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 :) Also, this picture is already so out of date – Luke is HUGE now!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!

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! ♥

 

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!

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?

What to Do When You Don’t Know What to Do

A photo by Matthew Wiebe. unsplash.com/photos/tBtuxtLvAZs

I’m convinced that once you graduate high school, your life afterward is just one big question mark after another. Do you go to college, or not? What kind of job should you look for? Do you stay close to home, or venture off somewhere new? How do you decide who to marry, when to have kids, when you’ve had enough kids, how long to stay in a particular job before moving on, how much to save for retirement, and where to grow old with your spouse? I struggle with remembering what day it is sometimes, and I’m expected to figure all of that stuff out?! Sheesh. I can’t believe I wanted to be an adult when I was little. I want to go back  to nap time and someone else cooking all my meals for me. Only half kidding. :) But seriously, adulthood is hard. There’s no manual for it. Everyone’s life path is unique, and all of us are faced with difficult choices from time to time. And your twenties are extra intimidating, because the choices you make during that season will literally direct the rest of your life.

So…what do you do when you don’t know what to do?

Think about what you DO know.
There may be a lot of things up in the air, but I’m willing to bet there are still a few things that you’re sure of. No matter who you are, one thing will always be certain: You are seen, known, and adored by God. This knowledge alone should bring all kinds of motivation, joy, and obedience if you are a follower of Jesus. As believers, we know that regardless of our marital status, age, financial position, knowledge level, or career path, we are all called to do two things: (1) love God and (2) love people. Nine times out of ten, when I feel like I just keep running into a spiritual or mental wall, it’s because I’m not spending time with God and I’m not serving others with a kind heart. So if you’re in a rut, ask yourself – are you doing those two things? Are you genuinely growing in your love for the Lord? Are you actively looking for ways to love others around you?

Remember who is in control of your emotions.
Emotions were created by God, which makes them GOOD. It’s okay to feel, and to feel deeply! This is one of things that makes us human. God didn’t create us to be robotic, dragging dully through life with our eyes glazed over like zombies. On the other hand, however, emotions were not created to carry us away like a rushing current. I struggle with this a lot. It’s easy to be overtaken at times by sadness, anger, or fear, but in those overwhelming moments, you have to dial it back. Take a breath and ask God to give you a clear mind. YOU are in control of your emotions. They are not in control of you. Don’t give Satan a foothold.

Talk out loud to God.
Few things in my life have strengthened my relationship with God as much as this has. It might feel weird at first, especially if you’ve never done it before. But just try it! You might be surprised by what comes out of your mouth – or what doesn’t. I’ve been made aware of sin in my life because as I was talking to God in my car, He brought something to my mind and I didn’t want to talk about it out loud. Verbalizing your prayers is also a great way to keep yourself from getting distracted. I know I’m not the one who has done this: “God, thank you for your grace today…thank you for my husband…thank you for our home and our friends…oh crap, I forgot to text Ashley back…I need to figure out what we’re going to have for dinner tonight…”

Take some time for yourself.
Having “me time” or “alone time” is really hard for some people to do, especially if you’re an extrovert, a parent, or a people-pleaser. Sometimes, though, one of the best things you can do for yourself is to just take care of yourself. If you spend all your energy pouring out but never allow yourself to be poured into, you WILL wear out. If you’re tired, worried, or stretched too thin, set aside a day, an evening, or even just an hour to do something that’s just for you. Take a bath; watch something funny on Netflix; take your dog for a walk; do something crafty; bake your favorite dessert. And maybe try that talking out loud to God thing while you do it. Spending time with the Lord and doing something that brings you joy is an easy way to fill your empty cup back up.

Surround yourself with encouragers.
This is a big one. We were not created to go through life, including the hard parts, alone. We need each other, and God designed it that way on purpose! Whether you find it through family, friends, your church, or elsewhere, community is both healthy and necessary. Daniel and I have experienced some truly awful heartache in the last year, and I can confidently say that one of the biggest reasons we survived is because of our foundation group through our church. Having people around you who pray for you, grieve with you, and help meet your needs is life-giving. It is so much easier to carry a heavy burden when you have multiple pairs of hands (Galatians 6:2). If you don’t like to let people in, pray that God would give you courage and willingness to build relationships with solid people. If you aren’t plugged into a community, find one. If you don’t know where to find one, email me. :)

Learn to be okay with waiting.
Lately, I’ve been reading this fabulous book by Wendy Pope called Wait and See, and one of the things she talks about is learning how to be patient in your pasture, using David from the Bible as an example. He was just a young shepherd, tending sheep, and God sent Samuel directly to him to anoint him as king when he was only ten years old. But that didn’t mean it was time for David to take the throne immediately. God kept him in the pasture a little while longer, and while David was there, he learned how to truly, deeply love God and recognize His voice – two things that were absolutely vital for him to know to serve as king later on. Patience is not only a virtue; it is a skill, and one that can be learned. There is a purpose for every pause. As Wendy so beautifully put it, “The wait is more about experiencing God than enduring the delay.”

