Follow:

    What I’m Loving + Favorite Photos // July, August + September 2017

    Oh my goodness. For a monthly review of all things that I’m loving and a chance to show off some more personal photo projects than my clients, it’s been a long wait! I missed July, because it felt too soon after June. The last weekend of August is when Hurricane Harvey hit southern Texas completely decimating entire cities and leaving lasting tragedy in its wake. Posting anything that week, especially the things I’m loving, just seemed wrong.

    As we’ve begun to recover and life has gone on, I think it’s time to let you in on a ton of things that I’m loving. The last few months have been so much fun. If you’ve been around my page for a bit, you know that I absolutely love sharing about the things that I am currently loving. Enough with talking about it, let’s jump in!

    What I’m Loving

    BINGING Hart of Dixie for all the good, quintessential small town feels and the quirkiest of characters. Meanwhile, I’m savoring The Great British Baking Show on Netflix with only a few shows at a time. It’s the absolute loveliest of competitions and has inspired me to start baking again.

    PONDERING on Carlos Whittaker’s Kill The Spider book. Full disclosure, I’m part of his launch team, so I got a free ebook download of it to read. I devoured it. Before finishing, I’d already preordered one copy for myself. I just went back and preordered another copy for a friend, so I can force her to read it and discuss it with me. Also because I really am looking forward to doing the video course and the workbook. Y’all, I am actively planning on rereading this already. I cannot express enough how much this book is a game-changer in spiritual warfare and actively living as a Christian instead of just brushing sin away like it’s now dealt with. I’ve started compiling a list of quotes that I love, but really, how does one compile one of the most comprehensive daily prayers that I’ve ever read into a list of quotes. It’s pages long, absolutely breathtakingly beautiful and a necessity in a starting place of my own prayer life. Seriously, I have all the love for this book and can’t wait to see the impact it has after its release on October 3. It’s my number 1 suggestion from my 2017 Fall Book list.

    RICK’S RECOMMENDING his new audiobook series he’s been binge-listening to. One Second After is the first of a three part series that has us and some family friends re-evaluating what we’d do in the event of having to survive in a post-apocalyptic world.

    LISTENING to so many podcasts these days. Rick and I have officially fallen in love with the Popcast with Knox and Jamie. Their “Urban Dictionary” series and “No’s of _____” are absolutely captivatingly hilarious. The “No’s of Birthdays” had me laughing so hard in the car that I was crying. The other podcast I’ve fallen absolutely in love with (along with so many others!) is the For The Love Podcast with Jen Hatmaker. I am absolutely loving how she’s bringing both unknown and everyday people onto her podcast instead of big name people that everyone knows. Don’t get me wrong, she had Brene Brown and Shauna Niequist on, and those were absolutely fabulous. I love hearing and learning from the everyday people she has on as they discuss friendships and moxie. I can’t wait to see the next topical series she does. My favorite ones right now are these: Luvvie Ajayi – Authenticity in a Branded World, Real Girlfriends Stories from The Tribe (Have tissues ready!) and Anna LeBaron + Ruth Wariner – Unyielding Courage.

    READING a book about slowing down, taking in life and making the every day things seem less stressful. I’m only a few chapters in, and I absolutely love Emily Ley’s writing style in Grace Not Perfection: Embracing Simplicity, Celebrating Joy. We just signed on our new house right before Harvey, and I can’t wait to move in and implement some of Emily’s suggestions into our own home. (No worries. Our new home was unaffected by Harvey.)

    STOPPING to scroll through 5 instagram accounts (Yes, FIVE!) that I absolutely adore as they’re each drawing me closer to Jesus in a different way. @beckykiser of @sacredholidays is super encouraging, and it’s been a true delight to watch as she gears up for writing her first book. She writes the kind of long, good, thought-provoking #instadiaries that I love. The other four accounts are makers who infuse Jesus into their works. @dearmushka is a jewelry company that I have fallen in love with due to its simplicity and calling to memorize and remember scripture. I love her #instadevos. @lindsay_letters is an incredible calligrapher that I’ve followed for years. It’s been so fun to watch her as she opens up more about her life instead of just her business on her account. I’m just fascinated with who she is as a person and love that she’s funny in her own way and not scared to share her quirkiness with the world. Sisters @nataliemetlewis and @valmariepaper have stolen my heart with their adorable twin-ness and deep desire to not only dive into scripture themselves, but to draw those around them to do the same. Clearly, I’m really loving instagram these days.

