Tag Archives: advice

10 Tips for Planning Your Trip to Europe

If you’re reading this post, there’s a good chance you have an incredible trip to Europe coming up. I must admit, I’m a little envious. My month-long trip to Europe with my besties last summer was seriously one of the highlights of my life. I wish I could do a trip like that every year. I truly think about the memories we made every day! So, world-traveler, it’s time to get EXCITED and start PLANNING!

11693927_10153892249477176_6358979501306166226_n.jpg

Are you the planning type? Let’s be honest, planning a trip to Europe can seem pretty daunting if you aren’t type A. Luckily, I am, and planning this huge trip was, yes stressful, but also so much fun. We went to 5 different countries, 8+ cities, had to figure out the maze of transportation, and were working on a TIGHT budget. But hey, we did it and did it well. So friends, if you’re about to sit down and nail out your own trip, let me offer some advice to ease the stress. Here are some tips I learned after planning our own trip to Europe last year.

  1. Grab a friend and make some lists:
    Whether your traveling with your significant other or traveling with a group, put your heads together and brainstorm all the places you may want to visit on your trip. When we started planning, the first thing we did was browse Pinterest and see what countries really sparked our interest. It’s important to consider everyone’s contribution and make sure you hit places everyone wants to see. We crossed off places, added new ones, and finally had a concrete list that worked with our time frame. We opted for spending more time in less places. I highly recommend this. We had more time to experience the culture of each place, plus, it really cut down on our travel costs.
  2. Plan out your ‘musts’:
    As fun as it is leaving room to explore in each city (more about that on number 8), it’s so important to nail down the things you really want to see while in each city and country. For me, a day at the Vatican was a priority. Even though we only had 3 days there, we made sure to do all our research about this place we knew we wanted to see. It was a good thing we did, because we realized we were able to buy tickets online which saved us literally hours and hours of waiting time.hbkspain-38
  3. Figure out your budget – This is probably the hardest part of planning out a Europe trip – figuring out the budget. Depending on where you are in life, you may have a really luxurious trip, or a really budget-friendly trip like we did. Our budget for four weeks in Europe after purchasing our plane tickets was $2500 for four weeks. We had to sacrifice a little here and there, but overall this budget is completely do-able. We worked our butts off saving enough to do this trip and a trip like this was hands-down the best way to spend your money. You wont regret a penny.It’s important to know in advance where your money will be going. That’s a huge reason we decided to book the majority of transportation and stay before. That way, we already knew what we were spending and could better budget out our days accordingly.

    We mostly ate breakfast at home in the mornings, cooked dinner at home some nights (Shopping at local markets is an experience in and of itself. It really makes you feel like a local), shared plates at restaurants, and left a little wiggle room for nicer dinners. It’s completely do-able, you just have to get a little more creative when on a smaller budget. On average, we budgeted about 30 euro a day per person on food. Some days we spent more, some days we spent less, but it’s always nice to overestimate than underestimate.

    hbklondon-14

  4. Grab your type a friend and get ready to get detailed – As I mentioned above, I was the type A friend of the group, and I highly recommend that if you aren’t type A, to bring in someone who is. There are so many little details that need to be planned, so it really helps to have another person there who is a little more naturally inclined to notice them and help plan them out.Do your research on each city, noting different neighborhoods and places to go, researching if there’s anything you need to buy in advance. Getting an idea of what you’d like to do will really help you estimate how much you will be spending. A great source for me was pinterest. There are a ton of blogs that have laid out travel tips and expenses. See what I’ve pinned here, it may be of help to you!

    When researching transportation to and from each city, pay attention to every possible route. Sometimes, it may be cheaper to fly from Paris to Rome than from Rome to Paris. Seeing these difference will help you identify the best route for your trip. Additionally, be sure to check on prices every day. They regularly fluctuate.

