Thoughts On Doing Lent Backwards

This year, I am doing Lent backwards.

Lent, the Christian period preceding Easter that is associated with fasting, abstinence and penitence in commemoration of Christ’s fasting in the wilderness, begins Wednesday, on Ash Wednesday.

This will be my second year participating in Lent. Last year I decided give up alcohol for the duration of Lent, which is about 6 weeks long. My life was changed during that challenging and gorgeous period. While I don’t drink every night, it was a sacrifice to abstain from wine on the weekends or a beer during social settings. I realized that social drinking had become a constant in my life during my 20’s and not a constant that I was very fond of.

During Lent last year a number of amazing things happened. It was a true period of self-examination. During social gatherings I didn’t have the comfort of a smooth glass of smoky wine to push me, a naturally introverted person, into the outgoing, entertaining and witty woman that most of my friends know me as. I felt a little bare in social settings, having to expose myself and discuss why giving up alcohol was important me and then awkwardly attempt to be gregarious and fun.

Surprisingly, during Lent my life became more vibrant. My weekends were relaxing and productive and my agenda wasn’t focused around ensuring my friends and I all got together for happy hour on Friday nights. The lack of wine in my life made room for other components of me to thrive, therefore I stuck to it. I leaned in toward God and I embraced the changes that came from Lent.

On the last day of Lent my life changed. My inner self was already full of magic from a stronger relationship with God and a clear mind during those 6 weeks but on that last day, two other things happened that changed my life in an amazing and positive way. I got a call from a wonderful company asking me to come in for an interview (which went tremendous and lead to my current job) and I got an email from the editor of Cosmopolitan Magazine asking me to write a story about love. Coincidence? I wouldn’t say so.

Thus, here we are a year later and Lent starts once more in a few days. I thought about saying goodbye to my beloved wine yet again but God is calling me to do something new this year. I know that Lent is about sacrifice but I know already that I can go without wine and I don’t plan to give up something that I find meaningless like social media or candy (although not having dark chocolate every day would be painful).

For these reasons, I decided to do Lent a little backwards this year. The goal is always to become closer to God and I want to consciously do something every day that will bring me closer to Him. Something I have wanted to do since diving into my faith is spend a dedicated amount of time with God every single day. Don’t get me wrong, I thank God for various things all day long and I pray regularly but I have always wanted to spend a few minutes a day reading the bible or a Christian based book. I have wanted to develop a habit and I have started numerous times, always failing.

I know what you’re thinking. This seems extremely easy and how hard is it to set aside 10 minutes a day to read the bible. Well, it isn’t easy. I wake up at 5am to work out, I get ready for work and I spend 10 hours a day driving to work, working and driving home. I get home, show my family attention, do chores, make dinner, do more chores, maybe watch one TV show, head to bed, attempt to read or write but usually I just fall asleep before I even get a page down. (I can never have kids, there is no time!)

Life is like this and I know those reading this article deal with similar hectic and busy lifestyles. And frankly, I am not strong enough to ensure I sit down at my kitchen table for 10 minutes every morning and read the bible (Read: I suck at holding myself accountable to myself). But, the good news is I am not alone, God is with me and He expects more of me.

And that is why, this year, I am doing Lent a little backwards. Plus, in an interesting twist of events, my boyfriend has decided to do this every day alongside me. In some way, I feel that is God telling me I am doing the right thing because my partner has decided to lean in with me. Already, Lent is bringing God not just into my soul more, but into my relationship, a place He should be at the center of but oftentimes is not.

If you’re thinking about participating in Lent this year, I highly recommend it, no matter your denomination or upbringing. If you love God and crave a closer relationship with Him, embrace Lent. Ponder on the ways in which you can change some small and challenging component of your life to better enhance your relationship with God. I promise you won’t regret it.

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A List Of Thank-you’s To My Best Friend On Her 28th Birthday

Thank you for finding something to laugh about with me every time I see you. We laugh at you, we laugh at me, we laugh at life, we laugh at nothing and we laugh at everything. We always laugh together and I love that about us.

