Friendsgiving 2018 Menu

Thanksgiving is a traditional meal — gotta have that green bean casserole, amirite?! But Friendsgiving has become a fun new tradition G and I began last year. This year had to be a much more intimate affair due to all those home improvements and limited amount of time to plan, but it was still a great time. We used the time for enjoying more delicious food and even better community.

Talking about food, I wanted to provide some praise for our menu this year in the form of a post. I could go into detail about how to plan your own Friendsgiving or games/activities to play at your own dinner, but I think those topics are too difficult to cover. I mean, you know what works best with your friends’ group and can Pinterest tons of ideas. Instead, I’m going to focus on the dinner table.

Below is what we had on our Friendsgiving table along with recipes to try on your own. It was more than enough food for a small group of only six diners, but that meant leftovers. I’ll never complain about not having to grocery shop following a holiday!

Drinks

  • Cranberry Apple Moscow Mule Punch from Whitney Bond
  • Red Wine Hot Chocolate from Delish (we used Barefoot Cabernet Sauvignon for the wine)
  • Holiday Sherbet Moscato Punch — this was a homemade recipe mixing grape juice and/or Hawaiian punch with lime sherbet and sparkling moscato

Appetizers

Dinner

  • Pumpkin Dinner Rolls from Tastes of Lizzy T
  • Spinach Salad with Maple Balsamic Vinaigrette similar to Vegan Daydream
  • Sweet Potato Casserole similar to Crunchy Creamy Sweet
  • Green Beans made with brown sugar and bacon — simply saute frozen or fresh green beans with olive oil, brown sugar, and bacon bits… YUM!
  • Simple Turkey (made in an oven bag) with instructions from Clever House Wife — this was my first-ever turkey so I threw a mix of my own spices inside and on top of the turkey including sage, black pepper, lemon, mustard, and garlic powder.

Dessert

  • Brownie Batter Dip similar to Mel’s Kitchen Cafe with pretzels, vanilla wafers, and marshmallows

We proceeded to play a little Battle of the Sexes and Cards Against Humanity before staying up until 2:00AM with some lively discussions. I’m loving this annual tradition and am excited to see how it will evolve over the next few years.

What sort of dishes do you include in your annual Friendsgiving? I would love to have some new recipes for future years! Please drop a suggestion in the comment section below.

See you all in December, 

Defining My Tribe

A local winery owner I know launched a women’s group back in February called Women Among Women. I’ve attended a few of the monthly meet-ups and have loved participating every single time. The group is more than simply networking, and focuses on topics decided upon by the attendees. Sometimes there may be a guest speaker, but more often the attendees have an open discussion on the specific topic of the evening. Topics have included goal setting, switching careers, and getting over life’s missteps gracefully. The women who attend are students, entrepreneurs, managers, mothers, spouses, volunteers, and so much more. It is a warm and inviting environment where each woman can connect with one another, share their personal experiences, and learn.

I met an awesome hustler a few months ago through this group. This woman began a podcast last year which has become a weekly delight for me to listen to on Wednesdays while I go about my work. The podcast, Hustlin’ In Heels, gets “real about struggles and celebrations of being a modern-day badass babe.” Basically, it’s a podcast Uncorking Peonies can get behind (and I definitely encourage anyone reading to give it a listen!)

Last week’s installment was all about building your tribe. The co-hosts talked about how they define a tribe, who they invite into their tribe, and what being in a tribe means. Their discussion got me thinking about how my tribe is continuously growing and evolving, and how I got to be in the various tribes I now find myself. Thus, I figured I’d focus my “annual Thanksgiving post” on my blessing of friendship and tribe.

To me, tribe is a universal word that is always attempting to be defined on a personal level. In the most basic sense, a tribe is built on similar social and economic ties and within a common culture. Yet a tribe can be so much more. It can be an intimately exclusive group simply built around care and love. Your tribe members have earned your trust, they hold you accountable in your endeavors, and they struggle through Life by your side. I love my husband and I love my parents, but they are not who I consider my tribe — they are family, which is a whole other elevated element of my Life. Instead, my tribe are those girls who are my ride-and-dies.