  5. Pick one person to make most bookings and transactions – This was something that really worked well for us. I was usually the person to make the bookings for travel and stay because I was a big part of the planning process. It made things a lot easier, because instead of there being a lot of loose ends between travelers, everything is concise with one person. After the bookings (pre-trip), I just totaled up what I had spent and divided it by three. We used the square cash app to pay each other back.italy-39
  6. Book your stay – Everyone travels differently. I heard from some people that fine details like hostels and hotels can be booked on the fly, giving you flexibility while you’re there. Through my experience, I completely disagree. There was SO much stress and worry and time saved on our trip by having our stay pre-booked. We had one instance in which we didn’t know where we would stay for the night. Figuring out where we would stay in peak-season took so much time and energy, wasting time we could have been exploring the city! That being said, I recommend booking your stay (or as much of it as you can) before you hop on your plan to Europe. This is where setting your dates in step 4 comes in handy.Instead of hostels, like most of our fellow travelers did, we opted for airbnb’s. For some, hostels are a great way to meet new people, but for this trip, we really wanted quality time with each other, which a private apartment provided. This was seriously the best decision we could have made. It was so nice to have our own space to come home to, privacy and security for our belongings, and gave us the true cultural experience. In peak season, most of the time, staying in a hostel was equal-priced or more expensive than splitting an airbnb 3 ways.

    Sometimes, though, airbnb’s weren’t always so easy to book. When we just needed a place, Hotwire was an incredible resource. On hotwire, you put in where you are wanting to stay, and it gives you a list of hotels in the region without their names. The downside is that you don’t quite know what the hotel is called until you book it, but the upside is that you get a WAY cheaper price this way. It’s not like you’re booking in the dark though, when picking the place, it gives you the neighborhood it’s located in, price, and customer reviews. We had great experiences with it!

    italy-45

  7. Book your transportation – For the same reasons I recommend booking your stay before your trip, I also recommend booking your transportation. Let me say this first: Figuring out trains in Europe was probably one of the hardest things to manuver. So, if you’re wanting to pull your hair out, you aren’t alone. It was definitely confusing. While planes were definitely a more comfortable route, traveling by train is so much fun.
    By train: For our train transportation, we ordered a Eurail pass. This pass MUST be ordered before your trip. The site can be pretty confusing, so really allow yourself time to sift through it and see what is the best option for you. Since we were going to less places for more time, an unlimited pass didn’t make sense for us. Instead, we did a select pass that allowed 4 trips. For the rest of the transportation we needed, we went by plane.
    By plane: Traveling by plane was definitely, for the most part, a more comfortable option since it was familiar. We did a lot of our flights through Ryanair. We heard some negative things about flying with them, but our trips with them were actually a great experience!
  8. Leave your days open for adventure – As much as I recommend planning ahead on the big things, be sure to leave each day open to adventure. Sure, there will be a few things in each city that are a must-see, but wandering around, adventuring, and exploring are half the fun! Savor each moment.hbkspain-30
  9. Make copies of your documents – Travel tip 101, be sure to make copies of all your documents or take a photo of them on your phone. Passport and credit card are important things to have copies of. Send pictures of these copies to relatives so that if you loose your phone, you have a backup!
  10. Take a deep breath – Planning a trip to Europe can be overwhelming and stressful,  I know firsthand. But this is going to be a trip you will remember forever. Take a deep breath and just know that regardless of if you have every wrinkle ironed out, this is going to be a trip for the books. Enjoy the process and don’t be afraid to ask for help!

I hope these tips helped you in your planning process! Now grab a cup of coffee, read through your favorite travel blogs, and get excited because you’re going to Europe!

LOVESTRUCK Sessions: Jen + Aubrey

Aubrey and Jen are those people who you want in conversation with as long as possible. Those type of people whose joy and passion is so contagious, it leaves you with a brighter outlook on the world around you. They are that couple you sit with and can’t help but notice, that after almost twelve years of marriage, they still look at each other with those awe-struck, in-love-with-you eyes.

I first met Aubrey and Jen when I was in high school. Aubrey was actually the first person to ever give me a chance with a microphone. He taught me about music, songwriting, and the true heart of worship. You couldn’t fully know Aubrey without knowing Jen.Jen has that sweet southern drawl paired with a bubbly attitude you just can’t get enough of. They’re incredible individuals, but even more amazing together. They’re a couple whose as wide as they are deep, whose bright smiles and warm personalities are merely a gateway into depths of love, sacrifice, and stories of life well lived.

