and if not... he is STILL good...

I used to say this phrase so easily that it practically just rolled off my lips. Did I mean it? Absolutely. But then very hard things in life occur and sometimes you are forced to reevaluate what you used to say so easily...and sometimes someone asks you if you still believe despite those circumstances. I received an email from a former student today asking me do I believe God is still good (despite my health issues, pain, and heartbreak these last several years) . I wept because I knew the heartbreak surrounding this question in this individuals life and I wish I was well enough to travel and say face to face what my heart is screaming. Yes, absolutely yes!! Circumstances, if we let them can be refining windows into our hearts shining a light on what we believe. The "and if not" parts of life...even if I am never healed, never see my dreams come true, or if the secret longings that are deep inside of me never happen ...it is okay. It doesn't change His goodness. I promise, my dear former student. I can attest in new ways and in more marvelous ways then I could years ago in the classroom. Instead of seeing pain I am brought to my knees by God's goodness. His faithfulness astounds me and His mercies meet each new day. The hard and difficult don't change who He is. I promise...no matter the "and if not"...He is still good...so very good.

(This post was taken from my instagram account but wanted to share with you my sweet readers and friends. Praying for each of you.)


July 4th Quotes (and free printables)

Happy July 1st friends! As a child, my cousin and I looked forward to the 4th as the day of s'mores, fireworks, and sleeping out in the tent. As an adult I am reminded that there is such significance in celebrating our countries profound and unique heritage. As a former History teacher I have always loved the significance of celebrating the 4th of July. Y'all know that I love me some good quotes and the ones listed below are some of my favorite 4th of July quotes! All of the images below are free printables so please take them and use them as you would like as we celebrate our precious Independence Day! (To print simply right click on the image and save them to your computer to print!) These could truly be used for anything!

I came across this quote by JFK when I was teaching AP US History. JFK said this in the early 1960's but is also a powerful reminder of our countries strength in the belief of liberty. 
These following words to the famous song "America" will be sung in many parades across our country this July 4th. What beautiful words of freedom!
I admit that I am a hopeless romantic and so when I discovered the books of the letters between John Adams and his wife Abigail I read every word carefully. The following quote was in one of the letters that John Adams wrote to his wife Abigail from Philadelphia in 1776. How proud I am of our country and those who have fought for it and ensured our freedom.  How proud I am of those who have sacrificed so much to prove this statement true. For all of the differences in our country we remain resolute in the knowledge that we are free.
The following quote by Thomas Jefferson is a cry of my heart often when I think of the many many blessings that we have in America versus the horrors and tragedies that are experienced around the world. As a woman I am even more grateful for the freedom and opportunities that I experience. 
And finally a quote that humbles me everyday in the knowledge that there are so many brave men and women who continue to fight to protect our freedoms and those around the world. We honor you and those that have gone before you on this July 4th! 
Do y'all have any favorite 4th of July quotes? 


The Light Shines in the Darkness...

"The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it." 
-John 1-

To say that these last few weeks have been filled with lots of emotional turmoil for this nation that I love would be an understatement. Several weeks ago two prisoners escaped from a maximum security prison in our area creating chaos, fear and widespread confusion. Shortly after that the heartbreaking shooting in Charleston occurred and we as a nation mourned how this unspeakable act could happen. Yesterday, SCOTUS made a landmark ruling on the issue of homosexuality. Emotional turmoil in a country gives Christians the unique opportunity to show God's love in trying times to those who often need it most. We have seen the courageous and tireless work of hundreds of law enforcement who aren't giving up searching. We have witnessed heroic loving behavior as families offer forgiveness in the midst of their pain. Today I have seen friends who lovingly address their disagreement over yesterday's decision while embracing loved ones who might lead a different lifestyle. For me ‪#‎lovewins‬ is not about a supreme court decision, but about how we as Christians heroically show Christ's love to those who stand before us. Love that can speak grace to the hurting, offer kindness in the face of tragedy, and compassion in the midst of disagreement is due to one thing- knowing the greatest love, Jesus Christ. His love does win- all of the time. Every single day. Friends, may we run into our hurting and broken world reminding them what love truly is and how it can be found. Let us remember that the light still shines in the dark and the darkness has not overcome it, no matter the circumstances.

