Love Stories, Rope Bridges and Precious Moments

This is going to be a bit of a junk drawer post. Stuffed from top to bottom with random, yet important, little thoughts and things.

First up- a thank you.

We just loved the six-word love stories we found waiting for us in the comments section of this post this week. They were incredibly moving, and we sure do appreciate the opportunity to experience those tender moments with you. I thought about featuring some of them here today, but choosing just a few just never felt right. Each little sentence sums up something so BIG and life-changing to the person who created it. Each one is equally as beautiful and important as the next and we’ll treasure that sweet thread forever.

Second- I had a rope bridge moment last week. (Cue: fireworks and confetti- ha!)

It happened right after I (somehow) managed to stand up (with Josh and Kevin) and speak about photo styling in front of a conference room full of people.

I haven’t said much about speaking at the Haven Conference up until this point because, to be honest, I was nervous about it from the minute I agreed to do it.

Those who know me, or have read my posts about anxiety, know that public speaking is something I’d normally steer very clear of ever doing. But somehow, one night, after a local charity event here in Prattville, I wound up standing in a big, grassy field with Kevin and Josh. And sometimes when the three of us get together, inspiring discussions occur, hours whiz by like nanoseconds, and in this case, text messages get sent to Rhoda- a.k.a the head Haven Maven. Text messages that say stuff like, “Hey! Josh and Kevin and I are hanging out, talking about Haven. I think I’m up for speaking about photo styling with them if you’d still like to add that to their photography class!

Must have been Alabama’s big, beautiful, star-filled sky that got me all fired up that night, because I started regretting my decision the very next morning.

March and April brought with them stress headaches, nightmares, and a quickened pulse whenever I told someone I was going to speak at Haven. And in moments of total panic, I’d go into “I’ve gotta figure out how to get out of this” mode. In May, I recruited my friend, Shaunna to stand up and speak with me. She makes me laugh, and is so fun to listen to. But a big blast of anxiety crept back in two days before the conference, and I went to bed imagining myself telling Rhoda that I just couldn’t go through with it. I told myself if I felt the same way when I woke up, I’d just text her and get it over with, once and for all.

But (as usual) I felt more calm about everything the next morning- and (as usual) I knew in my heart that I needed to push myself, because I also know in my heart that most of my fears are completely irrational. And how good it feels to conquer them.

So I packed my bags, took a deep breath, and walked into the conference room at 3:30pm on Thursday, June 21st. The same day the Shaunna woke up with a stomach bug, and told me she wasn’t going to be able to make it to our session.

Oh dear.

Kevin and Josh spoke about photography first (for about an hour), which gave me time to get used to being in the room, and being in front of that many eyeballs. But I’m not going to lie, as I was sitting there in the beginning, fear started to take over, and for a while I was positive I wouldn’t be able to turn my head and look at the audience. I kept thinking, “what are you going to do when you have to stand up and talk to everyone!?” A few frantic, mental moments later, the answer came to me. JUST LOOK AT THE BIG SCREEN AND TALK ABOUT THE PICTURES IN YOUR SLIDESHOW. Oh yeah! The pictures! That’s what I’ll focus on- the pictures! The pictures of interiors that I had so. much. FUN creating with my husband- who, by the way, is going to be standing up there RIGHT next to you while you talk. Heck, he knows EXACTLY how nervous you are, and you KNOW he’ll jump in there and start talking tablescapes like a champ if you give him the “Help! I can’t talk!” look. Just look at the pictures.”

Long story, even longer: I got through it. I looked at the screen a lot. I talked about things that are fun for me to think about, and I actually ended up having a really good time with it. Especially on Day 2…

Day 2 attendees will understand that last pic. ;-)

So, two things:

1) Thanks to the Haven Mavens, and my local friends & family, for encouraging me to push past my fear of public speaking. You were all right- I didn’t pass out. I didn’t run out of the room hyperventilating, and most importantly, I didn’t go number three in front of a room full of people. Whew!

(And, Kate, you were so sweet to sit up there next to me when you found out Shaunna wasn’t feeling well. I cannot tell you how much it meant to me to have you up there with me!)

2) Thanks to God. For all of it. The precious people, the opportunity, the strength. For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord. (Jeremiah 29:11) I really, really want to be all He meant for me to be. I don’t want to let fear and anxiety hold me back from participating in positive events with people that make me smile!





