Rest in Jesus…Despite the Rapids

It was a gorgeously sunny day as my cousin and I drifted down the creek in our canoe. I was the lookout in front, and despite the fact that this was only my second-ever canoe trip, I was enjoying the blue sky powdered with puffs of clouds, birds trilling along the banks, and the lush green of the leafed-out summer trees. Compared to the last time I had sat in the front of a canoe, on my first-ever canoe trip, water rushing beneath me, this was blissfully relaxing. The last time?—not so much, as, unbeknownst to us before we started, the river was in flood stage.

This time, though, as I breathed in the clean scents and reveled in the day, I really enjoyed it—and tried to push away the fear that this time would end up like last time, with several of us clinging to a drowned log for dear life. The creek we were on had been in flood two days before, following a violent storm that dumped sheets of rain on the land. But today, with the creek down to manageable proportions and actually more perfect conditions than normal since the water level was still on the higher side, we glided through with ease. There were a few rapids to pass through—short stretches of tumbling, sometimes white-capped water—but thankfully even the one semi-trouble spot wasn’t too bad.

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First canoe trip. Notice our relaxed positions, as this was before we were tipped into the river!

“You know,” I mused to Beth as I shipped paddle for a bit on a particularly straight, gentle stretch in order to enjoy the experience more, “it’s interesting that these flat, smooth spots come right before some more rapids.”

We were silent for a little, as we glided past small cliffs for banks with tree roots embedded in them. “That’s true,” she said at last. “It’s a little like life, isn’t it? Things seem to be going along so well when—bam!—something happens, and we’re in the midst of trials again.”

We laughed, as we realized our thoughts had both been following the same direction. But as we paddled on—and yes, did have another short piece of rapids to go through—I was thankful for the time to spend with her, for the gorgeous day, and even more for the beautiful memories we were making together.

No matter what happens in the intervening time between when we said goodbye not long after that canoe trip, and when we say hello again, we know the One in control of the creeks of our lives…of our flimsy canoes, of our paddles, and, ultimately, of how we will respond to the rapids. And despite the uncertainty of the terrain, of what might be around the next bend, we can rest assured that in knowing Him, we know all we need to know for today. Isn’t that precious?

Have you gone on a canoe trip before? Did you enjoy it?

Home, Sweet Home

One thing I love about being away is that I can thoroughly enjoy being home again. In saying that, though, I thoroughly enjoyed my time away…the sweet, albeit brief, reunions and all the precious memories made with our friends and family. It was so good.

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Little sister enjoyed petting the donkeys at the Creation Museum when we visited!

But near the end, especially those last few days as we were packing up, saying our last goodbyes, and realizing that our time had already past—like that!—it was bittersweet to realize we’d soon be home. Back to “normal” life, to a normal routine again, to just being us again. I looked forward to that. But as I looked back over the seven weeks, I knew that my heart would always be partly there—with those dear family members. Those that though I only see them once every few years, they’re still some of the nearest, dearest friends I have on this earth.

When I think of that, I know I’m so blessed.

We’ve been home just over a week now, and it’s been so, so good to be back. So good to say hello to the dear friends here, to have the comfort of my own bed (even on the nights when it gets quite frosty out!), to have my own space and just be able to be with my own family.

And as I think of all I enjoy about this temporal home, I can’t help but think of the heavenly—if I enjoy this so much, how much more should I look forward to Heaven, where we’ll forever be with Jesus? If I looked forward to being back in New Zealand, how much more should I long and yearn for the better Home? It’s then that I see how shallow I can be in my Christian walk…and how much growing I still have left to do.

In our family devotions recently, we’ve been studying Jesus’ crucifixion. And despite how horrific that ended up being, it was really interesting to discuss some of the different traits Jesus displayed during His trial and death. Love, peace, patience, and courage, just to name a few. Dad pointed out that Jesus wasn’t focusing on the next whiplash, though—He knew it was coming, but instead of looking at the “now”, Jesus was looking far ahead to the “joy that was set before Him”. In part, that’s us—and all the other courageous saints through the past ages. That’s how He could endure. How He DID endure. Partly because He knew He had to, as there was no other way to redeem us, but also partly because He knew the reward at the end would be so sweet it would be more than worth the pain.

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A version of The Great Bible, printed in 1566, as seen in the Ark Encounter.

