20 Things I Learned In My 20’s

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1. Aside from following Jesus, choosing who to marry was the most important decision I have ever made and will ever make. To my unmarried friends, I cannot emphasize this enough: CHOOSE WISELY, because that one choice will impact your entire future, literally.

2. Social media will enslave you if you let it. It’s subtle, but crippling. Don’t spend your whole life in front of a screen comparing your valleys to everyone else’s mountain tops. Every single person on earth, including the person you’re envying right now, is insecure and awkward and unsure and self-conscious about something.

3. Don’t be high-maintenance about everything, but it’s okay to figure out what’s worth being a little *boujee* about. For me, a few of those things are hair products, professional photography, and bedding (especially mattresses). Speaking of bedding, here’s another lesson I’ve learned – going to bed is freaking awesome. Can I cash in on all those naps I refused as a kid??

4. It’s okay to not know what you want to do with your life. It’s okay to change your mind a bunch of times. It’s okay to like 37 different things and have no clue how they all connect. Annnnd it’s okay to know exactly what you want to do and actually do it. All of those things are completely normal. You. are. normal.

5. Taking care of yourself becomes more difficult and more important as you get older. This is especially hard for parents and people-pleasers, because it feels selfish, but the truth is that if you spend all your energy pouring out and never allow yourself to be poured into, you will wear out. Count on it. It’s cliche but true that “You can’t pour from an empty cup.” So go take a hot bath. Play with a dog. Get coffee with a spiritually encouraging friend. Turn your phone off for a few hours. Spend one-on-one time with Jesus, because you will always need more of that. Taking care of yourself doesn’t have to be expensive or over-indulgent, but give yourself permission to intentionally rest and recharge sometimes without feeling guilty about it.

6. Community is absolutely vital. Find people who will walk shoulder-to-shoulder with you through the good, the bad, and the really bad, and cherish them. Tell them often that you love them, look for ways to serve them, and let them take care of you when you’re the one who needs help.

7. Break-and-bake cookies will never be as good as homemade ones. Stop being lazy and just buy some baking soda already.

8. Some stuff matters a lot less than you think it does, and some stuff matters a lot more than you think it does. For example: I always wanted to marry a guy who could sing. It was actually a deal-breaker for a really long time. But when I met Daniel, that *thing* that I had held up on a pedestal for so many years just wasn’t as important anymore. I would much rather keep him for all of his other qualities – his wit, integrity, discernment – than trade him out for a guy with a great voice. On the other hand, certain things about him have proven to be a lot more valuable than I expected. When I was writing down my list of qualifications for a husband as a boy-crazy tween, I never once considered asking God for a guy who was financially savvy. But that’s exactly what I got, and I cannot put into words how grateful I am for that undeserved gift from the Lord. Long story short? Some qualities are secondary (musical ability). Some are primary (wisdom). Know the difference, and don’t settle.

9. Call your parents more often. And your grandparents. Write them letters, even! They’ll love it, and no matter how much you do it, someday you’ll wish you had done it more.

10. Every New Year’s Eve, you’ll swear time can’t possibly go any faster than it already is. But it will keep happening, again and again. Every single year will go by faster than the one before it, faster than you can possibly imagine. So be present in each one. Don’t spend all your time waiting for the next thing. Just be, right where you are.

11. Money matters. It shouldn’t be the most important thing in your life, but it also shouldn’t be something you treat carelessly. If you spend spend spend without really thinking about where it’s all going, STOP. If your long-term plan doesn’t go any further than randomly tossing money into a savings account, STOP. Don’t be a slave to money, now or later. Make your money work for you. Ask God to make you a good steward, get some wise financial advice, give to your church and community with a generous heart, save up a little for an emergency, and then put the rest to work (rental properties, retirement accounts, etc.).

12. As much as I hate this fact…you can’t eat whatever you want and refuse to exercise without consequences. You may not notice those consequences until 5 years or 55 years go by, but you will pay the price eventually.

