Friday, November 15, 2019

Our New Adventure: Part Three

If you haven't read parts one and two of our story yet, you need to. Trust me. Take a minute to do that here: Part One. Part Two. All caught up? Okay, cool! Let's keep going- it gets even better. 

As we kept coming back to the idea of building a chapel, we started searching online for some inspiration. We wanted something modern and timeless, something white and bright that didn't look "too churchy", but also held to tradition. And in the process, we stumbled upon a chapel that offered free weddings. This place happened to be just twenty minutes away from where we had already booked an Airbnb for our trip (coincidence? I think not), and we were at first baffled, and then incredibly impressed by both their business model and their heart: maybe offering free weddings could be an option. Maybe it would be a way to love couples well and to help them invest not only in their wedding, but more importantly in their marriage.

So we went out on a limb, and we fired off an email, telling a bit of our story (which you've already heard- the letter, the land, the extra land, and more) asking if it would be possible to meet while we were in town. We wanted to pick their brains, to learn from their mistakes, and to gain all the knowledge and expertise we could before adventuring down this road. So we emailed their generic email, and then we waited. And we got a response- they would meet with us. We didn't know just how big of a deal this was at the time, or honestly how big of a deal they were with their other endeavors. And yet, I love that, because it kept our hearts in the right place.

We went on our trip. We stuffed ourselves on amazing food, laughed our way through two step lessons, and hoped and prayed on the way to our meeting that God would do something big. I'll never forget jamming to the Passion worship CD that I'd tucked into my carry-on, Aaron's hand on mine, as he told me that he had a feeling something big was going to happen- something much bigger than us. We rounded the winding roads up into hill country and toured the chapel and campus, a magical place, which was nestled on the side of a cliff. Then we sat down at the table with one of the owners, who had dreamed a dream and brought it to life alongside her husband, just like we hoped to do. Her presence was calming, and she exuded grace and kindness. As we starting telling her our story, her husband entered, and then waved over another man- who turned out to be their architect, who had designed their entire campus. An architect: something we didn't have. Without saying a word, Aaron and I both were invigorated by the question we knew we were silently asking - why was he here?

We began telling them more of our story and heart behind it: that we believed marriage matters. That we felt like it was a time to step into people's lives and love them well, pointing them back towards Christ without ever mentioning his name. That we believed in living life full and showing people that a life with Jesus was meant to be immeasurably more than all that we could ask or hope. That we would be so full of His joy and love that we could then overflow into the lives of others in a positive way. And that we could help people avoid spending a fortune on their wedding, while still having a nice day and investing in what matters even more: their marriage.

They said, "Let's go upstairs", and so we followed them step by step up and into another room, hearts racing as the "meeting" became much more than that. Corks were fetched out of wine bottles. Tears were spilled. Laughter and stories were shared. We told them of our hearts and desires- our long term goals to host anniversary dinners and marriage retreats and offer premarital counseling, something that people usually didn't do unless they were a part of a church, or were getting married in a church that offered it. We told them of the name of our business and of our space: The Brim. A nod towards John 10:10 and also towards John 2:7 where the servants filled the vats "to the brim" with water before Jesus turned it into wine. The idea of a life so full and overflowing that every event, not just weddings, would hopefully be meaningful experiences in our space that left people wondering just what was behind our hope and joy.

They gave us wisdom they didn't even know we needed. Direction we had been longing and praying for. Advice that kept us from making stupid decisions. They reminded us of the importance of telling the story and letting people be a part of it with us, rather than doing it all on our own and attempting to bite off way more than we could chew- to avoid just getting it done as quickly as we could. They reminded us that "it takes what it takes, and it costs what it costs." They encouraged us to seek the Lord and to listen for his leading, taking small steps in faith along the way, and then to "jump and let the safety net appear".

When we mentioned that we didn't have anyone crafting architectural plans, and were attempting to do it all ourselves, the architect threw down his business card and told us that we had a designer now. He then proceeded to offer to design the master plan and the chapel. For free. And he did. He flew out to Kansas City, saw our property, shared a meal and heartfelt conversation with us, and dreamed our dream alongside us, while making it all a little more real. He and his beautiful fiance even came to Eli's second birthday party, and met all our friends and family. We were overjoyed. And we had a design. Our vision had become more focused, more clear, and more real. And it continues to become more and more real.

Additionally, at the end of our meeting, we walked away with a check that paid for 10 months of our mortgage on the land. The exact dollar amount that was normally charged by the owner in order to meet with him, our debt, he paid us instead. He and his wife liked our story and our hearts and they believed in us enough to write us a check, to relieve some of our debt and to give us the means to get things going. We were completely blown away, grateful, and overjoyed. And a little bit in shock. God had utterly amazed us in an unbelievable way.

I remember the drive back to town, the meal we shared, just smiling and shaking within the dim headlights of our rental car, completely in awe of the way God was working. Clearly, at this point, He was leading us and calling us to this. There was too much happening, too many big and crazy things, for this to just be coincidence or just "our" idea. At this point, we felt validated and assured. At this point, we would just be disobedient if we didn't do all we could to make this a reality.

So we went back home to KC. And we opened a business account. We deposited our first income for our little LLC. We got an address, a business phone, and an email. We made what felt like a million phone calls and spent every spare second we had pouring ourselves into this. I worked on our website. And we marched on to make The Brim a reality.

This summer, Aaron resurrected a 1951 bulldozer and started leveling out a parking lot with the help of my dad. He brought water up from the road, installed an irrigation system, put in a gravel parking lot, and planted grass seed. And he put poles in the ground in the dimensions of the future chapel, painted them white, and paved an aisle. Now we're inviting people to come and get married. This area is currently called “Founder's Square” (although we aren't set on that name), and it's a powerful space. Come and see for yourself.

There are so many other stories to tell. A million different things we've had to do, a thousand little struggles, and a thousand other glimmers of hope and excitement. Big things are happening, and we are so blessed to be along for the journey. We are excited to talk to brides, to help them have beautiful free and inexpensive weddings, beautiful receptions, and even more beautiful experiences to shape their marriage. We look forward to other special corporate and private events, like showers, parties, and more. We look forward to the fun and special events that we'll throw for families and friends alike to come join us for meaningful, unique experiences. We're hopeful that we'll see some of you there, and get to love you as best we can. But we can't do it alone. And so, that's where you come in.

