Life Update: The Park + The Coffee Shop + The Woods + The Desert = The Memories

One of my favorite things to do, weirdly, is go back through all of my pictures on my phone. I always come across random things I documented that I forgot to post on social media, or funny screenshots of texts from family members, or ideas for parties that I wanted to save on Pinterest. I especially love getting to relive good memories, and this last photo purge was FULL of them!

#1: The Park. What a blessing it was to spend time with my dear friend Brittany and her cuties earlier this summer. She actually has another boy now, too – I think an east Texas road trip is in order to go meet him!

#2: The Coffee Shop. A new coffee shop opened in Durant this year, and even though I’ve only been a few times, since I’m not a coffee drinker, every visit has been spent with good friends. I love the atmosphere of the place, and I’ll definitely use it for a shower or two in the future.

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#3. The Woods. Boy, have the Love County woods been good to us. I absolutely love going to see Daniel’s family and adventuring on their land! It’s my favorite place to take Fitz because he can run around like a maniac, we take four-wheeler rides on the trails, and we get to revisit the spot where we married 6 years ago.

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And also I get to snuggle my nephews (one of which has too much energy to actually snuggle or take pictures with me), which is always a good time. :) Also, this picture is already so out of date – Luke is HUGE now!

#4. The Desert. I had the privilege of traveling for work earlier this year – Merrill Lynch hosted us at their annual client conference in Scottsdale, Arizona. And HOLY. MOLY. I felt like a queen! The resort was beautiful, my suite was huge, and there was so much attention to detail: chocolates on the pillows, mini jars of honey for your tea, and my toiletries were even organized for me by the housekeeping staff.

One of the best parts of the trip? The “field trips” they took us on: dinner, dancing, and hot air balloon rides in the desert, and an evening at the Musical Instrument Museum.

We were so spoiled for days with delicious food, musical performances, and guest speakers, including Barbara Corcoran from Shark Tank!

One of the best things that happened all summer was Mother’s Day weekend with my bestest best and her little family. After YEARS of hard work, Jennifer graduated from med school and is officially a doctor!! I am so crazy proud of her.

Few things are sweeter than getting to hold your person’s little person. ♥

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Finally, here’s a sneak peek at the EPIC 30th birthday party I threw for Daniel! A separate post is coming soon, don’t you worry. ;)

Thanks for reading!

A Baby Shower for Dara + Baby Berry

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Last Sunday, I had the great privilege of throwing a baby shower for my sweet friend Dara, and it was the cutest thing, if I do say so myself! Dara and her husband Les are in my community group from church, and we were just over the moon for them when they told us she was pregnant. I knew instantly that I had to throw her a party – that was the easy part. The hard part came when it was time to pick a theme, because the Wesberrys decided to wait until the birth to find out if “Baby Berry” is a he or a she!

Soon after they told us the news, our group quickly started referring to the baby as “Baby Berry,” so I decided to carry the berry motif into the baby shower too. At first, I worried that it might be too girly, if Baby Berry is a boy, but then I thought…who cares?? The shower is kiiiiiind of for the baby, but mostly for Mama, and I definitely want a shower that the mom likes. Dara is super girly and always looks so cute, so I knew this theme would be right up her alley.

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The menu included mini berry cheesecakes (thanks Mistie!), mini strawberry shortcakes, and “pop”corn chicken (since, ya know, she’s about to POP). Two of my favorite touches, however, were the strawberry mason jars and the balloon garland. I loved the triple-layer detail of the drinking glasses – doily, strawberry, tied with twine. And that balloon garland….whoo, y’all. Labor of love, right there! I blew all of those balloons up with my own hot air, and tied each one individually to a long piece of twine. It took hours, but it was worth it!! (I have since been told about something magical called balloon decorating strip on Amazon, which I will 100% use next time. lol)

We played a couple of games, including a hilarious round of Baby Pictionary, but my favorite activity was making a birth day banner for Dara. I bought a blank pennant banner and gave each person a piece of it to write out an encouraging note or prayer to Dara. After I strung all the pieces back together, I gave it to her to put in her “go bag” so she can hang it up at the hospital for encouragement while she’s in labor! I absolutely adore this idea, and I hope to replicate it at every baby shower I host from now on.

On the way out, guests grabbed favor baskets – berry baskets filled with a bottled drink, a ring pop, and a note encouraging them to “Pop It When She Pops” and enjoy a toast on whatever day Dara has the baby.

Cute little mama with her mama. :) I swear, I have the prettiest friends, and I know she’ll have the prettiest baby – boy or girl! Can’t wait to cuddle that little one!! ♥

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!

Questions I Don’t Have the Answers For

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Why is it that bras for little boobs are pretty and cute and come in 41+ different colors, and bras for big boobs are boring and sad and come in nude and slightly darker nude?

How is it possible to detest everything in my closet, but when I start to get rid of something, I develop a deeply sentimental relationship with it?

