What I Learned About Life on Our Two-Year Anniversary

Heshan and I were married two weeks before my 30th birthday and three months before his 32nd. While I sometimes wish we’d met and married earlier, started a family in our 20s, and gotten a head start, overall I know that the timing was perfect for us. Last weekend we walked over the threshold of our two year anniversary, and I started thinking back to our wedding day. I didn’t have any fairy tale ideas as to what our wedding or our marriage would be like before I walked down the aisle, but it’s safe to say that I also had no idea what was in store (and how much harder but better it would all be than I had imagined). If pulling off a wedding was our first big feat as a unit, then it was also full of a few lessons that have held true for all the days since.

Photo by Annabelle Dando

1) We can’t do it alone. Our wedding day was definitely a labor of love for the people in our life. We knew right away that we wanted to marry on a budget. We also knew that we didn’t want the focus to be on us so much as on our family and friends who would travel to celebrate with us and also God’s love for us as a community. We chose to put a verse from 1 Corinthians 13 on each table as a reminder to ourselves of what love in community looks like. Steph and I painted 5×7 frames from Ikea and she printed off each verse and inserted it over craft paper. We added butterfly stickers from a scrapbooking set from Michael’s.

Photo by Annabelle Dando

My mother-in-law gifted us with all of the flower arrangements on our tables and down the aisle. We ordered in bulk from the floral section of our grocery department, and she glued red ribbon at the top of each vase. I didn’t see these until our wedding day, and they took our breath away.

Photo by Annabelle Dando

Heshan and I wrapped peaches in copper tissue paper that we hand stamped with a short quote about love. We wrapped wire leaves around the top, and our friends set them out at each place setting as a gift for all of the guests. Our wedding was literally pieced together with the hard work of people we love, and our marriage looks a lot like that today.

Photo by Annabelle Dando

2) It doesn’t always go according to plan, but it all works out in the end. When Heshan proposed, I was convinced that I could plan our wedding for $3,000 in just a few months. My initial plans involved a big backyard, a pot luck buffet, grocery store flowers, and homemade cupcakes.

In the end, our wedding took place at a gorgeous tree farm in Southern Maryland (complete with bunnies and butterflies), and we couldn’t have asked for a better setting.

Photo by Annabelle Dando
We went far above our $3,000 plans, thanks to the generosity of family and friends. While we did buy flowers in bulk for the centerpieces and aisle markers, Heshan spent up to include special details like the bouquets and a photo booth for family and friends.

Photo by Annabelle Dando

Photo by Annabelle Dando
One of the best decisions we made was to work with Annabelle Dando to capture our day. Looking back at our photos, I’m so grateful for way she documented our big day and captured the moments that flew by so quickly. (Also, she’s an incredible woman through and through and it’s clear everything she does is done with love.)

Photo by Annabelle Dando
3) We’re blessed with a lot of amazing people
.We had a small wedding with only 44 guests, but the people who made the trip to celebrate with us have been the ones who have stood by us every day since. We married at a time of big transitions for both of us, and in the past two years we’ve formed friendships with people who I wish could have celebrated with us on our big day. But the people who were there continue to be huge blessings in our lives. We’ve gone on adventures and international trips (I totally count Canada as international, you guys), we’ve held pot lucks and movie nights (and maybe even a few Fruit Ninja nights too), and even though life seems to be calling some of us in different directions, they’re the family God’s given us and we’re thankful for them everyday. They also climbed up on ladders to string those lanterns you see in the photo below, so we’d like to think they risked life and limb for our big day. (P.S. our friend Erin totally got engaged after catching that bouquet, so I’d like to think our wedding day was kind of a big deal for her, too.)

