Each year I try and do a Christmas letter.
I know the risks of this: unsubtly rubbing people’s noses in it as to how brilliant your life is and how gifted your progeny are. You may chose to put in descriptions of ludicrously expensive holidays with attempted ironic descriptions in: ‘Here we are in Klosters with David Cameron:again. lol’. If you are Christian, you can have all these but you must never admit to doubt, failure or fears; in fact your letter must make the life of St Paul look like something of a failure compared to yours.
The best letters are newsy and honest. This is my stab at it- my wife did redact it to stop me saying too much. It was not our best year and leaves out some things:-
This year has been a year of so many changes: some good, some bad, some mixed.
The biggest change was that Victoria’s dad died at the end of September following a long illness. A couple of weeks after my dad had a life threatening accident from which he is slowly recovering. In addition, we experienced some other issues which caused major heart-searching; we approach the end of 2015 with feelings of both relief and exhaustion.
During the year we moved house: this time last year we knew that we would have to leave the manse but had no idea where (or how) we would live. We subsequently found a place to rent and are living in an older house at the other side of the village: smaller but somehow lovelier.
Friends helped us to move in late May. It feels like home and we all still have many of the same networks and friends that have sustained us (I now lead Beaver Scouts, still turn out in panto and have restarted booking gigs in the village). Throwing things away and decluttering has proved cathartic, almost hopeful.
Mathew and Ben are doing that thing children do: growing. Matthew is now the tallest in the house and is only just 14. He will be doing his first GCSE in June next year. Sometimes we call him ‘Kevin the teenager’ after the Harry Enfield sketch.
Ben has started senior school, likes it and continues to have a wide and varied social life. His batting and leg break and googly bowling have just earned him a place in a couple of local league development squads; if I have sired a leg spinner, my work as a father feels complete. The 3 males have started to run in a local Park run: although I can do a respectable 24 minutes, they always outrun me.
Sometimes I almost feel sorry for Victoria: sharing a house with 3 males is not always easy. Without her steadying hand, we stray into ‘Lord of the Flies’ territory. She continues to teach for 9 days a week (actually 4, but it feels like 9…), now with a year 1 class.
I work as a mental health chaplain: it feels like ‘coming home’- I rove all over North Yorkshire, work flexibly and don’t have an office. The NHS Trust I work for has a good ethos. I also get to work with some lovely people.
I miss what I used to do less than I thought that I would (it helps living in the same village and the local church people have been encouraging: I was incredibly moved by the variety and number of people who turned out for my ‘farewell’). I can’t see going back to ‘normal’ Methodist ministry ever- I have rediscovered weekends and evenings and a supportive working environment plus people say that I look healthier and happier.
On top of the last few months, I guess that we underestimated the emotional impact of changing vocations. This means that this letter will arrive after Christmas and I never got around to writing cards…. If you want a quote to sum up the last few months and our Hope for the future, I can do no better than cite St Leonard Cohen:
‘Ring out the bells that still can ring; forget the perfect offering. There is a crack in everything: that’s how the light gets in’.
Happy Christmas and a hopeful and joyful new year to you…