Caravan Sonnet: 2013

12/31/13

goodbye 2013, hello two thousand fourteen

Photo Credit: Child Family
I was "gone" from the blog and the internet for about ten days. (I also admittedly -due to the severe reaction and hospital visit and illness- fell behind on sending out a couple of giveaway winner prizes- so sorry that they will be a little bit later ladies! Look for them in early January as a belated Christmas present! *smiles*)
I have an iphone so I have periodically been checking my facebook, posting some instagram pictures, and checking some emails, but when my precious family was around I have mostly been unplugged.And I have been thinking and praying... alot. 
And marveling again at how God works in our lives in unique ways that we could never have imagined. 
This gal who has never liked to be the center of attention and whose voice used to shake anytime she had to speak in front of a large crowd (or even would be nervous to see friends that she hasn't seen in a while (*child family*) has been sharing her life publicly and voluntarily (at that) on this blog.
And... sharing personal stories and lessons in magazine articles & a book that will be published soon.
And thoroughly enjoying the opportunities when the Lord opens the door for me to speak (and not even getting nervous at all).
Honestly, it leaves me speechless. If you would have told me two years ago that this is what I would be doing I would have stared at you in disbelief and thought that you were a little insane. Honestly, I probably would have laughed. There would have been NO way.
Put me in front of a classroom full of students who I can live life with any day but other ways of living life "publicly"- absolutely no way. I have said this often- but I am a "private person". 
But then... slowly and surely the Lord started moving me completely out of my comfort zone,  stripped my life to "ashes", and has given me the strength to face each day to fight two serious illnesses, and His goodness overwhelms me and the pain. And my heart longs to give Him glory for all He is doing. 

And there is absolutely nothing private about that.
And I am in awe of Him.
As we move forward into a new year I am reminded of changes in the past and the beautiful mercies that are new every morning and look to the future year in wonder of what God is going to do next.
I know that this is journey that the Lord has me on is something that I would have kept very private if it was up to me. (*smiles* I shake my head as I think that if I had known I was going to not only be diagnosed with Lyme Disease, but Cancer too there is no way that I would have even started writing! *giggles*) But God is good and shows us the light for the each day we are on and tells us to leave the future in His hands. And I am reminded of the truth of scripture that states that "obedience brings blessing"... and I see that in so many ways through this growth and stretch of sharing this journey with you sweet friends. 
Sharing the pain of illness, the heart-wrenching grief of certain circumstances, and the beautifully answered prayers of ordinary days I have been changed in countless ways.
My heart has never known the beautiful love of Jesus so tenderly and personally as this year. This blog has helped challenge me, encourage me, and grow me. This blog forces me to come to the cross anew as I examine what I am learning and sharing with y'all. This little blog gives me one more opportunity to be reminded that Hope is ever present in our lives.
So as we approach not only a new year, but each new day with the wonderment and expectation I accept with gratitude that if we allow the Lord to use everything in our lives for his glory we can't help but be changed by Him. 
By His mercy. 
By His love. 
By His faithfulness. 
By His goodness.
As I look back on 2013 and expectantly look to the Lord (Micah 7:7) for 2014, I see the Lord's gentle nudging and love reminding me that He has created me and will lead  me on the path that I take. Truly, Yahweh charts the course. And as we look to the new year I am joyfully content to recognize that the Lord has given me an "artsy old soul". A soul that God created to live out the verse that He truly makes beauty from ashes. I can't wait to live fearlessly ("sine-timore") and expectantly with you this year friends, stepping out in even more faith. I can't wait to share with y'all some this next steps of this caravan and cheer you on on yours! 

As we say "goodbye" to 2013 I pray the Lord's greatest blessings on you sweet friends. Happy New Year! I can't wait to live life with you in this coming year!

With Lots of Love, Rebecca

12/18/13

Merry Christmas Friends!

Merry Christmas Friends! 