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Thank you for ten years of friendship and never once walking away from me. Not during those young adult years when everything had such feeling. Not during the times I was being impossible, self-centered, bossy or dramatic. Not during the bad relationship choices or moving to Richmond for college. NeverShana 10

Thank you for letting me be the planner in this relationship. Oh GOD, could you imagine if I was trying to plan our events and you were too? We would both be knee deep in planners, details and anxiety. Thanks for always letting me plan our life, meeting times, adventures and just saying “yes.”

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Thank you for welcoming me into your beautiful, blended family. I know your family never minds if your “boyfriend” comes to dinner, bowling or a brewery. I know I could count on them if I needed a couch to sleep on or a warm meal to eat. Thank you for sharing them with me all these years.

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Thank you for sharing your love of music with me and being the DJ of my life. Your love of music and my love of words have made for the very best memories I have with you. From melodies that bring back moments, to lyrics that bring instant tears and laughter. I know if I am with you and there is a way to play music, it will be played and it will be the songs from the soundtrack of our lives together. “We’ll laugh away the sunburn as we laughed away the day, what we lost means nothing for the memories will stay.”

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Thank you for living with me. We were always terrified and excited to live together. Worried we might hate each other, excited to always be together. Yet, it never really worked out until this past year at an age where we both never expected to be husband-less, childless and living together! But, what an awesome time it has been. I love having you around; I love our breakfasts, dinners, workouts, wine time and everything in between.

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Thank you for being just as excited as I am that we have the same zodiac sign. The zodiac powers have split Aquarius’s into two categories- the Rachel’s and the Shana’s of the world. Somehow we found each other and it is our innate differences and similarities that make our friendship so cosmic. (See what I did there? #SoCosmic)

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Thank you for spoiling that one season of One Tree Hill by telling me before I watched the season that Nathan was paralyzed. NOT. How could you do that? I will never forgive you.

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Thank you for letting me fall in love (during which I did not give our friendship attention it has always deserved). When I met Tim I basically crawled into his apartment and died. For years before him, I never understood how women could get sucked into this tornado of love and connection with a guy and mute the rest of their lives and then it happened to me. You could have walked away from me during that time and hated me for falling off the face of the earth when you needed me to be there for you, but you didn’t. Thank you so much for forgiving me for that period in my life.

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Thank you for refusing to go to the movies with me on a sunny day. You never let me be a hermit when I am with you unless it is dark outside or the booze got the best of us the night before. You really live in a world that so many other people just exist in. You breathe the fresh air, you go to the beach, you love fires and activities and you hate being inside on a gorgeous day. I love that about you.

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Thank you for crying in front of me and letting me comfort you. It is the greatest gift of friendship to be there for someone on all the different days of their lives: the happy, sad, boring, angry and in between. You never tell me to leave you alone or not to call when shit has hit the fan. You let me be your friend through it all and I am so glad to be by your side, always.

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Thank you for being the most down girl I have ever met. You are literally down for anything and everything. I could ask you to go to a mitten knitting contest and your ass would be down. You are so open-minded and you get excited about everything. Some of the best memories I have with you are from the most random things that you’ve been down to come with me to.

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Thank you for just last weekend ruining the entire 3rd season of Game of Thrones for me by informing me of…well, you know. NOT (again!). Why do you keep doing this!? You are like a walking spoiler alert.

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Thank you for always celebrating me. In the ten years I have known you; you have always gotten excited about my successes with me. You’ve never put me down or made me feel as though something I have accomplished is insignificant. You’ve never made me feel bad about being excited or happy for moments in my life. You’ve always believed in me and you’ve always gotten excited about my life with me, thank you.

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Thank you for loving my parents. You never say “no” to a Francis family outing or to Rita’s need to buy you gifts whenever she wants, we love that about you. Thanks for staying awake with me and my dad on that one trip from the Grand Canyon to Vegas while my mother drugged herself and slept in the trunk the entire 6 hours. That moment would have been MUCH less hysterical if you weren’t part of it. #shaqtus

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Thank you for never letting any argument we have last more than a few minutes. Can you even believe that we used to go days without speaking? Nothing is ever worth it to us now and I love that. We work it out within minutes and move on. You never hold a grudge or bring up stuff from the past (because you can’t remember anything LOL) and for that reason we have never lost days or weeks over disagreements.

