Fair warning, this is LONG... so if you are here only for the giveaway (which I hope you aren't!), then just go to the bottom for all the deets.

Gosh. I don't even know where to begin, really. We had all been looking forward to this weekend for SO long and then all of a sudden it was here! It was so exciting and a wee bit nerve racking all at the same time.
And it deserves to be large and in charge.
To sum it up: #NASavannah was perfect. I couldn't have asked for anything better! :)

We all got along so well, but missed all of you who couldn't come. I think most of us are writing our recaps, and then will link them up here. So, if you didn't get to join us, please read through our posts, and hopefully you'll feel like we were ALL hanging out. :)

I drove up from Orlando, a little later and a little more stressed than I had anticipated. But, once my mom reminded me that there wasn't a need to be stressed and worried, I just took a deep breath and made myself throw any expectations out the window!

And, boy, I am so glad I did! We didn't structure much into the weekend on purpose. This was a girls' weekend. Not a conference. Or a retreat. But, friends getting together for relaxation and fun! And that's exactly what it was!

It took longer than I thought to get into town, so poor Niki had to wait longer for me to get her from the airport. Once I picked her up.... it was real. The weekend was actually happeninggggg! :)

We made it to the house! THE HOUSE! The front didn't look exactly like the pics online... a little older and weathered than it appeared. But, the inside was exactly like the pics.  And it was beautiful. The epitome of Southern charm. I loved it! A little while later Beth Anne arrived! We chatted and explored the backyard. Where there was A CHICKEN COUP!!! This was so exciting for most of us. I am not sure I would want chickens to take care of in real life, but for the weekend it was so fun. And to get fresh eggs?! So awesome!!
One lone egg on Friday.
And, yes, I practically climbed in there to get this!

After a little while, I banished Beth Anne and Niki away from me as I got the surprise tote bags all ready! Morgan and I were SO EXCITED about these. :) Rakhi from the Pitter Patter Diaries and Rakstar Designs came up with the awesome design!! We were able to get a few fun goodies from the Steubie Conference, along with help from Martha and our beloved Cindy.  I had told Cindy about the totes a while ago and asked if she would like to send a note, some chocolate, or something. And she was so gracious and sent us the beautiful bracelets! :) Thank you so very much to ALL of you for your help! The girls LOVED the bags! :)

 Finally all the girls arrived... THIS WAS THE MOMENT!! We got to meet the people that we have gotten to know through the written word for what seems like forever, IN PERSON. AH! It was so surreal. Yet completely normal at the same time.

We opened our totes, chatted and realized we were starving. Thank God Mary Grace (no blog, but she totally should have one) stepped up and made the decision for the hole-in-the-wall BBQ place, Bub-Ba-Q. So, off we went. For dinner... with people that I have been imagining what it would be like to hang out with. And here we were! :)
It was amazing. I don't know how many times I said, "I just can't believe we are all sitting here right now!" To which everyone usually replied, "I know! This is crazy!" haha.

A few of us had a luxurious (!) time getting some groceries and then we all met back up at the house for a HILARIOUS game of Balderdash (is that right?!). I had never played that before and it was pretty amazing. We chatted, and called it a night.

Saturday was pretty darn awesome. I thought we would all get up and head down town, explore, eat, do our thing. I mean... that did happen... but we didn't leave until 1 in the afternoon! We had a leisurely morning of coffee and breakfast and good-for-the-soul girl talk.  I mean... we talked about everything.  We chatted in the living room. We got ready. And then had another long chatting sesh in mine and Morgan's room. On our beds.  Total slumber party material.

Amazing. I loved every minute.

We finally headed out. Here we are enjoying the riverfront. :)

And then we shopped. Explored. Took pictures. Talked more and more. Basically, had the best of times. I won't go into allll the deets. How about I just show you more pics?! :)


The Waving Girl
Morgan and Rachel

Seriously some of the prettiest parks.

I love this picture so very much.

St. John's Cathedral!
We attended vigil mass together.

I LOVE that we were able to share the Eucharist together!

We got kicked out of the cathedral pretty quickly... ya know, a wedding. We took that very first pic, and hauled butt to get somewhere before it down poured. And we literally found the best little coffee/wine shop. And then the skies opened and the rain came a-running!

This is the only pic I have from there... would you be
surprised to know that there is wine in those cups... and
NOT coffee?!
Check out Joan's recap for the adorable pic of all of us. :)
I think the coffee/wine shop time was one of my favorite moments of the entire weekend because it was like we were a group of friends just hanging out. Not some random chicks that met through our blogs. We evolved so very quickly INTO that group of friends hanging out. It was so easy and natural. And fun!

