Caravan Sonnet: February 2015

2/28/15

Custom 1,000 Places to See Before You Die Altered Journal

Happy Saturday friends! How in the world are we at the last day of February?!? Time seems to be flying by doesn't it? 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 have said this before, but one of my favorite items to create in the shop are the "altered travel journals". There are different options available including, altered city travel journalaltered state travel journalaltered country travel journal, and a couple of months ago I added the altered 1,000 Places to See Before you Die Altered travel journal.  They are a wonderful keepsake or a perfect gift for all different occasions!
Recently I have received a custom order for a 1,000 Places to See Before You Die Altered Journal for a wedding present! What a great idea to give a new couple!!
This custom order was from Amanda who wanted me to create an altered travel journal for her sister as a Birthday Present. It was a lovely gift for a lady who loves to travel and yet loves her family and home. 
Seeing that her sister is in a period of "transition" she wanted to give her a gift that would last a lifetime. It was truly a beautiful sentiment!
As I listened to Amanda describe her sister and her wish for this present I wanted to choose colors that were "whimsical" for her age but also choose colors that were classy and would "grow" with her throughout her life. Due to this I chose a mixture of golds, yellows, blues, and light touches of silvers. 
Amanda was a delight to work with! I was THRILLED with the final results and loved this color combination and definitely plan to use it again in the future!! 
Thank you so much for the opportunity to create this for you Amanda! Thank you so much for your kind words also! You are a blessing!
If you are interested in purchasing an altered 1,000 Places to See Before you Die Altered travel journal  click HERE! Or hop on over to check out more items available in my shop!
Happy Saturday friends! I hope you have a wonderful day and weekend!

2/27/15

Operation Smile/ Campus Book Rental

Photo property of Operation Smile
Don't y'all love companies who help others? I am so inspired by them and their work! This is one of the reasons why I have written about Operation Smile several times here on the blog! Their work and the way that they are helping children around the world is simply inspiring.

If you aren't familiar with them, Operation Smile  "is an international children's medical charity that heals children's smiles, forever changing their lives... [by offering] safe, effective reconstructive surgery and related medical care for children born with facial deformities such as cleft lip and cleft palate. Every three minutes a child is born with a cleft. One in 10 of those children will die before their first birthday. The children who survive are often unable to eat, speak, socialize or smile. In some places, they are shunned and rejected. And in too many cases, their parents can't afford to give them the surgeries they need to live a productive life.

Y'all this touches my heart to the core. As someone who is dealing with several severe medical issues I know the importance and the miracle of having someone help you in a medical crisis and this is exactly what Operation Smile does. Through kind donations they are able to save people's lives one child at a time. 
And THAT to me is one of the main reasons that I support Operation Smile's campus programs but also Campus Book Rentals

It's hard to believe that we (those of us who are students) are only several months away from the start of a new summer semester! Many days time seems to fly faster than I can keep track of and it is hard to believe that it has been more than two years since I wrote my first review for Campus Book Rentals & Operation Smile. And honestly y'all I am so honored to have the opportunity to talk about them again today.  As I am sure everyone is, students are desperately trying to save money on the costs of books. And guess what? You can save a lot of money this upcoming school year through Campus Book Rentals! I still truly believe that Campus Book Rentals is a perfect way to get the textbooks that you need for classes and not spend the hundreds or even thousands of dollars that sometimes can add up over the semesters.  

AND...

In my first post I shared several reasons that I believe Campus Book Rentals is awesome and I still think every single one of these things is still wonderful!! My favorite though is their "rent back" program which is seriously wonderful! In this program you have the opportunity rent the textbooks that you own to other students like yourself. If you think about it you could potentially earn two to four times the amount you would earn if you just simply sold your books at the end of the semester or simply sold it once via an on-line venue. Research has also shown that Rent Back will provide you with more money than the campus buy back programs that currently exist on most college campuses! This is also a wonderful program for people like myself who are on-line students! 

In addition to this wonderful new program, there is security in the fact that Campus Book Rentals has been around since 2007 so they have years of experience!

AND (here is my favorite part!!!)

 Remember when I shared above about how much I love Operation Smile? Well guess what?!?! Campus Book Rentals donates a portion of the proceeds with each textbook rented to Operation Smile! This year they are committing to supporting 80 surgeries!! What a life changing thing y'all!! I love this!! 

