Caravan Sonnet


the 11th anniversary

If you read my October 25th post from last year or the year before or you know me well you know that October 25th is a very special day to me. It holds incredible meaning and significance as 11 years ago I had a life-changing surgery that changed the course of my life and this was the day that the Lord healed me after doctors told me that there was "nothing" that they could do. (You can read more of my story with my battle with Endometriosis HERE!)

I shared two years ago the different ways I have celebrated this anniversary over the years. While some of these days and moments have been photographed over the years, many of them have not. The precious memories that my mind remembers today are of sacred moments of telling my story to my students over the years as I testified about the Lord's mighty healing power, the laughter between family and friends, the precious phone calls and texts from friends who prayed for the miracle to happen and never stopped believing, my sister calling to celebrate with me, long walks thanking the Lord on year two, and the quiet celebration in my heart every time I see the calendar approaching this special day when doctors said there was "no hope" and yet the Lord spoke differently. 
As I think about year eleven today I have been met with a mixture of emotions. Extreme gratitude and thankfulness and tears at the Lord's mighty healing power and yet I do admit that like the last several years I have had some tearful behind-the-scenes prayers of, "why aren't you healing the same way this time in this Lyme Journey yet Lord?". It is a question that I think so many people have asked behind the scenes (and some of the brave have cried with me). 
I recently received an email from the same reader that I shared about two years ago. This reader wanted to know if my response to their question from two years ago would be any different as I am turning another year on the calendar date. (You can read the original question and response HERE and last years thoughts HERE.)

As I told this reader, it's really not. I don't know why healing hasn't come in such a "mighty and easy way" this time and why it is a long and slow healing process. I really don't. What I do know though is that I have a choice every single day on whether or not to trust the Lord and walk in this trust over my feelings or spend precious energy questioning things. I choose to trust. I choose to trust the difficult and unknown path before me is the path that the Lord has me on. Where I might think I am better used or life would be better is not where the Lord has me. I humbly trust that "and if not He is still good" to all of my questions, all of my deepest hearts longing... and that is enough for today. 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 is okay. It doesn't change who God is or His goodness.
 I promise, readers that despite any circumstances God's goodness is NOT changed. I can attest in new ways and in more marvelous ways then I could years ago. And as I celebrate this 11th anniversary I am brought to my knees by God's goodness. His faithfulness astounds me and His mercies meet each new day. 

Surrendering to God's goodness comes the opportunity to fall more in love with Jesus and who He is and what the Bible states and promises. NOT what I want it to state or promise but what it actually states and promises. And this 11 year anniversary is incredibly significant to me - especially as this Lyme journey continues on. 
Did you know that the number 11 in the Bible often represents chaos and disorder in the Old Testament, Jesus in gave us eleven specific and special promises in the book of John? These promises are:

(1) A person can receive everlasting life by believing in the Son of God (John 3:16)
(2) A person can have eternal life (John 6:54)
(3) By following Jesus you will walk in light, not darkness (John 8:12)
(4) Jesus' word sets us free (John 8:31-32)
(5) Jesus brings freedom (John 8:36)
(6) God the Father will honor those who serve Christ (John 12:26)
(7) We can do great things (John 14:12)
(8) We will receive the Holy Spirit when we obey Christ's commands (John 14:15-16)
(9) We are loved by God (John 14:21)
(10) Those who abide in Jesus will be fruitful (John 15:5)
(11) We can be friends with Jesus (John 15:14)

*smiles* Okay, so you might be asking what does this have to do with me celebrating my 11 year anniversary and why are they significant to me? 

First, scripture has never been shy about speaking about chaos and disorder which seems extremely prevalent in our world today. BUT scripture has also showed that there are mighty promises of truth for us to hold on to... even when it seems like everything is in chaos. These beautiful promises remind me of God's ultimate power here on earth and also as we contemplate eternity.

Second, our all powerful God shows His complete power by offering eternal life through Jesus and His death on the cross. In this act of unmeasurable love we not only are given the opportunity to accept Jesus as our Lord and be saved but on the cross Jesus conquered EVERYTHING. Including illness. EVERYTHING was conquered on the cross. 