After it finally stopped raining, we went to a very yummy and trendy seafood bar, Chive, for a late dinner.  Enjoyed the good food, fun music and each other's company once more.  After we got a little bit turned around trying to find the parking garage, we made it home.... and you will never believed what we did more of!  Talked. I KNOW! :)  We never ran out of anything to talk about. Which, I suppose is a good thing, since we all are bloggers and we kind of need things to talk/write about. :)

The next morning, we enjoyed coffee and EGGS from our chickens!!!  We had SIX of them. Incredible.  We cleaned up everything, packed, became sad and took a million stair pics that resulted in this AMAZING gif. Enjoy!
Katie and Mary Grace... kills me. ha.
Prayed the St. Ann's novena, hugged each other a gazillion times, took one last selfie, and we went our separate ways!

 Almost... Niki, Joan and I had a road trip back to my house. So, our time wasn't cut cut as quickly. We even hit up the beach before I took them to the airport on Monday.

See?! It was spectacular. I just had the best of times. For me, this weekend brought about many realizations. One, community is so very important. I am encouraged and inspired to make this more of a reality in my everyday life.  And, two, my need for single friends is very real. I didn't realize how vital being friends with people who are in your same boat, right now, is. As the ever wise Martha said, you don't realize what you are lacking (b/c you are lacking it) until you are hit in the face with it! So very true.

Ladies... thank you. Thank you for coming. Thank you for being you. Thank you for laughing and being silly, talking all the time, accepting me for who I am, and encouraging me to be the person God has created me to be. And really... that goes for ALL of you. Not just the ladies who made it to Savannah. It's so true for all of you who have participated, commented, emailed and most importantly prayed for me. We are a community. And I am so thankful to God for all of you each and every day. :)

Phew! You made it!

Ok! GIVEAWAY!!!! For those of you who could not join us, you now have the chance to win one of our totes!!!!

What will you win??? Well, take a look at the pic above!
~The tote with the custom NAS design
~2 prayer cards
~Bracelet from Cindy
~Savannah, GA guidebook
~A little notebook
~Pamphlets about the Carmelite sisters discernment retreat/ministries
~Paradigm Clothing card (they are awesome, check them out!)

All you have to do is comment below and tell me if you would have been all about the chickens or not! haha. That's it!!  Enter by Friday, August 1, 2014 at 11:59pm. I will choose the winner on August 2nd! The order you comment is the number that you will be given.  I will then use to get a number. Be sure to tell me about the chickens and include your email! (If the number that is chosen goes with a lady that went to Savannah, obviously she doesn't win, and I will go with the next number!).

But WAIT! There is more!
Rakhi wanted to let you guys know that she has the tote design in PRINT available at her shop (Eep! I can't wait to have it on my wall!). OR! She is even thinking of creating a journal or planner or, even, a mug!!! If that is something of interest to you (ANY of you NAS ladies), please visit her Etsy shop or email her (rakhi.mccormick at gmail dot com) with any questions. :) PLUS, if you order by August 31st, you can get 25% off your first order! Use code: NAS14

Ok, one last thing about Paradigm Clothing. They are an up and coming company whose mission is "to clean the lens that the world looks through - making truth clear and definitive once more" by creating "clothes that uses art and style to subtly convey a deeper meaning." They had/have booths at all of the Steubenville conferences, and are offering a discount if you buy stuff online. Use code: Steubie14 They don't have a clue I'm blogging about them. I just really love their mission and bought one of their shirts, and I love it! All I'm asking is to check them out! :)

Annnnnnnnnnnd! Check out all of the ladies recaps as they link up below! Ooook, I am DONE!
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Children are a gift, not an expectation.

Us ladies talked about alllll sorts of things while we were together in Savannah.  Girl talk is so fun, sometimes, right?!  Even better when we are all in the same place in life.  So, of course, talking about our vocations, most of us are pretty confident that the Lord is calling us to marriage, was a pretty common topic. Ranging from dating to weddings to what we think marriage will be like to having kids.  Within these conversations NFP was talked about quite a bit. Why we are learning it now. It's importance in our culture today. Being open to life.

All the things.

Since it was NFP Awareness Week this past week, I wanted to expand on some of my thoughts from our conversations. It's not solely NFP stuff, but it's woven in there. Plus, I have talked about my experience with NFP so far, and there isn't much else to report as of now.


