Tuesday, October 7, 2014

So you want to be a backpacker

Y'all, I'm a backpacker. It's not something I ever dreamed about, or pictured myself doing, or made space for on my non-existant bucket list. But it's happening anyway, and I'm really excited about it. Despite what my face looks like in the following picture.

attempting the impossible

Let me give you a little context here. I am a serial over-packer. Been doing it since way back when. Like, when I moved to Southern France to work as an au pair for three months, I took multiple suitcases...and my parents still had to ship boxes of my belongings across the ocean. I'm ashamed to admit that publicly, but there it is. Now that my confession has been made and the scene has been set, I hope everyone can fully appreciate the following photo.

fashion + function = love

I'm sitting in LAX and spying on potential celebs while on a three-hour layover to Seattle right now. My backpack is at my feet. It's carrying everything in the above photo. The content total:
  • 3 tanks
  • 2 basic tees (1 black, 1 white)
  • 4 sweaters (1 camel, 1 black/gray combo, 1 plum, 1 orange)
  • 1 raincoat (my first ever Patagonia purchase, and I feel super outdoorsy about it)
  • 1 pair of Timberland boots (see above description of my new backwoods credentials) 
  • 2 pairs of pants (1 black stretchy pair from Anthropologie, 1 pair of leggings-slash-jeans…leans?)
  • 3 tops
  • 1 leather jacket 
Considering my husband only packed three shirts to be worn in rotation throughout our 10-day work-cation, it looks like I still overpacked. But STILL. It all fits into this and it's really not THAT heavy, so I feel like I should get the backpacking world's equivalent of an Oscar.  

my osprey farpoint 40

Assuming you agree, I would like to thank the Academy for this honor, as well as my husband for carrying my laptop in his bag, as well as the extremely helpful travel blog Travel Fashion Girl. Had I not discovered Alex's blog, I would probably be wearing convertible zip-off pants right now along with a sign on my forehead that says TOURIST in all caps. Thankfully, her posts taught me that as long as the items I take are fold-able, breathable, and walk-for-long-distances-able, I don't actually need to buy "travel" gear. For instance, I learned that rayon/polyester blends work really well when it comes to pants. Hence the excuse for my new Anthropologie skinnies. 

at the airport, via @karleykiker on Instagram

Another thing I picked up from Alex's blog: the importance of packing cubes. Prior to our spur-of-the-moment, we-found-really-cheap-tickets trip to Seattle, I had never even heard of packing cubes. Now I wonder what I ever did without them. Remember all of those clothes I showed you earlier? This is what happened to them.

ebags packing cubes

And this is how it happened.

We're on the ground in Seattle now and already having adventures. We've ridden buses, checked into our Airbnb location, and watched the Seahawks game in a local pub. Our plan for the rest of our stay is that we have no definite plans other than working in the mornings and exploring in the afternoons. 

Other notes: Had you gone to my high school, you would know that I wore high heels and a blazer almost every day. Basically I was a 16-year-old who dressed like a sophisticated mom (and absolutely loved it). I like clothes. I like fashion. I like getting dressed up and looking cute. Which is probably why I got reactions like this when I mentioned our backpacking trip:

"Ten days with only a backpack? You're not even going to be able to fit all of your underwear in there!"
"Are you sleeping on the ground?"
"Are you sure you're ready for this?"

I know I didn't mention the underwear thing earlier, but for the record, all of my, um, essentials did fit into my backpack along with the other aforementioned items. We are not sleeping on the ground. It's important to note that when I say "backpacking," I mean that I'm literally carrying a backpack, not that I'm setting up a tent, wearing bug spray, and/or singing campfire songs. And finally, no, I'm not sure that I was ready for this. But we're doing it anyway, and I'm having so much fun with this new experience. And by so much fun, I mean I'm so glad I married a guy who actually knows what he's doing, and that I'm basically claiming his knowledge and confidence as my own and going with the flow.

