Lockdown: A Call Home

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Tonight, as of 11.59pm, all of New Zealand goes under lockdown. Our Prime Minister make the announcement on Monday in our bid to stop Coronavirus and protect the vulnerable people of our country. (In horrible irony/hypocrisy, this week our Parliament also voted to decriminalise abortion – but that is another complete post.)

After the initial sense of “oh my, a whole month”, I am now settling into the reality with relish. Obviously I am not happy for the reasons for being on lockdown, as an introvert and homebody, I am thrilled to have no outside pressures of “have to’s” demanding my attention and pulling the children and I out of the house.

We are allowed to go for walks around the neighbourhood, or go grocery shopping for essential supplies, but other than that, we must stay home.

This view will keep my soul still as we live in a still half-done house.

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In many ways, it is a call for an entire nation to simple living for a whole month. To step back out of the crazy busy world of 2020 living, and take a breather, and live the way (I believe), we are meant to. And I really pray that God uses this time to turn people’s hearts to Him and, for Christian families who have been caught in the current, draw them back to the peaceful waters of living a quiet life.

There is nothing more that I love is being home with my family, pottering around the house, and doing things I love like reading, writing, and growing in Jesus.

And I have two goals for this lockdown month: 1. Get in a good daily rhythm of learning with the children and; 2. Paint the stairwell and downstairs hall. (I haven’t done an update on the house in a while but will do so soon.)

I plan to finish reading Black Sheep by Georgette Heyer (a reread from many years ago). Have you ever read any of the novels by Georgette Heyer? They are so witty, delightful, and full of regency goodness.

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I also plan to start getting back into writing a novel. I have always desired to write about what it was like going from England to New Zealand as a colonist. There is a story in me but I am my own worst critic. Yet, through God’s grace, I will do it (eventually).

So I hope to enjoy and delight in this time and use it well for His glory.

How are you going to spend your lockdown?

Our 100-Year-Old Villa + Our New Life

In October 2019, we sold our house in Christchurch and moved five hours down south to Dunedin. Caught up in the whirlwind of when God (seems to) finally act on all your prayers and petitions, we hardly tapped on doors and they flew open. It shocked everyone, not just ourselves, how quickly everything happened. Even three months before we moved, I would have laughed if someone had told me we would be living in a very run-down house on a hill in Dunedin. I would have laughed hysterically. Perhaps we should name our house ‘Isaac’, from Sarah’s surprised laughter.
The first weekend our brick home was on the market, we had five offers on it. Within in a month it was sold to one of those buyers. In fact, it was sold exactly ten years, to the month, of when we had originally bought it. Suddenly we had to find a house to live in, quick smart. So we drove down to Dunedin one weekend to see what was on the market. Unfortunately, not much and what was for sale was way overpriced. Tim was going to be studying for three years – how could we afford such places? And then, we discovered the green house.

The green house is over one-hundred-years-old. The floors slope downwards, the roof leaked, the foundations had sunk, the front right-hand corner drooped. The title of the real estate ad was ‘DETONATE OR RENOVATE’. We found out later, once we bought the place, that we were the only ones at auction that were not destroying the house.

Tim has had to put 21 new piles into the foundation of the house because it had sunk so badly.

 

When Tim wanted to look at the house one more time before we left that weekend, I thought he was joking. It smelled horrible, there was graffiti on the walls, it felt like it was going to fall in. But, that second time through, I cannot explain it…We had prayed and prayed for the Lord to guide us and help us find the right house for us. The only other house we thought was possibly good was a 1.5 bedroom home, on a busy street, and pushing our financial limit even without the necessary renovations that would be needed.
As we walked around, though we saw how bad it was (though I really don’t think we knew how bad), it is as if we both saw the house in the future. We saw it revitalised, restored, redeemed. We saw love in it again and family life.

Honestly, as I thought about it afterward, it felt as if this house was a Gospel-picture of every sinner and what happens when Christ saves him. The sinner’s rotten brokenness is forgiven, wiped clean and, not just that, but every aspect of him, from his very core, is given new life. I believe God gave us that vision for this house.

