Jan 01-14


Before I begin, thank you so my best friend and husband for your sweet blogpost yesterday. I love you. You made my birthday wonderful.


2014 Goals

My #1 goal for 2014: to restore margin and achieve a more balanced life. I want to

LIVE more: living out adventures, memories, and experiences. to spend more time outside, running, resting, and feeling alive.
to GIVE more: giving to my church and to ministries that are making a difference, sharing the gospel, and meeting real needs. I don't want to fund buildings, I want to fund changed lives.
and to DO more: doing focused work daily, work that matters, work with boundaries. I want to do greater things than I think I'm capable of, that inspire others to take hold of life and run.

While this list may appear longer, it is more robust - focusing on things that will restore my time and health. Here's to a beautiful 2014.

Read 20 books (I'd love to hear your recommendations!)
Write letters to our 3 sponsored kids monthly
Make the art and organization of my home purposeful and meaningful
Complete a triathlon
Declutter every space in my home and studio
Memorize a verse each month and truly meditate on it. I want scripture to fill the empty space in my head, not Instagram or social media like it to often does currently.
Run a half marathon (I'll be starting from scratch, friends. Let me know if you want to join me from the ground up!)
Eat desserts 2x-3x week (not daily. desserts are meant to be special!)
Fast from social media 2 days/week.
Embrace clipless petals on my road bike. I can do this! (scared!)
Have an intentional, guiltless Sabbath once a week. I say I do this, but in reality I just don't. Time to change that.
Go camping in Boone with friends
Read the entire Bible with Will
Simplify and streamline the organization and workflow of my business (I'm looking at you ShootQ & Drobo!)
Implement business structure given in The Advantage
Shoot in film
Take our boat out and go water skiing at least 5 times this summer
Photograph less weddings as Callie and Elizabeth photograph more
Host a workshop, mentor photographers, & speak more in general. (After Making Things Happen and my Influence-net talk, I have learned I really love teaching. A lot.)
Do the hard work to correct my posture. This includes a personal trainer + chiropractic care + daily exercises at home.
Plan a vacation to the Beaufort house
Continue to learn to play the guitar and fill in at youth group when I can


January Goals

Finish Margin, a current novel, and Descending into Greatness
Don't run. Instead, eat really well and focus on strength training and ankle exercises so I can be cleared by the Doctor to run again at my next appointment. (Yep, still recovering from my ankle sprain in July!)
Complete a 30 day sugar fast
Research and decide on 2 ministries we want to contribute to regularly
Fly with my 4 year old triplet nephews to Raleigh, host them for 3 days, then fly them back to Nashville. Oh boy, this is gonna be good!
Setup the Drobo
Buy a backup Contax
Write out new workflow for weddings and shoots
Declutter : under our bed + under the guest bed + all bedside tables


I was driving down a highway in Raleigh today, and I thought to myself, this is a perfect January 1st. Crisp air to breathe in deep, partly cloudy, bare trees, very few cars out. As I drove through my neighborhood, I saw people running, walking their dogs, being with family. I just love New Year's day.  Besides the fact that it's the day after my birthday, it is one of my favorite holidays. I believe the Lord loves it too, because He loves new things, new seasons, a fresh start.

"...I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead,  I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus." Philippians 3:13-14

He knows we need it, and each year it is so good to start afresh.

Can I just be real for a second? This year, goal-setting was a more challenging task for me. I don't have a clear picture of 2014, and I don't feel completely prepared to be writing this post. One thing I do know - if I don't feel like it, and if I don't write it down, I won't accomplish what is most important to me. So here I sit, wrestling with this deadline and my goals and my heart, trying to make sense of it all. I remind myself - DONE is better than perfect. (Download this from my dear friend Lara!)



I will be spending more time in the next few weeks continuing to work through my new 2014 Powersheets from Lara. I must say, these have been so helpful in this year I've felt a bit stuck. What a gift Lara is - I am so grateful for her! They have been worth every penny so far, even though I haven't finished with them yet. I will be posting more in the next few weeks some things that have worked for me  and some thing that didn't in 2013. I think this is such a valuable exercise, and I know it will continue to bring me clarity.

Setting goals in the beginning of the year is usually one of my favorite things to do. I shut down the computer and write in my journal for weeks leading up to the new year, praying and meditating on the good changes I want to see in my life. Sometimes it comes easy to me, other times it takes work - thoughtful, careful work to map out where I really want to go. It's not always fun to face where we currently sit in this life, and to look forward, but is good. It is healthy.

One thing I've learned in the last few years of setting goals? If I don't take time to set them (and to blog them for my own accountability!), the urgent always overrides the important. Even though I feel unprepared, DONE really is better than perfect.

So friends, here's to restored margin and restore balance!
Here's to meaningful work, intentional time with those we love, and taking the time to rest
Here's to filling our minds and hearts with Scripture, to putting our phones down, to writing more letters
Here's to taking care of our bodies, running races, healing my ankle and breaking records
Here's to living in a place of contentment, simplicity, and gratitude
Here's to 2014!

