40 By 40

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Today, I turn 30.

Wow.

I can’t believe the 90’s were 30 years ago. I’m nowhere close to being old, but dang if that doesn’t make me feel ancient!

If you’ve been following my blog for awhile, you’re probably familiar with my “30 by 30” list. When I wrote it on my 26th birthday in 2016, I had no clue how the next few years would unfold. There were items on the list that I wasn’t sure would even happen, but they did! But there were also items on the list that I was 100% confident would happen, but they didn’t. Regardless, that list is a prized possession now. I memorialized some of the most fun moments in the last four years of my 20’s, and I can go re-read the list anytime I want and experience that joy all over again!

It just felt right to continue this tradition into my 30’s, so…here we go!!


40 THINGS TO DO BEFORE MY 40TH BIRTHDAY.

1. Find a form of exercise that I truly ENJOY and do it habitually.
Like yoga! I’m a big fan of Yoga With Adriene.

2. Start and maintain a car replacement fund.
My Acura has treated me well, but she’s slowing down…

3. Keep some higher-maintenance plants alive.
A fiddle leaf fig tree and some perennials on the front porch are at the top of my list.

4. Take a class with Daniel.
Something fun, like massage, dancing, or cooking!

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5. Start planning meals monthly instead of weekly.
My mom is #GOALS for this one – such an organizational inspiration. I’m pretty sure she had her comprehensive shopping list created in Excel before the internet existed.

6. Give away something really expensive, anonymously.
Ideas: pool money with friends to buy a car for a single mom in need, buy a plane ticket for a friend to go on a mission trip, or get really nice Christmas gifts for kids who wouldn’t get any otherwise.

7. See one of my favorite bands live in concert.
Even though music plays such a huge role in my personal life, I’ve weirdly never been a big concert person. But I feel like I need to make this happen at least once in my life.

8. Master the basics of another language.
I took approximately four years of Spanish between high school and college, and it’s embarrassing how little of it I remember.

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9. Spend a minimum of two weeks traveling in Europe.
Between the jet lag and the expensive plane tickets, I want to get my money’s worth.

10. Take a sister trip with Robyn.
Harry Potter World????? LET’S GOOOOOO

11. Make at least three recipes from every cookbook I own.
I mean…what’s the point in owning them if I never even use them?

12. Identify mentors in my life, and make time to meet with and learn from them.
The older I get, the more I crave this. I have so much to learn!

13. Set up a home office space.
I’m gonna need somewhere to plan all of those events, right? ;)

14. Send more birthday cards, thank-you cards, and just-because cards.
Snail mail is a lost art. And I’m bringin’ it back.

15. Read at least 30 new books.
Easily one of my favorite things to complete last time! Considering the fact that I had ten done in two years for 30 By 30 (and I wasn’t really trying very hard), I’m pretty sure I’ve got this one in the bag.

DIY: Food Passport for road trips!

16. Make a food passport and fill it with “stamps.”
I came across this idea on Pinterest a long time ago, and it looks so fun! Even though our town is small and we’ve lived here for almost 8 years, there are still restaurants we’ve never visited. (However, for those of you who are locals, I can confidently say that Taste Island will never…ever…EVER make the list of places to try.)

17. Unplug as often as possible. Schedule weekly device-free time and stick to it.
One of my favorite things about our last friendscation cruise was the fact that we were totally unplugged. The only thing I did with my phone for an entire week was take pictures, and it was BLISS.

18. Go sky-diving.
I’ve wanted to do this my whole life, and 2020 is my year to make it happen!!

19. Make my own pasta.
Doesn’t this just seem like the most adult-y thing to do?

20. Spend intentional time nurturing the marriages around me.
Come on, I had to give myself a softball. :) I’m super passionate about marriage ministry, so this one won’t be hard.

21. Pay it forward at least once a month.
I’m already working on a mental list of ideas, like paying for the person ahead of me in the drive-through, leaving a roll of quarters at my work vending machine, etc. But I would love your suggestions too!

22. Make peace with my body’s ‘flaws.’
I read this quote the other day and fell in love with it:
“And I said to my body softly, ‘I want to be your friend.’ It took a long breath and replied, ‘I have been waiting my whole life for this.'” –Nayyirah Waheed

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23. Celebrate 10 years and 15 years of marriage.
Hard to believe we’re more than halfway to both of those anniversaries!

