Friday, November 29, 2013

Thankful In All Things

This November - as with all/most recent Novembers - there is this gratefulness thing on facebook - every day you post a status update with something you are grateful for, because it's (American) Thanksgiving this month.

I usually don't participate in these things. I (perhaps rudely or selfishly) don't use facebook for things like participating in games, and riddles, and changing my profile pic etc. I'm not against those that find joy in these things, I just don't have the time for it. Nor does it really appeal to me, I guess. Perhaps I am older and crankier than the average facebook user.

In any case, this month started off with lots of gratefulness posts, and I enjoy reading them. I noticed a theme...(don't kill me over this, I can't promise everything I read was exclusively positive) - while everything was incredibly uplifting, it was all super duper "nice". Don't get me wrong, I am grateful for parents, kids, spouses, houses, friends, good food, kittens, and safety too. I really really am!!

But it got me thinking - about being thankful in all things. Not just the nice things. Nice things are very easy to be grateful for. And that is wonderful. Because we all need easy things in life, believe me.

Perhaps it's in light of how much we are grateful for the good - that we can appreciate just how wonderfully grateful we are for the bad.

I read Ann Voskamp's 1000 Gifts a few years ago, and there was a story therein, which I will summarize here, to make my point concise. (Going from memory, sorry if I get facts slightly wrong). Her son had a scare with farm equipment, and on that same day, a neighbour boy also had a run in with dangerous equipment on his farm, and he died. In the hospital, upon learning that their son would be totally fine, they rightfully and thankfully said "Praise God". And then the thought came to that other family praising God right now? We say Praise God when everything works according to how WE want it to turn out. But do we say Praise God when it doesn't?

So after a few days of reading very thankful posts from very earnest people about all the nice things they were thankful for, I decided to join the party.

I started late, so I won't have a full months worth of things - but I will add to this post as I go along, and re-post it with a new date so it's at the top of my feed at the end of the month.

Posted Nov 11 - Playing catch up – November's facebook thing of gratefulness every day. I realize that everyone is posting what they are grateful for - but I'd like to try giving it a twist. I am grateful for the wonderful things in life, and praise God for his mercy everyday. So just note that yes, I love my husband, my kids, my life etc...and I take great joys in the simple moments of life. But this month - I'd like to focus on the "bad" parts of life. The hard things. The things that shape people, even though the journey through might be less than comfortable. Because though I am very thankful for the good in life, I am even more grateful for the “bad”. I don't know if I'll have one for every single day that is left...but here's hoping:-) (I say "bad", because it's not truly bad, it just is what it is - not necessarily jump and down happy, like salted caramel mochas - those are something to be grateful for too:-)

#1 - I'm grateful I no longer live in Canada. Yes, there is a part of me that wishes I never left for a minute. I miss almost everything about that place (ok – I don't really miss the cold/snow that much anymore). But I am glad I've had the chance to live with strangers. In a strange land. With a strange government and people that are passionate about things that I don't care about at all. I have experienced things that I would never have believed, if I'd read about them. I've come to love the people and I see their point of view. I understand them. I appreciate them, and their (sometimes wild) passions. I am grateful that life took me away from the things I found familiar, and forced me to learn from others.

#2 – I'm grateful for death and loss, experienced while growing up. It's shown me that life is precious. And fleeting. It's given me pictures of grief. Things to look on, and learn from.

(This November I am posting about gratefulness – like many – but with a focus on the “bad” things I'm grateful for. The things that shaped me and taught me, though they were less than pleasant and fuzzy-wuzzy to experience) **Note, I posted that at the end of each post, which I will not do here, but just wanted to explain perhaps if someone glanced at their newsfeed why I am being such a Debbie Downer. whhaaawhaa whhaaaa:-)

