Caravan Sonnet: January 2015

1/31/15

New York City Altered 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! This New York City Altered Journal was a delight to create!
As I have mentioned before here on the blog, some of my favorite items to create in the shop are the "altered travel journals". There are different options available including, the altered city travel journal, the altered state travel journal,the  altered country travel journal, and the most recent addition to the shop is the altered 1,000 Places to See Before you Die Altered travel journal
This custom order was from Ami who wanted me to create an altered city travel journal for New York City for her and her husband. 
They loved New York City and wanted to use this as a "gratitude/inspiration" book for themselves. Ami was so lovely to work with. She gave me some guidelines, things that she hoped to see in the journal (i.e. some stitching that she had seen in a previous journal I had done, some colors, some inspirational quotes, the fact that she loved different textures, etc.) but continued to encourage me to be "creative".
It was a delight to create an altered city journal for one of my favorite cities on earth!
Ami was just wonderful. Her kindness and encouragement was such a blessing and I was THRILLED with the final results!!
Thank you so much for the opportunity to create this for you Ami! 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! And DON'T FORGET! Today is the last day to use the coupon "WINTERSALE" for 25% off your entire order!! 
Happy Saturday friends! I hope you have a wonderful day and weekend!

1/30/15

Shop Re-Opening (and a Special Coupon!)

I am so excited to share that the shop is officially re-opened today!! This past month has been a wonderful time of a much needed break as I received medical treatment and spent time with my family! I also have been working on lots of new goodies for the shop so make sure to head on over and check it out! You can click HERE to easily go to the shop! 
AND to celebrate the re-opening I have a special coupon for y'all! Today and tomorrow only take 25% off everything in the shop with the coupon WINTERSALE!
Thank you again for all of your support of my shop! A portion of all proceeds goes to charity and the rest of the proceeds go to help cover my necessary medical treatment and medical bills. Thank you again for all of your support! 

1/29/15

14 Ways to Heal a Cold Quickly

picture found on internet, altered by Caravan Sonnet

Back in 2013 I shared 21 Tips to Prevent Colds and the Flu which has remained one of my highest read posts of all time. With the lovely "cold and flu" season upon us and having suffered from a serious cold two weeks ago, I thought I would share today about 14 ways to heal a cold quickly! I hope that you stay healthy this winter season but if you find yourself with a cold I hope these tips help you!

1. Take a hot shower/hot bath. Recent studies have shown that there are benefits to hot showers and baths when you have a cold and suggest that you may heal faster. If nothing else the steam is helpful for your sinus congestion! 

2. Drink Warm/Hot liquids. These will not only feel comforting but can also soothe a sore throat. (Some teas to try? Ginger, Slippery Elm, Elderberry, and Echineaca are all known to help in the healing process!)

3. Take a break. One of the best things that you can do to help you recover quickly from a cold is to take a break. It is tempting to keep pushing through with a normal routine but rest is the best thing for you. 

4. Get Plenty of Rest. One of the best things that you can do when fighting a cold is to get plenty of rest. Check out some tips on how to get better sleep HERE

5. Take Cod Liver Oil. You can read about all of the health benefits of Cod Liver Oil HERE

6. Take Elderberry Syrup. For many centuries people have been using this plant to help heal quickly from colds. (If you can't stomach the syrup you can look for elderberry in other forms.)

7. Smell Eucalyptus Oil. Purchase Eucalyptus Oil and smell it. The smell alone is known to help ease sinus inflammation. 

8. Drink Plenty of Water. When you have a cold and are feeling terrible it is tempting to forget to drink the proper amount of water. Drink plenty of water so that you do not get dehydrated. (Water has AMAZING health benefits! You can read about 15 health benefits of water HERE.)

9. Detox. Start dry brushing those toxins away! 

10. Avoid Coffee and Alcohol. Along with #6 is the idea of wanting to stay properly hydrated. Both coffee and alcohol are both very dehydrating. Stay away from both of these to help you recover quickly. 

11. Take Zinc. There is some debate about whether this will help or not, but many studies have shown that taking proper amounts of zinc can help in healing. 

12. Take Colloidal Silver. 

13. Drink Apple Cider Vinegar. You can find out all of the amazing health benefits of Apple Cider Vinegar HERE.  

14. Eat foods that will boost your Immune System. Want some ideas? Click HERE!

I hope these 14 tips help! Do you have any cold fighting tips or remedies that you swear by?

{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.

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


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. 
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{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.}

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!!

1/17/15

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!

