2010 was an intense year.  High highs and low lows.  Mourning and celebration.  Trials and victories.  But through it all, we grew in faith, love and strength.  Here are some of my favorite moments from the year, the moments that I want to hold closest to my heart when I reflect back on the last 365 days.

1.  After Project 320, 2009, I took my heart and passion for bringing clean water to all in need, to our Senior Pastor and church leadership.  Our entire congregation became equally passionate and we launched a water campaign through Living Water International.
Together we raised enough money to fund twelve wells.  Once again, God showed up in ways that went beyond what we could have hoped or dreamed.  Living Water International, in turn, sponsored a well on our behalf in Santa Isabel, Peru, and named it after me.  I am sure that this will be one of my top ten experiences of my entire life, not just 2010.
2.  Family pictures with Drew B.
I don't think I will ever stop smiling each time I see how she captured our family.  It is just happy, colorful, awesome.  Love them.  Love Drew.
3.  Seeing my husband reunite with his best friends and pick up his drumsticks again.
4.  Finally making the jump from the comfy green rectangle to the scary M on my camera, then falling promptly in love with it.  All thanks to Drew's UNmanual.
5.  Family vacays to my happiest place on earth, Bass Lake.
6.  Using bald baby's drama to win me an iPad, yo.
7.  Cooking in the real, live, Betty Crocker kitchen!!!
8.  Holla weekend.  I survived Sketchy Air, and it was totally worth it!
9.  Anniversary weekend with the mister.  Yay for looooove!!!
10.  These three, silly, loud, funny, creative, best, best, best friends.  They keep me in wonder everyday.

Bye bye 2010.  
Hello 2011.

Meet Jeannett.  My blog friend turned real life friend.  She lives to give, to encourage, and is leaving a beautiful legacy in so many ways.  He blog is full of the everyday to the extraordinary.  Her heart breaks for what is broken in the world.  She is so my people.  She couldn't sit by and do nothing when she found out the plight of sweet Cliff, a young orphan in Eastern Europe who markedly deserves a family.  She has used her passion to be his Christmas warrior through Reece's Rainbow and has raised over $7,000 for his adoption fund.  Please read Cliff's story, and join in her Great $1 Push to help reach his adoption fund goal.  While you are there, you could enter to win a Silhouette machine too.  Yay!


Everything I Needed to Know, I Learned at an Estate Sale
(image source)
I stood watching a man open up a closet door, shoving the contents aside as he quickly sized up whether he might make use of them or not. As I made my way through the narrow hallway to take a look myself, I noticed a fancy ball gown amid the winter coats and polyester pants. All bedazzled in sequins and gold lame. And I wondered: Where did the owner wear this? I could picture her…smoothing out the ruffles…adjusting her perfectly coiffed hair…re-applying her lipstick…adding another coat of mascara…surveying herself in the mirror. Did she feel beautiful in it? Did she have fun that night? Was it all she had hoped? Did her husband whistle in approval? Dancing and laughing. Feeling gorgeous in her fancy gown. And when she came home, she undressed and hung it up. In this closet. On that very hanger. And through the years she kept that dress. Even if she no longer fit into it. Because in that noisy, swishing fabric lay precious memories. And now… Years later.. she is dead. The dress is nothing more than a gaudy item at a Saturday morning Estate Sale. Shoved aside by strangers. Considered ugly and dated now. Not even worth the $1 price tag dangling from the sleeve. And as I wandered the house…a roof and walls that once was a home… Surveying the treasures. Collections painstakingly accumulated. Knick knacks and bright orange lamps. 900 old records in dusty boxes. Amber colored mugs and avocado hued Pyrex dishes. A garage filled with tools that would make Sears envious. Dead. Dead. Dead. Gone. Forever. All these things.. left behind. For strangers to pick over like vultures. Haggling over 50 cents. Unaware of their value once upon a time. And I stood, tears in my eyes, against a wall. Watching. My mortality in stark view. How this will surely be my home someday. My kitchen cupboards being rummaged through. My prized decorations. My dresses and coats. My candlesticks and vases. Going home in foreign hands for pennies. And I realized… In the middle of a dead stranger’s home... That none of it matters. Not one bit of it. My things…are things. Left behind and completely and utterly meaningless. And in that moment, in a stuffy, strange house I was reminded Of God's Holiness. That my pretty Pottery Barn serving dishes… My Stainless Steel appliances… Even my beloved Le Creuset collection… DOESN’T MATTER. It will all stay here. It will be sold off or donated. But what will remain is not tangible or easily held in the palm of a hand. What stays behind is not something that can be sold for $3 on a sunny morning. What I want to leave here is different and much more precious. I want to spend my limited days here… Giving. Loving. Serving. Praising. Mightily and until it hurts. This is not to say that I will sell all of my possessions tomorrow and move to a hut in the jungle. No. I will continue to collect beautiful things. I will always have a soft spot for fancy cookware.
I still bought a $3 footed dessert plate. But these things will always take a backseat to sharing Christ’s love and the blessings I have been doled out with an overflowing hand. Nicole Nordeman’s song Legacy holds new and poignant meaning: I want to leave a legacy How will they remember me? Did I choose to love? Did I point to You enough To make a mark on things? I want to leave an offering A child of mercy and grace Who blessed Your name unapologetically And leave that kind of legacy
What will your legacy be? Are you living it NOW? What are you waiting for?

