Things I forgot

When you live somewhere and move away, it’s easy to forget the things that were strange, funny or hard, especially if they’re just small details of life. There are a few things that have struck me again, this time around, in no particular order:

  • Gallon milk bottles are so unwieldy.
  • The light switches are the wrong way around. The number of times I’ve stood there, looking at a row of light switches, determined not to switch the light off when I want it on would be too many to count.
  • Toilet bowls are full of water. It has the unfortunate result that your hands can get wet when wiping when you’re not paying attention.
  • The juice is so yummy.
  • Food is cheap. Especially processed food.
  • It’s colder outside than it looks, even when it’s sunny, it can still be -10C outside. It gets so cold it hurts your skin.
  • There is no ‘green bins’ here for organic rubbish. All your compost has to go in the trash, and it stinks up a storm, not to mention fills up your trash bags mighty fast!
  • Grass is for parks, not for backyards or sidewalks.
  • The playgrounds are fantastic.
  • Missing home hurts.
  • People decorate the outsides of their houses for the seasons. Right now there are a lot of Easter and spring decorations up.
  • How real the fear of the unknown can be: that you’d rather stay home than try to find your way to the nearest park/shop/whatever.
  • Gas is so cheap. It cost me US$45 to fill up the car the other day, compared to NZ$130.
  • Moving countries is a logistical pain in the neck. Not to mention expensive.
  • Driving in Manhattan is not for the faint of heart. In fact you have to be hard of heart and head to drive successfully in Manhattan.
  • Just because the distance on the map looks short, it doesn’t mean it will be a quick trip, especially not in New York and its outlying areas.
  • IKEA is a labyrinth of epic proportions: wonderful for the first couple of hours, but by the end you feel like running to get out of there.
  • Everything seems better when the baby has a night where she sleeps through the night!
Posted in Just life | 3 Comments

Everyday beauty

It’s so easy to become complacent, to not notice the beauty around us.

The beauty in the messes of little kids, because those kids are kids you love, and because they won’t be little forever.

Pretty flowers.

Happy lovers, bowed with age, taking a shuffling walk together — one hand holding a cane, the other holding the hand of their love.

A stranger offering a seat on a crowded bus.

A child who grasps a new learning concept.

The smell of a freshly ironed shirt.

A cozy fire.

The beauty of a baby enjoying her food.

The beauty of dad coming home.

(I took this video simply to have a record of how Laurelin enjoyed her meat, but then in the process captured a lovely glimpse into the kids’ running around and their excitement at seeing Ben’s bus stop across the road and him coming home.)

Posted in Family | 1 Comment

Living with a veneer of glamour

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The chandeliers in the apartment we stayed at for the first month reminded me (by way of trying to appear more beautiful than they actually are) of a piece I wrote a while back that I’ve meant to put up here on the blog and never got around to doing. It’s directed at church-goers, but is applicable to all of life. It was also published in the November issue of our New Zealand Reformed Churches’ denominational magazine, Faith in Focus.

Dearly Loved

Looking around at my fellow pew-sitters on a Sunday morning, I see our kids are nicely dressed and the way our families are sitting in neat rows makes it look like we have it all together. But we don’t. We each have a story of the hard road the Lord is walking with us — this hurting bunch of people with nicely brushed hair. We might look ‘all together’, but we are learning about grace, deep and difficult grace. We are learning that the only way of being put together means being broken first. Whatever amount of ‘having it all together’ is grace. And grace is not to be worn as a badge you earned. It is a gift.

It is easy to forget that we are one body, that we are closely connected to each other through Jesus. But do you really know these people in the pews around you? The ones you have grown tired of? The ones who are called your brothers and sisters? Look around the pews with me and be reminded. You might just recognize yourself too.

Many of us know the joys of marriage, and yet, among us are those
who still long for a marriage partner,
who have forgotten they are married to a person and not a job,
who have had many years together but have forgotten how to talk,
who have violated intimacy and trust,
who ache with that empty spot in bed beside them, because death swallowed up their love’s warmth.

