Tuesday, November 9, 2010
One of my friends shared this with me, from the old hymn "Be Still My Soul". Here is the song in it's entirety, emphasis added by my friend:
"Be Still, My Soul"
by Catharina von Schlegel, 1697-?
Translated by Jane Borthwick, 1813-18971.
Be still, my soul; the Lord is on thy side;
Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain;
Leave to thy God to order and provide;
In every change He faithful will remain.
Be still, my soul; thy best, thy heavenly, Friend
Through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.
2. Be still, my soul; thy God doth undertake
To guide the future as He has the past.
Thy hope, thy confidence, let nothing shake;
All now mysterious shall be bright at last.
Be still, my soul; the waves and winds still know
His voice who ruled them while He dwelt below.
3. Be still, my soul, though dearest friends depart
And all is darkened in the vale of tears;
Then shalt thou better know His love, His heart,
Who comes to soothe thy sorrows and thy fears.
Be still, my soul; thy Jesus can repay
From His own fulness all He takes away.
4. Be still, my soul; the hour is hastening on
When we shall be forever with the Lord,
When disappointment, grief, and fear are gone,
Sorrow forgot, love's purest joys restored.
Be still, my soul; when change and tears are past,
All safe and blessed we shall meet at last.
(And no, my friend...the irony was not lost on me that you sent me a SONG, when singing is the problem!) :)
One thing she said to me was that we think our hands are open to God...for him to give and take away what He deems fit. But, sometimes our hands are not fully open, and we need to give him the GOOD things too...maybe even the very thing we use to praise Him the most. What my friend said that struck me the most was this: "Yet, to give up what I determine to be GOOD and have it replaced with something from His own fullness? That is what I want!!" Can I get an AMEN????
This morning, I was wide awake at 530. I was not ready to leave the warmth of my cozy bed, so I lay there, talking with God (quietly, though...didn't want to wake Jared!). I asked God lots of questions..."Why is this happening?", "When will You heal me?", "Will I ever be able to sing normally again?", "What is the deal with my jaw?", "When am I going to catch a break?". As I asked, I heard Him answer. "I have searched You, Amanda, and I know you...I knit you together in your mother's womb...you are fearfully and wonderfully made...I know the plans I have for you...plans to prosper you and not to harm you...trust Me...I will put a new song in your mouth...a hymn of praise to ME". I can't say that I've ever had an experience quite like this before. It was so peaceful, like I was just letting His words roll through my head, over and over. It reminded me of the way a parent soothes a fussy baby...rocking back and forth, patting their back, lulling them to sleep. And He lulled me back to sleep, my heart peaceful and quiet. When I woke up for good awhile later, it almost seemed like it had been a dream.
I am so thankful to have had that this morning. I will still wrestle with uncertainty. I will still grow very frustrated with my pain. But for now, I have peace.
Sunday, November 7, 2010
Those of you that know me well know that singing is a huge part of my life. I have loved music since I was little. I have been part of our church's choir for several years, taking brief breaks when babies were born, and during the darkest parts of my depression. When we started back up again this fall, I was so excited. God had put a new song in my heart after I climbed out of the pit, and I was so thankful to be able to be part of the group that prompts others to worship our amazing God. When God works in your heart like He has in mine, you can't help but want to share it in a meaningful way...music is my avenue of sharing that.
The past few times I've sung, I've noticed more pain. And today it got worse. I ended up having to leave the service after we sang to ice it.
You might be thinking "so what?". But this is very hard for me. I feel like I just got my song back, and now it's possibly being taken away from me again? How long until this dumb jaw of mine is normal again? When will I be able to eat the foods I enjoy, be able to talk normally without an appliance altering my speech, be able to give volume to my speech without added pain?
