My Way or the Highway.

Living a life of continual surrender.

  

                                                               Bay of Islands Beachwood, Erin Walshe, 2016

Am I beginning to sound like a broken record with the subject of surrender occasionally making it’s way into my posts? Perhaps. I guess I use that word ‘continual’ for a reason. In others words, I haven’t conquered it, graduated in it or retired from it and I probably never will. It will always appear throughout the various ages and stages of my life as God works through a better plan. A plan that calls me to surrender to it and to His ways.

I can most certainly sit back and think of those years where I decided to do things my own way. I thought that it was the path that would provide me with happiness, success, comforts and security. Isn’t that what most people are seeking? Well, let me tell you, that it did not do any of those things. I ended up being very unhappy, feeling like a failure, unsettled and insecure. Yet for some time, I carried on in my stubborness and ignored the path that I believe God wanted me to take.

So what is surrender? Is it as simple as saying ‘Yes’ to God and ‘No’ to ourselves. Well, yes and no. In theory, it is that simple. Scripture says that if we love God then we will seek to obey Him. We will begin to become more familiar with who He is and how we can obey Him; through spending time with Him and reading the Bible. Does it get complicated or difficult along the way? Yes, because it usually involves having to decide between obeying God’s design for fulfilment or chasing my own ideas of how to attain that. Sometimes following God in a certain direction rather than our own, takes more risks, challenges us and indeed changes us too. Are we too afraid to let things go in order for this to happen? Are we fearful of the process itself?  Do we even want things to change?

This is quite the big subject and I think daily it can permeate our thoughts, actions and decisions whether we are conscious of it or not. For me right now, it is trying to surrender in the planning of next year. As opporunities have been presented and doors have been pushed, I currently wait to see if they are going to be opened or closed. Although, it is starting to look hopeful of those doors opening, I am still left with having to surrender my heart, attitude and thoughts to God  often. It is so tempting for me just to plough through and do what is comfortable for me-plan! Is planning bad? No. But right now, I know that if I desire to follow His ways, I must be patient in that planning. This is all very vague, I knoow. But here are some questions to ask ourselves when wondering if we are willing to let go of our ways and surrender to His:

1. Do I decide to involve God into decisions such as what career path I will choose?

2. Will I consider God’s guidance when deciding on who to date or to marry? Does He even care?

3. Do I think God is concerned if I move, when it might happen and where I shall go?

4. Will I seek to obey Him even if it’s not easy and involves me admitting I’m wrong or need to change that attitude?

5. Do I consider God in how I use my time or money, and if so, how much?

6. Will I aim to bring up my children as I believe God wants me to, even if it means sacrificing time, money, popularity and success in the eyes of those around me?

7. Do I say no to certain activities or consumptions because I don’t think it brings me closer to God?

8. Will I seek the counsel from my peers or those I respect over listening to what I think God is telling me?

9. Do I believe the words in the Bible that tells me that His ways are higher, and indeed better?

10. Will I love God, obey Him and follow Him above any of the other things that I love in my life?

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your body as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God- this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is -his good, pleasing and perfect will. Romans 12.1-3

With Thanksgiving.

I can’t believe it is that time of year again, where many Americans will be gathering around the table to share a meal for Thanksgiving. I guess it doesn’t feel like it for me and will indeed be my first Spring holiday of the kind. I do miss the changing leaves and the hues of orange, brown and red that seem to permeate the environment. However at the same time, I am thankful that summer is on it’s way here in New Zealand.

Recently, I have had to remind myself , especially in moments that are easy to complain in, that there is a lot to be grateful for. Around three months ago, I started a new journal where I write in one thing from each day that I am thankful for. I’m doing this to help keep my eyes open to the good God has given me, as opposed to focusing on what I think is ‘bad’ at the time. At the end of the year, I will certainly aim to write about this journal in my blog. However, for this simple, short post, I wanted to write a few things that I am thankful for and to share some good reminders.

