Monday, November 26, 2012


well, I'm just gonna jump right in here. I have two three year olds on nap time strike and my son has decided to do some kind of crazy craft at the table involving a lot of construction paper and so much glue. seriously, so much glue. I'm really hoping he doesn't start casting glances at the glitter because I don't know if I'm up for a glitter mess today. it sort of makes me nervous. funny thing is, this is the best time I've got to sort stuff out and jot stuff down. 

so here it is: we've been out here in colorado for about a year and a half, and we've been to church after church after church after church. and we're trying so hard (so hard!) not to nit-pick every church we go to. we've been to several very nice churches, with very nice pastors and very nice kids ministries. we've been to the "cool" churches in the city, we've been to one absolutely crazy church with a pastor who is (for real) holding "excommunication meetings." (and yes, we were unofficially excommunicated from that one- the formal "excommunication meetings" hadn't started up yet). I wish I was joking about that last part, but I'm not. 

all of that to say, we have been seriously trying to find our spot here in denver colorado and it's rough. 

if you're reading this, you probably know ricky and I and maybe you're wondering "well, why don't you guys plant a church?" and a few months ago, we started wondering the same thing, which is pretty funny because we are not your typical church-planters. there's nothing type A or detail oriented about us, we don't have money or a church sending us out, we hardly even know anyone out here. all we have is a nutty love for the people of denver and a serious desire to see people walking in victory with Jesus. 

to make things even more interesting, as we've prayed together and talked about this stuff we've discovered that God has given us some very passionate convictions regarding church, prayer and discipleship. it breaks our hearts to see so many churches doing church without having any sort of prayer meeting going on- from where we're sitting, you can have a church with a rocking worship team, dynamite teacher and amazing children's ministry, but if no one's praying what's the point? 

for real, what's the point? 

about a year ago we started really laying that question down before the LORD. and then we read some books that might be a little dangerous if these convictions are already hanging around in your head- books like Church Planter by Darrin Patrick, Whatever Happened to Worship by A.W. Tozer, and Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire by Jim Cymbala. 

it's been a really neat season of soul-searching and hanging out with Jesus. He's saying stuff and we're pumped. 

so in january we're starting a weekly night of prayer, worship and Bible study in our house. maybe we're planting a church, maybe we're not- we don't know. but we know that Awesome Stuff happens when people get together and cry out to the LORD. Revival comes when people pray. 


the reason I'm typing furiously at this keyboard right now is just to ask for somebody out there to pray for us. we've been away from our church and our people for coming on two years and we so don't want to find ourselves kooked out. ricky works some pretty demanding hours, I'm homeschooling for the first year and we have three kids under four years old. but if the LORD is attracted to weakness, He's gotta be attracted to us! 

dude, we need mercy. like a heaping helping of MERCY. 

and wisdom. if you've got some, give it up! we want it. 


Thursday, November 8, 2012

the Chubs.

This Sunday, November 11 our very first kid and only son is turning eight. 

It's totally a big deal. 

Eight years ago so many things about our lives changed. Maybe it's because we were younger and still figuring out a lot of stuff, but having that first kid was like a kick in the face. An expensive, sweet smelling, never sleeping and always wailing, gloriously precious kick in the face. 

We totally didn't know what we were doing. Like at all. That poor kid- I'm glad he doesn't remember his whole first year of life. Praise the LORD, Chubs is resilient and marvelously forgiving. I love that kid. Caleb Andrew Bender is one special and spectacular guy. He's also extremely cool. 

When he was three we lived in Oxnard, CA and went to church in Carpinteria. After church we would almost always go cruise around Santa Barbara, get some cheap food and just enjoy the beach and each other. One day we were downtown, eating some ice cream or something and Chubs leans against a wall, sighs and says "Dad, I'm just a kid trying to be a man." 

I'm totally not joking. I don't know where that came from, but it was awesome. And as he's grown up, that's him. He's eight going on 30. Unless he's being a turd. Then he's eight going on four. But for the most part, he's always been this kid just trying to be a man. 

He's magnetic. I don't know if you've met him, but he's so stinking charismatic it sometimes makes me crazy. Caleb's whole approach to life is that everyone is already his friend- they just might not know it yet. Sometimes it's great and sometimes it stinks but that's Caleb- he doesn't discriminate based on age, race, gender, you name it. I could learn a lesson from him. Seriously. 

