Friday, April 18, 2014

Easter 2014

As we head into this precious weekend of remembering Christ's extravagant work on the cross to save us, may you be blessed with the knowledge that Christ is risen, draw comfort in the truth that our sufferings are temporary, & rejoice in the miraculous hope of a risen Lord! 

Happy Easter sweet friends!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Thursday Health Thoughts: The Benefits of Healing Tears

{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.}(Additional Disclaimer: this post is not talking about a person who is struggling with depression. If you are struggling with depression then I would highly encourage you to seek out a health professional.)
When my health first started to really deteriorate in the summer of 2012 I found myself putting on a "fighting spirit" each day. I was convinced that (just like I had in the past) I would face this "unknown illness giant" with courage and fight and beat it just like I had with another illness in the past. I mean I had been told before by doctors that "there was no hope" and I had proved them wrong so why wouldn't this time be any different (I thought)? I decided to push tears aside, buck up and fight with all that was in me.

I had absolutely no idea what the journey ahead would look like. 

Fast forward to 21 months later, over 20,000 miles of travel (to meet with over 300 doctors and receive a variety of different treatments), countless invasive testing (that were not pleasant), 12 hospital stays, 743 doctors visits (745 if you count the ones that are going to happen today and tomorrow), hundreds of IV's, 17 claustrophobic (which I never knew I was) hard covered hyberbaric oxygen treatments, 34 soft-covered hyberbaric oxygen treatments100 detox baths later, venturing into the land of "health fears", receiving several life-altering diagnosis' (including IBD, Sojourn's, Severe Anemia, Advanced Late -Stage Lyme - originally told it was called "chronic lyme", and finally learning I had Cancer -when I was thousands and thousands of miles away from my family), being told by several major and very well-known hospitals that they "just were not sure what to do with the complexity of my case", becoming bed-ridden and housebound at 33 years old, leaving a job that I loved to pursue a dream (going for additional graduate work) and having both things shattered (and being told by twenty-three different doctors: "we just don't see you ever being well enough to hold a full-time job"), having several friends walk away in the midst of this difficult journey, receiving precious gifts that I could never have afforded, being told on at least five different occasions that "if I just had more faith I would be better", dealing with the emotional aspects of being seriously ill, trying hundreds of different supplements, vitamins, and essential oils, being able to walk again (on my own), being blown away by generosity of friends and strangers in this journey, surviving a severe anaphylactic reaction to a medicine and finally sometimes admitting that the "courage" to continue each day and hour wanes and instead I just take "one minute at a time". 

And in the midst of all that I just listed there have been tears. Lots and lots of tears. And I have learned something very important. There is actually health benefits to healing tears. There are times when I will let myself cry for a few minutes over bad news or good news. There are times when things are very difficult and I recognize once again the benefit to healing tears. What are these benefits? Here are just a few:  

(1) Tears reduce stress hormones.

(2) A biochemist and"tear expert" - Dr. William Frey (who works in Minneapolis at the Ramsey Medical Center) found that: "emotional tears shed hormones and other toxins which accumulate during stress". 

(3) Crying stimulates the production of endorphins. 

(4) (this one shocked me!)- Tears actually kill bacteria! I know I couldn't believe it either! I was shocked but I learned that tears contain a fluid called "lysozyme" which helps kill 90 to 95% of all bacteria. In JUST FIVE to TEN minutes!! WOW!

(5) Stephen Sideroff, who is a clinical psychologist at UCLA (and who is also the director of the Raoul Wallenberg Institute of Ethics) says that "crying activates the body in a healthy way".

(6) Crying lowers your manganese levels

(7) Suppressing your tears can actually irritate and contribute to additional health problems that are caused by stress. The Japanese culture believes in this so much that they now have "crying clubs". The premise is that having a time to cry will actually benefit and improve your health. (Considering Japan is known to be one of the "healthiest" countries in the world this is a fascinating concept!)

