The Best (and Worst) of 2014 // Celebration

I believe in a life full of celebration, in living life out loud. I believe that our days are numbered and the Lord intends for us to soak in all of His goodness while we can, so we can lavish that same joy and kindness on those around us by celebrating the big moments and all the little ones in between. Celebration is necessary, don't you think?

When I look back on 2014, I can easily say that there is an overwhelming theme of celebration and I love every second of it. It was intentional in part per weddings and parties, but it was also something that just seeped from our days, too, when we least expected it. It was a year where intentional became more than just a word, where marriage developed into more than just a dream, and life became something to be cherished and celebrated at every turn. 

I've been blogging for 4 years on and off and have never done a "year in review" post, partially to avoid being trendy, but mainly because I was too scatterbrained to organize it. This year is different. This year deserves a look back, and I hope you'll take part in it, even for just a second. 

First up--January was a quiet month, but it was full of planning and anticipation on my part--the holidays were over and our wedding was drawing closer and closer. I worked New Year's Eve and got to welcome the first baby of 2014. We celebrated with final wedding showers throughout January and our rehearsal dinner on the last night of the month. Andrew's sister got married and we partied with the whole Walker clan, all while counting down the days until our Big Day was finally here! 

Next was sweet, sweet February, the month we got married, one of the best months of the year. Andrew and I became husband and wife on the 1st of February, a unseasonably warm day where everything was picture perfect. It was the wedding of my dreams and to top it off, I married the best man I know.  We celebrated with our favorite people and loved every second of it. We spent a week in Jamaica, toasting to our marriage and living it up on gorgeous white sand beaches. Later in the month, we celebrated my sister and yet-to-be-born niece, Mary Elliott with a beautiful shower full of pretty presents and lots of love.

March and April were wonderful months for the most part, yet they seemed to pass by in a blur. March was consumed with the birth of my first niece, the most perfect and precious baby ever to be born! She turned our worlds upside down and we are all smitten with her! I traveled to New Orleans for a bachelorette party for Dannah, one of my best friends in the world! We had a blast celebrating her last days as a single lady. I turned 26 (without much celebration, womp womp) and celebrated Easter with my family. Andrew and I had 4 wedding showers to attend in April and loved getting to see friends and celebrate upcoming weddings! April ended with the annual Double Decker Festival in Oxford. April also tested our family--my grandmother had a serious heart attack after a routine procedure and was in the hospital for 2 weeks. It was the start of a long year of hospital stays for her. 

Then came May and June. We traveled to St. Louis to see Andrew's sister and brother-in-law. We had a blast visiting with them and watching the Cardinals play! We had a date night to celebrate 3 months of marriage and 3 years of being together. Our back porch quickly became our favorite part of our home and we had quite a few parties out there through the summer, starting with a Memorial Day cookout! We celebrated lots of weddings this month, too--my uncle got married in Missouri, Andrew's best friend got married in Memphis, TN, and one of my dearest friends was married in Louisiana. We traveled a lot but loved every minute of it. Wedding season was in full swing!

July and August brought the hot summer months to Mississippi. July was a good one--this blog post went viral and brought in a ton of new readers, we started our blog Bible Study, and our wedding was featured in a local magazine. Andrew and I also traveled to the MS coast for a little weekend away with his mom and her boyfriend. We celebrated another wedding of some dear friends and watched Ole Miss kick off their season with a win in Atlanta! On a negative note, after having some vision loss, I found out I have psuedotumor cerebri and underwent numerous tests and lumbar punctures. I was extremely sick with a spinal headache for a week, but spent it laying horizontal on the couch at the beach. God taught me lots of lessons on patience and trust this month, and for that, I am thankful! 

Football season was going strong once September hit. We spent many Saturdays in the Grove with friends and family, cheering our Rebs on to victory. We had our Sunday School over for a big cookout and I realized just how much I love having a house full of people! Another bachelorette party went down here in Oxford for my favorite blonde, Alex. We had such a great time being together--it was as if we were back in college! October was kicked off with our favorite couples in town for the Ole Miss/Bama game and we had the BEST weekend ever with a Rebel win! Mary Elliott kept getting cuter and cuter and we loved seeing her experience each season for the first time. Alex and Will's gorgeous, fun wedding was at the end of October and was the perfect way to finish out the month!