    CRAVING the Shinoda at Japaneiro’s and the Teriyaki Pizza at Local Table. I’m a huge fan of local restaurants. What are some of your favorites?

    Y’all. 3 months is just wayyyy too long. There’s so many things I’ve been loving and itching to share with y’all. Can’t wait to share again next month! Until then, what are you loving!?

    Favorite July, August + September Photos

    20 Fall 2017 Books I’m Excited About

    Book lovers, get excited for Fall 2017 books! I’m incredibly excited about this collection of books because the options from this fall are just so good! There’s even some children’s books that I discovered and really, really want! I know Rick and I have a 5 year plan, but we may need to start putting a children’s library together because I am so in love with children’s books right now. Let’s go explore some books!

    Coming in September + Ready for Preorder (Or Just Out!)

    September 1Deeper Waters: Immersed in the Life-Changing Truth of God’s Word by Denise J. Hughes
    Turning to the Bible isn’t always easy. Where does one start? How do you read this anyway? Denise cuts through those questions as she demonstrates how to read the Bible with the expectation that God will meet you there. She teaches readers how to hear God in his word, see the connection of where our world meets his word, and actually even enjoy reading this “boring” book.

    September 5Come and Eat: A Celebration of Love and Grace Around the Everyday Table by Bri McKoy
    If you read and loved The Turquoise Table from my 2017 Summer Picks, you’ll love this book. Bri explores the conversations and connection that takes place around a dining room table and how to make it more meaningful for you and your people.

    September 12Single, Dating, Engaged, Married: Navigating Life and Love in the Modern Age by Ben Stuart
    Are you looking for a dating book with good and solid Biblical theology? This is it. Ben explores the 4 distinct stages of romance and life and what it should mean for us from a Biblical perspective in today’s culture. Looking through each of these stages, Ben explores what eternal things we should be pursuing at each point as we try to glorify God in each of these stages.

    September 12Braving the Wilderness: A Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone by Brene Brown
    Did you see this was written by THE Brene Brown? That’s practically enough said. I got to see her on her Houston stop of her book tour where she did an overview of her new book. It is packed with the research and goodness that one expects coming from Brene Brown. Having said that, Brene lovers pick this up soon!

    September 19The Dogist Puppies by Elias Weiss Friedman
    One word. Puppies! This is an amazing coffee table style book featuring a ton of puppy pictures that all dog lovers would absolutely adore.

    September 19Reading People: How Seeing The World Through the Lens of Personality Changes Everything by Anne Bogel
    I heard Anne discussing this on a podcast what feels like ages ago now. Personality tests always intrigue me whether it’s a Myers-Briggs or Which Disney Character Are You?. I’m Cinderella by the way. Anne gives practical insights as to how knowing and utilizing your test results will revolutionize life.

    Coming in October + Ready for Preorder

    October 3Kill the Spider: Getting Rid of What’s Really Holding You Back by Carlos Whittaker
    If I could only recommend one book that is life changing this year, it’d be this one. I’ve received an Advanced Readers Copy and will be telling y’all all about this book in a future blog post. Until then, preorder it because WOW. Carlos cuts away at the cobwebs we swipe and show us that that’s a temporary fix as we discover what spider is making those cobwebs. I finished it a week ago and can’t stop thinking about it and the implications it has for my own life.

    October 3Daring to Hope: Finding God’s Goodness in the Broken and the Beautiful by Katie Davis Majors
    You may remember Katie from her debut novel, Kisses from Katie, which is featured on my 2017 Reading List. She’s back this October as she grapples with the huge question of God’s love for us in troubling times. She invites us into the moments of questioning she has as she searches for answers and hope.

    October 3A Crazy, Holy Grace: The Healing Power of Pain and Memory by Frederick Buechner
    This collection of essays grapples with the hard topics of pain, grief and grace. It covers “such topics as the power of hidden secrets, loss of a dearly beloved, letting go, resurrection from the ruins, peace, and listening for the quiet voice of God. And he reveals that pain and sorrow can be a treasure—an amazing grace.”

