i wanna get witcha and take your pitcha.

*Deep breath in*

Ok, friends. Here’s the truth of it: Imma big fan of taking pictures. Not just Instagram pictures–fancy camera pictures.

For awhile now, I’ve been practicing practicing practicing and learning oodles about photography. But there’s an issue. I’m an anxiety-ridden perfectionist–killer combo, I know. So, the idea of putting my work out to the world makes me want to hurl.

You mean, I could be scrutinized?! People might not like my work? Are people going to roll their eyes at yet another girl with a nice camera who thinks she’s a photographer? Will people think I’m lame?!

Um. Yes. All of those things are likely to happen if they have not already.

But I can’t shake how much I love it. I love learning more about it. I love capturing memories for my friends and seeing their reactions. The rush I get when I take a priceless image is unbelievably refreshing. Admittedly, I feel super discouraged when I look at a poor quality picture I’ve taken–when my metering is off, it’s overexposed, out of focus, or just plain dumb-looking. It’s easy to fall into a “Who am I kidding? I can’t do this trash” attitude.

Then I look back on the last 4 years that I’ve been learning about photography and realize that I’ve gone from taking an engagement photo like this:

DSC_0195// That light. That vignette! God help us all. Two beautiful subjects, and I’ve done them no favors. //

To capturing an engagement photo like this:

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// Disclaimer: this is not to say Liz is an upgrade from Danielle…you’re both stunnas. //

Sweet gracious. I have learned so much. In terms of technique, I’m certainly an amateur. Am I quitting my job to become a full-time photographer? Girl, please. I simply want to keep growing in my skills and gain more experience.

There’s still so much I need to understand about this field. I’m grateful to have learned from talented people like my cousin who have inspired me to be bold in this crazy love of mine. Señor and many of my friends keep believing in me and pushing through my self-doubt. And, boy, is that self-doubt screaming its ugly brains out.

I don’t claim to be exceptional. I don’t even claim to be good. But I do feel like I’m improving. And I would love more practice.

Maybe even on you?

So, here it goes. If you feel so inclined, I’d be honored if you would check out my work. Perhaps even schedule a session with me if you live nearby or know that I’ll be visiting. And if you have an opinion, be nice to this perfectionistic soul. I’m just here to learn.

www.lauraarmstrongphotography.zenfolio.com

*Deep breath out*

run away with me.

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Sometimes, you just need to run away.

From stress.
From expectations.
From routine.
From the chaos of the everyday.

I’m not promoting escape to evade your problems. I’m talking about running away for the sake of renewal.

Lately, it’s hit me like a brick that I can only handle so much. I am a finite being. Elementary yet fundamental concept, is it not?

Señor and I so desperately need renewal. We have been operating on empty for weeks now. Our sleep has suffered. Our bodies are weak. Our relational intimacy has taken a back seat (real talk). And our hearts are weary. We’ve made changes this semester to our daily routines, but it isn’t enough. It’s time for a true and total rest.

So, we’re running away.

Next week we’re spending a few days in the mountains (hooray, spring break!). No phones, no internet–we plan to unplug as much as we can. Also on the docket: exploring, sleeping, cuddling up to Redbox movies, quiet, Jesus time, and lots of conversation about life, the future, and how we can practice intentionality with each other the second half of the semester. Oh, and we’re not going skiing because…well…need I explain my-accident-prone-Midwest-self for the 20th time?

It’s a known fact that señor and I take advantage of any chance to travel–even if it’s just a few hours. In the four years we’ve been together, we’ve traveled to 6 countries and almost 2 dozen states. It’s an obsession. And this is how we feel about it:

DSC_0637(Brought to you by Grant and Laura circa 2010–on our honeymoon in the Bahamas. I just re-discovered this picture, and it is a true gem. No-beard-señor is a rare sight these days. More importantly, we had only been married a week when this was taken, and we are clearly LOVING our lives. The memory warms my heart more than I can handle.)

When was the last time you ran away to be renewed?

breck my heart.

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To live in Colorado and not be a skier is to live a life unfulfilled. Or, so I’ve been told.

There are people who believe it is straight up blasphemous. “Do you ski?! Snowboard? Anything? No? Oh…hmm…” Nose crinkles, lips purse, and the glare you receive could pierce your soul to its clearly non-adventuresome core.

I get it. Skiing is a rush. You put pieces of wood on your feet and glide down a 12,000-foot mountain at speeds rivaling the Jamaican bobsled team. Look, I saw Cool Runnings. I know speed. I also know that the ability to fearlessly ski down a slope is a concept that I cannot fully understand. My fear of freak accidents causes me enough anxiety, thankyouverymuch. Put me on top of a mountain and ask me to go headlong toward the bottom? That’s cute.

