Travel + Lifestyle

    What I Learned From Moving to a New City.

    My husband Kyle and I have been married almost two years. Before the wedding, Kyle was working hard as a CPA at a big firm in LA and I was living with my parents working hard managing social media accounts for small businesses and leveraging my own work online to network with the huge community of young entrepreneurs in Southern California. They certainly weren’t dream jobs yet, but both of us were grateful for the challenges they gave us and felt we were doing everything we could to take one step each day to get a little closer to our goals. After we got married, we moved into a 500 square foot studio apartment in San Diego and Kyle was sent on lots of long extended work trips. We didn’t see each other much at all those first few months, so I decided to get a second job to fill my time and hustle harder towards our financial goals. We loved being close to family and the comfortable bubble that the city we both grew up in gave us, but something began to change each day as we continued to pray that God might show us His will for our lives. I remember one particular prayer when the hair on the back of my neck stood up as Kyle grabbed both my hands and begged God to show us the path to follow. I will never forget the sound of his voice when He said, “God, show us and we’ll go.” Because I knew that we would. 

    One thing’s for certain so far in my life; God’s not really in the business of disregarding prayers. Sometimes He answers them differently that we’d hoped, but he’s never a hands-off-dad. A couple days later Kyle had a ‘spontaneous’ phone interview with the Arizona Diamondbacks. 

    There are parts of this story being left out for sake of your sanity dear reader. Your time is more valuable than fifteen pages of  backstory before I get to the bullet-point takeaways. But, I think I need to mention that we’re those people with handwritten goals on the bathroom mirror, that shouldn’t be a surprise at this point. At the top of Kyle’s list reads, “Make big money decisions for an MLB Team.” Another quick detail is that between work trips and long hours and Yogurtland dates with me, he’d been on three different interviews for MLB jobs all over the country that each ended fruitlessly. We were tired and neither of us wanted to get overly excited about another interview. But the feeling had gotten stronger. 

    Two days after the phone interview we were in the car headed for Phoenix. The whole way there, we laughed at how shockingly ugly the scenery was compared to all the beautiful road trips we’d ever been on throughout the west coast. I documented with my camera and we tried to make a romantic adventure of it. Unfortunately on first impression, it seemed more like scenes from Iraq than the United States. I remember actually thinking, “Man this will be tough to make pretty on Instagram”. I dropped Kyle off at his interview and sat there in the rental car just staring at the stadium for a while. I felt peace sitting there and I knew the baseball gods weren’t to thank. As reluctant as I was to admit it then, there was an unshakeable feeling that God was doing something in the desert that I wanted needed to be part of. More than baseball or jobs or money.

    I felt like He said, just to me, “Madi, I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.” Isaiah 43:19. 

    It’s been over a year since we left “home” and dropped the u-haul off in Scottsdale. People still ask how we like it and when we’ll move back and so today it’s time to share publicly the way God made for us in the desert and what I’ve learned from creating a new life and a new home in a new city. 

    1. Creating Community Takes Time.

    I love this quote from Jen Hatmaker, “Anyone with a cell phone, a crock pot and a chili recipe can create a community.” The simplicity of it is refreshing, but I think it’s important to mention that true community; friends that become family and a network of people that actually do life together takes at least a year. It’s hard for do-ers like Kyle and I to give anything time but looking back, I wish I would have just admitted from the start that no one makes friends just because they work super hard at it. Relationships of all kinds require shared experience together, openness, trust, vulnerability and TIME. Desperation for friends at any cost isn’t wise either. That’s all I have on that. 

    2. You Can Have Lots of Houses But Only One Home.

    There was a season at the beginning of our time in Arizona when we went home for everything. We didn’t want to miss a single important dinner or event with family and would promise to be there and come visit. It was fun for us and we loved how happy it made everybody. Plus, family is so important to both of us it just seemed like the right thing to do. We soon realized that until we decided to embrace Arizona as our new home, we’d always feel like outsiders in our actual life. Kyle pointed out, “Our families live in San Diego. They have homes there and we love them. We live in Arizona and have a home here. This is our home.” Even just changing that vocabulary was a huge mindset shift that truly set us free and encouraged us to enjoy our life and our new friends here. 