(This post was taken from my instagram account but wanted to share with you my sweet readers and friends. Praying for each of you and for our country.)


Camp Porch Chairs for our 1901 Cabin

Anyone who knows me understands that one of my favorite places for relaxing, hanging out with family and friends, curling up with a good book, and for gazing at the beauty of the lake and the woods happens from our porch at camp. For a number of years the porch was used as a "catchall" for children's toys, swimsuits and towels, and a place where as teenagers we would hang out and chat while playing countless card games. The porch has had many "duties", including being a stage for us to perform childhood plays. My parents were wonderful and allowed the space to be completely lived in as we used chairs that have been passed down from different generations. But unfortunately, while this was quaint it did not provide a very comfortable or relaxing sitting area which was something as we have gotten older my mom and I desperately wanted. We searched and searched but nothing was in our price range and nothing really fit the rustic and open air porch that we have.

Enter in a wonderful find at Goodwill! Don't you just love thrifting? I adore thrifting and finding unique and wonderful pieces at affordable prices! It took some time to wash, clean the chairs, repair rips in the fabric, and get everything set up but after two summers the porch came together like a dream! *smiles*

One of my biggest pieces of advice for anyone new to thrifting is not to be afraid to see the potential in things you find! Often times you can really find a treasure! My mom and I first found the chairs for the porch at a half Price Thanksgiving Sale at Goodwill in 2010. There were four large chairs and three matching footstools. While they were in "struggling" condition we knew with a little lot of love and work we could show the treasure that they were!
My mom stored the chairs in the garage at their house and once the 2011 summer arrived we went to work on the first two chairs that we took to New York. The first thing that we did was take out the original stuffing from the cushions and then work on the sewing projects that we needed to fix from some of the ripped material. Next we washed every cover twice. I had done some research and had learned that it was best to stuff pre-made fabric cushions while the fabric is still damp. This allows the fabric and the stuffing to mold together. [You don't want the fabric to be wet- just damp.] I am not going to lie it took some energy to stuff those cushions!
After we stuffed the cushions we set them in the sun to dry while we went to work on vacuuming the chairs and washing the wood.
After everything was dry we set up the porch with the first two chairs for the 2011 summer. [*happy sigh*]
We loved the two chairs that we had brought and had originally intended to use the other 1/2 of the set at my parents house but everyone loved these chairs to sit on so we quickly decided that we would need to bring up the rest of the set the following summer.
So in the summer of 2012 we repeated the same process of cleaning and stuffing that we had done in 2011 and ended up with our finalized porch chairs. I had also found some additional (small) pillows that matched the chairs (at a Goodwill in another state!). Isn't the final product delightful? We have so enjoyed these chairs! What a fun and wonderful  find at Goodwill!

As the years have passed we have loved these chairs more and more. This old porch that was originally built in 1901 has been refurbished but kept its original charm and these chairs that we found at Goodwill have only added and not taken away from the charm of the porch. As time has passed we have enjoyed so many conversations with friends and family, played numerous board games and card games on these chairs, spent quiet time with the Lord here, and I have worked on school work and numerous blog posts from these chairs. (In fact, the title of my personal health updates, "Notes from the Porch" was inspired by this location!) They have truly been a blessing!
What a blessing this Goodwill find has been!

What's Up Wednesday (June Edition)

Happy Wednesday friends! I am excited to link up with MelShaeffer, and Shay for the "What's Up Wednesday" Link up! I have so enjoyed reading these ladies posts and am excited to join in! It was so fun last month to connect with so many other ladies who are doing this! 

What We're Eating this Week... 
If you saw my instagram post from last night then you know that I am trying to work on getting more green juices into me. Y'all, seriously I struggle with these and even replicating a cute pinterest photo and using cute straws is just not working anymore. Every morning I fight to get one in me and am really wanting to do three a day. Anyone have a yummy green juice that they love and could share the recipe? I am desperate!! *smiles*

What I'm Reminiscing About... 
Days on the lake. Loving that this summer is so gorgeous already and the beauty of being able to be outside. 

What I'm Loving... 

What I've Been Up To...
If you follow me on instagram than you know that this month has started an intense summer of fighting for my health in new ways. Starting on June 8th we added in intense antibiotics, shots, new supplements, and new IV's. It's intense and every hour of the day is taken up doing something for my health but I am determined to beat Advanced Late Stage Lyme Disease. 

