On Marriage

A recent report shows marriage rates dropping dramatically, specifically among those 18-34. Average age to get married is now 29 years old. A few initial thoughts: not everyone is called to be married. I get that. I also understand that the delay is getting married is accompanied by great things, like a more educated general public and good talent in the workforce.

Soon, those who are married will be in the minority. People have made the case that of the 51% who are married, some of those simply can't afford to get a divorce so they keep their marital status. 39% of those polled believe that marriage is becoming obsolete. All of this leaves my heart a little unsettled.

How can a sacred marriage be protected in a society that doesn't value monogamy? In a society that teaches us to do what is best for ourselves, to respond to our every emotion and that the grass is always greener on the other side? It's a little scary! 

I was recently involved in a conversation that essentially boiled down to the fact {from the other person's point of view} that I couldn't possibly be happy because I don't have a child. It was an odd conversation to say the least. I value this person's friendship, but this was way off base. Afterwards it got me thinking and finding comfort in the fact that God assured Sean would be enough for me {meeting my earthly needs and challenging me spiritually, that is. There are certainly holes in my heart only God can fill}. Although I do hope to have a family, no one is guaranteed that blessing and I really do believe that if it were just Sean and I we would be legitimately happy living God's will for our lives that might look different that others around us.

Marriage is tough. It brings extreme joy and also unmet expectations. I can't image a marriage without God -- two sinful people trying to make it work on their own seems extra difficult to me. A cord of three strands is sometimes the only way Sean and I have gotten through a disagreement or challenging week.

I hope that in the midst of declining marriage rates and climbing divorce rates I will take a more active role in praying for and supporting my own marriage as well as the marriages of my friends around me. I think I will brainstorm ideas of how to do this and write another post soon. Any ideas?


Deer Santa

I get that this is woodland Santa, but I think the painting of a buck on his dress garment is a little obvious. What, you don't own a skirt with a buck on it?


The Christmas Conundrum

Jen Hatmaker, a wonderful writer and woman of God has this great blog. I linked to one of her posts a few weeks ago on adoption and encourage you to check that out when you have time.

This blog post is on Christmas and how out of whack it has become. She talks about how her family is trying to combat the selfishness that arises during what is supposed to be a sacrificial, giving holiday. Things like watching less TV so they don't have to deal with the extra advertising, buying fewer gifts and giving her kids money to spend on projects around the world.

I appreciate her honest approach and understanding that not everyone will agree and choose to do what she does. I can relate to her feeling that during the month of December people feel off-kilter -- they want to be kind and giving, but there are feelings of obligation and selfishness that seem to always creep in.

This year was probably the first I've given much thought to it. For the past couple of years I have cut back on gifts, but mostly due to a smaller budget and not necessarily to be conscious about celebrating the birth of our Savior instead of the commercialized version of Christmas. My trip to Haiti, and subsequent changes in how I look at things and deal with money had me feeling all weird when my mom requested a wish list for Christmas. The sad thing? It didn't stop me from asking for a laundry list of things I don't need. Sure, I hesitated, but I still submitted the list.

Thinking of family Christmas traditions is a little weird right now because we don't have kids. But really, what better time to change your mentality on the holiday? How could I really expect to teach my {not yet existent} children about how important Jesus' birth was to all humanity if I myself get caught up in the buying of presents, parties and decorating the home? None of those are bad by themselves, but apart from teaching the significance of Christmas they are dangerous.

Deep thoughts for a Monday. ;)


Book Review: Radical

I just finished the book Radical by David Platt and it's totally worth the read! It's full of good stuff, but the overall premise of the book is that the American dream (big home, good job, lots of money) often falls counter intuitive to what Jesus actually asks of his followers. Living the way our culture says is correct can be a huge obstacle to living out our faith and loving others the way the Bible commands us to.

I will admit that the book starts off as a bit of a downer, but mostly because it was really convicting for me. It highlights a lot of the author's concerns with modern American churches. For example, he asks the question that if the entertainment factor were taken away from church (music, comfy chair, nice facilities) would we still go? Is Jesus enough for us? David Platt is a pastor of a large church in Birmingham, so I enjoyed struggling through some of the concepts with him. He tells of teaching at a secret church in Asia one week then be back in his comfortable, rich church the next and he's had a hard time reconciling those - that comes across in this book and was very genuine to me.

The book discusses topics like what we do with our money and how that may or may not help us on our walk with Christ. It introduces ideas of how to improve our world-view and care for orphans and those in need around the world.

The book ends with a challenge to do something about it. Not just read the book, but take it an put it into action. And by book I mean both the Bible and some concepts Platt introduces in Radical as well.

If you haven't read it, I would add it to your list. It's a short book that's jam packed with thought provoking material. Did you already read it? I'd love to hear what you think. Did you change anything in your lifestyle after finishing?

