This time of year begins a time of reflection for me….what has happened, what I’ve learned over the last year. And a LOT has happened. In fact, reflecting on it all, even without examining it very closely, is somewhat overwhelming.

We were barely a month into the new year when my Pawpaw passed away. While it was not entirely unexpected, I don’t know that there’s anything that really prepares you for losing your first grandparent. I have some strong, fond memories of him and watching his decline mentally and physically were difficult for all of my family so there’s a mix of relief and loss. This is our first holiday season without him. It’s been different…..him not being there, complimenting us on our cooking, talking to Dad about the football game.

About 6 weeks after Pawpaw passed, I made the decision to seek public office. Less than a month later, Mom and I had a serious car wreck on the way to church one morning. I still have trauma from it I think. I still jump when a car looks like it’s about to cross the highway in front of me. I still cringe when I remember how much pain my mom was in. There was nothing I could do….and I don’t do helpless very well.

In May, we kicked off the campaign in full swing. Running ads in the local paper, putting up signs, wearing our tshirts, speaking to various groups at various functions, and going door-to-door to ask for votes. This was my life for the summer months.

In July, I went to the doctor for some issues and ended up having exploratory surgery a couple of weeks later. Stage IV endometriosis. Inevitable full hysterectomy in my fairly immediate future. Lots of emotions tied to this one. Lots.

Right after my daughter started 5th grade, my phone rang one Sunday morning. It was Mom, at the ER with my Dad. He had had a stroke. A mild one, but a stroke nonetheless. Dad has been no stranger to health problems, but I guess it goes to show how quickly we take our health for granted because he has been doing so well for so long….well, it scared the beejeezees out of me. When the cause of the stroke was finally determined, Dad had surgery to repair a hole in his heart. A simple procedure by todays medical standards I guess, but it’s my Dad. And I was really glad when that surgery was over.

In September, Shey lost his last living grandparent. Also not entirely unexpected, but still a loss and one that beat us down in our exhausted state. In addition to this loss, I’ve had several friends and work associates lose people they love this year and sometimes I feel like all I’ve done is stand around in funeral homes or by gravesides and tell people how sorry I am.

In late October, I got another phone call. This time it was my mom, telling me her brother had died rather suddenly that morning. This one just took me off guard. Uncle Charles hadn’t been in good health in a long time, but he had been so much better last time I saw him. In a year where I’ve needed humor so much to keep me sane, losing someone who ALWAYS made me laugh was hard. I’ve no doubt he’s found a couple of devious-minded angels to share some inside jokes with.

And then the election. Do I even want to go there? 8 months, thousands of dollars, 20,000 miles on my car, and a LOT OF STRESS later….I came in 5th out of 8. And I don’t think I’ll ever wear the color teal again. I was so disappointed. Hurt. Angry. I’m still processing it. Because I gave so much, the best of myself. And now I find myself in a place of starting over and not really sure what to do next.

On top of everything that has happened this year, enduring a hard, intensely personal disappointment has been extra difficult. For me and my husband. But we’re still here, still together in life, facing it all one day at a time.

And I don’t want anyone to think that 2014 was just a big awful year with death, sickness, and disappointment. Because there’s been a lot of good. Mainly in the simple things. 

I watched dear people to me graduate from high school and college.

I watched my nephew play in the high school marching band.

I made new friends, and grew closer to some I already had.

I watched my in-laws celebrate 50 years of marriage.

I got to take a girls only trip to Memphis with 4 of my favorite females.

I saw Graceland again.

I watched my daughter start her first basketball season and have seen her improve as a player.

I’ve taken some really great bubble baths, read some good books, watched some great movies, shared some really nice kisses with my husband, and become more comfortable in my own skin than maybe I ever have before.

When it comes to lessons learned this year, the one about life being short probably stands out the most. We all know this, but this year, it’s just really been driven home. You never know what the next phone call will bring into your life. You never know what people will do to disrupt your well-laid plans. You never know when a doctor is going to give you unexpected news.

People around me know that I haven’t been myself in a while. Most of them probably think it’s one thing or another, but it’s just all of this…all that I’ve told you about….swirling around in my mind, looking for a place to settle. So I can move forward. Not just in that mode of putting one foot in front of another, but really move forward….toward good things.

In all that has happened, good and bad, one thing has centered my spirit in the midst of it all: God is unchanging. His goodness, his love, his mercy, his grace, his presence, never, never wavers. I cling to that in bad or uncertain times, and rejoice in it in all times.

I know that I am not the only one who has experienced a busy, trying year. If you have as well, I pray that you move forward as well, in hope, in expectation of good things and of God’s presence, always.

In the meantime, as this year comes to a close, I will bow my head and praise God for new mercies, forgiveness of my shortcomings, and the hope that He restores to my soul.