What I'm Dreading... 
Let's be honest here... I hate the morning shots everyday. 

What I'm Working on... 
final edits for my book, December Caravan, and a devotional for Lyme Disease patients. 

What I'm Excited About... 
I realized this past weekend that it is only 14 weeks till the cruise with my best friend! I LOVE how the Lord works out details and had already planned this long before we knew what this summer would bring! It will be a wonderful celebration of finishing this round of treatment!

What I'm Watching/Reading... 
So last month I shared how I am not a TV person, but someone had challenged me to watch NCIS: LA and not love it. As I shared last month I started out incredibly skeptical but started to love the "Densi" relationship. I now totally admit that I am still watching this and making my way through the series and do like the show. I will keep you updated on my love for it but I do admit that I was incredibly happy when they renewed it for a 7th season... hahaha!

What I'm Listening to... 
Honestly, the same songs from the last two months are still on repeat this month. These past few weeks they have grown even more dear to my little heart. I have talked about the one, Isaiah 40, in this post HERE, and love the music by the Wissmann Family, especially this CD HERE, and cry through Aaron Keyes song "Sovereign Over Us" almost every single day. Each one of these is such a blessing!

What I'm Wearing... 
So as I mentioned last month, I LOVE the mission of Jacob's Scarves and their products and the way that they help provide education for children around the world. Jacob's Scarves has beautiful scarves and items but this past month I have been wearing this "Americana" scarf almost everyday. I love that it is so soft and gorgeous! You can find out more about Jacob's Scarves HERE.

What I'm Doing this Weekend... 
I am so excited (and nervous!) to be attending the "Living Well with Lyme Disease" conference at the Omega Institute. I was graciously awarded a scholarship several months ago and am so excited to have time with other "lymies". I think it is going to be incredibly overwhelming and emotional... but I seriously can't wait!

What I'm looking Forward to Next Month... 
My sister comes for a visit next month! 

I would love to know your answers to these questions friends! Share your thoughts below in the comments!! *smiles* Happy Wednesday!


You Probably Don't Know...

Back when I first started blogging a couple of years ago I shared for the first few months random facts about me to help people get to know me. As the years have gone on I stopped doing that and yet have so many new readers and faces around this blog that I loved when I saw a link up with Helene called "you probably don't know...". I feel like this is a wonderful way for those that are new to get to know a little bit more about me and maybe surprise a few of you with things that you didn't know! *smiles*

* I once shared two years ago that every  personal Facebook album title is a phrase from one of my favorite songs, "the water is wide". It may be surprising but this is still true of me. Ever since I joined Instagram I find that I post less and less Facebook pictures. Am I the only one?

* It is strange but true, I am allergic to chicken. 

* I love music. Absolutely adore it.

* I know I shared this before, but I still think that writing out numbers is prettier than just putting the number symbol. 

* I have watched every single season of the Amazing Race and loved the twist of the last season. I mean what could be better than being on the Amazing Race and going on the ultimate first date of a lifetime? Seriously?!? SIGN ME UP. 

* Two years after starting to blog I love it even more than when I first began. 

* I love to dance and can't wait to get back to dancing after I beat Lyme Disease and Cancer. In the meantime there are lots of dance parties that happen in the hallways in the house and in the kitchen.  

* I love cruises. Yes, I have only been on one, but I already know that I love them. *smiles*  I can't wait till the next one in just a few short months! 

* Simple things like hand written letters are a way to my heart. 

* While I love creating lots of items in my shop, December Caravan, my favorite is the 1,000 Places to See Altered Journal

* I am a hopeless romantic. It is a fact. *smiles*

Alright friends, what is something that we don't know about you? Share it in the comments below! *smiles*

Hyatt House: Belmont/Redwood Shores, California

When I first made the decision to switch my medical care to a Lyme Specialist Clinic in March 2014 I knew one of the things that I needed to find was a place to stay when I need to fly out for my required appointments. For the past four times I have stayed out in California I have stayed at a variety of different hotels but when my mom and I needed to stay for an entire week we searched and searched to find a hotel that was within our price range. 