So when y'all are looking for textbooks this semester and for your future semesters don't forget to check out Campus Book Rentals~ not only will you be saving money - you will be helping save a life!! 
Not a student??!? That is okay!! You can still support the work of Operation Smile in lots of different ways! Click HERE to check out tons of ways that you could make a difference!!!


Disclosure: I received compensation in exchange for highlighting this business but all opinions expressed in this post are my own.

2/26/15

Sales Pitches of Products to the Chronically/Seriously Ill

picture found on internet, altered by Caravan Sonnet
So when I wrote my post from last week (entitled the essential oil debate) I admit that I knew that I would probably have some people disagree with me. I felt that (as with all of my posts) I wrote from my heart and from my humble opinion and my own experience. For the most part I received many lovely comments, but behind the scenes in email form I received a lot of "hate" email regarding my stance on essential oils. One of the thing that I heard from over half of these emails was that my story,  that I shared at the beginning of the post, "would never happen". I have already addressed these emails individually but shared that unfortunately it happens ALL OF THE TIME and not just with essential oils. Several people suggested that I write a post on tips for sales pitches of products to those who are chronically and seriously ill when they have a product that they believe will "help or cure" someone. I thought this was a great idea and today I am excited to share with y'all some thoughts!

First, I want to share with y'all an opposite story from last week of two ladies, who within this last year approached me with a product that they believed would really be of benefit to me. Both of these ladies have had a huge impact on my life through their kind and compassionate hearts, their prayers, and their love for Christ. I should say that neither of them knew I would be sharing this but they are just to wonderful not to share about!


Ruth, who is such an inspiration to me, mentioned this summer that she knew of a product that she thought could help me.  She did so in a very compassionate and kind way. She mentioned that she had heard and read and knew a ton about the product and its ingredients. She said that she had thought of me because she had heard and known others that had Lyme that it had helped with and wondered if it might help me. Ruth offered to chat with me more in depth about it at any time it was convenient for me. We set a time (I know that she rearranged her busy schedule for this!) and talked. It was only after we hung up that I realized that I didn't even know if she was a "seller" of this product or not! Her focus on the entire conversation was on the product and what she had learned. She gave me detailed information that I could discuss with my doctor. I smile as I write this because I actually had to contact Ruth to find out if she was a seller if I purchased the product! 


Clarita, who is an absolute gem, contacted me about a product that she sells via Facebook several months ago. Like Ruth, she had been helped by this product and had come across lots of Lymies who had also been helped about the product. One of my favorite parts about her email to me was when she said: "I've thought of you so much when I read them, but hesitated to contact you because I know you must get a lot of people saying, "You need to try this!" or "This product is exactly what you need!!" and I don't want to be just another one. There is no need to response to this if you're not interested - just know you are cared and thought about!" If I could have I would have reached through the internet and hugged her right then and there!! Clarita went a step further even and attached AN ENTIRE ingredient list for the products that she had mentioned so that (as she said) I could run it by my health provider!!! My mouth dropped open because in the past three years Clarita is the ONLY person who has ever offered a complete ingredient list.


I am not being over dramatic when I say that in dealing with both of these ladies I walked away with tears. Tears that both of these sweet ladies were being so kind and understanding and compassionate. BOTH of these ladies have listened to my concerns about trying new products (while dealing with Mast Cell Disease), respected my boundary lines of having everything run by my medical team, and at the end of the day have covered me in prayer.


AFTER these precious experiences and the emails I received I wanted to share just a few tips and ideas on how to approach a chronically or seriously ill patient with a product. (These are in no particular order!)

(1) Understand that timing is key. For someone who is ill there can be different times of the day that are best to chat and talk through things that are important. One friend told me that a friend of hers kept calling at 10pm to discuss with her a product that she "knew she needed to get well". Unfortunately my friend headed to bed at 7pm so this woke her up! As the saying goes, timing really is everything! I was so appreciative of the time that Ruth took to rearrange her busy schedule to chat with me on the phone. This meant SO much to me!


(2) Offer an ingredient List. Clarita's gift of offering a down loadable ingredient list was a beautiful gift. I can't tell you how many times I have been offered products without any ingredient listing and I have to spend hours and hours researching the ingredients. No offense, but I simply do not have the time or energy to do that! When Clarita sent me the list of ingredients I was able to quickly read through them and then print a copy to take with me to my doctors appointment. THIS WAS PRICELESS!!


