Caravan Sonnet: August 2013

8/30/13

goodbye summer, hello new adventure

It is hard to believe that it is the end of summer. As I write this my dad and Billy are taking out our dock, my mom is cleaning out the other camp and I am supposed to be finishing packing up my room. It is difficult to leave every summer, but especially this summer. Despite some very difficult days health wise (and my grandmother's fall) it has once again been a wonderful summer. It was not the summer I had planned. In fact, it was far from it. I ran to to camp "to heal" and "to rest" from the intense difficulties of last year and I found something infinitely more precious. I met my precious Lord in a whole new way. I resonate deeply with the following paragraph that I read in my favorite devotions the other day:
"I remember a summer in which I said: "It is the ocean that I need," and I went to the ocean; but it seemed to say, "It is not in me!" The ocean did not do for me what I thought it would. Then I said, "The Mountains will rest me," and I went to the mountains, and when I awoke in the morning there stood the grand mountain that I had wanted so much to see; but it said , "It is not in me!" It did not satisfy. Ah! I needed the oceans of HIS love, and the high mountains of HIS truth within. It was wisdom that the "depths" said they did not contain, and that could not be compared with jewels or gold or precious stones. Christ is our wisdom and our deepest need. Our restlessness within can only be my by the revelation of His eternal friendship and love for us. Lord, THOU hast been our dwelling place in ALL generations."
Amen. Precious Lord YOU are my deepest need. I need you everyday. I need you more today than I did yesterday and I need you above anything and anyone else. 
In YOU true peace has been found and in Him his peace has truly permeated every area of my life during this precious season. As I say "goodbye" to a summer like no other, I am thankful for so many different things:
For countless hours that I have been able to spend with Jesus. Listening to HIS voice, and hearing His words of love.
For precious time spent with family. Family who not only speaks God's love to me but shows His mercy and love in a thousand different ways everyday.ImageImage
For the opportunity to spend a beautiful day on the lake and hanging out with with dear friends who I count as my family. For precious talks with these friends who know me and my heart so well.(Sarah, Wes, & Nate- thank you thank you for ALL of your support & sweet friendships that have lasted for over twenty years. I am a very blessed woman. I love y'all so much!)

For the opportunity to go to a special weddingand connect with dear friends.  It was like going home. (Thank you again to each of you that made this possible!)

For the numerous miracles this summer of God's goodness and reminders in rainbows that appeared at just the right time for a beautiful reminder of God's promises.Image
For the beauty of seeing a dream come to fruition in the Lord's beautiful time with the signing of the book contract,
For the laughter in a variety of days- truly testifying that "the joy of the Lord is our strength". 

And so... on this day as we prepare to say goodbye to summer, I look forward to a new adventure that the Lord has in these next weeks and months as I move back home to the south. Thank you for all of your prayers for our safe travels and for the transition home. What reassurance to know that the same Lord that is with us each day in the past is with us in our future. Truly "The Lord is there" (the book of Ezekial). So goodbye to a wonderful summer, hello to a wonderful new adventure that the Lord has in store!

8/28/13

The Beauty of Clouds

Ever since I was a young girl I have been fascinated with the beauty of clouds. I find great delight that I am not alone in that regard. The Bible is full of scriptural references to clouds. One of the beautiful scenes in the Bible is the promise that Jesus will come again riding on the clouds (Matthew 26:64). There are lovely promises and quotes about clouds found in scripture. Today I wanted to share just a few of my favorite cloud pictures.  I hope on this lovely Friday you are just as encouraged as I have been. 
"Behold He comes, riding on the clouds, shining like the sun, at the trumpet call, life your voice, its the year of jubilee, and out of Zion's hill salvation comes." - Robin Marks

Black, White & Pink Scrapbook Layout

Today I wanted to share with you some more pictures from a recent scrapbook project that I was working on for a friend!