As a child, I can imagine I tied my identity to my family, similar to any other kid. I am an only child with a small extended family, but most of my memories as a youngster are centered around family holidays, vacations, or outings with my parents. It was not until my preteen years when I began to shift away from my familial tribe and looked to be invited into a friend tribe.

Unfortunately, I am an innate worrier. This means I suffered through my adolescent and teenage years — some of the most difficult years as a girl — in a constant state of worry. Did I fumble my way through that conversation? Am I cool enough to be her friend? That girl is hotter/smarter/cooler than me, so why would she want to hang out with me? I was in my head all the time and had very low self-esteem. With fear of what others thought and loathing of myself, I stepped into several friendships where I struggled to find my groove. There were multiple times I tried to force a relationship to no avail. Be it that personalities collided, trust was lacking, or my own inhibitions got in the way, by the time I reached my senior year in college, I lacked a core tribe.

Typical to human behavior, I played the victim card when friendships failed. “She hurt my feelings. She did me wrong. I was always the only one invested.” were my usual phrases when brushing off the pain of another failed relationship. When I realized I lacked a tribe, though, I began to reassess the past. Yes, those friend-fails may have been due to misunderstandings and crushed feelings, but I was not free from blame. I have difficulty trusting others due to my lack of self-esteem. I’m forever considering alternative motives and asking questions on someone’s intents. My personality is to give my all to a goal (in this reference, a functional friendship,) and sometimes I forget a friend’s personality might not match mine. Or worse, I forget a friend’s life does not center solely on our friendship.

In short, my past friendship fails have been 50/50 when it comes to who is to blame. And due to my own failings and lack of relationships, I found myself alone upon graduating. Right before graduation I had ended my romantic relationship which was truly my one and only core friendship at the time. So I found myself heartbroken, scared of an unknown career path, floundering in student debt, and alone. I lacked that intimate female camaraderie which I had struggled to find for years.

The day came though where I had to place my fears and self-esteem behind me, and throw myself in the hands of the only girls I found near me: my roommates. These two girls had only been my roommates for three months, and we had met on Facebook. I worked an hour away each weekend, studied a lot, and spent most of my free time with my ex, so minutes with these girls were few and far between. Our friendship was very elementary at the time.

Yet when my earth shook, they were there. They listened while my heart broke, held me while I sobbed, and took me for so many cups of FroYo I couldn’t even keep count. And through all the vulnerable moments, I began to heal. Their love made me feel safe and they helped me navigate the following months with grace and dignity. They were my first Tribe, and the perfect founding block on how I learned how to grow my future tribes.

Over the past several years, building my Tribe has become a wonderful hobby. Similar to what Angie says on Hustlin’ in Heels, I find more joy with the people I surround myself with because I trust them. That means going outside my comfort zone to meet new women, listening to their stories, and moving through life with them. Tribe is more than simple friendship; it is the group you do Life with and who does Life with you. Life is amazing and rewarding, but it comes with challenges. I’m not afraid anymore to admit I need help sometimes. As I meet new women and form relationships with them, I place my trust in them — something which I once shuddered at the thought.

The Tribes I have built are my support system. Some may be personal friendships and others professional, but I know they all have my back. I have come to realize that having a tribe is not only something I wanted for so many years, but Tribe is something I needed.

In the all-knowing words of Beyonce Knowles, “I love my husband, but it is nothing like a conversation with a woman that understands you.” There is just something special about allowing yourself to be vulnerable and transparent and raw with a fellow female. Women understand women — we’re all from Venus after all.

Over the past few years, I have worked to cultivate connections with like-minded individuals in various parts of my life. These women help turn my visions into reality and help me achieve ideas too big for me to accomplish on my own. This might be by urging me to have fun and go out, listening and providing advice during a difficult time, or telling me what I don’t want to hear when I’m being stubborn. To me, Tribe consists of those women who will not only listen to me, but will constantly push me to be better.

As I move through my life I know I am no longer alone when it comes to friendship. I have women behind me to uplift me, support me, encourage me, and check in with me periodically. And the reason they do this is not out of obligation or familial ties. No, these women do so because they choose to love me and have my best interests at heart. Their love and care is unconditional, which ultimately makes them family — my Tribes are my sisters. They are with me during my successes, but they also forgive all my failures. They tell me I’m a rock star, even when I’m not. My Tribes allow me to be human — wins, fails, and all the accompanying tears.