I've tried so hard to be patient in all of this...but now I'm scared. I do not want to lose my song. I know I can't really LOSE it, but I need to be able to express myself in this way. Sometimes, cranking up the stereo/ipod/etc and singing at the top of my lungs is the only way to do that...fully express the emotion in my heart. I want so badly to know how long this will take. I know God will teach me something through this, but honestly, I'm tired of being taught! :)
Sunday, October 17, 2010
The end of September saw our first hospitalization for Annaliese in one year. Her last one was in North Carolina last year while we were on vacation, and that one was the fourth in 3 months for her. We're SO thankful for the year she was able to avoid the hospital! This time around, she caught a virus that knocked her down hard with her asthma. We had gone to Urgent Care, but they were unable to get her O2 level up enough, so they sent us to the ER downtown. We knew she'd be admitted, but this time was different. She needed a continuous flow of Albuterol, so they admitted her to the Pediatric ICU. Not something we'd ever experienced before. As always, the staff was wonderful. We are so blessed here in West Michigan with the abundance of readily available, high quality medical care. She needs to follow up with the Pediatric Pulmonologist in a couple more weeks, and we're changing up her asthma action plan a bit. She'll also be starting allergy injections soon, as we found out a few months ago that she is allergic to a LOT of things (mostly environmental).
While we were at the hospital, I realized I hadn't taken my medication for at least a day, most likely two. That, for me, is NOT GOOD. A couple of days later, I spiraled downward very quickly. I felt almost as low as I did back in March, and I was terrified. Through a lot of prayer and encouragement from friends and family, I made it back out of the pit. After talking with my counselor, I realize this was just a 'bump in the road'. I am so thankful it was quick, but it was painful. I felt like I just could not function. I had no motivation to do anything, but kept putting one foot in front of the other. I'm still a bit behind in the housekeeping department, and I have some projects I'd like to tackle, so Jared's mom is coming tomorrow to help us out for the week so I can get back on top of things. One of the main challenges these days has been Tessa the Tornado. She is a non-stop mover, and frequently destroys anything in her path...makes it very difficult to accomplish much. :)
Even though things have been a little challenging, I'm constantly being reminded of all the blessings I've been given. I have a God who loves me and forgives me every time I act in a way that isn't pleasing to Him, who shows me mercy and grace, and who cares about the desires of my heart. My children are healthy (and when they're not, we have access to care that many others in the world do not). I have a husband who loves the Lord, me, and our children (in that order), works hard to provide for our family, and loves me faithfully no matter what. We have extended family that love us and pray for us daily. We have a church family that walks alongside us down every path God takes us. I have friends that hold me accountable for the choices I make, and who encourage me to be the woman God wants me to be. I AM BLESSED!!!!!!! It's so easy for us to say "Why me?" whenever the tough times come along. I know...I've done it MANY times. But I'm choosing now to see the good that comes out of the tough times. And there is always good.
How about you? What has God blessed YOU with?
Thursday, August 19, 2010
The way it works is this: Groupon offers a specific deal each day. If enough people indicate that they want to purchase it, it becomes activated. If not, it goes away. Some of the offers are for local businesses. Others are bigger, like GAP.
If you're interested in signing up, would you consider using my referral link? I can earn $10 for each person that joins by using my name...and that helps a lot with our large family. Click HERE if you'd like to do so. Thanks, and have fun! :)
Friday, August 13, 2010
I've continued to feel pretty good emotionally. God is continuing to work in my heart and make me more dependent on Him. I've had a few lonely days this week, and each time I felt down, He would send someone to encourage me with a phone call or Facebook message. Today I received a package in the mail - a devotional book called "Divine Design" by Sharla Fritz. I won it in a giveaway hosted by my blog friend Cindy Bultema at "She Sparkles". What perfect timing! I can't wait to dig in and start reading. Thanks, Cindy!
Most of you know I started a running program earlier this summer. It's the Couch to 5k program, and I LOVE it! I have never been a runner before. I hated it. When we had to do a mile run around the track in high school PE, I almost passed out. It was torture. And I was 'in shape' then! :) I started week 5 when we left for Colorado, and I was worried about not being able to run out there. I did try, but the altitude made it impossible for me. I decided to jump back in when we got home, and I did day 2 of week 5 on Wednesday. I knew I'd head over to the gym again today to do day 3, but I had NO idea what the workout was going to be. It's usually an alternation of walking/running for a few minutes at a time. The most I've done is 8 minutes of running, and that was just this week. Imagine my surprise when I hopped on the treadmill and loaded the C25k app on my iPod and saw today's workout: 5 minute warm-up walk, 20 minute run, 5 minute cool-down walk. Twenty minutes of running?!?!? With NO walking breaks?!?!? I felt so defeated right away, thinking "there is NO way I can do this". But guess what? I DID IT!!! It was tough, and a few times I could hear myself say "take a break", but I would NOT give in. As the voice prompt on the app gave me my 'how many minutes left' updates, I kept pushing myself. "You are halfway done...10 minutes left", "Five minutes left", "Three minutes left", and finally, "One minute left"...I felt so empowered! As the voice told me "cool-down", there were tears welling up in my eyes. I felt like I had crossed this imaginary finish line and it was exhilarating. Now I know there's still a ways to go in my training. A 5k will take longer than 20 minutes. But I did it...and I am very proud of that fact!
