Cultivating an Attitude of Gratitude

There were maybe twenty of us youth together that December evening eight months ago—perhaps a few less; I’m not certain. Together, we had just come through a week-full of meetings at a youth conference, each day, on average, infusing us and the many other attendees with four Biblically-rich, challenging sermons. I don’t know if my sentiments then could express what the others were feeling or not, but I felt full. Spiritually fed, my soul enriched far beyond what I normally encountered in my everyday life. The Lord had shown Himself faithful in the days leading up to that chilly Saturday evening, showing me areas where I wasn’t serving Him to my fullest extent, and overall just drawing me closer to Him.

I felt full. And as I looked around the room at all the other youth—spread across the assortment of couches in the spacious, yet cozy-feeling living room, I felt so blessed to be there. To be able to spend a bit of time with these special people, some of whom were very close friends, some friends from years past, or relatives—and grateful to have shared the enriching week with them.

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Someone—our evening’s host, perhaps, who happened to be one of the speakers at the conference—suggested we all write down one thing we really appreciated or were challenged by in the previous week. As we each took time to look back, I know many of us remembered fondly different scenes from the week, and the room grew silent apart from the occasional humming as someone tried to put their thoughts onto paper.

Soon all the papers were gathered up into a plate, mixed together, then passed out randomly, and we each took turns reading what was on our particular note, then tried to guess who had written it. Some of the notes were quite in-depth, with several sentences dedicated to whatever the person was thankful for. One, I remember, simply said “Food!”—it was submitted by a younger guy in the group! While that provided humor for some of us, the thing that really struck me was how many people said they were thankful for the encouragement to be grateful. That was a theme that had been running throughout the different sermons that week, unintentionally (or intentionally by the Lord?) tying together each of the four different speaker’s messages. Although by far that wasn’t the only thing we learned it was one of the most memorable thoughts. And I’d hazard to guess that at least half of us there that night mentioned something to that effect.

Fast forward to last Friday, when I was trialing a new pattern on a jumper (online dictionary says this should properly be called a pinafore—new word usage on me!). The first attempt failed, and it was late that evening when I finished a second top, only to find out that it was way too small as well. To say the least, I wasn’t in the best of moods. Twice, the solution had eluded me, and frankly, I was quite disgusted.

The worst part about it? I had posted on Instagram earlier that afternoon—before, you can be sure, I found out that both attempts weren’t right—saying something about being thankful I could sew. That evening, I wasn’t feeling very thankful.

A latte and time for sewing this afternoon. #Thankful #littleblessings

A post shared by Esther Filbrun (@estherfilbrun) on

So yesterday, as I was happily sewing along, making my third try at getting this pinafore top done, I started thinking over what I’d learned at youth conference about being grateful. Then I thought about the gratitude list I had started right about the same time as the two failed attempts…and how, for some inexplicable reason, those two pinafore tops were not included in said list.

Any coincidence? I think not. After all, why would I be thankful for something I was decidedly not grateful for at the moment? Yes, I had appreciated the moment earlier—back when it was (ahem) social media-worthy.

But I knew it was a double standard.

So while, yes, I did write down gratitude for the completed one, I’m going to make sure to add the two failed attempts to the list, too—I learned something from them as well.

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Because if there’s one thing I learned from the youth conference, we as God’s temple* have something priceless at our disposal. Back in the Old Testament, under the old law, the tabernacle held something precious: The altar of incense. Today, under the New Covenant, we as God’s priests (see the 1 Peter reference below) are in charge of our individual altars of incense—praise and thanksgiving to the Lord. This is a task that should be attended as our highest joy, an outflowing from our hearts because of the inflowing of the Spirit as He does His work in us.

It’s a precious thing, one I want to keep practicing. So next time my side seams don’t match up, or the garment ends up fitting much differently than I had intended, perhaps I should post a picture of that and start a trend with the hashtag #ThankfulForFailure …and a chance to try again.

Have you been practicing being thankful for things lately…even if it’s things that really didn’t turn out the way you wanted them to? What has the Lord been teaching you through failure recently?

*See 1 Corinthians 3:16-17, Ephesians 2:19-22, and 1 Peter 2:4-10

Boating the Creek and Giveaway Winners Announced

Boating 01

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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Boating 03

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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Boating 06

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?

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.

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.

Eggs

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.

4 Things I’m Thankful For (Photo Challenge day 4)

After signing off about 11:12 last night, I decided that I’d try to get today’s post up in a little better time. Not only should it send properly in the email tonight (yesterday’s posted too late for that to happen then), but I should be able to get to bed earlier. Yes, should, not will–even if I am completely ready for bed at 9:30 it often ends up being 10 at least before I settle down. Don’t know why.

Anyway, today I thought it would be fun to do a “thankful” post. Now, I realize all of the posts in the challenge so far are basically thankful posts…but today, I wanted to share a few of the things that I’m particularly thankful for right now.

1 and 2. Light and new growth

Light and new growth

My original intention was to do a picture of “light”, but that seemed a bit pointless and then I noticed the new leaves just starting to grow on a tree in our yard! I love spring buds! Well, it is a month early this year, which actually isn’t that good, but there’s something refreshing and beautiful about fresh growth like this. And, of course, you can’t beat spring green—just about the prettiest color of green you can get!

3. Our animals, but especially our kitten

Our kitten

I like all of our different animals for a variety of reasons, most of them for what they give me (eggs, milk, meat, etc.), but I love our kitten. He’s got a great character except for the times he wants to play-fight, and loves curling up on your lap for a head scratch or a nap. He’s pretty fun to have around!

4. Flowers—even in the winter!

Flowers

I don’t know what kind of bush this is, but it’s right outside the laundry window. Adds such a cheery look to that side of the house, especially on rainy or chilly days! Of course, I love flowers at all times of the year, but in the winter it’s even more special.

5. Siblings

Book reading

Book reading 2

Playing in water

She poured the cat’s water from the yellow dish into the stainless cat dish, and then dumped the stainless dish—this is why her dress was all wet, Mom!

Technically, this doesn’t count because I already said yesterday that I’m thankful for them…but when they were so engrossed in their books this morning, I couldn’t help but take a couple pictures. I love these guys!

I’ve been working on getting more reviews up on the site today. I had them almost ready, just needed to get a few more things together. We’re currently on a streak of the latest movies that I’ve watched—and this will be the most movies I’ve ever put up in one row! Last time I did 4, the time before that 2, but this time we’ll have 9 in a row (the numbers keep doubling)! I doubt next time I’ll do 16 or 18 at once—that’s just a little much. I already have a couple more ready to watch or review, though…. On the line of thankfulness, I’m thankful for good movies to watch and be able to share with others!

O praise the LORD, all ye nations: praise him, all ye people. For his merciful kindness is great toward us: and the truth of the LORD endureth for ever. Praise ye the LORD.” —Psalm 117

Psalm 117 is one of my favorite psalms. Isn’t it special that the shortest and the longest chapters of the Bible have to deal with praising the Lord and and walking according to His Word? He is so good to us!

What are you thankful for today?

P.S. One more thing I’m thankful for today: For a keyboard that copies and pastes correctly. My old keyboard worked perfectly except that the CTRL+C command rarely worked on the first try (control worked fine on its own, and C worked fine on its own…they just didn’t work together very well), which meant I ended up hitting it 3-6 times in order to do a simple copy. I recently got a new one in the hopes that it would work right, and it does! Now to retrain my fingers to only hit CTRL+C once….