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Understanding Your Driving Force & Basic Human Needs


Understanding Your Driving Force & Basic Human Needs

A few weeks ago, my dad texted me out of the blue about a personality test he had recently taken, called the “Human Needs Test.” And before you think not another one of those personality tests (or maybe that’s just me? 😉 ), let me tell you something: I’ve never in my life taken a test that pinpointed me so accurately as this one did.

 It might just be me, or just my results – but I was literally astounded when I finished the test and read my results. And this isn’t one of those super well known tests, either, like the Myers-Briggs (INFJ here!) or the Enneagram (type 3 here!), which was another reason why I was cynical. And yet, I would venture to say that I learned more about myself from the Human Needs Test than from both of those tests combined, possibly because it pinpointed an inner conflict of mine that I haven’t been able to nail down before!

 This test takes you through a series of 84 quick questions, designed to pinpoint your top two human needs (the needs that drive your decision making, or as their website says, the “needs that form the basis of every decision we make in life”) out of six: certainty, variety, significance, love & connection, growth, and contribution. Below is a quick explanation (directly from their website) that outlines each need:


·    Certainty – the need for safety, stability, security, comfort, order, predictability, control and consistency

·    Variety – the need for surprise, challenges, excitement, chaos, adventure and change

·    Significance – the need to have meaning, be special, take pride, be needed & wanted, have a sense of importance and worthy of love

·    Love & connection – the need for communication, to be unified, feel connected, intimate and loved by others

·    Growth – the need for constant emotional, intellectual and spiritual development

·    Contribution – the need to give beyond ourselves and to care, protect and serve others

With over 620 potential pairings from these six needs, you’re bound to get a pretty accurate “needs” profile! And mine was exactly that.


Out of the 620 possible combinations, my test results showed that my top two human needs that drive my decision making are: certainty and growth, with contribution coming in as a close third. Knowing myself and having taken lots of these personality tests before, this wasn’t too surprising to me… I didn’t necessarily again anything “new” from simply knowing my two top needs. But it’s the results of this combination that blew me away and helped me learn so much about myself! Here’s a small excerpt of my results:

Because your top need is for certainty and your second need is for growth, your inner conflict is that you want to feel comfortable, safe and secure. You need a predictable environment and you don’t want to take risks. Yet to grow, you need to put yourself out there, take risks, extend the limits of your comfort and stretch yourself. To satisfy your need for certainty, you prefer to avoid new people and new situations. To satisfy your need for growth you need to become involved with new people and new situations.  This inner conflict preoccupies you and makes it difficult for people to help you to satisfy your needs, since they don’t know whether certainty or growth are more important to you. One way you can resolve this dilemma is that you can always be certain that you can grow, because there are always new things to learn and new skills to be developed and the way to resolve your conflict is to satisfy your need for certainty by always growing. You might have difficulties at work if you don’t feel that you are growing and, at the same time, that you are in a comfortable, organized, predictable environment.”

“Since your top need is for certainty, you need to feel secure, safe and comfortable and you need to make sure that you will be secure, safe and comfortable in the future.  Avoiding pain is very important to you as well.  You can't be happy when you are uncertain about things.”

My first and third result (growth & contribution) explain exactly why I love writing blog posts like this (even though they might seem a bit random and out of place!).

But that last part above is really what got me: “You can’t be happy when you are uncertain about things.” I don’t think this necessarily means that I will never be happy when I’m feeling uncertain, but it’s just a lot harder for me to be happy when I’m uncertain about something. And that can be a problem, since life is literally FILLED with uncertainty.

To be honest, that part of my results kind of bothers me. I’ve always wondered why I tend to envy people who are willing to take risks without having 100% certainty… and now I realize that it’s because I value certainty above almost everything else.


What I think is the MOST interesting part about this test is how it applies to different areas of my life, like my marriage, friendships, and business.

Marriage? Easy! I’m certain about that, Nick and I are in it for the long haul – both of us. I don’t tend to worry as much when it comes to my marriage, since it’s something routine and stable.

