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2011 - A Year of Tremendous Challenges

publisherBy Jeaneane Payne, Publisher

This special time of year always brings with it a certain nostalgia. This year that nostalgia has been even more pronounced.

While 2011 has been the most challenging year of my life, it has also been the most blessed. The year has brought many obstacles, a multitude of unexpected events, disappointments, tremendous challenges, times of testing, major decisions, and situations I never expected to have to face. With all of that came accelerated personal growth, a deeper commitment to family and friends, a stronger faith, new perspectives, a new direction, and a realization that when we become totally helpless to deal with situations it's all on God. The ball is totally in His court.

2011 began with my daughter and son-in-law having just moved to a different country. He is in the military and was re-stationed to Germany. Emotions ran high as they took off with our three dogs that I had raised. With all of that came all of the things that a military family experiences -- none of which I had any experience or previous knowledge.

I had also just launched the Knoxville Daily Sun (KDS) which required an excessive amount of time and energy in addition to my already heavy schedule. KDS received a number of verbal and written threats upon its launch. As time progressed, we received more threats after publishing particular articles.

My work load with 86 web sites and Internet marketing responsibilities for many businesses in the Smoky Mountain area was overwhelming as new marketing techniques and longer work hours were required to help keep those businesses afloat during hard economic times. Coupled with that and trying to overcome major tourism obstacles in the Smoky Mountain area such as the Gatlinburg Sewer Treatment plant disaster and poor area publicity caused by the failure of a cabin management company, my plate was more than full.

In the meantime, my thoughts and a lot of energy have been focused on my daughter and the adjustments she was having to make, missing her, trying to adjust my own life without her close by, and having to spend holidays without her. All of this hasn't come without reward. Watching her make major decisions, handle major situations, and grow into a woman of strength and beauty is one of the most wonderful things a mother could experience.

Many obstacles tried to present themselves this year. Being able to overcome those was very challenging and successful.

Later in the year I learned that my son-in-law would be deployed to an undisclosed location for up to six months. We were told the deployment would most likely take place sometime in September but weren't given an exact date. My son-in-law began working twelve hour days, participating in special training for the upcoming mission. Even though I didn't know where his unit would be sent or what type of training they were going through, I knew it was serious. I had learned early on not to ask any questions. Being in the newspaper business, it was very difficult to learn to keep my mouth shut in times like this. I wasn't allowed to talk with family members or friends about when he might be deployed. I was eventually given permission to talk with only one person so that I would have support through all of the emotional times. I couldn't even tell people that he was going to be deployed. That was a huge challenge, particularly on the day he was leaving. Knowing what he and my daughter were experiencing, and knowing there was a high probability he wouldn't be returning -- not being able to tell my friends and family what was going on was very difficult.

The thing that impressed me the most was hearing my daughter say, "Ma, it was really hard to say goodbye, but when I saw all the children saying goodbye to their moms and dads was more than I could handle." "Then seeing my husband pick up his assault rifle as he walked away was a real shock."

Knowing that my daughter was in a strange country by herself with responsibilities she had never had before and major decisions to make was more than a bit overwhelming. I watched my daughter mature tremendously during the 48 hour period following the deployment.

On the flip side of all of the events that occurred this year, I have many reasons to celebrate the reason for the season. Although this has been the most challenging year of my life, it has also been the most blessed. I have been rewarded with great personal growth along with a knowing that God's love never fails in any situation. Also, my son-in-law returned safely from deployment and earlier than expected.

Throughout all of this chaos, I was able to take a trip to Europe this summer to spend time with my daughter and son-in-law. We experienced Luxembourg a couple of times, visited Ramstein Air Force Base, Spangdahlem Air Base, and Bitburg base, and visited Trier, Germany a few times and enjoyed Wittlich, Germany a lot. I have a wonderful son-in-law who is so good to my daughter.

Throughout the difficult economic situation in the world, God has sustained and blessed me. I am grateful for the Knoxville Daily Sun readers and for your wonderful support throughout the entire year.

I am so grateful this season to have such a supportive and loving church family in which I have been nurtured very well this year. The teachings from our pastor and music from our choir and individuals has been such a blessing this Christmas. It has never been more beautiful.

My family is coming to my home Christmas Eve. My brother who has survived multiple heart attacks, a sister-in-law who has been a part of our family since I was 9 years old, my sister, a nephew who has cerebral palsy, a niece that I haven't seen in over 12 years, a sister from Atlanta, and my nephew who recently returned from Baghdad will all be here. We decided not to give presents this year. I can only speak for myself, but I can't think of any material gift that could compare to the gift God has given me of the safe return of my son-in-law from a very difficult war mission, the return of a nephew from one of the worst places on earth, and the blessing of his sustenance for our family throughout the year.

Thanks be to the God of Israel for his love and tender mercies and may you experience His blessings in your life.

Jeaneane Payne, Publisher

Published December 22, 2011

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