One thing I'm doing is asking for the book Operation World for Christmas. It's a book that takes you through countries all over the world and highlight specific needs they might have. If you finished it as planned, you will have prayed every nation in the world in one year!


I like my dog.

I just really like my dog. Look how cute he was as a puppy! He's a really happy dog and does a good job being my friend and constant heat pack. He prefers for Sean to play with him (because he can throw his Kong further), but for sure prefers to snuggle with me.
Here he is snuggling in a blanket after his bath and using my face as a pillow. He didn't think it was weird at all.
This is his best friend, Colonel. They live across the street from each other, go to each other's doors and stare at each other through the window. They are pretty rowdy together, but I think it's cute that they are friends. We won't be getting a second dog anytime soon, though. There are a couple of things he does that are not so cute: he plays fetch all the time. It's a good skill, but if we don't want to play he will whine for a while. He's starting to learn better, though. He will also chew holes in all pairs of underwear or pants within his reach. I've learned the hard way to not throw my pants on the floor!
I think he's extra cute near a Christmas tree. Here are this year's Christmas portraits. Doesn't this one look like a school picture? Hands crossed, head slightly tiled. hehe
He likes to hang underneath the Christmas tree and I think it's cute.
He went to the groomer this weekend, which seems to be a bit traumatic for him, but the guy does a good job. This groomer always points out that he needs to be groomed when I bring him in. I know. That's why I brought him in.
While I'm excited to be a mom someday, right now I'm really enjoying the quality time with Sean and this sweet little pup. :)


Cool sale in NWA

A disproportionate number of our friends here in NWA work at Acumen Brands. It's a really cool company that develops online retailers, like the Baby Habit, The Hectic Gourmet and Trails Edge.

This weekend they are having a warehouse sale that's going to have some mega sales here in Fayetteville. Here's a link to the Facebook event that shows all of the details. If you're in the area you should swing by and check it out. If not, you could always shop online. :)


Sore Thumbs

These wreaths are addicting and I've got the sore thumbs to prove it! They come together so quickly and provide instant gratification! They can be made in a lot of different ways, but I make them by using straw or styrofoam wreaths and using floral pins to secure the mesh {hence the sore thumbs}. These are great beginner crafting project and are really fun - I encourage you to try your hand at one if you like them. Everything can be purchased at Hobby Lobby (Sams club has gold deco mesh where I live).


Woo Pig Sooie

I maintain that my voice is not physically capable of calling the hogs. It's too high pitched for my low voice tone! Nonetheless, we live in Razorback country. The Mizzou tigers still hold our heart, but while we're here in Fayetteville we are making the most of local events (which pretty much only consist of Razorback related events). Since Sean works with the athletes and gets tons of free gear, it makes it a little easier to cheer for them. :)
 Sean's dad and his wife came in town for the South Carolina came a couple of weeks ago. They brought some pretty amazing tailgate food with them!

 Isn't Sean handsome?! This is us tailgating at the Tennessee game (after we watched Mizzou beat Texas of course!). Our friends Jon and Kristin have a pretty sweet tailgate setup - complete with big screen TV mounted in a trailer.

 My husband has worn Converse shoes since he was a little boy - he even got married in them! I've never been that attracted to them, but bought my first pair this weekend (on sale at Ross!) and really like them.
The news that Mizzou joined the SEC throws a bit of a wrench in our ability to easily cheer for both teams. We will have to see how that plays out with time!


Let's get it on: Destiny in Bloom

*Mom and other family that might read this blog: this post is about sex. Don't feel awkward reading it because I don't feel awkward writing it.

Yep, we're going there.

The other day I stumbled across this blog: Destiny in Bloom. It's a blog written for Christian women and covers topics like family, marriage, parenting and self image. I was really drawn in by the author's level of honesty and willingness to have frank discussions {albeit, online}.

This blog post, entitled 'Let's Get It On' caught my attention. This is good stuff, friends! Discussing healthy sex relationships is often considered taboo for some reason, especially among more conservative-natured people. Why? Don't get me wrong - it's a private and very tender topic. But here's the thing - God created it, right? God knows our every need and created sex within the context of marriage to be a safe and beautiful thing.

The main topics of this article are:
1. If your husband feels like a man outside of the bedroom, he will inside of the bedroom too
2. Take care of your own emotional junk
3. Use your imagination
4 Have fun with each other
5. Don't use sex as a weapon
6. It's a spiritual connection you only get to have with him

My favorite line of the blog post mentioned above {read it when you have a few minutes} is this:

"Treat your husband as if he already were the man you want him to become. I mean, you have a vision for who he can be, right? So instead of correcting, nagging, trying to get him there, treat him as if he’s already arrived."