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Thank you for seeing the changes I try to make as a person and reminding me of them when I don’t love myself. No explanation necessary.

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Thank you for finding God with me. This has been the most amazing part of us. I have loved growing my faith with you, talking about our questions, singing out “Oh, my soul” together and everything in between.

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Thank you for letting me be the most overbearing friend in the universe. I am your real soulmate in this world, thanks for never asking me to back off. You know I am not capable of anything less than full takeover. You won’t go a day without talking to me; you won’t go a week without seeing me. This is who I am, thanks for letting me be this type of friend.

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Thank you for loving olives, pizza, cheese, wings, potatoes and fries. Could you imagine if you were vegan? I would kill you.

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Thank you for reading to this point. You know how I like to write…I tried to only write one sentence for each thank-you but that didn’t work out, clearly.

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Thanks for always sending me stuff you know I need to hear. Quotes, song lyrics, faraway places and jokes. They make my day, always.

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Thanks for being my best friend. My life is colorful because you’re in it. Love you! HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!!

(p.s.- Thanks for always making sure I am wearing sunscreen)

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Dear 2016: These Are My Vows To You

Let’s face it, Jan 1st is the day we make a commitment to the following 364 days. We make promises and goals because the first of the year symbolizes a union. Similar to unification with a partner, we make promises to the approaching days to grow, change for the better and live each day with love and kindness. We know the coming 364 days will not all be sunny, we accept that some days we won’t live up to the promises we make and we pledge to take this New Year one day at a time.

We make vows to ourselves, to the universe and to the New Year. We stand at the alter of a new beginning, hand in hand, with a clean page, full of blank space. We decide what our commitments will be and with that, we set out a path for the new year. With 2016, these are meaningful vows I pledge to the days ahead:

I vow to accept less bullshit. Kindness isn’t hard and it doesn’t take any effort. If you’re not a kind person then I won’t invest my love and time in you.

I vow to see fewer sunrises and sunsets from my bed and more surrounded by fresh air with no barriers between my eyes and the skyline.

I vow to touch those I love more. More hugs, more kisses, more intertwined fingers. I don’t know how much of my life I have to touch those I love so I won’t waste one day taking their embrace for granted.

I vow to be weaker. I want to be weak to my emotions, I want to feel every moment and throw away the notion that varying reactions are weak or unstable. Feeling deeply is a blessing that I want to welcome with open arms.

I vow to spend less time getting ready. Doing makeup takes away time from doing life. I want a makeup free face whenever possible; I want to embrace my natural self like I plan to embrace my inner self.

I vow to document my life. Not just a caption on a picture but with long descriptive sentences of my thoughts, my memories and my moments on paper, written by hand.

I vow to talk to myself more as a friend and less as an enemy. I have spent decades yelling at myself in my mind. I will start forgiving myself for shortcomings. I will start treating myself with the kindness I expect others to treat me with.

I vow to give generously to those in need. I have been given so much, it is only right to give to others. Coats, shoes, time, donations, kind words, prayers and smiles, I am giving it all.

I vow to put my phone down and not be distracted. When I am with those I love, I will be with them entirely, not staring at other people’s lives, writing emails or answering texts. I will look away from the screen and into their eyes.

I vow to laugh every day, multiple times. Wherever I am and whomever I am with, I will seek laughter, real deep-in-the-belly laughter.

I vow to be with my family more than anyone else. Biological family or chosen family. I want to spend fewer moments with superficial friends or people that I don’t have an intense connection with, family over everything.

I vow to accept the apologies I deserve but haven’t received. People are cruel and mean; I will forgive them and pray for them anyways because I am neither cruel nor mean.

I vow to take better care of my body. I’ll eat more green foods and less white foods. I will eat foods that give me energy and clear my mind, not weigh me down. I will live by the motto that fighting cancer is hard, eating good is not.

I vow to not drink fewer than two glasses of deep burgundy wine each week that tastes of berries and a hint of smoke. Life is crazy and chaotic, drink the wine.

I will spend more time with my pets. Their small hearts are enormous and their lives are short, they deserve more kisses, long walks and excited conversations.

I vow to accept my mistakes in 2015. I will not carry them over the threshold. I will not relish in self-doubt or regret. I will accept 2016 as a fresh start and a clean page.

