Sunday, December 8, 2013

This just in: Victoria does not have a secret

On Tuesday, December 10, millions will watch as women parade around in lacy thongs, push-up bras, heels, and body glitter.

Oh, and wings. The women will also wear wings. What else would you expect—we're talking about Victoria's Secret angels, after all.

Let's set the record straight. Angels are celestial beings. The good ones announced Christ's birth (Luke 2:9). They're known for bringing tidings of comfort and joy (Luke 2:10). They protect believers (Psalm 34:7). They give glory to God in the Highest (Luke 2:14). I don't know about you, but never once in the Bible do I remember Gabriel or any of his counterparts doing any of these things in their underwear.

. . .

I don't hate or feel animosity toward the women who pose for Victoria's Secret catalogs or walk the Victoria's Secret runway. I don't judge them either—that's not my job. Plus, full disclosure: I competed at Miss Texas. As a competitor, I once walked a runway in heels and a bikini. I cannot, and will not, throw stones.

Do I regret competing at Miss Texas? No. But now that I'm married, do I feel differently about the concept of walking around in heels and a bikini than I did before I truly understood what the phrase "men are visual" really means? Quite honestly, yes.

Ladies, we could talk about a hundred different things that fall into the category of gray Christianity—conflicts of faith that don't take away our salvation (praise God, nothing can!), but do pose a threat to the purity of heart and mind that we desire for ourselves and for the men around us. Wearing a "two-piece" to the beach. Watching movies and television shows saturated with sex. As if the title wasn't a dead give away, reading 50 Shades of Grey.

But for the sake of clarity, let's put all those rabbit trails aside and take an in-depth look at just one area of deception. 

Simply put, it's like this: Victoria does not have a secret. Click to tweet.

She is flaunting full-out, in-your-face, unapologetically public sexuality. And she's convinced us all that it's okay.

We've bought into the lie that Victoria's Secret is a hush-hush club for women only. That it's a sanctuary of frilly frocks only us girls know about. That the images of stunning, nearly-naked women advertised on billboards, window displays, catalogs, and commercials are meant to catch our attention.

Let's be real. If Victoria really wanted to appeal to our egos and vanity, she would sell us lingerie on a mannequin instead of a supermodel with better hair and abs than we'll ever attain this side of Photoshop.

"But it's aspirational! Victoria's Secret angels demonstrate how fun, carefree and glamorous we, too, will be if only we'll just buy their lingerie!"

Is anyone seriously buying that? Here's what I think: They're using the angels to grow their demographic. To catch the eyes of women and men. You and your husband. Children too.

"Okay, now you're just being dramatic. Victoria's Secret does not target children."

Do you consider a 12-year-old a child? If so, consider the following.

Per Media Bistro earlier this year,

"Top underwear brand Victoria’s Secret, in an apparent attempt to expand upon the runaway success of its 'collegiate' brand Pink, wants to tailor more of its marketing efforts to the middle-school-aged 'tween' crowd."

And let's not even get started on that Victoria's Secret billboard hovering over the floats in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. "Mommy, there's SpongeBob! And a lady in a red bra!"

Married women, am I saying that you shouldn't buy lingerie? That you should only buy granny panties (yes, I just said granny panties) from Walmart? That you should fear your own sexuality? Not at all. I'm asking:

Why are we not fighting for what's sacred? 

Why are we okay with broadcasting what's meant for the marriage bed on national television? Click to tweet.

Why are we not actively protecting the purity of our minds and hearts, and the minds and hearts of the men and children we love?

Why are we among the millions tuning in to watch women walking around in their underwear? Click to tweet.

We don't want our boyfriends, our fiancés or our husbands to look at porn. We are devastated by the mere thought of our boyfriends, our fiancés or our husbands desiring another woman. And yet...we watch the Victoria's Secret fashion show, and we invite our boyfriends, our fiancés or our husbands to watch alongside us.

You know how things get taken off the air? When ratings drop. When interest wanes. When viewers stop watching.

My television will be turned off on Tuesday, December 10. How about yours?

Friday, December 6, 2013

That's the spirit

Despite the fact that my husband professes not to like Christmas music (excuse me, what?), we are officially getting in the Christmas spirit around these parts. Today especially, since it looks like this outside:

Texas is so crazy. Two days ago I was wearing flip flops. This morning I ran to the window, gasped, grabbed my camera, and felt the freeze all the way through my Ugg boots the second I stepped outside. It's the first time this season I feel justified in singing "Oh, the weather outside is frightful."

