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

Ben Stories

Everyone in the room roared with laughter, and all I wanted to do was get out of there as fast as possible, but I couldn’t move.

I was on summer staff Red Rock Bible Camp, and one of the staff members was showing off his ability to perfectly imitate anyone’s way of walking – he had just imitated mine with uncomfortable accuracy, and there was something disturbing about seeing a bearded, six foot guy swinging his arms and moving his hips in a way I recognized immediately, even though I’d never consciously paid attention to the details of how I moved.

The rest of the summer staff in the lounge thought it was hilarious, but I sank into my chair, trying not to cry. I hated to be embarrassed and have attention drawn to me in a roomful of people. But if I got up to leave the room, I’d have to walk, and they’d all be watching me to see if he had gotten it right. I remember feeling trapped and panicky, trying to think of how to get out of there before I burst into tears.

Ben was also on staff that summer, and although we had become friends right away, he didn’t know me very well at that point yet, but somehow, he noticed how uncomfortable I was, and knew exactly how to help me. He quickly elbowed the guy beside him, they jumped up, grabbed my chair, and carried me out of the room.

They put me and my chair down right outside the doors to the lounge and ran back in, leaving me alone to flee to the safety of my cabin with no one watching.

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A little girl living at Red Rock Bible Camp was lost, and no one had seen her for hours. She had followed her little brother into the bush, and taken a wrong turn. It was during Staff Camp a few days after I first met Ben, and the staff spent one terrible afternoon searching for her, walking through miles of bush and calling her name, until she was finally found later that evening.

The full time staff were all so busy dealing with the crisis, no one had time to serve dessert when we took a break for supper. The dessert cart was put out, and it was announced that we should all help ourselves while those in leadership left for an emergency meeting. It was a quiet meal as everyone forced down some food before heading back out to search. I remember looking up just in time to see Ben jump out of his seat, head for the dessert cart, and start serving all the other staff members. Nobody needed to do it – we could all just have gotten up and served ourselves, but as I watched him, I was thinking it was a really kind and thoughtful thing to do, caring for a group of people feeling tired and stressed.

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It was my twentieth birthday, and my camp mailbox was filled with little notes and cards from my friends. There was a note from my new friend Ben – “If you ever need to talk, come find me, and whatever I’m doing, I’ll stop to buy you a chocolate bar and hang out for a little while.” A few days later, I went to find him to take him up on his offer. I remember finding him with the weed whipper, wearing safety googles and ear phones. He stopped what he was doing as soon as he saw me, and I said, “I think today would be a good day for that chocolate bar, whenever you have time.”

He said, “I have time right now.”

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This weekend, it’s 16 years since we got married.

Ben and KendraFor some reason, I keep thinking back to that first summer I met Ben, and all the little snippets of memories I filed away in my mind as I got to know him. He was dating somebody else, and I liked a different boy at camp, which changed how we became friends. He didn’t flirt with me and do things for me just because he was trying to start anything – he was always just his kind, thoughtful self, and even though he hadn’t known me very long, he somehow seemed to sense exactly what I needed. He would drop whatever he was doing to care for a friend.

I kept thinking of him as a very nice friend for many months, until one day, it finally dawned on me that someone as amazing as Ben was exactly who I’d been trying to find. He wasn’t dating anyone anymore, I had finally seen the light, and suddenly his friendship was far more important to me than I’d realized.

I went straight to my dorm room and called him at his dorm room 20 minutes away, trying to sound terribly casual, mentioning I’d be in town later that week, and we should go for coffee. He sounded enthusiastic when he agreed, but I felt very awkward, because everything had just changed for me. I tried to act the same as I always had, but when he asked me why I was in town, and the truth came out that I needed a new battery for the answering machine in my phone, I think he started to get suspicious. He asked, “Couldn’t you have gone somewhere closer for that?!”

But I don’t remember what I said. I just remember him pouring milk all over his brownie, drowning it into a soggy mess, and eating it with as much satisfaction on his face as he still gets today.

We hung out “as friends” a few more times, and then it was his turn to awkwardly call, asking me out on an official date. It’s so funny to think back to those early memories, because in some ways, he really hasn’t changed. He is still always looking out for me, somehow knowing what I need, dropping everything he’s doing to help me out, ready to listen, wanting to make me feel better. If I could still eat chocolate, I’m sure he would bring me some all the time.

Thank goodness God finally opened my eyes all those years ago. I wouldn’t have wanted to miss this for anything.

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13 Things I Love About Ben

We got our anniversary date in last night, and enjoyed a delicious meal at Mongo’s. Oh, I love that place.

Mongo'sSince I never wrote anything special for Ben on our anniversary, I decided to make a list – 13 things I love about Ben, for the 13 years we’ve been married. Obviously, I love more than 13 things, but here’s what I came up with, while I was sitting in my vehicle at Great Canadian Oil Change yesterday:

1) Ben is a fantastic listener.

