In my life I have often celebrated New Years Eve with close friends and this year I was blessed to do the same – but differently. Ruth and I joined our good friend Paul and the Ingham family, who have become like a third family for us in Carlisle. In the late hours of 2012 we discussed what God had been saying to us, and came to Him in prayer for the year ahead. It was so nice to take time out to seek God on such an occasion. We were also delighted to listen to Big Ben chime on the radio and see fireworks right out the window!
Our first Christmas together as a married couple was also our first opportunity (and perhaps the last for a while) to share Christmas with Ruth’s family. We are really blessed to be able to drive down to Norwich to share in the celebrations. We were able to spend time with Ruth’s Parents, Gran and Uncle and partner (pictured).
We were also fortunate to visit Ruth’s sending church NBC for their Nativity and Carols services and see some old friends over the pre-Christmas weekend. It was a great time of refreshment for both of us.
“I thought I spoke English before I came to the UK” I exclaimed to those gathered at the table. The night before the big celebration a few of us close friends from ship days gathered together for dinner and were sharing our experiences of adapting to British culture.
A little over a year since we shared two years of our lives in close quarters with so many people we called friends, I cannot describe to you how refreshing it was to be back in the company of these old friends. Chief amongst these for me were some of my closest friends from my time onboard. Ruth also enjoyed meeting with friends of hers. I was encouraged by others sharing their stories of difficulty adapting to british culture after marrying Brits. Calling crackers biscuits and calling biscuits cookies, parking on the wrong side of the street and misunderstanding social cues. Sometimes I feel totally foreign and at other times I feel like I belong here.
The celebration lunch happened the day before they left for the US and just weeks before their US wedding and held all the hallmarks of a wedding reception. It was a delightful affair – and it was so nice to see them walking the road to marriage so well. I was very impressed by the way Colton had prepared every detail for their future life together in the states.
Christian weddings are often a great witness to God’s goodness to us and our ability to celebrate without excess in drinking and the like – and this celebration was a shining example. I loved the way the speeches reflected God’s provision and guiding in their lives, that whilst alcohol was available it barely featured, that we celebrated with such a lovely barn dance – and mostly that we could all gather around Claire and Colton to pray God’s blessing upon them as they travel onwards and together. They say that Christian marriage should reflect the way Jesus loves the church and we love him – and this is already evident in their lives.
“We’re just glad to have you for Christmas” were my Mum’s kind words. After two years away from home missing Christmases and Birthdays, it was good to be home this year for my birthday, Christmas and New years. Often I think to myself that even though I would never change where God has taken me, I have in some way neglected my family and friends back home – that I’ve travelled the world doing God’s work, but left friends in the lurch. Spending this season at home, before jetting away again is an opportunity for me to make up for lost time. To spend quality time with my family, to help around the home where I can, to laugh, cry and hope with friends wherever they are at in life and to share with anyone who wants to know a little of what God has been doing in my life. My prayer is that God will use me in the time that I am here to bless people.
I was also delighted to spend this Christmas Eve at Grace Wamberal. I put in many hours of planning and two days of maintenance work to bring our lighting installation up to scratch for the carols service. It was so rewarding to see it on the night – everything working and arranged for the best coverage. Few if any people commented on the lighting this year, and that’s actually the way that I think it should be. They didn’t notice it at all, rather they were rejoicing and celebrating Jesus birth. When large numbers of people notice what I do, whether positive or negative – I know I’ve done something wrong, because my job is to point to the saviour, not to wow people with special effects.
As the new year dawns, I’ll be getting back to working in the church office on websites near and far in addition to continuing work on the audio visual equipment. I hope to be of the best use to the kingdom of God that I can be during these summer months at home. In April I will be heading over to England to be involved in an Audio/Visual missions movement called OMNIvision. I wish you and your families and friends all the best for 2012.