The very worst missionary. Part 1.

Let me begin by saying that the title isn’t necessarily reflective of what the post is actually about. It is not naming and shaming or even listing out all the attributes of  ‘the very worst missionary’. In fact, it is simply a place where I’m going to throw out my thoughts on the following: What does a missionary ‘look’ like? Do you have to go far to be a missionary? How do you even know if you are meant to be a missionary? Like I iterate in most of my posts, I don’t actually have the answers. I’ll just set the scene with what I may think or feel but that doesn’t make it true. Perhaps like you, I am on the journey that is figuring out some of these things along the way. I do believe I know where and who those truths come from. So please be patient with me as I too, try to search the Bible for more of those truths. As for the title? Well, I use to follow a blog called Jamie, the very worst missionary. She made me laugh and sometimes I couldn’t believe she was brave enough to share a particular thought with the world, especially as a missionary :0 ! But it was always her honesty that struck me, as she never claimed to be ‘the very best missionary’. So with these thoughts and as the sentences unfold, I aim for one thing. It’s not to be the very best missionary but it’s actually to be honest and transparent with you, the readers. In order to save this from being one extremely long, drawn out post, I’m going to break this up into parts, so please stay tuned…

A little about me.

First of all, I will not claim any title for myself as I start to write this. I will not say. Hello, I’m Erin. I’m a teacher…youth worker… youth pastor…missionary….whatever other name that could fill in that blank. I’ll just say. Hello, I’m Erin. ‘Cause sometimes, if I am honest, I’m not quite sure where I fit in with it all. Sometimes, I don’t ‘feel’ like some of those things and it leaves me wondering: well what does it mean to be any of those? What exactly is a missionary?

From a young age, 99% of the time, when asked the questions of ‘ What would you like to be when you grow up?’. I was quite confident and excited to reply with ‘an art teacher’. However, I do remember this one time of replying with the answer of ‘a missionary.’ Did I just say this because it was the Sunday school thing to say? I don’t know or even remember the motive. Besides this and the moments that I went on mission trips or volunteered for some sort of outreach activity, I pretty much imagined myself in the art room of a school. This is what I worked towards for many years, its what I did for a while, and its what I occasionally will ponder about whenever I see students pour out of the doors of the local highschool. 

The Call.

If you are wondering how I went from the art room to the church, I have gone into more detail in the post An Unexpected Journey. For now, I’m going to skip those details and focus a bit more on the subject of being called. I guess the first question that pops into my head is, ‘does someone have to be called to missions’? And if so, what does that even look like? How do you know you have been called and how can you even be sure it’s of God? 

I think as Christians, if we are to follow Jesus, we each play a missional role. In Mark chapter 4 and Matthew 28, we read about Jesus asking us to be fishers of men and to go into all the world and make disciples. It doesn’t mention that only certain people are to do this but that we EACH have a part to play in sharing the good news. How can we even keep these things to ourselves when we experience this new life that Christ brings about within us? I always felt passionate and adamant in sharing God in our ‘secular’ (even though I sometimes cringe in reservation at using that word) workplace, in our communities, on our sports field and within our extra curricular activities and past times. I don’t think this is reserved for those only in full time missions or ministry. I think its each of our responsibility and it should be our joy to share our lives with Christ, with one another. I believe that as we follow God and understand more of who He is, as we look to the example of Jesus- we understand that the heart and the intention is always something to flow out into the people around us and not to be kept to ourselves. So what about ‘the call’ to be a missionary? How is that different?

I don’t really, fully know or understand. I believe that we serve an all-knowing God and from this, I trust that He sees needs and reasons that sometimes we don’t. God, being outside of time and even our little world, can see why so and so should go to such and such in order to spread His love and His news. That is my foundation for when pondering the why’s and how’s for God sending people to the ends of the earth. Why did He send my friend from California to Ireland, while I’m here in New Zealand and someone from New Zealand is overseas serving elsewhere? I don’t have those answers but I trust that God does. I think that as we journey with God…as He reveals Himself to us through His Word…as we come to Him seeking guidance… as we wonder what to do and where to go….that He is indeed faithful in leading us. I don’t believe there is a one-fits-all formula in how each of our paths unfold and I have only experienced my story of how God brought me to New Zealand. I do think that the common denominator answer to ‘being called’ will incorporate spending time with God through digging into scripture, being on our knees and serving others. I know that sounds very general! However, it becomes personal and particular when we open our hands in surrender and say ‘God, show me!’. I remember one of the verses that stood out to me during that time in taking the steps to leave Ireland, was from Jeremiah 33.3. It says Call to me and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things. God may keep us in a waiting period but He will show us. He will lead us to where He wants us to go. I also think that He will give us a peace about it and it is that, as well as His faithful character, that we can hold onto. Sometimes people feel called to a particular place or to a specific people group or need. For me, I just always wanted to come to New Zealand and as things unraveled, I guess a little of that desire began to make more sense. God might lay things especially on our heart beforehand or even during but it will always be about serving Him and serving others.  Do you think God wants you to stay within your ‘secular’ job and share Him as the opportunities arise? Do you believe God wants you to go somewhere with the intention and primary purpose of sharing Christ with others? Are you going to consider being called?