When he was brand new and I would pray for him in that weird, foggy, exhausted new mom way (seriously, he would not sleep), I frequently prayed that God would nurture the gift of evangelism in him. I'm not trying to get kooked out on you right now, but I earnestly believe that the LORD in His mercy gives mamas who pray for their kids insight. And as he's grown up, I get to see how faithful Jesus has been in making Caleb who he is. 

We moved into our new house just over a month ago, and while Ricky and I have met a few of our neighbors, Caleb knows them all. The other day he had this conversation with a little boy on our cul-de-sac named Calvin. Calvin's four and loves Caleb. 

Caleb: "Hey Calvin, have you ever heard of Jesus?"
Calvin: "Nope."
Caleb: "Oh, He was God's Son and He came to the world and healed a bunch of people and stuff."
Calvin: "Wow! That's a cool story!" 
Caleb: "But then the people killed Him and He died on a cross."
Calvin: "Oh no! Then what?"
Caleb: "Well, it's awesome, because then He came back to life so that we can go to heaven with him. "
Calvin: "Oh wow! That's a really cool story!" 

He gets it. Our son gets the gospel. Enough that he wants to share it. 

I'm not trying to brag. For real, we have screwed up with this guy more than we've done right. He's like the crash test dummy of our kids. But by God's grace we have one of the kindest and coolest dudes I've ever known. I'm so glad that he's our very first kick in the face. 

Love you, buddy. 

Thursday, August 2, 2012

my chick'n minis.

You know, this whole Chick-fil-a thing is bumming me out. And I'm really trying to sort through it in my mind. So why not blog a wee blog? 

We went to Chick-fil-a yesterday simply because I appreciate a man who's not afraid to believe what the Bible says is true, even when it's unpopular. I appreciate that we live in a country where we can boycott and vote and petition and hope. I love living in the land of the free and the home of the brave. I'm not a redneck, a simpleton, a bigot or a hater. I'm a Christian and I like chicken. 

If only it were that simple. 

I feel pretty lame even trying to throw my two cents in on this thing. I'm not political. I'm not a great Bible scholar. I don't listen to FOX news or read the Huffington post. I appreciate good journalism. I'm a mom who likes to sew, cook, decorate and play jokes on my husband. I'm a student who has opinions and likes to think about stuff. I like gay people. I like being married. I don't go to Carl's Jr. because I think their ads got super trashy a few years ago. I wear Toms because I really like the idea of helping kids have shoes. I watch Modern Family and I think it's hilarious. I read James Dobson books on parenting and I really like them. I like to root for the underdog. I think bullying anyone is terrible. I believe emphatically that the Bible is true. 

I didn't buy four boxes of chick'n minis in an attempt to shake my fist at the gay community. I think that's stupid. I bought them because I think it's ridiculous for the mayors of certain cities to raise such an outcry and attempt to shut down a business because of the religious beliefs of the founder. To me that's un-American and religious persecution. I wasn't standing up against anyone. I was standing up for me.

In the Bible, people frequently tried to get Jesus to weigh in on politics and they were frustrated that He wouldn't. That's the stuff of our agendas. God's agenda isn't about politics. It's about eternity. It's not about our kingdom. It's about His. 

And so I can't help but remember the story in John where Jesus meets a woman about to be put to death for adultery. The Pharisees had Jesus and this woman in the midst of a crowd and they quoted Old Testament law to Him saying "Moses commanded that she be stoned" for her act of adultery.  They were testing Jesus, baiting Him to say the wrong thing- either God's law is wrong or Jesus needs to agree with her death sentence. 

Jesus' answer is perfect. He said "He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first." So Jesus, right? And in the story each one who heard what Jesus said was convicted by their conscience and they left, until it was only Jesus and this woman standing together. Jesus followed up all of this awesomeness by telling her that He doesn't condemn her either and to go and sin no more.  

That's love. That's the stuff that changes lives. 

My darling husband reminded me tonight that as Christians we've got the wrong idea if we think we need to get caught up in a political battle. Because the way that we "fight" ought to be to get down on our knees and seek God's face on behalf of people that He created in His image. People that He loves so much that He gave His life for them. Sin is sin. There's not a better or worse kind of sin. And we're all a part of that crew- I'm a sinner in the same way that my gay neighbor is a sinner. There is so much more going on in our world than a fight over gay marriage. People are hurting, starving, suffering and dying. Kids are being sold into sexual slavery, beaten, raped and killed- the kind of stuff that should make us sick. 

