Last week we celebrated ONE YEAR of living in Christchurch, New Zealand! You may remember our post detailing some things we loved after living here for six weeks but, now that we’ve been here for a year, there are just so many things to write about! We absolutely love it here and have enjoyed making friends and settling in to our new home. Here are ten of our favorite memories from our first year (in no particular order):
1. Shared Kai Sundays + Seating Change
You might remember that there were fewer than 8 people attending our church when we arrived a year ago. It felt SO EMPTY because there were like 60 chairs set up in the sanctuary! We took out over half of them and arranged the rest into a semi-circle with a few couches. This makes it a lot more cozy! We also organized a potluck meal for the first Sunday of every month. Seeing as how the people in our church are ethnically diverse, we get a delicious range of Indian, Kiwi, Samoan, and American foods! This has helped us get to know everyone in our congregation so much better because we all love to eat 🙂
2. Homeschool Journey + New Friends
We made the decision to continue educating Hosea at home. We didn’t want to do it on our own so we banded with a few other likeminded families to form a co-op! This is where we’ve made some great friends and shared in the joys and trials together. We’ve also taken advantage of all that the homeschool community has to offer. The boys have tried out and loved dance, gymnastics, bush school, and kids yoga, and we hope to do music classes and swim lessons next year!
3. Our First Summertime Christmas
We love Christmas and we love summer weather, but having them both at the same time was pretty interesting! We tried to re-imagine some old traditions like having frozen hot chocolate, playing outside on the trampoline instead of huddling under blankets inside, and planting a pine tree in our back garden, but it wasn’t quite the same. We figured out we really just need to create new traditions, so we’ll be working on that in years to come! We still got out all of our nativity scenes we’ve collected from around the world and listened to Christmas music as we celebrated with only our family of 4 for the first time ever!
4. Afternoons at the Beach
Growing up in a landlocked place, anytime we ventured to the coast for the beach we made sure we maximized our time there, spending every waking moment by the water. We now live within close proximity of several beaches and we discovered that heading to the beach doesn’t always have to be an all-day event! Many Sundays after church in the summer we’d head to the beach for a couple hours and just relax. Often the boys occupied themselves in the sand while John and I read books; it was glorious! Our favorite last summer was Cave Rock at Sumner beach.
All 4 of us have now celebrated birthdays here in New Zealand, in opposite seasons from what we’re used to. For Moses, an October baby, we hiked in the middle of a Spring downpour at Bottlelake Forest. For John, born in February, we went to outdoor pools and had ice cream. For Hosea, a July baby, we went to see a movie and made a cake. And for me, also born in July, we had hot chocolate and enjoyed a ride in a cable car up the port hills.
6. Hosting Visitors
Many of our favorite memories occurred while we had friends/family staying with us. We are so grateful we have people who sacrifice their time and money to come see us on the other side of the world! We’ve hosted my mom and brother, John’s parents, my aunt and uncle, and a few other friends passing through. It is such a treat to share with them our new home and some of our favorite places, allowing them to get a glimpse of our ministry and life here.
7. Quail Island, Tekapo, and Anakiwa
Many agree that New Zealand has some of the most beautiful scenery in the world and we’ve gotten to see some of that this year! Quail Island is an old quarantine area and leprosy colony just a 10 minute ferry ride away! We took a nice 3 hour hike around the island and shared a picnic together. Tekapo is just 3 hours drive from Christchurch and is the Southern Hemisphere’s only international dark sky reserve! There are beautiful mountain views, ice skating, and hot pools too. Anakiwa is in the Marlborough Sounds (a 5.5 hour drive from Christchurch) and our friends let us stay at their beautiful holiday home there! We tried out kayaking and stand up paddle boarding while sting rays swam beneath us! We have great memories from all three of these short trips!
8. District Assembly + Youth Camp
These two events helped us get a better idea of what our district looks like. We so enjoyed getting to know people from the other Nazarene churches across New Zealand! District Assembly was in Auckland in November and it was a time of multi-cultural worship, delicious food, and learning about the ministries of some other Nazarene churches. Youth Camp in January was in Whangarei and it was a time of late night games and music, energetic young people, and water play. Our boys loved hanging out with other leaders’ kids and the teenagers!
