Year in Review Video (2020)

We’ve been making these little “Year in Review” videos for 10 years. 10 years!! That feels significant.

We always love going back and watching the old ones. In fact, we decided this year that our New Year’s Eve tradition is going to be watching all the videos together as a family. It’s a new twist on the tradition my family had when I was growing up! We’d get out the slide projector, and look at all the slides from past vacations, and the grainy ones from when my sisters and I were babies. We’d beg for more and more, and somehow remembering the quiet hum of the projector and the screen bathed in warm light still feels magical.

These little videos are missing some of that magic, but they are still really special for our family.🙂

Something new this year: Ben picked the song. Usually we choose one as a family that everyone liked listening to the most, but this time, it was all Ben. He played this song so much in 2020 that all the kids would groan when they’d hear it! But this did not discourage Ben one bit – he’d be grinning and doing all his dance moves in the kitchen.

This may be my favourite video yet. I love it because it’s such a great reminder for me that even though 2020 was tough for a bunch of reasons, there were still so many good, special memories! We worked really hard to make it good, and to soak up all the time together with our little family. This video is my collection of the good times, and they mean so much more because we chose to find the joy.

(Here’s the rest of our collection: 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019)

Three Memories From the Summer I Met Ben

I’ve been thinking a lot about the summer I first met Ben. I think it’s been on my mind because I was 19 years old when I met him, and Anika is turning 18 this year, and that is all a lot to take in!

Ben had almost no hair when I met him, because he’d spent a couple of months tree planting and had shaved his head for the occasion. I preferred boys with hair. He also had a girlfriend, and both of these were factors as to why I wasn’t planning on paying much attention to him that first summer at camp.

But then we were put in charge of teaching canoing together for the whole summer, and it took about two seconds to realize that we got along very well. We became friends right away, because his hairstyle and his girlfriend did not hinder anything in that department.

When I think about that first summer of getting to know Ben, I have a collection of memories – my little glimpses of who Ben was and still is, and all that makes him my favourite person on the face of this earth. I have lots of memories of hanging out with him and having fun together, but I have three memories in particular that made me stop and pay attention – when it almost felt like time slowed down just for a little while, because I felt like I was seeing something important. And I was. I was seeing Ben.

Memory #1

We had only known each other for a couple of days at camp when something horrible happened. Campers hadn’t arrived yet, and we were in the midst of staff training, when a little girl who’s family lived at the camp was playing with her brother, and ended up getting lost. The entire camp was searched, and then we had the awful task of searching the water front, linking arms and swishing our feet through water and seaweed, desperately hoping we wouldn’t find anything. After that, we spent hours tramping through the woods in long rows, searching and calling her name.

It was a horrible, tiring day, and I can still see the look on that mother’s face as she waited for someone to find her little girl.

We paused our search long enough to eat, and while all the summer staff were finishing up the meal, the full time staff left the dining hall for a meeting to figure out what to do next.

A dessert trolley was rolled to the front of the dining hall, and we were asked to serve ourselves, so more people could attend the meeting instead of serving dessert.

I don’t think anyone had a problem with this – it wasn’t a big deal to get up and grab a dessert, and we all thought nothing of it. But I remember looking up and suddenly noticing that Ben was making his way down the aisle with the dessert cart, serving desserts to the rest of the staff. I watched in surprise for a moment, before nudging my friend with my elbow and saying, “Look at that. You should go for Ben.”

The little girl was eventually found, safe and sound, and there was much relief. What stands out most in my mind from that day is linking arms with staff members to work together as we searched for her, the beautiful ringing of the bell to signal she had been found and we could stop searching, and Ben pushing that dessert cart down the aisle, serving everyone during a time of need, when we were all too stressed to think straight.

Memory #2

I had my 20th birthday about two weeks after camp started, and during that time, Ben and I had already become good friends. He knew all about my boy problems (there was a particular boy who was very confused about his feelings towards me, and I was not at all confused about how much I wanted to date him), so Ben and I would chat about this and that and everything else under the sun – the rising sun specifically, because we’d get up at 6:30am to go canoing when the lake was pink glass.