13. You HAVE to stop worrying so much about what other people think. Seriously. Sometimes, it does matter. But a lot of the time, it doesn’t. And half of the time, they probably aren’t even thinking about you anyway.

14. Go get a piece of paper and a pen. Got them? Good. I want you to write down your plan for your life, as many details as you want. All done? Perfect. Now crumple up that paper and throw it away. (Sorry if you actually took the time to write stuff down.) But seriously, so few things in life go the way we actually plan. And thank God for that. Because if my life had gone how I had planned, I would have gone to OU instead of OBU, which means I wouldn’t have met the guy in my J-term math class who told me I should work at Falls Creek. Those three summers on the ropes course ended up being one of the biggest spiritual turning points of my life. If life had gone how I’d planned, I would have married one of the hundreds of “good guys” from OBU and probably become a youth pastor’s wife, since that was my dream in high school. But instead, God introduced me to a finance major from another college in The-Middle-of-Nowhere (aka Durant, aka D-OK, aka The Shady 5-80) who has taught me more about myself, love, forgiveness, sarcasm, and nerd board games than anyone else I have ever met. And if life had gone how I’d planned, years of unexplained infertility would not have been part of my journey to parenthood. But if I hadn’t experienced that pain and loss, I would never have understood the power of fierce, healing, all-consuming love from God, our families, and our best friends the way I do now. God works ALL THINGS together for the GOOD of those who love Him and are called according to His purposes for them (Romans 8:28). I believe it because I’m living it.

15. Trying to change someone is a major waste of time. God is the only one who can cause genuine change in a person’s heart. Praying for them is much more effective, not to mention freeing.

16. Directly related to #15, an even harder lesson to learn is that sometimes, you are actually the one who needs to change. Contrary to what you might think, you aren’t right about everything.

17. Traveling is AWESOME. Go as many places as possible, as often as possible. You CAN afford it if you prioritize it and make decisions accordingly. But be prepared – there will always be at least one thing that doesn’t go as smoothly as you planned. Sometimes flights get changed, traffic makes you late, and stuff costs more than you thought it would…but it’s okay. Plan as much as you can, accept the things you have no control over with grace, and thank God for allowing you to travel as often as you do.

18. High heels are overrated. Do I wear them? Yes. Do I regret it 11 out of 10 times? Yes. Do I still continue wearing them? Also yes. (What? I’m a work in progress, people.)

19. You don’t have to have an eating disorder to have an unhealthy relationship with your body. Self-obsession and self-loathing are both forms of idolatry, and God did not create you for that nonsense.

20. Change is inevitable. And I still hate it. I think it’s instinct, human nature, to resist change internally, even if we try to appear flexible on the outside. Friendships evolve, some fading and some strengthening. Our bodies age. Our preferences change. We can’t fight the fact that things just don’t stay the same forever. But honestly…thank goodness. Can you imagine what life would be like if we never moved on from being a baby? Or from being a teenager?? I wouldn’t want to live in that world. Adulthood doesn’t necessarily mean liking all the changes that take place in your life. It’s just learning to accept them as gifts of love from the God who wrote your entire life story before you were even born. We can’t see the big picture, but He can. In seasons of good change and not so good, God is trustworthy, and He only gives good gifts. ♥

Hats off to my 20’s, the best decade of my life so far, and here’s hoping that my 30’s will be even better!

2020 Goals + Word for the Year

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Three years ago, I unintentionally started my own New Year’s tradition. Instead of creating resolutions that would be too easily forgotten or too quickly broken (like giving up fast food completely or working out every single day), I made a list of a few specific, measurable, realistic goals: a list that I could come back to a year later to reflect on and see how I grew. And the idea kind of stuck with me, so here I am, for the fourth year in a row, thankful for God’s faithfulness in 2019 and turning a hopeful eye toward the new year ahead!

