31 Days of Living Local

Reflections on Living Local {31 Days: Day 31}

This very well might be my Christmas card this year.
If you’d like to win a free session with MB Shaw photography, click right over here. 

I wrote this series during what might have just been the most chaotic, grace-filled 31 days of my life.  It’s taken my 31 days to realize how much I love my home and my community and my people.

31 days to realize that I started this series because I thought it would drive traffic to my blog, but in effect it really only drove me to this blog, each and everyday in an effort to make something out of times there was invariably nothing.

31 days to believing that I am a writer and not the host of things I keep pretending to be.

31 days to recognizing that my heart is here, for this community and my backyard and these people who make up my everyday ordinary.

31 days to discovering that the biggest differences I want to make in this world are the smallest occurrences: the hot meal, the baby holding, the laundry washing, the grace-giving.

Because I am learning that in living local, I am making big impacts on a small scale.

You can, too.  If you’re overwhelmed by all the offerings and needs and projects swirling around your world, I encourage you to step back and take some time to just ponder where you are when you feel most passionate.

Ironically, I had to get away to see how much I want to serve just right here.

Living Local can be about more than just supporting small businesses and farm-to-table movements. When you’re truly living local, you’ve found your sweet spot, like Sarah Mae told me last week.

You’re living and serving right where you belong.

A Series by Lindsey P. Brackett

And that sweet button? That was made by my friend Andi.  She gives great hugs, wonderful tutorials, and has her own etsy shop where she makes jewelry and other fun items like amazing all-natural chapstick. Check her out here or here if you’re a home educator.

31 Days of Living Local · joshua

Because They ACE It Everyday {31 Days: Day 30}

I realized after yesterday’s post that people sometimes wonder what he does now. Well, I’ll tell you because it’s pretty amazing.

When Habersham Bank was closed by the FDIC in February 2011 (the weekend Amelia turned one and I turned thirty-one and our life turned upside down), we didn’t know what to expect for his future. He knew and liked banking, so that was the route he pursued for another job, and in early summer he landed, along with many of his colleagues, at Hamilton State Bank.

He really liked it there and was able to take on some projects he really enjoyed, such as working with vendors and suppliers.  I love to hear him tell this story of his favorite day at this job. Hamilton had just acquired another community bank that had been closed by the FDIC and he was helping with the transition and found out that their coffee service had been cancelled when the bank underwent budget cuts trying to survive.  So he called his vendor and had coffee delivered that day. It was one of those ordinary acts that bless others immensely.  All day, he fielded thank you calls from those employees.  He kept saying, “All I did was order them coffee!”

But for us Hamilton was just a bridge between then and now.  In January 2012 he was asked to interview for a position with a small, non-profit loan company in Cleveland. Today he serves as their Chief Financial Officer and works alongside his former boss from Habersham Bank.  He’s come full circle in the most miraculous of ways.

You see, his dream has always been to own his own small business.  In working with ACE, he spends everyday helping others achieve this dream.  ACE is a Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) which means they make it possible for small business owners to develop and grow businesses that support and sustain local communities.

Local communities.

Which means when I get all on my platform about loving our neighbors and ministering to those who are here in our backyard, he looks at me and says, “What do you think I do all day?”

He’s an integral part of running a small business that funds other small businesses that hire employees that put income right back into the hands of those in our community.

This explains it so much better than I could…


I’ve spent thirty days writing about living local.

But today I’m realizing that it’s not just a project or a mission; it’s a choice and a lifestyle that sustains a community into the next generation.

So, that’s what he does now. He helps entrepreneurs build their local communities.

He helps make dreams come true.

31 Days of Living Local

What Does It Really Mean to be Local? {31 Days; Day 29}

Originally printed in the The Northeast Georgian on October 4, 2013. 

Around here (and really everywhere in the South) folks want to know if you’re “local.” Did you grow up here? Are you from here? These are questions I’m frequently asked. Then, when I share, that in fact, I am not born and bred Habersham, the incredulous, “Then how did you get here?” is next.