Again, this would be pretty incredible end to an amazing, unbelievable story. But we know that God is not finished with this story yet. We have already seen people jumping into this adventure with us, purchasing anniversary bricks and sponsoring poles, helping us invest in marriage in our community. The story is continuing to be written as we speak.

Even if we never see you on our property for an event, we'd love for you to be a part of this story with us. Be a piece of this puzzle, a small line in the vast book that is being written by an amazing author. We believe marriage matters, and we believe you believe it too. Please visit our website, and see how you can be a part of building The Brim with us. Help us make marriage matter, and help others to live life full.


Monday, November 11, 2019

Our New Adventure: Part Two

If you haven't already read part one of our story, take a minute to do that here. You'll need a little back story on why we wanted land and the crazy awesome way we got it. All caught up? Okay, let's continue!

It may sound a little strange, but while we were in the process of buying our 11.1 acres, we also had our eye on some nearby acres. We felt like they'd be the perfect addition to make our land seem whole. Plus, they would give us the ability to do what we wanted to in our county. Sure, we didn't have any money to buy them. And sure, there was probably no way that the owners wanted to sell them. But still, we felt a tug to them, a dream, a hope that someday, somehow, they would be ours. We prayed over it, and even considered writing them a letter too, but we placed it momentarily on the back burner as a "someday" item.

Once we were official landowners, some crazy circumstances led to us being given the additional 5.5 acres that we'd had our eyes on. And, to top that off, we were able to get a driveway cleared and put in for us through the woods, which would have been a nightmare and would've taken forever to do ourselves. We were absolutely blown away. Even now, I can't quite fathom the series of events. Clearly this was much more than our idea. This was something that God was going to make happen, no matter what it took or how daunting it seemed to us.

Not only did this series of events leave us with a total 16.6 acres and a new driveway, but it also made another part of our story a possibility: putting in our own vineyard! In order to do this and have a space that could be used as a tasting room in the county where our land was, you had to have at least 15 acres. Without the extra land, we wouldn't have been able to have a tasting room. We had stepped out in faith, and God had provided in the biggest, craziest way, as He seems to do over and over again on this journey!

Vineyards take time, and you really don't see any wine production happening for at least three to five years or so, but eventually we will be able to have a tasting room by appointment, something we're really looking forward to as it offers the opportunity to share hours of great conversation with those who gather with us. There's something so amazing about working with the land to produce fruit that then can be made into wine- it's such an intriguing process, and something that Aaron has really become passionate about over the years of visiting Napa, Sonoma, and Hermann, along with doing wine tastings all over the nation. And funny that this whole journey began in Napa and now we will (Lord willing) have our own little crop of vines growing on our land someday! As of this summer, they're planted, so we'll see how it goes.

Jumping ahead a bit here- us with the vines in July 2019.

After everything with our newly acquired land was sorted through, we officially were able to apply for our Special Use Permit. This permit allows us to do several really important things: mainly, we are able to use our land as an organized meeting space for weddings, parties, and events for the next 50 years! Long term plans/goals include living on the land, and having the tasting room as we mentioned. We hope that our space will be an inviting place for the growing community where we can love people well and help them to live life as we were meant to: full of hope and laughter and purpose.

The entire process of getting our permit was pretty interesting: lots of meetings with the health department and county, signatures from folks at the water department, fire department, and more, along with alerting neighbors of our plans and preparing our own site plan. Keep in mind that we were also doing all of this while working our full time jobs and taking care of our kiddo- so there were lots of late nights, lots of to do lists and meetings or phone conversations to fit in to tiny slots of time throughout our days. There were tears and arguments and lots of doubt and worries. But there were also lots of laughs and "What is happening!?" moments of awe and excitement. Our dream had the potential to turn into much more of a reality in a matter of months.

On September 11th, 2018, we attended a meeting where our permit was officially approved by a unanimous committee vote. People were able to come and voice any concerns they had and we were present to answer any questions. It was pretty surreal and exciting, and I remember sitting in my chair in my favorite blue dress, looking down and seeing my legs literally shaking at the weight of the moment. Along the way, it was fun to see all the little connections that God would bring to light, and the ways in which He would guide us along this sometimes scary path. Aaron and I went to dinner that night, bubbling with excitement and gratefulness, and in awe of all that had happened in the last nine months. We took a picture at home with our sweet baby boy, commemorating this special day. This was the official blessing to continue our plans- something that we hadn't made public yet because we knew that it had to be approved before we could proceed.

Not too long ago, I was just a 22 year old girl in her first year of teaching, without a boyfriend, overwhelmed by my work, feeling pretty lonely and very unsure of myself in many ways. Things aren't all sunshine and roses these days, but boy, the Lord has sure been up to a lot in the seven years since then. I am reminded again and again that He is able to do IMMEASURABLY more than all I can ask or imagine. It doesn't always follow our ideal timeline, and we certainly aren't in control, but wow, friends- He keeps showing up in big ways. If you are in season of waiting, wishing, and hoping- feeling lonely, overwhelmed, or ready to throw in the towel- hang in there. God is at work, and He's going to knock your socks off with His good plans for you! In a world where so many things will fail us, His love never will. 💕🎉
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From there, we got things officially recorded with the county, and then worked to get building plans underway in order to apply for permits and get to work. We had gone back and forth about building our space first or building our home first, and we had also considered building some sort of space where we could live in part of it and use part of it for our original intended purpose: gathering people around a table for great food and conversation, giving them hope to live life full. It was (and still is) our biggest desire that people would see that a life lived with Jesus didn't have to be boring or less than a life without him: that it would literally be overflowing with a joy that was contagious.

