Friendscation 2018: Caribbean Cruise

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I had a vacation epiphany last fall.

I told Daniel that the way you know a group vacation was a good one is when you get home from your trip and would willingly travel with that group of people again in the near future. That could not be more true for the friendscation we took with Brandon and Ashley in September! We soaked up the sun, we went on the worst excursion EVER in Cozumel, we tried new drinks, we dressed up for dinner and watched Saturday Night Fever, we got massages on the beach, and we played sooooo many card games in the Viking Crown Lounge. I’ll just let the pictures speak for themselves!

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Also, this professional photo from one of the formal nights was actually really good, but there’s no way I was going to pay $25 for it. Don’t judge my sneakiness…haha!

Have you ever taken a friendscation? Where’s your favorite place to visit?

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.

14 Days of Love

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If you’ve learned anything about me, you know that I’m a HUGE gift giver. I love picking out unique, meaningful, and sometimes silly things to show someone how much they mean to me. Valentine’s Day is no exception, and last year, I decided to tell Daniel I loved him through 14 Days of Love – goofy goodies hidden around the house, in his car, and even in his office at work!

 

 

 

 

I got all of my ideas from Pinterest and Google, printed off and cut out the little labels, and made a quick shopping trip. To keep things simple, I wrote the labels ahead of time and kept everything hidden…in a non-disclosed location because my husband reads this blog…and all I had to do was pick out a new one to hide for him to find every day leading up to Valentine’s Day.

The pièce de résistance, though, was the bacon roses. Nothing says “Be mine forever” quite like a bouquet of meat! ♥

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How do you celebrate Valentine’s Day? Are your gifts serious, or silly?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Listicle Series: Currently

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Listening… to Christmas music NONSTOPPPPP.

Making… stovetop potpourri for a few Christmas gifties!

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

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

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

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

Reading… Crazy Rich Asians and Emotional Intelligence 2.0.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Listicle Series: 16 Things That Make Me Feel Pretty

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

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

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

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

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

………uh.

You do the same thing too, though. Right?

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

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


THE PRETTY LIST

Good hair days.

Painted toenails.

Neutral colors and jewel tones.

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

Wearing high heels.

Taking professional photos.

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

Floor-length dresses.

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

Red lipstick.

The way my skin feels after a face mask.

Putting together new outfits from pieces in my closet.

My wedding rings.

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

Wearing perfume. Not body spray; real perfume.

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


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

What kinds of things make YOU feel pretty?

Friendsgiving

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We forgot about mashed potatoes.

The rolls weren’t done on time.

There weren’t enough chairs for everyone.

Babies got jealous of each other nursing and cried.

The whipped cream never came out of the fridge.

There was wayyyyy too much leftover ham.

I only took two pictures all night.

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

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

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Small Biz Spotlight: Cromer & Co.

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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