As my mind raced ahead, following that “joy that was set before Him” path, a thought clicked in place that I hadn’t quite considered before. That’s how God’s saints endured, all through the ages. That’s how they stayed strong, even when they knew they were going to the stake.

It was the joy set before them. They knew about and reveled in the Home that was waiting for them on the other side, so no matter what temporal struggles they had to face on this side, they knew it was worth it all…and more. Our Lord had gone through it already, setting an example for us, and they were just treading in His footsteps. They knew, without a doubt, where they were going, and what they’d get when they got there.

Oh, that I might have faith like that when my day of testing comes! And may we all follow the Lord ever more closely, so we can spend our eternity with Him, and with all our precious brothers and sisters that have gone before us. What a reunion that will be!

State Park Visit

One Sunday afternoon when we were up north a ways, one of our aunts took us five oldest out to a local state park. There’s a lovely trail through some woods around different water courses, and we really enjoyed our time walking and talking. It was a good way for us to get some quality time with her.

Just after we started off, a kind woman offered to take our picture for us. I was thankful! It’s not often that we get to get a picture with our aunt!

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The irises there were gorgeous!

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At one point along the trail, it opened out into a small sand dune. The boys loved running down to the water and climbing back up!

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Flowers and Family Time

We’ve been in Michigan for nearly three wonderful weeks now. The main goal of our family trip was to attend my grandma’s 70th birthday celebration, and all my aunts, uncles, and cousins were here for a few short days last week. Despite the hand, foot, and mouth disease that almost all the younger children caught, we had a wonderful catch-up time and made memories that I’m sure will last for many years.

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Grandma had some beautiful flowers in her garden!

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Last Friday, a lot of us headed to a local beach to cool off. It was a warm day, and most of us hadn’t seen much of Lake Michigan yet (at least not enough to have time to spend in it!), so we really enjoyed the chance to play in the beautiful golden sand and wade. I don’t normally swim, but I did get in a short water-fight with one of my brothers, so I ended up soaked too. It was a gorgeous, fun day!

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Afterward, a good part of our group climbed the Little Sable Point lighthouse there. I’d climbed it years ago, before we moved, so I decided to stay behind with little sister. The rest of the family seemed to enjoy it, though!

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Last Saturday, the last day we had with most of the family before they headed home, we went out to a local pond created by a dam. This is one of Grandma’s favorite nature spots; a lovely walk through good ‘ole Michigan woods, with great views of the pond and sometimes the wildlife that lives on it. We used to go there fairly often before we moved, so it was fun to see it again.

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Then Mom spotted a fully grown Monarch caterpillar! We got to looking closer at the milkweed on the edge of the road, and I think in total we found about eleven or twelve caterpillars. That was pretty exciting! They ranged from a few mm long (just hatched out) to just over an inch long (basically ready to turn into chrysalises). We got five that were almost ready to turn, which are all chrysalises now, and are hoping we will get to see them hatch out as butterflies sometime when we’re in Ohio. Very fun!

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What the chrysalises look like now (above), and what our baby worm that was just a couple mms long when we found him looks like now (below). He’s still not very big!

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I’ll end with an answered prayer for my brothers—they had wanted to see a snake while we’re here in America, since we don’t have any in New Zealand. It just so happened that there were about five garter (nonvenomous) snakes hanging around the dam that day, so we enjoyed seeing them slithering around for a while!

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I’m so thankful for the time we’ve been able to spend together! Thank You, Lord!

Our Purim Meal

Does your family celebrate any particular Jewish holidays? For the most part, our family have not celebrated any of them (aside from, perhaps, a commemorative meal at Passover time with other church friends or something like that). However, several years ago I made a Purim meal as a school assignment. I enjoyed the experience, although one memorable thing from that day was Mom’s mention of me having “too many pans on the fire”—a first for that particular expression for me!

Challah Bread

Either later that year or the next year, we celebrated Hanukkah together as a family for the first time. Again, it wasn’t anything fancy—basically just lighting the candles was the extent to which our “celebrating” went. But it was fun to remember the story and know that around the world there were other people commemorating the several-thousand-year-old holiday along with us.