In some areas, we made great and quick progress- getting our name settled on (more about that soon!), getting an LLC started, and continuing to dream of and pray about all that the Lord would do with our space. In other areas, we struggled. We were working to design this on our own with some help, but we kept feeling like we were hitting roadblocks here and there. It was easy to get caught up in a desire to hit a certain timeline and feel the pressure to get things done when the weather still permitted, but we had to let go and let things happen as they should: all in God's timing. This journey has been a process of letting go of the tiny bit of control I so desperately try to hold onto, and yet it has been freeing at the same time. There are so many things we would have done differently, and things that we would have probably regretted had we put our heads down and made decisions to leap into huge loans or proceed with architectural plans (that I would have likely changed my mind on). Instead, we took one little step after the next, trusting that seasons of waiting would pay off in the end, and that we would be led down the correct path. And boy, were we ever.

 In the midst of all the crazy planning and working, Aaron and I scheduled another little getaway, this time for January of 2019, and to a place we had never been. We continued to think and pray about our plans, feeling a little stuck but refusing to give up. An unexpected adventure and meeting lay ahead for us, and it all started with a little idea that kept making its way into our brains: a chapel. In conversations, in books, it just kept coming up. And so, with designs on my mind, I googled chapels.

We could have just gone and built one, and that, again, would have been a pretty great end to a pretty great story. But our story would continue to develop into something pretty incredible. Something almost unbelievable. Something much bigger than us.

To read part three of our story, click here! 

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Our New Adventure: Part One

It all started with a burrito wrap. Not the food kind, the spa kind. The end of 2017 was drawing near, and Aaron and I had jetted off on our first "kid-free" getaway to the Napa Valley area. Aaron had found a little mud bath spa day on Groupon, and the end of the treatment involved being in separate "burrito wraps" in the same little room. It was while we were there, cracking up about the entire strange experience, that everything started: an idea that would grow into a dream, which would grow into a hope, a reality, and a calling.

Becoming parents to the sweetest baby boy in February of 2017 had been the biggest blessing. But now that we had our son, Eli, we had needed to step away from the role in YoungLife that we'd previously held. With a tiny baby, and me going back to work full-time as a teacher in August, it just wasn't ideal to be away once a week until 10 pm, giving up evenings with our little one when it was already hard enough to force myself to leave him all day for work. To us, our marriage had always been about not only ourselves, but also loving others and serving them through some sort of ministry, so it had been a hard transition to walk away from YoungLife, but we knew that it was what was right for our family in this season. This left us wondering what our ministry should look like now. What was next? We'd loved YoungLife's ministry approach, and we fully believed in meeting people where they were, loving them, sharing the Gospel with them, and then continuing to love them regardless of their response. We began to talk more and more about times when people let faith into their lives, about how we could use this same approach to minister to adults. And so we landed on three main times when people let faith in: when they get married, when they have kids, and when someone passes away.

Out of these three, we were right in the heart of two of them- married and having a young child ourselves. But we both felt drawn to the idea of investing in marriage- that it matters, that it's a beautiful picture of the Gospel, and that it sets up a solid parenting approach later in life. So we thought about ways in which to pour into marriage- both for ourselves and for others. We thought about anniversary dinners, marriage retreats, and more. Maybe we could invite people for free meals and great conversation? One thing was for sure- we needed some sort of draw to give us the best opportunity to do this well- and we wanted to be able to do it on a bigger scale than just hosting people around our dinner table (although we're all about that too)! So we began to search for land, a place where we could turn this dream into a reality.

We'd always wanted to own a little bit of land. I grew up on three acres and I loved the way that it felt like we could breathe a little bit without reaching our hands out the window and shaking the hands of our neighbors. Aaron and I had looked for a while on and off without much success, but we still wanted a place we could call our own. And with this new dream of investing in marriage and hosting things more large scale, we decided we needed to look a little bit bigger- for something that could hold a house and some sort of space for these little events, along with a garage for Aaron. So we started looking for ten acres in the area. We cast our net far and wide, considering everything from Weston, Smithville, Platte City, and North Kansas City into possibly even Holt, Kearney, and Trimble. We hoped to be able to keep our jobs and still attend our church, but we wanted to keep our options open.

Land was coming and going so quickly that we weren't sure we would have any luck. But then Aaron drove by a property that looked pretty vacant, looked into county parcel maps, and found out who owned it- people who lived in California. In the midst of painting and remodeling our bedroom and bathroom, Aaron wrote a letter to the landowners, telling them our dream and letting them know of our hearts and goals for the land, asking them if they would be interested in selling. We stuck a leftover family photo in the letter for good measure and dropped it into the mail, praying over it and wishing for the best. And then we waited.

The next month came, and we still hadn't heard anything. If we didn't purchase land, we had discussed purchasing a property to rent out, or even buying a school bus and flipping into into a "schoolie" that could be rented out and used as a RV of sorts on vacation. But really, we thought we were being called to something more purposeful. We had just enough saved up to know that we were ready to invest in something, we just weren't sure what it would look like yet. We didn't think the land thing had just been our idea (instead of God's), but we also didn't know where or when it would happen at this point. Aaron and I went to lunch on our Professional Development day- a rare luxury where we were away from our 20 minutes lunches on the typical school day. We had been arguing about the schoolie thing for a while, but I remember that day finally telling Aaron that I was okay with it and giving him my blessing to take the next steps.

On the way home from school that day, I got a phone call from Aaron, telling me that I needed to call him right back. Honestly, I thought maybe something had fallen through with a job opening Aaron had applied for, and that maybe they were re-considering him for that position (which would have been at my school). I quickly dialed him right back, only to find out that someone had called him asking him if he was still interested in buying some land. The owners in California had gotten our letter, and as a result, they wanted to sell! Not only that, but they wanted to give us first dibs on making an offer- which was a dream when properties were moving on and off of Zillow in mere minutes. Was this really happening?

We drove out to see the property that afternoon. Aaron had seen it before, but I hadn't yet. It was a dream. Rolling hills, an incredible view, a pretty wooded area, and the best sunset I've ever laid eyes on. We had to try to think rationally about this major decision, but we also knew that we had to make an offer quickly or we would lose our chance and regret it forever. It just seemed so much bigger than ourselves- this gift of land and the opportunities it offered. It would take money, but money didn't matter so much anymore. So we took a leap of faith, made an offer, negotiated a bit, and settled on a fair price. A month later, we closed on 11.1 acres of our very own, just 15 minutes from our current home and still reasonably close to our work and church! We were on cloud nine, just dreaming of all that was to come.

