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.

Date Your Inner Artist

This summer, a friend and I decided to read The Artist’s Way together. It’s a book about freeing your inner creativity and opening yourself up to all the wonderful things inside that you might not even know are there.It’s wonderful and delightful and extremely uncomfortable. I’m seeing some patterns in myself which I don’t particularly enjoy. Mostly, I just don’t allow myself to have very much fun. I’m extremely task-oriented, so it’s proving difficult to complete my assignments each week. These include reading a chapter, answering some questions, writing three pages each morning, and going on an “Artist’s Date” once a week.I love the reading, and I like thinking about the questions, but I’m struggling with writing three pages every single day, and the worst part of all is making myself go on Artist’s Dates!! I have a million things to do, and if I’m not doing them, I’m perfectly happy to sit outside and just think. But to make myself go out and actually do something is really, really hard, apparently.My friend is an artist, so she happily skips off with her sketch book and loves her Artist’s Dates, but I’ve found it hard to even come up with ideas for what I want to do. I’ve picked blueberries, read fiction outside under the trees, and one time I went on a photography spree while we were staying at the cabin.I took pictures of the same flowers from different angles. I searched for interesting light shining through the trees. I noticed which weeds caught the evening light in the prettiest ways.I wasn’t even gone that long, but as I made my way back through the bush to the cabin, I felt that good feeling I get when I’ve created something. I went out and noticed things, and because I took pictures of them, other people will notice, too.I used to take far more time for photography, but somehow the busyness of life has kept me from doing something which gives me joy.As hard as it is for me to set aside the “To Do” lists, and make time for creating, that feeling I had when I came out of the bush is worth pursuing. I need to be sure to do more of that in the future.What do you do to make room for creativity? I need more ideas for my Artist’s Dates, so please share!!

Things I Learned This Summer

Happy first day of fall! I have mixed feelings about this – I love fall, but we had a really good summer, so it’s hard to see it go!

I’ve been trying to get into the discipline of reflection at the end of each season, spending time looking back on what happened and what I learned.I’ve done it a couple of times in the past, and I really like the practice of it, because it make me more intentional, and it helps me to remember times of growth or discovery from each season.

I have tons of pictures to remember all the great times at the lake, but some of the little lessons learned might slip quietly by if I don’t take the time to pay attention. It doesn’t have to be deep, meaningful stuff, it can be the smallest things that somehow shift my attention or approach to life. Emily Freeman does this for each season, ad I always love reading her list, so here’s what I came up with for my summer:

1) Housework usually takes less time than I think it will.
There are some household tasks I avoid like crazy, because they feel so huge and daunting. But this summer, I tried setting a stop watch on my phone to find out exactly how long the dreaded chores took, and was surprised with the results. The chores were always quicker to do than I thought they’d be. The next time I’d need to tackle the same chore, I knew how much time it would take, and whether or not I could fit it into little pockets of time throughout the day. It has really helped me get more tasks done in a day.

2) I cannot grow brussel sprouts.
I’ve tried a couple of times now, and this is the year I give up! It’s time to stop wasting precious gardening space on something that is simply not working. It gave me a nice sense of freedom to admit it, and move on. There’s wisdom in knowing when to quit!

3) Clipboards make me feel official and productive.
I have an extremely long list of daily stretches, assigned by my physiotherapist and muscle therapist, and it’s hard to get it all done each day. I do them in chunks throughout the day, so I lose track of how far I’ve gotten, or I just run out of steam.This summer, I wrote out the whole list, stuck it in a page protector, and crossed each item off with a whiteboard marker as I went along. It worked very well, except the page was so flimsy, so it was a bit of a pain.

But when I found a clipboard, everything changed. It suddenly made me feel super official, and I got far more done because the whole thing was so visual and intentional.Now I’m trying to figure out what else can be given clipboard duty!😉

4) Settlers of Catan is still a fun game!

We haven’t played that game in years, but this summer, we played a bunch of games with our kids at the cabin and taught them how to play Settlers, and we all had so much fun!Because our kids are each five and a half years apart, it’s been tough to play games together that we can all enjoy.

But this summer, it finally worked! We changed the rules a bit for Everett, or he’d be on a team with Ben, but we figured out how to spend time together in this way, and it felt like such a fun new stage for our family!

5) Use a good pen and a junky notebook.

