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Breaking Bread

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Breaking Bread

The dream I had for our back deck/porch/yard has always been to gather together with our family and friends and talk about God's word and our lives, laugh, break bread together, and play games! We have been working on our backyard for over a year now. Here we painted our deck (which sadly did NOT hold up in the Colorado weather elements). Here we laid sod, which sadly ended up frying towards the end of the summer (#renoprobz). We also decided to renovate our kitchen starting in May and much to my dismay our deck became the outdoor storage unit for our appliances and our contractor's tools and supplies. We had a dishwasher and stove among other renovation debris and tools on our deck for about 8 weeks. FINALLY, when our kitchen was nearing completion we were able to finish decorating our back deck and get some use out of it before the winter rolls in. I was afraid I would miss the precious summer time but as I am always reminded, God is faithful and I still had plenty of time to enjoy the backyard.

The day after our contractor finished up with the kitchen, I texted a group of girlfriends to see if they wanted to join me for an evening on the deck complete with yummy food and wine! I got a resounding "I am in!". During this party, my sweet friend (and also current ROOMIE! - more on that later) mentioned that she wanted me to teach her all my hosting ways for when she gets married soon. I had another friend comment to me about how it is hard to know how to host. This got me thinking. I love to host and it comes somewhat naturally to me but it isn't that hard and really everyone can do it! We all grew up with our parents showing us different skills and gifts. My mom, as well as, my dad and step-mom are all amazing hosts. My entire life, I have watched as they have thrown party after party and gathering after gathering. It is easily one of my favorite memories of growing up. Somewhere along the way, I picked up my own hosting style. A few tips I have learned through experience can go a long way for throwing an affordable gathering with a specific theme or style.

I am going to share with you how you can put together a girls evening at your house for less than $50 and not stress out in the process! I want to encourage you to invite others in to share in the hosting and use all the fun stuff you already have in your home that was a wedding present or a special purchase that we just don't use enough!

First - pick the night of the week that works for you invite girls over. I know that about 8 girls fit perfectly on my back deck. For me, I work a 9/80 schedule which means I have every other Friday off so I usually pick a Friday evening that I am already off to host my gathering! This automatically makes it less stressful for me.

Next, decide on the menu for the evening. I usually make the main meal and at least one side or appetizer. I will text the girls letting them know what I need help with. Do not hesitate to tell your girls specifically what to bring or just give them suggestions. Most of my friends love direction when it comes to contributing to one of these gatherings!  Sometimes I am as specific to say that I want someone to bring a cheese and cracker platter and sometimes I say "a side that goes with chicken". This allows people to make something they like but also lets them know what would be helpful! I love my girls, everyone is usually fighting over who gets to bring what and we always end up with SO MUCH FOOD! I love it.

My go to recipe for the meat is crock pot pork. I literally make this so much. It is affordable, easy, and Whole 30 approved!

I shop at my local Sprouts and pick up a 3.5-5.0 lbs of pork loin or pork shoulder (whichever they have that's on sale). I usually spend about $5-9 on the pork! That's it!!

The morning of the party, I put the pork in the crock pot. Then I add about two spoonfuls of garlic that is already chopped in the jar. Add some fresh oregano or other herbs from the garden (pick what you love but some suggestions are: Rosemary, Thyme, Oregano, & Basil). Then I add some salt and pepper to taste and put about 1/2 cup of water (or wine if you prefer. P.S. cooking with wine is not Whole 30 approved.) for the juice. That is IT! Just put on low for 8 hours and it is completely ready for your evening! Crockpot recipes make it really easy when you get home from work. You can just focus on prepping the table or the space you are going to hang out in.

For this party, I also made some basmati rice with garlic and some cilantro. I then just rummaged through my pantry and fridge and threw in a bowl of fresh cherries, some pistachios, and a bowl of green olives. All things I already had that were going to go bad if they weren't eaten soon!

When I am the hostess, I usually provide a few bottles of wine for the evening. Nothing fancy, I literally go to Trader Joe's and get 3 buck Chuck or maybe one "special wine" that is $4. I know big spender. To cutesy things up - I just poor the red wine in a decanter (a wedding gift) and put cute wine stoppers in the white and pink wines! I let the girls know they can feel free to bring their beverage of choice, so again there is no stress! I always provide some lemon and rosemary infused water in a cute pitcher (another wedding present).

