Better Late Than Never

I’m not sure what happened last week, but we were wildly productive, and got a ton of stuff checked off our to-do list. I cleaned out our walk-in closet, Ben painted a wall in our bedroom, he finished setting up his office in our basement, we got a whole bunch of errands done, and….we finally put together our family’s annual “year in review” video!

We’ve been doing this for seven or eight years now, and our little collection makes me so happy. 🙂 Every once in a while, our kids will sit down and watch them all in a row. Of course I have to join them, because even though I’ve seen those photos a million times, they always bring back many special memories.

So even though 2019 is well under way, and it’s kind of late to do a “year in review” post, someone came up with the expression “Better late than never” for a reason! Here’s our newest video:

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Life With Ben

The moon shone down on the highway, and the evergreen trees grew thick on either side. Ben and I were driving back to Red Rock Bible Camp after a weekend at home.

We were talking about our plans for the fall as we drove along. We’d both just graduated from Bible school in spring, and were dreaming about the future. I was surprised when Ben asked, in a very sweet, hesitant kind of way, “Do you think you could ever imagine yourself being married to a youth pastor?”

It stayed in my mind so clearly, because it was the first time we’d ever talked about getting married. I looked up at the moon and smiled, because I remembered a certain very serious conversation in college when my best friend and I had decided to get down on our knees and pray with audacious faith for God to please let us marry a youth pastor and a camp director. (She ended up marrying a teacher, and Ben ended up being a youth pastor and a camp director, so I guess I got all the answers to those prayers!)

Little did I know on our evening ride to camp how life with Ben would include much more than just being married to a youth pastor – other than my prayed-for-professions, he was also a fundraiser, an executive director, and owned +two businesses. For someone like me, who doesn’t like change and loses sleep over rearranged furniture or painting our walls a different colour, it has been quite a ride.

Someone asked me recently if Ben changes jobs because he doesn’t like finishing things. I thought about the best way to answer, and finally said, “No, it’s just that he’s really, really good at starting things.”

With his ideas and enthusiasm and problem solving abilities, he was made to create things. I think he is always creating new ideas.

Sometimes it’s bothered him a little that he’s done so many different things in his life already – he doesn’t want to seem flippant or unable to commit to something. But what I see is that while Ben is very loyal and committed to what is important to him, he will never stop creating and dreaming and moving forward. His variety of experiences combines into this beautiful ability to see things from many different angles, and I love how he uses his past experiences to find wise, creative solutions.

The other thing I see so clearly in him is his ability to gently bring people into his vision, and works alongside them. He knows exactly when someone needs encouragement or a little teasing and jokes to lighten the mood. He knows how to lead the way to something better.

I’ve been thinking about all of this a lot, because Ben had a birthday last week, and I always write birthday posts for my family. But this time I was struggling with knowing what to say. It feels as though Ben is right in the middle of something big and new and different in his life, and this next year will be an exciting time for him as he explores what God is bringing him into.

He resigned from his job last November to explore some new possibilities, which had me freaking out just a bit because that’s so much more change than a new paint colour!! But over these last few months, God has been teaching us some beautiful things. I’ve found blogging hard, because I’m processing a lot during this time that I’m not ready to write about (sometimes the words take awhile to get out of my head!), and also because Ben is very private about some things, so I wanted to honour that for him, as he explored what his next steps might be.

So with all of that in mind, with new adventures on the horizon, and this fresh new year stretching before Ben, it may sound kind of weird, but what I keep feeling I want to do most is bless him. I want to bless his dreams and visions, help to make space for seeds that are starting to grow, and bless his efforts and steps towards becoming more of the person he was created to be.

I love watching him growing and changing and becoming. I thought I knew him, all those years ago when we got married and started living life together, but now I realize I didn’t have a clue. I’m incredibly blessed to share this life with Ben, and very thankful for him. I’m so grateful for the way he gently invites me along on the adventure – never forcing me to change, but always inspiring with his enthusiasm. I can’t wait to see what will happen next!

*photo credit: Morgan Braun

Happy New Year

I’ve written three blog posts for New Years, and I’m not feeling like posting any of them.

I wrote a post about the best books I read this last year, and then realized I’d already shared half of them last summer.

I wrote a post about how to set good goals for the year, and then realized I’m not in the mood to give advice.

I wrote a post about facing the New Year with the unquenchable hope that it will be better than the last, and then realized that while I do truly believe in the hope and peace we have in Christ, sometimes life feels hard and complicated, and words can’t fix it, so there’s no way out but through.