That whole thing about women talking thousands and thousands of words more than men is completely true at our house, but he has always been patient and awesome about listening to me. Even when I wake up the next morning with a completely different perspective, Ben will re-listen to everything, and never make me feel as though I have useless things to say!

2) He is the wisest person I know.

I love getting his opinion and advice on basically everything. He has a completely different perspective than I do, and thinks things through very logically. He is godly, knowledgeable, intelligent, and understands people very well. I love hearing what he has to say, even when it makes me feel uncomfortable, because I know deep down that he’s right, but I wish he wasn’t…

3) Ben is slow to speak.

Proverbs says a fool has lots to say, but the wise man stays quiet, and I think of Ben. In a group of people, he will quietly listen to what everyone else is saying, but never let his silence fool you! And because he stays quiet much of them time, when he finally does speak up, everyone listens, and what he has to say is always worth hearing.

4) He helps around the house!

Because I’ve had tendonitis since we first got married, Ben has always been amazing about helping around the house. I haven’t cleaned a bathtub in years, and he’s started washing the floor for me, too. He’s an awesome cook, and always makes better stir-fry and pancakes than I do. (Stir-fry, because he just knows what seasonings to add, and pancakes, because he’s patient, whereas I try to multitask, and burn everything!)

5) He can always make me laugh.

He always has, and I’m fairly positive he always will….

6) Ben is great with kids.

He is always the dad who plays with all the children at the playground, while all the other parents sit around, watching. This continues to happen everywhere we go. He’s great with any age – babies always love him, but he’s awesome with teenagers, as well. I think he’s tired of me joking about him becoming a children’s entertainer if his current job doesn’t work out!

7) He loves our girls, very, very much.

I think both of us kind of wish we could have had a boy yet, too, but Ben is a dad like my dad was – I never felt he was disappointed with only daughters, and he has loved his girls and all that comes with us. Ben is the same way. He plays dolls and princesses, and never shows any regret over the fact that we’ve got a home full of females. I think he’s slightly unsure about the teenage years, but I’m sure he’ll come through just fine!

8) He helps me see the big picture.

I am the kind of person who gets stuck in the here and now. If I’m in pain, for example, then in my mind, I have always been in pain, and will always be in pain. Very depressing. Ben is able to take a step back, and see things with a better perspective than me.

9) Ben has always encouraged me to challenge myself.

If there’s something difficult or new I wish I could do, he is my biggest cheerleader. He will never hold me back from what I dream of doing.

10) Ben loves to research!

It is very important for him to take in lots of information, and make decisions slowly. Sometimes this drives me a little nuts, but for the most part, I think our life together has been much better for it. I tend to make decisions too quickly, and I appreciate Ben being slow, deliberate, and careful.

11) He makes everything more fun.

When the girls are grumpy, my strategy would naturally be to discipline them into choosing a better attitude! Ben just makes them laugh. He draws people together, and helps everyone have a good time, no matter what needs to be done.

12)  Ben is the best grocery shopper ever!

Again, this started because of my tendonitis, but it turned out to be a very good thing. He can remember all the prices, and does math in his head about 100 times better than me. I am also allergic to Superstore – my nose and eyes get wet and runny, and my head gets very stuffy, so I start making very bad purchasing decisions and can’t think straight at all. It’s better for everyone to have Ben do all the grocery shopping.

13) He is very humble, and will probably think this whole post is unnecessary. But it’s my blog, so I get to write what I want!:)

I love him so much, and feel incredibly blessed to be married to him!

Life With Ben

Yesterday marked 12 years of being married to Ben.

This summer has made me think about what I truly love the most about this life with Ben.

For a few weeks before my birthday in July, I daydreamed about what kind of fantastic birthday date Ben and I would go on. I thought about what kind of restaurant I most wanted to eat at, and what we might do after.

But then life happened, and on my birthday, Ben and I went to his grandma’s funeral.

It was a hard week. Ben was very close to his grandparents when he was younger, and even though I didn’t know his grandma very well, I didn’t need to, in order to know she was amazing.

So we made it through the week, and even though it’s hard to deal with death, I was glad to be there with Ben. I wanted to be there, working through all the emotions and layers of stuff that reveals itself during times like that.

A week later, we finally had the chance to go on my belated birthday date.

We did a little bit of shopping first, and then we went out for sushi. Ben wouldn’t tell me what else we were doing, which I found very strange. We drove downtown, and got there earlier than Ben had expected, so we meandered into different stores, with Ben trying to be all casual about why we weren’t just getting on with whatever the surprise was.

Turns out the surprise was Cirque du Soleil. His parents bought us tickets, and it was an unforgettable experience. I kept catching myself with my jaw hanging open in amazement. It was insane. (In the best way possible.)