So what about you? Do you think that there is benefit to healing tears? I would love to hear your thoughts! Have a wonderful Thursday y'all!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Snowflakes in September- A Strange Place to Hope

This past Saturday I was feeling a little stronger (and very very stir crazy from being cooped up in bed) that my sweet mom suggested that we get out of the house for a drive. I was SO excited! (Yes, it really is the little things *smiles*). As we drove along we came across a garage sale that was almost finished. On a whim we stopped for a brief few minutes and I was excited to find a couple of books for $.10 (yes, 10 cents! yea!) I grabbed my "big purchases" and after spending a total of 40 cents (!) we continued our drive and headed home. One of the books that I picked up was a small book called: "Snowflakes in September: Stories about God's Mysterious Ways". As I have started to read (and cry) through this delightful collection of short stories from lots of different writers I find myself once again amazed at the faithfulness of our precious God. I have been so encouraged by this little book and wanted to share with y'all a story that touched my heart immensely. This story, entitled, "a strange place to hope" is by Corrie Ten Boom. I have read several of her books but this story resonated with me as I read and cried through it yesterday. I hope & pray that it will encourage you too today!

Snowflakes in September, A Strange Place to Hope
"Rank upon rank we stood that hot September morning in 1944, more than a thousand women lining the railroad siding, one unspoken thought among us: Not Germany! Beside me my sister Betsie swayed... These eight months in a concentration cam since we had been caught concealing Jews in our home had been harder on her. But prisoners though we were, at least till now we had remained in Holland. And now when liberation must come any day, where were they taking us?

Behind us guards were shouting, prodding us with their guns. Instinctively my hand went to the string around my neck. From it, hanging down my back between my shoulder blades, was the small cloth bag that held our Bible, that forbidden book which had not only sustained Betsie and me throughout these months, but given us strength to share with our fellow prisoners. So far we had kept it hidden. But if we should go to Germany... We had heard tales of the prison inspections there. A long line of empty boxcars was rolling slowly past. Now it changed to a halt and gaping freight door loomed in from of us. I helped Betsie over the steep side. The dark boxcar grew quickly crowded. We were pressed against the wall. It was a small European freight car, thirty or forty people jammed it. And still the guards drove women in, pushing, jabbing with their guns. It was only when eighty women were packed inside that the heavy door slid shut and we heard the iron bolts driven into place outside.

Women were sobbing and many fainted, although in the tight-wedged crowd they remained upright. The sun beat down on the motionless train, the temperatures in the packed car rose. It was hours before the train gave a sudden lurch and began to move. Almost at once it stopped again, then again crawled forward. The rest of that day and all night long it was the same, stopping, starting, slamming, jerking. Once through a slit in the side of the car I saw trainmen carrying a length of twisted rail. Maybe the tracks ahead were destroyed. Maybe we would be in Holland when liberation came.

But at dawn we rolled through the Dutch border town of Emmerich. We were in Germany. For two more incredible days and two more nights we were carried deeper and deeper into the land of our fears. Worse than the crush of the bodies and the filth was the thirst. Two or three times when the train stopped the door was slid open a few inches and a pail of water passed in. But we had become animals, incapable of planning. Those near the door got it all. At last, on the morning of the fourth day, the door was hauled open its full width. Only a few very young soldiers were there to order us out and march us off. No more were needed. We could scarcely walk, let alone resist. From the crest of a small hill we saw it, the end of our journey, a vast gray barracks city surrounded by double concrete walls.  "Ravensbrück!" Like a whispered curse, the word passed back through the line. This was the notorious women's death camp itself, the very symbol to Dutch hearts of all that was evil. As we stumbled down the hill, I felt the Bible bumping on my back. As long as we had that, I thought, we could face even hell itself. But how could we conceal it through the inspection I knew lay ahead?

