Website Building and the Vine

Ever since—well, almost before Learning Resource Directory was launched, I’ve been wanting to change to a different name. I knew I wanted something shorter, easier to type, and catchier, but laid that aside to let my subconscious mull over it while I got more important things, like the website launching and more book reviews written, done.

Just a few months ago, I finally came across the perfect name. And although I’m not (quite) ready to share that with you yet, suffice to say I’m thrilled to finally have a name I love!

I bought the domain name several months ago, but didn’t have time to do any more then, as I wanted to research hosting (Gretchen Louise’s tips have been extremely helpful in that area!). I eventually decided to do in-between hosting on Bluehost, where I’m currently hosting this website. I’m not planning to stay here long-term due to a plethora of problems I’ve had, but for now I’ve got another year on the contract I’m on and I may as well use it.

Website Building and the Vine

This past week, I’ve transferred the domain to Bluehost, and am now getting into the exciting phase of deciding on a theme and how to put it together, what I’d like for a logo, how I want the reviews to show up (static, like I have now, or more of a blog layout?), etc., etc.

For someone who’s been through all this designing and tweaking multiple times before, for multiple websites, this is where all the magic (and a lot of the “Oops! I broke it. Now what did I do wrong…?) happens. Next job is to contact someone who designs themes, who has done one particular theme I’ve got my eye on, and ask if she does 30-day money back guarantees in the off chance it doesn’t end up being the right theme for what I need.

And as I sit here, pondering the work I have ahead of copying and pasting, and messing up and trying again and maybe—just maybe—getting it right the first time around for some things, I can’t help but think of that passage in John 15 where Jesus speaks of the vine and the branches. He’s the trunk, the roots, where all the nutrients and plant strength comes from. If that gets cut off, the vines and branches can wither in just a few hours.

Just like a new domain name on a new host—it has potential to do a lot, and if fed the right bits of code and has the correct files that are all interconnected properly, it works well and delivers the information to those who need or want it.

But if just one part of the coding is wrong—even one character off, it’s broken.

Like what mysteriously happened last night when somehow the connection between the two major parts of the website and this blog got disconnected, and they went down. Turned out all I needed was a few bits of text—a database name and a username, and perhaps a password—put in the right places, and we were live again (don’t ask me how they were wrong in the first place, but anyway—it’s obviously fixed now, if you can read this!).

Sometimes, it seems to take daily checking to make sure this website is up and running like it should, no pages showing funny gobbeldy-guck or not showing up at all.

And I have to think how important it is to keep going back to the trunk, the Word, to make sure everything’s still lined up right. No character misplaced, no essential file accidentally deleted. It often takes daily refreshing—both the browser tab kind, and the prayer and reading kind.

But it’s all worth it. Because, in the end, if we are still being fed through the trunk, getting the nutrients we need, we can thrive and grow and through that growth be a blessing to others.

Keep your eyes and heart on Jesus!

What have you been doing lately? Have you ever worked on putting a website together?

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.

Cultivating an Attitude of Gratitude 01

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.

Cultivating an Attitude of Gratitude 02

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

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.

Home Sweet Home 01

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.

Home Sweet Home 02

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!

Fearless and Full of Faith

A month or so ago, I was memorizing the last of a memory verses list that I had created a year or more previously. I came to Daniel 3:17-18, and as I began working on the passage I was struck with the beauty in it.

Imagine the scene:

Court retainers line the smooth walls of the throne room, their eyes keenly intent on the three young men standing before the great king Nebuchadnezzar, ruler of Babylon, conqueror of much of the known world. The king’s eyes flash as he stares down each unrepentant man by turn, his voice a low rumble of angry thunder as he bends toward them. “Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego that you do not serve my gods, or worship the golden image that I have set up?”

The young men don’t waver for a second. Not once does their gaze shift to each other, and yet they remain silent. Waiting. The court tenses, each man knowing the fate of these foolish leaders if they don’t follow the king’s command.

“I will give you one more chance,” Nebuchadnezzar continues, his voice growing harsher with each word, “to bow down and worship the statue I have made when you hear the sound of the musical instruments. But if you refuse, you will immediately be thrown into the burning fiery furnace.” He pauses for a second, his gaze shifting from one uplifted face to the next. His final words cut through the room, a defiant challenge to those listening. “What god can save you from my power then?”

