January 12, 2018
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Singleness… 3 Habits That Make It Worse

A few weeks ago, some friends of mine came over to make Christmas goodies. Between decorating sugar cookies and melting chocolate for turtles, one of my friends mentioned that she appreciated these articles. “Thanks,” I told her. “It’s a subject that I felt God really wanted me to write about. The next article in the series is a bear, though. It’s about ways to make singleness worse. You know, more painful and less fulfilling. I’ve made plenty of mistakes in that area and I know many others have, too. But I’m having trouble putting it to words. It’s why I haven’t posted in a while.”

She nodded. “Then I’ll be praying that God gives you the right words to say.” So, here’s to Elli. Thanks for providing some much-needed spiritual backing to help me get this article (and the one I posted last Friday) online!

  1. Read romance novels and watch romantic films. The most common way I know of to make singleness worse is to watch a chick flick or read a Harlequin romance. If you’re like most girls (or one of those not-so-uncommon guys), you enjoy a good romantic comedy now and again. Know why? It’s because of that wonderful, warm, fluffy buzz that it leaves you. Like you could fly… or have the “courage” to kiss your crush next time you see him.

 So, what’s the problem with euphoria? Well, it’s just an emotional high that temporarily fills the boyfriend-sized hole in your life and leaves you with false ideas of what true love looks like. However, there’s another reaction you could have to a romantic comedy—it reminds you of everything you don’t have and plunges you into that black hole of discontentment. After all, the boy and the girl had each other by the end of the story. But you… hmm. Maybe we should leave that one alone.

The problem with emotional highs (and lows) is that God desires the Christian life to be free to “run the course of [God’s] commandments” without anything that could “so easily ensnares us”. We are called to set God first in our lives, which means we set nothing above Him in any way.

Are romantic comedies a form of idolatry then? Perhaps. But I would have an easier time believing that it’s gluttony. Contrary to popular belief, gluttony is not necessarily connected with going to the buffet line for the fourth time. It has everything to do with filling holes in your life with not-God things: allowing personal desires enslave you until fulfilling God’s call on your life becomes less important than fulfilling your wants. (for more on this, check out C.S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters, chapter 17).

So getting back to the main point, the best way to answer the romantic comedy desire is to find new forms of entertainment, like books and movies that don’t have romance (or at least keeps it as a subplot). Next time your friends come over to do something fun, play a board game instead of watching a movie. But what if all your friends want to watch 13 Going on 30? Simple: just quietly and graciously excuse yourself when steamy scenes affect you emotionally and find some other distraction. After all, just because your friends want to watch a chick flick doesn’t mean that your spirit has to bear the consequence.

  1. Grab the first (or the next) person that comes along. He likes you. You know it. Everyone knows it. He’s a nice and cute, attends church, and your heart is starting to flutter a bit when you see him. Granted, he has a few quirks (okay, okay, there are red flags. Large, waving, and crimson as blood), but no one’s perfect right? Besides, what if no one else expresses interest… ever? Do you really want to be known as a prude? Certainly being married to someone is better than being single the rest of your life… right?

WRONG! Nor am I just saying this because I’m trying to make excuses for my singleness. I’ve spoken to people who went into marriage with the attitude of “the way I feel about him is more important than our lack of compatibility.” They often end up viewing their marriage as the biggest regret of their life. Any of them would say that getting married for the wrong reasons never pays off. Ever. Many get divorced. The rest have lackluster marriages, void of the blessedness and joy that should characterize the relationship between husband and wife. My mom has this quote by H. Jackson Brown hanging by her computer: “Choose your life’s mate carefully. From this one decision will come ninety percent of all your happiness or misery.” Know what you’re looking for in a spouse and do not settle. Ninety percent is too high a percentile to squander on an inferior relationship.

  1. Decide that if you have feelings that won’t go away, he must be the one. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been told, “I prayed that if he’s not the one, that God would just take away my feelings for him. But I still like him! It must be a sign.”

If only it were that easy. See, in the Bible, the signs that God gives are nearly or absolutely impossible to achieve by human standards (unlike feelings sticking around, which–speaking from experience–are so easy to maintain). Think about Gideon. God actually gave him multiple signs that the call on his life was real (Gideon’s sacrifice miraculously caught fire in Judges 6:17-21, then the whole thing with the fleeces in verses 36-40, and then the Lord let Gideon hear about a Midianite soldier’s dream in 7:13-14). Nor is this an unique case. Throughout Scripture, when God tells His servants something specific, it is accompanied by signs and collaboration from independent witnesses.

 Question: how does that translate to your crush?

Answer: Remember that human emotions are supposed to be the caboose. Not the engine.