It was the middle of the night when Betsie and I reached the processing barracks. And there under the harsh ceiling lights we saw a dismaying sight. As each woman reached the head of the line she had to strip off every scrap of clothes, throw them all onto a pile guarded by soldiers, and walk naked past the scrutiny of a dozen guards into the shower room. Coming out of the shower room, she wore only the thin regulation prison dress and a pair of shoes. Our Bible! How could we take it past so many watchful eyes? "Oh Betsie!" I began- and then stopped at the sight of her pain-whitened face. As a guard strode by I begged him in German to show us the toilets. He jerked his head in the direction of the shower room. "Use the drain holes!" he snapped. Timidly Betsie and I stepped out of line and walked forward to the huge room with its row on row of overhead spigots. It was empty, waiting for the next batch of fifty naked and shivering women. A few minutes later we would return here stripped of everything we possessed. And then we saw them, stacked in a corner, a pile of old wooden benches crawling with cockroaches, but to us the furniture of heaven itself. In an instant I had slipped the little bag over my head and stuffed it behind the benches. 

And so it was that when we were herded into the room ten minutes later, we were not poor, but rich. Rich in the care of Him who was God even of Ravensbrück. Of course when I put on the flimsy prison dress, the Bible bulged beneath it. But that was His business, not mine. At the exit guards were feeling every prisoner, front, and back and sides. The woman ahead of me was searched. Behind me, Betsie was searched. They did not touch or even look at me. Outside of the building was a second ordeal, another line of guards examining each prisoner again. I slowed down as I reached them, but the captain shoved me roughly by the shoulder. "Move along! You're holding up the line!" So Betsie and I came to our barracks at Ravensbrück. Before long we were holding clandestine Bible study groups for an ever-growing group of believers, and Barracks 28 became known throughout the camp as "the crazy place, where they hope". 

Yes, hoped, in spite of all that human madness could do. We had learned that a stronger power had the final word, even here." (Snowflakes in September, pages 39-41)

Saturday, April 12, 2014

the hope that is found in history

I have been told countless times times to "not look back" or "not to live in the past" over the years. And while there is truth in these words (especially when dealing with the topic of total forgiveness) I have realized anew this week that there is a hope that can only be found in history. For a variety of reasons this week was filled with lots of pain- physically (as I contracted some infection that left my fragile body not able to keep liquids and food in me), financially (as things are extremely desperate and we do not know how we are going to pay some bills let alone treatment and supplements for the upcoming days and week - let alone the weeks and months ahead), emotionally (feeling very discouraged and some changes in personal relationships that have been fractured (as one person stated - "it is just too difficult to see you still sick and in pain" - and no I didn't say "try living it" *smiles*) and visiting my old job where my heart longs to be back in a classroom teaching) and spiritually (where it seems that the Lord has answered everyone else's prayers and how very silent He appears this week for me).  Yesterday as I lay in the doctor's office I started thinking about three specific circumstances that happened in the midst of all of this pain from this week. 

(one)- Out of the blue I received a generous donation to my "go fund me" page that I was not expecting. What made this donation so unique those was the fact that unknown to anyone (outside of my parents) I had no idea how I would continue my oxygen treatments that are so critical to my health at this moment. The three of us (my parents and I) were crying out to the Lord for help and begging Him for a miracle. On the morning of my treatment I woke up to find that a dear couple had contributed the exact amount of the cost of the treatments for the next three weeks. Absolutely a miracle.

(two)- Jen, my dear friend whom I mentioned on Monday said to me this week in a text message - "God's got your back" and this was not said in a flippant manner but it came from a woman who is (and has) been walking a very very very long road through pain herself. (When someone is a hero to you in their faith you take stock of what they say! *smiles*) And this simple phrase that she said to me really started me thinking about all of the ways that the Lord "has my back" not only this week but specifically these past eight years in this health journey.

