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Adventures in Faith

We Named Our Son White Warrior, Here's Why

God gave Whitney the name Boden for our 1st son in a dream when we didn't know God still named people (it was common in the Bible). 

With our 2nd, Lukas, I simply asked God for a name and got a wild vision and a name.

So with baby #3, we figured we'd ask God and get a name. And we did. 

However, this time He brought us face to face with our sin and tested our faith like never before. Here's what went down...

Months before conception, Whitney asked God why she has a strong desire to have a baby girl. She sensed God saying, "I made you and I put that desire there."

Then, she asked if God would name the child, and He said yes. 

Scarlet popped into mind, she'd never considered it. When she looked up the meaning and saw "fine cloth" she got chills--or years she's had a vision of God wrapping her in fine cloth. 

Could we really know we'd have a girl named Scarlet before we had conceived? This was hard to believe because we badly wanted a girl and feared being disappointed. 

We started to see the name Scarlet everywhere, over 40 times in 6 months, here are a few examples:

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August 31, 2016

I was on a business trip in San Francisco, and Whitney called to tell me about a sense she had that we were going to have a baby girl named Scarlet. I was staying in the Hotel Scarlet. 


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October 7, 2016

I was at a meeting in Atlanta and realized I was in the Scarlet Oak Room. 


At our Church, mid-sermon I sensed Whitney was upset so I prayed, “God please comfort my wife and speak to her right now.”

Just then the pastor said the word “scarlet” three times in a row. Whitney later explained that she was feeling bummed, but when she heard the pastor say Scarlet she was reminded of God’s immense love for her and the vision of being wrapped in fine cloth.


Whitney was praying in bed and asking God for comfort when I song started to play, with the lyrics:

Though our sins are scarlet
You have made us white as snow


I had a pastor friend say to me, unprompted, "I have news for you...you and Whitney are going to have a girl." We hadn't even told anyone we were pregnant yet. 

We asked a friend to pray about the baby and name, and she became so convinced this was from the Lord that she went out and bought us red girls baby clothes!

Even our closest counsel was in agreement with us, we'd have a girl named Scarlet.


A correction from God

With sooo many Scarlet's popping up, Whitney and I asked, "are we being hypersensitive to this name?" But wondered why this didn't happen with the first two when we got their names in advance? 

I prayed for more clarity on the baby gender and name and felt God saying:

God's name is above all names, above ours, above Scarlet. Remember, I am God =)

Whitney prayed and asked God “What if I’m disappointed? What if we don’t have a girl?" and heard God whisper:

My love is never disappointing.

 

The big reveal

We finally got THE email with the test results that included all kinds of health indicators, including the gender. Would we have our little Scarlet??? We expected that to be the case.

Drumroll. We opened the email...and. it. said. BOY

What?! 

We were stunned.

Disappointment and confusion followed, there were tears.

Visions of a mother-daughter relationship, of perhaps a softer more gentler addition to the brood, all fell away...

The very next day Whitney had a health scare involving blood loss. Everything turned out fine but going through it made her realize that, above all, she just wanted a healthy baby. 

Slowly her attitude changed, she even felt guilty about having lamented over the baby God had given us instead of celebrating, and at once she became more thankful and excited. 

 

Getting to Finley

Even with improved attitudes, Whitney and I didn't feel like praying for a new name. Months went by and we'd ask each other, "Have you prayed about the baby name?" We hadn't.

In the fall I started to pray for the baby again. I prayed for hours one day and got a strong sense that this baby would be:

  • a gift to his mother
  • very strong
  • able to absorb scripture quickly
  • tall and holding a large sword

Then we had a confluence of events that, in short order, confirmed a name for us:

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First, we realized Whitney's grandfather's name, Finley, means "White Warrior"

Then, we saw that the verse we had drawn on our kitchen blackboard, Isaiah 1:18, included both the word "scarlet" and "white" in bold. 

We began to feel a connection to Whitney's maternal grandfather Finley (and great grandfather too, also named Finley). His nickname was "Whit," a reference to his surname, Whitfield, and the same nickname Whitney's closest friends call her. 

We requested 12/27 for the c-section, but it wasn't available. Instead, the hospital confirmed December 29th, which we later learned was Whitney's grandfathers birthdate.

Discovering this gave us goosebumps!

