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.

Things I Learn From Kaylia

We had a birthday to celebrate this last weekend. Our sweet, imaginative, creative girl turned 11, which my brain can’t really take in yet, but we had a fun day. Birthdays are a HUGE deal to Kaylia, so I always feel a bit of pressure, but fortunately, she’s able to find joy and pleasure in the smallest things, so it kind of balances out!

I’ve been thinking about how different each of my kids are, and how I learn things from parenting each of them. I’m fascinated by the idea that we have no control over what kind of people our kids will be, but life with them changes and shapes us in significant ways, as we parent them.

Kaylia has taught me a lot, and celebrating her birthday has made me think of what I’ve learned from being her mom:

She creates with reckless abandon.

Kaylia is always making something. Her life is filled with cutting, glueing, sewing, taping, painting, and designing creations with Lego. I live to see her creating things, and I’m inspired by the way she gets it out of her head and into the world. I tend to overthink my creative process, but Kaylia just goes for it.

Over the years, well-meaning friends and family have often given Kaylia craft kits as gifts. She will take all the contents of those kits, completely ignore the instructions, and make her own thing. She has never felt the need to be told how or what to create.

Before we left for our trip to the Bahamas in February, I asked Kaylia’s art teacher if there was anything Kaylia could work on so she wouldn’t fall behind. I thought her response summed things up accurately: “Well, we’re going to be doing some exercises to develop greater freedom in our art, but Kaylia is very free already, so she should be fine!”

She likes what she likes.

Back in the days when we still left the house on a regular basis, Kaylia wore the exact same outfit every time we attended our homeschool group. I asked her once why she always chose the same thing, and she said very matter of factly, “Because it’s my favourite.” She didn’t care about what anyone else thought about her wearing the same thing every time, because she knows what she likes, and she wanted to enjoy it.

When she needs to decide what she wants to buy, or what she wants to keep and what she wants to get rid of, she usually knows exactly what she wants. She’s quick to make decisions because she just knows what things are her favourite, and sees no need to second guess her instincts.

She is true to her own feelings.

Sometimes I’ve tried to nudge her to change her mind or be more open to things she doesn’t want to do, and I do feel there’s a place for that, but at the same time, I admire Kaylia’s ability to know what feels right and resonates deep within herself. She is not usually swayed by what others are doing, because she is very in touch with who she is and what she wants.

As a parent, I’m learning the fine balance between encouraging her to try new things, and being true to herself. I never want to dull her intuition or her ability to know her own mind.

She has great sensitivity.

Kaylia has never recovered from learning that Pluto used to be considered a planet, but is not anymore. The other day, she asked for the second time, “Does it hurt God’s feelings that people think Pluto isn’t a planet?” She’s concerned about this, and it troubles her soft heart.

She can read emotional situations quickly, and will immediately try to smooth things over or find a way to ease the tension.

She believes every event is a BIG event.

Kaylia reminds me to celebrate the little things. This last Valentine’s Day, it was half an hour before supper would be ready when Kaylia decided we COULD NOT let the day pass without a party. I was tired and not really in the mood, but I could see how much it meant to her. I dug through my stash of fancy napkins (courtesy of my mom, because I would never think to buy my own nice napkins) and pulled out some hidden chocolates, while she got to work on decorating the table.

By the time supper was ready, she’d made a beautiful garland, covered the table with confetti, and made Valentine’s to put on everyone’s plate. As we sat there enjoying our little party, I felt so thankful for our sweet girl, who knows the importance of the small things. 💕

Kaylia makes our home more colourful and interesting. I love the ways in which she reminds me to have more fun, more parties, more creativity, and not get too bogged down with the details.

Feeling Small During a Pandemic

A few years ago, my dad was in a serious car accident, and broke both his legs. There were frantic phone calls and lots of quick decisions to be made, and everyone jumped into emergency mode.

