Friday, August 28, 2015

Things I Don't Regret

My life has always looked a bit different. I didn't necessarily take the same approach to life that most people did at my age. Disclaimer here: I in no way think I'm better than everyone else or am passing judgment on anyone who may have made different decisions than I did. I realize that we live in a world where everyone has their own ideas and opinions and makes their own choices. I'm simply saying that I'm oh so thankful for some of the decisions I made in college and beyond, and even though they may seem "uncool" or go against the grain, I've never regretted any of them for a single second. So, I'm here to share, to encourage others that they too can see the positive impact of these decisions, and to help those who may feel alone in their stance. You aren't, and standing firm in your faith and in your convictions will only make you stronger, will shine as an example to others, and will oh so greatly pay off in the end. Here are five things I don't regret:

1. Being Single in College
Alright, let's be real: I most definitely would have enjoyed having a boyfriend in college. Finding a date for sorority dances would have been a whole lot easier, and I wouldn't have had boy drama. I also know some really great couples who started dating in college, and are now happily married and have been together for years and years. But at the same time, I am so thankful that I was single in college. It was what was right for me, and God knew it. Even in my times of loneliness and frustration, he was looking out for my future. First of all, the timing wasn't right for Aaron and I to date when I was in college, so the Ks never would have come to be (which would be pretty upsetting because he's a really awesome guy who I love a whole lot). Secondly, I didn't have to worry about where my boyfriend was going after college or how I was going to end up in the same city as him. Another plus was that I got to spend lots and lots of intentional time with some really amazing friends that became family. So single college ladies out there, stay strong and enjoy this time to really get to know yourself, get right with the Lord, and figure out where and what you're being called to (and then the right guy will show up there at the perfect time! Promise.)

2. Moving Home my Last Semester of College (to Student Teach)
Lots of people try to hang on to their college days for as long as they can. And yes, they are some pretty amazing, care-free years. But I did something a little different my last semester of college: I moved back to Kansas City to live at home and student teach. I knew I wanted to be back in the KC area, so it just made sense to me to student teach in that area- for job exposure and the ease of interviews. Not to mention, living at home meant no rent, that my laundry would actually get done, and that I would be fed meals while student teaching (all good things). After a semester of student teaching while coaching basketball, I can honestly say that I probably wouldn't have eaten or had clean clothes if I didn't live at home (thanks, Mom). Not only that though, I also got to be around for my little brothers' freshman and senior years of high school, so I got to experience tennis matches, prom, and other things I would have missed out on for them. Oh, and I totally landed an awesome job in KC right out of college, so there's that! Sure, it was hard closing the door on college a little early, but I just knew it was the right thing for me, my future career, my bank account, and my family.

The day I got my job.
3. Not Drinking before Age 21
This is something that I was always really convicted about.  I didn't ever drink in high school, as I was a big rule-follower and didn't have any desire to even give myself a chance at getting in trouble and not being able to play sports. I knew that I could totally drink in college and no one would ever know or really think I was wrong in doing so, but I still felt like drinking wasn't something I needed to be involved in. I knew that I wouldn't be the norm, and that people might judge me for it, but it just didn't feel like something I would be okay with doing. I also lead YoungLife starting my first semester of college, and I signed a contract that I wouldn't underage drink, which I took very seriously. What kind of an example would I be setting for the kids that I was leading, and how could I feel right enough with the Lord to be doing ministry if I was sneaking around in this way? I will say, I knew lots and lots of people who drank during those years, and they never pressured me. They respected me and my decisions. Additionally, I was oh so thankful to be surrounded by lots of amazing friends who stayed (and danced) sober right alongside me. It's more common than you may think! I'm so thankful that I learned how to have just as much fun (or more) without alcohol, and that it's still not a priority for me.

