I’m starting to love this morning routine I’ve created. After Bonnie’s talk on balance at Creative At Heart, I realized my old morning routine was setting me up for workday failure and that something REALLY needed to change. So for the past week, I’ve been following a certain routine that begins at 7:30 (or earlier), and it’s resulted in MUCH more productive days! I want to wait a few weeks before blogging about it, just to make sure it sticks, but I’m really excited about getting off on the right foot every morning!

Last week was a good one. I’ve slowed down quuuite a bit, and I’m loving it! One of our pastor’s kids, Ami, is my FAVORITE 5-year-old in the world. She and I have been BFFs since this time  she was having a tantrum two years ago and I managed to calm her down by asking about her pink dress. Ever since then, we’re as best of friends as a 20-something and a kindergartener can be! We had a “date day” this past Wednesday that involved ice skating, Ted’s Bulletin (where she went on a total sugar binge with a chocolate milkshake AND a pop tart), and a trip to the nature center where saw a snake devour a mouse.

If you’re ever in need of laughter, hang out with a five-year-old. Ice skating alone was enough to have me in stitches, since Ami had never been before and I hadn’t been for at least five years. We had one of those Fred Flinstone moments- you know, where you desperate trying to stay upright, flailing your legs and arms all over the place? And then we both ended up on our butts on the ice anyways. It was the best!

As always, lessons learned/events that transpired over the past week!

  • We’re FINALLY getting our house in order! You might be thinking “…but Abby, didn’t you move into that house in August?” Yes, but moving during wedding season makes it really hard to get your life in order, especially when you’re ADHD. So this weekend we made a long-awaited trip to Ikea to get a bed frame for our guest room, which required moving allll the crap out of that bedroom that’d been piling up since August.
  • We also bought an entryway bench! WOO. Living large, people.
  • And, I finally finished hanging the photo frame collage I carefully planned out for the living room. So it no longer feels half-finished! Now I just have to order photos for those frames.
  • This is what happens when you get a little older. Things like entryway benches become a highlight of your week.
  • Matt took me on a creative date on Thursday- he told me to pick anything I liked from a book he bought for us, “52 Uncommon Dates.” But instead of choosing one of those dates, you know what I asked to do? “I really just want to crunch the ice along the W&OD trail before it melts!” So we took the pups to the trail and I wore my wellies, and Matt waited patiently while I stomped along the puddles covered in ice for a solid 2+ miles. And it was AWESOME.

It’s been a while since I’ve posted a photos of the pups, so here’s a little dose of our four-legged children! Hard to believe they’re both German Shepherd mixes, isn’t it?

German Shepherd mixes- Abby Grace

Fun fact: the only way I can get them to sit like this is to bribe them with Beggin strips. Yaaay!

  • Urška Majer - You two pups are so adorable!ReplyCancel

  • Jean - Cute picture or the pups! Getting your house in order makes everything better!ReplyCancel

  • Karen/aka Mom - You enjoy so many things I can relate to! Breaking the ice on puddles is a forgotten art. The pups look great, especially Sirius, with that one ear cocked up. #settingatrend #grandpuppieslookinggood #momReplyCancel

I’m still trying to work out what happened last week. I mean, I KNOW what happened- I attended a life-changing conference in Staunton, Virginia with 84 other creatives in the industry, and had my world totally rocked by the experience. But rocked HOW? It’s still a little unclear. But every day the mist disperses and little and I can see a bit more of what happened in my heart, and what was going on in the hearts of the attendees.

Creative at Heart conference- Abby Grace Photography

Back in November, Kat asked if I’d be willing to come be an official conference photographer- heck yeah! I’d told her. I hadn’t been planning to go, just because I’d already eaten up my education budget for the year. So I jumped on the request! While I was there, I also had the honor of being on a photography panel with Katelyn, Caroline & Annamarie- being able to sit down in a more intimate group to talk about any and everything that revolves around running a photography business was such a treat! I learned so much listening to the other three panel members, and it was so interesting to hear the different methods we all employ to make our businesses run smoothly and successfully.

