Here’s Why I’m Shifting My Priorities in 2024

Photo credit: Misty Swilley Photography

The last two years have been hard. I’ve had lots of first world problems combined with the sudden illness and ultimately death of my dad which led to lots of things slipping in my life. When I tell you I barely survived the last two years, I mean it. I never tried to sugarcoat things on social, but I didn’t dive as deeply into how my life was literally hanging day by day, sometimes moment by moment. I won’t bore you with the complete laundry list of responsibilities I’ve had on my plate since 2021, but I’ll tell you this…. nearly two straight years of TV (shameless plug: you can watch my Magnolia Network episode here) combined with two MAJOR renovations (The Villas at Spanish Court and the Fuller White House) alongside lighter renovations like Creekside and other rental properties), launching a national rug collection, and tons of other things you may or may not know, about did me in. It was by the grace of God that I survived physically, emotionally, financially and I dare say even spiritually. My Father sustained me and I’m definitely seeing the light, but I am hell-bent on straightening some things out in my life this year. It’s scary putting this out into the universe like this, but my hopes would be that this entry finds it way to the eyes of someone who needs it most. Let’s dive in.

Caney Lakes in Webster Parish where I rode my bike almost 15 miles every day in 2020.

My Physical Well-being

The thing I miss most about 2020 is the time spent outdoors. From March to probably September that year, I rode my bike nearly 15 miles every single day. I was tan. I was tone. And probably in the best shape of my life. I didn’t have near the responsibility on my plate I have now and I was able to take great care of my body. I can’t sugarcoat this. In the last two years, I’ve barely exercised. Fast food, coffee and sugar have sustained me. And my body is 20 pounds heavier. Ugh. Now listen, to see me, I don’t look to be overweight (or maybe I do, lol). But I feel overweight and my clothes don’t fit. That’s why I’m mostly wearing leggings every day. So I’m committed to getting my health back on track this year.

I want to drop that 20 pounds I took on and plan to switch my collagen to the TRIM version (I’m starting with Pineapple Shortcake YUM!). My friend Brittany (@thorncoveabode) told me about how she used TRIM when she needed to drop some pounds and it worked very quickly for her. It contains zero sugar, supports fat metabolism, and when combined with exercise, inhibits fat storage and provides all the usual collagen benefits like healthy hair, skin, nails and joints. I trust Brittany and thought I would give this a whirl too.

While I don’t have the time to ride my bike fifteen miles every single day again, I do plan to start making more time to get outside. I can’t STAND to exercise indoors, so I hope to go out for lots of walks, hikes, paddles and eventually get back on the trails with my bike.

And lastly, I have GOT to cut my sugar intake. I never thought I would say I’m addicted to sugar, but here I am with an extra twenty pounds to prove it. Chocolate and candy are my weaknesses and it’s crucial I give it up. In addition, my kryptonite has been flavored coffee creamer, ugh. Why does it have to be so good?! So a few months back I did make the switch to Prymal Coffee Creamer and I REALLY love it. There are so many amazing flavors like Salted Caramel, Santa’s Cookies, Buttered Rum and more. Courtney, the founder, made Prymal when her diabetic dad refused to give up his flavored creamer. She was like, “FINE!” And she made a coffee creamer as rich and yummy as International but without the sugar. Try it here and use code COTTAGE15 for 15% off.

The Villas at Spanish Court in Minden, Louisiana. The hardest renovation project of my life.

My Financial Well-being

Ok this is hard one to swallow. Let me start by saying, I’m fine. I’m fine. Everything is fine. 🤪 BUT, I’ve taken greater risks these last two years than I’ve ever taken. I’ve bet BIG on almost an entire street of Minden, and I believe with my whole heart that is exactly what I am supposed to do. You know the old adage, “Do it scared”? That’s exactly what I did. It’s like jumping off a cliff with my eyes closed and praying there is a net to catch me. 😳

All this to say, nearly every penny I’ve earned the last two years has gone right back into renovating these properties. In case no one has told you lately, it isn’t cheap. And truth be told, there is a strong risk I may not see a return on investment in my lifetime. But ultimately for me, it’s less about the money and more about trailblazing and leaving a legacy for those that come after me. I mean, my villas would have been eventually torn down and lost to history. But I saved them and hopefully they will be around for hundreds of years after me. And my story will continue to be told.

“Remember that girl whose life was altered after she got divorced, bought an old cottage, painted her door yellow and started saving historic properties all over Minden? And she paralleled the restoration story of her heart alongside the renovations?”

My prayer is that people see Jesus in my story. The heart of Christ is being manifested in the salvation of historic properties. THAT is what is important to me. So I’ve poured every penny I’ve earned right back into my business.

