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In Review: A Look Back at 2016

There is something about this week in between Christmas and New Years Eve that fires me up.  I love the slow down from the hustle and bustle of the holidays as well as the space it creates for reflection and rest. My December has been in a state of go-go-go leading up to December 25th, so these days at home in the aftermath feel extra special. Extra needed, in fact. 

The new year is fast approaching, and I have to admit that I've been eager to wave goodbye to 2016. And by wave goodbye I mean slam the door on its way out and lock things up tight. 2016 was tough, full of high highs and low lows, and my heart has been lingering on the lows a bit too long lately. So for today's post I thought I would share some of the highlights from the year! Let's look back and celebrate the high points, the God-winks and lavish gifts, in the midst of the mess. 

I also narrowed it down to one photo per month which was HARD, y'all. I took 3,000+ pictures this year... sheesh! 

January 2016
In the first month of the year I....
  • kicked off 2016 with a fresh set of yearly goals!
  • cleared out my closet, getting rid of 300+ items of clothing/toiletries using the KonMari Method.
  • traveled to Seattle to celebrate Erin and Ben's wedding!
  • started rehearsals for the second production of Almost, Maine.
  • watched Star Wars for the first time.
  • saw The Danish Girl, a heartbreaking and beautiful film. 
  • retook the StrengthsFinder test and saw that 4/5 strengths have changed since college!
  • started my 52 Books in 52 Weeks challenge strong with six books.

February 2016
In the second month of the year I....
  • directed my thesis show, Almost, Maine, for the second time. It was magical.
  • hosted Ryan and Claire for a weekend visit! Baylor friends in town are always a good time.
  • had another special visitor: Annie came to town for the show!
  • fell off the face of the blogging world.. did I mention my thesis show? ;) 
  • got a library card and read The Luxe series by Anna Godbersen.
  • watched Pride & Prejudice & Zombies and LOVED it. It's hilarious.
  • visited a friend in Tulsa to see Kinky Boots, the musical. It was fabulous.
  • went to KCACTF Theatre Fest the day after my show closed. We competed and won!
  • started Beatrice and Benedick, which is now one of my favorite novels ever.
  • watched Leonardo DiCaprio finally win his Oscar. You go, Leo!

March 2016
In the third month of the year I....
  • got to drive a fancy rental car to Hope Spoken (never mind it was because my car broke down....).
  • met Teresa in real life as my small group leader at Hope Spoken! What a gem!
  • watched some good friends make meaningful art at a theatre festival in Dallas.
  • prayed myself silly during my brother's health scare in the car of a sweet friend.
  • toured Topeka with Rachel over spring break and savored the season with cupcakes.
  • bought tickets to the Broadway Teachers' Workshop (basically just to see HAMILTON!).
  • listened to the Pride & Prejudice audiobook narrated by Rosamund Pike, and it was perfection.
  • went on a six-hour blind date and was super encouraged by a kind man of God. 
  • visited Magnolia for the first time on a me-date to Waco.
  • treated myself to The Little Mermaid, the musical, at Dallas Summer Musicals.
  • celebrated when my little brother's procedures went as well as could be expected!
  • attended the Humana Festival of New American Plays with my fellow grad students. 
  • picked up my cap, gown, and hood making graduation oh so much more real.

April 2016
In the fourth month of the year I....
  • participated in Dewey's 24 Hour Readathon and read for 13+ hours and 1,400+ pages.
  • visited the Dallas Museum of Art with Carissa.
  • watched Hamlet featuring Benedict Cumberbatch for the second time. It was still brilliant.
  • spent a week at home with family during a stressful period at school thanks to understanding professors.
  • went to the shooting range with my dad, sister, and future-brother-in-law.
  • read the Hamiltome cover to cover in one night.
  • visited Antioch Norman on a rainy Sunday with sweet friends.
  • went out on the town with the rest of the graduating gang in Stillwater.
  • had a final, goodbye Delight Ministries Bible study, and the girls encouraged my socks off!

