Life and an Earthquake

Following written last Monday, almost a week ago.

What an adventure! Life certainly has thrown some curveballs at us these last few months, but I’m so thankful that God is still on the throne.

After losing my brother near the beginning of last month, I realized—possibly for the first time ever—that life can reallymess up your schedule for you. But no matter what’s been going on, God shows Himself faithful. While lots of things happen that we don’t want—and definitely don’t expect!—He’s still there, still taking care of us.

After the funeral, our family went through a lot of readjustments and reassignments. Some of it had been taken care of even before the funeral, but some hadn’t been, and what with lots of different people through during that time we didn’t have “normal life” happening at all anyway. And oh, what a blessing it was to have so many caring people gather around us during that time!

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Quite a few cups didn’t actually break–and as you can see in the picture, two different ones landed in the butter, thereby escaping harm!

Two weeks ago today, Grandma (Mom’s mom) arrived. She’s staying the whole month, and while that’s been going way too fast we’re so thankful that she can be here. That same day, I got my learner driver licence (learner permit), which is somewhat exciting and more than a little scary. I still don’t do backing very well, and don’t like intersections all that much. Open road is okay, though!

Last week, we headed way down south to a little out-of-the way village named Cass. Some friends of ours own a bach (cabin) down there, and we spent a delightful four days there. It was a good time for our family to just relax, take in some scenery, play games together, and overall just recouperate from the previous month’s activities. We’re so thankful we could do that!

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Just after the quake: Cleaning up broken jars of fruit.

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Then, early this morning, we awoke to a tremendous shaking. I don’t think I really woke up for several minutes, as I had been sound asleep when the earthquake started. Eventually it registered that the earthquake was getting worse, not better, so I crawled out of bed (couldn’t even walk—it was shaking too much!) and laid down beside it on the floor. I know not everything was registering then, but I do remember it was very noisy and very violent. Lots of books and other bits of things were thrown around in my room, creating several interesting piles to sort through and put back in order later. Incredibly, the one thing I thought would probably fall in a quake—a lamp on the top of my computer desk that I’ve accidently jerked down before—ended up falling the other way, landing on some books that had already collapsed. I’m thankful; it’s one less light bulb to replace, as those are already normally in short demand around here!

As far as damage around the place, we actually haven’t had much. Quite a few preserving jars were thrown of the shelves, but the majority stayed put comparitavely speaking. Mom’s favorite stack of crockery serving bowls was thrown to the floor, and we lost a few plates and regular bowls too, I think. And little things like tea cups. Overall, though, considering the amount of damage the quake did in other places, we got off very easy. I really feel sorry for those who have lost their homes—I’ve heard of at least five homes that are condemned, and I wouldn’t be surprised if there are quite a few more before all the inspections are over. Not to mention the people who have terrible messes that still need to be cleaned up, and the ones trapped in the different towns and valleys by impassable roads.

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The piano was flat against the shelves before the earthquake, and the boxes were in a stack to the left. The squash were all on shelves before the quake. And a bucket with wheat for the cow splashed all over the floor, although it (thankfully) didn’t fall off the shelves. Just lost 2-3 in. of water and wheat.

Yes, we have much to be thankful for. We’re still all alive and well, still have a place to call home and plenty of food, water, and electric, and haven’t sustained much damage. But even for those in the thick of it, I think they could too say that they’ve been blessed. It could be so, so much worse.

The earthquake could have hit at 12pm, instead of midnight—if it had, there would have been a lot more fatalities along the roads where slips (landslides) have completely blocked the traffic.

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After the quake, we moved all remaining plates and bowls to the floor. Just in case there was another biggie. Didn’t want to risk losing any more!

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We also moved all surviving jars to the floor. They stayed here for several days before my brothers put up barricades on the fronts of the shelves.

The tsunami could have been much, much bigger—as it is, I don’t believe there was much damage at all.

We could be in a third-world country right now, and not have the blessings of plenty of helicopters on hand to help get provisions into places that have no other access.

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Stuff that fell down in my room. The plant was also tipped on its side after the quake.

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Lots of books from my desk fell to the floor.

We could still be without power, phone, and internet—and yes, many still are, but almost everyone has some form of contacting the outside world now, and that makes it so much easier for everyone!

That’s just a few of our many blessings. I’m reminded of Jeremiah, and how in the midst of his crying about the desolation of Judah he breaks out in praise and says,

It is of the LORD’S mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness. The LORD is my portion, saith my soul; therefore will I hope in him. The LORD is good unto them that wait for him, to the soul that seeketh him. It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the LORD.” (Lamentations 3:23–26; emphasis mine)

Yes, the Lord is good to us. Even in the midst of trouble, He’s there guiding, protecting, holding, and being with us. Our God is so good!

Today, as I was mulling over this fact, a song came to me. I don’t know if it will embed here or not, but I’ll try. I thank the Lord over and over for the hope that we have!

This evening, as I am thinking over the past 20 hours’ events, I remembered a couple other encouraging references too. “Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.” (Matthew 28:20) and “Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the LORD thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest.” (Joshua 1:9)

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Relief work—lots of helicopters have been in and out every day since the quake. So thankful for those guys!