MY 2019 GOALS WERE:

  • Each night (or as often as I can), write down something that made me happy that day. ✓
    I didn’t actually complete this for the whole year, but honestly, I’m okay with it. I started feeling guilty when I would miss a day (or twelve days), and the whole point of doing it was to bring myself joy, not guilt. So…I quit! And I gave myself permission to not feel bad about it. Instead, I’ve been taking more candid photos – my mom friends cuddling their babies, Daniel and his friends laughing while watching a game together, church friends quietly serving behind the scenes. I’ve still been preserving little moments of joy, just with a camera instead of a pen.
  • Plan a “stay-cation”.
    As much as I wanted to make this happen…I waited too long. :( I wanted to try to plan one in the midst of Daniel’s busy season, to give him a breather, but it didn’t work out like I had hoped. But I’m not giving up, and we’re going to do this soon!
  • Learn something new – an intimidating recipe, common phrases in a few other languages, maybe a yoga pose. But something brand new to me. ✓
    1. Ear candling! Super weird. Still don’t totally understand how it works, but I always wanted to try it at least once.
    2. Aerial yoga, for Robyn’s bachelorette party – SO FUN! I wish there was a studio near me so I could take classes.
    3. I planned my very first wedding (Nicole and Ben’s) as a paid event coordinator!! One of the most stressful, magical days of my life!
    4. I made my own butter, and it was FREAKING amazing. Just cream + a jar with a lid + salt. Yummmmm.
    5. Kaci Walston taught me how to make her famous pie crust!
  • Finish reading through the whole Bible chronologically. ✓
    This took me a little over a year and a half to complete – it’s a carryover from last year’s list of goals. I look back on this experience with so much joy, and I can’t wait to read it all again, and again, and again, until my last breath. ♥
  • Do just enough cardio to keep my heart from literally bursting at two of the most anticipated, most emotional, and most exciting weddings of my life: Robyn + Travis // Amanda + Ryan. ✓
    Two of the sweetest, most beautiful, and most fun weddings I’ve ever been part of. 2019 = THE YEAR OF LOVE ♥♥
  • Find a fun 5k in my area, train for it, and run in it. ✓
    I did the Color Run in Tulsa with Daniel, Robyn, Travis, Jennifer, and Stacey, and it was a blast!! I surprised myself with how much I ran versus walked.
  • Pray for Daniel every single day. ✓
    It may not have been LITERALLY every day, but I made this list to keep myself on track, and it has really helped!
  • Have at least one TV-free day per week, and one social media-free day per month. 
    I definitely did NOT do this every week or every month. Again. *facepalm* I think this is something that will always be on my list of things I want to get better at. I’m just going to put it on every goal list from now on until I accomplish it.
  • Set specific time aside to do something for our marriage: a weekend away, a marriage conference, etc. ✓
    We had a dinner date alone at the steakhouse while on our friendscation cruise in October, and that time together and our conversation were a breath of fresh air! We also had some really great conversations in the car while traveling for Christmas.
  • Host our friends for a full-fledged, multi-course dinner party.
    Between all the weddings, parties, baby showers, and traveling that happened in 2019, I just didn’t have time. This is still on my list for the future, though – it’s going to happen eventually.

• 2020 •

Continue my streak from last year and spend time in God’s Word every single day.

Go skydiving!

Do a “no-spend” week.

Visit somewhere new with Daniel.

Call my parents, siblings, and grandparents more.

Try something new: an intimidating recipe, learn common phrases in a few other languages, geocaching, maybe a yoga pose. Something brand new to me.

Go to a drive-in movie.

Make some emergency preparedness kits: one for the car, one for the basement, etc.

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

Shop local more: downtown shops, summer farmer’s market, etc.


I’m also continuing my tradition of picking a Word for the Year! The last three have been HopeCourage, and Joy. Joy was the absolute PERFECT word to describe 2019, and for 2020, my word is:

D I S C I P L I N E .

