12/10/14

Merry Christmas Friends!

Dear family and friends, 

It is hard to believe that Christmas is just a short two weeks away! This time of celebrating the birth of Jesus and spending time with family and friends (who are near and far) is incredibly special and precious. The more that I "fight" for my health, the more I see what a gift each day is and what a blessing true friends and loved ones are. 

It is impossible for me not to get choked up with tears when I think of how so many of you have faithfully walked this incredibly long journey with my family. Some of you have chosen to "get involved" knowing that this will be a long road ahead and others have you have consistently modeled Christ's love back before we even had a correct diagnosis and we were traveling from doctor to doctor across the United States looking for answers. Both groups of you = those that have recently joined and those that have been here for years are incredibly precious and your prayers have been a lifeline through so many difficult days. While there is still a very very long road of healing in front of me we are incredibly grateful that after so many years of my health deteriorating that it is not only "holding steady" but we are beginning to see some small improvements that we are rejoicing over! Thank you so much for all of your prayers, all of your cards and gifts, all of your financial support, and all of the emotional support that you have blessed me with over the years and especially this past year. I am truly honored to call you friends. 

A couple of weeks ago I received an email from a lady (who I believe) was trying to be "helpful". She informed me that my blog would be more "popular" if I would share some Christmas recipes, decorating tips, Christmas activities, etc. And then a few days ago I announced (via instagram) that I was going to be "closing my shop" for several weeks starting on December 10th. I was surprised to receive another email (from a different person) saying that if I "really wanted to be successful" I would keep my shop open till the last possible minute.  Both of these emails (and several others I have received like them recently) have caught me by surprise and I have tried to respond by explaining that my "goal" in everything is not to be popular but to be faithful in the work that the Lord has called me and put before me. I long to be a woman who is known for simply one thing: that I loved the Lord well

And this year, as I have read and re-read the Christmas story, I have been especially drawn to the part about the Shepherds:

"And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all of the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you, he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manager." Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God, and saying, "Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests." When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let's go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about." So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manager. When they had seen him; they spread the word concerning what had been told to them about the child and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all of these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told."
-Luke 2:8-20-

This story has touched my heart this year as I am not able to "do everything" that I would like to in regards to Christmas time. I am not able to decorate or create a "pinterest worthy" household. I marvel at those that are baking dozens upon dozens of cookies for co-workers. I shake my head in amazement at all of the gift exchanges that I hear about that are taking place- in person and over the internet. I love hearing about so many people caroling. I find it amazing how beautifully wrapped packages are. I love the ideas for Christmas that are displayed all over social media. There are hundreds of things that are happening and I simply marvel at them all. 

But sickness has taught me a great lesson... and that is, for many people, this past year has been filled with incredible losses and pain. Unfortunately, the holiday season takes no exception and can sometimes "compound" the pain that we experience here on earth. Sometimes the painful times that we are going through seem to speak louder than the quiet words of truth from scripture. Sometimes the pain that we experience can make us question what we really have to celebrate. Sometimes, the pain of the day can make it difficult to "get into the holiday mood". 

And for those of you who maybe don't have a "pinterest worthy Christmas" for a variety of reasons, I hope, like me, you will find simple joy and peace in the Christmas story. In the precious story that shows that it wasn't so glamourous or "beautiful" at the beginning. It started with a long trip and when Mary and Joseph arrived at the destination their weren't crowds of people clamoring to help them or greet them. It started in a manager (in a barn with lots of animals *smiles*) not a palace. It started with angels appearing to lowly shepherds not to the most popular or to the wealthiest in town.  It started with God's mercy and love telling the shepherds "do not be afraid". The Christmas story was told by a lowly group of shepherds, sometimes nicknamed "the forgotten people". They had the beautiful and intricate role of "spreading the word" regarding a baby whose life changed everything. 

Sweet friends, maybe you find yourself in a situation that you didn't imagine this Christmas or maybe you are dealing with a grief so tender that you you are just trying to put one foot in front of the other. Either way friends, may you know the tender care of our Lord as He says, "do not be afraid" and the true hope and joy of this season and throughout this coming year. 

