Adulting: Not What I Expected

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Adulthood is different than I thought it would be.

I don’t know where I got this idea, but I think I assumed for a long time that, the older you get, the less mistakes you make. The less awkward you are. The less times you need to apologize and make things right again. Less fighting. Less soul-searching. Less anxiety. Less, less, less.

I guess that kind of thinking would make sense to a kid: more years of experience should naturally lead to you becoming better at *fill in the blank* over time, right? And yet time and time again, I find myself in some of the same places I was as a teenager:

Overwhelmed.
Unsure.
Embarrassed.
Indecisive.
Emotional.
Self-conscious.
Making the same mistakes over and over.

I have a theory, though.

I’m discovering that growing up doesn’t necessarily mean making less mistakes or feeling confident all the time. Maybe genuine maturity is marked more by your reaction time to whatever is happening. And the proof is all over the place.

Example #1: Marriage will teach you really quickly how awful of a person you are and how much you have to learn about true reconciliation. In 6 years of married life, it’s not that we’ve gotten better at not sinning – we’re still really good at sinning. We’ve just gotten quicker at apologizing and forgiving.

Example #2: I used to sit and stew for hours (or even days) if I made an embarrassing public mistake or had one of those moments where you say something dumb and instantly regret it. But now, I give myself a few pity minutes, chalk it up to being an imperfect human and not a robot, apologize if necessary, and move on with my life.

Example #3: When I was in high school and even into my college years, I was the queen of self-condemnation when it came to my spiritual life. If I went a week without spending time in the Word, I felt like I had to read 7 times as much to “catch up” to where I was “supposed to be.” You know what’s great though? God just wants us to know Him. Yes, reading the Bible and talking with Him daily should be more than a goal; it’s essential. But He isn’t standing there with a clipboard giving us demerits for falling asleep in the middle of reading Proverbs. I’m learning not to beat myself over the head with guilt, because I know that God isn’t.

Maybe adulthood is just owning it. Owning all of it – the good and the bad decisions and outcomes. It means finally learning to truly like yourself. It means allowing yourself to feel a healthy sense of pride and joy in a big accomplishment, rather than being self-deprecating and minimizing your hard work. It means being content in your current season of life, rather than spending all your time wishing you were in another one. It means you stop always shifting blame to other people and playing the victim. It means you take responsibility when you are a terrible human being, admit it and confess it to the Lord, and move forward in His forgiveness. It means that when bad things happen to you, in or out of your control, you spend less time complaining and more time praying.

But mostly? I think adulthood means becoming okay with being imperfect.

You see, we know in our minds that we will never be perfect. We know that. We’ve heard it and said it a thousand times, to others and to ourselves. But deep down, we still expect to be. And we HATE being reminded that we aren’t. Every flaw, every slip-up, every lapse in judgement is followed by the snide, mocking voice of our enemy whispering “Failure” in our desperately weary ears.

Why are we so hard on ourselves?

BECAUSE BEING AN ADULT IS HARD.

Even if you’ve been one for decades and you’ve settled into a routine, that doesn’t make it any less hard. You’re just used to it being hard. But for newbies, it’s overwhelming.

We put so much pressure on ourselves to be/look/feel a certain way already, and then, on top of our own self-doubt and self-hate, we get 500 pounds of cultural expectations dumped on us too. You’re supposed to be able to cook, clean, deep condition your hair, keep plants alive, be a sexy beast but not act overly proud about it, budget, eat organic, go to doctor’s appointments, drink enough water, keep up with laundry, give to the needy, actually put dishes in the dishwasher instead of letting them “soak,” read for pleasure, vote, get rid of your cellulite, call your parents, spend time with Jesus, say no to french fries drugs, take care of your skin, keep track of all the chemicals in your house that are killing you, be a good friend, eat other veggies besides potatoes, remember birthdays and anniversaries, take your vitamins, shave your legs, figure out how to fold fitted sheets, and give 110% at work AND home AND church AND the gym AND your high school reunions. And that’s not even counting all the stuff you have to add when you have children. There are countless, constant reminders of how much we fall short.

But there’s some good news, friend.