Friendships? Maybe a bit trickier, since there’s nothing saying that someone has to stay your friend. They can get up and leave at any time they want! No wonder I’ve struggled with friendships – I tend to put people at an arm’s length if I feel like something is wrong in the relationship, because it feels uncertain and unstable.

Business? Possibly the trickiest out of the three. Maybe because I’m a small business owner who doesn’t necessarily know what jobs I’ll have in two months, six months, or two years. There’s a lot of uncertainty when it comes to bookings, and when it comes to things like locations and the types of clients I book, as well as the conditions I’ll be taking photos in. Will it rain? Will it snow? Will there be a huge wind storm?! (This might be especially true since I live in Pittsburgh - haha!)


You know what I REALLY find interesting, though? The fact that, even though we have these basic human needs that drive our decisions, that doesn’t mean we are controlled by them. It’s easy to take a test like this and put myself in a box of what I can and can’t do based on my results. If taken in an unhealthy way, these “needs” can quickly become excuses. 

From personal experience, I think it’s easy to compare something like this to the extrovert/introvert concept. Let me explain: I used to think things like, “because I’m an introvert, I can never/will never/could never ___________ (fill in the blank with every excuse an introvert could use).” I will never run a business. I could never direct a group of people (hello tipsy bridal parties!). I could never start a random conversation with a stranger. Interesting, though, how I am currently doing all of those things and more, even though I’m an introvert.

So what’s the final thought, after all of that rambling? If you decide to take this test – great! I hope you do, and I hope you find it helpful and that it teaches you a little something about yourself. But I hope you don’t use any part of your results as an excuse for whether you should or shouldn’t do something. Because when we start making excuses and saying things like “it’s just the way I am!” We lose in so many ways. We lose in our marriage, in our friendships, in our business, and ultimately in our lives.

If you decide to take this test, I’d love to hear your results, and if you think they’re true to who you are!

Thanks for reading, friends!


The Best Things in Life are the Things We Don't See Coming


The Best Things in Life are the Things We Don't See Coming

Some of the best things in life are the things we never saw coming - sometimes that phrase rings true on a wedding day, too! While I’m a big fan of location scouting and planning locations, poses, and ideas in advance, the truth is, on a wedding day, you never know exactly what you’re going to get in terms of photos! There are so many different variables that can impact a wedding day and cause things like the timeline, weather, or even location to change!

This is simultaneously one of the best and toughest things about weddings. Some photographers love to wing it, other photographers (hi 💁‍♀️) love to have a plan. But I’m always reminding myself, again and again, that some of my FAVORITE photos ever have happened due to things outside of my control, and were shots I never actually planned for - everything just sort of fell together at the right time!

So today, I thought it might be fun to share some of my favorite photos that I didn’t actually plan for!

This shot, for example, was one I never saw coming because: 1) you never know what the weather's going to be like in January in Pittsburgh 😂, so this sunset?! Totally unexpected. And 2) these horses literally came up at JUST the right time. They were so interested in Kirsten and Travis, and right after this shot tried to (what it looked like to me) lick Travis' head 😂

While I had seen Tess and Phil’s gorgeous wedding invitations in advance, this shot was one I didn’t see until I was packing up to head to their ceremony location! I had just finished photographing Tess’s bridal details when I moved my gear into a different room in her parents’ house. I saw this table and tray - both of which perfectly matched the color and style of Tess and Phil’s bay front wedding in Maryland - and arranged this in about thirty seconds! I even had a piece of ribbon that happened to pull everything together!

Also, as a side note - many of the detail photos I take I don’t really plan for, because I don’t know what details I’ll have to work with, or what those details will look like! I love trying to bring in elements that compliment or the details, so many times that means looking for items around the immediate space to incorporate into the detail photos (like the example in the photo above!)


I know this isn’t a wedding photo (this one’s from a senior session!) but one of the best things about unexpected rain at a session or wedding is getting to create an epic photo or two!

I had no idea this couple was bringing this “B” wreath with them, and it just so happened to fit perfectly on a nearby window pane in the little town of Harmony!