If you have found this somewhat thought provoking and wish to read more, please keep an eye out for part 2, The Missionary.

Here is a photo taken from my journal in 2011, where I was listing possible options for the future. I don’t even remember contemplating ‘missions’ in NZ at that time, but I guess, sometimes God lays things on our hearts that we don’t quite understand at the time. 

https://underthedogwoodtrees.wordpress.com/2016/02/08/an-unexpected-journey/

Advertisements

Your Dwelling Place.

Last week, I had the opportunity to walk the Milford track. A four day hike of 53.5km which involved sights of mountains, glowworms and some of the clearest waters I have ever seen! It was beautiful and here are a few photos below to share some of that. 

Before I went on the tramp, I had decided to pick a random Psalm and print it out on a piece of paper to bring with me. (I learned from the first tramp I did, that I wasn’t about to carry a book with me and have some extra weight!). The psalm that I printed out was Psalm 84 and here are some of the thoughts that I had about this as I was walking for the four days. 

First of all, on the very first day, I lost my voice. Very convenient! I figured if I fell and was unable to shout for help, that it was a beautiful place to die. Complete wilderness and tranquillity; with only the waterfalls and the birds producing some of nature’s loveliest sounds. This gave me extra time to be quiet myself and to ponder on some of the truths that are laid out before us in this particular psalm.  A few things especially stand out to me. The sense of what a dwelling place is and that our hearts should yearn for the Lord and His dwelling place. That in this dwelling place we find it better than anywhere else and with no good thing withheld from us. Sounds almost too good to be true!

Psalm 84 starts off with ‘How lovely is your dwelling place , oh Lord!”. I found it interesting to think about the subject of a dwelling place as we hiked from one hut to the next over the course of the time. Going tramping is wonderful for seeing how little you can live with, because once you are out there, unless you barter or kill for something, there is no way of getting your hands on it till you’re out in civilisation again. You would be surprised how much you will treasure a bandaid to put on your blistered feet, or how much your food and snacks can weigh! As I mentioned in a previous post, Stumping the Hump, you learn about what is most important to carry in order to survive and you also think really hard about the luxuries that might bring that extra bit of happiness your way. But the question that arises here is ‘what does it take to have with you to actually make a dwelling place’? Indeed, one of my favourite things about moving into a new place is making it into a home. Decorative pillows, candles, throws, plants….. these are all things that add to the comfort and ambience that I try to create in the place that I live in. When you are tramping, you have to stuff your stinky clothes into a bag to act as a pillow. If you tried carrying a candle or a potted plant with you, you would soon find out that this is the most ridiculous thing you could do to create your dwelling place for those nights in the hut. So what makes a dwelling place then, if my french vanilla scented room isn’t necessarily going to cut it?

A dwelling place has to be more than just the physical, as all that is temporary. Even if we followed the lates decorating trends, we find that they go in and out of season too. So I guess whatever dwelling place we want to invest in, its going to have to involved the security of something that is more lasting. We learn from this passage that, whatever that place may be, that our hearts should yearn for it, even faint. We read that a day in that place is better than a thousand elsewhere! Can you believe that? A thousand days in your most favourite or treasured place and that doesn’t even compare to how good that one day in the courts here!! But what is the common dominator in each of these examples of Psalm 84. Each mention of a dwelling place or courts is followed by our Lord. Thus it seems, that this beautiful dwelling place that sounds too good to be true can only be found with our Lord there. We cannot make it on our own or by ourselves. Not only is our Lord found in that place but ee also learn that He provides for us in that place; as He even cares that the birds finds a home. How applicable to be in such a spot as the Milford with the soundtrack of birds constantly playing. (Did you know that when the settlers first came to New Zealand, there was so much bird activity that they could hear it long before they reached the islands ?) And God ,as it says in Matthew 6, cares for them too. It goes on to say in the same stanza as the birds, that those who dwell in His house are blessed, and like those birds are ever singing… singing His praises forever!

