Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Baking Preparations

minty icing

1000 gratitudes...

318. Being reminded of the value of this ritual.
319. Getting to sleep next to a sister, jabby elbows and all.
320. An ever-memorable yesterday on Waiheke.
321. Ferrying across Kiwi waters.
322. Conversation with strangers.
323. Oohing and aahing to no end.
324. A safe time in our rental car.
325. Smooth cooperation between travelers.
326. Beaches that never lose their appeal.
327. Turquoise water between speckled islands.
328. A view of the Sky Tower from a vineyard's balcony.
329. Breaks for tired feet.
330. Fabulous food.
331. A wonderful beginning to this holiday season.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Christmas Art

christmas printmaking

1000 gratitudes...

308. Thumbing through new unknown books.
309. Sipping coffee while reading an old but new-to-me one.
310. City streets filled with God's creativity in faces and languages.
311. Being able to give Christmas gifts out of His abundant provision.
312. Soul stretch-marks.
313. Beautifully intelligent, creative people who inspire me - friends and strangers.
314. Honoring the concepts of age and repair.
315. Conversations that stir up bursts of belly-laughter.
316. Sharing in the baptism of a girl I've come to know through the church's youth group.
317. The familiarity of a sister.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Shards in Ritual


1000 gratitudes...

295. Getting to cream and chop and measure away the morning (i.e. make cookie dough) at a leisurely pace.
296. Rosie Thomas's voice and stories.
297. How this love of music was fostered in me from birth.
298. An amazing camera to capture the details of the mundane.
299. The familiar shops of Birkenhead.
300. My walking school bus routine, which has now ended.
301. The amusement of drinking an iced latte in December.
302. Hours to paint on large canvases.
303. Experiencing the application of knowledge gained in university art classes.
304. My favorite form of transportation: walking (unless the roads are in quiet countryside - then it's biking).
305. Humour!
306. Never knowing true physical starvation - bountiful provision of food each and every day.
307. The excitement held in tomorrow.

Summer Sun Within

Caffe Massimo [takapuna]

1000 gratitudes...

282. Beginning my day at my favorite cafe, skyping with a favorite person.
283. Sweet Kiwi kids (whose accents I forget about these days).
284. Lunch with a family I love.
285. Hours to paint and aspire to beauty in chaos.
286. The texture of dry paint against canvas.
287. Yellow ochre - a favorite color to see on my palette.
288. Derek Webb's honesty in joy, pain, and controversy (love all his albums).
289. Sharing art with a friend.
290. Walking beneath brilliantly red Pohutakawa trees.
291. Being brave.
292. Having so many wonderful people in my life to miss from afar.
293. Sharing Four on a Couch with friends.
294. A late night at the kitchen table, dipping fruit-nut balls in chocolate.

[I seem to have lost my rhythm here, folks, but here's yesterday's list. I'll try to pick up and get on top of this thing, as it has become a peaceful place to go for moments in the middle of my day as well as at the end of the day when my weary body needs to recapture all the beauty.]

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Baking Day

fruit-nut balls 3

1000 gratitudes...

271. The giant stuffed tiger in this borrowed bedroom.
272. Missy Higgins as today's baking soundtrack.
273. Conversation with a friend who knows me so well.
274. A beach saturated with beauty.
275. Hearing the word "quid" again.
276. Having Someone to express and trust my desires to.
277. Filling a kitchen with the smell of chocolate.
278. Handy measurement conversion websites.
279. Discovering how photogenic frosting can be.
280. Gluten-free Christmas goodness for sister.
281. Funny confusion because of differing pronunciations of the word "egg".

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Adorned and Given Value

1000 gratitudes...

261. Beginning the morning with a conversation with a friend.
262. The smile that lingered on my face for a good five minutes after said convo.
263. Running in the park.
264. Finding an empty swing set.
265. Further glimpses of the next three feet.*
266. Rest and relaxation throughout the day.
267. The Christmas tree on the neighbor's lawn, in view of my window (pictured above).
268. Five days till I see my sister.
269. Missing this place the few nights I was too tired to blog.
270. Always being able to find Joy, even on the most uneventful of days.

* Ever since reading A Severe Mercy, I have loved these words by C.S. Lewis: "But to a man on a mountain road by night, a glimpse of the next three feet of road may matter more than a vision of the horizon." I hold them close for peace and patience in the times when, while a view of the horizon would be nice, I recognize that three feet of revelation from God are enough for me to walk by faith. He always provides, at least, the minimal footing.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Apple Cake

norwegian apple cake

1000 gratitudes...