When you think of a December wedding, you might think: huh, maybe it will snow! But surely no rain! Nope. In Pittsburgh, it might be 6 degrees or 60 degrees on a December day, you never know what you’re going to get! For Chiara and Patrick’s wedding, it pretty much rained all day. There was maybe a 10 minute break directly following the ceremony, but other than that - nada!

So, we needed to get a little creative with bridal portraits pre-ceremony. Typically, I will try to take the bride outside for some portraits while her hair and makeup is fresh. But on this rainy December day - there’s no WAY that was happening! So instead, Chiara’s mom and bridesmaids helped me clean up/rearrange her parents’ sitting room. And wa-la! A portrait that I couldn’t have planned any better myself was born.

This wedding was quite a few years ago - but this photo is still one of my favorites! Our timeline was shortened drastically the day of this wedding, giving us about five minutes for bride and groom photos. I had planned for the photos in a completely different location - but it would’ve taken at least five minutes to walk to that location for portraits! So, I took the couple literally right outside of their hospitality room where hoerderves were being served and worked quickly within this little hallway to make this portrait. Lucky for us, this hotel had the most beautiful hallways ever, so we didn’t have to walk far to find a great location in a pinch. This definitely wasn’t planned for, but it’s still one of my favorites!

In the photo in the hallway with the yellow doors above this one, you’ll notice a pair of double doors at the very end of the hallway, which were locked for the entire wedding day… until an employee walked through while we were standing in the hallway! Curious as to what was back there, I stopped the door before it could close (and lock), and low and behold, this adorable little room was there! This little room made the perfect spot for another quick portrait!

And there you have it! A few of my favorite photos that I didn’t even plan for. As someone who loves security and planning, I have to remember that sometimes some of my favorite work comes when I least expect it. I’ll always stand by solid planning and timelines, but you never know what you can create when you least expect it!


What's More Important Than Choosing the Right College


What's More Important Than Choosing the Right College

I had a plan for my life, and photography and working for myself wasn't a part of it for a LONG time. When I graduated high school, I knew without a shadow of a doubt that I wanted to go to school for graphic design and web design. I had this grand plan that I had made for myself: I'd graduate, get a job at a magazine or marketing agency and work in the corporate world. Nothing sounded better to me - getting to use my degree and my chosen career path to help businesses build better ways of connecting with their target customer?! Totally right up my alley!

Right after I started college, I began photographing people - portraits, weddings, families - and fell in love. I found myself answering business emails during class, editing during lectures, and putting literally ALL of my free time into hustling hard towards something I wasn't even going to college for.

By the time I graduated college, my business had gone from a side hobby to an (almost) full-time time commitment that was bringing in a decent chunk of change. Even after I graduated college, I still couldn't believe people were actually paying me to take their photo. It felt too surreal to actually get paid to do something I loved so much! But to be honest - I had never thought that photography was something I could actually do full time. I kind of thought that photography would remain a side hobby, or a way to make a little extra money alongside my "career" as a graphic & web designer. But goodness... was I wrong!!

After graduating college, I landed a part time job as a graphic, web, & digital designer for a small start up company right outside of Pittsburgh. Why part time, you might be wondering? Because I was literally putting SO many hours into my business that, at this point, it was basically like having a full time job. In some ways, I felt caught between two passions. On one hand, I LOVED graphic and web design. I had fallen in love with it during my college years and could fully see myself working as a graphic artist. But on the other hand - I loved photography so stinking much, and I finally recognized that this business had grown to a place where it could potentially turn into a way to support my husband and I.

I worked at the start up company for almost two years before I realized that there was no way in heck I could manage both anymore. I was working SO MANY hours every single week with barely any time for friends, family, or even my husband. Sad to move on, but excited to see what photography could turn into, I put in my two weeks at the agency and started making the transition to working for myself full time. And you know what's amazing? That's not something that I would've ever been able to do in my own strength, and it wasn't even something I had envisioned for myself. God's hand was all over those decisions, leading and guiding every single step of the way. And if I hadn't been following his leading, I probably would've missed out on all of the gifts and benefits that have come with working for myself. Sure, like anything, being self employed has its challenges, but when God is at the forefront driving the ship, I am free to live in the knowledge and peace that it's HIM who is leading me every step of the way.