The short answer is simple.  My husband took a job in 2005 with Habersham Bank.  So we moved from Adairsville, where we’d landed after four years of college in nearby Rome, to here.  I started teaching, we had more babies, and this became home.
But the long answer is so much more.  The complex, not quite so simple answer, is this is where I knew I belonged.  That feeling of contentment among these hills and streams was fostered in my childhood and blossomed into reality as a young adult.
I grew up just a few miles down highway 17 in Elberton, but my childhood is filled with memories of these mountains.  We camped at Andrew’s Cove and hiked Brasstown Bald and my father and grandfather had a secret camping spot called “The Walnut Tree” that women and girls were admitted to by invitation only.  I spent summers in the valley between Helen and Hiawassee and tubed the Chattahoochee in an old tractor tire that was better than any pink plastic tube. 
Later as a college student, I served two summers with Georgia Mountain ResortMinistries in Helen and worked part-time at Unicoi State Park.  My paying job was to lead hikes and make crafts and welcome campers.  But it was so much more than that; my job was to make this local attraction feel like home to anyone. My job was to help others see the majesty in these mountains and trails and waterfalls.  My job was to live like a local and love this place like it was my home.
So when I came back with my own family, I easily felt I belonged among these landmarks and in this location. But it’s taken me a little while to own that word for myself. 
Lately, I’ve been exploring the idea of what it means to “live local” in anticipation of a series I’m writing on my blog this fall.  What does that really mean after all? Is being local more than just putting my money where my mouth is? Is it more than just enjoying the parks and playgrounds and libraries that are perks of my local tax dollars? I think so.  I think when I choose to live local, it means I’m embracing where I live and proudly calling it home. 
So when people ask me if I’m local, I guess the true answer is yes.  My heart has always been most at home here among the history and geography of a place that is not my birthright.  Perhaps that’s because this is the home that’s chosen me.  

Join me tomorrow for an honest reflection on what I’ve learned this month about embracing my local and making a difference in this place, for such a time as this. 

Did you enter the photography giveaway? Click here to read about the incredible local photographer who blesses my family and enter to win a Spring Session!

For all my posts in this 31 Days series on Living Local click here.

31 Days of Living Local · giveaways

Because She Sees Me: An MB Shaw Photography Givewaway! {31 Days: Day 28}

So this past weekend, I went to Allume.

It was incredible.  So much so, that I can’t put it all into words right now. But while I was there one phrase I heard from Sarah Markley kept resonating in my mind.

And I knew I had to tell you why.  She was talking about a writer’s voice and how we are all distinct and unique.  She used photography as a metaphor to demonstrate this, and she talked about a photographer friend of hers who took her headshots and she said she loved those pictures because she felt like this woman really saw her.

That’s how I feel about my friend Merideth.  She sees me.

She’s been at my house when there’s piles of laundry and shoes and dishes.  We’ve shrugged our shoulders at one another in the parking lot when we unload our three year old daughters and acknowledge that both of them got the better of us in the wardrobe department that morning.  I’ve sat and cried on her more this fall than anyone else and she’s built me up and torn me down in the most humbling and beautiful way because she’s told me the hard things I need to hear and acknowledge.

You’re doing too much.

It’s okay to admit that you can’t do something for someone else because you have to take care of your children.

You’re a mama, that has to come first.

It’s lonely at the top and leadership is hard, but God is standing with you and so am I. 

It’s a privilege to have her photograph my family. (Even when we’re in a hurry to get to fall festival and no one is cooperating and all I want is one shot for the Christmas cards that likely will be January cards because I think that’s how we’re rolling this year.) 

I tried to pay it forward this past weekend by participating in an Impact Opportunity at Allume. Help Portrait is a group that does professional portraits for those who may never have had the opportunity to have a really good picture of themselves taken.  So on Saturday afternoon, I colored and folded origami with fifteen girls from an at-risk center in Greenville.  When we weren’t getting crafty, Paul Mitchell salon artists were fixing their hair and brushing on just a bit of makeup so these girls would feel glamorous when their portraits were taken. 

They were gorgeous and so excited because someone had taken the time to see them.

This is the beauty of using a local lifestyle photographer to capture your family’s milestones: it can be someone who sees you because they have the time to get to know you.  A lot of people shy away from really good photography because it is more expensive than the static Olan Mills Studio, but it’s more than worth the cost to have pictures that tell your story.

So this week Merideth and I are partnering up to help capture someone’s milestone. She’s giving away a spring portrait session, and I’m raising that with an offer to help the winner tell their story through words.

Because another thing I learned this weekend is that everyone has a story for this moment, this place, this time.

And everyone’s story is worth capturing.

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You can enter everyday, so come back tomorrow!

For all my posts in this 31 Days series on Living Local click here.