Happy New Year, friends!

You kept us hopping during Carmen’s Favorite Things. We took a quick break for the holidays, and now we’re back at it.

I love a new year! It’s a fresh start. A new beginning. A clean slate. A time to refocus. A time to recalibrate.

I’m not big on resolutions. Of course, there’s always the “lose weight/exercise more” thing that most of civilization resolves to do. But, for the most part, I’ve never been a resolutions girl. I do better adjusting one or two degrees, rather than make sweeping, wholesale changes. This is much more effective for me.

This re-set usually plays out by me asking myself where I can make some adjustments, and focus on the things that really matter. I like to cut out the excess fat (no pun intended!) and be leaner with my time, my money, and priorities. And yes, this does apply to eating and fitness too! Ha! But, I truly believe success comes in degrees.

All this said, I got a package in the mail for Christmas. It was from my friends, Danny & Courtney. I first met Danny & Courtney ten+ years ago when they were working for Family First & Coach Tony Dungy. We’ve been on several mission trips together, and they are some of my most favorite people. They have one little girl, Harvest, and they are expecting baby girl #2 at the end of this month!

They are the sweetest, most humble couple you will ever meet. They love Jesus so so much, and they point to Him in all that they do. I’ve done many collaborations with them, both personally and professionally. I just couldn’t love them more.

In this package was a note from Danny, a print, a coffee mug, and a Christmas ornament. “Do What Lasts” was printed on each. I read the letter, and immediately handed it to Pete! I asked Danny if I could share what he wrote on my blog, and he’s given me the go-ahead.

Do What Lasts. mug

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We’ve all had life-altering moments that change our perspective forever. It may have been the unexpected loss of a parent or child, a health crisis that left you forever scarred and unable to do what once came so easily to you. Or maybe it was facing a natural disaster and losing every earthly possession that you own. It’s these defining moments when we remember the fragility of life and how everything can change in the blink of an eye.

Over the last decade, our family has had more of these moments than we thought we would face in our lifetime, and we know we’re not alone. We haven’t welcomed these casualties into our lives, but they were ordained for us. At times they have been extremely costly, but they have done something extraordinary in our hearts. They have lifted our eyes to look beyond what we can see. They have given us a propensity to wonder about, hope for and to pursue after the things that will truly last.

The things that don’t break, don’t wear out, don’t fade, don’t decompose and don’t die… the eternal things.

We are not alone in this longing to see redemption in action. We have friends and family that have linked arms with us and have chosen to believe in the things we can’t see.

Things like….

The healing from a debilitating disease that hasn’t happened yet.

The child that hasn’t been conceived or welcomed into their forever home.

The community that hasn’t been restored.

The broken marriages and broken lives that exist all around with no road to recovery in sight.

BUT, we believe that God has set eternity in every human heart and that we’re all wired with an innate desire to do what lasts.

The most recent perspective-shifting moment for me was in September 2017, when the eyewall of Hurricane Irma passed directly over my childhood home with myself, my parents, my pregnant wife and my two-year-old little girl huddled inside an interior bathroom. After a sleepless and terrifying night, we walked away mostly unscathed. Yes, we lost electricity and water for over a week and some grand old oak trees, but in the aftermath of this storm the damage was minimal compared to what our neighbors in other parts of Florida and the Caribbean endured. Gratitude welled up in our hearts that we survived. We’re thankful for the eternal investments you’re making with your life, your relationships, your businesses and you’re ministries. We hope these gifts (like the wooden ornament made from the tree that fell on my parents’ house during the hurricane) serve as a thank you for being an inspiration to me and my family, and as a daily reminder and motivation to continue to perservere in the work you have been called to do.

The tree that fell in Danny’s parents backyard. Instagram via @dannyrohrdanz

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Do What Lasts. WOW. Instantly that became my theme for the year. “Do What Lasts, Carmen.” Order your day, your time, your finances, your energy, your everything around what lasts. Oh Lord, help me to do this, this year. I shared Danny’s letter with Pete, and we hung the ornament in our bathroom so we can see it every single morning.

I write a letter to my family and friends every year at the holidays. Ironically, I included a portion about Hurricane Irma, as well. It’s in these times that a “truth-ing” happens. Moments that usher in perspective shifts, and make room for gratefulness. Also, I am convinced we still live in a world where most people do love one another. And strangers still help strangers.

