I wrestled with God this weekend, and here’s why.

I’m still detoxing from New York City.

 

For the two years I lived there, I tried to convince those still residing in my Midwestern hometown that the trees and grass of Central Park were all the nature I’d ever need. Cars were overrated. That all the weird smells and trash-lined streets only existed on the Lower East Side and – hey, you become immune to the honking of taxis after awhile. It’s all part of the City’s symphony, I’d say.

 

Three months after moving back to the Fort, I’m living in an apartment complex that looks like a state park. I’ve got a lake surrounded by huge sycamore trees outside my bedroom window. I’m driving a Jeep. I’m realizing that although some of what I said was true—the City is this sparkling, romantic jewel—much of it wasn’t entirely factual. I like cars—I like having a drink holder for my Starbucks on my morning commute. I LOVE looking out my back window over a quiet winter scene and taking in the fresh falling snow. I love being able to afford a full one-bedroom apartment now instead of crashing in a living room (as great as that was!).

 

But, there are still some nights I’ll never forget. Example:

 

It was the first summer I spent interning in New York. My mom and a few of our close girlfriends had come to the City for a weekend full of Broadway shows, Soho shops, & Brooklyn brunches. As much as we all wished that weekend would last forever, Sunday evening finally came & I went back upstairs to my apartment to shower while they ran out to grab crepes. The problem: I forgot to give them keys to get back into my building. I ran back downstairs to let them in, & we decided to sit on the steps and eat for a minute. As we talked and laughed, we saw a man wearing clear sunglasses and a black / gold velvet blazer walk out of the restaurant across the street. It was BONO.

 

As I tried to secretively snap a few photos, two more people came out surrounded by bouncers. The woman looked down at her pale yellow dress, as the man high-fived Bono and followed her to the car. As they got closer, we recognized them—Jay-Z and Beyonce.

 

It was my first celebrity experience in NYC. I told my mom the next day how absolutely incredible it was—Bono having dinner with J & Queen B?! WHAT. She chuckled a bit and said, “Kenz, I was praying for a fun & memorable thing to happen on our last night here. I felt like you could use it.”

 

…and God answered my mom’s prayer with Bono, Jay-Z, and Beyonce.

 

This is a true yet superficial example, but the point is: my mom prays prayers that God answers.

 

Two weeks ago, life was quite stressful, and I was facing pressure on a couple of fronts. My heart was like a soldier, weary from the fight and feeling quite beaten down and broken. I’d prayed all day for peace and calm, but my insides continued to feel unsettled. My mom came over in the evening, wrapped me up in her arms, and prayed for me—over me, over the external circumstances, and over my heart. She prayed with quiet, confident tone—and this overwhelming peace immediately settled over the room. God answered her prayer swiftly, immediately, and completely.

 

She and I were Christmas shopping last night and, as we searched for the perfect gifts for family and friends, I caught her up on the things I was currently praying for and about in my life. Standing in Target’s Christmas section, sifting through sparkling lights and reindeer ornaments, I jokingly asked her, “Mom, why does God answer your prayers? Even for the smallest, seemingly frivolous things? I could pray for the same things, but when you pray, He truly answers swiftly.”

 

She answered me with unexpected seriousness: “When you pray, do you believe Him to work?”

 

“Well, yes…” I said cautiously.

 

“Really? Truly? Or deep down, do you doubt that you can trust Him?”

 

She and I both knew the real answer.

 

You see, there are things I’ve been praying for over the span of years. The kind of desires that feel intertwined with your heart, which you only dare to pray for in those most personal moments as you nestle under the covers or as the day is breaking. Things that I’ve petitioned God for while lying face down on my living room floor, through strong words, and through tears. Things I’ve wrestled with God over. But when weeks, months, and years go by and those prayers aren’t answered—what then?

 

My “what then” became continuing to pray, while trying to craft contingency plans on my own. I allowed my misunderstanding of His intentions and disagreement with His timing to breed distrust. I held a sentiment where my prayers said, “God, I believe you to work this out” but I followed that up with actions that said, “I don’t think this is on Your radar, or I don’t trust that you’ll make it happen. So I’ll just take care of it because I know what I need.”

 

In retrospect, that perspective has only brought heartache. Robbed me of joy. Dampened my hope. I would continue to offer things in my life up to Him as a sacrifice, only to find days—even moments—later that my sacrifice had crawled off of the altar.

 

My heart has longed to hope, to trust, and to allow Him to bring about His best. But, doing that requires me to relinquish my grasp on my life—on these things I hold close to my heart. And that requires a complete vulnerability with God, an openness, a giving over of my entire being to Him.

