Caravan Sonnet


26 Ways to Help a Friend with a Chronic Illness

Each week I receive a ton of emails from compassionate and kind people asking how they can be a good friend to someone with a chronic illness. These people are true treasures as they want to practically help a friend who is walking the difficult road of chronic illness. I am definitely not an expert at all, but the things that I have listed below are things that friends have mentioned to me that have been wonderful or I have personally experienced that have truly touched my heart and my life in my journey with health issues.

1. Listen without judgment
The journey of chronic illness has ins and outs that unless you are living and walking that road is impossible to understand. I once shared about the long and winding road to healing with Lyme disease (HERE) but that post is true for anyone walking through a chronic illness. Your listening ear is the most important gift that you could offer in the journey.

2. Understand that Chronic Illness is a long-term issue. 
Walk in with your eyes wide open.The hardest thing in this journey can be friends who leave so truly understand that it is a long term thing.

3. Listen without offering advice (unless asked). 
When you offer unsolicited advice, it can come across as a lecture- even if that is not your intent. Someone once said: "Assume that we have heard all of the tips on living healthier and leave it at that." I couldn't have said it any better.

4. Offer monetary help if possible
Even with insurance patients with chronic diseases spend thousands and thousands of dollars trying to get healthy. Many people with Chronic Illness, like myself, have already gone through all available resources. These types of gifts do not have to be large either. Someone gave me a five dollar gift card to Target that helped purchase necessities. Such a blessing! Truly gift cards are wonderful if that is an option for you to give!

5. Understand that Chronic Illness' are complex.

6. Send an email or a text just to say "hello".
It doesn't have to be long or take a lot of time but sending a quick "thank you" is truly a blessing.

7. Help with housework or yard work
One friend of mine has a friend who comes over weekly to mow her lawn since her husband fell ill. This gift has been a priceless help during an incredibly difficult time. If you don't have the time for housework or yard work consider spending the money on purchasing these services as a gift.

8. Leave a phone message. 
One of my dear friends always leaves her message with adding in precious words of "you don't have to call back...". Such a precious gift filled with understanding.

9. Pick up (and purchase if possible) prescriptions.

10. Pick up children from school or to create a carpool.

11. Offer your gifts that you have
A friend of mine has a friend who is a masseuse and offers a massage free of charge to her friend once a month. Another friend runs a house-cleaning business and offers her services free of charge once a month.

12. Take children to church or other events. 
Many times those with chronic conditions are forced to miss out on everyday and important events. An offer to take their children would give them a piece of mind.

13. Send cards but not "get well" cards.

14. Send care packages.

15. Buy nice pajamas
Those with chronic illnesses spend a lot of time in bed or in the hospital and nice pajamas are always a lovely gift.

16. Magazines are a lovely gift.

17. Be very careful about your timing. 
One day when I ended up in the emergency room and I texted a few friends asking for prayer. One friend responded back asking me if I truly had faith that I would be healed because then I wouldn't need prayer. I am sure it was not meant to be hurtful but the timing could not have been any worse. It came as the nurse attempted her sixth stick for an IV and I couldn't stop throwing up. I expected some encouraging words only to read those words. Timing, as the old adage says truly is everything.

18. Pick up groceries.

19. Come and just sit or watch TV or a movie with your friend.

20. Flowers. 
Is there ever a wrong time for flowers? *smiles*

21. Don't say: "But you don't look sick" or... "But you don't act sick".
One of the most read posts on my blog is my post entitled, "But You Don't Act Sick" (HERE). I am not sure what a sick person is supposed to act or look like but the reality is that there is a reason many illnesses are called "invisible illnesses". 

22. Treat your friend as a whole person. 
The best gifts I am offered are by my closest friends and family who treat me as a whole person. I am more than my illness. I have a lot of other things going on in life and while my illness may be central to a lot of the issues, I still like to talk about normal everyday things.

23. Offer a gift card to buy movies or TV seasons or purchase a Netflix, Pureflix, or Hulu subscription. 
This definitely can help pass the time.

24. Respect the limitations and boundaries of your friend.

25. Food and meals are always appreciated. 
One of the hardest parts of  dealing with a chronic illness is not having the energy to cook. Meals are a gift. One idea is to offer a meal once a month which would be a complete blessing for someone.

26. Before you deliver food check with your friend about allergies (and timing). Lots of people with chronic illnesses have food allergies. Make sure to check with them before you purchase or deliver food.

