To look ahead

Drew ventures forth on the Yukon trail, if only in imagination. Skagway, Alaska, June 2000

Drew ventures forth on the Yukon trail, if only in his imagination.  Here’s to beginnings!
Skagway, Alaska, June 2000

“A story has no beginning or end: arbitrarily one chooses that moment of experience from which to look back or from which to look ahead.”Graham Greene

“Be willing to be a beginner every single morning.”Meister Eckhart

Today is my 700th daily post, and that number rather amazes me.  Nearly two years ago, I began this blog as a way of coping with wave after wave of devastating news.  I invited others to join me in refusing to succumb to despair when there are always so many reasons to rejoice.

Some of you have been with me from the very beginning, and others joined along the way; I have appreciated the encouragement of each and every one of you who has visited and left your comments and “likes” on my posts.  As we approach the two-year anniversary of this little outpost in cyberspace, I have some special things planned to celebrate; I hope to be posting more about that very soon.

Today I invite you to see each day as a beginning.  While we think of autumn as nearing the end of the year, it does mark a logical beginning point in a variety of ways.

Students and teachers return to a new school year in many parts of the world, and nature is shedding her fading flowers and foliage in preparation for a fresh spring that will be coming soon.  Landscapers tell us this is the best time to plant new shrubs at our homes, since root growth happens most quickly now.

Some of us already are starting to prepare for the beginning of another holiday season and the calendar’s New Year, which will be here before we know it.

Since I started this blog, Jeff has come through numerous intense treatments for stage IV cancer, including two major surgeries, several minor ones, six weeks of daily radiation, and four different chemotherapy regimens.  He now stands at the threshold of exploring participation in promising treatments of a newer, more experimental but hopefully less traumatic nature. So he can rightly see this time as the beginning of a new phase of his life, as he continues his quest to be among the 5% with his diagnosis who reach the five-year survival mark.

He has reached an even more impressive two-year milestone than I have, because doctors told us “about two years” was the average survival time of patients with his diagnosis who took the original chemotherapy regimen he started in December 2012.  Not only is he still alive, but he is currently well enough to continue working full time, and to be considered for further treatment opportunities.  We praise God for abundant mercies, including the warm thoughts and prayers of so many in this online community and elsewhere.

How about you? What new beginnings might you be marking today?  Every time we awaken to a new day, it’s a gift– an opportunity to grow, give, receive, rejoice and press ahead.  Others have traveled this journey ahead of us, and we follow in their footsteps, determined to leave a slightly improved trail for those who follow.  In the spirit of T. H. White’s Arthurian epic The Once and Future King, which ends with the words “The Beginning,” I hope you will join us as we start each day in faith that all will someday be made new.

One year ago today:

Let us begin


  1. singleseatfighterpilot

    Thank you so much for a synopsis (where we have been; where we are; where we are going) on Jeff’s treatment. I began this day, as I have maybe 600 of the 700 you speak of, with thoughts and prayers for you and Jeff (Matt, and Drew’s family get their own separate prayers from me.)
    My beliefs, whose mention is prompted by the Greene quote:
    HIS story has no beginning, nor end. Man, on the other hand, shares only one comonality: we have no end (each individual has a separate beginning).
    I look forward, next month, to celebrating Jeff’s beginning (his birthday).

    • Eric, thanks so much. We really do appreciate your love, prayers and support.

  2. raynard

    Julia I know you have not been on U.R for awhile.From June to this past September, my wife and I were non stop every weekend going to NJ to care for her aunt and uncle. Both are in the hospital now.Her uncle has been in since August and continues to go down health wise. Her aunt has a 50-50 chance of getting better with a risky surgery. Sometimes it feels like waiting on Jesus to say” GO Fish”.( or did he pick what’s behind door number 3 ? I digress. The most challenging is” trusting and waiting”. Staying involved and connected with others is a source of encouragement and support. When her aunt gets out of the hospital, we are in the planning stages to move her to Delaware.( Sorry I had a senior moment and almost starting singing “the Theme song to Maude”.. I digress

