Seeds & Seasons.

The other week I was asked to share at a Ladies Breakfast. I was told that the topic for that morning was Seeds and Seasons and little did that person know but the night before I was asked, I had been reading about the very subject of seeds. As well as this, I just so happen to have a garden nestled in the backyard of my new home this year. I am very excited about this! Do I know what I’m doing? No, not yet. I will probably spend the first few weeks eating weeds and boasting about how delicious it is to have home grown veggies. But thank God, who is the gardener of my life, that He knows exactly what He is doing. He understands the seed and He works on the soil. He knows what conditions are needed for those seeds to dig deep into the soil and to one day reap a harvest!
Perhaps when some of you think of the word ‘seeds’ in the Bible, you immediately think of the parable mentioned in Matthew 13 and if you have never heard of it, I do encourage you to take some time to read it. I would like to quickly summarise it to paint the picture of seeds, soil and growth. Here Jesus is sharing to large crowds of people and as he describes each soil type and situation, I am sure they were all wondering if this really was gardening lesson or was there something more to it? Jesus describes four types of ground that the seeds fall onto each time. The first is a path and even if we take just a moment to imagine the hard ground that we walk on everyday, it isn’t long before we understand that a seed wouldn’t survive here at all. The concrete is too hard and doesn’t allow anything to get pasts it’s surface. The second one mentioned is that of the rocky ground. So a not as hard as the pathway but is still rough with stone throughout it. There is no depth here either and therefore there is no root and as the elements such as sun beams down on it, it whither away in the end. The third ground mentioned is thorny and the thorns end up choking the seed, and they too don’t survive. Lastly, Jesus mentions what he calls the good soil and it is here that grain is produced up to even a hundred fold, sixty or thirty! So with this picture in mind, I would like to share some of what I had been thinking and reading about when Jacinda contacted me a few weeks ago. It was then that I had stumbled upon a blog post called Seeds by Kelly Minter (as I love to read some of the many good bloggers there are out there) and it was here that a few things stuck out to me about this passage that I had never really taken the time to consider, if I must admit. 
Although I had some understanding that the seeds in the text can represent God’s truths mentioned or shared with people. However, it had never really struck me that the seeds can never be bad, it is always good! (Perhaps when we are gardening and things aren’t coming to fruition, we might ponder as to whether it was a bad seed.) But from the text mentioned, the lack of growth was always due to the type of soil and not from the type of seeds. Indeed, we can see that is due to the condition of the soil that determines its growth and or lack of in that person’s life. 

