Wednesday, April 29, 2015

We Aren't Home

I'll admit it: I'm cheap. We don't pay for cable. I freak out if I'm spending more than $50 on a pair of shoes. I coupon, Groupon, and Front Flip my way into saving a few bucks. Life's pretty good. I'm a happy wife with a good job, a lovely house, and more than enough to live comfortably. But I'm constantly reminding myself that I can't find my meaning in the digits of a savings account, the trendiest furniture, or anything else I've got here. There's so much more.

In my recent post, Marriage Isn't Most Important, I shared some of the main ideas from Francis and Lisa Chan's book You and Me Forever. The book not only offered some incredibly convicting and refreshing perspectives on marriage, but also on why we can't place our hope in this world. It won't last.

You see, this world is not our home. It's more like a camping trip.

The family pop-up back in the early 2000s.
Sure, there are things about camping that we love. It's an adventure. It's exciting to toss a tent and a sleeping bag into your trunk and go experience nature. There's something about snuggling around a fire pit with friends while the sounds of acoustic guitar and voices mingle in the darkness. And don't forget about smores.

At the same time, there are lots of things about camping that aren't so appealing. There's grit and grime. You sweat. If you're like me, you sweat a lot. The showers (if there are any) aren't ideal, and the bathrooms are the scary kind that you would rather hold it than visit. If you're really roughing it, camping can be a lot of work. You don't have the comfort of your real bed, and a lot of times you've got to put up with tent mates' snoring or strange sleeping habits. But anyone can put up with these things for a while, right? It just means that much more to us when we get to return to our real home, our own beds, and the safety of knowing that we are HOME.

Chan writes: "Nothing will comfort us more than to get to our true home. To be truly cleansed from a lifelong battle with sin and the dirt of this world. To actually be clothed in righteousness, and ultimately, to fall into the arms of Jesus." (127).

What a beautiful picture. What a comfort to know that this broken, confused, crazy world is not all that there is if we believe in Christ and the chance for an eternity with him. What a relief to know that all the grit and grime that we deal with now will be washed away when we return home, when we go where we are truly meant to be.

There's nothing wrong with enjoying the blessings that we've been given here, but we have to remember that this life is temporary. We should spend our lives worrying about advancing God's kingdom, not worrying about building up our comfort in a place we'll be leaving soon. And we don't get to take anything with us.

It may make us sad to think about what we'll be leaving behind. We just can't understand the joy of what awaits. One of my favorite quotes by C.S. Lewis speaks to this:"It would seem that our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling around with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making muds pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased."

We are far too easily pleased by our little camping trip. We're too comfortable. We love things that won't last. We've got to set our eyes and hearts on something much greater: eternity. We aren't home; we're just on a 70 or 80 year camping trip. Someday we get to go to a place where we won't have to deal with the grit and grime of this world. A place that is not temporary, but eternal. That, my friends, is something to hope in.


Today I'm linking up with Missional Women, Simple Moments Stick, Busy Being Blessed, Spiritual Sundays, and The Diary of a Real Housewife.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

5 Reasons You Should Consider a Cruise

When it comes to cruising, people seem to be pretty opinionated. They love them or hate them, and they'll tell you all of the reasons why. Sometimes people are scared into dismissing cruising without even trying it for themselves. I've always believed that you've got to try something before you can knock it. Choose your cruise and cruise line wisely and it could become your favorite type of vacation! Aaron and I had a great time celebrating our 1st anniversary on a week long cruise to Jamaica, Grand Cayman, and Cozumel.

If you've yet to try out a cruise, here are five reasons why you should:

1. They're affordable. 
When you look at the overall price of a cruise, and consider that your price includes your food, sleeping arrangements, on-board activities, entertainment, port to port travel, and non-alcoholic beverages, you're getting a pretty good deal. What other method of travel lets you see destinations  hundreds of miles apart without having to pay to get to each of them? And, if you can't last a week without pop or wine, you're allowed to bring some of your favorites aboard for free. As long as you don't buy a ton of drinks or purchase the most expensive excursions, you can cruise fairly cheap.

