A year-end letter to friends and readers

Christmas carries on at our home, as we consider the gift of still-fresh memories of the past year and the promises of the next.

   “Hon, if you had to wrap 2019 up in a few words or a sentence, how would you do that?” I asked on Christmas Day.

   The Preacher answered without hesitation. “Surprise!”

   Perfectly condensed. I couldn’t have expressed it better. Flipping through my photos from the last twelve months I marvelled how many remarkable events God slipped into our 2019 calendar, some we could never have anticipated. And for each one, he proved faithful.

At work, my colleague Judy’s side of the office is now a waiting/sitting room. She retired following a long period of ill health and surgery complications. Every workday, I miss our teamwork, her generous spirit, sharp wit and infectious laughter. But God is good, and precious friendships should never be shelved. Our almost decade of side-by-side casework and advocacy forged a bond neither of us can escape or wishes to. We still speak to and see each other often.

   Even our wheels surprised us, making an unplanned vehicle switch necessary. My faithful old Impala sits in our daughter’s yard now. My newer one showed up at the perfect time—a God wink, that.

   The Preacher’s second biggest surprise arrived when his sister Sue walked off the plane—the “parcel” he and Amanda drove to the airport to pick up. She stayed about two weeks; not nearly long enough. My own sister and brother and their spouses came later—a happy happening, though for a sad reason—a set of three family funerals of a much beloved uncle and two aunts.

But those funerals blessed us too, with family reunions reminding us all of another, bigger meeting someday in Heaven.

   Nor did we expect that our daughter and son-in-law would move to a beautiful acreage about the same distance from us as their last home, just in another direction. We’re thrilled they chose to remain in the area.

   My cataract surgeries made me far-sighted, rather than myopic. After a lifetime of near-sightedness, I’m still adjusting to that shock.

   God saved our biggest surprise for the final month of 2019—the purchase of a sweet retirement home we expect to move into permanently one day. A home on one level for the Preacher’s convenience. It’s not far from a hospital, and closer to our daughter’s family. When it’s time, saying farewell to our cozy home in Ebenezer, with its park-like backyard, close-knit community and church family we’ve come to know and appreciate, will be difficult. Hope House has been a gift for a beautiful decade. We’ll enjoy it until we sell it, praying even now for the right purchaser to live in and love our home.

   Some surprises none of us welcome, but we’ve learned that God does amazing things with those too. Whatever your surprises have been or will be, look for reminders of his love and care. And Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to our readers and friends.

Added note for online readers only:

As I type, it’s the first day of 2020. As usual, the daily news on mainstream media brings no cheer for our limping world. But in my daily scripture reading and reflection, using the First5 app (which travels through the Bible at a chapter a day) the writer makes this comment: “…everything that rattles us is a gift to draw us closer to God. Whether it’s the blessing of God’s presence or the blessing of being so shaken there is nowhere else to turn but to God — both draw us to Him.”

2020 will doubtless bring things that shake us. When it does, my prayer is we’ll remember to turn to God and find him as scripture promises – the God WITH us.

Blessed New Year, friends.

Looking forwards…because we know who goes with us.