24. Take another friendscation.
ALREADY. SO. READY. TO. RAGE.

25. Do something risqué.
Liiiiiike take boudoir photos or go skinny-dipping. (Sorry Mom)

26. Come up with a system to keep track of when food goes bad and stop throwing away so much freaking produce.
So annoying. I can’t be the only one who’s bad at this.

26. Break out of my comfort zone and do adventurous things just because I can.
Geocaching, karaoke, trying more unique foods, picking up a new hobby, flying first class, taking a different class at the gym…I have plenty of ideas!

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28. Read at least one book out loud with Daniel every year.
We started doing this on long car trips a few years ago, and it’s enjoyable for both of us because Daniel is an auditory learner and I love to read aloud.

29. Save up for something expensive.
A new car? A home renovation? A crazy vacation? We’ll see!

30. Do some real landscaping in our front yard.
I’m envisioning more plants on the porch, solar lighting along the sidewalk, and maybe a tree or two.

31. Spend one year doing a “month without:” a month without Netflix, fried food, biting my nails, dessert, etc.
My friend Victoria inspired this one, although she actually gives up one thing every year for the entire year, and I’m not sure if I’m that hardcore…

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32. Make a calendar for all family/friend birthdays.
I have pretty much all of them on my phone, but I want an actual paper calendar or something so I can look at them all together and keep track of how many birthday cards I need to buy each month.

33. Host a beauty swap or clothing swap party.
I’ve done a clothing swap before, but never a beauty swap. Can’t wait to do this one!

34. Start recording my prayer requests.
I want to remember the days that I start praying about something and the days that God answers those prayers. Even if His answer is ‘no.’

35. Write letters to the 10 most influential people who have impacted my life.
Why do we wait until someone’s funeral to say the best things about them? I’m not waiting any longer. I never want someone I love to wonder how I really felt about them.

36. Play the piano every single week.
When Daniel and I got married, my dad gifted us a beautiful Kawai, and I am ashamed to tell you how often I actually play it. I want to get back to my roots and do that gift justice.

37. Remodel our downstairs bathroom.
That shower, y’all….it needs some help. Good thing I’ve got some contractors in the family!

38. Sponsor a child, and maybe even go meet him or her.
We can’t help every needy child. But maybe we can change the world for a few of them. ♥

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39. Invest in quality skincare and use it consistently.
Gah, I sound like such a grown-up.

40. Host a backyard dinner party, with multiple courses and everything.
This was one of my goals for the year in 2019, and I wasn’t able to make it happen between all of the weddings, parties, showers, and traveling. So I’m trying again!

*Bonus: Each year, visit a new place I’ve never been before. On my wishlist:
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter
The Grand Canyon
Lake Moraine and Lake Louise in Banff, Canada
Switzerland
Redwood National Park

To see my original post about why I decided to do “30 By 30,” click here!

20 Things I Learned In My 20’s

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1. Aside from following Jesus, choosing who to marry was the most important decision I have ever made and will ever make. To my unmarried friends, I cannot emphasize this enough: CHOOSE WISELY, because that one choice will impact your entire future, literally.

2. Social media will enslave you if you let it. It’s subtle, but crippling. Don’t spend your whole life in front of a screen comparing your valleys to everyone else’s mountain tops. Every single person on earth, including the person you’re envying right now, is insecure and awkward and unsure and self-conscious about something.

3. Don’t be high-maintenance about everything, but it’s okay to figure out what’s worth being a little *boujee* about. For me, a few of those things are hair products, professional photography, and bedding (especially mattresses). Speaking of bedding, here’s another lesson I’ve learned – going to bed is freaking awesome. Can I cash in on all those naps I refused as a kid??

4. It’s okay to not know what you want to do with your life. It’s okay to change your mind a bunch of times. It’s okay to like 37 different things and have no clue how they all connect. Annnnd it’s okay to know exactly what you want to do and actually do it. All of those things are completely normal. You. are. normal.

5. Taking care of yourself becomes more difficult and more important as you get older. This is especially hard for parents and people-pleasers, because it feels selfish, but the truth is that if you spend all your energy pouring out and never allow yourself to be poured into, you will wear out. Count on it. It’s cliche but true that “You can’t pour from an empty cup.” So go take a hot bath. Play with a dog. Get coffee with a spiritually encouraging friend. Turn your phone off for a few hours. Spend one-on-one time with Jesus, because you will always need more of that. Taking care of yourself doesn’t have to be expensive or over-indulgent, but give yourself permission to intentionally rest and recharge sometimes without feeling guilty about it.

