Waiting For Pretty

It’s that ugly but exciting time of spring – when everything is brown, but we’re just so happy because the snow is gone, and we know the green growing things are coming soon. I was looking out the window the other day, thinking about how there is so often an ugly aspect to growth and change – the discomfort of shedding the old and reaching toward the new. But it’s the hope, anticipation, and excitement of something fresh and different which carries us through the discomfort, and keeps us going.

So we watch spring creeping in, and we squeeze out every bit of joy from the ordinary little moments. Lately, we’re enjoying:

Early morning snuggles.

Saturday morning pancakes.

Smooth, bare skin.

The eager anticipation of good food.

Creating.

The best seat in the house.

More creating.

More anticipation.

Learning to share and play together.

And I realize once again that when I take the time to grab my camera, there is so much worth capturing, even if we’re still waiting for things to pretty up a bit outside.

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Best Parts of the Day

Each day at the supper table, we have a little tradition called “Best Parts of the Day”. Everybody has to share at least one thing that brought joy during the day. There are a few rules – you have to say SOMETHING, no matter how small it is, and you can’t say the same thing every day (this rule was made after Ben said “Coming home from work” a few too many times in a row – but it’s true, we do have a pretty great place to come home to!). You are allowed to say your favorite part hasn’t happened yet, if you are really looking forward to something coming up that evening (which sometimes has included “bedtime” for me).

I love this. I love that it’s part of our family, I love watching our kids learn the skill of searching for joy in the little things, I love hearing their thoughts. It’s hard sometimes – when Kaylia was younger, she went through a stage where she kept saying her favorite part was “climbing trees”, even though there isn’t a tree big enough to climb anywhere in our area. She just couldn’t bring herself to say something serious. But as she got older, she opened up more, and I love the glimpse it gives me into her thoughts. She is a deep, deep well, that one.

Everett is currently learning the art of “Best Parts of the Day”. Right now he says, “Paying wiff Anka”, or “All day” every time. Then he turns to me and says, “Best part day, Mommy?” I can hardly handle the cuteness of it.

K&EK&EKayliaEverettKayliaMy life at home with these sweet kids is wonderful and beautiful and amazing, but it’s not perfect – there are still times when sickness, lack of sleep, or whatever else can creep in, and we forget how blessed we are. We can become so focused on a hard challenge we’re facing that we get tunnel vision, and can’t see the joy around us, waiting to be discovered in the little things.

Ben and EverettSome days, it’s very easy to think of best parts of the day, but other days, it’s a bit harder. Those are the days when it’s even more important to find something to appreciate.

Kaylia and EverettTogether, we are learning to pay attention. We’re choosing to notice the good things instead of taking them for granted. There are lots of things I hope to pass on to my children, and this habit is definitely one of them.

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 So if you had to say what your best part of today is, what would it be?! I want to hear it!

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How I Met Ben

One of my favorite things is hearing how couples met. Those are always such fun, interesting stories, and everybody gets happy and a bit giggly when asked to share.:)

Even though Ben and I don’t make a big deal about Valentine’s Day, today seemed like a good day to share our little story of how we met:

I was determined not to like Ben long before I ever met him.

I was working on spring staff at Red Rock Bible Camp, and I had someone very different picked out for my future. But one day when I saw the summer staff list, I noticed Ben’s name on the list. I knew that some of my friends had gone to college with a Ben Dueck, so I asked one of them if the Ben she knew was coming to work at camp for the summer. It was the same Ben, but I was not impressed when she burst out with, “Kendra, you’re totally going to date him!! He has a girlfriend, but you’ll totally break them up!”

That made me mad. I was no boyfriend stealer. And I didn’t need any new potential-boyfriend material, because I already knew what I wanted.  And I would prove to her that I would not date Ben Dueck. Especially since his last name was “Dueck.” My last name was Dueck. That would just be weird.

When he arrived at camp a few weeks later, I did my very best to avoid him.

But people kept introducing him to me. I’d try to sneak past the crowd of people with Ben Dueck in the middle of it, but someone would call out, “Hey, Kendra, have you met Ben yet?” I would mutter something polite and hurry away. And then 10 minutes later, I’d get called over by somebody else saying, “Kendra, I don’t think you’ve met Ben yet!” And I would say, “Yes, actually I have.” And then I’d leave again.

Later that day, all of the staff had to go up to the chapel to find out what skills (camp activities) we’d be teaching for the summer. I was pretty sure that I would be teaching canoeing, because I had taught it the whole summer before. What I did not expect, though, was that I’d be leading canoeing together with… Ben Dueck.

And when the director introduced the Head Skill Instructors as “Ben and Kendra Dueck”, I was extremely unimpressed.

The boy that I actually wanted to date was right there. And I was not going to date Ben Dueck. So there was no need to make it sound like we were married.

But… the problem was that the more time we spent together, the more I found out how much we just clicked. I laughed at his jokes, and he laughed at mine. We talked about anything and everything, and I couldn’t help becoming friends with him.