#3 - I'm grateful that my husband has long long hours. For those of you who mistakenly think that I am somehow a saint, let me assure you, this wasn't always the case. I used to secretly resent the fact/reality that he was never help me or be with me. I am grateful for the perspective change that came long ago. I am grateful for a heart of tenderness and understanding towards my husband, and not resentment or bitterness over all the ways he doesn't “meet my needs” - because all my real/actual needs are met. Expectations of always being home to appreciate the things I cooked, or help with the kids etc etc are selfish, not giving. I have my job, and he has his. And they both come with perks and disadvantages. And the disadvantages he suffers are greater than the ones I do – so I do all I can to ease his burden when possible, and not create an environment of hostility based on my selfish expectations. I am grateful to know one of the most dedicated men on the planet. He gives his all to his family, and his job. I love the time we have together, but I don't resent the time that we don't have together, either. I think we've achieved a balance that works for us when it has to. Ain't nobody complaining about more free time, that is for sure. But free time that can be fully enjoyed without old pent up frustration spilling over and ruining the day. I'm grateful I've had the chance to learn these things when I was still young. It's easier that way:-)
#4 – I'm grateful I've learned that method matters as much as intent. Think of David and the ark of the covenant (intention to move it and keep it “safe” - method used was not as instructed, resulting in death). Since I *know* this, it should be easier to *do* it, right? Ok, not so! There have been so many times, and some very recently where I/we had the best of intentions and thought our method was the best one. Turns out not so. I am perhaps not talking of a literal method (like a cart vs carrying in the David story), but of a plan of attack, a plan of motion, a determination to do the right thing for God...and we thought we did an ok job of it, and then we found out we didn't. Well, Amen. Hard lessons learned, and not without hurt caused. Grateful for forgiveness and the God-given insight to do better next time. Because what we want to do matters. And so does how we do it. Grateful for painful lessons that need to be learned over and over again, over the course of a lifetime.

#5 - I'm grateful that we have a tight budget. It makes it easy, by necessity, to keep life simple. There are always things to “want” out there. I'm grateful most of mine only cost $50 or less...meaning… chances are, I'll get them someday!;-) 
#6 - I am grateful to have experienced “harsh” Christianity. Judgement and mis-understanding with only teeny amounts of grace applied. I am grateful to have learned that what people think of me doesn't matter at all, when I am in right standing with God. I am grateful that my negative experiences with very zealous folks did not hinder my walk with the Lord, or cause bitterness or resentment/ill-fe...elings towards those folks. I am so glad to have seen first hand the contrast of a happy life in Christ, and ones that are bound up with regulations. I am grateful that these things were experienced, and I am grateful that I used these experiences as stepping stones, so grace may abound, and Christ may continue as Lord of my life – minus harmful baggage. I am grateful the Lord protected me from absorbing wrong doctrines, and am very very grateful for all the right and good things I learned. Things I use and practice every day of my life. I am glad to have been misunderstood. I am glad to have come to a realization that my earthly reputation is not up to me, and gaining / maintaining approval of some is not necessary. I am glad that I have learned to follow rules, even when they don't seem reasonable. I am grateful I am able to show deference to others, and hopefully with a smile

#7 - I am grateful that a very strange set of circumstances led me to ignore/hate my future husband...for a few years. Yes, years. I am grateful that he is unwavering. That he is a strong example of kindness, to those that are unkind/undeserving of kindness (like me), and that is he one who exemplifies consistency. He doesn't change anything for anyone. Like it, or not. I like I regret much of my attitudes and behaviour during that time, (whether outward or inward), I am glad I went through it. I am glad that I learned just how wrong you can be when you judge a person. How very very wrong. A person I thought, basically unworthy of my time in even the smallest capacity, is actually now the one I wish to spend the most time with!

#8 - I'm grateful my youngest son (and/or myself) didn't die at his birth. I know this is because of the mercy of God, combined with modern medicine. I don't know the next chapters ahead for my kids – I don't know how long they have in this world, but I do know they have right now. Grateful for the scare of a traumatic delivery 3 years ago to keep this thought in the fore-front of my mind: They don't deserve to be here. Any more than any other mom's baby didn't deserve to die, while mine lived. I am not in control of these God-things. It is not for me to say who and why when it comes to these matters. But I do know that I don't have a right to these things. I don't have a right to healthy children, or living children, for that matter. I have been given a great gift, and as long as I possess it, I hope to make the most of it. Ultimately, it doesn't belong to me.

