The Dating Equation

One of the blessings of having lived in different states is that I have friends all over the country—and, that the rare times when I get to catch up with them face-to-face is so much sweeter! Last week, I had the pleasure of catching up with a few of my girlfriends—some closer than others in proximity, but all close in spirit. And, though we’re not all in the same life stages, “relationships” is a theme that’s consistently woven into the fabric of our conversations.

Relationships are tough to write about. They’re personal. They’re messy. And that’s why, to this point, I haven’t. But there are some things that have been on my heart for a bit, and I think it’s time to share them. From high school prom dates to the dating landscape of our 20’s—and marriage, for a few of us—our relationships have shaped our lives and the women that we are today. The boys and the men that have entered our lives have had enormous power to leave their mark on our hearts—and, our hearts continue to grow and shift in light of these interactions.

When I was younger, I didn’t understand that. I thought the equation was “me + him = 100%”. My heart, though I didn’t know it, was looking for someone to come along and complete it. That meant that, through the tumultuous world of dating, it was constantly shifting—who I was was constantly shifting—as I sought to be the someone worthy of completing.

That’s no way to live and, candidly, isn’t a fair expectation within any relationship. Nobody can take the pressure of being who they are, and completing someone else. What the equation should be, I’ve learned, is “me + him + God = 200%. or 250%. or 400%.” It should be the addition of two people who are wholly comfortable in themselves to create something greater than themselves, not two people coming together to create one whole person.

Does this mean that, when we realize the right equation, our hearts are impervious to the words and actions that others speak to them? No. So gentlemen – please do understand the privilege of having access to a girl’s heart. And ladies – be careful who you allow to hold your heart. The right relationship should not complete you, it should add to you both. Know who you are, so someone else someday can know how to add their 100% to yours.

 

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In other news – Kenzi-Caudill.com has a new Instagram account! Follow along at caudill.kenzi on Insta daily inspiration. (Honestly, I’m about 10425 times better at updating my Insta vs. the blog. BUT – hopefully that’ll change! In the meantime, I’d love to continue the conversation with you on social media 🙂 )

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Skydiving? No, thanks!

Skydiving isn’t my thing. Why? Because I’m a fan of safety nets and assurances. I’m a master at crafting contingency plans. I like knowing that – whatever happens – if it goes right, I did well. If it goes wrong, but still turns out okay – then I still did well (#contingencyplans). & if it goes totally wrong – well, then there’s nothing that I could have done to stop it. That mindset has served me well in the business world. But what about in my personal life? I try to implement my contingencies there, too. It goes something like: Plan A) Pray & trust God. Plan B) Line up something in case God doesn’t come through. I prepare myself to settle. & the funny thing is – if I have a contingency plan, does that mean that I’m really trusting God at all? Absolutely not. And, as has happened in my life lately, when my contingency plans fall through, my distrust is laid bare – and that’s ugly. But we serve a God who already “knows the plans he has for us” (Jeremiah 29:11) and has known each big & small step in our lives from the very beginning (Psalm 139:16). So, I’m going to chose to discard my “safety net plans”, and trust only in His. It’s a process, and I won’t be perfect today, but I do resolve to do it. Will you join me?

Weekend Reflections

Anything but God’s Will is a waste of time ✨ Easy to say, harder to live – but, I’ve realized that this holds so so true for my life! It’s easy for me to lose patience with His plan, and start to distrust His timing when things don’t come how / when I like. Ultimately though, when I try to find my own fix, it takes me farther off of His “best” path, and I have to loop back around – wasting time vs. if I had stayed the course in the beginning. Because nothing BUT me can keep me from His best for me – His best plans, His best places, His best timing. He doesn’t need anybody’s help, He only needs my surrender. And, surrendering is the hardest thing of all – but, is the only way to His perfect plan for my life, which is better than anything I could ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20)

The view from the passenger seat

Sitting in the passenger seat of a car with no brakes and no driver, hurtling down a steep mountain road with lots of hairpin turns and no guardrails.

The ideal:

Isn’t that sometimes how it feels when something in life is beyond your control? I prefer to be in the driver’s seat—accelerating when I want to, tapping the brakes when I want to, taking in at a scenic outlook when I want to, stopping for Starbucks when I want to. That’s my preference. My fate is in my hands. I am able to protect myself. The twists and turns my life takes are up to me—not someone else—and I can take a different path when I want to, turn when I want to, or hit reverse whenever I’d like. Having control over what happens in my life is one place where I find security, empowerment, and freedom.

