Looking back on the last year of my life, I’m amazed at what a great year 2010 was.
I say that, in spite of the fact that my wonderful mother-in-law, Virginia Murphy, passed away on October 1st. You see, my MIL would tell me to not let her passing stop me from celebrating all that God did, all that He allowed my family to experience. In fact, she would probably say that His allowing her to pass from death to life should be celebrated, and to not let it cloud my recollection of this year.
Looking back on the year, I can see she would be right. This year was pretty spectacular.
Robyn and I took several trips this year. In February, we took our annual trek to Hayden, Idaho, with students from Seattle Christian for the annual ACSI Speech Meet. Three days of cold weather and good fun, in spite of the fact that we lost First Place by 1/1,000th of a point to another school. In March, we took 16 students from SCS to Los Angeles for a week, where we experienced amazing places like Stella Adler Acting Studio, the Kodak Theatre, Disneyland, Warner Brothers, and more. In June, I travelled back to Hudson, Ohio for a week of VBC with my amazing friends at what used to be known as Hudson Community Chapel. In July, Robyn went to Portland to experience her third Jamie Cullum concert in a year. August found the whole family getting in the car and driving across the Great American West. And in December, Robyn drove to San Francisco for a few days with an old friend.
We continued to be proud of our children, who amaze us all the time. Audrey continued with her dancing, Austen with his soccer. Both of them did amazingly well in school, and continued to grow “in wisdom and stature and favor with God and man.” Autumn started pre-K and discovered how much she liked school, August got glasses and looked even more like me than before. We laughed and played games with them, created memories around the Xbox Kinect, Legos, iPods, music, leading worship, and more.
Our ministry at New Life Church exploded beyond what we could have ever dreamed. Moving into the new KidTown building, remodeling and themeing The Boardwalk, hiring an amazing new director of our nursery, and watching God grow us from 400-500 kids to 800 in thc course of 9 months–it was humbling, awesome, and exhilarating. And tiring. We had a great time creating new experiences for families all summer long, and were so thrilled to watch our VBC grow from 200 kids to more than 500 in just a year. Our Fallapalooza event for Halloween saw nearly 1,000 parents and kids in costumes wandering the straw maze, inflatables, and more things we created for them to enjoy. And in December, our first annual Jingle Jam was a hit with nearly 1300 parents and kids experiencing a great stage show, the Christmas train, and even more things–all to help families realize that church is a fun and safe place for them to be.
We were blessed to develop deeper friendships with wonderful people and experienced the best care and love from our church family following the death of Robyn’s mom. We were blown away by the amazing blessings of God, who helped us get further out of debt, to open new opportunities (like my writing curriculum for David C. Cook), and use our talents and abilities for His glory. Robyn leads the Kids Worship Team of 20+ kids who dance and sing every Sunday and choreographed the Jingle Jam songs in addition to returning to acting with great friends Justin Robey, Dan Thiessen, LeDair Porter, and Tyler Gunhus. I get to teach 500 kids every Sunday, sing and lead worship, and work with the amazing pastoral team at New Life.
The hole left by Virginia’s death will never be filled. And that’s okay–it’s God’s way of helping us hold on to our memories of her, to remember the joy with which she lived life, and what she meant to each one of us. Perhaps the greatest privilege and honor I had this year was holding my dear mother-in-law in my arms two days before her death. She wanted to sing, so I started singing worship songs and she began singing with me. I quoted scripture to her and she responded in such a way that I am certain she had already started the journey from this life to the next. Her final lucid words were apt. She sang along with the song “Everlasting God,” singing “You do not faint and You don’t grow weary” in a quiet–yet beautiful way. And then she said, “Come on, Duane, you can do better than that.” Teasing me, making me laugh until the end–with a firm grasp of eternity.
This year was filled–like many years–with great joys and great sorrows. Yet we are confident that God has ordained every step. That His mercy and grace are sufficient. That we will continue to rest in His everlasting arms. Looking to 2011, that is my greatest hope and joy and consolation. Happy New Year to you.