My sister is a nurse, and exactly the kind of person you want around during a crisis. She stays cool and calm, explains scary medical stuff in just the right way without freaking anyone out, and takes charge very naturally. She went to the hospital to be with my parents, and I sat around, trying to figure out how to be useful. We went to visit my dad, of course, but I felt pretty useless and helpless about the whole thing.

On the day my dad was transferred to a hospital closer to home, my mom called and asked if I could pick up some groceries for her. She sent me a list, and I was happy to have something useful to do. When I got to the store, I made my way through her list quickly, until I got to the oranges. She hadn’t written down what kind of oranges she wanted, and there were a few different choices. I thought about it for a bit, remembered which ones I’d seen at their house most often, and put those in the cart.

When I got to my parents’ house, my mom started unloading the groceries. When she got to the oranges, she was delighted to find I had bought her favourite kind, and I was relieved I had made the right choice. She made a big deal about those oranges, and when I went home later, I kept thinking about it.

I wondered if it showed me anything about my role in times of crisis. I’ve often wished I could be a little more useful (or even reasonable?) during emergencies, and yet all I did this time was pick the right oranges.

It seemed so unimportant, and yet I knew how much my mom likes having her favourite foods around. It was small, but I could do it. And when other people are busy being heroic nurses, we still need someone who has time to buy the oranges.

I haven’t posted on my blog since this quarantine started. I’ve written a bunch of posts, but never finished them, because nothing felt right. I didn’t know what I had to offer, during a time when so many people have been going through so much. My life feels pretty good right now. I’m not experiencing a lot of stress over the coronavirus, and I haven’t been able to figure out what wise, comforting words need to be said.

If you’re needing bold, confident leadership during this time of crisis, I am not your girl. And many other people are filling that role already, so it’s a bit crowded anyway.

But yesterday, I got a text from a lovely lady I haven’t seen in a long time, and she had a question. She wanted to know if there were any books or podcasts I could recommend for learning to love the simple routine of just staying at home.

I lit up inside, because this is one of my favourite topics, and I could send her a whole bunch of great recommendations. It made me think of buying the oranges.

And it made me realize that I have a strong desire to be helpful and useful, and if it’s in my wheelhouse, I am your girl.

But these things feel so small, and yet lots of little things add up over time. And often, isn’t it exactly the little things we really want?

I have this very clear memory of a beautiful spring evening when I was a kid. My younger sister and I were in the backyard playing two-person baseball, which is as complicated as it sounds, and my mom was washing windows. Sometimes she would watch us play for a bit, and one time she came to hit the ball, but most of the time, she was busy washing her windows.

After awhile, she told us she was going around to wash the windows at the front of the house, and even though we didn’t need her for anything, I remember feeling like things were somehow flat and empty without her there. I just liked having her around. It’s interesting how the simple comfort of her presence made such an impression that I can still clearly remember it. Nothing dramatic or exciting happened – I remember it because I felt safe and happy.

I think about that a lot right now, when I’m wanting to do big, significant things. Not everyone is called to that. Sometimes we’re just called to be around. To be available when someone has a question or needs some groceries.

I have not saved any lives during this pandemic, but I have been here. My kids have felt the security of my constant presence. My husband has needed my help sometimes. And as small as that feels, it’s the part that is before me. Doing the small things faithfully can be really important, too.

I like it that Jesus talks about giving someone a drink of water – whatever we do, we do for Him. I think He’d find oranges important, too.

And if ever there was a time for valuing the small things, it’s now. I mean, we live in a world that lost its mind over toilet paper.

So here’s what I’m trying to remember: Be present. Bring oranges. Do the little things as opportunity presents itself. Be thankful for those who are filling bigger roles, but know that every part is important, even the small ones.

Wherever You Go, There You Are

It’s been a little over a week since we got back from a family vacation to the Bahamas. It was a beautiful, amazing experience. I’ve never seen such incredible scenery, and we attended my sister’s wedding while we were down there, which was really special. We stayed at a house on the beach with my parents, and I’m so thankful for all the beautiful memories. Everett and my dad would go for early morning walks down the beach every day, many games were played that week, and we soaked in that view together.

