Caravan Sonnet: September 2015


Hurt and Hope in the Waiting

Waiting is the hardest anguish isn't it? Waiting on the Lord to answer prayers that you have prayed months and years and sometimes decades to see come to fruition is something that is hard to adequately express in words the emotions that can be felt and can feel like we are navigating walking a tightrope over a very deep chasm. Waiting is the difficult anguish of acknowledging my deepest longing and desire is being unfulfilled at present and wrestling with the bewilderment of what seems to be unanswered prayer and God's silence. 
This past February I shared a post that described this delicate tightrope and challenged myself and my readers to have courage in the waiting and to rest in WHO God is despite the silence of unanswered prayer. Despite the emotions that come with different circumstances, especially the ones that lead us to begin to believe that God is at work and our heart-wrenching prayers are finally being answered. I still definitely believe everything that I wrote in February, but in these past few months I have actually struggled through my own writing from so few months ago. 
Let's be honest: this summer has not been the easiest at all. It has been filled with extreme nausea and vertigo that has made it even difficult to sit up in bed, extreme pain due to the different drugs that are coursing through my body and leave me with a million side effects, and extreme fatigue that makes even talking very difficult. While there have been huge moments of rejoicing that I have shared on social media, there has also been a deep hurt that settled into a little corner of my heart. A deep hurt so tender that even as I write this tears are silently slipping down my cheeks. A deep hurt that has brought me to the feet of Jesus again and again, asking: "Lord, do you see? Lord, how long must this go on? Lord, what about my deepest desires (to be healed, to be married, to be a mama) that I have been praying for years for? How Long Lord, How Long?"
In the midst of my broken and hurt heart I have had more opportunities than ever this summer to share about the love of Jesus and have encountered so many people who grow bitter during this period of life. Bitter that they waited for dreams to come true only to have them dashed. Bitter to discover that God didn't answer prayers in the way that they had dreamed or imagined was possible. The reality I discovered is that many people allow their hurt to develop into bitterness. Several months ago I came across a quote that pierced my heart with its truth, love, and grace:

"Interestingly enough, the most asked question in the whole Bible (from Genesis to Revelation) is "How Long, O Lord, How Long?" And the most repeated command from God is, "Do not fear" or "Do not be afraid". The people of God consistently cry out for relief, and the God of love bids us to trust Him."
Friends, this is what I am finding in this wilderness of waiting- I continue to cry out to the Lord asking "How Long?" and he repeatedly commands me to trust Him, to not be afraid, and not to fear. At first I thought that this didn't pertain to me. Honestly, I thought, "wait a second, I am not afraid, I simply am waiting for my prayers to be answered". And then it struck my heart so hard as I realized if I wasn't afraid, I would not be feeling that tender hurt. I might feel sad that my timing is different than the Lord's, but if I am truthfully honest with myself- I wouldn't be feeling hurt. I might be in deep anquish at this season of waiting, but I wouldn't be afraid. 
I think that sometimes we view fear and being afraid as something that we are just scared of, but in terms of waiting I am finding the fear is more that what I am most longing for will never happen. The things that I have been praying for for over two decades won't come true. What if what I am most longing for and praying for never happens? What if the way that my prayers are answered are not what I am hoping? What if the test results continue to be poor? What if I never get married or become a mama? What if... and the questions go on and on. 

I don't know about you but I am not finding that there are specific answers to these questions that the Lord is giving, except for the continuous, "do not be afraid",  "trust me", "do not fear". And I am learning that this is enough for today. 
I don't have a perfect answer for tomorrow, but I do have one for today. I do believe that the Lord is going to answer all of my prayers, my bitter weeping (as he did with Hannah in I Samuel), my heartbroken silent prayers. I do believe that He promises to give us the desires of our hearts and I do believe that He promises to show His goodness in the land of the living. I also believe that the God of love is tenderly calling me to trust HIM for how long that this season and this waiting period lasts. I do believe that this God of love wipes away my fears of the future and of unanswered prayers and grants abundant grace and strength to face the minutes and hours of deep hurt and fear.  
Instead of running away and becoming bitter, I find that by brokenly placing this season in His hands I am not rewarded with a pat on the back but am tenderly engulfed in His love, His promises, and HIS mercies that are new every morning. He has never forsaken those whom He loves, and this beautiful God of love answers my questions of "How Long?" with continuous grace and a bid to trust Him and rest in Who He is. 

Hold on sweet friends to this God of love as you are waiting. Place your broken and hurting hearts in the One who loves us more than life. He will meet us in the future, but He will meet also meet us today. 


The 12 Unwritten and Important Etiquette Rules of Blogging

picture property of Hello Fashion, found HERE, altered by Caravan Sonnet
I have said this before but bloggy world is a strange and yet wonderful place. Today I wanted to share what I believe are 12 unwritten and important etiquette rules of blogging that make this adventure lovely.

1. Don't Follow and then Unfollow Someone Once the Link-Up is Over. 
While I personally don't think that there is anything wrong with following someone and then changing your mind as you get to know them it is particularly rude to follow and then immediately unfollow once a link up is over. (Just to set the record straight- on most social media forums you can see who unfollows you. Definitely not cool.)

