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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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

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: Finding Victory in the Valley

“When life gets tough, the tough get going.”

Or, so says the cliche. For me, though, there’s a crucial part that the phrase omits:

“When life gets tough, the tough get going to a movie theater & sneak in their own Starbucks.”

& at this point, you may be very confused. Or chuckling to yourself. Or see “Starbucks” as a synonym for “basic”.

Oh goodness, “basic” is about the last word that comes to mind when I think of my life right now. Nope, no-no. Not the case here.

Why do I slide into the cinemas myself? Well, because sometimes when your story gets tough, you want to step out of it momentarily and get lost in someone else’s.

I am wildly in love with stories. First and foremost, I feel like I was put on this Earth to be a storyteller.

In fact, I’ve actually crafted my life around it—in branding, I help companies tell their stories and become a positive part of the stories of their customers. In Pilates, I’m able to listen to people’s stories, and help them—even in some small way—to take steps closer to the story they’ve always dreamed about. In discipleship, I get the privilege of coming alongside others in realizing the story God has for them. In friendships, I’m blessed to be a part of other’s stories and do life together.

Everyone has a lens through which they view life. Some see it as more of an equation—“X+Y=Happiness”, as a pre-determined linear path, a sequence of small steps, or random shots in the dark.

I see life as a narrative—and I mean the big “LIFE” as in since the first breath was drawn, since before the beginning of human existence. It changed my entire perspective, actually, when I started reading the Bible that way—as a narrative, a story—instead of a list of “who, what, when” facts. It’s the difference between reading a thrilling novel vs. the encyclopedia. In fact, 40% of the Bible is written in narrative form—its the most common single type of writing.

All of that to say—for me, life is a story. My life is a story. Given my beliefs, my Biblical knowledge shows me that I was dropped into the midst of an epic story—and, my mantra since I was 16 was, “I fully intend to live an epic life.”

There was never an epic story about something safe and predictable. That would be the most boring story ever. There would be empathy in the struggle, no moments of joy. Nobody would pay money to go to the movies & see that.

In fact, within all great stories, the hero / heroine was always thrust into challenge or adventure instead of falling in-step with a life that was safe and predictable. They’re different and unique. The journey is often lonely, but they’re headed towards something greater. There’s a hope in their chest, and a knowledge in their heart that they were meant for more. They meet compatriots that share their purpose and laugh and walk with them on the way. At the end of the valley, there’s something that will bring fulfillment. That will validate their challenges. That will give meaning to their story.

But, so often we lose ourselves in the valley. We become so focused on the challenges that we completely lose sight of our calling. 

If you’re waiting for a mountaintop victory, you’re missing the point. God calls us to rejoice in all things. You see, so often for us, when our visions of victory don’t match our current situation, we lose heart. The victories aren’t always on the mountaintop—they come by choosing joy, and by choosing Him, every day. They’re not big leaps of faith, but small steps of obedience.

Embrace the epic story. Choose joy. And keep following Him to the victory.

Grace & peace.

Living loved.

Listen up, lovelies. It’s almost Valentine’s Day.

The day in the year, second only to Christmas and Thanksgiving, that’s all about being with the one(s) you love. Or like a lot. Or like a little.

Whether you’re celebrating Valentine’s Day, Galentine’s Day—or both! —I think there’s something even more important to this day that we often miss. February 14th is all about enjoying someone and celebrating them—their strength, their character, their passions, and their beauty—and so often the focus is shifted onto a significant other (or lack thereof) that we forget to celebrate another important person: ourselves.

She who so often gets overlooked.

Not overlooked by others, mind you, but by herself.

It’s not just about the “#treatyoself” mentality—but it’s about taking a moment to step back, breathe, and reflect on the lovely and kind, yet strong and fierce, woman that you are. And that confidence in who you are, that loving acceptance of yourself, will empower you to more powerfully love those that you’re in relationship with—whether sig o’s, friends, or family.