So what is the soil? As people were more accustomed to hearing parables, I’m sure the large groups listening to Jesus began to see that the soil can represent the condition of our hearts! And it is the condition of our hearts that can aid in producing a harvest, through the power of that always good and never bad seed! So the seed comes across the soil. I think it is particularly interesting to note here that every type of soil encounters the seed. Depending on the soil type it might or might not grow. For a seed to grow roots and eventually produce, it also must have the presence of two things – light and water. Of course the soil and seed need to be watered and how cool to think of this analogy when we see that the picture of water mentioned in the Bibles often represents the Holy Spirit. Therefore, to bring it in, we all hear God’s word and depending on the condition of our heart, we may or may not receive these truths and produce growth. As God’s Word is rooted in our lives, we also need God, the Holy Spirit, to take it from our head to our hearts and then to outpour from our lives. This is the harvest! People coming to know the Lord more and more! How encouraging to hear of the good soils that produces a hundred fold- sixty and thirty! God can do so much more in our hearts and lives, more than we can imagine or do within ourselves. We need him!
Another thing to note about Seeds and their growth is that it takes times for this to happen. Like a gardener, God is patient in seeing to the produce and harvest. He gives us seasons in our lives that allow us to grow. He gives us circumstances and various stages that aid in continuing to cultivate a soft, receiving and fertile soil. Again, I would encourage you to read a little from Ecclesiastes 3,  very much known for being the passage of seasons. We cannot help but hear the word ‘time’ mentioned over and over again here. It takes time in these season, sometimes the seasons sound great and sometimes the seasons mentioned are not ones that I would particularly enjoy going through. But I love how this text begins. First of all it states that ‘for everything there is a season’. And then it goes on to say ‘for every matter under heaven’. Before we read the list of seasons, we know that with God, He gives reason and purpose for whatever season we are going through. Sometimes he uses seasons of a great rain of sorrow, or seasons of immense sunshine and joy. Other times God may choose to use a season of loss like the leaves that fall in autumn and another He may use a season of new beginnings as we see in Spring. All these seasons, to produce a soil that will continue to receive the seed and produce a harvest. All these seasons, to be changed to be more like Him and to grow in Him. How comforting to know that His word promises that it will never return back void and it will produce that harvest.
Lastly, I want to add a little something about both Seeds and seasons that I can see in my own life. This month when I was in Ireland, I was reading some of my old journals, as I have enjoyed journaling since I was even as young as six. I was reading a journal from 2011, a particular difficult time in life for me. I had just finished my BA at Art college and wondering what to do before I went on to do a teaching degree. I was so surprised to see a little to do list on one of the pages, as I never remembered writing down the option of ministry in New Zealand. Although I had contemplated New Zealand at the time, I didn’t realise that I had been thinking about doing any sort of ministry for so long. I was particularly surprised as it was a time of my life that I wasn’t surrendering everything to the Lord, so to see the word ‘ministry’ there struck me. Thankfully, God didn’t answer that prayer then. And I think I can understand why now looking back at it. It certainly wasn’t the season for this to happen as I know that the soil was not in the right condition. The condition of my heart was actually quite hardened at the time. If I could describe it, it was actually quite rocky or thorny. Hardened and a little bitter, my heart was too shallow and tough to receive God’s authority into my life. Indeed, God knew that He needed to work on the soil. I needed to grow through some more seasons before the fruit was ripe and the timing was right. In the end, over the years as I began teaching, I thought that my opportunity to move to New Zealand has passed and certainly the opportunity to work in some sort of ministry. But here I am and God’s direction in that is a whole other story. 

However, my whole point of mentioning this is to be a testament that God will grow us as we receive Him with all our heart and experience the seasons He places us in. That in some seasons, He wants us to be patient and to trust in Him to be at work. It takes time, maybe because we live in a faster paced world, we expect to see results quicker! We might not want the seasons, we simply want to go from the seed to the harvest. But how comforting it is to know that God is always at work, even if its work that is unseen as its in the ground as the roots grow deeper. That he uses the seasons to grow us and it is not in vain. Pouring into chapter three of Ecclesiastes shows us that there is a time for everything and if we are trusting in the Lord, receiving Him with an open heart towards Him, then He will grow us in Him. Remember, the seed is never bad. God is trustworthy! If anything I hope that this has encouraged you to dig deep into His Word, to plant it into a soft and receiving heart, to have perspective in the season that He has placed you in and to be hopeful that He will fulfill His promises to grow you and produce a harvest!

I hope to share some about the garden another time, with veggies of silverbeat , potatoes, courgette……( I can’t even name them all cause I’m a terrible gardener ) it does contain anaroma of mint and the lemon, fejoa and pear trees accompany them in all its abundance. Basically, for all you Irish out there….. I am the next Happy Pear!

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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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Te Anau, Milford Sound and the West Coast.

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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

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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

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Rivendell

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

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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!

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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!

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Times and Seasons.