2. Do Take the Time to Leave a Thoughtful Comment on a Blog Post. 
Comments are a gift to bloggers and comments that go beyond the "great post" are like a present. Take the time to encourage your fellow bloggers by leaving a comment. 

3. Share a Post, Re-tweet a Post Link, Re-pin a Link.
Even better than a comment is doing one of these things. Honestly whenever someone does this I truly try to do the same for them. It is a beautiful circle of love! *smiles*

4. Credit Photos that Are Not Yours
You may not be the world's best photographer, but always always always give credit to the source of your picture.

5. Don't Copy Someone Else's Phrases that are Uniquely Their Own. 
A sad trend that I have noticed around bloggy world is what I like to nick name "soft plagiarism". It is not exactly typing word for word someone else's blog post, but instead will use key or typical phrases that are uniquely a bloggers. Look, it is great to be inspired by another blogger but don't copy "their" phrases, etc. Create your own and have a blog that is uniquely yours!

6. Don't be strange and post similar quotes, verses, topics on your blog or on social media the same day or the next day after someone else does on. It is one thing to be inspired by someone and another thing to be copying them. 
This past year I had the strangest thing start to occur. I would post a picture with a particular quote on instagram and then next day one particular blogger would post the exact same quote. The first 8 times it happened I thought maybe it was a coincidence but after it happened 25 times and continues to happen at least 5 times a month, I realized that this was purposeful. It routinely will happen on my most popular and liked instagram pictures. It is strange and honestly I want to encourage everyone to share what is uniquely on your heart. Let's all be our unique selves! (If someone has inspired you to post something or share something on social media- acknowledge them in your post or share somehow- this is a wonderful way to connect with another blogger!)

7. Reply to Blog Comments or Emails. 
No matter how big your blog is take the time to give a thoughtful reply to your blog readers who comment or email you. I shared this when in my post on 6 ways to have your blog make an impact and a difference in the world, and I truly believe that this is very important. Life is very very busy-I completely understand, but this is a wonderful way to connect with the readers of your blog. Last winter I decided to "switch up" my blog posting days so that I could devote at least one day a week to responding to emails and comments. I try to do it more often, but by rearranging my blog posting schedule I have been able to take the time to sincerely and thoughtfully respond to people's comments. I definitely recommend figuring out a schedule and a commenting system that works for you!

8. Don't Pick Favorites in Groups. 
It is completely normal to have close friends in all different situations, but sometimes in bloggy world cliques develop that don't let anyone else in. Sadly, I see this a ton with christian blogging groups. There is one particular group that I am in that I have tried for over a year "to break into". Despite my attempts at reaching out, trying to collaborate, commenting, etc. I have been routinely left out of things and I hear this a lot from different bloggers. Deep and close friendships are wonderful, but let's still open our hearts to others and encourage others in their adventures!

9. Don't Leave Comments with Links to Your Store or Other Shops on Someones Post About Their Handmade Shop or Pictures.
This has happened to me so many times and from outside the bloggy world it doesn't seem like anything, but honestly it is tacky. When someone is sharing about their creative endeavors it is just not polite to leave a comment saying that you support another handmade shop that supports women in underprivileged countries. When you do this it almost comes across like you are saying that the hardworking woman behind the computer screen isn't doing a great job. 

10. Don't Leave Critical Comments. 
If you don't like the post you just read then just don't comment. As our mama's have said to us: "if you can't say anything nice don't say anything at all". 

11. Decide the Boundary Lines of Your Privacy and Stick to it.
All different and successful bloggers handle privacy in a myriad of different ways. Some decide to share tons of pictures of their family and friends, their kiddos, all about their life, etc while others decide to stick more to a topic and have some personal posts thrown in throughout the year. Decide what is best for you and stick to it. I made the decision early on in my blogging career that not everything was up for every one's knowledge. For me this means that I don't share a ton about my friends or family (without their permission), tons of pictures of my friends or family, and while I share about fighting Lyme Disease and Cancer I don't share the particular drugs or supplements that I am using. Whatever works for you is great- just choose carefully because once something has been written on the internet you can not retract it!

12. Those that Make Blogging Their Entire Life often Burn Out.
You can have blogging be your full time job but still understand that it is your job, passion, or hobby but it is not your life. 

Early this summer I was invited to join a small group of ladies to create a blogging group that would encourage each other in our blogs. It quickly became obvious that the leader of the group had her blog as her entire life as she would send out weekly tasks for each of us to complete (sometimes these would require us to spend over 30 hours!!), wanted us to print off every hand out she sent to us, had rules that we were to follow, insisted that I needed to go back to God and pray more even though I had prayed about a particular position she wanted me to have in the group and had said "no", and other strange things. When I decided to leave the group and explained that I just felt my other commitments were to great for this type of schedule and responsibilities she literally had a breakdown saying that if people like me were leaving the group then she must be doing something wrong and she couldn't stop crying. She sent me several long facebook messages trying to get me to change my mind. 

It was just strange, BUT it is something that in my 4 years of blogging I have unfortunately seen a lot. Understand that your blog is one facet of your beautiful life and not your entire life. Those that do stay in the blogging world for a lovely amount of time that is usually longer than those who get burned out from making their blog their entire life. 

