THREE LESSONS IN THREE YEARS

 
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Three years ago today, my husband and I said ‘Yes’ to forever in covenant marriage underneath this very pavilion in the Smokey Mountains of Maryville, TN. It feels like yesterday and a lifetime all at once. In our three short years of marriage, we have paid off $130,000 of debt, we have moved homes 3 times, we have moved once across state lines, we have started a business to help me pursue my dreams, we have had 6 different career jobs, Josh has had multiple side hustles, we have had a failed Thai adoption process, and we have faced health issues that scared me and brought back hard memories for Joshua. BUT GOD. But when God is the foundation, life can throw you and shake you, and life can also bring you the greatest joys and the highest of mountaintops, and His foundation will always stand. The Rock of Ages doesn’t know emotions; it is secure and firm through every season. We are so grateful for the ‘BUT GOD…’ in our marriage, and that we get to share Jesus on this adventure.

 
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As I look back on all we have experienced, I am overwhelmed with how much I have grown, changed, and been made more like Christ through this covenant of marriage. As this day approached over the past few weeks, I felt a tug to share with you three truths that I have learned about marriage in three years in hopes that you are inspired to pursue your spouse deeper today, and ultimately, press deeper into Jesus, no matter if you are married, single, engaged, widowed, divorced, or somewhere in between.

THREE LESSONS IN THREE YEARS

I- BE PRESENT

One of Ramsey Solutions’ core values is ‘The Momentum Theorum’. This was something created by Dave Ramsey as a core value for his team and company to live and work by. It says That ‘Focused Intensity’ over ‘Time‘ (Long periods of time consistently) multiplied by ‘God’ equals ‘Momentum’:

FI / T (G) = M

I was listening to Dave Ramsey speak on this in staff meeting earlier this week, and the parallel to marriage hit me like a ton of bricks. What you focus on, for long periods of time, with deep intensity, you WIN at. And then, when you invite the Lord into that equation, He does incredible things. One of the greatest things we have learned in our marriage thus far is that to have a successful, thriving, faithful, growing marriage, you have to pour focus into it, everyday, over and over and over, and invite God in. We have seen this ring true in our debt free journey; as we poured all of our focus together into paying off debt, we have WON, and we have gained wild momentum…unexplainable momentum actually. Focus. Time. God. And now, we are ALMOST done with our debt.

We have also seen this ring true in date nights. We have made it a point, even on our debt free journey, to intentionally date each other. Date nights these first three years for us have looked like dream dates where we dream about the future, or just having dinner on the back porch to know each other better, or going on long drives to explore new neighborhoods and look at home architecture as we dream about our one day home and one day kids. It has not mattered what it was, but being PRESENT together, and pouring that focused presence into our marriage, has given us a sweet first three years of not just being married, but knowing each other deeper. Above all, be PRESENT, and pursue your spouse with focused intensity, everyday, for long periods of time and ask God daily to step into your marriage.

To be loved but not known is comforting but superficial. To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. But to be fully known and truly loved is, well, a lot like being loved by God. It is what we need more than anything. It liberates us from pretense, humbles us out of our self-righteousness, and fortifies us for any difficulty life can throw at us.
— Tim Keller

II- FIGHT FOR UNITY AND CLARITY

Joshua and I like to call our arguments ‘strong conversations’. Ha! We are both Enneagram 8’s, and we are both stubborn, opinionated and very passionate. I understand that this is not everyone’s personalities, but it has been an adventure navigating our strong personalities through these first three years. However, no matter your Enneagram number, your personality type, or whether you like conflict or not, you WILL have to work through challenges in marriage. One of the things we have chosen to do in our marriage is FIGHT passionately for unity and clarity with each other. When we are mad, we don’t just say sorry and move on; we fight for clarity on WHY we were angered, and we fight for unity to come together before moving on. When one of us hurts the other, we will work to stop, and talk about gaining clarity around WHY one of us hurt the other, and we will talk about how we can have greater unity moving forward by understanding each other deeper. Fighting for unity and clarity doesn’t mean actual fighting or yelling, but it does means that you are so passionate about stewarding well this covenant of marriage, that you will work with everything you have to give the enemy NO foothold whatsoever. And what I have found is that footholds in marriage can look an awful lot like bitterness, or pride, or fear, or anger, or unresolved conversations, or hurts not talked about, or hidden sin, or insecurities. I don’t know WHAT it is for you right now, but what I do recommend is that you would take time this week to find ONE area of your marriage to fight for unity and clarity in. Digging up the dirt in a field BEFORE you plant seeds will yield good fruit in the season to come. Digging up the WHY’s in your marriage will give you good soil to plant seeds of fighting for unity and clarity so that you can yield good fruit in your marriage, even if it is hard, for the seasons to come.

III- INVITE MENTORS INTO YOUR LIFE

While we were dating, we knew inviting mentors into our marriage would be important, and it was something we would want to do. However, actually doing it takes time, energy, and intentionally. But what it has been to us is one of the greatest gifts to our marriage. We have been honored to walk life with marriages and couples 10, 20 30, 40, and even 50 years ahead of us. And while none of them have shared life shattering advice with us, they have invited us in, shared meals with us, and just done life with us in the everyday mundane things. They have wisdom that couples married 5 years don’t have. They have perspective that newlyweds don’t yet know. They have insight on changing seasons, and being ‘DINKs’, and raising kids, and becoming empty nesters, and giving a daughter away to marriage, and growing your career, and loving Jesus when it is hard, and loving your spouse when it is even harder. We see such good fruit from good, faithful, wise, truth-speaking mentors that we have invited into our marriage, and we are eager to see the mentors the Lord brings to us in Franklin, TN. There is NOTHING wrong with doing life with people your age and in your same season, but we were MADE to do life with those ahead of us so that we may be wise as well.

BONUS: HAVE SO MUCH FUN!

Life is short. Marriage is hard. Life is full of joy. God is good. Trials will come. Storms will cloud your life. Unexpected seasons will charge in. Marriage was designed to make us holy, not happy. But GOSH, it is also SO MUCH FUN. So whether you are in day 3 of marriage, year 3 or marriage, or decade 3 of marriage, I encourage you to have a BLAST with your spouse and make every day an opportunity to be known more, and know your spouse more.

The best is today AND to come.
— Ashley Craft

So, here is to YOU; my dearest friend, my best pal, and my husband. Year three was full of SO many unexpected adventures, and I cannot WAIT to see what the Lord does in year four. I love you, Joshua Steven Craft.

Sweet blessings-

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OUR SECOND ANNOUNCEMENT: THAILAND ADOPTION

The Lord laid adoption on my heart long before I ever met my husband. During college, I traveled overseas multiple times to places like Eastern Africa, Northern Africa, and India, and I thought I was going to be the one to help and serve. But in turn, it was my heart that was changed forever through those experiences, and through those people. The Lord took my small, selfish worldview, and he blew it up into a size that I couldn’t even grasp or fathom to show me how small I am, and how much He LOVES the world. Each time I traveled, and with every beautiful soul I met, I came back different; I came back smaller, and He came back bigger.

It was not until my time in India that the Lord stirred a deep longing in me to adopt from Thailand one day. It was during that trip to India that I learned about the realities of young girls being trafficked as sex slaves for a myriad of reasons, with Thailand being a hub for it all. I began praying that day that the Lord would open the door for me to adopt, specifically from Thailand, and specifically a little girl. I longed to give just ONE little girl a life that knows only FREEDOM with me as her momma, and my future husband as her daddy.

Well, in 2014, I met my husband, Joshua Steven Craft. As we dated, we began to talk about family and kids and what life would/could look like for us together if we were to get married. I knew he wanted to be a dad, but I had no idea if he would be open to adoption. When I finally told him that the Lord placed a desire on my heart to adopt a little girl from Thailand, he gave me the look. He told me that he had prayed that he would marry a girl that wanted a house of the nations…and y’all, the rest is history! We officially got married on July 2, 2016. It was 6 months into marriage then that we started our debt free journey, and most people think it is simply to be debt free, but we had a MUCH bigger why…and our future children and adoption were at the very heart of it all.

Last summer, Joshua and I knew we were wanting to begin the process of adoption soon, despite being on a debt free journey, and we started doing research on a Thailand adoption. There we so many rules and regulations, and the first one we had to wait for was to be married at least 2.5 years. So. when December of 2018 rolled around, we were so excited to start diving into the process. We emailed our adoption representative with our agency, and we got a heartbreaking email. They had recently changed the rules, and we would no longer be able to adopt from Thailand. We were devastated, but continued to pray that the Lord would open this door if He would want us to walk through it.

Earlier this year, I was in Dallas for a work trip, and I just happened to check my email. Our adoption representative had emailed me saying that they had 72 children waiting that they could make exceptions for, and they wanted to have us move forward in the process. We were just overjoyed, and so thankful. We fell in love with two little girls, Abrielle and Martina (fake names to protect their identity), and we started praying over the two of them. We started health reviews from international doctors and began the process of walking towards one of them. We didn’t know WHO it would be, but our dream was finally happening. This has been one of our BIGGEST why’s for our debt free journey, and to see our debt free journey begin to get closer and closer to the finish line, and our dream of adopting get closer and closer to the starting line was surreal. We had our first call with our adoption representative over Skype, and we were SMITTEN. She answered so many of our questions on how to begin, and she had even adopted a little boy from Thailand, and had personally met the two little girls we were wanting to move forward with.

 
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On February 22, 2019, we told our families that we wanted to FaceTime them, and that we had some news for them. We hopped on FaceTime with each of our parents and our brothers and sisters, and we told them all the news. In our research about adoption, especially international adoption, it is crucial to have family on board with accepting this child as THEIR grandchild, or niece or nephew, and for that child to know that they are adopted for LIFE. They must know that there is no difference between blood and adoption, and we just knew both of our families were going to welcome this little girl with the most loving, open arms. Like we imagined, our families were ecstatic, and they committed with us to loving this child as our own, and as their own.

During this process, we also found out that I did in fact get the job at Ramsey Solutions as their Creative Technical Talent Scout, and we would be moving to Franklin, TN. We found a sweet little home with just enough bedrooms for one more little soul, and once we were moved in, we would begin the home study process, as every state is different. At this time, our debt snowball had been paused for both the move to Tennessee coming up and for adoption expenses. We knew we would need to raise support for our adoption, so we booked our videographers to come down to Tennessee and film our story in our new home in Franklin. Everything was falling perfectly into place, and we were continuing to walk through this open door the Lord had given to us.

Then, 3 days before our move to Tennessee, Joshua started to get really sick, and he was hospitalized for 2 days, and the day after we moved to TN, he was hospitalized again for 5 days, and his whole body was basically septic from his autoimmune disease. I was up with him at 3 AM googling which ER was closest, as we had only been in this new city for one day. Eight years ago, he was given months to live, and he has since been fighting it with holistic methods. But it was all coming back…HARD and FAST. His official diagnosis is Primary Sclerosing Cholangitis, Ulcerative Colitis, Pancreatitis, and a low functioning liver. Life expectancy for PSC is 9-18 years after diagnosis without a liver transplant, and he was diagnosed 8 years ago. This scared the crap out of us, and we knew that we were going to have at least a year of healing ahead of us. We made it through our move with the help of so many people, as Josh couldn’t even lift a box. We had family and friends coming over to help move boxes and support us while he was in the hospital, and I couldn’t have done any of this move without so many people from our community ushering in to serve us. THANK YOU.

