wanted to hang out at the beach and relax.  Relaxation was our goal and we found that on the beach.  The pools are all gorgeous and seems like everyone finds their favorite spot.  DSC_0609cc

Every day we received a newsletter type thing with all the daily need to knows. Each day there was a restaurant that was closed, list of daily activities, and the nightly entertainment.  My husband played beach volleyball one day but other than that, we skipped the day time fun.  Our lives are very full and we go all the time.  We had decided to make this trip nothing but relaxing time.  At night, there is always live music of some kind and a DJ after the live music, as well as a show.  The band is always great and we watched 2 shows while we were there.  Both were entertaining!  There is always something to do if you want to do something!

DSC_0656ccThere are so many extra services offered that are not included, like the spa, resort photographer, privilege club, bottles of wine, and more.  We didn’t take advantage of any of these, but I did debate a beach massage and wish I would have done it!  I brought my camera and found some places to rest it and used my timer to get a few pictures of us.  It was challenging to get much variety in poses between limited places to set my camera and the wind at the beach, but we did get a few.  I priced the resort photographer after attempting pictures and not feeling great about it, but in the end, it was more than we wanted to spend for so few of photos.  I will say, their portfolio looked really good and I was very tempted.  Next time maybe we will splurge for it!

I really don’t have any complaints but one thing I want to mention is the size of the resort.  I know for some people, the size is concerning.  It is BIG.  We did not see all of the resort either time we were there.  It is easy to get lost at first, but once you figure out where everything is, it is easier.  Most of the restaurants, spa, and entertainment are a good walk away from the beach and main pool.  Honestly this didn’t bother us because we enjoyed our walks and the chance to burn off our calories! ha! Because the resort is so big, it is also easy to find your spot and feel more at home.  We got in our routine and just stuck with it all week. But the size also allows you to experience something different each day if you want!

Our trip to the Valentin Imperial Maya was wonderful!  We wouldn’t hesitate going back again or recommending it to a friend.  I hope this review answered all the questions you might have!



SmithMade Soap Co: Natural Products

There are a few qualities I look for when I am searching for new products for our family.  I love natural, chemical free products, so when this is an option and it is affordable, I lean towards those products.  I also love to support small  businesses whenever I can.  I will also say smell matters to me.  I have an extremely sensitive sense of smell (I think it may be a curse) so it has to smell good to ME!


I stumbled onto SmithMade at our local Farmers Market. They are a local small business and have natural products that smell great- exactly what I look for!  I have tried several of their products.  Today I wanted to share a few of them!


First off are their bar soaps.  The two scents I have are Evening Lavender and Hello Sunshine.  They both smell so good!  My teenage daughter stole the citrus bar because she loved it so much.  I feel like some bar soaps leave my skin feeling dry but I didn’t get that with these.  (bar soaps are $6.95)


Next up, the bath salts.  The Sleepy Citrus smells great!  We love using bath salts at our house and these were a hit!  I put some in my kids bedtime bath- I am not sure it made them sleepy, but it didn’t hurt the cause!  (bath salts are $5.95)


I love sugar scrubs and lavender so I was excited to try SmithMade’s version.  As I expected, it is wonderful!  I have never really used balm and have been a little nervous it would leave me feeling too oily.  Recently my daughter had a really raw patch of skin and we used this balm to soothe it.  It was wonderful! I am now a fan of the skin balm!  (sugar scrub is $4.95 and skin balm is $6.95)


I am fairly picky about lip balm.  Sometimes they leave your lips sticky or the flavor is so strong you taste it.  Sometimes they feel gritty on my lips or too oily.  I was really hesitant to even try these because I really am picky….. But I did like these!  I prefer a mint flavor (which they do have one), but my favorite of the three is honey bliss.  I also noticed they have a fall spice scent that I would like to try too! These leave your lips feeling wonderful! (lip balms are $3.95)


Lastly, I tried their bug spray.  They have several scents but I went with the fresh blend.  Bugs love me and I haven’t found much that seems to work for me.  I would love to say this one was the exception, but for me it didn’t work great.  That being said- not much does!  I will say, this smells so much better than any of your traditional bug spray and I loved that I wasn’t using chemicals.  I think it is worth $5.95 to try and see if it works for you.