(3) Be patient with the skepticism. At some point in a chronic illness journey everyone gets tired of hearing "if you just did __________ you would get better". Two years ago I wrote a post, 26 Ways to Help a Friend With a Chronic Illness, where I shared that the someone once said, "Assume that we have heard all the tips on living healthier and leave it at that." Look, I don't know anyone who is really ill that wouldn't love to be healthy. I also don't know anyone who hasn't researched the life out of "Dr. Google". SO there is a good chance that we have either (a) heard of the product  or (b) tried the product. Both Ruth and Clarita listened to my skepticism with grace and love. When you approach someone with your product understand that they may be very skeptical of what you are offering. It is not personal, it probably has just been a very long journey with lots and lots of products offered to them.


(4) Don't take a rejection of your product personally. What I loved about my interactions with both of these ladies was that it was very obvious that they were not going to be judging or holding it over me if I decided to not try what they were offering. It was obvious in their interactions with me that they genuinely were concerned about me. 


(5) Research. Research. Research.  Both of these ladies had researched and had experience with knowing people who had Lyme Disease. Because of this they were able to approach me on a completely different level, understanding the intricacies of this journey. I received a lot of criticism in my essential oils debate post because I said that many "oil sellers" do not have a medical degree. I honestly stand by that comment but I do believe, like both of these ladies did, that there is an opportunity to share what you know and your experience. If you don't know the answer research your heart out, ask experts, and try to find an answer. Don't be quick to say that because it worked for "a friend of a friend's cousin neighbors niece" that it will work for someone who is seriously ill.


(6) Listen to the Fear.  I expressed to both of these ladies my concerns and my story of dealing with new products and the traumatic difficulty of anaphylactic reactions. As they listened I felt "heard" which is not something that happens a lot when a product is being suggested. Take time to listen to the reasons that your friend might be skeptical of trying a new product. There are probably valid and important reasons that you need to consider.


I hope that these tips help y'all!! Please let me know if you have any questions! (AND if you are interested in learning more about "Plexus" products - which both of these ladies are distributors of- I would highly suggest talking with them. You can find Ruth's Facebook Page HERE and you can find Clarita on her gorgeous blog HERE.)

2/25/15

custom altered journal: multi-colored

Happy Wednesday sweet friends! I hope that you are having a lovely week! We here in the south are still dealing with some winter weather that has shut down most of our town. Yesterday a sweet neighbor of ours spent hours plowing/shoveling to try and "free" our neighborhood from being trapped for the last nine days. It looks like today we might be able to get out for a bit but tonight we are supposed to get more snow! Yikes! SO in light of longing for some warmer weather (or maybe just longing for a way to get out of our neighborhood after nine days! *smiles*) I thought that I would share a custom altered journal order from a couple of months ago.
The colors are so bright and happy and remind me of Spring!
This order was from a friend who wanted to have me create an a custom altered journal for her daughter. Emily was such a delight to work with and she knew that she wanted the colors to be multi-colored and contain scripture references. 
I have to admit that this was so fun to create! Emily and I attended the same college but I didn't know her that well. Over the last year and a half have gotten to know her more and she is honestly such an inspiration to me. You know those women that when you observe their lives you just say, "now there is a woman who loves the Lord"? Well that is Emily. She is an amazing wife and mom, has incredible wisdom, and has been such an encouragement to my little heart with her compassionate messages. 
I was thrilled with the final results and loved this color combination!
I was also so touched when Emily facebooked me a picture with her daughter holding the journal! Such a sweet little gift to me!
Thank you so much for the opportunity to create this for you Emily! 
If you are interested in a altered journal or a custom order feel free to check out my shop or email me for details! Happy Wednesday again friends! I hope you have a wonderful day!!

2/23/15

courage and questions 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. Waiting is the difficult anguish of acknowledging my deepest longing and desire is being unfulfilled at present and wrestling with the bewilderment of unanswered prayer. 
Walking in the wilderness of waiting can be like walking on a tightrope of emotions can't it? Through certain circumstances we begin to believe that God is at work at our prayers and are being answered, only to have the circumstance fall apart. One day we receive the call that finally, after two rounds of IVF, it looks like a baby will finally be a reality, only to discover that it has failed again. In one moment we can begin to believe that "perfect" job that we have been praying for is opening up, only later to find that the promotion went to someone else. In one month it appears that love has come to stay as you are being pursued by a man who might be "the one" to only discover silence in the coming months. 
No matter the situation or circumstance, the roller coaster of emotions that accompanies the journey of waiting touches deeply to the core the heart of all who are walking it. I 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.