I’ve never understood my reluctance to use pretty notebooks, until I was reading the book Writing Down the Bones. The author says pretty notebooks make us feel like we have to write perfect, important thoughts. She suggests using a junky notebook so there’s freedom to write down whatever comes to mind, even the rough, ugly stuff.But she also says it’s very important to use a good pen. The ink needs to flow at the right speed, and feel good in the way it writes.

I tried it, and it’s totally true. But now I have this beautiful notebook Ben gave me for Christmas that I didn’t know what to do with it. And then I figured it out – I’ll use it for a gratitude journal, because that’s the one place where my written thoughts are always beautiful enough for a nice notebook! For all other journaling, junky notebook + nice pen!

6) This is the best book I have read in a long time:

Did you read Kisses From Katie? I loved her first book, but this one is even better. She writes about how to trust God even when your prayers don’t get answered the way you want them to, and how to have hope during times of suffering. Here’s one of my favorite quotes:

It is a brave thing to hope, to continue in hope, knowing that God might say yes but that He could say no, and choosing to praise Him anyway….I desire to enter fully into the joy He places before us and I desire to enter wholly into the suffering He places before us because both can be His gifts to us. Both can be made beautiful.

This summer was really wonderful, but there were some hard parts to it, as well. This book was such an amazing reminder to think about facing hard things with the peace and certainty that God will carry us through in the best way possible. And now, we move on to fall! I’m curious to see what new lessons this next season will hold!

What about you? Have you learned anything interesting or tried anything new lately?

Forgiveness, in Small, Bite-size Chunks

If you saw me walking down the sidewalk this morning, deep in thought, with a slightly dark and stormy expression on my face, it’s because I was thinking about someone I need to forgive.

Forgiveness can be HARD! It feels like people don’t talk about it enough (for my taste, anyway, but maybe not everyone feels that way!!). I wonder why – we all need to do it fairly regularly! Also, I’ve wonder why I feel so bad at it. Did I miss something I was supposed to learn about forgiveness? Is it easier for some people than for others? And how, exactly, do you do it? I get the general concept, but what is all involved in forgiveness?

I’ve been asking that question for a long time, and have basically heard two answers: you decide to forgive, and you pray for the person who has wronged you.

But as I walked along this morning, those two tidbits felt fairly inadequate for the job of forgiveness I have before me. (Can I be honest and say that prayer sometimes feels inadequate?! I know it’s not, but feelings don’t always line up with what I know in my head.)

I felt like it was this HUGE, impossible challenge, and I didn’t know where to start. (Sunday school answer: prayer. Always start with prayer. But again, that felt too vague.)

I was feeling guilty this morning, because it’s taking me a long time to forgive – too long, it seems. I still feel so sad about everything that happened in the situation.

But suddenly, the thought came to me: “Even though I feel sad, it doesn’t mean forgiveness hasn’t begun to happen.”

That word “begun” stuck out and made me curious. Have I begun to forgive? Is it a process? Are there steps to take, and have I been trying to make a really big leap, when I need to acknowledge the many parts to something as huge as forgiveness?

Have I been trying to swallow the whole thing at once, instead of taking it in smaller, manageable chunks?

I began to look back on other painful experiences in my life to see if there were steps that consistently happened. If I could determine those steps, I would know how to walk through a tough situation once more, finding my way to forgiveness as I have in the past.

Here are the steps I’ve determined:

1) Grieve

In the beginning, I couldn’t even think about forgiveness for a while, because I was so bogged down with emotions. I felt hurt, angry, betrayed. For a couple of days, the urge to cry kept hitting me unexpectedly, and I’d have to hurry away to the bathroom so my kids wouldn’t see me losing it again.

I tried to just let it all come out. It was hard, because everything in me wanted to skip that part. I didn’t want to face my hurt and anger, but I didn’t want to stuff it down inside myself, either, so I just let it flow.

After a few days, things calmed down. It would hit again when I thought it was finished, but eventually, it felt like I had cried it out.

This felt important, because I needed to acknowledge that what happened was hard and very disappointing. It’s right to grieve when something like that happens.

It makes me think of a wound – it needs to be cleaned out before healing can happen. Healing actually won’t happen properly if junk stays inside.

When we grieve, we can release the emotions that are clogging up our ability to think clearly, and then let the healing begin.