While it was a really good vacation, it was also hard for me sometimes, because I was not feeling great a lot of the time. My health hasn’t been good this winter, and I’ve had a few old issues flare up, which has been very disappointing. When we decided to book this vacation months ago, I was really hoping I would feel better by this time, but things didn’t work out that way.

As I’ve learned in the past, I have this issue with wanting vacations to be as close to perfect as possible. But I keep forgetting that I go on vacation with an imperfect body, and perfection is a very unrealistic expectation.

I got discouraged sometimes on our vacation, because I just wanted to have a good time with my family, and it was disappointing to have to miss out on things I really wanted to do, or hold back because I wasn’t feeling good.

At one low point, I said to Ben, “I just want to feel like myself again!!”

I’ve said that to him a number of times over this past winter, but for some reason, this time was different. As soon as I said it, the question popped into my head: “What exactly do I mean by ‘myself’? How am I not myself in this moment?”

I spent a lot of time thinking about that for the rest our vacation. Why do I feel like “myself” when I’m feeling healthy, and “not myself” when I’m not doing as well?

I kept thinking about how I am the same person no matter where I am. I’m Kendra when I’m at home, and I’m still Kendra when I go to the Bahamas. I do different things in these places, and I feel differently, but I’m still me, just in different places.

And I thought about how it’s the same when I go through rough patches physically, internally as well as externally. This past winter has been very stressful on my body, and it’s become clear that I’m going through a period of burnout. But even so, I’m Kendra when I’m healthy, and I’m still Kendra when I feel burned out. When I’ve said things like “I just want to feel like myself again!” I didn’t realize how I was rejecting parts of myself. I was basically saying, “I accept my body when it’s strong and healthy, but when it’s weakened by stress or sickness, I reject it.”

When this came together in my mind, I realized how disconnected I had begun to feel over the last few months. I was very hard on myself for how I was feeling. I was frustrated because no matter how hard I was trying, I couldn’t turn things around fast enough to feel well by our trip. I was doing all the right things, but I was pushing myself too hard. I wasn’t accepting where my body was at.

I don’t remember when I first heard the quote “Wherever you go, there you are.” But I do remember thinking it was dumb. Of course you are wherever you go. Why would it be necessary to clarify that?

But somehow, as basic as it seems, I had actually forgotten it. I am me, wherever I go. I am me, no matter how I feel. And as hard as I try, it’s not always possible to make every moment, place, or experience perfect and wonderful. But it IS always possible to be there. To be me, to be fully present, fully accepting of whatever the moment holds, even if it’s not the way I would choose. To accept all parts of myself, and not reject that which is hard or painful, but to keep showing up, no matter what.

This was a lot for me to process – it changed how I felt about our trip, and how I approached things. I gave myself permission to enjoy each moment as best I could, but to accept the fact that right now, I don’t feel my strongest or healthiest. It’s okay to disappointed about that.

But when we got home, I listened to a message that added so much more to all of this. It was a message from The Meeting House about wholistic living, by Danielle Strickland. She started talking about how we as humans have a hard time approaching differences between ourselves and other people. When we approach these differences with fear, it causes pain and hardships. But when we approach these differences with faith and curiosity, it brings about healing and understanding.

Then she went on to explain how we need to do the same thing within ourselves. When we feel differences inside us, like new feelings, imbalances, or sickness, we can choose to approach it with fear, or with faith. When we use the filter of faith, we can trust that God has created our bodies in ways that are complex, beautiful, and amazing. When we detect differences within our own bodies, we can respond with curiosity, and ask, “What is my body trying to say? If I stop to listen, what can I learn?”

