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

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.