Third, Jesus has given these 11 promises that are so specific and significant especially as I remember this beautiful anniversary of His healing and also for my current journey with Lyme Disease. These 11 promises speak truth into the deepest parts of who we are. Knowing this I have a choice to make... every single day... I can choose to act in faith and trust the Lord completely or I can respond to my circumstances sinfully and grow bitter and angry at the ways of the Lord. 

There is absolutely no question in my mind of my choice. 
Even on the days that I feel discouraged I choose to run to my precious Heavenly Father and lay everything at His feet. The reality is that this anniversary shouts to me in the dark and reminds me of God's ultimate power and who He is. And friends, as I spend more time with the Lord and continue to run to Him with all of my questions, fears, disappointments, hurts, and every other emotion He lovingly speaks to my hurting heart. And I am reminded on this 11th anniversary of His incredible grace, His good gifts, His undeserving ways, and the gift of love that He gives. 

And the best gift of all? Is the gift that the this 11th anniversary serves as a beautiful reminder that the Lord offers not only beauty, but incredible hope. Hope of a future that the Lord has in store... Hope of beautiful healing here on earth or in Heaven... Hope of living joyfully despite difficult circumstances... Hope of a loving God who loves us abundantly... and Hope of celebrating another 11 year healing in the future...

healing from Lyme Disease. 


Hope for the Future in the Single Journey

“The Lord blessed the latter part of Job's life more than the earlier years.”
-Job 42:12-

One of the real aspects of singleness is the heartbreaking reality of seeing days pass without our dreams fulfilled in this journey. It can be tempting to doubt God and His promises as each day passes without seeing our deepest longings fulfilled. It can be hard to hold on to hope for the future and easy to allow despair to settle into the crevices of the deepest part of our souls. 

In my experience it seems like these seasons of deeper longing strike at different times. For some people it is the holiday season that is harder while for others it can be the lonely weekend days. Like many women who are single, I long to share my life with someone. I long to "live life together" and serve God with someone in our everyday lives. I long to share the celebrations and holidays with someone but even more so I long to share everyday life with someone. I long to be a mama ... I long to serve the Lord as a married woman. All of these things are natural and important, and because these longing and ache is so deep, there are times where it seems like on this journey that I just can not stop the tears from falling and I weep and I struggle to hold on to hope for the future that things could be different. 

But as the days and weeks and months pass and another holiday season is soon approaching I choose to put aside my feelings and believe in the Lord. I pray that my my fears, my hopes, and my longings for the future be solely found in Him. 

“But I will hope continually, and will praise you yet more and more.” 
-Psalm 71:14-

Whatever the future holds- whether it brings marriage or continued singleness I know that He will be with us each and every day friends and will not abandon us. We are not alone. 

Let us pray for the wisdom that we need for each moment in the future that it comes from Him alone. “Know that wisdom is such to your soul; if you find it, there will be a future, and your hope will not be cut off.” (Proverbs 24:14)

Our faith for our future hope rests solely on the Lord and not on a circumstance changing. He will lead us each step of the way- through this journey – and beyond it. Let us remain confident that the Lord has a plan, a plan “for welfare and not for evil, to give us a future and a hope” (Jeremiah 29:11) and that friend, is what we can rest in today. 

Let us rest in the arms of the one who loves us more than life. Let us wait solely on Him to direct each of my steps in this area of our lives. 

“I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits, and in His word I put my hope.” 
-Psalm 130:5-

Let us hold fast to the hope, that like Job, He will bless each step in the future, even more than our early years as the scripture above states. And let us hold fast to the Lord, no matter what the circumstances look like right now. 

“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” 
-Hebrews 11:1-

Dear hurting and brokenhearted single friends, hold onto the hope and truth that the Lord is near for today and holds our beautiful future in His hands. God is always with us friends... may His tender mercy comfort you in this difficult season of longing and give you strength and dignity as you laugh without fear of the future. 

“She is clothed with strength and dignity, and I can laugh without fear of the future.” 

-Proverbs 31:25-


50% Sale in the Etsy Shop this Weekend

I am having a HUGE spring sale at the shop! Starting today through Sunday everything is 50% off!! Simply use the coupon code FALLJOY to receive your purchase. 