 

To be entirely honest, I’ve wrestled with Him over this all weekend. Clearly, this is difficult. I’d actually hoped I’d dealt with these trust issues long ago.

 

I want to trust Him, but my heart still continues to ask if that’s safe. If He will protect my hope. If His plans are truly those that are best for me. If I can trust His heart.

 

His answer keeps coming to me in a gentle whisper: “Yes. I want you to live free.”

 

Because, actually, trusting Him with my life isn’t dangerous or risky. It’s the safest bet I can make. He wants to take the wheel – He’s dealt with my stresses, worries, and failures. He only looks ahead, and He wants to bring things into my life beyond my wildest dreams – things I would never have the power to make happen on my own. And that frees me to enjoy the ride.

 

It’s a giving of my entire being to Him, because only He is capable of bringing the things that will fulfill my deepest longings and allow me to live the life He has planned for me—the life I’ve always imagined. Living life with a Kingdom perspective, praying with confidence, trusting His will – and living free.

 

“Truly I tell you,” Jesus replied. “if you have faith and do not doubt…even if you say to this mountain, ‘Be lifted up and thrown into the sea,’ it will happen. If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask in prayer.” ~ Matthew 21:21-22

 

“Your Heavenly Father knows that you need these things. Seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all of these things will be added unto you. Don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.” ~ Matthew 6:32-34

 

 

 

 

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5 Best Christmas Gifts Under $35

11 days.

If that number strikes fear into your heart, it’s probably a sign that you’re still scrambling to find the perfect Christmas gift. I get it.

In fact, I’m right there with you. Tough to believe, I know, because my last few blog posts have been full of fabulous places to shop and wonderful experiential ideas! You better believe that I’m planning to #shoplocal this weekend, and that there are some fabulous “experience” gifts waiting for family and friends under the tree…

…but, it doesn’t cover everybody. There are still people that are either A) so special or B) so selective that I’m still #desperatelyseekingpresents for! #TheStruggleIsReal.

And, I’ll be honest – with my move this year & just buying a new Jeep with cash, I’m a bit low on $$ too.

So, if you’re at all like me, here’s an early Christmas gift to you: my top 5 favorite gifts under $35 that you can order online today! This hour! This minute!

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(Photo credit: Rhea Kulcsar)

A brilliant ring from coveted NY designer, Rhea Kulcsar ($30)

I met Rhea while shopping at the Chelsea Market over the summer, and own a couple of her pieces – like the Gold Floating Crystals Ring and the Cylinders Bangle – which I LOVE. (I’m wearing the bangle right now, in fact!) If you’re looking for the perfect Christmas present that makes them say “WOW” without taking too much out of your Christmas spending budget, I’d suggest one of her many fabulous rings. Each is a work of art, but I’d suggest her Delicate Baguette Ring or her Moon + Star Adjustable Ring.

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(Photo Credit: Chemex)

A handblown Chemex Glass Mug ($16)

“The perfect balance of form and function.” Say “Chemex” to any coffee aficionado, and their eyes will immediately light up. It’s a high-end brand known the world over for its elegant coffee maker which has won design awards and “makes perfect coffee.” Their Coffeemaker Kits start at $59.70 – but, they also make a handblown glass mug with the same iconic Chemex design, and available for only $16! The best part: You don’t have to drink ONLY Chemex coffee in the mug 😉 So, it’s a safe bet for any coffee lover on your list – whether they have a Chemex or not!

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(Photo Credit: Better Homes and Gardens)

Tillandsia, or “Air Plants” (5 for $15)

The succulent craze has been sweeping the nation for years now—so why not gift your friends a tasteful terrarium with their very own air plant? Air plants are succulents – except, they grow and even thrive without soil. You can purchase 5 of them on Amazon for $15 ($3 / plant) and then purchase a 3-pack of hanging terrariums for $13! (Note: the air plants will not arrive in bloom yet, so it may be best to gift that one as a gift.) You can either give all five plants in three terrariums to the same person, OR this could become a gift for three people – making each one just $9-10 a piece!

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(Photo credit: Tarte Cosmetics)

Tarte Cosmetics Limited Edition Rainforest of the Sea Hydration Travel Set ($29)

I am a huge believer in Tarte Cosmetics. In the summer, I love to use their Foundation – made from Amazonian clay, the foundation lasts 12-hours, provides a soft matte finish, and is also vegan friendly. But, the winter causes skin to dry out, and you need a solution to take care of that, too! Enter the Tarte Limited Edition Rainforest of the Sea Hydration Travel Set – it includes customer favorites, like the Deep Dive Cleansing Gel, Drink of H2O Hydrating Boost Moisturizer, Pack Your Bags 911 Undereye Rescue Patches, and their 4-in-1 Setting Mist. And, all first-time Tarte buyers get $10 off their first purchase today if you sign up for their email list – so that brings the set to just $19!