Communication is a powerful thing. We communicate with each other every day
through the phone, email, internet, facebook, text messages, instant messaging,
twitter, blogging, facetime, skype, and even through an old fashioned letter in the
mail! I wonder how God would try to communicate with us in 2010? Do you think
He would ever send a text message? Would Jesus own an iPhone or an iPad? Would
we have to read the Lord’s blog to catch up with what He’s been doing? … I’m not
sure. But I am sure of this: God used the greatest single form of communication… of
all time.

If our greatest need had been information, God would have sent us an educator. If
our greatest need had been technology, God would have sent us a scientist. If our
greatest need had been money, God would have sent us an economist. If our greatest
need had been pleasure, God would have sent us an entertainer. But our greatest
need was forgiveness, so God sent us a Savior. The 12 most important words of
Christmas (and maybe our lives) is this: “A Savior has been born to us. He is Christ
the Lord.” God didn’t just send an email or text to communicate His love to us… He
sent His Son. God wanted to show us what He’s like, and ultimately, He wanted to
communicate to all of us that we can know God. Now that’s communication!

We hope you have the Merriest CHRISTmas ever! God bless you, your family, and
the year ahead.

Because He communicated love,

The Carson’s
{as penned by my husband, the true wordsmith of the family.}

These are a few of her favorite things.

Favorite food?
Beans.  Any bean.  Any way.  Any time of day.  She begs me to buy cans of them at Target.  Not candy.  Not cookies.  Kidney beans.  Black beans.  Pinto beans.  Beans

Favorite item of clothing?
Walmart jeggings.
She cuddles them.  Would wear them every single day and night if she could.  Her soft jeans.  Her un-scratchy, un-strangling cozy jeggings.  Jeggings.

Favorite animal two years running?
Squirrels.  What did she ask Santa for?
"A real ALIVE squirrel.  Not in a cage.  Not to live outside.  An alive one that can run loose in the house."  Squirrels.
So thank you, tiny, baby Jesus, for FurReal friends and this newborn chimpmunk.  It eats.  It moves.  It chatters.  It doesn't bite or have rabies.  It's not a real ALIVE squirrel, but it will do for my quirky, silly, bean eating, jegging wearing, squirrel loving, girl.

Thank you!
For believing,
for praying,
for giving,
for hoping.

A community half a world away has you to thank for bringing them something that could change their future.

This is why I blog.
I am overwhelmed, humbled, and honestly a little bit weepy.  That together we could come together, despite the economy, or the craziness of the season, and see a miracle unfold in front of us.

Thank you so much Drew B., Lisa Leonard and The Pleated Poppy, for donating such lovely prizes.

I know that Kellie Conklin is one happy lady today.