I like listening to sermons. The last few months, I have been enthralled with Dr. Phil Kaiser’s (of Dominion Covenant Presbyterian Church) series about Revelation. In his sermon, Can First Love Be Regained? He puts it this way:

I was told to transform my mind with the means of grace, and that my mind and spirit were the engine of the train. The will was the next car back, the coal cabin.
And the caboose was the emotions. If you get the train engine going, and the
will determinedly keeps stocking the furnace with coal, will the emotions
follow along? Of course they will – they are the caboose. And I will hasten to
say that the caboose is not the only component of love. The whole train is
that love. The whole train of mind, will, and emotions is that agape love. It is
a self-sacrificial love that runs the train even when it is tired; even when it
doesn’t feel like it. That’s true love. And it is a blessing that the caboose of
emotions tags along, but it tags along because of the first deeds. The first
deeds are the stoking of the fire of the steam engine of the train. And a
healthy love has mind, will, and emotions engaged. It has the engine, the
coal car, and the caboose.

Although Dr. Kaiser was speaking about the Christian’s relationship with Jesus, I think the concept applies here. (After all, isn’t marriage supposed to be an allegory of Christ’s relationship with the Church?)

As I was writing this article, my sister pointed out that the real issue behind the question about your crush is discovering the will of God. So the real question should be, how do we discover that? I can’t pretend to be an expert. Discovering God’s will is such an incredible part of the Christian life that sermons and books have been written about it. I can claim neither the wisdom or the knowledge to direct others. But in my meager experience, I’ve found that when I give myself over to transforming “my mind with the means of grace,” as Dr. Kaiser put it, God reveals His will in His own way and time.

So what should we do with those overwhelming feelings and desires? The hardest thing possible. Conquer them. Take every thought captive and surrender each to the dominion of Christ. This leads to stronger faith and obedience, which is better by far and the best protection possible against the common pitfalls of singleness.

January 5, 2018
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Singleness… 3 Attitudes That Make It Worse

Ever heard the name Pete Rose? He was a pro baseball player and manager from 1963 to 1989 and he should have made it into the Hall of Fame. He was a switch hitter, the all-time MLB leader in hits, games played, at-bats, singles, and outs. He also won several awards: Rookie of the Year Award, three World Series rings, three batting titles, one MVP, and two Golden Gloves. Oh yeah, and he made 17 All-Star appearances in five unequaled positions.

So why doesn’t his name appear in the Hall of Fame? Because he failed to protect himself against a common temptation in the leagues. In 1989, he was accused of (and much later admitted to) illegally gambling for and against the Reds, the team he was managing at the time. Rose was, therefore, deemed permanently ineligible to associate professionally with the MLB, which effectively barred him from joining the elite of baseball.

As singles, we have a holy opportunity to live honorably and courageously in a difficult season of life. Although many attempt to, few succeed in living gracefully because like Pete Rose, they fail to protect themselves against common pitfalls that accompany the single years. So, let’s explore three common attitudes that will make your singleness worse.

  1. Lower your standards for Mister/Miss Mystery. The longer your singleness lasts, the more tempting it is to wonder, “Am I not married yet because I’m being too picky?” For some people that may be the case, like a woman I spoke to once who said that she wouldn’t marry a man who couldn’t dance well. At the time—and since—I have hoped that she wouldn’t miss out because of an overwhelming desire for regular dates to the local dance studio.

So, how do you know whether or not you have poor standards for “the one”? Several years ago, I was challenged to write down everything I was looking for in a husband. Surprisingly, the exercise encompassed more than I ever thought it would. First, I wrote down traits as they came to mind, then reorganized the list according to importance, beginning with “godliness” and ending with “a good sense of humor.” The next step was probably the most eye-opening. I searched the Scriptures to find concrete attributes of each trait I (I started in Proverbs, then used a concordance for the rest). Here’s a sample:

  • Stubborn
    • Knows what he believes and sticks to it—even when faced with temptation and persecution (Acts 5:29)
    • Is a man of his word, even when it hurts him (Psalms 15:4)
  • Humble
    • Can argue (and lose) gracefully (Proverbs 10:31, 14:3)
    • Can admit his faults, weaknesses, and mistakes (2 Chronicles 7:14)
    • Isn’t afraid to ask for help (Proverbs 11:27)
    • Has a teachable spirit (Proverbs 2:1-5)

Lastly, I gave this list to a couple people I highly respect who had strong marriages and asked them to give me feedback. From that, I made revisions.

Not long after that, a coworker started acting strangely. He was always eager to talk with me and seemed to develop an interest in my hobbies. He genuinely complimented me and I caught him watching me more than once. Other coworkers started noticing, too. From the comments I heard in the break room, I knew it wouldn’t be long before he asked me out. I wasn’t exactly attracted, but I figured I could make an effort to meet him half-way. Who knew what could develop with time? Then I pulled out the list. He had a good, steady job; was hardworking, intelligent, and funny. But the more important attributes—like godliness, leadership, and humility—he had not. When he pulled me aside a couple weeks later, I had to decline. He was not the type of man I could pursue marriage with, so I could not in good conscience pursue a temporary relationship with him.