9. Mid-Winter Christmas Party
Some friends from church had the idea to host a Mid-Winter Christmas party in July. This was so much fun! We had yummy Indian food (biryani), decorated cut-out Christmas cookies, had hot chocolate with marshmallows, and played Christmas music. It was a fun time with our church people, and several invited friends too. This actually felt a bit more like Christmas than December 25th did, ha! We all want to make this an annual tradition now.
10. Baptism at the Beach
Near the end of Spring, two people from church asked John if he would baptize them. This was a big celebration for our church! We all went down to the beach while John and a couple others braved the icy waters (it was a cold day!) to perform the baptisms. Then we went back to church to warm up with lunch and tea + coffee. This was one of our first celebrations with our congregation and we’ll always remember it!
So there you have it: ten of our favorite memories from our first year! Undoubtedly there are great memories that have been forgotten from this list, but this is a great summary. Thanks to those of you who support and pray for us! We are forever grateful for your texts/phone calls/emails/notes of encouragement as we find our way. Here’s to digging even deeper roots in the years to come.
Blessings on the journey,
Abigail + family
“What is saving your life right now?”
This is a question from author and theologian Barbara Brown Taylor and she says it can be answered as simply or as deeply as you wish.
I’ve been thinking a lot about this as I make my way through these dark winter months. I’m really trying to embrace winter and do special things that you can only do in winter, but I often just feel like I’m slogging my way through. If you know me, you know I struggle with anxiety and depression which gets worse if I don’t take care of myself. I also have Seasonal Affective Disorder which basically means I experience more intense depression in a particular season which, for me, is winter. (Shoutout to all of those who experience SAD as well. I feel you!)
So after way too many days in bed, not changing out of my pajamas, crying all the time, and without any trace of energy or motivation, I sought help from a professional and started making small changes. I incorporated a few new things into my life that have really helped, and here they are.
These are the things that are literally saving my life right now (in no particular order):
I was asked a few months ago to join the front desk team at my favorite local yoga studio. I happily agreed and started opening/cleaning the studio on Friday nights in exchange for attending that evening’s restorative class. This was at the height (maybe “depth” is a better word choice here?) of my depression and to be honest, I hadn’t been exercising at all. This proved to be exactly what I needed during this season: not an intense workout, but a class focused on 100% comfort, that promotes rest + deep breathing, and where I’m completely supported in each pose by blankets, bolsters, and blocks. It was during these classes where I was able to quiet the inner chatter coming up with an endless to-do list and telling me I wasn’t good enough, strong enough, happy enough, or organized enough. This more mindful perspective helped me become aware that I needed to incorporate some other useful tools into my routine too!
Tea + Supplements
I went to a local Medical Herbalist and told her about my situation. She was super sympathetic and helped me decide on a few supplements that would help. She suggested 5-HTP, which boosts serotonin-production, hormone-balancing herbs like red raspberry leaf + nettles, adaptogenic herbs like eleuthero + astragalus, vitamin D, a multivitamin with extra vitamin B, and a St. John’s Wort tea. I was happy to see her again after two weeks and share how much better I felt already! Now a month after taking these consistently I can honestly say they are saving my life. I’m getting a bit of energy and motivation back, and nothing feels as hopeless as it did several weeks ago.
Light Therapy Lamp
I had been reading about the benefits of a light therapy lamp and saw that it’s really common for people who live in locations around the world that are dark for a big portion of the year. Looking back to 2015, I probably should have had one while living in Northern Ireland! We ordered a lumie lamp and I try to sit in front of it for at least 30 minutes a day (usually while I drink my tea!).
Some say music is the best therapy, and I often say I couldn’t survive without my Spotify subscription! I have so many playlists for various moods/situations and when I can’t decide what to play, Spotify does a phenomenal job of recommending new artists/songs/albums to me based on what I’ve listened to in the past. A song I’ve had on repeat recently is Truth About the World by Andrea Marie. Go have a listen!
