1/25/15

Blogging Advice: Two years later...

Happy Sunday friends! It is hard to believe that last week marked TWO years of writing in this little space on the internet! What a blessing each of you have been as you have walked this part of my journey with me! In many ways (as I have expressed in previous posts) this little space has been a blessing as I have learned so much about myself, life, and God as I have written here. Thank you so much for your sweet support through the difficult days and your love and excitement through the milestones and joys of this journey. 

I recently received some emails asking me for "blogging advice" and while I don't feel that I am an expert AT ALL I thought I would take the time on this "two year anniversary" to share some thoughts and tips. I hope that it helps! Thank you again to all of my readers for taking the time to read this little space on the internet! I pray that you leave here encouraged to grow in your relationship with the Lord, that you are inspired to live life fully and beautifully, and that you take the time to delight in the beauty of ordinary days. 

(P.S. If you are looking for past "blogging advice" I have written the following posts about the subject. I should warn you though that some of those tips are a little outdated and some are still extremely relevant!, but they might be of help if you are interested: Tips from the three month newbie, the six month newbie, the nine month newbie, and blogging 1 year later.)

Thank you again y'all for reading this little space! I love connecting with y'all! 
 You are wonderful!
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1. Write for you. My biggest advice that I would give to any blogger is to write for you. Write about what you are passionate about, what you are processing, what you are struggling with, what makes you cry and laugh, and share your heart with the world. So MANY bloggers that I knew at the beginning of this journey that were writing and now don't told me that they simply got burned out because they tried to fit into a "mold" to get a following. Write for you and I promise that while you may hit "writers block" or feel like you have nothing to say, you will not feel burned out. When I first started my blog two years ago it was really hard to find anyone who wrote about health issues for us "youngers" and spoke about Chronic Illness. This was one of the driving forces of me starting SEEN Gathering. Another thing that I saw all of the time when I first started blogging was everyone showing fashion tips and the latest fashion outfits. I love blogs about fashion and still follow several... but that isn't me. I also could not find many blogs by single women over the age of 25. It seems like bloggy world is filled with married and mommy blogs. That is awesome but (as much as I wish it was so) I am not married. I remember one well-known (at the time) blogger literally telling me that I "should write more about fashion and relationships and less about my topics if I wanted to make it in bloggy world". Listen, I would love to be well enough to be writing about fashion because I LOVE it. But the truth is that that (as much as I wish it were so) is not my life write now. God has me in a different season and stage. And the thing is that I have a choice to "fight" against that or learn to thrive in the seasons that He has me in. As I continued to write about things that I am passionate about and are close to my heart I feel encouraged to grow in my relationship with the Lord, inspired to live life fully and beautifully, and I find delight in the beauty of ordinary days. 

2. Find a Balance. My second biggest advice is to find a balance and a schedule that works for you and is realistic. One of the biggest pitfalls that I see with new bloggers is that they try to have a quality post every single day. While I think in the first few months of blogging that is more of a possibility (since you are newly writing and sharing your ideas for the first time) it is simply not realistic as time goes on. I knew one blogger who was quite "big" in bloggy world when I first started that sometimes posted two or three times a day(!) and yes, sadly, burned out.  Unless your blog is your full time business and full time job it is not possible to hold a schedule like that for the long run. Look, I am a writer and am currently writing books full-time in addition to life demands and other responsibilities. And even though I love writing it can be difficult to keep up with a writing schedule for the blog. My advice is to set your blog schedule that is realistic for you that will work for the long-term and that can be "tweaked" as you go on. For a long time I found that taking weekends off worked well for me. Now, with my treatment schedule, writing schedule, and shop demands, I have found taking other days off works better. Find what works for you and find a balance. 

3. Follow a mission statement.  One piece of advice that I give all bloggers who ask me is to have a "mission statement" for your blog. For me, Caravan Sonnet, only posts blog posts that "strive to encourage people to grow in their relationship with the Lord, inspire people to live life fully and beautifully, and posts that would encourage others to take the time to delight in the beauty of ordinary days". Under this I have decided that the topics that I post about will be about health, scripture, photography, my writing, and my shop. This mission statement has helped me make the decision of what I will and won't do in bloggy world. Its made it incredibly easy to turn down certain offers and collaborations and opened the doors to lasting friendships and a blog that I know I would want to read forty years down the road. 

