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Dear Privileged Adults -- Summer Sucks

As a child I loathed summer. Our vacation was a day at the county fair....as I listened to my parents fight about how they couldn't afford it....while crossing my fingers that our car didn't break down on the way there. Not very luxurious. I didn't grow up in a time where I could get a free lunch at the local elementary school. Even if I had, we were a one car family. There would have been no way for our mom to have taken us. Summer was spent in our back yard making memories as siblings and extended family that I wouldn't trade for the world, but in no way would I classify it as a season I looked forward to. 

As a grown-up? I absolutely love summer. However, at this stage of my life I would put myself in the "privileged adult" category.

I am by no means living it up, but we have a budget that allows us to pay most of our bills without fuss. I have two vehicles that start when I go to my driveway. They have working AC to combat the Indiana humidity. I can fill each of their tanks when needed. It wasn't the end of the world to call the AC repair man out twice in one weekend in May. I have a fridge with food. My grandma bought each of my children a handful of summer outfits to help with weather shift and their growing legs. While my current gig isn't glamorous, I have been able to work from home this summer. I wasn't scrambling to find child care for my kiddos during the break from school. Compared to how many Americans live...I would call those things a privilege. If I am not careful I can quickly forget how hard summer can be.

You may think what I listed in the paragraph above is basic or essential, but a majority of families don't have those things. You see, summer isn't a fruitful, fun, or cute time for many people in our communities. 

It isn't fun for the single parent working two jobs taking on a third to afford childcare during the summer months. 

It isn't fun for the elderly person who can't afford to replace their window AC. 

It isn't fun for the kid who was terrified for school to let out because they will have to spend the summer with an abusive parent. 

It isn't fun for the homeless parent you sneer at as they attempt to figure out how to find a place to live with their kids before the next school year starts. 

It isn't fun for the newly single person attending a wedding every other weekend. 

It isn't fun for the mom whose husband is working 12+ hours a day trying to maintain her sanity among dirty diapers and the Instagram highlight reels flooding her stories. 

It isn't fun for the human trying to stretch their food stamps to include an extra meal every day for 10 weeks. 

It isn't fun for the person who is living in their vehicle. 

It isn't fun for the kid trying to help care for their younger siblings as they watch their friends ride by on their bikes all afternoon.

It isn't fun for the friend who was expecting a summer baby that went to heaven as she attends baby showers and Meet-the-Baby-BBQ's. 



Take this post however you will, but I promise it is nothing more than a friendly reminder. 

A reminder to help you and I appreciate what we have this summer as we compare our "lack" to that blogger on a summer abroad. A reminder to think before you hit publish on that humble brag post gushing over how fun summer is...that it isn't fun for everyoneFor some this season brings hurt. There is no quick fix for poverty, homelessness, infertility, broken relationships, or any other issue your neighbor may be fighting. I'm not shaming you because you have a pool and/or working AC. You aren't a horrible person if you don't identify to much of what I listed above. I'm not asking you to attempt to be another person's savior. Actually, I'm screaming DO NOT attempt to be a "savior", because that can get ugly real fast

Take this whole "love one another" thing seriously. I'm not perfect at it. I'm literally the biggest work in progress. But, I am working on making a conscious effort to recognize the needs of others that I may not be aware of as I sit at the splash pad. I consistently pray that God will knock down any pride that I have on a daily basis. The more He does, the most I am convinced that "loving my neighbor" was never supposed to look like a burden, a battle of egos, or rocket science. 

This week when you are at the store, spend an extra $10 bucks on S'mores ingredients or freezer pops. Drop them off to the kids down the street. Make a double dinner one night to share. (Earlier this week I posted a few recipes that don't require you to do much cooking at all.) Keep a few $5 gift cards to the local grocery store or deli to hand to that homeless person on your morning commute. Ask how your SAHM friend is doing. Take her for coffee (yes, most moms chasing kids around all day will gladly drink coffee any time, haha) or a beer when her husband gets off work. Offer to be a "plus one" for the friend you know is struggling to smile through weddings...and be a wedding date that can't be topped! Instead of selling your kids clothes on Facebook or in a yard sale, give them away. Wave at the parent chasing kids in the yard. Offer to accompany them with grown up conversation on their porch or a walk. 

