God is good. All the time. No really, He is.

God is good. All the time. All the time. God is good. Growing up in the church I had this drilled into me and would probably participate in the back-and-forth recital of it in my sleep. Recently however, I realized that I was not entirely convinced of its truth. But I’m His faithfulness, this summer God has really helped me to believe that He is good and wants what is best for me.

The day before my trip to Haiti I was given news that rocked my world. It put into question the biggest dream I have had for my since I was a little girl. In Haiti I saw extreme poverty, systems that did not work and too many orphaned children. Over summer I have really struggled with my worth and identity. Through it all though God gave me an unexplainable joy that strengthened me each day. I was able to speak life into others while finding truth for myself in Jesus.

“You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book.”

Psalm 56:8

Jesus cares that my heart was breaking and that my worth was not being found in Him. He is with me while I am ugly crying (every fortnight…) and when I am questioning why things happen. Not only that but He holds my sorrows and turns them into joy. The deeper my sorrows have been, the deeper the joy that He gives me has been.

I arrived at summer camp not knowing a soul and not having my phone during the week to contact my friends and family back home. This forced me to turn to God when I was tired for energy; when I was frustrated for patience; when I was doubting for confidence; when I was grieving for joy. He was faithful in providing me with community to love and support me, and for very gently challenging me to put my hope and identity back in Him.

It has been a tough summer of growth, but I feel closer to who I am meant to be each day. I am looking forward to continue walking out this growing season of rediscovering me and leaning more and more into Jesus. I may not be meeting my earthly standards of what, where and who I should be, but I have hope that I am becoming closer to who Jesus made me to be – which gives me so much peace and joy!

“I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.”

‭‭Romans‬ ‭15:13‬

Both of these verses God gave me at pivotal moments this summer through wonderful friends and mentors, which is another testament to His goodness and faithfulness. Even in my doubt and in the days where I have not turned to Him with my pain, He hunts me down and showers me with love. He is a good, good Father.

Summer catch up: Nashville!

Days abroad: 175

We are almost at the end of our catch up posts for tonight!

After one night back in Austin, after Haiti and another brief upset stomach in Atlanta, I headed to Nashville to visit an old childhood best friend that I had not seen in 14 years! I was nervous that it was going to be an awkward visit and so I arrived in Nashville on a one-way ticket, but quickly decided that I’d found home and was going to stay for two weeks.

My first week in Nashville was largely spent serving at VBS in the mornings and napping in the afternoons – the kiddos really took it out of me! (Pro tip: if serving at two events/trips, plan off time in between…) It was so nice to come home to a family that understood me, knew how I do life and knew my story. It felt like home in a way Austin never has, because it contained my past and my family. Being given my own space and the freedom to spend hours napping or just chilling in my room was so necessary. At first it felt rude, but I realised that I had not spent any time with myself, taking care of myself or resting, in three weeks. I will forever be thankful to my Nashville family for providing me with a space to recover from the last month’s ups and downs. We visited the farmer’s market and Franklin Factory where they took me to a South African butcher for some biltong! Talk about really feeling at home!

I attended bible study with my friend three times while I was in Nashville and God moved so powerfully each time. One week I was sobbing before the Lord so badly that I had snot everywhere – TMI but unfortunately very real, it got ugly fast. It was great to be in a church environment similar to the one I have back home where the Holy Spirit is free to move and minister as He needs to, which made Nashville feel that much more like home. The people were so welcoming and immediately pulled me into their community; one that I already miss and would give anything to go visit again!

The second week in Nashville was spent touristing, resting and dog sitting in Franklin. It was so much fun! It was in this week that I really got to spend time with my friend, get to know her and really enjoy how similar we are despite growing up a world apart with minimal contact. Nashville is a beautiful, busy, classy city and Franklin definitely deserves it’s title as one of the best small towns in the USA – I would go back in a heartbeat for sure! The south really has stolen my heart, it’s not just Texas but the entire South. I honestly don’t know how I am ever going to go back to Dunedin and freeze my butt off for two more years…

Nashville you will see me again! Nashville family, if I don’t catch you again before you go back to Christchurch I am overjoyed to say that I will see you at home and thank you so much for having me!

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Summer catch up: Haiti!

Days abroad: 175

I have been procrastinating writing this post for about three weeks because I do not know how to condense my experience in Haiti into one post. Haiti was a trip that I never expected when I was planning my exchange, and one that when the opportunity came up I never thought I would be able to go on. I went with a group of 12 UT athletes and four support staff, representing women’s soccer, track & field, men’s swimming & diving, women’s rowing, and women’s volleyball, and we served on the beautiful island for a week.