I’m not gonna lie, my whole body dry-heaved just typing it. But I feel deeply burdened by my lack of discipline in too many important areas to count, and I am confident, yet again, that this word was given to me by the Lord for a reason. Here’s to another year of learning and growing!

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

2019 Goals + Word for the Year

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Two years ago, I unintentionally started my own New Year’s tradition. Instead of creating resolutions that would be too easily forgotten or too quickly broken (like giving up fast food completely or working out every single day), I made a list of a few specific, measurable, realistic goals for the year. A list that I could come back to a year later to reflect on and see how I grew. And the idea kind of stuck with me, so here I am, for the third year in a row, thankful for God’s faithfulness in 2018 and turning a hopeful eye toward the year ahead!

MY 2018 GOALS WERE:

  • Each night (or as often as I can), write down something that made me happy that day. ✓
    This ended up being one of my favorite things on my 2017 list, and I knew I wanted to continue it last year. It’s so sweet to flip back through and remember the little moments (and big moments) that colored my life with meaning.
  • Read through the whole Bible chronologically. 
    I haven’t made it all the way through yet, but I am really proud to say I’ve been more consistent with getting in the Word than I ever have been in my life. Reading every single day has become a true habit.
  • Send 12 random surprise gifts to family, friends, or coworkers. ✓
    The gift-giver and surprise-lover in me had a blast doing this one! Among others, I took sweet treats to Daniel and my coworkers, sent some date night gift cards in the mail, and made a “Welcome Home” basket for some friends who had a baby.
  • Create new blog/social media content more consistently. ✓
    I based this one purely on stats. In 2017, I published 37 blog posts. In 2018, I published…37. Lol. But hey, I’m consistent! Originally, I had wanted to create more social media content as well, but honestly, I reached a point where I was sick of social media. I still wanted to enjoy it, but I was tired of trying to keep people *engaged* all the time, and I felt controlled by it. So I quit! I took the pressure off of myself and just started posting when I felt like it. And I am not sorry in the slightest.
  • Go on a group vacation with good friends. ✓
    I told Daniel that the way you know a group vacation was a success is when you get to the end of the trip and would willingly travel with those people again, and that was DEFINITELY the case after our group cruise! I’m already ready for the next one.
  • Have at least one TV-free day per week, and one social media-free day per month.
    I’m not even going to sugarcoat it: I 100% failed at this one. I don’t think I even accomplished this in one month out of twelve, and if I did, it was by accident. But I know exactly why I failed, and it’s because I didn’t make a plan. So I’m carrying this goal over into 2019, and I have a plan to make it happen.
  • Become a MONAT Mentor by the end of the year.
    This goal and my social media goal were actually very closely connected. If you’re friends with me on social media, you probably noticed that I haven’t been posting about MONAT as much anymore, and that’s partially because I felt like I was constantly stressed about not producing enough engaging content and connecting with people through those platforms. But before you get uppity about network marketing, just know that I am still a Market Partner, I still think MONAT is a fantastic company, I still love their hair products, AND I’m even still earning income. However, I decided that, for the time being, taking a step back from MONAT was what I needed, and I have not regretted that decision. I can always go back to it later if I want, but for now, I am enjoying this season and digging deeper into my relationship with the Lord, spending time with people I love, dreaming a little about the future, and learning more about myself.
  • Take a trip to visit my brother at his new place in Florida. ✓
    The beach, St. Augustine, Magic Kingdom – it was such a blast being with my family for a few days! You can read more about that trip here.
  • Plan a few out-of-the-ordinary date nights – new things we’ve never done before. ✓
    This one requires a bit of a story, so here’s the Reader’s Digest version. Daniel’s boss gave him a gift card to this really nice steakhouse – Del Frisco’s Double Eagle. We decided to use it for our 6th anniversary, so we got dressed up and headed to Dallas. After one of the most delicious meals and best conversations we’ve ever had together, Daniel reached in his wallet for the gift card…and found nothing, because I had accidentally left it on the piano at our house before we left. *cue the tears* I was horribly embarrassed, but Daniel had a good sense of humor about it and finally got me to smile by reminding me that forgetting the gift card just meant that we would have to come back again, and we already knew exactly what to order. Major facepalm on my part, but we still had a really great time.
  • Walk more: with Daniel, with Fitz, in the park, on a beach… ;) 
    We walked allllll over Disney World until our feet about fell off! And we started trying to take Fitz on walks again, even though he is frustratingly strong.

