Self-Inflicted Hardships

So after I wrote Wednesday’s post about taking a break from media and entertainment, it suddenly occurred to me that I’m embarking on my third fast in four months – electricity, healthcare appointments, and now media.

At first I wondered what was wrong with me – why do I constantly feel the need to give stuff up??

But then I realized that each of these experiences has been amazing, and I feel as if I’ve been learning a lot through them.

And suddenly, a conversation from this last weekend came back to me…

A friend of mine at camp was talking about life on full-time staff at camp, and she was asking me questions about our five years out there – she was curious about what kinds of things we did to grow together as a team, and how we made sure to be continually seeking Jesus, and growing closer to Him as a group.

As I thought about it, I could clearly see how it was always the hardest times out there which had caused us to grow the most – to pray the most fervently, to depend on each other, and share life in the deeper ways.

hard times

When I shared this with her, she was a bit disappointed, because she said everything was going so well! How would they grow together if nothing was hard, or going wrong?!

But then I realized that December was a month of huge growth and development for me personally, and it was optional. I voluntarily put myself through that challenge. I did it because I felt it was what God was calling me to do, but it was still a choice I made.

I came to the conclusion that deep growth is usually the result of difficulties that cause us to depend completely on God, but those difficulties can be self-inflicted!

Like going on a missions trip. People usually seem to come back completely on fire for God when they’ve been on a missions trip. They were challenged and stretched, and saw God work in ways they had never seen before. Their joy and excitement is usually quite contagious.

Nobody forced them to go on that missions trip – they did it voluntarily, but it brought about huge growth.

So here’s the thing: My life has been fairly awesome for the last few years. After a stretch of numerous health problems, multiple miscarriages, years of infertility, and a few other difficulties that we’ve had to weather, I feel as though I’m now in a season of blessing. It would be very easy to start coasting, becoming complacent, without some crisis to jerk me awake to the reality of how much I still need Jesus, on a very daily basis.

But my new theory is that even when the storms of life have calmed down for a bit, Jesus can still lead us into challenging situations just because they’re good for us. He shakes things up to keep us from falling asleep. He continually calls us to go deeper, further in.

I want to choose growth, when the opportunity presents itself!

Want to share about a time when you voluntarily put yourself through a tough time and experienced great growth?

Some of the Best Words Ever: “See You Tomorrow”

Since moving away from camp, one of my favorite expressions has become: “See you tomorrow!”

It hit me on Wednesday, as we were all getting off the shuttle at the University of Manitoba. We’d just spent another awesome afternoon with a bunch of friends from our homeschool group, having swimming lessons and gym class together, and it was time to part ways.

swimming lessons

As everyone was calling out, “See you tomorrow!”, I felt this happy, warm feeling shoot through me, because those words are community words, and I’m a big fan of community.

To me, community means we’re sharing life. We’re connected, and we’re seeing each other on such a regular basis that we move beyond constantly needing to catch up on life, and get to talk about some of those deeper things that don’t come up as easily. We enter into deeper levels of relationship.

“See you tomorrow” means these wonderful friends I’ve just spent the day with, will spend tomorrow with me, as well! Sweet goodness. It’s almost like life back at camp.

Sometimes this amazes me a little. Like when I see my favorite neighbor every single day for a week, and she still calls me up to invite herself over.

Or the excitement I feel when I realize that next week, we’ll see our friends on Wednesday at the pool, Thursday at the church, and go on a field trip together on Friday.

Yes, it’s completely possible to get sick of the people you live in community with. I remember a conversation with Ben, shortly after we moved to camp. Some of the staff wanted to get together AGAIN for another games night, and I was still adjusting to the idea of doing everything together. I told Ben about it, and declared the solution – I needed more space from people, before they drove me crazy. I needed to take a break from being around them all the time.

But Ben said, “No, you need to spend MORE time with them. You need to spend SO MUCH time with them, that you get past the annoyance, and learn how to truly love them.”

It’s true. If you push past some of those rough friendship edges, you break into the good stuff. You reach a new level. You can start to feel like…family.

You don’t always like family, but you know they’ll always be there. Community life is the same way. Sometimes conflict or annoyances comes up, and you deal with it, and you grow closer as a result. And then you get together again tomorrow, and do it all over again.

