Monday, 6 February 2017

There are three things about the image above that crack me up more than anything; a) The concentration on Charlotte's face as she's trying to blow that bubble, b) My hair looks awesome (note the sarcasm as you can clearly see I hadn't bothered to properly dry it before leaving for church) and c) I look like I have half an eyebrow BUT it was taken at one my all time favourite places and I'm with one of my all time favourite people so straight to the all-time-favourite-photographs category it goes.

Growing up my parents always worked right through the holidays meaning my brother and I spent a fair amount of our time attending holiday programs. We went through lots of them might I add as we were also very picky about the ones we actually wanted to spend time at. From what I can remember I think there were all of two that we decided didn't entirely suck and that mum managed to convince us to attend more than once. Only one out of those two did I genuinely wake up feeling excited about. It became the reason I would count down the days till the holidays during the term because I couldn't wait to be reunited with my favourite leaders I had come to know and love. They were the reason I loved it so much. From the moment we met them we could tell that they were there because they genuinely wanted to invest in us not because they had to be.

Having a heart for where you are serving and what you spend your time investing in makes a bigger difference than people often realise. Being greeted by someone who is genuinely there because they've decided they want to be means that not only do they enjoy being there, it means that the people they are serving feel like they are wanted there too. This is especially important to remember in children's ministry. Something i've learnt over my years of serving in this area is that people often sell children short because they don't often realise just how observant they are and how much more they actually take on board from what is going on around them. Kids can tell right off the bat if you are there because you're genuinely invested in them or whether or not you're there because you have to be. Often it's the leaders that make or break an experience for a kid, they don't want half hearted leaders just as much as you don't want to be one. They want to get to know you as much as you want to get to know them.

My youth pastor once said, "We love people not because they love God, but because He loves them."

That's the key to having great influence. I remember walking into the holiday program for the first time and feeling so welcome and accepted from the moment I was greeted by a friendly face. I stood back and looked at the leaders and could see that there was something different about them than from the other leaders I'd encountered at other programs. I saw the way they not only interacted between themselves but with us kids. I could see that the difference in them was that they were genuinely in it for what they could invest in us and not what they could get out of it for themselves. They chose to take the amazing love of God that they themselves had experienced and work at sharing it with each and every one of us kids through the way they served.

It's the enthusiastic hellos, the secret handshakes, the "Have you had a good week?" conversations, the inside jokes and the little things that you remember about kids that mean the most and reveal God's love. Serving in an area you really have a heart for is when you'll be able to achieve the most influence. Never underestimate how much having a passion for what you do makes a difference.

XO, Danielle



Thursday, 2 February 2017

I like to think that God has a pretty good sense of humour. I can recount multiple times were my biggest God moments were at the most unexpected times. More often than not these unexpected moments are when we're faced by the biggest inconvenience, I think it's funny how God works that way. You may feel like on a scale of one to Nature Valley granola bar your life is falling apart on the granola bar end of the scale but don't think that God doesn't see you feeling this way. He knows just when to come and bring peace when He knows you'll least expect it and it'll make the biggest impact.

I was reading through a bunch of my old sermon notes the other day and I stumbled upon a little passage that I had written after youth one Friday. Confused, I opened it up to find an account of the night the devil tried to shut us down on one of the biggest nights of the year but our love and trust in God shone through bigger and bolder than I'd ever experienced at youth before.

At Oxygen (my churches youth group) we hold one service a term called Big Night Out where we have the other Oxygen youth groups from some of our other church campus's bus over to East to come and spend a service together. This particular Friday was set to be one of the best BNO's we'd had planned for the whole year, we were set and ready for a night God was going to move more than he'd done before. He did just that, but not in the way we would have expected.

I had gone into the service feeling pretty crappy to say the least. I had just come from a couple of bad weeks with rocky friendships and endless stress from last minute assignments so I wasn't standing ready for the night of my life. It's easy to forget about God's plans for your life and why you're here in the big scheme of things when life does everything it can to knock you down as soon as you find yourself in a good place. God chose that night to really remind me of this and tell me that I am seen and appreciated more than I give myself credit for majority of the time.

I had one of the best worship experiences of my life this night that I've ever had in all my eighteen years of being. Everything that could have gone wrong did but God used it to give us a raw moment in his presence and really speak to each of us. Not even two minutes into the first praise song everything stopped working. The microphones, the amps, some of the instruments, the lights went out - everything. Instead of stopping and moving on everyone just sang. The musicians not knowing what to do faded out the song early and and every teenager attending suddenly started clapping in time to the beat of the song and sang at the top of their lungs till the song was over. Not wanting to cut short the moment of authentic worship that was already taking place, Jeremy pulled out his guitar. Without microphones, lights, the atmosphere of the band, the room of us stood and worshiped in complete darkness completely forgetting about everyone around us. In that moment it was just God and I. I stood in his presence singing Here as in Heaven (one of my all time favourite songs might I add) and I could feel the way he was moving throughout the room. It was one of the coolest experiences I've ever had.

I was reminded of his love and the way that I must not give up on God no matter how much the world is trying to consume me and bring me down. In the big scheme of things the plans he has for my life are far greater than anything going on in my life right now and way more important. I must not give up on that.

Frosty our youth pastor went up and explained just that in a few simple words moments after worship, saying "When we are on the brink of the biggest breakthrough we experience the biggest kick-back." BUT we've just gotten keep on praising through those tough times.

It's funny how God uses moments like that to impact us when we least expect him to do so.

XO, Danielle



Friday, 6 January 2017

My friends and I decided on those activities for our new years bucket list a couple of days after my family and I had gone to spend the 2nd of January picking strawberries, just saying hahaha. So be prepared for another post about a trip to this beauty of a strawberry farm.

My family and I decided to kick off the new year with something sweet and drove 40 minutes to a strawberry farm out in Helensville called Sweet Red. There were endless fields of fresh berries spreading as far as you could see and it was one of the coolest things. Not only did we get to pick the berries and consume some delicious fresh strawberry ice cream but those berries tasted SO good. We didn't however pick the best day to go and give the farm a visit however as our strawberry picking was rudely interrupted by some heavy rain about 10 minutes in but it sure was a good idea while it lasted. I can not wait to go back and pick some more with the girls.

New Zealand has some pretty darn amazing places and I am so grateful to be living in such a beautiful country. There is no other place i'd want to call home.

XO, Danielle

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