The scenes and scenery were what you expect of a third world missions trip; buildings were unfinished, trash lay everywhere, the livestock were roaming next to the road, some kids were thin, half-clothed, and had bugs flying all around them, the smells were intense and the food very basic. Part of me was very conflicted about going on the trip because I didn’t want to go spend a week in Haiti, impact nothing and come back to my life of luxury and comfort unchanged. I felt guilty about approaching the kids because I knew that in a few hours I would leave them and they would return to the exact same circumstances that they were in when I arrived.

On the first morning of serving in Haiti though, my perspective started to shift. The lady whose house we painted in the morning was so specific on how she wanted it painted and checked up on our work as we went. At first I was taken aback that she was so specific for a free paint job, but then I realised that it was because she takes so much pride in her home. When I thought about it, my mother would have done exactly the same, which made me appreciate the similarities between the two mothers and how this woman was not controlled by a poverty mindset.

Learning more about Mission of Hope, the organisation we were serving through, also changed my mind about how effective we were being. MOH’s goal is to work themselves out of a job; to empower the local church to serve the community and let the organisation be entirely Haitian run. With their feeding program they want to buy crops from local farmers, work with them to improve their agricultural techniques and serve Haitians Haitian food. The whole mission of empowering Haiti to be a better Haiti and not a little America was really one that I could get behind – it was not driven by a colonial mindset and really valued the lifestyle and culture of the people. Any handouts we gave or service we performed was lead by a representative from the local church to ensure that the community relied on the church and not on visiting North Americans. It’s a sustainable vision that also will lead to a recovered Haiti.

On the other days we planted trees, handed out solar lights and water filters to families, shared the gospel between homes as we visited villages and learnt about their health and water access, and played with children wherever we went. “Go on a missions trip, pick up a child, take a photo” was a mindset that I didn’t understand. I didn’t like the photos people posted with brown babies online because I didn’t appreciate the heart of mission trips yet. Being there though and getting off the bus to have a child climb you like a tree to be held in 0.025 seconds changed that for me. The children craved love and individual attention, they did not want to share you with any other child and wanted your full attention. One little girl that I held while some of the team played soccer against the village kids almost fell asleep in my arms. It scared me that she could feel that safe and comfortable in a stranger’s arms, but I felt so honoured that it was the case.

One of the most memorable moments for me was meeting Benchina and Stevenson at the orphanage we visited. The team had been dropping like flies with a horrendous stomach bug and the night before our orphanage trip it was my turn. I stayed back at camp the morning when everyone went into the villages again (Note: in this trip to the village one of our groups was able to lead a man that was working on one of the homes to the Lord!) to try and recover, but when we arrived at the orphanage I was completely drained of energy. I was leaning up against a doorframe at the end of our tour around the facility wondering how I was going to love on these children when I didn’t have the energy to hold myself upright. Next thing I knew a little boy came and wrapped his arms around me and leaned into me. He just wanted to be held so I sat down on the step and held him while he played with his toy car. My heart ached because, like the village children he craved individual love and attention, but unlike them he wasn’t returning to a home where he could get that in the evening. I felt so bad knowing that the love I could give would not be enough, and there was nothing I could do to make it better. One of our leaders, who was on the board for the orphanage came to tell me that his name was Stevenson, he’d been adopted and was moving to Tennessee soon! I was beyond relieved to hear this because I knew that he would soon have a mom and dad to love and care for him like he needed.

Benchina I met in the toddlers room at the same orphanage after Stevenson went off to play with his friends. She had just woken up from a nap and reached out to me smiling so I took her and sat down on a rocking chair with her. Luckily for me, she too just wanted a cuddle despite both of us dripping with sweat in the heat. I sat with her for a long time before I realised that she was missing a few fingers on one of her hands and only had one foot. While the other children played she just sat on my knee and when it came time to feed them lunch she sat on a chair while the rest clambered all over the other members of my team. Having a psychologist mother with many connections that would be able to help Benchina get a prosthetic and learn how to walk she was on my mind for a good while after having to say goodbye to her. I thought about her day and night, what I could do to help her and if there was any way I could get her out of that situation. One day after our return to the USA I could not keep asking myself these questions so I reached out to the same leader to find out her story. He said she had likely been born with those disabilities, but that she had also been adopted and will be moving to her forever home soon! I was so happy I hugged the friend I was with so tight! Jehovah-Jireh, Jesus really does provide!