    October 6A Bigger Table: Building Messy, Authentic, Hopeful Spiritual Community by John Pavlovitz
    Can we as a church live in the inclusiveness that Jesus called us to where we love everyone?John Pavlovitz explores this question of who should the church love when it comes to topics of LGBT inclusion, gender equality, racial tensions, and global concerns.

    October 17Thanksgiving in the Woods by Phyllis Alsdurf
    Thanksgiving is always a holiday that is laced with understated magic for me. It’s the magic of the collision of simplicity, faith and family. This gorgeous children’s book explores one family’s Thanksgiving traditions that they hold in the woods. Everything about that just seems so magical. Thanksgiving, you really deserve more books.

    October 17A World of Cookies for Santa: Follow Santa’s Tasty Trip Around the World by M.E. Furman
    I am fascinated by cultures which is why when I saw this children’s book, I knew instantly that I’d be getting it for my future kids. (Future = waaayyyyy down the line.) I absolutely love the travel adventure this story takes little ones on as they get bits and pieces of culture on a trip around the world with Santa. I love that it’s a little cookie cookbook too!

    October 24100 Days to Brave: Devotions for Unlocking Your Most Courageous Self by Annie F. Downs
    You may remember that I’m quite the Annie fan. Her words have definitely permeated my life in crazy ways. I can’t wait to sit with Annie in this devotional as we strive together to find our own bravery and strength in our lives for Christ. I can’t wait to get my hands on this!

    October 24The Fearless Baker: Simple Secrets for Baking Like a Pro by Erin Jeanne McDowell
    After savoring episodes of the Great British Baking Show on Netflix, the baking bug has bitten me again! Rick is always telling me that once you understand cooking at its roots, it’s so easy to customize dishes, change flavors and do all those things that take good food to amazing food. This cookbook can show me the food science so that I can understand baking at its roots. There’s a fun little video on the Amazon page to preorder this cookbook which features this quote: “When you understand the why, you don’t have to bake with fear.” This is definitely the cookbook I need to forge ahead into a life of fearless and delicious baking.

    October 31200 Women: Who Will Change the Way You See the World edited by Ruth Hobday, Geoff Blackwell, Sharon Gelman and Marianne Lassandro
    If you asked 5 questions to 200 women of different backgrounds, what would the results be? In this combination of essays and quotes of 200 women discuss some tough topics we get to know that answer. The interviews feature both individuals like Jane Goodall as well as those who aren’t known. I love that juxtaposition as we get to see humanity and womanhood at its most beautiful core.

    Coming in November + Ready for Preorder

    November 7A Birthday Party for Jesus by Susan Jones
    This is another children’s book that I can’t wait to add to our collection. Christmas gets lost in the mix. It’s no secret. We focus on gifts and not on Christ. In this sweet tale, a group of fun little animals throw a birthday party for Jesus as they celebrate the real meaning of Christmas.

    November 7In the Middle of the Mess: Strength for the Beautiful, Broken Life by Sheila Walsh
    Sheila takes us on a stroll through her own mess as she shows what spiritual disciplines have allowed her to see Christ through her struggles. She discusses her defenses and how she had to take them down along with the practical applications each of us can use to evaluate in the midst of our own messes.

    November 7 Bonfire: A Novel by Krysten Ritter
    I absolutely love two things: small towns and mysteries. In this small town mystery, a girl named Abby finds herself in quite a predicament as a little inquiry for work spirals into a full fledged mystery of the disappearance of a girl she knew a decade ago. Scandals and dirty secrets exposed!

    November 21A Simplified Life: Tactical Tools for Intentional Living by Emily Ley
    Who feels like they need a simpler life? ME! Emily Ley is the simplifier. I can’t get over how perfect this description is: “Emily’s strategies, systems, and methods for permanently clearing the clutter, organizing your priorities, and living intentionally in 10 key areas—from your home and meal planning, to style and finances, parenting, faith life, and moreEmily will show you how to truly make the most of your days with realistic, achievable, and tactical tools.” I’m so excited to dive in as I continue to intentionally simplify my own life.