*This is absolutely harder for some people than for others. My challenge has always been holding things in, not letting stuff out. But I’ve seen how difficult it is for some people to face emotions. This doesn’t make it less necessary. It may mean getting some help – from a friend, from a counselor, whoever. But find a way to let it out. Christine Hassler (“Over It and On With It” podcast) suggests a pool noodle temper tantrum – find a safe, private place and whack it out. I’ve never tried this, but the point is, there are options. It’s better out than in – emotional constipation is no joke.

2) Perspective

Once I had spent a few days grieving and letting my emotions calm down, I began to get glimpses of perspective. In the beginning, I was too upset to be able to see the other person’s point of view, but after awhile, I began to think about what they might have been thinking or feeling, and imagining what the situation must have been like for them.

It’s something to be careful with, because we can’t read people’s minds, and we don’t want to assume things which may not be true. But to think about what the other person might be going through and think beyond ourselves is a sign of emotional health.

3) Desire

Another painfully honest confession: It took me awhile to get to the point where I actually wanted to forgive.

I’ve been down this road enough times in the past to know immediately this time around that I wanted to want to forgive. I know it’s Christlike, and the right thing to do, and all-around healthy to forgive, so I wanted to reach the point where I would sincerely want to forgive, right from the beginning, but it took awhile before I could sincerely say I felt like forgiving.

I think the process of forgiveness can start before our feelings line up with our decision to forgive. It’s what people mean when they say forgiveness is a choice.

It’s totally a choice, and I want to act in obedience, but I always pray really hard for God to give me the desire to forgive. I want to have a heart of forgiveness, in all possible ways, including my feelings.

But even when I’m not feeling forgiving, I still need to…

4) Act

This is the idea of “Fake it till you make it.” Sometimes this has felt insincere to me, but I try to see it as an act of obedience, and trust that as I act out kindness, forgiveness, and grace, the Holy Spirit will change me and fill in my gaps.

This is when I pray for the person who hurt or wronged me, whether I feel like it or not.

I’m very honest in my prayers. If I can’t pray, “Please bless so-and-so,” I pray, “Please give me the desire to pray that You will bless so-and-so.” God knows! Sometimes I just choke out the words until I can actually mean them sincerely!

So I may want to forgive, but if the feelings aren’t all there yet, I can still act out forgiveness, and at some point, the feelings follow.

5) Reconciliation

At some point in this process, forgiveness has usually meant sitting down with the other person and working things out. Sometimes that doesn’t work – it can be someone who it’s not possible sit down with, because the offence is indirect, the other person isn’t willing or sometimes forgiveness even needs to happen towards someone who has passed away. In those cases, writing a letter to the person (but not delivering) it can be extremely helpful.

Sometimes writing a letter before actually talking to the person has helped me to clarify my feelings and what I want to say. I’m a big fan of letters.

Talking it out can be really hard, uncomfortable, and awkward, or it can go much better than what I imagined. Either way, I’ve learned that pushing through the discomfort is worth it. Even when the conversation goes badly, I’ve seen the value of saying what needs to be said, even just for my own sake. They may not respond the way I hope they will – I can only control my own actions, and I need to let go of expectations on their part. (That’s a hard one for me!)

Another idea I heard recently is to make a list of all the ways in which the person has wronged you, and pray through each item on the list.

Sometimes I feel like it’s tricky to know when the work of forgiveness needs to be done with the other person, or when it’s between me and God. I start with God, and try to discern His leading as I work it out with Him.

6) Heal

It is such a testimony of God’s goodness and grace to be able to look back at restored relationships in my life. What a gift to be able to meet people who have caused pain (or who have experienced pain because of my mistakes), and greet them in a true spirit of forgiveness, without lingering hurt or bitterness.

It has always been worth it.


After I finished that list, I sat back and made two important observations:

Forgiveness can be a long, hard process.

There are a lot of points on that list, and none of them are easy. Forgiveness is the hard work of becoming more Christlike, and it shouldn’t be easy.

I need to let it be a process, and let it be hard. It takes time, and doesn’t need to happen quickly, because deep work is worth doing well.

Whatever step I’m on, I want to stop worrying about the whole, humongous task, and simply focus on what’s before me. Take one step at a time. Healing is the goal, but there are many steps along the way, and that’s okay. I want to take bite-sized chunks so I don’t choke on the whole thing.

I need a lot of grace, as I work on extending grace.

Who am I to feel all offended and wronged, tempted to withhold grace, when I am so badly in need of it myself? I’m not even good at forgiving on my own, and who knows how much grace my actions require from others when I may not always be aware of it?