One of the biggest blessings for me to take away from Haiti was our team. I have now found 12 new friends and new community on campus, found new mentors and psedo-parents.God put our team together so perfectly not only to serve Haiti effectively but also to tend to each other’s wounds and encourage each other to grow. I learnt so much from our team and had many timely conversations that took care of my heart in ways that I didn’t know it needed care. It was amazing to witness God’s love portrayed slightly differently through each of my teammates and to see their love for Him pour out so effortlessly and joyfully onto the people of Haiti!

So, to Jesus, to MOH, to the Longhorns for Haiti, to Stevenson and Benchina, to the people of Haiti, to our translaters and guides, and especially to those that supported me financially and in prayer – thank you so much for the opportunity of a lifetime! Mwen renmen pou toutan. I love you forever.

 

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Summer catch up: Sister visits and couch surfing!

Days abroad: 175

I finally have a spare moment to gather my thoughts and get all my ducks in a row before my next adventure so I will quickly catch y’all up on the last month and a bit of my life!

After semester ended, my sister came to visit me for about a week and I was able to show her my Austin home. We explored campus and downtown, visited the Capitol and Bob Bullock Museum, went two-stepping, swam at Barton Springs, ate all the good food, painted the town at Graffiti Park and shopped till we dropped! Her visit was so much fun, just way too short. Being away from home has been fine but I definitely started feeling that it was time to check in with the family, play with our puppies and be in my own room. So, having my sister here could not have come at a better time!

The week following Sister’s visit I really realised how much of a community I had here in Austin. I have no lease over summer since I’ll be at summer camp for six weeks and so faced a five week stint of homelessness. I found myself though with an abundance of homes, spending a few days each with a handful of my sorority sisters and small group friends. That really has been the hallmark difference in my exchange from a stereotypical exchange, and what has made it so great so far – the fact that I have a fully American community and am able to really “live” here. One of my sisters said it so rightly the other day, it feels as though I’ve always been in this community and as though I shouldn’t be leaving soon. I have integrated and nested in Austin, and never have I been so thankful for that as when I needed a home and had too many options to choose from!

I’ll keep this post short as I have about three more to right tonight… Instead of words I will share a few photos of my first two weeks of summer! Also pictured: an albino squirrel we found on campus (said to bring good luck if you see them on a test/exam day) and an interview I did for tv!

What 8,000 miles really feels like

Days abroad: 125

Friends, we are officially over a third of the way through this crazy journey! That blows my mind. This week for the first time I felt the 8,000 miles. I felt what it meant that Daddy can’t be here in a few hours and I can’t lay my head on Mother Bear’s lap and let her play with my curls. My 20 year old body suddenly felt 4; I was once again a little red haired girl standing by a beach in Kaitaia covered in sand completely lost. But that’s a story for another day.

Many of you would have heard about the terrible thing that happened on my campus on Monday; we lost a Longhorn in broad daylight, by the library, due to the infliction of a blade. The whole day was weird. It started off like any other Monday, I had a class project and then came home to have a nap because my meeting was cancelled. I woke up to find texts flooding my phone to stay safe, stay home and not wear any of my Greek letters. I praise God that I was not on campus or having to evacuate anywhere. The rumours were horrendous, reports of more stabbings came left, right, and centre – at one stage there was a man coming door to door in my building after a stabbing in our parking garage.

I stay calm in the face of adversity, it normally takes me a few hours or days to process fear or danger. This time it hit me through a video of a sweet, sweet boy singing. He was a Freshman, who loved his Momma, his beautiful girlfriend, his brother and everyone he knew, and adored his Dad. I looked into his face, listened to the song and my heart broke. I suddenly felt very vulnerable, the events of the day became real and my safety net was on the other side of the world. As anyone who knows me well can attest to, I am a crier. I am more a sobber than a crier, but I cry all the time and for no reason. Movies are a nightmare for me – waterproof mascara is a must. Makeup to Sunday night church never happens because I end up with trails down my cheeks. With my heart in a million pieces on the floor I needed to scream into my mattress, wrap my arms around my massive Teddy and eat my sister’s fondue.

The weight of the 8,000 miles was suddenly very real and very heavy. The extent of the coming seven months seemed too long. I did not feel safe, I still do not feel safe. I suddenly cannot comfortably walk to football at 5:30am, something I previously would have (naively) done without a care in the world. I am constantly scanning crowds when I walk for more than just cute boys and outfit ideas. I panic when someone walks fast or breaths hard behind me. I still have not had a good cry. Austin is home and will always be a home to me, but my heart has not found a safe landing pad. I don’t have a Daddy whose shoulder I can sob into or an Ouma who can bring me tea while I sit and contemplate life.

