You Are What You Read??

During a job interview, Ben was once asked what books he was reading.

I like that question. I think that what (or if?) a person is reading can truly say a lot. It can be a reflection of your tastes and interests, passions, beliefs, values, communication style, etc, etc.

For example. If I told you that I only read poetry, you would probably have some kind of an idea in your head about what kind of person I am.

But I don’t only read poetry. I don’t read poetry ever. Now you probably have a very different idea of what I’m like.

I wish I read poetry. And that also says something about me!

Anyway. I thought that it would be fun to share with you what we’ve been reading around here. All four of us LOVE books. Fun for the whole family. We’ve been enjoying some especially good ones, lately.

We’ll start with my books (other than “The Happiness Project”, because I’ve mentioned that one numerous times already!):

1. Simple Blogging

This one is actually an e-book. I’m finding that a little weird. I like a book I can relax on the couch with. Other than that, it’s a great book for anyone who’s really interested in blogging. I picked up some great tips from it and have a list of things I want to try after reading it.

2. Eve’s Daughters

Oh, my goodness, this is such a great book. I just finished it (again) yesterday afternoon. I have no idea how many times I’ve read it before – too many to count. But the ending still made me cry. I don’t read a lot of fiction these days, because I don’t have enough self-control to read it in small chunks. But when I do read fiction, I really like Lynn Austin’s stuff. And this book is one of her best. But that’s just my opinion – I borrowed it to a friend, and she didn’t like it at all. So there you go.

3. There’s Lead in Your Lipstick

Just started this one, so I don’t know how good it will be, but it’s on one of my favorite topics these days. For the last few years, I’ve been on the look-out for natural, healthy options for products to use in house cleaning, as well as personal care. I’m good friends with Norwex. I don’t use any chemicals when cleaning the house, but my next hurdle is hair dye, sun screen, and shampoo, to name a few. We’ll see what I learn from this book. It promises to recommend “the best alternative products and where you can find them.” Yes, please!

4. My Utmost For His Highest

I think I will read this book forever. It has a one-page reading for every day of the year, and I just keep going through it again and again. Always challenging and enlightening.

5. So Long, Insecurity

I am loving this book. It is so good. I’m sure it will be inspiring an entire post soon, because I’ve been learning so much from it. Beth Moore is always good, but this book is just really hitting the spot right now.

It is very typical for me to have at least five or six books on the go. I have different reading moods. Sometimes I want “relaxing” reading, sometimes I feel more ambitious. My bedside table usually has a huge stack of books on it.

Ben’s Books:

1. Strategy Bites Back

This is one of the books that Ben has to read for his next course. He says that it “has moments of interest”.

2. The Bourne Objective

Ben kind of devours fiction. He reads almost anything he can get his hands on. When I asked him what he thought of this book, his response was not very enthusiastic. He said that so far, it has not been very good – “Surprisingly disappointing.”

Anika’s Books

When she reads by herself, she most often reads my old Mandie books. She loves them, which I think is cute, except for the fact that Mandie stomps her foot when she gets mad, so Anika started doing that, too. We had to confiscate the Mandie books until she stopped! Now she reads them peacefully, no foot stomping.

Books we’re reading together:

1. Indian in the Cupboard was amazing. Completely amazing. I have never cried while reading a book to Anika, but this time I did. My voice got all quivery, but she didn’t seem to notice. The ending is just so beautiful. Every kid should read it. And if you didn’t read it as a kid, read it now.

2. Grandma’s Attic is the series that we’re in the middle of – another one from my childhood that I always loved. Such great, fun, wholesome stories. Anika’s learning tons without even knowing it. And I’ve forgotten lots of the stories since reading them as a kid, so it’s fun to read them again.

Kaylia’s Books

1. Anything that has to do with Dora, Curious George, or Strawberry Shortcake.

2. NIrV Story Bible for Children, any of the Bible stories involving babies are her favorites, with Baby Moses and Baby Jesus being at the top of her list.

Whew. That’s kind of a long list.

How about you? What are you reading right now?

Weekend Pictures: Kitchen Craziness

I love”Before and After” pictures. Of anything, really. A makeover, a room redecorated, an out-of-control closet that got organized, whatever.