Lastly, I vow to make more vows, more declarations of self-love and more goals for myself each month. I vow to always be better, to be forever changing and growing and always mindful of my heart and soul.

An Ode To The Heart

In Great Expectations, Charles Dickens wrote, “Suffering has been stronger than all other teaching, and has taught me to understand what your heart used to be. I have been bent and broken, but – I hope – into a better shape.” My heart has been on my mind nonstop in the past few months and this statement about an evolving heart speaks to my soul because it is filled with hope. It insinuates that the suffering we all experience in life is like rough sandpaper smoothing wood into something warm and soft. The suffering hurt us, yes, but for a reason, so we can be shaped and made better.

I think it is of universal consensus that the heart is fueled by love, which both keeps us together and tears us apart at the seams. The heart beats wildly and free to the tune of our passions. The mind counter balances this because the things we love are not always the best things for us. When you think about it, the way the mind and the heart work is always tragic for the heart. The mind has the ability to understand that while something fulfills the heart, it might need to be let go. The heart just feels the pain, regardless of how good or bad something may be for it. If it loves it, it aches in the absence of whatever it feels strongly for.

Women and men go back time and time again to toxic relationships because of the irrational desires of the heart. People fall in love with ideas and dreams and when they don’t come to fruition, their dedicated hearts shatter. When a loved one is lost, each beat of the heart is with such heavy and terrible pain that you begin to think if it stopped beating altogether it would be a gift.

It is in this realization that I have formed an appreciation for my own heart and its ability love again and again despite pain, grief and brokenness. Thinking back on my life reveals so many highs followed by deep and dark lows and yet, the heart prevails each time.

When I was young, my heart was playful and kind. Like most little girls, I idolized my mom and loved animals. I was innocent to the ways of the world, the pain and sorrow that come with age and grief. My heart was fragile and sensitive. Kids can be cruel and with each pebble thrown at my heart, it became more understanding of the need to be strong.

As a teenager, my heart felt every single moment. The highs and lows had my heart on a never ending self-centered roller coaster. The lows were the end of the world and the highs were in the clouds but my heart was selfish. I loved my family and my friends but I was careless with the love others gave me. I never cherished another person’s heart the way I cherished my own wants and desires.

At 17, my heart was shattered for the first time. My world crumbled in a tornado made of bad skin cells known as Melanoma. My body betrayed me and my heart and mind couldn’t wrap itself around the reality of the situation. In the following years, my heart was dark and hateful. It became sad and numb, nothing excited it and nothing hurt it.

At 21, my heart was given an electrical shock when I actually fell in love. The kind of love that is blind and all consuming, the kind where you realize that all the turns of life were planned to bring you to that very person. The type of love where you think even if this doesn’t last forever, the fact that it happened at all is the greatest gift of life. My heart actually exploded during these years.  My heart was winning. My mind told me to be careful, to be realistic, and to even run at times, but my heart was positive that it was going to stay.

My heart broke and healed in the years following, it grew strong, and it loved fiercely and passionately. It fell in love with God, with helping others, with becoming a better person today than yesterday. My heart grew into something good and big. It feels compassion for those in pain and it gets excited for those in joy. It feels everything so deeply that it is easily bruised but never truly broken. It holds other hearts within its walls and it respects that and protects them.

Recently though, my heart has been in a state of constant ache and worry. It runs in circles and never ending bipolar moments. It feels comforted in the company of others, yet uncomfortable. It aches for the past yet yearns for the future. It swells with the constant kindness of others yet is easily upset and irritated. It searches for an antidote yet shuns anything that numbs the pain. But most of all, it survives. Each day, it survives to see the next, to grow stronger and more loving. It never gives up and it never grows cold and for once in my life I don’t find a loving and sensitive heart a weakness. I find it my best strength.

Who I Am

For the past few years of my life, certain characteristics have defined me. For a long while, my relationship defined me. Although I don’t mind being defined by my many loves, I have always rebelled against being defined by another person. I was, and might always be in some minds, “the girl that dated _______.” For others, I might be defined by my passions. I am the girl who works with the homeless, the girl who raises money and awareness for Alzheimer’s. For some, I might be defined by my jobs. I am a writer, the safety girl, an environmentalist.