4. Find Community. Find community in this online space. There a whole lot of options but as you look you can find beautiful community here in this blogging world. Don't worry if it takes time, morphs into looking different as time continues, or you feel that you "don't fit" right away. Keep plugging away and praying about it and the Lord will bring you the right community. 

5. Realize when to say "goodbye". This was one of the more difficult lessons to learn in bloggy world- realizing when it is time to say "goodbye". I don't mean "goodbye" to blogging (although I do think different seasons and times call for this) but I mean goodbye to connections and collaborations that don't fit with your mission or who you are. Because of my personality and loving people it was a hard lesson for me to learn that sometimes in blogging world people "show their spots" later on. A couple of years ago (a few months after I started blogging) there were a couple of well known bloggers who were Christians that started "bad mouthing" each other on social media. (To this day I still don't know what started everything.) If you were blogging then and involved in the least little bit with social media you probably know what I am talking about. It was ridiculous. Names were called, people chose sides, and honestly the whole thing was so sad. I will never forget though what another blogger (who wasn't a Christian) said to me at the time though. "It usually takes longer, because people hide behind a "pretty blog" but a persons true colors and character will always come out.". This has stuck with me through many months and now years of blogging as I have sadly seen this to be true. I have been shocked by bloggers who claim to be Christians and speak of God, Christian values, and loving others and then behind the scenes have sent hurtful emails, written very judgmental comments, and been critical over silly and petty things. I have seen Christians not wanting to help other bloggers because of petty jealous and an the assumption that giving help will diminish their personal "following". I have experienced this personally several times and it happened again very recently. I had written to a blogger for advice and a simple question about some blogging thoughts and instead of being completely truthful with me they decided to lie. It was sad to realize and sad to acknowledge but it did happen. I have chosen to forgive them but since this is not the first time that this has happened I have realized that we need to part ways. The reality is that, just like in real life, blogging is dealing with other people. My greatest advice is to live in forgiveness and realize when it is time to say "goodbye" and move forward following the Lord. 

6. Realize those bloggers who genuinely live out their faith. On the complete flip side of #5 has been the absolute blessing of connecting with other ladies who love the Lord passionately not just "on their blog" but behind the scenes. These ladies have consistently been an encouragement to me in their writings and behind the scenes and have selflessly helped me and countless others in bloggy world. Whether it has been an encouraging word or shared tears, or sweet emails and lots of prayers, or simply helping out with answering a thousand bloggy questions these ladies are the "real deal". We are all at different "phases" but their genuine love for the Lord covers all circumstances and has provided beautiful friendships. I truly look up to each and every one of these ladies and respect them. If you are looking for amazing bloggers who live out their faith and practice what they write I can't recommend enough these ladies: Katie from Always, Katie, Caroline from In Due Time, Amanda from Marshalls Abroad, and Erin from Its Erin James.


7. Make Decisions for You and Your blog. I really believe (just like I stated in #1) that you need to make decisions for you and your blog alone. There is sometimes a "big conversation" about whether you need to have your blog be "a hobby" or "a business". After blogging for a couple of years now I can honestly say that I see this conversation "rotate" in bloggy world. Some people will say that you need to "choose" one or the other and that you need to make a huge list of changes for your blog depending on which way you are going to go. Honestly, in some very small cases this is true but in reality I have found that figuring out what works for you is always best. When I first started blogging everyone was switching from Wordpress to Blogger. Now? I see it the opposite. I was told by a well-meaning blogger lady this summer that I "HAD" to switch to Wordpress otherwise I had issues. I was in a panic for like 2.2 seconds until I realized that I "didn't have" to do anything. I researched, talked with lots and lots of bloggers who have been around for 4+ years, read tons of information on both sides of the fence, and decided that for me personally I could not afford the financial investment into switching. I shared this with the blogger who had said I "had" to switch and the response I received was "you must not value your blog". Listen, I am really happy for those that can do that, but I have heard from  a lot of bloggers who paid $200+ to make switches between platforms that they never "came out even" with the money. My blog does not make money. I don't sell sponsorships, I take very limited sponsor ads (I accepted three this past year) and I don't join in on opportunities where I could make a lot of money with my blog. That does not mean that I don't value it. It simply means that I am doing what is best for me and my blog. It makes me so sad to see that I am not the only one who has received "advice" like this. I have seen a lot of great bloggers who have gotten "burned out" and "frustrated" with blogging because of pressure they feel from others. Listen, I love blogging and use a variety of different sites for different things that I do. I love blogger for right now for my blog, I use squarespace for my personal website, wix for SEEN Gathering, and have a very personal and private blog on wordpress. Make decisions that are right for you and your blog - it will save you a lot of frustration and you will feel much happier when you do!

