Small Biz Spotlight: The Dear Fox

This post is the latest in a new segment I introduced on the blog: Small Biz Spotlight! As an aspiring small business owner myself, I know a few of the struggles associated with running your own shenanigans, especially when it comes to marketing and building rapport. I want to do whatever I can to be an advocate for other people like me. Thanks for reading, and thanks for supporting small businesses!

I’m not lying when I say that Jimi Hightower is easily one of the coolest people I know. She’s the kind of person you become friends with pretty much instantly, and she makes you feel like the most important person around whenever you’re together. We met years ago through our husbands, who were in a big homegroup bible study together, and even though she and her husband Stephen moved to Seattle not long after Daniel and I got married, we’ve stayed in touch off and on. We even got to spend a fun day with them on the tail end of our Alaska trip a few years ago!

Jimi is insanely creative and talented, and she was one of the first people I thought of when I had the idea for the Small Biz Spotlight. In 2016, she and her friend Sarah started an Etsy business called The Dear Fox, and I can’t wait to show you all the cute stuff they make!


Embracing The Chaos: When did you start The Dear Fox? Was it on Etsy first, then Instagram? Where does the majority of your business come from now?
The DEAR/DEER Fox (Sarah): Jimi and I decided to start the Dear Fox one rainy morning at her apartment in Seattle. We love to craft together, especially in a town like Seattle where the majority of the time it is cold, raining, and grey. Jimi taught me to embroider in 2016 and I’ve been doing it since. That morning, we brainstormed names and came up with the animals we most closely identify with and played around with our options, and The Dear Fox was born! The majority of our business I believe is trafficked from Instagram to our Etsy. We have been vendors at a few events, which cultivated more followers via Instagram, who were then sent over to our Etsy for our full collection.
The Dear FOX (Jimi): Back in grad school, we picked out spirit animals for our girl gang and they just kinda stuck. Sarah’s a deer (Reindeer) and I’m a fox. When it came around to the arduous challenge of naming our business, we thought incorporating our spirit animals would be a cute way to make our mark. The Deer Fox was taken, so after playing around with spellings and word arrangements, we finally settled on The Dear Fox, which ended up being cute in its own way. We started on Etsy and then utilized Instagram as a way to market our business. Originally, the majority of our business came through Etsy, but Sarah has been takin’ our wares to craft shows in Tennessee, and so now most of our business is coming from those sales. Etsy can be really challenging because there’s SO much and it’s hard to make it to those first few pages. It’s really important to market what you’re selling in such a way that people will search for it.

ETC: So what made you want to start a small business, and a crafting business in particular?
Sarah: After six months of daily embroidering, I had accumulated so many pieces that I didn’t know what to do next. This has become such a passion project, and a hobby I turn to when I’m feeling anxious, bored, sad, happy, excited. It takes my mind off of everything and just becomes very therapeutic. Turning our craft into a money-making endeavor is only because it is so fun, I enjoy it so much, and I create often. I wanted to share the final product with anyone who is interested.
Jimi: I’ve always been quite the crafter, so when I started making things that I was wearing often, people started asking me where they could get one. I started doing commission pieces, and then realized that I could actually make some money from my hobby and share my creations with other folks. Sarah was in the same boat, so we decided to give pursuing a legitimate online business a shot!

ETC: What training/resources/etc. did you use to get started?
Sarah: Jimi is a constant resource and support for me. Professionally, personally, and as a hobbyist. She and I have a true friendship and connection, and we always bounce ideas off of each other and our group of like-minded best friends. Jimi really got us started from the beginning. From teaching me the craft to begin with, to maintaining our social media, to hearing out ideas and responding to criticism. We make a great team and resource for each other in a lot of facets of our lives.
Jimi: When we first started out, and especially when we were working on getting our business license, I spent a lot of time researching “how to start a business.” Every state is different and Washington is pretty strict, but it was encouraging that a lot of folks were asking the same questions, and I found the licensing websites to be really helpful. Etsy also has a lot of informative blogs that helped point me in the right direction, but they’re very clear that you’re on the hook for everything so it’s important to have your ducks in a row.

ETC: Work-wise, do you consider your business a full-time or part-time gig?
Sarah: Definitely part-time, if even that. We do this for fun. We do this because we like it, it is something that keeps us busy, creating, and working together – which we really like to do!
Jimi: Definitely part-time, and it ebbs and flows. When we’re preppin’ for a show, I’ll spend every spare minute sewing; but then there are times when I won’t sew for months. It just kind of depends on what we have lined up and how much inventory we have on hand.

