January was brought in by celebrating the New Year with Joel's parents in Colorado and then we traveled home to Texas. We had enjoyed having Hannah home for the Christmas break and then...we had to take her back to Dallas Baptist University for her second semester. While in Dallas, we were able to spend some special time with my sister and her family as well as with my parents who were living in the area at the time...we would later come to cherish these special few days even more.
January 29th - after a short battle with cancer, my Mom went home to be with Jesus. This hit our family hard as it truly was unexpected and shook us all up. I am forever grateful that Mom was surrounded by both of us girls, my Dad, and her sisters as she left and was welcomed by her Savior. After any loss, everyone tends to tell you cherish the ones you love, savor every moment, etc. I can honestly say - I did not have any regrets in this regard with my Mom. I loved her, she knew it. She loved me, I knew it and felt it. My kids all cherished the time they had with her and they always will have special memories!
February brought my Mom's memorial service in Texas and then a return to what the "new normal" would be. It was painful, it was hard. She was missed and it was felt - yet, through it all the Lord was GOOD. He brought many to love on all of our family and we were blessed. Of course, the Broncos winning the Super Bowl was a DEFINITE bonus to the month for this Bronco loving girl!
March would bring more unexpected and unplanned hardship as we would come face to face with deep depression affecting our family. Our oldest daughter Hannah, struggled with the stress of college, homesickness, and the added grief of losing her Mimi. She was smart enough to realize that she needed some serious help and needed her family to lean on for a time. So, at spring break Joel picked her up from DBU, she withdrew from classes and moved home with us. I have always known other people who were affected by depression but it hadn't hit our own family. This was a painful time for all of us. A time of trying to understand and help her but as parents not enable her to the point where she didn't have to work to overcome her depression...it was a time of growth and a definite balancing act. If you or someone you know is facing this - I can say, it is real, it is hard but GOD...Only through Him can we overcome. Hannah has come so far - she has some to go BUT GOD...has been there and is there and is working in her each and every moment!
April Joel and I were able to go on a MUCH needed minister and wives retreat in Arkansas. We had been planning to go since October 2015 and had asked my parents to come and stay with the kids. Graciously, my Dad agreed to still come and stay with the kids; however Satan would try to thwart that plan as well because just days before we were to leave, my Dad became ill and wasn't able to come right away as planned (he did come later). BUT GOD had a plan for even that because Hannah was home she was able to take care of the kids as was our adopted daughter who lived in Plainview - she came for a few days as well. Joel and I were able to rest, refresh, renew and pray for direction in our ministry and it was needed!!!! Also in April - Joel, Malachi, Tyler and I made a "Site Visit" to Delta Colorado in preparation to potentially move to Delta and begin a church there (more on that later).
May was crazy! We had the end of school activities and chaos and then as soon as school let out, we packed up and headed to Pagosa Springs for my Mom's Celebration of Life Service with our Colorado friends and family. Such a sweet time to celebrate and rejoice on her life and the memories we had with her. We are forever grateful for our Pagosa family who loved and continue to love on us well!
June brought new beginnings! After serving for three years at First Baptist Church Levelland as Children's Pastor - Joel resigned and became a Missionary with the North American Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention. Our placement - Delta Colorado. So after finishing up with VBS in Levelland, we packed up and Joel, Hannah, Tyler and I headed to Delta while Malachi and Kestra stayed behind to go to church camp with the youth from Levelland. Once again, Grandad helped out and was able to pick them up from camp for us!
July brought more adjustment and hardship. We began to adjust to life in our new community. Joel got a job at Wal-Mart in the stocking department. The kids and I enjoyed slow mornings, time at the local rec center and just exploring our new town. Once again we would be rocked by hardship. On July 17 Joel came home from work just not feeling well at all. He was feverish and weak. Chalking it up to fatigue and adjusting to a night job and harder duties neither one of us thought much of it. However Monday night he was still ill and missed work - by Tuesday morning, I and he, knew something major was wrong. I took him to the Urgent Care Clinic and eventually to the hospital ER where he was later admitted. He was dehydrated, had pneumonia, and had a significantly un-explainable low white blood cell count. As a friend who is also a head nurse at the hospital said...he was one sick man! After 3 days and 2 nights in the hospital on some heavy antibiotics Joel was released to come home. His blood count literally TRIPLED over night... BUT GOD! Bonus blessing was that my Dad had already planned a visit for this week and was able to come and be with the kids and I through it all. As a result of this illness, Joel could no longer physically handle his current position at Wal-Mart. After talking to the managers and because he found favor with them - he was moved to a Sales Associate position with higher pay and better hours...BUT GOD!
