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    Update On The Dogs + What I’m Loving // October 2017

    Oakley + Scout aka The Dogs

    If you read my blog last week, you saw that we rescued two dogs. If you receive my emails, you may have missed the update saying that we found their owners. Needless to say, our house was heavy with sorrow. Our neighbors came. Everyone was reunited. They went on their way. That was it.

    We tried consoling ourselves with Mexican food, but enchiladas and queso could only take us so far. We took an extremely early bedtime of 9pm for us and chocked the night up to being over. The next morning though, I received a phone call that would change things once again.

    Oakley and Scout’s original owner called with an offer that at first left me with my jaw agape. Scout and Oakley were ours if we wanted them. I hung up, called Rick and played a long waiting game as I wondered what the final verdict would be. Long story short, the original owners are in a fresh, new stage of life and feel like we can offer these two a better and more stable home at this point.

    I guess that’s all to say, we’re once again dog parents. It all feels right again.

    What I’m Loving

    Stunned at the whirlwind October has been! Our anniversary and one of my favorite holidays always makes for a fantastic but crazily paced month. We’ve barely even fit watching Gremlins and Hocus Pocus in. Season 2 of Stranger Things has even taken a back burner!

    Laughing out loud at this episode on The Happy Hour Podcast with Jamie Ivey. If you know me, I don’t say, “lol,” lightly because it takes quite a bit to make me actually laugh – let alone out loud! Sharon Hodde Miller totally brought that for me along with a simple but powerful reminder of who I am in Christ and how to freely live out who he made me be.

    Trying to recover after a weekend of Questival which I absolutely loved! Questival is a huge adventure scavenger hunt style challenge which I blogged about over the weekend here because it was one of the challenges. Think of the whole thing as a real life game of Quelf on steroids. I’m already planning my next Questival adventure with my team, because we loved it so much. Next time, I’ll be sure to get plenty of rest before it begins though!

    Reeling from this episode about identity on the JourneyWoman Podcast with Hunter Beless: episode 18 | The Theology of Identity with Matt Lantz. Here’s a small nugget of truth that made me want to pull over and take notes on the side of the road: “Identity is received, believed, and then lived out. In that order. If you’ve built an identity around anything, whether that’s your job, your spouse, your popularity, your grades, your accomplishment, or any of that stuff. If you’ve built an identity, you haven’t built an identity. You’ve built an idol.” – Matt Lantz.

    Playing Molkky in the backyard, because it’s absolutely beautiful weather around here. Hello to all things Fall – pumpkin spice, scarves, fleece and that glowing, golden sunset that Fall does so well. Plus, it gets us outside as a family!

    Drinking wines and eating cheeses at our wine tasting at Clear Creek Vineyard, courtesy of our bed and breakfast. We finally found a red wine that I actually enjoy! If you ever have the chance to meet Barbara, the owner of the Clipper House Inn in Kemah, please do so. She is incredibly kind, sweet and made sure our anniversary stay in Kemah was absolutely spectacular. We both absolutely loved our weekend there.

    Drowning in Ellie Holcomb’s beautiful lyrics on her Red Sea Road cd. I am totally feeling late to this party as her cd came out last January, but oh my goodness, it’s deep, dreamy and comforting. If you ask Oakley and Scout, that’s what we’ve been listening to around here. It all started with hearing some old episodes of Ellie being interviewed about her heart behind the songs on the cd. I absolutely adore when I get to know the why behind the words of music. The heartache, tragedy and praise she went through that this cd is a direct result of, is inspiring. You can listen to her interview with The Happy Hour with Jamie Ivey podcast here or on Annie Downs’ That Sounds Fun podcast here.

    Feasting on Shauna Niequist’s words in Bittersweet. She is one of my favorite authors as her diction and word juxtaposition is always on point. I also believe she reaches down to the depths to put things into words that not only allows one to understand themselves deeper but those around them as well. I can’t wait to binge read yet another one of her other books!

    Loving my new girls, Oakley + Scout. We’re definitely being stretched as we adjust and grow together, but we’re a family now. I love that so much. It’s a great new adventure for Rick’s and my second year of marriage!

    Let’s Celebrate! One Year of Marriage + The Things We’ve Learned Along the Way

    Videography by One Fifty Media House

    One year. Wow – what a year it has been. I can’t believe that a year ago last Sunday, we made our vows forever. We’ve learned a lot in the one year of marriage. I’ve been planning for weeks to share some of what I learned on here and post this as a sort of surprise for Rick. After spending the weekend celebrating our one year anniversary with him, I decided he needed to be in on the sharing too. Don’t worry. We already got out all the mushy, gushy words in cards and love letter, so we won’t bore you with all of that here. Now, on to things we’ve learned!

