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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A Week in the Life: Tuesday Photos

Tuesday was a really nice day. I liked it a lot.

I heard once that test results showed a significant decrease in stress levels when people called home to talk to their mom on the phone. (When I mentioned this to a friend, she said her stress would rise significantly, so I guess it depends on the relationship!)

If a phone call can lower stress, I wonder what a visit home does for a person? I wasn’t stressed, but I sure loved spending the day at my parents’ house! This made my day great.

But first, I got to enjoy a lovely, quiet morning, because my girls spent the night at my parents’, so I got a few things done before I went to join them for the day.

Here’s Tuesday:

Reading.

A Week in the Life - Tuesday

Listening.

music

Eating.

breakfast

Ironing.

ironing

Driving.

driving

Arriving.

arriving

Feasting.

eating

Swinging.

swinging

Remembering.

remembering

Jumping.

jumping

Climbing.

climbing

Hugging.

hugging

Smiling.

smiling

Playing.

playing

Reading.

reading

Leaving.

leaving

Anyone else out there who needs to spend the day with their mom?

Ready for a Change!

My goodness, a week without blogging feels like a really long time! How are you all?

Our family had a very nice holiday. I could easily have gone without the four-day flu, but other than that, Christmas has been great.

I have two favorites of Christmas this year. The first would be listening to Anika playing Christmas carols on the piano while Kaylia sang along, changing all the words: “Hark, my favorite angels sing!” and “Napping all the way” for Jingle Bells.

My other favorite would have to be the hot chocolate party we had by our Christmas tree, a few days before Christmas. The girls thought it was all quite magical, and we talked about why we give presents at Christmas. It was one of those moments when I kept watching our girls and wishing we could press “pause”. Right now, when we’re all cozy, warm, happy, together.

hot chocolate party

hot chocolate party

We opened presents on Christmas Day, and had a quiet, relaxing day at home.

presents

Ben made our big Christmas dinner, and I managed to get a little bit of food down. Turns out, it was a good thing he brushed up on his gravy-making skills, because when the day came to celebrate Christmas with my family, my mom, my sister, and I were all sick.

So, Ben and my brother-in-law Wally made the Christmas meal at my parents’ house while my dad went sledding with the kids, and the ladies lay around doing absolutely nothing.

My sister was very concerned about the fact that I had no camera with me for Christmas. I told her I was too sick to care, so she supplied me with some pictures:

Christmas 030 (2)

The first day that I started feeling well, I took down all of our Christmas decorations. Anika and Kaylia were very sad to see them go, and Anika asked why they couldn’t stay up longer. I told her that this year, “Christmas” makes me think of stomach flu, and so I wanted Christmas to be over immediately.

She said, “Oh, no, Mommy, you’re never going to like Christmas again!!”

I assured her that by next Christmas, I’ll be very happy to celebrate all over again, but just for this year, I’m ready for a change.

I always look forward to the new year. It all feels so fresh and new and wide open for any possibility. This last year has been quite wonderful – not because it was always easy, but because I think I’m finally old enough to realize that “good” doesn’t necessarily mean “easy”. We’ve had exciting challenges, and satisfying growth, and I am ready for another year of it.

I hope all of you had a wonderful Christmas, and can look to the new year with great anticipation.

A Week in the Life: Monday

Our first day of “A Week in the Life” completed!

It was harder than I thought it would be, for the following reasons:

1) It’s dark a lot of the time! I do not like using my flash, which means that next time I do this little project, I shall do it earlier in the year when there are more daylight hours!

2) Anika suddenly does not want her picture to be taken. What??! This is a bad week to be telling me that!

3) Today was a pretty busy day. It’s hard to slow down and take good pictures when we’re away from home and running around. I had to keep reminding myself that I have all week to do this!

4) I remember now how tired I was of taking pictures by the end of my last week when I tried this! But I also remember how I felt it was truly worth it! So we will carry on.

Here’s what we came up with for today:

Waking up to a dark morning to do my devotions and exercising.

Breakfast.

Driving into the city for the day. (Such a beautiful morning to go for a drive!)

Settling in to do some homeschool work at Ben’s parents’ house.