 
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But in the midst of all of this happening with Joshua’s health, at the back of my mind was always the question of ‘But what about our precious little Thai girl?’ What does this mean for her?’ We had the videographers scheduled to come the Saturday after we moved in, and as Joshua’s hospital trip in TN got longer and longer, I knew in my heart that we would have to cancel, and that we would most likely have to put a hold on our adoption.

So here we are this Mother’s Day: We had to cancel our adoption video where we would have been announcing to you and the world that we would be welcoming a sweet little Thai girl into our home in just one year. We had to push pause on our adoption, as we have to figure out my husbands treatment plan and get him to a place where he is healthy and we know what is happening more fully in his body. When all of this happened, we heard a firm ‘not now sweet Ashley and Joshua’ from the Lord. And while it is so comforting to know that this door has been shut by the One who formed the earth, and the One who formed EVERY SINGLE child that made every momma a momma on this Mothers Day, it still hurts. There is ZERO part of me that blames my husband, as I know his heart is broken too, so we are clinging firmly to TRUTH, the character and goodness of the Lord, and his perfect timing TOGETHER as we both walk this journey.

But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord,
whose confidence is in him.
They will be like a tree planted by the water
that sends out its roots by the stream.
It does not fear when heat comes;
its leaves are always green.
It has no worries in a year of drought
and never fails to bear fruit.”

The heart is deceitful above all things
and beyond cure.
Who can understand it?
— Jeremiah 17:7-9

Mother’s Day looked like nothing like I thought it would this year. I thought we would be celebrating our first Mother’s Day with sharing our adoption video to the world, and continuing to move forward the process of a Thai adoption. BUT WE TRUST IN THE LORD. Our confidence is in Him. We are like tress planted by the water and our roots go to the stream of LIVING WATER. We do not have to fear when heat comes, for our leaves are always green. We can have NO worry in this year of drought, and we will STILL bear fruit as we cling to JESUS, not our present circumstances. Our hearts long for a little Thai girl, but our hearts are deceitful above ALL things, and we cannot understand, so we run to Jesus.

Friend, I do not know what you faced this Mother’s Day. But what I DO know is that you do not need to fear when miscarriage has come, when failed adoptions have come, when losing a child has come, when longings for a child have come, when longings for a husband have come, when you are getting negative after negative on the pregnancy test, when you are holding a foster child in your arms and you do not know your last day with them, when you face a strained relationship with your own mother, when you have lost your mother, when you do not know who your birth momma is, when you love dearly the child in your hands but you are just DEAD exhausted and need a break, and when ALL the in between has come. For BLESSED are YOU who puts their trust in the Lord, and their confidence in Him. YOU are like a tree planted by the water, and the roots of your relationship with Jesus go deep into the streams of LIVING WATER, and YOU DO NOT NEED TO FEAR. We serve a God who KNOWS us more intimately than we could ever fathom because He KNIT US TOGETHER in our mothers womb, and we can trust him no matter the story we are living right now.

So, in this season, I have chosen to slow down in my business, to spend time with my sweet husband who is HERE, right in front of me, and he is breathing and alive, and I am soaking in all the newness of this season that is full of unexpected in every way. YES, we are brokenhearted and I think of our little Thai baby girl every second. I do not know WHY the Lord shut this door…again…but what I DO know is that He is GOOD, and I know this because I know HIM. He works ALL things for HIS glory, and OUR good, and we are trusting that we will be able to glorify Him better right now with a ‘no’ and ‘not yet’ more than we could with a ‘yes’. We have no idea what this next season looks like, but we know Jesus, and our prayer is simply: ‘Lord, SURPRISE me…surprise US.

 
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…and that is my prayer for YOU too, sister. May the Lord surprise YOU today, and this next year, as you faithfully trust him in every circumstance. And when we look back and we have all that has been promised to us, may we never forget to give glory straight back to Him. Thank you for your patience in this season. I am BEYOND grateful for this community.

Sweet blessings,

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…and Joshua!

HOW TO MOVE ACROSS THE COUNTRY INTENTIONALLY

Well, our news is out: we are moving to Franklin, TN and we could not be more thrilled. However, the honeymoon stage is over, this is officially old news now, and it is time to pack our hearts AWAY.

Joshua and I have only moved our entire home once, and it was only across town. This will be our first out of state move together, and I wanted to do something FUN…I wanted to learn from YOU. I asked you, my tribe, to share your BEST tips, tricks, and hacks for moving, and boy oh boy did y’all come through. I am biased, but I believe I have the most genius tribe out there.

Below, you will find a long list of some of my tribes favorite ways to move across the country intentionally! (P.S. I am sure I missed a few, so if you have any other hidden gems to add, drop your thoughts in the comments below for us all to learn from.)

 
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I- MAKE A BUDGET (Ashley Craft): This will make or break your moving experience. Set up an excel sheet, and list out every single expense you will need, and over budget a little to leave margin for things to go differently than planned. You CAN move debt free, without credit cards, and by cash flowing it, but you have to be intentional and make a plan for this to happen.

II- PUT YOUR NECKLACES THROUGH A STRAW TO AVOID TANGLING (Ginny Graham): Ginny, this is genius. If you hate the tangle of your necklaces when you move, use this hack. Take one end of the necklace unclasped, and run it through the straw. Clasp the second half, and voila, it won’t ever get tangled!

III- USE COLORED DUCT TAPE TO MANAGE BOXES (Abigail Waples): When you get to your new house, put the tape color that matches the corresponding boxes on the door or wall of each room to direct people to the right room to put boxes or furniture in.

IV- LABEL YOUR BOXES WELL (Sarah Christian): Add a small note to the top of what room the box was FROM in the old house, and a list of the main contents of the box.

V- USE GARBAGE BAGS OR CLOTHES BOXES TO TRANSFER CLOTHES (Kelly Friess): For the garbage bags, pole a hole at the top, and run the loop part of clothes hangers through the hole with your clothes on them. Then, simply tie the bottom of the bog to keep the clothes from dragging. Clothes boxes can be expensive, but they will accomplish the same goal!

VI- PLASTIC WRAP DRESSER DRAWERS (Morgan Mendez): Take each drawer of your dresser out of the dresser, and wrap it in packing plastic wrap to keep the clothes from falling out. This will make the dresser lighter, and keep you from having to refold all of your clothes. When you get to your new home, just unwrap the drawers, and load them back in the dresser!

VII- CREATE AND ORDER ‘A FIRST DAY BOX’ FROM AMAZON PRIME (Morgan Mendez): This could include essentials like paper towels, toilet paper, toothbrushes, paper plates, plastic utensils, cleaning supplies, toothpaste, plastic cups…whatever you will need for your first day in your new home that you dont want to pack! Genius! Have it delivered to your new home on move in day so it is waiting on your front step when you get to your new home!

VIII- PACK BOOKS IN A SUITCASE WITH WHEELS (Morgan Mendez): Don’t be that person carrying all the boxes who throws out their back!

IX- GET GLASS DIVIDERS FROM LIQUOR STORES FREE (Cerny): Free is a good word!

X- DONATE OR SELL WHAT YOU KNOW YOU DO NOT WANT TO BRING TO YOUR NEW HOME (Ashley Evans): This is the perfect time to Marie Kondo your whole life.

XI- STRATEGICALLY PACK THE TRUCK AND MAKE A LIST IN ADVANCE (Mayra): Make a list of boxes you need access to first, or furniture, and make sure to pack that in the truck last so you can get to it immediately.

XII- SPLURGE ON THE UNIFORM SIZED CARDBOARD BOXES (Lindsay Coleman): This makes stacking and packing in the truck easy, and it will save space by not wasting it. (For all the OCD guys and gals out there, this will make your heart happy!)

XIII- NOTATE ON THE TOP OF EVERY BOX WHAT IS IN THE BOX (Lindsey Coleman): This will help you to prioritize which boxes to unpack first, and make sure you know what rooms every box came from and is going to.

XIV- MAKE A TOILETRIES BAG (Lora): You will want to shower the night you move, or the say after. AND you will want to brush your teeth. Pack a bag with all of these essentials to make sure you can do that and you aren’t scrambling to unpack every box at 1:00 AM.

XV- PRIORITIZE SETTING UP YOUR BED, BATHROOM, AND KITCHEN TABLE (Jill Streetman McGuire): You will be exhausted after you unpack. Make sure your bed is set up and made, your kitchen table is ready to eat at in the morning, and your bathroom essentials are ready to go.

XVI- HAVE A BATHROOM BOX READY TO SET UP FOR PEOPLE HELPING YOU MOVE (Jill Streetman McGuire): This needs to be one of the first things you do. You will most likely have guests to help you move. Make sure you have toilet paper. a hand towel, and soap in the bathroom so guests and movers can take care of business with the right amenities.

XVII- STAND AT THE DOOR TO DIRECT BOXES TO MAKE SURE THEY ALL GET TO THE RIGHT PLACE (Jill Streetman McGuire): This can help to make sure boxes get to the right room the first time, and it is especially helpful for furniture.

XVIII- PACK ONE SPACE AT A TIME (Brooke Didomenico): Start with one room, or a type of thing likes frames or dishes, and do one thing at a time. This will help your brain not go crazy and make you feel like you are making progress.

XIX- HAVE ZIP LOCK BAGS READY FOR STORING SCREWS TO FURNITURE (Marideth Lind): Once you take down each piece of furniture, put all of the screws and pieces in a zip lock bag, and tape it or plastic wrap it to the furniture to make sure it does not get lost.

XX- BUBBLE WRAP IS YOUR FRIEND (Delaney Roberts): It can be expensive, but so is replacing all of your breakables!

XXI- INVEST IN MOVING BLANKETS (Delaney Roberts): Protect your beautiful furniture that you paid good money for by spending a few dollars on moving blankets.

XXII- INVEST IN A MATTRESS BAG AND BOX SPRING BAG (Delaney Roberts): They not only protect your mattress, but they will help give you something to hold onto when you are trying to carry your mattress and slide it in and out of the moving truck.

XXIII- KEEP A MEASURING TAPE HANDY (Delaney Roberts): This is handy for measuring out space in the moving truck, but also making sure furniture or things will fit in specific rooms.

XXIV- TURN ON FUN MUSIC WHILE YOU PACK (Ashley Craft): C’mon, is it even a party if there isn’t music? Get some fun jams going and pump yourself and your movers up. It is going to be a long day, and dance party break should be required for moving days.

XXV- IF YOU ARE LOOKING FOR FREE BOXES, GO TO CHICK-FIL-A (Abigail Waples): You will typically need to give them an advance notice of 2-3 days, but they keep them on hand to give to people to help with moving. Grab a milkshake while you are at it!

XXVI- USE YOUR TOWELS AND BLANKETS TO PROTECT BREAKABLES (Sara Cooley): This can save you lots of money, and use what you already have well.

XXVII- CREATE A CLEANING SUPPLIES BUCKET (Sara Cooley): This can be helpful to have to clean your house once it is empty, and to clean your new house before you bring all your things in.

XXVIII- PACK AN OVERNIGHT BAG OF EVERYTHING YOU NEED FOR A NIGHT (Sara Cooley): You will most likely not have time to unpack everything you need the day you move, so make sure you have clothes and essentials packed, including electronics you need, for the first few days of moving in.

XXIX- DON’T FORGET TO EAT AND DRINK (WATER) WELL! (Sara Cooley): Moving is hard work. It is very easy to get busy and forget to drink water and eat. But you will have your best energy and keep yourself from getting '‘hangry and mean’ if you keep your tummy full and your hydration up!

