We Have a Teenager in the House!

When Anika was a little girl, we had friends who often talked about how scared they were to have teenagers someday. It made me feel nervous, so I tried to block it from my mind.

AnikaA few years later, we met a couple who had two teenage boys, and they said, “The teenage years are so much fun! They’re our favorite – we LOVE having teenagers!” I decided to listen to them.

I have no idea how these teenage years will go – I know there’s a lot of big challenges and issues that can come up, but I’m realizing a couple of things:

  1. When we look too far ahead, it looks scary and unknown. When Anika was two, thinking of her being a teenager was quite overwhelming. But now that we’re here, it feels right and good, and I delight in seeing the person she is becoming. Let’s take things as they come.
  2. Because I love her, I also love her as a teenager. She’s not some random kid – she’s my kid. Before she was born, I was worried because I’ve never been completely comfortable with newborn babies. I’m never the one at baby showers who’s desperate to hold the new baby. I kinda used to wish they’d come out three months old. But even though I don’t love random newborn babies, I fiercely loved our newborn babies. And I will fiercely love our teenagers.
  3. We can always choose life-giving words. If we say, “The teenage years will be TERRIBLE!”, there’s a good chance we’ll be right. If we say, “The teenage years are going to be AWESOME!”, there’s a good chance we’ll be right! Becoming an adult can just be hard – there are a lot of tough adjustments to make, but there’s also a lot of exciting things to look forward to. Today, I’m choosing to celebrate where Anika is at, and all the good things to come.
  4. She was made to do this. Whenever it feels as though my kids are growing up too fast, I have to remind myself this is God’s plan. He created all of us to grow up and become adults. I have to believe that His plan is right and good and perfect, and that He has given me just enough time with my kids to do what He’s asked me to do. He had a great idea when He made Anika, and she will be an amazing adult. I will love being her mom then, just as I love it now. It will be different, but it’s meant to be.

I believe all these things, but hey, we’re only two days in!;) You’re welcome to check in with me in a few years to see how it’s going!

Anika & meSticking with tradition around here, we take a moment to record “birthday favorites” – what Anika is enjoying right now. She’s loving fried potatoes, mashed potatoes, roasted potatoes, and sliced/baked in butter potatoes. She is also very passionate about sushi, Cat Warriors or Christy Miller books, and sleepovers with friends. She loves writing her own books, babysitting, attending the youth group at our church, finally being allowed to sit in the front seat when we drive somewhere, and having her own bedroom and bathroom in our newly finished basement.

siblingsShe is a loving, conscientious big sister, and she is incredibly helpful with babysitting or doing work around the house. I love our one-on-one talks early in the morning before anyone else is awake, or curled up in her bed at night. She’s wearing my clothes, and it won’t be long before I look her straight in the eye. She’s growing up! My favorite teenager ever.

Anikaphoto credit: Morgan Braun



Trusting God’s Process

Faith quoteOur pastor shared that thought on Sunday, and it hit me so hard, I didn’t hear anything else he said for the next few minutes. I was a few years away in my memories….

During the time when we were waiting for Kaylia to be born, we were often asked why we didn’t choose to adopt a baby. I thought about it a lot, but there was this one little thing holding me back – I felt like God had told me He was going to give us a baby girl.

I had just had a miscarriage, and as I lay there sobbing after it was all over, I felt like He said to me, “That was your baby boy, but I’m going to give you a girl.” In the moment, it felt incredibly real, but the next morning, I thought I was crazy for thinking God would speak like that to me.

And then four and a half years went by. It was really easy to doubt and lose hope during those years.

Sometimes, it seemed as though it would be so much easier to go get ourselves a baby some other way. We could adopt, or we could try all kinds of intense fertility treatments. But I never had any peace about doing anything – I felt like God was holding me back. Through it all, Ben was just super patient and understanding, willing to do whatever would be best for me in our difficult situation.

But one weekend, everything reached a climax for me. I felt as though I could not handle the waiting and the grief for one moment longer. I was so tired of it all, I just wanted to do SOMETHING. Anything.

We were living at Red Rock Bible Camp at the time, and it was Family Camp weekend, so Ben was really busy for a few days After I would put Anika to bed, I had many hours to think and pray, seeking direction from God. Did He want us to keep waiting, or could we take action?

Although I prayed a lot that weekend, I didn’t feel as though God was speaking to me, and I started to get even more discouraged. I remember going to chapel near the end of the weekend, and the speaker was talking about Abraham. I can’t remember exactly what he shared about Abraham that morning, but as I had my Bible open to the passage he was speaking on, I happened to keep reading further:

The child grew and was weaned, and on the day Isaac was weaned Abraham held a great feast. But Sarah saw that the son whom Hagar the Egyptian had borne to Abraham was mocking, and she said to Abraham, “Get rid of that slave woman and her son, for that woman’s son will never share in the inheritance with my son Isaac.”

The matter distressed Abraham greatly because it concerned his son. But God said to him, “Do not be so distressed about the boy and your slave woman. Listen to whatever Sarah tells you, because it is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned. I will make the son of the slave into a nation also, because he is your offspring.”

Early the next morning Abraham took some food and a skin of water and gave them to Hagar. He set them on her shoulders and then sent her off with the boy. She went on her way and wandered in the Desert of Beersheba. (Genesis 21:8-14)

Do you ever moments when you read something from the Bible, and it hits you so hard, it feels like it was put there just for you, for that exact moment? I read those verses about the mess they had made – Sarah wouldn’t wait for the baby God had promised, so she took things into her own hands and made Abraham sleep with the maid. But when she got the baby she’d been scheming about, everything went wrong. When God finally gave them the baby He’d actually promised, she despised the other boy, and wanted him gone.

I read about them wandering around in the desert, begging God to save them, and all I could see was one big mess, because Sarah refused to wait.

And then I felt like God said to me, “I want you to wait.”

Adoption can be a really great option, and infertility treatments have done miraculous things for some people, but for me, in our situation, I knew without a shadow of a doubt that God was saying we were supposed to do nothing. I needed to stop the scheming and the desperate planning, and just trust…and wait.

It was hard to hear that, but at the same time, it also gave peace. I knew what I needed to do, even if it was hard. We waited another whole year after that before we finally found out that Kaylia was on the way.

Waiting is HARD. But it can also be beautiful, when we do it in the right way. I wish I could have done it better. I wish I could have trusted God’s process, and been more patient and at peace until the time came for Him to fulfill His promise.

I don’t think about that time very often anymore. While we were in it, it felt like it would never end. But now, we’re so happy and busy and life is so full, it’s easy to forget how long and hard we waited for the joy we have now.

But when hard stuff comes, and I find myself growing frustrated and impatient, I remember those dark years, and the peace I missed because I didn’t trust enough. God still blessed me with the answer to my prayers, but I hurt myself during that time. I suffered spiritually, emotionally, and even physically because I wouldn’t rest in His promises. I didn’t know how to trust His process. It took awhile, even after Kaylia was born, before I felt like I had healed from that difficult time. I wish I would have done things differently.

But I don’t want to waste time now regretting what happened in the past. I want to learn from it, and move on, trusting that God provides, even while I’m waiting for Him to provide! He gives me everything I need in the process and the promise.


Keeping the Useful and the Beautiful: A Little Challenge For You!

I was reading a blog post the other day about getting out of debt and paying off your house in five years or something like that. It’s not a particular goal of ours at the moment – we’re just focusing on being very disciplined about budgeting, and we’ll see where it goes. But what stayed with me from the article was this familiar quote by Dave Ramsey:


Here in Niverville, we have a Buy and Sell Facebook page, and I’m sure everyone who looks at it must recognize me by now, because I’ve sold so much stuff on there over the last couple of years! Since I started my decluttering project of getting rid of 2015 things in the year 2015, I have sent many, many items out the door, so I got up from the computer feeling thoughtful. Was there anything left in the house for me to sell?! Besides our kids of course.;) I thought I had gotten rid of most of the unnecessary items in our house.