You see, when we don’t understand or believe in our own value, we make it impossible for others to fully see it, too! We unknowingly cheapen and sabotage our own relationships because we see them as something needed to complete us, rather than an addition to us. And, that need to “complete” drives a sentiment of desperation and a need for approval that others will never be able to fulfill. They weren’t meant to fulfill it.

“You can’t rely on me to make you happy.”

That’s what my dad told my mom back when they started dating. At first glance, it sounds extreme.

Isn’t that the point of relationships? you ask. Don’t they make you happy? Being with someone else and loved by someone else makes you happy?

Yes, it absolutely can. But, what my dad was wise enough to have caught onto here was the fact that if you rely on other people to make you happy—even the very best people—there will always be some day, some point that you’ll still feel…something missing.

Think of a gorgeous, handcrafted clay jar. And, the jar needs to be filled—it’s meant to be filled—but, if you always look to others to fill it for you, then your jar often be missing what’s needed to top it off. They don’t have enough to entirely fill your jar and theirs—and they weren’t meant to.

100% + 100% = 200%.

When we see our own value, and look for other people to add to us instead of complete us, we will always get more—happiness, fulfillment from our relationships, confidence in our jobs, and so on.

So, here’s what you need to hear loud and clear: you are worth loving.

And, this Valentine’s Day, it’s you who needs to realize that. Live loved, and you will be able to more fully love the life you live.

Cheers, dears! xoxo

P.S. If you’re in Fort Wayne…

I went to a really fabulous event last week at Jane Ford Art Studio that was all about celebrating women, sharing their stories, and empowering them to live in a way that makes the most of their strength and beauty each day. The event was sponsored by Hill Image Consulting, Kristine Logan Photography, and Solutions Skin Care—all experts in their field, excited about what they do, and all about empowering their clients and crafting styles, looks, and shoots that inspire confidence. If you’re looking to discover and share who you are—your personal brand—I’d highly recommend you stop in & see these ladies!

Review: La La Land

“It’s pretty strange that we keep running into each other.”

“Maybe it means something.”

 

So begins one of cinema’s most brilliant romances. A love story sparked through happenstance encounters that kindles a passionate relationship and an enduring flame—and takes audiences on a journey of reflection through loves desired, loves lost, and love shared.

 

But most of all, the movie dares to ask the question: what if?

 

What if you run into each other again? What if you wander through that door? What if you say yes? What if you dare to dream? What happens if it doesn’t work—or, what happens if it does?

 

It’s no exaggeration to say that La La Land ran away with my heart—from the stunning cinematography to a soundtrack that soars beyond all others this decade, its epic storyline to its wistful ending. Through it all, though, the film accomplishes the feat of feeling incredibly genuine and authentic—and perhaps that’s why we let it take the liberty of asking such bold questions. Because we reflect on those questions ourselves in our most personal, intimate moments. Because life and love are all about risk.

 

What happens in life is, at a basic level, the result of our decisions and the way we experience the decisions others make. It’s comprised of crossroads and choices. If we choose to give our heart away, do we ever really get all of it back? What if we choose to go? What if we choose to stay?

 

“That’s the dream! It’s conflict and compromise, and it’s very very exciting.”

 

As much as I protest, I did leave part of my heart in New York. And La La Land’s swanky jazz clubs, crowded concert halls, classic movie theaters, and brilliant views—all of it pulls me back into that romance until, before I can even stop myself, I’m transported to a different place and time.

 

Honestly, it is exhilarating. They don’t make films like this anymore—with the artistry, scale, and skill. It takes me back to those West Village weekend nights, with the sounds of jazz softly coming from the clubs as one walks by. Or, to those Lincoln Center midnights, with the lone saxophonist serenading the City under my window.

 

La La Land captures all of those scenes and sentiments—in West Coast form, of course. It leaves you wanting more.

 

It encourages you to follow your heart and pursue your passions. “Are you doing all that you’re meant to do?” it asks. “What if you went after it with all of your heart?”

 

The characters are both aspirational and inspirational—and ultimately, it’s their relationship with each other that inspires both to brilliance. The film beautifully conveys the centrality of that romantic relationship—of having that person, your person—in the crowd cheering you on, delighting your heart when you least expect it, carrying the dream for you when you falter, and going to incredible lengths to show you that someone believes.