What are some things that you have done to help a friend with Chronic Illness? If you are the one with Chronic Illness what are things that you have found helpful?

Interested in more suggestions? Lisa Copen, the founder of Rest Ministries, Inc. wrote a book entitled, "Beyond Casseroles: 505 Ways to Encourage a Chronically Ill Friend" which you can find on Amazon HERE

Interested specifically in ways to help a friend walking through Lyme Disease? My new book, "When Lyme Invades: Encouragement and Practical Tips for Loving Your Friend Through Lyme Disease" will be releasing on November 1st! You can read more about the book HERE.

Happy Thursday friends! I hope that you have a wonderful day!


From Hope Valley (Week 15): The Blessing and Hope Found in Acceptance

Amy Carmichael, the famous missionary to India, once famously said; “in acceptance lies peace”. As I watched this heart-breaking scene in the 8th episode in Season 1, I immediately thought of this quote by her. As I watched Laurel say these above words I had tears at the simple trust and faith that Laurel had as she spoke the words of truth to her husband in one of their darkest hours.

When life crashes in around us and the days of darkness seem to have no end, it can become tempting to run and fight the path and the course that has been set out before us. It can be tempting to believe that the winds of change are not bringing any good but only bad. It can feel impossible to believe that there could ever be a blessing and hope found in acceptance. And yet, there is... the blessing and hope is peace. 

The popular rendition of the saying “and if not He is still good” has been a phrase that has been seen countless times across social media accounts and in passing. I recently even saw it on a greeting card. 

This popular phrase is actually a paraphrase from Daniel 3:18. Daniel has just concluded his response to King Nebuchadnezzar who had threatened to throw Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego into the fire if they did not follow his commands. Daniel in faith shared that God could rescue and deliver them from this certain fate of death, but even if he did not, they would still refuse to worship the idols that were placed before them. The paraphrase, “and if not He is still good” is a powerful summary showing the faith that these young men had in God. Stating bravely and courageously that no matter the circumstances, God, who is the King of Kings is still God and is still good.

To be honest, I fell in love with the catchy phrase years ago and I used to say this phrase so easily that it practically just rolled off my lips. Did I mean it? Absolutely. But then... the very hard things in life occur and sometimes you are forced to re-evaluate what you used to say so easily. Sometimes you learn the hope beyond the lines that you used to say. Sometimes someone asks you if you still believe everything you used to say despite the circumstances that you now currently find yourself in. 

I received an email from a former student a while back asking if I still believed God is still good (despite my health issues, pain, and heartbreak from these last several years). I wept because I knew the sorrow that was surrounding this question in this individual’s life and I wished that I was well enough to travel to them to say face-to-face what my heart was screaming. Yes, absolutely yes dear one. Oh Yes. He is still good. 

Circumstances, if we let them can be refining windows into our hearts shining a light on what we truly believe. My circumstances in this life doesn’t change His goodness. I can attest in new and marvelous ways than I could ever before of His profound goodness through this trial. His faithfulness astounds me even on the most difficult day. The hard and the messy and the difficult don’t change who He is. 

His goodness rests solely on the truth of who He is and the reality that He has promised to never leave us, never abandon us, and has promised that He will walk with us through the fire. Whether we see it in this lifetime on this earth, or we don’t see the promises fulfilled until Heaven, He has done everything for us. 

These years of difficulty and pain have gently taught me the beautiful blessing and hope found in acceptance. 

You may be struggling in the heart of your own crisis of a dark night right now. You may be broken-hearted and it may seem that your life is in ashes right now. It may seem that life is unbearably cruel and difficult and you wonder how you will ever take the next step in front of you. My heart weeps with you... My heart hurts for the pain that you are struggling with. I have been there. I am there sometimes. And there will be times in life where I again will struggle through to find acceptance. 

Dear friends, let us resolve to go bravely forward and trust in the deep truth that even if nothing in our life looks right, we can still trust the Lord fully and rely on His goodness. Let us, as Laurel says to her husband, accept the hand that He has dealt us, understanding that no matter what, He is still good. 

He has never changed. 
He will never change. 
His goodness rests on His character alone.

Amy Carmichael, the missionary that I mentioned at the beginning of this post spent fifty-three years in India, where she endured numerous trials in her life. During these years she wrote a famous poem entitled, "in acceptance lies peace". Interestingly it is believed that she wrote this poem in the early 1910 era which would put it around the same time period in which When Calls the Heart is set. I wanted to share a few lines from it, because it is so encouraging. 