The Carnival Magic

2. You get to travel while you sleep.
There's nothing quite like going to sleep in your bed and waking up in that same bed in a new country. On a cruise, port to port travel is mindless. You literally have to do nothing but get on and off of the ship. You get to explore a whole new place without making it your only destination. Or, if you don't feel like exploring, you can just stay on the ship (and enjoy that it's empty while everyone else is off playing). Oh, and unpacking only once is really nice too. No need to worry about checking in or out- you're on a floating hotel with an amazing view!

3. There's something for everyone.
From casinos to comedy shows, water parks to shopping, cruises truly are for anyone. Extroverts rejoice: there are daily schedules where you can do pretty much anything at all hours of the day. Introverts rejoice: you can hang out in your room all day if you'd like. And order free room service. Send the ladies off to the spa, fitness center, or pool deck, while the gentlemen learn how to make cocktails or compete in the hairy chest contest. (Yes, this contest happened on our cruise. No, my husband did not compete.) Parents rejoice: if you're bringing along kids, they literally have a "day camp" where you can drop off your kids and go play all day. For free.

Carnival Cruise

4. They've got great service.
You've probably seen those little towel animals. They actually have a class where you can learn how to make them. But the service on a cruise goes way beyond towel animals. Our room was spotless, and our housekeeper took exceptional care of our every need. Our server at dinner was amazing, and we felt like we knew him by the end of the week. The employees on cruise ships generally seem to like their jobs, or at least they're good at faking it, and thus the service is top notch. They're friendly. They remember you, and call you by name. They even sing you a cute goodbye song at dinner the last night.

5. They give you a reason to unplug and unwind.
Unless you're willing to shell out some serious cash to have wi-fi in the literal middle of the ocean, you're not going to have internet. Or cell phone service. Before you pass out in shock, I'll let you in on a secret. It's REALLY nice. And freeing. You can actually be WITH the people you're with. Shocking! But in all seriousness, it's so relaxing. You don't have to worry about your phone. You don't have to plan if you don't want to. You can go do a ton of things, or nothing. It's all up to you.

Most people who dislike cruises simply chose a cruise that was not right for them.  If you're ready to tackle a cruise with the help of a travel professional or consultant, is a great place to start. The Comforts helped us with our honeymoon and are excellent at what they do. They'll help make sure that you're on the right cruise and cruise line for your needs.

Have you been on a amazing cruise? Do you have questions about what to expect onboard your first cruise? Contact Kelsie or post in the comments below!


Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Marriage Isn't Most Important

Marriage isn't MOST important. Yep, I said it. Probably not what you expected from a young wife who will be celebrating her second wedding anniversary in a couple of months, huh?

Don't get me wrong, this is not a desperate cry for help to save a struggling marriage. On the contrary, this idea comes from the eternal thinking I've been doing lately, as well as from the great book that I finished recently.

For quite some time, I've been anxiously awaiting reading Francis and Lisa Chan's new book, You and Me Forever. I'm a big fan of Chan, and his words always seem to cut straight to my brain and make me think about things in a new way. His firm Biblical grounding is always appreciated, and he never ceases to spill every ounce of his emotion into his sermons. I've seen him live several times at conferences, and it is clear that the Lord is at work within him. Check him out at  Needless to say, You and Me Forever did not disappoint. I really enjoyed getting the perspectives of both Chan and his wife, and I found myself sticky-noting page after page as their words struck me.

Here are a few of the main points that Christians (married or not) need to hear:

1. Marriage isn't most important. Stare at God more than your spouse.

"Marriage is important, but it's not most important. When we focus on what is most important, our marriages will thrive because they will be functioning according to their design. But if we focus too intently on our families, we will actually fail at life, and therefore at our marriage." (Chan & Chan 96)

Don't focus on marriage, focus on Jesus. Like we tell our YoungLife kids all the time, even good things can become idols and lead us to sin when we place them before God. Coming from newlywed-land and the perspective that comes with it, I see far too many couples my age who are focusing everything on their marriage (with good intentions), but are failing to focus on the Lord. When two people are right with God, they will be right with each other. This was definitely a great reminder for me. There's nothing wrong with loving the person that God gave you to marry, but you hurt your marriage by neglecting your relationship with God. Chan writes that "Marriage is great, but it's not forever. It's until death do us part." Once we reach heaven, marriage won't look the same. We've got to get our eternity right, and we should want our spouse to do the same.

