Monday, February 29, 2016

Habits & Investing.

How do you invest in your marriage? 

What habits have you built?

Maybe you have one of those smooth sailing type of marriages (and life).
I'd be willing to bet most of us don't. I know we do not.

Typically that means marriage (and life) takes work. You know, things like:
"You get what you give"
"Invest in the return desired"
"You reap what you sow"
"Work at it"

I fully believe marriage is a huge and ongoing investment.

Two people coming together is a unique, dare I say, miracle. It is beautiful. But it is work. Sometimes it is a one of a kind union that shows glimpses of God's profound love. Sometimes it looks more like an all out battle with the evil one. Sometimes it is the gift of sharing in the everyday. No matter what it looks like for you or in this season, I am confident it requires work. Not just when things are tough. But the preventative, proactive kind of work.

So what does that look like?

We're far from the best at this but here are some things we've established:
  • TIME TOGETHER. Some weeks are crazier than others but we have to check in with each other and make sure we are both getting the quality time we need. Regular date nights, lazy nights on the couch, drop everything so we can be together and deal with life or a quick lunch between our work schedules. The amount of time we have ebbs and flows but we have to make sure it exists. 
  • GROWING TOGETHER. Sometimes this is reading our own books over coffee and sharing the highlights. Sometimes this is working through a new learning together. Sometimes this is being in God's Word together (I'll admit bringing our own time with God together is often lacking). Sometimes it is emailing each other an article that challenged us and discussing it. It is keeping the dialogue open and desire to learn more alive. 
  • COMMUNITY. We so believe in inviting others in. We both need this personally and in our marriage. Whether it is a mentor, couple friends, our trusted peers, etc. We have a group of friends we meet with every 6 weeks or so (with the fancy name "Nuptialized") for dinner. This is such a need and gift. We rotate homes and all contribute to the meal and conversation. Sometimes it is light and fun. Sometimes it is heavy and hard. Sometimes it is practical like financial planning and meal planning, sometimes it is how to handle loss and transition. No matter what it is so valuable to have friendship, consistency and support. It is also the friends who share out living room, meals, double dates and game nights, phone calls and FaceTime sessions. Can you tell this one is important to me? 
  • TIME AWAY. We've made it a priority to get away. Whether it is 1-2 nights camping, a day trip, a visit with friends who live out of town or a mini vacay. This is a monthly things for us. Sure we will probably miss some but we'll make up for it. Time in a new space where we don't have laundry, grocery shopping, NetFlix and normal is vital. 
  • CELEBRATIONS. Life has plenty of hard but the good calls for celebrating. This includes the small wins like a great meeting at work, losing 5 lbs., a fun new idea and time with friends. But it is also the big wins and the milestones like anniversaries, overcoming personal hurdles, healing from past junk, raises, new jobs, and so on. We have photos taken every year, we document moments, we go to our favorite places, we buy/make each other special gifts. 
  • MARRIAGE CONFERENCE. This has been a yearly things for us. We found a great conference to attend our first year of marriage (things were challenging and it sounded wise). Since then we've made it a part of our normal rhythm. It is pretty local and really affordable. We get a 1 night stay near the conference and enjoy the getaway, wisdom from the speakers, debriefing together and with friends and our time. Not to mention the preventative/repair opportunity it brings. What can we learn for our future? What can we tweak? What can we heal? How can we love each other better?
Speaking of... If you are in Southern California the conference we attend and recommend is coming up! March 10-11, 2016. It is super affordable and a great way to get away and connect. It is honest, funny, engaging and wise. It is such a great investment. Check out all the details HERE. I don't share this because I am getting anything but rather than it is a great opportunity and I wanted you to know about it. They even have group discounts (grab some friends) and ministry discounts. 

This was going to be a quick post about the habit we've formed of attending a Marriage Conference and the importance of investing in your marriage but it grew a bit. Whoops. I just have a lot of thoughts about how important this topics is so there you have it!