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(Photo Credit: Saturdays NYC)

Saturdays Surf NYC Coffee ($13.50)

Saturdays Surf NYC has taken off as of late, and grown into a global fashion brand. It still holds true to its roots, though, and its start as a surf shop that sold coffee is still at the heart of the company’s philosophy. Give your coffee connoisseur a taste of the good life with a blend of beans from Saturdays NYC – just $13.50.

5 Last-Minute Gifts that Will Also Be The Best Ones Under the Tree

Moment of honesty: I really don’t like getting people “things.”

I think it’s part of the reason I’m so bad at Christmas shopping. I keep holding out, thinking, “This would be a good gift, but it’s not it. There’s something missing. I want something that’s just a little…more. Something that feels right.” If you’ve ever been stuck in this holiday gifting rut, I know exactly what you feel—and, I’ve figured out the perfect solution. Track with me here:

How do you find the perfect Christmas gift when no gift seems to fit? What do you buy for the person who has everything?

Answer: Gift experiences.

Sometimes, the best things to give aren’t things at all. The best way to light up someone’s face on Christmas morning can be with a wonderfully thoughtful, personalized experience.

My parents are MASTERS at this art. One Christmas, they drove my brother, cousin and I to the Disney store. They told us to hold out our hands for our Christmas present. And, when we opened our eyes, we were all holding Mickey Mouse scarves. We looked at them, a bit perplexed. They were both smiling ear-to-ear, and we couldn’t quite figure out why.

“For your Christmas gift this year, we’re going to DISNEY WORLD!”

And after an initial moment of shock and surprise, our faces lit up and we started jumping up and down, hugging our Mickey Mouse scarves and each other. It was magical.

Now I am NOT saying that you should buy your mom, dad, sister, cousin, or significant other a trip to Disney World (unless that’s your thing – then you do you!).

But we ARE in the Christmas crunch time! So let me help you out with five outstanding home-run experiences to gift this Christmas that you can put together in less than a day!

To make it easy on you, I’ve listed what you should put under the tree, and what the real gift should be to maximize the shock & awe value.

Less than $50:

*Under the tree: Buy a trendy wallet or card holder. Fill it with $20-$50 worth of $5 gift cards to the gift receiver’s favorite places – including coffee shops, movie theaters, stores, etc. (That’s 4-10 gift cards!) Wrap + put under the tree.

Total gift: When they open the wallet, tell them it’s good for an afternoon out with you. Use the gift cards to grab coffee and go shopping, see a movie – whatever you’d like!

*Under the tree: Place a new workout top, lux fuzzy robe, or slippers.

Total Gift: Tell the gift recipient that you gifted them a spa day or fun workout class – like Pilates, Yoga, Cycling – something fun for both of you to do together! Follow it up by getting juice / coffee and giving the gift of time.

*Under the tree: This one is a bit flexible. You can beautifully wrap the person’s favorite bottle of champagne, two candlesticks, two champagne flutes, two napkin holders—whatever you’d like!

Total Gift: When the gift recipient opens the package, let them know that the gift is that you’d like to make him / her a special dinner! Tell them the date, and that the meal is a surprise. On the night of, go all out – set the table to reflect their style, make their favorite dish, and top it off with their favorite drink / dessert!

(HINT: You can make this a gift for your parents, too! Offer to make them a delicious dinner & give them a memorable evening.)

Less than $100:

*Under the tree: Hop on Ticketmaster, and find a concert, show, or event coming up that the gift recipient would really enjoy. You can search Fort Wayne, Indianapolis, Chicago, Kalamazoo – wherever! Then, buy the gift recipient something that relates to the show. Maybe it’s a t-shirt from the band, a shirt / accessory for them to wear to the show, a punny gift that gives them a hint as to what you’re seeing (e.g., a cat stuffed animal for the musical Cats), something that represents the city you’re going to to see it (e.g., Chicago-style pizza for Chicago)…get creative and give them something that will make them say “WOW” or will make them laugh! Wrap your package with this gift on top, and the tickets underneath.

Total Gift: Well, take them to the event of course! Make it a fun outing – get coffee before or drinks after. Give them a memorable (and Insta-worthy) evening.