If you're interested in following our journey, check back for additional blogs and follow us via hashtag on Twitter (@karleykiker) and Instagram (@karleykiker): #kikersenroute. 

“A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving.” Lao Tzu

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Wedding Wednesday: 5 resources I wish I had when planning my wedding

I’m not exactly sure who’s responsible for labeling a wedding as “the bride’s day,” but let's be honest. They got it completely wrong. A wedding is meant to celebrate two becoming one before God, friends, and family. A wedding is a ceremony that marks the beginning of a sacred union—one that requires mutual input from two invested parties in order to function in the healthiest possible way. Weddings are not just excuses to get our hair and makeup done and wear a pretty dress in front of all our friends and end up as the most "pinned" bride/cake/event of all time on Style Me Pretty…which, like many brides, I had to remind myself of (more than once) throughout my planning process.

You know what else I had to repeat more often than "om" in a yoga class? Mantras like, "It's going to be okay. This is all going to work out. I have more than enough time. I'm not going to end up using bedsheets as tablecloths. So what if Crate and Barrel is out of every single item I'm trying to register for?" 

photo: Suggs Photography

One year later, here I am. A newlywed. Everything is okay. Everything did work out. I had plenty of time, I nixed tablecloths (and bedsheets) in favor of farm tables, and my Crate and Barrel gunmetal-instead-of-ecru napkins are working out just fine, thank you very much. But that still doesn't change the fact that planning a wedding can leave a girl feeling a little in the dark and a lot overwhelmed. Especially when she's fighting to keep her eyes on the prize—building a healthy marriage, rather than just throwing a fabulous party.

That being said, here are five resources I wish I had when planning my wedding. 

[photos: @karleykiker on Twitter, teambrideapparel.com, bummedbride.com, iloveswmag.com, @hitched_in_a_hurry on Instagram]

1. A Christ-Centered Wedding by Catherine Parks + Linda Strode: Remember what I was saying earlier about how warped the definition of a wedding has become? Catherine Parks and Linda Strode totally agree. This mom-and-daughter duo wrote A Christ-Centered Wedding to remind brides-to-be of what's truly important—becoming forever teammates with someone who is going to push you continually toward Christ. This book constantly refers to the fact that as believers, we are the bride of Christ. Why is this important? Because all marriages—even the best, most beautiful marriages that feature love stories only He could have written—will pass away. Our status as His beloved? That's eternal. Christ's relationship with the church is the relationship earthly marriages are meant to reflect (see Eph. 5:25-27 for details). I so could have used this book and these reminders when planning my own wedding.  

2. Team Bride Apparel "Wifey" Sweatshirt: Y'all, I needed this. I still need it. Soon, I'm going to have to break out the credit card and make it mine. Have you ever heard that saying, "Look good, feel good?" This off-the-shoulder sweatshirt looks good, and I have a feeling I would have felt a whole lot better about my Crate and Barrel registry process if I'd been wearing it while pointing my scan gun in every direction imaginable. 

3. Bummed Bride: Why did I not know about this website when I was engaged? We all know that laughter is the best medicine, meaning that paying a visit to Bummed Bride is the equivalent of taking 100 (legal and healthy) happy pills. The editor's motto says it all: "Excited to get married. Bummed about stress, money, and drama." Um, me too. Check out their Twitter and Instagram (@bummedbride) accounts for your daily dose of real-talk. And then take this Hitched in a Hurry -excerpted Bridezilla quiz featured on their website!

4. Southern Weddings Magazine: Did this mag exist while I was planning my wedding? Yes. Did I know about it yet? No. But I have since come to adore and virtually stalk—I mean, admire and respect from a distance—the publication's editor-in-chief, Lara Casey. Lara and her team of belles have created a mainstream wedding magazine that is relevant, tasteful, gorgeously branded, mindful of the Mason-Dixon, and most importantly, God-honoring. That is so cool, y'all. I love what this team is doing, and I can't wait to get my hands on Lara's newest set of Power Sheets.  