If that were the end of the story, it would be a pretty great one in itself. But oh friends, that is just where the story begins...

To read part two of our story, click here! 

Monday, October 28, 2019

We Don't Know

"Doesn't it make you want another one?" she asked me as I cradled my friend's newborn son in my arms at a sip and see. She didn't know.

"Baby fever is strong now, isn't it?" another asked. "Time for another."

She didn't know either. Didn't know that I was more than ready for another. That I had been trying for the last three months. Didn't know that I had literally thought I could possibly be pregnant just moments before, then took a bathroom break only to find my dreaded monthly friend had come to visit- stomping on my dreams and hopes once again. Didn't know that I was currently putting on a good face while crying inside.

She didn't know that the previous month when my period started I had been out of town visiting a friend who told me she was pregnant earlier that day. I'd clumsily stumbled down the hall to the guest bath in the middle of the night, only to see that it would be another month of waiting (at least). I had remained strong, and was truly so excited for her, but when I got home after the trip and told my husband the tears just started flowing.

She didn't know that the month before that I had started my period the day of another friend's baby shower, a shower where someone else had jokingly asked me if I was pregnant when I got a little emotional, and I responded that I was positive I wasn't. But oh, how I wanted to be.

I'm not even going to pretend to feel the pain of those dealing with months, and years, and decades of infertility or trouble getting pregnant. My four months trying to get pregnant with our second child totally pale in comparison to those sweet ladies, and I'm certainly not trying to say my experience is equal to theirs. My heart breaks for them in their struggles, and in the seemingly innocent words that people say to them, not knowing how they stab like daggers into the heart of a longing, hurting woman.

I will say that those months of negative pregnancy tests and unwanted periods still hurt. But they also gave me a fresh perspective and extra compassion for those amazing, strong ladies who keep marching on each and every day, loving their husbands and their families well in the midst of such a personal struggle that is often kept secret.

After getting pregnant the first month of trying for our first, I had such a skewed view of how it all worked. I am so so grateful for the sweet little one that grows inside of me right now (and I certainly believe in the perfect timing of someone much greater than me). But I think I appreciate it even more now that I know how it can go. That sometimes there is a longing that isn't met for a very long time (or hasn't been met at all yet). That sometimes people are fighting battles every day that go unspoken. Yes, it is wonderful to be in a position to share these struggles out loud with close friends and family, and I truly believe that sharing our struggles has a purpose and can offer some healing and support. But not every situation should be public, and we should be very careful sharing our words when we simply don't know the situations that people are in.

We don't know what troubles people are going through, even when they're putting on a happy face. We don't know the pain that some are feeling, which we may be opening up again with our words. We don't know the longings of those who are in a season of waiting, whatever that may be for.

And so, we should think more carefully about what we say and ask, how we approach topics (especially pregnancy or children), and how we choose to share our experiences- even with the best intentions. Because we just don't know.


Thursday, October 17, 2019

8 Signs You Need A Kitchen Remodel

This post may contain affiliate links. Thank you for supporting Currently, Kelsie.

Thinking about whether you need a new kitchen? From lack of space to outdated design to wear and tear, here are eight signs you need a kitchen remodel.

1. Lack of Storage in Your Kitchen

Is your kitchen suffering from a lack of storage? Are your cabinets and drawers full to the brim with pots, pans, dishes, plates, and cutlery? Have you resorted to storing your kitchenware in other areas of the house? Are your countertops cramped and cluttered with appliances and utensils?

If this is the case with your kitchen, a remodel can give you much more storage space. By being inventive with hooks, shelves, racks, and cabinets, a kitchen remodel can provide you with ample storage for all your kitchen necessities.

2. Lack of Space in Your Kitchen

Do you often find yourself trying to find enough counter space when cooking? Or maybe your kitchen is cramped and constricted, and just not big enough for all the family to sit in there altogether at once. Perhaps your surfaces are cluttered with appliances and kitchenware, meaning you have little space left for cooking and entertaining.

A kitchen remodel can give you more kitchen space. Whether by redesigning and optimising the layout for more space, or making more space by increasing storage, a carefully designed kitchen will give you more space to do the things you really want to do in your kitchen.

3. Your Kitchen Has a Poor Layout

A poor kitchen layout is impractical for your needs and can make cooking and entertaining difficult and even hazardous. Do you bump into people when cooking and find yourself going back and forth multiple times? Maybe your oven is too far away from the counters, or the stove is too far away from the fridge. Or perhaps you like to dine or entertain in your kitchen, but it is not connected to a dining or entertainment space. (That's our problem!)

If this is the case, you need to rethink your kitchen’s layout to really optimize the space. Think about how you use your kitchen and carefully design the layout for your needs. You want to create a layout that flows and allows you to move freely, where everything is easily accessible. Square footage and size of the kitchen is often not the issue here, and you’ll be surprised at how much better you can use your kitchen space when its layout has been carefully considered and designed with function in mind.

4. Your Kitchen is Difficult to Clean

If you have a high-maintenance kitchen that is difficult to clean and keep clean, no matter how often you clean it, you could benefit from a remodel. If muck, dirt, and grime are building up on your surfaces and, as a result, are getting harder to keep clean and shiny, a new kitchen can make your kitchen easier to clean. Newer cabinets and worktops, modern appliances, and quality flooring are all easier to clean than faded flooring, dilapidated surfaces, and tiles with deep grouting.

5. Your Kitchen Has an Outdated Design

An outdated and old-fashioned kitchen makes your entire home seem older. If it’s been a while since you updated your kitchen’s design, it may be time for a remodel. What’s more, if you’re thinking about selling your home, an outdated kitchen could bring down your home’s value as kitchens are one of the key areas buyers look at in prospective homes.