XXX- HAVE A PLAN IN PLACE FOR FEEDING YOUR MOVING HELPERS IN ADVANCE (Sara Cooley): Your friends who come serve you by helping you move are a GIFT. Make sure to budget for food for your movers, and to treat them well. Love your tribe hard, and food is the way to any heart!

XXXI- INVEST IN A DOLLY (Joshua Craft): This will make moving large furniture or going up and down stairs with furniture a breeze, and save your back.

BONUS: LAUGH, TAKE PICTURES, AND HAVE FUN! (Delaney Roberts): Moving is HARD; emotionally, spiritually, physically, mentally. Sometimes, even in the chaos and the mess, it is a good reminder to have fun, dance among the boxes, laugh at the things that go wrong, and have some FUN! If you miss the small moments and the journey, you will miss all of life!

 
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I hope that you found this helpful for any of your current or upcoming moves! We are excited to put so many of these tips, hacks, and tricks into place for our Tennessee move, and we are so glad that you are along for the journey. Thank you to EACH of you who participated and shared your ideas with me. The best is TODAY and to COME.

Sweet blessings,

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CREATE YOUR OWN PLASTER STYLING BOARD

 
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Since I started my calligraphy and design business, rugs, tables, and my floor have been my go-to for styling my work on. With my new rebrand, it just wasn’t going to cut it, so I am finally coming around to bringing to life my very own styling boards. Whether you are a calligrapher, photographer, florist, essential oil seller, hair stylist, bride-to-be, or small business owner, this is the perfect way to make your work stand out with a beautiful background. The best part is: it is SIMPLE and CHEAP. The total cost for this project is under $40, depending on how many styling boards you make, and how many paint colors you choose.

MATERIALS: (You can find all the links to the materials at the end of this bog post)

I- Fabric Canvas (See what NOT to use below…please learn from my mistakes!)

II- All Purpose Joint Compound (Found at any Home Depot or Lowes)

III- Trowels (Plastic or Wooden and Metal)

IV- Drop Canvas (or plastic paint protectors)

V- Acrylic Paint (Whatever color you desire to create your styling board)

VI- Paint brushes

VII- Container for the paint to dip the brush in

VIII- Foam Painters

DIRECTIONS:

I- Pick your desired canvas size. Lay the canvas onto your drop cloth. Open the plaster, and spread it over the canvas with the trowels. Start from the middle, and work your way to the outsides.

II- Once the canvas is spread how you like it, let it dry for up to 24 hours before your paint. You will see it start to turn white when it is drying, and that is perfectly fine.

III- Choose your paint color, and pour it into your container. With your paint brush, paint the plaster until you have the desired color you are looking for. You may also use the foam painted to give the styling board more texture. Let dry for 6 hours, and then paint a second coat of paint.

IV- Start styling and making some magic!

 
Shop these:    Trowels

Shop these: Trowels

 
 
Shop these:    Foam Painters

Shop these: Foam Painters

 
 
Shop these:    Paint Brush Set

Shop these: Paint Brush Set

 
 
Shop these:    Fabric Canvas    (20” x 20”) (I found them in a 3-pack for $30, but am not able to find them online)

Shop these: Fabric Canvas (20” x 20”) (I found them in a 3-pack for $30, but am not able to find them online)

 
 
Shop these:    Acrylic Paints

Shop these: Acrylic Paints

 
 
Shop this:    Joint Compound

Shop this: Joint Compound

 
I always thought that the “thriving” would come when everything was perfect, and what I learned is that it’s actually down in the mess that things get good.
— JOANNA GAINES, The Magnolia Story

Now, for those of you out there who are like me, and like to tweak things just a little to try to make them your own, or be a little different, DON’T! I love wood, and I really wanted to do these on a thin piece of wood to have mine stand out. But I SHOULD have known…because hello, I am a carpenters daughter, and I didn’t even think about how dumb this was. Once all the joint compound was applied, it made the wood really wet, and made it bow up while it was drying. Because of that bowing, it cracked the joint compound all over, and it caused it to dry that way. Once it dried fully, it did end up laying flat again, and the bow went away, but the cracks were still extremely visible and have not gone away. This is not the look I was going for at ALL, and I had to start all over again. Moral of the story: don’t be like me. Trust the process. Trust what I am sharing with you. I want you to learn from me, and do it right the first time. Consider this me giving you the gift of going second. You are welcome, friend!

 
Unpainted dried joint compound on wood. Please see the VERY visible cracks.

Unpainted dried joint compound on wood. Please see the VERY visible cracks.

 
 
Unpainted dried joint compound on fabric canvas. Please see how perfect this is! NO cracks. NO bowing. Perfection.

Unpainted dried joint compound on fabric canvas. Please see how perfect this is! NO cracks. NO bowing. Perfection.

 
 
Styling board with no paint, just the color of the dried joint compound. It dries a pretty light grey color on its own!

Styling board with no paint, just the color of the dried joint compound. It dries a pretty light grey color on its own!

 

I hope this short tutorial was helpful, and that you are able to make your beautiful work shine with this textured, simple, beautiful styling board. Please enjoy some of the STUNNING final results of investing in creating your own styling board. I am ecstatic to share these with you.

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Sweet blessings,

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WE'RE MOVING TO FRANKLIN, TENNESSEE!

 
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Joshua and I are thrilled to announce that we will be moving to Franklin, Tennessee!

Below, I hope to answer ALL of your questions that you may have. We are grateful, and so very excited for this opportunity, and I hope that you cheer along side of us in this new adventure that will change our entire WORLD.

Q & A


I- WHY ARE YOU MOVING TO FRANKLIN, TN? I have accepted a new job opportunity at Dave Ramsey’s company, Ramsey Solutions. They are headquartered out of Brentwood, TN, and we will live right down the street in Franklin, TN. I will be working as their Creative Recruiter, and this position is a blend of my skills, talents, and passions. I will be recruiting and hiring creative talent (Graphic designers, Creative Directors, UI/UX designers, Video Producers, etc.) to Ramsey Solutions, a company that has changed our whole entire life, and I could not be more thrilled.

II- WILL YOU STILL RUN YOUR BUSINESS? Absolutely! Ramsey Solutions looks for employees who have an entrepreneurial spirit and heartbeat, and they fully support my small business. I was actually set apart as a candidate BECAUSE of my creative background and skills.

III- HOW DID YOU GET THE JOB AT RAMSEY SOLUTIONS? I applied on their website back in November, but they had already filled the position. Later in February, I was reviewing their website, and saw this Creative Recruiter opening, and knew that it would be a perfect fit. I reached out to one of their recruiters on LinkedIn, and the next day, I had an interview set up! They had another candidate in the running for this position, and because they wanted to give both of us a chance, they moved me through 9 interviews in less than 2 weeks, and it was quite the whirlwind. They were exceptional to work with, and I am honored to now be a part of hiring the best talent to Ramsey Solutions in the creative space.

IV- WHEN WILL YOU BE MOVING? My first day at Ramsey Solutions will be April 15th! We already have our new home lined up, and we will be moving into our new home on April 6th. Our last days in Louisville, KY will be the first week of April. It will be bittersweet to leave the city that Joshua and I fell in love in, but we are also really looking forward to a new start, as Louisville holds some hard memories for both of us.

V- WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR YOUR DEBT FREE JOURNEY? Over the last month, while I was in the interview process, we pushed pause on our debt snowball to save up all the cash we could to make sure we move without credit cards, and that we have enough cash to make the move. (Yes, you can make a move across the country with CASH, and you do not need credit cards.) It also means that we are going to CRUSH our debt in the next few months, and we will have ALL of the support and encouragement we need around us with the Ramsey Solutions team. We cannot WAIT to do our debt free scream this year in the very building that I will be working in now, and it is pretty surreal.

VI- WILL YOU BE BUYING OR RENTING A HOME WHEN YOU MOVE? We will be renting again! While I was interviewing all day in my final 4-hour interview, Joshua lined up 6 different rental homes to look at, and we found one that we love! My husband is a project manager, so moving is just a fun excuse for him to create spreadsheets, and line all of the details up perfectly. I love watching him work inside of his strengths every time we move! (He cracks me up. He took the time to make a printed out word document for every home with questions, amenities written out so he could circle them quickly, and he EVEN had a 1-10 scale of the natural light in the home because he knows I love natural light…Y’all…I cant make this stuff up. He is the BEST compliment to me, as I hate spreadsheets and processes!) We are continuing to faithfully follow the baby steps that Dave Ramsey lays out, which is why we have chosen to rent a home for the meantime. Once we finish our debt snowball and we are debt free, we will save our 3-6 months of expenses for a fully-funded emergency fund very quickly, and then save up for a 20% downpayment. From there, we will make the best decision on where to buy a home. We hope to own our own home within the next 2 years, and when we do, we will be READY to buy, and we will do it WELL. We hope our home will be a blessing to us, not a curse, and buying before you are financially ready is dangerous. I want to remind you that it is OK to grow slow, and grow well, even in these areas of life like finances and buying a home!

VII- WHERE WILL JOSH WORK IN TENNESSEE? This decision is so very simple and easy because he works remotely as a business analyst/project manager for a software company based out of Indianapolis. His office is in our home, and he is excited to continue to work faithfully at his current company from home our new home in Franklin.

VIII- WHO DO YOU KNOW IN FRANKLIN, TN? We have already found and researched a church that we are really excited to join, and we will attend for a few weeks before making the decision to join after we have met with the pastors and made that decision wisely. We hope to make some wonderful friends through our new church home, and we intend to invite people over very quickly to make new friends. I have a few calligrapher gal friends who live in Nashville, and in Murfreesboro, and I went to college with a gal who lives in Mount Juliet as well. We are looking forward to investing in new friendships, and older ones, while also trusting the Lord with the new community He will provide for us. (P.s. Come visit us!)

 
This picture was taken right after I had my 4 hour shadow interview . This is their current HQ, and they are right now finishing their brand new debt free building that is ALMOST built. As soon as you walk in those doors behind me, you see the radio station, and it was unbelievable to see in real life.

This picture was taken right after I had my 4 hour shadow interview . This is their current HQ, and they are right now finishing their brand new debt free building that is ALMOST built. As soon as you walk in those doors behind me, you see the radio station, and it was unbelievable to see in real life.

 

There are three big things that we are very excited for in this move and in this new job opportunity:

  • I will be working alongside leaders, both men and women, who are full of integrity, character, faith, incredible skill, and wisdom who I can learn deeply from. I still have so much to learn about being a wife, future mother, friend, business leader, business woman, daughter, and entrepreneur. These people bring SO much to the table and I am thrilled to learn from in my SHORT and YOUNG 29 years of life thus far. You have to be so careful of the people you surround yourself with, and I will be surrounded by some of the BEST.

  • I will get to see my passions, my talents, and a mission that has changed our whole life be blended into ONE position for me to excel in. I want to be EXCELLENT at whatever I do, and I cannot wait to pursue excellence in this job, while faithfully stewarding my small business as I JUST finished rebranding it.

  • My husband and I will get to have a NEW beginning together. Louisville is such a hard city for me to love, because my heart was broken here by my ex-fiance who left me 1 month before our wedding. Louisville is such a hard city for Joshua because this was the city he got really sick in, and where he was told he did not have much more time to live. We cannot WAIT to begin a new journey together, forging a new life for our family in oneness and in unity, and with great anticipation.

