A Christmas Letter…

Posted by on Dec 25, 2018 in Blog | 0 comments

After not having written a Christmas letter for a few years, Rosemary and I thought we’d make amends this year. Some of you will have already received it via email, but over the years we have lost the addresses of so many good friends that we thought we’d post it on the blog as well, in the hope that we will be able to make contact again through this forum. True, the blog usually deals with weightier matters than our family news, but Christmas is a different time of the year. I realise that many who follow this blog do it for its reflection on matters related to the Christian faith – but hey, if you don’t want our family news, you can wait until the next post when we get back to the usual pattern.

So here is our family Christmas letter…

For Rosemary and Brian, the year started in fine form with a holiday in Europe. Rosemary had made the decision to step back from full time work, and having just resigned her post as a clinical nurse at Fremantle Hospital, boarded our Venice bound plane burden free and with open ended days stretching ahead. She announced her intention to look for some part time work after our return, but made the firm decision not to think about it whilst away – and didn’t!

It was a great holiday. Amy and her husband Aaron joined us, and we oohed and aah’d at the endless array of intriguing historical sites in Venice, Cologne, Paris, Munich, London, Genoa, Madrid and more beside. Aaron proved a worthy son-in-law by planning the trip with military precision – no time wasted, no dodgy hotels and no missed flights, and all within a budget that only went slightly over. The one hiccup was with our internal flights in Europe. When we arrived at the airport we discovered that our travel agent, for reasons best known to herself, had booked us on flights that included us, but not our luggage. Perhaps she thought we could travel around a wintery Europe for a month without a change of underwear or a toothbrush, but if so, she was mistaken. It took some sorting out, and all of Brian’s negotiating skills, but in the end our baggage was accepted, though I suspect Lufthansa has blacklisted us forever.

The holiday ended with a Mediterranean cruise – an 11 day extravaganza of continual pampering. Brian tried to lessen the impact of 24 hour dining by visiting the ships gym each day, but strolling on the walker whilst gazing at the distant ocean horizon did not entirely offset the deluge of calories consumed. We did have one moment of minor drama when a severe storm made it impossible to enter harbor. It was actually rather exciting – the wind howling, wild waves crashing, and back in our cabin, Rosemary praying for a quick and merciful release from the sea sickness that suddenly engulfed her. At that point, even the chocolate mousse on offer in the dining hall was of no interest to her, so we knew she really did feel unwell. Fortunately, the ship didn’t sink, and apart from that episode, we had a serene time at sea.

All good things come to an end, but in this instance it was only a sort of end, because after two months back at work, Brian was due three months of Sabbatical leave, and had been invited to serve as a distinguished international visiting scholar at Spurgeon’s College in London. In practical terms that meant he had to give a few lectures, be available to assist a couple of research students, and discuss ideas about theological education with some of Spurgeon’s talented staff. In return they accommodated Rosemary and Brian in a well-furnished and well located one bedroom flat a short stroll from Spurgeon’s, and provided us with midday lunch each day. There was no doubt that we got the better end of the deal, and will always be grateful to the team at Spurgeon’s for making us welcome and fully including us in their wonderfully hospitable community.

It was a marvelous time, and gave us a feel for life in London (hectic, but very stimulating), whilst also giving time for travel to different parts of the UK and Scotland. We spent a week with a church in Lincoln and again met exceptionally welcoming folk who treated us like royalty in return for a couple of sermons and a leadership training day. Again – we definitely got the better deal, as we did with a similar trip to Leicester, though there we spent the time with Derek and Dianne Tidball – a reward in itself. They have visited Vose a few times in the past and it was a delight to get to know them a little better in their home setting.

Scotland turned on its best weather for us – simply glorious scenery everywhere. We made it to Paisley, hometown of Rosemary’s grandparents and where Rosemary’s father spent much of his childhood. Try as we might, we couldn’t convince the locals that Rosemary is almost Scottish.

Two distinct benefits of being in London is that it enables you to catch up with friends from all over the world passing through or living in London for a few years. Though we weren’t able to meet up with all, we were able to catch up with many, some of whom we hadn’t seen for around 30 years. London’s second great drawcard is the theatre. Yes, we did get to several shows. Rosemary’s favourite was Aladdin, while Brian is adamant that The Comedy about a Bank Robbery was the winner. Actually, it must be decades since Brian laughed so much in a single evening. A genuinely hilarious play that leaves you with nothing to angst about afterwards – but plenty to chuckle over. Loved it!

Brian did manage to accomplish some work related tasks – including writing half a book, and getting a far better feel for the church scene in the UK, and some lessons it has for the church in Australia. He also continues to blog at https://brianharrisauthor.com/ and is encouraged that the reach of the blog seems to grow and grow.

We returned to Australia towards the end of June, and it really wasn’t long before Brian was immersed again in the work of Vose Seminary (where he has now served as principal for 15 years). An almost retired Rosemary made use of her new freedom to organize the complete redecoration and overhaul of our home. She did this in consultation with our daughter Amy, who was our official colour consultant, and all round sage on all things related to fashion and design. In accepting the task, Amy wisely noted that as she would be a part inheritor of the home one day, it was as well to protect it now, lest we did it irreparable damage! Bottom line, our home now looks stunning, and most things actually work – a refreshingly pleasant change.