(three)- As I mentioned above I had a very unique opportunity to spend a few delightful hours at my former job. If you follow me on instagram than you know that I expressed how grateful I was for the overwhelming amount of love and hugs, the quiet words of encouragement, laughter, and the joy of being some very precious people. While it was painful (as I mentioned above) there was also a very unique way that the Lord spoke to me during my time there. 
I had the lovely opportunity to thank the precious ladies (who I had taught two years ago) who had sent me the precious letters (and so many other precious messages and support). They were all together in a 12th grade girls Bible class (one of my favorite classes that I used to teach) at the same time I used to teach it, and in the exact same room that I used to teach it in.  As I walked into the classroom (pictured above from 2012 - and looks very different now!) that held thousands of moments for me, my mind raced with personal memories of all that the Lord had done in that room. 
The way that that the Lord has answered thousands of prayers of mine and of my students. 
The way that the Lord had truly carried me (Psalm 68:19) each and every day. 
The laughter and tears that had occurred in this room as we lived life together. 
The amazing good times that had occurred along with the painful times. 
I had entered room 211 in 2009 as a brokenhearted young woman who was still reeling from a broken engagement and had left as a woman who had not only healed but as a woman who had seen countless ways that the Lord provided time and time again. 
It was not a coincidence to be back. 

In the summer of 2010, as I was praying for the upcoming year, I came across a precious verse from the book of psalms. It said: 

"Those who are wise will take heart, they will see in History the faithful love of the Lord." 

It was a verse that I (as I mentioned to the girls on Wednesday) thought that the Lord was leading me to for my students only. I shake my head now in realizing how prideful that was. Because while the verse was something that the Lord used in some students lives, it was also a verse that I saw and pondered for two years. It was right above the front of the room and everyday I saw it as I walked the room & taught, sat at my desk to grade papers or talk with a student, or every single time I entered the room. 
And this week I was reminded again how true the verse is. As a History teacher I could see the hands of God throughout the years and decades and centuries that I taught. I could see the faithful love of the Lord was not bound by race or culture, state or country, man or woman. And as a woman who walked into room 211 in 2014 during a week of pain I was reminded anew and could "take heart" that as I look beyond the history of the world and countries, and look back to my own little history I can clearly see the faithful love of the Lord. (*tears*) Truly our Lord is ever faithful. 

Sweet friends, if you are struggling this week I pray that this verse brings you comfort and courage in your journey. 

Dear Ginny & John Greaves, words can't express my humble gratitude for your generous contribution that has paid for several more weeks of oxygen treatments. The timing was not "random"- thank you for being used by the Lord to answer our unspoken request. Thank you again so much!!!

Dearest Jen- what a treasure your friendship is. THANK YOU for being my friend!

Dear friends at FCS,  thank you for all of the kind words, beautiful love and warm welcome that I received- so many of you have lovingly and faithfully walked this journey with me and my heart is so incredibly grateful. 

Dear Senior ladies, thank you for letting me "ramble and blabber" the other day as I tried to express my humble gratefulness for your kindness & love to me and the faithfulness of the Lord in this journey. Thank you for your compassionate understanding, your sweet hugs and your prayers. Thank you to many of you who said quietly to me - "It's so good to have you back in this room" and allowed me to well up with tears. I think you understood how precious of a time it was to my little heart. Thank you for loving me so well - what a blessing you are! 

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Chronicittles: Katie's Lupus Story {part two}

Happy Thursday sweet friends! Thank you so much for all of your sweet prayers for me these past few days! I am finally starting to feel a tiny bit better and yesterday during a very very important appointment (out of state at the former school I taught at!) I felt really good. I can't wait to share with y'all what an amazing gift yesterday was to my little heart in the days to come! In the meantime though here is the final part of Katie's story! Enjoy! 
{Chronicittles Disclaimer: Those that are sharing their personal chronicittles stories are sharing just that- their stories. They are people that are struggling {or have struggled} with the ins and outs of a chronic illness and have found ways of surviving and thriving. Their stories are meant to encourage, inspire, and challenge those that are struggling but are in no way meant to be a physician's advice. Please be aware that this is a space for learning and encouraging and not a space that will allow critical comments of any persons story. A reader should consult with his/her physician regarding any information gleaned from these stories. Thank you so much for reading!}

If you missed part one of Katie's story you click HERE!
*all pictures in Katie's post story are Katie's *
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Photo property of Katie, Hope Engaged Blog
It's been 10+ years since I woke up that morning in the dorms feeling paralyzed, and to say it's been a long haul would somehow minimize the road I've walked. "Battle" may be an even more appropriate term. 