Okay bloggers- what are your etiquette rules that you believe every blogger should follow? Please let me know I would love to read!!


plans and decisions for the fall

"The people who survived the wars have found favor in the desert. The LORD appeared to me in a faraway place and said, “I love you with an everlasting love. So I will continue to show you my kindness. Once again I will build you up, and you will be rebuilt, my dear people Israel. Once again you will take your tambourines, and you will go dancing with happy people. Once again you will plant..." 
-Jeremiah 31:2-5-

I shared this picture on instagram last night along with the following news:

Today, I said goodbye to treatment round 1. I humbly say thank you for each of your prayers throughout these very difficult and very stressful 15 weeks. These 15 weeks have been the most difficult of my life, and round 2 starts in 4 short weeks. I don’t have a perfect answer for tomorrow, but I do have one for today. I believe that the God of love is tenderly calling me to trust HIM for how long that this season lasts. I do believe that this God of love wipes away my fears of the future and of unanswered prayers and grants abundant grace and strength to face the minutes and hours of this season. I have learned this summer that by brokenly placing this season in His hands I am not rewarded with a pat on the back but am tenderly engulfed in His love, His promises, and HIS mercies that are new every morning. He has never forsaken those whom He loves, and this beautiful God of love answers my questions of “How Long?” with continuous grace and a bid to trust Him and rest in Who He is. Thank you friends for walking this long journey with me, for your constant prayers, for crying with me, and for your encouragement to rest in His love.

As I watch the calendar days slowly slip by and come upon today, the first day of fall, I have to admit that I became a little apprehensive. This summer in so many ways was incredibly difficult and instead of the bravery I was feeling about the PICC line and the next steps , I had instead emerged very tired and exhausted from the fight that had taken place this summer. I admit that I am also a little apprehensive about the upcoming weeks and months. As I shared in my last update there was nothing particular new or surprising about the plan that will be coming. To be truthful, going into the conversation I pretty much knew what was coming and yet, there was a part of me that hoped for the news to be completely different. Before that conversation with my doctor, one of my closest friends asked me, "Is there a specific outcome or course of treatment that you are hoping will be the next step?" And I just broke down crying. I knew that for my particular case that the best course of treatment would be to go to the PICC line and begin IV therapy at a consistent and daily rate, but my little child self wanted to run away. 

Honestly, not much has changed. There are still a lot of tears, there are still a lot of unknowns for my particular case (due to the complexity and the way that I have reacted to medications and treatment in the past) and there is a lot of quiet. The verses above from Jeremiah 31:2-5 have brought great comfort to my heart. Truly the Lord appears to us in "faraway places" and in the desert times. And yet, I admit that I feel that my typical brave spirit was wounded. 

And yet today is upon us. Today that calls us to trust the Lord in new ways, to ask for mercy and grace, to once again pray through scripture for healing, and trust this day, like every other to the one who holds our future and the upcoming fall. 

After much prayer, much discussion, and consulting with my entire medical team my parents and I have made the difficult decision that we will be remaining in upstate NY for the next few months. Our camp is not insulated and so my grandmother has graciously opened up her home so that we may move in with her. We are not exactly sure the length of time, but my entire medical team feels that the alternative and supplemental therapies that I can receive on a weekly or bi-weekly basis up here (and that are not a viable option in the south where we live) are to important and critical to my healing process to give up. 

Y'all know that this is my favorite place in the world and yet this decision was not an easy decision to make and I have felt a wide range of emotions in making this difficult decision. It is difficult because it disrupts many things, including my precious grandmother's life. It is difficult because the four of us will be living in home that is really designed for one person at best and giving up a lot of personal space. My mom and dad will be sacrificing a lot in this decision. It is difficult because it affects many people including my sister, my uncle and his family, and the list goes on and on. 

It is difficult because I hate being the person who is sick and that these decisions have to be made. But at the same time all of us want me to beat this thing and be done and this gives my body the best chance and so that is what we are doing... I am reminded that we are gently and lovingly carried by the Lord and met with grace for each day (Psalm 68:19). So today there is a mixture of hard and good. Tears and rejoicing. Struggling and trusting. And knowing that my discouragement and fears will be preciously and tenderly met by the God of love that bids me to trust Him in new ways.

While I currently completed the summer treatment round I am still finishing up several drugs that are extremely difficult on my digestive system and body which I would ask for prayer for. Next week I leave on the cruise and I would ask that you cover me in prayer for this adventure. I have shared this before but it can be extremely nerve-wracking when you are sick to leave the comfort and familiar (and often necessary) medical surroundings. I ask that you specifically pray against the extreme vertigo, sickness, and pain that I have been experiencing recently. 

When I return I will have two weeks of shots before heading out to California for the PICC line insertion and beginning treatment. Our specific prayer request for the beginning of the PICC line treatment is still the same - that I would be able to handle the first round with no severe reaction. We might have to try different meds to figure out which is the best and I appreciate your faithful prayers. I also appreciate your continued prayers for all of the financial means to come in for this trip.

