Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Unexpected Events

The police roadblock caught me by surprise. It was on SH69 leading out of Reefton towards Murchison. “I’m sorry, ma’am,” the officer said, looking through my vehicle’s window. “There’s been a fatal crash on this side of Murchison and the road will be closed for hours.”

That was very sad news. I paused for a moment before questioning the policeman. “Is there an alternate route? If I drive to Westport can I get through from there?”

The answer was no, that route was also closed due to the accident. “I need to drop this vehicle in Nelson this evening,” I told him, “and I’m booked to fly home at 7:30pm. Is there any other way of getting up there?”


The officer stepped back and looked at the vehicle I was in, a Toyota Land Cruiser Prado. It belonged to a rental car company and I was relocating it north for them. “That a four wheel drive?” he questioned.

“It sure is,” I replied.

“In that case there’s a mountain pass you can use. It’s just a dirt track but will bring you out the other side of Murchison.” He gave me details of where to find the road and I turned the vehicle around.


I followed his instructions and a half hour later arrived at the Maruia Saddle Road. His description was accurate. It was indeed a dirt track, single lane in many places and full of twists and turns. What he hadn’t told me was how beautiful it was. Sunlight filtered through trees and ferns, and clear streams ran directly over the track, dropping away into small waterfalls.


I soon discovered that many people were coming through from the Nelson side of the pass, More so than the Reefton side. It was amazing how courteous everyone was. I think we were all mindful that someone had lost their life that day and that our problems were minor inconveniences in comparison.


People pulled onto shoulders to let others pass and a gentleman stopped and got out of his car to guide me around a treacherous corner. Everyone waved as they passed and there was no aggression or tailgating. This is amazing, I thought. If we’d all been on the highway, we’d probably have been jockeying for position, racing the clock and wrapped up in our own little worlds. 

I stopped here and there to take photos and inhale the gentle scent of nature. I dipped my fingers in cool streams and listened to insects buzzing and sweet birdsong. I wished I could stay there all day but had to move on, aware that the detour had cost me time wise. I ended up cancelling the audits I had scheduled in Nelson, but made it to the airport, 20 minutes before my flight departed.



As the reality of COVID-19 sinks into our daily lives, my drive through the mountain pass came to mind. People are suddenly caring about each other again. Most of us are locked down at home, not allowed to work and confined to our neighbourhood. I’m one of these, and alone during the day as my husband is an essential worker. We’re allowed to go for walks and twice a day, I take our puppy out.

I’m amazed at the number of other people out on the streets. Mums with babies in prams, children with dads, retired couples strolling along, and individuals of all ages. Most of these people I’ve never seen before! We all keep at least two metres between us, but hardly anyone fails to make eye contact and offer a friendly greeting. 

Why do we need a tragic event to pull us together as people and communities? I think the lock down has made us all aware of how much we need each other, even hardcore introverts like myself. My prayer is that once this has passed, that our connections with those around us will continue to strengthen and grow. That we will remember how it feels to be isolated - and that we’ll actively work on being inclusive and caring to those in our lives.


For now, stay safe, stay strong, and greet those you encounter on the streets with enthusiasm!

1 Peter 3:8-9 Amplified Bible
Finally, all of you be like-minded [united in spirit], sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted [courteous and compassionate toward each other as members of one household], and humble in spirit; and never return evil for evil or insult for insult [avoid scolding, berating, and any kind of abuse], but on the contrary, give a blessing [pray for one another’s well-being, contentment, and protection]; for you have been called for this very purpose, that you might inherit a blessing [from God that brings well-being, happiness, and protection]. 



Tuesday, March 24, 2020

A Country in Lock Down - COVID-19



I was supposed to fly to Melbourne last week. Next week we were booked to fly to Vietnam on a family holiday. COVID-19 has put an end to both of these. On Monday 23rd March I had a trip to Auckland planned and decided to continue with it as I sensed that a lock down of the country was imminent. I didn’t know that the announcement would be made that day.