"If we don't stare at God, we'll spend our time staring at lesser things. Namely, ourselves. This is the mistake a lot of couples make. They spend a lot of time looking at themselves....but very little time staring at God." (25)

2. Want to be like Christ more than you want to be right.

Man....this one is hard for me. Very convicting. I've definitely learned in the last two years that I'm a lot more stubborn than I thought. And I like to be right. I'm also an English teacher, so I'm pretty good with words, and sometimes I use them to win an argument in a way that may be hurtful. Marriage is teaching me more and more every day about my selfish tendancies and what it looks like to be humble. I'm a work in progress, but if I can focus on being more like Christ, I'll be on the right track.

"Humility is the key to a healthy marriage. If two people make it their goal to imitate the humility of Christ, everything else will take care of itself....Arguments escalate when we want to be right more than we want to be Christ... Soon, all we want is to win, even if victory requires sin. The one who ins the argument is usually the one who acts less like Christ." (68)

Even when we are upset, or truly feel like our spouse is at fault, it's still not a time to demonstrate just how right we are. Jesus showed grace to us all, shouldn't we extend the same to those we love most?

"It doesn't matter what he said or what he did. The question is whether you want to experience God's opposition or His grace. Is it more important for you to be right? Or to do what's right? (86)

3. Display Christ to the world through your marriage. 

What does the world see when they look at your marriage? It's crazy to think that for the large majority of people who never step foot in a church, your Christian marriage could be the most visible picture of Christ that they ever see. I remember being overwhelmed by this idea right before our wedding. I wanted our ceremony, and our lives, to be a reflection of love that demonstrated the way that the Lord loves.

 "Displaying God to the world is the purpose of the church, and it's also the purpose of marriage. People should see the way I serve my wife and get a glimpse of the humility that Christ showed. Anyone who sees Lisa joyfully following my lead should understand more deeply what it means for the church to follow Christ out of their respect and trust for him. God created marriage to be a picture that displays Christ to the world." (56)

This is also so convicting. The way that I respect and follow my husband's lead should be a picture of the way that the Church follows Christ. Wow. I'll admit, I fail at this sometimes. I'll never be perfect,  but if I can keep this image in my mind as I walk through my marriage, hopefully I can start to help others understand God's bit picture. People are watching.

4. Let God be God, and let your husband be your husband.

Ladies, we are designed to help our husbands and to accomplish so much more for the Lord WITH them than we could without them. Remember, in the Bible it was not good for Adam to be without a helper.  BUT, we have to be careful with this. The Lord is the one who gives us worth. He is the one who meets our needs. We can never place this unnecessary burden on our husband by expecting them to fulfill us fully and holding them to unrealistic, godly expectations. That's not fair to either of us.

I struggled with this early on with Aaron. I didn't realize it, but I had some pre-formed expectations that he just wasn't meeting. He couldn't read my mind to know what they were, and he felt defeated by knowing he couldn't meet them because they were unrealistic. While desires to be with our spouses and delight in them aren't bad things, I was placing too much on him, simultaneously hurting Aaron and forgetting that God is my first love. When something feels off, it's always good to check our walk with God first.

"If we expect God to be God, then our husbands can excel at being husbands." (144)

Bring your prayers, struggles, and desires to God first. Not to hide them, but to ensure that we don't expect our husbands to be God. This will free them up to be who they were designed to be- our husbands.

Are you staring at each other more than God? Are you painting a picture of Christ through your marriage? Do you always have to be right? Are you letting your husband be your husband? View your marriage in the light of eternity, and things look different. Check out for videos, discussion guides, and more!


Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Goodbye, Old Friend

Yesterday, Aaron and I said goodbye to an old friend. Or at least to what seems like an old friend. Really we had only known her for about three years. Before you get to be feeling too sorry for us, you should know that we really just sold Aaron's car. Good ole Tori. "She" was a '99 Ford Taurus that Aaron inherited from a great aunt in Texas.

It's funny how you can get slightly emotionally attached to a car. Or rather, attached to the memories that you associate with the car. As Aaron sat cleaning out his belongings from the car, I could tell that he was reminiscing a bit. Tori was pretty special to us because Aaron and I literally went on our first date the night before Aaron flew down to Texas with his grandma to get the car. They drove it back from Texas a couple days later, and then Tori was my boyfriend's car. And then my fiancé's, and then my husband's. She's the only car that I've really ever known Aaron to drive since he was mine.

Aaron almost sold her once, to help buy my engagement ring. But things fell through and he kept her around. He student taught, interviewed, and got his job in Tori. We went on a couple of road trips in her, and lots of fun dates. She was a loyal friend to Aaron on his drive to and from school. But because Aaron also has a truck that he bought in high school, we owned three cars, which just didn't seem reasonable. So it was time for Tori to move on. But she won't be going too far away: the man who bought the car is giving it to his grandson, who actually goes to the high school that I work at. Meanwhile, Aaron will drive his truck and we will save up for a new (at least to us) four door car.

So it's not goodbye, Tori, but see ya later, in the school parking lot.


Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Southwest Spring Break

As many of you know, Aaron and I have become quite the avid travelers over our last few years together. Marriage guarantees a travel buddy, and since we are both teachers in the same school district, we are blessed to have the same weeks (and months!) off of school each year. This equals awesome travel opportunities! Be sure to check out the bottom of this page, where I give some tips on traveling for CHEAP. Lord knows, us teachers have to get creative to travel on our salaries.

Last year we went on a crazy spring break trip to the Southeast side of the country. I'll fill you in on that more later. This year we decided to tackle the Southwest, but instead of doing all of our driving in our own car like we did last year, we decided to fly to and from Vegas, then explore from there!

What We Did:


Flew to Las Vegas and rented a car (first time renters!). Drove to the Grand Canyon and stayed in Williams, AZ, a cute little town about an hour outside of the national park. Go eat at Kicks on Route 66! It was so delicious that I wasn't even mad that Gonzaga ruined my bracket by narrowly losing to Duke.

Grand Canyon


Drove to LA. It was a pretty drive through the middle of nowhere where people pass you when you go 85. Explored Hollywood by open air bus and spent the evening at Griffith Observatory before finding Blaze Pizza in Pasadena. SO GOOD. Stayed in Moreno Valley that night at the Holiday Inn Express (for free!)


Drove back to LA, and spent the day at Venice Beach, Santa Monica Pier, and in Anaheim. We visited Downtown Disney and saw the edge of Disneyland. Had a great dinner at Cortina's Italian Market . We would definitely recommend it! Then we drove the hour and a half back to Moreno Valley and stayed again for free.

Muscle Beach


Drove to San Diego, an easy hour and a half drive. Saw the Sea Lions at La Jolla, went to lunch and took a nap on Mission Beach, and then saw Fremont Park. Checked out Old Town. Met up with some great friends and saw the Harbor, Coronado Island, and the Gaslamp Quarter. Stayed in Beaumont for free again!

La Jolla, San Diego


Drove to Las Vegas. Stayed on the strip at Bally's for two nights. (If you have a Total Rewards card from Harrah's you can get great hotel discounts!) I could seriously watch the Bellagio fountains for hours. Explored Fremont Street and Palace Station. Returned Car. Flew Back. Thank goodness for airplanes.