November was here before we knew it. Andrew's family came into town at the first of the month for the Ole Miss/Auburn game and we had a great time having a house full of family! I had some blog photos taken by my sweet friend Nicole and loved having girl time with her! Andrew and I took Christmas card pictures, Ole Miss beat State in the Egg Bowl, and we had a wonderful Thanksgiving with family. My grandparents were moved into an assisted living facility this month, and although it was hard, we knew it was the best for them. Mary Elliott spent time with her great-grandparents and they were all quite taken with each other. We finished out the month by pulling out all of our Christmas decor and enjoying a night on the Square for the Oxford Christmas Tree Lighting. It was a wonderful way to kick off the holiday season!

Sweet December. What a great month! Santa came early and brought me a new car--my first SUV! We traveled to Little Rock with some dear friends, Alex and Catherine, to see Garth Brooks and had a blast! We sent out Christmas cards, decorated our house in red and green, and enjoyed every little moment of Christmas cheer! God taught me a lot this month about priorities and putting Him first and it made all the difference. We danced the night away at another wedding, enjoyed lots of time with friends and family, and loved celebrating our first married Christmas. I took part in the She Reads Truth Advent study and savored this Christmas season more than I ever have before--this month grew me spiritually in ways I never expected. I learned a lot about what tradition means to me and my family and how as we grow older, traditions change, and that's okay--my grandmother is sick and we spent this Christmas season cherishing our time with her, because we never know what day will be our last. God is good, all the time. 

Whew. Finished. It was a challenge to narrow all the good things down. I am so thankful for all the joy that 2014 brought--lots of weddings, lots of family, lots of friends. More celebrating than my little heart could handle--what a precious year. There were a lot of moments that didn't go as planned and a lot of situations that turned out to be quite different than we pictured, but it was all still good. As I get older, I'm learning slowly that my definition of "good" is fluid--it changes and flows as the situation changes--it takes on different faces in triumph and in sadness and even in anger, but there is always goodness to be found somewhere. And that's what 2014 was for me--finding the goodness in every moment and celebrating it regardless. 

This quote by Shauna Niequist sums 2014 up for me--
“Celebration when your plan is working? Anyone can do that. But when you realize that the story of your life could be told a thousand different ways, that you could tell it over and over as a tragedy, but you choose to call it an epic, that's when you start to learn what celebration is. When what you see in front of you is so far outside of what you dreamed, but you have the belief, the boldness, the courage to call it beautiful instead of calling it wrong, that's celebration.”  -S.Niqueist, Cold Tangerines
I'm thankful for 2014 and the celebration it brought our lives. And now I'm ready to see what 2015 holds. 

Merry Christmas from Our Home to Yours!

Merry Christmas, friends! I'm currently home soaking in the Christmas festivity with my family and making the most of my time off work, but I wanted to stop in and spread a little cheer! This space is the outflow of my heart, and my heart is full of Christmas joy right now, so here I am, showing you a few little snippets of our home all dressed up in red and green. I want to remember this merry feeling in the days to come, don't you? I am so thankful for these traditions but even more thankful for the coming of our Christ, the real reason for the season! 

Have yourself a merry little Christmas, let your heart be light...

From now on, our troubles will be out of sight.

Have yourself a merry little Christmas, make the yuletide gay...

Next year all our troubles will be miles away.

Here we are as in olden days, happy golden days of yore...

Faithful friends who are dear to us gather near to us once more. 

Through the years we all will be together, if the fates allow...

Hang a shining star upon the highest bough. 

And have yourself a merry little Christmas now.

"The spirit of Christmas needs to be superseded by the Spirit of Christ. The spirit of Christmas is annual; the Spirit of Christ is eternal. The spirit of Christmas is sentimental; the Spirit of Christ is supernatural. The spirit of Christmas is a human product; the Spirit of Christ is a divine person. That makes all the difference in the world." -Stuart Briscoe

Merry, merry Christmas from the Walkers! May your days be filled with the true meaning of the season, the birth of Jesus Christ, our Savior! 

Simplified Planner Giveaway!

I'm spending a little extra time away from the computer this week, savoring time with friends and family and cramming in as much Christmas fun as possible. But I couldn't help but drop in and tell y'all about this fantastic giveaway that I'm taking part in. Y'all read on and enter to win, I promise you won't regret it!

This time of year just does something to me. I love Christmastime and all that it brings, but in my mind, I'm already looking towards 2015 and the fresh start that comes with it! There's just something refreshing and wonderful about the start of a new year. 

To get you on the right track & ready for all that 2015 has to offer, I've teamed up with Jenni from Frankly My Dear & several other ladies to give away one lucky a reader a SOLD OUT 2015 Daily Edition of Emily Ley's Simplified Planner in Happy Stripes!

