A letter to my husband after 1,096 days of marriage

Paul Robert Vought,

Today I woke up as your wife for the 1,095th time. It has yet to get old. I love being yours. It is a name that I wear with honor. Despite that you are a furnace when you sleep, and the fact that you cannot be shaken from said sleep when you are snoring, I love seeing your face in the morning. I love the safety and security your presence has brought to my life since I met you.

The last 1,096 have been my absolute favorite days. Even when they weren’t. In the three years we’ve been married we have faced some treacherous, scary, and trying things. Through it all, it is your hand I’ve wanted in mine. I look back on the first year of our marriage with tears in my eyes. I am so very thankful for the man that you are.

Thanks for choosing me.

So many times I can look at our story and see that when I was not easy to choose – you chose me. You reminded me that I was worth the fight. When I fell asleep crying, scared of what the next day might bring, you held my head on your chest and promised to wake up choosing me. When we were both clueless, tired, and worn out, you chose to lift me up instead of yourself. You daily choose to see the beauty placed inside of me, and look past the ugly parts of me. When I doubted my identity, you spoke up and reminded me who and whose I am.

You have been pointing me back to my Creator since before you asked me to be yours. It is one of the reasons that I pride myself in being called yours, because you fully understand that we are both the others, first by being His.

I could spend the next three years describing the ways you have won my heart a new each day, something you promised to do three years ago in front of all our friends and family, but instead I will just tell you three simple truths.

  1. I have never loved another like I love you.

You have completely and irrevocably stolen my heart. You have shown me time and time again that you are a man of character and valor, and through your actions reminded me that I am worthy of such a mate, even when I doubted that I deserved you. You are an unfathomably mystery, and just when I think I’ve got you figured out, you surprise me, steal my attention, and consume me. It is in my failings that I find how very much I long to love you well, and how very blessed I am to get to love you each day. Few have what we have, Vought. Thank you for loving hard and recklessly with me.

  1. I have never laughed more than when I’m with you.

When you were stealing my heart I read a quote that said, “I will know he is the one when he makes me laugh.” At the time it made more sense than any poem or love song I had ever heard. You were and still are my best friend. There has always been an ease in my relationship with you. You have never asked me to be something I’m not, and I walk into my truest self when I’m around you. You get me at a level that no one else does, you think I’m hilarious, you dance like an idiot with me, and you know exactly what to say to make my heart lighter. Thank you for late nights, belly laughs, and not taking ourselves too seriously.

  1. I have never dreamed bigger dreams than when I have you in my corner.

You propel me to dream bigger. When I desire to sit, gazing over the precipice, enjoying the view, you grab my hand and pull me over the edge. You refuse to let me settle for mediocre or enough. You push me to dream beyond normalcy and become who I am destined to be. Even in the last few months, you’ve challenged me to think bigger, grander, and more impossible and each time speak over me with a conviction that sparks hope and expectations. Thank you for having full confidence in an insane, grand and impactful future with and for me.

Tomorrow will be a normal Thursday, but it will be another day to explore grace, choose love over the easy, and tackle this adventure we’re on. I am honored to be your wife. Honored to call you mine. And honored to serve alongside you. I’d do it all over again.

Happy Anniversary my love.

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An answered prayer 3+ years in the making…

Since February of 2013 I have been praying the same thing over every interview that Paul has had.

“Lord, please put a man or woman of faith in that room who sees you in him. Let them not be able to get enough of him and NEED to hire him.”

The same prayer for each and every interview and there have been many, often approached with desperation and reserved hope.

Many of you know that Paul’s job search has been far from conventional. I like to say that he has been underemployed since graduating college: coffee shops, cold calling, and customer service…

I can firmly say that we would NOT be where we are today if Paul had quickly gotten a job following college. But that doesn’t always make the journey we’ve been on easy. God moved mountains to bring us together – in this city, in this marriage, on this adventure – but He hasn’t really allowed us safety nets.  Paul’s official job offer at LifeWay was a HUGE answer to prayer, but the last 6 months or so Paul felt a stirring for more.

As usual God is faithful. However, much to my dismay, His timing is not my timing.