Basically, we’re all desperately in need of grace, and we should splash that around liberally, until we all get enough.

Do you have any good forgiveness tips to share? What do you do when you want to forgive, but it just feels hard?

6 Things I’ve Learned About Marriage

This week marks 19 blissful years of being married to Ben!

A young couple recently asked for our best advice on how to have a good relationship. I guess I choked under pressure, because this is the answer I gave: “Being married to Ben is just really easy! I don’t have any advice.”They seemed disappointed with that answer, with good reason. That answer is helpful for exactly…no one.It’s haunted me ever since!! I’ve wanted another chance to do better, and I’ve thought about what answer I would give, if I could do it over.It is easy to be married to Ben – he’s super easygoing, very patient and kind, and the most selfless person I know. He’s tons of fun to be with, and makes me laugh all the time.Our marriage isn’t always perfect, but we’re very compatible, and that helps! Maybe my marriage advice is “Date very, very carefully!!”Beyond that, there are a few other things I would say, if I could have another chance to answer the question:

1) There is no other option.

Ben and I both committed to this relationship for life, so we will make it work. I think that changes everything about how a couple faces hard stuff. If you have to make it work, you will do everything in your power to do so. If there’s another option, it will affect whatever you do.

It’s like my planking challenge that I wrote about a couple of weeks ago – my muscle therapist once told me, “Never start planking until you’ve decided how long you’re going to go. You need to have that number in your mind before you even start.” Same with marriage! 😄

*I feel the need to acknowledge there are circumstances when this is not possible, and there are many, many stories out there full of pain and suffering. Obviously, life happens, and heartbreak doesn’t need judgement on top of it, so that is not my intention. Just wanting to promote an attitude of commitment, with a huge dose of love, grace, and empathy for those who didn’t get their happily ever after.

2) Pray together, even when you don’t feel like it.

When I was growing up, my parents prayed together every night. I always knew that if I went to their bedroom after they had gone to bed, I would find them reading the Bible together, and praying. There was nothing that made me feel as secure as knowing I would find them there together. I loved to crawl into bed between them and have them pray for me.

I thought all Christian couples did that, because it was so normal for me, so when Ben and I got married, that’s what we did. But over the years, I found out that my experience growing up had not been “normal” and I realized what a gift my parents gave to me with the example they set.

Ben and I have stuck with this, and it is such an important part of staying connected to each other, and to God.Sometimes, I do not want to do it. If I’ve had a really bad day, Ben has sometimes just prayed for me. But most of the time, we make it work. It’s difficult to pray together when we’re frustrated about something, so it means we have to work it out before we go to sleep.

It is not always easy, but it’s worth it.

3) Make time together that nothing else can interfere with.

This is easier now because Everett needs to be in bed by eight, so we have to be home a lot in the evenings, but it was harder before having kids. Life got so busy, we would go for long stretches of time without having an evening at home together.

But then I read a book about managing your home, and it included a chapter on scheduling. The author suggested that every couple or family needs at least two weeknights and one weekend night at home, in order to keep life balanced and under control. This may not work for everyone, but we started scheduling these times in. It was HARD, but we found that it made a huge difference for how connected we felt (especially for me, because my love language is quality time!).

But we also found that we had to keep it a secret from some people, because others wouldn’t always see it as “necessary”, and thought we should be meeting demands from other people instead of guarding our time so carefully. But we kept it a priority, and all these years later, we still keep an eye on the calendar, to set aside that time together.

Because our girls don’t go to bed at eight, we make sure to send quality time with them, and then they spend time in their rooms, reading and unwinding before bedtime, which allows Ben and me to have time together in the evening without it getting too late.This has worked very well for our family, and I would do it all over again. Guard your time, because no one else will do it for you!!

4) Honour each other with your words.

Ben and I try very hard not to say negative things about each other. We don’t make mean jokes, and we don’t use sarcasm. I can be critical about stuff in general if I’m not careful, but this one has always been a big deal to me in our relationship.

It probably stems from the example of my parents, as well as being in ministry for the first 10 years of our marriage. Setting a positive example in our relationship has always been a big deal, because other couples have done that for us. It’s not that we’re perfect, but it’s something we hold as important.

5) Work together.

One of my favourite things at Ben’s parents’ house is the way they make meals together. Ben’s dad especially loves to cook, but it’s always a joint effort, and I like watching them work together.