Your career might change, but a kind, generous, loving heart will stick with you wherever you go

So now, to the high school senior, trying to decide what to do: make the best choice you can when you're trying to figure out what to do with your life. Be responsible. Find where your passion intersects with where you can make money, and go there. But know that that decision can change - anything can change! I thought I had a good plan, but God had a better one, and I'm sure He will keep leading me in different directions that I never ever could have planned for myself.

As a friend once said, "choosing which college you'll attend is not the most important decision you'll ever make in your life." And, really, you know what's way MORE important? Choosing to love people. Being kind. Serving others. Making the conscious decision to do THOSE things every single day are some of the MOST important decisions you will ever make. Your career might change, but a kind, generous, loving heart will stick with you wherever you go. People matter so much more than work. They matter more than any career or job you might pursue. And as you start pursuing those things - remember to make time for people.


Favorite Books for Personal & Creative Growth


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!


Get a Dose of JHP Straight to Your Inbox!


Get a Dose of JHP Straight to Your Inbox!


JHP FINALLY has an email list and I couldn't be more excited about it!! Over the course of the last year, I've had numerous current, former, and soon-to-be clients ask if there is a way they could stay updated on a monthly to bi-monthly basis with things like mini-session dates, cancellations, print specials, the latest blog posts new offerings, discounts, and the like, and I'm finally excited to open up this email list to anyone who would like to join!

With all of that being said, let me tell you a few things this email list is not:

  • Spam (I cannot STAND when people send me useless emails!)
  • A constant sales pitch (who wants to be sold to all the time?! Not me!)

If you are someone who is looking to stay updated on all things JHP, then this email  list is certainly for you. Sign up below!


Another Embarrassing Story & Lesson Learned


Another Embarrassing Story & Lesson Learned

I'm heading to a wedding in May (as a guest - yay!) and stopped at the mall a few weeks back to try to find a dress. Inevitably, I ended up in Macy's because I couldn't find anything fancy enough anywhere else. Big department stores make me so nervous - I don't know why!! I guess I'm more of a small store kinda girl.

This Macy's in particular has three floors, so I needed to use an escalator to get upstairs. So, I walk up to the escalator, jump on, and think to myself, why is it so hard to get up this escalator?! So I start running up it, finally realizing that I was running up an escalator that was actually going DOWN. What the fudge?! I'm not sure why I didn't stop when I realized that I was actually headed in the wrong direction, but, regardless, a few older women cheered me on (I kid you not!!) as I finally reached the top in a flop sweat.

I looked around and saw a couple of people chuckling to themselves. I can't imagine how absurd I looked running up that escalator in 2.5 inch heeled boots and my giant winter jacket, purse flailing, arms pumping. Actually - I can imagine it, I just don't really want to! I'll leave that mental image to the people who were "blessed" enough to witness my fight or flight response kick into action ;)

I realized soon after that whole ordeal feel like I did on that escalator in my everyday life.

I take the wrong direction towards a bad thought pattern or feeling because I wasn’t paying close enough attention to how it would (or could) affect me – then I have to work twice as hard to get through something that wasn’t even a problem to begin with. Anyone else? I basically made my own problem, just like I did that day in Macy’s on the escalator.

Thank the good Lord for his reminders, though - "Guard your heart above all else, for it is the source of life," Proverbs 4:23 (CSB). Another version (CEV) says "Carefully guard your thoughts because they are the source of true life." It's amazing how not guarding our hearts and minds can lead to much more strife and unrest than God intended us to live with.

What about you? What piece of your mind or heart needs some guarding today from a destructive thought patten? Whether you believe what the Bible says or not, I would contend that the implementation of this single piece of truth could make a huge impact on your day to day life.


Hustle: the Enemy of Rest?


Hustle: the Enemy of Rest?