Monday, July 26, 2010
Within a few days of that last entry, I was inpatient at a local mental health facility. It was a scary time, but I needed to be in a place where I was safe and could focus solely on myself and getting better. Satan had more than one field day with me during that time. I was consumed with thoughts of worthlessness, anger, resentment, fear. I tried to think of ways I could end my life. That scared me into getting help. The week in the hospital didn’t cure me, but it certainly helped get me on the right track towards healing. I was started on a new medication and learned a lot that week about severe depression and how to live with it. After I was discharged from the inpatient program, I spent a week in partial-hospitalization and continued getting the help I needed. After that week, I was connected with a wonderful counselor at the Christian Counseling Center. My previous therapist was a great person, but wasn’t helping me change my thought processes. My current therapist is a licensed psychologist and has provided me with a constructive environment in which to share my feelings and do the work necessary to heal.
A lot changed for me in the weeks following discharge. It was a difficult and painful adjustment at times, but through a lot of prayer and hard work, I know that I am right where God wants me to be...in HIS hands (where I’ve been all along!), and I’m not fighting it anymore. I spent a lot of time being angry at God. Why would He allow me to be so miserable? Why would He put my family through this? Why, if He were truly good, did He let this happen? The answer to that, I’ve been reminded over and over, is that this isn’t the way He intended things to be! We live in a fallen world. Nothing is perfect. As long as we live in a sinful world, we will have troubles. None of us are immune to them. I look around me and see suffering everywhere... two children in our church who don't have a dad and just lost their young mom, my 35 year old friend who was just diagnosed with breast cancer, marriages struggling to survive (mine was one of them during the last couple of months), people losing jobs...it’s EVERYWHERE and we are all affected by it in some way or another.
About two weeks ago, I felt as though the cloud had lifted. I had felt this way before, briefly, but not to this extent. I was in church on a Sunday morning, and (as best I could with a still-messed-up TMJ), sang along during the worship service. I hadn’t been able to even sing during these past months...and if you know me, that’s a HARD thing to have ‘taken away’! It felt so good to finally be able to sing the words to those songs and mean them.
I’ve found so much joy in life the last couple of weeks...joy that I thought I’d never feel again. Things are not perfect, by any means, but I have learned how to work through the difficult moments instead of feeling overwhelmed and defeated by them. I’m re-connecting with my kids, my husband, my friends, my church family. I have so missed being ‘present’ in my own life. I am so thankful that God brought me through the storm (and I find it ironic that I used to sing “Jesus Bring the Rain” over and over, and when He did, I was mad about it!). God is good, friends...all the time.
Thursday, March 25, 2010
A new season is beginning to announce its arrival with warmer days, more sunshine, and the beginnings of tiny buds on the trees, yet my heart has felt increasingly barren. I have felt hopeless, sleepless, worthless, and restless...I have felt "less" than I should. It seems like the long winter has stretched on in my heart, even as new life springs up around me. Hundreds of things call out for my attention each day, and I feel too inadequate to even try to meet the needs of those around me. These precious kids that I love so much are suffering because of my suffering. My husband, this man I love more than I ever thought I could, is struggling because of my struggling. Tension runs high in our home and I hate it. I hate that this is happening because *I* am sick.
Some changes are coming for me in the area of counseling, and possibly medication as well. It's scary and unsettling. I know I'm not alone. I know my family and friends love me and am humbled by the way they've shown God's love to our family. I know God is there. But I'm scared. How long, Lord? When will this be over? Will it glorify You for me to be set free from this? Will it glorify You more for me to learn to be long-suffering, and patiently learn to live with this as a constant companion? I am so confused. My mind races. I don't sleep. I long for rest. I long for peace. I long for healing. And yet I remember how David ended his plea. "But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. I will sing to the LORD, for he has been good to me."
