The only good things I can remember happening that year:
1. My precious first niece Abygail was born in April.
2. Hunter's brother Blaine graduated high school in May.
3. Hunter and I got engaged in September.
Now those three milestones were all wonderful! But over the course of a year, that is seriously all of the joy I can remember.
Let me give you a brief re-cap of our year...It started in September of 2005 when Hurricane Rita gave our hometown a direct hit. In January 2006, Dustin Kendall, a childhood friend of Hunter's and a member of our youth group, was killed in Iraq. In March, the horrible saga of Hunter's parents' divorce began (and with that came all of the misery and heartache you would associate with such circumstances). That summer, PPG workers went on strike leaving Hunter's dad in a constant struggle of trying to make everything work out. In June, Hunter's dad was in a serious four-wheeler accident which landed him in the ICU. In July, Blaine Morrison, another long time friend and mentor of sorts passed away. In August, we found out some news about some of our dearest friends that would be quite a struggle. In September, another friend of Hunter's, Jess, was killed in a motorcycle accident. And from there, we just kind of went numb...
These memories are fresh on my mind because this past week was the anniversary of Blaine's death. Five years...that's unreal. Has it really been 5 years??
That year formed us into who we are today. While we were going through it, we thought things would never get better. We grew calluses because we were so scared of being hurt again. It was trying on our relationship and on our humanity. But as time went on, we began to heal. And the saying "that which does not kill you only makes you stronger" took on a whole new meaning for us. We truly had to learn how to rely on our relationship with Jesus because through all of those trials, He was the only constant. The Casting Crowns song "Praise You in This Storm" became our anthem. It was unbelievably difficult to truly believe that all of these events were part of a master plan, but we tried our hardest to rely on Him through it all.
That year challenged and changed us down to our core. We are completely different people because of it, and we are a completely different couple because of it. Those difficulties and losses taught us about life and its inconsistencies--along with its incredible ability to ignore fairness. I don't think we've asked the question "why?" so much. But it also taught us how to grow up; how to accept those challenges and embrace the changes they bring; how to grow in wisdom through choices; how to lean on each other and the only constant that is offered--Jesus's love.
I can now say that we are truly thankful for those lessons we learned. I don't believe we will ever be "grateful" for the tragedies of 2006, but we are able to realize and be blessed by the changes that year made in us.
If you are having challenging times, rest assured that you are definitely not alone. Keep your head above the waves and your heart in Jesus's hand. Allow yourself to be blessed, even if it comes through raindrops...