13 Going on 30 Surprise Party

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My beautiful friend Courtnie turned 30 recently, and I had the honor of helping plan her surprise birthday party! Her husband Andy planned the event and invited a bunch of us via Facebook, and when I reached out to him to see if he needed any help, he immediately took me up on my offer. I asked what he had planned, and his response was, “Umm I was thinking like cake, maybe some balloons and a happy birthday sign?”I chuckled to myself. Oh, I can do better than that. I probably should have warned Andy – when I plan a party? I don’t just do cake. I needed a theme, and 13 Going on 30 was absolutely perfect. And Courtnie is the very definition of 30, flirty, and thriving! :)

Easily my favorite decorations from the party. I made faux Sparkle and Poise magazine covers as a nod to the movie and printed them off to put in the frames.

Once I decided on the theme, the decorating was easy. I opted for a “sleepover” decor scheme, incorporating slumber party necessities like junk food and beauty supplies. I bought the gold “30” balloons, some teen magazines, and scrunchies, and borrowed a few things from my own stash, including the big white chalkboard. All of the serving dishes and table decor are things I’ve picked up over the years, and I’m glad to have such a big inventory to draw from.

I also owe a big thank you to Paige Scott for letting me borrow her daughter’s dollhouse!! It was the perfect movie tie-in and statement piece, and it got lots of compliments.

For the food, I decided to do an 80’s themed candy bar with fruit roll-ups, gummy bears, Ring Pops, Sour Patch kids, and – of course, Razzles. We also had bottles of Coke, popcorn, and cherry chip cake, Courtnie’s favorite!

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That cake though – I am super proud of that cake. You don’t even know. It’s the first time I’ve ever tried to make a cake with flat layers, and thanks to some tips from my mom, I did it! AND I even frosted it as a semi-naked cake without messing it up. SO. PROUD.

This party was so fun, and I can’t wait to plan more birthday parties in the future!

 If you need help planning a party on a budget, picking a theme, or figuring out a menu or decorating scheme…let me know! I’d love to schedule a consultation with you (“consultation” can be defined as “let’s go get ice cream and hang out”). 

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What to Do When You Don’t Know What to Do

A photo by Matthew Wiebe. unsplash.com/photos/tBtuxtLvAZs

I’m convinced that once you graduate high school, your life afterward is just one big question mark after another. Do you go to college, or not? What kind of job should you look for? Do you stay close to home, or venture off somewhere new? How do you decide who to marry, when to have kids, when you’ve had enough kids, how long to stay in a particular job before moving on, how much to save for retirement, and where to grow old with your spouse? I struggle with remembering what day it is sometimes, and I’m expected to figure all of that stuff out?! Sheesh. I can’t believe I wanted to be an adult when I was little. I want to go back  to nap time and someone else cooking all my meals for me. Only half kidding. :) But seriously, adulthood is hard. There’s no manual for it. Everyone’s life path is unique, and all of us are faced with difficult choices from time to time. And your twenties are extra intimidating, because the choices you make during that season will literally direct the rest of your life.

So…what do you do when you don’t know what to do?

Think about what you DO know.
There may be a lot of things up in the air, but I’m willing to bet there are still a few things that you’re sure of. No matter who you are, one thing will always be certain: You are seen, known, and adored by God. This knowledge alone should bring all kinds of motivation, joy, and obedience if you are a follower of Jesus. As believers, we know that regardless of our marital status, age, financial position, knowledge level, or career path, we are all called to do two things: (1) love God and (2) love people. Nine times out of ten, when I feel like I just keep running into a spiritual or mental wall, it’s because I’m not spending time with God and I’m not serving others with a kind heart. So if you’re in a rut, ask yourself – are you doing those two things? Are you genuinely growing in your love for the Lord? Are you actively looking for ways to love others around you?

Remember who is in control of your emotions.
Emotions were created by God, which makes them GOOD. It’s okay to feel, and to feel deeply! This is one of things that makes us human. God didn’t create us to be robotic, dragging dully through life with our eyes glazed over like zombies. On the other hand, however, emotions were not created to carry us away like a rushing current. I struggle with this a lot. It’s easy to be overtaken at times by sadness, anger, or fear, but in those overwhelming moments, you have to dial it back. Take a breath and ask God to give you a clear mind. YOU are in control of your emotions. They are not in control of you. Don’t give Satan a foothold.

