Birthday Boy

Everett turned five last week. Ben is totally fine with it, but all us girls are like, “WE NEED A PUPPY BECAUSE WE HAVE NO BABY TO SNUGGLE!!!!!”

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Other than Everett having no time for kisses and hugs anymore, this stage is super fun with him. He is smart, funny, fiercely independent, and creative. He always knows EXACTLY what he wants or thinks about a situation. He may or may not tell you.

My grandma called to wish him a happy birthday, and when he got off the phone, I asked him, “Did you have a good chat with Great Grandma?”

He replied, “I’m not telling. It’s a secret.”

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Usually, I’m okay with my kids having birthdays, and don’t let myself slip too much into the whole “They’re growing up too fast!!!!!” mindset. But this fall, Anika turned 16, and Everett turned 5, and somehow that all felt like a lot to take in.

Fortunately, his cheeks still get all saggy and soft while he’s sleeping, he still climbs onto my lap for stories sometimes, and he says “pupcakes” instead of cupcakes, so we’re okay for now. As long as the growing up happens slowly, I don’t feel too overwhelmed.

Because right now is fun. He’s just a lot of fun. He makes up songs while he plays, everything flies or explodes in his imagination, and he keeps us laughing with his quick sense of humour and the mischievous twinkle in his eye.

When a friend of mine received the family picture we sent out at Christmas time a couple of years ago, she said with delight, “He looks like trouble, in the best possible way!” That sums it up well – we won’t be coasting with this third kid of ours, but we’re having fun and we all love him like crazy!

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Now if Facebook would just stop showing me pictures of Baby Everett, I think I could wrap my head around the fact that our sweet boy is five!

 

Photo credit: Morgan Braun

Exciting News and a Contest!

This is an exciting week at our house!

Ben launched his new business called Cantera Leadership yesterday, and we feel like celebrating. It’s a leadership development, coaching, and consulting company, and he’s working with leaders and teams – in person and online.

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I’m so excited for him, because it’s been a dream of his for a long time, and he’s amazing at it. I’ve watched him work with people over the twenty years that I’ve known him, and am always amazed by his ability to draw people in, encourage and support them. He’s the best listener ever, and he’s got so much patience, wisdom, kindness, and creativity.

Ben got a Master’s of Arts in Leadership years ago, but this fall, he decided to go to Chicago to get certified as a Gallup Strengthsfinder coach. I am fascinated. I love all different kinds of personality analysis methods, but this one is different and I have loved listening to Ben explain how it works. In the past, a lot of leadership training focused on improving areas of weakness, but Strengthsfinder is all about building your talents so you can use your strengths in a more effective way. It makes so much more sense to develop the things you’re good at, and learn how to utilize strengths instead of weakness.

To complete his certification, Ben needed to do some practice coaching, so I was one of his guinea pigs. It was very interesting to hear him explain how my top strengths impact the way I interact with people, how I parent, and how I prioritize things in my life. After talking about it with him, I recognize these things popping up in everything I do. Suddenly I’m understanding a deeper reason for what frustrates me, or why things are important to me. Our session brought a lot of clarity, and some very interesting viewpoints to consider that I wasn’t even aware of.

It seems like such a fantastic tool, and I’m really excited to see what Ben will be able to do with it.

To celebrate the launch of his new business, Ben is running a contest right now. Anyone who enters is eligible to win a free coaching session with him, so be sure to head over here to enter!

You can learn more by checking out his website as well!

Of course, you should also consider having him coach you, or if you are part of a business, work with your team to increase your effectiveness!

3 Things to Remember About Rest During the Holidays

We got back from a family vacation in Phoenix last Monday, and I have to confess, I made a common vacation mistake: I fell for the lie that I could cram my schedule full and push myself like crazy until the moment we left on on our trip, because I could slow down and relax once we were on vacation.

My muscle therapist warned me I was making a mistake. When I had an appointment a few days before we left on our trip, he asked me, “What are you planning to do about your stress level?”

“I’m going to Phoenix!” I replied enthusiastically. He snorted, shook his head, and said, “The more stress you have when you leave for vacation, the longer it will take for you to unwind.”