Bellagio Fountains
How We Did It:
Southwest and IHG Points made this a very reasonable trip. Our flights to and from Las Vegas were free on points, and they were running a great special where it was only 5,280 points each way per person. Normally it is about twice as much! The Southwest Rapid Rewards Program is awesome. Check it out at . Read this post to see how we earned points and used the card for six free flights!

IHG (Intercontinental Hotel Group) runs a special on Point Break Hotels, which means that you can stay at certain hotels all over the world for only 5,000 points a night. The point break locations change every few months. Click here to see the list of current point break hotels through January 31st! If you get the IHG MasterCard, you get 80,000 points, which means you could use this card for up to 16 free stays at hotels! Not all hotels are available for 5,000 points, but if you are willing to drive out a bit (like we did for Moreno Valley and Beaumont), then you can stay for free and really get the most out of this card promotion (Here's how)! We used this card last spring break as well, and didn't pay for a single hotel room.

Bally's Hotel Room

Vegas has cheap hotels, so long as you are flexible. We stayed at Bally's on the strip for the Wednesday and Thursday at the end of our trip, so that it was cheaper than the weekend would have been when we first flew in to Vegas. Get a Total Rewards player's card for free at your local Harrah's and you can sign in to online booking for great discounts. You can sign up at . 

We rented a car using Priceline Car Rental Bidding. You can name your own price at We ended up getting a Nissan Sentra through Hertz for a week for about $200. We really used it, and put 1,600 miles on it. It gave us the ability to drive to see the other cities, stay at hotels farther out for free, and we could drive off of the strip in Las Vegas so that we could eat for cheaper! We also recommend using Tix4Tonight to get cheaper meals on the strip. You pay $2 per person for a voucher, and end up saving $20-$30 dollars off of buffets at casinos! 

Fremont Street, Las Vegas

Nissan Rental Car

Trip Highlights (In No Particular Order):
  1. Aaron narrowly avoided an accidental speeding ticket leaving the Grand Canyon. The policeman noted that  we were in a rental and that he had been pulling foreigners over all day, so he just gave us a warning. Thanks, Officer Thomas. 
  2. We were somehow blessed to constantly find free parking spots on the street in the most random places and at the perfect time, which saved us over $20 in parking.
  3. While driving from LA to Las Vegas, a truck with a trailer swerved over in front of us and shot a rock into our windshield, making a dime-sized crack. I nearly had a panic attack as we were returning the rental, but it ended up being only $17 to fix it. Thanks, Cesar at Hertz. (Side note: Check with your credit card company when you rent. The card that we used actually offered us full insurance on the car, and it would have covered a replacement windshield if we needed to file an accident report.) 
  4. After sitting in two hours of traffic on I-15 North because of an accident, we pulled over to the next exit in the middle of nowhere only to find a line of about 20 people waiting for the one-holer bathroom at the gas station. When nature called outside, Aaron found a random black box on the back road, which ended up containing a really nice Canon camera. After chats with the gas station owner, people around, Canon, and the police, the owner couldn't be located, and we ended up landing a super nice new camera.
  5. When we visited Griffith Park to see the night view of LA, we hopped into a shuttle van and ended up narrowly avoiding waiting in line behind 50 people both on the way up and on the way down.
  6. Palace Station was running a $6.99 lunch buffet for rewards members, along with $3 in free slot play, so Aaron and I joined and got cheap lunch, free play, and a nice man gave me a free candy bar.
  7. We got to spend an evening with some really great friends who had just happened to move to San Diego!
  8. We had a great time just exploring together and getting away from the real world for a bit!

    All in all, it was an amazing trip. It's going to be hard to get back into the swing of the real world, but we had a great time.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Making a House a Home

It has been SO much fun making our house into a home. The time and money I would previously spend on clothes or things I wanted for myself now go towards decorating our house. I would much rather get a Hobby Lobby gift card than almost any other gift (unless it's a trip). My birthday's in July, by the way, if you're planning ahead.

