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What an Online Clothing Store Taught Me About Giving Undeserved Grace

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What an Online Clothing Store Taught Me About Giving Undeserved Grace

I’ve never been one to enjoy shopping for “formal wear,” but I didn’t realize how much I really despised it until May of 2018.

 You see, we were going out of town for my cousin’s wedding (as guests!) and I realized that I had absolutely NOTHING to wear (though my husband might say differently!). A few months prior, I had ordered a few things online that I ended up not loving, but a week before we were supposed to leave for the wedding, I realized that I should maybe get the show on the road!!

I pulled up one of my favorite clothing sites (Modcloth) and within ten minutes, found three dresses that I absolutely loved. I put them all in my cart, went to check out, and realized that, if I wanted my dressed to come on time, I should probably upgrade my shipping.

 I’m a bit of a penny pincher when it comes to online shopping, so I’m a little embarrassed to admit that I paid the $30 overnight shipping charge. I reasoned to myself (and my husband ;) ) that I deserved to feel confident at that wedding – so the $30 shipping charge, though annoying, would be worth it when my clothes made it on time!

Since I ordered my dresses on a Friday, they were set to arrive the next business day, on Monday. I waited alllllll weekend with GREAT anticipation, and when Monday finally rolled around, I couldn’t wait for the FedEx guy to deliver my greatly anticipated package! But for some reason – it never showed.

Feeling slightly frustrated, I emailed Modcloth and told them I had paid extra for overnight shipping, but that I hadn’t received my package. Immediately, they refunded my card with the full amount (they are an excellent company!) and they assured me that my package should be there by Tuesday, at the very latest. And so, I waited.

On Tuesday, as SOON as I received an email that my package had been delivered, I raced downstairs, flung open the door – only to find that my porch was, in fact, empty. Confused, I walked outside, looking on our front stairs, on the side walk, and on my neighbor’s stoops, wondering if the package had been mistakenly delivered to someone nearby. Starting to feel a bit of anxiety over the whole situation, I called FedEx – who told me that my package had been delivered. I assured them that it had in fact not been delivered, and the confused employee said he would do a little digging to see what was going on.

The next day (Wednesday – two days before we had to leave!!!) I received a call – my package had, in fact, been delivered, but they weren’t sure to whom it had been delivered. OF COURSE this would happen! I remember thinking to myself. The one time I pay extra for shipping and I NEED something to arrive by a specific time!! The FedEx employee assured me that he would do everything in his power to make sure I received my lost package by the time I left for the wedding. I never heard from him again.

I was SO frustrated by this point. All I could think was: why me?! Why would this happen to me, the girl who HATES shopping for formal clothes, who has nothing to wear to this upscale wedding?!

Right in that moment, I felt a twinge of guilt. I was only thinking about myself in all of this, and I was letting it affect my work (which, as you might be able to imagine, was NOT getting done), my attitude towards my husband (who was being SO patient with me while I threw angry and short responses towards his kind and helpful words), and my general demeanor, which was incredibly poor. I had let something so small and SO out of control, well - control me.

After realizing this, I decided that it didn’t really matter if the package made it. What mattered was my attitude in this situation. Obviously, my heart needs a little bit of work. I decided that I would give one last attempt at tracking down this package, and if it didn’t work out, I would accept it, graciously – so I reached out to Modcloth directly. I told them the whole situation, knowing full well (and reiterating to them again and again) that none of it was their fault. They were able to control FedEx as much as I was! But I figured, the best thing I could do was ask to see if they had a solution that I couldn’t think of. The worst that could happen was a bit “no” – but at least I would know I tried!

Who might need a little undeserved grace from you today?

After they heard my story, the incredibly kind voice on the other line told me that they would overnight a new package to me, free of charge, with everything I had previously purchased. My jaw basically dropped to the floor. I couldn’t believe their outrageous kindness! It wasn’t their fault my package had been lost, but they went over and above to make sure that I would receive exactly what I ordered exactly when I needed it.

I’m happy to report that my package arrived the day before we left for vacation (woo hoo!), and yes, I was able to wear one of those dresses to my cousin’s wedding! But what REALLY floored me was the fact that Modcloth refunded every dollar of my purchase. And friends – this wasn’t a 20, 50, or even a 100 dollar order. This was a BIG “let me buy all of these things and I’ll return the ones I don’t want!” order. But Modcloth went above and beyond for me. They didn’t just refund my shipping, or ship me a new order – they completely refunded me for the inconvenience and gave me something I in NO WAY deserved. And they didn’t deserve to have to pay for someone else’s mistake. They gave me grace in my time of need.

 If you’ve been following along with some of my personal posts on the blog, you might see a theme throughout some of my posts – grace. And grace just so happens to be the word I chose to focus on in 2018 (now extending into 2019!), because Lord knows I need more of it for myself and for others.

And you know what God’s been doing? POURING grace out over me in SO many ways and in SO many lessons. I learned a big lesson about grace earlier in 2018 in a HUGE way at Disney’s Boardwalk with my husband (read that post here!) and I learned about it again when I realized what Modcloth had done for me - so undeserved. I’m finding that the more I experience those moments of grace, especially when I least deserve it, the easier it is to give it to other people – and easier to give it to myself.

Who might need a little undeserved grace from you today? Your child? Your parent? Your boss? Yourself? I don’t think grace is something we can ever give enough of or have enough of. And the good news is - if you know the source of grace - you never have to worry about having to do it in your own strength.

“But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ's gift.” - Ephesians 4:7

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My Favorite Photos of Us From a Decade of Dating

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My Favorite Photos of Us From a Decade of Dating

This blog post has been a LONG time in coming. In fact… I meant to get it together for our ten year dating anniversary in August of 2018! 🙈But, nevertheless, today I’d like to take you back a decade to share some of my favorite photos from Nick and I’s relationship throughout the years!