Heated Mattress Topper
This may seem like a small thing but without central heat, I was feeling perpetually cold in our house. John found a good deal on this amazing invention: a heated mattress topper! It goes on top of the mattress but under the fitted sheet and warms up my side of the bed on three different heat settings. Whoever invented this has my eternal gratitude!
Funny Youtube Videos
There were many times where I had no motivation to get off the couch. On these days, my saving grace was watching funny youtube videos. Here are some of my favorites! Comedians Jon Christ and James Corden, “Cram!” ram videos, fail army videos, the best of cheese rolling compilation, and kalen allen cooking videos. My younger brother also helped recommend some hilarious videos for me to watch! Thanks Gabe! Check these out if you need a boost.
Books on Pilgrimage
If you know me, you know I love to travel. But feeling depressed makes it hard to make plans, let alone want to physically go anywhere. Awhile back I had purchased several books on the ancient practice of pilgrimage and reading about other travelers’ sacred journeys has encouraged me in my darkest moments. I love hearing about how people journey to holy places and discover more about the character of God along the way.
Experts in mental health say a creative outlet is “instrumental” (pun intended) to healing. I have been playing my ukulele a lot more when I’m at home and I’ve noticed a big difference in my mental state! My kids even ask me to play more now because “it sounds so peaceful”. I’ve always loved playing worship songs but I’ve also started playing some other non-church-related music and it has been super fun for me! I even got myself a new ukulele for my birthday while at the Ukulele Festival (a tenor!) and I’ve really enjoyed playing more often.
All of these things work together to help me get back to where I need to be. I hope you don’t see it as a to-do list (which only causes more anxiety and more feelings of “not-good-enough-ness”), but as an inspiration to find some healing in your own life.
As I sit here in my warm home, I look out the window to a torrential downpour and high winds. Living on an island has its weather-related perks, but it can also come with a lot of rain! We had a much drier Spring than normal so all this rain is welcoming, although we’ve already been issued a state of emergency and flash flood warning for the city of Christchurch, so maybe it’s a little “much” right now.
Several times this Summer I found myself saying, “This is the life!” Being a parent in Summertime brings me so much joy and I think this is what my dreams are made of. Hosea (5) and Moses (3) have spent their Summer constantly barefoot, covered in dirt from head to toe, running inside and outside with buckets of water, finding and collecting bugs, admiring monarch butterflies, jumping on the trampoline, and eating heaps of cherries, blueberries, and watermelon. On the cooler Summer days they’ve honed their crafting skills, cutting endless amounts of paper, taping things together, and twisting pipe cleaners while simultaneously building blanket forts, having light saber fights, constructing Duplo homes, and cuddling their new bunny.
Their hair is growing long but only one of them wants a haircut. Their muscles are growing strong and they’re both becoming great climbers. I had to get rid of the small pairs of underwear, because now they wear the same size. They’re both much taller than I think they should be. They’re not to be bullied by anyone except each other, and they’re quick to provide comfort when one of them gets hurt.
They’re encouraging and hopeful, funny and strongly feeling. They’ve experienced grief this Summer when their first bunny was killed by a cat and then immense joy upon getting another bunny 3 weeks later. They’ve made more friends and developed new skills, always willing to try out a new experience if the other one is nearby cheering him on. They’re getting better at pushing each other’s buttons, and also at speaking each other’s love languages. They share knowledge about common interests (currently: sea creatures, Ferdinand, animals, plant facts, Harry Potter, bible stories, rocks, forts) and can improvise plays on a whim, feeding off one another for each line! They’re inseparable, and they share their impressive and detailed imaginations with each other constantly.
“Summertime boys got it goin’ on. Shake and wiggle to a hip hop song…” (If you don’t know the song I’m referencing then, I apologize for wasting your time just now ?) They’ve done a lot of dancing and singing this summer, even joining mom and dad for daily workouts. They love to sing, often force me to sing various movie soundtracks in their entirety (think: Moana, Frozen, Beauty and the Beast) and occasionally put in song requests for our Sunday services.