Most of all, take a moment to step out of your comfort zone and SMILE at someone. One of the biggest gifts you can give to another human is to know that they are seenNo scripture or Biblical references needed here. Regardless of your background or faith -- get up and love on purpose today. 

Busy Summer? Put Your Slow Cooker to WORK.

Unless you live in Northern Indiana, you are probably aware that summer has arrived ;) You may or may not know, but I am the slow cooker QUEEN. I own 4 of those bad boys...it's an obsession! In fact, we get so much use out of ours during the summer that we haven't refilled our propane tank since 2017! #WINNING 

I love summer. I love hot weather. I love squeezing every minute out of the sunshine that I can. I also enjoy cooking, but summer > cooking. The last thing Doug or I want to do is stand at the stove or grill creating a meal from start to finish. We would rather be playing tennis in our driveway (we classy like that), catching up with friends, or going down to the local elementary playground with the girl tribe. 

I know...you're probably yelling at the screen telling me the crock pot is for soups and beef and noodles. I promise it isn't just for fall and winter comfort food. One solution that we have found fits into the fun of summer has been to set up "bars" -- themed around whatever is in our crock pot. Not only does it make shopping for the week easy, but the girls have so much fun building their plates themselves.

We love the way this shredded chicken turns out for a taco bar. We are the only ones in our house who like chicken tacos, so in our mini crock pot we make a pound of ground beef for the kids. The slow cooker is my absolute FAVORITE way to cook ground beef for tacos. You have to try it!  We cut most recipes in half, but if there are leftovers we either freeze, save for lunches, or plan a "nacho bar" for later in the week. Here are other ideas to use up leftovers.

Baked Potato night is also a fav. Yep -- we LOVE them in the crock pot! It does make the potatoes softer if you rub a bit of olive oil on them before you place them in foil. Don't skip that step! The girls like to top theirs with chili and broccoli. Next to the big mama I have the mini going to warm up the chili. Seriously, the 2 qt crock pot is a game changer if you don't have one. Amy's is our go to!  To make broccoli prep faster, I buy the steam bags from the freezer section. Other ideas are bacon, cheese, chives, etc! Sweet potatoes work great too

We make this Sausage + Peppers recipe at least once a month. This is one of few meals that I can get everyone in our house to eat. The best part? It's even better reheated. We usually to serve this over a bed of lettuce with some rice or garlic bread. If your family doesn't mind some heat, I recommend throwing in a small jar of drained banana peppers

Last but not least, we love fresh peaches and this crock pot peach cobbler is bomb. Not quite as good as cooking a cobbler from scratch, but tit is a close second :D

Let me know some of your favorite ways to use the slow cooker year round! 

I sent a survey to you amazing people that stop by readers earlier this season. After writing about a broad variety of topics for 6 months, I wanted to ask what you wanted to read. I was surprised 82% of you responded you would like this space to share more lifestyle posts. I don't consider myself to be much of a "lifestyle" writer, but I am happy to share what helps keep my life sane from time to time :) 

PS: These are our all time favorite to-go containers to pack up those leftovers!

PSS: I really wanted to type "werk" in the title, but ya know.....

Who Are You Allowing to Qualify You?

Tongue twister of a title, I know. If you have followed along on Instagram then you may have seen a story I posted one day. I told my readers I have felt two verses on my heart lately. They are so heavy on my heart that I have spent way more time talking to God than writing. 

The first verse is Matthew 18:3 which I talked about here. The second being the idea that we are created in the image of God. I have actively attended church for almost thirty years and I'm not sure I have ever truly dug in to what that meant. 

Recently, I have found myself in conversations that have just broken my heart. People I love that have worked hard to start a dream, invest in their community, and more...only to be told by human judgement that they weren't qualified enough. 

I think in life it is natural to see that as defeat. It's natural to have a physical human right in front of you tell you "no" and to accept it as the end. You feel the sting of rejection and wonder if it was a sign that this avenue wasn't meant for you. There is a real temptation to trust the value or worth a human puts on you regardless of the tiny amount of time they have been present in your life. 

Then it all clicked as to why God was giving me those two verses. 

First and foremost, I encourage you and myself to start being more like a child today. Let go of the noise of this world as it attempts to put you in a box with a bow so it doesn't have to dig in and know who God is calling you to be. 

Remember falling on your bike and scraping your knee when we were kids? You would fall, roll your eyes, and wonder why knee pads weren't stylish. 

