If I’ve said any one thing repeatedly in 2012, it would be, “Is this really happening?”
My Aunt Janelle and cousin Alexandra came to visit from England last December/January. They stayed at our house for about a week, right before Christmas. This provided the perfect excuse to have a large Epps family Christmas party at my house. I’d never hosted a large family gathering – and don’t think all six of Mom’s siblings had been together since the early 1990’s – so this was very special. We had a wonderful time, and I went to bed that night with a smile on my face and a greater understanding of my mother and her family.
No one would have guessed that it would be the last time we’d all be together. My mother passed away unexpectedly three months later. I’ve never known such shock, and can scarcely recall how we got through the following week, but I do know that my husband, my aunts and cousins, and our friends are incredible rock stars. Their loving kindness and prayers carried us through those gut-wrenching days (and those that still come when least expected). I’m pretty sure that it’s impossible to ever really be prepared to lose a loved one, but I am so grateful for the healing and restoration that Mom and I knew in the final few years of her life. We were at peace and knew true joy in our relationship; my only regret is that we didn’t get more time together.
In May, I graduated from college. It’s only an Associates degree from the community college, but I honestly never really thought I’d even complete that! We had a really fun graduation party with loads of friends who celebrated as if I’d been elected President of the United States! The plan is for me to eventually finish my Bachelors in Elementary Education, but the timing is not right right now.
Our summer was really great. We spent a lot of time at the pool, amusement parks, riding bikes, and hanging out with friends. We took a few short trips to Wichita, Atchison and Omaha, and even talked my brother into joining us on our church’s annual canoe trip on the Niangua River. Since our boys have never been interested in taking swim lessons or joining swim team, I offered to pay them $25 each if they would master the crawl over the summer. Zach is $25 richer (and a great swimmer!). Each of the boys played soccer in the spring and fall, and Luke played summer and fall baseball too. Zach returned for another summer of Junior Golf, and both boys are currently playing another season of Upwards basketball.
School started in August. I am now in my second year of teaching Writing and Public Speaking at a homeschool enrichment center about 30 minutes from home. I have about 50 students, grades 2-8. I can’t believe I get paid to do this! Zachary is in 3rd grade and Lucas is in kindergarten. Both kids have amazing teachers this year – seriously, I’m convinced that these women have extra hours in their day! Zach and Luke are above grade level in all subjects, and their teachers think outside of the box and go the extra mile to challenge and encourage them to reach their potential. Each of our boys LOVES school, and for that we are so very grateful.
Zachary has been playing piano now for 16 months. He is currently working on a selection of Christmas songs to play at retirement / nursing homes in the area. Bryan’s granny was admitted to a rehab center for a month on Christmas Eve a few years ago (following a serious illness), so we know just how much people in such situations love visits and music… especially at Christmas, when it’s so hard to be away from home. Zach has a sweet heart and cannot wait to bring this gift of music (and a plate of cookies) to others!
The boys are awesome – very happy, thoughtful, sensitive, generous, funny and fun-loving. It is truly a blessing that God would entrust them to us.
I continued to run in 2012. I spent the summer training for a sprint distance triathlon with my dear friend, Tiffany. We put in a lot of hours of swimming, biking and running for our early Sept. triathlon. As soon as that race was over, I had to step up my running in preparation for a half marathon, so I enlisted the help of my friend Marcy to get me through the long weekend runs. The St. Jude Memphis Half Marathon was my most recent “Is this really happening?” moment. The race was just last weekend, and I still can’t believe that I can run more than 13.1 miles non-stop. I also cannot believe that I traveled there with fifteen other girls (including Tiffany!), coordinating when and where we were going successfully for three whole days. That, in and of itself, is quite a feat!
Did I mention that all of this running has turned me into a morning person? (Who’d have thought?) In order to keep my training from interfering with my family’s schedule, I run while my family is sleeping. Since this works so well, I decided to give early morning Bible study a shot. I asked around to see if anyone would be interested, and now we’ve got a group of 5 girls meeting at 5:30am on Tuesdays to study God’s word. It’s early, but it’s incredible to start my day with a Chai Tea Latte, five close friends, and God’s word.
Bryan is still enjoying his job at the railroad. He’s made a lot of good friends, and has figured out how to successfully juggle his evening shifts, mid-week “weekends”, time with the kids and me, and sleep. It is not always easy, but we make it work. Any drawbacks to his job do not compare to 9 years of employment instability (or running a paper route for 11 months), so instead of complaining about the little things, we are simply grateful for the blessing of a job and the stability that it brings. God has been so very good in meeting our every need.
One of my favorite changes in 2012 … maybe my very favorite … is that Bryan and I are teaching Sunday school together. We each lead a discussion table during children’s church (grades 3-5). His table is filled primarily with boys (including our son), while mine is usually all girls. Sharing God’s word with kids is such a precious opportunity, and we are both completely committed to pouring into these kids’ lives every chance we get. It has been an enormous blessing to me to see this side of Bryan. While he never saw it coming, he’s truly a natural with the kids and other leaders! We are supposed to be the ones teaching, but I’m awe-struck by just how much we are learning.
This year has definitely been one of change, both sad and … well … nothing short of miraculous. As we close out the year, we reflect on all that we have been given. God has been overwhelmingly good to us, blessing us far beyond measure and far beyond anything we could ever pass on to others.