Your tribe can’t be there just to pat you on the back when you’re already feeling great. Your tribe has to be able to provide you with that extra energy needed when times are rough. They have to provide tough love sometimes, or a hand off the ground. My Tribes have helped me personally, professionally, and in so many other ways. They are my best friends, my closest confidants, and my hope is to give the love, compassion, and care back to them, as well as spread it to others.

Every woman needs a tribe.

Shout out to mine.

How To Build An Awe-Inspiring Charcuterie Spread On Budget

When it comes to hosting a great dinner party, there are staples to the night that I cannot skip: excellent food, great (quantities of) wine, and the perfect blend of friends. My secret weapon for any gathering is one thing: a perfectly curated charcuterie board. Not only does it appease guests’ pre-dinner appetites but it’s also chic, classy, and fun to put together!

So today I’m going to share a few of my secrets on how to make a crowd-pleasing charcuterie board and how to do so on a limited budget.

In case you’re unfamiliar, charcuterie (pronounced shar-kood-eree) are meat and cheese boards that typically include a variety of other foods that can be paired for palate-pleasing combinations. The ingredients all complement the meats and cheeses present, and guests can have a fun do-it-yourself appetizer. Plus, charcuterie can be created any time of the year utilizing a lot of different seasonal foods to continue making a unique and special selection.

Choose a variety

Meats and cheeses are the key components to any charcuterie. However, any good spread needs a solid amount of choice, and I recommend going with a mixture of textures to please the palate. This means finding meats and cheeses which offer a variety of softness, hardness, chewiness, dryness, etc.

For meats, I generally go with aged meats rather than sliced deli meat because they’re full of flavor and tend to pair easier. Look for a few different options such as prosciutto, cured ham, pâté, or salamis. I typically shop at Aldi for my meat and cheese needs because their selection is amazing! One of my go-tos is the Specially Selected Prosciutto Panino which offers a soft mozzarella wrapped in prosciutto. I could eat this by itself but it makes an awesome pairing partner to a variety of other ingredients in a spread too.

Now let’s talk cheese — my favorite part of the charcuterie. I typically select at least four cheeses: a mild, medium, and sharp cheese along with a goat milk cheese. I absolutely love goat cheese and having a bit in your charcuterie offers a non-dairy option. It’s a win-win for any group! For my mild cheese, I typically find a smooth Brie and it seems to always be a favorite among my guests. I go for a Gouda or cheddar as my medium-bodied cheese. As long as it pairs well with both white and red wine (and beer sometimes) then I’m happy. And finally, I love to bring a blue cheese out as my sharp cheese as it pairs so well with bolder meats and heavy red wines. One of my ride-or-dies is Kenny’s Farmhouse Bleu Gouda (ohmigoodness, I’m salivating just thinking about this cheese.) When feeling especially adventurous I’ll also throw together a wedge or two of hand-crafted specialty cheese such as the Roasted Garlic with Tomato and Basil Cheese by Specially Selected.

Sweet, spice, and everything nice

Salty is good up to a point. Since many of your meat options are cured, they will be very salty. So it is good practice to balance things out with milder flavors. Serve up a sweet complement such as fresh or dried fruit, jams, or mustards. Working at a winery for so many years, my charcuterie boards are lacking if I do not have some bunches of grapes decorating them. I also love adding a bit of softness to the board through Southern Grove Dried Apricots.

Two other additions every single one of my charcuterie spreads include which have guests raving? The first is adding strawberry preserves (preferably homemade) to the top of my Brie and warming it enough to make it just the slightest bit gooey. The second — and the highest praise-worthy inclusion — is goat cheese with apricot preserves. Either create a base of apricot preserves topped with crumbled goat cheese or a bowl of layering the two ingredients, but your guests are going to go crazy for this flavor explosion!

Get creative with your add-ons

Depending on whether your charcuterie is the main event or simply a pre-dinner snack, you’ll want to alter the amount of meat and cheese you buy. (Though overbuying wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world.) My rule of thumb is three ounces per person as an appetizer and doubled portions if your board is the food focus. Charcuterie is a rich foodie project and will be overly satisfying.