At our house, I usually do the cooking because Ben is working and I’m home all day, but if he’s around, he will always help get meals ready. When he notices that I’m getting overwhelmed by the mess in our house, he’ll round up the kids and be the energetic leader we need to get things cleaned up quickly.

It’s just more fun to work at things together.

6) Leave room for different ways of working through and expressing emotions.

This was my biggest lesson this last year. It’s taken me a long time to figure out that some people want to talk about their feelings, and others DO NOT. And that’s okay!I am a verbal processor. Sometimes I don’t even know exactly what I’m feeling until I’ve been able to talk about it. I feel so much better if I can get it all out, have a good cry, and clear my head.

Ben is the opposite. Most of the time, he does not want to talk about his feelings. He needs a chance to think through things before he’s ready to share anything. This is super hard for me, because I’ve always felt like I’m showing love and concern by asking him about how he’s doing. I actually feel cut off from him if he won’t tell me about how he’s feeling.

This last year especially, it became clear that we needed to get better at dealing with this difference in our relationship. Here are a few tips we figured out:

  • Be honest. It is helpful for me when I ask Ben something and he says, “I will answer that question, but I don’t feel like talking about it right now.” I can’t read his mind, so I appreciate when he communicates clearly with me.
  • Don’t take it personally. I’ve had to work hard at understanding that Ben is just different from me. He’s not trying to shut me out, he just needs time to be quiet with his feelings, as much as I need to talk mine out!!
  • Be brief. Sometimes I’ve felt so worried about Ben, I’ve really wanted to know if he’s okay, and how I can pray for him. But I also want to respect his need for space. A compromise that’s helped is asking him to give me one sentence summing up how he’s doing, and then dropping the subject. It helps him to know we won’t dig into his feelings, but he can still honour my need to know where he’s at.
  • Find other ways to show support. During rough times for Ben, I want him to feel like I care, but if I can’t show that by listening and talking through emotions, I try to look for other things he appreciates. I turn the lights on outside if he’s getting home after dark, just to make our home look more welcoming. I make sure his comfy sweat pants are clean and in the drawer so he can find them easily. I keep the container of homemade granola filled and ready for his favourite snack. Basically, I do anything I can think of to care for his physical needs, because I can’t do much to help with his mental or emotional needs.

These things have helped a lot, and I always appreciate when Ben talks about issues even when he doesn’t feel like it, because he’s also making an effort to adapt to my way of dealing with things.

That’s what I’ve learned after 19 years! A lot of this is wisdom we’ve learned from other couples we know, or from good books we’ve read, so I’m very thankful for the positive influences we’ve had throughout our marriage.

I’m also just really thankful for how fun it is to be married to Ben! We’ve had good, good years together. There have been some hard things to work through, like my health issues, miscarriages, infertility, and some tough transitions throughout the years. But when I look back, I’m really thankful for everything we’ve gone through together, and for all the lessons learned. We have a beautiful life together!

Taking One Day at a Time

If you’ve been reading my blog for awhile, you might remember that I’ve been planking as a way to deal with back pain. (Sometimes people ask what I mean by planking – I’m referring to holding your body in a horizontal position by your forearms and toes, and it is as awful as it sounds!!)

It’s been maybe three years since my muscle therapist asked me to give this a try, with a 10 minute plank as my goal. Still haven’t reached it, still sweating it out on my living room floor every day. My progress has to be slow so I don’t cause any old injuries to flair up, but I’m far enough along that I can say this works. It’s crazy hard and makes me feel like I’m going to die while I’m doing it, but I feel great when I’m done. My chronic pain isn’t gone yet, but my body feels so much better than it used to, and I am not quitting. Life goal: to still be planking when I’m 90.

The expected outcome is a stronger body and less physical pain, but there are many unexpected benefits I’ve gained from the process. The one affecting me most right now is the discipline of staying in the moment.

Every single time I settle down to plank, the same thoughts and doubts bombard me: “I am only one minute in and I already feel like quitting!!! HOW WILL I EVER REACH MY GOAL??!!!”

If I think like that, I never will reach it. I’ve learned that the only way to make it is to take one minute at a time. I absolutely cannot allow my thoughts to run ahead.

I once heard about a couple who set out to hike across England. The wife was in better shape than the husband, so she said it wasn’t that big a deal for her, but the husband said every single day was awful for him. They’d set out each morning, and all he could think was, “I will never have the strength to make it across England.”