When I heard her explain this, it felt like the piece that’s been missing all winter. My body has been telling me to slow down for months, but I never stopped to listen to it. I didn’t want to accept that I was going through a hard patch. I just kept pushing, without even realizing it. I thought I was making good choices, and doing everything for the sake of feeling better. But I wasn’t doing what was needed most, because I was just waiting “to feel like myself again” instead of accepting where I was at.

What I needed most was to stop, rest, and accept that for now, this is the place I find myself in. Still Kendra, still myself, and that’s still a good thing.

Things are not perfect, but I’m here. And there is a lot of goodness right here.

I guess a lot of us are currently finding ourselves in some imperfect places or situations we would not choose. The whole world is going through a confusing and difficult time. But we’re here, and there’s a lot of goodness right here. We don’t always get to control where we end up or what it’s going to look like. But it’s always more productive and healing to approach a situation with curiosity and faith instead of fear, and not shut ourselves off from what’s happening, just because it’s uncomfortable.

What can we learn? What is this situation teaching us? How can we lean into it, and allow it to be what it is, for now? What is here for me in this situation that I might never have noticed in any other place, or any other way?

Wherever you go, there you are. May we stop to listen, accept this present moment, and learn to make it a place of faith, curiosity, and hope, instead of fear.

*If you’d like to listen to the message from The Meeting House, it can be found here.

Family Video

On the one hand, February is quite late to be posting our annual “Year in Review” video. But on the other hand, the calendar says it’s “Family Day”, so that seems like the perfect day for this video! Here in Manitoba, we’re supposed to be celebrating Louis Riel Day, but I really like the idea of Family Day, so this feels right to me. 🙂

It’s probably been eight years since we started this little video tradition, and it makes me so very happy every time! If you ever feel like life is kind of ordinary, and not much changes, make a video with your pictures of the last year, and stick some happy music with it. Your perspective might change completely!

Happy Family Day! Or Louis Riel Day!

A Birthday Post + an Offer for You!

Ben had a birthday at the end of January, so I’ve been trying to think of what I’d like to write for his annual birthday post. (I don’t give my family cards, I just write them blog posts! The kids love to go back and read old posts.❤️)

This last year was full of a ton of changes for Ben, because it was the year he decided to finally take the plunge, and start the business he’s been dreaming about for years.

He went to Chicago for training in fall, and has been delving into coaching and consulting, using the Strengthsfinder leadership assessment tool. I’m fascinated with everything he’s been learning, and I love to hear about how this tool is helpful and eye-opening for anyone he coaches.

It’s also been amazing to watch him move into a better understanding of himself and what his own strengths are. The Strengthsfinder assesment clarifies the top five strongest abilities a person has from a list of 34 options. It’s amazing how identifying a person’s strengths can be used to move into greater clarity for how to approach pretty much any area of life.

Although I don’t know nearly as much about this fascinating tool as Ben does, I thought it would be fun to share what I love most about his top five strengths, how I see them play out in Ben’s everyday life, and how they impact our family in really beautiful, life-giving ways.

Here are his top five strengths:

Strategic:

  • Ben turns my thinking upside down with his ability to see things from different angles and a cost/benefit perspective. He is always thinking about the most effective way to do things, and how to get from where we are to where we should be going.
  • He is the best Costco shopper around. I haven’t gone grocery shopping on my own in YEARS. Like, over a decade. It started out because of my back/neck issues and I couldn’t push a cart, but we soon discovered that Ben is 200 times better at shopping than I am. A strategic shopper makes a happy budget.
  • When we are driving anywhere or planning a route through anywhere, Ben always knows the best way to go. It is just the way his brain thinks. My brain tends to saunter along. He guides me where I need to go!
  • Ben is always the person I want to talk to when I have a problem. It started even before we were dating. He has this amazing way of listening patiently, and then cutting through all the extra fluff, emotions, etc, getting right to the heart of the issue, and then leading me gently to the best possible solution.