Feel free to go basic or wild in your varieties of meat, cheeses, condiments, garnishments, and add-ins though. Along with the salty and sweet options, I love to add some savory notes to my boards. Olives are a great choice, and nuts come in so many varieties and add a nice crunch. Go with pistachios, cashews, or a trail mix. And bread! Bread is a must. Serve a couple of different breads such as a strong sourdough alongside a simple ciabatta or an assortment of crackers and you’ll be good to go.

Do not feel obligated to stick with “traditional charcuterie” options though. Sometimes I’ll add a little seasonal twist and weave pumpkin seeds across my board. Last Halloween I had a glorious charcuterie arrayed around a centerpiece of Sour Patch Straws. (Which were surprisingly good with a bit of dry Riesling…)

Budget-friendly tip: Typically a spread like those I have pictured throughout this post cost around $50 at Aldi and filled the bellies of 30+ people during my wine club events. Find your key elements (meat and cheeses), choose an assortment of crackers of breads, and then find a few tasty add-ins.

The only piece of charcuterie you should rely to remain the same each and every time is the great company it brings to your table. One of my favorite parts about hosting a get-together featuring a charcuterie board is we all inevitably end up discussing our favorite flavor profiles. And in turn drink a lot of good wine. Simple evenings like those are usually the most relaxing and memorable.

And that is it, friends. Get out there and try your own charcuterie spreads! I would love to hear what your favorite charcuterie items are — what have you tried that really packed a flavor punch? Please share your ideas with me!

Happy snacking,

 

Expectations of Your Bridal Shower

If you’re totally new to the whole bridal shower thing, you are not alone! Last weekend my future MIL graciously threw me a bridal shower with G’s side of the family in his hometown, but going into the celebration I really didn’t know what to expect. I have only been to one shower prior so I was completely unaware of what the event would entail.

In short, at your bridal shower you are the guest of honor as your closest friends and relatives gather to eat, chatter, and lavish you with a truckload of amazing gifts. This is one party you do not need to worry about planning on your own, but it may help to know what to expect so to best be prepared. So read on to discover a few more details on this traditional pre-wedding party used to celebrate and shower the bride-to-be with many well-wishes.

First off, let’s cover the basic question of What is a bridal shower? A bridal shower is a pre-wedding celebration in honor of the bride that traditionally is an opportunity for guests to give her gifts to help set up her new home. The general format is daytime women-only event, but tradition has begun to shift in this regard in modern times. Many couples go with a coed shower nowadays in the form of a cocktail party, barbecue, or drinks out in the evening. No matter if the honoree is just the bride or the couple, a shower mainly consists of eating, drinking, and mingling with guests.

The bridesmaids will most likely host the bridal shower, though the mother of the bride and/or mother of the groom may also play a part in the planning process. The total cost is often split among the bridal party. No matter who is hosting, be sure to communicate clearly to make sure the plans come together and the shower isn’t two separate affairs!

The bridal shower typically happens within two or three months of the wedding, and are usually on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon. The exact time of the day will be up to the hosts, but expect a brunch, luncheon, or afternoon tea (the most traditional time scheme.) Be sure to have your registry completed by this time as guests will use it/them to purchase gifts. And yes, gift opening is one of the main events of the shower so expect to open the presents in front of your guests! Expect the party to last past three hours and do not rush this time spent with the best ladies in your life.

Hosts will take care of invitations to the shower. Ideally, invites will be mailed out about six weeks in advance and include the bride’s name, date, time, location, registry information, and the host(s)’ names in order to RSVP. As with any other pre-wedding event, the guest list for the shower should be limited to people also invited the wedding. Usually for the shower, this includes the bridal party, the mothers, and close family relatives. Other female friends may be included as well, but the number invited depends on how large the shower is intended to be. This is typically a group of 20-50 guests. Some showers may be a surprise, but others may require the bride to assist with the guest list — and then keep out of the rest of the planning.

The invitations may also give a little idea of the theme of the shower. Though the shower doesn’t have to have a theme, most usually do. A bridal tea party, Disney-themed, or a crafting event (floral-arranging or jewelry making) are a few ideas.

