It is not hyperbole to say that 2018 has been the Dickens-esque “best of times, worst of times” for our family with both its blessings and trials. It’s amazing to think how much pain, joy, and change one year could bring. All in all, I think we will remember 2018 as a year of contrast—contrast between celebratory high points and heart-wrenching lows.
In 2018 we said goodbye to some of our closest family as the Lord called them home; and we said hello to new family as the Lord gave new life.
We looked on with much sadness as dear friends’ marriages struggled and dissolved; and we participated in the joyful wedding celebration of loved ones.
We observed the church of Christ attacked from both within and without; and we enjoyed the protection of Jesus Christ, the Good Shepherd, in spite of such evil.
We were abused by those who were called to provide spiritual care for us; and we were provided healing through God’s Spirit and by way of some of Christ’s dear servants.
We were horrified by false accusations leveled against those we love by those who we thought loved us; and we were heartened at knowing that even our Lord Jesus was falsely accused and he sympathizes with us even from the right hand of God the Father.
We witnessed professing Christians sin terribly and harden their hearts; and we saw others exhibit great humility, repent of sin, and find restoration.
We were greatly disappointed by fellow church members who bought into suspicions, slander, and out-right lies; and we were greatly encouraged by church members who stood boldly in defense of truth and the unjustly accused.
We were abandoned by cherished friends that we’ve walked alongside in life and ministry for many years; and we established new friendships that we pray will last for decades to come.
We were hurt more deeply by more friends than we’ve ever been hurt in all our lives before 2018; and through the pain we found ourselves clinging closer to Christ, our friend who sticks closer than a brother, through prayers and meeting with him in his Word.
We were financially affected by job demotions and pay decreases; and yet we were provided with promotions and new, much more enjoyable careers.
We experienced the loss of a child through miscarriage; and we rejoiced in knowing that our God who gives and takes away is worthy of our praise in both the giving and the taking.
We probably cried more tears in the past 12 months than in any other year we can remember; and still we probably smiled more smiles and laughed more laughs—even through the tears.
While there were certainly many more happy days for us in 2018 than difficult ones, the valleys we walked through this year just seemed deeper and darker than we ever remember experiencing.
Yet through every day our gracious God was kind to remind us through his Word and by his divine Spirit that not only is he the sovereign King who has decreed all things that come to pass, but also that all of these providences are meant for our good because of the unchanging love with which he has loved us in Christ.
With that in mind, we find ourselves closing out 2018 and welcoming the new year with humble gratitude in our hearts and praise on our lips to the One who has preserved us thus far.
Here are just a few more of the highlights and milestones from the past 12 months:
- The twins celebrated their first birthday, along with other firsts like first plane flight, first wedding, first snow, first time to the beach, not to mention all of the developmental firsts that accompany the transition from infant to toddler.
- I had the blessing of being Best Man in my brother-in-law’s wedding in Joplin, MO, back in January. He married his “jr. high sweetheart,” and we enjoyed having them live with us for a few months after the wedding.
- In June we were elated to meet our newest niece, Jada Grace, who continues to brighten the room with her big brown eyes and contagious smile.
- I helped organize the 11th-annual Building Tomorrow’s Church conference which offered a weekend of encouraging messages and sweet fellowship.
- Paige had LASIK surgery to give her perfect vision—which she is loving!
- Paige and I celebrated a lucky 13 years of marriage with a simple dinner date, followed by a trip to Target for more diapers.
- Our church—the church that I have attended since I was two years old—celebrated 33 years of God’s mercy and protection and continues to faithfully preach Christ and him crucified.
- I was approved by congregational vote at church to be a “gifted brother” (basically a formally recognized teacher), along with two other dear brothers, and have found myself taking on more and more teaching and preaching at church.
- My first company (out of three this year) sent me to London, and I extended my trip giving me the opportunity to meet up with old friends, visit the Globe, worship at Spurgeon’s old church, Metropolitan Tabernacle, take in a show at Piccadilly Circus, and visit the graves of some of my heroes of the faith at Bunhill Fields.
- I received a call to go to Cuba where I ministered to the churches and a seminary there through preaching, as well as some video and photojournalism work.
- In October the Lord graciously provided me with a new career as the director of a coworking office space in Downtown Phoenix. And so far I am loving every bit of the challenging, but exciting work!
- And finally, I enjoyed a weekend of hunting and camping with some of my closest buddies just after things at church fell apart. It was a much-needed, much-appreciated time of bonding with dear brothers in Christ and fellow men of God.
2018 was certainly a year of travel, as you can tell. We traveled near and far this past year, sometimes together, sometimes just me—Casa Grande, Sedona, and Flagstaff in state; Southern California, Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri, Texas, and Florida in country; and beyond our borders to the United Kingdom and Cuba.
On a sadder note, since November of 2017—just over a year ago—we have said goodbye nine times to family members and friends who have left this world through a variety of ways—health complications that come with old age, one by cancer, one by miscarriage, and one by suicide. Reflecting back on many of those who have left us in the past 14 months, on Paige’s side of the family we have now seen an entire generation pass on. And almost as to remind us once more of our mortality and the brevity of our lives, we found out on December 30th that another friend had unexpectedly died. What a way to end the year.
We are told in James 1:2-3, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.” 2018 was a trying year with some of the most difficult days and weeks and months we have ever experienced in our lives. But we find ourselves looking back at the year and counting it all joy knowing that our faith has been tested so as to produce steadfastness in our Christian walks.
As we turn the page on 2018 and close out that chapter in our lives, we do so with great optimism and anticipation to see what the Lord will do. He is already working in our midst; we can see that clearly. And so we continue to trust in him, our Jehovah Jireh, the God who provides.