A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words – A Wedding in the Mountains

They say you can’t pick your family, and how much more true that is for your in-laws. So I’m really fortunate to have fallen in love with a man who has an awesome family. My in-laws are all really great and my husband’s sister is one of the sweetest people I know.

She got married a year and a half ago and it was a wedding for the books. Not because it was extravagant or over-the-top, but because of where it was located. She and her now husband are avid mountain climbers (let’s just say, they make the hikes I take look like a literal walk in the park). So when it came time to choose their wedding venue, they settled on a beautiful meadow in the middle of the vibrant aspens surrounded by majestic mountains. I mean, really spectacular. The only challenge was in getting there.

After a plane flight and a scenic six-hour drive, we were ready for the real adventure – a narrow winding mountain road in the heart of Colorado. Picture getting to the narrowest part of the road with a cliff on one side and a drop off on the other and meeting an oncoming vehicle, and invoking terror in my imaginative brain. Thanks to the skills of my brother-in-law, we did not plummet to our deaths, but arrived after a stream-crossing or two safely at the beautiful meadow.


The wedding itself was simple and beautiful. I love weddings, not just because they’re pretty, but because of what they represent: the joining of two people, the reminder of the significance of my own marriage, and the picture of the bride of Christ. Seeing someone you care about get married is even more special.

Wedding 2

For their wedding gift, I painted a picture to preserve the memory of the beautiful location. Of course, I had to paint it before I actually saw the venue, so I relied heavily on my googling skills. Thankfully, the location looked just like the google image I modeled the painting after. Of course, in person it was much more spectacular. Towering majestic mountains with vibrant aspens, cool mountain air, and rays of sunshine. It was really a magical place!


I am so grateful that we got to be part of their special day and that we could witness the joining of two lives into one.

As we drove back down the winding road into the little western town, Owen grabbed a rock from the wedding location. Later, I painted an aspen leaf on it to commemorate the day as a Christmas gift for them and a reminder of a perfect day in a perfect place.



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Seeing the Beauty in Unexpected Places

If noticing-pretty-things was a love language, it would be mine. I attribute my obsession with having a clean and decorated house to this quality. Everything has to be pretty and proper and in its place. My eyes are like a radar zeroed in on something of beauty, that vignette that stands out in a sea of ordinary.

My vision when I started this blog and my shop was to share beauty with others. But more than that, I want to encourage others to look around them and really see the beauty in life. Sometimes it’s visual beauty, sometimes it’s the beauty you see inside of another person, or a beautiful conversation. Inspiration is all around us.

One of the dilemma’s I had with starting this whole thing a year ago was that beauty is superficial and seems trivial. I mean, there are bigger issues in the world than making sure people see pretty things. But could it be that beauty satisfies some deep longing of the soul? That in all the ugliness in this world, stopping to see the small beauty can bring us a picture of hope?

God could have made this world ordinary, ugly, and boring. It would have served its purpose without anything especially interesting to look at. But He chose to infuse it with life and color and fascinating creations. As I imagine it, the Garden of Eden was a place of untainted beauty and we still see remnants of that today.

Beauty manifests itself in so many ways that sometimes we can’t help but sit up and take notice. But sometimes we have to be intentional about seeing and finding the beauty that is all around us. This article about teaching children beautiful speaks so perfectly to that sentiment and is a reminder that all beauty comes from God and points back to him.


And even when you don’t see beauty in your surroundings, many times you can see the potential for beauty. Maybe that’s a metaphor for life: seeing the potential in ugly situations, pictures, and people. Everything is stained with the effects of sin, but there is still beauty to be seen if we keep our eyes open. And it’s all a picture of an amazingly creative and inventive God.

I have to admit, I had a lot of frustration at the constant snow this winter and the nearly-impassable roads. I had to be intentional about reminding myself to look up at the majestic snow-covered mountains surrounding my town. When I fix my eyes on the negative and the ugly, I become discouraged; but when I focus on the beauty in my life, I see a picture of who God is. What we see impacts us more than we know. It infiltrates our minds and affects our thoughts. What we see matters.