In March Paul had a phone interview with Harper Collins and the next day was asked to come in for an in person interview. I sent up the same prayer for both interviews.

On May 13th they officially offered him the position stating that when he left the room they all knew that he was their guy. Paul wouldn’t toot his own horn, but I will….TOOT TOOT…they LOVED him!! They literally said they couldn’t believe they had found him so fast, and told him he was their guy before they could even officially offer him the job, because they didn’t want to lose him. It was almost comical and unbelieveable how excited they were to hire him and sad they had to wait until their fiscal year started on July 1st.

So Paul started Tuesday and I continue to laugh at how excited he, and his leadership are about him joining the team. TOOT TOOT! AndI couldn’t help but reflect on my prayer. So many times I’d been saying it with that mustard seed of faith you read about in the Bible, so small that if you looked for it you might miss it. I knew that Paul had so much to offer and wanted someone to see his potential. I knew that he would bring life and passion to his work environment. I knew that he was destined for BIG and that his time and skills were worth more. So I kept praying, I kept willing myself to have faith that would move a mountain. Let me tell you…when God answers, He answers in the best way. His love and grace are extravagant. I was so very humbled this week as Paul told me about his day each night over dinner. Each night it seemed Paul had something new to share, some new way that his position was going to be a blessing for our family. SERIOUSLY God is outdoing himself and is going above and beyond. Paul is so excited about his team, he is so excited about the work he’s doing, and products he’ll be selling, he is so excited about the company and they are equally as enthralled with him!

Let them not be able to get enough of him…

Thankful. Humbled. Proud.

 

We went to Loveless Cafe to celebrate his first day. I sent this picture to his momma who replied, “He looks happy and relieved and tired.” Pretty much sums it up! 


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Hiatus.

It’s been three months since I last blogged.

As I typed that sentence I imagined myself sitting in a confessional…it’s been three months since my last confession… And in a way writing sometimes feels like a confessional. An expunging of the thing inside me that NEEDS to be shared.

I feel a lot of shame having to start a blog post with the above sentence.

So let’s get it all out there. My blog has slowly, but surely, moved down the to-do list in the last three months…and really the last year if we’re being truthful. Writing is a risky, but strengthening place for me to turn. It’s often an experiment in creativity.  In the past I’ve used it as a way to verbal process – working through my emotions, deconstructing murky ideas about the world, delving into spiritual truths until they sink in – all in hopes of encouraging myself and maybe even encouraging others in the process. And you thought it was just a way for me to hone my pithy inner dialogue…

But the last six or so months writing has not seemed like a safe place. It feels more like an exercise in futility and insecurity. Feeling an impulse to write has been more ruled with obligation and a need to produce, than a desire to do something that feeds my soul.

AND in the midst of that Paul and I have been finding a new normal and rhythm in our lives.  So there has been a very real and justifiable excuse to push it to the background. We’ve been BUSY… Paul is almost six months and nine credits into his Master’s program. I am almost six months into my new position as my organization’s Social Media Manager. Both things are AMAZING answers to prayers, but change takes some adjustment. Paul LOVES his program and I love seeing him in his element. Seeing Paul walk in his calling is one of the best gifts God has ever given to me. I love seeing hIMG_9517.JPGis heart come alive. I, on the other hand, am loving the opportunity to engage with a new side of non-profit work, walking in several of my giftings as well. I love the challenge that each day brings and am finally getting a footing and strategy.

So there it is.

Mix together a few large life changes and rhythm disrupters, some fears of inadequacy and feelings of insecurity surrounding creativity,  and you’ll find my blogging hiatus sitting squarely in front of you.

But I’m owning it. No more fear. No more putting it off for more tangible and deceptively pressing things. Writing, here and elsewhere, is something worth prioritizing.


So to catch up on the last three months, here are three things I’m learning in this season

Number 1: I love feeding people. I do not like doing dishes.

Hard as it might be to believe, I am not the cleanly one in our marriage. Many of you may be gasping, my mother is not. For the almost three years Paul and I been married, we have had a pretty good thing going.