But who am I really? Underneath my hobbies, my interests and the things I love, who am I? Who are you? Are you defined by your role at home? A wife, a mother, a father, a caregiver or a brother? When you’re introduced, are you someone’s “creative friend “or “the musician.” Have you ever taken the time to think about the labels you’re given? The labels you give yourself?

I have been ripping off labels surrounding me and really getting to the heart of the matter lately. When I am not drenched in love and a relationship, who am I alone? When I am not achieving a personal or professional goal, what is left? When I am not taking care of someone or spending my time giving back to my community, what am I doing?

I am giving because I am a giver. I find immense joy in giving to others. Giving time to organizations that need help, giving money to the sad, lonely looking man on the street corner. Giving a listening ear to a friend wading through pain and joy. I am a giver of gifts, I love to put thought into people and really give a good gift. I am a giver of food. Come to my warm home and sit around my chaotic table. Let me feed you meals made with love and a little too much pepper. I am a giver of hugs. I know that some people are weird about being touched and those people should probably stay away from me. I want to hug you, to hold your hand, to lay my head on your shoulder. I am a giver of prayers. Let me pray for you, even if you have no God. I want to sit quietly for a few moments and pray for you, for your happiness and for your health, to my God.

I am a lover. I am a giver because I am a compassionate lover. I love my family, my friends and even my enemies. I never run out of love or take my love from you, although I am sure, sometimes, it feels like I do. If I love you, I will until I die, in whatever form or fashion I can. Even if I never talk to you again, for whatever reason, know that I still love you. My heart has been touched by so many amazing people and I carry those moments, that love, along forever.

I am a daughter to two beautiful and generous parents. I am their friend, their companion and their family. I would do anything at all for them and I prefer time with them over time with anyone else. I feel blessed that one day, I will be able to take care of them the way they have always taken care of me. I am often seen as their light when in reality, they are mine.

I love to write although I would not call myself a writer. I love to read although I never feel I reach the quota of books necessary to be considered a reader. I like to run but I am definitely not a runner. Two small and furry lives depend solely on me, but I am not a mother. I love God, I go to church, I try to live my life the way He intends, but I am not a great Christian. I love being in a relationship, I love being the woman on the arm of a good and honest man, but I am not a girlfriend.

Sometimes, I don’t know who I am. I know things I love and things I don’t. I know what makes me feel happy and what makes me feel sad. I know that I will chose red wine over white 95% of the time, that I rarely leave my house without lipstick on, that I never think buying a book is a bad decision, that I can listen to Billy Joel sing for hours, that I have literally no idea if I am on the right path or if the things I want in life will ever happen. But each day I become someone new. I try something new and I have a new thought. I realize that yesterday might not have been what I wanted and I change today. I may never be sure who I am exactly. Maybe we never should be so sure of who we are. Maybe we should never stop seeking new corners of our being. Maybe each year we should let new things define us. New people and places, new convictions and passions.

I am not sure but I do know I love who I am. All the many versions and pockets that make me, me. My hobbies change, my job changes, people fall in love with me and out of love with me but I always love me for who I am.

 

For A Friend In Pain

Written By: Kara Dailey

It’s the worst kind of pain to fall madly in love with someone who lights a fire in you, only to realize that they are not always the one you will share your life with. It’s an all over body ache kind of pain, like a piece of your heart vanishes into thin air without a trace. It’s been more than two years since I’ve been in that space, but it’s not a feeling you forget.

When I first sat down to write this entry I was planning on writing about what it’s been like to be known as the perpetually single friend. Since most of my friends are in committed relationships I thought it would be funny to write about what my life’s been like since I ended my long-term relationship. I played around with taking time to acknowledge how lonely it feels to process a broken heart, but still including a lot of  ‘I‘m an independent woman, I don’t need no man until he needs me’ type of shit. Then I started thinking about how I’ve changed over the past two years; how I’ve learned so much by living life alone, with myself as my first priority, addressing my personal short comings, and getting my life together. I felt good about the whole idea but when I sat down to put my heartbreak and witty one-liners into words, it hit me. One of my closest friends just chose to end her relationship with a man she truly loves and all of our recent conversations came flooding back. So I thought, instead, maybe I should write her some words of encouragement that all friends need to hear from time to time…