In our absence, our youngest son Jett plucked up the courage to ask the love of his life, Emily Newman, to marry him – and she said yes! The wedding is set for 6 April 2019 – so there is much to look forward to. Em has just finished a law degree, which is probably as well, as Jett has graduated with a degree in music, which while impressive, doesn’t necessarily generate the same number of dollars.  Their marriage will leave Brian and Rosemary as empty nesters, though with Nick and his wife Cat now having two daughters (Maya Rose 3½ and Kora Lee, 1), grandparent duties are never far away, and the house has hidden supplies of toys in multiple spots. It doesn’t feel like an empty space and is often as busy as Victoria Station (hopefully you’re impressed with the British imagery).

A notable visitor during the year was from Rosemary’s sister Joy, who lives in South Africa. It was her first time in Australia, and it was a special delight to have her with us. She soon got to know some of Rosemary’s Perth friends, and her month long visit was an endless array of coffee mornings, trips to exotic spots, and excuses to do what we would not normally do. It also provided Rosemary with ample justification for delaying her return to the workforce.

The year has had moments of minor drama. A few days before we departed for London Rosemary had her handbag stolen from her parked car – she was in it at the time, and wondered why the passenger door had suddenly opened and whose hand was shooting in. Amongst other things, it contained our credit and bank cards, which could not be replaced prior to departure – so we arrived in the UK with some cash and funds on a newly issued travel card, desperately hoping this system would work. It did! The Royal Commission into banking in Australia is giving Australian banks terrible press, but I need to record our dissenting vote. The Commonwealth Bank went well out of their way to be helpful to us, and rapidly mailed functioning new credit cards to our London address. They also didn’t murmur about replacing the funds taken from our credit card by our thieves – who apparently have a serious drinking problem if the size of the bill they clocked up at the local bottle store is an indicator. This was purchased within 10 minutes of the theft, by which time the cards were cancelled. Given the paltry size of our account with Commonwealth Bank, we considered their response impressive.

The year also brought a few minor health challenges for Brian, which didn’t feel so minor at the time. The first was a kidney stone towards the end of our time at Spurgeon’s. We got to test the British Health system, and found it to be in fine form. Brian was seen almost immediately, scanned not long after that, and then given precise details of the size and location of the kidney stone, and its likely journey. He left the hospital with a hefty supply of pain killers and the assurance that it was just a matter of time until the stone passed – a prophecy that, 31 hours later, turned out to be true.

Jett, who has always aspired to be like his father, followed suite – and in December passed his first kidney stone. Brian and Jett are still in active discussion over whose was worse.

Brian also had to undergo prostate surgery – a TURP for those who like to google all things medical. After two years of hinting that this would be needed, his GP was adamant that this was the year for it to be done, and Brian faced it with fair foreboding, having heard several gloomy tales from those for whom it had gone wrong. Mercifully for him, it went extremely well, and he now wonders why he delayed so long. Still, these things remind both Brian and Rosemary that they are now in their 60’s (to clarify, very early 60’s) – and they have both noticed that they now pay attention when others talk to them of their medical ailments.

On the children front, it has been a good year. Nick received a significant promotion at work, and is now the Dean of Pastoral Care – which makes him part of the executive team responsible for the High School. He also continues to work as youth pastor at Carey, though as he is now full time at the school, has reduced his hours significantly. Nick and Cat also built a new home on a very large block – it’s really impressive. Cat has returned to teaching one day a week, and is enjoying it. Brian and Rosemary love being grandparents to Maya Rose and Kora Lee – getting a sense of payback when the girls play up (you call that a sleepless night… I remember when…), but generally being delighted as they see them grow in enthusiasm, confidence and cheerfulness.

Amy’s husband Aaron is in the final throes of his PhD degree and anticipates submitting it early in the New Year, when he also starts a part time position in the training department at Vose Seminary. He will also do some tutoring in theology at Notre Dame University, so is pleased at how things have worked out. Catching the study bug from her husband, Amy has embarked on a Master of Education degree, and this year managed straight high distinctions. She has one more year to go – and is studying part time while teaching full time at Thornlie Christian College. Amy and Aaron are in the early stages of building a new home – still at the point of pouring over the plans and deciding if a door will be better here or there, if an extra power plug might be wise, and how much dimmer switches will add to the bill. I imagine I will be able to update you in our next Christmas letter.

Besides being about to get married to Em, Jett has now completed his degree in contemporary music. He is part of two bands (Atlas Chasers and Felicia Creature. Felicia Creature’s promo notes that they are “a four piece freakishly talented band” performing “alt-indie rock that will leave you wanting more!”) In addition, he provides guitar backing for two singers, has 20 music students and works 10 hours a week as the evening worship co-ordinator at Carey. In short, he is pretty busy, but is rather enjoying his life.

Two weeks ago Rosemary’s commitment to reenter the workforce was realized, and she now works 15 hours a week as a Practice Nurse, and does a little additional relief work as a school nurse when staff are unwell or on PD. It seems to be a good arrangement and will hopefully top up the coffers sufficiently for Brian and Rosemary to continue exploring the world.

Well – that’s it for the update. If you have read this far, you are clearly genuine friends! Though this form of communication might seem a little impersonal, we are deeply grateful for the depth of relationship that we have with so many people. In London we caught up with folk we had not seen for decades – yet it felt as though we were still as close to them as if it was yesterday.  And even if we have not been able to catch up with you, we are confident that we would again discover that the bonds of friendship are as strong as ever. Thank you for all that you mean to us.

As Christmas approaches, our hopefulness grows. In the earlier years of our life we spoke of the faithfulness of God. As the decades pass, we now speak of repeatedly experiencing the faithfulness of God. God is good – all the time – and the love of God shown in Jesus remains the driving force of our lives.

May you and yours know the blessing of God this Christmas, and throughout the coming year.

 

Brian and Rosemary Harris

Christmas, 2018

 

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