Also, Tom Thumb was a madhouse yesterday. Said a checkout guy who hails from Maryland (paraphrase): "How come all you Texans go nuts over a little bit of ice, but when a tornado comes y'all act like it's nothing?" 

Let's be honest. He makes a solid point. 

. . .


Inside the Kiker residence things are looking decidedly Christmas-y as well. Since this is our first holiday season to spend together (awh!), it was important to me to create a warm, homey atmosphere perfect for kicking back and sipping on cocoa in front of a blazing fire. (Actually, we don't have a fireplace. But you know what I mean.)

But there was just one problem. We're on a we-just-got-married budget. And Christmas decorations can get pricey! Which is why I'm proud to say that we only spent $17 dollars to get our apartment looking like this:

We're rocking a true "Charlie Brown Christmas tree"

I wish I could say that I achieved this look by taking a walk outside our apartment, gathering berries and pine cones, and creating my own garlands from popcorn and oranges. But really, my process was more like:


2. RE-PURPOSE REJECTS BY ADDING FUN LITTLE EXTRAS (like faux pearl strands and/or fresh ribbon)

Old tree in the works

Crumply old bow
Cute new leopard bow



Pinterest wreath

Mini paintings accent our bookshelf

Hand-painted and glittered ornaments


Mom's old Christmas pillows, freshened up. Perfect for our couch!

Frost is frozen on our windowpanes. Orange peels and cinnamon are currently boiling on our stove (the mixture makes a great homemade potpourri...thanks for the tip mom-in-law!). Josh Groban and Brian McKnight's duet of "Angels We Have Heard on High" is on repeat in my headphones (still working on the husband's tolerance of Christmas music).

So yep! I'd say we have all the ingredients to have ourselves a "[festive] little Christmas, now."

Monday, December 2, 2013

Thanksgiving + giving thanks

First off, my apologies for the blog absence. Here are a few excuses for the recent posting gap:

1. The "Our Story" series (episode 1, episode 2, and episode 3, and the final chapter) really took it out of me, writing-wise. Not in a bad way...more of a "that was really powerful, and now I feel at a loss for words" kind of way. It's hard to follow up a God story with human words. Does that make sense?

2. I recently completed the manuscript for a how-to book based on my column for D Weddings, "Hitched in a Hurry," and am working toward a spring book release (more details to come!). I'm also juggling a few freelance projects. So bye, free time.

3. Basically, I've just been doing a lot of reveling in God's goodness.

Speaking of which...

The Kikers just celebrated our first Thanksgiving! It looked like this:

It went like this: North Carolina, in-laws, crunchy walks through fallen leaves, football and fireplaces, coffee and hot chocolate, oranges and cloves, light tours, a castle visit, ornament making, and FOOD. Like, the best Thanksgiving meal I've ever had. So many good things packed into just one short week.

My mother-in-law's Thanksgiving table was beautiful, and decorations included "leaves of praise." One in particular caught my eye.

It just kind of "popped," you know?

My favorite decorations, of course, were of the human variety. I love having a second family that's not afraid to make a good silly face when the occasion arises.

I should probably mention that Taylor and I also purchased our first home during our visit. Formerly known as Asheville's "Biltmore Estate," this beauty is now officially referred to in my mind as "Kiker Castle."

It boasts a casual 250 rooms, huge gardens, a huger kitchen, and statues of cherubs, so...Christmas at our place this year? Literally, everyone I know is invited.

. . .

On a serious note, more than ever this year I was reminded that Thanksgiving shouldn't be a one-day thing. A lot of concern has been expressed about the fact that Christmas (or rather, the world of retail) has staged a takeover of Thanksgiving as a holiday. At first I kind of hopped on that ship, and said things like, "YEAH. Why IS Hobby Lobby putting up Christmas trees in mid-September?"

Actually, I'm still presently saying that. But the point is, it doesn't really matter. What really matters is that every single day, we bring a sacrifice of thanksgiving and worship and praise before the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. That every single day, we remember the many ways that we have been and continue to be blessed—and that in response to God's immeasurable Goodness and Kindness, we lay our lives, our plans, our everything down at His feet. We tell the world the reason we can have joy no matter the circumstance. We speak His name at every opportunity. We live like this:

Hebrews 13:15: "Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that openly profess his name."