We recently stopped going to a church because we felt like so many of the messages were about ripping into people who believe differently than we do. I get it- I believe that Jesus is the one and only Way, Truth and Life. But on a Sunday morning I don't want to learn about how satanic yoga is or how lame and sinful the church up the street is- I want to lift my hands and my heart in the worship of my Creator with my brothers and sisters. I'd rather focus on the beauty of what's right rather than lash out at anyone I think is wrong. I want my character and my life to be tempered by the same grace and mercy that I've found in Jesus. 

A great band got it right when they sang "politics schmolitcs... it's too confusing." 

Thursday, June 14, 2012


This month we hit the year-mark in our Colorado adventure. And let me tell you, June 2012 is about a billion times nicer than June 2011. Last June I woke up most days sure that we had made a huge mistake in moving out here. Our family car (the only one we all fit in at at the same time) was at aamco for weeks getting the transmission ripped apart, while Ricky worked one of the crummiest schedules he's ever worked (and he's worked some lame schedules). The dryer that came with us out here wouldn't work- it's gas and we needed an electric one, so while I didn't have a car I did have laundry for six people to hang on a line outside. My sweet baby girl started cutting teeth and stopped sleeping through the night; my six-year old threw fits at almost every park we went to, screaming "I miss Parker! I just want my best friend back!" until I felt like screaming the same thing back at him. We had no church, we had no friends, we had no money, we had no cute little condo steps away from the water in Oxnard, CA.  

I guess I just didn't think that packing up the fam and moving a thousand miles away was that big of a deal.

If you're considering making a big move with your family right now, don't worry. It gets better. But I'll be totally honest with you when I say that I've never wanted to swear or beat my kids more than I did in the month that we moved out here. (And if you know me, you know I'm not a swearer or a kid-beater.)

Praise the Lord, a lot has changed in such a very short time. And I think it's especially cool because it's all stuff that the Bender family has learned together. This isn't really my style, but my mind's a jumble of thoughts and stuff, so here are a couple of the biggies that we've learned:  

It is hard to be the new family. Particularly at church. I know that doesn't sound positive, but it totally is. I can think of two hands worth of people who really tried to get to know us in Oxnard and who we just kind of blew off because we already had a nice crew of friends. I'd call them up and say I'm sorry, but I can't because I never got their phone numbers and don't remember their names. We weren't purposeful in being mean, but we also weren't purposeful in being very nice. There have been a few people out here who've been wonderfully purposeful and sincere in their kindness towards us, and that's tremendous.

For my friends who have a safe and fun little crew of playdate, birthday party, zoo and dinner friends, let me encourage you to be tremendous to someone this week. When you see the new family trying not to be awkward at church or on your street, be purposeful and do more than just smile and say hi. For us, we've made a huge effort to have people over for dinner. Every Friday or Saturday night we're trying to get to know someone new.

It's awesome.  

 No matter what happens or where you are, let your spouse be your best friend. Remember sucky times together and remember the Lord's faithfulness together. Rejoice in little triumphs together and praise the Lord together. Be real with each other, pray for each other and remember that you're in this together. Whatever it is- a job situation, a crazy family, a tough move, just life and all the wild stuff it holds- be aware that the enemy of your soul wants to pit you against your spouse. Stand firm with each other.

This past year has brought Ricky and I into a whole new wave of friendship. I would pick up and move 1000 miles all over again just for the blessing of deeper friendship with my husband.

It's awesome.

Maybe there's something that you've been thinking and praying about doing, but you haven't because "you're waiting on the Lord." Ricky and I waited and thought and prayed for two years before we moved because we just weren't getting any kind of direction. There was no burning bush in our living room, with a booming voice that said "GO TO THE ROCKY MOUNTAINS." We didn't open our Bibles and read "MOVE YE TO THE MOUNTAINS." (Ricky's a King James kind of guy.) We just committed the weird itch for Denver that we had to the Lord and sent out some resumes. We figured that if we at least tried to let the Lord lead us while we stepped out, He would. And He did. At first nothing looked the way we wanted it to, but after giving it a couple of months, Ricky had Sundays off for the first time in seven years. He's working for a company that he'd dreamed of working with. It was scary and lonely and so fruitful.

