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.




Last Weekend of the Summer

This last weekend, we felt the moment when summer turned into fall.

We were at the beach and the sun was shining, but we could feel it coming – the air smelled like fall, the yellow leaves were peeking out, and we knew we were near the end.

The sun went behind a cloud and never came back.

The rain started later that evening, and the rest of the weekend was cool and cloudy, making me crave naps, books, and movies inside. Which is very nice, too, but I’m so thankful we got in one more beautiful afternoon!

It was only 13 degrees the morning we left, but my dad wanted to go for a ski. He’s been waiting hard for this! He broke both his legs in a car accident last winter, and has been going for physiotherapy for months. He finally got the go ahead for water skiing, and I’m so glad I got to be there to see it! I felt so proud of him. Life has changed a lot for him since his accident, but he’s never complained, and worked hard to push all the limits. I’m so happy to see him enjoying the things he loves once more! I asked him if it was okay to share this, and he said the part he likes to talk about is God’s ability to do miracles, and bring about healing, which is so true! It’s amazing to have days like this when we can celebrate how far God has brought him – I think He was smiling as my dad zipped around the lake.:)

It was a great way to end the summer! What did you do with your weekend?



How I Did a Five Minute Plank

You guys, I am finally able to do a five minute plank!!! I’ve been working at it since December, and it feels absolutely amazing to have reached my goal! I don’t think there’s ever been something I’ve worked so hard physically to achieve. Except labor. Delivering babies is slightly harder than a five minute plank. 

Ben and I have been talking about habits a lot lately. He’s also wanting to get more consistent with exercising, and I want to be more disciplined about staying on top of our budget. How can we make these things stick?! Ben has been listening to some great podcasts about habits, and sharing interesting tips with me, so I thought I’d make a list of things that worked for me:

Reward Yourself

When we need to do something difficult and unpleasant, it makes sense to combine a tough challenge with something fun. According to one of the podcasts Ben listened to, it’s even better if the reward happens while you are completing the task – like listening to an audio book or watching a show that you only allow yourself to enjoy when you are exercising. But it works to treat yourself afterwards, too, if it’s not possible to combine the activities. In the months since I started planking, Instagram has become my little treat. Once I collapse on the floor, I give myself permission to not move for 10 minutes, and enjoy some guilt-free time on Instagram.:) If the kids need something or anything else comes up, Ben does it for me, because I’m not getting up until I’ve recovered. It’s funny how such a little thing is something I look forward to!


We hear this one all the time, because it is SO TRUE. I need someone checking up on me. Ben has been encouraging me all along with exercising, but lately, Anika has also become my little cheerleader and planking partner. There was a day when I wasn’t feeling 100%, and convinced myself it was okay to take the day off. But then Anika came upstairs and asked me if I had done my planking yet, and was really disappointed when I said I wasn’t going to, because she wanted to do it with me. I didn’t want to let her down, so I decided to just do a short, quick plank with her. Once I got going, it wasn’t hard to keep going longer, so I did!

But as much as I appreciate Ben and Anika’s accountability, what really kept me pushing myself was having to report back to my muscle therapist every two weeks. He was always encouraging, but he wasn’t overly impressed with me when I was slacking off, and he knew I could do better. He kept telling me about the 70-year-old client he has who only took four months to reach a 10 minute plank, or the client who was stuck at seven minutes but stopped watching the clock and suddenly jumped to an 11 minute plank!!! What in the world. It would make me mad, so I’d go home and push harder. I needed that push. Find somebody who will give you a regular kick in the pants – pay them to do it, if you have to!! It is totally worth it.

Understand the Wisdom of the Process

This one comes from the pants-kicking muscle therapist. He is the most disciplined person I’ve ever met, so I asked him recently if he was always so disciplined, or if it was something he had to work at. He was surprised by my question, and said, “I’m not a disciplined person. I just understand the wisdom of the process.” He explained that once you understand the why of what you’re doing, and focus on how your future will be impacted by the choices you make today, you will have all the motivation you need to keep going.

This resonated with me, because I understand the wisdom now, but I haven’t always. When I first started seeing my muscle therapist, he would give me many different stretches and exercises to do, and I would, but not every day. He’d tell me to do yoga daily, but it hurt so much, I just *couldn’t*. It wasn’t until that month when I gave up every appointment, and felt like God was telling me to “act like a healthy person” when I finally got my butt in gear. I had nothing else to lean on, so I did every stretch, exercise, and yoga routine I’d ever been told to do, and by the end of the month, I was a new person.