That means, I’ve hardly saved or invested ANYTHING the last two years. Luckily, I have AMAZING financial advisors at Meriwether Wealth & Planning in Minden who have walked alongside me every step of the way. So I didn’t make decisions in haste or without guidance. But I am also determined to start saving and investing again this year.

Prior to 2021, my investment plan was mostly tithing 10% (investing in the Kingdom because I wholeheartedly believe Malachi 3:10) and saving 10%-20% combined between stocks, mutual funds and a general savings account. While I did keep up my tithing (because He has NEVER failed me on that 3:10 promise), my personal savings the last two years was ZERO. So I plan to slowly ramp that back up.

And lastly, keeping it completely real, I had ZERO debt prior to 2021, but did have to take on some pretty significant risk to complete these projects, and now I’m fully committed to liquidating that as quickly as possible.

One of my all time favorite photos I’ve ever taken. St. John’s Episcopal Church in Minden, Louisiana

My Spiritual Well-being

Ugh, this one is super hard to admit. While I still love Jesus with my whole heart, the last two years I haven’t spent the time with him that I spent prior to 2021. That is SO hard to type. Before, I was on my swing for nearly an hour every morning and evening and I was in The Word, my journal and nearly constant prayer. Now, I’m lucky if I get a few minutes here and there throughout the day. It seems like as soon as I wake up, someone or something (my phone, ugh) beckons for my attention and HE takes a backseat. I’m ashamed to even admit that. But it’s the real, raw truth.

Therefore, I’m committed to getting back on track again this year. One book I LOVE that has helped me so much is Confessions of a Prayer Slacker by Diane Moody. And I also plan to revisit The Circle Maker by Mark Batterson (my all time favorite book which I FIRMLY believe helped me in believing for and securing my cottage).

I feel like much of my stress the last two years would have been alleviated had I stayed in The Word. So I’m looking forward to spending time with our Father again this year.

My home all decked out for Mardi Gras in 2021.

My Whole House Well-being

Ok let me explain this. There is a REASON why you have been seen very little new pictures of my personal cottage the last two years. Y’all, IT IS A TRAINWRECK. And I can’t even tell you how accurate that is. It’s served as a stopping off point for me in the evenings, a catch-all for social media collaboration supplies, a storage for construction and decor supplies for my projects and my dining room table is now my office (because sitting at my table, working, and overlooking Academy Park brings me a peace that I can’t explain and can’t get if sitting behind my actual desk in my office). My poor assistant, Jessica (who helps me keep my life straight more than you know) comes over at least once a week and tries to make heads or tails of this mess. (God bless her for her kind, patient, loving me well soul.) And to tell you the truth, I’ve about been at my breaking point with my house the last two years. (I don’t know what that means other than I was about to break because my home stayed in a constant state of chaos and I felt like there was nothing I could do about.) Until now…..

I am about to begin a GREAT PURGE. Most of you know, but I have a little booth at Heavenly Treasures, one of our amazing local antique stores, where I’ve been dumping things the last year or so that I want to get rid of. Now, don’t get excited…. I wish it was filled with lots of heavenly treasures (and maybe they are to you, lol) but I’ve mostly been taking things I don’t want. I plan to continue to do that, as well as I am about to host the most random Facebook garage sale of my junk that you ever did see. So stay tuned for that. (And I am NOT exaggerating when I tell you this… so far in the pile to list is old hair extensions, unopened makeup, unopened curtains and much more. It’s truly a smorgasbord.)

I’ve got to get rid of some things before I go absolutely crazy.

What Does All This Mean?

I’ll close out this post with where I started. I’m fine, I’m fine. Everything is fine, lol. I truly do mean that. I am OK. But I’ve got to get “back to zero” as my sister says, get things back into kilter OR I will implode. I have pushed my limits these last two years and I WHOLEHEARTEDLY recognize that. And while by nature, I am a go getter, Type A, Enneagram 3 (please like and comment on all my posts because it makes my soul happy- I jest), these last two years have been a little much for even me. So here I go, bringing you along with me as I find my “zero” and discover a new normal while continuing to blaze trails I love to travel.

Will you join me?

(And stay tuned for a post soon with the results of my recent Simply Southern Cottage survey and a peak behind the curtain of some changes and updates (and exciting things) coming up this year.)

Share the ♥︎
  1. Chris Gammill says:

    Thanks for sharing. I resonate with a lot of this. It’s like in these different areas I can run fast and then have to stop, gasping for breath. (Actually, far worse). Or, I can pace myself and incorporate the routines that help me live at a sustainable pace – albeit slower than I would like – where I also rely on God and draw strength from family/friends. I’m in the same boat with a lot of what you’ve said above. I take this as God’s confirmation to make more changes. Blessings to you!