Give your kitchen a facelift by modernizing it with contemporary styles using quality finishes, new cabinets and worktops, updated flooring, recent appliances, and a fresh backsplash. This will help refresh and rejuvenate your kitchen and bring it back up to date. (Here's some inspiration!)


6. Your Kitchen is Looking Worse For Wear

Is your kitchen looking a bit weathered? Has it seen better days? It’s natural for your kitchen to experience wear and tear over time, but if your kitchen shows serious signs of aging such as broken cabinet doors, cracked tiles, worn flooring, faded and discoloured finishes, outdated appliances, mould, and leaks, you need a remodel and your kitchen is in desperate need for some TLC.

Further, if these defects are ignored, they can turn into more serious issues down the line that will be more expensive to rectify. For example, mold can be dangerous to your health, and leaks are a sign of larger plumbing issues. If these are not resolved, your kitchen risks falling apart.

7. Your Kitchen Doesn’t Suit Your Lifestyle

Circumstances and lifestyles change, and a kitchen should reflect this and adapt to the way you live. Maybe you enjoy cooking but there is not enough room to cook. Maybe you are starting to cook with a friend or roommate, so you need two places to cook instead of one. Or perhaps you enjoy entertaining, and the kitchen is too far away from guests or there is not enough room for guests.

Your needs change - if you are expecting kids then you’ll need more space. In contrast, if your kids are leaving home you can tailor your kitchen space for entertaining instead. You should update your kitchen along with your lifestyle. If your kitchen no longer meets your needs or supports your lifestyle, you need a remodel. 

8. You Don’t Enjoy Being in Your Kitchen

Your kitchen should be an inviting and warming space. It is one of the most important rooms in the house, so you should enjoy spending time in it. If you no longer want to cook in there, tend to keep guests out of it, and generally don’t enjoy being in your kitchen (maybe because of lack of space)-  if it’s falling apart, or it’s unattractive and uninviting, it’s time for a remodel to create an amazing space that you enjoy spending time in, want to show off to all your guests, and can’t keep out of.

This post was written by Optiplan Kitchens, one of the UK’s leading kitchen manufacturers and retailers, selling high-quality, handmade, bespoke kitchens with over 30 years’ experience. Thanks to them for sharing! 

Sunday, October 6, 2019

25 Week Bumpdate

Hey there, friends! It's been a little while since my last "bumpdate", and now I'm already six months into this pregnancy. Say what?! Pretty crazy to think that Baby K number two will be here in less than four months. Some days I can barely wait to meet him or her, and other days I'm freaking out about being a mama of two! Eli was a pretty easy baby, but knowing that I have to survive the newborn days while also wrangling an almost three year old is kind of intimidating (give me ALL the tips)! Anyways, here are all the updates on how I'm feeling, complete with plenty of bump pics!

 How I'm Feeling

Second trimester isn't called the honeymoon stage for nothing! I've been over my puking and nausea days for a while now, and I'm not big enough to be miserable at this point. I found fairly early on that I couldn't really run much anymore, which has been weird for me because this is the first time in three years that I haven't been knee deep in training for the KC Half Marathon. I've continued working out at 9Round, which has been good to keep me sane and feeling like I'm not totally blowing up like a blimp! I do feel like I'm maybe carrying slightly different this time, which has me a little self-conscious, but time will tell! My body is growing a human, so I have to give myself a little grace that I'm not in my typical "running shape".

19 Weeks

What's New This Month

Baby K is taking after their big brother, and seems to be moving and grooving quite a bit these days. The little nugget was even flipping around quite a bit during our ultrasound (where we didn't find out the gender again- surprises are fun!) I sure do love the baby kicks, and Aaron has even been able to feel them lately from the outside. Eli has put his hand on my belly and says, "Hi Baby" a lot, which just makes my heart burst. I definitely feel like I look more pregnant these days, but after finally saying something to my students (and being less concerned about wearing flowy clothes), I'm just embracing the bump lately!

20 Weeks

What I'm Wearing

I'm still able to wear many of my pre-pregnancy tops, but I am definitely thankful for the shift to cooler weather lately because I was SO ready for my trusty Motherhood Maternity leggings to come back out of hiding. My Nike running shorts were starting to feel pretty tight in the belly, which makes sense considering that I'm six weeks ahead of where I was this time of the year when I was pregnant with E. I am probably going to rely more on maternity tops here soon as winter approaches, but for now I'm just wearing what feels comfy and doesn't look super tight. Flowy and long shirts are kind of my jam for the fall anyways, so I'm happy to still be able to wear a few of my favorite tops at least once or twice before I make the swap to full maternity.

22 Weeks

 How I'm Sleeping

I'm sleeping okay these days. Ever since our upgraded modern farmhouse bedroom was finally finished, we've been sleeping in a King bed- which has been life-changing. I'm sure Aaron appreciates all of the extra space that is helping soak up the C-shaped pillow I've borrowed and am trying out this time around. I'm not waking up every single night to pee, but I know those days are close again. Just trying to soak up my days of sleeping decently while I can!

23 Weeks

What I'm Nervous About

I've got my gestational diabetes test scheduled within the next two weeks, so I'm a little nervous about that. Even though I've done this all and birthed a baby once before, I'm still not the biggest fan of needles or thinking about having to have blood drawn. I know I can do it, but it's always a bit of a mental battle- though it has improved since having Eli. I'm also a bit nervous about getting Eli switched over to his big boy bed (which I mentioned in my Sixth House-iversary post). I think he will do alright, but he is such a good, consistent sleeper in his crib that I'm a little nervous about giving him free range of a room with a bigger bed. Of course, there are also a bit of the nerves involved with not only bringing another child into this world, but also loving them as much as I love E, without neglecting him. I've heard you just "grow another heart", so I'm hoping that's true!

24 Weeks

 What I'm Looking Forward To

I'm really excited about getting Eli's big boy room all jazzed up and flipped, moving him over, and then truly settling in to nesting for Baby K's arrival. (Follow along on Facebook so you don't miss out on the final product!) It's nice to have the nursery already done, and I feel like I don't have as much to prepare for this time around as far as things that we need, so that's nice.

