“I Still Do” Conference: 7 gifts wives can bring to marriage

FamilyLife

Let’s be honest upfront:  my initial priorities were not the conference.

“In support of one of our clients, FamilyLife, we will be sending 3 interested couples to Chicago to attend one of their marriage conferences this summer.”

As this flashed across my inbox I thought:  Married? Yes. Free trip to Chicago? Absolutely I’m interested, what kind of question is that?

Frankly, I wasn’t interested in sitting through a ton of cheesy, embarrassingly unartistic Christian music, videos, games, or other forms of summer-camp-like-torture I was vividly imagining. First and foremost, I am a Christian woman, and wholeheartedly believe my love for Christ should shape all my feelings and actions. I’ll be the first to admit though, sometimes Christians have a pretty terrible way of communicating what are actually super stellar and important messages. (This isn’t an overarching belief of mine for everything Christians produce. There are incredibly artistic, brilliant Christian communicators and artists out there, few and far between.) But I’m in a really happy marriage, and I really like good food. I saw this as an opportunity for a fairly broke newlywed couple to just get through a conference and then be rewarded with the city.

Well, shame on me.

I realized I should have had a lot more faith in FamilyLife, and a lot more faith in God. Lucky for me as a sinner, God will ultimately speak when you need to be spoken to, even if I was more focused on cheesy deep-dish pizza rather than strengthening my marriage biblically. The day was peppered with comedy, surprisingly amazing praise and worship music, and theologically-sound marital advice (terrific for us specifically as we’re laying the foundation of our marriage in this first year.)

Debriefing the conference between ourselves on the 5-hour ride home, Austin & I actually agreed the most impactful session for us was when speaker Crawford Loritts shared 7 gifts women should bring to the marriage for their husbands, and his bride of 43 years, Karen Loritts, shared  7 gifts men should bring to the marriage for their wives.

Convicting but not guilt-trippy and comedic in all the right places, here is (unfortunately) the abridged version of the 7 gifts Crawford taught that wives should bring to the marriage for their husbands:

1 Godliness
It is absolutely crucial to continuously grow your relationship with Jesus and to help be a Godly leader in your household. Everything stems from this truth.

2 Unrivaled Priority
Unrivaled. Your priorities should be God, your Husband, then your Children. Keeping this order not only benefits you and your husband, but your children, too. One of the worst things you can do for your children is not letting them know their correct order and place in your life. Otherwise, you create entitled children.

3 Respect
Honor your husband in his assigned place in your life and home -don’t demean or put him down in front of anybody. Anybody. Don’t throw in his face your walk with Christ to show him how lost he is.
Don’t underestimate the transformative power you have over your husband.

4 Support
There is one person who is with him in life, and that’s you. This does not mean blind allegiance -tell him what’s what when he needs it- but no matter what, you should have his back.
Also important: he isn’t going to grow if you’re constantly buying him the books and holding his hand to small group. Give him the opportunity to be the man.

5 Encouragement
Your words are the wind in your husband’s sails. Use uplifting language, it’s so detrimental to your marriage to continuously focus on his faults.

6 Loyalty
Your husband should never question whose team you’re on.

7 Confidentiality
Protect your marriage’s business, and don’t make it anybody else’s business. Talking too much is one of the quickest ways to destroy trust.
(My favorite point to this:) Be wary of the fishing expeditions that are Small Groups. Don’t dress up what should be you and your husband’s private business in a prayer request.

Theme of the session:  There is no such thing as a rich marriage built on selfishness. 

Terrific conference, and I’m truly glad God opened my heart to accepting the powerful, wonderfully applicable messages.But come on, could it be a true Karber vacation without a little light shopping?

Chicago is a terrifically fun city.

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Tips on packing a weekender

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Throwing together a getaway bag and packing for two full weeks of travel used to mean the same thing to me:  pack everything. 

Maybe I’m older now and consequently more well-traveled, or I possibly just grew tired of of travel companion’s making fun of me, but I’ve finally taught myself how to pack (moderately) lightly for quick trips.