Every year, Red Rock Bible Camp has an Open House. Anyone can come and try out all of the different camp activities, and see what the camp is like. My parents came to visit me that day, and since Ben and I had to be in charge of helping people get set up for canoeing, my parents spent the day with us down by the lake.

And it was so much fun, so natural. But he was the wrong guy! If I was going to spend the day with a boy and my parents, I would not have picked Ben Dueck!

But when my parents left that day, my dad told my mom, “He’s the one Kendra’s going to marry.

He didn’t say anything to me about it, but every time I called home that summer, my dad always asked about “his friend Ben.” This annoyed me, so I finally told him, “He has a girlfriend!!” And my dad replied, “That can all change.”

My determination NOT to date Ben was probably the best thing for our friendship, because we were able to get to know each other without any games or confusion. He had a girlfriend, he was off limits, but he really did make the most delightful friend.

Once summer was over, we went our separate ways. I was back at college with my dream boy, and even when my friend made sure to tell me that Ben had broken up with his girlfriend, I didn’t think it affected me in any way.

But one day, Dream Boy and I got into a fight, and as I sat there listening to him yell at me, all I could think was, “Ben would never do this to me. He would never, ever, EVER do this to me. WHAT HAVE I BEEN THINKING?!!!!” I walked out of that room, went back to dorm, and called Ben. Fortunately, he was gone on a mission trip for a few weeks, which gave me a little bit of time to clear my thoughts, but I didn’t need much time, because everything was suddenly crystal clear to me.

We hung out just as “friends” for a few months, although I think we both had a pretty good idea where things were going. It took a little while to move our friendship to dating status, but I think deep down, I knew from the very beginning that Ben and I were good together. God needed to get us out of where we were, but our relationship has always been pretty easy and natural. We have things to work through sometimes, but really, Ben is just the most wonderful person to be with. I am thankful for every single day that I get to spend with Ben!

Ben and Kendra

Find Joy in the Ordinary

A friend asked me this week if God told me to start a blog. I didn’t know how to answer that – it was one of those things that felt right at the time, but when I look back on it, I see His hand in it. We were living at Red Rock Bible Camp, I had time on my hands, and I’ve always loved writing and photography, so it was a combination of my favorite things.

What I didn’t know was that it would become my accountability – I wanted my blog to be a place that was positive and beautiful, and there would be no complaining online, so if something negative was happening in my life, it made me search for the good. It made me look for the moments that taught me stuff, it was my place to record the smallest things bringing me joy. It taught me to write until I found the positive, and take pictures until I discovered the beautiful.

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As our kids have gotten older, it’s also become a place for them enjoy the ordinary, everyday stuff – Anika will spend hours reading old posts, and all three kids enjoy looking at the pictures.

Our “Year in Review” videos have always been a favorite for our family. We’ve done one every year since 2011, and on the roughest, grumpiest days of teething, the girls have shown Everett every one, because they make everybody happy around here.

This year, Anika made the video instead of me.:) Once again, I’m overwhelmed by how much can change in a year, and by how beautiful our simple, ordinary little life really is to me. If you ever need reminding of that, put pictures of all your little moments to music, and suddenly life is transformed!

Here’s our latest collection of happiness:

family pictures: Morgan Braun
song: “Better Place”, by Rachel Platten

And for the next time Everett’s teething, here are all the links our other videos: 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015

He Makes Me Laugh

It had been a long day of running errands in the city, and I came home feeling distraught, because I’d come dangerously close to hitting a pedestrian. The sun had been shining at the exact angle which made me unable to see the lights flashing at a pedestrian crossing, and I had slammed on my brakes just in time to avoid hitting the child who suddenly ran across.

I described what had happened to Ben, embarrassed by my mistake and feeling like a horrible driver. He listened patiently and sympathetically, and as usual, was quiet for just the right length of time when I finished speaking before saying anything. But after 16 1/2 years of marriage, I know that whatever comes after that small silence will always be worth waiting for, and once again, I was right. When Ben finally spoke, he said, “Just think about all the people you actually hit, and didn’t even notice!”

As always, he made me burst out laughing instead of bursting into tears, and reminded me for the millionth time not to take myself too seriously or beat myself up unnecessarily for a mistake made – or in this case, didn’t actually make!

Years ago, my older, wiser sister once said, “In the beginning, you think you know exactly why you’re marrying your husband, and what you love most about him, but as the years go by, you realize you hardly even knew him at the beginning, and you love him even more for all the things you’ve learned about him since then.”

Ben has always made me laugh, and I’ve known that from the first day, but as I look back over the years we’ve been married, I can see how his ability to diffuse an intense situation with his sense of humour and lighthearted warmth and goofiness has kept our whole family in balance. I love many, many things about him – his sensitivity, humility, wisdom, unselfishness, and amazing ability to listen, but lately, I’ve been thinking about how I love the way he makes me laugh.