Creative at Heart conference- Tyler Herrinton

Creative at Heart conference- Abby Grace Photography

The speaker line-up was killer. Over the two-day conference, we heard from nine different professionals about everything from blogging efficiently, to making Google work for you, to the nitty gritty details of how to divvy up your finances. Having been in the industry for 4-5 years now, I was expecting that I’d “heard it all;” that everything the speakers were going to say, I’d already read it on a blog or learned it in a workshop.

Boy, I was so wrong- Bonnie‘s talk on balance cut right to the heart of some of my biggest weaknesses. And Natalie‘s slot on social media taught me some really valuable techniques for making the most out of my online presence. I’d brought a notebook with me to jot down a few thoughts over the two days, but I ended up with pages and pages of hastily-scribbled notes. It was awesome.

Creative at Heart conference- Abby Grace Photography

But the biggest takeaway for me was that I’ve been spending WAY too much time focusing on the wrong things, and it’s only hurt me and others.

If you’re been following AGP for a while, you’ll know that my pride is my biggest enemy. I’ve lost days, WEEKS of productivity over the years from obsessing and stressing over what I see other people doing, because I’m jealous, or because I think it’s threatening to me. My biggest emotional breakdowns over my business haven’t been due to burnout- they’ve been due to being humbled in big ways, being humbled in ways big enough that I’ve spent entire mornings crying ugly tears because I didn’t get something I thought I deserved. Because I am, to be totally honest, stuck on myself. Sometimes I don’t even STRUGGLE with the pride- I just let it run rampant and bask in the ugliness of it all.

But despite my bitter, jealous heart, God is still working in me- refining me, redirecting me, using me to bring him glory. Creative At Heart isn’t a Christian conference, but God was still moving. He used my time at the conference to gently but pointedly remind me that my purpose here isn’t to build up a photography empire that worships Abby Grace, it’s to honor him. It’s to use any GOOD that comes from my business to glorify him.

Creative at Heart conference- Abby Grace Photography

And maybe glorifying him looks like pouring life into my couples’ marriages through their anniversary sessions, or maybe it’s to speak encouraging words to someone who needs to hear them. Or maybe it’s through being raw and vulnerable to let other people know, you’re not alone in this. Whatever it is, my time at Creative At Heart reminded me that I believe in a God, and am loved by a God, who is SO much bigger than my photography business. And that my purpose as a person is so much bigger than just taking photographs and hosting workshops. And, that despite my bitterness, pride and jealousy, God loves me so fiercely and chooses to bless me anyways, even though I am frightfully undeserving.

If you’re thinking of attending the next Creative at Heart conference, I cannot stress enough that you should DO IT. If you want your business rocked to its core in the best way possible, DO IT. If you’re looking to be encouraged by both inspirational and practical speakers, DO IT. If you feel alone or isolated in this industry and need people to come alongside you to cheer for you, DO IT.

You’ll be so happy you did.

(Me and two of my favorite boss ladies, Natalie & Katelyn!)

Creative at Heart conference- Abby Grace Photography

Registration for the next Creative At Heart was just announced this week! And I’m SO excited, because for C@H Round 2, I’ll have the privilege of speaking & presenting alongside some of the most talented women in the industry, as well as serving on a panel again! I’ll be speaking on the topic of finding vision for your business, and though I’m already getting nervous about making bad jokes in front of everyone, I can’t wait see how it helps other business owners bloom and grow!

For more details, visit the conference website :).