PS- You can find more fun photos from the conference over on Flickr!

I wanted to share this experience, not only so that I can refer to it the next time I need another little push- but also (hopefully) as encouragement to anyone reading this who deals with anxiety issues like I do. We need to do our best to remember that, no matter how much it doesn’t feel like it: We are not alone and we can do it!

And last but not least, since this blog serves as our e-journal, I wanted to document something wacky that happened on our wedding anniversary, this past Monday.

I think this Instagram photo I tweeted that day just about sums it up:

Unfortunately Kev’s foot and leg swelled up all the way to his knee the next day, so we made a trip to the doctor. While he was back seeing the doc about his bite, I had a really lovely experience in the waiting room, and that’s really what I wanted to lock into my brain/blog today.

There wasn’t anyone else in the waiting room- just me, the boy, and his Grandma- who was sitting in a chair straight across from mine. He had at least 40 chairs to choose from, but that little guy marched right up to the chair next to mine, and without a word, made himself right at home. We became fast friends, and his Grandma even let me watch him while she went back and saw her doctor. We played “Mario”, and looked through magazines, and watched cartoons on the wall-mounted TV. It was one of the coolest experiences I’ve ever had with a child (It just all felt so surreal!), and I find myself never wanting to forget those kinds of things. Yay for blogs & journals!

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  1. says

    Well, friend, you know it mortified ME to cancel on YOU. I knew, just knew, how incredible you were created to be, and had ZERO DOUBT you’d be spectacular. And you are, then and today, tomorrow and always. To Him be the Glory for giving us all that. :-) Seeing you soon…

  2. says

    I didn’t get to go to Haven but I saw you walking around the parking lot Friday night. I totally wanted to go up & ask you for a picture but I had that same rope bridge moment! Too scared to approach! And you would have seen my husband wiping the drool off his face if we had talked to you! So just know the girl in the parking lot with the blue maxi dress was only staring at you because she wanted to meet you & isn’t really a stalker! I hope to attend Haven next year & meet you for real!

  3. Kelly C. says

    He’s the cutest thing I’ve seen in a long while! I hope his grandmother is ok. Thanks for sharing this!

  4. says

    Oh Layla! What a special post! Thank you for opening your heart to us. I have known for a long time that crowds “weren’t your thing”. But to the unknowing, they would NEVER suspect your fear. You ran that session like a pro! I learned a ton of great tips from you all and you 3 have a gift of making all of US feel at ease. God does have plans for you, and they are BIG! I just know it! Hugs to you my friend!

  5. says

    You have NO idea how much I needed to read this today. Sometimes we put so much pressure on ourselves we forget to breathe and that old anxiety creeps in and before ya know it, it swallows you up. Just gotta keep breathing and never quit pushing yourself to overcome it. I’m so happy to hear it all worked out for you.

  6. says

    You made my day. Thank you for sharing this! For the record, that sweet little boy is lucky that it wasn’t me in that waiting room…I stink at Mario. You rock…on so many levels that I’ve lost count. Seriously. I missed Haven this year but some day I fully intend to meet you. Hugs (and High-fives) all around. xo

  7. says

    At the risk of sounding like a complete lunatic, meeting you guys was definitely the highlight of the conference for me! I can’t tell you how much you have both inspired me and how much fear you have instilled in my husband. He grimaces every time I say “Honey!! Come look and see what Kevin and Layla are doing!” :)

    I’m holding you to the offer of meeting up in Birmingham! Or hanging out in Atlanta. Thanks for being so kind and sharing your fears with us! You did a great job and the most important thing is I could tell, without a doubt, that you LOVE what you do and you are PASSIONATE. Love and passion overcome any fear. God will see you through it! xoxo

  8. says

    Layla, you did an amazing job during the photography class! I was there on Thursday and I would never have known you were nervous. I also fear public speaking and actually had a lot of anxiety about coming to the conference, but I told myself the same thing…I wasn’t going to let fear hold me back! I’m so glad I didn’t! I met so many amazing women at the conference and learned a ton! Thanks so much for agreeing to conquer your fear of public speaking and teach us all a thing or two about photo styling!

    {Sidenote: I was at dinner at Cinco on Wed. night but was at the other end of the table…so wish we had time to chat, next time for sure! I also live in Franklin, TN and if you are ever back in this area would love to grab coffee or something & chat!}.

