Grief for the Losses

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I’ve been reflecting most recently on the things that have been lost to this pandemic, and about so many people experiencing losses. This article is my attempt at a small gesture of honour to all of you who have lost.

I think of my friends and sister who have graduated from university programmes they’ve been working at for years, who don’t get to celebrate in walking across that stage. Graduation is a rite of passage; it’s an important ceremony that marks a huge accomplishment. I think of those beginning their careers in the health fields, law enforcement, and other essential services, with this as their training ground.

I think of couples that have had to either cancel or postpone their weddings, or chose to marry with no venue of witnesses, no gathering of family and friends, no reception to follow. I think of those with other milestones to celebrate, that have all been cancelled.

I think of people who live alone, or those who had limited social connections prior to this that are now non-existent, or those who aren’t familiar with technology, who are struggling to connect with those in their lives. I think of those who are lonely.

I think of new mothers and fathers; one of my nieces was born just before this pandemic hit, and she is the first child in her family. Our siblings are working through being new parents without the support they expected and would have received under normal circumstances. We have a new niece or nephew who will be born in the midst of this, and more than one set of friends in New Zealand who are due with Baby Number 1 in the coming months. They’re facing all the same uncertainties that the rest of us are right now, with the added uncertainty of what the hospitals will be like for their births, and the reality of the world they’ll be bringing new life into.

I think of the grandparents, who want nothing more than to hold those perfect, beautiful new grand-babies, but can’t travel to where they are, or that can’t be within 2 metres of them and have to settle for a look across the room. I think of families of all kinds who are separated right now.

I think of people that are dealing with bigger health problems than Covid-19; it’s all we can think about, but there are just as many people who have recently been diagnosed with serious illnesses than there were before, who are grappling with their diagnosis and their new treatment plans, in and amongst the risks of the virus. There are those who have been battling illnesses for some time, and have the added worries of how this virus will complicate their already significant challenges of navigating the world with reduced immune function.

I think of those who are in hospital, and can’t have visitors anymore; I think of those who have died alone.

I think of those who were struggling to make ends meet, and are now out of work, like the hundreds of thousands of hospitality workers across the globe, just to name one example. I think of those who didn’t realize it was their last day at work, or those that have had to abruptly leave jobs. I think of small business owners who will never again open their doors.

I think of those who were on vacations they’d saved tirelessly for and dreamt of for years, who had to go back to a home country. I think of those who had “once-in-a-lifetime” experiences cut short or missed entirely. I think of those that never got the chance to take it all in, or to say goodbye.

These people have lost. They’ve lost ceremony and celebration. They’ve lost any sense of normalcy and tradition for some of the most important days of their lives. They’ve lost first experiences, and last experiences. They’ve lost the physical and practical touch and support of family. They’ve lost what little sense of predictability and assurance they could have been given in already challenging times. They’ve lost any feelings of stability, closure, safety or peace.

These things that have been lost can’t be given back. They’re just gone. These things can’t be changed. These are their stories now. These are their memories.

I’ve been contemplating the stages of grief.

Denial. Anger. Bargaining. Depression. Acceptance.

In past counselling sessions, I’ve learned that although these stages are commonly felt, they don’t necessarily come in the order we think they should, and once we’ve passed through one stage, it doesn’t mean we won’t go back there. The stages are more fluid. We may experience one stage multiple times, or several within a short period. The key is to allow ourselves to experience them as they come.

I read an article recently that addressed that many of us are grieving during this time. Maybe because grief is usually associated with a significant loss, like a death, maybe we think “grief” is too intense of a word for what we’re going through. Maybe we’ve not lost a life, or maybe we have. One thing is certain; we have lost. We’re grieving a lot of different things, big or small, because of Covid-19, and that’s okay. Grieving is not only normal, it’s healthy. If we want to come out of this with mental and emotional health on the other side, we need to face it and go through it. We need to feel what we’re feeling and not let guilt or shame push our emotions under the surface.

It’s not pretty. None of this is. Let’s admit it.

This sucks. Straight up.

This really f*cking sucks.

Most days I’m doing well. Other days I feel like swearing and complaining about how unfair this all is for so many people. I wonder why this is happening, and how long this will last. I wonder about the future. I’m so aware that I’m not in control of what happens, and that can be a really scary place to be, until I remember that I was never in control of what happens in the world any more than I am today; any sense of control I felt was an illusion brought on by my daily routines and plans gone right. Now, again, I must cling to the hope that there is someone who is in control of what’s going to come out of this, and that He can bring good out of it.

Can we please stop comparing our situations and be kind? It’s not helpful to respond to a person’s loss by saying that someone else’s loss is greater, or that everyone’s going through it. The fact that several others in the world are experiencing similar losses can bring comfort in knowing we’re not alone, but it doesn’t in any way negate the losses we have each suffered.

Loss can’t be quantified in the same measurements for everyone; it’s not equal. The same loss may seem manageable to me, yet insurmountable to deal with to someone else, and vice versa. Can we support each other instead of comparing or minimizing each other’s experiences? Can we lend a listening ear and communicate that we’ve heard and understood? Can we validate those who are brave enough to be vulnerable with us and thank them for sharing what they’re going through?

I’ll leave you with some quotes that have inspired me this week. The author speaks about how one thing we can control in uncertain times is our mind-set, how we choose to look at the world around us, and how we see the future.

Your internal mind-set designs your external world. If you believe the world is full of possibilities, it is… if you believe in love, you will find love. If you believe in hope, you will find hope. And the reason you will find them is because you will bring them with you.

When your mind is shaped by hope, you do not see simply two paths; you see an endless number of paths filled with opportunity, possibility and beauty. However, if your mind is shaped by cynicism, or fear or doubt, then the only paths you see in front of you are the ones that are filled with pain and disappointment, with failure and hardship.

Faith changes our perceptions of the future. Faith always sees a way… when we have confidence in things hoped for we are instantly connected to the future… when we have assurance in things seen, we are limited by what we have, by what we know, and by what we can prove. When we have assurance in things not seen, we now add to our resources everything that exists in the realm of mystery, uncertainty and endless possibilities.

– Erwin McManus; The Way of the Warrior

I don’t know anything about your faith, nor do I wish to push mine on you; however, I chose today to have faith on behalf of all of you reading this, that things are going to get better for all of us, and that good will come out of this for you.

