Fog

This morning was one of those gorgeous mornings where the fog laid thin skeins of white around the tops of trees and houses, softening tones and exuding an aura of tranquility. I remember about a year ago, two years into the drought, how I stepped outside early one chilly morning and was surprised to feel moisture on my face. It was fog! It caught me by surprise, because we rarely got moisture of any kind in the air, but feeling the slight dampness was quite refreshing.

Now, three years after the drought began, I’m thankful to say that we’ve had rain this past month—several inches, quite a bit more than what we’ve gotten the last years combined! I’m optimistically hopeful that the drought has broken, but we’ll see. For now, I’m thankful for every drop of either rain or sunshine that we receive.

Fog

Have you ever noticed on foggy mornings that you can see things you don’t normally see? It seems strange—because, after all, the fog is hiding a lot of things from view, but it’s true. One thing I’ve noticed lately are spider webs. I run into them on a very frequent basis, but often can’t see them. When they’re studded with thousands of little gems, though, sparkling beautifully especially when the sun is just peeking through the clouds, they’re absolutely gorgeous. Spiders are living out a beautiful example of following our Creator’s plan and using the gifts they have. In doing so they not only bring glory to Him by following the guidelines He gave them in making intricate works of “art”, if you will (something that even man has to marvel at!), but also create very useful food-catching homes.

Amazing, isn’t it, how complex the Lord has made our world?

Rose

This morning as I was taking off for work, I noticed the flowers on the faithful old rose bush out by our gate. They wore a few dew-drops too, and served to be another pretty reminder to me to bloom right where I’m planted. I might not be big, or important, or have a whole lot of knowledge—but I can be the best me possible and serve the Lord with everything I’ve got right here and now, and in that way glorify Him. Just like the spider. Or the rose.

And speaking of which—I need to go help my brothers shuck corn. Guess “blooming where I’m planted” involves being faithful in the needed everyday work too! 🙂

What has your daily life taught you lately?

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?

Task Management and Bullet Journaling

One thing I’ve been working on lately is figuring out how to best manage my to-do list. I often have a lot of different projects going all at once, and along with that often a lot of little tasks. Keeping track of everything—and knowing what to do when—is something I definitely haven’t gotten down to a fine art yet.

Daily log

Sometimes, I have to wonder if a lot of the struggle is mostly found in the fact that I’m in an in-between stage—not a child anymore, not really a young teenager anymore, almost an adult but not really that, either. As I’ve put it to some of my friends before, “Adulting it is hard.” Sigh. (And yes, all of you people with many years and much more experience than me, feel free to chime in with any advice you may have!)

What I’ve been doing lately as far as task management is collect everything in Todoist, then work through it each day as I can. I love Todoist because I can paste in multiple jobs at once, and if I type them up right, the inline parsing setting will automatically assign dates and priority levels (1-4) to the different tasks. It’s slick, easy, and remembers the stuff I need to remember.

Often through the days, though, working with Todoist involves transferring jobs to my “daily log” notebook—a fun gift from my aunt!—which I love, because seeing something written down and completed on paper is just that much more satisfying. It’s also helpful in the fact that if I want to find out when I last did something in particular, it isn’t hard to skim back through my previous entries.

Daily log

However, this means that in effect I have two systems running at once. While it works, I would like to figure out how to do this faster—or eliminate one or the other to make things go smoother.

Lately, I’ve come across a system called bullet journaling. And although I haven’t looked into it much, I do know a lot of productivity gurus out there use it. However, I’m not sure the time spent (at least at this stage) would be worthwhile to figure out how to do it. One thing I have discovered, much to my surprise, is how much of a “thing” this is! Search “bullet journal” on Pinterest, and you’ll find pages and pages of pins. Look on Youtube, and it’s easy to find 10 – 30 minute videos.

So while I’m curious about how some people do it, at this stage I’m choosing to use what I have. I wonder if Paul’s admonition to be “content in all things” would apply here?

What do you use for keeping track of tasks? How do you streamline things so you get things done rather than always trying to make the process work better for you? Have you ever heard of bullet journaling before—and if you have, do you have any experience with it?

Snippets of My Life

“It needs to be something profound,” my brain argued. “If I can’t make a good contribution to someone’s life, then it isn’t worthwhile.”

“But you haven’t posted in weeks,” my more logical side contended. “Not posting at all is just as bad—if not worse—than posting something that may or may not be encouraging.”

Chocolate
I made some dark chocolate yesterday from cocao butter, cocoa powder, a bit of salt, stevia, and vanilla essence. It’s turned out delicious!