I'm also realizing more and more that this baby will come shortly into the start of the second semester of school, and just barely after the holidays. I have a feeling it will fly and be here before we know it. I'm just looking forward to soaking up the sweet parts of pregnancy, and loving my little man's last go around as an only child this holiday season. Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas are all such sweet times with a little one, and Eli is going to be SO much fun this year! Time truly flies, and my little man is getting so big. It's crazy to think we'll have another little nugget soon! Love to you all!


Are you following along on Instagram? It's where I share extra little photos and fun updates from daily life (like this pic). Don't miss out!

Sunday, September 29, 2019

Our Sixth House-iversary

Six years! There's no way we could have lived in our house for that long already, right?! Crazy to look back and see us grow and change from a couple of newlyweds to an almost family of four! This little house has been so good to us, and it has been such a joy truly making it ours. This year we are in the middle of tackling and planning a few home projects. Check out all that we're up to and all that we've done in the past six years in our sweet home!

The Deck/Patio Remodel

One of the things we've been wanting to tackle for a while now is re-doing our deck. We love that it's multiple levels and that we can enjoy being up on the deck or underneath it, hanging out under our outdoor lights. A couple of wooden support beams on the bottom level have been rotting out for a while now, and we've also had some cracked concrete down there, so we have been planning to fix that. We also previously had a step up off of the concrete onto a raised wooden level, and we were tired of the water sitting there and stripping off the stain on the wooden boards. So what began as an easy fix quickly turned into a pretty large project!

Over the summer, my dad and Aaron stripped all of the wooden boards off of the bottom level, broke up the old concrete, and made it a level area. They poured two separate concrete slabs, making it all one level now. They also built new posts, and are working on finishing the last two beams on the bottom level. Like most projects, one thing led to another new project, so we also had to strip off rotted siding on the house, and then replace all of that as well. Next up is to paint the new siding to match our house, and then move on to replacing new boards up on the top level of our deck (which has been down for the count this summer because it's been resting on temporary support beams). After that, we'll stain the new boards and touch everything up to match our original color. It is definitely still a work in progress, and it has taken longer than we planned because life gets busy, but it already looks so much better and I know that we will love the final result.

Eli's New Big Boy Room

Our other soon to be tackled project is creating a new "big boy" room for Eli. With our gender neutral nursery all done and ready to go, we plan to just move Eli over and then use the nursery again when the new baby comes in January. Eli will just move into the full bed that we have in our third upstairs bedroom, which is currently our "guest room" and the room that we used for Airbnb guests for three years. We plan to remove the wood trim, paint, replace with new white trim (which will match the new white trim in our recently remodeled master bedroom), and then hang up some new decor that is so totally Eli.


We're hoping to get this done and ready around Thanksgiving Break or so, so that we can get Eli transitioned out of his crib and into his big boy bed. I'm a little nervous about it, but I know that he will probably be really excited and love his new freedom once he gets used to it. I also know we aren't buying another crib, so there's that! I'm thinking of a very pale gray/white color for the walls, and then accenting with navy, white, gold, and browns. We've already got some Royals decor and Aaron also painted a bulldozer for the room, so we've got a good amount of the decor already. We'll need to find a dresser, and I may switch out bookshelves, since the huge one in there isn't something I'd love to have within reach of our little climber. I'm excited to get it all finished and to share it with you all in the coming months!

For all of the other home decor projects we've tackled over the years, and for a little trip down memory lane, here are photos of years one through five in our house. You can also click the links below to take you to the posts from previous years where I shared the changes that we made to make our house a home!

Year One

Year Three

Year Four

Year Five 

And here we are in all of our year six glory: complete with a toddler in pjs and rainboots on a Sunday afternoon.

I'm thankful for the over 2,190 days in this sweet home of ours, and I'm excited for all that the future holds. Thanks for stopping by- we hope you can come see us in person someday!


Monday, September 23, 2019

And the Kitchen Sink

Occasionally we need a "sub" babysitter to watch our Eli when one of his grandmas can't. Sometimes, that duty falls to Aaron's sweet 80 year old grandmother, affectionately referred to as "Gigi" by Eli. She's his only great-grandparent, and she is one incredible lady. I can always tell when Gigi watches Eli, because I come home and notice little things randomly cleaned up around our house. But they aren't little to me.

As a full time working mama who is often just trying to make it through (while also growing Baby K number two), there are just certain cleaning jobs that often get left undone. Sure, I can find time to keep up with the laundry, the cooking, the cleaning, the sheets, and the weekly bathroom scrubs, but I just can't find the time to do the random deep cleaning. And so, our microwave, our oven, our doors, and other random places just get a little less loving than they should.

But when Gigi is here, she isn't afraid to pick up a sponge and some cleaner and get to work. And when I notice, it nearly brings me to tears. When our double-sided white sink is freshly clean, I notice. When our microwave is returned to its original white, and not a spot can be found, I notice. When the little things are tidied up, I notice, and I'm grateful.

With Baby K number two on the way, I'm realizing more and more what an act of love and service this is. That I have all the bulky baby items and burp clothes I'm going to need this time around, but that what I'll really long for after delivery is this: those who come in and love and serve without asking. Who deliver coffee or a smile or a brief adult interaction. Especially knowing that this time around I'll also be wrangling a toddler while surviving the newborn fog.

I'm willing to bet that most mamas (new or not) feel like this: that what they really would love most is a little cleaning to make them feel like life is more in order, a meal that offers them more time to snuggle and less to cook, a free sitter for an hour or two so that they can nap, get their nails done, date their spouse, or just feel like a normal human for a little while. That someone would step into the void that feels like "I can't" and turn it into something that feels handled. Because there is so much that just isn't during that season, and to a "doer" like me, it can be both freeing and stressful.

And then I'm compelled to ask myself, how often am I willing to do this for someone else? How often am I brave enough to see or anticipate a need, and then step up to serve lovingly in that way, even when I'm not necessarily asked to? How often do I go out of my way just a bit to do something that feels like a lot to another? If they'd feel half as loved as I do when Gigi or my mom or someone else does the little things that make a huge difference, then gosh, it's certainly worth finding the time and energy to make it happen for someone else. Because to me, it means everything: everything and the kitchen sink.