Talk out loud to God.
Few things in my life have strengthened my relationship with God as much as this has. It might feel weird at first, especially if you’ve never done it before. But just try it! You might be surprised by what comes out of your mouth – or what doesn’t. I’ve been made aware of sin in my life because as I was talking to God in my car, He brought something to my mind and I didn’t want to talk about it out loud. Verbalizing your prayers is also a great way to keep yourself from getting distracted. I know I’m not the one who has done this: “God, thank you for your grace today…thank you for my husband…thank you for our home and our friends…oh crap, I forgot to text Ashley back…I need to figure out what we’re going to have for dinner tonight…”

Take some time for yourself.
Having “me time” or “alone time” is really hard for some people to do, especially if you’re an extrovert, a parent, or a people-pleaser. Sometimes, though, one of the best things you can do for yourself is to just take care of yourself. If you spend all your energy pouring out but never allow yourself to be poured into, you WILL wear out. If you’re tired, worried, or stretched too thin, set aside a day, an evening, or even just an hour to do something that’s just for you. Take a bath; watch something funny on Netflix; take your dog for a walk; do something crafty; bake your favorite dessert. And maybe try that talking out loud to God thing while you do it. Spending time with the Lord and doing something that brings you joy is an easy way to fill your empty cup back up.

Surround yourself with encouragers.
This is a big one. We were not created to go through life, including the hard parts, alone. We need each other, and God designed it that way on purpose! Whether you find it through family, friends, your church, or elsewhere, community is both healthy and necessary. Daniel and I have experienced some truly awful heartache in the last year, and I can confidently say that one of the biggest reasons we survived is because of our foundation group through our church. Having people around you who pray for you, grieve with you, and help meet your needs is life-giving. It is so much easier to carry a heavy burden when you have multiple pairs of hands (Galatians 6:2). If you don’t like to let people in, pray that God would give you courage and willingness to build relationships with solid people. If you aren’t plugged into a community, find one. If you don’t know where to find one, email me. :)

Learn to be okay with waiting.
Lately, I’ve been reading this fabulous book by Wendy Pope called Wait and See, and one of the things she talks about is learning how to be patient in your pasture, using David from the Bible as an example. He was just a young shepherd, tending sheep, and God sent Samuel directly to him to anoint him as king when he was only ten years old. But that didn’t mean it was time for David to take the throne immediately. God kept him in the pasture a little while longer, and while David was there, he learned how to truly, deeply love God and recognize His voice – two things that were absolutely vital for him to know to serve as king later on. Patience is not only a virtue; it is a skill, and one that can be learned. There is a purpose for every pause. As Wendy so beautifully put it, “The wait is more about experiencing God than enduring the delay.”

To my friends in a season of waiting and decision-making – I hope this encourages you. ♥

6 Things That Helped Me Survive Keto

You might remember that last June, Daniel and I started something new: a ketogenic diet. We had both been struggling with discipline regarding food, and truthfully? I didn’t even care about how unhealthy I was. I knew my choices weren’t wise; I just didn’t care. But we reached a point where we both knew that something had to change. After seeing the results from a couple of friends who went on Keto, Daniel basically pushed us into it after our Colorado trip – and I am SO GLAD he did!! It was incredibly hard, but also incredibly worth it. I lost 30 pounds in a little over 3 months. Months later, it is still surreal to say that!

I was nervous in the beginning because of how many foods we had to give up. Tortillas, pasta, chips, potatoes, sweets – how would I survive?? My sugar detox was rough, and there were a few days when we didn’t feel great as our bodies adjusted to less calories and basically no carbs. But I can confidently say that if and when I diet at any point in the future, it will always be Keto. True, we had to give up a lot of things we liked to eat, but we were also allowed to eat a lot of things you wouldn’t normally eat on another diet, like butter, fatty meats, and dairy!

Again – I won’t lie and say it was easy. But after the first week or two, we fell into a familiar, comfortable rhythm. I understood what we could eat and what we couldn’t; I learned how to meal plan and prep; I found sugar-free desserts that satisfied my sweet tooth; and I lost almost all of my unhealthy cravings and gained more self control than I thought possible.

One of the best things to come out of the experience, besides the weight loss and healthier perspective on food, was getting to share it with others! I was so thankful for the advice we received from our friends, and I was so excited to jump on that train and be that helpful person for someone else. When you start something new, it always helps to hear tips from people who have already done it, so here are a few things that made the process easier for us!

1. This website.
This was my go-to for almost all of my Keto questions. Using the macros calculator is an absolute must to get you started, and the articles about food do’s and don’ts were super helpful.

2. This macro meal planning template.
Before I found this worksheet, I had to do all the macro math by hand. As long as you know your protein/fat/carb intake, all you have to do is type it in once and the formula calculates your totals for the week, including calories! This was an absolute Godsend.

