It’s December 31, 2017. It is the last day of a very memorable year for us. Today, the end of one year and beginning of a new year, is really just another day. However, it is a day that prompts us to reflect on where we’ve been and where we are aiming to go. 2017 was both one of the happiest years of my life and also one of the saddest years of my life. It was one extreme to the other. My goals for 2018 are dim at best. Usually I’ve already made some plans for the following year by this time in years past. Not so much this year. There are things we hope to accomplish, Lord willing of course. We have no travel plans or anything of the sort for reasons entirely beyond our control. All I’m truly hoping for is a year where I get more serious about living for my sweet, loving Lord Jesus. I feel now, like I am too far away. I seek Him and find Him but it’s not like it has been before. I don’t see the same clear direction I used to see. I know it’s me and I know I need to figure it out. That is my only real plan for 2018.
2017 was memorable with extreme emotions like I said. My own son Ben’s first child was born on January 5, 2017. That day is one I won’t and don’t want to ever forget. There was the bravery of my daughter-in-law, Sarah, birthing Sam with absolutely no drugs. There was Sam’s first cry 10:28:43 am. There was seeing my son meet HIS son for the first time. There was my first time holding my Grandson. There was the first time husband, Sam’s Grandpa, held Sam. So sweet a day that was. I like to play it back in my mind over and over. During the first ½ of 2017 I spent time with Sam and Sarah at least once a week, sometimes twice, while Ben was in class. I had a delightful time getting to know Sam, but also getting to know Sarah better. I grew to love them both much more than I thought I could. There is a deep well inside of me that springs up with love for people and sometimes it surprises me how much love it actually holds. That is a part of me that I like. Since then, we’ve managed to see Sam at least once a week. He’s so much like his Dad but at the same time there are many distinct differences. It feels sometimes like I’m seeing Ben reincarnated. Sam looks EXACTLY like his Dad sometimes. It doesn’t hurt my feelings, that is for sure! We just celebrated the birth of our Savior Jesus and it was one of my favorite Christmases ever. Samuel James Stewart has given me a new and wonderful reason to celebrate. Not that I was lacking. I’m so, so very thankful!!
In August of 2017, the first of many struggles began. This first struggle was not such a big deal. Craig’s car started to break down. We decided to get a new one because we had put a lot of money into it already and it needed about $1500 more work. Since that would work out to about what we would pay in car payments, we got a 2014 Chevy Equinox. It had only 4000 miles on it. Really that wasn’t a terribly bad thing but we didn’t have a car payment at all prior to getting this new car. Taking on new debt was something that we didn’t need. The real sadness came in September. On Sunday evening on September 17, my 87 year young neighbor, friend, mother figure, Billie Raher, called us on the phone. She had fallen and needed our help. Craig and I went over and found her on her couch with a very long and deep gash going from her forehead, across her left eye and down through her cheek. She had fallen in her kitchen. There was a lot of blood out there. I called 911 and got a cold cloth to put on her face as directed by the operator I had reached. Billie was talking and seemed maybe to be in a little bit of shock but I thought, ok – she will be fine. The Paramedics arrived and prepared Billie for the ride to the hospital. She complained to them that her neck hurt. They put on a neck brace which made her complain even more of her neck pain. She went to the local hospital and we followed. We were both in pajamas so we went home to change first. When we arrived, Billie was getting stitches. They were only letting family visit so I got a couple of phone numbers of people she wanted to notify. Craig and I went to the waiting room and called Billie’s family. When her family arrived, we were allowed to go in to see her. We did. She was joking with the Dr. and the rest of us. She was in very good spirits. That was the last time I saw her alive. It turns out that Billie had broken her neck. One false move and she’d die. She died on Wednesday September 20, 2017. My heart is still broken. I still miss her terribly. I could write a whole blog just about that.
Then the second blow came. My lifelong favorite singer/songwriter, Tom Petty, died. So many musicians had died in 2016 and a few more in 2017. My first thought every time, selfish as it may be was, “Thank God it wasn’t Tom”. Then it was. Trying to mourn someone who wasn’t a physical part of your life is a peculiar thing. Many people don’t understand that there can be a true connection to someone famous. I have clinical depression and I started to feel that vortex of dark and brooding emotion envelop me. Tom’s fans were consoling each other, and I tried to be part of it. I had to unplug myself from the online community that Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers have generated and that I’m a part of. I was being swept away again. I’m okay now but I still can’t hear his songs without feeling that hopeless feeling that comes. Grieving a famous person isn’t an easy thing to do. I hope it won’t take too long to be able to enjoy playing TPaTHBs at full blast once again. Right now it just brings tears to my eyes every time I’ve tried. Even just as recently as a few days ago, I put some Tom Petty on but then had to shut it off.
In November our refrigerator quit working. That really isn’t heartbreaking at all. The trouble it presents is more debt. December, Craig’s Mom has had some bad falls and we are worried about her. She’s all the way in Michigan and so we’re feeling pretty helpless. Craig’s eardrum blew this week and he’s basically deaf right now. The Dr. says that 90% of cases like his heal completely. Let’s pray that Craig is part of the 90 and not the 10.
The thing of note that I find encouraging here is that one good thing that happens can brighten all of the bad things that have happened. My Sammy Grammy time is hands down, far more prominent than all of the sadness and grief that I’ve seen. God has good timing. Another thing that helps is that I have become addicted to Keith Urban’s music the same way that I was addicted to Tom Petty. He’s certainly not a replacement but it sure is helpful. In every instance above, God was actively assisting us in every problem and celebrating with each happy event. Our car is better and cheaper than what our budget was. Our refrigerator was $200 less than the marked sale price and we will have no interest for 18 months. If we pay it off before then, it will be interest free. There are many other examples of God’s goodness as well but again, that could be a blog post of its own.
So then there is 2018 in front of me. What will happen? Of course I don’t know. We hope to get a new pool liner without having to incur more debt by using our income tax return. I am praying for help with my student loan debt. I haven’t really seen any benefit financially from having a degree but I see very clearly the debt that came with it. I don’t know for sure how it will happen but we want to reduce our debt in 2018. I trust that God will meet our needs no matter what. I hope for more photo shoots. I’m hoping for a vacation with Craig, Ben, Sarah and Sam. I hope to be a blessing. I hope to find my motivation to go back to the gym. I hope most that I will lean into the Lord and find the closeness with Him that I’ve enjoyed in the past.
2018, I’m ready for you. In Christ’s name, I pray anyone reading this will have a blessed 2018 as well.
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