Wednesday, December 30, 2015

2015 Year In Review

Time for by far one of my favorite annual activities: the yearly recap. This is my 4th "Year In Review" post, and each time it is such a joy to sit back and reflect on all that the prior year held. I'm sure I'm not the only one who feels like each year tends to speed by faster than the last, and taking the time to look back on the happenings of each month reminds me that it truly was 365 full and eventful days.

So let's see what those days of 2015 held, shall we? 

<< January: 2015 started with a festive bang in the form of a belated Friendsmasgiving (mentioned here). Two of my close friends moved up by where PJ lives, so my first trip up of 2015 included a reunion and a tour of Google. I said yes to being a bridesmaid in my best friend Kristi's wedding, and helped her pick out her wedding dress! The month ended with an amazing weekend at Jesus Culture Conference. >>

<< February: Cheered on my Patriots as they (controversially) won Superbowl XLIX, and sent out fun Valentine's Day cards with the roomies. Had the amazing experience of being VIP on the Ellen Show, and had a positively wonderful first Valentine's Day with my love. >>

<< March: Celebrated PJ's birthday, which fun fact, happens to be the same day as my brother and his mom. Participated in some fun bachelorette festivities for my friend Natalie, and watched the Bachelor finale 3 whole days after it aired! Managing to make it those 3 days without discovering the outcome through social media was a real success in my book. ;) We ended the month at Natalie & Levi's wedding, and I also wrote the Love Without Sex series this month, which is near to my heart. >>

<< April: Ran a 200(ish) mile relay race called Ragnar Relay, and started my second seminary class on 1 Corinthians. I noticed and documented a new theme in my life of slowing down. Cheered on my guy's team at AT&T Park, & had some much enjoyed time with girlfriends. Also wrote one of my favorite posts this month, a letter to the guy whose car I hit. >>

<< May: Had lots of family time this month, both at my cousin's wedding & on Mother's Day. Coordinated my dear friend Claire's wedding (how stunning does she look?), and ran the Rock & Roll Half Marathon with my PJ on our one year anniversary. This month, I also felt the pull to take one week completely unplugged from social media. It was pretty liberating! >>

<< June: I got real into YouTube hair tutorials this month, and the dutch braids were the proof. Went to a baby shower for my dear friend Kristen, who now has an almost 5 month old adorable baby boy! Got to go to Mississippi for a work trip, and turned it into a blogger date where I met the lovely Cassie. Ended the month by finishing my second seminary class, and turning 26! >>

<< July: Celebrated the 4th of July in style, and started a 24 day health journey consisting of a 3 Day Refresh + my first round of 21 Day Fix. We successfully showered our bride Kristi, and at the end of the month, I shared the outcome of my 24 day journey, & announced my decision to become a Beachbody coach! >>

<< August: A definite highlight of 2015 was surprising my across-the-country-blogger-bff Diana, when PJ & I flew to Charlotte, NC to see her! This month also included a fabulous bachelorette weekend for Kristi, my first time at Harvest Crusade, an "Everything You Want To Know About Shakeology" blog post, and a thoroughly enjoyed laborless Labor Day weekend with my man. >>

<< September: Celebrated my dad's birthday with a weekend at home, and stood beside Kristi as she said I do! Ran my very first 21 Day Fix group (which was AWESOME), and enjoyed many coffee dates with lovely lady friends (per usual). I also wrote a post this month that touches on a huge lesson of 2015, finding contentment in waiting. >>

<< October: Kicked off the month with an epic Disneyland / wedding weekend. Totally coincidentally ran into my bestie Colleen & her husband at Disneyland, which was the happiest surprise! Enjoyed some family time at my cousin's wedding, and started to plan a wedding of our own after getting engaged on October 10th! It was a magical month, indeed, and we ended it dressed up as the Queen of Hearts & Mad Hatter for Halloween. >>

<< November: Engagement started feeling real this month, as I picked out my wedding dress (AH!) & we were showered with love at our engagement party. Had our 3rd annual Reed Sister VayCay, this edition including a holiday cotillion party with mom. Celebrated my first Thanksgiving away from home by joining PJ's family up in NorCal. It was a sweet way to ring in the holidays as an engaged couple! >>