I’m so happy and thankful to have this lovely group of people to share life with, and share the words, “See you tomorrow!”

How’s your community living going? Have you found a spot to connect with people on a regular basis?

Making Summer Awesome – Week One

After my post on Friday, I sat myself down and made a list – what would I like to accomplish this summer? What will I make sure to intentionally enjoy, so this beautiful month of August does not slip by too quickly?

You can help keep me accountable – each week, I’ll post my list of what we’re doing to make this month amazing!

Clouds1) Get Anika to Camp!

This was an obvious one on our Summer Bucket List. Anika was at camp last week, and had a wonderful time, but I think all four of us were very ready for her to come  home this weekend.

There was a sweet reunion between these two girlies, and many repeated hugs throughout the day.


2) Big Birthday Bash for my Dad!

We spent a beautiful weekend at the cabin, and helped celebrate my dad’s 65th birthday. My sister even organized a ski show….

ski showski show

3) Spend Time with Family

Because my parents go to Florida for the winter, my family gets a bit disconnected during the year. I am so glad that we’ve been able to spend time together at the cabin this summer!

AmberswimmingcabinWe’re off to a good start! Can’t wait to share with you what we’re up to this week!

What are you doing to make summer awesome? I want to hear your list!

Weekend Favorites: Back at Camp

We spent our weekend at camp.

February 2013 079

Red Rock Bible Camp

It wasn’t our first time back, but we haven’t been back in a long time. I love our life in Niverville, but I think I was a little bit scared that going back would make me start thinking, “Why did we ever move??!”

Fortunately, it wasn’t that kind of experience at all. We had a wonderful time, and we loved being there, but the whole time, I felt such a peace that we are where we’re supposed to be. I felt closure to our time at camp, and it was a blessing to see how well the current staff have settled into their positions. They seem to be working and living together well out there.

It was fun to get a little taste of everything, and then it was fun to come home.

I still miss camp, but it helps to know that we can always go back and experience some of the great parts of being there.






I wish you a wonderful beginning to the week! May you also feel like you are right where you are meant to be!

A Little Bit of Underwear Goes a Long Way

When my parents had three girls, they decided to get very creative, and come up with names for us which started with the same letters: Karla Bernice, Kendra Belle, and Kimberly Berdine.

At first, I had no issues with this, but after awhile, we found out how difficult it was to all have the same initials. Anything labelled “KBD” could belong to any one of us, so we started going with “Kar”, “Ken”, and “Kim”. To this day, whenever one of my sisters calls me “Ken”, I am instantly home. I’m a kid again, and everything is the way it used to be, for just a second.

Anyway, this is the story of how I came to have the name “Ken” embroidered on all of my underwear, and what happened when my labelled underwear got misplaced…

When I was younger, my mom would buy identical packages of Kmart underwear for my sister and me. They were all the same color, but not quite the same size. This made it extremely difficult for my mom when doing the laundry. After much confusion, she finally got fed up with the time wasted in trying to figure out which underwear belonged to whom, and announced that we would have to label our underwear.

My sister just flat-out refused to, but I obediently went to get my cross-stitch kit, picked out the prettiest shade of green embroidery thread I could find, and neatly stitched “Ken” into each pair of panties.

photo   © 2011   Lisa Risager , Flickr

As a result, my mom was happy on laundry days, and everything seemed fine. Having labelled underwear always kind of bugged me, because I was so worried about somebody seeing it and making fun of me, but other than that, life went on pretty well…

…until I graduated, and went to camp.

Suddenly, I was having to do my laundry in a very public place. All 50 summer staff members used the same washers and dryers to do their laundry, and it became my greatest fear that I would somehow overlook my underwear when emptying the dryer, and those labelled panties would end up in the wrong hands.

I became extremely conscientious about checking each washing machine and dryer after doing my loads of laundry to make sure I left nothing behind.

Every time I did my laundry, I thought about how I really just needed to get a pair of scissors, and cut out that stupid embroidery thread. It was one of those things I never seemed to get around to, though, and I made it through a few months of doing my laundry without any disasters.

The week before my birthday, I did my laundry as usual, but when my last load was ready to come out of the dryer, I was tied up with something in my cabin. My friend whom we’ll call Danae, offered to grab my load of laundry for me. I gratefully accepted her offer, but in the back of my mind, I thought, “Oh, no – I hope she checks the dryer to make sure she gets everything!”