  1. Let the happiness of your married/dating friends lead to bitterness I like Facebook. However, there are times that I really wish I hadn’t checked my home page. One morning, the first post was one of my best friends gushing about her two-year-old and the baby moving in her womb. That was really cute and I responded with a thumbs-up, despite a slight twinge of jealousy. A few posts later, a friend announced that she was in a relationship. Good for her! But still… ouch. Scrolling down a bit, pictures of my cousin and his wife filled the screen. Their love is so obvious with all that kissing, hugging, and snuggling. By this point, my heart is twinging, but I’m not so upset that I can’t appreciate their happiness. I held down the like button until it gave me more options and clicked on the heart. A couple minute later, I saw a picture of a beautiful ring. One of my college roommates was engaged.

By this point, my heart was twinging and my gut was clenching. But, I deal with these kinds of reactions all the time. When I catch them early, they’re easy to conquer by just deciding it’s not going to affect me. My resolve lasted until I saw a picture of a gorgeous baby boy on his birth day. The twinging turned to throbbing. The clenching turned rock hard. Cynicism had wrapped its claws around me. I knew from experience that the longer I harbored it, the worse it would become. I got off my phone, praying, “Please, can it be my turn soon?” Reminding myself of God’s faithfulness and resolving to trust Him with the timing (for the second time in about five minutes), I walked away from my phone… only to witness my sister joyously greeting her boyfriend at the door. It wasn’t even 8:30 in the morning, and I had lost count of the number of times I had been slapped by my singleness.

We singles know. Aching loneliness is so common and the littlest things make it worse. So how do we combat bitterness? Well, first, we need to be completely surrendered to the Lord. Whatever He says in His Word and whatever He allows in His sovereignty should be met with the spirit of Mary: “I am the Lord’s servant. May your word to me be fulfilled” (and yes, it’s much easier said than done).

Here’s a more concrete way of treating it: think about what you do have instead of what you don’t. Think: “What joys, blessings, and pleasures has God given me?” Begin with the Biblical promises (like “I will never leave you nor forsake you”). Don’t stop until you’ve included the singleness perks, like being able to take the afternoon off to have some me-time (whether that’s being holed up in your room reading a book or going to the mall). Find ways to remind yourself of them frequently, especially when you’re feeling down. And of course, beg the Holy Spirit for peace. When peace and contentment are combined, they form a brilliant, strong wall that repels bitterness unlike any other weapon I’ve seen.

  1. Indulge in the emotional “Rapunzel Syndrome.” Did you know that Shrek was turned into a musical? Surprisingly, it was fairly good. But, entertainment reviews aside, Fiona (the heroine) has a solo that I think captures the idea of the “Rapunzel Syndrome” quite well. Check out the clip:

We all know girls like this. Girls who proverbially sit at their window singing Jesse McCartney and Taylor Swift, watching chick flicks, and wishing for her prince to come. Okay, we all act like those girls more or less. (Guys, just admit it. You do it too. You just use different methods to cope).

Now, I’m not saying that we shouldn’t have these longings. On the contrary, God designed us to long for love and marriage. Jim Elliot said, “Let not our longing slay the appetite of our living.” When we let our longings turn into obsession, we go from natural and healthy to sin. Like everything, desires have to remain submitted to the lordship of Christ.

In Galatians, Paul admonishes, “Do not grow weary in doing good, for in due time you will receive a harvest if you do not give up.” Sage advice, even for the 21st century single adult. God calls us to “[fix] our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2, NASB), trusting that in God’s timing, we will receive all the blessings God has intended for us.

January 1, 2018
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The St. Louis Vacation, pt. 5: Southwest

There’s one more part of St. Louis to highlight, and that’s the southwest. Just like the rest of the area, there are several places that your family will thoroughly enjoy visiting!

#1: Grant’s Farm

Grant’s Farm is one of St. Louis’ most popular sites, and for good reason! As a prime example of agri-tourism, they have enough to keep your family busy for hours. Take a ride on a camel, or let your kids ride a pony. Bottle feed baby goats and visit Deer Park, where you can see all sorts of rare animals from North American Bison to European Black Buck Antelope. Whatever you do, you won’t want to miss the incredible shows! These informative, exhilarating demonstrations teach about the incredible creatures on the property.

When you get tired, take a spin on the carousel or visit the cabin where Ulysses S. Grant stayed when he worked at the farm. This is also the home of the Budweiser Clydesdales, so take a tour to meet them and figure out everything that makes them so special, besides being featured on the cutest Christmas beer commercials.