• 2019 •

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

Plan a “stay-cation”.

Learn something new – an intimidating recipe, common phrases in a few other languages, maybe a yoga pose. But something brand new to me.

Finish reading through the whole Bible chronologically.

Do just enough cardio to keep my heart from literally bursting at two of the most anticipated, most emotional, and most exciting weddings of my life: Robyn + Travis and Amanda + Ryan. 2019 = THE YEAR OF LOVE ♥♥

Find a fun 5k in my area, train for it, and run in it.

Pray for Daniel every single day.

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

Set specific time aside to do something for our marriage: a weekend away, a marriage conference, etc.

Host our friends for a full-fledged, multi-course dinner party.


Another tradition I paired with my list of goals was picking a word for the year. In 2017, I chose ‘Hope’ – the anchor of souls, assurance despite repeated disappointment, and the companion of trust – and it couldn’t have been a more perfect choice. Last year, I believe with all my heart that God Himself gave me the word ‘Courage’, which was very appropriate…but to tell you the truth, I don’t know if I really lived up to it. I spent many moments in 2018 feeling weak, scared, and timid.

Because of that, I felt a little more pressure to find *THE PERFECT WORD* for 2019 because I didn’t want to choose something easy or cheesy, or turn my spiritual growth into nothing but striving to live up to a certain word. But much like last year, one word kept showing up everywhere, and I don’t think it was by accident:

J O Y .

Joy is not the same as simply feeling happy. Joy can be chosen and felt regardless of your life circumstances. I’ve learned that worrying obsessively won’t stop the bad stuff from happening. It just keeps you from enjoying the good. I want to stop focusing on things I can’t control and enjoy my life, exactly the way it is. ♥

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

What It’s Like to Be 28 + 30 By 30 Update

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Y’all should know by now that I LOVVVVVVVVVVVVE my birthday. Always have and probably always will. But two years ago, when I turned 26, I had a weird moment. Literally, that picture at the top of this post could not be more real. 25 was my golden birthday – turned 25 on the 25th – and I felt soooo adult-y and grown-up. And then I turned 26 and was like, “Hold up…”

28 wasn’t intimidating until I remembered that my mom had me when she was 28. When Daniel and I got married, I was 22, and I never felt in a hurry to have kids because my parents were 28 and 30, and they did just fine. But I also didn’t expect to be married for 6 years and still not have kids, and as my birthday approached, I couldn’t stop the flood of thoughts:

I’m about to be the age my mom was when she had me. And I’m the oldest kid. I better get a move on; I can’t have my first kid when I’m 30. And what in the heck am I doing with my life?? I’m almost out of my 20’s and I haven’t cured cancer or created a new social media site yet. Everyone else is doing super important things with their life and yesterday I tried to get out of my car with my seat belt still on. *sigh*

All things considered, though, my birthday was actually AMAZING. My husband woke me up with breakfast in bed and some wonderful birthday gifts, we went to lunch with a group of friends from church and did a little shopping, and then celebrated with friends, pizza, cake, champagne, games, and a movie night at our house that night. It didn’t have to be anything extravagant or expensive – just knowing that Daniel planned everything in advance made me feel very loved. ♥

I also wanted to take a second to fill you in on my 30 By 30 progress, since I brought it up – so here’s a few things I’ve accomplished since my last update!