5. Hitched in a Hurry: Duh, had to sneak in five seconds of self promo. In all seriousness though, it's weird to say that I wish this book had been available when planning my own wedding, because if that had been a reality, I wouldn't have written it as a resource for other brides. So I guess I'll just say, I wish I had known that planning a wedding in fewer than six months was totally do-able. I wish I hadn't left the majority of the bridal salons I visited believing I was going to walk the aisle naked. I wish someone had been there to tell me how to organize my time, and approach a pre-marital counseling session, and create my own programs, and give thoughtful gifts to my fiancé, friends, and family. Which is why I created a resource that says and does all of that and more for current "Hitched in a Hurry" brides—gals set to say "I do" in six months or less. 

photo: Suggs Photography
What other wedding planning resources would you recommend to a newly-engaged gal? What's the best piece of marriage advice you've received?

Monday, September 8, 2014

Marriage Monday: When you know

We've been in "our place" for the past week, which will officially become our new home in October. Hilton Head Island, South Carolina. The home of retired people, Trevor Hall, a lot more alligators than I'd care to think about, and soon, us. It's a blessing and a question mark and an adventure all rolled into one, and I can't wait to get the whole thing started.

instagrams from our new home, summer 2014
This island and these beaches are tied to so many of our memories. So of course, I've been walking back through each and every one of them. Especially the one where, after just three days of side-by-side conversation, I knew that Taylor was going to be the man I spent the rest of my life with.

"When you know, you know."

I'd heard it so many times before, but I never understood it until the knowing actually happened.

"What do you mean, I'll just know? Will something change physically? Will I hear an audible voice? Will I suddenly mature out of Disney movies, calling my mom three times a day, feeling awkward while alone in public, and avoiding laundry for as long as possible, and instantly be able to visualize myself throwing dinner parties, doing expert wine and cheese pairings, actually making the bed, and birthing 2.5 children?"

For me, mostly, the answer to all of the above proved to be a resounding no. 

No, I haven't stopped singing along to the Frozen soundtrack. No, I haven't cut back on the number of times I call my mom. (In fact, serious concerns such as "How do I wash a pot holder?" and "Can you get a bacteria from putting frozen chicken in the crockpot?" have probably increased the number of times I tell Siri to "call Momma.") I still wait to do laundry until I'm down to my two least favorite pairs of underwear (TMI, sorry), still haven't thrown a classy dinner party with jazz music playing in the background, and definitely still can't picture myself carting around a tiny human on my hip.

Weirdly, though, something did happen physically during the I-know-that-I-know moment. And because it frustrated me to no end that not a soul out there could describe how the whole thing was supposed to happen and/or feel, I thought I'd share my own experience for your consideration.

summer 2012
Taylor and I were sitting on the beach talking. Adventure, travel, dreams, plans. But mostly, Jesus. No matter which topic we landed on, everything was Him, because He was the lens. In my own life, I've seen again and again that there's no adventure better than the one He's planned. No travel experience that can bring the kind of ultimate fulfillment, joy, and satisfaction He does. No dreams that have life without Him, no plans that have merit without His orchestration. When I realized that Taylor saw life like this—no separation between his faith and his day-to-day, his decisions informed and his perceptions shaped by Christ—it's like a spear went through my soul.

There is not really an elegant way to say that, because it was not gentle. It was sudden, sharp, and intense—like a valve or a switch flipped on that enabled me to recognize and know and see Taylor in a deeper way than what our surface conversation could have enabled me to. The whole thing literally took my breath away. I remember actually gasping at one point because I was so flooded by the overwhelming desire to lay my head on his shoulder, see a thousand sunsets sitting right beside him, gain access to the emotional space he kept so well-guarded, pour salve into wounds he carried that had not healed, speak truth over any lies that held his mind captive, and protect and nurture his dreams until all of them came true. Which is SO not appropriate to admit on day three of a family vacation when you know, logically, that you're both about to go your separate ways.

