Saturday, 7 January 2017

Early days in 2017: gratitude

The New Year. Reflections on the old. A 'gratitude' map:
Of course, many of these things I think about when I write our annual Christmas newsletter. But it's good to add in other little things as well as significant names:

Journeying through 2016: trains, planes and automobiles. Or, rather, planes, bikes and a motorhome.

Like the wise men of the nativity story, or Bilbo Baggins in The Lord of the Rings, we too have, in many ways, been on quite a journey this year. In January we returned from the Other Side of the Earth, after seeing Cat marry Andy. They wanted their wedding to be God-honouring, inclusive, as families and friends met and mingled, and fun. And indeed it was. After the ceremony (conducted by Andy’s brother) in a historic church, we had the reception in a marquee in an idyllic setting on the edge of the ocean. Afternoon tea on the lawn, games, and a NZ buffet dinner. Such a joyous occasion, tinged also with bittersweet as we realised afresh that Cat will be making her home there in the future.
For the present, she and Andy are in Vanuatu where he works for UNICEF as a water and sanitation engineer and she works in project management for the Food and Agriculture Organisation, a branch of the UN. Come January, they head off to Dohuk, Iraq, joining Medair’s Disaster Relief Programme where Cat will be Project Support Manager and Andy will head up their Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) programme. Jonny and Adele too may be adventuring further afield than Norwich, where they have been teaching for some years.

Our feet have also been VERY itchy. For the last couple of years we had considered moving to New Zealand, a decision with which we wrestled long and  very, very hard. The weather and the spacious lifestyle appealed and we had been granted immigration rights. It is a long, long story, but in the end – despite the All Blacks winning the Rugby World Cup - for a hotchpotch of reasons, we decided to settle down in Guernsey instead. After a few months of house-hunting, we found a home to buy. We had loved the house we had been renting, with its peaceful location and huge garden, so thought it would be a wrench to leave.

But not at all. Our new home is a spacious bungalow in a very rural part of Guernsey, a stone’s throw from the south coast cliffs. (It is a full 8 miles away from where we lived before which, for Guernsey folk, is almost equivalent to moving to New Zealand. They check they have their passport before coming to visit us.)  We benefit from the sun streaming through the windows from sunrise to sunset and outside there are several sheltered sunny nooks. Buzzards and harriers glide over our large, shrub-filled garden. We have lovely neighbours. The house has ticked more of our boxes than we could ever imagine and it has quickly felt like home. Do come and visit!

Tradition says that Mary travelled to Bethlehem on a donkey. The wise men almost certainly rode on camels. Bilbo walked. We cycle, mostly, in Guernsey, often with the dog who has her own seat, but we have also acquired a motorhome. So the summer holidays were spent journeying down through France to northern Spain, with the blessing of Jonny and Adele’s company for a couple of weeks. Cycling, surfing, even walking the Ceres Gorge through the Picos de Europa. Many adventures. It was good, too, to catch up with 9 different lots of friends and family in England over half term, driving 1000 miles in 7 days.

So...Richard is now retired, with gradually improving health which has enabled him to enjoy the gardening and  home improvements. Angie still enjoys the teaching aspect of teaching: children never fail to amuse. Pickle has adjusted to her new life,  enjoying barking through the fence at the neighbouring dogs.

In all this, we are grateful for so many blessings and we look back on the year with immense thankfulness for God’s guiding hand on our lives, for family and friends, for the gift of a beautiful place to live, and for new opportunities as we explore new expressions of faith with a group of friends. Exciting times.

We treasure our friends, old and new, and wish you a year full of blessings and much happiness. We hope you have a wonderful Christmas season and look forward to hearing about what 2016 has brought to you J

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