Oamaru-the quaint and the quirky.

  

  
When you first move or visit somewhere, it is so easy to get caught up in the newness of it all. It’s exciting and everything about that place can be romanticised. So perhaps I am in that stage now as my first week in Oamaru has come and gone. I understand that this area will become the norm at some stage and I know that every day life with the good and the not so good days will occur here. However, never have I walked down a street (or a harbour ) of an area and felt so at peace. If I could personify myself in a town, I would like it to be a town like this- close to the water, galleries and artists on every corner, bookstores to gander through and the most inviting of cafes with an enthusiasm to meet the taste for any coffee snob. I really have had the warmest of welcomes and striking up conversations with some of the locals has been pleasant. Another thing about being new to an area and culture, is that you are on high alert of all that surrounds you and it feels like you are espeically using all of the senses ( the summer heat on my skin is one I’m enjoying!). Observation is the key and I’m trying to have an open, flexible and learning outlook on it all. I am aware that I am the foreigner and I want to soak in everything that pertains to life here in the south pacific.

 

Look at the colour of that water! 
This past week I have had the time to walk and drive around (so thankful for the provision of a car for the time that I’m here!). From these little excursions, I include a few shots of the town steeped in Victorian history with a flair of steampunk. I have had the opportunity to get to know some of the people who attend Orwell Street Church as well as those that have kindly opened up their home to me ( another provision I am grateful for!). I have had conversations with a few around town and down by the harbour. Whether that be a little chat with a lady working at the gallery or a converstaion with some teens down at the steampunk park. The transition SO FAR (I know its only the beginning) has gone smoothly and I believe by moving to Georgia, USA a few years ago, that it taught me a lot about being new to an area. (blog post on this to follow).  

  

   
    
    
 I only want to share a little in this post about Oamaru; in order to give a picture of where I am residing for the year. For those who might not know where it is, its on the South Island, on the east coast and around a three hour drive south of Christchurch. Summer is here and I have enjoyed the heat but autumn will soon be approaching. A relaxed beach life is present here with the unique contribution of having penguins cross on the beach every day! 

   
    
 

I mentioned before that I wish  to share with you some about what I will be getting up to while I’m in Oamaru. Here is a brief introduction but I will be blogging more about that soon also! As I settle into NZ life, I will be taking part in the youth activities with Orwell St. as well as in the community. That includes a girl’s time of discussion and looking at the Bible as well as a boys and girls group of this called Unleashed. Both of these occur on a Thursday. There is also a youth group that do monthy events and this Saturday we are going waterskiing/tubing at a lake around an hour or so from here. I love the water and cannot wait for the opportunity to embarasse myself and get to know the teens! Today I am attending a seminar in Timaru on New Zealand youth culture and social media and am looking forward to what I may learn at that.  As well as this, I have been encouraged by my team at Orwell St. to think of ways that I can get involved that suit my interests and personality. I enjoy coming up with these type of things so just have to work on the confidence to pursue them. I’m thinking along the lines of running a book club and perhaps working towards an exhibition on a collaborative project but I will keep you updated on this. I love the way that the church is enthusiastic about immersing into the community! There is also a youth centre in town that I could potentially take part in. For now though, I will be taking it all in and then taking action from what I have gathered. Did I mention that I am also encouraged to have coffee dates with people so I get to feed into that hobby on a regular basis!
 How cute are these cafes below?

   
   

  And just a few more from around town.
    
    
 

All this aside, God has really been enabling me every day to step out and I am open to whatever He desires me to do while I am here. I’m looking forward to building relationships with others as well as going to a deeper place with Him. He is so good!

  

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They Speak For Themselves

  
                                                                                         Erin Walshe, 2016

For those of you who might not know, this was the title of the exhibition I ran recently. Now that the opening has come and gone after months of preparation, I can sit back with a relaxed and content sense of accomplishment and note what I learned from this experience.