                       
Recently, I have been going through a study of Ecclesiastes and although, I’m only half way through, I wanted to share some things from that. Some of us may think of words like ‘times’ and ‘seasons’ when we think of this book in the Bible. Some may especially recall chapter three ‘as there is a time for everything under heaven.’ The poetic language and honesty used by the writer calls us in as we may relate to some of the verses. However, I think we can especially relate to this tension where one moment we are wondering ‘what is the point?’ and the next where we get a glimpse of purpose and the bigger picture.. I am beginning to understand as I pull a part the text and ponder. I am also beginning to see that this book encompasses so much more. I won’t be including every topic or meaning from this book, as scholars may be quick to point out. For this post, I am only relaying snippets that are moving me to take the time to think about and indeed a season to impress some of it’s truths into my life.

First of all, I have been following a study of Ecclesiastes by Kathleen Buswell Nielson. I really like this spiral bound study as it engages you in a series of questions, that don’t just require you to jot down the same words in the Bible. The questions are posed to prompt your thinking, to engage with the text, to understand it’s context and to apply it’s meaning to your life. I love those moments, where you learn something new for the first time. It almost feels like some sort of blind fold has been lifted off your eyes and you have an ‘ah-ha’ moment. The title on the study says’ Wisdom’s searching and finding’ and immediately I am drawn as I too, want to know and display wisdom in my life. Indeed, I think most people would like these things. We have what is called an ‘inflamation of education’ and whether that is from the society that we live in or not, where we are now starting to collect various degrees and certificates, I think it is also because we each long to be wise-to understand and be able to answer more of the questions that life brings about. I guess, as someone who believes in a greater being than myself, must ask the question ‘where does wisdom come from?’ and ‘can I attain it apart from God?’. And this is part of what King Solomon began to dissect throughout his life, with his access to the material and kingly status knowing no bounds. He had everything. A kingdom. People at his beck and call. Wealth. Power. And he knew a few things too. Indeed, he was on a search for wisdom and in Ecclesiastes, we are given a glimpse from his experiences of what he found.

 It doesn’t take very long into the text to see some repetition of the phrase ‘there is nothing new under the sun’ and ‘it is all vanity’. It’s almost overwhelming and exudes some of a ‘what is the point’ mentality. If you stopped reading there then you might be quite confused as to why this is in the Bible. I certainly don’t have all the answers but I will note here that I enjoy the honesty of the writer as we see humanity struggle with it’s limitations and perhaps hopelessness in and of ourselves. BUT THEN… a poem unravels in chapter three that changes the environment for me. Hope and purpose enter the picture and this follows a new phrase, ‘under heaven’. We begin to see a contrast in the description, ones that offer meaning to the various ‘times’ in our lives. While we are under the text of ‘under heaven’, we abandon words such as ‘vanity’ and ‘meaningless’, and we are pleasantly immersed with words such as ‘peace’, ‘love’ and ’embracing’. Even with the inclusion of contrasting words such as weeping,losing killing and war, it is given it’s place in life’s timing. But it isn’t in vain anymore, there is purpose. If I am in a difficult place in my life,where tears flow often, then these truths tell us, ‘it is for a time’. God gives purpose to our pain and He also gives joyful times to our lives too. It’s like we can now withstand the tougher times because we can see the bigger picture, God’s bigger picture. I find this so comforting when I read the following verse and it gives me much strength and patience to carry on.

But I trust in you, O Lord; I say “You are my God.” My times are in your hands. Psalm 31.14-15

So not only does God take our lives and give them meaning and purpose, but He also reassures us that His timing for those things are in His hands.  For EVERYTHING there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven. When we seek God and his wisdom we begin to see our shift from it being ‘all vanity’ and under the sun to under heaven with all of its hope bestowed. And lastly, today as I was reading through chapter three and thinking about God’s timing, I began to liken it to an artist and their painting. As the artist approaches a canvas, they are intentional and involved in their creation. They dip their brush into the colour they think best and begin to make their marks on the blank background. As images forms, we are given a glimpse, although at times it might not be clear as to what the subject matter is, the artist is at work to bring it to completion. At certain times,it might not be beautiful but the artist will make it beatuiful in the end. It just needs some time.Then when the artist deems it a completed work, they will put down their brush and say it is completed. The viewers will understand what is in front of their eyes and take in all the steps that the artist chose for that painting. And as is promised in chapter three, God will make everything beautiful in its time. Even when we might not understand some of the brushstrokes that He makes in our lives. Even when we think we know the best timing. Even when others try to tell us what they think is the perfect time. Even if it involves tears of sadness or tears of joy. God knows. He gives us the wisdom. He has given us examples such as Ecclesiastes to unravel the meaning of the text. He gives us strength for the season He has placed us in. And He will bring it all to completion in our lives as we say But I trust in you, O Lord, You are my God.