Do What Lasts. Let’s put this filter over all that we do this year. And may we laugh louder, forgive quicker, love bigger, be spectacular grace givers and Jesus imitators. These are the things that truly last.

Do What Lasts. ornament made from the fallen tree.

One last note:

Out of this experience that Danny and Courtney have shared, a desire to care for those in more desperate situations was born. They knew they wanted to make a significant contribution to the hurricane relief efforts happening around their home state and other affected places. With this, the #DoWhatLasts shop was born.

They have partnered with some of their good friends, who also happen to be super-talented creatives to design the first collection of #DoWhatLasts products. A percentage of the revenues from these goods will directly fund the continued hurricane relief efforts happening in Florida, Texas and the Caribbean. This is only the beginning. They hope this is the start of a perpetual effort to fund eternal work happening in our city, our state and around the world.

To learn more about Do What Lasts CLICK HERE.

This truly is the most wonderful time of the year! We just wrapped up 12 Days of Carmen’s Faves. I’ve already heard from so many of you, saying it helped with some Christmas gift ideas. Yay!! We really covered the gamut this year. We had Prayer Journals to Bible Studies to Sunglasses to Dresses to Table Runners. And we had Promo Codes! {and still have for a few things! See below for the ones still available to you!} Woohoo!

Carmen's Favorite Things Collage

Diff Eyewear – CARMEN25 (Good through December 21)
www.diffeyewear.com 

JaneHudson – CARMEN20 (Good through December 31)
www.janehudson.us 

Val Marie Paper – CARMEN10 (Good through December 31)

Home


While there is absolutely nothing in the world wrong with gift-giving (gifts are actually my love language), it can be easy to get caught up in the pageantry of Christmas. But just a few days ago, we had to pause Carmen’s Faves because one of my dear friend’s mom passed away. I was at her bedside when my girlfriend’s mom took her last breath. And at that precise moment, Christmas arrived in that room. We were all reminded of why Jesus came to us…. He came to truly bring JOY to the WORLD. So, this Christmas season, enjoy your family, give the ones you love some sweet gifts, but take time to pause and truly celebrate the very best gift of all… JESUS. He’s my favorite FAVE!

{I’ve edited & reverse ordered my favorite things so you don’t have to scroll for days!}


 

12. We’re finally at Day 12 and Momma is delegating! So it’s Haley filling in for her today!

Mom was introduced to Fran’s a few years ago by Natalie Grant. It was love at first bite! Yep, she immediately fell in love, and has caused all of us in her proximity to fall in love too! Specifically, it’s the Grey & Smoked Sea Salt Caramels. Oh. My. Goodness. Y’all. They are incredible. They are sweet and salty and absolutely perfect. Melt in your mouth, addictive perfect!

There are several size options to choose from; including the wedding favor size mom mentioned, or you can send the larger gift boxes to your loved ones. These also make for a nice hostess gift or a little something for that couple that has everything. Of course, you can always just buy a box for yourself, and have them sitting out when the family comes over.

We’ve actually sent them as a Christmas gift to some of our vendors/friends of the station the last few years. And one thing in particular that I like is that you can send to multiple people in one order, even if each have a different address, and you can add a personalized message to it! Want to take a guess on who has been the one doing the sending? ☺

Shop FRAN’s HERE!

I’m giving away three pairs of Fran’s Salted Caramel boxes today! Comment below with someone you would like to gift a box to, and if you’re chosen, we’ll send you one as well! I’ll pick a winner today at NOON!


 

11. My girlfriend, Siebe, introduced me to this amazing paper company in Nashville. It’s called Hester & Cook. They have amazing things!

Gold and cream runner on Brandon & Siebe’s table when we did the show from their kitchen table!

I love the table runners. Seriously LOVE! I’m such a sucker for a pretty table! I love everything about a table! I love to set a table. For ALL occasions. And for ALL holidays! I think it’s just one of those simple pleasures in life. Plus, I love the time spent around a table! To me, there’s not too many things in life that is better than gathering with family and friends, over a home-cooked meal around the dinner table, or bar, or counter, whatever may be the case. So many meaningful conversations happen there. And belly laughs too! I think a pretty table is the icing on the cake!

Gold and cream striped table runner with the wedding favor sized Fran’s caramels for my bible study!