3. Finding good recipes.
I cannot explain how overwhelming it was to keep track of my macros before I found Keto-specific recipes with the macros already listed. I was putting every single ingredient from a recipe into MyFitnessPal and dividing to find out the serving size. It was EXHAUSTING. When I discovered that I could search for Keto recipes, it changed everything. There are dozens of blogs who specialize in low-carb recipes, and they include the macros and nutrition facts for each recipe!! Some of my favorites were Low Carb Yum, Low Carb Maven, Peace Love and Low Carb, All Day I Dream About Food, Kasey Trenum, Ditch the Carbs, and Ruled.me. We were also really thankful for flavored sparkling water and chocolate chip cookie dough fat bombs!

4. MyFitnessPal.
Even though I used it more in the beginning before finding the excel template and simpler recipes, this was still really helpful throughout our diet. I used it to look up foods we hadn’t already eaten, or whenever we went out to eat. I also used it to find out the macros for recipes that didn’t have the nutrition facts listed.

5. Doing it with someone.
Dieting, reading through a Bible study, exercising, praying, traveling – honestly, this tip works better for just about anything. Daniel hit his weight goal before me, which meant I had about a month of a half of doing Keto by myself. It was much easier when we were both eating the same things, because we didn’t keep stuff we couldn’t have in the house. When he quit, it was so hard to watch him eat food that I couldn’t. Especially if you’re married or have roommates, just know that it is easier to stay disciplined when they are eating what you’re eating. But even if your spouse or roommate isn’t participating, having a Keto friend to hold you accountable definitely helps.

6. Seeing the weight loss in the mirror, not just on the scale.
Seeing numbers go down is one thing. But looking in the mirror and seeing your body transforming is another. I started to see a new person with each week that went by, and that felt absolutely amazing. I had more confidence in myself than I think I’ve ever had in my whole life, and that felt even more amazing!

If you’ve been on Keto before, what is your favorite Keto-friendly recipe? Please share!

“Sprinkled With Love” Baby Shower

This baby shower actually took place last September – MAJOR blogger fail. *facepalm* But I still had to post about it, even if it’s a few months late! This party was just too cute not to share.

You guys, I have to confess something. I am OBSESSED with the donut wall trend! I absolutely love it, and I knew I had to make one for Brianna and Dillon’s baby shower, especially since they were having a girl. The best part of hosting this shower was that I didn’t do it alone – I had SEVEN co-hosts! Community is such a good thing, y’all. ♥ We had the best time *sprinkling* the Perry family and helping them get ready to welcome sweet baby Mallorie into the world!

My inspiration for this party came from two things: sprinkles and a “mom-osa” bar! It was super easy to plan around a donut theme, and nearly everything was DIY, including the donut wall itself. I got a big piece of pegboard at Lowe’s and had it cut to the size I wanted, covered it with a few coats of spray paint (only needed one can!), and stuck some pegboard hooks through the holes to hang the donuts on. So simple!

For the games, we played Baby Names A-Z and had a “create a headband” station. The Baby Names game was a race, and whoever could list off baby girl names for every letter of the alphabet the fastest won. At the headband station, guests could choose from a few pre-made baby headbands and decorate them however they wanted – beads, flowers, lace, etc.

At one point during the party, I looked over and it was all husbands making headbands! :)

Before leaving the party, guests were encouraged to grab a paper cone of donut holes to take with them! I found the cones on Amazon and got the stickers personalized from The Party Penguin shop on Etsy.

Aren’t these two so beautiful?? Congratulations again, Brianna and Dillon! ♥

 If you need help planning a party on a budget, picking a theme, or figuring out a menu or decorating scheme…let me know! I’d love to schedule a consultation (a fancy word for “let’s get ice cream and chat”). Have a lovely week!

2018 Goals + My Word for the Year

One year ago today, I started something new! Instead of creating resolutions that would be too easily forgotten or too quickly broken (like giving up fast food or working out every day – uhhhh yeah right), I made a list of a few specific, measurable, realistic goals for the year. A list that I could come back to now, a year later, to see how I grew in 2017.

I don’t know about you, but 2017 was a roller coaster for us. We experienced some really high highs and some really low lows. But when I took time to reflect on 2017 through my 20 Questions post, I remembered how many good things took place and how faithful God was to us. When the ball dropped and we toasted at midnight on January 1st, I took a deep breath and let it out, feeling both relief and resolve, thankful to leave 2017 in the past and step forward into a new year. I knew I had to continue this tradition from last year, and just like last year, my hope is that at the end of 2018, I will see obvious growth and progress from where I am now.

What I did last year:

  • Almost every night (as often as I could), I wrote down something that made me happy that day. This was surprisingly therapeutic and a great way to remind my heart that at least one good thing happened each day. I’m thankful to be able to go back and read about seemingly-small-but-still-significant things that I would have forgotten if I hadn’t written them down. I don’t remember how I came up with this idea, but I’m so glad I did, and I want to continue it in 2018.

