How DINKs Do Disney

Lenzis_Disney

According to our Disney fanatic friends, doing Disney as DINKs (sans kids) is a must. I was on the fence about doing Disney as a twenty-something couple, because I had only been once when I was seven, so I didn’t really remember Disney in detail. Due to a wedding of dear friends down south and our vacation schedule, we decided… it’s time to check Disney off the list. And I have to say… they were right. Doing “DINKY” Disney was awesome!

There are entire blogs devoted to the Disney culture and vacation experience, and I’m no expert, so I won’t go into all that, but here are my highlights:

Parks We Explored
Tuesday: Universal Studios (Islands of Adventure side)
Wednesday/Saturday: Magic Kingdom (2x)
Thursday: Epcot
Friday: Hollywood Studios

Where We Stayed
We stayed at the Dolphin Hotel, because we are Starwood Rewards members and the Dolphin and Swan are part of that network. We were able to use points to get super discounted rates which made our accommodations extremely affordable! Our seasoned Disney friends informed of the benefits of staying on Disney property so that we could take advantage of “Extra Magic Hours” in the parks at night, and that was definitely worth it. Our first full day at Magic Kingdom, we ended up enjoying the park until midnight!

Top 3 Attractions

  1. Space Mountain (Magic Kingdom) – At the end of the day, Nick and I really are roller coaster people and we’ve never ridden anything like Space Mountain. The fact that they really make you feel like you’re flying through space is so awesome.
  2. Hogsmeade (Islands of Adventure) – I am a longtime Harry Potter fan, so I was pretty much geeking out once we set foot in Hogsmeade. I realize I am claiming a whole section of the park, and not a specific attraction within, but the atmosphere really does make you feel like you’ve stepped onto the movie set. Honestly I wasn’t blown away by one specific aspect, but appreciated all of the impeccably executed details that make up the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
  3. Mission Space (Epcot) – This ride simulates what it would be like to go be launched into space and experience G-forces. It is amazing how detailed the whole ride is. Just beware for those who are prone to motion sickness! This is definitely one that made me nauseated. Worth it though!

Words of Wisdom

  • Go for a week. If you want to try to do the whole of Disney World, you will definitely need a week and you’ll be exhausted by the end! If we were to do it again, we would try to go for a longer period of time and add in a rest day in the middle to relax and re-energize.
  • Stay on Disney property. Staying at a Disney (affiliated) resort was worth it. It seems like they have a wide variety of price points to make it possible for everyone.
  • Eat Strategically. This may be a given, but Disney food prices are expensive. (And this coming from a New Yorker!) Some of it seemed worth it, some definitely did not. We were told by friends that “eating/drinking your way through Epcot” would be one of the highlights as a twenty-something, but honestly it really wasn’t for us! We were there on a fairly busy day, and since it was Day 3, by the afternoon we were pretty tired. While the atmosphere is awesome, I found it hard to truly appreciate because I am spoiled living in NYC, where we can pretty much name an ethnic food and find somewhere that serves it authentically and amazingly. I think it might have been more fun had we been at Epcot with friends.
  • HAVE A PLAN! I am the least likely person to volunteer to get up early on vacation, but I admit, for Disney, it was worth it to get to the park before it opened so we could ride the most popular rides with virtually no wait or reserve our Fast Passes to ride them later. Undercover Tourist and the Lines App were fantastic resources. We never waited more than about 40 minutes for a ride the entire trip, and we got to ride and see almost everything we wanted to!

What is your favorite way to vacation as a couple? What are your Disney must-dos?

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In Praise of Millenial Church

Hoboken Gracers celebrating at our wedding in January 2011.

Hoboken Gracers celebrating at our wedding in January 2011.

I have done a fair amount of traveling over the last few months through various parts of the South, and have come to realize something: when I am away from my church family on Sundays, I find myself homesick. It’s somewhat shocking for me to come to this realization. As I’ve written about before, it’s taken a long time for me to really embrace Hoboken as home. Coming here has required being a part of a culture vastly different from the one I moved from, and in the past I have sometimes felt like an outsider in church that purposes to reach young urban professionals.

