2019 Goals + Word for the Year

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Two years ago, I unintentionally started my own New Year’s tradition. Instead of creating resolutions that would be too easily forgotten or too quickly broken (like giving up fast food completely or working out every single day), I made a list of a few specific, measurable, realistic goals for the year. A list that I could come back to a year later to reflect on and see how I grew. And the idea kind of stuck with me, so here I am, for the third year in a row, thankful for God’s faithfulness in 2018 and turning a hopeful eye toward the year ahead!

MY 2018 GOALS WERE:

  • Each night (or as often as I can), write down something that made me happy that day. ✓
    This ended up being one of my favorite things on my 2017 list, and I knew I wanted to continue it last year. It’s so sweet to flip back through and remember the little moments (and big moments) that colored my life with meaning.
  • Read through the whole Bible chronologically. 
    I haven’t made it all the way through yet, but I am really proud to say I’ve been more consistent with getting in the Word than I ever have been in my life. Reading every single day has become a true habit.
  • Send 12 random surprise gifts to family, friends, or coworkers. ✓
    The gift-giver and surprise-lover in me had a blast doing this one! Among others, I took sweet treats to Daniel and my coworkers, sent some date night gift cards in the mail, and made a “Welcome Home” basket for some friends who had a baby.
  • Create new blog/social media content more consistently. ✓
    I based this one purely on stats. In 2017, I published 37 blog posts. In 2018, I published…37. Lol. But hey, I’m consistent! Originally, I had wanted to create more social media content as well, but honestly, I reached a point where I was sick of social media. I still wanted to enjoy it, but I was tired of trying to keep people *engaged* all the time, and I felt controlled by it. So I quit! I took the pressure off of myself and just started posting when I felt like it. And I am not sorry in the slightest.
  • Go on a group vacation with good friends. ✓
    I told Daniel that the way you know a group vacation was a success is when you get to the end of the trip and would willingly travel with those people again, and that was DEFINITELY the case after our group cruise! I’m already ready for the next one.
  • Have at least one TV-free day per week, and one social media-free day per month.
    I’m not even going to sugarcoat it: I 100% failed at this one. I don’t think I even accomplished this in one month out of twelve, and if I did, it was by accident. But I know exactly why I failed, and it’s because I didn’t make a plan. So I’m carrying this goal over into 2019, and I have a plan to make it happen.
  • Become a MONAT Mentor by the end of the year.
    This goal and my social media goal were actually very closely connected. If you’re friends with me on social media, you probably noticed that I haven’t been posting about MONAT as much anymore, and that’s partially because I felt like I was constantly stressed about not producing enough engaging content and connecting with people through those platforms. But before you get uppity about network marketing, just know that I am still a Market Partner, I still think MONAT is a fantastic company, I still love their hair products, AND I’m even still earning income. However, I decided that, for the time being, taking a step back from MONAT was what I needed, and I have not regretted that decision. I can always go back to it later if I want, but for now, I am enjoying this season and digging deeper into my relationship with the Lord, spending time with people I love, dreaming a little about the future, and learning more about myself.
  • Take a trip to visit my brother at his new place in Florida. ✓
    The beach, St. Augustine, Magic Kingdom – it was such a blast being with my family for a few days! You can read more about that trip here.
  • Plan a few out-of-the-ordinary date nights – new things we’ve never done before. ✓
    This one requires a bit of a story, so here’s the Reader’s Digest version. Daniel’s boss gave him a gift card to this really nice steakhouse – Del Frisco’s Double Eagle. We decided to use it for our 6th anniversary, so we got dressed up and headed to Dallas. After one of the most delicious meals and best conversations we’ve ever had together, Daniel reached in his wallet for the gift card…and found nothing, because I had accidentally left it on the piano at our house before we left. *cue the tears* I was horribly embarrassed, but Daniel had a good sense of humor about it and finally got me to smile by reminding me that forgetting the gift card just meant that we would have to come back again, and we already knew exactly what to order. Major facepalm on my part, but we still had a really great time.
  • Walk more: with Daniel, with Fitz, in the park, on a beach… ;) 
    We walked allllll over Disney World until our feet about fell off! And we started trying to take Fitz on walks again, even though he is frustratingly strong.

• 2019 •

Each night (or as often as I can), write down something that made me happy that day.

