When I think about 2011 and all that it brought with it, my first thought is joy that we will soon be sending it on its way. What a terrible year! My family lost 3 members this year: my great-uncle, my beloved cousin, and my great-grandmother. In addition to that, our 2 year old Maltese pup died with no apparent cause and my husband joined the scores of Americans in the unemployment club. I experienced the worst pain of my life with some strange condition that we’ll probably never know what it was, and also had a very personal encounter with a yellow jacket when it decided the corner of my eye was where it needed to test its stinging abilities.
No, 2011 has not been good to us at first glance. For weeks I’ve been heralding a wish: New Year’s 2012, hurry up! Send this wretched year on its way and bring to us restored hope in all the things that could be. But I must pause and reflect, for things are not always so bad as they seem. If one chooses to focus only on the worst things in life, one cannot appreciate the blessings that truthfully outweigh the hardships. Therefore, if you will permit me for a moment to reflect on the year, I would like to share with you how I have resolved to make my peace with 2011:
January: January brought with it a new opportunity for work for me. I gained a wonderful client who has been a steady source of income during the year, with work I very much enjoy. Along about the same time, the Lord sent me an amazing new colleague who has been steady and reliable when I’ve needed her most and has become a dear friend as well. February: February was more or less uneventful, but I was blessed with the continued opportunity of helping my parents out with their floral business at Valentine’s Day. In these trying economic times, it is a blessing that they can continue to live their American Dream with a small business and that I, on occasion, am able to help them with it. March: March brought a very exciting opportunity to write content for an extremely well known national brand. Although it was ghostwritten with no byline, I felt most important to have done it. March also marked the beginning of spring with early spring flowers blooming to remind me of the majesty of God. April: April brought some amusing excitement when a bird decided to come down my chimney not once but twice! It also marked my husband’s birthday and a trip to my mother-in-law’s house that gave me a first-time experience: driving a four-wheeler. It also brought Easter with it-an ideal opportunity to remember how much we’ve been given that simply cannot be measured. May: May gave me great pride as a mother when my oldest daughter exceeded expectations on 3 out of 4 sections of her CRCT tests and was only points away from exceeding the fourth. We also enjoyed attending the CD release party of my brother-in-law’s band and celebrating Mother’s Day, along with my mother-in-law’s and grandfather-in-law’s birthdays. June: June saw me conquer php files, celebrate another of my father’s birthdays, plus Father’s Day. The most exciting thing June brought, however, was the opportunity, after 9 years together, for my family finally to take our weeklong vacation to the beach. This was truly the highlight of our year! July: July marked the 9th birthday of my oldest daughter, a trip to Stone Mountain for the fourth, and the onset-and disappearance-of the strangest medical symptoms I’ve ever experienced. (The blessing here is that it DID go away!) Perhaps the biggest relief of that entire month was finding out I did not have Lupus. August: August marked a milestone very few people experience-my great-grandmother’s 100th birthday. Although we had her party the last day of July, I’m counting it in with August since that’s when her birthday actually was. What a blessing to have her with us so long and for my children to be able to know her! August also marked my husband’s and mine anniversary…another year together! My middle child started kindergarten and adjusted marvelously-a blessing in and of itself. And, after nearly a year of planning, I finally launched my writing website. September: September always brings a hectic schedule, starting with mine and my grandfather’s birthday on the first, followed by more birthdays all month long…2 of which belong to my children and one being my mother’s. As busy as this month was, it was also a blessing for the celebration of so many lives in my family. It also brought the first taste of autumn weather, something very much anticipated here in the south after our sweltering summers. October: October is by and large mine and my husband’s favorite month. Fall begins in earnest and there is so much to do. We celebrated my middle child’s birthday with another trip to Stone Mountain-a wonderful day indeed. We enjoyed time with our families, from a mountain trip with my parents and my brother and his family, to visits and bonfires with my husband’s side of the family, including my father-in-law’s birthday. While my husband did lose his job toward the end, October was a good month overall. At least his time at home has allowed us to enjoy being with him and has given him and the girls a real opportunity to bond and spend quality time together. November: November was particularly trying in view of the tragic loss of my cousin, and finding blessings during this month was difficult. Even now, my heart aches and I imagine it will for some time to come. We were, however, reminded of how special and sacred life is, and have learned to cleave to each other all the more. December: December is stressful enough in the best of circumstances, but with my husband still unemployed we had no idea how we were going to give our girls a good Christmas. Then, out of the blue, the Lord poured out his blessings on my little family and we were able to have enough to pay the bills and get them most of the things on their Christmas lists. I am grateful my children are not materialistic and understand what the true joy of the season is. December’s blessings were so overwhelming to me and my husband. And, though we lost the oldest member of our family this month, we still are able to rejoice in knowing that she was ready to go home and is having a wonderful time where she is now. In spite of it all, we still had a good Christmas with family, and had the rare occasion to attend a Christmas morning church service.
I won’t lie and say I will be sad to see 2011 go…quite the contrary. But in retrospect, I suppose things could have been far worse than they were. Things can always be worse. In the grand scheme of things, however, I know that my family is truly blessed. 2011 has been a trying year, but we are still together, still healthy, and still have a place to live.
So, my wish for New Year’s 2012 is one of restored hope. It is a wish that, even as we experience hardships, we will always be able to reflect on the blessings we receive and know that they outweigh the challenges. It is a wish that whether we have an improved economic situation or continue to struggle, we will always recognize that as long as we are together we are truly blessed. It is a wish that we will be able to view our challenges as opportunities to learn and grow and bond together, knowing that we can overcome anything as a family. It is a wish of hope for all the Earth, and to all people, regardless of their circumstances. It is a wish of continued life and perseverance for another year.