ETC: Where does your inspiration for your pieces come from, and what do you enjoy most about creating/being an artist?
Sarah: My inspiration seems to come with the current pulse of the nation. In 2016-2017, my work leaned toward the political left for obvious reasons. Since the aftermath, I’ve done lighter themes like fun rap lyrics that can be considered a little risque but in feminine colors and styles. Lots of organic colors and shapes found in nature. And because I work in a zoo, I love to do animals – an animal pun is even better. What I enjoy most about being an artist/creator/maker is working on something that brings me joy and then sharing it and seeing joy on someone else’s face. I love the Weeknd, and I did a fun sexy quote with him but in very traditional stitch style. A woman likely in her 70’s bought it and absolutely loved it, and this was one of my highlights of this whole project with The Dear Fox.
Jimi: I like to create things that enhance and showcase pieces that you love. I sew all of our shawls, and I LOVE picking out the fabric. I have a clear aesthetic (florals, earth tones, and busy patterns), so it can be hard for me to get outside my patterned comfort zone. I like picking fabric that flows and accentuates the patterns and makes what you’re wearing pop. I also make our jewelry displays, which are typically made to order because the supplies are hard to get a hold of, which makes them a little pricier. I LOVE jewelry and was tired of having it all stashed away most of the time (Lord knows I can’t wear it all!), so when I came across an old type drawer at a flea market, I thought a modified version would be a unique way to showcase my jewels. When I make something, I want it to make a statement – sometimes it’s a shawl with a busy pattern that flits around behind you when you’re struttin’ down the sidewalk on a nice summer day; other times it’s a piece of junk that got a new life displaying your memories contained in that necklace you got when you were on vacation, the ring from your grandma, the bracelet your friend gave you, or those earrings you never wear but can’t bring yourself to give away.

ETC: Where do you envision your business going?
Sarah: I envision Jimi and I constantly being open to change and flexible on the direction we take this endeavor. We love growing and learning, and we welcome change, which, in my opinion, can only bring good things.
Jimi: I don’t really know. I know it’s good to have vision and goals and all that, but Sarah and I have always been flexible in our business plan and mostly do it as a way to share our craft and make a little side dough. So, I’m excited to see where things go and am looking forward to opportunities that may pop up.

ETC: What are the top 3 things you’d tell an aspiring small business owner?
Sarah: 1. Be patient, don’t expect to sell sell sell immediately (or ever) in a saturated platform like Etsy or in a creative environment like Seattle. 2. Think outside the box and be malleable. 3. Work with someone you trust, know well, have worked with before, and, most importantly, love endlessly and through thick and thin.
Jimi: 1. Taxes are confusing, especially when you’re dealing with inter-state. However, I’ve found the city/state business and tax reps to be incredibly helpful. I’ve called and emailed them with various questions and they’ve always been helpful and responsive. Odds are, you’re not the only one with that question. 2. Come up with a formula for pricing. There are tons of resources out there to help you come up with your own. Whatever you use, make sure you’re payin’ yourself for the work you’re putting in. For me, it was helpful to have some structure to how I was pricing items because it also made me feel validated if someone pushed back on prices (people can be real rude sometimes). 3. Own it. You made it, you built it, be proud of it.

ETC: And finally, most importantly…french fries, or potato chips?
Sarah: Gotta get that potato chip crunch.
Jimi: DEFINITELY French fries.


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

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Thanks so much, Jimi and Sarah, for sharing your crafty world with us! To see more of The Dear Fox’s pieces for sale, check them out on Instagram or Etsy.

Are You Willing to Hike?

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I had a moment with the Lord today, on Pinterest of all places.

I was looking through my friend Jordan King’s boards, and since I was in a particularly wanderlust-y mood, I went to her ‘Adventure’ board. As I scrolled, something about the photo above caught my eye, so I stopped and clicked on it. As I looked at it more closely, a quiet, whispered thought filled my head:

“Some of the most beautiful places in the world can’t be seen unless you hike to them.”

Whoa. What?

Let’s just clarify now that I know absolutely nothing about hiking. And up to this point, I really haven’t had any desire to learn anything about hiking. I’ve heard enough stories (including the one about Daniel’s four-day, rain-soaked, 40-pound-pack nightmare on Eagle Rock Loop) to know that trekking uphill for hours on end doesn’t sound quite like my cup of tea.

But for some reason, I couldn’t take my eyes away from this picture.

Who knows when that photo was taken? It could have been right as he reached his destination, or it could have been before he even started his journey. But regardless, it’s obvious that he is ready to work. He’s got the boots, the pack, the poles – he knows this is going to be more than a leisurely stroll. He’s prepared. And he’s willing to put in the time and effort because he knows what’s coming at the end.