Was it a miracle from God? Yes.

Did I work my butt off that month? Yes.

Could I have done it on my own without praying for a miracle? I would say no, because up until that point, I was never able to. I didn’t know what else to do, so I did everything I could, and prayed like crazy that God would do something new. And He did. I was finally strong enough to have a baby, and that is when Everett joined our family. It’s when I learned to push through the pain to bring about change. My body took a big jump forward during that time, but in the year and a half since Everett was born, I’ve still had a lot of pain.

That’s where planking came in. My therapist said it was the cure-all exercise because it brings every muscle into balance. It’s fantastic for people with back problems and neck issues, so he told me to start working towards a one minute plank. Then suddenly he was saying two minutes. Before long he was talking five minutes, then 10 minutes. I thought he was crazy – until that point, I had never even considered the fact that a ten minute plank was possible.

But I kept trying. IT HURT SO BAD!!! I would sit on the floor before starting and cry because I DID NOT WANT TO PLANK. I hated it. I felt more terrible than I’ve ever felt, because all my muscles were being challenged. I’d go to him and complain, and he’d pretty much say, “You have to push through it. There’s not a lot I can do to help you – your body has to adjust to using muscles in the right way. It will feel like you’re going to die.” So I’d go home, and I would feel like I was going to die, and I’d keep pushing, because I was so desperate. I wanted to be well and strong. I want to ride my bike and run after Everett.  I want to play piano again. I want to stop being the person who is in pain all the time. I don’t want my life to be defined by pain and limitations. I was sick of all of it. I had to trust that my muscle therapist was right – I was taking his word for it that this present torture would result in a strong and pain-free life. It’s taken nine months to get to five minutes, and he seems to be right – I have stretches of feeling really, really good. It doesn’t last, but it’s coming. Apparently, I won’t even feel my back by the time I get to 10 minutes. I asked him if it would take me another nine months to get to a 10 minute plank, and I liked his answer!! He said it’s like a big, heavy truck – it takes a long time to get going, but once it’s rolling, it’s hard to stop! That’s me. I’m rolling now, and I’m going to keep rolling right to a 10 minute plank…and beyond! I want to be the 70-year-old just killing the plank.

Take Responsibility

This was super hard for me to do for a long time. For many years, I had a really bad attitude about health problems and a weak body. I was angry with how my life had turned out, and I was bitter about how much harder things were for me than a lot of the people around me. I was jealous of other young moms who were living the life I wanted, and these negative feelings sent me into a very dark time of my life. I felt completely helpless.

I kept sitting around, complaining and wishing things were different. I wanted somebody to help me, I wanted God to save me, and to make it easier for me. I’ll never forget the day it all snapped. It was like God pulled back blinders in my life, and I realized how unhappy I was, and that I needed to be the one to do something about it. He was pouring out blessings onto my life, and I couldn’t even see them because I was so consumed with how terrible I felt. Something inside of me started to rise up. Looking back, I don’t really know how things started to change – it must have been that God just planted a seed, and it started to grow. Determination rose up in me, and I started searching for a better way to do things. I started trying everything, I googled and researched to figure out what to do, and Ben and I prayed a lot for God to show us what path to take.

I needed to accept the health challenges in my life, and instead of complaining about them, start putting that energy into doing everything I could to make it better. I still have times where I break down and have a good cry, and I wish I didn’t have pain in my body, but I try not to dwell on it, because it doesn’t help anything. I can’t control all of the circumstances in my life, but I get to choose how I’m going to respond to them.

There’s a verse in Proverbs that says if you don’t work, you don’t eat. I don’t get the good stuff if I don’t put any effort into it. It’s up to me. It was a hard lesson to learn.

Moving On

So I’ve accomplished my five minute plank, but there are many, many other habits which need to be developed in my life! I’m curious to see how the lessons I’ve learned from planking will be applicable to other new habits. I’m finding that achieving a difficult goal gives me confidence and motivation to do other hard things. I can push myself farther than I knew before. Time to move on to budgeting!!

Do you have any tips for sticking to a new habit and accomplishing something hard?