As followers of Jesus, we are made NEW. Meaning, we will be aware that we fall short, but we don’t have to hold on to that fact. We can accept it and let it go. We weren’t made new so that we could turn around and keep beating ourselves up about our failures every day for the rest of our lives. Do you realize that every mistake you make is literally in the past the second it’s over? When we accept the Gospel’s glorious good news, we are washed clean! We don’t have to try to be perfect anymore and keep it all together. When we are saved by Jesus, we don’t have to try to be holy; we ARE holy. Spiritual maturity is peacefully and willingly accepting imperfection on Earth, knowing that Jesus was perfect for us.

It doesn’t happen overnight, of course. But the more you focus on what God has done for you and the less you focus on yourself and all the ways you aren’t measuring up, slowly but surely, you’ll see the scale start tipping away from anxious inadequacy and toward calm acceptance. You can feel alllllll of those awkward, insecure teenager feelings as an adult sometimes and still tip the scale. I am! I’m starting to feel more comfortable in this season of life and in my own skin than I ever have before. (Apparently that happens when you get closer to your 30’s?) I’m learning to make peace with myself the way I am and find the balance between self-condemnation and apathy. I genuinely like where I am right now, in marriage, at work, and in our church community. And that feels really, really good. ♥

Small Biz Spotlight: Savannah Ashley Photography

This post is truly, honestly, ridiculously overdue. Savannah actually took these pictures two and a half years ago, and while I lovvvved looking at them and seeing her ‘styled shoot’ blog post, I had weird feelings about sharing them myself. I have no qualms about sharing photos of me WITH other people, but posting a photo shoot that’s literally just me felt…I don’t know. Awkward. But I finally decided to share them, because I want to introduce a new segment on the blog: Small Biz Spotlight! It’s not something I’ll do every month or anything. But as a small business owner myself, I know the struggles associated with running your own shenanigans, especially when it comes to marketing and building rapport. And I want to do whatever I can to be an advocate for other people like me.

Savannah Bidwell is the (gorgeous!) face behind Savannah Ashley Photography. I got connected with her through her husband, Andrew, who I met at a high school summer camp almost a decade ago. Before this shoot, Savannah and I had been social media friends for years but never actually met in person. When we finally met each other, she fully exceeded my expectations, and I’m not exaggerating when I say that she is one of the friendliest, funniest, most endearing people I’ve ever met! I had wanted to be friends with her for such a long time, and I had a blast participating in her styled shoot, even though it was January and insanely cold (literally the wind chill was like -14 degrees). When I decided to start this new series, I knew she’d be the perfect person to start with. Thanks for letting me interview you, Savannah!


Embracing the Chaos: So what was it that made you decide to become a photographer?
Savannah: “I always did want to be a photographer but I’m also a very practical person (little known fact) and I didn’t think it was practical or really possible to make a living that way. It didn’t dawn on me until after college that weddings were a totally valid option.”

ETC: What training/resources/etc. did you use to get started?
S: “What didn’t I use when I got started is really the question. I had a fair amount of shooting skill earlier on because I had picked it up in the past, but it was very basic. I started off making sure I understood my little starter camera through and through. I read all the manuals associated with it and YouYubed its features and practiced with it as much as I could. There is a resource called Creative Live, which airs all sorts of creative related educational live-stream videos, and I watched everything that I could that was relevant to me. I started with basics and fundamentals of shooting and lighting, and then moved on to working with people and posing, and then moved on to whole 30-day wedding photography classes, which threw in a lot of business information too (which was like drinking out of a fire hose). But I still learned a lot. Facebook was also super important and pretty much why I’m ALWAYS ON IT. I’m in DOZENS of photography-specific groups where people just talk shop and by absorbing that information, I actually learned a LOT of practical hands-on material. I messed around taking more and more self portraits, and before I knew it, other photographers saw them and asked if I could accompany them on their weddings as an assistant/second shooter. That’s where I learned the most and made a lot of connections.”

ETC: Work-wise, do you consider your business a full-time or part-time gig?
S: “Business was a weird, slow, dip-your-toe-in start for me in Washington State. Just as I had started to get it going, I got sick, and then we moved not terribly long after that so it was a weird year and a weird start. I like to say it became more official when we moved to North Carolina over a year ago. It’s pretty full-time now, but it started off last year more as a part-time thing. Now I take on my own weddings and elopements, allow other photographers to contract me out for assisting when I can, and I also do outsourcing work for other photographers as well (which is just when they send me their unedited wedding work and I process/edit it for them). And I occasionally freelance for local publications, or do e-commerce shooting for retail businesses.”