The reality:

Have you ever realized in life, though, that someone else may have taken the driver’s seat? Sometimes you willingly hand over the keys, other times you don’t even realize it until you find yourself longing to take back the wheel. It’s part of why close friendships and relationships can be scary—because whether you may have intended to or not, you’ve strapped your heart into the passenger seat and let someone else drive the car. And let’s be honest—the reason there are backseat drivers is because nobody trusts anyone else’s driving style. It’s always the backseat driver saying “turn here!” or “slow down!” or buckling their seatbelt after a particularly fast turn with a pointed look towards the driver.

Over the weekend, I discovered that there are some places where I’ve put my heart in someone else’s passenger seat. And that can be an awesome adventure! But it can also be super scary, because your heart is your life. The brain can’t function without it, you can’t go anywhere without it—it fuels your thoughts and guides your movements. And giving someone else the privilege of protecting it is nerve-wracking. What they do with it is beyond your control. It may take time before you get to know their driving style and understand where they’re taking it.

In truth though, I’ve come to learn that, in life, it’s impossible to have control all of the time. The world does not start and stop around you, and other people’s lives are still happening in other places. You may be waiting for a message or a result, for a response or for affirmation. It takes time.

The truth:

And I’ve come to learn the that the only driver that I can ever trust with my heart, completely and entirely, is Jesus. I can trust that He will defend and protect it, that He knows the scenic overlooks that will make my heart swoon, and He knows what turns to take.

And my trust doesn’t come through the knowledge of His omnipotence, it comes because I’ve experienced His love. I know that He loves my heart enough to go through Hell for it, to die for it. That He’s always thinking about it and never wants to be without it.

Isn’t that such beautiful hope, friends? That there is one who is always in control so that I don’t have to be, and that my trust of Him—letting Him take the reins, is actually my source of freedom.

“I trust in Your unfailing love, my heart rejoices in your salvation.” ~Psalm 13:5

3 Ways to Worship

A week ago Saturday:

Barista: “Hey there, what can I get for you?”

Me: “I’d like a super fruit smoothie and a whole grain bagel, please.”

Barista: “Aw, sorry – we’re out of whole grain bagels.”

My internal reaction: It happens.

Sunday:

Barista: “Hey there, what can I get for you?”

Me: “I’d like a super fruit smoothie and a whole grain bagel, please.”

Barista: “Aw, sorry – we’re out of whole grain bagels.”

My internal reaction: …are you serious.

Monday:

Barista: “Hey there, what can I get for you?”

Me: “I’d like a coffee and a whole grain bagel, please.”

Barista: “Sure thing, coming right up!”

Barista, 2 minutes later: “Aw, sorry – we’re out of whole grain bagels.”

My internal reaction: It’s a conspiracy.

Now granted, this is a trivial example (SERIOUSLY though – who is taking all of my bagels?!) — but, do you ever have days when it feels like #thestruggle is all too real? Raise your hand if you can relate.

KIDDING this is a blog—of course I can’t see if your hand is raised. But I can imagine that most of yours would be.

Now, we all have daily annoyances— like when your favorite coffee shop is out of bagels or you have to drink Pink Apple kombucha instead of Ginger or whatever that may be for you, but I want to dig deeper here.

Do you ever have days when it feels like you’re experiencing opposition on all sides? When it feels like you’re swimming against the current, and the number of things going wrong seem to outweigh the things you feel are going right?

Yeah, I’m with ya. Oh boy, am I with ya.

Can I be completely, no-holding-back honest with you for a moment here? This week has been one of the most challenging of my life.

Two weeks ago, I was wrestling with God because it felt like something core to my being, that I’d been praying for over a span of 7 years and desperately needed was nowhere in sight.

Two weekends ago, my teenage cousin (who is more like my little sister) was in a freak accident and her finger was ripped from her hand. Her lifelong dream of being a surgeon—not to mention her applications to medical school—were in jeopardy. Doctors said that her injury was a worst-case scenario at every step. Just two days before, she had texted me—thrilled that she was able to share the Gospel with some friends, and claiming “Even If” by MercyMe as her life song. And now, she was being rushed into emergency surgery.

On my way to be with my cousin, I walked into the parking lot to discover that my car had been in a hit-and-run accident.

…and so on and so forth.

Now, I firmly believe that if you’re living a Christian life without any opposition, you need to check yourself. The very act of living a Christian life means that you’re in the battle. Shining Light means that you’re a problem for the Darkness. Experiencing opposition means that you’re a contender.

Just ask Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego, Nehemiah, Esther, Paul, John—even Jesus.