I still love my life here and am beyond happy to be here, the thought of leaving still terrifies me. But I want my family. I want to stop having to introduce myself to people wherever I go and having to always be polite. I want, just for one day, to be able to look disgusting, eat nothing all day and be rude to someone. Adult life where you have to always be on point is exhausting. I miss being able to be safely unpolished. Unpolished me is ugly, messy and very, very vulnerable. Although I am all for vulnerability and do wear my heart on my sleeve, I do not let many people into the very depth of my heart. The part that needs the most care and a special kind of unconditional love. The people that know and understand that part of me, without me having to explain it to them or voice my problems are so far away and I only now feel it.

Yes, you could summarise this as Petro is just homesick after 5 months abroad, but this is more than just missing New Zealand, or my family and friends. This is missing that safe, familiar place. That walk to Lifegroup, where you know which angle to cut across the rugby field to avoid the worst of the post-scrum mud patches, and where the tea is kept once you get there. It’s knowing that a Rob Roy trip and a serious chat in the park is just a text away. It’s having the beach a block away, to take an early evening walk and clear your head. It’s that feeling of walking downstairs and having a little ball of white fluff jump against your legs because she missed you the five minutes you were out of the room. I miss my family, but most of all my heart misses feeling safe.

I am going to bring this to a happy closing, because I would hate for you to think that I am having the worst time in Austin. On Tuesday, following the death of our Longhorn a bunch of Christians gathered by the Tower to worship and pray for everyone affected by the tragedy and for peace on our campus. I cried (surprise, surprise) as we sang that God is a good, good Father, my heart really questioning that truth; when we prayed for Mrs Brown who will never see her baby again; for our campus to not be divided by hope; but mostly when we prayed for the body with the knife. He is our brother too, also has burnt orange blood in his veins, and Jesus loves him just the same.

Afterwards, I was sitting on the stairs collecting myself before a study group when a group walked past and asked among themselves what the gathering was. The explanation offered was, “Oh, some frat thing.” I chuckled at their mistake, before turning back and being gobsmacked, realising that the majority of the crowd leftover were guys. It was so beautiful to see so many men gathered under Jesus’ name to pray for their campus and our Longhorn family. At the official campus memorial the next day, a similar feeling overwhelmed my heart when in the middle of a song there were suddenly a sea of horns in the air – as if to stand together in love and stand against fear. It was two of the most beautiful moments I have seen in my entire life.

There will be good that comes from this grief; answers from this doubt; laughter from this pain; and pain from this fear. I truly believe that with all my heart.

Pandora’s Box: Technology & Shame

Week 2 of Pandora’s Box! We’re starting off slowly and will gradually get uglier and messier here on the ol’ blog. This week we tag-team to Mima, who wrote about how technology stole our worth and can cause so much shame because it steals the identity for which we were created. How technology is shaping and taking over our lives is often talked about, and the conversation is slowly turning also to how much shame and identity questioning is caused by social media. So, here’s our take on a very important topic that is going to keep getting more important as technology and social media gets bigger.

 

The first identity you and I ever held was child, daughter or son.
We were held in tender arms as we uttered our first cries and were nestled upon our mother’s hearts.
We fastened ourselves upon her bosom in complete trust that she would nourish us and not give us poison.
Our fathers held us, a fragile bundle in hands that could easily engulf but instead swore to protect and love.
Our needs of being seen, being known, being love, being taken care of were all met.
As children our needs were easily met, or is more accurate to say our needs were more readily explained and affirmed?

In an ideal world the above would be normal, it isn’t.
Some of you have never known what pure unconditional love from your mother looks or feels like.
Some of you have never known what pure unconditional love from your father looks or feels like.
Some of you have never known what pure unconditional love from anyone looks or feels like.
When this need to be loved is not met by Someone outside of ourselves, we go looking for that Someone who or whatever they maybe.

(Please note you are completely free to argue with me,)

What if social media is parenting us? What if that has become the place we feel safe, known, loved.
What if we are being coached to connect better with a screen than we are with tangible presence?
What if we have been taught to associate the number of likes with life?
What if we rather take a picture of where we were so that other people know where we were rather than enjoy being in the moment.
Who do we turn to in the midst of a crisis?
When we are bored?
When we want to celebrate?
When we want?
When we need?
Who do we reach out to?

I understand why it’s easier to interact with your screen than it is to talk to flesh and blood.
There is no risk.
Your screen won’t judge you.
You can hide behind it and no one is the wiser.
You can speak to it and it doesn’t speak back.
It can just lie there lifeless in your hands and yet somehow it holds your life.

When you have thought or have been brought up thinking that maybe you are not worth the risk of loving, it’s hard to risk and let others in. I was brought up in a good home and like any good home it has its issues, added to that a sinful nature, a fallen world; the result is a trapped mind.