The Women of Blair Oaks YoungLife

4. Not Living Together before Marriage
This is something that Aaron and I both committed to from the start. We knew that temptations would be stronger if we were living in the same place, and no matter our financial situation, we just didn't see it as being honoring to God. Honestly, we didn't even sleep together in the same bed until our wedding night. Some people say that they need to live together before marriage just to "see how it goes". To us, this wasn't a concern because we knew that we were committed to each other no matter what, through the incorrectly-squeezed toothpaste tube and laundry left laying on the floor. Sure, we found out a heck of a lot more about each other once we were both living and sleeping under the same roof. But you know what? It was FUN. Because we were figuring it out together as husband and wife, setting our own new routines, and experiencing something we had previously denied ourselves. And it made marriage new and exciting in a wonderful way, where we didn't have to say goodbye to each other at night for the first time ever. I would highly recommend it.

5. Saving Sex for Marriage
I know this is totally not the norm these days, but I am beyond thankful that both Aaron and I saved ourselves for marriage. Although it's not the popular view in today's society, it is something that I've never regretted for a single second. Even when we were engaged, we waited. We wanted our physical attraction to be a part of our marriage, but not the only part of it. Because our compatibility in other ways was so much more important to us, and because we wanted to honor the Lord in our union, we experienced the beauty of sex (something God created to be used in marriage) for the first time on our wedding night. I honestly can't imagine being a part of something so vulnerable with someone else, nor can I imagine thinking about my husband being that way with anyone else. And thus, I strongly encourage those out there saving their virginity to stay strong. You CAN make it, even when the world says you can't. You are not alone, even when you feel that way. And I promise, the Lord will honor and bless you in that with the perfect person at the perfect time. If you've given yourself away in this way, but are hoping to start anew, don't give up heart. God can redeem all things, and He loves you deeply.

Again, my hope in sharing is not to elevate myself and my decisions, but rather to help other women see that, yes, you can do it, and that you aren't alone in your convictions or commitments. I know that in all of these situations, I have seen the grace and goodness of God, and His plan for my life. I am so thankful that I took a chance with some seemingly "unpopular" decisions years ago, and I have never ever regretted them. If you'd like to talk more about any of these, or get some advice if you're struggling in one of these areas, please feel free to contact me or comment below. It is my desire to be honest and vulnerable, and to share my stories and suggestions in hopes of helping others. Hugs to you.


Monday, August 24, 2015

Ireland in a Few Days: Must Sees and Must Dos

Ireland truly is a magical place. The rolling green hills, old stone walls, and friendly Irish folks are exactly as you've imagined. And even a touch better. It's a land of bangers and mash, thick Irish accents, live music in every pub, and some of the most beautiful places I've ever laid eyes on. One thing's for sure, Ireland completely won me over. If you're planning a trip to Ireland, here are some things you simply can't miss.

Ireland was our first stop on our 16 day tour of Europe, and we found that the quickest, cheapest, and easiest flight over to Europe put us in Dublin. Naturally, I was elated to be squeezing in another country that I had really really wanted to see. After lots of research during the planning process, the top things to do in Dublin didn't disappoint. The city is incredibly old, and has a lot of rich heritage, along with amazing architecture, great food, and some more modern elements. We got to the city dead tired, but forced ourselves to stay awake. After we missed our free walking tour, we found ourselves grateful to be resting our feet on a small "train" tour of the city, complete with commentary from both the train speakers and from the British couple in the row in front of us. 

If you're stopping in Dublin, here are some must sees:
The Ha'penny Bridge. Used to be half a penny to cross.
The Temple Bar Area- Great for Irish food.
St. Stephen's Green Park 
The Brazen Head
Christ Church Cathedral
Guinness Storehouse- Pour your own Guinness for free and see great city views.
Grafton Street Shopping 
You also may want to see the Book of Kell at Trinity College, though we didn't pay to. We were thoroughly impressed with the daily street cleaning in Dublin, as well as by their transportation systems (though we walked everywhere and skipped paying for transportation passes). We took the AirCoach to and from the airport, and would highly recommend it. 

Our hotel. With an amazing (kinda noisy if you're sleeping) outdoor event space. 
No matter where you're entering Ireland, or how long you're staying, a visit to the west coast is ABSOLUTELY necessary. Seriously, we only had about two and a half days in the country, but if we wouldn't have gone to the west side I would have been utterly disappointed. Despite being woken up by a fire alarm in the wee hours of the morning, Dublin was great, but I knew that what I really really wanted to see was the heart of Ireland, complete with green farmlands filled with goats and tiny fishing villages in the middle of the country.