Hustle is a word we’ve grown accustomed to using when describing chasing our passions and dreams. It’s a word full of pride and has become an anthem for those of us chasing our dream careers. A reported 44 million Americans claim to have a side-hustle in conjunction with their current full time job, the majority of those 44 million being between the ages of 18 and 25 (source). Which personally, I think is awesome! My (now) full time photography career began as a side hustle as a freshman in college, and over six years, slowly, with lots of sweat (and many tears) morphed into my chosen career path – and for that, I couldn’t be more thankful. But recently, as I was reflecting over the past six years, a surprising question popped in my head:

Was I using hustle as an excuse to avoid my need for rest?

Was I using hustle as an excuse to avoid my need for rest?

I can remember a time in college when I was hustling hard. For longer than I care to admit, I took 18 credits per semester, worked three part time jobs, all the while working on my photography side-hustle. The days were long and the rest was nonexistent. The only friends I had were the people I went to school with, hanging out with my boyfriend and/or family almost always revolved around my ability to get work done while “enjoying quality time” with loved ones (editing photos while having a bonfire, studying while watching a movie, etc.), and all in all, I was miserable and couldn’t figure out why. “But I’m hustling!” I thought to myself. “I’m hustling through and working towards my goals. There’s nothing wrong with that!” But really, while I was hustling hard I was missing out on so many more important things. Friends. Family. Hobbies. Anything fun was immediately thrown out the window in the name of hustle.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m so thankful that I was able to hustle hard to make the dream of owning my own photography business a reality, and I am beyond grateful to be able to get paid to do what I love – but in the last few years, I’ve been learning some hard truths about rest. Two years ago, I was working out before a full day of work, followed by a photography session, when I felt a pop in my back. I’ve had back pain my entire life, but I knew something about this wasn’t right. The pain started in my back and shot down my leg to my foot like a giant tooth ache. Over the next few days, I experienced excruciating pain that forced me to miss days of work and many photography sessions – all I could do was lay in bed. After a few months of physical therapy, the pain slightly decreased but was still debilitating. I finally went to the doctors for an MRI and found out that I had a severely herniated disc, along with a few bulging discs.

During this period of my life, I wondered why I was going through such pain. I constantly fought God, begging him to let me continue doing what I loved to do – but then, after lots of wrestling, I realized that this pain might have a greater purpose. I realized that the pain I was experiencing – no matter how extreme – gave me time with my husband. I wasn’t running a million miles an hour  (I couldn’t even get out of bed many days!), so I was able to spend lots of quality time with my husband – something we had been missing in our first few months of marriage. I was also forced to rely on other people – something I have never been able to do. I had to rely on my husband, my family, and my friends to help me physically and to encourage me spiritually. I had to pause my hustle. And even though it was hard at the time (and still is!), I’m so grateful for those sweet moments where I learned not only to trust the people around me, but the God who has my life in his hands and works all things together for His good.

Today, I’m happy to say that I’m on the road to healing in more ways than one. Physically, I can photograph a wedding without being bed ridden the next few days, and psychologically, I can take at least one day off a week as a Sabbath to spend time with friends and family without completely losing my mind. I’m slowly realizing that I don’t need to work 12 hour days or 60 to 80 hour weeks to feel fulfilled, and that hustle, while wonderful in moderation, doesn’t have to become an enemy of my rest. By choosing to be intentional with my periods of rest and relaxation, I’m better able to do what God has called me to do. I’m a better business owner, a better friend, a better wife, daughter, sister, and Jesus-follower when I choose to rest and deny hustle reign over my life. I still have SO far to go, but I couldn’t be more thankful for the lessons I’ve learned and for the direction I’m headed.

What’s denying you of the rest you need? Where and what might you be saying yes to that’s stealing the rest that your body, mind, and spirit so desperately crave?


What Disney's Boardwalk Taught Me About Grace


What Disney's Boardwalk Taught Me About Grace

Shortly after our honeymoon in Disney, Nick and I started waking up and asking each other “do you want to go to Disney today?” It’s a little inside joke we have – every day feels like a good day to go to Disney, but one day in February of 2018, the answer was finally a “yes” – we were actually going to Disney!

Nick had surprised me with my first stay ever on Disney property for our honeymoon at Disney’s Boardwalk Inn. We stayed in a corner room and could see fireworks from both Hollywood Studios AND Epcot from our balcony. It was stinking EPIC.