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Make a list.
Having a loose plan tends to keep me from spontaneously cramming eight different dresses into my suitcase, when realistically I might only need two (similar logic behind taking a list to the grocery store.) Not a spreadsheet, just  jot down a bare bones map of what you intend on bringing. Most obviously, it also reduces the likelihood of leaving something behind. (Duh.)

Then, mark nothing off the list until it’s in the suitcase. (Think that’s a “duh” suggestion, too? See the time I almost left the country with no makeup, then try telling me to skip this step anytime soon. More on that here.)

It’s a balancing act.
Bring what’s reasonable without skimping too much. What this doesn’t mean is saving space by re-wearing underwear (come on common sense), but the little black sweater you wore through the airport might match your Saturday night dinner dress. Choosing garments that mix-and-match naturally will only build the flexibility of your weekend wardrobe. I find this most useful with shoes. A separate shoe suitcase isn’t always necessary when you bring simple shoes (note the use of adverb always).

Be creative, be hygienic, but be realistic. I also know myself, and I like options. When I get where I’m going and only have one dress to wear, inevitably it won’t be what I  feel like wearing. But I don’t need my whole closet. I’ve learned to be satisfied by bringing a realistic handful of choices.

Strategize.
Get serious about the nook-and-cranny real estate of your suitcase. I like packing makeup, toiletries, jewelry, and tiny accessories into multiple small bags rather than one or two large ones. They fit more easily into tight corners and pockets, allowing every feasible amount of space to get used. Also, a dreaded lotion or conditioner explosion becomes so much less of a hassle when it doesn’t happen in the company of every getting-ready product you brought.

(Fun extra:  for added product explosion security, I usually use a bit of tape to seal down the opening to explosion-prone bottles–especially when my luggage will be riding in the belly of an airplane.)

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Share your packing ideas and tips with me, comment below!

Apartment living: cramped makeup space

Someday I will be soaking in a jet pool tub, surrounded by fragrant bubbles (wine in-hand), glance across the room at my sweeping, granite, well lit double vanity, and laugh fondly upon the memory of our first apartment’s little peach pedestal sink.

That day is not today. Or tomorrow, probably.

IMG_9407This is my getting-ready space (not exactly the bathroom of my dreams.) It is very peach and very small. Peach I eventually came to terms with, but not having counter space is inarguably the most challenging part of my morning (or before date night, or halfway through Saturday when I realize the humidity has melted my face off and I need to revisit square one before leaving the house.)

Having an easy grab-and-go makeup location is a luxury I never thought to value before, but wasn’t willing to give up just because my space was small. So, I’ve had to get a little creative.

IMG_9412This is the little makeup trunk I tuck under the sink. I’ve always preferred drawers or trunks to large makeup bags not only for aesthetics, but I find them easier to rummage through.

This weekend, it hit me that that was the wrong answer. I should prefer drawers or trunks to avoid having to rummage. (Duh. It’s stupidly simple.)

I paired an adorable desk organizer with a set of inexpensive makeup brush cups from our local TJ Maxx/Home Goods store, and voilà. Same cute, convenient trunk, rummaging eliminated for under $15.00 (and it could have been cheaper, but I’m a sucker for cute prints.)

IMG_9417(I would grace you with a before but, well, that’s just embarrassing.)

While all my makeup doesn’t quite fit, I don’t need all of it everyday. I like to keep only the products I’m most likely to want day-to-day at an arms reach, the rest stored elsewhere for special occasions (or when I think I’ve changed my mind about that one terrible lipstick when nope, I haven’t. Back to storage.)

Do you have a unique storage situation or any ideas for mine? Comment below!

My top 3 DO’s thrifting for furniture

My living room was the worst. I take my job in making our apartment feel homey very seriously, so this really bothered me. We were given a houseful of furniture before moving, for which I couldn’t have been more grateful -but we only had one couch. Imagine guests sitting awkwardly hip-to-hip in a straight line in front of the television making shifty-eyes back and forth. We tried to not have many people over.

It was necessary to start shopping for another tiny sofa if we ever had hopes of entertaining (which we did.) We also realized the most fun parts of furniture shopping were making fun of really bad prints, and not looking at price tags. The comfy ones were going to cost us.

