Living the “No Plan” Plan

We have no plan.

So many people are asking what our plan is. My accent often leads to me telling part of my story to tasters in the Cellar Door, and I’m asked several times per day what my plan is. Our family and friends are wondering what our plan is too. We understand that people want to know. We do get it, really! We want to be able to tell you, but we have no concrete answers for you.

We really have no plan.

How long will we stay? Will we continue working in the wine industry? Will I ever teach again? When are we going “back home?” (I feel like I could write a blog on defining “home.”) What will we do after this? (When does “this” end and “after” start?) Honestly . . . we have some ideas, but we change our minds all the time. We are literally living almost day to day right now. And we like that.

That’s crazy to me. I’m a planner. I’ve always been a planner. I like plans. Actually, I love plans. I used to live for and by plans. If you’d told me ten years ago, or even five years ago, that I’d be living like this right now, I would have either not believed you, or had an instant panic attack.

But… I’ve actually found that living with no solid plan is kind of freeing. It’s liberating, and exciting and scary and maybe it’s not smart, or maybe it is. Maybe it’s not good for us, or maybe it’s exactly what we need right now. Whether it’s wise or not to not have a ten year plan, or even a five year plan, or honestly even a five month plan… it is what it is, and we have no plan.

We’re four months into living out a dream we’ve had for years; that’s really not that long in the grand scheme of things. We’re still feeling this whole new life out!

We’re learning so much. We learn things every single day about the wine industry, about ourselves, each other, what we like and don’t like, what we struggle with, and what we’re good at. We learn things God’s teaching us; we learn things about what’s important in life, and what’s not as important as we used to think it was. We learn about other cultures and countries. We learn about people.

For every question we get answered, we come up with five more we want answered. We’re curious. We’re exploring.

Isn’t this what moving abroad is all about?

There are multiple studies that suggest that people who have lived abroad are more confident and self-secure than those that haven’t. The experience gives them a better concept of themselves, and a wider understanding or outlook on others in the greater context of the world. After working through the values and systems in another country, expats have to re-evaluate themselves and their personal views.

This is part of the reason we wanted to make this move, and we’re living it every day. I doubt we’ll be here forever, but we’re not closed minded to that, if this is where we’re supposed to be. We may likely return to Canada, because that’s where our families are, but we’re also not set on that either. We have honestly talked through several options of how long to stay here, and where to go from here; however, we are fully aware that we’re dreaming at this stage, and anything could happen.

I think some people have trouble accepting the “no plan” plan, because they themselves can’t identify with it. I get told every week how brave we are for what we did, moving across the world with nothing, to a place we’d never been, to try and find employment in a new industry. People often tell me they wished they’d done what we did, but either never got around to it, or were too scared to take the leap; I don’t know if I feel like we’re brave, but I do admit that having no plan is truly terrifying at times.

Most people don’t choose to live with no plan, but for us, right now, we’re living it, and it’s kind of great. It’s just what we need.

Besides, we believe God’s got a plan for us, so it’s not so much that we have no plan at all, it’s just that we don’t know what it is yet; we’ll find out when it’s time to take the next step.

So if I haven’t confused you enough yet, or shown you how much we really are unsure ourselves, the answer to “what’s your plan?” or “how long will you stay?” is simply that we actually just don’t know.

So there you have it.

Just keep following the blog and time will tell!

A Year of Courage

“Courage” was the word I chose for 2018.

Let me explain. Several years back, we were challenged to get rid of New Years resolutions that we would likely not keep, and instead, choose one word that would be the theme of our upcoming year. I’ve done that for 3 years now, and I’ve found that my words have indeed acted as themes over the course of those years.

As 2017 was wrapping up, I felt that “courage” was the word I needed for my 2018 theme. I didn’t even know how much courage I would actually need when I chose that word, but it’s been a huge year of us making the most courageous decisions and leaps of faith we’ve ever had to make.

When I tell our story to people I meet, they often comment on how scary it must have been for us to pack up and leave our entire lives to move across the world with nothing over here, in hopes of starting a new life. It was! It was really scary. It was absolutely, completely, lose sleep, sick to my stomach, question everything, we’re completely crazy, “scary as!”

I once read that courage is not the absence of fear; courage is being afraid but choosing to step out anyways.

We literally got on the plane 7 weeks ago today, to come to Hawke’s Bay, our new home, never having been to New Zealand, let alone Hawke’s Bay. We had no jobs, no cars, no place to live, no friends, basically no contacts, no experience in the industry we were wanting to work in, and not a whole lot of money either.

We got on the plane with our one way tickets, 3 suitcases between the 2 of us, 2 Starbucks Americano’s (decaf for me), and a dream…

I feel like the theme of “courage,” really came to life for me as we took steps towards moving, in that pre-flight moment, and in several more that followed!

As we wrap up 2018, we still need courage, to continue on with this new life that we’re building, and trust that we’re going to be in the right place for the right time, and build relationships that matter.

I’m still thinking about what my word for 2019 needs to be.

If you’re up for a change from New Years resolutions, I encourage you to try choosing a theme word for your 2019, and see if it makes a difference over your year, or if you come back to it throughout the following months.

Thanks for reading, blog family, and I wish you all a happy and wonderful New Year and 2019!

Snakes, Spiders, and Other Bugs in Australia

So, the bugs in Australia…

My husband originally said he wouldn’t live in Australia because of his fear of snakes and spiders. When we booked our accommodations for our 11 day trip on the way to New Zealand, we wondered how many spiders we’d see. I was expecting to see at least one big one, somewhere, and we actually kept our bags closed all the time at the first 2 of 3 places we stayed. I’m pleased to report that we didn’t actually see any big spiders at all! I was surprised to only see very small ones, about the size of an ant.