Got it. So, then, we turn to 1 Corinthians 10:13: “All you need to remember is that God will never let you down; He’ll never let you be pushed past your limit; He’ll always be there to help you through it.” That is truth right there.

Still, what happens when it feels like you have reached that limit and there doesn’t appear to be a break in the battle?

GOOD QUESTION.

Fast forward in my week. On Sunday at church, the congregation was singing Chris Tomlin’s new song “Good Good Father”.

Now, I once had a pastor tell me that, even when we don’t feel like praising—that’s when we most need to lift our hands in worship because assuming the physical posture of worship will transform the internal posture with which we approach the Throne. I’ve found that to be 100% true in my life.

So anyways, returning to Sunday—“Good Good Father” comes on the speakers, and I lift my hands. I remember that I couldn’t even sing. I just stood there with my hands lifted, surrendering my broken heart to God with tears streaming down my face. I was silently praying, “God, I want to be in the battle, I want to be your soldier and not let the enemy take ground. But right now, it’s feeling hard to stand.”

How many of you have been there, too?

For me, the key part in 1 Corinthians 10:13 is, “He will always be there to help you through it.” You see, His limits are not our limits. His thoughts are not our thoughts, and His power is not our power (Isaiah 55:8-9).

We so often cling to the portion that says “He’ll never let you be pushed past your limit”. We translate “your” into “our”—as in, us alone. We miss the second half of that equation.

It’s not “our” limit.

It’s our limit when we realize that God has given us His power through the Holy Spirit.

Then, the “limit” becomes infinitely greater. Just look at what Jesus says in Matthew 19:26: “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” We no longer have to be dependent on our strength—the Savior of the World offers us His.

The situation goes from impossible to possible. We are able to go from being overwhelmed by our current situations, to being victorious because “all things are possible with Christ, who gives me strength.”

If you’re like me, you hear that and say, “That’s all well and good, but I’m still in the midst of the battle—how do I start? That seems like a stretch for me right now.”

First, remember that “worship” and “praise” are two different things – worship is an internal posture, and praise is an external expression. We’re called to live a life of worship, even when we’re not always “praising”.

Secondly, do these three things to yield the weapon of worship in the midst of your problems.

  1. Thanking God for His presence – knowing He’s there even when we don’t “feel” it, and inviting the Holy Spirit into you & your situation.
  2. Channeling your worries into prayers. (I love to do this by praying the Psalms – they remind me to shift my mindset and find peace in who God is, not just what I want from Him).
  3. Understanding that you have a weapon called praise, and that your choice to praise in the midst of your problems presents a problem for the enemy.

 

Take this to heart this week, and let me know what happens! Remember, sometimes God needs to move the mountain within you before the mountain in front of you.

Grace and peace.

A life of small indulgences

“Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious–the best, not the worst, the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse…Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into His most excellent harmonies.” Philippians 4:8-9

 

The origin of my “Small indulgences” philosophy

My Mint money management app – along with my financial planner – have always told me that ~30% of my monthly income should go towards rent.

 

HA. CLEARLY neither my app (which – of course – is not a person and therefore has never had to pay rent) nor my planner have ever tried to put this ratio to practice in New York. Starting out in the City, with bright eyes and a “big” salary…well, let’s just say that the minute you signed your first Upper West Side apartment lease, you realized that “big” may be a matter of perspective. For a while, that “30% ratio” became a joke worthy of SNL and you started realizing why everyone you met in the City had a side hustle.

 

Now, when you’re living on a budget, you start to develop certain “indulgences” since you can’t afford to eat out at Jean-Georges every night. For me, those indulgences came in three forms: wonderful candles, cozy socks, and cupcakes. After a hard day, I might even indulge in all three. I even had my favorite spots to grab each one – candles from Anthropologie, cupcakes from Magnolia, and happy socks from – you guessed it!  – Happy Socks down in SoHo.

 

While I frequently chose candles that smelled like floral fragrances or refreshing blends, I did have one guilty pleasure – Vanilla. Vanilla-scented candles were my weakness – I loved the smell, and never wanted to be without one. I didn’t cook (and still don’t, FYI) and the wonderful, warm scent would fill my apartment with its fragrance and make me want to curl up under a cozy blanket and dream lovely dreams. There was nothing quite like it.

 

On the other hand, however, there was also nothing quite like picking up a candle, reading the label, thinking to yourself, “oh this sounds excellent!”, slowly lifting the lid and…realizing that you just released an assault on your sense of smell. You replace the lid as quickly as possible, throw down the candle, and look at it like it had suddenly started talking to you and said something appalling. It’s an equally memorable and horrifying experience – one that makes you probably keep a radius from that candle for a good long time.