And exactly 105 years after his great grandfather, Finley Kennedy Whitfield, one Finley Everett Derfler was born as a blanket of snow fell outside. 

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Focus on Redemption

A simple petition to God for a name became a journey of doubts and confusion. Old ways of thinking about our family deconstructed and rebuilt. God whispered and guided us gently all the while. 

We had to confront the verses that say:

  • God's ways are higher than our ways (Isaiah 55:8-9),
  • He knows how to give good gifts (Matthew 7:11), and,
  • nothing, not even our children, must get ahead of God in our life (Luke 14:26), in new ways. 

If we're honest, going through this process wasn't fun. We still want a girl but trust God for the outcome. 

As we worked through our "stuff," this season taught us to constantly look to God, trust him, and celebrate what he gives us. 

Another Baby?

Speaking of having a girl or another baby at all, we'll end with this "Praise Report."

After Lukas was born, we were told Whitney shouldn't give birth again. Our doctor later refuted that, but doubts lingered about her reproductive health. 

So, going into this labor and delivery much of our prayer centered around her health and safety.

We count it as praise, then, that the doctor's report this time is that Whitney looks great and can "have 5 more kids if she wants!" 

So hey, who knows if we'll have a fourth child or not?

Only God. 

And we will truly, genuinely, be thankful for any outcome. 

A sign we have hanging in Finley's nursery.

A sign we have hanging in Finley's nursery.

Adventures in Faith

Unbelievable Confrontation on A Plane

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I had only a few hours of sleep ahead of my 07:05a flight to Atlanta, and wasn't in the mood to talk. When the woman sat down next to me and joked that she was "a whole lotta woman" and that we'd "become close on this flight", I smiled politely then closed my eyes and fell asleep. 

When I awoke 45 minutes later, I was surprised when this same woman turned to me and said this..

"What kind of work do you do?"

I said with some hesitation, knowing this makes sense to almost nobody, "consulting...in the Church."

She replied, "You're about to have an increase. I see a lot of progress coming on deals that you have been working on." 

"Wow, interesting that you should say that, especially now," was my retort. Then I asked, "Why did you just say that?" 

"Because I've been praying, and I feel strongly God wants me to tell you that. I'm a seer, when I pray I see things."

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Then I thanked her, and I told her that it meant a lot to me. As we deplaned, I gave her a big hug as I marveled to her that we, strangers who'd never met, could have this kind of exchange and even call each other brother and sister. 

She agreed, hugged me, and we went our separate ways.

I share this because:

  1. These kind of occurrences, this deeply moving “Intel” and encouragement just didn’t happen to me prior to following Jesus
  2. It happens now, increasingly so, as I grow in my faith
  3. Following Jesus is full of surprises, often from complete strangers who can quickly become your "brother or sister," your family, in Christ.  

Adventures in Faith

I'm Straight and Still Beg God to Reinvent My Sex Life

It started with Miss Piggy and her pretty pink curves at age three.

Then our baby sitter, then Debbie Gibson, a girl in my 4th grade class. I’ve got a list of crushes into the hundreds. From my earliest memories I was strongly attracted to many different women.

My first female obsession.

My first female obsession.

I was not born a "one woman man."

Maybe its genetic, I'm not sure, I just know my attractions, should I follow through on them, is not God's plan for me.

I was born in "original sin." 

In high school I wrote poems about women. In college, I took philosophy of art, beauty, and aesthetics courses and a figure drawing class where I'd sit for hours drawing naked women three years in a row. 

I waxed poetic about the lusts of my flesh as justified, natural, productive, a celebration of God's penultimate creation. 

Despite my parents stern warnings against sex before marriage, the allure of women was too much, my roots in the gospel too weak, and I not only succumbed to a life of sexual sin, I dove in proudly.

My world got ugly fast.

Me prowling the streets of Philadelphia circa 2010.

Me prowling the streets of Philadelphia circa 2010.

Deception in relationships, broken hearts, barely dodging pregnancy and disease, embarrassment and walks of shame, all as I slid into a pattern of companionship that left me ever lonelier. 

I often self medicated to enable myself to do what, in the depths of my heart, I knew was wrong. It was a raucous and wicked downward spiral. 

I had no idea that with each woman I slept with an imprint was being left on my soul that would not easily be washed away.

By society's standards I was a stud, playboy, lady killer, the character many men aspire to be. I fed on the attention.

