A Very Exciting Surprise!

I am so excited to share one of my favorite blog posts I’ve ever written with you! It’s time that I shared the news that…

Justin and I eloped!!! 

Photo by the amazing Jenna Henderson, Photographer

Photo by the amazing Jenna Henderson, Photographer

Honestly, I am still in AWE that this is my life – that all of these incredibly happy moments truly are reality. And that I get to spend the rest of my life with a man I love and adore. We are so OVERJOYED, and I wish I could tell you every little detail but for now a fun overview will have to do.

Our story all began when we got setup on a blind double date by his cousin Becca, one of my dear friends from high school. (Thank you Becca and Seth!!! We’ll owe you forever!!)  What first attracted me to Justin was his kindness and his sense of humor. He didn’t judge me for still living at home with my parents or being a single mom, but instead, he got to know the real me past all the circumstances and we clicked almost immediately.

Dating again after being out of the dating scene for almost 9 years was full of it’s comical moments… like when he officially asked me to be his girlfriend and I thought that I already was… whoops! (I will have to share that story later… it’s one of his favorite stories to tell!)

But the most common thing we experienced when we were getting to know each other were conversations that would go like this:

Me: What do you think about [insert important life topic]?
Justin would then answer with exactly what I think/hope about that topic.
Me: OF COURSE you do.

It became a joke… I’d ask something like, “What do you think about kids?” and he’d answer, “I’d love to have a large family, and I’d like to adopt.” And then I’d have to scrape my chin off the floor when his answer would exactly match my heart’s desires too. So then I started literally saying, “OF COURSE you want that.” To which he’d then say, “Oh yeah? You too?” and would wink at me in that way that makes my heart actually skip a beat.

The more these amazing conversations went on, the clearer it became that God had given each of us specific goals, desires and visions which perfectly aligned with each other. We were falling for each other…

What surprised me the most about our relationship was how EASY it was. We got along so well, we communicated so easily, that even when we had a disagreement we could resolve it really quickly. I had never experienced that before, and I knew it was a rare and amazing quality to have found!

While we were dating, a sweet friend of mine who’s a professional organizer was helping me go through boxes of my things to de-clutter and I found a journal from beginning of my freshman year of college when I was 18. In the first four pages I listed out, in a very detailed fashion, all of the many qualities I wanted in my future husband. They were things like, “kind and loving” to as detailed as, “he plays guitar.” When I found the journal this summer, I read over it and quickly realized that Justin has every single quality on my list. EVERY single one. And then I got chills. Justin is all of those things and a whole host of things I never knew I needed. It’s amazing how God can do exceedingly more than you’d even dream for yourself.

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Photo by Jenna Henderson, Photographer

There were many reasons why we decided to elope, but more on that later… complete with wedding photos!

After we had been dating for a few months, I’ll never forget a conversation that my mom and I had after Justin had just spent an evening with my family and I. She came into my room, laid on my bed and said, “I really, really like Justin. He’s so sweet and dear!” and we both started crying. It was one of those moments that just hits you: I’ve been wanting this, praying for this, waiting for a man just like him and he’s finally here.

We did pre-marital counseling which was really important to me, and during one of our last sessions our counselor said to us: “I don’t get to say this very often but you two are going to be great together.” And then I think my heart did 100,000 flips.

We ARE so good together. But more than it just being about compatibility, we both have a heart for the Lord and a desire to have a marriage that brings Him glory. We have both walked down some long and difficult roads. What I’ve found is that when God writes your story, it turns out far more beautiful than you could ever dream – even if it is looks a lot different than you thought it would.

There were some very dark days when I was pregnant with Baby J and when he was a newborn, knowing that my husband-at-the-time wanted a divorce after years of our rollercoaster marriage. I didn’t understand how any good could possibly come from such a heartbreaking situation. I knew that God could make beautiful things out of the mess of a crumbled marriage and a newborn, and I sure was hopeful that He would, but at the time it was hard to have vision.

“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power at work within us, to him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” Ephesians 3:20-21 NIV

God surely has done immeasurably more than I could imagine in my life over the past few years. He is redeeming in big ways. But don’t think that my “happy ending” is wrapped up in a person or a relationship. Through the crumbling of my first marriage, I was humbled greatly and ultimately realized that my security and my hope is Jesus alone.

