Thoughts about 2017 and the New Year--
I began this blog originally on Sept. 9. I never finished it, and finally forgot about it. But as 2018 begins, I wanted to return to the blog, re-write and post it.
On August 18, I posted these two photos on Facebook. I was leaving the University of Houston after a day of photography, and by the route I was taking home, I would be driving away from storms and into a beautiful blue sky crowned by a rainbow. I posted the photos because of the beauty in both scenes, the irony of Houston weather, and the metaphorical significance of that yin and yang sky.
On Labor Day, not too long after, as I was driving home from the hospital after my grandmother's triple bypass surgery, I started thinking about that stormy Friday afternoon and how fitting it was for the recent past, beginning with July 1 (I'll come back to this).
After the storm, rainbows will follow. Sometimes during the storm, a rainbow will briefly appear. One or the other may be brief and outweighed by the other. But we have to focus on all that comes with the rainbow.
As 2017 came to an end, I began to see a lot of posts online where people were expressing happiness that 2017 was coming to an end. I felt the same way when I began this blog Sept. 9, but soon realized I shouldn't wish time away, when I really had so many blessings to count. Yes, 2017 had some major hardships. But in the midst of those storms, there were so many good things...or rainbows after the storms.
For me, 2017 began as a memorable year on Jan. 4, when I got a call asking if I'd like to attend the Super Bowl as a photographer's assistant. I tend to get frustrated with my career on and off, as it hasn't always turned out to be quite like I planned. But photography has gifted me with so many incredible experiences, and those are what keep me going through the stormier times. Within a few days of that call, I also booked a couple of pretty big jobs that kicked my work year into high gear. Professionally, 2017 was my best year yet!
From January to March, Roddy and I took a Dave Ramsey financial class at our church, which helped project us into a much healthier financial lifestyle. Luckily we weren't in financial trouble to begin with, but weren't necessarily the smartest spenders/savers either. Now, our future, regarding finances, is much more on track for success. On top of that, the class moved us to a different campus at our church, which introduced us to new people and opportunities.
The rest of the first half of 2017 was mostly a "normal" year, or maybe slightly better than average. I really can't complain about anything in those six months. I had steady work and got to spend time with friends and family, including my first trip to Napa. I attended photography school in April, which is always a highlight of spring. June was a whirlwind of a month with a trip to Austin for my birthday at the surf park, followed by a trip to Florida as a volunteer for my church, and last, a third trip to Indiana/Illinois to see my best friend get married at Purdue, with a side trip to see a few sights in Chicago.
Then the second half of 2017 blew in with quite the array of storms, both figurate and literal.
On July 1st, as I was preparing for my day of photographing Kailey and Leo's wedding, I got one of those calls no one ever wants. My dad had fallen 18 feet onto concrete and was being Life Flighted to Memorial Hermann. Without going into full details of the day, my dad had multiple fractures including a few ribs, 6 vertebrae, left shoulder bone, breast bone and some facial fractures in his sinus area, plus a bad cut on his head. After being able to talk to my dad and see that he still had function in his arms and legs, I kissed my family goodbye and headed to the wedding. To say that day was stressful is an understatement.
But of all the things a person could find to complain about in a situation like that, I like to look at it as a miracle. My dad is alive and not paralyzed! Our family and friends, my parents' employers and their church were there every step of my dad's recovery process offering prayers, food, yard work, repairs, and more blessings than I can count. Additionally, I was able to successfully photograph a wedding the day of that accident with two amazing assistants/second shooters who kept me strong and focused on the day. The inner struggle of leaving my family to do my job was certainly a tough one, and I wouldn't have made it through without their help and God's blessings.
Then another storm hit on August 19 when I had to say goodbye to my best 4-legged friend Lady. She was 15 years and 5 months old. My heart was broken, but again, the blessings of her life far outweighed the pain of her passing. Not many people have a pet for 15 years. In Lady's lifetime, she survived a water moccasin bite, being hit by a 4-wheeler, playing ball in the marsh on a regular basis and not being eaten by any gators, a trip to the pound after escaping from our yard, and in then end, six months of kidney failure before passing on.
Although I continue to miss my black and white ball of fur, I feel peace knowing that Lady is no longer suffering. The day I saw the rainbow, I felt like that storm/rainbow combination was a sign that it was her time, and it helped me accept that. I had about 24 more hours to love on her and to say goodbye. That, along with the timing of her passing, was a rainbow in itself. Had she passed any of the days previously, Roddy would have been in California for work, and I would have been dealing with that alone. If she had passed a week later, it would have been in the worst rainstorm in US history, which would have made a proper burial nearly impossible. Also, she would have hated to be here during that storm. Lots of good memories and photos of my best girl will be the little rainbows from here on out.
Next of course, two big horrible H words...Hurricane Harvey. That was devastating to the whole area of Southeast Texas and even further beyond. Although we had a close call at one point with the water rising to the same level as our porch, we were spared. Unfortunately many weren't so fortunate. My sister's house had 42-inches of water in it. I wouldn't wish such a disaster on my worst enemy. But again, the way the city of Houston rallied, and the way people came together to help one another, whether they were friends or strangers, whether they had the same or different skin color, religion, political view or class was a beautiful show of the goodness of humanity.
I can't speak for my sister or my brother-in-law, but from my perspective, I saw God's hand in so many aspects of the aftermath of Harvey. My sister and brother-in-law had just enough time in their house to move all their valuables upstairs before it began flooding. They were picked up by a kind stranger in a boat, then driven by another kind stranger to my house to stay until the floodwaters receded. They had flood insurance! Probably 90% of the neighborhood didn't, because it was on the borderline of a flood plain and never had flooded previously. My parents' church friends (and other church-members my family didn't know) showed up to help demo. My sisters co-workers took loads of flooded clothes to their homes to disinfect and wash thoroughly. My brother-in-law's company sent people with food, muscles and supplies. My dad's company sent supplies. In the midst of chaos, blessings abound.
And the last storm of 2017 that really made me want to wish away the year was Sept. 3, when I received a call early in the morning to find out my grandmother had been Life Flighted to Houston with severe pneumonia, which turned out to actually have been a heart attack. More time in the hospital with more worries and fears. But again, there were so many blessings. The whole team of doctors working on my grandmother were amazing. They were all very personable, which set us all at ease. The lead surgeon for her triple bypass was trained under Dr. Red Duke, and he allowed our family to pray with him before her surgery. And now my 83-year-old Gran is back at it, substitute teaching, playing the piano and baking for all occasions.
For the rainbows in all of those storms, we give thanks. And on top of those blessings above, I'm thankful that Houston's beloved 'Stros won the World Series, I continue to get make my living as a photographer with the support of my No. 1 guy, Rowdy Roddy (he also makes sure I get to wakeboard quite a bit), I have a new healthy, baby cousin, and the recent holidays included spending time with almost all of our family and friends.
So, while you may want to wish away the past and welcome the new year, maybe think about embracing it instead and giving thanks for the good. Hopefully the rainbows outweighed the storms for you last year, and will do so in the years to come. And through the hardships that will come in the future, maybe Isaiah 43:2 bring you peace as it has for me in the past year. Blessings in 2018!