What happened next?

You got up. You got back on your bike and you rode home as blood ran down your leg. You ran in and sat on the counter as your mom put on ointment and a band-aid. She may have asked you to put the training wheels back on for a few more weeks or to consider staying home for an hour or two. But, you didn't. You got back out on the road with your colorful character band-aid and you rode all over that concrete


Gravity, a bloody knee, pain...none of it was going to ruin your freedom to be the cyclist you knew you could be. You didn't let your mom's perception of your skills stop the ride. Why? Because you knew that fall was not a defining moment of your day, summer, or life. 

How many times have you allowed others to you who you are? How many times have you allowed their judgement or criticism to hold you back? Do you know that the deeper you are rooted in Jesus the more life long freedom from this world you will find? Do you know He is always ready to encourage you to grow? Do you believe He is the person who will qualify you? Most of all -- do you know that He doesn't just qualify you? He also understands you because He dealt with human judgement as well. 

Think of how many times Jesus was put in a box. Think of the times Jesus was around a man or an organization that judged He wasn't the Messiah. Think of the end of His life and the people who claimed that He wasn't enough to be the Son of God. He experienced the same rejection that you do. 

What happened next? 

He got up. He rose again. He continued to be the image of His Father. He continued to work hard for His Father -- the image of love, redemption, fellowship, honesty, and grace. He had grit without demands. He saw the bigger picture. He saw the end goal and most importantly: He never gave up.

You have passions for a reason. Not everyone wakes up thinking like you. You are handcrafted by the only being we should desire to qualify us -- Abba. You were made in His image. You were made to do great things. When you follow your callings with confidence in HIM you won't have to be consumed with your skill set or human approval. God is in control and He will be the qualifying force all around you. 



Why I'm quitting #blessed

Over the last month I have felt a heavy weight on my heart that something just wasn't right in my heart. If you follow along with me on social media, you may have seen a post I put up stating I kept hearing the words "work in progress" play in mind. I prayed that God would continue to refine in me. That He would tell me whatever I needed to fix. 

Slowly, a post came to my mind that I made on my private Instagram and Facebook accounts showing my husband and three beautiful children on my birthday. I put in the caption that God showed me abundance in my 20's through the gift of them. While I do believe that my children are a nothing short of a miracle, I realized this wasn't the most accurate or fair way to describe Him. 

Actually, I feel convicted it was borderline rude. 

As I reflected deeper upon whatever God was up to in my heart, two incidents came to my mind. 

THE FIRST: I remembered myself as a child sitting in the pew at church. I couldn't have been more than 7 or 8 years old at the time. A team had just come back from a missions trip and we were watching a short video of what they accomplished overseas. 

I saw tiny children in t-shirts too big and some that were nude. I watched kids get fed, hugged, and played with. They didn't have parents the video explained. I looked around me and saw people's eyes well up with tears. I wasn't sad. I was angry. In my adolescent brain I couldn't believe that this many people in the audience thought these kids had it so much worse than myself and plenty of other kids I knew. The pastor got on stage and thanked the missionaries for being God's hands and feet. He then thanked God for the blessings we have as Americans. 

Again, I scanned the pews around me. People were nodding their heads in agreement. My brain just kept screaming, "WHAT IS WRONG WITH THESE PEOPLE?!!" In that moment, I felt like no one there could relate to me. I felt alone. I felt an invisible wedge between me and everyone next to me. 

These members must have never felt the pain of feeling like an orphan in the same room as their parents. They must have never experienced the embarrassment of asking the cafeteria staff to let you charge your account just *one* more time because even the reduced lunch rate was too much for their family. They must have never went to their Christmas tree and wondered why Santa didn't think they behaved as well as the other kids. The ones who got Game Boys, clothes, Barbies, AND a vacation for Christmas.

Like most kids, I asked an adult after the service to explain the situation to me. To explain why these kids were deemed "worse off" than kids like me. The adult explained that in America we work really, really hard. We have worked hard since we established this country. We have programs to help our own, unlike third world countries. The person explained that if I wanted better things in life, I would need to work and pray hard. I would need to go to college because that is the cure to poverty. I would need to do my best in life to obey God. I was told He would reward me for my faithfulness because all gifts are "from above". 

"Oh, so that's how God works?" I thought as I walked away. 