First of all, here is a little background on my limited experiences of organising a solo exhibition and indeed my background as an artist. I’ve always struggled with calling myself an artist and I allowed a lack of confidence in my abilities to shy away from really throwing myself into my work. The art world can be a scary place!! When I think of an artist, I think of someone exotic and eccentric; who can be found with every grade of pencil in their hair and bits of sketches flowing from every pocket. After studying printmaking in art college and years of dabbling in other areas of creativity, I often wondered where I fit in. Then I hid behind the ladder I climbed in becoming an Art teacher. Surely, that will suffice enough to encourage others in their creativity with certainly no time for my own creation. I know that this was an excuse! For the moment, I don’t want to divulge too many of my thoughts on this topic as I hope to soon write a post called Created to create. For now, my intention of mentioning this bit of informaton is to highlight the fact that I never thought I would run my own exhibition. I had always exhibited with others and I really thought that I coud never have enough courage to display and organise one on my own. I still can’t believe I did it! I feel like a little dream has come true…

  
                                                                                Mackenzie Zemek, 2016

For this exhibition, I actually based it on a collection of beautiful photographs that my grandfather took throughout the 1940’s to 1960’s. Perhaps, you could accuse me of hiding behind someone else’s work but it really was my desire to share these photos with the surrounding people. That being said, you would be somewhat right in the sense that by removing the pressure of exposing my own work, I could concentrate on developing a confidence in organising and holding an exhibition and all that that entails.

   
                                                                                  Mackenzie Zemek, 2016

Listed are a few lessons learned:

1. Take the time to ask some questions! I learned, as I have through other endeavers in life, that there is never harm in asking questions! Ask about who to contact, ask if they would spread the word, ask if you could exhibit in their space, ask what they can offer. Ask others their opinion in the setup, the layout and all the other practicalities that can seem so dainting and overwhelming for one person (even for someone such as I who finds great enjoyment in organising! ) You would be surprised how people will jump on board with you and help along the way. I’m so gratfeul for such people that I have met recently. ( I also couldn’t have done it without my sister in law being so involved practically, especially when it can takes days to set up!)
2. Take a deep breath and relax. Some of you could find this easy, such as my sister in law, who would be labelled as so placid that sometimes you would wonder if she even has a pulse. Inevitably, something will go wrong, such as coming in on the morning of the exhibit and seeing all of the photos laying on the floor, after hours of accurately measuring the layout the days before. And yes, I did just slap them up, hoping for the best and that no one would come along along with a ruler…. You will also forget something but roll with it, if you have the main bits set in place then no one will even notice whatever you had thought of and then forgot. Surround yourself with such calm people when you are wound up so that they can encourage you with their placid demeanour…Ally Walshe.

  
3. Take the time to observe your audience. One of things I most enjoyed from the opening day was seeing the expressions on some of the viewers as they found pleasure from admiring another’s perspective. It was especially exciting to their faces light up when they were able to recognise themselves or loved ones. The opening can be such a busy time as you try to make conversation with those who have walked in the doors, as well as making sure that the flow of the day is going smoothly. However, try to be purposeful in standing back for a moment and observing those standing in front of the artwork. It gave me such delight and a sense of accomplishment to be able to witness the excitement and happiness that was sparked from the photographs displayed. One example of this was a lady who came along and had with her, a photograph of her sixteen year old self that my grandfather had taken in 1946!

      
                                                                                             Mackenzie Zemek, 2016

I could write more about other things that I learned through this. Such as the benefits of gathering feedback and all of the organising tips in the preparation. However, I will simply leave it at those three points. I say all of this not to put myself on any pedestal but to encourage other artists out there who might have struggled with confidence. I want to humbly express that no matter how you may feel about exposing yourself through your art or through an exhibition, that stepping out despite those fears will be so rewarding and so worth it! In displaying your work, you are sharing your impressions of the world around you, some may like it and some may not! But either way, there is really no wrong or right here and therefore that provides you the freedom to know that you cannot fail in this endeavour! So relax and enjoy the reactions to what you share with the world. I take this with me as I wonder about the future exhibitions I may hold. You never know, perhaps I will give it another go here in New Zealand….
Thanks to those who came along! Here are a few photos I took of the display.