May 2016
In the fifth month of the year I....
  • graduated from Oklahoma State University with a MA in Theatre!
  • dug through my testimony in the Illustrated Faith Follow Your Arrow class.
  • DIY-ed a designer hat for under $20.
  • survived a crazy tornado the week before I moved!
  • celebrated my sister's graduation and engagement.
  • re-read The Selection Series when the final book came out! I plan to re-read it in 2017, too.
  • participated in the 100 Day Challenge with Bible journaling (making it around 50 days!).
  • started planning the Deep in the Heart retreat with Rach!
  • went to several job interviews.
  • saw Ophelia Underwater, a one woman, very moving, modern take on Hamlet from Ophelia's perspective. 
  • visited Free Spirit Farmhouse in Fredericksburg for a gorgeous getaway weekend.

June 2016
In the sixth month of the year I....
  • went shopping at First Monday Canton Trade Days (a Texas MUST-do, y'all).
  • helped my sister say yes to the dress!
  • picnicked with Carissa on a glorious afternoon.
  • saw two more plays: Bright Half Life and The Great God Pan.
  • bought a new MacBook pro (after my other one tanked...).
  • got new headshots taken by RoseWheat Photography!
  • visited Rachel in Kansas for another glorious getaway, complete with time by the pool. 
  • packed up my apartment to move to Texas.
  • went to a Rangers Game and saw Finding Dory with Carissa for her birthday !
  • got a part-time retail job at Versona for the summer.

July 2016
In the seventh month of the year I....
  • celebrated the 4th of July at our annual family reunion.
  • went to a Noonday Trunk Show at my high school theatre teacher's house. 
  • saw Shakespeare in the Park with Carissa.
  • celebrated one of the sweet girls I mentored in college getting engaged!
  • stage managed a production of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.
  • watched a broadcast of Lily James and Richard Madden in Romeo and Juliet, which was phenomenal!
  • visited family friends in Wimberley to take my Texas theatre teaching certification test.
  • broke up with SnapChat for good.
  • turned twenty-five years old!
  • celebrated the big two-five with Micah in the city.
  • visited New York City for the first time, seeing eight Broadway shows in six days!
  • saw HAMILTON! Oh my stars, what an incredible experience!
  • attended the Broadway Teachers' Workshop with Claire and Kelly.
  • answered 73 Questions at 25 to document the day.
  • found an apartment in my new town.

August 2016
In the eighth month of the year I....
  • moved to my new city and started unpacking my new apartment.
  • found a new church and small group!
  • decorated my classroom.
  • started teaching high school theatre and picked my first show to direct.
  • made a lot of mistakes and learned a lot of lessons.
  • spent most of my time figuring out how to (and how not to do) my new job.

September 2016
In the ninth month of the year I....
  • hosted The 3rd Annual Blog-tember Challenge!
  • abandoned my first show and started a second one (all while having strep).
  • watched my students love Shakespeare and These Shining Lives.
  • pleaded with Instagram to find me a basket at Target then met sweet April when I picked it up!
  • saw a fantastic new play called The Revolutionists with Lindsay after delicious dinner of crepes.
  • put finishing touches on my apartment and finished unpacking.
  • made all the florals for my sister's wedding.

October 2016
In the tenth month of the year I....
  • recovered from hosting The 3rd Annual Blog-tember Challenge ;)
  • went to Silobration (Part I, Part II) at Magnolia with Rachel, and it was a divine evening.
  • completed the 101 Goals in 1001 Days Challenge!
  • opened my first high school play! These Shining Lives was a success and, according to faculty and students, the best show ever done at this school.
  • went to Austin and was a "model" for Hagen-Daas Ice cream with Steph ;)
  • went to Baylor Homecoming with friends.
  • had a fun-run of our show with my students that made me laugh so hard I cried.
  • hosted my sister's first bridal shower.
  • won the door decorating contest for Red Ribbon Week at my school.
  • decorated for Christmas!

November 2016
In the eleventh month of the year I....
  • went to Las Vegas for my best friend's wedding!
  • voted by mail in the 2016 election.
  • got my 2017 PowerSheets! 
  • finished decorating for Christmas.
  • threw my sister a Bachelorette party.
  • started the Christmas Tree Confessions series on my Insta Stories.
  • picked my word of the year for 2017: SIMPLIFY.
  • started the Entrusted Study of 2 Timothy by Beth Moore with Annie.
  • celebrated Thanksgiving with family and friends.
  • surprised Peyton by showing up at her play in Stillwater unexpectedly.
  • spent time with sweet friends from grad school.
  • completed my 52 Books in 52 Weeks challenge with time to spare!
  • took my students to Texas Thespians for a convention/competition plus a visit to Baylor.

