Monday, September 21, 2009

New Website

Back by popular demand, we have decided to try and start another website called Nichols in Knoxville. Look for us at for news about the goings on in K-town.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Hello Everyone!

Hello Everyone! Its Claire here!I want to thank  everyone for being there when we left and when we came back.We are glad to be home  but, also miss New Zealand.We really enjoyed our time in New Zealand and wish to come back one day.I really hope we come back some day.Anyway, we miss everyone  "heaps!"            -Claire

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Farewell NZ

Whangarei Community Church

  Department of Medicine going away party with the specialist doctors and Linda (front row far left) the nurse who coordinated the lung cancer program Lynn started. Dr. John Mpe was recruited from South Africa as Lynn's replacement pulmonology specialist.
Viv, laboratory manager, and me at going away party. Viv gave me a beautiful almost black greenstone carved in the Maori eternal friendship symbol. She drove half our luggage to Auckland and sat with us in the airport keeping me company over coffee (our favorite thing to do together.....the coffee and the talking not the waiting at the airport). It was a sad goodbye as we boarded our international flight and I had to say goodbye to a professional mentor, a personal friend and spiritual sister.
    Helen from "The Fish Bowl" hosted the medical party and was generally good to us all year. She was the closest thing to a mother and grandmother.
      Zara wrote a song for us. That was a Nichols' first. We also received 3 different paintings given by the artist themselves ( one from a patient, one from Herani at church and one from a friend in our community).
 Iliase (red shirt) is the sleep and pulmonary function technician who assisted Lynn to kick off the sleep apnea program and pulmonary function lab. They named the new pulmonary function machine "Maureen" after Lynn's first patient who was tested on it. The other people in the photo work in outpatient medicine as nurses and echo technicians.
Whangarei Heads community was a gift from God. At the community send off Lynn quoted the bible verse that talks about "man making his plans but God directing his steps". We felt that was true of the area we happened to rent a house in.
The church going away party was fun and I muddled through trying to share what I think God has taught us this year. There may be a reprise at some point if anyone back home wants to hear about it. Our last Sunday was an amazing service with a message about the "Fullness of God" that left us all in tears (the good moving kind of crying). The worship leader happened to pick some of my favorite songs like "Potter's Hand" by Hillsongs and "In Christ Alone". 
Jo made us this beautiful cake of NZ for the church going away party.
The weeks before we left had our last road trip further down the North Island to the Waitomo caves which are a collection of 100's of caves. 5 or 6 are commercially toured.
Phillip and I did the king daddy which started with a 100 meter free repel (abseiling) into the cavern which is pictured above. Then we hiked 2 hours to get out of the cave. It was a guided tour Mom! The rest of the crew did more tame spelunking in caves with water boats and glow worms like stars on the cave walls.
A few weeks before we enjoyed a hike after lunch on Yamana with our sailing friends Pete and Alice we met via Hugh in Charleston. Many thanks to Pete, a professional photographer (pictured on Yamana below), who framed some beautiful photos of New Zealand he had taken. We gave them to the Medicine department as a "Thank You"  and a memento for the department conference room at the hospital.
The kids were out of school on break the last 3 weeks we were there so we tried some homeschooling. Anna was replacing NZ coins with trying to learn our US money.

Lake Taupo was beautiful and reminded me of our Lake Tahoe and the local Lake Tellico. We met my brother there for Lynn's and Rus' birthdays. The boys went fly fishing. The girls walked along the shore to the above dock. The nights had ball room dancing, cards, and a general good laugh in the bach with Loida and Rus.
Anna and Andrew's class at Whangeri Heads. There were some sad faces on this last time with them. We had a wonderful community party that my friends Rene and Sharmaine from school put on for us. We showed a video with all the amazing photos of the kids in the various school activities from the last year. I think the whole community was stunned by how much fun the school kids have in all the hands on activities. We were stunned by the outpouring of love and support from the school families we have shared this year with. Rene's Mom had a near fatal car accident the day of the party so she couldn't make it. We continue to pray for her recovery. Sharmaine and I had wanted to hike up Aubrey at night to see the stars but had to settle for an early morning hike due to cloudy weather all week. We talked about God and watched the sunrise at the top. It was a hike I will always treasure as a memento of our friendship in Christ.