For my birthday, Ben wrote me a very nice note, and gave me a coupon for a free chocolate bar from the tuck shop, to be redeemed whenever I needed to talk about “silly boys” and other things troubling my mind.

Because the confused boy caused me a lot of grief, it didn’t take very long for the need to arise for my free chocolate bar + chat with Ben. I went to find him one afternoon, on the verge of tears, and tracked him down while he was mowing grass. He took one look at my face, and said, “I was just about to take my break.”

He walked me to the tuck shop, bought my chocolate bar, and led me to a picnic table. He listened so kindly and patiently, and it was only months later when he finally confessed that he’d thought all along it was a bad idea for me to pursue any kind of relationship with the other boy.

He didn’t tell me what to do, he just dropped everything to listen, and he made me feel seen and heard.

Memory #3

After we had been working at camp for many weeks already, Ben spent a week working one on one with a little blind boy. I knew by that point how good Ben was with larger groups of people, and how he could take charge easily and comfortably, but that week he poured all of his attention into helping one blind camper.

I remember coming down the path from the cabins to the large clearing where all the campers were playing volleyball and basketball, or heading down to the beach. There were people everywhere, but I caught sight of Ben with his blind camper, and I stopped short, just watching them. Ben was so patient, anticipating the boy’s needs and offering help at the very moment it was needed. And I felt like I couldn’t stop watching, because he didn’t know anyone was watching, and his kindness was so genuine.

Even though I wasn’t interested in being anything other than friends with Ben, I kept having these moments of realizing what a special person he was. I didn’t really know what to do with them, so I just filed them away in my mind.

It took a few months, but we eventually cane to a point where he didn’t have a girlfriend anymore, and I didn’t have confusing boy issues anymore, and suddenly all those moments of watching Ben made everything very clear for me.

Our first picture together, at a Christmas banquet a couple of months before we started dating.

That was a long time ago, and many things have changed since then, but some things have not changed at all. After 20 years of being married to Ben, he is still just as ready to serve, as eager to help out, as gentle and patient in the way he listens, and as great with kids as he was that first summer at camp.

This weekend is Ben’s birthday. Celebrating during Covid, when we can’t really go anywhere or do anything all that different from the usual is kind of tough, but finding things to celebrate about Ben is not hard at all.

3 Questions to Ask for a Simplified Christmas

This is the 20th Christmas Ben and I have celebrated in our own home, but I feel like I still keep tweaking traditions each year, trying to figure out how to make it more meaningful and memorable, without feeling stressed and frazzled.

In my quest for a calmer Christmas, I came across a book a few years ago called “Simplify Christmas” (which is sadly out of print). It included a list of questions to reflect on what would make this holiday most meaningful.

Even though I read it years ago, I still remember three of the questions, because they led to a huge realization: I didn’t actually like Christmas. I dreaded it every year, and these questions made me realize why.

I return to these three simple questions each year, to keep us on track, and to increase the enjoyment of Christmas, while calming the chaos. And it’s helped! I enjoy Christmas so much more than I used to.

They’re such basic questions, it seems unnecessary to ask them, but sometimes we get so stuck in holiday traditions that we forget why we do them, or stop paying attention to how they really make us feel. Maybe you’ll find these three questions helpful this Christmas, too!

What is your favourite Christmas memory from your childhood?

There were lots of things I loved about Christmas as a child, but when I really narrowed it down, I realized my favourite was our family’s candlelit Christmas meal.

My mom insisted it had to be in the evening, so it would be dark when we ate. There were always candles, we always listened to Frank Mills Christmas piano music, and we always ate fried chicken from Chicken Delight. Coleslaw and dinner rolls are more likely to make me think of Christmas dinner than a summer picnic! But it was the way it was. My mom did not spend Christmas in the kitchen.

When I listed these things the first time, I had a few big revelations: I was spending much more time in the kitchen on Christmas than I wanted to, we did not have enough cozy candlelight moments, and we had no piano Christmas music like the kind I grew up listening to.