And like any battle, it required some strategy. and while I am not solider or commander, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to know that our health doesn't suddenly just "appear" with fairy dust. We've got to DO something to make it happen... there must be a plan of attack!! 
Photo property of Katie, Hope Engaged Blog
At first, my strategy was to follow the doctors orders. {I mean, right? that's what normal people do!} I took weird medicine that I swear used every letter of the alphabet.
Medicine that knocked me out so deeply that I'd fall on the couch and could literally not get up. Those were dark days friends, and I missed a lot of life while my joints and muscles, and heart cried out in fear. In loneliness. 

At some point, when I mustered the courage and energy I had, I realized this strategy was like walking deeper into enemy territory,ie: it was NOT working. and not only that…it sucked. It sucked the life out of me. It sucked the joy from my heart.It sucked every ounce of energy I had. To do anything. I decided it was time to try a new plan of attack. One that didn't suck. i know…i'm a genius! 

and.it.changed.my.life. 
Photo property of Katie, Hope Engaged Blog
Right after we were married, one of my dearest friends told me about a chiropractor that used natural healing methods to treat his patients. I was rather intrigued, and figured it couldn't hurt just to see him once or twice! Well…two years later, I still see him monthly,
and the Lord has given me back something precious to me, my health. 

Friends, I am not a doctor or certified medical person, but here is what I am…new. 
Photo property of Katie, Hope Engaged Blog
Our bodies are amazing, and when treated with the proper and natural treatment, they can thrive again! Food was one of the first things I had to change. Most autoimmune diseases are the result of a poor functioning intestinal system. And mine was inflamed to the 100th degree. So I started cutting out foods that aggravated my system. The major ones were gluten and dairy. At first I freaked out, wondering what the heck I was going to eat!! I literally had dreams of donuts and bagels with creme cheese, and ICE CREAM!! {ohhh glorious mint chip I love you and want to eat you forever!} but soon…I started to notice I wasn't getting so tired. And that my joints didn't feel on fire all the time. And that I didn't get achy all over. 
Photo property of Katie, Hope Engaged Blog
And every appointment that I saw my doctor, he began to realign my nervous system! Our brain is what sends signals to every part of our body. And if those signals get off course and aren't corrected, then our body begins to function poorly. 

I also had a horrid case of parasites (lots of international travel + a poor immune system= heaven for these ugly suckers!) So, we began to kill them off with natural remedies! I'm not really going to go into all the biological info because A) I honestly don't know all the proper terminology and B) it would take too long! But basically, I began to see the light. My teary nights became less and less. My evenings gained a few hours because I wasn't completely exhausted at 8pm like a granny. And my life just felt better…it felt healthy. I was a young person doing young things again! 
Photo property of Katie, Hope Engaged Blog
Nepal was really the biggest test, to see how I'd do back in a CRAZY parasite infested area! I certainly had a few nerves about moving there with my health But you know what, I did good! Yes I got sick a lot, but so did everyone else! And at the end of the day, I had energy and life. For the first time in 10+ years, I was me again! And you know that backpacking trip I blogged about Monday? A few years ago, there was NO way on God's green earth that I could have done that. My body was too swollen, hiking a few small miles put me in bed for the next few days, and my circulation could not handle the cold. I'd say God's brought me far since then, and I'm so proud that my body was able to do that! 