A Year of Blogging.

 

 
It has been twelve stretching months since I was persuaded to start a blog. I’ve always loved reading blogs and although I’ve journaled around 60 notebooks throughout the years, I had never contemplated actually being the person who  puts pen to paper. I’m glad that I was prompted to do so.

Blogging has helped me to take the time to sit and ponder my thoughts. It has organised these thoughts into categories that enlightened me about who I am and the world around me. It taught me how to process and verbalise the times where I felt a particular emotion but didn’t understand how to put it into words. It rationalised my thinking and therefore  caused my response to be more appropriate or sane to situations. It helped me to deal with issues, move on from hurts and grow in compassion.

Yes, sometimes I do feel like a broken record and I do apologise for this. At times, I wonder if writing the blog is more about speaking to myself than to an audience. I certainly don’t have all the answers and for the most part I am throwing out more questions. I haven’t graduated in any of the topics that I’ve posted, if anything, I read them back to myself because I need to read thoughts from more of my ‘sane’ moments, espeically when I feel lke things are a little out of my control.

So although Under the Dogwood trees has been beneficial for me, it is an added bonus if you have enjoyed it too! Perhaps, a sentence or two has stuck out. Maybe it has challenged you, opened your eyes or made it relatible to your circumstances. It coud have been nothing new from what you have heard before. That’s ok too. I hope that the running theme has always pointed to Christ, through the many expressions ranging from sadness to joy.

Happy 1st Birthday, Under the Dogwood Tress. Thank you for taking the time to read and even comment throughout the year. I am open to suggestions for further posts and look forward to what is in store next. Here is a little insight into how blogging in 2016 went…

1. This is the 39th post!! Although, I didn’t get to post every week, I tried to produce one every other week and tried not to feel guilty when I knew it had been a little while since the last one.

2. It had over 2,000 different viewers with over 3,500 views. I was just happy if I had one person reading it to be honest, and that would probably would have been Aoife or my mother.

3. The record for most views in one day was when I published The Race on 26 Septmember, with 419 viewers reading the various posts.

4. The most read post is When the Heart is Healing, and after having reread this today, I am reminded of how God continues to change our hearts!

5. Probably the most tranparent post I had written was How do you like your steak? I was quite nervous to publish that one.

6. My first post was A little about little me, and I hope you have grown to know me more since then.

7. Some of my favourites include the ones on travelling, tramping and friendships.

8. And lastly, one of my favourite things about this blog is it’s readers too!

…So happy reading..

-Under the Dogwood Trees

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

  

Merry & Bright.

 

                                 Erin Walshe,  circa 2009 

Wow. Christmas 2016. How did that come upon us? It has been a fast year indeed and as 2017 approaches, I will surely post about how this was one of the best years yet for me. As for this post, I simply wanted to update you readers that my calendar is quite full over the next fews weeks and that I might not get much time to write. The week before Christmas, this Friday in fact, I will be off to the lakes for Summer Camp with the teens. Yes, that means water tubing and skiing will fill the days and camping in tents will encompass the nights. It’s really weird to say that and so far removed from my winter traditions. But I will welcome the new things this holiday. 

It’s a busy time of year for all. I’m sure you have already been to at least one Christmas party, with work or with friends. The build up is espeically one of hustle and bustle and then there is a big sigh of relief Christmas day as you may sit with a full belly and heart. As soon as camp is over, I will be straight into leading the Christmas Eve Service and volunteering with a community Christmas dinner on the 25th! Busy Busy. I want to encourage myself and you, to enjoy all the social dues on your calendar. But please also, take the time to relax and remember the important things of the holiday too. 