As you can imagine the last few weeks have been busy. We had a wonderful time our last month in NZ but found time for blogging was short. There were lots of goodbye parties, hugs and tears as we parted NZ for home. After spending the first night on an airplane across the Pacific we missed our flight out of LA. After a few hours for a nap and a bite to eat at a close by hotel we spent night number 2 on the red eye to Atlanta then on to Knoxville. Better late than never we arrived last Sunday morning with smiles and hugs. This week has been busy trying to set up a household and get our days and nights straight. Our address is the same 1523 Bickerstaff but we have a new home phone of 865-474-1258. Can't wait to share more in person. e-mails are still good at

Monday, April 13, 2009

Easter- Alive to God

Easter this year was made extra special by a 3 day visit from the Neimer family, our friends from Charleston, SC.

The kids had a great time with Ross and Dugger. It's a special blessing to watch your friends have kids and then their kids grow to be friends with your kids.
We enjoyed an Easter hike that ended at Peach cove at dusk. The hike back included 800 plus stairs up a mountain side then a moonlit walk back to the car. It was all breathtaking, both the scenery and the hike!

After Easter we rented a sailing yacht for a day trip around the Bay of Islands. It was great to sail around and talk. Sally and I can talk and talk and still feel like there is more we want to share/ask about but haven't covered. The guys are happy to talk church and medicine.

We stopped for a kayak and beach walk on one of the islands. The kids loved hanging on the yacht too.

We arrived back at the dock in time to catch this most amazing sunset come ablaze over 5 minutes. See the progression from the boys to every couple on the dock going for their photo with the sunset.
Below were some reflections on Easter morn.

For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead , death no longer has mastery/dominion over Him. The death he died he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives HE LIVES TO GOD. In the same way count yourselves dead to sin but ALIVE TO GOD in Christ. Romans 6:9-11
Happy Easter. I grew up in a Presbyterian Church where Easter morning people would say to you, "He is risen" and you reply, "He is risen indeed."
The resurrection is so powerful. We have access to God himself. The gift of eternal life is not from God as much as it is a gift of God Himself. He is the life. We enjoy His presence now through the Holy Spirit and in heaven more fully later. He doesn't give us comfort but He gives us Himself and He is the comfort. We don't seek power or a good life as much as we seek God Himself. He is the life and the power. We are "Alive to God" because of the resurrection. Enjoy Him and reach beyond wanting what He can give us. Reach to Him. That is our response to the forgiveness we have because of the cross.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Good Friday

How Deep the Father's Love For Us

How Vast Beyond All Measure

That He should give His Son For us

To Ransom us His treasure

Some may recognize those words are from a song. It was Good Friday yesterday and a Holiday for all in New Zealand. The grocery stores were closed. Most restaurants and cafes were closed. The gas stations were open and busy with boats filling up and heading out to enjoy the beautiful Fall weather. We went to a 10 o'clock service and reflected on this Holiday that for many Americans is just another work day unless you are Catholic. Some of you may know Good Friday is the calendar day that some Christians reflect on Jesus' crucifixion and death. I think many may remember seeing a Passion Play or the Mel Gibson movie The Passion and feel uncomfortable seeing the torture and crucifixion scenes. The English word "excruciating" comes from the Latin root words "like the cross". "Good" Friday is a somber holiday. In yesterday's service I was struck by a few scriptures that I wanted to share.

Luke writes and tells us the night before Jesus died he ate with his 12 closest friends and followers and said," I have EAGERLY DESIRED to eat this Passover (Jewish Holiday) meal with you before I suffer." He knew what was "excruciating" and yet was eager and desired it. John tells us he earlier had said, " I lay down my life only to take it up again. No one takes it from me but I lay it down OF MY OWN ACCORD." He chose of his own will.

After doing an artwork representing the cross during the kid's church, later last night Anna asked me who killed Jesus and why did they do it? One of the older kids who had been in the main service told her, "Jesus killed himself!" I had to ponder the suicide comment but straighten out a bit that he allowed it, even eagerly desired it, and "no one took his life from him". In His authority He took His own life by "laying it down" of His "own accord". I can't blame the Romans although they executed Him. I can't blame the Jews even though many did not recognize Him or understand Him so sentenced Him to death for blasphemy. Scripture teaches He Himself decided. Even at the point of death while on the cross he said in Luke, " 'Father Into your hands I commit my spirit.' When He had said this he breathed His last. "

Why did he do it? Our pastor yesterday was struck by the friendship Jesus offers. Jesus' words are "Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends...I have called you friends." Jesus told parables about hidden treasure in a field and someone going to sell all they had to buy the field meaning that we are a treasure and he gave His all, His very life for us, to buy us.