Having put a pin in that project, a trip to a Habitat for Humanity ReStore for something else surprised me with our seating solution –and I loved it.

Thrifting for furniture can be a terrifying, smelly waste of time –but it’s all about mindset.

Rule #1:  Keep an open mind. Focus on the bones of the piece; don’t fixate on things like hardware or wood finish that can be altered–that’s the fun part. If it has great lines, the 20-year water stains and rusting, gold hardware should be invisible–look for potential. Things like knobs and handles are always replaceable; funky alternatives to tailor pieces to your home can be found like these from Anthropologie or these from Hobby Lobby (but really, what can’t you find there?)

Even if you aren’t looking to completely refurnish, but rather add decorative accents, thrifting can be your friend. For example:  nasty, old artwork. Good thrift stores stockpile the ugliest art because their previous owners looked inside the frame instead of at the frame.

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What was a mounted, colorful print of the anatomy of a plant is now the bulletin board in my office. Why the former ever counted as art was beyond me, but I scored a seriously inexpensive, large, ornate gold picture frame perfect for mounting a cheap cork board. Similar pieces can get expensive. Frame and board combined, I made my Goodwill version for under $15.

Rule #2:  Make sure you can use it. Just because it’s cheap doesn’t mean it’s a good deal. If you can use it and it’s cheap, that makes a good deal. Before going, have a general understanding of what will/wont fit in your space, and what your needs are. Once you’ve opened that mind, it starts to feel like you can fix everything, but should you?

Once you start thrifting, you ride a fine line between upcycling treasure and hoarding junk. (Please don’t use this post as a green light to start hoarding useless junk that doesn’t fit your home.)

Tip:  Carrying a pocket tape-measure in your purse to make sure your find is useable is never a bad idea. There is nothing worse than finding the one, then going home for measurements, to have someone else swoop in and carry off the antique buffet table of your dreams (trust me, I’m not over it yet.)

Rule #3:  Make sure you can fix it if it needs it. I get sort of carried away really quickly. Quickly. I have a bit of a confidence issue in that I have way, way too much confidence in my ability to create absolutely anything my brain can cook up. This stems from being moderately good at being able to create some of the things my brain can cook up. (My brain is constantly cooking.)

Don’t consider this a point of discouragement, but rather a point of caution for overzealous “projecteers” such as myself. Make sure you have the right tools, or can obtain the right tools while still maintaining your find was thrifty (don’t buy a $5 door to repurpose into a shelving unit, when the table saw to complete the project could cost you $650. At that point, you could have just bought a much cheaper shelving unit that somebody else made out of a door.)

While a bench seat may be an easy upholstery job, I broke the news to myself recently that I cannot reupholster an entire couch. I had no intentions of thrifting for a sofa then, because what were the odds of finding exactly what I was looking for? And a clean one, at that? Shame on me. (See rule 1 about “keeping an open mind.”)

I did not intend on buying a rust-colored, plushy love seat that looked like 1973 –but being ready to design a quick Plan B when you find what you weren’t looking for is a big part of it.

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Sure enough, I fell for this one. After inspection, the only thing wrong was a missing back cushion –it wouldn’t need any new upholstery -absolutely no tears or stains. For me, this was an easy fix that I could handle because Austin and I didn’t care if the back cushions perfectly matched – and it was so darn comfy.

I actually prefer now that they don’t match, I like our weird little love seat (and I like that we could afford it.) I feel like it adds the good kind of character to our home –the kind you go looking for in thrift store projects to begin with.

Do you have any thrifting success (or horror) stories? Share below!

Have your cake, and still pay rent

Opinions on using coupons in the dating-scene are varied. I err on the side of “for goodness sake, just be a man and buy her a nice meal.” However, getting married changes the game. 
 
Several months ago, I wouldn’t have thought twice if I was hit with a fried rice craving -just order some, duh. But now finding ways for us to save money for pesky things like rent are part of that game. It’s kind of annoying. 
 