I went through the next few years of my life assuming that my family was cursed. I assumed we didn't deserve the things others had because if we did, God would have already provided them. I set out with a personal agenda to be the absolute best that I could. I didn't want earthly blessings like money, large homes, or jewelry so I figured the things I prayed for would eventually be given to me by God if I worked and prayed hard enough. 

As life went on I began to crumble under the weight of this desired perfection. I started to question the advice I had been given. In many ways, the roots of my faith had developed deeper than I ever imagined. I was far from the confused child in the pew. But, there were several instances along the way that made me realize the advice I had been given didn't really add up. 

I watched some of the most spotless humans I have ever known pass away from cancer. I watched friends get braces and wondered why I didn't deserve something as simple as straight teeth. I watched layoffs happen in my family while others still had a job. Didn't my family work as hard as theirs? Didn't we pray as hard as they did?

Later in life, I was even more confused. A friend who went to college was drowning in student loan debt making less per hour than I did. That friend lost his home. Wasn't a good, American education supposed to prevent that? A relative whose health I prayed for most of my life never improved. Wasn't American healthcare supposed to fix that? Wasn't God? A friend with unexplained infertility asked, "Doesn't God think I would be a good mom? Haven't I prayed hard enough?" as we watched a dead baby be pulled from a dumpster on the local news. I watched a local church close its doors with deep sadness. Hadn't they prayed hard enough? Wasn't God blessing their work? Where did they do wrong? 

As these questions filled my brain I reached out to a friend from high school who had just finished college for pastoral studies. "It's easy to understand why you are confused. What the person explained to you is pretty much prosperity theology, which I do not believe is the gospel," he replied. 

I had never heard of prosperity theology, but began diving in. I soon realized that most of my life had been spent associating earthly comforts as a sum of faith. You know what that means? It means that every time a less than desirable event would occur in my life the beliefs I had in not only my faith but also God's identity would be shook.  

Yikes. 


THE SECOND: More than 20 years after the unintentional bad advice in regards to how God "works" was given to me, I was in the drop-off lane at my daughter's elementary school. It was early December and chilly. The car in front of us was a bit older and it stopped running in the middle of the lane. As the driver repeatedly attempted to start the car, Hannah asked why we weren't moving. I explained the person had engine troubles.

"Why doesn't he just buy a new car?" she asked. 


"I'm not sure," I replied. As I drove away, I wondered if that was an appropriate response.

The next day we happened to get behind this car again. The same thing happened. In a row full of warm parents sitting in their mostly new vehicles, he tried to start the engine. Over and over. 

"Why doesn't he just pray for a new car, Mommy? Does he have a job? That's why we have this car right? Because you and Dougie work? Or did God give it to us? Why doesn't God give him a new car?" she asked. 

There it was...the same questions I had.

They were coming back full circle through the eyes of my six year old daughter as she tried to understand why our car started every single time it needed to, but his didn't. Only this time, I was on the other side of it. 

I wish I could tell you that I wasn't disgusted that the first thought that came to her innocent mind was that this man needed to work and/or pray. Not disgust with her, disgust with myself. At some point had I mistakenly regurgitated the same prosperity theology that was passed down to me?

The answer to those questions as I reflect back on that social media post made just weeks after that morning in my car, is a big no. I most likely haven't properly explained anything to her. As a grown woman with almost three decades of life lived, I sat behind the screen of my brand new iPhone in my cozy home and wrote a post for my friends about the abundance God has shown me through my husband and my children - the gifts I believed to be His personal blessings for me. 

"What is wrong with that?" you may think. "You thanked God for your family, not material possessions."

That's the lie I believed, too. But, I feel that post can be seen as a wedge between me and someone else. The same wedge I felt as a kid in the pew at church. I unintentionally declared a comparison: God gave me 29 years of life along with three babies and a great husband...what about you? 

That isn't who I want to be. That isn't the line I want to draw.

I don't know if I will ever understand why He found me worthy of these precious girls or my precious husband. I don't know if I will ever understand why I grew up the way that I did. I don't know if I will ever understand why there are still kids growing up the way I did. I don't know if I will ever understand why I have the material objects I do. I don't know if I will ever not cry when I look back at a decade of being on my own...a decade where utilities have never been shut off (although, there was that one time where I forgot to pay the electric bill for 4 months after Lindsay was born, haha!) and the mortgage has never been late. 