Ok so I can answer Anna that He chose to die out of love for people but it's the why did he have to die part that is a little harder. The bible describes a mystery I don't fully understand. I have learned through experience that mankind is imperfect. I can see that I certainly am not perfect. Many I know can appreciate that there is or at least maybe a God who is Holy and perfect. The Christian faith is based on belief that something miraculous and mysterious happened on that Friday. Some how spiritually God himself took on our imperfections and paid the penalty of death for it in our place. Not that we won't die physically, obviously we still do, but spiritually we can live on with Him in heaven. The bible describes this miracle in many terms: Jesus taking on our imperfection(our sin), paying the price of death for it, taking our place in a sense, paying the ransom for us as if we were stolen or kidnapped by our sin, redeaming us back to Him as if our imperfection seperates us from God's holiness, atoning/satisfying a just law that we couldn't follow or satisfy no matter how nice a person we are.

When I was 18 I had an epiphany that I could not be good enough, perform enough, do nice things enough to gain God. I had spent a lot of effort trying to and had made a lot of mistakes along the way. Religions all over the world through out history have been filled with people trying to appease God in some way. Humanity has made statues to honor gods, festivals for them, dances and parades too. I remember many years ago standing at a Mayan ruin in Mexico. At the site Mayans had made human sacrifices in a large pit in order to gain favor from their gods. I recently saw a documentary on Hinduism where still today ellaborate parade floats are made to various gods in various cities. The idea of Christianity is different in that Jesus did the appeasing and was the sacrifice that satisifies any wrath from God over mankind's action. Through belief in Jesus we gain that forgiveness not because we are good but because He is good. It is what we refer to as "Grace" or God's favor and goodness to people even though people aren't perfect.

Many I know reject Christianity because they think it is a religion with a judgemental code of do this and don't do that. There is the misperceived idea that you better pray and not have fun or a mean God will come down on you. They get this idea from Christians who pray, don't seem to have fun, are mean and come down on other people. Many people in history have claimed the faith and then done some pretty horrible things. It makes me sad because I know that I don't always reflect the true message of God's love for something He treasures but instead pray then turn around and come down on someone who doesn't do what I think they should. In truth Christianity is a love that lead to a sacrifice on His part on our behalf for a reason that is hard to fully grasp.

The forgiveness because of the cross is extended to the whole world, all peoples, every tribe, every nation, every tongue but it must be accepted by an individual. Each man works out what he believes in. The bible teaches even if he has even a little faith (as much as a tiny mustard seed) in Christ he is forgiven.

Many Christians I know can pin point a moment in time when they started believing while others remember a process of wondering about it for years. However faith develops it always has moments of doubts about something. Faith in Christ leads to a freedom from do this and do that. "He forgave us all our sins having cancelled the written code with it's regulations that stood against us. He took it away and nailed it to the cross" is the message in Colossians. This frees us to just BE with God in a relationship of friendship because of mutual love.

Christian life is not attending a Christian church or being born in a family or a particular nation. It is realizing personally your not perfect and Who is? Becoming a Christian is having a tiny bit of faith that God forgives our imperfection because of Jesus' death on the cross somehow in some way. It is a response to the forgiveness and love God has shown me personally. Christian life is as simple as the verse "To love your God with all your heart, mind soul, and strength and to love your neighbors as yourself." We can't even fully live up to that one but there remains his grace and forgiveness as we try to pursue a relationship with our friend God and a love for other imperfect people who annoy us.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

End Of Summer

Andrew, Sharmaine, and I were enjoying the last days of summer on the floating swim platform at our house in the Bay. I have a wet suit on and am sliding back into the water. Lynn had just driven up from work and had the camera in the car taking pics of his commute home. I included a few at the end of this entry. We all have enjoyed dipping into the bay on these last few days of warm summer weather. The water is actually warmer than mid summer but still cold enough for me to put on a wet suit. Usually I opt to enjoy the sunshine and a book from a nice warm shore rock while I watch the others laugh and play over the page's edge.

In this shot our little bay has the tide out. We walked back down our street after karate where Andrew takes lessons on Thursdays at a community center/hall at the street's end.