Photo by Annabelle Dando

Photo by Annabelle Dando
4) Everyday should be a celebration
. Everyone says it, but it’s true. The wedding day is just a day. At the same time, it taught me a lot about taking time out to celebrate. It’s easy for me to focus on the bills and the jobs and stress of living in NYC and spend my days waiting for that amazing “someday” that I keep praying for. As we’re moving forward in our marriage, God’s teaching me the value of celebrating the everyday and finding that “someday” today. He’s also teaching me to continue splurging on the meaningful things even when I want to be tight-fisted, to make time for community, and to live with less fear and more faith (and a lot more dancing).

Photo by Annabelle Dando

Photo by Annabelle Dando

Photo by Annabelle Dando


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Easy $6 Bouquet

A super easy $6 bouquet from Trader Joes

After planning my own wedding two years ago, I developed a serious thing for dreaming up new ways to pull gorgeous formal events together with little hassle and less cash. I’ve always enjoyed event planning, but I have serious convictions that when it comes to pulling large scale celebrations off there has to be an easier way.

You guys? It’s about time I shared this deep and slightly obsessive part of my psyche with you. Let’s talk about doing things easier and let’s talk about ways to celebrate each other without the stress. If you’ve spent any major amount of time with me, you know I LOVE to scope out deals and steals for events nearly everywhere I go. So two weeks ago when my husband and I stopped by Trader Joe’s after church and saw these flowers in the window, I knew we needed to bring them home.

Two bunches added up to less than $6.00, so naturally I grabbed them and made a quick DIY bouquet. How great are these for a spring event or just as a splash of color around the home?

What’s one of your favorite ways to celebrate on a budget? 


Three Dreams for Valentine’s Day

I have three dreams for how we could shower others with love on Valentine's Day

I have a dream. Specifically, I have three dreams about how to make Valentine’s Day awesome. And because I’ve learned that dreams are never really mine to keep and are also so much better when I give them away to people who have the time, resources, and talent to make them happen, I’m sharing them with all of you.

Who knows? You may be the person the Lord uses to bring it to life. And that would be awesome.

Dream One: Single Mother’s Valentine’s Day Celebration

This is one of my favorites. Last year as I was walking home from the train on Valentine’s Day, I watched a single mother and her toddler daughter come out of 7 Eleven with a hot pizza, and something inside me wanted more for them. Earlier that day my husband had booked it from his workplace in Brooklyn all the way up to my office in Manhattan just to hand deliver roses on his lunch break. I’m not normally one for flowers and chocolate, but just knowing that he was thinking about me totally made me smile. Being celebrated is a great feeling.

When I saw the woman and her daughter come out of 7 Eleven I wondered how often she’s told that she’s loved and appreciated for all the hard work she does and if she felt loved that night. I don’t normally like to make distinctions between “singles” and “couples,” but this is one exception. I want to rock Valentine’s Day for single mothers.

Churches, let’s do it up for our single mothers. And not just our single mothers, but the ones in our neighborhood. No one should have to eat alone on a day we talk about love. So let’s roll out the pink table cloths, put a few roses and sprigs of babies breath on the tables, and give them a night off from doing the serving by serving them a warm dinner, because we love them. And because it’s a holiday. And because everyone needs a party every now and then.

Dream Two: Heart Shaped Boxes

My church partners with an apartment building that offers free or low cost housing to HIV positive individuals and veterans. Meeting the people who live there has been awesome, and being able to show them love with small gifts like a hat and a pair of gloves has been even better.

The other day as I was browsing the 99 cent store, I couldn’t help but notice bins and bins of heart shaped boxes of chocolates for less than a dollar each. I know we all make sure the homeless and financially disadvantaged are feeling loved on Thanksgiving and Christmas, but what about that one day a year when every store in America bombards us with messages of “love” and not all of us feel loved?

How cool would it be to make sure that no one is forgotten on Valentine’s Day, especially those living in buildings like the one my church works with, or assisted living facilities, or hospitals. What if we as the Body of Christ got together and blessed the people in housing units like this with something as simple as a $1.00 heart shaped box of chocolates (assuming everyone was able to eat sugar and chocolate) or passed out handmade Valentine’s to show them how much they’re loved?