In the same way, our hearts need to be stayed on a beauty far greater than outward appearance. So fix your eyes on Jesus, the ultimate beauty; The beauty and sorrow of the wounds that wrenched his body and the blood that meant freedom for us. The beauty of the empty tomb and the scars that remind us of the punishment he bore so we could be forgiven. And one day, through the wonder of the cross, our future world with God will be a place free from the ugliness of sin and a rebirth of that perfect beauty from the beginning of creation.

~ ~ ~

I would love to see the beauty you are finding as you journey through this life. It might be a small vignette or a hidden flash of God’s artistry along the way, or it may be a grand majestic show of the beautiful. Whatever it is that captures your attention, share it on Instagram with the hashtag #sharingthebeautyinlife. I know there are a lot of pretty things on instagram, but I’d love to fill up the hashtag with unexpected beauty found in surprising places. Let’s share the beauty in life to point back to our creator.


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Valentine’s Day Roundup and a Free Printable

It’s almost Valentine’s Day, a day I used to be strongly convinced was invented by card and chocolate companies to increase sales in the least eventful time of the year. Who needs love when you can be an independent women free of the entanglements of romance?

My, how things changed once I got married.

Poor Owen. Our first Valentine’s Day he took me out to a nice restaurant the weekend before and that was it. No flowers, chocolates, or sweet cards on the actually day, and I wouldn’t speak to him for a good 24 hours. To his credit, he thought I was still the same Valentine’s-hating girl I was before we got married, but no. Now I felt this was en excuse to indulge in two of my favorite things – chocolate and flowers (I’m more cliche than I’d like to think). Because everyone knows that true love is as simple as a nice dinner and a few gifts.

All that to say we’ve found a pleasant compromise in our years together – fondue date night. It gives us a fun activity to do together, a delicious meal, and allows us to avoid the crowded restaurants. Of course, he now dutifully buys me flowers and a box of chocolates.

In reality, romance in marriage should be more than just a single day of the year. Candy and sappy cards really have nothing to do with it. Owen shows me love every day when he gets up and works hard so I can pursue my dreams. I see his love when he slows his pace on a hike so I can keep up. Or when he cleans the kitchen because he knows it’s my least favorite job. Real love is a series of daily dying to self; but it’s also in the mundane that we see each other for who we truly are and that’s a pretty amazing thing. There’s something really special about living with my best friend who knows who I really am and still likes me. And vice versa.

If you’re in the mood for a few posts about love and marriage, I’ve rounded up all my past posts on the topic for your reading pleasure. And if you scroll to the bottom, there’s a sweet little cupcake card printable if you still need a Valentine’s card for your special someone.


7 Things I Learned in 7 Years of Marriage


Our Love Story Part 1Our Love Story Part 2Our Love Story Part 3


What Loving Others Like Jesus Really Means


We Love Because He First Loved Us


10 Free or Inexpensive Ways to Date Your Spouse



Choose the white “you’re sweet” cupcake card or the pink “you’re sweet” cupcake card or print both for different occasions. Enjoy Valentine’s day (whether you’re spending time with your honey or treating yourself to something special) and remember in your chocolate coma that love is more than just a single day.



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A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words – A Little House with a New Beginning

My grandma was a big influence in convincing me to start painting as more than just a hobby. During Christmas a year ago, on our trip to visit family, we chatted at a coffee shop and it wasn’t long before she encouraged me to pursue selling my art. I don’t even remember how it came up in conversation, but I’m glad it did.

My grandma has been a big supporter of my creative life and I’m so grateful for a family who treasures and values art and beauty as much as I do.

Even though I only make it home a couple of times a year, I’ve been able to spend a lot more time with my grandma in the last year and a half since my grandpa passed away. I’ve treasured the conversations and time we’ve spent together. She was a teacher like me, so we have an automatic connection there, but she also has the Opelt sense of humor, she’s sharp as a tack and pretty classy to boot, and she loves popcorn (one of my obsessions).

Since my grandpa died, there have been a lot of changes for my grandma. She lost the man she was married to for over 60 year and she sold the grand old house that we used to visit as kids.

But she’s also looking to the future. Something that has been exciting for her is purchasing and moving into her own little down-sized home. She’s taken so much pride in this little place and in turning it into her own personal sanctuary.


She’s relished the task of picking paint colors and furniture. She’s hung up art and made it sweet and cozy (I haven’t been there to visit yet, but I hear it’s pretty sweet). She’s planted flowers and furnished the porches. She’s made it her home.