How do you invest in your marriage? 

What habits have you built?

Here's a look at some of ours:

A table, friends and food. 
Get-a-ways with my love.   
A promise to each other from our first marriage conference & our last photo session  
Morning coffee & Date Night strolls downtown.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Valentine's Day = 6 out of 10.

You know when things don't always go as hoped or planned?
This photo came out about as awesome as our Valentine's Day:

You guys, our first Valentine's Day was a disaster. We had been dating about 3 months and he thought I was going to break with him after our long car ride home. But that is a story for another time. We've come a long way with learning about each others expectations, desires and needs. Yay us! There is hope.

So fast forward to last week, Valentine's Day 2016. We didn't have major plans going into Valentine's Day but Charles let me know he'd come up with something and he'd fill me in later. It sounded like we were headed out of town (which I love) so I was stoked. Whatever we were doing, I was game. We're mostly on the same page now with these kind of things.

On Sunday after work he told me the plan - we were headed to Palm Springs for two nights. I was pretty stoked. It was different than where we usually go, wasn't a super far drive and sounded relaxing. And I love that he came up with a plan and took care of the details. Off we go..

Ok, this is where things get less than ideal.

Our stay: 7 out of 10.
The hotel was sub par and not as expected. But that's ok. It wasn't bad and we're not that fancy.
Dinner: 5 out of 10.
We roamed the main street for Dinner and had some differing opinions on dinner options (whole 30 makes this tough).
We ended up picking a pretty cool looking Burger Bar but once we got upstairs it was more like a sports bar with mediocre atmosphere. They reeled me in at "Grass Fed Beef" but then they lost me.
We then has the worst customer service we've ever had. Rude, disappeared, wouldn't give us "greens" instead of "lettuce, etc. First time we haven't left a tip. Judge if you want, he was straight up mean and that's not cool. But we made the most of it and continued to roam the area and people watch (there's some good people watching in Palm Springs).
We made plans to redeem this dinner fiasco with breakfast (my fav). We picked out an awesome looking spot and enjoyed the rest of a mellow evening.
Breakfast: 6 out of 10
Turns out they are closed on Mondays. Shoot. We picked spot number 2. I am hot and hungry (bad combo) and they let us know there is a 45 min wait (crap, it is a holiday). But then we think, maybe spot number 1 is open since it is a Holiday. HOORAY, it is! But now it is a longer walk than expected. It also has a 30 minute wait.
Now we start to bicker. I am hungry (never good) and the frustration of our less than awesome dining experiences is setting in. But we shake it off and decide to just kind of wait, in mostly silence.
HOORAY, the seat us after a 5 minute wait.
Ok, cute place and pretty good food but overpriced, trying to be too fancy, the owner was walking around carrying a dog and people were weird. But I am fed and happy.

We then relaxed in the afternoon, picked a WAY BETTER dinner place that had an early bird special for a $20 three course meal and spent a lazy evening watching the Grammys.

Ok, so why did I walk you through all of this?

As far as the plans we made, Valentine's Day was kind of a dud. Nothing to write home about (or instagram about) in the sense of the usual things like a fancy dinner, a great experience, endless laughing together, etc.

And there have been plenty of times that those not so awesome pieces would have ruined it all together for me. I would have been disappointed he didn't know more about the hotel or bummed we didn't pick a nicer dinner place and frustrated things can't just go awesome, etc. I can be pretty serious about my expectations. And lets be real, the comparison game is strong on a day like Valentine's Day. The thoughts like, "Look how happy they look", "They did _________ together", "He got her ________" can take over.

 But my expectations have shifted and I am so thankful for this.

My husband is so good to me. But the way he is good to me is unique and doesn't always look like what everyone else has.
It is the small moments that are a part of our everyday that speak the loudest...
It is the way he offers grace. It is the way he speaks to me.
It is the fun nights we have on the couch at home.
It is the times he shows up to visit me at work.
It is spending his whole Saturday doing an art walk with me.
It is the way he believes in me and sees good in me.
It is the way he cherishes our marriage and works at it.
And so much more.