    Things We’ve Learned After Year One

    Written from Ashley’s perspective but includes Rick’s thoughts.

    Compromise goes way past TV shows and decorating styles. Sure, we compromise on TV and decorating styles. The compromise doesn’t stop there. It begins there. There’s so many little things that we’ve had to compromise on during the last year. Dairy Queen versus Thai Tea isn’t the hardest of decisions, but we’ve had to learn how to compromise on the big things. Compromise requires sacrifice from both people, even if it’s a seemingly small sacrifice in the grand scheme of things.

    “Two are better than one…” – Ecclesiastes 4:9-12. It’s been a rough year for me personally. I’ve allowed myself to fall into the trap of several lies. I’ve never understood this verse better than I do now. Rick has been by my side to encourage, support and let me know those lies are false. He has sat with me time and time again and reassured me that those aren’t true. They are not true of who God has made me to be or of my actions. I cannot imagine if I sat through this past season by myself. I’d be a much different person. I definitely would not be walking in God’s guidance. I needed that grounding and constant reminder that I am loved, valued and worthy.

    It’s not about romance, it’s about doing life together. This may be one of the things I am most thankful for. At the end of a rough day, I don’t want roses. I want someone to sit with me that I can relay all about my day – the joys and frustrations. I want someone that I can bounce off wacky ideas and serious theology. Yes, date nights and long weekends together are incredibly important. If those are the only time you’re connecting though, it’s not enough. You need to connect in another way. For us, that may be me sitting in the kitchen drinking a glass of wine while Rick is cooking. It’s Rick doing chores so I can pour myself into photography and blogging. It’s me letting him sleep until noon on Saturdays when I desperately want to play board games by 9am.

    Not every moment in marriage is pretty. I knew this going in but figured I’d add it to the list, because it has rung even more true than I could have imagined. You know what’s not pretty? Starting our marriage sick and ending our first year of marriage sick again. Maybe that’s just full circle? Either way, there’s been plenty of moments that haven’t been the prettiest. Some have been grosser than others. (Mucking out houses.) Some have been prettier than others. (Yay for big dinner date celebrations!)

    Don’t compare your marriage to others. This encompasses how easy things are, how hard things are, both the glamorous and the non-glamorous moments. I think we have the idea that when you get married that things will line up just like your friends or family appears. In reality, those marriages may already be set up and have taken years to take root and grow. Take your time. Let yourselves grow and thrive naturally.

    Not every fight is worth having. If we fought whenever we thought we were mad, we’d be fighting a lot more. We choose to fight when we need to, when it’s over something important and especially if it’s something that threatens our marriage. There’s no need to fight over who ate the last hummus. We’ve got a grocery store nearby. There will be more. We choose to fight over the tough and hard stuff that matters. This isn’t always the perfect formula, but we try to strive to be better at it each day.

    Apologies + Forgiveness are Hard. I stink at apologies. I always have. I’m probably even worse at forgiveness, especially when it comes to myself. This one is hard to talk about. I think I’m better at both of these today than when this marriage started. Along the way, I’ve learned a lot about grace though. Grace for Rick. Grace for me. Grace for us as a couple.

    You’ll learn a lot about yourself. I know I have. I’ve learned about things that I’m good at that I have never considered strengths of mine. You also see your own shortcomings as slightly more glaring than ever before. You have more accountability. There’s someone that sees every aspect of your life. You may be able to ignore the chair full of laundry that’s been there for a week already, but it’s hard to ignore the one that you’re accountable to when they sleep less than a foot away from you. There’s a different responsibility that comes with that accountability – one wrapped in loyalty and respect. I’ve learned to rely on Rick as a sounding board for reason, encouragement and support. I’ve learned that we truly do need one another.

    Day 365 is easier than Day 1. Life together gets easier. It’s simple. We learn each others’ idiosyncrasies. As we get to understand those quirks, we understand how to do daily life with each other, and we increase our capacity to fully love each other. It’s a lot easier to display my love for him now when I know him deeper and better than ever than when we left our wedding.