    November 24Stranger No More: A Muslim Refugee’s Story of Harrowing Escape, Miraculous Rescue, and the Quiet all of Jesus by Annahita Parsan
    I can’t even begin to do the description of Annahita’s story here. In short, she fled her home country, endured a miraculous release from prison, came to know Christ and is now glorifying him in crazy ways. From that short description, I have so many questions. How do you just get out of prison? How did she discover Christ along the way? What is she doing now? I can’t wait to read this.

     

    Are you preordering any of these? What books are you looking forward to? Do you like seeing 20 books here or would you prefer that I highlight only 10 books when we get to Winter? Share your thoughts in the comments please!

     

    Hurricane Harvey: How We Fared + What Now?

    Nearly two weeks ago, like most of Houston and the surrounding Southeast Texas area, I sat rendered helpless as Hurricane Harvey came to visit. While sitting on my couch in my untouched home streaming Netflix in the background, it felt surreal as my Facebook feed was flooded with photographs and news stories of the heartbreaking situations around us. From Friday night to Wednesday, I feel like I became besties with the County Judge. The Fort Bend Emergency Office Facebook Live updates enthralled me like it was my favorite TV show. I couldn’t shut my laptop for really any amount of time. As soon as myself or my husband answered a call or text with an update on our situation, another would come in.

    Untouched. That was the state of my home. That is where I live. Unlike so many who evacuated or hunkered down just to find water coming too dangerous for comfort. I missed blogging on that Tuesday after Harvey hit. I’ve probably been sitting on parts of these words for a week or so now as they streamed themselves together and as I have processed the tragedy that has taken place in my beloved city and state. Rick and I are “okay.” We never lost power, we stayed dry, and our physical property remains undamaged. We are so not “okay” though.

    A friend texted me last night to see how I’m doing in the wake of Harvey as well as how Houston is holding up in general. This is part of my reply back. “Streets that were once overflowing with water are now overflowing with the aftermath of destruction. It’s so tragic. The whole city is exhausted.”

    It’s been a whirlwind of a little over a week now. We are Houston. We are strong. But we are tired. There have had many restless nights. We are a grief stricken city as not only lives were lost in this tragedy, but our hopes and dreams. We are diverse, and we are united in our recovery. #houstonstrong and #texasstrong are who we are.

    The Best Facebook Post This Week

    As I sat trying to focus on reading Kill the Spider, I really couldn’t keep my mind focused for long. Relaxing and reading on the couch seemed so ridiculous given the circumstances. My husband and I tried watching our favorite funny shows on Netflix. Rain continued to pound down from the sky and laughter was scarce. When the rain let up, this gem found its way into my Facebook feed.

    “….After 7 more days Noah again sent out the dove from the ark. When the dove returned to him that evening, there in its beak were two Shiners and a rack of baby back ribs. Then Noah knew that the water had begun to recede from Houston. He waited seven more days and sent the dove out again, but this time it did not return to him because it was still in line at Killen’s BBQ in Pearland.

    Genesis 8:10-12 LSV (Lone Star Version)”
    – Bill Cooke

    The rain had let up and with a taste of what Noah and all the citizens of earth went through that time, seeing the sun shine that day was way more exciting than the solar eclipse that had just happened days before. The sun coming out to play and water seeping into the ground is only the beginning of the days to come.

    What Can I Do Now?
    Pray.

    Pray for compassion and empathy. Thank God for the sunshine. Pray for those who have lost their jobs in this tragic timing and the economy as it begins to rebuild. Thank God for those who jumped at rescuing neighbors, friends, family members and animals at a moment’s notice. Pray for strength to rebuild and for strength for those who are continuing to provide relief. Pray for those who had to make tough decisions that they are still second guessing. Thank God for the Cajun Navy, HEB and so many others who jumped into action. Pray for those who have no idea when or if they’ll ever see their homes again. Pray for those who don’t even know how they can help yet and those who feel helpless and guilty. Thank God for showing us what really matters – humans – regardless of race/religion/nationality/gender/sexual preferences and everything else that threatens to divide us. Pray for those who are experiencing trauma at the sound of water. Pray for the shame of being in the path and the shame of not doing enough. Thank Him for those who will be continuing to help long after the cameras are gone and Houston has slid from headlines. Pray for those in the path of Hurricane Irma as tensions are high after watching Hurricane Harvey. Pray with me now.

