I turned 45 yesterday. My birthday was supposed to arrive when I was somewhere high over the Atlantic, perhaps just off the coast of Namibia, at the front end of a monster 16-hour homeward flight. I should have long since fallen asleep, and not known exactly where I was when the clock struck midnight, nor even what time zone it might have been. I suppose it’s possible that I would have turned 45 a few times while flying briskly from east to west, from South Africa to North America.
But as it happened, I turned 45 in my own home and my own bed. There was an alternate version of my week where I had traveled to South Africa, then Zambia, then Zimbabwe to do a little preaching, to visit some ministries, and to be part of a conference. I went to bed Thursday night thinking all this would happen. I had even checked in to my flights and gone off to get the negative COVID test that would allow me to enter those countries. But when I awoke on Friday morning I quickly realized that none of it would happen, all thanks to the appearance of a new variant and the immediate international response to it. The countries I had planned to visit were the very countries deemed most unsafe and, had I arrived there, I expect I would have been stranded. So in the end I guess it worked out okay. Still, it was rather a disappointment to have the trip fall apart so close to departure.
I haven’t yet done any international travel since COVID struck and since Nick died. For many years it was a prominent part of my life and I do miss it from time to time—mostly the joy of experiencing Christian worship and fellowship in far-off places. Last week’s trip was to be my first journey in almost two years and I suspected it wasn’t going to be easy. There was a kind of fear that settled over my family the day Nick died—a fear related to a new awareness of the fragility of life. And while we are doing a bit better now than we were a few months ago, we still struggle to believe that we won’t experience other sorrows and losses, that the God who ordained one tragedy for us hasn’t ordained many more. It still feels intimidating to be apart, and especially an ocean apart. But, in God’s providence, that didn’t happen anyway.
That said, it may in the month ahead. Abby has returned from Boyce College for her Christmas break—the final time she will move back into our home before beginning one of her own following her wedding in May. Though she will mostly be working at a nearby grocery store through the winter break, she and I also plan to sneak away for a little trip together—one that was supposed to happen almost two years ago, but has been repeatedly postponed through the pandemic. When the kids were small I told them I’d save all my travel miles and hotel points from all my trips and then use it all to take them each somewhere special. This is what Abby and I hope to do later in the month. But, as always, we are at the mercy of the pandemic and, as it happens, Canada just tightened up all the travel rules again this week. So we will see. Aileen continues to work part time while holding things down around the home, while Michaela has another two weeks at high school before she gets a couple of weeks off. Then we will hopefully settle in for a sweet and restful holiday season together.
As for me, I recently completed a major book project I will be able to tell you about in the coming months. It should be on store shelves in September of 2022. Of all I have ever written, it is my favorite and I hope it will serve the church well. In the next few weeks I’ll be starting another book while, of course, continuing to emphasize the blog. And speaking of the blog, on the first day of November I hit the 18-year anniversary of daily blogging. I’ve been at this for a long time! And, I hope, will be for many more years.
And on that note, let me thank you for reading this article and for reading this blog. It means so much to me that you continue to read along—it’s a tremendous blessing and encouragement. And for that reason and so many more, I wish you and yours God’s richest blessings in the holiday season ahead.