Honestly, I thought we would never stay at the Boardwalk again. A friend of ours who worked for Disney had been incredibly kind to help Nick get an amazing discount on our room for our honeymoon. But, low and behold, since our honeymoon we’ve stayed there twice more, but our third visit is what brings these words to you today.

After spending some time with family and friends at a house in Orlando, Nick and I decided we wanted to stay at the Boardwalk for a couple of nights, just the two of us, as a birthday/Christmas/Valentine’s/anniversary gift (gotta do what you gotta do to get back to Disney!). We decided a few years into our relationship that we’d rather gift each other experiences with one another than objects, so this was one of those experiences we couldn’t wait to share (again)! I think, out of the two, experiences tend to build a stronger relational foundation than any sort of gift might.

We chose the smallest, most inexpensive room – we just love the experience of being on Disney property (and being within walking distance to the parks was a bonus, too!!), and checked in on Nick’s birthday, which, for Nick, was probably one of the best birthday gifts he’s ever received.


We checked in a couple of hours before our “official” 3PM check in (well – actually 5 hours before!), so we had a LOT of time to kill. We hadn’t really planned anything special for Nick’s birthday (besides checking into the Boardwalk!), so while Nick went to grab a drink, I slyly made my way to concierge service desk to ask if they could help. I explained that it was my husband’s birthday, that his favorite place ever is the Boardwalk, and asked if she might be able to give me some ideas for things around the Boardwalk we could do for his birthday while we wait.

The woman smiled, gave me a couple of suggestions, and said that she would have someone send a birthday card to his room – which I knew he would absolutely love! She also took our name and reservation number - so she knew where to send the card, I assumed.

About an hour later, we received a message that our room was ready. We were both confused – we had stayed at the Boardwalk before, and never had we ever been able to check into our room so early. Regardless, we went, picked up our luggage, and headed off to our room. At first – we couldn’t find it. We went through one hall of rooms, down a set of stairs, and outdoors, wondering if they had made a mistake.

After a few more steps, we spotted a little mailbox that had our number on it. Behind the mailbox was an archway with a fence and a little courtyard with some of the most beautifully manicured flower gardens I’d ever seen. We exchanged a glance of confusion and excitement, muttering that “there must be some mistake!” but when we got to the French doors, past the garden, and tried our keys – the most insane thing happened. They worked. The door opened.

We swung open the door to find a beautiful, two story room – Disney music softly playing in the background, natural light pouring in through the large windows hanging above our heads. My first thought was that they had gotten something wrong. We had stayed in the cheapest room at the Boardwalk before and it in NO WAY resembled this masterpiece, with a living room, kitchenette, staircase, master bedroom, and master bathroom with a Jacuzzi. Concerned that there had a been a mistake and that we would somehow have to pay full price for this immaculate suite, Nick called the front desk to confirm that we had the correct room number.

The kind voice on the other line assured us that while we had payed for the smallest, cheapest room – but somehow we had been given this suite and were meant to enjoy it. While Nick was on the phone, I started looking up how much this type of suite usually costs. The answer: about four to five times (per night) what we actually paid for it. We were both FLOORED. We had heard of “Disney magic” before and of cast members doing incredibly kind things for random guests, but we had never ever expected to experience this sort of kindness. My mind immediately went back to the woman in concierge who had taken our names and reservation number, and I knew it must’ve been her – it couldn’t have been anyone else! I tried multiple times during our trip to go back and find her to thank her, but I couldn’t find her. She just seemed to have disappeared.

To make things even crazier, we found out that with this room came something called “club level service,” which basically means that we were able to visit and utilize a particular room in the hotel that served complimentary breakfast, lunch, dinner, wine, beer, espresso, and dessert – all for free. Like, are you kidding me?!

As we filled up our plates that first night, it dawned on me: we don’t deserve this. We don’t deserve any of this. We haven’t paid for it, we hadn’t planned for it, and we were able to tell pretty quickly that we were certainly of a much different crowd than those who normally frequented “the club.” Someone had gifted a youth pastor and a photographer from Pittsburgh one of the best, most undeserved vacations that we had ever had – for nothing. There’s nothing we could’ve done to earn it, and there’s no price we could’ve paid for it. And then it dawned on me – this is exactly what God’s grace is like.