But I knew. In fact, I knew it so hard that I wrote it in my prayer journal and irrevocably claimed it as mine. Taylor was my husband. I didn't know when a wedding would happen, or what our relationship would look like, but I trusted. Not the emotion or the fantasy or the "feeling" of it. Not a kiss. Not a spoken promise. I trusted, in the most unabashed way I have ever experienced, the heart of my Heavenly Father. The Giver of the kind of good gifts that are "immeasurably more than all [I] can ask or imagine." (Eph. 3:20-21) Knowing that Taylor was going to be my husband also helped me know on a more intimate level that the Lord was real, and active, and pursuing my heart. That He was close, and near, and present.

wedding rehearsal at the Westin, summer 2013
I wept that night as I wrote in my journal not because of the overwhelming love I felt for Taylor—that hadn't fully formed yet—but because I felt to my core that Taylor had been given eyes to see me like my Heavenly Father does, and vice versa. I didn't have to pretend during our conversations on the beach. I didn't have to act. I didn't have to explain, or phrase things just the right way, or manipulate, or control, or present myself in the best possible light, or gloss over the ugly parts of myself or my story. I could be accepted and known and cared for just as I was…and I could rejoice in the new capacity growing within me to "love as [my Savior] first loved [me]." (1 John 4:19)

Keep in mind that nothing even close to romance, love, or marriage had been said between Taylor and I at this point, y'all! And it didn't need to be for a long time after, either. Because that wasn't fully the point. That wasn't the measure of my knowledge or my assurance. And while I think that "when you know" experiences can look and feel a lot of different ways for a lot of different people, there's one thing I'd love to tell every single girl out there in the middle of determining how serious she is about forever:

Understanding that Taylor was going to be my future husband did not increase my infatuation with him. Instead, it caused me to fall deeper in love with my Lord and Savior. I wasn't in awe of Taylor's perfection, blind to his faults, or convinced that he was my other half. Instead, "knowing" that I was going to marry him left me in awe of the perfect love of the King of the Universe and the wholeness I have in Him. I was humbled and brought to my knees. I literally laughed and cried at the same time, which I previously thought only happened in movies. I felt compelled to run into the arms of the Father, rather than into the arms of Taylor.

wedding photo: Suggs Photography
No matter where you're at in your journey today—single, dating, engaged, or married—it's my prayer that you know, that you know, that you know that you are deeply loved and fully known. That you don't have to act. You don't have to pretend. You don't have to clean yourself up, show off the good things and camouflage the bad, tuck away the darkness you've experienced and polish whatever's on the exterior until your hands are cracked and bleeding. You can rest. You can trust. You can know that He is enough, and He is good.

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28

Monday, August 11, 2014

Marriage Monday: Five Things I'm Glad I Did Before Getting Married

I got married two weeks after turning 23. I get that to a lot of people (like, everyone living in a non-southern state), that probably sounds really young. For me, however, the timing felt just right.

First and foremost, our confidence in proceeding with a Hitched in a Hurry wedding came from the Lord, who gets full credit for bringing Taylor and I together as lifelong teammates in pursuit of Him. When I look in the rearview mirror, however, I’m also reminded of a series of experiences that helped me transition from single woman to wife with as little regret as possible. Don’t get me wrong: I’m not saying that because I did these things on my own, the Lord rewarded me with a husband. These are just adventures and decision-points that, on a practical level, helped me enter marriage without fear of “missing out.”

So without further chit chat, let’s get to today’s #marriagemonday topic!

. . . 


5. Traveled 

A few months after graduating from college, I jumped on an opportunity to move to Southern France and work as an au pair. While I’m looking forward to doing more traveling with my husband in the future, I’m also very grateful for the time I spent exploring Europe tout seul. Traveling literally opens your eyes to another world. It also helps you become aware of the fact that 1. Your perspective is not the only one in existence. 2. There’s a lot of stuff you don’t know. 3. Shocker! You’re not necessarily always right. These are all great lessons to learn before entering into a marriage relationship. Merci beaucoup, passport!