I forgot about it, though, and went on with my week of counseling in my cabin.

On Saturday, all of my little campers went home to be reunited with their families, and I was free to enjoy the weekend with my friends. Because it was my birthday that Saturday, Danae announced she was taking me out for supper.

As we were getting ready to leave for the restaurant, one of my friends whom we’ll call Nathan, came up to me and said, “Kendra, I really need to talk with you. Privately.”

I had no idea what he might be wanting to talk about, but I explained that I was just getting ready to leave, and I would talk with him when I got back.

Danae and I had a wonderful time over our chicken fingers and fries, and I drank many glasses of water as we lingered at the restaurant before returning to camp.

By the time we got back, I needed a washroom fairly urgently, and went running through the main lodge on my way to relieve myself.

As I was running, Nathan tried to stop me with a fairly panicked look on his face. “Kendra, I REALLY need to talk with you. It’s kind of important!

He looked very uncomfortable, and I felt bad to turn him away for the second time, but as I was having a difficult time controlling my urgent need for a bathroom, I had no choice but to insist that our conversation would have to wait.

When I came back from the washroom, Nathan was gone, and I decided not to worry about his problem, whatever it was.

On Sunday mornings at camp, we always had a church service, and then ate lunch together as staff. I was sitting in the lounge with friends, waiting for lunch to start, when Nathan burst into the circle of girls I was sitting with, thrust an envelope into my hand, and said, in what seemed like a slightly wild, desperate voice,“I’ve been trying to give this to you in private, but you wouldn’t let me!”

At this point, I was really beginning to wonder what was wrong with Nathan.

Why was he so persistent? What could he possibly want to give me in private?

As it had just been my birthday the day before, I opened the envelope and pulled out the contents, completely expecting some kind of birthday gift from Nathan.

And there I sat in that crowded room of people, holding up a pair of underwear with that green embroidery thread proclaiming me as their owner.

I do not get embarrassed easily, but I’m sure my face was red as I stuffed that miserable pair of underwear back into the envelope. One of my friends beside me said, “Oh, that’s what Nathan was stuffing into your mailbox yesterday. He was using a pencil so he didn’t have to touch them.”

Suddenly Nathan’s desperate pleas for communication were all starting to make sense….

It turned out that he had kept my underwear in his cabin for an entire week, trying to figure out how to return them to me. He admitted the name “Ken” had thrown him off for a bit, seeing as he didn’t know any girls by that name, but he’d finally figured out that they belonged to me.

He had put them into my mailbox on the weekend, but when I didn’t check my mail, he began to get worried about who might all notice there were panties jammed into my box.

So he took them back out, and finally presented them to me publicly (which was so much better than just leaving them in my mailbox..!?)

That very day, I got out a pair of scissors, and removed every trace of embroidery thread from my underwear.

And I learned a very important lesson: Be careful what you put your name on.

I’m talking about so much more than panties here. Be careful what you claim as yours. Be careful what you broadcast as being connected to you. You have no idea when something’s going to slip, and end up in the wrong hands. You have no idea when someone will be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

When you live your life in a way that’s above reproach, you can have a clean conscience. You don’t need to worry how people will interpret things. Misunderstandings can usually be cleared up, if you haven’t been making careless mistakes.

Basically, I’m saying that those silly panties kind of taught me about integrity. What have I labelled? What has my name on it? Where is it going to go? Is my conscience clear?

If I can answer “yes” to those questions, then I can breathe easy, and stop “checking the dryer” repeatedly, wondering when someone’s going to catch me.

Have you ever been caught in an embarrassing situation you could have avoided? Anything out there you wish you didn’t have your name on?

Privacy Is Overrated

In our new back yard, we have a lovely row of trees.

I am often extremely thankful for that row of trees, because they are my little bit of nature – green, fresh, and beautiful, in this vast and barren land of New Development. We chose to build our house on this lot because of that very row of trees.

The other day someone asked me if we were enjoying our privacy, provided by those trees, and also because we don’t live at camp anymore, where almost all of life is shared, all the time.

I didn’t know how to answer that question about privacy. The old me would have said yes. But after five years of living in close community with people, I’m finding I don’t like privacy as much as I used to.