My final advice is to enjoy the process and journey of this blogging world. Just as we grow and evolve as humans in our personal lives I have noticed the blog shift and change and morph into more of "me". I can't wait to see what the Lord has in store for year three of this little space! Thank you so much for your kindness, encouragement, and love this past year! I look forward to connecting in deeper ways with y'all over this next year! Happy Two year Blogiversary! 

 Thank you again for living life with me this year! 
With lots of love, 

1/24/15

Custom "1,000 Places to See Before You Die" Altered Travel Journal

Happy Saturday sweet friends! I hope that you are having a lovely weekend! 

I am so excited to share with y'all today a custom order from a couple of weeks ago! I love the opportunity to create and I am so thankful for all of orders that I receive. Each and every single order is a gift to me! 

One of my favorite items to create in the shop are the "altered travel journals". There are different options available including, altered city travel journal, altered state travel journal, altered country travel journal, and most recently altered 1,000 Places to See Before you Die Altered travel journal
I love reading about other cities, towns, cultures, countries, states, etc. I love hearing and seeing other parts of the world that God has created. In this same fashion I really believe that remembering the adventures that you have is so important. I have made these altered travel journals for years for friends and love having them in my shop! They are a wonderful keepsake or a perfect gift!
This altered country journal gives the perfect opportunity for someone to carry their journal with them to record memories, document sweet events, and to use as a travel guide throughout travel trips. Each journal comes with unique travel quotes (often pertaining to the particular trip), lovely paper, pretty twine and ribbon, and a variety of additional embellishments. Each travel book is from the year 2010 to the present (I always try to find one of the newest additions) and has been altered to be practically used while still having a unique treasure to easily carry throughout a persons individual travels. In addition to this each altered journal has been made into a partial album (using acid free materials) so that pictures can be printed and easily "scrapbooked" for a unique memory. 
A couple of additional Notes:
(1) In each journal I add in unique travel quotes to the specific area that the traveler is going.
(2) I love adding a little bit of hand-stitching to each project!
(3) In every journal I add in additional pictures, maps, or embellishments from vintage travel journals, books, or maps. I love adding a bit of vintage into each of my projects.

(4) With each project I work with the buyer (or in this case my friend!) to find out what cities or spots you are traveling to to add a personal touch. 
This custom order was from a Roisin who wanted to have me create an altered travel journal for her boyfriend. As we discussed the things that she wanted in the travel journal I thought an  altered 1,000 Places to See Before you Die Altered travel journal would be perfect for her boyfriend. This allowed me to alter and highlight past trips that they had taken plus give them a keepsake that they could use in the future. 
Roisin was such a delight to work with and she knew that she wanted the colors to be "manly" and also have a travel feel. I was THRILLED with the final results and loved this color combination and definitely plan to use it again in the future!! I LOVED how she used this as a present and also used this to announce their upcoming trip!
Thank you so much for the opportunity to create this for you Roisin! Thank you so much for your sweet email and your lovely shop review also! You are a blessing!
If you are interested in a altered journal or a custom order feel free to check out my shop or email me for details! The shop re-opens on January 30th! 
Happy Saturday friends! I hope you have a wonderful day and weekend!

1/21/15

the Lyme Diaries: After the Diagnosis

{Disclaimer: The information included on this site is for educational purposes only. It is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. The reader should always consult his or her health care provider to determine the appropriateness of the information for their own situation or if they have any questions regarding a medical condition or treatment plan. Reading the information on this website does not create a physician-patient relationship.}

When I was first diagnosed with Lyme Disease I had a very emotional response to the news. It was not a pretty sight, and to be frank it wasn't "accepting" at all. I fit the complete profile of a lady who went through the stages of grief. 