We had such a great evening together.

It was slightly strange and very interesting to go through those two experiences so close together – grieving the end of a life, and then going to the circus to marvel at the capabilities of the human body at its height of strength and achievement.

Those two experiences reminded me of what my favorite thing is about being with Ben. We have gone through many highs and lows together in the last 12 years. We’ve been face with many challenges, and we figure things out. We are together in whatever is happening.

Life is happy, and Ben is there. Life is hard, and Ben’s there.

This sharing of life is so much better than I ever thought it would be, no matter what it is we are going through.

So how do you do to celebrate 12 years of life together?

It seems to require something big and extravagant, but right now our budget is not allowing loads of extravagance. No trip to Europe for this anniversary!

In the end, we went out for supper at a favorite restaurant, and then went to the park, like we always used to do when we were dating.

It was a golden evening. The sun was just right, and the geese were out in great numbers to provide entertainment. We walked and talked, and sat and talked, and we celebrated life by simply living it.

We will continue to have highs and lows, and what else is there to do, other than ride them together, accepting this life for what it is? Getting through the lows, knowing they won’t last forever, and celebrating the highs, recognizing them as little tastes of heaven.

Twelve years ago, I thought it was a pretty good idea to get married to Ben.

Now I know it was one of the very best decisions I’ll ever make in this life!

(If you feel like reading about how we met, I shared that story here and here!)

Been Wanting Something Supernatural

When I was in college, my absolute favorite book was Passion and Purity, by Elizabeth Elliot. The reason I loved it so much was that I wanted to meet somebody amazing, date very romantically, get married and live happily ever after – but MORE than that, I wanted what God wanted for my life, and that’s what that book is about.

I really, really wanted Him to want me to get married and have a family, so I felt this struggle inside to surrender to Him, and accept whatever He had in mind for my future.

So Elizabeth Elliot’s words spoke to me every time. My copy of that book has page corners folded down, and sections underlined and highlighted, because I would go back to it again and again. (Surrendering is definitely not a one-time thing!)

There’s one thing I learned from Elizabeth Elliot that sticks with me still. And it applies to all areas of life, not just being single.

She writes that there are things that people long for that are perfectly “normal”. We long for connection and deep relationships, and that leads many single people to long for marriage. It’s a relationship that God thought of, and it’s a good thing! It can be a natural longing for a lot of people. There are lots of other things that we long for that are good and natural – health, financial stability, happiness, all kinds of things.

But the thing is that God doesn’t leave us to only long for what is natural – He desires that we long for what is supernatural, and that is something only found in Him.

Choosing to desire what is supernatural, instead of only what’s natural, is harder, because it doesn’t come as…naturally. Striving for the supernatural and doing the “right” thing can be tiring – especially when we try to do it in our own strength. There are times when we’re tempted to just shove it, and do what will make us feel best. And when we want something that is perfectly natural and normal, it can seem okay to want it, and to pursue it.

But whenever I feel that way, there is always that little knowing in the back of my head that reminds me of God’s desire for supernatural. I don’t always choose to listen to it – often, I just give in to the temptation for my natural longings. I allow my mind to be filled with the desire for things that are right and good, but not necessarily right and good for me.

For example, when we were dealing with infertility, my desire for a baby was so great that it became kind of all-consuming. Surrendering that desire to God seemed nearly impossible at times. And part of me wanted that to be okay. After all, God commanded that we be fruitful and multiply! Most “normal” couples just decide that they want a baby, and within a few months, a baby is on the way. But for us, things did not work that way. And that made me angry sometimes, because it didn’t seem fair, and it was so easy for everybody else, and having a baby was a good, natural, wonderful thing for me to want.

Except that God wanted me to start longing for the supernatural. Once I was finally able to give everything over to Him, I was able to experience a deep joy and contentment – not easy to get there, but possible with or without a baby. We just also happened to have Kaylia after all that. She increases our joy immensely, but we were actually able to feel the supernatural joy of Jesus even while we were still waiting for a miracle.

There are so many situations in life where I think the same thing applies. Basically, we live in an imperfect world, and we will always want something in our lives to be different. We don’t long to be lonely or poor or sick or depressed or broken. It is natural that we would long for good things.

I completely believe that God wants good things for us, and that He gives good things to us.

But I don’t believe that He’s like a Sears catalogue, waiting for you to choose something and place your order.

Sometimes the best and most wonderful thing for us is not what we long for.

And sometimes His plan is so much better than anything I could think up myself, like in Ephesians – “…more than we could ask or imagine.”

I  keep realizing how easy it is to chase after the wrong things, and I know that there’s a very different life waiting for each of us if we can hand over all of the natural junk in our lives, and start experiencing freedom and intimacy with Jesus.

I keep thinking that if I would long for supernatural things, all of my longings would be filled. How amazing is that?!