    God, we’re so weary. The exhaustion for myself alone is overwhelming. Take care of those more exhausted than I am. Those who are still staying in shelters that have no time frame of getting home. Be with those who are watching their favorite pieces of furniture, their family photos and their literal dreams be scattered into trash piles. Give those who are running shelters and other relief spots a second, third and fourth wind to get through. Allow healing tears and safe spaces to process what is happening. Be with those who not only lost material possessions but lost dads, sons, brothers, husbands, sisters, moms, wives, and friends in this. Help us to grieve well.

    Protect those in the path of Irma. Keep them in your arms of safety. Be with those dealing with wildfires in the Northwest. Be with all the first responders, nurses, doctors, counselors, government organizations, non-profit groups and religious organizations as they step into these moments. I pray for kind words from all and for all even in the face of exhaustion. I pray for compassion on all of us as we begin to rebuild our lives. Be with those who feel forgotten. Let them know that you haven’t left them, that you are near. Thank you for surrounding us with your love. Lord, let yourself be known in all of this. Amen.

    Rest.

    If you were in the path of the storm or have gone out and mucking and gutting houses in the beginning processes of recovery, please rest. Drink water. Take care of yourselves. This isn’t a quick fix. It will take self-care to make that long-term commitment of recovery which will take way longer than any of us want it to. We can’t flip a switch and get August 24, 2017 Houston back. It will take time. We are still figuring out what the storm took from us.

    Don’t disregard your mental health in this process. News outlets and weather channel segments were the choice of tv viewing for days. Facebook feeds filled up with news, sad posts, and families trying to get help or be reunited with their loved ones. If you’re waiting for permission before backing away and focusing on something else, here it is. Turn off the news. Turn off Facebook. Read a fun fiction book. Watch your favorite movie. Cheer for your favorite sports team. Chat with loved ones. Go out to eat. Just disconnect from the tragedy of Harvey and invest in some mental health time for yourself. That doesn’t mean you don’t care anymore. It’s a sign of strength that you not only care but understand that you have to take care of yourself if you’re going to care for the long haul.

    Give Responsibly.

    Many of us have gone through our old clothes and unwanted goods to give to others. The heart behind that is absolutely beautiful. We have more than enough old t-shirts. Organization asks for certain types of items because they are usable and of top priority. While some items are perfectly good donations aren’t necessarily of top priority in that moment. Sorting, storage and proper distribution are all issues.You can read more about that here or here.

    If you want to help, please for the love of Texas, please donate money to an organization you trust and know will be on the front lines of helping. These organizations are ones that I believe are trustworthy and are operating with integrity: UMCOR, Legacy Collective, or directly to a local church.

    Jax + Nathan // Portraits

    Meet Jax + Nathan! These two cuties kept me running! Whoever said having twins was no joke, was definitely not lying. Twins run in both my and Rick’s families and this session had me a little uncertain of the possibilities of children for us. I will say that I got a great squat workout while hanging with these cuties. Also, that yawn? I am totally feeling it!

    Hate, Love + Kindness

    Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. – Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

    My heart aches right now. As many are hurt and terrified as the climate is filling with even more tension and wonder after the events this weekend in Charlottesville, I have to add my voice to the mix. It would be wrong not to do so at this point in history. Being silent is saying that this is okay. It is NOT okay.

    I spent much of last week looking through old photographs. I was blessed with being exposed to other cultures early on in life and getting to sit in classrooms for years with students who didn’t look or think like me. Being a white woman who has been surrounded for much of my life by people of other nationalities, races and beliefs is a gift from God as I would not be who I am today without these friendships. They have taught me so much about perceptions, privilege, hardship, injustice and beauty and for that I will be ever grateful.

    My heart not just hurts for what happened this weekend. My heart hurts that this is still a conversation in our nation. I hate that God has set us free yet we live in fear of ourselves. I have friends that don’t feel comfortable in a variety of situations, because they are treated differently based on their skin color.

    Last Friday, I had lunch with a dear friend where we discussed gender bias and racism, because these are real constructs that are happening at our time. The stories of my friends aren’t my stories to share, but I wish they would. Friends, I urge you to share your stories online, be that voice. Help us to listen and understand with new fresh eyes.