My dramatics are getting the best of me. If I’m honest, I would love to go skiing while I live in Colorado. I just need some more experience and a heckuva lot more courage. This girl’s feet have not touched skis since she was a painfully awkward (and TINY) 13-year-old. Decked out in a silver metallic jacket, I looked pretty boss on my first skiing experience. If I got lost, my family could just describe me as the walking reflector.

I did not know the first thing about skiing then and still have a lot to learn. To help with this endeavor, we decided we should first get a glimpse of ski culture.

This Saturday, señor and I trekked to Breckenridge with our sweet friends. It was beyond worth the hour and a half drive. While most normal visitors to Breck are skiers, we opted for activities a little more low-key. Between the four of us, playing tourist and perusing the shops was the best we could do. There’s only so much you can expect from a pregnant lady (not me), two men with bad knees, and a woman who’s severely accident prone (that’s me). Nevertheless, we had a marvelous time in Breck. Delicious food, refreshing coffee, adorable shops, addicting games, the best of company–it was a total success.

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I do indeed love Breckenridge now. Just not for the same reasons as the jokester below. Oh, Colorado.

Until next time, fancy ski town!

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booked.

13 states. 2 foreign countries.

In the past 12 months, I’ve traveled to or through 13 states and visited 2 foreign countries. I have a bit of a travel bug, if you couldn’t tell. I’m completely unsatisfied if I have to stay in the same place for more than 3 weeks. I think I may have an addiction. Help, please.

But a few of those states have a special place in my heart. They’re home to me.

My mom and stepdad recently moved back to North Carolina. Green, wooded, southern-charmed North Carolina. I spent 3 years living in the gorgeous state as a child, and I love visiting. The town they live in is quaint and the people are sweeter than a southern woman’s tea. And although I’ve never lived in the house they reside in now, it’s still home.

For nearly 15 years, my dad has lived in New Hampshire. It’s a treasure of a state. Where else do you get mountains AND beaches? Ok, other than California, Oregon, Washington, North Carolina, etc…I’m trying to prove a point so let’s disregard those ones. People are real in New England. Like, if the server doesn’t like you, they don’t fake it. And if you took a pahking spot from a stranger, you’ll get a lahbstah up ya hind pahts. What gems they are in the northeast. I love that I can call it home, too.

I love my new home in Colorado. While our apartment may not show that we’ve fully settled in, I can feel it in my bones that this place is going to steal my heart. I sensed it for the first time last week. I took a quick trip to Minnesota for work. When my plane landed back in Denver, my spidey sense tingled. I was home, and it felt right. This place is unlike anywhere I’ve lived. I love that it snows in October. Legit SNOW. Remember that red tree outside our apartment earlier this week? Check it out this morning…

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Uh, yeah. That was 4 hours ago. Now it’s back to its normal fall-self because the sun has shown its face. Goodbye, snow. The UV rays have won this round.

And then there’s Indiana. Say what you will about the Midwest, haters. Indiana is genuine, flat, corn-infested, and the absolute best. I’ve moved around a decent amount in my 26 years, but it’s always felt like home. I met some of my best friends, dated and married my husband, and found Jesus in Indiana. I may not have been born there, but I’m a total Hoosier at heart.

And in 6 days, I’m going back.

Last night, I booked a flight to Indiana. I leave next week. My trip will be a whirlwind (only about 48 hours long!) and filled with work responsibilities. But I imagine it to be memorable. It will be my first trip back on campus since moving to Colorado. Tears will likely be shed as I have mini-reunions with our dear Upland friends. And I can’t wait.

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I always knew I had a travel bug. Who knew it could be satisfied by visiting a small, Indiana town? See you soon, Upland.

real reds.

A few weeks ago, I went on a mini-rant about how Denver fell short of my autumn expectations. I was all like, “Wah, wah I want colors. Wah, wah where are my reds and oranges? I’m so deprived and entitled.” Embarrassing, right?

Denver’s scenery is stunning. I realize in some of my last posts I’ve pointed out its shortcomings, funny stereotypes, and all the ways we don’t fit in. But lesbihonest, about 99% of the population is a transplant from another city, state, or country. It’s basically a melting pot. And somewhere along the way, people saw mountains and thought, “Yeah, we should climb those monstrosities. To the mountains, unbelievably fit people!” And boom–California was born. They found gold, formed a basketball team (Go Nuggets! I can’t explain how disappointed I am to know they aren’t named after McDonald’s tasty treats), and became one of the fastest growing cities in the nation. Read the history books. I swear it’s all true.

Yes, Denver is super active. Yes, it is drier than Sahara, and my lips are permanently chapped. Yes, the UV rays from the sun can burn your skin in a matter of seconds. But it is seriously gorgeous up in hurr. And it’s not just because of the mountains.