I have always loved my own space. I love having a schedule and a to-do list, and although I have always liked people, I would sometimes start to view them as an interruption to my perfect little plan.

It was hard for me to adjust to camp. There were always people around. We shared a duplex (and an entrance, and a laundry room) with another family, we shared a yard, we shared the majority of our meals with others.

People were forever wanting to get together to play games after all the kids were in bed. There was stuff going on almost every night. It wore me out. I thought it was good and healthy to say “no” to socializing all the time, and I still believe in creating space and margins for sanity.

But I went too far the other way. I said “no” too many times, and suddenly I found myself sitting in our quiet house, having backed into a perfect, isolated corner…and I was completely lonely and miserable.

I am so thankful for friends who kept making the effort, kept trying to share life on a regular basis. Now that we’ve moved, I find myself wishing I’d said “yes” a lot more often.

Now that we’re in Niverville, I hardly recognize myself, I’m so hungry for social opportunities. Look out, neighbors! If you’re new, and moving onto our street, we’re coming for you!

I still love that row of beautiful trees, because I need my nature. But I don’t need as much privacy as I used to.

In our culture, it seems as though we sit in our private homes with our private yards, and leave each other alone so everyone else can live their own busy, private lives. Someone at the door is a rare occurrence (while at camp, I couldn’t even count the number of times in a day when someone was at the door).

It’s easy to plan people right out of our lives. It’s easy to get so caught up in our own schedule, in our own comfort and desires. Community drags me away from my plans and my lists. Being close to others is sometimes the only way for me to always remember they are there.

A friend once told me that growing up in a large home made it very possible for everyone to retreat into their own little worlds.

Can’t get along with someone? Go hide in your own room where no one will get in your personal space.

Can’t agree on what to watch on TV? No problem – there are enough TVs to go around. Go watch whatever you want by yourself in the basement.

Can’t shower or use the bathroom whenever you want? Heaven forbid we should have to wait. Every home should have three bathrooms, at least, right?

I have tried to retreat to my own private place to avoid problems, but in the long run, it doesn’t work out very well.

At some point, I’ve always had to come out. And everything is still waiting there for me.

When we first moved to camp, there was a relationship I struggled with. I told Ben about it, and declared the solution – I needed more space from the person, before they drove me crazy. I needed to take a break from being around them all the time.

But Ben said, “No, you need to spend MORE time with them. You need to spend SO MUCH time with them, that you get past the annoyance, and learn how to truly love them.”

And you know what? It totally works. It’s very hard, but it does work.

Although we’ve moved into a three bedroom house almost twice the size of what we had at camp, I don’t want us to lose each other.

A small space keeps you connected. That’s why we’ve chosen to have our girls share a room. And it’s why we won’t be finishing out our basement any time soon, unless the number of people living in this house increases.

And close neighbors keep you from yourself! Now, when my sweet new friend down the street says, “I’m sorry, I don’t mean to pry…” I smile and think to myself, “Oh, please do! Pry away.” I will try to embrace the discomfort that comes with losing my privacy, knowing that it brings growth, character development, and a connection to people.

I will continue to love that row of trees in our backyard, but I will also continue to hope for a yard full of neighbors and their loud children, and many knocks on the door. Keep me from my private corner. Remind me that life is meant to be shared and lived together.

Weekend Favorites, Morgan Style

I received a wonderful surprise yesterday on Facebook. Our fantastic friend Morgan (who we’ll just label as our official family photographer?!) was over on the weekend, along with some other Red Rock Bible Camp friends, and she took a bunch of pictures of the time we had together.

She is such an amazing photographer, and over this last year, has taken a bunch of pictures of our family that are totally my favorites:

Isn’t she amazing?

Anyway, the pictures she took of us on the weekend meant so much to me for a few reasons:

  1. My camera battery is dead, and the charger is lost in some box somewhere that has yet to be unpacked, despite my best, most organized efforts to keep such a thing from happening. No more pictures until I’ve unpacked everything!!
  2. We loved having camp people over. Let’s make it official? “Camp Fix” at Ben and Kendra’s, first Sunday of every month?! 🙂 Or something. It was a fun day. I wanted pictures of it, but was resigned to the dead battery.
  3. These pictures are so us – the little things we do all the time, captured forever. I bet I’ll love these even more when our girlies are all grown up.

