Dear friends and family,
Merry Christmas everyone! 2016: an infamous yet brilliant year. If nothing else, 2016 provoked a strong reaction for many. This is especially true for me, for better and for worse, for richer, for poorer… but no death thank-you-very-much. This season affords the space to take a longer view when reflecting on the year. Looking back I’ve found myself deeply thankful, even a little astonished, about what happened and where I’ve been, trials and all.
This is my first Christmas letter. A lot happened this year, so this is part one of two. Here are some stories from my year…
New year in Nashville
Fresh off the plane from my miracle Christmas trip in England, I celebrated the New Year in Nashville with dancing shoes on. The second term of ministry school kicked off and I finally stopped living like a wayward vagabond and found a place to unpack my bags for a few months at a friend’s home. A month later, a dear friend from England arrived and us British gents enjoyed the good life Tennessee affords.
In March, I travelled down under to Australia for a ministry trip. Putting my feet in the South Pacific hammered home the reality of this dream come true. Frankly, how I got there still astounds me. At the height of my discouragement about raising the money to get there, I asked God for some encouragement. Not fifteen minutes later, a weird glitch made a phone call from my friend in England appear as if it were coming from Australia. I realised God was speaking and my doubt disappeared. One way or another, this was happening. Sure enough, over the next weeks some outrageously generous friends and family gave precisely the amount needed.
My favourite moment of the trip was telling a girl — in front of her entire school — the good things I heard God say about her life and future (likely a mortifying moment for her), then later hearing she quietly approached our team after the assembly to give her heart to Jesus in response.
We also did church on a beach. Thoroughly recommended.
Making ends meet
In April, the ministry school was coming to a close and I realised I’d way overspent on my budget. I asked my family if they could pray. Then something strange happened… three days later a friend who I hadn’t spoken to in five years sent me a graduation gift of $350, then a couple of weeks later another $250. All told, $600 appeared out of thin air exactly when I needed it.
Two things of note:
- I’ve not had trouble meeting ends meet for years
- I’ve never been given a financial gift without asking
Instead of sitting at home, waiting for another month to roll around, I could actually go outdoors and celebrate graduating school with my friends. It made all the difference.
The gifts didn’t stop there… all year I was hoping to go to a three-day music festival called Bonnaroo. As the event in June approached, it became evident I couldn’t afford the ticket. So, in response to a message at church, I simply asked God if he could make it happen. Within 20 minutes, a friend, without prompting, promised me a free ticket to the festival. A week later I watched some of my favourite bands play, barely able to tell if I was in the middle of a delusional fantasy or experiencing reality.
Quit my job
During my last week in Nashville, a friend invited me to apply for a web design job in town. As I prepared my CV (Americans: resumé) and pitched my merits to this business, I gained more confidence in my capabilities. Over the past year I’d learnt some key skills to not only make great websites but help businesses grow. I could also do a lot better financially along the way. As with most decisions nowadays, I journaled with God about it and felt it was a good decision.
So as my time in Nashville came to a close, I said tearful goodbyes and flew back to England. A few weeks later, I handed in my notice and quit my job at Jetmaster, where I’ve worked for the past four years. I successfully pitched a couple of proposals and launched my freelance business, tripling my hourly pay.
The wild coda to this is, a month later the principal investor in Jetmaster declared the business insolvent, making all the staff, including my boss, redundant. It was awful to see my co-workers put through this, yet conversely I felt so thankful that I was protected. I was distinctly aware I’d narrowly avoided the drama of redundancy, getting to start a business on my own terms and hit the ground running… all possible by God’s good timing.
To be concluded…
Tomorrow I'll post the second part of my 2016 Christmas letter, as well as some concluding thoughts. Thank you for reading this far.