Spending time with them this Summer solidified my decision to homeschool them. I’d been tossing the idea around for a long time, and we’d homeschooled for Hosea’s pre-k years already, but I decided I just couldn’t bear to send them away! We all looked at the pros and cons together and decided homeschooling was the right decision for now. I just love watching them learn and grow!
This is a snapshot of our life this past season, balancing a million different things, but loving our roles as parents the most. Boys at 5 and 3 are crazy fun! I’m not saying it’s easy, it’s actually really hard some days. But it’s also rewarding, enlightening, and challenging in all the ways I didn’t think I needed to be challenged.
Unfortunately 2018 won’t offer us TWO Summers like 2017 did, so until warmer weather visits us again, peace and blessings to you <3
I believe in the Holy universal church.
“I live a much more Christian lifestyle than those supposed Christians who meet at that church down the road.”
This sentence has been rolling around in my brain all weekend. I can’t seem to shake it. It was the beginning of a listening session that I was able to be on the receiving end of. The hurting woman told me about the horrible bitterness she had encountered at the church she was talking about (luckily it wasn’t the church I am pastoring), she told me that she didn’t have much respect for Christians, or for church politicking (me either). She rounded off by telling me that she would never understand why people would waste the time going to church. And finally she looked at me and asked what I was doing in New Zealand. I kind of chuckled and told her I had come over for work, and I half hoped she wouldn’t ask what sort of work I was doing.
She did ask, and I then got to tell her about how I was so serious about being a Christian I had become a professional one. Just kidding. But really I told her that I was working at a church in the area. I told her that we believe that things like shame and guilt and hatred and pain don’t have to stick with you for your whole life and that we believe there is healing from that. But at this point in the conversation I could have told her she had won the lottery and she wouldn’t have heard me. She had checked out of the conversation.
So I find myself wondering about church today as I preached the sermon, and as we prayed the prayers, and as I listened to my wife lead us in singing on her ukulele, and as we recited the creeds, and as our small congregation gathered for tea and bickies afterward.
It is of course trendy right now to say that the church is not the building, but rather it is the people inside who make up the church. I can’t help but wonder if this sentence has lost its meaning to many people. What does it mean to be the church anyway? What does the church do? Why the church? The church has always been, and I believe always will be known for her habitus; our embodied disposition. Those things that we do. When we love our God and our neighbor in actuality it is love that we become known for. Maybe try giving a listening ear or a hug if it is welcome. However if we simply meet together as a social club that is sometimes full of bitterness and church politics each week then chances are good we will become known for that disposition. If we gather and talk about all the things that Christians don’t do, then we will become known for that. If we gather and don’t talk, or don’t listen, or don’t celebrate, then I think you get the idea.
Maybe you’ve asked the same: “Why church?” It is a legitimate question. One that doesn’t always have an easy answer but I think novelist Flannery O’Connor speaks to it,
“I think that the Church is the only thing that is going to make the terrible world we are coming to endurable; the only thing that makes the Church endurable is that it is somehow the body of Christ and that on this we are fed”
Sometimes, when a person in my congregation will come to me and tell me they are frustrated and tired and about ready to give up on God, I won’t know what to say. I don’t know what to say a lot of the time, and I don’t know why frustrating, and horrible and hurtful things happen. I don’t know the answers to these things, but I do know how to hug, and I try my best to listen, and I try to be the body of Christ.
Maybe you’ve decided that you don’t need the church, and maybe you’re right. But I think its only because the church you’ve encountered isn’t the church that God has envisioned for God’s people.
Maybe you are hurting today, and frustrated, and ready to give up. If this is you, please know you’re not alone. Please let me (or someone near you) listen to you and hurt with you and be the body of Christ.
