Be still and know that I am God.
Psalm 46:10

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The LOVE of a young boy's heart

Yesterday afternoon as I was leaving Kohl's Department store on South 27th Street, a young black boy was standing just outside the door and called out something to me that I couldn't quite catch so I leaned in closer and he said, "Could I please have 1 or 2 dollars so I can take my mom out to dinner for her birthday tonight?"

I must admit right here that my "red flags" went up. Who is this boy? Is this some sort of scam? I thought. It's unfortunate how naturally it was for my first thought to be one of judgment, instead of mercy.

But then I looked into his tear-filled eyes and I KNEW. This was NO SCAM - this sweet boy NEEDED HELP. He needed MY help right then.

I knew I wasn't just going to hand over some money to him so I began asking him some questions, and was QUITE astonished, humbled, AMAZED - whatever you want to call it, when he told me his story:

His name Is Breoine and he is 11 years old in the 6th grade. He took 3 BUSES from 60th & Silver Spring Drive to the south side to collect some money that a friend owed him - $26.00 to be exact. It was just enough money to cover both of their dinners plus a soda at Old Country Buffet (his mom's favorite restaurant). You see - it was her birthday and they didn't have enough money to go out to dinner. His aunt was due to arrive at 3:30pm to pick them up, but she could only afford her meal, not theirs.

Unfortunately, his friend didn't show up at the bus stop like he said he was going to. And I don't think he knew how to get to his house and he had no phone to call him. Poor Breoine didn't know what to do.........he told his mom he would be back at 3:30p.m. (it was now 2:30pm) with the money so they could go out to dinner.

He knew he didn't want to return empty handed so he had started walking around in front of Kohl's asking people for a few dollars, hoping to collect enough money and get home by 3:30pm. He told me he really hadn't had much luck collecting anything but a few dollars.

And that's when he ran into ME. Remember - I don't believe in "coincidences" so I KNEW I needed to help him in someway. But how?

Well, I immediately went into action. I knew I needed to get him home safely and very soon, with $26 in his pocket. I knew I wasn't about to put him back on the bus, that's for sure. Plus it was COLD outside.

I asked him if he would feel comfortable coming with me in my car; that I would drive him home and give him the money so he could take his mom out to dinner.  I explained how he should never get in the car with a "stranger", but in this case I felt like God, out of His great LOVE for HIM, placed me in his life at the perfect moment to help him. I told him that he could trust me. He agreed probably out of desperation and hopelessness at this point. What other choice did he have, really?

I brought him first to our house to tell Mark what was going on (I must say he was quite surprised at what I came home with this time :)) I also wanted Breoine to meet my family for some reason. I wanted MY KIDS to meet him because I knew there had to be a lesson to be learned for all of us. Naturally, he was afraid of dogs so poor Daisy May had to be put in a separate room. We invited him in to get warm, offered him some food/drink. Mark and the kids chatted with him a bit. What a nice, sweet, innocent boy......trying SO hard to give his momma a good birthday. Doing whatever it took - Wow! -  now THAT is LOVE in action!

Megan decided to ride along with us and off we went. Thankfully, he knew his address and my little lady (GPS) directed me to his house without a hitch.

I used our time in the car to get to know Breoine better. There are a total of 5 kids (ages 18, 15, 13, 11, 6 - 3 boys and 2 girls), plus mom living in their house. Dad comes around here and there. Actually he said there are 2 different dad's that come around. Mom use to work at McDonald's and was going to school, but somehow is now disabled in some way and out of work and school; "she's in A LOT of pain",  he said. So this year he said no one got ANY Christmas presents because there just wasn't any money. He said in the past they've always gotten shoes, clothes, and maybe a board game.

My biggest concern was whether or not he or his siblings were being neglected or abused in some way. I didn't get that feeling. They weren't going hungry, they had a home to live in.....he obviously loved his mom and his siblings a lot. Good, I thought.

BUT then I asked him if they had enough clothes. He said what he had on was all he owned because his cousin had been stealing his clothes and now there was no money to buy him anymore. Oh my! I thought as my heart was breaking. And all along there was Megan in the back seat saying nothing, just listening. What in the world is SHE thinking as she hears his story?

He didn't want me to drop him off at his house because he figured his mom would be upset with him getting a ride from a complete stranger (good idea!) So I pulled into a McDonald's parking lot within walking and viewing distance from his house and let him out.

Before he shut the door, Megan wrote on a small piece of paper my cell phone number. I told him to tuck it away in a safe place, and that if he ever needed anything, or was ever scared or in trouble, that he could call me anytime.

He smiled and I noticed something different in his eyes when he said "Thank You." And then he shut the door. We watched him walk to his house, and just before entering his door, he turned around and waved at us.

Phew! Our drive home was quiet. I was trying to process it all. It was like I had been in a dream. Did this really happen? I wondered. What are we suppose to do with this information now?

As usual with me, I began thinking about the lesson that was suppose to be learned through all of this, for us, for him. Possibly we ALL needed to learn something from what happened yesterday afternoon.

What I do KNOW FOR SURE is that I learned (and hopefully my kids, too):
  • How strong LOVE is. How LOVE can motivate you to do anything. It can give you Strength when you have none. LOVE gives you Hope
  • How far and deep a son's love is for his mother. Any child for that matter.
  • To be grateful for everything we have. To be thankful to simply have another outfit to change into.
  • HOW MUCH our kids got for Christmas this year, and this family got nothing.
  •  When in doubt, always go with your "gut".
  •  If you feel Peace, then that's a good sign.
  •  You should always try to believe the best in people.
  •  Sometimes you just need to take that "extra step" to help someone out, even if it is out of your comfort zone.
  •  Prejudice serves no purpose. 
  •  I know that I can't save the world, but that I can sure do my part.
I feel appreciative that my kids saw this kind of love in action.
I feel humbled to have been chosen to help him; that I was given the opportunity to extend him grace and mercy because I know that is what I would've wanted if I were HIM.
I am so grateful that I didn't pass him by out of busyness or judgment.
I feel so thankful that we learned, as a family, in a very tangible way about how much we are blessed.

Oh, we have some ideas in the "works" for the Walker family. On ways we can pass along LOVE to their family and to show Christ's LOVE to them even more. To BLESS them, as we have been BLESSED. Isn't that what Life is all about?

May you also be humbled by this story as I have. May you also learn something from his story that will change your life in some way. May you view LOVE in a whole different way, possibly from the view of a young boy who was simply trying to give his mom a great birthday, and the great lengths he was willing to go through to make that happen: to make his mom feel special on her day. Wow!

And to simple see, as I have, that IT IS ALL ABOUT LOVE.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

The Glory of It All


Oh the Glory of it All
David Crowder Band

At the start
He was there, He was there
In the end,
He’ll be there, He’ll be there

And after all our hands have wrought
He forgives

Oh the Glory of it all is:
He came here
For the rescue of us all
that we may live
for the glory of it all
for the glory of it all

All is lost
find Him there, find Him there
After night
Dark is there, Dawn is there

After all falls apart
He repairs He repairs

Oh the Glory of it all is:
He came here
for the rescue of us all
that we may live
for the glory of it all

oh He is here
for the redemption for my soul
that we may live
for the glory of it all
oh the glory of it all
the glory of it all
oh the glory of it all

After night
comes the light
dawn is here
dawn is here
it’s a new day
it’s a new day
everything will change
things will never be the same
we will never be the same
we will never be the same
we will never be the same
we will never be the same

Oh, The glory of it all is
you came here
for the rescue of us all
that we may live
for the glory of it all

Oh you are here
with redemption for us all
that we may live
for the glory of it all
for the glory of it all
oh the glory of it all

I am 38-years old and I think this is the first Christmas that I have truly started to grasp The Glory of It All - the true meaning of THIS day - Christ's Birthday: December 25th.

