Travel & Renewal

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(Bok Tower Gardens Lake Wales, Florida)

     Quite some time has passed between the last Delightfully Downin post and this one. Too much information has transpired to keep you engaged so I’ll keep my darting down bunny trails of memory and thought to a minimum. Late May I resigned my position at DMCS’s Early Education Center to acquire some much needed TLC and rest. I knew that this would put some financial strain on us as a family unit, but the Mr. also agreed that it would be good for me to “get out” so to speak and focus on our baby girl and visiting family before she arrives in September. The first adventure I planned for myself was returning to Fort Myers to spend some quality time with my family members and finally meet my little niece Ainsley Rose for the first time since her birth in December!

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     The day I arrived at my old Floridian homestead was just like Christmas without all the decorations and presents. My family trickled in within 5 minutes apart from each other. First, the Weirich girls showed up and I got to hold “little A” and make her laugh as much as I possibly could while catching up with my sister on just about everything we could scrape out of our minds at the moment. Next, my brother arrived and in typical Mike fashion, worked on his laptop in the Great Room with us occasionally adding to our winding conversation as Maddy circled profusely looking for a spot to plop her enormous rear-end.

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     One of the most incredible moments I encountered during our group piling on the floor of the Great Room was how much my niece Emma had grown! I remember seeing her walk through the door and feeling a ping of disbelief. I suppose living so far away and not seeing her as frequently makes the times we are together a bit shocking at first. I was amazed with her beauty and despite many claiming that she looks 100% Jonathan, for some reason I see so much of my sister in her both appearance and spirit. It was such a treasure learning about what she does in preschool and coaxing her to tell me who her friends are and what she does. It was also a treasure seeing how my brother in law handled her “3 year old tendencies” as I call them with so much patience, calmness, and gentleness! I had to tell my sister how impressed I was because it is NOT EASY. I’m not even at parent level yet and still had moments with my 3’s preschool class where I knew my tone crossed the line. I’m so excited to see how wonderful my nieces are going to grow up to be with such loving parents!

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     As if things couldn’t get lovelier any quicker, Amanda soon strode in visiting me before her departure to Latvia on a missions trip with her husband and other members of their church. It started to feel like a family reunion and that we should start pulling out albums or pictures. Low and behold this feeling was satisfied as Amanda whipped out a bridal album that her mother in law put together for her from her wedding day! We all gathered around on the floor (Minus Mike) and started plowing through several pages remembering funny inside jokes, pointing out fake smiles, and reliving one of my most favorite events to date. Before we knew it, Mom strode in fresh off the work wagon and started plowing through the pictures herself adding her own perspective on being a guest there. I took a moment to visually encapsulate this moment before we all dispersed back into the grain of life. My heart was full.

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     Speaking of fullness of heart, the next day was the occurrence of another event that will fill my heart eery time I remember it. My friend from high school, Justin Perry, was getting married! Justin is one of those people that I can honestly not remember knowing how or the exact moment we became friends and I love situations like that! He has a personality that is automatically friendly and you feel like you’ve known him for years because he is so graciously transparent and down to earth. I’ve only met Jessica a handful of times, but from those precious few times I saw such a radiant spirit! She has a gravitational pull and you find yourself so pleased to be in her presence. Seeing them together long before they were engaged you just KNEW it was special. Unfortunately, the Mr. could not accompany me to their wedding. However, this gave my mom and I the opportunity to road trip together and catch up a ton and spend some one on one time together. I was also so grateful to find out that I’d be sitting with people that feel like family who I also went to high school with. Thanks for that Perry’s!

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     The ceremony was one of the most God glorifying events I had ever been to. Everything reflected back to God’s goodness, faithfulness, devotion, and power. When I get to attend weddings that God is the center of it’s almost like going to church! The spirit is there and you feel it heavily in the best way imaginable. Truth is spoken and conviction reverberates those who cling to the truth. Praise is given and worship from many grateful hearts ascends into the Heavens. Love covenants are made reminding us about how much more the Lord loves us than we could ever love each other; even our spouses. Seeing Jessica and her family so strong after losing her father was a testament of faith in Christ. It was so powerful that I’m sure if any stranger off the street walked in attended the ceremony that person would come out wanting to know God more.

