Dear Family and Friends,
As you may know, I like to reflect on the Christmas Story when I sit down to write our annual Christmas letter. In recent years I have found myself identifying with the shepherds in the story. Regular, working class folk going about their ordinary days, but choosing to embrace the divine in their midst.
At the beginning of 2015 I assumed this year’s letter would be more of the same. I had recently started working in Medical Transcription, Nick was continuing on at the group home and the kids filled their days with school, sibling rivalry and sleep. But early into this past year we began to have an internal struggle about the direction our family was headed. The emotional roller coaster of Nick applying for vocational ministry positions and the anticipation of waiting for replies had taken a toll on our hearts and minds. I had begun to think I had lived too wrapped up in church community and maybe it was time to look for a place to share my gifts and love outside of sacred walls. The kids started to develop deep friendships and had claimed Georgetown as their home.
In early March it was beginning to look like I would relate most to the people in Bethlehem when it came time to write this year’s letter. Comfortable in my day-to-day life, doors closed to protect and invest in the people who lived behind them. Shutters drawn against any hint of the unexpected in the unassuming couple looking for refuge.
Then came April and someone knocked on our door.
Then came May and we peeked through the peephole to see who it might be.
Then came June and, despite our best efforts to proceed with caution and tread lightly on a new path, we were swept up in the hurricane of the Holy Spirit moving and we knew immediately the direction we were to pursue. Life really hasn’t slowed down enough for us to catch our breath since June.
As the year draws to a close I know that Mary is the character in the Christmas story who will best sum up 2015 for our family. There she was going about her regular days, planning to follow the regular path and do life like all regular people and then an angel interrupted her, “Greetings you who are highly favoured! The Lord is with you.” and from that point on nothing was regular in her life. I have also discovered that we tend to romanticize the story, and romanticize the adventures of life. It’s true that it is exciting to go new places and meet new people and do new things. But it’s also hard. And scary. And exhausting.
In past years when I have read the Christmas story I have thought things like ‘oh Mary, how amazing to be chosen to be Jesus’ mother’ or ‘could you imagine an Angel telling you exactly what God wants of you?’ or even ‘if only I could be that lucky!’ This year as I considered Mary’s part I realized how difficult it must have been for her.
Instead of enjoying an engagement, she had to endure gossip.
Instead of readying a home to welcome her son to, she had to leave everything she knew behind.
Instead of anticipating a lifetime of memories, she had to accept that he wouldn’t be with her for long.
How did she do it? How could she be so brave and strong and humble?
In 2015 we packed up our life in Ontario and headed back out west to Saskatchewan. We did it with excitement. We did it with trepidation. We have grieved, as there is a place for that in change, and we have also rejoiced. We have had days of doubts and days of endless possibilities.
But perhaps the biggest lesson we have begun learning in 2015 is the same as Mary had to learn at the beginning of the story, ‘but the angel said to her, Do not be afraid.’ In order for Mary to fulfill her part in the story she had to look up. She couldn’t get caught up in her circumstances, her questions or her worries. She had to choose to trust and say ‘I am the Lord’s Servant’. The end of 2015 finds us saying the same and as so often happens when we choose to trust and obey, God does more than we could hope or imagine.
In July we had the opportunity to go to an amazing camp and build a deep bond with friends that even 3,000 miles can’t stretch thin. We were blessed under a tent full to overflowing with love and well-wishes from friends who have become family to us. We said hard good-byes to relatives we were only able to make memories with because we obeyed God’s call to Georgetown in 2006.
In August we took our time road-tripping half way across the country and actually enjoyed it. We got to hang out with family and say ‘see you tomorrow’ and the kids were able to return to day camp at Rosewood which was a definite highlight.
September began with us purchasing our first home. A home bought not on our hard work alone, but with the love so many of you showed us in tangible ways. We are humbled by your generosity.
Since then we have been privileged in doing the hard work of building new friendships and learning a new culture. The kids have been ice skating for the first time ever, we’ve been able to host parties and play dates. We have been welcomed with open arms and can truly say we are blessed beyond measure. In letting go of what was regular In order to let God do something extraordinary in our lives, we are ending 2015 like Mary at the end of the story as she ‘treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.’
It is our hope and prayer for you on the brink of this New Year that you too will find a measure of courage, humility and trust to look up and embrace the adventure waiting for you in 2016. That the challenges and worries and circumstances will pale in comparison to the joy and blessing that comes when we choose to not be afraid, but trust that amazing things can happen simply by us letting go of what is regular in our lives.
We look forward to being a part of that in the lives of friends and family who are near and hope that those of you far from us know we love to hear what is happening with you too! We covet your texts and emails and calls (and look forward to seeing as many of you as possible when we visit this summer!)
Thank you so much for being a part of our journey and for letting us be a part of yours.
Merry Christmas and warmest wishes for a blessed New Year!