Saturday, December 13, 2014

More Than Enough

I struggle with the word “enough” because I don’t feel like I have it. I don’t have enough time to accomplish everything on my to-do list. I don’t have enough energy to make dinner after working all day. I don’t have enough motivation to go on a run. I don’t have enough creativity left in the tank to paint. I don’t have enough care for the concerns of other people. I don’t have enough emotional capacity to meet the needs of my husband. I don’t have enough direction to create a five-year plan. I could go on (and on), but that’s enough “enough” to make my point.

When I read these words back to myself I feel full of lack and emptied of drive, drawn to identify with phrases like “Give up” and “Quit trying.” Am I the only one who’s been there before? Am I the only one that continues to dive into those dangerous waters today, despite the goodness and the grace that my Father has lavished upon me?

We live in an unprecedented time of comparison. The magazine ads and the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Shows and the “I only wear mascara and Chapstick to look this good” celebrity interviews are still out there, and they can still trigger feelings of inadequacy. But now we’re competing with other “everyday” people whose “everyday” experiences look like a homemade soufflé and a line of paper goods and a c/o designer handbag and a Starbucks cup held up in front of the Eiffel Tower, probably with a fashionable baby somewhere in the mix. Now we’re not just keeping up with Susan Jones—we’re peering into her Pinterest-perfect backyard barbeque that’s decorated with stringer lights and mix-n-match Kate Spade dinnerware. Now we’re longing for another woman’s life as portrayed on her Instagram feed, battling doubt and despair and the pang of a deep heart hunger.

It’s hard to handle the pressures of work and home and life, and it’s even harder when you feel like you have to post an effortlessly-chic photo of yourself while doing so. I want to crawl into a hole sometimes when I look at a photo of a gorgeously uncluttered desk with an open planner and a steaming cup of coffee held by a manicured hand, topped off with a caption that says, “Let’s do this, Monday!” Because meanwhile, I’m sitting at a desk overflowing with papers, no makeup on, probably not even wearing a bra yet, and carrying the load of so much carry-over work from last Friday that I just want to scream, “Where are you, weekend?”

I know that sounds like I’m jealous, and that’s probably because a lot of times I am. I crave that feeling of having it all under control that it looks like so many other women are able to attain…at least on social media. Does anybody feel me on this? When my scrolling thumb gets out of control, I start to drown. When I read my Twitter feed more regularly than the Word of God, I start to lose perspective. I start to feel like I’m just not enough. That I never will be.

In a way, I’m right—my inability to meet the needs of myself and others has proven that I am not enough. But I do have Enough. I have the One who can meet every need, every heart’s cry, and every desire of every person on the planet. The One who whispers in my ear that I am seen and known and fully loved, anyway. The One who has picked me up and carried me when I have fallen, who has given me my identity, who has set my feet on a Rock, who has told me to fix my eyes on Him and not on everyone and everything else that’s swirling around me. The One who says, “…fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen and help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” (Is. 41:10) The One who has “dealt bountifully” with me, who has “delivered my soul from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling” that I may “walk before the Lord in the land of the living.” (Ps. 116:7-9)

Jesus says, “Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matt. 8:28) Rest. It’s available. But I won’t find it by staring at a list of things I haven’t accomplished, or counting the number of unanswered emails in my inbox, or dwelling on my performance or appearance or reputation. I find it by coming to Him.

I relate to David when he says, “You, God, are my God, earnestly I seek You; I thirst for You, my whole being longs for You, in a dry and parched land where there is no water.” (Ps. 63:1) This is what the combination of heart hunger and soul thirst feels like. And here’s what it looks like to be filled; to have Enough:

“I have seen You in the sanctuary and beheld Your power and Your glory. Because Your love is better than life, my lips will glorify You. I will praise You as long as I live, and in Your name I will lift up my hands. I will be fully satisfied as with the richest of foods; with singing lips my mouth will praise You. On my bed I remember You; I think of You through the watches of the night. Because You are my help, I sing in the shadow of Your wings. I cling to You; Your right hand upholds me.” (Ps. 63:2-8)

I have a new name for Jesus; for who I am fighting for Him to be in my life from this day forward. He is More Than Enough for me.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Book Review: The Overwhelmed Bride

Sometimes I get social media fatigue. It's hard to describe, but I can usually tell it's coming on when the sight of a perfectly aligned gallery wall, spotless kitchen, or beautifully filtered pile of donuts on my Instagram feed makes me want to throw my phone against the wall. Don't get me wrong...I like pretty things and appreciate aesthetics, and I've been known to get just as caught up in a gorgeously curated feed as the next girl. But sometimes I have dirty dishes in my sink, and I'm two loads behind on laundry, and I have nothing clever to tweet, and I just want what's real. 