And when I listen to this song by the David Crowder Band, I am humbly reminded, once again, of the true meaning of Christmas Day.

I hope my children grasp this much, much sooner than I have.

Every year at this time I struggle with: How many presents are too many for the kids? Are we spending too much money? Did we do this or that ENOUGH this year in Jesus' name for HIS birthday? How do we keep JESUS as the center of the holiday in the midst of all the chaos? How do I, me - personally, Lori, keep Jesus as MY focus?

I struggle with feeling like each year that we have failed them (and God) in someway. Like we didn't focus on JESUS enough or something. I know it's not about feeling guilty, but it is so EASY to go there. 

Well, this year as I watched the kids tear into their presents (isn't that a crazy sight to see?), I realized that they DO know what THIS day is about. It is what they've heard and been taught all of their lives. They know THIS DAY IS ABOUT JESUS, but they are simply kids, naturally getting caught up in all the "fun", just like we adults can so simply do as well.

What they DON'T GET, at least I don't think so, and what I am just starting to get right now is,  
The Glory Of It All.

He could have shown up in the richest, most beautiful mansion clothed in rich garments, but instead.......God sent His only Son to Earth in the form of a baby under those dire circumstances to RESCUE US because we sure needed it, and God knew it. He was willing to watch His only Son suffer and die out of His LOVE FOR each one of us. That is how much He wants us restored to Him.

It's that simple: JESUS is the GIFT. 
 And it is all about Love.

If we could ALL just grasp that TODAY, Christ's Birthday...It's all about LOVE.

The GIFT of forgiveness. The GIFT of redemption. The GIFT of eternal Life.  The GIFT of peace and calm in the midst of the storms of Life. The GIFT of a relationship with Jesus.

I imagine the Christmas "tag" attached to Jesus's sweet little foot saying:
TO: My Child
FROM: With Love from God

Just like any other GIFT given to us by any dear loved one, we have to accept HIS GIFT into our hearts with thankfulness and gratitude.

And to be willing to CHANGE, or at least try to.


BUT we have to let His Love IN. Love is calling out to YOU. And I believe Love is worth taking the chance for.

You will never be the same; I know I haven't been.

Then you will KNOW that you have never walked this path of Life alone, and that you never will; that you have a Father in Heaven who Loves you beyond measure; One who will never leave you; One that you can count on; One who frees you from your guilt, lightens your load, gives you strength and peace to make it through Life's darkest moments. And to have the security of KNOWING that you are being carried through ALL the hills and valleys of Life.

Wow! What a gift!

So I end this post with a these words for all of my family and friends but particularly for my children: Matthew, Megan, and Luke; and also those I have yet to meet and call Friend:  

That you also may also grasp The Glory Of It All this Christmas Day and everyday, as I think I finally have after 38 years. I guess I'm a work in progress.

As you can see from our "Christmas photo", we are all doing very well and are extremely blessed. We are so thankful to the One who's birthday we celebrate today.

    Merry Christmas to you & your family!





Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Health update

I saw Dr.Borden (Lyme disease doctor) yesterday and wanted to "update" people who are following me on my health journey.

As I figured, my body is in an ACTIVE state of fighting off Lyme disease right now, more so than ever before. I sort of knew this because of how bad some of my symptoms have been in the past 3 months. It seems every symptom I have has either intensified or changed in some way. Or I have new symptoms now to add to the mix. What is going on with this, getting worse and worse instead of better? I have often thought over and over.

So I reported to the doc that I've been dealing with this awful, chronic pain in my neck/shoulders/back that is a "new" symptom that my current pain medications aren't even touching. It has actually been quite comical in our house lately if you are able look for the humor in the situation: Mark on the floor doing HIS back stretching exercises for HIS back problem, and now me, with mine. If you were a fly on the wall you would definitely think: It sure looks like they are getting OLD in this house.

Dr. Borden says this is a good sign (what?), and a very strong indicator that my body is FINALLY at a place of being able to get rid of Lyme disease.

We've sort of come full circle is what he said. You see, when I first came to him back in May, I had already been taking strong antibiotics for 8 months and getting nowhere. I had already seen 15+ "doctors", I had already "tried" everything. I was at the end of my rope. I went into that appointment knowing he was my last ditch effort. I think he knew it, too, but took on my case with a strong confidence that he could get me well, as he has seen it happen many times before.

But because I, and my vast load of "specialists" weren't EVER treating the cause of WHY I was sick, but rather the "symptoms"......is WHY I couldn't ever get well.

Dr. Borden's treatment approach goes after the CAUSE of disease - period. Even if you have cancer (he & I had a very interesting talk about that, by the way). He deals mostly with Lyme Disease and all of its nasty friends, but is always after the CAUSE of why someone is sick.

In my case, Lyme disease had attacked my whole endocrine system, particularly my thyroid and adrenal glands. The bacteria gets in your body and "attacks" different organs and glands causing major disruption. Taking all the hormones in the world to "treat" my low hormones wasn't ever going to help because they weren't the CAUSE of my sickness. Eating a gluten free diet because I have Celiac Disease wasn't going to cut it either. Spending a year working with a nutritionist to change around my diet didn't help either. Taking every and all different supplements weren't the answer. Repeating and adding on more and more "tests" wasn't going to get me there either.

That is what I've been doing since 2002, but had already felt sick the majority of my life.

Some clarification is probably needed at this point: along with Lyme Disease, it is very common to also get coinfections, that are often WORSE than lyme, mimic a "parasite", come in groups, and are very often missed (as in my case). Plus, the craziest thing is - the blood tests for coinfections are even more unreliable than the ones for Lyme.

The CAUSE of WHY I've been sick all of these years IS Lyme, but because of the coinfections "being in the way", there was no way of getting at the lyme bacteria itself. Get it? I finally got it, once he explained it that way to me.

That's what Dr.Borden's goal was: to get all the other "infections" out of the way so we could directly ATTACK and ERADICATE Lyme Disease - FINALLY.

Well friends..........I am now at that point in this long, long health journey. With so many ups and downs, I can't even count.

I NEEDED to know - so I just asked him, with much trepidation, because I have asked THAT one question thousands of times it seems: How long until I feel better?

He only paused for a second (he's always remained the confident one). Of course, (because it's in my nature, which isn't always a good thing), I didn't wait for his answer. Instead I said again: Please DO NOT tell me years, please. Maybe by next summer? Is that even a possibility?And he said, Definitely. 


I sort of sat there, stunned for a moment by his answer. Are you serious? I thought. I'm only looking at living like this for less than 6 months after ALL of this time? Seriously? Oh my! I don't even KNOW what it FEELS like to feel HEALTHY. Will I even recognize it when it comes? All of these thoughts swirled around in my head as I was paying my bill, gathering my new medications, and wishing him and his staff a Merry Christmas.

I believe God whispered through Dr. Borden at that PERFECT moment exactly what my soul needed to hear, especially at this time of year: HOPE.