It is impossible to think of this Christmas season without thinking of the HUGE amount of people who have blessed and encouraged my life this past year! I am SO grateful for each one of you! If I had the money I would have loved to send EACH of you a Christmas card this year. But after praying about it I truly felt that as I am watching every single penny I couldn't justify the all of the stamps that would be! SO if you did not receive a card I know that you understand the wisdom behind this decision as money is very tight! 
As my family prepares to travel north for Christmas this year I appreciate your continued prayers for safety and for my health. Thank you so much for all of your prayers! May you and your family have a WONDERFUL Christmas celebrating the birth of our King!
With Love, Rebecca

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Christmas 2013 Letter~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“The Light still shines in the darkness & the darkness has NEVER extinguished it.”
- John 1: five-

Merry Christmas family & friends!

As we approach this beautiful season of celebrating the birth of our precious Savior, I am truly in awe of God’s sweet mercy to meet us each new day. While this past year has been incredibly difficult, I see everyday the truth of Psalm 27: “I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living”.

It is impossible for me not to get choked up with tears when I think of your precious faithfulness of walking this incredibly long journey with me. Some of you have been walking this journey with me for the past five years & have fearlessly loved me each day. After the diagnosis’ of Lyme & Cancer came you were the first to rally & say that I would beat this. While I understand that have I have a huge fight & a LONG road in front of me I feel confident that after so many years of going downhill we have laid a foundation to truly start the healing process. This is simply because YOU have faithfully walked this road with me, blessed me with emotional support, given of yourselves, given abundant financial gifts that humble me, and for all of your countless support. I am honored to call you friends. You have never claimed to be so but you truly are my heroes. To those of you that have contributed money specifically for treatment I can't begin to express my humble gratitude. You truly provided the means to help me obtain treatment in California last April & May & have helped me to obtain current treatment & for my upcoming treatment in the new year. Without you this would not be possible! Your sacrificial gifts have reminded me that the Lord provides everyday & a beautiful reminder that He will continue to provide each day in the upcoming year. To those of you that have listened as I have expressed so many feelings in the past & have been incredibly kind with your words & encouragement I am so grateful. Your conversations & your words have truly touched my heartWhat a BLESSING you are!

Through tears I have questioned the Lord as to why this journey is so long. Truthfully, I have not heard an answer to my many questions. Instead the Lord beautifully wipes my tears away & promises that He would never leave me & He has faithfully kept that promise. Truly, "wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And HOPE. And LIGHT. And... even beauty." (Joni Erickson Tada) I read a phrase recently that has truly spoken to me: “no matter the circumstance we are still under the same auspice”. How beautifully true. Even in the times that we think that the Lord has forsaken or forgotten us  we can rest assured that our precious Lord has NOT & He has us engraved on the palms of His hands! (Is. 49:14-16). As I close out this letter I want you to know that no matter the circumstances sweet friends we are still under the same auspice. Hold fast to Him. Rest in His Him. May you be abundantly blessed by His love, His Joy, His Comfort, & HIS peace this season & in the year to come! 

With lots of love y’all, Rebecca

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*the above pictures are of my 2012 Christmas card*

12/17/13

Emily's Custom Christmas Card Order 2013

It was such a delight to create this custom Christmas card order for Emily. I have to admit that every year when she orders her blue cards I always smile. I am so blessed by such a wonderful sister. I was thrilled that Emily was happy with how they turned out & so was I! Thank you again Emily for your sweet order!

Outside of the cards:
I just love these ribbons & the way that the silver "pops" against the blue & brown!
Inside of the cards:
The Pretty Envelopes:
Thank you again Emily for your order! It was such a joy to create these for you!

12/15/13

Notes from the Porch {twelve}: an update

It's hard to believe that it has almost been six weeks since I have shared an update on my health here on the blog. Words truly can't express the incredible amount of gratitude that I have for each of you who faithfully continue to pray, support, text, call, send mail, financial support, and are creatively and lovingly walking this journey with me. Today I wanted to take a few minutes to give you some updates and try to answer some of the questions that I have received. At the same time for some personal reasons I have decided to not share ALL of the details of my health. Some things, as I am sure you can imagine are difficult and painful enough to live through everyday without rehashing things here on the blog again. 
Since my last update on my health there have been many changes that have been taken place and I am going to try and address them here (in no particular order):