So here we go. Thanks to Morgan, I present…Weekend Favorites:

Hurray for sunshine and parks and family and friends.

Wishing you a week full of favorites!

I Want to Remember

A few nights ago, I went for a bike ride that ended by the lake. It was the most beautiful evening.

I could not begin to count the number of times I’ve run down to the lake to catch the sunset.

There have been so many different things I’ve wrestled through with God while sitting down there on the dock. I have cried and prayed and rejoiced and marveled at His creation, again and again.

This last time, I drank in that view one more time, and soaked in all that peace and quiet. The waves were lapping at the shore, and I tried to take it all in to the very depths of my being.

I want to take it all with me wherever I go.

What frightens me about moving is that our family might forget – forget what it’s like to live this weird, wonderful, peaceful (but hectic in the summer!) life out here in the woods.

I’m scared we’ll forget what it’s like to go at a slower pace, and what it’s like to breathe in the smell of pine trees, or to walk outside on a snowy day so peaceful and silent, you can almost hear the snowflakes falling.

I wonder how quickly we’ll slip back into “normal” life, and I wonder if we’ll forever be changed by all that has happened.

Right now it feels like I will always remember, but I wonder if it’s kind of like being on vacation – you have an amazing time, but when you come back, normal life sets in so quick, it almost seems like that vacation never happened.

I don’t want the last five years to feel that way. I want our family to adjust well, and I want to love living in Niverville again. But I also want to have changed so much that we can’t ever go back to living the way we did before we came here.

Not that life was so bad back then. It was just very busy, full, noisy, and crazy. Because Ben worked for a church, we were always rushing off to events and meetings and programs. Those were all very good things, but we had no time for some really important things.

Being at camp has taught me to breathe and go slow, to enjoy the view, and to have time for people.

I’ve learned that a quiet half hour down by the lake can do wonders for the soul, and leave me feeling like I’ve been feasting on heavenly things.

Fortunately, the sun still sets in Niverville, too. May the feasting continue!

Enjoy Life

found here

Maybe I shall frame this, and hang it someplace where I’ll see it all the time!!

I feel like there is a constant struggle going on inside me right now to try to stay in this moment – to enjoy right now, because time is flying by. Before you know it, moving day will be here, and I’ll leave my beloved Red Rock Bible Camp behind, and it will be the end of a very special chapter in our family’s story.

Moving kind of sucks. I don’t like good-byes, and I don’t like a chaotic house.

Good-byes and chaos pretty much sum up life right now, however, and it is hard not to wish it away.

But these are the days to embrace it all – to live fully present and enjoy it, before it’s all gone.

And you know what’s funny? So often I look back, and I can’t remember the hard stuff very well! I love it that it’s possible to look back on something hard, and forget the negative stuff.

My favorite example of this happened on our wedding day….

It was a cloudy day, raining off and on, and we weren’t able to take pictures in my parents’ yard like we’d planned. So we headed off to our indoor back-up location, and took most of our pictures there.

But the rain stopped, and our photographer suggested we get a few shots outside. It worked out well for awhile, but then it started to rain again, and we all headed for shelter.

My dress was huge, my heels were high, and getting anywhere quickly wasn’t the easiest endeavor. As we tried to make a run for it, our photographer spotted a bench in a beautiful little spot, and stopped us to say, “I know it’s starting to drizzle, but I’d love to get a shot of you on that bench.”

I was not impressed.

I had absolutely no desire to get my hair, make-up, veil, and dress wet in the rain. But I clearly remember standing there thinking (grumpily), “Well, I guess we’d better let him take the picture, because just watch – it will end up being my favorite.”

And it was! It was the photo we chose to use for all of our thank-you cards, and it’s the one I still choose to have up on our wall.

It is by far my favorite.

Every time I look at it, I am reminded of the choice I made that day, and try to renew my commitment to making that same choice in the future!

Because  you know what? Right now, this chaos and these good-byes could end up being among my favorite memories. I want to do this time well.

I don’t want to wish it away.

P.S. For anyone who’s sick of moving posts, just think – at this time next week, we will actually be moving! Then you’ll get to read “Settling In” posts…Or maybe “I Miss the Lake So Much I Can’t Stand It” posts!