To make the dinner special and set the ambiance for the evening, I usually pick up one of the $3.99 bouquets at Trader Joe's the week of the party. I keep a stock pile of my wedding decor for various church events and events at my home, so I will usually pull out a few lanterns and candles to set the table. Here is where it gets really fun... You know all that china, fancy cups, platters, and other STUFF you got for your wedding? Yeah, get all that stuff out! It is time to use it. I have been using Ben's grandmother's beautiful blue glasses, my grandmother's weeping willow dishes, and all the platters, pitchers, etc. that I have for these parties! It is so fun. At first all the girls were like, "wow! Where is all this from?" and I was able to tell them that it was basically all gifts and hand me downs and it was time to just use all the fancy stuff! This makes them feel very special and just makes the evening so much fun! You totally don't have to do this but for me, it is just really special to actually get to use all my serving ware. Finally, I pulled out the real napkins that my mom gifted me for Easter. Yep, that's right, real napkins. Don't be scared of the clean up, just throw them in the washer at the end of the night! These are from Target and are really cute!

If you can't tell already, I LOVE blue. Everything matches because, well, I buy everything in shades of blue and grey. Haha

This time together with friends was so sweet. I cherish these nights. I love encouraging the other women that they too can throw a dinner, that isn't overly expensive, isn't over the top but fosters an environment where others feel special and cherished! As you can see above, we had everything from pork to pizza rolls, to a cheese and fruit tray, to fresh cherries & veggies. We didn't have fancy Hors d'oeuvres. These nights are about being present in the moment. As a hostess, you can't lose sight of the point of the evening and you need to enjoy the friends you have over. Once I get the table set, I usually just sit down and focus on being present, I don't run around the whole time or let myself get stressed out. I just know that I don't have to control everything and it doesn't have to be perfect. I usually have at least one friend who brings their dog over to play with Trigger. We listen to country music or our favorite worship songs, sit under the market cafe lights, enjoy the amazing weather that Denver offers in the summer, and talk about life, marriage, our jobs, our ministries, and what we are learning about who Christ is. One of my favorite parts is towards the middle of the evening I usually prompt the girls to share what they are learning in God's word, what this season of life is teaching them, or how they are being stretched. I am always so encouraged during this time. I am beyond thankful for a community of women that are on mission in this city and are loving others with their time, their words, and their hearts. 

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We had such a wonderful time that I planned another evening just two weeks later. We changed up the menu but again it turned out to be such a precious time with these girls. As I swept the leaves on our deck last week, I was reminded of the changing season and I am so thankful I had these special evenings under the stars with my precious friends!

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Trigger and Abe were totally infatuated with all the food droppings they got! They were not happy to be temporarily locked inside.

Happy gathering -

 

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Progressive Dinner

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Progressive Dinner

This past Saturday we had a Progressive Dinner with our GC! If you are not familiar with Progressive Dinners, a Progressive Dinner is a travelling party where different courses of a meal are eaten at different people's houses. Progressive Dinners strike me as a southern thing. Only because I grew up in Texas and this is where I learned about them. However - you don't have to be southern to have an excuse to embark on a Progressive Dinner!

Theme: Farm to Table 

Our theme was loosely interrupted and as you can imagine can include and encompass so many different types of food!

House #1

At House #1 in our Progressive Dinner journey, we enjoyed fresh fruits, veggies, a veggie pizza, and sherbet punch! It was the perfect fresh appetizer entree to start off our Progressive Dinner. We also shared some embarrassing moments and formative stories... but I can't share those!

 
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House #2

At House #2 we had Margarita flavored cream-sicles, steak fajitas, and played telestrations! 

Telestrations is telephone + pictionary and is so funny!