4. Got a Big Girl Job

Working full-time as a single woman provided me with real-world experience that I wouldn’t trade for anything. I learned to manage a busy schedule, set priorities, budget and make financial decisions, pay bills in a timely manner, live in and maintain my own place, and consider and evaluate my long-term goals. All of these things helped me grow into adulthood and out of a state of child-like dependency (and the cocoon of college).

On the job interviewing the one and only Austin Scarlett

 3. Tried Random Things

Competing at Miss Texas was random, y’all. And I am SO glad that I tried it before getting married. I got to wear a crown and sash, speak to students, do the pageant wave in a parade, get spray tans on a regular basis, perform a talent routine in front of hundreds of people, and answer the question, “I wonder what would happen if ... ?” Pageantry was a brief adventure that was all my own. I don’t ever have to wonder now if I could have been Miss America, because I already tried. Professional conferences, art shows, and writing competitions were also among the random things I tried as a single woman. So, checking things off the solo bucket list before marriage? A definite Do-Before-“I do” in my book. 

Post-presentation, we're ALL doing the pageant wave

2. Dated + Waited

I learned so much about what I was looking for—and not looking for—in a marriage relationship by being in more temporal dating relationships. That being said, this is an area that, in my opinion, deserves a “proceed with caution” sign. I’m going to skip through a lot of vague purity lingo here (which we’ll dissect in another post) and just say it like it is: I did not have sex before marriage, and it’s the best decision I made as a single woman. While sex frequently gets a bad rap in the church—associated with words like dangerous, wrong, dirty, and/or sinful—the reality is that having sex in the right context (that’s marriage) is safe, right, pure, holy, fun, and an integral part of building emotional intimacy. Did I date perfectly? No. But I did frequently remind myself that my husband was out there, which encouraged me to reserve as much of my body and heart as possible for him. If you’re considering waiting to have sex until marriage—or recommitting to physical purity in a current relationship—but are not sure that the benefits will outweigh the temporary cost, I encourage you to think toward the future with excitement and reserve what’s secret and sacred and sexual for your spouse only. The ups and downs of dating and the temptations and frustrations of waiting are worth it. More importantly, YOU are worth it. You are beautiful and loved and cherished. Remind yourself of that truth today … and every time you go out on a not-so-incredible blind date. 

1. Followed Jesus 

“Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.”

This is a misunderstood verse, I think—especially when it comes to relational desires. It’s easy to read Psalm 37:4 as an “if-then” equation. In the context of this discussion, here’s what that would look like: “If I can just be satisfied in Jesus, then I’ll get a husband.” Here’s how I started reading this verse as a single woman, and how I’m still learning to take hold of its truth now that I’m married:

Go where He’s leading—whether it’s to France to work as an au pair, or to a desk job in a high-rise building, or under the lights of the Miss Texas stage, or on a date set up by a friend, or all of the above—and trust that He will bring the right person into your life at the right time, no manufacturing required. Seek His face. From experience, you don’t have to see where everything’s going in order for His design to be accomplished. You don’t have to convince your heart that it doesn’t want to be married in hopes that, by some act of spiritual reverse psychology, God will finally give you what you’re pretending you don’t even want anymore. And you definitely don’t have to achieve perfection in order for your prayers to be answered or your needs to be met.

 Being single is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to learn what it means to delight in the Lord and grow in your intimacy with Him. It’s one-on-one time that allows for serious heart-rendering and wall-breaking and freedom-setting. It’s also important to note that marriage does not bring wholeness or complete satisfaction. That’s why it’s so extraordinarily important for all of us—whether “taken” or single, married or unmarried, sick or healthy, in good times or in bad—to come to a place where He becomes the desire of our hearts. Just Him. Not the things or the people or the relationship status He can bring to us. It’s difficult to say this as a newlywed, but I know that it’s true: all earthly relationships—even the best ones, like Christ-centered marriages—will pass away. The relationship I have with my Savior, however, will never end. That’s one of many reasons why, whether single or married, He deserves my first love and my first attentions. I’m thankful for the work the Lord began in my life as a single woman, and I pray that He will continue to work out His will in my life until I am old and gray and can’t remember anything but the all-surpassing love of the Father—the One who loved me first, last, and best. 
. . .