Happy continued Thanksgiving!
. . .

UP NEXT ON THE BLOG: "Christmas Decor on a Dime"—tips and tricks for decking the halls without breaking the bank! (Preview: We spent a grand total of $17 to decorate our entire apartment. Stay tuned!)

Monday, November 4, 2013

Our story: the final chapter

When I was 14, I penned my first entry in a brand new journal. It had blue and white stripes on the cover and a title written in Sharpie: "Only You." 

Separate from my prayer journal and everyday journal-journal, I began "Only You" to write letters to my future husband. See, I had braces on my teeth. I wore a back brace to school to help correct my Scoliosis. I was skinny, lanky. Male attention of the "I want to date you" variety was non-existent (never mind the fact that I wasn't even allowed to date until I was 16). But one day, I knew that would change. My future husband would desire me, pursue me. He would call me beautiful. He would see what all of the lame 14-year-old guys surrounding me couldn't. He was out there somewhere, and over the years, I took great comfort in writing him pages upon pages detailing the strength of my affections for him...despite the fact that I didn't know his name.

"Just think," one early entry read. "I could know you in five-six years."

My husband was always real to me.

Through the years I would forget about the journal until a breakup, a bad date, or a particularly lonely day reminded me of its existence. Of his existence. My 18-year-old self shared a laugh with him about the dramatic poetry penned by 15-year-old me. At 19, I told him I was pretty sure he didn't attend Pepperdine, and if he did, he was taking his sweet time trying to find me. At 20, I told him to keep growing and discovering who he was in Christ—to see the beauty that can come from pain, to grow into the spiritual shape of a man after God's own heart. At 21, I let him know that I was a bridesmaid in two weddings, and that I was still waiting for him. That I always had been.

And then, on July 27, 2012, I told him I had met him.

I didn't use Taylor's name in the journal until his ring was on my finger—that had long been the unspoken rule of the journal. But in faith, three days after saying goodbye in Hilton Head, 22-year-old me pulled out "Only You" and let my future husband know that finally, finally, I was his.

"This is the beginning of our story."

On Thanksgiving, I wrote about his handmade turkey card—the one that kept me from thinking I'd made the whole thing up in my head. I wrote about how I didn't know there was a note written inside...until my dad started reading it out loud. I wrote about how I compared the size of his hand-shaped turkey feathers to my own hand, and wondered how the two would fit together. I wrote about reading that little card again and again whenever I began to doubt what the Lord had done at the beach. 

When his family invited mine to celebrate the New Year together in Tennessee, I wrote that I was nervous. I admitted that I didn't know what I would do or say when I first saw him. Would I hug him? Give him a high five? Immediately pour out my soul and tell him that we were meant to be together...forever? 

In January, I wrote that it was hard to find the words to say. That God was so good. That I was blown away. That I couldn't believe he had felt the same way all along...and never asked for my phone number! I wrote that I was honored when he asked my father for permission to date me, and told his parents he intended to pursue me—despite the fact that he was still living in North Carolina, and I was in Texas.

In March, with his ring on my left hand, I wrote his name for the first time: Taylor Ross Kiker. I let him know that everything that had transpired in the past, and everything that would come in the future, I accepted wholly and took on as a part of myself. That I couldn't wait to begin our joined adventure. That I had always been his. That I always would be.

In July, on the night before our wedding, I wrote that I loved him deeply, expansively; more than I knew was possible. But I also confessed that I would never be enough for him—that he would always and only be found in Christ. I promised to celebrate the good in him forever, and call him back to his true identity when he could not see or feel Truth for himself. That always, always, my heartsongs had been written to only him. "Only You."

And then, on July 27, 2013—one year from the date I journaled that our story had begun—no written words were necessary. Because waiting for me at the end of the altar was my faith personified; my prayers in the flesh. And with his hands holding mine, he spoke these words:

"According to the will of God and my desire, I, Taylor, take you, Karley, to be my wife."

14-year-old Karley, you are chosen.

"Leaving my father and mother, I cleave to you."

15-year-old Karley, I'm forsaking everything I've known to unite myself with you.

"Through every year and every circumstance, I will remain constant in my commitment to you."

19-year-old Karley, I've always been there, and I always will be.