Christchurch Airport was quiet and subdued when I walked into the terminal. There were small groups of people here and there, some wearing face masks. I headed upstairs, no queue at x-ray and security and the Koru Lounge was almost empty. No groups laughing and chatting, no one milling around the coffee counter. Just signs instructing us to keep a 1.5 metre distance between ourselves and other people.



I already knew that things on the plane would be different. Air New Zealand had rearranged the seating so that all the middle seats would be empty. The front row facing the flight attendants was not in use and staff wore gloves and some wore face masks. In normal times, I’m sure all of us would have loved the extra space and elbow room, but it was more of a reminder of what we were dealing with as a nation and beyond.

I opened my tray table when the snacks and drinks were brought around, and discovered it was splashed with lurid orange speckles. “Don’t worry,” the flight attendant said, seeing my expression. “It’s the new cleaning liquid we’re using to keep the planes safe.”

I arrived at the car rental office just before midday and instead of the bustling hub I’m used to, it was tomb-like. I was told I was the first customer of the day to hire a car. The exit was blocked with all the vehicles that had been returned. Although I knew COVID-19 was impacting the country, I hadn’t realised to what extent.



It was mid-afternoon when I heard the announcement on the radio. “New Zealand will be going into shut down at midnight on Wednesday.” This was followed by a text from the airline saying my flight home was cancelled and there were no more seats available until the next day.

I was very unhappy to hear this.

Fortunately, all my work was done so I headed back to the airport. Overhead signs along the way instructed motorists that the airport was only open to those who were flying. Once inside the terminal, I headed to Counter One as it’s called. This is where you go to re-book cancelled flights and get information about your options. Thankfully, because of my Elite status with Air New Zealand, I was given priority in the wait queue and 20 minutes later they presented me with a boarding pass for the 6pm flight home. I’m guessing many of the other passengers would have spent the night in Auckland.


Overall it was a stressful day, but also one full of God’s peace and grace. At time I felt like I was on the set of a horror movie, with all the masked, wary people and the deserted streets of suburban Auckland. People I interacted with were nervous, keeping their distance and voicing their fears. It was hard work emotionally.


As we head into four weeks of isolation and shut down, the future is uncertain, but God is not. Be wise, be careful and look out for loved ones as far as you can. This pandemic has not taken God by surprise and while taking every precaution and obeying the government as we lock down our homes, we can relax into His arms, knowing He is so much bigger than a microscopic virus.




Enjoying a last coffee with my dear husband before the country locks down at midnight!




Friday, September 20, 2019


The Day Daniel Drowned

It was a mild October afternoon in 1993 when Daniel drowned. I was doing homework with the older children and he was outside riding his plastic motorbike up and down the driveway. I suddenly realised that the rhythmic sounds had stopped. “Ethel,” I called our maid. “Please can you check what Daniel’s doing.”

Seconds later a shrill scream changed the course of my life forever. With a mother’s instinct I threw the homework aside and ran to the swimming pool. He lay on the surface of the water, face down, limbs limp, hair floating like a golden mist. I was already praying as I plunged down the steps, swam to him and pulled him to the love seat in the deep end. “Lord, please let him be okay when I turn him over.”

Daniel

I hefted him onto the pool surround and turned him on his side. His face was blue and grey like marble, lifeless and dead. Water ran from his mouth, his eyes were shut. I tilted him further over to get the water out while shouting at Ethel. “Go and find a neighbour, ask them to call an ambulance!”

The ABC steps I’d learned in a CPR course a few weeks earlier miraculously came to mind. Airway, breathing, circulation. No more water was coming out but he was still and had no pulse. I started breathing into him, compressing his tiny chest, breathing into him, over and over. The lady from across the road arrived with Ethel. Took in the situation with a horrified glance and dashed off to call an ambulance.

It seemed forever that I breathed into and compressed my son’s lifeless body, praying fervently the whole time. And then he coughed, water came up, and he coughed again and drew in a shaky breath. The relief was immense but I didn’t realise the battle was just beginning.