Which is why I am so beyond excited to report that The Overwhelmed Bride is real. The Instagram feed, the blog, and the book as well. You know why? Because Jenn Hallak, the instagrammer/blogger/author behind The Overwhelmed Bride, says things like this:

"What is the ultimate purpose of a wedding? To throw the most extravagant party for your friends and family? Or to display your commitment of marriage to each other in front of those who are closest to you and then celebrate this huge step in your life together? I'm pretty sure you know the answer to this question, but if not, it's the latter." (15) 


PS: Jenn and I connected and planned a book swap via social media, which is the kind of thing that keeps me logging in to all of these accounts again and again. People + relationships + community + support. Those things matter, whether they happen virtually or in the "real" world!


the overwhelmed bride totally deserves a spot on your nightstand

I think Jenn and I might be soul sisters, and I'm pretty sure I said that out loud like three times while reading her book. When I got to the planning timeline page 30 of her book, it all made sense. 
"My husband and I got married six months after we got engaged, so clearly, our timeline was a bit altered."
She was a Hitched in a Hurry bride. And while her book isn't specifically addressed to those planning in six months or less, her advice is just as relevant for brides planning in two years as it is for gals sprinting toward the aisle in two weeks.

In three words, The Overwhelmed Bride is:

1. Honest—Expect direct talk about venue visits and hidden fees (49), vendor selection (36), guest list organization (45), mama drama (23), and dealing with divorced parents on the day of the wedding (26) just to name a few.

2. Informative—Especially when it comes to establishing and maintaining a budget! Jenn's expertise as a wedding coordinator really shines when she's talking about finances. See page 38 for proof—the "Budget Breakdown" section contains an itemized list of ceremony and reception elements with suggestions about how to best distribute your dollars between each category. SO helpful.

3. Wedding Planning 101—Okay, that's not one word. But I still think it's a great way to describe The Overwhelmed Bride. At 90 pages, Jenn's book is compact and easy to read in just one sitting, ensuring that your head won't be pounding with a TMI headache afterward. It gives you all the essential information you need without any added fluff—because really, you already know the style of gown that looks best on your body, and you don't need to review a history of six different kinds of forks (and when and how they should be used). You DO, however, need to know where each member of your wedding party should stand during your ceremony (81), what items should be a part of your Wedding Day Survival Kit (86), and how to officially change your name after the party's over (88).

While Jenn's advice about budgeting, creating a photographer shot list, deciding on a cash vs. hosted bar, and other planning topics was fantastic, my favorite section of The Overwhelmed Bride came right at the very beginning.
"We live in a society that no longer values one single marriage. We all value weddings, but clearly there is not enough emphasis put on the marriage part. Yes, we all want our beautiful Pinterest weddings, but is this what really matters?" (16)
I'll say it again. PREACH. This is so right on, but the passage doesn't end there. Jenn goes on to challenge her readers to participate in 365 Days of Love, which involves creating a list of 365 things you love about your future spouse—one for each day of the year. Because, "If you can find 365 things you love about your spouse, then there is no reason to ever question if you should be together." (17)

I can't wait to take on this challenge in my own marriage—in fact, I'm planning on beginning my list in November, the month of thankfulness! I loved Jenn's suggestions for "distributing" the list items, too: Gifting my husband with a box full of the reasons why I love him, communicating each item one by one each morning (great if your guy's love language is Words of Affirmation), texting him one reason each day, or typing up the complete list and presenting it to him on a special occasion.

Finally, I'll leave you with this—a passage from The Overwhelmed Bride that completely resonates with the heartbeat of Hitched in a Hurry (and my hope for all of the future brides-to-be that come into contact with either of our books):
Just remember, the odds of something going wrong on your wedding day are actually very high. But don't let this scare you the end, you are marrying the man of your dreams, so who cares what went wrong! All of the little things, and even large things, are absolutely not the end of the world. No matter what happens, just know that you were as prepared as possible and that at the end of the day, your lifelong commitment to each other has been made and you are going to have a celebration you will never forget." (86)
If you're interested in purchasing a copy of The Overwhelmed Bride, click here. To read Jenn's review of Hitched in a Hurry, click here! 


Happy Wedding Wednesday, y'all!

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Following His Lead

So, we went to Seattle, Vancouver, and Victoria. I’ve been meaning to write about our trip for at least a week, but then we got caught up in this little thing called packing-up-our-belongings-and-moving-across-the-country. We’ve been living out of suitcases (and backpacks) since moving out of our apartment in August, so it feels amazingly good to finally have everything in its place again. Or at least in a place. Organization is still in progress.

I have this back-burner dream of being a travel blogger that writes about fabulous locations and gives tips about how to expertly pack a backpack, book incredibly cheap-and-chic AirBnB stays, and discover hidden-gem restaurants and boutiques that only locals know about. For the moment, though, I’m going to skip all the Trip Advisor details and just talk about what really matters to me now that our first foray into backpacking has come and gone.