(one) Thank you so much for your continued support of things financially. As I mentioned in my last update there is just not the financial means to currently travel out to California. Yes, this does affect my treatment and is concerning to me and my family. (Ok, very concerning on different levels) BUT at the same time we continue to trust the Lord that HE will provide at the right time. "I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken." (Psalm 37:25) What a beautiful promise this is- especially for me right now. I continue to thank each and every one of you that continues to so generously give to my financial fund to go out for more treatment. Words can't express how much I am so humbled by your extreme kindness. Thank you so much. TRULY you live out the verse and show me each and everyday the truth of Psalm 37:25.
(two) I received several emails asking me why the treatment in California or just switching to a different doctor is such a "big deal". Honestly, I understand these questions. Before I was seriously ill I had NO idea how much a doctor can influence your physical recovery and the important process that they play in the fight for your health. To be frank there are only a couple of places in the world that treat with the same treatments that I am offered in California and Whitaker's is the cheapest option. About changing a doctor ... its not as simple as just choosing another doctor for strep throat or the flu, in cases of serious illness you need to have a qualified person in the subject area PLUS you need to be able to work and click with this person. Its definitely a critical aspect for anyone who is seriously ill. (A HUGE thank you to my sweet friend Katie for your kind words and encouragement to me about this subject this past week!)

(three) Along with number two ... I would covet prayers for wisdom for me and for my doctors as we make decisions on how to best proceed in the future with certain doctors. 

(four) As I mentioned in the last update I have been having EXTREME issues with my stomach and colon. In the past six weeks my kind gastrointerologist has tried a couple of different medications. Unfortunately this complicated the problems and five weeks ago I had one of the worst weeks of my life in regards to pain and illness. After lots and lots of prayer and talking with the doctors we decided to stop the medicine that should have cured this problem and start using some "old fashioned" home remedies. Needless to say I am VERY happy to share that for the past four weeks I have not experienced ANY SEVERE pain in my stomach and colon and each day we are slowly trying to begin helping this heal. A slightly discouraging thing that came from these doctors appointments is that my gastrointerologist is convinced that I do have "Leaky Gut Syndrome" along with the gastroperiosis which is complicated. At this point my gastrointerologist & GP believe that this is due to the Lyme Disease. We are trying to slowly begin this healing process through herbs and supplements because... 

(five) last Thursday I found out some difficult news. First, (which was not a big surprise) we have learned that my adrenals are no longer just in "adrenal fatigue" but they are in adrenal exhaustion quickly heading to complete adrenal failure. While this can cause lots of difficulties for those who are not seriously ill this can quickly become a dangerous thing for those, like myself, who are. One of the reasons for this is that at such a dangerous state steroids are typically given. Unfortunately Lyme Disease can "feed" on steroids so that is not an option. We would covet prayers as my doctor has ordered some special supplements for the next two months to try and stabilize this issue without us having to explore some other unpleasant options. 

and...

(six)In addition to this we found out (which we had suspected but had been praying against) that my metabolism has completely shut down. I will be honest that I broke down crying in Dr.H's office and was so thankful for such a compassionate and kind doctor to hear this difficult news(my General Practitioner is a WONDERFUL answer to prayer!). It was difficult to hear as it felt like "one more thing". Honestly I just cried. I was prescribed a special prescription for this and am starting on a very very low dose to hopefully train my body how to restart the metabolism. I would covet prayers also for this as y'all know that medications are tough on my little body. I have taken two so far and honestly it is a little difficult and would covet prayers that my body will adapt quickly to this!

