It seems like it was just a few short weeks ago when we were closing out the 2017 calendar and opening up the calendar for the new 2018, wondering what it would hold for us. Now we are near the end of that year and ready to step into the all-new 2019.

The year started out rough, with many in the family struggling to get rid of the cold-flu-pneumonia bugs that seemed to have so many down during the winter months. Several trips to the hospital were necessary before the illnesses were finally licked.

The summer’s unpredictable weather pattern had even the wisest forecasters confused, with record-setting rain and late summer hurricanes causing everyone to wonder where the next storm would be.

The autumn months brought much sadness to our family. We lost Rex’s baby (that is, youngest) sister after a long battle with lung problems. Although we knew the prognosis wasn’t as good as it could have been, there was always the hope that she still had more time with us. Her death was very sudden and unexpected, and she will be missed for many years to come.

Just a few weeks ago we lost our youngest kitty; we’re still not sure what happened. We found Miss Kitty’s lifeless little body near the bed where she loved to rest on the headboard of the bed as she kept an eye on what was happening around our house.

Last week we lost another member of the family, my nephew’s dog, Hunter. Although Hunter was a big dog (Black Lab), I don’t think I have ever known a more gentle dog. But as he got older, parts of his body just stopped working and on a Saturday morning he was gone.

Although there was much sadness during the year, there were many blessings, too.

We had the privilege of sharing a visit to the Sight and Sounds theater near Lancaster with good friends from Ohio. It was their first visit to S & S, and they were as awestruck with the reality of the performance as we always are.

During the days before Christmas we received gifts from people who had no reason to remember us, except that the Lord must have spoken to their hearts.

One of the best gifts we received was a letter from a lady in West Virginia, someone neither of us has ever met. But a pastor’s wife told us of this lady’s need for prayer for health reasons, and in return told the lady that a little church in the “sticks of western Pennsylvania” was praying for her. She wrote us a lovely letter, reminding us that the family of God is just that — family. Each time I think of her letter I am reminded of the account where Elijah was feeling that he was the only person left serving God, and the Lord had to remind him that there were 7,000 others just over the hillside that had not bowed their knees to Baal.

For Christmas I received everything that I wanted, and more. That’s how good God is to us. The thing I wanted more than anything was another Christmas with my mom and Rex. None of us is getting any younger, and we are all dealing with health issues that could worsen at any time. But once again God gave the gift of mercy and another Christmas with my loved ones.

What does 2019 hold for us? Only the good Lord can answer that question. But one thing I know for sure, many pastors who know the Word of God will be keeping their eyes on Israel as current events over there unfold.

Will there be sadness in 2019? Most likely. Will there be struggles, frustrations and disappointments? Undoubtedly. But there will also be blessings, because the Lord told his followers that he would never leave them, and since his word is the same yesterday, today and forever, we know that he will be with us whatever comes our way. And that in itself is a tremendous blessing.

To each of you, Rex and I both wish you a very happy and prosperous new year, filled with a new blessing each day.

Thought for the week — Tomorrow is the first blank page of a 365-page book. Write a good one. (Brad Paisley)

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