I am confident I will look back and it wont be the grand gestures or fancy getaways that mean the most. It'll be the longevity of us choosing each other. It'll be the way we grow individually and together. It'll be the way we invested in our family, future children and close friends. It'll be the way we reveal Jesus to each other.

Can I challenge you?

Notice the small things and say "Thank you" to your spouse.
Choose one small but intentional way to love your spouse this week.
Don't compare your relationship to that of strangers on Instagram (or even friends).
Build into the longevity of your marriage. What will last? Focus on those things. 
Communicate. Unmet expectations = frustrations. So fill them in on what you need/want.

All in all, we had a great time together.
Was it flawless? No way. Was it really great time with the one I love? Indeed. 

I am thankful for who he is and that we get to navigate life together. Even when it is less than glorious.

The romantic sunset - it really was beautiful.

Our super mediocre dinner and some strolling through downtown:

We found great coffee and a way better dinner the second time around:

The beautiful view on our final day & tram ride to the top:

And quality time with my best friend. That is what I love.


Friday, February 5, 2016

Emily & Ryan | Engaged

I've known Emily for a long time (well, her whole family too).
When I think of Emily I think of the time I stayed with her and her sister while their parents were out of town. They made a 3 course meal with a menu and all the fine details. We then planned an outing to the movies. But we found someone following us in their car (or so we thought) the whole way there. We we're so scared we skipped the movie for fear of being found!

All that to say, I am so excited to share in this super significant day of their lives.

I love sharing photos from a couple's engagement session but it is about their story, too.

Emily & Ryan have been dating for almost 7 years after their romantic first encounter through mutual friends at Del Taco.
Taking a trip to the desert to camp with their dog, Clutch, is one of their favorite things to do together. If you know Ryan and his love for racing dirt bikes you might guess why their pup's name is Clutch.
In marriage, Emily is most excited that everything that is Ryan's will be hers, too! Fair enough, Emily!

Their August 27th wedding is set in a beautiful location if Puerto Nuevo, Mexico!

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Do it scared.

I am a part of a great community for creatives and business owners called The Rising Tide Society. What I love about it is that it isn't networking. It isn't self promotion (it is actually against the rules). But rather it is Community Over Competition. People are constantly cheering other people on, sharing their struggles and victories, helping each other like crazy and more. It really is such a refreshing place of encouragement in a world of comparison and competition; especially in an industry like photography.

Another member recently posted something on the topic of "Do It Scared". Not letting fear or perfectionism win, but going for it. Whatever you are called to. Maybe it is being vulnerable and sharing your story. Maybe it is taking a leap towards your passion. Maybe it is launching your business into the next phase. Maybe it is reconciling a relationship. Maybe it is huge. Maybe it feels tiny. But do it, scared. Bring your cheerleaders along and take steps towards __________.

Gosh, such a great topic. I think we all could use this pep talk now and then. And then again.

I don't live in total perfectionism. If you have been in my car, you would know that. With most things I like to do them well but I have a reasonable level of "Alright, that is pretty good!". But I hold myself (and others) to a high standard of what I think is right, good enough or common sense. There is clearly some fear driving this. Fear that I will be seen as less than enough. Fear that my idea wont make it. Fear that I will mess up.

My husband is less like this. He encourages me to go for things and to fail. He has his fears and insecurities too but luckily for me they are different and he can nudge me just right with mine. So last night we have a "business meeting". We've spent a ton of time talking about desires, passions and vision. But then it was time to crunch numbers (totally his area). So we did. And we got clarity, made a vision and set some goals. This was so helpful. But the best and most needed was setting pricing. Pricing that had a formula and made sense. Pricing that made sense for what I am worth/offer (which I am terrible at), how I contribute to our family and pricing that fits my desire to share my talent with people. Will it feel awesome to everyone? No. Will I be challenged in this new phase? Yes! But was this well thought through, intentional and purposeful? Yes.