As we continued to research we also were looking and hoping for options that would allow us to have a kitchen so that we could not only save money on food by cooking our meals, but allow us to cook meals that would fit into my strict dietary needs. In addition to this I was hoping for was a way for us to have some sort of suite/2 bedroom option so that I could nap as much as I needed to and my mom wouldn't have to hang outside just to be quiet! *smiles* Unfortunately the price for 2 bedrooms or a suite was just not in our price range without traveling a great distance which due to my health was not an option. After treatment all I wanted to do was come home and sleep (or unfortunately be sick)... not spend two hours in the car each way to my doctors office and after treatment. 

Many sweet people have suggested using Air B&B as they have had great success with this. I love this idea and before my health deteriorated I myself used. And while this suggestion is lovely, as a seriously ill gal it is unfortunately not something that I am currently able to do. There are a LOT of factors and criteria that those who are ill need to have met due to environmental illnesses/sensitivities and at this point certain hotels are the best option. 

As I continued to research we came across the Hyatt House at Belmont/Redwood Shores and were delighted with what we found. For a little less money then one room  at other hotels in the area we were able to get a lovely 2 bedroom suite with a full kitchen! 
House at Belmont/Redwood Shores
This hotel, which is located along the Silicon Valley's Northern Perimeter is a wonderful place to say for those who are traveling for business and for personal reasons. It is an excellent option for both parties as there are many corporate offices located near the hotel and for those traveling for personal reasons this hotel is a quite and restful retreat away from the hustle and bustle of the nearby city. 
Hyatt House at Belmont/Redwood Shores
For those who are ill and traveling to the San Francisco area for medical treatment the Hyatt House at Belmont/Redwood Shores is a wonderful option. All of the Hyatt House Hotels are smoke free and this particular hotel has wonderful options for suites that will make you feel like you are living in the comfort of your own home. There is free high-speed internet along with a guest laundry facility and there is a complimentary breakfast buffet that offers many wonderful nutritious choices. One unique thing about the Hyatt House at Belmont/Redwood Shores is that they also offer a complimentary grocery shopping service which can be a wonderful gift to those who are undergoing treatment and not able to shop for themselves. In addition to all of this my mom and I found the hotel staff to be extremely pleasant and kind and the hotel was very quiet. 
House at Belmont/Redwood Shores
To be fair though and to give a bit of a warning we were disappointed in two aspects of the Hyatt House at Belmont/Redwood Shores. First, we were disappointed in the lack of clear communication regarding the lack of accessibility for those who have disability issues. When we made the appointment we were very clear that I was traveling for treatment and that I do have a disability tag and that it is very difficult for me to walk up and down stairs. We were told that the hotel is "very disability friendly and accommodating" and thought nothing more of it. When we arrived exhausted after airplane delays and traveling for 15 hours, we were unpleasantly surprised to find that we were on the 2nd floor and that there was no elevator access to our room. At 3 o'clock in the morning this literally brought both my precious mama and me to tears. When we went back to the front desk to inquire about this we were told that there was no elevators on the property to reach the 2nd and third floors and that there were no handicap rooms available. As we explained our situation (there was no way that I could climb up with luggage to the 2nd floor and that we had been assured that the hotel was "very disability friendly and accommodating") the staff member at the front desk was kind enough to come over herself to help us carry all of our luggage to our suite. It was very kind of her, but it was extremely disappointing that this occurred. I honestly don't know what would have happened if one of us was in a wheelchair and unable to walk up stairs. To me this was a definitely a disappointment after being told that the hotel was "very disability friendly and accommodating". 

A second thing that was disappointing was that when we were making our reservations I asked if the hotel gave any discount for those traveling for medical reasons/treatment. Many hotels do this in the area due to the large amount of hospitals and doctors offices that exist in this part of California. After explaining that I was traveling for treatment for Advanced Late Stage Lyme Disease I was informed, "umm... that is not that serious and no". This was extremely frustrating as one of the leading Lyme Doctors is located in that area. In addition to this the fact that Hyatt House at Belmont/Redwood Shores does not recognize this as a "serious disease" was  unprofessional. Hopefully in the future Hyatt House at Belmont/Redwood Shores will reconsider this stance as many people travel from all over the world to this area for treatment for Lyme Disease and this is a very serious disease.
I hope that y'all have found this review of the Hyatt House at Belmont/Redwood Shores helpful! Please let me know if you have any questions regarding this hotel! I would be happy to answer them!