249. The energy to get out of bed and into walking shoes.
250. An empty swing in a quiet park at the beginning of the day.
251. Psalm 25:15
252. Tea and biscuits.
253. A canvas that holds less threat.
254. Getting to paint a mess.
255. Walking and talking with precious young ladies.
256. Infectious laughter.
257. Surrender that becomes victory.
258. Clean sheets on my for-now bed.
259. A CV (a.k.a. resume) being closer to complete.
260. Feeling okay about all the blanks in my life future.

*This is a Norwegian Apple Cake that I made a while back. It is the next item in the queue for me to blog about over on One Hungry Soul, so keep an eye out. It'll be worth it!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

An Abundant Day


1000 gratitudes...

231. Waking up before my blaring alarm clock.
232. Finding room to spread a yoga mat on my bedroom floor.
233. Soggy, nostalgic Weet-Bix.
234. Love and pain in safe places.
235. Lunch at Castor Bay.
236. Brilliant blue saltwater.
237. A mixture of soft grass and sand to spread out on.
238. Massive sprawling trees, rich with age and character.
239. Orange paint on a dry brush.
240. Free, energetic brush strokes across a promising canvas.
241. Finding "new" music in my iTunes library.
242. Sharing popcorn and M&Ms with friends at the movie theatre.
243. Laughter and freedom.
244. A beach at dusk.
245. Feet in cool ocean water.
246. The first stars of the night.
247. Light in darkness.
248. And I could go on and on...

* I'm dealing with a very slow internet connection, so I'll be including photos from my Flickr archive until things are moving faster. The one above happened to be the fastest to open tonight. I took it in Oslo, Norway, at Vigeland Sculpture Park, in November of 2005.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Corner of My Room

details of home

1000 gratitudes...

220. More than I could ever ask or imagine.
221. Breakfast at the beach.
222. Sand beneath my feet.
223. Sea salt in the air.
224. Waves brushing the shore at Browns Bay.
225. A view of endless ocean.
226. God's perfect timing.
227. Orchestrations across timezones.
228. Others' hospitality, providing me a peaceful, quiet today.
229. Feeling welcomed back to my other home.
230. Hope.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Perfect Day for Picnicing

1000 gratitudes...

208. Energy for an early morning walk.
209. City views from tops of hills.
210. Strong, healthy legs for enjoying the outdoors.
211. Yoga stretches for an achy back.
212. A special child dedication service at church.
213. Hearing God being worshiped in Shona.
214. Bonding experiences like walking through sinky mud and spiky shells on a beach at low tide.
215. The dependence in my current circumstances...it forces a lot of humility.
216. Singing in worship with others beneath a summer sun - the freedom to do this so publicly!
217. Having a Peace-Anchor for all this threatening anxiety.
218. God knows when my loan payments are due too.
219. An exciting future, both in the seen and unseen.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Signs of Christmas

christmas cheer

1000 gratitudes...

196. Getting up early for breakfast at the church with lovely ladies.
197. Short but vital skype calls.
198. Warm sunlight.
199. Sandals for summer walks.
200. This gratitude habit.
201. Other, new habits.
202. Enormous bright-white cloud puffs.
203. Purple flowers outside my window.
204. Jon Foreman's EPs.
205. A two-year-old's birthday party.
206. A Christmas tree decorated by a five-year-old.
207. Laughing till my stomach hurts.

Friday, December 4, 2009

After a Rain Shower

1000 gratitudes...

186. John Piper's sermon archive.
187. The still-pounding rain.
188. So many to love.
189. Lavender lotion.
190. A plentiful water supply for warm showers.
191. A new box of white tea awaiting my morning cuppa.
192. Friends to help carry the load.
193. Silly youth group games.
194. Photographs from other life seasons.
195. A God who is good. All the time.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Through the Basement Window

1000 gratitudes...

173. Advent thoughts.
174. Hot milky tea.
175. A raincoat.
176. My dad (seventeen years ago today, in this very timezone, we celebrated his memorable black-and-white 40th).
177. Prayers across oceans.
178. Canvases holding images not yet revealed.
179. The imagination.
180. Each and every kid on my walking school bus.
181. An unexpected quiet afternoon.
182. Psalm 25.
183. The smell of clean washing (not laundry).
184. Uncomfortable inner squirming that reminds of a place for growth.
185. Pounding rain on a glass window.

Even Among the Rubbish

even among the rubbish

1000 gratitudes...

167. The joys of children.
168. Friends that become family.
169. Timing.
170. Tears.
171. All the too intimate ones.
172. Isaiah 58:11

(I was too tired last night to create this post. You'll simply get two today.)

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Beyond Another Door

what door knobs are for.

1000 gratitudes...

156. Dreaming.
157. Emails with the right words at the right time.
158. God's Word to help me navigate this life each day.
159. Fresh air through a window.
160. Grace.
161. A porch to sit on under the summer (officially!) sun.
162. Catching up with two very dear people.
163. Friends to make Christmas plans with.
164. Freedom of transport via my own two feet.
165. Perspective.
166. Hope for tomorrow.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Remember To Look Down Too

remember to look down too

1000 gratitudes...