I am learning that waiting requires a tenacity of spirit and faith like nothing else. In their book, "Captivating", John and Staci Eldridge have a beautiful quote regarding the subject of waiting: "Living in true beauty can require much waiting, much time, much tenacity of spirit. We must constantly direct our gazes toward the face of God, even in the presence of longing and sorrow. It is in the waiting that our hearts are enlarged. The waiting does not diminish us... God does not always rescue us out of a painful season. He is after something so much more than our happiness. Much more substantive than our health. He is restoring us and growing us in an eternal weight of glory."
After my last Notes from the Porch update I received an email that caused me to pause and really consider this subject in greater depth. A young woman asked, "I saw that you shared that you saw the Lord give you an answer regarding the reason that you were not approved for disability. My question though is that if God could share that with you, why is He not answering your other prayers and desires? The prayers for healing, for a husband and to be a mama? I don't mean to insult or discourage you but I have found that it is the unanswered prayers that have attacked my faith. Instead of being "carried by the Lord" as you have mentioned often on the blog, I instead have discovered that I have been left alone and abandoned in the waiting." My heart broke for this young woman who has endured so much heartache and who in the wilderness of waiting lost her hope. 

I didn't and don't have a perfect answer. I get it. I really do. I see so many situations that are so sorrowful that my heart breaks for the way that the Lord has chosen to answer is with silence. Instead of miracles abounding there are situations that appear that the Lord has forgotten those who suffer. From friends who are dealing with shattered marriages to children with advanced stages of Cancer, to infertility, to singleness to job loss, to health issues, to deaths of a loved one...life seems incredibly difficult a lot of the time. Where is God in the unanswered prayers? Why does His silence reign when I long for Him to shout down encouragement from Heaven in the form of answered prayers?
But I also see something else. As I look to the Lord and meditate on His word I see Him. See it is in the unanswered prayers that I am learning that God is in each day. It is the unanswered prayers that I am seeing that God is truly in the waiting. It is in the unanswered prayers that I come face to face with who I am and who God is. What if I worshiped a god who granted every single request at the drop of a hat? Would I need a god like that? Or would I only be making this "god" into who I wanted him to be instead of letting him be god? Would I love this god more because he answered all of the things I asked for in the time frame that I wanted? 

And if the answer to that last question is "yes" then I have to face myself and ask what I am looking for truly out of my relationship with Christ. Do I only want someone who answers my requests and gives me everything I want? 

Like it or not, unanswered prayers and the Lord's silence forces me to confront these questions. And if I am brave enough I will face these questions with courage. I might not like what they say about me *smiles*, but the truth is still before me. And the truth, as scripture states, does set us free. Free, to except the hard realities, and free to accept and choose the joy that comes with worshiping and loving a God who is not my own creation, but who is GOD.
As I surrender these questions and my hopes and dreams the Lord grants me the strength and courage to face the day before be with hope, joy, and courage. God is in the waiting friends. He has promised that He will answer and that is enough for today. We don't need a certain place, a certain circumstance to change, or a way to "escape" when things don't happen in a way that we expected or want them to. Instead our courage in the waiting comes from running to the only one who fills our deepest need. Find courage in HIS word, HIS promises, and HIS loving-kindness. 

Several years ago there was a song by John Waller that became quite popular in the movie "Fireproof" entitled, "I'm Waiting". I have loved these words and have been so encouraged by them over the years. I hope and pray it gives you a boost of courage for the waiting friend. Hold on to hope, HE is good and HE will not abandon us.

"I'm waiting, I'm waiting on You Lord
And I am hopeful, I'm waiting on You Lord
Though it is painful, but patiently I will wait
And I will move ahead bold and confident
Taking every step in obedience

While I'm waiting I will serve You
While I'm waiting I will worship
While I'm waiting I will not faint
I'll be running the race even while I wait

I'm waiting, I'm waiting on You Lord
And I am peaceful, I'm waiting on You Lord
Though it's not easy no, but faithfully I will wait
Yes, I will wait

And I will move ahead bold and confident
Taking every step in obedience
While I'm waiting I will serve You
While I'm waiting I will worship
While I'm waiting I will not faint
I'll be running the race even while I wait

I will move ahead bold and confident
I'll be taking every step in obedience, yeah
While I'm waiting I will serve You
While I'm waiting I will worship
While I'm waiting I will not faint
And I will serve You while I'm waiting
I will worship while I'm waiting"

2/21/15

New Items in the Shop!