30 By 30 Update

#5. Throw someone a surprise party.
I actually did this twice last fall – a Stranger Things party for Jeremy, and a 13 Going on 30 party for Courtnie!

#15. Take Fitz on a trip.
Fitz goes to Thackerville with us all the time, but he also took a little vacation to meet up with a female German shepherd named Scarlett…! Haha. Things apparently went well, because Scarlett had a bunch of super cute puppies.

#17. Make a map of places we’ve visited.
When we went to Colorado with my family last summer, I found the perfect thing in one of the shops in downtown Silverton – a tea towel with a giant map of the United States on it, with all the states outlined. I’ve started coloring in each state we’ve visited with a Sharpie.

#27. Go on a fancy dress-up date.
We got to do this in Vegas for the MONAT gala. I just love dressing up!

I also finished another book (The Meaning of Marriage) and traveled to another state (Nevada). I never would have guessed when I created my list that I’d go to so many new states so quickly. My goal in 2016 was to visit five new states by February 2020, and I visited four in 2017 alone!!

What’s coming up in 2018? Nothing definite yet, but hoping to check #13, #19, and #26 off the list. What do you have planned this year?

Stranger Things Surprise Birthday Party

Seriously – could anything possibly top a Stranger Things birthday party?? Only one thing could, and it’s a SURPRISE Stranger Things birthday party, on the very day that the new season was released on Netflix. *angels singing*

Our dear friend Sheridan wanted to throw this party to celebrate her husband, Jeremy, and asked if I would mind helping/hosting, to which I immediately responded “YAAAASSSSSSSSS.” With the help of a few friends, she was able to bring her amazing vision to life, and I am still so impressed with how this party came together!

In keeping with the Stranger Things theme, she tacked up “Missing” posters of Barb, Will, and Jeremy all over the house. She also set up display on the stairs featuring Dungeons and Dragons, a record player, a baseball bat, and a bicycle! I painted the Castle Byers sign for her, which they used in the living room. String lights were everywhere, of course, and the living room was transformed into one giant blanket fort.

The dining room was the pièce de résistance, though – we couldn’t have a Stranger Things party without the infamous alphabet wall!

Even though Brandon almost ruined it….lol…thankfully Jeremy was COMPLETELY surprised when they came inside! We had so much fun hanging out, listening to the Stranger Things soundtrack, and snacking.

For the food, we set up an Eggo waffle bar with loads of toppings (including fried chicken strips!), chips and salsa, birthday cake, and “Demagorgan Blood” punch.

We had asked guests to come dressed in 80’s costumes or like a character from the show, so I dressed up as Barb! After we all took some pictures together, we settled in to watch the first episode of the newest season together, and ended up watching four or five more episodes before the night was over.

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Are you as ready for Season 3 as we are??

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”). 

Vegas, Baby!

Once again – I am blogging about Vegas WAYYYY too late, but better late than never! This mini-getaway was SO much fun, especially since the majority of it was free!! I earned the trip as an incentive through the hair products company I’m part of, and I’m so glad I worked my butt off and got to go. We felt like total tourists and didn’t even care, ate amazing food, and soaked up the gorgeous view from our hotel room. I will never forget walking into our room on the first night, pushing back the curtains, seeing all the lights from the strip and screaming “We’re in a free hotel room!!!” Such a cool opportunity, and hopefully not my last!

Our strip started with three absolutely heavenly things: Hopdoddy Burger Bar (with fries so good they might make you cry), Starbucks (the only place where “Daniel” is too difficult of a name to spell), and a double rainbow sighting at the airport right outside our gate.

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I love traveling, but especially when it’s with him. ♥

We had a choice between Paris and Planet Hollywood, and on the advice from several friends, decided to stay at Planet Hollywood. And I’m really glad we did. The room was huge, the hotel was modern and fun, and like I said – our view was spectacular.