The passsages unfolds to even talk about pilgrimage and that those who seek the Lord go from strength to strength. That even when they go through tough times, they make a place of refreshment as ‘they make it a place of springs’. Springs and pools that are filled with the rain from above. Isn’t it also fascinating that the mention of water is often being described as a picture of the Holy Spirit in scripture. That even though we pass through the valleys, that God provides the Holy Spirit, Himself, to be with us there and from these ‘springs’, we can carry on from strength to strength! The verse that always stops me in my tracks is found in verse 11. No good thing does He withhold from those who walk up rightly. A lot of the time I believe that God does withhold good things from me. Like He is punishing me or it is some kind of experiment that seems to give out lots of good things to other people but not necessarily to me. How wrong I am in that when I encounter the very words of God that say other wise. Following Him. Following His Ways. They guarantee only goodness for us. That doesn’t mean we won’t pass through the valleys and we only dwell in comfortable places. No, we dwell with God, whatever the terrain may be that we are currently in. And that is the best place to dwell. Only good things.

What is your dwelling place? Is it with God- walking with Him along the mountains and the valleys, along the pilgrimage of life? What is in that dwelling place? Is it filled with a veneer of a homey and comfortable setting or is it filled with those pools or springs where you can draw your strength from? Is it better than anything else or your most favourite place? Is it blessed by God as you trust in Him? Is it worth dwelling there for a thousand years of even a day? Does your soul long and even faint for it? Does everything within you call out for the living God? Because that’s where we find our rest, our search for a physical dwelling place ends because our hearts are satisfied with the springs and the courts of our Lord.


Meeting Middle Earth.

If you really want to know what Middle-earth is based on, it’s my wonder and delight in the earth as it is, particularly the natural earth. -JRR Tolkien

After travelling throughout the North and South Island of New Zealand, I am not surprised that Sir Peter Jackson decided to use such landscape for the fantastical world of hobbits, elves, dwarves and dragons. With drastic and diverse terrains, natural colour palettes of various hues and the creativity of Wellington’s Weta workshops, some of the most loved books came to life. Although, I have read and watched The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings throughout my teen and adult years, I cannot claim to have the dedication that others around me may have had. For this post, I simply want to share these places and stories with some of those fans and stir an excitement for a beautiful country that I feel quite passionate about. All photos are from my own travels and adventures throughout Middle Earth.

So let me begin with some scenes from both The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings that are closer to home….

Mt Cook, Twizel and Canterbury.

12800384_10156610099375321_7796412730298028039_n

Stretching across the central and southern parts of the South Island of New Zealand, the mighty chain of mountains named the Southern Alps was used extensively in filming The Lord of the Rings. The majestic peaks, with their exquisite glacier carved lakes and rivers depicted the Misty Mountains of Tolkien’s Middle Earth.

This striking part of New Zealand is known for its stunning alpine scenery and Mount Cook, New Zealand’s highest peak. Lindis Pass, a 63km scenic reserve, was also featured as part of Fangorn Forest, and is one of the routes that traverse the Southern Alps.

11219326_10156786515295321_3667270956641002258_n

Driving through the spectacular Lindis Pass that links the Mackenzie Basin with Central Otago is considered a must do when visiting New Zealand. -firstlighttravel.com

12814495_10156610817805321_8129022258415517663_n

Lake-town – one of the most extensive outdoor sets built for The Hobbit Trilogy – was created  on the shores of Lake Pukaki, where the turqoiuse waters run from the glaciers of the surrounding peaks.

10660123_10156610815705321_8811035419491015330_n

Near Twizel in the MacKenzie country the epic battle at Pelennor Field and scenes involving the Eastemnet Gullies were filmed on the spectacular. Twizel lies just down the road from Mt Cook/Aoraki National Park, where the breath taking opening scenes of The Two Towers were filmed. -firstlighttravel.com

Queenstown and Wanaka.

And here are some of the film locations from more of the South Island.

Lake Wakatipu was used for scenes involving Lothlorien, an ancient forest. “There lie the woods of Lothlorien!” said Legolas. “That is the fairest of al the dwellings of my people. There are no trees like the trees of that land. For in autumn their leaves fall not, but turn to gold.” The Lord of the Rings, JRR Tolkien.