 
 

I wish I could sit down with you over coffee, friend, and tell you of EVERY single detail of this decision that we can CLEARLY see the Lords hand in. We have never felt more confident in His timing, His provision, and His desire for us to be in this exact place at this exact time. Our hearts are just truly overflowing and overwhelmed with gratitude for this opportunity.

This decision may come as a shock to some of you, especially those who follow my creative small business, Ashley Margaret, but we have BIG dreams, and one of those dreams is coming to life VERY soon in our SECOND announcement that we will be sharing at the beginning of May! Our hearts are about to explode getting ready to share this news with you all, but just know that every decision we are making right now is to be wise stewards of what is to come in our life.

We will miss Louisville DEARLY, for it is where our love story began, but as I have said many times before, I TRULY believe that the best is TODAY and to COME and I fully believe that here and now. Let the adventure begin!

Sweet blessings,

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…and Joshua too!

DEBUNKED: DEBT AND CREDIT CARD MYTHS IN SMALL BUSINESS OWNERSHIP

Kelsey Kelley and I are coming to you from the ‘Cranberry Bog’ to share a counter cultural vision for your small creative business. Our desire in penning these words is to support creative entrepreneurs in running highly successful and profitable small businesses that give them freedom, choices, and bring them great joy to thrive. But before you hear the six debunked myths of debt and credit cards in small business, we want you to know WHY this mission is so important to each of us.

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ASHLEY MARGARET CRAFT

My name is Ashley Margaret Craft, and I am the owner and calligrapher behind ‘Ashley Margaret’! I pen and preserve intentional stories through bespoke calligraphy and design.

My husband and I were 8 months into marriage when we first realized we had over $150,000 in debt: student loans (over $100,000), cars, credit cards, and medical bills. In that moment, we saw every dream we ever had disappear right before our eyes. We had chains and we were truly enslaved by our debt. But instead of being paralyzed by our situation, we DID something about it. To date, we have paid off over $115,000 since February 17, 2017, and 2019 is the year we will finally be completely DEBT FREE!

I started this creative small business as a way to hustle HARD at something I loved to bring in extra income for our debt free journey. At the time, I had no idea just how special this business would become. As we get closer to the finish line of our debt free journey, we feel the chains coming off, and we can see all of the freedoms that we will have once debt no longer has a hold on our lives.

It was a JOY to partner with Kelsey because she is living on the other side of our debt free journey, and she is FLOURISHING as she stewards well her business financially!

 

KELSEY KELLEY

I’m Kelsey Kelley with ‘K. Kelley Designs’!

I create custom wedding invitations and watercolor portraits for clients all over the U.S. and teach workshops in my home state of Tennessee.

This small business started out as a ‘side hustle’ to help free up our income while paying down debt and in July of 2018, we became completely DEBT FREE! Having zero debt has allowed us SO many freedoms, one of which was the easy transition of leaving my job of 8 years in the corporate world to pursue my art business full time. I am living proof that with hard work and small daily sacrifices, ANYONE can experience the countless joys and endless opportunities that running a debt free life (and business) brings.

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Consider this a ‘hers & hers’ tale as we each share our perspective on why it is so important to run a debt free and credit card free small business.

6 MYTHS DEBUNKED

I- MYTH: Small business debt is business debt. DEBUNKED: Small business debt is PERSONAL debt.

Ashley: Small business debt is signed to your name and it is personal debt. If your business went upside down tomorrow, and you signed those loans, you would owe them, and you would very quickly learn that small business debt IS personal debt. For some reason, when business is attached to debt, people feel a different distance from the debt. I want to bring that distance back closer to you, because if something happened to you tomorrow, and you could no longer work your business, what debt would you have? If your business has $50,000 of debt, that is a debt you personally owe.

Kelsey: YOU are your business. YOU are your brand! Especially as a creative small business owner. Your clients are buying from you and it’s a personal transaction. So, let’s keep that in mind in every facet of our business…From your client experience, to your website, your social media, and yes- your finances. So if you take on debt, it’s personal. 


II- MYTH: You get credit cards points when you use a credit card. DEBUNKED: You spend more when you use a credit card. (Upwards of 20-50% more)

Ashley: McDonalds was one of the FIRST companies to accept credit cards in the fast food industry. Do you know why? Because what they found was that when people buy with a credit card, they spend anywhere from 20-50% more than if they would have purchased with cash or a debit card. Points are a false reality. And then of course, WHY would you want to play with snakes? Credit Card companies are EXPERTS on behavior, and if there is one thing they know, it is YOU and your spending habits. They are ‘giving away’ points because they know they made money. Why not keep that extra 20-50% you spend in your own pocket?

Kelsey: The average credit card user pays at least $900 a year in interest. Does that $900 justify your cash back “benefits”? Odds are… Probably not. (Article on Interest)


III- MYTH: You have freedom with when you use a credit card and it gives you an advantage. DEBUNKED: There is freedom spending with cash and running a debt free small business that gives you an untouchable advantage in business.

Ashley: What you don’t know is that credit card companies have done SUCH an exceptional job at marketing, that they have made YOU feel like YOU are GAINING freedoms by using a credit card, but in reality, they are just chains in disguise. When you have no debt in your business, YOU have ALL the control.

Kelsey: CASH IS KING! The power of cash is real y’all! Big companies (think furniture stores, car dealerships) will be more willing to negotiate on prices once they know that you have the cash on hand for that big purchase. So not only are you buying SMARTER but you could also save money. Win, Win!


IV- MYTH: You cannot be as creative. DEBUNKED: Spending with cash and ‘doing business at the speed of cash’ only pushes you to be even more creative and resourceful.

Ashley: As I look back on my business over the past 2 years as I have run it debt free and credit card free, there were times when I did not have the cash flow to do something I wanted. So, like a grown adult, I had to wait, have patience, and save up the cash to purchase what I wanted for my business (Yes, in an Amazon prime culture, it is ok to WAIT for something.). And you know what? Time after time, I was FORCED to be even more creative, think outside the box, and make magic happen with my creativity, instead of a line of credit from a credit card.

Kelsey: False. Just false. Not to go all sappy on you, but creativity truly comes from within!! It’s not something you can purchase.

I don’t have enough time/money/people/experience. Stop Whining. Less is a good thing. Constraints are advantages in disguise. Limited resources force you to make do with what you’ve got. There’s no room for waste. And that forces you to be creative.
— REWORK, David Heinemeier Hansson and Jason Fried

V- MYTH: You are limited in your decisions and you set higher goals with debt and a credit card. DEBUNKED: Spending with cash makes you think harder, make wiser decisions, set bigger, longer term goals, and be held accountable.

Ashley: As a business owner, there is ALWAYS something vying for our money: new office furniture, new tools, new educational courses, new product lines..the list could go on and on. But when you spend your money at the ‘speed of cash’ you have in your pocket, you actually FEEL the money you spend. What that means is that you will take an extra night or week to think about the purchase because you actually realize you are spending money. Or maybe, you will set a goal to purchase something after you have hit a specific business goal. Or, maybe instead of just charging it, you take time to talk to a business mentor or trusted friend to make sure the purchase you are about to make is wise, intentional, and important for your business.

Kelsey: Studies show that credit card debt is the only debt where you actually take on MORE debt than you had originally planned. This makes planning and goal achieving very unstable. The best way to achieve goals in your business is to dedicate time to work towards them and stay disciplined in achieving them! Debt does not magically equal more time and definitely doesn’t encourage discipline. (Trust me, it takes a LOT of discipline to get out of debt!)


VI- MYTH: You gain more choices when using a credit card and debt. DEBUNKED: You never know what will happen in your life. Debt is slavery. You have more choice when you choose to run your business without credit cards and debt free.

Ashley: When Josh and I first realized we had $150,000 in debt, every single choice we had went out the window. “Adults devise a plan and follow it, and children do what feels good” (Dave Ramsey) To think that you gain more choice by having a credit card is a childish way of thinking, and in fact, having a plan, following it, and choosing the debt free/credit card free life with always give you more choice. You never know what could happen in life, and as I mentioned earlier, if your business has debt, and it stopped tomorrow because you could no longer work, you would instantly gain all of that debt as personal debt, and your choices would then be limited in so many ways.

Kelsey: Debt binds you. It actually restricts your freedom of choice because now you have payments and if those payment aren’t made- you’re in trouble.. It limits your freedom to choose how you spend your money.


FINAL TRUTH- Debt and credit cards in business are JUST PLAIN DUMB. I want to take a moment to remind you of where both Kelsey and I started; getting out of debt has changed both of our lives, and we both run successful, thriving small businesses that run at the speed of cash, and that are flourishing. Our desire is to support entrepreneurs to run highly successful and profitable small businesses that give them freedom, choices, and bring them great joy as they flourish doing what they love.

FINAL WORDS FROM KELSEY: Getting out of debt has changed my life. I’m a Christian and hear me when I say the Lord will honor your obedience and your sacrifice to make this happen. He will make a way for you…I promise! When we paid off our credit cards, then our student loans, and finally our car- I am telling you there is nothing more empowering than taking control of your life like that! In the past year, my net income has TRIPLED and I absolutely would not have been able to make that happen if we weren’t able to operate my business and life debt free. I’m so passionate about running my business this way and I want every other small business owner to experience the immeasurable joy and benefits having zero debt brings… Not only to your business, but your mental health, your marriage, your relationships- it seriously improves every aspect of your life!

 SMALL BUSINESS CREATIVES WHO RUN THEIR LIFE DEBT FREE AND CREDIT CARD FREE

  • Jenna Kutcher of Jenna Kutcher

  • Nancy Ray of Nancy Ray Photography

  • Ashlyn Carter of Ashlyn Writes

  • Christy Wright of Business Boutique

  • Ashley Margaret Craft of Ashley Margaret

  • Kelsey Kelley of K.Kelley Designs

The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is slave to the lender.
— PROVERBS 22:7

TAKE ACTION FRIEND: I don’t know what ‘action’ looks like for you right now, but below are three actions that could make sense for you to do today:

I- Cut up your credit cards. Be done with them FOREVER. They are not your friend. They are not life-giving. They will only give you chains.

II- Pay off your debt, personal and business. Start small, and keep snowballing.

III- Pay for your next purchase with cold hard cash…actually take money out of the bank and see your hard earned cash pay for something you save up for. I promise it will feel different and you will be more empowered .

The best is today AND to come.
— ASHLEY MARGARET CRAFT

Sweet blessings, 

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2018 IN REVIEW

 
 

I- JANUARY: Every year, Joshua and I always start off the year with a date to Starbucks to dream about the upcoming year, and set our goals for the year. In January, I left my job at TEKsystems due to character misconduct from a coworker, and from there, we really started to look at our debt free journey and made some hard decisions to sell a lot of what we had. We sold our Honda CR-V, and instantly became a one-car family. I finally took classes at Maker13, a local maker shop in hopes to expand my service offerings.

 
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II- FEBRUARY: In February, I calligraphed my FIRST wedding vows for a client, and I was honestly scared to death. It was 1200 words, and I lost sleep because I kept telling myself I couldn’t do it, and that I would fail. Well, I didn’t fail, and I fell in love with hand calligraphing wedding vows and large calligraphy keepsakes. February was the month that I hosted my largest workshop to date of 21 students at Seed and Harvest in Lexington, KY, and had a blast. I also created my first large calligraphy wood cut-out. It was a lot of trial and error, but they were such a unique service offering.