Plan a “stay-cation”.

Learn something new – an intimidating recipe, common phrases in a few other languages, maybe a yoga pose. But something brand new to me.

Finish reading through the whole Bible chronologically.

Do just enough cardio to keep my heart from literally bursting at two of the most anticipated, most emotional, and most exciting weddings of my life: Robyn + Travis and Amanda + Ryan. 2019 = THE YEAR OF LOVE ♥♥

Find a fun 5k in my area, train for it, and run in it.

Pray for Daniel every single day.

Have at least one TV-free day per week, and one social media-free day per month.

Set specific time aside to do something for our marriage: a weekend away, a marriage conference, etc.

Host our friends for a full-fledged, multi-course dinner party.


Another tradition I paired with my list of goals was picking a word for the year. In 2017, I chose ‘Hope’ – the anchor of souls, assurance despite repeated disappointment, and the companion of trust – and it couldn’t have been a more perfect choice. Last year, I believe with all my heart that God Himself gave me the word ‘Courage’, which was very appropriate…but to tell you the truth, I don’t know if I really lived up to it. I spent many moments in 2018 feeling weak, scared, and timid.

Because of that, I felt a little more pressure to find *THE PERFECT WORD* for 2019 because I didn’t want to choose something easy or cheesy, or turn my spiritual growth into nothing but striving to live up to a certain word. But much like last year, one word kept showing up everywhere, and I don’t think it was by accident:

J O Y .

Joy is not the same as simply feeling happy. Joy can be chosen and felt regardless of your life circumstances. I’ve learned that worrying obsessively won’t stop the bad stuff from happening. It just keeps you from enjoying the good. I want to stop focusing on things I can’t control and enjoy my life, exactly the way it is. ♥

What is one of your goals for this year? Tell me in the comments!

20 Questions for 2018

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What was the best thing that happened this year?
I honestly can’t pick between helping throw my sweet grandparents a 60th anniversary party, welcoming my nephew Luke into the world, going to Florida with the Simma fam, throwing my favorite party to date, taking family photos with the Hendricksons, our Caribbean cruise with the McCains, or getting asked to be a bridesmaid in BOTH of my sisters’ weddings next year. It’s been a great year! ♥

What was the most challenging thing that happened this year?
Accepting the fact that God’s timeline is not my timeline by (1) remembering that God’s ideas are more profound than mine and He doesn’t owe me anything, and (2) acknowledging that I haven’t trusted Him enough to conform my own limited idea of a timeline to His perfect, unfailing Will.

Who were your most valuable friendships with?
Our community group, without a single hesitation. We’ve done so much life together in the last two years, more than I think any of us could have ever imagined. Together, we’ve faced nearly every major life event shoulder-to-shoulder: graduations, death of loved ones, new jobs, moving, family drama, pregnancies, new babies, loss of friendships, chronic illnesses, infertility, miscarriages, and a wide variety of struggles within marriage. I get misty-eyed and lose my words when I think about how thankful I am that God helped us find each other and become a weird little family.

What are some new skills that you learned?
Hmmm. I got way more comfortable with party-planning! I learned how to pack more stuff in a carry-on suitcase. I found out that I actually kind of like lifting weights, and I got better at celebrating others getting their breakthrough/answer/miracle while still waiting for one of my own.

Pick three words to describe this year.
Fun. Restoring. Enlightening.

What was your biggest personal change from January to December?
This is going to sound way more “hippie” than I mean for it to, but after almost 29 years, I think I’m finally starting to find myself, to figure myself out. I’m in a season of learning in regards to self-awareness and self-acceptance, in virtually every area of my life: my personality, marriage, personal style, how I decorate and care for my home, my worldview, work ethic, community, etc. I’m more aware than ever of how deeply self-focused I am, how much I don’t know, and how much I have left to learn. But I also desire really strongly to make peace with the things I consider ‘flaws’ about myself that really aren’t, and to believe the truths that God says about me instead of spending so much time telling Him (and the people in my life) why I don’t really deserve that kind of love. I want to find the line between “I’ll never be good enough” and “I’m perfect the way I am, and people just need to accept that,” because at their cores, neither of those attitudes are healthy. I want to view myself and the way I make choices through a biblical lens, through the eyes of God.

