Goodbye 2011. Here’s an epic roundup of the year.

This year has been one of the most crazily intense of my life, and that’s not even close to hyperbole. There aren’t many ways to sum up what has happened, and I’m not sure I even can. Here are some of the themes of my year in no particular order…

The year of running.

This year was the year, in a moment of madness, that I signed up for The Great South Run. Whatever blend of crazy made me do it, I’m glad I did. Training helped me through the random world of Belfast every time we visited, it also made me grateful for well behaved English dogs and understanding looks over here. In Northern Ireland it seems it’s a bit more unusual to see a lady out running in the morning, judging from the many strange looks I got and dogs who chased after me. The run itself was, well, a long slog but I stumbled over the finish time after a respectable 1 hour and 43 minutes.

The year of being proud.

This year was the year that my Dad’s tunnel he’d been working on for many years finally got built. We walked through it before it was open, we drove through it and admired it from many angles. Delightfully he’s been made an MBE in this years honours list. He’s so deserving of this and I’m so crazily proud of him and his work.

I’ve also been very proud to walk with Husbandface through some of the hardest weeks of his life as we watched his Mum, the lovely Geraldine Cunningham lose her battle with cancer. He has shown lots of courage this year and I’m prouder than ever to be his wife.

The year of holidays.

We went on some lovely holidays this year, to Wales with the lovely Taylors and Vincents from church. Here we turned into a sprawling Italian style family for the week, enjoyed lots of fine wine, good talks at Word Alive and the joy of meals together and three small boys to entertain us. We also saw dolphins swimming and ate most of a cow together. Good times.  May saw me and Sarah walking the North Norfolk coast path together, joined for a few of the walks by Johnny and urged on by Husbandface and a very pregnant Anna. We got to visit Dublin for a weekend in August, drank Guinness, spent lots of money and found a leprechaun. Lastly we escaped to the land of Cornwall at the end of the year, battered and bruised by life we sank into our hotel, read lots of books, watched films, ate amazing food and drank lots of wine. Very soothing for the soul. Somewhere throughout the year I attempted to remember that holidays aren’t our final resting place and that we have better rest to come.

The year of Belfast.

I think we went to Belfast almost every month this year.  We spent lots of time with Husbandface’s Mum, lots of time driving around Belfast from hospital to hospital, I’m grateful for the time we had with Geraldine, for getting to know her more this year and for getting to know Belfast more as a city. We spent far too much time in coffee shops over there searching for some normality and whenever I step into a Starbucks now I have a strange feeling that we are in Belfast again.

The year of small children

This year we’ve enjoyed hanging out with some very cute children. We love our two Godsons, both called Samuel, lots and lots. We’ve enjoyed hanging out with them and their siblings, making pizza, making cookies, going on a trip to London, playing hide and seek in our flat and being delighted at their growth and development. We got to see my two Godchildren who live far too far away in Canada, James and Jenny. Welcoming the lovely Emily Faro and Talitha JK (another one for Husbandface’s growing collection of Godchildren) into the world has also been a high point of the year of small children.

We’ve loved seeing our Nephews throughout the year, we’ve been very entertained over skype and in the flesh by Matthew, we loved seeing him (and parents) over the summer, we enjoyed more time to get to know Brendan over in Northern Ireland and we were very happy to see Jonathan over skype when he arrived in November.

The year of God’s work in our lives.

Through all of the above and the everyday stumbling through work, loving the city of Brighton, writing, hanging out with friends, going on camp, ending a job, getting a new one, trying to love the people around us, persevering as a church, enjoying our flat (come stay in our uber nice spare room anytime) and more we have also known and been known by the God who stubbornly holds onto us. We’ve been through fire and floods this year, earthquakes and aftershocks have happened emotionally in our life but we have been held all the way. I am more convinced at the end of the year that we have a God who is in charge of this world, who has welcomed me into his family and who is patiently molding me day by day into the woman he made me to be. We’ve been looking at Hebrews all year in church and it’s message of ‘don’t give up, keep going, Jesus is brilliant, keep on, don’t give up, Jesus is all you need, don’t give up, keep going, your sin has been dealt with once for all, don’t give up, keep going’ is beginning to sink into my soul. It’s been much needed food for all we’ve had to face this year. As I look back I can see the truth and wonder of Isaiah 43 in our lives.

But now, this is what the LORD says—
he who created you, O Jacob;
he who formed you, O Israel:
“Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have summoned you by name; you are mine.
When you pass through the waters,
I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
you will not be burned;
the flames will not set you ablaze.
For I am the LORD, your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior;
I give Egypt for your ransom,
Cush and Seba in your stead.
Since you are precious and honored in my sight,
and because I love you,

I’m also so grateful that God invented the church, so thankful for all the people who have been God’s presence in our lives for us this year, who’ve held us as we’ve wept and who have been safe places for us to run to in the storms.

I’m really not sorry to say goodbye to 2011, it’s been a mental year, but I am grateful that I can stand here on the cusp of 2012 with hope for what is to come. There is some deep, wintery joy going on in my soul as I remember that we have a God who never changes, doesn’t let go, keeps no record of wrongs, is full of unfailing love and is at work in the darkest of times.

Oh and in case you were wondering:

Book of the year: A Praying Life by Paul Millar- Exactly what we needed to read at exactly the right time, we are all dependent children who have a Dad who loves us and loves it when we ask him for help. The only book on prayer that has actually made me run to my Fathers arms.

Albums of the year: Gillian Welch- The Harrow and the Harvest is heartbreakingly beautiful. Paul Simon’s So Beautiful or So What makes me want to be that fresh and creative at 70. Others that made me happy were- The Fleet Foxes- Helplessness Blues, Alison Krass- Paper Aeroplane, Ed Sheeran- +, Adele – 21 and the song that sums up the year is Page CXVI’s Joy.

TV boxset of the year– The one we are ploughing through right now- Treme, hope, Jazz, New Orleans and the cast of the Wire in different roles. Genius stuff.

Film of the year: Looking back the most enjoyable one I watched was the King’s Speech. Not very cool I know, but it was better than the last Harry Potter, Super 8, Drive, Sherlock Holmes, Mission Impossible 4, Submarine and some others that we watched.

New toy of the year: This lovely Macbookpro that I’m typing away on, it’s made writing and blogging lots more fun and speedy. Many thanks to my mother in law for being uber generous.

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