For many, like myself, who are diagnosed with Lyme Disease, the process to get the "official diagnosis" is a long and winding trail that has taken years to track down. In my case I had seen (across the country) 273 different specialists and "top doctors" before I was diagnosed. I had been told by countless GI practitioners that the intense pain that I was experiencing was simply "in my head" and that the reason that I wasn't eating properly was because I was "seeking attention". I had been told by countless doctors that I should seek psychological help and that it was simply "stress" that was causing my confusing symptoms. I had been told that my diagnosis of Chronic Fatigue and Fibromyalgia were correct and that I had a very "complex" case of both of these and simply needed to "rest". It was a long tiring road to get a diagnosis and when it was suggested that I spend several hundred dollars to be tested for Lyme I at first dismissed the idea. I had had Lyme in 2007, been treated at John Hopkins Lyme Center, and there was no way that I could still be dealing with it. At the same time, in the back of my head though, I had a sinking feeling that was exactly what was going on. The strange symptoms that had persisted, morphed, and caused tremendous havoc on my body for 6 years suddenly seemed to not be so strange and seemed to have a startling pattern. I got the tests back on my 33rd birthday. I was "positive" in every test and the tests didn't looks "so pretty". I had Advanced Late Stage Lyme Disease. 

3 Months later I was diagnosed with Skin Cancer. 

In many ways, as I say in my book "Praying through Lyme Disease", my family and I rejoiced that there was finally an answer, but I also experienced a range of emotions as I was furious with the medical community and overwhelmed with where to go from that point on. Ironically, when I first started writing about Lyme Disease on this blog I simply shared that I had been diagnosed because there had been a rumor going around and some former students were concerned because they had heard I had Cancer. (At that point I did not know that I was in fact fighting Cancer also.)

My point is in sharing this part of the background of the story that I was desperate to find answers and to get my life back. I was back in graduate school obtaining my second masters at the time and I thought, "well I know how to research, I will just research all that I can". I was veracious about research and read every single thing that I could get my hands on. A lot of it wasn't so encouraging and a lot of the stories that I read brought tears to my eyes. A lot of people that I tried connecting with were "secretive" in their knowledge and information as high insurance liability has forced many Lyme doctors to "work underground" and patients were sworn to secrecy. Within three weeks of my diagnosis I contacted 73 of the leading Lyme Specialists and learned quickly that I was looking at spending approximately $2000 to just see the physician for a check up (and this didn't include the lab work, the specialized testing, the treatment, etc.). I learned quickly that most Lyme Doctors do not take insurance and while I could submit forms to my insurance carrier on my own, most would not acknowledge the doctor and therefore I would not be reimbursed. I was told by hundreds of people that I contacted over the internet that "they didn't want to be discouraging but that my hopes of returning to my normal life were over". 

Those first few weeks were incredibly disheartening and to add to that trauma (the only word I can use to describe being diagnosed with a life threatening illness and being told that there is little hope) I lived most of the year in the south. The south where doctors informed me that "there is no such thing as Lyme Disease". The south where the newspaper wrote that "Lyme Disease is only in the north and ticks stop at the Mason-Dixon line" (yes, that is a quote!). The south where my pharmacist had no idea what medications should be used for Lyme Disease or why certain drugs are dangerous for Lyme patients. The south where countless specialists (that I was seeing at that point) told me that I should be "concerned" that I was given such a "inaccurate" diagnosis". 

It was a long long road at the beginning. There were tons of tears, tons of overwhelming moments and tons of times where my parents and I just looked at each other, our mouths saying nothing, our eyes saying everything. Even now, as I write this, I still have tears as it was an incredibly painful, scary, and lonely time. If you have ever had a family member diagnosed with a serious illness you know exactly what I am talking about. 

As the emotion started to settle into a state that was new to all of us, we made the decision that a "complimentary" approach would be best for my case. At that point after the research that I had done, we chose the Whitaker Wellness Institute in California. It was a difficult decision but one that we believed in and with the help of generous friends and family members who donated $2,000, I spent three weeks out in Newport Beach, California receiving treatment. While I was out there (alone as we did not have the funds for anyone to come with me) I was diagnosed with Cancer, had surgery, and continued to receive treatment for Lyme Disease, all while being thousands of miles away from my family. When I arrived in California I had difficulty walking (mostly used a wheelchair), couldn't eat any foods except for a few specific ones, my digestive system had crashed, and I was seriously (and non dramatically) near death. (In fact, one of the first things I asked the doctor was that I wanted her to be "straight with me" as I wanted to go home if I didn't have much time left.) 3 Weeks and $14,000 later I was on my way home able to walk and eat a well rounded diet after three weeks of hyperbaric oxygen and vitamin c treatments. I felt like a "new woman" and was incredibly excited for the future. My doctor even assured me that she thought that I would be returning to work full time by winter 2014. 

Obviously this was not the case. 

When I had arrived at Whitaker Wellness Institute I had chosen them because I believed that there would be a "complimentary approach". Unfortunately, I was to discover that the "complimentary approach" was for me to continue to go back to Whitaker Wellness Institute several times a year to receive these treatments and they did not believe in antibiotic treatment. With limited finances there was no way that this would be possible. As fall 2013 approached November it became obvious that the medical care that I was receiving out there would not be "transferable" to a long distance relationship. The fall 2013 was incredibly difficult not just physically (where I was going to the ER at least once a week) but also emotionallyWhen my doctor became difficult to work with, I had to make the difficult decision to leave that doctor. I wrote in a post here about why as a seriously ill patient this is such a difficult thing to deal with.  December 2013 was probably the most difficult and terrifying month of my entire life as I had several hospital stays and lost several acquaintances and friends to various illnesses. In addition to this, I experienced the heartbreak and loneliness that often accompanies long-term or chronic illness where friends and family members that I thought would support me on this journey "disappeared". It was emotionally devastating

I was also told by several well known hospitals who were reviewing my case (including Mayo, Cleveland Clinic, and MD Anderson) that there was "nothing that they could do" as my case was to far advanced. As January 2014 came and went it was obvious that my health was rapidly declining and we had no idea where to go from there but the Lord brought a new doctor into the picture (also out in California). While February was difficult at the beginning, the cruise was a blessing and really a time of reminding me to keep fighting. And then I flew out to California for my appointment and was given an entirely new plan.

This plan included results from blood work that had not been done previously, the shock of finding out that I had an environmental illness on top of Lyme and Cancer, the reality of learning that I did have the MTHFR gene mutation (which is important to understand in illness, especially with Lyme Disease), and the fact that I also had Mast Cell Disease (something that at the time I did not share and have not shared until now), plus dealing with some other co-infections and that I had a serious case of Mono was overwhelming.

At the same time though I was at peace. For me, my prayers of finding the right medical team had been answered. It was a long long road to get to the right medical team but the Lord was faithful throughout the journey. As long as it took I can still look back and thank the Lord for the "detours" that led me to my team. 

My greatest advice to any newly diagnosed "lymie" that I talk with is to give yourself permission to cry, lean on your support team, and breathe. Don't give up when you hear all of the discouraging news that you will hear at the beginning. Don't give up if you live in an area where Lyme is not accepted or understood yet. Don't give up when medical doctors tell you that "there is nothing they can do". Don't give up when you are told "it is all in your head". Don't give up on the days that you feel like giving up. 

I truly don't believe that with such a complex and misunderstood disease that there is "one way of healing" for every Lyme patient. I think that you need to understand your body, understand the complex situations and ways that it has caused havoc on your body and make decisions that are right for you. Find the doctors and the medical team that is going to treat you like an individual and who are not just trying to treat symptoms but help you beat this beast. Cling to the people that walk this journey with you and make peace with the fact that there are many people (especially many that you never thought) who will walk away. For me it was heartbreaking to have one of my best friends (for over 10 years) and many others simply desert me on this journey. But sweet friends, commit that to the Lord and move on. Use your energy for healing and walk in forgiveness.

The time after the diagnosis is overwhelming and incredibly scary. Many times the months and years after the diagnosis are incredibly complicated, financially draining, and emotionally taxing. It can be incredibly tiring to even try to explain what Lyme Disease is to friends and loved ones, let alone understand it yourself. Hang in there sweet friends. Take one day at a time. Don't give up. 

You can do this. 

1/20/15

Writing, Prayer, and a Praise about the Cover Design for Book #2

Photo By: Amanda Marshall
If we are connected on instagram then you know that I am finishing the final few details for my second book that will be released on February 6th!! What a process writing is! The Lord has been so good to bring all of this together! 

It is amazing to look back at this entire writing process and big picture. For so many years I have been quietly writing and seeking the Lord for HIS timing on several different projects. As I kept praying I would hear again and again, His quiet voice saying, "wait". It never seemed like "the right time". And now, to think back to when the Lord starting opening up a season of new dreams for me last summer and then to have been offered a book contract, released my first book, and now to be approaching my second book release it all seems to be happening so quickly!! TRULY the Lord's timing is always best! 

It has been a ton of hard work and thousands of hours and it has been the Lord's grace and goodness each step of the way to see all of these projects coming to fruition. I have been overwhelmed by the response that my first book, Praying through Lyme Disease has received! My prayer continues to be (with each book project) that the Lord would use these books to encourage the hearts of someone reading it and draw them closer to Him. 

A praise that I have to share is about the book cover design! I have been praying for over a year for the "perfect cover design" for this book. There was one picture in particular that I saw that I thought would be perfect but never felt completely peaceful about it. So after a ton of prayer and continued searching I found the PERFECT picture and quickly emailed the photographer and asked if I could use (with their permission) the picture for the project. Y'all I am SO excited to announce that Amanda was BEYOND sweet and SO supportive of this project and has given the picture! If you aren't familiar with her blog (Marshalls Abroad) you should definitely check it out because it is wonderful! Isn't the final cover design BEAUTIFUL? So many of you have been praying for the perfect cover and I am so excited to share this praise! Thank you so much for your prayers!! AND to Amanda... thank you again for your generosity, your kind words, and your amazing and beautiful life that continuously points people back to the Lord!

This book, "Prayers for the Single Journey" has been something I have been working on for years. It grew out of a time from my teaching days when I taught a class of 12th grade girls. Throughout the years of teaching I would write some for this book behind the scenes and it continued to grow. To be truthful this has been a little bit of a "wrestle" with my heart and publishing this book because of the subject. I NEVER thought that I would write a book dealing with singleness (nor did I desire to!). But the Lord kept quietly tugging at my heart and I knew that I had to be obedient to Him. This book is truly a vulnerable opening of my heart about this subject. My prayer is that it would be used by the Lord to encourage the hearts of single women that pick this up (no matter the age that they are!). I love (and have started to pray) what my former pastor says about book writing:

“I have a handful of prayers that I pray all the time... One is that God will put my books into the right hands at the right times. I've prayed this prayer thousands of times, and God has answered it in dramatic fashion countless times. The right book in the right hands at the right time can save a marriage, avert a mistake, demand a decision, plant a seed, conceive a dream, solve a problem, and prompt a prayer. That is why I write. And that's why, for me, a book sold is not a book sold; a book sold is a prayer answered. I don't know the name and situation of every reader, but God does, and that's all that matters.” 
-Mark Batterson-

That is exactly my prayer... that God will put my books into the right hands at the right time for someone who is hurting, struggling, or needing encouragement in this area. Would you join me in praying this? Thank you so much sweet friends! I hope that you have a wonderful Tuesday!!

1/19/15

How to Encourage Your Single Friends


Over the years I have been the recipient of the most well-meaning and well-intentioned people as they say and do things to try and encourage me as a single woman. Some of these things were wonderful and I felt incredibly loved and encouraged but other times I have walked away in tears.  Sometimes when someone is hurting or longing for something it can be incredibly difficult to know how to encourage them. Sometimes we fear doing or saying the wrong thing so sometimes we avoid the subject (which never works!) or other times we "overcompensate" and things end in disaster. One of my sweet married friends was recently sharing with me their grand attempt to encourage their older sibling (who is single) and what a disaster it was over the holidays. After we both had laughed and cried through the escapade that she described she concluded by saying, "Rebecca, how do I encourage my single friends?" This is a question that I have received a lot so today I wanted to share just a few ideas for this area:

1. Pray for them and their future spouse. There is no better encouragement and support then praying for your friend and their future spouse. What a blessing!

2. Know the heart of your friend. It is important to know and understand the heart of your friend that you are communicating with. Some singles are happily content in their singleness while others are really struggling. For some of your friends they might like to joke around and tease about the subject, while for some of your friends they might not want to talk about the subject because it is so intensely painful at this point in time. Understanding the heart of your friend and giving them the opportunity to express their feelings is a wonderful gift of encouragement.

3. Don't say, "You must have so much time on your hands". While it is true that singles do not have the time demands of a husband and/or a family there are still plenty of other time demands that singles have placed on them. Singles are solely responsible for everything. This means they are responsible for jobs (and the circumstances if they lose a job- no back up income of a partner), keeping house (by themselves), family responsibilities, community responsibilities, church responsibilities, etc. Everyone has demanding schedules and it is simply a shift of time and energy when you are single. 

4. Be sensitive to times and seasons. One of the best ways that you can encourage the heart of your single friend is to be sensitive to the times and seasons that are most difficult for them. Some singles have a very difficult time around Valentine's Day while others struggle over the Christmas Holiday. (Hallmark has hit the nail on the head with this as they produce tons of new Christmas movies every year with the theme that people find their "true love" over the Christmas holiday.) For me personally I actually struggle the most during the summer months as I long for a husband and family to share these precious months with. I have a sweet friend who remembers not only the holidays like Valentine's Day and Christmas Holidays but always sends me a letter at the beginning of the summer with her thoughts and prayers. Her kindness always touches my heart. 

5. Don't tell your friend that they are "too picky". I can't even begin to count the number of times that I have been told that I am "too picky". Honestly, it is incredibly frustrating and I often want to turn to them and say, "and you weren't picky with the most important decision in your life?".  While you might encourage a single friend who refuses to date anyone but someone with red hair and green eyes to "branch out" and explore things that are truly important- like the heart of a person, you will want to be sensitive to those who really are open to who the Lord has for them. My best advice is to not tell someone they are "too picky" until you understand what their "requirements" are. *smiles*

6. Set your friend up... with their permission. If you are going to set your friend up, make sure you have their permission. I have been the recipient of wonderful and not so wonderful set ups. One of the most hilarious experiences happened three weeks after my ex-fiance' and I ended our relationship. I was deeply grieving and one of my students parents invited me over for dinner. I thought it was kind of them and walked into the dinner not knowing that it was a "set up". Imagine my dismay when I arrived, still in shock from my personal experience, to find a young man (who hated Whole Foods and flowers - which he announced in the first two minutes) who was aware of the set up. The night got stranger and funnier as his "best qualities" were continuously portrayed over and over again in a handful of embarrassing and awkward situations. Thankfully a couple of my former students (who are now my friends) who were supposed to not be apart of the dinner stayed and helped keep me laughing instead of crying and to this day we still laugh about the whole thing. I am all for a great set up but I highly encourage you to make sure the timing is right! 

7. Cry with them. Longing for marriage, similar to anything one is longing for in life can be difficult and lonely. Don't be afraid to step in to the pain, cry with them, and be there for them. 

8. Watch the timing of sharing your "perfect" love story. The Book of Ecclesiastes said it well when it states in chapter 3, "There is a time for everything...". This couldn't be better advice in regards to watching the timing of sharing your love story. Every single lady that I know loves a great love story and loves to hear them (myself included). At the same time though timing is everything. I remember one time that this was especially painful for me.  I was chaperoning the prom when I was teaching and to be frank it was a difficult personal night for me as it was the one year anniversary of my engagement and I was still healing. In addition to this there had been a young man who had been pursuing me and had suddenly decided that we were better as "just friends". I was hurting and feeling alone and going to a "romantic prom" night as a chaperone was the last thing I felt like doing. Imagine my dismay then when one of the other chaperones thought that it would be "encouraging" for me to hear their entire love story (approximately 2 hours... no joke) in detail. I am sure it was meant to be an encouragement to me, but the timing was anything but. On the flip side though there have been plenty of times where I have asked friends and loved ones to share their stories. It reminds me how God is at work uniquely and intricately in each of us. Timing is truly everything

9. Include them in your Life. Many times (due to changing seasons) it can be easy to "lose" your single friends amidst married couple activities, but strive to make this not happen. Continue on hanging out with your friend alone but also include them in group activities. Many times couples think that it will be awkward for a single person to be with couples. This can be true but in the right situations, singles also can feel welcomed, loved, and accepted in groups. (Sometimes the worst thing that can happen is simply not being invited to something.) Worried they might feel uncomfortable? Encourage them to bring a friend or two to the activity. 

10. Don't tell them "once (this or that) happens the right guy will come along" or "when the time is right the right person will come along". Honestly, no one knows when the "right person" will come along. Encourage your friend to continue to follow the plans the Lord has for them and that the Lord will provide at the right timing. Encouraging them to think that once they accomplish something or go somewhere everything "will fall into place" can set your friend up for major disappointment. Instead encourage them to listen to the Lord and His voice as He guides their steps. 

11. Drop a Note, Card, or Text as you think and pray for them. Honestly, the littler things are always the big things. Every time you take a moment to do something you think might be "small" you will encourage the heart of your friend as you remind them that you are praying for this area of their life. 

12. Encourage them to find purpose in this season. In every season there is a purpose and reason that the Lord has for us. Encourage your friend by pointing out their unique gifting, calling, and heart for certain things during this season. This isn't encouraging them to simply "fill their time" but to honestly seek the Lord and find out His purpose in their single season.

13. Don't ask "Have you tried online dating?". I mean really y'all. Whenever someone asks me this I want to be sarcastic and say, "Is that a thing? I have never heard of it?". 

