hope spoken 2014 | a little recap

well. it feels weird to be back here in this space. i haven't regularly blogged for over a year. i'm feeling like it's time for a redesign but that's beside the point. i'm really here to tell you about Hope Spoken conference that i attended in dallas 2 weekends ago. everyone has been saying how they need time to process everything. i'm no exception. what i'm about to share is really an email i wrote to casey and danielle a few days after i got home, but i've edited and expanded a little. there is still so much more in my heart and mind that's not quite ready to come out:

i'm finally sitting down to pour out my heart after such an amazing weekend. the first thing that's hitting me is these three girls went with a dream and a mission and a calling from Jesus, and were brave to walk through the door and keep going, as danielle describes it. i'm sure they imagined how beautiful it would be but i don't think they could have imagined just how incredible it ended up being. you can't dream up stuff like that, not all the intricate details and weaving-together of hearts and timely messages and beauty that only God can do. that's one huge thing i came away with, and it always blows me away, is that God takes what we offer Him, which in their case was A LOT of blood sweat and tears, hard work and dedication and follow through, and He makes it even better. He met with 250 women with 250 individualized messages that will never be forgotten. He changed us in ways we didn't know needed changing.

i know there are a lot of us women who are so thankful that they pursued this dream. that they didn't turn the other way or put it off until it made more sense or decide they  weren't the right girl for the job. they were brave. and i came away believing that i could be brave, too.

the vision for Hope Spoken was to simply share stories. i guess i had forgotten the power of sharing your story. i hadn't shared my story for quite awhile, and while i still didn't share my biggest earth-shattering stories, i remembered the power of relating, sharing the hard and daily stuff. mostly i remembered how God takes our modest offering, stumbling words, regular-old self, still not perfected, still not anyone to aspire to, just a sinner who is broken and so fallen short and so very dependent on Him... He takes it and multiplies it, makes it fit into each woman's story who hears it, brings along the precise women into our path who need to hear exactly what we need to tell. i was reminded that with God, nothing is wasted or cast aside, every tear is redeemed and given purpose. 

something that really stood out to me were the speakers that they chose for the break out sessions. all had wonderful God-stories, but not all would necessarily consider  themselves a "speaker". just someone with a story that would make Him look big and would remind us of the gospel. seeing women who were just like me, not necessarily orators, not necessarily comfortable in front of a group of people, helped me remember that we're all just His. none of us more remarkable than the next. it made me think that even though i am not a speaker, and it in fact is my biggest fear, that maybe i could share my story with a group of women someday (not soon, but just someday. ha!). it leveled that imaginary playing field that i had created to convince myself i wasn't dynamic enough to speak, that i wasn't pretty or skinny or comfortable enough. it just gave me some courage that maybe someday if God asked me to, i could do it. and that was kind of earth-shattering for me.

one of the most important pieces of the weekend was the worship. during worship is where i hear and experience God most beautifully and most personally. music is such a huge important part of my life and i can't tell you how God moved during those worship times. we've missed a lot of church since Trey was born 6 months ago and my soul has been missing corporate worship like nothing i can describe. as we gathered and sat down the very first night, and just before we started our worship time, i leaned over told my friend Leslie that I could hardly wait to worship God with His people again. i was thirsty for it in ways i can't even describe and it took about 4 seconds for sweet tears to flow freely down my face. God spoke to me so clearly through the few songs that seemed to pop up in every one of the worship sets that weekend -- Oh how He loves us, and Bless the Lord O my soul -- that He just wants me to know, soul-deep, and never forget and never question how much He loves me. just as i am, not performing or striving or doing or trying. just me, just who He created, His daughter, if i never did anything more in my entire life. and then He wants me to bless Him. it doesn't have to be grandiose or staged or earth-shattering. just bless His name in every season, in front of people or not, in my home with my kids when it's hard, in everything i do, just bless His name in the big and small ways. there's nothing i can do to earn more of His love, and there's nothing i can do to lose one ounce that He's already shown. He just loves me and delights in me and wants to be with me as daddy and little girl. it's so precious i'm weeping again as i type.