  9. says

    i’m wildly proud of you. i have major public speaking issues and can appreciate what a massive moment this was. way to go!

    and that little boy could see a kind heart a mile away. i’m not surprised he made fast friends with you!

  10. says

    Layla, you were a rockstar up there. I’m so sorry if my comment in the hallway just before you went on added to your stress in ANY way. I have an extreme fear of public speaking so I totally understand how paralyzed you must have felt at that moment. But, as someone in the audience let me assure you that NOBODY else in that room knew how nervous you were unless you told them up front. Nobody. Everyone around me was commenting on how great you did and how lovely you are in person.

    I am so happy you conquered that rope bridge and swang (you know that’s a word, fellow Alabamian) right off into the sunset. It was perfect. I got SO much from your styling class. Thanks for sharing your knowledge and skills.

  11. says

    Lovely post, Layla! I’m so bummed I didn’t get to spend more time with ya’ll, I was overbooked the whole time and had no time to check out all the classes. I so wanted to be in yours and I heard nothing but fantastic things about that class, so I have no doubt you pulled it off with charm and grace, as only you can do. You are amazing and special and I’m so happy that we are friends!! xoxo

  12. emily says

    that was a modge podge of a post, but i loved every letter of it. i’m not really sure what it was, but my heart is warmed by the post. there’s nothing more awesome than seeing people tackle fears and pushing them out of the way in order to do be the best version of them selves. no doubt God pushed and carried you along the way. well done, layla!!

  13. Angela says

    You did not seem nervous AT ALL! I loved loved loved your presentation-it was the best one I went to, honestly! I am so much more excited and confident in using my camera and picture taking because of you guys! And…I made it in 2 pictures in that post-I am soooo famous now! Granted, one is one of me looking bored and writing (I promise I wasn’t bored-just writing copious notes)! and the other is the side of my head. Whateva! Just was so happy to have met you and now I love your blog even more.

  14. says

    You have such an incredible way to share your heart! I get so nervous to put some of those ‘personal’ feelings on my blog, but I feel like I’ve just connected with you all over again!

    You rocked the session for sure. Confident delivery, clear with your content, sincere all the way through. And seriously, that Jar of Forks moment in the second session was a highlight of the whole conference for me. I think it was your rocker move and face that went with it that sealed the deal. :)

    And thanks for including our pic and a link, very sweet of you. :)

  15. says

    I am so, so sad that I missed your class. I had every intention to go Friday and then everyone kept talking about the advertising class, so I made the decision to take Kev’s class online instead, also because I heard his online class is da’ bomb. But, I didn’t know you had a fear of public speakng. Its never been a problem with me, or talking for that mater. My problem is not knowing when to shut UP! eek. :) You are such a sweet, spirited soul, and I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed talking to you. I really enjoyed talking to you about how we each dodged a bullet with HGTV shows. :)
    I love that sweet little boy. He picked up on your soul. xxoo, Barb

  16. says

    Layla, dear sweet amazing Layla. I am SO PROUD of you & so thankful you agreed to do it! We all love (and loved) you speaking and sharing your knowledge with the rest of us. The jar of forks picture made me bust out laughing & the moment with the boy in the waiting room? It reminded me of our convo on Wed. evening about looking for that little ‘push’ in one direction or the other. Maybe that’s your sign that no matter which direction you choose you should just choose one and jump. Thank you again friend & I can’t wait to see you again!

  17. says

    Meeting you and feeling like you knew me and cared about me was one of the sweetest things about the Haven Conference for me. You are an amazing woman and no doubt that little boy could sense it! I was giving my son a bath just now and the question came to my mind: how can i come up with an excuse to be “passing through alabama” so that i can tweet you and ask if i can come over and mow the lawn??!! BTW, if you tweet the nester with the same question as you pass through Charlotte, she will ignore it and make a silly joke about something else! :-)

    Ok, hold up! Now my son (the same one who is still damp from the tubby) has climbed up on my lap. I showed him the collage above- you know, the one where i am making the lamest “i just won the lottery” smiley face?” I asked him to point to mommy. He pointed at you. WHAT THE WHAT?! He wishes!

    Kids like you. Ladies like you. The end.

  18. says

    What a great recap Layla and I enjoyed all your pictures. I would have never known you were nervous. YOu did great and came across very sincere and genuine :) Hope the bee stings are better and imagine that, Kevin has to get stung for you to meet that little boy who created that fun memory for you :) Funny how that works huh?