However you spend your time on the farm, it will be time well spent!

#2: The Magic House

The Magic House is another fun, hands-on museum that is designed to ignite your kids’ curiosity, creativity, and problem solving abilities. In a day and age when imagination isn’t quite as plentiful in younger generations, there has never been a greater need for a place like this. Your younger kids can learn from different displays about static electricity and the science behind music. Your older kids will be enthralled by a room dedicated to forensics where they can solve a mystery while studying fingerprints, crawl through duct work to spy on suspects, and discover secret passageways. There are also temporary exhibits that you’ll definitely want to check out. There are so many displays and exhibits intended for children of all ages, making this another place where you can spend several hours and it feels like minutes. Admission is $10 per person.

#3: World Bird Sanctuary

If you like wildlife, and specifically like birds, you really need to check out World Bird Sanctuary. They have over 200 species, and have special displays on birds of prey from all over the world, featuring owls, falcons, and hawks. But they also have exotic birds, like parrots, and other birds from around the world, like an Egyptian Vulture! Their mission is to preserve animals, especially endangered birds, in their natural environment, and they do so quite skillfully, but they don’t feature birds only. You can also view an impressive display of snakes, insects from Madagascar, and mammals like armadillos and bats. This is a great way to expose your kids to the natural world in a safe and educational setting.

#4: Broemmelsiek Park Stargazing

Although this one is a bit of a drive from St. Louis, your family will definitely have to check out is Broemmelsiek Park’s Friday Night Star Gazing, which is hosted on every Friday evening throughout the year, weather permitting. Using complex telescopes as well as the naked eye, participants can view the night sky like never before. This free program is run by trained facilitators who will point out specific constellations and other cosmic features that will make you appreciate the wonder and majesty of our universe just before hitting the hay.

Details: Starts at dusk. Location: Broemmelsiek Park Main Entrance (1615 Schwede Rd., Wentzville, MO 63385)

#5: Wabash, Frisco and Pacific Railroad Association

The WF&P Railroad is one of the top family attraction in the Greater St. Louis area. Located in Glencoe, MO, this attraction’s purpose is to keep the history of steam trains alive and well. This park has several ride-able model trains… and they aren’t like the cutesy kid-sized cars disguised as trains that you’ll find in your local mall. These actually require tracks and truly run on steam. Mom and dad can ride them too! Each ride, which last about 30 minutes, costs only $4 and travels along the beautiful Meramec River. However, they’re only open on Sundays from 11 AM – 4:15 PM.

#6: Six Flags

There are very few people in the world who don’t like amusement parks at all. There’s just something about all the rides, the energy, and the constantly available carny food that’s attractive to the modern American mindset.

While you’re there, be sure to check out the best attraction, Hurricane Harbor which is a massive water park. For those in your family who prefer the adrenaline rush, check out the Tornado, where you can ride down a 132 ft. (40.2 m) long funnel, or the Dive Bomber, which is a 5-story slide that is practically a free-fall! But that’s not the end of the ride! After that, you have some serious twists and turns to reckon with before hitting the pool at the bottom. But, if you prefer saner rides, check out the Hurricane Bay wave pool or the Surf Rider, a simulator that can give you a taste of what surfing the waves really feels like!

 

This post originally appeared on Daring Penguin Travel Blog, published January 10, 2016. It was part of a larger article, 30+ Places to Check Out in St. Louis.

December 11, 2017
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The St. Louis Vacation, pt. 4: Forest Park

Forest Park, located fifteen minutes due west of downtown St. Louis, was the location of the 1904 World’s Fair. Ever since, the St. Louis Park District has been adding tourist attractions to the grounds. Besides the museums and zoo, it is also home to hiking trails, monuments, natural highlights, indoor/outdoor recreational centers, and landmarks. Any honest tourist would admit that there’s enough to do here to keep a family busy for many days.

#1: The St. Louis Art Museum

If you want to get exposed to worldwide, local, and ancient art, but don’t want to drive all the way to the Smithsonians in Washington D.C., then drop by the St. Louis Art Museum. This incredible place has over a dozen permanent collections, boasting over 30,000 works! Take the Ancient Egyptian Collection, for instance. This display highlights hieroglyphics, explains the mummification process, and even has a real sarcophagus! Or, if you prefer the art of war, check out the Arms and Armor display, which has suits of armor and weapons from the 15th through the 18th centuries. Maybe you’d like to see art from around the world, like African headdresses, weapons from the South Pacific, and pottery from Asia, and other exhibits that hail from literally every continent on earth. These are just a few of the permanent displays in this three-story building.

