Year in Review: The Hills 2018

two thousand eighteen


“So now we must cling tightly to the HOPE that lives within us, knowing that God always keeps his promises!” Hebrews 10:23, The Passion Translation

This year brought with it many ups and downs, highs and lows. But through it all, the Lord renewed our HOPE and remained faithful to His promises!

Consider this our digital “Christmas card” this year and let’s just pretend that I mailed this card to your house. But Lord knows we didn’t actually send anything out cause stamps are 50 cents each. goodNESS!!

If you’re interested, below are the links to our previous “Year in Review” posts. Even if no one else cares for these posts, I love documenting each year in this way to look back on how the Father has brought us through the great and the hard times in our marriage. And what a year of growth it was for us!

Click HERE for our 2017 Year in Review post.

Click HERE for our 2016 Year in Review post.


Bry dove head-first into mountain biking and playing bass guitar this year. These still remain to be his two biggest hobbies and if you know him, you know that when he sets his mind to something, he does it to perfection. He’s still preparing for his big biking trip through Utah this summer (through the San Juan Hut System.) It never ceases to amaze me how committed he is to setting and reaching his goals. He’s the hardest worker I’ve ever met, that’s for sure! After playing bass for more than two decades, he decided he wasn’t finished learning and growing in that area, so he spent countless hours studying jazz bassists this year, determined to improve his skills. He was even able to purchase a new bass guitar - his first new guitar in over 20 years! I just love this man I’m blessed to do life with. I try to remind myself not to take him for granted!


If I had to pick one word to sum up my year, it would be stillness. I spent more time with Jesus than with actual human beings this year, I’m sure of it. I need more alone time than the average person, and that’s ok, I think. The Father has me in this preparation period - for what? I’m not sure yet. But, He’s stretching and growing me in the quiet places of my heart, preparing me to do His will in His timing. In February I decided it was time to learn how to play guitar again. I still have a long ways to go, but I’m getting there. Some of my favorite things from 2018 will always be: discovering a new love for lipstick and all things leather (shoes, backpack, phone, all the things), taking myself on a solo date downtown to see Les Miserables, losing 13 pounds (then gaining a few back), starting this weekly blog (!!!), and raising a Hallelujah through the storm, through the fear, and in spite of my anxiety of singing in front of an audience. What a year!


Marriage is an incredibly humbling journey. You’d think after 12 years we’d have figured each other out by now, but there are still so many uncovered complexities of our hearts, so many things about each of us yet to be discovered, still more tears to be shed and I’m sorry’s to be handed out. Year 12 was definitely a year of healing for us. The Father uses our marriage on a daily basis to sanctify us, making us more into the image of His son in every way. He’s in the business of reclamation and restoration. He is doing what He always does - a new thing! We celebrated our 12 year anniversary at the Statler this year, a popular hotel in downtown Dallas with its own restoration story. How fitting is that? Jesus has a great sense of humor. :)

The little lady

We continued our monthly visits with our girl this year - the 7 foot tall 12 year old. Not really, but she may as well be! She’s growing so much and we’re still in awe of Jesus’ grace and her grandparents for allowing us to remain in her life. We made so many memories with our favorite red head this year. So many trips together, and there are still more to come. I shared this year in a Facebook post that Bry and I had picked out the names for our first boy and our first girl long before we ever started trying to build a family. While I can’t share her full name, let me just say that this girl has the exact first and middle name of the name we’d picked out years ago. She didn’t come to us the way we thought she would, but still, she came. More on our fostering journey can be found here.


Our third annual national park road trip took us east this year through the Smoky Mountains, Shenandoah National Park, and to Maryland to see our fraaaaands! Our favorite moment of this trip happened as we were parked in the valley of Cade’s Cove, an 11 mile one-way loop near the Smokies. We looked up and saw a herd of mustangs running full speed ahead. We wondered if they were running after their dinner, but then we realized they were just playing. They were young, free, full of life, and joy. A group of us watched them, eyes wide in wonder and awe. As I mentioned in a previous blog post, we’re glad we made this trip, but now we know that our favorite mountains live in the west - in Wyoming and California!

saying goodbye

If you’ve been around here a while, you know we’ve had some significant losses in our family over the last two years. My mom has recently lost 3 siblings and her mother. Bry lost his sweet grandmother this year, just two weeks after my uncle passed away. After making it through 2017 and all of the funerals that year, we thought 2018 may be full of freshness and life, but instead we were hit with these two losses in the first month of the year. To say our family dynamics have changed a bit would be a grave understatement, but we are thankful for the family members who are still with us. These trials have been a reminder to build deeper relationships with the people we love and to never leave them wondering how you feel about them! I wrote a post about why funeral photography has become near and dear to my heart. If you’re curious, here’s the link to read more.