"I will love you as Christ loves the church, giving my life to you."

21-year-old Karley, your waiting has been worthwhile—I am yours completely, and I vow to love you how my Savior first loved me.

"I will always hope all things and believe all things in you and for you, turning your eyes constantly to Him who gave us one another." 

23-year-old Karley, 45-year-old Karley, 62-year-old Karley, and 89-year-old Karley, I will never stop pointing you in the direction of the One who loved you first; the God who joined us together in His service until death do us part.

. . . 

It's my prayer that in reading this series you have become more aware of how "wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God." (Eph. 3:18-20) That those who have considered compromise in their dating relationships will be encouraged to hold out for what's real. That those who, like me, have attempted to write their own love stories will lay down their pens and just rest at Jesus' feet for awhile. That those who have questioned God's goodness and faithfulness or feared that His provision can't or won't reach them, will experience the healing power of His love and better understand His heart as a Good Father. That those with longing hearts will soon-and-very-soon exchange vows with their own God-given answer to prayer, and experience the strength of Christ's love in human form.
Please understand that the movie of "Our Story" doesn't end with our vows, our first kiss as man and wife, or waving goodbye while boarding the plane to Mexico for our honeymoon. It carries on still, marked by scenes of washing the dishes, going to the gym, making Crockpot dinners, and doing all of the ordinary things that ordinary people do (yes, even arguing). But there is a new-found richness in the everyday and the mundane. That's because...

Every time I look at Taylor, I marvel at what God has done.

Every time I share our story, I am overwhelmed by His goodness. 

Every time I say "my husband," I stand in awe at the provision, the creativity, and the story-weaving ability of Jesus, the unshakeable, inescapable Lover of my soul. 

The bottom line: If you read episode one, episode two, and episode three very carefully, you'll realize what we've realized. That if you took God out of the equation, we wouldn't have a story. 

Why? Because He is our story, and He is our song. 

Ephesians 3:20-21: "Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen"

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Our story: episode three

"What's a Twin River?"

The above is filed in the "most commonly asked questions of my life" folder I (don't actually) keep on my laptop. Or at least it was, back when I was serving the great state of Texas as Miss Twin Rivers 2012.

I've got the post-pageant glow...oh wait, that's just a spray tan.
I'm so tempted to diverge into the land of spray tans and evening gowns here, because truly, it was/is all completely fascinating to me. But that's another story entirely—probably one that's more book-length than blog-worthy, but we'll see. In the meantime, if you're curious about why I competed, you can click here.

Two weeks out from the Miss Texas Scholarship Pageant, I was standing in my parents' kitchen feeling whiny and frustrated (probably just needed a brownie) when my dad announced, "I'm going to book a vacation on Hilton Head Island for the week after the pageant."

Normal, expected response: "Awesome! How many swimsuits should I bring?"

My response: "Are you kidding me? If I win, I won't be able to go on vacation...are you saying you don't believe in my dreams?!"

See, in my sugar-deprived mind, my dad was saying, "There's no way you're going to win, sweetie, so let's skip out of town as soon as possible after you go down in flames." In real life, I think his thoughts were more along the lines of, "The hyper-focus of the last six months has left our entire family really, really, really exhausted. Win or lose, let's kick back and enjoy a nice vacay together."

But I still didn't want to go to Hilton Head. All people did there was golf, right?

My angsty protests and cries that no one understood my passions continued until my dad announced, "You know what? I'll call the Kikers. They don't live too far away...maybe they'd like to meet up with us on the beach. Who knows? Taylor might even bring a few friends."

Under normal circumstances, I think my dad's solution would be called a bribe. In light of the rest of our story, I think you'll agree that it was actually a Divine revelation inspired by the Holy Spirit.

Final night of Miss Texas—just a week away from "meeting" my husband!
Two weeks later, I walked off the Miss Texas stage with a win—just not the kind I had originally hoped for (i.e., there was no crown involved). But I had gone "all in" on a new experience, worked diligently toward a goal, gained invaluable speaking experience, and interacted with students, senior citizens, and Special Olympic athletes I wouldn't have otherwise met. So I counted it a victory, and it was off to Hilton Head we went.

Hi, husband.
This is where I really met Taylor. With no makeup on, no future plans to speak of, and our parents sitting approximately three feet away the entire time we were conversing.