We love children here at our church, and yet even in the blessing of children there can be much pain. Some of us know the pain of
of burying children,
of good children turned rebels,
of children having children before the time is right,
of children and parents who have forgotten how to laugh because they’ve built walls around their hearts.

We have illness here in many forms:
the physical kind that eats away strength,
the cancerous kind that steals beautiful people,
the mental kind that leaves you doubting the truth,
the spiritual kind that fills aching voids with darkness,
the weakening of a body that some flippantly call ‘old age’.

Most of us are in happy employment, yet we are no strangers
to losing a job,
to working hours that are long and wearisome,
to dealing with painful politics,
to being the object of ridicule for the sake of our love for Christ,
to feeling some days that it’s all just an empty chasing after wind.

We are all intimately acquainted with sin that flows from a heart that’s only in love with myself, and so
we justify the white lie,
we are pumped up with pride,
we are experts at hiding filth we think is secret,
we get angry, we gossip, we condemn,
we leave no sin unexplored — we hate it and yet it sticks to us.

Many of us weren’t born here. We have come here with different stories:
some with only a suitcase in hand,
some fleeing war and persecution,
some fleeing dictators and famine,
some simply hoping for a better future,
all leaving behind family and friends and all that is familiar,
all knowing the meaning of the word lonely.

We sit in these pews every Sunday, with hearts that believe and yet
we’ve wondered at times if it isn’t all a big lie (does God even exist?),
we’ve been disillusioned with church as an establishment,
we’ve listened to a sermon and taken none of it in,
we’ve sat through a service while last night still pulses through our veins,
we’ve come for selfish gain and not to see what we can give.

We’re experts at causing hurt, and holding onto hurts –
sometimes we have prideful tongues that cut deep,
sometimes we are ignorant about tact or sensitivity,
sometimes we’re superficial and avoid topics that matter,
we struggle to forget words or treatment going back many years,
some of us have toes that have grown so long they are constantly stepped on.

Is there hope for us? For this broken wound in its Sunday best? In God’s ancient wisdom there is medicine with which we can bring healing and with which we can actively bind up each other’s wounds:

As God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. (Col. 3:12-14)

What miracles would happen if we were to start taking off our masks, our pretences of having it all together, our attitude of pride? If we actually chose compassion instead of “they should have known better”? If we chose kindness instead of finding fault? If we chose humility instead of looking to attribute bad motives? If we chose gentleness instead of speaking words that hurt for years? If we chose patience instead of wanting “change right now or else we leave”?

What if we let go of bitterness, if we started forgiving one another with a generous forgiveness that has no strings attached? Can we just stop for a moment and remember how we are forgiven all? ALL. Could we stop nurturing our bitterness like a baby and start forgiving as the Lord forgives us?

Can we just remember for a moment that we were chosen? For healing, rescued out of the muck, to be truly put together, to learn the deep meaning of grace. The kind of grace that turns brokenness into a spotless bride.

Remember that you are holy and dearly loved. Yes, you. And also that family in the pew in front of you whose kids cannot sit still. And the guy who reads Rick Warren. And that girl whose skirt is too short. And the man who criticized you. And the person who was offended when you didn’t do things the way they’ve always been done. Forgiven, and therefore holy. Dearly loved. Not just a love of duty. Dearly, dearly loved.

We are dearly loved, and therefore we are to love dearly. It’s sacrificial. It’s hard. It’s not natural. But it will bring healing to us all, we who are brothers and sisters. It starts with me. And it starts with you. Loving each other is a choice (sometimes a hard one) but the result is a taste of heaven on earth — a joyous perfect unity.

Posted in Meditations | 3 Comments

We’ve moved in!