It’s been three weeks since we eloped, and we are absolutely loving newlywed life! We are learning how to live together – he is admittedly FAR neater than I am, but I’m working on it. We’re enjoying every minute and constantly look at each other and say things like, “We’re MARRIED!!” and then break out into a smile. We are so excited about being a family and both a little overwhelmed by all of the happy changes. Justin got an automatic family: he became both a husband and a Dad to Baby J all in the same day. I moved out of my parent’s house and into his place, so I’m adjusting to running a house again, including cooking and cleaning.

We are really in awe of how God has blessed us with each other and are really excited to glorify Him through our marriage. As much as we hate to admit it, that cheesy Rascal Flatts song seems to be true for us: “God blessed the broken road that led me straight to you.”

Justin’s grandfather says, “Flowers don’t grow on the mountain, they grow in the valley.” And it was in the dark valley that I realized more about myself and my faith than any other time of my life, and the flowers in my heart grew.

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My gorgeous bouquet was by Brocade Designs

“But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope. The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. ‘The Lord is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘therefore I will hope in him.’” Lamentations 3:21-24 ESV

In the valley or on the mountaintop, the steadfast love of the Lord never ceases and we should never lose hope. He is faithful in all seasons and in any circumstance, and for that I’m so grateful.

How have you seen God redeem something in your life?

Surrender

31 DAYS of SURRENDER

It takes 28 days to create a new habit, so the saying goes. So 31 days of writing and I’ll be all set! ;) I’m excited to be joining The Nester on the Write31Days challenge, which encourages writers to pick one topic or theme and write daily for 31 days on it.

I kept asking The Lord what word or theme He wanted me to meditate on for the month and the word SURRENDER kept coming up. And then I chuckled…

This is a season of lots of change for me, and I find myself constantly having to relinquish any control I *think* I have over to The Lord.

All of these changes are new, different and exciting, but it doesn’t make them any less terrifying sometimes! I’m constantly having to surrender my thinking to renew my mind.

I’m sure that lots will emerge as I take the time to write over the next month, but here are a few (and some of them are RANDOM) things that have been mulling around in my head lately:

  • My idea of what success looks like is much different now even than 6 months ago.
  • Organization, and being neat, isn’t my strong suit but I’m really working on it.
  • How to use failure to fall forward.
  • I wanted to quit social media. And the internet. But then I changed my perspective. Stay tuned for that story…
  • Going through a divorce and being a single mother has wrecked me in the best way possible.
  • I think it’s safe to say I’ve learned more in the past 2 years than almost all of my life combined. It’s been Kristen Steele on steroids.
  • HOPE. This word has been my banner word for several years. I’m in a very hopeful season right now!
  • Learning how to love again has brought out all of my deep, dark fears.
  • Refusing to live in fear but walk in love is so much easier said than done, but it’s so worth it.
  • I’ve had to say goodbye to people I love way more than I like recently and that makes me sad.
  • Hearing a toddler laugh and squeal will make almost anything better.
  • A toddler biting you will make almost anything worse, haha.
  • Laughing, happy seasons of life are amazing.
  • Dieting and making the transition to clean eating isn’t easy, but I’m hoping it’s worth it… In the meantime, I miss ice cream.
  • Surrendering my ‘ideal weight’ and learning to be gracious with myself is very hard.
  • Dating again after almost 10 years is hilarious.

That about covers some of the main themes that I’ve been thinking about recently and I can’t wait to share more about what SURRENDER looks like for me in this season.

#InfluenceConf Meet Kristen Steele

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Next week I will be packing up my stuff and heading to the Influence Conference with 300 other bloggers, but in the meantime here’s a quick online introduction!

A Little About Me
I’m Kristen, a Spunky Southern girl and a native Nashvillian. I’m a single mama to the sweetest 15-month-old bumbling baby boy I lovingly call “Baby J.” I’m walking out of the hardest few years of my life after the crumbling of my marriage and a hard divorce. But right now, I’m in an amazing season of watching God REDEEM hard, messy things.

