After enjoying a 9-day honeymoon, it was back to the real world and life in our 1st apartment.
This was my first kitchen as a married woman (our entire apartment was 414 sq feet!). We had to be very creative in our use of space!
5 months after we married, I graduated with a Master of Arts in Missiology (a fancy word that means the study of missions) and began a full-time job on campus in the Professional Doctoral Office. I was now the main bread winner while my hubby continued to study and work part-time as a Chaplain.
Our 1st summer as the Mr. & Mrs., we were blessed to be invited to two different GA (Girls in Action) camps to serve. The first was in FL at Camp WorldLight where I served on staff for 8 summers. It was so much fun to return as a missionary - and with my husband!
And then we took our first flight as a married couple to Maryland where we served for a week at their GA Camp at Camp Wo-Me-To. It was very special to me to be at this camp, too, because I attended GA Camp there as a child. I never dreamed I'd one day come back with my husband to serve as a missionary and he as the camp pastor! I love how God works!
Probably one of the toughest parts of our first year was when we were forced to evacuate New Orleans because of Hurricane Gustav. It came right around the same time as Katrina, only 3 years later. We both went through Katrina and thought we'd dealt with all of our emotions from that difficult time. There's nothing like walking through a little deja-vu to stir up unknown emotions that were buried down deep. We spent 9 days away from the city and tried to make the most of it, but several times we caught ourselves glued to the t.v. (just like we were 3 years earlier) wondering what would come of our 1st home together and our school. Thankfully, we were able to return and resume life as "normal."
And then there was our wonderful Thanksgiving surprise! The Monday before Thanksgiving, I took a pregnancy test and found out we were going to be parents! Here's the first picture of our Baby Bean Bramlett (as we called him in the early days). We had no clue then how much this Bean would impact our lives in the years to come!
We ended our first year of marital bliss (mostly) with a trip to New York City. To clarify, we were already in Maryland visiting my family for Christmas, so we drove 4 hours from their house to NYC and spent a few days and nights there. Besides walking miles and miles while enjoying lots of morning sickness (who coined that term anyway? I've talked to very few women who were actually only sick in the mornings. For me it was an all day thing.), we had a blast! :) Daniel was like a kid in a candy store the whole time. He loved NYC, and one day we hope to go back to enjoy it some more (without the morning sickness part!).
Here we are in Central Park - one of his favorite places in the city.
In March, we found out our Bean was a BOY! We both cried when they told us. Because we had previously decided on names, we were able to immediately begin calling him Riley Whitlow Bramlett. (and one day he'll probably kill me for posting this picture!)
July 20, 2009 at 4:13 pm, this little guy graced us with his 6 lb 1 oz presence! And what were the first words I heard from the nurse? "Look at those hands and feet! They're huge!"
In September we were able to stand before our church and commit to raise Riley in the ways of the Lord. Here we are with our sweet pastor, and great friend, Chad Gilbert. The fact that he was the one to lead us in our family dedication will always be very special.
Family photo taken by a wonderful friend, and co-worker, Diana Bondurant. She was just beginning her photography career at this point, and she took some amazing photos for us. I sure wish Alabama and Texas were closer so we could have some more done! You should check her out here.
And in November, at the age of 4 months, Riley went on his first plane ride to visit family in Maryland for Thanksgiving. He was an excellent little traveler! You can read the whole story here.
Meeting and playing with his cousin, CJ, who is 6 months older.
In November I also quit my job to be able to stay home full-time and care for Riley. We felt very convicted this is what we needed to do, but on paper it didn't make any sense financially. This was probably the first time in our marriage when we took a HUGE leap of faith, trusting the Lord to be our complete provider.
Because I was no longer working and Daniel was out of school for over a month at Christmas, we decided to go on a long road trip. We thought, when will we ever be able to do this again?! So, we took advantage of the time and traveled over 3500 miles in 26 days and drove in and out of 9 states. Our 5-month-old was a TROOPER! He rolled with the punches pretty well, and we had a blast!
Our first stop was Hope, AR where we celebrated Christmas with Daniel's dad's side of the family.
We then headed to Clarksville, TN to Ya Ya's house.
Some good friends from seminary had moved to the Nashville area, so after leaving Ya Ya's, we stopped by the Ho's for a short visit.
And then our most spontaneous stop was in Kansas City, MO. We had not planned on driving there, but realized it was just an 8-hour drive from Clarksville to Kansas City where some our best friends, The Branscum's, live. We invaded their house (literally called them the day before we came) for about 5 days and had so much fun! Their daughter, Hannah, is just 5 months older than Riley.