But as I turned around, my eyes landed on a painting about our piano, and a thought hit me: “I have never liked that picture! Why do we still have it??!!”

Ben bought it to put in a show home a few years ago, and when the house sold, he brought the picture home. There’s nothing wrong with it – the colors work with our decor, but it just doesn’t do anything for me. We stuck it up above the piano, and I never thought specifically about it again, other than to absentmindedly acknowledge very occasionally to myself that I didn’t really love it.

To add to the ridiculously of this decorating decision, I had a perfectly beautiful, large family picture sitting in the basement, waiting for the perfect spot. I suddenly realized I could sell the painting I didn’t love, and replace it with the picture of my sweet family. Why didn’t I think of this months ago??!!

Later that evening, I was telling Ben about this epiphany while we were cleaning up from supper. He was putting a serving bowl in the dishwasher, and casually commented, “This is actually a very impractical bowl – you can’t put that much in it.”

I looked over, and even though I’ve been using that bowl for years, I suddenly realized he was totally right. When I thought about it, I’d always been kind of annoyed by the bowl – one side is higher than the other, so it looks larger than it really is. And we had a set of two!! They went out the door as fast as the painting.

Somebody gets to buy something on Niverville Buy and Sell for a good deal, and I get a little bit of cash to put towards something I will find more useful or beautiful. Everybody wins.

I get really excited about this little “anti-treasure hunt” – it’s become a fun challenge to think more intentionally about the stuff I own, and figure out what is not adding something good to my life. It’s very freeing to see it all go. useful-or-beautifulsource

I’m curious – if you look around your house right now, can you find one object that you’ve never actually liked? Let me know if you find something to get rid of!!


Family Photo Love

Family photos are my favorite. Even though I follow my family around with a camera all year long, we still have family pictures taken every year, and I just love it. It’s tradition. We love to meet up with our sweet friend Morgan, who has been taking our family pictures for six years now. I love this year’s photos the best!










Ben & kids

EverettfamilyI love all of these photos, but I haven’t even shared the best ones – I’m saving those for some Christmas surprises! If you want to check out some of Morgan’s other photos, you can find her here.


Finding Out What We’re Capable of

It’s been 10 months since I started the challenge of strengthening my weak, creaky body. Someone asked me the other day, “What exactly is wrong with your body?” I didn’t know how to answer that in a neat and tidy way – the best I could come up with is that I was never physically active, my body has always been small and weak, and then I had babies, and all my muscles went out of balance while trying to deal with the extra weight of being pregnant. And then I didn’t recover.

For those of you who have been following along regularly, you know that my therapist has promised great changes if I can reach a 10 minute plank – the ultimate way to get my muscles back into balance. He hints at more crazy exercises to follow, but won’t get into get into the details right now while I’m trying to accomplish my goal of a 10 minute goal.

In the beginning, I could plank for 25 seconds. I’ve been working away at it every single day since last December, and many of you rejoiced with me when I hit the five minute mark.:) You have no idea how much I’ve loved your sweet words of encouragement, and all of the reports from others who have also started planking! You guys are amazing!

Five minutes was super exciting, and it felt awesome to reach that goal, but it was never the intention to stay there, so for the last month and a half, I’ve been trying to increase my time, but I’ve been SO STUCK!!! It’s been incredibly frustrating to stay at that five minute mark for so long, but I’ve kept at it, knowing that at some point, things have to change.

This last weekend, I hit a slump. There are times when the pain in my body flares up, whether it’s from stress, sickness, or just getting stiff from sitting too long. We’ve had a couple of fundraisers and events to go to where I haven’t been able to start doing yoga poses halfway through – sometimes, it’s just not socially acceptable to relieve tight muscles in public places, although I was tempted to bring my yoga mat and find a back corner somewhere where no one would notice what I was doing!

