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 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." 

"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."

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 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 

Get to know me here

Authenticity? Is it the Only Quality Needed in Long Term Relationships?

I can't even count the number of times I have been asked how I knew Doug was "the one." Too many times to count! For a long time I would tell the story of the time I was having a bad day at work so he had pizza delivered instead of flowers. This response generally produced a laugh from the inquirer and I would move on with my day. 

Eventually, I was tired of hearing the question. 

I wasn't sure why it was on the minds of people I hadn't seen in years. Yet, there I was on a Target pit-stop being asked it again. Fed up, I snapped back with, "Why? WHY are you asking me that question? Why is EVERYONE asking me that question?" The graceful woman asking (not phased by my dramatics) thought for a moment. She said, "Well, to be fair...maybe I should rephrase. I think what people want to know is: how did you know he was worth marrying since you were wrong the first time?" Lost for words (a rarity) I laughed and gave the pizza story...then somewhat sprinted to the checkout. 

Wrong the first time. That phrase kept ringing in my ears after the conversation was over. 

I'm not sure if I will ever be at a stage in my life where I look back at my former marriage as being "wrong". Not because I'm avoiding admitting failure, but because I was in a completely different head space the first time I got married vs. the second time. 

Also, I don't feel that it is fair to my 20 year old self to identify her as wrong or shame her for doing what she thought was best with the knowledge she had then. 

After years of still having the question plague me at social gatherings and grocery stores, it began to pop into Last Marriages various inboxes. I realized that I wasn't being fair to my husband or my readers by giving the "pizza" response because, well...any guy could buy me pizza. I knew that as a blogger, rattling off dozens of reasons explaining why he's "the one for me" wasn't helpful. I started to understand that most of us have been burned by a relationship. Many of us just want some type of sign to know that we can trust again. I decided to take a bit to think how exactly to answer this question in a way that was honest and helpful. 

Surprisingly, I can sum up the answer into a single word: AUTHENTICITY

Authenticity is exactly what my 26 year old self thanked God for on her second wedding day. 

I thanked God that I didn't have a man that sent flowers when I was mad. Instead, I was blessed with one that somehow in the production driven world we live in sees romance in a single white rose for no reason. 

I was given a man that makes me laugh so hard I think I'm going to pee my pants while raking. 

A man who doesn't have to hide behind the allure of fancy restaurant menus. A man who feels just as comfortable taking me to Buffalo Wild Wings as he does when looking at me across the table from a $40 steak. 

A man who is confident enough to say things like "I'm sorry" and "what can I do better" when he screws up. No gas lighting because he gets that a person's perception is their reality. 

A man who isn't intimidated by the fact that I blast the imperfections of our relationship on the internet because he sees value in the one person it could help. 

I could go on and on...but, you get it. Do we have passion? Do cheesy things like his eyes and love of sports play a part in why I love him so much? Of course. But, his personal authenticity and desire for me to be my authentic self trumps it all.

You can't work with matter how white they are. You can't invest in someone who is shallow. You can't work long-term with the blame game. You can't survive constant criticism unless you want serious damage to your mental health -- nor do you deserve to. 

There isn't a special quiz you need to take to find out if he or she is perfect for you. 
There's no secret formula...and there probably won't be a moment where all the stars align and you hear violins. 

Instead, look within. Look for the relationships that you can be transparent in. Look for someone who doesn't ask you to lose yourself in them. Someone who accepts you the same way you would accept them.

For part one of LM's dating series, click here

Signs You Really Aren't Ready For a Long Term Relationship

Last Marriages has been live for two months. So crazy to believe. I am thankful for every one of you who share my work, conversations, and take the time to write and comment. Speaking of comments...there have been multiple questions filling my inbox in regards to dating. 

These questions have ranged from, "Why does every relationship I enter end badly?" to "Do you think the Bible applies to 21st century dating?"

You may wonder what business I have writing about dating since most of my 20's have been spent married. However, those who know me personally know that I believe dating lasts a lifetime. I don't think it ends when we get married nor do I believe that it is a term reserved for romantic love interests. 

I believe you should date (aka: make time for) your spouse and for yourself.

I believe in dating so much that it is in this blog's core valuesI think dating is essential to life because as humans we are constantly changing. We learn new things. We live through experiences that make us view the world differently. We lose and gain loved ones that mark our hearts forever. We change. Dating gives us time to connect through these changes.

As I prepared for this particular series I reread through the "dating" folder in my inbox attempting to figure out any common themes. Some of these emails were written by people I know personally. I thought of them and my admiration for them. I felt sadness as they described "train wreck" relationships that I also have experienced. Some of them were hurt by relationships that lasted years. Others weren't sure why most of their relationships lasted only a few weeks, yet some of their friends had been proposed to multiple times.