December 2016
In the twelfth month of the year I....
  • finished our time at Texas Thespians with a new nickname: Mama Duck. Long story ;)
  • completed my duties as Maid of Honor and celebrated my sister on her wedding day!
  • successfully survived my first semester of teaching high school theatre.
  • cut our spring show, Proof by David Auburn, down from 72 pages to 27.
  • started on my 2017 PowerSheets goal prep.
  • went to Santa's Wonderland with sweet new friends from Lifegroup.
  • overcame some fears and rode the mechanical bull at Santa's Wonderland...
  • went to my students' choir concert/dinner and SO enjoyed it!
  • hosted a girls' night at my apartment for a few fellow teachers.
  • celebrated Christ's birth with my family for Christmas.
  • had a wonderful post-Christmas breakfast and day of reading/outdoor shenanigans with Carissa.
  • retreated at my apartment to rest and reflect, finishing The Crown and starting This Is Us.
  • finished preparations for the Deep in the Heart retreat this weekend!
  • celebrated the release of the Illustrated Faith Devotional that I WROTE!

Looking back, a lot of really good things happened. There were so many sweet moments and gifts along the way, and I'd much prefer to linger on these than to let the cloud of difficult moments overshadow them. I know 2016 has been hard for many of us, so I encourage you to do the same. Take some time to list the good. Write it out. Put it on paper in front of you. It was a healthy dose of perspective for me at least.

What did YOU make happen in 2016?
What were some of the highlights of this year gone by?
I'd love to know!

Maid of Adventure | My Little Sister's Wedding

We did it, y'all! My beautiful little sister is a married woman! Last May Shelby graduated from college and two days later a kind and godly man asked her to be his forever and she said yes! For the next seven months we planned and prepped, gearing up for an outdoor winter wedding, and on December 11, 2016, on a day of miraculously good weather, Shelby and Jon tied the knot!

One of the first things the pair decided was that they wanted the wedding to have a rustic elegance theme/feel. They also knew that they wanted it close to where they lived, so we started our hunt for a venue. The place of choice was The Springs in Aubrey, Texas. The Springs has multiple locations all over Texas, a second space in Aubrey opening soon in fact, and it was the first one we looked at back in May. The outdoor arbor was exactly was beautiful on its own and perfect for the outdoor ceremony with an indoor barn-esque location for the reception just yards away.

Shelby and Jon love the verses in 1 Corinthians 13 and wanted those on display during the big event. We found these signs on Etsy and lined the aisle with them. We used picture stands from Walmart to help them stand up against the wind. 

The florals were something we decided to do ourselves, and we got all the supplies from First Monday Canton Trade Days. If you're ever in Texas on the weekend of the first Monday of the month, you HAVE to go to Canton! From antiques to trendy tees, it has everything and more! 

We made all of the bows and "pew" florals from pieces purchased in Canton, and we used the same style florals around the arch behind the ceremony area. We also used lots of lace table runners and curtains that my mom had from our old house to drape around barrels we rented and along the tables inside. 

I made her bouquet and the bridesmaids' bouquets with silk flowers primarily from Hobby Lobby. I also draped and glued in some ivory and white beads to add a finishing, elegant touch.

Shelby also decided that she wanted all of her bridesmaids in matching dresses, floor length and navy blue, preferably with one shoulder strap. We looked at David's Bridal and I searched several other places before I remembered, and recommended, the style of dress that can be wrapped in a variety of ways. These can be pretty expensive, but I found them reasonably priced from this shop on Etsy (man, I love that site!) and ordered a sample dress. 

We loved it! The color is somewhat in-between royal blue and navy, but I think they turned out so well! They looked really elegant, fit all of us even though none of us were the same size, and with my heels I didn't even have to get it hemmed. I also love that I can wear it again in a different style in the future.

The only real snafu of the day was that the guys' suits were the wrong color. Initially Shelby wanted Jon in navy and the rest of the guys in gray, but a couple hours before the ceremony one of the groomsmen came up to me and said, "Hey... the suits are the wrong color..." How it took until the day of the wedding for us to figure this out, I have no idea, but I still think they looked really sharp! 