Dream Three: The Great Annual Lunch Swap

My friend Mandy wrote about 5 ways to show love on Valentine’s Day without spending any money, and in one of her posts she wrote about serving her husband by making lunch for him every evening before bed. The hubster and I have a similar routine of packing up all of our lunches on Saturday for the week ahead.

About 99% of the time I pack both the hubster’s lunches and my own, and I actually really like doing that for him. But I also love the idea of having a lunch swap, and once in a while letting him pack a lunch for me while I pack a lunch for him. Then when we opened our lunches the next day, we’d get to see the love and thought that our other half put into putting together a good meal.

It would be a super simple way to share an act of love with the people we love.

Ok, that’s it. What about you guys? Do you have any ideas of showing love to the people in your lives and your community?

Image by Stephanie Oh using some of favorite new clip art by depiano.

Free Printable Valentines (1 Corinthians 13:13b)

We’re celebrating Valentine’s Day at the preschool this Thursday and Friday today, due to anticipated snow days later this week, complete with a card exchange between the kids.  That was always one of my favorite parts of school when I was growing up. I remember I couldn’t wait to get home and pull each card out of my paper bag to look at the pictures and read who they were from. #dorkalert

Anyway, Kim had a great idea to offer up the 1 Corinthians 13:13b print as a set of free printable Valentine’s cards for anyone doing some last minute party prep. Just click on the image or link below to download the proper sized version, print, and cut.

1 Corinthians 13:13b free printable valentines #freeprintables #scripture #bibleDownload the printable Valentine’s cards here.

Grab more free printables here!

free printables at praylivecreate.com

Happy Valentine’s Day!



Last Minute Gift Guide ($20 or Less)

Growing up, Christmas meant ginormous piles of presents under the tree, all amazingly wrapped with giant bows and ribbons. But in the past few years we’ve scaled down Christmas with small meaningful gifts for the people we love. I’ve been making a list of gift ideas for weeks, and here are a few of my faves for under $20.00. Since the grocery store is one of my favorite places to find gifts, almost everything below comes from there. Why not?


My love for Hugo Naturals cannot be overstated. I picked up a travel size of their vanilla and sweet orange body lotion and am seriously convinced every woman deserves this in her purse. Usually scented things give me a headache, but because this one is scented with essential oils it doesn’t bother me at all. A big 8oz bottle is $9.99 on their website, and I’ve also seen it in Whole Foods all over or Fairway Markets in the Northeast.


I spotted Everyday Shea’s shea butter bubble bath at Whole Foods and fell in love. A 32oz bottle of this is only $13.99. Plus the bottle is adorable and I found out later that sales help support an organization providing nutrition and healthcare for babies in Togo.


Biggs and Featherbelle sugar and spice soap set is only $13.99 on their website or a dollar less at Mom’s grocery stores in the Washington D.C. area, where I spotted it. Or $7.99 here! (too good to be true??)


Caveman Cookies are an awesome gift for gluten-free, dairy-free, and sugar-free friends. As the box says, they’re just like your great, great, great, great, great, great… grandmother used to make. The Alpine flavor is a carob hazelnut cookie that’s perfect for Christmas. They’re only $6.95 a box and can be found at natural food stores.


I’m allergic to corn, but that wouldn’t stop me from giving out Quinn Popcorn to family and friends who aren’t. They have seven flavors, and their vermont maple and sea salt sounds so good! It’s $14.99 for three boxes, so you could give someone a whole bunch or split it up and gift it to friends, white elephant parties, or with a gift card to a movie theater.


We spotted Fearless chocolate bars in a grocery store in Queens on a date night. With flavors like Sweet & Hot, Exploding Coconuts, and Deepest Dark, how could they not be amazing? The bars are organic, gluten-free, dairy-free, and soy-free, and are $5.99 each on their website.

