So, as a teenager and young adult I didn’t want to be a Pastor’s wife. Not quite sure what my ambitions were in life, but being “A Pastor’s Wife” was not amongst them. Even after I met Neil, I was sure of this. Even after it looked like I was unexpectedly being whirled off to New Zealand by Neil to “Meet The Parents”. In fact, in Adelaide, before we left, this was the subject of our first big argument. That I didn’t want to be a Pastor’s Wife. But he was a Seminary student and therefore destined to be a Pastor. That he had worked for some years in industry (Banking and Finance), but then felt the Calling to the Ministry, for which he had already studied for 5 years. That was wonderful, and I respected that. But I didn’t….
This was a cyclic argument and I could tell a potentially hurtful one (because to what extent, if you reject a man’s calling, do you reject the man?), so I softened my stance somewhat… ”I’m not READY to be a Pastor’s Wife…”
So Christmas came and went, and the suitcases were packed and off to the airport we went.
Neil and I had a week or so to begin with in New Zealand, during which we got somewhat organised, including buying an old car for cash. This was a memorable transaction, as the local bank in the small town of Papatoetoe (on the outskirts of Auckland) had supplied the $$ we had milked from overseas accounts and credit card advances in used $20 bills, which in the colourful NZ currency happened to be bright orange!
Then we were to meet up with Neil’s parents Ian and Sylvia. Despite that Neil himself had travelled quite extensively (including backpacking through Australia and New Zealand in the 1980’s) his parents, from Plymouth, England, had never flown before. So travelling 100,000 miles across the world from London to Sydney was really being thrown in the deep end. Amusingly enough, they had looked up my sister Jill in Sydney and even stayed overnight with her (as her flat mate was coincidently away). So I was worrying about meeting them in New Zealand, while she “had the jump on me” a week or so before.
I think I spent the majority of the day before we were to meet, wailing to Neil “What if your Mother doesn’t like me?” (It didn’t seem so important whether his father did or not…). My worries were SO unfounded. On meeting Ian and Sylvia I took to them both immediately, and Sylvia and I got on like the proverbial house on fire (as we still do, 20+ years later). There is a concept that as a girl gets older, she becomes more like her Mother – well, Neil claims I get more like HIS mother – and this is not necessarily a good thing! I disagree – Sylvia is very special person who accepted me – this Blonde Aussie – into her life and heart from the very start.
The next three weeks together were delightful, with the four of us exploring that wonderful country as well as meeting up with distant relatives – a cousin Ian had been evacuated with as a child in World War II, who had then, as a young adult, migrated to New Zealand. How incredible to witness the reunion of these two, now senior men over forty years later.
I had asked Neil that we not spend our entire vacation “navel-gazing” and worrying about the future, but instead, try to take one day at a time and enjoy our “family” holiday.
Only after we had returned his parents to their relatives in Wellington, while we were to spend the final week doing some more strenuous activities, did we allow ourselves to look beyond January. So that very day, Neil decided to drive up to the summit of Mt. Cook.
So we have this argument in the car.
Kylie: “Why does it all have to be so complicated? Why are you flying off to America next week for 6 months when we’ve only just got to know each other? Why do you have to be a SEMINARY STUDENT and then, God forbid, a PASTOR? Couldn’t you just have a PROPER JOB?”
“I mean, I understand that’s what you feel you want to do and everything, but why you of all people? ‘Cause if we got married that would make me the PASTOR’S WIFE! God, ME, can you imagine?”
Neil, drawing breath: “Yes, well…” tries again, calmly: “If we did get married…”
Kylie, not so calmly: “Whadda ya mean IF?” “You haven’t even ASKED ME YET!!!
Neil: Shocked expression.
Kylie: Stunned by what she has just blurted out…silence…
Outside the car, it begins to rain, and the rain steadily increases.
Stunned silence ensues. More stunned silence.
Dark clouds are closing in.
Neil says ruefully “We’re not going to see Mt. Cook today, that’s a pain, let’s take this road instead”…and turns right…
More stunned silence… for an hour…
We come to this little place surrounding an extinct volcano. There is a now a lake in the volcano crater. It is called “Lake Tekapo”. There is this tiny stone church on the edge of the lake which we climb up to. Inside it is set out traditionally with rows of pews and a cross and an altar at the front. But, where you might expect stained glass windows, behind the cross, there are just large windows of plain glass instead.
So when you sit in the dusty pew and look forwards, you see through the windows to this incredible natural scene.
Endless sky. Trees. Snow covered mountains – Breathtaking.
Just a little snippet of God’s beautiful creation.
“Wow” we say.
After a bit, we leave the church and work our way down the hill, clambering over all these huge grey volcanic rocks. Neil loves photography, so he’s stopping every now and then to take photos. He says to me:
“Can you sit on that big rock there? That’s a great shot”
So I do.
He takes the photo with the little “Church of the Good Shepherd” in the background. Then he comes a bit closer, puts down the camera, comes right to me sitting on my big grey rock…
and gets down on one knee.
Every possible answer – “Yes”, “No”, “Can I have a few days to think?” “Wow! I’m just stunned”… all run through my mind.
Then I look down at those trusting, loving eyes.
At the man who has stolen my heart.
I don’t say “No”
I don’t say, “Yes”
I say: “I’d Love To”.