This Christmas, she asked me to paint her little home and frame it as a Christmas present to herself. I gladly complied with her request.What a special way to commemorate this new beginning in her life. house-picture

Last summer, a nest of bluebirds made their home in her yard. They raised their family there and flitted about all summer. A sign of a new start. She insisted I include them in the painting. There’s another thing we have in common: the love of birds.


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What Happens When You Look Beyond the Camera

Let’s talk about Vlogs. I kind of dig them. I’m way more interested in them than I should be. I’m fascinated by other people’s lives. I have a similar affinity for reality TV. The more candid someone is in front of the camera, the better, and talking to the camera like there’s a real person on the other end, even better.

But here’s why I watch them with a guilty feeling. They are a monologue, not a conversation.

We are living in a time when it’s easier to talk to a camera than to another human being. But it’s not just Vlogs. There are so many ways people can express their honest opinions without having an actual human being in front of them. Blogging, for one. I can write a monologue without ever considering the thoughts and ideas of my audience. I can say anything I want to the internet with very few ramifications for me. I can comment, post, share photos with no real dialogue with another human. So yeah, I’m guilty of that.

This blogging and social media world has made me a bit of a self-centered person (yes, I’m blaming my selfishness on the internet). I feel a little more validated every time I get a like or comment on social media. I compose clever captions in my mind every time I take a picture. I feel like I haven’t really experienced something until the world hears about it on the world wide web.

I was born right on the cusp of the Millennial generation, and I like to think I avoided the characteristic ascribed to this generation (sorry, millennials). But to be honest, I get sucked into the “me-centered” way of thinking. This feeling that the world revolves around me and the image of myself that I create. And if there’s someone I don’t like in my internet social circles, I can block them and pretend they don’t exist. Neat and tidy!


But the truth is, real relationships are messy. It takes work to look beyond ourselves and truly see others. It takes tact and winsomeness (two things I lack) to express ourselves in a loving way. It takes patience to really listen.

It’s hard to be a good listener. Empathy is in short supply these days and it’s so much easier to scroll a news feed than to really listen to someone’s story. Think how much easier it is for us to sit in our proverbial ivory towers and judge someone because of what they’re posting than to actually reach out to them or pray for them.

What would it take for us to look up and really see the people in front of us? Honestly, it might cost some heartache, mistakes, and misunderstandings. Real people are complicated and relationships can be difficult. We might have to forgive and be forgiven in return.

But what do we stand to gain? Meaningful conversations that open our eyes to another way of thinking. Deeper friendships that challenge and encourage us. A truer love than any like button can offer.

And maybe you don’t gain anything by a particular relationship, but that’s not what God calls us to. Sometimes we can be the blessing to others with little recognition or appreciation (that one’s particularly hard for me). Philippians 2:3-4 really packs a punch: “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” Ouch! 

But it doesn’t end there; it immediately points to Christ. To the ultimate one who gave up everything so he could have a relationship with us. Because of what Jesus did, we can be reconciled to God and in the same way to each other.

What a picture of redemption we can be to a lost world. In a world that’s out to get what it can out of relationships, to be a small picture of Christ can be a powerful thing.



I issued a bit of challenge in the post Finding Rest in a Hectic World to encourage us to put down our technology for one day a week. I’ve revised that in my own life to look like staying off social media for a that one day (I know, what a sacrifice). Who wants to pick up that challenge with me? How about instead of virtual communication on that day, we have coffee with someone, pick up the phone and call a friend, or spend some time really talking to our families.

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A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words -Little House in Appalachia

A year ago this month, I was just starting to consider doing art as more than just a hobby. I had always loved painting and drawing and I had little projects I would work on during summer breaks and snow days off from school. But I never really felt secure enough in what I did to paint for anyone besides my mom. Enter my sister-in-law, Amanda. Last winter, she commissioned (her word, not mine) me to paint a piece for her mom. 

Amanda’s mom had grown up visiting her grandma’s home in the Appalachian Mountains of North Carolina. She had fond memories of the homestead, the hills, and the winding country roads of her childhood. But her grandmother had since passed away and the house now stands empty. It’s become dilapidated, a shell of what it once was. 