My sin was about to be exposed.

Then I found a Godly woman.

The high of meeting a good woman, one who seemed to emanate light and goodness, was quickly followed by dread. As I learned of her strong faith and remembered what I knew about the tenants of my own, I felt like a stained rag. 

"What was I thinking?!?" I lamented. The gravity of it all hit me at once.

A long road of pulling myself out of the pit of  doing sex my own way instead of God's way was before me. 

Hard conversations. Shock by her at how calloused I had become. The effects of so many tangled relationships constantly popping up in photos, old social media posts, phone calls and texts I didn't want to get. 

It was a terribly painful process.

I had trouble not resorting to deception or half truths. It was hard to discern what to reveal and when. I subconsciously wondered how I could let the depths of my depravity be known.

We worked through it--this Godly woman and I--as she showed me unending grace. 

Marriage = doing sex God's way! (or so I thought)

Once I entered into the freedom of the marriage covenant with a woman I was wildly attracted to, I finally had sexual freedom! But the twisted tentacles of sexual sin began to pull at my new marriage in unexpected ways.  

As I drove home from work one day, knowing my wife would want to be intimate, I dreaded that I would not respond appropriately.

How could this happen? Never in a million years! This is a curse!

I gripped the steering wheel and pleaded to God, "Lord, please reinvent my sexuality!" Right away I heard God whisper, "Ryan, be selfless and make this about her, not you." 

I was learning how to love in a very different way, my very sexuality being reprogrammed from that of a predator on an unending hunt to someone willing to love unconditionally and sacrificially. 

Encouraging bumper stickers as I worked through my stuff. 

Encouraging bumper stickers as I worked through my stuff. 

Paying for my past.

My old life reared its head with certain triggers, like staying in hotel rooms while traveling, staying up late drinking, seeing old flames around town or online.

They were all major challenges that I've had to attack in repentance, prayer, talking with Whitney and other men who hold me accountable. 

A thousand times I've asked God to wipe clean my memory, to delete the images that are stored in the depths where I no longer want them. Over time, he seems to be hearing my plea. 

I've also found myself incredibly sad for the woman I was with. Many probably have deep wounds I can never fix. Even as I know I'm forgiven, it grieves me to know what I did to these young women who are made in God's image. 

Further, I've come to realize that in my sin my whole way of thinking about sex had become warped, self-centered, and in need of a complete overhaul. 

An awful nightmare woke me up.

The good news is that, as I battle to do sex God's way, the trajectory of my sex life has moved closer and closer to His plan. There was one instance, however, that resulted in a giant leap forward.

I had dabbled in sin, I can't remember what it was, probably looking at porn online.

One night I had an awful dream. I was being seduced by a woman and as I eagerly pursued her I was also aware of my wife calling out in search of me nearby.

I awoke terrified at what I was doing and in that moment God exposed my patterns of deceit, bitterness when I don't get what I want, bartering and manipulation for sex, game playing, all the effects of separation of sex from God's plan. 

I had a wave of fear hit me--fear of the coming wrath of God. So much so that confessing to my wife seemed like the easy thing to do!

The next day, while at work I texted my wife that we needed to talk so I couldn’t chicken out later.

My wife and I have come a long way since we were married in 2012. 

My wife and I have come a long way since we were married in 2012. 

I repented and asked for her forgiveness, and it led to a several week long conversation that was uncomfortable, and yet freeing.

Something changed in our marriage, I couldn't put my finger on it, something spiritual and good and necessary. This ugly sin that was confronted and lifted before God had somehow drawn us closer. 

It's a lesson I haven't forgotten. 

Stopping sexual sin in my family.

I take this sin seriously now, especially since as a society we openly invite sexual sin into our eyes and hearts, and we drift further from God's plan for sex and marriage. 

King David, a man after God's own heart, saw his sexual sin wreak havoc in his family. So I pray over my boys weekly, "Lord, please don't let my sins in this area affect them, please protect them."

I'm much more open about this issue now than ever before (this blog as a case in point). I talk regularly to other guys about this, a community that has bolstered my defenses.

My wife and I actively work to guard my heart, for example, we don't watch racy movies, and she thumbs through magazine's I get and tears out the soft porn that now comes in health, technology, even cooking publications. 