14115566_10157348135335321_280311384935364638_o.jpg

See the same gorge, otherwise known as the Anduin River, that the Fellowship of the Ring paddled down to be greeted by the two giant statues on either side on the river. Unfortunately, the statues were added in postproduction… Nevertheless, Kawarau Gorge is pretty spectacular. -backpackerguide.nz

14124385_10157348130860321_4075216267695409313_o

 

From Lake Wanaka in the heart of New Zealand’s southern lakes region, you can see the backdrop used for Gandalf’s flight to Rohan with Gwaihir after his rescue from Orthanc. Wanaka was also the film location for the River Anduin, Golden Plain, Lothlorien, Pillars of the Argonath, and Dimrill Dale.

13000324_10156786371850321_4125557386472398905_n

12993567_10156786396705321_3707578014730287033_n

Te Anau, Milford Sound and the West Coast.

14102826_10157334223950321_4525587094216103312_o

Gateway to massive Fiordland National Park, the township of Te Anau sits at the edge one of the most picturesque lakes in New Zealand. Te Anau was a base for a number of The Two Towers locations including the Great River Anduin, Fangorn Forest and The Dead Marshes. Milford Sound was the film location for Fangorn Forest, with its beautiful beech trees it’s a stunning place to visit. – firstlighttravel.nz

14053863_10157334225180321_5502105080585040079_o

14114819_10157334227160321_5069115591012957786_o

14114879_10157334241750321_7463419488449206324_o

With these mountains whetting our appetite, let us now cross waters to the North Island and explore some of the film locations that they had to offer for the trilogies!

Wellington.

Capitol of New Zealand as well as a centre of creativity and flair. Surrounding this area are various filming locations,however, Wellington is also home to The Weta workshops where you can tour through studios with the artists at work. I really encourage this experience as the works of art in both the detail of material and special effects particularly bring to life the war scenes and costumes that JRR Tolkien so describes.

The Wellington region provided the locations for Rivendell, the Auduin River, The Gardens of Isengard and Lothlorein in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. The most accessible filming location in Wellington is Mount Victoria, which is within walking distance of the city. The forested areas of Mount Victoria were used to depict Hobbiton Woods, where the hobbits hid from the black riders, all of the other film locations are within an hours drive of the city.-firstlighttravel.com

Weta Workshops

15039667_10157735870655321_4529075725214276165_o

Rivendell

This was a happy surprise as we drove out of Wellington to find Rivendell nestled amoung trees and water.

15137439_10157735872460321_7036906434716266590_o

15129467_10157735871640321_4841529629789974136_o

The Taupo Region.

The Taupo region was the filming location for Mordor, Emyn Muil and Mt Doom. In Return of the King, Frodo and Sam climbed Mt Doom. You can do the same while walking the Tongariro crossing, often described as the best 1-day walk in New Zealand. It’s a challenging walk taking 7-8 hours, taking you past volcanoes, steaming fumaroles, jagged lava flows, the red Crater and Emerald Lakes. -firstlighttravel.com

Unfortunately, my friends and I were not able to walk the Tongariro crossing as planned, due to the weather conditions. But we did do a little walk, knowing Mordor was close by in the distance. It is still on my list!

dsc_1989

Hobbiton.

And lastly, let us journey to the hills of Matamata, where I know you have been waiting to view the cute little Hobbit holes, home of Bilbo and Froddo Baggins.

The town of Matamata in the Waikato with it’s rolling hills and emerald green grass was the perfect setting for the peaceful Shire region of Middle-earth, the home of the village of Hobbiton. This area of New Zealand is one of the richest agricultural and pastoral areas in the world and is characterised as a large fertile basin through which the Waikato River flows. The Hobbiton movie set has primarily been returned to its natural state, however hobbit holes and other distinctive land marks such as ‘the party tree’ still remain and can be viewed as part of a Hobbiton tour. The Waikato region also offers superb caving and black water rafting.

dsc_2288

dsc_2375

Tours of the Shire bring to life a film set that has not been forgotten. What amazed me most from here was the visible evidence of how Sir Peter Jackson was one who gave great attention to detail during his filming. For example, the job of daily hanging up and retrieving the little hobbit laundry on the line was given in order to give the authentic impression of footprints in the grass! Wow.