Do you think God takes sides? I’ve heard people say about this election that “It’s all part of God’s plan.” I can’t help but wonder if those people would say the same thing if the other side had won, or if the president-elect had been a black man, a Muslim, or a member of the LGBTQ community instead of being a straight rich white guy. Most of us would probably say it wouldn’t be any different and most of us would claim to believe in a God who is Love.
This notion of a God who is exercising a non-discriminating love towards all people should stand as a healthy protection against racists who do not believe God really loves dark-skinned people. It also should stand as a healthy protection against white evangelicals who instinctively feel (even when we deny it) that God is more concerned about us than about the unemployed workers who flock to Mexico City every day. Or at least surely we must be more blessed than them… right?
There is something false and unbiblical about this view of God’s relationship to the world’s peoples when we pit groups against each other and ask whether God is equally the God of the military dictator and those who are murdered by that dictator. Does God have the same disposition toward the victim of a plant closedown in Akron, Ohio as toward the members of the Board of Directors who shut down the plant (with no concern for what would happen to the workers)?
Maybe your God is aloof from such things; any other God would be a God who chooses sides. And surely a god who loves everyone wouldn’t choose sides would he? It might not be so hard for the biblical writers to imagine though. Let’s take a look at Exodus 1:8-14; 2:23-25; 3:7-10.
7 the people of Israel became so numerous that the whole region of Goshen was full of them. 8 Many years later a new king came to power. He did not know what Joseph had done for Egypt, 9 and he told the Egyptians: There are too many of those Israelites in our country, and they are becoming more powerful than we are. 10 If we don’t outsmart them, their families will keep growing larger. And if our country goes to war, they could easily fight on the side of our enemies and escape from Egypt. 11 The Egyptians put slave bosses in charge of the people of Israel and tried to wear them down with hard work. Those bosses forced them to build the cities of Pithom and Rameses,[a] where the king[b] could store his supplies. 12 But even though the Israelites were mistreated, their families grew larger, and they took over more land. Because of this, the Egyptians hated them worse than before 13 and made them work so hard14 that their lives were miserable. The Egyptians were cruel to the people of Israel and forced them to make bricks and to mix mortar and to work in the fields.
23 After the death of the king of Egypt, the Israelites still complained because they were forced to be slaves. They cried out for help, 24 and God heard their loud cries. He did not forget the promise he had made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, 25 and because he knew what was happening to his people, he felt sorry for them.
6 I am the God who was worshiped by your ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.” Moses was afraid to look at God, and so he hid his face. 7 The Lord said: I have seen how my people are suffering as slaves in Egypt, and I have heard them beg for my help because of the way they are being mistreated. I feel sorry for them, 8 and I have come down to rescue them from the Egyptians. I will bring my people out of Egypt into a country where there is good land, rich with milk and honey. I will give them the land where the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites now live. 9 My people have begged for my help, and I have seen how cruel the Egyptians are to them. 10 Now go to the king! I am sending you to lead my people out of his country.
We have a class struggle happening here. Two sides pitted against each other. Can we claim that this is God’s will? That one class would trample on the other classes? One side is forcing the other into slavery, but then God steps onto the scene. He clearly takes the side of the oppressed people. And we see in scripture that he always takes that side.
So is this “all part of God’s plan”? The whole earth is under the dominion of God and this is affirmed by Dutch theologian Abraham Kuyper who wrote,
“There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry, Mine!”
We have no reason to doubt that God is in control. The real question on my mind is this: “If God is in control, does that mean he approves of everything that happens?”
Part of the life of the Christian is to be in the center of the will of God. So if the answer to the above question is “Yes”, then God has chosen every single national leader, and has appointed them with approval. In this scenario, the military dictator who kills hundreds of thousands is appointed by God. The problem with this answer is that it runs counter to the character of God. It should then be noted that while God’s authority is absolute, his approval is not.
Drew Griffin once wrote “Everything that we do in our lives, every vote that is cast, every leader that ascends, all of it happens under the providence of God. However, God’s sovereignty does not give us license for sinful choices.” We are called to be the hands and feet of Christ. We are called to defend the oppressed. We are called to stand up for the voiceless.