1/15/15

the Lyme Diaries: Financial Tips & Resources

A couple of months ago I shared some "general Lyme resources" but today I wanted to share some Financial Tips & Resources with you. I want to start off by saying that I (obviously) had a "go fund me page" at one point and have had to rely on the generous donations of others to help me through at times with my treatment. I am so very grateful for each and everyone's support and help throughout this long journey. 

I have shared this before on this blog but as "prepared" as I was for a "financial crisis" to hit my life, I could never have expected needing the financial resources that I did. In the past four years I have depleted my savings (which, for my age, was quite large), used all financial resources I could, and continue to need financial resources to get better. This is definitely something that is VERY common with those fighting Lyme Disease. One "joke/common saying" in Lymie world is: "Want to see me get better? All I need is $150,000" . It is sad, but unfortunately true. The average cost of beating Lyme Disease is about $150,000-$200,000. And that is for those with health insurance. It can seem ASTRONOMICAL in this fight. A verse that I often meditate on is Psalm 50:10 which talks about God owning the cattle on the hillsides. The Lord will provide friends. I know it seems impossible and so many days call for difficult decisions over which medicine or treatment to pay for, but we must believe that God will provide.

The tips and resources I am sharing today won't be applicable to everyone, but my hope is that it may encourage or help someone in this journey. Some things may seem "common sense" but when you are in the midst of fighting a disease for your life, they can be the last things that you think of. Some of these things won't apply due to the course of treatment that you may have chosen. But at the end of the day, I pray that these things would help encourage you and be of some help as you move forward in the healing process. 

General
(1) Understand that for a time life is incredibly different then it was before you got sick. For me some of the huge ways that this has changed is that I don't regularly get my hair cut, don't get manicures/pedicures, I don't buy make up or fancy girly things, and I can't remember the last time that I went clothes shopping. It might feel that you are being "stripped" of being a girly girl in this fight but remember that this is for a time and your health is the most important.

(2) Understand that this is probably the most difficult/frustrating part of this health journey. It is ok to cry about this and feel overwhelmed friends. 

(3) If you are a "younger" there is a website where you can apply for grant/scholarship. Lymelight Foundation provides grants/scholarship resources for eligible children and young adults. (To my knowledge and everywhere that I have looked there is no program that exists like this for adults.)

Antibiotics/Medications
(1) Understand your insurance plan in detail when it comes to prescription medication. If you don't understand it take the time (and the energy) one day to talk to your provider. In the long run this will save you tons of time and energy as you talk with your doctor about which antibiotics and medications you can truly afford. Unfortunately, many insurance companies will not pay for long-term antibiotics. Instead, you will have to pay out of pocket for those. So it is wise to understand from the beginning what your plan covers.

(2) If your plan covers you receiving money back from prescriptions that you purchase send in the forms. While it might not be a lot, you will receive some money back which can go to purchasing future prescriptions. I know that all of this takes time and energy so my advice would be to set aside one day a week and deal with the paperwork. (A little energy/time saving tip: have stamps, envelopes addressed, and the forms all ready to go. This will help in this process!!)

(3) Ask if your pharmacy has any "out of pocket" paying options that might be cheaper then your prescription cost with your insurance. Sometimes (which was shocking for me to discover) this might actually save you some money. 

(4) Can't afford your entire prescription? NEITHER can I. There is absolutely NO way that I can pay for ANY of my entire prescriptions that I am on. So ... I learned that you can ask for a certain set of pills for each week/month/etc. This allows me to pay for all of my prescriptions weekly which allows me to actually take all of the prescriptions that I do. Most pharmacists don't like doing this, and it can cause some surprised looks/questioning of why you are doing this but when you explain financial reasons that will typically stop all questions! (Are you like me and you react to certain drugs? Ask for a 2-3 days supply to try out the drug before purchasing the whole prescription!)

(5) Some pharmaceutical companies offer financial assistance that involves your doctor writing a note or filling out paperwork to "verify" that you are in need of financial assistance even though you may have insurance. While I have done this several times and not received insurance yet, I know some Lymies who have and have received necessary medications this way.

Alternative/Supplements/Herbs/Oils/
(1) It is very important to get the highest quality of supplements that you can afford. It is also important with purchasing supplements that you understand that some brands are of higher quality in the ingredients that they put in their supplements. In saying all of that one of the places that I have found to carry a lot (not all) of the quality brands at a discounted price is on Amazon. To save money (in the long run) we invest yearly in an "Amazon Prime" membership. In doing so we receive free shipping and most of the time receive our supplements within 2-3 days. While Amazon does not carry every supplement that I use, it does carry a lot of them and this has helped save a tremendous amount of money as this is a critical part of the healing process. 