Belief:

  • Ben has a deep integrity and desire for authenticity, which has shaped the core of our family. He has to be true to who he is and what he believes in.
  • He makes decisions slowly, because he sits with things for a long time, carefully determining how he feels about his options, and making sure they represent what is most important to him.
  • He always tries to say or do things that align with the deepest, truest part of who he is.

Self-assurance:

  • I’ve never thought about it specifically until now, but Ben’s self-assurance is a huge part of why things have just worked well in our marriage and family life. He gives great stability in new situations and provides a such a dependable solidity to everything, which serves as an anchor for our whole family.
  • As our kids figure out who they are and make sense of this world, I can see how Ben’s confidence and self-assurance gives them a sense of safety to draw from when they need it to come from somewhere outside themselves. He does the same for me all the time. When he is completely sure that everything will work out, and firmly believes we will have the strength to face whatever challenges arise, I start to believe it, too.
  • Even though Ben is a self-assured person, it never comes across as cocky or arrogant. It’s just a beautiful, solid, steadying force that grounds our family.

Futuristic and Ideation:

  • These are separate strengths, but Ben uses them together all the time, so I find it difficult to seperate them in my mind! Futuristic means visionary – Ben can see the end result clearly in his mind, and carries this positive, energetic force which propels him forward. Basically, I crave his energy. I live off it like a parasite.
  • Ideation is about getting a million ideas – Ben can come up with ideas for everything. When you combine his ability to see future outcomes with his endless amount of ideas, the result can be dizzying, in the best possible way. Ben could be the one prancing around singing “A Million Dreams” from the movie “The Greatest Showman”, because that is actually what his brain is like. And I am like Charity, along for the ride. It is always an adventure.

Starting his own business this last year has been such an important, significant step for him, because it combines every one of his strengths, all at the same time. I have loved watching him figure out how to draw on all his resources and put his dreams into action.

Wherever his dreams for this new venture will take us, I feel like this last year of his life will always be a significant one in our memories and in the direction we go moving forward. It has been an amazing experience to watch him push past obstacles holding him back, and draw on all of his strengths to rise up and make this happen.

I feel so proud of Ben for the ways in which he’s challenged himself and grown this last year, and for becoming a truer version of himself. It gives me joy to see him moving into greater freedom, and to have the opportunity and space to stretch out and use his greatest strengths and abilities. It’s been a year to remember, and I am excited to see what this next year of his life will hold!

*An offer from Ben:

When I told Ben that I was writing a Strengthsfinder post in honour of his birthday, he decided to offer any of my blog readers $100 off a coaching package! So if you or someone you know would enjoy exploring Strengthsfinder with Ben, check out his website over here, or email him at ben@canteraleadership.com.

(*Offer must be claimed by the end of the month)

What Is Saving Your Life This Winter?

At the end of each podcast episode, Jen Hatmaker asks her guests the same question: “What is saving your life right now?” And even though I know that coffee or good books are not literally saving anybody’s life, and I want to accuse her of being too dramatic with the way that question is worded, I have to acknowledge that something inside us can be saved, a little at a time, with small comforts and pleasures. That is nothing to be taken lightly.

I was thinking about this as I went for a walk the other day. It was late afternoon, the air was crisp and cold, and the sky was pink. As I walked along in that winter sunset, I saw a row of trees, their leafless branches silhouetted against the sky. And I thought to myself, “Winter sunsets are saving my life this winter.”

I felt overly dramatic myself, for a moment, and then I remembered all those winters I struggled with Seasonal Affected Disorder, and how horrible, dark, and heavy those winters felt. I looked at those trees against the pink sky, and felt the thrill of beauty and joy shoot right through me, and I decided to stick with my original thought – it is not too dramatic to say winter sunsets are saving my life this winter.

There are many ways to feel fully alive, and many ways to be saved from darkness, and I learned a long time ago that the secret often lies in learning to pay attention to the little things.