I fed us. He did the dishes.

When we got married I had a desire to grow in my cooking abilities. “Grow” is a generous word because I didn’t really have any ability to start with. It caught me by surprise, but I discovered that I really liked meal planning, experimenting in the kitchen, and inviting others to experience good food. I have found that one of my love languages is food. I love to love people through their tummies.

Enter grad school.

In the midst of our crazy last six months God has BLESSED us like crazy with amazing community! Bringing out the folding table, or just eating around the coffee table Paul and I have been able to host, feed, and love on lots of our favorite people. Being around a table with friends, swapping stories and enjoying food, feeds both our hearts and stomachs. We’ve loved it. But…the system fell apart. Paul’s evenings are full with school after work, and in order to also prioritize friendships and community the prep and clean-up aren’t shared as often. Please hear me, he’s incredible and helps A TON! The man is working full time and going back to school!  I just hate dishes and didn’t realize how spoiled I’d become.

Come to think of it, Paul has carried more than his fair share of “household duties” over our marriage. I didn’t realize how much of his cleaning went unnoticed by me. I’m noticing now….and stepping in. It’s an adjustment. And I hate doing dishes. I digress… new rhythms.

Number two: I love yoga.

Tuesday and Thursdays for the last few months at 6 am on Tuesdays and Thursdays, you can find me at the East Nashville YMCA in yoga class. Now my mother really is gasping!

I’m learning to give myself grace when I reset my alarm for an hour later and skip out on my yoga class…like this morning…but mostly I’m loving this new routine and rhythm. It’s a great way to start my day and I’m slowly becoming more flxible and challenging my body in a new way!! It’s a far cry from the running, weight lifting, and other forms of exercise that I normally engage in.

#BigFan!

Number three: I am creative.

It’s been a buzzword in many of my conversations, and I blogged a bit about it here, but I’m slowly accepting that I am indeed, creative. About two months ago I decided to take intentional time to delve into the lies that I was buying into – the ones that say I’m not creative, I can’t do something new, I don’t have what it takes, etc. I was lacking vision and wanted to take it on full force.

My husband called it an existential crisis. I’m not sure what I called it. I just knew I wanted to take action.

I designated a journal with a sassy Tina Fey quote on the front, sent as a “just because” surprise from my Mother In Love a few weeks before, as my vision journal and got to work. I began asking God what He saw in me. He surprised me with a very long list of beautiful attributes that I told myself I would not argue. But to be honest, it’s been daunting. Throughout this exploration, the first thing that’s sinking in is the idea that I am made in my creator’s image. His first action, on page one of the Bible, is to create. He created everything from nothing, then breathed life into humanity. Therefore, creativity, I remind myself daily, is breathed into my DNA.

I’m still in process. But I’m excited to see where this leap takes me.


So there it is. I’m very thankful for all of you that made it to the end of this post. Thankful to get it out there. Thankful that I serve a God who takes my misses, my shame, and my fears at face value and promises to redeem them. Thankful that I am enough, just as I am, but called to more. Thankful for a husband who works hard and steps into purpose and vision. I’m still pretty amazed that I get to call him mine, and that he still finds time to win my heart anew almost every day. Thankful for grace, purpose and vision! Thankful for dirty dishes that remind me of fun nights with friends that are becoming family.

Make today great my friends! You are so very loved!

Give it a try.

“It’s impossible.” said pride.

“Its risky.” said experience.

“Its pointless.” says reason.

“…Give it a try.” whispered the heart.


Give it a try.

Today I feel the need to give more things a try.

Today I feel the pull of my heart reminding me that the best things in life are those that come from risk.

Today there is something inside me that is whispering “give it a try.


 

I’m ruminating on this thought as I look at the full week ahead of me. I am so keen on filling up my schedule, making the most of every moment and filling it to the brim. I like to be the full schedule girl. You know the type. We like to give off the illusion that we’ve got it all on lockdown and every few weeks we realize in a Type A-shame ridden panic- that we “HAVE NO TIME TO DO ANYTHING!”

I am convicted by my schedule. (ouch.)