It’s undeserved. There’s nothing we can do to earn it, and the price has already been paid for it. And it doesn’t have anything with who we are. It has everything to do with who God is. Truthfully, there’s no way we could’ve upgraded ourselves with money or with position, because in the eyes of Disney, we didn’t have either (haha!). But because of grace – because someone gave us something we in no way deserved – we were able to experience an amazing gift that cost us nothing.

That’s what Jesus calls us to every day. All he wants is for us to accept the gift he’s already laid before us. That’s why we celebrate Easter, for Pete’s sake – because Jesus died a death he didn’t deserve, so we could live a life we don’t deserve. But only because Jesus makes us worthy, because of the grace he’s given to us.

As I started to eat my free dinner, tears started streaming down my face. I felt so humbled in and by the face of grace of the woman who had been so kind, but so much moreso by the God who has given me this life – this gift – no strings attached.


4 Questions to Ask a Potential Wedding Vendor


4 Questions to Ask a Potential Wedding Vendor

Talk about a time to be alive and engaged! If you’re a bride in today’s world, you have so many awesome resources to be able to get all of the information you could ever imagine! Vendor lists, checklists, and testimonials are all at the tips of your fingers – and yet, while some of these lists can be super helpful with asking questions that cover the basics of what a vendor will provide for your wedding, sometimes they don’t reach into the heart of the matter.

Here’s how I like to think about it: how are you supposed to know if the vendor you’ve met with for forty-five minutes at a coffee shop once is capable of handling your wedding day, or if they really have the passion to push through all of the grit? There are lots of potential question lists available from places like The Knot, Wedding Wire, Brides, and the like who offer up some decent options, but after being quizzed by a number of brides myself, I’ve found that there are a couple of REALLY important questions that are rarely asked – questions that help you see not just what a person does, but who a person is. Don’t get me wrong – you definitely want to ask what they’ll do if they get sick the day of your wedding, if they have backup gear, and if they have liability insurance, but those questions barely scratch the surface of who a person is, which is just as important.

So if YOU are interested in having vendors at your wedding who aren’t just booking you for the cash, but who genuinely care about making your wedding day the very best it can be, I encourage you to try asking these questions:


1.  How and when did you get into [wedding photography, DJing, catering, event design, etc.]?

This is just an important question to know in general, and surprisingly, one that I rarely get asked as a wedding vendor!

2. What is the most rewarding part of your job?

This question will give you an idea of the “why” behind what they do. If you hire someone to produce a product or service for you, chances are if the person creating the product or performing the service has tons of passion and purpose behind their chosen career path, they’ll put a lot more effort into making whatever they do the very best it can be!

3. What’s the toughest part of your job?

To me, honesty is key. It’s always promising when someone can answer a question like this in a positive light without putting anyone down. There are parts of every job that are tough, but this question specifically will give you a good look into a person’s integrity.

4. Why did you choose [insert service] for your career?

Do they love what they do? Is it a passion, or a just a job? A recent book I read entitled "Creative Confidence" has allowed me to see the work I do as not just a job or a career, but as a calling. And, effectively, why it is so important to find others who are called to their work, not just working a job or pursuing a career.

For those who pursue a calling, their work is intrinsically rewarding in its own right - not just a means to an end.
— Tom Kelley & David Kelley, "Creative Confidence"

"Amy Wrzesniewski, an associate professor of organizational behavior at Yale University's School of Management... has found that people have one of three distinct attitudes toward the work they do: they think of it as either a job, a career, or a calling... When work is strictly a job, it may effectively pay the bills, but you're living mostly for the weekend and your hobbies. Those who see work as a career focus on promotions and getting ahead - checking off achievements rather than pursuing deeper meaning... for those who pursue a calling, their work is intrinsically rewarding in its own right - not just a means to an end. So, what you do professionally fulfills you personally as well. And often that work is meaningful because you are contributing to a larger purpose or feel part of a larger community." - Tom Kelley & David Kelley in "Creative Confidence"