Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Life's Little Blessings

As I sit here at the computer this Christmas Eve, unable to really concentrate on serious writing, bored with reading, and unwilling to do anymore work around the house, I have spent some time thinking back on 2014, only a week away from coming to an end.
It has been a year filled with change for our family.
My husband lost his job in February. While it has forced us to live on my income as a teacher and the royalties I make as a writer (not yet where I wish them to be!), I considered it to be a blessing. For the past six years, he had worked at a job far enough from our home that he had to live there during the week and was only home for weekends. Maintaining a family life long distance is never easy. It also brings with it enough increased expenses in maintaining a second household (even though his lodgings were rent-free) that I often questioned whether we were really better off.
Adjusting our lifestyle to such a cut in income has had its ups and downs, sometimes like the most insane roller coaster ride you can ever imagine. Yet each time that I have grown concerned that we couldn’t possibly make it through a month, somehow we did. Royalty checks, big and small, arrived just in the nick of time, or my husband picked up some freelance work that helped to tide us over. A litter of puppies brought in additional income.
We planted a garden, then added a watermelon and cantaloupe patch in a different location on our mini-farm. Plentiful rain and moderate temperatures provided us with an abundance of fresh vegetables and incredibly flavorful melons. A neighbor killed and butchered one of his steers and brought us a box of beef. Just before Thanksgiving, my husband expressed the wish that he could add a deer ham to our smoker, and less than an hour later we were hauling an eight point buck home in the back of our truck.
In May, I earned my masters in education. Thanks to a gift from two very good friends, we had gas money so we could attend commencement in Virginia Beach. The pomp and ceremony had a wonderful bonus effect: my son, who was not at all excited about his own upcoming high school graduation ceremony, suddenly looked forward to the event. The smile on his face after that ceremony will live in my memory forever. School was not the easy academic ride for him that it had been for me and his father.
With the change in his employment, my husband decided to take a hard look at what he wanted to do. He had already completed a course in fixing small engines, which—to my thinking—paid for itself when he was able to fix our riding lawnmower himself.  He is now back in school and has completed his first semester of a very fine gunsmithing program.
My career as a writer has continued to grow and expand this year. I had a book release under a different pen name in July, which has done very well. My next release as Laura Browning, Special Delivery, will come out May 12, 2015, and is already available for pre-order.
Just this week, my husband finally secured a part-time job that he can fit around his schedule as a student and as the coach of a high school fencing team. My son has matured during this year, now holding down two part-time jobs as he continues to explore what he would like to do for a career.
In all, though this year has been filled with tremendous change, it has also been filled with such timely blessings, I can’t help but believe in the divine hand of providence at work. Through the many adventures and misadventures during my life, I have always felt I must have a very special guardian angel. Now I am sure of it.
I don’t wear my faith on my sleeve. Maybe that’s a function of being a Lutheran, maybe it’s just my personality. However, I have spent many moments this year thanking God for his assistance in so many little ways. So this holiday season, when we think about the miracle of faith embodied in the birth of God’s son, remember that miracles occur every day in many little ways. It might be the garden blessed with good weather or a timely gift from a friend. It might even be that longer than usual wait in a checkout line that put you two cars behind the impaired driver instead of right next to him when he lost control of his vehicle and crashed.
As Walt Whitman says, “Keep your face always toward the sunshine – and shadows will fall behind you.”

So as 2014 winds down and 2015 begins, remember to look for the best in every situation. Find those little blessings that can brighten your day and help you brighten the day of someone else. 

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