143. Waking up to Good Mornings from loved ones across the ocean.
144. Generally good health (especially when I fixate on wanting clearer skin and a smaller butt).
145. Knowing I have Someone to trust with the unknown.
146. The excitement of approaching time with my sister and mum.
147. Lotion for dry hands.
148. Music for a restless soul.
149. An ocean out my window.
150. Seaside stepping stones.
151. A latte at a cloudy beach.
152. Calming waves.
153. The many places where my feet have sunk into sand.
154. Raindrops on bare skin.
155. The need to know we're not alone...and the relationships which that leads us to.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Clothes Lines: Still Well-Loved in New Zealand

prettier than a dryer too.

1000 gratitudes...

132. The closest thing to a sunrise I've witnessed in a long time (light at 5:45am).
133. Realizing something once found uncomfortable has grown familiar and cozy.
134. Morning tea time.
135. Fish and chips, friends, and Pinot Noir at a bay-side park on Sunday afternoon.
136. Catching up with States-side friends.
137. Happy songs to counter the depressing ones.
138. Intentional beauty-seeking time with a camera lens.
139. Walking back into a home I've known before.
140. Another walk down to Rothesay Bay with a certain Jack Russell Terrier.
141. Funny French films.
142. Quiet ending to the day with Sandra (and a bit of Derek).

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Gentle Murmurs from Sea

1000 gratitudes...

120. Takapuna Beach.
121. Sand in my shoes.
122. Cozy clouds.
123. Sun breaks.
124. Getting to see deeper into friends.
125. Laughing off potential frustration.
126. Sharing things we love.
127. Community at mealtime (even when the meal isn't my preferred foods).
128. Artistic aesthetic (richly found in a new shop: The Department Store).
129. Composting.
130. The feel of the air right before a rain shower.
131. Dusk's stillness.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Orange Spiced Goodness

pumpkin pie

1000 gratitudes...

109. Pumpkin pie.
110. Another Thanksgiving meal.
111. A park to read in.
112. Making a lull in the day for stillness, Word, and journal.
113. Babies' new teeth.
114. Four-year-old innocence and joy.
115. Never being too old for swinging.
116. Climbing and spinning.
117. The imagination.
118. Story-filled scarves.
119. A beautiful looking tomorrow.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving Day

1000 gratitudes...

98. The kids in my Bible in Schools classes.
99. Meeting new people.
100. Getting to know "old" ones better.
101. This beautiful country.
102. Shelter from the wind.
103. Rest.
104. A little boy's babbling.
105. A phone line to the U.S.
106. The repairer of my laptop screen.
107. Thanksgiving gratitude shared aloud.
108. An abundantly laid table at which to celebrate the holiday.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Redeemed and Treasured

discarded. waiting.

1000 gratitudes...

84. Late Tuesday (they still hit the spot).
85. Summer sun.
86. Dreams.
87. Little ones' hugs and smiles.
88. Summer weather for strolls with ice cream cones.
89. Humour that brightens moods and teases with love.
90. A turquoise, white-capped bay.
91. Windsurfers.
92. Seeing Auckland's skyline with grown eyes.
93. Always finding more bits of heart to give (and leave).
94. A bus ride on my own. Independence.
95. Fond holiday memories to remember as new ones are formed this season.
96. Girls' giggles.
97. The generous gift of this laptop, which does so many of the things I need it to (even if not all the things I want it to).

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

A Sojourner's Heart

1000 gratitudes...

75. A wake-up hour of the morning at Massimo in Takapuna.
76. Tropical New Zealand foliage.
77. The smell of coffee.
78. Art within the written word. (I'm reading The God of Small Things.)
79. Movember. (Awkward new moustaches make me smile.)
80. Beach (esp. Takapuna).
81. Studio space.
82. Back to bikram.
83. The beautiful people of NSCOC.

A Favorite View

1000 gratitudes...

63. Warm morning sun.
64. Getting familiar with Auckland's bus system.
65. Andrea.
66. Learning from others.
67. Friends far and wide.
68. Memorization method.
69. The Shaws.
70. A walking companion.
71. Getting to see ol' Rangitoto almost daily.
72. Sand and saltwater.
73. Ice cream.
74. The way He satisfies.

[This is yesterday's gathered Thank Yous, as I did not have internet access last night.)

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Beyond My Bedroom Window

1000 gratitudes...

54. An uninterrupted night of sleep.
55. February Birds.
56. The homeyness of rain.
57. Black pepper gouda (to remind me of Stephen).
58. Promises of provision.
59. Being in a country that eats "pikelets".
60. Webcams (other people's, that is).
61. Radish season twice in one year!
62. This earth was never meant to be home anyway (grateful thought after seeing 2012).

