What an exciting, intense and joy-filled year it’s been. When I stand still and look back, my view now, in comparison to the beginning of the year, is very different to where we began the year.
These are some significant moments that come to mind, in no particular order. There will be plenty of significant moments I have forgotten to document too, as my boys like to remind me, I can be very absent minded!
Incredible spring flowers came out all at once and we had a stunning, colourful and fruitful autmun.
Our Chester church refurbishment completed and, with a team of fabulous, servant-hearted folk, the coffee shop opened. Also the church celebrated its 40th birthday and continues to go from strength to strength.
Longshanks had to brave the sitting-in-rows-with-unkown-people experience at a tertiary college while having exam papers thrust or whipped from under his nose. He sat his first ever academic exams. No mocks prepared him.
Tim commented that one of the highlights of the year for him was the beautiful family walks we did in the summer, exploring more of this stunning country. They were very special. There was one occasion where I encouraged an off-the-beaten-track exploration which everyone complained was boring, until we came around the corner to the open-mouthed wonder of an enormous cave. None of us had ever seen anything like it!
Tim helped in another successful Welsh Assembly election campaign that meant by the time the Brexit referrendum reared its ugly head his campaign battery was dead. We watched from a distance and were saddened and surprised by the unwise commentary and fierce disagreement of friends, whether they were loathers or remoaners.
After 14 years of being home educated, Boffin started a traditional school education, in September, and entered into a new world. The initial month was a culture shock but he has found himself doing very well academically. Now more acclimatised, he is loving it as we hoped he would and is thriving. His Head singled him and his friend out for their outstanding drama performance at the school carol service.
Meanwhile Longshanks, once exams were over, spent the summer flexing his wings, travelling great distances, and – through the kindness of others – has been working mainly on the ground with teams of horses and ponies, learning lots. He has now begun an equine apprenticeship down in south Wales. It was something he was very ready for and we’re excited to see him enjoying a new way of life. This has been so significant to our family dynamic as he is the first to fly. It has made me reflect a lot on nostalgia, family, the exciting adventure of growing up and very grateful for the choice we made to home educate.
We took some time out to go and do the tourist thing as a family. At the end of October we explored London together, including the London Eye, Charlie and Chocolate Factory in the Theatre Royal and the Tower of London. Apparently this was another of Tim’s extra special moments of the year.
In August we had taken time to enjoy being with extended family and 29 of us took over the beautiful Pentrenant Hall in mid-Wales.
I had the opportunity and privilege of playing at the launch of the AOG Worship Album in May, which was amazing. I also, just this last term, began teaching peripatetically in a local school. This has been possible with only the girls continuing their home education.
Miss Friendship amazes me! She is so diligent and approaches everything with meekness. I think that is the right word to describe it. She has this remarkable trait of tenacity and determination to overcome any obstacle in life, yet she is always gentle and kind. She’s ended the year by passing her music theory with a distinction which was the result of cycling over to the next valley regularly for her lessons in music theory and violin. She also bravely preached her first sermon to 300 young people at the beginning of the year.
She and Miss Puddleduck loved the BDS junior camp in the grounds of an amazing manor house in Herefordshire. It was a summer camp with sunshine filled days. The girls learnt lots especially Miss Puddleduck, for whom lots of things suddenly fell into place and really made sense. Miss Friendship worked hard to get our Little-Legs McDuff driving during the summer months, too, and finally succeeded.
Miss Puddleduck’s specific language impairment is obviously here to stay but we felt we had a bit of a break-through with her therapist finally tailoring her therapy to fit specifically both Miss Puddleduck and our education objectives – this after I had explained how much her speech and language difficulties affect her literacy. Miss Puddleduck’s speech has blossomed and she really blessed me by opening a recent church service in prayer. I thought of Moses and was reminded how sometimes the bigger the obstacle to overcome the more evidence of God at work.
Other moments of significance were an educational trip to Israel, for Tim which he found amazing and really stirring. And of course my first novel was published in 2016, Elin’s Air, written under the pen name of Emily Stanford.
We also attended four weddings this year. Each was very different. I had the scary responsibility of being the official photographer at one of them. This turned out to be a real joy and such fun to capture. Another wedding was filmed by the BBC and an amazing day in every way possible. Another was so uniquely true in character, essence and quality it epitomised the bride and groom themselves. But at the last one, which was a beautiful winter wedding and outstanding in so many ways as well, a gentleman I chatted to for a while commented. He said, “If you don’t mind me saying, your lives seem to be very full and selfless.” I am not sure about the selfless bit but they are certainly full of adventure and excitement!
Tim caught me smiling to myself the other morning. “What are you smiling about?”he asked, so I explained that I was looking forward to more adventures in 2017. But within the hour I had realised that 2017 isn’t going to be about adventures. They’re sure to happen however that’s not the focus. I know 2017 is a year full of promise and amazing things. I also know it is going to be a year of tumultuous challenges. I know that global politics will continue to rock the boat and surprise our sense of security. I know that the philosophy of human nature, as told by social media and reactionary journalism, will continue to annoy me. I know I will see my children grow up, become wiser and more fruitful. I know we will see the church grow and get stronger too. But overall, I know that 2017 is going to be a year about dying to self and seeing more of Christ’s life in us, through us and expressed into the world around us. That will be the greatest adventure!