Most importantly, I don't know if I will ever be able to fathom that God thought I deserved the blood of His Son..the most perfect blessing I have. The blessing I would still have regardless of my home, my job, electricity, health, my husband, friends, or my children. The blessing that is available to any of us as the price was already paid. The mystery of His grace described by Paul in Ephesians 3. The gift that brought all of us together. That is the blessing I want to declare. 

I think the weight I am feeling over the last few weeks is a reminder to acknowledge the word of Jesus Christ in Matthew 5 and Matthew 18. I no longer want to see the ways I have grown and healed and as a destination. I want to continually humble myself back to who I was as a child that had very little pride or ownership in anything. I don't want to measure who I am by any type of blessing outside of the deity of Jesus Christ. 


I want Him to know that I still have room for Him.



I want Him to measure me. 




I want Him to use me. 




I want Him to refine me for whatever purpose He sees fit. 


I want to continue living like the work in progress that I am. 











Why I Love the Book of Psalms

A couple years ago, I was talking with a friend over coffee. She was telling me about her favorite Psalms. She was so enthusiastic as she listed off various reasons why. I sat there wondering if maybe I had judged the book wrong. Other than a select few verses, I thought the book of Psalms was a bit of a bore. I preferred to learn more about the history and grit of the Bible...not poetry.

Challenged by her admiration of the Psalms, I sat down and started reading them. I quickly realized this book may be one of the easiest to relate to in the Bible. There are several that prophecy the Messiah coming and events in his life. You can read more about those here. They are also quoted several times in New Testament scripture. 

What are Psalms?

The book itself contains 150 individual poems called Psalms. Psalms is derived from a Greek word meaning "words accompanying music."  There are multiple categories of Psalms, but they are generally broken down into three types: 
  • Hymns 
  • Lament
  • Thanksgiving
Hymns

These tend to be praise based. As you read them, you may even notice parts of them you have been singing for years from various praise and worship songs. Some examples of hymns are numbers 146-150. 

Lament

These were the Psalms that got to me the most. It can be hard to relate to the Old Testament when you already know how things worked out. I often hear people say, "Why doesn't God take away this pain?" or, "Why are things worse now in the world then they were in biblical times?" 

However, as you read the Psalms of lament, you realize that many had the same questions and thoughts that we do. Their first person accounts of grief and despair remind us that there was severe heartache as various events throughout the Old Testament transpired just as there are now as the world continues to unfold. Psalms 22 and 77 are examples of lament.

Thanksgiving

These are Psalms offering thanks and praise to God for what He has done and what prayers He has answered. One of my favorites in this category is Psalm 30.



Last summer Well Watered Women had a challenge on social media where we all wrote a Psalm out and reflected on it daily. As I took the time to write them, I realized what a blessing these words really are. They remind us to communicate with God. They remind us of our gifts and talents. They remind us to give thanks to Him for what He has done in our life. They remind us to be raw and real with our Creator. There is nothing you can say to scare Him away. If you have questions for Him, ask. We are fully known and accepted by Him. 


What book of the Bible to you relate to most? Which Psalm is your favorite? 

My favorite Psalm of all time is Psalm 34. It says, "The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit." When I read that I am reminded that I don't have to be happy all the time. I don't have to accept everything around me with a smile and shove emotions down just because I'm a "Christian" -- He has space for all of my emotions. All of my fears, trials, and failures. 

-- Cayla


Gals Helping Gals: Galentines + Giving Back


I had the honor of hosting a giveback event for Last Marriages on February 10th. A group of readers and I cozied up in my home and drank wine from Traveling Vineyard. We were supposed to be learning about the wine as well, but I'm not sure we learned anything other than -- that stuff is good  and buffalo chicken dip pretty much pairs well with it all, haha!! We each brought items to donate to the Elkhart County Jail Ministry and wrote out a handful of cards to the Cincinnati Children's Hospital. 


Together we collected over two dozen pairs of underwear, four dozen pairs of socks and almost $100 in gift cards that the ministry will give to inmates upon release. 


I wish I could tell you that I confidently planned this event with no reservations...but that would be a lie! 




