Happy New Year! 2017 is history, and 2018 is a blank page to be painted with another year of happenings.
The happenings of 2017 have colored our year, like most other years, with family and friends, work, rest, and play, difficulties and delights. As we look back over the year, it was very good.
2017 began as Dan and I watched fireworks on the other side of the world, New Zealand to be precise. In celebration of our 35th wedding anniversary we and another couple took the trip that Dan has always wanted to take. It was stunningly beautiful and thoroughly enjoyable. Our only regret was that we hadn’t planned a longer trip.
Christine and Joaquim, however, were glad we were home in time for the birth of their third little boy, Anthony, on February 4th. Oliver (7) and Elion (3) are doing their big brother jobs well. They are living an active life, with three busy boys, and mom and dad are handling it beautifully, if a little tired.
Kenny and Miranda are working hard in their second year of residency at Ohio State, and Brian, a history teacher, and Kelly, a social worker, are keeping themselves busy in Tacoma, WA. They were all home for Christmas, which went way too fast, but it was fun while it lasted!
Dan is still working at World Relief, and this year has been challenging due to cutbacks in the number of refugees allowed to enter the US. They persevere.
I am a part-time career advisor for a local high school, area director for Community Bible Study, do my best to write a weekly blog, and have the pleasure of supervising Christine’s kids one day a week. Somehow, on that day, I manage to cook dinner for the family, including my mom and dad, and we have found it a terrific way to stay connected. When Dan leaves for work on Thursdays, I say, “See you at chaos!” It’s true.
We occasionally take a break from chaos, and our trip to New Zealand was a fantastic hiatus. We hiked in perfect eighty-degree sunshine and chilly sixty-degree rain. We enjoyed the scenery, people, food, cities, and countryside no matter what the weather.
The photo to the right is a scene from one of our first hikes, the Routeburn Track, on a perfect day. Awesome.
The photo below is one of our most memorable moments hiking the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, reportedly New Zealand’s greatest day trek. The day we hiked was cloudy, blustery, foggy and cool, but we didn’t have the flexibility to wait for better weather, so we hiked.
We had anticipated views of Mt. Doom from Lord of the Rings and taking in incredible vistas, but we saw only the inside of a cloud. There was a point at which we were walking along a narrow strip of the trail, in whipping wind and crazy cold, and my sole intention was to watch my feet and make sure that I stayed upright and on the trail. It took all my concentration.
Both of those hikes are memorable in their own ways. The first was absolutely gorgeous, and the second is noteworthy for the stamina and determination it took to survive in nasty conditions. Routeburn was a trail on which we enjoyed looking outward; Tongariro required that we depend on our inward resources. The second is a far more compelling true story.
Jesus no doubt experienced lovely moments on this earth. He had family and friends, he worked, rested, and played. He also had difficulties that we cannot imagine. He was admired; he was despised; he was the Son of God. He lived on this earth, as his name indicates, to accomplish the specific task of saving “his people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:20-21)
The way he did that was unexpected. His humble birth and his brutal death were a story of far more clouds than sunshine and were not what was anticipated of the Messiah, the King. But it’s the truth, and it is compelling.
Jesus surprised us by living and dying in the clouds, in an imperfect society, among flawed people, and yet he lived perfectly and accomplished what he had come to do. He defeated death, and as a result we have the opportunity to “take hold of the life that is truly life” (1 Timothy 6:19).
“For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” John 3:17