I felt truth in his words, but by then it was too late – I was exhausted from two months of a crazy schedule and lots of life changes to deal with, so by the time we got to Phoenix, I felt frazzled. It took me half the week to finally feel truly relaxed.

It felt great once I’d finally purged the stress from my body, but by then, the vacation was already half over. The weather was beautiful, and we did some really fun things out there, but I came home feeling regret about how it had all played out. I wanted to go back and do everything differently.

As I’ve thought about it since, I realize that I have the tendency to fall back on this same strategy for Christmas, too – go hard, hard, hard, all through the craziness of November and December, and then wonder why I can’t enjoy the actual week of Christmas. “Christmas has just lost the magic it used to have when I was a kid,” I think to myself every year.

Or maybe I keep approaching the holidays like a marathon runner who pushes with everything in him to the finish line, only to throw up and collapse the moment he crosses it.I’ve begun to wonder if there’s any way to arrive at Christmas without the “throw up and collapse” mentality. What can I learn from my vacation mistakes to take with me into this next busy holiday season?

Here’s what I’ve come up with so far:

1) Let it be what it will be.

A lot of my stress leading up our trip came from wanting everything to be “perfect” once we got there. I always put this pressure on myself to get all the right snacks, the right clothes, and try to keep everybody in perfect health, etc. I get this idea in my mind that vacations or holidays need to be unrealistically wonderful – it’s family! And we’re SO HAPPY together! And we need to make MEMORIES!!! ALL THE PRESSURE!!!!

Guess how well that works?!

Everett got sick the day before we left on our trip, and it wasn’t great, but it was fine. Everyone survived, we still had a good time, and came home with great memories.

I realized that what I want is to have these special times feel like a little taste of heaven, but the problem is that life still happens on holidays. We’re not immune to sickness or any other life problems, just because it’s a “special time”. It’s like the bride I heard about years ago who had strep throat at her wedding. It just seems like that shouldn’t be allowed or something. We should be immune to problems during all vacations, holidays, and special occasions.

But it’s life, so these things happen. I can’t hold vacations or holidays up so high in my mind or expectations.

Christmas is just Christmas. It can be a time that is special and beautiful, but it can also messy and painful. I need to remember to let it be what it will be.

2) The unfinished tasks will still be there after the holidays.

Another reason I pushed myself so hard up until we left for Phoenix was because I wanted to feel like I had finished EVERYTHING, and there would be no loose ends to come home to. I was trying to work ahead so I could relax more on vacation, knowing there was nothing unfinished to go home to.

But when we were on vacation, I realized how impossible that goal had been – there’s always more to do, because life goes on after vacation, so the to-do list is never done. In trying to finish what could never actually be finished, I took on more stress, and then took longer to relax.

It would have been far better to hit “pause”, slow down life in general, and arrive on vacation already feeling relaxed, ready to enjoy myself.

3) Rest can’t be banked.

Deep down, I know better than to think it actually works well to push like crazy now and rest later, but we live in a culture where we hear this idea all the time. We neglect sleep in order to get more done. We are being “productive” and “successful” when we abuse our bodies to reach unrealistic goals.We can skip rest and relaxation, but we can’t do it well. I look at the weeks ahead, and I know the only real way to have the Christmas I want is to get there slowly. I need to pace myself. I need to relax NOW so that I can enjoy not just the week of Christmas, but everything leading up to it as well.

Maybe that means planning ahead a bit better so I don’t leave stuff to the last minute. Or saying no to some of the Christmas events, because we don’t actually need to go to EVERYTHING. Maybe I’ll buy a bag of chocolate covered almonds and bake a few less kinds Christmas treats. Everyone will survive. My kids think they want all their favourite Christmas baking, but what they really want is a kind, loving mother in her right mind.It means being realistic about my expectations, my energy level, and my priorities, instead of allowing myself to get swept up in the pressure to do it all.

Let’s do this well. I want to hear all your best tips for making Christmas simple and restful!!