We genuinely love eating out and trying new restaurants though -I feel like it’s kind of one of our “things,” especially when we find an excuse for a celebration. (Today Austin finished the first semester of his graduate degree, which just screams date night, right?)
                                                                                                                                                          
So the lifesaver for a couple of Foodies on a bologna budget: Groupon.
 
Our latest gem has been Hillbilly Tea -a spunky little cafe in Downtown Louisville that specializes in Appalachian Mountain-inspired cuisine and loose-leaf teas. We’re obsessed. From the atmosphere to the menu, nothing comes close.
 
Image If you’re new to the idea of Groupon and wondering what the heck I’m talking about, a quick example:
 
I bought a $20 Groupon for $40 worth of Hillbilly Tea food. I also had a bonus $10 off code, so ended up spending $10 for a $40 dinner. Of course our ticket wasn’t $40 on the nose, so we also paid the small difference. But really, it’s that easy, and made our date 75% free –which in my mind, is basically completely free. Using Groupon also opens the door to taste more of the menu (appetizers, desserts, beverages) since we’re “forced” to reach that $40 spending minimum. (If you’re still confused or want to learn more -or hey, you want to snag this deal yourself- click here.)
 
What better way to celebrate than by drinking boozy tea out of a giant mason jar? (And at SBTS, they’re under contract to not drink alcohol while enrolled in classes.) So cheers to summertime, and cheers to still having small celebrations while still being able to keep the water running.
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*Disclaimer:  For the love of goodness, please don’t tip based on the amount you’re actually paying when using Groupon. Consider the person who has helped you through the experience, and tip according to what the ticket would have cost you without the deep discount. It’s just called being a reasonably good person.

The most stressful question of the day

Something I was anticipating most about getting married was cooking our meals. Once all of the little kitchen parts were finally put together and I had a semi-functional workspace, I sat down on our couch, ready to turn a sticky note into a grocery list, and thought, “Alright, what’s for dinner?”

That’s when it hit me:  I had no idea.

Somehow it had never occurred to me how much work went into making the home’s menu.  Mom always just knew what we were eating, so I would just know, too (as if by setting up my own rotating utensil-caddy some compartment of my brain would unlock and out would flow all the secrets of homemaking). I panicked.

Just find a recipe, buy ingredients, and cook. Why was this so hard?

I sat in the same spot on the couch with my iPad for no less than 4 and a half hours that afternoon, scouring the Internet, trying to figure out the first real dinner we would share in our new apartment (the PB&J’s and Fruit Loops we’d been sustaining on through the big move-in didn’t seem to count).

I just wanted so badly to be good –to not identify with any of the “new-wife’s cooking” jokes or horrors told and retold and exemplified through sitcoms (even though I had been equipped for years with cooking basics, tricks, and recipes from my mother).

But I learned something:  I do not have time to spend nearly 5 hours planning one meal.  So I hung up a chalkboard and developed a system that works for our home:

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  • Put it in writing.  One convenient day a week, come up with as many meals one trip to the grocery store will allow, and jot it down. I chose this big chalkboard in our kitchen that has all of the daily components I’m trying to plan around (different jobs and classes), as well as the weekly meal plan. Don’t limit yourself either -draw pictures! Try and make it fun. It’s also nice to have a big, visible reference board (and a nice reminder if I’m supposed to get a crock-pot started before work).
  • Look for overlap. While choosing meals, eliminate waste and save grocery money by cooking foods that have a little ingredient overlap –especially with items that will rot more quickly, like produce or bread. (For example, cooking cheeseburgers and pulled pork sandwiches in the same week to use up a package of buns.)
  • Calm down, and just pick something. As it turns out, Austin did not have nearly the anxiety I did about this dinner-planning situation (go figure!), and I underestimated his graciousness. (I should point out here that none of this pressure stemmed from him, and he is always more than happy and complimentary with whatever we’re eating at mealtime –a wife’s dream.)

Just trust what skills you have, and realize you will be eating dinner every day. Everyday. Which means every day, you get another chance to redeem yourself if something burns, goes flat, or tastes funny. But I’ve found that meal planning is an easy way to curb new-wife cooking anxiety and save some serious time and money.