Words can't express how grateful I am for all of your kind support and love during this time. Thank you again for all of your support, love, and prayers. You are a blessing!

With Love, 


6 Tips to Help Your Blog Make an Impact and a Difference in the World

A couple of weeks ago I shared a post entitled, "6 Ways to Stop the Comparison Game & Love your Blog" which has quickly become one of my most popular posts. Personally I think it is because this topic resonates so deeply with each of us that are writers of blogs. We want and desire our words that we labor and work to perfectly craft to touch the heart of someone. We want to be a blogger who inspires others. We want to have our blogs change someone in the best possible way. The question then becomes how do we make our blog stand out and be unique from the millions of other blogs that there are?

I know that there has been a ton written on the subjects of how to have your blog gain more traffic, more followers, more everything basically but today I wanted to step away from the numbers and social media tutorials for growing something and go to the heart of what I believe most bloggers are wanting: ways to have your blog make an impact on someone else and a difference in the world. Here are six tips that I hope will encourage you in this bloggy world and bloggy journey:

(1) Define Your Goals & Develop and Re-evaluate Your Mission Statement
So often I hear bloggers say, "I want my blog to have an impact" or "I want my blog to make a difference" but we don't define and really narrow down what our goals are with our blogs. What are your goals? In what arena do you want your blog to make a difference? Do you want to be known as "the best" in your niche? Do you want to make an impact for a charity that you are passionate about? Do you want to become an author? Do you want to use your blog as a stepping stone for a shop or business? Do you want to become a full time blogger? What are your goals? Defining your goals will help you see and plan how you want your blog to make a difference and an impact in the world and will help you as you move forward in this area.

I have shared this a couple of times over this past year, but I can't recommend enough having a "mission statement" for your blog if you want to develop your blog and make an impact. The mission statement to me is almost a part "b" to defining your goals. First you have the goals and then you need the mission statement. Your mission statement may change and morph as the years go on and your blog develops more and more. Take the time to let your mission statement grow and morph with you as a person and this will flow over into the course of your blog. 

(2) Share Your Heart
Whatever your platform and niche is with your blog (travel, fashion, lifestyle, family, etc.) take the time to share your heart with your readers. This might look different for each person, but think about how you can share your heart and your life with your readers. Your story matters. It really does. One of my favorite quotes for this point comes from author Shauna Niequist:

"There’s nothing small or inconsequential about our stories. There is, in fact, nothing bigger. And when we tell the truth about our lives—the broken parts, the secret parts, the beautiful parts—then the gospel comes to life..."

Don't ever think that what you have to offer in regards to your story is to small or not big enough. Your story is powerful and your story matters. Share you heart!
(3)Write. Write. Write. Write some more
One of the biggest ways for your blog to have an impact is to recognize a key component: writing. A key for your blog making a difference is to write, write, write, and write some more. Let's be honest: maintaining a blog is a lot of work. You need to be thinking about the daily component of responsibilities, plus your weekly, monthly, and yearly goals. But everything comes down to writing and sharing your heart. Writing and crafting your words takes time- a lot of time and the best way to become a better writer is to keep writing. 

When I first started blogging I remember a well-known blogger sharing that she carried a small notebook with her to write down blog ideas when she thought of them. I loved this idea because there are so many times when you are doing something away from your computer and you have a thought for the blog that you want to remember. I love altering things so I always carry my altered calendar with me (which has note space in it) but maybe you prefer keeping notes on your phone or in a different form. Whatever the best method is for you - take time to write every single day perfecting the craft. 

(4) Put the Time Into Your Blog & Have Quality Stamped All Over It
I am always a little baffled at how I hear from many bloggers who want to make an impact and a difference with their blog but when I ask them how much time they put into their blog they say "oh ya know 1-2 hours a week throwing up a post as much as possible". It's not the time that baffles me as much as the flippant, "throw up a post". Life is busy. I get it. I really do. Honestly, I really really do. I think that some people think that because I am "sick and not working" I just have a ton of time sitting around to twiddle my thumbs and write for the blog. Uh No. Like everyone else I have a ton of things going on and being sick actually adds a very difficult dimension to blogging. Some days I am to sick to look at a computer screen let alone be able to type an entire post. But this isn't about me... this is about the desire to have your blog make an impact and a difference and the reality is that you will have to put the time into your blog if you want to accomplish that. 

On one hand it is not about the time that you can spend and on the other it is. This can be a sensitive area- especially if you have a lot going on or are going through an extremely difficult time. But the reality is that time is a huge component to our blogs. Many bloggers who are making an impact and a difference have been working at this for years. You have to put the time in if you want to see these types of results. Maybe you truly do only have 1-2 hours a week to devote to your blog. That is okay- make those hours worthwhile and make them the best you can. Maybe you don't have time to post every single day. That is okay. Make your posts the best that they can be so that when you do post your readers know that you will provide great quality and content. Maybe you want to take better pictures, develop your craft. Whatever you do- put the time into it and (as the president of my college used to say to us) "have quality stamped all over it".