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First of all, I want to tell you how proud I am to be your friend. You inspire me to work harder, laugh longer, and keep my lipstick game strong. I want you to know that I understand how shitty it feels to have an amazing night out with friends and come home only to break down in a full on ugly face cry the minute you’re alone in bed. Why are you crying in the middle of a trashy TLC reality show if you weren’t even thinking about him? Who fucking knows, but it’s terrible – that’s going to happen for a bit, and it’s okay. It’s totally normal to cry as long as you never lose sight of the fact that you are amazing AF. The loneliness lingers but, never doubt, you’re doing what is best for you and that is always the right choice. I must admit that I detest the word lonely. It sounds scary and permanent and gives me that body ache feeling. I promise that being single is not as bad as everyone clinging to his or her significant other makes it seem. Here’s what I wish someone told me when I was riding the newly-single-struggle-bus:

Don’t settle, travel as often as you can because making new memories is so clutch; call any weekend and we can plan day trips and weekend getaways whenever your heart desires. Being the third wheel is actually incredibly entertaining; you suddenly become the relationship councilor and everyone usually buys you drinks when you’re out (are they doing it out of pity? Oh well, DON’T CARE because it’s free). You will have to deal with your friends knowing the PERFECT guy for you that you just HAVE to meet. It’s obnoxious but it’s easy to laugh it off because it won’t take you long to realize that you really are fine by yourself. MOVE ON! That’s right, I said it. I know right now you can’t help but think of your last few days together, how you made this decision so suddenly and how you still ache to be around him constantly, but you have to let go. When your heart tells you that it’s time to move on, listen. Don’t hold yourself back with thoughts of the past. Cherish the time you had together, but put it behind you.

Lastly, I want to remind you how much you’ve accomplished. From landing a kick ass new job, to buying your own house, managing two dogs, and volunteering more than anyone I know, you are truly a force to be reckoned with. Being single pushes you out of every comfort zone, and it’s empowering as hell to love who you are and to take pride in yourself. This is an amazing time in your life, and I can’t wait to see how you grow from this. You already light up every room you enter, you’re graceful, intelligent, and, most importantly, you’re an independent woman, and you don’t need no man until he needs you! You’re doing great things, keep your head up and your heart light.

You are always enough.

I love you bitch, welcome to my life.

DIY: How To Throw A Blessing Bag Party

My friends are great at a lot of things but one thing they are really spectacular at, is throwing a party. I might not be the best party planner but I am really great at giving back to my community and dragging everyone who knows me along. Well we decided to combine our God given talents and the result was the best blessing bag bash you could imagine.

A blessing bag is a ziplock sized bag full of items that the homeless need or use. For some, giving money to the homeless is uncomfortable or conflicts with their moral views. I am sure we have all heard someone say “I am not giving the homeless money, they will just use it to buy booze or drugs.” To the people that say that, you’d be surprised but I respect your hesitation and instead, offer this option. If you see someone in need give them a blessing bag.

The reason to have a blessing bag party is because it is a fun way to get all of your friends together for a good time all while doing something good for those in need. Here is how to plan a blessing bag party:

Step 1

Don’t invite people by word of mouth, this party needs to be organized and planned. I like to send out an email to all of my friends letting them know the date and time of the party along with instructions on what to bring. Every person coming will need to bring one small item that the homeless can use in bulk. You will need to give your invitees examples of what they can bring and you’ll need to track what is being brought to ensure everyone isn’t bringing toothpaste. A few things I like to mention are: travel sized shampoo/conditioner/deodorant, gum, water bottles, crackers, granola bars, tissues, band-aids, soap, wet wipes or hand sanitizer. You also should tell your guests where to buy these items. For example: Target, Dollar Tree, Walmart and Walgreens. People can also go to local hotels and explain what they are doing and see if the hotel would like to donate travel sized items, many places will.

Step 2

It is your job as the host to ensure that you aren’t getting too much of one item and to provide the ziplock bags that the goods will be going in. Your goal is to have each guest leave at the end of the night with 3-5 bags of their own, fully packed. Once you have a head count, you can buy the appropriate amount of bags.