 << December: Thoroughly enjoyed a festive holiday season packed with parties & pot lucks, and ran my very first Spartan Race! Saw Star Wars on opening weekend with my love (& ended up watching the other 6 as a result!), and spent Christmas with my family in San Diego. The holiday season is never complete until we celebrate my baby sis' birthday on NYE, which we kicked off last night! >>

2015, you were mighty good to me. I look forward to giving you many more words & thoughts in my yearly letter, but for now I'll just say that you were awfully memorable, and awfully packed with lessons. 

Thanks for recapping with me, friends! I wish you ALL a very Happy New Year! 

** Previous Years In Review: 2014, 2013, 2012 **

Friday, December 11, 2015

The Day He Asked

On October 10th, 2015, a long-time dream of a man getting on one knee and asking me to be forever his came true. Years of dreaming about who this man would be (and wondering if he would be), followed my months of anticipation and wondering when the event would take place, all were met with a moment that surpassed anything I could have hoped for. 

And not because it was perfect by the book, but because it was perfect for us. My sour mood earlier in the day didn't subtract even the tiniest bit from the magic that unfolded as my sweet PJ got on his knee in the middle of a sandy shore, and held out the prettiest ring I ever did see. 

I think that was one of the biggest lessons I learned in the months leading up to our proposal. I felt this bizarre pressure to make it perfect, like if I said the wrong thing or woke up in a bad mood, then the moment would forever be tarnished. 

Welp, I did wake up in a bad mood. And that mood wasn't improved when we walked into Starbucks & I ordered my favorite breakfast, only to find they were out. Out! (Gasp, how-dare-they.) 

I thought something like that would damper our proposal story, but it turns out, it adds to it. Because as I reflect on that car ride to the Capitola Beach coast, the one where I was trying to put my big-girl-pants on & muster up a good mood for the remainder of the day, the one where the gloomy sky turned into a gorgeous, sunshiny one in a tangible reflection of God redeeming the day, I think about my sweet fiance sitting in the driver's seat, smiling knowing that regardless of the mood of the girl sitting beside him, he wanted to propose to her that day. 

And propose, he did. ;) 

That man who has every bit of my heart said some of the sweetest words, of which we only remember about half ;), got on his knee, and asked me to be forever his. The biggest question he'd ever asked, was met with the easiest YES I've ever said. 

After a few moments of embracing & beginning to process what had just happened, he pointed out my dear friend Michelle who had so sweetly captured the entire moment. 

I am so grateful for the pictures from this day. The moment passes so quickly, and is every bit as surreal as it is magical. It has been so nice to look back on these photos, and relive the moment that so tangibly altered the course of our lives. The moment when I got to say yes to being the wife of the best man I've ever known. 

Gah, it still gives me chills. ;) 

My sweet PJ, I love you so much. I daily learn how to love well by watching your example. You serve those around you, putting other's needs above your own without a second thought. You are kind, and considerate. You are hilarious, and so. darn. handsome. You are a better dancer than me, even though I fight you on that. You make life fun, and you romance me & make me feel like the luckiest girl alive. 

I could never adequately thank you for choosing me to spend your life with. 

I am so, crazy excited to be your wife. 

Monday, November 9, 2015

Fear vs. Trust

I was journaling last week when I had a sudden moment of keen awareness of a trend in my life. I tend to adjust my expectations to avoid disappointment. In my hobbies, goals, and even interpersonal relationships, I see this common theme of setting low expectations to avoid potential undesired outcomes. 

I adjust my health coaching goals to avoid failure, or disappointment. I adjust my expectations in my friendships to avoid feeling let down, or rejected. And I can adjust myself and my behavior to avoid stepping outside of God's will. 

And that last one miiight sound a teensy bit wise, right? Sure, it's good to want to stay inside God's will! But sitting on my really-blue-but-has-a-brown-cover couch during the wee hours of last Friday's morning, it was as though I suddenly saw the clear underlying issue in all of these behavior patterns. 