In case you didn't know, it only takes about two hours to drive completely across the entire country. So even if you're in Dublin, like we were, going to the west coast and back in a day is totally doable. And totally worth it. We found an amazing deal online with Paddywagon Tours, and it was probably one of my very favorite things we did on our entire trip. I would highly recommend them: the coach was comfortable and clean with free wifi, our bus driver not only drove but also gave the tour and sang Irish songs, and we got to see the most amazing places for a very reasonable price. (Even though our driver joked about needing passports and had me worried that we'd be deported, he searched the Doolin restaurants for us and didn't leave when we were a few minutes late. So he redeemed himself.) We set off on the Cliffs of Moher Day Trip, and it was seriously incredible. Bring your cameras, because the views are absolutely breathtaking. Don't believe me? Here's proof.

Best Tour EVER
Kinvara: An Irish Fishing Village
Corcomroe Abbey
The Burren: "Mini Cliffs" before lunch at Doolin
Cliffs of Moher 
Bunratty Castle
Bottom line- If you're in Ireland you HAVE to do the following:
  • Drink a pint or eat Shepherd's Pie in Dublin 
  • See a castle
  • Walk the trails and take jaw-dropping photos at the Cliffs of Moher
  • Visit a fishing village
  • See the countryside
  • See the Guinness Storehouse and enjoy the city views
  • Listen to live Irish Music in a Pub
  • Hang out with locals (or at least eavesdrop to admire their accents)
  • Figure out that a "lift" is an elevator
  • Walk the cobblestone streets of Temple Bar
  • Stop and take in the absolute beauty of this amazing country

Have other Ireland places you LOVE? Need help figuring out what you should add to your Ireland itinerary? Let me know by contacting me or message me through the Facebook page. Check out How to Plan (and Survive) an Overseas Trip for more travel help and trips. May the luck o' the Irish be with you!


Friday, August 21, 2015

Five on Friday: Sorority Stereotypes That Aren't True

Let's be real- sororities get a bad rap. Throw on some Greek letters and people immediately have you pegged for a drunk, a ditz, or something a bit more colorful. As we teachers went back to school this week (four days followed by softball practice and a whole lot of new), my mind drifted to the activity that was taking up the entire week of many of my Mizzou friends. It's one that took weeks of my own time not so long ago: 
sorority recruitment. 

 As a college freshman, I stood in lines outside of sorority houses for a week, sweated through my t-shirts, needed help opening my mints, and found myself as a new member of Kappa Alpha Theta (the best sorority ever, not that I'm bias). Throughout my four years in Theta, I met some of my very best friends, made countless irreplaceable memories, learned to balance several activities and responsibilities, and genuinely had the time of my life. The media often paints sororities in a bad light, perpetuating assumptions that are perhaps met by some who choose to conform. But as a whole, sororities are SO much different than they may seem. So on this lovely Friday, I'm here to debunk five common sorority stereotypes that really aren't true.

1. All Sorority Girls are Dumb
First of all, my sorority was top in grades for every single semester that I was in college, and for years and years before that. Our GPA average hovered right around 3.7, and we had SEVERAL ladies who graduated with honors from our house. In fact, our stereotype was that we were the "smart girls". Studying was the norm, and we did it together without any required "hours". There are plenty of driven, focused, career-oriented sorority women out there that are incredible and very intelligent leaders. You work hard to play hard.

The Executive Committee my Senior Year. I was Vice President of Administration.
2. All Sorority Girls are Girly Girls
Okay, every sorority will definitely have its own handful of super girly girls. But I can honestly say that I know SO many girls who were definitely not girly at all. In fact, recruitment was one of the only times you would see some of them in a dress. We had an amazing time dominating lots of intramural sports at our school, where we even beat the Women's Club Flag Football Team (claim to fame). I loved that we could all be totally ourselves, and you didn't have to worry about impressing everyone all of the time. You were just you, and people loved you.