He adds so much joy to my life, and has shown me repeatedly how laughter changes situations and people. I am so thankful our kids can grow up in a home where there is so much laughter.

Yesterday was Ben’s birthday, and it’s tradition for me to write birthday posts for my family. As I thought about what I wanted to say about Ben this time, the picture which remained stuck in my head was of him sitting next to me on the couch, grinning in the way he does after he’s said something he knows was hilarious and made me shriek with laughter.  I love the person he is, and I’m thankful for everything that makes him “Ben”, but today, like many days, I’m thankful for how he makes me laugh.

Ben and Kendra

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Christmas Favorites

When I was dreaming up the perfect Christmas, I never thought of wishing for a massive snowstorm, but it was amazing. I love snow. Ben doesn’t quite share that same love, because snow means shoveling the driveway, but to me, it means beautiful flakes falling, and feeling cozy inside. It also meant staying home because we couldn’t drive anywhere, and it was very relaxing! I loved it.

Here’s a peak at our little family Christmas:

ChristmasChristmas

One of my favorite moments! Anika has been saving her money for a looooong time to buy an iPod, and we surprised her by gifting her with the small amount remaining. I know it’s been hard for her to wait and use self-control with her money, but we knew it would mean far more to her if she had to work for it herself, and it was super fun to see her enjoy that moment!:)

ChristmasWe make a big chicken/mashed potatoes/gravy/all the extras dinner later on in the day, but we’re still experimenting with what we want our lunch tradition to be. We tried this fun option, and imagined what it would be like to make a table-sized Christmas tree as our kids get older and we need more food!

ChristmasChristmas

ChristmasChristmasAnd now it’s time to move on! I love Christmas and all the traditions and decorations, but I’m quickly ready to pack it all up, and get ready for a fresh start in the new year!

Wishing You a Very Merry Christmas

One of my very favorite things about Christmas is the family photo Christmas card tradition. I absolutely love getting Christmas cards in the mail, and seeing how everyone’s family is changing and growing. I enjoy seeing the similarities between parents and their kids, and because I’m into photography, I always love a well-posed photo with great lighting.

Because I love receiving Christmas card photos, Ben and I have always chosen to send a family picture ourselves, starting the year we were married.

wedding

I went back through all our photos, and was able to find most of the pictures we used for our Christmas cards each year, but things got a bit tricky the further back I went. We got our first digital camera for Christmas when Anika was two, so I had to hunt through albums and boxes of pictures, and a ton of memories!

What I keep coming back to is that God is so good. SO GOOD! There were a few years when it was harder to smile, and all those family pictures of just the three of us were a reminder to me of the longing for a baby that wasn’t coming. We loved Anika like crazy, but our family was so small! For many years, we thought our family might not grow, and I struggled to find contentment as we were. But God has blessed us, and my heart is overflowing as I look back over these photos, and see how God carried us through such difficult times, and has given me what my heart desired.

Here’s a look at 16 years of family:

familyfamilyfamilyfamilySadly, we’re missing one photo! I couldn’t find any family pictures from the year Anika was two.

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family

FAMILY

FAMILY

familyThis was the year our sweet friend Morgan started taking our family pictures, and has been ever since! It’s something we always look forward to.

family 2011

family 2012

family 2013

fmily 2014

family 2015

family 2016Look at that little peanut in the front! Each of our kids is a miracle, but he’s going to be the most spoiled with hugs and attention, because he’s got three mothers loving on him all day long. I look at that picture and I can hardly believe these sweet kids are mine. Our family is complete, and after some hard years, our family pictures only bring feelings of pure joy to me.

Family can be hard, and holidays can make it even harder, but wherever you’re at, I just want to encourage you to keep hanging on to Jesus. We don’t know what the future holds, but we know He is good. He has beautiful gifts and provisions for us, no matter what we are facing, and He gives us the strength to keep going. He has done the impossible in my life, and blessed us with those three miracle babies. He doesn’t always choose to answer our prayers in the way we want, but it doesn’t change the fact that He holds us in His hand.

Ben announced the other day that he’s tired of Christmas music, and I get it – it’s the same songs over and over. I love them, but there’s only so many versions of Silent Night to listen to before it’s time for a change. Some of those songs have such beautiful words, but it’s hard to really hear them, because we’ve heard them so often. But I came across a beautiful piece of artwork on Pinterest featuring the words, “The weary world rejoices”. It’s stuck with me, and I want it in our home next Christmas, because that is such an amazing truth to grab hold of – because of Jesus, we can not only survive and keep going…we can actually rejoice.

So whatever is making you weary this Christmas, it is my hope that you can draw your loved ones close, snuggle up inside while we get that foot of snow they’re forecasting, and find a way to rejoice, because our Father who can do the impossible has sent the Prince of Peace, and so we have a way to face tomorrow.

From our family to yours, we wish you a very merry Christmas!

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