Due to my upcoming treatment and travel schedule I have had to make the difficult decision that my shop will be closing on Friday, October 28th and won't re-open until after the holiday season on January 2nd. This has been a hard and difficult decision as I so enjoy making different holiday orders but is also a necessary one at this point in my treatment schedule. SO this weekend is your chance to shop early for Christmas presents! 

ALL proceeds from this sale will be going to benefit my upcoming trip to California for my doctors appointment in December.

So head on over and check it out! You can click HERE to easily go to the shop! 
Thank you again for all of your support of my shop! 
I hope that you are having a wonderful start to your weekend!
Again, please use the coupon code: FALLJOY to receive 50% off your entire purchase. Thank you so much for your support of my shop this year! What a joy and blessing y'all have been!

Happy Saturday sweet friends!

Amazing Women of Faith: Mallory from Still Waters Blog

I am so excited to have a dear friend and hero of mine sharing on the blog today her heart and her words of encouragement and truth. It is hard to put into adequate words the impact that Mallory has had on my life and in my journey with Lyme Disease. I am so excited to have her sharing her heart today!!  
"God can use you wherever you are"

Let's get real for a minute.

The mundane routines of day to day life make it really easy to feel lost. To feel unimportant. To feel purpose-less. To question "What on Earth am I here for?"

Comparison is such a thief.

We look at pictures, posts of exciting lives full of travel, food, riches, and people who seem to have so much direction. Wow, that person looks super important... And I feel super ordinary.

I used to think that God would never use me in a meaningful way. I thought that my typical Christian testimony and blessed life didn't have enough "umph" to make an impact for the kingdom. Only those who have walked through fire and come out on the other side, shouting their testimony riddled with abuse, addiction, and the rescue of a loving savior could make a difference.

I thought that without traveling the world, serving on various missions, snuggling orphans, feeding the starving people of a foreign nation-- God wasn't using me.

Now, I do have a platform. I have a CRAZY story. I have seen, felt, received multiple miracles from above. I have survived the impossible because of HIS strength. I'm actually one of those people with a powerful testimony (that's still being written)...Does that mean God can use me now? Does that suddenly make me more important than I was before?

Yes...also... No.

Having a story of suffering & despair, one I would never wish upon anyone, does not make my impact for the Kingdom more important than it was when I was healthy & strong leading an active life.

This story gives me a way to share, know, and love Jesus with a perspective that I would not otherwise understand. And I have made the choice to trust that God can do something amazing with it... He totally has.

In the last 2.5 years I have been isolated from the world, people, life and experiences beyond what I can even tell you. In that time, God has miraculously led me to witness, encourage, and share His love with more people than I EVER did in all my 20 years of health and thriving life.

His purpose, plan, hand in my life is OBVIOUS. God is with me, before me, around me. He is preparing me for something incredible. I just know it. I feel it in my soul as the Holy Spirit speaks beautiful purpose into my heart.

But right now, I'm not able. I'm still quite isolated from the world. Struggling with recovery, sickness, lack of independence, strength, and ability to complete normal tasks. Nonetheless, God is able to use me in these ordinary, quiet times.

In the mundane, in the everyday sideline that can feel lost, without direction and without purpose... in which my heart is SO READY to play yet my Coach is reassuring me that it's not game time... I'm confident that God is doing SOMETHING IMPORTANT.
And looking back at my 20 years of ordinary life, I can see God working in all aspects.

Child of God, dear loved one, God is working in your life too.

Through the boring days. Through the bad days. Through the sin-filled days and the obedient ones, too. Through the most joyful times and through the deepest depressions. In your daily job, among your family and friends, around your coworkers, at the grocery store, at the gym, at the hair salon & through your social media presence. God is at work everywhere you are.
Are you longing for a purpose? Do you desire to be used? 

There is no exclusive club, no requirement needed to be a chosen one. Today I encourage you to truly open your heart to the Lord. Give Him your past, your present and your future. Give Him authority to use you in whatever way He sees fit...then obey when you feel Him leading and promoting. Pray for the words to say, the humility to serve, and the convictions to want His Will above all. Every season of life has a purpose and a time and an importance in the realm of eternity. Strive for joy wherever you are today and take heart, knowing you are on this Earth for a job beyond all understanding.