I will be shopping with SmithMade again! If you are local to Fort Smith, AR you can find Smith Made at the farmers market in FS on Saturdays.  You can find them online on their Facebook or order from the SmithMade Website



Encouragement, Family, My Story, Uncategorized

Do you struggle well?


“I wish I knew how to struggle well.  I know everyone struggles, but I think there is a better way” a friend said to me one day.  I have thought so much about this and have often wondered why we assume others struggle better than we do.

Almost 4 weeks ago we moved out of our house that we sold and since then we have been staying with friends, while the shop we will be living in is finished (we will live in the shop while the next house is built).  Some people think that what we are doing is crazy, if you are one of those people, you are right! For the last 3 weeks or so of this, we have been waiting on electricity- shop is ready, we just need electricity.  The Electric company told us a timeline, we made our choices based on that timeline, but needless to say, the timeline was way off.

We have 7 people in our family so being displaced for several weeks is no small feat.  I have several suitcases and bags packed with all the things we need regularly.  We brought no toys or activities, just the necessities, and still our van is at max capacity.   It takes us several trips to and from the car each time we go to a new spot.  Normal people don’t have space for 7 extra people, but we have been blessed with friends who shift their families and make room for us.  I can’t even begin to tell you how thankful we are for the friends who have welcomed us and treated us like family.  Made us feel right at home and as if all the extra chaos was no big deal.


It has been tough.  difficult.  trying.  exhausting.  emotional.

We had a timeline.  We were planning 7-10 days, but I had said 2 weeks to be safe.

I decided to write this today because we are still waiting.  I am still in the struggle.  I thought I would blog about our journey staying with friends once we were in the shop, but I decided I was going to write this in the struggle.  You see, it is easy to assume people struggle well when we see them or hear about the struggle AFTER the struggle.  How often do people invite us into the struggle while it is happening?  I know for me, the number of times this has happened is very very few.

So here I am, 4 weeks later.  After countless dates that the electric would be on, today we were given another one.  I want to believe that we will have electricity Wednesday which is when they said they plan to be there now, but I know that it is out of my control and I just don’t know.  Unglued, hot mess, not ok.  This is me, tonight.  I am exhausted from packing up our stuff loading the car, then doing it all again in a few days.  I am frustrated that we are still displaced much longer than we anticipated.   I  have cried a lot.  My kids have seen my mess.  I wish my emotions were all sunshine and rainbows and full of joy and looking on the bright side- but they aren’t.  Each time we are told a new date, further away,  I become a mess.

Maybe to some, this seems completely irrational.  Maybe you are really worrying about me.  Or maybe you are like oh man, I know how it feels to be emotionally and physically drained and unable to handle or process one.more.thing.

I am writing this today, not for sympathy, but in hopes that I can be a little more real.  That maybe me writing this during the struggle will help someone else.  I (we) tend to fear that if people knew how ugly our struggle was, that we would be judged, talked about, or even that people might think we are crazy, but I think the reality is, we all have ugly struggles that most people don’t see.  If we are brave enough to admit we are struggling, we will find that there is support, love, and people who are willing to love us through all the yucky feelings we have.

We live in a culture where it isn’t really acceptable to feel pain or to admit we struggle.  We are suppose to mask it and cover it up and pretend its not there.  But the reality is, we need to face the pain and the reason it is present.  Allow ourselves to feel pain long enough to process it.  Hiding it or pushing it away only causes deeper wounds.

Struggling stinks.  Struggling alone is torture.  So find someone who you trust enough to struggle with.  Then remember, we have all been there, even if we haven’t been brave enough to share it.

Today I am here, in the struggle.  Not on the other side.  Not full of joy.  Not trying to make the best of it.  Right now, I am just here.

But, I won’t stay here.  That is the key.  Figuring out how to not stay stuck in the struggle. There are lots of ways I do this.  Praying, journaling, seeing a counselor, seeking a trusted friend to help me process out loud.   This season of life comes with struggles often, but I try to start each day fresh, with a good perspective.  Sometimes I don’t though.  Sometimes I just struggle.  And guess what, thats ok.