Comments: 13

  1. Kat January 2, 2014 2:47 pm

    So encouraging! Love this girl! Here’s to an amazing year :)

  2. LORIN January 2, 2014 4:49 pm

    Go, Nancy! My husband & I started reading through the Bible in a year plan almost a month ago (couldn’t wait for the new year to get going!). It is SO incredible to be pouring through the same pages of Scriptures & discussing what God is showing us each day. Y’all will love it!

  3. Em January 2, 2014 6:27 pm

    Love all of this, friend! I am excited about camping, and totally down if you need a waterskiing buddy! :) As for book recommendations, if you’re looking for something outside your usual sphere, the best novel I read this year was “The Glass Castle” by Jeanette Walls. It’s actually the story of her own (kind of insane) childhood, and it was really, really well written.

  4. Emily January 2, 2014 8:22 pm

    First off, The Glass Castle that Em suggested is AMAZING, totally love it.

    I really appreciate hearing that making goals doesn’t always come easily to everyone. 2013 was a hard year for me (hard to admit that) and it sometimes seems that everyone on social media is posting about how it was the best year of their lives and that 2014 will be too. While I have high hopes for this coming year, I always appreciate a little honesty and realism from fellow bloggers.

    I’m excited to follow along with your monthly goals, they are always such an inspiration to stick with mine each month!

  5. Megan January 3, 2014 12:14 am

    I love your goals! Especially the one about meditating on scripture instead of social media- I may have to add this one to my list : )

  6. Megan January 3, 2014 2:02 am

    I forgot to add my book recommendations! Freefall to Fly by Rebekah Lyons, The ONE Thing by Gary Keller, Crash the Chatterbox by Steven Furtick, and A Million Little Ways by Emily Freeman are all on my list for this year and they all sound great : ) You should join Goodreads- I would love to follow you!

  7. Casey January 4, 2014 4:20 pm

    Your monthly and yearly goals are always so inspiring to me Nancy! I just may adopt of a few of them for myself (especially the limiting of desserts, that needs to happen!!). I just finished reading the book “A Praying Life” by Paul Miller. If you haven’t read it already, I’d highly recommend it! After lots of honesty and soul-searching combined with the incredibly practical ideas from this book – my prayer life is now at a vibrant new level!

  8. Megan January 6, 2014 10:35 pm

    Happy 2014! Your goal posts are always so great, Nancy!! I may be back tracking a little to your contentment posts. Things are gettin good crazy in the H house in the upcoming months! Cheers to you!

  9. ANNIE January 8, 2014 7:20 am

    Hi Nancy,

    Firstly, happy birthday. I love the fact that each calendar year is also an age year for you. (Quite handy really!). I’ve been regularly checking in on your blog for… oh, at least 2 years now. I’m always impressed by your continual push forwards, development and growth. It inspires me endlessly. Truly. You come across as very diligent, dedicated, organised, kind-hearted… and real. Authenticity is an incredible trait. 2013 saw me do goal setting like I’ve never done before (thanks to Lara Casey). I love a fresh start too, but right now, I still feel somewhat unprepared to do the thinking and planning and see through the fog of where to go for 2014. Well, I have one big (read: scary) idea, but maybe it’s easier if it’s still hidden by the fog? I worry about writing definitive things down… what if I fail? I agree with Emily’s comments above too. But, I have Lara’s powersheets at the ready (read: yay).

    You have definitely inspired me to return to being a regular reader. If I can manage 12 books in 2014, I’ll be very pleased. (And I have noted with interest your ongoing increase: 12 in 12, 15 in 12 and now 20 in 12… you go girl!). A very interesting book I’ve just finished is “Lean In” by Sheryl Sandberg, which has the subtitle ‘women, work and the will to lead’. As a working gal, it has many interesting and insightful lessons and encouragement. While everyone’s work situation is different, I found it very helpful with motivating “yes, I can do this” thinking. “Margin” is definitely on the to-read list for me too, I’ve heard many positive comments from you and Emily Ley.

    Wishing you all the best, Annie x

  10. Jennifer January 9, 2014 5:05 pm

    This could totally be my new years/new year goal post! I’m focusing on being intentional about where I spend my time this year.
    For me, that means more experiencing life instead of instagramming, setting aside time for out in the world adventures, travelling, and savoring even the small simple experiences of going for walks, sitting outside, and soaking up the sun when it’s out.

    Our lists are so similar, it almost feels like I could simply hit “copy” and I’d be headed in a good direction ;-)
    Except for the running related items-instead, I’ll be focusing on strengthening my back to say goodbye to this herniated disc and pain.

    I just finished working through my powersheets-though admittedly, they are for the 6 months that were supposed to end in December! Sadly I was so incredibly busy that I never got to the goal setting until last week. I’m so bummed that it doesn’t make sense to order the 2014 set because they look AMAZING but already, this set is changing my world for the better!

    My goals for January include DECLUTTERING my office (it’s so freeing, isn’t it?) and the rest of the year, I’m tackling a different room every month so the whole place will be fresh and pared down. I’m excited to let some things go so they can bless someone else!