The ambulance arrived 30 minutes later. I’d stripped Daniel’s clothes off and wrapped him in his cot duvet. He was breathing but unconscious. The children sat with me, all of us silent and devastated. The paramedics assessed him quickly before carrying him to the ambulance where I sat in the back with him. They wrapped him in a thermal blanket to warm him up. By now he’d started making convulsive movements and his breathing was raspy and laboured. “It’s called posturing,” they explained to me. “It’s a sign of the brain being starved of oxygen.”

We were taken to A&E at Greys Hospital and a couple of doctors had a brief look at Daniel. He was still posturing and they told me his pupils were dilated and unresponsive to light. Both of these were signs of brain damage but they refused to treat him as we earned too much to qualify for hospital care. I knew the first hour was critical in situations like Daniel’s and begged them to do something. But they would not. The system had robbed them of humanity and a heart. 


Kevin arrived at this stage and sought information from the medical staff on Daniel’s condition. He spoke to the paramedics, A&E nurses, the matron, the doctor and all of them advised him they had no idea and we would have to wait for our private doctor. When the doctor arrived, he told Kevin that if Daniel lived through the night, he would be mentally impaired and probably spend the rest of his life in a wheelchair. He also refused to treat him and said Daniel needed a paediatrician. Kevin walked outside, looked up to the stars and asked God to please take him home. He didn’t want him back in a damaged state. He then went back into A&E to see Daniel and was asked to hold an oxygen mask to his face. Kevin watched in disbelief as Daniel’s face swelled up by 25 percent. At this stage, the shock was too much and he was given half a Valium before heading home. A friend took the other children home for the night.


Two paediatricians from the practice we were with arrived an hour after we’d reached the hospital. They assessed Daniel as critical as convulsive movements shook his little body and his eyes stared vacant and unfocused. It was now 6pm.

He was lying on a normal bed in A&E with the rails up and the doctors decided to move him immediately up to paediatric high care. Brakes off, they stood one on each side of the bed pushing it, running through the hospital corridors, into the lift and up to the children’s floor. In a private room they tried to get a line into him, poking and probing as he postured and wailed. Eventually one of them turned to me. “His veins are all flat. Do you mind if we shave some of his hair off and insert the drip into his scalp?”

Would I mind when he was at death’s door? “Do it,” I said. Several minutes later, they said that too had failed. The last resort was to insert the drip directly into his jugular vein. Once the medication was finally seeping into his battered body, they ordered a set of x-rays and then updated me on their findings.

“His brain is swollen due to a lack of oxygen,” they said, “and his pupils are not reacting to light. We’ve started him on Mannitol which should reduce the swelling … but he’s scoring low on the Glasgow coma scale, about 4 or 5 out of 15. It’s really a waiting game now. If he makes it through the night, we’ll be able to assess how bad the brain damage is.”

I sat down in a chair next to Daniel’s hospital cot. His hair was shaved on the side and there were monitors and cables attached to various parts of his body. He was still convulsing and posturing but his eyes remained shut. He had his own nurse who would spend the night with us in the room. It turned out she was a Christian. “I’m praying for your son,” she told me as she checked the readings every 15 minutes. The figures remained the same.

This was before mobile phones were in use and from about 7pm, friends from church started calling the hospital. Time after time the staff called me to the phone in the nurses’ station. Friends and acquaintances told me they were praying for Daniel, praying for us. That they were so sorry to hear what had happened. They encouraged us to keep believing God for a miracle. It was heart-warming to know that our church community was behind us.

At 9pm a small group of people arrived from the church, just three or four of them from memory. We hugged and I updated them on the situation. Daniel lay in the cot, unconscious but alive. These wonderful friends gathered around him, laid hands on him, called him back to life, bound the enemy’s work and prayed blessings over him.

Daniel with my Mom in 2018

Still there was no change. I had a bed in the same room and lay awake all night, praying, wondering how all this could have happened so quickly. How our lives had been changed in an instant. How the pool gate had been left open. I still don’t know how it happened. I chose not to question the family over who might have left the gate unlocked. It had a chain and padlock but both were lying on the ground that afternoon.