Trapped in looking for validation any place other than where it is freely given.
Trapped in placing other fallen beings as my judge when there is only one true and just Judge.
Trapped in believing that no one can save me so I have to look out for myself.
So I scroll through the likes, flick through the faces that light up, do a song and dance for my “crowd”.

When did technology when did social media become our Savior, Judge and Lord? The day we forgot to love our God with all our strength, all our heart and with all our soul.

As you grow and learn, you realize that getting into a relationship is not the end goal, its merely the beginning. You find that comparatively getting into a relationship is far easier than maintaining, sustaining and growing said relationship.

You find that to grow a relationship requires risk, opening up your heart fully to another person. What if true life is found within risking it all? What if true life is found in being present in both our relationship with God and our relationship with others?

Jesus modelled that.

He showed that it’s a relationship with the Father, a needy relationship, a submitted relationship that is where true life is found.  A relationship where things get messy, where things are not Pinterest perfect or Instagram worthy. Where the mark of our relationship with God is not that we graduate into self-sufficiency but we graduate into childlikeness dependency.

To be quite honest, the gospel tastes like vinegar to me sometimes I wanna spit it out and run away. Maybe when you have had a lifetime of drinking poison, the antidote actually tastes bitter not because its bad but because its different.

Heaven looks nothing like this planet, there is no orphan mentality, there is no fear of authority, there is no sense of being lost, there is no death, and there are no lies. There is a Heavenly Good Father cares for us, wants the best for us, protects us, loves us and that all of those needs were met in Jesus.

Am I the only one who struggles with this? That the moment I repented and said yes to God (Christianese of accepted God into my heart) instantly the righteousness of Jesus was put on me and I was adopted into the Kingdom of Heaven. God the creator of the heavens is now my Father and He loves me. He wants to be the one I got to when I am bored, when I am needy, when I am tempted to booty call that guy, when I am mess.

To be human, I have realized is to be in a constant state of need. To be a Christian is to consistently bring that need to God my Father and expect Him to meet it. We can’t outgrow our childlikeness, we can try and stuff it down but deep down inside we know we are not that strong, we are not that great. And that’s okay.

God is a good father, who nourishes us more than our mothers can, protects us more than our fathers can and loves us far more than the love of anyone on this planet.

So, let’s stop making idols out of our phones, our sex drive, our parents, our lovers, our kids, our food, our bodies, our thought, our feelings.
Let us return to God, believe in Him and be the much loved child whose needs are always met.

You will always be a child in Your Heavenly Father’s eyes and that is more than okay.

Pandora’s Box: Shame

Shame. It’s such a small word but carries such weight and power. In 2015 I realised how much shame was controlling me; how it held me captive and distorted my identity. I reached a point where the burden of shame was just too heavy to carry, it had my heart feeling sick. One dark, cold Dunedin night I broke. I spilled my ugliness and exposed my heart’s wounds to Mima and my sister who received me with open hearts and open arms. After that night and a few difficult phone calls to my parents I realised that the power of guilt and shame lay in silence. Your sin and screw ups can only haunt you if you keep quiet about them. The more open I was about my mistakes, the less shame I felt; it opened the door for support, love and accountability. I realised that I am not a sum of my mistakes; my identity lies as a daughter of the King, bought at the highest price. That did not make me perfect, the scars of my mistakes I will carry with me forever, but it did open up the door for grace and forgiveness.

As has been the theme with a lot of my posts and rants the last year or so, this new series was born out of the realisation that the more we stay silent the more life will get the better of us. The more I talked to people about the true state of my life, the more I realised that I am not alone. I am not alone in my loneliness, in my struggles, in my shame, in my doubt, in my stupidity, in my sadness. I was talking to Mima one night about how angry I was that I had lived under the burden of shame for so long for no reason and that especially in the church we feel the need to sugar coat our lives to glorify our sanctification. But in doing so we are taking away the power of grace. Grace can only be powerful when we are humble enough to admit that we are not perfect. And so the idea of Pandora’s Box was born. We are aiming to cover all things taboo; all the things that we all know but are too afraid to talk about. In doing so we hope to start conversation here and wherever you are. We hope to empower you to uncover your wounds to let them heal.

