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
My breath was becoming ragged. The combination of the wind lashing the semi-frozen rain into my face, and the amount of energy that my body was exerting from forcing my bicycle up the face of this mountain forced me to take a longer inhale with each passing second. I looked up and saw that I was falling behind my riding partners. I tried to push the bike harder, to pedal faster, but my body rebelled.
By failing to exhale I was beginning to put my body into a downward cycle. By doing so I was leaving excess carbon dioxide in my lungs. My body noticed that there was an imbalance of carbon dioxide and screamed for my oxygen. But with every inhale coupled with a poor exhale, I was furthering this spiral of leaving more and more carbon dioxide in my body. If I had kept this up and not realized that I needed to even out my breathing, I would have run the risk of pushing my body into a state called “acidosis”.
Acidosis is an imbalance of the pH in our blood streams. A healthy person contains a blood pH of 7.4, while acidosis is usually diagnosed when the pH falls below 7.35. This might seem pretty minor, but it causes all of the bodies organs to work in a different way. Acidosis can cause some serious health risks, and it can even be life-threatening.
One of the healthiest models for Christian worship has a very similar rhythm and feel to it as does a persons breath. A person must inhale, and exhale, and so too must the church. We must gather together, which is the inhalation, and we must be sent out, which is the exhale. There is an increasing trend in American Christianity to put the majority of the focus on the gathering together part, and forget about the being sent out part. We are becoming dangerously insular. We have forgotten that Jesus, if he was walking the streets of a major city, would probably be more likely found in the apartments of a family of refugees, or maybe he would be talking with the muslim man who just came out of his mosque, or maybe he would be standing next to the man on the side of the street who is holding a sign (yes, the same man that you just drove by, pointedly ignoring him because it “isn’t sustainable” to give him money to use as he wishes). Regardless of where you would find Jesus, it would most definitely be with the disenfranchised of the world. It would probably not be in your church building (you know, the one with mauve carpet picked out in the 1970’s).
We are living in a time when the church is on the brink of blood poisoning, because we are a church gathered, and gathered, and gathered, and gathered, and STOP!! We have to breathe. We have to exhale. We must not only gather, but also be sent out. We must remember that God’s church does not have a mission, God’s mission has a church.
On hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
Church, let us go and do likewise. Let us be the healing balm to a hurting people. Let us be a breath of fresh air. Let us go in peace and serve the Lord.
Happy Thanksgiving from Northern Ireland! After all our time spent out of the United States, yesterday was the first holiday we spent away from extended family. I guess we always just planned our travels around the holidays.
After some deliberation, I decided to make a dinner of all our favorite Thanksgiving staples, and tweaked the recipes to make them more healthful. There’s no way I’m going to spend two days preparing foods only to feel like crap for the next few days! We invited some friends over and shared a roast chicken (Turkey is hard to find and quite expensive!), gravy, cornbread casserole, mashed potatoes, cranberry salad (we actually used currants… no cranberries until Christmastime!), stuffing, sweet potato casserole, apple pie, and pecan pie cookies. Everything turned out pretty well and I’m proud of John and me for pulling off an entire Thanksgiving meal ourselves.
Traditionally, this day is so focused on the preparation and eating of food. I am not complaining about that… I love to eat nutritious foods! I love celebrating by spending time in the kitchen with loved ones. This year looked different from years past, but the idea was the same. It’s also a great day to really focus on what we are thankful for.
I am so thankful for my family (near and far). I am thankful for fast friendships that have turned into familial ones. And I’m thankful for an abundance of food on my table.
We have been the recipients of so much generosity these past two years. Our fundraising period and our time abroad has shown great witness to the wonderful love of God’s people. There is no way I could ever say “thank you” enough to those who have shown so much kindness, hospitality, and sacrifice for our family. Our church families (past and present) have given up their time, their finances, and their resources to support us this year. On this Thanksgiving 2015, I want to say THANK YOU for giving! I know it sounds cheesy, but we really are so grateful. We are thankful for you.
Peace, love, and cranberry (currant) salad.
I left off our story here, where we met for the first time. I’m now going to skip ahead a little to the bit of time before our getting engaged:
My second year at college began differently than I had imagined. I was enrolled as a full time student but shortly before the drop out deadline I turned in my papers to get a refund for that semester. I began instead to look forward to spending a month in Haiti working at an orphanage. The month taught me a lot about the wrong ways to do ministry in Haiti, and a couple of the right ways. I did however find myself completely excited for mission work and for serving God. I scheduled a dinner with Abigail at Pei Wei when we she was back in Kansas City for Christmas break. I don’t remember what she ordered, but I had Kung Pao beef with brown rice :-). I remember that Abigail was dating someone else at the time, and they had actually been together for quite some time. We talked about all sorts of mission related things and I was really able to share my excitement and love for God with her. I vividly remember looking at her during the meal and praying to God, “If she ever becomes single again I would marry her”. I think this is when I really began to fall in love with her. It was the first time I was able to see her fully for who she is, I was able to see this woman who was kind, gentle, intelligent, beautiful, compassionate, and so much more! Unfortunately for me she was leaving in a few weeks to study abroad in Ecuador, and it wasn’t until a bit later that we started dating, but I like to look back on this and think that it was the beginning of me seeing her for who she really is.
Check back soon for the next installment and find out about our time as a dating couple!
Saturday was our last day with my parents after their visit. Hosea had an incredible two weeks with extra people to play with him, read to him, snuggle him, and basically give him undivided attention whenever he desired it. He loved being able to show his grandparents all of his favorite things to do around Northern Ireland. It was a busy two weeks, and we are all a bit exhausted after our many adventures. Saying goodbye didn’t seem too difficult, but today we really started feeling the effects of “grandparent detox”. It reared its ugly head around four in the afternoon. My boys were getting antsy having been inside all day, and the house began to feel a little too small. I loaded them in the car and headed to Straidkilly Nature Reserve for a little predinner adventure. Three turns out of our street and they were both sleeping soundly in the car. Naps in the car often put them in poor moods but I decided to persevere and hope for the best attitudes when we arrived. When I pulled into the entrance Hosea woke up. He started off with a little wake-up crying, but it quickly escalated into shouts of, “I want to go home!”. So we turned around and drove home.
But getting home was the trigger that set him off. We got inside and he cried his little heart out. It was as though his heart had been broken into pieces. He screamed that he wanted to go to the forest. I have never seen him so distraught! 5 minutes before dinner was ready, I caved and put him back in the car to try another short adventure.
When we got out of the car at Drain’s bay for a short beach walk he had finally calmed down. He looked up at me and his eyes started to tear up, his chin quivered and he said “Daddy, I’m sorry I was yelling. I just really miss Narna and Grandad, and I really want them to come back.” His little voice broke at the end of that sentence.
He had so much emotion in him that he couldn’t contain it, and screaming was the only way he knew how to deal with it. It reaffirmed my commitment to help my boys learn from a young age how to understand and express their emotions.
Walking peacefully on the beach was calming and cathartic. It was as though we could both sense what some call a “thin place”, where the space between heaven and earth is thin enough that you can almost tangibly feel the presence of God. That thin place helped him detox some of the nasty emotions that were plaguing him. I know that if we all go to God with an earnest longing to touch him, we too can detox from the nastiness of our sin.