I realized these were easy problems to solve! We simplified our Christmas meal by switching from a turkey dinner to roast beef. No bones to pick or mess to clean up like after roasting a turkey, and I could just throw potatoes, carrots, and onions right into the slow cooker, to have everything done at the same time, with no extra dishes. Much less time in the kitchen!!

We bought the Piano Guys Christmas album, which perfectly satisfied the desire deep within me for piano Christmas music.

That left the cozy candlelight glow feeling I loved the most. We were already eating our Christmas dinner by candlelight, but I decided that since it was my favourite, and stood out to me the most from all my childhood memories, we should have more of it. More of what I love = more love!

So we started a little tradition called the Christmas Eve Hot Chocolate Party. We set up a little table by the Christmas tree filled with sweets and hot chocolate (which is more sugar than my kids eat the entire rest of the year, so they think it’s a dream come true), and have a cozy little snack on Christmas Eve. (Bonus: it helps me feel less guilty about the fact that we will never have a sleepover by our Christmas tree. Nothing about that idea appeals to me.)

But the Hot Chocolate Party is magical.

It was incredibly helpful for me to use childhood memories to shift our own family’s traditions. Now that my girls are old enough to have their own Christmas memories from when they were younger, I’ve asked them the same question, and used their answers to make sure we cover all the things that are most special for them. They’ve said things like decorating the tree together as a family, opening presents on Christmas morning (and not waiting until later in the day), setting up our Christmas village ornaments, and decorating gingerbread houses. *Ben is not a fan of gingerbread houses, but preassembled houses are an acceptable compromise. 🙂

What do you enjoy the least about Christmas?

When I thought about how I felt about Christmas as a kid, and how I feel about Christmas as an adult, I realized that all the childhood magic was gone, and was replaced with stress and an overwhelming schedule. I had no time or energy to enjoy Christmas when it arrived, because I was too tired from getting ready for it.

It became clear that I needed to simplify Christmas so I have energy to enjoy it, and room to focus on why we are doing all of this on the first place.

Cutting out the turkey dinner was a great first step, but I needed more ways to eliminate the busyness.

My Christmas stress comes from three places: buying gifts, baking, and so many gatherings and events that I don’t have downtime in between.

I decided to make a strict rule that we would be done shopping by December 1 this year, and it has made the biggest difference. This is happening every year from now on, because it’s something I can control, and it is wonderful to have all our gifts taken care of by December.

Same goes for baking. I shared on social media about how I’m skipping the Christmas baking completely this year, but for next year, the baking will happen very early.

As I made these important deadlines for myself, I realized that I have been cramming all three of the most stressful parts of Christmas into the first three weeks of December! What a horrible idea!

This seems like something I should have figured out years ago, but the problem was I used snow as my motivation. I wanted to feel Christmas-y when I got ready for Christmas, and I don’t feel that way until it snows. But if it happens to be a year with hardly any snow before Christmas, I put off getting things done. I am placing my enjoyment of celebrating the birth of Jesus in the hands of the weather. That seems irresponsible and unpredictable.

I need a new motivation. I can motivate myself to get ready for Christmas early because I want to work first, so I can play later. It has nothing to do with when it snows. It has to do with earning my relaxing Christmas by finishing the work ahead of time.

So next year, I will start early, independent of when it snows, and I will remember that I can’t do everything at once, so I will start early enough that I’m not cramming it in during the busiest stretch.

Except there is no busy stretch this year. Covid took care of the busy schedule for me, and while I am enjoying how relaxed it feels, it’s a good reminder that Christmas without people to celebrate with feels empty. When all the gatherings come back next year (hopefully!), I will be thankful for the perspective this Christmas has given me.

What do you enjoy most about Christmas now?

Happily, my work from the first question has paid off, because I realized this year that what I’m looking forward to most is our Hot Chocolate Party! I love it more than Christmas day itself, and it makes sense, because it includes all the magic from my favourite childhood moments.