(5) Pray
As a christian my number one goal is to share the hope of Jesus Christ with each person that I encounter- in person and in my online presence. I hope that people will walk away from my blog and feel encouraged and inspired to chase after their dreams, find beauty in the ordinary, grab onto hope, and see the love of Jesus through my writing and my interactions with them. I have shared this before with lots of people, but I honestly do spend a LOT of time praying about my blog and social media presence. I want my blog to be honoring to the Lord. This has meant that sometimes I have turned down some opportunities for growth or some opportunities that some would call "lucrative". That is okay, I have complete peace about this. As I pray, I truly believe that the people that I interact with and who come to my blog are meant to be there. I hope in some small way my little writing and life might encourage them in their own journey. 

(6) Be Kind
Isn't it amazing how much kindness affects each of us in our daily lives? When someone takes the time to truly listen to what we are saying, ask us important questions, send us an encouraging note, etc. Even a stranger's kindness can touch us. It is absolutely the same thing with our blogs. When we give our time to write thoughtful comments on other bloggers posts, offer kindness to those whom we don't know, offer an encouraging word, respond back to comments on our posts, etc. we are spreading kindness and this changes things. This makes a difference in someone's life. Kindness can truly shape and change the course of someone's life that you interact with and this will make a difference in the world. 

What are ways that you hope your blog will make an impact or a difference in someone's life? What tips do you recommend for those who want to make a difference in the world through their blog?

a quote that has impacted me deeply

I shared this quote on instagram several months ago and y'all, I LOVE this quote. So often, for thousands of different reasons, we can feel alone and like this is the way our stories will always be. I first heard this quote in the middle of my quest to find out the reasons why at a young age I had become unable to walk, was needing a feeding tube, and my entire system was crashing. After traveling across the country and seeing more than 273 doctors I was finally correctly diagnosed with Advanced Late Stage Lyme Disease in March 2013. Three short months later I was also diagnosed with Cancer. This health journey has the potential to be extremely lonely and isolating, but I see each and every day beautiful ways the truth of this quote. 

No matter your situation, hold on to hope friends, you are NOT alone and this is NOT the end of your story.


when light dawns (releasing November 2015)

I am so excited to share a BIG secret that I have been keeping!! My new book, "When Light Dawns" (Daily Reflections on Advent & Christmas for Lyme Warriors) will be released on November 15th, 2015!!!

This book, the first and only Lyme patient specific book for Advent and Christmas, will feature daily reflections that will inspire, encourage, and give hope to Lyme warriors. Containing a daily reflection for each day of the Christmas season (from the last week of November through the first week of January) "When Light Dawns" can be used as a simple encouragement to the weary heart or as a guided devotional study. Either way, "When Light Dawns" will provide spiritual encouragement and give new meaning to the popular phrase, "holiday preparations". 

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 this project coming to fruition. Would you pray for me as I finish up the final edits in the coming weeks? Specifically I have been praying the words of the Psalmist:

"May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to you, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer."
-Psalm 19:fourteen-

Would you pray this for me too? Thank you so much sweet friends! I hope that you have a wonderful Sunday!!


9 Things I Have Learned From Fighting Lyme Disease

1. Life Truly Feels Like It Is "On Pause" In Every Aspect
My beautiful and talented friend Jenny from "The Lyme Road" wrote a wonderful post on what it feels like to live with Lyme Disease. The title alone was so powerful ("A Life on Pause") that it actually took me over a week to read the article. This article articulates in perfect and haunting ways what I and others who are fighting this illness deal with every single day. I can't even begin to count anymore the number of times that people forget that I have had to give up my career, my independence, my life to fight this disease. Absolutely everything has been put on hold and it is one of the most difficult things to deal with in this journey. (You can find the article by clicking HERE.) 

2. Healing Doesn't Happen Overnight and It is NOT a straight line.
When you have strep throat or a basic infection you feel poorly and you take a prescribed medication to get better you start feeling better within a day, week, or sometimes a month. Healing takes place quickly and many people start complaining if they have felt sick for more than two days. Lyme is completely the opposite: Healing doesn't happen overnight and it is a complex fight to deal with all of the issues that Lyme has caused as it can wreak havoc on so many different parts of the body. (You can read more about the long and winding road to healing by clicking HERE.)

3. 95% of People You Know Have No Idea What Lyme Disease Is Before You Got It. 
Even though there have been more people talking about Lyme Disease in 2015 then in previous years, 95% of people that I know didn't know what it was before I started sharing my story. In response to this I wrote and shared a basic post entitled, "What is Lyme Disease?" that remains one of my most read posts of all time. 

4. Many Doctors Are Not Aware of What Lyme Disease is, Don't Understand its Complexities, and Many Don't Believe that it Exists. 
Before I got sick I used to watch some medical shows off and on with friends and marvel at the way the doctors would treat patients with "rare and misunderstood diseases". Before I got sick I was convinced that doctors knew pretty much everything in their field. After my diagnosis I have not watched one medical show and learned that doctors sometimes don't know everything. Let me tell you - it is not fun to be the patient sitting in the office where the "experts" on health don't understand your disease, where you have to explain how a certain medication will cause a herx reaction, and tell them that "no, this is not all in my head". 

A quote that I mentioned in the forward of my book and that has brought me to tears sums this point up well: "In the fullness of time the mainstream handling of Chronic Lyme Disease will be viewed as one of the most shameful episodes in the history of medicine". 