  2. I love watching how God directs and you respond to His calling on your life. I’’m 85, with failing health, so I’m very limited in my activities. We are kin due to our Lord Jesus Christ and you are a great inspiration to me. I add you to my daily prayers, not only for your financial needs but mainly of your testimony to those who might have pulled away from faith and belief in what Christ can do in our lives.
    May God continue to prosper your “ministry” and well being. Sending much Love and Admiration!!!

  3. Janet price says:

    Thank you for being real but I know you are even without this post! I completely get needing to get back to zero. The last 6 years have been a whirlwind of emotions and growth. It’s just been in the last year that I can feel like myself and honestly just in the last few months do I have a sense of peace I don’t think I’ve ever had. I have purged “stuff” as well and it feels good! You have know idea what a positive influence you continue to be for me. Anyone that knows me knows about you and Minden! Again, thank you for being vulnerable and sharing yourself! I can’t wait until April!

  4. Kat says:

    Thank you for sharing your heart & struggles💛

  5. Landa Grimsley says:

    Girl, I am worn out just reading this; I really don’t know how you do it. I wouldn’t blame you if you decided to walk away from social media altogether and lead a more private life. That being said, I would miss you SO MUCH. You always bring a smile to my face, whether it’s from your “Phoebe run” (look for that on you tube if you aren’t a huge fan of FRIENDS), park peeping, going to town with your lovely Momma, your paddling adventures, and my feeling of pride in you for all the love you show to Minden, and to everyone you meet.

    You are a treasure my friend, and I know
    2024 will bring you many blessings.

  6. Cathy says:

    Sara, if you haven’t realized it you are pretty strong. You have persevered thru out all the chaos and come out the other side. A lot people wouldn’t have managed half of what you have. But in the other hand I know what you mean and after my 2 yrs of chaos I ‘m ready for a reset. I just have made the leap yet. Hopefully you’ll be my inspiration. Let’s get to it gurl.

  7. Doug Cooper says:

    Oh my Dear Sara. You have been chasing your tail more than I could have ever imagined. I’m glad you are ok. But yes you need to find you again and I so glad you realize that. I’m so thrilled to know you and follow you. You are a rock and an encouragement to so many. Thank you for all you do and share with all of us. Please remember things you know to be true. Drink water and breathe also please.

  8. Leesa Honeycutt says:

    So you are human with all the failings that the rest of us share with you. This makes you even more endearing to us all! I wish you the very best in 2024. Be sure to share with everyone how you reclaim your health, home and your relationship with our Father. There are many of us just like you! ♥️🙏🏻

  9. Jill says:

    Thank you for sharing where you are at. Your humility is precious to God, He understands. Thank you for taking us along, you’re a gift to us all. .

  10. Sheila says:

    Thank you for being so open with all of us to just understand that life is real life which most on social media is truly not real. If that makes sense! I truly think your a blessing to so many and know that I as well as I am sure others have you in our heart ❤️ just because your YOU and inspire me to really figure it out~ hugs and so looking forward one day to visit as your not far from me~

  11. Sharon Farmer says:

    God bless your sweet soul! You are such an inspiration to so many people! Take some time, breathe deeply, and let God take over! He has big shoulders! We love you and will keep you in our prayers!

    Sharon from Corpus Christi 😘

  12. Terri says:

    Your words are so timely for me. Thank you for sharing your heart. So many things you’ve been through the last 2 years are much like mine – from losing your Dad (I lost my dad in February 2022 unexpectedly. My house is such a mess with to much “stuff”!!! I’m working on getting rid of some of it. I am also working on returning to a close walk with our Heavenly Father as well. Life has a way of putting Him on the back burner. Your words spoke to me. Prayers for you as you continue your walk.

  13. Katherine Yvonne Weimer says:

    After reading about your struggles, I wish I could just hug you! You are such an amazing human, and the fact that you’re willing to share your challenges just makes me love you more! You are one amazing woman!! You deserve some “me” time & some time with Our Lord!! God Bless you!
    You are SPECIAL!👏👏👏

  14. Alice Adkins says:

    Sara- what a dear you are! I loved reading
    Your description of life, as you’ve responded to God’s calling on yours! You are so honest and open( and allow laughter to be your response to the nitpickers out here, who want you to place your cups in your cupboard- how?)

    As someone older than your own mom, & one who dreamed of retiring to Minden every time Ron & I drove past “ your peaceful park “ to visit in Shongaloo- I have been fascinated to follow you the past year or so! May I humbly remind you , to give yourself permisssion to grieve the loss of your precious earthly father- what a wonderful dad he was!- and is still blessing others through you. Having lost my husband a short year & half plus- I have learned to recognize that frustration with myself is often simply “ sorrow, & loss, redirected inward- instead of flowing out with our tears.. the picture David gave us, of a Heavenly Father collecting our tears in a bottle, like bright treasures is just so beautifully encouraging! I am learning to do what you will do- spend that time alone with your Father, and flourish in the power of His love & Words..there is no timetable for anyone- don’t let anyone tell you there is- but He will walk with you , and bring you through it. That is where we start,& all the rest of it,He will bring together for your good!

