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We're Coming Home

July 31, 2018

More than ten years ago, Bryan asked me to be his wife. To say it was a dream come true would be an understatement. Before we’d even gone on our first date, I was practicing my first name with his last. :) He was handsome and funny and such a leader. I think that’s what I loved most about him… he led. See, I’m a little type-a (ahem, nice to meet you, I make planners for a living)… and to find someone who will confidently and gracefully lead a “type-a’er” like me… is, well, amazing. So when he suggested we live in Tampa (he was currently living in Tampa, we dated long distance for a while) when we got married, I was excited and ready for the adventure. We both knew we’d move home to Pensacola before we had children.

Ten years, two houses, and three kids later, here we are. Leaving Tampa to move home to Pensacola. But trusting this husband of mine who knew, before I did, what I needed... was one of the best decisions I've ever made. My time in Tampa started a bit rocky. I was so homesick it was palpable. My family is very, very close and I missed them with all of me. But little by little, Bryan and I became a family. And, even though I fought it at first, I grew to love Tampa. We learned to be a family all our own... and we learned to depend on each other. We started a business together. We created a home together. We found our community. But it wasn't easy at first.

In my book, Grace, Not Perfection, I talk a lot about community in the last third of the content. Much of those thoughts and feelings came from living in a city that wasn’t home. It wasn’t my city. I wasn’t raised here. My lifelong friends weren’t here. I didn’t have memories here. Having children and starting my own family, creating my own traditions, and making my own friends and memories… changed everything. We began to find “our spots,” “our people,” and “our community.” We found a wonderful church. We made friends who I refused to say goodbye to because they’ve all promised to come visit us in Pensacola like… next week (you hear that, guys!?). ;) 

I like to compare the timing of much of our lives with the decision to separate my twins into different rooms at home. I was convinced I’d have them share a room as long as humanly possible. But one day, I woke up, and just knew it was time to give them their own spaces. Moving home to Pensacola was always the plan for us, but we knew that we’d have to wait until the time was right. And one day, after a trip home to Pensacola, we just knew… the time was right. It’s like that gut-feeling, ya-just-know, Holy-Spirit-speaking-to-you kind of thing. 

I thought I’d be elated to leave Tampa behind, but I’m a big ball of feelings spanning every inch of the emotional spectrum today. We’re so excited for our new adventure in our hometown — raising our children around loads of family. We’ve been building our forever home for a while now and, though we’ll be renting (the cutest two bedroom beach house) for a bit while construction is completed, we have so much hopeful anticipation for our new lives there with so much family just miles away. I’m also so very sad. Real, true-blue friends are so hard to come by. But I also know that those special friendships stand the test of time and distance. 

Tonight, the biggest blessing came to us. The family purchasing our home came to visit -- with fresh baked goodies, the cutest pineapple hand towel, and pool floats for our two month "beach adventure." I may have been all teary eyed talking to the sweet mom who'd be raising her children in this home. It's clear our paths crossed over this home for a reason. Talking to her, I realized all the pieces were falling into place. My office will become a dining room and I'm so excited about that for them. I always thought this space would be beautiful utilized in that way.

Now, after tucking my kids in bed for the last time in this place, I realize that I'm grieving this space a bit. I will miss it so much. We have so many special memories here. But I'm so excited to know it will be well loved once we leave. And I know we have so much excitement on the horizon realizing a dream we've had for ten years in Pensacola.

So... see ya later home we built a family in. See ya later favorite pediatrician (who single handedly got us through “the early years” with so much patience). See ya later favorite grocery store and neighborhood coffee shop and perfectly shaded park just two minutes away. See ya later beautiful neighborhood. See ya later office that held so much growth and so many memories. See ya later great big city skyline. See ya later best airport in the USA. See ya later favorite preschool and elementary school. See ya later best friends of both the grown up and little people kind. See ya later Chipotle, Whole Foods, and Trader Joes 😩😂.

These adorable hats are from Aviate.

I’ve learned over the past few months that home is truly where the heart is. And sometimes, that’s in multiple spots on the map. We are so grateful to have had ten amazing, trying, growth-filled, fun years in Tampa. And we are so excited to be headed back to a city that has grown infinitely since 2008. It’s grown with new people and new buildings, but mostly Pensacola has grown in spirit — while still maintaining that small-town, Southern culture. We are so excited to be back in the city that never let go of our hearts. And we are SO excited to be surrounded by so much family. We can't wait to be Pensacolians once again!!

--

Favorite Tampa recommendations:

Amazing pediatrician's office

Wonderful functional medicine doc

Incredible church

Favorite Starbucks

Best trainer around

Favorite dinner spots (takeout, date night, brunch spot)

Great small wine bar

Favorite nail salon

Favorite hair stylists (Whitney, Lauren, and Cortney)

Favorite local photographers: Laura Foote and Tiffany Mcclure

 

* Thank you, Tiffany, for these incredible, priceless photos of our family!!!

 

Pensacola Strong Fundraiser Update

May 03, 2014

This incredible fundraiser has turned into something so much larger than I expected. And I am so grateful. Thank you for blessing these Pensacola families while they rebuild and recover from the terrible floods that ravaged the city on April 29, 2014. Pensacola is near and dear to my heart as my entire family lives there (they are all safe, thank goodness).