6. Community is absolutely vital. Find people who will walk shoulder-to-shoulder with you through the good, the bad, and the really bad, and cherish them. Tell them often that you love them, look for ways to serve them, and let them take care of you when you’re the one who needs help.

7. Break-and-bake cookies will never be as good as homemade ones. Stop being lazy and just buy some baking soda already.

8. Some stuff matters a lot less than you think it does, and some stuff matters a lot more than you think it does. For example: I always wanted to marry a guy who could sing. It was actually a deal-breaker for a really long time. But when I met Daniel, that *thing* that I had held up on a pedestal for so many years just wasn’t as important anymore. I would much rather keep him for all of his other qualities – his wit, integrity, discernment – than trade him out for a guy with a great voice. On the other hand, certain things about him have proven to be a lot more valuable than I expected. When I was writing down my list of qualifications for a husband as a boy-crazy tween, I never once considered asking God for a guy who was financially savvy. But that’s exactly what I got, and I cannot put into words how grateful I am for that undeserved gift from the Lord. Long story short? Some qualities are secondary (musical ability). Some are primary (wisdom). Know the difference, and don’t settle.

9. Call your parents more often. And your grandparents. Write them letters, even! They’ll love it, and no matter how much you do it, someday you’ll wish you had done it more.

10. Every New Year’s Eve, you’ll swear time can’t possibly go any faster than it already is. But it will keep happening, again and again. Every single year will go by faster than the one before it, faster than you can possibly imagine. So be present in each one. Don’t spend all your time waiting for the next thing. Just be, right where you are.

11. Money matters. It shouldn’t be the most important thing in your life, but it also shouldn’t be something you treat carelessly. If you spend spend spend without really thinking about where it’s all going, STOP. If your long-term plan doesn’t go any further than randomly tossing money into a savings account, STOP. Don’t be a slave to money, now or later. Make your money work for you. Ask God to make you a good steward, get some wise financial advice, give to your church and community with a generous heart, save up a little for an emergency, and then put the rest to work (rental properties, retirement accounts, etc.).

12. As much as I hate this fact…you can’t eat whatever you want and refuse to exercise without consequences. You may not notice those consequences until 5 years or 55 years go by, but you will pay the price eventually.

13. You HAVE to stop worrying so much about what other people think. Seriously. Sometimes, it does matter. But a lot of the time, it doesn’t. And half of the time, they probably aren’t even thinking about you anyway.

14. Go get a piece of paper and a pen. Got them? Good. I want you to write down your plan for your life, as many details as you want. All done? Perfect. Now crumple up that paper and throw it away. (Sorry if you actually took the time to write stuff down.) But seriously, so few things in life go the way we actually plan. And thank God for that. Because if my life had gone how I had planned, I would have gone to OU instead of OBU, which means I wouldn’t have met the guy in my J-term math class who told me I should work at Falls Creek. Those three summers on the ropes course ended up being one of the biggest spiritual turning points of my life. If life had gone how I’d planned, I would have married one of the hundreds of “good guys” from OBU and probably become a youth pastor’s wife, since that was my dream in high school. But instead, God introduced me to a finance major from another college in The-Middle-of-Nowhere (aka Durant, aka D-OK, aka The Shady 5-80) who has taught me more about myself, love, forgiveness, sarcasm, and nerd board games than anyone else I have ever met. And if life had gone how I’d planned, years of unexplained infertility would not have been part of my journey to parenthood. But if I hadn’t experienced that pain and loss, I would never have understood the power of fierce, healing, all-consuming love from God, our families, and our best friends the way I do now. God works ALL THINGS together for the GOOD of those who love Him and are called according to His purposes for them (Romans 8:28). I believe it because I’m living it.

15. Trying to change someone is a major waste of time. God is the only one who can cause genuine change in a person’s heart. Praying for them is much more effective, not to mention freeing.

16. Directly related to #15, an even harder lesson to learn is that sometimes, you are actually the one who needs to change. Contrary to what you might think, you aren’t right about everything.

17. Traveling is AWESOME. Go as many places as possible, as often as possible. You CAN afford it if you prioritize it and make decisions accordingly. But be prepared – there will always be at least one thing that doesn’t go as smoothly as you planned. Sometimes flights get changed, traffic makes you late, and stuff costs more than you thought it would…but it’s okay. Plan as much as you can, accept the things you have no control over with grace, and thank God for allowing you to travel as often as you do.