For those of you who might not know our story, Nick and I started dating when he was 16, and when I was 15 (technically, just the day before I turned 16, when I was “officially” allowed to start dating 😂). We were each the first boyfriend/girlfriend that we ever had. After nearly 7 years of dating, in 2015 we tied the knot!

We are both so grateful that we were able to grow with each other mentally, emotionally, physically (i.e., out of bad haircuts and questionable style choices 😉), and spiritually throughout the years. And while I tend to cringe at some of these photos - looking back, I am beyond thankful to have them. And I would love to share a bit of our story - in photo form - with you! And hopefully, some of these photos will remind you (like they did me!) that it’s not about looking “perfect.” It’s about having those moments to hang onto in all of their reality - interesting style choices, weird faces, silly moments, and all.

So, to start, we’ll start at the very beginning. Or, in this case - before the beginning!

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For this very first photo, we’re throwing it back to the first photo Nick and I EVER took together! This was actually before we started dating in the summer of 2008. My friends threw me the sweetest surprise birthday party for my 16th birthday, and little did I know (until I got there!) that they had invited Nick! Who, apparently, had gotten really sunburnt that week 😂

Also, note that this photo was taken on the small digital camera that I kept in my purse! Thank the good Lord for modern technology and not having to carry around ten different electronic devices!

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On this day quite a few years ago, Nick and I decided to go for a walk in the woods near my neighborhood. Shortly after our adventure began, I tried to pull down a giant tree branch that was in our way and a one of it's tiny branches impaled my arm! While I was freaking out, Nick (like the gentleman he is), offered to carry me back to my parents' house (a two mile walk from there). I (not so kindly) informed him that it was not my FEET or my LEGS that had been impaled, but my arm!

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I can safely say that this was one of my LEAST favorite things we've ever done together! Both of our families (who love to hang out together!) decided it would be a wonderful idea for us all to go water tubing - you know, where you hang onto a tube for your LIFE while a boat drags you through deep, churning waters. No big deal! Up until five minutes before this photo was taken, I was insisting that I would never EVER get on one of these tubes just to be thrown off into the depths of the sea. Nick assured me that we would be able to hang on for the whole time if we went together, so VERY reluctantly, I agreed. I should mention that one of my biggest fears in life is drowning, along with large bodies of water (how was I ever a lifeguard for six years?!). So we got on the tube, and literally JUST as the boat started to pull us, our tube submerged under water (I was hanging on too tightly towards the front, apparently) and we were thrown off, as the boat sped away. Meanwhile, I'm FREAKING OUT (screaming, crying, the works) imagining all of the scary darkness and marine life that was swirling below me. Nick (and both of our families) got a GREAT laugh out of that one! Me... not so much! 

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Yes, Nick was literally the Chick-fil-A cow on multiple occasions throughout the area where we live! So of course, I had to visit. Once, I was even the "Mrs" Chick-fil-A cow - only I had walking pneumonia (which I found out later) and could NOT control my coughing. Kids kept trying to hug me while I was in the costume (and coughing), then they would start screaming and crying "What's wrong with the cow! The cow is DYING!"

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Nick's family was gracious enough to bring me along on a few trips to Florida while Nick and I were only dating! During THIS trip in particular, we decided to rent one of these little two person biking things (yes, that's the official name, in case you were wondering!), and after we initially spoke to the rental guy at one of the rental booths, the rental guy left and Nick says to me: "OH MY GOSH. Did you see it?!" Totally unaware as to what he was talking about, I said, "No - see what?" "THE SQUIRREL SITTING ON HIS SHOULDER!!! Look for it when he comes back!" So we waited, and ten minutes later, the rental guy comes back - without a squirrel on his shoulder. Nick was SO confused, and I BURST out laughing. To this day, Nick still believes there was a squirrel sitting on this man's shoulder. I still don't believe it!

One of the coolest things we've done together is go on a mission trip to Kenya! As you can see from our faces - jet lag is the real deal.

Ahhhhh, Halloween. We've gone through quite a few make shift Halloween costumes throughout the year, only to settle on finally investing in some Hogwarts robes (which I think we've worn for the last four years or so! ;) ). Other mentionables include: Bert Macklin & Janet Snakehole (any Parks & Rec fans out there?!), pirates, and Minnie & Mickey!

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When this photo was taken, I had NO idea it would be so important to me so many years later. I was playing "Mrs. Mayor" in my high school's rendition of "Seussical," and Nick came to every single show. Later I found out that at one of the shows, Nick leaned over to his best friend and whispered "I'm going to marry that girl someday." I think it was the yellow suit 😂

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Nick and I met through our youth group (read more about how we met here!) on a trip down to Florida to a camp called "Bigstuf." This photo was taken on our third trip together down there - those are some of my favorite memories!

Tenth grade prom. Need I say more?! We went to SO many dances together, and boy, are some of those photos rough, so I’ll leave you with this one that’s not so bad! 😉

Tenth grade prom. Need I say more?! We went to SO many dances together, and boy, are some of those photos rough, so I’ll leave you with this one that’s not so bad! 😉

Two Disney fans in Universal for the first time together. We decided that it wasn't nearly as interesting as Disney ;) But we did have an amazing time!

Two Disney fans in Universal for the first time together. We decided that it wasn't nearly as interesting as Disney ;) But we did have an amazing time!

THIS was the day Nick asked me to marry him! If you're interested in seeing the video,  click here  ☺️ And yes - I was completely and utterly surprised!! The weirdest thing that happened that day, though, was seeing a naked man sun tanning in a PUBLIC PARK. Ew!

THIS was the day Nick asked me to marry him! If you're interested in seeing the video, click here ☺️ And yes - I was completely and utterly surprised!! The weirdest thing that happened that day, though, was seeing a naked man sun tanning in a PUBLIC PARK. Ew!

I always thought Nick had the best redheaded Justin Bieber hair when we were in high school 😍And this was back in the day when it was cool to take photos via the PhotoBooth on your computer.

