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Posts Tagged ‘New Zealand’

There I was, congratulating myself that I had finished my shopping in record time. I settled into the driver’s seat and went to take off my facemask. But something was missing. I had lost one of my special earrings, a souvenir from our golden wedding anniversary trip to New Zealand.

While the earrings were not particularly expensive, I was determined to try to find the missing one. I felt around on the floor of the car. Nothing. I looked under the seat. Nothing. I slid my hand down the side of my seat near the handbrake. Again nothing. But then my hand stuck fast—my watch had twisted on my wrist!  I tried to undo the clasp, to no avail. Finally, with a desperate yank, I managed to pull my hand free, but then saw what I had done. The face of my watch was now at right angles to my wrist and some of the links of my watchband were bent out of shape.

What to do? I retraced my steps up to the supermarket, checking on the ground in the car park all the way. To my utter surprise, I found my earring—although the pretty paua shell that had been part of it was broken. But now my watch still had to be fixed, so I headed to our friendly watch repair man and told him the whole story.

‘Wow!’ he said. ‘I can straighten your watch up—I’ve seen others like this. But this could be a warning to you. It’s an omen. You’d better go straight home, before something worse happens!’

At first, I laughed—but then a weird sense of fear crept over me. What if he was right? What if I went and did more shopping and lost my purse? What if I caught coronavirus from someone in the centre? What if I had a car accident as I drove home? I had better get home as quickly and as carefully as I can, before anything else bad happens, just like he said.

But as I returned to my car, I came to my senses. What was I doing, letting such thoughts take hold and control my actions? Yes, fear can be a helpful warning. It can stop us doing foolhardy things like driving too fast or standing too close to the edge of a cliff or being with someone who will do us harm. At times, it is important to listen to that voice telling us to stay safe. But at other times, that voice seeks to bring us undone.

I sat there then, letting various verses from Scripture about fear surface in my mind instead.

The Lord is my light and my salvation—whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life—of whom shall I be afraid? Psalm 27:1

I sought the Lord and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears. Psalm 34:4

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. John 14:27

Yes, these words bring comfort. This voice speaks freedom. And security. And peace. These words are so much more worth listening to than any weird omen warning, don’t you think?

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Jo 12It was the second last day of our wonderful holiday in the South Island of New Zealand. We had arrived at the wharf in Picton for our ferry trip to Wellington, only to discover the ferry was cancelled. So … what to do during those extra hours until the afternoon ferry arrived? At that point, I admit I felt a little miffed that our plans for our afternoon in Wellington were foiled.

In the end, we visited a museum and enjoyed a delicious morning tea. Then I noticed a jewellery store I had not previously explored.

‘I’ll read my book in the car,’ my husband speedily volunteered. ‘But make sure you buy something for yourself!’

After wandering around the shop for ages, I chose an inexpensive pair of paua shell earrings.

‘This is all part of our Golden Wedding anniversary celebrations,’ I told the young girl serving me. ‘They’ll always remind me of our beautiful time here.’

‘You don’t look old enough to have a Golden Wedding anniversary!’ the store manager/owner who had joined us by then commented.

‘I’m seventy-one,’ I told her, all the while thinking what a good salesperson she was.

No!’ she responded, shocked. ‘Your skin’s so smooth. You look about fifty-eight to me! What’s your secret?’

I laughed and was about to give some flippant answer, but felt a clear check in my spirit. In that moment, I saw my opportunity to say something of much more lasting value instead.

‘Well,’ I began, ‘my husband has been a minister all our married life. Both of us have a firm faith in God and are connected closely with a church community—so I think when you are at peace inside you, then that makes a big difference overall.’

The older lady nodded, her eyes big.

‘But what have you yourself done in your life?’ she asked then.

I told her briefly about my various occupations, that I myself had trained for ministry in my late forties and also had become a writer in my late fifties. We talked then about how important it is to keep learning and growing in our lives, to which she strongly agreed.

‘And what books do you write? Do you have a card or something, so we can look you up?’ the younger girl burst out then.

I explained how my books have a lot of ‘faith content’, then fished in my bag and found two business cards, hoping and praying both women would indeed look me up and read what I write the books I do write. After chatting for a while longer, I eventually left, in awe of how God had managed to use this little window of time in my life when I was feeling quite miffed to share something at least with these women of the difference faith in our loving God can make in our lives. My words were no doubt inadequate, yet I was sure God could still use them in some way.

We have a wonderful ‘secret’ to share, don’t you think? So let’s endeavour, in all gentleness and grace, to do just that.

Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect … 1 Peter 3:15

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Jo 23Some of my friends find winter quite a depressing time, especially on dull, rainy days. I grew up in Queensland, so maybe my affinity for winter stems from that. After all, it was much more bearable in winter to handle wearing those obligatory gloves and black stockings as well as a hat and a tie to high school each day!

Or perhaps this affinity for winter rests on the fact that I can curl up in my warm study, with the sun coming through a nearby window, and enjoy writing those things that are on my heart to write. Even if the weather is dull, the sound of rain on the iron roof next door merely adds to the ambience. And even when my writing is proving difficult, I still find myself blessed to be where I am.

Right now, my husband is in New Zealand. I could have been there with him, but I turned it down. Granted, there were a few things I would have had to reorganise to do that. But, in my heart of hearts, I did not want to go anyway. Now I love my husband. And I love New Zealand. What’s more, I have never seen the northern part of the South Island, where he began his trip. But I am in the throes of editing my eighth book—and I knew if I allowed my mind to be diverted elsewhere, however beautiful that place might be, it would be difficult to regain that momentum.

Right now too, one of our daughters is in Hawaii for a cousin’s wedding. I could have gone there too, but I turned it down. ‘Hawaii? You turned down a visit to Hawaii? In the middle of winter?’ some have asked incredulously. Yep—that’s me! Admittedly, I felt a twinge of jealousy when I saw those photos of that beautiful wedding right beside a beach and read about the other interesting places our daughter has visited. But no, I’m happy to be home, curled up here in my study, pressing on with my editing.

Yes, I can see many things around me that need my attention. At the moment, I can write my name in the dust on my desk or on the piano in our lounge, courtesy not only of my neglect but also of the dusty building site opposite. I daren’t venture too far down our backyard in case I see all those weeds. I need to cook something so there is food to eat tomorrow when our daughter arrives to pick up her two cats I have been minding. I need to attend to those two said cats. But I am here at my desk right now. I am happy to be here. I have a meaningful editing job ahead. And God is with me—so very much with me.

Yesterday, despite its not being Christmas, I read about the birth of Jesus.

The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel”—which means, “God with us.” Matt 1:23

Immanuel. God with us. God … with … us. Right now, whatever we are doing. Right here, wherever we are. So very present, in the midst of the ordinary.

May you find that as overwhelming and as comforting as I do.

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