So it gives me great pleasure to present to you today….

Our newly renovated kitchen!!

Which we had nothing to do with. I didn’t even know what it was going to look like. I spent all last weekend packing up my old kitchen, and then we were gone for the week. We walked in the door on Friday to a big surprise.

Note: Although I miss having our own house, I seriously love all the free (for us)renovations that are going on around here. We go away, and we get a new bathroom, or new flooring, or a new paint job, or a new kitchen. Fortunately for us, Trevor, the maintenance man here at camp, has great taste in colors and flooring and stuff like that, as you can see in these Before and After pictures:

Before:

After:

So I spent most of my weekend trying to find a place for everything, and trying to get my kitchen and my life under control. I took no pictures, other than a picture of myself working in my new kitchen.

We did some fun things for Father’s Day, but I took no pictures. I am already regretting my careless behaviour. I think I was just so tired by Sunday that I wasn’t myself.

So it was all about the kitchen this weekend. But I actually woke up this morning, thinking, “I can’t wait to go use my new kitchen!” It is so clean and shiny. And we have a dishwasher. I know that it may be hard to believe, but….I HAVE NEVER LIVED IN A HOUSE WITH A DISHWASHER.

Never in my life. Ben had to teach me how to put the soap in. And now we will live happily ever after.

Guest post: by Ben

So my beautiful wife has been hounding asking me for a while to do a guest post on her blog. My original thought was to put up some deep, spiritual truth about discipleship and how to learn to love Jesus more. Instead, Kendra asked me to write something short and funny, because she thinks that I can be a pretty funny guy sometimes. I’m so thankful that Kendra thinks I’m funny, because otherwise our relationship would probably be filled with many awkward silences after I attempt to crack a joke. I’m not entirely certain that I actually am funny outside of my own home, but that doesn’t matter. My wife thinks I am, and that’s all that matters. If anyone else thinks differently, please don’t talk to Kendra about it as I’d like to keep her under the impression that I am as funny as she thinks I am. Wow, I’ve used the word ‘funny’ many times in this paragraph so far. That’s funny in a strange kind of way…

I’m already starting to take up too much of the valuable word limit that apparently makes a good blog post, so let me jump to the point:

You should read Kendra’s blog more often.

Bookmark it, add it into your blog reader, memorize the url, or all of the above. Kendra is way to humble to say this, but I think that she writes some amazing stuff. Deep, thoughtful, challenging, and sometimes her posts contain wonderful humour. I must rub off on her in that way at least.

She probably won’t like that I’m doing a shameless promotion for her blog, but she did ask me to do a guest post, so I get to write about whatever I want. It was either this, or an essay on the photosynthesis of plants. I flipped a coin and Kendra’s writing skills won. For today at least…

In case some of you readers wonder what Kendra’s husband (me) is up to when he is not trying to write a guest post on her blog, feel free to check out http://pursuit-redrock.com or http://redrockbiblecamp.com.

Bonus points to everyone who comments with the correct number of times I used the word funny in this post…

Un-Easter-ish Easter

Yesterday did not feel like Easter. For me, it feels like Easter when I’m in church singing all the classic Easter hymns, spending the day with family while everybody eats ham, Easter bread, and chocolate eggs, and there must definitely be Easter lilies around.

But today we had to stay home. We get Easter next weekend!

So today, we sang our own Easter songs:

And relaxed:

And dyed Easter eggs:

So even though it didn’t really feel like “normal” Easter, it was still a good day!

Learning to Face My Secret Fear

So it turns out that the days my blog is most popular are usually days on which I’ve written about something slightly scandalous or some kind of deep, secret confession. Fortunately, I seem to really enjoy baring my soul on a regular basis, but unfortunately, I don’t live a very scandalous life. But whenever I write about my secrets, it seems to appeal to people.

One of those posts was written just a few weeks ago, when I confessed to being very uncomfortable in big groups of people. Guess what? It turns out that there’s a whole bunch of you out there who feel exactly the same way! Isn’t it funny to think that we could all be in the same big group of people, all feeling uncomfortable, and we wouldn’t be able to tell that we aren’t alone? People hide their insecurities and weaknesses as far down as they can stuff them, and put on an act. Or else they avoid the situations that makes them feel insecure or inadequate.