 
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III- MARCH: In March, Joshua and I made the decision to sell our first home together. He bought this home when he was only 19, and we had a decent amount of equity in it that we put towards our debt. We took a fun trip to Lynchburg, VA for a sweet gal that I mentor for her engagement. We surprised her, and it was such a sweet trip showing Joshua around my college town. I started and launched my #celebratelifecollection in March of hand drawn and laser etched custom ultrasound keepsakes. The response I received to them was overwhelming in the best way.

 
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IV- APRIL: In April, we finally closed on selling our first home and moved into a rental home we LOVE in the Saint Matthews area of Louisville, and this home was been such a blessing to us. one of our FAVORITE Louisville events is Thunder Over Louisville, the largest firework show in North America, and my parents came up from Maryville, TN to spend the weekend with us at Thunder. I also pulled the trigger and decided to invest in my business a little and I attended Christy Wright Business Boutique one-day event. I went with a few creative small business owner from Lexington, and it was such an inspiring and educational day that spurred on growth in my business in 2018. Joshua and I also FINALLY got to see Dave Ramsey speak and teach live at his Smart Money tour at Southeast Christian Church, and he was just as wonderful in person as he is on his podcast.

 
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V- MAY: In May, I finally visited Joshuas hometown with him and got to attend the church he grew up in and that his dad pastored for years. Also, this was a MAJOR milestone month because Josh FINALLY graduated from college with his Bachelors in Business Administration with a Project Management specialization. He got really sick in undergrad years ago, and he FINALLY got to walk across the stage to receive his diploma. Both of our families went down to VA with us to watch him, and it was a sweet weekend.

 
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VI- JUNE: In June, I hosted my first out of state calligraphy workshop at 618 Ewing in Nashville, TN, and honestly, it was so much harder than I expected to host an out of state workshop. This month, I got to design for a bride who was looking to create a love story banner, and I created three hand drawn illustrations for her that re-sparked my love for illustration drawings. I went back to Corporate America in this month at Robert Half Technology to continue to pay off debt aggressively for out debt free journey. It was a hard transition, but it helped us make some massive progress on our debt.

 
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VII- JULY: In July, Joshua and I celebrated 2 years of marriage. We traveled to Virginia to be with a friend who just received some really hard news and love on her. It was a very unexpected trip, but such an encouraging weekend. This was the month that I pulled off the greatest surprise party of all time for Josh’s graduation party, and it was the first time in his life he has ever been truly surprised! Our whole families came up for the party, and it was such a fun day celebrating his accomplishment!

 
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VIII-AUGUST: In August, I had the honor of hosting a baby shower for a dear friend in our home. I finally hand calligraphed my own wedding vows, and got to hang those in our home after wanting to do them for myself for a very long time. It was in August that Joshua and I hosted our 2nd Financial Peace University class, and we had a wonderful 9 weeks with our FPU students.

 
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VIIII-SEPTEMBER: In September, I hosted my first in-home calligraphy workshop, and it went so smooth! I had always rented out event spaces in the past, and this was so fun to do in our own home. I got to have Joshua as one of my students, and if I can be honest, he was not great at calligraphy…I think I will stay as the C.C.O (Chief Calligraphy Officer). This was also the month where I decided to discontinue my large calligraphy wood cut-outs. It was a really good decision business wise, and as fun as they were to make, it was what my business needed.

 
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X- OCTOBER: In October, I started my 3-month journey of being sick…all the time. I think I had walking pneumonia and bronchitis, but it was just really, really awful and I missed so much work this month. This was the month we also had a blast redoing our guest room, and I shared with you tips for hosting well. It turned out better than we imagined.

 
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XI- NOVEMBER: In November, my dad fell off of a retaining wall, and shattered his entire hip socket. That was hard news to get, as he is a carpenter and this would mean him being out of work for a long time. Joshua and I hosted Thanksgiving this month, and I had my best ever month in business to close out the year. I also had a dream come true, and I had my first ever written piece published in a magazine. I have a desire to write in the future, and this was a small, but faithful step towards that life-long dream.

 
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XII- DECEMBER: In December, I turned 29 years old. To celebrate, I got a very bad sinus infection, and ended up sick for 3 weeks over Christmas. it was a really hard end to 2019 with how bad my sinus infection was. Before I got sick, I hosted my second annual Christmas calligraphy workshop, and it was full of all things Christmas, just the way I like it! In December, I decided that my word for 2019 would be ‘healthy’. To kick off healthy, I decided to go back to my original hair color, and become a dark brunette again after being blonde for so long. For a combined Christmas and birthday gift, Joshua surprised me with the best gift ever of FIVE vintage wooden flat files, and my heart is still in love. We also sent out our first ever Christmas cards, and that was so fun for me, as I designed them all and hand calligraphed them. Lastly, I announced in mid-December that I would be rebranding my entire business and changing my business name, and as I look back, it was the start of something so wonderful, and I didn’t even know it yet.

 
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As wonderful as 2018, was, Joshua and I are beyond expectant for all that 2019 will hold. 2019 is the year we can FINALLY say we will be debt free, and we cannot wait to celebrate this huge milestone in our life that had kept us chained for far too long.

The best is today AND to come!

Sweet blessings,

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WHAT WOULD YOUR FAMILY MISSION STATEMENT SAY?

 
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Libby and Isaac Wendland are two of the most inspirational people I have had the honor of knowing. I went to college at in Lynchburg, VA at Liberty University with them, and I knew Isaac through my time running Cross Country and track there my freshman year. He and Libby were school grade crushes, and they married right out of college. Their love for each other and for the Lord is fierce, strong, deep, passionate, humble, and always seeking to bring glory to the Lord, not themselves. Isaac is now the Assistant Track and Field Coach at Liberty University, and Libby is a teacher in the surrounding area.

After a few years of being married, they started trying to have their own child. Month after month, and year after year, that sweet baby never came and they never got that positive test. They finally sought out a doctor to understand why it was not happening for them, and they were told it would be very difficult for them to have their own children naturally. It had always been their dream to be parents, and they were just broken when they found out that news. One day, traveling back from a trip, they were sitting in the airport. They were in a deep valley season on this hard road to parenthood, and they sat together in the airport to just cry out to the Lord. Right after they prayed, a little girl came running up to them, and she just brought them so much joy. Little did they know that they would be seated right next to this little family on the airplane. During the plane ride, Libby looked over at the mom of that little girl, and simply asked ‘Where did she get her big brown eyes from?’ The mom answered that she was not biologically theirs, but that their daughter was actually adopted.

After that conversation, Libby and Isaac began to have their hearts softened towards adoption. They began to do research on different ways to adopt around the world, and ultimately, the Thailand program tugged at their hearts, and made the most sense for their season of life with all of the Thai rules and regulations. They finally got their acceptance letter into the Thailand program, and it was the best day of their lives. They started a campaign called ‘Miles to Eden’, and after 2.5 years, they finally brought their daughter, Eden Hazel Wendland, HOME.

As their family grew, they knew they wanted to have a strong family mission statement to have as the center of their home to always be able to come back to when life got hard, or they were faced with challenges. When Libby reached out to me, I was honored, as this piece is truly a keepsake that will be passed down for generations to come of the legacy they hope to leave to their family, and to their daughter Eden, of what their family mission statement is. Friends, words MATTER. The words we hang in our home are important and the words we see everyday have the power to CHANGE our everyday.

 
 

To hear their sweet hearts, and learn more about their story, please watch the video below from their ‘Miles to Eden’ journey, and how they were finally able to bring home this little girl with the help of the body of Christ.

Click the Photo to watch the Wendland’s ‘Miles to Eden’ story.

The Lord will surely comfort Zion and will look with compassion on all her ruins; he will make her deserts like Eden, her wastelands like the garden of the Lord. Joy and gladness will be found in her, thanksgiving and the sound of singing.
— Isaiah 51:3 (NIV)

Read their full mission statement and see an up close of the hand calligraphed keepsake below:

 
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WENDLAND FAMILY MISSION STATEMENT

VI XXVII MMIX

Seek His Kingdom

Love God, Love people

Experiences over things

When they go low, we go high

Be in the world, but not of it

Kindness changes everything

We can do hard things

We go to the ends of the earth for each other

CHALLENGE: What would YOUR family mission statement say if you hung one in your home? I would be honored to calligraph this keepsake piece for you to hang intentionally in your home so that every single person who walks through your doors knows exactly what your family’s mission is.

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Sweet blessings,

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WHY I DECIDED TO REBRAND MY ENTIRE BUSINESS

Your brand is your promise to your customer. It tells them what they can expect from your products and services, and it differentiates your offering from that of your competitors. Your brand is derived from who you are, who you want to be, and who people perceive you to be.
— ENTREPRENEUR.COM
 
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In March of 2017, I started my business, ‘Letter and Knot Co’, as a new revenue stream to bring in extra money for our gazelle intense debt free journey. I was so new, in both my skills, and in my understanding of running a full force business, and I put zero thought into my business name and brand. ‘Letter’ was chosen for lettering words, and ‘Knot’ was to represent both the ‘knots in wood’, and ‘tying the knot’ for the wedding industry. I threw ‘and’ in there to tie it together, and ‘co’ at the end to make it feel more professional than I knew it was! As my business grew though, it changed rather quickly. As I was changing, and as the heartbeat of my business was changing and becoming more and more clear, I felt a complete disconnect from who my business was, and where I wanted it to grow into. I felt like my heartbeat was in someone else’s body, and this entire rebrand was bringing my own heartbeat back into my own body.

I was sharing my calligraphy and service offerings on Instagram, but as I started sharing more and more of me, our marriage, our debt free journey, my faith, and so much more, I knew that I had already outgrown the purpose and mission of ‘Letter and Knot Co’, and that it was time to make a drastic change, or I would start to resent my business. I wanted my new business and brand to have margin for me to grow into, for it to be a true reflection of who I am, where I desire it to be, and really hone in on who and what people perceive my business as.

Life behind the scenes of this rebrand looked from the outside like the above photo, but in reality, there was so much hard, messy, and intentional heart work going on in the background as I began to map out what this would really look like. I had to sit down and dream about where I wanted this business to be in 5, 10, 20, 50, 100 years, not just next weekend.

 
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My brand new business name is: Ashley Margaret. I knew I wanted my business name to be my name, but I was so unsure of which parts to choose. (I have a killer last name, Craft, right?) But as I thought on what has shaped me and the fact that building a legacy is going to be such a crucial part of my business, I had to go with my first and middle name. My mom and dad named me ‘Ashley’ and I will forever cherish that name because of their influence on my life; My dad taught me the beauty of bringing something in my mind to life with my hands, as well as dreaming big dreams, and my mom always lived out how to be a great story teller. But with ‘Margaret’, I was given that as my middle name after my mom’s mom, ‘Grandma Margaret’ (Peggy was her nickname), and she is the one I get most of my creativity from. I want to carry on the legacy of small business owners in my family and their stories in my own business now, while also having that margin to grow into it as ME, Ashley Margaret.

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My brand illustration is: a cranberry. I was born and raised in Boston, Massachusetts, and I will FOREVER be a New Englander at heart. So much of New England has inspired my calligraphic style, and the vision for the quality of products I desire to create, and the raw and blunt honesty in which I desire to write. (I am the brutally honest friend who will be blunt with you, in love of course, but if you don’t want the truth, you probably shouldn’t come to me!) I chose the cranberry to be the core illustration element for my business because it is a unique fruit almost exclusively grown and harvested in Massachusetts that only survives in intentional conditions. When those conditions are present, the sustainability is endless, and the vine will stay healthy and produce fruit for years and years to come.