(fyi, this picture was taken at about 7 am, and it's the only group shot we got together)
It was also while we were in Kansas City that we found out a church in a little town named Hughes Springs, TX was interested in hearing Daniel preach (and possibly asking him to come in view of a call). We had no clue then how that one phone call would change our lives!
We went from Kansas City down to Conway, AR where we spent one night (our 2nd anniversary, in fact), with Daniel's brother, Joel. We then made our final stop in El Dorado, AR where we visited some of Daniel's best friends (who have also become some of my good friends, too!) from college, the Day's. At the time, they had 2 boys...that number has since doubled. :)
We began the year by traveling to Texas so Daniel could preach in view-of-a-call at First Baptist Church Hughes Springs, TX.
The church voted "yes" for Daniel to be their new pastor, so we headed back to New Orleans to pack up our apartment. I think my favorite part about this entire process was that we both knew early on that H.S. is where God was leading us. It didn't make any sense to me, but I was very excited about moving to a small town...I'm a city girl through and through. That's how I knew this was the Lord's plan and not ours! I always wondered what it would be like to make a major, life-changing decision with a mate. I found that when the Lord's in charge, it's all about His peace and our obedience.
Before moving, though, we cheered on the Saints to their 1st Super Bowl win! (I couldn't find a shirt in Riley's size, so I just laid mine on top of him)
The day after the Super Bowl win, we loaded up the U-haul and headed for Hughes Springs.
10 hours later (due to a 3-vehicle caravan and a 6-month-old baby), we arrived at our new home. This sweet welcome sign and about 25 church members awaited us. The truck was unloaded in less than an hour!
And 4 days later, we enjoyed our first Northeast Texas snow! Everyone told us, "Don't get used to it! It never snows in Northeast Texas!" Well, it's snowed the last 3 out of 4 winters we've been here!
In April we went to our first Wildflower Trails parade. If you've never been to a parade in a small town in NE TX, you really should! It's fun how the whole town shows up!
Daniel's uncle and cousin (first row on the left) came to visit from Singapore, so we had a little family reunion in Arkadelphia, AR. That was Riley's first time to meet his 2nd-cousin, Hannah, and he immediately fell in love with her. They're still good buddies even though she lives thousands of miles away!
In June Daniel and I were able to go to the T-Bone Walker Blues Fest in Linden, TX, and we just happened to sit with T-Bone's daughter and niece in the hospitality tent! Fun stuff!
It was the summer of reunions. In July we met up with most of Daniel's very close college friends in Mt. Pleasant, TX for a crazy get-together! 8 children 4 and under = never a dull moment!
And then later that month, our little man turned ONE!
2 months later, Daddy turned 30 and the church threw him a big party. Isn't this cake awesome?!
This was an unfortunate moment in our marriage. One night at dinner we discussed who (meaning a professional hair stylist - not mama or daddy) we wanted to give Riley his first haircut. We came to a conclusion and moved on. About 15 minutes later as I was cleaning up the kitchen, Daddy took it upon himself to do this...
Dennis Jernigan is one of our favorite worship leaders. Soon after we moved to H.S., Daniel talked with our music minister, Lee (front row on right), about trying to get D.J. to come. About 6 months later, here he was in our church with his wonderful wife, Melinda! What a wonderful 2 days of worship we enjoyed with the Jernigan's!
In late September, Daniel and I were given the privelege of taking 5 of our senior adult ladies to a conference in Glorieta, New Mexico. We had a blast and laughed A LOT!
And we ended 2010 by enjoying our Christmas tree with a toddler (hence the elevated tree!)
The year began with SNOW! Riley's first time to walk in/play in the snow! Isn't he an adorable, bundled-up, unmatching, boy?!
This was another interesting moment in our marriage. Daniel insisted on sand blasting his car in the garage. I said, "But won't that get sand everywhere?!" His response: "Oh no! It'll just fall straight to the ground and I'll sweep it up. There really shouldn't be that much, anyway."
And then the very next day, I discovered this! To say we were shocked is an understatement!
At the end of April we headed out on a road trip to the mountains of North Carolina where we met my parents for a week-long vacation. What a wonderful week (minus
Our first glimpse at Baby Bean Bramlett #2!
In June our church sent out their first international mission team! These eight (minus daniel and riley) went to Peru for a week. For all but one, it was their first time out of the country on a mission trip! So exciting!
In July we attempted to find out if BBB#2 was a boy or girl. However, he/she would not cooperate (it all makes sense, now! lol!), so we had to wait a couple more months before finding out blue or pink.
Big boy turned 2 on July 20! Just a couple of days before I left for...