ETC: Where does your inspiration come from as an artist?
S: “Literally everything. I have a hard time focusing because I’m constantly inspired by upwards of 90% of what I’m seeing.”

ETC: What do you enjoy most about working as a photographer?
S: “SO MANY THINGS. I like being my own boss, which is great sometimes and really stressful other times, but ultimately I like to make the rules. I’m a functional introvert, which means I like to be left alone most of the time but I can totally fake being extroverted when I need to. So I get to be outgoing on wedding days and call all the shots and manage people BUT after that, I can retreat for a week and work at my computer with my cats. My life with my husband is a little different, so the fact that I can take work with me is really important and necessary for our weird lifestyle. Creative problem-solving is my jam, which is pretty much what wedding photography is. And I really, really love people. I love getting to be a part of other people’s lives and telling their story visually. I love giving people something beautiful and tangible to remember their wedding day by. And wedding food. Duh.”

ETC: What are the top 3 things you would tell an aspiring professional photographer?
S: “Join all the photography groups and soak up the information. Ask all of the questions. YouTube is your best friend. You don’t need to go to school for this, but if you do, skip the photography part (you can learn that all on the internet and with practice) and get a business degree.”

ETC: And finally, most importantly….pancakes or waffles?
S: “Waffles. But I’d actually rather just have crepes.”


And now that you’ve heard a little about her, here’s a look at her work!!

You can see lots more of her talented goodness over on her website. Thanks again, Savannah, for being part of my new series! ♥

 

10 Tips for Young Married Couples

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On this exact day in 2012, Daniel and I stood on a wooden stage in a circle of trees, surrounded by our families and friends, and vowed to each other and to God that we would honor, cherish, and encourage each other for the rest of our lives. As giddy as we were that evening, we didn’t really have a clue what we were saying. We weren’t prepared for how quickly we would be given opportunities to prove if we meant what we said. We have since had to make intentional choices to stick together and press in rather than fall apart during seasons of financial stress, sickness, family issues, spiritual apathy, infertility, the CPA, betrayal, busy work schedules, loss of friendships, bad health habits, and frustration over basic emotional/mental differences between men and women.

BUT GOD.

I’m convinced those two words make up one of the most beautiful phrases the Bible contains.

In the midst of ALL of those messy things, God has proved Himself to us over and over. We have experienced unbelievable peace, new friendships, expected and unexpected financial blessings, so much laughter, game nights, date nights, church growth, new homes, spiritual renewal, genuine community, forgiveness, and a deepening sense of safety, joy, and thankfulness for each other. I would gladly go through all of the lows again for the sake of all of those highs.

A marriage relationship is a picture of how God loves His people, and the longer I’m married, the more passionate I become about marriage ministry and making sure that the world is getting an accurate picture of that Great Love. I know quite a few couples who are newly married or about to get married, so in light of our anniversary, I wanted to share a few things we’ve learned over the last six years!

1. Become the world champion of reconciliation.
It’s important to remember that marriage is blending the lives of two sinners together. You are deeply flawed and selfish, and you are marrying a sinner who is also deeply flawed and selfish. You are going to disappoint each other. It’s inevitable. But it’s okay! Perfection is not required of us, thank God, because Jesus’s death on the cross already paid for our imperfection. Pray that God would make your heart more like His, and that you would be quick to apologize and forgive. Bitterness, anger, and a refusal to admit when you’re wrong will poison your relationship if you let them.

2. Always be your spouse’s #1 fan.
It’s amazing what a husband can accomplish when he knows his wife has his back, no matter what! Don’t underestimate the power of your encouraging words, and actively look for ways to praise him and cheer him on. Learn to “speak” his love language. Ask how you can pray for him, grab his hands, and pray over him out loud, right then and there. Be mindful of how you speak to him in front of others, or about him to others – public disrespect is a great way to instantly destroy someone’s trust.

3. Pick your battles.
People say this all the time, but good grief is it ever true. It’s hard to remember when you’re emotionally wrapped up in something, but some things just aren’t worth arguing about. Don’t go looking for reasons to be upset. Instead, think long-term and ask yourself, “Twenty years from now, will I be glad I fought for this? How important will it be that he did what I wanted, or that we didn’t agree about this?” At the end of your life together, you won’t remember that time he dumped hot chocolate in your newly cleaned sink or that she forgot to iron your dress shirt for work. Save your energy for the big things, and let the little things go.