 

The beauty of a sweet aroma

 

 

You see, friends, the sense of smell is one of the most powerful we own. It allows us to fully appreciate the beauty of fresh flowers, and keeps us from making a mistake when our milk has gone bad. It’s a tool that allows us to surround ourselves with good things on the outside, and keep away things that would be bad for our insides.

 

In a similar way, the Bible says in 2nd Corinthians 2:15:

“For we are to God the sweet aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing.”

 

We are to be a sweet smelling aroma. We are to be God’s representatives on the Earth – something they seek to be around, and desire to have close to them. Something they recognize is different from the others out there, something of which they can’t quite get enough, and keep turning to in a desire to discover more.

2 Corinthians 5:20 even goes on to tell us that we are “God’s ambassadors”. For this ambassadorship to be successful – for us to fill the world with the sweet aroma of Christ – we have to start with adjusting what’s inside so we reflect who He is on the outside. For, “so a man thinks in his heart, so he is” (Proverbs 23:7).

 

Question to consider: Are you following the pattern in Philippians 4:8? How can you “meditate on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious–the best, not the worst, the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse”?

 

xoxo.

Live Epic: Choosing Joy

Do you ever have days that feel like the Friends theme song?

It can actually be a quite relatable and relatively accurate picture of #adulting.

Haha, no seriously. Regardless of how you feel about #RossAndRachel, we’ve all heard at it at some point or another and thought, “Yeahhh okay I’m there right now. My ____(job is a joke / I’m broke / my love life is D.O.A)_____.”

That’s never happened to you?! Come on. Well, I’ve lived the NYC adventure—and I’m happy to let you live vicariously through my experiences. I can tell you, those days happen.

So, what do you do when your day feels like Friends’ opening credits?

I see three options:

  1. Watch Friends. (Clearly you already are, if you’re thinking of the theme song. And we all know that HIMYM is a knockoff and Seinfeld just isn’t as good 😉
  2. Buy a pint of HaloTop (I recommend the Lemon Cake) and eat the whole thing.
  3. Listen to what James says in his book:

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” James 1:2-4

I’d like to point out that the three of those options are not mutually exclusive. In fact, I’ve been known to do all of them in the same evening. (You’re not judging—you’re jealous and you know it.)

But, let’s focus in on the third (and most effective) option here. Particularly, the first four words of that verse:

“Consider it pure joy.”

That sentence holds true, regardless of which word you emphasize.

Consider it pure joy.” — Joy is a choice. Happiness is a feeling. It is possible—and Biblical—to choose joy, even when the world may say it’s okay to throw a pity party. Which leads us to…

“Consider it pure joy.” — Choosing joy does NOT mean that you’re turning a blind eye to the situation, or saying that everything is 100% A-OK. It very well might not be. It’s saying that you choose to trust the situation to the Lord, and you take joy in knowing He works all things together for good (Romans 8:28).

“Consider it pure joy.” — Nuh-uh, there’s no room for “sorta” or “mostly” here. James is presenting an all-or-nothing statement. You either trust the situation to God, or you don’t. You choose to focus on Kingdom purposes and His promises, or you choose to dwell in and become overcome by the struggle.

“Consider it pure joy.” — As Nehemiah so eloquently put it, “The joy of the Lord is your strength.” If you allow your situation to sap you of joy, you no longer have one of the most powerful weapons God provided. Allowing your joy to get lost in life’s struggles eliminates your ability to be a contender for the Kingdom. If “The joy of the Lord is (my) strength”, and “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Phil. 4:13), then logic tells us that with God-given Joy we can do all things. Amen to that.

Let me encourage you friends – Choose joy. Choose to be a contender for the Kingdom. You see, friends, life’s situations and worldly forces have no power in your life except for the power that you give them. Yet, we hear Christians complaining all of the time about being kept down by their woes and foe—yet, this foe has already been defeated. Both in the Old Testament (Deuteronomy 20:4) and New Testament (John 16:33), we’re told that Christ has already won the victory! So, if you feel like you’re being overcome by the #struggle, first take a look at your perspective.

Are you choosing joy? Are you remembering your “why”—why you live, why you make money, why you do whatever it is that you do? Are you acting from a place of submission to your situation, or victory over the struggle?

And remember, when it seems like choosing joy is a challenge, people are watching to see how you’ll react to your situation. You’re an ambassador of the King (2 Cor. 5:20). More on that to come… 😉

Grace & peace.