Our 2016 – An Honest Newsletter (no fake news here!)

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2016 IN REVIEW: It’s time for the annual “Catch up with the Mauls” newsletter. So buckle up, readers, friends, and family – because in many ways 2016 has been a bumpy ride!

To be honest, this has been one of our more difficult years in recent history. On balance Rebekah and I have much to celebrate, and even more to be thankful for; but we’d be kidding ourselves if we failed to say 2016 included more than the average apportionment of challenges.

This review will include stories about Rebekah and Derek in Wake Forest, news from Naomi and Craig (along with the grandchildren) in Richmond, reports from Andrew and Alicia in Uzbekistan, and the latest from my parents, next door – plus a gallery of photos.

CHALLENGES (Rebekah and Derek):

Regarding the challenges, health has been at the top of the list. However, Rebekah insists I use the correct words: “Don’t say Rebekah’s sick,” she said, “say that I’m broken (or down for maintenance)…”

I absolutely understand what she means. Bottom line, Rebekah has dealt with almost constant pain – on an often excruciating level – since the middle of May. “Being broken” has come with two hospitalizations, major surgery, and an unexpectedly long recovery. The good news is that the surgery was successful; the more challenging reality is that sometimes it takes an unreasonably long time to heal.

Consequently, Rebekah has been out of the pulpit since the beginning of November. That’s hard regardless, but this happens to be a critically important time in the life of Wake Forest Presbyterian Church – as we have marked an inspirational 25th anniversary celebration, expanded the staff to coordinate youth, children, and family ministries, and addressed difficult issues in order to become a more invitational faith community.

In many ways it feels like it has taken the first three years here in Wake Forest:

  • to wrestle with who we are as a faith community, going forward;
  • to focus with clarity on Jesus and his invitation to live more intentionally as Children of Light;
  • and to put all the pieces in place for the exciting future God has in store.

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This is an amazing church, full with beautiful people who are growing in discipleship, bursting with young families and vibrant life, and poised for growth in so many ways. Rebekah is more than ready to jump back in the deep end, with all her passion and creative energy fully engaged.

As for me, my primary focus over the past few months has been to make sure Rebekah has had everything she needs to recover, to work as much as possible from home, and to be as comfortable as she can in the process. I am blessed to be involved in the kind of work that allows such flexibility.

Along the way I did complete a new book, “In God’s Image: what the New Testament teaches about being a man,” I’ve continued to write and speak about the fully engaged life, and I’m very excited to report that my first novel is 50% complete – scheduled to be available in the spring of 2017.

JOYS (abound):

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love this family

Regarding family, I can’t say enough about how happy we are to have Naomi, Craig, David, and Beks just 130 miles up the road in Richmond, Virginia. We try to get together a couple of times a month. Beks had her three-year-old birthday in June, and David turned five in October. David has been attending a preschool since September, and is thriving in the “big boy” learning environment.

In other news, Craig’s career took an interesting turn when he was hired as a “mate” at Trader Joe’s (possibly the coolest grocery store in America!); the family is actively involved and happy at Southminster Presbyterian Church; and Naomi continues to be a maven of art, design, creativity, and positive motherhood.

Over in Central Asia, Andrew and Alicia continue to play the part of engaged world citizens. It’s their second year living in Uzbekistan, where they both work at Tashkent International School, and Andrew is well into his (off-campus) master’s work with Penn State. They are Christmasing in Barcelona this year, but plan a visit to the USA in June.

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Alicia and Andrew

Rebekah and I are blessed, happy, and beyond grateful to see how completely all four of our children are embracing life with such creativity and passion.

Next door, my parents have now achieved a collective 173-years of living! It’s so good to be neighbors, especially as we need each other more and more over the years. Mum and dad are dearly loved by our church family, they enjoy living here in such a beautiful community, and they remain an inspiration to all who have the privilege to know them.

CONCLUSION:

Rebekah and I both turned 60 this year. This may have been a challenging year, but life together, here in Wake Forest, is a beautiful experience, and we are deeply grateful. As we approach Christmas, these words from the first chapter of John’s gospel always resonate:

“From his fullness we have all received grace upon grace” (John 1:16).

Enjoy a few photos that capture 2016…

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