We talked a lot about having kids... being open to life... wanting to be a mom... and all those things. Something that was interesting, was the notion that we were all so excited about having kids when we got married. Not years down the road. Not after we did x, y and z with our husbands. Not after we bought the perfect house. Or finished school. Or, or, or. But, when we got married. Plain and simple.

It was such breath of fresh air for me!  Often times I feel alone in my thoughts about having kids right away! Amongst my peers, amongst some blogs I read, amongst our culture at large. I have always held the belief that "if I was ready to get married, I was ready to be a mom!" That was even before I was really Catholic! :)  To me, marriage and babies just go hand in hand.

If I believe that God has called me to the vocation of marriage, then within that vocation is the role of Mother. If I am to be a mother, too, then why would I want to hold off on part of God's will for my life? Why would I want to say no to God?

And, then... what happens if I'm not even able to embrace that part of my vocation?  I am sure you were thinking, "jeez, Jen. It's not that simple for everyone to just have all the babies!"  Right.  I know.

I know many couples who struggle with the cross of infertility, secondary infertility, multiple miscarriages, death of a child, etc. They suffer real pain and heartache that I know nothing about. They yearn for the family that so many couples take for granted when they think they can have babies whenever they want.  There is no guarantee. The idea that one deserves a child because they are ready and are living a "good" and perfect" life is getting a leeeetle close to the playing God card, don't you think?  God doesn't promise children to everyone. We hope and pray and are open to them. But they are a gift. Gifts are unexpected delights that we don't take for granted. Children are a gift, not an expectation or privilege. 

Our culture worries too much "about exactly the wrong thing. We are worried about getting pregnant. We are told we should fear having children too soon. We are told we should fear having too many children. We are told it's the thing that will ruin our lives. That's what everyone says.

It's a lie. " {Kendra Tierney, via... go read that! It's amazing!}

I don't know if I will be able to have children right away. I don't know if I will ever be able to have children. As far as I know, my body ovulates. I have a regular period.  I have all the correct signs of fertility. But, when it comes time to have the babies... I have absolutely no guarantee that I will be able to.  So, for me, learning about and being aware of my fertility and eventually being open to life right from the get-go makes sense.

I want to embrace my vocation fully and completely as I am humanly able to, so that I can get my husband (and myself) and our future children to heaven. That is what I am called to do.

I know that my friends and I may be in the minority with this view compared to the rest of the world, but I am so glad there IS a group of us that can relate. That we can support and encourage one another when the time comes. :)

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The Third Way

I can't remember where I saw this video first... on some blog, I know. Thank you, whoever you are, for sharing it!  I have debated about putting this on my blog for quite some time. Why?  Because I am a chicken, I guess.  Anyway... I have decided to bite the bullet and just share it with you all.

Click here for the video
(the video is on Vimeo, so I can't get it to upload in here. Please click here to see it!)

This is such a well done video about the Catholic Church's teachings of homosexuality. If you have no idea what they are, watch this video!  If you, or someone you know and love, struggles with same-sex attraction, watch this video! Or, if you want to watch the beauty of our Church, watch this video!

We are all called to love, every.single.person, and to experience authentic love in our lives. We as Christians, as Catholics, believe that authentic love is achieved through our relationship with God, and His son.  Love is never about you... it's always about the other.  It's a choice we make, one that requires sacrifice and sometimes pain. We are never promised a life without those things, but once we realize our true worth and potential from our Lord, life really is that much sweeter.

Watch it, and let me know what you think! :)

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Hewwwwwo Awuba!

Well, that's how Zuzu says it.

And it's just adorable. :)

Martha, Tom, the babe and I jetted down to Aruba (Jamaica, ohhh I wanna take ya!) for a few days of sun and relaxation.  We literally spent our entire time at the beach and pool... ate food... went to sleep. Ha. What a life, huh?! It was hard to get in the uber relaxation mood as we were still trying to come down from the crazy, busy weekend that was the Steubie conference. Plus, I really can only take one or 2 days of doing nothing before I go a little crazy. Which is something to keep note of when planning a honeymoon. :)

What can I say? I like to explore! I like culture! I like meeting local people!  You are beautiful, Aruba, buuuuut you were a wee bit lacking in that department. Nonetheless, I am so thankful for my time to sit and reflect and be with my friends... no, my family. :)

Plus, I know this sounds crazy, the water and palm trees were SO much more exotic and lovely than they are here in Southwest Florida.  I know. Who am I?!  But it's truuuue!