With these runners, you can make any Sunday dinner with the family feel extra special, simply by pulling out the roll, and cutting a piece off. Just the other night for our last bible study of the year, I cut a strip of the gold & cream striped runner, and set it out on my counter just to add a little holiday sparkle to the presentation. Of course, ultimately it’s just about being together, but I truly do love the art (and love) of entertaining.  Down-home Southern entertaining, not high falutin’.

Shop Hester & Cook Table Runners HERE!

We are giving away a couple rolls TOMORROW (12/16) on Instagram. Head to @themorningcruise, follow us and comment on the post TOMORROW (12/16) to win!


 

10. This has become my favorite prayer journal. It’s a 6 month journal from Val Marie Paper; it’s thin, and it’s easy to write in. And it’s broken down in these segments:

  • World.
  • Nation & Leaders.
  • My Loves.
  • My Family.
  • Sweet Friends.
  • Those Hurts.
  • Personal.
  • Answered Prayers.
  • Scriptures.
  • Quotes.
  • And some other blanks to personalize.

So many times I get distracted when I’m trying to pray. This has been a simple tool I’ve used the last several years to organize my thoughts. It helps me keep notes of who I’m praying for and what I’m praying about. But the thing I’ve loved MOST about these journals is that I can go back and see how God has answered so many prayers. As a matter of fact, there has been something I have been diligently praying about for a few YEARS, and God has answered our prayers. Just in the last few months!!! AND, crazy enough – is cementing it this very day! My eyes are welling up with tears as I type this. Oh, how I can’t wait to share with you about it in the coming weeks…..

Maybe using a prayer journal like this could be a new way to kick off 2018!

Val was so sweet and offered us a discount code for everything on her website {except the yearly journals}. Use “CARMEN10” for 10% off your whole purchase!

Lastly, today (12/14) is the last day to order to guarantee Christmas delivery!

You can order HERE.


 

Dillion Tank Dress

9. A few years ago I went to the Tampa Junior League’s Holiday Market at the Fairgrounds. It was packed with all sorts of fun things. But, the booth I loved the most was Jane Hudson! The stripes are what grabbed my attention. And then I felt the material. Um, hello! YES! I’m probably not describing it right, but it’s a cottony-spandex. Meaning, it’s soft but it holds its shape. I bought the Dillon Tank Dress in black … because a black & white striped dress is a staple in every woman’s closet. And the cut was very flattering for those of us that don’t have the flattest of tummies. I wore that dress at least once a week for about 4 months. Spring came, and I ordered the light blue striped. And then later that year for July 4th, I ordered the red. So, yes, it is true…I have this dress in 3 colors. The only one I’m missing is the navy!

The great thing about the Dillon Tank (or any of Jane Hudson’s dresses) is that you can pair it with literally ANYTHING! I have worn it by itself with a big necklace on a long chain (when it’s blazing hot outside!) and I’ve worn it with a denim shirt or a denim jacket. I’ve worn it with booties. And I’ve worn it with sandals. Their pieces are so versatile, and so COMFORTABLE. I could not love this dress more! It’s hands down MY VERY FAVORITE!!! Also, it’s currently on sale! My second favorite dress is the Jennings Swing Dress! You won’t be disappointed, I promise you. Abbey has the Zoe Maxi Dress. It looks amazing on her.

Jennings Swing Dress

And just for reference, I wear a medium.

Coincidentally Kristin, creator & designer of Jane Hudson, is a graduate for the University of Florida, and has ties to our listening area. AND, she’s been generous enough to give us a discount code! Between now and the end of the year, you can use “CARMEN20” for 20% off your entire purchase!

Shop Jane Hudson HERE!

I’m giving 2 dresses away today at NOON (December 13). Comment below to win! You pick the dress!


 

8. Hi I’m Carmen. And I’m a coffee snob. First it started with 1 cup a day (back in my college days). Then, I quickly increased to two. But, doing morning for the last 20+ years, I have at least 3, sometimes 4 cups per morning. My preferred brew is French Press. And I love my morning coffee black. In the last few years, I’ve added an afternoon “fix.” I like it iced with a splash of creamer. I have a straight up emotional relationship with coffee! Every time I step into Starbizzle, it just feels like a mini-vacation. (yes, I’m weird!)