For six months, I had been singularly focused on one goal, and one goal only: Becoming Miss Texas. By the time I hit the beach, my frame of mind had undergone a major adjustment.

July 13, 2012

What's coming from this? What was that? Where do I go from here? I know You were there with me, God, from day one. But the outcome was different than I imagined. I'm open and excited to see what's next. Speak clearly and show me the way—I want to be where You are and serve in the capacity you have prepared for me. I want Your best, not my biggest fantasy. Continue to refine my vision.

Oh, He refined it, alright. Right there on the beach, the Lord connected my spirit to Taylor's. And just like that, I knew.

I'm 99% sure that someone just rolled their eyes. Believe me, I get it. Married people say all the time, "When you know, you know." As a single person, this was extremely frustrating for me to hear, too. So, as best as I can describe it, here's how I personally "knew that I knew":

1. I felt a physical change. Battles with anxiety and fear, memories of past struggles, uncertainty about the future, a sense of impending change...all of those things had created a kind of emotional numbness that I had physically felt in my chest for quite some time. Would I ever be able to connect completely in a relationship? I honestly didn't know—until Hilton Head. While talking to Taylor, without any force whatsoever, it felt as if a valve in my heart opened. And there I was—laid bare to the core, yet filled to overflowing with the sense that this man had seen through every pretense, every barrier, every bullet point on my resume I'd thrown out for his consideration, and had taken hold of me...the me that God created me to be. I didn't have to prove anything. I didn't have to try. I was exposed but safe all at the same time. I was known. The best thing? I could see him in exactly the same way.

2. Every conversation we had drew me closer to Christ, not to Taylor. I'm not blind. As I shared in episode one, I'd been well aware that Taylor was "hot" since I was 14 years old. But his looks aren't what captivated me for three days on the beach. In everything Taylor said, everything he did, he pointed me back to Christ. In his testimony; in the way he looked at nature; in the way his eyes looked at me, knew me, and—somehow, even then I could sense it—loved me anyway. It was and continues to be a reflection of the way God loves me, and it was and continues to be the most powerful, humbling truth I have ever experienced.

3. I just knew. For the majority of my life, I have demonstrated fear—but meeting Taylor inspired the greatest faith act of my life to date. After three days of conversation (and not one hand-hold, kiss, or "Can I get your phone number?" to speak of), I journaled:

July 24, 2012

Right now, sitting on the floor of our hotel room in South Carolina, I want to speak two things in faith: I believe that You can and will heal my Scoliosis from every pull and curve on my back, and I believe in my spirit that I am going to marry Taylor Kiker. Lord, it's yours. I release it and look only into your face. Holy Spirit, if he is the one for me as I believe he is, prompt his spirit and confirm it unmistakeably to me. I ask for a way where there seems to be no way. Fill me with Your peace, patience, and above all, a blazing and assured trust not in my emotions or feelings, but in You and You alone.

4. He just knew. After three days of conversation (and not one hand-hold, kiss, or "Can I get your phone number?" to speak of), Taylor journaled:

July 24, 2012

Thank You for the time I got to spend with Karley. I loved being able to talk about life, dreams, and You with her, and her parents are so cool. I would love to marry her; she embodies what I pray for in a wife. Thank you Jesus for the time I got to spend with her. I don't know how it would work and I have no idea what I'm doing, but You are the God of the impossible. Lord, heal her and increase her faith for her healing. You died for her to be whole; let Your kingdom come and will be done in her body. I will wait on You alone, Lord. I know Your plan is the best and most fulfilling for my life.

So, since we both named-and-claimed with the written word that we believed we were going to marry the other, you would think that we started dating immediately, right?

Wrong. There were still six, long months to go until either of us would know just how exactly the other was feeling...or that we both journaled those entries on the same day. Did you catch that? The same day. The same day.

But why didn't we say anything about our feelings? When in the world does the handmade turkey card come into the equation? And after such an incredible experience on the beach, did I really almost succumb to doubt and give up on the whole thing?

To find out, stay tuned for episode four—the final (I think) segment in the "Our Story" series. Can't wait to share the incredible conclusion!

Monday, October 28, 2013

Our story: episode two

So, where were we?

Beausoleil, France.

Oh, yeah. Southern France. AKA, where I was living and working as an au pair (read: tutor/housekeeper/grocery-shopper/general assistant) for a fantastic French family in the fall/winter of 2011.