This year, I marked on the calendar when Purim was going to be, more out of interest than anything else. When I saw last week, then, that it would fall on the next Sunday, I thought it would be fun to do a little something for the occasion. Monday became our day to celebrate, since I had the entire day free. It was fun to dig up the recipes I used four years ago, and put them to use again! I think I was a bit more organized this time, although we did end up eating a little late and I didn’t get the kreplach done. Oh well. It was a fun evening anyway, and having slightly different food for a change was also quite enjoyable!

Challah bread

Our menu for the night:

  1. Challah Bread (a traditional Jewish braided bread glazed with egg and I added some poppy seeds; a favorite around here. I’ve made it several times and it always disappears quickly!)
  2. Chickpea and Noodle Soup with Persian Herbs (should have put more salt and pepper in it—but it turned out delicious anyway)
  3. Roast Turkey
  4. Tomato and Onion Toss with Herbs (our family’s variant on a recipe I found online)
  5. Hamentashen (a triangular cookie with filling in the middle; I used apple butter and plum jam)

Tomato and Onion Toss with Herbs

One neat thing that coincided beautifully with Purim is that as a family, we finished reading the book of Esther just a day or two the holiday. What are the chances of that happening? But it did, and having gone step-by-step through the story together, this meal had a lot more meaning to us (well, to me at least!) as I thought of the beautiful story of courage and faith behind it. Only God could bring all that together!

Chickpea and Noodle Soup with Persian Herbs

Roast Turkey

Hamentashen

I’m not sure which was my favorite part of the meal to make—it would probably be either the Challah bread or the Hamentashen. I loved playing with the dough when braiding it for the Challah (and would like to try doing a five-strand braid next time!). I also loved shaping the Hamentashen. And one thing I learned—you can’t squish the corners of the Hamentashen too much. As you can see in the above picture, they come apart some in baking. Even if they might not be perfect, they did taste good!

Have you ever celebrated Purim or any other Jewish holiday? If you did, what kinds of food did you have with it? If not, do you plan to try it sometime—even if just for the experience?

Boating the Creek and Giveaway Winners Announced

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The giveaway ended yesterday evening, so today I had the priviledge of collecting the results and randomly picking winners! What fun! Thanks again, everyone, for entering and sharing while it was running. The publicity was much appreciated.

LRD 500 Reviews Party

And without more ado, I announce…

  • Kendra S as the winner of the $20 Amazon giftcard,
  • Megan C as the winner of the DVD When Things Seem Impossible,
  • and Deborah F as the winner for the Janet & Geoff Benge book.

All winners have been contacted, and their prizes will be sent off soon. (If you haven’t gotten your email yet, contact me here.)


I wanted to share a few photos from a recent excursion our family took to the ocean. We took a few friends with us, and my brothers spent some time blowing up one of their inflatable boats so they could go boating on a creek out there. It was a lovely sunny afternoon, and all enjoyed themselves immensely!

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My oldest brother took our youngest brother for a ride.

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While some people were out boating, the others worked on building up the “dock” a little.

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Then, since a day isn’t complete without at least one slightly challenging task, my oldest brother decided to create his own water craft: A “Y”-shaped log laid over another large log, the ends of the Y acting as outriggers to keep the raft/boat/whatever-you-call-it level.

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Those who were still out on the boat weren’t sure what to think…

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…especially when he asked to borrow one of their two paddles, as his pole (a washed up branch) wasn’t getting him very far!

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So they ended up making it back to port with one paddle, doing a bit of twirling in the water as they went. And the one on the logs got back in safely, too—amazingly, he didn’t even get wet!

Thus ended a fun afternoon at the creek.

I’m so thankful we can do things like this as a family—being out in God’s beautiful creation enjoying spending time together is a precious, precious thing. I’m so thankful for all my siblings and for the unity we have as a family. We’ve been through a lot together, but we can still smile, laugh, and praise the Lord for His goodness to us. Life isn’t always easy, but trials serve to highlight what a treasure we have in these relationships and the memories we’re making together. I’m so thankful!

Over to you: What have you been doing with your family lately that will leave good memories for years to come?

Christmas Outing

I meant to get this post up several weeks earlier already, but what with one thing and another that didn’t happen. Here it is now, though—late is better than never.