At 5am, I leaned over Daniel’s cot yet again, brushed hair back from his forehead and talked to him. His eyes opened and he looked at me. Not through me like he’d been doing, but at me. “Daniel,” I said. “Where’s your foot?” Slowly the blanket lifted. “Where’s your hand?” He lifted his right hand. His nurse was behind me, sharing the miracle.

“Your son is back!” She sent a message through to the doctors and I called Kevin.

“After I left the hospital,” he said, “Kelvin (our pastor) came around to see me. He had a word from the Lord and said that just as Daniel was in the lions’ den overnight, so our son would be in the den for a night but would walk out unharmed in the morning.”

One of the paediatricians came in soon after and confirmed that Daniel was in good shape with no ill effects of the drowning. He said he was very surprised to see the remarkable recovery after being in such critical condition the night before. In fact the story spread throughout the hospital and medical staff stopped in throughout the day to see the miracle baby as they called him. By mid-morning, he was running around, playing with toys and eating and drinking. He was put on antibiotics as a precaution and kept in hospital until evening for observation but he was fine.

In the days that followed, we found out how extensive the prayer support had been for Daniel. Stories were told of people interceding, lying on the floor before the Lord and crying out for God to save and heal our son. Without them, he might not be with us today and I’m eternally grateful to all those who prayed and cared.

So Daniel was fine but I lived with the guilt for years after. The shame of not keeping my home safe. Of not noticing sooner that he’d gone quiet. I imagined people judging me behind closed doors for having too many children and not being able to look after them properly. His story was picked up by the local newspaper and a couple of friends let slip that I was getting too much attention for nearly letting my son drown. I’m also so aware that many people have faced a similar situation that has not ended up as well as ours did. For years I never talked about what happened although Kevin shared the story frequently, often bringing people to tears.

Things would probably have continued like this, but I was on a flight to Sydney last week and spotted a movie called “Breakthrough” on the new release list. It was the true story of a teenager who drowned in an icy lake and the steadfast faith of his mother that God would heal him. I lived through all the emotions as the movie unfolded, remembering my own story and the anxious hours waiting to see if Daniel would live. I realised afresh that my son is a miracle and I should share our story just like that family has shared theirs.

I still have mementos of the day Daniel drowned. The little green tracksuit top he was wearing, and the baby duvet I wrapped him in while waiting for the ambulance. I pull them out every so often, close my eyes and remember that terrible day. Life is fragile and every breath we take is a precious gift. Hold your loved ones close, look out for them and never give up hope, even if the situation is desperate. God still performs miracles.

The Tracksuit Top Daniel was Wearing when He Drowned





Saturday, January 21, 2017

A Man with a Cross


It was a routine day, a routine trip to Temuka and Geraldine, one I’ve done dozens of times. It’s normally a boring drive but just past Rangitata I saw a man trudging along the roadside, pulling a cross that rested on his shoulder. I whizzed past, processing the sight, thinking he must have a story to tell. Two kilometres down the road I decided I wanted to hear what it was. I turned around and went back to find him.

He was still walking, dragging the cross towards a bridge. “Hello,” I called from my car window.

“Hi, how are you?” he replied.

“Tell me about the cross,” I invited. He laid it down on the roadside and crossed over to chat through my car window. After a minute I invited him to sit in the car. Hopefully a man with a cross would not turn out to be an axe murderer.


Q: What’s your name?
A: Kim Rusden and my wife is Joan.

Q: What’s with the cross?
A: I’m walking around New Zealand with it. The North Island is done and parts of the South Island. I started at Puponga near Farewell Spit and then went to Seddon to encourage the people there after the earthquake. After that, I headed south in mid December to start walking up from Bluff.


Q: Why are you doing it?
A: My wife and I love people and believe this is the way God wants us to share His love with them.

Q: Do many people stop and ask you about the cross?
A: They do but not as many as I’d like. Often, I engage with people first and get a conversation going. I spent an hour with a guy yesterday who was a backslidden Christian. It’s all about sharing God with people.

Q: Who made the cross?
A: I did – I’m a carpenter. My wife accompanies me on the road and we carry a spare cross on top of our van. If they both got damaged, I could make another one in a day.