So that means we’re all walking around, living life, with our secret, hidden feelings of not measuring up to the perfect standard. That sounds unnecessary and uncomfortable to me.

I shared in my post that I was going to take some steps to change how I act in big groups of people. I wasn’t sure how to do that, so I googled, “How to get over being shy in big groups of people.” And I found some fantastic results! It’s given me lots to think about. You can check out my favorite find here. It has 20 steps to overcoming shyness. (I love numbered steps. Why is that?)

But the most useful thing I learned is that there are three different reasons for feeling shy, and it turns out that mine is “pre-occupation with self.” Doesn’t that sound nasty and self-centered?

But it’s true. I’m not actually shy, like I thought. I love people. I love talking with people. I love talking to large groups of people, as long as I have a mike in my hand, and everybody has to listen to me. The only thing I don’t like is being in a room full of people, on my own, needing to approach somebody to talk to. It’s kind of silly when you think about it.

The article I found describes it like this:

When we’re around other people, we become extremely sensitive to what we’re doing, as if we’ve been put on center stage. This creates anxiety and makes us question our every move. Our focus centers around ourselves and particularly on “what I was doing wrong”. This can cause a downward spiral.

Yup, that pretty much sums it up. I’m extremely comfortable on center stage when I’m speaking publicly, but for some reason, when I’m one of the crowd but all on my own, I think that everyone is watching me in all my awkwardness. I don’t know exactly why this is, but I can think of some pretty scarring experiences from my past when my mistakes were brought to attention in front of a large group of people, so it probably has to do with that.

So now I stand there thinking something like this, “Who can I talk to? I’m standing here all by myself – I need to find someone, quick! People are going to start noticing that I have no one to talk to, and they’re going to think it’s lame that I’m all by myself. No one wants to be with me! Where’s Ben? He’s busy talking with people. Should I go stand by him, just so that I feel safe? I want to go home! My clothes don’t look as cool as everyone else’s. That girl has extremely beautiful hair. I don’t think my hair looks very good right now. I’ll go get a drink of water, because then I’ll look like I have a purpose, and it will disguise the fact that I have no one to talk to. No one else looks as uncomfortable as I feel. Everyone else is having a great time. I’m having a terrible time. Where can I go hide?”

So I go for lots of drinks of water, or I go to the bathroom when I don’t really need to go. Anything to avoid standing there all by myself.

There. All of my silliness, exposed. I’ll regret that tomorrow. I might delete that all later, we’ll see.

Anyway. I’m guessing (…hoping?) that I’m not the only person in the world who feels that stuff and thinks like that.

I don’t enjoy it. And there’s another problem with it. Someday, I really hope to have more opportunities to speak publicly and stuff. And write my book and go on book tours. Things like that.

And chances are that it will be necessary for me to be in large groups of people. Possibly without Ben to save me. And I’m really tired of feeling inadequate and insecure in that setting.

But the biggest problem with it all is that I’m thinking only of myself. I’ve never actually taken the time to think of other people who might be feeling really uncomfortable. And I’ve missed out on potentially fantastic one-on-one conversations because I avoid approaching people.

Enough of that. If it is true that developing a skill gives a person confidence, I want in.

This has been on my mind a lot, and then just this week, Jon Acuff wrote a fantastic post about fear that you can find here. I loved it. Here’s my favorite part:

When we’re afraid of something we often think we should be awesome at it right away. We’d never assume we’d run a great half marathon without training first, but when it comes to public speaking, or asking for a favor, or writing, we assume we’ve got to be great at it right away. That’s not true though. Part of the reason I’m afraid of asking for favors is that I rarely do it. I’m not good at it because I’ve never done it that often. But what if I practiced? What if I gave myself the grace and patience to get better at it? What if I looked at every no I got as one more coin in the “getting better” bucket instead of as an abject failure? I think that would change things. Fear hates practice because it tends to kill it.

So there you have it. I’m going to practice. The good news is that the busy season of camp starts in one month, and I will get plenty of opportunities to practice my large-group-of-people skills. The bad news is that now, whoever reads my blog will know why I keep getting drinks of water, and going to the bathroom! Shoot, my cover is blown.