  19. says

    Layla, you did a beautiful job speaking at Haven and congrats on taking a huge leap toward overcoming your public speaking anxiety! I’m glad that I was able to attend your session and wish I would’ve had a chance to meet you and tell you in person how much I enjoyed it! (Next time I’ll be sure to come say hello!) It was such a whirlwind, there were several people I didn’t get a chance to talk with that I wish I had. I loved your session and it has really inspired me. I recently got a new DSLR camera and am becoming passionate about improving my photography and learning more about photo styling. So thank you for teaching and inspiring me!

  20. says

    What a beautiful post. I wasn’t able to go to Haven this year, but I hope to next year. I would love to meet you so if some really loud, grining lady comes up and hugs you it’s just me and that’s how I deal with nervous situations. Oh, and I laugh a lot too.

  21. says

    As I was reading this post, I remembered feeling the exact same way when I had to speak at the Garden Center in front of 60 people in a HUGE auditorium back in February. I was so nervous that I had an anxiety attack the weekend before. I waited until last minute to write my lecture because I could not grasp that I was doing it. The morning of the talk I felt so noxious. Before it was my turn, our local extension agent, who totally rocks at giving talks, was up there and I thought she was flawless. As I sat there waiting, I was holding my mom’s hand and my husband had his hand on my knee. They both knew I was soooo nervous. However, I just got up there and spoke about what I love and got two wonderful clients out of it! Anyway, just wanted to let you know that you are not alone in your fears. :)

  22. says

    Thank you SO much for sharing your fear of public speaking. I can’t even imagine how hard it would be for someone like you, because the pressure to be…everything people want you to be: Warm! Funny! Inspiring! Down-to-earth! Extremely creative! would almost be too much even if someone didn’t have anxiety! I’m not sure if that makes any sense, but the fact that you got through it is a huge testament to your inner strength. And you may want to volunteer for some more speaking engagements where people don’t “know” you, because the more you speak, the easier it gets.

    Also, for some reason, that little boy’s face and your story was so sweet, it made me tear up! I love feeling a connection with a random child…unlike adults, it’s almost like they’re not strangers. Does that even make sense?! ;-) Anyway, it was super sweet, so thank you.

  23. says

    Super duper proud of you for doing this…can’t even imagine doing it. I knew crowds were not your thing, so I wondered if it was going to be just the Josh and Kevin show. So glad to know that you are conquering this fear. God has a way of taking us to places we wonder how in the world did we get into this! I love your all over the place posts. They speak of your heart, and THAT is what your place here so special.
    Hope you will be at Haven again next year.

  24. says

    Layla, you are so brave to share those moments of anxiety with us and I am so proud of you for your ‘rope bridge moments.’ One would look at your beauty and talent and think you are a super-human that has cartoon bluebirds bring her robe to her in the morning. (Seriously, you’re too adorable!) But it’s nice to be reminded we ALL have some of the same insecurities and even share the fears of speaking in public. (My Mr’s little voice shook as he spoke in front of a zoning board last night and he speaks in front of bigwigs all the time. I made him speak because I thought *I* would be the one with the shaky voice!)

    The moment with the little boy is too precious. See, you just have that glow about you that makes people flock to you! :)

  25. Patti B says

    I’m sending this post to my son today. Just last night, he was telling me how terrified he is to start an oral communications class he has to take (speech class) to finish his degree. He’s put it off until he can’t put it off any longer. I’m hoping your encouraging story will help the boy out! Thank you Layla for this perfectly timed post!

  26. Denise says

    I can totally relate to the fear of public speaking. Thank you for reminding us of Jer. 29:11…that is my very favorite verse. Congrats on conquering your fear!!

  27. says

    This post couldn’t have come at a better time. ‘Focus on the slideshow’ is what a friend told me the trick was too. Now to figure out how to rig up a slideshow that shows outdoors in daylight that can be carried around 24/7! Ha!!

    Love the story of the little guy… I totally get it. Little boys indeed do steal one’s heart so. :)

    Lovely post!


  28. says

    You did a beautiful job, Layla! We felt honored to meet you and sit and listen to you talk about the topic you obviously have a gift for and enjoy doing so much!

    “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Phillippians 4:13. :)

    Jess (& Monica)

  29. Amy says

    Isn’t it amazing the way God seems to bless us, in big and small ways?!
    So happy for you in so many ways.