Hope that I WILL finally beat this disease once and for all. Hope that there IS a light at the end of this tunnel. Hope that I WILL feel healthy and strong and ALIVE soon. Hope that this journey has been worth it; that I can use what I've learned to help someone else.

Thank you to all of you who have hung in there with me; those who have been there to lean on, talk to, cry to, vent on, whatever....you know who you are and I hope you know how much I appreciate all of the support and encouragement along the way.

Please pray for me if you think of it, that I am able to continue to "hang in there" while I patiently wait for Healing to come. That I stay Hopeful.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Unbroken

I must share a secret with you: I really had hoped and prayed for physically healing while we were in Mexico, particularly on one of those early mornings that I watched the sun rise.

In my mind's eye, it was the PERFECT setting: just me (and naturally God, too) standing on the edge of the ocean waves - the cool morning breeze blowing on my face; then closing my eyes as I begin to feel the sun slowly rise; to feel that MOMENT of surrender; to let in that love and warmth from the sun's rays, all throughout my body, and God healing it.

I thought how cool THAT story would've been to tell, especially to blog about anyway.

Well, it obviously DID NOT happen. I'm sure you would've heard about it by now, in some shape or form.

So we've returned from our trip and I'm still trying to "catch up" from before we even left. Somehow, it feels like we skipped Thanksgiving, although we didn't. Instead, it feels like Christmas has come upon me way too fast. I just want to slow the train down.

Since life has been so busy since our return, I am just now coming to terms with the fact that I WAS NOT PHYSICALLY HEALED and I STILL have to contend with the overwhelming, full-time job of healing from Lyme Disease, and all of its little demons, unfortunately. That a "miracle" didn't happen on the shores of Riviera Maya, like I had so wanted. I just wanted my life to be easier, FOR PETE' SAKE! - Haven't I suffered long enough? I thought. Haven't I been dealing with these stupid diseases long enough? I need a break God! Helllllooooooo.....is anybody out there?

In the silence and stillness, I've come to realize that His answer was NO, at least for right now. I'm not too happy about that at all, can you tell?

So I guess I'm pretty much back to exactly how it was before we left: getting back to the business of getting healthy and juggling Life (except now we have the awesome family memories of Mexico as an extra special blessing to lighten the load).

Last week I saw one of my doctors, Dr. Gandy (who I must say is: AWESOME - I just love her), and I see my other Lyme doctor, Dr. Borden on Monday (who is also amazing :) I know healing is slowly happening - IT IS. I know it is a process - I KNOW. I am trying to stay strong through it all, but I have my moment's, trust me (just ask Mark or the kids).

When I got home from my appointment with Dr. Gandy after we had gone through all of my medications and supplements, and discussed which ones I absolutely needed, I decided to go through ALL of my cabinets, drawers, etc. to gather all the "leftover stuff" into one pile. I wasn't sure yet what I was going to do with it all. All I knew was that I was feeling FED UP WITH IT ALL (after all, I DIDN'T get physical healing in Mexico remember? Can you tell that I needed an attitude adjustment?).

As I was gathering and dumping, I just allowed myself to FEEL all of the frustration and hopelessness; the disappointment, and ANGER a person feels from being chronically ill for so long, and I piled those icky emotions right on top of that pile, too. I had to. It felt good. It felt freeing for some odd reason. An outward symbol of surrendering, maybe, even if that change hadn't happened in my soul, yet.

I've added this picture to give you a "visual" of what someone with chronic illness deals with. I look at that pile and just feel pathetic. For me and for anyone affected by that stinkin' thing called sickness. All of the money spent, all of the different medications and supplements I've taken that some have helped, but mostly not. The pile is so large for me because I went around in circles for years trying to get a proper diagnosis, but there are people right now that I know who HAVE to take these many medications every day, otherwise they cannot live with the symptoms. And this is just a very, very small "snapshot" of what I've purchased, taken, or tried in the last 4 years alone, BELIEVE ME (just ask Mark - he does the bills).

 
All I can say is that I am thankful that my "pile" has gotten much smaller, even though Mark looks at what I consider my MUCH smaller pile and says, "Wow, that's still a lot." Yep - he's probably right.

A few days ago, I was "coincidentally" reading an article about an author who was answering questions about her 23-year struggle with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Her statement really ignited something within me when she stated, "I hope for a cure, but don't stop living because of it."

First off, I wanted to SCREAM at the magazine (and lady) "Don't settle for that LABEL; that there is a CAUSE to WHY you are still sick; don't stop fighting until you find it!"

And then humbly, I thought, I refuse to let myself be broken by this disease any longer, EITHER. Even if I wasn't healed in Mexico, even if I have to live this way the rest of my life, that I'm done fighting it! I'm done fighting YOU, God! Her words both infuriated me, yet also convicted me.

I, then realized that because I WAS NOT physically healed like I had secretly hoped for, that I had to make a change in my spirit, a heart change, a CHOICE to NOT fall into despair and hopelessness, AGAIN. Because then, I would be in a far darker place than just having to deal with chronic illness. And I can't go there again - not ever.
I have CHOSEN to stay Unbroken, just like that author. I have made the choice to accept what IS right now as what God wants for me, even though I AM NOT happy about it at all. I, me Lori, wanted to return from our wonderful, AMAZING family vacation HEALED.

But, I AM learning: it really isn't about ME at all, is it?

So when I see my hair falling out in clumps again when I am washing it (an old symptom returning), or when I cringe from the chronic, aching pain in my neck/shoulders/back (a now "new" symptom - I NOW UNDERSTAND WHAT PEOPLE WHO LIVE WITH CHRONIC PAIN FEEL LIKE - UGH!), that I will think This is a good thing! Healing is happening! REALLY! I just need to stay strong! Help me God!

So I continue to put one foot in front of the other, as I've always done. It is sort of how I'm wired, which hasn't always served me or others well at times, I might add.

How I stay and continue to stay Unbroken (I was just recently asked this by someone actually; as if I have the 'secret'; as if 'I have arrived' - NOT!) is: to always keep the lines of communication open with God  - because that is the most important thing of all, that I am so humbly having to learn over and over again along this journey..... then I FILL MY LIFE UP with positive, encouraging people who are willing to walk this journey with me as yucky as it has been, and will get. I continue to keep myself educated about my diseases, and health issues. I continue to be proactive about issues that I feel passionate about.

I control what I can; I stay focused on the goal; I count my blessings; I try to focus on what I DO have, not what I DON'T; I stay open to what God is trying to teach me through it all; I fill my heart, mind, and soul with God's Word so that when I DO have those low moments, something He said pops into my head at just the right moment to help me along; I read and let myself BE INSPIRED; I try to rest my poor, sick body, and be kind to it after all its been through; I try to give back; I try to be loving and kind to everyone I meet; I accept my failures; I try to LAUGH as much as I can (just hang out with Luke for an hour & you will definitely laugh out loud); and I continue to Hope and Trust in the one and only Great Physician.

I encourage you to do this, also, if you are in a trial right now that is ready to break you wide open, and leave you broken. Don't let it.....keep looking UP, and keeping putting one foot right in front of the other. YOU ARE BEING CARRIED! May God bless you!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Roots & Wings

My mom was really into inspirational poems and quotes. She had a real tender side when it came to stuff like that. I remember watching Little House on the Prairie with her and only she and I would be crying over the simplest thing.