    Be intentional in everything. Intentional was my word of the year, so of course it’d find its way on here. It’s so true though. It’s easy to look back on this year and see the moments where we’ve been intentional and see the moments where we got “busy”. Being intentional doesn’t always look like a big moment. It’s the small moments of connecting throughout the day. We’re very intentional in different ways. Do things fall through the cracks? Yes, we’re human. It’s about picking up the very next piece when that happens and making sure it’s given a little extra care. I’d venture to say that being intentional in the mundane moments leads to a lot more glorious “big” moments as y’all have the foundation laid for that. Intentionality these days is playing a board game, taking a walk and making sure we’re on the same page with calendaring.

    Never stop telling your spouse how you feel. Not to be morbid, but death has been in the back of my mind for awhile. I want Rick to know without a doubt that if something happens to me, that I truly am deeply, madly in love with him. He is my best friend and the one I can count on for absolutely anything.

    Our Favorites From Year One

    Games: Skipbo // Ticket to Ride // Pandemic // Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime

    TV + Movies: Moana // Longmire // NCIS // Hocus Pocus // Great British Baking Show // Raising Hope (on repeat + still cracking up each time at the same moments) // Parks + Recreation // 30 Rock

    Podcasts: The Happy Hour with Jamie Ivey // Popcast

    Books: The Turquoise Table by Kristin Schell // A Fierce Love: One Woman’s Courageous Journey to Save Her Marriage by Shauna Shanks (We read both of those books together and had some really great discussions based off of them.) // Rick getting back into reading in general

    Food: Sushi Dates at Japaniero’s // Guac + Chips // Asia Cafe // Chicken Lime Tacos // Dumar’s // Zucchini // Local Table // Snow Monster // Anything I cooked for Rick // Korean Grill // Wine

    Miscellaneous: Reading in Hammocks // Our Wedding Memories // Our New Home + Trails // Road Trips + Travels (especially ATX, St. Augustine + Disney World) // Sleepovers with Andrea + Lori // Waco trips to visit Rick’s Family // Dinners with my Mom + Lori // General exploring // Pokemon at Oyster Creek Park // Breakfast with the Quiochos // Candles

     

    I totally feel like a new mom right now with those trendy boards that say all the stats about your one month old. On that note, we are not pregnant. I am a photographer that created a Pinterest maternity board the other day for a client session. (I’ve gotten several texts, so hopefully, that’ll clear it up for you. I get it. I have a bit of a tummy. I’m on a new medicine for my Chrons Disease that is causing weight gain.)

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    Photography by Awake Photography

    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!

     

    What I’m Loving + Favorite Photos // June 2017

    Hey everyone! I’m so thankful and excited by the overwhelmingly positive response I received last week on the official launch of Ashley Karlen Photography. Starting a photography business has been a dream of mine since college. I’m super excited to see what’s ahead. On to today’s fun stuff!

    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. I’ve done this every couple of months since I started blogging again. You can read those here and here. While I still love sharing about the things I am loving, I wanted to spice things up. Every month from now on, I’ll be sharing things I love, am exploring, am curious about and many other things. The fun thing is I’ll also be sharing some of my favorite photos I took during that month. Are you ready!? I am!

    What I’m Loving

    DISCOVERING the library and the depth of it has been amazing. I absolutely love books and can’t stray away from a good book sale to save my life. This has really cut down on those books that I really want to read but don’t really need to buy. Plus, I’ve found that I absolutely love listening to fiction like this or this on audiobook. I love highlighting and taking notes so I’d much rather hold a non-fiction book in my hand.

    ENJOYING time on our back porch sitting in our camping chairs, relaxing and sometimes even building a fire. Yes, we live in Houston. Yes, it’s hot outside. Even with the heat, we’ve started a fire in our fire pit and spent an evening discussing life around the fire and roasted some s’mores.

    ADORING the lifestyle and community ideas from The Turquoise Table. Rick and I are already dreaming of our next home and how we can implement the ideas in this book to get to know our new neighbors and start building a community there. It’s made me start dreaming of fun little things to take out to my future table like this pitcher or these plastic cups. I just absolutely love the colors of those cups.

    PRETENDING I’m at the spa with this luxurious face mask. It smells so ridiculously wonderful in the morning.

    RICK’S RECOMMENDING the sous vide cooker. Rick has seriously recommended this immersion cooker to multiple people in the same day. I will say that this gadget is pretty nifty. It’s a great meal prep tool that you can set and leave which I’m always a fan of. The absolute best brisket I may have ever had in my entire life was cooked in this just a few days ago. (See below for the brisket picture.)

    PLANNING lots of vacation days in the next couple of months. Who has any fun ideas for San Antonio, Waco or Costa Rica? Later this fall, we’ll be looking for a great little bed and breakfast either around the Houston area or not too far away for a little couple’s getaway. Post all your must sees and great spots in the comments.