I am thankful for…

1. The provision of physical needs- a roof over my head, running water, food on my plate.

2. My health. I hope that I don’t take any of that for granted and that I am mindful to pray and care for others who are suffering with that.

3. Family and friends both near and a far. Although, I do miss loved ones overseas, I am grateful that God has provided people here that have surrounded me with both love and support.

4. The youth in Oamaru. As well as giving me a reason to move to New Zealand, they have shared their lives with me and encouraged me to know God better too!

5. Coffee and other luxuries that I most often confuse with being a necessity. I hope that I can be more mindful of those who are less off and how I can be a better steward of what God has given me also.

6. That this holiday, I am sharing a lovely meal with other Americans and Kiwis, even though I’m making a salad for it instead of a casserole… 

7. Each of God’s promises, espeically the reminders that He will take care of me, so not to worry- Matthew 6.

8. That God changes us and our hearts, and will produce a harvest if we seek Him and His Kingdom.

9. For the God that He is. Our creator who knows us best and knits our story together with His perfect plan and timing. That His Son lead a perfect life, because I will never be able to do so. Because He provided a way to know Him personally and eternally. That He won’t ever leave us and that He is the provider of all of the above.

Thank you, God!

I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart; I will recount all your wonderful deeds. Psalm 9.1

Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you 1 Thessalonians 5.8

I will praise the name of God with a song, I will maginify Him with Thanksgiving. Psalm 69.30

  
PS, although not thanksiving material, I’m bringing this salad tonight -watermelon, cherry tomatoes, feta, avocado, lime, chilli and basil. 

Titles.

How  much does our job title and roles matter in ministry?

  
Before I begin this post, let me start off by saying two things.

Firstly, I have always been a firm believer that as Christians (whatever job that we hold, “secular” or in full time ministry), that we each have our own part in the wider mission of sharing Christ with others. If you had said to me a few years ago that I would be working with a church and taking some time off from the classroom, I would have pointed out that there is importance in being used by God in that workplace just as there is within the church. And although those two jobs may differ to one another, I still believe that God can use us and our unique gifts whichever avenue He decides to do that in.

Secondly, I do not have the answers to the questions I will open in the post. Some of it is thoughts that I have simply had or has stemmed from conversations, particularly within the realm of missions.

Let me divulge on this subject by narrowing down my thoughts to this past year. As I said, I was very much adamant to stay within art education and seek the role of teacher. However, it was just over a year ago that I began to see more of a shift in my desires. I wanted to be a part of some of the church’s activities that clashed with my time at school. Believe me, I was just as surprised at the disappointment of missing out that I felt, as it was always (and still is) my dream to be around young people and share a love for art. What was happening? As I asked God this over and over again, it became clear as an opportunity arose for me to move to New Zealand and to work alongside the youth of a church on the South Island.(You can read more about this in my post, An Unexpected Journey. )  Even at that stage, I knew that youth would be the main focus of my time here, however I wasn’t too sure exactly of the various roles that I could be taking on. Before I boarded the plane, I had decided that my hand was open to be used in whatever way God thought necessary. For someone who likes to know and plan, I was learning that maybe God wanted me to be flexible too-that perhaps He wanted me to be stretched in different ways than I could imagine. So goodbye classroom for now, but hello to youth groups.

In the build up to moving, I had spent the years surrounded by various people involved in missions and ministry. I have learned a lot from them and I’m really grateful to have had that input into my life. I’m also thankful for all the support and advice given too! However, I found myself facing frustration at times, as I was also surrounded by conversations that seeped into complaints about the titles and roles that were or were not being fulfilled. One in particular was the regular conversations of ‘my skill set just isn’t being used‘ .However, it got me thinking. What is my expectations of what my service should look like if I work with a church or a Christian organisation? Is it what I have imagined it to be? Is it fulfilling what I think God has designed me to do or be? Do I stay focused on the gifts and passions that I know I have or do I decide to be open to other avenues of service? Is it really about me? Or is it really about the God that we serve and the people that we also serve Him through?With all these questions running through my head, I began to come up with some of my own conclusions to rest under the umbrella of those thoughts. Like I said before, I don’t have the answers and want to come across humbly in this…but here they are.