(seven) I have been put back on a drug that is necessary for me right now with the Cancer and the Lyme Disease. This drug that I take has had studies done that show that it kills Cancer cells and can help with Lyme. I take it at night and would covet prayers- specifically against violent nightmares that it causes. I will admit that there was a little bit of a breakdown that occurred at our house on Tuesday evening when I was in tears about having to take it for the second night. My amazing parents were kind, compassionate, and loving and prayed (and are still praying) that the Lord's peace would rule each evening as I sleep. I would covet your prayers for this as well! (Thank you so much Michelle and Jen for ALL of your sweet texts and prayers this past week!)
(eight) Because we can't afford treatment in California right now we are trying everything and ANYTHING that would help in some small way stabilize me more and also help support my body to fight. One of those things is doing detox baths each day and also doing SOFT Chamber HBOT (Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy). So I now do LOTS AND LOTS of dry brushing twice a day along with two different baths each day (one in the morning and one at night). We have also chosen to due Soft Chamber HBOT. This was a hard decision because studies have shown that it does not have nearly the same amount of benefits as Hard HBOT but since we can't get to CA my dad said "lets try this". We graciously were given a discount to have this and I am so grateful for Eddie for your generosity during this financially difficult time. Currently I am doing this twice a week for an hour. I won't lie that at the beginning there were some tears as I was having a very difficult time with it (kept almost passing out). The guys that run the place have been SO incredibly patient with me and have played around to have it set up so that they can "bring me out" of the oxygen more slowly. NO more passing out! Thank you so much to all of you who were praying about this! {I should note that my doctor in CA was not for this and this is part of the reason that number three mentioned above is on our prayer list.)

(nine) PRAISE the Lord that so far my iron count is holding at a steady enough place that after I met with my hematologist it was decided that I do not need anymore iron infusions before the end of the year! I will have this blood work re-checked in January and will keep you updated. 

Thank you so much for your prayers as we move forward in this caravan. There is a verse that I recently have been memorizing. I hope that it encourages you today as it has encouraged me each day!
As I close out this update I so appreciate ALL of your beautiful love, your kind friendship, your compassionate financial help, your AMAZING encouragement, and your sweet love. 

:) Love, Rebecca

12/12/13

The Paper Sonnet

UPDATE as of December 15th: Thank you so much for your business and support in 2013! The Paper Sonnet will re-open on January 8th! I look forward to seeing you in the new year! I hope that you and your family have a wonderful holiday!

:) Blessings and Merry Christmas!
:) Rebecca

TOMORROW is the LAST day to order from The Paper Sonnet before it closes for the holidays! The Paper Sonnet will be closed from December 14th through January 7th so go stock up today!

12/5/13

Notes from the Porch {eleven}: the letters

(The Pictures in this Post are pictures from a year or two years ago!)

Have you ever been the recipient of a gift so precious that it was hard to describe or talk about without getting choked up? I have and the gift that I am going to talk about today has taken me more than two weeks to want to share because it was simply so wonderful. 
I want to share a little background that I know I have said before but needs to be stated again. I miss teaching so much that sometimes my heart aches. I miss all of my former students and each one is in my daily prayers. I love y'all!
In my last "Notes from the Porch" post I explained that things with my health are at a very tenuous stable position. Two weeks ago I was having a particularly rough day all around: my health, a doctor who told me "this is never going to get better" (yes, we did fire that doctor!), lots of tears, an argument with my insurance company, a reaction to a new medication, extremely sick and in pain that day, and some personal news to our family that was difficult. All of these things combined had left me laying on the couch mostly in tears. I was reading in Proverbs and read the verse: 

"Like cold water to a weary soul is good news from a distant land." - Proverbs 25: twenty-five

At that moment my dad brought in the mail and handed me an envelop from one of my former schools that I taught at. I curiously opened the letter up and found inside a BEAUTIFUL stack of letters from some of my former 10th grade students (who are now Seniors!!). (I have tears even now as I write this!) Honestly, as I read the letters the first time through I couldn't even read each letter because the words blurred on the page. The time that these ladies took to write these letters to write to me... a teacher from two years ago while they are in one of the most exciting times in their lives touched my heart beyond words. Each letter touched my heart and encouraged my life. And brought refreshment to this weary lady. 
While it has only been two weeks since I received these letters they are now growing more and more crinkled each day as I have read them again and again and again and again. Filled with love and encouragement the Lord has used them to truly encourage my heart. 
Ladies, you have truly touched my heart. I love y'all so much and my prayers continue with each of you each day. I pray that the Lord allows me the strength and health to visit you in the new year to thank you in person and to give you a BIG hug for your incredible kindness, your faithful prayers, and your life-changing gift of these precious letters. 
Thank you again! I love y'all so much!

12/3/13

Welcome December!



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

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