4. Expectations affect literally everything.
Before you got married, you probably didn’t realize how many expectations you had – about food, housekeeping, kids, sex, money, time management, etc. But guess what? Your spouse grew up with his or her own expectations about the exact same things. We usually don’t find out what our expectations are until they are not met, and no matter how flexible you think you are, you’ll find out REALLY fast how ‘stuck in your ways’ both of you are. For every conscious or unconscious expectation you have for your spouse, he or she will have one for you too. It’s unrealistic to expect your spouse to do all the adjusting in your relationship. And it’s also unfair to ask your spouse to bend over backwards for you, while refusing to change or grow up a little yourself.

5. Don’t keep score.
You will absolutely, positively, unquestionably never be happy in your marriage if you do this. Score-keeping leads to comparison, selfishness, and bitterness. If your goal is for everything in your marriage to be equal at all times……I’m really sorry, but those moments, if they exist, will be rare. One person is almost always giving more, and that’s just how it is. Chores probably won’t be divided up 50/50. Neither will child-rearing. Neither will cooking or money-making or nurturing your relationship. And you know what? That’s okay. Marriages aren’t supposed to be each person giving 50/50. The best marriages come from couples who give 100/100. And although your spouse may be giving 45% on one particular day, you still need to give 100%. Why? Because that’s what you promised you would do on your wedding day. You can’t control what your spouse is doing, but you can control what you do. When you said your vows on your wedding day, I’m willing to bet that you didn’t say, “I vow to keep my vows, as long as you keep yours.”

6. Nail down financial habits early.
Did you know that finances rank in the top five things nearly all married couples argue about the most? Money affects every other piece of your lives together, and it’s incredibly important that you figure out what you’re doing in this area. You don’t need lots of money to be happy, but you do need to put good habits in place to prevent problems in the future. And don’t be afraid to ask for help! Pray that God would help you be a good steward of your money and give you wisdom, and find someone whose financial habits you respect and ask them for some advice. Then, sit down and decide together how much you want to spend, save, and give away. Regardless of who is better at budgeting, make sure you both have an active role as far as managing your money and making decisions. For example: Daniel is a financial analyst, so he’s obviously smarter as far as planning for our future and making sure we’re on the right track. However, I am the one who moves money to various places when we get paid – to a vacation fund, to emergency savings, paying extra toward a loan, etc. Long story short, both of you should know what your financial plans are. It’s not wise for one person to just kick back and say, “Ehh, you take care of it; just tell me how much I can spend on Amazon.”

7. Never substitute your spouse for God.
The truth is, no matter how great you are together, you will never completely fulfill each other. There will always be a huge, Grand Canyon-sized gap in your heart that no one but the Lord can fill, and it is fruitless for us to try to fill that gap with an imperfect person. Ruth Bell Graham said, “I pity the married couple who expect too much from one another. It is a foolish woman who expects her husband to be to her that which only Jesus Christ Himself can be: ready to forgive, totally understanding, unendingly patient, invariably tender and loving, unfailing in every area, anticipating every need, and making more than adequate provision. Such expectations put a man under an impossible strain. The same goes for the man who expects too much from his wife.” When you have a thriving relationship with Jesus, you will also be in the perfect position to have a thriving marriage.

8. Pray. All the time. For everything.
Pray so hard for your marriage. Never stop praying for each other and with each other. Pray as if your lives depend on it, because they do.

9. Protect your marriage with relentless vigilance.
There are so many things competing for your attention – romance novels, sex-saturated movies, pornography, flirtatious coworkers – and Satan will use as many as he can to steal your affection for your spouse. DON’T. LET. HIM. The most effective ways to safeguard yourselves are immersing yourself in God’s Word, praying, and allowing your Biblical community to hold you accountable and help keep a watchful eye out for any potential stumbling blocks. Maybe you set up accountability software on your computer. Maybe you decide that neither of you will be alone anywhere with another member of the opposite sex. Maybe you stop watching certain movies. I don’t know what your boundaries need to be, but quit messing around and put them in place. Other people might think you’re going overboard at times, and Satan might even try to keep you from setting boundaries by making YOU feel like you’re over-exaggerating. But at the end of the day, isn’t your marriage worth protecting at any cost?