    3. Say YES! 

    I had to first admit that, “Hi, I’m new here and don’t know ANYONE.” I probably cried about it next to the moving boxes for a minute but after that minute was up, I knew it was time to get out. You have to reach out anyone that knows anyone in your city. “Hey I know you might not remember me, but I just moved here and would love any recommendations for fun things to do or places to see or restaurants to eat at!” Is a great thing to text basically anyone. I also learned that most people love to be tour guide. Kyle and I said yes to dinners with everyone. Friends of friends, coworkers, even random people we met at our apartment and we’re so grateful we did because lots of those people are now our best friends here. We still go to every coffee date, every girls/guys night, every double date night, hike, bible study, friendsgiving, open house, and dinner because we so deeply believe that life is meant to be done together. That takes saying yes and maybe being over-excited instead of being cool. You’ll only regret it once or twice. And later, you’ll be so glad you did. 

    4. Adopt a Dog. 

    Adopting June from our local shelter was (and still is) one of our favorite things about Phoenix. She made (makes) for cheap entertainment on those nights after work and weekends when we don’t have plans and forces us to reconsider going out of town. Adopting a dog makes you get outside and explore your neighborhood and forces you to stop traveling so much which means you’re around for fun things with your new friends more! Win-win. 

    5. Join a Church.

    I’ll start by saying, moving to a new city grew my faith ten sizes. The physical act of leaving everything behind to follow Him has proven to be one of the most transformative exercises in faith I’ve ever experienced. The hope it fills me with to know that God will see me through and walk along side me even when it’s difficult is no longer just a quotable for the mirror, it’s a life experience. Neither of us deserve credit for the fact that God literally led us to our home church. Our family at church is something neither of us have ever experienced and sometimes it feels like maybe we just moved here for that. Kyle literally exclaims daily, “I love our church so much!” We didn’t do anything to deserve them or the Grace God’s given us through this move, He just gave it freely and I pray that if you’re moving soon or just moved to a new city  you’ll let Him love you and show you life that is truly life through a home church too. 

    7. Moving Strengthens the Bond of Your Marriage. 

    One of the best things about moving a new city all our own, is that it’s all our own. Everywhere we go is a new adventure together, just us. We’ve bonded so closely because of this move and feel a deeper level of friendship, trust and passion in our marriage just because we’ve had to survive dependent only on God and each-other. Make no mistake, external hardships will come at your marriage hard and if you’re married you know what I mean. Attempts to steal away that blissful freedom of true intimacy that can only be found in marriage are everywhere, but in our experience, the move forced us to cling so tightly that no one can come between us. I’m so grateful for that. Moving to a new city forced us to embrace staycations and simple things and just heads up from experience, in certain cases can land certain people with babies. But as far as we’re concerned, we recommend highly that too. 

    8. You Get to Grow and Start Over. 

    One thing I never expected from moving for a new job for Kyle was a new job for me. Moving to Phoenix introduced me to a whole new community of creatives and has given me the opportunity to rediscover photography in a whole new way. In San Diego, I would have never considered photography as a job but now that I’ve had the incredible opportunity to shadow and work with such talented women in the wedding photography world, being behind the lens has captured my heart. I’m so grateful God brought me to the desert to make a stream in the wasteland that was my job. It truly feels like I’ve been washed clean and have a new set of eyes. What I wrote off as not worthy of Instagram, is truly His magnificent masterpiece. He makes beautiful things out of us that way too. I’m so grateful He chose this city for us. For now, we’re doing our very best to serve it well and love it hard. 

    Photography Travel + Lifestyle

    Tips for Taking Better Travel Photos

    Based on the questions I’m asked about pictures I’ve taken, I think there are a lot of misconceptions about what you need (and don’t need) to create beautiful images. Today I’m sharing my top five tips to take better pictures when documenting your next trip!


    1. You DON’T need fancy equipment. 

    It’s more about how creatively you use what you have than it is about how expensive your lens or camera is. Those things definitely make a difference, but for travel pictures, it’s way more important that you just have something you’ll actually carry around with you and use. 