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Christmas has not been a big deal for our family for years. We’ll have a picnic lunch out by the beach somewhere, the boys will go swimming, I’ll have a chance to read something, and Dad and Mom just rest and watch the children. The last two years, we’ve gone to a beach about half an hour north of us where there are rarely if ever any people, and afterward picked cherries. It’s a lovely time to just be together and soak up fresh ocean breezes and sunshine.

Christmas Outing 01

Notice the piles of dirt to the top, far left—there are thousands of little slips (landslides) like that all over the area, all caused by the earthquake. Some of them were very big, closing major roads, and some roads aren’t open yet because they’re so bad!

This year as we were heading off the beach, Mom, another brother, and I, climbed up the cliff-like edge of the beach to get to the train tracks that we have to cross to get back to the van. We wanted to inspect the tracks, because we had seen from a distance that they were significantly moved around in one section as a result of the earthquake.

Christmas Outing 02

I didn’t get very many pictures from that spot, but we soon headed about 5-10 minutes inland, and also saw damage on the tracks there that ran alongside the cherry trees. In these two pictures, you can see how the railway sleepers were lifted out of the gravel they are normally embeded in, either by the bridge rising some or the land on either side of the bridge sinking a little. Also, notice the hole to the middle right of the picture above—the gravel had fallen through down toward the road beneath. The edge of the bridge used to be almost level with the gravel here.

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Little brother posed for a picture. You can see another place where the track sank behind him.

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I headed down the tracks a bit, to see what the bridge looked like from a distance—pretty impressive! This is typical of the railroad line in this area. Lots of little things that will need to be fixed before they can send trains down here again!

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In all, it was a gorgeous day to be out exploring earthquake damage and picking cherries. The latter weren’t totally ripe yet (they tasted better a week or two later), but it was still a fun day to be outside.

How was your Christmas? Share below, or if you wrote a blog post, link to it in the comments. I’d love to hear from you!

And one last thing before I finish—have you entered the giveaway yet? Only four days left! Get your entry in now.

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.

Faithful in the Middle of the Storm (a Farewell)

There are some things in life you could never see coming. Some things that you know could—will—come eventually, but ones you never expect until you’re much older. Wiser. More able to cope, or at least accept. But death is no respecter of persons, whether old or young. I just never thought it would come so soon.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016. 1:00 pm.

The date and time are stamped in my memory forever. That was when we found out that my oldest brother—only sixteen months younger than me—was dead. And more than that, that he appeared to have taken his own life.

Snippets of the day remain, pieces of memory that typify the day our family was turned upside down.

Mountains

Seeing a friend who works as a volunteer on the ambulance trying to get onto the radio, hearing the chatter of who knows how many other ambulance personnel (none of it as serious as our case) from all over this side of the island, trying to break through with the message—“Patient status zero. Call off all other responders.”

The incredible local volunteer fire crew, many of whom we know—some even personally. Many came out to be with us, if only for a little bit in those first dreadful hours.

Looking at the clock and knowing someone ought to call the family in the States, and soon—they’d be going to bed before too long—but knowing that you didn’t want to do it. But someone had to, someone who could still talk, so I volunteered. I hope I never have to deliver such painful news again.

The post on Facebook an hour later, asking for prayer for our family, and the instant almost overwhelming but oh-so-comforting messages that began flooding in. The bittersweet knowledge that many, many people were offering up prayers for us, for our situation—it was humbling. And so, so encouraging.

The nurses, who stayed around with us—just being there—until the police came to talk to several of us for their reports.

The friend who came as soon as she realized what had happened, providing a shoulder for Mom to cry on and just being there for us. Because she loves us. She made time in her day, even though she had a big trip to prepare for. What more could you ask of a dear friend?

One of the many dear friends of my brothers, who also came as soon as he heard…but couldn’t stay to talk, because of other things going on. Who then came back later when things had cleared a bit, and just listened and was here for us.

The many other friends that came that afternoon and evening as soon as they heard, telling us that they were praying for us, talking about now-precious memories, and overall just being a physical visible wall of support for us.

Path

The path ahead looks steep, but there’s One who has already traversed it for us. Glory to His Name!

So many snippets. So many little conversations in the midst of the murky confusion of that first and the following days as we—I—tried to come to terms with the fact that my brother was actually dead. I remember that first night clearly, as I lay down and burst into tears. “Oh, Lord, I’ve lost my brother!” And as that long night drew on, I finally asked Him—the One who knows all better than any of us could—to take it. To use it as He saw fit. And most of all, to help us heal.