10. Invest in your relationship.
Is your marriage really great right now? Keep it that way by making it a top priority. The best time to invest in your marriage is before you’re struggling. Read marriage books together, go to a conference, or plan a weekend getaway somewhere specifically to spend time reconnecting. If your instant reflex is “We just don’t have the time for that right now,” you need to make time. Your marriage has an impact on everything else you do in life, and if your marriage is shaky, everything else will be too. You will have to give up other things sometimes in order to put time and money toward strengthening your relationship, but it will absolutely be worth the investment.

Bonus: 11. Make some really good married friends.
It is so, so good for you to find other married couples that you can share your lives with transparently. A lot of couples go through the same things, especially in their first few years, and it helps so much to know that you aren’t alone in whatever you’re experiencing. Community is invaluable and beautiful, and your relationship will benefit from hanging out with other couples, as well as spending “just girls” and “just guys” time together.

This post is part of a series I started in order to expose myths and lies we’ve been told about married life, celebrate moments of joy and growth, chew on hard truths and sprinkle them with grace, and remind others (and myself!) that marriage doesn’t work without Christ in it. I have lots of ideas, but I’d love your input too! What topics would you like to see covered?

Parties I’m Dreaming About Throwing

Hi friends! If you’ve been following my blog for awhile, you know that I absolutely lovvvvve planning parties. I’m always on the hunt for a new theme, and my favorite ideas always involve unique, memorable details and themes that haven’t been ‘overdone.’ In my spare time over the last few months, I’ve been daydreaming about some of the events coming up this year, so in honor of those sweet dreams – here’s a list of a few parties I can’t wait to host!

The Great Gatsby inspired 30th birthday cakevia

1. Daniel’s 30th birthday party

As much as I would have loved to keep this one a surprise… (1) Daniel is hard to surprise, and (2) He’s not the biggest fan of surprises anyway. So he knows there’s a party, but he doesn’t know the theme. And I intend to keep it that way. ;)

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2. Gender-neutral baby shower

My sweet friend Dara is finally getting the cutest baby bump ever. She’s due in September, but they aren’t finding out if Baby Berry is a he or a she until birth!! I don’t know if I could wait that long myself, but I also don’t know if any surprise could be better than that one. Since we won’t know whether to plan for a boy or girl, I’ve been exploring lots of neutral themes, and I especially want to pick a theme that Mama D genuinely likes. (Sidebar – am I the only one who thinks a lot of baby shower themes are more cheesy than cute??)

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3. A backyard dinner party

I can’t understate how long I’ve been desiring to make this one happen. There’s something so cozy-feeling about combining your best friends, good food, a fire pit, music, a summer night sky, twinkly globe lights, and eating family style in the comfort and familiarity of your own backyard. Ooh, and s’mores!

How To Host A Favorite Things Party! | Twin Cities Moms Blogvia

4. A “Favorite Things” exchange

I heard about these on Pinterest several years ago, and I thought it sounded like so much fun! You invite a bunch of girlfriends, put out some yummy snacks, and everyone brings and leaves with a bag full of handpicked goodies – candles, bath products, candy bars, kitchen tools, etc. Each person brings five duplicates of her favorite thing for others to try, and she gets to go home with five of her friends’ favorite things!

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5. Literally any party, ever

I honestly don’t even care when or where or why…I just want a reason to make a cake that looks this gorgeous and delicious.

If you had an unlimited amount of money to throw a party…what would you do? Where would it be hosted? What kind of food? What kind of entertainment?

Friday Introductions

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I blinked and a month went by, y’all.

Like…….literally, it’s May.

We took those pictures ⇑⇑ in Alaska exactly a year ago.

WHAAAAAT.

I swear I say this every year, but dang, this year is flying by.

I’m so happy to be back on the blog – I’ve gotten some new followers over the last couple of weeks, so I wanted to take a quick minute to re-introduce myself. Welcome, and thanks for reading!

 

I’m Laura: married to Daniel and dog mom to Fitz! We love traveling, watching movies, hosting game nights, and eating good food while doing all of the above. I’ve been blogging since July of 2015 but writing for much longer. My favorite things to write about are marriage, following Jesus when you don’t feel like it, and our adventures across the globe. I’m also an aspiring event planner, and I hope to develop that dream a little more in the next few years!