Morning at the Market

42. Marmite on toast.
43. A new friend.
44. Finally getting to the farmer's market.
45. Kumara chips.
46. Good weather for a walk.
47. Having my basic needs provided, with room to splurge (on things like a boule!).
48. Time for a nap.
49. The smell of washed socks.
50. A sunny day for using the clothesline.
51. A child on my knee.
52. An international dinner: New Zealand, China, Brazil, (and USA) present.
53. Good conversation over dish-washing.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Summer on my Windowsill

summer on my sill

34. Romans 8. (The Message)
35. A crumpet.
36. Waking before my noisy alarm.
37. Barefoot at Takapuna Beach.
38. Smiles of recognition with Massimo staff.
39. Green smoothie!
40. Good ol' sweat glands.
41. I.E. Produce (a taste of home).

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Counting and Savoring

I've made some decisions. There are some things I want to do.

First of all, I want to savor my (potentially-)last month in this internship. And I want to incorporate a gratitude journal into my New Normal. I used to be in the habit of writing down ten things I was thankful for at the end of each day (my mom inspired this by sending me a journal for that specific purpose during my first year of university, when I was struggling to find joy in Texas).

I have been enjoying the blog Holy Experience for several months and been fed and inspired spiritually by the author's thoughts and observations. Especially concerning gratitude.

So, this blog is going to become a little more active. I aim to write up a brief post each night that includes a list of gratitudes I have gathered throughout the day and a photo from the day as well. Perhaps something with the theme of redemptive beauty. Anything, really, that catches my eye.

Let's begin with today:

i like red

23*. A better night's sleep.
24. Last day of Bible in Schools (not that I don't like it, but it's a milestone).
25. Time for this.
26. Breakfast provided from another's cupboards/fridge.
27. Getting to connect with kids today (thru Bible in Schools).
28. Holy Experience.
29. Good walking shoes.
30. Email from my brother - highlight of my day.
31. Music that connects.
32. Holding a paintbrush.
33. Such fond memories of San Francisco.

*This list starts at twenty-three because I started it two days ago. Planning to go to a thousand (and beyond).

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

A Weekend Away

You know those times when you suddenly realize you've stopped breathing? Or, how 'bout, that your breath has been going at a quick, shallow pace for so long that the neglected crevices of your lungs are officially starving for air? Well, knock the drama down a couple notches and you'll find me early last week.

I caught on to my spirit's impatient fluttering on Wednesday afternoon and was able to duck away for the evening to my silent bedroom and a cozy, relaxed "home". It's not that my days are crazy-busy, but they do tend to be long, beginning at 6:30 or 7am with people interaction to some level throughout the day, and a constant pressure (entirely self-inflicted) to be a useful and productive intern (and most of the time feeling like I'm not). These things, mixed with a general lack of energy (I'm still waiting for those ninety minutes of yoga in 104 degrees Fahrenheit to deliver their promised energy boost!), caught me in need of refreshment.

That's why this weekend became so perfect. I had already purchased a bus ticket to Cambridge to visit my sister, Elise, Saturday through Monday. She met me at the bus stop, and we headed straight to Hamilton for the afternoon. We were able to connect with a friend of mine, who was also in town for the day. It was fun to have Elise finally meet her and for us to all be able to talk about her pregnancy (something she wasn't able to broadcast yet when we were in Raglan).

Sunday morning we went to a church in Cambridge with students from Capernwray Bible School, where Elise is living and working as a volunteer through December 18th. That night we had a worship/devotional time on the campus, and I must admit that hearing songs I know well, accompanied by instruments that help drown out my voice a bit, helped me enter into worship more quickly and comfortably than I have in a while. It was soul-feeding.

Oh, and by the way, Capernwray is just plain gorgeous. It includes a beautiful old house with a wrap-around porch and gardens all around, bursting with blooms. My camera was completely enamored.

Between the long walks Elise and I enjoyed together, the fresh countryside air, and silence among birdsong and beebuzz, I was able to slow my subconscious breaths down to an at-peace pace once again.

Now that I'm back in Auckland, life is looking different with a new bedroom in a new household in a new neighborhood. A new normal. That's my goal, to embrace and settle into this particular rhythm as quickly and casually as possible, and establish a new normal.

Unfortunately, my plans were a bit derailed today. I was up most of the night with a tissue box, and my congested head has continued to nag my sleep-deprived body all day, but that's okay. I'm sure I'll be back on my feet and into my (new) regular routine tomorrow.

I would greatly appreciate prayer for my health, as I have been feeling more tired than is reasonable lately, and this congestion stems from a cold that has become an unwelcome companion ever since arriving in NZ.