After my dad retired from being a Milwaukee Police Officer, my parents moved "up north" to Montello, WI. Because of my mom's love for writing, she'd often send me long letters and attach coupons or 'kid type' jokes with them. Many times she'd include an inspirational poem or quote. Things she knew I'd appreciate or get a "kick" out of. If not then, someday for sure.

I remember one time she sent me this quote: 

 Parents give their children two great gifts---one is roots, the other is wings.

At the time I read it, I didn't quite appreciate it until now. You see, when I read that quote, my oldest child, Matthew, was just a toddler. My main concerns at that time were definitely NOT about roots and wings. More like changing diapers, getting sleep, and keeping up with a 2-year old!

Now, how many years later, I have recently experienced what this long ago "quote" was saying. And my mom's in Heaven, simply smiling & nodding her head with understanding.

The thing is: No one prepared me for the time when I would have to FIRST give my children their wings. How HARD and PAINFUL that was going to be. I just wish my soft, mommy heart could have been a little bit more prepared for the "sting" that was coming. 

I still thought I had plenty of time to prepare for it. For the Flying, I mean.

I know this is all a very normal, natural process of life, but I guess I thought I had more TIME.

Recently, my oldest child, Matthew, turned 14 and it seemed like, LITERALLY, overnight, we had a different child. It was so sudden, at least for me. After all, he was what I considered my "homebody kid". Out of the 3 of them, he is my most shy and introverted. In fact, he spent the majority of this past summer just hangin' out at home with our new dog, Daisy May. I just didn't expect such a dramatic change, so fast.  

It started with him getting his "own" room. Then wanting to hang out with friends more; then an increase in texting; more time spent on Facebook; more time spent alone. Hmmmm... Something is going on with Matthew. I thought.

Mark & I were recently talking about how fast the kids are growing up, and he reminded me of that old familiar quote: "Parents give their children two great gifts - one is roots, the other is wings." It sparked a conversation between us about this phase in our lives, and how that looks with each one of our children. What we need to do as their parents to give them solid roots and wings. 

And how HARD that is to do in this day and age. How much different the world is than when we were kids. How we WILL falter along the way right along with them because we are learning, too.
And that it is OK to tell them that.

As parents, we all know that someday our children are going to grow up and leave us (as much as we try NOT to think about it, especially for moms). It is simply just a fact of life, and we can't change it. We have to just try very hard to appreciate the moments along the way - to slow down and take it all in. We hope and pray that we somehow fulfill the role of a "good parent"; that we hopefully create productive responsible adults, right?

Maybe even ones that Soar.

I recently pulled out the old scrapbook albums and cried tears of sadness and grief for the quickness of time; how I wish I could just hold Matthew as a baby, completely and utterly safe under MY wings, for just one more hour. 

My tears also fell out of appreciation and remembrance for all the joyful moments we've been blessed with.

But mostly, my tears were for my heartfelt gratefulness and honor to have been apart of all the chapters of his life up until now, as his Mom.

And then the realization hit:  how the next chapter of his life WILL probably fly by even FASTER.
For all of us.

What I know for sure is:  it is our job as their parents to give them roots and wings, as much as it "stings" us. Because they cannot FLY without both, at least not very successfully anyway.

So after my heart mended a bit, I sought out some good wisdom and advice from some dear friends. Barb, who I love to call my "wise mentor friend" shared how much FUN the Next chapter of our lives is going to be. To cherish the old, but WELCOME the new. And she's speaking from the perspective of recently becoming a grandma for the first time.

Then Jami, who has years of experience in not only teaching, but also in coaching, and leading youth groups (and she is also a mom!) shared some very wise, eye-opening, informative advice about this age group that I didn't realize. She helped me face the REALITY of the situation. She helped me see how I CAN move ahead as long as I remain teachable, open, and humble.

I am ashamed to admit after talking to her, how clueless I really am about the "dangers" our kids are facing in this day and age, and how they are facing it at such a younger age than we did.

So what do I do now? That is a good question, isn't it?

For me personally, I will be PRAYING WITHOUT CEASING - It's that simple.
Because I know that Mark & I need A LOT of guidance, wisdom, and support in giving our children  
solid roots and wings. And to TRUST that God IS carrying us, as He always does (because I have a feeling the "teenage" years are going to be rough.)

So I would like to end this post with some words of encouragement for you that I have learned along the way.....

If you are in the same place as me right now, where your heart is breaking because you've had to close a chapter of one of your kids' lives (no matter what age), OR you are closing a different chapter of your own life, and the hurt of letting go keeps you feeling stuck, then I want you to know I UNDERSTAND.

I realize that we ARE going to feel those "stings" along this road of Life as we close chapters. That is just the way it is. But, we then NEED to move onto whatever comes Next with grateful anticipation.
Not sadness over time lost.

To smile because it happened, NOT cry because it's over: TO CHERISH EVERY MOMENT.

The key is (I'm still learning) is to not let the "stings" along the way stop us from enjoying that present, precious moment that will be gone in a BLINK.

So I look forward to this next "chapter" of our lives (sorry Matthew - as the oldest, you get to go first) not with sadness and grief (okay, maybe some still lingers), but rather with anticipation and excitement for what comes Next.


Monday, December 6, 2010

My chance encounter with a stranger

One of my unfortunate symptoms of Lyme Disease is waking up at 2 to 4:00 a.m. everyday. It is one of my more frustrating symptoms that I hope will be resolved sooner versus later.

Anyway, while we were in Mexico over Thanksgiving week, my usual 4 a.m. waking would leave me the choice of "finding something to do as to not wake everyone else up" or just lying there, hoping to fall back asleep (this usually does not happen).

So every morning I would throw on some clothes, grab some books to read or whatever, and head out to explore. Oh...and I never forgot my camera.

What is so interesting, and quite comical is that they have these birds there called "zanates" that all gather at sunrise and sunset to do what, I'm not sure. Have a twice daily family bird meeting to chirp about the tasks at hand? All I know is that they were LOUD. At 5p.m. people would all be mingling about, swimming, hangin' out, and all we would hear were these very loud birds, all gathered above our heads in the various trees at this particular area of the resort. They were so loud that it was hard to hear each other talk. It cracked me up every time, for some reason.

Well, this also happened at sunrise. So on my early morning wakings as I would begin my exploring, I'd be greeted by the zanates, and I'd chuckle to myself, and say "Good morning" back to them. There is just nothing that compares to waking up to the sounds of nature.

The first morning of my wanderings, I only saw a few workers getting ready for the day. I also saw a man about my dad's age (late 60s) hangin' around and I asked him if he was also an early morning riser, too. He said he was, and that he was trying to find the best "spot" to check his internet. I smiled at him, and he continued on.

Now the next morning, it was a tad bit rainy outside so I had to sit in the lobby, making sure I picked the perfect spot right by the door so I could see the sun come up, hear the zanates, and feel the breeze on my face. I figured I might as well order coffee from the front desk. Room service very graciously delivered this completely filled tray containing everything I needed for my morning coffee - It was heavenly.

And then along comes the fellow I met the morning before.

I invited him to pull up a chair and join me. He seemed quite pleased to do so.

His name was Bill from upstate New York and I realized that: everyone has a story. Sometimes you just have to ask the right questions because people do want to tell it, most of the time.

I asked him why he was there (a nephew's wedding) and I shared why we were there - just some small talk. Then he began to talk about his life. How he grew up in the military and traveled a lot. He went on to tell me how his wife, who was an alcoholic, had left him and his 2 children when they were little. That, even to this day, there were still much resentment towards her and the "disease." How he was enjoying life with his "lady friend" for the past 8 years. He seemed to be really enjoying his retirement.