“Some of the most beautiful places in the world can’t be seen unless you hike to them.”

It has always amazed me that God has the ability to speak with a still, small, quiet voice, and yet it has the impact of a strong, powerful, roaring voice that you can’t ignore. I stared at the mountains, the river, the rocks – dumbfounded. How many beautiful places have I never seen because I haven’t WANTED to hike to them? A simple thought, but a dagger to the heart.

How many times had I given up on something because it just felt too hard to do?

How many times had I not even attempted something because it sounded like too much work?

How many times had I been unwilling to put in the effort for something I knew would be beneficial in the long run?

It’s no secret that I struggle with self-discipline, especially when it comes to maintaining a healthy lifestyle, but this truth bomb really hurt. Genuinely mature adults are willing to not only work, but work HARD, and they don’t make excuses like ‘I just don’t want to’ and ‘That’s just how I am’. 1 Corinthians 13:11 really drives this point home: “When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways.” Did you catch it? That action verb, gave. Maturity didn’t simply happen naturally. A decision was made to give up childish ways. We aren’t doomed to stay exactly the way we are for the rest of our lives, but we can’t just sit around and wait for magic lightning to strike us and make us grow up. True adults recognize that their actions affect people they love, and they take responsibility for figuring out what parts of their character are ugly, lazy, or immature, and then learn how to fix them.

But isn’t that exactly how life is supposed to be? Why are we so surprised when something requires work from us? After all, pretty much everything good in life comes as a result of a lot of time and effort:

A thriving family.
Publishing a book.
Building a house.
A healthy marriage.
Good eating habits.
Exercising consistently.
Starting a business.
A flourishing church.
Lasting friendships.

None of these things happen without a lot of perseverance and commitment, and they will always require a sacrifice of self – your time, money, energy, emotion, and preferences. All truly good things will cost you something. Maturity means deciding that those ‘good things’ are worth the hike.

Pinterest and Jesus never cease to inspire me. ♥

Note to Self: Do More of This

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I have a confession to make. I have a huge girl crush on Caroline Joy Rector of Unfancy. Her approach to personal style, a minimalist wardrobe, and shopping smart is #GOALS, and I spent probably a week straight binge-ing on her blog posts and Pinterest boards. In particular, the aesthetic and concept of her Pinterest board called “LIFE / do more of this” really inspired me, and I decided to come up with my own list of things to do more of.

A few days ago, I read a really interesting post about JOMO vs. FOMO – the JOY of missing out, rather than the FEAR of missing out. I have been feeling especially addicted to technology lately, and I’m about two steps away from getting rid of social media for awhile. I don’t want to spend my life posting and scrolling and judging and comparing. When I thought about creating this list, I made a point of picking things that get me away from a screen and into really enjoying my life instead. I encourage you to do the same!

friends.

Backyard dinner parties.

Social media breaks.

The Prettiest Road Trip in the Pacific Northwest | Seattle Met

Road trips.

Simplify my home.

fall farmers market

Farmer’s Markets.

♥︎→  #fashionphotographer #fashionphotography #trendy #womensfashion #fashiondesigner #couture #trends #fashionindustry #mua #makeupforever

Laugh with friends.

You don't have to match to take a good picture.

Downtown dates.

18 Embroidery Instagram Feeds to Follow – Design*Sponge

Make something.

Dream about the future.


What would you add to the list?

Community and Why You Need It

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WHY YOU NEED COMMUNITY:

You need people to have fun with and to laugh with.

You need people who love you enough to speak the truth to you and challenge you.

You need people to encourage and support you.

You need people to remind you of God’s fierce love and grace when you forget it.

You need people to hold you accountable.

You need people smarter than you who can offer wisdom and advice.

You need people to lean on when you’re struggling.

You need people to celebrate with you AND cry with you.

You need people who are good at the things you’re bad at so you can learn from them.

You need people to serve alongside because there’s way too much work for just one person to try to do alone.

And guess what else? Other people need you, too! God created every single person with talents, abilities, insights, and gifts, and His intent is that we would use them to build up others. The church has so much to gain from you investing in your community and blessing others through your strengths.

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From the very beginning, God designed humans for connection. In the book of Genesis, Adam was tasked with naming and caring for every animal in the garden, and it probably didn’t take long before he realized something was missing.

“Boy elephant, girl elephant. Boy lion…girl lion. Boy giraffe…………girl giraffe……………….hang on a second……..”