What was the best book you read this year?
One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp. Literally changed my life. It will change everything you think about what counts as a “good gift” from God.

What did you do to serve others this year?
I did a lot for my mom friends – hosting baby showers, taking them food, and helping around the house. I also tried to be a lot more intentional about keeping in touch with long-distance friends this year, asking how they were doing in marriage/parenthood and how I could pray for them.

Name a couple of positive memory-making experiences from 2018.
In addition to everything I mentioned in the first question…spending every Monday with our community group. The Merrill Lynch client conference in Scottsdale, Arizona. Watching Jennifer graduate from med school and spending Mother’s Day in Tulsa. My birthday when Daniel cut off the top of a bottle of champagne with a sword. Disneyworld. Celebrating the births of Abraham Burke, Nolan Savage, and Laeklyn Wesberry. Our anniversary dinner at Del Frisco’s Double Eagle. Y’all, 2018 has been LIT.

What 2018 accomplishments are you most proud of?
Completing some major projects at work (launching Naturally Slim, creating a Performance Appraisal/Salary Administration communication schedule from scratch), having a really good performance review, and getting 95% of my Christmas shopping done before Thanksgiving!

What are some things you’ve learned to accept this year?
That I am a mess. A total, complete mess. I’m still working on the whole “accepting that God STILL loves me without reservation in spite of the fact that I’m a mess” part, but getting past my self-righteousness, pride, and lack of self-awareness has been a big first step.

In what ways did you grow spiritually?
WHOA, how much time do you have??? Wow. I honestly don’t know if I can explain the stirring that happened in my heart when I read that question. This year forced me to rely on God more than any other year of my entire life. I have been broken by loss, health issues that were out of my control, and my own sinfulness, and God continued to show up. And He taught me to keep showing up.

What did you gain in 2018? What did you lose?
Gained = a stronger marriage, deeper existing friendships, and an up-close-and-personal perspective of what biblical community really looks like.
Lost = hope (temporarily), my patience, my temper, my keys…remember that other question when I said I was a mess??

Name a difficult situation you overcame.
Out of respect to Daniel, I don’t want to go into too much detail, but we encountered some major marriage hurdles and had to cope with a devastating loss this year. Praise God for His grace, our friends, and a truly wonderful husband. ♥

What is something you want to do better in 2019?
Worry less about things I don’t have any control over. Also, I want to talk on the phone more when I can’t see someone in person, like my parents, my grandparents, and my long-distance friends. I just had this thought the other day and I haven’t been able to shake it ever since – I’m pretty sure that when I’m at one of my best friend’s funerals someday, I won’t be thinking, “Man, I wish I had texted her more.”

What was the best thing you did with your time this year?
TRAVEL. I visited multiple new states and got to spend uninterrupted time with Daniel, my parents and siblings, and some of our best friends!

What was the single biggest time-waster in your life this year?
Social media.

What are you most grateful for in 2018?
Daniel’s selflessness, financial stability, and the genuineness of my friendships.

What do you want to leave behind in 2018?
My short temper, my sharp tongue, and my unwillingness to change.

Who do you want to be in 2019?
A woman known for her contagious joy. ♥

Maybe 2018 was an amazing year and all your dreams came true! (And if so, just shut up and enjoy being a Disney princess.) Or maybe this year completely sucked, and you’ve been ready for 2019 since June. Either way, we can’t successfully walk into the future without making peace with our past, whether it was good or bad. I can’t think of a better way to close the book on 2018. Feel free to join in and answer them for yourself!

Listicle Series: Currently

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Anticipating… the rest of the holiday season!! October through December is my favorite time of the year, every year. Happy Hallowthanksmas.

Buying… shoes from Target! Or trying to, anyway. I’ve been playing this game for almost a week. The shoes I want were out of stock in my size, so I signed up to get notified when they are back in stock. But I never see the notification on time, which means the shoes are out of stock again by the time I go back and look. That exact process probably happened six times. It doesn’t help that I am also the most indecisive shopper of all time, so by the time I finally manage to get the dang shoes, I’ll probably get buyer’s remorse. *eyeroll*

Cooking… these chocolate chip oatmeal bars. Pretty much all the time.

Drinking… not nearly as much water as I should be. Any tips for keeping yourself hydrated? I’m craving homemade apple cider too!