Faithful. Many times, at different stages, I’ve wondered what it would be like to go through something really, really hard. I knew that I could praise God in the midst of everything going well; I often took time to do that simply because a heart of gratitude needs an outlet and I was so, so thankful. I knew I could find beauty in normal, everyday life. But I wondered if I could still do the same in the midst of heartbreak. If I could find beauty in the middle of brokenness. Well, I found out—and yes, you can! Our God is so, so faithful. Faithful to heed the tears and inward pleas from hearts torn with grief, faithful to point out simple, small blessings, faithful to be there, to be the solid rock even when the storm is raging. He is faithful.

So as I sit here tonight, just over three weeks past that initial shocking day that has changed our family forever, I’m still thankful. Thankful for the time I had with Seth, thankful for the blessing and sharpening he’s been in my life in the past, thankful for the many little memories I have of our time together. Two things stand out especially—our trip together to the US (almost exactly a year ago), and that time we went out for coffee “just because” only eight weeks ago. Both were firsts for us, and both were memory-making ventures that I will always treasure.

Sheep

“I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine….” (John 10:14) I love thinking of Jesus as our Shepherd, especially through times like this.

The pain? Yes, it’s still there. I’ve lost my brother, one who was probably my closest playmate in my early years. We did everything together, and still have done a lot of that even up till now. We’ve had to rearrange so many things since he’s gone—the hole in our family, in our hearts, is huge. Just the other morning I was redoing our cleaning roster, and deleting his name in order to move things around felt like deleting a part of something that has always been…and I knew would never come again. But God’s grace and love are still there, still holding us ever closer together. We can ask “why?” and “how?” all we’d like, but in the end although this wasn’t God’s original plan we know He allowed it. And by allowing it, I trust that He has a bigger, better “why” for us—all of us—in the end. We haven’t seen the completed puzzle yet.

For now, it’s taking faith and patience. Yes, we miss Seth. Terribly. But there is One who is supreme, and can—and I believe will—turn even this into something beautiful in His time. God loves us, and although we can’t understand the depth of that very well, I can testify to the fact that that has been revealed over and over throughout this whole ordeal.

Praying friends, all of you who have spent some time offering up prayers for us over this time, thank you. We still covet them—the path to healing is looking very long. Thank you for your support—we feel it. May the Lord richly bless every one of you.

Kowhai flower

The Kowhai tree out in front of my house finally started blooming—only about 2 weeks later than all other trees! Still, I’m thankful. Isn’t our Lord good?

My dear brother Seth, I miss you. You’re now gone, leaving us the chance to see how much you did for us on a daily basis. Not only that, but you’ve left us with an even deeper appreciation for each other. You meant a lot to us in your short sixteen years. I’m going to miss your love of coffee, your willingness to help with just about anything, and your determination even in the midst of difficulty. There’s so much I could say, but I won’t. Just know that I’ll always treasure the memories I have of you. You’re gone now. Gone to the God that we’ve been taught of and loved all our lives. I release you to Him—He loves you so much more than I ever could, and I have hope of seeing you again one day. Farewell, brother. Thank you for the determination you’ve left with me to love the Lord more, and to get to know His Word even better than I have before. Thanks for all you’ve taught me. Love, your oldest sister.

Photo Challenge Finale (days 6 and 7), Snow, and This Week’s Plans

Whew! Busy, busy times. Between a full-on weekend last weekend (often not to bed until 11 or so), getting sick for the good part of last week, and a few other things that needed to be done, I decided to take a break. I’m sure I needed it, but in many ways I always hate taking breaks because it’s often really hard to get started again.

However, this time it hasn’t been that bad to get back in the groove. Yes, I did miss posting the last two posts of the photo challenge, even though I did take pictures each of those days. I finally have time today to get this post up—yay!

Day 6:

Birthday deserts

I even got a chocolate cake in the end—wished on me by a cousin, and given to me by a friend!

It was my birthday! I spent the whole day playing in the kitchen baking different things (pavlova, sugar-free pavlova, and sweet rolls), which was really fun. That evening, several friends came over to help us eat the turkey that had been butchered for the occasion. We had a great time.