"Angels we have heard on high
  1. Sweetly singing o’er the plains,
    And the mountains in reply
    Echoing their joyous strains.
    • Refrain:
      Gloria, in excelsis Deo!
      Gloria, in excelsis Deo!
  2. Shepherds, why this jubilee?
    Why your joyous strains prolong?
    What the gladsome tidings be
    Which inspire your heav’nly song?
  3. Come to Bethlehem and see
    Christ Whose birth the angels sing;
    Come, adore on bended knee,
    Christ the Lord, the newborn King.
  4. See Him in a manger laid,
    Whom the choirs of angels praise;
    Mary, Joseph, lend your aid,
    While our hearts in love we raise."

Merry Christmas friends, 

12/9/14

14 More Christmas Present Ideas for your Chronically Ill Friend

A couple of weeks ago I shared a post about 15 Ways to help a friend with a chronic illness during Thanksgiving. This post was in response to the OVERWHELMING support from last years   17 ways you can help a chronically ill friend with chronic illness during the holidays post and the 30 Christmas Present Ideas for your Chronically Ill friend post

Today I wanted to share with you 14 more Christmas Present Ideas for your Chronically Ill friend! Again, I am 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. Be creative and trust me your kindness will touch the heart of your ill friend forever.

1. Offer monetary help if possible. (I know, I know... I mention this in every single post related to gift ideas for friends and family but it is because it is SO important.) Even with insurance those with Chronic Illness spend thousands and thousands of dollars trying to get healthy every single month. Many people with Chronic Illness, like myself, have already gone through all available resources. These types of gifts do not have to be large. Someone recently gave me a five dollar gift card to Target that helped purchase necessities. Such a blessing! Gift cards to Target are priceless! This can help purchase medications, groceries, clothes, and the list goes on! Truly money and gift cards are wonderful if that is an option for you to give!

2. Purchase Pet Items. Does your friend have a pet? Consider purchasing a gift card to their vet, paying for a pet "check up" (or grooming), or giving them a gift basket of necessary food and litter, treats, or toys. 

3. Purchase (or create) holiday cards to send out (and give them a book of stamps). I used to love sending Christmas Cards out (and still do) but the reality is that it is very expensive to purchase cards and stamps. Last year I only sent a few cards out due to the cost. I would have loved to send more and many people with Chronic Illness really want to, but with the cost of shipping it is impossible. Consider blessing your friend in this way. (Concerned that the extra stamps will go to waste? Don't be. Almost all medical bills still have to be sent out the old fashioned way - your friend will use those stamps one way or another!)

4. Help your friend address Christmas Card Envelopes. Sometimes the energy to address the cards can be an issue. Offer to address the cards (and mail them!) for your friend!

5. Give the gift of not asking, "have you tried..." at the family/friends get together. 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. 

6. Give a gift card for "unmentionables". If your friend hasn't had the money (or the energy) to buy new clothes in a while consider giving them a gift card to purchase the necessities that they probably need.

7. Support your friends current "money making endeavor". Those with Chronic Illnesses often have had to leave a job that they loved and have tried to find a way to make money in a new capacity. Support their endeavor. Do they have an etsy shop? Purchase gifts from that shop and spread the news about their shop via social media. Do they make things and sell them on the side? Help spread the word! One friend that I have who has Epilepsy had to quit her job teaching but is the most AMAZING baker and creates gorgeous and delicious pies. Another friend of ours went around to local churches who were holding Thanksgiving dinners this year and set up a business deal for her where the churches purchased the pies and she was able to gain enough income for a couple of months. This was an amazing idea our friend had but my friend with Epilepsy didn't have the energy to even think about it! This was an incredible blessing and guess what? She has "expanded" outside of our city and next year has double the orders from other churches and businesses!! Think outside the box for your friend, support their work - whether it is through purchasing something yourself or just simply spreading the word!

8. Pay for a Doctors Visit. Lots of Chronic Illnesses have specialized doctors and not all are covered by insurance! For example, my Lyme Doctor consultation every six weeks is approximately $200 (sometimes $350) with NO insurance money covering it. That means that I will pay approximately $1800 for my doctors visits alone. This is a HUGE but necessary expense and I am not alone in this. Consider paying for one of your friends doctors visits. This will be an incredible blessing!

9. Pay for the Co-pays. Is your friends doctor covered by insurance? Their co-pays aren't! Most people pay an average of $15-$50 for their co-pays. This might not seem like a big deal unless you regularly see your doctor. Statistically a chronically ill person sees their doctor 15 times a year. That means that they will spend an average of $225- $750 for Co-pays. Consider covering their co-pays for a year. What a blessing that would be!