I have hope that opportunity and strength are going to come to all those beginning their careers as nurses, doctors, and law enforcement officers in the middle of a pandemic, and to those looking to restart somewhere new.

I have hope that beauty is going to come to all those who missed moments of ceremony, firsts, lasts, the chance to say goodbye, and to those facing health difficulties aside from Covid-19.

I have hope that endless possibilities are going to come again, once this is behind us.

Tomorrow I may need another mind-set adjustment or a reminder to stay positive and hopeful, but today, I choose to put my hope in a future with opportunity, beauty and endless possibilities. I like that a lot better than the other option.

I wish you a future of beautiful, endless possibilities, reader!

Level 3 and 4 Have Brought Me Here

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It’s too much to take in. It’s a lot to process. How are you all doing? My brain is running in a million directions right now. I’ve got so many thoughts I’m fighting to make sense of. Bear with me here. Reach out, please, and tell me how you are coping.

New Zealand has gone to Alert Level 3 today, with the advancement to Level 4 happening on Wednesday. The country will effectively shut down, with the exception of essential services, for 4 weeks. Or longer? No one knows. That’s the part that’s hard. The whole world is being challenged with this huge unknown. We are so human and so limited. Usually I sit on my blogs for a while before posting, but today, I’m processing with you as I write this.

My job. Do I even have one to go back to? How many people are going to be unemployed? Statistics are saying 10,000 people in retail jobs are going to be without work (rnz.co.nz). Already, over 30,000 businesses have applied for subsidies for their staff (nzherald.co.nz). Our country relies on tourism and it’s gone. It’s gone. Just like that. 8 days ago we had a Church Road Live concert with 400 people in our park. A cruise ship came in and a team member took a group on tour. 8 days ago. It feels like months ago.

Vintage 2020. Thankfully, the wine industry has been considered an essential service! There were a few hours today once we heard the announcement that we were going to Level 4 that we weren’t sure they would be permitted to continue working. Trying to imagine New Zealand without wine for 2020 is something I don’t even want to think about. Praise the Lord that they can continue bringing that fruit in and tending to those ferments. It’s a crucial industry for our country. We’re still awaiting specifics. Vintage 2020 will forever be a special, rare and valuable vintage to this world.

The future of our economy. How is this going to affect all of us? Will any of us be able to pay for our mortgages? Our rent? I went to the supermarket today and cued to get in. The shelves were bare. I did my best to adhere to the regulations they have put on food items, but still had items confiscated from me at the till. We are on rations. Rations. We are on rations. This is what you read about in WWII novels.

The 4 week isolation. I realize this is essential to stop the spread of the virus. And I realize that the physical benefits to stopping human contact outweigh the mental and emotional benefits to continuing it; however, there will still be mental effects that we will deal with in order to prioritize our physical needs of eliminating the spread of this virus, like those that come from lack of human contact.

Human contact is a basic human need. Seeing someone face to face. Hugging someone. Seeing their smile in person. Working side by side as a team. Celebrating together. These are all things that all of us crave and need in varying proportions. This virus is cutting off one of our most basic needs from us. Introverts all over the world might be soaking this in, meanwhile all of us extroverts are going into a state of panic. My biggest fear for this next month is being lonely. Bored and lonely. Missing human contact. I will have to do some soul searching and face something I’ve never faced before: this much time to myself. Isolation was the punishment my parents gave me as a child. It’s a punishment to me. How will I deal with this? I am now faced with the challenge of turning this huge bag of lemons into some amazing lemon wine.

We’re all being challenged to do something none of us have ever had to do before. But, what I’ve learned so far in my life is that we can always do more than we think we can. And we can do this, extroverts! We can face this challenge. We can overcome this, and we’re about to prove to ourselves what’s possible… while eating wholemeal pasta, no name beans, and the only 2 salad dressings I was allowed to buy today. Like. A. Boss.

If there’s other things I’ve learned, first of all, we as humans don’t like being told what to do. Many of us are struggling with this isolation and this virus, because we don’t like being told we can’t go out and can’t see our friends. We’re not good at listening. We think we know best. We’re not good at submitting to authority. We’re not accustomed to this. That’s why it has to get to this extreme. Secondly, we take so many creature comforts for granted. Going out for a meal. Stopping at a drive through. Going for a coffee. Going to our friend’s house for a visit. Having people over. Going to work. Going to the gym. Entering a building without thinking of how many people are in it. Going anywhere in public without hand sanitizer, gloves and masks. We take all these things for granted. We’ve just lost all of them.

I said to my boss today, “remember when just a few weeks ago I was complaining that I never get any time off work? Now all I want to do is go to work.” This puts everything we do and everything we know into perspective, doesn’t it? It’s amazing how quickly the world around us can just fall apart. 8 days ago it felt normal. Now, I have questioned everything. Was the last day we were open my last day ever serving customers at Church Road? It may have been. I don’t know. It is completely mind blowing to me that this is happening. And how fast it’s happened.

Faith moment: God knew this was coming. 2020, the year for which my word is “vision” couldn’t have left me more blindsided; this is a time in my life where I’ve had the least vision I’ve ever had, and when I have the least is when I can lean into God the most. This is a year where all of us as a global community have had no way to envision what is to come. It’s a day by day life right now. Rather than live by my vision, or what I think I want, I have to trust God’s vision entirely. He saw this coming. This was no surprise to Him. And I have no other choice but to believe He has a vision that includes me being taken care of in it. We’re living in another country, and although our visas aren’t up for a while, we’ve been thinking of what’s next. Now we’re just taking it one day at a time and one hour at a time.

Where are my extroverts out there? I am such an extrovert! Extroverts gain energy from social interaction, and we thrive on it. We need external stimulation through relationship. When we can’t get it, our energy is sucked from us. We become drained. Verbal processing is a common extroverted quality. We like to talk things through. I find I personally can’t completely deal with a stressful situation without talking it through with someone, which has now become writing it out. Psychology Today says, “People who identify as extroverts tend to search for novel experiences and social connections that allow them to interact with other individuals as much as possible. Someone who is highly extroverted will likely feel bored, or even anxious, when they’re made to spend too much time alone.” Bored, check. Anxious, check. Anxious about being bored, check!