Also, a month from today I will be in my last weekend as an intern and will be looking to the future. I am prayerfully considering staying on as an intern but in a part-time capacity that also allows for part-time work and, thus, much needed income. Another option includes finding a flat somewhere with Elise after our mum comes to visit for three weeks in January (we've talked mostly about looking in Christchurch, as transportation is good enough there that we could do without cars). A ton of other ideas have been flying around my head, but it's most important that we're each where the Lord wants us and actively trusting His provision, so please pray for wisdom and peace in these areas.

Thank you!
[More pictures from Cambridge/Capernwray are here.]

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Let's Pick Back Up


I've learned with relationships that certain perspectives work best in long distance circumstances. One is to not assume that the absence automatically decreases the affection. Two is to do your best in keeping up, even with the simplest hellos, but not to stress when this doesn't happen as often as before; life needs to continue moving on for both people in their separate surroundings.

I'm not talking romantic relationships. I have little authority in such arenas but am picturing the faces of my family and friends spread across the United States, even the world.

The final thing I would encourage is an ease in simply picking up where things left off when a reunion finally happens. Granted, changes will have come, major and/or minor, but as long as an earnest (mutual) care for the relationship and its individuals still exists, a rhythm may be found again.

And so it may be with this blog at times. Periods of separation might continue, but the caring for its purpose and the people who read it never ceases. I care and I'm here, so let's pick up where we left off. Know that I'd like this even more if, instead of this virtual worldwide web, there were a small table between us and warm ceramic mugs for us each to cup.

My life has fallen into a rhythm of sorts in the past couple weeks, and since I can't remember the last time that existed, I'm quite loving it.


I moved into a new household with a family of four and a Jack Russell Terrier. Their welcome has been entirely warm, and through it I've learned a bit more about rugby, found a friend who shares my taste in films, gained access to peaceful beaches for walking and wondering, and been introduced to the hilarity of Top Gear.

Almost every weekday morning I am dropped off in Takapuna and spend an hour(ish) at a cafe, which tends to be Massimo. I can't wait for the weather to clear. When it does, I'll have my regular cappuccino in a take away cup down at the beach. For now the spring chill is still too heavy at 8am.

On Wednesdays I help with Toddler Rock and attend the church's Young Adults Group. Thursdays include Bible in Schools in the mornings and Walking School Bus in the afternoons. My only obligation on Fridays is Youth Group in the evenings. Brief explanations of these activities can be found here.

After a couple weeks of this schedule I recognized that I had too much downtime and restless was stirring with all the reading and lounging around the Marlars' home that was happening...a foreign experience after the last five years of university! So, I decided to sign up for some bikram yoga classes, which take up a hefty ninety minutes of my day (not including the mandatory shower afterward). And I've bought two large canvases and made a list of art projects to do around the church. All of this should keep me busy over the remainder of my internship, especially because I'm trying to be ever mindful of the girls/young women in the church that I want to get to know and schedule time with too. (One such outing is briefly featured on One Hungry Soul.)

It's been more difficult than I anticipated to build relationships with the girls in the church because of my lack of mobility. While I am provided with greatly appreciated chauffering services between church, the Marlars, and home - and necessary destinations in between - spontaneity and independence in my schedule are automatically restricted without my own vehicle and a convenient bus system...a bus system does exist, but I haven't received much encouragement to use it because of its slow pace across the sprawling area of Auckland.


That said, I'm trying to make the most of the times already built into my schedule, like Friday night youth group. Last week we joined with Glenfield Presbyterian for a "bench run." This meant we were dropped off in Centennial Park, approximately 6 km/3.7 miles from their church, and put into groups of four to carry a make-shift bench (four metal-legged/cushioned chairs zip-tied together and destined to break apart). Punishments were to be inflicted for not being seated on the bench when the cars of our leaders drove by and, yet, the incentive of being first to arrive back at the church and bearing the title of "bench run champions" for the coming year kept kids running across dark fields, through empty parking lots, and looking over their shoulders at every approaching car on the main roads, all with a chair slung over their shoulder or riding on top of their head. For the sake of camaraderie, and to encourage enthusiasm among skeptical girls, I joined in. Two and a half hours later our groups began to trickle in with steam on our breaths, aches in our arms, and plenty of good stories.

As this blog post has now been going for two days. It's high time I hit "publish," don't you think? I'll try to keep filling in the blanks of my life for you as it comes. I'd love to have a glimpse into yours from an ocean and a rock away* as well.


*I am far away from where you lay,
awake the day while you fall to sleep
an ocean and a rock away

I keep you in the pockets of my dresses
and the bristles of my brushes
spin you into my curls today

I spoon you into my coffee cup,
spin you through a delicate wash
I wear you all day

Thoughts of you warm my bones...