I believe that God is our Creator who knows His creation better than we even know ourselves. I think that God is greatly concerned with our heart and how our actions flow from it. I know that God has gifted each person that He has created in order to glorify Him, whatever we do in life. So with all of that in mind, how relevant is the title or the position we hold? And what really is the purpose in it and the roles that we may have? I think that when being intentional in our service to God, that our relationship with God has to be at the core of it- to know Him more and to become more like Him through that. Perhaps, God will veer us down a different path than the intended use of our ‘skill sets’ in order to do this. Maybe He is more concerned with the conforming of our thoughts, heart and actions than the actual task set before us for that particular time. Therefore, it might be ok to lay aside some of that time developing my skills as an artist because He is using another role to bring out something that He sees in the bigger picture. He might even be trying to teach me that in ministry,  it isn’t really all about me- it’s about Him and looking towards the needs of others, as opposed to meeting my needs. For such a time as this, God might deem it more important to develop my people (or selfless) skills instead of becoming more accomplished in my line of study or progressing in an area of expertise. And may I just add here, that I am not saying that aiming for these things are bad! God wants us to do our very best in what we do. However, sometimes I’m very much aware of the fact that we, who have decided to go into some sort of missions or ministry, are getting distracted with what we do and how that makes us feel, as opposed to opening our eyes to the needs around us and serving. If I happen to be filling in a role that looks a little different than what I thought, then I like to think that God might be showing me a gift or a passion within me that I don’t know about or is part of a plan that He has and wants to achieve.

Do I think that God cares about what you do? Yes. Do I believe He will use the gifts,passions and personaltiy He has given you? Absolutely. Does God fulfill us in our purpose and in our relationship with Him? Yes and Yes. I guess what I’ve concluded is that sometimes, it might not be exactly what ‘we have signed up for’. It may include a short or longer period of something different and it might be more challenging and difficult than the path we had decided. But God knows all the whys and can handle all the detours. I know God keeps stretching me to think of others more and see needs other than my own. I want to be more willing to write my plans in pencil and be fluid in the direction He takes me in. I do want to further my relationship with God, to develop as a person, to serve and indeed to utilise my skill set! That’s why I can’t do this in my own strength or by looking towards those around me; in or out of ministry. I look towards Jesus. The perfect servant who teaches us more of what that looks like and who we should be. So in whichever way you live for God, let us remember this:

“For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” .          Mark 10.45

A taste of the North Island

Hello readers,

I hope that you have all had a wonderful few weeks. It has been a very busy but fun few weeks for me. Adventuring the North Island with two of my friends, Heather and Tracy, came with all the excitement of jumping into a car and exploring, as well as all the ‘what in the world is happening?’ moments too. For now, I would like to take you on a visual journey of the path that we took and the activities we  marked off.

My friends arrived in the middle of Spring, here in the southern hemisphere. And before we even reached the North Island, we explored some sunny days down south.

Our first day was spent around Oamaru as the harbour came to life with a gypsy fair. The Victorian buildings with steampunk flair, the shows, the art and the music filled the town this weekend.

Little by little we made our way more north, to Kaikoura, mentioned previously in my blog when Aoife and I went whale watching. I love this spot as the majestic mountains meet the sea all in one breath taking view.On our way out of town, we got to see a plentiful of seals and their pups laying on the accompanying sea rocks.

After Kaikoura, we made our way to Picton and crossed over on the ferry to Wellington. It was then that we were on the North Island and really ready to start the road trip. Our first day in Wellington was spent at Weta Workshops. Although, I wasn’t able to capture it on camera for you, I can tell you of how creatively inspiring it was to walk through the studio and see the artists at work. Of course, we learned lots about the craftmanship of the set design and costumes in the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings Trilogy, as well as other movies to add to their list. It definitely is a must to visit here! After this, on our travels to Napier on the east coast, we so happened to cross Rivendell and stopped here for a little walk. ( I must point out here for any LOTR fans, that I will eventually be posting a separate blog post on the film locations that I have been to on both the North and South Island from the LOTR and Hobbit films….so stay tuned! )

 

Napier was a pleasant surprise with the art deco that filled it’s street. It was indeed taking a step back in time, not quite as far back as the Victorian influence, but one that you certainly wouldn’t want to miss! For amazing 360 views, Te Mata peak is a must with the coast in one background and rolling hills to surround the rest!