Opening presents on Christmas morning feels a bit weird to me, but that’s one of Ben’s meaningful Christmas memories, and I’m happy to get on board with it. Our Hot Chocolate Party is a great way to make sure I get my cozy Christmas-y evening, and he gets his exciting morning. We all get our favourite kinds of Christmas moments wrapped up into one holiday. ❤️

And now I’m really curious how you would answer these questions! What are your best/worst Christmas moments, and your favourite childhood memories?

6 Things I Learned This Fall

Even though it’s December, I feel like I can’t fully turn my focus to Christmas until I’ve taken some time to reflect on what made fall great.

Emily P. Freeman is so good at providing inspiration and reflective questions on her blog, and I’ve found it so helpful to look back and think about what I’ve learned, what I’ve enjoyed, and what I want to remember for seasons in the future.

Here’s my list for this fall:

1. Soup Saturdays save my life.

The greatest gift I can give myself right now is a quick and easy way to make lunch. Our mornings are full with homeschooling, and no one has time to worry about making lunch.

So this fall, I decided to make Saturdays the day the magic would happen. Every Saturday, I cooked a big batch of soup, and suddenly I had lunch ready for days at a time. Sometimes we have sandwiches instead so there’s a bit of variety, but it just feels good to know that soup is ready whenever I need it.

2. Twinkle lights unrelated to Christmas decor can cheer up the gloomiest days.

Fall can feel a bit dark and dreary, so last Christmas, I asked Ben to buy me a string of twinkle lights that I left up in my kitchen window all year long. On those cloudy days after time change this fall, it was amazing how it cheered me up to plug those sparkly lights in. Some little lights go a long way.

3. An open window early in the morning is peaceful.

I’ve been told that one of the best things you can do for your health is go outside first thing in the morning. I did this all summer, but when the weather got cold, it got a lot harder. So I started opening the window (while sitting with my feet on the vent blasting hot air!). It’s so still and quiet, except for all the birds. It quickly became one of my favourite parts of the day.

Now that it’s a lot colder, I’ll need to get myself outside instead of letting all the cold air in, but it was delightful while it lasted!

4. The Mute setting on Instagram is a useful tool.

People get to choose what they want to share on social media, but I get to choose whether I’m going to read it or not. Social media has been a lot this year, hasn’t it? Some of it has been beautiful and life-giving, and some has been negative and life-sucking.

This fall, I reached a point where enough was enough. I don’t have enough energy to deal with bad energy. I know this is the point when a lot of people sign off of social media for good, but that also eliminates all the good that can happen there.

This is when the mute option is powerful. I started paying attention to how instagram posts made me feel, and if there was even a twinge of yuckiness, that account got muted. No one ever has to know the particulars of who you mute. It doesn’t need to make us feel guilty, because we all have a choice about what we lay eyes on. I take back that choice.

5. The “I’m Bored List” may be the smartest parenting tool I’ve ever thought up.

When Everett’s friends went back to school in September, he felt lost and lonely. He had forgotten how to entertain himself, and he was convinced it was my job to figure out the solution to this problem.

He got very whiney and demanding, and I quickly got tired of hearing “I’m bored!!!!”

So one day we sat down to make a list. We thought up every single thing there is to do in our house, and I drew pictures of everything. We hung up our huge list, and for days after, every time Everett would say, “I’m bored!” I would remind him of the list, and he would look over it until he found something to do.

The best part is that it reset his habit, so now he doesn’t use his list much anymore, but he doesn’t expect me to solve his entertainment problem anymore. Highly recommend.

6. Essential oils are much more useful than I thought.

I’ve played around with essential oils for years, but this fall I discovered a new essential oil company that is changing everything I’ve thought about oils.

I listened to a podcast interview with Jodi Cohen, the owner of Vibrant Blue Oils, and as soon as it was over, I immediately placed an order. I NEVER act that quickly, but she convinced me 100% that she knew her stuff, and I needed her oils.