I always thought Nick had the best redheaded Justin Bieber hair when we were in high school 😍And this was back in the day when it was cool to take photos via the PhotoBooth on your computer.

This is what most of the photos we take together ACTUALLY look like 😂this was on the same day Nick "saw" the squirrel sitting on a man's shoulder!

This is what most of the photos we take together ACTUALLY look like 😂this was on the same day Nick "saw" the squirrel sitting on a man's shoulder!

This photo has been one of my favorites since it was taken by the talented Michael Williams, mainly because I feel like it really captures exactly who we are together! Against allllll of my previous knowledge about engagement sessions before this day, Nick and I showed up in a bit of mid-fight, but by the end of the shoot, we totally forgot what we had been fighting about. We had so much fun!

This photo has been one of my favorites since it was taken by the talented Michael Williams, mainly because I feel like it really captures exactly who we are together! Against allllll of my previous knowledge about engagement sessions before this day, Nick and I showed up in a bit of mid-fight, but by the end of the shoot, we totally forgot what we had been fighting about. We had so much fun!

I bet you can guess what happened on this day! 😉This was by FAR one of my favorite days. To my surprise, I wasn't nervous at ALL, and slept a full nine and a half hours the night before our wedding! We had been dating for so long that we knew this was exactly what we wanted to do and the man I wanted to spend my life with!

I bet you can guess what happened on this day! 😉This was by FAR one of my favorite days. To my surprise, I wasn't nervous at ALL, and slept a full nine and a half hours the night before our wedding! We had been dating for so long that we knew this was exactly what we wanted to do and the man I wanted to spend my life with!

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I love everything that this photo represents: time together, uninterrupted, in one of our favorite places: Disney’s Boardwalk Resort! This photo was taken during a first year anniversary session by the incredibly talented KT Crabb Photography.

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And here is us… just last year, attending my cousin’s wedding in Virginia! This photo reminds me of allllll of the boundaries we had to keep in place and adhere to - together - just to be able to attend this wedding and spend the weekend with my extended family. At the beginning of our marriage, one of the toughest things we had to work through was making time to align our schedules to be together.

When we were first married, Nick was working as a Youth Director at the church we attended, and I was working a part-time Graphic & Web Design job, while trying to build this business. We had no boundaries, and consequently, we never really saw each other or got to spend time with each other. I am SO thankful that we were both given a call out and were able to pursue a healthy work-life balance. 💛

Thanks for reading, friends!

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My First Job & How Life Comes Full Circle

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My First Job & How Life Comes Full Circle

This blog post is the crazy story of how life comes full circle. These photos aren’t the “normal” senior, family, engagement, or wedding photos you’ll see on my blog, but there’s a crazy, God-sized story here that I feel is worth sharing. It’s a story you probably know well within your own life from years of living… but, if you’re curious, allow me to add my own version of a “full circle” experience to the blogosphere.

You see, it all began ten years ago, when I was 16 years old. I had just completed a few months at my first job as a lifeguard at our local community pool. But after Labor Day, there was no more need for lifeguards guarding outdoor pools (hello, Pittsburgh!), so I started searching for job #2, which landed me a job as a lifeguard at my local YMCA: the Rose E. Schneider Family YMCA, to be exact.

Being a lifeguard was the perfect job for high school Jenna. I’d spend 20 minutes guarding one pool, 20 minutes guarding another pool, and then 20 minutes either cleaning, or doing homework, if there was no cleaning left to be done. For an introverted people-watching achiever, it was the dream!

During these breaks from cleaning and homework, occasionally, my boyfriend would come and visit. We hadn’t been dating for too long at the time, but he would bring me a Starbucks drink (#keeper) and we would put our feet in the hot tub and talk for the remainder of my “break.” We kept this little tradition going for the six years I worked at the YMCA.

As we both grew, we stayed together and started forming deeper connections - talking about our dreams, hopes, and aspirations. I remember one day telling him: “I think I want to be a photographer.” Of course - like the encouraging boyfriend he was (and, spoiler alert: like the encouraging husband he is now!) - he helped me run with that little dream, telling me he would support me however he could. (Ladies, that’s the type of boyfriend you want to have - one that will support you, dream with you, and act on what he says! Words don’t mean very much unless there’s action to back them up, and I’m thankful that Nick was, and continues to be, a man of his word!)

Six years after I had started working at the Y, I decided I needed to resign. I loved the job so much, but I was in school full-time, trying to hold down a part time internship, working another job as a banquet server, and trying to get my little fledgling business off the ground. It was time to resign, so I threw in my whistle and towel and wondered if I would ever come back through the YMCA doors to the community and building I had grown to love.

Fast forward four years after I had quit. That boyfriend who visited me at the Y? Now we’re married. And now we feel God calling us to something new. Something that would require leaving the familiar and comfortable for a new season of unknown. We tried to ignore the stirring in our hearts, but we’ve both learned through this season that we can only ignore what God is pulling us towards and laying on our hearts for so long before we have to act. And that action for us? Nick, looking for a new job, after working in the same place he had poured his heart and soul into for 8 years.

After we came to the conclusion that we had to put action behind what we felt God was calling us to do, Nick started pursuing other employment opportunities. But the hard part? He wasn’t just switching jobs. He had to switch careers, out of the “church world” and into the corporate world.

One day, as we were driving home from getting groceries, we were passing the Rose E. Schneider Family YMCA, talking about potential job opportunities. I half-heartedly said: “Hey! You should see if there are any job opportunities at the Y - I loved working there!” Neither of us thought seriously about it until Nick saw a posting for a job as a director online as he was searching for jobs. Soon after, he realized that he had a connection there that might even be able to help him get an interview. And he did get an interview. And against so many odds… he got the job!

Then, a few months into this new career, the Y contacted me to take some photos for them of their facility and members for their new website.