F E A R. 

I adjust my goals out of fear of failure. I engage in friendship while simultaneously operating out of a fear of rejection. And I am constantly analyzing myself & whether I'm on the "right" path because I'm afraid of going the wrong way. 


I tend to think of fear as this overpowering emotion that leaves you paralyzed and trembling in a corner. I thought it was easily identifiable, and didn't think it was something I struggled with. 

It turns out, I was wrong.

I don't think fear in and of itself is bad, just like I don't think any emotion in and of itself is bad. But I do think that when an emotion becomes the driving and controlling force behind our behavior, it's dangerous.  

My fear became louder than my God. 

But luckily, my God is not afraid to get loud for His children to hear Him. ;) 

Sitting on that couch, I felt God ask me a hopefully life-changing question. 

If I operated out of trust, I would trust that my disappointments and failures would be used for God's glory. If I operated out of trust, I would trust that God's acceptance means far more than any rejection ever could. If I operated out of trust, I would trust that if I go the wrong way (when I go the wrong way?), God WILL redirect me. 

It would literally alter every. single. area of my life. 

Trusting God would enable me to trust myself, knowing that He is bigger than me and fully capable of leading me. Trusting God would enable me to trust others, knowing that I have nothing to lose with all my worth in Christ, and simply everything to gain from community & relationships. 

Trusting God would make it impossible to operate out of fear. I truly believe that it's that simple. 

Living it out? I'll be the first to admit, "not so much." But I'm on a quest to get there! To find this life that operates out of trust instead of fear. This life that doesn't hide from fear, but also is not controlled by it. This life that really, really lives out of the knowledge that God is trustworthy, and oh so good. 

And that's where I'm at on this Monday. What's God got you chewing on?



Friday, September 25, 2015

Mindful Eating - Collin McShirley

Happy Friday, friends! Today, I am so excited to feature someone I recently met whose heart and passion align perfectly with my own. Those that know me well, or have been here for a while, know that me and food used to have quiiiite an unhealthy relationship. For almost a decade of my life, I struggled with emotional / comfort eating and extreme food-related guilt and shame. It was a cycle that viscously fed itself, and at many times resulted in a full-fledged eating disorder.  

As the years went on, I began to realize that I was not alone. I began to see what an issue this was, and found so many women who also shared my struggles with food and body image. Some women shared my struggle with emotional eating, some with food guilt, some battled an eating disorder of their own, and many shared the common thread of body-image related insecurity.

This is why I began my journey in health & fitness coaching. After tackling this issue in my own life and tasting freedom for myself, I now crave that freedom for others. I want other women to feel the same level of confidence before and after a meal. I want other women to know that their worth is not in a number on the scale, or a size written on a tag in their jeans. I want other women to be able to enjoy food without feeling guilt or shame afterwards. 

So when I met Collin McShirley, and heard about her passion and her work in precisely this area, I got excited! Collin is a Santa Barbara local, and is passionate about changing the way women and men look at their bodies, their self esteem, and their relationship with food. I am so thrilled to feature her here today, and share some of her wisdom regarding mindful eating. 


Two first steps on the path of Mindful Eating:
1- Pay Attention:
Mindful eating is learning to eat in the present moment. Become a connoisseur of every meal you have the privilege of being able to appreciate, no matter how inconsequential or routine it may be in your day to day process. Relearn how to appreciate the subtle tastes and textures of your food, even if its something you may have eaten before, try to experience this particular meal as if its the first time again. Also, adding new flavors and experimenting with your meals in small ways can help add to this rebirth of your culinary experience.
2- Ask Questions:
Why do I feel like eating – Are there any emotions triggering the eating?
What am I eating – Is it healthy for me to consume or is it junk food?
Notice the sensation of the food you’re eating – What does it look like? Smell like? Feel like? And, of course, taste like?
Be present both during, and after – How does it make you feel as you’re tasting it? As you digest it? Important: How do you feel after eating it?
Over or Under eating – Notice if you’re feeling too full or ‘stuffed’? Or is your stomach still empty after eating?
Emotional response – Do you feel a sense of guilt and shame? Do you experience regret or self-criticism?
Collin Christine McShirley grew up in Santa Barbara, and received her masters in clinical psychology. She also is certified in body image, emotional eating and self-esteem. Collin now works as a coach helping men and women change their lives and become happy and healthy. Her coaching sessions are available in person in Santa Barbara, CA in a private office, or on phone and skype for those who live outside the area. In your work with Collin you will be supported, empowered, and given strategic methods to help make positive changes in your life. One example of the strategies you will learn is the concept of mindful eating. Above is an example of some of the tips you'd pick up.