So I started to make a list of all the little things brightening up my winter – saving my life right now, if we want to lean into the drama. Here’s what I came up with:

Getting outside every day that I can. This can feel very hard on the extra cold days, but it is always, always worth it.

Good, warm, comfy boots. I used my birthday money to splurge on these boots, and we are living happily ever after. They are wonderful. I have foot issues, and these boots are incredibly comfortable. They keep my feet so toasty warm, my daily walks are so much more pleasurable with these boots in my life. I wish I had learned years ago that warm feet in winter make everything better.

Tea, in cute mugs. Both are important. I bought myself a mug I love, and it makes hot drinks even better. So we bought our kids their own special mugs too, and now they beg for tea every time they’ve been playing outside. Chocolate chai is their favourite.

Fiction. It’s been years since I’ve let myself read fiction, because I don’t have much self-control in that area. Reading fiction makes me want to avoid housework, cooking, parenting, sleeping at night – all the things I’m supposed to be doing, and it makes me grumpy when people disturb me. But I’ve found this winter that if I choose very carefully when to start a new book, and don’t read fiction very often, I can get away with enjoying one here and there. And it is so enjoyable.

Plants. I used to have a whole houseful of plants, but when we moved to camp, our house was so dark, they all died. It’s always felt like a frivolous expense to buy new plants, but when I thought about how much joy green, living things give me, I decided I needed to get some plants. We visited a greenhouse on Boxing Day, and all the plants were 50% off, so I got two – a China Doll and a Shady Lady, the choice based 90% on their names, and 10% on them being the prettiest plants I could find in my price range. They make me smile.

Twinkle lights around my kitchen window. I wanted lights that stayed up after Christmas, because it’s so empty and dark when all the decorations are put away. Turning these lights on every dark winter morning makes me feel warm inside.

Our new bird feeder. Kaylia is studying birds for science this year, and her science book recommended getting a bird feeder. I have never understood the thrill of birdwatching before, but I’m changing my mind this winter. It’s extremely interesting to see who shows up at our feeder, and how many birds stick around during the winter. I’ve never paid attention before! Now I’m seeing and hearing birds all over the place, and it is lovely.

These are little things, but each little thing makes this winter feel a little bit nicer, and a little bit brighter.

What is saving your life this winter?

God Has Good Timing

Ben and I had an amazing opportunity come our way this last fall – the kind we’ve often talked and dreamed about. There are lots of those dreams around here, so it wasn’t like this opportunity was everything to us, but it did get us excited as we talked about it.

We had a hard time discerning if it was actually the right fit, right time, and all that, but we decided to go through the steps to see where it would take us.

The whole process was full of twists, turns, and uncertainty, but it all fell apart in the end, and timing was the main cause.

It was exactly the type of situation which best showcases my ability to worry. I don’t like uncertainty or a long, drawn out decision making process. I usually work myself into a frenzy fairly quickly, but this time was different.

I was very tempted to follow my old pattern, but I kept feeling like this was a chance to do something different – to use the hold-ups, miscommunication, and uncertainty as a part of God’s process, instead of obstacles in the way of His will.

I kept choosing to believe that timing is part of how God unfolds His plans. His good and beautiful plans can’t be thwarted with something as small as timing! If He holds the whole world in His hands, that includes timing, and I can rest in it.

Because I’ve been thinking a lot about resting in God’s timing, I was delighted to come across this quote the other day:

“Much, much stress results from your wanting to make things happen before their times have come. One of the main ways I assert My sovereignty is in the timing of events. If you want to stay close Me and do things My way, ask Me to show you the path forward moment by moment. Instead of dashing headlong toward your goal, let Me set the pace. Slow down, and enjoy the journey in My Presence.” (Sarah Young, Jesus Calling)

God’s timing is perfect, and His way is perfect. When things seem to go wrong, He is not up in heaven, wringing his hands, saying “OH NO!!! I did not see that coming!! My whole plan is ruined!!! What will we do now????!!!” He uses the timing of events to bring about His will.