God is your Father and He loves you. He knows you'll mess up, and it's not a sin to try something new.

I don't really know who I'm writing this to, but I know that I'm not alone in these things. I know that I have friends and family that are contemplating and going through big life changes. And I guess I just want to encourage you that it's worth it. If you're walking with Jesus, trust Him to be the mighty and loving Savior that He is. To you.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

i will not tell you how to potty-train.

This past Saturday was a biggie. We decided to really start potty-training Jovie and Lotta. If potty-training twins sounds awesome to you, you're crazy. You're probably one of those nuts I've met at the store who stops me and says something like "You have twins?! Oh, I've always wanted twins! I hope someday I get to have twins!" Don't get me wrong- I wouldn't trade those sweethearts for a thing, but really? I'm gonna be honest, this is my blog and I'm not smiling and nodding at you in Target right now as I say this: twins are hard. And when you meet a mom who has twins, know that she is a hardcore mama.   

don't mess. you don't know what I might do.  
Anyhoo, I'm not one of those moms that tries to potty-train my kids when they're like six months old. And I don't really believe in potty-training in a day. Maybe I'm jaded and sassy today (I have been sitting next to the toilet with two little girls for the past four days), but I like to wait until my kids are ready with some muscle control and verbal skills. I don't want to be trying to rush everyone to the bathroom because someone made what might be a poopy face. Which is why I'm not telling you how to potty-train- I'd be better suited to do a how not to potty-train blog.

Now I've potty-trained one kid before: Caleb. The Big C. Chubs. And let me tell you. Ugh. It took months. I'm not being sarcastic. One day he straight up climbed on top of the coffee table, pulled his cars underwear down, squatted and pooped. Right there. Living room, center stage. Bam. I don't mean to embarass the boy, but Oh.My.Gosh. Again, how not to potty-train.

So I was not excited to try two at a time.

But I've gotten to spend so much quality time with my little girls while they sit on that toilet, and it's been really neat. You don't get a whole lot of one on one time with twins, but since we only have one toilet upstairs only one kid gets to try at a time. So I've gotten to see a new side of my girls. They love to cheer each other on and poke at the Yo Gabba Gabba pictures on their cute (so cute!) little butts. (Okay seriously, how cute is it when your kid starts wearing underwear?) And then Fin runs into the bathroom giggling "poo poo" and tries to shove a truck into the toilet that Lotta's on. And Lotta yells "No Fin!" and falls off the toilet. True story. That girl's a clutz. But she's so pretty.

I had to put my phone away, let the laundry and the dishes pile up, and just hang out with my girls. And watch them, like really watch them. If you've ever tried to get a kid to get their pee in toilet you understand what I mean. I'd forgotten what a great thing it is to just hang out with my kids without trying to multi-task.  

We're four days in, diaper free and loving it. I think Jovie was born potty-trained because she hasn't had one accident. And I'm so proud of those two. They're so different and they love each other so much and now they know all of their ABC's because we sing that dang song about a million times a day.

And it's gotta be so much more fun to wear a cute bikini without your diaper hanging out.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012


I was a little nervous about Easter this year. We still don't have a church that we're really a part of and this is a day that I just love. Like there's a parade in my heart and I don't wanna sit still kind of love.... I'm a Christian and that's our day, you know? For the past five years we've been blessed to be a part of an (I really hate this word, but it's all I'm coming up with) epic Easter celebration with Reality (our church in Carpinteria/Santa Barbara/Ventura). It's like a massive worship Jesus party with all of our friends, and music and food and bouncy houses and I seriously look forward to it all year. It's like a little glimpse of heaven to worship Jesus in such a way, right?

Okay, really quick: Reality friends, you are blessed with a rare kind of fellowship! And you should all give each other hugs, pray with each other and go to In-n-Out together because if you leave you'll miss those times!

Seriously, guys.

All of that to say, Reality is not here in Denver. (Yet. I'm still praying.) And with the exception of one church out here that's quite a drive for us, we're having a really hard time finding our place to worship. I could go on for a while about the lack of passionate preachers and the rock star worship leaders we're finding so much of, but that would be lame- Easter. I'm getting at Easter.