The kitchen is usable but needed a good clean before we felt safe using it. The floor slopes toward the window.

 

Fast forward three months, with two-and-a-half months of living in it, as beautiful a picture as that Gospel-vision is – the reality is still very broken. The days have been long and hard. In fact, quite easily, this has been one of the hardest external things Tim and I have been through together.
We have had some dark moments, literally lying in the dark, wondering what possibly could have God been thinking of when He led us here. My darling husband, who bears the brunt of restoring this house, has been going through the Refiner’s Fire and it has been a joy and a heartache to see him through it. I, too, have struggled deeply with living in mess and dirt and cold and, well, discomfort.
But, this life is so good. Eight weeks with no hot water – God was good and provided. Ten weeks without a shower in our own home – God was good and provided. No carpet, wonky floors, draughty windows, rats in the roof, bad weather, and anxiety and fear and vulnerability. BUT, I could list the blessings and joys threefold more than the struggles. 

 

When a Christian follows the Lord and genuinely walks in obedience where He wants him to go, this does not mean that it will be easy. But it does mean it will be incredible. Your sins and weaknesses will be exposed, and the lies you believe about comfort and rights and needs are laid bare before you. Something as little as how the weather affects your mood will be from the Lord and is an opportunity to submit to Him. Yet, there is so much grace in Him and I have found so much deep JOY and REST in Him, even as I eat ice cream and mint biscuits every night.

We cannot see into the future, of course, but something in our spirits tells us that we will be here much longer than the three years of Tim’s theological study. This house, as it becomes restored, will be an enormous part of our family story – especially the children’s childhood. How they see their parents tackle hard things and awkward living and plain rough days will echo into their adulthood. Our school mornings around a table that leans with the front of the house. Playing on plywood floors that constantly have a layer of dirt on them. Watching their father sweat and battle and accomplish. Seeing their mother help, support, and make do with what they have…

 

Though this house and our living in it and making it new is now, I can see that this has eternal significance for our family. Eventually, all this work will pass away when Jesus returns to call us to our True Home, the sweat and tears and frustrations will be investments in something bigger, better, and more beautiful – in Tim and I, and our children. But that is something to rejoice in as we persevere and endure and believe in hope.
For now though, we battle on daily in grace. Each day, we make a little progress and genuinely rejoice, however small it may seem in the grand scheme of things. But one thing we are learning very clearly from the Lord in this time is this: we only have today, let us be faithful with the little things.