In conclusion, you may find Christmas and its traditions changing over the years. I usually think of lights and dark evenings when I think of the words Merry & Bright. However, this year I will think of sunshine and sunglasses. Well, whatever kind of Christmas it will be for you, there is one light that is always constant. And that is the reminder of that very first Christmas, where Immanuel came in the form of a babe and now He is with us forevermore. For every holiday and for every ‘normal’ day in between. In the busy times of year and during the slow ticking of the calendar days too. He is with us.

The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel (which means God with us) Matthew 1.23

Here are some photos of the Mid-Winter Christmas dinner we held. July may seem like a strange time to celebrate the Christmas Season but that’s what we did down here as the southern hemisphere was in their full swing of winter.
   
    
      

    

  

   
  

There’s no place like home.

As a child I was obsessed with the movie, The Wizard of Oz. It was often that I sat entranced by glittery red shoes and a scruffy dog named Toto. I even named one of my dogs Toto and as you can see from the photo, there was nothing that could peal my eyes from the screen when this was playing.

 
  

An iconic line is stated continously by Dorothy as a way of returning to her family. She repeats ‘There is no place like home.’ For me, I always get stuck on that last word. Home. I think it’s because I’m not quite sure where that is for me.  Perhaps, the years of hopping between the US and Ireland have created a sense of confusion in regards to this partcular subject matter, and I have approached this topic somewhat in the post, Third Culture Kids. 

There are certainly times that I feel at home. For example, I feel at home now in New Zealand and when I go to visit my parents and family, I do feel a little at home there too. I think it quite surprised me when I lived at my parent’s last year and felt out of place. Maybe I felt this way because it wasn’t my home but yes it is a type of home. I guess it can be a good thing that I don’t identify with one place being home, as it makes it easier to move to different places and countries. It probably doesn’t help that over the last few years, I have moved every year to a new place. But who knows, I might make this current spot stretch for another year. Either way, as I repeat the word home, it makes me think that perhaps, I am writing more about belonging than that of an actual place or four walls.

Home is your safe place, where you can sit back and relax within your space or with your loved ones. You belong there. In the wacky world of Oz, Dorothy was certainly out of place and longed to return to where she did belong. But what happens when sometimes you feel like you don’t really belong? When you are on the yellow brick road with some random people and strange circumstances? I think I can relate to this feeling sometimes. It can be confusing and out of place. Sometimes, I can feel like this when I don’t fit into the people groups around me. Yes, I have friends in them but cannot fully relate to any of them at times. Othertimes, it appears in what I do or where I go. I’ll always be different to the American. I’ll always be the girl with the funny accent in Ireland. And for now, I’m simply mixed up between the two. Yes, I don’t ‘fully belong’ here with a history of growing up in New Zealand, but for now I belong. It is home. 

It is comforting to read in scripture about Jesus preparing a home for those who love and follow Him. There will be no displacency or separation. We will belong and feel completely content and secure in the everlasting company of a God who loves us. Maybe the part of us that longs for this, keeps the here and now in perspective. That how we choose to live our lives can determine if we are building towards an eternal home. And in the mean time… that we can belong to God’s family. He calls us his own and no matter where in the world we lay our head, we belong to Him.

So until I have my own four walls surrounding me or a people group that I fully relate to, it’s ok. I still belong. I’ll always have a home. I’ll one day be a Dorothy, who will be swept up in red glittery shoes. And remember that although Dorothy wasn’t home yet, she met people that she loved and was loved by along the way too! Yes, ‘there is no place like home’, so let’s be intentional in how we view or make that.

And by the way… I’m super excited about visiting Ireland in February! Nine weeks today till I start the long journey! 🙂 🙂