Sunday, September 8, 2019

The Best Apps for Bloggers

This post may contain affiliate links. Thank you for supporting Currently, Kelsie.

When you first start blogging, you might just pull out a laptop one day and decide it's a good day to start a blog. Your photo quality may not be great, your photos probably aren’t all that impressive, and it may not be until later that you'd like to step it up and work on delivering more professional content. I definitely have made a lot of blogging mistakes along the way, but a lot has changed since my first year of blogging. When you're ready to take your leap into the world of more serious blogging, using applications will make your workflow as smooth as possible and provide a lot of support for you. Many applications even have a free package that will work well for you. Here are some great apps to check out!


Photography and editing photos are the bread and butter of blogging. They affect not only your blog itself, but also your Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter accounts, and so much more. You want them to be slick and easy to access. Icloud sharing is fantastic for this. Of course, that will only work if you own something in the Apple family - an iMac, Macbook, or iPad. The file transfers take seconds. SmugMug comes highly recommended for ease of access to high-res images when you don’t want to compromise on quality and aren’t at home. Of course, for things like screenshots for information step-by-step guide style posts, you should read I also really love working with Canva for easy, high quality posts and labels for Pinterest-friendly titles. Before using Canva, consider using filters on Preview, Lightroom, or Adobe Photoshop. If you need free use photos, Unsplash is a great option!

Social Media

Once you have written a post, you can't just post it and be done. In fact, writing the post is only the beginning of the work most of the time. After all, you created the content for people to read and enjoy. In order to do that, you need to share it- as much as possible, and sometimes even more than once on a platform! It is worth remembering that even though the blogging world might seem small and oversaturated - you can’t over saturate the internet - it is limitless. So share a lot and often. Hootsuite is very popular and manages all of your social media in one space. It's especially great if you hate swapping between tools. Buffer now has more options than it has in previous years, and the free package is worth checking out. Once you have that in order, creating a drip feed campaign with MissingLettr will serve you well too. You can also stick to simple schedulers like Tailwind, which is a nice option I use.

Photo by Anete Lūsiņa on Unsplash


You may not always be home when inspiration for a great post shows up. There are a few spaces that offer great ways to capture those ideas that pop up on the fly. I've even used text- to- speech before to get great blog posts started while I'm driving. Google Docs is a leading contender - they are constantly introducing new tools within docs. Slack is great if you are working with a virtual assistant, or need to be in communication with people often. Trello is perfect for arranging your to-do list and having it there on your phone to access instantly, and Pocket is a quick way to save pages that you want to read later. I love just sitting and writing on Blogger for my posts, but some people even kick it old school and hand write some draft of posts! 


If you struggle to stay focused, then you really need to think about putting deadlines throughout your day. Staying productive can be exhausting sometimes, but setting goals means you are more likely to get everything done when you need to. Pomodoro is the most popular method to get things done. There are a few options for this in terms of apps:
  • FocusBooster
  • Be Focused Pro
  • Pomodoro Tracker
  • Pomelle
  • Toggl
When you are creating content, it is better to maximize the time you have, and apps like the ones mentioned are a quick way to streamline what you do and help you get it done better. You can also check out some great blogging books for more info!

All in all, blogging is a rewarding creative outlet, but there is definitely a lot more to it than people may assume at first. It's a great idea to use the tools available for you in order to make it less work and less time-consuming overall. Hope these tips are helpful, friends! 



Monday, September 2, 2019

England and Scotland: A Travel Guide + Recap

This summer, Aaron and I got the chance to visit Europe on a 9 day baby-free trip to England and Scotland through EF Tours. We were chaperones as part of a group of 46 travelers that included students going into the 9th grade, plus their parents. We had quite the adventure getting over there, but once we arrived it was a wonderful trip full of history, beautiful sights, and irreplaceable memories. Here are all the details, tips, and photos from our adventure!

Getting There

To make a very long story short, our task as chaperones was much much harder this time around with some serious delays on the way out- something that had never happened to us on tour before! Our flights from Atlanta to New York City were delayed for five hours and then cancelled, which meant that we missed our overnight connection from NYC to Edinburgh, Scotland. We had a nightmare of a time in the airport trying to get our large group rebooked, with little help from any customer service, and we ended up having to stay overnight in Atlanta and try flying out again the next day.

Our group had to split up into several smaller groups for re-booking, so we had people flying all over the place, with our specific group flying from Atlanta to Boston to Amsterdam to Edinburgh. All of us ended up missing an entire day on tour, which was really a bummer. Additionally, in Amsterdam we had a student think that he lost his passport, which led to a mad dash and hour-long scramble searching around the airport before we found it in his brother's bag. Phew. Did I mention I was pregnant and tired and mildly morning sick? We were SO happy to get there, and then things really got much better!

Edinburgh, Scotland

Edinburgh is beautiful, and full of so much history! Aaron and I had been to London before back on our 16 day trip to Europe in 2015, but we hadn't been anywhere else on our tour itinerary. (See my London Tips in this post!) Scotland was just what I expected: old and full of amazing accents. Once we finally arrived, we headed directly to Edinburgh Castle, which had breathtaking views, engaging exhibits, and a wonderful free guided tour! Definitely check out the prison exhibits. Once we were done at the castle, it started raining, so we ducked into a couple of shops on our way to the National Museum of Scotland, home of stuffed "Dolly" the sheep and other free exhibits, along with a cafe and coffee shop. We were so jet lagged at this point that we could barely keep our eyes open, but we made it through, grabbed dinner, and then headed off on a "Specters of Scotland" ghost tour, which told the story of legends, deaths, grave robberies, and other numerous horrific things that happened in Edinburgh back in the day. The guides were actually fantastic and quite funny, and our worn out group found a little pep in our step.

