Sometimes life is filled with so many things, it’s hard to capture it all at once. This season seems to be summed up in good, different, and beautiful: people, places, and things that have us feeling incredibly grateful!
When we arrived at Crossroads Church nearly 3 years ago, there were precisely three kids at our church (ours was one of them). A few more were connected to our twice monthly Kids’ Club. Over the past few years, those kiddos have grown in number and age. Now, a bunch of them are on the cusp of their teenage years and looking for a space where they can have fun with their peers. We’ve have seen the writing on the wall for several months, but we knew our responsibilities prohibited us from taking it all on ourselves. So, when our SNU SIMS team was here this past June, we held a youth group event for 11-17 year olds at our church. It was a smash success with over 15 kids!
But the best part of all is one of the mums of the participants said, “I totally see what you mean now! I’ll invite the kids and plan the activities if you or Jaron can do the teaching time and music.” Praise God! And just like that, we have youth group that is meeting once a month now with hopefully more to come next year.
New Flooring and a Bathroom Reno
We live in a house owned by our church. It is located in a neighborhood we love about 1 km from the church. We couldn’t have picked something better suited for our family if we had tried, but to be honest, our house has needed a little attention. The concrete foundation was peeking through threadbare patches of carpet in a few places and the linoleum was torn and damaged. Our dear friend connected us with someone who works at Carpet Mill, a carpet store based here in Hamilton. The contact at Carpet Mill walked us through the options, worked with the church’s budget, and blessed us with a sizeable discount. As a result, we have new flooring throughout the house. The carpet is warm and cozy and the linoleum is bright and fresh. Good is an understatement.
We are also giving our en-suite bathroom a little love as well. Gone is the moldy shower enclosure (mold is a real issue in NZ.) Jaron’s dad, John, has been meticulously coating it with layers of the moisture blocking coating, tiling and grouting. It is a good thing and it’s going to be beautiful!
And… not pictured here are freshly painted accent walls in our church, thanks to our friends Mativa and Malo. Dusty curtains have been removed and we’ll install carpet tiles over the plywood floors sometime in the next few weeks. We are so excited!
Also, a little fact you may or may not know about Jaron: he is never happier and more energized than when he has a DIY project or two in the works. Projects at church and at home have been a very good thing for him, and I am the very happy recipient.
Birthday Party Season
It is birthday party season around here! One of the big differences between school in the US and school in NZ is that kids start school when they turn five, no matter when that is in the year. That means that entire classes of kids have birthdays about the same time. That translates to two months of weekends with multiple birthday parties each as each child celebrates turning another year older. We’ve had bowling parties, pirate parties, Fun Zone parties, and Pokemon parties, and it is has been so fun! Perhaps the last party is this weekend. Birthday party season will be followed by a long stretch without parties, only to be repeated again next year.
DIY Home improvements
As mentioned above, we love home (and church improvements)! But the products you use, where you find them, and what they are called is also one of the major differences between life in NZ and life in the US. Nearly three years in to our life in NZ, and we are STILL learning how to go about a basic renovation, where to find the best products, and how to avoid paying literally twice as much as the tradies (contractors) for basic supplies.
For example, the tile product we call bull nose and use to edge tile in the US doesn’t seem to exist here. Instead, everything is trimmed with thin plastic or metal pieces. That’s different.
Toilets in NZ are not one size fits all as they are in the US. Instead, you have to take careful measurements to make sure you purchase a toilet with the correct flange size, trap configuration, location from the wall and an accurate water source location. Who knew? That’s different. It also may be of interest that NZ toilets have wayyyyy less water sitting in the bowl than US toilets.
Cost is also a huge difference, maybe the biggest difference of all. The equivalent of a US gallon of paint is nearly 4 times as much in NZ as it is in the US, but that’s just one example. We often find ourselves getting creative, simplifying our plans, feeling extra grateful for what we do have, and taking a deep breath when we sign on the bottom line.
Flowers in Winter
Flowers are winter in New Zealand’s most redeeming factor. Let’s be honest. Winter can feel long in NZ. It’s not particularly cold by much of the world’s standards, but the reality is there are many days when the sunshine only peeks out for an hour or two and many more days when you don’t see it at all. About the time you think spring will never come (and you know it’s not going to feel like spring for at least two more months, despite the fact that the calendar says the spring equinox is Sept 23), the bushes and trees and daffodils start blooming in vibrant pinks, purples, and yellows to remind us that there is life in the garden and hope in our spirits. The flowers seem to know something our brains cannot yet comprehend. Go on. Bloom. We’ve been dormant long enough. Summer will come. There’s no need to languish in our waiting.
Lemons on the Tree & Grapefruit for Breakfast
It is citrus season. Our yard is home to a lemon tree and a grapefruit tree, as well as dwarf mandarin tree we just planted last summer. The combination of a nourishing organic fertilizer, scrumptious compost from our bin, and great sunshine last summer has resulted in the most amazing lemons this winter. They’re huge. They’re delicious. Squeeze a lemon into a glass of water and it’s nearly like drinking lemonade. Need a lemon for a dinner recipe? Just pop on out to the tree and take your pick. Want to add some to your ginger tea? Just slice and squeeze. They are so good.
We’ve been enjoying grapefruit from our tree as well. Our primary grapefruit harvest will take place in December when we squeeze fresh juice from the abundant fruit over ice for delectable afternoon refreshment as the sun comes out and the temperatures warm up. But we’re not diminishing the value of the grapefruit we’ve been enjoying these past couple of weeks. The insides are a rich orange color nearly like oranges, and they’re sweet, juicy, and chocked full of vitamin C.
Jaron’s parents are here visiting (and working… see notes on home renovations). We knew this was going to be busy time for us, but we also try hard to make space to do something fun with our visitors, no matter how hard they’re working. Plus, Jaron and I have made it our goal to have a good work-life balance for the last third of the year. Jaron’s dad loves skiing, so we’re in Queenstown this week (on New Zealand’s South Island) enjoying a day of world class Southern Hemisphere skiing, the beautiful views of Lake Wakatipu, and a day trip over to Milford Sound. Really, a camera doesn’t do any of it justice. We’re in awe of the beauty around us, pinching ourselves, and saying, “Is this really real? Our God is the amazing creator of all things.” We are humbled and grateful. We are inspired to see more, explore more, and care more intentionally for all of creation.
In her book, At Home in the World, Tsh Oxenreider says it this way, “This is what’s important about New Zealand: it’s residents, known as Kiwis, are friendly to strangers, the cost of living is startlingly expensive, and the country selfishly holds captive the most staggering creation God has yet brainstormed.”
That simple quote sums up the good, the different, and the beautiful in a nutshell.