    GRATEFUL for the friends and family who have constantly encouraged me, stuck by my side and helped launch me into this new season of life.

    Favorite June Photos

     

    10 Summer 2017 Books I’m Excited About

    I absolutely loved reading during the summer when I was little. I loved being able to pick out any book I wanted to see what would happen. Looking through the Summer 2017 books that are coming out, there’s 10 that have stood out that I really want in my personal library or at least to read. I absolutely love the endless adventures and possibilities waiting for you with each book.

    Coming in June + Ready for Preorder (Or Just Out This Week!)

    June 6Praying with Eyes Wide Open: A Life-Changing Way to Talk with God by Kevin G. Harney and Sherry Harney
    Growing up, prayer was something that was defined to a set time – mealtime, bedtime, church time, etc. I love how the Harney’s are opening up prayer to permeate every aspect of life rather than just those moments that seem to be ‘prayer times’. I’m really excited to see how this book can take my prayer life to the next level.

    June 6The Turquoise Table: Finding Community and Connection in Your Own Front Yard by Kristin Schell
    I joined Jamie Ivey’s Book Club a few weeks ago and was ecstatic to see this was the first on our list to read. Focused around community and your own neighborhood, this is an easy read and may I say GORGEOUS book. I can’t wait for this to show up in my mailbox!

    June 20My Year in Paris: My Day-to-Day Adventures in the Most Romantic City in the World by Janis MacLeod
    When I lived in Costa Rica, I read an entire series on a life in Paris. Ever since that summer, I’ve been increasingly more interested in both baking and France. This day to day journey of a memoir is exactly what I want since my summer travels don’t include a trip to Paris. One day…

    June 30 – When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon
    What is summer without some summer romance? This unexpected novel quickly caught my attention. If you know me, you know I’m a fan of cultures around the world. I love reading about them and I love experiencing them. This novel combines that with a look at how two Indian-American’s look at arranged marriages as they navigate both their relationship as well as their relationships with their parents.

    Coming in July + Ready for Preorder

    July 1 – Exalting Jesus in Acts (A Christ-Centered Exposition Commentary) by Tony Merida
    It may be a little weird that I am adding a commentary to this list. Y’all, these commentaries are so cool. They’re one of my favorite additions to look at next to the scriptures. Acts is a book that I’ve longed to read for a while now. Since I’ve loved the other Christ-Centered Exposition Commentaries, I will definitely be using this one to pair with my reading of Acts. If you’re in any type of teaching the word of God, I’d highly recommend this series of commentaries.

    July 4Fearless Parenting: How to Raise Faithful Kids in a Secular Culture by George Barna and Jimmy Myers
    I am not a parent. I have spent a lot of hours working in youth ministry with teenagers though. Researcher George Barna’s has teamed up with counselor Jimmy Myers to create a book steaming with insights of what it looks like to raise faithful kids in today’s world. Even though I’m not a parent yet, I believe the insights of these two are worth reading for anyone who works with kids or students.

    July 4Doing Busy Better: by Enjoying God’s Gifts of Work and Rest by Glynnis Whitwer
    Busy. Overcommited. Exhausted. These three words often define me, and maybe you too.  Glynnis Whitwer breaks down our habits that we’ve built for ourselves and shows us how live our lives better as we work a new rhythm of rest into it.

    July 25Lucky in Love by Kasie West
    This romantic tale seems like a fun story for you to get lost in. Both the main characters work at the zoo which is one of my dream places to work so that makes me both excited and intrigued about this tale. How fun would it be to say that your coworker is a tiger? Okay, this may not be so much about the animals as it is a secret, a dramatic life change, two zoo co-workers and love. I’ll still love it anyway.

    Coming in August + Ready for Preorder

    August 1Steal Away Home: Charles Spurgeon and Thomas Johnson, Unlike Friends on the Passage to Freedom by Matt Carter + Aaron Ivey
    This tale unites the lives of Charles Spurgeon and Thomas Johnson as it shows us their individual lives as their journeys cross paths and they become friends. I’m not sure if it’s historical fiction or an accurate historical account. Either way, I do believe the juxtaposition of their tales will make for an interesting read.

    August 8Of Mess and Moxie: Wrangling Delight Out of this Wild and Glorious Life by Jen Hatmaker
    Jen has a way of utilizing her wit and insight to draw you closer to Christ. Her past books have made me reflect on many things that I’ve never really drawn a parallel with in my life with Christ. I’m very excited about this read, plus I love saying the word ‘moxie’.