And I can’t help but think back to the teenagers, drinking Starbucks, dipping their feet in the hot tub, dreaming about what the future held. Me - wanting to be a photographer, not realizing that I would have the opportunity to take photos at and for that very YMCA I was employed by a decade later. Nick - thinking his life was, for sure, with 100% certainty, heading in one direction. Little did we know that God was providing a foreshadowing of what was to come… and neither of us knew it at the time.

It totally blows my mind.

God makes a way where there seems to be no way. He puts doors for us to open that we didn’t even believe were a possibility. He puts dreams and desires in our hearts, and in his time, brings them to fruition. And he simply asks us to trust him. To follow him. To pursue him. To love Him, and to love others. In the mean time, he’ll light our path and give us the next step.

And then, years down the road… sometimes he lets us experience that “full circle” moment. And it’s the perfect opportunity to remember his goodness, his faithfulness, his omniscience.

Without further ado, here are a few photos from the Rose E. Schneider Family YMCA photo shoot!

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How We Did Disney on the Cheap

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How We Did Disney on the Cheap

It’s no secret around here that we are huge Disney fans! Since we’ve got married in August of 2015, my husband (Nick) and I have been to Disney four times (at the time this blog post comes out!), and multiple times before then with Nick’s family. It’s also no secret that a trip to Disney can be dang expensive, but through our love for Disney and our frugal nature, we’ve accumulated some tips and tricks throughout the years that allow us to visit Disney for a fraction of the cost (but really, many of these tips can be applied and help you save money on any vacation). This past visit, we wanted to see how cheap we really could go – so, below are all of the tips and tricks we used to keep our trip cheap!

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 I’d also like to add that this blog post is not sponsored by any of the companies listed below. We just genuinely believe that they have an excellent product and experience to offer!

1.     We opted to stay off-campus at an Airbnb.

While we absolutely LOVE staying on campus and being close to all things Disney, for this trip, our goal was to keep things cheap, so we found a nice little Airbnb about 10 minutes from the Disney parks for $60 a night. It was totally a steal! Rooms at Disney typically begin at $120+ per night (depending on where you stay), but most cost a few hundred per night. Staying off campus is a great way to save a little (or a lot!) extra money!

Another great option for larger groups who want to stay together is FlipKey. Similar to Airbnb, FlipKey allows users to find and book vacation rentals at a reasonable price, especially if you’re splitting the rental amongst other couples, family members, or friends! We rented a FlipKey property for a trip to Orlando in February of 2018 and were so impressed with the customer service, cleanliness, ample space, and beautiful property! I would highly recommend checking it out.

2.     We used a credit card (wisely!) to earn free airfare.

We’re big Dave Ramsey fans around here, but the one point of contention we have with him? Credit cards. It’s easy to let spending get out of control with a credit card in tow, but if you’re the type of person who pays off a credit card on a monthly basis without accruing interest, this suggestion might be beneficial to you.

We signed up for a Capital One Venture card and ran everything we could through it, and by doing so, earned enough points to purchase tickets to Orlando at absolutely no additional cost to us!

3.     Instead of renting a car, we used Uber.

Nick is a vacation planning guru, but when he told me it would be cheaper for us to use Uber for the five days we were in Orlando (opposed to renting a car), I was a bit skeptical. But it turns out he was right!

To rent a car in Orlando, we would’ve paid a minimum of $180 for five days. With two park days, we would’ve had to pay $25 a day for parking ($50 total), not to mention parking for our day in Disney Springs (ranging from $13 to $24 – we’ll stick with $13 for the sake of this math!), not to mention tolls and gas, which we’ll estimate at around $50, modestly. Altogether, the cost of renting a car would’ve been about $293. During our time in Disney, we spent only $189.22 total on Uber, saving us a grand total of $103.78. For us, it was totally worth it!

4.     We utilized Disney’s free transportation via Disney’s busses and monorail system.

Did you know that Disney has a free bus system that, while mainly used by resort guests, is free for park visitors to use, too? Since we opted to use Uber instead of renting a car, we needed all the help finding free transportation that we could get! So, our plan was simple: get onto Disney property, and use the busses to get to places like: Magic Kingdom, Epcot, and Disney Springs. We saved money by first Ubering to the nearest Disney resort with free transportation available (which, for us, happened to be Disney’s Boardwalk), then from there, we utilized their busses to get to our final destination. It took a little extra time and planning, but in the long run, it definitely saved us a chunk of change!

5.     We brought our own store-bought snacks and drinks in the parks.

Have you ever tried to eat or drink on Disney property? A cup of coffee costs nearly FOUR DOLLARS, and a hot dog costs around NINE. Full disclosure: we did eat in the parks more than I would’ve liked, but we did majorly cut down the cost by bringing our own snacks and drinks with us to eat for breakfast, lunch, and in between meals. We even brought our own coffee to our Airbnb with to-go cups so we could take our coffee with us in the morning!

6.     We visited the parks and bought tickets on “non-peak” days.

Did you know that Disney instituted a new system of buying tickets with a rising and falling price point? Essentially, this means that it’s more or less expensive to visit the parks at certain times of the year when Disney is busier, or less busy. Disney actually makes it quite easy for you, with a full calendar for the entire year listed on their website with a specific price point for each individual day.

We purchased our tickets for non-peak days (i.e., the week before Christmas instead of the week of Christmas) to help out a little bit with the cost. If you’re planning a Disney vacation, I would highly recommend looking on their calendar to choose a non-peak time of year, to take advantage of lower ticket prices!

Shortly after Nick and I got married, we decided that instead of giving gifts to each other, we wanted to have experiences with each other. One of the biggest decisions that’s helped make Disney possible for us? Forgoing Christmas, anniversary, and birthday gifts, and putting that money towards our Disney trip instead. That may or may not be a feasible option for you (and your family!), but for us, our memories and experiences together have far outweighed any physical gift we could’ve bought each other. Those memories together – they’re priceless. I hope with these tips you are able to go make some memories of your own together with those you love most!

