Sunday, August 31, 2014

Surprise! It's been a year!

Wow! What a year it has been. This time in 2013, I was doing last-minute shopping and crazy packing/planning before leaving early the next day for flights to London and the start of that amazing 10-day cruise along the Western  European coast aboard the Crystal Serenity. Usually I'm very aware of such "anniversaries," but this one had slipped my mind until someone at church this morning wished me a happy anniversary. Sure enough, the wedding anniversary had slipped my mind, too. That's when I thought back to last year, when I was aboard the ship somewhere in the area of Bordeaux, France, and Gene was home in Norman, Oklahoma. 

That's how the past 12 months have been -- filled with surprises, blessings, frustrations, challenges, memories and forgetfulness. 

Three factors seemed to play big roles. 

One was the cruise. I had to decide quickly whether to go on this promotional trip available through work -- and to this day I'm not sure I made the best choice. Some of my personal chaos since then I clearly link to that decision and its aftermath. 

Another was my husband's transition with his early retirement from a state job to a part-time, work-from-home role as a contractor for a national organization. For a 20-hour-a-week job, it has keep him very busy, including a lot of travel. I've enjoyed getting to go along on some trips and will do so more in the future. We knew the transition would be significant. I think we both are looking forward to next year and a better sense of how to plan and balance work and some retirement opportunities not tied to his job. 

And the third is the cancer diagnosis of my sister-in-law. When I was in Arkansas for the birthday of their youngest  daughter -- my goddaughter -- a year ago in August, things were so normal, as far as I knew. But by Thanksgiving, everything had changed with a cancer diagnosis. I've been blessed to be one of many family members and friends sharing this precious journey. I've wanted to be there so much more, but I'm grateful for every visit I have been able to make. So often, the timing has been amazing in ways than can only be divine. Through a very difficult year, the family's faith has remained strong. Their determination to pull together through this and fight for healing and strength continues to inspire me. And again today, I pray in faith that she soon will have some pain-free, quality time with her family. But until then, we praise God for His blessings that allow them to see the good in every day and situation. I believe with all my heart that a positive breakthrough is just around the corner. Our job is to remain faithful. 

And that is what I try to do every day, in every situation. Sometimes I fall far short, and God in His great mercy loves and accepts and blesses me anyway. 

I was tempted to write that I hope the coming year will be less chaotic and stressful for me, for my husband and for my brother's family. But I'm not going to do that. I just pray to stay close to God, come what may.

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