All of my custom scrapbooks and their pages offer a unique perspective in every layout. I don't know about y'all but I am loving the fashion white and black outfits that I am saying. Because of this I wanted to share with you a couple of the pages from the custom scrapbook that are similar to those lovely outfits we keep seeing. These two pages were some of my favorite pages in the custom scrapbook that I made! I used black and white music paper, 
added in vibrant pink and white ribbon, sweet shabby chic tags, flowers, and some hand-sewing to complete the look.  Here are several shots of this layout! 

Outside Pages:

 Outside Left Page:

 Outside Right Page:

And stay tuned in the next couple of weeks as I will be posting new items at my Etsy shop! 

8/27/13

the teaching journey: creating relationships with parents



{Out of sensitivity to some people, some names, numbers, and years mentioned have been changed .)
** This weeks post is all about things that a teacher can do. Stay tuned next week for a post specifically on things that parents can do**

I am going to be brutally honest here. Up until "that" year of teaching (I taught for seven years) I had excellent relationships with my students parents. When I would hear that other teachers would have issues with various parents or they would say that they felt like they were facing "a firing squad" I would silently shake my head and think maybe that teacher was exaggerating. I mean, we all know the helicopter parents exist but honestly it couldn't be as bad as my colleagues were saying. 

And then the "that" year came. 

And there are absolutely no dramatics when I say that I thought about quitting the profession all together. The profession that I loved, was passionate about, and would have (like any teacher I know) put her life on the line for any of my students. All of a sudden I understood THIS CNN article with a scary intensity. I spent more time crying in the first two months of that year alone than I had in my entire teaching career. I prayed unceasingly for wisdom, patience with the parents, and peace. A co-worker(who was dealing with the same set of parents) and I memorized and would remind each other daily of the verse that speaks about living at peace with others as far as it is possible with us. I tried to respond to the hateful emails that I received with kindness. I went above and beyond more than I ever had to try and diffuse anything I thought would bring conflict. I prayed about not re-signing my contract. And at the end of the day I would lay awake in bed brokenhearted that despite ALL of my attempts it was impossible to develop relationships in the way that I always had before with this particular set of parents. I still describe that year as a "heart-battering" year. Thankfully I had wise people in my life who encouraged me to resign my contract and this led to one of the sweetest years that I had in my entire teaching career. But I did learn a lot through both the good and the bad and it breaks my heart when I continue to hear that I am not the only one that has experienced such a year. Today I wanted to share with y'all a few tips and thoughts that I and some lovely friends have shared with me that I hope will help you. If you are a teacher in the midst of a trying year like I was I hope and pray that this will encourage you and give you some practical ideas. You are the unsung hero. If you are having a great year I hope that this will give you some additional thoughts to strengthen the bonds that you already have! 


1. Back to School Night is a more formal gathering than an open-house. Be professionally dressed and prepare for what you are going to say ahead of time.

2. Have extra copies of your syllabus handy.

3. Make sure your room is organized and neat.

4. Announce that due to time constraints that there are no private conferences, but give the parents a way to contact you if they want to set up a conference. (There is always the one parent who thinks that they are an exception to this so have a plan for the end of the evening.)

5. Always be very clear about what your expectations are for the classroom.

6.Be sincere and make eye contact.

7. Show your enthusiasm for not only the subject but for the children in your classroom.

8.If a child is going to have to pay for something in your classroom be up front about that immediately. In this day and age when things are so expensive and money is tight it is helpful for all parents to know this upfront.

9. Talk openly about how you want issues resolved in your classroom. 

10. Encourage and remind parents that this is a partnership.

11. Remind parents that school is still hard work (just like when we were in school) only now there are 1,000 different distractions thanks to social media. Before one parents meeting I asked the students in my classroom to write out what their study habits looked like and then shared a few (anonymously) that evening. The students had said that studying is the book/notes open with computer on, ipod music playing, and only being interrupted by "important" texts from friends. Add in the social trends of instagram, twitter, snapchat, and a thousand other things and you absolutely have no studying happening. I stress this point because this will often help relieve comments of "the test was so hard" or "he/she is such a hard teacher".


