What Is Saving My Life Right Now: Winter 2019 Edition

Last winter I was really struggling, but I made it through. I think it was the combination of lack of sunlight (one of Christchurch’s darkest winters ever, or so they say), a cold house, adjusting two members of our family to celebrating winter birthdays, and just regular depression stuff. SO MANY THINGS came to my rescue, and I wrote about them here.
This year I’m happy to report that, overall, my spirits have been so much higher!
Here’s the next edition of my answers to Barbara Brown Taylor’s famous question, “What is saving your life right now?”
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1. Sunshine
Like I said, it was SO MUCH sunnier this winter which inevitably boosted my spirits. Between June 1-19th last year Christchurch had less than 14 hours of sunlight, and the average for June is usually 119 hours! Even when cold this year, I took the opportunity to sit out in the sun and I didn’t have to get out my light therapy lamp or supplement with vitamin D. I’m a much happier person when there’s sunshine! Everything looks, well, brighter.
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2. 5 HTP + Magnesium
These two supplements I did continue and I never skip them! I take 5-HTP for boosting serotonin production which is an important chemical and neurotransmitter for us and helps regulate mood, appetite, sleep, memory, etc. I take magnesium to increase energy, calm nerves and anxiety, for better sleep, and to relieve muscle pains.
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3. Ducted Heating + Floor Insulation
We got (what I call) REAL HEAT in our house! *happy dance* Insulating the floor and getting our heat ducted through ceiling vents has made a massive difference. To my American friends: yes, it is almost like having central heating, hooray! Our home, our refuge, our safe space, is no longer perpetually freezing cold, yay! And I didn’t get chilblains 😄 PTL for a warm house.
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4. Yoga + Lunch
A big part of supporting my mental health is hanging out with friends. This is a hard one when you still feel somewhat new to a place (and you’re introverted) but you just have to put yourself out there, which is also hard when you have anxiety and depression. Thankfully, one of the yoga classes I frequented was always followed by lunch at the cafe across the street. When the teacher announces it in class, and everyone else goes, it’s hard to say no, even when some days I’d have rather gone home and curled up on the couch. I had so much fun getting to know people in my class and making new friends! We laughed a lot and ate some spectacular food.
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5. Rasa (Coffee Alternative) and Bengal Spice Tea
There’s nothing like a warm cuppa to keep the cold away. I had to get myself off coffee again after our stressful and busy ten weeks in the U.S. so I found this coffee alternative called Rasa. There are three different kinds to choose from, all full of adaptogenic herbs to target your nervous system and help your body recover from stress and give you sustained energy. I love it! Also Celestial Seasonings tea is hard to find here but we did manage to snag a few boxes of Bengal Spice, a spicy, cinnamonny, gingery, cardamommy, and clovey blend that reminds me of Kansas City winters with my mother-in-law, yum!
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6. Marco Polo
If you don’t have the Marco Polo app, GET IT and send me a message. It is a super fun way to keep in touch with people! I’ve had a blast sending videos to friends and family and receiving theirs in turn. You can watch it live or just whenever you have time, and they can do the same. It’s perfect if your loved ones live in a different time zone, if you want to send clips of your kiddos to grandma (and don’t want to deal with them “behaving” on FaceTime), and way better than Facebook messenger.
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7. Geraldine Ukulele Festival
This will probably make the list every year. It is so well-placed during the July school holidays, when it is the middle of winter and everyone is craving some good music and good company. Last year was my first time and I had a lot of fun, but this year… this year was even better than the first! I heard some incredible musicians, participated in fun workshops (and even got to go on stage!), cheered on my friends from Angelfish, met some cool people, and stayed in an airbnb with some lovely ladies who made me laugh harder than I had in a long time. Here’s my video of the weekend!
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And of course, John’s endless support and delicious cooking can’t go unmentioned… he really doesn’t get the thanks he deserves! Bless him.
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For now, winter is (basically) over and Kiwi spring starts tomorrow, the 1st of September.
Thanks for tuning in,
Abigail