Friday, February 5, 2010
One of the things I struggle with is trying to figure out how to keep it all clean without having to clean a whole room each day/every day. Jared has suggested a schedule to me many times, but just the thought of planning out a schedule makes my head spin. Yesterday, a friend of mine sent me THIS link, so I checked it out. Wow...this is just what I needed. The planner has a column of daily chores that need to be done (with cute little boxes to check off when you've done them...love checking off boxes!), and a column of other things broken down throughout the week. For example, each day, there's a box to check for making beds, loading/running/emptying dishwasher (wish there were a box for EACH of the dishwasher steps, but, there's only one, :) ), and doing laundry. In the weekly column, there are chores like making a shopping list, cleaning the toilets, cleaning out your purse, or cleaning a shelf in the fridge. These ones are on a rotating basis so you don't necessarily do these things every week.
When you purchase the planner ($7 if you use the code 'giveaways'), they send you a pdf to download to your computer, then you can print it off however you choose. My friend took hers to a copy store and had them bind it for her. I chose to just print mine here at home, use my 3-hole punch, and put it in a binder.
I can't even tell you how excited I am to do this...and I feel like such a dork for being so excited about it. But this is what I needed...I don't need to re-invent the wheel...I just needed to find a system that would work for me. And I hope this is it. :)
Sunday, January 31, 2010
Not everyone will feel led to face their battle publicly...and that's okay! I just don't want anyone to feel that they have to suffer silently. I can't say this enough: PLEASE reach out to someone...it can be a family member, a friend, a mentor...or even me. I won't betray any confidences and know what you're facing. Nobody should have to go through this alone.
Back in September, I purchased the book, Defeating Depression: Real HOPE for Life-changing Wholeness, by Leslie Vernick. What an amazing resource this has been! I started reading it when I was in the deepest part of the pit, and was looking for anything I could find that would offer some encouragement from a Biblical perspective. This book is full of encouragement, and practical advice for people facing depression, as well as for those who walk alongside them. One of my favorite parts of the book is the sample letter she provides for family and friends. This is what it says:
I know you've noticed I'm not myself lately and have asked what's wrong and how you could help me. I am battling depression. Here are some things I think you could do that would encourage me during this time.
- Please don't judge me. I judge myself mercilessly. I don't know why i feel the way I do, but I'm trying to figure it out. Please show patience and support.
- Please don't tell me just to "snap out of it." I don't like feeling this way. Believe me, if I could just snap out of it, I would have done so.
- Don't tell me it's all in my head. My heart hurts too. My body feels lousy, and often I feel as if I don't even have the strength to put one foot in front of another. When you say things like this, it's like telling someone who is bleeding by the side of the road, "It's all in your head. Just snap out of it."
- Speaking of bleeding by the side of the road, remember the story Jesus told of the Good Samaritan? He helped the wounded man and demonstrated compassion. Please understand that right now I may not be able to do for myself what I once was able to do. I may need your help and some of your time, energy, and/or money to get better. Please offer them generously; don't make me ask or beg. I probably won't. When you seem reluctant or unwilling to help me, I don't feel I'm worth anything to you.
- I need encouragement and support. I need you to reach out to me and not allow me to continue to isolate myself. Call me. Invite me for a walk. Come over to my house to talk with me. Don't take my reluctance or even a no for an answer. I need you right now. Pray with me and hold me. Hugs can bring more comfort that words can express. Let me cry when I need to.
- Please tell me the truth, but speak it with grace and love. I am a prisoner of my own harsh words. I do not need to hear scolding words from others. The Bible tells us to help the weak (1 Thessalonians 5:14). Right now I'm weak. Help me regain my strength. Your words are very powerful to me, especially negative ones. I hear them much louder than any other words you will ever say.
- If I'm under medical care or seeing a counselor, please understand that my doctor and/or my therapist are here to help me figure out what's wrong and how to get better. If you tell me what you think is wrong or what I should or shouldn't do to get better, it confuses me and undermines my confidence in the helpers that God has put in my life.
- Finally, in the Bible there was a man named Job who was very depressed. His friends said all the wrong things to him. Listen to his advice to them. He said,
Won't you ever stop your flow of foolish words? What have I said that makes you speak so endlessly? I could say the same things if you were in my place. I could spout off my criticisms against you and shake my head at you. But that's not what I would do. I would speak in a way that helps you. I would try to take away your grief (Job 16:3-5, NLT, emphasis added).