i think one of the biggest messages i heard, though, was from Shauna Niequist. she simply shared her story, what God has been showing her the past year or so. and the basic idea ---> more love, less hustle. i have honestly written a blog post 3 or 4 different times about this very thing, but just never posted it because it felt like that would be an odd post to start blogging again with, right? you see, i'm not what you would call a "hustler". and if you don't even know what that means, it's just someone who works hard, sets goals, and works with intense focus and perseverance toward those goals. i do have dreams, i have ideas of what i would love to do, and things i would love to create. but i don't have that follow-through and execute intense mentality. so when i try to manufacture it, i hate the person i become. i don't juggle a lot of things well, and i can barely keep up with the normal stuff that's already on my plate. but i was buying into the lie that if i didn't get on the wagon now, that it would leave without me and i cold never jump on later. the whole "strike while the iron is hot" mentality. create that product before someone else does, go with that idea before someone else beats you to it. well Shauna wisely put into words what i knew in my heart-- there will be other irons, the iron may still be hot later, and it's also okay if you aren't the one to strike it. i got permission to stop my version of hustle. to slow down and enjoy my kids and turn off the computer and set aside the phone and just be. and i can tell you that after just ten days of that, i'm happier, more content, patient with my kids and just all-around a much better person.

i know there are hundreds of women who would share experiences similar to mine, and i'm so thankful to these girls for being obedient to move forward with this weekend and bring it to life, a special & beautifully feminine place where God could meet us and love us and change us. i feel like a whole new way of living opened up before my eyes. one where I could be free and loved and accepted and small, because it's all about Him in the first place. i don't know what it means going forward, specifically, but i don't really need to know anymore. i know the next step is just to keep my eyes stayed on Him. "to walk through doors until He shuts them" - danielle burkleo. to use the gifts He's given me and not worry about the rest, because HE takes it makes it enough, HE takes it and multiplies it, HE bears the fruit and causes the ripples far beyond what I'll ever see.

and one last thing before i go. you guys, the most unique and special aspect of Hope Spoken as a women's conference were the small groups. i felt honored to be leading a group, and i can't express how beautiful those four small group sessions were for our group. it definitely filled in a gap that is passed over at every other conference out there: small groups where we can share and process and come alongside as God speaks to us. i think the small group aspect MADE the whole weekend.

if you have the means and opportunity to attend next year (march 27-29 2015 in dallas), PLEASE GO. i plan to.


easiest holiday shopping ever | Amazon Prime

what if i told you i got almost all my christmas shopping done this black friday weekend while sipping coffee in my PJs while the kids played behind me... and that some of my purchases have already arrived, and the rest will be here by tomorrow? no crowds, no stampedes, no camping out in lines overnight.

it's called Amazon Prime and i'm not exaggerating when i say it has changed my life.

for $89/year your Amazon Prime membership gets you FREE 2-DAY SHIPPING on everything that Amazon sells & fulfills themselves (which is anything you could imagine) plus thousands of streaming video and kindle books on loan.

there are things sold on Amazon that are not fulfilled/shipped by Amazon, and you do have to pay shipping for those. but honestly it is rare that there's an item sold by a third party that isn't also sold by Amazon (qualifying for the free 2-day shipping).

now, i know you're wondering-- wait, Aly, don't you believe in supporting handmade? and YES i absolutely do! but for my kids who will only be happy if every gift they open has a Disney princess on it? well, i can't really go handmade there. and sometimes people really want books or a watch or golf clubs... handmade isn't appropriate for a lot of people on your list, and you can't feel guilty about that.

and aside from gifts, i buy vitamins (garden of life is the best brand, in my opinion), diapers, craft supplies, clothes, and more through Amazon. and i get everything within TWO DAYS without paying a dime for shipping. that, to me, is worth not having to load up the kids and bribe them with goldfish for not melting down in Target while i inevitably forget 5 things on my list and have to head back the next day to grab those forgotten items. are you with me? it ends up being the only outing you can muster all day and when they get in trouble for throwing a fit in the toy aisle and you have to take away the fun activity you had planned, it's just a bummer for everyone.

so now, when i need A N Y T H I N G, i immediately click over to Amazon.com and see if they carry it first. 9.5 times out of 10, they do. and it's usually cheaper than the prices you can find in any store.