The throne room is silent. The king still leans forward, his threatening, keen gaze on the three men—administrators of the province of Babylon—standing before him.

Slowly, one sandaled foot raises and settles without a sound, another follows. A young man looks down at the tiles below his feet for a moment, takes a deep breath, and as he raises his eyes to meet those of the king, his shoulders draw back—not in pride, but in power.

“O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king.”

The court gasps at his boldness, their attention riveted on the young speaker standing just one pace beyond his fellows. Many glance at the unmoving face of the king, then back to the firm yet hopeful countenance of the bright-eyed youth as he continues, “But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”

An explosion of furious words blasts through the air, shattering the breathless silence.

01

This statement…it’s powerful.

I don’t think I’d ever considered faith in the light I saw it in that morning while reviewing memory verses. These three young men—dear friends of Daniel—had complete trust in God.

I’m sure, as they stood there meeting the gaze of this king who could order their death at any moment, that there was some unease in their hearts. Any human facing death is bound to have a little (or maybe not, maybe I’ve always assumed that that’s a fact of life?). But they had such faith in the Lord that they weren’t overly concerned about it. They didn’t even mention death in their reply to the king! Their strength came from the Lord, and they knew it—and weren’t overly worried about other people knowing about it either.

This is true fearless faith.

Unswerving, unbending trust in the LORD, the Creator of the world and the Upholder of all things…including their lives.

As I was mulling over this beautiful fearless faith, I had to think of some of the other Bible stories that have to do with faith. Not too much later after memorizing these verses, my brothers and I listened to a dramatized audio version of David and Goliath from Your Story Hour. (By the way, I love how Your Story Hour shares Biblical stories! As a child, I often was quite bored with the same stories over and over, but they have a way of presenting them in a whole new light—I highly recommend looking into them if you want a fresh perspective for you or your children!)

Consider 1 Samuel 17:45-47:

“Then said David to the Philistine, Thou comest to me with a sword, and with a spear, and with a shield: but I come to thee in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom thou hast defied. This day will the Lord deliver thee into mine hand; and I will smite thee, and take thine head from thee; and I will give the carcases of the host of the Philistines this day unto the fowls of the air, and to the wild beasts of the earth; that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel. And all this assembly shall know that the Lord saveth not with sword and spear: for the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give you into our hands.”

Notice all the confident verbs (I think that’s what they are…correct me if I’m wrong!) in the passage. Again, David had no doubt that God would deliver Goliath into his hand; it was just a matter of going out and conquering him, which he saw as no challenge.

And of course there are plenty of other examples in the Bible too:

  • Abraham and Isaac (“God will provide Himself a lamb” Gen. 22:8)
  • Caleb (“give me this mountain” Josh 14:12)
  • Jonathan and his armor bearer (“there is no restraint to the Lord” 1 Sam. 14:6)
  • Jehoshaphat (“our eyes are upon thee” 2 Chron. 32:7)
  • Ezra (“The hand of our God is upon all them for good that seek him” Ezra 9:22)
  • Job (“I know that my redeemer liveth” Job 19:25)
  • Paul in the shipwreck (“I believe God, that it shall be even as it was told me” Acts 27:25)

I’m sure there are others, but these are the ones that I’ve remembered or been referenced to in my study.

I looked this subject up in my Thompson Chain-Reference, and the label they gave was “victorious faith”. That’s what these people had—victorious, fearless faith. Wow.

So I ask myself this evening: Do I have this unwavering, unrelenting faith in God?

Could I stand firm, even if I knew I faced certain death, and proclaim boldly that God is who He says He is and He will do what is best—whether to glorify Himself in taking me home to glory, or perform a miracle? That’s a tough call! I hope I can say yes, but I don’t know. Sometimes my faith seems to be quite weak!

How about you? Do you have this kind of faith? What would you do in a situation like the three young men were facing? Do you know of any other Biblical stories that would fit on this list? Has anything special popped out to you in your memorization time lately?

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?

Handed Over

Just recently, I’ve been pondering on a line from a movie about Brother Sheffey. It has come to me several times and been quite a challenge to my spiritual walk, so I thought I’d share it with you, too.

Blooming oregano

Near the end of Sheffey’s life, a young man came to him asking for forgiveness for a wrong he had committed earlier which effectively stopped Sheffey’s ministry. Following this request, Sheffey shared a profound thought.