Regular immersion in God's word and in prayer is a hedge of protection. I also avoid the circumstances where I know I am weak and tempted, such as drinking too much, exhaustion, or mindless web surfing late at night.

Victory is possible.

I wish I could tell you God wiped away my whole past, but He hasn't. The pictures in my mind and perversions in my thinking have regularly eaten away at our intimacy.

I have a daily battle to take captive every thought and hold it up against God's plan for my life. Often after months of victory the ugly sin of lust will rear up from out of the darkness to try to devour me. I've had to learn to be vigilant and ready to do battle at any moment.

And yet, I feel increasingly that I'm no longer a slave to my physical urges. I've become mostly rewired to recognize that sex, even in marriage, is not about me, but is as is described in 1 Corinthians 7, where we learn that our bodies are not our own, but are given to each other. 

I yearn for the day when I have complete victory, when the thought of sex outside of God's plan repulses me, and when I see women not as objects for my own pleasure but as wonderfully made daughters worthy of love and respect. 

Even the fact that I can write that last sentence as a goal for myself, and not be so blind to the err of my ways, is a testament to what God has done in my life, and what he can do in yours too. 

And wildly, as God is apt to do, he's taken this weakness of mine and redeemed it as men now seek me out for counsel for sexual sin. Sadly there are so many who are lost. 


A quick guide + a sermon packed with truth.

After talking to lots of men about this very issue I created this short guide on what's worked for me to overcome sexual sin. 

If you want a biblically sound eloquent dive into this topic, watch this sermon by my pastor, Paul Anderson, of Grace Valley Fellowship, framed by his conversations with a gay Texas millionaire.

In closing.

When I first started to get serious about my faith, I remember hearing that some of the guys at church didn’t even masturbate, and I remember thinking, “I don’t think that’s even healthy!”

I never imagined that one day I would earnestly seek to save all sexual energy for my wife alone. And if someone had told me I needed to do that to be a Christian, I might have turned and run.

The point is, this is a marathon, not a sprint. Start by reading the Bible, and pray and ask God to reshape your thinking. Ask him to put people in your life you can talk to about this, someone with a Godly perspective. He answers when we knock.

Over time, through Christ alone, victory over sexual sin is possible.

...being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
— Philippians 1:6

Other posts on sex...

Adventures in Faith

God Spoke to Me Using Soccer Metaphor and It Changed My Life

A "Christian brother" and I fasted for one day and agreed to pray for each others "business," and this is what happened.

This impacted me greatly, as I processed what I heard God say to me so clearly. It opened my eyes to the glut of "training resources" and the shortage of Christians stepping onto the field, so to speak.

What I heard made so much sense that I began to share it to anyone who would listen. I realized that the times where God was speaking most clearly to me was when I was living it out on the field, I was doing something about what He was telling me to do.

I saw a way to help guide people into taking action with their faith, in fact, my job at the time for Cityteam was to do just that! I bought a web doman www.handsonchristian.com, set up social media handles, and even started working on a video to capture the message. I wanted it to be perfect so I worked my way into the Major League Soccer (MLS) Earthquakes stadium in San Jose, CA! 

This revelation then led to the creation of a concept to coax people onto the field. Being in Silicon Valley at the time, of course this ended up being conceived as a technology platform with gamification elements to drive outcomes and was communicated in this venture capital (VC) style pitch deck ;)

 

Soon two others were attracted to this vision, it resonated deeply with what God was telling them to do, and the three of us together set to work to build out a minimum viable product (MVP) of this concept over the course of 90 days. It was an impossible task by any measure, even for a 17 year Apply veteran, and skilled community pastor, and I, but we embraced the reality that if it was God's plan, it would work. Ultimately, we couldn't find a way to solve the problem in a way that would generate revenue and we all got job offers that took us away from the project. 

But what I heard from God on that day stays with me, and I continue to examine whether I am just training more, or if I'm actually on the field with regards to my faith. The pull toward the former is so strong.

In fact, the whole purpose of this blog is to encourage others to step out of their own comfort zone to take practical steps in their faith and their attempts to know God and Jesus.

And, I still have it in my sights to build something to this end--something that provides a trigger point to unleash people into the active practical aspects of their faith. My hope and prayer is that in late 2016 / early 2017, this vision might become realized.