  • I took a week-long vacation with Daniel to celebrate and refresh our marriage. ♥
    We went on a wonderful Alaskan cruise, during which we visited Seattle, Juneau, Skagway, Glacier Bay, Ketchikan, and Victoria! Yay for good views, good food, and good company.

  • I (semi)permanently integrated healthier eating and exercise into my lifestyle. Doing Keto was honestly life-changing. I had no idea I could exercise that much self control for that long. We are actually doing it again for a month or two, right now!

  • I learned something new on purpose. Although it wasn’t hand lettering or a different language, like I had planned. :) I learned how to have self control with food. I learned how to lead a group of newly-married couples and become a family. I learned how to sing the lyrics to that Shane & Shane song – “Though You slay me, yet I will praise You” – and mean it.

  • We had intentional date nights at least once a month. Lots of yummy food, a murder mystery dinner party, David Copperfield, and binge-watching TV shows. Originally, my goal was date nights that WEREN’T dinner and a movie, but hey – we love dinner, and we love movies! Why mess with what works?? (Here’s the full list of our dates, by month.)

  • I began to view food as a gift to enjoy with wisdom, not as an indulgence I deserve. 
    Again – Keto was life-changing. I’ll be forever thankful that God helped me do it successfully, and that it’s something we can easily revisit and incorporate into our lives when we need a boost.

As far as the other two goals go: I didn’t cut down on screen time quite as much as I should have, but I did nurture new relationships and finished multiple books! And although I didn’t earn $1500+ every month from MONAT, I did earn enough in bonuses in one month to pay for our Alaska anniversary photo shoot, including a plane ticket for our photographer; I more than doubled my number of team members; and I earned a free trip to Vegas with Daniel in October. I still consider that a win. ♥


• 2018 •

Each night (or as often as I can), write down something that made me happy that day.

Read through the whole Bible chronologically.

Send 12 random surprise gifts to family, friends, or coworkers.

Create new blog/social media content more consistently.

Go on a group vacation with good friends.

Have at least one TV-free day per week, and one social media-free day per month.

Become a MONAT Mentor by the end of the year.

Take a trip to visit my brother at his new place in Florida. 

Plan a few out-of-the-ordinary date nights – new things we’ve never done before.

Walk more: with Daniel, with Fitz, in the park, on a beach… ;)


Last year, I also picked a word to be my theme for 2017 – Hope. The anchor of souls, assurance despite repeated disappointment, and the companion of trust. It couldn’t have been a more perfect choice. As the end of December drew near, I started thinking about a word to define 2018. Everything I came up with seemed cheesy or didn’t quite fit, until one particular word starting showing up everywhere.

Courage. AKA, Something I suck at.

When I googled “courage” to find a photo for this post, I came across this quote from The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis, and my heart swelled with encouragement:

“Lucy looked along the beam and presently saw something in it. At first it looked like a cross, then it looked like an aeroplane, then it looked like a kite, and at last with a whirring of wings it was right overhead and was an albatross. It circled three times round the mast and then perched for an instant on the crest of the gilded dragon at the prow. It called out in a strong sweet voice what seemed to be words though no one understood them. After that it spread its wings, rose, and began to fly slowly ahead, bearing a little to starboard. Drinian steered after it not doubting that it offered good guidance. But no one except Lucy knew that as it circled the mast it had whispered to her, ‘Courage, dear heart,’ and the voice, she felt sure, was Aslan’s.”

I believe with all my heart that God Himself gave me the word “courage” for 2018, just as He gave me “hope” for 2017. I felt Him nudging this word closer to me for about a week, and although I tried to ignore it and pick another word for awhile, I have finally accepted it as a gift from Him. Although hope was my word for last year, I still spent too much time living in a state of fear. I refuse to let my life be dictated by “what if’s” anymore. ♥

What is one of your goals for this year? Tell me in the comments!

20 Questions for 2017

Before the ball drops and we sing our way into another January, it’s only fair that we take some time to reflect on 2017. Maybe it was an amazing year and all your dreams came true! (And if so, just shut up and enjoy being a Disney princess.) Or maybe this year completely sucked, and you’ve been ready for 2018 since June. Either way, we can’t successfully walk into the future without making peace with our past, whether it was good or bad. Over the last few years, I’ve seen several other bloggers do different versions of this reflection exercise, and I absolutely love it.

What was the best thing that happened this year?
Hmmm…that’s hard!! There was a lot of goodness in 2017. But I think our Alaska trip takes the cake. Glaciers, anniversary pictures, mountains, delicious food – pretty difficult to top.