So here we are, with all those abandoned blog posts. Ben said, “It’s not a waste – you needed to write them for your own processing.” And he’s right. But I still feel like I want to sum up how I feel as we sit here, dangling our feet over the edge of a brand new year, looking out over these fresh, beautiful months full of potential and opportunity.

I think the reason I feel so confused about what I want to say is because our family is in a state of limbo. We’re in a season of waiting, and we don’t really know what’s coming next, so it’s hard to get an idea of what to imagine for the coming months.

Ben resigned from his job in the middle of November, and is in the middle of the ever delightful interview process. He’s excited about what’s next, and I am sometimes excited, and sometimes stressed, because old habits die hard. But we will press on, and perhaps one day I will figure out how to be more carefree and able to embrace uncertainty.

In the meantime, let’s do this. Let’s take on 2019, and know that it will be fantastic, and it will also be hard, because that is life, but we will be fine. The hard stuff and uncertainty will make us grow, and the fun, good stuff will make us celebrate. There is much to anticipate.

And since I’m apparently stuck in a phase of uncertainty about what to say around here on the blog, I’d love your help. What do you want to read about in 2019? I’ve never asked for suggestions before, but I have this desire to write while also having a huge mental block. Any ideas?!

Everett Turns Four

I had just finished eating lunch the other day, when Everett suddenly climbed up onto my lap, wrapped his little arms around my neck, pressed his soft, chubby cheek against mine, and said, “I will keep hugging you forever….forever….forever….” And he kept whispering “forever” as he hugged me tight, and I stopped everything just to take the moment into the very depths of me, so that I will always, always remember it, forever, forever, forever.

We celebrated Everett’s fourth birthday at the end of November, and yet I still keep thinking, after all this time, “I can’t believe we almost missed him.” I am so very thankful that God decided our family wasn’t finished yet, blessed us with our sweet miracle boy!

So four years old is kind of crazy – I’m mostly okay with it, as long as I don’t let my imagination run into the future at all, cause then he’s just getting too big too quick! But I can deal with four. Anytime I’m tempted to start mourning the passing of time and the baby stage, I just think about the wonderful people my kids have become, and I wouldn’t want to go back to a time when I didn’t know them the way I do right now. So basically staying in this present moment is my strategy for dealing with the whole “They grow up so fast!!!” Because they do, but it’s fun and wonderful and what they’re supposed to do, so four is great!

And four is super fun – Everett is just the sweetest, most imaginative, fun little boy, and I am loving all of it. He is fiercely independent, which is great, but comes with A LOT of opinions. He was ticked off with Kaylia the other day, and as he angrily marched out of her room, he said to me, “You need to go deal with Kaylia!”

He is very happy with structure and habits and letting his sisters know what the rules are, and his blankets + cup of water + curtains must always be arranged just right in order for him to sleep, so it’s looking like he got Ben’s sense of humour +cheerful friendliness, with my particularness and need for order in my environment. 🙄 It’s an interesting combo.

But he’s just the snuggliest, sensitive little guy ever, and we all love him like crazy. Kaylia was feeling sad the other day, so he stood beside her chair, gently scratching her back the way she loves to have Ben do. Everett did it until she’d calmed down completely, and then stopped, but she asked him to keep going, so he did for awhile. Finally he said, “I’m getting very tired” so she gave him permission to stop!

He makes up songs all the time, and requires hardly any toys to keep him happy, because his imagination does all the work, but most of the time he wants to play with one of us. He loves to pull games out of our stash, and make up his own way to play them. The other day he “taught” me how to play Carcassonne, and explained very seriously that there were “hunters, fishers, and walkers”. He was very encouraging, and told me I was a great learner! 😊

With two older sisters, we sometimes get caught up in a conversation without realizing exactly how much he’s taking in until he suddenly pipes up with the most hilarious comments at exactly the right time. He is smart, witty, and has impeccable timing! He is constantly surprising us with the hilarious things he says, and keeps life fun and interesting!

We’re so excited to see what this next year of his life will bring for our sweet boy!!

Family Pictures

I probably say this every year: Family pictures are one of my favourite things about Christmas. I love getting all the cards from people we know and love, and having them all on display to enjoy. I love seeing how kids resemble their parents, how their personalities are captured, the art of photography… all of it just makes me so happy.

And I love sharing the memories captured with our own family each year. Our friend Morgan has taken our family pictures for years now, and every time feels like this fun adventure that just happens to be captured with her camera. We like to pick spots that are fun to visit to as a family, and as we go exploring, she follows us around. Then I wait eagerly to get the pictures from her, so I can see all those beautiful moments with the people I love most.