Anyway, onward with the pics! :) Enjoy!

I only include this pic to show the ridiculous things we
do to make the children laugh. :)

Zuzu was not sure about being so close to the 'kaws'!

This chick makes me laugh and smile more than anyone in the world.

We are awesome.
And now for some pics from my phone. What do you think about that?!
First sightings of Aruba!

Zuz was very concerned about the safety of herself... and Nemo.

The breeze/wind was nuts!

The view from our room was awesome.

Dancing bear!

This girl loved the pool. SO MUCH!
Well, there you have it!  A little glimpse into my wonderful vacation.

Come back Tuesday for a recap of #NASavannah. I don't want to just boast about how wonderful it was... I want to take you along. I want all of those who didn't get to go, feel as though you are part of the fun! So! Each of the girls that went will (if they want!) recap the weekend and linkup. Therefore, you can be part of the fun, too. Annnnd, there might even be a little giveaway! So, be sure to check back!!

Blessings and hugs,
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Helllloooooo! Oh my gosh! Wow! What an incredible 10 days that I have had. I have so much to chat about and reflect on, so bear with be as I take the next little while to talk about all the going-ons in my life at this time. :) :)

From #Steubie14 to Aruba to #NASavannah. I mean. I can't even describe to you how blessed I am. God has given me such an incredible life, and I am so happy to share it with so many amazing people. And then talk allll about it with even MORE people. haha. I love blogging.

I will have a bigger, more personal, reflection from the Steubenville conference soon, but for now I thought I'd share my experience with you.  It was my first time attending and I was really looking forward to it! If you ever have the chance to go to one.. GO! As a chaperone with the youth or to any one of their other adult based ones. The music, talks, atmosphere... all of it is just amazing.

I had a few firsts that weekend... first time to the conference, first time as a chaperone for teens, first time being denied confession (another story for another time).  It was a bit overwhelming and slightly stressful at the beginning, because as a chaperone, what exactly was my role? Was I to follow the kids all over the place? How would I know where they are? Who exactly is my responsibility? When/how do I engage them about their experience/feelings/thoughts during the talks/reflections/adoration?

It was a lot. But, I really took Martha's advice to just be immersed in the weekend. Be involved, sing loud, ask questions. What do the teens need from me? For me to be who I am. Do I love praise and worship? Yes! Then I needed to allow myself to let the Holy Spirit do His thing. Did I think a talk was awesome or something was funny? Yes! Then say so and laugh! I had to be fully engaged in all that was happening, so that I could be exactly where the teens were at.

And for the most part, I think that strategy worked. I know the conference was for the teens, but God worked on my heart... a lot. And it was a joy to share that with my small group. It was a joy to see the teens have some intense emotional and spiritual experiences. It was fun to watch them sing LOUD and run up to the stage for each and every mini concert. To laugh at the silly jokes from the presenters. Then be hit in the face (and heart) by something profound from one of the talks.

Beginning of a morning session... the teens just flock to the stage
for the great music!!
The theme this year is "God is..." And, I believe that each and every one of the teens that came with us will complete that sentence differently. For me... God is AMAZING. He blows my mind with his endless love for each and every single person in the world. It is amazing that He knows us so intimately, and only asks for that love in return. He never demands it. But, he waits patiently... for us to love him and each other.

A few moments that stand out from the weekend:

  • Um, 2,000+ teens all in one room singing LOUD and praising the Lord. As I tweeted, "For all the people that think Catholics are boring should really hang out with Chris Stefanik and Jon Niven... &2k teens!" Because.. really, you should. 
  • My small group. What an amazing group of young women. 
  • The same 2,000+ teens quiet. Absolutely quiet when Jesus in the Eucharist first came into the room. I mean... you could hear a pin drop. 
  • When I was in line for confession at 6:35AM, and there was ALREADY a group of teens waiting. Beeeeautiful. The grace is real, people, and the teens know it.

We all got that Catholic Swag. ;)
Oscar Rivera is a talented rapper/speaker. I think he really connected
with so many of the teens.
I hope this gives you a little insight into all things #Steubie14. It was an awesome experience. One that I look forward to again and again!  It blew my mind that on the weekend of Steubenville Florida, there were FOUR other Steubie conferences happening at the same time. I mean... if 2,000 teens were at each of those... um, that could be 10,000 teens all praising/worshipping/learning/loving at one time. How can you not think that is impressive?! You can't!  :)

God is good. So. Good.

Up next will be a little recap of all things Aruba! :) Stay tuned!!

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