Enjoying… cooler weather! I love cloudy, rainy days and when there’s just enough of a nip in the air that all you need is a warm jacket to feel cozy.

Feeling… so good about life. I’m so thankful for our families, our best friends, our home, our dog, our jobs, our church – we are the luckiest!

Going… crazy over the fact that I get to be a bridesmaid for my sister Robyn’s and my sister-in-law Amanda’s weddings next year!! Double the fun! ♥♥

Hoarding… alllllllll the sentimental things. I did a huge house-wide purge a couple weeks ago. I went through all of our closets and drawers and got rid of a ton of stuff. But I just couldn’t bear to get rid of some of my mementos.

Imagining… how amazing it would be if our German shepherd would stop marking in the house overnight. *facepalm*

Joking… about killing the German shepherd for marking in the house overnight.

Keeping… the German shepherd even though he keeps marking in the house overnight.  (Okay I’m done now)

Listening… to Christmas music NONSTOPPPPP.

Making… stovetop potpourri for a few Christmas gifties!

Neglecting… my health. :( It’s hard during the holidays.

Organizing… my to-do lists on my phone and updating my wish list.

Packing… for a Christmas weekend at my in-laws’ house with (almost) all the sibs – missing you, Amanda and Ryan!

Quitting… snacking at work. It’s turned into a bit of a problem…lol.

Reading… Crazy Rich Asians and Emotional Intelligence 2.0.

Saving… box tops for education. I have a big handful in a drawer that I need to send off!

Thinking… about throwing a Galentine’s Day party a la Leslie Knope, come February…!

Using… a lot of my free time to Insta-stalk Carly Jean Los Angeles because their stuff is so. dang. cute.

Valuing… sweet Christmas cards we’ve gotten in the mail from loved ones.

Wanting… to fast forward to my next vacation with Daniel because #wanderlust.

Wearing… new jeans from Madewell and Loft, thanks to some good advice from friends on Facebook and Instagram! I’m officially obsessed.

Waiting… impatiently to have Christmas at my house so Daniel and I can exchange our own gifts!!!

Come on, gimme a break – X, Y, and Z were impossible, so you get extra W’s instead. :)

Listicle Series: 16 Things That Make Me Feel Pretty

View More: http://savannahashleyphotography.pass.us/laura-styled-bridal

The world we live in is ROUGH, y’all. Especially because of social media. Day in and day out, we are inundated with verbal and virtual opinions. No matter what we’re doing or not doing, the message is the same: we are either too much or not enough.

“You need to work out more.”
“Don’t lift too much or you’ll look like a man.”
“Your makeup should look flawless.”
“You’re wearing way too much makeup.”
“You should wear more makeup.”
“Stop eating so much or you’ll get fluffy.”
“You eat like a bird, are you anorexic?”
“You should always strive to be better.”
“You should like yourself the way you are.”
“You should be more like ____.”
“Don’t be so emotional.”
“You’re so cold, don’t you have feelings?”
“Make sure you always look pretty and put-together.”
“Stop trying so hard – who are you trying to impress?”
“If you got it, flaunt it!”
“You should cover that up, you look desperate.”
“Take more pictures, people want to see the real you.”
“Too many selfies – obsessed with yourself much?”
“Your style is too boring.”
“Your style is too crazy.”
“Do you even know what your style is?”
“You post on social media too much.”
“You don’t post on social media enough.”
“Don’t post anything too controversial.”
“Don’t you care what other people think?”
“You shouldn’t care what others think.”

Yiiiiiiiiiiiiiikes. I’m pretty sure nobody can ever measure up to all of that.

It’s startling to realize that I’ve spent years – literal years – of my life worrying what other people think. “Do people like me? Do they think I’m funny? Do they think I’m pretty? Do they think I’m weird/a prude/too loud/too honest/a good friend/a bad friend/etc.?” In actuality, most of the time, ‘those people’ probably haven’t been thinking about me at all. And meanwhile, I’ve been making decisions and tailoring my actions based on what ‘those people’ (the ones who aren’t even thinking about me) are supposedly thinking about me.

………uh.

You do the same thing too, though. Right?