10. Give a gift card to their "alternative" treatments. Most people with Chronic Illness use alternative treatments and these can be an expensive but necessary "addition" to their cost. Consider giving a gift card to their reflexologist, acupuncturist, massage therapist, chiropractor, etc.  (Side note- this is not the time to give them a gift card to some place that you feel they should go - simply a time to come along side of them. (Unfortunately that is a true story...)*smiles*)

11. Give them the gift of becoming an advocate of their disease. I suggested last year to ask your loved one what books that they would recommend on their disease and to read about it. Do this. Become an advocate on what ails them. Isn't it wonderful that there are so many walks and "government supported" funding for certain illnesses? That came about in part because of friends and family rallied to bring awareness. What about your loved ones disease? Do you know how to spell it? Do you know what is happening in Congress or at the state level in regards to it? Become an advocate for your loved one and for the thousands of others that might not have loved ones who care. 

12. Give them the gift of a day at a salon. You know how you spend a lot of money on having your hair cut, nails done, etc. for the holiday season? Your loved one who is suffering from illness would love that to but would never dream of spending the money on something like that anymore. I can speak from personal experience that the changes that occur with an illness in regards to personal appearance can be difficult. Different medications can cause weight changes, hair loss, skin break outs, and generally make you feel like you look "awful". I personally would love to have a hair cut, eye brows waxed, nails done, etc. but there is NO money for this type of thing. (To be completely personal I haven't had my hair cut in over a year and in the last three years have had it cut twice.) You get the point friends. If this is something you can give to a friend- it would be an incredibly blessing. 

13. Create a relaxing atmosphere. Do you have a loved one coming to visit for the holidays? Consider setting them up somewhere that they can retreat to rest and relax when they are feeling sick. This will give them an incredible blessing amidst the "hustle and bustle".  

14. Remember the caregiver(s). I have often said this but me being ill is often harder on my parents then myself. To see people that are constantly hurting and suffering and not be able to do anything about it is excruciating. Reach out to the caregivers and you will touch the heart of the person who is ill too. 

As I have said before, realize that your friend or family member with chronic illness is the best gift this season. Their illness is forcing them to set limitations but the gift to you is remembering what is truly important in the holiday season. Celebrate PEOPLE. Not things or activities. At the end of the day people are the most important thing not whether or not you were able to buy every single gift in the world. 

What are some of your Christmas gift ideas for those in your life who are ill? Please share with us in the comments below!