"In acceptance lieth peace. O my heart be still;
Let thy restless worries cease and accept His will,
Though this test be not thy choice;
It is His- therefore rejoice.

In His plan there cannot be aught to make thee sad;
If this is His choice for thee, take it and be glad.
Make from it some lovely thing
To the glory of thy King. 

Cease from sighs and murmuring. Sing His loving grace.
This thing means thy furthering to a wealthy place.
From thy fears He’ll give release,
In acceptance lieth peace.”

There is a beautiful blessing and hope that is found in acceptance dear friends... peace. For those of you who are struggling deeply today with this "and if not he is still good" refrain I wanted to link two songs that have been incredibly encouraging to me in my daily struggles. I play both daily, often crying and making them my prayers... may you be blessed and comforted and find peace in the hand that the Lord has given. 

It is Well... By Kristene DiMarco and Bethel Music

Sovereign Over Us... By Aaron Keyes

"The Lord gives strength to His people. The Lord blesses them with peace."
-Psalm 29:11-

*If you are interested in reading the entire account of Daniel and his friends and the miraculous events that God did in their lives, You can read the entire account of Daniel and his friends in the first several chapters from the book of Daniel in the Bible found in the Old Testament.

** If you are interested in reading about Amy Carmichael, her life, and the poem that I quoted you can read her biography by Elisabeth Elliot HERE.

Looking for past From Hope Valley Devotionals? You can click HERE to find a complete listing of all of the devotionals! 

I receive several emails a week asking where you can watch older episodes of "When Calls the Heart". If you have a Netflix account you can find seasons 1-3 there or you can purchase them on Amazon. You can purchase and watch all of the seasons and episodes by clicking on the links below:
When Calls the Heart, Season 4 (All of the episodes from the Season are now available on Amazon for purchase.)

*Please note that the quotes used in these weekly devotionals are the sole intellectual property of Hallmark Channel, WCTH, & Crown Media, LLC. These on-line posts are in no way supported, endorsed or affiliated with WCTH, Hallmark Channel, or Crown Media. They are simply encouragement inspired by Janette Oke and this precious show.*


My Best and Worst Travel Experiences

Today for my "travel Tuesday" post I am excited to link up with Andrea for her Show and Tell series. Today we are talking about the best and worst trips that we have experienced.

Starting off first with the worst, I honestly don't have any horrible stories. Every trip- even if it has gone in a different way than was planned has ended up teaching me something which in my mind is priceless, but there are a few that I necessarily wouldn't want to repeat. *smiles* 

(1) When I was in high school I went on a couple of mission trips down to Mexico with my church youth group. Each time we took the bus for the near 40 hour trip from Tennessee To Juarez, Mexico. The youth pastor had a real "love" for lots of McDonald's and Burger King and literally stopped to eat every meal of our trips at these two places. Let's just say that with the air conditioning dying and lots of traffic there were lots of us not feeling so great living off of these two fast food places. To this day I literally can't stand either of them.

(2) When I was in high school one of good friends invited me to Hilton Head with her family for a week. The trip down there was eventful as her parents loved to speed (I am talking going over 85 mph around windy roads) and loved Dunkin Donuts. The combination once again was not good for my tender stomach and once again as a result of a trip I grew to loathe a famous fast food indulgence. I literally to this today still hate the smell of donuts. 

hahaha... I am just realizing why I probably over pack healthy snacks on road trips now in my adult life.... hahaha.... 
(3) My third "worst" trip is a bit ironic as it turned out to be the worst for me (physically) but it also held incredibly awesome memories. When I was a cheerleading coach at the school I taught at in DC I took one of the teams to a cheer camp several hours away in PA. We had such a blast at the beginning and the time with the girls really was incredibly priceless. 

