When I missed the Canada Post deadline to send out Christmas cards for the sixth year in a row, I decided to call it a passive boycott to make it seem less lazy. I had no reason not to send them other than something had to go to preserve my sanity in this overly busy season and that was the first on the list, followed closely by anything resembling a craft, and door-to-door caroling. (Gift-wrapping was in the running.)
If it’s been years in a row that you don’t do a thing, at what point does one scratch it off one’s list permanently? Christmas is so weird like that. It’s a hopeful, overly nostalgic season, and so I retain hope. (If I send you a card next year, please frame it.)
But I sure did love receiving the cards and newsletters from friends. Now newsletters are vintage, aren’t they? Those who send them are preserving a bit of our past that we’re often so quick to dismiss – good, old-fashioned communication. A piece of paper to grab onto with whole sentences put together to form paragraphs. Those paragraphs give us an overview of the lives of our friends – many parts of which we may have witnessed or experienced with them and it gives context and a sense of continuum. We humans are in the process of building, moving forward, journeying, progressing. Sometimes our understanding is so present- and future-tense. Looking back, even at the not-too-distant past can have the effect of grounding us.
This is why I thought I’d try my hand at an e-newsletter. There’s no fancy or festive border here, no stamp on the envelope, no searching for your address, nothing but a synopsis of the Cockrams’ 2014. Here are the headlines.
Man turns 40, throws vanity concert, 150 friends indulge him
“You only turn 40 once,” he says
There’s one particular highlight this year that almost seems to overshadow anything preceding it; memories from January to June are a little fuzzy. That was J-M’s big 40th birthday bash. Our friends Derek & Shelley Rumball, owners of Ontario Camp of the Deaf, lent us their beautiful facilities in Parry Sound, for J-M to own the stage for the night. The concert included a “This is Your Life” repertoire, as he played with various family and friends, from his early beginnings in high school through to his current music ministry. He surprised some church-going members who found their pastor’s choice of music a little rockier than they expected, but not unpleasant. (It should be noted that other church-going members sang along/rocked out to the playlist.) One young friend in attendance said that this was “The Best Old Person Party Ever.” Friends from J-M’s youth agreed, he’s still got it, albeit it is downhill from here.
John-Mark’s closing remarks and advice for a life well-lived and a concert well-played were to surround yourself with people better than yourself.
Thank you to Hannah Bickle, who did an amazing job putting together this video montage of this day of days!
Daughter graduates Grade 8, with Honours, much to her parents’ surprise
It’s not that we didn’t think her capable, it’s just that we weren’t fully aware of Sophia’s mounting successes, which shows just how fabulous we are at being parents. There’s Helicopter Parenting and then there’s Asleep-at-the-Wheel Parenting.
Mallory surprised us in the same way two years ago. The teacher announcing the award, in both cases, gave a noble preamble about how Honours students give up social opportunities (read: have no friends) for educational pursuits and do such outrageous things as to stay up late to study and put homework first in order to achieve good grades. At Mallory’s grad, J-M and I snickered a tiny little bit and whispered, “Looooserrrrs…” to each other, only to hear our daughter’s name announced as a recipient.
This year, we did not snicker nor did we inadvertently call our daughter a bad name.
Sophia also received an award for Visual Arts and, my very favourite, the Citizenship Award.
I have always credited our girls’ experience in Ghana as implanting a love of learning. They saw visible examples: desolate communities devoid of education; conversely, thriving communities centred around education. They learned to speak a new language not because they had to, but because they wanted to communicate with new friends. Their curiosity was rewarded with insight.
Good grades and awards are not the objective, but a by-product of a love of learning (much better than late nights and no friends). Congrats, Loser–I mean, Sophia!
Family makes move to new culture, only 50 minutes from previous home
Of course, if you haven’t hidden me from Facebook or have had a conversation with me within the last year, you’d know that a new pastoral position for J-M prompted a move for our family to Etobicoke in August.
My part of the story is humorous actually, as I had believed God was prompting ME to step down from women’s ministry at our church, Barrie Free Methodist Church. I thought that God was leading ME elsewhere, to move into another ministry, although I couldn’t articulate what that looked like yet. I said to the team, all of us sad that our great run was coming to an end, “Don’t worry, I’m not going anywhere!” The very next day, we heard about the co-pastor position at Kingsview Free Methodist Church. I gasped because (a) I knew it was exactly what God was calling us to; and (b) darn it, I couldn’t go because I had just told the team that I wasn’t going anywhere, sorry God.
But of course I went. We all went, excited at this new opportunity to move into a new community and new ministry.
The strangest part was the sorrow we felt at leaving, together with our eagerness at the new opportunity. We had spent 14 years at Barrie Free Methodist Church. They saw us through each transition from non-regular church attenders to John-Mark’s commission as a full-time pastor in our church. They were (and continue to be) family to us!
We were amazingly thankful for this sorrow, as it meant we were leaving on the best of terms – that we had mutually made our mark on each other for the kingdom and would hold fond memories forever of the impact our church had made on us. We are among the blessed who have known a Christ-like longevity of love from a vital church family.
John-Mark co-pastors with Darrin Lindsay. They had an instant bromance from the first day of work, when they rearranged their shared office. They tend to finish each other’s sentences, laugh at each other’s jokes, dress alike (see below). I’d be jealous if they weren’t such a great team and if I didn’t adore Darrin’s wife, Sharon.
And this is the church building.