Here’s the snapshot my brother sent me to base the painting off of. 


Even though the house is run down and not in its former glory, the beauty of art is that you can restore it without doing an actual renovation. I wanted to do that for Amanda’s mom. 

As I painted, I thought of the stories that are a part of that picture. What makes something significant is not the place itself, but the memories that are part of the place. I pictured her mom as a girl running in and out of the front door, lounging on the porch, exploring in the yard. I imagined the love she had for her grandma. I saw the house as it once looked. 


Many of the things we preserve are just memories. But sometimes we have ways of preserving those memories in physical form. 


I discovered that there is great joy in taking something simple and maybe even a little ugly and returning it back to the beauty that it once had. I love that this piece is more than just a picture, it holds the remembrances of former joys. 

When I heard that Amanda’s mom cried when she opened it, it makes it that much more special. I’m grateful to be a little part of this story.

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How Did You Start the New Year?

Hey, Y’all! I’m back after a month of relaxing, socializing, consuming way more chocolate than necessary, a combined 40 hours of traveling, and one failed attempt at creating a new blog (that involved me completely deleting my website at one point).

We’re already two weeks into 2017. How are you all doing on your resolutions? Any words of the year that are ringing true for you?

To be honest, I’ve never been a big fan of resolutions. Back when I used to work at a gym, I realized they are great platforms for witnessing the failure of the New Year’s Resolution. Every January, the gyms are full of ambitious resolvers wanting to get fit. Come March, the classes are back to their usual loyal following.

Maybe it’s not health and fitness you’re trying to attain. Sometimes it’s having more consistent devotional times, or it could be big things like trips or business plans.

It’s just always seemed silly to me to wait until January 1st (which has few characteristic distinguishing it from other days) to make a change in your life. I mean, September 1st is as good a day as any to start working toward a goal. Or why not start now, of all times, two weeks after everyone else?

But this year, somehow it’s been different. Maybe because 2016 was such a reportedly bad year and people are ready to start a new one. For me, it’s been a marked time to evaluate my life and work, and be more intentional about facing this year with specific goals and priorities in mind.

There’s just something so fresh about knowing there’s a vast expanse of time ahead of you and there’s nothing like the start of a new year to remind you of that. It’s a perfect time to reevaluate how you spend your time and what you want to work toward.


I love the poignant scene in Anne of Green Gables where Miss Stacey and Anne are walking along the lane talking about past mistakes. Anne says, “tomorrow is always fresh with no mistakes in it.” I love that idea. I mess up a lot. I like to think that tomorrow I’m going to be better and never make the same mistakes twice. But I also love how Miss Stacey responds, “no mistakes in it yet.” The reality is, we will make mistakes again. Sometimes the same ones over and over. We will fail at our resolutions and we never know what tomorrow will hold, for better or worse.

I don’t know about you, but I’m already failing at my goals for the new year (that could be because I resolved to be better at and do more of ALL. the. things.). The start of the year has already become somewhat of a to-do list of ways to be more successful. And we’re bombarded with this message on all sides. The world tells us this is our chance to improve ourselves. If we just do XYZ, we can be the person we always wanted to become.

I’ve got to be honest, I listened to those voices, and I didn’t consider God’s plan for me when I was creating my checklists and dreaming my dreams. But if this day is His, how much more is this year?

We don’t know what this year will bring. But we do know whose we are. Our failures and successes have no power to define us. Take a second look at what you wanted out of this year and ask yourself how much of it aligns with what God is saying through His word in your life. And then relax. Trust Him to work it all for His good.

How about we give this year and all our goals and resolutions (and failures) to God and trust Him to make of them what He will in His perfect way.


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10 Free or Inexpensive Ways to Date Your Spouse

If you know anything about the five love languages, you know about quality time. It’s my thing when it comes to relationships. Any kind of individual focused time I can spend with my honey gives me all the feels; but, I admit, it’s easy to slip into mundane routines and let the real quality time pass us by. Sometimes you just have to turn off the Netflix, put on a little lipstick and head out on a real date.

While a fancy dinner, trip to the movies, or going to see a show are great, we’ve been trying to be more thrifty about how we spend money, especially on entertainment. It takes a little creativity (we definitely got in an eating-out habit), but if you think outside the box just a bit, there are some great inexpensive date ideas out there.