There is a part of me that recognizes that I fill my schedule up with certainties in order to justify neglecting the uncertain. I am held back by the fear of creating. Therefore if I have justifiable things that keep me “busy,” I don’t have to wade into the waters of self-doubt, risk, and fear. I can safely sit on the edge and pine after the accomplishments of other risk takers. I can say “Wow, it is so awesome that she is pursuing x,y,z passion,” and minimize the nudge inside my stomach and heart that say “give it a try.”

Want to know a secret?…. I have “scheduled” creative time into my calendar for at least the last 4 weekends…and each weekend I have filled up my schedule with justifiable excuses.

Honestly, I’m afraid to put my hands to the keyboard. I’m afraid to sketch and engage with this increasing curiosity towards calligraphy, design, and typography. I’m afraid to admit that I dream of engaging with buried passions for writing, lettering, speaking, and creating. I’m afraid to engage with the hundreds of pins that I’ve pinned on Pinterest.

The secret is out. 

I’m afraid.

I have believed and been crippled by the lie that I’m not creative for too long. I live in Nashville. The city where creative people gravitate (and call themselves a creative...).  It’s a super encouraging city to live in because everyone is an aspiring something. People are open to the concept that someone may do one thing, but be made for another. While it’s an open environment and awesome place to live, it’s INTIMIDATING. I often find the voices in my head that say, “impossible, risky, and pointless”turned on higher volume, and the whispers of “give it a try” all but silenced out.

It’s much safer to fill up my schedule and pursue good things of certainty. My job is certain. Meal-prep is certain. Laundry is certain. Working out is certain. Lists are certain. Reading is certain. Being busy is certain.

Creating space is not certain. Creating just to create and not produce is not certain. Dreaming is not certain.

What if I’m no good?

What if this “leads” no where?

What if this has no tangible value or contribution?

What if?


I suggested the book “Breaking Busy” to my small group girls. We’re all reading it together.

It sits next to me untouched.

The irony does not escape me.


 

give it a try…

 

saying yes.

The big question is whether you are going to be able to say a hearty yes to your adventure.

– Joseph Campbell (Discovered in Rising Strong by Brene Brown)

I read this quote this afternoon, sitting across from the love of my life, at a new cozy coffee shop, and it stopped me in my tracks.

Paul and I have been all about this idea of “living a good story” since before I called him more than my crazy friend Paul. We were bonded by the idea of living our lives in a way that didn’t make sense to other people. We naively dreamt of throwing caution to the wind and taking on big things. It’s one of the reasons I knew I wanted to date him, and later marry him. We have tried to make it a priority to say yes to adventure.

But the more comfortable you get in life, the harder it is to say yes. Your yes becomes less hearty. It becomes more strained as the risks become higher. The pay off is greater. When you’re 20 and your bank account rarely goes above $200, or you can pack your life into one load of your vehicle (and routinely do), or it takes little to no effort to shake off the obligations of the day- saying yes is easy. 

Saying yes is hard as an adult. I should know I am 25 today. ; )

The next adventure before #thevoughts did not come with a hearty YES…at first. As of January 18th, Paul will be a student again. The hows, and whys, and whens and God moments that led to the decision for Paul to pursue his Master’s in Marriage and Family Counseling would take hours to share, and I’m not entirely sure I understand how it all happened myself. But what I do know is that our God is one who does not waste unemployment, strife, anxiety, heartache, loss or pain. Instead He takes it through the fire, gently whispering the truth of WHO we are and WHOSE we are, as He refines us and calls us higher. So thankful for the God we serve.

As we approached this we began to just take the next right step.  We began to say yes and believe that God would show up. And He has. The yes to an adventure that I KNOW Paul was called to embark on, came with fear, trade-offs, and lots and lots of questions. As we’ve been aggressively tackling debt, Paul going back to school meant re-appropriating some of those funds and believing God to increase our revenue. We’ve already begun to see glimpses of His provision. We knew that it would shake up the rhythm that we’ve finally begun to walk in after a pretty tough first year or two of marriage. It meant prioritizing the other person in new ways. However, my favorite thing about the Vought house is that there has ALWAYS been room for two callings in one home. (watch this video!!) Paul has said for years that my gain is his gain, and vice versa. I actually did not bat an eye when I thought about the change that Paul going to school would bring. His yeses to prioritize my career, my callings, my passions have been unwavering and excessive at times.