Here’s the cold hard truth. You can’t make everyone happy. You are not a jar of Nutella or a basket of puppies. There are even people out there who don’t like Nutella or puppies (although I find that fundamentally strange and will probably never relate to those people because HELLO, Nutella and puppies are everything).

No matter what you do or don’t do, somebody will be able to find something wrong with it. But it’s pretty freeing when you are finally able to just do your thing without being so tied up in what everybody else thinks about it. In light of that, I want to share a list of things that make me feel pretty. Not things that “should” make me or anybody else feel pretty. Not shallow, hollow constructs that I use to hide who I really am. Just…things that make me feel pretty!


THE PRETTY LIST

Good hair days.

Painted toenails.

Neutral colors and jewel tones.

That delicious feeling of crawling between clean sheets after you shave your legs.

Wearing high heels.

Taking professional photos.

Yoga. I don’t ALWAYS feel pretty, but it makes me feel strong. Which is pretty dang close.

Floor-length dresses.

Eating better, exercising, and seeing the difference in the mirror.

Red lipstick.

The way my skin feels after a face mask.

Putting together new outfits from pieces in my closet.

My wedding rings.

Getting my teeth cleaned. Weird, I know, but I seriously feel like I could conquer the world after my dentist appointments.

Wearing perfume. Not body spray; real perfume.

Going out with Daniel or with one of my girl gangs.


I think it’s important to know what things give your heart a little joy, especially if they are things you have control over. Who cares what other people think?? Taking care of yourself in simple ways is important, and just because someone else says something is shallow/lame/weird doesn’t mean that it actually is.  Girl, listen – as long as the things that make you happy are God-glorifying, healthy, legal, and not dangerous to yourself or others……YOU. DO. YOU. ♥

What kinds of things make YOU feel pretty?

Friendsgiving

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We forgot about mashed potatoes.

The rolls weren’t done on time.

There weren’t enough chairs for everyone.

Babies got jealous of each other nursing and cried.

The whipped cream never came out of the fridge.

There was wayyyyy too much leftover ham.

I only took two pictures all night.

But none of that really mattered, because at the end of the night, we were well-fed and happy and warm, and we enjoyed each other’s company like the family we are. It was the most perfectly imperfect night with some of my favorite people. ♥

“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere heartspraising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” — Acts 2:42-47

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Small Biz Spotlight: Cromer & Co.

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For years, Christy was one of those photographers I watched from a distance on social media and secretly thought, Man, I reeeeeeeally want her to take our pictures!! I loved her ability to capture genuine smiles and the emotion of a moment, and her candid, comfortable approach toward her sessions was obvious from the photos she posted. I was so excited when we were finally able to use her for the Hendrickson family photo shoot earlier this year, and I couldn’t be happier with the gorgeous pictures she gave us!

I knew when I started my Small Biz Spotlight feature posts that I only wanted to share businesses I could personally advocate for. I’m not getting paid to promote any of these people; I’m just sharing things that I like with you in the hopes that you’ll support those faces behind the businesses too! Over the last few years, I’ve gotten to experience a few of 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 a cheerleader for other people like me, and any friends who are working hard on their dream. So, without further ado, say hello to Christy Cromer of Cromer & Co.!


Embracing the Chaos: What made you want to become a photographer? What were you doing before?
Cromer & Co.: “This might sound super cliche but….I’ll say it anyways. Growing up, I always remember my mom having a camera in her hand taking pictures of us. She took pictures of the regular mundane days as well as softball games, dance recitals, birthday parties, Christmas morning, etc. My grandpa also always had a camera in his hand – heck, he even had his own dark room where he developed his own film. So I grew up around it. I remember in high school being interested and taking photos of my friends and activities but it wasn’t until I had my kids that I really became interested. Once those babies were here, I remember this overwhelming since of urgency to capture EVERYTHING! Their tiny feet and hands, their baby mohawks and silly smiles, their giggles and baby fat rolls. I bought my first ‘fancy’ camera when Kasen, my second little one, was about two months old. My obsession with capturing every moment of my kids lives turned into a fun hobby and eventually my side-business.

I was working as a nurse at the Women’s Center in Durant and I had four kids under the age of 6 *I know, I gasped too!* I was working 2-3 shifts per week and I felt like I was missing a lot of time with them. I would leave the house before they were awake and a lot of time I would not get home until late and they were already in bed asleep. I knew I wanted to be available and present for them, more than what I was doing at the time. So I really started working hard to get better with my camera so that I felt comfortable taking pictures of other people. I slowly backed off on my nurse work days and dabbled in photography part-time. Eventually I was able to resign completely and do photography full time.”

