Americanniversary

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Given that our first Americanniversary (see what I did there?) is almost upon us, it seemed a fitting time to pull together a wee collection of random musings from our time thus far. It was roughly this time last year that we packed all our earthly treasures into five suitcases and headed Stateside. Judah, unfortunately, was too large and wiggly to fit in a suitcase, so we had to buy him his own ticket.

Seeing as I have now experienced all four seasons, I may as well make the obligatory remarks on the weather. Weather is something usually commented upon as idle chitchat, especially when conversation falters, or one is talking to a stranger. However, my dear friend Heidi and I are the closest of friends, and always, ALWAYS talk about the weather. So, if only because I know Heidi will want to know, here’s the low down; it’s dry as a chip here. So dry. My lips are constantly screaming for Chapstick and it’s difficult to stay on top of water consumption. You can’t just have a lawn in the warmer months without irrigating it daily, and then it goes dormant in the winter. And the temps are somewhat extreme compared to what I’m used to. Summer gets as high as almost 40 degrees Celsius at its hottest, and no joke we had like -20 degrees last winter. Which also means driving on ice. It’s pretty scary and I very nearly crashed one icy day!

Another topic that will likely appeal to only a select group of nannery types like myself, is that of grocery shopping. Shopping is a two stop process these days; firstly to a place called Grocery Outlet (or as I call it, Grossout). It’s a shop that sells food that has literally fallen off the back of the truck, or train or whatever (probably not from the airplane though, although that may be the baby food). So you never know what’s going to be in stock, but it’s kind of fun. Then I go to a store called Fred Meyer, largely because they have free childcare. But they also have this app where you download coupons, and on Fridays they have a coupon for a free grocery item. I’ve had bread, muesli bars, drinks, chocolates etc. Caleb and I often talk about how you’d just never see that in New Zealand, because you know that there would be a bunch of thrifty kiwis that would rock up solely for their free stuff. Bless our frugal hearts.

You wanna know what’s fun? Americans!! Seriously, always up for a party! Every public holiday and special or not-so-special event, is celebrated with gusto! Even special days from other countries, like St Paddy’s day. And they don’t just have a casual barbie, oh no, there are costumes, decorations, tonnes of people, dancing, singing, and oodles of food and drink. Sometimes it’s a little much for this Kiwi to take in and I just want to go home, put my slippers on and get a nice cup of tea. But the enthusiasm for a good party is infectious, so give me a few years and I may even join Dave from ‘Hot Rod’ in saying, “Hi, I’m Deb, and I like to party.” (If you didn’t get that, don’t worry. If you did, the safe word is whiskey).

It’s a bit of a shock to the system moving from a country the size of a postage stamp to one that’s got 320 million inhabitants. It’s actually really overwhelming at times. I’ve never felt more like just a number in my whole life. The systems and processes that need to be in place to govern such a monstrous number of people is mind-boggling. One gets the impression that if you really wanted to meet John Key (NZ Prime Minister), all you’d have to do is write to stuff.co.nz or start a wee petition and you’d be in like Flynn. However here, I feel like you could dedicate your life’s work and savings to meeting the president and still fall short. It’s just a completely different kettle of fish. Health insurance is crazy and a bit scary, political happenings resemble a circus, and people have guns. It’s forced me to realise just how much of my security I placed in a small government that would support us if we were out of work, that pays all the medical bills, and seems somewhat accessible. Although uncomfortable, it’s been helpful in directing my trust to where it needs to lie. In God We Trust.

Something I never considered when I moved here is that people would have trouble understanding me when I introduce myself. I shouldn’t be surprised, even when I lived in Australia, I remember ordering coffee and more than once getting a cup with ‘Dib’ written on the side. The puzzling thing is that twice now people have asked if my name was ‘Tim’. Yep, Tim. Of course it’s not Tim. It’s not Bev. It’s not Dave. I’ve taken to saying my name with an accent so people get it, it’s kind of like, ‘Dab’, but it feels wrong saying it that way. Perhaps if I changed my name to Candy I’d have more luck?

I’ve got a few more thoughts about life here, which I’ll tell ya’ll about another time.