How to Play: Each person has a stack of cards or paper with enough cards for each person in the game. For example, we had 13 people playing, so each person had 13 pieces of paper in a stack. The first round you write a "saying" on your piece of paper. We designated one minute per round and someone just put a timer on their phone that would beep every minute. After the first minute, you pass the stack of paper to your right with your saying on the top. The person looks at your saying, puts that piece of paper on the bottom, and then tries to draw it.  Then you pass the paper with the drawing to your right, they put the drawing on the bottom, and then try to guess the saying. You keep alternating between drawing and guessing the saying and go around the entire circle. At the very end you should end up with your stack of paper. We then read the train of though from beginning to end out loud and it was HILARIOUS! To give you an idea what happens... my saying was "don't get your panties in a wad" and I ended up getting a card that said "sacrificing a baby porcupine". We were literally crying laughing! I recommend this game to everyone! So easy and fun and you can really play anywhere with little supplies.

 
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House #3

At House #3 and our final stop, we ate Carrot Cake (with carrots from their garden) and Zucchini Bread (with zucchinis from their garden) for dessert! I am so jealous of their garden and their green thumbs! Also they "raise honey bees" (yes that is the proper phrase! I have been saying "growing bees" for a while now so I am just proud that I got the right wording now!) Jack was really interested in getting suited up to see the honey bees up close and personal. This was a very thrilling event but we did have one sting that resulted in a bee casualty! Sam has so much knowledge about honey bees, gardening, and DIYs.... He explained that bees feed off of pheromones and lavender spray actually calms bees down and masks some of their pheromones. (Tip for all of you who fear bees as I do) Thankfully he sprayed the bees before the bee stinging incident so we didn't get a swarm of 15,000-20,000 bees coming at us! We determined that the sting rate is very, very low. Considering Sam inspects the bee hive fairly often and is up close and personal with the bees, he has only gotten stung twice this year. Plus our sting case this Saturday. That means that you have approximately a .015% (based off 15,000 bees) to .02% (based off of 20,000 bees) chance of getting stung! Those are odds I like. I may even be starting to like bees a little bit more.. I mean maybe?! Don't get your hopes up too high!

We also played Salad Bowl & King of Tokyo. Salad Bowl is another fun game you can play anywhere with little supplies! I must credit my in-laws for introducing this game to me.

How to Play: Each person writes down 3-5 words on little pieces of paper within a certain theme or category. Our category was animals. 

Round 1: Catch Phrase

Round 2: Charades

Round 3: One word

During each round, each team gets one minute to try and get their team to guess as many correct answers as possible. You alternate teams within each round until all of the cards have been answered then it starts a new round! The idea is that you tend to remember the bank of words for each round as it gets more difficult. We split up boys vs. girls and the girls definitely won... by one point haha!

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Zucchini Bread
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Bee Injury
 

Progressive dinners are a fun way to spend time in fellowship and go to one another's homes without pressure to host a party for an entire evening! You don't need a reason to have a party and celebration, you just need a few good friends {or new acquaintances!}, snacks, & some fun games! My favorite part of this entire day was just sitting back and seeing everyone laughing so hard they were crying and spending intentional time talking to each other. I want to go back and re-live it all over again. We loved it so much that we have decided to have a part 2 to the Progressive Dinner adventure and go to some other homes!

Catch ya later!

Chelsea
 

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GC Mountain Retreat Weekend

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GC Mountain Retreat Weekend

We recently hosted our gospel community {{also referred to as GC}} at our family's cabin in Fairplay for our seasonal mountain retreat. This weekend is designed to be a time of fellowship, game playing {I mean A LOT of game playing}, laughing, resting, & relaxation, as well as, exploration & adventure! I am so grateful to be in this community of believers that surrounds me with love, acceptance, joy, authenticity, & just all around fun & fellowship! I used to pray, and I must admit even just beg, for God to introduce me to friends that liked to play board games & card games, loved to do new things together, & enjoyed talking & laughing into the wee hours of the morning. God not only answered those prayers but he far exceeded fulfilling that desire. This may sound silly but I am not kidding when I say I like to play games.... I mean a lot of games for hours & hours. I have truly met my match at least 4 times over in our GC on those who love to play games! Anyways back to the GC Mountain Retreat Weekend --

Friday:

As everyone arrived, we unpacked cars and giddily talked about what lay ahead for the weekend!

We ate Christi's delicious chicken & sausage jambalaya (See the recipe here.) & talked about our activities for the next day! There were going to be three different groups doing fun things on Saturday which consisted of:  The Hikers, The Fishermen, & The Town Explorers.