Speak to me in a way that helps me. Encourage me. remind me of the good things in my life. Help me trust God with all of this. Stand by me and tell me you love me, and then with your help and God's, I will be able to have the strength to fight to get healthier and stronger.
Thank you for wanting to help me and for caring about me. I appreciate you.
Love, __________ (pp 240-242)
Wow...I'm so glad she included this in her book...I don't think I would have had the presence of mind to come up with this on my own! I'd like to add a couple of other things that are helpful for a mom struggling with depression.
- Offer to bring a meal over. It doesn't have to be fancy. Heck, you could even call a local pizza place and have pizza delivered. One of the most overwhelming things for me, when I'm in the pit, is to try to come up with something for dinner. I can't even tell you how many nights we've had cereal.
- Offer to babysit. I've got great girlfriends that have stepped in to watch my kids so I can go to my counseling appointments, or even so I can have a couple of hours to run errands alone.
- Send a card. There is nothing better than opening the mailbox and seeing a pretty, handwritten notecard from a caring friend. You don't have to fill it with Bible verses or profound thoughts. A simple "I'm thinking of you and I love you" can say it all!
- Help with housework. Again, my girlfriends and mom have been lifesavers in this area. Show up and just start cleaning. Tackle a project and don't be afraid to tell your friend "go through this pile and eliminate half of it to throw away/donate/recycle."
- Remember my husband and kids. It's not easy for them to see me this way. If your husband knows mine, encourage him to call and offer to meet for lunch (or dinner, but then offer to come over yourself during that time to help with the kids!) Invite my kids along for a trip to the park or a sleepover. Mom isn't always the most fun person to be around, nor does she have the energy to plan for fun.
If you have other ideas, please share them with me. I'm sure there are things I've overlooked. Also, if you are going through depression and a friend offers help, don't let pride get in the way and cause you to decline it. You're robbing two people of a blessing, that way! One of the ways I've felt the most blessed is when I reach out to others and they accept my help. We were never meant to walk through this life alone. I'll say it over and over if I have to...WE NEED EACH OTHER!!!
Thursday, January 28, 2010
When I was in college, I really struggled with WHY I was there. I wasn't one with big career goals. I wanted to get married and have a family...that was my dream job. I knew that I should have a 'backup plan', so that's why I got my dental hygiene degree. But deep down, I knew God was calling me to motherhood as my profession.
Fast-forward a few years...we had those babies I had dreamed about. After Annaliese (#2) was born, I started feeling 'not right'. My OB/GYN diagnosed me with postpartum depression. I wasn't in denial about it...it was a very real thing. I learned (after hearing countless times, "Why are you depressed? You have a husband that loves you, two beautiful children, a brand new home...what do you have to be depressed about???") that depression is NOT circumstantial. Yes, circumstances can contribute to it, but it is a chemical, physical, REAL disease. I took my medication and felt like I was doing pretty well after awhile. When we found out we were expecting baby #3, my dr. suggested that I should stay on the medication throughout my pregnancy and for at least another year after giving birth. I did. When Adam was around a year old, I figured that since I had done so 'well', I didn't need to take it anymore, so I weaned myself off. Big mistake. Long story short, I crashed hard. I was put back on medication and have been on it ever since. When Sam was born (#4), I felt great. No big emotional dips, no harmful thoughts. I was hoping to be able to wean off my meds shortly after his first birthday, but then we found out we were expecting a surprise...Tessa. :)
My pregnancy with her was pretty typical. No big complications, just the typical pregnancy discomforts. After she was born, I was so happy...and then, it happened. I started feeling completely overwhelmed. Everyone kept telling me "Wow! You have FIVE kids?!?!? You must be a superwoman!!!". For the sake of any of my friends out there with large families, PLEASE do not say this to us! It only puts pressure on us to BE a superwoman! Everytime I heard someone say this, I felt like a fraud. Sure, when you see a mom out with her kids, and they're dressed decently and are semi-well behaved, you think she's got it together. What you don't see (or at least what is true for me) is the mom that screamed at her children that morning because they were being irritating. The mom who screamed at and belittled her husband for something very insignificant. The mom who was mad at God for giving her what she asked for. The mom who looked for every chance she had to escape, practically running out the door the minute her husband came home from work and often didn't return until well after the kids were in bed. The mom who looked around at the house that looked like a bomb went off in it, but didn't know where to start, so she did nothing. That was me.