A themed shower may also give an idea of the dress for the shower. The bride can wear white, but that’s not necessary. Just choose something that will make you stand out as the bride — you are the honoree after all and should be the best dressed in the group. Whether there is a dress code or not, expect most women to dress up for the shower. Cocktail dresses, heels, and statement accessories are the norm.

As far as the actual happenings at a bridal shower, the general outline is usually the same: food, a few games, and an opportunity for the bride to open gifts. Drinks may also be included, even being a mid-day party. Mimosa or bloody Mary bars are becoming more and more popular as they create a feminine atmosphere to the celebration. Depending on your venue, champagne or craft beer tastings may also be a fun activity.

Speaking of the venue, the specific location depends on the type of shower and the host’s budget. A friend or family member’s home, backyard, a local restaurant, wine tasting room, day spa, or a place revolving around an activity (pottery shop or design studio) are all places a shower may take place.

No matter the location, the host will probably put together a fun game or two. There are the classics of bridal bingo and toilet paper dresses, but some showers are focusing more on activities like a calligraphy lesson or cupcake decorating. No matter the activities, remember to be a good sport. Your wedding party and/or family members worked hard to plan this shower, so be gracious and take part in the activities with a positive attitude and smile. This is your special day, so enjoy it!

Following the food and fun will be the time to open gifts. Don’t love the idea of opening gifts in front of everyone? You’re not alone — I was shaking from nerves of being in front of everyone. However, it’s important to remember that the host(s) and guests came to the shower to celebrate you! Again, be gracious and bite the bullet knowing all those surrounding you love and support you in this next big step of Life!

Typically, the bride will take a seat in front of her guests and your host will hand you gifts to open. Make sure to ask one trusted friend (a bridesmaid would be an ideal candidate) to sit alongside you and jot down each gift and its giver. You’ll need to write thank you notes following the party, and this list will make it easy to write a special and personalized thank you to each person who made your shower amazing.

One thing to note is you’ll probably receive many gifts you’re genuinely excited about (because many will come from your registry), but you may also receive gifts that are a bit random. Be sure to hide your confusion and/or disappointment behind a smile and act appreciative for each and every gift you open. No matter the gift, look directly at each gift-giver and thank them with a genuine heart. “Thank you” will become your most used phrase throughout the event as you thank everyone for showering you with love frequently.

Finally, there is no rule stating you can only have one bridal shower. For me, my future MIL hosted my first shower in G’s hometown with his aunts, cousins, grandmother, and family friends. This was a beautiful celebration where I was able to meet a lot of women I did not know but who will be my family in less than two months. However, my bridesmaids and mother are throwing me another shower this coming weekend with my side of the family and some of my closest girlfriends.

No matter who hosts your shower, where the party is located, what activities are planned, or what gifts are brought, continue to thank your guests for their attendance, love, and support during this pre-wedding celebration. Plus remember to enjoy the party! You can finally start to enjoy the wedding festivities now that most of your planning is out of the way. And in only a few months you’ll be saying your vows and dancing the night away… alongside these friends and family members showering you today!

Have fun, my friends!

 

Vices vs. Verses: A Testimony

There has been a lot of discussion in my church lately on the importance of personal testimony and how individual stories can impact the world. Giving testimony on one’s faith is empowering and gives honor and glory to God because we are relaying the story of how He saved us. Peonies ‘n Mint, though loosely based around random discussion on what Life brings to the table, has grown to include more and more discussions on faith and belief as well. I do not usually dive into topics that may cause conflict, as I’m sure anything centering around religion may, but when it comes to my faith, I’m going to choose not to be afraid and go there…

I was blessed to have parents who felt the importance to have me grow up in the Church. I was baptized two weeks after my birth into the Lutheran faith and attended church regularly every week following. I began school in a Lutheran day-preschool at the early age of four. From there on I was given Bible lessons every day up through senior year in high school. I had to memorize Bible verses on a daily basis, I attended chapel services at least three days a week, and I was taught the stories of the Bible as an academic course. To say I knew the Bible like the back of my hand is an understatement…

Having religion as such a central part of one’s education should be a wonderful thing. However, I’ve come to believe that growing up in such a fashion leads to two very different types of people: the one who centers all thinking on his or her faith OR the one who takes advantage of that education and rebels. I am ashamed to say that for a long time I fell into the latter category.