(These tips are for "little" issues - for "Big" issues (drugs, abuse, etc.) consult your supervisor)

1. Encourage face-to-face communication. People say things in an email that they would never dare to say to your face. (Example: I once had a parent tell me in an email that I was destroying their child's soul. In a face-to-face meeting they didn't even remember they had written it.)

2. Listen.Listen.Listen. Really hear what the parent is trying to say and work as hard as possible to meet them. Sometimes this isn't possible but many times the more that you listen without saying a word accomplishes miracles. (I often think of the precious verse from Exodus 14:14: The Lord will fight for you, you only need to be silent.)

3. Remember what your final goals in the situation are. Throw out the emotional baggage and hurtful comments and stick to the facts. (I had one parent write me the most scathing email and it attacked my personal character and went completely off of the subject of Middle East History. When they came to the face-to-face meeting I requested I let them just keep talking and finally they became quiet. They finally said that they weren't even upset with me but the fact that the school was raising tuition.)

4. Watch your body language when meeting with parents. 

5. Every parent believes that there child is the best and is right. A common thing for parents to say is: "this has never happened with another teacher before" or "well he/she has A's in every other subject". Don't get caught up in this- again stick to the subject at hand and throw everything else.

6. Always have a third party (department head, principal,etc.) at a meeting that involves tension.

7. I started a practice of always copying my department head to important e-mail communication. This sometimes can diffuse problems before they become to big.

8. Join the PTA if possible. It gives you a unique view and can help you understand from a parents perspective general issues that are occurring in the school.



1. Communicate to let the parents know the good as well as the bad. I kept a notebook and I would make sure to let every child's parents at least one good thing a semester. Sometimes this would be an achievement - good test grade or other times it was simply an action done, or a mature behavior witnesses.

2. Write thank you notes for little and big things done that parents do.

3. Try to attend at least one sport function, one drama/musical performance, etc. every 1-2 weeks. This is an excellent way to connect with your kids, but also parents see that you care about their children as a "whole person". Don't get caught up in issues at the event but instead make a point to say "hello". 

4. Be friendly. Yes, there is a ton of things going on but try to remember that parents have a lot going on too.

5. Utilize technology and social media in ways that will benefit the classroom. I have friends who use Twitter, have created websites, etc. Anything that can help communicate to the parents information and still help your students in the classroom.

6. Establish an open-door policy.

7. Do your best and then at the end of the day commit the days and times into the Lord's hands. 


What about you? Are you a teacher? Any tips on how to create strong relationships with parents? Are you a parent? Like I mentioned above this weeks post was all about things that a teacher can do. Stay tuned next week for a post specifically on things that you can do to build a strong and healthy relationship with your child's teacher!

8/21/13

notes from the porch {three} AND an exciting announcement!

I have sat here for a full thirty minutes looking at the screen and I still seem to be at a loss for words. I want to write something to express my humble and grateful thank you for ALL of your lovely support, prayers, and kindness this past week and yet I am not even sure how to adequately do that. So I will just say a simple "thank you" and trust that you know my heart that is so so grateful for each of you.

As I mentioned in my "notes from the porch" (health update) last week I expressed that I had been having some stomach pain that I would appreciate prayer for. It was my assumption that it was simply a reaction to the chelation treatments that I had started. After adjusting the dosage of the chelation treatments I hoped and assumed that this would settle down. Unfortunately on Friday morning things went from bad to worse. I became incredibly sick and when I was still sick on Saturday my dad took me to the Emergency Room. 