    I’m an avid reader and while I often forget to update it, I track everything I read on goodreads. Helps me when I pick up a book that looks intriguing but think I may have read. (Which happens from time to time).

    I think it’s awesome that you’re going to works towards 20 books this year-You can do it! I aim for 60 (which is where goodreads really comes in handy-it actually will tell you how close to your book reading goal you are) and usually make it fairly close considering I only remember to log about 1 in 3 books I read.

    Thanks for sharing!!!

  11. Kaitlin Briley January 14, 2014 4:58 pm


    I love your goals! This is one of mine, too: “Have an intentional, guiltless Sabbath once a week. I say I do this, but in reality I just don’t. Time to change that.” Thank you for the encouragement you are!


  12. Speaking Schedule! | Nancy Ray Photography June 6, 2014 9:59 am

    […] I am thrilled to be speaking at so many wonderful conferences this year. I had no idea that these opportunities would come when I wrote these simple goals in January: […]

  13. July Goals 2014 | Nancy Ray Photography July 1, 2014 9:54 pm

    […] we are! Half of the year is done.  It's time to stop and re-evaluate my 2014 goals from January 1st. Here's an update on how I'm doing! I've crossed off the goals I've completed, and I'm giving […]

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Dec 31-13


Will here, eager to wish the amazing Nancy Ray a huge HAPPY BIRTHDAY!

Will & Nancy

She turns 27 today, and I've had the incredible privilege of spending 5 1/2 of those years as her extremely lucky husband.  The more I've gotten to know her, the more I've come to love her, admire her, and praise God for her in my life.

I know that those of you who have gotten to know her feel the same way!

Happy Birthday Nancy!  Leave Nancy some birthday love in the comments below!

Many thanks to Eric Kelly and Graham Terhune for the great pictures above!

Comments: 9

  1. WilliamRay.com – Happy Birthday, Nancy! December 31, 2013 4:07 pm

    […] you know her, you know she’s amazing!  Do me a end-of-the-year favor and head over to her blog to leave her some birthday […]

  2. Diana December 31, 2013 4:35 pm

    Happy Birthday sweet Nancy. Gorgeous inside and out. Wishing you many God kisses this year. Love ya

  3. Em December 31, 2013 6:53 pm

    I do indeed feel the same way! So grateful for you, Miss Nancy, and for all the ways you inspire me!

  4. Nancy H January 1, 2014 2:19 am

    Happy Birthday Nancy! You are beautiful inside and out and I consider it a blessing to have met you this year. Look out 27!!!! Xoxo

  5. Hannah January 1, 2014 5:27 am

    Happy Birthday, Nancy! I am so thankful for your encouraging and beautiful blog! Thank you for inspiring me to set goals and be purposeful with my time. Have a wonderful birthday and New Year!

  6. Elyse January 1, 2014 2:26 pm

    Happy Birthday!!!

  7. Jessa R. January 1, 2014 9:51 pm

    Happy birthday! May you find inspriation, love, and joy all year – - your spirit shines so bright!

  8. Amanda January 1, 2014 9:54 pm

    Happy Birthday!

  9. Ashley Flores January 5, 2014 12:07 am

    Happy Belated Bday, Nancy! I was finally able to bring our daughter home from the NICU on the 31st (which was also her original due date!), so I was too busy being smitten with her to read any of my fav blogs…she is so amazing! So glad we now now share the same day for two very special reasons :-)

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Dec 31-13


I have lots of reasons to be grateful today. For one, it's my birthday! I turn 27 today, and I'm so thankful for the many healthy and happy years I've had, not to mention all the years to come! I have plans to make 27 my best year yet. How? To fully embrace this season of life that I'm in, to love my Lord first and dwell in His truths, to take time to nurture meaningful relationships, to take care of myself, to serve others, to live contently. It's gonna be a good year.

There's no better way to celebrate than to pause at the end of 2013 and the end of my 26th year and reflect on all I have. I love the fact that our Gratefulgrams fall on my birthday, and the very last day of the year! So friends, here are the last Gratefulgrams of 2013!


Working my tail off to wrap up wedding season! Winston wanted to help / The NRP Team Christmas Dinner. GOODNESS I am thankful for Will, Elizabeth, and Callie. Each of them mean so much to me, and I am so grateful for their hard work and gifts as photographers. / Winston and Boaz! Double dane trouble. Love these two beasts. / Will & I at our annual Bridge Tacky Sweater Christmas Party / The most amazing gift given by my sister: a Ray Family crest! Art and Calligraphy by Juliet / Spending Christmas with the Blanton 5. Oh how I am thankful for the health and happiness of these nieces and nephews! (who also are adorable models!)


Duke Chapel Christmas Concert always gets me in the Christmas spirit / Caroling and passing out Christmas Cards at the Nursing Home with the middle schoolers at church / Celebration Volunteer Appreciation Dinner: so grateful for our volunteers at church / Christmas at the Blantons! / Launched Mentor Sessions / Christmas with my family. We do Christmas big!