For our first full day in Vegas, I spent most of the day in training, and it was AWESOME. The energy in the room; the stories that were shared; being the first to find out about new products and updates – I loved every second! Daniel had to entertain himself while I was busy, but we met for lunch at Gordon Ramsay’s burger place inside our hotel, and yummmmmm. Super good.

After lunch, Daniel told me I had to try one of the old-fashioned slot machines with the handle you pull – so I did! I put in $10, got it up to $15, and got nervous, so I cashed out. Haha!

We had some free time in the afternoon, so we decided to walk around the Strip a little before it was time to get ready for the gala that night. It felt like we were right in the middle of the action!

Watching the fountain shows in front of the Bellagio was one thing I really wanted to do while we were in Vegas. Luckily, we got to see them multiple times, including from our own room!

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After our mini walking tour, we headed back to fancy up for the evening.

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MONAT had reserved the entire second floor of the hotel for our event, and even took over the elevators!! It was so fun getting to dress up, eat dinner with my friend Juli and her husband, and then dance (and photobomb other people’s pictures) at the reception after dinner! Easily one of the most fun things I’ve done with MONAT so far.

I just love her.

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And him. He was such a good sport that night.

The next two days were free days to ourselves! We spent Thursday exploring more of the Strip and eating ridiculously good food.

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Our first stop was the Bellagio, which was right across the street from our hotel. I had read about the gorgeous chihuly ceiling in the lobby, and I wanted to see the conservatory and botanical gardens as well. They did not disappoint!

They change the displays out every season, and we got to see the fall display!I was blown away by the size of those peacocks. See all the different colors in their feathers? INDIVIDUAL ROSES.

 So. Many. Roses!!!

We also got to see the world’s largest chocolate fountain…

…AND this massive sports bar with virtually every game that could possibly have been on at that moment. (Probably not the world’s largest but still enormous.)

After taking in everything there was to see at the Bellagio, we walked over the Caesar’s Palace and wandered around in the Forum Shops. We made it just in time to watch “The Fall of Atlantis,” an animatronic show with special effects…

…like actual flames!

We had lunch at the Bacchanal Buffet inside Caesar’s (O…M…G) and then headed back to the Strip to walk off the 30 pounds of food we ate. Seriously – best buffet I have ever been to. You know how most buffets have, like, decent food at most stations and then one or two really good stations? At this place, EVERY station was the good station. They had gourmet sliders and fries, mini chicken and waffles (my fav), make-your-own street tacos, sushi, kobe beef, a dozen kinds of pasta, seafood, a crêpes station, gelato…….I truly don’t know if I have ever been that full after a meal, before or since.

Even though it was quite a walk (and once we got there, I got real depressed thinking about having to walk all the way back), I’m really glad we made it up to the Venetian. The Grand Canal Shoppes were really beautiful, and I loved watching the gondolas! Plus, we found a really cool hat shop and some giant art installments to take cheesy pictures in front of.

These next two pictures are literally just pictures we took for other people – the Holsteins one is for my family (“Holshteen’s books eez eh book shop”, lolllll) and the Transformers one is for Daniel’s brother, Isaiah. :)

Thursday night, we had dinner at this fabulous Italian place that Daniel’s boss had recommended called Scarpetta. It’s inside the Cosmopolitan and gets two thumbs wayyyyy, way up. Literally the best pasta I’ve ever had. And after dinner, we went to see DAVID COPPERFIELD!! Which I sadly took no pictures of, because it’s not allowed. Lol.

David Copperfield is a legend, and I was really pumped about the chance to see him in person. Although, I have to admit – his show felt just a teeny bit stale, almost like he was a bit bored with it. I kind of get it though. After all, he’s been doing this for decades. But still, what a show!! He did multiple things we had no explanation for, including making enormous objects appear and disappear out of thin air. Definitely entertaining!