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Stop Staring at Your Neighbor's Lights

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Stop Staring at Your Neighbor's Lights

One of my favorite Christmas traditions is driving around with my husband, looking at Christmas lights around our area. One year, we found a house that was completely decked out - music playing, lights flashing EVERYWHERE - all over the house, all over their massive yard. We slowly crept by and could barely peel our eyes away! We look over to the house next door, where there was a dog standing, looking at the house - unflinching. He couldn't peel his eyes away either! We sat there for another five minutes or so as he slowly started inching towards the house, almost entranced 😂 Fast forward to about a week later, we were driving home from dinner with my mother-in-law and decided to take a detour to show her this crazy house. As we were driving by, we saw the SAME DOG starting intently at the lights - totally frozen by the epicness before him! Finally, his owner came out and pretty much had to drag him inside the house. It was the craziest thing!! What makes this story even crazier is that there was only one other house on that whole street that had Christmas lights up. It’s like everyone had decided that what their neighbor was doing was more than enough for the entire neighborhood!

It got me thinking of how often I’ve found myself staring at someone else’s “epicness,” distracted by someone else’s perceived success or awesomeness, totally neglecting the unique call that’s been placed on my life... wondering if it’s even worth trying at all. I can’t even begin to tell you how many hours I’ve wasted stalking through Instagram accounts, Facebook profiles, and blog posts, believing the lie: “If only I could be like them. Then I’d be successful.” I spent so much time looking at their “lit up house” that I forgot to put up my own lights.

I think it’s safe to say that we've all gone through seasons of distraction, just like that dog, too. We can't peel our eyes off of what someone else is doing, and we become so entranced by their lives that we forget to live our own. We forget that our version of success might not look anything like that person’s… because we are literally a different person! We have different skills, different abilities, different goals and desires for our lives. When we take a closer look and think about what we would have to do (or give up) to get the life that that person has… we might not even want it.

The question I found myself pondering through all of this is this: what's keeping me distracted from living MY life and the call that’s been put on it? And what have I been afraid to do simply because I see someone else doing it “better” or “bigger?” If you’ve ever felt that way, my heart goes out to you, friend. Because it STINKS - big time.

We have been prepared for what we are called to

But the beauty within the unknown is this: in Christ, there’s hope. There’s promise. There’s the reassurance that we have been prepared for what we have been called to. “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” - Ephesians 2:10

What if the point wasn’t to do something bigger or better, but just to do it because we have been called and equipped? So, stop staring at your neighbor’s lights. Even better… go put up your own.

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How to Pursue a Healthier Work Life Balance

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How to Pursue a Healthier Work Life Balance

“When does Jenna feel like the healthiest version of herself?” As the question  filled the room, my first reaction was to push back - to dub this appointment a mistake and walk out the door. The reason why: I hadn’t thought for a second in the last five years how and when I feel healthiest. I simply saw a goal and pushed through, whatever it took, to achieve it.

If you’re familiar with the Enneagram test, I’m a type 3. And if you’re unfamiliar, a type 3 is the classic achiever: the type of person who sees what it takes to achieve what they want and goes for it, sometimes neglecting other important areas of life to get there. They hustle hard, often to the detriment of themselves and others if they aren’t careful.

This is where I found myself at the end of last year. Hustling hard in my business, and burning out as a result. I’m a people-pleaser and a “yes” girl at heart, simply desiring to make others happy, with a desire for affirmation. So somehow, throughout the years, I allowed my schedule and my life to be dictated by everyone but me: I found myself bitter towards others for decisions I alone had the power to make, and that’s when I knew I was in a dangerous place. I knew it was really dangerous when I “suddenly” wanted to quit. But really, it wasn’t so sudden. I had been doing this to myself for years, and it had finally caught up with me.

So, I asked myself the same question my therapist asked me: when do I feel like the healthiest version of myself? And what will it take to get there?

The biggest word that stood out to me - the constant theme that kept popping up as I began to seek answers and healing was this word: boundaries.

If you’re anything like me before I actually set up some good, solid boundaries, you’re probably thinking: I’ve heard this all before! I know I need to set up boundaries. But then you just… don’t. You know you need to, but you keep moving at the pace you’re currently moving at, because, well – something about it feels good. It feels validating, even. That’s what busyness does – it falsely validates achievement and success until busyness becomes our idol. For example, in the wedding photography industry, we love to talk about how many weddings we have booked. It feels good to hear that number and for it to be the highest in the room or in the Facebook group – until you’re actually grinding through all of those weddings, and they aren’t fun anymore. They’re just work.

The biggest thing that has the power to destroy my passion is my pursuit of busy.

And really, that’s the LAST thing I ever want my work to become: just work. I started photographing weddings, seniors, and families because it’s my passion. I feel alive and like I was doing what I was created to do when I’m loving and encouraging people with a camera in my hand. But the biggest thing that has the power to destroy my passion is my pursuit of busy.

When I realized that, I knew immediately that something needed to be done. But what? Lucky for me, I had a few months of an “off” season from weddings with light work (January through March) to really think things through. What boundaries would I need to set up to make sure I stayed passionate? Or, as a friend of mine likes to say: what was my “long game” going to be? If I focused on the short term – booking the maximum amount of weddings and shoots I could for the year – I would inevitably burn out. But if I focused on my long game – what would allow me to do what I love (and keep loving it!) for the longest amount of time I possibly could – I could continue to love and serve my clients in the way I desired to, without growing any bitterness in my heart.

I decided to set up the boundaries listed below. But before you read through these, let me preface this list by saying that I know that everyone is different. What works for me might not work for you, and what works for you might not work for me. You might be able to do more and still remain passionate – but for me, these changes helped me avoid burnout and while remaining passionate:

  • I took at least one FULL day off per week – mandatory! For me, that meant no shoots, no email, no meetings or phone calls, and no editing. Typically, my day off fell on Sunday.