After all of the tests were taken we learned that I had contracted a bacterial infection in my gut. We believe this came from some bad food when we have eaten out several times in the last couple of weeks. My dad hadn't felt great either recently, but my immune system simply couldn't handle this and basically collapsed and developed this infection. After being informed of my complicated case details (with the Lymes and Cancer) the ER doctor was very leery to proscribe me an antibiotic due to his concern that it would activate my body fighting those things instead of the specific infection. I was in complete agreement with him on this. While we tried to reach my doctor there were some complications due to a miscommunication and I agreed with the ER doctor that for the moment we should just try to treat the infection symptomatically and obtain an antibiotic from my Lymes doctor on Monday morning. (Now before I receive a ton of emails on this point I just have to say that if you are a chronically ill person you understand exactly why I made this decision. If you aren't it is probably a little difficult to understand but the best way to say this is that there is ALWAYS the fear that Lymes and Cancer patients have of developing further infections. It is such a tightrope balance to press forward with one thing and have to deal with another. Please just trust me that this was the wisest decision that we could have made at the time.) Sunday and Monday were extremely difficult days and unfortunately after having a reaction to one of the drugs that I am on Monday evening (because it should be taken with food and water and I had not been able to keep anything in me for more than 15 minutes) Monday night was the roughest night of my life. We went back to the Emergency Room yesterday for more IV fluids and more anti-nausea meds (through the IV which are stronger) and I was able to have a couple of other doctors appointments also. I am so thankful to report that by yesterday evening I had kept down a couple of bites of food and also some sips of water. As I sit here this morning typing this (from the porch *smiles*) I am also incredibly thankful for all of the prayers that were answered as I slept for six hours straight for the first time in six days. 

PRAISE GOD. 

I appreciate your continued prayers as I heal from this infection and ultimately the Lymes and Cancer. Thank you for ALL of your prayers!

I won't lie to you. While I have left out a lot of details that I don't care to relive and don't want to have my friends read, these past five days have been some of the hardest physically and emotionally that I have had in many many many months. There have been countless tears shed, outbursts of anger and yelling at God, and discouragement at this "one more thing". I admit that I even have said several times, "this just isn't fair". It seems like every time that we make some small steps forward we take HUGE steps backwards. THAT is difficult physically. But emotionally it is sometimes heart-wrenching. This week is not what I envisioned originally sharing with you sweet friends. And to be honest I wrestled with the Lord over the verse that states: "Do not say why were the old days better than these..." (Ecclesiastes 7:10) as I knew that at my former job they were on the high school retreat making wonderful memories and my heart ached to be there. 

AND...

 once again I am learning the ancient truth that the Lord is near to the broken-hearted. As I look back on these five days and could think about all of the impossible difficulties that accompanied each day I  instead think of the incredible mercy that surrounded each moment. I do not have a nice little reason for why the Lord allowed this, but instead realize that we live in a sinful and broken world and sickness is unfortunately apart of that. Yes, I am discouraged that this will set me back in my healing process but no I am not in despair. Even when it seems like our precious God is silent He can be found shouting to us in our pain through a thousand different things if we let our hearts look to Him. Long ago I made the decision that my life was in the Lord's hands and it is at HIS feet that I fall. I yield to HIM everything- and whether that is to suffer, live, or die- my life is in His hands. And oh sweet friends, what a precious place for us to live. There are no regrets there. My eyes are not on my circumstances, but on the living God, who controls every circumstance. I have had the privilege of knowing Jesus as my Lord for twenty-seven years. He has never let me go. While the days may be hard, our precious Lord never promised us "all good days". He has promised me that He would never leave me or forsake me and THAT is what I cling to. If you are going through a dark day my sweet friends, I am so so sorry. May God touch your heart in the precious ways that only He can. 

Sometimes those ways can be completely unexpected. Like receiving a Facebook message from a former student:
Truly a message that not only spoke to my heart, but touched my life beyond belief. When I read it this morning I cried. What a beautiful God-thing. (And I definitely whispered a prayer to have the opportunity to visit at least once FCS this year!)