We played Uno for hours {it only took us 20 minutes to explain all the rules since it had been a decade or more since some people had played.. aka Justin.} as well as B.S, also known as Boyscouts per Jack. hehe. I didn't want to stop playing games but since The Hikers were going to be leaving the house at 4:40 AM to hike Mount Quandary, we decided it was time to begin preparation for the morning & get ready for bed. 

We made assembly lines and took sandwich orders from the whole crew, made our bladders of water, and packed all of our lunches & packs. Finally we all got to bed a little after midnight! I felt like it was Christmas Eve I was so excited. I woke up at 2 AM convinced it was time for me to turn on the coffee and get ready. Thankfully I checked the time before I was too far in this plan.

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Friday Dinner
Ben + Jack + Trig

Saturday:

To get a full account of The Hikers journey to hiking a 14-er check out the post here.

After our hike which totaled about 8 hours with stops, snacking, potty breaks, etc. - we headed back to the cabin. On the way back, I texted the Town Explorer crew and they were at High Paw Pet Supplies meeting Andre! I convinced The Hikers to go meet up with them. {This consisted of me begging to go and no one having the guts to oppose.... I have such sweet friends! haha} Andre is a large cat that was rescued by this pet store and has since gained QUITE the Instagram following. Check out @andre.giantcat to learn more about Andre. We all just had to go get a picture with him! See these priceless photos below.

Chelsea + Andre
Jack + Andre
Anna + Andre

When we arrived back at the cabin, some of the crew napped {in hindsight - I should have joined them but anyone who knows me, knows I am not a napper and I do NOT like naps haha. I am personally just such a grumpo when I wake up, I feel worse or groggy the rest of the day, & I just don't like to waste daylight or miss out on the fun times!} and some of the crew talked and became delirious, I must add.

 
Ben + Trig
 
 
Jack + Trig
 

Shortly after a quick mountain rain storm, The Fishermen crew arrived back at the cabin to tell us about their adventures! They caught 25+ fish, hiked part of a 14-er, saw a buffalo or was it a bison? anyhow they thoroughly enjoyed themselves! It was so cool to see our seasoned veteran fly fisher teach a new fly fisherman what he knew and see them bond over their common interest in fishing!

 
Fish
 

Saturday evening consisted of cooking over 6 lbs of fried chicken, frying up the 7 trout the boys brought home, making homemade cauliflower mac & cheese {I will share this recipe soon!}, & hearty salad! I love cooking meals together at the cabin. There is something so sweet about the whole process. Some people gravitate towards cooking {me, Jack, Cole}, while Christi & John are great choppers & preppers, and some of the boys are our clean up crew {Edward, Ben, & Justin}, and everyone else who helps set the table & take drink orders. It is just one of the most fulfilling earthly experiences topped off with eating family style. Our presentation isn't fancy & it isn't perfect but it sure is made with love & absolutely delicious.

 
Saturday Dinner
 

Sunday:

After we had breakfast, we spent some time in God's word as a group and just reflected on on the weekend in the basement. During this time, Cole spotted a moose walking across our property! It was majestic. We immediately all started running up the stairs trying to snap a photo and get a better view. Here is the only good image I have of this moose. You can see that his hind legs are TALLER than our friend's Jeep Cherokee! It was amazing but don't be fooled. Moose are very aggressive and dangerous so do not approach one in the wilderness!

 
Moose
 

When I come back from a weekend like this I come back rejuvenated, filled with encouragement & joy, and thankful for the body of Christ in community. Community has changed my life over and over. If you are not in community - my prayer is that you would seek out Godly community that will continue to challenge you to live as Christ calls you to. Community isn't perfect but it is essential to our sanity & growth. Isolation can overwhelm you and suck you in before you realize what is happening. If you have questions or would like to know more about biblical community - feel free to message me in the Contact section or leave a comment below!