     2. Shoot what you see. 

    I think the most important thing to do is just capture the sights and moments that speak to you. Trust your eye and don’t get caught up in trying to recreate something you’ve seen on Instagram or in a movie. If you see something unique or a landscaping framing your subject perfectly, shoot away! You can learn a lot from reflecting on how your camera captured what you saw. Whatever feedback that image gives you, make adjustments until you get it just right. 

    3. Learn a little about light. 

    There is really only one thing to avoid in natural light; full sun. My very favorite time to take photos is right before sunrise. The other is “golden hour” which is basically the hour preceding and/or including sunset. Life and travel doesn’t always happen within those perfect light hours so just keep in mind that shade is your best friend. It’s easy to lighten pictures later, it’s really difficult to lower exposure and still have a crisp photograph after editing. Colors are more vibrant, skin tone is creamier and your creative options are basically endless in evenly lit, natural light. Pop quiz! What should you do if you wake up to a gloomy cloudy day during your vacation? ANSWER: Jump for joy and bring your camera. Cloud cover means bright, evenly lit photos all day. *Party emoji!

    4. Edit stylishly.

    Editing is where you get to be an artist and let your style show. Make a conscious decision to edit all of your photos with the same style so that they tell a story in a fluid way. Editing is way less about erasing blemishes and much more about telling a story so that the photos make sense together. There isn’t really a right way or a wrong way to do this, just make a decision and try your best to let that style show in every photograph. I suggest downloading the Lightroom app before you leave on your trip! 

    5. Be wild. 

    Your photos should convey moments that moved you. The best way to get better pictures is to do more things! One of my favorite pictures of me ever, is from a road trip Kyle and I took when we first moved to Arizona. I was laying in the freezing ice melt water in Sedona, laughing because I totally wiped out trying to look adventurous climbing a rock.  Don’t be afraid to go for it and try new things, look silly or pull over for the sunset from the side of the road and just enjoy the moment of “being”. Photographs are simply a way to capture a moment. They’re empty and meaningless without real life to give them a story. 


    Travel + Lifestyle

    Let’s Talk Creative Burnout

    As an artist, creativity is the lifeblood in my career.

    Inspiration, and I think we can all agree on this; is unique and vague, in short it’s everywhere. Right?

    But, where does creativity come from? This question I think, begs a big answer and forgive me if you’ve skipped ahead and already decided it’s cheeseball and cliche. But really, if there is a legitimate answer to the question,

    “Where do I go when the cup of creativity in me is dry?”

    Then, burnout wouldn’t burn so bad. If we know how to refuel, burnout is only a reminder to take time to recharge. Would that make the answer worth considering?

    I’m a hot mess. It probably goes without saying, but let me just jump in here and remind you that I’m no perfect church girl and I’m certainly not qualified to be giving advice on how to solve your problems because I have enough of my own to handle. But, I know Jesus and sometimes He speaks to me and so, I listen.

    It’s probably politically incorrect or something, but it’s my prayer that in reading these words, you’d let them sink and settle into your mind and just allow your imagination wander a little with the possibility of all that this answer could mean. 

    Creativity comes from your Creator, inspiration comes from His Creation. 

    Burnout is good, it’s natural and in case you wrote yourself off as someone who’s been forgotten about or maybe just has a hard time hearing His voice, your creative burnout is a case for just the opposite. 

    If you’re lost and lonely, broken down. Come to the River. Let yourself in. 

    Travel + Lifestyle

    Chapters 1 & 2 of Our Story.

    It’s 5:45 in the morning on the first day of fall. The windows are open and my favorite candle is flickering. HELLO, favorite time of day/year to write. All the ingredients were there, and this story started pouring out. I thought I’d share the first two chapters here to see if this is fun for anyone to read. If it’s awkward, I’ll just write it as a keepsake for us and stick to sharing recipes and decor type stuff on the blog. Maybe it will make you laugh, or start believing in regular life love stories. I apologize for any grammatical errors, this is straight from my journal. If nothing else, it will help you get to know us better. It’s an epic love saga, drenched in steamy drama. You’ve been warned. 