(2) If you are in a very precarious financial situation ask your doctor which vitamins/supplements/herbs are absolutely necessary at this point. You might not need to take everything that you think you need to and there might be some other things that you should take that you aren't!

(3)If you use herbs, consider purchasing in bulk. This might save some cost in the long run. 

(4) If you use herbs, consider contacting a local co-op or natural vitamin store to see if they carry things that you could purchase a smaller amount from at a lower cost. 

(5) If you use oils consider becoming a distributor yourself. I know several lymies who sell oils mainly for the benefits of earning points to receive free oils and the price cost for themselves. Some are able to make a little bit of money on the side which can also be of help. 

(6) Some insurance companies do cover the cost of alternative treatments including acupuncture, chiropractic, massage, counseling, etc. Understand what your plan covers and use this as much as possible!! (One lymie I know even has his probiotics covered by his insurance!! Now mine doesn't but that would be awesome if it did!!)

(7) Are you doing the "Cowden Protocol"? If you are I would highly encourage you to fill out the financial assistance forms. This will allow you to participate in the program at a fraction of the cost. At this time Nutramedix requires a doctor to sign the form that you are in need of financial assistance and only will cover one patient under each doctor, BUT you can use a different doctor then your Lyme doctor for the signature.  For me I used my general practitioner to sign the paper. The doctor is not agreeing to oversee the process but to simply vouch that you are in need of financial assistance.

(8) Looking for specific supplements at an affordable price for the gut? Check out my post, 10 Affordable and Helpful Lyme Disease Supplements for the Gut that you can find by clicking HERE

"Food as thy Medicine" Tips
Many people, like me, are doing a "combined/integrative" approach and are using any and all resources together- which for me, includes using "food as medicine". You might have seen different times on instagram where I have mentioned this. Unfortunately, using food as medicine can become quite expensive as you look to use organic foods. Here are a few tips that might help save some cost in this area:

(1) Look at buying in bulk. While you may not be able to eat everything before it will "expire" look at buying in bulk and then freezing, canning, or baking different things. This can definitely save some costs in the long run.

(2) Look at the fruit/veggies that are in season. Often times these are a little cheaper then the ones that aren't!

(3) Write companies for coupons on certain products. I have done this and it is well worth the time and energy as sometimes they will even send you coupons for "free products"!

(4) Look around to see if you can get better deals on some things in different grocery stores, online, or health food stores. (Even some "big discount stores" like Sams now carry different organic products!)

Fundraisers, Go Fund Me, Etc.
(1)When I made up my first "go fund me page" I had no idea what I was doing. I did some minimal research and chose "go fund me" because it had one of the least percentages of pay for fees. Over the last three years I have continued to stick with "go fund me". It was a humbling journey but one that the Lord has used time and time again to provide financial resources that I desperately need. 

(2) It can be humbling but accept financial help whenever it is given to you. A sweet friend from bloggy world held a fundraiser for me this past summer. It was humbling as there were not to many sales but the funds I received helped me pay for two supplements I needed. ALWAYS accept when something is given. 

(3) Try to come up with things that you can do from home to sell to make money. One of the main ways that I am able to pay for things that I need is through my shop, December Caravan. I am able to create most things from my bed and this has definitely helped me financially.

(4) Some people do not like to just give money without understanding what the specific need is. If you are able -try to break down what the money you are raising is going towards. This can be a real help to those who would like to contribute.

(5) If you travel out of state to see your doctor you might find this post helpful that I wrote last summer: How to Pay for the Costs & Expenses when Traveling out Of State or Country. There are tons of helpful hints and ideas in that post!

Travel Tips & Resources
(1) Try to use the same rental car company, hotel chain, airplane group, etc. to help build up points that you might be able to use to help cut the cost of your trips. 

(2) If you travel out of state to see your doctor you might find this post helpful that I wrote last summer: How to Pay for the Costs & Expenses when Traveling out Of State or Country. There are tons of helpful hints and ideas in that post!

Do y'all have any financial tips for other Lymies? I would love to know!! I will be updating this page frequently so check back often for updated ideas!

Also if you are looking for my Lyme Disease books you can find them by clicking on the links below:

When Truth Refreshes: Daily Reflections from Scripture for the Emotions that Accompany Lyme Disease (Coming May 1st, 2017)
When Lyme Invades: Encouragement and Practical Tips for Loving Your Friend through Lyme Disease