Today, a year ago, we landed in the UK.
I thought I’d take a moment to honour God and honour the heroes I live with, and the heroes who have surrounded our family.
I want to honour my extraordinary husband, Murray, for his courage under fire. To say this past year has come at a cost is an understatement. He left South Africa at the height of his career. He could scarcely have climbed higher. He couldn’t possibly have been more loved, esteemed and respected by his patients and partners and employees. He’s come to a new country at the top of the world and started again at the very bottom.
Make no mistake. He has been noticed. He can do no other. He’s brilliant and kind and uniquely gifted and he offers to make tea for the receptionists and this is Not The Done Thing here in the land of straight lines and I think they’re all a bit awestruck by his wonderfulness. (As am I, and always will be.)
The point is, he’s had to fight his temperament to do what we’ve done. He’s a Six on the Enneagram. He’s a loyalist and a strategist and a man of flawless integrity. The weight of responsibility settles in his bones like a heavy hardship he is passionate to bear. We have no guarantees this whole thing will end gloriously. But we know everything we live becomes a story we’ll tell, and Murray wants our boys to tell the story of a dad who was brave enough to risk everything for them. I know of few men selfless and humble enough to go from breaking ceilings to being the bridge strong enough for our kids to walk across into their futures. Murray defies the upward mobility of the culture, laying himself down like a living gospel.
I want to honour our eldest son, Cameron. His teachers talk about him like he’s a wondrous human anomaly. He’s made fantastic friends at his school and his rowing club, with zero dependence on our influence or our contriving of connections and introductions. He divides his Friday nights between two different youth groups. The transformation in him in just a year has been staggering. He has leaned into the opportunities afforded him with independence and courage and zest and gratitude and an irrepressible optimism that leaves me speechless some days.
I want to honour our youngest son, Scott. Before we left South Africa, God gave me a picture of Scott, in Scotland, on top of a mountain, and a promise that He would use this season to increase Scott’s capacity and influence. And in December I saw it. Scott. Scotland. The mountain. The moment. The wind in his chest and the world at his feet. I’ve seen him read a room and change the atmosphere with sublime spiritual acuity and a heart wide open to God. He’s had a hell of a year. He misses the dust of Africa and he’s had to make headspace for the mud of English fields and forests. But he’s done it. And he’s happy and whole.
I want to honour our people back home – our simply amazing families and friends who have faithfully kept in touch and kept us close. The thing I’m most grateful for, in the past year? WhatsApp. It doesn’t bear imagining where we’d be if not for that little white phone inside the white speech bubble inside the green square on my home screen, connecting me to where I’m seen and held inside the hearts of those I love.
I want to honour the hundreds of friendly humans we’ve met in the UK. Dozens and dozens have become new and marvellous friends. Kindred Saffas and Zimbos with biltong in their blood, who get it, and get us. Precious British folks who’ve welcomed our loud and unreserved foreign ways. Fellow school
moms mums who have quite literally shared the common ground of the village common and slowly become trusted friends. Our vibrant, Jesus-loving church peeps who have warmly knitted us into the safe places of their hearts and homes and swept us up in the momentum of their Kingdom adventures.
I want to honour my publishers for their grace and patience in allowing me the time and space I’ve needed to finish my latest book. Forging a new life for our family pretty much used up all my creative capacity last year. Thank God, the synapses seem to be firing again and miraculously I’m still on track to meet my deadline. (The book is another daily devotional. It’s about freedom. It’s filled with so many of the hard and happy truths I’ve learned in the past year, and I hope God will use it to set you free in every way.)
I want to honour RightNow Media, UCB2 and RFC for reaching out to me with incredible, unasked-for opportunities. And I’m stunned by God’s perfect timing and positioning of our family as He continues to build His church across the planet.
I thank God for the River Thames. I’ve walked Joni along its banks every single day, and it has been my salve and sanity. I’ve been soothed by its relentless, uninterrupted course, and by the way it absorbs the chaos of our bustling town into the quiet depths of its steady stream. God has used it to dredge the river of my soul, so His Spirit can flow freely in me and through me.
If you’re going to uproot and replant (as we’ve done), it helps to be clueless, gung-ho, and slightly delusional (as we were). A bit like childbirth, if you knew everything, you probably wouldn’t do it. Things we thought would be difficult have been a walk in the park. Things we thought would be easy have nearly killed us. Much of our experience hasn’t been how we pictured it. But we know it’s exactly what God had in mind. Not a day has taken Him by surprise.
I’m teaching a couple days a week, in between writing et al. Last week a tiny Year 1 student stood toe-to-toe with me and gazed up with enormous eyes and struggled to say my name: ‘Mrs Reyb- Mrs Rave- Mrs Ray- Mrs Ravenclaw, will you be our teacher again tomorrow?’
I’ve always seen myself as more of a Gryffindor girl, but I went with it. And I realised in that moment: I have little to teach, and so much to learn. I have no idea what tomorrow will bring, but God does. For sure, He’ll be doing the teaching and Hogwarts can’t hold a candle to the magic and the miracles He makes.
One year on, I’m grateful for the brutal days that showed us all we ever really have is Jesus. I’m grateful for the beautiful days that showed us the sky’s the limit.
I’ve learned that He who calls us is faithful, and He will do it (1 Thessalonians 5:24).
I’ve learned what it means to sow in times of famine. I’ve learned that those who plant in tears will harvest with shouts of joy (Psalm 126:5).
I’ve learned that God will greatly bless His people: wherever they plant seed, bountiful crops will spring up (Isaiah 32:20).
I’ve learned that, come what may, we’ll see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living (Psalm 27:13).
I’ve learned that only God can tell the future before it happens, and that everything He plans will come to pass (Isaiah 46:10).
And I’ve seen how He makes everything beautiful in its time (Ecclesiastes 3:11).
I’m reminding myself that adventures are supposed to be challenging. Otherwise, they wouldn’t be adventures. At best, they would be holidays. At worst, they’d be boring. Adventures are filled with unknowns, uncertainties, and difficulties. They’re scary. They’re exhilarating. They’re worth it.
It’s been a year, and what a year it’s been.
To God be the glory, great things He has done.
. . .
Thanks for sharing the journey!
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