And other completely unexpected gifts in the middle of this caravan. I am so excited and honored to share with y'all an update on a post that I wrote last month entitled "a season of new dreams". I have a HUGE smile of excitement as I share this exciting news! Last week (before the hospital visits *smiles*) it became OFFICIAL. I signed a book contract! AHH!
I am so honored to be with Tate Publishing and can't wait to share with y'all more exciting news in the days and weeks to come about this new adventure the Lord has me on! 

As I stop writing this post this morning and feel the small cool breeze on this porch grace my face, I am so incredibly grateful for each of you. Thank you so much for your prayers, support, and all of your beautiful comments that are SUCH a blessing. 
May God bless each of you for your kindness. I love y'all!

marvelous mini albums (for the North East Bloggers Network)

When I heard that the North East Bloggers Network was going to have their first "meet up" I was so excited. It has been so lovely getting to know all different people from the network. Unfortunately the meeting was in Philadelphia which I couldn't make. Rachel (the network leader) offered the chance for businesses to donate products, even if they couldn't attend, and I offered to donate mini-journals from the  The Paper Sonnet for each attendee.


It was a delight to create these! I hope that everyone had a great time at the gathering! Here's hoping that the next one is in New York! *smiles* Here are a few pictures of the creations! 
Since the "meet up" was for bloggers I wanted to create something that would go along with that theme. I decided to create mini-journals that people could carry in their purses with them to write down blogging thoughts, tips, or post ideas. I wanted the journals to be cute, colorful, and inspirational and fun to look at (just like blogging). *smiles*. 

I first gathered all of my supplies and got everything ready. One of the supplies that I used that I loved was the "sentence" strips that people could use to write down on. I cut them up and they were the perfect size. 
After gathering all of the supplies I first worked on creating the covers of the mini-albums and the backs. For the covers I bought a large piece of cork board and cut it into 2x5 pieces. After writing out "Blog Ideas and Thoughts" and sticking ribbon and stickers onto the cork board I used modge podge to hold everything together. (Side note: this was one of my first times using modge podge and I am already in love!) I used three coats of the modge podge simply because I wanted these journals to be able to withstand wear and tear.  For the back covers I attached my homemade "the paper sonnet" tags and some washiti tape. 
Like I mentioned above I wanted the mini-journals to have a fun and inspirational feel. Color always inspires me and so I picked out 10 different ribbons to attach to paper and also decorated some fun tags that I found.
After finishing all of the basics I set out the layout that I wanted the journals to have. Putting the albums together was so much fun! 
I love the finished product! 
Thanks again so much North East Bloggers Network to be apart of this event! Interested in a custom order from The Paper Sonnet? Contact me by email (caravansonnet@gmail.com).

8/20/13

Brendan & Naoko's Wedding Celebration

One of the loveliest things about this summer was having the opportunity to celebrate Brendan & Naoko's wedding with a family party several weeks ago. I first met Naoko a couple of years ago and her warm spirit and grace touch everyone who encounter her. I am so delighted for her and Brendan and we wish y'all a lifetime of happiness. 

Since we had not been able to go to the wedding we wanted to put together a small basket for the newlyweds as they are starting their life together in Missouri! 
Emily snapped this picture of the three of us ladies before we headed off to the party! (Side note: I truly was happy to be there and celebrate, it was just a very difficult (health wise) evening. Thankfully I have so many sweet people around me who love me and are walking through this journey with me. But if I don't look like my normally excited self that is why!)
Photo by Emily V.
My uncle with his (now) two daughters!
We had to snap a picture of the four of us ladies! We have eagerly anticipated a "fourth" to join us for many years and we couldn't have asked for a sweeter lady.
It has been two and half years since we all have gotten together and it was two and half years too long!
The cousins and the spouses!
The immediate family members *smiles*
Some of the extended family members (we missed all of you that were not able to make it!)
Love my amazing family!(aka. my amazing tribe)
Ba & Emily
The newlyweds with Ba.
Emily & I with our great uncle & great aunt.
The sisterhood.
Congratulations again Brendan and Naoko!