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And so our adventure begin.

Paul was hesitant and cautious. But it became abundantly clear that it was no longer a maybe idea, but a HAVE to idea. So we said YES! As our yes became more hearty, God has continued to provide confirmation, excitement, and joy. The adventure awaits.


 

In somewhat related news I wanted to share my word for the year. And give you the freedom to keep me accountable.

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I felt like God was calling me to be intentional with my actions, decisions, time, dreams, interactions, relationships, etc. this year. Ironically Paul’s word was “risk.” So we’ll be taking intentional risks….I guess. ; )

I want to be an intentional person.

I want people to know that I am a person of my word and one that acts deliberately.

I want to make people feel prioritized, sought out, cared for, heard and known by the ways in which I approach relationship with them.

I want to look back in a year, two years, ten years, thirty years, and know that I have instilled a pattern in my own life and our family of intention. I want to act upon life, rather than feel as if life has been thrust upon me.

I’m currently reading Rising Strong by Brene Brown (as you might have gathered from the above quote) and the entire concept of the overcoming, owning your story, and living wholeheartedly requires intention. We don’t wake up one day emotionally, thriving people. We don’t stumble upon purpose, passion and callings.  It takes gritty work. It takes showing up. It takes wading through the darkness. As she says, you can’t skip the ugly middle part of growth.

I want to be intentional about sitting in the tension of the ugly. I want to surround myself with people familiar with the ugly and invite them to share their ugly as well.  If I’m going to become like the people I spend the most time with, I want people familiar with being intentional and people willing to be risky.

I want to be in the arena. I want to be brave with my life. And when we make the choice to dare greatly, we sign up to get our asses kicked . . . A lot of cheap seats in the arena are filled with people who never venture onto the floor. They just hurl mean-spirited criticisms and put-downs from a safe distance. The problem is, when we stop caring what people think and stop feeling hurt by cruelty, we lose our ability to connect. But when we’re defined by what people think, we lose the courage to be vulnerable. Therefore, we need to be selective about the feedback we let into our lives. For me, if you’re not in the arena getting your ass kicked, I’m not interested in your feedback.

-Rising Strong 

That last line has become a new “rule” in the Vought house.

So it’s with intentionality that I’m hoping to lean into this next season. I don’t know all that it holds, but I feel God stirring. I know I’ll fall flat on my face from time to time. But I want to get good at getting up. Getting curious. And getting strong.


 

I also want to be kind. That’s my bonus word for the year.

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I want to be someone known for her kindness.

 

That’s all.

Have a great weekend friends!

What God’s teaching me this week…

For I the LORD do not change; therefore you, my little one, are not consumed. – Malachi 3:6 (Amplified to fit Kenzie)

Change

: to become different

: to make (someone or something) different

: to become something else

Consumed

: to use (fuel, time, resources, etc.)

: to destroy (something) with fire


Last week in my journal I word vomited a list of details clouding my head with worry, headed by the title: “Things that need to get handled” to which I quickly changed “Things that need to get handled released.”

So…

As is a custom for me and God as I approach the changing of a “season,” He is reminding me to release all the uncertainty into His capable and trustworthy hands. It’s the story that we play out often and early. You would think I’d have caught on. But alas, I don’t like it.

I like control. 

I was talking with a friend the other day about the idea of control and how it pertains to my worrying. In my twisted mind I think that if I’m worrying about something I am maintaining control. That by continuing to let it cloud my mind, at least I’m doing “something” about it. But the something that I’m doing adds literally NOTHING to the situation, and more than not it detracts from what God is trying to do.

I like control. 

Thus, when I heard the above verse from Malachi in our Monday morning devotions I teared up. He doesn’t change. He’s incapable of being different than He was yesterday. He’s incapable of not showing up, providing, calming me like He has done in the last 50 situations.