To think that this all came from that vision God gave me in prayer during the World Cup in 2014, it's truly amazing how when we seek God in prayer, He can speak to us and inspire us, that in a single moment of quiet time listening, He can direct in such a rich way so as to literally change the way we think and even the trajectory of our life. 

Adventures in Faith, Most Read

God Named Our Son (Again)

For those of you who know Whitney and I well, you've likely already heard the wild story about how God named our first son, Boden. The story is documented here.

Well, back in November, while flying home from a family vacation in Mexico, I was praying on a flight and decided to ask God for a name for the second son, and He did not disappoint.

I think once you hear the details you'll find that what I heard and how it immediately was confirmed once we landed on the ground and looked up the meaning is extraordinary.

We're just super thankful that God gave us another name, and we're encouraging others to consider asking God for a name for your next little one in addition to the baby name books--He might have something to say!

A few days after I produced this video, the story continued...

You'll notice in the video that I talk about how even though what I heard from God in my time of prayer was the name Luke, my "response" back to God was Lukas. When I later told my wife what I'd heard, she also said she liked the name Lukas.

But, do we really want to deviate from the exact name God had given? All I had to go on to make the decision is that when I "responded" back to God in my thoughts, I didn't hear or feel any objection.

Well, I received a prayer letter via email from a guy named Jim Yost that answered the question! Jim lives and works in Indonesia. Everyone I know who knows Jim loves him and says what a Godly man he is and how God works through him mightily. I've been blessed by his email updates about the work he is doing caring for children, even adopting many into his home, as well as helping to respond to disasters and build the community where he lives.

This latest letter, though, was especially impactful because he starts with a Bible verse from the Book of Luke, only he has spelled it "Lukas."

This gave me a warming confirmation that perhaps Luke and Lukas are interchangeable after all. Praise God for that, because I want to listen to and obey him even in the details, and I'm grateful that God is interested even in the details of my life, after all, he knows every hair on my head (Lukas 12:7). 

2nd birthday update

At the two year mark we are really starting to see Lukas' personality, and it's uncanny how it aligns with his name and the vision God gave me of him. For example:

  • Lukas is unafraid of lots of things like climbing high places, picking up spiders, things like that. 
  • He runs toward trouble. We play this game sometimes where I hide and jump out, and where other kids turn and run, Lukas instinctively runs toward me eyes wide open on high alert. With the fight or flight response, Lukas is a fighter.
  • He picks people up, it's an interesting combo but one that aligns with the vision I got of him picking people up. When his brother gets hurt lately, Lukas runs over to give him a kiss or even help him get up.
  • He's a light. In our family, Lukas has a certain lightness about him. His smile is infectious, even strangers comment on this. He lately laughs out loud on purpose.
  • He follows his own path. At the playground Luke does his own thing, he is definitely not a follower, he is not easily persuaded. We anticipate that being a defender of the Kingdom of God is not going to make him popular, and God has designed him to be okay with that, he doesn't need the affirmation of others. 

People Getting It Done, Legends

Tamrat Layne: The Diplomat Who Met Jesus

I met the former Ethiopia Prime Minister Tamrat Layne, when he stopped into a Legends prayer meeting in Menlo Park. Over coffee and pastries, in his soft-spoke and humble way he shared this story about being jailed as a revolutionary and his meeting Jesus in person in prison.

God is doing amazing things through Tamrat and his wife, Mulu, on an international scale. His personal website is here

Adventures in Faith

The Death of My Sister (and a Heavenly Vision)

But, as it is written, "What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him." 1 Corinthians 2:9

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The phone rang, it was late, I heard one of my parents get up to answer it in the hallway just outside my bedroom door. Then rustling around and footsteps down the stairs. Back to bed, though I didn't really sleep, already eery. Then more ringing, I hopped up and answered, I heard my Dad say come to the hospital. Got Daren out of his bed, into the car, driving and praying, not sure what's going on, hypotheticals in the mind.

Arrive, park, into the building, somehow it seems we know right where to go, people have looks in their eyes like they know something we don't, the hall opens into a lobby, our parents are sobbing, immediately we are awash in sorrow. Not sure what's going on, told it's not good, she doesn't look good, a decision to pull her off support will have to be made, let's go in to see her.

Tubes, machines, swollen, black, blue, a sight i will never forget, make your way to the side of the bed, hold her hands boys, they are so swollen, as soon as we do, she dies.