I’m so excited for these two to share their story with you. Grab a cup of coffee, maybe a tissue or two (if you’re a romantic like me), and enjoy diving deep into the hearts of these two lovebirds.

mcgowan-185

Q: How did you two meet?
HER: We met in children’s church a looooong time ago! We were not volunteers…we were children.
HIM: She was my first girlfriend, but unfortunately that only lasted a short time. One time during a service though I did work up the nerve to make a smooth move and put my arm around her. #foreshadowing

Q: What’s your favorite memory together?
HER: I’m gonna go textbook here…our wedding day & the days our 3 littles entered the world!
HIM: One valentine’s day when we were kids, I gave her a new DC Talk cassette tape and she gave me some red wax lips! What?!?!? Oh, and every anniversary we watch our wedding video. It really was a special day with so many of our family and friends.

mcgowan-171

Q: When did you first know you were in love?
HIM: I saw Jen across the courtyard on her first day at the college we both attended. The sun was shining down on her and she did this slow motion hair flip thing! Yes!
HER: It took me a little longer to “see the light!” After much persistence and romance on his part, it finally dawned on me that I was missing the best thing that had ever happened to me. As cheesy as it sounds…the first time he kissed me, I knew he was the one!

Q: How did he propose?
HIM: I took her to the performance hall at the college where we had sung and performed a lot together. My mom helped me decorate the stage. It was late one night and I acted like we were sneaking in to reminisce. We danced on the stage and I sang her a song I had written for her. Then I pulled a box out from under a little table on stage and got down on my knee.
HER: He tricked me by taking me to O’Charleys. I remember thinking “surely this isn’t it because he wouldn’t bring me here!” Haha! (I do remember thinking it was weird that he didn’t eat much.) After he proposed, we drove to my sister’s house where he pulled off a huge surprise engagement party. It was risky on his part but I LOVED celebrating with family & friends!

mcgowan-279

Q: What’s the biggest thing you’ve learned from one another over the years?
HER: Oh goodness! How to love…I mean really love! This guy has more patience than Job (thank goodness, for my sake!) He has given me so much more grace than I deserve! He’s not perfect but he loves Jesus like nobody I’ve ever known & he makes me want to be a better person everyday!
HIM: Don’t sweep anything under the rug. Get it out in the open. Relentlessly eliminate hidden frustration or misunderstanding.

Q: What’s your favorite quality in eachother?
HIM: 
I love that she is a woman of great integrity.(And that she’s the most beautiful woman in the world.)
HER: His work ethic, his integrity & his discipline!

mcgowan-68

Q: What is a word or theme you feel that has marked your marriage thus far?
HIM: Unity – We often talk about how grateful we are for how unified we feel on most every decision…. from paint colors to parenting-styles.
HER: I agree…unity! Such a gift!

Q: What does it mean to love?
HIM:  To love requires two things: To always believe in and pursue an ever-deepening relationship with them and to fight hard against anything that could pull you apart.
HER: Love is a choice…everyday. To be unselfish & to put someone else’s desires before your own. To be willing to say I’m sorry or I was wrong & forgive. Pretty much all the things that don’t come naturally! Spending time with Jesus sure helps because He is love!!

“Love requires two things: to always believe in and pursue an ever-deepening relationship with them and to fight hard against anything that could pull you apart.”

mcgowan-51

Q: What are some of your dreams for the future?
THEM: That our kids will grow up so strong in their character and clear in their identity that they will thrive in the future they are living in. We want to take an RV tour around the country writing and sharing songs and stories about the people we meet. We want to live a lifestyle of adventure. Possibly another McGowan?!

mcgowan-49

Q: What is some of your advice for a healthy, successful marriage?
HIM: Don’t stop looking at each other in the eyes. When you start looking away, out of anger, shame, fear, etc. it is easy to grow apart. Take time to look each other in the eyes. Then, dig up the truth and express your heart; good or bad. Don’t water it down. Trust each other enough to open let each other see inside.
HER: Be vulnerable & honest…always honest. Keep falling in love & making your marriage a priority. Pray together. Communicate & then communicate some more! Give grace in big heaps!