Human touch is a basic need. There are all of those studies I’m sure you’ve heard of where the babies that get held grow into mature, healthy people, and the babies that don’t get held die. Okay, so don’t quote me on that, but look them up. Human touch has been linked to many positive benefits in society, like building greater trust in relationships, decreased violence, increased immune systems and lower disease and stress levels, strong team building, improved learning, and an overall well-being (kcha.org). “Physical touch is the foundational element of human development and culture…we should intentionally hold on to physical touch” (kcha.org).

Face to face communication is critical to our relationships; there’s nothing that can compare to being in the same space as someone else, and sharing in community. Yes, FaceTime and social media are keeping us more connected than ever before, but it’s second best to the real thing. There’s actually a condition known as “skin hunger,” or “touch deprivation“ with symptoms such as being less happy, more stressed, and generally more unwell, along with a reduced ability to experience and read emotions or form meaningful attachments in life (psychologytoday.com). All of this, just from a lack of contact. There are people who, pre-Covid-19, were experiencing this, and who are now going into isolations for various lengths of time, perhaps with nobody to give them any face to face contact. Perhaps they are elderly and can’t see their children or grandchildren anymore, or maybe they’re single and living alone, and going to work, or the gym, or their church, was their only form of social contact, and that’s all been stripped from them for an indefinite time.

Isn’t it ironic that through that same touch, that normally brings us so many positive benefits, we can spread something that will kill us all if we let it? It’s gotten to us in a personal way. It’s affecting many people physically, and everyone else mentally, emotionally, relationally, and financially, to name a few. We’re all being affected by this virus in one way or another.

So what are we going to do about it?

We can’t give up. We have to keep going. We have to stay positive. We have to find hope. We have to find things to laugh about. We have to do our best to simulate human contact. Let’s stay in touch. Let’s unite as the communities we are and let’s band together to overcome this. We can overcome this. We will. Slow and steady. One day at a time. We, as the globe, will get through this. We, as humans, will fight. We will cry if we need to. We will rest. We are being forced into a period of rest. Let’s take advantage of it. We don’t normally rest this much because we live in a constant state of busyness. We will meditate. We will spend time getting to know ourselves more. We will cut this thing off eventually. We will look back on that year that Covid-19 happened and it will be part of the struggle that shaped us. We are living part of history. This will be in the books.

So here’s to the fight. Cheers to you, doing what you need to do. Cheers to governments that are giving their best to make the best decisions they know how to in unprecedented situations. Here’s to uniting as a community.

I wish you the best, wherever you are in the world, and with whatever part of this you’re dealing with.

In a Time of Turbulence

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I added Covid-19 to my Microsoft Word dictionary today.

When 2020 began, I could not have foreseen this year becoming what it has so quickly become. And we’re just at the beginning of these next unpredictable and shaky weeks. Or months?

I’ve asked people in their 70’s if they’ve ever seen anything like this in their lifetime and they say they haven’t. No one has. Someone commented to me that the last time things were this dire was in World War II, and although that comment may be a bit extreme at this point, it’s truth may not be for long.

Isn’t it crazy how a microscopic virus can become the hugest villain this world has seen in decades?

I’m reflecting on so many things, and processing uncountable thoughts as this thing affects my life more and more daily, and the lives of those who I love; I know I’m not alone in that.

Life at work has been a lot to take in, and we’ve been dealing with the punches as they come. We had no idea on Sunday morning when we woke up that it would be our last day with cruise ships in town, and that our last tour of the season would go out. We had no idea on Monday when we woke up that we would be isolated from the winery, and many of our colleagues. I spent the majority of my day going through our calendar and regretfully cancelling booking after booking with tour groups and customers. We had no idea on Tuesday when we woke up that all of our Administration office staff would now be working from home indefinitely. Our diary has gone from very full, to completely empty in 2 days. Church Road has never seen this. Local tour operators have lost thousands of dollars of business each day at the drop of a hat. It is amazing how much our culture in NZ survives on tourism. What will happen to those businesses? Those employees? How will people pay their bills?

Living across the world has often felt like we are far from our friends and family in Canada, but this pandemic has reminded me of how small this world can be, and how connected we are to each other. We are in this together, and fighting this together, as a world community. It takes something like this sometimes, that’s attacking all of us, to unite us in our fight against it. We are one large community in many ways right now, as we realize how human and vulnerable we are, and how this life can never be taken for granted.

We like to walk through life feeling like we’re in control. We think we have a job, and we make this much, so we plan ahead for money to come in, and we buy now. We think we can book vacations and just go on them. We plan so many events, celebrations and gatherings, and we assume they’ll happen, because why wouldn’t they? But we’re never really in control, are we? We’ve never been, even when we thought we were, but going through life with that mentality is scary as all hell. We can’t have peace with that knowledge unless we believe in something that gives us a sense of grounding or faith or we have something to put our trust and hope into that it’s all going to be okay or work out as it’s meant to be.

We feel so out of control and turbulent when things like this happen, because we are faced with the reality that we can’t control the outcome. This leads to panic. The panic, I’ve found, can spread just as quick as the virus itself, or maybe quicker. Panic and fear breed more panic and more fear. Panic buying, panic conspiracies being spread verbally and over social media. Panic reactions of all kinds.

The virus may steal the health of some, but the fear is already stealing the peace of many.

It has been interesting to watch how government authorities across various countries are handling the same situation so differently. I am thankful for the precautions New Zealand is taking to “flatten the curve.” Many of us are informing ourselves as best we can, and are trying to weed through the overwhelming amount of information we’re being presented with as the situation changes hourly. We try to cope with it all as we are able, through sharing conversations (hopefully via safe social distancing), or sharing the many humorous memes and videos already going around on social media, or exercise (if our gym is still open), or maybe even with some straight up liquor and pure denial. Or by writing (how I process).

Regardless of how we’re all dealing with it, I’m impressed at so many positive elements of the human race I’m seeing come out already. We, as people, have a fight in us that is awakened when we’re challenged. We push to try and fix and solve and we don’t give up. We work together. When we unite, we support each other. It has been humbling to already witness so many groups forming to support others in the community. It is heart warming to see people who are strangers come together to help other strangers because we are all human beings. This is the basis of humanity. It’s touching to see the goodness in people’s souls, and to be reminded that it is there. We are seeing people love other people in very tangible ways. Why do we not operate like this under “normal” circumstances? This is what the communities in this world should be like!