You Can Always Start Fresh: On Purpose, Daily Life, and Moving House

This past Thursday, we moved out of the house we have lived in the past ten years. Even though I have spent weeks slowly packing, decluttering, and cleaning, the day was ginormous and exhausting – but we did it. Tim, my lovely husband, drove the truck down south to the new city we are moving to – Dunedin – and our new house, the derelict 100-year-old villa on a hill. The children and I have come out to my father’s, a beautiful bay in a harbour. Very few people live here. It’s just the sea, the native birds, and clear and clean time.
I grew up here from about nine. Though born in the city, I quickly adjusted to quiet and slow country life and it has been in my blood ever since. I remember days at home, reading or writing, walking the hills or throwing rocks into the sea. I remember days at the beach doing nothing but play. I remember fishing, and exploring farms, riding horses, and just spending a lot of time in real life. By real life, I mean that which God has created and which has been life for people for thousands of years: slow, day-by-day living, anchored by the rising and setting of the sun and the meals eaten.
I have longed for country life ever since I moved back to the city. But, as yet, it is not what God has for me or our family. That is something I have to often lay down at His feet, trusting that He knows the yearnings of my heart. Though our new home and our new life is still in the city, Dunedin itself is a beautiful harbour city, situated over bushy hills. It isn’t a large city, and it has the old-New Zealand feel still. Our home on the hill overlooks a valley. And it feels as if God has given all of the family a piece of their dream altogether: convenience of city living, the beauty of hills and valleys and views, the relaxed way of Southern New Zealand, and a home with history. Honestly, we are just blown away by God’s kindness to us.
But here I am, still in Wainui for a few weeks, enjoying time in my childhood home with the children enjoying all the nature and stunning surroundings that I did. I am thankful for this time and I see it already as a time apart, ordained by God for us to rest, refresh, and restart our home life together. There is literally almost nothing modern to do here. It is only time outside, or books, or conversations, or walks, or helping Poppa garden, or kicking the ball around, and a little television.
For me, I am relishing time focused on the Lord. I have had a difficult year in my faith, and only in the last few weeks do I see Him easing me out of several valley’s. Hunger for His Word is coming back and I am seeing clear answers to my pleas in the passages I read, thrilling my heart and lighting that flame more fiercely. I also see God helping me to step back from all the busyness that has been these last few months and enable us to reset our purpose in homeschooling together and our daily life.
I’m asking myself,
What do I believe about our home learning?
What do I want for the children?
What do I need for me as a homeschooling mother?
What do I want to anchor our days together?
What am I failing in?
What am I strong in?
Where do I need to speak Truth to doubts?
What do I continue on in?
It is easy to get stuck in a rut, or to feel like you cannot get a hold over your days. It is easy to feel like we can’t do anything different because the term is half way through and we’ve hardly done anything we wanted to or we need to complete the workbook. But, actually, none of these things really need to determine how we spend our days. We can never kid ourselves into thinking we are in control of our lives, yet, God’s Word exhorts us to make the most of each day – to “number” them – so we are responsible for our purpose and our daily life. And we can always start again.
And, even though moving house – and city! – is the perfect opportunity to re-evaluate daily life, I am reminded that each and every day is a fresh start. We can always re-evaluate, or start anew, or be refreshed. We are not bound by anything – not even the philosophy or curriculum we love. We are bound by the Saviour of our souls and every new morning is fresh with His mercies (Lamentations 3:21-25).

“Those who know Your name trust in You, for You, LORD, have never forsaken those who seek you.” ~ Psalm 9:10

Quieting My Spirit in Jesus (So I Can Love My Husband)

Here is a story about God leading me to trust Him so I can love my husband.

There has been a possibility of us going to England for a number of years now. Tim, my husband, has a passion and gifting for apologetics, and there is an excellent school there. When we first applied in 2017 (for the 2018 year), everything was so hopeful – people were encouraging, provisions came from left-field, and we were easily accepted into one of the college’s required. But then, the other university (Oxford, to be truthful) couldn’t accept us for that year, but would hold a place for us for 2019.
Fast forward to this year, we reapplied for both schools. After months waiting, we found out that we were declined at the main apologetics school because of things out of our hands. So we had to turn away Oxford’s place for Tim and, after two years of many up-and-down’s, we were back to square one. It was so confusing and disheartening…What seemed clearly something the Lord wanted us to do for ministry, apparently was not.
And then, things got more confusing.

A friend, with connection within the apologetics school, communicated to us that there had been a mistake and we were actually supposed to be accepted. We just needed to reapply again (for the third time). This, we found out in early March.
By this time, everything seemed so unclear that we had decided not to pursue this door, even with this new encouragement. There seemed to be no strong direction from the Lord. Furthermore, in the up-and-down’s of the previous year, both of us felt drained and thankful for a home to be rooted in.
I have an anxiety disorder and, for me, with all the uncertainties, my anxiety had flared up and I was struggling to even be open to going. Even though I had been the one to encourage Tim to do this, anything to do with leaving home (safe) and pursuing England (bad) caused me to shut down.
Overtime, I had built up in my mind all the negatives and, because stability enables me to function well, I began to see all the things that could cause me to find England very difficult. There was a source of tension between us as I could not even have a discussion with my lovely husband, who was so disappointed, because – in all truthfulness – all I could think about was me.