The point of this list: Being “ready for marriage” has nothing to do with the date on your birth certificate, the experiences under your belt, or the accomplishments on your résumé. It has everything to do with following the Lord’s unique plan for your life and saying “yes” to His calling.

Trust God from the bottom of your heart; don’t try to figure out everything on your own. Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; He’s the one who will keep you on track.” Proverbs 3:5-6, MSG

Monday, August 4, 2014

Marriage Monday: A trip for two

Last weekend, Taylor and I went on a trip to San Antonio. We had two goals: to celebrate our first wedding anniversary, and to take a step toward our dream of traveling together.

Taylor and I have both done quite a bit of traveling on our own, so I think we both assumed that adventuring out into the world as a team would be really easy for us. After all, we've been married for A WHOLE YEAR. Meaning we have this marriage thing on lock-down, we're certified relational experts, and we never-ever experience conflict. Except, wait...none of those things are true. Here's how that realization played out:


Day One went off without a hitch, minus the fact that I left a celebratory bottle of wine and two extremely necessary cups of coffee at our apartment. No big deal. We overcame these potentially argument-inducing obstacles with ease, and proceeded to the highway. Detours incurred were only of the fun variety—Czech Stop for kolaches (and replacement coffee), and a surprise visit to the Natural Bridge Caverns. After arriving in San Antonio, we prettied up a bit at our hotel and hit the Riverwalk for dinner. Love-and-marriage success!


And then came Day Two, when I was reminded why I always tell newly-engaged friends that "marriage reveals selfishness." Let's set the scene: San Antonio is experiencing record-breaking heat waves. I open up my bag in the morning and realize that I left every single pair of shorts I own at home (and that obviously I'm not as adept at late-night packing as I previously imagined). I am forced to wear black workout pants (which smell like the inside of a cave thanks to the activities of Day One), a workout tank, and tennis shoes. We proceed to the Alamo, where every other girl there is wearing a cute sundress and cute sandals and cute sunglasses. It's fine. 

Oh, yes. We "Remember the Alamo."

Post Alamo, Taylor suggests that we rent city bikes and visit the rest of the "nearby" missions. He graciously asks if I would like to do this. I pause for a long moment, because I am not good at biking, I am hungry, and I am already feeling the heat...but ultimately I give the plan the go-ahead, because 1. I can tell that he really wants to go, and 2. I think that there is potential in the plan for a few cute Instagrams (see this post for details).

Noticeably, there are no pictures of me at the missions. Why? Read on.
Long story short, my attitude plummeted from agreeable to tolerable to every-word-out-of-my-mouth-is-a-complaint in about 10 minutes. The "short" bike ride was actually 18 (hilly) miles in its entirety, and by the time we arrived at the first mission, my arms were sunburned from the tops of my shoulders to the backs of my hands. Naturally, I made sure to call out frequent updates about the status of my burn, the severity of my thirst, the fact that I had almost crashed into the river, and the searing pain in my calves to Taylor at least every five minutes. Surprise! We ended our bike ride early...and proceeded to enter into a pretty decently sized fight.

Conflict inevitably happens in every relationship, whether it's a romantic relationship or even a friendship. But in marriage, you don't just get to agree to disagree...or run away to your hotel room and pout. You commit to work it out, to dig to the bottom, to see through the other person's eyes, and to understand. And so in that moment—the one where we were supposed to be having fun, but seriously considering high-tailing it back to Dallas—we learned something(s).

He likes to jam-pack his travel schedule.
I like to move at a slower pace.
He likes to do action-oriented activities that require sturdy travel clothes.
I like to find the most authentic cafes and boutiques in town...and look "cute" while doing it.
He can go all day without eating.