I’ve been dealing with adrenal fatigue for most of the year, and it’s been rough. I’ve been exhausted, and so anxious that for a few months, I had panic attacks every day. It was indescribably horrible, and I was desperate to get my body back into balance. I was doing the whole herbs and supplements thing, which was helping, but progress was slow and I was frustrated.

In the interview I listened to, Jodi Cohen specifically talked about anxiety and adrenal fatigue, so I ordered the two blends she developed for those issues (Parasympathetic and Adrenal). When I started using them, I experienced some strong detox symptoms for about three days, and then I felt this dramatic jump in energy, while at the same time an increase in calmness.

I didn’t have another panic attack until I ran out of essential oils. When the panic attacks started up again, it was obvious how much the oils had been helping, so I quickly ordered another round, and don’t plan to run out again!

Vibrant Blue Oils has blends for all kinds of specific issues, like sleep, inflammation, hormones, histamine reactions, focus/attention issues, PMS, migraines…the list goes on and on! They only sell a few individual oils, because their focus is therapeutic blends that work better than anything I’ve ever tried.

I love them so much, I signed up to be an affiliate, so that I could get more information on sales and stuff. Right now, there is a 25% off sale happening for the next couple of weeks, so if you have a specific health issue that could use some essential oils, you can check them out here! There’s no multi-level marketing or anything – anyone can order whenever, no pressure! (Other than this great sale ending!)

And those are the highlights for fall! What have you been learning or discovering?

We Have a Pretend Podcast!

Ben and I celebrated our 20th anniversary this fall! We decided to try something fun and different, and we recorded a pretend podcast episode! I have dreamed of doing a podcast with Ben for years, so we thought it would be fun to put together this little interview. And it was just as much fun as I thought it would be! 🙂

We talk about our marriage and Strengthsfinder, and we share what we love most about each other’s strengths, as well as what can drive us a little bit crazy sometimes. Ben also shares a fantastic offer at the end, for anyone who would like to learn more about Strengthsfinder!

Just For Now

Emily P. Freeman recently shared on Instagram that she is “back to the habit of reading one chapter a day…for now.”

I stopped and thought about that for a bit. Two little words tacked on, but they make all the difference.

“For now.”

Big commitments feel harder than normal right now, because there is so much uncertainty. But we could commit to some things “for now”.

And hard things become more bearable if we tack on a “for now”. Life during a pandemic feels tough, because things are just heavy…for now.

It’s a simple little reminder that although we are going through something that’s hard, or stressful, or sad, it won’t be this way forever.

Or it’s a way of offering ourselves grace to change our minds if we realize that things need to change in order to be sustainable – we’re only doing it for now. Later on, things might look different, so we will leave room for course corrections.

I’m not saying our word shouldn’t stand for anything anymore, but I am saying that in these strange times, maybe we need a bit more grace than what we’ve offered ourselves in the past.

I tried it out a few different ways today, and it felt really good:

I’ve been dealing with adrenal fatigue for a few months, and I don’t have my usual amount of energy…for now.

I’ve had to give up strenuous exercise (Farewell, my beautiful 8 minute plank that took years and years of work to accomplish!!!😭), so I’m taking things slower…for now.

Because my health has to be a priority, our house can get messier than I’d like it to be….for now.

But there are new things coming in the future. I will have more energy again at some point, but for now, I don’t need to worry about all the things I can’t do.

The days are getting shorter, and things may feel a bit dark and dreary…for now.

Everyone is tired of masks, social distancing, and all the stress. We feel like everything is just hard and heavy and weird…for now. But it will change.

For anyone who is feeling bogged down, let’s remember – it’s just for now.

For anyone who feels unsure about how consistent we can be about anything this winter, maybe it’s easier to determine what we can manage just for now.

I like to play around with words – sometimes a new way of wording things can change it up just enough to give a fresh burst of insight, enthusiasm, energy, or creativity. For now.🙂

Is there anything in your life that needs a little shift in time frame perspective? What are you dealing with, for now?