ETC: What training/resources/etc. did you use to get started?
C&C: “Honestly, I watched TONS of YouTube videos about my camera. I learned it inside and out so that I could manipulate it and make it do what I wanted it to do. I also studied other photographers’ work. When I became really serious about wanting to do this as my full-time job, I started attending workshops online and in person. The online workshops were mostly all geared towards newborn photography. For the in-person workshops, I found photographers that inspired me and made me want to be better, and the ones who I felt I would connect with the most. They were: Joy Neville’s Tell A Story workshop in Dallas, Kimmy Howard’s Newborn Workshop in Indianapolis, and most recently the Own It Workshop with Wyn Wiley, Ellie Berry & Abbey Moore in Breckenridge, CO.”

ETC: Work-wise, do you consider your business a full-time or part-time gig?
C&C: “This is definitely a full-time gig. To some, it may seem that being photographer is easy, but I spend a LOT of time sitting at the computer either: culling images, editing, responding to emails/texts/Facebook messages, or watching online educational resources. I may only spend one hour with you and your family, but what goes on behind the scenes (aka at my computer desk) is time-consuming. During my busy fall season, I spend almost every available moment at my desk. All of this while still trying to be a mom and wife and friend!”

ETC: Where does your inspiration come from as an artist?
C&C: “I would say it comes from the people in front of my camera. I try to approach each session with the idea that there is no one else like these people in the world. I want to tell a story, whether it’s a couple who are crazy in love and they have a silly way of showing it, a new mom who loves to smell the top of her newborn’s head…maybe it’s the way the grandparents look on as their granddaughter or grandson is saying ‘I do’. I don’t know, I think it is just as important to catch the in-between, unposed moments as it is the posed ones. I honestly believe that a photo of you hugging your grandma at your wedding is going to be way more important to you than the Instagram-worthy posed moment at just the right time during the sunset. Everyone has a story, and it’s important to document each session so that it is a true representation of the people in the images.”

ETC: What do you enjoy most about working as a photographer? The least? Has anything surprised you about being a small business owner?
C&C: “I think what I enjoy most about being a photographer is all of the relationships and connections that have come my way. I have photographed some of my clients for four years in a row now, so seeing them each year is so much fun. Especially when the kids get out of the car and run towards me with the biggest hugs to give. I’ve made a lot of friends through this little business.

The least? EDITING, and all of the hours I sit alone in my house at my computer. It can be a little lonely. I also do not enjoy the ‘business’ side of being a business owner. That’s why I have Cody, he takes care of all of that. I just take care of the people.

I think everyday is a new surprise when you are a small business owner. Honestly, the stress of knowing that this is what provides for my kids and family is stressful. Some days I think ‘Man, I’m really doing great at this whole thing,’ and other days ‘I have to find a new job, this is never going to work out…’ I also tend to overthink everything! That’s why it’s nice to have Cody to help me – he is always talking me off that cliff.”

ETC: Where do you envision your business going?
C&C: “Eventually, I would like for this to be both of our full-time jobs and maybe do some more traveling with it. We also have BIG dreams of opening a venue.”

ETC: What are the top 3 things you’d tell an aspiring photographer?
C&C: “1. SHOOT, SHOOT & SHOOT some more. You will only get better if you practice. 2. Learn your camera inside and out. You should be able to work that thing with your eyes closed in manual mode. 3. Be yourself. It’s really easy to get caught up in the comparison game (trust me, I know this really well). The thing is, no one else has the vision that you do or will take the same photos you can take. I feel that if you stay true to who you are, it will show in your work.”

ETC: Most importantly…cake, cookies, or pie? 😉
C&C: “THIS IS THE HARDEST QUESTION! Can I say all three? I do the happy dance the morning of every wedding because I know my night ends with cake (and bonus points to the couple if it is Red Velvet). I also LOVE warm chocolate chip cookies and it’s almost Thanksgiving so we cannot forget the pumpkin pie.”


