Thursday, January 17, 2013

Winding Down Winding Up

Hey blog, how’ve you been? That’s good. I haven’t talked to you for some time. Let’s chat.

Without fail, the build up to the end of a semester is always full throttle. I put in hundreds of hours of work with over 10,000 researched and written/submitted academic words in the last few weeks alone; prepared for my exams and landed the metaphorical plane on a sunny Friday morning. At 11:30 am (after completing my second and final exam) I cleared out my desk in the library I had been sitting at all year. I wasn’t quite sure what to do with myself and it nearly felt like sin leaving the library before it closed that day. My mind was still tuned in, nearly electric- but alas, all work was complete. Nothing more to be done. After a decent sleep, I prepped the house for a graduation party that I hosted with a friend for my entire graduating class. After years of studying with a group of friends and peers, the hours and moments boiled down to this. On the one hand I was excited for them, on the other my heart was heavy as I knew that I still had a semester to go due to the devastating illness I had in the previous year. The evening was glorious. After the rain cleared we ate stone baked pizza on the deck, relishing over the journey by recounting the trials that had since become fun stories. The evening came to a close around 1 am when my head hit the pillow… my mom was just 5 hours away from Auckland at this point.

I picked up my beautiful mother Deanna from Auckland International airport at 6:30am- the journey had just begun. I hadn’t seen her for over a year and this trip marked her first time crossing an ocean and the verge of a new decade in life. We ate breakfast before heading to church where my nearly three years at Avondale Baptist Church was brought to a conclusion. Four months previous to this, I felt in my heart that I needed a window in time to reflect on all that God has revealed to me these last few years. Stepping down was bittersweet and a few manly tears were shed in front of the congregation that morning as I spoke. These were now family members and those whom I called my friends. My heart behind this was giving God a space to speak to me as I climb into his word preparing for the coming season of life. I don't want to miss out on the fact that the last few years have been hugely transformational. A friend of mine and I are going to begin weekly getting down into the heart of Auckland to share the gospel as I did in Port Angeles years ago. I've prayed to God to allow me to be a conduit of healing and salvation to those on the street. 

Over the course of the next three weeks my mom and I drove 3,000 kilometres all over the great country of New Zealand. We saw hobbit holes in Matamata, the deep glow worm caves of Waitomo and the stunning beach of Piha. It would be an understatement to say that this was a very special time with my mom. We hadn’t spent that kind of time together consecutively since I was a boy, outside of my time recovering post surgery which I was mostly out and about on. Highlights for me included my mom, sister and I having Thanksgiving Dinner in Auckland with my Kiwi family the Quirkes… that and every meal we had together. Mom wouldn’t let me pay for anything and I felt like I was 14 again. We ate at so many fantastic restaurants in those three weeks that my body is still coping with nightly eating dinner from a can now. Some very good times getting to know the woman who gave birth to me and her getting to know her now partially Kiwi son.

After mom left the country, I remained in Cromwell where the immediate search for a job began. I was stressed as no position had been secured, but within a day of applying at 14 places, I landed part time work (which became fulltime a week later) at the picturesque Northburn Station. It’s a fantastic vineyard and sheep farm in a breathtaking setting. My work is varied. Sometimes it takes me up the side of a mountain on a quad bike looking for a specific breed of thistles, other days I’m digging ditches and cultivating vines. I live onsite in about the most rugged shepherd’s hut one could mentally conceive. I’m frequently reading my Bible for extended periods (in the communal kitchen as there’s no electricity in my little house on the prairie) and I’m running out of sermons to listen to from my favourite preacher. I feel as if a tap has been turned on to God’s presence; he feels so close- covering me. Lauren and I packed up once more to celebrate my third Christmas in New Zealand in Milton at the Gordon’s family farm. It was nearly the hottest Christmas of my life at 95+ degrees, second only to the 105+ one in Swan Hill, Australia (lovingly renamed Swan Hell by its sweaty occupants… I have NO idea how it got that). Delicious food was eaten, cricket and rugby was played. Bottles of superb wine from my vineyard were opened after solid preaching was heard from one of the Gordon boys at the local church. Eating, swimming and relaxing were the hallmarks of the day as stories and presents were swapped. There was even a man hailing from Canada there. Surprisingly, he didn’t detract from the days festivities but added his own special Canadian flavour to the mix. Lauren and I agreed that this was one of the best Christmases of our lives.

As of today, I’m five weeks and $3,700 NZD away from beginning my final semester of school. I was recently awarded a $1,000 scholarship from Laidlaw which I’m very thankful for. If I pass my classes, I will return to the states with a bachelors degree in theology. If I fail, I will simply return a bachelor- a disappointed bachelor at that J. I just celebrated my third anniversary in New Zealand (which objectively makes me more Kiwi than all babies). On top of this, three couples I’m friends with gave birth this week and I just want to give a shout out to the Kaemingk’s, Roe’s and Vance’s [EDIT: Jan 19th, also the Estabrooks... wow! So many babies]. Please remember these people in your prayers. Life is precious.

Happy 2013 with love from sunny central Otago,


P.S. The next blog is coming sooner than later and it might just contain a very exciting development. Stay tuned.    

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