What’s your secret fear? Are you brave enough to leave a comment and let us know?? 🙂


Mall of America

We spent the weekend in Minneapolis with friends before driving back to Winnipeg yesterday. Ben has to do some school presentations for camp, here in the city, before we can go back. But we are all ready, ready, ready to go home.

In the meantime, we will bask in the glow of our memories from this weekend. Thank goodness the memories improve with time. Traveling with kids can be lots of work, and there’s lots of opportunity for grumpy moments. But already, the grumpy moments are rapidly fading from my memory, and I’m only left with the good stuff!

Here’s the best of Mall of America:

We went to the aquarium in the morning, and then had lunch before going on the rides. The girls had a very hard time eating any food because hey were so busy taking in all the sights.

We have already discovered that Anika is a little daredevil on rides, and will try anything. This was Kaylia’s first time going on any rides, and she loved it. You couldn’t tell by her facial expressions, but she is now obsessed with the merry-go-round. The second it would stop, she said, “Again!”

We tried to take her on the ferris wheel, but she got ticked off because all she wanted to do was go on the “horsey ride”.

Anika was happy on any ride.

 

Grumpy moments? What grumpy moments? It was the perfect vacation! 😉

 

Was It Worth It?

Having completed my week at Mayo Clinic, the question has now changed from “What do you hope to gain?” to “Was it worth it?”

Ben and I talked about that for a while yesterday, and I’m not exactly sure how to answer.

From a non-medical perspective, our family had a great time.

The girls LOVED:

1) Swimming every day

2) The most amazing bookstore ever, right close to where we stayed (and they visited it a few times a day)

3) Apartment-living for a week

4) Exploring Rochester (Anika thinks it needs to become a regular vacation destination for our family!)

5) Seeing LOTS of Daddy

From my experience of the medical side of things, this is where I’m at:

I’m still waiting for a few more minor test results to come back, but other than that, nothing dramatic was really determined. I saw 5 different specialists, and went through countless tests, but nothing abnormal showed up. I was told that while they believe any pain or discomfort I feel is real, my body looks completely normal and healthy. For whatever reason, I cannot eat gluten or any of the other things that I have shown to be intolerant to. My body may have trouble digesting things, but the doctors feel that this is just the way my body does it.

At first, that made me feel incredibly frustrated, but Ben’s words of wisdom helped me to deal with it. He told me that it’s kind of like the fact that he has bad knees. It’s just the way that it is, there is nothing he can do to change it, but he can strengthen certain muscles to compensate for the fact that he has bad knees. I have a bad stomach. I can’t change it, but there are things I can do to compensate for the fact that it doesn’t work the way that it should.

The doctors at Mayo explained to me at the beginning of the week that they would do everything they could to help me from a conventional point of view, but as I have found many times in the past, it is the unconventional stuff that has helped me the most.

So now, I am happily going home to my unconventional naturopath doctor, who puts a lot of time and effort into caring for my needs, and I am so thankful to have found her. She has helped to bring me to a point where I feel good, but I’m just kind of high maintenance. A nice, conventional solution would have been convenient, but when that doesn’t work, there are other ways to get things done.

It’s not the way I would have chosen for this last week to go, if I could live in a dream world, but it will work.

Was it worth it?

1) I know that I am “conventionally” healthy, from top to bottom, and there is no serious problem lurking undiscovered anywhere in my body.

2) I know that I have now done everything conventionally possible to address my health issues.

3) I have faced every fear, label, and method of denial that I have used in the past, in regards to my health. It feels good!

4) If the doctors had found something wrong with me, I would have said absolutely, it was worth it. And there was no way of knowing the outcome beforehand.

So I think I’ll say that it was worth it. And now we go home. Here’s hoping the trip home goes as well as the trip out here!

Exploring Rochester

Yesterday was a very wonderful day. I had almost the whole day free, and after three days of countless appointments and tests, it was just what I needed!

Everything in downtown Rochester is connected by tunnels and walkways, so every time I have to run over to the clinic, I stay inside.

Very practical and convenient, but has definitely left me craving some fresh air.