So as tomorrow will more than likely bring plenty of new aftershocks, as the many different helicopter pilots will spend another day ferrying food and other supplies up there and bringing people back (one refuelling station is right across the road from us, so we hear a lot of them coming and going), we can rest assured that the Lord is with us. That He’s watching out for us.

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One of the many things airlifted to Kaikoura. This is a roll of pipes, I believe—most likely will be used to help repair the sewage and water systems that have been broken in the quake.

No, life isn’t back to normal yet. We’re constantly developing a new normal, but that’s okay. That’s the way things should go.

Whatever you’re facing, friend, know that the Lord is with you, too. He loves you. Rest in that love.

Keep safe!
Esther

P.S. Mom has a few more pictures on her blog. Check it out here.

He Will Be There for You

This is a mantra I’ve been chanting to myself over the past week or so. Things don’t always go as planned, and when disappointments arise I find myself asking “what, Lord? What do you want me to do in this situation? Was I assuming something wrong all along? What’s Your plan for my life—what should I be doing right now?”

This coming weekend, our homeschool group is holding their annual concert. It’s a time for families and individuals to share something—a piece of music they’ve learned, a short skit, a poem, or something along those lines. It’s a fun event, often going on for an hour and a half or more.

We first attended the concert five or six years ago. It was the first time in my life I’d ever been on stage, ready to say something to almost a hundred people, and I remember clearly the knee-shaky feeling as I stood there staring out over this group of almost-strangers. We sang four songs that time, songs that I had memorized but my brothers hadn’t had time to. It wasn’t that great, but we made it through—and what a relief to have it over with!

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Being up on stage has gotten somewhat better since then. I now know almost everyone in the audience, and knowing in advance about stage fright has made it a little less frightening (funny how that works!). Still, as I prepare for another round, I often think back over the last few years. The hilarious skits we watched (or participated in), a few flunks, that time when several people were unintentionally mean…almost a microcosm of life, in some ways. There’s great, there’s bad, and as always just a bit of average. In the end, we all have an enjoyable time and are drawn together just a bit more as a group.

About two weeks ago, I picked out several songs to go along with a poem Mom suggested—What God Hath Promised by Annie Johnson Flint. We’ll be singing Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus and My Ways Are Not Your Ways to go along with that.

God has not promised skies always blue,
Flower-strewn pathways all our lives through;
God has not promised sun without rain,
Joy without sorrow, peace without pain.

I find the messages of these songs quite an irony now. Of course, I had no idea then what personal significance they would have for me, even though they’ve always been encouraging. But as I struggle with disappointment, I realize the Lord knew all along. He knew that I’d find the words strangely thrilling as I sing them over and over trying to memorize the songs.

You know, God never promised things would be easy for us. But He’s promised that whatever the trial, He’ll be with us. Sometimes, He calls us to walk with Him in the darkness, and often we can’t understand why (Psalm 22:1 would be an example). Sometimes, we can’t see Him—but by any even small examination of the Psalms, we can easily see that the Lord hears us. He understands, and more than that, He is worthy of our praise!

Consider Psalm 28:6-8, for example:

Blessed be the Lord, because he hath heard the voice of my supplications. The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusted in him, and I am helped: therefore my heart greatly rejoiceth; and with my song will I praise him. The Lord is their strength, and he is the saving strength of his anointed.

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Then there are other beautiful passages like Isaiah 43:2-3:

When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee. For I am the Lord thy God, the Holy One of Israel, thy Saviour.

Despite the pain, look to Jesus. Trust that He’s got a plan—a better plan—in place for you. You may be in the dark now, but He is your light. More than that, He understands and is more than willing to help you.

So this weekend, as we’re singing these songs and trying to be an encouragement to the dear friends who will be there, I’m praying that we will above all glorify the Lord. No matter what the future holds for any of us, He’s still there. As I was reading in Zechariah 2 this morning, He calls us “the apple of His eye” (I know, somewhat out of context…but it does apply, because just a few verses later we learn of “many nations being joined to the Lord”!).

Take courage, my friend. Stand in the strength the Lord has given you. I don’t know what you’re facing right now—perhaps, just maybe, you’re in a time of relative peace. Or maybe the devil seems to have all his guns out against you. I don’t know. But whatever is going on, know that if you’re truly following the Lord, this promise is for you: “He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength” (Isaiah 40:29).

Jesus Never Fails

Several weeks ago, I remember sitting on my bed one morning crying out to the Lord for wisdom. A big decision lay in front of me, either choice likely to change my future. The unrest in my heart was tremendous, and all I could pray was “Lord, which way do I take?” I remember hearing a bird singing outside—one of those beautiful short melodies—and remember the disappointed feeling that washed over me as I realized I couldn’t enjoy it in that moment. I love God’s nature, I do, but at that moment the darkness was so deep that I couldn’t appreciate it the way I would have liked to.