As I read through these emails I began to wonder...are these readers really so unlucky that they are finding the bad or "just not right" apples of the bunch over and over? Or, is it a possibility are they not as ready for a long term commitment (designed God's way, not their way) as they think? 

You may think that question isn't fair, but it truly isn't mean to place blame. It is meant to spark self-reflection. 

If you haven't noticed, this blog is one that focuses a lot on self-reflection. Even at the end of Conversation posts I try to have a "LM ACTION" to encourage us to reflect on how we would have handled that specific situation. Self-growth is POWERFUL! But, I believe we live in a time of the world where we feel forced to only experience happy feelings...a time where self-growth isn't as appreciated as clever marketing.

Unfortunately, self-growth requires some pain. It requires unhappy feelings. But, it can ultimately lead you to a place where you are actually ready for the type of relationship that a follower of Christ is worthy of. 

Many of us have been (or currently are) in a cycle of repeatedly falling into deep, instant love. As things take off we find ourselves compromising our goals and values (or expecting the other person to compromise theirs) for the sake of happiness. We then experience deep sorrow when the other person leaves us (or we think we have to leave them) because they no longer are a source of joy. When the relationship ends we wonder if we should have compromised ourselves even further for their happiness or if we should have been "less picky". Depression sets in as we were just so sure they were our "one and only"...our love story that gave us the same feelings as the ending of Sleepless in Seattle. But, whatever. That was three weeks ago and you need some fun this weekend. That guy you met a few months ago just changed his relationship status to "single" so you decide to DM him. After all, how will never find your soulmate if you don't keep trying?

If that sounds normal to you, you may be ready for long term bouts of infatuation...not a long term relationship.

I know some of you are reading this and screaming, "WHAT ABOUT ME?! I'm the OPPOSITE! I understand what commitment takes and I am looking forward to it..but every relationship I enter fizzles out in less than three months!!" Don't worry, I haven't forgotten about you :) 

Signs You Really AREN'T Ready For a Long Term Relationship

1. You ignore red flags.

 If those closest to you seem to always hate on those you date..well, may not have the best judgement. This might explain why you find yourself in a circle of dating person after person that it just "mysteriously" doesn't work out with. You can read more about this here

2. You are comparing your relationship to someone's you admire, a Hollywood love story, or social media. 

This goes back to society wiring us to enjoy happy feelings and marketing. You aren't going to find an exact copy of someone else's life so do yourself a favor and stop trying. Take a break from glamorizing other people's lives and learn to appreciate your own. 

3. After each relationship ends you find yourself wondering, "Was it really worth it?"

This one really hit home for me. It is a question I never thought of in regards to a romantic relationship, but it has crossed my mind when a friendship ended. I spent a lot of time wondering why I let that person into my life to begin with. It wasn't long before I realized that I had allowed myself to drift from who I really am in order to try to make that friend happy. That isn't the way God designed relationships. John 15:12 says, "Love one another as I have loved you." If you think about it...God never strayed away from the core of who He was and neither did Christ in order to please us. There are boundaries and respect.

Having this remorse at the end of any relationship could be a sign that the relationship itself was doing the opposite of helping you seek God and His truth. Believe it or not, there are amicable break-ups that occur where both adults leave the relationship appreciating what they learned and experienced with the other person. 

If you think this question after each breakup you experience, it could be a sign that you were distracted from God during that time and weren't as focused as you should have been at living out your own purpose.

4. You think the main function of marriage is to make you happy. 

This may be a tough pill to swallow...but no. Marriage at it's core was designed by God to bring us closer to Him. God has sacrificed so much for us and marriage will challenge you to make sacrifice after sacrifice. How often have you hurt God? How often have you had to ask for forgiveness? Just as much hurt and just as many apologies and seasons of grace take place in marriage. When we forgive our spouses it allows us to be more Christlike. It allows us to be humble and show grace. But, times like those usually aren't the definition of happiness.

This is why it's so important to marry someone you have a genuine friendship with. The bond and commitment of friendship will ultimately be what gets you through the times where you are sad, frustrated, bored, and uncomfortable.  

If you think the function of any long term relationship is to serve you, your needs, and your happiness...then you aren't ready for one.

5. You have sex with every person you date or you don't think relationships can be considered serious until sex takes place. 

Let's be real: 

sex can complicate and even manipulate emotions. 

If you are measuring relationship statuses on when sex takes place then you might be avoiding the intimacy of friendship mentioned in #4. In this day and age it's pretty easy to find someone who will be sexually intimate with you. But, a true partnership that has the base of an intimate friendship? That's rare...and that's exactly what lasting relationships are based on. Friendship takes more than dinner and a movie. It takes more than a sex. Don't confuse the intimacy of friendship with the intimacy of sex.