Upon entering my higher education years, I left daily catechism to begin studying in a public university. In a better world, I would have matured throughout my college years into a steadfast and faithful woman of God. I should have taken the time to read the Bible on my own, revisiting familiar passages in the Word. I should have pushed myself to dive into devotions and actively allowed prayer into my life. I should have searched and joined Bible Study groups on campus to share in fellowship with my fellow believers. Instead, I allowed my past knowledge to be enough and left my faith on the back burner.

It isn’t surprising, then, that when I was faced with my first real trial in Life that I turned my back on God. I experienced the first true pain in the twisting shadows of heartbreak. I should have clung to God and His encouraging words such as 2 Corinthians 12v9: But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Rather, I blamed God and played the victim saying He had turned His back on me.

To make matters worse, I not only closed myself to God, but I opened myself to many vices of the world. I was no longer Ashley, but some foreign wraith of the girl who once prided herself on reciting Bible verses in front of her church congregation. I began to drink heavily. I was well known at many local bars, finding myself on first-name basis with barkeeps all over the county. It was rare for me not to close down a bar on any given Friday or Saturday. I found any and all worth in the compliments I received from men I met at those bars. I tried every unhealthy diet in the book because I was solely focused on looking and acting the part of a good bar-fly. I began to associate with people of the same ambition. I swore, I lied, and I didn’t give a damn about my reputation.

Acting in this manner led me to be an extremely lonely individual. Feeling lousy, depressed, and of no self-worth, I jumped at the first opportunity granted me at a real relationship. Enter Army. I blamed all my hardships on life on that starting factor: my breakup with X. So, naturally, I believed beginning a new romance would provide me with the self-worth necessary to make me happy.

The one positive thing to come from this stage in my life is that I became an extrovert. When you don’t care what people think, you’re much more prone to talking to strangers and being more social. With an increased bravado, I agreed to a blind date where I met Army for the first time. In retrospect, there wasn’t much to our initial attraction past looks. I suppose he intrigued me because we seemed to have common lifestyles: we both liked to drink, we both liked to workout, and we were both lonely.

Those similarities worked for a while, until they didn’t.

God brought me to my senses in a very clear and pungent way. (Literally.) One day in early summer, Army and I attended a festival at a local winery. It was typical that our time together centered around alcohol, and the day started off well enough. We pitched lawn chairs in the winery’s vineyards facing their outdoor stage where several bands were set to play throughout the day and we headed to grab growlers of our favorite beverages. In a streak of pure brilliance on my part, I had stayed up late the night before, ran a 5k race that morning, and opted out of eating any food whatsoever prior to the festivities. So the 64 ounces of sangria was all I had in my system. Things only continued to go downhill from there and a series of very unfortunate events (points of which I am still too ashamed to divulge in public) transpired. Ultimately, the afternoon concluded with Army screaming obscenities at me while I bawled in front of over 500 people. It was, and remains to be, the single most embarrassing moment of my life.

Though Army apologized profusely the days following this horrendous event, things never felt the same after that festival. We became distant from one another. Looking back, its clear that was the beginning to our end.

It was also, blessedly, the start to my new life though.

It’s funny how deep and impacting embarrassment can strike you. I had dealt with other situations with Army, such as getting kicked out of establishments due to his temper and witnessing him want get into fights for as simple of a reason as someone not moving forward in line at a grocery check out… But nothing struck me quite like that festival. I realized that I was associated to such anger, and that didn’t sit right with me. I didn’t want to be the type of person who belittled strangers, who allowed others’ impertinence, who was arrogant and only cared about her own well-being. I no longer didn’t care…

With the feeling of utter shame, I began to reflect on my actions, and lack of action. I looked in the mirror and, though I no longer saw a crying, sniveling little girl, I still didn’t like my reflection. In the mirror I saw a girl who prided herself on her vices. She was vain. She was mean. She lied and swore and looked down on people because she somehow thought she was better than them. And something — buried deep, deep inside me — broke.

I knew I had to change.