“Don’t stop looking at each other in the eyes. When you start looking away, out of anger, shame, fear, etc. it is easy to grow apart. Take time to look each other in the eyes. Then, dig up the truth and express your heart; good or bad. Don’t water it down. Trust each other enough to open let each other see inside.”

mcgowan-3

You can find Aubrey and Jen at Song and Story.

Photography by Lindsey Johnson Photography

Dreamers + Achievers: Kevin Frey of Puritan Brew Co.

Puritan Brew Company, though new to the town, has already made a heavy impact on the community of Fayetteville. As a coffee and beer destination, Puritan continues to be a gathering place both day and night for meetings, studying, conversation, a morning caffeine boost or a local beer spot to end your day. Personally, I have loved the addition of Puritan to our little town. I’m always welcomed by familiar faces when I step in the door, and have loved seeing the community that Puritan has cultivated. Kevin Frey, owner of Puritan Brew Company, has taken the time to share a little about his journey in opening up his own coffee + beer shop, the ups and downs of owning your own business, and fears he has conquered along the way.


1. Where did the idea for Puritan come from?

Ultimately Puritan came from the love of people. We wanted to see people come together over a quality drink and in a space that encouraged conversation.

KevinPuritan-11

2. Have you always wanted to be a business owner?
I always wanted to do something that Im passionate about and that pushed me to be creative. I grew up with an entrepreneurial father who instilled a lot of wisdom and knowledge when it comes to the business world, so when dreaming about what I would do “when I grew up” the idea of being my own boss and making my own schedule didn’t sound too bad. So, I think in a way, I’ve always wanted to be a business owner.

KevinPuritan-6KevinPuritan-7

3. What are some things in your past, big and small, that helped you in the process of opening Puritan?
Watching important people in my life fail, get back up, and try again. I grew up watching my father truly believe in his businesses and put everything he had on the line to start them. There is a big step between dreaming and then actually doing. Im a dreamer, and by watching my father I saw first hand the courage it takes to actually step out and pursue your dreams.

KevinPuritan-4KevinPuritan-3

4. What are the most difficult and rewarding things about being a business owner?
I think those go hand-in-hand. There is nothing like the feeling of walking into a place that is “yours” or taking home a paycheck that comes from a place that you love and worked hard to build but on the flip side you have to make the tough calls, you have to fire people, you have to take the risks.

KevinPuritan-8

5. What has been the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
Every time I see my grandfather he says, “Do the best you can with what you have everyday and leave the outcome to the Lord.” – I don’t think there is a better piece of advice.

KevinPuritan-5

6. What encouragement or advice would you give to others who have dreams of opening up their own business?
Surround yourself with people that are smarter, older, wiser and more blunt than you. If I wasn’t surrounded by people that know more than me and that have more life experience than I do then Puritan would not exist.

Also, it’s so important that failure is acknowledged as an outcome but that can’t get in the way of your dreams. We had to see it through, even if we fell straight on our faces, because we believe in it. We believe that people enjoying conversation, a quiet corner, a cold beer, a good book, a delicious cappuccino, whatever, is worth the risk. Don’t let fear of failure hold you back.

KevinPuritan-13

7. Best memory of Puritan so far?
We are surrounded by an incredible group of friends and family and without them Puritan would not have been possible, but seeing strangers catch the vision of Puritan has been the most rewarding thing. I remember about three weeks after we opened looking around and realizing that I only knew 1 of the 40 or 50 people inside. That was an amazing feeling.

KevinPuritan-10

8. What is your definition of success? Success is getting to do what I love. I know that may be cliche but that’s the truth. There is nothing better than getting to do what you are passionate about.
 KevinPuritan-15

Dreamers + Achievers: Maura Griesse of Maura Dawn Photography

Born & raised in Fayetteville, Arkansas, Maura Griesse has made her mark on Northwest Arkansas, both as a photographer and an active member in the community. From a young age, Maura has been passionate about photography, and is using that passion to fuel her business, Maura Dawn Photography. Maura has roots in NWA, specializing in family, portrait, wedding, and fashion photography, but has recently expanded her territory and influence globally, shooting for Dubai Fashion Week and Judith & James in Kenya. Maura has an incredible gift, and has stewarded it exceptionally well, impacting the lives of the people she works with every day. Today, she’s here to share some of her experiences in running her own business.