    I’ve seen several things over the course of the last six months or so begging the question of if you wonder what you’d do during the Holocaust; you’re doing it now. The thought of that is so incredibly scary but I think it is pertinent that we really evaluate that.

    My words are not enough.

    I pray that we will all stand together and say that hate is not okay. I’ve read a bunch of articles as well as Instagram and Facebook posts over the past few days. Unfortunately, many are already buried under ongoing social media. My prayer is that we will not forget the ongoing daily struggles when we only see the big, tragic moments. Here are some that I’ve been able to dig up along with others that I believe need to be heard in this moment.

    Look at What is Happening in America in 2017
    A Word from Dan Rather, Journalist
    Letter: Family denounces Tefft’s racist rhetoric and actions
    Words from Jen Hatmaker regarding Charlottesville
    Here’s an Anti-Fascism Video the U.S. Gov. Released Back in 1943. You Should Watch
    A Note to the Church: Let’s Be For, Not Against by Kaitlyn Bouchillon
    A Response to Charlottesville by Judah Smith + The City Church
    Happy Hour with Jamie Ivey featuring Tasha Morrison
    Jamie The Very Worst Missionary’s Call to Find A New Church
    Watch Dr. Cornel West and Rev. Traci Blackmon’s Friday Prayer Service in Charlottesville
    Pastoral letter about racism in America in 2017 by Bishop Scott J. Jones of the Texas Annual Conference, The United Methodist Church
    Ten Ways to Fight Hate: A Community Response Guide

    I wish I had more eloquent words to convey how deeply saddened I am by this. God has seen my tears and heard my cries. We have to stand up for those who can’t, for those who have continually stood up allowing us to have this freedom we have today and for those who have ultimately sacrificed themselves for their beliefs. Whatever side you are on, know that the side of love will always win.

    Humans, hate is never okay. Let us be kind and love one another.

    For the Love: A Book Review


    I finally finished For The Love: Fighting for Grace in a World of Impossible Standard by Jen Hatmaker. This whole “finishing the book moment” is something I feel like I should get a blue ribbon for or at least an award of that kind of caliber. It’s not that I finished it, and I can finally cross it off my 2017 Reading List. Over this summer, I realized that once I get close to the end of a book, I put it down. Y’all, I put it down with the intention of not picking it up again. It’s not that I’ve suddenly become disinterested but I absolutely hate goodbye endings for tv shows and books. In Jen’s favorite saying, ‘For the Love’ you’ve only had 3 chapters left since March. I recently mourned the end of Hart of Dixie though, and now I’m having to say goodbye to Jen? It’s just too much for my little reading-loving heart to take. (I get that she has a new book out. I can see that I have several chapters left of Seven to enjoy. Yet this problem remains!) On to reasons I believe y’all should be picking this up as your next read.

    Her Writing Style

    Give me a book or a podcast that sounds like one of my best friends with more wisdom and life insight from future seasons, and I am all ears (or eyes). I absolutely love that writing style. I think it’s because it doesn’t dance around subjects and is willing to pack a punch to the gut – in the best of ways of course. It’s like getting a letter from one of your best friends that doesn’t hold back. She’s included all the sweet and tender moments to the ridiculously invasive, the ‘my friend needs to know this stuff’ that is probably not meant to be shared for all the world to see and everything in between. I absolutely love it.

    Her Wit + Humor

    Y’all, she wrote an entire chapter of tweets like it was 1985-2001. What’s better than that? Jen is one of those authors who is able to tackle a topic like grace and impossible standards with humility and humor. She doesn’t just show us the beauty of grace but imparts knowledge like the difference between tights and leggings as pants. Spoiler alert: Tights as pants is NOT the answer. As a girl known for her wit, she has nailed it.

    When I first heard that she knocked off Jimmy Fallon’s Thank You Notes segment, I wasn’t sure what to think. (If you have no idea what that is, go search for Jimmy Fallon Thank You Notes on youtube. You’re welcome. Also, block off at least an hour to go down that rabbit hole.) I was very wary because my love of Jimmy Fallon is pretty deep, and I just didn’t want to see one of my favorite continual segments ruined. Jen did not disappoint. She wrote the kind of thank you notes that Jimmy Fallon hasn’t touched but that definitely pulls at my heartstrings with thank you notes to treadmills, Caillou, automatic flushing toilets to name a few. I think the best part of her thank you note chapters is the way she utilizes them as a buffer chapter between some heavy stuff that needs time to sit on your soul.