We are at the beginning of what could be a long road ahead, that will inevitably have multiple tiers of effects that last years. Someone told me today this is the Depression of the 2020’s. The thing is, nobody knows. And we have to take this one day, and one hour and one battle at a time. We have to find ways to cope that work for us. We need to support each other; we need to have friends and family we can lean on, and that can lean on us. We need to be open to how this is affecting us and seek help if we need. When the panic and the fear and the “what if’s” set in, we have to find something that can ground us. For me, it’s my faith. For you it may be something else, but I’ll leave you with this. Maybe it can help you too.

“Give all your worries and cares to God, for He cares for you.” 1 Peter 5:7.

2019 Lessons; What This Year Living Abroad Has Taught Me

We’ve lived abroad for the calendar year of 2019 and have recently returned from our first visit back to Canada. Through the trip back, I found my suspicions were confirmed. I’m the same in some ways, but I’ve really changed in others. This move has given me so many invaluable lessons, and I would easily recommend a year abroad to everyone at some point in their lives. In the spirit of entering 2020, here are 20 lessons I’ve learned this last year, addressed to myself, that I hope not to forget.

1. Remember the value of a dollar. If you work hard, you can be successful, even if you don’t make that much. Every dollar matters, so don’t waste them.

2. The biggest risks can bring the biggest rewards. On the flip side of that, not everything you try works out, but keep trying until you find a way.

3. Include and welcome people. Don’t ever forget how much it’s meant to you to be included and welcomed in so many groups and families this year. Pay it forward for the rest of your life because you never know how much you can impact someone by letting them in.

4. Be who you are no matter what others think. It’s easier said than done, but the relationships that come to you when you’re not afraid to be yourself are the best kinds of friendships.

5. Family is important, and there’s nobody quite like them. You can like them or not, and they can feel the same about you, but they’re your family. When push comes to shove, they matter in a way that can’t be replicated.

6. Take risks. Make mistakes. Learn the hard way if you have to. Experience life and chose the path you want to go down. You can always change direction later. Don’t be afraid to try new things. Lots of times they’re worth it, and for the ones that aren’t, at least you know.

7. Every place has things about it that you’ll like and things that you won’t. Nowhere is perfect, and there are compromises to make in any environment. You just have to choose which ones you’re willing to make.

8. True friendships will stand the test of time. You’ll pick up right where you left off, and it’ll be like not a day’s gone by.

9. Saying goodbye is hard, and you cry, but that’s because you love those people dearly. Having people in your life that love you too, and miss you enough to cry over your departure is something of incredible value.

10. The topic of money is a sensitive one for many people, and everyone has opinions on how you should use it. When it comes to money and relationships, it will sure show you a lot about who people are.

11. People are going to judge you and gossip about you no matter where you live in the world. It says more about who they are as people than who you are.

12. Not everyone you thought was a friend for life is. But that’s okay.

13. The world is really big, but really small at the same time!

14. Anything you thought was pure truth about the world, or people, or life, can be challenged. If you’re willing to be open minded and listen, you’ll learn of other perspectives that can add a lot of value to your life.

15. Choose to be content and happy where you are in the moment. Soak the moments in! They won’t last forever. Celebrate everything good!

16. Appreciate those around you. Show them you appreciate them.

17. Life isn’t guaranteed. Go for your dreams now and don’t let anyone “should” on you, or tell you you’re too old or too anything. You only get one life.

18. Life still has hard parts, even when you’re living a dream being realized. There’s always room to learn and grow, and to make new dreams.

19. Everyone has a story, and everyone has struggles. Nobody’s life is perfect, no matter how it seems.

20. God is taking care of you more than you’ve ever known. Trust. That’s another one that’s easier said than done, but keep trusting in God, and the whole process.

Cheers to 2020, and Happy New Year!

In Times of Waiting

The more people I speak to these days, the more I realize that many of my friends, in Canada, and in New Zealand, are in the process of waiting. Whether they’re waiting for a spouse, children, a job, direction, healing, wisdom, friends, or something else, people are waiting, and it’s wearing them down. I get it! Wow, do I ever understand that feeling.

Seeing as how it’s advent, a season of waiting for Jesus to be born, it felt fitting to post this now.

Below, in Italics, is a post I wrote in the middle of September, when I woke up in the middle of the night. At the time, I was so frustrated that things didn’t seem to be working out towards our move. It seems crazy to think that I only wrote this just over 3 months ago, and that’s the position we were in at that time. We were just on the edge of God answering our prayers, but didn’t know it yet. Here it is:

Doubt; The Struggle is Real

It’s 4:16 am on September 12, as I write this. We already thought we’d be moved away by now. I’m laying in bed thinking about our life and our future and right now, doubt is winning over faith. It’s a daily struggle, because our house has been up for rent for almost four months now, and we’re still in it. We wanted to live in the camper this summer and summer is over. We don’t have plane tickets, or visa applications underway. We can’t even answer people’s questions about what we’re doing yet and we sound like idiots every time we’re asked.

I was just at worship practice last night helping play piano so the new singers, who took our spots on the team we’ve been singing with for over 10 years, could practice the songs for the first Sunday that it becomes their team. It brought up a lot of feelings in me, like sadness, grief, maybe even some ugly ones like jealously, and certainly questions for God.

The kids and teachers all went back to school last week, and I didn’t. God allowed me to be laid off in the spring, and I was so happy at the time, because I was convinced we were supposed to move this fall. Faith was winning at that time, but it’s not in this moment anymore, as I watch everyone else, all my colleagues and teacher friends, plan bulletin boards and lesson plans, set up classrooms, and as I hear them share about their students. I can’t help but feel like I’m missing out.

We still have that damn Beamer too. Yeah, I’m mad about it. It’s so fun to drive, but what would be more fun is selling it for a half decent price and being able to pay off the remainder of our debt. I did the right thing; when we considered trading the truck for it in the spring, I went with my husband’s gut instead of my own, and I was proud of that. He believed that it would sell quicker and for more than the truck would. We prayed that we wouldn’t make the wrong decision. Honestly though, I’ve questioned that decision since the day it was made. I feel guilty for doubting God, and Greg, but I don’t talk about that, or let myself dwell on it. What good would that do? We can’t go back in time and see what would have happened if we’d stuck with the truck.