Here’s a few other funny things you may not know about me:

  1. I had an outie belly button until I was 19. I had to have surgery to repair an umbilical hernia, and they stitched me up so tight that I can’t see the inside of it anymore. I’m a liiiittle nervous my belly button will literally explode whenever I have a giant pregnant belly. That, or poke out like a baby carrot.
  2. I took ballet lessons for 8 years when I was a kid. And I wish I hadn’t quit! I didn’t really have the feet or the flexibility to go anywhere big with it, but it was such a fun creative outlet.
  3. I am almost 30 and I still can’t go underwater without holding my nose. I know, I know. I just can’t!! I’m too afraid I’ll breathe in water and die.
  4. I grew up in an extremely musical family. This won’t be news to my old friends, of course. ;) Everyone in my family sings and plays the piano! We love musicals, we finish each other’s song lyrics, we can harmonize on command, and we were even affectionately referred to as the “Von Simma family” multiple times during my childhood.
  5. If I could have any food brought to me immediately, at any moment in time, it would be Chick Fil A. Truthfully, I’m not sure if I know anyone who loves Chick Fil A sauce as much as I do. The day I live in a town that has one will become the happiest day of my life. Move over, wedding day. (Lol, jk. Kind of.)

I am SO glad it’s Friday. We’ve got lots of fun planned for this weekend, including celebrating several friends who are graduating from nursing school and medical school. PLUSSSSS, I get to see my best friend AND my nephew Cole for the first time in MONTHS and I’m so excited about it that I might need to be sedated…!!!!

Happy weekend, guys! ♥

Your turn – tell me something funny about you in the comments!

2018 Travel Plans – Guess Where We’re Going??

Guys, I have a problem.

A big, wanderlusting, list-making, suitcase-packing problem.

The travel bug bit me HARD last year! In six months’ time, Daniel and I got to travel to three places neither of us had ever been before: Alaska, Colorado, and Las Vegas. For almost a year, I consistently had a trip to look forward to, and ever since we got back from Vegas last October, I’ve been dying to go somewhere again. Thankfully, we have a few plans in the works for 2018, and I’m so excited to finally share them with you!

Ever since Daniel and I got married, one of our goals has been to travel together as often as we can. It doesn’t have to be a luxury vacation or anything, but we’ve made it a priority to get away from home and spend extended time together at least once a year. Getting to visit new places or travel with other people we love is just the icing on the cake.

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Vacation Plan #1: Jacksonville, Florida

After my family went to Colorado last summer, it wasn’t long before my dad started talking about making the trip again this year. But then my brother moved to Jacksonville last December to become the newest meteorologist at Action News Jax, and even though my dad has never been a big beach person, I not-so-subtly suggested that our vacay plans should be to Florida this summer – and he took the bait!! I haven’t spent much time on the East Coast and I’ve never been to Florida before, so I’m really excited to get my tan on.

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Vacation Plan #2: Royal Caribbean Cruise

When Daniel and I took our first Caribbean cruise, we both said at the end of the week that we would love to go on a cruise with a group. We enjoyed the time away, just the two of us, but we kept thinking about how fun it would be to eat, lounge, and explore with some of our friends. We FINALLY booked our trip to Honduras, Cozumel, and Costa Maya after months of talking about it, and I’m freaking out a little!! So ready to go on a friendscation.

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Vacation Plan #3: Beaver’s Bend State Park

Equally as much as we want to travel with a group of friends, we’ve specifically been wanting to travel with two of our best friends for several years now; it’s just never worked out because of conflicting schedules and new babies. But I think the stars have finally aligned, haha! Spending an extended weekend in a cabin is actually on my 30 By 30 list too, so I’ll get to kill two birds with one stone. Please spam me with any cabin recommendations if you’ve stayed in the area before!

I can’t wait to start packing! Where are you going this year?

He’s In the Waiting

“I wait for the Lord, I expectantly wait, and in His word do I hope.”
— Psalm 130:5 (AMP)

In 28 years, I haven’t met a single person who enjoys waiting. I am convinced that patience is one of the hardest fruits of the Holy Spirit to integrate into our lives. We live in a world full of microwaves, text messaging, and fast food, and I’ll admit that I have a difficult time sitting still and waiting for anything. We want things NOW. The God of the Bible, however, does not fit into the mold of NOW. To Him, a day is like a thousand years, and a thousands years are like one day. He is perfectly capable of giving us what we want when we want it, but just because He is capable doesn’t mean He will do it. And that doesn’t mean that He is not good or that He doesn’t love us. In fact, it means exactly the opposite.