Playing paperdolls.

Lunch.

Work. (Ben took the girls to theatre class so that I could get some filing done for him.)

Drive. (We went to visit my friend, who recently gave birth to one of the sweetest little girls ever!)

Supper. (Anika requested a “breakfast supper” today, so when we got back from the city, we scrambled up a huge pan of eggs and veggies. Ben and the girls had pancakes and sausage, too.)

Bible Study. (Tonight was the last night of this fantastic study I’ve been participating in at our church. Ben stayed home with the girls while I rushed off after eating.)

Brush teeth. (At first she hid behind the door, but then I reminded her how much she had enjoyed looking at our scrapbook from the last time we did this, and then she came out!)

Shower. (I got ready for bed, after doing some work with my photos from the day and getting this blog post ready.)

Ready to try it all over again tomorrow!

Why We Hang Pictures

Because Ben is amazing, we have a new photo gallery up at our house.

Hmm, that makes it sound like he was the one busily arranging frames and choosing pictures….His amazingness was actually shown in the fact that he humored me for three hours of intense measuring, marking, leveling and hanging up pictures, which is not something he would normally choose to do in his free time.

But I am sooo loving having some pictures up on our walls. And I am so thankful for an understanding husband who knew how badly his girls needed some help in feeling “at home”.

You could say we were just filling up blank space on our new walls. But pictures have always been far more than that to me. Pictures on the walls are the fastest way to surround yourself with happiness. They tell stories, and make you feel like the space is yours.

Mark your territory.

I once read about how kids need to see those visual reminders that they belong. They need to see the out-of-date wedding pictures of their parents, because it gives history and a feeling of security and permanence.

Children need to see their baby pictures, because it helps them see where they’ve come from, and to feel like they belong.

They need to see family pictures so that year after year, they have a visual reminder of how this group of people keeps growing and changing…together.

And maybe children aren’t the only ones who need those visual reminders….

Those pictures on our walls are little pieces of this life we are building.

In his book A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, Donald Miller writes,

When I arrived home from Boston, I realized there were no pictures on my mantel. I set down my suitcase and walked into the living room and looked across to the fireplace, and it felt empty. Empty of real stories. I went to my bedroom where the bed was made, and on my desk there were no pictures in frames and on the end tables there were no pictures. There was a framed picture of Yankee Stadium above the toilet in the bathroom, and there was some art I’d picked up in my travels, but there was little evidence of an actual character living an actual life. My home felt like a stage on which props had been set for a face story rather than a place where a person lived an actual human narrative.

It’s an odd feeling to be awakened from a life of fantasy. You stand there looking at a bare mantel and the house gets an eerie feel, as though it were haunted by a kind of nothingness, an absence of something that could have been, an absence of people who could have been living here, interacting with me, forcing me out of my daydreams. I stood for a while and heard the voices of children who didn’t exist and felt the tender touch of a wife who wanted me to listen to her. I felt, at once, the absent glory of a life that could have been.

Every single day, I live this life filled with hugs and running feet and sticky, chubby hands. I sit on the couch in the quiet evenings drinking tea and talking with my wonderful husband. We have loads and loads of memories, and all these ideas and dreams for the future. All of this happiness actually exists for me.

I love the idea of having “evidence” of a full life being lived.

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That first morning when the girls woke up to our newly hung pictures, I saw exactly what I’d hoped to see. They looked and looked at those pictures, and they remembered. They talked about the different places the pictures had been taken, and I could actually see the way in which those pictures affected them.

Now this is home. They see it, there is evidence for them in a way they can easily understand.

And I can sit here, looking at each photo, and I can still feel what it felt like to be in each of those places, each of those memories. I look at my life, not just what is right in front of me today, but also what has been.

It has been so good. I want to be reminded to remember.

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Make it happen. Get stuff up on your walls. Pinterest is your best friend, if you feel a little lost when it comes to hanging pictures in a good arrangement. Go type in “photo gallery” and lose yourself in Pinterest for a little while.