What was the most challenging thing that happened this year?
To be real? Infertility. I haven’t talked about this publicly at all, and it’s scary to put it out there. But I would be lying if I answered this question with anything else. We’ve been dealing with it for awhile, but it really kicked me in the teeth this year. It’s almost impossible to explain to anyone who’s never experienced it. But we know that the Lord has not overlooked us, and we trust His timing. ♥

Who were my most valuable friendships with?
I consider all my friendships valuable, of course, but the newest friendship value came from our foundation group! We host a group of young married couples at our house every week, and they truly have become our tribe. We’ve seen each other through a lot in just a year.

What are some new skills that I learned?
I learned that I CAN be disciplined about food. Keto changed my life. Seriously. We aren’t doing it currently, but I have never felt as good about my body in my entire life as I did when we went on Keto. I learned how to cook differently and treat food with a healthy perspective, and I’m so thankful for both of those things.

Pick three words to describe this year.
Wait. Hope. Heal.

What was my biggest personal change from January to December?
Probably switching jobs. I finally moved from an entry-level position as a college recruiter to more of a mid-level position as an HR Communications professional. Intimidating, but rewarding, and definitely a big piece of my adulting process this year.

What was the best book I read this year?
The Meaning of Marriage by Tim Keller.

What did I do to serve others this year?
The biggest ways were (1) participating in activities with the young adult ministry at our church, and (2) serving my new mom friends by hosting baby showers, taking them food, and helping around the house.

Name a couple of positive memory-making experiences from 2017.
1. Our cruise to Alaska
2. Colorado with the Simmas
3. My niece Karis and “nephew” Cole were born
4. The MONAT Vegas trip
5. Absolutely everything about our foundation group

What 2017 accomplishments am I most proud of?
Losing 30 pounds on Keto and earning a free trip to Vegas!

What are some things I’ve learned to accept this year?
I don’t know that I’ve fully accepted it…haha…but I’ve learned that I’m not really in control of anything in my life. I try to be, really really hard, but ultimately, everything plays out exactly the way God designs it. My job is not to control everything and make it make sense, but to continue to walk hand-in-hand with Jesus and trust that what He does is always right.

In what ways did I grow spiritually?
I have a deeper understanding of how powerful and purposeful prayer is. It’s not about getting God to do what we want if we cry and beg and plead enough. It’s about communication: talking AND listening. Telling Him our joys and sorrows, asking Him for things while accepting that He may not give them to us, affirming His faithfulness and goodness, and truly being still with Him so He can speak back.

What did I gain in 2017? What did I lose?
Gained = new friendships, new job, and a stronger marriage.
Lost = time. I wasted too much of it by worrying.

Name a difficult situation I overcame.
About halfway through Keto, I hit a weight plateau. Daniel had gone off of it because he met his goal and was still losing weight (the jerk); meanwhile, I was stuck gaining and losing the same pound for more than two weeks, only FIVE POUNDS from my goal. It was miserable. I couldn’t understand why I had stalled, and I just wanted to be done. I finally figured out that I needed to adjust my macros and eat less calories, since I had lost weight, and lo and behold – it worked!! I finished Keto just in time for our trip to Vegas. :)

What is something I want to do better in 2018?
Write more. I get out of the habit and forget what a great outlet it is.

What was the best thing I did with my time this year?
Spend almost every Monday with Dara, Sheridan, Kendra, and Brianna (and their husbands). I really can’t overstate how special these couples have become to me this year.

What was the single biggest time-waster in my life this year?
My phone.

What am I most grateful for in 2017?
Two things! First: the chance to travel to so many new places. 2017 was a wanderluster’s dream come true. Second: after experiencing some awful personal tragedies this year, I have never felt more loved by our families and friend community. Their prayer support was overwhelming, and I will never forget that feeling.

What do I want to leave behind in 2017?
My lack of trust in the Lord, (many) moments of failure, fear about the future, and tears shed over all three.

Who do I want to be in 2018?
A woman of wisdom and courage. ♥

I can’t think of a better year to close the book on 2017. Feel free to join in and answer them for yourself, if you want!

6 Questions to Help You Clean Out Your Closet

You know that awful feeling when you walk in your closet and it’s jam-packed with clothes, but you still feel like you have nothing to wear? Welcome to my pre-married, single-girl life. Before Daniel, I didn’t really know how to shop for quality pieces yet. The amount of money I wasted on cheap clothes is cringe-worthy. My only “guidelines” for buying something were: (1) I kind of liked it at least a little bit, and (2) it was cheap or on sale. Those were ter-ri-ble guidelines. Higher standards would have prevented me from filling my wardrobe with things I only half-liked that either fell apart, shrunk, or faded within the first few washes.