Intramurals Champs
3. All Sorority Girls are Partiers
Again, there for sure will be all types of girls in every house. And there will be some that really enjoy drinking. But not all. In fact, I didn't drink a single drop of alcohol before I turned 21. And I had a good chunk of friends that danced soberly right along side me. We knew exactly what we were doing, remembered it, and didn't have a headache in the morning. And you know what? We had a blast. We didn't need alcohol to have fun, and most sorority girls don't. 

4. All Sororities Haze
If you think this one's true, you definitely weren't a Mizzou Theta. I guess there may be a few sororities that actually do haze somewhere out there....but I've never heard of them. Rumors, sure. But in our house we just got presents when we were new members. Lots and lots of presents. And candy. No hazing at all- we were welcomed and treated like queens. 

A selfie before selfies existed. Made the front page of the school paper.
5. All Sororities are Full of Fake Friends You Paid For
Being in a sorority involves dues, just as many clubs or group require when you join. But you know what money can't buy? Friendship. With membership classes of 80+ members, sororities definitely aren't just instant friendships. But they ARE an amazing place to meet lots of incredible women that you may not know otherwise. Two of my bridesmaids, and some of my very best friends, are women that I may not have met without Theta. These women are funny, smart, driven ladies who balanced our sorority with jobs, nursing school, YoungLife, Bible studies, classes, internships, College Councils, and more. We have continued to be a part of each other's lives through graduation, jobs, cross-country moves, marriages, and even babies for some! Our friendships aren't surface level, and bought with a membership certificate. They are lasting, real, and worth the effort it takes to sustain them in a post-college world.

Kissing the 50 Yard Line on the Football Field our Senior Year. At like 5 am.
A sorority taught me how to live with someone else (8 different roomies in 3 years, woot woot), how to agree to disagree, how to make new friends again, how to stand up for what I believed in, how to lead a group of leaders, how to balance school and play, how to prioritize, and how to have a heck of a lot of fun with some amazing women. I encourage all of my graduating YoungLife girls and students to consider at least going through recruitment, because I know some really amazing friendships can be a beautiful result of the process. And if there's not a house that's a good match for them, no harm done. Though sororities may not be for everyone, they are much more than they are portrayed to be, and I'm oh so grateful that I made the decision to become a member eight years ago (yikes...getting old). 

And now, I leave you with one more kiting picture- partly because I'm feeling nostalgic, partly in honor of all the new members joining chapters all over the nation this week. Best of luck to all you new members joining chapters around the nation this year- you won't regret it. Enjoy every second. Theta love, friends.


Roomies my Senior Year

Monday, August 17, 2015

How to Plan (and Survive) An Overseas Trip

After spending 16 days overseas on an amazing adventure to Dublin, the Cliffs of Moher, London, Paris, Geneva, Chamonix, Venice, Florence, and Rome, I would say that I've learned a few things about overseas travel and navigation. In the spirit of learning fearlessly and sharing what I've learned with others, I've compiled a list of tips that will help you plan and successfully survive an overseas adventure.

1. Do your research! 
So I planned our entire trip from start to finish. By myself. It was a heck of a lot of work, but oh so much fun (and I'd love to help you plan your trip if you'd like!). In the process, I walked through several steps, including figuring out our almost free flights, starting and end points, connecting the dots in between, reading Rick Steves' travel books, and lots of internet research on pricing and reservations for things. Be sure to research or you may not know things like train closures on the way to Versailles or when you can attend places for free (like we did in Florence for the Academia and Uffizi Gallery). Totally worth the spreadsheet and detailed google doc.

2. Do some sort of tour in every place you visit.
Although we didn't use a travel guide, it was pretty dang nice for someone else to do some of the explaining and touring for us. Instead of walking around with a guidebook in every city (more on that later), we had an amazing time on some Big Bus Tours, riding a tour train around Dublin, hopping on a Paddywagon Tour bus to the Cliffs of Moher, and more. It was so nice to really know what we were seeing, and to have someone else take us there and tell us about it all!