Love you,
Deb x

Our House in the Middle of our Street

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I get migraines, which totally sucks. But a wee silver lining is that in my drugged-out post-pain haze I sometimes hear God speak to me really clearly. Once such time was while leading worship at a Getsmart Youth Conference about ten years ago. I was staying at my Auntie’s house in Auckland, and while I lay in bed recovering, I heard God say, “I’m going to give you a house”. It wasn’t an audible voice, but it was the loudest silent voice I’ve ever heard. I was pretty excited and ready for a stranger to waltz up to me with the keys to a brand new house and a story about how the Angel of the Lord came to them in a dream. Of course, as with many things God does, things don’t work out the way we think they will. But He did give us a house…and here’s the cool story:

Our plan upon arriving in the States was to stay with Caleb’s parents for roughly six weeks whilst we hunted for a house to purchase. I had started saving for a house when I was in my early 20s. Due to being extraordinarily single and with no hope on the horizon, I figured I wouldn’t necessarily be able to count on Mr Right to swoop on in with bags of money and a huge property portfolio. As it turns out it was a solid plan; I did meet Mr Right eventually, but he was as poor as the proverbial church mouse when we met (albeit a super hot one). So we had a decent deposit for our house, and a perfect credit score…in New Zealand. Which translated into absolutely zero here. Long story short, we ended up staying with my long-suffering parents-in-law for six months while we waited to build a good enough credit score for a loan.

Once we were finally good to go, the dreaded house hunting process began. The Bend market is pretty hot right now, definitely not as pricey compared to New Zealand’s major cities, but expensive compared to surrounding towns, and very competitive. The first house we looked at was small, on a tiny section, next to a very busy road, and it looked as if it had been decorated by a small well-meaning committee of Grandmothers. But it was in our price range, and it was a bit of a reality check. We concluded that our first home was unlikely to be our dream home, and that significant ideals would have to be laid aside. Not long after that, we got a call from our realtor. He had been chatting with a colleague who asked him if he knew of anyone looking in our price range. She had this house that was on a short sale. A short sale, a misnomer if ever there was one, is like one step away from a bank foreclosed property. It’s basically a precursor to a long and messy process. An investor had put an offer on this property six months previously, and the bank had just decided it was slightly too low. So the investor was going to pull out, and the listing agent said she couldn’t be bothered re-listing the house due to the hundreds of calls she would have to field, given the price.

So, one freezing and dark evening, we armed ourselves with torches and went to check it out. There was something so odd about the house. It felt like a ghost town. So unlived in. And just crazy…like a whole wall in the lounge was a giant mural of tulips. And one room was completely bright pink on one half, and bright blue on the other. And there was a giant jeep mural (badly) painted in another room. And there was a hole just cut out of the wall by the fireplace as a dog-door. So odd. But perfect for us. We wanted a house we could put our own stamp on, but it felt unethical, not to mention unaffordable, to buy a turnkey house and change it just because. We drove away that night and I said to Caleb, “I think that this might be the the house that God has for us.” And he was like, “Same.”

The agent was pretty much sure it was ours if we wanted it. And we did. But then the listing agent got in touch to let us know the dumb news that the bank decided they wanted to put it back out on the open market – they were convinced that they would be able to get much more for it. We were so gutted, and a little disillusioned, but just decided to put our offer in at the price the bank had told the investor. The crazy thing was, the bank accepted our offer like two days later. It was like they’d forgotten they were going to put it back on the market. Which was awesome…for about three hours, until we got the call to say that the investor still hadn’t pulled out. But fret not dear friends, the story ends well. He waited until the very last minute of his contract, then pulled out. The valuation of the house in its current state was $235,000. Our realtor said with a coat of paint it would easily sell for $270,000. And we got it for $212,000.

Friends that visit CANNOT believe we got this house, in this area, for this price. It’s amazing. It’s light, sunny and warm. It has a big yard. It’s right across the road from a massive park. It has views of the mountains from the front yard.

We found out the story of the house from the neighbours soon after moving. It had been empty for 8 years. 8 YEARS! I know that I know that God saved this house for us. And handed it to us on a platter. It’s a total miracle and such a blessing.