When I called my Dad to tell him of the shame that I had been carrying around I remembering crying my heart out. I said to him, “Daddy, I have something I need to tell you but I’m so scarred. I feel so awful and I don’t want you to be angry or disappointed.” In broken sentences and a flood of tears I told Dad everything, I opened my wounds hoping at the most that he would not scratch them open and cast me out. Dad paused for a while and then choking back tears of his own he said to me, “I have never loved you more than I love you right now. Thank you for loving me enough to share this with me. You are not alone in this.” I realised in that phone call that if my earthly Dad could respond like that to the biggest stuff ups of my entire life, how much more love my heavenly Father would extend to me. I realised that Jesus died so that we could curl up on Abba’s chest and ugly cry while we told Him what we’ve done. Jesus died so that Abba could hold us and heal our wounds instead of casting us aside. I found so much comfort in realising that I did not need to hide from God when I did the wrong thing, but that I could run to him with arms wide open and collapse into His arms.

When I sat on Abba’s knee and told Him about my shame, insecurity and hypocrisy I found my identity in His love and grace. I realised that I am forgiven and am not defined by what I did. It has taken me many months to be comfortable enough to start this series, to realise that it exposes me to mass-judgement and risks my reputation and many friendships. But I am ready, ready to write out of a place of being scarred, not carrying around festering wounds. All it took for me to find peace, restoration and freedom was to hear a resounding “me too” from loved ones, from role models and from Jesus. To realise that I am not alone.

My hope and prayer for you reading this is that as we take this journey of opening Pandora’s Box that you will find that too. That you will hear a “friend, me too” in every word that we say or write. That you will feel the love that we are extending to you and that you too will be able to sit on Abba’s knee and empty your heart; to exchange your wounds for freedom. That you will look at the scars on Jesus’ hands and realise that they are there so that you can be free of shame, because you are not alone in your pain. The video above is a spoken word piece that Mima and I wrote together and really summarises our hope for this series that we are tackling together; that you will find freedom from your shame when you embrace vulnerability. So friend, I ask that you open your heart for the next few weeks as we get our hands dirty. Please read what we have to say with eyes of grace and love, and realise that we are not doing this to point fingers or condemn anyone. Please also have patience with us as we explore making videos – we are doing it so that you can hear our hearts behind our words, that they will be more than words on a screen. Please hold our hearts as we share them very vulnerably with you.

Buckle up loves, we are in for a bumpy ride but the reward waiting on the other side is so worth it! As always, drop us a comment and let’s start this conversation!

 

Note: The music in the video is not ours, it was done by Kai Engel

Sweet as

Days abroad: 110

I have neglected this poor blog for two months! My bad…

At this stage it feels weird writing this as a travel blog, because I do not feel like a traveler anymore. As I said in my last post, Austin has become home for me. I tackled my exchange with the aim of feeling as though I live here, rather than feeling like a foreign exchange student. I wanted to be friends with Americans, do everything possible that local students do, and say “yes” to every opportunity that comes my way. This approach does sometimes put me in situations where I feel very out of place, but I would not have it any other way. My aim is to seem as local as possible until I open my mouth.

I have never really considered myself a Kiwi, because I am such an odd mix of my two cultures. Now I am very quick to say I’m from New Zealand before someone mistakes me for an Aussie. The ol’ accent has tripped me up a few times; I’m still learning to properly speak American English. Here’s what I’ve learnt so far:

  • When saying “netball” apparently it sounds like “nipple” which has lead to a few awkward situations of people being really confused as to what I do…
  • A Kiwi here is strictly a fruit, so I have to explain the flightless bird that you never see so aren’t really sure if it exists. We are birds, not fruit. (Side note: they call manderines Cuties or Halos and it drives me insane).
  • I have the hardest time trying to tell people what my name is, so I generally rely on having an American friend introduce me – just so that I end up being called something remotely close to my name.
  • My Kiwisms trip people up often but they’re too polite to ask me what I mean, example: “everything turned to custard” I’ve had to stop saying because it confused too many people
  • And the crowning glory, something I didn’t realise how often I used it until this year: “sweet as”. Again, people were too polite to ask but I eventually find out that it really confuses people. A few friends have now started to heckle me, asking “Sweet as what?!” every time I say it. No replacement saying has been found yet.
  • Best reaction to the Kiwi accent so far came after I apologised for sounding Australian: “Nah, I could die in a bathtub of your accent.”

As far as what I have been doing the last month aside from hectically trying to finish assignments and stay on track with readings; I travelled for Spring Break and went “home” for Easter. I spent Spring Break with a friend of mine who came to Otago for exchange last year first semester, who goes to school in Alabama. We hit up Atlanta, Savannah, Charleston, Birmingham and Tuscaloosa before I finished the week off with a day of netball in Houston. There was a freak winter storm over the country that week so I did not get the classic Spring Break experience; instead we were all layered up and briskly walking between warm buildings. Reminded us of our shared semester in Otago, which at that stage was not a very welcome throwback. I could go on forever about how amazing this roadtrip was, but as with any roadtrip you needed to have been there in order to understand how dear to my heart it was.