Turning to the Lord the other night as I went to bed early in a low mood, I opened my Valley of Vision, hoping for a prayer that would turn my heart toward Him and give me wisdom. I sensed that my resistance to England was only partly rooted in my genuine anxiety, there was sin lurking in my heart, and I didn’t know how to find it out. It can get dark in there.
Turning to the page ‘Shortcomings’, the following lines lit up the lurking darkness,

“My sin is to fear what never will be; I forget to submit to Thy will, and fail to be quiet there. But Scripture teaches me that Thy active will reveals a steadfast purpose on my behalf, and this quietens my soul, and makes me love Thee.”

My sin was not being anxious, but to fear what may never be. There are things that my brain does that I cannot control. But when I actively fear and train my thoughts upon what could happen, I sin. I forget to be quiet in the safety of God’s will where there is peace, even with chaos without.
I forgot that God’s will for my life as my husband’s wife is to be his helper. In so many ways, I seek to be a pillar of strength for him, even in my weakness. Going to England causes parts of my brain to trigger off my anxiety, but my will shut down my heart to the possibility. God’s steadfast purpose for me is to love my husband and “do nothing out of selfish ambition or empty pride, but in humility consider others more important than yourself” (Philippians 2:3).
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So, we have reapplied. A few weeks ago, neither of us would have believed we would. But our friend asked us again…and again…So, we are listening. It all may turn out, again, that this isn’t God’s will for us as a family. And that would be perfectly good (we are homebodies, after all). But, if it is His will, I don’t ever want to not listen and follow it, despite my anxieties and fears. 
And that is what drives me, even with an anxiety disorder. I love my God, and I want to follow Him, wherever He may lead – even if it is a quiet life at home or flying to the other side of the world with challenges unknown. Sitting and submitting and trusting Him will always keep us quiet under the rest of His care, in those pleasant places.

friend, have you experienced something similar?

New Season, New Life at Home

Autumn. It truly is a wonderful time of year. The strong heat has lessened. Flowers bloom their very last. Mornings are crisper. All the rich colours of the leaves. And, the very best, the warm sunlight that pours inside, inviting me to rest whenever I move through it.
My thirty-third birthday is coming up and I am in a new season of life. Our two sweet children are no longer super little. Josiah is six and Rosalie is speeding toward five. We’re learning to read, growing as people, and there is nary baby paraphenalia in sight. Goodness, it feels like opening the window to a warm sunny day after a long winter.
Life is no longer survival and getting through. There are hard days and weeks, yes! Oh, yes. Both children seem to tag-team struggles like a never ending relay race. But we’re all sleeping, and moving through our days with (most of the time) purpose and enjoyment. I am so thankful.
Just as our family is in a new season of childhood and homeschooling, I am changing, too. I have found myself deeply hungry for slow living and simple living over the last year. I can see how it is a long process of change. But I need it. I need a new level of being rooted. Not just rooted to our home (now almost ten years here), but also rooted to this life. Rooted into the rhythm of the days, of the months and seasons, living in a way that is in tune with all that surrounds.

“How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. What we do with this hour, and that one, is what we are doing.” ~ Annie Dillard
Summer brought much time outside. The beach, walking in the forest, playing outside, digging in the garden (still so naively), just enjoying life in the outdoors. With Autumn comes more time inside, more reading on the couch, more time to see the state of the home and, dare I say it, my homemaking habits and skills.

For Christmas, I bought myself The Made From Scratch Life. I have always wanted to live a quiet life, but in the last year or so, I have had a seed slowly growing with the desire to live a simple life. To take notice of everything I do. To watch my hands and slow down as I wash dishes or fold laundry. To enjoy good books and learn about good and beautiful things with the children rather than rushing through a curriculum. To keep learning to grow our own vegetables and relish making a home.
Much of the time, this can feel overwhelming. There is so much to learn and understand. Often my mood cannot be bothered and I don’t know enough to just push through that feeling. There are also many places to start living simply, where do I begin? 
But I know that Rome was not built in a day and neither is a good life. So, slowly, slowly, I’m reading and doing little things, getting into a better rhythm as a homemaker. We made the big decision to not sell and buy a new home (giving us a bigger mortgage), so we’re beginning major renovations on the home. It really feels like a new season and new life, at home.

What season are you in at home? Please share.