14. Unless there is a God-given reason don't suggest they go back to an ex-boyfriend. Enough said. *smiles*

15. Don't let a situation or circumstance your friend is in determine your belief in the right timing of a relationship. I have had so many single friends tell me that their well-meaning friends have shared that "once you are out debt" or "once you lose weight" or "once you __________" it will be the time for the right relationship. While I do agree that there are certain situations and some timing may be best in certain circumstances, this advice does not encourage your single friend or encourage them to trust the Lord. Instead it puts the pressure and the responsibility on your friend. Honestly, it also puts God in a box by implying that life should be "perfect" before a relationship is right. I never had personally experienced this until I got sick. THEN, all of a sudden, I started hearing from so many people that "once you beat Lyme Disease and Cancer" you will find the right guy. Honestly it is so discouraging and brings me to tears a lot. It is probably one of the most hurtful things I have heard in regards to singleness because what if my health never improves? Look, I love my family and friends and I hate seeing their pain in my sickness, so of course I wouldn't want to involve someone else in that pain. BUT that doesn't mean that my fight for my health has wiped out my desire to get married and be a mama. In fact, it is the exact opposite. It makes me long for it more because I know how precious each day is. Encourage your friends to trust the Lord in His perfect timing - even if the timing doesn't seem perfect to you. 

16. Don't say "it will happen when you least expect it to". I can't even begin to count how many times I have heard this. What in the world. I mean... first someone is saying I should try online dating and now I shouldn't expect it... so confusing! *smiles*

17. Notice the small things. When you are single you don't have someone noticing all of the "small" things that are going on (new haircut, new shirt, etc.) so by taking the time to pay attention to these things you will truly encourage your single friend!

18. Don't say, "How are you still single" to any single person you know. Whenever I am told this (which has happened a lot ) I feel that I have to start to justify being single when I long to be married. Its really complicated and usually the conversation just turns incredibly awkward after this question is asked. 

19.  Encourage them to "Dream Big". As time passes and the biological clock ticking seems to "get louder and louder" it can be easy for singles to start contemplating the idea of settling "for less". I have so many friends who have been such blessings as they remind me not to settle but instead to keep "dreaming big" in this very important area of my life. This has been one of the most amazing gifts my family and friends has given me!

20. Remind them they are amazing. Even the most self-confident person can struggle with self-esteem when they see everyone getting engaged and married before them. You simply telling your friend that they are amazing will have a tremendous impact on them. 

1/17/15

Custom Altered Journal (Orange and Green)

Happy Saturday sweet friends! I hope that you are having a lovely weekend! 

I am so excited to share with y'all today a custom order from a couple of weeks ago! I love the opportunity to create and I am so thankful for all of orders that I receive. Each and every single order is a gift to me! 
While the shop is closed until January 30th I am in the process of taking several custom orders and creating a whole bunch of new goodies for the shop re-opening! 
This order was from a friend who wanted to have me create an a custom altered journal for a another friend. Hilary was such a delight to work with and she knew that she wanted the colors to be orange and green. I have to admit that this was a combination that I had never put together before in a journal and at first I was a little skeptical. BUT...  I was thrilled with the final results and loved this color combination which I hadn't used before in these altered journals and definitely plan to use it again in the future!!
Thank you so much for the opportunity to create this for you Hilary! 
If you are interested in a altered journal or a custom order feel free to check out my shop or email me for details! The shop re-opens on January 30th!
Happy Saturday friends! I hope you have a wonderful day and weekend!

1/16/15

$350 PayPal Cash Giveaway


Welcome to the PayPal To A New Year Giveaway!

~Hosted By~

This giveaway will run from 1/16 - 1/30 at 10:00 PM EST. The winner will first be contacted via email then announced on the giveaway tool. Winner will have 24 hours to respond to the email with their information or a new winner will be drawn.
We hope you had a wonderful New Year and what better way to ring in the New Year than with a giveaway!
I know we love giveaways!

Now Let's Do It!


Disclosure: All About Parents is sponsoring this giveaway. All About Parents will be contacting the winner via email. The winner will have 24 hours to claim their prize or another winner will be drawn. The winner will be drawn randomly via Giveaway tools. No other participating blogger is responsible for drawing or awarding the prize. No purchase necessary. 18 year or older required to enter. U.S and Canada only. Void where prohibited by law. This giveaway is strictly intented to be fun. Thank you very much for participating! If you should have any questions please feel free to contact All About Parents anytime.