    1. Home-Schooler. 

    The car door slammed behind me. Startled from my gaze of the sprawling campus and little backpacks scurrying in every direction, I jumped and glanced back at the car. My Dad was leaning over, grinning and giving me a hearty two thumbs up from the window. He rolled it down and hollered at me, “Go get ‘em peanut! You’re going to love it here!” I forced a quick smile and gave him two thumbs up, hoping no one would see. 

    Late August in Southern California doesn’t make for the most forgiving temperatures. I could feel sweat on my forehead forming and it wasn’t even seven o’clock yet. My thick, messy blonde curls of hair, arguably my best feature, felt all-together like an involuntary winter hat. Not helping anything, my white cotton dress with thick lace embroidery stood out like the pope at a party. The population appeared to be a mess of dark wash jeans and t-shirts from all the cool brands. I hadn’t gotten the memo. Pretty sure my mom had made my dress. Perfect, the whole look just screamed “home-schooler”. I sighed, hugged my oversized binder wand walked through the giant blue gates, silently praying I’d make one friend. Just one. 

    “A-26. Don’t forget A-26.” My first period class was the one I was genuinely excited for,  Interior Design with Mrs Nikzad. In fact, it was the ringer in my parent’s winning presentation to end my homeschool career. The High School. THE because it was THE only one in our little town. Selling features to this place included Interior Design, and sports. Sports, for me, meant swimming. I grew up in the water. Salt, chlorine or otherwise. Years of all my extra time spent training and competing had proved that by sophomore year of high school, I was on track for a hefty division one scholarship. My parents and I were both a bit starry eyed at the whole deal, especially at fifteen and a half. On top of that, there was an unshakeable feeling we all shared that something important, something big, was out there for me and I might just miss it if I didn’t try the whole real high school experience. We were all pretty certain it was swimming. 

    2. Deskmates 

    I was standing near a group of friends I knew from swim, waiting for the first bell to ring when someone tapped me on the shoulder. Confused, I turned around.

    “You’re Madi, Madi Lanz.”

    “I know who you are. Uh, I mean, I’m Kyle, Hi.”

    He was a tall, lanky kid with a big gray backpack, Volcom t-shirt and royal blue baseball hat on backwards. I recognized his face from somewhere but couldn’t remember from where. On first impression, he definitely didn’t appear to have spent much time at the beach or the pool that summer. 

    “My friend Chris told me we have Interior Design together. First period with Mrs. Nikzad?” 

    “Hi! Nice to meet you. Yeah, I have first period with Mrs. Nikzad!” I tried to over-enthusiastically hide any silent evaluating I had been doing of the whole situtation.

    “Great. We should get going then. I’ll walk you there. The bell’s about to ring and it’s good to be early on the first day to pick out the best desk.”  

    I didn’t care much about picking out the “best desk” whatever that meant, but I didn’t want to be rude. He turned confidently waiting for me to join him. As he turned, I was distracted by how packed his backpack was for the first day. 

    I hustled to keep up with him, “Were we supposed to bring all our books to the first day of school?” I asked anxiously. 

    “Nope, I just liked to be prepared.” He grinned, seemingly pleased with himself. The pace didn’t waver. I had to remind myself we hadn’t actually missed the bell. 

    Not surprisingly, the classroom door to room A-26 was locked when we got there. He glanced at his watch and said, “Cute dress.” 

    Before I could reply, the classroom door swung open and a dark haired, fashionable woman with a thick accent from somewhere I’d surely never been, welcomed us with a big smile and directions about selecting a desk and something about “the person you share your desk with will be your parter all semester.”

    By now a few other students were trickling in. I recognized a girl from elementary school and considered re-introducing myself as I watched Kyle in my peripheral vision furiously scouting all the desks and their prospective views of the whiteboard. He selected the one closest to the front and waved at me. He didn’t seem to even consider that I may not join him as he unloaded his binder and notebooks and arranged them with precision on the desk. He really did seem nice and… driven. What more could you ask for in a desk mate? I smiled back and made my way to the front of the class. We sat together as the teacher explained the grading procedures and all the different topics we’d be covering throughout the semester. I don’t know if it was her musical accent or the silent tension of the whole dress comment, but I stopped listening and instead quietly considered if this Kyle person maybe had an eye for women’s clothing. He did seem serious about this interior design class, after all.

    The backwards hat and farmers tan on his arm begged to differ.