By Sunday night, I was in so much pain, I just sat on the floor in our living room and cried. My muscle therapist is out of town for a few weeks, and I didn’t know what to do. I could make an appointment with someone else, but he’s very specialized, and has been helping me for over five years, so quickly finding someone new wouldn’t really work well for this situation.

I knew I needed to plank, but couldn’t imagine that going well, considering the amount of pain I was in. I decided to do my best, and if I couldn’t last the whole five minutes, it would still be better than nothing.

Well, I hit the four minute mark, and was still okay, so decided to try for five. When I got to five minutes, I was still feeling okay, so went for another 10 seconds. Anytime I increase my time, I do it in 10 second increments, and then collapse on the floor, panting and unable to move for a few minutes until I’ve recovered. This time, I made it to five minutes and 20 seconds, then 30, 40…I finally stopped at six minutes!!! What in the world???!!! It was a planking miracle!! Ben said I didn’t seem that tired, compared to other times. It didn’t even make sense.

It felt like God wanted to give me a boost – a little supernatural strength to encourage me when things were looking too hard. I felt amazing afterwards. That’s the weird thing about planking – it is crazy hard and painful, but it actually makes me feel better when I do it.

The next day, I had no idea what to expect. I got into position, and sent up a quick prayer before I started planking – “God, give me strength. If that was a one-time thing, I’ll totally understand, but help me to do this!!” Six minutes again!!! My ten minute goal is looking closer all the time!

The most amazing thing about this whole process is seeing how God made the body able to work really well. I watch muscles developing in my arms, and see the different ways in which my body rises to the occasion. I can do this – my body is capable of being strong and healthy and meeting physical demands. I’ve never done anything like this before, but I’m finding all of it to be delightful. I’m told a six-pack is in my future, and I would find that delightful, as well!;)

I’m always on the look-out for inspiring quotes to keep me going on this little adventure, so here’s my latest bunch of favorites:





Do you have any goals you’re working towards? Surprising yourself of what you’re truly capable of?






Rocky Mountain Oils For Kids!

Getting a package in the mail is always pretty exciting around here, but a few days ago, we got an extra special one. My girls have been waiting hard for it – their own little set of kids’ essential oils.

A few weeks ago, Rocky Mountain Oils contacted me and asked if we’d like to try some oils from their new line of kids’ products. I have used and loved their products for a few years already, so I had great expectations, and they did not disappoint! I think it makes the girls feel kind of grown up to have their own bottles of oils.🙂

I remember feeling very intimidated the first time I bought essential oils. They can’t be used on their own – they need to be diluted with another oil, like coconut, olive, or grapeseed oil. The ratios confused me, and I was nervous about trying them. But these roller bottles are perfect, even for someone who’s never experimented with essential oils, or feels uncertain about using them with kids. The oils are already diluted and ready to go, with directions right on the bottle, including where to apply them.

We received four different roller bottles to try – Counting Sheep, Immunity, Breathe, and Ouchie. Nobody has gotten hurt yet, so we haven’t tried Ouchie, but Counting Sheep gets used every night, and we were battling colds when the package arrived, so Immunity and Breathe have been very popular around here! Kaylia says she can breathe easier when she uses them, and both girls have a much easier time falling asleep when we roll Counting Sheep on their feet.

Check out the new Kids Line of oils at Rocky Mountain. We love them!




Ben Stories

Everyone in the room roared with laughter, and all I wanted to do was get out of there as fast as possible, but I couldn’t move.

I was on summer staff Red Rock Bible Camp, and one of the staff members was showing off his ability to perfectly imitate anyone’s way of walking – he had just imitated mine with uncomfortable accuracy, and there was something disturbing about seeing a bearded, six foot guy swinging his arms and moving his hips in a way I recognized immediately, even though I’d never consciously paid attention to the details of how I moved.