  • No answering emails on the weekend (and I put up an away message to make sure I stuck to it and had NO excuses!).

  • No answering emails past 5PM, unless I designated the evening a “work” evening (i.e., if I started my work day a little later).

  • I took only one wedding per weekend. Period.

  • No sessions the evening before or morning after a wedding.

  • I limited the number of sessions I took, especially during wedding weeks. My goal was one to two shoots on the weeks where I had a wedding scheduled (this one was harder to stick to during my busiest months, but was much better than last year!).

  • I set up a calendar for people to schedule their sessions from dates I picked out in advance, rather than having a free-for-all when it came to booking.

  • In addition to a booking calendar, I invested in a management software called Pixifi, where I can manage clients, invoices, contracts, proposals, workflows, automation and questionnaires – all in one place! I really believe that this is the best piece of software I’ve ever invested in - it’s been like having a virtual online assistant for super cheap! If you’re interested in checking it out, click here!

  • I limited my social media usage. Because, let’s be honest – social media is a breeding ground for comparison! I started using apps like Hootsuite and Grum to schedule my content so that it would automatically post, instead of me having to log into the app every time I needed to post!


And here is how these specific boundaries impacted my year:

  • I was able to enjoy my job SO MUCH MORE! There were still periods of time where I felt overwhelmed, but overall, I feel like my workload was much more manageable!

  • I was able to give each client my full attention at their session, instead of worrying about how much work (or editing) I still had to do.

  • I was able to pour more into my relationship with my husband. Instead of constantly working, day and night, we were able to enjoy more time together and continue to build our relationship!

  • I picked up a couple of hobbies and made time for them! I know it sounds crazy, but for one of the first times in my LIFE I felt like I could take the time to enjoy things that I wanted to do for myself, and not just things I needed to do to get the job done. A few mentionable include: writing, knitting, baking, and reading! (Just call me Grandma Jenna!) And I’m hoping that list keeps expanding!

  • I was able to invest into other areas of my business. I found something else that’s fun for me – photographing stock imagery! It’s something that I can do on the side of my full time business, but without any pressure!

  • I ended 2018 in a MUCH better place mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually than I ended 2017. I feel like I have more clarity, stability, and grit than ever before! (But still with a long way to go and lots to improve!)

  • And the real kicker: I set up these boundaries thinking that it would mean taking a pay cut – and I was truly okay with that. But, surprisingly, the opposite happened – I actually made 25% MORE this year than last year!

When do you feel like the healthiest version of yourself?

My question for you is the same one that was asked of me at the end of 2017: When do you feel like the healthiest version of yourself? And what boundaries do you need to put in place to make sure you get there? Are you playing the short game, or the long game?

If you’re in the same boat that I was (and that I sometimes still have one foot in! ;) ), know that you aren’t alone. Don’t allow yourself to go through another year – or, heck, another week without sitting down and putting even one small boundary in place to work towards the healthiest version of yourself. Make 2019 your year. I’m rooting for you!

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Favorite Podcasts from 2018

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Favorite Podcasts from 2018

Plain and simple: I’m a firm believer that ALL of the content we put into our brains have BIG affects on us, and we get to decide whether that content is going to be life-giving or life-sucking. Today, I want to share a few of my favorite positive and encouraging (but also challenging!) podcasts!

 All of these podcasts are hosted by women, and many of these podcasts are business related, but all of them have a greater purpose of encouraging and challenging listeners to dream bigger, walk in community, and to not let fear hold them back from the lives they are called to live. I hope you enjoy these as much as I do!

1.     Business Boutique (Christy Wright)

I only discovered Christy Wright’s Business Boutique podcast a few months ago, and it’s safe to say that I am OBSESSED! If you have ever heard of financial guru Dave Ramsey, Christy Wright is actually what they call a “Ramsey personality” who tours the country speaking at his events! Besides working for the Ramsey company, Christy is also a writer, mom, podcaster, with a passion for equipping women to make money doing what they love. And basically – that’s what the podcast is all about! Christy dives into all things business, including the how-to’s, the fears, the emotions, all with engaging content that I truly believe has the power to change lives. Christy speaks from her personal experience and also hosts other amazing women and men who can speak directly into specific topics, ranging from things like growing a side hustle, to creating the perfect business idea, to building business relationships, to digital marketing. A few of my favorite episodes include: “Shake off your shame,” (which is my favorite podcast episode of ALL TIME!), “Is it fear, or wisdom?” and “Learning from your competition.” Christy only releases episodes about every two weeks, but her episodes are of the highest quality and are jam packed with SO much incredible information!

2.     Girls Night (Stephanie Mae Wilson)

Stephanie Mae Wilson invites her audience seasonally (kind of like a tv show with a specific amount of episodes!) to listen in on a conversation with one of her girlfriends, unpacking some of the most challenging, rewarding, and interesting things about being female! Girls Night topics range from comparison, to insecurity, to depression, to marriage, to business, mentorship, self care, hospitality, relationships, and more! And really – it feels like you’re just listening to a real, authentic conversation between two of your gal-pals! A few of my favorite episodes include “How to protect your heart from social media comparison,” “Rest & Self Care – how to actually do it!” and “Depression & Insecurity: how to remember that you matter.”

3.     Goal Digger (Jenna Kutcher)

Jenna Kutcher is a content creation MACHINE, and is known for her authenticity and ability to break down the complex into easy bits and pieces for others to understand and learn from. She is a wedding photographer turned educator, social media guru, online marketer, and podcaster (just to name a few) who talks from her personal experience, as well as interviews other powerhouse women on all kinds of topics related to business, ranging from topics like “How to Pay Yourself as an Entrepreneur” to “How to Ditch Self Doubt” to more nitty gritty business and social media talk. This woman is not only SO talented, but so entertaining to listen to and is perfect for those who are pursuing their business and personal goals! Some of my favorite episodes from this podcast include: “Passive Income 101: how you can make money while you rest,” “Creating unforgettable client experiences,” and “10 Ways to Create Content Calendar.” Jenna currently puts out episodes twice a week, on Mondays and Wednesdays. Click here to listen in!