I talked some about my history and also my experience with alcoholism in my family. I felt like we really understood each other's journey: the pain of lost relationships, the struggle of living with someone with an addiction, and how much it deeply affects generations. I had several "A-ha moments" while talking to Bill.

We talked for about 2 hours until his daughter finally found him. By this time, the sun had already risen, the zanates had set out to complete their daily tasks, and my coffee was way beyond cold. I figured by this time, my family was getting up and ready to face the day. It was time to say good-bye to Bill.

Friendly pleasantries were exchanged, and he and his daughter left. Later on I saw him with his family at breakfast. He stopped by our table for introductions. He smiled and said, "It looks like you have a really nice family." And off he went...

I have reflected on that chance meeting with my stranger named Bill from upstate New York many times since we've been home, trying to figure out what I was suppose to have learned from him.

You see, I don't believe in "luck" or "coincidence" so I knew there had to be a lesson or lessons I was suppose to have learned from him. Or maybe what he needed, was to learn something from me? You never know what "a chance encounter with a stranger" might really mean. God tells us to never forget to entertain strangers because you might never know when you are actually entertaining angels.

All I do know is: that God must have been trying to teach me a "lesson" that He knew I would not have learned any other way, except through, maybe?, a "Bill from upstate New York"?

Hmm? ... it sure gives you something to think about, at least it does me. You just never know what "lessons" you are to be learning, or teaching, from strangers along the way ...

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Advent Calendar Project


I apologize for the lateness of this post. I had hoped to get this posted much sooner, but somehow time got away from me. No worries, though - there is still plenty of time to put into practice what I'm about to share with you.


Last year about this time, I was feeling sort of 'blue' about Christmas coming; I didn't know why. Somehow the thought of the approaching holiday just didn't hold that much excitement for me. It always seemed to be about the same old stuff:: rushing around here and there to get all my shopping and wrapping done; trying to  schedule family get togethers; worrying about all the calories you are putting on and on and on the list could go. I know you all understand what I am talking about - It is called stress.

We live under so much stress that we miss the moments that are gone in a blink. I wasn't looking forward to another Christmas season like that again - all of the distractions and stress again. I wanted Christmas to be different that year. I wanted to truly understand more at the heart level the true meaning of the season, and I wanted to learn it as a family. I didn't know how that would look, or even what I was hoping for. All I knew was that I wanted us, as a family, to strive to keep our focus more on Jesus than ever before, instead of on all of the other stuff.

During the season of Advent, Christians across the world prepare for the celebration of the arrival of the Lord into the world through the birth of His son Jesus Christ. Advent is a time to celebrate light in the midst of darkness. What a wonderful word picture for this time of year - it's truly a time of Celebration.

A Celebration of Jesus coming into the world to save us: God's gift to all people.

Usually Advent is "celebrated" with the help of the infamous "Advent Calendars". You know the ones: where each day up until Christmas you open the little "compartment" and take out the piece of candy or chocolate. Or (like mine) you move the small wooden snowflake to the next pocket. It is a fun way to countdown until Christmas Day, especially for the kids.

So one day as I was reading on one of my favorite sites (www.incourage.com), I stumbled upon a blog post where the writer wrote about she and her family were doing a Advent Calendar Project. My curiosity was intrigued, not at all surprising with me. 

Their idea was to "add to" the usual calendar idea, but instead focus more on what we could do each day for Jesus up until His birthday to show our love for Him.    

Hmmm - I thought. Maybe this is just the thing to make our Christmas different this year!

I explained the idea to Mark and the kids; they were all on board and ready to go. We then typed up our ideas (borrowed some from the blog post or from googling "random acts of kindness"), printed and cut them out; then folded and tucked each little slip of paper into each "pocket". This could easily be done just writing them out on paper, too. Megan, our famous artist in the family, immediately went to work at creating the perfect calendar for our project:


I must say I was a bit nervous how this project would pan out. Would the first few days be exciting and then the whole notion fizzle away like so many other things we've tried (remember the chore charts?) Would the kids even "get" the message of what we were suppose to be learning? Would this just turn out to be more effort than it was worth?

Anyway, we went ahead with direction and excitement. It ended up being a lot of fun, and good family memories were made. In the end, I was actually quite surprised at how well our Advent Calendar Project turned out - How much we, ourselves, were blessed by simply giving to others.

I remember very clearly the day when we were about half way through the month when I had an "A-ha moment." Matthew texted me on the  way home from school: What is the plan for tonight? Intuitively, I knew what he was really asking, but I wanted to be sure so I asked him, "Do you mean what's for supper tonight? He texted back: No what are we going to do today for the calendar?

Wow! I was stunned! Speechless! Moved! This is a "teenager" I am talking about here. He actually cared and was into this whole thing! And if he was "into" it, then I'm sure Megan and Luke were too. I smiled to myself, and tucked that away for later.

Up until this time I wasn't sure any of it was making a dent with any one of them, except for maybe Mark or myself. After my "A-ha moment", it became a great joy for me to watch them do the assigned "task" for the day and to see the excitement and joy on their faces. They truly got the lesson that they needed to learn. Mark and I included.

We all learned through our Advent Calendar Project that when you give to someone in need; when you serve someone who needs help; when you do something for someone without expecting anything in return; or when you go out of your way to smile at a stranger - that when you do all of these random acts of kindness you really are showing Jesus' Love to others, and naturally, like a magnet, His Love comes back to you.

I finally understood that when you give to others, that you are also being blessed as well. You get that warm, fuzzy feeling in your heart and it just spills out and over. You feel happy, like you are walking on a cloud, just knowing you made someone smile, or lightened their load a bit. Or extended love.....probably to someone who truly needed it at just that perfect moment (because you know there is no such thing as luck or coincidences, right?)

Well, I got what I had hoped for last year: a different kind of Christmas: One that was the most significant and memorable Christmas seasons of my entire life so far! And I give all the credit to the path that led me to the Advent Calendar Project idea.

We will be doing our project again this year - starting tomorrow - December 1st already. We still need to get organized a bit. We are a little behind schedule since returning from our vacation. I guess we'll just have to do a few "double blessing" days.

Officially, I think this is now technically considered a Grade family Christmas tradition.

I encourage you to do the Advent Calendar Project with us this year if you can (literally or simply in your heart). Whether it is something you do alone, or as a family, with or without kids.....none of that matters. Just get creative! Ask the kids (if you have them) for ideas - you'd be surprised at what they come up with. And it doesn't have to cost a thing - that means FREE.

I welcome comments along the way, if you are doing the "project" or not. I'll be posting my stories along the way, but I still would love to hear yours!

Here are  ideas of some of the things we did last year to help get you started: shoveled snow for a neighbor for free; let someone skip ahead of us in a long line; made scarves for 2 nursing home residents; paid for the order behind us in a Starbuck's drive-thru; wrapped presents at the Rescue Mission; baked Jesus a birthday cake, read the Christmas story together as a family under candlelight.....just simple, fun ways to express love and kindness to others during this very special season of Celebration & Love.