Nor are all the collections indoors! The Grace Taylor Broughton Sculpture Garden is a beautiful array of outside artwork. There’s enough to do here to keep an art or history lover busy all day; but if you just want to do something different to de-stress for a couple of hours, this is a classy way to do it. Tickets are recommended, but admission is free.

#2: The Missouri History Museum

Much like an art museum, the Missouri History Museum is a great way to spend the last couple of hours of the day. They have some fascinating permanent exhibits about St. Louis through the ages, the Spirit of St. Louis (an airplane that Charles Lindbergh flew from New York to Paris in 1919) and the 1904 World’s Fair.

Another permanent display is the History Clubhouse. This section of the museum is dedicated to instilling the love of learning, history, and museums inside children and their families. Please keep in mind that viewing the History Clubhouse is free, but requires a ticket to enter.

If you’re still around in the evening, check out Twilight Tuesday, a seasonal outdoor concert series that takes place on the front lawn of the museum. The public is more than welcome to come out with lawn chairs, drinks, and bug repellent to enjoy the lineup under the St. Louis sunset.

#3: The St. Louis Science Center

The Science Museum is an interactive playground that features anything that could be remotely considered scientific. The best thing is, your kids will have so much fun that they won’t even realize that they’re learning! They have entire rooms dedicated to forensics, technology, DNA, and agriculture. Children of all ages can explore the environment and ecology exhibits. Watch your child’s eyes widen in wonder as they feel what an earthquake feels like, watch a simulator create a tornado, or dig out dinosaur bones in the paleontology display.

Every hour, there are science demonstrations on the lower level with incredible themes like “Creepy Chemistry” and “Boiling Hot… Boiling Cold.” You’ll definitely want to pace yourself, however, because it’s very easy to spend all day here and not really want to leave at closing time.

Then again, why not make your visit a weekend trip? The Science Center and Drury Hotels has a package deal to make your stay that much more affordable and enjoyable.

#4: The St. Louis Zoo

If you like animals, you need to check out the St. Louis Zoo. Although general admission is free, there are some attractions that require purchased tickets to enjoy, such as the sea lion show, zooline train, and the conservation carousel.

Enter by the north entrance, so you will see Living World first. This center is a marvelous welcome/information center where you can get a good overview of the park and plan your visit. And while you’re there, look through the Insectarium, which offers a good look at some spectacular bees, bugs (behind glass of course), and butterflies. Also in the Discovery Center is a display of some of the rare, smaller creatures, like naked mole rats, meerkats, and tree kangaroos. But that’s only the beginning. Throughout the zoo’s 89 acres, there are literally thousands of critters, and more are arriving all the time!

If by the end of your visit, your kids are singing the Gayla Peevey’s classic song “I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas,” or inserting some other animal into the lyrics like “baby tiger” or “dolphin,” stop by one of the gift shops, which are located at different places around the zoo.

#5: The Muny

Enjoy a good theater production? Check out the Muny, one of the finest outdoor theaters in the world! They host all sorts of fun, locally and nationally cast musicals, ranging in style from The Little Mermaid to Gypsy and Legally Blonde. Check out their season schedules to determine which show you want to see and to get tickets!

 

This post originally appeared on Daring Penguin Travel Blog, published January 10, 2016. It was part of a larger article, 30+ Places to Check Out in St. Louis.

 

December 4, 2017
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10 Reasons to Visit Frankenmuth, Michigan

Some places bring a whole new meaning to the word “Christmas.” Take historic St. Charles, Missouri, for instance. This town reminds visitors of Christmases gone by with booths selling chestnuts roasted on an open fire and costumed volunteers who make you feel like you just stepped into A Christmas Carol. Other towns, like downtown Chicago, are perfect if you want to see an incredible light display and feel the season’s jolly hustle and bustle.

But if you’re interested in starting a new tradition for your family where you can see awe-inspiring Christmas lights and decoration displays, eat incredible food, and experience the Christmas rush with other shoppers, then you should check out Frankenmuth, Michigan.

Reason #1: A Variety of Boutiques

Frankenmuth may as well have a corner on the market in boutiques. Dozens of these locally owned shops line Main Street and sell items such as clothing, figurines, kilts, leatherwork, specialty cheeses, and Frankenmuth souvenirs.

When you’re done visiting Main Street, check out River Place Shops, which contain over 40 shops and attractions. Take a stroll along a cobblestone sidewalk and enjoy the Bavarian architecture and landscaping while popping in-and-out of incredible shops, drinking hot chocolate, or eating fudge and other locally produced delectables.

Reason #2: Fantastic Family Restaurants

If you like incredible meal experiences, then Frankenmuth is the place to visit—take The Bavarian Inn, for instance. They specialize in beautiful, family-style dinners served by a wait staff dressed in lederhosen and dirndl. And right across the street is Zehnder’s Restaurant, which opened over 150 years ago and is as classy as it is old. They also have multiple venues, so if you don’t want to eat in the classic restaurant, you could eat at Z Chef’s Café or the Elf Hollow Café.