August would bring change. The kids would all begin school at Delta High School; which starting a new school is always an adjustment. For Tyler, it was his first time in High School and back in public school after being home schooled for 2 years. He did and continues to do very well with the change! Hannah also experienced change as she was hired at McDonald's. Toward the end of August, I would be hired at Vision Charter Academy as a paraprofessional for the Special Education Department. Such a huge blessing as I love education and special needs students!!!
September we would be able to just "settle". We were all into our new normal including having a fall softball season instead of spring season and was a much needed time to just "Be still and know that I am God".
October we were able to go to Silverton for a day and meet up with my Mom's two sisters and my Dad for lunch and exploring. My Dad then traveled back with us and enjoyed some quality time here! Kestra finished up her first softball season with Delta High School and did well! She learned and grew tremendously in her game - can't wait to see her Senior year!
November brought a time of more change and a time to reflect and be thankful. Although he enjoyed his job at Wal-Mart and God definitely used it to open ministry doors; the hours were hard in terms of family time and ministry work. We had began praying that God might open up a different position that would still be part time and enable Joel to have more time for ministry. Open up He did! Joel was hired as a part time IT Assistant at Vision Charter Academy where I work and was able to quit his position with Wal-Mart, leaving on good terms, and it was a pay increase to boot! At the same time, I was offered and accepted the opportunity to move from part-time to full-time and increased responsibility! We celebrated Thanksgiving here as a family with part of our church family joining us!
December has been a time to just breathe and reflect! With both Joel and I working at a school, we have enjoyed a full two weeks off with the kids for the first time EVER! My Dad flew in late the night of Dec. 18th and has been with us ever since - it has been a GREAT time with him. He will fly back to my sister's house in Louisiana tomorrow - we are going to miss having him around!!!
The take aways from this year - are many!
1.) Even in the sorrow, the tragedy, the unexpected, the hard - God is still moving and working! I have seen and felt Him in so many many ways! I miss my Mom each and every day and though maybe the tears aren't as frequent - the hole is still there - yet, God has been my comfort, he has blessed me with an amazing friend who is a little farther down this grief road than I am and she has been so special and sweet and insightful!
2.) Watching your child struggle with something as hard as depression...is HARD! A part of me wanted to shake her and say get over it; and a bigger part of me - wanted to shelter her and wrap her up and protect her and take away all the hardship and pain. BUT GOD...He has helped me grow in areas of compassion and tough love and He has brought her through in maturity, healing, and grace!
3.) Hardship and Change - they are part of all of our lives; you can't escape them BUT you can learn to overcome and adjust to them with Christ! As we have faced what both Joel and I have referred to as our hardest year in marriage yet; we have been so blessed to know that God has already gone before us and knows what is coming ahead and we can trust Him in that! Casting Crowns has always been one of my favorite bands - they sing a song called "Already There" that sums up this idea. God is ALREADY THERE...He knows the future, the unknown, the unexpected, the tragedy, the hard, and He is working it for HIS glory and HIS good!
4.) When the hard comes...your family can grow stronger. This has been HUGE for us as a family this year. Our kids have grown from being just siblings to truly being friends this year. They are each other's strength and encouragement and we have enjoyed so many many moments of family time the past few months - blesses this mom's heart!
As I begin to look ahead to 2017...I don't know what it will bring, I know there will be some hard moments -like sending Hannah off to Australia for 6 months to be a nanny at the end of January, I know there will be some moments of change - like my son graduating from High School in May and I know there could be tragedy and new beginnings BUT most of all....I know that GOD IS ALREADY THERE and I can rest in that!
My prayer for you is this....no matter what curve balls life is tossing you, no matter what you think may or may not happen, no matter how hard your circumstances; there is a Savior, there is ONE who wants to carry you and hold you through it all and He is already there at the end of the journey!!!