18. High heels are overrated. Do I wear them? Yes. Do I regret it 11 out of 10 times? Yes. Do I still continue wearing them? Also yes. (What? I’m a work in progress, people.)

19. You don’t have to have an eating disorder to have an unhealthy relationship with your body. Self-obsession and self-loathing are both forms of idolatry, and God did not create you for that nonsense.

20. Change is inevitable. And I still hate it. I think it’s instinct, human nature, to resist change internally, even if we try to appear flexible on the outside. Friendships evolve, some fading and some strengthening. Our bodies age. Our preferences change. We can’t fight the fact that things just don’t stay the same forever. But honestly…thank goodness. Can you imagine what life would be like if we never moved on from being a baby? Or from being a teenager?? I wouldn’t want to live in that world. Adulthood doesn’t necessarily mean liking all the changes that take place in your life. It’s just learning to accept them as gifts of love from the God who wrote your entire life story before you were even born. We can’t see the big picture, but He can. In seasons of good change and not so good, God is trustworthy, and He only gives good gifts. ♥

Hats off to my 20’s, the best decade of my life so far, and here’s hoping that my 30’s will be even better!

What I Know For Sure.

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Let’s start this off strong.

I don’t know a lot.

In fact, I feel like the older I get, the less I actually know. Does anybody else feel this way?? It’s like my brain is pulling a Benjamin Button. In every new life stage, I’m both the smartest and the dumbest that I’ve ever been.

But there are four things I know for sure:

  1. I’m not ‘enough.’
  2. Life is a series of waiting rooms, metaphorical and literal.
  3. The ‘hustle’ culture is overrated and damaging.
  4. I literally don’t know what I would do without God.
  5. I’m bad at math.

One of my goals for the year is to take a break from TV at least one day per week, and take a break from all social media platforms at least one day per month. Yesterday was my day off of social media, and I was shocked to discover how many times my fingers mindlessly wandered and opened those apps throughout the day. Of course, as soon as I did it, I would snap out of it and close the app. But still, I reflexively tapped those apps probably 20 times, and for no other reason than that I was bored. I wanted to know what was happening in the social world that day. I didn’t want to miss something ~iMpoRtAnt~ and be left out or left behind.

Adulthood is hard. I’ve talked a lot about that in various posts, but it bears repeating, especially because of the savage mischief-maker that is social media. Don’t get me wrong, it has its perks; after all, you’re probably reading this post right now because of some form of social media. And yet in spite of all the new connections it may spark, we’re lonelier and emptier than ever. I’m convinced that no generation has been more aware of all the things we don’t have. We are bombarded daily with hundreds of things that we’re supposed to know, be, have, and do. And a lot of us actually manage to keep up, or at least look like we’re keeping up. Sort of. But behind all of our photos and memories and virtual transparency (because it’s cool to be *real* now), we’re all still secretly terrified that it’s not enough. We don’t know enough, and we’re not doing enough.

Worst of all, though, is the fear that we ourselves are not enough.

And you know what? I think that fear is justified.

Because deep down, we already know that we aren’t enough.

We can’t create, curate, fabricate, or initiate enough beauty, humor, authenticity, popularity, or overall goodness to overcome the fact that

W E .  A R E .  N O T .  E N O U G H .

We will never be funny enough, pretty enough, smart enough, athletic enough, or good enough when the measuring stick is our own self-perception or the rest of the world’s standards. Telling ourselves we’re enough in the mirror or slapping the phrase on a t-shirt does little more than bury our fear underneath a mountain of self-focus and self-help. Ultimately, our merit and abilities won’t get us very far if the focus is on what WE can do, because at one point or another, we will inevitably fail. Our skills are limited. Our energy will run out. We can’t fix other people’s problems. We can’t even fix our own.

Guess what, though?

“Being enough” was never our job.

Jesus is enough for us.

He is strong enough, smart enough, worthy enough, perfect enough. We are made whole only through a relationship with Him, and until we surrender to Him completely, we will never be able to relieve the taunting, lingering ache of “not enough.” If Jesus was enough to satisfy the debt of every human being’s sin, once and for all, then He is enough for our day-to-day. And when we bravely and humbly tear down our altars to ourselves and lay our pride at His feet, we learn that our strength to do literally everything comes from Him. We discover that the absolute best place to be is NOT behind the wheel.