Also, can we be real? Trader Joe’s big box of dark chocolate sea salt caramels ($4.99) or bags of milk chocolate toffee popcorn ($2.99) are totally affordable and fun gifts. I love to give this stuff out to friends and coworkers.


I spotted this Enlightened Owl Luminary at a fair trade store in Northern Virginia. It’s only $20 through Serrv.org and is a great gift for family and friends into home design.


Home Depot has amaryllis kits for just over $10.00. It’s a great gift for flower lovers, especially if they repot the bulb and watch it come up again next year. Update: I ended up ordering bulb kits through Holland Bulb Farms and so far would definitely recommend them!


Last but definitely not least, The Story Bible. This is an item on my personal wish list, so I can’t help but throw it in here. The Story Bible is an NIV translation Bible arranged in chronological order as one long story of God’s redemptive love. I want this so bad words cannot describe, and it’s a great gift for loved ones who are interested in reading more of God’s story, too. The hardcover is just under $12.00 and the ebook is just $3.00 at both Amazon and Barnes and Noble right now.

What are some of your favorite gift ideas this year? 

Four More Things for Giving Thanks

As we head into the Thanksgiving holiday, I’ve rounded up four more ideas for making the most of this season of gratitude. (See our first list here!)

Visit original source We Are That Family to pin

1. Kristin Welch of We are THAT Family wrote this great post on five ways to take back Thanksgiving. She and her family will be spending the holiday in Kenya, but her suggestions for reclaiming this Thursday as a day of thanks are things that any of us can do. It’s totally worth the read.

Visit original source Thirty Handmade Days to pin

2. You already know we’re fans of free printables around here. Beautiful artwork to hang around the home or office for just the cost of printing? You can’t get better than that. These free gratitude prints from Mique at 30 Handmade Days are perfect for Thanksgiving. There are three total, and they print to 8×10 size.

Visit original source The Handmade Home to pin

3. This year I’ve been dreaming of starting a tradition for counting our blessings with the hubster, and I love this thankful box from the Handmade Home. Ashley drew the gold polka dots onto a white photo box using a metallic marker, which means this is entirely within my skill set and beautiful enough to display all year round.

Visit original source Simply Vintage Girl to pin

4. Simply Vintage Girl’s thankful tree is another great way to count your blessings on Thanksgiving. I love the idea of using this as a centerpiece on our coffee table through Thanksgiving or displaying it through the whole month of November next year in our apartment.

What are your favorite ways to cultivate gratitude and say thanks around Thanksgiving?

Four Things for Giving Thanks

I couldn’t resist sharing these fun finds for Thanksgiving.

visit original source at Kiki & Company to pin

1. I’m obsessed with this HUGE art print from Kiki & Company. Obsessed. I’ve been wanting a “give thanks” print for my dining room. I even whipped something up in Photoshop, but wasn’t sold. And then I saw this. And it’s perfection (you know I love me some scripture printables). Available in huge sizes like 36×48, 20×30, 16×20 or more standard sizes like 11×14, and 8×10 sizes for just $8 it’s a statement making steal of a deal. I’m ordering white or yellow.

Visit original source at Rifle Paper Co to pin

2. Rifle Paper Company always have me at hello. Seriously, have you seen an un-cute design from them yet? This one comes as a single card or boxed set of eight for spreading some Thanksgiving.

Visit original source at Jones Design Co.

3. Jones Design Co. is offering up these free printable fox thankful tags for hanging on a thankful tree, putting in a bowl, etc. There’s a handful of other beautiful designs as well, so be sure to check it out.

Visit original source French Press Mornings to pin

4. Jenny’s Encouraging Wednesdays printables are a perennial favorite around here. Grab a free 4×6 printable of 1 Thessalonians 5:18 from her blog French Press Morning for some seasonal art. Larger sizes are also available in her shop. This one’s going on my buffet right under the large scale Kiki & Company print.

5. Bonus! – Check out another great, free Thanksgiving scripture printable from A Night Owl & Just Us Three Designs.