Can you relate? I’m sure you probably can. And while situations like that aren’t fun, they’re also often a great way for the Lord to draw us closer to Him. That time was an intense time of Bible study and prayer for me, and He proved Himself faithful once again. Praise the Lord!

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Since then, I’ve come across a few scriptures that have been a huge blessing to me.

Psalm 37:4-7

4 Delight thyself also in the Lord: and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart.
5 Commit thy way unto the Lord; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass.
6 And he shall bring forth thy righteousness as the light, and thy judgment as the noonday.
7 Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for him: fret not thyself because of him who prospereth in his way, because of the man who bringeth wicked devices to pass.

Proverbs 3:5-6

5 Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.
6 In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.

Hebrews 13:5-6

5 Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.
6 So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me.

I’ve spent some time today getting a few reviews up on the website. This job isn’t the most interesting job ever—I’ve been known to complain to a friend before that my hands have to keep busy, but my mind isn’t needed for it! While that is not quite true, since I do have to make sure everything gets put where it needs to go, I do often have a recorded message or music playing in the background so I don’t get too bored. In times like this, I’m thankful for the entertainment and encouragement from guys like the Emmanuel Quartet. I don’t normally listen to a cappella music, but I really appreciate some of the songs in this recording. And it keeps me from going bonkers, so that’s a definite plus!

(Okay; I’ve tried to set the following video to start at the beginning of their 20-minute set, but it doesn’t appear to be cooperating. Since the entire video is 10 hours long, it apparently struggles to calculate 8 hours and 22 minutes exactly. Sorry!)

One of the songs in this set by Emmanuel Quartet (4th or 5th song, I believe) is about how Jesus never fails us…what a beautiful thought!

I took a break from the computer this afternoon, and wandered out behind my sleepout to check up on a chicken’s nest I spotted there yesterday. One of our loose hens decided to make a cozy nest under some of the tussock out there, and right now we need to keep tabs on it so we know when she starts sitting. There are currently six eggs in there, so it’ll probably be another week or so until that happens.

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We’re also expecting new chicks from another hen soon. Lambs are starting to pop up all over the place, and we have a new calf. The huge patch of violets behind my house are blooming right now. Everything’s coming alive again—any wonder that my favorite season is spring?

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God is so good to us. On the dark days, even when you realize you’re struggling to appreciate the little things that normally give you joy, look to Him. Trust His word—whether you’re making a big decision or a minute one. He’s there watching, guiding, protecting and holding you. He loves you.

 

I’ll leave you with one final song, one that’s been a great encouragement to me lately.

The Rock Stands Forever

When I got home from work today, I found out that a friend of the family who had been planning to come spend the day with us tomorrow came today instead, and brought a friend along with him. It was great to meet her, and nice to catch up with him a little.

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The muddy color in the ocean to the top right is where a river (obviously very silty right now!) is joining the ocean.

After talking for a while this afternoon, most of the family went out to the local beach. We’ve had quite a bit of hot weather lately, so it was nice to relax and wade a little in the beautiful cool Pacific!

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We were on the beach for 15 minutes or so, and then headed up the steep, winding hill to the lookout over the bay. This is a favorite spot for us; we’ve taken quite a few different visitors up there. It never seems to get old, though.

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While we stood at the railing, enjoying the breeze, the sunshine, and the beauty around us, our new friend commented that these rocks have been there for a long, long time—even longer than she or I have been alive. Pondering that fact, looking at the intricately carved cliff face, reminded me of God.

“His Word lasts forever, too,” I commented as I studied the deep greens of the native bush in front of us.

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We might come past and look at it, maybe even dig a little into it to figure out why it looks the way it does. Generations come and go, and yet His Word is always there. Unchanged, unmoved, solid as rock.

“Lots of little faces have come and stared at this rock, just like we are now,” my new friend mused. “Then they go away, but the rock stays there. And more little faces will come and look at it again.”

Through everything—storm, wind, hail, earthquake, beating sun—the rock stands.

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Soon it was time to move on. My cousin, who was also with us, wanted to explore a track he had found there—that we had no idea was in the area, even though we’ve explored that particular beach many different times. It was a fun walk; we did a good portion of it in an hour and a half.

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A container ship we spotted from the lookout on the track.

On the way down, the boys all went at their own speeds, most getting to the beach and changed before we got back.

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I stopped to “smell the roses” for a bit. Except I think I forgot to actually smell them in my attempt to get a good picture.

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All in all, it’s been a gorgeous day! God’s creation is so beautiful . . . hearing the twitters and tweets of birds singing in the native bush, the crash and roll of the waves hitting the beach, the sucking knocking sound of rocks rolling in the receding wave, the indescribable blue blue of the ocean, the beautiful piney scent as we drove under pine trees, and so many other sights and sounds and flavors that I can’t even describe. God is good. God is so, so good.

And the really amazing part? Despite all this beautiful creation, that He can enjoy every single day of every single year, He chooses to love us—who scorn His very Gift all too often.

Challenge: What is one thing you can see from where you are right now that shows His beautiful loving care? That shouts that He is in control?