We’ve given things up. And the holes of those things are starting to feel big and noticeable in my life. And I feel like we haven’t gotten a return on what we’ve given up yet. If we weren’t supposed to go, then why did God let us get rid of the truck for this car we don’t need and can’t sell? And why did He allow my job at a great school to come to an end? And why did He let us remove ourselves from a ministry that we’ve been part of for so long, that we’re good at?

In the spring, at school staff devotions one morning, we discussed faith. A colleague shared how having faith is kind of like a bicycle. There are two wheels: faith and doubt. She said to imagine a balance of both wheels always turning on our bicycle of life, because faith can’t actually exist without doubt. If there were nothing to doubt in this life, we essentially wouldn’t need faith. Our doubts drive our need to dig down and find our faith.

This principle has stuck with me all summer, as I’ve been riding the faith/doubt bicycle for months now. The whole time we were planning this move, I had so much faith. I didn’t doubt. I know that sounds crazy, but it was easy to know that we were supposed to move for years. God made it so clear, so often, over and over and over. A calendar that turned up out of the blue with Italy on it (cause we thought that was the plan), or a road sign, or something someone would say to us without knowing, all pointed us in the right direction. When we wanted to live in the camper last year as a test run, He brought us amazing renters within three weeks of us posting the house, regardless of the saturated rental market and our short term of availability. Even though the world seemed to be against us, and our family members were angry, and our friends told us horror story after horror story of renters destroying homes, I lost not one wink of sleep over the house, because I knew we were in God’s will. I knew it to my core, and I knew He was preparing us for this move. To live in a small space. To live without things. To be flexible. To trust Him.

He has proven Himself in the past, so why do I continue to doubt Him now? I don’t know. The struggle is real! The doubt wheel is definitely leading my bike at some point in each day during this season, sometimes each hour, and I have to fight and dig deep to turn it around.

I read a devotional last week about wine that was so beautiful it made me cry. I felt like it was just for me, seeing as it was wine, and God knows that topic gets my attention! The premise of it was that in seasons of waiting and not knowing, God is pressing us, like grapes need to be pressed and crushed in order to make wine. Then they sit and they mature and it’s a process that has to happen in order for the wine to be any good, to be ready. God also has to do this with us sometimes. We have to be crushed a bit, or a lot, and we have to wait for the time to pass until we are mature and ready for what’s about to come. And one day, it will come.

Maybe it’s not what we think it is. Maybe God’s leading us through all of this for some other purpose than to move. That’s hard, because that’s been our dream for so long now. Another devotional I read said that we have to live in a tension between knowing that God may not allow our dreams to happen, but trusting that He put them in our hearts. We have to hold our dreams with loose hands and trust that God is faithful to do what is ultimately the best for us. I’ve had dreams in my past that if He’d given me, I’d have never left Saskatoon; now I’m thankful He didn’t give me those things because I have this new dream of moving! So why do I let doubt win in convincing me that this time is any different? Why do I even question that God has my best interests at heart this time? He can see the whole picture of my life and I can’t. The struggle is real!

During this wine pressing season, this season of waiting and fighting to keep the faith wheel leading my faith/doubt bicycle, I heard a sermon by Andy Stanley, called “In the Meantime.” He spoke of how some of the greatest things we do and the most influential times we can have, are in the meantime. When we’re stuck. When we’re waiting. When we’re doubting and struggling and searching and digging. Paul wrote some of the books of the Bible while he was in prison, waiting in the meantime. That inspired me to at least start writing during this time. I’ve been writing a lot and I started my blog up seriously, but I haven’t written about this. It’s too real, I’m too vulnerable, and I don’t know how any of it is going to turn out in the end. I’m no Paul, and this article is certainly nothing close to the Bible, but I have to write. Maybe one day, something good can come of this meantime I’m in. The struggle is so real.

So there you have it; that was raw and real, in the middle of the night, genuine Chelsea struggle. If you’ve read my other posts on our life in New Zealand, you’ll know we moved here and how it’s turned out so far. Amazing, isn’t it?

I’ve learned through my waiting, that there will always be something we’re waiting for. Waiting can be positive, in that it makes us appreciate what we’re waiting for so much more when we finally receive it. It can lead to anticipation and excitement; however, it can also lead to uncertainty and doubt. Without waiting though, we’d have everything we want right now, and wouldn’t be stretched to grow into better, stronger people of faith. Without waiting, we wouldn’t need trust.

There are still things I’m waiting for. The Beamer still hasn’t sold, and we still have money tied up in that. We have no idea how long we’ll be in New Zealand, or where we’re supposed to go in life from here. We’ll be waiting daily for something for the rest of our lives here on earth. Sometimes it’s hard, and it’s going to be hard again in the future; of that I’m sure. I’ll need to re-read this post, and pray for reminders of what God can do; because He will do it, at the right time… after we’ve practiced waiting. I pray that you, reader, find strength and hope while you wait, and that the wait leads to greatness in your life.

New Zeal in New Zealand; The Start of our Life in Hawke’s Bay

November 2018 will forever live in our memories as one of the most unique months of our lives; we will also remember being completely overwhelmed by God’s goodness and hand on our lives! I can’t believe we’ve only been in NZ for three weeks today. We have been absolutely amazed in the many, many ways we have seen God bless us and take care of us. It has been surreal to experience so many “impossible” blessings in such a short time frame. So much has happened, but I’ll just give an overview of the big topics for now, like jobs, cars, home, church and friends.

We arrived on Tuesday, the 13th of November (that’s how they date things here), picked up our rental car, and headed to our Airbnb. It was a really cute place, and we had the space to ourselves while the host couple was at work all day. I immediately got on the computer and started applying for jobs for both of us. Within an hour, Greg got a call from Linden Estate Winery to come for an interview the next morning!

Tuesday afternoon, we test drove two cars, and got groceries. I got in touch with a couple that a friend at home had put me in contact with via email, and they invited us for dinner the very next night! We spent Tuesday evening with our Airbnb hosts, sharing a bottle of wine and getting to know them.

On Wednesday morning, Greg went for his interview, and was hired on the spot! His job consists of helping around the vineyard and in the winery throughout the vintage season and the rest of the year. It is a small, family owned, estate winery, and he is part of a small group of core staff. He gets to do a little bit of everything and be really involved in several aspects of the wine making process; his job also requires him to use many different skills from the various trades he’s been working in over the last decade. That was exactly what he was looking for in a job, and he was hired within only 25 hours of us arriving in the Bay. Praise the Lord!