    • Raynard, I am so sorry to hear about all these difficulties for you and your wife’s family. I will keep praying for you all. I am so happy they have you and your wife to help them at this time, though I know it is stressful for you. Those medical choices are often hard, but with advancing age it gets even tougher to make a decision. YES the waiting is SO hard! Being in limbo all the time, never free to plan anything for fear of what might come up. Trust is our only real option but that doesn’t make it easy. At least if Aunt moves to Delaware, it will cut down on your trips back and forth. I appreciate you being here with us and letting me know what is going on. I have another devotional coming up in Upper Room and I really need to get back over there and get in touch with everyone. Stay tuned for details but I am going to have to cut back on my blogging after my 2-year anniversary on Nov. 10. I just miss everyone else’s blogs and the UR site too much and I am so far behind on everything I will never catch up if I don’t cut back somehow. Don’t worry I am NOT going away (I can hear you saying “who said I was worried?” 😀 ) No I am not picturing Alfred E. Newman! I would tell you to have a great week but here it is already almost past, maybe I should say have a great weekend? Even if it means another trip to NJ…

    Thank you so much for this post today! Friday I was given the unofficial news that my job will be ending soon – and today I have an interview with a great company, for a position located in Santa Rosa. For me, this could be a splendid new beginning!
    One thing I have known to be true: there is no room for a new beginning to take hold, unless you can put away (or end) something old. Our lives are to full of stuff otherwise.
    In Jeff’s case, you put away despair (and nicely done!), making room for health and healing.
    Congratulations on your 700th blog!

    • Susan, thanks so much for your good wishes. I am hoping you get that job in Santa Rosa. I always loved that town, and really all of Sonoma County. I wish I could go to Sonoma Plaza tomorrow and get some fresh cheese. (We lived in Solano County, an easy drive.) I am so proud of you for having a good attitude about the upcoming changes. I too believe it can be a splendid new beginning for you. Sonoma County, what’s not to like about that? 😀 But you’re right, for everything we gain, we must let go of something else. Sometimes it’s a hard lesson to learn. I am so happy you are here with us on this journey!

  4. Ann

    Wow, 700 daily posts and 160,999 visits!

    Julia, I hope you realize how many lives on which you have had such a positive impact, mine included. Wonderful news about Jeff. Continued prayers and positive energy flowing your way.


    • Ann, it makes me so happy to read your kind words. It touches me deeply to think that anything I wrote might be helpful to someone else. Thanks so much for being here with us on this journey, and especially for your warm thoughts and prayers. We have survived on the love and prayers of others for two years now, and hope to continue doing so for as long as we can! The readers of this blog have made my world so much brighter.

  5. Susan

    What a blessing you are. I read your blog every morning along with the Upper room and Bible. I gain so much encouragement and joy from your writings and pictures. You are a tremendous encourager. I am glad that God has answered the prayers of many of us regarding your husband Jeff and son Matt. May healing continue. Thank you for bringing smiles and joy each day. Susan

    • Susan, your supportive comments mean more than I can say. I am so happy you enjoy the blog! Sometimes I feel like a silly old grandmother with a slide show that is way, way too long, so I’m always glad when I hear someone say they like it. There is hardly anything I would rather do in this world than encourage people, because I have needed encouragement myself so many times and have been graciously provided with it. I appreciate you taking the time to let me know that you are reading. I hope to see everyone at Upper Room again soon!

  6. Debbie

    Congratulations on your 700th post. You have given me a new perspective on life an I look forward to reading your posts and looking at the beautiful pictures that say so much. Thanks!

    • Debbie, thank you so much! It is quite a compliment for a reader to say that something I wrote has been helpful in some way. Plus I love hearing compliments on my photos – I’m such a compulsive picture-snapper and I feel privileged to share them online. I am so happy to have you here with us!

  7. Congratulations on this milestone Julia! I’m so impressed that you’ve maintained the momentum all the way to today. Thank you for all the quotes and wisdom you’ve shared in your posts too. I’ve learned quite a lot here and especially about myself. Flying monkeys be darned, it’s been so wonderful getting to know you and your family. ❤

    Very exciting news for Jeff regarding new therapies. To be included in such an exclusive group of survivors is really something to shout about and miraculous too. As you've mentioned, it's a very small percentage of families that get to celebrate this kind of milestone. It warms my heart to see Jeff enjoying your new grandson after everything you've been through.