If you're interested in learning more about Collin and her services visit her website at she has offered to do a free 20 minute discovery session for Sweet Home Santa Barbara Viewers. Call her today and give promo code "SweetHome SB" to receive this limited offer. 

Monday, September 21, 2015

Contentment in Waiting

This past weekend, I had the privilege of standing beside one of my very best friends as she said the two powerful and pivotal words, "I do." 

Ever since her engagement last December, I've imagined this day. And so much of it turned out precisely as I thought it would. Her looking positively radiant in her gorgeous white dress, the epic reunion that would unfold between college friends who haven't seen each other in years, and the amount of fun that would be had as we danced the night away. 

It was a wonderful, wonderful wedding day. And I couldn't be happier for my two friends. 

But here's what didn't pan out the way I expected it would. 

I thought there'd be a pretty, shiny ring on that bare left hand. I thought there'd be another wedding in the books for these final few months of 2015, mine. 

And at this point in the post, I'm sure there are many minds wondering why I'd confess such a personal detail of my relationship and life on the internet.

So here's why:

I want to write about this now. I want to write about this before that pretty, shiny ring takes up permanent residence on that left hand. I want to write about this before there's any wedding in the books for me. I want to write in the midst of waiting to proclaim that in a waiting season, there is absolutely hope for contentment before the happy ending. 

PJ and I have talked about marriage since legitimately the night we met. Call us crazy, call us unconventional, but it's just how things worked for us. So everything I write in this post has already been processed between us. Together. 

There are so many details about this time in our lives that I would love to document one day. All of the details that led to my expectations, and all of the things that I have yet to know about that brought us to where we are today. It's all such a beautiful story, and I don't believe any of it was a mistake or a coincidence. 

I don't regret the amount that PJ and I have talked about marriage. I don't regret the dreams that we discussed together, the conversations that created this timeline in my mind. I don't for one second wish that things went the way I thought they would. 

Let me say that one more time, even if it's just for myself. 

I don't, for even one second, wish that things went the way I thought they would. 

I have learned more in these past 4 months about patience and contentment than I have in my entire life. If PJ and I had gotten engaged when I thought we would, I would have missed this. I would have missed these precious things that God has been teaching me through this process. 

My relationship is stronger because of this. Our communication is stronger because of this. My trust in PJ is stronger because of this. 

When my plan was torn up, I started to trust. 

Because when a very plan-oriented person is left without a plan, that's all she can do. 

I started to trust PJ when he lovingly told me to be patient. 

I started to trust him when he assured me that he is seeking God in every detail of our relationship. 

And on an even bigger and more important scale, I started to trust God. 

I remembered that this life isn't about my plan, it's all about His. And His plan is a good one, even and especially when it doesn't look like mine. 

I've come to look at contentment as not something to strive for, but instead, something to praise God for. 

Through the rough points in this waiting process, I would get so frustrated with myself. Here I was, with a boyfriend far beyond what I could ever ask or hope for, and I found myself battling discontent because I was aching for him to be more than my boyfriend. 

I would get loving, good advice from others to seek contentment, and to be thankful. 

And I was, I was and still am so thankful. Even through this process, I have never once stopped considering my relationship a pure gift from God Himself. 

Yet my heart still had (and has) moments of aching for more, aching for the future. 

So now, I have a different approach. Now, I consider contentment a gift. And therefore, whenever I find myself feeling truly and blissfully content (and it's often these days!), I stop and praise God. 