A 70-degree December day spent skeet shooting with family /  Christmas with the siblings / A very tranquil time in the Word before sun up on Christmas Eve, complete with coffee in my favorite Louisiana mug /  Thankful for these two who demonstrate selfless and sacrificial love on a daily basis. They taught my brothers and I the true meaning of Christmas by never separating the Cradle in the Manger from the Cross of Christ / My little box-dweller. Love this fatty.  / A Tate family Christmas Tree! 


Seeing Jennifer + Scott's beautiful wedding publication in The Knot for the first time! / Broughton Young Life Team in our tacky Christmas attire for Christmas Club! / So much fun at the Southern Weddings Gingerbread Barn Building / Dog Sledding in Montana with my family / Our Pitts family annual Mustache Dinner in Montana / Family skiing in Big Sky, Montana

What were you most grateful for in 2013?

Comments: 0

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Dec 30-13

Film in 2014

Press ~ by Nancy Ray ~ 5 comments


Beginning in 2014, I will be a film photographer.


If you've been following me this year, you may have noticed that I've been shooting film quite a bit. I've actually been shooting some film at every wedding for the past 2 years, and it has pushed me and inspired me as an artist much more than I thought it would. When I learned photography in college, I spent most of my time in the dark room, developing film and prints myself. I worked with a large format camera (yes, the giant old school camera), and I loved the anticipation of watching the image appear under the chemicals. My first love has always been film photography.


I switched to digital for wedding photography because that was simply the thing to do. Fast images, the safety of checking the back of your camera, low light capabilities.  I embraced it fully, and got very good at it. I still love shooting with my Markii, and I love digital photography. But for me, as an artist, I missed film. I purchased a film camera in the beginning of 2012, and then another this year. I have felt challenged and inspired, and I have loved every minute of it.


My friend Caroline  did a wonderful blogpost on Film v. Digital, in case your interested in seeing the visible differences. To be honest, the common eye probably cannot tell a difference. But I can, and as an artist, I want the photographs I take to be the very best they can possibly be. I want to give my clients warm, beautiful images, rich in skin tones, vibrant in color.


So now that I'm a film photographer, does this mean I'll never shoot in digital again? Absolutely not. I will primarily shoot in film, but if I feel the image would be better captured digitally, then I have no problem switching. In certain low light situations, digital outshines film, and I'm aware of that! I am confident to make the decisions necessary to deliver the most beautiful images.


What about Callie and Elizabeth? They will be primarily digital photographers, but both will begin shooting with film in 2014 as well. In short, our team will deliver mixed media - a combination of film and digital as needed. I will primarily deliver film images, they will primarily deliver digital images.


So many photographers are switching to film these days, that it was honestly a hard decision for me. I don't want to follow the crowd, or do something on a whim. I wanted to be thorough about it, making sure this decision to switch to film was the best decision for me and my business. I've taken my time with it - shooting some film at every wedding for two years, learning it to the point of having full confidence in my own abilities. There is a financial cost to shooting with film, and I didn't want to rush into that either. But when I focused on the big picture, I knew it was the right thing to do.

I've learned so much from film this year - to be intentional with every photo that I take, to take my time, to think through every photograph. This can be challenging on a wedding day, but that's how photography should be - focusing on quality over quantity.

I want to deliver work that I am incredibly proud of, like the film shoot I did for Southern Weddings.
I want to work with brides who appreciate the artistic value of shooting in film, and want that for their own wedding.
I want to partner with beautiful magazines and blogs who love and appreciate the medium of film.
I want to work from a place of passion rather than complacency, being challenged rather than being comfortable.
I want the joy of seeing my images come back from Indie Film Lab, just as I saw the images appear in the darkroom when I first fell in love with photography.


I am so excited about how my business is growing and changing! Most of all, I'm excited in 2014 to be inspired and challenged as an artist, returning to my first love in photography.

Comments: 5

  1. Allison Mannella December 31, 2013 1:25 pm

    I have loved following your work in film and it has helped inspire me to start re-exploring film, which I am loving! I would love to know what film camera you started using in 2012. Thanks!

  2. Mary December 31, 2013 5:38 pm

    Beautiful wedding day photos! You really captured the magic of the whole day! The vivid colors made me feel like I was there!

  3. Mattye W January 2, 2014 7:31 pm

    Thank you for this inspiring post, Nancy! I cherish beautiful photography, and while I am not a photographer myself, I still found this post to be so applicable to my own passions.. I love the line, “I want to work from a place of passion rather than complacency, being challenged rather than being comfortable.” You helped me remember that things worth doing, are worth doing wholeheartedly and well– even if that means taking a more challenging path. I love the resolute and confident attitude you have in this decision for yourself, your art and your clients. Thanks for sharing! xo

  4. Lauren January 6, 2014 10:30 pm

    I love that you’re going to be switching over to film in 2014. One of my friends uses only film and it provides such a depth and artistry that it seems only film can. Your work is lovely – thanks for sharing!

  5. Breanna January 7, 2014 8:28 pm

    I am beyond excited for your switch! I have fallen in love with film photography, and I know your photos will be gorgeous. Can’t wait to see more this year!