I can’t wait to see what God does through us this Christmas season using the Advent Calendar Project idea again. I hope to read how this Christmas season was your different kind of Christmas, like it was for me last year.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Thanksgiving in Mexico

We spent Thanksgiving Day this year in Riviera Maya, Mexico. This will be a short post (is that even possible for me - lol) since I'm exhausted, and beyond overwhelmed with just laundry alone. Holy cow - traveling really wipes a person out, especially when traveling by plane. This was the kids "once in a lifetime" vacation of this magnitude so it was worth it! They know from now on our vacations will probably only extend within the boundaries of Wisconsin, as they always have in the past.

We rolled in last night at 10:00p.m, all immediately crashed without even unpacking. The first item on the to-do list this morning was to pick up our dog, Daisy May, from my in-laws. She definitely was kept in good hands and was shaking so bad from happiness and excitement upon our return that we thought she might pee her pants (oh sorry - I meant on their floor.) 

I wanted to share some thoughts with you I had one day while I was playing water volleyball in the resort's pool.

The game started, of course, with a few of the kids around Luke's age - just throwing around the ball, hitting it here and there. Sometimes over the net, but mostly not. Then some other older kids got interested and jumped in, including Matthew and Megan. Then a few dad's joined in with Mark. And then mom's (me, too!), teenagers, 20-something people.....and naturally 2 teams were made. Only a few really knew each other's names, I'm sure.

Before you knew it, a whole game of water volleyball was going on with people from all ages and nationalities; all walks of life, having a blast playing water volleyball: cheering each other on; encouraging the little ones with their serve (we actually let them go right up to the net); yelling: "Good job, Great try. That was a good one!", and just simply laughing and having fun.

I remember thinking how neat the whole thing was. How even my very reserved, shy Matthew jumped right in to play with kids he didn't even know! How when a person walked by, someone would ask him or her to join in: "Come on, join us" was called out. "Anyone want to play?", "We need another player". And the more people, the better. Skill didn't matter - not at all. We were just trying to fill up the whole pool.

We were just a group of people on vacation away from the daily stressors of life, simply enjoying time with our families/friends and each other. Nothing else mattered: not age, nationality, religion, political view, sex, social status, language, marital status. Nothing else mattered.

Imagine how our world would operate, or even in our own cities, neighborhoods, jobs, schools...... if this is how we related to each other. Hmmm.....just something to think about. At least it's something I think about :)

Hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving. Ours was definitely memorable. Instead of the usual Thanksgiving foods we've always enjoyed in the past, Mark and I ate sushi, and the kids ordered in room service (probably mac n' cheese - ugh).

So here we are home, and back to reality. Christmas music is playing on the radio, and somehow we feel like we "skipped" Thanksgiving since we never got to eat turkey and pumpkin pie, or watch football!

Maybe for dinner some night next week if there are any turkeys left to buy. I'm not ready to shift into the Christmas "mode" until after I eat a traditional Thanksgiving dinner.

Until next time....

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Giving Thanks

I must say that I am very disappointed in myself when I say that I haven't given Thanksgiving Day the honor it deserves.

Yes, we all know the history of why we celebrate Thanksgiving - the story of the Pilgrims and Indians that we are all so familiar with. But, in essence, when you study the true original history of Thanksgiving Day, you'd humbly realize, like I did, that in the 20th Century, we've gotten so far away from the original intent of what this day represented and what the Pilgrims and Indians were trying to teach us.

When the Pilgrims were in desperate need of rescue after many of their people died in the Winter of 1620, the Indians, very graciously, stepped up to the plate to help. They saw a need, and met it. They offered the Pilgrims land, food, training, friendship, and even - forgiveness. The following Fall at Harvest time, the Pilgrims were ecstatic about the amount of food they had grown! They knew that all the teaching and guiding that the Indians had provided for them had truly paid off. They were just overflowing with thankfulness and gratitude and joy.

Quite simply, they were so thankful to God for faithfully showing them the way, and providing for their every need, including peace among their neighbors. That He provided this new Joy of "family" and "togetherness."

And out of their thankfulness to God, and to the Indians, they wanted to share their wonderful bounty with their new family. They wanted to celebrate their blessings as 'one family' surrounded by Love. To celebrate together all that they were thankful for. The Indians and Pilgrims were trying to set an example for all the future generations of what a true "Thanksgiving Day" looked like. The purpose of it all......

The point is: it doesn't matter where you celebrate it or who brings what food, or even if you miss a football game. Or even about the parades, although those are fun to watch. And of course, the day after Thanksgiving does have some awesome sales! Anyway, try to stay focused on what truly matters. Ask yourself: Will this truly matter in 10 years from now, or 20?

What will be remembered is: was the day about Giving Thanks? Was it about reconnecting with your loved ones, was it about showing gratitude for all of the blessings in your life? Was it about catching up with loved ones, all awhile sharing home-made food together? (Food is our common ground, you know.)

So, can I encourage you as well as myself (trust me: I am always preaching to the choir), to keep our focus and hearts on truly what we are thankful for in our lives. However that looks for you : God, friendships, family, health, material blessings; maybe it'll come down to simply being thankful to be alive.

I think we owe the Pilgrims and Indians the honor they deserve as our very first Thanksgiving Day "role models" in how to be truly thankful, and how to share that Joy with others.
 
But this day of Thankfulness, shouldn't stop at the end of that day. It shouldn't stop when you go to sleep that night overstuffed with food, drowsy from eating turkey; and maybe even a smile on your face. The Pilgrims and Indians intended for this feeling of thankfulness and oneness with one another to last and last.

How would that day look different in your life, or in mine, if we changed our focus from what we've always thought about Thanksgiving and celebrated it with the Pilgrims and Indians in mind? To just get back to the true meaning of the holiday: Giving Thanks.

I heard someone say once, "If the only prayer you ever pray is: Thank You, Jesus, then that's enough." Hmm ... something to think about, especially during this Season of Thanksgiving we are currently in.

May you all have a very  blessed, joy-filled, memory making celebration with all your loved ones. May your heart smile with thankfulness, and may it overflow to others. May you learn to Be Still so you can enjoy each and every single moment. Life is about being present in the moment, which will be gone in the blink of an eye, and about making memories, isn't it? And that is what holidays are perfect for, especially Thanksgiving Day: Celebrating Life Together!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 8, 2010

My battle with Lyme Disease

{A friendly warning: a long post because it's unfortunately a long story}


Who would have thought that a tiny, black, creepy little bug, could cause such havoc on the human body? That a bug, smaller than your pinky fingernail, could totally turn your life upside down? Well, definitely not me! Gosh, growing up in Wisconsin, it seemed like everyone knew about ticks and Lyme Disease. It really never seemed to be a big deal really. You were just warned to pay extra special attention in the summer. Mostly, I remember us worrying more for our dogs, than for us. No one ever worried about getting bit or any long terms effects. As kids, we vacationed "up north" near Montello, WI and it was very, very rare to not see us kids running around at night with our flashlights. Or ever not being outside. It was great fun!

When Megan was just a baby, she had a tick stuck on her head. Mark did his magic and took care of it. Never thought about it again, especially after our dog, Cally, died in 2007.

That was until last summer when one test turned things around for me.

You see, I had been struggling with chronic health problems up until that point for a long, long time. Since high school, I never felt quite right; always so, so fatigued. I battled with depression for years. In college I would schedule my classes around my nap time. I thought everyone operated this way. It never dawned on me that people didn't feel as sick as I did.