I thank Him, knowing that it is nothing I can muster up on my own. 

And when I don't feel it? When I'm stuck mourning my expectations, when I'm stuck wishing away my present for my future, I press in. I don't shame myself for it anymore, I simply let the tears fall. I blast the worship music. I let myself feel. 

I remind myself that it will pass, and that it's okay. It's okay to mourn expectations that don't pan out, it's healthy to grieve and feel and cry. 

Waiting is a part of this life, because whether we recognize it or not, we are all waiting for a perfect world where every fiber of our being is satisfied in the God who created us. Where there are no more expectations to wait on, because every expectation is met by our being in the presence of our loving Creator. 

So in this life, we will wait. We will have expectations that don't pan out, and we will find ourselves battling discontentment. 

But guess what else? 

In this life, we can find true joy. And in this life, we can find genuine contentment. 

And today's post is all about the fact that contentment does not hinge on circumstance. I am not engaged yet, and yet I spent this past Saturday praising God for that very fact. 

Here I was, in a situation that could have very well sent me into a crying spiral over the fact that my plan didn't work out as I thought it would, and instead I was praising God for that very fact. Instead, I was thanking God that my plan did not work out. Because for that reason, I have learned valuable lessons that I will take with me for the rest of my life.

When our plans don't work out, we see more of His. And we remember that every. single. detail of our lives give glory to Him. Even our disappointments can be used to praise Him. 

 So friend, if you are in the midst of a waiting season, I hope to encourage you that contentment is in the hand of your Father, not your circumstance. And perhaps your situation is more painful than mine, and if so, I truly wish I could listen to you and hug you and wait with you. 

But I truly believe that that statement still holds true. So I pray that today, you can rest in that. 

Love you, friends. Thank you for venturing through this life with me, the ups and the downs and the things in between. I'm thankful that they all have purpose, and they all bring God glory. 

Monday, August 24, 2015

Healthy Product Spotlight (& Giveaway!) - Squarebars

Hi, friends! Happy Monday! 

Today, I'm excited to share another "Healthy Product Spotlight" post. I can't remember exactly how I found out about Squarebar, but I'm sure glad that I did! I recently snagged a sample box that was advertised during an Instagram flash sale, and got to try all 5 organic, vegan flavors. These bars are delicious!

As mentioned above, these bars are made with only organic, vegan ingredients. The five flavors of cherry, almond spice, mint, crunch and coconut are all chocolate coated and uniquely flavored to perfection. Though I loved all 5, my favorites would be crunch, almond spice and mint. The mint one tasted like a healthy version of a thin mint!

{And all girl scout cookie lovers celebrated}

The size of the bars are perfect for a mid morning snack, which is how I enjoyed mine all of last week. They are a satisfying treat that will leave you full for hours. 

Another thing I love about this company? They make a quarterly contribution to the nonprofit Not For Sale, which means that each time you make a purchase, you are helping to end slavery & human trafficking. 

Considering that I was such a fan of these bars (& what they help support!), I'd love to give one of my readers the opportunity to try them. Enter below for your chance to win!

And have yourself a very happy Monday, my friends!

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Everything You Want To Know About Shakeology

I feel like the real title of this post should be "Everything You Want To Know About Shakeology, Including The Price" because everyone knows that the classic sales move is to provide all the deets except the price so you're only option is to reach out and ask. But it just didn't feel right to use the word "everything" and leave out such a fundamental detail, so yes! We are gonna talk about everything, including money. 

My goal through out this Beachbody coaching experience is not to sell, anyway. My goal is to provide authentic & genuine information up front, and encouragement & friendship through out the process. 

So, let's get to it!


Shakeology is not your typical protein shake, or meal replacement shake. In preparation for this post, I looked up every. single. ingredient. listed in these shakes, and compared it to some other products. Unlike what I saw elsewhere, everything has a health benefit. 

There are absolutely no artificial flavors, sweeteners or preservatives in these shakes. None! There are no forms of soy, or gluten. {Though the manufacturing facility may work with these products, so if you have a severe allergy, you may want to avoid}. 