If you read this post, you'll remember that moving to Monaco was one of the greatest experiences of my life. But it was also one of the loneliest. This entry from my journal pretty much says it all:

Nov. 10, 2011

After being in France past the "honeymoon" phase, the glamour is stripped away. The truth is, it's lonely here. People are lonely. Kind of an every-man-for-himself mentality. For me, plain and simple, I've realized I don't need any of the glamour in this life, because it's all just a fleeting facade at the end of the day. It turns to ash. You remain, and You give life.

And by the way, yes...I was dating a French guy at the time. And yes, to the world (and apparently, my dad) the whole thing seemed like a "fairytale." He regularly brought me flowers and chocolate. He had an accent. Contrary to most stereotypes, he was both polite and kind.

But he wasn't a follower of Christ. Yeah, yeah, I knew the verse about not becoming "unequally yoked"—but I never really felt it until I got to France, where daily I found myself getting deeper and deeper into a "relationship" I'd never intended to enter in the first place. It was glamorous. It was romantic. It was exciting.

However, because we weren't able to connect spiritually, it wasn't real. Christ wasn't our foundation or focal point. Consequently, we didn't see life through the same set of lenses—and finally, I admitted as much in my journal.

Life isn't travel, or intrigue, or accumulating experiences, or living my life so that people will say, "Wow, she's really doing something." I can't marry a man who can't communicate with me. How will he ever know me, or my heart? How can I know his? Continue to prepare my heart for marriage, Lord. I believe that when the time is right, I will have no hesitations. Help me to mature into a woman who can give and receive romantic love that is first a reflection of the way You love me.

So imagine the, um, spiritual freak-out moment I had when, in the middle of all this, Taylor sent me a message on Facebook telling me that he'd been praying for me. Specifically, that the Lord would be "filling my cup to pour out His love to others" and provide me with spiritual community.

Woah. That was real. That was an example of God's love in human form. At exactly the right time, He gave a man in North Carolina a spot-on word of encouragement for a lonely girl in Southern France. Suddenly, the should-I-or-shouldn't-I fog of confusion I'd been in about dating the Frenchman vanished.

Thank you for prompting Taylor Kiker to send that message. How cool that you put him in my mind and me in his, and prompted both of us to lift the other up in prayer. Help me avoid spiritual manipulation in this renewed friendship, Lord, and help me not to see him as a piece of Prime Rib in the Christian meat market. Truly though...

Yes. As ridiculous as it sounds, that was a real-life, unedited journal entry (I'm sure the Lord got a good laugh out of it, so feel free to join in).

After Taylor messaged me, I knew what I wanted—or more accurately, what I needed—in an altar-bound relationship. No, I didn't know then that he would become my husband in the not-so-distant future. But his message reminded me that in Christ, relationships (specifically, marriage relationships) are meant to do so much more than create a heart-to-heart or body-to-body connection. They're made to unite spirits.

Only in a Christ-centered relationship can God deeply minister to and intensely love each partner through the other. Only in a Christ-centered relationship can a man and woman be half a world apart, and simultaneously be called into prayer on behalf of the other.

*Single guys and gals, this is an aside from "our story": But if that's not the kind of relationship you're in, get out. I know that's firm, but hear my heart: Don't settle for less than His best. Don't cheat yourself out of the opportunity to see Him do "immeasurably more than all you can ask or imagine" (Eph. 3:20-21) in your future marriage relationship. Don't waste time messing around with "almosts" or "good-enoughs." Really cool "God-stories" are out there for everyone, not just for Taylor and me. I encourage you to resist the temptation to script your own knockoff fairytale, and let the Author do His divinely beautiful, masterfully creative thing. I've tried dating both ways, so I can tell you from experience that the rest of your life is so worth the waiting that's involved in finding God's best. Promise.

Alright, back on track with the story. With a clear mind and several insanely long journal entries in the bank, I said "goodbye" to France, came back to America, signed up to compete at a local beauty (I mean, scholarship) pageant, and...didn't talk to Taylor again for six months, when we both ended up on vacation with our families in Hilton Head, South Carolina.

But how did my dream of becoming Miss Texas nearly derail our relationship? And how many days did it take for us to know that we had met "the one," anyway? And did we really both journal that we were going to marry the other one on the Exact. Same. Day. ?

