Blessed 2022 New Year

Wishing one and all a most blessed, healthy and peaceful 2022!

As we start a new year, I do what I have done most years; looking back on the year that has passed. Here’s our 2021 Christmas Letter:

HIHI

We hope you and your loved ones are well and healthy.

Another year of life in a pandemic. We were all hopeful that with the development of vaccines that we might be out of it by now. Unfortunately, for various reasons, we are not.

But let’s not dwell on such things as it is, in part, out of our control. What we have some control over is our response to our circumstances and how best we manage in these unpredictable times.

What we have held onto is our faith that God is with us; Jesus, Immaunel, God with us, chose to come as a baby that first Christmas day to show the world God loves us and wants to be in relationship with us; this is the reason for celebrating Christmas.

At the beginning of the year, Tobias still had a couple of weeks of online lessons, which he found slightly disruptive as it was on and off. Online wasn’t just for school; Sandra got to attend the SCBWI Winter Conference online, which usually is too costly to attend in person as it would have been held in New York. So that’s a plus.

Although church services had remained in person (limited in number and with registration), the AGM was conducted via an online platform which was quite a new experience for many. Walter officially stepped down from the eldership this year.

While Walter has continued working as normal, there has been no business travel and most things are conducted via online means. However, him not travelling meant that we got to celebrate his birthday, on the actual day, with homemade curry and cake.

In the spring months, Tobias went back to in person lessons at school. Sandra continued her role as volunteer with SCBWI as blog editor, attending more online meetings. She also entered her first poetry competition and while she didn’t win, it was great fun getting back in touch with that aspect of literature. As Walter continues in his role as worship leader at church, he is very grateful for more help which we have been blessed with. With spring came pollen and this year not just Tobias and Walter were affected, even Sandra had to go searching for allergy remedies.

May saw us celebrating Tobias’ 17th birthday at home. He invited some friends over and cooked lasagne for them. Sandra spent time trying to help her parents with some paperwork, remotely. Walter coordinated an Asian-themed service at church which was an opportunity for us to dress up (see picture at the end of this letter). We also got our first Covid jabs in May/June, suffering only mild side effects. Thank God.

It was the summer holidays in July and August but we stayed here because we felt that the quarantine requirement, which at one point was 21 days, was too much. We spent time with friends here; Tobias had a class gathering to watch the football, and friends over as well as attended a birthday party. We had a few days away as a family to the French part of Switzerland. We really enjoyed the archery hunt we did and the lovely atmosphere at the lakeside town of Vevey.

Tobias started his 3rd year at Gymnasium (or pre-university for Singapore reference) mid-August. Sandra continues her role as missions coordinator at church, now with help from a lovely mission-hearted and experienced lady.

We made a snap decision to fly to Singapore during the October autumn holidays, even with quarantine requirements because it had been more than 2 years since our last family visit, and what a good decision it was, considering what has happened now with the new variant of Covid.

We spent 10 days in quarantine (shorten for the original 14 days as new regulations which came in the day we arrived) and learnt very quickly how to order almost everything via shopping apps. Sandra was, at last, able to sort out the medical paperwork for her parents. During our short time in Singapore, we spent most of our time in quarantine and at home because of the Covid restrictions, seeing almost no one except for immediate family and a couple of friends.

Our major health concern came in early November when Tobias complaint of shoulder pains which quickly became neck pains and headaches, along with nausea. Lots of time was spent at doctors and the ER. He’s finally better after several weeks of physio.

We must mention our sweet little Lexi, who keeps us entertained and fit with all the walks we go on.

Even though the Swiss government has recently implemented new restrictions and brought back the “work-from-home” rule, Walter still goes to the office some days as he needs to work with the equipment there. At least, this year we can have some friends over for Christmas lunch, which we really look forward to.

What are you looking forward to? Do share with us, we love to hear from you.

We hope and pray that your 2021 has had more positives than negatives and that you have and will continue to experience God’s warm love and assuring presence as we move into 2022.

There’s more, much more to Christmas than bright lights and cheer;
It’s the spirit of sweet friendship that brightens all the year,
It’s thoughtfulness and kindness, it’s hope reborn again,
For peace, for understanding, for goodwill to men!

With love,

Walter, Sandra, Tobias and Lexi

Us, all dressed up for Asian-themed service

Book Review: The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon

When I first bought this book, the first thing my husband and son said to me was “Why are you buying such a big book?” LOL…

Well, to answer the question, I was captured by the description on the inside front cover page which reads, “A world divided. A queendom without an heir. An ancient enemy awakens.”. Then it goes on to describe in three short paragraphs three strong female characters, each with their own goals/agendas and troubles. Plus there were mentions of dragons and a hidden society of mages; all of which I think can make a good fantasy story.

And I was right!

I LOVE this book! On the front cover, there is a quote which says, “Deserves to be as big as Game of Thrones – Laure Eve”. I could not agree more.

A multi-layered story told from multiple points of view and across several kingdoms could have left a reader lost BUT Shannon does such a great job that not only was I never lost but I remembered details from where I left off. It is quite amazing as I took a long while to read the whole book because it was such a big book (more than 800 pages) I only read it at home and didn’t take it with me everywhere. (Well, I did bring it with me when we quarantined during our recent trip to Singapore.) This is all down to the strong characters, intriguing storylines that Shannon has created and her wonderful writing style.

I love how the dialogue is slightly reflective of old royal courts. The words Shannon has selected to use in her descriptions of places and clothing etc have certainly enriched my own vocabulary. I enjoyed learning about things such as partlet and palanquin.

I also enjoyed how Shannon was able to weave the individual stories of the three main characters and the histories of their various countries together to form a cohesive narrative. The exploration of how myths and legends form and how over centuries the truth of these can be distorted to serve whoever is in power is so interesting. She also shows brilliantly how people hold so tightly onto their beliefs and how secrets are created to keep those beliefs, even at the expense of many lives.

I have not outline any of the storyline or even named any of the characters because I really don’t want to give anything away. I do hope what I have written has sparked in you a curiosity to want to read this fabulous book.

Happy Reading!

syc