Unfortunately, one of the girls ended up getting really sick and about 24 hours later I ended up getting the most sick I had been in my entire life up to that point. I finally ended up in the hospital where I was diagnosed with viral meningitis. It turned out that the college campus that we stayed at had had an outbreak and had not informed all of us that were coming. The picture above is one of the ones from our first few hours on the campus... before the sickness hit. Again, precious times, but looking at the picture still makes me cringe. *hahaha*

As far as a best trip it is honestly hard to pick just one so I am sharing a bit about 9 of my favorites so far. Y'all know that I love to travel and each one trip has been sweetly different and unique with precious memories. Here are just a few of my absolute favorites (#1 and #2 are definitely tied *smiles*): 
I have shared about this entire cruise but it was simply wonderful. I loved every second and we had a blast starting off in Disney world and then heading on to a Disney Cruise. If you haven't been on one I can't recommend it enough- go! You can read about the cruise HERE
This cruise was absolutely wonderful. My parents had never been on a cruise before and when the opportunity came up to go it was a beautiful gift. We had such an incredible time and made so many different memories as we snorkeled in Nassau, relaxed and swam on Coco Cay and just had a great time laughing and being together. It was definitely a trip to remember. You can read more about it HERE.
3. California Trip in April -May 2013
This was the trip that really started my healing journey with Lyme Disease at the beginning. It is incredible to look back and think about all that transpired throughout this time including a diagnosis of Skin cancer, surgery, and the start of a healing protocol that I have no doubt saved my life. I look back at the picture of this woman sitting on a lifeguard station and can't help but smile with gratitude. I arrived in California barely able to eat and walk and arrived back home starting the process of healing. (You can read about all of the posts related to this season with this group of doctors HERE.)
This trip was filled with high anticipation as I flew back across the country (this time to San Francisco) to see a new doctor. By the time I arrived I was incredibly weak and very sick and to be frank... extremely afraid of what was to come. I knew that my body was dying and I had recently been rejected by Cleveland Clinic as a patient as I was told that my case was "to complicated". I arrived, met my doctor, said something brave like, "if you can't help me and I am going to die just let me know now". Now for the record she was number 325 of doctors I had seen about Lyme so I was VERY skeptical going into the appointment and I was trying not to cry as I was afraid to hope that they really could help me. She looked at me, didn't say anything for a few moments, and then said, "We will beat this. Your case is complicated but with hard work you will not die from this. It is going to take a long time and the fight will be the hardest thing you have ever done, but I will help you get your life back." To which I broke down and sobbed as my new kind-hearted doctor handed me a box of tissues. It has been three years and she has never once broken that promise. (You can read more about my first appointment HERE. It is amazing to see how far the Lord has brought me since that time!)
This trip I thought was going to be one of the worst trips... flying across the country to test dose extremely high dose medications and to get a port placed are not the typical "fun trip". But despite this and despite the circumstances of the trip the Lord provided some beautiful opportunities for my mom and I to see incredible beauty as we traveled along Highway 1, saw Muir Woods, and visited Lake Tahoe. As I look back on that trip I have to smile at the symbolism of God bringing beauty despite the darkness.
6. Senior Trip 2009
This senior trip was one of my absolute favorites and such an incredibly special time. While the pranks may have gone a bit wrong with the "London Bombing Night" (hahaha- Kaara, "now that, that is getting annoying... hahahaha) and the chairs that wouldn't stay on the roof that we did some cheerleading moves to get up there, and the schools credit cards not working when we went to purchase food... the laughter, the talks, the evening spent sharing thanks and love for each person in the room remains one of my favorite memories of life let alone a trip. The pictures above capture a few of the moments, but all of them will stay treasured in my heart forever. I love you guys. (PS- This is the class that I dedicated my book, December Caravan to which you can read more about HERE.)
This trip holds such precious memories to me as we had such a beautiful day in the park. I love these ladies and it was a sweet and fun day filled with lots of laughter, lots of fun, and lots of time to create beautiful memories that I will treasure forever. You can read more about this beautiful time HERE.
Isle of Palms, South Carolina holds a very special place in my heart that started with a senior trip in 2008 to this beautiful house (in the middle):
It was such an amazing trip with beautiful memories that when I moved to Georgia and took over the girls Bible class I knew it would be the perfect place to go for a retreat. The trips in 2010 and 2011 hold such precious memories and I look back and smile with gratitude for the beautiful Isle of Palms trips which you can read more about HERE.
9. Senior Trip 2012
This trip holds incredibly precious memories for me... for the trip itself, but also because I knew that life was about to change in huge ways. I had NO idea what these last five years would hold, but I look back on this trip with a smile... I remember on this trip finding the verse from Ezekiel that says, "the Lord is there". I can still remember meditating and thinking through this verse and seeing how the Lord has consistently used this throughout this journey feels like a "full circle moment". The Lord is there... This trip was beautiful and it remains one of my favorites... the people ... it was all just perfect. I love you guys deeply.

Okay, what are some of your best and worst trip stories? I would love to hear!!

Happy Tuesday friends! I hope you have a beautiful day!