Or perhaps you want to travel further from the beaten track and try The Old Christmas Station, which serves some of Europe’s finest traditional Christmas dishes all year long. While you’re waiting for your food, you can browse the antique Christmas ornaments museum located inside the restaurant. But these aren’t the only places to eat in town. Check out the other unique eateries just waiting to tempt your taste buds.

Reason #3: A Town Rich in History

Frankenmuth was originally established by German immigrants who were escaping persecution and poor living conditions. Their story, beginning with their escape and ending with an established life in the American wilderness, is one fraught with danger and excitement. But why read an article about it when you could walk through the Frankenmuth Historical Museum that brings that history to life? Don’t stop there—places like Grandpa’s Tiny Farm and Zeilinger Wool Company, which sells handcrafted wool products and offers hands-on tours of their wool processing plant, has a unique view of the city and its heritage from more personal perspectives. A quick glance through Frankenmuth’s museums and history web page will reveal enough to keep your family busy for quite some time.

Reason #4: The Best Fudge Shops

Have you ever watched the fudge making process? Not many have. In Frankenmuth, fudge is made right in front of the customers. And trust me, such a mesmerizing sight is not easily forgotten! Even children are enthralled by the show, to the point that it can be difficult to pull them away. The experience is more than visual: nothing is quite like the smell of warm chocolate, vanilla, and peanut butter wafting through the air in a fudge shop. Oh, and did I mention that almost all of these shops offer free samples? Seriously, you haven’t experienced Frankenmuth until you’ve had a piece (or two or three) of their delicious fudge!

Reason #5: Breweries and Wineries

Exclusively for older audiences, Frankenmuth has a few generations-old wineries and breweries that offer tours and wine tastings for reasonable prices. Whether you’re interested in the award winning Solera Cream Sherry or you’re more interested in regionally-grown drinks, Frankenmuth breweries have something for you. However, if you’re just interested in a more in-depth history of brewing, check out the historic Lager Mill, where Frankenmuth’s social drinking heritage is discussed.

Reason #6: Local Carriage Companies

The Frankenmuth Carriage Company offers tourists a 15 or 30-minute drive around downtown Frankenmuth. From the carriage window, you’ll see sights like the covered bridge and the best of Frankenmuth’s shops and beautiful Bavarian-styled buildings. You don’t even have to schedule the ride ahead of time! Head over to the Bavarian Inn Restaurant Glockenspiel Clock Tower, where the carriages congregate. Just walk up to one and tell them you want a ride, and they’ll take you from there.

Another company is the Fantasy Carriage Company. This carriage ride, which starts from just south of Zehnder’s Restaurant, will take you through the most nostalgic parts of town, including the historic district and Main Street attractions. If you schedule ahead of time, you won’t have to worry about a long wait. Don’t mind being patient? That’s fine. They take spontaneous customers as well.

Reason #7: The largest Christmas store in the world

Frankenmuth has earned every letter of the title “Christmas Capital of the World.” A large part of that is due to Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland, which supplies Christmas decorations to stores and towns all over the world and can definitely be classified as a “Christmas village under one roof.” Open 361 days a year and hosting a year-long outdoors light display, this store is a must-see. They don’t just cater to towns and malls; they have Christmas decorations for your home, too. They feature all sorts of incredible Christmas decorations: Christmas trees, ornaments, lights, wrapping, nativity sets, Santa Clauses in all shapes and sizes, garland, lawn ornaments – you name it, they’ve got it. And if you don’t find the exact tree ornament you’re looking for, Bronner’s employs artists who will hand-decorate an ornament for you.

Reason #8: Family Resorts

Zehnder’s Splash Village Hotel and Waterpark boasts 50,000 square feet of indoor water fun. Their attractions include two slides, one of which is four stories high and the other is six! But if you’re not exactly a heights type of person, try out one of their other fantastic ground features, like water basketball and volleyball, Splash Landing play area, a dumping bucket, hot tub, and a lazy river. Although the water park is this hotel’s most impressive feature, it’s not the only one. The hotel also has a 2,000 square foot arcade, a fitness center, and an in-house café!

Although the Bavarian Inn is smaller, guests automatically receive a pass to the water park, which has four indoor pools, three whirlpools, and two slides. This hotel also has an 18-hole miniature golf course, tennis courts, exercise room, a two-story children’s play area, and numerous in-house restaurants, lounges, and gift shops. This hotel, located right next to the ever active Heritage Park, offers fun events such as biweekly family karaoke nights.