Maura Dawn-1

1. When did you first know you wanted to be a photographer?
When I was in the 9th grade. I became the photo editor of the Ramay Jr. High yearbook staff. Haha. But seriously. Ever since then it was my dream to become a professional photographer.

Maura Dawn-5

2. What we’re some of the small, difficult steps that you had to walk in order to get to where you are today?
Goodness. I’m not the most business minded or administratively gifted person. So that has been a struggle and HUGE sharpening experience for me to learn to do it well.

Maura Dawn-4

3. What are the main ways you have changed as a photographer from the first time you started your business until now?
My style has changed and evolved into something I am completely proud of. For the beginning of most amateur photographers “careers” it’s incredibly hard to not copy or compare yourselves to other successful professionals. It was so important to me even as a 19 year old to not copy another artist. It made it harder at the start but I love that I can proudly say I started my business honestly. My style wasn’t the cleanest, pretty posey and very saturated. As I grew I became more confident in how to work my camera and with that my individual style blossomed.

Maura Dawn-7

4. What are some of the most difficult and rewarding things about working for yourself?
One of the most rewarding things about working for myself is having the freedom to shoot whenever I want. Whether it’s just for fun by myself or a shoot for a client. I’m the one that makes my schedule. So much freedom. It is an amazing blessing to get to run your own dream job, especially at my age. Trying my hardest to not take it for granted. One of the most difficult things about working for myself has been time management. See how those both go hand in hand? Vicious cycles can ensue if I’m not careful. Still learning how to do this better.

Maura Dawn-6

5. What do you love about photography?
I love capturing that one magical perfect moment.. Over and over. I LOVE meeting new people and hearing their stories. I just love people in general. And love talking. I love that feeling knowing I have helped make my client comfortable and confident in front of the camera. I also love Jesus and He is truly the reason my business is successful and my clients are comfortable.

Maura Dawn-8

6. What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
Pray before each and every shoot. Helps calm me down and focus on the One who gave me this gift. This helps me be less prideful by placing The Lord before myself. He guides me on shoots. Thank goodness.

Maura Dawn-3

7. What advice would you give to others wanting to do freelance work full-time?
This is the hardest job to have if you are wanting a perfectly consistent salary. Especially starting out. Keep your mind open and money managed to help get you through the slower months. If this is something you feel called to do then be bold and tackle it head on. Don’t do it halfway. If you’re making this your full-time job then put in the full-time hours. It is really easy to let the day slip into nothingness when you don’t have the accountability to punch a clock. Own it and do it well.

Maura Dawn-2

*Side Note
: I must say, I’m a big fan of Mrs. Maura Griesse. She’s my boss, and one of the sweetest, selfless, intentional people I’ve ever worked with & known. Thanks for being great, Maura. I’m continually learning from the way you do life, faith, and business. Love ya x

Dreamers + Achievers: Trisha Logan of Shindig Paperie

Trisha Logan is a wife, mom, designer, and small-business owner out of Fayetteville, Arkansas. Her store, Shindig Paperie is an eclectic shop filled with beautiful prints, stationery, and various paper goods. In addition, Shindig offers a variety of invitation design services for brides, events, and more. Trisha and her shop have made a beautiful mark on downtown Fayetteville (and Bentonville!), and today she is here to share her story.

Shindig-3Shindig-5

1. How did Shindig Paperie begin? I was working as a designer/creative director for a paper company that was experiencing a lot of change. My good friend, a sales rep in the paper/gift industry, and I sat around and talked into the wee hours of the evening several times about opening a dreamy little paper shop in Fayetteville until we finally decided to bring our ideas into reality. A great little affordable space off Dickson Street came open and we had 48 hours to decide if we wanted to take it, and we did. Thus, Shindig was born.

Shindig-13Shindig-2

2. What were some jobs you had before deciding to open Shindig, and how did they aid you in the process of opening up the store? I worked in apparel product development for a big box retailer, which was my first job out of graduate school. After taking maternity leave with my first child, I really didn’t relish the notion of returning to the corporate grind, and I lucked into a job working from home as a pattern/print designer for a paper company. I spent nine years with that company before opening Shindig. 