 The Williams Journey // Blonde Freedom // Joyfully Organized // New Home, New Name, New Adventure // Simply Complex Mom // Park Avenue // Rachel Rewritten // Heavens to Betsy // Frankly My Dear // Oak + Oats 

One Simplified Planner will be given away in Happy Stripes. Open to those with a valid US address for shipping. All entries will be verified. No purchase is necessary to win. Giveaway will run until 12/22 at 11:59pm. Winner will be emailed and have 48 hours to claim their prize or another winner will be chosen. 
Good luck!

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Coffee Date Friday // Volume III

I don't know about y'all, but I'm really starting to grow fond of these coffee date Fridays. I love ending the week with y'all, sharing my heart and getting to hear what's on your mind too. It's such a fun way to slow down and just talk, no agenda and no obligations to fulfill.  What a way to welcome the weekend. We may have to start making this a more regular thing! 

Today, I think I may skip my coffee in lieu of some hot chocolate with big fluffy marshmallows on top. Those marshmallows seal the deal for me--any drink with marshmallows on top is right up my alley for this time of year!

Let's get to coffee talking, I want to hear how your week has been and what's on your heart today!

If we were having coffee, I'd probably tell you my highs for this week...

// Andrew and I (and some couple friends of ours) are going to see Garth Brooks tonight and I am literally counting down the hours. I'm not the biggest fan of country music, but Garth is classic and has always, always been my favorite performer ever! You'll probably see numerous pictures on Instagram tonight.

// My sweet husband surprised me with the best Christmas present ever... a brand new car! We've been discussing getting one for a couple of weeks now, but I never expected to have one this soon! If we were having coffee today, I'd have to make you take a spin in my new ride! 

And of course, I'd probably tell you about some lows for this week...

// Work has been crazy. Literally the busiest few weeks ever, thanks to our new computer system that makes everything a little slower + lots of babies. I think we'll get the hang of it eventually, but I've spent more hours at the hospital in the past two weeks than I have all of last month combined! I'm so thankful to have a job and glad that I love what I do, but gracious, I need a break.

// I've been struggling a lot this week with balancing a busy schedule. I don't know how to say "no" to a lot of things, and that gets in the way of the things I really need to be focusing on this time of year. Especially with work being so busy, I'm learning slowly just to say no in certain situations and that a busy schedule doesn't always mean I'm being productive. The Lord has been teaching me a lot about how I spend my time and how I can use those hours to glorify Him.

This print sums up how I've been feeling matter what crazy schedule life throws at me and no matter how busy I may get, let me always put Him first. He is the reason for this season and He is the only reason we celebrate! I have to remind myself of this thought often, but He's calming my heart and helping me to slow down to enjoy this sweet season of Advent.

Tell me friend, what have been your highs and lows? What are you looking forward to this weekend? I can't wait to chat with you. Grab a cup of coffee and sit a while! Xoxo

Linking up with Jenna from Dearest Love!

A Fun and Festive DIY Homemade Hot Chocolate Mix

This time of year just makes me want to bake and craft. There's laundry that needs to be folded and errands that need to be run, but doesn't lighting a fire, baking some cookies, and drinking hot chocolate sound so much better? Yeah, I thought so too. Hot chocolate has been on my mind lately with the temperatures dropping, so when I needed a few happies for some friends earlier in the week, a DIY mix seemed to be just the solution. 

This mix couldn't be easier to make. You literally gather the ingredients, prep a space to make a little mess, and grab a measuring cup. Then just layer them as you go, and it creates a fun, festive gift to give to neighbors, teachers, or friends! 

The best part? You can add whatever little toppings you want! I went with french vanilla marshmallows in one, crushed peppermint sticks in the next, and a few peanut butter chips in the last. I also used granulated sugar in one and powdered sugar in another! The powdered sugar mix seems to be a little smoother of course, but they're BOTH delicious!

I found some cute printable tags on Pinterest that I wanted to use, but my printer is on the fritz. So I just grabbed some leftover tags from our wedding favors and doodled a little greeting. I'm hoping to add labels with instructions to these before I give them to friends! Even without instructions, they're SO easy to use. Just mix all the jar ingredients together then add 1/2 cup of mix to 8 ounces of boiling water. 

Top it off with some extra marshmallows and a sprinkling of chocolate chips, and you're ready for a cozy night by the fire! I must say, this hot chocolate is so much better and more rich than any prepackaged mix you've ever had! Give it a try, you won't be disappointed! 