Within the first year after Daniel and I got married, I learned a lot about his buying habits, and I started to adopt a few myself. One of the best things he has taught me is picking items of good quality – be it furniture, a type of steak, or a pair of shoes – at a cost that doesn’t break your budget in half. If you’ve spent any time around him, I think you’ll understand what I mean when I say that the guy has a genuine gift for finding insanely nice stuff for ridiculously low prices. Thanks to Daniel, I have learned that it’s okay to spend a little extra on something well-made, because it will last longer and stay in better shape.

The problem was, even after I started adding nice things to my wardrobe, I still didn’t feel happy with my closet. It finally dawned on me that the reason I felt like I had nothing to wear was because my closet was full of things I never wore! Right around that same time, a friend of mine had a virtual closet sale on Facebook and had great success with it, and I thought, “I can do that.” And thus began a new tradition in the Hendrickson household! A few times a year, I pull everything out of my closet and sort through it using the following questions:

  1. When was the last time I wore it, and how likely am I to wear it again?
  2. If I went shopping today and saw it, would I buy it?
  3. Do I feel good about myself when I wear it?
  4. Does it actually fit me? Is it too big or too small?
  5. Is it still in good condition? Is it worn, torn, faded, or stained?
  6. Is it a ‘special occasion’ item, like a cocktail dress or costume?

These questions have already helped me quickly purge my closet at least 5 or 6 times in the last few years. And before you start to think of me as a soul-less machine, believe me – I totally understand the whole “develop a sentimental attachment to every piece of clothing you try to get rid of” thing. I’ve told myself every excuse in the book. But the reality is that if I haven’t worn something in six months (not including a costume or formal dress), if it’s not in good condition anymore, if I don’t like how I look in it, and if I wouldn’t buy it again right now, it doesn’t belong in my closet. The best part is that after I weed out all the stuff I don’t wear, I actually feel like I have more options in my closet, because I’m only seeing stuff I genuinely love!

When was the last time you went through your closet? Is it easy for you to get rid of stuff, or do you get sentimental?

Playing Catch Up

It does NOT feel possible that tomorrow is the first day of November. October went by in a FLASH, and boy was it full! I’ve got lots of content planned, but here’s a little preview/life update in the meantime!

This wasn’t technically in October, but I hosted a sprinkles-themed baby shower for my friend Brianna and her baby girl Mallorie, and it was so perfect!! I’ll share more pictures soon. I can’t wait to meet Mallorie in a few short weeks!

Daniel and I got to take a trip to Las Vegas at the beginning of the month, because I EARNED IT. Still doesn’t feel real to say that, even though I’ve got the pictures and everything to prove it. I met some goals in my MONAT business this year and earned this trip, for free. We stayed at the Planet Hollywood resort, and it did not disappoint!

Fitz continued to be adorable, like always.

Speaking of adorable – I got to welcome the most perfect human into the world last week, and my heart still explodes every time I look at this picture. Say hello to my “nephew”/self-appointed secondary child by proxy, Cole Alan! ♥♥♥

I also got to check something off of my 30 By 30 list – throwing someone a surprise party! And what an EPIC surprise party it was. My friend Sheridan wanted to throw one for her husband, Jeremy, and asked me to help. It was incredibly nerve-wracking keeping the secret and hoping it didn’t get ruined, but we pulled it off! Jeremy was very surprised, and we had a blast celebrating with everyone. And it’ll be really hard to top a Stranger Things theme.

What a lovely month it was! Stay tuned for more detailed posts and lots more photos of our October adventures :) 

Jen’s “In the Woods” Baby Shower

I don’t know if I can explain how much I loved this baby shower. I know I say this about every party I host, but seriously – this is my favorite shower I’ve ever thrown. And while the theme was *amazing*, it’s my favorite because it was for my cousin’s / best friend’s / essentially second sister’s baby boy. Baby Cole makes his grand entrance THIS MONTH, and I am positively giddy!

When Jennifer told me she was pregnant, I knew I was going to throw her a shower. There wasn’t any question about it. I only had one problem: what theme? I had plenty of my own ideas, but none of them were quite right. Jennifer didn’t have strong feelings about a special theme, but she finally decided on Dr. Seuss, and I started planning. But while Pinterest-ing one night, I came across this:

ARE. YOU. KIDDING. ME.

I took one look at that gorgeous mountain shelf and it was love at first sight. I couldn’t bring myself to do a Dr. Seuss shower after finding such a perfect theme for an outdoorsy, mountain-loving couple, and I texted Jennifer just that. I spent the next hour lost on the Internet and found a wealth of adorable ideas. But none as special as that mountain shelf. So I called my brother-in-law, Sam, who immediately agreed to make me one of my own, and it turned out SO great! Just look at it!! ⇓⇓

I can’t wait to use this thing again – thank you so much, Sam!

I also owe HUGE thanks to my mom for all of her help and advice, and to Vicki Branstetter for opening her home and letting me host the shower there. It was the perfect place to celebrate with the Briggs’ families and friends, and I’m so happy with how everything came together!