Wow, you are so important.
A huge thank you to Mallory for sharing her heart and her life and her encouragement to all of us. You are such a treasure Mallory! If you want to connect more with Mallory you can find her blog HERE and her Instagram page HERE.


Atlantis and Aquaventure Port Excursion

After arriving at the Port of Nassau, Emily and I joined the group on the Disney Cruise that had signed up for the Atlantis Aquaventure. As background Emily and I had talked about doing the Aquaventure pretty much since we had seen Mary-Kate and Ashley Olson's movie, Holiday in the Sun decades ago. *smiles* So we saved up our pennies and chose this as our "major" thing to do on the cruise when we arrived in Nassau.
I have to say first that the way that Disney does Port Excursions was absolutely lovely. Having been on other Port Excursions on other ships, this was really a dream. When we arrived on the ship we had our tickets waiting for us in our stateroom along with clear instructions on where and when to meet - on the ship. For this particular excursion we gathered in the Walt Disney Theater (which was cool and air-conditioned and allowed everyone to comfortably sit while the group gathered) where we watched the spectacular shows every evening. They had maps for us and also a map up on the screen and clearly and easily explained how the day would work. 

After everyone gathered they led us off the ship and connected us with the Atlantis Aquaventure leaders who gave us our meal vouchers, further information, and walked us to waiting taxis for us to go to the resort. Once at the resort we were all shown where the water park started and given towels and given clear instructions on how and when we needed to meet the taxis to get back to the ship. It really was simple yet like everything else we experienced on the Disney Dream, brilliantly done. 
As we walked to the Aquaventure we saw several parts of the Atlantis Resort. It was lovely to be back (the last time that I was there was in 2014 on a different cruise) and see the beautiful property and get to explore the area with my sister.
The Atlantis grounds and aquaventure area is absolutely beautiful. You have not just stepped into a water park but have stepped into a Caribbean dream when you pick this shore excursion.
The beautiful tall palm trees that surround the property are absolutely stunning.
The aquaventure is a unique and fun water park that features lots of different slides (including some "tamer ones" and ones that are not for the faint of heart- hello the one that drops straight down!) and a unique twist on a lazy river that has some fun surprises. 
The Aquaventure park is divided into four different parts- the Lazy River and the Current, the Mayan Temple, The Power Tower, and the Swimming Pools area. 
We started with the Lazy River and Current as our first part of the Aquaventure. It was really fun! The Lazy River is a 1/4 mile loop through the tropical landscape.
There are different places where you can get off and on the Lazy River to go to the other three areas of the park or you can ride the entire thing, including the Current. 
The current continues to take you along beautiful lush and gorgeous landscape while at the same time propelling you through a mile-long river via water escalators, rolling waves and extreme rapids. We really enjoyed the Lazy River and it was definitely one of the highlights of the day! 
After enjoying the Lazy River and the Current we headed next to the Power Tower. 
The Power Tower was so much fun! We spent a lot of time in this area because of the fun different rides that were offered. The Power Tower is a 120-foot tower with four different slides. It has The Abyss- which is a 50 foot vertical drop with a 200-foot-long body slide, The Drop- which is a single or double inner tube ride that starts with a "drop" into darkness, The Falls- where you are propelled through a water roller coaster ride, and finally, The Surge- which is an inner tube ride with a drop into a cavern followed by being "dumped" into the white water rapids of the Current.
It's hard to pick our favorite water slide rides, but definitely the Drop and the Falls were some of our favorites! Both my sister and I love the opportunity to be able to do rides together and these were two of our favorites! One of my favorite memories of the day and I am giggling as I write this, was my sister who would scream things like, "drop" every time a drop was coming to help warn me. I am laughing out loud remembering this as it really did give me a warning but it made me laugh really hard all at the same time so I definitely was swallowing a ton of water!
After spending a fun morning doing the above rides we decided to take some time to eat by one of the pools, and rest for a few minutes. As mentioned above you will receive a meal voucher with this port excursion to use. You will have the option of choosing from a few different quick service places that basically all serve the same thing: (Salad, Caesar Salad, Hamburger, Veggie Burger, Chicken Sandwich). My sister chose the Hamburger which she said was really good and I chose the Caesar Salad which I really enjoyed. The last time I was in Atlantis and had the meal voucher I chose the Veggie Burger which was also really nice. 