Easter weekend was amazing! My beautiful family let me have the best of both worlds by sending me plenty of photos and videos so that I did not feel like I was missing out. A friend of mine took me home to her place for the weekend, where we pretty much watched movies for the entire weekend before church and a big extended family lunch on Sunday. Pro tip for anyone living overseas alone: find a family home. It honestly makes a world of difference to get a hug and a “welcome home” from a Dad, help Momma carry in the groceries and be surrounded by sibling banter for a few days. And sometimes all you need is a hug from Gran to make everything in the world seem okay again.

I also ran a 10k the other weekend. That was something that I learnt from my friend from Alabama – have something to work towards and a physical goal that you want to achieve during your semester abroad. It keeps you going to the gym, and on the off days allows you to feel accomplished and in control of something. I also found a few friends at the race, which was one of those “Wow, I really have found my new home” moments. When you start recognising faces in a crowd and find friends wherever you go, you know you’ve made yourself at home in a city.

Oh, I also celebrated my 20th birthday the other day! The timezone meant that I had a solid two day birthday celebrating my Kiwi, African and American birthdays. It was one of the best birthdays yet, I felt so loved and cherished throughout the whole day. It taught me not to expect people to meet your needs, but to constantly reach out until someone meets you where you’re at. Tell people that your birthday is coming up and that you want to do something fun. If something is important to you, make it happen! We also went two-stepping again which was a tonne of fun!

I miss all my people back home; my family, my friends, my puppy. I miss knowing all the best coffee shops to visit and not having to use Google Maps every day. I miss knowing all the people in my classes and saying hello to someone every time I’m on campus. I miss my church family. I cannot wait to see the green and the mountains, be by the sea and spend hours exploring the streets knowing that I am completely safe. I miss Whitakers chocolate and small portions. I miss netball and watching the rugby. I miss running till my lungs burnt because the air was so cold. I miss not having to tell people about myself because they already know me. But I have never been one to stay in a place of comfort for too long. At the end of the day I am an immigrant child and have never lived in the same suburb for more than 5 years. I love my island home and the slower pace of life, but the longer I am out here the more I realise that New Zealand will not be home forever. Even if it just for a season, I know I have another home waiting for me on this planet. If it’s in Texas I will not complain – they just need to give me a way to still stick on my “C” bib.

So how is life on exchange? It is sweet as. Sweet as what? Sweet as Southern sweet tea and welcome home smiles.

I am 21: It ends with ‘happily ever after’

Last one before we tackle something even scarier on the blog! We have tackled the task of remembering the complexity and simplicity of every stage of our lives, in order to best love and serve the younger ones around us. To finish off, we have a piece to encourage us college-aged girls.

Today we have Mother Bear on the blog! I definitely inherited my love for writing from my mum; she has an amazing gift that I wish I got to see more often. My mother is just that, a mother through and through. She is also a wife, a friend, a daughter, a sister, a writer, a speaker, a prayer, a psychologist, a professional, and is successful in everything that she does. Most importantly though, she is my mother. She has an amazing testimony of restoration and finding renewal, strength and joy in Jesus, and the fruit of His freedom is so evident in her life! I am so privileged to have been raised by this amazing woman; is is both strong and gentle, just and kind. It is fair to say Mamma, I definitely gave you the most cheek of us three and probably fought with you the most too, but you always stayed patient and understanding. Probably because you were fighting with the mini version of yourself… For those of you not fortunate enough to have met my Mamma yet, she is best described in Autumn patterns. She is fun, a moment-maker, creative, colourful, loving, deep, and shows great love for everyone she meets. I love you Mamma and am so thankful for everything that you do and who you are; and so thankful for this love of writing that we share!

All the posts the last while have been beautiful and have absolutely touched my heart, but this one was the one that brought me to tears. So without further ado, enjoy this beautiful encouragement from my Mamma to you!

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I am 21. We are dancing, I have my arms in the air and a smile in my heart. Tonight I am wearing my long pleated brown skirt and matching top, leather belt and my Cowboy boots. Oh, them boots, I love them. Wear them every day and everywhere!

My family is here tonight, to celebrate with me. Dad, had organised it all. He is happy. I look up and know that he sees me tonight. Together.  It has been a long time since we had all been together.

Not long ago, I saw dad smiling at her. Adulterer.  Lies.  Denial.  Rejection.  A lonely girl in her Cowboy boots, in a lonely city…

Longing to be seen.

I keep busy and study hard. I achieve.  There is this boy in my life. He is fun and dynamic, yet toxic.