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     On a more superficial level, the wedding venue was decked out to the nines! Crystal everywhere your eye could see accented and reflected purple hues through billows of airy draped fabrics and added an element of romance and intimacy throughout the entire room. The food was FANTASTIC and the cake was spot on! Another special treat was watching and listening to the speeches from three of the bride and groom’s closest friends  and family. My favorite was Robbie’s speech (Yes, I’m probably biased because it’s my best friend’s husband). It wasn’t stuffed with fluff or overly gushing from the seams. It was simple, genuine, and had great touches of humor. You did great Robbie! Shakes and all. Even as a guest, this event seemed to happen all too fast and I was soon back in tow with my mom to a nearby hotel to crash for the night. We had big plans on our road trip back to Fort Myers to stop off at Bok Tower Gardens (The engagement site of my sister).

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     I had never been to the Bok Tower Gardens before. It was such a nice detour and great exercise walking around the grounds and enjoying some of God’s prettiest creations. We weren’t the only ones who had the same idea. There was somewhat of an massively enormous family group (100-150 persons) from India touring the grounds around the same time my mom and I were poking about. Thankfully the waiting time for our tour of the mansion wasn’t too bad, but just the sheer amount of people and children running around both with customary Indian clothes and some very “Americanized”taking pictures and chatting was enough to make it a funny memory for both my mom and I. Here are some of the pictures we captured that day on the grounds!

     Soon we were back on the road again searching for a place to eat. That in itself is a story all it’s own! Haha! One story you can probably ask my mom next time you see her. Anyways, it was back to Fort Myers to get prepared for my Floridian baby shower! My mom and my sister put so much effort into making it amazing and it certainly was! The food alone was superb! If you’ve never had my mom’s pulled pork and mozzarella pasta salad then you have not truly discovered what it means to have a happy tummy. It was so nice running into old friends and meeting a new one of my mom’s. Fellowship with people in general is something I greatly enjoy! Katy did an amazing job coming up with fun games to keep us on our toes and stretch some of us to get creative and out of our comfort zones. I just wanted to thank all of you ladies who came to bless my little one because in turn, you ended up blessing me all the more! Here are some moments my sister captured from the shower!

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     Good times have come and gone but this is one I will hold dear to my heart. Lastly, on my list of things I felt I needed to hit on within this post, is a word found in it’s title; Renewal. This is where the crap hits the fan so to speak and I get real transparent about my/our current state of life. Way back when we first discovered I was pregnant and that first trimester did a horrible number on my health, we decided to leave Summitcreek church where we had helped serve and get the church launched. We firmly believed the Lord was taking us to another church within our area and we knew it by name. Long story short, It is not to be our home church. Heavily disappointed with not being able to find our church home, we stopped searching and started streaming from our previous home church First Assembly in Fort Myers, Florida. We know it’s just not the same as going and serving and fellowshipping with other believers and building accountability partners.

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    Speaking only for myself, I personally started to feel disconnected from the Lord to the point where the streaming sermons stopped altogether and life went on without anything challenging, positive, and life altering going in. This started to effect my “joy”. I simply couldn’t find it and skirted around the real solution (Making God the center of my life again). I started trying to fill it up with things and material possessions trying to satiate the hunger for true joy. It was through my worldly discontentment and ingratitude that I become a bad steward of my finances and no longer trusted the Lord in providing in that faction of my life. This leads me to my point. As I mentioned in the first paragraph of this post, I resigned my job for the summer and this has put even more financial strain on us than I had initially anticipated. I planned on doing nanny jobs/babysitting/pet sitting to help out but apparently if you are competing with someone who isn’t pregnant for the same job, I guess a pregnant lady isn’t your first choice. Something I foolishly never took into account. LOTS of rejection and lots of guilt for not being able to help my husband provide transpired. I panicked and I panicked bad. What if scenarios swirled in my head and I believed every. single. one. My walk with God was so weak that I was being viciously attacked by the enemy on a consistent basis. It wasn’t until I returned from my Florida visit that my mother “laid it out for me” over the phone.  God wants me to learn something so badly and I keep running away. It was so bad that I didn’t even realize where the root of my problem started and I needed to do some serious work to get back to holding God’s hand.

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     It’s funny where the Lord will find you sometimes. He found me recently in a Toyota of Des Moines service waiting room holding a book I received from my dear friend Manders and I finally cracked it open to reveal the answer I had been seeking about where the root of my issues began. The one word the rang through the author’s mind hit me like a ton of bricks. “Eucharisteo”. The Greek word for “Thanksgiving”. There were so many simply profound statements in this book that I could feel the words piercing my heart every time something God wanted to show me was read. I hope these encourage and challenge you as much as they have pierced me.