Two nights before I texted my friend Rachel. I had anxiety because our floors still aren't finished (a project we have been putting off for almost two years) and we still have old 1960's interior doors up. Our small bathroom still needs remodeled.  As she reminded me that literally no one cares about the interior of my home, I had a moment of conviction: Satan was getting to me. It may sound dramatic, but it's true. He knows when you are doing something positive -- don't think for a second that he won't try to sabotage your confidence in it. God doesn't care about what home improvement projects have passed me by. But, He does care about the discipleship opportunities I let pass by. The times when He's pushing me to say "yes" and I choose "no". 

Do you ever have those moments? Where you look back and wonder where that anxiety even came from? I have hosted dozens of times before with the slightest care that my humble abode is still a "remodel in progress". Yet here I was...less than 48 hours away from a giveback event that I put so much of my heart in while having a mini panic attack.

As I sat in my house looking around at the metal chairs some guests would have to sit in, I really had to stop and say "thank you" to God. The very women this event was for didn't have a place like mine to go to sleep in that night. My house in its current state is one of the nicest places I've ever lived. I have a healthy body that was able to grocery shop, prepare food, and clean my home beforehand. Most of all, I have to thank Him that I live in a community of women who is striving to improve Michiana for everyone. 

Here are some of those amazing women working to make
Michiana better! 

I don't know who this post is for but hear me loud and clear: The times you feel the least qualified are the times you need to take the biggest leap. On the other side of fear lies the person you were created to be...the changes you were born to make. When you are thinking you can't? That is absolutely when you CAN. 

We had two doulas in attendance...which meant lots of talk about 
birth, empowerment, and mamahood! 

I think one of my favorite moments of the afternoon was when a woman told me it was one of the only events she had attended alone since having kids. I was so proud of her for taking time out of her busy life for her community and for herself. It reminded me even more of how often I need to focus on what I can do, instead of what I can't do. 


A big thank you again to Shelby for taking the time to teach us all about wine and laughing. She sent me the wine list beforehand as well as menu ideas for pairings which made meal prep a breeze! 



An additional thank you to Tabitha who came over early to help prep as well as vendors who donated items for the raffle! 



I am inspired by each of you who attended Gals Helping Gals + to those who dropped off donations that couldn't attend. As always, I couldn't do half of what I do without my handsome, giving husband who works hard behind the scenes to help. 

If you would like to be involved in the next Gals Helping Gals event, please sign up for the Last Marriages newsletter :) 

-- Cayla



CONVERSATION: Did You Know There Are Lost Sheep Inside of Your Church?

When I saw the conversation portion of Cayla's blog, I knew I had to write. I do not have an intriguing title like I wish I did. I am not sure if what I have to say fits in with this space, because I am not someone who was hurt by any church member or organization directly. Due to a string of events that have taken place during my church journey though, I do feel like I have some stuff to say and a challenge for anyone willing to read.  

I believe many of us see when someone comes to church regularly that they have it all figured out. Well, they don't. Did you know that there are lost sheep right inside of your church? 

My mother died of a heroin addiction years ago. Many Christians would hear that and assume she never went to church. But that's a lie. She went to the same church most of her adult life. 

I remember we would leave church on Sunday's and then not hear from anyone after. At church we youth group kids were inseparable, but even at school we had our own cliques. Kind of like grown ups I guess. Each one with their own friends and careers and responsibilities. Other than a casserole dropped off after my father's funeral it was like we didn't exist outside of those Sunday mornings. My mom didn't have time for the choir or many of the other groups so I always figured that was why. I accepted it for what it was. 

While my mom was still attending church, I grew up, had my own kids, and moved a few states away. I would call my mom and ask her if she'd been spending time with any of the women from church of had a chance to check out any groups. The answer was always "no".  She would say everything was "fine" and I would leave it at that.

When my mom died from her addiction to heroin, I didn't think anyone local would be shocked. I thought I would be the odd man out - you know, the son who didn't know because he moved away. I figured I would hear at least one story about the signs someone saw of her drug use. I was wrong because her church congregation was just as surprised as me. Turns out the friends from the church she attended for almost 20 years had no idea. One person said to me, "I feel so bad. I didn't know there was a lost sheep in our congregation."

Those words have stuck with me for a long time. Just thinking of my mom as a "lost sheep" in a church she went to weekly used to make me feel sick. Even I would take her still attending church as a value of all being right with her soul. Obviously it wasn't. So tell me, why is it we believe the people outside of the doors are hurting more than those inside? Is it because we are protecting our own vulnerabilities to the point that we can't help the vulnerabilities of someone who is right in front of us?