So that’s our cool house story. Isn’t it a good one?

Deb xx

We’re not in Kansas Anymore Toto…

We’ve now been in the land of the Red, White and Blue for just over eight months, and I thought it high time to write a wee update. And start a blog. I don’t harbour any grand notions of becoming a minor Christian celebrity. I don’t even know if anyone will read it. And that’s okay. It feels like it could be cathartic for me at this time in my life to be able to focus my thoughts.

I’ve named my blog ‘Adventures of the Ordinary’. In my younger youth I definitely held grand notions of becoming a minor (read ‘major’) Christian celebrity. However, I find myself on the cusp of 34, having spent the majority of my days in the most ordinary of ways. In my mad fancy it appeals to name the blog something like ‘Musings of a Rambling Lioness Lamb’ or some other such metaphoric nonsense, but the bald truth of it is that I live a very ordinary life. It’s a life I’m learning to really appreciate. I’ll share some of my ordinary thoughts at a later date, but since most of you are probably here just to get the Christmas Letter version of what we’re up to (and are already glazing over – yes, I see that yawn), on with the update!

We touched down in Redmond, Oregon on the 6th of July last year. After 20 something hours of travel with a 19 month old, I was euphoric to have made it! Judah was a total champ, but naturally the Phenergan, which I had trialed earlier with pleasing results, backfired horribly on the plane. This led to a little dude having bouts of screaming followed by maniacal laughter several hours past his bedtime. Nevertheless, we made it. It was a warm summer evening, and I’ll never forget the overwhelming smell of Juniper that greeted us following a rain shower. It will forever be the smell of our new life.

Caleb’s parents were gracious enough to put up with us while we went about the house hunting process. We were sure that we’d be able to find something reasonably quickly, however the credit score we had built in New Zealand meant nothing here, so we had to start from scratch. We ended up staying with the Hargroves for six months in Redmond, before finally getting to purchase our first home here in Bend. Bend is such a fantastic town, just a wee bit smaller than Tauranga, it reminds me of a delightful mix of Queenstown, Hanmer Springs and Tauranga. The real estate market is booming here, and long story short, we were basically handed this house on a silver platter! It was what they call a short sale – essentially a foreclosure or bank-owned property. We discovered it had been empty for eight years before we moved in, and it really did feel like God had been saving it for us. It was within our price range, and we have instant equity in it. The more I get a feel for what the real estate market is like, the more blown away I am at what we got!

Caleb was initially working for a local construction company, but things have kind of fallen into place for him to start a branch of Rupp Family Builders here. Rupp is the company that he worked for in Portland before he moved to New Zealand, and is owned by our buddy Garrett. We’re so excited to see things starting to fall into place, and it just feels like God is breathing favour over it all.

Judah is thriving here! He is loving getting to have regular playdates with Caleb’s family and our new friends, and he’s just growing like a weed! He is the loveliest and cheekiest kid I know! He brings so much light and laughter into our lives. Just tonight Caleb was like, “Judah, can you say ‘Napolean give me some of your tots’?” And Judah says, “Nipple…tots” and cracks up laughing. Love that kid.

We started attending Westside Church in Bend as soon as we arrived, and we just feel like God really has called us to be here. We feel a strong sense of purpose, and we’re starting to get to know people and feel more settled. We’re both a part of the worship team and are really excited to see what God’s gonna do here.

As for me, it’s been a super interesting time. I’ve had a few random health things happen, which has introduced me to the American healthcare system somewhat sooner than I had hoped. The upside in paying $5,000,000 a year in health insurance is that the hospitals really are very well funded. And pretty. And the medical staff all seem very relaxed. Which is good, because¬†we may have to sell our kidneys to afford it…

I’ve started making some lovely friends, and since we’ve moved into our house I’ve made a concerted effort to invite people over. Our prayer is that our home is a place of peace, refreshing and healing for people. On that note, please come and stay with us!!

On a personal level, there have been some hard but really really cool things unfolding in my heart. I’ll save those for another blog post – nothing worse than trying to read a general update and getting sideswiped by someone’s intense personal outpourings ;).

Anyway, over and out.

Deb xx