   
    
                                   

Below are photos from the opening day, courtesy of Mackenzie Zemek.

   

  

   

An Unexpected Journey

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As you can see, this is a map of New Zealand. It encompasses two islands and its really far away. As of the 16th February this is where you can find me, on the South Island in a town called Oamaru. Perhaps, the surrounding bodies of water will feel familiar to me as I have spent most of my life already living on a little island.

Some of you who know me might laugh at the title of this post…

One because its a reference to The Hobbit and although I have found hours of entertainment derived from this book, I am not the fan that you will find shrouded in elven jewellery; quoting one of the many languages that Tolkien invented (that is some commitment might I add, like seriously, who has time for that?!). Two, because it may cause some to wonder how it can be so unexpected when you have heard me talk about the desire to go here on occasion. Therefor, I would like to take the time to explain more of how the opportunity to go and live here came about…

As goes the title, the unexpected is always something that is bound to happen in our lives. This past year, I did not anticipate returning to the town I grew up in. I did not expect that what was suppose to be a week of subbing would turn into two and then three, and ironically even as I write this blog, I am still subbing in this school. I could not predict that I would get to know people who would hurt me but also the beauty of those whose investment will be most treasured for years to come! With all that has happened over the past twelve months, I did not expect to experience both sadness and joy and to learn and grow in the ways that I did. Neither did I also expect the opportunity that was about to arrive at my doorstep.

Have you ever experienced those times in life where it is at a standstill but you have this strange feeling that something major is around the corner? When I returned to my hometown, I’m pretty sure I told every person that I came into contact with ‘This is only a transitional period. Its temporary. T-E-M-P-O-R-A-R-Y!!!’ I think my reason for reciting this so much was more for myself and it usually came with a side of slight fear wondering ‘what if it isn’t?’. But everything surpassed my imagination for the better and it wasn’t so bad as I would have thought. Actually, I have a lot to be thankful for and that indeed is another subject worthy of a post. For the year that it was, I knew it wouldn’t be that way for very long and all of the things that I experienced lead to this point. It is too often that I am reminded that I don’t know everything and that I am not in control of everything. So when we enter into these times of transition, it is very encouraging to remind ourselves that even though we may not know what will happen by the end of the day, that the Lord is always at work behind the scenes! It can be easy to look back and understand more about why things may have unfolded in the way that they did. Hindsight is great. But when you are in it, it is one of the toughest places and the rubber really hits the road in regards to how much you believe that God is trustworthy. This is why I want to share some on the lead up so that it can encourage us that God is always at work and because, for me, it removes coincidence from the picture and doubt from the decision made.

The months previous were filled with a constant seeking for answers of what was next for me and processing all that surrounded me at the time. It was especially after the summer, that I began to pray about God wanting me to take a step back from teaching and perhaps going into some kind of ministry or missions. I didn’t know if it was to be something short term or longer. I enjoy teaching and am certainly in the early stages of it, but I began to see a shift in my desire to be in the classroom when I was missing out to take part in activities at my church. If you would have told me a year ago that this was my thinking then I probably would have laughed in unbelief! I didn’t feel like a ‘typical Christian’ but then again that was probably me looking at what others might say following Christ looks like and not studying what the Bible says about it or understanding what it actually may be. So in between teaching, I began to casually research, I looked at organisations throughout Europe in particular and had a browse through programmes that involved sharing your faith through Art. I knew that God had been teaching me about having more confidence in gifts that He has given me and I also know that He uses our personalities, background and skills in whatever He will have us do. Amongst all the options, the thing that I most wanted was to know that it wasn’t just me making all the decisions but I wanted to be certain that it was where God was directing me. I asked on several occasions if God would prompt someone to contact me with an opportunity and I don’t know why I was surprised when this actually happened.