You can read the launch post for this fundraiser here for background, more details and photos of the devastating damage. In short, my family and I huddled together in my parent’s master closet in 2004 while a tornado took half the roof and ceiling off of our home. The next morning, we walked into my brothers room and saw four walls… and sky. What was left of the roof and ceiling had collapsed onto my brother’s bed and broken it in half. It was the first time I saw my Dad cry (many of you know him as Pop Pop). Hurricane Ivan was the worst thing that’d ever happen to that sweet city, until April 29, 2014. I’ve heard this storm was much worse. Though I’m 500 miles away in Tampa now, I can only imagine what the city is going through as it rebuilds – the broken hearts, the broken houses and the lost memories and treasures that floated away with 26″ of water (that fell in 24 short hours).

Over the past few days, I’ve heard story after story of families – many with children – who hid in plant ledges 12 feet above the ground the escape the rising water. Many were rescued by boats (on second and third attempts after boats capsized in the rushing waters). Many lost everything. I earned a Masters Degree in nonprofit management and have always had a burning little fire to SEE A NEED and MEET IT DIRECTLY rather than give to larger nonprofit organizations (even though those do a WEALTH of good as well). It’s just so incredible to be able to pool money together from generous and loving individuals and put 100% of it in the hands of someone who is desperately in need of it. You all have done exactly that the past 24 hours. There are two special ways to give:

Since yesterday afternoon, we’ve raised over $2,000 through our Pensacola Strong and You Are My Sunshine printable art print sales (with your gift of $10 a print-ready file will be instantly emailed to you to print at home, cut on the crop lines included and frame in an 8×10 frame). That money has been split into $200 increments and will be gifted to families in Pensacola in the form of American Express gift cards to be used for necessities as they rebuild.

EL_Strong-02

Equally as incredible is the amount of support for our newly established Pensacola Blessings Fund. Many of you asked how you could donate specifically to bless individuals who are hurting – to bring a bit of joy to their lives in this difficult time. So late last night we started this fund. It’s very simple – you give any amount you can and we pool it together to purchase bedtime books for children, new shoes for moms and dads clearing homes of waterlogged furniture, hot meals for neighbors giving their time to help tear down damaged walls and even favorite toy replacements (like as our first blessing – the Saige American Girl Doll we purchased last night for a little girl who lost her home and her favorite doll — the way this came about was incredible. I posted on our FB page looking for any AG doll for this sweet girl… within 45 minutes we had enough money to buy a brand new replacement doll plus 3 additional AG dolls, AG doll clothes and handmade personalized birthday crowns for this sweet girl AND her doll).

Your monetary donations go a long way in helping us deliver these little blessings. If you are interested in donating goods or other items, here are a few immediate needs. Please email me directly if you’d like to send any of these goods or can even donate gift certificates to places where we can purchase these directly once we know sizes, etc. I will collect them and deliver these little happies to the families:

  • NEW SHOES: A sweet family who is in need of new shoes – a family of four, Mom, Dad, little girl, little boy
  • ACCESSORIES: A little girl who is 13 and lost her home and loves jewelry and accessories (headbands, necklaces, bracelets, etc).
  • NEW BOXES OF LEGOS: A little boy who is 7 who LOVES legos (this will be part of our second blessing – we’ll be purchasing a few today).

Please note as much as we would love to accept other physical donations (clothes, shoes, toys, etc) these families have no homes or storage. Many are staying with friends or family and have little space just for the necessities. I realize accessories and legos aren’t necessarily necessities but imagine the little bit of joy they’ll bring to these difficult days for these sweet families. Sometimes a little bit of happiness is great medicine for an aching heart. Many thanks, friends. From the bottom of my hearts. Together we can make such a difference. Even though we are all over the world, we each know the love and connection we have to that place that just feels like home. Thank you for helping me support mine.

xo,

Emily

 

 

 

 

 

Pensacola Strong

May 02, 2014

UPDATE: Many of you have asked if you can simply donate toward the purchase of these gift cards and other incidentals that we might be able to bless people with. All proceeds from the prints will go toward gift cards for families who are rebuilding. All funds raised through this donations link will go towards specific blessing opportunities that might arise – for instance, we just learned of a little girl who lost her home… and her sweet American Girl doll… we’re trying to raise enough money to purchase her doll for her. I’ll keep this updated with other blessings we’re able to do. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. xo, Emily // DONATE HERE to our blessing fund




I stayed awake until 2am on April 29. My dad was driving home in what was perhaps the worst storm Pensacola has ever seen. I couldn’t even close my eyes until I knew he’d made it through the water. He told me last night that he had water coming into the doors of his truck.  I’m from that sweet town – born and raised. And I cry every so often because I want to move home so badly. I love that city. When Hurricane Ivan devastated our town back in 2004, I saw neighbors come together, churches open their doors and friends made under broken power lines. It was incredible. And Pensacola is doing the same thing right now. The photos are horrendous. My family is safe, thank God. But many of our friends lost homes, furniture, clothes, photos, memories. Everything. God planted a wildly growing seed in my heart back when I earned my master’s degree in nonprofit management to SEE A NEED and MEET IT.

So here we are. I’ve designed two printable art prints – one reading PENSACOLA STRONG and one reading, appropriately, YOU ARE MY SUNSHINE. They are each $10 and will be delivered to you as an instant download to print, cut (crop marks are included) and frame at home. Even if you don’t need the print – the purchase would make a huge difference for someone. PURCHASE YOURS HERE AND SUPPORT FAMILIES IN PENSACOLA.

Every penny will be used to purchase gift cards to send up to Pensacola to families in need. Please share and consider helping. Below are photos of my sweet hometown.

xo,

Emily

images from PNJ.com

 

copyright 2018 emily ley