At night I dream and long for “one day”. When morning unfolds her brightness over me, I keep busy. Meals are small and very controlled. I exercise. Driven to be busy.

Dear, sweet little girl, how I wish you could know that not long from now, your stride will change. You will find home in the Father’s house and know that HE knows you and that HE sees you! You will never feel lonely again and the “busy” will become content.

Them boots will dance, dance before Jesus!

You will discover your calling in life and fall in love with an amazing gentle- giant of a man. You were ready to meet him, because you had spent time with Jesus.

Those fears that haunted you, the loneliness, rejection, perfectionism,  insecurities, abuse, all of them, taken from you when you sat down at the Father’s feet and opened your ears to hear His Word.

I am so proud of you! You chose to run after God. To believe what He said about you. You chose to let go of self-doubt and the staring judgment of their eyes.  You studied the Word and memorised verse upon verse. You pulled on His Armor and sharpened your sword.  Most off all you softened your tongue. You speak life and tend to others now.

Them boots will be traded for walking boots.  You will go from dusty-red African sunsets to amazing greens and oranges in the South-Pacific.

My garden blossoms here in the green:  there is a meadow full of wild flowers, a rose-bud and a bright yellow sunflower.

Sunflower springs into action at the first sight of light. Her eyes are filled with life. Adventure is what she loves. She reminds me of a brown-eyed 21 year old, and yet, there is more. More passion, more purpose, more focus, more love.

I put down the watering can and smile.

Thank you Father for tending my garden, even when I am far away and not able to prune and feed. Thank you Abba for my Sunflower who is now wearing bright Texas orange and waking up content, knowing that You know her and see her.

The truth behind 18 years of lies and life

I genuinely don’t know where to start with talking about the woman. If you took me, added a extra dash of dorkiness, took away netball and left me in the sun for rest of my life – you’d get Wilma. She has been a great asset to my life the last 4-5 years that I have known her; she has encouraged me, held my broken pieces when I was too ashamed to share them with anyone else, told me countless times that I am a dweeb, laughed and dreamed with me and called me up when I am in the wrong. She is a inspiration to me when it comes to writing (check out her awesome blog here) and one of the unfortunate souls who is stuck with me for life! Her honesty and teachability are amazing and I absolutely love the way that she wholeheartedly pursues knowing Jesus more intimately every day. I don’t know someone who so actively seeks to grow and improve themselves consistently like Wilma. She’s a gem and I love her to bits! Here is her perfectly written piece on being 18!



The tick tock march of the times always sojourns forever forward.  Quite like the beat of your own heart; always a steady beat, beat continuously itching forward to what? What is the desired end my beloved 18 year old self, that time and heart strings reach forward to? 

The Truth

The truth; it gently cups your face, looks tenderly into your face and says you are going to be okay.   

With each change life brings, with each day your heart beats into the future, in every moment you are going to be okay.  

I know the world seems bleak, there is so much confusion and deep emotional swirls but be still; you are held in God’s hands.  

Especially when you feel like letting the grip go and fall into silent, painless oblivion. The One who died to give you life abundantly is holding you with nail scarred hands. He has stared into the black abyss of death and conquered it, beloved seal this into your bones; He went through hell so that you wouldn’t have to.  

So with each change life brings and there will be many.  

With each day your heart beats into the future, for you will live and have life abundantly.  

In every moment no matter how painful; you are going to be okay.  

Beloved take a walk with me, you keep asking why I keep calling you beloved.  

You scurry away from that word like a cockroach exposed to light.  

It’s time to stop living in the darkness of the lies you are cowering under. You were not created to have clandestine meetings with Luke-warm and drink stolen waters. You were re-created to live in the light and to bask in the love that God lavishes on you.  

You don’t know God very well at this time but don’t worry He knows you. 

One day you will be able to see the tenderness He gazes at you with as you stagger slowly towards Him.  

One day you will know the tone of His voice, the gentle, quiet voice that draws you closer and deeper into Love.  

One day you will catch a glimpse of how much you are loved and be forever changed.  

You don’t know yourself yet, but you will.  

Who are you?  

Why, you are the Beloved. You are chosen and set apart for God. For Good works.  

No matter the accolade, no matter the adoration from parents, no matter the embrace of a lover.  

They are all mere dung compared to the knowledge and the revelation that you are the Beloved of God. Chosen by and for Him alone.  

If I could go back to my 18 year old self, this is what I would tell her. 

The tick tock march of time always sojourns forward, we can’t bend it but we can reflect and allow another, you precious reader, to glimpse behind and see.

That God is with us in every moment, He is faithful beloved so take His hand and walk this life together. 

From your 22 year old self.