Every creature in the garden had a mate, except for him. But God already had a plan for that, because He knew that it wasn’t good for Adam to be alone. Adam needed a partner, a family, a community. And just like him, we were never meant to do life alone either. You might try really hard to push everyone away and survive as a lone wolf, but the deep-down truth is that you need people. We all need a group of someones to be OUR PEOPLE.

I sincerely hope you have people like mine. ♥♥

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The best is yet to come.

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On my sister’s phone.

Walking through Target.

Listening to a radio show.

Scrolling on Pinterest.

In the mail.

Think God might be trying to tell me something? ♥


“He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” — Philippians 1:6b

“Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” — Isaiah 43:19

“[The righteous man] is not afraid of bad news; his heart is firm, trusting in the Lord. His heart is steady; he will not be afraid.” — Psalm 112:7-8a

“And the effect of righteousness will be peace, and the result of righteousness, quietness and trust forever. My people will abide in a peaceful habitation, in secure dwellings, and in quiet resting places.” — Isaiah 32:17-18

When God Answers Everyone’s Prayer But Yours

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Have you ever spent much time in a doctor’s office waiting room? It’s a simple enough place, but it’s full of expectation. You walk in, fill out paperwork, take a strategically-chosen seat that’s a safe distance away from the guy with the hacking cough and the woman with the cranky kids climbing up and down her legs, pull out your phone to pass the time, and wait. You’re there with a purpose, and so is everyone else. Every single person in that room has the same hope: that when the door opens, they’ll hear their name.

When the door opens, everyone looks up with anticipation.

The nurse calls a name.

It’s not yours.

“It’s okay,” you tell yourself. “I haven’t been here for that long. They’ll call me back soon.” 

And you continue to wait semi-patiently as two, three, four more people go in for their appointments. All of them were here before you, and you assume you’ll be next.

But then the door opens again and the nose-blower’s name gets called. Not yours. You’re confused. Haven’t you been waiting longer than him? More names are called. None of them are yours. The waiting room grows emptier, and you’re still waiting.

Now you’re frustrated. “This wasn’t supposed to take this long. When is it going to be my turn??” you wonder. But you’re not really the type to make a scene, and although you are starting to feel forgotten, you know that your name is on the list. So you sit and wait, because that’s all you can do.


Our life is full of metaphorical waiting rooms. Every season presents a new set of crossroads and questions that need answers, like… What do you want to be when you grow up? Where are you going to college? What are you going to major in? What if you realize you hate your major and you want to start over but you have no clue where to start? Where do you want to work? Who are you going to marry? Are you going to have kids? When? How many? What if you can’t have them? What town should you live in? How do you know what your ‘dream job’ is? How much money should you save for retirement?? Is anyone else overwhelmed???

If you’re a Christian, you’ve probably taken at least one of those questions to the Lord in prayer and waited for Him to answer. I have asked all of those questions myself, and it never fails – as soon as I find myself in a season of not-knowing-the-answers and not-moving-forward, I am suddenly surrounded by people who DO seem to know their answers and who ARE moving forward. It’s hard to feel like the only person standing still in a sea of people who are going and doing and knowing.

When we ask God things like “When?” or “How long?”, we hope that His answer will be “Now!” But a lot of times, it isn’t. God operates outside of time, and every single thing He does is done at exactly the right moment. Trying to force God to follow our schedule and demanding an answer from Him by a certain time only leads to our own frustration, because we’re expecting God to behave like a human when He isn’t one. He can’t be manipulated into doing what we want. Waiting on God to answer forces us to slow down, and it’s one of the ways God draws us closer to Him. Choosing to trust Him even though we aren’t sure what’s going to happen next is hard, but that’s the whole point – it’s about putting your faith in God, not in whatever it is you’re waiting for. Waiting is more about experiencing God than simply enduring a delay (paraphrased, written by Wendy Pope in Wait and See).

Here are some practical ways to keep trusting in the Lord when you want to give up:

  1. Nurture an attitude of gratitude. You may have a lot of unanswered questions, but there are a few things we can always be sure of. First of all, you are seen, understood, and loved by God. Second, there is ALWAYS something to be grateful for. Make the intentional choice to focus on those things, rather than spending all of your time thinking about that *one thing* that God hasn’t given you (yet).
  2. Start praying for the other people in your life who are waitingDo you know someone else who is waiting for the same thing you’re waiting for? Take your eyes off of yourself and focus your energy on your friend. Start lifting her up to God in prayer daily, and ask that she would receive her miracle/answer/breakthrough while you’re waiting for yours.
  3. Reframe your situation. Try to stop thinking of yourself as waiting, and just think of yourself as living. Do you really want to spend your entire life on standby? In a constant state of waiting for the next thing to come along? If you have a growing relationship with the Lord, you are already as fulfilled and complete as you’ll ever be on earth, RIGHT NOW. You are not lacking anything, friend. In every season, in every life situation, you can be wholly satisfied in Him. God doesn’t withhold things from us to be cruel. He cares for us and only gives us good things. As we speak, He is working all things together for our benefit, and when we have Him, we already have everything.

