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“Faith is the assurance of things hoped for.” – Hebrews 11:1

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from the Goinses!  We are so glad that you have stopped by, so please say hello (that’s blogish for “leave us a comment”)!  This year has been pretty amazing, insane, eventful, wonderful and just down right crazy busy. And unfortunately, that has meant this blog has been neglected a lot. So how about a New Years’ resolution already (already? yes, already!)…  

We will blog… more… so hold us to it! And we’ll leave “more” that vague on purpose, because we don’t want to break any promises!

Ok, enough clowning around. This year has sincerely been incredible. Thank you to so many of you who have walked it with us, cheered us on and celebrated with us.  It’s great to have people all over the U.S. to share our lives with. So thank you!  And since there are so many wonderful events missing from this blog, we’ll do our best to do “A Year in Pictures” as our Christmas letter to help cram everything in and give you less to read.  Everyone prefers a picture book anyway, yes?

In January we started off the year celebrating our second anniversary!

In February we had our traditional Valentine’s Day with the Daubenmires.  This time we treked to Indiana and drove home in a ridiculous snowstorm!

Ashley also announced to the world that she’d be starting Portray Photo! AND Ashley’s brother, Ahron, got engaged!

Financial Peace University Materials
In March we started FPU, a 13-week course by Dave Ramsey about financial peace.  We are quite excited about where it’s taken us and where we’re going!

March also had several birthdays to celebrate. We surprised Ahron on his 25th, and Jeff got a surprise on his 27th, too.

For Jeff’s, the two of us had lunch at Cantina Laredo, and then we went back to the apartment where a Fiesta Surprise Party was waiting!  And we also went to Alabama to celebrate Nikki’s 20th birthday and to do a photo shoot with the siblings.

In April we kicked off a busy year of concerts! We saw Deas Vail and Copeland (one of Copeland’s last shows).

We also saw Train and David Gray at the Ryman.  David Gray was phenomenal, and we fell in love with the Ryman that night.

We also enjoyed Pam’s (Ashley’s mom) Christmas present, which was tickets to see Bon Jovi here in Nashville.  And we (by that I mean us four kids) got lucky, because Dashboard Confessional was opening up for them on that date!

And we can’t forget that we attended another show at the Ryman!  This time it was The Swell Season, and they are amazing.

April also brought the much anticipated Vasilko wedding in Minnesota.  While we were incredibly excited to celebrate Paul and Brooke, we were also excited for the excuse to head back to Willmar and see so many of our CTI friends.

Willmar also gave us the excuse to see one of Ashley’s high school best friends, miss Heather Johnson, who has lived in South Dakota for the past four years.  It was an honor to do a photo shoot for her to help her put together a surprise gift for her parents’ wedding anniversary!

Opry Mills Mall and Grand Ole Opry

In May Nashville got slammed with the flood of the century.  It was great to see everyone come together and help out.  So many places, including Ashley’s work, were giving employees a day from work to help out, so we went with our church and volunteered with Samaritan’s Purse to help pull out drywall, clean out crawl spaces and pick up debree.

May also helped us check off an item on our financial plan – we cut up all our credit cards!  That was an exciting day, and thankfully we have not missed them once in the past seven months, even with Christmas shopping!

In June we attempted what was our first camping trip in a good while.  First ever as a married couple in fact.  We met our Indiana friends, the Daubenmires, in a state park in Southern Indiana and had an experience we’ll never forget.  Among the most memorable moments was the crazy thunderstorm that rolled through the first night after bed time and the raccoons that tried to steal our stuff mutliple times, resulting in Jeff chasing after one into the woods because it took our hand wipes.

July brought us back to Illinois for The Fourth.  We made a detour to St. Louis on the way, though, to help surprise Ashley’s mom at The Fox Theater.  We all had tickets to see Wicked, which was so incredible.

We celebrated Ashley’s birthday early when her mom brought her a cake.  And then just the two of us celebrated on the day of, with dinner at Olive Garden, a movie and Coldstone ice cream.

We then headed to North Carolina to vacation with friends.  We loved staying in the adorable town of Black Mountain, attending Bele Chere in Asheville and shopping and eating at so many amazing restuarants in both Asheville and Black Mountain, including revisiting our favorite tapas place from our honeymoon called Chorizo (located at The Grove Arcade).

We closed out the month with a pretty big event for us.  WE BECAME DEBT FREE!  Bye bye car payment!

August brought Ahron and Kathy’s wedding!  The weather turned out to be absolutely beautiful.  It was so wonderful to help out in all the ways we did, and to finally see their vision for the day come to life.  What a beautiful evening under the stars it was.

September, in a way, was the beginning of something new.  Ashley was offered a different job at Provident, where she’d have the opportunity to work with Mainstream Sales and International.  It has been a fun and exciting change for her that has kept her quite busy.  September also marked the beginning of what would be a busy travel season for Jeff.  This is when he started traveling every month to Georgia for work.  And somehow we squeezed in a trip to Six Flags St. Louis to meet up with Ashley’s parents, and Ashley’s dad managed to drag us on the Dragon’s Wing.  It was something we never thought we’d do, especially Ashley who screamed the entire time.

But the best part of September?  Our family grew a bit!  Ashley has talked about a puppy for years, and while attending FPU, we decided that when we paid the car off (thus becoming debt free!) we would reward ourselves by getting a puppy.  Ashley’s specific requirements (girl, puppy, long soft coat, Border Collie) complicated the search a bit.  But then one day a sweet, sad little face appeared at the local shelter. And after spending just 10 minutes with him, Jeff decided he was the one. Yes, a he.  A one year-old little boy we affectionately call Lyric.  And while he is no longer a puppy in age, he still most definitely acts like one.  We have been so blessed with his temperment and for him being somewhat easy to train.  He’s truly been one of our greatest joys, being the adorable, shadow, cuddling, sweetheart that he is, as well as the craziest, hyper, entertaining ball of energy that he also is.

October brought us back to Illinois, where Ashley had two fabulous shoots.  Sam is doing a surprise for her parents for Christmas, so shhh!!! (see part 1 and part 2), and Emily just wanted some photos of her cute kids, which is easy to do when they are so photogenic (see part 1 and part 2).  Portray Photo kept pretty busy this fall, and this winter has been no excpetion with Christmas cards and lots of Portray Word letter art orders.

Right before Halloween, Ashley and her mom got away to Florida for the weekend.  It was beautiful weather, great views, and a great time for relaxing.

We ended the month by getting our photos taken.  Kristine Neeley did an amazing job!  She has become a good friend of Ashley’s, whom she eats lunch at Moe’s with often, while they discuss life, photography and Dave Ramsey.  We can’t thank Kristine enough for giving us such wonderful gifts in these photos.

November brought us to Needtobreathe at the Ryman.  Another amazing show (we love music, can you tell?)!  We also had Thanksgiving in Illinois.

And now we’re here to December.  It’s currently freezing cold (high of 27 today and 21 tomorrow) for the South, and there is still snow on the ground, having snowed over 24 hours ago!  We can’t remember there ever being a time when snow snuck around here this long.  Our stockings are hung by the chimney with care, and we are anxiously awaiting Christmastime so we can spend it with both our families.  We pray that each of you has a blessed time with your dear ones, and that you stay safe and warm.

Lots of love and licks (from Lyric that is)!

Jeff, Ashley and Lyric Goins

“Faith is the assurance of things hoped for.” – Hebrews 11:1