Well, 2017 is coming to a close. And, let me tell you, it’s been an incredible year. One for the record books. Unbelievable. Amazing. Overwhelming. Wonderful. Blessed.
We started the year in full planning mode for a February wedding. We gave our daughter Danielle to the love of her life, Dylan Oakey, on February 24th. It’s a love story to make your heart swoon. Their wedding was such a beautiful representation of who they are: unique, inspirational and fun!
The next week, our oldest daughter Gabrielle, had the fourth of six surgeries to repair the retina in both eyes. She discovered both retinas had detached in late 2016 and multiple surgeries would be required to regain vision. In addition to those six surgeries, she also had multiple laser procedures as the pressure in each eye sky-rocketed painfully (and dangerously) high. As a family, we spent the year helping her hero of a husband, Scott, take care of her and their toddler Josiah. It has been a very long and intensive journey to regain her sight, and we look forward with hope to the end of January 2018 when she should be able to function independently as her sight steadily improves.
At the end of March, my husband Bill became ill with unexplainable symptoms. It started with perpetual dizziness and went downhill from there. The symptoms seemed to mimic an episode of a thyroid storm he experienced in 2010 where everything went haywire. But, even though the symptoms were eerily similar, there were differences that left everyone – including doctors – scratching their heads. We have gallon-size ziplock bags that holds the dozens and dozens of medicines prescribed to him. And, after a MRI, CAT scan, x-rays, heart tests, balance and equilibrium testing, a sleep study, countless blood draws, multiple visits to the ER, endless appointments with his regular doctor, several visits with a homeopathic doctor, a visit to an ENT and neurologist, no one had any answers for us.
In the midst of all this, Danielle suffered a miscarriage at seven weeks. She was due January 1st. And within 10 days of her miscarriage, found herself pregnant again. She is currently pregnant with grandson number two. Judah Beckett is due one day after their 1st anniversary, February 25th.
Because Bill is still struggling with his health, someone suggested that we do mold testing in the parsonage we live in. So, the week of Thanksgiving, a company came into the parsonage and did air quality testing. The test results revealed that the parsonage – our home – was full of toxic levels of mold and formaldehyde and we needed to immediately evacuate. We were stunned. We suspected there might be “something” to deal with, but never imagined it was toxic. Never dreamed we’d have to leave. Immediately.
Our heads were spinning. There was talk of losing everything we owned. Of walking away from everything with just the clothes on our back. There was talk of being able to remediate some things but not everything. It would take several days before the final test results would reveal that we could keep some things, but the majority of our belongings – 30 years of marriage and family – would have to be discarded.
I don’t think I’ve ever felt so overwhelmed. I can’t explain to you the myriad of emotions we felt. It was like experiencing a flood or a fire – except we could choose to keep some items. The guilt of throwing away items that looked perfectly fine. The shame of owning “too much”. The pressure to immediately find a place to live – to purchase a house of our own. During the holidays. The uncertainty of what all this would end up looking like. The inability to help and support Scott and Gabe, as she had surgery number six the same week we found out this news.
The shock of realizing that Bill’s illness was connected to mold and formaldehyde toxicity. That Stefan and I were also experiencing symptoms of mold and formaldehyde toxicity, we just had not realized it because they were different than Bill’s. That once out of the house it may take us months to recover.
(I had pics of the girls, so I had to show you Stefan too)
But with all that (and these are 2017’s highlights, because details or listing more challenges would have made this post entirely too long) 2017 was not a year of difficulties, heartache, problems or despair. It was not a year of fear, anxiety or stress – though, it certainly contained all of that. Instead, 2017 was a year of promise. Of possibilities. Of opportunities. Of hope. Of joy. Of faithfulness.
I can say that because I have chosen to see it that way. I have chosen to look at Jesus. I have chosen to see the blessings. I have chosen to focus on His goodness to us. His faithfulness to us. His provision for us.
I can say that because I have chosen to let those situations anchor my soul in Him. I refused to let myself become angry, bitter, frustrated, disappointed, resentful, discouraged or depressed. I refused to ask “why?” I was determined to be driven further into His arms, where I knew I could find safety and rest. Where there was hope.
I can say that, because I have chosen to be thankful in all circumstances (1Thessalonians 5:18) for every everything (Ephesians 5:20). Am I thankful in this moment, when I am “homeless”? When I am sick? Am I thankful for mold and formaldehyde? For detached retinas and miscarriages? Yes. Yes, I am, because those painful, difficult and stressful situations, gave me the opportunity to encounter God in a way that I may not have otherwise. I had the opportunity to see an aspect of His greatness that I may not have seen. Those circumstances opened doors for miracles. To see the impossible come to life. To experience heaven on earth. They gave me opportunities to learn and discover Him. To grow and mature in faith and Truth. To lean in and trust. To be even more dependent on Him. They provided an opportunity for the supernatural to become a reality for me.
NOTE: let me be clear, those things are NOT from God. None of it. God is good and only does good. Every situation I’ve mentioned above were strategies of the enemy to steal, kill and destroy. But, in His faithfulness, Abba took the situations the enemy intended to destroy us with and worked them together for our good (Genesis 50:20). In His kindness to us, He is working all things together for our good (Romans 8:28). He is giving us beauty for ashes and joy for our sorrow (Isaiah 61:3). We leave 2017 blessed and enriched, instead of destroyed.
And, while the events of 2017 came as a complete shock to us, they did not catch Abba off guard. He was not surprised. Instead, He was prepared. He was waiting on us as we stepped into each moment, with precisely what we needed. Whether we needed peace, strength, endurance, help, courage, grace, wisdom, encouragement, comfort, assurances, financial or material supplies, or anything else, He was there with an abundant supply. We saw God be everything He promised to be. Not once did He leave us hanging. Not once did He fail us. Not once was He late. Not once did we have to fend for ourselves. Not once did we have to fix it. Not once were we alone. His faithful goodness was astounding.
Yes, it’s been an incredible year. One for the record books. Unbelievable. Amazing. Overwhelming. Wonderful. Blessed. I would not want to do it again, but I would not trade it for anything.
James 1:2-4 (TPT) My fellow believers, when it seems as though you are facing nothing but difficulties see it as an invaluable opportunity to experience the greatest joy that you can! For you know that when your faith is tested it stirs up power within you to endure all things. And then as your endurance grows even stronger it will release perfection into every part of your being until there is nothing missing and nothing lacking.