The apple bar was a personal request of Jennifer’s, and easily my favorite part of the menu! For the dips, we melted chocolate, white chocolate, caramels, and peanut butter chips in mason jars and kept them warm in the crock pot.

*Tip: soak your apples in 7-Up right after slicing to keep them from turning brown!

As far as the decorations, my favorite pieces (besides the mountain shelf) were the “Crown Yourself” chalkboard and the Mama Bear balloons. The woodsy theme was very easy to find decorations for, and a lot of the things I used came out of my own home!

Jennifer isn’t the kind of person who enjoys being the center of attention, so I kept the games very low-key and fun. We played “Who Knows Mom Best” and Baby Shower Bingo as she opened gifts. At any point during the shower, guests could write a message on a diaper for Jennifer to read during late-night diaper changes. I also picked out a baby book for guests to sign as the guest book, and the shower invitations encouraged guests to bring a book instead of a card to help build up the Briggs library!

Guests also wrote their addresses on envelopes to make sending thank-you notes easier for Jennifer, and as they left the party, they took home mini s’mores kits to “fuel their future adventures.”

What an amazing afternoon! The only thing that would have made this party better would be if people had eaten more food so we didn’t have as much to clean up. Haha!

IMG_1265

Grandma’s girls. :)

I’m so thankful that we got to shower my new nephew (and my oldest friend) with so many cute and useful gifts. I can’t wait to meet him, and I can’t wait to watch my best friend become a mom.

jen and stace

Seriously, how perfect are they. ♥

The next time I talk about Baby Cole…….he’ll be in my arms! Eeek!! I hope you’ll join me in praying for a healthy mama, a healthy baby, and a calm daddy.  And if you need help planning a party on a budget, picking a theme, or figuring out a menu or decorating scheme…let me know! I’d love to schedule a consultation (a fancy word for “let’s go get ice cream and hang out”).

Married Monday: Better With Age

In the last few months, I’ve spent a lot of time reminiscing about my relationship with Daniel. For one thing, we celebrated our 5-year anniversary in June, which felt like a big milestone. Second of all, we were invited to a TON of weddings this summer, and weddings always remind me of my own. Third, as of August 2nd, we have known each other for exactly 8 years – WHAT. And finally, I’ve been getting lots of “On this day, __ years ago” reminders on social media, including cute cheesy photos from when we were dating. All of these things have made me hyper-aware of how much has changed since 2009.

I started noticing a pattern to my train of thought a month or two ago. Nearly every time, it went something like this:

(1) See a crazy-in-love couple at a wedding (or young D+L in an old photo)
(2) Sigh sentimentally and remember when we were in that season
(3) Start wishing that we were back in that season; that we were still disgustingly sweet with each other; that Daniel still did silly mushy things like drawing me a message in the sand in Haiti: ⇓⇓

Granted: I fully realize that we are not that old (I barely feel like I’m qualified to be an adult) and we haven’t done decades of life together yet, but we have experienced some significant shifts from the beginning of our friendship to now. Some of those changes were good! Some were not so good. Some were just unexpected. Things are not the same as they were 8 years ago. Probably every married couple who is past the honeymoon period can admit to missing the pureness of that “newly in love” season at least once after the routine of married life sets in, unless they aren’t self-aware or are lying to themselves. But is it possible that we’ve missed something in the midst of our reminiscing?

(Hint: the answer is yes.)

I remember with powerful clarity how it felt to be dating, engaged, and newly married to Daniel. True, it was also hard because of how steep our learning curve was, but good grief were we crazy about each other! Truly, wildly, wonderfully crazy. Sometimes, I find myself wondering where those two people went. No one had to teach us to be so excited about each other back then; we just were. Everything seemed to come naturally. We found so much joy in being together, and it was unmistakable (and probably annoying) to everyone else around us. So…if it all came about so easily before, then what changed? What is it that makes those days seem so far out of reach?

I’m willing to bet that the reason a lot of marriages fall apart within the first few years is because people are chasing that craziness, that *feeling* you have when you’re in a new relationship: fuzzy, romantic, exciting, your heart beating faster and/or skipping a beat, etc. There’s so much to learn, and so much to share! But the longer you spend time with someone, the less mystery (and risk) is involved. You learn each other’s quirks, and not as much surprises you anymore. Of course, no matter how long you’re married, you’ll never know absolutely everything there is to know about the other person. After all, you married someone who will continue growing and changing for the rest of their life and the rest of your marriage. But after years of doing life with somebody, the ‘stones unturned’ are fewer and farther between. For many couples, this is exactly when the seemingly harmless weeds of complacency, comparison, and apathy can begin to sprout. And the longer they are allowed to grow, the deeper the roots.