  • “The act of sacrificing thank offerings to God -even for the bread and cup of cost, for cancer, and crucifixion-this prepares the way for God to show us his FULLEST salvation from bitter, angry, resentful lives and from ALL sin that estranges us from Him.”
  • “We enter into fullness of life if our faith gives THANKS.”
  • “Jesus counts THANKSGIVING as integral in a faith that saves.”
  • ” Our salvation in Christ is real, yet the completeness of that salvation is not fully realized in a life until the life realizes the need to give thanks…in EVERYTHING.”
  • “All those years thinking I was saved and had said my yes to God, but was really living the no. Was it because I had never fully experienced the whole of my salvation? Had never lived out the fullest expression of my salvation in Christ? Because I wasn’t taking everything in my life and returning to Jesus, falling at His feet and thanking Him?…This is why I sat all those years in church but my soul holes had never fully healed.”
  • “If we are dying of thirst, passively reading books about water quenches little; the only way to quench the parched mouth is to close the book and dip the hand into water and bring it to the lips. If we thirst we have to drink. We must DO something.”
  • “A nail is driven out by another nail; habit is overcome by habit.” Erasmus said that, contemporary and admirer of Martin Luther.”
  • “Practice is the hardest part of learning, and training is the essence of transformation.”
  • “Do not disdain the small. The whole of the life-even the hard- is made up of minute parts, and if I miss the infinitesimals, I miss the WHOLE. These are new language lessons, and I live them out. There is a way to live the big of giving thanks in all things. It is this: to give thanks in this one small thing. The moments will add up.

What I found so interesting in this author’s study of Eucharisteo is that it ALWAYS precedes the miracle. She gives several references in her book. The last principle that really hits home for me is that Eucharisteo has to be LEARNED. Paul said it himself in the Bible when he wrote to the Philippians (4:11). He said, “I have LEARNED to be content with whatever I have.” We all know that in order to LEARN we need to PRACTICE and PRACTICE is the hardest part of LEARNING! Living the change out by hammering in new habits to drive out the old ones just as Martin Luther stated.

The author was able to start the “hammering” process by taking on a challenge of naming one thousand gifts she was grateful for and writing them down daily. This slowly began to change her heart and transition her into fullness of life with her walk in Christ and gave her the ability to walk through extremely terrifying and disappointing circumstances with TRUE JOY.

I believe that my ingratitude and discontentment in life came from not reflecting Eucharisteo back to my Lord and Savior. I am taking the challenge as of this post publishing. Because Eucharisteo directly links to faith in the Lord,  I am firmly believing that my faith will renew as a result of attacking the old behaviors with new ones. I shared this with you to encourage you and also to put my imperfection out in the open as a means to empower others to speak up about their struggles and seek wisdom and counsel. Just because someone doesn’t air their dirty laundry doesn’t mean it’s not there stinking up the closet and needing to be dealt with. Haha! We all fall short. Remember that. May God help us with our disbelief. Please keep your Delightfully Downin family in your prayers as we seek out our home church and refocus our center! Thank you!

What lies ahead for me this week is a visit to my Grandparents at their beach house in Lewes, Delaware! It’s my last travel adventure for quite some time. I will keep you posted on baby girl Downin and look forward to sharing her nursery sneak peek with you all in early August on the blog. We love you all and Thank you for all your prayer support and encouragement!

Until Then,

~ The Mrs.

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Throwing a Proper Tea Party

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IMG_2201Christmas parties are a dime a dozen this time of year. If you’re in the spirit of throwing one yourself but want to entertain in a more elegant way for your guests, might I suggest a nice High Noon Christmas tea party? After hosting one recently, I found it to be a bit more relaxing and simple without sacrificing a fun loving atmosphere. I’ve come up with a few simple guidelines to help you get started. Let’s go!

IMG_1827First Step: After picking your desired date, start drawing up a list of invitees. Keep it smaller to make the event more personal and intimate. Send out invitations or the ever popular Facebook event invitation and wait for a head count. Diesel and I decided to invite some of our SOE pals.

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 Second Step: Let’s talk favors. These will vary on the type of group you have coming and the amount of people attending. Because a tea party lends itself to delicate theme & atmosphere, it was no sweat deciding to get these individualized heart shaped tea infusers by Kate Aspen. It came with adorable packaging and the guests could use them for bulkier loose leaf tea.