5. Lyme Disease is the Loneliest Battle You Will Ever Fight.
"Recovery is not a team sport. It's a solitary distance run. It's long. It's exhausting. And it's lonely as hell." 

Fighting Lyme Disease is the loneliest battle you will ever fight. Even with a great support team you have to face the monster day in and day out- doing something every hour or more to fight, and it is incredibly lonely. It is days upon days upon days of being in bed, being in your house (where moving to a different room can be a huge accomplishment) and days upon days upon weeks upon years of fighting a serious and determined killer. It's a solitary distance run... a marathon that you never wanted to run or trained for. It's incredibly long. It's physically and emotionally exhausting. And it's lonely as hell. 

It is in that space that I find that God meets me each and every minute, every hour, and every day so that no matter how many days and weeks of fighting I am reminded that I am never truly alone.

6. People Can Say the Most Insensitive Things
I can't even begin to start to list the hundreds of insensitive things that I have been told throughout this journey ranging from: "It must be nice to not have to go to work" or "It must be nice not to have to ever leave summer you have it everyday of the year" or "I am tired and you don't see me complain about it" or "you just need to exercise more" or "if you just tired this... (insert oil, supplement, antibiotic, pill, etc.) you would be better" or "Why aren't you better yet?" or "You must just not have enough faith to be healed" or "What is the name of the disease you have again? Lame Disease?" And the list goes on and on and on and on... 

I honestly had no idea how insensitive and hurtful people could be until I got sick. At a time when I thought people would surround and encourage, I have received so much skepticism, hurtful and rude assumptions and comments, and lack of support from those that I truly thought were close friends. I shared a little in my post, "after the diagnosis", but the truth is that this is a sad but realistic part of the journey. 

7. There are Unexpected Blessings of Illness
While it is true that I have had lots of friends walk away and been very unsupportive of my journey, I can also say without a doubt that I am incredibly blessed woman and my cup truly over runs with the way that the Lord has blessed my life with amazing friends and family support. Fighting a serious illness like Lyme leaves you incredibly vulnerable to the relationships that you have in your life because you have nothing to offer. You aren't well enough to do things that you might have done "normally" before (like attend special events or birthday parties). You aren't well enough to often remember the days of the week let alone remember important days in others lives (like birthdays, anniversary dates, etc.). You often don't have the strength for regular phone conversations (or meeting for coffee). And you often are trying to use every single spare energy you have to get better that "real life" disappears into a "fog" of "what was". 

You realize with startling reality that the many of the relationships that you have were built on what you have to offer another person instead of love. And the sad reality is that many, many, many people walk away when you have nothing to offer. A sweet friend of mine who is fighting Ovarian Cancer recently asked me if I thought illness caused division and was the cause of people leaving. I have thought about it for a while, and the truth is that I don't think it is. Yes, illness is messy and hard and filled with tons of pain and yuckiness. BUT. I truly believe that illness just shines a spotlight on the issues, the reality, and the character of who we are and those that we are friends with. I truly believe that if it wasn't the situation of illness that caused the "fracture" in relationships, it would have been something else eventually. 

BUT in the midst of all of that, there is an unexpected blessing of illness if you look for it. In the midst of the difficult, the messy, and painful, there emerges a group of people that become "your family" or "your team". These are the people that instead of walking away when times get tough they continue to love on you even though there is absolutely no benefit and nogain for themselves. They quietly and sacrificially love you, walk with you, and model Christ's love beautifully. They are the unexpected blessing of illness and I have realized that even more than before I am a very blessed woman. (You can read more about the unexpected blessings of illness in this post HERE.)

8. The Financial Cost to Fight the Disease will Drain Every Resource that You Have. 
Money that most patients (like myself) did "OK" with for the first five or six years of wandering the long trail of finding correct answers. But after that time period (and for some it is a much shorter time frame) money is not something that just continues to "come in". It has been spent (wisely, I would like to clarify) on finding answers, traveling to doctors across the country, treating one or two  mis-diagnosis', and on numerous treatments (most alternative so insurance does not cover it). ALL of these things add up to thousands and thousands of dollars.

Like myself, most Lyme Disease patients are not able to work full time and those that have to struggle to survive day to day. Without a set source of income bank accounts, savings accounts, retirement funds, etc. are quickly depleted. I have been asked by hundreds of people- "didn't you save for a rainy day"? Or... "What about your savings account?". I am going to be incredibly honest here and share something very personal. I had a wonderful savings account (I was a Dave Ramsey's graduate *smiles*) that by year three of this "adventure" was being drained and then at years five and six was completely depleted. (Just to give you a slice of a picture I have spent in the last eight and 1/2 years approximately $90,000 on medical issues, supplies, supplements, travel to doctors, etc. desperately trying to get well!!) I, like most other Lyme Disease patients, have lost any "saved money", savings accounts, retirement accounts, etc in the desperate fight to get better. Many patients like myself have limited funds and to answer the questions that I am sometimes asked- no I do not know where the resources that I am going to need for today and the rest of this week let alone the months and years ahead (until I am able to work full time again) will come from. I am a christian who is madly in love with her savior and have learned to trust that He will always provide for me - each step of this journey. 