Happy Saturday friends! I hope that this little post finds you warm! If you can believe it we are still trapped in our neighborhood due to the ice that has fallen on the South. Hopefully by tomorrow we will be able to get out? (After a week, I definitely feel like I am living in the frozen movie and yes, on cue, I could probably sing "let it go". *smiles*) 
The cold weather has provided extra time though to create lots of new goodies for the shop! I am so amazed and thankful for y'all because December Caravan has been seeing such an increase in orders every single day!! THANK YOU to each of you who have been supporting my shop with your orders! What a blessing you are!! 
Today I wanted to share about a few of the items that I have listed more recently. This is not a complete listing of items so head on over to the shop to see them all! And don't forget that I do take custom orders!
One of the things that I have been working to "re-stock" in the shop are storybook buntings! These adorable buntings sell so quickly so I am excited to share that there are some new ones in the shop with more coming soon!
I shared on instagram that posting scripture around me where I can easily and visibly see it is something that has always been important to me. I find that I meditate on scripture more throughout the day when I see it smack dab in my face! This was the original inspiration behind the scripture buntings that I added to the shop several months ago. I LOVE seeing all of the different ways that people have used scripture buntings to hang in all different places in their homes! AND I am so excited to announce that I have now added mini scripture buntings to the shop! These adorable buntings are only $3 (without shipping) and are the perfect size to hang in a variety of places!
I must be in a "mini" mood (*smiles*) because I also have added some "mini" altered journals to the shop!
Head on over to the shop to check out all of the goodies that have been listed! Thank you so much again for your sweet support of my shop that helps pay for my medical bills/treatment and where a portion of every purchase goes to charity! 

Happy Saturday friends!