Sigh. The struggle is real, folks. But today, I thought I’d drop in and say hello and give a quick update on life. Outside, one of my brothers along with a few other helpers are currently scraping paint off the side of my sleep out in preparation for painting. This guy…he’s dedicated. I’m thankful. That job is one that I’ve wanted to do for years, but never taken the time for (partly because I knew it was going to be a huge job, and partly because I can’t stand painting). But he’s getting it done! Two walls are already completed, so there’s only two left to do. Definitely a blessing there!

We’ve had a family living with us for over a month now. That’s been an incredible blessing, giving us a lot more fellowship than we’ve had in a good long while. They’re currently waiting for their visas to come through so they can find a job and live here on more of a permanent basis, but for now we’re just appreciating the fact that God has brought them into our lives.

This morning I worked on uploading more books. I always try to stay at least a little ahead, but this week caught up with me and Tuesday didn’t have a review. I made up for that yesterday, and have now completed the project.

Uploading Reviews

Tomorrow, Lord willing, I’m planning to do a bit more promotion work for a book that launched last Saturday—the first in a collection of Jane Austen re-writes! This one was a retelling of Emma. That’s one of the books that I haven’t read, but would love to sometime. Jane Eyre is at the top of my classics list right now, though—I loved that story, and am hoping to reread it since it was so good. Maybe Emma can be next? Here’s a quote from the book, Emmeline, that I really loved:

Emmeline Quote

Such encouraging words. Yes, as I’ve discovered and rediscovered lately, prayer can be the most essential thing a person can have in their life.

I’ve been working on making Bible memory work a more consistent thing in my life lately. I’ve always done some, but I’d really like to make it an everyday occurrence. Lately, I’ve just been finishing up Luke 12:22–31. What a convicting passage! Usually, I don’t worry too much about clothing or food (another way I count myself incredibly blessed—or else cursed, if the comfort of that materialism has taken my focus away from the Lord), but I do tend to worry about other things. Reading through this passage lately has reminded me again of how much my worries are no big deal to the Lord. Simple or hard, ALL things are possible through Him, and I can trust that He has and will accomplish His bigger plan in my life. I just need to take it to Him.

“And which of you with taking thought can add to his stature one cubit? If ye then be not able to do that thing which is least, why take ye thought for the rest? And seek not ye what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink, neither be ye of doubtful mind. For all these things do the nations of the world seek after: and your Father knoweth that ye have need of these things.” —Luke 12:25–28, emphasis mine

I especially find the part about “doing that thing which is least” annoying—of course I can’t grow a foot taller just by thinking about it! Jesus calls this a “least” thing, though, so only imagine what could be done with our Father watching out for us. Wow. My faith appears pretty small when I think of things that way.

What’s kept you busy these last few weeks? What has the Lord been teaching you lately?

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!

Boating 02

Boating 03

My oldest brother took our youngest brother for a ride.

Boating 04

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

Boating 05

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.

Boating 07

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

Boating 08

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

Boating 09

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.

Christmas Outing 07

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.

Christmas Outing 03

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

Christmas Outing 04

Christmas Outing 08

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!

Christmas Outing 05

Christmas Outing 06

Christmas Outing 09

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.

Wait

Wait on the Lord

In my single-digit days, one of the things I most despised hearing from Mom were the words “hold your horses!” And, sadly, as I’ve gotten a little older that hasn’t changed much. She still reminds me, when I start heading down multiple what if? rabbit trails at once, to stop, be patient, and well…just wait.

Funny thing is, the Bible has some things to say about this too. Psalm 27:14, for example, has this to say about it:

Wait on the LORD: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the LORD.

And, of course, one of my favorite verses lately has a similar theme to it:

Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.” (Proverbs 3:5-6)

The thing is, God doesn’t always show us His “understanding” right away. He doesn’t even “strengthen our hearts” right away. He doesn’t always “direct our paths” just as soon as we pray, “direct me, please!”

It’s hard to wait when you’re afraid. Hard to believe that God really is going to come through and be with you, is going to follow through on His promises. I think of all those people listed in Hebrews 11, and wonder how many of them battled fear even while clinging to the faith that earned them a place among the “cloud of witnesses” (Hebrews 12:1)? Many, I’d expect.

So today, as I go about my daily life, trying to commit my cares to the Lord and asking Him to help me trust Him more, I’m asking for patience to wait. For patience to just rest, see that the Lord is good, and follow His plan.

Not trusting is wearing—physically, emotionally, spiritually. But trusting Him? While it may be hard, we can be sure we have a firm foundation—because Christ has risen! (See 1 Corinthians 15:13-22.)

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!

Earthquake damage 01

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!

Earthquake damage 02

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

Earthquake damage 03

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.

Earthquake damage 04

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.

Earthquake damage 05

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!

Earthquake damage 06

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.

Earthquake damage 07

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

Earthquake damage 08

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)

Earthquake 09

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.

Earthquake 10

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.

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!

Violet 01

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?

Violet 02

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.