“God never forces His will on men. He calls them unto Himself, but if they will not follow Him, then they have to go their own way. The campground is gone—not because you burned it, but because God’s people didn’t want it. And God let them have their own way.

“Every time we give up a part of our faith to try to fit into the ways of the world, we lose it forever. We lose a precious part of God’s promise. Sacrifice to the world, and the world will never give it back. And some day, when the world tells us we can no longer have our religion, except where they say, and God is driven from our schools, our government, and our homes, then God’s people can look back and know that our religion was not taken from us. It was given up. Handed over, bit by bit, until there was nothing left.”

Are you keeping the faith? Are you pushing on, against the tides of evil that are pressing in at all sides? Are you actively working against the roots of Satan that are trying to overcome your faith?

This is a sobering question for all of us, myself especially. It’s too easy to let things slip. But we must never, never do that.

Hebrews 10:22, 23—“Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;)

2 Timothy 1:13, 14—“Hold fast the form of sound words, which thou hast heard of me, in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus. That good thing which was committed unto thee keep by the Holy Ghost which dwelleth in us.

Hold on!

Hope // My Word for 2017

The word burst upon me with a riot of color this evening, the sunset turning the leaves on the trees next to my sleepout into a beautiful green sheen. Like stagelights, except better—much, much better, because the Master Stage Director (or whatever they call them) is in control of those lights.

Hope.

I’d been working on next year’s calendar, getting it ready for use (and to share with all of you; stay tuned for that!), enjoying being able have room for inspiring quotes—a first in my calendar-making experience. And as I worked on including another quote, the words jumped out at me.

“Hope itself is like a star—not to be seen in the sunshine of prosperity, and only to be discovered in the night of adversity.” ― Charles Haddon Spurgeon

Hope 01

Hope.

It’s a beautiful word, one that can convey so many different meanings. It’s one that often surfaces this time of year—the hope that Jesus has brought to the world through His birth, death, and resurrection. Hope for humanity beginning at the cradle and continuing through past the cross.

We say words so often that they become trite. Common. But this word—it’s alive. It can mean the difference between life and death. If you have hope, you can see beyond the pain of the present and believe through faith that your future will be better. If you have hope, you have something to cling to. A solid anchor. If you have hope, you can recognize the true beauty of the gift you’ve been given in Christ.

My mind drifted to a scene I saw as I flew home a few weeks ago after a two-week trip to the States. As we rose above the clouds over Auckland, I looked down to see the shadow of our plane floating below us. Around that shadow was a perfectly round rainbow. I’ve heard of seeing rainbows from airplanes before, but had never personally experienced it. And as I looked down, I couldn’t help but think how much the Lord is like that rainbow—surrounding us with His love, especially in the middle of storms.

Hope 02

I tried to get a picture of the rainbow. It didn’t turn out that well, but you should be able to get the idea! 🙂

Hope is like that—the life preserver, if you will, that surrounds us. A shield during the “night of adversity”.

Hope—for change, for a better future, in Jesus—is a beautiful, beautiful thing.

I don’t often get into “words for the year” or things like that, but this year I’m choosing hope. As daylight fades into golden droplets on the leaves—one last fling of color before another day is gone forever—I’m thankful for hope. Thankful that it is given to us, thankful that in Christ we have more than hope for a better tomorrow. We can have hope for eternity! Praise the Lord!

Happy is he that hath the God of Jacob for his help, whose hope is in the LORD his God[!]” Psalm 146:5.

Every Christian’s Nightmare

Every Christian's Nightmare

One night recently as I was getting ready for bed, I was suddenly struck with a thought. It might be worth something, it might not, but it did provide some interesting fodder to mull over as I went to sleep.

It’s every Christian’s nightmare that Jesus will go to sleep on us.

That isn’t going to happen, but have we gone to sleep on Him? Have we become so caught up in our day-to-day lives and our pet little routines that in effect we’ve squished any form of our Christian lives into one nice little bow-tied box called “I’m a Christian”? Have we begun turning to encouraging worship music instead of turning to Him? Have we slipped a little “devotional time” in our mornings or just before bed just so we can feel good about ourselves and know that we’re doing this Christian thing right? Have we so minimalized our Christianity that in effect we really aren’t any different from anyone else—we’ve just got a few slightly different daily rhythms?

Humor me for a second, and think about it. Are we really that pitiful?

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.)

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.