There are lots of photos and articles that go around on social media and in the news, that give the impression that Australia is just crawling with horrible creatures at every turn. This, we found to be untrue; however, we did discover through talks with the locals, that the bugs actually are a pretty concerning issue. In the northern part of Australia, it is apparently more likely to come across lots of snakes and spiders, and in the outback, they’re definitely common. In the south, the huge Huntsmans aren’t as common, but they are still present.

At our first winery visit in McLaren Vale, we were told that staff are no longer allowed to take visitors on tours of the actual vineyard, partially due to safety reasons. They say that snakes like to live in the vines. Okay – so no going into vineyards or tall grasses or any untamed garden type areas…

We also discovered some other news about spiders through our Airbnb hosts. They warned us about “White Tip Spiders,” and said that if we ever see one, we need to kill it. They explained ever so nonchalantly that the White Tips wouldn’t kill us, but that if we were bit, we would get a high temperature, and an ulcer in the area that would last for years. The bite requires antibiotics as well. They had been cleaning out their garage that afternoon, and only found one, which they said was great for not having gone through it in a couple of years. Those awful little guys also like to live in or around plants. Got it – no plants!

We asked how we would know if we were bitten by one of the poisonous spiders, as opposed to the other ones, and they said that if we notice a red line going from the site of the bite towards our hearts, that means it will kill us and we need to get to the hospital for the anti-venom ASAP. They were surprised that we didn’t know this procedure, and asked how we deal with poisonous bites at home; we explained that in Canada, that’s not a thing! Frost bite is the only bite we need to worry about.

We did conclude that the idea that spiders and snakes are everywhere in Australia, has about the same level of truth to it as the expectation of seeing Moose, Beavers and igloos does, when visiting Canada. Yes, we have those things, but it’s not common to see them.

On another note, their black flies are different from ours, and are extremely annoying! They don’t fly away with the simple wave of a hand near them. They will land on you and sit there until you actually wipe them off. They land on your face. They land right on your face when you’re eating, and just sit there! It’s pretty gross.

We also learned about these big toads they have, that were brought over from Asia in the 70’s as an attempt to rid the country of some other bugs, but there is no predator in Australia that eats them, so now they’ve become a pest. These toads aren’t apparently harmful to humans, but they spit out venom at cats, dogs and other small animals that will paralyze the animal and kill it within hours. People have been losing their pets to this toad venom, and it’s becoming a bit of a problem. So as long as you don’t have an issue with very large toads that spit at you, or a pet you want to keep, you don’t need to worry about those.

Finally, let’s discuss the millipede, which graced the cover of this article. We had heard about them, and been told that tourists freak out when they see them, but they’re quite harmless. This ugly bugger was hiding under my suitcase, and I’m not sure how long he was there! When I folded the lid over and closed up the bag, there he was, crawling at me at much too high of a pace, with all his squiggly legs! I’ll admit, I freaked out, like people said I would!

Greg was thankfully outside, and I discovered the millipede alone. Then I found another dead one, with only half a body, on the other side of the same room. I tried to remember that they’re “harmless.” They may be harmless to my health, sure, but what about my peace of mind? I was glad I didn’t discover these guys until our last day, or I would have been nervous walking to the bathroom at night in bare feet, and the sheets would have been more thoroughly checked! I do believe NZ has bugs like this though… so we may be learning to deal with them, as much as I don’t want to.

We are thankful we didn’t see any snakes or any huge spiders during our time in Australia, and we are looking forward to living in the land of no snakes and no big spiders! On another positive note, at least we know what to look for if we come across those poisonous bites, and now you all do too. You’re welcome?

If you ever visit Australia, now you’ll be prepared. If you have already been, feel free to correct any misinformation, or add a comment with your own experiences and tips! Thanks for reading, blog family.

The Last Starbucks

I have been picturing this moment for years now… picturing, dreaming, envisioning, hoping for, praying for, questioning at times, even fearing it if the anxiety got too tight a hold, but grasping onto it in my mind as clear as day. Greg and I talked about “that dream moment,” many times, when we would be HERE, sitting in the secure area, at our gate, with our last Canadian Starbucks. 

There were many times it seemed like it would never come. I even started typing this post a long time ago so I could read it over when I needed a reminder to have faith and hold tight to the dream. Every time we travel I take a secure area Starbucks photo before we get on the plane; if you’ve followed me in the past, you know the ones.

This is “the last Starbucks” on this side of the ocean for a while. This is the last Starbucks on this side of a one way ticket to New Zealand (I left a blank when I typed this months ago because I used to be sure it was Rome but somehow knew it might be somewhere else).  

This is the last Starbucks on this side of the life we know, the last Starbucks on this side of a life we can almost predict. This is the last Starbucks on this side of safety in our people, comfort in our communities, stability in the familiarity of home. This is the last Starbucks in the same building as family members and close friends, who we’ve just hugged and cried with downstairs. This is the last Starbucks on this side of the biggest adventure we’ve ever known, this side of the contradicting panic and fear, and also complete peace that we have in knowing we’re supposed to do this. This is the last Starbucks as people who have only ever lived in one city, before changing everything we know, and trusting God more than we’ve had to in a while to provide everything we need. This is the last Starbucks on this side of the hugest leap of faith we’ve ever taken. 

This moment is here

This moment is real

This moment is now

Woah.

We’ll catch up with you on the other side of the world! Cheers. 

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.