- An Ocean and a Rock, by Lisa Hannigan

[These photos were taken on the Marlars' back patio one day last week.]

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Camp Life

After going through six days of camp life, it's a familiar experience to feel like one lived through an eternity and a whirlwind all at once. Life outside of the camp routine becomes a bit fuzzy while life in the midst starts to spin. The whole experience must be approached with a sense of humor and the right sort of perseverance - the kind that keeps your feet moving lightly and your spirit grounded firmly - as you recognize this is a brief season.

I came out of the week with so much more respect for my friends that were counselors at The Oaks the summer that I was on the leadership staff as the Arts and Crafts Director. They signed on for four solid weeks of campers! Granted, this was one of the most rewarding things I've done, and I feel quite accomplished now, but it is also a lifestyle that demands great selflessness and a high standard of consistency and alertness. In my case, this looked like undisciplined emotional nine to twelve year old girls who could were obstinate toward me and downright nasty to each other.

Of course, this was not the scenario twenty-four hours a day. Peace and joy extended beyond sleeping hours to one-on-one conversations with the girls, much laughter, and many hugs. It was just that witnessing the meanness that human beings can show to one another wrenched my heart and having to interact much more on a disciplinary level than a more straightforwardly loving one left me drained at the end of each day (though the belief that discipline can be a form of love kept me going).

When I thought I had been drained of all patience and wisdom at the end of each day, I would rest my head on my pillow for a precious six and a half hours, wake up to the stars at 5:30 A.M., and gather with my fellow leaders for an hour to pray and encourage each other. With hot potent tea in one hand and my Bible clutched in the other, I would get to drink from the Source that truly revives.

I think that was the greatest gift I received from the past week. Consistently spending time with my Bible hasn't come easily in the past month or so, and the fact is that most months out of the year 'easy' is a foreign concept, but whether or not it is a natural inclination in my downtime or a consistently sectioned off activity in my schedule, it needs to be done. Not for legalistic reasons of need, but for soul-satisfying, relationship-growing reasons...and ones I am not even aware of until I dig in and open up.

So, as contradictory as this might sound, the past week brought me refreshment. It also brought names and faces into my life that will always be dear to me, especially the ones that were hardest to love.

But oh so many were easy to love! I was one of three Americans at the camp, and almost everyone else was from New Zealand, so I got to be more immersed in Kiwi culture and learn/be reminded of a lot about the lingo and food. For example, the use of as at the end of expressions, such as sweet as, isn't actually a different pronunciation of the word ass, and therefore it's okay for eight year olds to say (ask Elise about that!). Also, canned fruit combined with Neapolitan ice cream is not a strange idea for dessert/pudding, and New Zealand's version of an American hot dog is still a far cry from the real thing (which I really don't mind, since I could take or leave both countries' versions).

As I was saying, though, the people were wonderful, and while I probably won't see most of them again, they'll always bring a smile to my face. The leaders of the camp have passionate hearts for seeing the lives of children touched by God and the story of his Son reaching their ears. That was a beautiful, invaluable thing in which to play a small role.

[Thank you so much to my sister, Elise, for sharing her photos with me. I left my camera safely at home, so the girls you see are from her cabin.]

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Church Ministries and Tea Drinking

I have taken up residence in a little home on a small cul-de-sac called Felicity Place. Ironically, Felicity was the name of one of my closest friends when my family lived here. This time around, though, it is associated with a Kiwi family, a mother and seven year old son, who have welcomed me into their lives and provided, among other things, a much appreciated electric kettle, able to boil water for belly-warming tea in minutes.

I've spent plenty of my life in this type of weather before, but, perhaps because of the sudden switch from California summer to New Zealand spring, I'm having a hard time shaking the cold from my bones, particularly my toes.

Elise and I said goodbye on Sunday night but will be seeing each other on Saturday morning, as we've agreed to be camp counselors for a week up in Whangarei. I believe the kids are seven to fourteen years old but don't know much else beyond that and our wake up call being at 5 A.M. every morning...you can pray for energy for that!

This was a last-minute opportunity that arose out of this camp still being in search of two girl counselors, so I'm glad to help. Most of the time, however, my energy will be focused in the North Shore area, helping with ministries such as Toddler Rock (a sing-along time for toddlers and their mums on Wednesday mornings at the church), Bible in Schools (a thirty minute Bible lesson taught once a week in public schools), Walking School Bus (walking kids home from primary school), and then getting to know the middle school/intermediate and high school/college age girls within the church.

As I get into these activities more, I will certainly elaborate on them (and bring out my camera at events, since it often ends up being the best storyteller). For now, if you're curious about pictures or emotions upon arrival in this new-but-old place, you can visit my other blog: One Hungry Soul.