#9 – I'm grateful that my husband is a strong leader, full of opinions, and kinda bossy sometimes:-) Lets hope he says the same thing about me;-) We are very similar creatures in many ways – not so much of “opposites attract”. Grateful for passionate differences of opinion on just about every topic under the sun. Grateful for a wonderful lesson learned, all the way back when were just friends – you don't have to agree on something – or anything, to be perfectly matched and wonderfully happy. There is so much fullness, love and understanding present when there is loving opposition. No, we don't fight all the time, and actually hardly ever even argue. And yet, there “could be” so much to argue about. Grateful to realize that my opinions are just that. I don't need to be validated by having my opinion followed. Disagreement or opposition does not mean “you're stupid” or “you're not understanding” or “I'm wrong, you're right”. Grateful to have learned/be learning how to discuss something, and even disagree, without letting emotions take over, and start defending myself about that “other thing”. (If you don't agree with me, that you're saying I'm wrong/stupid etc.) It will probably be a life long learning of controlling that urge to defend my point “to the death”. Grateful for a wonderful man full of wonderful opinions (even the ones that differ from my own:-) to share this life long journey with. (Note: Also really grateful for all the myriads of things that we DO agree on!)
#10 - I'm grateful God gives me plenty of opportunities to be humble, and be humbled. Learning still so much, and in so many new ways.
#11 - I am grateful to be from a large family. Since this month I am trying to focus on the “bad” (ie: difficult) things I am grateful for, I hesitate to bring it up. Because I have never thought of this as a negative. But others have espoused that feeling for me, or expressed it towards me – either from their own experience, or from their imagination of “what it must be like”. So while I can't say I've thought of this as a “hard lesson” learned in life – it definitely has been a lesson, and so I bring it up here. I am the oldest of 11 children. Talk about a shaping influence! I am grateful for the opportunity God gave me to be raised in a loving home – a home-life experience that very very few people will ever be privileged to know. While I can't say that all big-family experiences are wonderful – I can say mine was. Obviously each family works in it's own way, and I only know the one that is part of my story. I am grateful for parents that had a heart for kids, and for teaching. That they were wise in instruction and thoughtful in discipline. Did they always deal with each of us perfectly in all situations? No. They failed, like every single person/parent does. In all the normal ways. But in the end – He is able. For whatever they lacked in parenting method or expertise, He can overcome. And He has, by God's grace alone. I am grateful that they choose to have lots of kids. I am grateful for the upbringing they gave us (and I am not the only one, I know for a fact that my adult siblings feel the same way). I am so thankful we are all walking with the Lord. I am thankful that I got to see parenting up-close, and personal – from the perspective of an adult. (I was only a month shy of 21 when my youngest sibling was born). I, and my siblings, have had a one-of-a-kind experience. Full of toddlers, babies, kids, teens...all at the same time too:-) The lessons growing up in such a family are so great, and so plentiful I cannot even begin, or I may never end. One of the great and distinguishing shaping influences over my life, for sure. While not always easy, dealing with so many people all at once... it's hard for me to imagine what it would have been like, if there had been a “normal” amount of kids in my family. I know this for sure: It wouldn't have been better. We wouldn't have taken more vacations, or had more material things, or worn pricier clothing. We lacked for nothing and lived to a standard that would have been held, whether 1 kid or 20. I didn't miss out on love, or attention. On the flip side, I got so much more love and attention than a “normal” person would really be used to. Try being loved by 12 other people, every single day. It's not terrible:-) The “little kids” got so much of our adoration. The cutest things ever. They didn't have “7 parents”, they had 2. And lots and lots of brothers and sisters in their corner, wishing them well and cheering them on. We didn't have stressed out, absent parents. We had parents who loved us, and chose each of us – not one was beyond what could be handled or afforded. I will always be grateful for something that I had absolutely no control over. I treasure each of my siblings for special reasons. I am just so glad that my life happened to me:-) Dad, Mom, Brent, Jared, Lauryn, Davis, Logan, Kaden, Janessa, Jillaine, Lehman and Maryn – When I think back on my life, you are the reasons I smile. Every single one of you. It has been a privilege to have been given the chance to be in the Kennedy family.
#12 - I am grateful we've struggled in business/financially. Because money teaches invaluable lessons that will never be forgotten. Moving forward, there is so much more wisdom.
#13 - I'm grateful my mom almost died in 2001. I really do honestly ask my soul if I would be saying the same thing, if she had died. I pray that I would, but the lessons learned were not in death, because that is not what actually happened. I'm very grateful that she lived – It is from this “near death experience” that I can draw today's lesson in thankfulness – in all things, even the hard stuff. The day we saw her off the hospital for her surgery was a little strange. I don't know if I was ever told, or perhaps the statistics are not well-proved. But I don't think the odds of her coming through that like she did were really in her favour. I could imagine, it was a little bit like saying good bye to a family member about to be beheaded or something like that. Perhaps a small chance that someone would intercede on your behalf (Robin Hood? Haha, humour me:-) - but not likely. Without abandoning all hope, was the realization that, barring miraculous outcomes, her life would never be the same, if it was to be at all. And although life after an aneurysm is not always a piece of cake, she bears it so well, it has been a miraculous outcome after all. So what do you do in the hard times – when you want to seem brave, but don't feel very brave. When you want to act like everything will be fine, and “I'll see you in the morning” but you know that odds do not favour that hope. Well – I guess I am one who lived through that, and yet I couldn't tell you. Thinking back, it all seems a little dream like. I think it's the grace of God at work and prayers from the saints that carry you through those times. You'd have to resist pretty hard not to feel it, because in hindsight, it does feel like “carried” and not “walking”.
“Because the Lord our God is good, His mercy is forever sure. His Truth at all time firmly stood, and shall from age to age endure.” We (my sister Lauryn and I) sang this song to my mom, at the front door, as she was about to leave for the hospital – at her request. Her favourite song. It was really fitting, actually. The lyrics speak so well to the sovereignty and goodness of God. And I believe that. I don't believe it because life is always so peachy. I will believe it in the bad or hard times, even more so than in the good times. Which is why I suppose I would be writing this now, regardless of the outcome of that surgery. Anyway. Thankful in the face of dying. Thankful for God's mercy. And doctors skilled at their craft, who sacrificed much to give my family the chance we now have. I am grateful for life, for as long as we are given it. I am grateful for all the work my mother did in preserving the family memories through her pictures and detailed scrapbooking. I believe I am passionate about the memories (ie:my blog) because of this. Should I find myself in a similar situation, and not come out alive, I want my kids to have what I would have had, if my Mom had died – lots and lots of pictures and stories. Love you, Mom!