I realize these are not mind-blowing earth-shattering ideas, but this is a great go-to list for those times you’re wanting to spend some quality time together without breaking the bank.



Free Local events

It might take a little digging, but look for those random free activities hosted by local attractions. Already this year we’ve seen Shakespeare in the Park, visited the museum, and gone to a local historic village all for free. And that doesn’t include the free concerts at the library, Open houses, historical landmarks and year-round free museums that are in our area. And we live in a small town. Jump at the opportunities when they come up and you won’t regret it.


Explore Downtown

We have a sweet little downtown with coffee shops, bookstores, and western gift shops. Most cities have a historic downtown area whether you live in a big city or a small town in the middle of nowhere. Try a new coffee shop every time you go or take turns picking which stores to browse.


Play a Sport or Ride Bikes

Owen has been slowly teaching me to play tennis since before we got married (I say slowly because I’m a slow learner, not because he’s a slow teacher). It’s nice to go out after dinner in the summer and hit a few balls around the court. We also have some great mountain bike trails around town that I am mustering the courage and energy to ride.

Take a Hike

It’s no secret that we like to hike. Sometimes it just takes that extra push to get up off the couch and find a new trail, or blaze your own. Maybe you just go out to a park and walk the sidewalks. Either way, it’s a great chance to get out, talk, and see something new.


This concludes the exercise portion of the date ideas. Now onto the food-related ideas!

McDonald’s Ice Cream Dates

That’s right, I said it. If you’re not a regular fast-food junkie, getting a sweet treat at McDonald’s or Dairy Queen can be surprisingly special. Especially if you love ice cream as much as I do. We live within walking distance of DQ so it makes for a lovely evening of walking through the neighborhoods with some ice cream. We’ve also been known to grab a cone from McDonalds and walk around the local Kmart looking for deals (we’re real party animals).

Pizza and a Movie

We’re now deep into the food portion of dates. We take advantage of the Domino’s $7.99 offer more than I care to admit (in fact, I asked for a Domino’s gift card for Christmas; is that weird?). Sometimes it’s nice to plunk down on the couch, devour a pizza and watch a movie. And Netflix doesn’t have to be just for reruns of favorite TV shows; every once in awhile, you can find some great unexpected movies to watch together.


Fondue Date Night 

Do you sense a theme here? Junk food may also be my love language, but I try to indulge only on the rare occasion so it makes it that much more special. Fondue is our special Valentine’s day tradition, but it’s great any time of the year. Search the cupboards for things to dip, and indulge.


Dessert Date

I know this is not life-changing, but if you don’t have the time or money for a full dinner with appetizers and the works, head out after dinner and grab an extra indulgent dessert from a new restaurant.

Make Something Together

I have to admit, this is not something we do very often, but we definitely need to add this to our repertoire. Everyone has their level of creativity, so find something you can make together, whether it’s a new recipe, a craft, or a home improvement project.

Game night

As a self-professed non-game player, I almost never allow this to happen, but we will occasionally pull out a deck of cards or a board game (preferably Junior trivial pursuit to which I will not keep score) on an evening. If you’re really creative, you could create your own Minute to Win It type game and work together or challenge each other to see who comes out on top.


See any new ideas on the list you want to add to your date night list? Do you have any free and inexpensive date ideas to add? I’d love it if you shared in the comments; I’m always trying to think of new things we can do to spend some quality time together.

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How to Focus on What Really Matters This Christmas

When I was a teenager, Christmas for me started in October. I wrote lists of ideas for handmade gifts to make for each of my 4 siblings and my parents. I started hand-making little toy trains, doll clothes, and artwork to give as Christmas presents. I created detailed advent calendars, and one year I even made a clay version of the 12 Days of Christmas. I listened to Handel’s Messiah for hours as I painstakingly made gifts. I decorated my room and baked Christmas treats. It was a magical time filled with all the nostalgia you would expect from such a momentous holiday.


My childhood Advent calendars

And then, one year, it wasn’t.

Suddenly the magic disappeared. I stopped having time, or money, or creative ideas. My siblings were older and I couldn’t make things they appreciated anymore. I remember going to the mall to buy gifts one year, a few weeks before Christmas, and coming home empty-handed and completely frazzled. All the warm fuzzies of the holidays were gone.