As I focus on that, a missed opportunity does not feel as disappointing. I don’t need to plan or scheme, trying to maneuver people and situations so that everything will work out the way I want it to. I can trust God completely, and know that He has good timing.

How Journaling is Setting Me Free

Have you ever had the same message come at you through so many sources, you finally throw your hands up in surrender, and say, “Fine! I’m listening!”?

That is how my goal for this new year came to be.

I read “The Artist’s Way” with a friend last year, and Julia Cameron promises that getting up early and writing three pages first thing every morning will grow your creativity.

I listened to a Typology podcast interview with a spiritual director, who said, “Write three pages every morning to discover your areas of pain and growth.”

I listened to an interview with Rebekah Lyons about her new book “Rhythms of Renewal”, and she said, “Journaling every morning lowers your stress level and grows emotional health.”

I discovered a website called “The Cure For Chronic Pain”, and read, “Journaling for 20 minutes every day will release the deep emotions you hold inside, which are causing your pain, and free you from tension and discomfort.”

After the fourth time of getting the message to start journaling, I finally said, “Alright!! I will set my alarm even earlier in the morning, and I will give this journaling thing a try. It’s free, it can’t hurt, and even if it doesn’t heal me of all stress and pain, it will still be a great thing to do.”

I’ve journaled every single day for a month, and I’m hooked. It has been completely amazing, and so my goal for 2020 is to begin every day with journaling.

I turn on my new twinkle lights in the kitchen window, set my timer for 20 minutes, and just write. Sometimes I don’t have a clue what to write about, but the words start coming. Thoughts and feelings rise to the surface from so far down, I had no idea I’ve kept them stuffed inside. But they pop up and out onto my page, and suddenly I am undone, because I can’t believe I’ve carried that deep, dark truth for so many years. I’m not miraculously healed from my pain (yet?!), but I feel lighter every day. How can that not eventually affect my physical body?

Thoughts and emotions are deeply connected to the physical body, and while I’m holding expectations lightly about how this will affect me, I can’t believe how different I feel about myself after a month. I’ve learned more about myself in the last month than I have in the past few years. It feels like purging pain, bitterness, unforgiveness, and every negative message I’ve taken in or spoken over myself for my whole life. I wake up to do battle with old demons, and it feels hard and painful and beautiful and healing.

Sometimes I write to God, sometimes I write letters which will never be sent, sometimes I just write fragments of thoughts, fast and furious, that don’t need to make sense to anyone but me.

I ignore margins, I don’t correct spelling mistakes (Gasp! How out of character!!), I spill it all out. And when I’m done, I tear up my pages into hundreds of little pieces, and I throw all that garbage into the garbage.

Then I go lie on my living room floor to do my daily stretches, and I pray it all out. I pray for healing and perspective. I pray for new thoughts to replace the old ones I’m shedding. I lie there and try to soak in the feeling of being light and free and forgiven.

Morning by morning, page by page, I am finding my way through. I have always tried very hard to be a Good Girl – to say and do the right thing, and not get mad or be mean. I’ve hidden all the “unacceptable” parts deep down inside, and I’ve labeled my feelings as “Good” or “Bad”. But what I know now is that my feelings are just my feelings.

It’s time to stop labeling them as “Good or Bad”, and I’m changing the labels to “Time and Place”. My time to get it all out with brutal honesty is each morning with my pen in hand. My family sleeps, and I sit there on my dark, quiet house, spilling it all out, because God sees it anyway, so let’s just be honest already.

I never knew journaling could bring freedom. I’ve written for years, but always for my blog, which meant it had to be neat and tidy, and appropriate for public consumption. I didn’t know how much I needed to write just for me.

But I love it, and I highly recommend it. Do you journal? Do you ever feel like you might benefit from journaling? Do you have other ways of working out emotions which feel right and good? I want to hear all about it!!