Perks of (Our) Thanksgiving Abroad

22 November 2018
So we’ve now had our third Thanksgiving overseas and, over the past week, we’ve spent a lot of time reminiscing about our Thanksgiving celebrations on American soil. We missed extended family visiting from all over the country, late night board games, constantly bumping into people in the kitchen, catching up with stories and laughter, and eating a variety of dishes lovingly made by those we’ve known forever. Both our families even got caught in a blizzard in Kansas City this year! It would have been nice to be snowed in, baking cookies, and prepping our hearts and homes for the advent and Christmas seasons. And while it is really something special to celebrate with other Americans in our country of origin, we came up with a few perks of celebrating Thanksgiving abroad! In random order… 🙂
Friendsgiving!
We had so much fun inviting friends over and sharing one of our favorite holidays. Thanksgiving has always been huge in my family; one year in Kansas City we had 70 people! While this year’s event was a more intimate gathering at 13, we really enjoyed sharing what the holiday is really about. We didn’t whitewash the history for our guests and you won’t find puritan hats and indian feathers here at our house, but we were able to discuss the story of white settlers arriving to a new land and encountering indigenous peoples and what that must have been like. We each shared what we’re thankful for (the best part, really) and I just want to say how thankful I am for each person who came and ate with us!
Borrowing from a Friend’s Garden
I’m grateful to have friends in our neighborhood who are willing to share! I rode my bike to two different friends’ houses, one who shared rosemary sprigs (for the stuffing) and the other who let us borrow springform pans (for the cheesecake). One perk of celebrating on the southern hemisphere is that it’s springtime and nice enough for neighbours to have beautiful gardens growing, and the weather’s nice enough for me to ride my bike over for sharing!
Shops Aren’t Closed
It’s not a national holiday here so no one has the day off work. While this made our dinner start a bit later than normal (we waited for friends to arrive home from work), we were able to run to the shops last minute and grab a few things we’d missed on our first (and second) supermarket run(s)!
Homemade Pistachio Pudding
Speaking of supermarkets, we were able to find most of the usually hard-to-find-abroad ingredients like pumpkin, cranberries, and marshmallows, but one ingredient remained elusive…pistachio pudding mix. John’s family always has watergate salad at their Thanksgiving meal, you know the green stuff with fruit, cool whip, and marshmallows? Usually it’s made with Jell-O Pistachio Pudding mix but we couldn’t find any. This led to John making pistachio pudding from scratch, he literally shelled and ground his own pistachios! The pudding was delicious by itself, but we mixed most of it with homemade whipped cream, fruit and marshmallows for a less-sweet but super delicious watergate salad. A new (more involved) tradition I think!
An Opportunity to Practice Scruffy Hospitality
We’ve always enjoyed having people over to our house, but we’re not fancy hosts. Don’t be surprised if you have to get your own glass of water when you’re invited over here! For Thanksgiving this year we set up two big tables in our living room and, while it probably would’ve looked nice with tablecloths, we don’t have any! So our table was graced with crayon marks, mismatched plates and cutlery, different sizes of jars for drinks, paper towels instead of cloth napkins, stuffed animals all in a row, and the “save your forks!” announcement when we got out the desserts. Having friends over is more important than making sure the house looks perfect before they arrive.
We have so much to be thankful for, and here’s to next year’s feast!
Blessings <3

Ten Favorite Memories from Our 1st Year in NZ

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.

5. Birthdays

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

 

Our First Six Weeks: 6 Things We Love About NZ!