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On Friday, our final day in town, we wanted to visit Fremont Street. I wish we could have gone at night, but it was still neat to walk around and look at all the old neon (and people watch – there are some weeeeeeirdos in Old Vegas!!).

We ate lunch at a cute little place called Therapy that had amazing deconstructed s’mores and took a walk through Container Park, an offbeat mini shopping center built from shipping containers. The playground in the middle looked like a giant tree house. We were obsessed with the atmosphere and spent almost an hour just hanging out on the terrace before we had to head to the airport for our flight home.

Probably one of the funniest parts about planning this trip was trying to figure out what to do with our free time, besides eat. I remember googling “what to do in Vegas if you don’t gamble or go clubbing” and was a little surprised by how many articles popped up about things to do with your kids in Vegas. And I was just like, whyyyy would you ever take kids to Vegas?? Who knows.

All things considered, I don’t know that Vegas would have ever been on our bucket lists, but hey – if someone tells me I earned or won a free trip somewhere, I’m gonna go!! Thanks, MONAT, for an awesome getaway! ♥

 

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”). 

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. ✓
1. Took ice cream to Daniel at work.
2. Surprised my coworker Sarah with a birthday cupcake.
3. Left a “welcome home” basket for the Wesberrys when Laeklyn was born.
4. Mailed Robyn a bride-to-be package.
5. Sent Eliya a date night gift card when Corey came home from Afghanistan.
6. Gave Jen & Stacey a date night gift card for their anniversary.
7. Delivered coffee to Sheridan at her office.
8. Made a snack basket and left it on Daniel’s desk to celebrate Friday.
9. Participated in an Instagram gift swap for Christmas.
10. Sent some cute druzy earrings to a secret sister via Facebook.
11. Surprised my boss with a group Christmas gift.
12. Gave my coworkers cute little DIY stovetop potpourri jars.

Create new blog/social media content more consistently. ✓

Go on a group vacation with good friends. ✓
Easily one of my favorite things we’ve done this year. We made such great memories on our Caribbean cruise with Brandon and Ashley and the Rains family!

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. 
Our 2nd annual Simma family vacay in June was so much fun – we explored St. Augustine, soaked up the sun at the beach, and even visited Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World!

Plan a few out-of-the-ordinary date nights – new things we’ve never done before. ✓
1. For our 6th anniversary, we went to Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steak House and ate one of the best meals either of us has ever had.

Walk more: with Daniel, with Fitz, in the park, on a beach… ;) 
We walked allllll over Disney World until our feet about fell off! And we started trying to take Fitz on walks again, even though he is frustratingly strong.


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!

Alaska Anniversary Photo Shoot

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When Daniel and I took our Alaskan cruise, one of the most exciting parts of the trip was meeting up with one of our wedding photographers in Juneau for a 5-year anniversary shoot. And honestly, the whole day feels like I dreamed it. There were a few mishaps, like the fact that our original location was covered up by clouds and it rained on us a lot. But it really didn’t matter because we had the most incredible time wandering around Mendenhall Lake with Catie, and I will treasure these pictures forever!

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Nugget Falls. Aka, the waterfall of my dreeeeeams.

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Cool story – see that glacier behind us? The adventure excursion we took later that day included paddling across the lake, hiking up on top of the glacier, and exploring the ice caves underneath!! AH-MAY-ZING. Pictures from that part of our trip are here.

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In this next little mini segment, Catie told Daniel to cuddle up close and whisper in my ear. So naturally, he did this: ⇓ ⇓

Catie: “Whisper sweet nothings!”
Daniel (seductively): “I love asparagus…”

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Man, I like him.

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The pose above has almost become a “signature” for us – we have an engagement picture and a wedding picture posed and positioned exactly like this, so I asked Catie to take one like them to keep the accidental tradition going.

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SIGH. I seriously want to take a photographer on all our vacations now. So dreamy! Thanks again, Catie! ♥