2/20/15

Notes from the Porch (Thirty): Fragments of Shattered Dreams

(Pictures in this post taken from a car ride in January)
Happy Friday Friends! I hope that this finds you doing well. First, I want to apologize for my lack of regular posting regarding my health  I have received so many kind emails asking about various things and I do apologize that it hasn't been more consistent. It is crazy how the days are so filled with a million different things (you can read my current daily routine here) and the days seem to pass so slowly until I realize it has been weeks without an update. I do apologize. I treasure and covet your prayers and I will try to update more consistently. Thank you so much for your understanding and support!
Second, if we are connected on instagram or Facebook you know that this week was filled with celebration as I reached a HUGE milestone on this journey. On Monday, we celebrated ONE year since my last ER hospital trip, last anaphylactic reaction, and one year since having to receive unplanned emergency room/hospital care! This is a HUGE answer to prayer and something that I thought a year ago as I started with a new medical team would never be possible!! It is also the first time in 7 and 1/2 years since contracting Lyme Disease that I have not had to go the hospital, have surgery, visit the ER for "strange and weird symptoms", or have a hospital stay due to "one more" infection. The only time that I have visited the hospital this year has been for planned visits. It is still something that as I write this I am overwhelmed with tears about. HOW gracious of the Lord to give this gift!! THANK YOU for rejoicing with me and for all of your prayers! TRULY the Lord is answering! "Oh the joys of those who trust the Lord!" (Psalms)
If you remember from the last Notes on the Porch Update, my doctor put me back on one of the drugs that I was on last summer. I mentioned that the first few days were difficult with this round of treatment. To be frank, it still is. This drug wipes me out (with the little energy that I have), makes me incredibly sick, and gives me a very nasty headache. The flip side is that it is killing a bunch of the Lyme and so my strong-willed nature is actually a blessing in this instance. *smiles* One of the prayer requests that I have is that these side effects will minimize so that I can stay on this particular drug (at the full dose) for at least another month. Currently I am at week 8 (as of today) and really would love to get 12 weeks out of this. Your prayers are so appreciated for this!
Another component that I mentioned in my last update was that my doctor was putting me on a specific herb to help me with Lyme cysts that have been causing me a ton of issues. I am so thankful to share that I started that herb and am already at 1/2 of the full dosage! This is a HUGE step forward as typically it would take me 6 months to get to this kind of marker! Please pray as I continue to work to get to the full dosage that this will help!
One of the prayer requests last time was that the decision was made to add a very expensive (even with insurance) medication into the treatment plan on top of the other medications that I am on. If you remember I mentioned this drug was $3,000 a month. THANKFULLY, a huge answer to prayer is that the assistance that I asked you to pray for DID come through for at least one month. I will be starting this particular medication on Monday and as always covet your prayers for no serious reactions. 
I have a very neat story to share that brings me to tears. Sometimes in this journey the Lord is so good to show how He has been working behind the scenes. As many of you know, I had been prayerfully and diligently walking through the disability assistance route for about two years now. As y'all know I was "finally" rejected after my second appeal in the fall. I was honestly devastated. I had hoped and prayed that this would be a way to help with the extreme financial costs of this journey. When I was denied I was so confused at why the Lord would allow that to happen. I knew that I wouldn't be able to receive much (I had been told that I might be able to receive $100 at the most each month, but most likely $75) but EVERY single penny is a HUGE thing on this journey so I was hopeful! When I was rejected I just cried out to the Lord asking Him why He had allowed this. Well this past month I have learned two important answers. First, the pharmaceutical company that gives the assistance for this particular medication asks if you are receiving disability assistance. If you are, you are rejected. Because I am not receiving assistance I was able to receive this amazing gift. I cried. The difference between $75 and $3000 is HUGE and the Lord already knew that. Second, a huge thing that has been hanging on my head has been my student loans that I am currently still paying off. When I made the difficult decision to take time off of finishing my second masters degree this year, my payment for my loans were going back into affect in January. There was absolutely no way I would be able to make any payment on them. Again, I found out that I am allowed a temporary deferment for the loans due to my health situation and the fact that I am not on disability. Had I been on disability that money would have to go right into the student loans. I shake my head and marvel at how the Lord is watching over every single detail on this journey, even the ones that are in the future and I don't know about. 
I had my scheduled phone consultation with my doctor last week. What a blessing that entire medical team is to my life. I cried as I shared what a blessing this past year has been. This journey is long, there are days of tears and frustration, but to see where the Lord has brought me in this journey from a year ago till now humbles my little heart. We are continuing on the things that I mentioned above and have added in a couple of more supplements/herbs and medications. 
I would ask for prayers for my upcoming required trip out to the office in California in March. There are two main prayer requests: (1) Due to finances I travel alone to these appointments and they take a lot out of me. I am sure you can imagine how much energy it takes and to be frank as a seriously ill person it can be a little nerve-wracking to travel across the country by yourself. (2) Would you please pray for the financial resources to come in for this trip? I am so grateful for the donations that come in and to those of you who ask how you can financially contribute. My "Go Fund Me Page" is on the left on this website and that is the best way! Thank you. 
I appreciate all of your prayers for this journey. To be honest, it is not a lot of fun. *smiles* The other day I was moaning and complaining to the Lord and saying, "hasn't there been enough pain?" "hasn't there been enough sickness?" "haven't I endured enough on this journey?" And the Lord quietly replied, "My child, I love you. When you pass through the waters I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow you; when you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, neither shall the flame scorch you." (Isaiah 43:1) I am humbled by the Lord's love that so graciously puts up with my complaining. How great His love is for His children. BUT... even in the midst of this I have been dealing with some silent grief behind the scenes. Recently I have felt such a tug-of-war about wishing that I was back in the classroom teaching instead of being forced to spend my days primarily in bed. I have cried many tears about wishing that I was back being "useful" to the Lord. If you know me at all then you know that my biggest dream is to be married and to be a mama. I have wanted that since I was 6 years old. *smiles* But as I spent my single years teaching, I felt that I was following the Lord's calling. I loved my teaching days. The Lord was so good in letting me spend my days pouring out His love to students. I haven't talked about it much on this blog but it has been a death ... a relinquishing of that dream in this journey. There have been many tears that have been spent on this and the knowledge that I may never go back into the classroom. Many more tears wondering if my greatest dreams of being married and being a mama will come true. Even writing those words and reading them is difficult as I surrender to the Lord.

But I was reading something the other day by Robin Jones Gunn that the Lord used to tenderly wrap my little broken heart in His love. If you are struggling through the weight of broken dreams and shattered plans, I pray it encourages you as it has encouraged me: 

"Have you ever counted how many of your dreams were dropped and shattered into pieces? It's not a good exercise for your spirit on most days. On some days, like today, you might wake up and discover that the broken pieces of your dreams have become something complex and beautiful. Their irregular edges had to be reshaped through the breaking in order for them to fit perfectly with other pieces in your life. You are a stained glass window in the making. And so am I. (The) mysterious handiwork of God is so beautiful and complex that when His light shines through the fragments of my many shattered wishes, I see Him. I see His glory. I am a stained glass window. And so are you. May you see the beauty today that God is crafting from your shattered dreams."