Lyme Disease patients worry about things that most people don't think about. I will debate for hours and hours each week on which supplement or antibiotic I should do "without" due to money. We have concerns and stresses that are impossible to explain. We have sold everything we can think of, have had to humble ourselves to ask for money and are embarrassed to admit we have done so, and have asked every family member, friend, and stranger for help. In the process most of our relatives and friends have depleted their savings accounts and bank accounts to help us. Let me say what most Lyme Disease patients are thinking about all of the time but are ashamed to admit:

We don't care about the battles of politics and insurance. We don't care about "which treatment" is supposedly the best. We don't care about "this or that". What we do care about is fighting for our lives and our health and most of us are so scared that we can never get better because we do not have financial ability to do so.  (If you are a Lyme patient and looking for financial tips and resources I wrote a blog post about this topic that you can find by clicking HERE.)

9. Fighting Lyme Disease Will Change You.
The length of your recovery is determined by the extent of your disease and the reality is that it is not always successful in complete recovery. No matter how hard we work to heal ourselves, some of the wounds and issues that Lyme has cause might never fully and completely heal. For a while or for a lifetime some of the physical ramifications of Lyme Disease might exist and you may have to adjust to a whole new way of living. Even when you heal you may have changed too radically - physically or emotionally to ever go back to what you knew before this fight... and that is okay. I truly believe that fighting Lyme Disease can change us in the best possible ways. We have the opportunity to become more compassionate, more stronger, and more giving people then we were before. We have the opportunity to become a better version of who we were before we entered this fight. Physically, emotionally and spiritually I look back as I finish my third year of living at home and see that I am a different person... I have fought for who I am and I realize that I am loving this person I am becoming. Fighting Lyme Disease has changed me... in the best possible way.


showing up in hope in the ordinary

Almost 10 years ago I was the recipient of a miracle from the Lord in the form of healing from what I was told was an incurable disease. After struggling for years in physical pain and begging the Lord for mercy when the medical community gave no hope the Lord performed a miracle. Family and friends cheered joyously as they witnessed their prayers answered. Doctors shook their heads in amazement when the healing happened muttering, “it must be something higher that healed you”. People responded with encouragement over my faith and proclaimed the Lord's power. It is a story of joyous victory and of good triumphing over evil. It is a story that rings with hope in a God who still performs miracles and of a God who is triumphant over illnesses after “the experts” have given up hope. It is a story that people love to hear, and one that I have loved to share over the years. It is a story that makes me well up with tears at the goodness of the Lord and stand in awe of what He did nine and a half years ago.
But the truth is that I am living a much different story today. I have shared some of my journey with Advanced Late Stage Lyme Disease and Cancer on my blog but there are many parts that have remained in private. To be truthful the life that I live now shattered midst ordinary days six years ago when my ex-fiancĂ© walked out of our relationship a mere five months before we were to be married with no warning. Since then in these past six years my life has crumbled bit by bit by one circumstance to another to finally being diagnosed with Cancer, Advanced Late Stage Lyme disease, an environmental illness and several other diagnosis'. The combination of the diseases’ listed has severely affected my life and began one of the most difficult fights of my life. But while my life shattered my faith in my precious Lord, who is the God of HOPE, has not.
The recovery is long and instead of a planned out future, I am left with more questions than answers. My aching longings for the future of being married and being a mama has been placed on hold and instead of my dreams I am left with questions of life, value, and the God that I so desperately adore. In my little mind it is not the story that shouts the triumph of a powerful God as I expected the same ending of miraculous healing of ten years ago. It is not a story that we love to hear, but in this broken world it is a story that many people live.
I, like many others, am tempted to compare not only my "miraculous" story to my present day one but also to the answered prayers and joyful and carefree living of so many I see around me. But I am learning a new truth friends and it has challenged me to the core. 