I wish my husband would…
I remember when my wife used to…
She never ____ anymore.
If only he acted more like…

How many of you have thought something like this before? If you have, it may be comforting to know that you’re not alone. But don’t get too comfortable just yet. Every time you let yourself dwell on a thought like that, it’s like slowly cracking open a tiny window in the very back of the basement of your heart, providing the perfect opportunity for all kinds of filth to crawl inside and build a nest. Ever heard the phrase “Give an inch and they’ll take a mile”? Satan will wiggle through even the tiniest crack in your marriage and immediately start laying traps. Bet on it.

See, the thing about Satan is that he isn’t simply a nuisance. His goal isn’t to try to annoy you like an obnoxious little brother. He wants to destroy you. God created marriage to be THE picture of His love for His people – an unconditional, self-sacrificing love. A healthy marriage is a strong, impenetrable fortress, shining the purifying light of God over a dark, starving world. So, it makes sense, then, that Satan would do everything in his (limited) power to attack marriages and sabotage as many as possible.

I believe one of the biggest ways he accomplishes his sabotage is by convincing us to believe the lie that if things aren’t easy, if things don’t keep coming naturally, if we don’t *feel* the same way we used to…that we made the wrong choice, and things wouldn’t be like this if we had married the “right” person. Let me repeat: THIS. IS. A. LIELiterally nobody is the “right person.” Everyone you meet is radically flawed and eternally hopeless without God, and the salvation and sanctification He offers is our only hope for a good marriage. Those wonderful fuzzy things you feel when you give your heart to someone and receive theirs in return – that is a gift from God, and I’m really thankful we get to enjoy it! But the even better news is that those feelings are just the tip of the iceberg of all that God has to teach us about love. God’s gifts don’t culminate in the moment we get married. We aren’t doomed to a downhill trek off of the mountaintop of our wedding day.

It’s easy to idealize the beginning of a relationship. And yes, it is a really sweet, special season! But when I finally took the time to sit down and think about where I’m at in my marriage, I realized something. I wouldn’t go back. Sure, we were nuts about each other, but we also hadn’t had the chance to prove that we meant what we said in our vows – “in good times and in bad.” In the beginning of a relationship, you’re still trying to impress each other with how awesome you are, and you probably don’t spend much time pointing out each other’s selfishness. Being married for 5 years and together for 8, we’ve gone through some STUFF. And Daniel telling me he loves me means infinitely more now than it did years ago, before we butted heads and hurt each other and experienced real conflict. Now, when he says “I love you,” it carries a much heavier weight. Now, our relationship has a steady foundation of covenant vows. Now, we have a much longer track record of forgiveness and reconciliation, which makes that “I love you” mean more than “I love how you make me feel” or “I love how attracted I am to you” or “I love all these bubbly love feelings blah blah blah.” I have done things that have really hurt him, and the fact that he still says “I love you” and means it, in spite of my bad choices and unkind words…well, nothing can top that.

God has shown both of us the depths of His love for us, which is the only thing that allows us to love each other well. Loving someone because of what they have done to make you happy is shallow and worthless compared to loving someone because of what God has done for you. And even though I will always look back on our past with fondness, I would much rather have this kind of love – deepening, perfecting, maturing, secure – than the giggly, consuming, emotion-driven feelings from years ago. It makes me teary-eyed to think of how I’ll love him in 10, 20, or (God willing) 50 years.

The goodness of marriage has nothing to do with how you feel about your spouse at any given moment. Love is an action verb, a daily choice. Much like anything else really worth having, marriage requires effort! It’s more than just sharing a bed, a refrigerator, and a mailbox. It’s more than changing your name and including another person in your plans for your life. Marriage costs you. It will cost you yourself, absolutely everything you have to give. That shouldn’t really come as any surprise, though, because God sacrificed the most precious thing He had – Jesus – to make us holy. In doing that, He set the example for how we should act in our marriages: willing to sacrifice the things we hold most dear, putting “I” aside for the sake of “we.” Whenever my selfish flesh tries to buck up and fight for its rights, I find comfort in remembering that our God is a good God, and when He created marriage, He called it very good. Meaning that each season of our lives together – the “truly, wildly, wonderfully crazy” part and the “new parents” part and the “mid-life crisis” part and the “retired grandparents” part – every single season is a good gift from a good God, and we can trust that His grace will sustain us through it all.

This post is part of “Married Monday,” a series I started in order to expose myths and lies we’ve been told about married life, celebrate moments of joy and growth, chew on hard truths and sprinkle them with grace, and remind others (and myself!) that marriage doesn’t work without Christ in it. I have lots of ideas, but I’d love your input too! What topics would you like to see covered?