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Dec 23-13

Merry Christmas, friends!  The studio will be closed from now until January 13, as we spend time doing what matters most: resting, laughing, celebrating our Savior, chasing my nieces and nephews around their living room, worshiping, and taking time away from the computer screen. (Can I get an amen?!) We have been working long hours the past few months (hugs to Callie who worked incredibly hard in the studio these past few weeks! Couldn't have done this without you!), and we are grateful for some weeks off.

I will only be checking emails periodically during this time, but I look forward to corresponding with you in the New Year. Don't be a stranger! I will still be blogging throughout this time. (The beauty of scheduled blogposts!)


In honor of my favorite holiday (and because I was inspired by my friend Cheyenne's post), I'd love to share a few of my favorite Christmas traditions and memories throughout my life :

• Listening to this album every single Christmas morning. Hearing it immediately makes me feel like it's Christmas day!

• Watching The Muppets Christmas Carol each year as I snuggle with Will on the couch while Winston sleeps by the fire. Hot chocolate is a must.

• Singing Happy Birthday to Jesus on Christmas morning before ever opening presents on Christmas morning

• Eating our traditional cream cheese danish on Christmas morning

• Getting our Christmas tree from the mountains of North Carolina

• Reading the Christmas story with my family on Christmas eve, and acting out the story with the characters in our nativity - probably my favorite tradition as a kid! My sister and I always fought over which one of us would be Mary, my brother always wanted to be the obscure characters - like the Innkeeper or the camel! My mom always read the story, and my Dad was always the star (aka the flashlight. Yes, we turned out all the lights.) It was a big deal in our house!

• Waiting at the top of the stairs while smelling coffee, waiting on my parents. It took them for-ev-er to get their video camera together every single Christmas! (Or so it seemed...)

• Taking polaroids of ourselves while we decorate the tree. Will and I started this tradition when we moved into our current home in 2010, and we have loved it! (Polaroids pictured above.)

• Ordering chinese takeout Christmas night at the Ray's house while playing board games

Wishing you and yours a very Merry Christmas.

Comments: 1

  1. Jenn F. December 23, 2013 10:39 pm

    Muppet’s Christmas Carol is the best!! “This is me island in the sun, oy oy” :) Merry Christmas to the Rays and Happy New year! Let’s plan a doggie play date in 2014 :)

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Dec 20-13

When the Lord put it on my heart to do the Contentment Challenge earlier this year, I had no idea what a huge effect it would have - not only in my life, but in the lives of others. After hearing so many voices, reading blogs and emails, and getting lots questions about what the Contentment Challenge is all about, I felt it was time to share my experience and offer the invitation once again, beginning January 1st, 2014.

The Contentment Challenge
blogposts from 2013

1: I am Content
2: The Contentment Challenge
3: April Goals + Guidelines
-State of Satisfaction
4: May Goals + Guidelines
-Start Living
- Halfway!
-Grateful or Frustrated
5: June Goals + Guidelines
: Final Post
: Nicaragua Missions Trip : Part 1 & Part 2

(My trip to Nicaragua was not part of the challenge, but it brought me perspective and clarity on why the Lord let me to do this in the first place - to look outward and not inward. To focus on the truth that when we say no to stuff, we are saying yes to giving financially to greater causes.)

Nancy Ray Favorites-0013

Photo by Graham Terhune

In summary, the Lord laid it on my heart in a big way to give up shopping for unnecessary stuff for 3 months straight. I didn't want to, and I fought Him on it - trying to even convince Him it would be better for 1 month, or 2. But His voice was clear : THREE months was the timeframe. So, I gave up shopping for "stuff" for the months of April, May, and June of 2013.

It changed my life. 

When we look at this world - the poverty  and hunger and suffering that so many countries face daily, I'm ashamed and disgusted this was such a hard thing for me, but I'll be the first to be honest and let you know it was not easy.  The first month took a lot of motivation and self control, then it got a little easier as the months went on. Like breaking a bad habit, the "need" for shopping faded with self discipline and time. There was a reason the Lord told me 3 months! The lesson grew more profound as the days went on. By the end of the 3 months, I had a fulfilling lifestyle; I felt like a new person.

I learned that I had relied too heavily on things for my happiness: the latest nail polish trend, a new scarf, a pretty wreath for my front door, seasonal decorations, the sale rack at Anthropologie, the newest dress at Target. Things that make life beautiful on the outside, not things that make life more beautiful on the inside.

All in all, I wasn’t content in my life. Even though I had a happy marriage, a wonderful home, a business I love, money in the bank, my health, a wonderful church... even though I had (and still have) "it all," there was this nagging, awful feeling inside me that said, “Nancy, you need this ________. You won’t be complete if you don’t have this __________.”  (You can fill that blank with just about anything.)