Creative_At_Heart_conference_photo_0009

  • Alicia Lacey - It takes a strong person to identify their own weaknesses, Abby! We all have them, it’s just figuring out how to manage them that is the hard part — proud of you!ReplyCancel

  • Alexandra {Heart Love Always} - I just love you!! And I’m so happy I get to see you again in March!! YIPPEE!!! xoxoReplyCancel

  • Shalese - I have debating back and forth on going to the one in March!! I’m keeping this post open for reference. :) I love love LOVE how open and honest you are about the “raw” things.ReplyCancel

  • Dad - i don’t know where this pride comes from???? Certainly not from me, I am the humblest person around and I don’t mind bragging about that!ReplyCancel

  • Tiffany Heidenthal - Your dad’s comments are always my favorite :)ReplyCancel

  • ashley - I loved finally being able to meet you in person! I feel like your recent blog posts really match the person I met at the conference! :) You are so awesome for being so transparent. I can’t wait to see you at the next conference! And SERIOUSLY! You NEED to read Love Does by Bob Goff. Y’all could be related! Plus, he gives you his phone number in the book so you can call him! He never lets a call go to voicemail! Do it! :) See you in March! :)ReplyCancel

  • Lydia - Thanks for sharing so deeply, Abby! I need a constant reminder of this! It’s inspiration for the ups and downs. Busy and slow, many bookings or none, my business is to glorify Him!ReplyCancel

She called me mid-November with a secret- she & Joe were engaged! But no one else knew. And no one else was going to know until after they tied the knot. “We were thinking… we want to elope in New York. And before I even met Joe, I knew that you would one day be my wedding photographer. Will you be there?”

So with everything under wraps, we began to plan; where would the ceremony take place? What would she wear? Would Central Park be alright for portraits? (Btw, Central Park will ALWAYS be more than alright for portraits). And what about a place to get ready on the morning of? “I found this amazing loft apartment in Chelsea with a ton of natural light!” Wendy, I could kiss you.

In the end, she settled on a pink gown, a vintage mink shrug, a birdcage veil, and an antique diamond bracelet. They got ready together- he zipped her into that stunning blush frock, helped her into her mink. She fixed his tie, fussed over his hair a little. And as they stood there facing each other at the High Line, the windy gusting, a crowd of onlookers swelling with each passing minute, they wore these matching smiles so bright that even the sun might pale a little in comparison. This was THEIR day, the start of the rest of their lives, Day 1 of thousands and thousands.

Joe & Wendy, I don’t even know where to begin. To have the honor of being one of a mere four friends to witness your marriage ceremony, it’s something I will always treasure and never forget. And to be able to have done so in such an iconic location was a dream come true!! Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, thank you for one of the most special days of my career, and for the chance to photograph your unabandoned, unrestrained, and completely exuberant love!

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New York City High Line elopement with pink wedding gown - Abby Grace Photography

New York City High Line elopement with pink wedding gown - Abby Grace Photography

New York City High Line elopement with pink wedding gown - Abby Grace Photography

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New York City High Line elopement with pink wedding gown - Abby Grace Photography

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And then this past Saturday, they told their family & friends! Everyone gathered in Richmond for what they thought was an engagement party, and had no idea that the video Joe & Wendy were about to show would actually reveal that they’d eloped! Here’s the amazing announcement film by Molly B. Ransone!

Details
Dress- Lela Rose
Mink, bracelet & veil: Bygones Vintage
Officiant: Sondra Peeden
Video: Molly B. Ransone

A huge thank you to my brother, Ethan, for making the up-and-back-in-one-day trip with me to assist for the day. This would have been a lot more complicated without him!

 

  • Moriah - These are breathtaking! What a beautiful couple and such a sweet wedding day all to themselves!ReplyCancel

  • Wendy Byrd - Abby, you posses a gift, you not only capture the beauty and sentiment of an event but you are able to see and connect with people in a way that comes across so vividly in your photographs.