The truth is, I’m not in control. I want to be. But I’m not. And that is so counterculture. We are conditioned from an early age to believe – genuinely believe – that we have control over the outcomes in our lives. We are told that if we do A + B, we WILL get C. Our DIY #bossbabe world screams “You can do anything!!” and encourages us to hustle hustle hustle to get what we want, and we buy into the lie that if we work hard enough and believe hard enough and pray hard enough…we can make God do whatever we want Him to do.

That’s what we’re really saying.

It’s ugly, isn’t it?

We want so much to believe that we know what’s best, and that if God would just get on board, then everything would be golden.

But that’s not how it is.

The Bible says that God’s ways are higher than ours (Isaiah 55:8-9), and His sovereign Will always plays out exactly the way He planned from the very beginning (Proverbs 19:21). But we have hope, because He loves us (Ephesians 2:4-5) and everything He does is for our good (Romans 8:28). In the face of that kind of love, we can let go of the burden of trying to be enough for others, ourselves, and even God Himself. We can release our desperate desires to be famous for something; our need to be liked, respected, or envied; our unrealistic expectations; our selfish aspirations. We can be free, truly, and live a life marked by real joy and real peace.

It sounds contradictory, I know – giving up your autonomy and yet also being free. But it’s real. The most freedom I’ve ever felt in my life has come when I stop trying to control everything, surrender to God through prayer, and remind myself that not only is He big enough to handle my wants and my needs, but He is also worthy of my trust because He has a perfect track record and has never, ever failed to do what is best. If He thinks I need something, He’ll give it to me. If He thinks I don’t need something, He won’t give it to me. And even though I may not like it or understand it at the time, I will still choose to believe that He is right and He is worth following. After all, I don’t really have any right to hold anything back from a Person who gave up everything for me, who died so that I could live. I owe that Person everything, I think. ♥

20 Questions for 2019

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What was the best thing that happened this year?
Oh wow. I thought 2018 was good, but 2019 has been killer!! The three things that shine brightest in my mind are: (1) Robyn and Amanda’s weddings, (2) Planning my first wedding, and (3) Going on our second friendscation cruise but with wayyyy more people this time around and it was THE BEST WEEK!

What was the most challenging thing that happened this year?
Saying goodbye to our old community group. It was healthy and thriving, and we were asked to help combine two other existing groups and foster a new environment of unity, trust, and affection for each other, just like we had with our first group. I had a really hard time with it at first, even though I knew it’s what we were supposed to do. But God worked things together so beautifully, and now I look forward to Tuesday nights every single week. I love them all so much!

Who were your most valuable friendships with?
My Lakepoint people. Directly related to my last answer, I have been astounded by how quickly I’ve bonded with people within our community. There are people in our previous group and even our current group that I saw at church every Sunday but never had much of a friendship with, and now I can’t imagine going a single week without seeing them. My heart literally hurts when we are apart for a long time.

What are some new skills that you learned?
I tried aerial yoga for the first time, and I got a lot more confident with normal yoga! I also planned my first wedding as a paid event coordinator, and it was freaking unreal!!

Pick three words to describe this year.
Honestly? I want to keep my words from last year: Fun, restoring, & enlightening.

What was your biggest personal change from January to December?
I’m finally starting to care about my health. I still don’t really enjoy working out or eating right, but I had a pretty big mental breakthrough when I did Keto again before our cruise, and I am determined to keep that healthy mindset alive in 2020.

What was the best book you read this year?
Passion and Purity by Elisabeth Elliot or The Mystery of Marriage by Mike Mason. Both offer invaluable insight about God and marriage for anyone, whether married or single.

What did you do to serve others this year?
Too many things to name at Lakepoint. I also volunteered downtown as a Durant Main Street Influencer, and I did Meals on Wheels with some coworkers.

Name a couple of positive memory-making experiences from 2019.
In addition to everything I mentioned in the first question…Durant was a finalist in the Small Business Revolution competition, we spent a weekend in Dallas with the Burnses, Ezra James was born, we traveled to D.C. to see the Burkes, we spent our anniversary weekend with the Wesberrys, and Craft Pies Pizza Co. opened downtown!

What 2019 accomplishments are you most proud of?
This might sound stupid, but between huge projects at work, planning Nicole’s wedding, and preparing to leave for the cruise the day after said wedding, September and October were two of the longest months of my life, haha! My mind is still blown every time I try to figure out how I got so much done the week before the wedding.

What are some things you’ve learned to accept this year?
Two big things! First, a lot of things I freak out about really aren’t that big of a deal, and I just need to get over myself. And second, marriage doesn’t look anything like what you see in the movies. Even 7½ years in, I still catch myself expecting Daniel to read my mind and say all the right things at just the right time, but I feel like I’m ending 2019 in a more realistic, patient, forgiving place than where I started.