God isn’t a vending machine. We can’t view our relationships with Him like a mathematic formula:

[Prayer + Bargaining + Crying + Impatience = whatever we want from God.]

There are several flaws in this train of thought. First of all, if that’s truly what God’s nature is *supposed* to be like, that’s a completely different god than the One I surrendered my life to. The God I follow is the one with the power in the relationship, not me. He doesn’t bend to my will; I bend to His. Second, if God really was like that, we wouldn’t have much need for Him, right? A relationship wouldn’t be necessary or possible, because the only time we would talk to Him would be if we wanted something. Third, consider parenthood. Is someone really a good parent if they just give their kids whatever they want all the time? The kid might think so! But I think most of us would agree that this is not a good parenting strategy. Kids don’t actually know what they want a lot of the time, or they don’t realize that what they want is dangerous or not good for them. In our relationships with the Lord, we are the kids who either don’t know what we really want OR want something that would be harmful for us, and God is the good Father who – in perfect love – does not always give us exactly what we ask for, but cares for us and provides everything we need.

When we pray, God answers our prayers in one of three ways: yes, no, and wait. Waiting forces us to slow down. It makes us think about what we’re asking for and whether or not we really want it. Waiting is also one way God draws us closer to Him when we choose to trust Him even though we aren’t sure what’s going to happen next. Learning to wait patiently is a sign of maturity – as I mentioned before, it’s one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit, and living proof that God is transforming our lives! It takes hard work to develop, but most valuable things do.

I want to leave you with one final thing to think about today, for wherever you are in your own wait. Have you ever thought about how many people in the Bible had to wait for something? Jacob waited for his wife for 14 years after he met her. Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel, Hannah, Elizabeth, and many others waited for a baby, and Sarah in particular turned 90 years old before God gave her Isaac. The Israelites waited for 40 years for God to lead them into the Promised Land. David waited to become king, spending at least 15 more years in the pasture as a shepherd after he was anointed by Samuel. There are countless other examples, but my point is that although many of those waits lasted for decades, God was never late, and every single one of His promises was fulfilled at exactly the right time in history. We can take encouragement from these true stories of God’s faithfulness and know that as He was faithful to those early believers, He will be just as faithful to us.

“Take courage my heart, stay steadfast my soul
He’s in the waiting, He’s in the waiting
Hold unto your hope, as your triumph unfolds
He’s never failing, He’s never failing”
— chorus from “Take Courage” by Bethel Music

“I trust in the steadfast love of God forever and ever. I will thank you forever, because you have done it. I will wait for your name, for it is good.”
— Psalm 52:8-9 (ESV)

Guest Room: Midnight Snack Basket

How many times have you spent the night at someone else’s house, only to have a snack craving after your host has already gone to bed? Unless your host is your own mom or you haven’t eaten in three days, you’re probably not going to sneak into the kitchen and rummage through the pantry. But any guest who stays at MY house doesn’t have to sneak around, because I put snacks in their room for them!

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It’s important to me that people feel comfortable at my house, whether they come visit for an hour or stay for a couple of days, and giving them a great place to sleep is a big part of that. Even when Daniel and I were newly married and living in a tiny apartment, I dreamed of having an inviting, cozy guest bedroom for guests to use. I inherited my love of hosting people in my home from my mother, and I hope that someday I’m as great of a host as she is!

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If you have a guest room and want to really kick it up a notch, making a snack basket is a super easy way to start. I just try to cover the basics and think about what kinds of things people might forget or want when they aren’t staying in their own home. Your options are virtually limitless, and you can change it up throughout the year too! Here’s a short list of what I typically try to keep in mine:

Magazine
Lotion
Hand sanitizer
Anti-wrinkle spray
Chapstick
Bottled water
Snacks
Gum or mints

I also have a little basket of toiletries in the bathroom! Again, I just stick with the basics: toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant, shampoo, conditioner, and face wash.

This isn’t an expensive project, but it can have a big impact. With just a little bit of effort, you can make your guests feel extra special when they stay with you!

What little details make you feel taken care of when you’re a guest in someone else’s home?