Shindig-20Shindig-17

3. How has the store evolved over the past couple years? Firstly, my business partner moved away 7 months after we opened and sold her interest in the store back to me, which was a major change. At that time I decided to leave my job and focus on Shindig full time. We also moved from our original tiny location to our current one on Block Street. Currently, we’re opening our second location in Bentonville. We are opening that shop on April 3rd and are super excited about it! 

Shindig-8Shindig-6

4. What are the most difficult and rewarding things about being a business owner? Time management is the most difficult, without a doubt. I wear so many different hats, just as a business owner, and that’s not even touching on my responsibilities to my family. It’s extremely hard to juggle all of the different roles. Conversely, that’s also probably one of the most rewarding aspects: juggling all those roles, being my own boss, and getting to shape the vision for Shindig.

Shindig-14

5. Best memory with Shindig so far? Being a part of so many people’s momentous occasions. Weddings, births, birthdays and celebrations are awesome events that lead to a lot of excitement. It’s an honor to get to hear their life and love stories, which are all so different.  

Shindig-16

6. What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received? A friend of mine recently told me, “Just focus on the excitement and it will drive the success.” That’s really helped me to get through the process of growing the business. There’s a lot of self doubt and stress and worry that comes with growth and change, but so much of that doubt is unproductive. It’s way more productive to stay positive and enthusiastic.

Shindig-19

7. What are some of your favorite things to do in your free time? Free time? What’s that? Okay, that was a totally cliche answer, but I seriously don’t get a whole lot of free time. When I do, of course I spend time with my family. We try to leave town on weekends that I don’t work. My boys both love music, art and anything involving the outdoors so our weekends usually involve those activities. If we stay in town and at our house, work tends to find me. I also love design research through print/magazines, online or popping in shops and galleries/museums whenever I am on the road. 

Shindig-10

8. How do you stay creatively inspired and motivated? I’m not always creatively inspired or motivated. There’s a natural ebb and flow for creativity, and I think that recognizing that cycle is healthy. I’d like to say there’s a perfect way to stay motivated and creative, but there’s really not. I guess the important thing is to really embrace the times when you’re feeling motivated and creative. Maximize the potential of those times. The other times, just slog away at it. You never know when inspiration might strike, but it’s not going to strike if you’re not open to it.

Shindig-21Shindig-18

9. What is some encouragement or advice that you would give to others who are thinking of one day opening up their own small business? Stay true to your vision. Don’t get wrapped up in competition and what other businesses are doing. Also, be honest with yourself about your strengths and weaknesses and develop a plan to address those deficiencies.

Shindig-24

thought life.

Lately, I’ve been feeling quite the lack of inspiration. It’s been pretty cold and gloomy here, keeping me indoors, which I feel like can keep you in a box, far from creativity. Now’s the time, if ever, to keep creativity and inspiration flowing.

10899534_576511042484236_1500923874_n

Do you ever go through these dry patches in your creativity or inspiration? I know it’s an ebb and flow for me. How do you keep yourself from getting burnt out? How do you embrace seasons where creativity is lacking? 

11024346_1407578642879589_438807203_n-1

Here are a few ways I’ve learned to keep myself inspired, or to be okay with seasons that lack in creativity:

Be Present: Often times, it’s easy to overlook our day to day routine as a place for inspiration. We get used to the people, colors, things around us. Sometimes, all you need is a fresh perspective on what’s right in front of you.

Explore New Places: I love taking trips to new places. It’s such a fun way to be inspired, meet other creatives, and just see what all the world and people have to offer. However, traveling isn’t always the most affordable or realistic option. Luckily, our own cities are filled with places we’ve never heard of or been to. I know for me, I’ve lived in Fayetteville for 4 years, and there’s still SO much left to uncover. Going to new places right where you are is an affordable way to have the same inspiration affects of traveling!

Do Something Creative, Even When You Don’t Feel Like It: It’s so easy when you’re in a creative slump to just push off that side of you. The best way to combat a lack of creativity is to make a constant effort to channel even a LITTLE part of your creativity. Maybe it’s doodling, maybe it’s taking time to style an outfit in a new way, or maybe it’s as simple as changing up your daily routine.