#14 -  Grateful for chances to do things over again. And better. As my husband (not so humourously) points out "you're losing crowns" - {ok, kinda funny. It will be funnier if I turn it around on him one day, when he's in a bad mood. Sweet revenge;-)}. So, while I generally *attempt* to hold to the "rule" of doing everything my husband asks me to do, willingly and happily, I must confess that this is often more mental attempt than actual practice. Because half of the time, it's normal requests. The other half of the time usually involves waking kids up from a dead sleep, locked cars, tools, and occasionally actual labour. For all who know me, and my inability to touch anything dirty, or breathe in the presence of sawdust...I probably married into the wrong profession. I do like being helpful, but I don't like being inconvenienced. Or touching anything with dried drywall compound on it. Did I ever mention I am selfish? Probably not any more than the normal person, but definitely not any less. My ability to convey displeasure (with dramatic flair, naturally) is most definitely well-honed, we could say. I admire my personal sacrifice to the point that it pleases me, and then I don't like it. So NEXT time he makes a "ridiculous" request, I'll have that second chance. To do it better. And hopefully earn back one of those lost crowns. Haha!

#15 – I am grateful we got robbed. “I thank thee first because I was never robbed before; second, because although they took my purse they did not take my life; third, because although they took my all, it was not much; and fourth because it was I who was robbed, and not I who robbed” (Matthew Henry). Although we were robbed 3 times, which made significant impact to our lives (all/most of Brian's work tools/equipment stolen on each occasion, for those that didn't know. This was twice in '08 and once in '11), we were also blessed through this. So while the financial impact has had some lasting result – hard to see the good in that, really. BUT. We were on the receiving end of many kindnesses as a result. Our church family gave to us in our time of need, and it was humbling and sweet, as we were most undeserving. As the quote said, while they took “my all” it wasn't much, in the grand scheme of things. No one came into our house, no one threatened our lives. While temporarily taking the ability to make money from us, ultimately nothing of lasting impact was damaged. All in all, while possible to complain about the tragedies of it all, it's hard to do that without remembering all the goodness too. All the people that gave us their own tools to replace lost things, and all those who gave us money to help in the replacement of things. A sweet friend replacing a smashed truck window for us. Thoughtful things that still come to mind from time and time, and are so appreciated. Had this/these “terrible” instances not occurred, we would have missed out on the blessing that comes from people who are determined to be kind. A sincere thank you, to each person who blessed us during these times. It will never be forgotten, and we love you all very much.
And this will conclude the postings for the month. I actually have a few more things to write about, but no time. Something for next year, maybe;-) It has definitely been a good exercise in thankfulness for me, thinking about these things, how'd they've affected my life, and writing about it in some sort of cohesive fashion.

Thankful, always.



Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Grey's Joke

Grey is pretty funny guy. We all think so anyway! He seems to have a great sense of humour and comedic timing. Well, watch this sweet video of him (intending to show him playing with one of his favourite toys), and listen at the end for his funny little joke!

Monday, November 25, 2013

Big Brother

Sad day for the big girl - Brooks is taller than her. It's been a long time coming, in fact, I am shocked that over the course of their lives, he has never once over taken her, but come close. Since about 3 months old, he's been trying. Since 2010, they've hovered around exactly the same height and weight! Our twins. I thought at any moment he would out grow her,'s taken 3 years. He's now about 1/4inch taller, maybe just slightly more than that. I wonder if its the point of no return for her, or if their growth patterns will alter and she'll get taller for another brief moment in time? Time will tell. One thing is for sure, she's always been an itty bitty, there is no hope of her achieving any sort of model heights:-) Much to her dismay.
I love their identical hair colour! And you can kind of see the look of disappointment on her face, can't you?!

