Thursday, August 30, 2018

The Harts - Month Three

Month three! It's all good y'all. It is ALL SO GOOD. Kyle and I both agree that marriage keeps getting exponentially better month after month after month.

This month was really marked for me personally with some internal struggle. I'm still trying to figure out how I can share some insight and what I've learned over a year without being inappropriate or needlessly dramatic, but I'd like to put it out there. I'll let you know if and when I find the balance that I'm looking for. Honestly, I may just need some time before I can write about the situation with a clear head. I've learned some BIG lessons and the way I treat and communicate with people from now on will be much different. I'm thankful for the lessons, but they've been hard and humbling things to learn.

Now on to some things I'd like to remember!

  • Our weekend at Greenbrier State Forest - We were lucky enough to join my family at the tail end of their summer trip! We arrived late on Friday evening with our bags packed for fun and me with a baking dish full of homemade marshmallows. We stayed in a cozy cabin, had a slow morning with coffee on the porch, hiked part of the Greenbrier River Trail, ate a breakfast burger with a fried egg on top and key lime pie ice cream, sat by a campfire, ate homemade s'mores, traveled to Summers County on a back road with the most beautiful views, stopped at the Bluestone River, and ate at Kirk's. It was slow, warm, relaxed, beautiful, and restful. Just what we needed.

  • 13-hour shooting day at Stonewall Resort - I was fortunate to be asked to provide images from an event at Stonewall to showcase all the renovations and new and exciting services and changes they have created. It was an absolute blast, I ate like a Queen, and I felt a little bit of pride because that property is so close to my heart. I did, however, make the worst shoe choice of my life and my ankles are STILL trying to recover.
  • Kyle's birthday weekend at Stonewall - We spent a non-working weekend at Stonewall for Kyle's birthday and it was such a delightful trip! I checked in on Friday evening since Kyle actually decided to go fishing with my dad that day. I knew I had some time to burn so I took a book out to the pool and began the decompressing activities. hahaha! I sat in the sun and just took in the beauty of the property. I know I'm biased, but dang it's beautiful there! Maybe it's so comforting to me because Stonewall still feels like home to me? I took a walk around the lake and then returned to our room where I promptly took a bubble bath and ordered dessert through room service. That whole evening felt so indulgent and wonderful! I ate an apple dessert and ice cream in bed while I watched a random movie on HBO. So good! Kyle ended up getting to the Resort around 10:30, and I was definitely asleep when he knocked on the door. We ate the breakfast buffet (HOLY COW WAFFLES) and watched the rainstorm through the restaurant windows. I felt my whole body relax. We ended up taking cups of coffee to go and sat out on the Terrace Patio where we got married. It was a quiet morning and we were the only two out there. We reminisced about our day and how the Lord provided a very special day that we were able to enjoy without debt. We've definitely marked that as a banner over our marriage. More on God's outrageous provision later.
  • Our trip to Wheeling - last weekend we decided to head to Wheeling for the day. I wanted to try a little cafe that I'd seen the last time I was there for a work trip - Avenue Eats! It was worth the trip. I had the best, most gooey grilled cheese I've ever had in my life. The building itself is tiny which is kinda crappy because it is a POPULAR PLACE. I watched everyone's food be delivered and everything looked so delicious. We'll definitely go back. We stopped at Whisk Bakery & Catering for cupcakes and then headed to Cabela's. 
  • Finally hitting publish on the Meredith Brooke Photography website! I've found so much joy and restoration and purpose in owning and running my own business! 
  • Being able to pay off debt - If you don't know, there was a period (from 2005 - 2014) that I dealt with crippling anxiety and depression to the point that there was a year or two that it affected my ability to even get out of bed in the morning. I was a single lady who was living on my own and not many people knew how bad things were. Financially, things were already very tight, but missing so much work really put me into a really tough situation. There were times I wasn't getting a paycheck, and I wasn't making enough money at that time to have the ability to put anything into savings. To put it lightly, I was in a financial bind and used credit cards to survive. Being completely transparent, that whole season of my life created some wrong thoughts about God and who He is as Provider. Last October on vacation the Lord spoke to me that he was going to heal my heart about money and my relationship and fear of lack and not having enough. I had no idea that our wedding and how he provided a way for that was just the beginning. He definitely used that to confront my fear. However, last week I received a check in the mail that has not only allowed me to pay my credit card off from that season, but there is money left over. With the exception of student loans and our vehicles, we are DEBT FREE. Just so you know, I'm crying writing that out. I anticipated years of having to pay that off. YEARS of that burden are now gone. 


Still the same things as always. Trusting God is going to be faithful to place us in the right place not only geographically, but in the right home, too! 

Community! It's so important for my heart to have a group of friends to walk through life with! 