What I Need is Not the Same as What You Need

Someone once told me his secret for growing close to God. He said he went for a walk everyday, and spent the whole time praying and blocking out the world around him.

He knew he’d connected with Jesus in the most powerful way if he reached his destination, and couldn’t remember how he got there. He liked to get so lost in prayer that he didn’t hear the birds, didn’t see the cars driving by on the street, and didn’t even notice any litter by the sidewalk. He knew he had reached a deep focus on God when everything else faded away.

And he said the people of his community would be wise to follow this same practice – go for a walk and tune everything out, talking to Jesus. He said we might have more litter, because no one would be noticing it and picking it up, but we would all be closer to God.

It was a strange moment for me to realize how incredibly opposite my experience was from this man’s. I have always measured the success of my daily walks by how present I can be. I actually feel closer to God when I am able to get out of my thoughts, and listen to the birds or pay attention to the shapes of the clouds or the colours of the sky. I know I’ve connected with Jesus when I notice the beauty of nature and feel the breeze on my face. I like to spend my walk thanking Him for the things I’m noticing around me, and feeling His peace settling into all the books and crannies of my overactive mind.

If I get home and I don’t remember how I got there, it means I have been so lost in my own thoughts, I have forgotten God on my walk.

What that man needed to refresh his spirit was exactly the opposite of what I need to refresh my spirit. But when I tried to explain this to him, he could hardly believe it. It had not occurred to him that there might be other ways for people to connect with Jesus. He really thought he had found The Best (and only?) Way.

I think this kind of thing happens often – we find the secret that works for us, the thing which unlocks focus or fervor, and it’s so successful or life-changing that we’re bursting with excitement and want to share it with the world! We have what they’re missing – we could help them! It worked for us! It will work for them!

Or sometimes it’s not quite that pure, and we can so easily see where someone else is obviously going wrong. If only they would do it our way, things would be right.

We make our choices because we think they are good choices. It can be hard to think of things using a different perspective. We like our own way of doing things, and we think others should like it, too.

But this way of thinking can be dangerous, because it suggests that what is right for me will always be right for you. And this is simply not true.

It’s tricky, because this can quickly morph into zero accountability, because “you do you”, and who can really say what is true or absolute anymore?

The extremes tend to be “Everyone should do it my way”, or “Everyone should be able to do their own thing”. It’s easiest to hang out on one end of an extreme. Balance is hard and fuzzy. It’s easier to be black or white instead of grey.

But I don’t think we were made for either of those extremes. We were made to live in community – to have our lives and feelings and opinions and habits constantly bumping into other people, overlapping and getting all mixed up and messy. It can be outrageously uncomfortable, but I think it’s a great way to learn, and to find balance.

I like hanging out with people who agree with me, but I have to reconsider, redirect, and refocus a lot more when I’m around people who don’t agree with me. I can’t stay stuck in my ways when I’m doing life with different kinds of people. I have to work harder to find balance. I have to admit that my way is not the only way. It might not even be the best way. It might be great for me, but not for everyone else.

If I’m being honest, I have to admit I got a bit frustrated with the man who thought we all should get lost in prayer on our walks in order to be close to Jesus. I felt like he was saying we all needed to be exactly the same. And because I didn’t like what he was saying, it made me think long and hard about why this bothered me, and what I thought was a better answer for me personally. I had to work at it. It took effort, but in the end, it was good for me, because I had to figure some things out.

Obviously, I’m not opposed to the idea of getting lost in prayer while walking. I just think there are different ways to go for a walk. And there are different ways to connect with Jesus.

There are many ways to do a lot of things. And when we start insisting on everyone doing things the way WE do them, we’re losing the chance to see a new perspective. We lose the chance to ask questions, be curious, and get a broader picture of all the beautiful, unique ways God chose to create people.

If You Have Conflict, You’re in Good Company

I was reading a Bible story to Everett the other night, about the disciples fighting over who was most important. His children’s Bible does a great job of making these seem like stories about real people, and somehow it stuck with me in a different way than before.