Hover over this recipe and pin it for future use--I promise you'll love how easy and delicious it is! Grab a mug of hot chocolate and let's make a toast for the season! What's your favorite holiday recipe? Share with us--the more the merrier!!! Xoxo

Blogging Truths: When Authenticity Doesn't Come Easy

My phone went off earlier and I saw a friend's name pop up on my screen. Excited to chat with her, I eagerly opened the text and said, "Hi friend! How are you?" She quickly replied, "I'm okay, but how are you?" I almost looked over her cry for compassion and answered the question instead, but something made me hang around a little longer. 
"Just okay? That doesn't sound too good. What's up?" After a little coaxing, I finally got her to spill the beans and tell me what was going on in her life. Because we all know, a little "I'm okay, but how are you?" really means, "I'm having a terrible day and life sucks but I'd rather stay in denial about it, so let's talk about you." 

That's something I've noticed more and more lately, especially with us women--how quick we are to cover up what's really going on in our lives. I think we all want to open up but something holds us back. Why is it instinct for us to sweep it under the rug and act like all is okay when really, deep down we're hurting and are bogged down by life? We're terrified of vulnerability and it's stifling us. Stifling the joy inside of us and holding us back from our potential.

Our generation has a problem with authenticity. I'll just say it. We think by showing our true colors and laying it all out there, we're letting down our guard and become less of a woman by some nature. That our emotions or our faults or how we react define us and if we're numb to it all, it won't hurt as bad. We stay under the radar, praying to blend in and not draw any attention to ourselves or our problems. There's a mask that we all wear whether we want to or not; whether we realize it or not. Social media has only furthered our problem--it's unrealistic to live up to the hype of the perfect life portrayed by IG filters and perfectly styled pictures. Real life isn't perfect and that's okay.

What if I show my true self and someone doesn't like me? What if I post what my house looks like on a daily basis? The laundry I can't catch up on or the dishes that always need to be done. Or what about the things that really matter...struggles at work, with friends, or within ourselves? How I can't seem to get my weight under control? Am I supposed to show the hard times that the Lord brings just as much as the good? Of course I am...that's what this life is about.

What if I finally find the courage to be vulnerable about the things going on and it backfires? Every day that I come to this space on the internet, that thought crosses my mind. It take a lot of bravery to do what we as bloggers do. Am I being authentic? Am I showing the real me, brokenness and all? And if I am, am I ready for what might come next?

Being vulnerable is terrifying. It makes me shudder just thinking about it. Where is the line that we dare not cross? How do we balance being real enough to be relatable but vague enough that we're not transparent with our personal lives to the whole (Internet) world?The more "social" our generation gets, the more I long for something genuine. 

This world is a place where we cry out to be accepted, to be loved, to be needed. But I think there's a difference in being loved and being known. I try to have those friendships where I'm known and loved, even with my baggage and bruises and faults that I try so desperately to hide. Because that's where true love and friendship lies--the place where being known and being loved intersects. The Lord is right there in that spot, so why are we so afraid of it?

Why aren't we willing to be more authentic? I wish we lived in a world where it was okay to say, "Hey, you know what? I'm not okay, and I'm okay with that fact. I need a little extra love today and am begging for you to accept my faults and love me through it." I wish this blog world wasn't so superficial at times. It's easy to see who is being genuine and who isn't. It's taken me a while to realize that those who aren't being genuine aren't at all being fake, they're just covering up something--hurt or sadness or family issues or marriage trouble and so on. It makes me want to reach out and hug them, instead of talking about them behind their back, like we women are so quick to do. 

We've all been there; we've all struggled with being honest and open when we're hurting. We all need that friend who can see past that facade and break down our walls and love us through the struggle. Because with every little brick that comes down, we become more of our true self, the woman God created us to be. And that's what we're all striving to be at the end of the day...just me, uncovered and raw, genuine and stripped down to the core.

Authenticity is something I strive for daily. I want the fear of vulnerability to disappear because then and only then, that means I'm okay with me. All of me. Even those messy parts we try to hide. Even those cracks in our walls that we cover up. I think that I am so hesitant to be authentic and open because that leaves me open to judgment and criticism from friends and even worse, complete strangers. At what price do we try to be authentic? Just this week, a dear blog (turned IRL) friend of mine was bitten by being open and honest on her blog and it's killing me to see her hurt. Is it worth that risk?

It's a daily struggle. But in the end, I think authenticity pays off when we let someone in. When someone meets us in that place of openness and accepts us in spite of our faults, something happens within us--when someone knows us and loves us at the same time, it changes us. Maybe not a drastic, obvious change, but little by little, we become okay with ourselves and become a little more comfortable with honesty. We realize that it's okay to not have it all together. We connect over being broken. That connection is something that can't be described and can't be denied. 