3. Use some great travel apps, especially the ones of the city metro systems.
Many of the apps we used and loved the most were free ones! We used the London and Paris Metro Apps, which helped us see which stops were closest to where we needed to go, and what connections we needed to make. There was also my personal favorite, the free Rick Steves Audio Tour App. This app (on the picture on the left) actually lets you download playlists for sights in all major cities in Europe. These playlists then give you a "guided tour" which you can listen to with headphones, read off your phone, or just look at the map. It saves you a ton of money on guided tours for all of the places you visit, but you still get to know what you're seeing and why it's important. Plus, after you've downloaded your playlist while on Wi-Fi, the tours work offline!

We did purchase one app, City Maps 2 Go, which allowed us to know our location and use maps offline (you just have to download the map of the city once before you go). This app helped us get to our hotels and destinations, as well as to locate the nearest bus and metro stops. It was awesome!

4. Book and pay for as much as you can ahead of time.
By doing this, you minimize your need for Euros and other foreign currency, which helps you avoid trips to the ATM. You also maximize your ability to earn points on your credit cards, which in turn can be used toward free flights and free hotel nights! Not to mention, you can rest easy on the trip knowing that you've already paid for most of what you're doing, and your bank account isn't about to take another huge hit.

5.  Bargain hunt.
Chances are that there is a promo code, discount tour, or some sort of coupon for lots of activities or tours that you want to book. We got a discount on our Paddywagon Tour. We got our Shakespeare's Globe Theatre and Tower of London tickets online through Discount London. We used the Paris Pass to save the most money on transportation and entrance fees. We also got Best Rate Guarantees for nearly all of our hotels, which means that we price-matched hotels and they gave us the lower pricing, then also gave us back $50 or more (making some hotels free). We stayed for free at the Hyatt Churchill in London and at the Intercontinental in Geneva (both were amazing). Find out how we got our flights for almost free here.

6. Pack light.
This backpack held everything that I carried for 16 days. Everything. I didn't even bring a purse. Since we were flying a few cheap, short flights on EasyJet and RyanAir, we knew that we would have to meet their carryon requirements because we weren't going to pay a pretty penny to check a bag. On EasyJet, they don't even let you have a personal item, so we had to be sure that every single thing we brought along would fit into our respective backpacks. We absolutely loved it, and I would highly recommend this type of packing and traveling for all trips. We saved time and money, and weren't stuck carrying or rolling suitcase all over Europe, which was another plus! If you'd like to see more about how I fit 16 days worth of clothes including three pairs of shoes in this bad boy, click here.

My Trusty REI Lookout 40 Pack
7. Bring your good camera. 
Yes, we were a little scared to bring our super nice camera along. What if it was broken? Stolen? Thankfully, we never had even a hint of someone trying to take anything, including the camera, and so we have over 1,000 amazing pictures. Make the room in your bag, or around your neck. You won't regret it for a second.

8. Plan plan plan, and then be okay with changing the plan as needed.
Planning a trip like this is a lot of work. But it was OH so worth it to have a plan while we were there in order to truly maximize our stay. We didn't have to waste precious time figuring out where we were going or what we wanted to do when. The google doc/spreadsheet life was well worth it, and I just snapped a photo of our plan each day and we were on our way.

At the same time, being flexible with the fact that the plan may change is super important. We weren't able to go up to Mount Blanc on a lift like we wanted to, because the weather got in the way. But we made the most of it, and just hung out in the little ski town of Chamonix where we had amazing burgers. Or in Dublin, when we missed our free walking tour, but ended up having a better time and resting our feet anyways on a very reasonable train tour. You just make the most of it all!

9. Sleep and eat when you should according to the time zone you're in.
This one is a biggie, and is super hard for some people. Many overseas flights are overnight, so you leave around 9 or 10 pm and get in at what feels like 4 am. But it's 8:30 am local time. So even though it's hard, and you feel like death, you just have to push through until it's time to sleep wherever you are. Otherwise it's going to make your trip a lot more difficult, and your schedule will be all out of whack.

10. Be willing to embrace adventure- it may make for some of your favorite memories.
We survived a Tuscan hailstorm, a 30 min train delay that had Italians yelling and throwing their keys, and a two hour plane delay in London where we met two guys who flew private jets. Seriously, there will be crazy, unexpected, super fun things that happen and you will be so glad they did. So just embrace it, don't get bent out of shape, and have an amazing time!