6. You aren't accurately projecting what you want out of dating.

This right here is messy stuff. In life we tend to attract what we project. If you continue to project what you are not...then you will never attract what you are. I don't think there is anything wrong with casual dating. However, if you are truly looking for something long term then you need to be secure in that. Own it! Don't play the part of someone who just wants to "have fun" if that really isn't how you feel. That's not fair to you or the other person! 

This may mean setting boundaries so you stop feeling like a doormat. It may mean not answering the "What's up?" texts that somehow find their way to your inbox after 9 PM. It may mean taking a break from someone who you know is just looking for something you aren't. It may mean that you get real about physical boundaries.

If you can not own what you want for your future and accurately communicate may not be 100% ready for a long term relationship. 

Do any of these ring a bell for you or do you feel like you can't relate? If there are another signs you can think of to help our readers, join us over in the LAST MARRIAGES [CONNECTED] Facebook group to discuss :) 

Books Read in 2017

2017's Reading List

Some of these titles are pregnancy/childbirth based as I was pregnant with my youngest, but I thought I would share in case you are interested :)

1. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

2. Keeping Faith by Jodi Picoult

3. The Armor of God by Priscilla Shirer
(This is a bible study. The videos to go along with it can be purchased on

4. Daring to Live on the Edge by Loren Cunningham
(this is my absolute FAVORITE book about finances within your home and your church)

5. Boundaries In Marriage by Cloud + Townsend
(We have read this book twice. So good!)

6. Every Breath You Take by Mary Higgins Clark

7. Husband-Coached Childbirth by Robert Bradley

9. A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

10. A New Season by Al + Lisa Robertson

11. The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

12. 13 Hours by Mitchell Zuckoff + The Annex Security Team

13. In A Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware

14. Ina May's Guide to Childbirth by Ina May Gaskin

15. Necessary Lies by Diane Chamberlin

16. Killing Kennedy by O'Reilly + Dugard

17. The Husband's Secret by Liane Moriarty

18.Twenty-Eight and a Half Wishes by Denise Grover Swank

19. Finding Me by Michelle Knight

20. The Silent Wife by A. S. A. Harrison

21. Safe Haven by Nicholas Sparks

22. The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman
(seriously...I could read this book twice a year. So. Good.)

23. Sacred Parenting by Gary Thomas

Books Read in 2018

2018 Reading List

2018 was a crazy year. I was in the process of starting this blog, working about 40 hours per week, and all three girls were 5 and under for most of the year. I committed to reading one book per month and barely made it. I loved all of these titles, but if you could only read two books in the next year I would make it #1 and #6. They are life changing. 

1. The Ministry of Ordinary Places by Shannan Martin

2. You'll Get Through This by Max Lucado

3. The Power of Forgiveness by Joyce Meyer

4. The Simplicity of Faith by Joyce Meyer

5. Did You Ever Have a Family by Bill Clegg
(One of my favorite fiction novels of all time. Thought provoking.)

6. Marked by Love by Tim Stevens

7. Twelve Ordinary Men by John McArthur

10. Sacred Marriage by Gary Thomas

11. Great Expectations by Charles Dickens

12. Change of Heart by Jodi Picoult

19 Books to Read in 2019

I am great at reading blogs, Instagram, and the news. When it comes to books...not so great. I can get a little unfocused (enneagram 7 here!) or I find myself skipping pages. Some of these titles I'm late to the party to read...but better late than never ;)

1. Love Defined by Kristen Clark + Bethany Baird

2.  Long Way Gone by Charles Martin

5.  Liturgy of the Ordinary: Sacred Practices in Everyday Life by Tish Harrison Warren, Andy Crouch

7. Everybody Always by Bob Goff

8. If Only You Knew by Jamie Ivey

10: Remember God by Annie F. Downs

11. Preach to Yourself by Haley Morgan

12. Soar! by T.D. Jakes

13. Imperfect Courage by Jessica Honegger

14. The Locust Effect by Haugen and Boutros

15. The Hole in Our Gospel by Richard Stearns

16. Jesus Feminist by Sarah Bessey 

17. A Grief Observed by C.S. Lewis

18. The Scarlet Thread by Francine Rivers

19. Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens

Yes, I know...most of these are non-fiction (don't hate!) and I have read Oliver Twist before. But, I read a Charles Dickens book every year and I can't remember the last time I read that particular one. I think the book I am most excited to read this year is Why You Think the Way You Do. It fascinates me how different we individuals of the human race think. I also have wondered how different I would be if I would have been raised in another country.

What books are you reading this year? Would you be interested in reviews of these books?

To see what I read in 2018 click here!