In what ways did you grow spiritually?
For the first time in my life, I spent time in the Word EVERY SINGLE DAY this year. It has truly become part of my daily routine, and I can’t go to bed without doing it. I’ve also gotten a lot better at praying for Daniel every day and reflexively surrendering my thoughts to the Lord.

What did you gain in 2019? What did you lose?
Gained = new friendships through our new community group, and a general sense of “okay-ness” with who I am. I’m finding a happy medium between pride and self-loathing.
Lost = weight! lol

Name a difficult situation you overcame.
Truthfully, each one that came to mind is a little too personal to blog, and even more truthfully, I don’t really feel like I’ve overcome most of them – I’m still in the midst of a couple of messes. But as the year comes to an end, I can confidently say that life is still good, my faith family is a taste of Heaven, and I trust God completely with my future.

What is something you want to do better in 2020?
I want to be less self-centered as a wife, coworker, family member, and friend. And I want to plan more parties and weddings!

What was the best thing you did with your time this year?
Host people in our home. Nothing else compares to fun nights with people I love in my favorite place to be. ♥

What was the single biggest time-waster in your life this year?
Games on my phone. *I know, I’m a child*

What are you most grateful for in 2019?
If it’s not obvious already, Lakepoint Community Church, and everything that has come along with it.

What do you want to leave behind in 2019?
Hurt feelings, awkward conversations, impatience, and laziness.

Who do you want to be in 2020?
Emotionally strong. Brave. Fun. Whole.

Maybe 2019 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 2020 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 2019. Feel free to join in and answer them for yourself!

Robyn’s Wedding Shenanigans

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2019 was the year of  LOVE, LOVE, LOVE. After my sister-in-law Amanda’s wedding in March, I immediately started gearing up for the next one – this time, for my sister Robyn and her beau Travis! (Okay, let’s be honest…I started planning Robyn’s wedding shenanigans the day after she got engaged.)

Her bachelorette party was easily one of my favorites I’ve ever hosted! We ate dinner first at The Hall’s Pizza Kitchen, and then walked next door to do an escape room. One of my favorite things about that night was giving Robyn a temporary tattoo of Travis’s face!

After the escape room, we retreated to an Airbnb and enjoyed Princess Diaries-themed snacks. The next morning, after brunch at a place called Hatch, we went to an aerial yoga class, and it was a BLAST!

A few weeks before the wedding, my parents’ church hosted a wedding shower for them, and I got to spend some sweet time with my mom and grandmas.

Her rehearsal was lovely too, and we got to eat at The Pizza Factory for the rehearsal dinner, where the ranch dressing is so good you seriously contemplate drinking it. (Also, can you tell we like pizza…?)

Her wedding day was the absolute dreamiest – gorgeous venue, chill bride, sweet vendors, all kinds of family and friends…ahh!! It was the best day!

I’m convinced that one of the best things about going to weddings as an adult is getting to see people you haven’t seen in years. Robyn’s wedding was basically just a huge reunion, and I loved it. ♥

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I love you five-ever, Robyn and Travis! So happy we’re family!

Amanda’s Wedding Festivities

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Remember when I shared that BOTH of my sisters got engaged in the same weekend?? Their weddings were both this year, one in March and one in June! I’m definitely playing catch-up here, but I am so excited to finally share some photos with you all.

The first wedding of the year was for my sister-in-law, Amanda, and her guy, Ryan, and I hosted a travel-themed wedding shower for them through our church.

I also had the honor of throwing her bridal shower based off of “The Office” at my house, and it was such a riot!! I’ve never had so much fun blowing balloons up halfway, haha!

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Amanda’s maid of honor, Alesha, did a fabulous job planning her bachelorette party too! We went to dinner at this super cute (and delicious) place in Dallas called Ida Claire, did an escape room, spent the night at an Airbnb, and went to Six Flags for opening weekend!

Her wedding day was pure craziness, especially when the cold front rolled in as the girls were taking pictures. But the ceremony was the sweetest, the reception was a blast, and she looked SO beautiful!!

Image may contain: 2 people, including Amanda Snell, people smiling, people standing, tree, wedding and outdoor

Image may contain: 2 people, people standing, wedding and outdoor

Congratulations again, Ryan and Amanda! Love you guys so much! ♥

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?

Hiking

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

do more

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?