It is hard to even tell this story because I'm not blaming the actual church facility she went to. That is part of why I asked for my name to be left off of this post. Also, there are many people who walk around daily with heroin addictions and no one knows. I just want to encourage us to check on those outside and inside of our congregations. Ask God to encourage your mission field for where you are as well as where you could be. 

After receiving this submission I realized I needed to brush up on this specific parable. I agree with the author that often when I think of the parable of the Lost Sheep (Matthew 18:11-14) I often am drawn to think of those who do not yet know God...those who do not sit inside church with me. I remember learning this parable as a child and being told, "If you truly know God you never turn away. If you do turn away, you were never really saved." 

As I reread this parable, I realized I (and the person explaining it to me earlier in life) may have missed the point. 

The parable doesn't state that the shepherd owned 99 sheep and randomly searched for one additional sheep to make it an even hundred. Instead, it reads that the shepherd already had all 100 sheep in his care when the one went away. He then chased after it and safely brought it home. It also states that he was happier about the one who returned than the 99 that didn't wander off. 

In this specific conversation piece, we read of someone who sat in the pew (AKA, one of the 99 in the flock) most Sunday's that was most likely not in the best place emotionally. But, it may have been assumed by others that because she was still inside the walls each Sunday that things could not have been dark for her. Although the parable tells us that the shepherd was happier with the one who returned, it also clearly states that he did indeed go back to his flock. He knew that they needed him just as much as the one. He knew that all one hundred were stronger together. He didn't assume that they could make it the rest of their lives without Him. He didn't forget about any of HIS sheep and neither should we. 

-- Cayla







The Art of Date Night In + GIVEAWAY!

Rummikub, Triominos, and Mastermind...oh my!

Today is the last of LM's dating series. I am so proud of how this community came together to give each other advice, guidance, and some laughs. 

I will be the first to admit that as important as I think dating your spouse is...it can be tough. I remember we went through a stage where it seemed like we just weren't connecting during those nights in. But, with three kids 5 and under we knew we had to find a way to make it work. 

We quickly realized that there was an art to date night in. 

For us, it has to take place once the kids are in bed or distractions from work stop. We found that it was tempting to fall into our usual evening routines. We had to practice being present and intentional.

Light some candles. Put on your nice pair of yoga pants (raise your hand if you own a dozen in black like me). Hold hands. Find what works and what doesn't.

Whatever it takes to shake things up enough that you don't feel like roommates.



The first item on the date night agenda that wasn't working for us was cooking dinner. You guys know from my Pinterest page that I am ALL about cooking. It is my main hobby. However, after working all day, chasing around kids and getting them ready for bed...there was nothing left but yawns over a hot plate of food that might be ready by 9 PM...on a good night. Not exactly date night material. 

I decided to accept that cooking a meal from scratch wasn't the focus: my marriage was. 

So, I begrudgingly put up my apron and we started reserving our favorite pizza brand, Home Run Inn for these nights in. Here in Indiana we have to enjoy it frozen, but it is seriously the best pizza. On their website they include a beer pairing guide and we feel great knowing that they actively participate in giving back to their community throughout the Midwest + the world. As of January 2018, they have served over 600,000 meals! AMAZING! 

The next change? We had to accept that realistically we weren't going to be able to finish any movies on a regular basis. For awhile we thought Netflix was the answer. We figured we could commit to staying awake for an hour.  Unfortunately, these nights in started to feel like any other night of the week. 

You know...nights that start with the best intentions, but before you know it you're both scrolling Instagram and dozing off. 

We decided to try to tap into our competitive side and implement more game nights. We found out the hard way that it is a challenge to find 2 player games that can keep your attention with a good pace. 

Thankfully, we found Rummikub and have been addicts ever since. 

All photography by Lauren, 4 years old...which means lots of laughs.


Rummikub is easy to learn and fast moving. Although there is some strategy to it, it does leave plenty of space for conversation. You can play with 2 - 4 players and it is suitable for ages 8 and up. You can easily have the kids join you, turn it into double-date entertainment, or a fun night with friends.

If you follow my stories on Instagram then you know we consider Rummikub to be THE date night essential! 