Doing this business thing on my own and not just as a "when I have time side gig" thing is a whole new world but I am committed to go as God leads, be open to opportunity, be generous and "Do It Scared".

So here's to forward movement!

Maybe this doesn't make sense at all with where you are at. But think about what does. What have you been avoiding because of fear? Where have you chosen to stay comfortable? What is nudging you in the gut? Go towards that. And go with support!

And because no post is complete without images, here's a few from a session with some dear friends, Mike + Jessi who are definitely "Doing it Scared". They, along with an amazing team, have shaken up their lives and charged into the unknown by moving in to a new community ready to love, serve and and all the new that comes with launching a church. We are so grateful for their friendship and the ability to join their journey in support. Check out what they are doing.

How will you "Do It Scared"? I'd love to hear and cheer you on! 


Monday, February 1, 2016

When two become four.

It is #MarriageMonday and this topic has been popping up in my mind again and again.

This isn't about finding out your having twins. 

You know when you go to a friend's wedding and before you even get home you get a Facebook notification that "so and so" and "so and so" changed their relationship to "Married"?
And then a picture of them entering their honeymoon suite pops up.
And then a thank you to their parents or people who helped is posted.
And then a picture of their new rings.

I get it. It is ALL so exciting. I love celebrating things big or small. And I love sharing moments through photos.

But I have a great idea. Ready?

1. Take the photos of the cool moments: A selfie in the car, getting to your honeymoon suite, something you can't post on social media, breakfast in bed, etc.

2. Wait.

I know, it is crazy.

What if you just let those moments be moments you shared?

I mean these are what we hope are once in a life time new moments with your new spouse. Maybe the best way to enjoy them is to just soak them up, together. Just you and your spouse. Not 1,114 Facebook friends and 1,500 Instagram followers. Not with affirmation that these moments are special because people comment, "Wow, how special! have fun! xoxo." but maybe because you are present in the moment, debrief these new milestones together and save the audience affirmation for later.

I loved that for our honeymoon we were out the the country and didn't have full use of our phones (although wifi makes it too easy to be connected almost anywhere). We still had to decide that while we might agree to post one photo on our honeymoon (ok maybe two) to share our excitement and journey, we wouldn't check our phone notifications. We moved on. We were present in the moments we were experiencing. I mean this is pretty much the one time everyone leaves you alone and understands that you "check out" of normal life. SOAK - THAT - UP. Cherish each small, new, big, special, funny, exciting, weird moment.

I wish I could say that intentionality continued into our home flawlessly. Sometimes it is there, sometimes it just isn't. I know I need to work on where my attention goes.

If you are getting married soon, can I recommend you make a plan to leave your phone out of your honeymoon?


I understand if you have someone you need to check in with (sometimes family stuff happens or people need us).
But Instagram doesn't need you.
Facebook doesn't need you.
Your BFF doesn't "need" updates from you.

Lets all practice some delayed gratification in this area while we are present in the gratification of what has taken place - Two becoming One. Marriage. Union. Sharing a new space. A first true vacation. Waking up next to your spouse. Whatever it maybe. It is sacred. It is special. And it deserve space. The world will do a great job of denying us margin, presence and significance but we can decide to kick things off on a different, full and rich pace.

Then, share your highlights. Post an update. Welcome the world back in.
You can do it. It'll be worth it.

I loved our honeymoon. But life kicked us in the pants as soon as we got home making me all the more grateful for the presence and newness experienced in those 7 days.

Plus, marriage is such a fresh beginning. Why not kick it off in the best way and allow those intentional choices to bleed into your new life together?

Side note: Aw, I forgot what my man looks like without a beard. He's cute that way, too!