Cranberries are a unique fruit. They can grow and survive only under a very special combination of factors. The cranberry is a Native American wetland fruit which grows on trailing vines like a strawberry. The vines thrive on the special combination of soils and water properties found in wetlands. Wetlands are nature's sponges; they store and purify water and help to maintain the water table. Cranberries grow in beds layered with sand, peat and gravel. These beds are commonly known as bogs or marshes and were originally formed as a result of glacial deposits.

In Massachusetts we call the place where cranberries grow a BOG. Natural bogs evolved from deposits left by the glaciers more than 10,000 years ago. These deposits were left in impermeable kettle holes lined with clay. The clay prevents materials from leaching into the groundwater. Rocks and other organic materials were collected by the glaciers. When the ice finally melted deposits of heavy materials were layered on top of the clay.

These kettle holes were filled with water and organic matter which created the ideal environment for cranberries. In the early 1800s Henry Hall, a veteran of the Revolutionary War who lived in Dennis Massachusetts noticed that sand blown in from nearby dunes helped vines grow faster. Today, growers spread a inch or two of sand on their bogs every three years. The sand not only helps the vines grow but also slows the growth of weeds and insects. Normally, growers do not replant each year since an undamaged cranberry vine will survive indefinitely. Some vines on Cape Cod are more than 150 years old and are still bearing fruit.

-https://www.cranberries.org/how-cranberries-grow

My VISION for ‘Ashley Margaret’ is for it to be a sustainable, healthy business, and to for it to reap a harvest of GOOD fruit in every area that I decide for it to go. I am not here to be trendy or fleeting or fade over time, but to be intentional, honest, and raw in what I create and share. I desire build a faithful legacy from this business in good time.

My HOPE for ‘Ashley Margaret’ is to pen and preserve intentional stories. Writing and speaking in the future are B.H.A.G.’s for me (Big Hairy Audacious Goals), and I am so excited to be able to start to infuse that part of my heart into this business, alongside calligraphy and design. (This was one of the BIGGEST reasons why I decided to change, and why I chose my own name.) The most beautiful part of this new rebrand and business is that it is going to give me room to breathe to be ME and create calligraphy for the intentional story teller, and pen words for the intentional woman.

So, without further ado, I give you all of the new brand elements to my entire business and rebrand! My heart and soul have been poured into this, and I am ecstatic to begin sharing it with the world.

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This was my first ever wax seal that I designed for my business branding, and I purchased it through Artisaire. They were a JOY to work with, have exceptional customer service, and create quality products that will last. I am looking forward to using this wax seal in the smallest of details to leave my mark on what I create and do.

 
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Before I close out, I cannot express enough gratitude to all of the people along the way who made this point of my business possible. I could not have done this without every single client who purchased a custom piece from me or referred me. I could not have done this without every single creative that has pushed me, encouraged me, taught me, and supported me in this creative entrepreneurship endeavor along the way. I will not be able to do this now and in the future without every single future client who will chose me.

And lastly, I do every single piece of this business because of the incredible support and encouragement from my husband. You are my best friend in the entire world, my greatest pursuer, and you inspire me to push past limits in my business and personal life that I did not know I had. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for challenging me to use INTENTIONALLY the gifts and talents the Lord has given me. I love you, Joshua Steven Craft. The best is TODAY and to COME.

 
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Dear friend, I hope you love this new rebrand as much as I do, and that you will journey with me through all of the changes to come! The brand new website will launch in the first weeks of March, and I sure hope you are able to stop in when that happens to explore it all! Until then!

Sweet blessings,

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TWENTY WAYS TO CREATE AN INTENTIONAL GUEST SUITE

Those who live out radically ordinary hospitality see their homes not as theirs at all but as God’s gift to use for the furtherance of His kingdom.
— ROSARIA BUTTERFIELD, THE GOSPEL COMES WITH A HOUSE KEY

Welcome to part two of this guest suite Cranberry Bog series! I was really eager to share Bog Post one with you, ‘THE GUEST SUITE REVEAL’, because as humans, we LOVE radical transformations…and I will tell you, this guest suite was a RADICAL transformation. But this second Bog Post, I have been particularly excited about because I learned it from YOU! I asked THOUSANDS of you what makes you feel at home, cozy, and welcomed in when staying in a guest suite. This is a true compilation of community coming together with ideas. So, if you contributed to this list, and shared what is important to you in a guest suite, THANK YOU! You have not only helped me, but you are helping to serve so many who are also seeking ideas on how to host WELL in their home through a guest suite.

BELOW YOU WILL FIND THE TWENTY WAYS TO CREATE AN INTENTIONAL GUEST SUITE! I hope that this content is helpful, practical, and that it allows you to serve those you invite into your home WELL this holiday season, and every season after that.

 
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I- BLANKETS: Friends, this was the number one thing that you shared with me that makes you feel at home and cozy. If there is ONE thing you do in your guest suite, have LOTS of cozy blankets, and give your guest options of blankets. We decided to put a throw blanket on the bed and on the chair so they are easily accessible, but also, we wanted more options in case it was particularly cold. We put extra quilts and comforters in the drawers in the mirrored chest so that they were not taking up space, but were easily accessible. As much as hosts try, it can still be hard for guests to ask for things, so make it easy for them to have access to those extra blankets.

II- GUEST BOOK TO SIGN: Can you believe that this was the second most shared tip?! I LOVE this because it means that you, friend, are a guy or gal after my own heart. I truly believe that there are power in words, and especially written letters. As both the guest and the host, this is such a fun, long time tradition that preserves the art of writing letters. Give your guests the gift of writing you a letter, and give yourself the joy of reading their words. We will cherish this tradition that we have started forever. As you host, make sure your guest book is somewhere that is EASILY visible with a pen ready to go so that guests dont forget. Also, leave a little note in the guest book cover welcoming your guests, and inviting them to sign and date the journal.

III- WIFI INFORMATION: This seems like something so silly, but it was the third most shared tip. This is something so simple to do, but because it is such a small thing to add to a guest room, it usually gets forgotten. It is so funny, because this one actually helps the host too! When your guest asks for the wifi password, usually that means you have to go, bend over, and rummage on the floor with all the cords to pick up the box that has that little sticker on the back with the password that is harder to type in than it is to graduate from college! (i.e. 5G6dsjkl4757HGdeGH5) Make this display fun, simple, and easy to find to simply avoid that whole debacle!

IV- CLEAN SOFT LINENS ON A COMFORTABLE BED: This goes without saying, but I think it is worth saying. There is nothing like sliding into bed after a long day of driving, flying, or visiting friends, and feeling like you are in a cozy bed that is clean, soft, and fresh. The best way to add fluff and extra coziness is with a bed shawl at the end of the bed. It makes the bed look fluffier, and adds extra layers of linens. The bed we chose was a Nectar, and we have been thoroughly pleased so far with the results. The bed is a little firmer, but the reason we chose the brand Nectar is that it has a one-year return policy in case we are not 1000% satisfied with it, and we got two free memory foam pillows!

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V- PROVIDE BOXES OF KLEENEX: Would you believe that only ONE person shared this tip? (I am looking at you Elisabeth!) That doesn’t mean it isn’t important, it just means it is one of those guest suite amenities that you don’t realize you need until, well, until you absolutely need it, and then you have a giant booger running down your face, and you are too embarrassed to go ask the host for a tissue? Yes, just trust me. Have Kleenex in your guest suite. I wanted them to be invisible unless you needed them, so we tucked a Kleenex box in each night stand, and they will be perfectly accessible all hours of the night to guests.

VI- HEADBOARD ON THE BED: This was one of the most surprising shared tips that I received. but after I thought about it, it makes perfect sense. When you stay somewhere, you want to feel like you are not going to break the furniture when you sit on it, and move around on it. You dont want to have to worry about your pillow falling between the wall and the bed halfway through the night, and being exhausted for the next days adventures from a poor nights sleep. We fell in love with this Trishley Sleigh Bed, and it is a stable, sturdy piece of furniture that will remain a classic, timeless piece to have for years to come.

VII- MIRRORS: At the end of the day, everyone who stays in your home will have a different ‘getting ready’ routine. It will makes your guests feel so comfortable and at home in your guest suite when you provide them with getting ready mirrors, and a full length mirror. When someone is traveling, and staying in your guest room, they are most likely going to have places to go that require getting dressed up, and you know every girl needs to check all angles! Having a full length mirror and getting ready mirror where your guests can have their own routine in privacy will make them feel like they can use a hair dryer without taking up the bathroom, or being too loud.

VIII- LAMPS ON NIGHTSTANDS: Lamps are so important, because when guests stay in your room, they do not know the room like the back of their hand like they do their home. You can avoid nasty toe stubs and running into the edge of the bed while your guests turn off the light switch on the other side of the room by giving them lamps with nightstands. There is nothing worse than not having a place to put a glass of water or your alarm clock while you sleep.

IX- READ THIS BOOK: The Gospel Comes with a House Key’, Rosaria Butterfield. This was the MOST thoughtful suggestion that I received from a dear friend. (Thank you, Leah, for your heart to care for souls, not just the material things!) This book has already started to shift my mindset on what it means to be a host, and what it means to be a guest, and I HIGHLY recommend you purchase it and give it a read as you seek to serve well through hosting in your home.

When Jesus walked the earth, he wasn’t afraid to touch hurting people. he drew people in close. He met them empty and left them full. Jesus turned everything upside down.
— ROSARIA BUTTERFIELD, THE GOSPEL COMES WITH A HOUSE KEY

X- FLUFFY PILLOWS: Not only did so many of you share tips to have fluffy pillows, but to have multiple options for pillows. Some people sleep with 57849 pillows, some sleep with a flat pillow. Some sleep with two pillows, some sleep with a firm one, some with a fluffy one. Everyone is different so I loved this tip because it considers others. We decided to keep the fluffy ones on the bed, and put the memory foam pillows in drawers so they could choose which pillows are best.

XI- CANDLES, ROOM SPRAYS, AND DIFFUSERS: The VERY first thing someone will notice, and remember, about your home, is how it smells; It is one of the strongest sense. So many of you suggested diffusers, which we unfortunately do not have right now, but what we do have is candles and room sprays. My mother-in-law is really good at teaching me about how to make a home always smell welcoming, and she was the first person to introduce me to room sprays. We have an organic one not featured below, as well as fun ones from Bath and Body Works, and they instantly change a home or space through smell!

XII- ROOM FOR LUGGAGE: One of the most frustrating things can be staying somewhere where you feel cluttered and like you cannot get to your luggage easily. If Josh and I can fit at the end of this bed, so can your luggage! It is also helpful to leave extra drawers open in your guest suite dressers for guests to be able to put their clothes in for an extended stay. This can make them feel like they are more settled.

XIII- OUTLETS NEAR THE BED, AND EASILY ACCESSIBLE: This suggestion just reminds me how tied to our phones and technology we are in the 21st century. However, it is a great suggestion because most people have their alarm clocks on their phones, and it very helpful so your guests can charge their phones all night so they have them ready for the next day of adventures. This can be as simple as running an extension chord to each side of the bed so the phone plugs in easily without having to move the entire bed.

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XIV- FACE WIPES FOR MAKE-UP: This was one suggestion that I would have never thought of, but really does make a difference. I placed wet make-up towelettes next to the face clothes, and hand towels, as well as hand cream. I placed these someplace easy to find in the top drawer of the chest with a mirror where they could easily take off their makeup and get ready for bed.