Step 3

Set up assembly areas. The easiest way to do this is to collect all the products when people arrive and start putting them in big bowls or on large trays. Lay the trays out like an assembly line so when you start making bags each guest can start at one end, put each item in their bag and end on the opposite side of the room. Think of a buffet style line. This is a good time for manfriend (or whomever is helping you) to entertain everyone, make cocktails and tell everyone to grab some food.

Step 4

Make the bags. Make as many blessing bags as you can and leave them in one area of the house. Spend the rest of your night eating, drinking and enjoying your company but remind everyone to take a few bags with them to keep in their backseat of their cars until they need them.

OPTIONAL:

Two things I like to do with my blessing bags are pray over them before everyone takes them and put inspirational messages in them. You can set up a station at your house with small pieces of paper and pens so if someone wants to add an encouraging message to their bags they can.

And that is it, that is a great blessing bag party. Enjoy yourself and your friends while doing something great for those in need, doesn’t get much better than that!

My Maid Of Honor Speech

A couple weeks ago I had the privilege of being the maid of honor to my crazy, wonderful and oldest best friend. This was my first taste of MOH life and while I was preparing for my speech during the reception, I poked around online for some tips and tricks for writing a great speech.  Most articles I read listed the basics of don’t give your speech wasted and don’t tell any x-rated stories but couldn’t find anyone’s actual speech. Instead of reading pointers and tips, I wanted to read the real words that someone said and get a feel for how one delivers such a special and important message to the new bride and groom. I came up empty handed but figured I would share my own words so if there are any virgin MOH’s out there looking as I did, they can take a look at mine.

Hi everyone. Hope you are enjoying the evening so far, my name is Rachel and I am Christina’s maid of honor. Christina and I have been friends for many, many years. I first met Christina in 7th grade P.E. We both weren’t very girly (and let me just paint this picture for you real quick: Christina had the tightest pony tail in the world that was slicked back, hard as a rock with a pound of hair spray and perfectly circular, round glasses. I was equally gorgeous, I had horribly frizzy hair, it looked like I had been struck by a lightning bolt and had a huge gap in-between my front teeth), we didn’t care about much (clearly) besides being the best basketball duo hickory middle school PE had ever seen (and we were). We were competitive 11 year olds and we connected instantly. We both had (and still do) the same sense of humor and the same zest for life, love and a little bit of rebellion. We went from young girls to women together. We have spent the majority of the last 15 years laughing about absolutely nothing, getting in trouble and finding our way through life.

Now we are here, 26 years old. Christina has left the hair spray and the Harry Potter glasses in the past. I got braces and bought a curling iron, thank God. We have been through ups and downs; we have stayed friends over thousands of miles and many state lines. We have memories piled on memories. We have gone our separate ways in search of who we are when we aren’t a pair and all of those dips and curves have brought us here, together, on this beautiful night, celebrating love, celebrating Christina and Travis.

You know, looking back, Christina has made a lot of wild card decisions in her life. If you would have told a younger version of me that the girl I used to give hack job haircuts to with dollar tree scissors and who allowed me to permanently dye her hair red when I was only 11 would grow into being a great hairstylist and teacher, I would have called you crazy. It is also important to note that Christina’s mom was NOT happy with the red hair, at all. Many times over the past 15 years Christina has told me some plan or thought for her personal life or love life and I have actually told her she might be insane. But, when she told me that she was serious about Travis, when I saw Christina and Travis together, I knew Travis was a really, really good decision.

Simply put, they are just a very good team together. I believe the love between them is strong, kind and gangster at the same time. It might be overwhelming one night and quiet the next but it seems to always be steady and constant. They are both funny and thoughtful. They have a foundation of a phenomenal friendship and it shows. You can tell these two are best friends. They truly love each other’s company and while life is full of tough decisions, deciding on each other, on life together was an easy choice for them both.

So, congratulations you two, may the coming years be fun, may you always have each other’s backs, may you forgive quickly and laugh daily. May the ups be higher than the downs are low and may you always turn inward, toward each other in the face of conflict. May the road ahead, however curvy, be long and beautiful. Congratulations and Cheers.

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