When doing the challenge, I saved money, which I knew I would do. But what really surprised me is how much TIME I saved! By cutting out that unnecessary spending, I shopped for groceries at my grocery store (gasp!) and not Target. (It was closer to my house, faster, and cheaper!) I didn’t check my favorite online stores for deals during work hours. (Which I used to do. Shameful.) And eventually, that immature voice of materialism became quieter and quieter. My focus shifted from my outward appearance (clothes, decor) to what I was accomplishing (my work), how I was feeling (healthy and energized from exercising) and how I was spending my time (date nights with Will, reading a good book, walking my dog, etc).

At the end of those 3 months, I felt FREE. I had saved so much time and money! I had given clothing, stuff, and money away to those in need, which was so rewarding. I had cleaned out my house of even more stuff, making room to breathe again. And then... when I went inside a store, I wasn’t as slave to the sale, or the new merchandise that was shiny and cute. I could look at them and appreciate them without feeling a need for them, and keep on walking. I felt fulfilled, not depleted. Yes, I buy things now. Shopping is not the enemy, unless you are a slave to it (which I was). Living a balanced life is the goal here! Stuff is not the enemy, but being ruled by your need for stuff is absolutely the enemy. It will leave you with a rotten life - an empty and depleted spirit.

My friend Stephanie shared her similar story with me: "I did the 90 day contentment challenge this year.  I learned that Target shopping was a habit.  It's not that I spent that much money there, but all of those little expenses, a necklace here, a scarf there... really add up.  Now when I go to Target I can walk past those aisles and buy just the things that are on my list. I learned that I felt just as beautiful and special borrowing a dress from a friend for a special event, than running out and buying one…. Stuff is just stuff."

Friends, this was a game changer for me. It was hard, but it was good. Doing the Contentment Challenge took hold of those bad habits and replaced them with habits that created a more fulfilling life. Hear me out - it was one of the best decisions I made in 2013, and I encourage you to join in on the 2014 Contentment Challenge if you feel you should. Only you can decide to change.

I can honestly say I am now living a fulfilled, content life. I am free.


(On our mission trip to Nicaragua in July)

Contentment Challenge : 2014 : So, here's my invitation! Whether you've done it already, or whether you want to embrace it for the first time, I'm inviting you to join me. My goal is not to make this legalistic, but to invite you to a place of heart change. For you it might be 2 months, or it might be a year. Like my friend Lara said when she embraced the challenge:

"...let me preface it by saying this:  this is not about rules.  It’s about doing what God has been urging me to do.  If He puts it on my heart to buy something for a good reason, I will do just that.  Like Jesus healing people on the Sabbath, this is not about following guidelines just for the sake of guidelines.  God is bigger than rules.  It’s about fasting from something that I feel is keeping me from a deeper relationship and understanding of God’s heart."

THAT is my invitation, friends, for the Contentment Challenge in 2014 : to listen to God's voice, to embrace a challenge that will push you to a deeper relationship with our gracious Lord, and a greater understanding of His loving heart.

We all KNOW that Jesus was not motivated or driven by shopping or having things. In fact, He demonstrated that life was about loving the Father and loving people. It was about listening, serving, and loving.

I won't be sharing how long I'm going to do it this time, because honestly, I don't know. I was on the fence about doing it again until the Lord led me to this post, waking me up to the fact that this is still something He is calling us to. For me, 2014 won't be about breaking a bad habit, but rather listening to the Lord daily, sitting at His feet, learning from Him. I'm still praying about it, because it's always better to hear God's voice rather than make it legalistic. Please prayerfully consider it before closing this window and moving on with your life. I can promise you, your life will be richer and fuller because of it! Oh, and DON'T do what's comfortable for you. Do something that stretches you. I promise, it will be worth it.

Be sure to use the hashtag #contentmentchallenge when posting about it. It has been a great source of encouragement for all of us!

Here's to a content, fulfilled 2014!

Comments: 21

  1. Ginna December 20, 2013 1:41 pm

    I actually have been thinking about this a lot and am unhappy with the way I have been spending and the lust after STUFF. I was planning to go on a spending fast for at least January and maybe the first three months of 2014. Thanks for the invitation to join! I’m excited to save more money and time as well. :)

  2. Kat December 20, 2013 2:27 pm

    I am so inspired by you!!! Thank you for sharing your heart. I can’t wait to go through this journey with you… and getting to talk about it when we meet in person in March:)

  3. Jasmine Marciniak December 20, 2013 9:39 pm

    Alright Nancy Ray…I am doing it with you AGAIN! I’m not sure the time frame of my contentment challenge yet but I am excited yet terrified all the same. Love you for doing this again, and thank you for inspiring me!

  4. Hope Curtsinger December 20, 2013 11:22 pm

    So thankful He placed this on your heart. Looking forward to what He reveals to me during my Contentment Challenge starting January 1!!

  5. Emily Lott December 21, 2013 8:33 am

    Hi Nancy! I am BEYOND nervous and terrified (and a bit excited), but I’m joining the challenge! I’m not sure of the time frame just yet, but I’m committing myself. I was so inspired by your dedication last year, but I wasn’t ready yet. Now I’m so ready to join you!