Day 7:

Cook-out 01

The boys decided to burn a pile of sticks we had out in the paddock, and someone suggested a cookout for Saturday lunch. So that’s what we did. They got one of Mom’s cast iron skillets, fitted a long pole to the handle, and settled it in the middle of the coals after the fire had burned down. They then proceeded to roast precooked sausages. It was a delicious meal, finished off with a few marshmallows!

Cook-out 02

Cook-out 03

After lunch, most of us headed out to the ocean. Ross, one of the friends who had come Friday, was staying with us for the weekend and we wanted to show him around a bit. Since we were going to be near water, the boys inevitably wanted to bring their boats along. They had a great time for a little while—until it simply got too cold to be on the water any longer!

Boating 01

Boating 02

Boating 03

Boating 04

The two little boys got cold first. They ended up sharing a towel for a bit, until the older one was offered a quick boat ride. Then the youngest sat on my lap in an effort to warm up a little while we waited for the older boys to get ready to leave.

Boating 05

Flowers

Someone had the brilliant idea of giving me a few of the early daffodils right before we left the ocean—I loved it! And it was fun to be able to use my new vase for the first time, too. Lovely spot of color for my desk, especially these last few days as a winter storm has finally brought a little moisture to our part of the country.

And now today, a week later:

We got a little rain the last part of this week, and both yesterday morning and this morning we actually had a little snow on the ground! That doesn’t happen very often, because we’re only 50 meters or so above sea level—we do have a range of hills between us and the sea, but even so we generally only get rain. This morning on the way to church I got to take a couple pictures of the gorgeous hills and mountains surrounding us. There’s nothing like a touch of snow to make everything look bigger and even more beautiful than before!

Snow! 01

Kaikoura mountain range

Snow! 02

Taken as we crossed a river north of us—these are some of the hills between us and the sea.

Since it was snowy and very frosty (so much so, in fact, that early this morning we couldn’t get any of the van doors open—they were frozen shut!), we set off for church half an hour early. There’s a fairly high range of hills between us and church, and we’ve slipped a bit before on black ice, so Dad wanted to take it slow. Praise the Lord, we got through safely with plenty of time left, so we headed out to the ocean for a five-minute stretch break before going back into town for church.

Ocean

It’s been a gorgeous day, and the sun just set about half an hour ago behind the trees and hills to the west. It was one of those golden sunsets, the kind that you have to just stop and take in for a moment or two. God is so good to us!

Plans:

I posted a “planning” post two weeks ago, and although I would have done a new one last weekend, that didn’t work out due to more worthwhile activities. This past week ended up having plenty to keep me occupied with anyway, even without goals to meet, and I learned some valuable lessons through that. Even though it was a more difficult week, God has shown Himself faithful in innumerable ways and I think I’ve learned to rest even more on His guidance. It’s tough at times, but I know He holds the future and in that I can find complete peace. After all, “…the LORD thy God, He it is that doth go with thee; He will not fail thee, nor forsake thee” (see Deuteronomy 31:6). What a promise!

For the most part, this week will probably be pretty normal, although next weekend is going to be busy. Lord willing, we’ll be attending a conference, so along with all the “normal” weekend stuff, that’ll be added in somewhere too. That means wonderful but FULL days! Even so, I’m looking forward to it. 🙂

To-do list from two weeks ago:

  1. Schedule reviews through the 31st
  2. Read The Destiny of a Galaxy
  3. Watch the DVD Fly Away Home (can’t watch this on my computer, so I’ll have to borrow Mom’s sometime)
  4. Read up/do practice tests for getting my learner’s driver license (nope, but I’m hoping to focus on that this week)
  5. Sign up for another affiliate program
  6. Work through the website to-do list
  7. Do some baking Friday!

This week’s to-do list:

  1. Write reviews of The Destiny of a GalaxySacred AllegoriesCapyboppy, and begin one for Coffee Cake Days (we’ve actaully almost run out of reviews, and I’ve read these lately so I ought to get the reviews written so I can post them!)
  2. Finish watching Ben-Hur and review
  3. Watch Fly Away Home
  4. Read Manuscript for Murder
  5. Upload reviews for the week
  6. Get this week’s newsletter out on time
  7. Study and practice for driving test

Overall, I’ve had a great couple weeks. I hope you have, too! Keep your eyes on Jesus this coming week and glorify His name!