XV- HOOKS: This suggestion is perfect for the guest who is coming in in the winter with lots of coats, or the guest who has multiple purses or bags to hang. It is one of those guest suite items that, like the Kleenex, isn’t something you realize you need until, well, you need it!

 
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XVI- NOISE CONTROL: Growing up, my mom would let me sleep in her room when my dad would go away on trips. I always loved staying with her in her room because she had this big, antique, Tiffany Blue, metal fan that she would run all night for the noise. I never realized just how much this noise made a difference until I stayed in a home that didn’t have a fan. This can also be helpful if a husband and wife are staying in the guest suite, and one gets hotter than the other. It is always nice to have the option of a fan. I decided to store these in the bottom dresser drawers so they were easily accessible, but not in the way if they did not need them.

 
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XVII- BATH TOWELS, HAND TOWELS, FACE CLOTHS: One of the most awkward things to ask for in my books is towels from a host. Do your guests a huge favor, and make your towels, hand towels, and face clothes visible, and easy to find so they don’t have to come and ask for them. I decided to store these in drawers as well, and on top of our tall dresser in little baskets so they are easily seen.

XVIII- SNACKS, WATER BOTTLES, AND A TRASH CAN: This is one of those little details that is such a fun tip because it is just, oh I don’t know, FUN! It is a way to show your guests that you know them through their favorite snack, candy, or drink. (Don’t we all just have a deep longing to be known? Show you guests that you KNOW them.) Practically, sometimes you just need a piece of chocolate or a bottle of water! With all these snacks though, don’t forget a trash bin! Back to the Kleenex…it can get real awkward real quick when you are standing with an empty chocolate wrapper or a tissue full of boogers, and no where to put it. Don’t forget the trash can!

 
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XIX- CURTAINS: This tip goes without saying, but it needs to be said: have curtains in your guest room so that you guests can have their privacy. They do not need to be fancy, they just need to block the view from the outside. I have to hand it to Josh, AGAIN, for this genius idea to have LONG curtains in this room. Don’t y’all LOVE how they add so much length to the room and the windows? I also think there is nothing like the feeling of ‘home’ like opening the curtains wide in the morning to let the sun in.

XX- ALL THE LITTLE DETAILS TO MAKE A GUEST SUITE FEEL LIKE HOME: At the end of the day, your guests are coming to stay with YOU. Invite them in. Let them come empty. Leave them full; spiritually, physically, mentally, and emotionally. Home in this day and age is not always a safe place, but we can give people safe places in the homes we invite them into. Let us seek peace in our homes, and extend grace upon grace upon grace to those who enter our doors, as you may be the only picture of the Gospel they ever see or hear. We are tow imperfect humans serving a perfect Lord who has given us good gifts to share with friends, family, neighbors, our church, and strangers.

We must participate as both hosts and guests - not just one or the other - as giving and receiving are good and sacred and connect people and communities in important ways. But this is not where it ends. God calls us to practice hospitality as a daily way of life, not as an occasional activity when time and finance allow. Radically ordinary hospitality means this: God promises to put the lonely in families (Psalm 68:6), and he intends to use your house as LIVING PROOF.
— ROSARIA BUTTERFLIED, THE GOSPEL COMES WITH A HOUSE KEY

I pray that the Lord inspires you to invite people in and give well through these 19 tips from my tribe. Let’s host well this holiday season, and every season after, to the glory of God, the furthering of His Kingdom, and the joy of his people as they do real, raw, transparent, vulnerable, and joyful life together in homes just like ours all over the world.

Sincerely-

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P.S. Below, you will find all of the details on where we found all of the pieces for our guest suite. Some pieces are older, so I tried to go back and find them all! I hope this helps you host well over the holidays too, and get your own inspiration for your holiday hosting and remodels.

PAINT COLORS || ‘Garden Wall’ and ‘Roman Plaster’ by Behr Paint, Home Depot

MATTRESS || Nectar (Comes with two free memory foam pillows, and a one year money back guarantee.

END TABLES || World Market

BED AND TWO DRESSERS || Trishley Sleigh Bed Set Originally found at Ashley Furniture, purchased at Louisville Overstock Warehouse. (I believe the sleigh bed has been discontinued.)

DUVET || Bed Bath and Beyond

BED SHAWL || Walmart

BEDDING INSERTS AND SHEETS || Walmart and Target

CHAIRS || Pier 1 Imports

BROWN JUTE RUG || World Market

WHITE WASHED JUTE RUG || World Market

THROW BLANKETS || Target

FRAMES || Hobby Lobby

CALLIGRAPHY ON PAPER || Ashley Margaret Calligraphy Keepsakes

CALLIGRAPHY FABRIC BANNER || Not for purchase. Handmade by Ashley.

WIFI STAND || World Market

BLACK AND WHITE PILLOW || World Market

TAN AND WHITE PILLOW || World Market

METAL SERVING TRAY || World Market

GUEST BOOK || Target, Magnolia Homes

LAMPS || Target

CANDLESTICK HOLDERS || Target

CURTAINS || Target

THE GUEST SUITE REVEAL: FROM YELLOW SCHOOL BUS TO BNB

Decor sets the stage for any party, and it also gives a great indication to your guests as to how much effort you’ve put into hosting them within your home.
— RACHEL HOLLIS

As most of you know, Joshua and I are following Dave Ramsey to aggressively pay off debt. We have been on Baby Step 2 in the debt snowball for the past 20 months, and this guest suite was one of our splurge projects. One of our unified values is to host people well in our home, and invest in that area of our lives. We moved into this rental home in April of 2018, and the first time I saw this basement, I instantly had visions for it. However, now that we rent, we knew it would take some time to get our landlord on board. I couldn’t stand the school bus yellow walls that made the floor look orange, the holes in the ceiling along the tops of the windows, the holes along the walls of the fireplace, and the fact that this space was completely unusable. Josh told me at the beginning of this project that he had zero expectations that this room could be turned around, but I told him to just trust me. I am so glad he did!

Because we rent, we had to get the colors approved by our landlord, and we had multiple limitations with the walls, what we could hang on the walls, etc. It was a fun challenge to work with the accent wall color she picked out. We used to get a TON of cricket spiders in this basement, and it made this space dreadful to go down into. To combat the cricket spiders, we purchased a dehumidifier to eliminate the muggy and damp air that was always down there, Josh sealed up the holes in the ceiling above the windows, he sealed up the holes along the sides of the fireplace, he sealed up the hole in the wall above the air vent in the ceiling, and we put a large piece of acrylic at the fireplace entrance behind the wire mesh to keep the cricket spiders from coming in from the fireplace. And you know what, we have not had ONE cricket spider since! Praise the Lord!

Most of you know this, but my husband is a Business Analyst for a software company, and he travels a lot for work. Wouldn’t you guess that the week that ALL of our furniture was delivered, he was on his LONGEST trip in Canada. When he left, the room was completely empty, and when he came back, the room was completely finished. It was a whirlwind of a week handling all the deliveries and furniture on my own, but isn’t that what women do? They just find a way?! I wish you could have seen me in my business clothes on my lunch breaks attaching furniture to our dolly, and hauling it downstairs! The surprise on his face though when he finally came home on that Saturday night was well worth the wait and the big reveal!

Radically ordinary hospitality values the time it takes to invest in relationships, to build bridges, to repent of sins of the past, to reconcile. Bridge building and remaking friendships cannot be rushed. The word hospitality approximates the Greek word philoxenia, which mean ‘love of the stranger’.
— ROSARIA BUTTERFIELD, THE GOSPEL COMES WITH A HOUSE KEY

So, drumroll please: I OFFICIALLY welcome you to our own Craft BNB (Bed ‘n Basement…unless you stay for a Saturday morning, then it will be a Bed ‘n Breakfast!). I hope that this transformation shocks you JUST as much as it did us, and our landlord. We pray that it is a blessing to us, and to the family, friends, neighbors, and strangers the Lord brings into our home. This blessing is not ours to keep to ourselves, but the Lords for us to steward well.

 
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One of my favorite corners of this guest suite is probably the least exciting from the outside. My dad is a carpenter, and he is the man who taught me the joy of bringing beautiful things to life from my mind with my hands. These 1920’s antique book pages remind me of days when I was a little girl where I would watch my dad create beautiful homes in drawings and then bring them to life with his hands. From the title page starting point of a blueprint proposal, to the rough drawings, to the building and final product of a new home, the entire process is just beautiful. This corner tells a small part of my story that has made a huge impact on my life.

 
 
I think when people have the freedom to tell their own story rather than trying to be specific to a certain design or style, there’s more freedom, and it ends up feeling more like home. Those spaces we see in magazines and on the internet are beautiful, but if there’s not that story there, then it’s going to lack that feeling of home.
— JOANNA GAINES
For Christians to maintain an authentic Christian witness to a world that mistrusts us (at the very least), we must be transparently hospitable. The Christian life is a cross-bearing life, and the Word of God calls and equips God’s people to holy living. All our neighbors must know that we live differently from the world, and they will know as we live visibly within the means of grace, placing ourselves under the authority of the church as members in good standing - and we must be UNMISTAKABLY hospitable.
— ROSARIA BUTTERFIELD, 'THE GOSPEL COMES WITH A HOUSE KEY'
 
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This banner is an Ashley Margaret original design, and hand calligraphed by yours truly. I hated this little shelf in our guest suite, so instead of making it work, I decided to cover this hole in the wall with a custom banner that shares core values of our life with those who stay in our home. If there is ONE thing I want people to know when they stay with us, and then leave, is simply Jesus. l want them to intimately know, and be intimately known, by Jesus.

 
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So, I have to give Josh ALL the credit on the idea to hang LONG curtains in our tiny little windows. One, these windows are very weirdly shaped, and it would have been very expensive to get custom curtains. Two, it creates height in this space, and makes the room look taller, and not as short. Always work to create height in your spaces in the unexpected ways. Get out of the box and just try something new!

 
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To the REAL MVP of this guest suite remodel, here is to YOU Joshua Steven Craft. I couldn’t bring my dreams to life without your brawn and problem solving mind, and I cannot wait to create many more home spaces together with you in all the days we are given together. I love you.

 
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Lastly, thank you to the sweetest gal, Allie Thaxton, for these beautiful photos of our new guest suite so that I can share this reveal (and of course the next Cranberry Bog Post on ‘19 WAYS TO CREATE AN INTENTIONAL GUEST SUITE’) with you! It takes a village of creatives to bring to life beautiful things, and I am grateful for my growing tribe! She made a dark basement with two little windows of natural light look like a million dollars.

I hope you absolutely loved journeying this guest suite remodel with us, and don’t be afraid to let me know what you think. I hope this inspires you to tell your story well through the home you create. Make it yours, and make it count. All we get is this one life to live.

Sincerely-

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P.S. Below, you will find all of the details on where we found all of the pieces for our guest suite. Some pieces are older, so I tried to go back and find them all! I hope this helps you host well over the holidays too, and get your own inspiration for your holiday hosting and remodels.

PAINT COLORS || ‘Garden Wall’ and ‘Roman Plaster’ by Behr Paint, Home Depot

MATTRESS || Nectar (Comes with two free memory foam pillows, and a one year money back guarantee.

END TABLES || World Market

BED AND TWO DRESSERS || Trishley Sleigh Bed Set Originally found at Ashley Furniture, purchased at Louisville Overstock Warehouse. (I believe the sleigh bed has been discontinued.)