the furry children

I am convinced that these two are determined to cover every square inch of my house in hair, just so we’ll never forget they lived here. They wish we were better dog parents and would take them to the park like all of their friends, but here we are. Lucy turned 7 a few weeks ago and Kota is 2 and a half. We recently found out that Lucy has two torn ACL’s (both back knees), so that’s a huge bummer. She’s not supposed to climb stairs, jump, or run, but she can’t seem to stop doing those very things. We’ll look into pain meds or braces if things get really bad, but for now she seems happy. Kota is just as cuddly as ever. She has to be constantly touching Lucy, Bry, or me. I love these two!


One of my dad’s dreams has always been to see the Packers play at Lambeau Field, and this year he made it happen! He took Bry and my brother (a huge 49ers fan) to Wisconsin to take a trip down memory lane and relive his childhood, since he was raised there. The Packers played the 49ers on a Monday night in 20 degree(ish) temps, but my baby brother still ended up shirtless by the end of the game. They had an amazing time and I’m so glad Bry had the opportunity to join them. We were able to visit my family in New Braunfels several times this year, so that was great! My two nephews (5 and almost 3 years old) are still my favorite little boys on the planet and I cherish every minute I have with them.


Once upon a time we sat in our living room whining about how many friends we didn’t have, how hard it was to find friends, wa wa waaaa. Then, we prayed for them. We prayed for friends we could invest in, and them in us. The Father loves to give good gifts and He did just that - he gave us the gift of friendship this year. And He didn’t just give a few gifts - He gave us an abundance of friends to do life with! He even led me to meet some new friends online who’ve become real life friends. He led me to prayer partners, friends who’ve become closer than family, and all I can say is thank you, Father! One of the best things anyone said to me this year was, “We knew you were coming over and we didn’t clean the toilet.” THIS is what I’ve prayed for!


2018 was my fourth official year for my portrait photography business! I am so grateful for all of the families who trust me with their memories each year. I’m also grateful for all of the ladies in my SOAR mentor group who push me to invest in my business and myself in order to be a better businesswoman. I made some changes to my business model this year based on their guidance and support and I’m so excited about what’s in store for 2019!


One of our favorite trips this year was our 5-night camping trip in Oklahoma over Spring Break with friends, family, and our little lady. I can’t even imagine how exciting it would’ve been to have camped for a week with my best friend at her age. We went on a handful of other trips this year besides our BearFood trip and Oklahoma. We’re so grateful to be able to travel as much as we do.


Our church family holds such a dear place in our hearts. We’ve seen our church go through so many changes over the last few years, but I’m honestly so excited about where we’re headed. 2019 will be a big year for us, I’m sure!

La casa

Year 7 in our home brought new challenges and new changes. A (golf ball sized) hail storm in June led to a significant insurance claim with lots of work still to be done inside and outside of our home. Most of the work will be done in 2019 and we can’t wait to see how it turns out. We’ve never been people to prioritize home repairs or house projects, but this has definitely spurred us on to make some much needed changes around the house. However, we’ve always believed that our bedroom should be a sanctuary and we make sure our bedroom stays clean, even if everything else in the house is falling apart! Recently, Bry surprised me with a new fence and it was the best Christmas present ever!

Faith renewed

As I wrote about in a blog post earlier this year, the Father gave me a renewed passion and hunger for His Word this year after an encounter I had with the Holy Spirit one morning in May. A few months ago we invested in the little corner of our bedroom, purchasing a nice chair, ottoman, and lamp. I’ve spent countless hours in the corner of our room this year tearing through the Word, replacing lies from the enemy with truths in the Word. Praying for my husband and our marriage, desiring to move deeper in my faith and intimacy with him and my heavenly Father. It’s hard not to think about all of the months and years I spent not spending much time in the Word, but I choose to look forward because I can’t change the past. I choose today to soak my mind in the truths of His word, gaining new insights, revelations, and understandings. I’m just in love with His Word!

{cast iron} cookin’

I couldn’t finish this post without documenting how much one pan has changed our lives! Kidding, buttttt seriously… We made quite a few new recipes in the cast iron this year and each one has been better than the last. While not all of the pics below are dishes we’ve made in the cast iron, this pan has been the real MVP this year in our home!

FaithJulie HillsFaithComment