The next stop on our map was Taupo. Here, we viewed the turquoise gushing waters of Huka falls and a natural hot spring where you can submerge yourself into it’s warm waters.We intended to do the Tongariro Crossing with views of emerald lakes and various active volcanoes ( Mt Doom!) but the conditions were not in our favour for the time we were there. We did, however, take a short walk to Taranaki falls!

The next day was one of the strangest that I have ever experienced in both Taupo and Rotorua. I really did feel like I was on another planet and Craters of the moon as well as the Thermal Wonderland was one experience that I will never forget. Volcanic activity close to the earth’s surface, mud and water bubbling as steam rose from the surface. The smell of sulphure filling your nostrils and the strangest colours of various minerals permeating the extremely hot waters.

Later on that day, we went ziplining through an untouched forest in Rotorua. We were up in trees as high as 22 metres (and still not close to the top!) and  flew through the air (sometimes upside down) for lengths of up to 200 metres. With the silver fern below us and the sunshine above us, we got to experience what New Zealand would have looked like before settlement from a very different perspective.

Here are a few more photos from Rotorua’s gardens and city.

And here comes little Hobbiton, nestled in the hills of a farmer in Matamata. Like I said, I will be writing another post on this alone but in the mean time, let this whet your appetite. How quaint is this permanent set, as it brings the books and films to life before your eyes?

Onward and upward we go. Although facing a little bump that morning in which delayed us in hitting the tides at the right time. We eventually made it to Hot water beach where you grab a shovel and dig a hole,as the natural warmth below gives you your very own hot tub in the sand! Afterwards, we made our way to Cathedral Cave (one of the film locations in the Narnia movies) and walked down to one of the most beautiful spots in New Zealand (in my opinion!).

Northward bound we continued, as we came to stay in the Bay of Islands. Tracy went diving to the Rainbow Warrior wreck as Heather and I relaxed with these views.

From here, we began our journey south and down the west coast.In Waitomo, we went blackwater tubing through glow worm caves. How beautiful to lean back in the water with no light around you except for the stars of the caves-little glow worms lighting your way. You had to work for it, as you walked through cave, trudged through waters and jumped down waterfalls and slides. What a way to see something so illuminating and magical. It was definitely one we would do again!

An evening walk in New Plymouth calmed the adrenaline of the day, however. The next morning we faced another little bump on the road, that delayed us on our drive from New Plymouth to Wellington. However we were fortunate to see a clearing of the stand alone Mount Taranaki!

Wellington was a treat! Lovely buildings nestled in the city among hills. What a coffee and dining culture to experience here too. We would recommend Hangar’s flight coffee where you can get a coffee tasting and information on the brews you select.Any coffee snob’s dream. The Te Papa Museum captured our attention with a part of Kiwi history displayed in life-like giant models, created by the team at Weta. It was here that we departed the North Island at the end of week two and headed on the scenic ferry back to the South Island.

Our last day was spent in Christchurch where we ended our two week road trip. We covered over 3,500km with many hours on the road and so many sites to see. It was a beautiful adventure and exciting memories were made. There is something special and care free about having a map in your lap and beautiful places to explore. I’m really thankful for such opportunities to see a lot of the North and South Island. And I’m very blessed to have had friends come to the other side of the world to see me (and New Zealand!). That being said, my next holiday will be in one place and with one accommodation (instead of around 14 different!). Please take a look at my South Island and Auckland blog post too! And hopefully, it will convince more people to come to these breath-taking Islands.

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