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

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World’s best humans, ranked:
1. Daniel Hendrickson. ♥

I absolutely loved our little mini moment with Christy during the Hendrickson family photo shoot! The more professional pictures Daniel and I take together, the more convinced I am that we need to do it more often. Big thanks again to Cromer & Co. for the beautifully-preserved memories! You can see more of their work on their websiteFacebook, and Instagram.

Married Monday: Marriage Advice for Dating, Engaged, and Newlywed Couples

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Ruth Bell Graham, wife of Billy Graham, said, “Love is not only ‘the union of two good forgivers,’ but also ‘the union of two good appreciators.'” Can’t say it better than that!

It’s important to remember that marriage is blending the lives of two sinners together. YOU are a sinner. YOU are deeply flawed and selfish. And you are marrying a sinner who is also deeply flawed and selfish. Getting married doesn’t automatically turn you into amazingly perfect, selfless people.

Sometimes, romance doesn’t look like flowers and fancy dates. Maybe it looks like one of you doing the dishes because you know the other one hates doing them. Maybe it’s finding a heart drawn in the fog on the mirror when you get out of the shower. Maybe it’s just putting your phones away for an hour, sitting on the couch, and talking about your week. Your methods of showing affection will deepen in value, and gestures of love take on brand new meaning as seasons of life change.

Never, ever, EVER compare yourself or your marriage to others, especially via social media. You will end up feeling prideful or resentful, and neither is healthy.

Know that for every expectation you have for your spouse, they will have one for you too. You’ll find out really fast how “stuck in your ways” both of you are. But also know that while both of your expectations may be valid, you both need to bend a little. It’s unrealistic and unfair to expect your spouse to do all the changing and adjusting in your relationship while you refuse to adapt a little for them.

Your marriage relationship is a picture to the rest of the world about the way God loves His people. Are you displaying an accurate picture?

You will never completely fulfill each other. I know it may be hard to imagine (partially because movies have given us unrealistic expectations for the things our spouse is ‘supposed’ to do and say), but there will always be gaps that no one but the Lord can fill. Ruth Bell Graham also wisely 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.”

Guard your heart persistently. 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, in obvious ways and scarily subtle ways. Don’t let him. Protect your marriage.

Don’t forget that you are on the same team! When you face conflict, try to view the situation as “the couple vs. the problem” rather than “the husband vs. the wife.” You are teammates on the same side, not enemies in opposite corners of a boxing ring.

Respect and kindness are gifts. At some point (even if it’s just for one 10-minute argument), your spouse will not deserve them. Give them anyway. They are much easier to give when they are earned, but it is much more powerful to give them when they aren’t.

Learn to pick your battles, because some things just aren’t worth arguing about. Don’t look for reasons to be upset. Instead, think long-term and ask yourself, “Ten years from now, will I be glad I fought for this? How important will it be in a few decades that we didn’t agree about this, or that he did what I wanted?” 

Pride will ruin your relationship. You will become mentally, emotionally, and spiritually unhealthy very quickly if you are too stubborn to ask for forgiveness, to accept a genuine apology, or to ask for help when you need it.

Physical attraction and sexual compatibility are a really shaky foundation to build your life on. They are like lighter fluid on a relationship: it will burn hot and bright for a short while, but when there is no other substance underneath to fuel it, the flame will inevitably fade and fail.

Make having fun a priority in married life, not just in your dating life. Don’t let  new responsibilities and schedules and busyness dampen your spirit and spontaneity. Marriage can be SO FUN, more fun than anything else you do, so decide that fun is important and make time for it!

Learn your spouse’s love language as early as possible, and look for ways to show your affection in the way that means the most to him or her – acts of service, gifts, quality time, physical touch, or words of affirmation.

So often, when someone has a problem with his or her spouse, they talk to everyone else BUT their spouse about it. Don’t do this. If your husband is frustrating you, talk to HIM about it and deal with it together.

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. The time and money you sacrifice will be worth it in the long run.

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. 


This post is part of “Married Monday,” 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?

Listicle Series: Movies I Never Get Tired of Watching

Want to know how to make me really happy? Gimme a big pile of snacks, plop down on the couch with me, and tell me that we’re going to spend all day watching movies. Some people might see that as a waste of time, but not me. Time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time, and watching movies all day would be a day very well spent. There’s something totally delicious about losing yourself in the plot of someone else’s story and getting swept away into their adventure, joy, melancholy, romance, laughter, action, and emotion.