    New beginnings are a constant aren't they? Wether or not I always follow through is another thing, LOL. I'm mostly an excellent 'starter' with lot's of good ideas. Then somehow, something else equally amazing steals my intentions and off I go down another road. Perhaps I should make a commitment to endings today? LOL That might be where I need to go. I re-org'd the Boom Room and OMGosh, I have too many started projects. 😀
    Yet, I'm off too work today to probably bring home more….I can't help it, it's all so fabulous. Happy Wednesday to you and the ones you love most, mwaaaa xoK

    • Hi K, you do a much better job of finishing things than I do. I can prove it by the things I’ve actually gotten in the mail from you, vs. the things I have that I intended to send you over a year ago (and also to others – see Appendix X of Volume 45 of Julia’s Exhaustive Encyclopedia of Good Intentions.) I have a tiny little ceramic Christmas Tree for Alyster and Romeo that I meant to send before LAST Christmas and I STILL haven’t sent it!

      Speaking of finishing things, did you know I’m not sure I would have stuck with blogging at all if not for you. In the early, early, early days of this blog, you visited and left your cute little gravatar (your baby pic) on one of my posts, and I went to Boomdeeville and was instantly hooked! Then from there to Gardening Nirvana and other wonderful blogs and I thought “Hey, there is WAY more to this than I realized – and I like it!” You and Alys have given me so many tips when I was trying to figure out WP and I stole so many of your ideas 😀 and as you say, “it’s all so fabulous.” Thanks so much for being here and MWAAAAA right back to you! ❤

      • Ok, let’s say we’re both in good company in ‘The Excellent Project Starters Club’ , HA. A Christmas tree? For Alyster? My o my. I think he’s been napping. Last I saw, he fell asleep in a snowbank somewhere. It must be spring by now, I best check on him. 🙂

        You’ve left such a lovely message Julia, how nice that my little corner of WP was an encouragement. Thank you so much. I’m really touched. It’s a whole lot more than I thought it’d be when I first started too. I love our little ‘gang’ and I’m on a mission to visit each one of our special friends. Everyone is really supportive and loving, and it’s all free. Can it get much better than that? As far as sharing idea’s, that’s half the fun. I learn a little of this and that along the way. I’ve often thought, “hey, I should shake things up. Go with a new header or background” . But I’ve not seen another one I like yet. So I just add a little thing here or there. I don’t know if you ever browse through ‘Artful Blogger’. That’s really an inspiring magazine for me. It’s a bit pricey but I read it at Chapters (our Borders Books). I’m so addicted to magazines but I’m much better since I’ve started a Blog. Hey! Another plus. It’s a gift that just keeps on giving. xK

        • It’s not really a true Christmas tree because it’s not decorated. It’s just a tiny ceramic evergreen tree that looks like a Christmas tree. Maybe before I send it I can use glitter glue to decorate it – or does Alyster prefer the natural look?

          I do browse Artful Blogger and sometimes I try to find used ones for sale on Craigslist (no luck so far). Probably a lot of the same ideas are on Pinterest now anyway. I too am a magazine addict but now I download them free from the public library and read them (or hoard them is more like it) on my 9″ Nook. The library doesn’t have any of the art or blogging magazines, but they have plenty of other great titles, more than I’ll ever be able to read. Now I don’t buy magazine subscriptions anymore since I can get them online from the library. But I was only paying two dollars for a year of magazines like Oprah and Family Circle, so I still would buy them except I can’t stand to throw them away until I’ve read them…you don’t want to know how many I have still lying around! 😀

      • ((((Julia))))

        So much love and heart in that comment, above, and on this post in general.

        • Thank you, Alys!

  8. Linda

    Happy 700th posting, Julia! Thank you for being an inspiration to so many of us. I don’t think I got in on the very beginning, but I know I’ve been reading your posts for over a year, almost daily. I love your positive attitude and determination to defeat despair. God bless you!

