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.

Rest in Jesus 01

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?

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!

State Park 01

The irises there were gorgeous!

State Park 02

State Park 03

State Park 04

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!

State Park 05

State Park 06

State Park 07

State Park 08

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.

Flower 01

Grandma had some beautiful flowers in her garden!

Flower 02

Flower 03

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!

Beach 01

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!

Beach 02

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.

Pond 01

Pond 02

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!

Caterpillars 01

Caterpillars 02

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!

Caterpillars 03

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!

Pond 03

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

Jandal Weather

We’ve been in Michigan for a week and a half now, and yesterday the rest of Mom’s family arrived for the reunion. All eight siblings, the inlaws, and all 22 grandchildren are here. It’s been a blast. It’s so good to catch up again!

Today, a lot of the younger generation went swimming. It’s been a lovely warm day (hence the title!), and now it’s time to get ready for supper. I count myself really blessed!

​​​​​

When You Can Sing Again

Last Wednesday, nearly a week ago, we were invited to the home of a local friend for an impromptu singing. If you happen to know our family in real life, you’ve probably found out that we love to sing—so it wasn’t likely that we would be missing this chance! It was a lovely evening of praise to our Lord and Maker, and I think we all came away feeling refreshed. One song we sang that night, though, touched the deep chords of my heart.

It is the last song I remember singing with Seth.

01

We had been at a concert put on by all the families of our homeschool group, and as our family has done for the past 5-7 concerts we’ve attended, we sang a couple songs together and shared a short poem. The songs and poem all spoke of loss, but beyond that—of hope after loss. I had invited a dear friend of ours, a recent widow, to the concert, hoping that our words—however trite they might come across—would be encouraging and helpful to her in her grief.

I had no idea then that the very words which I was hoping would be an encouragement to her would become a lifeline of a memory, a grounding pillar to me, exactly a week and a half later.

It’s bittersweet to look back on now, knowing that my last memories of singing with him were singing together about the Lord’s healing and help in the middle of struggles we don’t understand. It was—is—powerful to think on.

After the funeral, when life is supposed to return to normal, I remember noticing my singing had stopped. Dried up. Daily chores that had often found me humming favorite melodies were now unusually silent. My heart was just too heavy—overwhelmed—to attempt to even consider finding something.

During those days, I could only cling to the Lord and my family. Together, we discussed our fears, shared our pain, and prayed…a lot. All we had then were God’s promises to cling to, and they became enough. Every time whys surfaced, every time the grief got too hard to bear, He was there to bear it. He took it. And I could sleep each night in peace, knowing that the Lord was there with us in the mess.

Then, one day a week or two later, I caught myself singing again. It’s then I knew I could hope. If that part of me could come back, a new normal could follow.

I don’t know what you’re facing today, what trials are burdening your heart and bringing pain-filled tears to your eyes. But dear friend, may I encourage you to look up? Even if your heart and throat cannot express yourself the way you’ve always known, do know that the Comforter is right there for you. He loves you. You! You might not feel able to grasp that right now, but that’s okay. Cling onto one more day, one more moment. The One who created the universe knows what you’re going through, and He does care.

That song that we sang last Wednesday, the one we sang as a family? I’m thankful I can still sing it today. And it’s become even more precious than it was back then. Here’s our family’s version of it—admittedly not that great, but that’s okay too.

Blessings on your day, friend!

Have you ever been in a place where you just couldn’t sing? How did the Lord help you out of that?

When Real Life Hurts

I never thought, that morning in early October 2016, how quickly my life could be tossed into a tailspin. I had no clue then how much pain and loss can be crammed into a few minutes—a few seconds—in a day. I also had no clue as to how much the Lord’s presence could be felt even when you’re facing your worst nightmare.

Raindrops on flowers

I had no idea. And in many, many ways, I’m glad I didn’t. But as I’ve thought back on the day my oldest brother committed suicide, I’m often struck not with the ugliness and agony of that day (although that was most definitely there), but more with the love—the love that can only come from Jesus—that flowed to, over, and around us in that time.

It still makes me want to cry when I think about it. His love is beyond explanation.

I didn’t—don’t—want to write about this detail in our family’s history. It’s ugly. It’s awful. But at the same time, as month after month slides by, I’m coming to realize that not talking about a thing (surprise!) doesn’t make it just disappear. This is what happened. And as I’ve been pondering and praying about what to blog about, this is the detail that I keep coming back to:

God is good, even when life is a horrific mess.

Just recently, I was reminded of those beautiful verses in 2 Corinthians 1:3–4 that go like this:

“Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.”

God’s comfort toward us was shown in a very mighty way over the months following my brother’s death. While I don’t want to “glorify” his death in any way, or “rub it in your face”, so to speak, I do think I’m going to talk about it sometimes from here on out. Because I know this is something—as ugly as it is—that I have learned a lot from, and if my experiences can be helpful to just one person, if these painful moments can help to comfort you in what you’re going through, I’ll count my time more than worthwhile.

I don’t know a lot. But I do know one thing: God is good. And I’d like to share just a little of that with you over the next while.

Have you been through some tough stuff in your life? Did you experience the Lord’s nearness in that? What did He teach you in that time?

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?