These aren't travel-together deal breakers by any means. They're just differences and preferences that, even after one year of marriage, we didn't know existed.


Learning the aforementioned lesson made Day Three a lot more balanced. We woke up, walked to a nearby Mercado, and enjoyed a breakfast of Mexican pastries and coffee. Afterward, we packed our bags and finished out our mission tour...only this time, by car. On the drive home, we stopped by the San Marcos outlets—his request—and made time for a burgers-and-shakes lunch at a local hole-in-the-wall I spotted while driving down the highway.

. . .

About a month after our wedding, a recently-engaged friend called and asked for my best marriage advice. Although I threw out an "I've only been married for a few weeks"-disclaimer, I still happily shared a few insights, feeling for about five minutes like I might have really figured a few things out.

If I'd really nailed down the whole marriage thing during month one, I'd be an expert (and probably a certified counselor) by now. But here's the truth—like all things that are holy and God-ordained and good, marriage is continually revealing the cracks in me. I hear that this is called sanctification, and although it's painful (and even embarrassing) to come face-to-face with my own shortcomings on a regular basis, it is such a good, good thing.

Missions, Round Two: Success!
These are just a few of the things I've learned during year one of our Hitched in a Hurry marriage:

Compromise. Teamwork. Laughing at mistakes. Asking for forgiveness. Saying, "I'm sorry." Saying, "I'm sorry" again. Accepting apologies. Moving past conflict. Choosing to have fun. Thinking of your spouse. Loving them through the pretty and the not-so-pretty moments. Chipping away at selfishness. Giving. Growing. Forgetting about how things are "supposed" to happen. Throwing plans out the window. Refusing to walk away. Standing in awe of the Father's goodness. Feeling humbled and blessed beyond measure at the gift of doing life with your best friend. Seeking and following and becoming more like Jesus, both as individuals and as a unit.

So thanks for the memories, San Antonio, and happy Marriage Monday, y'all. I hope you'll be encouraged by this new blog series!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

What's your filter?

I have a love-hate relationship with social media. Instagram in particular at the moment, although Facebook and Twitter and blogging certainly factor into my feelings as well.

I've had it up to here—imagine my arms raised as high as they'll go above my head—with Instagram filters. I'm thinking in particular of the ones that give that white-washed look to everything. The ones that makes everything look light and bright. That morph the colors of flowers into hues richer than those found in nature; that turn blemishes and pores and skin into stark, featureless planes that used to look like faces.

I am tired of looking at gorgeously plated food with slices of strawberries scattered around the edges of a Pottery Barn plate to give the image an artistic, undone appeal. I am tired of seeing gallery walls arranged over desks with just the right amount of clutter—enough to make the desk owner look chic and busy, but not enough to make her seem messy and unorganized. I'm tired of lusting after kitchens without anything on the counter tops.

Mostly, I'm just tired of perfect. Tired of looking at it? Absolutely. Tired of trying to achieve it in my own life...and on my own Instagram account? Even more so.

There is no Instagram filter for life. There is sharp sunlight and there are deep shadows, with no friendly Valencia to balance everything out. We have to experience it, whatever "it" is. The realness. The unflattering angles. The true colors. The way that everything actually is, rather than the way we wish it could be.

These are questions for me and for you: When are we going to stop trying to arrange everything? When are we going to stop taking pictures of our food and just eat it already? When are we going to have a great hair day and enjoy feeling beautiful without taking a selfie? When are we going to go on dates with our husbands and just hold hands instead of holding an iPhone to document every tender glance, every lingering touch...all those things that used to be personal, just between the two of us? When are we going to turn the flash off, take away the props, and let things be the way they really are? When are we going to stop obsessing over aesthetics?

Real life has nothing to do with how things look.