This day Andrew brought a swim suit and changed for a swim after karate. The little white building behind is where the community hall is located. I think some folks are trying to put together a going away party with our community friends. Anna and Andrew's class is throwing a party for them Monday. Many have been so good to us and seem sad to see us go. The swing is wooden with "Swing Low sweet Chariot" written on it.
We were walking home after karate. Like at home after school activities mean there is always waiting for siblings to finish lessons. These kids were waiting for karate class to end. They all ventured towards the waters edge with us and collected about 20 or 30 hermit crabs from where the tide was out.

This is the kids' school sign. It's a very artistic school with a teaching philosophy of learning what interests you and promotes your own creativity. The kids have enjoyed it but when we get back we may need to review some time tables and spelling words if you know what I mean.
Claire, Hanna, and Maddie as they were waiting to take off for the class overnight trip to the marine reserve at Goat Island. Claire was excited for days! You can see the soccer field at the school in the back ground. Claire is trying her feet at soccer with these gals for our last month here.

This is Toby Greenwood, Claire's super cool dude teacher this semester (you can't see his pony tail in the pic). He is standing under the awning in the school assembly area. He and his wife Merrin (from Alaska) just had their second child. We got to meet her family when they were visiting from Alaska. People here are pretty laid back. Last I heard they were still thinking through names and the baby was born in January. We got a kick out of some of the options they were trying out. We had to throw a few fun suggestions in too. I can't even pronounce and have never heard of half the names here. I do know there other daughter is Isis and I have heard of that name. I think it was an Egyptian goddess and there was some 70's show about about a super hero.

Anyway here is Claire with her muffins and some of her friends just before leaving for camp.

Lynn decided to take a series of 3 shots on the way home from work a few weeks ago. The commute is worth looking at but he says the distance is getting hard. When you see the photos I don't think you will feel much sympathy.
After leaving the hospital you cut across a few blocks of "downtown" and swing by the yacht basin.

The view on the way home about half way from the hospital. Remember we live at the base of the Head-like rocks on the mountain to the left. The view from our mailbox here on Stuart Road. The swim plat form is a little to the right but out of the photo. If the Hatmakers would put in a pool it would really improve the mailbox view at 1523. They can use our backyard but the fence will have to go around the compound. The view on Interstate 40 is a hopeless cause but I do hope the construction was completed the year we were gone (Ha, Ha).

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Hiking Around Northland

We have enjoyed a lot of hiking recently. Rene, her son Riley, Phillip, and I did a hike 10 minutes from our house going from Urquate's Bay around to Smuggler's cove. You could see Ocean beach off in the distance. It tokk a few hours but was a beautiful hike to the beach.

Lynn and I got away for one night for a much needed to retreat together. It's only the second night together without the kids the whole year. We stayed at a lovely old bed and breakfast an hour south of town in a place called Mangawhai. We laughed because some white New Zealanders say the name like "Maine-ga-why" and the Maori word/way to say it is "Mon-ga-fie". We had a great time eating at a French cafe called The Kiwi and The Frog named after the married New Zealander and French Chef that own it. It was the best meal in New Zealand and the best cheese plate ever! After dinner we walked down the remote natural beach and saw the most amazing stars in a clear moonless night sky.The next day we set out for a 3 hour hike across the beach and up the Bream Head mountain cliffs then back on a loop across a very rocky mile of beach.

This is Lynn before we headed up to the top of the cliffs. The beach behind him is where we saw the amazing stars!

(Above) This is along the tops of the cliffs. The mountain off in the far distance is the Ocean Beach area we live next to.
The view looking back at the Mangawhai surf beach from the cliff tops (above). The trail went through a very lush tropical forest where Lynn took the pic of me (below).I had hiking shoes on but you should have seen Lynn's size 13 jandals (aka flip flops) along the beach rocks for the last hour or so.
There were amazing amounts of shells on some areas of the beach. You just walked for 100 feet of nothing but shells.
This parking lot at the trail head and surf beach is indicative of the outdoor lifestyle here. The kayaks, walkers, surfers, and bikers enjoying the vast great outdoors New Zealand affords.
Lynn often hikes the mountain behind our house (Mnt Aubrey) for exercise because in 30 minutes you can get a good stair climb heart pumping walk with a view at the top. Andrew and I went with him after dinner the other night and enjoyed a rest on the bench for a minute.

The sunset view at the top was worth the hike. The hospital sits about where the sun is setting.

Our time here is setting too and it is hard in ways to think of leaving the beauty here and the people we have come to know but we are excited to see our friends and family back home. Please leave comments to let me know you were here. It takes so very long to upload the photos and encourages me when folks scan over them.