The rest of the summer staff in the lounge thought it was hilarious, but I sank into my chair, trying not to cry. I hated to be embarrassed and have attention drawn to me in a roomful of people. But if I got up to leave the room, I’d have to walk, and they’d all be watching me to see if he had gotten it right. I remember feeling trapped and panicky, trying to think of how to get out of there before I burst into tears.

Ben was also on staff that summer, and although we had become friends right away, he didn’t know me very well at that point yet, but somehow, he noticed how uncomfortable I was, and knew exactly how to help me. He quickly elbowed the guy beside him, they jumped up, grabbed my chair, and carried me out of the room.

They put me and my chair down right outside the doors to the lounge and ran back in, leaving me alone to flee to the safety of my cabin with no one watching.


A little girl living at Red Rock Bible Camp was lost, and no one had seen her for hours. She had followed her little brother into the bush, and taken a wrong turn. It was during Staff Camp a few days after I first met Ben, and the staff spent one terrible afternoon searching for her, walking through miles of bush and calling her name, until she was finally found later that evening.

The full time staff were all so busy dealing with the crisis, no one had time to serve dessert when we took a break for supper. The dessert cart was put out, and it was announced that we should all help ourselves while those in leadership left for an emergency meeting. It was a quiet meal as everyone forced down some food before heading back out to search. I remember looking up just in time to see Ben jump out of his seat, head for the dessert cart, and start serving all the other staff members. Nobody needed to do it – we could all just have gotten up and served ourselves, but as I watched him, I was thinking it was a really kind and thoughtful thing to do, caring for a group of people feeling tired and stressed.


It was my twentieth birthday, and my camp mailbox was filled with little notes and cards from my friends. There was a note from my new friend Ben – “If you ever need to talk, come find me, and whatever I’m doing, I’ll stop to buy you a chocolate bar and hang out for a little while.” A few days later, I went to find him to take him up on his offer. I remember finding him with the weed whipper, wearing safety googles and ear phones. He stopped what he was doing as soon as he saw me, and I said, “I think today would be a good day for that chocolate bar, whenever you have time.”

He said, “I have time right now.”


This weekend, it’s 16 years since we got married.

Ben and KendraFor some reason, I keep thinking back to that first summer I met Ben, and all the little snippets of memories I filed away in my mind as I got to know him. He was dating somebody else, and I liked a different boy at camp, which changed how we became friends. He didn’t flirt with me and do things for me just because he was trying to start anything – he was always just his kind, thoughtful self, and even though he hadn’t known me very long, he somehow seemed to sense exactly what I needed. He would drop whatever he was doing to care for a friend.

I kept thinking of him as a very nice friend for many months, until one day, it finally dawned on me that someone as amazing as Ben was exactly who I’d been trying to find. He wasn’t dating anyone anymore, I had finally seen the light, and suddenly his friendship was far more important to me than I’d realized.

I went straight to my dorm room and called him at his dorm room 20 minutes away, trying to sound terribly casual, mentioning I’d be in town later that week, and we should go for coffee. He sounded enthusiastic when he agreed, but I felt very awkward, because everything had just changed for me. I tried to act the same as I always had, but when he asked me why I was in town, and the truth came out that I needed a new battery for the answering machine in my phone, I think he started to get suspicious. He asked, “Couldn’t you have gone somewhere closer for that?!”

But I don’t remember what I said. I just remember him pouring milk all over his brownie, drowning it into a soggy mess, and eating it with as much satisfaction on his face as he still gets today.

We hung out “as friends” a few more times, and then it was his turn to awkwardly call, asking me out on an official date. It’s so funny to think back to those early memories, because in some ways, he really hasn’t changed. He is still always looking out for me, somehow knowing what I need, dropping everything he’s doing to help me out, ready to listen, wanting to make me feel better. If I could still eat chocolate, I’m sure he would bring me some all the time.

Thank goodness God finally opened my eyes all those years ago. I wouldn’t have wanted to miss this for anything.