Keeping Up With Life in NZ

Tropical Christmas


Well we made it...finally...this was the roadtrip that never ended. We crossed Indiana, Tennessee, Georgia and then into Florida...however the Georgia leg just went on and on with traffic congestion and roadwork. The trip times were: Christmas Day - 12.45pm - 11.30pm; Boxing Day 8am - 1am the next day... we kept stops to a minimum so I hate to think how long we actually spent in the cars.

Florida is close to the equator, so its tropical here. Winter, but like Spring in NZ. Not a cloud in the sky with temperatures that make it T shirt and shorts most of the time. Its pretty laid back - reading, eating, playing with Rhys and binging on playstation - massive Tiger Woods Golf challenges with the in-laws. Kristen's brother Kyle is scarily good on playstation...

The cousins are getting on really well - it is cool to think that they will each have these distant cousins they'll get to meet at various times in their lives that will give them a window into another culture and country.

Anyways, we're out for the evening with Kyle's in-laws so better be sociable! Their house is on a canal! The car is parked in the driveway - the boat is parked out back in the canal! Or I should sau suspended above the canal - because of the storm surge risk during hurricane season the jetties are equipped with "lifts"!


Florida Road Trip


Its Christmas! For little Rhys its a special day: his first rugby ball! He is holding it right now as I type...sniff, sniff...

Kristen was nearly surprised by her new watch...she is the world's hardest woman to surprise about gifts. I wasn't much surprised either - I have a new coffee thingie for the wall - its very cool - its to store my coffee and has a retro coffee shop feel. I like it a lot. It will be a bit annoying to bring back but when I saw it I had to have it!

Today we head to Florida - 2 days of driving! As you can see from the map we virtually travel the length of the US to get there - 1403 miles - NZ is itself only 1,000 miles in length from Cape Reinga to Stewart Island...its a long way! We will travel through several states on the way down so that will be something. I have multiple bookage to sustain me. Anyway, I have to go, my help is required! Have a good Christmas...

Christmas Eve


So its Christmas Eve in the US of A - this means its Christmas Day in NZ - we rang through around 7pm US time to catch the family at their Christmas Day lunch. The whole tribe was at my sisters enjoying a traditional Christmas Day BBQ. Only thing that was slightly disturbing was the report that my brother had made 2 great salads...I logged my Christmas requests: LOTR Extended Version gift pack, sharpening stone for my cooking knives and a new outdoor umbrella...anyone reading this should not feel constrained from participating...

Christmas Eve here was pizza for lunch followed by traditional Christmas ham for dinner. Unusual accompaniments included: jello salad with fruit in it; corn casserole (creamed corn with corn muffin mix - comes out like a sort of soggy bread); root beer. Dessert was Dutch apple pie (lots of Dutch live here - there is a place not far from here called Zeeland) and a Cherry Pie (Michigan is big on cherries).

Anyways, we have a big day tomorrow so better sign off. But before I do here is Rhys looking at his first Christmas tree...

The Week That Was


Its been a busy week! But a good one...

Monday was Watermark day. Some things never change! Deur is never short of a "dodgy" comment...Thompson is always working a new angle on spirituality...Nate is still complaining about cession not partnering with Watermark...a good time catching up on life and ministry - so cool to celebrate the stories of growth at Watermark and yet to acknowledge the niggle that precedes the inevitable structural innovation that must emerge from such growth.

Then it was a race home from Grand Haven and out to Lowell to meet with Katie Sullivan. We also had the chance to meet with her parents which was a great bonus for their preparation as a family. Its very exciting seeing what God is weaving together with our emerging ministry to youth.

Tuesday was another Impact day, Brett meeting with Jason Holdridge and Kristen with Elisa, the children's ministry leader. It was awesome to see Jason's collection of LOTR memorabilia - 2 swords on the wall that I was most impressed with. A good chance to simply share who we are and where we have come from. Tuesday evening was a party time with the De Peals and Jim Wood over for shop talk at all...well just a little...lots of salsa and lettuce sandwich remembrances!

Wednesday has faded into oblivion apart from the evening where we had dinner with the Deurs. A relaxed have those kids grown! Steve was privileged to enjoy a private viewing of "The Invasion of the Wobblejellies" starring yours truly as Flush Gordon, an unlikely hero who "rescues" Princess Laidback from the evil step mother and thwarts the sinister Wobblejelly invasion. Truly awful. Memorable appearances from a truly skinny Jacob Powell as the trusty rebel leader Batarang and David Pitman as the Android and the First Minister to the evil step mother (ask him about his underarm problem).

Thursday was a lazy day at home. Kristen and I have now watched the entire first season of Lost on DVD! We even started the second season: wait till you see the first episode...especially the bit where...