What’s the deal with fun-size candy? What’s so fun about getting LESS candy??

How long will women keep getting offended about being told they should be in the kitchen before they realize that the kitchen is freaking awesome because the kitchen has food?

Did Adam and Eve have belly buttons? (I’ve seriously wondered this since I was a kid)

Who was the first person to look at a cow and say, “I think I’ll squeeze these things and drink whatever comes out”?

How do you find the perfect balance between complete laziness and glorifying busyness?

Why is it that when you fix your hair and put some makeup on, you don’t see anybody, but when you go out in public looking like a homeless ghost, you run into literally everyone you know?

How is it possible to be COMPLETELY full of green beans and yet always have room for dessert?

Why are carbs so hypnotizingly delicious??

If you’re a vegan who ran a marathon and got your dogs from a shelter, how do you decide which one to bring up first?

Are narwhals nars or whals?

Why is pasta so hard to measure unless you’re cooking for 37 people?

Why is it so easy for some people to get pregnant and so difficult for others?

How will we ever know if a color shade is consistent? Like, we can agree that the sky is blue…but what if we’re seeing two totally different shades of blue??

Why, when someone says “30 years ago”, does my brain still automatically go to the 70’s?

What on earth is the difference between fancy ketchup and regular ketchup?

Why do dentists always ask you two dozen questions when their hands are in your mouth?

How long will we continue to fool ourselves into thinking that gossip is a good way to bond with someone?

Why does nail polish on your fingernails chip within the first 2 hours, but nail polish on your toes lasts like 10 million years?

How does losing weight actually work? Like…where does it go?

When do babies maturing into young children stop getting away with chunky fat rolls, big bellies, and leg dimples being cute?

What are neighborhood dogs saying when they bark at each other every morning?

For that last one, I’m 99.7% convinced that my dog Fitz is part of the totally-real communication chain from 101 Dalmatians. Or he has a girlfriend that he didn’t get to bark at all night since we keep him in the house until we leave for work. Or he’s sharing the good news of Jesus Christ. We’ll never know for sure. 

 

The Epic Hendrickson Weekend

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We just got home from the most divine extended family weekend! It’s been almost a year and half since ALL of the Hendricksons have been together, and we spent the last three days eating, swimming, making the babies laugh, riding 4-wheelers, chasing the dogs around, playing games, and more eating. It was so hard to come home!

One of the best parts of the weekend, though, was taking updated family photos. Christy and Cody of Cromer & Co. were SO fun to work with, and Christy was a total champ at wrangling our crazy family early in the morning, especially the kiddos. She sent us this sneak peak on Saturday and I’ve already looked at the pictures roughly 37 times – I can’t wait to see the rest!

It’ll be awhile before we’re all together again, so for now, I’m cherishing these sweet photos and counting down the days until we’re in the same zip code. ♥

Thanks again to Cromer & Co. for making our session such a great experience! You can see more of their work on their website, Facebook, and Instagram.

 

For the Skeptics: My Top 5 Reasons for Staying in a Social Marketing Business

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“That’s a lot for a pair of leggings.”
“I’ll just grab the wax melts from Walmart.”
“That much for a wrap?? I’ve got Saran wrap and lotion.”
“Gummy vitamins work just fine.”
“Who pays that kind of money for mascara?”
“I heard you can drink apple cider vinegar to lose weight.”
“I can find affordable jewelry at TJ Maxx.”
“Pink drink? I take gummy vitamins, I’m good!”
“I don’t need fancy cookware, I just buy the cheap stuff.”
“People are crazy for spending that much on shampoo.”
“Skincare is skincare. Whatever works!”

I’ve heard all of those things. Heck, I’ve said all of those things. I will be the first to admit: I absolutely never, ever, EVER thought I would be part of a social marketing company. I made fun of people in them and thought they were naive and annoying. If you read the first post I wrote when I started with my company, you know that already. But I wanted to share a little bit more about what I do, because I think people need to know why my perspective on this industry changed. I’ve spent too much time worrying what others think, and I’ve finally decided to quit worrying and just do my thing.

For years, I have watched people do all kinds of things to provide for their families. White-collar jobs, blue-collar jobs, chopping firewood, selling produce, flipping houses, trading guns, breeding dogs, selling handmade goods on Etsy, baking desserts, opening boutiques, taking photos, running salons, freelance writing, blogging, cleaning houses – the list goes on and on and on. And the most amazing thing is, friends of these entrepreneurs can’t wait to show their support. They share their social media posts, visit their businesses often, spend money on their products or services, and encourage others to do the same. It’s beautiful!

But what if that same person decided to to join a social marketing company?

Few likes.
No shares.
Little to no support.
Snarky comments, eye rolling, smirking, and pity.

Whyyyyyy??? 