This Easter for us was Awesome.

Through a long series of events, we've ended up with a sweet little crew of prayer people who are kind enough to drive to our house on Sunday nights, eat food and pray with us. Can I tell you how merciful and kind Jesus is to remind us when we're lonely that we aren't alone? He's used our Sunday night times to bring such refreshing fellowship into our lives.... in ways that are new and really exciting to us. I kind of feel like when we moved out here Jesus shook us up and turned us upside down in ways that stirred up our gifts that haven't been stirred up for a while. And  I could also go on and on about this, too. But I won't. Naptime is only so long.

But it's really, really cool.

So for Easter we had a BBQ, a pinata and some really great fellowship with our Sunday night goonie Denver prayer crew. What a blessing, right? Finlee ate her weight in grilled asparagus and we all had an awesome time. It's so good to have people.

A friend of mine (thanks, Amanda) pinned this quote from C.S. Lewis on pinterest and I'm already planning on how we're going to put it up in our new house:

 "There are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind."

I love that. It so sums up this last year of ours.

Oh yeah, we bought a house. Easter's gonna be off the hook next year.

Friday, February 3, 2012

An Ode To Ricky Bender

My very best friend in the whole world is turning thirty tomorrow and though he's ridiculously humble and chill about it, I'm not..... Ricky Bender is the man and deserves an Ode To Ricky for the thirtieth anniversary of his birth. It's pretty wild that only ten short years ago I was complaining to our friend Brandon in his Cadillac about how in love with Ricky I was and how he'll never make a move, just say all sorts of kooked out stuff that only left me totally confused.

He doesn't have a facebook account, so there's probably a lot you don't know about this guy.... If you know him, you love him and here are some little known facts about Ricky Bender:

He gets up at 2:30 in the morning for a twelve-hour work every day, six days a week. And he loves it- doesn't complain a bit. When we all call him at breakfast every morning our conversations usually go like this:
Me: "Hey man, whattcha doing?"
Ricky: "Just truckin in the USA!"
And then our kids get wild and there's a lot of "DADDY!" and cereal spillage.

He does the dishes every single night, and then he almost always joins me in bright yellow running shorts for forty minutes of cardio craziness with Shaun T (we do these DVDs called Insanity). He works out with me because he knows if I have a buddy it's so much easier to keep at it.... He's usually exhausted and pretends he's on a skateboard half of the time, but it's really, really fun. 

He does stuff while he's at work that is seriously awesome. For example, there's an old dude who works at one of the tire shops Ricky ends up at pretty often and he has a bad heart condition that makes it really hard to do some of the heavy lifting his job requires. When Ricky rolls up he'll do that heavy lifting for him without saying a word... He's just that guy. And he does that heroic stuff all the time- he's even rescued a kitten in LA.  He knows all of the workers at the truck stops he delivers to and people (other truck drivers and truck stop workers) ask Ricky to pray for them all the time.... Like totally random over-the-road truck drivers will walk up to him while he's unloading and pour their hearts out to him. Things like their kidney troubles and their hernia surgeries (why wouldn't you tell the guy unloading gas that stuff?), stories about their wives leaving them and how much they're missing their kids. When we got married we really thought we would be missionaries and I'm so proud that my man is a missionary no matter where he is.  

He has Biblical insight that would blow your mind. And I think the person benefitting from it the most is our son. They have Bible time every night and I absolutely believe that Caleb could sit in on an Old Testament class or an Acts class and hang. Those two will kill you at Bible trivia. If you're a girl looking to get married, find a man who will do this with your kids and marry him. And if you're man looking to be a dad study up and teach your kids the Bible- it'll affect every single aspect of their lives.

I've been reading through the Bible chronologically this year and it's been sick. Isaiah made so much more sense to me this way! Anyhoo, in my chronological Bible Song of Solomon and Psalm 127 are right next to each other and as I read through both of them I was really struck by how both of them are love stories. Psalm 127 is the "Unless the Lord builds the house" one. Ricky Bender isn't the most romantically inclined guy- not in the roses and candles and dreamy phrases sort of ways. But he will Psalm 127 with me joyfully till the cows come home, and that's the kind of romantic that means business.

I love that man.