I have had my lemon ginger tea and am ready to curl up under some heavy covers for the night, even though it's just after 9 P.M. Sometime soon my body clock will fully adjust, and then I'll miss the energy I've been feeling as I naturally wake up at 7 A.M.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Being Here: In the Old and the New.

I will never get Friday, September 18, 2009 back. I never got it at all, actually. It slipped around one side of the earth as my plane flew the other direction and landed me in Auckland, New Zealand on Saturday the 19th. I left Los Angeles on Thursday the 17th.

So, here I sit in the living room of a family I already know is going to become very dear to me. The Marlars are missionaries from Texas who picked Elise and I up at the airport and have been doing their best to encourage us to stay awake throughout the day. We're doing quite well considering it's already 5:15 pm.

Much of today has simply felt surreal, revisiting One Tree Hill and the house in Glendowie we lived in for three years.

Conversation is continuing to bring about a clearer picture of what my daily life will look like here in Auckland and the ministries I will be working with at North Shore Church of Christ, and I am encouraged by the knowledge that I have three months ahead of me to learn from and build upon.

Please pray that I dive in deeply and confidently, with roots well planted.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Getting Closer

While the blogged-about version of my life has been overtaken by a lapse of silence, the real thing has been far from it – silent, that is. Rather, it has been characterized by bus motors, car horns, sirens, and the mumbled appeals of homeless men and women crouched on the sidewalks.

I’ve been living in San Francisco, can’t you tell?

Sadly, that all-too-brief season of my life is over. I had a wonderful time in the beautiful yet raw city of SF with its masses of pedestrians and fantastic farmers markets but won’t expand further than that here. If you’d like to know more, I managed a few meager blog posts over at One Hungry Soul. I’ve been gone for a week now, and it would have been a much more tearful departure if I didn’t have New Zealand hollering his seductive accent my way, reminding me that I have a plane to catch in mid September.

So, that’s what I’m here to tell you about tonight. You guys have all overwhelmed me with your generosity, and I find myself a little breathless each time I tell someone I only have $15 left to raise for my internship – $15! As in, I should take some of my paycheck from the past month, do some giving of my own and call it even!

I do not have much other news for you, but I so appreciate your prayers and support. As of today, I just flew into Seattle and am excited to soak up some time with my family before heading overseas. I will keep you posted as need be.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

On Our Way

I cannot believe all that has happened since I wrote my last post, just nine days ago.

I bought my plane ticket on Tuesday morning, and throughout that day, I had the silliest secretive grin tugging at the corners of my mouth...of course I wasn't keeping it a secret, but I feel like the emotions attached to returning to New Zealand are so personal that the inability to communicate them does make it a bit of a secret between me and God, the only one who knows my heart fully.

Some of you may not know the semi-recent decision my sister made to go to New Zealand at the same time as me. Yes, we purchased our tickets together, and will be there for four months, tentatively, though my commitment to the church is only for three. While Elise may not necessarily be living in Auckland, I am very grateful to know she will be nearby. Our sisterhood has formed a strong friendship, and I will gladly take the consistent access to accountability and honesty from someone who knows me well.

We both received notification of the approval of our holiday work visa applications the night before we purchased our tickets, which means we are eligible to stay in NZ for twelve months. Even more importantly, though, it means that Elise is able to work while there, and right now she is still in the midst of searching out opportunities, so please pray for her in this...and speak up if you have any connections.

I would also like to find work and stay in the country beyond my internship, but I am taking my life in smaller steps right now. The internship is currently my main focus, and after it is over, God may very well be directing me to another location entirely. I trust that He'll reveal what's next in the timeline that I need to know it.

The way things are falling into place, I am sensing God's affirmation more strongly than I have in a long time, which is an amazing place to be, of course. And putting it down in writing will surely be a good reminder when the tough times come.

Since I am leaving Texas soon, please pray for me in these transitions to California and then Washington, that in the eventful times ahead, I would be intentional in practicing His presence and nurturing my love for those I have yet to meet in New Zealand.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

What a Couple Hours Can Do

Around noon today I found myself having a not-so-unexpected conversation with my mom about the what-ifs of "this whole New Zealand thing". Realistically, even though I had already received $350, the financial needs I have can not be met by my own accord.

Well, about two hours after that phone call I received a statement report from the church handling my support that took my breath away...and then in one big gulp of air sent my heart racing a mile a minute. My current need stands at $850 (out of $4000)!

Last week I received a generous donation from someone I know simply through my other blog. The unexpectedness of it all seemed to be God's reassurance that He is capable of exceeding all that we ask or imagine, and, just perhaps, His blessing is strongly on this internship.

Today there is no backing out. I have more than enough money to buy my plane ticket, and must simply pray - and petition your prayers as well - that the rest come through, that I seek growth in humility and trust, and that I am sensitive to the voice of God as He guides me forward.