We totally lucked out this year with our photos – the weather was crumby for most of the fall. I kept hoping it would improve, but never did, and the day we had booked our session with Morgan was supposed to be very cold. I had to quickly go shopping the day before to find some warmer clothes to wear for pictures! But as we were driving to the city to meet Morgan, the sun came out, and for that short window of time, we got the perfect fall afternoon – sun shining through the bright, colourful leaves, nippy air with that crisp feeling you only get in fall. It was my favourite afternoon this fall.

 

On a Plane Flying Home

I’m sitting on an airplane, heading home from Phoenix, and going over all the pictures I took this week, feeling like I’d much rather still be sitting by the pool, instead of getting home at 2am tonight.

Nevertheless, our own beds will feel fantastic, and there really is no place like home, so here we go.

It was such a beautiful week – perfect weather, hours in the pool, and lots of fun adventures.

Everett was one year old the last time we went on a trip, so it was fun to watch him experience our flight down to Phoenix. While waiting for take off, he kept asking, “When are they going to take it off? When will we blast off?” He did fantastic for the whole flight and seemed to have a great time, but when we landed, he said, “I’m going to kiss the ground!”

We stayed with Ben’s parents, at the house they rent every November, and it was fun to have them show us around and introduce us to all their favourite things to eat and do in Phoenix.

Ben, his dad, and the kids went horseback riding in the mountains, and we went exploring at the top of the mountain afterwards.

We went for a hike in the mountains on our last full day, and it was one of those experiences that made me so thankful for how far my health has come. It hasn’t been that many years since a hike would not have been possible, and I loved being able to do it.

And now it’s time to get back to normal life, which is a bit hard to wrap my head around at the moment, but I’m such a creature of habit, I’m sure it won’t take long! So thankful for the beautiful bunch of memories we get to take back with us!!

Anika Turns 15

Anika turned 15 this week, and it is fascinating. I’m seeing her grow up and figure out who she is right before my very eyes. Everything I’ve learned about her from the day she was born is all coming together in this girl who is almost an adult, and it is an interesting, exciting, hard, beautiful process to watch.

You guys, being/having a teenager is no joke. I remember the struggle at 15. It’s such a strange time of wanting to grow up, and yet not always feeling ready to. I watch Anika teetering on the brink of that, and I never know when to jump in to help, or when to quietly step back and wait while she figures things out on her own.

I’m trying to get better at the quietly stepping back thing, and as I work at it, she keeps surprising me, because she’s got a good head on her shoulders, and she contually comes up with thoughts and observations that seem beyond her years, because she’s smart, thoughtful, witty, and able to cut through a lot of mess and confusion in a straightforward, honest, no nonsense kind of way.

As a little girl, she was always cheerful, easy to reason with, calm, and very advanced in her vocabulary and conversational skills. It kinda made her a dream to parent. As she gets older, I find it so interesting to see how her childhood characteristics translate into the older version of Anika. Back then, we didn’t know who she would become, but now we can look back and see the beginnings of who she is now.

She’s still easy to reason with, because she can understand the wisdom in something, or get the thought process behind it, even if she doesn’t completely agree with it.

That advanced vocabulary has become a passion for reading and writing anything fantasy related.

Her hours of listening to Veggie Tales cd’s and singing into the window crank handle as her pretend microphone has turned into dreams of singing on Broadway.

And she still stays pretty calm, for the most part, because she doesn’t see the point in getting all emotional about everything.

She’s responsible, self-motivated, and aware of herself and what she needs in a beautiful way.

She still swings for hours a day, always smiling to herself as she dreams her dreams, and cooks up new ideas for the latest book she’s writing.

She’s gone through some tough stretches, as all teenagers do, but it has been amazing to watch her find her way through. She processes things carefully, and always comes out the other end, stronger for having gone through it.

It makes me very curious about what is coming in her future – what she will create, what she’ll accomplish, all God has in store for her, and who she’ll continue to become.

She has always been one of the greatest gifts in my life, and she continues to take me down interesting, unexpected paths as I learn how to mother her – to be there for her, staying available, but more and more from the sidelines.

Fifteen beautiful years with her. I like right now – making breakfast together, timing ourselves to see how fast we can empty the dishwasher, watching “Heartland” together, figuring our way through grade 10 math together, talks when she gets home from somewhere about everything that happened, the last minute makeup checks before she goes out the door even though she knows far more about makeup than I do and it’s really just a chance for me to admire how she looks, the books we’re reading together. I have huge lump in my throat as I write this, because I know three years will go by in the blink of an eye, and she has big plans for college. I know I can’t slow down time, but I can squeeze lots of enjoyment from the simple, everyday moments right now.

I love this girl so much! Happy, happy birthday, Anika!