Friday was lunch with Ken De Peal and Jim Wood. We enjoyed a modestly good Thai followed by the best coffee so far at Beaners (still only NZ Starbucks quality). Notable for me navigating down the interstate! Good times sharing about church politics (!) and ministry. Finished the evening at friends of the Hintermans for dinner. Highlight of the evening was Rhys dancing to this dancing, singing snowman - just priceless!

Its been a great week all up. Been reading Church on the Other Side which apart from anything else is packed full of common sense. A very good read so far.

Well thats it for the moment gentle reader. No great insights, just a travelogue account of the week that was...

Impact Aftermath


After visits from Phil Struckmeyer, the Impact Student Missions Team and Ryan and Angele Gerten to New Zealand, we finally got to visit Impact ourselves! 3 services later (Saturday night and 2 on Sunday) we were beginning to get a feel for the community that is Impact.

It was cool to arrive early and see how well (and yet informally) people were welcomed as they arrived. The hot coffee was a definite plus. The intimate worship space maintained an informal feel with coffee tables at the back. The Narnia series set was simple but effective.

The band was really solid with strong leadership from Jason Holdridge, another of the pastors at Impact. I liked Jason even though he said to the congregation that when he closed his eyes while I was praying it sounded like Shrek was interceding instead! Ed Love preached a compelling message from Luke 2 on what the Christmas story penned by Luke would have meant for 1st century Christians - with particular reference to the shadow of Rome and the ever increasingly deluded Caesars. Enjoyed this (even after hearing it 3 times).

I got to do the announcements without introduction as if I were the pastor. Cunningly crafted power points asked the questions behind me: "Who is this guy?" "Is he allowed to speak?" "Why does he talk funny?" Seemed to go down OK and a good introduction to the 8 January service I will preach at.

Moment of the morning however came in the final service when the band failed to appear on cue. Phil grabbed a mike to cover, finally giving up the pretense and admitting he was playing for time with the quip: "They must be on a smoke break!"

It really does make a difference being here and sensing the heart of these people. I left refreshed and optimistic for how our two communities of faith could deepen a partnership together. Today Kristen and I are meeting with Katie Sullivan, our prospective youth intern and hanging with the Impact leadership team at their Christmas party.

But before that I get to go to Watermark and catch up with Steve Deur, Steve Thompson and Nate Smith. Looking forward to this in a big way!


Mexican Standoff


It was either him or me. In the end the burrito lost. Don Pablos Mexican cafe. Outstanding! It all started with Kristen's brother Kent saying, "I'll take you to Don Pablos for some Mexican." I was keen.

So Friday arrives and we're due to catch up for coffee with Ryan and Angele Gerten. We meet at a Starbucks which is located inside a large bookshop, Barnes and Noble - I cite this in my defence in agreeing to meet at a Starbucks. We had a good time. I even managed to get the barista to make me a proper long black. You know you're in a different culture when the flavoured coffees are the easiest thing to find on the price list.

But it was the trip to meet Ryan and Angele that was to uncover the Mexican treasure trove. I spied it from the passenger's seat. I knew that it was my destiny to eat lunch there. So we did. Awesome. They had these options where you got like some of everything. Which I did. Outstanding with guacamole, jalapenos and hot sauce to complement the burrito, enchilada, hard and soft-shell tacos and a variety of other dishes I'd not come across before.

New Zealand needs more Mexican food - thats the kind of campaign bribery that would get my vote.

A host of family and friends calling in over recent days plus Kristen visited her 2 old schools in this area. Still snowing. Drove to Lowell (30 mins) to meet up with Phil Struckmeyer at Impact. Getting back into driving on the wrong side of the road...Got to meet with some of the staff there and hear their stories. Good times.


Back in the USA


So we arrived safe and sound in the USA! Its 13 December here - we almost arrived before we left - however, the date was of great moment as it was 3 years to the day that Kristen and I had the DTR talk (Define the Relationship) in the classy atmosphere of "Steak 'n' Shake". So we stopped off on the way home last night to pick up a shake in celebration! It was perfect at the airport when we arrived - just enough snow drifting down from the night sky.

Rhys was entranced by it. The wee man did brilliantly as a first time traveller. He slept most of the way to LA and had good naps on both other legs. The backpack was great, especially for the LA terminal adventure (from terminal 2 to terminal 7) and the "Chicago walk under the runway to our next plane" jaunt. He was a little unsure at first but as long as he could grab my ears or hair or both, he was happy! We got extra seats the whole way which made a huge difference.

I was mostly well-behaved. I did tell one idiot about 3 rows in front to turn off his cell phone (after repeated announcements) as the plane began to taxi for takeoff. I was heard to make comments about the third world conditions at the LAX security check point near enough to be heard. I scoffed chilli fries in Chicago.

Kristen's parents, brother + fiancee and grandparents were at the airport - Rhys woke up just in time to bestow beatific smiles on everyone. He has them charmed. It is great to see evryone again. Today is take it easy day. Not sure what tomorrow will bring. Anyway, nothing deep to say.


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