4.     Going Scared (Jessica Honegger)

Something I LOVED right away about this podcast is the vision behind it: Jessica seeks out men and women who are doing BIG, unique, crazy (and to be frank, sometimes scary!) things and unpacks their story, challenging her listeners to go do the thing that they’re scared to do! Some of my favorite podcasts include: “What story are you telling yourself? With Mary Marantz,” (one of my favorite photographers!) “Being Kind over being right: Bob Goff gets real,” (one of my favorite authors!) and “Embracing Simplicity and the courage to say ‘no’ with Emily Ley.”

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Favorite Budget-Friendly Date Ideas

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Favorite Budget-Friendly Date Ideas

“I’ve probably spent tens of thousands of dollars on you throughout the years,” Nick said to me shortly after we got engaged. “And every penny was worth it.”

As sweet as this statement my now-husband made was, it made me wonder: why is dating so dang expensive?! As much as I love dating my husband and going on adventures with him, after being together for almost 10 years, I can only imagine how much money we’ve spent on dates throughout the years. Not that that money isn’t worth it – but now that we’re buckling down on paying off debt and saving for a home, we’ve been trying to find intentional, consistent ways to spend time together without breaking the bank. So if you’re in the same boat, this post is for you! I’ve compiled a few of my favorite budget-friendly date ideas that we absolutely LOVE – and I hope you will, too!

1. One of my favorite dates was Nick’s idea – we each got a couple of dollars and went to the dollar store. We had to choose and buy three things that we thought represented the other person and tell them why we chose each object. It was so much fun to see what each of us chose! I still remember one of the objects that Nick chose that ended up being SO meaningful – he bought a little plastic microphone and told me that it reminded him of me because of my soothing voice and encouraging words. Yes… I cried.

2. Around Christmas, Nick and I love to buy some hot chocolate and drive around local neighborhoods in search of the best Christmas lights (while listening to Christmas music, of course!). In 2017 we stumbled across the BEST house that literally had a radio station that played songs that they had coordinated their lights to. SO MUCH FUN! Another year, we stumbled across a house that had SO many lights that were going SO crazy that their neighbor’s dog was literally sitting and staring for a solid ten minutes. Then we came back about a week later, and there the dog was AGAIN, in the same spot, staring at the house. You never know what you’ll find!

3. As a summer alternative to our Christmas date, Nick and I will either buy smoothies or take popsicles on a walk around our neighborhood (we live in a small town that’s soooo much fun to walk around!)

4. One of our new favorite dates is candle making! Believe it or not, it’s actually NOT that expensive (though maybe slightly more than five dollars!) and actually yields something that you can use around your home! We like to save glass jars from foods we eat (pasta sauce, salsa, and pickle jars are our go-to’s!) to cut down on the cost, then buy the wax and wicks from Amazon (click here for wax, click here for wicks!). If you want to get extra fancy, you can even buy some scents to put in! (Click here for some of our favorites!). If you want to make your candle wax a different color, cut off a small piece of colored crayon and throw it into the wax while it’s being melted!

5. Another new favorite date for us is bread making. All of the ingredients are soooo cheap, and really, it’s not that hard (we like to bake while we watch movies!). It’s something fun you can eat or give away (we started this date habit while eating low carb – whoops!!).

6. MoviePass is our NEWEST favorite thing!! Have you heard of it? It’s basically the Netflix of the movie theatre world. You buy a subscription, pay a certain amount of money per month (I think it’s $9.95 right now, but they run deals on the regular!) and then you can go see a movie a day. Literally. Any theatre, any movie, any day. Not like anyone really has the time to see a movie a day, but if you do the math and commit to seeing at least two movies a month – you’ll have two budget-friendly dates a month that are already pre-paid for!! For us, this was worth it, because we have trouble leaving the house (home bodies right here!) and this is a good motivation to go do something outside of the house a few times a month!

7. Volunteer or serve together. While this might sound like kind of a weird date idea, it’s (typically) totally free and lets you get outside of yourself a little bit. Whether it’s serving together at a soup kitchen, putting together care packages for people, or doing yard work for a neighbor or grandparent, serving is a great way to form a connection with someone and lets you love on someone else in the process! This is one we have a goal to incorporate more of into our lives within the next couple of months!

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How My Husband Proposed

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How My Husband Proposed

Unbeknownst to me, for about a year before he popped the question, Nick had been hatching a major plan – and one that involved pretty much everyone we knew. He had been secretly preparing, filming, scheduling, and coordinating behind the scenes and I literally had no idea.

The day Nick proposed was a Saturday, and it was an unusual one for me. At that time in my life, I was working as a wedding banquet server, and that Saturday had been what my boss at the time called an “all hands on deck” day, when everyone was required to work and no one was allowed to request off. But, surprisingly – he told me to take a day off. I was a little surprised, but didn’t really think much of it and took it as an unexpected blessing (later I found out that Nick had called him and asked for me to have the day off – talk about a great boss!).

Another thing that made this Saturday particularly unusual was the fact that my whole immediate family was gone and out of the house pretty early in the morning and were (supposedly) going to visit my grandparents (not unusual for them on a Saturday). They hadn’t asked if I wanted to come, so I took it as a sign that I needed to take this day to rest – you know, between being a full time student and working multiple part time jobs, there was kind of a lot going on! (Later I found out that my family was NOT at my grandparents – they were at a park practicing a choreography routine – more on that soon! Also, I found out after the fact that my sister had left her journal open on the kitchen table with a prayer written inside, praying that “Nick’s proposal to Jenna would go well.” I cannot believe I didn’t see it, I was literally working FROM the kitchen table that day! Totally God!)