Nothing is burning in our lives right now. Instead of one overwhelming fire, it seems we have several pots simmering. It’s like as if we’re having to tend to each pot and determine which gets the most attention, which ones burn out, and which ones don’t fully cook. Thus the details that cloud my brain and need releasing.

But He doesn’t change. 

Malachi 3:6 is the veIMG_7620rse that I chose for the month of November in the Vought girls’ 2015 project. (The four of us have taken turns picking a verse that we all memorize for the month.) I realized this morning that I needed to keep those words in front of me this month as I lean into His discernment. Change is on the horizon. I’ve come to the point where I can anticipate it, almost feel it palpable in the air around us. I’m trying to not only be on the look out for it, but to lean in and resist the urge to fight it with all that’s inside me.

I anticipate that these coming months are the start of another grand adventure for our little Vought family. We asked for a big story.

We will not be consumed, for He (who is faithful) does not change.  

“Gotcha” Day!

An ode to our #ohshiolo on his “Gotcha” Day!  

One year ago today we took a somewhat spontaneous and impulsive trip to the Williamson County Animal Control, and walked away with a 7 year old pup in serious need of love. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, we didn’t know we were missing him in our lives.

So here I sit on this rainy Sunday afternoon, snuggled into the covers, reading and writing as Paul watches football, in awe of the pup snoring at my feet. Shilo has irrevocably captured our hearts. We didn’t know how much room we had in our hearts and lives for a curmudgeonly old man, and now I’m convinced there would be a gaping hole if he weren’t here.

Over the last year it’s not just us who have been changed. When we first brought him home, Shilo had some serious separation anxiety and attachment issues. He refused to play with toys or snuggle, or really even acknowledge us. It was a slow and consistent labor of love to win his trust. It was well worth it. I could go on for hours about Processed with VSCOcam with f2 presetwhat a different dog is snuggled up in our bed than the one we brought home. The picture to the left alone, one year ago, show what a little love can do to for the body and soul. His poor ears!!

With you, my friends, in mind I’ll spare you the massive amounts of details and just share the most monumental milestone of the last year with Shi.


Like I mentioned when we brought him home, Shilo didn’t like toys. I assumed it was just because he was 7 years old, and too old to “play.” But the more he settled into our lives and claimed us as his people, the more we saw of his playful nature. He’s very spry for his old age.

For Christmas, momma Carpenter bought Shilo a Chewbacca harness and squeeky toy. Without thinking much of it, I put the Chewie toy in Shilo’s crate and we headed back to Tennessee. Towards the beginning of February I began to notice that Chewie was being moved throughout the house. The only explanation was of course Shilo, but we never saw Shi with Chewie in hand (or mouth as it were). Another month or two passed and Shilo began to have Chewie in his presence, but would quickly discard him if we drew attention to the two. It was as if Shi were saying “I don’t care about this…” Slowly another shift happened. Shilo was playing with Chewie and even letting us play tug-a-war. It was a glorious day…until I came home to discover that Paul and Shilo were playing fetch with Chewie!!! WHAT?! My heart swelled!!

Chewie has since gone to chew toy heaven, aka the trash. I may or may not have been overly sentimental as I brought Chewie in from the backyard legs detached, ears missing and matted fur. Chewie was such a testament to the last year with our Bubba!


As I read over this I have the temptation to hang my head in shame, because I just went on a lengthy rant about my dog. I don’t know how I became this person. But again as I look at the dog curled up beside us, I know I was a gonner a year ago.

I am so thankful to be celebrating our boy today, as silly as it sounds. Shilo has been a staple in our lives the last year, attached to so many memories, a victim of lots of giggles, a great way to stave off baby-fever, a running companion, a master hiker and overall a source of joy and love.

Lastly, there is a part of me that desires to draw a spiritual comparison and state that God has shown me parts of His character and pursuit through having a dog who couldn’t just LET ME LOVE HIM! I assume that I too make a growlingish noise when I think God is too close for my comfort. God’s funny that way, He doesn’t waste a chance to reveal Himself.

And with that we’re obsessed. Now here are a bunch of pictures from the last year!!

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