  30. shari says

    I had that same type of experience with a little boy once. At a high school football game. I’d never met him before but as he chatted with me, he kept sliding closer and closer. Then he told me his mom had died recently. The little thing just wanted a mother. It was hard to keep back the tears.

  31. says

    Good for you Layla! I was so encouraged by your post today. Whenever I take a baby step toward something that makes me anxious I feel so much stronger the next time, just being able to tell myself that if I did it once, I can do it again. I’m sure you did a wonderful job speaking and if those who were lucky enough to be there got as much out of your presentation as we all do your blog, everyone was a winner!

  32. Lisa W. says

    YEAAAA for Layla…Just think, you must keep doing this, someday when you and Kev have your very own Home show on HGTV you will have to speak to the camera:)
    How sweet with that little boy…I love tho hear those kinds of stories. He see’s a classy beautiful lady like we all do. You would make a awesome Momma…just a thought!!!!!!!

  33. says

    Well done, Layla!! I’m genuinely proud of you for pushing through the panic. I know that sounds weird, since we’ve never met, but I really am. 8 yrs ago I foolishly thought I might want to be an English professor, so I started grad school. From day one of teaching I had almost parazlying panic before each. and. every. class. It was AWFUL. I even shy away from praying out loud in our church small group, for crying out loud! Ha, what was I thinking?! All that to say, I COMPLETELY know how you feel about public speaking, so I’m really proud that you did it!! And I really wish I could have been at Haven to cheer you on :)

  34. says

    I have to tell ya,..I had a few silent tears flow when I read this post. I have a family member who deals with anxiety and just seeing you push through and conquer the fear instead of it conquering you makes my heart burst with pride FOR YOU! Press on brave might just beat this thing. (And while you’re working on it, you have a few thousand of us cheering you on :)

  35. Angeline says

    You have a great aura that comes right through the computer screen – Like the little boy in the waiting room, people are drawn to your sweet nature – Don’t think twice about sharing your light – You, your real, true essence is always appreciated and celebrated – that’s why “we all” read your blog…We like YOU, We really really like you! (And want to hear what you have to say!) Congrats to you!

  36. Ashli says

    For some reason that made me cry, the part about the sweet boy sitting with you. You must be just one of those sweet spirits that gives off a God’s love vibe. Now I want to meet you even more!

    I am so glad you did not go number three. Whew!

  37. says

    Well, you did fantastic! I’m Miss Competitive and made darn sure I was one of the first people through the doors on day 1 to get the best seat in the house. You would never know you were nervous (I was one of the gals in the very front row!). You did GREAT! So thankful that you didn’t back out because you are truly gifted and have so much to share! Thanks for being vulnerable though and sharing with us your worries and anxieties {and know that you’re not the only one with anxiety issues :) }

    Thanks again! It was great to meet you, Kevin and Josh. I’ve already taken photography 101 and am about to sign up for photoshop elements tonight!!! Jen

  38. says

    Thanks for sharing that. I have serious anxiety problems, too. Just putting myself out there on the web and sharing my home is huge for me. I’ve cursed my 3 children with anxiety issues, as well, which produces more anxiety! It’s a never-ending circle unless you choose to stop it. We are all working on our anxiety and as I tell my children, then only way to “cure” it is to walk through it…hard as it is. Thanks AGAIN for sharing and for being real and letting others know that they’re not alone!

  39. says

    Have been away on a sweet family getaway and just returned to this heart fluttering post! I would love to be a part of the Haven Conference next year. Are dates already determined?

  40. says

    Really wish I could have gone to your session but I was teaching mine at the same time both days. Bummer! Good for you, overcoming your fear of public speaking and doing it anyway.

    Glad I got to have dinner with you guys the first night. Hope to see you again next year! :-)

  41. Deborah says

    Bravo! The ability to do that which we fear is courage. I feel like you are a very courageous person. Also, happy anniversary. Have a wonderful day, Layla.

  42. says

    Layla, you did a GREAT job at Haven. I can’t imagine how nervous you must have been. I was nervous just to go, and I didn’t even have to talk to anyone. :p Your fear didn’t show at all, and you were just as charming and delightful as I’d imagined you to be. I’m so impressed by your bravery!

  43. lefAccicetero says

    Dogs, cats, hamsters, fish, parrots – who do you prefer? Or perhaps what that odd animals – snakes, crocodiles, lizards, monkeys?

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