Three Christmases ago, we were at a family friends house, and Hope served this amazing coffee with our desserts. I was flipping out over it!  I’m not much of a flavored coffee girl, but this was incredible!! I finally asked her what it was. She told me “Fresh Market’s Christmas Blend.” I sent Pete out the next day to buy us some. Since it was December 26, it was half price and he came with 3 pounds each of regular & decaf. We enjoyed that coffee well into the new year!

Now one of my new traditions is to run past Fresh Market in early November, and buy their Christmas Blend. All during Sharathon, I brewed a French Press pot for me, Haley & Jayar. I love this coffee! I think it’s the vanilla combined with the clove. It’s just so so good! And of course, you have to have cute mugs to serve it in.

To purchase:

-The Fresh Market Christmas Blend – you can only purchase these in store. Click HERE to find a store near you! $11/1 lb. bag

-Buffalo Check Mugs from Pottery Barn – HERE! They’re currently on sale for a set of 4 for $25!

-Bodum French Press – HERE! $28 on Amazon!


 

7. I am SO EXCITED about today’s FAVE!! I’ve fallen head over heels in love with DIFF Eyewear. If you know me, you know I love me some sunglasses.  And I love all different styles & colors. Gold Aviators & Tortoise frames with blue lenses or gold gradient are my favorite FAVES. {Wow. That was really specific!}

I learned about DIFF earlier this year. And here’s what I love about DIFF. They are the “Toms” of Eyewear. And when I say Toms, you know what I mean by that, right? When you buy a pair of Toms, they donate a pair of shoes to a child in need. DIFF is the same! Every time you purchase a pair of sunglasses, you are purchasing a pair of eyeglasses for someone in need. You BUY one. They GIVE one. You can read about it HERE.

At first I was skeptical about the quality of DIFF. I didn’t expect them to be on the same level as Maui Jim’s, Ray Bans, Oakley or other well known brands. I bought my first pair over the summer (some Pink Aviators with gold frame) and I was 100% impressed with the quality. So much so, that I ordered the Bellas (tortoise, blue frame, polarized) and I’ve not worn another pair since!

Much like ABLE, I love when companies combine quality with philanthropy. To me, this is a winning combination!  DIFF offers the same designer style brands for a fraction of the cost!

And here’s what I’m most tickled about! DIFF has given us a promo code! Use “CARMEN25” for 25% off between NOW and Thursday, December 21st!

{Fine print: Promo code not available on celebrity collaborations}.

Shop HERE!

Register by commenting below for my favorite pairs of Diffs. I’m giving away:

-2 Bella {Tortoise with gold frames)

-2 Bella {Tortoise with blue frames} Seen in pic!

CarCar would not steer you wrong. You will seriously love DIFF! And together, we really can make a difference.


6. Today’s FAVE is for the girl that loves her jammies. And I am SO THAT girl! Getting up at 4:45 every morning means I’m pretty much ready to get comfy at 8 o’clock every night, with lights out at 9. I love these sleep shirts! I just bought this red one, and have the blue & gray striped one too!

I got them at Nordy’s and they’re on sale right now! They are $38 each or two for $60. And Nordstrom always has free shipping – no minimum purchase required! You can get one for you, and one for a friend.

Shop for them HERE!


5. I’ll be honest, I’ve never really carried a lunchbox before. I mean, I did in elementary school. As a matter of fact, my very 1st lunchbox was a Holly Hobbie. Do you remember her?! But, as an adult, I’ve just not been a lunchbox kinda girl.  I mostly grabbed lunch out. Or just didn’t eat.

But then, Whole30 happened. Two years ago. And I started cooking. And bringing my “brunch” {lunch at 10:30 when you do a morning show} to work. Because, of course, my lunch had to be “compliant” … Whole30’ers will know this term well.

And every girl needs a cute lunchbox, right? So, I went to the Vera Bradley Outlet store, and got me a really cute one. And then I bought my daughter, Haley one. And then my niece, Paulina. And I’m sure Abbey snagged one in there somewhere too. And now we’re all pretty much a card-carrying, Vera Bradley, lunch box totin’ family! And it’s one of my favorite things!

Shop for Vera Bradley lunch boxes HERE!

Or you can go to the Vera Bradley Outlet and get about 40% off these prices.