Everyone we’ve told has been shocked at how quickly he got a job, with no past winery experience. This kind of thing “just doesn’t happen,” and we feel it could only have been arranged by God. Linden also has a big shop that Greg has access to, as well as tools; they’re even getting him to brew a beer for harvest time, so he gets to do that too!

Wednesday afternoon, our second day here, we purchased the first car we had looked at the day before, for only $500, as it wasn’t running very well. Greg got to work on finding the problem. He decided we needed to search for another car for me, as this one, “the Polo,” was going to perhaps be a little unreliable.

I had heard of a FB group while we were in Sydney, from an American who had recently moved there, for the purpose of Americans connecting in Sydney. I wondered if there was one like that for Canadians in NZ, and sure enough, there is. I received permission to join it, and put a request out for someone to suggest areas that are good to live in, and areas to avoid. We had been told once we arrived how difficult it is to find rentals here, and we wanted to start looking right away. On their main rental site, there were only seven in our price range, and many were in undesirable neighbourhoods, or far from Greg’s winery. It’s typical here for a place to have upwards of sixty applicants too; we had no idea it would be so hard to find a place!

A Canadian girl got back to me right away on FB, suggesting we try to live in her area. She had been there for years, and loved it. She said it was beautiful and safe. Seeing as she was young and married, I messaged her to invite her for a drink. She said she would love to meet up, but her and her husband were moving away in less than three weeks. I said, “well we should just live in your place then!” She said she would recommend us to her landlord, and she did!

Wednesday evening, we went to meet R & A, the new couple whom we’d been in contact with. They were so friendly and had us in for dinner with their daughters. We spent the evening getting to know them and really enjoyed their company. They suggested I print my CV’s at their house (something I had worried about in Canada – “where will I print my CV’s?”) and they said we could borrow their car if we ever needed, and invited us to join them at their lakehouse in the summer. They read us a story about Kiwi Christmas and taught us about Hawke’s Bay. We feel blessed to have met them so quickly after arriving.

Thursday consisted of Greg working on the Polo, and me applying for some more jobs. I had also been in touch with a winemaker via Instagram while we were still in Canada, and he had been so helpful in tips for living here, answering my questions, and trying to help me find a job. He invited us to come try their wine and sit down with him and his partner, so we went to their house on Thursday, for what was supposed to be a glass of wine, and turned into five hours of visiting with him, his partner and their daughter over charcuterie until it was dark out! We feel blessed to have met them too!

The Canadian’s landlord had only just posted the listing for her “flat” the day that I was speaking to her, and she had already had over a hundred people contact her about it, over sixty applications, and a day “chocka full” of viewings set up for Sunday. Once her current tenant recommended us fellow Canadians to her, and we got in touch, the landlord said that she loves Canadians, has family in SK, and is destined to rent to Canadians. Amazingly, she offered to hold the place for us. We set up a time to see it Saturday.

On Friday, our rental car was due back, and the Polo still wasn’t running, so we found what appeared to be a great car, for a little more money than we’d hoped to spend, at a dealership. We test drove it that morning, and decided to purchase it. We got it insured and left it near the rental agency to pick up when we returned the rental later on.

Greg’s new boss’s partner showed us two places she had for us to potentially live. She has an empty house where her art studio is, that she would allow us to live in once our time at the Airbnb was up, as a transitional spot (where we are currently). She also has another property becoming available, that she wasn’t intending to rent out again, but that she said we could have if we wanted. Both of these are in a very desirable area of Hawke’s Bay. Here we were, on our first week in town, where it’s nearly impossible to find a rental, with two amazing choices in the most desirable neighbourhoods, both being held specifically for us. Amazing.

Greg took me to Linden so I could see where he’ll work, and I got a bit of a tour, and even got to meet most of his co-workers. It was a Friday at quitting time when we happened to be there, so we got to sit with them for a bit and have a visit.

After seeing Linden, we went and picked up the new car, the Mitsubishi, and took the rental back. We spent the evening with our Airbnb hosts again, after Greg worked until dark on the Polo.

Saturday, we drove to see the Canadian’s rental unit, and the car began breaking down on the way! We got there though, and decided to live there. It has the airport and a highway nearby, but there are no windows on that side of the house, so we can’t see it, and hardly hear it from inside. It’s in a great area, and everything is included – even towels and linens! It has wifi and tv, a dishwasher, and all the dishes. It used to run as a bed and breakfast, so we can literally move in with our bags.

This is another thing that has been shocking to many Kiwi’s here, as apparently that’s not how they usually do it. It’s quite uncommon to find a furnished place at all, let alone with dishes and linens. Here is another “impossibility” made possible. Oh, and we can walk to the ocean in five minutes! We can move in on the 9th of December, and I can’t wait for those after work walks to the ocean!

The Mitsubishi broke down completely after we left there, so we had to call the dealer back. Thankfully, he said to drop it at his shop and he would have it looked at the next week. We got yet another rental car, and then took me to apply for more jobs. Greg finally got the Polo running that evening! We were so thrilled about that!

Sunday morning was our first time to attend C3 Hawke’s Bay, so we were excited to go check out what we hoped would be our new church. We were greeted by some very friendly people, and found a small group to join that meets “fortnightly” on Wednesday’s. We made plans to go to the next one. The service was unique in the way that they had three of their core members tell their stories, so we got to know some of the people at the church really well just by attending on that particular day. The church also happened to be having a quarterly lunch afterwards that we were able to stay for, and use to spend more time meeting and connecting with people. It was a great week to be there.

Greg started his new job on Monday, six days after we arrived, and he got to do so many amazing things and learn so much. He came home with homework – a couple of bottles of wine we were supposed to drink so we could start getting familiar with it.

I also got a call for an interview at the job I really wanted! My new winemaker friend had recommended the company to me, and I had also seen it posted online the first day we were here, and I said out loud, “that’s my perfect job.” It was exactly what I said I wanted to do here, but didn’t think I’d be able to find or get. I was so excited, and also very nervous! I spent Tuesday preparing for it and learning as much as I could. Wednesday morning I went in for my interview, and it seemed to go well, however I found out they were interviewing more than four people for only two positions!