amazon is not just for books, you guys! this was a revelation to me when i first started using it, when i bought my fancy new printer last year for my business.

just last week i decided to go gluten/dairy/egg free to see what might be causing my baby's gas/spit up/reflux issues, and i heard there were so many great snacks that i could actually eat. it was a specific brand, and who knows where i would end up finding it? instead of hunting them down at all the carious health food stores in my area, dragging three kids with me on my mission, i just ordered them on Amazon and had them at my doorstep THE NEXT DAY because of Amazon Prime.

anyway, i don't know if i've convinced you yet, so you may just want to try it yourself. Amazon Prime offers a 30-day free trial and wouldn't december be the perfect month to try it, while you're scrambling to fulfill a long list of gifts for friends and family? especially during "cyber week" when there are crazy good deals happening all week? trust me, you will be blown away by the ease of purchasing and speed of delivery. for me, it's a no-brainer.

let me know if you try it!

oh, and i also added a little "favorite things" page with books i love, supplies i use, cute stuff that's on my wishlist and all the vitamins/supplements that we use at our house. check it out!

** to make sure you're seeing the Amazon Prime items, all you have to do is type into the search bar whatever it is that you want to search for, and then when the results come up, scroll down on the left and click "Prime Eligible". Anything that has the "Prime" logo next to the price is the free 2-day shipping to all Amazon Prime members:

* i have not been paid to write this post, but i do get a small kickback through the links above, if you sign up or buy anything :)


the happy mail project

the other day i had a little giveaway on instagram. i had just released a new product line of return address stamps and decided i'd give two away - one for the person who entered, and the other one to any friend they wanted. and do you know how fun that was? what an unexpected surprise, right?

it got me thinking, what if we could bless lots of friends together? what if we could spread lots of joy and lots of hope and lots of happy and lots of TRUTH over the next few months? we could all use more happy mail in our lives, don't you think?

so the idea occurred to me- what if, for every print you buy, i mail another one to a friend of yours, whoever you choose, as a gift from you.

all you have to do is buy whatever print you were already planning to buy, and then give me your friend's name and address in the message section when you checkout. i'll send you your purchase and i'll send the same print to your friend with a special note letting them know what this fun surprise is all about! you can give me a special message to include if you want, but they'll definitely get a cute little card explaining. either way they will know where it came from :)

don't you think we can bless a whole lot of people this way? besides, i know how hard it is to buy a cute gift and really wish you could keep it for yourself! now you don't have to choose -- you get one for yourself AND your friend :)

this will apply to all prints in the shop [doesn't include stamps or notecards or christmas cards] and if you buy 5 prints, i'll send 5 prints to whomever you choose. the same person can receive all 5, or you can pick 5 different friends -- it's all up to you. every listing has been changed to include this information, and the prices have raised just slightly to cover the cost for the extra shipping materials and the stamp, but that's it!

** free print can only be sent to friends in the US, it's just really expensive to ship outside the US (sorry!)

go get shopping ---> blossomandvine.etsy.com -- and thinking about what special friend you could bless with a free print and an unexpected surprise! i think this is gonna be so fun, i can hardly wait to get started :)

oh PS: let me tell you the best part about this whole idea. a few days after it popped into my head, my husband shouts over from sunday afternoon football and says "hey babe i have the best idea! what if you had this thing where if someone buys a print, you send a free one to a friend of theirs, whoever they choose?" can you believe that? then i knew i had to do it! so here we are today!


and then i got an email | hope spoken

i remember the day so vividly. it was a long day of mothering and diaper changing and probably lots of meltdowns. both from me and the kids. i had this cloud hanging over me, just looming there. i was wondering all day long: is this it? not in a hopeless kind of way, or ungrateful for all that God has given me or demeaning the importance of raising children... but just wondering if God had plans to use me in a bigger way. and hoping the answer wasn't no. 