Hello! Long time, no blog post! Moving to a new country is hard, hey?! We often find ourselves exhausted and overwhelmed (<<thanks to culture stress) but that’s par for the course. We’ve noticed though, that much of the conversation in our home revolves around our excitement for NZ life! We are still so new to this country but at first “glance”, here is what we LOVE about living in New Zealand so far:

1. Eco-Friendliness

It seems that everyone and their mom cares about the environment here in NZ. And they don’t just SAY they care, they actually DO things to care for the environment. For example, at coffee shops you have to request a takeaway (to-go) cup when ordering. Otherwise, they just automatically put your drink into a mug for you to drink there. Generally, takeaway containers and grocery sacks cost extra to encourage you to use/bring your own! At every cafe I’ve visited, I’ve seen people bring in their own cups. It seems like everyone recycles and composts (the “trash trucks” pick up food scraps and compost it for you!) and I’ve overheard many conversations about being more green. Obviously, there are definite areas where we can all improve, but this is something that has stood out to me since arriving!

2. Opportunities for Nature Exploration

If you didn’t know, New Zealand is breathtakingly beautiful and a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts looking for spectacular views and amazing hikes. The South Island, where we live, is home to the Southern Alps and we get to drive by them all the time! We’ve taken advantage of nearby nature reserves, parks, ponds, and forests, spending time hiking, walking, and picnicking. We love to admire God’s creation, knowing full well God delights in our enjoyment of it. Our adventures out and about have helped us meet people, learn a bit about NZ’s history by reading strategically-placed signage, and simply explore our new area. Also, it’s free!

3. Cultural Diversity

One thing I noticed right away was the diversity in Christchurch. People who know NZ are probably laughing because Christchurch is actually one of the least diverse cities here! But even still, there is a great international presence here. We’ve met people who’ve moved to NZ from Germany, Ukraine, the U.S.A, India, Fiji, England, Canada, Colombia, and Chile. We’ve also been able to learn a bit about Maori culture, NZ’s indigenous Polynesian culture. The Maori language is popular in schools and is on various signage throughout the country. There are a few Maori songs and many words that get used in daily conversation that everyone seems to know. For example, “Kia Ora” = “Hi/Welcome” (Literally means “Be Well”), and “kai” = food.

4. Slow Pace of Life = Kind Citizens

We all know that Americans love to be productive, efficient, and busy. I’ve noticed a big change in my lifestyle since moving to NZ, surrounded by people who actually take vacation days and often have nothing on their schedule. This allows for time to explore this beautiful country and enjoy family and friends! People obviously go to work and participate in extracurricular activities, but it does seem like there is a slower pace of life here. It’s been good for all of us! For example, one thing I’ve noticed is the ability to wait for various fruits/veg to be in season. There’s no rush to have avocados in the Winter, they’ll just wait for Spring and Summer when they don’t cost an arm and a leg! Also more often than not, random strangers seem to enjoy taking the time to say hi and ask how my day is going. Everyone has been kind and welcoming to us.

5. Accommodating to Dietary Restrictions

Overall we’ve noticed that almost every restaurant/cafe has vegetarian/gluten free/dairy free options. I’ve met more vegetarians and vegans here than I’ve ever met in my life! Everyone has their own reasons for eating the way they do, and I love the intentionality behind it. Some do it for health reasons and some do it out of concern for the environment, but no one bats an eye at our family’s odd mix of restrictions. And better yet, there are loads of choices for us if we get the chance to eat outside our house (a rare occurrence, but still…)!

6. 100% Kiwi

New Zealanders are humbly proud of their unique culture. You’ll see “100% Kiwi” on labels and in shops, stating that the ingredients and/or labor all originated in NZ. Websites like ebay, craigslist, amazon, and groupon don’t exist here because someone has created a kiwi equivalent. There are hardly any outside chains, because Kiwis just create their own awesome stuff!

the sunset over our house last week 🙂

There are so many more things we love about this place, but I wanted to keep this short. You can count on us writing more about our life here as we continue to get settled and find our footing. Thanks for stopping by! Give us a shout if you’re thinking about us. It really helps in those times where we miss our dear friends and family back home <3