    • Wow, thank you Linda! I am so happy you are here with us, and I feel honored that you are reading my little digital scribbles. God is indeed blessing us, and one of the ways is through this wonderful supportive online community. Each of you is helping me defeat despair every day and I am so grateful.

  9. Julia, what you have given of yourself and your time, in sharing these days of your life is beyond words of thanks from me. Congratulations on your 700 daily posts that have filled many of my days with joy, hope, some tears, more laughter, and a friendship that is unique. I have come to know and love a family across the miles. Blessings and prayers always, Sheila

    • Sheila, I’m not usually speechless but when I try to say “thank you” to you, I am. Let’s just say that CLUB VERANDAH helps to keep me sane! Day in and day out I can picture you in your house by the sea (something like a fairy tale to me) and know we are thinking of each other. We have walked together through some difficult terrain and proved the old adage about friendship doubling the joys and dividing the sorrows. Well, OK, so I wasn’t speechless, but what I mean is that my words are inadequate. I know you understand! Thanks so much, for the love and prayers and friendship and especially for your steadfast presence here. I think you have been the most consistent daily visitor to this blog and I love it. 😀 ❤ As Boomdee and Alys like to say, MWAAAAA!

  10. Happy anniversary, Julia. Here’s to the “beginning” of the next.

    • Thank you Alan! I’m so glad I discovered all these comments that got caught in the Spam. They brought me a note of cheer after a frustrating evening spent on tech support about a non-functioning internet connection.

  11. Leslie

    What a good idea you had to start this blog. In the beginning I read it because I couldn’t believe how optimistic you were everyday, and I still read it for the same reason. John 16:33 shines through in your words and pictures, and your family is lucky to have you.

    • Thank you Leslie, I really appreciate your encouraging thoughts. I don’t feel optimistic all the time, of course, but I am tenacious and determined, and with those traits I can find reasons to be grateful, in my head if not always in my heart. I’ve noticed that my emotions listen closely to what I feed my mind, so I try to keep the positive thoughts coming. I finally learned that no matter how upsetting or nightmarish the immediate circumstances may be, if I just hold on and grit my teeth and pray for strength to get through the next day (or sometimes the next moment) things always eventually get better. Thank you for saying my family is lucky to have me. I hope that’s true at least most of the time. I know I’m lucky to have them. Thanks so much for being here!

  12. Lydia

    I remember as a child how excited I was every September with the beginning of a new school year! A new teacher, new challenges, some new friends along with the old ones. As an adult, and as a teacher, the new school year presented new opportunities with a new group of students. I loved it! I rejoice with the news of Jeff’s health. May the Lord continue giving the medical staff wisdom to continue the appropriate treatment. May Jeff be encouraged to know that many are praying for complete recovery. Have a wonderful day.

    • Thanks so much, Lydia! Sometimes I was tempted to become a teacher just for September alone – the excitement of a new school year was always so wonderful. But I got bored with the education classes during my first year of college, so there went that idea. We so appreciate your prayers, your kind thoughts and your presence here. Hope you have a great weekend coming up.

  13. MaryAnn

    WOW! Very impressive! I say DITTO to your followers, we appreciate your encouraging words!!! Thanks for the update on the journey w/ Jeff’s health.

    • Thanks, Mary Ann! ❤

  14. I wish I had seen this post earlier, but I’m glad to be reading it now. You’ve come through so much. I admire the way you live your life, the love of your family, your courage, your strength and your ability to show up for every day. Well done, well done!

    I’m pleased to hear that Jeff has more promising and less invasive therapies ahead. Sending love and light to all of you.

    • Thanks so much, Alys. ❤ ❤ ❤ Your encouragement means more than I can say.

  15. Such positive and encouraging news. I wish you the best as you and Jeff and your family journey onward. I think of a quote that goes something like this, the world is round, and that place that looks like the end may very well be the beginning! Cheers!

    • Thank you for that quote! I really needed to hear it today. Some days are harder than others, if for no other reason than low energy and optimism, and today is one of those days for me. So I appreciate your visiting with some inspiring words and kind thoughts!

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