    Her Challenging Words

    Let’s talk about that heavy stuff that needs some time to sit on your soul. (This may be partly influenced by me listening to Interrupted by Jen Hatmaker on audiobook a few weeks ago.) I’m not going to be delving into theology here. There’s a place and time for that, and it’s just not right now.

    The very first chapter of my copy of this book has highlights and arrows, underlines and squiggles – that’s how I know this is going to be a good read from the very beginning. Jen wastes no time to start telling us to calm down, live in the season we are in and gives us permission to not “measure our performance against an invented standard and come up wanting, and it is destroying our joy. No matter how hard we work or excel in an area or two, it never feels like enough. Our primary defaults are exhaustion and guilt.” Hi! That’s so me. Throughout the book, Jen delves into some excerpts of Brene Brown’s research in her book, Daring Greatly. Those words cut to me. I’ll save that for an upcoming blog by itself though.

    The other challenging chapter for me was Jen’s call to love the church. She called out members, potentials, pastors, staff and so many more. The church is a broken mess of an institution, one that I have struggled with many a day. Jen’s words caused me to sit and ponder how we imperfect humans who are so very fallible in our own rights go about worshipping a perfect God let alone in a formal context with other believers. If I’m not grieving even a little bit how we can’t glorify God perfectly in our human gatherings of ‘church’, am I even involved in church? I’m talking about being involved in a very real and intentional way, not just the “I go there a couple times a year” church commitment that our society deems as passible.

    Like I said, I struggle with the church – how broken it is, yet how beautiful it is at the same time and how God has chosen it to display a glimpse of his glory. The moments where my faith has been least affected by the formal gathering of church, whether positively or negatively, have been moments when I’ve stepped away for whatever reason. I stepped away last year from a formal gathering of the church as my heart grieved and healed some tough situations. Stepping away from church doesn’t necessarily mean turning your back entirely. In my case, it meant stepping down, being intentional about my own relationship with God rather than serving. It meant sticking with my spiritual growth through studying his word, podcasts, reading, tough conversations, prayer and ultimately my own time spent with Jesus. Rather than catering to the needs of everyone around me, I asked for those brothers and sisters of mine who were intentionally walking alongside me to rally around me during this season so I didn’t get lost in the mix, so that I didn’t step away for good. For me, stepping down wasn’t turning my back on God. It was a much-needed reprieve and rest after an intense season of ministry. God called me to step down and step back for a season, a very difficult and weird season. This isn’t the case for everyone, but for me, I needed that time away for healing and restoration before I could serve in a formal gathering of believers again.

    Do I recommend this?

    In short, yes. I believe that this would make for a great book club read with wisdom sprinkled throughout bursts of humor. If you’re interested in reading it, feel free to purchase it here.

     

    Dwayne + Trisha // Wedding

    Meet Dwayne + Trisha! Earlier in June, I was able to not only witness these two lovely people get married but was able to capture their special day as well. They opted for an intimate gathering of close friends and family with the sweetest backyard wedding imaginable. The simple ceremony and feast focused on what truly is important in a wedding, the shared love and commitment between two people. It was evident that their desire was to love each other and to cherish their love with those they celebrated with on their special day. Thank you for allowing me to celebrate your love with you both! May your love continue to flow between the two of you and shine to those around you!

    Ashley Karlen Photography Special

    Ashley Karlen Photography is extending its special summer rate of $75 sessions through August 31. If you are looking to book a session past August, we can schedule it ahead of time so that you can still take advantage of this amazing deal.

    Any portrait session is available. There’s so many possibilities for these sessions from portraits of your little kids, getting ahead of the rush to have your family photos ready for Christmas cards or just a few nice headshots for your dating profile. [This special summer extended rate doesn’t apply to weddings or events, but I’d still be interested in doing those for you.]

    I would absolutely love to capture memories for you and your family to enjoy for years to come. Interested!? Click here to send me information so we can set up a session today! Click here to see some past sessions.