Check out my travel guides for Ireland, London, Venice, Florence, and all of the other places we visited. We've got a ton of amazing pictures and tips to share! 


I'm linking up with A Little R&RPlay. Party. PinAmy SchlichterWonder Mom WannabeHarmony and HappinessI Have a Future and a Hope, Bliss and Faith, Intentional Tuesday, Tell it to Me TuesdaysWhat Joy is Mine, The Quintessential MommyThe Modest Mom Blog, Me, Coffee, and JesusThe Painted Teacup, Teaching What is Goodand A Field of Wildflowers

Friday, August 14, 2015

Five on Friday: What's New

The phrase "What's new?" is often met with the response, "Not much". But this is NOT what you'd get from the Kleinmeyers right now. We both had to go back to work on Tuesday, but the emotional despair of saying goodbye to summer freedom didn't last long, because we were both secretly excited to see our school buddies and get going on a new year. And a very new year it will be, for lots of different reasons.  Check them out. Happy Friday, friends! 

Pretty Flowers Sold on the Streets of Dublin
1. New Schools and New Classes
2015-2016 is going to be a banner year for the Ks. I am starting my 5th year of teaching, and Aaron is starting his third. But we are both up for new adventures: After teaching elementary for two years, Aaron will be teaching middle school history and industrial technology. He'll be done two hours earlier than he was before, and his drive to work will be cut in half, so we're both pretty excited. I'm going to be teaching AP English Language for the first time ever, but a lot of my old gifted students are in the class so I'm pretty excited! Something else new in our life is that I'm...

2. Coaching Softball
I'm stepping back onto the softball field this fall, this time as a C Team Softball Coach. (See intense throwback photo below for a good laugh). It has been so much fun getting to know the girls, and I'm pretty pumped to be in charge of a crew of who are all at different stages of experience and talent. It will be a good learning opportunity for us all, and I'm looking forward to both challenging and encouraging them as we have a heck of a lot of fun. If you're in KC and want to come to one of our games, let me know and I'll send you the schedule. It may be quite entertaining.

PC Varsity Softball 2005
3. Airbnb
Another new thing for the Ks is that we recently listed our spruced-up guest bedroom on Airbnb. Less than 24 hours after we listed it, we had people staying the next two nights. And since then we have had people paying to stay almost every single night. It's been a fun way to meet new people and make a little extra money on the side, and I've been very impressed with Airbnb's site, verification, and security levels. Check it out, and come stay with us if you're in town! 

Cozy Room with Private Bath In KC in Kansas City

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4. Illness
I HATE going to the doctor. Meaning I avoid it like the plague. Other than my regular 6 months dentist appointments and my once a year well-woman's check up, I usually don't ever go to the doctor. Until this summer. Enter the strawberry patch and landscaping in our backyard. This much I've discovered to be true: I'm VERY allergic to something in the weeds. And I also scratch my legs, arms, and face regularly while working. Long story short, I've been to the doctor about four times this summer to get shots or antibiotics for very serious poison ivy/oak/something of the sort. Oh, and one time I woke up with my eye almost swollen shut. So it's been fun, and I've just been a co-paying, pill-popping machine. Yay! 

5. Exciting New YoungLife Updates
We had an amazing time with 48 crazies this summer at Castaway. We're excited to get back into the swing of YoungLife with our annual Muckfest, followed by Club and Campaigners. Not only that, but we have EIGHT people who may potentially be joining our team as leaders. This is a HUGE answer to prayer, and we continue to work on building teams at both high schools that we currently lead at. It is amazing to see the Lord at work, and we can't wait to dive back into to time with kids. Read more about YoungLife, and what we do here.

I hope all of the "newness" in your world is just as exciting as ours! I am definitely continually working at enjoying things where I'm at, which is at the heart of this blog. If you haven't read it yet, check it out here. If you have any questions or comments, I'm only a message or email away! Have an amazing weekend!


Monday, August 10, 2015

Why I'm Still Dating My Husband

Early in our relationship, we had a serious discussion (well, lots of them actually). But one that particularly stuck out in my mind was this: that no matter how long we had been together, how many kids we had, or how many years we had been married, we always wanted to date.