To find out, you'll have to—you guessed it—stay tuned. Can't say I didn't warn you that this thing was really, really extensive. :)

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Our story: episode one

I was laying on my parents' couch, iPhone in hand, adding names to a list titled "People I would go on a date with" when the Lord dropped my future husband's name into my mind. 

Taylor Kiker.

I had just graduated from college, ended a relationship I knew wasn't altar bound, and—after a season—figured it was time to start dating again. Hence the list. Tim Tebow took the (highly coveted, I'm sure) first spot, and a collection of Major League Baseball players who were purportedly Christian (as in, they used Switchfoot or Jeremy Camp for their walk up songs) followed. Rounding out my Fantasy Dating League were a few guys from church and randomly selected crushes-du-jour.

Taylor Kiker.

You know that "came out of nowhere" phrase? Hearing his name during the summer of 2011 was exactly that—a whisper borne from nothingness, but spoken clearly and with assurance. What in the world?

I mean sure, we grew up together . . . kind of. Our families were friends, and we all attended First Baptist Carrollton back when Taylor and I looked like this:

He's had my attention from way back when.

But in the third grade Taylor's family moved away, and spent the next few years traveling (and living) around the world for his father's job. The next time I really remember seeing him, I was 14 years old. The buzz around the church gym was that "Taylor Kiker was in town, he was really hot, and he brought a friend with him." 

Taylor, top left. Me, bottom left. Oh, my.

Needless to say, Taylor's presence did not go unnoticed by me or any other 15-ish-year-old female lucky enough to be in youth group that morning. That height! Those surfer-esque locks! AND he brought a friend?! My exact words on an Xanga entry were, "Um, North Carolina trip, anyone?"

But after that, nothing. Until the list. Until I heard his name.

Taylor Kiker.

Unlike the other names on my list, his seemed real somehow. It sparked. Naturally, I went into my dad's home office to do something about it.

"Give me a reason to contact Taylor Kiker," I said.

My dad should have said something like, "Excuse me, what? Random!" Instead, he thought for a minute and responded, "We've been thinking about taking a vacation in North Carolina. Why don't you ask him what's cool to see up there? Oh, and tell his dad I say 'hi'."

Then, this Facebook message happened:

"Hi Taylor! I just got back from vacation and saw that you added me, I know it may have seemed random but my family has been talking about finally visiting North Carolina since I'm home from school and it reminded all of us of your family! I'm not even sure if you're home for the summer, but if you have any suggestions about what we should plan on seeing, that would be great. Also, my dad said to tell your dad hello - I think he's planning on getting in touch with him soon if we actually do make it out there. Hope all is well!"

Taylor should have said something like, "This is clearly a clever, but thinly-disguised excuse to contact me. Please stop creeping on my Facebook. Are you a stalker? Additionally, you use too many exclamation points."

Instead, get this: The next day he messaged me back, told me that his dad had been working in Dallas for the last year, and encouraged my dad to get in touch with him.

My dad called his dad. Turns out, Taylor was coming to visit two weeks later. My dad invited the guys to join my family for a Rangers baseball game. We all went.

Oh hey, future hubs, future father-in-law, and forever-dad all in one photo!

On the ride to the game and back, Taylor and I had amazing, spirit-sparking conversations. And when I say spirit-sparking, I mean I could literally feel the presence of the Holy Spirit as Taylor shared his testimony, and I caught glimpses of his heart for adventure and openness to the things of God. He was hungry, passionate. There was so much I wanted to say to this person who so clearly understood life the same way I did, but I was more than aware that there wasn't nearly enough time. 

In a month, I was moving to Southern France to work as an au pair. In just a few days, Taylor was going back to school in North Carolina. 

As if that combo wasn't enough of a story-ender, I later found out that my dad also dropped THIS bomb when I wasn't in the room:

"Kar's dating a French guy right now. It's like a fairytale!"

At this point, you're probably already starting to see why I consider our marriage to be a miracle. But there's still so much left to tell. Like, was I really dating a French guy? Did Taylor and I continue talking while I was living overseas? How did our families end up reconnecting? And how did a hand-made turkey card turn out to be the ultimate "game changer" in our relationship, anyway?

To find out, you'll have to stay tuned for episode two. And three. And . . . well, we'll see.
Karley with a K. Todos los derechos reservados. © Maira Gall.