In a few years time, I completed my Teaching Degree when Matthew and Megan were still very small. My student teaching involved 4 months of full-time work while Mark worked the weekends to compensate. During this time, I was also in the midst of the roller coaster ride of grief. Then along came our special blessing, Luke, after a long time of waiting. His early life brought many challenges for both of us battling thrush and me needing a kidney stone removed when he was just 2 weeks old. In 2007, I lost my mom to cancer and our beloved dog, Cally, went to Rainbow Bridge. Do you think God was trying to get my attention? Only He knows why it took so much.

I continued to push myself despite feeling worse and worse. After all, I was trying to raise a family! I couldn't just take some sick days. We all just tried to adapt to "mom is always sick & can't get better" mentality. What a hopeless situation we were in. At least that is how it looked and felt.

It was all just too much for my poor body and soul to handle. Our bodies weren't designed to withstand so many years of emotional, spiritual, and physical stress. So mine shut down. I had kept myself so busy that I didn't notice how much the years of stress were damaging my being, on all levels.

I recall the exact moment the crash came: I was riding on a spinning bike right after Christmas 2007 trying to burn off those calories we all gain. All of a sudden, I felt this overwhelming dark cloud engulf me, stopping me dead in my tracks (or shall I say dead in my peddle stroke?) I remember thinking, "Something is just not right with me."

This began the quest to find out what was wrong with me. I've had every "test" under the sun, many diagnoses, hours and hours on the Internet searching for answers. How many times I'd sit in front of a doctor and he'd be shaking his head saying, "I just don't know what to do anymore."  I started going from doctor to doctor to doctor....even for our 14-year wedding anniversary, Mark & I drove to see a "Specialist" in Pennsylvania. I was that desperate to get well. I would do whatever it took.

So, I spent about 3 years going around in circles, either getting worse from the crazy medications and doses, or I didn't have any improvements at all. I was swallowing so many pills and supplements that I'd forget what I'd taken or not taken. All awhile we were watching our money fly out the window. I was stuck in a vicious never ending cycle of hopelessness and despair. There seemed no way out, no place else to turn.

The best way I can describe how I've felt the majority of my life, and honestly, still do on a daily basis is to compare it to how it felt when you were a teenager or a college student and you pulled an "all-nighter". Maybe some of you still do that, but unless you have a baby, I think that is something you might want to fix :) That just cannot be good for the body. Anyway, do you remember how you felt that next day? Like a truck hit you? Like it took so much energy to even put two thoughts together, let alone function in life? Now imagine feeling that way, yet still having to work or take care of a family or go to school or even take care of simple tasks such as laundry and eating? And it's not only the debilitating fatigue. That is just the main common symptom all people with disease share. Add on a host of many other symptoms, many times excruciating pain. That is what people with chronic illness go through on a daily basis, sometimes even hourly.

Usually a good nights sleep would take care of the problem. Not for me, nor for many, many people out there suffering with ill health. No matter how much sleep I could ever possibly get would never, ever make me feel rested. I somehow have been able to keep going, one foot in front of the other. In God's great mercy, strength, and faithfulness, He is carrying me.

Finally, I went to my regular doctor for a yearly "check-up" and she ended up referring me to a Hematologist. During my consult, he said something like, "It looks to me like you have some sort of chronic infection or virus that has worn down your immune system." He ran some additional tests. All I knew was that I was very, very sick and had no clear direction anymore on how to get better.

I came home and thought about what he said, and then I remembered in all my years of diligently searching for answers on the Internet, I recalled reading "if you are chronically ill and have not been able to get better, you should be tested for Lyme Disease." My immediate thought was, "That's not me. I don't remember being bit by a tick or having a rash. I don't have joint pain." But then again, I did frolic in the up north woods every summer as a child. Hmmm...

This began my research into the best, most accurate, recommended test, treatment and doctor for Lyme Disease in Wisconsin. (Can you tell I'm a researcher?) My eyes were opened to the vast world of those suffering with Lyme. I already knew that the normal lab test your doctor would run was highly inaccurate - many, many false negatives. I figured I might as well get the most accurate test to just rule it out, never ever expecting that I had it. And, plus, out of the 15+ doctors I went to, no one ever suggested this as even a remote possibility.

When the results came back positive, I almost fell over. By this point, I knew all too well what this disease entailed, and I didn't even want to go there. A tick-borne bacteria infection that overtakes your body. A disease that some say you can never get rid of. A disease which carries right along with it, many, many other infections. The controversy about what treatment type is best is a confusing, never-ending cycle.

My Lyme Specialist thinks that I've had the disease for over 20 years. The cause of my other diseases: Celiac Disease, Hashimoto's, Hypopituitary, and Addison's Disease.  Finally, an answer, some direction. The treatment: to start high doses of a various antibiotics immediately for a long period of time, and to keep trying different combinations until something worked. OK - let's go. Let's eradicate this sucker and his friends.....that was in July 2009.

After 8 months of treatment, and no progress made, plus the heaviness of life finally taking its toll, I reached a place of complete brokenness, both in body and spirit. I knew the only way I could keep going was to look Up and reach Out. To surrender and let God put the pieces back together in His way, not mine.

So I began the process of renewing my mind and heart: to finally accept a life of sickness. I knew that I would somehow have to find a way to try and live with it, instead of fighting it. However, I also knew that I couldn't allow my Spirit to also stay in such a sick, broken place, like my body. That would've been no life at all, for me or my family. I knew I would have to work hard at finding joy in the land of the living in the physical condition I was in, and that I couldn't rely on my strength anymore. I pressed on and pressed forward. But deep in my heart, there was always this little nugget of Truth that God was still up to something. So that's what I clung to: HOPE.

Soon afterward, I was referred to Dr. Brian Borden in Fond du Lac. He had a reputation of using alternative means along with antibiotics to successfully eradicate Lyme Disease. I knew he was my last chance, and so did he. There was nowhere else to go. Thankfully, and with praise, I must report that since March I have  been working with 3 doctors. I like to think of them as my "team." They have finally pieced together a road map towards physical healing for me.

Finally, for the first time ever, I've seen slight improvements; many ups and downs. Nothing earth-shattering or else you would have heard about it by now. I may actually have hired the local news to do a story on me! Anyway, it is a very, very slow process. I've accepted that I still have a long way to go; that I can only be in control of some things.  I do know that physical healing is now within my grasp; I can feel it. I just need to be patient in the waiting and to be open to what God has in store for me in the meantime. As much as I wanted a spontaneous miracle to heal me physically (and still do!), I know that there were and are still many more pressing matters of the heart that need to be addressed first.

I need to make myself clear: Lyme Disease is an epidemic, especially in states like Wisconsin. Its symptoms mimic anything from fibromyalgia, arthritis, chronic fatigue syndrome to Parkinson's, autism, and multiple sclerosis plus many more. People have been diagnosed with a disease, but are getting worse or not getting better. Or they get labeled with "chronic fatigue syndrome," which has no cure. There are so few trained doctors who understand the testing, diagnosis and treatment of this complex disease. And the general public is clueless. You are one of the lucky ones if you notice a bite or rash and get treated right away. And even then, your standard blood test might still be negative. Unfortunately, a round of antibiotics might not do the trick or the bacteria can go dormant in your body for years. It will rear its ugly head by creating other diseases, and then your body has woven itself into a very tangled web of disease. Can you tell I'm just a little passionate about this subject? ;-)

Lyme Disease is also frustrating to have because people with this disease don't look "sick" so people assume all is well. It is a disease that can make one feel lonely, misunderstood, and even more hopeless. The feeling that you have to convince people that you really, truly are sick; that it isn't all in your head. To feel like you have to come with a another good explanation for canceling plans besides always saying, "I feel sick....still."