Why I'm Still Dating my Husband

Now, obviously, some things would change. Aaron wouldn't necessarily be coming to pick me up from my apartment or dropping me off at home in the evenings. But there would still be flowers, surprises, and intentional time spent together with just the two of us. Honestly, dating each other when you're married is the best: there aren't the awkward what ifs or trying to impress someone- you're already committed till death do you part. And after a little more than two years of marriage, dating forever is still our intention. Here are some reasons why my husband and I are still dating:

We're still changing.
We want to continue to get to know each other as we age and grow together. We don't want to wake up one morning, look at each other, and wonder who that person beside us is.

We are choosing to love each other on a daily basis.
If you're married, you know there are days that you still love each other, but are incredibly frustrated with one another. Men and women are just different. The butterflies and warm fuzzies aren't always there when the laundry is piled on the bedroom floor or when your communication is off. But, regardless of all of that, you can choose to love each other. And it is a choice, every single day.

Dating my Husband

We're committed to keeping our love alive.
We recognize that the best kinds of love are those that come with true commitment, no matter what. If we are truly striving to love and live like Christ, then we will show grace to each other daily, and choose to always make the decision that is best for our relationship, and for our love. A fire can't die if it is continually fed.

We recognize that we need time alone without distractions.
Oh boy, is life crazy. There are so many good things to devote our time to, including our jobs, our church, and our ministry. But Aaron and I both recognize that there are times in which we really need some alone time together. And thus- date nights! If we go too long without some alone time, we both feel it. So we try to regularly "schedule" time together.

We consider our marriage to be one worth fighting for and investing in.
Although there are definitely some reasons for failed marriages that are beyond a spouse's control, we believe that a marriage we are both invested in and fighting for is more likely to last. We recognize that there will be trials and even attacks on our marriage in a variety of areas, but we know that at the end of the day, we are both committed to God and to each other, and we will do whatever it takes to keep it together.

We genuinely love spending time together.
When you're married to your best friend, who wouldn't want to spend time together? It's a no brainer. It's just that much sweeter when you're also in love. I can't imagine life without my sweet hubby, and we have the absolute best time on our date nights, even if they aren't fancy, expensive, or even planned.

We want our marriage to be strong for our kids.
We both agree that our marriage needs to come before our kids (Eli for now), or else it won't be strong enough for them to see Christ through us. We know that there will be a time that our kids will be grown and on their own, and we still want to recognize and know each other. We will love them deeply, but we don't plan to let them become our first and only priority.

We need time away from the stresses of the world.
Sometimes we all just need a chance to take a timeout, a breather of sorts. We need to forget about stress or conflict or money or responsibility and just have a good time. So date nights are the perfect solution for this- an escape with our best friend that is fun and also strengthens our marriage.

Couple Dating

Now, you may be thinking: those all sound like great reasons to date my spouse. But how do I make it happen? You're in luck. Here are some of our favorite ways to keep dating each other:
  • Try something new together. 
  • Make dating a priority (schedule it if need be).
  • Be spontaneous. 
  • Don't be too cool to be kids together.
  • Go on at least one trip a year without any family, friends, or kids (even if it's just to a hotel in your hometown).
  • Dance together (in the rain, on the street, at the gym, at a wedding, wherever).
  • Go on adventures, both big and small.
  • Write each other notes and hide them in a lunchbox, purse, or around your house.
  • Take turns doing something that your spouse really enjoys (even if you don't). See The Garage: An Unexpected Lesson.
  • Surprise your spouse with tickets to an event, or a surprise planned date night.
  • Always kiss each other goodbye and goodnight.
  • Hold hands in public.
  • Brag on your spouse around your friends and family.
  • Give your spouse a completely unexpected gift, just because. (Bonus points if it's something you make). 
  • TURN OFF YOUR PHONES and just be together.
  • Have a candlelight dinner at home.
Decades Themed Birthday Party

These are some of our favorite suggestions. Find what works best for you! Your marriage is something worth fighting for. Always assume you have each other's best interests at heart, and show each other grace again and again, over and over. Dating your spouse is one of the very best ways to ensure that you grow together, and not apart. Do you have ideas for some great date nights? Let me know in the comments below, or on the contact page. I'm also happy to answer any questions you may have, so let me know! Happy dating, friends.