Q: Are you on the road all the time?
A: No, I walk with the cross during the school holidays. We travel with a van and caravan and often people let us stay on their land. My 14 year old son has been with us but flies home tomorrow to spend a week with his mates before school starts again.

Q: Have you experienced any problems on the road?
A: There are a lot of narrow bridges so we often put the cross in the van to cross these and then I start walking again.



Kim and Joan, may God bless you as you travel the South Island. We pray He will bring people across your path who will be touched by the story of your cross - and the cross that inspired it!

Saturday, February 27, 2016

An Unusual Cemetery

The graveyard reminded me of a miniature town, complete with little buildings and quaint streets. I was standing at the entrance to La Recoleta Cemetery in Buenos Aires which is where the remains of Eva Peron are entombed.


As I wandered along paved walkways, I stopped frequently to peer through iron grilles, Perspex windows and slatted doorways. Several tombs had coffins stacked inside – not as we know them today – but more bulky with rounded ribs of wood. One contained two large ones and a tiny baby size one.


As one does in such a place, I wondered about all those who have gone before us, what their lives were like one or two centuries ago, what they would think if they could walk out onto the streets of Buenos Aires in 2016. That thought led me to a section of scripture that described what happened at the moment of Jesus’ death.




Matthew 27:51-53 At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split and the tombs broke open. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. They came out of the tombs after Jesus’ resurrection and went into the holy city and appeared to many people.



That’s the only information we are given so we don’t know how long the holy people were in the city and what happened next. Have you ever wondered how that day unfolded? What family members would have said when long-deceased loved ones appeared to them? Would they have been able to touch them … invite them to their homes … how would they have been dressed … could old hurts have been laid to rest ...




 La Recoleta was a fascinating walk down the lanes of history but it settled one thing in my mind. When I die, I’m confident that I’ll pass from this world straight into the arms of my Heavenly Father, but please don’t entomb my remains in a dark cold hole. Take me for one last plane ride and when you find a frothy confluence of turquoise rivers, a spot where the ocean surges against mountains, and a scattering of wild flowers, then let my ashes go to swirl and dance before settling into the arms of this land that I’ve grown to love so dearly.

  









Thursday, December 24, 2015

The Golden Sandals – a True Christmas Story

It was six years since I’d seen my parents, and nine years since I’d been back to Africa, but the first thing I noticed was my mother’s sandals. They were tired-looking, colour peeling from the uppers, soles worn. As the days rolled past, I noticed she wore these shoes all the time and eventually she apologised for their condition and told me why. “I got them in New Zealand when we last visited you and I keep wearing them because they’re comfortable. The only other pair I have hurt my feet.”


The niggle at the back of my mind developed into a fully formed thought. “Give her a pair of your sandals.” I sat in my room that night and looked at the shoes I’d brought with me: black leather sandals that were okay but old, white leather sandals with flowers and thin straps, and my gold sandals. The gold ones were almost new, a $29 special from K-Mart, with soft synthetic uppers, cushioned soles, Velcro fastening, and good support. Perfect for 80 year old feet in fact. They weren’t fuddy duddy by any means but didn’t fit the designer bracket either. I need them, I rationalised to myself. I spend hours on my feet and need comfortable shoes, besides, they were cheap and they’re not even leather. They might not last well. I can’t give them to her. I ignored the fact that I had a cupboard full of shoes at home.

The next day, the niggle was stronger and I decided I would try and find Mom a pair of Gold Sandals when I got home. First of all though, I needed to see what size she would need. In past years, she’d always worn a size bigger than I did. I took the sandals off, explaining my idea, and she eagerly slipped her feet into them.

It was like Cinderella trying on the glass slippers: they fitted perfectly.



“I’ll send Chantelle (my daughter) a message and get her to look for some,” I said, fastening them back onto my feet. The problem was, I knew the Christchurch stores did not have the sandals in stock, and I had bought mine in Nelson, a five hour drive from home.

That night, when I returned to my room on the other side of retirement complex, my heart hung heavy in my chest. I knew I was being selfish but as I sat on the bed, God spoke clearly into the silence. “You do know they weren’t yours to begin with.”