Full heart -

Chelsea
 

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Social Media Low Down

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Social Media Low Down

In February - Ben and I sat down with our friend, Jack, to discuss how we could serve at Emmaus in a more substantial way. We originally went to discuss helping with administrative duties such as bookkeeping, organizing expenses, etc. and by the time we left - the Lord had completely changed the tone of the meeting. Instead I was going to serve in the social media & communication realm, as well as, event planning and coordinating, literally all my favorite things! I hadn't even thought of serving in this capacity. In my previous role as the Communications Chair at the Dallas IIA (a professional organization for internal auditors), I performed very similar duties which gave me a great foot in the door to running social media for an organization. I am so thankful for all that I have learned during my time with the Dallas IIA - but I am even more excited to use this experience for a mission that I am VERY passionate about. In addition - in my previous role as a Teaching Assistant and VP of Student Affairs for the UT Dallas IIA student organization, I planned many events such as happy hours, weekly corporate meetings, fun outings for students, conferences, etc. As I reflect on the last few years - I see how God placed me in the right places at the right time to gain experience in all these different areas that I am really passionate about and that I love. It took just a few people taking the risk on me and trusting that I could deliver the results they were wanting. I know this sounds really business-y but Hey I work in the corporate world so it is hard to change that part of me.

With all of that being said I am just completely ecstatic to serve in this way at Emmaus! Thus far - I have helped throw Easter brunch for about 50 people and a covenant member's party for about 40-50 people! I so enjoy this experience and opportunity and I find myself asking God to show me what I should do as a long term career. My heart just wanders. I want to be used in a radical way, in a missional way, and serve people every day, all day. I know that I am right where I am supposed to be in this moment though.

So with all that being said, I have been getting a lot of questions about how I create a lot of the graphics for our Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter accounts and I wanted to share what I have learned along the way.

VSCOcam: Most photographers know about this app. My sister-in-law, who is a wedding photographer, uses it all the time as well as my friend Brittany, who was in my community group in Fort Worth and is also a wedding photographer. I downloaded this app like 2 years ago but I had a hard time really figuring out how it worked and just kind of gave up on it. Brittany recently convinced me to go back to using it and even showed me some tips & tricks! SO thankful for her. One thing that is really important to dynamic and interesting graphics is taking some of your own original photos to use behind words or with other messages. I tend to try to capture beautiful skylines, outdoor scenery, or anything else that catches my eyes and keep a stock pile for future use!

Word Swag: BEST. PURCHASE. EVER. So keeping in mind that I do a lot of informational promoting, i.e. Sunday gathering time & location, event time & location, reminders, etc. so posting the core of your message on the graphic is so important! This appeals to users and catches their eyes so they will actually read what you have to say! This app is $3.99 and there are a few extras you can buy within the app for $1.99 each or so. I downloaded all of them and seriously best app purchase ever. 

Examples of past graphics:

Moves & Neighborhoods
Speak
Matthew 5:14
Your Actions Reflect Your Heart
Mountains
Suffering
New Member Lunch
Sunday Gathering
Power of Prayer

I hope this helpful to some of you who are starting your own blog, business, or providing services for a non-profit organization or a church! I am happy to meet with anyone at a coffee shop in Denver and give you some lessons slash show you how I do what I do on some of these apps! Also - if you aren't in Denver I am available for a Skype session or phone call! The hardest part of doing social media for an organization on a volunteer basis is the consistency of posts and developing your own original content. :) I recommend brainstorming, having people send you ideas, or if you are feeling really creative just make 5-10 posts to use over time for when you are really busy and its hard to think of something on the fly!

Follow us on Twitter at: @EmmausChurchDen

Follow us on Instagram at: @EmmausChurchDen

Like us on Facebook at: www.facebook.com/emmauschurchden

Love to all and Happy {almost} Friday!!

Chelsea
 

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IF:Emmaus Denver Reflection

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IF:Emmaus Denver Reflection

So the IF: Emmaus Denver retreat was amazing! To give you a little background, the IF:Gathering is a conference, retreat-like, gathering in Austin, Texas. Their dream and mission is to be a group of women around the state, country, and globe that gather wherever you are and refocus on what believing in a holy God can do in your life. You can apply to be a host of an event, so one of the sweet girls at our church took the initiative to plan this whole weekend! We streamed the messages from Austin and were able to be apart of something bigger than just our little group of 21. We tucked away into the mountains in Cordierra, Colorado in an amazing, beautiful, just perfect mountain house that a friend so graciously let our group use for the weekend!