  6. 2014 Vision and Goals | Lauren Ashlee January 1, 2014 2:26 pm

    […] intimate relationship with Christ. If you want to join me and have some accountability email me! – #ContentmentChallenge. I am SO excited about this and I am joining with my sweet friend and others as they take on this […]

  7. Stacie January 2, 2014 2:07 am

    I just found your site today and I feel l was led here for a reason – I’m totally in and looking forward to future posts!

  8. Contentment Challenge: January Goals | Dear Sweetheart Events January 2, 2014 1:35 pm

    […] I wanted to share them with all of you. I’m taking a lot of this challenge from the amazing Nancy Ray, the founder of the Contentment Challenge. She wrote an AMAZING blog series on this challenge!! I […]

  9. Living Legacy & Radical Challenge | reaching the pinnacle January 3, 2014 6:41 am

    […] in the Contentment Challenge from January 5-April 30. You can read about the Contentment Challenge here and here. The bare bones of the challenge is that I will not purchase any items outside of my […]

  10. Casey Edwards January 4, 2014 4:35 pm

    Crazy enough, I had already made it one of my 2014 goals to do a contentment challenge for the first 3-6 months of this year even before you posted this blog! So, I’m super encouraged that I’ll be doing it alongside others! Yay for accountability and encouragement! Right now, I’m super excited about this journey, but I know it won’t be easy. Here’s to finding true contentment and knowing more of Jesus in these next few months!

  11. January, I’m ready for ya! » Eryn Kesler Photography | Vancouver, WA Wedding Photography January 7, 2014 4:59 pm

    […] If you care to join in, you can read about Nancy’s contentment challenge here: http://nancyrayphotography.com/my-contentment-story/ […]

  12. January Challenge: Simplify & Unclutter | Tirzah Magazine January 8, 2014 7:07 am

    […] I first read Nancy‘s post about the Contentment Challenge, I had a similar reaction as Kat, that this surely […]

  13. January + 2014 Goals | Teasley Photography January 16, 2014 8:55 pm

    […] things, and learn to live with less. If this is a struggle for you, I encourage you to check out Nancy Ray’s contentment challenge! This also means clearing the clutter in our minds by cutting time on social media and television. […]

  14. The Contentment Challenge | Katie Lyn Photography February 3, 2014 10:45 am

    […] if you’re interested in learning more about the challenge, I would encourage you to read Nancy’s story. It’s truly […]

  15. Contentment Challenge: Month One | Katie Lyn Photography February 28, 2014 11:58 am

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  17. Post-Christmas Update: Is This the Real Life? | Jessica Jordana June 20, 2014 7:53 pm

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    […] as Nancy said in her most recent explanation of The Challenge, these are only guidelines.  This challenge is not designed to be legalistic and simply add to […]

  19. Contentment Challenge | Kate Monroe June 26, 2014 3:04 pm

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Dec 19-13

On a sweet October day, Megan and Matt tied the knot at the Highgrove estate. Lovely ladies with beautiful curls and make up all arrived at the same time, dresses in hand, ready to go inside and finish getting ready. Matt and his men arrived shortly after, full of smiles, ready for a party. The finishing touches, getting dressed, bridesmaids photos with smiles, groomsmen photos while it began to sprinkle, then the anticipation of all the guests arriving… it was an exciting day! Thankfully, the rain held off, and their outdoor ceremony was so sweet.

When everyone witnessed Megan and Matt's hand fasting ceremony, I couldn't hold back the tears. It was a beautiful and unique tradition that I had never seen before, but I certainly hope to see again. These were some of the words that their sweet Mamas read, as the minister covered their hands with a lace handkerchief, binding them together:

These are the hands that will work along side yours as together you build your first home, plant your first garden, and walk forward hand and hand into your future.

These are the hands that will passionately love you and cherish you, the only ones with the ability to comfort you like no one else can.

These are the hands that will tenderly hold your first child, the hands that hold your family together as one.

And lastly these are the hands that even when winkled and aged will still be reaching for yours as they hold you here now promising you they will never ever let you go.

Megan and Matt, thank you for including me in your beautiful wedding day.

Event Designer and Coordinator: Erin McLean Events
Venue: The Highgrove
Cake Artist: Sweet Memories Bakery
Caterer: The Highgrove
Florist: English Garden
Reception DJ: Joe Bunn DJ Company
Hair and Makeup: Makeup For Your Day
Wedding Gown: Mikaella
Bride's Shoes: Kate Spade
Bridesmaid Dresses: J.Crew
Flower Girl Dresses: Us Angels
Groom and Groomsmen Attire: Men's Warehouse
Ties: Vineyard Vines
Stationary: Minted








Comments: 1

  1. Megan December 20, 2013 3:30 am

    We loved working with you! Thank you for being so wonderful and for giving us photos that we’ll cherish for a lifetime!

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Dec 18-13

Harvey Family

Families ~ by Elizabeth Tate ~ one comment

I had the privilege of shooting the Harvey family’s photos at the beginning of November, and what a sweet time it was! It was Mrs. Harvey’s birthday, and her husband and children had just thrown her a surprise party the night before, where they revealed that a family portrait session would take place the next morning. The session took place at their home, which I love because it brings such a personal meaning to the photos. They pointed out memories to me as we strolled the yard – a giant magnolia tree where the kids played growing up, the front porch where they did pictures every year... story after story of precious moments (and funny ones!) that all took place in that house.