Obviously, it would be impossible to list every movie I love – there are far too many! Instead, here’s a brief list of movies I never get tired of watching, no matter how many times I’ve seen them. Movies I will always stop flipping through channels for, no matter what else is on TV (this is Daniel’s main criteria for a good movie, by the way). Movies I could sit down and thoroughly enjoy at any given moment…….like right now!


My Much-Loved Flicks:

Morning Glory.

The Glass Bottom Boat.

Virtually any Christmas movie.

Inception.

Anne of Green Gables.

Harry Potter.

Singin’ in the Rain.

Mean Girls.

The Dark Knight Rises.

The Sound of Music.

Just Friends.

The Lord of the Rings.

North By Northwest.

Stardust.

Some Like It Hot.

Pretty much all Disney movies. But especially the Hayley Mills version of The Parent Trap, Anastasia, Inside Out, Beauty and the Beast, The Emperor’s New Groove, Swiss Family Robinson, The Princess Diaries, and the Lily James version of Cinderella. And Tangled and Moana and Frozen. And The Absent-Minded Professor. And That Darn Cat.
(Sorry.)


Brb….if you need me, I’ll be curled up on the couch for the rest of the month. ♥

Tell me, what is one of YOUR favorite movies?

Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Bars

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In January 2017, Daniel and I started leading a small group (aka ‘foundation group’) for young married couples. Every other week, we met to discuss the books we were reading and go through the corresponding homework, and on the in-between weeks, we just had fun watching movies or bowling or eating meals together. Sometimes we would all stay together, and sometimes the guys and girls would split and do their own thing.

During the very first girls-only night we had, Sheridan made what we now affectionately refer to as “THE chocolate chip cookies.” They were just regular old oatmeal chocolate chip cookies, but something – be it coconut oil, fierce sugar cravings, or an act of God – transformed them into warm, gooey pieces of heaven. Some of the best cookies any of us had ever had.

Also, it was probably the *sweetness* of community that made them special…

……………………..eh?

……………see what I did there?

Anyway.

These cookies became, as Kendra so perfectly put it, our foundation group mascot. I think almost all of us have made them at one point or another, and every time I make them, I associate them with friendship and wonderful memories.

However.

Sometimes, you just don’t feel like shaping 37 individual cookies.

So you get lazy and make a bar version.

And they turn out to be flippin’ delicious.

CHOCOLATE CHIP OATMEAL BARS

Prepare for a seriously emotional eating experience, because these are so good you might cry your guts out. 

PREP TIME: 15 MINUTES
COOK TIME: 20-25 MINUTES
YIELD: 15 BARS

INGREDIENTS

2 cups flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
½ tsp. cinnamon
2½ cups old-fashioned oats
1½ cups brown sugar
1¼ cups butter, melted
2 eggs
1 tbsp. vanilla
2½ cups chocolate chips

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Grease a 9×13 pan and set aside.
  3. Stir together flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon in a large mixing bowl. Add old-fashioned oats, then brown sugar.
  4. Melt butter and pour into the bowl. Mix for one minute.
  5. Add eggs and vanilla, and mix until the dough is well-combined. It may be a little crumbly.
  6. Stir in chocolate chips.
  7. Press dough evenly into the prepared 9×13 pan.
  8. Bake for 20-25 minutes.
  9. Test by sticking a knife or toothpick in the center. When it comes out clean, the bars are done. They may look a little underdone, but that’s okay – they should! That keeps them nice and moist.
  10. Allow to cool before cutting into bars….or just eat them straight out of the oven. Whatever floats your boat.

Burnt tongue advisory: because you’ll probably eat the whole pan immediately. 

**Original recipe found here at Jamie Cooks It Up!

Listicle Series: 12 Reasons that Fall is My Favorite Season

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Darker nail polish colors.

Apple cider.

The early morning / late night chill in the air.

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Layers, like soft sweaters and leather jackets…yum!

Soup season.

Pumpkins on the front porch.

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Candy corn.

The leaves changing colors.

Bonfires, corn mazes, and hayrides.

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Boots, beanies, and scarves.

Friendsgiving.

The knowledge that there are only 11 Mondays until Christmas. ♥