Reason #9: The Frankenmuth Guided Tour

Not sure what to check out first? Well, go on a guided tour of the town. Two are available: Frankenmuth FunShips and the Bavarian Belle Riverboat. FunShips offers several trip options, ranging from 35 minutes to an hour. Or, you can take their daily Wine and Chocolate Tasting Cruise and get a view of the town from your taste buds’ perspective.

Bavarian Belle Riverboat, on the other hand, offers an hour-long family-oriented tour that tells the town’s history while you sit an authentic paddlewheel riverboat. However, the Bavarian Belle only runs from May through October.

Reason #10: A Busy Town…All Year Long!

Can’t make it up this month? No worries! Frankenmuth has attractions year-round. This town celebrates multiple festivals every year, like the Launch to the Summer Festival, Auto Fest, and the oldest Oktoberfest in the nation. And since Frankenmuth is the “Christmas Capital of the World,” there will always be Christmas displays in town (especially in places like Bronner’s) – this makes Frankenmuth the perfect spot for celebrating the most festive holiday of the year – even in July!

This post originally appeared on Daring Penguin Travel Blog, published December, 2015.

November 24, 2017
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Singleness… Purposefully Redeeming the Time

About a year ago, several of us young adults were sitting around talking about marriage and singleness at a church fellowship. A friend of mine spoke with concern about her older sister, who was in her late 20s and lonely. My heart twisted. How well I could relate! Had I been honest, I would have admitted that I had been moping about that all weekend.

Then Jared* spoke up. He suggested that my friend should encourage her sister to purposefully redeem the time, listing several excellent ways to do so. I have no idea if my friend was invigorated by Jared’s excitement for his subject, but I was. It was the attitude adjustment I needed, a call to return to excellent things that I had more or less abandoned.

Galatians 6:9-10 says, “Let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith.” I can’t remember all the things that Jared suggested, but here are the things that I have been doing for years (and especially since that little conversation) to make the most of my singleness.

  1. Devote yourself to the Scriptures and the teaching of the apostles. In his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul pointed out that a married person’s first concern and ministry is to his or her family, which is a good, proper, and holy use of her time and resources. However, a married person’s opportunities to develop faith knowledge isn’t quite as plentiful as during the single years. Husbands and wives must devote long hours to the pleasant (and sometimes unpleasant) work of strengthening their marriage. When they become parents, they must nurture, train, and strengthen their family. 

As a single, this time —when you don’t have to worry about pleasing your spouse (1 Cor. 7:33)—is the ideal time to concrete yourself in your faith. Study the Bible and our faith with other Christians. Read the Bible on your own. Listen to Biblically grounded sermons. Learn to pray unceasingly. Go to that spiritual retreat your church is hosting next month. Develop your appetite for the excellent things of God. Get into the habit of asking deep, purposeful questions of your church leaders. All of these things will build a solid foundation that will carry you through life, whether that includes marriage or not.

  1. Find your ministry. And no, I don’t mean that you necessarily have to watch the nursery at church. I mean, find what God has made you to do to further His kingdom and then do it. If you’re not sure what your bent is, discover it. One great resource for finding your passions is a little booklet called Life Purpose Planning. I’m not the only one to think so, either! Lumerit Education requires it for all their new-coming students, many of whom say it was instrumental in helping them discover who they were and what they wanted to do.
  1. Take advantage of opportunities. Today is something you’ll never have again. Live it to the fullest, but remember that someday you’ll have to give an account of it to God. Don’t waste or abuse time. It’s a resource that is far too precious.

Now, let me tell you what I don’t mean. Don’t fill your schedule with every fun and holy activity that you are invited to. Don’t misuse other resources (health, money, relationships, skills, etc.) so that you can stay busy.

Here’s what I do mean: maintain a godly, healthy balance. Figure out what your God-given goals and desires are and live up to them. If that means that you spend next Saturday at a conference to improve your professional skills, do it. Or perhaps you really, really want to take a mission trip to Israel. Maybe that means cleaning the house so your mom doesn’t have to. Then again, perhaps the best way to enjoy today to the glory of God is to take your journal or favorite book outside and lay down on a blanket in the sun-shiniest corner of the backyard. Whatever it is, live a Christ-centered abundant life.