    I called you the moment I knew a wedding was in the works, no one else would be the photographer for us.ReplyCancel

  • Kristyn - Abby, These photos are absolutely amazing! You captured their love beautifully!ReplyCancel

  • Tara Peddicord - The story that these images tell. Remarkable. Beautiful work Abby!ReplyCancel

  • Ashley Mitchell - Okay seriously. How were you not SQUEALING the entire time this was all happening. Your best work evah evah. Love it.ReplyCancel

  • Rachel McCloud - absolutely stunning. The BW of Wendy looking out the car window is so beautiful :)ReplyCancel

  • Caili - Just magical, Abby! These were so fun to look through.ReplyCancel

  • Jean - what a great blog! Must have been hard for you and Ethan to keep this secret. The photos are gorgeous. Love them all.ReplyCancel

  • Megan - Umm this is magical! There was not a single photo I didn’t love!! I also love that your brother & his bowtie made it on the film :) GREAT job Abby!ReplyCancel

  • Brittany - This is next level. I am so in awe. Stunning work. Simply stunning!ReplyCancel

  • Rebekah - These are so stunning! I particularly love the B&W image where the bride is in the car & looking up out of the window. Such classic beauty. I love the idea that they did this secretly. So intimate.ReplyCancel

  • Heather - OH WOW!!!! These are SO AMAZING!!!! I love how you captured this beautiful couple and how natural they looked! So classic and elegant! LOVE IT!!!!ReplyCancel

Kathleen doesn’t strike me as the type to get teary about many things. But I love how wedding days are always, always the exception to that kind of rule. She was fine- calm and collected- until she looked at her mom, right after the wedding dress went on. And then again, as she walked into the church and laid eyes on Ryan as he waited for her at the end of the aisle. The best kind of tears are the ones that come from a place of joy, from knowing you’ve found the one in whom your soul delights. From knowing that the only thing standing between you finally being husband and wife are a few short sentences, a couple of rings, and the biggest promise you’ve ever made.

Ryan & Kathleen, your wedding day was such an honor. It’s always an privilege to photograph a wedding, but to do so for someone I’ve known since freshman year of high school, it was especially joyous! Kathleen- I’ve never seen Ryan with a smile as big as when he looks at you, girl. Seeing how crazy he is over you is so encouraging! Ryan- buddy, you’ve found an incredible best friend in Kathleen. I can’t wait to see you both cheer each other on through the next chapters of your life, through Nationals’ world titles (fingers crossed) and Redskins losses (fingers crossed on that, too). The best of wishes to you both!

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Ryan, don’t kill me for including this. It was just so classic!

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Classic Virginia wedding at Olde Silk Mill- Abby Grace Photography

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  • Shalese - These are all AMAZING!!! :)ReplyCancel

  • Ryan Mathews - Abby! You did an amazing job and I’m so happy you could be a part of THE day. I speak for myself and Kathleen when I say we absolutely love the quality of all the pictures you took, including the silly ones. My favorite, not involving myself or Kathleen, has got to be the one where Pat Powers is giving the “I always feel like… somebody’s watching meeeeee!” look. Feel free to Photoshop the GEICO googly-eyes-money-thing over his face, and send it to him on my behalf.

    All kidding aside, we can’t thank you enough. It goes without saying that we will recommend your skills to everyone, literally!

    You’re awesome!!!

    RyanReplyCancel

  • Urška Majer - Gorgeous wedding!ReplyCancel

  • Kathleen Mathews - Oh My Gosh!!!!!! I LOVE these pictures Abby! They couldn’t have been any better. You truly captured the love and roller coaster of emotions throughout the day. I would have to say a few of my favorites are the black and white ones from the church. Just like Ryan said, there will be no one else that I recommend besides you!