My photography business. I've had so many wonderful opportunities open up in 8 months of actually pursuing this with intentionality. I am excited to see where this journey takes me, but I'm certainly praying that this becomes something I can pursue without having a day job. 


Soul Rest by Curtis Zackery I started reading this during my pool time at Stonewall for Kyle's birthday. It is SO DEEP that I've had to read it slowly taking breaks to think and work through what he's communicating. I'm loving it so far, and it's helping me to work through and shape what I think about Biblical Rest. I highly recommend it! 

Called to Create by Jordan Raynor I'm on page 10 and I'm loving it already! I love thinking about owning a business as worship and ministry. 


I finished Perfect Couple and loved it! I really enjoy reading books that I can't figure out. I was hooked and couldn't predict the ending! I highly recommend it! 


The Lord confronting my fear of money. It's been a very vulnerable process, but I am so grateful. 

My husband. He has a heart of gold. I am grateful for his support, his selflessness, and his intentionality. I can trust him to lead because I know he is just following Jesus. He is a good man. 

My impending career change.


More Lacroix. Seriously. It's so bad. We need help. HAHAHAHAHAHA!


The Up and Vanished podcast. The host of the show, Payne Lindsey, was on a different podcast I listen to. Since hearing him on the other show I've been binging all the episodes of the first season. I'm probably the last person in America to listen to this, but if you're farther behind in pop culture than me GO LISTEN! 

Chef's Table on Netflix. Stories of how people found their passion and purpose make me so happy. I LOVE seeing people be successful in a business. Plus, this show highlights chefs and stories internationally. Three of my favorites so far: Jeong Kwan - a female Buddhist Monk living in Korea; Corrado Assenza - a Sicilian pastry chef in Sicily; and Christina Tosi - she owns Milk Bar and her take on pastry is so whimsical and fun! 


Taking care of myself. I'm not good at this, and Kyle helps me so much! 


Holden Beach - we are headed there in October and we're counting down the days! 

Being my own boss and being able to pursue Meredith Brooke Photography full time. It's taken me years to be able to say that out loud, but it is truly what I want. Building this has been so fulfilling even in the frustrating moments. 


Sicily to eat gelato at Corrado Assenza's place! I'm so inspired by that part of the world! 


I am so happy to report that I've been so much more consistent with getting myself in the gym! 

I also made HUGE strides with work boundaries! I've created a shooting schedule that not only allows me time to actually get sessions edited but also allows me to get into the gym consistently! I'm a genius! hahaha ;-)

Thank you guys for reading! These posts have been the most popular on my site! 

Thursday, July 26, 2018

The Harts - Month Two

My goodness, this month has been PACKED with so much fun, work, and business growth! We have been two very busy people, and it caught up with me this week. Thankfully we have a little getaway planned that we leave for on Friday. This month has been a little bit better than month one as we've found our stride a little bit. I'm thankful for a husband who really is a partner in life. We truly help each other, and for that, I am incredibly grateful!

Some notable things that I want to remember this month!
  1. VBS - We helped with VBS this year at our home church. It was the first time in a few years that I was able to help and I loved it! We had a blast! 
  2. Eating at Muriale's for our anniversary - We had an epic meal out on the deck at Muriale's for our one-month anniversary. We've tried to make sure we're celebrating the little moments. I had the most giant salad of all time, and Kyle had a spicy shrimp and pasta dish. Both were excellent. 
  3. The symphony and fireworks - We decided to attend an outdoor concert featuring the Wheeling Symphony Orchestra on July 3rd and it was AWESOME! There were fireworks afterward, and it was such a gorgeous evening! I love Fourth of July out on the lake, but this was a fun experience, too! I'm so glad we went. 

  4. Blueberry picking/Talladega Nights - On the actual 4th we decided to go blueberry picking on Blueberry Ridge Farm. The day was so hot and humid, but the drive was gorgeous and the fields weren't busy at all. The quiet of the day was a nice break that we both leaned into. We picked several pounds of blueberries out in the field and then headed to the Poky Dot for lunch. I had epic plans for the berries, but we ended up just eating them straight from the container. It's an activity I'd like to do again. 