 
View from the Balcony
 
 
Snow with Rock
 
 
Antler Chandelier
 
 
Basement Fireplace
 
 
Bunkroom in the Basement
 
 
Basement Living Room
 
 
Front of House Facing Mountains
 

Here are just a few of the tidbits of truth, encouragement, and reminders that were bestowed upon us by some of the IF: Gathering speakers!

  • He has chosen us to be exactly where we are in this season.
  • The Lord’s hold on us is stronger than our hold on Him, and he has no intention of letting go!
  • God does good and sacred things around a table.
  • “You are working for our good. Even in the valley, you are faithful.” – music
  • Don't wait until you have full possession of knowledge to take full possession of God.
  • God is higher than us. Amen!
  • Set us free for freedom’s sake.
  • Give your heart permission to trust Him.
  • It’s safe to be faithful to a faithful God.
  • Be strong and courageous.
  • Our God is a God of “I am”.
  • We are unhealthily attached to the sins of our past. Leave it at the cross! It is time to move on!
  • Be willing to be a servant and an aid. Serving prepares you for what God has already prepped you for. Service is the key to destiny.
  • The call of God is inconvenient. We will be interrupted.
  • The Holy Spirit is a spirit of love, power, and a sound mind.
  • We need to be a generation that knows, loves, and breathes the word of God.

I had two real reasons for wanting to go to this retreat this weekend: 1) Spend time in God's word and get some sweet, everyday life type of reminders of what it looks like to live a life centered around what Christ has done for us and who he calls us to be and 2) get to know the women at my new church home! 

1.     As for the first and most important reasons I was drawn to this retreat, we did not truly “dig” into God’s word this weekend through the actual IF:Gathering teachings and messages. This retreat is more geared towards empowering women, lighting a fire in women to live a life for the Lord, and really just providing some motivation for women because let's face it -- life is hard. Like really hard sometimes! I think at this stage in my walk with the Lord – I am really more interested in truly “digging” and “unpacking” God’s word and learning the historical context, the theological and academic side to the scriptures, and really studying the bible.  Now I realize that this sounds more like a bible study or school like setting but hey that is okay! It is such a relief to say what you are looking for and just be confident in that. I know that that isn’t where everyone is at and I so appreciate that but that is what I am most looking for. Also – we did get to spend some time in small groups this weekend just talking through some of the ideas or topics that the speakers brought up which was so refreshing and really challenging to think through! So overall – the IF:Gathering is like most Christian conferences in the fact that it is pretty “over produced” and there were some not so authentic “emotional” speeches made BUT the Lord did show up and He wove together so many women’s hearts, grasped hold of hearts and changed lives, and also provided some great real life application of His word through some amazing speakers. On a side note, our favorite speakers were by far: Jen Hatmaker, Christine Caine, and Bianca Olthoff. 

2.     As for the second reasons I wanted to go on this retreat, I definitely got to spend some quality time with a lot of the sweet, sweet women at our church home! Wow – I was just so blown away after moving to Denver just 6 weeks ago and how open and accepting everyone is here. As our pastor’s wife says, “she hasn't met her friend quota yet.” Haha I just love that saying! I mean A. I don't think I could ever meet my friend quota, but B. What a refreshing reminder that we all have room in our hearts for another friend! We spent time talking, cooking delicious meals together, playing spoons, sharing testimonies, staying up late, getting in the hot tub, going into town to explore, going snow-shoeing, drinking lots of coffee and tea, praying, and laughing! I am just so thankful to be able to move from Fort Worth to Denver and already have such a strong community around me and women that I can trust to hold me accountable, encourage me, and do life with me. And I can also do all these things for them. I just could not have imagined a better weekend! God works all things for His good and His glory and this weekend was definitely one of them! He put all the right people there at the right time and just let all these relationships grow. Amen to that girls! AMEN!

 
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Saturday Morning Session
 
 
Saturday Day Session
 
 
Saturday Evening Session
 
 
Saturday Night Worship
 
 
Playing Spoons
 
 
Lightner Girls Cooking
 
 
Baldock GC Girls
 
 
Group of Girls
 

Love in Christ -

Chelsea
 

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