The weather was almost an issue, and I definitely call it a winter miracle. The day before it had been in the 30's and 40's, and the morning of the wedding it was gray and rainy with 20mph winds. But we held onto hope and prayed the day away, and by 4pm it was in the 70s and the wind dropped down to 6mph! By the time the ceremony came around at 5:00 it was beautiful and STILL!

Another surprise.... there were hundreds of LADYBUGS everywhere! Hundreds! They were on our flowers, in our hair, on her dress and his suit. Absolutely tons of them!

I loved this moment. Watching my dad walk my sister down the aisle, then watching Jon waiting for her. My little sister really is all grown up, and she was a stunning bride!

Another fun addition to the day, part of the miraculous weather, the sun set right as they said "I do"! I think the fact that the weather was so iffy and we were so worried about it made it all the more special that things worked out so well and turned out so beautifully.

We posted a sign at the end of the aisle that read "Pick a seat, not a side, you're loved by both the groom and bride!" to encourage the guests to sit wherever they like. It was fun to spot family members in the crowd on either side, and in the bridal suite we even had a television screen that let us watch everyone get into place before it was time for all of us to walk down the aisle. 

Yeah, they're gorgeous. And the wedding photographer was amazing! All of these photos are credited to Emily Nicole Photo. She was a gem to work with and really captured some amazing moments!

 I think I'll treasure this photo forever. Such a sweet day of celebrating this gorgeous sister of mine!

While my sister and her new husband are pretty darn photogenic, these three little guys nearly stole the show ;) The ring bearers are brothers (two are twins!) and they carried signs down the aisle that read "Don't worry, I'm still single!" and "Has anyone seen the rings?!" with the third carrying a small ring pillow we've had since we were kids. The one on the right kept coming up to me during the reception asking if I would dance with him, and by the end of the night I had two of them hanging on my dress and legs asking me to "Spin! Spin!" and to give them more bubbles for the send off.

All in all the day was a success, and I think Shelby and Jon were very happy with how it turned out. I had a great time with friends and family celebrating this sweet sister, and I hope you enjoyed a look at the big day!

Believe 2016: December Goals

Well, well, well. Look where we are! It's time for the FINAL goals post of 2016! This year has been something else, let me tell ya. No really, I'll tell you ALL about it soon. November was no joke and December is ramping up to be chock full, too. The holidays are here and IT'S WEDDING WEEK! My little sister gets married in 4 days! I'm also counting down the days until Christmas break because, you know, #firstyearteacherlife. Don't judge ;)

Making November Happen
Verse of the month: Isaiah 51:3
"For the Lord comforts Zion; he comforts all her waste places and makes her wilderness like Eden, her desert like the garden of the Lord; joy and gladness will be found in her, thanksgiving and the voice of song."

1. Celebrate Hannah in Las Vegas! Done! Talk about a perfectly timed getaway and such a wonderful weekend with my best friends! Hannah was a beautiful bride, and it was so great to be with her, Claire, and Carissa for the first time since graduation. 

2. Participate in NaNoWriMo. I count this as a win because I'm just shy of 10,000 words on a story that has been rattling around in my head and my heart for MONTHS. Participating in the challenge gave me the umph to dive in, even if I'm only a couple chapters into the book. I do hope to continue writing, and now I have a launching pad!

3. Get my 2017 PowerSheets! Theyre here, they're here! I got my PowerSheets a few weeks ago, and last night was the first time I sat down to work on the prep pages. I SWEAR by the PowerSheets goal setting worksheets, and I cannot recommend them enough. Find your own set HERE before they sell out!!

4. Host my sister's Bachelorette Party. Painting with a Twist was a success! We had such fun painting monogrammed wreaths with the bridal party (plus a few), then we retreated to one of the gals' homes for breakfast for dinner and the lingerie shower. Such sweet ladies, and I think Shelby felt very celebrated!

5. Finish decorating for Christmas. This could have been called "Over-decorate for Christmas" actually, though I really don't think it's possible to over decorate ;) I put the finishing touches on the living room last night with a set of JOY pillows from Target, and I'm loving having a second tree in my dining area. It felt a little funny at first since it's technically the same room as the living room, but... oh well!