Another was the tree that sits atop of Bilbo’s home. Jackson had leaves that he had envisioned for the set ,created and attached to the tree!

dsc_2323dsc_2343

Even if you are not a big fan of the books or films, you cannot help but appreciate the creativity and feel the magical and cheery atmosphere of what is Hobbiton.

dsc_2263

dsc_2275

You can even have an ale from The Green Dragon, where they brew ales made only for this once in a lifetime experience. It is also the only entry inside as the rest of the hobbit holes are empty and were filmed elsewhere in Wellington.

dsc_2482

dsc_2474

dsc_2475

This is certainly only a little taster of what meeting Middle Earth is like and I hope you have enjoyed it. If anything, it simply displays the gorgeous views of New Zealand and hopefully entices you to come and visit it for yourself. I don’t believe you will be disappointed!

jrr-tolkien-quote-1

dsc_2418

The Best Yet.

Happy New Year! Welcome 2017! Hope that you had a relaxing and enjoyable few weeks taking part in all the festivities! Before we are anymore immersed into January, let me share a little about what 2016 meant for me.

I began 2016 in Ireland and among family. At the time, I knew I would soon be moving to New Zealand and knew that time was precious. Although I usually spend New Year’s with friends, I brought in 2016 in the company of grandparents, parents and siblings. I remember before that night was over having a feeling of fear creep in. Perhaps, it was because Dad and I were debating on the subject of terrorist attacks, but either way, it was a feeling that I kept having to fight over the next few weeks.  I wasn’t necessarily afraid to move to a new place, I felt ready for that! It was more irrational thoughts such as ‘ What if the plane crashes?’,’What if I get blown up?’, ‘What if a shark eats me and the world ends?’. Like seriously, what was that about? I think that all of these crazy questions really stemmed from the fear of the unknown. I didn’t know what was really ahead. I couldn’t yet imagine it in my head and I wanted to know the where and why’s and when? But these answers are not foretold, they can only be lived through. I guess that is one of the reasons why I love New Years as it forces me to reflect the past year and usually after I do so, I quickly realize that every single year God provides in so many ways. He knows the unknown and He keeps it, deciding to walk alongside it with us. Reflection of all the provision and answers makes me hopeful for the next year ahead and dissipates all the worries of what it might bring.

2016 unfolded to be one of the best yet, despite the fears of the unknown. And these are a few of the things that I felt privileged to be a part of.

1. I boarded a plane to travel across the world to a country that I’ve always wanted to visit!

  
2. I had a new place to call home and a quirky town to begin life in.

   
3. I met many people and felt surrounded with much support, generosity and care. I’ve also had friends visit me here.

4. I’ve been surrounded by a great bunch of young people who I get to share life with. With this has come life changing conversations and witnessing things that only God can really do within us.

  
5. I’ve walked up mountains ( never believe a Kiwi when they say ‘hill’, they most defintely mean ‘mountain’). I’ve had a go at ziplining through forests, water skiing, snow skiing and floating through glow worm caves with nothing but an inflated hoop. I’ve felt the heat of volcanic activity in the ground and I have witnessed an aray of beauty and colour around me in the ever changing landscapes of the two islands.

   

 

   
    
 
These are just a few and brief examples of why this year was so good. Although being one of the best yet, that doesn’t mean there were not times of confusion, sadness and tears. It is so easy to put up a photo of the exciting times and yet be removed from sharing those quiet moments that no one really sees. Those unspoken and inner moments where fear tends to breed. It was definately an adventurous year of stepping out for me. A year of change and a year of challenges. How did your year go?
In conclusion, at the end of every year, I would like to be able to say ‘this has been the best yet.’ Even if it has been the most difficult to go through. I want it to be the best because I have given my best and my all to living for God. I want it to be the best because it is becoming easier to understand that even if the path looks different that His ways are the best for me. I’d like for each year to be adventurous whether I get on a plane or not, because I have the perspective of one who experiences the excitement of trusting God in the unknown.  God keeps showing us every year as the clock stikes midnight and the turn of a new year arises, that the unknown doesn’t have to be a scary, in fact it can be one of hope. God gives us hope for the future ( Jeremiah 29.11) ! I’m sure there are many reasons why we don’t possess knowledge of what 2017 will bring. We might run from pain, instead of allowing that pain to draw us closer to Him and others around us. We might decide to stay where it is most comfortable and never change or be challenged. We just might not want to know the path that is ahead. The only certainty for 2017 is that God is with us and He is already at the end of it too. He knows! I’ve been listening to a song lately that sums up that moment when you contemplate staying in the comfort or stepping out to be changed. I’m going to end this post with that and challenge myself and you; to allow the words to be pondered as the new year sets forth. That 2017 will be the best yet because we are stepping out into the unknown and walking with God through it. Every step of the way and every day that goes by.
I could just sit and wait for all Your goodness

Hope to feel Your presence

And I could just stay

I could just stay right where I am and hope to feel You

Hope to feel something again


And I could hold on

I could hold on to who I am and never let You

Change me from the inside

And I could be safe

I could be safe here in Your arms and never leave home

Never let these walls down
But You have called me higher

You have called me deeper

And I’ll go where You will lead me Lord

You have called me higher


And I will be Yours, oh
I will be Yours for all my life


-All Sons and Daughters, Called Me Higher

  

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. 