We had to return the rental car on Wednesday, and the Mitsubishi was supposedly fixed, so we picked it up… and made it half a block away before it broke down again. We took it right back and Greg spent twenty minutes arguing with the dealer on the phone who no longer wanted to refund us, and said he had to think about it overnight! I was so stressed. Thankfully, we had plans with R & A and their girls again that evening, so I was distracted! They also bought our drinks, invited us for Christmas, and lent us their car! I can’t believe the kindness they have shown us already. It brings tears to my eyes.

Wednesday and Thursday that week were big days of me practicing patience with the car and the job, and trusting that God would help us with the car dealer, and that if it were the job for me, God would set it up; if it wasn’t, He would bring something else my way at the right time.

Thursday, after taking a verbal beating on the phone by the dealer, Greg got our money back! We were so relieved, and back on the hunt for another car. Thursday evening, I heard from the job that they wouldn’t be deciding until the following week now, due to contacting references! It was hard to hear that I’d have to wait so long, but I just kept thinking that God would put me where I was supposed to be.

Friday, I got a call in the afternoon that they were offering me the job! I was so thrilled and excited! Again, I felt a miracle had happened. I have no winery experience, and they interviewed three or four others, and still chose me to do tours and tastings at the most visited, and one of the oldest, biggest name wineries in the Bay. I was, and am, so grateful to God for both of our jobs!

Saturday was spent moving out of our Airbnb in Hastings, into the transitional place belonging to Greg’s boss’s partner. It’s in Ahuriri, in Napier, very close to where we’ll live. On the way, we happened to notice a car on the side of the road for sale that hadn’t been there before. We joked that we should maybe buy that one, and then kept going.

Once we moved our stuff over to the new place, we went looking for a car again! Greg had found a bunch online and had lined up four test drives, but none of them seemed to be great. We had just started saying that maybe we needed to increase our budget when we pulled onto that main road near our Airbnb and saw that car on the side of the road again. We pulled over and Greg called the owner, who came and let us test drive it. She had just parked it there at lunchtime, literally moments before we had driven by. It felt right and seemed in good condition. The lady dropped her price when we got back, because she is a single Mom and didn’t want to deal with having to continue to show it to people. We got it for a steal!

On Saturday night, we met the woman that lives in the house behind the one we’re in, and shares our yard. She is from Italy! We connected right away and she sat and visited with us for a while, and invited us to her dinner party the following night.

On Sunday morning, we went to church again and met some more new people, and reconnected with some from the previous week. We spent the afternoon with R and A again after returning their car. They showed us how to turn my new ride into a camper van so we can sight see the NZ way on our days off!

That evening, we had dinner with L, our Italian neighbour! She cooked us Italian food and introduced us to some of her friends. It was a great day full of socializing, and we felt so blessed to have already met so many great people. I thought it was so interesting that we ended up making an Italian friend, who has already cooked Italian food for us, and that we can speak the small amount of Italian we learned with! The things we were looking forward to in Italy, we got to do here already!

I started my job on Wednesday the next week, and did four days in a row. It was a lot of information to take in, but I am absolutely loving it, and having so much fun. The staff are all so friendly, and as the third winery to be established in NZ, it has amazing history. The winemaker is friendly, great at his job, and makes quality wine that I’m proud to represent and pour for people. We even got invited to the Christmas party and had a great night socializing with my new colleagues and their partners. In the tasting room (Cellar Door as it’s called here) I’ve already met people from all around the world and gotten to have great conversations with so many of them in my first week!

We attended our first C3 Church Connect Group last week as well, and couldn’t believe how welcoming the group was. We felt right at home and completely comfortable with them, like we had known them for years.

We’ve taken every chance we can to get outside and enjoy the beautiful scenery around us. We’re looking forward to when the rainy spring ends and we can get outside even more.

We continue to learn so much as we slowly integrate into the wine industry, and look forward to the months ahead. We have been so blessed to have everything we’ve needed come together in such a short time. It’s been only three weeks today since we arrived, and we’re both working in not only wine industry jobs, but the exact types of jobs we wanted. We have been blessed to meet so many amazing people already and have been out with new friends more nights than we’ve been in! We have vehicles now, and a place lined up, and a great church and small group. It really has been overwhelming to see God provide for our needs in ways I couldn’t have even dreamed of.

Despite everything that’s gone right, it’s not been easy, but it’s been humbling, exciting, and so encouraging for us to have experienced this new beginning. I am curiously awaiting what’s coming next in our story!

There Will Always Be Something to Worry About

There will always be something to worry about. Even when one thing gets resolved, and I think, “if this could just happen, then I’ll feel so much better…” there’s always going to be the next thing. If there weren’t, we wouldn’t need God to rely on. Even when one trial in life is finished, it’s backed with another one, of another kind, or the same kind, eventually. This is life, and trials are our teachers.

We struggled all summer to rent our house. We prayed and prayed, because we wanted tenants in the spring, so we could live in our camper all summer and save money for our planned move to Italy this fall. Along the way, through a series of events and lessons, we learned that we are actually not going to Italy; we’re planning to move to New Zealand. (For that story, check out this post, and the next two parts. How We Planned to Move to Italy and Ended up Choosing New Zealand; Our Story Part 1.)

We ended up showing the place to our tenants on September 20th, which was a long night for me; 2 of the 3 guys said they wanted it and shook my hand, but 1 said he needed to sleep on it. I had to chose to trust that if these guys were meant to live in our house, they would, and if they turned it down, God would bring someone else. Thankfully by mid-afternoon the next day, they had committed. They weren’t available to sign the lease for 5 more days. Then, I had to trust God that they wouldn’t change their minds over the weekend! On the 25th, we signed the lease. Even then, I was hesitant. It seemed too good to be true. Have you ever wanted something so bad, so long, that when it actually seems to be coming together, you think it can’t be real and might get snatched away in an instant? Every day, I have to choose to continue to trust God with our dreams. There’s always something to worry about. We could always lose something, or someone.

Greg almost died at work last month. I’ll get to that story later. Ever since I had him, I’ve feared losing him. When we were first engaged I used to have nightmares that he either cheated on me or died.

I think it’s fair to say that my family of origin struggles with fear, worry and anxiety. My sister was ill a lot growing up, and we almost lost her to her illness a few times. Being inches away from having your daughter or sister die, more than once, shows you that life is a gift; it’s not stable, and not to be taken for granted. It can also put some fear in you, because you don’t want to experience the pain of watching her suffer, or experience the suffering of losing her, or being ill as well.