    Love,
    KathleenReplyCancel

  • Rebekah - I love the bride’s wintry bouquet with the pine cones. Great work, as always!ReplyCancel

  • Jeannie Mathews - Breathtaking, Abby! Just exquisite, thank you so much for capturing this wonderful day so beautifully. Kathleen – I love seeing your new name in print!!!ReplyCancel

  • Rosie Hoovler - Beautiful pictures! Makes me cry all over again. You’re an amazing photographer. I just remember how much pressure we put you under. Fantastic. Thank you,
    Rosie
    (Kathleen’s Mom…Ryan’s new MOTHER-IN-LAW)….like how I said that? I’m liking the new title.ReplyCancel

  • Wendy Byrd - Elegant and joyful what a great combination! Winter weddings are so beautiful and these pictures are stunning, joyful and heartwarming! Love the fur.ReplyCancel

  • Cindy & Scott Nall - Amazing pictures! Kathleen, you were a beautiful bride on your special day. Sorry we weren’t there to share it with you.
    Can’t wait to see all of your beautiful pictures!ReplyCancel

Those who’ve been following along for a while now already know this, but sometimes I’ll sit down to write a Monday Mash-Up post and comPLETELY blank on what happened over the last week of my life. So I do the natural thing and pull out my phone, open the Instagram app, and check what photos I’ve posted over the last seven days to remind me. Sad, I know, but thank you LORD for a phone that also serves to document my life!

Last Thursday, Matt & I celebrated four years of marriage! He took the day off and on a whim, we decided to head into DC to spend some time at the National Art Gallery. I’ve never really been into modern art (actually, if we’re being honest, I can’t STAND modern art), but I’ve recently found myself wanting to study painted portraits from the 1600-1800’s. So we jumped in the car and headed to the Smithsonian where we spent several hours wandering from room to room to room. We actually SAW a DaVinci! I didn’t know if there were any in the US, but sure enough, the National Gallery has the only DaVinci on this side of the Atlantic, and we saw it.

It was SO interesting to walk through the gallery and see which type of paintings I was naturally drawn to- it turns out, I’m a Raphael fan. AND we got to see an entire room devoted to Degas!! The original Little Dancer sculpture was there as well as several of his ballerina pieces, and I could have stayed in that room all day. It made me all the more thankful for my own ballerina painting that’s currently hanging above my desk :).

Also last week, we finally got to witness Joe & Wendy revealing to their friends and family that they’re MARRIED! Remember that elopement in New York City I mentioned on IG? Yep, it was these two!! I cannot WAIT to share their day with you on Thursday- you guys are going to die when you see this one.

As always, lessons learned/events that transpired over the past week:

  • CatchPhrase is infinitely more interesting when you’re playing with friends from Bible study and you’ve all had a glass of wine with dinner. That’s all I’ll say on that matter.
  • When you wake up on a Tuesday morning to unexpectedly find the streets covered in snow, AND your husband happens to be home, you do the only reasonable thing and drag him outside for a few quick self-portraits.
  • Sirius & Lily like to play this game at 7am called “who can jostle Abby the most while she’s still trying to sleep?” It’s super fun.
  • Know what else is fun? When you wake up at 3am to the sound of your smaller dog gagging on goodness knows what. #puppyparentingproblems
  • #Youcan’tusehashtagsinblogposts, Abby!

Here’s a preview of Joe & Wendy’s intimate Manhattan elopement- make sure to check the blog Thursday for the whole thing!

New York City High Line elopement photographer- Abby Grace

And here’s one of those snowy portraits that my picture-taking-hating husband lovingly agreed to take with me!

self-portrait on a snow day- Abby Grace Photography

Happy Monday, sweet friends!

  • Jean - Matt is such a good sport! Looking forward to seeing more of the elopement.ReplyCancel

  • Karyn - I worked at an art gallery one summer in college that had an exhibit on loan from the VMFA which just so happened to contain the DaVinci! I think I sat in that gallery for hours just studying the brush strokes thinking “DaVinci created this!” So fascinating!ReplyCancel

  • Wendy Byrd - loving husbands #FTW!! Great lessons and I’m excited about your anniversary art day! What a beautiful and special way to spend time together! Also, it was amazing to have you at our wedding reveal! Can’t wait for Thursday!ReplyCancel