I’m what I like to call a multi-passionate creative entrepreneur! By day I’m the Digital Publicist at B&H Publishing and I absolutely love it. I get to oversee the social media and email marketing for our amazing books that we publish by some of your favorite authors like Angie Smith, Priscilla Shirer, Beth Moore and Candace Cameron Bure. I get to manage Selma Wilson’s blog, our awesome President. But the part that YOU will want to know about is I manage our BH Bloggers program. More about that below…

I also blog here on Graciously Authentic about faith, motherhood/co-parenting, technology and more! I’m the Co-Founder of Graciously Authentic Media, a Rodan+Fields skincare consultant and a photographer. I love all of my passions and they all (somehow!) mesh together in my head well! :)

I started blogging years ago, then I kept writing because it helped me journey through a really hard time, and now I’m in a new season of analyzing. I love writing, but now my motives are different. I’m excited to hear from the incredible speakers and know I’ll get some wisdom about what my next steps should be.

What am are you most excited about?
I’m most excited about manning the B&H Publishing booth and getting to meet all of YOU! I’ve been a member of the Influence network’s forums for a while now and cannot WAIT to get to hug all of you in person (I’m TOTALLY a hugger!!) and share about how through the BH Bloggers program you can get books for your blog to review and giveaway. (So awesome, right??)

I’m coming by myself and other than a couple of friends, I don’t know ANYONE. So don’t be a stranger – reach out. I absolutely love meeting new friends!

Nashville Meetup!
I love that as part of the conference they have included a time on Saturday for meetups with other bloggers from your area. I have organized an event for any Nashville/Middle TN area bloggers OR anyone who’s from an area that doesn’t have an organized meetup. Come join us!!

REGISTER FOR THE MEETUP HERE

What wouldn’t you leave home without?
I wouldn’t leave home without my iPad with its keyboard. It’s so easy to bring around with me and I type so much faster than I write out in my notebook. But I sure do love my moleskine notebook too!

I also won’t leave home without my miracle-working eye cream. Traveling always takes a toll on you, and after that late night black + white party, I’ll need it! ;)

CONNECT WITH ME: InstagramFacebookTwitter • Pinterest

p.s. If you like Twitter lists, I’ve created one for the Influence Conference 2014. Subscribe to follow along with us easily. Tweet @me if you want to be added and you’re not on the list yet!

Doing Too Much and Sabbath Rest

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I have a confession.

I have a confession: I have a problem with doing TOO MUCH. My calendar these days has been filled to the brim with that cutie up there and so much more. Now granted, they are all good things, things I want to be doing. But I’ve hit my limit. It’s too much.

This Spring and Summer has been full of happiness. JOY is abundant in my life as I have gotten to soak up time with my guys, friends and family. I look around sometimes and my heart just bursts. When I see my little guy reaching for me because he wants me to hold him, or I walk hand in hand with my boyfriend… these are the moments that I have longed for, the moments that in my darkest times I wasn’t sure I’d see.

(more…)

10 Things I Learned from my 10 Year Reunion

This past weekend I went to my 10 year high school reunion and boy it was fun! A few of my closest girl friends and I helped plan the whole event, and from it I learned some valuable things.

10-Things-I Learned

What do I remember about life with these friends? Our class was small – I graduated with 99 people – most of whom I went to both middle school and high school with, so we all knew each other fairly well. The short version is that we grew up in a very wealthy community. A place where it was easy to hide behind stuff and ended up being very fake and surface-level. I remember never feeling like I fit in (story of all of our middle school/high school lives, right??). I was good at a lot of things but didn’t excel as a shooting star in just one. So that made me the honor student, swim captain who was in the plays and musicals, worked at Sonic as a carhop. I was all around great at being all around. :) So going back to see friends I hadn’t seen in forever, I was naturally a little nervous. A lot of these friends I hadn’t seen in a long time, and some of them I wasn’t even friends with in the first place. Turns out I had nothing to be anxious about!  (more…)

Recommended Reading for Journeying Through Hard Times

As y’all know, I LOVE to read. I’m usually reading no less than 5 or 6 different books at once. Heck, I work for a PUBLISHER for crying out loud! Many of you have reached out to me for book recommendations. I have emailed you or messaged you back individually, but this week alone I’ve had four different requests so that means it’s time for a blog post!

Introducing

The following is a comprehensive list of all the books that have meant a lot to me over the past few years of walking through the journey of hard marriage times, separation, divorce, loneliness and becoming a single mom. Some of them are specific to those subjects, and some of them are broader but have been inspirational and encouraging to me. If you’re overwhelmed by the breadth of this list here are the three I’d recommend you start with: (more…)

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