FYI, we got into a random fight right after this picture was taken. I should have put my phone down and focused on making up with my husband, but I was too distracted with trying to select the perfect filter for our perfect Fourth of July Instagram post. I made the mistake of investing energy in fixing the way we looked, rather than fixing the problem between us. I posted the picture (like, while I was in the middle of being angry). Why? Because the lighting is pretty. Because we look so happy. Because my eyes look really blue. And because no matter how hard I try to fight it, there's a disconnect between my reality and the online personality I'm willing to show others.

There's falsehood in social media. Never forget that. Everyone holds back the things they don't want to be seen, and promotes the things that they do.

Here's what life really looks like this morning, without a filter. This is what I'm promoting today. Will I always promote this? No. I'm an artist and a creative. I love pretty things as much as the next girl. I enjoy bright colors, I love plating pretty dinners, I like taking cute pictures with my husband, and I think it's fun to document our travels and adventures together. I'll keep doing that, and I'll probably keep "liking" pictures of beautifully stacked donuts displayed in front of clean, white backdrops too. But I'm going to fight even harder for balance and perspective and realness. I'm going to start seeing Instagram as more of an art form, and less of a snapshot of "real" life.

Final thought: I think we're so attracted to Instagram and its filters because we long for perfection and cleanness. But no Mayfair or Rise or Hudson or Walden will ever give us the inner purity we crave. They can only mask the dirtiness and the rough edges of life. True transformation comes from Jesus Christ, the Author and Perfecter of our faith, and our souls, and our life. He's the One who gives us purpose. He's the One who makes us whole. He's the One who makes things right, and new, and clean, and bright.

Filter your world through Him, and I promise: things will start to look a whole lot better...only this time, from the inside out.

"Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God." Hebrews 12:2

Friday, June 20, 2014


It's not my grandmother's birthday, or even the anniversary of her death...but I've been thinking about her lately. 

Remembering every detail of her house. Remembering the way she loved to change out her bedspread to give her room a fresh look. Remembering the little apartment she moved into later in life. Remembering how she always kept her freezer stocked with at least five different flavors of ice cream. Remembering every birthday party she came to, every Christmas visit, every dress-up costume she sewed, every time she said, "I'm so very proud of you." Remembering how unexpected her death was to me, although all the signs were there—and had been there for a while. I just couldn't see them. 

It wasn't real to me that one day she would no longer be here. I always told her that she would live forever, and I think I honestly believed that. I never imagined that she wouldn't know my husband or be at our wedding. I still feel the urge sometimes to call her on the phone and tell her about a new recipe I've tried—she was the master chef, the expert, the maker of unmatched chocolate pies and fried chicken—so I know she'd love to hear all about my experiments in the kitchen. She was incredibly smart, ready to laugh, gave the best head scratches, and was the most consistent pen pal I've ever had. I rejoice in the fact that my grandmother is with our Savior, free of pain and suffering. But I miss her...and that's okay.

I wrote this poem after her passing three years ago. In honor of remembering, I'd like to share it with anyone else who's still remembering, too. 

No Scents
by Karley Kiker

We were talking perfume
the other day—
our favorite scents,
what’s “us.”

Bright freesias,

I tried to remember you,
that essence you wore.
Not vanilla or roses—
nothing bottled,
something more.

But was it flour or sugar?
Was it cinnamon or iced tea?
Store-bought cookies,
scratch gravy—
was it coffee?
Was it me?

Sitting right by you
on the couch where you read,
curled up at bedtime,
you scratching my head.

The farmer’s market
or tomatoes
with salt and black pepper?
Was it bacon grease,
or biscuits—
was it ice cream?
Something better?

Your hairspray,
that detergent,
potted plants on your porch?
The dogwoods,
raked leaves,
a clipped lawn,
your church?  

more flowers,
your picture,
a frame.

Held tears,
shared memories,
a box bearing
your name.

You’re gone and you’re not—
you’re there but you’re here.
Your things left behind,
your fragrance disappeared.

never captured,
not one
but the whole.

that scent—
something most like
your soul.

Karley with a K. Todos los derechos reservados. © Maira Gall.