God is crafting a beautiful story from our shattered dreams friends that only He can see. Sometimes, like I shared about the rejection of disability assistance, we can see these workings quickly and sometimes like many questions and life's trials we may not see until Heaven. Either way, He is good and working and in the fragments of my many shattered wishes and dreams I see Him and His glory. Hold fast to this beautiful truth today!

"Wrong will be right, when Aslan comes in sight, at the sound of his roar, sorrows will be no more, when he bares his teeth, winter meets its death, and when he shakes his mane, we shall have spring again."
 -CS Lewis, The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe-

2/19/15

the essential oils debate

One of the most frequently asked questions that I have received since going public with my various health issues is whether or not I use essential oils. To be frank I avoided the question for a while because my "beginning" journey with essential oils was very rough. I also avoided the topic because I want to be sensitive to everyone's journey in their fight for their health. To give a little background (and perhaps to encourage those who have experienced similar "well-meaning advice") I wanted to share a little bit about my story and give my perspective on the essential oils debate. 

Four years ago (almost to the date) I was driving home from where I was teaching in Georgia to my parents home for a long weekend, talking to one of my best friends when I experienced (on a busy highway) what I thought was a stroke. It was incredibly scary, extremely frightening, and I literally thought I was dying. To be honest, this was one more strange and scary symptom in a list of symptoms that I had begun to experience three years prior to that. (At the time we had no idea that I was fighting Advanced Late Stage Lyme Disease or what my oncologist now believes were the beginning stages of Cancer.) For the next twelve months I lived with worsening and intensifying strange and scary symptoms before being diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Fibromyalgia. I started to receive treatment for both of those things in the winter of 2012, but my health, continued to worsen. 

In the summer of 2012 I had two friends who came to visit me in upstate NY. Both of these ladies had been walking the journey of my health with me for a couple of years at that point and one of them mentioned to me that I should start using oils. She was very enthusiastic with her knowledge and had many stories of those healed by oils and truly believed that there was an oil for every single ailment that I was experiencing (and anyone experienced). I have to admit that I was skeptical. By that point in my journey I had started to have allergic reactions to a variety of different things (including new homeopathic treatments I was trying) and I was very nervous to try anything new. (We had no idea that Lyme had caused me to have Mast Cell Disease at this point in the journey, but my sixth sense of knowing that something was very wrong was well-founded.) This lady shared that she really believed that I needed to "release fear and have faith" and use the oils. She had even brought a couple of them with her for me to use. I was grateful for her consideration and thoughtfulness but was still very skeptical. She again encouraged me to "have faith" and so I tried the oils later that evening. I had a reaction (I developed a rash) but decided to not share this because I didn't want to offend this friend. Honestly, I hoped the subject might be dropped so it wouldn't affect our friendship. 

As the months passed and my health worsened and I started going to the hospital for one issue after another my friend continued to encourage me through text messages and Facebook messages to "have faith" and try more oils. Some of the oils that she suggested were a "blend" that included lemon, which I am allergic to. When I shared this, I was once again encouraged to "have faith" and that it would help me. Once, after I had an anaphylactic reaction to rice and had texted my friends asking for prayer because I couldn't stop throwing up in the ER and they couldn't get an IV inserted into a vein, she texted back asking if I "really wanted and believed that I could be healed" and later texted saying, "you should be using oils to be healed". 

To be honest, for a long time, I felt that oils were the cause for the disintegration in our friendship. I now realize that is not the case, there were other issues, BUT for a long time I was annoyed and disgusted with oils. And sadly, I hear that this story that I have shared has happened to a lot of other people in a variety of ways. Sometimes, in the midst of the discussion about oils, those who decide not to try and use them (for many legitimate reasons) are "judged" due to this decision. I literally could share hundreds of stories of emails that I have received on this issue. 

I also could share hundreds of emails that I have received that have stated that if I would just use "this mixture of oils" I would be healed from Lyme Disease and my other health issues. It seems like in recent months there has been an explosion of oil posts, essential oil facebook groups, essential oil meetings, etc. Honestly, everywhere you look someone is talking about oils. 

SO... where do I come down on the debate of essential oils? My personal opinion is that for many people who are "typically" healthy oils can be a safe and natural alternative to taking a bunch of over the counter medicines. Instead of popping a pill, essential oils can provide natural relief that is much better for your body than taking another over the counter medication, but I still encourage everyone to consult with a qualified medical practitioner.