12/3/14

Darling, Lets be Adventurers

“Adventure is an attitude, not a behavior.” ~ Luci Swindoll

In 2001 when I first heard this quote I never would have understood the impact it would have on life today. Thirteen years ago I read this quote while I was riding the train from England to France and delightfully soaking up each moment of my archaeology study abroad program in Europe. I was so excited about each moment that jet lag was something I thought was for wimps as I happily observed all of my surroundings and quickly tried to document in adequate words all that I was seeing and learning in my journal. In the late afternoons and evenings I would take my sketchbook and try to copy all of the beautiful buildings, landscapes, and people that I was meeting. All of these memories are forever preserved not just in my little journal or sketchbook but are deeply written upon my heart. 
As I studied and lived abroad in four different European countries I not only was taken in by the extreme beauty and cultures but I fell more in love with the Lord. The Lord used those adventures and learning experiences (both the good and the difficult times) to write precious promises on my heart of His love, mercy, faithfulness, and presence. 
And I promised myself, long before pinterest existed and quotes came out (*smiles*) that I wouldn't be like others that I saw, but that I would be "an adventurer". I would continue to travel and to live life fully and take all of the experiences that I learned with me. 
And in the following ten years after living abroad I was able to do just that. The Lord led me to live in five different states, I traveled extensively throughout the United States (and out of the country), had one of my favorite "adventures of all" (teaching High School students), fell deeply in love with ballroom dancing, experienced a miraculous physical healing from the Lord, had the heart-wrenching first hand experience of working with refugees and sex-trafficking victims, experienced extreme heart break and the beautiful way the Lord heals our broken hearts, spent hours volunteering in causes that I was passionate about (even running a half-marathon), and celebrated loudly and lived life with my amazing tribe and friendships. In a variety of different ways (through those things listed here and numerous things not listed) I was able to be "an adventurer".
I absolutely loved my life. There were incredibly heart-wrenching things that occurred during those ten years (and in the years since) but I loved following where the Lord led and truly saw each day and all of the adventures as miracles.
And to be honest... it is what I thought life would be like... I assumed that life would continue and then I would get married, become a mama and live my favorite adventure of all. And honestly, I never EVER would have expected, dreamed, or even imagined that in the past three years I would become primarily bed-ridden and house-bound due to fighting advanced stage Lyme Disease and Cancer and live the physically and emotionally difficult path that this journey is. Illness can often be seen as a "life robber". And it often is. 
Let's be honest... my life doesn't provide alot of time or energy to be "adventurous" as most would call it. My life is extremely scheduled  and without providing to many details, often the biggest "adventure" is a day where I am able to keep all of my food, water, and pills in me. (How is that for exciting? *smiles*) Do I long for things to be different? Absolutely. Do I yearn for my previous life? No. I have truly learned the truth of Ecclesiastes 7:10 on this journey. Do I want my life to look different then things are currently in regards to my health? ABSOLUTELY. (Is this truly even a question???) But... while I might long and yearn for things to be different or try to live in a dream world... its not the truth. This is my life. And whether I think it is "how things should be" or "the circumstances I want"... this is what the Lord has... and I am learning it is more adventurous then ever before.
When I was teaching I would often tell my students that I had absolutely "no regrets" and I still don't. Are there things that I would change or maybe do differently? Of Course. But as my sweet friend Rachel once said, "A life poured out for Jesus is a life full of no regrets". I might want life to look differently or have the ability to do "all of the things" that I think are great, but I have the opportunity to be an adventurer right here, right now, even from my little home while being bed bound. I don't want to look back on these months and years that are so difficult and have regrets that I didn't seek the Lord and see how He could use this time. God is the ULTIMATE restorer and even in this time He can restore EVERYTHING... through physical healing, but also showing me where He is leading me TODAY. 
And I am learning the absolute grace and truth of the quote from Luci Swindoll. "Adventure is an attitude..." As I read with joy the adventures of many friends and loved ones and those in bloggy world and have friends who are traveling to the ends of the earth (literally) I rejoice with how the Lord is leading and guiding them. BUT sweet friends, maybe you are like me and you are not able to take off on "physical travel adventurers" around the world or to your dream location. Maybe like me it is a restriction due to health and financial factors, maybe you don't have the resources available, or maybe it is an adventure you long for but it hasn't happened yet- like being physically well, having children, getting married, or your dream job. Maybe you just don't have the vacation days or maybe you just can't "go" because of a million different reasons. That is okay. LIFE, friends, YOUR beautiful life is the ADVENTURE and no matter how near or far you can physically go, you can life a life FULL of adventure and joy right where you are at.

Adventure starts in our minds and then overflows like a beautiful waterfall to our hearts. Sometimes adventure is following a dream that we have had for a long time, a path that we were once afraid to take, or reading a blog that inspires us to meet someone new, reach out to new friendships, start a new job, or take a risk that we have been wanting to take. And all of these things are amazing, but the greatest adventure is our relationship with Jesus. HE is the one that calls out to our hearts and says, Darling, Lets be Adventurers. Follow me, He calls... and friends, following Jesus is a life filled with no regrets and the greatest adventure you could ever have. 
May our precious Lord bless you today sweet friends as you fall more deeply in love with Jesus and your life that He has given you. May you discover in new ways the absolute adventure of falling more in love with Him.