As I was reading for class this weekend, I looked out the window and nearly fell off the couch.

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THIS was outside our apartment. THIS TREE. How could I have missed that?! It’s RED. Like, oxblood red–a very popular color this season. Kudos to you, nature! You’re so chic.

I was floored.  Now that I’ve seen it, I see more colored trees everywhere. Apparently, they line the main street by our apartment. I was just so caught up in missing the Midwest that I overlooked these bold, enchanting colors.

So, on top of being entirely embarrassed, I’m also crazy excited. We have red and orange leaves in the West, too. They’re just not as obvious when I’m so focused on what isn’t present. Take time to look at the fall beauty around you, sweet friends. Whether you’re in Colorado, Indiana (bless your sweet soul), or Florida–the delicate beauty of this season is to be found.

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Major props to señor for capturing this shot! What a pro.

the germans.

I’ve always been a big fan of festivals.

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And let’s be real. It’s primarily because people like this guy ^^ can be found there. He’s dapper, highly intoxicated, and overall just loving every bit of his life. Let’s all stop and learn a lesson from this man: true happiness always involves suspenders and a fedora. Let’s call this man Viktor since he is clearly so very German.

Viktor was a trip. Walked right up to our group and became fast friends. Unfortunately, we didn’t share his love for excessive alcohol consumption, so he moved on quickly. But he made our Oktoberfest experience even more authentic.

I’ve only been to one Oktoberfest prior to last weekend. It was…not your typical Oktoberfest. It was hosted by a group of men at a Christian college so tame would be a good word for it. But we drank (root) beer, shot guns, carved pumpkins, and got poop on my face.

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Yeah. You read that correctly. FECES ON MY FACE. I swear it was an accident–an entirely disgusting, smelly, embarrassing accident. I was on a farm, wiped what I thought was dirt off my pants, scratched my face, and shabam–cow feces on the face. But here’s a lesson to take away: poop is not a good facial exfoliant.

Also, can we please acknowledge that I totally did the Miley tongue like 4 years ago? Trendsetter!

Back to the point: Our friends invited us to a small mountain town last weekend for an Oktoberfest. It was quaint and fantastic. The sun was setting behind the mountains, the air was crisp, the trees were gorgeous, and the entertainment was…uh…festive? Think Rolling Stones cover band with a female lead vocalist who may or may have been in her 60’s. So, there’s that. And we met Viktor, so we can’t complain.DSC_2054

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Plus the company was cute-to-boot. Brandon and Tracy are just really wonderful. We have so enjoyed getting to know them. Seriously. Denver is lucky to have such cool people.

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Like I said, I’m a big fan of festivals, and I’m sure it will be our first of many in Colorado. Plus, any festival where I don’t get grossness on my face is a GREAT festival.

mountains (and other unseen things).

A common question we’ve been asked recently: 
“Soooo, what AWESOME things have you done in Colorado so far?”

Answer:
“Uhh. Read our textbooks and gone to class. Want to hear about the AWESOME things we’ve learned about Paul’s illocutionary effect in the book of Philippians?!”

Then the poor midwesterner dies a little inside from disappointment (and the good Christians feel a little guilty for not really wanting to know what that means…). But we’re in Colorado! Doesn’t that automatically mean our lives have suddenly become paparazzi-worthy?! We can see mountains from our apartment! Correction: we can see foothills. Yes, to the midwest eye these are mountains. They’re freakin’ Everest. To the Colorado mountain man, they are mere ant hills to be crushed under the mighty foot of adventure. “Foothills as mountains…HA!” he scoffs. To which I want to reply, “Look. When you spent the past 7 years looking down a street so flat you can see to the local Walmart 15 miles away, foothills are mountains.”

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Unfortunately, mountains are among the cool things about residing in Colorado that we have yet to experience. Of course, we want to see them! We have to do something to prove ourselves in this active culture full of young, attractive people who run 9 miles a day and make their own oat bars from homegrown fruit and barley in their backyard. Or, we at least need to let on that perception. Now, if only I knew how to not kill plants…

Señor and I are not complete bums, but sometimes we just don’t know where to begin out here. There are 14-ers (14 THOUSAND FOOT MOUNTAINS, PEOPLE) to climb, parks to explore, foodie restaurants to divulge in, and an array of coffee shops to satisfy our caffeine addiction for dayzz. But sometimes, we just want to crash on our couch, watch American Ninja Warrior (seriously, these people are beasts), and call it a day after hours of class. Baby steps. Starting with the ability to walk from our apartment to the mailbox without feeling like we we’ve just been stricken with emphysema. 5,280 ft does a number on our poor little lungs.