 

It’s a story of true, enduring love that captures the heart and captivates the mind.

 

And, turns to the future with the question, “What if?”

4 epic dates for days when going outside is just too much

With the holidays officially wrapped and New Year’s here & gone, we’ve officially entered that time in Winter that seems like a struggle. Rain tumbles down like a monsoon, the melting snow takes on a grayish hue, and the cold weather permeates your coat, gloves – and even your soul.

It may seem a bit overdramatic, until you’re walking 25 minutes home from work in NYC, jostled by all the people, annoyed by the traffic and, when you finally reach your apartment, it feels like a fortress away from all of the cold & craziness below.

Midwesterners, we feel the pain too – that trudge to the car, blowing on your hands as you wait for your car heater to warm up, & shivering as you make a run for it into work.

Long story short – wherever you are, there are days — and dates — that you just want to stay inside.

So, here’s 4 must-try ideas for epic stay-at-home dates.

These are pure gold, & a few of my all-time favorites. Try them – or put your own spin on them – and let me know how it goes!

Pillow fort movie night

Movie night is awesome. Movie night in a pillow fort is better.

Step 1: Choose your location – the living room is always a classic.

Step 2: Lay your foundation. Decide if you’ll want something to lean up against – like a wall or a couch. Spread out a down comforter or cushy blanket, & pull out all the pillows to make chilling with bae as comfy as possible!

Step 3: Top it off! This isn’t just child’s play – there’s real engineering involved! Get creative for how you create the roof of your tent – pull in chairs, couches & other pieces of furniture to create your ideal tent. Secure sheets & blankets with things that will be easy to remove – like laundry clips, rubber bands, and string.

Step 4: Get cozy. Pull your favorite blankets & pillows in the fort – even experiment with different colors / textures. String up some LED lights for maximum ambiance / instal-potential.

Step 5: Line up your refreshments. Who ever heard of movie night without popcorn? For something out of the ordinary, try Skinny Pop (LOVE the Naturally Sweet kind) or Poptique Gourmet Popcorn (a Ft. Wayne favorite!). & pro-tip: use a dining tray to keep everything neat & tidier.

Step 6: Lean back & enjoy the movie on your TV or a computer – whichever best fits your fort.

v dope. v chic. #ki date night in.

Cozy living room campfire

Spread out a faux sheepskin rug (like this one for $24), get your coziest blankets that make you feel like you’re at a lodge in colorado, and cuddle up in the living room. A fireplace is always a great option here, but if you don’t have one, here’s a fabulous little-known (and perhaps even better!) secret – a hibachi grill ($12). (Fuel is usually available at a local home improvement store.) Kabob skewers work well for roasting sticks – so get chocolate, graham crackers, marshmallows & make your own s’mores.

Transport yourselves to an exotic location

Choose a country you’ve both been dying to visit. Set out a few trinkets reminiscent of that destination, or transform your apartment for the night – it’s up to you! Find a favorite recipe from the region, and make dinner / dessert together. Pop open a beverage or bottle of wine from that country, cue up a film about the country, and settle in next to each other for a brilliant evening staycation.

Example – Italy. I love to make a delicious focaccia, open a bottle of red, light my stone pillar candlesticks from Italy, and curl up in front of Cinema Paradiso.

Bond over nostalgia

Pick a decade – whether the 70’s, 80’s, or 90’s. Go to the local music store and grab a few vinyl albums / cd’s of your favorite bands from that era. On the way home, stop by a local vintage store & choose outfits for each other so that you’re style matches the night’s theme. If it’s your thing, you can even look up the most popular drinks of the decade & take your hand at making / mixing them together! Have a dance party to the decade’s greatest hits. Then settle in the living room with a board game from “back in the day”, or a TV show about the “good times”. A few ideas – check out Netflix’s new series about the 60’s, 70’s, or 80’s, That 70’s Show for – obviously – the 70’s, Stranger Things for the 80’s and, Friends for the 90’s!