A weekend full of selfies, red lips, long laughs and one very full birthday girl heart.

Every year birthdays are a unique adventure for me. Growing up as an only child, birthdays were kind of the BIGGEST DEAL ON EARTH - any only children out there, you feel me. It was pony rides and shopping excursions and entire weekends full of shanny-centered-celebration and merriment. There is nothing inherently wrong with these things, by the way. My parents are amazing and they have loved me with the greatest love. Their love is fierce and has carried me through my darkest moments with a grace and a tenderness I could not have lived without. I am so grateful to them and to the space they made in their hearts to love their daughter well.

All that to say, when I became an adult, I didn't understand why everyone didn't dote on me for my birthdays the way I had experienced growing up. It took me years to realize that I received birthday love in a specific way - the way I'd always known, and my friends, they just did not speak this same birthday-love-language. At first I thought they didn't love me at all, clearly, since they weren't throwing parades in my honor. But overtime, I began to understand. ; )

So for the past three or so years, I have tried to learn a new pattern for birthdays. First, that looks like letting people love me however they know to speak their love. And really, why not? If I love them back, then I should enjoy and relish in their unique expression of love towards me. Second, I have tried to brainstorm fun and creative ways each year to honor the ones I hold dear. Because more than anything you could wrap up in fancy gold paper & glitter bows, they are the real gifts in my life. More and more, they are what I want to celebrate each year on my birthday. The relationships that keep me sane, the people that carry me through, the brothers and sisters who keep me laughing and rejoicing just by being who they are. These are my people, they sit in my corner and they cheer for my life all year long, and on my birthday, I want to honor them and be surrounded by them.

So this year, I decided to throw a dinner party in their honor. I loved this idea because it let me plan something beautiful and fun and celebratory, but it was focused on the Others in my life. So with the help of my dear friend Jess Bott, we prepped a meal and made this space beautiful and opened the doors. I smiled as each friend came in and I thought of the specific things I loved about them and how grateful I was for all the beautiful souls He has filled my life with. Below are some photos from the evening! Thank you to Jesse for snapping some shots of the party!

The following day was my actual birthday, and we spent the afternoon at the springs, followed by hitting up Brand New in concert at house of blues. It was a perfect combination of the sweet slow pace of the springs with sisters at my side, to the fun ruckus of screaming high school anthems at the top of our lungs that night. The women here, Kristin, Jesse, Laura - these are my girls. I love these women deeply and it was the sweetest gift to spend my birthday with them at my side. Also, red lipstick is our new favorite accessory...

And finally, these two. Guys, I just LOVE my parents. Our family has a had a really rough couple of years and yet I think we have been blessed by it. I see us growing closer and stronger as a family in the middle of all the on-going chaos.

On this day, we explored the farmers market then strolled around Rollins and ended our day at a favorite restaurant. The whole time, we laughed and joked and just deeply enjoyed each other's company. Such time with them, away from the things our past two years have been filled with - it was glorious and God-sent and it meant everything, more than any tangible gift could.

I love living in the fruit of hard fought love, and that is exactly what this family does. We fight hard for each other, always have, always will.

I think God is most visible when we look to the relationships in our lives. My community, my people, my family both by blood and by Blood - I look here at all that God has given me and I know, with certainty, that I am loved with an everlasting love. He has met me through them, and it has been everything to me.

A little birthday thought I had that day:

"Birthdays are like mile markers. A sign of time passing, another year under your belt and a new year up ahead. Some birthdays in the past have felt hard to embrace because I guess I didn't feel ready to "move forward". But this one... This one is glorious. I have never felt more freed up, never felt more proud of who I'm becoming and all the growth and victory this past year has held for me. Never felt more excited to embrace the unknowable newness that lays ahead. Whatever is unknown, I relinquish to the Knowable God who is wholeheartedly good to me. Twenty six. I'm so ready for you. So grateful for the beautiful relationships in my life, the sweet King who holds me together, and all the glorious goodness in every little detail of this life.

Thankful, grateful, brave, steady, heart wide open...

Here we go."