But more importantly are the people in this building. Kingsview has a multi-cultural congregation. I love that learning about each other’s heritage is an important part of getting to know one another. We know that our cross-cultural training and experience prepared us to minister in this place, so different from where we were before, and yet just 50 minutes down the road. Being part of this church has given us a deeper understanding of what it means to be a people, God’s people, from every tribe and nation.
We’re in love.
Pastor’s family lives in party house
Where were we? Oh yes, we officially made the move to Toronto on August 15th into this house.
Isn’t it just the best? Having lived in a basement for the past six years, we can hardly get used to the space. I can’t seem to stop Sophia from doing cartwheels and we hold dance-offs regularly in our under-furnished living room. My friend Sarah call it “The Ultimate Party House” and ironically, here I am I’m blogging about it – and not partying – on New Year’s Eve, the party night of all party nights. That’s OK, we have already thrown a couple here, including hosting our family Thanksgiving and Christmas and a church Open House – all of which confirmed this home is for more than just us.
The girls are hosting their first official sleepover with Toronto friends this weekend. I couldn’t be happier about that because I remember the girls wanting to do that at our previous house and we just didn’t have enough space. Well, pray for another house, I told them. Truly, they are effective prayer warriors.
The only downside of this house (other than trying to fill it with furniture) is that I have to holler now to get anyone’s attention instead of tapping them on the shoulder. Although, that can be cathartic.
We recognize this home as temporal and also a gift to share with others. You can’t have a party without people, so consider this your invitation.
Daughter turns 16, difficult to locate
We had another significant birthday party this year – Mallory turned Sweet 16.
Mallory enlightened us that there are other alliterative adjectives for one’s 16th birthday besides “sweet.” “Try out super, stellar, spectacular… for example,” she said.
“Happy Smartie-Pants Sixteen,” I said.
Mallory is a Toronto Girl. There’s no way around it. She rides the TTC like a pro – no car needed. She’s off to the library, school, her friend’s house, with just a token to get her there. I don’t necessarily love this – my plan was to have her get her licence aysap so I could have her fetch me my errands in repayment of my graciously lending the car to her. Somehow, I’m still carrying out my own errands–Scratch that. Somehow, J-M is still carrying out my errands.
Mallory held her first paid position requiring a SIN number, working seasonal part-time at Kitchen Stuff Plus. She also joined the leadership and varsity volleyball teams at school. She is busier than I am. Once in a while, I can catch her in passing, enough time to force a kiss and hug on her and tell her to text me when she gets to wherever she’s going. Don’t tell her, but I live for her texts.
40 year-old woman makes the decision to grow out her grey hair, to the horror of her family
This is old news to many of you, but still an important benchmark on the Cockram calendar for 2014. On June 3rd, I had my last appointment with my stylist. No more colour appointments, just, as my friend Lisa said, letting those grey roots Roll On Down. This blog covers the experiment for the most part. If you want to know WHY in the WORLD, please read this post.
Other than that, all I need to tell you about this is: I’m now 41 and still going grey; I’m 7 months in (meaning I’ll be dedicating a blog post all on its own on January 3rd) with about 3.5 inches of root action; I’ve had moments of weakness, but I’m dedicated to the cause. And what do you know, grey hair is a beauty trend for 2015.
God always answers in the affirmative when we pray for opportunities to serve him
I have asked God, as the girls have settled into school life and new friendships, and J-M thrives in this new position, what is available for me. I long to be a part of what God is doing in this corner of the world and, for the first little while, that looked like settling into our home, our church, our neighbourhood and getting work – all of which went fairly smoothly. But I knew there would be something more and I’ve kept my eyes and ears open.
In the fall, an online conversation took place, that developed into a real life gathering of Canadian women who love Christ and recognize a call of God on their lives (called Gather: Imagine). Those who attended dared to dream about what they need to step into their calling, to own their anointing, to thrive in their pursuits.
It is my privilege to be a part of the steering team for Gather: Women (Coast-to-Coast), to bring women together across our nation. You can read more about it here (or ask me, I’ll talk your ear off about it). We are meeting in the new year to complete our vision casting and develop a strategy. I couldn’t be more excited about this as my passion in ministry is to serve other women, to help them grow in their faith and move into the ministry God has called them to.
I thank God for this answer to prayer and opportunity. I also recognize that when he answers prayers, it’s hardly ever localized to just us. He interweaves our circumstances with others to the point where we can only look at how he brought us together and say God did this. To say I am very excited for what’s next is an understatement.
Sophia celebrates 14th birthday, still the baby
Just yesterday was the last grand event for the Cockrams for 2014. We celebrated Sophia’s 14th birthday. I said no to all parties after the craze of the little school years – unending parties, a budget line for gifts. Forget it. Ages 10, 13 and 16 and then out. This is a no-party year, so we saw a movie, had dinner and shopped away our Christmas gift cards.
When we were being seated at the restaurant, Sophia insisted that I sit beside her. “Aw,” the hostess said, “You still need your Mommy!” Yes Ma’am, she does, and don’t wreck it for me. I am more than aware that the years pass by all too quickly.
If I have any wish for you this upcoming year, it would be that you give God control. I wish for you a new or renewed understanding of his lavish love for you, that you would embrace the gift of his son Jesus, the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and that you would walk fearlessly in God’s light. With God you can’t go wrong. It’s that simple. His hand was all over our 2014 and we move into 2015 only by his grace. Happy New Year!
for the four of us