As one who grew up in the church as a pastor’s kid, a Bible College student, and former church staff member, it’s often easier for me to slip into the role of critic on Sunday mornings. If I’m not careful, the analytical part of my brain kicks into gear and I start evaluating different aspects of the worship experience rather than being an active worshipper. There are many things about the church universal that I love and many that frustrate me, especially when I tap into what is going on in with those who identify as “Christians,” the culture in which I was raised, and the media. I am an idealist, so tend to see all that things could be, but I can also be easily disappointed when they don’t live up to the high standards I have set. It is easy to become disillusioned with the church, because it is built of broken people. We fail, we make far too many choices out of selfishness than love, and yet we continue to strive towards the curious, attractive, and subversive Way of Jesus.

It is a sweet realization to recognize that when I’m away, I miss the familiar, smiling faces of my home church here in Hoboken and the warm greeting we receive when we walk through the doors on Sunday morning. Traveling to other churches helps me to better appreciate the passion, talent, and authenticity of our worship team. In hearing other pastors preach, I recognize how pointedly the teaching on Sunday is applicable in my life as a twenty-something living outside New York City. One of my favorite things about my church is how we purpose to celebrate things both big and small in the life of our community. It is a habit I want to cultivate more strongly through all aspects of my life. I want to become an encourager more than a critic. Today, these are some of the things I am grateful for:

  • A church that understands the culture in which it was planted, and is relevant to the young (millennial!) urban professional residing here: largely 20-30 somethings
  • A church that is more focused on how to love its local community well rather than getting caught up in traditional wars of culture, worship style, and leadership roles
  • A church that continually challenges its attendees to focus on the people outside it’s “doors” (we meet in school buildings!), and always asks the question, if we were to leave tomorrow, would Hoboken notice?
  • A church made up of many people who are embracing faith as their own for the first time and just beginning to discover what it looks like to follow Jesus

What do you love about your church community? Do you find it easier to be frustrated with the church than to celebrate where you see God moving?

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A New Adventure

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Today marks the start of the next life adventure. I am excited to announce that… I’m returning to the world of the unemployed! Apologies to those who were hoping for another kind of announcement. Nope, still no babies yet!

After much discussion and deliberation, my current employer and I decided to go our separate ways. When I started with my current company over two years ago, Nick and I were in a very different place financially and I really needed a full time job to set us up for financial freedom. It was a definite blessing that the opportunity came when it did, and enabled us to meet many of our goals, including becoming debt free!

However, for months now I’ve been wavering between experiencing total fear and utter relief about considering what is next. I am an ENFP to the core, for better or for worse, and some time ago I began to feel that in the 9-5 portion of my day, I was functioning as a different version of myself. Most days I was operating out of my secondary, survival administrative skill set rather than the creative one that energizes me.

I was already fighting this internal battle before heading to Uganda with Bob Goff and Restore International, but coming back home from Uganda after seeing so many gifted people using their skills to make tangible change in others’ lives, I couldn’t shake the conviction that I wanted to be living a different kind of day to day.

I’m sure some of you have wondered if I am ok considering how much I’ve seemed to fall off the face of the earth since I returned from Africa in November! I’ve been busy soul searching, fervently reexamining my priorities and determining how to live a life more in line with my strengths and values.

So what’s next? I don’t entirely know. I’ll be spending my “free” time in a structured way (shoutout to my life coach for introducing me to the idea of budgeting my time!), split between writing on a more regular basis (yay!), hunting for the right full time opportunity that utilizes my strengths and allows me to embrace my passions, as well as finding a healthier balance in my personal relationships and home front.

Here’s to the scary, unknown, but exhilarating new chapter in the life of the Lenzis. Bring it on!

(Please forgive the simplicity of this post and lack of links, I’m writing from the road!)

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Singles Awareness Day

JBC besties and me celebrating our singleness, Valentine's Dinner 2004

JBC besties and me celebrating our singleness, Valentine’s Day dinner 2004

In honor of this day of love, here is one from way, way back – nine years ago! This was my heart at nineteen, and it marks a specific point in time when I realized that writing, especially about matters of the heart, really mattered to me. This is a post from my college blog that had friends and strangers on campus stopping me on campus to talk about it. I look back now at this girl, who seems all at once very separate from who I am now, and yet I remember her like an old friend. 2005′s Erika had no idea she would meet her future husband a little more than two years later at the school she transferred to in order to pursue her writing passion, and that as a newlywed of three years in 2014 she would still be trying to grasp the idea of true love.