What a piece of advice to treasure and heed!

Another resource I would point you to if you're interested in the topic is a book called Sheet Music by Dr. Kevin Lehman.


Deco mesh wreath decorating party

This past weekend I had some girlfriends over to my place to make Christmas wreaths together! I made a couple deco mesh wreaths a few days prior and was surprised how quickly they came together. It's easy enough for beginner crafters and is great for instant gratification! I'm still planning to do a quick video tutorial on how to make these and will post that soon.
We laughed a lot, enjoyed some Christmas tunes (including Bieber's new album) and had some pretty fun wreaths for the girls to take home!

Here are some of their creations: 


Visiting Family

Fayetteville is really growing on us and one of my favorite things about living in NWA is how close we are to family. Sean's mom lives here in Fayetteville and the drive to my parents house is only about 90 minutes, making weekend trips SO easy.

My parents just bought this really pretty home in Branson Creek - it was fully furnished and is really beautiful.
 A couple weekends ago, my Nanny came to visit (mom's mom). Isn't she pretty?! I sure hope I age as well as she does!
 During her visit we went to dinner at the Candlestick in Branson - SO delicious! Here's mom and dad before dinner:
 My little brother Austin and I at dinner and me and dad before we left. I think Austin and I look a lot alike! Austin is a spitting image of my father when he was his age.
This picture is taken from my parent's master bedroom looking into the bathroom. There wasn't a door for privacy! The actual toilet room does have a door, but the bed looks straight into the jacuzzi tub and mom wanted a bit more privacy, so I sewed these drapes for them. The picture isn't that good, but they are mostly green with purple and gold trim.
 I also made mom this Christmas wreath. People decorate for Christmas very early in Branson - it was only Christmas music at the Landing when I was there in early November. 
 My papa (dad's dad) visited Branson last week, but I wasn't able to make it up there due to work. Thankfully, they made a special trip to Fayetteville so we could meet them for breakfast. My papa is arguably the nicest man on the planet! He loves Jesus dearly, has taught preschool Sunday school since I can remember and volunteers somewhere different almost every day of the week (hospitals, driving friends to doctor appointments, a pharmacy, a theme park for special needs children). His heart is so generous and giving and I'm so thankful for his example!
What a blessing our family is!


Random updates and adoption reads

I'm here and will have some craft posts up soon. I love to craft. A lot. But sometimes life just takes other turns. I'm in the 10th week of study of Beth Moore's Daniel study - it's fantastic! I have to approach it like an actual class otherwise I will get behind on my daily assignments. I encourage you to check it out - you can buy the book online or in a local bookstore and download the video sessions on iTunes!

Sean is eager to finish school. Prayers for wisdom as we start the discussions on our next steps would be awesome.

We really love our church and small group here in Fayetteville. Both have made our transition in this city SO much easier and we feel more comfortable here than ever. 

I've been reading and trying to learn a lot about adoption and orphan care, something that Jesus called his followers to be a part of. We're not really sure how adoption will fit into our lives, so for now I'm just trying to learn a lot about the process, educate myself and Sean and staying in prayer. There's so much information out there! Here are a few of my favorite reads online if you want to check them out:

How to support a family going through the process of adoption. She writes with a good sense of humor and transparency what not to do and what would be helpful.

Katie Davis, a 22 year old who has started a great ministry in Uganda. She has taken in 13 girls and it's interesting to see her view on adoption in context of the devastation the children are facing.

Evangelical Adoption Crusade This one is long but a good read. The writer has a pretty cynical view towards Christians adopting, taking a few notable examples (i.e. the group who got caught trying to sneak children across the Haitian border post earthquake) and trying to turn it into a larger message. I wouldn't stand by a lot of what she discusses, but there are some interesting facts on the number of adoptions and how adoption patterns have changed over time.

A Christianity Today response to the above article. This takes some of the points of the previous article and talks about what we might need to learn from her criticisms.


Commissioned: banner, bag-o and bench seat

Here are a few commissioned projects I haven't yet blogged about:

These aren't great pictures, but I made a 'Here Comes the Bride' banner for a friend's wedding. Two little boys carried it down the aisle just before Megan and her daddy walked down the aisle. I hope the photographer got a good shot of this banner with the bride in the background! I actually ended up using iron transfer letters for this because that's what I had in hand. If I had thought about it more I would have purchased some iron-on black vinyl and used my Silhouette machine to cut the letters out.
 My boss was having a tailgate and couldn't find his cornhole/bag-o bags, so I made him some. They are really easy! I followed this tutorial. Before I sewed the bags together, I freezer paper stenciled the hogs on. I used my Silhouette to cut out the hogs. I purchased the corn feed from a local farm supply company for super cheap.
 I sewed this bench seat cushion for a friend's sister. That thick foam is expensive! I price shopped for quite  a while and ended up buying it from Hancock Fabrics when they had a 54% off sale. {why 54...why not 50 or 55?}  I used an electric cutting knife to trim it to the size I needed then followed this tutorial for the cover. I would say this is an intermediate-advanced project. If you take it slow you will be fine...there's just a lot of fabric on your machine at one time and some angles to work with. 