Walking in Transition

I went for a walk late in the afternoon yesterday, just as the sun was starting to set. I turned the corner to head down my favourite sidewalk, and it suddenly struck me how there was such a collision of seasons happening before me.All that white snow was covered with brown leaves, and many of the trees still had leaves clinging to their branches. I don’t remember ever seeing so many trees with leaves after it’s snowed – I don’t know of it’s unusual, or if I just haven’t paid attention before.

But yesterday, I was suddenly seeing it everywhere, and I kept thinking about how it was a big, beautiful mess of everything – the purity of the snow, scattered with dead leaves, all mixed together.

It made me think about how transitions in life are very rarely neat and tidy. There’s a little bit of everything going on, all at the same time. There are reminders of the past season still lingering even while new things are starting to happen.

We have one foot in fall and the other in winter, and it feels a bit like this in my life. I’m thinking about new things and trying new ideas on for size, but there’s still a lot of the previous stage hanging around. Ben has also been going through a season of transition, and sometimes we’ve felt impatient for the old to hurry up and be done already so we can move on to the new stuff. But it feels necessary to take time to be stuck on the middle of everything.

I want it to be like walking into a different room and closing the door behind me, but it’s not like that. Life isn’t neat and tidy and controlled. A lot of the time, there’s a little bit of everything all going on at once, and I don’t remember to find the good in it.

But as I walked along, looking at that beautiful confusion of snow and leaves, I realized that it can be good and pretty in a slightly confusing kind of way, if I take the time to look for it.

And then I got close enough to one of the trees to realize that what I had thought were leaves were actually brown pods of seeds, and I was amazed to realize I was looking at a tree waiting to shed it’s seeds in spring! Three seasons are represented outside my door at the moment. It’s a lot, all at once, and it’s good.

As I walked home in the sunset, I wanted to commit it all to memory – how it feels to be okay with confusion, and to enjoy this moment, with a little bit of the old, some of the new, and some seeds for the future, all mixed together. God’s timing is perfect, and I want to keep walking in faith, trusting that He can lead us through every season.

Are you in a season of transition? Sorting your way through past, present, or future?

Anika Turns Sixteen

Anika turned sixteen this week. I’m trying really hard not to slip into the whole theme of “HOW can she be SIXTEEN??!! I remember my sweet baby, and what it felt like to be a new mom, and she is growing up too fast…” etc, etc. I’ve been thinking a lot about how that’s all focusing on me freaking out because she’s growing up, and not about celebrating the person she is becoming. Those are thoughts to work through some other time, because our sweet sixteen year old should most definitely be celebrated!

Ben keeps playing the song “Sweet Sixteen” because he delights in Anika’s reaction. She delights in rising to the occasion. And I delight in watching her – watching her change, watching her grow, and getting these glimpses of what’s to come.

She’s been the one who’s taught us a lot – first kid, going through all the stages for the first time. I often tell people that she’s been very easy on us. Not a lot of teenage angst around here. (Hormones aplenty, but we can deal with that!) She’s always been mature for her age, pretty much from the womb, which has helped. We could reason with her already when she was two, so we haven’t really hit anything that couldn’t be talked through. Sometimes it takes a lot of talking, but she’s teaching me the art of agreeing to disagree.

Once when we were discussing a clothing issue, she gave in to my guidelines so easily, I was surprised. “Don’t you disagree with me?” I asked. “Of course I do,” she replied, matter of factly. “But it’s not that long until I’m 18, and then I can do whatever I want. I can wait.”

I know that in the world of social media, it’s pretty easy to make everything sound perfect. Obviously, nothing is perfect, and we’ve hit a few bumps during these teenage years, but for the most part, it has been delightful.

In the language of Myers Briggs and all things personality type, Anika is a thinker surrounded by a bunch of feelers in this home. (We’re fairly sure Everett will follow in her footsteps, but time will tell.) Everyone has feelings, of course, but thinkers will put them lower on the list of priorities. Anika will often calmly evaluate a situation, and bluntly call things exactly as they are, and cut right through the muddled mess in my head. She gets a bit annoyed when people respond with too much emotion. I’m still learning how to speak her language, because it doesn’t come naturally (it’s ALL about the feelings for me!!!!), but it has taught me a lot about how people communicate in different ways. I enjoy her perspective.

