Meet the Catholic woman whose young family fuels a wildly popular lifestyle blog
Name: Anna Liesemeyer
City of residence: Atlanta
Husband’s name: Gabe
Kids’ names and ages: Gabriel, 8; Veronica, 6; Max, 4; Rocco, 2; Azelie, 1
Why did you launch In Honor Of Design?
I started it in 2010, and it was mainly an outlet for my job as a graphic designer. I felt like it was a good way to exercise the creative side of my brain. It grew into more of a lifestyle blog as my family grew and changed, and now I try to keep it focused on the overall theme of making the most of the life you have been given.
You’ve amassed more than 64,000 Instagram followers. What’s your secret to developing such a following?
I was lucky to get into blogging before its big boom, so I had a strong foundation of readers who have followed along from the start. However, I always challenge myself to try new things and adapt according to how my family is changing or what feels relatable to that year. Social media changes frequently, so I try not to focus on numbers and stay focused on content that reaches people.
Is it heady having so many followers?
To be honest, I don’t even know if I would be on social media if it wasn’t part of my business! It can be such an uplifting community, but I also don’t like how it contributes to a false idea of perfectionism. I try not to give much thought to numbers because that is when it can affect the way you do things. I like to look at my audience more like a community so I can stay connected in a more relatable way.
You’ve scored sponsorships from the likes of Home Depot, Airbnb and Frigidaire. Your Father’s Day post, for instance, was sponsored by Breyer’s Ice Cream. What’s that like?
It is so fun to be able to work with a brand on creating content that we can deliver in a new way. It is intimidating, but it pushes me to think outside of the box and look at the content from a different perspective. We like to share what feels natural to us so it doesn’t appear forced or staged.
Does it feel like a responsibility to honor that readership? It looks like you try to be generous in return, to give back too, like your Christmas giveaway of free round-trip tickets to fly home for the holidays. Did that come out of your own pocket?
Yes, that giveaway was my way of trying to give back to an audience I feel very grateful for. There are so many kind-hearted and uplifting people who have supported IHOD. I also like to ask their feedback for how I can improve content or what they are looking for. The way I look at it, an audience sustains what I do, and they deserve my honesty in writing, my effort in sharing the right kinds of content and an effort at engaging back to them!
You’re a Steubenville graduate turned Instagram model – perhaps the only one? What do you make of your unique niche?
Ha ha ha! I feel like I am always learning from others around me. I don’t have many people to look to who are doing exactly what Gabe and I do, but I have several to look up to for carrying poise and grace into a public field, being a mother raising children in a fast culture and being a Christian when the world tells you it’s unpopular.
What have you learned from your wildly successful professional journey?
Oh wow, I don’t know that I would say wildly successful, but thank you! I have learned that nothing lands in your lap. It takes a good deal of blood, sweat and tears to grow a small business. God makes himself very clear by the doors He chooses to close and the ones he leads you through.
Lastly, I’ve learned that I cannot just settle for mediocrity. This applies to all areas of my life. I have to be willing to push myself out of comfort zones in order to find the greater things God has planned for our lives.
31 Dresses: No. 2. 👗 I want to live a life…. where I put a tap to the tree and drain every last drop of the goodness that it held. That I stop and listen to the hard days, and learn from the parables they spoke. That I am grateful during the brighter days. That I always seek truth over acceptance. I want a life where my children remember my smile over my frown. Where they see me transform into a better mother, wife, and friend because of their existence. I want to live a life where I end the days with an overdose of I love you’s and ask for forgivenesses, than regrets of withholding them. I want a life that revels in the wonder of God’s majesty in the stillness of silence, the faces of strangers, and even in the chaos of the unknown. I want to live a life that is ready to accept the end whenever it comes, because I have truly LIVED. (From today’s blog post.) 📷@moeblake #journalentries #useyourwords
How do you reconcile your love of Catholicism with your love of style? Does modeling clothing to thousands of followers ever put you at risk of becoming materialistic?
I’ve never been able to feel OK with promoting materialistic things, so I have always evaluated how I share style topics. For instance, I wrote a series on a capsule wardrobe that challenged me to choose a minimal amount of pieces to wear multiple ways throughout the summer. This was a way of getting rid of excess and stepping away from fast fashion as well as challenging myself to get dressed in something that complemented who I was as a woman. Style can complement our dignity and encourage us to put the best into what we do. Catholicism has always asked me to look at everything with meaning and to find the purpose in all things.
