31 December, 2016

Looking back at 2016

I've written and sent out our monthly new/prayer letter this week. It included a short look back at 2016. I've got room here to take a slightly broader look.

Here's what I wrote at the start of the year: http://mmuser.blogspot.jp/2016/01/looking-forward-to-2016.html

Our stay at Lake Biwa was definitely one of the highlights of the year. For
me, unexpectedly catching this sunrise (I didn't set an alarm and it was
before 5am) with my new camera was an extra bonus.
A lot of what we expected has happened, especially the bigger "rocks" of conferences, retreats, camping trips etc. I didn't get to the online writing course that I thought I would do, though I did some casual learning about inDesign (the design programme that our design team uses for the magazine).

Things were pretty predictable with usual school events: sporting calendar, changing of school grades up to 6, 8, and 12. There were unexpected day-to-day things within that, like emails from teachers about behaviour and missed homework/assignments! Not nice.

I have kept up reasonably well with exercise, though this has fallen through since November. I've done some long rides once or twice a month. And was going to the gym once a week for a few months. I need to get back on the horse once school starts again next Thursday.

We did get back on track with the magazine, as of Summer, which was posted in Autumn. I'm still trying to find a better balance so that we're not rushing at the end. But it seems that unless a magazine urgently needs to go out in the next four weeks, our design team (as a whole) can't actually manage to work on it!

The unexpecteds of this year were topped by my father-in-law's return of cancer and fast decline. David returned to Australia in February to see him and then again later in the month to his funeral. February was already going to be a hectic month, with two overseas trips planned (me to Bangkok for OMF training and David and Callum to Korea for wrestling). Two extra trips to Australia, not to mention a death of a loved one, put a strain on the household and our parenting. We were relieved to have a week off at the end of March.

Other unexpected are rather pale in comparison:

  • Our camping trip in July was wetter than expected. But we survived remarkably well.
  • Our camping trip in November was colder than expected and we certainly didn't anticipate snow. But again we survived and have some great tales to tell from both adventures.
  • I started meeting some ladies for Bible study in November as a result of a visit from a Bible-story-telling evangelist who works in Taiwan.
  • Being involved in analysing and recommending changes for the OMF Japan website.
  • Becoming the editor of an OMF Tohoku blog and initiating the development of an editing team for a wider OMF Japan blog was also an unexpected development late in the year.
  • Our eldest has taken even more to the guitar and now the count of stringed instruments in our house has reached three: two guitars and a ukulele.
  • Ending up in the organising team for the end of year student-parent events for the seniors, which included a lot of cross-cultural and linguistic challenges as well as doing things that aren't in my particularly skill set: setting a budget and searching for a venue for a banquet.
  • We've had a number of unexpected changes in health around us (including two colleagues struggling with serious cancer), as well as friends who've unexpectedly moved away. That took its toll on me in September, when I felt considerably melancholic.
  • Having all three boys in middle and high school sport has altered things a little too. With them all in cross-country, David and I had some unexpected couple-time thrust upon us. We've had quite a lot more "going-out" dates in the last six months, than we usually have in Japan. Feeling able to trust them all alone at home is a new thing that's eased up the pressure.
  • Oh, a fledgling advancement into photography as a hobby, plus getting a new DSLR camera for free was a big unexpected this year for me too.
Our household is definitely more teenage-like than it was a year ago, with our 11 y.o. seeming to have already reached those rocky years some days. I'm buying and cooking more food than ever before!

Those are the bigger things that stand out for me in 2016, though there are probably some that I've forgotten.

Again, like last year, I've happened upon a great set of verses in my systematic Bible reading today. Ps 16. Especially vs 5-8.

Lord, you alone are my portion and my cup;
    you make my lot secure.
The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
    surely I have a delightful inheritance.
I will praise the Lord, who counsels me;
    even at night my heart instructs me.
I keep my eyes always on the Lord.
    With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken (NIV).
As I said, I felt unusually shaken and out-of-sorts in September (see here about being out-of-sorts and here about the colandar of missionary life) with various losses and potential losses. It is quite relevant to reflect here on how secure I really am in Christ. No matter what the coming year holds, I have security in him.

I hope that I can remember to continue to reflect on this Psalm as the year unfolds, but that is tomorrow's post (or maybe the day after, depending on how well I pull up after tonight's marathon).

No comments: