8/22/14

Back to School Giveaway!

Happy Friday y'all! I am so excited to team up with these lovely ladies to offer one lucky winner a variety of prizes! There are SOO many amazing prizes in this giveaway!! A visa gift card, a starbucks gift card, advertising, a handmade scarf, and MORE!! 
The wonderful thing about this giveaway is that there is multiple prizes to be won!!! This is the perfect giveaway as we start to transition from Summer to Fall!! Are you looking for a birthday gift? A wedding gift? You could win it here! Looking to try out blog advertising or to do some early Holiday Shopping? These prizes will give you some options! Or win a Starbucks or Visa gift card for you or a friend! All you have to do is enter via the rafflecopter below! 

Good Luck y'all and Happy Friday!!





a Rafflecopter giveaway

8/21/14

The Single Journey: The Hope in Waiting

Last Friday I was honored to be asked to guest post again at Blogs by Christian Women on the topic of singleness. I was so humbled when they shared that a guest post that I wrote in 2013 continues to speak and encourage the hearts of women. When they asked me to share again I knew immediately what I wanted to talk about: the hope that is found in waiting. Below is an excerpt of a couple of paragraphs from the guest post. If you would like to read the whole thing you can click HERE! Thank you again Blogs by Christian Women for the opportunity share with your readers!
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Hi y’all! My name is Rebecca and I blog over at Caravan Sonnet about Jesus, life as a single gal, and the joy found in delighting in the beauty of the ordinary as fight Advanced Late Stage Lyme Disease and Cancer. Last year I wrote a guest post here entitled, “The Single Journey”  and have been overwhelmed by the gracious response and support from this lovely community. It has been a joy to connect with so many others through that post and this community. I am honored to share again today with y’all a subject that is close and dear to my heart as a “follow up” to that post. I hope and pray that is an encouragement to those who are single or just those who have unanswered prayer requests. This topic is on the hope that is found in waiting- specifically the hope of waiting as a single gal.

I trust that the Lord is still in control and is going to provide beyond my wildest dreams and imaginations. (Romans 15:13) I know and am confident that I will confidently rejoice with scripture that states, “I asked the Lord to give me this boy and He has GRANTED my request!” (I Samuel 1:27) Hold on friend and believe in these verses. If you are struggling with unanswered prayer and deep longings of marriage (or other things) my prayer for you friends is to rest in the tender mercy of the Lord. You are not forgotten sweet friends, the Lord sees you and is close to the brokenhearted.

“May He give you the desire of your heart and make all of your plans succeed. May we shout for joy over your victory and lift up our banners in the name of our God.” 
(Psalm 20:4-5)
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Want to read the whole guest post? Click HERE!

Boxcar Children DVD Giveaway

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

The Boxcar Children DVD Giveaway
Four orphaned and homeless siblings happen upon an abandoned boxcar, which with a little creativity and hard work, they gradually furnish with all the comforts of home. Fearful that they will be sent to live with the reputedly cruel grandfather they have never met, the children keep their new home a secret - until a serious illness forces them to reveal themselves in order to save young Violet.

Emilee from Pea of Sweetness grew up reading the books in The Boxcar Children series and was really excited to share this Collector's Edition movie with her children. See what they thought in her review of The Boxcar Children DVD.

You can order The Boxcar Children DVD at WalmartOne winner will receive The Boxcar Children (The Collector's Edition) DVD. This giveaway begins on 8/21 and ends on 9/3 at 10:00pm (times are Central) and is open to US and Canada ages 18+. Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC for providing this prize for the giveaway. Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation. Only one entrant per mailing address, per giveaway. If you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win it again. Winner is subject to eligibility verification. Please refer to the full terms and conditions in the Giveaway Tools.
  Disclosure: Emilee from both Pea of Sweetness and Deals of Sweetness received free product in exchange for an honest review. Participating bloggers are not responsible for prize fulfillment.

8/20/14

Notes from the Porch (twenty-four): a sudden and drastic treatment plan change

"Don't be afraid, for I am with you. Don't be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand."
-Isaiah 41:ten-

My dear sweet friends and fellow prayer warriors, I am always so humbled by the continued support, prayer, text messages, letters, packages in the mail, and the ways that you look to uniquely and creatively touch and encourage my little heart. Thank you for walking this long journey with me. I am so incredibly grateful.

Thank you.

Since I texted and contacted many of you on Thursday evening with a simple but anxious, "please pray" and posted on instagram that I had developed a serious infection I have received the most lovely messages of prayers and support. Thank you so much. Since it has been about a month since my last "Notes from the Porch update" some of you have been asking how things have been going and have patiently endured my lack of response. I had started an update several times, alluded to it in a couple of different posts, but mainly had not shared because things were the same as my last update. This all changed rapidly and drastically this past week. As I share these new developments I do so stating that I appreciate your gracious patience and understanding that this is a very difficult and intense time for me (and my family who are lovingly walking this journey with me) physically (and emotionally). In many ways the last six days feel like it has been six months or years and not simply days.  I thank you in advance for your sweet understanding that while I do choose to be open and vulnerable about this journey here on this blog I have chosen not to share every detail. There might be questions that you have about some decisions that for the time being I do not wish to answer for personal reasons. Some things, as I am sure you can imagine, are so incredibly difficult & painful enough to live through once that I have no desire to talk or re-visit it on the blog. Other things are simply medical decisions that have been made that will arise curiosity but at this point I have determined to keep private. Thank you for your sweet understanding and your support. 

Three weeks ago I shared on instagram that I would covet some prayers for a necessary dental procedure that I was going to have done. I was so grateful for all of those prayers that I received. Even though I was hesitant to have the procedure, I knew it was necessary and I expected (knowing my fragile system) that I would have some kind of reaction. After the procedure for the rest of the day I felt extremely ill and was completely wiped out. The next day I continued to feel the same way but felt minor improvement. That afternoon (Thursday afternoon) I found a tick on me that I had my mom remove. We quickly talked about me calling my doctor but decided that there was not a need to do so because I am already being treated for Lyme Disease. (This was obviously a poor decision and I share it only to be of benefit to others who are navigating the difficult and seemingly treacherous waters of Chronic Lyme Disease). Over the next two weeks I continued to struggle to recover from the dental procedure (or so we thought). I remarked several times that I felt that it was a little strange that I was so wiped out and sometimes I felt like I had the flu on top of my "usual symptoms". I started sleeping more and more started to feel worse and worse. On Wednesday (two weeks after my appointment) I started to experience some joint pain in addition to my other symptoms. (This joint pain was new and "worse" then the typical joint pain I already experience on a daily basis.) I was feeling completely wiped out by this point but still assumed that my new tiredness was related to last minute details of announcing SEEN Gathering. Wednesday evening though as I got ready for bed I saw that at the spot that I had removed the tick I had developed a minor red spot. I decided that even though it wasn't the bulls eye rash I was going to call my doctor the following day. On Thursday when I woke up I felt awful (which is saying a lot all things considered). I was delighted to announce SEEN Gathering, but quickly emailed and contacted dear friends explaining that I was seriously ill. (How absolutely fitting to announce a chronic ill ministry on a day that I became seriously ill. *smiles*) I quickly asked for prayers that I would hear from my doctor immediately. Honestly things moved extremely quickly from this point on. 

To be brief I found out that I am not only dealing with chronic Lyme but had contracted a new acute Lyme Disease infection (which we believe that my body had been attempting to fight with all of its resources that it had). After a little bit of a discussion I was immediately put on several high dose antibiotics and different instructions. The last few days have been some of the most difficult, painful, and sick days of my entire life. I have honestly never struggled with a temperature so high, felt so sick, or dealt with so many different issues all at once. Due to this acute infection I was left with little option of what to do as the immediate concern was to fight this infection. In the course of a short 48 hours everything changed including several different medications. These medications have put my body in a fight mode like it has never been stretched to fight before. If you know someone who is seriously ill then you understand that I will just say that it has not been easy at all. 

My doctors number one concern is for my entire GI system (which as y'all know and have spent a ton of time praying for) that it will be able to handle these new drugs without "collapsing". This obviously remains the main concern each day as I continue to rapidly (and necessarily) up the antibiotics to the necessary treatment level. Thankfully we are praising the Lord that my body has started to respond to these antibiotics and we are seeing small improvements each day as I fight this acute infection. I can't begin to express my thanks to my AMAZING medical doctors. Y'all are AMAZING. I thank the Lord for leading me to y'all every single day. *tears*

I would ask for three specific prayer requests: (1) for my entire GI track that it will hold up better than we could even think or imagine and that it would continue to accept these new and necessary antibiotics and (2) for the nausea to go away so that I can easily eat and drink (and rest comfortably) (3) complete healing. 

I know that so many of you probably have questions and are as dumbfounded as I found myself with this new infection. In many ways it seems like this would be "bad luck". I will admit that despite having an intense migraine for the past several days I have found myself a little discouraged and shedding tears. Due to being so sick I haven't left my bed in five days and in these days and hours where struggling to get nutrients in is a complete chore due to intense nausea, there has been lots of of questions... and honestly fear. Y'all know that I like to plan things and this infection has changed the course of how I will proceed in the future. There are a whole lot more questions and unfortunately a whole lot of "time will tell" as the answer. I would love to say that I have confidently met each fear and challenge with grace and faith but to be honest there has been a whole lot of tears and a whole lot of crawling up into Jesus' lap ranting about this latest infection. There has been a whole lot of crying out , "Jesus help" and "Jesus, I'm scared" more than anything else.  

Those of you that know me well know that I love music and that there has been a hymn that has been the song of my heart throughout this journey these many years and especially the past few days. (My poor Bible students even had to suffer through listening to my voice as I taught them this beautiful prayerful hymn when I was teaching!) 
Here are a couple of the verses:

"Pass me not O gentle Savior, hear my humble cry. And while on others thou art calling, do not pass me by. Savior, Savior hear my humble cry, and while on others thou art calling, do not pass me by. Thou the spring of all my comfort, More than life for me; Whom have on earth beside thee? Whom in heaven but thee? Savior, Savior, hear my humble cry, While on others thou art calling, Do not pass me by."

I first heard this song when I was living and studying in England. The church that I attended while I was there would often sing it as an opening prayer to our service. My pastor there shared that Franny Crosby penned the words after Genesis 18:3 which states, "Do not pass by your servant". What a beautiful prayer and a beautiful HOPE that we have that the Lord never passes us by and is our comfort even in days that are filled with unexpected circumstances and pain. Days of unplanned fears. 

Here's the thing sweet friends, I don't know why this happened, but I do know that we live in a fallen world where sickness does happen. BUT I also know sweet friends that this does not diminish the love of God for me or is a need for concern. I was reminded of this beautifully two days ago when I received a beautiful email from Amanda. As I was crying out to the Lord with all of my fears I felt prompted to check my email. In my inbox was an email full of beautiful truth straight from the Lord:

Just wanted to tell you I'm praying for you and am thinking of you as I read these verses this morning....
"... This is what the Lord says:
Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine....
You are precious and honored in my sight. I love you.
Do not be afraid, for I am with you."

I hadn't shared with ANYONE my fears and yet there was Amanda's email. I am sharing that to say that the Lord is not passing me by. He is quietly (and now suddenly and drastically) changing the game plan and this journey. At this moment there may be a ton of unanswered questions and difficulties as I remain quite sick fighting this thing but He is with me friends. And THAT is an answer to prayer. 

Sweet friends, if you are struggling I hope you find comfort and strength in the email that Amanda sent me. I pray that the Lord uses it to encourage your hurting heart today. Thank you for all of your continued prayers friends (and patience as I heal and work on returning emails and messages!) 

With love and big hugs,

8/14/14

SEEN Gathering


As I write this I am silently shaking my head at the way that the Lord works in our lives. If you had told me several years ago that this would be the direction that the Lord would lead I would have laughed out loud. Sometimes, I still giggle because in my wildest imagination I could never have imagined sharing about a new ministry that I have just started. But today is the day and in many ways it feels like I have been waiting for August 14th for years instead of months. But I am getting ahead of myself... Let me back up and share a little bit about what has been happening:

In 2009 I started to see my health start to disintegrate without any explanation. As time continued and I started to experience strange and worsening symptoms I was finally forced to make a heart breaking decision to leave the job that I loved (a High School Teacher) and move back home with my parents. At first this was to be a temporary decision but as time continued in the fall of 2012 it became quickly obvious that something was not right. After traveling across the country, becoming unable to walk, and seeing more than 273 doctors I was finally correctly diagnosed with Advanced Late Stage Lyme Disease in March 2013. Three short months later I was also diagnosed with Cancer. 

Those years were extremely difficult and lonely and as I saw everything around me start to shatter, became isolated due to illness and have fought to regain my health I have connected with thousands of others who are also walking the journey of chronic health problems. Like many of those who struggle with chronic health issues, I had many people in my life "leave" as the journey continued much longer than any of us thought. 

Thankfully I have also had several family members and dear friends who have walked this incredibly long journey with me. While there would be too many to list here on this blog, Michelle, has beautifully and constantly prayed thousands of hours for me behind the scenes. Another friend, Jen, has courageously LIVED the life of a woman who loves God despite incredibly difficult health circumstances. Jen, who is the modern day inspiration behind SEEN Gathering, has lived the words "you are not alone" to me and many others with chronic health issues. 

In response to all of these circumstances I started to blog more and more about my health and the struggles that I have been facing through my "Notes on the Porch" updates. Last August I wrote a blog post entitled, "those that the American Church has forgotten" that received acknowledgment, gratitude and criticism from thousands across the United States. 

And it was at this time that the Lord started to give me a dream of encouraging the hearts of those who feel forgotten and "hidden" due to Chronic Illness and Chronic Pain. After a ton of "God-things" occurred the original idea was to launch an annual event & conference for those who are struggling with chronic illness (and their families) to encourage and inspire each attendee to give them a sense of community. But as time continued I had a vision that morphed into SEEN Gathering being a place that provided a retreat & conference (in future years) but first would provide encouragement and hope on a more practical level through the website and various avenues. And so SEEN Gathering has been born. 

To be honest this has been a journey in my heart as much as it has been a practical journey of learning how to create a website, figuring out legal logistics, and dreaming big about how to touch those that are hurting. For so long my dream has been to get well to get "back to real life" and "back in the classroom" and a host of other things. But the Lord has been quietly stirring my heart to follow after Him and into a wild and unknown future that He is writing before me. I argued a lot at first. I said often to those who know me well, "I never want to do anything with sick world" - almost to convince myself that God was wrong in His calling. I kicked and screamed in my heart and heard the Lord softly whispering, "follow me". 

And then I surrendered. 

Some have said this idea is crazy and will never work. But the Lord delights in impossibilities. And some said have been less then encouraging but the Lord has led and with that surrender has come a joyful peace that can't be described. And the Lord's peace and guidance and blessing has been beyond abundant. And for all those that may doubt, there are so many that have come along side me to bring this to fruition. No one involved is looking for anything except ways to serve so many that we know are hurting. To live out scripture in its most practical form that we can to those that we encounter. 

Did you know that the NIH (National Institute of Health) states that 7 out of 10 people struggle with a chronic illness everyday? The CDC states that seventy-five percent of our health dollars go to the treatment of chronic illness. These statistics are staggering and mean that there are a whole lot of people that could use Jesus' love day in and day out. Many of these people are hurt and broken. 

So what is SEEN Gathering you may ask? 

SEEN Gathering is a ministry designed to inspire, encourage, and create community among those with Chronic health problems (specifically those that are "chronicittles" {teenagers through 40s}). Through a variety of avenues (including a blog, articles, a church outreach program, the Crate 526 program, a magazine, a retreat, etc.) SEEN Gathering desires to be a place of rest and inspiration for all who gather. At the heart of everything we celebrate the Hope that we have in Jesus despite chronic illness and pain and encourage each person to live fully where you are. While many chronic illnesses and pains are hidden, you are NOT. You are important. Your are loved by God. You have a unique purpose. You are not forgotten. You are not alone.

You are SEEN. 


SEEN Gathering's name and mission comes from Mark 5: 25-34. This beautiful story in scripture illustrates the love and the compassion that Jesus has for everyone struggling with illness and pain. He does SEE the suffering and is close to comfort us in our pain.


Thank you so much to all that have been walking this journey with me and praying for me. Thank you for your excitement about what the Lord is doing. I am so humbly grateful for the support for this ministry. Want to find out more? Click HERE!

With Lots of Love, 

8/11/14

$150 Target Giftcard Giveaway!

Y'all I am so excited to share with you TWO amazing giveaways on the blog this week! The other day I shared about a $500 Amazon giftcard giveaway and today I am sharing about a $150 Target giftcard giveaway! Yea!! Now go enter both of these y'all! Good Luck!
target gf.png

Hosted by:


Co-hosted by:


Come and join us in this great giveaway! You could be the lucky winner!

Rules:
-The giveaway runs from August 11  12:01 EST  To August 24  11:59pm EST.
-Valid only in the Continental United States.
-Void where prohibited
-You must be 18 years or older to enter
-Only 1 entrant per household
-Winner is chosen through random.org
-All entries are optional.
-All winning entries will be verified

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclaimer: Caravan Sonnet is not responsible for the awarding of the prize. If you have any questions about this giveaway, please email the host at nysavingspecials@gmail.com. This blog, Facebook, Twitter or any other social media network is not associated with this giveaway.

8/9/14

Happy 45th Wedding Anniversary!



Happy 45th Anniversary mom and dad!! 

I thank the Lord every day that you are my parents. You are a beautiful example of God's faithful and unconditional love to each other and to your children. In addition to that you understand in deep ways that marriage is a lot of work but it is also a joy. Thank you so much for giving such an amazing example of what a marriage rooted in the Lord looks like and the blessings that come from that. I love you so much!

p.s.- Click here to read about their 44th wedding anniversary and their 44 tips to have a happy marriage for 44 years !