    And just for good measure- I have “ only. “
    Watched the Mysterious Yellow House” 5 or sixtimes so far- I love every moment- and one day, I will meet you at the Villa’s the Fuller House, or your next completed project!!
    I can’t wait to watch you in the New Year!
    Love & blessings as God leads you through it!!

  15. Janet Baker says:

    It is 1:36 am. I woke up and read your post and then your blog. I so totally understand where you’re coming from. I lost my husband in Nov. , 2021. I began a major renovation of my house that has taken 2 years. Like you say, I’m fine, but I’m not great physically, financially, emotionally, or spiritually. I’ve attempted to expand my home-based business and the economy hasn’t been my friend. So I take a different bend in the road as I go back to teaching, and try to Make my life REAL again. Thank you for sharing, and I’m looking forward to following your journey as I start a restoration journey of my own!

  16. Sandra Golightly says:

    I am with you regarding purging. We are empty nesters. And my dining table is the catch all place too.

    In 2019 my dad passed away after a 6 year journey following a complicated surgery. While walking this journey with my mom and sisters and being involved in Dad’s care, I was numb. While he was in hospice it felt like my Heavenly Father literally carried me. Then came COVID and the Lord began to show me he was about to make some changes regarding my church, the church had grown up in as well as generations before me. That was a significant spiritual journey in my life. I had never experienced anything like it.

    Fasr forward our church voted to give our building and property to an awesome church plant in our city. I have/am experienced God moving again in ways I’ve never seen before. Almost like he was saying “you think that was something, watch this”. The Lord led me to the book Whispers of Rest by Bonnie Gray. It’s as if the Lord was speaking to me, walking me through the past 6 years. Walking me through the grief of losing Dad, losing a friend to covid, my church home drastically changing and how he wanted me to serve him.
    Thank you for being so vulnerable in your journey.
    Sandra G.
    Mansfield, Tx

  17. Debbie says:

    Could you post live links from your IG post about Trim, etc. The links don’t work for me.

  18. I’m actually old enough to be your mother so I have two recommendations. Dave Ramsey’s baby steps to get your finances in godly territory. Save your advisor for the next venture. Right now right here, Dave will give financial peace. Second recommendation is Beth Moore’s nonnegotiable morning routine: walk, Bible Study, journal, shower and get yourself ready. Even on those public speaking dates, she kept that block locked and loaded. Need to be on camera at 8AM, just back that block up and set your alarm earlier. The world is not your friend so don’t let it dictate to that inner knowing of whose you are.

  19. Coreen Pike says:

    Hi Sara,
    I think we all feel like this, our lives are off quilter since Covid. Our days are fleeting, and task become overwhelming. I’m 64 1/2 and it seems, what use to be easy tasks for me have become overwhelming. Take deep breathes and know you, aren’t alone. We all love everything you do, and share with us all.

  20. Karen Heslop says:

    Thank you for sharing. Im sure many of us can relate on alot of levels.. Prayers for you as you regroup… also send out prayers for us.. Love you and your faith.

  21. Eva Davis says:

    Thank you so much for sharing this very personal story of yours. I truly feel like it could have been me writing a lot of it! It always gives one hope when you realize that it’s not just you! I love your spiritual sharing…..we all have our times of feeling that we aren’t enough. God bless you! Prayers for you for 2024 and embracing all that you are striving to do!

  22. Shelley says:

    Girl you are not alone! For me it’s been 3-4 years of total madness! For me it started with the unexpected passing of my mom the day before Thanksgiving 2019. Then I spent the next year ignoring my grief and working myself to death trying to make sure my step-dad was okay and taking care of my own family. 2021 I decided to go back to college and literally everything has taken a backseat to that, my family, my home(s), and most importantly my art and photography (what I’m in school for to begin with). Sprinkle in not one but 2 house moves and fighting (still) for caregiving income to pick up the slack from losing hours to care for hubs, and it becomes a lot. It took a while to come to the understanding that I’m helping no one else if I don’t care for myself. I place my ability to survive it all directly at the feet of the Lord. When my mom passed, I returned to Him as a way to pray for the strength to get thru each minute, hour, and day so that I could do more than curl into a ball of self-misery and quit. Give yourself some grace and know that you are incredibly strong to have done the things you have in the last couple of years, many wouldn’t be able to do the same. Forgive yourself for any mistakes and for not having the time to devote to Him. He sees and knows your heart and that you still follow His path 🙂 okay ending this ridiculously long comment haha you’re a bada*s and never forget that!

  23. PJ says:

    I can relate! Weight gain and no spare time for mental, spiritual and physical well being. May we all take time (not “find” because it will never be located!) for maintaining ourselves—our most precious commodity!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *