The Madness of 2009

“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. “

I had the privilege of reading the above words at Strand Presbyterian Church’s Carol Service on Sunday night, and it’s a timely reminder of what God has done through Jesus, his Son, Emmanuel, God with us, who came to live as a man among us.

2009 has been a story of God’s grace in my life, as I have discovered more of how much he loves me and longs for me to know him and that love more and more, and how much he loves other people, as I’ve gone through the special events in this year.

What should have been the worst event of the year was when Karen and I broke up in July. Not only did God make it possible for us to remain friends, but I found myself surrounded by the love of my friends, and I did not fall apart emotionally as I have done after breakups in the past. I have learned to trust God an awful lot more in my relationships as a result, and the knowledge that he is with me is passing from my heart to my head.

I hit more chest infection troubles this autumn, and the generosity of Civil Service Personnel knows no bounds as I received a written Sickness warning after taking a week’s sick leave less than a year after my two weeks off last year. As the Civil Servants among you will know, the warning tells you that it’s completely unacceptable that you should take sickness absence, and ignores the effect on the other people in the office of coughing, sneezing, passing on infections and distractions, let alone the likelihood of attending work while sick leading to recovery taking longer. It gets to me because the policy is a blunt instrument which is being used to effectively penalise those who have genuine reasons for being off sick, but not necessarily catching those who took advantage of the older, less strict policies. One wonders how many people take annual leave when sick to avoid warnings, which of course massages the sick absence levels in the Civil Service.

It is likely to affect when I will be appointed as a second Computer Support Officer for our building – a sideways move which I successfully applied for in the autumn, and which has been renamed to First Line Service Manager, to the disgust of the existing CSO. It will be my first foray into working in IT, a prospect I find exciting.

There were however quite a few highlights!

In February, Karen and I went to Dachshund of the Year in Coventry, which allowed us to visit Cadburyworld and my old friends, the Landers in Dunchurch.

In March, I found myself back in Birmingham Airport and heading towards Cheltenham for the wedding of Lee Hawkness-Smith and Libby Holderness. They had asked me to play piano, and I found myself sitting at a rather nice smallish Grand Piano, and surprising myself with how loudly I started The Splendour of the King…!

Having started driving lessons with Jonny Gibson (www.jonnygsdrivingschool.co.uk) at the end of February, I passed my test in June – the roads will never be the same, but on the bright side for everyone else, I’ve been doing a lot less cycling (not least due to the health issues I’ve already mentioned!). I’m looking forward to taking the R plates down on 19th June 2010…

July was Summer Madness time again, which is taking up more and more of my time as I have been taking time off work during the year to volunteer in the office, and I also now coordinate photography on site (as well as covering what events I can during the year). I’m already building a team for 2010. I also wrote and produced Total Recall, the compilation DVD of audio recordings of all the seminars and mainstage talks for a second year.

Summer Madness staffers Sarah Kennedy and Mark Railton asked me to do photography for their wedding in August – the service was in CORE Church, Dublin, and the reception was at the Summerhill House Hotel, Enniskerry. As I had never shot a wedding before, they asked Peter Neill (www.peterneill.eu) to work with me – in the end, Peter took the lead and I took the slightly off-line pics while watching what Peter did. Having got my dad’s 307 a week earlier, I was able to get myself around the venues and to and from the B&B.

The first week of September was spent staying with Lee and Libby Hawkness-Smith in Llangefni, and exploring North Wales by car. I think it will suffice to say that I was glad to collapse into my cabin on the boat from Holyhead to Dublin – but a great week was had, and I also had the chance to stay with Mark and Sarah for the night before drving to the ferry.

More generally, I have continued with singing lessons when my voice has allowed, and we hope that I will be doing Grade 5 in the Spring. There is an irony in the fact that while I have given theory lessons in the past, I will now have to do Grade 5 theory myself if I want to progress beyond Grade 5 in singing!

I got back into Beautiful Feet (www.beautifulfeetbelfast.org) again this year, which got a mention in a broadcast radio service from Whitehouse Presbyterian Church. Numbers have varied from two to twelve or more, and as well as our existing links with Homeplus, I have been in touch with PSNI City Centre Beat.

We welcomed Danny Rankin to Strand Presbyterian in January, and Danny and I are developing a good working relationship. As a congregation, we are praying that plans to demolish and replace the church will come to fruition in 2010 – meantime I brought my dad in to play the organ for Harvest and Christmas Day to make the most of the opportunity to sing traditional hymns to the sound of the organ while we still have it.

Anything can happen in 2010, but I know that God is with me throughout. I’m working on redeveloping my website www.andyboal.co.uk to highlight my skills as a photographer, musician and writer, and I hope to get a new site up in the new year.

May you know all the blessings of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit this Christmas, and throughout 2010.

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