So we headed off this morning with the goal of buying some milk and finding a park with a play structure.

On the big cliff overlooking the grocery store parking lot, there was a huge, beautiful, old mansion. Anika loves stuff like that, which makes Ben and me pretty happy because we love it too, so off we went to explore.

This is the Plumber House, and in summer, it’s open for tourists to walk through the house and gardens. In spring, the house is closed and no one is around. We had so much fun exploring. There is a huge tower on the grounds which Anika thought looked exactly like Rapunzal’s tower.

I took about a million pictures. It was such a beautiful spring morning, and there were so many interesting things to see.

It was my favorite day yet! Today is my last day of appointments at Mayo, and then we get to meet up with our friends, Trevor,Terra-Lee, and their girls, for a weekend in Minneapolis! So excited!

Have a good weekend!

If I Were the Paralyzed Man…

We’re still on the health topic here, but tomorrow I’ve got a whole bunch of pictures to share of our non-medical adventures in Rochester! In the meantime, here’s my latest thoughts…

The other day I was reading that story in the Bible about the men who brought their lame friend to Jesus, but couldn’t get to Him because of the crowd of people surrounding Him. So they climbed up on the roof, made a hole in it, and lowered their friend down, right to Jesus.

It’s funny how you can read a passage in the Bible so many times, and yet something can still hit you right where you need it.

Here’s what got me this time: The Bible says that when Jesus “saw their faith”, he said to the man, “‘Friend, your sins are forgiven.'”

His first reaction to a lame man was not to heal him, but to forgive his sins.

Right, because that’s obviously the reason why his friends went into all the effort of hauling him up on the roof, and making a hole, and then lowering him down to Jesus? Because he was so desperate to have his sins forgiven? I always thought it was because he was so desperate to be healed…

But Jesus was more concerned about the state of the man’s heart. The Pharisees who were there got all worked up about Jesus saying that the man’s sins were forgiven, so Jesus said, “Which is easier: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven, or to say, ‘Get up and walk?’ But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins…” and then he says to the man, “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.”

First he looked at the man’s spiritual condition, and then He looked at the man’s physical condition.

I am usually the opposite. When I pray, the things that are foremost on my mind are things like sickness or hard things that I’m facing on a day-to-day basis.

Or have you ever been to a prayer meeting where everyone shares requests and they’re all for someone’s sick grandma, or a friend who’s looking for a job, or something else that’s only pressing in this life?

That’s the stuff that’s very present, in front of us, here and now.

And yet when you think about everything from an eternal perspective, Jesus looks at heart stuff first.

He still cares about everything else. I completely believe that He hears every single word that I say to Him, and He cares about it all. But seeing as this life is not the main point, I guess it would make sense that He first forgave the lame man’s sins, and healed him later.

So here’s what I know to be true: When my focus is on Jesus, physical difficulties do not seem nearly as important. I think of the words in this 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.

When I’m looking to Jesus, so much of what is busy in my mind ceases to matter. And the condition of my heart becomes a lot more important.

I wonder what it felt like to be that paralytic, lying on that mat in front of Jesus with his sins forgiven. Was he disappointed because that wasn’t what he’d had in mind? Was he disappointed to still be paralyzed, even with a clean heart? Or had everything grown strangely dim for him, too?

If I were in his place, would I be disappointed?

I would love to have the kind of body that would allow me to be carefree in the way that I approach life. But for what purpose? So that I can eat all the unhealthy food that I desire? So that I don’t need to take as much care of myself and be as conscious of the choices I make on a daily basis? So that I never experience any discomfort or inconvenience of any kind? So that I have a perfect body? So that I don’t need to fear sickness anymore? So that I will never die?

Umm… that sounds like heaven. I’m craving the life that I will live in heaven.

There are some people who appear to be living that kind of life right here, right now, on earth, but for how long? Everyone gets sick, everyone gets old. I don’t want to spend my time pursuing a dream that is not possible in this life. Making good choices and being a good steward of everything, my body, my time, my life, is a good thing.

But what I want to always remember is that my heart and soul matter the most.

And I’m thinking that I need to work on keeping my eyes turned to Jesus – there are some things in my life that need to grow dim!