But after awhile, he discovered the secret to making it work: He couldn’t let himself think about hiking across England. He would see a fence in the distance, and say to himself, “I’ll walk to that fence.” And then once he made it to the fence, he’d find another spot ahead of him, and walk to that.


Photo by Andre Moura from Pexels

He could handle walking to the next fence, but he couldn’t handle hiking across England.

I think of that story every single time I plank. As soon as I start thinking, “I’ll never reach my goal!!!” it’s a sign to me to reign in my thoughts. All I have to do is get through one minute. Then I get through another one. And I keep going, one minute at a time.

Because I do this every day, I notice this thought pattern creeping into my life at other times, as well.

For example, Ben has been in Belize for 11 days, and Kaylia is having an especially rough time with it. One night when she was crying about missing him, she said, “I can’t wait for him to come home!!! It’s too long!”

So I told her, “Don’t think about it all at the same time. Think about today. Today, we are okay. Today we’re having fun. Take one day at a time.”

I told her about my planking, and about the misty fence posts in the distance, and I felt myself also feeling a little stronger and calmer. Right now, we are okay.

I keep using this discipline in different situations: Right now, we are happy. Right now, we have everything we need. Right now, there is peace.

Anxiety is a signal that I’m thinking too far past the fence posts. It’s a sign that I’m running out from underneath God’s protection and strength. He gives manna for today. He is here with us, and when we get to the future, He will also be there, but for now, in this moment, we have everything we need.

When We Don’t Have Much to Brag About

I was recently in a situation where I had to listen to a woman brag about her grown daughter’s accomplishments. It was extremely uncomfortable for me, partly because it went on too long for my taste, and partly because my insecurities became glaringly obvious in my train of thoughts:

“Wow. Her daughter can do everything, all at once. Why can’t I accomplish anything like that? What’s wrong with me, and why would I never have the energy or ability to do everything her daughter does? All I do is raise three kids and try to keep our house somewhat clean. I would never be able to have a job on top of that. I definitely don’t accomplish anything that would give my parents something to brag about. I don’t have anyone giving me awards or praising the work I do.”

It actually took me a few days to stop feeling gross about the whole thing. But finally I decided enough was enough, and I needed to dig into it and pray through it until I could clear my mind. As I took time to think and pray about it, a few thoughts became clear:

  • Bragging never makes anyone feel good. I felt gross about listening to someone brag because the purpose of bragging is to lift ourselves up, not to encourage the person listening. And yet I’ve definitely fallen into this myself. It was a reminder to steer clear of bragging for the sake of others, and also to give myself permission to feel uncomfortable with it, because it is actually… uncomfortable.
  • We brag about earthly accomplishments. We want to point out to others the ways in which we are being awesome. It’s a way to measure our worth and success by earthly standards. When I allowed myself to feel like a failure, it’s because I was forgetting that it’s never been about earthly accomplishments to begin with. I’m not a stay-at-home mom because I think that will get me praise and admiration in this world. It has nothing to do with that. I do it because this is what I feel called to do, and I don’t need bragging rights or praise from anyone in order to fulfill my calling.
  • I can try to make others feel seen and valued outside of their accomplishments. I can stop turning into myself, giving in to comparison, and feeling insecure about someone flaunting their accomplishments (or their kid’s accomplishments). I can turn towards them and find ways to make them feel valued so they won’t need to brag in order to feel better about what they are contributing to the world.

If I know who I am, why I do what I do, and am secure in my calling, I don’t need to give in to the lies that I don’t have value. Instead of spending days feeling discouraged, I can use my energy to reach out to others in encouragement, to remind them that they, too, are seen and valued for who they are, instead of what they do.

Bragging can stop being an annoyance, and become a signal – if I catch myself bragging, it’s a sign that I need to pull in close to the One who holds me and tells me who He made me to be. And if I’m on the presence of someone else who’s bragging, it’s a signal that they need the same reminder I often do: We’re not here to convince the world we’re a success.