I come from a close family, so I love and respect a couple that raises a family that grows closer together as years go by. It is so evident to me that family is the utmost priority for these folks, and I just love it. And as a side note, can I just tell you how thoughtful they are? After our session that day they sent me home with loads of birthday cake and candy for my drive. My sweet tooth was definitely satisfied on the way home!


Harvey’s – it was a pleasure getting to know you guys! I hope you enjoyed the session and your photos as much as I did!

Comments: 1

  1. Brittany Liggitt December 18, 2013 3:23 pm

    Liz and I went to high school together, Nancy! So fun to see her now.

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Dec 17-13


There was such a sweet spirit about Aubrey and Brenton's wedding. So many things made it so meaningful: a handkerchief that had been passed down generations, vows that were written by the bride and groom, toasts that made everyone laugh and cry.  It was apparent that they are a very loved couple! When Aubrey's Dad saw her for the first time, they both cried and were speechless. They took time to just be together, soaking in the moment. (Aubrey is definitely a Daddy's girl!) Everyone was so full of anticipation for the day they had been waiting for!

My favorite memory was when Brenton said his vows. Oh I wish I could remember his perfectly chosen words! Everyone was in tears by the time he was done. It was an elegant ballroom wedding, with warm light and chandeliers. Enjoy this warm, heartfelt wedding!

Venue: Grand Marquise Ballroom
Officiant: Eddie Mullins
Cake Artist: Dreme Cake Artistry
Caterer: Kaplan Catering
Florist: Simply Elegant
Event Designer & Coordinator: All OK-sion Events
Hair Stylist: Tanas Hair Designs
Film Processing: Indie Film Lab









Comments: 1

  1. Alison December 31, 2013 10:06 pm

    What a fun surprise to see the invitations I designed on your blog! Aubrey and Brenton’s wedding turned out beautifully – love the photos.

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Dec 16-13

Well friends, this is something Will and I have had up our sleeves for a while! We are thrilled to introduce our new Mentor Sessions - a comprehensive solution for photographers who need a bit of help on the "business" side of things. We are passionate about helping photographers set up a healthy system in every aspect of your business - especially your finances.

I've been mentoring photographers for a few years now, teaching new photographers the importance of branding, social media, how to shoot, how to have a solid workflow, how to interact with your clients while you're shooting, and how to take and edit beautiful photographs. I've done this through one-on-one sessions, as well as my former photography workshop, Branches and Light. I also speak regularly at Making Things Happen. The bottom line? I love to teach and to share!

Will has had an incredibly successful first year of financial coaching. He completed Dave Ramsey's Financial Counselor Training in February of 2013, and he's been on fire ever since. His passion is teaching financial management: coaching couples in their personal finances, as well as coaching business owners in their finances and strategies for growth. He's coached Lara, as well as many other couples and business owners he has time for. Not to mention, he has been a huge reason for the success of my business - organizing the finances and helping me decide when to make big purchases (and when to say no!). I certainly would not be as successful without him by my side.

After much discussion, we decided to roll it all together : my photography mentor sessions + his financial coaching sessions = the total package. Honestly, it's everything I WISH I had when I began my business! We are so excited to offer this to photographers who are ready to roll up their sleeves and do the hard work to set up a successful business.

Because Will has a full time job, and because my business is very seasonal, we have decided to offer a very limited amount of Mentor Sessions January - March, 2014, and a few more in August of 2014. A few things to note :

• For $1895, you will get an all day Mentor Session with the two of us, customized to the growth of your business
• Sessions are an all-access full day with us - 6 hours, lunch, and all the Q&A you need
• Mentor Sessions are only offered to photographers who do not live in North Carolina
• New headshots (taken by me!) are included in your session
• We will work with you prior to your Mentor Session to tailor it to your questions and your needs
• All sessions will take place at the NRP studio in Raleigh, NC

This is everything we've learned over the last five years of building my business. We are opening up everything for you, showing you the ropes of how we run everything.

We are so excited about this! If you are interested in booking a 2014 Mentor Session, please email me for available 2014 dates: nancy (at) nancyrayphotography (dot) com

Comments: 2

  1. Hayley December 16, 2013 2:11 pm

    I was all pumped until it said only offered to photographers outside of NC :(

  2. Mentor Sessions Revisited! | Nancy Ray Photography March 19, 2014 8:38 am

    […] our heart is teaching and sharing all that we've learned the past 6 years of business. After posting about our new Mentor Sessions a few months ago, we received lots of interest and emails from photographers who were interested, […]

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Photographer, wife, and worshiper... I am a Southern girl who looks most forward to waking up each morning to drink my coffee, read my Bible, and soak in the beauty that surrounds me. These pages chronicle my work, my life, and the things that I love most. You'll also hear from Callie, Will, and Elizabeth - my amazing team who has so much to offer. Thanks for visiting, I do hope you stay a while!
Nancy Ray