So God firmly remains in control amidst the chaos. Are we off the hook because “It’s all part of God’s plan”? Is it enough to rest securely in that control?
I confess that I think we have gone too far with technology.
“Just a small town girl, livin’ in a lonely world.” This lyric from the 80’s hit “Don’t Stop Believing” stands to speak directly into the culture of today. Winston Churchill once said that we shape our buildings and then they begin to shape us. This is painstakingly obvious in the way we structure our communities. We build huge houses made for one family, and then we attach garages so we never need to go outside. We never have to see our neighbors.
The same is happening with technology. We have shaped our technology so well that we no longer have to sit in the same room as our family in order to have a conversation. Or when we are in the same room, we don’t need to use our voices. We now live in an age where we are “alone together”, which is the title of a book written by Sherry Turkle. She writes,
“Technology promises to let us do anything from anywhere with anyone. But it also drains us as we try to do everything everywhere. We begin to feel overwhelmed and depleted by the lives technology makes possible. We may be free to work from anywhere, but we are also prone to being lonely everywhere. In a surprising twist, relentless connection leads to a new solitude. We turn to new technology to fill the void, but as technology ramps up, our emotional lives ramp down.”
In 2002 Wilco wrote the lyrics, “Our stories fit into phones.” It is scary how true this has become.
So what do we do? Has the landscape of the world become so bleak? What can I do as a father to help my kids grow from children into adults who are not “alone together”? What do you do?
I don’t think that the outcome is necessarily so bleak. I think we can BE the church. A community of people that remembers they are part of the mission of God. As a father I am going to pray that my boys never know a moment in their lives apart from the people of God. I am going to pray that the church is woven into their tapestry of their lives. I’m going to work hard to model the church to my boys. I’m going to place my hope in a saving God, a creating God, a sustaining God.
I’ve made my confession, now go and make yours. And think about who you can reach out to this week (in person).
Parenting at any stage is fraught with trials and joys. Sometimes it is easier to see the blessings than it is at other times. This weekend was one of those times that I really had to look for the joys of parenthood. I’m not sure why…It might have been because of that time during our trip to Michael’s when my toddler climbed out of the cart and ran away only to be found a few seconds later by an employee. Or maybe it was the time when the dishwasher didn’t drain. Or maybe it was the time I opened the dishwasher that hadn’t drained and water went everywhere including leaking into our room downstairs. Or maybe it was the three year old in the backseat who kept wanting to argue with everything I said (even when I wasn’t talking). Or maybe it was something else, but I found that I had to search for those hidden gems of parenting joy this weekend. I found them in that moment when both boys are strapped in their car seats with the doors closed and I haven’t yet opened the driver side door. Or the moment of peace when my toddler falls asleep in my arms. Or the moment when I realize that both boys have officially fallen asleep and a quiet hush falls over the house.
These joys of parenting that I found this weekend were all centered around the same thing. It was all about finding peace in the chaos. Did you know that our bodies release a chemical in times of stress that acts as an analgesic, this is called stress-induced analgesia. The stressed body can produce powerful pain blockers that are similar to those found in illicit drugs. This can have the effect of numbing aches and pains that may slow the body down. They also can have the potential to numb a persons emotional range. So, truly it is possible to become addicted to stress. Maybe you’re a person who is constantly busy and stressed out, maybe you want to stop being stressed but can’t figure out how to say “no”. Does it seem hopeless? Keep hope, dear one, for God has given us a way out. In fact God has actually gone so far as to model a way out of this stressed lifestyle.
In the book of Genesis we see the narrative of creation in which God creates for six days, and rests on the seventh. This day later became known as the Sabbath. God, in his infinite goodness and wisdom, modeled this day. A twenty-four hour period of rest which, incidentally, is also the exact amount of time it takes for this stress-induced analgesia to completely leave the body.
Remember to find that rest, find that peace, and the joy in life. The peace that is life giving, that helps us to find those moments of joy. Walk in the peace of the Lord.