Over at Rev Gal Blogpals the Friday Five asks for five blessings of 2011 and five hopes for 2012. Today I’ll only manage the first category…
Love I experience it most directly and often in my life from Andrew. We’ve been together for seventeen years now, and that’s a good thing! But lots of other people love me and that sustains me and transforms me and helps me understand a little more about what it might mean that God is love.
Friends This year wouldn’t have been possible without the blessing of friends. In particular our friends, Scott and Amanda, were unstintingly loving and generous to me this year when sarcoidosis became the defining feature of 2011. They visited me every day in hospital, took me into their home, fed me, drove me to appointments, did my washing, helped make Andrew and I being in different countries attempting to live on one income financially viable and basically took care of me physically and emotionally for the four months I found myself in New Zealand. They did it all again when I was in New Zealand for my check up in October. They also came to visit in Beijing. We’re lucky to know them, are inspired by the way they live their lives and highly rate them as human beings!
Scott and Amanda aren’t the only people whose love and generosity transformed 2011 for us. I was visited, cooked for, prayed for, entertained, loved and taken care of by a whole crew of lovely and loving people. If I make a list I’m sure to miss somebody out but Lisa was the star of gluten-free, vegetarian supplements to hospital food and also did a lot of ferrying about and gentle companionship; Helen is a fantastic feminist fierce friend; Marg brought me such gentle words of encouragement as well as gluten-free treats; Nan took care of my technological needs, making sure I could easily stay in touch with Beijing; and Barb and Kentigern and Lilian who know me would remind me that things do not remain the same when I was in need of some hope and some courage – all of them and lots of others too (Sarah and Dave and Chris and Gus and Nick and Simon and many more) blessed me with friendship. I also had the love of family members and their practical support. My parents-in-law were supportive and generous and loving – which is how they are in general but I especially got to experience it this year!
Medical Care I was so well taken care of in my sickness. From the emergency clinic in Beijing through my GP in New Zealand and particularly the team at Waikato Hospital. I had specialists who took the time to make sure I understood what was happening to me (like the endocrinologist who gave me a brochure, then spent another ten minutes drawing some other diagrams so I’d know not just the generic version of what was happening, but how it was being played out in my body in particular). And excellent nursing care. They were both responsive and gentle to me and fierce advocates for me. They got me a skype connection with Andrew so that after my biopsy I could share results with him face to face. When a specialist came and told me about the suspected granulomas in my brain in a slightly casual and not very informative way leaving me a bit bewildered and emotional, the nurse chased down the doctor and made him come back and explain to me properly and with a nurse present so that I would be better informed and supported. I could go on about the many examples of good care – there were many. Add into that the persistence and love shown by my complementary medicine practitioners and I can say that I couldn’t have hoped for a better team to do 2011 with.
Beijing It would be easy to let the sarcoidosis eclipse everything about 2011 but 2011 was also a year of living in Beijing. I got to experience snow for the first time, make a trip to Xi’an to see the Terracotta Warriors, have a Chinese New Year for the first time, make new friends and enjoy working with and for an amazing congregation.
Spirit I’ve been trying to think what to call this blessing! I guess it is to do with God’s faithfulness, persistence and love. I experienced it in the love of friends and family; in the care of the medical teams; in all those things I’ve written about. I feel very much aware of it when I gather with our congregation for worship on a Sunday: the diversity of ages and nationalities and traditions and life-experience – called to be together: worshipping and loving and serving. I enjoy it when I see great art or watch a good movie or read an engaging book. I feel connected to it when I’m drawing or writing or making or cooking or dreaming.
I’ve been reflecting a bit on some of the ways that 2011 was a hard year. Certainly spending months so sick, being unable to read or write or make or do – none of that was easy. Four months away from Andrew was not my idea of a good time! But there was a lot that was good about 2011 and for that I give thanks.
And a bonus: not my hopes for 2012 but one of my favourite pieces of music from 2011.