I came across this quote which says it well:

“When young children feel they are doing something special, they will say, “Look at me!” Adults don’t say, “Look at me!” but inwardly we do say, “Notice me.” We want to be recognized. Though this desire may be self-centered and vain, it is also part of what it means to be a human being, made in the image of God. When Jesus says we are not to parade our good deeds or accomplishments before others, but rather to live before an audience of one, he is not denying our natural desire to be noticed – he is simply redirecting it.” Ken Shigematsu, Survival Guide For the Soul

I love the idea that we don’t need to be ashamed of our desire to be noticed and seen. It’s a God-given desire that can draw us into a beautiful relationship with Him. It’s an invitation to all of us in our brokenness.

We are seen. We are heard. We are loved, no matter what. Soak it in, and pass it on! 💕

3 Steps to Take During Uncertainty

Ben and I are going through a period of uncertainty right now. There are some things we’re praying about, and trying to discern our next steps.

For most of my life, I’ve hated these kinds of situations. I want to have a plan, and know exactly what’s going to happen. But this last year, God has been teaching me a lot about trusting Him, and walking in faith, taking one day at a time. I don’t get it right every time, but I can definitely see that He’s been strengthening my faith muscles!

Every once in a while, though, the temptation to think too far ahead trips me up. Suddenly I catch myself worrying about all the things I’m trying to leave in God’s hands.

This recently happened again, early one morning. For some reason, I just woke up feeling anxious, and before long, I was all busy in my head, wondering how we would work everything out.

Realizing I was heading into dangerous territory, I got out of bed and started on the little things I do each morning, until I finally settled down with my Bible. I’ve been reading through Matthew, and that morning, I was up to the passage about Jesus feeding the five thousand.

As I started reading, a verse I’ve read many, many times suddenly grabbed my attention. I didn’t even know why at first, but it seemed to jump out at me, so I read it again a couple of times to figure out why it felt important.

“He directed the people to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people.” (Matt. 14:19)

As I read it over, I realized there in front of me were laid out three steps for how to move ahead when the way doesn’t look clear.

What Jesus did in that specific situation can be done any time we are waiting for direction from God: He looked to heaven, He gave thanks, and He took action, having faith that God would make a move.

Look to Heaven

When I keep my focus on God, I don’t worry about stuff. But when I start looking too far ahead and trying to control everything, anxiety kicks in. If I remember to keep my eyes on Jesus, “looking up to heaven”, there is peace.

It’s like that old song “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus”…

Look full in His wonderful face

And the things of earth will grow strangely dim

In the light of His glory and grace.

I sing that song when I need to remind myself to keep looking to heaven, instead of all the distractions around me, which cause me to lose trust in God’s care and provision for my life.

Give Thanks

Gratitude has the power to melt away all kinds of negative feelings. It’s very hard to feel worried when I start thanking God for all of the ways He’s been faithful.

We can thank God for all He’s already done, but in this verse, Jesus thanks God for what He hasn’t even done yet. I’m trying to do this, too. God knows our needs. In times of uncertainty, I’m choosing to trust that God will make a way, even before we see what it is. I’m thanking Him in advance for all He will do in the future!

Take Action

The Bible doesn’t say exactly when the miracle of multiplication occurs in this story. Does it happen somehow as Jesus is tearing the food into pieces? Does it happen before He breaks the bread? Who knows, but I love how Jesus digs in and gets to work!

It reminds me to start walking in faith before I know exactly how everything will work out. I can’t sit around waiting until I know every detail – sometimes I need to get moving, and put my faith into action.

It reminds me of a quote by Charles Stanley that I’ve always loved, which goes something like this: “If God asks you to run through a brick wall, just start running, and pray He’ll make a hole.”

It would be so much easier to get the miracle first, and then take action, but a lot of the time in the Bible, miracles happen on the way.

I would absolutely love to know how everything is going to work out for our family, but there is actually something beautiful and exciting about not having a clue, and keeping on our path anyway. Even when our way is uncertain, I want to travel it in a way that honours Him. I could get very stressed and worried right now (I’ve done it before in other situations when waiting on God), but how much better to do it with peace, joy, and a thankful heart!

Look to heaven, give thanks, take action. I’m not saying it’s a magic formula that leads to a perfect, wealthy, successful life. I’ve learned that most of the time, things don’t turn out at all the way I think they will, or want them to. But somehow, even the hard times can become good and beautiful because Jesus guides us through.

It’s not easy to do these three things – it takes a lot of practice, and it’s hard to keep the mind disciplined enough to stick with it. But the Spirit enables us to do what we can’t, and the more I practice, the more appealing it becomes to live a life of faith.

Look to heaven, give thanks, start moving. And then, who knows what will happen next?!