With all of these thoughts swirling through my mind, I had the idea to go away for a few weeks and think through them, as perhaps being out of the usual environment would provide some clarity. The one major place on my list to go was New Zealand. Because it is so far away, I began debating in my head when would be a good time to travel and what was I to do in the mean time. I knew a family who lived out there and I decided that it would be a good idea to contact them and simply feel the waters about the idea of coming out for a little visit. However, before I ever made that contact, I really believed that God was telling me to wait and not do anything. Not to contact them, not to make a decision on what to do next. Just wait. Not something I really wanted to hear but something that I know I needed to do ( or not to do!).

Shortly after, I hit a particularly difficult week. Ever have those times when it seems as if all is crumbling around you and what is ahead is as clear as a mudded puddle? Yeah, that is exactly what was happening the week before things were about to change. I was at the point where I felt stripped of everything that I could possibly identify with and feeling like desires I had for my life were not being met. The hardest part was experiencing the stark contrast of those around me who were entering into those things and I was left asking ‘Where does this leave me now?’. A particular verse kept popping up in the things that I was reading and listening to. It’s found in Jeremiah 33.3 and it says :

Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.

My response? ‘ I am calling to you. Do you hear me? When will you answer me? How are you going to show me these unsearchable things?’ Within a few days of putting these thoughts to paper, I received a message from Amanda (my friend in New Zealand). I had to smile as it had been a while since we have spoken and yet she had been on my mind lately. It was a casual message enquiring how I was doing and because of the 13 hour time difference, I replied quickly saying that I will update her as soon as possible. Less than 24 hours later, I received another message from her and in it she presented me with an opportunity to live there and serve in the church that she works and attends. That same day, I came across Jeremiah 33.3 and I remember writing down, that maybe I was about to find out what was next. I asked for a little time to think and prayed that God would confirm this decision to go by giving me that verse in the next few days as I go about my reading. Within the next week, it did come across in an entire chapter of a book I was reading about being called to ministry and it was then that I believed the Lord was directing me to do this.(Primarily I will be helping out with the youth but I plan to post more details about what I will be doing there soon! I simply wanted to share the build up to this decision for now.)

When I now gaze back on those few months of thinking that were veering towards full-time ministry and even visiting New Zealand, it warms my heart to know that God was working behind the scenes with those very things!!! And He had me not do anything but seek Him and wait for His answer. He has provided in so many ways with a place to live, car to drive and people to serve along with. I don’t know all the answers to what’s around the corner but I know that He is with me and will take care of me. I know that my struggles of feeling inadequate at times will remind me that His strength is made perfect in my weaknesses. (2 Corinthians 12.9) And I also know that in those times of feeling alone that Never will I leave you or forsake you. (Hebrews 13.5) Those are such great promises for us all!

I’m going to end this post on those reminders, or else I could include other related thoughts that could distract us from the point. He is always at work. Trust! It’s not easy sometimes but it’s worth it! I hope this has encouraged you.

…And I suppose it would only be apt to end with a little quote from Tolkien:

Faithless is he that says farewell when the road darkens.

Below are some photos from a little farewell luncheon


  

 

 

When we limit imagination. 

                          

                                                                                            Free, circa 2009, Erin Walshe

“I just didn’t imagine my life to turn out this way.”  These were the words spoken by a friend of mine recently. It is also a thought that has crossed my mind on several occasions. And it is a subject that keeps creeping up in articles and posts around me. 

Let me ask you. Is your life the way you imagined it to be? Has it turned a complete 180 and is hardly recognisable to what you conjured in the mind of your childhood or youth? Are you still on the journey to accomplishing the plans you dreamed of while some of it is staying on course but with little detours along the way? Or is your life all that you imagined and did you come to this place with all of the feelings that you thought you would have? Is it better or is it worse than you imagined? Or perhaps it is a mixture of emotions.

I’m sure that because of our limitations as human beings with a lack of foreknowledge and control over our circumstances, life isn’t exactly how we thought it would be. Maybe it isn’t where you thought you would end up settling down. Perhaps it involves more hard work than you hoped for. Or maybe some impressionable relationships that were not anticipated met you along the way. Wherever you may be or whatever you may be doing, I would like to share with you some thoughts that I have been remunating on this subject matter and the questions that come from it. 