You know what else is important? The end of the story. Never, ever, ever forget the end of your story. As believers in Christ, we win! WE WIN! It is guaranteed that we will get our happy ending someday, because the ultimate happy ending isn’t a new job or a spouse or a baby or more money or a cured disease or world peace. The happy ending is spending eternity with Jesus.

Are you waiting for something right now? Do you feel overlooked? Are you starting to lose patience and endurance, wondering just how long you’ll have to keep waiting? I understand, my friend. And you are so incredibly normal. The most important thing for you to remember is this: We are held steady by a God who knows what He is doing. He has not forgotten about you, and He doesn’t run out of blessings. He may be giving that other person a spouse, a new house, or their dream job right now, but that doesn’t mean you accidentally got left off of His list and He won’t have anything left by the time He gets to you.

God loves you, and so do I! ♥

This post was inspired by Kaylie Ragsdale.

How to Know Who Your Real Friends Are

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Making friends when you’re a kid is SO.MUCH.EASIER. than making new friends as an adult. As a kid, pretty much all you have to do is share your snacks, show up at their birthday parties, play nicely together at school, find out what his or her name is, and you’re all set. But once you become an adult, the playground method of announcing someone as your friend doesn’t really work anymore, and over time, your genuine friend group becomes more defined and quite a bit smaller.

I’m the kind of person who believes in “Once friends, always friends.” I hate losing touch with people who were important to me, even though I know it’s inevitable. Sometimes friendships really are forever, and sometimes they are just for a season. But either way, finding true friends is a gift from God, and the friendships I have cherished the most over the years always seem to have the same things in common.

First of all, distance doesn’t diminish them. You may not be able to hug each other’s necks and talk in person as often as you’d like, but no matter how far apart you live from each other, you make a point of keeping in touch, even if it’s just checking in via text every now and then. Technology is such a blessing for this exact reason. Although in a perfect world, all of the people I love would live within 15 minutes of me, haha!

You can also tell a friendship is a solid one when nothing is off limits in your conversations. Marriage, sin, parenting, your past, weaknesses, family problems – it’s all on the table, and you don’t shy away from any of it for very long. You know each other well enough to know the right questions to ask, and you don’t sugarcoat your answers or try to lie to each other. You aren’t afraid to talk about hard things. You tell each other the truth, and the openness and trust between you is refreshing.

For a Christian, some of the absolute best friends you’ll ever have should come from within your church family, and especially from the church you’re a member of. The love that followers of Jesus have for each other is unique, powerful, and very special. Having common interests is a great catalyst for a new friendship, but I have been astounded by how much a mutual love for the Lord and desire to serve Him can bond you with someone, regardless of whether or not your music and movie preferences align.

Another way to know you’re really comfortable with a person is if you can be quiet together sometimes and it’s not weird. If you don’t feel the need to fill an awkward empty silence, that is significant. It’s nice to just hang out with someone without feeling like you always have to have something funny or surprising or intelligent or cool to say. You can just be together. Of course, usually with those people, you want to talk with them. But the fact that you don’t have to is pretty special.

Finally, I’m convinced that the best friends in the world are the people who really mean what they say. When they tell you they will pray for you, they actually do it. And then they follow up with you in a week or two about whatever they prayed for. When you’re sick, grieving a loss, or just generally in need, they ask “Do you need anything?” and actually mean it. They aren’t secretly hoping you’ll say “Nah, we’re good” so they are off the hook. They genuinely want you to tell them what you need so that they can take care of it.

I’ll leave you with two questions:

  1. Do you have friends like that? I’m sure you do, so go tell them you love them. Yes, right now. Call them, text them, write them a letter – but do it now. Time is short. ♥
  2. Are YOU a friend like that? Are you the kind of person people can rely on? Are you honest AND kind? Do you mean what you say?

“As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.”
— Proverbs 27:17

“But God so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.”
— 1 Corinthians 12:24b-27

“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and prayer. …All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.”
— Acts 2:42, 44-47

2019 Goals + Word for the Year

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

MY 2018 GOALS WERE:

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

• 2019 •

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

Plan a “stay-cation”.

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

Finish reading through the whole Bible chronologically.

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

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

Pray for Daniel every single day.

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

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

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


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

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

J O Y .

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

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

20 Questions for 2018

Laura&Daniel-86

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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