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

 

Winter is Hard + What is Saving My Life Right Now

“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):

Restorative Yoga

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!).

Spotify

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.

Ukulele

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.

What is saving your life right now?
Blessings on the journey,
Abigail

Summertime Boys

a rainy Summer day

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.

foraging for yellow plums

All this rain reminds me that the seasons are changing, and I’m thankful to live in a place with significantly varied seasons, even if they are at the opposite time of year than what I’m used to. Fall is coming, and as people are quick to point out, it’s actually Autumn that’s approaching, not “Fall”. Whatever your word for it is, when it arrives, all semblance of summer is gone. This was our first summer in our new home, and our “year with TWO summers”. Here are some thoughts on this waning season:

Marlborough Sounds

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.

water hose + trampoline = hot weather fun!

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.

our favorite plant-based ice cream

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.

admiring a monarch

“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.

enjoying the sun and sand (and the driftwood fort)

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!

pretending to be seagulls

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.

making “sand angels” instead of snow angels at Christmastime

Unfortunately 2018 won’t offer us TWO Summers like 2017 did, so until warmer weather visits us again, peace and blessings to you <3