Let The Internet Be Creative For You: Even if we feel uninspired, inspiration and creativity is at our fingertips with the beautiful use of the internet. For me, browsing through my favorite blogs, Pinterest, or digital magazines helps me get inspired. It’s amazing how other people’s creativity can spur you on into your own.

10986043_352236874971112_37636855_n

How do you stay inspired when you’re in a creative rut?

LOVESTRUCK Sessions: Michael + Hannah Clark

Michael and Hannah Clark have one of the most romantic, unique, one-of-a-kind love stories I’ve ever seen or heard. I have had the pleasure of knowing Michael in the midst of his pursuit, his steadfast love for Hannah while she was halfway around the world. Because so much of their relationship had its foundation built apart, today, both Michael and Hannah will share their side of the same story. It’s a beautiful story of love, a love that is patient, never gives up, never looses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every  circumstance. 

LOVESTRUCKClarks-2 LOVESTRUCKClarks-8
HER: We met at 15. We can’t agree on the moment we first met, but one of my first memories of Michael Clark was at a football game fall of sophomore year. We were casually chatting about HS things and I was sipping some McAlister’s sweet tea. I had just taken a big gulp when he said something that made me laugh. I spewed my tea all over him and it was enough to prompt him to message me on FB. Thus it began. I would get home from school, fight for my rights to the family desktop, and we would message back and forth. I could tell a million stories from HS, like how he asked me out in Barnes and Noble, the Moulin Rouge soundtrack playing in my ears, or the first time we held hands in a movie theater and he hogged the arm rest. But in truth, we broke up and “moved on”.

LOVESTRUCKClarks-6LOVESTRUCKClarks-11

For four years people moved in and out of our lives, some we thought we loved, and some who just hurt us in the end. But it was all part of the story, and it shaped us, prepared us somehow. I was a student at the University of Alabama when the mile-wide tornado ravaged our city. It was in the midst of chaos and sophomore year coming to an abrupt and early end that I got a text message from an unknown number. I had to ask who it was, and to my surprise, Michael Clark was asking if I was ok and safe in light of the tornado. And so a name I hadn’t heard in years resurfaced and I was curious about this long lost boy. That curiosity led to a Starbucks “catch up” which led to the sweetest summer of late nights laying on my grandparents dock and talking about stars. We thrifted, roller bladed, watched Jesus heal our hearts from hurts and broken relationships, and we found ourselves trusting each other. We probably had at least a dozen honest conversations about how we were attracted to each other but we knew it wasn’t the “right time”.

LOVESTRUCKClarks-21

Junior year started and we left some carefree summer days in the dust and became 9-hour long distance besties. We finally decided to “call it like it is”, and we spent the next year and half living two separate lives that slowly integrated into a sweet friendship and reason for many road trips. As we approached graduation, I began to feel this unsettling in my spirit. I couldn’t always put words to it, but something wasn’t right. I was restless. I questioned if I would ever “know” or have peace in Mike being “the one”. One of the hardest days of my life came during Christmas break in a parking lot where I ended things between us and walked away convinced it was never going to happen. Jesus told me to let it go. I had confidence that there were things He wanted to do in both of our hearts and we needed to learn a deeper, richer capacity of love.

LOVESTRUCKClarks-14

That journey of listening to Jesus and discovering the depths of His love led me across the world to Delhi, India for a year. He spent the summer after graduation in Cambodia, and I was raising funds for my adventure. The few weeks before I moved across the ocean, I spent several hours doing “drive bys” of various coffee shops, just hoping to run into Michael. It was there. Somewhere in my heart, I knew he still held it. My attention, my thoughts, my prayers. The night before I boarded a plane for the east, he called me and asked if he could come kidnap me. I asked him, “are you about to complicate my life” and he told me that wasn’t his intention. After some waffle house and catching up, he gave me a book with the first of many letters. He essentially told me he was going to pursue my heart and he didn’t care if I responded or not. I cried. I told him he was the clearest picture of Jesus pursuing me that I’d ever had. I told him I was scared. And then I left.