    + Some Spring 2017 New Releases I’m Still Super Excited About

    Chasing Slow: Courage to Journey off the Beaten Path by Erin Loechner
    This call to slow down is meant for the busyness that we allow to invade our lives, but let’s face it, I doubt we left our busy tendencies behind when summer started.

    Love Lives Here by Maria Goff
    This is one of the few books that made it onto my 2017 Reading List. Maria Goff infuses her life and home with love. In this book, she has provided us insight on her secrets on how to do that in our own lives. It’s a must read for me after falling in love with her husband, Bob Goff’s book, Love Does.

    Never Unfriended: The Secret to Finding and Keeping Lasting Friendships by Lisa-Jo Baker
    Friendships can be so, so hard. I’ve heard a ton

    Sweeter Than Honey: A Coloring Book To Nourish The Soul by Lindsay Sherbondy
    L
    indsay Sherbondy has beautiful work – calligraphy, sayings and this coloring book is icing on the cake as she invites you to join her in the creation.

    At Home in the World: Reflections on Belonging While Wandering the Globe by Tsh Oxenreider
    I listened to another podcast the other day with this author and each time I get even more excited about this book, her travels and the amazing stories and revelations she had in her 9 months abroad. This one will give you wanderlust for sure.

    Lucky Few by Heather Avis
    I am in love with Heather’s story about how God took all her plans and wrecked them for his. She’s an adoptive mama of 3 kids, two of which have down syndrome. I follow Heather on instagram and absolutely love watching her journey.

    Hopefully this makes choosing your summer reading picks a bit easier. What’s on your summer reading list?

    What I’m Loving // May 2017 Edition

    I I’ve decided that I deeply love the What I’m Loving blog posts. I love the fact that it provides a snapshot into the season, of the everyday life. Here’s a little snapshot of life lately through things that I am absolutely loving over here.

    I absolutely adore Gilmore Girls. I use to watch reruns throughout the week when I was in high school. I’d sit and do a few math problems before getting lost in the world of Stars Hollow. When they brought their new movie style shows to Netflix last fall I binged all of it again to be ready. You can imagine my excitement when I opened a present from my friend at Christmas and discovered Lauren Graham’s autobiography, Talking As Fast As I Can: From Gilmore Girls to Gilmore Girls. Over the past several weeks, I’ve binge read the book soaking up all the words in this fast talking novel that has made me fall even deeper in love with the Gilmore Girls (and Lauren Graham herself). If you’re a Gilmore Girl lover, a Parenthood lover, or just really enjoy behind the scenes of Hollywood life, you’ll love it.

    Over the past several months, I’ve fallen in love with Jamie Ivey. Her word and her encouragement shine through her podcast, The Happy Hour with Jamie Ivey. Jamie sits down with women and discovers what’s going on in their worlds. It’s like mini-memoirs in a way, which I absolutely love. She recently sat down with Tsh Oxenreider to discuss her book, At Home in the World: Reflections on Belonging While Wandering the Globe. It’s such a fun podcast to listen to right before summer as it has infused me with crazy wanderlust. The return of the sunshine hasn’t really hurt that desire to wander either.

    Christine Caine’s words are echoing in my mind from her book, Undaunted. This is a must read if you’re struggling with your purpose and calling. She said something to the effect that God uses the available and willing but we don’t always allow ourselves to be willing or available. Cut to the heart. You can read more about my thoughts on her words and how they hit my heart here.

    It’s a little hard to separate a few of the things I love: my rec chair that’s set up in the backyard, a good book, and Hubert’s Lemonade. I have this set up for a lot of afternoons. I have had to recently share my spot with a pesky spider and I think his whole family. It’s cool though. He doesn’t talk while I’m reading which is something I look for in a reading buddy. It’s super relaxing and doesn’t require the set up that my hammock does even though I love it.

    A few weeks ago I shared my Hanna + Nick Maternity session to Facebook. I shared it because a friend of mine challenged me to do so. I wasn’t sharing anything on social media regarding this new journey of mine back into blogging and photography. To be honest, I wasn’t sure about it. After stopping for three years and slowly getting back into it over the past few months, I was scared. I don’t feel as if I measure up to where I wish I was at this point. Sharing it not only made me brave but allowed for people to see it and react. The reaction has warmed my heart and given me strength to continue. I just wanted to end today and say thank you for that. Thank you for your belief in me, your encouragement and for reading all the way to the end. Love y’all!