  5. The reception in Virginia - Kyle's home church in Virginia was so nice to want to host a reception for us to celebrate our marriage. I LOVE meeting the people who have known Kyle since he was a kid. Folks always have the nicest things to say about him, and it's clear to me that he's loved Jesus and wanted to please Him his entire life. It makes me so proud of him. 
  6. Saturday afternoon with my family by the pool and BBQ - That Saturday was full of parties! Our reception at the church was a brunch party, and then we all headed to my cousin April's house for more partying! We had a great time sitting outside by the pool while we all inhaled Steven's famous pork BBQ and chicken wings. They are epic and are also one of my favorite meals! The time spent with family in the summer by the pool eating BBQ is one of my favorite things. 
  7. Second shooting for Ashley in PA with the sunflowers - I had the coolest opportunity this month to second-shoot for Ashley (who also happened to be our photographer!). It was a BLAST! We showed up to the ceremony/reception venue and were surprised with a little field of sunflowers. The images were epic, and the experience was even more fun!
  8. Kyle fishing with dad at Bluestone - Kyle went on a small fishing trip with a few of my family members. I'd say it definitely came at a good time for all of them, and I was so happy he was able to go! 
  9. Color mini sessions and my giveaway session - I hosted my summer mini sessions this month! They happened to be "color sessions" with paint and they were an absolute BLAST! I'll probably do them again next summer, too! 
  10. We got in a small argument over cookies. Bahahahahaaaaa! 


A home of our own! We are excited to be in this stage of life and really have the opportunity to go anywhere and do anything. The possibilities are endless and I'm thankful that we made choices earlier in life that will allow us more opportunities now. We can't wait to see what the Lord has in store for us!

Community. This is something that has really been on my mind and heart lately. We would both love a group of people to live life with.

My photography business! Nothing in life has brought me more fulfillment and joy in work as photography and being a small business owner. I am working and praying for this business to become more full-time for me!


I honestly don't recall much TV watching this month. Life has been too busy, and if I did start watching a TV show I normally fell asleep almost immediately. HA! I would like to see the new Jurassic Park though! There's just something about those summer blockbusters! 


Perfect Couple by Elin Hilderbrand Another work of fiction?! I guess summer has me craving a good beach read! I started this July 13th and I'm nearly finished. It's fast-paced and has me on the edge of my seat. The author gives you just enough information through each chapter to keep you guessing. I love when I read books (and watch movies) that I can't guess the plot from the first chapter. I can't figure this one out! 

Soul Rest by Curtis Zackery I haven't started this one just yet, but I plan to dive into it this weekend. The Lord has been dealing with my heart about boundaries, rest, and Sabbath for a few months. It's a topic that is so deep and important for this season of life. 


I finished The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo and hated every second of the book. IT WAS SO SLOW. I think this is one of the most popular books of the summer (??) and I just do not get it. 

How to Win Friends and Influence People was excellent. It's one I'll go back to, and I highly recommend reading it if you haven't. 


An upcoming career change. I've debated writing about my current situation and what I've experienced, but I'm not sure I can without getting too emotional. It's something I need to process through (maybe in writing) before I can articulate the depth of the emotions I feel. I've never experienced bias or prejudice in the way I've experienced it the last few months based purely on where my desk is located. People talk to me and about me in a very derogatory, condescending, patronizing way because they assume my level of position and education based on where I sit. It's been a lesson in humility and has magnified issues in my own heart that need to be dealt with. 

My husband. He has a servant's heart and is very tender toward me. I am so thankful that he is a true partner in this life. 



My crisp recipe with fresh cherries and chocolate ice cream. 

All the lacroix. We have a problem. HA!


My Chill Jams station on Spotify which is just basically a whole playlist of acoustic Disney songs. 

The series "Summer for the Soul" from the Church of the City. 


I looked at last month's list and need to continue to be more intentional about getting into my Bible. 

Creating boundaries for work. I'm so grateful that my business is getting busier, but I've noticed that I need to set boundaries for myself so I don't focus so much on my business that everything else gets neglected. 

Working out. My goal has been three times per week and I've met that goal every week but this one. I've been feeling under the weather this week (see also: not having healthy boundaries and ignoring my physical well-being). 


Vacation! We'll be going to Holden Beach this fall and I cannot wait! 

Homemade marshmallows for s'mores this weekend!


The Farmer's Market. I need fresh peaches to make THIS pie

Greenbrier State Forest

A weekend at home to be lazy! hahahaha!


Finish our back "deck". It's really more of a concrete slab, but my heart wants to at least make one room beautiful in our home. This one makes the most sense since where we are is temporary. No back deck progress has been made. HA! And it probably won't be. It's just not high on my priorities list. 

More pool days. Weekends and evenings have been busy around here, and I'd like to keep my honeymoon tan. Not only did I not make it to the pool at all in the last month, but my honeymoon tan is almost completely non-existent. BOO!

Finish my business website. My business website isn't finished, but it's still on my list. We will get there!

Figure out a better food routine for the two of us. Actually, just get a little more comfortable with our life routine in general. DONE! 

See a movie. 

Read more books. 

Dates that include chocolate covered strawberries. We're going tonight actually! HOORAY! 


Be better about getting to the gym, girl! It's important!
Finish my wedding galleries and my family session galleries.
Read more books!