All that was on the agenda for the day was a picnic date with Nick in the afternoon after a relaxing morning. I hadn’t eaten much that day because Nick said that we were going to have a FEAST, so by the time he came to pick me up for our date, I WAS STARVING. Literally all I could think about was eating.

We got in the car, and there was a picnic basket in the back – I asked if I could take a peek to see what he had packed, but he immediately said no and that what was inside was a surprise. Then, for the entire drive to the park, Nick said basically nothing. It almost seemed like something was wrong, so he told me that he was having some trouble at his job with his new job (he wasn’t), so I reassured him and didn’t think much of it.

When we got to the park, my stomach was growling like CRAZY and I hopped out of the car, PUMPED to eat some delicious picnic food! I went to grab the picnic basket and Nick said “why don’t we take a walk first!” Oh my gosh. I wanted to kick him. I put up a bit of a fight, but finally conceded, and we started walking towards a big open field. But then, we saw a naked man sun tanning (no joke), so we turned around and headed back up the road (I learned later that Nick had to stall me because his mom had went to buy ketchup for the post-proposal barbecue! Also – he wasn’t stalling me with the naked man, that just happened to be unexpected and hilarious!).

We started walking up the road, hand in hand (Nick’s were sweating like crazy!), and I saw something move in the bushes – and it looked like something big. I started backing up, mumbling that we should probably turn around. But Nick grabbed my hand and kept pulling me along. What a picture of being in relationship with someone else – one of us falling behind from fear, the other grabbing our hand and walking us forward.

We finally reached the end of the road and turned to find a huge parking lot FULL of people – but all of their backs were turned towards us, and they were just standing there, all spread apart. At this point, I was starting to freak out a little bit “Nick, we should REALLY turn around!” But then, he pulled a boom box out of a bush, pressed play – and really, I should let this video finish the rest:

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Favorite Books for Personal & Creative Growth

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Favorite Books for Personal & Creative Growth

If you were a late nineties or early two-thousands kid, you might remember the school book program where reading a certain number of books would earn you your own personal pan pizza. Oh my gosh, I LIVED for that challenge because it included two of my all time favorite things: books and pizza. I already LOVED to read as a young child, but adding in pizza to the mix was like the cherry on top of the sundae (or maybe the pepperoni on top of the pizza??) Regardless, it was amazing!

Throughout the years as I became busier and busier in high school and college, my love for reading became more of a duty to read. Classes, after school activities, and part time jobs put my love for reading on the back burner (or at least for reading books that I actually wanted to!) until about midway through college. Then I read a book that catapulted me back into my love for reading: “Start” by Jon Acuff, a simple book about starting something you love. At the time, I was starting to take my business more seriously as a real source of income and purpose (and not just as a hobby), and this book hit me right where I needed to be hit to get off my butt and actually pursue this thing - which, today, happens to be my full time job.

I realized after reading that book how important reading was to me, and once again, my love was sparked again. I’m not the most consistent reader, as I’ve only read anywhere from 4 to 8 books per year for the last 5 years, but nevertheless, my love for knowledge still remains.

There are some books I’ve read over the past few years that have completely changed my view on the world, on my work, and on what I’ve been called to do and pursue, and today I’d love to share them with you!

1. "The Gifts of Imperfection" by Brene Brown

This book HAD to be first on my list because it was such a game changer for me. Brene Brown has dubbed herself as a “shame researcher,” which basically means that she talks to people about shame, guilt, love, insecurity, security, and all of the topics that fall under that general umbrella. In this book, Brene uses cold hard facts mixed with emotional vulnerability as a guide to experience “a wholehearted life” to help readers “let go of who they’re supposed to be and embrace who they are.” This book helped me see my struggles with insecurity and self-doubt in the face of truth, and for that, I am eternally thankful! If you're interested, check it out and/or buy it here!

2. "The Best Yes" by Lysa Terkeurst

Do you have trouble saying no? I know I do, and back whenever I was first recommended to read this book by a friend, I wasn’t sure if I actually wanted to stop. I remember thinking what’s so bad about saying no if I’m chasing my dream/passion? How can I say no and still pursue what I love and what I’ve been called to do? Won’t I come off as a jerk? Well, Lysa goes through all of this and more! This book really is a must-read if you struggle with being a people-pleaser and with saying “yes” because you just don’t know how or when to say no! Interested? Check it out here!

3. "Creative Confidence" by Tim Kelley & David Kelley

One of my favorite parts about this book is the vast amount of case studies Tim and David offer, as well as their belief that everyone, regardless of job title, position, or career path, has the ability to foster incredible amounts of creative confidence. They inspire readers to think outside of themselves by using empathy to build services, products, experiences, and teams that not only are outside of the box, but all of the way on the other side of the room! This book is a must-read for everyone who wants to develop more creative confidence. Check it out here!

4. "Love Does" by Bob Goff

I read this book for the first time in February of 2018 and literally cannot stop thinking about it. This book is a collection of stories about how Jesus has worked in Bob Goff’s life. It was such a challenge to me to love people more openly and fiercely, regardless of their background or issues. We all have issues; we all have struggles. And Bob demonstrates how important it is to love people in today’s world. It’s just amazing.

And BECAUSE this book is so amazing, I've it's being lent out to someone else and I don't have a photo of it - ha! But if you'd like to see the book and read a little bit more about it, check out the link below!

5. "Girlboss" by Sophia Amoruso

If you want to be inspired to chase your dream, then this book is a must-read (especially if you’re a female)! Sophia talks about her life story and journey from rebel to CEO of an incredibly successful online clothing business, giving practical advice along the way for how the reader can follow their dream and pursue their passion along the way. I try to read this book at least once a year because it’s just that inspiring to me! Buy it here!

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