The next day, we were able to squeeze in a visit to the Palace of Holyroodhouse, which is the Queen's official residence in Edinburgh. This was an awesome visit we were able to fit in that wasn't originally a part of our tour, which was extra exciting because of the day we lost on tour. They had an incredible self-guided tour with headphones, videos, and a map that walked you through everything. It was one of the best guided tours I've ever seen anywhere, which is saying something because I've been on a ton. One of their exhibits even included Meghan Markle's wedding dress! I did throw up on the bus on our way there- it was one of the few times I got morning sickness on our trip. Thankfully I was able to do it subtly and no one really knew.

Warwickshire, England

After our adventures in Scotland, we took a quick drive and entered England. We were able to visit Warwick Castle, which was kind of a jazzed up castle with lots of touristy options for visitors. There was a long walk you could go on with lots and lots of stairs, which I tackled like the pregnant woman that I was, but it did offer some really great views. Unfortunately, the trebuchet was broken, so we didn't get to see it launch, but we were able to hear more about how it was used- let's just say that the hamster wheel job was not one I would be signing up for anytime soon. It was about 65-70 degrees for this entire portion of the trip, which was a lovely break from the steamy KC summer.

Stratford-upon-Avon, England

The next day was probably one of my English teacher favorites: a visit to Stratford-upon-Avon and Shakespeare's Birthplace. It was pretty crazy walking through rooms where Shakespeare was actually born and grew up, especially since I teach his plays to my students every year and talk about the history of his life. We were also able to visit Anne Hathaway's Cottage nearby, which had the most beautiful gardens ever. Just for reference, this not the actress in her 30s, this is the original Anne Hathaway who was Shakespeare's wife. Sometimes people are confused as to why "our American" Anne Hathaway has a cottage over there! We also got to visit Holy Trinity Church, where Shakespeare is buried.

Oxford, England

Oxford was up next, and it was totally what I would expect out of a Harry Potter book. We explored the streets and found some great coffee and gelato (something I can never pass up in Europe). We got to explore many of campuses of New College, including their beautiful chapel, and all of the small schools that make up Oxford University as a whole. The architecture was quite beautiful, and we found a delicious lunch at the local favorite Turf Tavern, which is hard to find but worth the trip. Fun fact, you order your food at the bar at almost every restaurant here- no one comes to your table to take an order!

London, England

After our visit to Oxford, we headed down to London for our last three days. Aaron and I had been here once before, but we'd always said that we wouldn't mind coming back- so here we were! We were bused around everywhere prior to this, but once we got to London we often rode the underground, or "tube" as they call it here. Let's just say that navigating that with 46 people was quite an adventure! London has almost 9 million people, so it's a huge city and we definitely had to buckle down on our chaperone groups to make sure we didn't lose anyone here! Did you know that curry is the national dish of England? With a large Indian population, British-Asian dishes like chicken tikka masala are incredibly popular, and very delicious, as we got to find out at dinner on multiple evenings!

Our first night in, we were able to take the twilight ride up on the London Eye. Aaron and I didn't do this back in 2015, so it was an extra special treat, and it offers amazing 360 degree views of the city. It was fun looking out and seeing all the places we had visited previously.

We started one morning on a narrated bus tour which was actually phenomenal. We got to see a bunch of places we didn't visit the first time around, including Abbey Road. Of course, we had to get a picture crossing the famous crosswalk! We also saw Buckingham Palace and the changing of the guard again, visited Westminster Abbey, saw Big Ben (which was sadly covered up and under re-construction), and many other tourist favorites.

The next day, we were off to Windsor Castle, the oldest and largest occupied castle in the world! This is the Queen's weekend home, and also has the famous St. George's Chapel where Prince Harry and Meghan Markle got married! We were able to tour both, and again, the audio/video tour was incredibly well done. They also had lots of benches which helped this pregnant mama rest her feet from all of the walking we did each day (we're talking 5-9 miles a day).

One evening we were also able to catch a theatre performance, which was Thriller - a Michael Jackson tribute show. I guess the British folks are pretty obsessed. It was well done and the singers were great. The London nightlife is a whole different ball game, and after a long day I was ready to get back to our hotel, which was right next to the Wembley Stadium. We were in town when Wimbledon was taking place! I really enjoyed London, and felt like we have a really good grasp on it after visiting twice!

Stonehenge, England

One of things I was really looking forward to on our trip was getting to check Stonehenge off of my bucket list. As one of the new seven wonders of the world, it was a place I knew I'd want to visit someday. Ironically enough, Aaron and I took Eli to visit the Stonehenge Exhibit that happened to be at Union Station in KC this summer, so we had a lot of prior knowledge coming into our visit. We also planned to do our pregnancy reveal photo in front of the iconic stones, so I was extra excited for that! I'm really glad we got to visit, and I would definitely recommend it, although it did fit a bit underwhelming in the moment. Maybe because the pathway is fairly far back in some places, but it just felt a little smaller than I had anticipated. It was still really cool to see though, and I love the photos we got to announce that Baby K was on the way again! Definitely worth a trip outside of town a bit!

Salisbury, England

On the same day as our visit to Stonehenge, we got to visit the city of Salisbury. This was honestly one of my very favorite parts of the trip. We got to tour and visit the beautiful and historical Salisbury Cathedral, which has the best preserved original copy of the Magna Carta (only four remain in the world). After that, we went into the city, and I just loved the rolling hills, the sheep, and the feeling of being outside of the big city after our time in London. They were even having a farmer's market in town that day, and they had some of the very best bread, sausages, and hummus I've ever had! I would highly recommend a visit here as a part of your visit to Stonehenge!

All in all, a trip to Europe is never a bad one, and once we got over the initial craziness of trying to get over to Scotland, we thoroughly enjoyed the rest of our trip adventuring around Scotland and England. If you're looking for a great trip for July, with temperatures in the 65-75 degree range (with it being cooler in Scotland and warmer down in London), definitely consider this trip! Some of our group also went on to Paris, which is an easy ride through the Chunnel or a short plane ride away. We had been there before and had been away from Eli long enough so we decided to pass and come home earlier. Either way, it would be easy to add on a trip to Ireland or a trip to Paris and make this a multiple country adventure! Send any travel questions my way!