However, on the flip side, I strongly encourage those who are struggling with a chronic illness/serious illness to consult with a physician, a qualified ND, or health practitioner who is familiar with your disease and essential oils. Oils, like herbs or any vitamin or natural supplement, are potent and you want to consult with someone who understands your illness and the oils. Unfortunately (and I think a VERY scary issue) many oil ambassadors (like my well meaning friend I mentioned at the beginning) are not qualified health practitioners and may not understand the complexity of what you are dealing with when handing out oil advice. I can't even begin to count the amount of times I have cringed when reading advice that people are giving when they have absolutely no idea the medical nature of some illness and how oils may affect an individual person. It is very ironic to me because these same people will claim that oils "are very strong, very potent" but don't seem to want to acknowledge the affect that it could have on a seriously ill person. 

Do I think that essential oils can help with certain symptoms and issues? Absolutely. Last year, right after I had fired my original Lyme doctor and before we had found my amazing medical team that I am currently with I was having horrible digestive issues. The year before that my entire digestive system had crashed and it looked like I was headed back down that same route. I asked my best friend (who used oils but had always been incredibly respectful of my health issues and hesitancy) for her advice and to see if there was anything that she would suggest. My best friend did a ton of research for me to come up with some suggestions that I discussed her findings with a couple of medical practitioners that were apart of my team. I started at a VERY low dosage, was diagnosed with Mast Cell Disease (and am receiving treatment) and over the ensuing months (and to this day) I have built up to where I use some of these oils every single day and now I have added a couple of new ones into my daily routine. I have personally found that these oils have made a huge difference in helping my symptoms of Lyme Disease. My routine has not been for the faint of heart because it took over two years to get a "normal persons dosage" on these oils. There are still two oils that I am working up to the correct amount of drops! These oils have helped me avoid taking some over the counter medications, which allows my body to have less toxins going in to it. For this I am so incredibly grateful. I can personally testify that I don't have to use as much pain medication, over the counter medications, etc. As you saw in my daily routine I use oils throughout the day. I have carefully spent time with my medical team devising a schedule where oils will be the most effective for me with my health struggles. 

BUT... and this is a question that I get all of the time by those who know that I use oils... Do I think that oils alone can cure diseases? No. Please listen before I get a ton of emails angry with my response. If you have been around here for any length of time you know that I love the Lord with all of my heart. I truly believe that HE is the great healer and complete healing comes from Him. I also believe that the Lord uses doctors, medical professionals, and many other qualified practitioners here on earth to help us beat horrible diseases like Cancer and Lyme Disease. Believe me, I wouldn't be spending the $1200 a month on vitamins and herbs if I didn't think that they were helping me win this battle. And I certainly wouldn't be asking my best friend to continue to send me oils if I didn't think that they had a purpose. They do... but in all of the research that I have done on Lyme Disease, I can't find one "long-term" success story (by long-term I mean past five years with no relapse). I have found a LOT of short term success stories but no long-term ones. (For clarification I am only discussing stories of those who ONLY used oils and nothing else!)There have been great success stories with oils helping every day ailments so that people can live a more full life. All of this is wonderful, but I cringe when I hear an oil ambassador stating that "oils will heal you of __________" when they have no expertise in the matter and can't back this claim up with long term data. So, to me, oils alone are not the answer. I do believe that oils have helped with other ailments, but I still caution those to do lots of research on this issue. MANY MANY MANY times as you read oil success stories they are accompanied with a complete life style change (i.e. detoxing, food/diet changes, etc.) and oils are one of many helpful things. 

If y'all have been sick or had a friend or loved one with a serious illness then you know that there are often times "hot debates" about how best to treat the illness. Usually it comes down to a three separate groups: (1)- completely all natural, (2) completely all medication/scientific decisions, or (3) an integrative/combined approach. The third group is where I fall in. As you look and read through my blog and read my daily routine you see that I am doing a completely integrative approach and using ALL different things to heal my body and beat this disease. I respect everyone no matter what "group" they fall into on their personal health journey to get well and beat a disease. It is a battle like no other and if you haven't lived it then it is a completely different world. It takes strength you never knew you had and a determination that has to be rock solid. If you know me than you know I often say, "I pray all the time for healing and I fight like crazy to live out those prayers". For me, fighting like crazy is using all available resources and one of those are the oils. For me, the oils allow me to focus NOT on symptoms, but to focus on beating these diseases. If you are a Lymie and are interested in hearing about oils specifically related to Lyme Disease I am going to share my thoughts about that next week!

So there is my humble opinion, about the essential oils debate. *smiles* What about you? What do you think of essential oils? I would love to hear your thoughts on this debate!

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