4. My girls & I love ABLE!! I’ve actually had a long-standing relationship with ABLE (formerly Fashionable). I can remember when their only offering was hand-woven scarves! The scarves were one of my favorite things years ago, and I was giddy when they reached out to me and told me how many of our listeners ordered that year.

The thing you need to know about ABLE is that they are a lifestyle brand focused on ending generational poverty by working with women who have overcome extraordinary circumstances. They manufacture directly in the communities they wish to impact, both locally and globally. ABLE has come a long way since scarves! They now have amazing leather goods, jewelry and much more. I love their bags! I’ve carried an ABLE leather bag for my laptop the last 5+ years. My favorite is the Alem Utility Bag. This year, they introduced the METALLICS. And who doesn’t love them some metallic?! As a matter of fact, I have several of the pieces give away!!

But, that’s not all!! Can we just take a minute and talk about the new Chelsie necklace? I ordered this necklace about two weeks ago, and have probably worn it 10 out of the last 14 days. I love this necklace! It goes with everything! It truly is my favorite necklace right now! I also love Chelsie’s story. You can read about it HERE. Being the daughter of an alcoholic who wasn’t able to beat this disease, I am cheering so hard for Chelsie. I actually say a little prayer for her every time I slip her design over my head.

I love the whole idea of helping someone else with every purchase that I make, and that’s exactly what you’re doing when you shop your Christmas list at ABLE. And finally – for TODAY ONLY (December 5) – Use: CARMEN20 – and get 20% off your purchase! Fine print: It can’t be combined with other codes, but it does work on markdowns! Good on orders of $50 or more. Yay!

I can’t say enough about this company. I know them personally and love them very much!


3. It’s THYME to get on the THYMES Frasier Fir Christmas Candle Train! For reals…

Come to my house (or the studio!) the day after Thanksgiving through Christmas, and there is a 100% chance this candle will be burning! As a matter of fact, this year, you could’ve stopped by my house, office or studio, and this candle would’ve been burning BEFORE Thanksgiving. This is hands-down my favorite Christmas candle. I have the 3 wick. I have the green glass one. I have the white tin, tree branch one . I have the smaller silver tin one. And I have the votive. I think that about covers it.

This truly is the best smelling Christmas candle on the market. Especially if you’re like me and not into the froo-froo smelling candles. Give me the woodsy ones all day, er’day.

Oh, and a HUGE thank you to Hope for introducing me to my most beloved Christmas candle 3 years ago! She deserves all the credit.

Here’s a link to the whole collection on Thymes website!

I get my 3-wick HERE!




2. She Reads Truth! I first saw Ellie Holcomb post about She Reads Truth a few years ago, and then I noticed that my oldest, Haley, was getting these bible studies “auto-shipped.” My bible study breaks for the Summer, so this past July I decided to order a SRT bible study for myself. I ordered “The Life of David.” I’ve done in-depth bible studies on David before, so I was interested in participating in this one. The thing that was different about this study, as opposed to others I’d done, is that it wasn’t as “guided” as I had been accustomed to. But, what I loved about it is that it had me in a significant amount of scripture each day, and then gave me a whole page to journal anything I wanted. Some days I asked God about a verse I had just read. Other days, I simply wrote a prayer. Yet others, it was more of a journal entry. The studies are definitely bible study meets journal.

Bottom line, She Reads Truth is about women being in the Word of God every day! I want to be this woman! And the more we’re in the Word, the more we want (and need!) to be in the Word. When I start getting snippy, 9 times out of 10, I can trace it back to neglecting my quiet time with Jesus! I think these studies will be a great tool and treat for the women & (and men!) that you love most! They’re rich in content, they’re beautifully designed, and they’re also the best gift you can give yourself!

Individual studies are around $24 each, or you could set up an auto ship for around the same price monthly, and you’ll get every study for the entire year!! I’m doing this for 2018.

Check She Reads Truth HERE!

Merry Christmas!



I have been holding on to this cute thing since JUST AFTER Mother’s Day! If I had seen it before Mother’s Day, it would’ve made the list then. It’s been hard to not tell you about it, because you know me …. When I find something I like I love to tell you about it.

1st up: The Palma Cosmo Makeup Bag by Veeshee.

