The last quarter of 2019 was such a mad one, that looking back I can’t quite believe that some of these things happened in the same 12 months. It feels like ancient history!
But here are some of the things I’ve loved in 2019, that have entertained, stimulated, informed and shaped me, and that you might find helpful or enjoyable too.
TV show of the year: It’s been around for a while, but I only started watching The Repair Shop this year. It’s a BBC ‘reality’ show, in which a group of artisans mend and restore people’s broken family treasures, using old-fashioned methods, with care and compassion. It is a much-needed reminder that there is still goodness and beauty and joy and kindness in the world
Podcast of the year: Another one that was around before I discovered it. This Cultural Moment is a conversation between John Mark Comer of Bridgetown Church in Portland, USA and Mark Sayers of Red Church in Melbourne, Australia. Though really it is John Mark mining Mark’s brain for his incredible insights and wisdom into how the West came to be in the state it is in now, and how Christians can respond to it. This episode was my entry into it, and is still one of the best, but they’re all worth a binge-listen. (Thanks to Rachel Wilson for putting me onto it.)
Sermon of the year: This is a message from a conference, more than a sermon as such, but let’s not split hairs. Asking like Achsah is a message by Alan Frow on a couple of tiny verses in Joshua (and again in Judges), which taught me a huge amount about the confidence we can have in prayer. Transformative.
Play of the year: It’s such a privilege to live in London and be able to see so many amazing actors and fantastic plays. I saw three Pinters and three Millers, most of which were outstanding (David Suchet, Tom Hiddleston, Danny Dyer, Martin Freeman and Sharon D Clarke were exceptional), a Florian Zeller (who is a French playwright who I’ve just discovered in the last few years – fantastic cast in that, too), and Andrew Scott being absolutely brilliant in Noel Coward’s Present Laughter. But probably the best play for theme as well as acting and performance overall was Come from Away – a rather unexpectedly hopeful musical about 9/11. See it if you can.
Books of the year:
1) Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus, by Nabeel Qureshi. Really helpful, and a wonderful story of a devout Muslim’s determination to seek the truth and his courage to follow where the answers led. Very helpful for understanding Islam, too.
2) 7 Myths about Singleness, by Sam Allberry. My mini-review on my list of books I’ve read says: ‘So good, so helpful, so hopeful’. Whether you’re single or not, this has such important lessons about some of the mistaken ways we think about singleness.
3) We Need to Talk About Race, by Ben Lindsay. This is a really a helpful conversation-starter for Christians and churches wanting to think about how to ensure their churches are truly equal and fully integrated. I wrote a review of it here if you want to know more.
4) The Horse and His Boy, by CS Lewis is my new favourite in the Narnia series. I’d never actually managed to get through it before, but listened to it as an audiobook and loved it. A good strong plot, lots of adventure, and some important lessons along the way.
5) And finally, for the book lovers among you (particularly those born in the early-to-mid-70s): Bookworm, by Lucy Mangan. I couldn’t imagine how this – a book about the books Lucy read as a child – could be a good book, but it was lovely. In part it was a stroll down memory lane, as Lucy read so many of the same books as me (which is why I think it’s probably best enjoyed by people roughly my age). But it also had several episodes exploring the history of children’s literature, learning about some of the wonderful illustrators that made our childhood reading such a visual feast, and more. Fun, witty and interesting.
On a more personal note…
Highlights of the year, so far as I can remember them, include:
- Writing my book. I finished the first draft really quickly, and had plenty of time to get some feedback on it and make some adjustments before sending it off to my editor. The editing process was much harder than the writing! I’ve now got the second round of edits back, and need to work on them by 16th Jan. I’m setting up an email list for anyone interested in staying informed about when it is out (as well as a few extras along the way), so if you want to be the first to know, click here.
- Becoming a speaker. I still don’t really believe this one, but this year I became a speaker. I spoke at two women’s events at my church, one at a church in Poole (2 sessions), in my parents’ church, at an evangelistic event, brief slots at two conferences, in seminars in my new job (see below) and teaching on an internship programme! I think that’s 19 times I’ve taken to the stage in one year. NINETEEN! And to think in the past I’ve been a bundle of nerves if I had to stand in front of my parents’ (very small, very friendly) church and give a brief testimony about my life as a missionary. From out of nowhere God has given me the confidence and ability to speak, and to do it (unless all the feedback has been lies) reasonably well. I just can’t believe it. If you want to hear the evidence for yourself, you can listen to the recordings from the women’s day in Poole here and here.
- Getting a new job. Back in July a friend mentioned to me that there was a part-time job he thought I might be the right person for. He sent me the link and after much prayer and agonising, I applied. On 25 Sept, after an interview process that involved giving a presentation (which I was an old hand at by then!), I got the job! I am now Associate Head of Public Policy at the Christian Medical Fellowship (CMF). CMF exists to unite and equip Christian doctors and nurses to live and speak for Jesus. My role is in helping to shape the CMF’s positions on issues of bioethics, and articulate, promote and defend them to our members, the public, politicians and the media. It’s exactly the sort of thing I thought God was leading me to London to do, 13 years ago! It really is amazing to see his hand in all the twists and turns along the way, that have worked together to bring me to this point.
- My Life Group. My church generally has continued to be a highlight. I’ve been involved in leading our new women’s ministry this year, was appointed as one of our first ever deacons, continued to serve on the coffee team (which I stepped down from just before Christmas), and have been involved in prayer ministry. But the real joy is continuing to host the best Life Group ever. There are usually a dozen of us gathered around my dining table on a Wednesday night, eating a simple meal then doing a Bible study together, and I love them to bits. We are growing into a really wonderful family, and I love the way so many of them rally round when someone is struggling, welcome newcomers like old friends, and help to clear up after each meal (which I hear not every group does!). They make it very easy to lead and serve them, and I can’t wait to gather with them again in 2020 for more laughter, tears and arguments about food!
Lesson of the year: God’s plan is wilder than you could imagine. I have no idea how or why he has woven together so many wonderful threads in my life, but I’m enjoying the ride!