Everyone crying, doctors, nurses, parents, me. A blur of tears. A blur of everything. Eventually, we exit the building, into the parking lot, the sun is coming up, traffic is building, cool air, the Earth is still spinning, it feels odd that it is.

Drive home...ringing, many phone calls, soon many flowers, it smells like a flourist. People visit, so many people, they bring food. They cry. They sit and talk and listen. So many cards in the mail.

Soon a funeral. A flood of tears, I learned to cry so hard. Damn, man, my sister, my big sister, she's not showing up anymore.

Days, a daze. Enough for me, I need to get back to something. I need to get back to college, my freshman year. How will I sleep? I can't sleep. I haven't slept for a week. I'm going to try...I lay down to sleep, and I do.

And then I'm awake. Oh my God! Hop out of bed, right next to me, there she is, my sister in full color! Immediate tears. I'm sobbing. I wrap my arms around here as tight as I can. Right away I ask over and over, "Are you okay?" She says nothing. I keep asking, she keeps saying nothing.

Then I lift my head and turn right to see her, to verify. I look right into her hair. It's glowing and flowing. Oh my God! She's wearing a red Gap hoodie, the same one she is known for wearing, we buried her in it. This is unreal...even as I type this, the words cannot express the sight, the feeling, the realness.

Then, she asks me one thing, "Where is Daren?" I tell her I don't know, and then, she's gone.

I jerk awake...sit up completely. I am completely shocked. What just happened. My sister is not in the room, but something is. There is a breeze...a poster hanging above my bed has a corner loose, it's waving in a breeze that otherwise does not exist. I wipe my face, which is soaked in tears.

On my God! I notice the time, just after five in the morning. Do I write this down, will I forget? I can't move for an hour. And yet eventually I return to sleep.

The next morning, I get up, shower, dress for school. I go down stairs to leave the house. I walk past the family room, and I see my brother Daren sleeping on the couch. It hits me like a wave...a sense of emotion and peace and understanding and so much more washes over me. Daren, my brother, is known for always sleeping in his bed. Many sleepovers growing up, Daren always retreats to his bed. Many guests visiting the house at this moment, they all insist we sleep in our beds. And yet, there is Daren sleeping on the couch, he's not in his bed, this is completely abnormal. "Where is Daren," the question Danielle asked me now makes complete sense to me.

I walk over to the whiteboard in the kitchen, and I write Danielle is okay, tears flowing from my face.

Off to school, walking on air, because I have an unexplainable sense that my sister, who had died one week earlier (and I would later confirm this vision was exactly one week to the minute after her death) was okay, she was in Heaven.

__________________________

Another week goes by. This time, I'm out driving with friends. This is what we do to "get away," we drive around the back roads of Lebanon County, PA, not caring if we get lost, and it's not too hard to get lost because there aren't many landmarks when it's all fields and pitch black. We just drive, listen to tunes, shoot the breeze. So, I'm driving, one friend up front, another in the back, when I make a right hand turn, and then all of a sudden, it happens.

High above me, and yet visible to me even as I'm driving, my sister, again. She's glowing, she's white, she isn't really a figure anymore, but more of a presence in the clouds. She's clearly in another place, again, words don't work to describe this. And she says to me, I'm so sorry. I'm so sorry this happened. Tell everyone I'm sorry. And then, she's gone. All this while I'm driving, and just when it ends, I look up to see a road marker and realize this all happened right when I had turned onto the same back country road where she was killed, just a mile down the road.

__________________________

These two things that I saw, what happened to me in this story, this gave me the most incredible sense of peace I could ever have over my sisters death. Even more importantly, it gave me a 100% certainty that there is a Heaven. And later in life, I started to work backward from this belief in Heaven to analyze the reality of God, the Bible, and Jesus Christ. Even though I was raised going to church and learned the lessons, it never really sank in to a soul level, it didn't sink in until I later poured over it, questioned it, and experienced it in this way, and many other ways since. Now my faith is central to who I am, I know that even through the death of my sister, God is so good, and his plan is far greater than I can understand. I now believe that God works through visions like these all the time, and he does miracles far greater than we will ever understand. And so, my sister's death, while a terribly sad occurrence that changed my family forever in deep ways, is also part of the foundation of my faith, and in that way, it is among the biggest gifts I've ever received.