Less than $250:

*Under the tree: There’s all sorts of travel deals this time of year! Find one on a great hotel / lodge / B&B between 45 minutes and 3 hours away. (I’d recommend searching AirBnB, Priceline, Hotwire, HotelTonight – even the hotel / lodge themselves may be having a special!) Write three clues to where / what it is, and place them in separate envelopes under the tree. When the time comes, have the gift recipient(s) open one at a time, and try to guess where they’re going!

Total Gift: Take the overnight with your special someone, friend(s), or family! One room usually sleeps 4 people, so this one is also perfect for gifting to a close group of friends or the fam.

Have other great ideas for Experience Gifts? Email them to me at info@kenzi-caudill.com!

5 Places #ShopLocal & Find the Perfect Gift

Baby, it is COLD outside.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been slowly saying goodbye to warm weather things and saying hello to the styles and traditions of the Christmas season. I’ve said adios to sandals and brought out my stilettos, traded in light leather jackets for full-on fur vests, and – last night – put away my zippy BMW Z3 convertible (the “James Bond” car) and took out my new Jeep Cherokee Sport with 4-wheel drive.

Just in time too, it seems! As I’m sitting here, writing this note to you all, I’m staring at a scene reminiscent of a Thomas Kinkade painting—mug of tea in hand, fire in the fireplace, 5 inches of snow outside.

You know, it’s beginning to look a lot like…

WAIT. I HAVEN’T EVEN STARTED CHRISTMAS SHOPPING YET.

Now, if you’re like me, you have one of two options:

  1. Scramble to find something on Amazon and ORDER ORDER ORDER – hoping it gets here in time! (Let’s use those Prime memberships, people!)

OR

  1. You can find gifts for him or her that are 100% unique, high-quality, uber trendy, and incredibly thoughtful – best of all, you could even have your Christmas shopping done this week! (No sitting with fingers crossed, hoping your package arrives in time!)

“Of course, option #2!” you say. “That sounds exactly like what I want. What goodness is this that sounds to great to be true? Teach me your secrets, oh Kenzie!”

Okay, well, maybe that’s not EXACTLY what you said. But sure, I’ll share my secret anyways! Here it is:

SHOP LOCAL.

Fort Wayne is full of one-of-a-kind stores and boutiques, many of which just opened this year!

I’ve listed a few of my faves below.

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Idlehour: This fabulous spot is a thoughtfully curated athleisure boutique, selling everything from luxury activewear to all-natural soaps and lotions to beautiful accessories, baubles, and paper goods. The owners are on the pulse of the “studio-to-street” trend, and even serve wine and goodies in the store on occasion! There’s lots of trendy gifts (including bralettes!) for under $35. (Plus, I teach Pilates at Pure Movement next door, so you & your girlfriends can stop in after shopping to take a Pilates class with me! Email info@kenzi-caudill.com for details!)

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(Photo Credit: Dancer Concrete Design)

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(Photo Credit: The Find FW)

The Find: Perfect shop, perfect selection, perfect location. The Find just opened inside the new Ash building downtown – right next to the Golden! (HINT: So you shop on your way to / from brunch!) The Find has a fun selection of gifts, mens & women clothing, accessories, and home goods! Best of all – their stuff comes from Midwest artisans and designers – #supportlocal!

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(Photo Credit: Visit Fort Wayne)

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(Photo Credit: Lace + Arrow)

Lace + Arrow: “Um, I’d like to order one of everything you post on Instagram, please.” = me erryday. Lace + Arrow is another new Fort Wayne boutique – and it’s taking the City by storm. Their chic selection is composed of clothes, shoes, and accessories for her – perfect to gift to a girlfriend or wear to a Christmas party. Personally, I’m planning to grab one of their flowy, velvet camis – perfect under a blazer or sweater, or all by itself – for a fun & flirty holiday look!

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(Photo Credit: Outer Grace Boutique)

Outer Grace Boutique: This is one of my favorite stops on the Holiday Trolley Tour every year. Shop here if you need great stocking stuffers (candles, hats, and bath bombs) or a gift sure to “wow”—beautiful jewelry, vests, and long-sleeve T’s. An added bonus – their festive line of Christmas shirts! (My favorite saying: “If it’s not snowing, I’m not going!”

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(Photo Credit: Urban She-K)

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Urban She-K: I’d be lying if I said my Christmas list wasn’t heavily populated with pictures of clothes from Urban She-K. This store just opened on the Southwest side of town, and has so many fabulous gifts for the season. Personally, I’m hoping to see their black velvet oversized sweater, super soft blue / black plaid winter jacket, and gold / black leather fringe necklace under my tree. They’ve also got a fun selection of faux fur and leather purses – all under $45!

Alright loves, happy shopping! Post your finds on Instagram and message me with your favorite shops – I’d like to do a Part 2 of this post!