IHOD has mass appeal. But could the case be made that it’s Catholic?
I feel called to share my faith through the way I live my life, so I don’t talk about my Catholic faith directly on the blog for a reason. I want it to be a place where people are drawn to God through the natural joy that comes through marriage and family life. I talk about God and my faith in almost all of my motherhood posts because that is where it feels genuine to share it. I think if you are Catholic though, it’s easy to pick up that we are too by the way I reference grace and suffering, where I went to college and our large family!
Please stay small enough to fit in my arms just a little longer, Azelie! 🤞🏼😪 I’ve gotten a lot of q’s about this @article couch so thought I’d address:) I read the reviews on the comfort level, and as you can see it puts a spell on even the squirmiest of characters 😉. It’s real leather so not as easy to clean as our prior faux leather couch, but so far it’s holding up well:) 💯👌🏼 (Sources are all linked under the Home tab on our blog.) #IHODHousetoHome
Does using Instagram help you search for beauty in your day?
Definitely! I follow people from different parts of the world and different walks of life. I am always finding something that uplifts or sparks an idea. It also has been such a nice way to find community during some lonely times of motherhood! When used in moderation, and in the right way, Instagram can be used for good!
Does it help distill your thinking?
No! Ha ha! I actually tend to step away from my phone when my immediate world needs more attention. If my home needs more of me, or the people in it need my undivided attention, I will leave my phone in the other room. I also tend to gravitate towards paper and ink to refresh my mind. Too much screen time always dulls my ability to write or create.
Still driving the first car we ever bought after getting hitched, and his name is Sábado Domingo. 🤷🏽♀️ Gabe and I are opening up about a few things that have helped us combat negativity in marriage on the blog. (I still have so much to learn. 😩) Linked in profile. P.S. Did you ever name your cars?? 🚗🗺 #loveandmarriageandthecarsthatfuelthem #tezzapresets
How do you keep from being too Instagram-minded, to be in the moment versus documenting it?
I choose not to share too much of my little one’s lives because I am very protective of their privacy and also very aware of how much I want them to see me with a phone in hand. It’s easier for me to be engaged with the present without the worry of documenting it.
This is why I keep Instagram mainly as a place to share creatively. If I do take photos of something in the moment, I will wait till later to edit and post it so I am not taking away from the moment itself. It can be a tough line to walk, but that has kept it balanced for me.
We have turned down a lot of paid projects that would involve the kids being the center of the campaign, because we don’t ever want to monetize their exposure. If it’s something we know will be a fun family experience we go for it, like a special trip. This is a topic Gabe and I talk about often as the blog continues to grow.
Do you have any guidelines to limit your use of social media?
It helps when I schedule it into my work hours. If I know I have designated time, I don’t feel the need to check in all the time. I have to always be evaluating if I am using it with balance. If I find myself defaulting to social-media apps to escape the hard parts of my day, I know it isn’t going to do me any good.
How has NFP blessed your marriage?
We have practiced NFP since the start of our marriage, and it has taught us so much about ourselves, each other, and the love God has for our family. We chose to keep our family size open ended because we really wanted to leave room for what God may have in store for our life. It hasn’t been easy, because I tend to want to control my life and know the timeline of it. However, I have learned that when we allow God the space to work his majesty, great things always come of it.
When we have to sacrifice for our spouse or when we have to give up time with each other, we know it works towards a greater good. I have noticed how NFP has allowed us to grow closer in many ways and has created a strong foundation of trust, respect and deep love in our marriage.
Azelie was a surprise baby, and I struggled through tears to accept it. But throughout her pregnancy, I felt many old parts of my heart crumble and new parts grow to replace them. On the day she was born and the months that followed, she burst through my life like a light beam chasing shadows of doubt and fear from my heart. She continues to open my eyes to the very personal love of God, and we are all so immensely grateful for her life. Happy 1st birthday Azelie Jane, our littlest wildflower! #ispytwoteeth
How does it feel to have your blog provide for your family?
I have always had side jobs to help pay off those hefty college loans, so it felt like a responsibility I had for a while to take part of the financial strain. I felt grateful for the chance to help especially while still being at home. I still very much feel this way! It started as a hobby, turned into a side job and grew enough to make it a full-time gig. A turning point was signing with a blog agency that connected me with some bigger opportunities. It was enough to pay the bills and put aside some savings, but it required more time than I had with five little ones, so we came to a crossroads.