Hugs and gratitude from this water loving girl to you.

This verse is the entire reason behind Project 320.

Time and time again, God shows up and proves His word to be true.
The well has never ever so close to funding...

Our dreams are unfolding in front of us because of His power at work.

All we had to do was dare to hope.

Thank you to the God of infinitely more.

A few more hours to donate and enter all of the abundant giveaways.

Tomorrow we rejoice.

Thank all of your for your heart and your donations to the 

Project 320 Well.

As of right now, the well is 57% funded.
But how much better would it be to see it 100% funded.

There are literally hundreds of prizes to be had, equalling thousands of dollars.

Let's make this happen together!!!
Giveaways are open until midnight tomorrow.

I would love to wake up Monday morning with an email from charity:water congratulating us on changing the world for one community.

Then I will excitedly celebrate with all of the donors and winners of the phenomenal prizes.


The number one reason we bought this house was because it was perfect for entertaining, and entertain we do.  A lot a lot a lot a lot a lot.
But you see, I used to be a total over the edge freakshow when it came to getting ready for parties. I would worry and work and stress to the point that I couldn't even enjoy the festivities.
That is not what it should be about.
Something had to change in a big and dramatic way.
We were invited to dinner at a new friend's house and that night changed everything for me.
The house wasn't perfect.
The dinner was simple.  The dessert was a bag of store bought cookies.
But that wasn't the point.
We were the point. 
They love people.  They love to share meals and their home.
It wasn't over the top.
Martha wasn't involved.
But it was honestly one of the the most memorable meals.
That simple night made me realize two things,
I want to have my home filled with people all of the time.  Unexpected.  Unscheduled.
That meant I had to give up my ideas of perfection.
Little by little I have been dropping my total psycho ways.
Here are a few things that I have learned along the journey:
1.  None of your guests will show up wearing white gloves to scrutinize your cleaning skills.
I like the house picked up, but I no longer stress over making every single square inch totally sparkling, shiny and spotless.  Even when it is, one of the three small children have a way of instantly messing it up.  That is the season that we are in.  I got tired of yelling.  They got tired of hearing me yell.  Kids live here.  I am not the Queen of England, nor do I have her staff.
Besides, a friend that would be offended by seeming imperfection, is honestly a friend I would rather not invite over.
2.  People LOVE to help.
Let them.  I used to make every single thing that I served.  Don't get me wrong, I love to cook, but I also love to have food show up in my guests arms when they ring the doorbell.
Do you have a friend who could come over early to set up?
Let them.  It is so much more fun.
Don't be afraid to let people stay late to clean up along side you either.
My friends are phenomenal.  They rock the dishes, the trash, help tear down and don't leave until my house is back to normal.  It is amazing.  If you don't have friends that will do that I suggest you get some new friends.
3.  Don't try new or complicated recipes.
This one is hard for me, but I have learned they very hard way.
I stick to the basics, the ones that have proven time and time again to be crowd pleasers.
Chances are, if you are coming over you will be served one or all of the following things:
I have made all of them so many times, that I hardly need the recipe cards.  Knowing that they will work, means there is one less thing that I have to worry about.  One less thing to worry about means the atmosphere in my house is much more pleasant.
4.  I love open houses, potlucks, bbq's, make your own pizza nights, and serving things family style.
Simple, unfussy, yummy, happiness.  Stressed hosts = stressed guests.  Happy hosts = happy guests.
5.  Paper plates and disposable utensils.
Seriously.  Sorry Earth, a girl has got to do what a girl has got to do.
6.  Give your guests something to do.
Apples to Apples, Whoonu, Would You Rather, and Taboo are great party games. 
Consider putting the big game on the tv, get out the Wii, play Rock Band.
Games aren't just for kids and teenagers, they are great icebreakers and work magic at getting people out of their shells.

Before you know it, you will suddenly enjoy having people over.
You will laugh at how crazy and complicated you used to make it.
Think of your favorite times with friends...  I bet they weren't stuffy, over the top affairs.
Our best times?
Simple nights, cozy food, happy friends.

What are your favorite entertaining tips?