  1. Develop your skills. You have been given the gift of a body. Use it. Train your body to be your one of your best resources. Make your hands more useful than just winning Mario Kart. Find ways to improve yourself so that you can better benefit those around you (and when/if God gives you a family of your own someday, you will have more skills to bless them). Decide what habits and characteristics you want to have and develop them. However, remember that good planning is only the beginning. The hardest and most time-consuming part of developing skills is actually doing it. Don’t get discouraged, though. It’s totally worth it.
  1. Develop your mind. Thomas Edison once said, “Only 5% of the people think. 10% think they think. 85% would rather die than think.” What a waste. As Christians, we are called to excellence in all things. That includes our mental capacities. I’m not saying, “be a genius” and I’m certainly not saying, “pretend to be smarter than you think you are.” I’m saying: don’t be content with where you are. Expand your knowledge and learn to be a thinker. Don’t just follow the crowds’ opinions because it’s comfortable or convenient. Learn to think for yourself. Live outside of the culture’s mental box.
  1. Surrender yourself and your desires to God. It seems so basic. Every child who grew up in evangelical Sunday School has heard the plan of salvation like, a gazillion times. Rest assured, I’m not going to talk about gospel basics. I’m talking about the next step: sanctification, defined as “The work of God’s free grace, whereby we are renewed in the whole man after the image of God, and are enabled more and more to die unto sin, and live unto righteousness.”1 More specifically, let’s talk about the whole “dying… and living unto righteousness” part. Sometimes, that means surrendering something very good, like a desire for marriage, trusting that God will give it back when and if He deems it good for us (and glorious for Him). However, surrendering it also means that if God chooses not to give it back, we will still praise and glorify Him.

 Dying to self is never easy (and often very painful), but in my experience, it results in this concept that I call “multiplication by subtraction.” We subtract something from our lives, either repenting of and submitting it to Christ (sin) or giving it to God (sacrifice). Then, God multiplies His blessings in our lives in the absence. It makes no sense on paper, but I have seen this realized time and time again in the lives of God’s people. Surrendering something like this takes time, energy, and perseverance. But God is faithful, therefore you can be, too.

 1The Westminster Shorter Catechism, question 35

*Not his real name.

November 20, 2017
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The St. Louis Vacation, pt. 3: Delmar Loop

Shopping + hipster culture = the Delmar Loop.

In other words, if you like the latest fashions or if you enjoy shopping, this is the neighborhood to visit. They have a little bit of everything, too. Coffee shops, boutiques, spas, specialty restaurants, open air music, studios and art galleries, Ben & Jerry’s, a soda-pop factory… Seriously, when I said “everything,” I wasn’t exaggerating.

Even this section of the city does its share of commemorating. While you’re popping in and out of shops, check out the three-block long Walk of Fame, which celebrates celebrities who claim the Greater St. Louis area as their home turf with a brass or bronze star bearing their name and a plaque explaining their accomplishments. This stretch of sidewalk contains names like Tennessee Williams, Ullysses S. Grant, Maya Angelou, Joseph Pulitzer, Chic Young, and 139 others.

#1: The Scott Joplin House

One of the quieter attractions in the Loop is the Scott Joplin House. Scott Joplin was once a household name as the father of ragtime, a music style popular in the early 1900’s until the 1960’s. Although it’s not very large, this museum tells Joplin’s story and shows what the area looked like during his time. It features a player piano, which can either be played by a person or by one of the piano rolls, some of which were written by Joplin himself. Especially if your family appreciate music, this step into the past is one you’ll definitely appreciate.

#2: Blueberry Hill

The best way to describe Blueberry Hill, a primary feature on Delmar Blvd., is to say a toy shop and a classic arcade exploded inside a music-enthusiast’s burger joint. This establishment is a vibrant restaurant that frequently hosts live bands. Between songs and while you wait for your food to be delivered to you, go ahead and wander around the pop-culture museum. Founder Joe Edwards personally keeps the display cases full of toys and memorabilia that will remind you of years gone by.

#3: The City Museum

You know the old adage, “don’t judge a book by its cover?” Well, it could also be said: “don’t judge a museum by its name.” Although this particular attraction has a rather boring name, its premises more than make up for it. Built inside a 600,000 square foot former shoe factory and comprised of parts and pieces of salvaged materials, this museum exudes creativity from the first to the tenth floor. From the time you first set eyes on the gigantic outdoor playground/interactive sculpture (that is several stories high and contains items like salvaged airplanes, firetrucks, and an all-ages-allowed ball pit), you will be enthralled with the attractions this museum offers!

Each floor is cram-packed with attention grabbing features. For instance, take the life-size model of a Bowhead Whale on the first floor, or the “skateless park” (no skateboards, please, but every visitor is given free reign to run, swing, slide, and otherwise enjoy the attraction). Don’t forget to look for all the random hidey-holes, secret passages, and slides that make you feel like you’re on a life-size version of the classic game Chutes and Ladders. The roof is an amusement park with a ferris wheel, a giant praying mantis and a pond that you cross by jumping from stone to stone. As a museum dedicated to creativity in all its best forms, there’s something here for everyone. And as far as vacation memories go, this one is sure to be a favorite.

 

This post originally appeared on Daring Penguin Travel Blog, published January 10, 2016. It was part of a larger article, 30+ Places to Check Out in St. Louis.