To my friends in a season of waiting and decision-making – I hope this encourages you. ♥

2018 Goals + My Word for the Year

One year ago today, I started something new! Instead of creating resolutions that would be too easily forgotten or too quickly broken (like giving up fast food or working out every day – uhhhh yeah right), I made a list of a few specific, measurable, realistic goals for the year. A list that I could come back to now, a year later, to see how I grew in 2017.

I don’t know about you, but 2017 was a roller coaster for us. We experienced some really high highs and some really low lows. But when I took time to reflect on 2017 through my 20 Questions post, I remembered how many good things took place and how faithful God was to us. When the ball dropped and we toasted at midnight on January 1st, I took a deep breath and let it out, feeling both relief and resolve, thankful to leave 2017 in the past and step forward into a new year. I knew I had to continue this tradition from last year, and just like last year, my hope is that at the end of 2018, I will see obvious growth and progress from where I am now.

What I did last year:

  • Almost every night (as often as I could), I wrote down something that made me happy that day. This was surprisingly therapeutic and a great way to remind my heart that at least one good thing happened each day. I’m thankful to be able to go back and read about seemingly-small-but-still-significant things that I would have forgotten if I hadn’t written them down. I don’t remember how I came up with this idea, but I’m so glad I did, and I want to continue it in 2018.

  • I took a week-long vacation with Daniel to celebrate and refresh our marriage. ♥
    We went on a wonderful Alaskan cruise, during which we visited Seattle, Juneau, Skagway, Glacier Bay, Ketchikan, and Victoria! Yay for good views, good food, and good company.

  • I (semi)permanently integrated healthier eating and exercise into my lifestyle. Doing Keto was honestly life-changing. I had no idea I could exercise that much self control for that long. We are actually doing it again for a month or two, right now!

  • I learned something new on purpose. Although it wasn’t hand lettering or a different language, like I had planned. :) I learned how to have self control with food. I learned how to lead a group of newly-married couples and become a family. I learned how to sing the lyrics to that Shane & Shane song – “Though You slay me, yet I will praise You” – and mean it.

  • We had intentional date nights at least once a month. Lots of yummy food, a murder mystery dinner party, David Copperfield, and binge-watching TV shows. Originally, my goal was date nights that WEREN’T dinner and a movie, but hey – we love dinner, and we love movies! Why mess with what works?? (Here’s the full list of our dates, by month.)

  • I began to view food as a gift to enjoy with wisdom, not as an indulgence I deserve. 
    Again – Keto was life-changing. I’ll be forever thankful that God helped me do it successfully, and that it’s something we can easily revisit and incorporate into our lives when we need a boost.

As far as the other two goals go: I didn’t cut down on screen time quite as much as I should have, but I did nurture new relationships and finished multiple books! And although I didn’t earn $1500+ every month from MONAT, I did earn enough in bonuses in one month to pay for our Alaska anniversary photo shoot, including a plane ticket for our photographer; I more than doubled my number of team members; and I earned a free trip to Vegas with Daniel in October. I still consider that a win. ♥


• 2018 •

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

Read through the whole Bible chronologically.

Send 12 random surprise gifts to family, friends, or coworkers.
1. Took ice cream to Daniel at work.
2. Surprised my coworker Sarah with a birthday cupcake.

Create new blog/social media content more consistently.

Go on a group vacation with good friends.

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

Become a MONAT Mentor by the end of the year.

Take a trip to visit my brother at his new place in Florida.
CHECK! Our 2nd annual Simma family vacay in June was so much fun – we explored St. Augustine, soaked up the sun at the beach, and even visited Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World!

Plan a few out-of-the-ordinary date nights – new things we’ve never done before.
1. For our 6th anniversary, we went to Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steak House and ate one of the best meals either of us has ever had.

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.


Last year, I also picked a word to be my theme for 2017 – Hope. The anchor of souls, assurance despite repeated disappointment, and the companion of trust. It couldn’t have been a more perfect choice. As the end of December drew near, I started thinking about a word to define 2018. Everything I came up with seemed cheesy or didn’t quite fit, until one particular word starting showing up everywhere.

Courage. AKA, Something I suck at.

When I googled “courage” to find a photo for this post, I came across this quote from The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis, and my heart swelled with encouragement:

“Lucy looked along the beam and presently saw something in it. At first it looked like a cross, then it looked like an aeroplane, then it looked like a kite, and at last with a whirring of wings it was right overhead and was an albatross. It circled three times round the mast and then perched for an instant on the crest of the gilded dragon at the prow. It called out in a strong sweet voice what seemed to be words though no one understood them. After that it spread its wings, rose, and began to fly slowly ahead, bearing a little to starboard. Drinian steered after it not doubting that it offered good guidance. But no one except Lucy knew that as it circled the mast it had whispered to her, ‘Courage, dear heart,’ and the voice, she felt sure, was Aslan’s.”

I believe with all my heart that God Himself gave me the word “courage” for 2018, just as He gave me “hope” for 2017. I felt Him nudging this word closer to me for about a week, and although I tried to ignore it and pick another word for awhile, I have finally accepted it as a gift from Him. Although hope was my word for last year, I still spent too much time living in a state of fear. I refuse to let my life be dictated by “what if’s” anymore. ♥

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