As we move towards a different stage of parenting, the long talks at bedtime explore different topics, the inside jokes keep growing, and I remind myself to soak it all in.This year has brought huge changes and new experiences into Anika’s life – her first job, learning how to drive, going on her first missions trip, touring with choir, going to the Counselor in Training program at Red Rock Bible Camp and being gone from home for the longest stretch yet. It is fun and exciting and a little bit scary and hard, but so rewarding. I love seeing the direction this is all going. I’m so proud of her, and just really thankful that we get to be her parents.

This week, Ben and I are taking her out on a birthday date, just the three of us. It’s funny to think that for many years, we thought that’s how things would always be – just the three of us. I’m so very thankful God chose to make Anika a big sister, because it’s formed who she is, but also because Kaylia and Everett are so blessed to have a big sister like her.

It warms my heart when she comes home and needs to tell Kaylia all her secrets, or when Everett shows me dance moves Anika has taught him (completely hilarious). She might regularly drive him to frustration because of her many requests for hugs and kisses, but at least he’ll know how to sing all the greatest Broadway hits.

So this week, we celebrate Anika, delight in all the things that make her Anika, and ignore the fact that this is all going by much too quickly, because right now, it is the time to party.Happy birthday, Anika!!!

Family Pictures!

I’ve been trying to figure out why exactly I love family pictures so much. I think it’s lots of things – the tradition of it, seeing our friend/photographer Morgan again, hanging out together as a family in a fun, beautiful place. I take a million pictures all year long, but it’s rare for us to get pics of us as a family, so maybe I just love to see us together. I love how the kids will pull out all the photo books I’ve made each year, and see how everyone has changed.

Whatever it is that makes me love it so much, it’s just always worth the time and effort to make it happen!

Photo credit: Morgan J Photography

When the Right Thing Feels Like it Was the Wrong Thing

This last spring, I shared a post about Ben’s new job. We were excited and full of anticipation. We’d spent A LOT of time praying about our next step, and in many ways, it seemed clear that God was leading Ben to enter a partnership with a local company.

For six months, everything went really well. Ben loved the work, and it felt like a fantastic fit for him, as well as for our family. Every new opportunity was exciting, and we were full of hope for everything the future held.

But after six months, it became clear that things were moving in a different direction than expected. It was a confusing time – we’d felt peace about our decision in spring, and it had really felt right at the time. But now suddenly, everything changed. Had we made the wrong choice?

What do we do when we try to make the best choice we can, step out in faith, and then everything turns out completely differently than we thought it would? Does that mean it was a mistake?

The more we process the whole experience, the more I see how the outcome matters so much less than the fact that we were acting in faith and obedience to what we felt called to do at the time. God has taught me a lot about trust and faith in the last few months, and I’m slowly learning to have peace in the midst of great uncertainty.

And so we try again. This was all just one step, and there are many more steps to come. It wasn’t the wrong step – it just wasn’t the last one.

What’s next?

Through it all, Ben has finally gotten the courage to go after his true dream, and I’ve finally gotten the courage to support him in it. He’s always been better with taking risks than I am, but both of us are now ready to see what God is going to do. If the last six months had never happened, I don’t know if we’d have the courage to pursue this new dream. Maybe we needed to go through that season to prepare us for what’s next.Over the next couple of weeks, Ben will be getting ready to launch his new venture, and we’re very excited. I’ll share more details soon – including a fun giveaway for my blog readers to be part of, because so many of you have followed along on our journey for years, and have been lovely and supportive. (Thank you!!!)

But in the meantime, I just want to say that God is good, and He is faithful. He guides our steps, and holds our hands. What I want more than anything is to trust Him with my life, no matter what happens. Even when things turn out completely different than we thought they would, we can still trust Him.

He is not looking down from heaven, saying, “Shoot, I never saw that one coming!! How in the world am I going to provide for Ben and Kendra now???!!!”

He’s got it covered, and His ways are so much better than my own. He can redeem anything, and so we keep looking to Him for our next steps.