I’ve had a good week.  It’s so wonderful to be able to type that.  It’s been a long time since I’ve felt this way.  There is so much to write about, so much to tell.  I really don’t know where to begin.  Since the day Mark died, I’ve kept Jeremiah 29:11 in my heart, on my mind, in my house, on wall hangings, on plaques, to remind me that God has a plan for me, for my boys.  A plan to prosper us, and give us a good future.  That’s what I’ve been clinging to, it has literally helped me put one foot in front of the other some days whenever I just didn’t think I could go on. 

It’s one thing to pray and hope for a good future whenever you have no earthly idea of what’s coming down the road.  It’s another thing altogether to begin to see the possibilities as they unfold–I find it to be exhilarating, overwhelming, and a bit scary.

I’ve said all along, whatever God has in store for us will have to be outstanding, because what we had with Mark was pretty phenomenal.  Whenever he died, a big old door closed for my family.  Plans had to be let go of…my hands were clinging to intricate retirement plans, plans to move to the country, to build a house, to put the boys in the schools Mark attended, to plant huge gardens, to restore our pasture to native prairie, to raise German Short hair pointer pups…the list goes on & on & on.   Over the course of the past months, I’ve learned to slowly but surely open my hands, and release the dreams and plans we had.  All the time I’ve been letting these dreams go, I’ve clung to the promise that new plans and dreams had to be on the horizon for us. 

I began writing.  First by taking over the weekly outdoor column that Mark had written for the Times Record News.  Then shortly thereafter, I began this blog.  Both have provided me outlets for my thoughts, my prayers, my hopes.  There have been rough patches.  I look back at this blog, and there are entries where my raw emotions are just splatted out on the page for God and all to see.  I have had some very dark days.  But through those dark days, I’ve had God carrying me.  The blog and column have allowed me to actively work toward healing, toward a wholeness that I thought I might never experience again.

I’ve gotten numerous responses from my writings in the paper.  A week ago, I got an email from an editor over 7 newspapers in the Scripps family that started me thinking outside of the box.  Now, Mark always joked that I never thought outside the box, and I would reply that “the box” was cozy, comfy, and I knew where the boundaries are….and that’s how I pretty much have lived my life.  But the editor’s email, along with urgings from others, has opened a window for me (“when God closes a door, He opens a window”).  I have a new goal, to try to get my little column syndicated this year.  I don’t know if I will be successful, but I think I have a legitimate shot.  Folks say that I’ve struck a chord with them, that I have something worthwhile to say.  Like I wrote in my first column, I’m now the single mother with children that Mark wanted to reach, the ones that sometimes fall through the cracks, and never gain a love and appreciation for the great outdoors.  Maybe I can help others who may find themselves in similar situations.  If in some small way, I can make someone else’s journey a bit easier, or a bit less painful by putting my story out there, it is well worth any embarrassment I might feel over sharing. 

If this unfolds like I think it might, it is plainly God at work, pure and simple.  Am I ready for it?  Nope.  But I will try my best to push forward, prepare and promote myself to achieve the best possible outcome. 

In the meantime, I have much to do.  It absolutely blows my mind that I may be looking at a whole new career, one that I would’ve never had the opportunity to try if our circumstances hadn’t so drastically changed.  And to top it all off, I’m shooting clays with Mark’s shotgun, taking my kid to a mentored duck hunt at Lake Arrowhead Wednesday, and going back on Thursday to hunt myself.

 I laugh and tell the boys that I used to shop at the mall….now I shop at Academy and at sporting goods departments of Target and Walmart.  Life has changed.  It’s different….it’s not what I imagined.  But it’s still good.  Mark Howell, I will always love you.  Thank you for showing me that life really is better outside.  You were one in a million, and heaven is a more fun place, I’m positive, since your arrival.  We are doing our best to make you proud.