there are particular things that i know He has for me, dreams He's given me. and those will unfold in due time, but i wondered if my words, my story, my life and experiences could be used in a way to bring Him glory right now. i'd been blogging for awhile and sharing my words and felt like i really had a ministry budding here, but it had begun to feel a bit pointless. it was a season where i wondered if anyone could hear me. was i just typing onto an empty screen, for my own benefit? was i reaching anyone with the goodness He was teaching me? a strange season, just feeling a little bit anonymous, useless, worn out, not very effective.

and then i got an email. it was from the sweet gals from Hope Spoken, and they were asking me to be a small group leader at their conference. to lead a group of women in small group discussion and learning, and to just be available for anyone who may need someone to talk to. i sat there and i actually cried for a few minutes. mostly because i knew then that He sees me. i could rest in the Truth that He knows me. He knows what He has given me and He knows how He wants to use it for His glory and my good, and hopefully your good, too... and then i responded to the email with an emphatic YES! 

so here we are, a few months away and lots of you are stopping by here for the first time... so to introduce myself: i'm Aly. i 'm 29 and i live in san diego and i'm married to my high school sweetheart for 8 years. we have THREE precious kiddos, 2 girls and a brand new 12-day-old boy :) i am fortunate enough to stay home with our babies while i run a print shop on etsy and do virtual assisting/marketing for a few insurance and real estate professionals, all from home, to bring in a little extra income for our family (Southern California isn't cheap!). it's busy keeping up with everything, which is why i rarely leave the house, and i can promise you the laundry is rarely done and the toys have taken over our entire house. but i constantly remind myself it's just a season (and one i'll miss so much when it's over).

i have to say i'm a mixture of excitement and anticipation over Hope Spoken, but also nerves and a little bit of fear. i'm a more reserved gal most of the time. not the first to say hello, but wishing someone else would break the ice. i do like people, and i like talking, it's just harder for me to approach and start a conversation. it takes a few minutes of self-pep-talk and working up the guts to do it. for some of you that just sounds ridiculous. and others of you totally get it. so that will be a challenge for me, when i'm meant to actually fill this role of befriender and welcomer and includer. bear with me if i seem a bit awkward at first.

i'm hoping that i'll come away from the weekend with a renewed sense of purpose. His purpose for me. i'm hoping, expecting, that He will meet me there in Dallas and speak into my heart the things that i've been longing to hear. the secrets and the hidden treasures that He's set aside just for me. i'm hoping He does the same for you who will be attending.

i'll tell you a secret, if you can bear with me on a very superficial level: i'm also hoping that i will have shed this baby weight (just had baby #3 last friday, photos below) and that i'll have a few cute outfits to bring with me. i don't consider myself to be very fashionable, and i don't really have a "style" to speak of, but i'm hoping to get a grip on that before i meet you all! and maybe, just maybe, i'll have a sassy new haircut instead of my mile-long "mermaid hair" as it's been called. it's pretty enough, but sometimes you get bored and need a change. maybe some bangs? we'll see what happens.

and since it wouldn't be an introduction without a few more photos:

last month with my girls, baby 3 brewing in the belly

and here he is with his big sisters. they're my whole heart right there...

can't wait to meet you all in Dallas in a few months!

in the meantime you can connect with me here:


christmas card early bird sale!

goodness this blog has been neglected...
i'm here because i wanted to tell you about the holiday/christmas cards that appeared in the shop today!
there are 8 different designs to choose from and THIS WEEK ONLY they're on sale at 50% off, as sort of a grand-opening-early-bird special.

the fun part is, even if you don't have your family photos done yet, you can still order a card today as sort of a pre-order, but wait until you have your photos ready to customize and finalize everything. if you order one card and decide after getting photos taken that a different card will look better, we can easily "exchange" designs! (i won't issue refunds, though, just a switch to another one of my designs).

here's how it works:
1) go here and buy the one you like
2) send me an email or etsy convo with your photo and last name you want on the card (first names if applicable)... if you don't have your photo yet, no problem, just let me know!
3) i'll make the changes and send you your customized file, that you can use to print anywhere you want
(i'll give you my suggestions for where to print just in case you have no idea).

want a sneak peek? oh well, since you twisted my arm :)

 (for the one above i just used instagram photos!)

all of the photos used in the cards above are by melissa sniff
(except for the corkboard where i used my own instagram photos)
check her out here!!

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