12/2/14

Pulling Back the Shades

Pulling Back the Shades Giveaway 

Sponsored by Family Christian

Hosted by Pea of Sweetness & Co-Hosted by Deals of Sweetness

Pulling Back the Shades
Christian women don't have to choose between being sexual and spiritual. They have legitimate longings that the Church has been afraid to talk about, and books like Fifty Shades of Grey exploit. Whether you are single or married, sexually dead or just looking to revive your sex life, Pulling Back the Shades will address your desire to be both sexual AND spiritual. With solid Biblical teaching and transparent stories, trusted authors Dannah Gresh and Dr. Juli Slattery, offer an unflinching look at the most personal questions women ask. The book offers practical advice for women to address five core longings:
  • to be cherished by a man
  • to be protected by a strong man
  • to rescue a man
  • to be sexually alive
  • to escape reality
Emilee at Pea of Sweetness recently had the chance to review Pulling Back the Shades and appreciates all the time and effort the authors put into making this a book to reach the heart of women everywhere.
Would you like to check out Pulling Back the Shades? One winner will receive a paperback copy of Pulling Back the Shades. This giveaway begins on 12/2 and ends on 12/16 at 10:00pm (times are Central) and is open to US residents ages 18+. Winner is subject to eligibility verification and will have 48 hours to confirm before a new winner will be drawn. For any questions/concerns please email emilee.roberts@peaofsweetness.com (consider adding this email to your “Safe List” as winning email notification will be sent from this email.) Please refer to the full terms and conditions in the Giveaway Tools.
  Disclosure: Pea of Sweetness received complimentary product(s) or service(s) in exchange for an honest review. No additional compensation was received. Participating bloggers are not responsible for prize fulfillment.   

12/1/14

Welcome December!

"But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart." - Luke 2: nineteen
I have always loved the month of December! *smiles* It is filled with the HOPE of Christmas and the birth of a baby who is everything

And just as Mary pondered and treasured the words and time in her heart, we can find so many delightful treasures in this month.
There are so many beautiful things to ponder: such as days filled with family and friends, delightful sunsets and sunrises, precious quiet, laughter, and beautiful snow (for those not in the south! *smiles*). There is the opportunity to step back and remember once again the most precious gift of the season does not come wrapped in a gift but in God's great love. 
As we enter into this month of peace I am reminded of the Hope that we have each day. Last year I came across this quote by the British evangelist Alan Redpath that seems so fitting as we enter this month- especially for those who are hurting:
"There is NO circumstance, NO trouble, NO testing, that can ever touch me until first of all, it has gone past Christ, right through to me. IF it has come that far, it has come with GREAT purpose!" 
At this season that can also be painful due to the loss of loved ones or the pain of present circumstances my prayer for each of you is that the Lord speaks His peace, love, and comfort to you in mighty ways. May He touch and comfort you in ways that only He can. I am praying that your Christmas season is filled with joy, rest, and peace!
Welcome December! 

Twine and December Mini Albums

Can y'all believe that we have arrived at the first day of December? I honestly can not. The days seem to be flying quickly by and I want to stop and grab each precious moment with friends and family and to show each of them how much I love them. For those of you who know me well you know that I love to make my surroundings and each thing I create "beautiful". One of the ways that I do that is through using some of my favorite products from The Twinery to create an a perfectly finished look. 
Today I wanted to show you some of the ways that I use twine with my two December Daily/Christmas mini-albums to give my projects a little extra "joy" and to hopefully give y'all some ideas of how you can use twine in a thousand different ways throughout this month!

You can see in the first picture above that by using the maraschino stripe twine I was able to give the front of the "Merry and Bright" album a "present feel". I love that the twine gives this front album an extra pop! On my other album, "Homegrown Christmas" using the honeydew stripe twine I was able to just give the cover a more complete look.  You can see that despite having ribbon, the twine is what really brings the whole look together.
And I didn't just use the twine on the front covers!! I found that by incorporating different twine on each and every page truly made these albums a one of a kind gift. In the "Homegrown album" I used the honeydew stripe twinemaraschino stripe twine, and cappuccino stripe twine.To add this simple yet dramatic look I simply hole punched a little circle at the bottom of each page and tied the twine (alternating the colors on each page).
In the "Merry and Bright Album" I used the maraschino stripe twinehoneydew stripe twinethe charcoal stripe twine, and (one of my favorites!) the gold-shimmer twine.
I am so blessed to be sharing about this project over on the Twinery's blog- I hope y'all will check it out! I hope that y'all have a wonderful Monday and Happy December first!

11/30/14

Gift Card Giveaway!

Hosted By:
Co-Hosted By:
& last but certainly not least

This one is for all you readers! Just in time for the holidays!
2 Winners! (2) $100 Gift Cards to Walmart & (2) $100 Amazon Gift Codes! Each winner takes one of each!
This giveaway will run from 11/30 - 12/14
We wish your families Happy Holiday's from our families to yours! 
Good luck and have fun!