DUVET || Bed Bath and Beyond

BED SHAWL || Walmart

BEDDING INSERTS AND SHEETS || Walmart and Target

CHAIRS || Pier 1 Imports

BROWN JUTE RUG || World Market

WHITE WASHED JUTE RUG || World Market

THROW BLANKETS || Target

FRAMES || Hobby Lobby

CALLIGRAPHY ON PAPER || Ashley Margaret Calligraphy Keepsakes

CALLIGRAPHY FABRIC BANNER || Not for purchase. Handmade by Ashley.

WIFI STAND || World Market

BLACK AND WHITE PILLOW || World Market

TAN AND WHITE PILLOW || World Market

METAL SERVING TRAY || World Market

GUEST BOOK || Target, Magnolia Homes

LAMPS || Target

CANDLESTICK HOLDERS || Target

CURTAINS || Target

FIVE REASONS YOU SHOULD INVEST IN HAND CALLIGRAPHED WEDDING VOWS

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"I do" are the two most famous last words
The beginning of the end.
But to lose your life for another, I've heard
Is a good place to begin.

'Cause the only way to find your life
Is to lay your own life down.
And I believe it's an easy price
For the life that we have found.

And we're dancing in the minefields
We're sailing in the storms.
This is harder than we dreamed,
But I believe that's what the promise is for.
That's what the promise is for.

-Andrew Peterson, ‘Dancing in the Minefields’

Isn’t marriage one of the most wonderful, but crazy things this world has to offer? When you fall in love, you get engaged, and then, everyone starts telling you how hard marriage is and that you will need to be fighters for marriage every day. Isn’t that the TRUTH? I am here to break the ice: in a world of perfect instagram posts and perfectly posed marriages on social media, it is HARD. But it is a good, good gift given to us by the Lord himself that is worth fighting for.

 
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As a woman who believes in the value and sanctity of marriage, given to humans as a picture of Christ and His bride, the church, I do not know if there are greater words that I could have the honor of preserving through calligraphy than your wedding vows. I do know that choosing to have them hand-calligraphed will be an investment, but one that will be well worth it. There are 5 reasons why I believe you should make the investment, and have your own vows hand-calligraphed:

 
 

I- YOUR WEDDING VOWS ARE THE MOST IMPORTANT WORDS YOU WILL EVER SPEAK TO ANOTHER HUMAN BEING. When God designed marriage, he designed it as a covenant that a man and a woman step into that will then be one of the greatest pictures of the Gospel as a husband seeks to love his wife as Christ loves, and gave himself up for His bride, the Church. There is a oneness that happens when two people say I do in front of God and witnesses, and I never want our culture to lose the meaning of the promises they speak, the covenant they step into, and the words they say. Your wedding vows are just that: promises, a covenant, and powerful words of oneness and commitment for life. Tell me: what greater words could you ever speak to another human being?

II- MARRIAGE IS HARD. I have said it once (ok, maybe twice!) and I will say it a third time: marriage is hard! There WILL be days where you want to throw in the towel and call it quits. There have been nights where Joshua and I have fought, and as I have walked (Ok, pouted and stomped) upstairs to our bedroom, I had to walk right by our vows hanging by our front door. Every single time, without fail, I am instantly convicted in those moments to go and reconcile with my husband, and remember that we are on the SAME team, fighting the SAME fight, and walking daily the SAME covenant of marriage together. If there is one thing that Satan wants to do in your marriage, it is create disunity, and he wants nothing more than to tear apart what God brought together as one. The stakes are too high, and marriage is too great a cost to not make the investment to have those covenant words calligraphed and hung in your home to daily be reminded of.

III- THEY WILL BE AN HEIRLOOM TO PASS DOWN FOR GENERATIONS. There are not many things nowadays that will stand the test of time to be able to be passed down from generation to generation as an heirloom. The classic and timeless style of Ashley Margaret bespoke calligraphy wedding vows allows them to be the perfect keepsake to pass down to your children, and their children, and so on that will not fade with time. One of the greatest gifts I hope to pass onto my children and my grandchildren is a marriage that is deep, wide, rich, weathered, tested, tried, proved, imperfect, Christ-centered, full of memories, joyful, and a testament to our covenant of marriage that will be a legacy for them to carry for generations to come.

IV- HANG ONE-OF-A-KIND, CUSTOM, INTIMATE ART IN YOUR HOME. In a world where everything is manufactured in mass quantity, and everyone saves images on Instagram to then go and purchase the exact same pieces…stand out! You don’t have to have a perfectly posed home that looks just like Joanna Gaines home. (Although her home is beautiful!) I believe that the art and pieces you choose to hang in your home should be a direct reflection of who you are, and they should create spaces in your home that not only give you life, but that remind you of your core values. Hand-calligraphed wedding vows are the perfect way to have custom art in your home that reminds you of your core values as a married couple.

V- THEY MAKE THE PERFECT ‘PAPER-VERSARY’ GIFT FOR YOUR SPOUSE. News flash! Did you know that paper is the first anniversary traditional gift that you are to give to your spouse? I cannot think of a better gift than the words that you both spoke on the day you stepped into covenant marriage.

…but after reading those 5 reasons, don’t JUST take my word for it! Below are the heartfelt words of 4 women who I had the honor of working with to bring to life their covenant words of marriage through Ashley Margaret bespoke calligraphy wedding vows. If you have been thinking about having yours calligraphed, listen to and hear the words of these precious women and what these vows mean to them, as well as their experience in working with me. I can share my 5 reasons I believe you should have them done all day long, but these are real clients, real women, and real marriages that I had the privilege of serving well.

 
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“I invested in wedding vows because I saw the time and energy you spent into creating each piece! I knew I wanted to reference my vows in my house and having a special piece created just for our home is so special to remember the wedding and the words we promise each other every day!

My experience was just the best! From the moment I sent an inquiry to receiving my vows, you were so understanding and wanted to create the exact piece that I had dreamed about! You were professional as a business owner, but so genuine and became a friend and storyteller in the time before my wedding!

The vows have been THE best investment, and the most rewarding and treasured piece that I bought for my wedding! Not only did they serve as decoration, but now, they hang in my home as a testament of the words we promised not only on our wedding day but every day after too. I was hesitant to spend the chunk of money on just one piece, but I am so grateful for them and they have been the biggest blessing to reference on our wall!”

-KELSEY HOGUE

 
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“My parents got divorced when I was seven, so my idea of family and home always strayed from wholeness. Over the last year and a half, Taylor and I have gotten engaged, married and moved into our first home. As milestones of life continue to pass, God deepens my understanding of what it means to be a member of the family of God and the ideals we should uphold and mission we should pursue. I chose to invest in hand-calligraphed wedding vows so they can serve as a main focus on the gallery wall in our living room. This wall will be comprised of those values that we feel represent our family. And next to the cross of Jesus being at the center, our vows and covenantal promise to each other will hang to the right.

Ashley finished our vows right before my husband and I left for our one-year anniversary trip. Remaining true to her priorities and character, a young woman whom Ashley mentors had an emergency situation a few states away. However, knowing how important this gift was to me, she had her husband meet me on my lunch break to ensure my gifting to Taylor was timely. Ashley provided the highest quality of customer service and companionship throughout the entire process.   

I highly recommend preserving a piece of your wedding day to remind yourselves of your commitment to each other often, and share that love you have with each other with everyone who enters your home.”

-CATHERINE LEIGH

 
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“So in love with how these turned out, Ashley! Your perspective on marriage is spot on and some days remembering those words we vowed is vital. You are a dream to work with and made my ideas come to life perfectly. We have the vows hanging in a central spot in our home so we pass them every day, and it’s a beautiful reminder of our wedding day, the words we shared, and the commitment we made to each other and our family. Thank you. Thank you for putting our words to paper in such a beautiful way!”

-CORTNEY DAVIS PESKOE

 
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“You were super helpful and asked so many questions to ensure that I got what I wanted. I wasn’t entirely sure on my vision so I also appreciated your artistic advice and guidance along the way. I was blown away by your attention to detail.

The reason I chose to have these done was that we weren’t newly weds anymore, and I wanted something that felt more like the weathered partners we were, something more raw. I saw you post someone else’s vows, and it made me think about my vows and the time I spent piecing them together. I stop in our home to re-read them often now that they are hanging in our living room, and it’s such a beautiful reminder of who we want to be, and where we started.”

-JESSICA BRANHAM

IN COSING: I truly believe that words have power, and that the words we choose to hang in our home have a deep impact on how we live and on our daily lives. Because of that, I finally took time away from client projects earlier this year to hand-calligraph my OWN wedding vows, and they now are one of the greatest pieces of artwork I have in my home that I will in fact pass down for generations to come. They hang by our front door, and every morning and evening I walk by them, and as I come and go into our home, and as people come and go into our home, they are the first and last words seen. Yes, marriage is worth it. Yes, having your vows hand calligraphed, framed, and hung in your home is worth the investment.

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I hope I get the honor and privilege of serving you as well, sweet friend, whether through Ashley Margaret bespoke calligraphy wedding vows. Thank you for choosing me and trusting me with your most precious words spoken.

Sincerely-

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THREE BLESSINGS: THE NURSERY PROJECT

All Photography by:    Chandler Rose Photography

All Photography by: Chandler Rose Photography

I am sitting here listening to the song 'Never Grow Up' by Taylor Swift, and tears are just streaming down my face as I type this story. I have prayed that Letter & Knot Co (Now ‘Ashley Margaret’) would always be a business that tells GREAT, meaningful stories, and that serves the community WELL when needs arise. Sarah and Chris Blessing, I am so honored to be a SMALL part of telling the precious and meaningful story of Baby B, Baby Arwen, well alongside of SO many other women and men who helped bring this nursery to life.

I met one of the founders of The Nursery Project , Haley Christiansen of Chandler Rose Photography, through social media and the wedding industry. When she reached out to me about this specific nursery, my heart knew it needed to say yes to donate an ultrasound keepsake from my #CelebrateLifeCollection to this family. 

The Nursery Project is a movement of people who love Jesus and want to help families welcome a new child into their home!

It started with a group of girlfriends who decided to gift a surprise nursery to a friend whose baby was facing some difficult circumstances. It has since blossomed into a ministry that has touched hundreds!

I only played a very small part in this nursery, and I cant even imagine the grateful hearts the Blessing family has as they opened the doors to THIS completely finished nursery (Keep scrolling for the video recorded reveal!) as they welcomed their two sweet babies into their home, and Baby Arwen in spirit.

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I know, as I finish the song 'Never Grow Up', that this family is looking down at their two sweet babies thinking 'please never grow up. Would you just stay this little?!' But OH what a PRIVILEGE it is to grow up. It is a privilege that I know this family desperately wishes Baby Arwen could experience. Baby B, you are remembered, you are celebrated, and you are loved. Your story has touched and moved my heart today. When the body of Christ comes together to serve, we are truly better together. Thank you for all you do, Haley, and the Nursery Project team. 

Take pictures in your mind of your childhood room. Memorize what it sounded like when your dad gets home. Remember the footsteps, remember the words said, and know your little brothers favorite songs. I just realized everything I have is someday gonna be gone.
— Taylor Swift, "Never Grow Up"

Life is short. Soak in all the moments you are given this very day, for tomorrow is not promised. We serve a great, sovereign, good, gracious, kind, generous, faithful, gift-giving, and loving God who knows each of our days, no matter how long or short all of those days are.

Sincerely-

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For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.
— PSALM 139:13-16