Change, however, does not come all at once. Change is a process. I used to think my life change began when Army and I broke up, but now I can see it actually began at that wine festival. That was the moment I truly saw the kind of person I was becoming, and I was disgusted. I slowly began to drink less. While still with Army, I began to opt out of the bar scene, and instead chose to go to the gym or stay home. When he’d suggest going out, I’d order water to his beer. Once we broke up, I decided I wanted to take a hiatus from the dating scene. I no longer wanted to find my worth in a man’s perception. I wanted to find worth in myself. I worked out consistently, I created tighter friend circles, and I started to research new hobbies and activities available in my community. And somewhere along those lines that deeply buried broken girl pieced herself into a completely new woman.

Yet, even after I had grown past my vices, something was still missing from my life. Try as I might, I couldn’t keep pretending I didn’t know what that something was either: a strong connection to God. My faith had truly not been touched since high school. And even though I was molding myself into a new person, there was no lasting mortar to make sure I wouldn’t come crashing down again in the future.

I’m not a strong prayer. I feel ashamed to say that because I’ve had better instruction on how to talk to God than most people do throughout their lives. But, I’m just not. I forget constantly to thank God for His guidance, for His blessings, for His continued work in my life. Nonetheless, God still heard me that summer day when I was online browsing for something new to enter my life. At the time, I didn’t even know exactly what I needed, but He sure did!

I found House while looking for a Bible study group at First Church. Out of the blue, a Facebook friend had posted that she would be starting a Bible Study at the church come September. The topic she posted about sounded interesting, and since I was wanting to try new things, I investigated a bit further. I’m not sure if I actually even made it to the page with the Bible Study topics… all I remember is clicking a button pertaining to a “20 Somethings Group”. I jotted down the meeting location and time and made a mental note to try to join the group the following week.

It took me three weeks to find the House group. House is a Bible study group for 20 and 30-year-olds which meets at a local beach during the summer months. My first two attempts, the group had been holding fellowship in the actual lake, swimming and playing games and whatnot. So I spent the first two weeks walking up to random groups on the beach, asking if they were the House group, and receiving confused looks.

By the third week, I had pretty much given up, thinking the group either wasn’t considerate of newcomers or the group simply had no interest and didn’t truly meet! So there I was, on that fateful August evening, sitting at my parents’ house, staring into the void when my mom asks, “Why aren’t you going to that Bible study? I thought you were going to give it one last shot?” Since I honestly had nothing else to do, I shrugged and drove over to the beach. Luckily, my fears weren’t validated: House had regrouped on the beach and I was finally able to find them! And, the rest is history…

With every passing week at House, my faith grew a little bit more. Not only was I participating in studying the Bible, but I was able to have deep and impacting discussions on the Word’s content with peers of my own age. After saying goodbye to my bar lifestyle, I also ended up saying goodbye to quite a lot of “friends” who didn’t understand why I no longer wanted to be fun. So, House also provided me with a new friendship pool. Not only were the members of House fellow believers, but they soon would be my closest friends and confidants.

I dealt with a lot of loss since joining House. And whereas I might have once crumbled over that pain, the people I met in the organization were exactly the sort of people I needed. Each and every one of them has strength and compassion unparalleled to anyone else I’ve ever met. I honestly cannot express how blessed I am to have them; they are simply great, godly people.

And while being surrounded by such great, godly people, its hard not to also become godly. I feel excited to join House for church every Sunday, I eagerly await Wednesdays to participate in our weekly Bible Study, I even organized my own women’s Bible study group — something of which I NEVER thought I’d see myself do!

It’s amazing to think that little over a year ago I didn’t even want God in my life. I didn’t want to care about what He wanted from me. I didn’t want to change from my sinful nature. I didn’t want Him to see what I was becoming…

Yet God always has a way of knowing exactly what we need when we need it. It’s easy to forget and want to rush things to our own timeline, but that never truly works out in the ways we want, does it? No, God is the only one omniscient of our futures and what is best for us.

So, though I continue to struggle against my sinful nature on a daily basis, I gladly welcome God into my heart nowadays. Vices will always surface in a sin-filled world, but the Word’s verses hold me strong in His ways. Philippians 4v13: I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. This I know is true.


 

God works in mysterious ways to bring us to His saving kingdom. As I said at the beginning of this post, testimonies are used to not only empower us to share His Word, but also to glorify God. If you are willing to share, I would love to hear your own testimony!