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I’ve had a bit of a rough year.

That’s somewhat of an understatement.

By September, I’d come to call 2017 “The Year of Hell”.

Not everyone has picked up on the Star Trek Voyager reference, but I do very much feel like Captain Janeway who becomes increasingly desperate after her ship and crew are slowly stripped from her in one of the series best two parters. Thanks to Time Travel, it all gets wiped out and the timeline is reset – As a storytelling trope I’m not a fan of the reset/mind wipe as it takes away the opportunity for the characters to learn and grow and build on their suffering and move forward the better for what they’ve gone through together… but I understand the temptation for storytellers to do it. The ship becomes so damaged that the crew separates, Tuvok is blinded and Chakotay is kidnapped. It’s a desperate time, seemingly with no hope. But Janeway holds on to a hope that there is a better world, that an alternative to what they’ve experienced exists and she’s willing to sacrifice her life to get it. A similar idea is expressed by Giles in the Buffy the Vampire Episode “The Wish” (another hellish Alternative Universe where Willow and Xander are Vampires). When he finds the person responsible and makes to destroy the power that made the alternate “Wishverse” he is asked, “How do you know the other world is any better?” and his answer is “Because it has to be.”

And so, I see in Janeway, sitting on the irreparable Voyager bridge a reflection of the me of this year. Battered, damaged, exhausted. But for me this isn’t an alternate universe or a kink in the timeline that can be fixed by ramming into another ship or smashing a gem. This is the world we live in. This is the world we made. This is a world of bickering and taking sides and control and unfaithfulness and betrayal and despair.

But that’s not all this world is.

This world has hope.

And not just hope of a next world where tears will be no more; not only an escape on a lifeboat that only a few have tickets for to a paradise reserved for an elect; not only the alternative to a place of eternal fire. But the hope that was encapsulated in a baby born to an unwed teen in a backwater town. The hope that God doesn’t simply wait for us to tick the right boxes and we’re welcome in his home, but that he smashed through time and space to share this world with us, this world that he made, this world he has and does and will redeem. This world where God’s plan is to bring His Rule and Reign, to overturn the princes that run this world and to make this a place where His values become primary – and He uses us to do it.This is my hope. This is where I ended up in this year of unremitting awfulness – that actually wasn’t unremittingly awful. Because there were moments, hours, days even where Hope grabbed me and planted seeds of Joy, Peace and Love.

So through December, I’ve been reflecting on these moments, memories where people have experienced Joy, have shared themselves, have cautiously and sometimes recklessly planted a Flag declaring this ground is Holy and the shittiness of 2017 is not welcome here.

I had a memory each day from the 1st December to Christmas Eve. And I shared them and I treasured each one and their presence has buoyed me and reminded me that I am loved and cared for, that joy cannot be put down and that Peace cannot be erased. Putting all those memories here in one place feels like a great way to enter into Christmas. It feels like spitting in the eye of relentless rejection. It’s me, ramming my ship into the time-ship and resetting the clock. It’s me, taking the demon’s gem and smashing it. Because there is a better world.

  • This year my good friend Kristen Parker got engaged to her lovely girlfriend Danni and it made me so happy I cried. Here’s to many wonderful years together, bless you.
  • Last evening’s sky! This doesn’t do it even half justice. Driving home it looked like the clouds were on fire!
  • Any time I got a hug from living legend Paul Grave. Feel extremely privileged to call him friend. His kindness, humour, intellect, prophetic voice, “never do things by half” attitude & general awesomeness are a blessing to this world.
  • Took my big sister out for part one of her 50th birthday celebration to Prezzo. Very nice place to eat & lovely staff. Worth going for a dessert.
  • That time I went to London & was spoiled rotten, looked after, hugged with awesome hugs & had excellent wisdom shared & THEN got treated to Wicked! Margaret Cramp is one fantastic lady!
  • Being introduced to this by a twitter friend The Last Of The Mohicans
  • The day Australia said Yes to Same Sex Marriage.
  • Being uplifted (& made to cry) by Rachel Bell & her encouraging notes
  • So there was a week at the end of January that was particularly tough & I was preparing to share some of my story, which was very vulnerable & some people were not making it very easy at all.
    And then my Eldest Great nephew, this amazing, wonderful, kind little person, on the day of my talk, without knowing the background or what was going on, when I went to pick up his mum, came up to me and unasked gave me a brilliant energy giving, totally selfless hug. Thank you Aiden xx
    (We’ve also just had a pretty cool snowball fight! 😀)
  • Even in the pouring rain & cold of an August day there was Hope In The Year Of Hell because I got to see Northanger Abbey performed by absolutely dedicated actors & shared the experience with great friends Miriam, Michelle & Elizabeth
  • Here goes with yet another engagement – One Mister Ian Williams who asked his lovely girlfriend Alex to marry him. I wish you both the very best – and if you can find love in this year of all years, then it definitely bodes well.
  • Simply put, Wonder Woman. An almost perfect origin movie (could have done without her bedding Steve – it took some of her power away) and a female hero who holds kindness as a virtue.
  • Being introduced to this beautiful song by Miriam & Paul Grave. Give Thanks To God
  • That time at the bonfire soiree where Millie (who is seven) played the organ & we all sung Silent Night
  • Stopping by Tebay Services and getting my hands on Bassets Aniseed Imperials (they are my favourite sweets and almost impossible to get hold of.)
  • The first or second day back at my old job/office when I was feeling very sorry for myself and I ran into the wonderful Mary Evans who gave me a lovely hug. Thank you so much for the kindness you always show, but especially on that day that hug was exactly what I needed & meant more than you could have known.
  • That time a bunch of us went up to Lancaster for the New Wine Landmark weekend and even though I was very ill on one of the days, it was quite lovely.
  • Bread in the shed. (Communion with dear friends and Cymbrogi – Companions of the Heart)
  • Third Great Nephew Bobby’s Naming day
  • That time we made a totally spur of the moment, last minute, weather based decision to go and see the other outdoor play at Brockholes – The Secret Garden. Gorgeous weather, Lovely story, great company, wonderful afternoon.
  • The gift of a restful, renewing, retreat week at Scargill House thanks to the lovely Joyce Fielding. Laughed, sung, hugged, slept, wept and walked on a gorgeous day at the end. So perfectly timed.
  • An amazing evening of sharing a meal, conversation & company with Rachel & Mim then having the balm of seeing the fabulous Kate Rusby & fab band perform together   Only Desire – Kate Rusby
  • I’m just so humbled, warmed, grateful for, given hope by & just heart cracked by every single person this year who has stood for, with & by me. I couldn’t do this shit without any of them.

And so I look at each of these memories – and there are more – and you know what I see, I see the Fruit of the Spirit in people’s lives: Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness and Self-Control. And I see people willing to just be Jesus to each other and the beauty of this world and how music and art can reflect God in ways we don’t fully understand. And every one of these memories is a crack in the universe letting more of God’s Kingdom in and shoving the ways of selfishness & oppression out.

Hell is a place without Hope. But I have hope that there is something better for all of us. Hope in this Year Of Hell. Because I’ve seen people be good to each other in the midst of deep crappyness, for no other reason than they are human. And I’ve shared joys and excitement and wonders and happiness – and yes tears and pain and anger too. But because they were shared it made a difference. So yes, I have Hope In this Year of Hell. Hope that God’s Kingdom Has come, is here now and will keep coming in bigger and bigger doses.

Happy Christmas dear ones…. It Gets Better. And Thank you.