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.

dsc_2367

The Race.

This past weekend, I had the opportunity to see a new part of New Zealand as I joined a team of ladies taking part in an adventure race.  And by join, I mean  I went along for the ride and no part of my contribution included white water rafting, cycling or hiking. I will add that I did try to sign up for the race when I first heard about it and I will also admit that I was secretly happy that it was already booked out by this stage. Phew!

The race was up at the top of the South Island, at an area called Golden Bay. Here are some photos from some of the free time that we had.


What beauty! While in Golden Bay, I had some time to think and of course, between the transition periods of the race, I could not help but think about THE RACE. I was very fortunate to be part of such a fun support team where myself and two other family members of the ladies, had many laughs over coffees and treats. It was relaxing and comfortable inside from the rain. We were sheltered, full and did not have to break one single sweat as we thought of those outside -embracing their environment and challenging their minds and bodies. Although, it was lovely to be in the cosy environment that I first mentioned, I couldn’t help but think about being in the other.

I am reminded of how we each take part in the race that is life. Paul speaks about this in both Philippians and 1 Corinthians. He urges us to ‘run that you may obtain the prize‘, to ‘press on toward the goal’ and to ‘run with endurance the race that is set before us.’! I remember when I trained for a marathon a few years ago and pondering these words in my head as I ran pathways throughout Limerick city. There is great application for our lives in these. The call to strive in the things set before us- in our homes, schools, work place, churches, relationships and ultimately in our relationship with Christ. The language used strips out any thoughts of complacency or halfhearted. Just like in training, you pursue and intentionally spend your time preparing for the challenges of the race, and to ultimately reach a finish line. Many of us don’t simply sign up for such a race and then due to lack of motivation or effort, decide that the training is irrelevant. We want our mind and bodies to indeed be prepared for those moments that are steep and muddy and just plain scary! And it is so tough! It can be the most physically and mentally difficult thing you might ever take part in! But you know what, it is better than sitting in that warm, cosy cafe engaging in the comfortable and pleasurable! How is that possible? Because the reward is so much better! At the end of the finish line, no matter the pain endured, the obstacles tackled and moments of frustration, you have finished well. You ran the race.

We can all probably admit to wanting a comfy life whether its in the material, the status or the relationships that surround us. No one really wants to jump up at the first sign of pain, and say ‘yes! it is here, I can face this now and perhaps learn something through it!’. If anything, we do all that we can to avoid trials of any sort. We don’t want our warm, comfortable environment to be disrupted….well, at least I don’t. But God knows that we will face hardships in life at some stage or another. He says to ‘consider it pure joy, whenever you face trials…’ (James 1.2-4). He doesn’t say ‘if’, He says ‘whenever’. What is our response to this? Do we decide to be persistent in our training and continue to take part in the race? Do we sit back and just see how it all works out, without even breaking a sweat or lifting a finger?

dsc_1257

As the saying goes, you must be in it to win it! Are we even in the race? Are we striving and pursuing a relationship with God that allows us to think of Him and others more than our own comforts? Are we training for those challenging obstacles along our path by putting into practice the things that we might hear on a Sunday morning? Are we enjoying those moments of satisfaction and fulfilment when we reach a summit that gives us a breathtaking view and outlook to our surroundings? Are we motivated to take part and are we willing to start running ?

The reward is greater than the comforts. The pain is worth the sacrifice of some pleasures. God is worthy to run towards every single day of our lives -the summits and the valleys. He calls us to run, not walk. He calls us towards Him, and not ‘aimlessly’ (1 Corinthains 9). So run the race!

Here is a photo of these three ladies at the end of their finish line!

dsc_1276

What an inspiration!
May I simply note here that although I talk about it being better to take part in the race, I do not want reminders of this blog post this time next year, when I’m planning all the cafes to visit during the race. Vive la “support team!”