“What weren't?” I said.

“The shoes. I had them in mind for my daughter, your mother. I used you as a messenger to find them, get the right size and deliver them.”

Oh the shame I felt. I realised it wasn’t about the money, but rather the fact that I thought they were irreplaceable. That I wouldn’t be able to get another pair. The issue wasn’t the sandals. It was my heart. It was almost Christmas, the time when we remember how much God gave us, and yet I was too mean to give my own mother a pair of sandals.  

The next morning I put my old shoes on and carried the gold ones across to my parents’ home. “They’re yours,” I said, laying them on the carpet in front of her.

It was as though a light had turned on inside of her. “For me? Are you sure? I’ll pay you for them.”

“No, they’re a gift,” I replied, and they were. I was no longer attached to them. I’d realised that God was at work and that His ways were and are so much better than ours.

Her smile grew even wider. “Can I wear them to church?”

“Of course you can!” I replied.

Mom wore those sandals every day for the rest of my visit and remarked frequently how comfortable they were and how nice they looked on her feet. I knew it was because the Creator of the Universe had chosen them for her and He had organised the size, colour, style and fit.


But the story doesn’t end there. It turned out that I had to travel to Nelson a few days after my return to New Zealand and one of the clients I visited, was in Richmond Mall. The K-Mart I bought the gold sandals from was across the car park from the mall and I had a few minutes to spare. I looked at the shop, wondering if it would be acceptable to my Heavenly Father to go and have a look. “Are you happy for me to go to K-Mart?” I asked Him? Peace welled up inside, so I hurried over and headed to the shoe department.

I saw them straight away, a pair of gold sandals, size seven, hanging on a hook. What was more, they had been marked down to $12. I slipped them onto my feet, relishing the familiar feel and cushioned support. And then I saw they were available in black as well. I walked out with two pairs of shoes and a heart full of joy.

What a fine example of God’s grace. God doesn’t take away from us to hurt us. He teaches us to hold things loosely and then He is free to bless us in greater measure. I treasure my gold sandals as they’re more than just a pair of shoes to me. Each time I fasten them on I’m reminded of God’s grace and love, and that He’s interested in every aspect of our lives. Even in cheap gold sandals with synthetic uppers, cushioned soles, Velcro fastening, and good support.









Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Follow your Dreams

In January 2016 it will be ten years since we moved to New Zealand. As I look back, I'm awed at all God has done and the opportunities He's put in our paths. In the midst of moving country for the second time - and to a land far across the ocean, I had a dream to become an author. The desire had been there since early childhood and I'd had some success in South Africa - children's stories and short fiction published in magazines - but I wanted more. There were stories buried deep in my heart that longed to spread themselves across pages for people to read.



I made a firm decision that in this new land, I was going to become a writer. I backed this up by doing a freelance journalism course and signing up to a number of writing groups - both in Christchurch and online. The most significant of these was Faithwriters.com. I started entering their weekly challenge and sent my words out week after week, gladly receiving the comments and advice posted by other writers. Within a couple of months my stories were placing in the weekly contest and my confidence grew.

Ten years on, I can say that God has honoured my desire and efforts and with a number of significant writing competition wins to my name and eight published books, my dreams have come to pass. Just this week, I heard that the first chapter of my work in progress - Twisted Ribbons - had placed first in the Faithwriters Page Turner Contest.



The release of Broken Shells in November 2015 has been one of the highlights of my writing career. Set mostly in the Marlborough region of New Zealand, the story dropped into my heart on the way home from a trip to the area. Think azure seas, grey volcanic  beaches, white driftwood, and vineyards that follow the swell of gentle hills. In this beautiful setting, Taylor looks at the broken shell of her life and with the support of Logan and Greer, allows God to restore and heal. Broken Shells won the Rose & Crown New Novels Competition in 2012. If you'd like to read a sample or purchase the book, you will find it here.

To celebrate the release of Broken Shells, a new edition of Embracing Change is available on Kindle for a special promotional price of 99 cents. Embracing Change won the Rose & Crown New Novels Competition in 2012.