Today, I'm challenging you to be one of those people. The friend who doesn't let the "I'm okay, but how are you?" slip by without calling a friend out about it. It's a cry for help, girls. We've all muttered those words, begging for someone to listen for a little longer. This week, I want us all to strive to be a little more vulnerable, to show a part of ourselves that makes us uncomfortable. Open up to a friend and let them know what's on your heart. Ask for prayer, ask for a hug. Just ask for love. Because then and only then do we open up the chance to grow, to learn, and to be healed. 

I want each of us to be seen, to be loved, and to be accepted in this place. I want us to love others wholeheartedly as Christ loved us even if there's no guarantee that we'll be loved back. Vulnerability doesn't have to be a scary thing if we welcome it with open arms--sometimes the most beautiful of blessings come out of brokenness.

Do you feel authenticity and vulnerability go hand in hand? Have you struggled with this in your life or in the blog world? How do you break down those walls? Let's talk today, sisters!

Merry Christmas from the Walkers // Our Christmas Cards

Christmastime is full of things that fill me with joy, if you haven't been able to tell already! One of my favorite little traditions is giving and receiving Christmas cards. Growing up, I can remember looking through cards, letters, and photos sent from friends and family and enjoying their Christmas greetings, so I've looked forward to sending my own for a while! 

With this being our first married Christmas, I figured it was the perfect time to start our Christmas card tradition and share a little cheer with those we love. We wanted to get a picture with Nena in it, but a picture with a playful puppy wasn't as easy as we expected (as you'll see in a picture below). I love how they turned out though--simple and classic with a little touch of flair, just the way I like it! 

And a few snapshots from our impromptu Christmas pic session with my sister...

I wish I could've sent every one of you a Christmas card this year! So from our home to yours, Merry Christmas!! 

Do you and your family send Christmas cards? What's your favorite Christmas tradition? Xoxo

Monday's Things

Oh, December. The most magical, exciting month of the year is here and I am bursting at the seams with excitement! The end of November brought some wonderful days for me, full of joy. I'm welcoming this Monday with open arms, because it's finally December, and how could you be mad about that? No matter what today brings, I'm going to turn my Christmas lights on, blast some Pentatonix Christmas music, and forget the rest. Join me!

This Monday, I'm bringing you some things I just want to tell you about. My brain isn't working well enough for a full post, so here's a list of sorts. This blog is called a lifestyle blog for a reason--it's all about the little moments in the in between. Here are some of my recent little moments.

I finally had some blog photos taken last week by my precious friend, Nicole, from Bloom and 314 Productions. I'm not going to share them all yet, because they're going to be used with a new blog design (woo!) but here are a couple of sneaks. I'm thankful for talented friends who know how to make me feel beautiful in front of the camera!

Thanksgiving. What a sweet day with my family! As I get older, I realize more and more that things change and life has hiccups and traditions won't always be the same. My grandparents are getting older and our time with them is precious! And it's our first Thanksgiving/Christmas with Mary Elliott, so it's extra sweet. It's less about the food and traditions and more about the people and the memories. I'm savoring every second of this holiday season!

This first year of marriage has been all about me and Andrew creating traditions of our own, unique to just us. We have meshed our own families traditions, but it's so fun creating new ones too. One of our Christmas traditions this year was to attend the Oxford Christmas Tree Lighting on the Square, complete with hot cider and hot chocolate, carriage rides, carolers, and a movie (Elf!) on the courthouse lawn. It was seriously magical--I looked around at one point and said out loud to Andrew, "THIS is what all small towns should be like. THIS is community and celebrating and welcoming in the Christmas season."  We had a blast and I can't wait to do it again next year! 

We had our in-state rivalry football game Saturday afternoon--the Egg Bowl between Ole Miss and Mississippi State. We're both nationally ranked this year and have had pretty amazing seasons, so it was electric in the Grove that day. My Rebels came out victorious and showed those Bulldogs that an underdog can beat the #4 team in the nation! We had family  and friends in town and we just had a blast celebrating and enjoying the win, even if I did have to work that night! 

What a fun-filled few days! Here's to December--let's choose to make it a month filled with joy instead of busy-ness. Let's push our to-do lists to the side and spend face time with our friends and family. I hope that even in the hustle of the season, we remember the true meaning of's not about buying gifts for everyone, stressing out over plans, or putting unneeded pressure on yourself. It's about celebrating the coming of our King! Soak that in and rest in that fact, sweet friends!

What things do you have to share today? I want to hear all about your little moments! Xoxo