Pike Place Market, Seattle
Pike Place Market
original Starbucks, Seattle

I basically had no idea what was going on for the majority of our trip. I sketched a vague outline of a few things I’d like to see and do in each location, but beyond that, I was completely and entirely dependent on Taylor’s lead. He’s done substantial traveling, isn’t afraid of public transportation, and is 100% more comfortable (and attractive) wearing a backpack than me. It just made sense to turn everything over into his hands. So I did.

troll under the bridge, Seattle
space needle view

Taylor booked our airfare, our Amtrak seats, our ferry rides, and our clipper trip. Taylor bought our bus passes. He tracked each stop on Google Maps to make sure that we got off at the right location. He researched every city we visited and pre-planned day trips he knew I would enjoy. 

all scrubbed up and ready to tour Theo's Chocolate Factory in Seattle
samples galore
Granville Island, Vancouver
"enjoying" high tea at The Empress in Victoria
seal-spotting at Fisherman's Wharf, Victoria 

As for me? I didn’t know which way we were going, what method of transportation we were taking, which bus stop to wait at, or what activity we’d be doing when we arrived. I didn’t book, check in, check out, route, map, or tip. I just went. I just woke up in the morning, got dressed, did a few hours of work, and walked out the door with full confidence that good things were ahead. I trusted Taylor because he’s done this before. I trusted him because he knows me—what I like and what I don’t. I trusted him because he has my best in mind, he wants to provide for me, and he always keeps me safe no matter where we go. 

love at first sight

I was telling my mom all of these things when I saw Jesus. Not physically (I’d probably still be laid out somewhere on the side of the road), but spiritually, emotionally—with the eyes of my heart. It stopped me in my tracks, and I mean that literally, because we were in the middle of a walk around her neighborhood. If I can trust the details of so many unknowns to Taylor, how much more can I free fall into the arms of my Heavenly Father? If I can hand over the reigns of trip-planning to Taylor, how much more can I give over control of my life to my Savior? If I can follow Taylor no matter where he’s going, how much more can I walk in complete, blessed assurance no matter which direction my God and King is leading?

adventuring in Vancouver

I struggle with trusting the Lord for no good reason at all. He has provided for me in every season. He has loved me with an everlasting love. He has grasped me by the hand, pulled me out of a pit of confusion and anxiety and depression when no one else could reach me. He has comforted me, called me His own, given me the good gifts of a family who raised me to know Truth and a husband who points me to Him. And yet I fear. I grasp at control as if the future is something I can predict, hold, and manipulate. I resist giving it all up, giving it all away, and simply resting at His feet, choosing instead to lock my spine and tighten my shoulders and brace myself for continued battle with a thousand “what-if” questions that have nothing at all to do with my reality. 

city view, Vancouver

But I want to grow. I want to abide in peace. I want so badly to walk barefoot with Jesus with my hair blowing in the wind. So every dollar we spent on our trip to Seattle, Vancouver, and Victoria was worth it as this realization poured through me: I don’t have to know exactly where I’m going, how I’m going to get there, where to wait, or what to do. I don’t have to create an immovable five-year plan, make things happen on my own, set the pace, or plot my own course. I can just go. I can just be. I can just get up in the morning, get dressed, do a few hours of work, and walk out the door with full confidence that good things are ahead. I can trust my Father because He’s seen all of this before. He’s pre-determined every moment of my day. He knows me—what I need and what I don’t. He has my best in mind—my earthly sanctification and eternal salvation. He has provided for me, and will continue to do so no matter what unknowns are still to come on this journey. He always has and always will keep me safe, no matter where I go.  

. . .

“As for God, His way is perfect; the word of the Lord is flawless. He is a shield for all who take refuge in Him…It is God who arms me with strength and makes my way perfect. He makes my feet like the feet of a deer; He enables me to stand on the heights.” Psalm 18:30-33 (read the entire psalm here)

“As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him; for He knows how we are formed, He remembers that we are dust. The life of mortals is like grass, they flourish like a flower of the field; the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more. But from everlasting to everlasting, the Lord’s love is with those who fear Him, and His righteousness with their children’s children…” Psalm 103:13-17 (read the entire psalm here)

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. You will seek Me and find Me when you seek Me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity…” Jeremiah 29:11-14 (read the entire passage here)

“Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28

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,,,, @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

When you know, you know

Update: This post was originally written about a year and a half ago, and we're still happily living in "our place." Newlywed life continues to be an adventure and a question mark, and we wouldn't have it any other way. 

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

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PS: We've got a crazy-long love story that I'd love to share with you. If you're curious, you can click here to start from the beginning. For real-life love stories from other couples + information about planning a wedding in six months or less, like we did, pick up a copy of Hitched in a Hurry via Amazon or Barnes & Noble. 

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!

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