And then your husband committed full-time, beginning in July?
Yes. Gabe had gotten to a point in his job in the education field where he was ready to make a change. I also knew I couldn’t keep up with the pace of home life and the business on my own anymore. With a lot of prayer, Gabe suggested we merge forces. It feels surreal, but more than anything I am so grateful the kids get more time with him.
Have your kids been influenced by your creative work?
Oh yes. I overheard my oldest son tell a friend that his mom “is a blog,” which made me laugh. They see everything I do, so I am very aware of how I explain things. I want them in on my creative work now that it is a family venture, so I let them help me on little projects. I also am careful on what work I accept because everything we do as mothers is absorbed by these little sponges!
How do you hope IHOD does for readers?
I see it as a site that’s inspirational and aspirational. My goal is always to show an effort to make the most of the life you have been given. My hope is that it can be a place others can be encouraged to do the same. Blogging pushes me to look for the good in the world around me, and yet I still have a strong conscience always asking me to live honestly and openly.
I used to write in a way that would be pleasing to everyone, but I had to come to realize that I needed to share without overthinking. If I worry about causing envy or dissatisfaction in others, it would take away the desire to share the positive aspects of life that are meant to be passed on.
How do you keep it real and also be aspirational? Your images are gorgeous – you strolling through a farmers market with sunflowers popping out of your straw bag, breastfeeding on the beach in a floppy hat and so on.
Thank you! I like when imagery can be storytelling, but especially when it captures a fleeting moment in time. No matter how rough a day can be, I try to see past the surface of it and find the light, as God intends us to see. He is in all we do. I want to share that sliver of light in my day even if it was just a sliver.
Are you deliberate about being real and encouraging fellow mamas to embrace the chaos of family life?
I’ve gotten to a point in my life, that while I appreciate inspiration, I value honesty even more. So I keep this in mind in my writing. I know how isolating life can feel at times, and social media doesn’t help. So although I like to focus on the more positive aspects of life, I try to keep it truthful.
Every day I open instagram and debate whether I should share a peek into home life or protect the privacy of my family. I debate keeping images real or surreal. Instagram has always been a creative outlet for me, and I have personally chosen not to share much of the every day lives of our children for their sake. However, as I continue to share style and design images, remember that this space for me is only meant to inspire an idea, encourage, and uplift. The best moments of my life are actually the insignificant ones….usually with a baby or two at my ankles while I’m sipping a coffee. I just choose to keep them just for me most of the time. So this is just a reminder for you and for me not to take this place so seriously, and that for most peeps, it’s just a highlight reel of a very real and imperfect life. 😘😘 #truth #reelvsreal
And what do those chaotic moments looks like for you?
Usually me trying to get a shoot done before a deadline and hitting 5 pm dinner hour with nothing made and grubby little ones clinging to my legs. It’s rarely glamorous, but there is always grace!
At age 18, could you ever have imagined this path you’re on? Never crossed my mind! I was going to be a teacher. I always was drawn to all things creative, and when I realized God was calling me to marriage, I adjusted my career path to graphic design so I could work from home. It was my deepest desire to just be able to be with my children and maybe create in the process. I feel like God took that small dream and gave it back to me in a way that surpassed how I could have imagined it.
You can imagine the comments Gabe and I get when we have our crew all together. This week alone…. «You two have been busy.» «Did all of these kids come from you?» «You sure have your hands full.» But occasionally, we receive really uplifting words, like the kind elderly man who took the time to tell us he thought we had a beautiful family, that he knows it’s hard, but that we were doing a wonderful job. If he only knew how much I needed the encouragement. I know people usually don’t mean any harm, but I’ve never seen my children as a burden. They have given me more happiness than I deserve. I only see them as lights that have lit my path, and offered me the greatest opportunity of selfless love. So just wanted to virtually hug each of you fighting the good fight! I know it’s hard, but you are doing a wonderful job. 😉
Do you encourage other mamas to embark on similar enterprises?
It takes so much determination and consistency that I realize it isn’t for everyone. However, I love to encourage other women to at least try to chase that idea or that gift they have. You never know what door may open in the process. If it doesn’t take away from your family or important relationships, most likely it will enrich them.
— Christina Ries
Assistant Editor of Family Foundations
[Editor’s note: This is the full-length version of Instagram inspiration. An abbreviated version was published in the January/February 2018 edition of our magazine, Family Foundations.]