This past summer was not at all what I'd hoped it would be. I did the bare minimum each day. Breakfast for the kids. Check. Lunch. Check. Naptime. Check. The rest of the time, I was checked-out. We made the weekly trip to the park, swam at the community pool, had lots of playdates with our friends. But I did nothing to engage my kids at all. I was resentful of them, honestly. I felt unappreciated and invisible.
Around the time of Tessa's first birthday (in September), I had a complete breakdown. I don't even remember what sparked it, but I lost it. Thankfully, the kids were outside, but hateful words were said, things were broken, and I hit bottom. I sat on the floor of the bathroom, sobbing, thinking of ways I could escape my life permanently. I was terrified. My poor husband didn't know what to do with me...I can't imagine how horrified he was by what happened, how angry he must be at me, how frustrated he was that he couldn't help me. I will say this...God gave me an extremely patient, forgiving, and loving husband. Neither of us are perfect, but we know God knew what He was doing when He brought us together.
I have also been blessed with an amazing group of girlfriends. They have been a huge support to me though this whole journey. They encouraged me to get help. I called my doctor, but was told I had to wait a week to get in. During that week, another call was put in to them, and they increased my medication dosage. By the time the appointment came around, I was a pile of tears every day. As Jared and I sat in his office, I was overcome by the reality of it all. I had to get help...I couldn't try to do this on my own anymore. My dr. made a phone call and got me an immediate appointment with a counselor in the same building. Again, as I told her what was going on, all I could do was cry. She set me up for the following week with the counselor I would be seeing on a regular basis. It helped to be heard, but I still didn't see how things would get any better.
After my first appointment with my counselor, I began to feel freed from the guilt I was carrying around about the summer. I beat myself up pretty badly over that. She reassured me that the kids probably wouldn't look back on the summer as the worst one of their lives, and reminded me that we did do SOME fun things along the way. I looked forward with anticipation to our family vacation, which was planned for the end of September. Destination: The Outer Banks of North Carolina.
Most of you know the story...we got there, settled into the rental home, and Annaliese developed pneumonia in both lungs and was hospitalized for the fourth time since June, an hour and a half away, for the rest of the trip. I was devastated. The ONE thing I looked forward to with our family and THIS is what happens??? To be honest, I STILL struggle with this one. I'd love a do-over.
So, since September, I've been seeing my counselor every two weeks. She's helping me understand myself better, and I'm learning how to take time for myself that is beneficial, not just to escape. I've had a couple of 'dips' since then, where my medication kind of levels out a little for a couple of days, and I feel pretty down and just want to sleep. Thankfully, they happen on the weekends when Jared is home to pick up the slack.
I think one of the things that frustrates me most about depression is not knowing how long I'll have to deal with it. It could be for this season of my life. I could be for the rest of my life. I may need to take medication forever. And I'm okay with that. There is a huge stigma attached to medication that I wish would just go away. Taking it does not make one weak. It doesn't mean that you are a failure. The goal of my treatment is not to get me off my medication...it's to keep me healthy.
If you read this and see yourself in something I've written, please know that you are not alone. You may feel like the worst person on the planet. You may want to escape your life. You may feel like you're worth nothing to anyone. I remember sitting with a friend at church one Sunday the past fall, crying my eyes out. I looked at her and sobbed, "I just feel like my kids would be better off with another mom, and that Jared would be better off with another wife!". She looked me right in the eyes and said, "Amanda, that is a lie from the pit of hell...I don't EVER want to hear you say that again!". That was just what I needed. Someone to speak TRUTH to me. I'm thankful to have some very Godly women in my life. Maybe you don't have that. Please don't be afraid to reach out.
There is a lot more I could write, and I feel like some of this may be a little dis-jointed. I'll have a lot more to say about depression and helping someone you love who is struggling with it, but I will leave you with this for now:
Friday, January 8, 2010
So much has happened in my life since my last pitiful post back in August. Not just in the day-to-day life of the Joneses, but in my heart as well. I am looking forward to sharing my journey with you. One of my goals this year (not resolutions), is to be more intentional with blogging about the path my life is taking. There have been some incredible difficulties, but there have also been equally as many blessings. Stay tuned...