Anyways, we moved into our sweet little home in September of 2013. It is our first home, and though we don't necessarily think we will live here forever, we do really love it and we could stay here forever if we needed or wanted to. It's in a great location, and has 4 bedrooms and 2 and a half baths, so there is plenty of room to grow (though no plans for that right now!). We also have a great outdoor space that we love. Last year brought on lots of fun changes involving a new roof courtesy of a hail storm, a concrete slab, a fence, deck staining, patio furniture, and squirrels in the attic. More on that another time.

One of the things I have enjoyed most about our home is that we didn't have to do a single thing before we moved in. Seriously. I loved the paint in nearly all the rooms, the carpets were nice, the flooring was good, and the previous owners had obviously cared about keeping the place up. Knowing that we didn't have to do anything before moving in was great, since we moved in right at the beginning of the school year. Not feeling forced to fix anything up before we moved in has allowed for the flexibility of taking our time and slowly changing what we want to over the last year and a half or so.

*Please note, the before pictures are the ones featured on Zillow from the previous owners. We didn't have any furniture in those rooms when we moved in, nor do we own children's beds or anything shown in the before photos.

This room was super cute for a little boy's room, but I wasn't really feeling the whole striped room thing for our lovely guests. We threw my old full bed (thanks Mom and Dad!) in this room with a navy blue comforter on it just to get by and have something for people to sleep on if they came to stay the night. This was my Thanksgiving Break project.
Cute for a kid, but needing some updates.


We found the windows for 8 bucks each at First Fridays down in the Crossroads district. I repainted the bookshelf that we had white, put up old red curtains that I already had in my room, and switched over our old comforter and throw pillows. We picked up a set of lamps at Nebraska Furniture Mart (one here and one downstairs), snagged the side table for $40, and used a coupon on a fresh paint color called Hops. 

Total Cost: Under $100

Let's be honest, this is the place where our TV and comfiest couch are both located, so naturally we spend the majority of our time in this room. Spending countless number of hours in this room really made me think about what I wanted to change. I already LOVED the color of the walls, but wasn't too crazy about the red above the mantle. I knew I wanted a pale neutrals look down here.

Cute and cabiny, but we needed to our our own spin on the room. 
(Plus it had no furniture in it when we moved in.)

This was definitely a process. Our coffee table is made out of an old door. It was teal and orange originally, and behind our cake table at our wedding. Aaron made it into a table, and I finally painted it white. Aaron also made the side table that the lamp is on, so I painted that too!  Our throw pillows were super cheap and I loved the pattern colors on the white ones- a pair I found at Marshall's. The light brown pillow covers I found at IKEA, and I threw them over some old pillows. Four pillows for under $30 is pretty good! The vintage Coke crate on the table was an $8 First Friday's find, and the fake plant was IKEA for $5.

Our couch was the one room splurge, a sectional from Nebraska Furniture Mart that offers the best naps! The curtains were Aaron's Grandma's, and we picked up the clock (that I love) on sale from Hobby Lobby.

I used the leftover paint from the guest bedroom to paint the area behind the mantle white and tie it more to the rest of the room.  We picked up most of the things on the mantle at Hobby Lobby, along with a few artsy wedding photos.
The newest addition to the room is the framed picture of Kansas City, which was one of Aaron's Christmas gifts for me! This room has been oh so fun to decorate.

This was the first room that I knew had to change. Though it was precious for their little baby, I wasn't digging the neon green and I also could see leaf decal impressions from previous decor. We had nothing in this room as far as furniture (and still really don't), so it was easy to paint.

Sweet for a baby room, but I wasn't feeling the neon.
 And when we moved in you only saw the walls so it was a bit shocking.

Again, we haven't done much. We painted the walls a pale gray/blue, and I picked up a few gray and white items including cheap chevron pillows from (gasp) Wal-Mart. My Grandpa's old rocking chair is in the room, but I need to fix the seat or find a way to re-cover it. If we live in our house long enough to have a baby, this will be the nursery area.

ROOM FOCUS: To Be Continued....
The next projects I'm tackling are small, cheap upgrades to our kitchen and bedroom. I'm also trying to make our front living room look like a room we actually care about. More to come on that later.