Valentine’s Day 2005

staying home alone on a friday
flat on the floor looking back
on old love (or lack thereof)
after all the crushes have faded
and all my wishful thinking was wrong
i’m jaded… i hate it
i’m tired of being alone
so hurry up and get here
so tired of being alone
so hurry up and get here
you’ll be so good for me.
- John Mayer

With Valentine’s Day (or “Singles Awareness Day” for those without a significant other) approaching, I keep hearing my single friends complaining about how much they hate the holiday, how it’s all about ripping people off. Last year I was really proud of myself, because I went out with a bunch of my girls for V-Day, and I can say at that point in time, I was really content in simply being alone. I won’t lie, this year, I’ve joined in the complaining and self-pity a bit. I’m going on 30 months of being single, and honestly? I’m really quite sick of it. I’ve thrown up my hands more than once in the past semester and said “screw this waiting around thing, I’m going to have some fun.” It’s funny though, how every time I do that, I end up feeling emptier and more frustrated than I started out. I’ve found myself repeating the same mistakes I’ve been making all of my life – mistakes I swore I’d never make again.

I was a nanny for two kids this summer, and one of them I talk to online every once in a while. I was looking at her profile today, and it’s filled with quotes about boys and love and how she’s “still waiting for her prince.” I wish I had the power to tell her not to set her heart on the love of a boy. She’s in sixth grade. I know it’s almost pointless to even try to tell middle schooler not to obsess over the idea of a relationship. They’re all so new to this, and they’re in love with having someone to crush on. They think they’re little adults. I know I spent my middle school years flirting as much as possible, and reveling in the attention of the opposite sex. I remember having my little heart bruised when I fell hard for someone and my feelings weren’t reciprocated. I remember falling “in love” for the first time in eighth grade, and how completely horrible I felt when it ended.

The way I was in middle school set me up for an even worse struggle in high school. In every relationship I went into, I wanted that boy to love me for who I was, not for what I could do for his ego or his reputation. I never found that in a relationship, because I didn’t have a clue as to what respect looked like. I had my heart shattered time after time, often by the same boy, because I didn’t know that things weren’t supposed to be like that. I knew to a point – it killed me every time he’d tell me how hot this other girl was, or when he’d curse at me, or when he’d remind me if I didn’t put out, he wouldn’t stay. But I let myself be blinded by the times he’d whisper in my ear how much he loved me, or when he told me I was beautiful to him whether I was in scrubs or the prom queen. That wasn’t enough. That wasn’t real love. Sometimes we all need a reminder of what real love looks like. Real love truly isn’t a feeling. It’s a commitment. It’s so much more than we can really even grasp.

This is real love:

love never gives up.
love cares more for others than for self.
love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.

love doesn’t strut,
doesn’t have a swelled head,

doesn’t force itself on others,
isn’t always “me first,”

doesn’t fly off the handle,
doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,

doesn’t revel when others grovel,
takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
puts up with anything,

trusts God always,
always looks for the best,
never looks back,
but keeps going to the end.

- 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (MSG)

I want to love and be loved like that.

With God’s help, I’m going to try my best to praise Him in my singleness; to be content with right now. My heart longs for a man like David, for my “Prince Charming.” But I’ve still got time. I’ll be 20 in May, and although in my life plan, I’d hoped to have met “the one” by about now, sometimes God plucks our plans right out of our fingers and says, “My child, this is what I want for you. What I have is so much better.” I have no idea what God’s up to, but in the meantime, I’m going to keep pursuing my love relationship with Christ. After all, I know that I won’t be capable of loving like I should unless I’m learning from the author of love Himself.

- – -

Whether you’re single or in a relationship, what are you learning about love? 

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A Book That Can Change Your Love Life

True Love Dates Book

I have always been in love with love. Throughout my teen years I was searching for it, and in my early twenties I spent most of my days trying to unravel the mystery of it. I was a serial dater, always on the hunt for Prince Charming… until I gave up on him and then eventually found something so much better. Between my many years of dating and now three years of marriage, I have learned a lot about what love does and doesn’t look like. I learned a lot of things the hard way, and there are so many things I always want to share with those who will listen. Don’t do what I did. You can do better. You can make healthier, wiser choices. So when I run into likeminded comrades on the journey, good luck shutting me up!