All of these places are by the different pools that Atlantis has. For a bit of reference there are more than 20 different swimming areas and 11 different pools in Atlantis - all with different offerings including an adults only pool, a children's pool, etc.
The views that surround the Atlantis Resort and Aquaventure are absolutely stunning. At different parts you could clearly see the ocean and it was just breath-taking.
After lunch we headed to the Mayan Temple section of Aquaventure. The Mayan Temple features five different slides in its tower: The Serpent Slide-a five story corkscrew slide which ends with a slow ride through a clear submerged tunnel through a shark-filled lagoon, The Jungle Slide- where kiddos can take a safari like slide through different caves and jungles and two different Challenger slides- where you can challenge friends for a splashdown race and finally there is the Leap of Faith Slide- which is the tallest water slide drop the park offers - at almost 60 feet straight down which is followed by a high speed ride through a clear tunnel submerged in a shark-filled lagoon. (Let us be honest- if you are a girl and saw the Olsen twins and Holiday in the Sun you know that this ride was shown approximately 3000 times. *hahaha*)
We spent time doing the Serpent Slide and my sister who loves all things shark related loved the ending to the ride. You really do go extremely slow at the end of the ride and there is plenty of time to see different sharks, including one who was sleeping above us on the tunnel we were in! After riding the Lazy River one more time we were ready to head back to the ship. We were so surprised that we ended up spending about 7 hours on this port excursion. It was a fun and delightful filled day!

Here are a couple of tips and thoughts about the Aquaventure Port Excursion if you are interested in choosing this on your Disney Dream Cruise:

1. If you are like us and were wondering which water slide (with innertubes) is the "highest" in the park - then the answer is definitely "the Drop" ride. We were so grateful when a staff member explained this to us as I couldn't do huge drops due to health reasons and this helped us easily enjoy our time at the park without worrying about future rides. 

2. A word of caution though for those who are traveling in the "hotter seasons"... the Lazy River and the Current Water was hot. At one point in the day - near the end of our time there we were hoping to be a little refreshed but instead started to feel a bit sick due to the fact it was so hot outside and the water felt even hotter. Just a word of caution about this part of the aquaventure!

3. Traveling in September like we did was an excellent time to enjoy this port excursion. The park was not that crowded and we never waited more than 3 or 4 minutes to go on a ride. It was truly a wonderful time to go visit if you can!

4. The cost of this port excursion is $185 for those who are 10 years old and up. For those who are 3 to 9 years old the cost is $135 and for those who are infants through 2 years old the cost is free. Like I said it was definitely the most expensive thing that we chose to do, but at the same time as I mentioned in my Disney Dream Cruise Ship Review Post you can save up and pay once you are on the cruise. It is not like other cruise lines where you have to pay before. This allows you lots of time to save for an expensive port excursion like this and you do get lunch and many hours at the excursion. Once I decided to do the cruise I had approximately 9 months to save for this excursion and so I put aside about $18-20 each month to save. On the flip side it is definitely expensive so it might be something to think about for a future cruise if you are strapped for money. 

5. Wheelchairs are allowed to be in the pool and beach area but they are not allowed in the water slide area just to give you a heads up. Also wheelchairs must be collapsible as no electric wheelchairs are permitted. 

6. Each guest that is participating in the water slide rides must be 48 inches tall where rides require it. There are different things that children who are less than this can participate on, but for the majority of the rides this is the height limit and they are very firm on this. We saw several different sets of parents who were trying to convince staff members that their children had done the rides already, that they really were that tall, etc. and the staff was kind but firm on this rule. There is also a height limit ruler and they will make you measure so keep that in consideration when purchasing this shore excursion.
 I hope you enjoyed reading this review of the Aquaventure Port Excursion. It was such a delightful day that I want to go back and do it all over again! Please let me know if you have any questions!