Though I recognized several ingredients, such as whey protein, chia, spinach and goji berry, many others I was not able to initially identify. So I did my research, and in researching them, I found that these ingredients can be used for alleviating gastrointestinal upset, musculoskeletal pain, and allergies (source). They have been used alongside cancer treatment, relieving the side effects of chemotherapy & fighting tumor growth (source). And they are jam packed with antioxidants and vitamins (source). 

These are just some of the many, many health benefits I saw from these superfood ingredients, and I am proud to represent a company that does not compromise quality when it comes to composition. 

How Is It Different From Other Protein Powders?

The answer to this question directly relates to the ingredients mentioned above. Some protein powders can be artificially sweetened {even Splenda, or Sucralose, is an artificial flavor}. Others may not have artificial ingredients, but might not have the drastic amount of health benefits listed above, either. The protein component is just one part of Shakeology when looking at the various antioxidant, probiotic, vitamin, and other whole, natural ingredients. 

Texture / Flavors

I am commonly asked about the texture, and to be honest, I think it's something you have to try for yourself. I personally enjoy the texture! Especially when blended into a smoothie consistency. Others can be more sensitive, and I have definitely heard of some who are simply not a fan. I say try it for yourself and see how you like it!

As for flavors, there are currently 6. I have tried Vanilla, Chocolate and Strawberry. They also offer Vegan Chocolate, Vegan Tropical Strawberry, and Greenberry.

My favorite flavor would be a tie between Chocolate and Strawberry, which is funny since I am definitely a Vanilla person in all other areas. I love both of these flavors, especially when mixed with some ripe banana and a spoonful of almond butter. Ohhh my yum!


Some of the reported effects of Shakeology are increased energy, reduced cravings, loss of weight and improved digestion. For me, personally, I have noticed all of those things, but none have been as dramatic as the noticeable reduction in my cravings. 

I was pretty skeptical of this, since I have used many health products & most just end up having me shift my craving from the sweet or the carb to the product. This may sound like a positive thing, but when you're eating or drinking multiple health products each day out of craving, this is not a sustainable or healthy lifestyle. This is taking the existing problem and redirecting the focus. 

With Shakeology, I can honestly say I do not crave it. I look forward to my daily Shakeology, but I also look forward to my other meals and snacks. What I am not doing any more is experiencing severe, controlling cravings, and that I am thrilled about!


Hopefully the above information has answered any questions you may have about the product itself, and shown my genuine love & appreciation for these shakes. So now, let's answer the question that you're wondering. How much do they cost? 

1 month supply of Shakeology is $129.99. This may sound like a lot (who am I kidding, it does!) but I've noticed a few things about the price that I was originally very hesitant to fork over. 

Before I started using Shakeology, I was eating out for breakfast every day. I simply did not have the time or energy to get up early and make it myself, so I was running to Starbucks or driving through a local coffee shop (where I would actually buy, you guessed it, Shakeology) and spending $6+ dollars each day. 

The $129.99 price divides out to just over $4 / shake. I'll bump my average cost up to $5 for the extra ingredients I mix in, and I am still saving myself upwards of $30 each month. And that's just the financial benefit, I would be willing to pay for the health benefits that I've experienced. 

I used to think that Shakeology Home Direct (monthly shipments) was the only way to place an order, but I have recently discovered that you can order 1 month supply if you'd like to try it out. 

You can also order a Shakeology Sample Pack if you'd like to try the various flavors before committing to a specific order. The full 6 flavor pack is $30, and the Vegan Sample Pack is $20. 

And there you have it, folks.

Everything you want to know about Shakeology. Or at least I hope so! If you've got more questions, or are interested in trying it out for yourself, shoot me an e-mail at, or leave me your e-mail in the comments below. 

I would love to walk along this health journey together! Because I believe that our minds & bodies deserve to be as healthy as possible, as they were made to do strong & mighty things. 

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Legalism vs Redemption

I was chatting with a friend last week about the conundrum of grace. She vulnerably shared about a situation she was facing, and how sometimes, the deeper challenge is not in apologizing, but in accepting forgiveness. Sometimes, we feel so uncomfortable with the concept of grace, that we would prefer the playing field just be leveled.