Debra K. Fileta is a fellow sojourner, blogger, author, and licensed counselor who just released her first book, entitled True Love Dates. Written from a faith-based perspective, it is one of the best relationship books I have read in a long time. And that is saying a lot considering I’m the kind of girl who has read probably WAY too many books on relationships. Fileta’s book is easy to read with a conversational, approachable tone. She tells thought-provoking and heart-wrenching stories from her practice as well as her own life. Throughout the pages of this book you feel as if you are listening to a very wise friend, which makes sense considering she is a licensed professional counselor!

The reason to read it for single believers trying to navigate the dating scene is this: it is rare to find a book that speaks truthful, relevant advice to the (largely) millennial, twenty-something generation trying to find love. The reality is so many people are trying to find a mate while carrying baggage they never considered they may be hauling. True Love Dates asks the reader to first stop and look inward, and do some hard work before moving outward in pursuit of a dating relationship. There are no secret formulas, just the benefits of self-awareness and encouragement of openness to God’s healing. I found myself identifying time and again with Fileta’s stories and highlighting crucial insights every few pages.

This book offers sound counsel, but goes beyond that, including practical steps in the form of questions for reflection at the end of each chapter to aid readers in their journey of discovering how ‘True Love Dates.’ I recommend this book to anyone looking for a Christ-like perspective on dating, whether you are single yourself, have single friends, or are a counselor/pastor.

And finally, a few of my favorite quotes from the book to whet your appetite:

“Loving yourself requires that you know, value, and respect the person you are while moving toward the person God has made you to be.”

“Healthy people will marry healthy people because you’ll always end up with the person whom you believe you deserve.”

“I need you to hear this: your story has far more to do with finding God’s unique calling and purpose for your life than it does with finding the love of your life.”

Get your own copy of True Love Dates for yourself or a friend on Amazon (Kindle version is as low as $7.99!) or the TLD website.  If you read it, let me know. I’d love to grab a coffee and talk about it!

What is your favorite resource on the topic of dating? What is the best piece of relationship advice you’ve received?

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2014: The Year of Intention

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As I was reading through other blogger’s posts and their new year’s resolutions, I saw a lot on this idea of choosing a “theme word” for the year. At first I thought that might be a bit much and didn’t think I had one, but as I sat down to solidify my goals for this year, the word intentional kept popping up. I want to be more intentional with my life, living more aware and with more purpose, in every single facet. Too often I find my NYC whirl-wind paced life distracts me and my days, weeks, and months begin slipping by unexamined. So this year I am setting and re-evaluating most of my goals weekly, which I find is my most manageable timeframe.

Here are my 2014 goals!

Spiritual

  • Spend 10% of my time with God in creative ways: in dinner group, reading scripture, journaling, practicing lectio divina, praying privately and in community (11.5 hrs/wk)

Physical

  • Work out 2-3 times per week (and finally take some classes!)
  • Run 4 races this year: at least two 5Ks, at least one 10K, and maybe a 10 miler?

Mental

  • Read 1 book every 2 weeks, rotate between fiction, nonfiction, and Christian living (minimum of 24)
  • Read more books (fiction and non-fiction) about other countries and cultures

Family

  • Spend more “just us” relaxed weekend activities with Nick (1 full day/month)
  • Spend more time with members of my immediate family seasonally (4x/year)

Career

  • Blog at least once a week (2x as much as last year)
  • Attend more Hoboken blogger Meetup events (at least 4)
  • Get ahead on the day by arriving at work by 8:45 AM

Social

  • Spend 1-on-1 quality time with close friends (1x/week)
  • Go on more double dates (2x/month)
  • Make more seasonal bucket lists and find friends to check items off (4x/year)

Financial

Travel

  • Visit San Diego (semi Mzungu Love Tour reunion?!)
  • Go to Europe (this still feels like more of a wish than a reality but I hope!)
  • Disney World, Punta Cana, or Charleston/Savannah (We’re entirely undecided.)

What resolutions did you make? Did you set goals daily, weekly, monthly or yearly? What are your methods for success?

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