And if you are not super excited about all of the work and effort involved in hanging up a ton of pictures, here’s what you do:

  1. Stop thinking about it as “decorating”, and start thinking about it as feeding your soul. Soul-feeding is far more important than having a perfectly decorated house.
  2. Go buy yourself the velcro strips at Michael’s, made specifically for saving your sanity in situations like these, and for hanging pictures without leaving any nail marks.
  3. Check out this tip for making picture-hanging about 10 times easier.
  4. Get it DONE, and then come back to leave a comment, letting us all know about your picture-hanging success!!
  5. Live happily ever after, basking daily in the glow of all those warm memories, your own personal evidence of a life full of goodness, beauty and love.

Happy picture hanging!:)

Making a Scene

I read something yesterday that I really liked:

When we look back on our lives, what we will remember are the crazy things we did, the times we worked harder to make a day stand out. (p. 208-209, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years)

A good movie has memorable scenes, and so does a good life. (p. 212, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years)

Have you ever had moments that were so good and beautiful and perfect, it felt like all you needed was music swelling in the background, and it would feel like a movie-moment? Just one of those magical moments you want to hang on to forever.

Most of the time, I fall into thinking those moments just happen – that it’s my awareness of the joy of life that will bring those moments into being.

I don’t really think about the value of making them happen on purpose.

When Ben and I were dating, we made them happen on purpose all the time. Dating is one big wonderful time of being creative and romantic and making life feel like a movie. We put so much effort into making our relationship full of “memorable scenes”.

Sometimes I’ve done that for our girls, and with our family. But I’ve never thought about doing it on a regular basis, as a way of intentionally building the story of our family.

It does take effort, but the great thing is it doesn’t need to be anything all that big.

I have this really special memory from college. I had a friend who was super thoughtful and creative, and about as high-stress as I was. During exam week one year, she told me that anytime I needed a study break, she wanted me to run down to her room, and we would do something fun together.

I had no idea what she had in mind, but I took her up on her offer one evening. She excitedly welcomed me into her room, and went straight to a drawer in her desk, from which she pulled out two plastic spoons, and two containers of chocolate pudding.

Then, she led me outside, and kept walking, and walking, until we were in the middle of a soccer field.

We sat there in that empty field, eating chocolate pudding and watching the sunset.

And then we ran back inside, back to our books and studying, with renewed energy, and a memory that’s one of my favorites from those college years.

And what did it take? Some plastic spoons and some pudding cups.

It took some planning on her part – a little bit of effort, and some creativity, but it was a huge gift she gave me that night.

We have to force ourselves to create these scenes. We have to get up off the couch and turn the television off, we have to blow up the inner-tubes and head to the river. We have to write the poem and deliver it in person. We have to pull the car off the road and hike to the top of the hill… (p.213-214, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years)

This was the scene we enjoyed tonight:

Ben’s parents came over for the evening, with supper, and a special treat for dessert – gluten-free ice cream cones and coconut ice cream.

Ice cream is always a treat, but cones make it magical. 🙂

It wasn’t a huge, dramatic moment, but it was a special treat enjoyed with much happiness, and it was a moment that makes you want to press “pause”. My happy girls covered with ice cream, loving their grandparents, the sun streaming in, everybody smiling.

Making a scene.

I love those moments. And I love the idea of making them happen with intention.

It doesn’t have to be big. It just has to be memorable.

Five Minute Friday: Remember

Tried something new! Five minutes of writing, no editing allowed, on the topic “Remember”…

There are a few words that always sound magical to me. “Remember” is one of them. It is the way we keep old happiness close to us. It’s the way we hang on to things like camping trips and grandmas and newborn babies and innocence.

And when things are pretty much perfect, we think to ourselves, “Remember this!” That makes it a little easier to let the perfect moments slip away – because we know that they cannot get away from us completely. Once the moment has happened, we can always carry a little piece of it with us, to remember.

I want to live fully in each of those perfect moments, so that I don’t regret anything later. I want to fully see and taste and smell, to feel the sunshine and impossibly soft skin, to fully feel the joy of those moments. Little arms holding tight around my neck, toddling footsteps, innocent laughter.

Everything goes by too quickly. There are only two things I can do – thank God for each moment, and soak it all in so that I will always remember.