IMG_2205Third Step: Decide on your party’s menu and beverage list. Tea parties come with a myriad of possible options ranging from sweet delicate tarts to savory scones and quiches. On a more classic and traditional bent, I served my guests two types of tea sandwich (cucumber and turkey cranberry), peppermint chocolate chip scones, and raspberry tarts. Many people will want to know if they need to bring anything. If you feel it necessary, dips, fruits, and vegetables are all good fill in food that will not retract from the main meal.

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Fourth Step: Decorate Decorate Decorate! Create an atmosphere of elegance and timeless charm! Use whatever you have on hand. I used some old suitcases, floral DIY arrangements, and fine china from my mother in law and from my good friends the Penberthys that I received at my Bridal shower. Another favorite statement piece of mine was decorating with my crystal dishware given to us by my brother in law Jonathan and his lady Ellen, and good family friend Kathy Brooder.

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Fifth Step: Set out the food ten minutes prior to your guests arriving and host with a smile! We decided to do a white elephant gift exchange after tea to keep the party going but that is something completely optional.

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Most importantly, have fun and cherish the memories and moments during the party and moreover the holiday season. We wish you and yours a splendid and relaxing time with friends and family this Christmas and New Years! Recipe post to follow this one. It’s a keeper! 🙂

~The Mrs.

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A Bountiful Thanksgiving

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 We hope that everyone has had the most splendid Thanksgiving with their families! We certainly enjoyed the down time after a couple days of traveling and fighting off wretched coughs that we caught before our Iowa trip. I’m guessing this is where the “In sickness and in health” portion of our vows is truly put to the test. I’m happy to report we are taking care of each other very well and the only being in the household that is scared by all the coughing is Diesel. The night before was a whirlwind of baking and cooking dishes to bring to the feast.

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Amidst baking for the feast, I also was trying out a new dinner recipe via my Skinnytaste cookbook called Buttermilk Oven Baked “Fried” Chicken (The recipe to follow next posting). I cannot wait to share this one because it was absolutely fantastic and got the Mr. sticking two thumbs up. During the process, I was able to make a special recipe in the Downin family called Cherry Delight or Cherries Jubilee as the Mr. calls it.

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This was my first attempt at the recipe and it was wonderfully straightforward. I received the recipe from my sister in law, Heidi, which originated from my mother in law’s mother! There’s nothing quite as exciting as making something you know has been made over generations. Yes, it’s just a dessert recipe but I’m nostalgic to my core and I considered it an honor to receive and make for my family this Thanksgiving. After the Jubilee was underway, I started to concoct the mixin’s’ & fixin’s for my Apple Pie.

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However, this pie was not any old ordinary pie that I had made previously. Thanks to one of my darling bridesmaids, Charisa, I was able to use the pastry cutter she bought me and make the top of the pie appealing to the eye. I was incredibly pleased with both the pastry cutter and the end result of using it. I will most likely do a product review of this little go to gadget sometime in the future so keep your eyes peeled for the post! In addition to the pie and jubilee, I also made a corn bread casserole which is my absolute favorite side to anything.

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Thanksgiving was held at my (The Mrs.) parent’s house and we most certainly wanted to look our best for our family photos there. Diesel made sure to compliment our outfits with one of his own selections of bow tie. He was the talk of the party wearing his Duke & Daisy khaki bow tie collar from Etsy. The only thing that looked better than him was the turkey that my mom had prepared everyone.

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I cannot even begin to tell you how wonderful the scent coming off this bird was! I have been blessed to eat the turkey from this woman for 23 glorious years and 2014 did not disappoint. Mom was in charge of the turkey, stuffing (filled with cranberries, apricots, apples, and sausage), green bean casserole, mashed potatoes, jello mold, gravy, and pumpkin pie! One day I will be the one preparing crazy large meals for a growing family and I feel less intimidated by the thought knowing I have watched my mother meticulously during the holidays throughout the years.

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With the table set it was then time the guests arrived. I was honored to meet three new friends that were acquainted with my father during his time working for the Air Force. One of the guests was a retired teacher by the name of Bob who taught middle school grades for 39 years!  Needless to say, I gleaned some very valuable information with him and by the end of the day we had swapped numbers to stay in contact in case I needed guidance along my journey to becoming a full time educator. There could have not been any lovelier company (besides the Weirichs) or any lovelier weather to boot! Thankfully my tripod that I ordered for the exact purpose of taking some family photos of  the Mr., Diesy, and I came in the day before! We decided to snap some photos in my parents backyard.