Thank you so much for your generosity.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Important Detail!

For those of you who got a letter from me in the mail, I realized it might not be obvious that there's a very helpful little bit of information on a slip of paper in the pre-addressed envelope you received.

So, if you're unsure of how to make out any checks you may be writing, pull out that little card. But make sure and put it back! Or, just take note here that all checks should be made out to Beltway Park Baptist with "missions" in the memo line.

If the card isn't there, or you lose track of it, its main purpose is to designate who the money is for. Because all these donations go into the church's books and are tax-deductible, they should not have my name on them anywhere.

That's all for now!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Phase 1

The first step in this journey, after I prayerfully submitted an application to WorldWide Witness and was accepted, was to write a support letter. Because my spring semester of senior year was best described as crazy, it took me a while to get this all together. Many of you who are reading this probably received one because I included a note about this blog within the letter. However, there are friends who are easier to connect to online, so I thought I'd include what I wrote in my support letter here.

Hopefully it will provide a broader explanation of why I'm choosing to go and what I'll be doing.

Here's a portion of the cover letter from the director of WorldWide Witness:

"The Halbert Institute for Missions at Abilene Christian University encourages and equips men and women to participate in God's mission. As part of the Institute, WorldWide Witness gives students the opportunity to develop ministry skills by working with experienced mentors, either in summer internships or (after they graduate) in longer apprenticeships. In addition to the good that they do during their internships, many of these students will become long-term missionaries or informed and enthusiastic supporters of missions in local churches...This year WorldWide Witness will place students in more than twenty-five different locations around the world - places as diverse as the Bronx, New York; Chiang Mai, Thailand; Solwezi, Zambia; Auckland, New Zealand; San Jose, Costa Rica; and Nottingham, England."

And here's my letter:

I never expected to come to the end of my college years and sit down to write a support letter. Therefore, I come before you humbly, a bit awkwardly, but thoroughly sincere in wanting to include you in what lies ahead.

It is likely that you know my link to Auckland, New Zealand, was formed many years ago. My family moved there when I was four years old, and in the four years that followed, I learned to read, to write, and to ride a two-wheel bicycle. It was the place I had my first day of school, my first missing tooth, and my first crush.

It is foolish to deny that this common location has not influenced my decision to go into an internship through Worldwide Witness in the four months immediately following my August graduation. However, I am confident that the calling on my heart to love and give back to the land and people of New Zealand has grown stronger than my desire to go bury my toes in the sand at Whananaki beach (a favorite campsite of my family). That is the way it must be. I would not have peace writing this letter to you otherwise.

Here is a glimpse into what I’ll be doing: North Shore Church of Christ has graciously invited me into their small church. I have expressed a desire to walk alongside the middle school and high school girls and work in other forms of youth ministry. I also hope to put my graphic design and photography skills to use if they are of need. I know with a small congregation there will be many different tasks to do that I can’t even foresee, but I’m looking forward to being able to contribute and learn and grow.

What does any of this have to do with the art degree I’m about to hold in my hand? Perhaps nothing at all; only God knows. However, the advantage of being a graduate is that I am able to commit to more than the standard two-month summer period, and I look forward to the extra depth of relationship and personal challenge that will be possible in my extended time. In walking this out, I do not have any set plans beyond the New Year, so please pray about the doors that will be opened when this internship is through.

I must emphasize the importance of your prayers over my life, my heart, the North Shore Church, and Auckland. But, as it goes with these circumstances, I must ask you to prayerfully consider financially supporting me in this endeavor as well. It is an expensive one, totaling $4000, which includes airfare, room and board (I’ll be living with families within the church), other expenses within my internship, and a modest compensation amount.

Love and thanks,

Saturday, June 13, 2009


I am beginning this blog three months prior to my departure because the journey begins long before that plane takes off over the Pacific. In one sense, it began the day I turned in my application for Worldwide Witness, but in another, it began on the spring day in October of 1994 when my family of six boarded a plane and left Auckland.

I always knew I would return.

It is an honor to go back in an attitude of service and thanksgiving to God for all He has done and all He's going to do, which is why I mailed off over fifty letters this week with prayers on each of them.

While I have been cautious about throwing my heart into this too early in the process, now I'm far enough in that I know I'll experience hurt if plans shift. So, if they do - and that's certainly still a possibility - I'll have a good cry, ask you for continued prayer and support from a different angle, and remember back to the many lessons God has been teaching me in the past few years about his faithfulness. His perspective is so much broader and wiser than mine.

Between now and mid-September, when I plan to drive down to Los Angeles with my sister for a direct flight from LAX to Auckland, I'll use this blog to keep you informed on my needs, spiritual and financial.

Feel free to shoot me any questions or thoughts via email (laelvanessa-at-gmail-dot-com) or through the comments section of this blog.