Just a quick note to let you all know that we’ve moved into our new apartment where we hope to be for the next year (or more) in Jersey City Heights. We moved in on Monday and it’s been a bit of a shambles around here that is slowly turning into order. We don’t have much in the way of furniture until our container from New Zealand arrives, but on Friday our new living room set was delivered. How wonderful it felt to sit on soft chairs again! We had Ben’s cousin Hannah staying with us Wednesday and Thursday nights for a lovely quick visit, and I think she appreciated sitting on our new couches for about an hour too and having a break from sitting on the floor!

Now we eagerly wait for our container to arrive — it’s ETA in the country is on the 7th of this month, but then it could be 1-4 weeks until we get it depending on how long it is in quarantine and whether or not it has to go through some sort of customs exam. I really hope for sooner rather than later!

The apartment is a really great size. We have two floors, ground level and a first storey. Downstairs is the laundry, a bathroom and one big open room that I’m planning on turning into a playroom/schoolroom/guestroom. Upstairs are the bedrooms, two more bathrooms (who needs 3 bathrooms?!) and the living area. We also get a parking space, which is wonderful. Unfortunately there is no yard to speak of, but there is a really nice big park about 10 minutes walk away where Ben has taken the kids this morning.

It’s been nice to get out a bit more with the weather warming up a teensy bit. We’re looking forward to being able to go out again without multiple layers!

Posted in Apartment living, Just life, Updates | 3 Comments

Beautiful berries

I was washing berries for dessert the other night and just had to stop and marvel that God didn’t just make food useful, He also made it beautiful.

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And they tasted delicious!

Posted in Photography | 1 Comment

Getting out of a tight spot

The other day Ben and I were walking along when we spotted a car that had been very tightly parked in.

The back:

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The front:

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Lo and behold, imagine our disbelief and glee when we see the person whose car it is come along and get in the car and proceed to get out of the spot!

Here is a video clip of it for your enjoyment. Excuse the shaky hand!


Posted in Funny things | 4 Comments

Another birthday

Last week, I celebrated another birthday. The last one of my 20′s. Marica very tactfully said, “Mum, it’s good that you’re not turning 30. Thirty is too old for a woman!”

Ben took the morning off so that we could go to the MVC to get our New Jersey driver’s licences, but the unfortunately the proof of address we took along was not good enough in their books, so we had to leave without the licences. Will have to go back again soon, but in a way it was a nice little bonus, because that left us with some time for lunch. My lovely friend, Damaris, came over from Pennsylvania to spend the afternoon and offered to look after the girls for us so we could go on our first date in ages!

We walked across the road and down a couple of blocks to a cute Mexican restaurant with a great view of Manhattan. The decorations were so fun and pretty!

And the food was really nice. The highlight of  the meal was when they came to our table and made guacamole right there with this big mortar and pestle. It didn’t just look cool, it tasted amazing. I want to go back there just for the guacamole! We also shared a spicy beer. I ended up drinking most of it because it wasn’t Ben’s favourite ever, but I liked it, even if only for the novelty of it.

After lunch, Ben left on the bus to go to work for the afternoon, and when I got home Damaris had organized the kids to do a little surprise party for me complete with decorations, chocolate cake and handmade cards. I felt so loved!

Then, over the weekend, we had Jeremy, Lillian and Shanna here along with James Williams. How wonderful to spend time with old friends who happen to be family too! (James pretty much counts as family!)

We spent a good amount of time yakking (though not nearly enough), did a lot of eating while taking in the view at night, and spent Saturday afternoon in Manhattan. They all had fun in Central Park while Marica, Esther and I went to a girls’ tea party at the American Girl Doll shop for a friend’s birthday party. I took my camera only to discover when there that I left my SD card at home, so sorry, no pics of that!

But I have some photos that James took of their Central Park fun:

Sunday we went to church and just hung out in the afternoon and evening. Weekend visits are always wonderful and always too short. :-)

Posted in Family, Food, Updates | 4 Comments