Day 1 of 12 Days of Carmen's Faves

Yeah, yeah, I know what you’re saying… “What’s so special about a makeup bag, Carmen?” Welp, I’m glad you asked!! These makeup bags are CUSTOMIZABLE!!! You can pick the pattern & fabric that you want, on both the inside and outside. You can also have a name or monogram embroidered which makes it super personal! And they make the design process so fun! I had Haley design one (that we’ll be giving away on air) and the turn around time was less than a week! When it arrived, we were both impressed with the quality of the bag. So much so, that I immediately went on and designed 2 more!

And, one other really cool thing … you can use the discount code “CARMEN10” for 10% off!

These will be great for daughters, nieces, aunts, besties, and any other women in your life. They’re also really affordable at $35.

Check them out HERE!

 

I was chatting with some friends the other day and sharing with them something I felt like God was leading me to in the future. The conversation quickly turned negative. I snapped and awkwardness ensued. I left the conversation feeling hurt but also feeling bad for the way I reacted. I called my sister on the way home and we echoed a similar conversation we had JUST HAD a week ago, except with roles reversed. We hung up, and I called my friend to apologize. I knew I was wrong in how I handled it, and I made it right, but it left me thinking about the larger conversation that needs to happen—the conversation that needs to happen not just in private, soul-searching moments, but in culture. In our friend groups. In our families. In our communities.

I feel like there has been a shift in the way we treat one another. I don’t mean in regards to bullying (on-and-offline) or how we interact with our ‘enemies’. I’m specifically talking about how we treat the ones we love and do life with and how we consider our friends and family.

Our culture right now says that to be funny we need to be dramatic, over the top, sarcastic and at times, mean. I will admit I can be the chief offender. My friends and I are often too quick with the sarcastic remarks and the witty jabs. It’s all in good fun, and we all know it. We laugh or say something snarky, and it’s hilarious! And no one’s feelings are hurt. There is a line, though, that I feel like more and more people are crossing without even realizing it. They are letting the negative way we tease and play with each other influence the way we converse in ordinary conversation. It’s pessimistic, negative, and hurtful. We forget that there is a time and place for humor, poking fun, and laughter, but there is also a time and place for seriousness and positivity and lifting each other up.

I feel like my family is uniquely gifted in being able to champion one another. I think we are spoiled with how much we celebrate each other’s wins. We still laugh to this day about Abbey getting her college acceptance letters in the mail, and my mom, sister and I all jumping around the kitchen, screaming and crying and celebrating! We joke that we looked like Tyra’s family in Friday Night Lights when she was in that same situation. “We’re going to college!” All of us. We.

In culture, I think we have a hard time championing one another. I think we look at social media, and we look at our own lives, and we compare, compare, compare. We think we are missing out or are not good enough or are behind where we think we should be. So when a friend tells us about something great that happens to them (or honestly something really normal and average), we respond out of our feeling of inadequacy rather than out of joy for our friend.

We look at their win as our own loss.

We create environments where people feel like they can’t share good news out of fear for how others will respond. Sure, there is a time and a place and a tact that comes with this. But I want to see a culture shift. I want to see us become people who can champion their friends well. I want us to become people who can celebrate with joy and love and pride for our friends without feeling like it comes at our own expense. I want us to know when the time is right to laugh and tease and be silly and know when to put that away and be in the moment with love and grace and positivity!

My mom has talked a lot lately about the concept of staying in your lane. It comes from a book we read last summer called Looking for Lovely by Annie F. Downs. She writes that God has designed each of us to have a lane. It’s what He has created us for and what we are good at. It’s where we are supposed to be. We can’t thrive in somebody else’s lane. We are called to the lane God has us in, even if it feels like someone else’s is more fun or more fair, and we can’t be in our own lane if we are too busy trying to drive in someone else’s. This is profound. I want to be the kind of friend that celebrates the lane she is in and celebrates the lane my friends are in because I know God has called them to be there.

Obviously this isn’t the case 100% of the time. But I’ve seen it happen enough times to know it’s at the case at least some of the time. So I’m encouraging you to reflect on how you respond to your own friends and family. Actively seek to celebrate the wins. Period. Don’t let it be conditional. Be that friend that your friend can’t wait to call when they get that news that they are dying to share. Be the friend that loves well and celebrates extravagantly! I want to be part of that kind of change in culture, because I believe this is the kind of friend Jesus was.