So, we give ourselves grace and time to get acclimated to this city. It is an awesome place to live, and we discover new treasures weekly. But for now, you’ll catch us doing super midwest things…

ImageLike, scarfing down a pizza on a bench along a running path. Maybe next time we’ll actually take a walk after our carby-carb dinner.

Baby steps.

 

shady’s back.

It’s been approximately 2 years and 10 days since I posted on this blog. Really, not that much has changed since. Just a few minor details. Like…

We moved to Colorado.
NBD. Just picked up and moved like it was no thang. But it was a thing. A huge thing. Like, a bigger thing than “Oops! All Berries.” We left our home in Indiana to start school at Denver Seminary. It was a bold move that required a lot of prayer, persistence, trust, and risk. We had finally made post-grad friends. And not just yeah-we-should-totally-hang-out-but-probably-never-will friends. We made refrigerator friends–the kind of friends who will walk into your apartment, grab something from your fridge, and then greet you in the living room where you’re probably sitting unbathed in your sweats. The best kind of friends who will watch the Bachelorette with you and not judge if you get emotionally involved. And not only that, but we lived close to our college friends. Our closest friends were within a short drive.

And now, we start over. Making friends has been beautiful, and we’ve reconnected with old friends with whom my heart finds incredible peace and rest. They know my story. They know my awkwardness. They know what makes me tick. But we’re making new friends. Sweet, genuine, loving, hilarious, wonderful new friends. I can’t wait to have memories with them.

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We celebrated 2 wedding anniversaries.
Yes, it’s beautiful. It’s incredible to know we’ve survived all this time together and remain best friends. We fight; we love; we fight with love. I adore my señor, and I’m proud to be his wife. We’ve learned what it means to make changes together–both personally and as a couple. Everyday, I’m grateful for his graciousness with me. I can go all crazy-girl on him, and he still wants to kiss me every morning. I say, well done!

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The people of Ethiopia captured my heart.
In 2008, señor participated in a trip to Ethiopia through Taylor University–our alma mater, our first full-time employer, and our first home together. 5 years later, I walked upon the same ground. With 14 college students and 1 fearless co-leader, I ventured to the countryside of Yetebon, Ethiopia to minister to the children and volunteers of Project Mercy. Oh, how they continue to grip my heart 9 months later. Our team failed to do it all right, but they did so with grace and patience. I’m still so proud of them. We tried to make sense of what we saw and what we were doing. We were loved on, cared for, humbled, and taught incredible truths about God’s presence in all cultures. I long to return someday. And I’m grateful to have had such an incredible experience with the support of señor and the knowledge that he, too, had been impacted by such a powerful place.

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Señor got his first Master’s degree.
Note I said first. Not his only. His first. I always knew he was a brainiac, but I mean, seriously. Who LOVES school more than my hubs? I dare you to find another person. I’m so proud of him. He worked full time and went to school full time. And now, he can officially put “Grant Armstrong, MBA” on his email signature. Being the humble man he is, he rarely makes it known. But do me a favor and embarrass him a little next time you see him by referring to him as The Master of All Things Business Administration. Or, just The Master of BA.

DSC_1970Grant Armstrong, MBA. Hire me.

We started grad school. Together.
We’re no strangers to being in class together. The only difference is that we thought it was cute to ditch class and get Starbucks together in our undergrad. Now, it’s entirely irresponsible, and we feel guilty like we should have felt 4 years ago. But we were young and in love. All is fair in love and war. <— (I love using nonsensical idioms)

In our undergrad...hello, small children.Our first month of dating in college. We were babies. And where did señor’s hairy face go?

We had a baby.
Just kidding. But I probably gave a few people heart attacks . And that makes it worth it.

BabyMorphAccording to MorphThing.com, this is our future child. Thanks for confirming my fears that our child will be hideous, MorphThing.

I stopped blogging because I got “too busy.”
Gawbage. I stopped blogging because I was afraid of the blogging world. I don’t craft. I don’t do giveaways. I didn’t know what #ootd was until last month. OUTFIT OF THE DAY. Let me tell you my outfit of most days–Jeans, shirt, scarf (if it’s under 75 degrees…I like me the scarves). Basically, I thought blogging was for fashionable young women who live in awesome cities, make their own mason jars out of glass they recycled, are perfectly eco-friendly, make all their meals from a co-op, and are basically real-life Barbies. I’m over here like, “I’m so proud of myself for not eating McDonald’s for 3 days.”

But, the reality is that I love to tell stories, make witty commentaries about life, and see God’s hand in it all. I don’t want or need 100 followers. Heck, I just want my amazing friends and family to read it, smile a little, and forget about it if they want.

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So, here it goes. Shady’s back. Tell a friend.