What It’s Like to Be 28 + 30 By 30 Update

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Y’all should know by now that I LOVVVVVVVVVVVVE my birthday. Always have and probably always will. But two years ago, when I turned 26, I had a weird moment. Literally, that picture at the top of this post could not be more real. 25 was my golden birthday – turned 25 on the 25th – and I felt soooo adult-y and grown-up. And then I turned 26 and was like, “Hold up…”

28 wasn’t intimidating until I remembered that my mom had me when she was 28. When Daniel and I got married, I was 22, and I never felt in a hurry to have kids because my parents were 28 and 30, and they did just fine. But I also didn’t expect to be married for 6 years and still not have kids, and as my birthday approached, I couldn’t stop the flood of thoughts:

I’m about to be the age my mom was when she had me. And I’m the oldest kid. I better get a move on; I can’t have my first kid when I’m 30. And what in the heck am I doing with my life?? I’m almost out of my 20’s and haven’t I cured cancer or created a new social media site yet. Everyone else is doing super important things with their life and yesterday I tried to get out of my car with my seat belt still on. *sigh*

All things considered, though, my birthday was actually AMAZING. My husband woke me up with breakfast in bed and some wonderful birthday gifts, we went to lunch with a group of friends from church and did a little shopping, and then celebrated with friends, pizza, cake, champagne, games, and a movie night at our house that night. It didn’t have to be anything extravagant or expensive – just knowing that Daniel planned everything in advance made me feel very loved. ♥

I also wanted to take a second to fill you in on my 30 By 30 progress, since I brought it up – so here’s a few things I’ve accomplished since my last update!

30 By 30 Update

#5. Throw someone a surprise party.
I actually did this twice last fall – a Stranger Things party for Jeremy, and a 13 Going on 30 party for Courtnie!

#15. Take Fitz on a trip.
Fitz goes to Thackerville with us all the time, but he also took a little vacation to meet up with a female German shepherd named Scarlett…! Haha. Things apparently went well, because Scarlett had a bunch of super cute puppies.

#17. Make a map of places we’ve visited.
When we went to Colorado with my family last summer, I found the perfect thing in one of the shops in downtown Silverton – a tea towel with a giant map of the United States on it, with all the states outlined. I’ve started coloring in each state we’ve visited with a Sharpie.

#27. Go on a fancy dress-up date.
We got to do this in Vegas for the MONAT gala. I just love dressing up!

I also finished another book (The Meaning of Marriage) and traveled to another state (Nevada). I never would have guessed when I created my list that I’d go to so many new states so quickly. My goal in 2016 was to visit five new states by February 2020, and I visited four in 2017 alone!!

What’s coming up in 2018? Nothing definite yet, but hoping to check #13, #19, and #26 off the list. What do you have planned this year?

Ahoy, It’s a Boy!

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I had so much fun throwing this sweet beach-themed baby shower for my sister-in-law, Hannah! I can’t take credit for the theme idea (that was all Baily), but I CAN take credit for the more-time-consuming-than-I-expected crepe paper wall. ;)

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The decorations were honestly pretty easy, aside from the time it took to tape up the crepe paper. I used several blue fabric tablecloths and a gauzy sheer curtain, made some balloon bubbles, and topped the table with driftwood, coral, a DIY treasure chest, and some shells. I also repurposed some decorations I already had, including my blue mason jars, letter board, and branches. (Pro tip: if you host a lot of parties, or want to in the future, start stockpiling pieces that you know you’ll use over and over again!)

As far as food goes, this was the most low-maintenance party food ever – next to no food prep! All we had to do was slice up the cucumbers and tie the Twizzlers into knots. The complete menu consisted of:

Life Preservers (donuts)
Flying Fish (goldfish crackers)
Sea Cucumbers
Crab Legs (carrot sticks)
Pirate Knots (Twizzlers)

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I loved watching the kids get in on the snack action too! Lots of sticky fingers and happy frosting mouths. :)

Sweet mama Hannah and some of her sisters. ♥ It was so funny – after I took this picture and looked at it to make sure everyone was smiling, I said, “Hannah, you barely even look pregnant in this picture!” Most pregnant women probably would have been happy to hear that, but Hannah’s face fell and she said, “Oh no, let me turn sideways!!” It made us laugh!

To everyone’s surprise, baby Luke decided to come a few weeks early! Thankfully, he has been a super healthy, super chill baby, which is exactly what Hannah needed. He looks so much like his brother to me, and I’m already obsessed with him. Being an aunt is pretty great!

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If you need help planning a party, let ya girl know – I’d love to get ice cream or coffee with you sometime and talk about your vision!