I'm thankful for Pressman Toys because they are sponsoring a giveaway for this dating series! 


This giveaway includes a beautiful deluxe solid wood Rummikub set (jealous of whoever wins it!) AND a bonus entry option to win a deluxe set of Tri-ominos. Pressman is spoiling my readers and I'm here for it. 

You all mean more to me than you know. I think I have the best readers on the planet and I am beyond blessed to be able to give back. 

Click here to enter! 



Tips For Dating While Single & Dating While Married

This is post three of Last Marriages Dating Series. On the first day we discussed the fact that you may not be as ready for a long term relationship as you think. Yesterday we discussed that authenticity may be the only thing you actually need to look for while dating. Today's post is a bit more fun! I asked members of our Last Marriages [CONNECTED] group for dating advice and I asked followers on our Instagram. Sit back and enjoy :)


For The Singles:


"Stop looking at every guy or girl you meet through a 'potential' spouse lens. See them as friends first. It will be more fulfilling in the end regardless of how the relationship proceeds." 
- Emily

"Use what you learned from previous relationships and don't settle. I feel like it's so easy to feel like you HAVE to have that next relationship since you aren't use to being alone. But, if something feels off or not 100% don't force it. There is no shame in dating around after a break-up or divorce." 
- Ashley

"I always hear from singles that they can't find someone interested in them so they go to Tinder or bars. WRONG. Volunteer in your community, serve at church, go to a conference or on a missions trip, try a new gym or workout class, join a small group, etc. There are many ways to expand you circle outside of alcohol and apps.You just have to get up and get moving." 
-Zack

"I know that we have all heard this advice before, but its true: you usually find love when you aren't looking! Focus on the advantages of the time you have when single to explore the world around you. Be selfish because it will be a lot harder to do after tying the knot. See this time as a luxury...not a curse." 
- Angie

"Don't take things too seriously too quickly. Have fun and get to know each other really well before getting really serious." 
- Sandy

"Do your best not to compare each relationship you are in to an ex. If you can't help but do that then you may not be over the relationship yet."
-Amanda

For the Long Haulers:

"It's so important to understand what season you are in. You may not be able to wine + dine while the kids are young or go on vacations alone like you did while dating and that's okay. It most likely won't be that way forever. As the kids become more independent your marriage will get to experience those types of connections again." 
- Emily

"LAUGH A LOT. With each other and at each other. One of the things that drew me to my husband is that he can always make me laugh so hard that I feel my bladder might burst! It makes all the bad days better and reminds me not to take everything so seriously."
- Heather

"Consider scheduling sex. It sounds unromantic and unnatural, but after a few times you will start to look forward to it. I can honestly say that part of why my first marriage struggled was because I didn't take our sex life seriously."
- Sara 

"We started 'yes' days with our kids after reading the book Yes Day! a few years ago. My husband and I were in a rough patch. I placed a lot of blame on him, but I realized we just didn't know each other like we used to. We could either see that as an end or a chance to grow. We chose growth! We decided to each plan our own 'yes day'. Those days had enlightened us as parents so we figured it couldn't hurt as spouses. I've learned a ton about my husband and it took the pressure off of the redundant 'what do you want to do' cycle of questions that's so easy for married couples to get stuck in."
- Kim 


You guys made my heart burst with these suggestions! The wisdom and love that my readers choose to pour back into one another never ceases to amaze me. 

Believe it or not, I get a lot of slack because "dating" is in the blog's core values. I've been told it isn't necessary to schedule time for one another and that it ruins spontaneity. I beg to differ. Actions speak louder than words...and scheduling time for the people you love should never be seen as anything but positive.

I noticed that a common theme among these tips is not to take one another too seriously. I posted this in the group...but, for those not in it I thought I would tell this story. At some point in our marriage there was a day when Doug randomly said, "I feel like we never laugh together anymore." As an enneatype 7, I took this very personally, haha! But, he was right. 
Somewhere in the midst of goal chasing, kid raising, and diaper changing we had stopped laughing together. It was sad. But, like most things in life...it was fixable. 

If you are in a similar situation where the fun feels gone then I encourage you to take some advice from those above -- Find a way to bring the laughter back.

I loved all of the tips that were submitted! Doug and I are each planning a "yes day" which I'm excited for. Have you used any of the advice above? What tips do you have?

-- Cayla 

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