LOVESTRUCKClarks-19
LOVESTRUCKClarks-13

India is a whole other story, but it was Michael’s faithful prayers, encouragement, and commitment to knowing my life that was an anchor in some of my hardest moments. He was steady, like he always has been, amidst my swirling heart. We continued to grow together, learning to navigate time differences and major transitions. And I began to fall into a peace and deep understanding that truly washed away fears and broke me of my independence. I didn’t fall in love. I fell into a security in Jesus and how He desired to use Michael to make me more like Him. That’s why I said yes on a remote island in Thailand when Michael, who had flown across the world and succeeded in surprising me on the beach with a question and a ring. Now we’re married and we are learning and loving a lot. And it’s the most precious gift I’ve ever known. I still cling to peace on days when it’s hard to love. I still cling to Jesus when I feel like my heart can’t contain how much joy comes from union with Michael Clark. He is always worthy of worship, and Michael brings me to that place daily. I’m thankful.

LOVESTRUCKClarks-22

HIM: Hannah and I’s story began our freshman year of High School. There’s some debate between the two of us on who saw the other first, but there’s no debate that that’s when it all started. We lasted 8 months. Chalk it up to immaturity, impatience, naivety, whatever. She dumped me. She dumped me and it was the worst. But also the best.

LOVESTRUCKClarks-9LOVESTRUCKClarks-15

Fast-forward about four years to my Sophomore year of college. My then-girlfriend of nearly three years had broken up with me and I entered into a season of discovering the depths of Jesus love. It was then that Hannah re-entered the picture. In a summer of radical return to Jesus, her friendship was integral in a heart that needed desperate healing.

Round 2 of dating began as we parted ways to our respective “institutions of higher learning,” the University of Alabama for her and the University of Arkansas for myself. We dated for about a year and a half. And then she dumped me, and it was the worst. But also the best.

LOVESTRUCKClarks-24

That break-up lead me into a season of immense growth. I was willing to fight with everything I had for her, but The Lord kept leading me to a place of dependence upon Him in everything. In order for a seed to grow, it must first die. The death of a seed does not destine it for life. And with that I gave it all over to Him. I was called to bring every dream that I had built my life around to Him; a willingness to lose them all, specifically Hannah. And in a moment of outward expression, I buried one of my “seeds.” I buried the box that I had been using to store memories and trinkets from Hannah and I’s relationship. I let the seed die.

LOVESTRUCKClarks-17

Three months (and a TON of growth) later, I returned to the spot that I had buried the box on a whim. For three months I had learned what it meant to truly give someone over to The Lord in prayer. To depend upon Him to lead and to love in my absence. I learned to intercede in love. And three months later, at the exact spot where I buried the box, I stood over the most beautifully concentrated group of wildflowers that I had ever seen. The flimsy shoebox that I had been using to store the memories and trinkets had collapsed in the ground, causing a seedball from one of our first dates to be fertilized and to blossom. The Lord let the seed grow.

LOVESTRUCKClarks-20

It was then that the pursuit really began. In spite of our positions on opposite sides of the globe, The Lord brought us back together. There’s no other way to explain it. He challenged us. He beckoned us to something more than ourselves. He grew us. And standing on a beach in Thailand, I asked Hannah to marry me. Now, four months into marriage I see that it was about Jesus bringing us into now. It was about our story becoming much, much more than just our own. And our part in this story has only just begun.

LOVESTRUCKClarks-23

Q: What does love mean to you?
HERA choice.
HIM: The perfect combination of sacrifice, joy, and passion.

Q: Whats your favorite thing about the other person?
HER: My favorite thing about Michael is his unique ability to be creative, intellectual, and deeply compelled to love and care for people. He’s the most balanced and steady person I know.
HIM: Hannah has this incredibly ability to bring everyone into the love of Jesus. Anyone. She has more compassion than anyone I have ever met.

LOVESTRUCKClarks-27
LOVESTRUCKClarks-28

Q: Advice to other couples? Above all things love jesus. Pursue vulnerability with each other; vulnerability breeds unity. Respond to each in empathy, always. And pray, pray, pray for and with each other.
  LOVESTRUCKClarks-25

Hannah and Michael, thank you for opening up your arms, your hearts, your story, to those around you. Every day. Always. There is so much to learn from your love for one another, for Jesus, and for others.