When Rob and I got married, we decided that every New Years Eve we would make a list of our top ten moments, experiences, or things about the current year and a list of the top ten we are most looking forward to for the next. I have a TERRIBLE memory, so this has also been a great exercise of remembering and reflecting on all that filled our year together. I take a lot of pictures (iPhone and Canon), so this year I decided to share my top ten of 2015 with pictures! I hope that you all had a year full of personal and spiritual growth, friendship and family, and adventure and exploration. I also pray that 2016 and the natural new beginning of a new year brings hope and healing to those that have had a really hard year. Much love!
10. My last day at ELS! I loved my job working with international students in Greenville, as I enjoyed the opportunity to meet and serve people from all over the world and share our beliefs, culture, SO MUCH FOOD, and friendship with them. I am thankful for all that God taught me about myself through that job and all the wonderful people I met, but I am excited for this new chapter…which brings me to number 9!
In two weeks I will once again be a full time student! I am pursuing a Masters of Social Work online through Western New Mexico University…Go Mustangs!?! 🙂 During my year with ELS, I learned that my favorite part of the job was serving the students who had the hardest time adjusting to life in America. I’ve been interested in counseling/social work for a few years and felt like now was the right time to go for it! So, yay grad school!!!
8. Rivers of Justice!
I am so thankful for this anti-human trafficking organization! (More info can be found at http://www.riversofjustice.org !) In 2015 we put on the first annual Stop Trafficking in South Carolina Conference in Greenville to increase education and launched an awareness billboard campaign near the I-85 turn off in Pendleton and Greenville! It has been so sweet and rewarding to use my gifts and time to prevent and raise awareness about Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking. I was inducted into the Board of Directors, served as the Volunteer Coordinator at the conference, and was the photographer/graphic designer for the billboard campaign. What a joy! We’ve had so many people email us saying that they learned about trafficking from our billboards! P.S. If you’re in the area, we are sponsoring The Hope Conference: Stop Trafficking in South Carolina on January 9th, 2016. We also have some things in the works for 2016 that I am PUMPED about!
7. 100 new successful recipes in our first year of marriage!
When Rob and I got married in May of 2014, a typical Lauren dinner was frozen pizza or chips and salsa. I’m not kidding. I obviously knew that needed to change when we were married (who knew that men need food of sustenance?!), so I set a goal for myself to cook 100 successful, “I would make this again” recipes in our first year of marriage. I began to love cooking/baking so much that I actually finished within 9 months. Oops. To be honest, about half of my successful recipes were sweets since I bake at least once or twice a week for church community groups. But still! Learning to cook has been so much more than eating good-tasting meals. It has opened up so many ways for us to serve and host people in our home. Cooking well has encouraged our hearts of hospitality and given way to so many wonderful conversations and laughs at the table. Maybe I’ll write a post later with my top meals, because I just love them so much! And so does Rob. 🙂
6. Crosspoint Church!
Wow, we are thankful for this church for so many reasons: our own spiritual growth, opportunities to use our gifts to serve the local church and community, leading a college community group, and friendships that feel more like family. I could go on and on about how God has abundantly provided, blessed, challenged, and encouraged us through the work, vision, and community at Crosspoint Church. Hallelujah!
5. All the visitors, weddings we attended, and trips we took!
So this little collage isn’t my favorite, but you get the picture! We were blessed to travel for weddings, family reunions, holidays, and fun getaways with friends. Destinations included Nashville (like 5 times lol), Fayetteville, Hot Springs, Gulfport, Little Rock, Charleston, Asheville (multiple times too), Jacksonville, and Knoxville. We hosted our parents and friends many times and LOVED showing them a piece of our lives in Clemson. Here’s to saving money to spend it on weekend trips with the people we love so dearly!!!! 🙂
Oh Italy, how I love you. My mom retired this summer and her dream was to take our family on a trip to Europe, so we did it! (Side note: My mom is incredibly generous and thoughtful. You should meet her, because Momma Steele is the gem of all gems.) We spent three days in Rome, two in Tuscany, and two in Cinque Terre. I’m pretty sure I’ll spend the rest of my life dreaming about how to get back to Cinque Terre. It’s AMAZING, people. Add it to your bucket list, go, and then go again. I am so proud of my mom for who she is and all that she has accomplished in her career, and I’m so thankful we were able to have this amazing experience together.
3. LC Photography!
I’m sure you guessed that this was coming… 🙂 Starting up LC Photography has been a brainchild for a while, but it finally came to fruition a month or two ago. After going photo crazy in Italy (no one can blame me for that, right?), taking pictures at Crosspoint events, and family photos for some friends of ours, I found myself wanting to take pictures for people all the time. I’ll be honest though. I was really scared. Scared of failure and crippled by comparison (“I’ll never be as good as ‘fill in the blank'”). One of my favorite quotes ever is from Theodore Roosevelt who said, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” Yes, yes it is. Every now and then you just have to throw all caution to the wind (emotionally…Trust me I did a LOT of research about actually starting a business lol) and go for something. So here I am! It has been a JOY so far, and I am thankful for all of you that have trusted me to photograph special moments in your lives. I can’t wait to see what 2016 brings for LC Photography!
2. First Anniversary!
Our first year of marriage has been a full one. Of course we knew that going in, since I graduated, got married a week later, moved me to Florida where Rob finished his Masters, and two months later moved to Clemson. (May – August 2014) We knew that starting over would force us to press into the Lord and each other, but we really didn’t expect it to be so hard. We’re both relatively extroverted, so we would have no problem making new besties, right? Wrong. Lauren is smart and has a great resume, so she should have no problem finding a job, right? Wrong. We vowed to communicate when we feel hurt or wronged by one another, so we would always be on the same page, right? Wrong. We both loved the Lord and were striving to be transformed by the gospel, so serving and loving one another sacrificially should be pretty easy, right? Wrong. Okay, you get it. I’m sure many of you have similar stories and experiences in learning how to live with, love, serve, and care for your spouse. There were hard moments when I felt we just didn’t understand each other at all, but Praise God that he has kept us in grace. It is truly the gospel, the love of Jesus, and the commitment we made to Him and to each other that we always come back to. I am so thankful for Rob. That he is a man of God, has known the forgiveness of the Father and so forgives me; has known the love of the Son and so loves me. WE ALSO HAD SO MUCH FUN. Moving into a house, cooking together, hosting so many games nights that I can’t count, spontaneous dates, playing tennis, serving in the nursery at church, leading a college small group, etc. No one has ever made me laugh so hard and encouraged me to be thankful and joyful in the mundane. Marriage is fun, and I am so glad that I have a partner in Rob. The second picture above is from our anniversary trip to Asheville, NC. We stayed in a little airbnb cabin, and it was so funky! We loved it. We hiked, ate really good food, explored downtown, and went to the farmers market. Happy Anniversary to us, indeed. 🙂
1. Grace, Growth, and Glory
Considering all the change that 2015 brought us, I would have expected myself to feel closer to the Lord. And I think that I do but in a very different way than I have in the past. This year I focused on understanding the storyline of Scripture. I read books, attended an Equip class at our church literally titled “The Storyline of Scripture” (lol), and spent time in discipleship with college girls focusing on how to read the Bible as a story of God redeeming people to himself for his glory. The Lord has given me grace to pursue a deeper relationship with Him and understanding of His Word despite how I feel. This in turn has grown me so much more in my faith and ability to communicate truth in all circumstances. I have spiritual goals for myself in 2016 and areas of my life that I continually take back instead of surrender to him, so I pray that 2016 is a year of learning to fear the Lord, abiding in Him, and declaring His gospel and goodness to those around me in boldness.