6. Finish 5+ books. I didn't quite get to this one. I did finish Present Over Perfect by Shauna Niequist though, which meant I COMPLETED MY 52 BOOKS IN 52 WEEKS CHALLENGE! Five weeks early, too! Woohoo! I started several new books which I will share with you soon.

7. Yoga at least once a week. Sometimes it was Holy Yoga, other times it was a theatre warm up session, but I count it. Getting back into some kind of movement routine has been so great and I hope to keep it up!

8. Finish the wedding prep. I certainly knocked out a chunk of it last month, and this is the final week to get things together. While home for Thanksgiving I finished the bouquets (with some help from Carissa!) and boutonnieres, organized the boxes of decor, designed the guest book, helped Shelby choose all the music for the ceremony and reception, and coordinated with the bridesmaids. We made it happen, and it's coming so soon!

Now for this month... 

Making December Happen
Verse of the month: Isaiah 51:3
"For the Lord comforts Zion; he comforts all her waste places and makes her wilderness like Eden, her desert like the garden of the Lord; joy and gladness will be found in her, thanksgiving and the voice of song."

1. Take my students to the theatre festival! I could already check this one off actually. Last weekend my students and I spent four days in Dallas at a theatre convention/festival, taking workshops and seeing shows. It was a blast!

2. Shelby's Wedding! Celebrate her well! FOUR DAYS. We are FOUR days away from the biggest day in my sister's life, and what a beautiful day it will be!

3. Finish the semester strong. Speaking of countdowns, we are two weeks away from Christmas break. The temptation is to merely survive, but I do want to finish strong and end on a high note. I almost have my first semester of teaching under my belt, and boy am I feeling it. 

4. Follow the Entrusted study with Annie. A few weeks ago Annie and I started going through Beth Moore's Entrusted Bible study over 2 Timothy, and so far I'm loving it! We will be attending Beth's LIT one day conference in February, and the study is part of the prep for that! Her approach to the Word and its history/inner-workings is fascinating! 

5. Celebrate a meaningful Christmas. I don't want to miss any of the magic of this Christmas, even though so many things have changed around me and will continue to look different moving forward. I'm ready to dig into Advent and linger a little longer in the light of the tree remembering Who and why we are celebrating.

6. Finish 5+ books. This one makes the list again. This month I want to finish Passenger, Still Waiting, A Court of Mist and Fury, Love Your Life, and The Power of Habit

7. Prep for 2017 and begin simplifying NOW. I don't have to wait for January 1st to turn over a new leaf, and neither do you. I plan to spend time this month setting my goals for the new year and beginning to put my word of the year (SIMPLIFY) into action. 

8. Ring in the New Year at Deep in the Heart! The sweet Rachel is co-hosting a NYE retreat with me, and I cannot WAIT to celebrate the start of 2017 with some of my closest friends in the cutest house you ever did see! My blogging besties live in so many different states, so it will be a true delight to have them all under one roof for a few days! 

Alright, December, you're up to bat.Let's do this.
What are YOU going to make happen this month?

*Please note this post contains some affiliate links. They won't cost you a penny more, but they'll help fuel this first year teacher with Sonic happy hour every now and again. ;)

A Most Wonderful Christmas Wish List

It's that time of year when the world falls in love! Every song you hear seems to say... 

It's December, y'all!

Okay, so maybe the songs don't all say that, but it's all I can think about this morning! I kicked off this month in the middle of 7,000 high school theater kids at a convention, and my weekend continued fast and furious until I found some peace and quiet Sunday night. It's like I blinked and one minute it was Thanksgiving and the next it was fun and festive with twinkling lights everywhere! 

I was so excited when Victoria shared that she would be co-hosting a Christmas link-up this December, and I knew it would do just the trick to kick my blogging behind back into gear. (This happens every year. I blog my heart out in September, then October and November leave this place practically deserted...) Today's prompt:

A Christmas Wish List!
Take a peek at my latest favorites, and feel free to pick up one for those on YOUR list!
Or for yourself... 'cause ya know, why not? ;)

Joyful in Hope Wall Hanging | Nothing to Prove by Jennie Allen | Coffee Cup Wall Rack

There you have it, friends!
What's on YOUR wish list?!