I mess up, you mess up, we're even. We move on. 

It may sound twisted, but I understood perfectly. I got how difficult it can feel for our human heart to be handed unwarranted forgiveness, a new slate so to speak. 

I thought about how Jesus' love has taught me to lay down & accept grace when my heart wants to feel justified and "safe." I thought about how this has rolled into my relationship, allowing me to accept forgiveness where I previously would have fought it. 

And then this weekend happened, and I realized that maybe I don't have as big of a grasp on this "free grace" thing as I thought. 

Because the world is ridiculously small, a man that I had crossed paths with 2 and a half years ago on a pre-#adventuresofsoberamy outing somehow collided with one of my good friends. When she asked if I remembered him, I legitimately did not. It took a few Facebook profile pictures to jog my memory, though there wasn't that good of a memory to jog in the first place. 

I felt perfectly safe laughing with my two good friends over this drunken, relatively harmless escapade, but once I realized that this man's image of me did not include the previous 2 years of sobriety, I felt the need to justify myself. The words "tell him I'm 2 years sober and love Jesus now!" flew straight out of my mouth. 

I felt uncomfortably thick in shame that I haven't felt in some time. And in that moment, it seemed like the only way out of that shame was through self-justification. 

I am sober now, therefore my identity is no longer marked by drunken stories. 

I am sober now, therefore my transgressions do not define me. 

I am sober now, therefore I am redeemed. 

And in that moment, I realized that at some point in the last 2 years of sobriety, I got things very, very backwards. 

Sobriety does not redeem my past, 
Jesus redeemed my past. 

All of a sudden, I realized that my salvation and redemption felt safe when seen through the lens of my sobriety. But when that was taken out of the equation, when all that was evident were stories of drunken escapades, I didn't feel redeemed. 

Sobriety was a gift from God, but somewhere along the way, it started taking His place.

God is my redeemer, not sobriety. 

God is the one who frees me from shame, not sobriety. 

Christ is the reason I can stand before God with confidence, not sobriety. 

Sobriety came from the grace of God as a response to the redemption being accomplished in my heart. It was never meant to earn or justify my salvation. 

I used to think legalism was all about putting on a front for others, but now I see that it can easily be used as a front for ourselves. Because accepting free grace? It feels uncomfortable and unnatural. We would much rather feel as though we've safely earned something than freely and undeservingly received it. 

I want to stop trying to earn grace. Because the fact of the matter is, thanks to my homeboy Jesus, it's already mine to receive. 

I want to stop using sobriety as a security blanket to hide from shame. Instead, I want to accept the truth that my identity has been reformed from the inside out simply because I am radically loved by God.

Radically loved, I tell you. 

{PS: you are too}

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Kristen, Andrew & Baby Tucker

Last week, I have the privilege of photographing my friends Kristen & Andrew, and their in utero baby boy, Tucker. 

Kristen has been one of my closest friends since we met in college while working together at the always-classy-establishment of Kmart. Her friendship has been used in my life more profoundly than either of us could have ever guessed, as she was the one who brought me to church on the day my whole world changed

I watched and was encouraged as God wrote her a beautiful love story; we lived together when she got engaged (I got to play surprise photographer & witness the whole precious thing), and I was blessed to stand beside her last year as she pledged her whole heart & whole life to one of the best men I know. 

Kristen & Andrew, I love you both dearly. I have witnessed God do wonders in your relationship, and in your lives. I have been encouraged from the very beginning, and I cannot wait to walk alongside you as you guys become parents. 

Tucker is really, really lucky to have you guys as Mom and Dad. 

And to have me as #1 babysitter. ;)

Right as we were leaving, the sky gave us the perfect sunset for some silhouette shots. And man, did they come out magical. 

If anyone knows Kristen & Andrew, they know that they love to dance. Their happy place is in their boots, swing dancing along to some country tunes. And as we walked back to our car, with the sun setting on another beautiful Santa Barbara day, dance they did.