We all need to hear the stories of miraculous conquering and healing to spur us on in hope. These are the stories that scream to us from the pages of the Bible and the stories that we are quick to reference when bad news comes to a loved one. But there is a much quieter and powerful story that is also found deep in the pages of scripture. It is a story of showing up with hope in the ordinary days lived among the miraculous and victories. It is the story of living with anticipation that the Lord is still at work when we most feel He is absent. It is a story that drives us closer to the heart of God as we cry out to Him. I have learned to fall in love with the God who I know does miracles. I have also fallen passionately in love with this same God who has the power to do miracles and has recently said resoundingly: wait. 
"He is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow." There are beautiful examples of this in the Bible. One of those is the story of the women who bled for twelve years from Luke chapter eight. It is a beautiful story of a woman who must have spent everything that she owned on doctors who had not been able to help her and yet she still showed up to meet Jesus. With no promise that Jesus would do anything she pushes her way through the “crowds that almost crushed Him” and reaches out her hand in desperation and the hope that Jesus could not only heal but that He would show up.
Friends, if you are struggling through the dark night of suffering I urge you to hold fast to the story of the woman who was ill and find hope in the story of the Israelites. Just like that woman, we see in the book of Exodus that the Israelites held on to the hope that God was still at work. As they limped out from under the hard yoke of slavery they carried their tambourines through the long trek of the desert believing that there would still be a song yet to sing. They didn’t know when the song would come, but like the woman they pushed through and held onto hope that God would show up. Despite the fact they had no assurances or promises of what their future would look like, they walked with their tambourines. They were fully prepared for the celebration that they did not yet have a time frame for. The celebration that only lay hidden in their hearts as they walked mile after mile in the desert. The same hope of celebration that the woman who bled for twelve years was also expecting as she reached out her hand for Jesus’ cloak.
Dear friends, what about you? Are you ready to show up in Hope? I have friends who are scattered around the world serving AIDS victims in Africa, fighting for the freedoms of those in the Middle East and some holding crying orphans in the heart of Haiti. Maybe you are like them and can venture to far off countries to rescue those that the world has abandoned. Or maybe you can quietly and powerfully write your story by showing up, and learning like I am to take one day at a time, find beauty in the ordinary, and minister to those that the world has forgotten. Either way we can all come to the cross and take His love into our worlds- no matter how big or small that might seem. Either way we can show up and rejoice that He is going to answer as we step out in faith and cry out to Him. All we need to do is be ready to rejoice, reach out for His garments, carry our tambourines, and show up in Hope. 
*I was so honored to share this post and my heart on Betsy's blog earlier this week. Thank you so much Betsy for letting me share my heart*

How to Get a Gel Manicure at Home

As I shared a couple of weeks ago, I am a girly-girl at heart. Y'all know I love being in nature, working outside, and being in the woods, but I love dressing up, wearing skirts and dresses, and having my nails done. I admit that before I got sick I used to go and get a regular manicure and pedicure, but due to financial reasons there is no way that this would be possible now. I loved getting a gel manicure because it would last for a couple of weeks and if my nails are done I just feel girly and pretty. (Anyone else understand?) 
Today I wanted to share a product that I am completely smitten with. I haven't done a smitten post in a long time (in my last one I shared my favorite hair products) and am excited to share with y'all today about this one for nails!

I nicknamed these posts "smitten" because the word smitten is defined as: smitten: {adj}: infatuated, charmed, captivated, beguiled, enamoured

This seemed like the perfect word as there are certain products that I use or have that I am just smitten withI love discovering great products on other blogs and hope that these items that I talk about from time to time on here might be a wonderful discovery for y'all, like today's post on nails. None of these posts are sponsored, I simply hope that they are helpful and informative!

For a long time I tried to pain my own nails but I felt that it was constantly chipping and peeling. Between detox baths, writing, and blogging my nails get a work out and seemed to be constantly loosing their color. I started to feel like all I was doing was putting on nail polish. I then started to hear about different "at home gel manicures". Let me tell y'all... honest truth I think I pretty much tried them all, but I still found that the color would chip within 1-2 days and my nails often looked like there were 20 coats of polish on them (and there were!). 

I was frustrated, but determined to find a solution and after a lot of research decided to try SensationNail Gel Nail Polish Kit a couple of years ago. Honestly, I was extremely skeptical because (a) it was an investment to start off with  (kits run approximately $49-$69 dollars) and (b) I had such little success with other gel kits and brands I didn't believe it could actually work. 

After a lot of research I found a coupon which took the price down quite a bit, found a coupon on the Target Cartwheel App, used my 5% off pharmacy reward coupon, and a friend (who had patiently listened to my dilemma about nails *smiles*) sent me a target gift card so I ended up paying approximately $5 to try the starter kit. I chose to purchase the french manicure starter kit because I love french nails. 

I admit that the first two times were not so pretty (bumping the light and smudging things, getting used to the step by step system, etc.) and took a bit of time (reading the directions, etc.), but I immediately was sold as I saw that my nails didn't chip within the first couple of days. In fact, I started to notice that they didn't chip in the first week and lasted TWO weeks!! I also love the "professional manicure look" that comes with using this specific product. 

This isn't a sponsored post, so all of these opinions are completely mine, but I can't recommend this product enough y'all. I receive so many compliments on my nails (and some criticisms from people who think that I am going out to get a regular manicure but also have a go fund me page! hahaha!) and I love the ease and the length of the time that they stay on. I use this regularly at home and also use this to do my nails for special occasions and for the cruise that I went on. 

Here is a simple way to use this kit and get a gel manicure at home:
The great thing about the french manicure starter kit (or any of the kit colors you choose) is that it comes with all of the items that you need for your gel manicure. The kit includes a nail file/buffing tool, cuticle tool, gel wipes, gel base and top coat, color, nail primer, and LED light. 
The first step is to simply file and buff your nails. Second you will apply the nail primer to your nails.
Third, you will apply one coat of the base/top coat to your nails.
After this you will apply your color or your french tips and then apply another coat of the base/top coat.
Between each of the above steps you will put your nails into the LED light for 60 seconds. I do recommend slightly rotating your nail throughout the time that you have them in the light. This simply allows for the sides and the entire nail to be fully "locked down". 
That is all you have to do! The entire process the first few times took me approximately 45 minutes, but now I can do it in as little as 20-25 minutes! What about y'all? Have you tried any at home gel manicures?