I kept thinking about how the disciples spent a couple of years living with Jesus, and yet they still messed up quite badly. They walked and talked and ate and did everything with Him, but even so, they were still silly enough to bicker with each other over something ridiculous.

It seems like they should have known better. You’d think that being discipled by JESUS would have better results, right?

But they were still humans making human choices and human mistakes.

So this was all on my mind, and then the next morning I got up to do my devotions, and I just happened to be reading the story in Acts about Paul and Barnabas having a “sharp disagreement”. It was like a parade of biblical conflict.

Again, I couldn’t get it out of my mind. Paul was instrumental in spreading the Gospel, and he wrote a huge portion of the New Testament, and yet even he got in a fight with Barnabas. And such a bad fight that they parted ways after having spent all that time together! Good Christians still fight.

I don’t want this to be true. I wish everyone could get along all the time.

Especially my children.

Especially Christians in churches.

But wherever there are people together, there will be people in conflict.

I keep thinking about the old song that goes “…and they’ll know we are Christians by our love.” What does love look like – absolutely no conflict or disagreement, ever? That’s what we want it to look like, but I think it looks more like people who still make mistakes, and choose to stick around to clean up the mess, and restore the relationship.

Ben says lots of wise things, but one of my favourite things he’s ever said was one time when I messed up very badly. I said something in a public setting to someone which I should not have said, and I felt horrible. But Ben said, “What matters most is not the mistake you made – it’s what you do next to make it right.”

I’ve carried that with me for 10 years, and it still feels just as powerful and true. It doesn’t mean we’re off the hook and have no responsibility to at least try to live in peace and harmony. That’s the goal we shoot for, but we can also know there is much grace when we fall short.

My darling children are actually yelling and screaming at each other this very moment as I write this, and I reminded to extend more grace to them, too. Sooo much grace. After a weekend at the lake with too many late bedtimes, and a jarring return to Monday routine, we will live on grace today!

10 Years of Blogging

This June is my blog’s tenth anniversary. I was looking back at my first post, and it’s amazing to think about how much can change in 10 years.

Those years have been filled with many ups and downs, tons of blessings and answered prayers, but also very hard stretches of uncertainty and pain. I’m thankful for all of it.

Here’s what 10 years looks like for our family:

Ben definitely improves with age!😉 And just look at the girls!!! Plus we added another human being, which is pretty significant.

A friend was commenting recently on how impressive it is that I’ve stuck with this blog for 10 years, but I don’t see it that way. My issue is not usually staying with something – it’s knowing when to stop. I can be very stubborn/determined/committed almost to a fault, so my concern is not so much keeping this blog going, as it is that I’ll know when it’s time to make room for something new.

But as I keep praying about this little spot of mine on the internet, it still feels like a good place to find my thoughts and share them with all of you, who have been my lovely, loyal readers for so long. I feel a bit spoiled – I’ve been spared cruel or critical comments that some people receive online, and I’ve only had good, encouraging experiences in these 10 years of blogging. Thanks so much for making this such a fun, life-giving way to express myself.

I’m so thankful for everyone who has taken the time to comment and participate in the conversation. My very favourite thing about blogging is when people say, “I feel the same way!” And suddenly we’re not alone with our feelings or our struggles, because we realize others can relate and share in it, too.

Here are the top 10 posts of the last 10 years, which are obviously heavily influenced by what people share most on Pinterest or what gets googled (all of which I can see results of, and things get weird!):

Tips for Purging

What I’m Learning as I Purge Our House

I Love My Esophagus

Why and How I’m Choosing to Own Less Clothes

Learning to Like Tea

Do Not Strive for Extraordinary Lives

And We Thought We Were Done….

Why I Read the Old Testament in a Week

Let the Dead Leaves Drop

He’s Here!

While those posts may have gotten the most views, my favourites (other than “He’s Here!”😊) will always be the ones that were hard to write, and scary to publish. It was uncomfortable to put my thoughts out into the world, wondering if this would be the time I shared too much. But then people would begin to comment, and it would become clear that there is still a need for people to be painfully honest, and we heal when we share our stories.