I once read a quote that said something along the lines of “What if all your dreams come true because you have dreamed too little.”  

           Journaled on the 19th May 2012

This really stuck with me. Don’t get me wrong. I am not insinuating that an individual who dreams of the “simple” life of a 9-5 job with a family and house are those whose dreams are too small or limited.  They are important, they are necessary and they are beautiful dreams to aspire to.  I believe  for me, when I read something like this or think about how I had imagined my life to be, I begin to question if perhaps we have dreamed too little because we haven’t included the one who knows us best into our plans.  Perhaps we have dreamed too little because we have independently imagined the direction we would like our life to go and we have then pursued those things that we believe will make us complete. 

Here is where I would like to write about my personal experience so that I’m not imposing or implying what I believe to be true onto your own experiences. This is a little of the story of how I imagined my life to unfold and what I have gleaned from this recently. Now, we all know that who we are and the things we deem most important change over time and we must give room for this to develop our perception of who we are and the world around us. I’m certain that you have changed your mind on multiple occasions from when you were first asked as a child “What would you like to be when you grow up?”. Perhaps you are in your late twenties and continuing to ponder on that same question. I had a very active imagination and I knew from a young age that I would like to be a teacher. Below I include evidence of a poem from one of my journals in which I was wondering about my future.  

 In this poem I was questioning what I would like to be and nothing was too extreme or too silly for me to suggest. No, I did not end up with a degree in “princess” or with the occupation of an “ice cream licker”. Yes i did so happen to go to college and work towards receiving a piece of paper and yes I also began a line of work that I believe to be full of variety and colour. But I did not end up with days filled with braiding princess hair or earning a living by eating ice cream, although these two activities do make a regular appearance on my schedule. My point in saying all of this is when did I start to limit my imagination in how I foresee my life to be or even what I’m active about now in the present day? Am I settling for something mediocre because it’s easier, it takes less effort and there is less risk involved. Because let’s face it, it is scary to invest your energy in something that you’re not quite sure will ‘work’ out! But!!!!!!! I believe there is a way that includes having the most open and daring imagination while at the same time the security to pursue those things without the fear of ultimate failure!!! I believe that as someone who strives to love and serve God, that I will be complete in whatever my journey may entail, detours of rocky terrain and all. ( and there will be tough times of shaping us, there is no avoiding that!) Because I am created to know God personally then of course the one who designed me will know the very things that I need and will lead me into more of a discovery of who I am, in light of who He is. What if we were dependant on God when mapping out a plan? What would it look like to seek Him in the imaginings of our future? Indeed they would contain no limits as we follow a God who is not contained by our thoughts or workings. He is so much more and I think he has so much more for us than what we may be settling for! 

I guess another point to add is that sometimes we limit imagination because we allow others to do so for us. I’m all for surrounding ourselves with people who can speak into our lives. However there is a difference between someone encouraging you in your dreams and those who are keen in informing you of the path they want you to take. One thing I’ve observed is that there is not one  formula or one size fits all for how life will unfold for every person. We need to be very careful of not esteeming our route higher than others because it looks different to ours. The person who is not on the same chapter as us should never feel pitied. That person may not even want the things that you have! Throw off your air of entitlement because you think you have arrived at the point that everyone wants to be at! Young mothers who leave you out of the circle of their baby talk and think that this is the sole purpose of womanhood. The single adventurers who parade their map of exotic locations and freedom in order to show the other group that indeed it is them that is missing out!! We have got it all wrong if we are imagining our lives through the lens of everyone else around us! 

To the individual who has imagined that they would be married by now or have that job they always wanted… To those who have thought they would have the house and the 2.5 kids living under it too.. To the nomad who isn’t residing in the exotic place that they dreamed of. God is there with you in it and his ways and timing are best. His journey is colourful and adventurous, comforting and secure. It is the imagination we all want because it has no boundaries and is so freeing. It is better than what we think of for ourselves as it fulfills us and most importantly brings glory to a God who is worthy!

Well these are just a few of my thoughts….