So for you suffering from some ailment or chronic illness,healing is available to you. Life and health are not out of your reach. I'd totally encourage you to look for a natural chiropractic doctor, that can sit with YOU and know YOUR body,instead of handing you a chemical prescription he gave the last 100 patients. Research! You know your body best! Take out certain foods like gluten and dairy and see how your body reacts. If one doctor isn't working…try another! There should be no guilt and shame about that. 
Photo property of Katie, Hope Engaged Blog
Lastly, pray that God will lead you to the answers! You are never without hope, even when you feel hopeless. {and trust me…i've been there many times. Why do you think my blog has the word "hope" in it? That's what carried me through all this junk…the hope that someday, maybe, I might get better.} that day is here:) 

Thanks you Rebecca for letting me share my journey!

with hope, 
Katie
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Thank you so much Katie for taking the time to share your inspirational story with us! Truly each person's health journey requires HOPE and we are encouraged by your strength and courage in the "health battle"! Do you have a health story that you would like to share? Email me at: caravansonnet@gmail.com for more information about sharing your story!  

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Notes from a Blue Bike {Book Review}

I mentioned in April that I was thrilled to discover the website Booksneeze! This website offers the opportunity to receive free books in exchange for honest reviews from bloggers. I was excited to find this site because as y'all know I do love reading and what a great opportunity! I also appreciate the opportunity (as a writer) to examine someone else's work! There are so many talented writers in our society! *smiles* In April I did my first review for them on the book: Days Like These: Even in the Darkest Moments, Light Can Shine Through by Kristian and Rachel Anderson and today I am excited to share my review of the book Notes from a Blue Bike: The Art of Living Intentionally in a Chaotic World.

This book is filled with stories. Stories of life. Stories of choices that we make. Stories of longing to live intentionally in this world and to make a difference. Tsh Oxenreider (the author of the book) takes us through her own personal experiences of living all over the world (including places like Russia and Wales) back to the United States while examining the idea if it is possible to live with intention (and grace I might add) in this fast-paced culture that we live in. While the concept of the book might not be new (I think this is a question that we all have examined at one point or another) her writing style is delightful and her stories create a backdrop that allows the reader to consider her words on a deep level that stays with you long after you have put the book down. The book is complex in its ability to touch at the heart and soul of all who read it. 

"In the midst of all these messages vying for your attention, let the crux of this book sit in your belly and rumble true; we were made to live with intention beyond the status quo. Don't waste your years punching time clocks, sacrificing your ideas and passions and relationships without purpose." (page 88)

No matter who you are ... we all have dreams and relationships that we may have sacrificed trying to keep up with the "status quo".  This book is inspirational and inspired me along my own journey right now to not get caught up in "status quo" but to keep seeking out where the Lord wants me to be and who the Lord has put in my path right now for me to love. On a personal note it was very interesting to read this book right at this time period. 

When I received this book I was in the middle of a similar conversation (of choosing to live intentionally) with a blogging community whose membership I had been apart of for a year. I was "removed" from because I didn't "write enough posts each week". When I had tried to speak with them regarding my health issues and the focus that I am putting on that and the relationships in my life I was informed "I did not have pride in my blog". I was told that this group had "reviewed my blog" and did not find it "acceptable". I tried again to explain that I was struggling with Cancer and Advanced late stage Lyme Disease and was informed that those that had "reviewed my blog" had no time to read through each person's History. I was informed that I "did not live up to their standard of living and that my blog was a reflection of that". It was crazy, hurtful, and made me think for a couple of days. It was also extremely disheartening to hear that to this particular group (whom I had previously thought was more about people and relationships) thought this way. And it was at that point freeing to realize that we were on completely different paths of what we each felt is important. 

And that is OK. 

I wish that particular bloggy group well and pray and hope that the choices that they make will bring them the peace and happiness (and some rest as they told me that they are "extremely exhausted" from all of their commitments).

It was also a huge reminder to me as I go forward on my healing journey of choosing the priorities that are intentional. Because I truly believe that people do want to live with intention and not just "live busy".

