All Things New and Whole

liz99-252849-unsplashKia ora koutou katoa (Hello to you all, friends).  My name is Prue.  I’m a kiwi (not a fruit, but a person born and bred in New Zealand), I’m 38 years old and a part-time lawyer and full-time wife of Reuben and mother of two boys.

I am truly blessed to live in a beautiful bay and community called Governors Bay, which is 15 minutes drive from Christchurch City – the second largest city in New Zealand.

Like Angela, our family has relatively recently (actually almost 3 years ago) repatriated from China to New Zealand.  I loved living in China, for a number of reasons, but without a doubt the best thing that came out of living in China were the numerous opportunities and circumstances I found myself in which instigated and led me to entering into a relationship with Jesus.

“All Things New and Whole”

How has Jesus made you new?

Jesus has made me new!  As I contemplate how to begin this blog,  I need to explain my background, before I was made new.

I was an only-child for the first 12 years of my life and my memories of that time were that life was pretty much perfect.  My parents taught me about Jesus and I felt very loved by both them and Him.  I had everything I needed and wanted for nothing, except a baby brother.  I had to wait a while, but I eventually got two of them, although the time it took meant a large age gap between us  (12 years between the older of them and me and 18 years between the youngest and me). But unfortunately, as I grew up and gained more independence, I also grew away from Jesus.

Soon after my youngest brother was born, I left home for University.  It was at this time that I discovered the real world and without being prepared for it, I did all sorts of things that I shouldn’t have done.  The result of living this lifestyle was that I was generally unhappy as a young adult.  Then in my mid twenties when my brothers were still young, our family fell apart.  I saw this as evidence that my perfect childhood memories were just a facade for what was reality and I turned my back on God.  To me God was a reflection of happy childhood memories which were in no way reflective of the real world and therefore God was not real.  It is only with hindsight now that I can see that He had plans for me to come back to Him and used my circumstances to make it happen.

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Jeremiah 29:11

You see in New Zealand, although I was generally unhappy, life was pretty easy – I thought that I did not need God.  New Zealand is ranked as the most least-corrupt country in the world, has low unemployment, a social welfare system with free education and healthcare, is safe, and has stunningly beautiful scenery.  I had had a good education, resulting in a good job, a nice house, lovely friends, was healthy, and had food and shelter.  But God had plans for me, and shortly after marrying Reuben, we moved to China.

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China is totally different to New Zealand – In.Every.Possible.Way!  It’s one thing to visit these places, but to live there is quite another.  We expats used to have a saying to brush off some of the difficulties – it was “T, I, C”, which stands for “This Is China”. Although I initially found life in China pretty tough for many reasons it was not just because it was China.  I still suffered with general unhappiness and discontentment with life.

During those first few years in China, it felt like we suffered blow after blow. Without going into these, (but think those daily TIC issues, marriage issues, health issues, loss of a job, extended family issues) the result was that they drained us both emotionally and physically.

When it felt like I was really at a low point, a chance meeting at a Subway sandwich store with two other American ex-pats changed everything.  At that time it was quite exciting to see another foreigner you didn’t know in our part of China, as we were few and far between.  Especially foreigners with a little girl who looked the same age as our son, Hugo.  These people knew nothing about us, but invited us along to their parents’ fellowship on Sunday mornings.  Something inside me told me I had to go.

I will never forget that first Sunday morning I attended the fellowship – that morning I knew God was real and that He wanted to have a relationship with me.  I felt the presence of the Holy Spirit like nothing I’d ever felt before.   God had used the perfect storm in my life and a chance meeting at Subway to bring me to Him.  I was overcome by emotion and remember the feeling of it all being so ‘right’.  At that point I truly wanted a relationship with Jesus – I knew it was right and I knew He would help me.  I was about to become new again.

God did not stop with the Subway meeting.  He continued to provide people, opportunities and an environment where I could seek Him further.  Like Gabby said in her blog in February, we had an amazing group of new and veteran Christians in our ladies bible study group in New World Garden on Wednesday mornings. This group provided the most wonderful environment for me to learn and grow and receive the Word.  It is truly amazing when you see the Holy Spirit is working amongst a group of fellow believers.

Show me your ways, Lord, teach me your paths. Psalm 25:4

One of the most important aspects I found to becoming new again was identifying and acknowledging my sins.  After all, you can’t fix a broken car if you don’t know what part of it is broken.

During my time living in China, God revealed sins to me – those ones from my years before moving to China, and ones from my childhood.  I knew these things were wrong and many were the result of youth and immaturity so were easy enough to acknowledge.  But it was the revealing of sins of the spirit – self-pity, complaining, and self-serving indulgence, negative thoughts about others, and significantly, unforgiveness.  Identifying these and acknowledging them have been so much a part of the process of making me new again.  In hindsight, I didn’t even know some of these things were sinful!  And I can assure you as I write this, I am by no means free of them, but I can see a clear point in my life when God brought many of these impurities to my attention.  I asked and continue to ask Him for forgiveness.

Whoever conceals their sins does not prosper, but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy. Proverbs 28:13

And our loving Father has mercy!  Jesus took the rap and paid the ultimate price so that I can be forgiven.  My slate was wiped clean.   God has taken my past and used it to show me his merciful and forgiving nature.  He is so loving!

At around this point I think some of my friends both in China and New Zealand could not understand why I had come to prefer to live in China over New Zealand.  For me I had gotten used to some of the TIC issues and started to appreciate the benefits – the food (although not the offal), the tropical weather, night markets and the proximity of Asian holiday destinations.  However, on a deeper level, I was loving my growing relationship with Jesus – I had never before felt so loved and so content with life.  However,  when I returned to New Zealand once or twice a year to visit family, I felt distant from Jesus.  Life was busy, the only churches I knew in New Zealand were (no offence intended) old-school Anglican and Catholic churches which seemed to me to be far more about the culture and religious hierarchy.  None of my family or friends in New Zealand were Christian (well maybe one was) and frankly to tell anyone in New Zealand you were a Christian would result in an awkward silence usually followed by an abrupt end to the conversation (and it still does!).   At that time, China was my haven.  It was the perfect environment for the development of my walk with Jesus.

But we would not stay there forever.  In fact we almost moved home to New Zealand three years before we actually did.  At this time, I was so frightened that a return to New Zealand would mean a return to secular life and I would not have the strength or commitment to continue my relationship with Jesus.

But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and worthless elementary principles of the world, whose slaves you want to be once more? You observe days and months and seasons and years! Galatians 4:9-10           

I prayed a lot about this.

And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. Romans 8:28

Then Reuben got a new job and we then stayed in China another three years.

When the time did finally come to return to New Zealand, I felt different, I felt that I knew Jesus so much better.  I had seen changes in me that couldn’t have come about by me alone or my circumstances alone.  I couldn’t actually imagine living a life where He was not part of it.  God has made me new.  He has shown me the issues (sins) which were bringing me down and making me unhappy and unjoyful.  He has forgiven me for these and now I walk freely with Jesus.  As I said above, I’m not saying I’m sin-free, but I’m on a path which I wasn’t on pre Jesus.

This is my testimony.  God has made me new again:

Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. 2 Corinthians 5:17

I am so very thankful for the circumstances and opportunities I’ve had in my life, particularly my time in China, to come to know Jesus and it is my prayer that those of you who are reading this and don’t know Him,  will also have the opportunities and right people around you to be able to come to know Him.  All it takes is for you to decide in your heart to take that first step along His paths, and then you will become new again too.  Life on earth is so short – don’t miss out.

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. John 3:15

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