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Nothing felt more perfect than sitting together watching the ripples on the lake after eating and socializing the day away. I’m hoping everyone found that time to reflect or “count your blessings instead of sheep” as Mr. Bing Crosby would say/sing. We are very thankful for you all and that you hold a special place in our hearts.  Happy Thanksgiving.

The Mr., The Mrs., & Diesel

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The Iowa Reception

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Over the weekend of November 22nd, the Mr. and I were so blessed to be flown up to our beloved Ankeny, Iowa where our family had planned a second wedding reception hosted at the newly built Downin residence. If you knew my mother in law before she moved back tot he Midwest, then you know how she has enough creative genius in one pinky finger than most people possess in their entire being! Needless to say, the new Downin HQ was exquisite and breathtakingly designed. It was very hard to leave when the time came to do so.

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It was the absolute perfect place to have a second reception. The big open center room as you walk in through the door welcomes you with a stellar view of the forest behind the house, warm lighting, piano room, and stair access.

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Down the stairs at the entrance of the house you can find another living room with a welcoming fireplace, kitchen, and many nieces and nephews to wrestle with!

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After getting settled in our downstairs room and wrestling with the little family members we went back upstairs to tour Amy’s suite which had been designed with her wheelchair in mind. Everything was widened and opened for free and easy chair access. How lovely is this?!

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We love our Amers! She was radiant and happy to have Thomas tell her how beautiful she is and give him raspberries whenever he wasn’t paying attention to her. You tell him Amy! The morning of our second reception we decided to take a walk on the backyard property that had the most gorgeous hill, trees, and little creek. There is just something so whimsical about Northern/Midwestern lighting in the winter months. I had to bring my camera along and catch our moments of basking in the beauty of God’s creations.

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Before long, it was time to turn back and start getting ready to receive friends and family into the new residence for the reception! We were SO BLESSED by everyone who came. It was wonderful meeting all the people I’ve heard about and received such generous gifts from for the wedding. However, my heart leapt twice as much from being able to see our sweet Wallace family again! It was such a treat to spend some time with them and see the little one playing with our nieces and nephews (mainly nieces hee hee).

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My in-laws surely blessed us with the hosting of this beautiful event and we are eternally grateful for all that they have given us and how much they have supported us.

Till We Meet Again,

~The Mrs.(& some input from The Mr.)

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October Traditions

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     We were delighted this year to keep the traditions of last October alive and were blessed with establishing even a few more! I’m hopelessly bound to traditions. I get warm fuzzy feelings from them every single time. For example, in December I whip out my great, great Grandmother Irene’s sand tart (sugar cookie) recipe and bake a full batch. During the entire process, I remember sitting on the island counter in the kitchen of our house in Allentown, Pennsylvania using my mom’s cookie cutters, and then decorating each perfectly cut cookie with either green or red sprinkles and cinnamon sugar. That recipe has been in my life for as long as I’ve been alive! Needless to say, October traditions with our friends are just as nostalgic and special.

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Thomas’ coworker and friend Sarah and her little white lab Kyah were along for the ride last October and this October as well! Another coworker and friend, Tiffany, joined in on the fun the second time around as we drove over to our favorite pumpkin patch in Fort Myers to select the perfect specimens for carving.

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After seeking out the perfect pumpkins we stopped by our local Wal-Mart to get the pumpkin carving tool kits and design sheets, but most importantly, we bought all the ingredients to make pumpkin pie and roasted pumpkin seeds! Because what is carving pumpkins without seed roasting and pie making?! Soon we were packed up and headed back to the apartment to get the carving started.

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Just like last year, we played music and picked our spots on the lanai to work our pumpkin magic. Kyah also seemed excited to get her carving underway. Her carving turned out to be a huge improvement from last years!

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It was Tiffany’s first time carving a pumpkin on her own, but as you can tell she didn’t even hesitate getting all those pumpkin guts and seeds removed. She’s a natural! Just wait till you see how well her design came out. Tiffany and Thomas were the first to finish their pumpkins and started working on baking the pumpkin pie while Sarah, Kyah , and I kept refining our designs. The finished products were just what we hoped for! The night continued on with Pizza, Clue, and Cards Against Humanity…where many laughing tears were shed. Looking forward to next year!

Sincerely,

The Mrs.

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A Closer Look

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A Closer Look

With so many of our friends and family spread across the United States, we decided to create a place where we could keep our loved ones “in the know” as we establish our lives as newlyweds! We hope you enjoy every little story, recipe, devotion, product review, family update, and more as we cross life’s milestones together: Serving and seeking God and otherwise being delightfully Downin.