So thank you for showing up, and sharing, and being part of my life in this online way. ❤️ Let me know if you have any topic ideas for the next 10 years.😉

How Do You Process Things?

I am a slow processor. It took me about two and half months to write anything about the pandemic. It was like my ability to express myself in a public way was completely frozen. There were no words. Well, no online words. There were lots of words for Ben. He listened very patiently, and that felt easy and necessary, but for some reason, I couldn’t post a thing online until I was ready.

So I guess it will be another two months before I’ll have anything to say about racism and everything going on in the world right now, because once again, I’m lost in thought, and I won’t resurface for awhile.

I’m okay with it – my whole life, I’ve thought long and hard about most things. The only problem is that sometimes, silence can be interpreted as not caring or not having an opinion. This is far from the truth.

Sitting back and watching a pandemic go by has made it more clear to me than ever how different people have different speeds at which they process things. I admire the people who can jump into action immediately. The world needs people like that, who can take charge quickly and efficiently.

But you know what else the world needs? Slow processors. We need balance. Badly. If we only listen to the fast opinions getting blasted out in quick succession, it doesn’t give us the full picture, and it robs us of perspective.

Because the internet moves so quickly, and we’re a culture addicted to fast results and a quick pace, it feels as though we move on to the next thing before taking the time to process all sides of an issue. Many times over the last few weeks, I’ve finally felt the urge to write about something, and then thought, “Oh, forget it – I missed my opportunity. I took too long to process it, and now it’s not relevant anymore.”

But when I have those thoughts, it disturbs me. I’m not the only person in the world who needs a bit of time to figure out all the thoughts and feelings. How many perspectives are we missing because we as a culture move on too quickly?

I’ve also thought, “I should just get my thoughts out faster. Does it have to matter whether I feel ready or not?”

Yes. Yes, it does. I answered that question for myself fairly quickly. I once heard an interview with Andrew Peterson in which he talked about his songwriting process, and he said something brilliant. He shared a piece of advice he once received that he always sticks to. It went something like this: “Don’t write songs about hard times until you’re through them. If you write a song while you’re still in the middle of something hard, you make the audience your therapist. Wait until you’ve completely dealt with it, and then you’re ready to share it with the world.”

This feels wise and true to me. It’s my filter for knowing when I’m ready to publicly share the things I carry close to me. In person, my mouth says lots of things it probably shouldn’t, but online, I don’t feel ready to say stuff until I’m through it. Facebook is not my therapist. Neither is this blog. It is wonderful to have these platforms to share from publicly, but I always want to use caution and care.

I’m sure there are many other people out there who express themselves at a slower pace. But do we get to hear their voices? Are we moving too quickly to make time and space for those who are slower to process and speak up?

I want to hear all the voices in the room. I want a discussion that is varied and complicated, even if it makes me uncomfortable, because it means more perspectives are being brought to the table. If everyone is agreeing, it probably means a greater variety of voices need to be heard.

There are a few questions I’ve been asking myself recently:

  • Am I seeking opportunities to hear a variety of opinions?
  • Do I make space for those who are slower and quieter in the way they share? (Loudest and fastest to respond does not necessarily mean smartest and most correct!)
  • Am I doing the slow, hard inner work to process things thoroughly and gain a better understanding, instead of taking things at face value?
  • Am I willing to speak up, even when it might not come naturally or easily, so that others can benefit from a wider variety of opinions and perspectives?

These are hard things to do, but as I watch everything going on in the world around me, I keep thinking that I want a deeper, fuller understanding. I’m craving slower reactions, deeper thoughts, more controlled responses from those who have done the work of processing, at all different speeds. I’m thankful for all the people who are putting effort into bringing good words and thoughts into the world.

So if you are the fast type of processor, thank you for leading the way when I’m a few weeks away from having a clue. And if you’re a slow processor, don’t keep quiet because you think you’ve missed the opportunity to share your thoughts. We need all perspectives in order to find balance.