When a person grows up with this, it becomes habitual. Then, the older we get, and the more pain and suffering we see, the more there is to fear. I have friends that are alone, either because they haven’t met the right partner, or because they’ve been abandoned. I’ve watched marriages break apart now, of people that got married around the time we did. I’ve had friends get cheated on, abandoned with newborns, left for someone else, widowed at our age! I’ve lost a very dear friend to cancer. The list goes on.

There’s always something to worry about. And the truth is, any one of these things could happen to us. I’ve been personally violently assaulted, and robbed, and struggle with fear for safety. I’ve had health problems, and major lung surgery, and struggle with fear of illness. We’re not immune to the pain of this world, even if we have God. He didn’t want it like this, but the world is imperfect, and there is pain. I have to hold on to and cling to the fact that He can bring good out of the ugly. He can take the broken pieces and put them back together. He can teach me something, and I can use those lessons to help and support others. I have to choose to put everything I hold into His hands, and trust He is good, because – here’s a huge understatement – it isn’t easy, and it’s always going to be a choice. But what is the alternative? Does not trusting God make life easier? Take away my pain? Eliminate my suffering?

I used to hold so tightly to my dream of having a permanent contract in my city’s public school division. When I was young, that was what I wanted for my life. All through high school and University, that was my big life plan; that permanent contract became everything to me. I needed it to be happy. I got married, had a house and car, good church, friends, decent health, family, and when I had that contract, my life would finally be complete. I really believed that for years. One year, I felt God showing me that I had put that contract on a pedestal and I was giving it way too much power in my life.

There is a story I heard about a little girl who gets cheap, fake pearls and loves them so much. Her Dad asks her every night if she trusts him, and if he can have them. She offers him everything she has, all of her other toys, but not her pearls. After several nights of this, she finally decides to trust him. She gives him her pearls, her most prized possession. In return, he gives her back real, genuine pearls.

That story still makes me emotional, because I have identified with it so much, initially in regards to my idolized teaching contract, and then eventually in several other areas of my life. God, our Father, isn’t out there looking to take things from us, just because. He’s got genuine, better things to replace the cheap, fake things we are holding so tightly to.

It’s like my eyes opened one day, and I realized that maybe, just maybe, there was something else I could do in my life that would be more satisfying and fulfilling and ultimately better for me. Mind. Blown. My permanent contract in my city was my fake pearls. I didn’t have to be afraid of letting that contract go anymore. As soon as I was willing to give it up, my world started opening with new possibilities.

That was a few years ago, and at the time, I believed I had given God all of my pearls. This summer, as I continued to worry about other things, that I was or am still holding tightly to, I realized something important. I hadn’t given God my whole string of pearls. The permanent contract was one pearl on the string. I have many other fake pearls that I’m still clinging to, because I don’t want the pain of losing them, or I fear what God will do with them. There is still work to be done in me.

I can either blame my family of origin and life circumstances for my tendency toward fear, or I can accept where I came from, take responsibility for my own struggles, and choose to accept God’s grace and help as I grow. I went with the second option, and have worked very hard on myself, and on letting God change me, for the last decade. There’s a saying that resonates with me: “I’m not where I want to be, but thank God I’m not where I was.” I’m not where I want to be. I still struggle with fearful thoughts and I will likely have to fight them every day for the rest of my life. I still want to cling tightly to certain things in my life that I want control over, or don’t want to lose, and have to fight to remember to hold them with loose hands. I used to always lose those fights though; now, some days, I win. Thank God I’m not where I was!

Back to the story of how Greg almost died. Greg has been roofing this summer. I don’t like the thought of him up on a roof every day. He’s clumsy. I also found out that he wasn’t wearing his safety harness lots of the time, and that made me more concerned. All summer, I’ve worried about him on the roof. I worried a lot at the start, but every day, as Greg left, I prayed that God would protect my husband. He did. I realized somewhere in there that God is Greg’s Father, who made him and loves him. Greg is God’s son, more than he is my husband. I decided to change my prayer.

One morning I prayed, “God, please protect your son today.” That same day, after Greg had finished roofing, he was at the dump unloading old shingles with his co-worker. They were using a large dump trailer, weighing upwards of 8000lbs. His co-worked hadn’t hooked the trailer up properly to the truck. It was also not working well, and Greg was standing in between the trailer and the truck, working on some wiring. He said that he just got a sense, all of a sudden, that he needed to step away, out from in between the truck and trailer. He dropped what he was doing and moved back. Instantly, the trailer unlatched and fell forward into the back of the truck, snipping the wires in half and crushing the tailgate, right where Greg had been standing. His co-worker was in shock at what had occurred, realizing it was his fault, and remembering where Greg had just been. Greg was shocked as well, and grateful to God for sparing his life. I realized when Greg came home and told me this, that I hadn’t even worried about him dying at the dump. He was off the roof, so I had stopped worrying. My worries don’t help him! God is in control and He thankfully kept Greg safe that day.

We did eventually rent out our house, so we could go ahead with the moving plans. But then I worried the rental wouldn’t go through. And then I worried they’d change their minds! And then I worried we wouldn’t get the right health insurance, or that we would have visa problems, or that our move won’t go through, or that we’ll get sick over there, or there won’t be jobs, or we’ll live somewhere unsafe, or go broke, or not have friends there, or that we’ll lose our friends here. What if we hate it? What if we love it? What will we do next year for work, or the year after that? Where will we live?

For the rest of our days, there will always be unanswered questions, and things we aren’t in control of and can’t know. There will always be something to worry about. As far as I’ve learned this summer, trusting God has a plan for me, to bring me hope and a future, is my best option. Otherwise the worries and unknowns will overwhelm me and weigh me down. What will be, will be anyways, whether I just plain worry, or whether I worry, and then chose to pray and trust and remind myself that God is good, and in control, and has a plan for me. Not easy, no, not easy at all – but possible.

Some days I fail, and some days I succeed, but I must keep choosing to trust, because there will always be something I could worry about. Another way of looking at it, is that there will always be something to choose to trust in; and God has been proving Himself to me day by day. Even as I write this, I find myself still facing some of these fears. I’m thankful for grace as I continue to learn.