Phew! It sure has been a long journey, and I'm still a work in progress. Aren't we all? Now you've gotten the full physical health story. I've met many wonderful people along the way (I like to call them angels) at just the perfect time; from all over the United States right to my backdoor. Thank you to those who have loved and encouraged me, offered me support, helped problem solve, or just been there to listen because sometimes there isn't anything to say except, "I'm here for you." I am also thankful for the many doctors who tried to help me the best they knew how.

Even during what seems like a hopeless situation, there is always Hope. What I've learned along the way is that I have to continue to trust God each step of the way. And Trusting is the hardest step to take of all, but the most important. I encourage you to also trust in His plan for your life. He gives us hope and a future, with no plans to harm us, for all of us to prosper. He wants to bless us and pour out His Love on us.

Cling to that if you are in the midst of a trial right now that feels like its crushing you. If you feel like your prayers are just flying up to nowhere. When all you are left with is sitting in the Waiting Room, desperately crying out to God from the depths of your soul to free you from this trial (s). And God remains silent (even though He's really not). While you are waiting....waiting....waiting....continue to pray to Him, serve Him, and stay strong. Believe that He is good and faithful and overflowing with Love.

And never, ever, let go of HOPE because sometimes, that's all we have. And really, when it comes down to it, that is our anchor. It's what keeps us grounded, steady, and strong. It's what helps carry us over the finish line.

For much, much more detailed, helpful information about Lyme disease, please see (http://www.lymebytes.blogspot.com)

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

A new path of life

I have journaled for years, actually since high school. I'm not sure what drew me to writing my thoughts and feelings down on paper, but I am so glad I started and continue to this day. I'm the kind of person who needs to get my thoughts, feelings, and ideas out of me in order to process them. I know other people need to go "underground" to deal with life's issues, but not me! Either I need to write or talk, or do both, even at the same time :-))

I haven't counted all of my journals, but they are overflowing in my hope chest that was refurbished by my dad when I was younger. I remember wanting a brand new one with flowers perfectly stenciled on the front. Even had it circled in the catalog, all ready to order! Of course, it was very expensive and my dad suggested he could just refinish the one we currently had with a new stain and decorations.  Now I treasure it more than anything because my dad used his own hands to make it beautiful for me! His act of service showed his love for me. This special chest holds all things dear to me in my life: old cards and letters, my baby book, high school stuff, pictures, journals, baby clothes, and many, many memories.....sometimes I wish it were fire proof because the thought of losing all of my precious stuff is daunting. But, then again, it isn't the "stuff" I treasure, it is the memories, right?

Plus, there is nothing like going to the bookstore and picking out a new journal and a pretty pen to go with it. I look for a pretty cover, usually with some sort of inspirational quote or bible verse on it. There right in front of me is this blank, empty, beautiful book just waiting for me to fill it up. It feels like the slate has been wiped clean and I get to start anew. It's exciting to anticipate what the next season of my life will bring.

Mark and I have talked about what to do with my journals when I die. Do we let the kids read them? Burn them? Hmm ... that's a tough one. Recently a journal of my mom's was found 3 years after her death  (maybe that's where I got my love of writing from?).  My first thought was, How did my sister and I miss it when we were cleaning out her room? It was right in her top nightstand drawer within reaching distance? Anyway, my dad brought it out and read it and welcomed anyone else to read it if they wanted to. Boy, was I tempted! It was a 7-year long journal. Trust me, my mom was very detail-oriented. We joked about how she wrote everything down; when people got married, died, events.  If we ever wanted to remember when something happened, it was all there at our fingertips.

We already had in our possession a journal she kept in the last 4 months of her life so did I need to read the other one? Would it help me or hurt me? Learn more about her? Understand her better? Would reading it change my feelings for her? I decided "no" for all of the above. What I knew about her, what I miss about her, what I needed to learn from her is already tucked away inside my heart.

You see, for those of you who didn't know my mom, she was a "tell it like it is" kind of person. She just let her thoughts and feelings fly, in person and on paper. And that's ok to do that in your own personal, private journal - as much as you want to. Isn't that what it is for? To vent about everything and anything? When someone just ticks you off and you can't go yell at them, you right it down in your journal. Then it's "out there" and you feel better, but no one got hurt. And you got it off your chest and feel better.

For me, I decided not to read it out of respect for her privacy. In my opinion, I don't think my mom's intent was for us to read it long after she was gone. Plus, reading it would only make me more upset because I couldn't defend myself, just in case at some point I was the target of her venting. It was just simply her way of getting her feelings out in the best way she knew how. 

The question though comes in: am I writing my thoughts and feelings down so eventually my husband, children and grandchildren can read them? My answer is Yes. I want them to read them and be encouraged, to know me more intimately. To know how I wrestled with life and how I got through it, and the times the joy was overflowing. To read my thoughts about them as they are growing up, all the recorded "kid moments" that I know I never would've remembered. To show them how I've messed up a lot, but how I learned and grew from it. Mostly, what I learned along the way. And how my faith kept me afloat. To see that I am human, just like them, trying to finish the race well. To learn from my mistakes and for them to grow as a person. To help them finish their race well.

So with these thoughts in mind, in recent years I decided to change my journal writing "style" from venting about others and situations and essentially "complaining" to sharing my heart, my vulnerability, the lessons God is teaching me through this thing called Life. Making this change with the goal of  knowing they will read them someday. I may tell Mark not to let them read the high school ones because I may not have been the best example :)  And maybe not the ones in my 20's or early 30's....OK - they can read them all if they want to, yikes! Don't say I didn't warn them.

I've had people suggest I start a blog, and have so graciously shared, that I have "a way with words". Yes, I love writing cards and e-mails sharing my thoughts and feelings, but I figured there wasn't anyone out there, but a few, who could possibly get anything out of something I had to say. Then I realized that if only my children, hopefully grandchildren, possibly great-grandchildren read it, then it'll be worth it. So, with that being said, I dedicate this new upcoming blog to them. Plus, I think it would be nice to have a hard copy of my writings just in case there is that fire I was talking about (can you tell I'm married to a Firefighter - lol). But then again, we do have a smoke detector practically in every room of the house :-)

I feel like God is and has been leading me through a profound healing process that I want to share with others. There is so much more to it than just physical healing; so, so much more. That is how my blog got it's name: "Healing Begins", after a song by Tenth Avenue North that is very popular on the radio right now. More on that topic later {stay tuned}.

I will still keep up with getting my words on paper, (I just cannot give up finding that perfect pen and journal and the feeling I get when the pen hits the paper), but I decided to start this blog to reach more people than just my immediate family in a different way. To use it as a different avenue to get my thoughts "out there" than my own personal journal writing.

My hope is that you will only feel encouraged along the way, that you will learn something about yourself, God, other people and your life in my posts. That you will laugh out loud. That I will be used as a vessel in some way in your life. I love to process and discuss some of these deep thoughts I have floating around in my head so please feel free to comment or post a question or suggestion. I'm open to learning new ways of looking at things.

If you find time in the busyness of life to read my blog, I am very thankful. I've enjoyed other people's blogs along the way, but had to narrow them down because otherwise I'd be on the computer all day. I understand if you are unable to read mine.

So, thank you for reading. I end my first official blog post on this note: May we both be blessed through this new path of life.