South Africa and Swaziland! I was super excited to be able to go on a mission trip with some great friends from Florida. I hadn't been back to South Africa since living there in 2003 and 2004. (You're looking at the African coast in this pic)
After a chat with Mama (because she still didn't want to cooperate during the ultrasound), the tech finally confirmed (95% sure) it was a girl. Honestly, I didn't believe it fully until the Dr. said on Nov. 26, "It's a girl!"
In late September these 4 headed out for our church's 2nd trip to Peru. It was Daniel's first time, and he completely fell in love with the country and people!
My creative hubby decided we should be the Bramlett Bakery for Halloween '11. He was the chef, I was an oven with a bun in it and Riley was a loaf of bread. :)
2 weeks before Ella was born, we went to a camp close by called Sky Ranch for our last family of 3 getaway. We had so much fun, and Riley still talks about the cabin we stayed in.
These sweet ladies from our church were the hostesses for my beautiful shower. Love them all, and we received so many amazing gifts!
And once again, it all makes sense now, but little miss independent/I have a plan of my own, decided she wanted to arrive 2 weeks early. :) The Saturday after Thanksgiving, I was minding my own business, decorating for Christmas when my water broke. About 8 eight hours and a c-section later, Elizabeth (Ella) Grace Bramlett was here!
Less than a month later, her daddy had the privilege of dedicating our sweet girl to the Lord. What a special moment!
(If you're still reading at this point, you're most likely a family member...I warned you it was a long post!) :)
We celebrated our 4th anniversary with a yummy dinner at 5D Steakhouse and a movie (one of the Mission Impossible's, I think - I was still in the delirious stage of having an infant)
In February I got to go with Daniel to Hurst, TX (in between Dallas & Ft. Worth) as he helped lead a Chronological Bible Storying conference at North Pointe Baptist Church. I love getting to watch my man teach the Word!
Our big boy went for his first weekend visit to Ya Ya's house in Little Rock. He was SO excited! Mama and Daddy were the ones having a hard time saying goodbye!
In March we took a mini vacation to Hope, AR. We didn't want to spend much money, but just needed a family getaway. It turned out to be pretty rough with kiddos who didn't sleep well and a mama with a stomach bug. We did enjoy a morning at Old Washington National Park, though. Behind us is the building where we had our wedding reception in 2008.
In late April, Daniel headed out for Peru again. My parents came to help out for the week, and what a help they were! I'm not sure I could have done it on my own with a 2-year-old and 5-month-old!
And in May Daniel had the honor of performing the wedding ceremony for these two awesome people! We met with them 5 or 6 times for premarital counseling and just grew to love them both so much. I know God has big plans for the Carrington's! Love you, Cara and Kevin!
Uncle Alan, Aunt Lynda & Hannah came for another visit from Singapore! Riley was in heaven, and we were excited to introduce them to baby girl!
The Annual Meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention was in New Orleans in June, so we loaded up and headed to our old stomping ground for a week of good food, good friends and lots of meetings (for Daniel!).
The Moore clan (Daniel's mom's side) had a 4th of July reunion and everyone was supposed to design their own shirts for a contest. We enlisted a wonderful lady in our church to make ours (think embroidered!), and found out when we got there that we may have taken the contest a little too seriously. lol!
Somebody turned 3 and had a train cake to help him celebrate! You think he was excited to dig in?!
In August this sweet friend from seminary, Leah, came to visit and share with our church about her mission work in Peru (she's a career missionary). Riley fell in love with her and was devastated when she had to leave.
Speaking of Peru, Daniel headed back in September, so the kids and I went up to Little Rock for the week.
And finally, in November, Daniel and I were able to go on our first mission trip together! We went to Peru for our church's final trip of the year. What an incredible experience to share with my other half! I look forward to the next time we'll get to go together!
It came all too quickly, but on November 26, this precious girl turned 1.
And thankfully, my parents were able to be here for Thanksgiving and her birthday! LOTS of fun memories made in the 2 weeks they were here!
And our 5th year of marriage ended in a beautiful way...with a white Christmas! On Christmas day we were able to watch the most beautiful flakes fall from the sky and fill the land all around us. Thank you, Lord!
There are SO many stories and memories I could share from our first 5 years, but hopefully the ones I chose gave you a glimpse of just how GOOD our God is! None of what we've been able to do or accomplish has been because of who we are. It's ALL because of Who HE is! He is gracious enough to allow us to serve Him, and He has BLESSED us beyond anything we could ever come close to deserving. Today I was thinking about the future of our family, and all I could do was smile. You know why? Because I know WHO is in control of the Bramlett's, and I know that His plan is perfect and so much better than anything we could ever dream or imagine! I can't wait to see what the next 5 years hold!