"More than anything, living according to my values and my passions in the real world means extending grace upon grace to others when I intentionally live differently. The same goes for you as well. ... (and) that's okay. Love them, show them grace, and walk through life with a teachable spirit, freely knowing you don't need their approval in order to live consistently with your values." (page 208) Love this! We can live our lives in freedom as seek to live intentionally and extend lots of grace on our journey's in the process! 

If you are looking for a great read as we approach summer I definitely think that you will enjoy this book! In closing I will leave you with a quote from Shauna Niequist, one of my favorite authors, who had this to say about the book (and I couldn't agree more!): "Tsh has a gift for making what's hard feel doable and what's overwhelming feel manageable, like a smart friend you meet for coffee and wisdom. I feel understood, and at the same time, inspired to live with more intention and creativity." Amen!Thank you for a wonderful book Tsh Oxenredier! 

I would love to hear how y'all choose to live with intention each day? What are things that you do to protect yourself from living chaotically in this busy world? 
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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Monday, April 7, 2014

"A Door of Hope" Canvas

Happy Monday y'all! Don't forget that TODAY is the last day to sign up for the parcel post tribe for April! You don't want to miss out on this! If you would like more information you can click HERE!

Today I wanted to share with y'all a little something that I made for my sweet friend Jen. I shared a little about her amazing story of fighting Epilepsy with courage and hope last year on her birthday and while I don't talk much about her and only briefly mention her name here and there on the blog (out of respect for her and her privacy) I can't begin to tell you how much this woman has inspired, encouraged, and blessed me these past years. I am truly humbled to call her my friend. Jen has the amazing ability to encourage my little heart while still empathizing and speaking truth into my life on days that I am hurting too much to even cry. I know that I can speak completely honestly with her and lay my vulnerable heart open and she will not only accept where I am at but also prayerfully and compassionately lead me right to the heart of Jesus. She is an AMAZING person!
She has had such an impact on my life and is such my hero that sometimes I just want to scream to God- "hello - PLEASE ANSWER and HEAL- Are you listening here?"!! And honestly sometimes I have done that... but mainly I cry out to the Lord and beg Him to touch her life and heal her completely and bless her as she has blessed SO MANY PEOPLE including myself. Jen reminds me each and everyday that our Hope comes from knowing that this is a temporary place and our HOPE is found in God alone

I wanted to send her something little to encourage her as she daily encourages me and wanted to send her part of a verse that I am praying for her daily. 

"I will give her
 blessings there, and the valley of Achor for a door of hope..." 
- Hosea 2: fifteen- 
Photo: Jen S. property
I wanted to use colors that I knew Jen would like that reminded me of the beach (yes, we both have a love for the beach! *smiles*) and brought joy by looking at it. One of the things that I did was paint a couple of different "blue" colors on the back of this canvas and then painted the word "Hope" in Red. I wanted to paint it in red first and then cover it with white after because I loved the symbolism of Jesus' blood washing us white as snow. If you look closely (beneath the buttons) you can see a hint of red. 
A verse that Jen and I often text back and forth to each other on difficult days is about the woman who bled for 12 years and then was healed in an instant when she touched Jesus' cloak. (Luke 8) All we need is one touch to be healed- our God is SO powerful!

As I mentioned above I wanted to bring joy to Jen when she looked at this canvas and so I wanted to use buttons. Honestly I think buttons are delightful and I just love using them in different projects! 
Using buttons I outlined the word hope in white and neutral colored buttons and used different "beachy/summery" button colors to surround the word "door". 
So many of you have faithfully covered me with your prayers. Would you also pray for Jen? This has been an intensely long battle for her and she has faithfully glorified God through each step and blessed and encouraged thousands with her story. Thank you sweet friends! 

Jen, thank you for walking this journey of life with me. You are amazing. My prayer sweet friend is that God is leading you into a new season - through a new door ... away from the valley of Achor (hardship, difficulty, etc.) into a door of HOPE and blessing! I love you friend!