Mizzou's Centennial Homecoming

Sean and I traveled back to Columbia for Mizzou's 100th homecoming this past weekend. We weren't sure what it would feel like to be back in Columbia, but we LOVED it! Running into familiar faces everywhere we went was refreshing. It felt comfortable to be back on campus and surrounded by black and gold.

We went to house decs on Friday night. For those of you who attended Mizzou, they aren't quite as impressive anymore. Rightfully so they have cut back on the amount of pomping - I mean...those were ridiculously time consuming and expensive anyways. I'm glad they've done that, but they're not quite as much fun to see anymore.
The parade, however, was great! This float was my favorite - my super sweet 16 themed.
After the parade we popped into the new bookstore to buy a couple of things then headed to my sorority house for a brunch. Look at my tan-tastic headshot below. Not sure how I even got that dark and am slightly embarrased that picture will be up in the house forever.
A good family friend graciously let us sit with him at the game. The weather was beautiful (we actually got a little sunburned)! 
 This is a picture from inside the new student commons center - it's really impressive! Tons of room for student to hang out, study and grab a meal in between classes. They did a great job integrating Mizzou traditions into the new facility.
 Last but not least we dropped in HyVee. Oh, how we miss this place! I really didn't realize what I was missing  until we went back in - their selection is SO big and prices are good. With the Wal Mart national headquarters in NWA, that's pretty much our only option here. Sean plans to write a letter to HyVee asking them to expand into our area. I'm sure they'll listen. :)
 We also spent time with old friends, went to The Crossing on Sunday morning and dropped in the new Goodwill store {it's the nicest one I've ever been to!}. We have no idea where we will end up after Sean finishes school in May, but Columbia is definitely on the list of places we might like to be! 


DIY Camping Party Invitations

These are some party invitations I made for a 10 year girls birthday party and they turned out pretty stinking cute. Since the theme is camping I had the idea to make each invite a s'mores kit.

With some inspiration from the web, I grabbed the clip art from thinkstock.com, downloaded a font called Pinewood and used Publisher to put it together.

 For the actual invites I used vellum envelopes from Hobby Lobby. I printed off the above design on cardstock, filled the envelopes with s'mores goodies, then stapled the topper to the envelope. I used tape to secure the envelope shut.
 You probably want to assemble these close to when you hand them out so the graham crackers and marshmallows stay yummy.
 These will be fun invitations to hand out at school! With just $10 and less than an hour's time, these cute DIY s'mores invitations add a special touch to party!


Baby shower - DIY elements

This past weekend I hosted my first baby shower for a friend here in Fayetteville. Here are the invites I made - based off an idea I found on pinterest.
As my gift to the new-mom-to-be I painted this door sign. It acted as door decor for the shower, but can also hang on her hospital door when little Caleb is born. I left room for them to write in his stats after he makes his appearance. I really like how this turned out. It's just a $5 canvas from Hobby Lobby that I painted. I used a sharpie for his name and the Bible verse, but will probably use my Silhouette to cut out vinyl/heat transfer on the next version for additional precision.
 Welcome baby banner.
 I made some tissue paper poms (see tutorial here) and some paper pinwheels (see tutorial here) to hang above the food table. The thing to remember about the paper pinwheels is that the larger the diameter of the circles, the longer the strips of pleated paper will need to be. Hot gluing the circles to the front and back centers provides stability.
This was one of my favorite parts of the shower! I set up a onesie decorating station with freezer paper stencils. Here's a good tutorial on freezer paper stenciling. I googled various boy friendly shapes, imported them into my Silhouette software to trace their outline then used the machine to cut out the freezer paper stencils. I hung them on some fishing line with mini clothespins from Hobby Lobby. Other items I had out:
iron and ironing board
fabric paint
foam brushes
paper plates
blow dryer 
instruction sheet

The guests loved this!  
 I bought a couple packs of onesies and blank bibs for the guests to decorate. Note on the blank bibs: when heat setting the fabric paint, don't hold the iron in one place too long b/c the bibs have a plastic backing that could melt.
 See all of their adorable creations?!
 I also had a stack of diapers out with sharpies for guests to write encouraging notes for the new mommy and daddy.
 Overall it was a success! I think Mandy felt loved and cared for - she's got a great support network of friends and family in the area, which I'm sure she will appreciate as she starts her family!