I don’t know if this happens to most people: That transition from childhood wonderment at the holidays to seeing it as an obligation to keep the moments merry and bright. Maybe it’s just me.

I actually started to really dislike Christmas. I felt guilty for spending money on things that nobody really needed. I started to feel like it was a consumer holiday thinly veiled in “Jesus is the Reason for the Season”. I hated Santa who represents an imaginary greed-satisfier. I know, I’m a real Scrooge.

And I’m not sure I’ve ever fully recovered. Admittedly, I love Christmas decorations, sparkly lights, caramel popcorn and homemade fudge, and select Christmas songs. But I have a hard time really associating those things with what Christmas is actually about. There’s something greater at stake here. It starts with a baby in a manger and ends with a man on a cross.

The God of the universe manifesting himself in human form to be one of us. The world groaned with longing for a Savior, not just from the oppressive Romans but from their own sin. Jesus. Come to earth to “live the life we should have lived and die the death we should have died” (to quote Tim Keller).

And the world still aches for the fulfillment of the promise. That one day all things will be made right. We live in a continuing advent. A waiting.

“We live between two mighty events — that of His incarnation,
death, and resurrection, and that of His ultimate appearing and
the glorification of those He died to save.  This is the interim time
for the saints — but it is not a vacuum.  He has given us much to
do, and He asks for our faithfulness.” – A.W. Tozer

This Christmas, instead of worrying about having all the outward Christmas traditions, let the expectations go and take time to meditate more on what Christmas is really about. It’s not about giving the perfect gifts, making the best meals, spending hours on the most extravagant decorations, or any of the family activities. It’s about the continuation of a story that started in Genesis and ends with Jesus coming again. Christmas will never be enough because it points to the cross and the advent of Jesus’ final entrance into the world. When all the cookies are eaten, the Christmas tree dies, the new toys are forgotten, The best gift will still be there. Jesus.


I’m about 10 days late, but I made one last Advent calendar to share with you guys. Access the advent calendar printable here and print the two pages on cardstock, cut around three sides of each door with an exacto knife, glue around the doors and edges and put the two pages together. Count the days to Jesus birthday by opening each corresponding door.


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It’s Never too Late to Learn Something New

I have a really hard time learning new things. I don’t mean like learning new information because that’s fascinating to me; I mean learning new skills. I hit a point in my life where I figured I had mastered every skill I would be good at and it wasn’t worth putting in the work to learn something new that I might not like. In the same way, I’m not particularly interested in pushing myself to do something that might put me in the position of being uncomfortable. I know, I’m a real gem!

Oh how I admire the people who pick up snowboarding one day and scuba diving the next; who make their own Kombucha, and DIY their own kitchens. Nope! I’ll leave that to the Shaun Whites and Martha Stewarts of the world.


And yet, here I am…

A year ago this last weekend, I strolled through a Christmas craft fair with my sister-in-law. I would never have guessed that within a year I would be on the opposite side the table at a craft fair. I am anything but a salesman by nature and it made me almost sick to think about putting my handmade product out there for the world to potentially reject. But this has been a huge year of growth for me in so many ways. I’ve discovered so much about myself, not the least of which is that I actually enjoy creating and selling my artwork.

Since I opened my Etsy shop and started blogging back in February, I have learned so much. There was so much more of a learning curve than I would have predicted and I’ve hit more roadblocks than I’d like to admit, but when I think about what I knew at the beginning, I’ve come a long way.

I don’t say all this to brag, because I’m miles from where I would like to be, but I say it to encourage anyone out there who is holding back. Anyone who might be ruminating about a hidden skill or talent. Standing on the edge of taking the leap to try something new.

Don’t be afraid to jump! And when you do, hold on tight because it might be a wild ride.

Be patient, because it might take longer than you thought.

Be adventurous, because you never know where it might take you.

Put yourself out there and work hard. And don’t be afraid of failure.


Sometimes you have to try something new in order to get you to a place you never would have expected. Sometimes it’s not even about the end goal, but about the small steps you take. Don’t get me wrong, goals are important, but celebrate the little victories along the way. And even if you fail in the endeavor, enjoy the process, learn some life lessons, and get back up and try something else.


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