My Wiggly Worms - Video

The Wiggle Worm song!

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Just Because...

I'm impatient:-) And there is really nothing to show, yet.

We had our family pictures taken this morning. Early morning. Like, I was in the shower at 6am, and out the door by 7:20. Perfect way to spend a Saturday morning, right:-) But honestly, I just adore picture day. Maybe more than Christmas, even!
Ironing our shirts

Brooks got a trim - at a "real" hair place. His had been sooooo long, it was really hard to style and layer, so we had it done for us:-)
 Photo shoot! We love Chani - she is an amazing photographer, and VERY affordable. If you are in my area, call me, I'll hook you up with her. Her only thing...the "best light"'s at 7:30am. So be prepared for that. Ok, ok, there was an afternoon option too, but that didn't work as well for Brian's work schedule.
So, after we were done - I totally went to Walmart. In heels and fake lashes. At 9am. This has got to be the definition of all dressed up with no place to go:-)
 And Grey. He needed a haircut too. So Brian went to work. With a combo of buzzing and's ADORABLE! And the very first time Grey has had his hair this short. Baby, no more.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Memory Lane

Phones these days are very smart - they aren't kidding around when they say smart phone. Last night, I was glancing through my gallery pics - and I noticed all kinds of pictures in there that I didn't take on this phone. Or some of them...on any phone! How they are now stored in my current phone is somewhat of a was a cute walk down memory lane...enjoy!
Baby Grey

Grey & Brooks

All three kids. Look how little!!


Grey's "blue steel" stare

Grey, only a few days old!

Remember when this happened?

I thought he'd be ugly for sure, but it's barely a scar

Brooks and "Chee Chee" my childhood stuffed animal



My cute little Kenna

Brooks, at his 2nd birthday


A bald eagle. I need to show this to Grey, who loves "bog geagles", currently:-)

Remember when this happened?

And this? We tore down a wall and closed in a door


Meghan, Brian & Lauren

Love this one!

The first time some of my family came to VA

Brian's family. Also known as the time Mom didn't wear black.

Maryn, Lehman, Jillaine & Janessa - my youngest siblings. And wow. So young 2009

Auntie Maryn & Kenna

Kenna and her friend Sarah S



My Dad

Davis, a brother of mine:-)

Lauryn, a sister of mine...& Mark. They're married, if you couldn't tell by the pic:-) (2008)
So weird, right? All of these pics were in the same album on my phone. I can't figure out any rhyme or reason to that. But so fun to browse through and see these things again!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Peaceful {and Reading}

I just love fall colours. I really do. I would wear them, and actually - I do wear them...year round. They are just so perfect. To my eye, anyway. My new yard (and the "screamed in" porch, as Grey calls it), provide us with so much beauty. It's just so peaceful here. If I'm having a harried moment -

{I'm telling you all the honest truth - teaching people how to read is the worst! It's gotta be the most patience-inducing thing of.all.time. You just want to fall on your pencil and end it all. No. Start at the first sound. No, the first sound. Is that the first sound you see? Then start at.the.first.sound. So you're telling me that th makes the "ch" sound? Start over. I can't tell you, it's something kindergarteners know. Well we'll be sitting here until you figure it out, so look at the page and concentrate... If you've ever taught a child how to read, you know what I mean. Sometimes they are so absolutely dumb it almost seems unreal. Like they're faking it. Because no one is really that dense. Are they? And these particular idiots are -presumably- related to me. I often wonder if they were switched at birth. Because certainly, I have never been so difficult:-) }...

So anyway, if I'm having a harried moment - which as you can see by the above example - I have often occasion to have...I like to look at the trees. And the water. And the colours. It's really so just peaceful, interesting and calming, all at the same time.

Brian says the ivy will kill the tree. But it's just so pretty!

Leaves falling into the water

The tree in our front yard is so vibrant!

Some roses are still hanging in there! It's hasn't gotten too cold yet, so we've got a good mix of summer and fall

We have lots of raking to do! But the kids love it!

Speaking of kids...:-) My little readers. They are actually good little readers...when they want to be

Vibrant yellows in the backyard.
...Speaking of reading, in order to encourage more of it (and perhaps because I am a glutton for punishment) I instituted a new house-hold rule a few weeks ago. Read me one story, out loud, to earn 1 tv show/episode/movie. If you want a show, you have to read a book first. I believe I've really put a damper on their tv watching excitement:-) Tonight while I was making dinner, they read me a story (altering pages between them), so they could watch something after dinner. After dinner and that show, they said to watch another one, and I said "for another story" and they decided they'd rather not watch tv after all. Haha!