This seems like a total double standard to me. Why are we so quick to cheer for our friend opening a new brick-and-mortar clothing store, but when another friend joins a social marketing company and chooses to start sharing the clothes she already wears and loves, we unfollow her on Facebook and start avoiding conversations with her? Where is the disconnect??

I know what part of the problem is. It’s *those* people. You know the ones – the ones who stalk you. The ones who make every conversation about their products or business opportunity. The ones who, although you are complete strangers, add you to their groups without asking first and send you awkward, pushy messages about why you should join their team or buy product from them.

Listen, I GET IT. Those people are the worst. I know, because I’ve been one of those people. I made so many mistakes in the beginning of my own social marketing journey, and if you are one of the people who I offended or frustrated, I am so incredibly sorry. People like that represent the industry poorly, and that’s exactly why I had such a bad taste in my mouth about it for such a long time. But now, after being part of one for a few years, I finally understand that not everybody is like that. Not everybody sees you as nothing more than another prospect. And it’s silly to villainize an entire industry just because a few people aren’t doing it right.

Here’s why I’ve stayed WITH MONAT.

1. I got to start my own “business” without going bankrupt. I’ve always had a tiny entrepreneurial streak, but the thought of starting a business from the ground up was intimidating. When I became part of MONAT, literally everything was done for me. Marketing, my own website, a Customer Support team, training materials, manufacturing, shipping, samples, full-size products – everything I needed was right at my fingertips, and I didn’t have to create any of it myself. It would take tens of thousands of dollars to do all of that if I was starting my own business elsewhere, and it would take a long time to start actually seeing a profit. With MONAT, I made my startup cost back, plus more, in less than two months. I don’t have to keep inventory; I don’t have to make anything by hand; I don’t have to package and ship anything; I don’t have to pay employees. Nearly all of my work takes place online or on the phone. It’s honestly perfect.

2. I would use the products even if I didn’t sell them. I wish so badly that I had taken more “before” pictures. But truthfully, no picture can tell you how healthy my hair is now. It is as shiny as a new penny, it feels weightless and luxuriously soft, and there are so many hair woes that I don’t have to deal with anymore, like dandruff, acne on my hairline, split ends, getting oily quickly, and frizz. I’ve gone back and used multiple other brands several times, including expensive salon brands, just to make sure I hadn’t talked myself into liking MONAT more because I sold it. But every single time, my old hair problems started to come back, and I felt like my hair was coated with product and weighed down by it. After the third or fourth time, I finally decided it’s just not worth trying anything else, because nothing else works as well.

3. My income has paid for some seriously epic stuff. Because of MONAT, Daniel and I got to fly one of our wedding photographers to meet us at Mendenhall Glacier in Alaska and take anniversary pictures. I mean….seriously?? We never could have done that if not for my extra income, and I will cherish those pictures forever. I’ve also been able to randomly treat myself and buy things I would normally feel guilty spending money on, like Steve Madden boots. I got to take one of my best friends on a little shopping spree, just because. And I even earned a free trip to Las Vegas and got to take Daniel with me!

4. I love the flexibility. With any other business, if you’re not open, you’re not earning. But with MONAT, it doesn’t matter where I am or what I’m doing or not doing; I am literally always earning residual income. Shampoo and conditioner are consumable products, which means you eventually run out and need more, which means I earn income from my client base every month because someone always needs more. The other great thing is that this gig can be as big or as small as I want it to be. I know people who joined simply to have the product discount, and I know other people who have quit their own full-time jobs AND retired their husbands because of how much income they are bringing in.

5. The “before and after” stories are one of the best parts. Getting texts from friends with before-and-after pictures and excited messages about how good their hair feels is SO special to me. I can’t tell you how happy it makes me to hear their stories, and to see the results other people have had on social media. Hair is such a huge part of our self-esteem, for women and men alike, and it is an honor to have helped so many people fall in love with their hair again. Hands down, it’s one of the best parts about what I do!


I still forget sometimes that I’m in social marketing. And honestly, I think it’s because I don’t feel like a salesman. Seriously, I don’t. Sharing shampoo is exactly the same as telling a friend about your new favorite restaurant or the great movie you saw last weekend. People recommend good things every single day. The only difference is that some of us actually get paid for it.

Social marketing was never for me until I found MY company, until I found something that became a permanent life change. At the end of the day, everyone you know – including someone in a social marketing business – is just trying to do the best they can for themselves, their families, and their futures. That’s all. People choose all kinds of ways to make and save money. And maybe, just maybe, social marketing might be for you too!

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Shout out to my friend Cassidy for inspiring this post! ♥

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. ;)

Hello Baby Cake Topper, Baby Shower Cake Topper, Hello World, Hello World Cake Topper, Rustic Baby Shower Decor, Gender Neutral Cake Topper, Burlap Cake Topper, Baby Shower Cake Topper Ideas, Baby shower ideas, Baby shower cake ideasvia

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??)

friends.via

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!

 via

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

CBP-Laura-Dan-Juneau-2017-32

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!