Friday, August 7, 2015

Five on Friday: Things I Took For Granted

Sometimes you have to go without things to realize how much you really appreciate them. This couldn't be more true in our lives than right now. Aaron and I are officially back from our 16 day adventure through Europe! We had an incredible time traveling the world, meeting some amazing people, and seeing some of the most well-known places on the planet. In honor of our trip, and our last Friday off before school starts (boo, hiss), here are five things that I really took for granted before our European Adventure:

1. Space
Holy smokes, folks. Europe is a crowded place. As we worked our way around some HUGE cities like London, Paris, and Rome, I grew increasingly aware of just how thankful I am for our lovely 4 bedroom, 3 bathroom house with a garage (unheard of over there unless you're a millionaire). I realized just how thankful I am for green space, a backyard, and a deck. And I grew oh so thankful that I don't have to navigate through so many people or so much traffic on a daily basis (yay, Kansas City, how I love you.)

A crowd outside Sacre Coeur. None compares to the line at Versailles though!
2. Water Fountains, Free Water, and Fountain Drinks
I knew bringing a water bottle would prevent us from buying bottles of water (just like it does here in the states). I also knew that people tried to sell you expensive glass bottles of water at restaurants. But what I didn't know is just how hard it would be to find a water fountain or get free water at a meal. Seriously friends, wine and pop are cheaper than water there. And until we got to Rome (which has awesome fountains all over with cold, delicious water), we had a heck of a time finding anywhere to fill up our water. We got creative in our hotel rooms or other sinks we could find that didn't look sketchy. And fountain drinks were nowhere to be found- so I'm making a QT run this afternoon in celebration of their return :)

Fontana della Barcaccia fountain in Rome, in front of the Spanish Steps.
3. Free Toilets
I had heard about paid toilets, but it still felt so weird and foreign to me. I know our public restrooms in the US are sometimes pretty nasty, but still, you can do your business for free. It blew my mind that I would have to pay 0,60 euros just to relieve some bodily fluids. I mean, what if I had no cash or change? Thankfully, we have teacher bladders, so we just used the restroom when we were paying customers in a restaurant, in our hotel, or when we found a random free one elsewhere. The things we take for granted, folks!

The stairs up to our B&B in Rome.
4. Private Transportation
Okay, I'll give it to London and Paris (and probably even Geneva)- they've got AMAZING public transportation! Their underground metros are speedy, easy to navigate (even for foreigners), and very time-efficient. And they weren't even that expensive. I really did have fun charting our way through the days and getting up close and (very) personal with the often sweaty locals on their evening commute home. But oh boy, was I ready for some more "private" transportation once we got home. I am so thankful that I can just go hop in my car and drive somewhere without having to figure out what stop I need, how long until the train arrives, if there will be room for me, where to validate my ticket, and if I'll have to stand the whole time. Plus, I don't have to worry about being on time for my next connection. I just get in the car and go. Ahhh freedom.

5.  Knowing a Language
I'll start by saying that we were able to find English in almost every place we went. Ireland and England had our native language everywhere, which made things easy. When we got to Paris, I was oh so excited to put my three and a half years of French to good use, and I must say that it was pretty fun being able to order in French or read things on signs. But there were always times in more local areas where a little bit of a language barrier made things difficult, especially in Italy. We had to worry about if the taxi driver was going to rip us off, what the random Italian announcement was on the train that made everyone yell and throw their keys (which was a 30 min delay for the record HA), and if the woman behind the counter would give me the right type of pizza. Small things, I know, but still. I felt very language deficient while in Europe, as I saw people speaking three or more languages in different circumstances, while I really only know about one and a half fluently. Needless to say, I'm thankful to be back home where nothing is lost in translation (and Aaron and I have a new desire to learn Spanish).

It was an AMAZING sixteen days, but I am definitely very thankful for some of the things we missed back home, which also included our family, friends, and the freedoms we have in our country. We feel very very blessed. Stay tuned for more updates on our travels, with lots and lot of pictures and travel advice. Happy Friday, friends!